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GS-1

Urbanisation, Social issues


Addressing India’s income inequality: (Live Mint, Editorial)

Context:

Thomas Piketty and Lucas Cancel in their new paper “Indian Income Inequality 1922-2014: From British Raj to Billionaire Raj” has shown that income inequality in India at present is at its highest level since the creation of the Indian Income Tax Act in 1922

How is the recent data published different from previously published data?

  • Indian inequality data has traditionally been derived from consumer surveys.
  • The traditional data largely understated the problem of income inequality in India.
  • However, the data in the Pikety’s recent paper have calculated inequality from tax data, national income accounts and sample surveys. This method gives a way better picture of inequality.

What major conclusions can be drawn from the paper?

  • The increase in income inequality coincides with the sharp rise in Indian economic growth after 1980
  • Income inequality is not merely the share of national income going to the top 1%.
  • There are other major distributional issues. The middle 40% in India got 23% of the increase in national income since 1980. In contrary, during the same period, middle 40% in China got 43% of the increase in national income.
  • The bottom half in both China and India experienced similar conditions.

Why did middle 40% in India have a different experience than China’s?

  • The main reason is the failure of labour-intensive manufacturing in India compared to its massive success in China.  
  • In India, the proportion of workers in agriculture has declined but the workers who have left farms have not got jobs in modern factories or offices.

What political economy lessons can be learnt from these trends?

  • There is a need to focus sustainable attack on mass poverty by job creation in the modern sectors of the economy rather than redistribution through fiscal spending that is eventually destabilizing.
  • Widening income inequality weakens public support for liberal economic reforms and economic populism takes over.

GS-2

Effects of developed and developing countries policies


No plan yet to deport Rohingya:

Context

  • States have been asked only to identify ‘illegal’ immigrants so far and act as per procedure

What is the united nation’s opinion?

  • United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has asked India to not carry out collective expulsions where they risk torture or other violations
  • Mr. Rijiju, while reacting to Mr. Hussein’s statement had stated that the United Nations and other international organizations do not understand the internal security or national security problems of India.

What is India’s stand?

  •  In an official communication issued on August 8, the Home Ministry directed the States to conduct surveys and prepare to deport Rohingya in a continuous manner.
  • Lawyer Prashant Bhushan moved the Supreme Court against the order to “protect their life and liberty”.
  • The court will hear the matter on September 18
  • Addressing the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva Mr Hussein insisted to halt India from deporting Rohingya at a time of such violence against them in their country.
  •  Some 40,000 Rohingya have settled in India and 16,000 of them have received refugee documentation.

What does the law say?

  • The Minister of State for Home Affairs has reportedly said that because India is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention, the country can dispense with international law on the matter, together with basic human compassion.
  • However, by virtue of customary law, its ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the obligations of due process and the universal principle of non-refoulement (a number of international instruments relating to refugees), India cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations.”
  • India’s shift in position on the Myanmar issue was prompted by a series of requests from the Bangladesh government “at the highest levels”.

The picture after Doklam: (Indian Express, Editorial)

Context

The standoff between India and China in Doklam has been a learning experience for India.

Why Doklam episode is so distinct in nature?

  • It was the first time that India deployed troops — even in the hundreds — on the Chinese border after a third party asked for help.
  • Second, while such stand-offs have multiplied recently, it was by far the longest one — about 10 weeks — suggesting that there was much at stake on both sides and that the mechanisms of border dispute resolution were not as effective as they used to be, or not even relevant in such a case.
  • Third, India can claim that it has forced China to withdraw by showing determination-cum-restraint, a mix that has impressed other South Asian countries which are under Chinese pressure and may turn to India for preserving their sovereignty.

Why Doklam is grave an issue for India than Bhutan?

  • Bhutan asked India for help despite the fact that Doklam was not as strategic for Thimphu as for New Delhi, whose leaders worried about the security of the “chicken neck”, a vulnerable set of plains and valleys that a part of Bhutan (including the Doklam plateau) overlooks.
  • Currently, Bhutan has paired up with India, but how long will it continue to side with India, is a concern for the Indian government.
  • China will take any measure to influence Bhutan that Chinese tourists are already visiting in large numbers.
  • With regard to security, India can provide with a credible military force, but its contribution towards the economic development of the Himalayan kingdom is not enough. India will have to deliver and deliver effectively to retain Bhutanese trust.
  • Bhutan is about to have its elections in 2018. Some observers have already emphasised that Bhutan should not alienate China and take the risk of breaking the dialogue between the two countries.
  • Both countries have no diplomatic relations but they have talked since 1984 and have even signed the Agreement on the Maintenance of Border and Tranquillity in 1998.
  • They were supposed to meet before August for the 25th round of talks regarding the border dispute but the Chinese have postponed this round of negotiation with no appointed date to resume talks.

China being a continuous threat to India. How?

  • While Bhutan’s attitude is important, the Chinese strategy is key
  • Beijing has explained that Doklam, which the Chinese call Donglang has been part of China since ancient times.
  • And China will stand rigid with this claim.
  • In late August, the PLA troops withdrew mostly because China was hosting the BRICS summit in early September and feared an Indian boycott
  • A boycott form India in the Xiamen meet would have badly affected China’s international image which it could not afford prior to the meet of the Communist Party of China.
  • But China will definitely stage a comeback with its claim.
  • In Xiamen meet, China no doubt designated Pakistan based Islamist groups – LeT, the Haqqani network, the TTP and Jaish-e-Mohammed as “terrorist” outfits, but China may continue to veto a similar move targeting the Jaish leader, Masood Azhar, in the UN
  • In any case, China will not let down Pakistan while the CPEC is gaining momentum as one of the major components of Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

With these dynamics, what is India’s position in the world politics?

  • India is already getting closer to the US.
  • This strategy can raise problems for the country, not only because of current US Administration’s erratic and protectionist behavior but also is isolationist in nature, because such a rapprochement will further distance India from China and even Russia.
  • The first collateral casualty of these developments seems to be the BRICS grouping itself
  • India’s scepticism vis-à-vis BRICS is reinforced by the way Russia tries to use the organisation against the West and keeps “acquiescing to Chinese leadership
  • Besides the US, India is also turning to Japan
  • Recently Asia-Africa Growth Corridor was launched, a project Indian and Japan have conceived together.
  • This partnership could be the cornerstone of a larger coalition that may include other countries eager to resist China’s “string of pearls” in the Asia-Pacific region.

What are the challenges India will face in resisting China?

  • The first major problem India may face in its attempt to resist China is economic: China is not only the first trade partner of India but a large investor too: Chinese entrepreneurs are among those who are more than happy to “Make in India”
  • Secondly, India cannot mobilize as many resources as China to make inroads in third countries. For example – Sri Lanka is a case in point: China could acquire 70 per cent of the Hambantota deep sea port in July, in addition to many other strategic locations, including Gwadar, because of a financial strike force India cannot compete with.

Why no country wants Rohingya, why it’s so difficult to deport them: (Indian Express, Explained)

Context:

  • The worsening Rohingya crisis in Myanmar

Issues:

  • After a terrorist attack by the Rohingya radical groups, in which several members of Myanmar security forces lost their lives, Myanmar has resorted to military operations against the Rohingya in its Rakhine state
  • There has been a huge influx of refugees in to Bangladesh due to worsening of the crisis
  • Bangladesh put pressure on India to recognize the crisis as a refugee crisis not merely a security issue
  • Stance of the Indian government to deport the refugees. The difficulties in deporting them.

Who are the Rohingya? What is their relationship with the Myanmar state?

  • The Rohingya are the world’s biggest stateless ethnic group. There are about a million of them, most of whom live in northern Rakhine.
  • They are Muslim by religion.
  • Myanmar’s government does not recognise them as citizens, which results in their legalised persecution.
  • There are numerous restrictions on them, including on their movement, access to the economy, education, health and other rights, which keep them in poverty and squalor

India’s views

  • PM Modi, while in Myanmar, recognized only the security dimension of the Rohingya crisis and ignored the issue of human displacement and refugee crisis.
  •  Under pressure from Bangladesh, the Indian government expressed concern on the worsening refugee crisis and called for restraint by the Myanmar military
  •  MoS Home Kiren Rijuju has indicated that the 40,000 Rohingya (the UNHCR-registered number is 16,500) in India are a generalised threat, feeding into Hindu-Muslim fault lines.
  •  India’s national security fears are based on intelligence reports linking the radical Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army to the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
  •  Indian establishments have been concerned at the “disproportionate response” by the security forces since last year, for their potential to radicalise the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s view on citizenship of the Rohingya

  • Under Myanmar’s discriminatory 1982 citizenship law, only those who trace their residence in the country to before 1823, or those belonging to the majority Burman, or Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan ethnic groups, qualify for full citizenship.
  • Other categories of citizenship are technically open to Rohingya, but in practical terms, make their acceptance impossible.

Why are the Rohingya excluded?

  • The Rohingya trace their origins in Rakhine to the 15th century or earlier.
  • But the official name for them today is “Bengali”.
  • The Myanmar authorities claim that they came to Rakhine as part of the British East India Company’s expansion into Burma after it defeated the Burmese king in 1826.
  •  The Burman, Chinese, Malay and Thai Muslims have a different, better relationship with the Myanmar state.
  • The Rohingya are also racially different.

The Rohingya’s claim to citizenship?

  • According to Rohingya activists, there are enough references after 1948 to point to their political acceptance as citizens.
  • Burma’s first President U Nu is believed to have said in a public speech in 1954 that “the people living in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships [Rohingya dominated areas in Rakhine state] are Rohingya, ethnics of Burma”.
  • From May 1961 to October 1965, the Burma Broadcasting Service in Yangon broadcast a Rohingya language programme three times a week.
  • The Rangoon University Rohingya Students Association was among the many ethnic student associations that functioned from 1959 to 1961.
  • Even after the military takeover in 1962, the junta continued to use the Rohingya expediently.

When did the crisis accelerate in the recent times?

  • In 2012, there were Rohingya-Buddhist clashes, triggered by the rape and murder of a Rakhine Buddhist woman, allegedly by two Rohingya men.
  • Entire Rohingya villages were burnt.
  • Thousands fled to Bangladesh and to camps set up under UN supervision in Rakhine.
  • These are the camps where the radical Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) is said to have taken shape

India’s options and difficulty in deporting the Rohingya

  • India believes “quiet diplomacy” is its only option, but is worried it will be increasingly drawn into the situation.
  • The crisis does not seem to be resolved soon and it is unlikely that Myanmar will accept the Rohingya as citizens.
  • Therefore, the Home Ministry’s plan to “deport” the 40,000 Rohingya in India may be premature.
  • There is nowhere yet to deport them. They belong to no country, and no country wants them.

Firm signal on bullet train project:

Context

  • Focus of Japanese PM’s visit is likely to be bilateral talks on security and joint inauguration of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project
  • This will be the fourth annual summit between them.

What is the purpose of the visit?

  • The focus of Mr.Abe’s visit is likely to be the bilateral discussion on security issues, especially on North Korea and China.
  • The core purpose of the visit is likely to be the joint inauguration of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project and bilateral security dialogue.
  • The two leaders will review the recent progress in the multifaceted cooperation between India and Japan under the framework of their ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’
  • The leaders would jointly participate in the ground-breaking ceremony for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project using Japanese Shinkansen technology

India-Japan Ties

  • Through a video-link, they will participate in the ground-breaking ceremony of the High Speed Railway Training Institute to be set up in Vadodara.
  • His visit was preceded by that of his senior adviser, Katsuyuki Kawai, who addressed a public meeting  and laid out the immediate security challenges following the test of a hydrogen bomb by North Korea.
  • India-Japan ties are at a crucial phase in a range of areas, including defence and security.
  • In their annual defence dialogue last week, the two countries had resolved to collaborate closely in defence production, including on dual-use technologies.

GS-3

Infrastructure and investment models


Why India needs a bullet train: (Indian Express, Editorial)

Context

This visionary Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) project (popularly known as the bullet train project) will herald a new era of safety, speed and service and help the Indian Railways craft a pathway to becoming a global leader in scale, technology and skill.

Why is this project a transformational leap in India’s transportation history?

Following are the five reasons how this project would be a transformational leap in India’s transportation history:

  1.       Attractive low-cost long-term financing:
  • As a part of a agreement between India and Japan, Japan will provide soft loan of about Rs. 90,000 crore at a interest rate of 0.1 per cent over 50 years.
  • India is getting the loan for the MAHSR at close to almost zero cost.
  • This saves any strain on existing financial resources, as more than 80 per cent of the project cost is being funded by Japan in this way.
  • It is for the first time that an infrastructure project of this size and magnitude is being funded on such favorable terms.
  1.       Stimulus for advanced components’ manufacture and construction:
  • One of the stated objectives of the project is “Make in India”, which is being auctioned even before the commissioning of the project.
  • As per the agreement between the two governments, the MAHSR Project has “localised manufacture” and “transfer of technology” as twin.
  • The construction sector in India is also expected to get a big boost not only in terms of works contracts but also with respect to new technology and work culture.
  1.       Professional capacity-building:
  • A dedicated High Speed Rail Training Institute is being developed at Vadodara.
  • This institute will be functional by the end of 2020, and have facilities to train about 4,000 staff in the next three years, who will then be utilized for operation and maintenance.
  • They will also serve as a backbone for the development of other high speed corridors in India.
  1.       Speed:
  • There are two types of services proposed : “rapid train” service with only two stops at Surat and Vadodara and a slower service that halts at 10 stations en route.
  • The “rapid train” would complete the journey in 2 hours and 7 minutes, while the slower service would take 2 hours and 58 minutes.
  • This is widely expected to enable the railway system to begin winning back the creamy layer of higher-fare paying passengers in inter-city routes.
  1.       Cutting edge operational technology:
  • India is getting cutting-edge operational technology in totality.
  • The Shinkansen technology is renowned for its reliability and safety.
  • Thus, the project is set to provide reliable and comfortable service with high standards of safety.
  • The technology regarding disaster predictions and preventions will also be acquired as part of the project.

Conclusion

We should be careful not to confuse leapfrogging technology development with elitism, whether it is mobile phones, satellite launches, regional air-connectivity or high-speed rail. This bullet train project will therefore help the Indian Railways to become a global leader in scale, technology and skill.

Science and Tech

Who wields AI, and how: (Indian Express, Editorial)

Context:

  • The role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in uniting the goals of development and public prosperity.
  1. What is an Automation?
  • An automation is a product of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  • It has been recognized as a harbinger of a different era of socio-economic relations.
  1. What is the major concern?
  • Surveys indicate that technologies related to AI will kill from a third to a half of all jobs within a decade.
  1. What should be India’s national policy towards AI?
  • There is an urgency of framing policy on AI in India.
  • Over 90 per cent of the Indian workforce is organized informally and is vulnerable to sweeping economic upheavals.
  • AI will promote the expansion of contractual economy resulting cut in wages.
  • Automation has already been taken place in construction and manufacturing sector giving a blow to the contractual system.
  • Construction and manufacturing labour force will not be able to collectively bargain against an industry when the sector starts adopting 3-D printing technology.
  1. What would be the possible impact in the farming sector?
  • The labors in the farming sector are already impacted by the pricing of produce.  
  • It will suffer very badly due to the imported cheap food produced by automated farming.  
  • Vehicle assembly line production is already being replaced by robots.
  • Farm labour, already in peril due to pricing, will suffer due to the glut of imported cheap food produced by automated farming and the agricultural robotics industry.
  1. How has the IT industry been impacted?
  • Hiring has decreased by more than 40 per cent in the last year with sharper cuts predicted.
  • Outsourcing and those jobs are at risk.
  • Job creation figures in the non-farm formal sectors have fallen by half from 2011 to 2016.
  1. What are the options that the government has?
  • The government can ensure employment in the public works – works needed to raise living standards.
  • The government must invest heavily in large infrastructure and development projects, and liberally use automation to free up sections of the workforce to work on them.
  • Simultaneously, the government must encourage horizontal cooperatives based around AI to ensure knowledge-worker controlled decentralized progress in AI on the ground.
  1. How will AI work in the Indian scenario?
  • There is a necessity of shifting the workforce out of agriculture for a more just, equitable, and sustainable economy.
  • The work force that would be freed from the agricultural sector will require a robust rural infrastructure and industry.
  • Automation presents an interesting opportunity here since it provides a means to transform agriculture.
  • Automation has the capacity of replacing a group of farmers over a period of time which cannot individually replace.
  • Only 10 per cent farmers in India own land.
  • It easier to allot land to a smaller farming population and teach them how to use automated machines to get higher, more consistent yields in conjunction with other improved farming practices.
  • Automation provides a means to transform agriculture.
  • But freeing of agricultural labour should be done only after preparing adequate infrastructure to with the help of automation to absorb this labour.
  • This transition cannot be left to the mercies of the market.
  • Recent experiments at re-skilling have demonstrated the inadequacy of infrastructure to absorb labour.
  • Example of public works that would provide the opportunity to implement automation – affordable housing, Mass renewable energy generation etc.
  • Technologies like 3-D printing could become a catalyst for getting the sort of productivity needed for such ambitious projects.
  • The domain of distribution and management can be greatly benefited through automation in a country like India.
  • Machine learning processes can be used for enhancing logistics and operations.
  1. What are the benefits that can be derived from a better distribution and management system?
  • Worker-run cooperatives to become efficient enough to compete against traditional corporate structures, allowing the government to incentivize such formations, in turn increasing worker prosperity.
  • AI-based cooperatives can be the bedrock of a more just economy.
  • It will make bound governmental agencies to use AI to run PSUs better.
  • Structures of governance could be strengthened and improved with AI: example – statistical analysis can be used to detect malpractices, fraud, and corruption.
  1. What is being currently offered by AI?
  • AI is being used to combat propaganda and spurious news.
  • Computational linguistics can be used to preserve the vast cultural heritage of our marginalized peoples.
  • Could be used in the understaffed but vital agencies.
  1. How will the society be impacted?
  • AI will affect social relation depending on who wields it and how.
  • There is a demand for an education policy that recognizes the paramountcy of quality education in an age of automation.
  • Education must be free, universal, and of high quality in a future economy dominated by AI.
  • AI can be used to protect the interest of our labour force.
  • It can unite the goals of development and public prosperity.

 

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