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Social issues


Complicated terms of engagement: (Hindu, Editorial)

Context:

Recently, the Supreme Court declared  that a man who has sex with a wife less than 18 years can be charged of rape.

What is the Supreme Court verdict?

  • The court held that since sexual assault in marriage is already a crime under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POSCO) , it is discriminatory and arbitrary to suspend the protection of the rape law for  these underage married girls.
  • The apex court set aside the state’s argument that marriage presumes consent; that compulsory sex in child marriage is protected by customary or personal law; that husbands of child brides must have impunity from the rape law; or that poverty and lack of development means compulsory sex in child marriage must be de-criminalised.
  • The Supreme Court decision makes it clear that sexual consent can only be given by an adult woman of 18 years.
  •  The apex court holds that the “the girl child must not be deprived of her right to choice”. The right to choose includes freedom from parental pressure to marry early, freedom from forced marriages, freedom of  choice of sexual orientation, and freedom to find self-fulfillment through study, work, profession, vacation or talent.

Definition of Child:

  •  POCSO defines a child, (irrespective of gender) as a person under the age of 18 years, which prevents the “inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity”.
  • It mandates the Central and State governments to take all measures to ensure publicity to the provisions of the Act and obliges government officials to be trained in how to implement the Act.
  • The Indian state acceded in 1992 to the UN General Assembly’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  •  The apex court Judgment ruled that the jurisdiction of sexual impunity     preventing husbands from being prosecuted for rape of child wives must lie     with customary or personal law through the marital rape law exception.

Individual choice

There are two broad responses to the age of consent.

  •  The first perspective that evokes the political economy of custom and law argues for a lowering of age of consent to 16. This creates a conflict with the definition of the child under POCSO, unnecessarily putting women’s rights against child rights.
  • The second stance recommends proximity in age clause in the age of consent provision to prevent the criminalisation of young people who are sexually active between 16 to 18 years.
  • Both these perspectives are guided by recognition of the vulnerabilities of young adults to succumb t pressure at home to marry early and against their wishes.

Child marriage in India:

  • Child marriage has historically cast a shadow over rape law reform in India. Child marriage is a specific form of customary practice arranged by parents or male community elders.
  • These are  a distinct form of early marriages in which the consent of the patriarch of the family or elder determines the matrimonial fate of the child.
  • Recently, research by Young Lives in coordination with National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) revealed that Rajasthan has reported the highest incidence of child marriages.

Highlights of the Report

  • The study based on 2011 Census, stated that 2.5% of marriages of minor girls were reported in Rajasthan.
  • The other states with a high incidence of marriages of girls below the legal age are Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal.
  • Rajasthan also topped in the percentage of boys marrying below the legal age of 21 (4.69%).
  • However, the incidence of child marriage among girls increased substantially in urban India from 1.78% in 2001 to 2.45% in 2011.

Major Reasons for prevalence of Child Marriage in India:

Economies of marriage:

  • Poverty and marriage expenses such as dowry may lead a family to marry off their daughter at a young age to reduce these costs.
  • Patriarchal Indian society considers a girl as an economic burden. Marrying her off at an early age is a way to transfer this burden to the marital family.

Lack of education:

  • Poor educational opportunities for girls, especially in rural areas increase the vulnerability of a girl child to be married off early.
  • Also, in the current patriarchal setup of the Indian society a girl’s right to education is regarded as a secondary priority to her labour in the household. This aggravates the situation as the girl’s’ power to resist marriage and opt for alternative aspirations is decreased.
  • Patriarchy and gender inequalities prevailing in the Indian society is one of the major reasons for persisting high incidence of child marriages.

Impacts of Child Marriage

  • On women’s health: Issues related to early pregnancy. Mental health is also a major concern. Violence and abuse at marital home can lead to post-traumatic stress and depression.
  • On Education: Girls are forced to drop out schools. There lies a cause and effect relationship between lack of education and child marriage.
  • On fertility: Lower age at marriage directly affects fertility rates. Lower the rate of age at marriage higher is the fertility rate.
  • Maternal mortality: Maternal mortality is high among women who have conceived at an early age. Risks associated with pregnancy are higher.
  • Infant Mortality: Mortality rates of children born to very young mothers are high. The children that survive are likely to develop health problems and are more at risk of transmitting HIV/AIDS.
  • Violation of Rights of Children: The Rights of Children are denied by early marriage. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is designed to guarantee certain individual rights. Child marriage denies the following rights:
  • The right to education,
  • The right to be protected from physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, including sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation,
  • The right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health,
  • The right to rest and leisure, and to participate freely in cultural life,
  • The right to not be separated from parents against the child’s will,
  • The right to protection against all forms of exploitation affecting any aspect of the child’s welfare and
  • The right to eventual employment

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006

  • The Act came into effect on 1st November 2007
  • The Act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir; and it applies also to all citizens of India without and beyond India
  • Under this Act, “child” means a person who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age.
  • The Act defines “child marriage” as a marriage where either of the contracting parties is a child
  • Boys and girls forced into child marriages as minors have the option of voiding their marriage up to two years after reaching adulthood, and in certain circumstances, marriages of minors can be null and void before they reach adulthood.
  • It provides maintenance for the female contracting party.
  •  The act prohibits the solemnization of child marriages wherein a child means a person who if male has not yet completed 21 years, and if female not yet 18 years.
  •  The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012:
  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.

Objectives:

  • The Act defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography.
  • The Act also casts the police in the role of child protectors during the investigative process
  • The Act further makes provisions for avoiding the re-victimisation of the child at the hands of the judicial system.
  • It provides for special courts that conduct the trial in-camera and without revealing the identity of the child, in a manner that is as child-friendly as possible.
  • Above all, the Act stipulates that a case of child sexual abuse must be disposed of within one year from the date the offence is reported.

Suggestions to combat the menace:

  • Extending educational infrastructure especially in rural areas. Education for girls at least up to secondary level should be provided
  • Addressing the issue of gender biases
  • Extensive awareness and gender sensitization programs.
  • Empowering young people to criticize the existing social norms.
  • Integration of existing child laws in India.
  • Effective implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006).
  • Consistency between personal laws and The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act should be established.
  • The question of sexual consent must lie with the individual woman.
  • Parents, elders, political parties, priests or vigilante groups should not be permitted to force women, adult, or minor, into marriage or compulsory heterosexuality.
  • Young adults should not be forced be forced into heterosexuality per se, if they are not sexually attracted to the opposite sex.

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International groupings and agreements


For the sake of the Indo-Pacific: (Indian Express, Editorial)

Context:

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to New Delhi this week comes at an important moment for both countries and governments.

Introduction:

  •  Last week, Secretary Tillerson articulated the importance of India and of U.S.-India ties.
  •  He spoke of marinating stability, security and prosperity across the Indo-Pacific region in the coming decades.
  •  He also pointed out that geo-economics of the Indo-Pacific are as important as the region’s geopolitics.
  • The present visit gives both governments an opportunity to talk in a comprehensive manner on some of the outstanding trade issues.

Recent development on India-US relations:

  •  The India-U.S.  Commercial ties have seen an uptick in recent years with NDA government’s market oriented reforms.
  • India is presently the US’s ninth largest goods trading partner.
  • India is also one of the fastest growing sources of foreign direct investment in the US, at nearly $11 billion.
  •  In a groundbreaking development illustrating growing economic convergence, the US delivered its first shipment of crude oil to the Paradip port a few weeks ago. This will lay the foundation for a burgeoning cooperation in the energy sector.
  • During this week’s US Trade Policy Forum, US and Indian leaders will have an opportunity to generate a constructive dialogue on challenges American businesses encounter as they compete in the Indian market: Market access barriers for medical devices, tariff and nontariff barriers on ICT products and agricultural goods, and the need for a strong intellectual property framework that benefits innovation and entrepreneurship.
  •  Indian startups are now open to receiving 100 per cent funding from foreign venture capitalists — a recent reform implemented by the government of India.
  • As India continues its economic reforms, Indian and global companies look forward to further improving India’s ease of doing business, removing infrastructure bottlenecks, and encouraging entrepreneurship and value creation in Indian businesses.
  •   A recent report predicts dramatic shifts in the global economic order by 2050 — six of the seven largest economies will be emerging economies led by China and India.
  •  India will need $4.5 trillion in investment by 2040 for infrastructure and economic growth.
  • ·  It is crucial for India to be able to develop its infrastructure, attract capital and cutting-edge technology, grow its economy and advance opportunities for its people.
  •   India will only benefit by working with American businesses in order to attract private investment in a way that follows global standards for international development.
  •      America has become a major arms supplier for India.
  •  America has begun to clear the path for strategic regional coordination between two nations.

Significance of Present visit for India-U.S bilateral relations:

  •   The visit set the course for India-U.S. relations going ahead, mapping convergences in connectivity, trade and economics and counter-terrorism cooperation.
  • America wants to be India’s most “reliable partner” in an increasingly uncertain world.
  •  The U.S. put India at the very heart of America’s efforts to balance an increasingly assertive China.
  •  The meeting will lead to more intensive regional collaboration between the US and Asian democracies- India, Japan and Australia — to ensure peace and promote prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.
  •  In facing up to India’s concerns about Pakistan’s use of terror as an instrument of foreign policy and China’s quest for hegemony in the Indo-Pacific, Trump and Tillerson have raised hopes for a closer regional alignment between Delhi and Washington.
  •  Tillerson sketched out a crucial role for India in maintaining in stability in the Asia Pacific region—along with partners like Japan and Australia besides the US. This was against the backdrop of the unpredictable rise of China.

Conclusion:

India should resist the temptation for an endless debate on whether America can move away from China and Pakistan and be India’s reliable partner. Delhi should focus, instead, on strengthening practical cooperation wherever possible with Trump’s Washington.

Both the countries need to work together on the political and security challenges across the Indo- Pacific region, from mounting tensions with North Korea, the Rohingya crisis, and India’s own standoff with China over Dokhlam to the lingering challenges in Afghanistan.

New U.S. policy is a ‘game-changer’, says Ashraf Ghani

Context

  • India and Afghanistan deliberated on regional counter-terror efforts and emphasized on enhancing New Delhi’s defence assistance to Kabul during a day-long working visit by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to India.
  • Mr Ghani  also praised the new United States (U.S) strategy  calling it a ‘game – changer’ as it aims at ensuring a regional approach to fighting terrorism, including making Pakistan act against “state sponsorship of sanctuaries” along the border with Afghanistan.

Meeting with Tillerson

  • Both India and Afghanistan expressed an appreciation for the U.S.’s new South Asia policy, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson continued his travels in the region.
  • President Ghani and  Prime Minister Modi following the new U.S. Strategy, agreed that the strategy is an opportunity for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan & South Asia; expansion of cooperation between the countries and the region.

Pros of the new South Asia policy

More military deployment in Afghanistan

  • The decision of U.S accompanying South Asian countries in throwing out terrorism from the region provides for a significant change in the nature of military peace.
  • The security scenario will result into sophistication of military operations. The new strategy will be dictated by “the conditions on the ground” not “arbitrary timetables”.  Such a move is necessary to avoid the collapse of the US-backed government in Kabul.

Strong hold on Pakistan

  • The second aspect of the new strategy is a strong focus on Pakistan to make sure it abides by its commitments.
  • Recently, U.S has expressed its concern over Pakistan actions in aborting terrorist activities. Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror.
  • U.S has asked Pakistan, a change of approach, a break with the status quo, threatening that no partnership can survive a country’s tolerance of militants and terrorists.

India playing an important role

  • The third part of the Trump strategy is his outreach to India, saying a “critical part” of his administration’s South Asia policy is to further develop the US’s strategic partnership with India.
  • U.S expects from India to play a greater role with the credible image it holds in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has also in return nodded in the friendly manner.

Significance of Present visit for India-U.S bilateral relations:

  • The visit set the course for India-U.S. relations going ahead, mapping convergences in connectivity, trade and economics and counter-terrorism cooperation.
  • Tillerson said America wants to be India’s most “reliable partner” in an increasingly uncertain world, thus, putting India at the very heart of America’s efforts to balance an increasingly assertive China.
  • Tillerson affirmation  that India and America “are two bookends of stability on either side of the globe” with shared political values and converging economic interests highlights the Credibility U.S puts on the shoulder of India.
  • In facing up to India’s concerns about Pakistan’s use of terror as an instrument of foreign policy and China’s quest for hegemony in the Indo-Pacific, Trump and Tillerson have raised hopes for a closer regional alignment between Delhi and Washington.
  • Tillerson sketched out a crucial role for India in maintaining in stability in the Asia Pacific region—along with partners like Japan and Australia besides the US. This was against the backdrop of the unpredictable rise of China.

How will this move help South Asia to get rid of terrorism?

  • US have clogged the financial aid to Pakistan military which were used in terror activities and has also removed Pakistan from the list of terror victim countries.
  • The policy asks Pakistan to stop terror in Afghanistan from her north-west tribal regions.
  • The emphasis on extradition of terror group leaders like Masood Azhar(JeM),Syed Salahuddin from Pakistan to India.
  • The policy recognizes internal threats like Naxalism and other organized crimes against India.
  • Recognition of groups like LeT, JeM, JuD, Haqqani network and global terror group like ISIS, Taliban and their safe haven in Pakistan, Somalia, Sahara belt will likely to have major impact on UN resolution on terrorism.

India-US Defence Relations

  • The defence partnership has been blossoming, growing and expanding over the last many years. In 2005 India-US framework agreement on civil nuclear cooperation was signed. This was renewed in 2015.
  • Recently India was designated as “a major defence partner”.This is a designation that the US provides to its NATO members, to its allies like Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea. India will also be stepping into these ranges of countries.
  • There are large numbers of initiatives on defence cooperation and one of them is Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).
  • Starting from the base level of zero in 2005 where there was no exchange, US has become the second largest supplier of defence equipments to India with orders more than $15 billion.  There is scope of making it trilateral by bringing in India-US-Japan or India-US-Australia. The Malabar exercise is in good progress.
  • There are so many indicators to prove that India – U.S relationship in defence and also in other areas like science, knowledge, and culture is in bright spot for both the countries. There are talks about Counter terrorism where we see prospects of greater relations.
  • In 2016, India and United States signed the LEMOA.

India – Afghanistan relations

Defense Cooperation:

  • India provides training to Afghanistan military officers in Indian military academies.
  • In 2014 India signed an agreement with Afghanistan and Russia. According to this agreement Russia will provide all military equipment needed by Afghanistan and India will pay for it.
  • India has directly provided three Russian-made Mi-25 attack helicopters to Afghan Air Force in 2015.

Corporation in fighting Terrorism

  • India wants a democratic and peaceful Afghanistan for stability in its relations. But the country faces terror threats in the following ways –
  • Afghani Taliban is a major terrorist group. They are attempting to take over the democratically elected Government in Afghanistan.
  • Al Qaeda and many other terrorist groups like Haqqani Network are very active in Afghanistan.
  • The recent rise of Islamic State terrorists may have spillover effects on India in future.

Why is Afghanistan important to India?

Pipeline Routes

  • The country is located strategically adjacent to the oil and gas rich Middle East & Central Asia giving it an important geostrategic location.
  • Afghanistan becomes an attractive real estate for dominance on the pipeline routes.

Natural Resources

  • Afghanistan is rich in natural resources such as previous metals and minerals.

Regional Balance of Power

  • India needs Afghanistan to keep Pakistan in check just like China has been using Pakistan against India
  • When Afghanistan was invaded by US in 2001, its objectives were to oust Taliban and control of natural resources of Afghanistan.
  • There was an agenda for the US and India to prevent Russian and Chinese hegemony in Central Asia.
  • Russia maintains Afghanistan as embankment to protect its vulnerable southern border from illegal narcotics and Islamic extremism.
  • These factors make Afghanistan has become a center of power struggle between superpowers.

Way forward

  • Delhi should focus on strengthening practical cooperation wherever possible with Trump’s Washington.
  • Delhi must seek to stiffen America’s resolve to confront the Pakistan Army’s sponsorship of terror, encourage them to discard the residual bureaucratic hesitations in Washington about supporting India’s rise and delineate the pathways for constructing a stable balance of power system in the Indo-Pacific.

Indian and neighbors


We can’t let the India-Pakistan relationship be hostage to dispute:

Context

  • Former Ambassador of Pakistan to the U.S. Husain Haqqani has launched South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH), condemning the “widening circle of repression” and  is trying to address mainstream extremist and terrorist organizations in Pakistan.

What is SAATH?

  • South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH), is a platform where people could start asking questions that they are not allowed to ask otherwise.
  • As hyper-nationalist discourse is being encouraged in Pakistan, especially in the media and it is done so by silencing dissent. Somebody has to start telling people to talk rationally, and the purpose of SAATH is to try and rekindle a rational discourse back to Pakistan.
  • SAATH is not going to possibly affect day-to-day politics but it aims to affect the battle of ideas.

What are the issues SAATH deals with?

  • The widening circle of repression of critical, dissenting voices to the state’s narrative have led to shrinking space for liberal, secular, progressive ideas and pluralism.
  • There are constant threats to democracy and to nationalists in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa areas of Pakistan.
  • NGOs, human rights defenders and individuals are being victimised. Major political parties are demonstrating an inability to prioritize protection of human rights and social justice.
  • Attempts to mainstream extremist and terrorist organizations are a particularly dangerous development and a threat to the democratic polity.
  • State support for, and tolerance of, groups considered terrorist by the rest of the world remains a serious concern.
  • An unelected institution of state challenging the democratic mandate of the elected government, in keeping with a persistent pattern, continues to be a serious source of apprehension.
  • To establish a true democracy in Pakistan, which is a multinational state, the federating units must be given not only maximum political autonomy but also control over their natural resources.

What does SAATH aims at?

  • This forum recognizes that one of the reasons Pakistan’s democracy has remained tenuous is that while the Centre has denied rights to the provinces, the provinces have failed in the devolution of power to the local governments.
  • Therefore, this forum demands that the provinces should activate the Provincial Finance Commissions and allocate maximum resources to the local governments.
  • It also demands that the local governments should be given 25% of the royalty and the profits of natural resources exploited from their respective areas.
  • Participants decided that Pakistan needs a new national narrative that is based on the consent of its people rather than on religious hatred, militarism and militancy.
  • Participants of SAATH will set up two secretariats, one in Pakistan and the other abroad for the diaspora, to help wrestle the idea and identity of Pakistan away from the obscurantist forces.

What role is envisaged for other South Asian nations in SAATH?

  • The problems in South Asian region are interlinked. Once there are enough Pakistanis onboard, then SAATH will focus on bringing Afghan, Indian, Sri Lankan, Bangladesh and Nepal on board as well.
  • South Asia is the least integrated region in the world. Half of Europe’s trade is within Europe and half of ASEAN’s (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is within ASEAN. In South Asia, intra-regional trade is only 5% of the total trade of the countries in the region, which is abysmal. SAATH will try focusing on the intra – regional trade in South Asian region.

Where does the road lead for India and Pakistan?

  • India and Pakistan should not let their relationship be hostage to dispute. Their approach should be ‘let us become friends first and discuss things we disagree about later’.
  • India can help change the psyche by constantly signalling to the Pakistani people that India has no conflict with them and make sure that the Pakistani people are no longer fooled by an establishment that no longer describes India and Pakistan as neighbours but as eternal enemies.

India – Pakistan

Historical Background

  • Relations between India and Pakistan have been complex due to a number of historical and political events.
  • Relations between the two states have been defined by the violent partition of British India in 1947, the Kashmir conflict and the numerous military conflicts fought between the two nations. Consequently, their relationship has been plagued by hostility and suspicion.
  • Since the early 1980s, relations between the two nations soured particularly after the Siachen conflict, the intensification of Kashmir insurgency in 1989, Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998 and the 1999 Kargil war.

Convergence

Inbred hate

  • The battle between India and Pakistan at the border may not have an immediate solution, but the battle in our minds can be solved if we let go of the dogmas and accept each other as fellow human beings

Trade

  • One of the key areas where the relationship can actually be mended is trade. The reason being a tremendous potential for trade between both the nations
  • Once the economic relations are strengthened, there will be no chance of war, because even enemies turn into friends due to trading.
  • The trade volume between the two countries is very low, and this has to be enhanced. The two countries should move forward, and the peace process can flourish through the economic corridor
  • The trade volume between Pakistan and India was $2.4 billion, Pakistan’s exports to India amount to $402.7 million, or 1.6pc of its overall exports.

Easier on visas

  • Lately, there have been instances where many people suffered due to rigidity and strict regulations on issuing visas. This is another area where both nations can improve that can further attract tourism in both nations

Divergence

  • The year 2016 could go down as one of the worst for Indo-Pak ties as terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups stalled the peace process and India’s surgical strikes inside PoK followed by trading of heavy fire at the border raised fears of a large-scale conflict.
  • The year began on a sordid note when on January 2, Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad militants stormed the Pathankot airbase in Punjab and killed seven security personnel before they were eliminated.
  • The Pathankot attack was devastating for bilateral ties as it followed a brief but important visit to Lahore by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of the birthday of his counterpart Nawaz Sharif on December 25 last year
  • India’s attitude began to harden in July, when Pakistan tried to gain diplomatic and political mileage out of popular protests in Indian-administered Kashmir.
  • Modi government responded by refusing to condemn a devastating terrorist attack in the Pakistani city of Quetta in August.
  • This was the first time; he also raised Pakistani human rights abuses in Balochistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir in his annual Independence Day speech on Aug. 15.

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Indian Economy. Planning, Growth and Employment


The argument against a fiscal stimulus package for the Indian economy: (Live Mint, Editorial)

Context

It is believed by many economists that unless structural problems like bad loans are fixed, quick-fix solutions such as a fiscal stimulus package are not likely to raise growth rates

What is a ‘Stimulus Package’

  • A ‘stimulus’ is an attempt by policymakers to kick start a sluggish economy through a package of measures.
  • A monetary stimulus will see the central bank expanding money supply or reducing the cost of money to spur consumer spending.
  • A fiscal stimulus entails the Government spending more from its own coffers or slashing tax rates to put more money in the hands of consumers.

Why is it important?

  • Stimulus acquired respectability after the US credit crisis of 2008 saw governments across the US, Europe, Japan and China rolling out large fiscal stimulus packages.
  • India’s fiscal stimulus package in 2008-09 included a blanket 4 percentage point cut in the excise duty rates

o   Rs 20,000 crore in plan spending by the Government,

o    Rs 10,000 crore funding for infrastructure finance,

o    Export subsidies

o    Large government order for new buses to replace State public transport fleets.

Why the government must tread with caution?

  • Fiscal policy is a potent instrument that must be used to alleviate the unemployment crisis, but first, supply-side constraints need to be systematically united.
  • The synchronized easing of fiscal and monetary policies in the wake of the financial crash of 2008 stoked the fires of inflation, and led to a widening of the twin deficits in the subsequent years.

What are the arguments against the stimulus package?

  • The biggest argument against a fiscal stimulus package comes from the example of borrowing spree unleashed by the central government in the late 1980s which culminated in the economic crisis of 1991
  • The benefits of a fiscal stimulus are uncertain but the risks are clear
  • India’s consolidated deficit is significantly higher than most other emerging markets of the world, as the latest issue of the International Monetary Fund’s Fiscal Monitor shows.
  • It is worth noting that foreign portfolio inflows into India so far this year have been led by bond investors, who have pumped in a net of $22 billion in debt markets

What is the way ahead?

  • The key reason for this is the pile-up of bad debt that has made lenders wary of lending afresh, and the pipeline of stalled projects that has stymied the flow of fresh investments.
  • Unless such structural problems are fixed, quick-fix solutions such as a fiscal stimulus package are unlikely to raise growth rates sustainably.

₹5.35 lakh crore for new road project:(summary,artha)

The Centre on Tuesday announced a ₹5.35 lakh crore road construction package, called BharatMala Pariyojana, in a bid to spur the economy as private investment remains moribund. This follows a Cabinet nod to build 34,800 km of roads nationwide, including in border and coastal areas.

Context:

  • The Centre announced road construction, called BharatMala Pariyojana, in a bid to encourage the economy as private investment remains moribund.

What is the Bharatmala project?

  • Bharatmala is a name given to road and highways project of Government of India.
  • The total investment for the Bharatmala plan is estimated at Rs10 trillion, which is the largest ever outlay for a government road construction scheme.
  • Under Bharatmala, the road ministry also plans to undertake a network of economic corridors in the country and a detailed project report on these has already been prepared by the global consultancy firm AT Kearney.
  • AT Kearney has identified 44 economic corridors for development by the road ministry and these include Mumbai-Cochin-Kanyakumari, Bengaluru-Mangaluru, Hyderabad-Panaji and Sambalpur-Ranchi. These economic corridors plan to open up India’s hinterland to development

Key features:

  • Bharat Mala will connect a total of 12 states.
  • The BharatMala project will include economic corridors, inter-corridor and feeder route, national corridors efficiency improvement , border roads and international connectivity, coastal roads and port connectivity and green-field expressways.
  • It will provide road connectivity to border regions in a structured way.
  • Expertise of BRO/Border Roads Organisation will be taken for rougher terrains.
  • Bharat Mala will provide easier access to border areas for armed forces and boost trade via the land route.
  • Bharatmala will replace National Highways Development Project (NHDP) launched in 1998 by then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the scheme is expected to be completed by this year with just 10,000km of highway construction left under it.

What are the problems with road and transportation of India?

  • National Highways: The National Highways suffer from the deficiencies of inadequate capacity, weak pavement, poor riding quality, distressed bridges, unabridged level cross¬ings, congested cities (lack of by-pass roads), lack of wayside amenities and safety measure
  • Mixing of traffic: One major problem on the Indian roads is the mixing of traffic.
  • This in¬creases traffic time, congestion and pollution and road accidents.
  • Participation of private sector: There is very little participation of private sector in road development in India because of long gestation period and low-returns.
  • Private investment: The legislative framework for private investment in roads is not satisfactory.
  • In stability in policy: There has been no stability in policy relat¬ing to highway development in the country. It has changed with the change of government.
  • Shortage of funds: There is shortage of funds for the construction and maintenance of roads.

Shedding light on Saubhagya: (Hindu, Editorial)

Context:

  • The Government of India has launched the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or Saubhagya Scheme.

What is Saubhagya scheme?

  • The Saubhagya scheme was launched on September 25th, 2017.
  • The scheme will provide electricity connections to over 40 million families in rural and urban areas by December 2018.

What is the need for the scheme?

  • Village electrification programme like Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana, launched in July 2015, realised that a large number of household is still remaining without access to electricity.
  • Moreover, the scheme aims at ensuring the coverage of households as opposed to only villages.
  • A village is declared to be electrified if 10% of the households are given electricity along with public places such as schools, panchayat office, health centres, dispensaries and community centres.

How this scheme will make a difference?

  • The scheme will help to meet its global climate change commitments as electricity will substitute kerosene for lighting purposes.
  • Easy access to electricity in turn will also help in improving education, health, connectivity with the multiplier effect of increased economic activities and job creation.

What is Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana?

  • Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana is a Government of India scheme, launched on 25th July 2015.
  • The DDUGJY is one of the flagship programmes of the Ministry of Power.

Objectives:

  • Ministry of Power, Government of India has launched Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana for rural areas having following objectives:
  • To provide electrification to all villages,
  • Feeder separation to ensure sufficient power to farmers and regular supply to other consumers,
  • Improvement of Sub-transmission and distribution network to improve the quality and reliability of the supply and
  • Metering to reduce the losses.

The power sector of India: a quick glance:

  • India’s ranks third globally in terms of electricity production.
  • Sources of power generation in India range from conventional sources such as coal, lignite, natural gas, oil, hydro and nuclear power to viable non-conventional sources such as wind, solar, and agricultural and domestic waste.
  • Electricity comes under the concurrent list.

Problems of power sector in India:

  • The deeply troubled power sector accounts for almost one-tenth of all bank loans in India.
  • The power sector is also facing significant technological challenges as the cost of solar energy continues falling.
  • Increasing power generation costs due to limited fuel availability, poor financial health of State Discoms, high AT&C losses have contributed in suppressed demand projections by State Discoms
  • Power plants and utilities face major constraints and delays regarding the availability of land and obtaining the requisite environment and other clearances for the projects.
  • Apart from these, there is a significant amount of shortage of manpower and machinery equipments.

Government initiatives:

  • The Ministry of Power, Government of India, has taken various measures to achieve its aim of providing 24X7 affordable and environment friendly ‘Power for All’ by 2019.
  • The Government of India has initiated 10-year tax exemption for solar energy projects order to achieve India’s ambitious renewable energy targets by the year 2022.
  • The revised Tariff Policy was notified by Ministry of Power with a focus on ‘4 Es’ i.e. Electricity for all, Efficiency to ensure affordable tariffs, Environment for a sustainable future, Ease of doing business to attract investments and ensure financial viability.
  • Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) for urban areas provides for:
  • (a) strengthening of sub-transmission and distribution networks in urban areas;
  • (b) metering of distribution transformers/feeders/consumers in urban areas; and
  • (c) IT enablement of distribution sector and strengthening of distribution network.
  • Operationalization of Power System Development Fund (PSDF) shall be utilized for the project proposed by distribution utilities for:
  • (a) creating necessary transmission system of strategic importance;
  • (b) installation of shunt capacitors etc. for improvement of voltage profile in the grid;
  • (c) installation of standard and special protection schemes; and
  • (d) Renovation and Modernisation of transmission and distribution systems for relieving congestion; etc.
  • Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) scheme has been launched for operational and financial turnaround of Discoms.

 

 

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