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18 Feb 2020: The Hindu Editorial Analysis

1) On the turmoil in telecom industry: A royal mess

  1. The telecom industry is in turmoil unable to pay up its dues as per the Supreme Court verdict on adjusted gross revenues. 
  2. The Court is aghast that its order is not being complied with
  3. And then there is the government torn between revenue considerations, the need to uphold sanctity of contracts, and ensuring that one of the players does not go under in the process of honouring the verdict. 
  4. Faced with the wrath of the Court, Bharti Airtel paid ₹10,000 crore on Monday with the promise of paying the rest before mid-March when the court will hear the case next. 
  5. Vodafone Idea, the one hit the most by the judgment, on Monday sought more time to pay up but the Court was in no mood to humour the company and refused to hear the plea. The company eventually paid ₹2,500 crore by the evening. 
  1. The two companies, as indeed the others in the industry, have only themselves to blame for the predicament that they find themselves in now.
  2. They could have paid up their annual dues over the years - which were not material in relation to their respective turnovers - under protest even as they litigated the case in the top court. 
  3. That would have obviated the need to pay interest and penalties now which are higher than the actual dues. 
  4. At the very least, they ought to have provided for the liability in their balance sheets as a contingency, which they failed to do.
  1. If Vodafone shuts shop, the industry be reduced to a duopoly, with all the attendant consequences for customers.
  2. It will also lead to loss of about 15,000 direct jobs and several thousand more indirect ones. 
  3. Worse, the cascading effect will be felt across the economy as lenders face the consequences of the company going bankrupt — non performing assets will rise. 
  4. Telecom equipment suppliers may also go down as their dues will not be paid. 
  5. And what happens to the 212 million Vodafone subscribers? It is doubtful whether the other two players can absorb them all.
  1. The industry is critical to the government’s plans for a digital economy not to mention its revenues, including from the upcoming 5G spectrum auctions. 
  1. The government has to, therefore, examine what it can do to save the situation without disrespecting the Court’s verdict. 
  2. Legislation to offer a staggered payment schedule that ensures that the net present value of future payments is equal to the dues is one option experts are suggesting. 
  3. There could be other options that can be considered in conjunction with the industry, including reducing the adjusted gross revenue-based licence fees and spectrum usagecharges. 
  4. The need of the hour is pragmatism laced with prudence on all sides to clean up this royal mess.


2) On SC order on permanent commission to women officers: Women-at-arms

  1. In allowing women permanent commission to women in the Short Service Commission (SSC), the Supreme Court has demolished gender stereotypes.
  1. SC has delivered a sharp rebuke to the government by asking it to adhere to its own stated policy on granting permanent commission to women in the Short Service Commission (SSC). 
  2. Issue: Though women are absorbed into the SSC, they are now denied permanent commission in most branches of the Indian Army. 
  3. In light of the government’s submissions to deny equal opportunity to women who fulfil the same criteria their male counterparts do, the apex court invoked the principle of equality and non-discrimination.
  1. The Court came down heavily on the stereotypes of women and their physiological features as submitted by the govt.
  2. As long as society holds strong beliefs about gender roles there will not be change of mindsets, the top court observed. 
  1. Indeed, the Court has torn into a number of contradictions inherent in the government’s arguments that gravely weaken its case and expose inherent prejudices. 
  2. For instance, it was submitted that deployment of women officers was not advisable in conflict zones where there was “minimal facility for habitat and hygiene”. 
  3. Yet, the government admitted to the Court that 30% of the total number of women officers are in fact deputed to conflict areas. 
  4. The Court has forced acknowledgement of the sterling role women have played and continue to play, shoulder to shoulder, with their male counterparts, for the security of the nation. 
  5. It has also made recommendations to correct the anomalies including in the matter of pensions due to women.
  1. It is a telling state of affairs that though PM announced on August 15, 2018 that permanent commission would be granted to serving women officers of the armed forces, it needed the SC to prod the govt into doing it. 
  2. The efforts of the litigants, who have waged an uphill battle since 2003, fighting their way up from the Delhi High Court, which ruled in their favour 10 years ago — and the government wilfully ignoring it — all the way up to the Supreme Court, deserve applause. 
  3. That this discrimination should happen even while the Indian Army experiences a shortfall of officers by about 10,000 in the ranks is all the more galling. It is not as if there is surfeit of women officers: a mere 1,653 out of 40,825.
  4. Given the inherent flaws in the structure, implementation and change are not likely to happen soon, even given the Court’s deadline of three months.


3) May the Force be strengthened

  1. The functioning of the CRPF needs to be revisited. 
  1. In the wake of Independence, a contentious administrative issue was over the retention of CRP (Crown Representative Police). 
  2. As the Constitution designated ‘law and order’ as a State subject, the relevance of having a Central police force was questioned by everyone. Except Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who argued vehemently and boldly in favour of it.
  3. From having just two battalions as the CRP, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has now expanded to being a three-and-a-half lakh-strong force.
  4. It consists of specialist wings like the Rapid Action Force, the COBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), and the Special Duty Group. 
  1. CRPF is the largest paramilitary force in the world and no other security force of the country has seen expansion at such a rapid rate.
  2. Providing integrated security to a diverse country of continental size is not an easy task. 
  3. Resolving certain conflicts requires immediate solutions for which regular armed forces cannot be deployed. 
  4. Hence, we require paramilitary forces, and the CRPF is the most sought-after one because of its flexibility and versatility. The force has earned its place as the ‘peacekeeper of the nation’.

  1. April 9 is observed as ‘Valour Day’ by the CRPF because it was on this day in 1965 that an ordinary battalion of the CRPF repulsed an attack by a Pakistani brigade. 
  2. Similarly, October 21 is observed as ‘Commemoration Day’ by all police forces, as a mark of respect to the CRPF soldiers who, in their fight against the Chinese Army in 1959, at Hot Springs, Leh, made the supreme sacrifice.
  3. In April 2010, at least 75 of its soldiers were killed by Maoists, numbering about 300, in Dantewada early morning when they were returning after a night-long patrol. 
  4. And also the last year, Pulwama attack happened.
  1. What made Pulwama different from the earlier episodes of mass casualties was the unparalleled response from the political leadership, civil society and all other stakeholders to the attack.
  2. A year after the attack, it is time for the nation to take a relook at the main agency dealing with conflicts in different territorial zones. 
  3. The frequent movements lock, stock and barrel are taking its toll. There are increasing cases of suicides and fratricides. 
  4. The anguish caused because of prolonged periods of duty away from one’s family members adds to the pressure.
  5. The soldiers have to keep their fingers constantly on the trigger guard, where a delay in response by even seconds can cost them their lives. 
  6. Though the Home Minister recently stated that CRPF jawans would get to spend 100 days with their families every year, considering the present levels of commitment, 100 days of leave is an impossible dream for a soldier.
  1. An easier way out here would be to revisit the government’s decision on tasking specific Central Paramilitary Forces exclusively with certain operations. 
  2. It should be compulsory for recruits to all Central Police Forces to be deployed to anti-insurgency roles during their first 15 years of service, when they are newly trained and fighting fit. 
  3. They can be shifted, in the next 10 years, to border duties. The last phase of their career should be in static duties.
  4. That way, the present system of a soldier ending up performing a high-risk job till the last day of his service can be avoided.
  1. Also, as the Force is deployed to the last man, the welfare and morale of the soldiers needs to be taken care of. 
  2. A large number of personnel are taking voluntary retirement, but there is no rehabilitation policy. 
  3. The creation of a Welfare and Rehabilitation Board has not made any impact. 
  4. Provision of canteen facilities, without tax exemption, hardly gives the soldiers any relief. 
  5. Another demand that needs to be considered is that of a One Rank, One Pension scheme.
  6. And finally, it is high time the Force develops home-grown leadership.
  1. Elements like a healthy work culture, ethos and regimentation are very crucial for any armed force and they are best guarded by officers born on the cadre.
  2. The long overdue Non-Functional Financial Upgradation (NFU) materialised only after judicial intervention. 
  3. However, the top leadership — made up of IPS officers on deputation — is reluctant to implement it. 
  4. The first anniversary of the Pulwama attacks should enable all stakeholders to device ways and means to plug the loopholes.
  5. And address the system failures in a Force that still remains the most formidable in internal security matters.


4) When Yankee goes home

  • CONTEXT: “Yankee(referring to people from the United States), go home! And take me with you” is an idea that has long summed up the world’s mixed feelings about America. 
  1. Trump is reducing US intervention around the world. Delhi needs to come to terms with these profound changes.
  2. Since the Second World War, people and governments around the world have frequently demanded that America go home. For them there are enough things to object to — none more important than the expansive American global hegemony.
  1. There is an unending attraction around the world to the American lifestyle - that anyone could get to the US and “make it there” has been the essence of the global US dream. 
  2. For 18th and 19th century Europe, America was about liberation from the oppressive hierarchies of the old world. 
  3. For Asia and the global south in the 20th century, America was about finding opportunities that were denied at home.
  1. The Indian elite has been as schizophrenic about the US as any other in the Third World. 
  2. For decades, elites of all political persuasion reveled in denouncing the US and proudly sending their children to incredibly successful careers there.
  3. No other place in the world has been as welcoming to Indians as the US.
  1. Under President Donald Trump, though, some of that might be changing. 
  2. Trump’s America wants the Yankees to come home but is shutting the door on unrestricted immigration from the rest of the world. 
  3. Domestic critics say America has been a nation of immigrants and Trump is wrong to keep them out. 
  4. But Trump has much support among the working people who know immigration keeps wages low, helps the capitalist class and disrupts the familiar cultural and social landscape.
  1. The president of Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, wants to end Manila’s century-old relationship with the US military. 
  2. Iran wants America out of the Gulf. Russia and China would like to see the US forces out of Europe and Asia respectively.
  • POSSIBILITY OF US RETURNING HOME: Only a few years ago, these demands would have been laughed out of court. 
  1. Trump threatens to question America’s military commitments in Europe and Asia 
  2. He also denounces the past military interventions in the Middle East and so the world is paying serious attention to the possibility of Yankee going home.
  3. Trump shrugged off Duterte’s demand by saying it will “save money” for America; in the Gulf, he wants the Asian powers to police the vital sea lines of communication; in Europe and Asia, he wants the allies to do more for their own security.
  1. In Europe, France and Germany are now talking about creating new defence capabilities for the European Union amidst the prospect for American security retrenchment. 
  2. In Asia, Japan is debating a larger security role. 
  3. In the Gulf, America’s Arab allies are scrambling to diversify their security dependence.
  1. The idea of downsizing America’s role, along with the rejection of free trade and open borders, is at the very heart of Trump’s America First policy. 
  2. To be sure there is deep resistance in the US to these ideas that run counter to America’s post-war internationalism. 
  3. Wall Street on the East Coast and Silicon Valley on the West Coast along with the old foreign and security policy establishment in Washington all oppose Trump’s America First focus.
  • TRUMP'S POLICY GETTING SUPPORT: Trump’s message, however, resonates across the political divide in the US. 
  1. Many candidates for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party agree with Trump’s goal of ending America’s “endless wars” in the Middle East. 
  2. Many in the working classes, who traditionally supported the Democrats, believe Trump is right in arguing that free trade has hollowed out American industry and eliminated manufacturing jobs.
  1. America is at an inflection point; India needs to come to terms with the profound changes unfolding in the US. 
  2. The Indian political classes castigated the US for excessive interventions in the affairs of other nations. 
  3. Trump now says such interventions are counter productive and all nations must strengthen their sovereignty. 
  4. Indians criticised the US for imposing globalisation on others; the US President is now one of the biggest critics of globalisation. 
  5. Trump’s America is not the one we have known.
  6. During the Cold War, Delhi had trouble figuring out US domestic politics, given the limited nature of its engagement with the US that was focused largely on the State Department. 
  7. As India broadened its engagement with America in the last two decades, Delhi has become more sensitive to the US domestic political dynamics. 
  8. In getting the US to ease off on Kashmir and nuclear issues, Delhi had to look beyond the foreign policy establishment to generate better US appreciation of India’s concerns and interests.
  9. One of the instruments that came in handy was the mobilisation of the Indian diaspora. A process that began during the tenure of Rajiv Gandhi as prime minister, acquired momentum in the late 1990s and emerged as a key factor in elevating the bilateral relationship in the 21st century. 
  1. Delhi, however, needs to unlearn some of the assumptions about US policy as it prepares to host Trump next week. 
  2. While the diaspora is important and could be of some value in dealing with Trump, it can’t override the deeper forces animating American politics.
  3. Trump is throwing overboard the domestic consensus on foreign policy that has held through the post-war period. 
  4. Trump rode on the turbulence of US domestic politics to seize the White House to the utter surprise of the establishment in Washington DC as well as other capitals around the world. 
  5. He is betting that ending unpopular wars, reordering trade relations with major economic partners, and limiting migration will bring him back to power in this year’s election.
  • CONCLUSION: Delhi’s success with Trump will depend less on the size of the welcome in Ahmedabad and more on the kind of strategic imagination it can display on issues such as-
  1. trade cooperation, 
  2. securing Afghanistan after America’s withdrawal, 
  3. stabilising the Gulf and 
  4. developing a new global compact on migration that is sensitive to domestic political considerations and yet contributes to the collective economic development.