Editorial Summary 26/3

The Hindu: Faster, Sooner

  • comorbidity condition was highly restrictive and also need for a medical certificate made it inaccessible for many
  • making comorbidities unrequired for a vaccine is commendable
  • as vaccines are a tool to promote health equity
  • vaccination programme witnessing lukewarm participation by private medical facilities
  • India has the means and resources to accelerate daily vaccination rate, but political will is missing, absents targets, awareness building exercises, permissibility of walk-ins : overreliance on CoWin platform has made vaccination passive, lack of micro-planning and outreach

Here is why the electoral bond scheme must go

  • electoral bonds allow limitless and anonymous corporate donations to political parties

A blow against democracy

  • SC has upheld right to know in context of elections, is integral to freedom of expression, citizens have the right to vote on basis of full and complete info
  • most important piece of info is who funds political parties because that dictates the party's policy
  • but the electoral bonds scheme keeps this knowledge from the citizens and voters- hence, violates fundamental tenet of Constitution
  • also, to level playing field (so as to not allow the well-resources party to overwhelm the others), political money needs to be either publically funded or capped. Electoral bonds remove all pre-existing limits on political donations
  • essentially this allows well-resourced corporations to buy politicians by paying money, which violates the purpose of democracy as BR Ambedkar pointed out, i.e. to not just guarantee one person one vote but one vote one value
  • also, the electoral bonds lead to asymmetry : because donations are routed through SBI, hence it is possible for the government to find out who is donating to which party but not for the opposition to know, this may be misused through central investigative agency
  • Statistics support this hypothesis: vast majority of donations through electoral bonds has gone to the BJP

Problems with government's defence

  • govt said that electoral bond scheme reduces black money in elections
  • but entirely unclear what donor anonymity has to do with black money, - also, electoral bonds allow foreign donations to a party, hence allowing prospect of institutional corruption by donating through shell companies

Judiciary needs to act

  • courts must be sensitive to laws that skew the democratic process
  • SC disappointing : petition filed in 2018, case which is absolutely vital for health of Indian democracy was left unheard for 3 years, inaction is not neutral but favours the ruling party

Editorial Summary 25/3

The Hindu: Tactical abstention

  • India abstained vote on UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka
  • reflects unwillingness to upset neighbour, utilising the opportunity to preserve diplomatic space and contain influence of China on Sri Lanka
  • while simultaneously maintaining support for Tamil minority
  • India has not been comfortable with externally mandated investigations- in the past said that Tamil aspirations and unity and integrity of Sri Lanka, both important
  • recently, Sri Lanka facing democracy deficit, current regime has backed off on promises made to UNHRC by previous regime
  • India's limitation: continues to be weighed down by Chinese presence in region

The Hindu: Arts and Awards

  • some attributed awards to political alignment of personalities and films
  • some said deserving candidates were overlooked
  • films across regions, languages awarded, fair share of less-known and well-known films
  • a National award should ideally help film industries that rarely get traction, reach a wider audience- hope so because increasing consumption on digital platforms
  • suggestion: a framework too bring these films to limelight will incentivise filmmakers striving to narrate stories

The Hindu: Tamil Nadu's distinct growth path is in peril

  • major concern in India contemporary development : widening socio-economic disparity across groups and regions
  • Bhagwat- Sen debate: Bhagwat argues for trickle down approach, Sen argues for capability centred developmental path where investment in human capabilities will lead to economic development

Tamil Nadu's Trajectory

  • But TN has defied this trend, with high levels of human development with economic dynamism
  • thanks to populist political mobilisation against caste-based inequalities
  • 2 policy interventions: 'social popular' - rights-based interventions, 'economic popular'- driven by electoral imperatives and tend to address absolute poor

No elite bias in TN

  • scholars have said that India's human development policies are biased towards elites: privileging higher education rather than universalising primary education, investing in curative and tertiary healthcare rather than preventive and primary healthcare
  • TN has countered elite bias: inclusive education policies, successful healthcare policy, lowest out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare share of wages in organised manufacturing among the highest
  • however asymmetries are developing in this development trajectory- federal constraints and reduced autonomy in charting policy : case-in-point is imposition of NEET for medical admissions

Editorial Summary 24/3

Mumbai muckracking

  • charge on Home Minister not surprising, nevertheless needs serious investigation
  • reputation of Mr Singh hardly inspiring, raised allegations only after he was removed as Commissioner -Singh moving to SC for CBI inquiry is self-implicating as he could have acted on these allegations while he was commissioner -BJP trying to topple the State government using central agencies
  • Singh has been important instrument for State govt : the testimony of which is the fact that Shiv Sena sprung up immediately in his defence after he was removed - but sinceafter the allegations made on the Minister, Singh's attempts have been termed as a conspiracy by all 3 parties in power
  • BJP trying hard to reclaim power in State, ruling parties united by survival instinct- hence, neither state police not central agency probe is reassuring, need a neutral investigation

Corrective Voice

  • set aside absurd MP high court order of rakhi-for-bail for sexual offender
  • asked all courts to refrain from imposing marriage or mandate any compromise between sex offender and victim -listed host of avoidable stereotypes: women are physically weak, men are head of the house, women must be submissive and obedient

In the past

  • Justice Chandrachud: argued for treating women same as men in army
  • Court: called out notion of romantic paternalism

The absent programme at the Kerala hustings

  • manifestos compete in offering welfare payments
  • have been received with scepticism as one wonders how the fresh expenditure will be funded

Kerela Model

  • State focusses on welfare- funded by debt
  • Kerela has one of the highest levels of public debt per capita among Indian states
  • Although the economic profession globally has agreed that during the pandemic the level of public debt ought not to hold back necessary public expenditure- but in Kerela this is a structural feature- to elevate the expenditures in relation to revenue
  • unsustainable model because inter-generational debt shifting is not a trivial issue, also it is justified only when borrowing creates capital assets, but this is not happening in Kerela
  • however, either side's manifestos have paid little attention to this problem and have not hinted towards any new resource mobilisation

Different Welfarism

  • a welfare state is a perfectly natural aspiration for a democracy
  • however, a genuine welfare state has benefits finances by taxes, for two reasons- one, financial viability and two, citizens have a sense of ownership of the programmes
  • this feature distinguishes Kerela's welfarism with a genuine welfare state

Coverage

  • Kerela has very high percentage of children in private schools and out-of-pocket expenditure on health in India
  • increase welfare payments, in absence of resource mobilisation and low tax collections, can only mean reduced spending for health and education

Need for alternative funding ways

  • cannot fund welfare scheme forever by borrowing as it would lead to higher fiscal burden if not debt trap
  • hence, no alternative to funding welfare schemes via higher taxation or some other source of public funding
  • funding can also be through contributions made by workers (like in European welfare states)- will only happen if everyone is employed for at least some stage in their lives
  • for this state will have to increase employment levels but right now, unemployment in Kerela youth is more than national average and no party in its manifesto has promised any programme for employment generation

Broadening Tax Net

  • state's tax largely derived from 4 sources: liquor, lotteries, petrol, motor vehicles
  • are all items of mass consumption, hence working class contributed most but middle class is disproportionately benefiting
  • hence, tax net needs to be broadened from POV of equity and buoyancy
  • can start with steeply progressive taxation of property stands

Editorial Summary 22/3

Junk inefficiency 22/3/21

benefits

  • cleaner environment
  • pushing demand for automobile industry post-covid ### challenges
  • establishing credible system of automated fitness checks
  • getting states on board to put road tax and registration concessions
  • large number of heavy commercial vehicles which lack fitness certificates- absence of financial arrangements for small operators
  • prioritising fuel efficiency

Rising poverty 22/3/21

rising poverty and high economic disparity in India- pandemic has affected the lowest strata of society most

Evidence

  • Pew Research Center report- claims that the number of poors in India has swelled so as to undo progress made in preceding 9 years
  • much more stark increase in poverty in India as compared to China- caveat: base year for China is 2016, while that for India is 2011
  • jump in demand for MNREGA opportunities fiscal policy response has been underwhelming risk of much more increase in poverty as the covid cases rise again

The ground report in the Assam duel 22/3/21

BJP agenda

  • implement the Assam record- got support
  • polarising narrative and nationalism
  • caution in seeking votes on CAA- opposition in state, especially by Assamese- but hides ideological intentions behind election language (as Assam accord has secular fundamentals)
  • protect jati (nationality) , mati (land) and bheti (foundation)- invoking religious identities of voters and presenting Muslim civilisation as a threat to the other ethnic and religious communities

Congress and allies agenda

  • unemployment
  • price rise in essential commodities
  • daily wages guarantee to tea garden workers
  • notwithstanding opposition to CAA- factor in cementing alliance

AJP and Raijot Dal

  • forged alliance to defeat all nationnal parties
  • not joining Grand Opposition alliance because claims AIUDF communal,
  • not allying with BJP because claims BJP communal- have been mobilizing people against CAA
  • formation of this alliance could lead to splitting up of anti-CAA votes in favour of BJP

Editorial Summary 23/3

Free and Open

  • US Secretary of Defense Austin's visit to India
  • visited early on in President Biden's tenure- tells about priority India holds for US and US' focus on maritime cooperation in Indo-Pacific bilateral: improve defence relationship, AI, info sharing, logistics, space
  • On Afghanistan: so far, not paid much heed to India's concerns on talks with the Taliban On sanctions on countries procuring Russian military hardware: would be applied to India only after procurement of missile system raised issue of human rights in India avoided direct reference ot LAC dispute and China because India considers them bilateral issues

The Way Forward

  • military in Myanmar toppled democratic government, declared emergency, assuming they would be able to quickly consolidate power
  • But proved wrong by large-scale protests. Military responded to protests with brutal force.
  • large number of people crossed border to India, India has sealed border for now, but will get difficult if situation in Myanmar worsens
  • unlike last times, when military was able to dissuafe protests by force and fear, this time finding difficult
  • international pressure building, but the military has paid little attention to intl opinion historically
  • in best interest of the military to heed to public demand and restore democracy, because if not, will be left with a fragmented isolated Myanmar

Delhi’s administration as the tail wagging the dog

parliamentary democracy is a part of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution

History of Delhi's governance model

  • initially, Type C state because one, if Delhi was made a State, it would occupy a predominant position wrt other states and two, keeping national cappital under Union govt jurisdiction for national interest
  • then made into a Union Territory, was to be governed by a President appointee, legislative assembly and council of Delhi stood abolished
  • Delhi Administration Act, 1966: limited representative govt in Delhi- metropolitan elected council
  • 1987: Balakrishnan Committee recommended remain UT but with a Legislative assembly and Council of Ministers, was implemented via GNCT Act 1991
  • holds till date, despite efforts for full or near statehood
  • for many years, Delhi govt and Union govt have been rules by different parties but none of them have found a peaceful co-existence arrangement (modus vivendi)

Supreme Court verdicts

  • SC verdict in 2018 says Legislative Council to act on topics in State list and Concurrent list, rest for the Lieutinant General, in consultation with Council of Ministers
  • SC verdict in 2019 brought a difference of opinion between two judges, awaits hearing before a larger bench

GNCT Bill, 2021

  • degrade elected government in Delhi to a mere vestigial organ and elevates the centrally appointed LG in essence, the elected government can do nothing, if the LG does not permit
  • “The expression ‘Government’ referred to in any law to be made by the Legislative Assembly shall mean the Lieutenant Governor."
  • bill likely to be passed in both houses- will result in unrepresentative administration in Delhi
  • bill likely to be challeneged in courts- SC has already cautioned 'interpretation cannot ignore the conscience of the Constitution'