Gist of Editorials: A law for those who Testify | GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper II


Why has this issue cropped up?

The Centre is yet to act on a Supreme Court directive to legislate on witness protection.

Recent instances of attacks on witnesses

  • witnesses of a rape survivor died in ‘accident’ in UP.
  • A police official assigned to protect murder witness was killed.
  • In Asaram Bapu case three witnesses were killed several attacked.

Supreme Court directive

  • It issued directions to frame laws for protection of witnesses.
  • Following this, Maharashtra came out with a witness protection act.
  • However, the Centre, and most other States, are yet to act.

Witness Protection Scheme

  • Witness Protection Scheme was drafted by the Centre last year on directives of Supreme Court.
  • However, the scheme was meant to be a measure in force only till the government brought out its own law on the issue.

Lax implementation

  • Implementation of the Witness Protection Scheme on the ground leaves much to be desired.
  • It is silent on the punishment to be given to policemen charged with providing security who threaten the witnesses.

Police-politician nexus

  • Criminals get support  from the police.
  • Policeman, for his career progression, does not take any action against political ‘master’.

Way forward

The Witness Protection Scheme calls for more elaborate and stricter laws to be incorporated.

Conclusion

Legislation for witness protection is a must for India’s criminal justice system.


Gist of Editorials: Great expectations | GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper II


The Lok Sabha has recently passed the Surrogacy Bill, 2019.

Surrogacy in India

  • Violations of human rights of underprivileged woman.
  • Plethora of unregulated assisted reproductive techniques (ART) clinics
  • growing domestic demand for surrogacy services.

The Surrogacy Bill provisions

  • surrogate mother can only be a close relative
  • payment to the surrogate for medical expenses and insurance
  • exploiting the surrogate would attract imprisonment and  fine
  • advertising for surrogacy will also attract the same punishment.
  • registration of surrogacy clinics
  • regulatory boards to ensure compliance with the law

The concern with the Surrogacy Bill

  • Lack of specifics in definitions, for example ‘close relative’
  • Exclusion of various groups of people from access to surrogacy; and
  • Seeks to regulate surrogacy before setting the ART house in order.

Way forward

Govt needs to first set up a regulatory framework for ART clinics, which provide the basic technology for surrogacy.

Conclusion

The Surrogacy law has the  possibility of revolutionising the surrogacy sector.


Editorial Simplified: Fortifying the Africa Outreach | GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper II


Theme of the Article

There is a disconnect between India’s developmental assistance to and economic engagement with the continent.


Why has this issue cropped up?

Recently,  two important Indian dignitaries began their respective visits to Africa. President Ram Nath Kovind to Benin, Gambia and Guinea-Conakry and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to Mozambique. These  visits indicate enhanced priority to Africa.


Economic links

  • In in the last India-Africa Forum Summit in 2015, India agreed to provide concessional credit worth $10 billion.
  • By 2017, India had cumulatively extended 152 Lines of Credit worth $8 billion to 44 African countries.
  • India has also unilaterally provided free access to its market for the exports of 33 least developed African countries.
  • Its trade with Africa totalled $63.3 billion in 2018-19. India was ranked the third largest trading partner of Africa having edged past the United States during the year.
  • The figures for Indians’ investments (estimated at $50 billion) and Indian diaspora (approximately three million) are a bit imprecise but are also substantive when put in the continental perspective.

The issues in India-Africa relations

  • Although the above statistics are impressive, they are well below the potential for India-African economic synergy and are often dwarfed by the corresponding Chinese data.
  • There seems to be a conspicuous disconnect between Indian developmental assistance to and India’s economic engagement with Africa.
  • From the demand to remove the statues of Mahatma Gandhi in Ghana to the travails of Indian investors in Africa, from occasional demonisation of the long-standing Indian community to the non-recognition of Indian academic degrees, India’s large developmental footprint in Africa does not produce commensurate empathy.
  • India’s aid being unconditional, the recipients often take it as an entitlement.

Way forward

We need to ask ourselves these: for all the development billions spent, how many mega-projects did Indian companies get and how many natural resources does India have access to in Africa? We should reorient our developmental profile to be more economically productive. To this end, a number of steps can be considered:

  • First, we need to take direct control of our development programme instead of handing our funds to intermediaries such as the African Union, the African Development Bank Group and the Techno-Economic Approach for Africa-India Movement (TEAM 9), whose priorities are often different from India’s. To make an impact, our aid should be disbursed bilaterally and aligned with national priorities of the recipient state, which should be a substantial stakeholder and co-investor in schemes and projects from initiation to operation.
  • Second, India’s development assistance should prefer the countries with its substantial interests, both existing and potential. For instance, Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Ghana, Angola and Algeria are India’s top six trading partners in Africa, accounting for nearly two-thirds of its trade and half its exports to the continent; yet, they do not figure commensurately in India’s developmental pecking order. India’s own needs for raw materials, commodities and markets should be factored in its aid calculus.
  • Third, we ought to prefer aiding countries which are willing to help us — from access to their natural resources to using our generics.
  • Fourth, the aided project selected should be compatible with local requirements. They should be cost-effective, scalable, future ready and commercially replicable.
  • Fifth, for greater transparency, India should prefer its public sector to implement the aid projects.
  • Sixth, the Indian Head of Mission in the recipient African state must be an integral part of the aid stream including project selection, co-ordination and implementation. Apart from empowering our diplomacy, this would ensure better harmonisation between our aid and economic objectives.
  • Finally, the aforementioned should not distract us from our duty to provide the needed humanitarian assistance to Africa: to be rendered promptly and with sensitivity, but without noise.

Conclusion

India is neither a rich country nor has its hands been tainted by a history of slavery, colonisation and the exploitation of Africa. In fact, it is a developing country with similar domestic challenges of poverty, infrastructure deficit and underdevelopment. India’s aid to Africa should be reciprocated by acknowledgement and quid pro quo in terms of goodwill and institutional preference.


Gist of Editorials: Fortifying the Africa Outreach | GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper II


Recently,  Indian dignitaries began their respective visits to Africa.

Economic links with Africa

  • In 2015, India agreed to provide credit worth $10 billion.
  • By 2017, India had cumulatively extended 152 Lines of Credit .
  • India has provided free access to its market for the exports..
  • India was ranked the third largest trading partner of Africa..

Issues in India-Africa relations

  • India’s economic relation with Africa dwarfed by China.
  • Disconnect between Indian developmental assistance economic engagement.
  • India’s developmental footprint in Africa does not produce commensurate empathy.
  • India’s aid being unconditional, the recipients often take it as an entitlement.

Way forward

  • Need to take direct control of our development programme instead of handing our funds to intermediaries such as the African Union.
  • India’s development assistance should prefer the countries with its substantial interests.
  • Prefer aiding countries which are willing to help us.
  • The aided project selected should be compatible with local requirements.
  • For greater transparency, India should prefer its public sector to implement the aid projects.

Conclusion

India’s aid to Africa should be reciprocated by acknowledgement and quid pro quo in terms of goodwill and institutional preference.


Gist of Editorials: Education and the Idea of Common Good | GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper II


The idea of good and education have been symbiotically linked..

Moral Good and Education

  • Moral good has basically two dimensions: common good and individual good.
  • The common good involves human values.
  • These values are integral to the Constitution and find their mention in the draft National Education Policy (NEP) of 2019.
  • These values need to be promoted through education..

The problem

  • The passage to dissemination of such values does not seem to be safe.
  • This is because we are less concerned about restoring the public schools and
  • This is evident in the case of parents moving to private schools and coaching centres.

Way forward

  • We need to eliminate the social distance in the social relations.
  • The elimination of structural inequality is required.
  • The expansion of infrastructure for accessibility is important..
  • Ethics is crucial for orienting those in the education system towards the realisation of these proclaimed values.

Gist of Editorials: The Judicial Presumption of Non-Citizenship | GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper II


In context of preparation of National Register of Citizens,  Abdul Kuddus case had significant consequences for Assam.

Abdul Kuddus case

  • The case argued that an opinion rendered by the Foreigners Tribunal had no greater sanctity than an executive order.
  • This meant that an adverse finding against an individual would not automatically result in their name being struck off the NRC.
  • Furthermore, the Tribunal’s opinion could be subsequently reviewed, if fresh materials came to light.
  • In short, Foreigners Tribunal and of NRC should be kept entirely independent of each other.

Flawed tribunals

  • The Supreme Court held Foreigners Tribunal was final and binding on all parties.
  • There are, however, serious problems with this holding.
    • First, Foreigners Tribunals were established by executive order.
    • Second, it now includes bureaucrats.
    • Tribunals are given sweeping powers to refuse examination of witnesses .

Failure of Supreme Court

  • The Court’s observations in the Kuddus casecan be traced back to two judgments, known as Sarbananda Sonowal I and II.
  • In those judgments, the Court declared immigration to be tantamount to “external aggression” upon the country.
  • It held that the burden of proving citizenship would always lie upon the person who was accused of being a non-citizen.

Conclusion

In further strengthening the Foreigners Tribunal, the judiciary has failed to fulfil its duty as the last protector of rights.


Gist of Editorials: OIC’s Curious Record on Xinjiang | GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper II


Recently, India became the ‘Guest of Honour’ at OIC.

Reference to Kashmir

  • The OIC declaration eschewed reference to Jammu and Kashmir.
  • This is unique as the Dhaka Declaration had contained this reference.

OIC and concern for Muslims

  • OIC is committed to protecting the interests of the Muslim world.
  • However, it has traditionally disregarded the fact that India is a democratic and secular country.
  • It has turned a blind eye to the human rights violations committed by its own members..
  • It has made no reference to China’s Muslim minorities.

OIC  vs China vs India

  • While the OIC remains critical of India, it has referred only superficially to the Xinjiang matter.
  • This is because China is a permanent member of the UNSC, a large market for hydrocarbons and a source of arms and investment.
  • However, OIC countries support resolutions against India despite having excellent bilateral ties with the country.

Conclusion

Recent developments such as  a call to lift restrictions on Muslims in Xinjiang must have come as deep embarrassment to the OIC.


Gist of Editorials: Giving Ties with Seoul a Facelift | GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper II


Prime Minister Narendra Modi met South Korean President on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

Analysing India South Korea relations

  • Shared values of open society and democracy.
  • Sc & tech : Indo-Korea Science and Technology Centre in Bengaluru.
  • Defence: Co-production of the K9 Thunder howitzer.
  • Regularised education exchanges.
  • Regular security dialogue between the intelligence agencies.

The fallout of trade war

  • S.-China trade war has started impacting South Koreaan companies.
  • India can emerge as a prime beneficiary here because of its cheap labour costs and a stable legal system.

India South Korea trade ties

  • India-South Korea trade ties to $22 billion at the end of 2018.
  • Major exports to India include mineral fuels, oil distillates, cereals and, iron and steel.
  • The trade target of $50 billion by 2030 is most likely to be missed.
  • The CEPA requires immediate upgrading.
  • An early harvest scheme agreed to last year failed to see completion.

Lacking in other areas of cooperation as well

  • Indian Chamber of Commerce in Korea (ICCK) is struggling to find its due space in promoting economic and business ties in Korea.
  • The Indian Cultural Centre has failed to reach out to common South Koreans.
  • Social and economic discrimination against Indians in South Korea is still a regular occurrence.

Gist of Editorials: Looming Challenges to India’s Standing | GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper II


Theme of the Article

In the coming five years, a host of geopolitical and economic issues need to be reconciled.

Recent international events of significance to India

  • India was was the cynosure at the G-20 meeting in June, in Osaka.
  • At the BRICs meeting, India discussed WTO and terrorism.
  • Counter-terrorism and climate change discussed with China and Russia.
  • In the Japan-India-U.S. grouping, India discussed the Indo-Pacific region.

A vastly altered situation

  • While in the past India was able to take advantage of favourable conditions, this situation no longer exists.
  • In the past, India managed a shift from non-alignment to multi-alignment. This is not possible at the present time.
  • The global situation that made all this possible has altered. Rivalries among nations have intensified.

Challenges for India

  • India needs to rework many of its policies in the coming five years.
  • South Asia, in particular, needs close attention.
  • India-Pakistan relations are perhaps at their lowest point.
  • India has no role in Afghan affairs and is also excluded from talks.
  • India’s position in Nepal and Sri Lanka remains tenuous.
  • In West Asia again, India is no longer a player to reckon with.
  • Across much of Asia, China is the major challenge.
  • The challenge in the coming years for India is to check the slide, especially in Asia, and try and restore India to the position it held previously. India cannot afford to wait too long to rectify the situation.
  • Deepening India-U.S. relations can make India becoming involved in a new kind of Cold War.
  • Closer relations with the U.S. carries the risk of aggravating tensions between India and China.
  • The strategic axis forged between Russia and China will impact India.

Way forward

  • Apart from military power, India needs to possess disruptive technologies.
  • Capabilities ned to be enhanced in areas such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology and cyber methodology.
  • India needs to pay greater heed to its economy. Sustaining a rate of growth between 8.5% and 9.5% is

Conclusion

The looming challenge for India in the coming five years would be how to build a strong economic foundation.


Editorial Simplified: The Tremor of Unwelcome Amendments | GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper II



Theme of the article

The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill is a twin attack on accountability and the idea of federalism.


Introduction

“Amendments” have haunted the Right to Information (RTI) community ever since the RTI Act came into effect almost 14 years ago.


The recent  amendment

  • The recently proposed amendments seek to amend Sections 13, 16, and 27 of the RTI Act which carefully links, and thereby equates, the status of the Central Information Commissioners (CICs) with the Election Commissioners and the State Information Commissioners with the Chief Secretary in the States, so that they can function in an independent and effective manner.
  • The deliberate dismantling of this architecture empowers the Central government to unilaterally decide the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of Information Commissioners, both at the Centre and the States.

Why is there unseemly haste and determination to amend the law?

  • Some feel that it is because the RTI helped with the cross-verification of the affidavits of powerful electoral candidates with official documents and certain Information Commissioners having ruled in favour of disclosure.
  • The information related to decision-making at the highest level has in most cases eventually been accessed because of the independence and high status of the Information Commission. That is what the government is trying to amend.

Agent of change

  • RTI is a constant challenge to the misuse of power. In a country where the rule of law hangs by a slender thread and corruption and the arbitrary use of power is a daily norm, the RTI has resulted in a fundamental shift — empowering a citizen’s access to power and decision-making.
  • It has been a lifeline for many of the 40 to 60 lakh ordinary users, many of them for survival.
  • It has also been a threat to arbitrariness, privilege, and corrupt governance.
  • More than 80 RTI users have been murdered because their courage and determination using the RTI was a challenge to unaccountable power.
  • The RTI has been used brilliantly and persistently to ask a million questions across the spectrum — from the village ration shop, the Reserve Bank of India, the Finance Ministry, on demonetisation, non-performing assets, the Rafale fighter aircraft deal, electoral bonds, unemployment figures, the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), Election Commissioners, and the (non)-appointment of the Information Commissioners themselves.

RTI and democracy

  • The RTI movement has been able to access information and through it, a share of governance and democratic power.
  • The Indian RTI law has been a breakthrough in creating mechanisms and platforms for the practice of continual public vigilance that are fundamental to democratic citizenship.
  • The mostly unequal struggle to extract information from vested interests in government needed an institutional and legal mechanism which would not only be independent but also function with a transparency mandate and be empowered to over-ride the traditional structures of secrecy and exclusive control.

Independence of Information Commission

  • An independent Information Commission which is the highest authority on information along with the powers to penalise errant officials has been a cornerstone of India’s celebrated RTI legislation.
  • The task of the Information Commission is different but no less important than that of the Election Commission of India.
  • Independent structures set up to regulate and monitor the government are vital to a democratic state committed to deliver justice and constitutional guarantees.
  • The separation of powers is a concept which underscores this independence and is vital to our democratic checks and balances.
  • When power is centralised and the freedom of expression threatened no matter what the context, democracy is definitely in peril.
  • The Commission which is vested by law with status, independence and authority, will now function like a department of the Central government, and be subject to the same hierarchy and demand for obeisance.
  • The decision of the government to usurp the powers to set the terms and conditions of service and salaries of an independent body must be understood as an obvious attempt to weaken the independence and authority granted by the law.

Assault  on federalism

Apart from Section 13 which deals with the terms and conditions for the Central information Commission, in amending Section 16, the Central government will also control through rules, the terms and conditions of appointment of Commissioners in the States. This is an assault on the idea of federalism.


Opaque moves

  • All the provisions related to appointment were carefully examined by a parliamentary standing committee and the law was passed unanimously.
  • The manner in which the amendments are being pushed through without any citizen consultation, bypassing examination by the standing committee demonstrates the desperation to pass the amendments without even proper parliamentary scrutiny.
  • The mandatory pre-legislative consultative policy of the government has been ignored.

Conclusion

The  amendments fundamentally weaken an important part of the RTI architecture. They violate the constitutional principles of federalism, undermine the independence of Information Commissions, and thereby significantly dilute the widely used framework for transparency in India. The RTI has unshackled millions of users who will continue to use this democratic right creatively and to dismantle exclusive power.