31 December 2020: The Hindu Editorial Analysis
1) Give adequate time for a probe
GS 1: Social empowerment
GS 2: Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections
- Maharashtra government will announce a bill proposing stern actions, including death sentence and life imprisonment, to curb crime against women and children in the state.
- The proposed bill is crafted on the lines of Disha Act, enacted by the Andhra Pradesh government, and is being named as Shakti Act, 2020.
- Though Disha Act has been withdrawn temporarily by the Andhra Pradesh government following queries by the Centre before it could get presidential assent, it is still important to ponder some of its provisions as more States may legislate to reduce the period of investigation.
- The government has proposed several new proposals in the Shakti Act by amending the sections of the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
- The proposed Act will have stern punishment for offences of sexual assault and a provision to complete investigation within 15 days.
- Disha Act mandated completion of investigation within seven working days for “heinous offences” such as harassment of women, sexual assault on children, and rape, where “adequate conclusive evidence” is available.
- Supreme Court has already ruled in favour of the prosecutrix’s statement alone (if credible) being sufficient to convict an accused and forensic evidence being corroborative in nature, the interpretation of “adequate conclusive evidence” by the police shall remain a problem.
- The police, in fact, are concerned primarily with collection of all evidence relating to the offence. It is only for the court to evaluate whether the available evidence is sufficient to slap conviction on the accused.
TIME FOR INVESTIGATION:
- The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) provides that investigation relating to offences punishable with imprisonment up to 10 years must be completed within 60 days and for offences with higher punishment (including rape), within 90 days of detaining the accused, else he or she shall be released on bail.
- To speed up the process, the CrPC was amended in 2018 and the period of investigation was reduced from 90 to 60 days for all cases of rape.
- Though every investigation has to be completed without unnecessary delay, there is no upper limit to complete investigation when the offenders are at large. Each investigation is guided by its own set of facts and circumstances.
FACTORS TO BE CONSIDERED:
- Generally, the time of investigation depends on the severity of the crime, the number of accused persons and agencies involved.
- Investigation includes examination of the scene of crime by the investigating officer (IO) and forensic expert; recording the statement of the victim (by the IO and the judicial magistrate) and witnesses; medical examination of the victim (at a place where a female doctor is available) and accused persons; collecting documents relating to age from parents, local bodies and school (in case of child victim and delinquents); DNA findings of the forensic science lab (FSL); test identification parade of accused persons (if initially not named); seizing weapons of offence; the arrest of accused persons; etc.
- This is besides the fact that in many cases of rape, the victim remains under trauma for some time and is not able to narrate the incident in detail.
- The speed and quality of investigation also depends on whether a police station has separate units of investigation and law and order, which is also a long-pending police reform awaiting compliance of the apex court’s directives. It also depends on the number of available IOs and women police officers, and the size and growth of the FSL and its DNA unit.
- Investigation of sensitive offences should be done expeditiously. However, setting narrow timelines for investigation creates scope for procedural loopholes which may be exploited during trial. Therefore, instead of fixing unrealistic timelines, the police should be given additional resources so that they can deliver efficiently.
- The proposed act is quite important as the speedy disposal of cases with regard to violence against women is needed as currently long time is taken for trial.
- Delayed legal process leads to demoralisation and insecurity among the survivors and litigants. This affects the basic spirit of the law enforcement machinery.
2) Before a new dawn, glimpses of a trauma-filled year
GS 1: Globalization
GS 3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development
- The sheer scale of the suffering from COVID-19, the injustices and dangers the pandemic has revealed, and the promises of innovation mean that it will be remembered as the year when everything changed. Hence, the year 2020 was annus horribilis.
- In this scenario, there is a need to use economic crisis to set some bigger things right. 2021 will be a year to welcome if it returns to the growth trajectory as deserve.
- Catastrophic climate events: Major Bushfires in Australia and the United States, tropical cyclones in several parts of the world and devastating floods and dislocating the lives of thousands in China, India, Nepal and Japan, climate change adversely impacted millions of people.
- Outbreaks of violence: caused by pent-up feelings of anger, frustration and hatred, together with orchestrated attempts of vainglorious national satraps at fomenting territorial adventurism, have made life increasingly insecure in several regions of the world.
- Persian Gulf crisis: It has deepened with the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and the Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes in a U.S. drone attack, in January 2020, and the daring assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in November 2020.
- Bloody civil wars: These are raging with varying intensity in Afghanistan, Armenia-Azerbaijan, the Central African Republic of Congo, Syria, Iraq and in Ethiopia between the government in power and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The tragedy of the Rohingya Muslims fleeing their homes to escape sectarian harassment has also highlighted the perils of creeping ethnic cleansing.
ADVENT OF THE PANDEMIC
- COVID-19 spread like wildfire spared none from its tentacles and continues to rage relentlessly. The vicious virus is mutating itself into many forms overtime, triggering bewilderment.
- Never before has the world witnessed such colossal calamity. The pervasive adverse impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the global economy has been unprecedented, with the International Monetary Fund projecting a (minus) 4.9% contraction, leading inevitably to widespread economic depression, loss of livelihood and consequent human misery.
- International Organizations like the United Nations and World Health Organization continue to remain bit players in the unfolding saga of the pandemic and the severity of its impact.
- Various countries have adopted their own methods — indigenous devices except for the ubiquitous mask, the obsessive hand-washing and the expansive personal spacing to fight the virus.
- Meanwhile, racial violence and hate crimes broke out in several parts of US, triggering social unrest and dangerously divisive rhetoric.
- Like the rest of the world, India too has had its COVID-19 woes and thus imposed hasty lockdown which proved to be an unmitigated disaster, and massive economic disruption.
- The country witnessed the pathetic plight of lakhs of hapless migrant workers caught in the lockdown trudging back home, hungry and thirsty under the blazing sun, to an insecure future.
- But at the end of the third quarter, the economy is showing a hugely divergent performance. Some sectors are now doing quite well.
- Pharmaceuticals and chemicals are showing growth on their Year-To-Date numbers.
- FMCG reached last year’s level in the second quarter and is showing growth in the third quarter, though YTD numbers still lag. The same for two-wheelers.
- Construction equipment — such as excavators — are showing a huge recovery, with record sales numbers in the last three months, driven by rural demand from sales to individuals.
- Capital goods are still sluggish with YTD numbers well down on last year, but are now showing some signs of life.
- In contrast, travel and tourism, real-estate and construction, and retail, are all still at under half last year, with no one forecasting a full recovery this year.
- These are high employment sectors, and salaried employment has correspondingly taken a big hit, with potentially longer term effects.
STEPS TO BE TAKEN:
- India must start by setting out a clear growth ambition. It had a $5 trillion by 2024 target, but that is clearly dead. Let at least aspire to grow 9 per cent for three years, which is what will get back to 5 per cent trend line of growth by the time of the next national election in 2024.
- India needs measures to sustain and deepen it. The government can do three things.
- The most immediate fiscal stimulus possible is to put cash into the economy. Distribute the pending tax refunds, pay the bills of all companies (large and small), pay off the many arbitration awards pending where the government has lost cases, and pay state governments their pending GST dues.
- invest in public health infrastructure
- Invest massively in infrastructure. Roads, ports, logistics — there are dozens of projects stuck as funds are not available. The 20 trillion infrastructure pipeline needs to have some cash flow in it.
- A huge privatisation programme is a good step as current stock market boom says that buyers are ready to invest. But public-sector stock values are still depressed.
- The worse situation would be if the government pretends in public that everything is moving in the right direction and will come right on its own. Unless we act now we will have a stunted recovery.
- As the annus horribilis 2020 is ending, on the one hand, India must use economic crisis to set some bigger things right. 2021 will be a year to welcome if it returns us to the growth trajectory we deserve. On the other hand, the world is hoping sigh of relief and awaits with dawn of better times to be ushered in by science and technology and nurtured by human ingenuity.
3) Separating the wheat from the Agri policy chaff
GS 3 Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies
There are two main issues about the agriculture sector problem. Successive governments used the exchequer to provide farm subsidies. And second, how large is India’s spending on farm subsidies as compared to other countries.
SITUATION OF AGRICULTURE SECTOR:
- Agriculture supports the rural workforce. In 1950-51, the share of the workforce dependent on the sector was close to 70%which is now almost 50%.
- Agriculture's share: In 1950-51, agriculture’s share in the country’s GDP was 45%, but now it is below 16%.
- The grip on the agricultural sector becomes even more evident from its terms of trade as compared to the nonagricultural sectors.
- Term of trade: Agriculture has been facing adverse terms of trade since the 1980s, and even during the phases when the terms of trade have moved in its favour in the 1990s and again since 2012-13. In these times, there was no distinct upward trend.
- Since the middle of the 2000s, farmers have faced adverse terms of trade as compare to non-farmers.
- Erosion of farm incomes was caused by a lack of meaningful investment in agriculture.
- The share of the Agri sector in the total investment in the country consistently fell from about 18% in the 1950s to just above 11% in the 1980s. In the most recent five years from 2014-15 to 2018-19, the average share of agriculture was 7.6%.
- The government in post-independent India ignored the need to step up investment in agriculture.
YIELD OF THE MAJOR CROPS:
- By comparing the yields of the major crops in India with those of other countries then it confirms the dismal state of agriculture in this country.
- In term of the yield of wheat and rice, India's position in the world is 45 and 59 respectively, in 2019.
- The major concern is that this ranking would go down sharply in the areas recording high yields, such as Punjab and Haryana, are excluded.
- Farmers from most regions of the country are battling for survival amid low yields.
- As well as markets have been making it impossible for farmers to realise remunerative prices for their produce.
- This is because the existing marketing system is dominated by the agriculture produce market committees(APMC), which is against the interests of the small farmers.
LACK OF APPROPRIATE FARM LAW:
- India needs an agricultural policy that addresses the challenges comprehensively facing this sector, as demanded by the country's farming communities. The main effect of this failure i.e. lack of agriculture policy can be better understood if we compare this situation with another country.
- The United States with less than 2% of its workforce engaged in agriculture. This country has been enacting farm legislations every four years since the Agricultural Adjustment Act, 1933, which was the first legislation of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.
- Europen Union as well as members of the European Common Market adopted its Common Agricultural Policy in 1962. These policies comprehensively address the needs of the farm sector through proactive support from the related governments.
PROVISION OF SUBSIDIES:
- In India: The government distribute farm subsidies, a price that the country pays for the failure of the policymakers to comprehensively address the problems of the farm sector.
- Hence, instead of engaging with the farming communities for putting in place a comprehensive set of policies successive, governments have chosen to distribute subsidies to ensure domestic food security and protecting rural livelihoods.
- The disadvantages of distribution of subsidies are the destruction of the structure of production and excessive food stockpiling.
- Provision of World Trade Organisation: Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are expected to notify their agricultural subsidies as a part of their commitment under the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). The subsidy notifications provide a good basis to understand where India stands as compared to other countries in this regard.
DATA IN THIS REGARD:
- In India: India’s latest notification, for 2018-19, shows that the subsidies provided were slightly more than $56 billion.
- The largest component of India’s subsidies ($24.2 billion, or 43%) of the total, are provided to “low income or resource-poor farmers”.
- According to the agreement on agriculture this terminology also used i.e. subsidies to low income or resource-poor farmers.
- Designation of this category of farmers is left to individual members.
- India has notified that 99.43% of its farmers are low income or resource-poor.
- According to the agricultural census of 2015-16, these are the farmers whose holdings are 10 hectares or less.
- According to the government of India, almost the entire farm sector comprises economically weak farmers.
- In the U.S. and EU: The two major providers of farm subsidies, namely, the U.S. and the members of the European Union (EU) gave much larger magnitudes of support than India did.
- America provided $131 billion in 2017 and the EU, nearly €80 billion (or $93 billion) in 2017-18.
- But Absolute numbers do not provide a good yardstick to compare the farm subsidies.
- If we compare the three countries in this regard, for 2017, India’s farm subsidies were 12.4% of agricultural value addition, while for the U.S. and the EU, the figures were 90.8% and 45.3%, respectively.
4) Himalayan maneuvers
GS 2- India and its neighborhood- relations
- China is prepared to intervene in Nepal’s politics as it is facing controversial decision to dissolve Parliament and call for elections.
- Chinese delegation met political leaders and called on President and Mr. Oli, with a stated mission to try and reverse the split in the party and convince Mr. Oli and his rivals Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and Madhav Nepal to effect a patch up.
- Both factions have been willing to meet with the Chinese delegation at a time like this, it is even more curious that the Chinese leadership would risk losing face and lose popular goodwill with a move that sparked protests in Kathmandu.
- In contrast, India has chosen to be more pragmatic and restrained, possibly due to a historical understanding of the main players in Nepali politics, and their liking for political brinkmanship.
RECENT CONTROVERSY BETWEEN INDIA AND NEPAL:
- In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nepal and India have become caught up in a border dispute, following competing territorial claims by both sides over controversial land in the Himalayan region.
- The latest diplomatic spat between the two countries began to escalate after India announced the inauguration of an 80-kilometer-long (50-mile) road that passes through Lipu Lekh, a disputed area that lies at a strategic three-way junction with Tibet and China.
- The unilaterally built motorway links India's Uttarakhand State to Tibet's Kailash Mansarovar via the Lipu Lekh Pass, a territory historically claimed by Nepal and considered one of the shortest and most practicable trade routes between India and China.
- The small Himalayan nation challenged India's inauguration of the road, viewing the move as another example of bullying by its much larger neighbor.
NEPAL ISSUES ON NEW MAP:
- In response, the Government of Nepal issued a new political map of Nepal that showed the disputed territory — including the areas of Kalapani, Lipu Lekh and Limpiyadhura — within its borders.
- Nepal, which was never under colonial rule, has long claimed these areas in accordance with the 1816 Sugauli treaty with the British Raj following the Anglo-Nepalese (Gurkha) War.
- The treaty recognized the Kali River as Nepal’s western boundary with India and the land lying east of the river is Nepalese territory.
- People living in Kalapani, Lipu Lekh and Limpiyadhura had cast votes during Nepal's 1959 general election and been paying taxes before the conflict erupted.
- India then fought a war with China in 1962, and these areas have remained in control of Indian troops since.
- The announcement, however, has strained diplomatic relations between India and Nepal, resulting in heated political exchange from both sides.
- India rejected what it considered Nepal's "unilateral act" saying the new map was not based on historical facts and evidence.
- The new map is not the first time the two South Asian neighbors clashed over cartography.
- In November 2019, India released a new official map of India, following its decision to reorganize the former state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. The new map included the area of Lipu Lekh as part of Indian territory.
- The Nepalese government denounced the map, proposed dates for resolving the dispute with dialogue but reportedly received no response from India.
- There are surrounding allegations that Kathmandu has become a puppet of China, with China's increasing economic activities in the region becoming a headache for India.
- Nepal is important to India both strategically and economically. India should, therefore, strengthen its relations with Nepal.
- Different issues should be resolved friendly and the 1950 Agreement should be renewed taking Nepalese interests into consideration. The open frontier should be controlled so as not to impact all nations' safety and security.
- India should be using its soft power effectively to strengthen its cultural relations and people-to-people interactions.
- India should make a time commitment to complete infrastructure projects. The Himalayan river system originating in Nepal has enormous untapped hydropower capacity. India should concentrate on that too.
- In addition, India should build a narrative to shift the image of playing a big brother and allay Nepal 's fear of interfering with the internal affairs of Nepal.
- Nepal 's significance has only increased further, with growing Chinese power. A safe and prosperous Nepal is required, as it is of tremendous strategic and economic importance for the security of India.
- While it is clear that India is not playing its traditional leading role in Nepal, neither is it facing the hate for playing spoiler.
- The positive situation gives India a little more space in which to consider its moves, and how to avoid instability in its Himalayan neighbor’s polity, something that is crucial to their relations and in the long term, to their closely inter-linked prosperity.
5) Straws in the wind in South Block
GS 2- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora
- The gravity of the COVID-19 situation, which has not yet reduced; tensions on the border with China; severe restrictions on travel; the unsettled situation in the U.S.; and the game-changing developments in West Asia have created a kind of lull on the foreign policy front.
- But below the surface, there is feverish activity to figure out future policies.
THE CHINA CHALLENGE:
- China’s intransigence is beyond comprehension. The frustration over the continuing occupation of Indian territory by China is evident in all pronouncements at all levels.
- Determination and resolve are evident in Indian statements, but so is the sense of limited options. All that emerges from South Block is willingness to negotiate and readiness to meet any eventuality.
- An increasingly visible integration of foreign and defence policies has added a new dimension to policymaking and execution.
- The visit of the Chief of the Army Staff and the Foreign Secretary to Myanmar could not go unnoticed.
- Nepal saw the visits of the Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, the Chief of the Army Staff, and the Foreign Secretary.
- There have been hints of India distancing itself from globalisation, following India’s decision to keep out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
- It has been stated officially that globalisation and trade agreements have resulted in de-industrialisation in certain sectors.
- The concept of ‘Atmanirbharta’ appears to be a precursor to reducing dependence on countries like China, even though we know that boycotting Chinese goods and investments is impractical at present.
- India joining the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative has become even more remote now.
INTOLERANCE OF CRITICISM:
- Another trend that is visible of late is intolerance of international criticism of internal developments.
- Some of the measures that countries take to express displeasure over statements or actions of other countries that are prejudicial to their own national interests include-
- Slapping trade sanctions;
- Refusing to recognise the government in power;
- Getting the critical country expelled from international organisations
- India has resorted to these measures judiciously over the years. These exceptional diplomatic actions are taken rarely and after considerable thought.
- That is why every such action is judged on merits, taking care that its adversarial impact is minimum even while conveying a strong message.
Every country counts in these days of global rebalancing. Much of the permutations and combinations being worked out in South Block will emerge as the new norm settles down.