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Admin 2020-01-27

27 Jan 2020: The Hindu Editorial Analysis

1)  Restoring The Trust


  • The government should fix calendar for data releases, restore autonomy and powers of NSC.

 

  • CONCERNS OVER THE ABILITY OF INDIAN STATISTICAL SYSTEM: For some time now, concerns have been voiced over the ability of the once famed Indian statistical system to bring out credible and timely data. 
  • The government has only fuelled such doubts by repeatedly showing its discomfiture with data put out by the statistical system that is seemingly at odds with its projected narrative. 
  • The suppression of the periodic labour force survey for 2017-18 which showed that unemployment had touched a record high of 6.1 per cent, 
  • And the subsequent withdrawal of the consumption expenditure survey, which showed that consumption had declined between 2011-12 and 2017-18, only lend credence to the charge of political interference with the statistical system.

 

  • STEPS TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT: On its part, the government has recently taken steps to restore the creditability of Indian statistics:
  • It has set up a committee under the chairmanship of Pronab Sen, former chief statistician of India, and has included some academics who have questioned official statistics. 
  • The committees could begin by addressing various data issues such as the growing divergence between:
  • consumption expenditure estimates from the National Sample Survey and the National Account Statistics, 
  • the accuracy of the new GDP estimates by examining the Ministry of Corporate Affairs data, and the computation and application of deflators in GDP estimation. 
  • However, as Sen has told this newspaper, the committee’s remit is limited — it ends with the submission of good and timely data to the national statistical office.

 

  • RESTORING THE CREDIBILITY: More needs to be done to restore the credibility of the statistical system:
  • To begin with, the government should put in place a calendar for all data releases. 
  • To be sure, data such as the national accounts, the index of industrial production, and inflation are released regularly as per a pre-determined calendar. 
  • But such timelines have not been set for the release of the employment or consumption expenditure surveys. 
  • For instance, the idea behind having quarterly surveys of urban employment was to bring out data on the employment situation in the country more frequently, rather than once every five years. 
  • This would be a valuable input into policy making. Yet, rather than releasing them on a regular basis, the government has resorted to releasing them in an ad hoc manner. 
  • Ensuring timely release of data would thus be the first step towards restoring the credibility of the statistical system.

 

  • AUTONOMY AND POWERS OF THE NSC: The Centre should also reconsider its position on the National Statistical Commission (NSC):
  • As Sen has stated, the NSC bill essentially turns the NSC into a public sector undertaking with no powers of its own. 
  • Restoring the autonomy and powers of the NSC will go a long way in insulating the statistical system from the charge of political interference.

 

2) The Respect She Deserves


  • CONTEXT: With women playing a leadership role in managing their community’s water resources, minus the drudgery of walking for miles to fetch water for their families, the Jal Jeevan Mission will provide a massive fillip to the ease of living for women, and they will no longer be beasts of burden.

 

  • DRUDGERY OF WOMEN: For centuries, in most parts of the country, especially in rural areas, our women have borne the responsibility (or should I say the burden) of ensuring the water security of their homes. 
  • Our mothers and sisters have silently catered to every water need of their families. In some instances, this would involve walking long distances in unfriendly weather and treacherous terrain — 
  • in the blistering heat of Rajasthan to the majestic hills of Uttarakhand to the parched lands of eastern Maharashtra.

 

  • FACTS AND FIGURES REGARDING THE SCARSE WATER: These unsung heroes, however, have witnessed an exponential increase in their water woes in the past few decades:
  • For a country with 16 per cent of the world’s population, and only 4 per cent of the world’s freshwater resources, with the changing weather patterns and frequent droughts, over 250 of the 700 districts of India’s districts are now water stressed. 
  • Two hundred and fifty-six of our approximately 700 districts have groundwater levels which are “critical” or “over-exploited” as per the latest data from the Central Ground Water Board (2017). 
  • To put it simply, this means that fetching water in these districts is now that much harder, as the water table has fallen that much deeper. 
  • According to a report by the National Commission for Women, on an average, a rural woman in Rajasthan walks over 2.5 km to reach a water source. This is probably an underestimate.
  • But the bottom-line is that our women and girls spend a significant proportion of their time on fetching water.

 

  • CHANGING SITUATIONS: In 2014, India witnessed history in the making as the nation saw an incredible shift in the national development agenda. 
  • This shift in policy focus was to reduce the drudgery faced specially by women and girls, and improve their quality of life by providing them services targeted for their convenience. 
  • The first major step in this direction was when Prime Minister drew the attention of 1.25 billion Indians from the ramparts of the Red Fort and addressed the need to end the practice of open defecation — and restore the dignity of our women and their basic health. 
  • Over the next five years, the Swachh Bharat revolution has transformed lives across the country by ensuring access to safe sanitation for over 10 crore households. 
  • In 2017, a study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had estimated that there were fewer women with lower than normal body mass index in open defecation free (ODF) villages in India as compared to other villages where people defecated in the open. 
  • By October 2019, all villages in India had declared themselves ODF. Just recently, another study by scholars from the Ashoka University and the University of Virginia, has found that the increased in-home toilet access in India has significantly reduced sexual assaults on women.

 

  • VARIOUS SCHEMES AIMED AT REDUCING THE DRUDGERY: And then there were many subsequent programmes of  government focused on reducing drudgery for women, improving their health and giving them the respect, they deserve. These programmes have also empowered women to lead the change. 
  • The Ujjwala scheme provided LPG cylinders to crores of rural women, saving them from the toxic fumes that they breathed on a daily basis when they burnt firewood for their chulhas. 
  • The POSHAN abhiyan supports the health of children, adolescent girls and women, to reduce cases of low birth weight, stunting, under-nutrition, and anaemia. 
  • The Swachh Bharat Mission has created a cadre of head women masons, better known as “Rani Mistris”, who have breached a traditional male bastion and have already constructed lakhs of toilets across the country.
  • By announcing the Jal Jeevan Mission from the Red Fort during his first Independence Day speech of his second term, the prime minister has once again shown that his government is committed to un-burdening the lives of our mothers and sisters, and providing them the opportunity to use their time more productively and improve their quality of life. 
  • The Mission aims at providing Har Ghar Jal or piped water supply to all households by 2024. While 57 per cent of the country is covered with public stand posts for their daily water supply, the JJM will connect individual households to appropriate and adequate water supply. Currently, only 18 per cent of rural households have this amenity.

 

  • STEP-BY-STEP APPROACH TO TACKLE THE PROBLEM: The prime minister listed out the government’s step-by-step approach to tackle this problem whose time had come: 
  • One, the new Ministry of Jal Shakti breaks the silos in which the water sector had been working in, allowing for institutional integration from the centre till the grass roots. 
  • Two, schemes are being designed with local flexibility to allow for effective adaptivity to local situations. 
  • Three, source sustainability is being mandatorily built into schemes to ensure that every drop of water is recycled and reused. 
  • And four, these efforts must take form of a jan andolan for water to ensure the overall water security of our great nation.

 

  • ATAL JAL YOJANA: Another scheme to conserve groundwater in regions with low water tables, the Atal Jal Yojana, was also recently launched by the Prime Minister in New Delhi. 
  • Also based on community participation, a key component of this programme is the formation of water use associations, in which at least 50 per cent of members are to be women.

 

  • CONCLUSION: The signs are all there and the winds of change are in tandem with the mood of the nation. For real change, it is optimal that we ensure that the real heads of the households — our mothers and sisters — continue to be at the centre of our country’s development agenda.

 

3) On Terror Funding And Pakistan: Black And Grey


  • The deliberations, in Beijing, of the Asia-Pacific joint group of the global watchdog on terror financing and money laundering, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), gave Pakistan some encouraging news: that it had progressed in its efforts to avoid a blacklisting. 
  • A final decision will be taken at a plenary meeting of the body, expected in Paris next month: in keeping Pakistan on the current “grey list”, downgrading it to a “black list”, or letting it off altogether for the moment. 
  • The 39-member body had determined that Pakistan was to be placed on the grey list in 2018, and presented it a 27-point list of actions. These included freezing the funds of UN Security Council entities such as 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed and the LeT, the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and other Taliban-affiliated groups. 
  • The actions entailed a sustained effort to bring legal action against these groups, and also called for changes to Pakistani law in line with global standards for measures against money laundering and financing terrorism. 
  • Unlike in October 2019, when Pakistan had completed five points, the Beijing meeting has cleared it on 14 points. While Pakistan’s progress will come as a disappointment to India - it wants more scrutiny of Pakistan’s support to terror groups lest Islamabad feels it has been let off the hook - there are a few points to consider. 
  • First, the grey listing is not new. Pakistan was placed on it in 2012, and was removed in 2015 after it passed a National Action Plan to deal with terrorism following the 2014 Peshawar School massacre. It was also placed under severe restrictions in the years 2008-2012, after the Mumbai attack. 
  • Second, this last grey list period has already seen some Indian demands met, including the chargesheeting of Hafiz Saeed for terror financing, and the addition of JeM chief Masood Azhar to the UNSC 1267 list. 
  • Finally, although the FATF is a technical organisation, there is no doubting that geopolitics and bilateral deals play a part in deciding outcomes. As a result, New Delhi must study the politics behind Pakistan’s FATF “progress”. 
  • Officials have suggested that Pakistan’s role in ensuring Taliban talks are brought to a successful conclusion soon may have weighed with the U.S. and its allies in the grouping. 
  • Other countries may have determined that with China in the president’s chair, and the backing of Turkey and Malaysia, Pakistan could escape being blacklisted in any case, and dropped the effort. 
  • India’s recent troubles on the international stage, including the UNSC where China has been allowed to raise the Kashmir issue twice in five months, after nearly five decades, may also be a reason its objections at the Beijing discussions were not considered as carefully as in the past.

 

4) On NIA Takeover Of Bhima Koregaon Case: Dubious Decision


  • The Home Ministry’s abrupt decision to transfer the investigation into the Bhima Koregaon cases in Maharashtra to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is an unwarranted interference in the police powers of the State. 
  • It is clearly aimed at preventing the new regime in Maharashtra from reviewing the controversial probe done under the BJP-led government through a Special Investigation Team of its own. 
  • The Pune police have filed a charge sheet against known rights defenders and activists on the grave charge of being part of a Maoist plot against the government, basing their claim on purported material seized from computers during raids. 
  • What began as a case relating to alleged provocative speeches during the ‘Elgar Parishad’, an event held on December 31, 2017, to commemorate a military victory of Dalits against the Peshwa army 200 years earlier, followed by some incidents of violence, was then transformed into a sinister plot to overthrow the government, allegedly at the behest of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). 
  • The police conducted raids across the country and named some activists and lawyers in the FIR. Even though there was an outlandish claim based on a letter of doubtful authenticity that there was an assassination plot against the Prime Minister, this allegation did not find place in the FIR, or remand applications. 
  • Despite its inter-State ramifications, the State government vehemently opposed a petition in the Supreme Court for a court-monitored independent probe. At that time, the Centre, also helmed by the BJP, expressed no inclination to hand over the probe to the NIA, even though sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) were invoked.
  • Significantly, the Supreme Court, by a 2-1 majority, declined to intervene with the police probe, remaining unmoved by the arguments of scholars such as Romila Thapar and Prabhat Patnaik that it was an attempt to hound rights defenders and suppress political dissent. 
  • The Union government cannot now turn around and claim that it is a fit case for an NIA probe. A provision in the NIA Act does allow the Centre to give a suo motu direction to the NIA to take over any investigation, if offences listed in a schedule to the Act are committed. 
  • The Centre’s suo motu power is likely to be tested for its constitutionality when Chhattisgarh’s suit against the NIA comes up. The episode highlights fears expressed by some States that their police power would be compromised if the NIA was established. 
  • But what is legally questionable now is not the Centre’s power, but whether such a decision is tenable at this stage, long after it became common knowledge that an offence under UAPA had taken place and its ramifications known. 
  • The inevitable conclusion is that the Centre’s intervention is a ploy to continue the political narrative that the lawyers and activists sympathetic towards the cause of tribal people in conflict-hit areas are ‘urban Naxals’ or Maoists.