Editorial Simplified: A tragedy that was long in the making | GS – III


Relevance: GS Paper III


Why has this issue cropped up?

The efforts to reach the 15 miners trapped in an illegal coal mine in the East Jaintia hills of Meghalaya since December 13 continue.


Issues with illegal coal mining in Meghalaya

  • The Meghalaya government has no idea what happens inside these rat-hole mines, which are barely 2 ft wide, since mining is a private activity.
  • Despite the National Green Tribunal ban of April 2014, mining continues in the State.

Was the recent disaster managed well?

  • The district administration assumed the miners to be dead on the very day of the tragedy.
  • The socio-economic profile also worked against them. They were the poorest of the poor who took a huge risk to enter a mine and dig for coal without any safety gear.
  • When a mine is flooded, the immediate response is to stop further flow of water into it. This requires a hydrologist. In this case, a hydrologist arrived only two weeks after the disaster. So did the divers from the Indian Navy and the 100 HP water pumps.So did the geologists from Hyderabad.
  • All these delays happened because there was no one person or agency to coordinate the rescue mission. This shows the kind of disaster preparedness we have in our country.

Questions that arise

There are many questions that arise with respect to rat-hole mining of coal.

  • One, why does the state allow this archaic mining system, which has complete disregard for human life and safety?
  • And two, why is Meghalaya exempted from national mining laws?
  • Rat-hole mining, which started in the 1980s, has poisoned three rivers in the Jaintia hills: the Myntdu, Lunar and Lukha.
  • These rivers have very high acidic levels. pH of the water and sulphate and iron concentrations indicate significant deterioration of the rivers.
  • Acid mine drainage from abandoned mines was a major cause for water pollution.
  • Acid mine drainage has rendered even agricultural land non-productive.

Arguments given for coal mining

  • The coal mine owners say that rat-hole mining should continue because no other form of mining is viable.
  • They claim that coal mining provides livelihoods for many.
  • The other troubling factor is that coal mine owners are insisting that since Meghalaya is a State under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, national mining laws should be exempted here.

 The scale of the coal mining problem

  • The scale of the problem is clear in this one fact: there are 3,923 coal mines in one district with a geographical area of 2126 sq. km.
  • Coal mine owners have left thousands of abandoned mines as human graves. The State does not insist that they reclaim and afforest those mines.
  • In 40 years of mining and profiteering, the mine owners have till date not constructed a single hospital or even a school. There is complete disregard for corporate social responsibility because the mines are privately owned by the tribals.

 What people of Meghalaya want?

  • The tribes of Meghalaya are divided on the issue of rat-hole mining.
  • Those who care for the environment and for a future for their children and grandchildren have been clamouring for an end to the practice of rat-hole mining and reckless limestone mining.
  • On the other hand, the mining elite have mobilised forces to demonise environmental activists. A community of just over a million is now fragmented.

 Should Meghalaya be exempted of national laws?

The Sixth Schedule was enacted to protect the community rights of tribals from any form of exploitation of their land and resources. How can it now be used as an instrument to protect an activity that is a private enterprise, that is inhuman, and that violates Article 21 of the Constitution?


 Conclusion

 The  Central government and the highest court of the land  should not allow this to carry on in one part of the country when strict laws are applied elsewhere.


 

Gist of Editorials : Not A Zero-Sum Deal (The Hindu) | GS – II

The Afghan government would like to see India-China economic cooperation in Afghanistan that could boost progress and enhance human security

Relevance : GS Paper II (International Relation)

[900 words reduced to 200]


The likelihood of an American pull-out from Afghanistan raises the spectre of instability in Afghanistan, South and Central Asia..

Regional powers and Afghanistan

  • CHINA:
    • China has a great interest in its stability.
    • China would be adversely affected by war and chaos.
    • China has gained considerable economic and diplomatic influence in Afghanistan.
    • It is giving military aid to Afghanistan.
    • It has invested in projects such as mining, roads and railways.
    • It gave Afghanistan.  observer status in the SCO.
  • INDIA:
    • India supports China’s role in Afghanistan.
    • India has certainly contributed much ‘soft power’.
    • It assisted in building the National Assembly of Afghanistan.
    • Indian has provided aid up to $3 billion.
    • But India has been absent from regional diplomacy necessary to stabilise Afghanistan.

India- China cooperation in Afghanistan

  • It could boost progress and enhance human security.
  • India and China started a joint training project for Afghan diplomats.
  • They could expand cooperation by facilitating Afghanistan’s full membership of the SCO.
  • India and China should work together to build a secure Afghanistan.

Gist of Editorials : Hope With Concerns (The Hindu) | GS – III

In the final analysis, the growth rate depends on the investment rate and the productivity of capital or its inverse incremental capital-output ratio.

Relevance : GS Paper  III (Indian Economy)

    [1300 words reduced to 200]


Globally, the growth rate in 2018 was high but strong signs of a trade war emerged.

Situation of Indian Economy in 2018-19:

  • Rupee underwent a severe shock .
  • Agrarian distress accentuated.
  • India’s growth rate forecast at 7.4%.

Major concerns with Indian Economy:

  • INVESTMENT RATIO : The growth rate depends on the investment rate.
    • Solution:Raise investment ratio and keep capital-output ratio at 4.
  • BANKING SYSTEM:
    • Non-performing assets (NPAs) are at a high level.
    • 11 public sector banks are under PCA.
    • NBFC system is under stress.
    • Solution:
    • Recapitalisation of public sector banks.
    • More capital to banks outside the PCA framework
  • EMPLOYMENT GROWTH
  • inadequate growth of employment.
  • no correspondence between growth and employment.
  • Solution:
    • new investment needed for increase in employment.
  • EXTERNAL SECTOR
  • What happens in the rest of the world affects India’s growth.
  • Value of the rupee plummeted and capital outflows occurred.
  • Solution:
    • Strong growth in exports to manage CAD.
    • Contain some of our large imports.
    • A watch on India’s CAD is needed.
  • AGRARIAN DISTRESS
    • There has been fall in prices of agricultural products.
  • Solution:
    • Government should buy off the surplus.
    • Arrangements to procure and store are required.
    • Increasing productivity.
    • Increased output and better prices.
    • Consolidation of small landholdings.
    • Marketing of agriculture produce

 

Gist of Editorials: Powering South Asian Integration (The Hindu) | GS – III

A liberal trading regime is in India’s national interest. As India transitions to a power grid dominated by renewables, regional trade could prove useful in maintaining grid stability.

Relevance : GS Paper II , III (International Relation)

[1000 words reduced to 200]


Govt has set the rules for the flow of electricity across South Asian borders.

Significance of this Policy

  • It is a concession to India’s neighbours.
  • It is a response to pressure from neighbours to drop trade barriers.
  • India has signalled that it is serious about working with neighbours .

The idea of cross -border energy  flow

  • It was driven by India’s need for affordable power
  • It took shape in 2014 with the signing of the SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation.

The Erstwhile Roadblock

In 2016, govt  issued guidelines that prevented anyone other than Indian generators in the neighbouring country from selling power to India. This caused worry in Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

Benefits of the New Guidelines

  • A liberal trading regime is in India’s national interest.
  • Regional trade could prove useful in maintaining grid stability.
  • A wider pool of generation sources could help India achieve a greener grid.
  • The new guidelines can help creation of a true low-cost regional market.

Way Forward

  • Regional institutions for management of electricity trade are required.
  • The political vision to create this must be maintained.

Gist of Editorials: Integrating The Island (Indian Express )|GS – II

The PM’s immediate political motivation may be seen as part of the BJP’s strategy to claim the non-Nehruvian legacy of the Indian National Congress.

Relevance : GS Paper II 

   (International Relations and Internal Security)


Recently, PM visited the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Historical significance of Andaman Islands

  • They were the site of contestation between European colonial powers.
  • Britain occupied the islands at the end of the 18th century.
  • After the Second World War, the Andamans became marginal to the new geopolitics.

Present geopolitical significance of Andaman Islands

Today as a rising China projects its power into the Indian Ocean, regional balance would necessarily involve the development of the Andamans.

 

  • Cooperation between India and its major strategic partners required over Andamans.
  • Promoting economic development, integration with the mainland, strengthening military infrastructure, regional connectivity of Andamans.
  • Preserving the pristine environment of the Andamans and protecting its vulnerable indigenous populations.

Gist of Editorials: The Bilateral Transformation (The Hindu) | GS – II

During the last decade of Ms. Hasina’s tenure as Prime Minister, high-level Bangladesh-India engagement has intensified.

Relevance : GS Paper II (Indian Economy)

[1200 words reduced to 200]


There has been  victory of Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh elections.

India-Bangladesh Relations In Recent Times

  • Bangladesh has emerged as a key interlocutor in India’s ‘Act East Policy’.
  • In Bangladesh, domestic political consensus, has emerged in favour of close ties with India.
  • Bangladesh denied support to Indian insurgent groups.
  • Bangladesh is India’s largest trading partner in South Asia .
  • The Padma multipurpose bridge will enhance connectivity with India.
  • Waterways are also being revived to reduce the cost of trade.
  • Bangladesh has provided for faster Internet connectivity in India’s northeastern States.
  • India has become a partner in Bangladesh’s nuclear power programme.
  • An SEZ in Bangladesh for Indian manufacturing companies has been mooted.
  • Indian investment in Bangladesh has reached $3 billion.
  • India has provided/committed Bangladesh credit and grants reaching $8 billion.
  • The visa regime has been liberalised and number of visas increased.
  • Bangladesh has taken effective steps against those inspired by the Islamic State.

Challenges Ahead

  • Adverse balance of trade; Bangladeshi exports have plateaued.
  • Islamist organisations have been breeding grounds in Bangladesh.
  • Rohingya issue has led to setbacks in India-Bangladesh ties..
  • Issue of the illegal migration due to NRC in Assam.
  • Sharing of river waters will remain a challenge.
  • China’s footprint has grown in Bangladesh.

 

Editorial Simplified: Not A Zero-Sum Deal | GS – II

Relevance : GS Paper II (International Relations)


Theme of the article

India and China can work together, bilaterally and in multilateral groupings, to build a secure Afghanistan.


Why has this issue cropped up?

The likelihood of an American pull-out from Afghanistan raises the spectre of instability in Afghanistan, South and Central Asia. If this happens, security could hinge on efforts made by regional powers to stabilise Afghanistan.


Regional powers and Afghanistan

CHINA:

  • Sharing part of a border with Afghanistan, China has a great interest in its stability.
  • China would be adversely affected by war and chaos, which could spill over into north-western China, Pakistan, and Central Asia. As all these areas are vital in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), peace in Afghanistan is critical.
  • Over the last decade, China has gained considerable economic and diplomatic influence in Afghanistan.
  • It has joined the U.S. and Russia in several peace talks with the Taliban and is part of the four-nation Quadrilateral Coordination Group (with Afghanistan, Pakistan and the U.S.).
  • It is giving military aid to Afghanistan, with the express intent of fighting terrorism and increasing security cooperation.
  • It has invested in projects such as mining, roads and railways, and health.
  • In 2012, it brought Afghanistan into the regional diplomatic processes by giving it observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

INDIA:

  • India supports China’s role in international negotiations on Afghanistan, the activation of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group and other mechanisms of dialogue and cooperation for restoration of peace and development in Afghanistan.
  • India has certainly contributed much ‘soft power’ ranging from telecommunications to education, Bollywood movies and pop music.
  • The building for the National Assembly was built with Indian assistance to support Afghanistan’s democracy.
  • Indian reconstruction largesse, amounting to some $3 billion, has earned it goodwill and popularity.
  • But India’s lengthy absence from regional diplomacy has resulted in its limited contribution to the negotiations that are necessary to stabilise Afghanistan.

India- China cooperation in Afghanistan

  • The Afghan government would like to see India-China economic cooperation in Afghanistan that could boost progress and enhance human security.
  • Last October, in a first, India and China started a joint training project for Afghan diplomats.
  • They could expand cooperation by facilitating Afghanistan’s full membership of the SCO.
  • China’s leadership role of the SCO could give it a vantage in crafting a regional solution on Afghanistan. That should not prevent India and China from working together, bilaterally and in the SCO, to build a secure Afghanistan.

 

Editorial Simplified: Let The Grassroots Breathe | GS – II

Relevance : GS Paper II (Polity and Governance)


Theme of the article

Local bodies must not be administrative vessels for implementing programs of the Central and State governments.


Why has this issue cropped up?

One of the first decisions of the newly elected government in Rajasthan has been to scrap the minimum educational qualification criteria for candidates contesting local body elections.


What were the educational criteria?

  • The previous government had introduced amendments which required candidates contesting the zila parishad and panchayat samiti elections to have passed Class 10 and those contesting sarpanch elections to have passed Class 8.
  • Further, it disallowed those without functional toilets in their home to contest.

Supported by Supreme Court

The court held that prescription of educational qualification was justifiable for better administration and did not violate the right to equality enshrined in the Constitution.


The problems with educational criteria

  • RIGHTS: It unduly restricts a citizen’s right to contest elections and thereby challenges the basic premise of a republican democracy. Denying the right to contest effectively restricts the right of a citizen to vote for a candidate of her choice since more than half the population is restricted from contesting.
  • MARGINAL SECTIONS: Further, it disproportionately disenfranchises the more marginal sections of society: women, Dalits and poor. In a country like India with unequal access to education, it is cruel to blame citizens for the failure of the state to fulfill its constitutional obligations.
  • OTHER ELECTIONS: Such restrictions do not exist for those contesting parliamentary or Assembly elections.
  • ASSUMPTION: It is an ill-informed assumption that those with formal education will be better in running panchayats.
  • 73rd and 74th AMENDMENTS: This approach goes against the very objective of the 73rd and 74th Amendments that sought to make panchayats and municipalities representative institutions with adequate representation from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.

Denying local democracy

  • The undermining of local governments as representative institutions does not take place solely through the introduction of restrictions for contesting elections.
  • ELECTIONS: Over the years, many State governments have sought to defang local governments by simply delaying elections on various grounds. The continual delay in elections goes against the purpose of the 73rd and 74th Amendments.
  • SEC : In most States, tasks like delimitation of seats are still done by the State government instead of the State Election Commission (SEC).

Conclusion

India prides itself as a robust democracy with regular elections and smooth transfer of power. However, delaying elections and adding restrictions to contest prevent local governments from becoming truly representative institutions.


 

Editorial Simplified: India’s Atlantic Challenge | GS – II

Relevance : GS Paper II
(International Relations and Foreign Policy)


Theme of the article

Trump’s ‘America First’ policy and the Brexit deal could pose more challenges to India.


The concern

While 2019 is a year of hope for India, a lingering concern is that the Atlantic Ocean may throw up many economic challenges that might rock India’s economic growth.


How US is creating a problem?

  • The Trump administration is attempting to replace the rules-based trade order with a bilateral trade agreements and sanctions network, a system that has distinct disadvantages for India.
  • Last year, when Mr. Trump gave the green light to start a trade war by escalating tariffs between U.S. and its three main trade partners – the EU, China and NAFTA – a relatively small yet strategically significant tariff spat broke out between Washington and New Delhi.
  • Both countries engaged in a tit-for-tat tariff policy, giving momentum to global trends towards trade protectionism. When India was denied an exemption by the U.S. from increased tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, it reciprocated by hiking import duties on 29 American export products, including pulses and iron and steel products..
  • A broader disadvantage for India of a spiralling trade war with the U.S. is that it could easily spin out of control and create rifts in other areas such as security and diplomacy. If that happens, it may be of considerable benefit to China.

The U.K. problem

  • If the U.K. has a ‘hard Brexit’, India may be looking at unexpected complications regarding trade adjustment, and a U.K.-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) may be out of the question.

Way forward for India

  • For India to secure its trade interests, it needs to renegotiate with both the EU and the U.K. for goods and services.
  • Also, the discussion on FTA with the EU must be resumed and a similar conversation must be launched with the U.K.
  • If these negotiations are managed carefully, Brexit may even emerge as an opportunity for India to recalibrate the legal terms of its trade with the U.K. and the EU, at the multilateral level, and through free trade agreements.

 

Editorial Simplified: Integrating the Island | GS – II

Relevance : GS Paper II & III
(International Relations and Internal Security)


Why has this issue cropped up?

Recently, the Prime Minister visited the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.


Historical significance of Andaman Islands

  • In the 17th and 18th centuries, they were the site of contestation between European colonial powers — Portugal, the Netherlands, France and Britain.
  • Britain occupied the islands at the end of the 18th century in search of a permanent military base. From a potential platform for power projection, the islands became a penal colony for the Raj.
  • After the Second World War, the partition of India and the Cold War between America and Russia, the Andamans became marginal to the new geopolitics.

Present geopolitical significance of Andaman Islands

Today as a rising China projects its economic and military power into the Indian Ocean, any strategy for regional balance would necessarily involve the economic and military development of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.


Way forward

  • As in the Second World War, so in the current juncture, it would involve considerable cooperation between India and its major strategic partners.
  • That in turn leads us to the imperative of ending the deliberate isolation of the island chain and promoting economic development, tighter integration with the mainland, strengthening military infrastructure, regional connectivity and international collaboration. The government has initiated some important steps in that direction, including on internet connectivity, visa liberalization, tourism, building new ports, agreements for cooperation with neighboring countries in South East Asia.
  • Finally, any large-scale development would inevitably raise questions about preserving the pristine environment of the Andamans and protecting its vulnerable indigenous populations. As it tries to turn the outpost in the Andamans into a strategic hub, Delhi can draw much from the wealth of international experience on the sustainable transformation of fragile island territories.

Conclusion

Modi’s visit will hopefully begin to change India’s national narrative on the Andamans.