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GS 2

Government policies


Assam, Manipur can now decide on AFSPA: (The Hindu)

Context

  • The Union Home Ministry is set to give up its power to impose the ‘disturbed areas’ tag on Assam and Manipur.

Getting free from the tag

  • The States are competent to decide whether they want to continue with it in entirety or impose it in a few pockets where disturbance is expected, sources said.
  • Both the States ruled by the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) will be freed from the tag effectively.
  • It means that it will be the States’ decision to either continue the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) or revoke it.
  • It would be the first time since 1990, when the AFSPA was first invoked in Assam that the Centre would give up its power to continue or discontinue it.
  • As per Section 3 of the AFSPA, it can be invoked in places where “the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary.”
  • The AFSPA vests the Army and Central forces deployed in “disturbed areas” to kill anyone breaking the law and arrest and search any premises without warrant and shield the forces from prosecution.
  • The States are competent to decide whether they want to continue with it in entirety or impose it in a few pockets where disturbance is expected

Executive and the Judiciary


No case for an all India judicial service: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context

  • The proposal to create an All-India Judicial Service (AIJS) along the lines of the All India Services (AIS) is one that has been endlessly debated since the idea was first mooted by the Law Commission in the 1950s.

Why is it so debated?

  • The same arguments both for and against AIJS have been made over and over again.
  • There are no clear lines which can be drawn between those who favour and oppose it as there have been disagreements within the judiciary, the government and the Bar over its necessity and desirability.
  • The debate has once again come up-front with a fresh move to implement it and nine High Courts expressing their disapproval.
  • An AIJS is a dreadful idea in so far as judicial reforms in India are concerned and does not solve even a single problem being faced by the Indian judiciary.

How does AJIS function?

  • District judges will get recruited centrally through an all-India examination and allocated to each State along the lines of the AIS.
  • It is well argued that it will ensure a transparent and efficient method of recruitment to attract the best talent in India’s legal profession.
  • A slighter version of this, with judges recruited by High Courts on the basis of a common examination is currently being debated in the Supreme Court.

The proposal comes with serious drawbacks

  • The first objection to this idea is that it does not adequately diagnose the problem.
  • The answer lies in the fact that the Bar Council of India has mismanaged legal education.
  • Almost no effort has gone into improving the standard of legal education across the country.
  • The best law schools in India are the few set up and funded by the State governments, barring a few exceptions.
  • Within this incredibly small talent pool, the judiciary competes by offering very un-remunerative pay and limited avenues for career advancement.
  • While a lot of effort has been undertaken by the Supreme Court to ensure uniformity in pay scales across States through its orders in the All India Judges’ Association case, it is still abysmally low when compared to that in the private sector, notably law firms, litigation and the corporate sector.
  • While trial court judges face much the same problem in the case of transfers and such issues as civil services officers, they have fewer avenues for growth and promotion.
  • A study published in the Economic and Political Weekly in 2016 showed that less than a third of seats in the High Courts are filled by judges from the district cadre.
  • They are also appointed later in their careers and tend to have shorter tenures than judges appointed directly from the Bar.
  • Even if a lawyer is eager to serve as a judge, he/she would rather wait to be eligible for direct elevation to the High Court than have to go through the grind in the district judiciary.

Issues with AJIS

  • An AIJS addresses neither the problem of disproportionately low pay nor the lack of career advancement.
  • While the former is in the hands of the State governments concerned, the latter is in the hands of the judiciary itself, but no changes have been made to ensure better district judge representation in the High Courts.

Causes

  • A “national exam” risks shutting out those from less privileged backgrounds from being able to enter the judicial services.
  • It may also end up not taking into account local laws, practices and customs which vary widely across States, vastly increasing the costs of training for judges selected through the mechanism.

To what end an AIJS?

  • If the answer is to fill up vacancies faster, compare the vacancy position in the AIS and the subordinate judiciary.
  • The total number of positions in the subordinate judiciary as of October 2016 was 21,374 while the total number of sanctioned posts for the three AIS was 14,355.
  • Of these, 22.67% of posts were vacant in the subordinate judiciary while it was 20.47% of posts in the AIS.
  • Data from December 2011 show that 24.91% of AIS vacancies were unfilled, while the figure for the subordinate judiciary was 20.45%.
  • Therefore, both the decentralized approach of each High Court conducting its own appointment and a centralized one seem to have roughly the same efficacy in filling up the vacancy.

The problems of Indian judiciary

  • Public is losing confidence in the judiciary despite the latter’s assertions.
  • Data show that they are acting on this belief by filing fewer cases year on year.
  • It is likely to be a combination of delays, cost, uncertainty, inefficiency and corruption.
  • Not one of these problems is solved to any degree by centralizing the manner of recruitment of judges.
  • On the contrary, this endless, stagnant debate on the AIJS only takes up time and energy instead of focusing attention on implementing more direct solutions to address the problems of the Indian judiciary.

GS 3

Indian Economy. Planning, Growth and Employment


Caution from a sobering Survey: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Given the macroeconomic context, India should have recorded higher economic growth this year.

Context:

  • Given the macroeconomic context, India should have recorded higher economic growth this year.

Indian Economic Survey, 2017 Part 2:

This was the year when oil prices and inflation were moderate, monsoon rains were abundant, inbound foreign direct investment was at record peak, the currency was stable and the fiscal deficit was under control. With such macroeconomic context, the year should have recorded at least one percentage point higher growth than the previous year. But the survey has a different story to say:

1.The latest June, 2017 data on the index of industrial production (IIP) shows negative growth, i.e. contraction of the index, which is the first in the last four years.

  • The contraction is particularly widespread across manufacturing sectors, with 15 out of 23 industries showing negative growth.

2.Economic growth for fiscal year 2016-17 was 7.1%.

3.Corporate too are reeling under stretched balance sheets, burdened by excessive borrowing at high interest rates (from the past), excess capacity and not-so robust demand for their products.

  • Their situation is made worse with the flood of imports, which take away their domestic market share.

On a positive note:

  • The fiscal situation at the Centre is improving.
  • Exports of the country are finally in positive territory.
  • The four major reforms this year are: GST, a new insolvency and bankruptcy code to deal with NPAs, a new monetary policy framework, and Aadhaar linkage to government services.

Undoing the economic partition: (Indian Express, Editorial)

Context:

Seven decades after Independence, transcending the tragedy of Partition remains the single biggest national challenge for India.

Introduction:

The structural religious tension, engendered by Partition has been aggravated by the unending conflict between India and Pakistan, the successor states of the undivided Subcontinent.

India-Pakistan trade:

  •  The political division did not demand that the new states should stop trade and commerce between them or shut down their frontiers or limit people to people contact.
  •   In fact, the borders remained relatively open in the first two decades after Independence.
  •  The 1965 war, followed by the 1971 conflict, saw the closing of post Partition frontiers and with it the sundering of coherent economic spaces like the Punjab and Bengal.
  • The great regional junctions and trading centres like Lahore and Amritsar turned into terminals at closed frontiers.
  • India and Pakistan made it ever harder for movement of goods and people between the two countries.

India’s neighbours tried different ways to cope with India’s deregionalisation.

  • Sri Lanka, in the late 1970s, turned to the ASEAN and the West.
  •   Businessmen in Nepal sought arbitrage between the tariff levels of Delhi and Kathmandu.
  • The political liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 had little economic consequence, because of  shared commitment to state socialism between Congress and the Awami League.

India’s new commitment to regional economic integration:

  •  It was only after 1991 that India put regionalism back on the policy radar.
  • India’s new commercial interest in the neighbourhood was very much a consequence of the turn towards globalisation. But it has not been easy to translate India’s new commitment to regional economic integration into effective policies.
  •   Internally the resistance to regionalism in India’s economic ministries remains strong.
  • In smaller countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka, the politicisation of economic cooperation with India means knee jerk opposition to all projects involving India.

Way ahead:

  • Overcoming the economic partition of the Subcontinent has become at once urgent and more difficult to achieve.
  • The problem is not about the lack of ideas or resources. It is about mobilising all of Delhi’s political will to force the pace and raise the intensity of India’s regional economic engagement.
  • Delhi’s decisions to look beyond SAARC, modernise border infrastructure, promote connectivity, and open up its markets are all important steps forward.

A messy GST, and the road ahead: (Live Mint, Editorial)

Context:

The government has clarified this week that food takeaways from air-conditioned restaurants will be taxed at 18% even when the customer is handed over the food in an area that does not have air-conditioning.

Introduction:

  •  Some of the decisions taken by the GST Council earlier this month highlight the problem in a stark manner.
  • Admission to planetariums will now attract a lower tax.
  •   The margins payable to fair shop dealers will be tax-free.
  •  The burden of GST in the case of plumbers or carpenters selling their services online will now be borne by e-commerce companies.
  • Rental cab services will have the option of paying a higher GST rate with input tax credit or a lower rate without input tax credit.
  •  Job work services in respect of the textiles and textile products will attract a lower GST rate.
  • The problem is even deeper once the main economic argument for GST is understood.
  • It is supposed to be a national value-added tax that targets final consumption rather than the production of intermediate goods.
  •  This design satisfies the rules by modern theories of optimal taxation, for example in the work of economists such as Peter Diamond and James Mirrlees, who both went on to win Nobel Prizes.

GST regime:

  • The GST in its current form has five rates.
  • It is very likely this has led to case of inverted taxation.
  •   The tax on inputs is higher than the tax on output.
  •  This principle of a destination-based tax is blown away when there are embedded input taxes.
  •  The imperfect GST that India now has is still superior to the inefficient indirect tax system that it has replaced.

What to be done now?

  • The complexity of the GST structure right now, as well as its novelty, will mean that companies will take time to figure out their tax liabilities.
  • The government would do well to give taxpayers the benefit of doubt in the first few months.
  • There should be regulatory forbearance to avoid the prospects of overenthusiastic tax officials assuming that every mistake is a crime.
  • The Union finance minister must reassure tax officials that missing tax collection targets will not be held against them.
  • The cesses have been imposed temporarily to compensate states for potential revenue losses. They should be the first to go once tax collections pick up.
  •  The next step should be to move as many goods and services as possible
  •  It is essential that more people accept that the current structure is seriously flawed, the result of messy political bargaining.

Prelims Related News


How Artificial Intelligence is reshaping art and music:

Called deep neural networks, complex mathematical systems allow machines to learn specific behaviour by analysing vast amounts of data.

Context:

  • What is called deep neural networks; Douglas Eck has come up with a complex mathematical systems allow machines to learn specific behaviour by analysing vast amounts of data.

Explanation:

  • By looking for common patterns in millions of bicycle photos, for instance, a neural network can learn to recognise a bike.
  • This is how Facebook identifies faces in online photos, how Android phones recognise commands spoken into phones, and how Microsoft Skype translates one language into another. But these complex systems can also create art.
  • In the 1990s, neural networks were used for cross-breeding sounds from very different instruments. Say, a bassoon and a clavichord. Creating instruments capable of producing sounds no one has ever heard.
  • Much as a neural network can learn to identify a cat by analysing hundreds of cat photos, it can learn the musical characteristics of a bassoon by analysing hundreds of notes.
  • It creates a mathematical representation, or vector, that identifies a bassoon.
  • Thus, Douglas Eck and his team have fed notes from hundreds of instruments into a neural network, building a vector for each one.

 

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