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THE HINDU –  Editorial(22/08/2017):-

Source: “THE HINDU”

Paper II: India and its neighborhood relations

Rebooting India Nepal Ties


Hon’ble Sher Bahadur Deuba, Prime Minister of Nepal is all set to visit India from August 23 – 27, 2017. Indian interventionism having backfired, the Nepal Prime Minister’s visit is an opportunity to raise the level of bilateral ties.

Securing India’s Neighborhood:

  • With global geopolitics on the boil, and the Hindi-Chini relationship in free fall, it should be in India’s interest to secure its own neighbourhood.
  • The Nepal Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba’s visit is an opportunity to hit the reset button on Nepal-India relations.
  • We need to take this occasion to retrospect how India – Nepal relationship was handled over the past decade.
  • This is exemplified by the impediments placed in the writing, adoption and implementation of the Constitution of Nepal.
  • India played a stellar role in ending the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, but the period thereafter was marked by escalating micro meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs.
  • There were attempts to define the new provincial boundaries according to Indian dictates — pushing unwieldy and unworkable federal formula. Consensual governance needed to sail over such crisis periods were missing.
  • Kathmandu’s civil society was preoccupied with managing the fallout.

The Nepal Earthquake in 2015

  • Society trying to emerge from the April 2015 Great Earthquake was slapped with the punitive Great Blockade.At the tactical level, New Delhi’s motives behind the heavy-handedness of the recent past may have to do with electoral calculations.
  • On the Constitution, the idea of a ‘buffer’ province is thought to have been violated either to prevent third country militant infiltration.
  • Indian strategists may be seeking ways to get Kathmandu to allow the construction of high dams and deep reservoirs on Nepal’s rivers — for food control, navigation, urban use and irrigation in Bihar and UttarPradesh.
  • In trying to push some or all of these goals, New Delhi made deep inroads into Nepal’s political class, but none did it use more than the Madhesbaadi parties.
  • Madhesi citizens of Nepal, the Madhesbaadi leadership is presently incensed that after all its goading New Delhi now seems to be backtracking.
  • India should realize that a peaceful, stable Nepal that evolves of its own volition is good for India, and especially for the central Ganga plains.
  • Actions like, Great Blockade, which forced the Kathmandu political leadership to reach out toBeijing and sign a slew of trade,transit and infrastructural agreementswith it.
  • Once Nepal and India get past the era of interventionism as but a bad memory, the two can concentrate on the numerous matters that need concentration and resolution.
  • An important issue is the open border itself, which is a unique joint heritage of the two countries.

The Challenges on the Bilateral Plain:

  • The Nepal plains are suffering from massive floods that have also affected downstream areas across the border.
  • A permanent bilateral mechanism is required to save the plains population of Nepal from suffering, which is ongoing.
  • The Kosi Barrage and attendant embankments have the possibility of wreaking havoc because siltation of six decades has raised the riverbed within the levees far above the outlying tracts.
  • The impact of demonetization and the application of Goods and Services Tax on Nepal’s economy and citizenry should also be discussed and solved.
  • Similarly, Kathmandu prefers not to discuss the fact that the Nepali rupee is pegged to the Indian rupee and what it means for the long run.
  • The rights of migrant Indian labour in Nepal and Nepali labour in India is a topic that rarely comes up.
  • There are border disputes pending between the two countries — at Susta, Kalapani and the ‘tri-junction’ of Lipulekh — but Kathmandu has not raising the issue.
  • The Indian government directive that it will not allow import of electricity other than from power companies with more than 51% Indian equity.
  • The arbitrary blockages and go slow at Indian Customs at border points, the selective use of quarantine for the export of Nepali agricultural produce, the increasing high-handedness of the Sashastra Seema Bal.

Way Forward:

  • With the self-assurance that comes from Nepal moving towards normalcy under its new Constitution, and with India seemingly changing gears on its Nepal policy, one hopes for a threshold of maturity in relations.

Paper III: Pressure Groups and Formal/ Informal Associations and their role in Polity

Newsroom under siege


  • The fourth estate of the world’s largest democracy is fast acquiring a dark underbelly which threatens the vibrancy of democracy itself as paid news menace is sweeping through it.
  • “Advertorial” is the new sophisticated catchphrase to legitimise and blur the distinction between reportageand paid content.
  • An association of ethical journalists haspublished an 18-country study of how “corruption and conict of interest stalks the newsroom”.
  • TRPs are the craze because they determine advertising revenue and dictate how much sensationalism and how little sense are to be injected.
  • Top newspapers send out marketing persons with a rate card to cover celebrity events and product launches, published the next day as news, occasionally with unreadable fine print at the bottom saying advertorial.
  • The recent elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab have innumerable documented cases by the Election Commission (EC) of paid news.
  • Corporate and political power has overwhelmed and overawed large sections of the media, both print and visual, where boldness and fearlessness.

First, they have large financial stakes in either print or visual media.

Second, they have full ownership of both categories in innumerable cases.

Third, they have significant control even of rival visual platforms.

Fourth, instead of Chinese walls between managerial/ownership activities and editorial jurisdiction, the exact opposite prevails, the former is boss and the latter is frequently anonymous.

The biggest joke is the concept of peer regulation, which India has borrowed from the U.K.

A comprehensive study commissioned by the PCI itself, documenting specific cases of many of these abuses with facts, figures and data had to be shelved and buried because of peer pressure.


  • First, the zeal for reform must come from within, from senior print and television journalists who must dare to speak, write and expose.
  • Second, the same persons must start publicly condemning, if not ostracising, clear examples of such abuse.
  • Third, some ownership restrictions on cross holdings and aggregate holdings have to be legislated.The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, suggested a maximum of 32% market share. calculated on any of the following bases: customers, geographical area or languages.
  • Fourth, legislation must create mandatory Chinese walls between managerial and editorial departments.
  • Fifth,the last will work only with ‘provision of contracts and employment conditions for journalists that meet international labour standards.International labour standards which givesthem the right, must be followed without fear of retribution.
  • Sixth, create ‘genuinely independent and transparent systems for assessing circulation and ratings of media’.
  • Seventh, introduce internal systems for disclosing potential conflicts of interest,deal with complaints and have mandatory disclosure of ownership.
  • Eighth, similar disclosure,in bold letters, of paid-for news or any reporting must be done.

Way Forward:

  • A penal legislation should come in the foreseeable future to take on the powerful club in the world.

Paper III: Infrastructure: Railways

Derailed Priorities


  • Thirteen coaches of the Puri-HaridwarUtkal Express derailed at Khatauli, near Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, killing at least 23 people.A postmortem of the accident to fix responsibility and a long term vision to avoid such mishaps is the need of the hour.

What caused the accident:

  • A portion of the track had been disjointed and was being welded in order to be put back in place as part of ‘routine maintenance’.
  • But no one bothered to put a traffic blockade in place, as required, and the welding could not be completed before the train passed through.
  • A probe by the Commissioner of Railway Safety may reveal whether this was a systemic communicationfailureor not.
  • Reposing confidence in the inquiry process may appear difficult.

Another case from the past:

  • The enquiry into the Indore- Patna Express crash near Kanpur last November that killed 152 passengers may have been muddied and accountability is yet to be fixed.
  • Evidence is available of serious lapses, including an audio recording of railway officers conceding bungling over the maintenance work.
  • Action against Railway Board members is rare, and this sends out a strong signal. However, it is no substitute for a larger course correction.

A culture of negligence:

  • Nearly 70% of the 303 rail accidents reported between 2012-13 and 2015-16 were caused by carelessness of railway staff.
  • Derailments — often caused by defects in the tracks or the rolling stock — have been the second biggest reason for accidents and casualties.
  • The track renewal depends on the financial resources allotted in a given year rather than the length of tracks that need refreshing.
  • The induction of coaches with anti-climbing features, which could minimize fatalities remains far too sluggish.

Way Forward:

  • A five-year corporate safety plan, first announced in the Rail Budget for 2015-16, has been drafted, but should be implemented soon.Unless operations are safe, there are no operations.

Paper IV: Civil Service Values and Ethics In Public Administration

Recasting the steel frame


  • It is impossible to run a 21st century economy with a 19th century bureaucracy using18th century rules.The bureaucracy needs to embrace lateral entry, technology, and the ‘perform or perish’ culture.
  • Any state would need to berun by some set of rules, by some set of people — call them by any name you wish there need to be administrators.
  • The “New India” that is under way also needs independence from bad bureaucracy, not necessarily from all bureaucracy.
  • The civil services need to bring about three fundamental changes, some of which are already under way.

First Change:

  • First, specific clauses under All India Services and Central Services Conduct Rules have been invoked to sack officers on grounds of incompetence and/or corruption.
  • The rules always existed in the rule book but this government has had the courage to use it in public interest.

Second Change:

  • Second, lateral entry into the higher civil services should be welcomed but with some caveats.But, Lateral entry does open the risk and prospect of powerful corporate groups placing their men in key positions of government.
  • However, when one looks at the serious lack of decision-making abilities or willingness on part of the leadership, on balance, lateral entry is indeed a necessary condition of good governance.
  • Alongside introducing lateral entry, there is a need to eliminate those due to whom administrative inertia has set in.

Third Change:

  • The third big step should be to infuse more and more technology into every touch point where a citizen interacts with the government.
  • In the context of government service delivery, cognitive intelligence can deliver it with greater superiority, accuracy and consistency.
  • The time is ripe for introducing Artificial Intelligence in government services such as passports, licences, building permits, certificates, etc.

Way Ahead:

  • Good bureaucracy, which in every country, system and time has been the harbinger of positive change.
  • At 70, India needs independence from bad bureaucracy and inane processes and meaningless forms to embark on an inclusive growth path.