Urbanisation key to driving growth engines

Source: By TV Mohandas Pai: The Financial Express

Development and urbanisation are two sides of the same coin. No society in recent history remained agrarian while adequately providing for its population. Urbanisation aggregates human activity—aggregation leads to specialisation, specialisation to increased productivity; enabling greater availability of goods, delivery of services, increased wages, and job opportunities. Urban areas are engines of growth in any modern economy.

China is a shining example of how urbanisation drives economic growth. China rapidly urbanised from 26.4% in 1990 to 59.2% today. The impact is evident in China, where the quality of life and life expectancy have improved dramatically. We can also trace the feedforward effect in China’s specialised workforce and productivity improvements—making China a Top 2 economy with nominal GDP of $14.1 trillion. In contrast, India is at $2.7 trillion, moving towards the target of $5 trillion by 2025.

The world, on average, is at 55.3% urbanisation, whereas India lags at 34%. India has been slow to urbanise because of the fixation on being a village-based society. Most planners still look to Gandhiji’s sentiments on this topic—‘The future of India lies in its villages’, he said in 1947. This is no longer true—complexity has increased, people’s economic needs and aspirations have grown, and it is impossible to supply adequate resources to India’s six lakh villages. Keep in India’s population in villages while being unable to meet their economic needs has resulted in high inequity.

Rural employment is mostly in agriculture. 42.7% of India’s workforce in 2016-17 was engaged in the agriculture sector, crawling at a 3.4% growth rate and contributing only 17.3% to the GDP. Meanwhile, 57.3% of the workforce was engaged in industry and services, growing at 5.5% and 7.6%, respectively. The income differential is very high, the ratio being 1:3:4 for the average wages of dependents on agriculture to industry to services. Left unaddressed, this large group of agricultural dependents will always be condemned to a sub-aspirational existence—with increasing distress and perpetual dependence on subsidies from the government.

Lack of opportunities is also accelerating large-scale internal migration towards India’s few urban growth engines—such as Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad, and others. 2011 Census indicates 43,324 uninhabited villages, presumably abandoned due to migration. People are voting for urban areas with their feet while the government sings the same old romanticised song about India in villages.

Large cities are reeling under the strain of overpopulation, with problems like inadequate infrastructure and rocketing living costs. Employment is unable to keep up with the inflow. Due to high costs, it is uncompetitive to set up industries in cities. Without industries to absorb the incoming rural population, they are mostly making low wages as contract labour. Even if they earn higher wages than in their hometowns, they can’t keep up with living costs—resulting in a growing urban population with unfavourable living conditions. Moreover, because of the policymakers’ fixation on villages, cities aren’t allocated enough to develop infrastructure to handle their rapidly expanding populations. A lose-lose situation all around.

A compelling solution to this unstable situation is the systematic shift of people from rural to urban areas. The 2011 census indicates there are 7,933 towns/cities housing 31.16% of the population, with an average population of 47,536. Of these, 465 towns have a population over one lakh and 53 cities, over ten lakh. On subtracting these, the remaining 7,468 towns must have significantly lesser populations than the 47,536 average. The upcoming 2021 census will inform us of the current situation.

Census data must be used to suitably identify 4,000-5,000 smaller towns all over India and develop them to absorb the rural-to-urban shift sustainably. GoI’s smart Cities initiative has identified 100 cities so far, focusing on roads, solar, water, and control centres. While expanding to 5,000 towns, four critical aspects must be incorporated:

  1. Infrastructure and connectivity:From the planning stage, it is essential to prioritise providing infrastructurelike roads and airport accessinternet connectivity and other amenities. Not only is state-of-the-art infrastructure crucial for quality of life, it also provides the logistical backbone for a productive industrial environment. Moreover, commissioning large-scale infrastructure development will also boost the construction sector—another means of mass employment. We need strategic investments from both the central and state governments in these towns for parallelised infrastructure development.
  2. Labour-intensive industry (LII) clusters:Creating many LIIs in and around the 5,000 towns is the best way to provide gainful employmentto the transitioning population. By focusing on the right type of industries—garments, fabrication, electronics assembly, automobiles, so on—this move will also boost India’s export capabilities. With focused skilling programs, LIIs will offer excellent income opportunities to the incoming population. Even a lower wage than cities will go a long way towards quality of life, especially since living costs are lower in towns. Women, who are not as mobile as men, can also now find employment near their villages and towns, commute and earn a living. Governments, apart from focusing investment here, must also provide incentives for the private sector to create LIIs.
  3. New sustainable technologies:While urbanisation improves delivery of services, it poses several challenges like congestionrestricted mobilityhigh waste production, and pollution. These are solved problems, however, in many parts of the world. India must invest in understanding state-of-the-art technologies and implement them. The newly developed towns will have the advantage of getting sustainable infrastructure—renewables like solar panels and wind turbines, planned tree cover to offset urban spread, water treatment facilities based on phytoremediation and other plant-based technologies, integrated recycling, EV infrastructure, and public transportation with last-mile connectivity—integrated from the planning stage itself. Older cities will need careful planning to incorporate new technologiesinto unwieldy city plans.
  4. Planning for capacity: Indian policymaking has a jaded tradition of planning projects based on latest available data—usually outdated—like the previous census. By the time projects are completed 5-10 years later, they are operationally overloaded. Instead, it is necessary to plan projects for sewage treatment, airports, roads, water supply, and so on with at least a 20-30-year forecast with provisions for future expansion. Again, China paves the way—many major airports have received the go-ahead to build a third runway and increase seating capacity by forecasting the demand to 2030. In parallel, new airports are being commissioned all over the country to provide additional capacity using forecasting beyond 2030.

Rapid urbanisation is essential to sustain India’s impressive 10-year growth trajectory and meet PM Modi’s 2025 economic target of $5 trillion. The proposed network of small towns and industry clusters can become India’s engine of growth and provide jobs at scale, thus improving overall economic prosperity. Sustainable urbanisation can be the force multiplier to mobilise India’s potential.




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Deforestation, desertification and climate solutions

Source: By Chandra Bhushan: The Financial Express

The one thing that worries climate scientists the most is the positive feedback loop. This is a process where changing one quantity changes the second one, and the change in the second quantity, in turn, changes the first. Scientists fear that a positive feedback loop will lead to a tipping point, beyond which the climate crisis may spiral out of control.

Desertification, melting of the Arctic ice caps, and thawing of the Siberian permafrost are some examples of the positive feedback loop. For instance, global warming is speeding up desertification by increasing the frequency and intensity of droughts, floods and forest fires. Desertification, in turn, is releasing large quantities of soil carbon into the atmosphere, further exacerbating warming. Similarly, global warming has started to thaw the Siberian permafrost. This could potentially release billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, warming the earth further and causing more permafrost to thaw. These are nightmarish scenarios, but they may slowly be becoming a reality. The fires raging in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest are a vivid manifestation of this.

The Amazon Basinmost of which is in Brazil, is the world’s largest rainforest, spanning four million km2. In the last 50 years, about 0.8 million km2 of the Amazon, equal to the entire forest and tree cover of India, has been lost to logging, farming, mining and other infrastructure developments. Scientists believe that if the Amazon loses another 3-8% of its forestdeforestation will start to feed on itself. Beyond this tipping point, forest cover would keep shrinking despite efforts to stop it. Eventually, much of the Amazon would become dry grassland, known as cerrado. When this happens, the Amazon will release billions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, worsening global warming. Illegal logging, forest fires and climate change bring the tipping point closer every year.

It is important to understand that what is happening in the Amazon rainforest is not new. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has been taking place at an industrial scale since the 1970s, peaking in 1995, when about 29,000 km2 forests was razed. From 2004 to 2012, the rate of deforestation slowed because of domestic and international pressure. In 2008, an international Amazon Fund was created to help pay for protection. The result of all these was that deforestation reached its record low level of 4,500 km2 in 2012. Since then, deforestation has been on the rise again. Under President Jair Bolsonaro, an environment sceptic, the rate of deforestation has further accelerated.

Bolsonaro has told the world that what happens in the Brazilian Amazon is Brazil’s business. But, is it? Amazon produces about 20% of earth’s oxygen and regulates the water cycle in the whole of South America. It is a net carbon sink; in normal years, it absorbs more than two billion tonnes of CO2. The destruction of the Amazon, therefore, has global ramifications and requires global attention. But, global attention is also required for deforestation and land degradation in other parts of the world. The Amazon fire only exemplifies what is a global problem.

It is estimated that the world lost more than 1.29 million km2 of forests during 1990–2015, at a rate of more than 50,000 km2 per year. Brazil accounted for about 30% of this loss. Large-scale deforestation is also happening is Southeast Asia and Africa. At the existing pace of deforestation, the world is likely to lose another 2.89 million km2 of forests by the 2040s. Similarly, the world is losing 120,000 km2 of land every year due to land degradation.

Land degradation and deforestation are responsible for more than 20% of the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C clearly states that we will not only have to stop these emissions but also deploy large-scale ‘carbon removal’ from the atmosphere to meet the target of keeping the global temperature increase within 1.5°C. The best way to remove carbon is by sequestering it in its natural sinksforestsgrasslands and soil. This also has the added benefit of halting desertification and land degradation, which is threatening the world’s food and water security. So, how do we get these solutions implemented?

Ricardo Salles, the environment minister of Brazil has reportedly said, “The international community can’t give Brazil the onus of being the world’s lungs without any benefits.” He is right. Developed countries, responsible for the bulk of emissions, should support Brazil in protecting the Amazon. In 2007, a global mechanism called REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) was started to incentivise forest conservation in developing countries by providing them with funds and allowing them to sell carbon credits to developed countries. A decade later, the carbon market has collapsed and the developed countries’ funding commitments for REDD+ have also been much lower than expected.

My colleagues and I studied in detail the implementation of REDD+ in India and a few African countries, and concluded that lessons from REDD+ can be used to design a new global mechanism to enhance natural carbon sinks in land and forests. We call this the Sink Mechanism. Our proposal, which we discussed at the UN Climate Convention, last year, has the following elements:

First, the sink mechanism must be owned by communities. REDD+ was captured by forest departments and large-forest owners, with little benefits to communities. But, studies show that indigenous people and local communities are capable of achieving excellent forest conservation outcomes at a much lower cost. The sink mechanism will work if millions of forest dwellers and farmers are incentivised to reverse land- and forest-degradation.

Second, the mechanism must be to promote sustainable forest and farm management practices, which lead to social, economic and ecological benefits. Scaling of carbon sequestration would be one of its co-benefits.

Third, land- and forest-based mechanisms cannot be sustained on carbon credits. They cannot be left to the mercy of markets. A non-market approach is needed to finance the sink mechanism. We, therefore, need to design a non-market mechanism where funds are mobilised to build the capacities of communities and local governments. Based on their performance, they can be rewarded for achieving emissions reduction and carbon stock enhancement.

Last, any global mechanism cannot depend solely on funding from developed countries. The REDD+ experience showed that once foreign funding ceases, projects become unsustainable. So, the funds for the sink mechanism have be a combination of domestic and international resources. But, even in this cooperative framework, developed countries will have to make far greater funding commitments than what they have done so far.

Halting forest loss along with reforesting could provide 150–200 billion tonnes of carbon mitigation between 2020 and 2050. Farmlands in dryland areas can sequester an additional 30–60 billion tonnes of carbon during the same period. Together, a sink mechanism that addresses both forests and farmlands can mitigate more than one-third of the climate crisis. What we need is to urgently bring countries together and agree on this collaborative framework to fight the climate crisis.



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The ‘criminalisation’ test

Source: By G S Bajpai: Deccan Herald

The government claimed the passage of the Triple Talaq Bill, 2019to be a win for gender justice. But concerns continue to be raised with respect to the law in several quarters. The first is that the law is inappropriate, given that it applies criminal sanction in a matter of Muslim marriage, which is a civil contract, and that it violates the fundamental rights and freedoms granted under Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Constitution. Secondly, it is also claimed that the amended law violates the fundamental principles of criminal law, especially on the account of the ‘criminalisation’ test. 

It must be understood that criminal law is a public law and any wrongdoing having the potential to adversely affect the social order, in general, will attract penal sanctions irrespective of the nature and extent of harm caused to the victim of the crime. The triple talaq law, when considered in terms of the consequences of the conduct upon the social and moral fabric of society, would withstand the scrutiny of the first test of intervention by criminal law.

Secondly, the choices of sanction depend on the type of behaviour requiring intervention. The persistence of the menace of triple talaq as a behaviour is intended to be reacted to and, therefore, deterrence appears to be imperative in this case.

Thirdly, it is not for the first time that criminal law has been invoked for socio-cultural issues. In fact, depending upon their ramifications, issues related to marital discordSatidowryenvironment etc., regularly invite criminal sanctions under local and special laws in India.

Fourthly, it is hard to fathom that this law would be hit by unconstitutionality on grounds of violation of the rights to equality, life and personal liberty, or religious freedom. To be in violation of the right to equality or life, the provisions, once enacted, would have to suffer from the vice of arbitrariness or un-reasonableness. However, any criminalization, in and of itself, cannot be deemed to be arbitrary if the same creates an intelligible differentia and the intelligible differentia has a nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the Act. Even if one were to look beyond such doctrinal tests for arbitrariness, one would find that the law is protected by Article 15(3), allowing for the State to enact laws discriminating in favour of women. Further, the issue of religious freedom has been settled by the Supreme Court in the case of Shayara Bano vs Union of India, which held that triple talaq does not qualify as an essential religious practice and therefore cannot find protection under Article 25 of the Constitution.

The term ‘criminalisation’ is being invoked frequently in regard to this law. But, many do not understand the term without the present contextual reference. So, it is necessary to look at the issue in the context of established principles of criminalisation. As Nicola Lacey asks, “What are the facts, beliefs and principles which should underpin a political body’s choice to proscribe certain sorts of behaviour by means of the criminal justice system?”

Lacey states that “criminalisation charts human freedom, determining what people are not allowed to do, it affects justice, equality, legitimacy and monetary resources.” Similarly, Antony Duff, too, proffers, “criminalization is an account of the principles and values that should guide decisions about what to criminalize and about how to define offenses.”

It has also been suggested that criminalization should not be invoked without valid reasons. For instance, the function of criminalization is to declare an act as a “morally wrongful activity.” Applying this reasoning to the criminalization of triple talaq can help us understand the proposition. In the context of criminalization, the validity of the law needs to be tested on the touchstone of the following principles.



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Leaders are laggards

Source: By Chandra Bhushan: The Financial Express

On September 20, the biggest-ever demonstration over global warming was held worldwide. The demonstrations were more pronounced in big cities of developed countries; in most developing countries, the response was muted. There was a token demonstration in India, for instance. The biggest demonstration was in New York, where the teenage activist Greta Thunberg spoke passionately about climate justice, and the need for world leaders to take leadership. But, alas, no such leadership was visible at the UN Climate Action Summit held on September 23 at the UN headquarters in New York.

To say that the summit was a great disappointment would be an understatement. The US, the world’s greatest carbon polluter, didn’t participate in the summit, though US President Donald Trump did make an inexplicable appearance, and left quickly. China, the world’s largest current polluter, made ambiguous statements, and put the responsibility on the developed countries to lead. The European Union came with no concrete proposal. India made an ambitious announcement of increasing its renewable energy target from 175 gigawatts (GW) to 450 GW. But, overall, none of the large polluters met the UN chief António Guterres’ call to raise their climate pledges. And, this is the crux of the issue—the G20 countries, who are the biggest polluters, are lagging far behind in climate action.

A day after the climate demonstrations, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) released an advance chapter of the 2019 Emissions Gap Report to let the world know how G20 countries are failing the planet. The Emissions Gap Reports are released every year to take stock of the gap between the emissions reductions required to meet 1.5°C/2°C target, and the reductions actually made, or pledged by countries collectively.

The 2019 Report shows that G20 nations, who account for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, are collectively not on track to meet their Paris Agreement commitments. Around half of these 20 countries are falling short of achieving their own target, called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), under the Paris Agreement. These countries are not yet taking on transformative climate commitments at the necessary breadth and scale to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. For instance:

  1. Too few countries have committed to net-zero greenhouse gas emissiontargets;
  2. Country commitments to fully decarbonise electricity supplies cover less than 1% of global CO2 emissions from electricity generation;
  3. Countries are not setting ambitious targets for industry;
  4. Very few countries have committed to phasing out coal-fired power plants;
  5. Commitment to decarbonise the transportation sector is lacking;
  6. Commitments to zero net deforestation targetsare not being backed with action on the ground.

What is evident from the report, which it does not spell out, is the laggardly actions in the US. While Europe, India, and China are making some efforts (though inadequate), the US is doing everything possible to increase its emissions.

First of all, the US is not likely to meet its measly Paris Commitments set under the Obama administration. Under Donald Trump, energy-related CO2 emissions of the country have grown in 2018, at a rate that is the highest since 2010, and is likely to be the second-highest in nearly two decades. In fact, the US, today, is more dependent on fossil fuels in absolute terms than it was 25 years ago, when the climate treaty was signed. With the anti-climate policies put in place by Trump, such as the reversal of the emissions and efficiency standards in the power, transport, and industry sectors, the emission scenario in the US is likely to worsen further.

The problem is that if the US doesn’t take strong actions to reduce emissions, China will not move and even if the whole world sets the most ambitious emissions-reduction targets, the emissions from the US, and China will be sufficient to burn the world. This is the key challenge facing the world—its top two economic leaders are the laggards on climate change.

The 2019 Emissions Gap Report concludes that countries must at least triple the level of ambition of their current NDCs to have a chance of keeping the global temperature rise under 2°C; to keep temperature rise to 1.5°C, they must increase their ambitions five-fold. These ambitions cannot be achieved without real decarbonisation efforts by the US, and China. How do we move these two behemoths? We need to quickly find the answer to this problem if we want to save the planet for future generations. 



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UPI is world-class and it’s time to take it international

Source: By Rahul Matthan: Mint

Cryptocurrencies are peer-to-peer electronic cash systems that are governed not by the authority of a central bank, but by digital code. Transactions are only added to the common distributed ledger if they can be validated in accordance with the rules stipulated by the code, ensuring that digital currency once spent cannot be re-spent. For everyone who uses the same blockchain, its distributed ledger becomes a common source of truth that allows them to carry out peer-to-peer transactions without the need for validation by a central entity.

Bitcoin is one such cryptocurrency. It uses a decentralized, permissionless system that allows anyone to validate a transaction, so long as they meet the technical requirements for operating a node. However, Bitcoin prioritizes decentralization over speed and scalability. As a result, it is incapable of processing transactions at the velocity or volume that modern financial systems demand. As there is a finite limit to the total number of Bitcoins that will ever be minted, its value fluctuates wildly, resulting in the sort of volatility that is undesirable in a currency.

Facebook recently announced the launch of a new cryptocurrency called Libra, which, it claims, will address the many failings of Bitcoin. Libra has been designed to operate on a bespoke blockchain running on at least 29 nodes and backed by a basket of bank deposits and government securities to ensure low-volatility. For the foreseeable future, Libra will function as a permissioned cryptocurrency to achieve the high transaction throughput and low latency functionality expected of a global payment system.

Libra will be most useful for underdeveloped countries that lack a digital financial infrastructure. It will offer them a safe and cost-effective mechanism for making payments that will scale effortlessly in places where the use of Facebook and WhatsApp is already widespread. When combined with social media data, it will allow developers to come up with innovative new products that incumbent financial sector players will be hard-pressed to match. As the value of a Libra today is designed to always be close to its value tomorrow and in the future, it will operate as a currency hedge in countries where exchange fluctuations are high.

I read the Libra White Paper with interest, keen to understand how this new cryptocurrency would change things for us in India. We are Facebook’s second largest market outside the US and any financial product it launches is bound to have an impact on us. However, the more I read, the less convinced I was that Libra was going to give India anything that it did not already have.

In Unified Payments Interface (UPI), India has a robust digital payments infrastructure that, within just three years of its launch, already effortlessly processes more than 750 million transactions a month. We have a network of business correspondents throughout the country who integrate our online and offline payment systems by converting digital payments into cash and vice versa. While we may not yet have the data advantage that Libra promises to bring, once the Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture is fully implemented, it will give us an entirely new way to build financial products using its digital consent infrastructure. Admittedly, UPI isn’t decentralized, but given how difficult it is going to be to migrate away from a permissioned architecture, it’s not as if Libra really offers much better.

That said, there is at least one thing Libra has going for it that UPI does not—the ability to radically transform how cross-border transfers are effected. India receives more inward remittances from its diaspora than any other country in the world ($79 billion in 2018). At present, all the mechanisms for international transfer of funds are costly, cumbersome and highly inefficient. A digital currency like Libra, pegged as it is to a basket of stable currencies, and transferable anywhere in the world, will offer overseas Indians a cheap, digital way to move money to relatives back home at a fraction of the cost that they currently spend.

In its report on deepening digital payments, the Nandan Nilekani Committee has recommended that it is time to take UPI global. Several different options have been proposed, including amending UPI protocols to include currency conversion support and directly connecting UPI to global payments systems to allow immediate, low-cost remittances to take place over the UPI system. There was also a suggestion that UPI specifications and technologies should be licensed to operators around the world to allow the protocol to spread outside India. This must be accompanied by amendments in Indian regulations, so that Indians can use UPI from abroad in much the same way as Chinese citizens use WeChat from wherever they are in the world.

Cryptocurrency-based payment systems are slow and computationally intensive. While the technology can be optimized, we will keep running up against its inherent limitations that make it hard to scale to population size. UPI may not be decentralized, but we know it works well at scale even over the sometimes patchy mobile networks in India.

There is no need to optimize blockchain technologies to meet the needs of developing markets when we already have a proven, world-class digital payments protocol in India that can easily be internationalized. Let’s back ourselves and just do it.



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Mission Kashmir~I

Source: By JP Gupta: The Statesman

The bold decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A, with the approval of both Houses of Parliament with 2/3rds majority, has been a groundbreaking event in the history of India. In times to come, this revolutionary move will change the geopolitics of the region, establishing all-encompassing gains for all the concerned parties including Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

For decades, Pakistan’s government has been channelizing its precious economic resources towards Kashmir, with the single-point agenda of its geo-political-economic landscape being annexation of Kashmir. After Pakistan’s loss in three open wars with India, it changed its policy from direct to indirect confrontation, in the form of passively sending jihadi terrorists to create unrest and internal strife in Kashmir. Amidst the uncertainty and unrest in Pakistan, Mr Modi played the masterstroke of abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, which has left Pakistan’s shadow government completely immobilised with their army surrendering and unable to showcase any credible move of strength against India.

This historic revocation has been instrumental in creating massive political turmoil in Pakistan, leaving its civil-military leadership completely rattled. Furthermore, Pakistan’s shadow government has failed to mobilize international support against abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, leaving it with little room. The international community has accepted India’s view that scrapping of key provisions is an internal matter. The landmark move has resulted in Pakistan’s leadership finding itself flummoxed.

While Pakistan’s agenda has been entirely Kashmir-centric at the cost of its own economic development for the last 70 years, the current inefficacy of Pakistan’s leadership upon revocation of Article 370 has left it utterly embarrassed. It is expected to be the stepping-stone for citizens of Pakistan to recognize that they have been bearing the cost of the misadventures of their entire military establishment and its shadow government.

Further, the government in collusion with Pakistan’s army has rendered the country a feudal and a regressive state. A report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) highlighted that in 2018 Pakistan was the 20th biggest military spender in the world with an expenditure of $ 11.4 bn, accounting for 4 per cent of its GDP, which is its highest level since 2004. In this backdrop, Pakistan’s leadership will be unable to convince its citizens about its complacency and inability to act post revocation of Article 370.

This year, Pakistan’s Economic Survey displays a dismal picture of the economy with annual growth rate declining from 6.2 per cent to 3.3 per cent (close to a 50 per cent decline) and further expected to plummet to 2.4 per cent the next year, a ten-year low. Further, inflation is expected to peak to 13 per cent in the next fiscal; a ten year high. Pakistan is currently under a huge burden of international debt amounting to about 30 per cent of its annual budget every year. When looking at macroeconomic indicators, even neighbouring Bangladesh’s economy has far surpassed Pakistan. In times to come, a revolution in Pakistan to overthrow the corrupt shadow government can be expected. Separatist movements in Pakistan will gain momentum, which the central government may find virtually impossible to contain at gun point.

The only option available to the discontented and deprived masses will be to resort to an internal civil war in order to pave the way for real democracy, for shifting the focus of governance in Pakistan from Kashmir to its own macroeconomic growth. Pakistan will have no option left but to take a complete U-turn in its economic policy from an India-centric one to that of growth and poverty eradication. Going forward, it would mark the commencement of successful dialogue between India and Pakistan, since for Pakistan’s economy to prosper, it is imperative to have its next-door neighbour as a strategic ally.

Not only in recent conversations with Trump, but in 2016 Mr Modi directly addressed the youth of Pakistan from a public platform, seeking their support to join forces to fight poverty, unemployment and illiteracy. He truly believes that war on poverty and unemployment is better than any other war. Mr Modi has both the capacity and the drive to transform lives. Should Pakistan choose to adopt growth and poverty eradication as its objectives, it can expect to get his complete support.

Turning our attention to J&K, we see three options which could be theoretically considered for discussion. J&K can either be made an independent region or can be merged with either India or Pakistan. Jammu has historic roots with India. For Kashmir to be an independent region, landlocked between three nuclear powers, is politically and economically unsustainable and potentially dangerous. Kashmir faces the danger of being converted to a hub of terror training camps like the current state of Afghanistan.

Further, Kashmir’s citizens wouldn’t agree to merge with Pakistan where citizens are severely hamstrung by limited opportunities for growth. For decades, Pakistan has been shedding crocodile tears in order to stir the local Kashmiris in their favour, amidst the self-created jihadi terror and unrest in the region. While Pakistan’s propaganda has led to some ideological confusion and internal insurgency in Kashmir, most of the armed fighters are infiltrators from Pakistan. Local support is limited to a small group of ideologically confused Kashmiris incited on the basis of religious bigotry. Additionally, Pakistan follows a radical Wahhabi sect of Islam which is divergent from the prominent faith in J&K. People of Kashmir are desperately seeking peace after a long spell of mayhem in the region and any amalgamation with Pakistan would not be harmonious.

At this juncture, it is natural for J&K to merge with India as the most viable and promising option. Kashmiris and Indians are inseparably inter-related in many areas. India is the largest democracy in the world with a federal structure in the Constitution, encompassing the ability to embrace diversity with ease. There are more than 29 states in India integrated together, but with each retaining its own identity. India offers respect, dignity and protection of identity; juxtaposed with tremendous opportunities for rapid growth in J&K.

Thus, on account of union with a secular nation like India, J&K faces no danger of losing its identity and cultural ethnicity. J&K is primarily an agrarian economy. Opening of J&K to the rest of the country will create opportunities to mobilize growth of industrial sector which would be mandatory to pave the way for employment, growth and development. Within the matter of a year, the people of J&K will recognize that the current revocation has been solely with the purpose of growth and development in the region.

Further, abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A has made the regional and political leaders of J&K powerless and irrelevant. Separatist Hurriyat leaders and local organizations were the true catalysts of terrorism acting on Pakistan’s funding. They were the ones instrumental in creating internal unrest by inciting youth to demand azadi and providing local support to jihadis, serving as accomplices of Pakistan.

This landmark decision has resulted in the governance of J&K falling under direct control of the central government of India, which will ensure noninterference of anti-social elements, illegal traders and perpetrators of terrorism. Abrogation of Article 370 will be the turning point for J&K towards unprecedented growth and socio-economic development of the entire region. Going forward, Ladakh too will get its due share after becoming a separate Union Territory. At present, the major share of the budget is being spent on Jammu and Kashmir, depriving Ladakh of funds for its development. Mr Modi’s landmark decision will ensure economic growth in Ladakh, in addition to J&K; and further ensure that the citizens there have the same rights and privileges as those in the other parts of the country.



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Why ‘final NRC’ is not final

Source: By Abhishek Saha: The Indian Express

WHEN THE National Register of Citizens (NRC) authorities in Assam published a consolidated family-wise list of applicants recently, they appended a note that those included may also be excluded later, and that no position in the list is permanent. As of now, the NRC has included 3.11 crore applicants as citizens, and excluded 19 lakh.

Under what circumstances can an included person’s name are deleted?

The note described three circumstances:

  1. Any fact of misrepresentation of particulars/documents discovered by the authorities;
  2. Discovery of a person being a Declared Foreigner (or a migrant of 1966-71 who is unregistered with a Foreigners Regional Registration Office [FRRO]); a person with a case pending at a Foreigners Tribunal, or a person being a D (Doubtful) voter or a descendant of such a person;
  3. Receipt of an opinion by any Foreigners Tribunal declaring a person as a foreigner.

Who is a D-voter or a Declared Foreigner?

D-Voter is a category introduced in Assam in 1997 to mark people unable to prove their citizenship during verification. A Declared Foreigner is one identified as such by one of the 100 Foreigners Tribunals (FTs), which are quasi-judicial bodies that opine whether or not a person is a foreigner within the meaning of the Foreigners Act, 1946.

Under Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955, people who entered Assam between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971 need to register with an FRRO. They would have all rights of a citizen except the right to vote, which would be granted after 10 years. In the NRC note, those who entered Assam within this 1966-71 window but did not register themselves, too, are liable to be excluded.

How could such persons have been included in the NRC in the first place?

There have been allegations that Declared Foreigners have entered the final NRC.Parallel citizenship determination processes intersect in Assam, and the NRC process worked without any synchronised database that would have reflected the real-time case status of a suspected foreigner. A centralised database is in the making, as a part of an e-FT programme, which will streamline databases of people declared or suspected to be foreigners by parallel processes (such as Foreigners Tribunals, Border Police reference, and NRC) and also store the biometrics of such people.

Another possible explanation is that a person declared to be a foreigner, having failed to produce papers to convince a Foreigners Tribunal, might have convinced the NRC with the same documents. In fact, many Declared Foreigners from the Foreigners Tribunal process have later been declared “Indian” in higher courts. Also, a large proportion of Tribunal cases are decided by ex parte rulings, so that the person has not argued his defence. These same persons could have presented documents to NRC officials.

An NRC official said that the Foreigners Tribunal is a superior authority to the NRC, as ruled by the Supreme Court — “it is of no consequence whether or not a Declared Foreigner is in the NRC”.

Are there other circumstances in which a person listed in NRC can get removed?

State officials say it is “legally possible” for the Border Police to make a reference against a person in the NRC. There is, however, no clarity whether the state will use that option. “If there is solid and genuine ground, then a reference can be made”.

This option with the Border Police was also highlighted by Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in an interview with the Assamese channel NewsLive recently. He said that the Border Police should investigate those they suspect of having “manipulated” legacy data for inclusion in the NRC.

Is it possible to go for re-verification of the NRC, as demanded by some?

In the interview, Sarma suggested that the government should approach the Supreme Court for re-verification, jointly with the All Assam Students’ Union and the NGO Assam Public Works (APW), the original petitioner in the NRC case. APW president Aabhijeet Sharma told that they will move the Supreme Court demanding 100% re-verification.

Upamanyu Hazarika, Supreme Court advocate and convener of the anti-immigration platform Prabajan Virodhi Mancha, said in a recent press statement: “In case of the NRC after its final publication Rule 10 of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Card) Rule 2003 vests power in the Registrar General or his nominee to remove any names from the citizens list if it is found to be on the basis of incorrect particulars.. … The statutory position being that the executive has the authority to re-verify entries in the NRC, a fact-finding investigation in this regard will enable the Registrar General to undertake re-verification.”

Rule 10 lists circumstances in which a person’s name can be deleted from the final NRC — “by an order of the Registrar General of Citizen Registration or any officer authorised by him”. These include (i) death; (ii) the person ceasing to be an Indian citizen under Section 8 of the Citizenship Act; (iii) revocation of Indian citizenship under Section 9; or (iv) Particulars provided by the individual or the family found to be incorrect.” The NRC note, too, cites Rule 10 as a provision under which names can be deleted, but it does not mention re-verification.

What happens to the over 19 lakh who are already excluded?

They will have the chance to appeal at the Foreigners Tribunals. The first step is obtaining an “exclusion or rejection” order from the NRC authorities, but there is no clarity on how long this will take. As per amended rules, a person has 120 days (understood to be counted from the day of the issuance of the rejection order) to appeal. If no appeal is filed in 120 days, the Deputy Commissioner of that district will make a “reference” to the Tribunal.

The state government has announced that those excluded will get legal aid through the District Legal Services Authorities.The real challenge is before FTs where extensive documentation is required. Getting certified copies of documents from appropriate authorities is the first big hurdle. The poor and the illiterate are baffled,” said Gauhati High Court advocate Aman Wadud who is among a group of lawyers who have decided to offer pro bono services to the poor.

The BJP and its’ lawyers’ body, the Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad, are formulating ways to provide legal aid to “genuine Indian citizens”. Several NGOs are also training volunteers to work as para-legals, while activists across the state have formed groups and are holding awareness meetings.



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Give it serious thought

Source: By Abhishek Verma: Deccan Herald

Expressing its dissatisfaction, the Supreme Court recently observed that no attempt has been made yet to frame a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) applicable to all citizens. It highlighted the example of Goa, which has a UCC applicable to all regardless of religion, except while protecting certain limited rights. The observations came while the Supreme Court was considering the validity of the Portuguese Civil Code, 1867, to govern the rights of succession and inheritance even in respect of properties of a Goan domicile situated outside Goa, anywhere in India.

This is not the first time the judiciary has brought up the matter of the UCC. In several previous instances, such as Mohd Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano and Sarla Mudgal vs Union of India, the Supreme Court has urged Parliament to consider bringing in a UCC. In the words of former Chief Justice of India Y V Chandrachud, “A common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws which have conflicting ideologies.”

The UCC is enshrined as one of the ultimate goals of the Constitution under Article 44. It is pertinent to note the historical background on UCC to understand the ongoing debate, often met with vociferous opposition and equally vociferous support.

Reforms to personal laws were attempted by the British in the form of abolition of Satiwidow remarriage, etc. A committee was constituted which submitted the Lex Loci Report of October 1840, which emphasised the importance and necessity of uniformity in the codification of Indian law relating to crimes, evidence and contract, but it recommended that personal laws of Hindus and Muslims should be kept outside such codification. The personal laws involved inheritance, succession, marriage and religious ceremonies.

Given the British policy of ‘divide and rule’, they had no interest in a common civil code for the Hindu and Muslim communities that might unite them. Further, a common civil code was also opposed on grounds of administrative complications.

The UCC was pushed for again in 1937. The passing of the Hindu Women's Right to Property Act of 1937, also known as the Deshmukh Bill, led to the formation of the BN Rau Committee, which was set up to determine the necessity of common Hindu laws. The committee concluded that it was time for a UCC that would give equal rights to women in keeping with the modern trends in society, but its focus was primarily on reforming the Hindu law in accordance with the scriptures. This was again pushed for after Independence, but Jawaharlal Nehru rejected it on the ground that the country was not ready for it. Babasaheb Ambedkar also recommended a UCC. 

The judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, has raised the need for a UCC many times, but its recommendation to parliament to enact one has never been taken seriously. 

The underlying concept of a UCC is to end discrimination in law based on religion. Nearly all personal laws act as tools of oppression against women using religious and social grounds. Such personal codes are against the very idea of gender equality promised by the Constitution as one of the cherished fundamental rights. In a country like India, where the principle of equality of all citizens before the law is enshrined in the Constitution, different sets of personal laws for different religious communities go against this very principle of the Constitution.

Different rules of civil law go against the secular credentials of the republic and challenge the concept of ‘unity in diversity’. In a diverse society like India, the laws to deal with disputes related to marriage, divorce, custody, adoption and inheritance need to be the same for all irrespective of religion, caste or sect. At a time when reforms for strengthening the position of women in society are being given the utmost significance and attention, there is an urgent need for a new civil code to eliminate discrimination against women.

A UCC administers the same set of secular civil laws to govern people belonging to different religions and regions. This does away with the right of citizens to be governed under different personal laws based on their religion or ethnicity. A UCC will, in the long run, ensure equality.

It is necessary that law be divorced from religion. With the enactment of a uniform code, secularism will be strengthened, much of the present-day separation and divisiveness between various religious groups in the country will disappear, and India will emerge as a much more cohesive and integrated nation.

The implementation of a UCC should get the support of all progressive and right-thinking citizens of the country. It is the need of the hour. There is also a need for a political consensus to implement such a code. In a nutshell, a uniform civil code is necessary to effect the integration of a country as diverse as India by bringing all the communities on to a common platform which does not form the essence of a single religion. A uniform civil code will also reinforce the idea of secularism enshrined in the Constitution. Therefore, serious thought should be given to enacting and implementing such a code.

In the words of former CJI Y V Chandrachud again, “We understand the difficulties involved in bringing persons of different faiths and persuasions on a common platform…But, a beginning has to be made if the Constitution is to have any meaning…it is beyond the endurance of sensitive minds to allow injustice to be suffered when it is so palpable.”



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Special climate meet on sidelines of UNGA

Source: By Amitabh Sinha: The Indian Express

UN Secretary General António Guterres has convened a special Climate Action Summit on 23 September 2019, at the start of the annual General Assembly session, in a bid to nudge countries to do more to fight climate change. He has told world leaders to come with ‘concrete’ and ‘realistic’ proposals to enhance the actions that they are already taking.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is among several leaders due to attend the Secretary-General’s meeting, India has already said it was in no position to upgrade its climate action plan. Instead, it has reminded the developed world that they have been woefully short of fulfilling their obligation of providing money and technology to developing countries to help them deal with the impacts of climate change.

Why a special summit?

This is not the first time that a special meeting on climate change is taking place on the sidelines of the General Assembly session. A similar meeting happened last year. But this year, the meeting has a bigger profile, with close to 60 heads of state or government, including France’s President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, likely to attend.

But what makes this meeting different from earlier efforts is the intention of the Secretary-General not to let this become another talk shop. Bring concrete plans, not speeches, Guterres is reported to have told the world leaders in a letter inviting them for the meeting. More specifically, he has asked countries to bring their action plans in line with the objective of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, and to “net zero” by 2050. In addition, he has also identified nine areas in which he would like the countries to do more.

What are the climate action plans he is talking about?

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, every signatory nation is supposed to finalise and submit a set of time-bound actions that it would take to combat climate change. The first set of action plans, called nationally determined contributions or NDCs, was submitted in 2015. The Paris Agreement also says that the NDCs should be updated every five years, with each subsequent NDC being stronger and more ambitious than the previous one.

As per the five-year cycle, countries have to submit their second NDCs by next year. But the Secretary-General is asking the countries to make specific additional commitments at meeting. In addition, he has also appealed to the countries to promise not to set up any new coal plants after 2020stop subsidies on fossil fuels, and levy additional taxes on polluters. Importantly, he has asked all countries to commit to net zero emissions by 2050.

Why has India refused?

India has said its NDC already represents its “best effort”, keeping in mind its development imperatives. In a discussion paper released earlier this week, the government said the “new asks” from the Secretary-General, “in particular net zero emissions; mean a sweeping change across the entire economy”. It has said this target should be kept only for developed countries.

This can be a global aspirational goal and developed countries must be on track to take measures and legislate for net zero emissions by 2050. But it cannot be a goal for developing countries as the technologies have not progressed and aren’t all available yet for developing countries. And the past performance on both finance and technology front is just not reassuring for them,” it has said.

In the discussion paper, India has repeatedly called out the developed world for their failure to provide adequate finance and technology to developing countries. It has pointed out that the finance needs specified by the developing countries in their NDCs in 2015 adds up to $4.4 trillion. India alone requires $206 billion by 2030 to implement only the adaptation programmes in agriculture, forestry, water resources, and infrastructure. The total cost of carrying out all the promised actions in the NDCs would cost $2.5 trillion by 2030.

What the developed countries have made available is meagre in comparison. Developed countries have promised to mobilise at least $100 billion every year from 2020 for the developing countries. But even on that count, they are way behind the target as of now.

“As per latest data available of Climate Funds Update, the actual pledges from developed to developing countries for climate finance is around only $30 billion, whereas deposits and approval are around $26 billion and $19 billion respectively,” India has said. It has said any call for climate actions at this stage “should set in motion a serious discourse on climate finance required to take climate actions effectively”.

India has said while it will continue to “do its best” on climate actions, it would not commit to any long-term goal, like a net-zero emission targets for 2050, at this stage. Under the Paris Agreement, countries are supposed to undertake a stock-take of their actions in 2023 to see whether these were in line with the objective of keeping the global rise in temperature to below 2°C from the pre-industrial times.

“Given this, India will be better placed to consider a mid-term assessment of its actions and suitably recalibrate through re-examination and improvement when the global stocktake takes place in 2023. For the present, India may only be in a position to elaborate or clarify its post 2020 climate actions already pledged in its NDC,” it has said.

So, what is expected to come out of this meeting then?

A new UN report just ahead of this meeting says at least 112 countries had expressed their intent to revise their NDCs, with 75 of them promising to enhance its ambition. The other 37 have proposed to bring more data and information in their NDCs. In addition, at least 53 countries had said they were working to finalise long-term strategies, like a net-zero goal by 2050. Only 14 countries, together accounting for 26 per cent of global emissions, had categorically said they would not revise their NDCs. Many countries are likely to make these announcements at this meeting.



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One tribunal for all river water disputes

Source: By Amitabh Sinha: The Indian Express

ON 31 July 2019, Lok Sabha gave its approval to a proposal to set up a permanent tribunal to adjudicate on inter-state disputes over sharing of river waters. The Bill cleared by Lok Sabha seeks to make amendments to the Inter-State River Waters Disputes Act of 1956 that provides for setting up of a separate tribunal every time a dispute arises. Once it becomes law, the amendment will ensure the transfer of all existing water disputes to the new tribunal. All five existing tribunals under the 1956 Act would cease to exist.

Why the change

The main purpose is to make the process of dispute settlement more efficient and effective. Under the 1956 Act, nine tribunals have so far been set up. Only four of them have given their awards. One of these disputes, over Cauvery waters between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, took 28 years to settle. The Ravi and Beas Waters Tribunal was set up in April 1986 and it is still to give the final award. The minimum a tribunal has taken to settle a dispute is seven years, by the first Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal in 1976.

The amendment is bringing a time limit for adjudicating the disputes. All disputes would now have to be resolved within a maximum of four-and-a-half years.

The multiplicity of tribunals has led to an increase in bureaucracydelays, and possible duplication of work. The replacement of five existing tribunals with a permanent tribunal is likely to result in a 25 per cent reduction in staff strength, from the current 107 to 80, and a saving of Rs 4.27 crore per year.

The current system of dispute resolution would give way to a new two-tier approach. The states concerned would be encouraged to come to a negotiated settlement through a Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC). Only if the DRC fails to resolve the dispute will the matter be referred to the tribunal.

How it will work

In the existing mechanism, when states raise a dispute, the central government constitutes a tribunal. Under the current lawthe tribunal has to give its award within three years, which can be extended by another two years. In practice, tribunals have taken much longer to give their decisions.

Under the new system, the Centre would set up a DRC once states raise a dispute. The DRC would be headed by a serving or retired secretary-rank officer with experience in the water sector and would have other expert members and a representative of each state government concerned. The DRC would try to resolve the dispute through negotiations within a year and submit a report to the Centre. This period can be extended by a maximum of six months.

If the DRC fails to settle the dispute, it would be referred to the permanent tribunal, which will have a chairperson, a vice-chairperson and a maximum of six members — three judicial and three expert members. The chairperson would then constitute a three-member bench that would consider the DRC report before investigating on its own. It would have to finalise its decision within two years, a period that can be extended by a maximum of one more year — adding up to a maximum of four-and-a-half years.

The decision of the tribunal would carry the weight of an order of the Supreme Court. There is no provision for appeal. However, the Supreme Court, while hearing a civil suit in the Cauvery dispute, had said the decision of that tribunal could be challenged before it through a Special Leave Petition under Article 136 of the Constitution.




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Uniform Civil code

Source: By Faizan Mustafa: The Indian Express

While hearing a matter relating to properties of a Goan, the Supreme Court described Goa as a “shining example” with a Uniform Civil Code, observed that the founders of the Constitution had “hoped and expected” a Uniform Civil Code for India but there has been no attempt at framing one.

What is a Uniform Civil Code?

Uniform Civil Code is one that would provide for one law for the entire country, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etcArticle 44 of the Constitution lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.

Article 44 is one of the directive principles. These, as defined in Article 37, are not justiciable (not enforceable by any court) but the principles laid down therein are fundamental in governance. Fundamental rights are enforceable in a court of law. While Article 44 uses the words “state shall endeavour”, other Articles in the ‘Directive Principles’ chapter use words such as “in particular strive”; “shall in particular direct its policy”; “shall be obligation of the state” etc. Article 43 mentions “state shall endeavour by suitable legislation” while the phrase “by suitable legislation” is absent in Article 44. All this implies that the duty of the state is greater in other directive principles than in Article 44.

What are more important — fundamental rights or directive principles?

There is no doubt that fundamental rights are more important. The Supreme Court held in Minerva Mills (1980): “Indian Constitution is founded on the bed-rock of the balance between Parts III (Fundamental Rights) and IV (Directive Principles). To give absolute primacy to one over the other is to disturb the harmony of the Constitution”. Article 31C inserted by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, however, lays down that if a law is made to implement any directive principle, it cannot be challenged on the ground of being violative of the fundamental rights under Articles 14 and 19.

Does India not already have a uniform code in civil matters?

Indian laws do follow a uniform code in most civil matters – Indian Contract ActCivil Procedure CodeSale of Goods ActTransfer of Property ActPartnership ActEvidence Act etc. States, however, have made hundreds of amendments and therefore in certain matters, there is diversity even under these secular civil laws. Recently, several states refused to be governed by the uniform Motor Vehicles Act, 2019.

If the framers of the Constitution had intended to have a Uniform Civil Code, they would have given exclusive jurisdiction to Parliament in respect of personal laws, by including this subject in the Union List. But “personal laws” are mentioned in the Concurrent List. Last year, the Law Commission concluded that a Uniform Civil Code is neither feasible nor desirable.

Is there one common personal law for any religious community governing all its members?

All Hindus of the country are not governed by one law, nor are all Muslims or all Christians. Not only British legal traditions, even those of the Portuguese and the French remain operative in some parts.

In Jammu and Kashmir until August 5, 2019, local Hindu law statutes differed from central enactments. The Shariat Act of 1937 was extended to J&K a few years ago but has now been repealed. Muslims of Kashmir were thus governed by a customary law, which in many ways was at variance with Muslim Personal Law in the rest of the country and was, in fact, closer to Hindu law. Even on registration of marriage among Muslims, laws differ from place to place. It was compulsory in J&K (1981 Act), and is optional in Bengal, Bihar (both under 1876 Act), Assam (1935 Act) and Odisha (1949 Act).

In the Northeast, there are more than 200 tribes with their own varied customary laws. The Constitution itself protects local customs in Nagaland. Similar protections are enjoyed by Meghalaya and Mizoram. Even reformed Hindu law, in spite of codification, protects customary practices.

How does the idea of a Uniform Civil Code relate to the fundamental right to religion?

Article 25 lays down an individual’s fundamental right to religionArticle 26(b) upholds the right of each religious denomination or any section thereof to “manage its own affairs in matters of religion”; Article 29 defines the right to conserve distinctive culture. An individual’s freedom of religion under Article 25 is subject to “public order, health, morality” and other provisions relating to fundamental rights, but a group’s freedom under Article 26 has not been subjected to other fundamental rights

In the Constituent Assembly, there was division on the issue of putting Uniform Civil Code in the fundamental rights chapter. The matter was settled by a vote. By a 5:4 majority the fundamental rights sub-committee headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel held that the provision was outside the scope of fundamental rights and therefore the Uniform Civil Code was made less important than freedom of religion.

What was the view of Muslim members in the Constituent Assembly?

Some members sought to immunise Muslim Personal Law from state regulation. Mohammed Ismail, who thrice tried unsuccessfully to get Muslim Personal Law exempted from Article 44, said a secular state should not interfere with the personal law of people. B Pocker Saheb said he had received representations against a common civil code from various organisations, including Hindu organisations. Hussain Imam questioned whether there could ever be uniformity of personal laws in a diverse country like India.

B R Ambedkar said “no government can use its provisions in a way that would force the Muslims to revolt”. Alladi Krishnaswami, who was in favour of a Uniform Civil Code, conceded that it would be unwise to enact Uniform Civil Code ignoring strong opposition from any community. Gender justice was not mentioned in these debates.

How did the debate on a common code for Hindus play out?

In June 1948, Rajendra Prasad, President of the Constituent Assembly, warned Jawaharlal Nehru that to introduce “basic changes” in personal law was to impose “progressive ideas” of a “microscopic minority” on the Hindu community as a whole. Others opposed to reforms in Hindu law included Sardar Patel, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, M A Ayyangar, M M Malaviya and Kailash Nath Katju.

When the debate on the Hindu Code Bill took place in December 1949, 23 of 28 speakers opposed it. On September 15, 1951, President Prasad threatened to use his powers of returning the Bill to Parliament or vetoing it. Ambedkar eventually had to resign. Nehru agreed to trifurcation of the Code into separate Acts and diluted several provisions.



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What is Jammu and Kashmir’s Public Safety Act?

Source: By Kaunain Sheriff: The Indian Express

On 16 September 2019, it emerged that former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has been detained under the state’s stringent Public Safety Act (PSA), which enables authorities to detain any individual for two years without trial. A look at the provisions of the Act, and the conversation around it:

What is the PSA?

The Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 is a preventive detention law, under which a person is taken into custody to prevent him or her from acting in any manner that is prejudicial to “the security of the state or the maintenance of the public order”. It is very similar to the National Security Act that is used by other state governments for preventive detention.

By definition, preventive detention is meant to be preventive, not punitive. This broad definition is the most common ground used by a law-enforcement agency when it slaps the PSA on an individual. It comes into force by an administrative order passed either by Divisional Commissioner or the District Magistrate, or not by a detention order by police based on specific allegations or for specific violation of laws.

Why is it considered draconian?

The PSA allows for detention of a person without a formal charge and without trial. It can be slapped on a person already in police custody; on someone immediately after being granted bail by a court; or even on a person acquitted by the court. Detention can be up to two years.

Unlike in police custody, a person who is detained under the PSA need not be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of the detention. The detained person does not have the right to move a bail application before a criminal court, and cannot engage any lawyer to represent him or her before the detaining authority.

The only way this administrative preventive detention order can be challenged is through a habeas corpus petition filed by relatives of the detained person. The High Court and the Supreme Court have the jurisdiction to hear such petitions and pass a final order seeking quashing of the PSA. However, if the order is quashed, there is no bar on the government passing another detention order under the PSA and detaining the person again.

The District Magistrate who has passed the detention order has protection under the Act, which states that the order is considered “done in good faith”. Therefore, there cannot be prosecution or any legal proceeding against the official who has passed the order. Also, after an amendment last year by the Governor, persons detained under the PSA in Jammu & Kashmir can now be detained in jails outside the state.

What happens once the PSA is slapped?

Generally, when a person is detained under the PSA, the DM communicates to the person within five days, in writing, the reason for the detention. In exceptional circumstances, the DM can take 10 days to communicate these grounds. This communication is important because it is on the basis of it that the detained person gets an opportunity of making a representation against the order. However, the DM also has the discretion not to disclose all the facts on the basis of which the detention is ordered, if he or she thinks that these facts are against “public interest”.

The DM has to place the detention order within four weeks before an advisory board, consisting of three members including a chairperson who is a former judge of the High Court. The DM also has to place the representation made by the detained person. The detained person too can make a representation before this advisory board.

Within eight week from the date of detention, the board submits its report to the government, which will determine if the detention is in public interest. This report is binding on the government.

What constitutional safeguards are guaranteed to a person so detained?

Article 22(a) of the Constitution states that no person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be of the grounds for such arrest, nor shall he be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice. Article 22(b) states that every person arrested and detained shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of 24 hours (excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court) and no such person shall be detained beyond this period without the authority of a magistrate.

However, Article 22(3) (b) allows for preventive detention and restriction on personal liberty for reasons of state security and public order. The Supreme Court has held that in order to prevent “misuse of this potentially dangerous power, the law of preventive detention has to be strictly construed and meticulous compliance with the procedural safeguards… is mandatory and vital”. Therefore, the DM has to show that the detention order follows the procedure established by law; any violation of these procedural safeguards is to be termed violation of constitutional rights.



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Possibility of misuse

Source: By B K Singh: Deccan Herald

Except for a few states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the regulations in forests in most other states are governed by the Indian Forest Act, 1927. During this journey of more than 90 years, statutes like Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 were enacted to keep the pace of forest management with changing environment of ecological, social and cultural traditions.

The Central government has come up with draft Indian Forest (Amendment) Act, 2019 and has placed it in public domain. There are several positive steps towards conservation in the draft.

They include: declaring conservation area for carbon sequestration as in Section 27(A) (even private wooded areas can be declared), certain forests deemed to be reserve as in Section 27(B), confiscation proceedings to be conducted by the Deputy Conservator of Forests as proposed in Section 52(A) and a provision for appointment of Special Court vide Section 67(A) added in the draft.

However, some other sections in the proposed amendment are likely to be misused and can harm conservation. I am pointing out the amendments which can degrade natural forests and can also lead to grabbing of forest lands. The first and the foremost is the proposed amendment for the management of village forests as seen in section 28. Any reserve forest can be converted into a village forest and can be assigned to the gram panchayat for management.

Some of the reserve forests located in hilly terrain and are far from villages, are still pristine. Reserve forests in the neighbourhood of the villages have been subjected to illicit felling of trees, grazing, fire etc and have sufficiently degraded.

Moreover, there has been the practice of managing these forests under the Working Plan approved by the Centre. The condition in village forest management is also diluted in Section 28. Village forests will be managed under working schemes which are approved by state governments. The forests will be left for further plundering. The second serious concern is the proposed Section 34(C) on `production forests’. This amendment is for growing trees on degraded forest land and for that purpose, land may even be handed over to private agencies.

This has serious implications. It may result in wanton diversion of forest land in the name of production such as growing of monoculture plantations by corporate bodies causing loss of biodiversity. The existing natural forest of the country is in a very critical state and these forests need to be protected for ecological services and minimising the impact of natural disasters. It may not be advisable to use the existing forests for the production at the cost of ecological services they provide.

Forest produce may have to be produced by promoting agroforestry, and degraded forest land can be reforested by closing the area and regenerating with native species. The third critical issue is the definition of ‘mineral’. Unlike in Karnataka Forest Act, 1963, where any mineral found in forests is forest produce, the proposed law in section 2(13)(b)(III) says that minerals found in forests are forest produce except if it is covered under Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1957 (MMRD Act).

All major minerals found in forests are covered in MMRD Act and will therefore not be forest produce. A new Section 39A is proposed for levy of cess for forest produce. Forest department will be deprived of huge revenue from mineral-rich forests and consequently, forests will suffer from investments.

The fourth issue is the intention of the government to notify a particular area as `reserve forest’. A number of proposals of the Forest Department are pending with state government for several decades. No one takes interest and conservation suffers.

There is addition proposed vide Section 27(B) of Indian Forest (Amendment) Act, 2019 stating that if there is any process initiated to reserve such forests under any Act, it will be deemed to be a reserve forest, which is a welcome step. The compliance of such good provision will be doubtful as although Section 4(4) of the proposal provides that the settlement officer must conclude the proceeding in three years, next steps are not specified in case the officer fails to act.

In a debate on climate change in the Rajya Sabha in June 2019, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh hit out at the government saying that the job of the Environment & Forest Ministry was to take some hard decision in safeguarding forests and environment. I completely agree with him.

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar has said that his ministry used to be called ‘roadblock or tax ministry’. If the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, Forests Right Act 2006 and Coastal Zone Regulation were weakened with the perspective of ease of doing business, then we are inviting disaster with greater frequency.

Union Environment and Forest Ministry should never take clearing the projects as their achievement.  For any development projects, diverting pristine natural forests lowers ecosystem services and contributes to global warming.

The Indian Forest (Amendment) Act, 2019 should keep all such areas beyond the scope of diversion under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. If someone says that compensatory afforestation can substitute natural forests, he is fooling the people of this country.

Javadekar has said that India will work towards additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 by growing additional forests and tree cover by 2030. However, the state forest departments are unclear of forestry target of growing additional trees for this purpose even after four years of signing the Paris agreement.



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How waived loans impact states

Source: By Udit Misra: The Indian Express

On 13 September 2019, the Reserve Bank of India shared the report of an Internal Working Group (IWG), which was set up in February to look at, among other things, the impact of farm loan waivers on state finances. The report has shown how farm loan waivers dented state finances and urged governments — both central and state — to avoid resorting to farm loan waivers.

Since 2014-15, many state governments have announced farm loan waivers. This was done for a variety of reasons including relieving distressed farmers struggling with lower incomes in the wake of repeated droughts and demonetisation. Also crucial in this regard was the timing of elections and several observers of the economy including the RBI warned against the use of farm loan waivers.

The latest report of RBI has concluded: “The IWG recommends that GoI and state governments should undertake a holistic review of the agricultural policies and their implementation, as well as evaluate the effectiveness of current subsidy policies with regard to agri inputs and credit in a manner which will improve the overall viability of agriculture in a sustainable manner. In view of the above stated, loan waivers should be avoided”.

What has been the impact on state finances?

RBI report details the impact on state finances in successive years. Typically, once announced, farm loans waivers are staggered over three to five years. Between 2014-15 and 2018-19, the total farm loan waiver announced by different state governments was Rs 2.36 trillion. Of this, Rs 1.5 trillion has already been waived. For perspective, the last big farm loan waiver was announced by the UPA government in 2008-09 and it was Rs 0.72 trillion. Of this, actual waivers were only Rs 0.53 trillion — staggered between 2008-09 and 2011-12.

In other words, in the past five years, just a handful of states have already waived three-times the amount waived by the central government in 2008-09. The actual waivers peaked in 2017-18 — in the wake of demonetisation and its adverse impact on farm incomes — and amounted to almost 12 per cent of the states’ fiscal deficit.

What is the impact on economic growth, interest rates and job creation?

In essence, a farm loan waiver by the government implies that the government settles the private debt that a farmer owes to a bank. But doing so eats into the government’s resources, which, in turn, leads to one of following two things: either the concerned government’s fiscal deficit (or, in other words, total borrowing from the market) goes up or it has to cut down its expenditure.

A higher fiscal deficit, even if it is at the state level, implies that the amount of money available for lending to private businesses — both big and small — will be lower. It also means the cost at which this money would be lent (or the interest rate) would be higher. If fresh credit is costly, there will be fewer new companies, and less job creation.

If the state government doesn’t want to borrow the money from the market and wants to stick to its fiscal deficit target, it will be forced to accommodate by cutting expenditure. More often than not, states choose to cut capital expenditure — that is the kind of expenditure which would have led to the creation of productive assets such as more roads, buildings, schools etc — instead of the revenue expenditure, which is in the form of committed expenditure such as staff salaries and pensions. But cutting capital expenditure also undermines the ability to produce and grow in the future.

As such, farm loan waivers are not considered prudent because they hurt overall economic growth apart from ruining the credit culture in the economy since they incentivise defaulters and penalise those who pay back their loans.

So, are the states increasing their fiscal deficits or cutting capital expenditure?

However, an analysis of the latest state Budgets by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), released last month, shows that, on the whole, notwithstanding farm loan waivers etc., state governments stick to their fiscal deficit targets. In other words, state governments are not as profligate as they are made out to be. States barring the episode (in 2015-16) when they had to absorb the losses of state discoms (power distribution companies) under the Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (or UDAY), have stayed true to restricting their revenue deficit to zero and fiscal deficit to three per cent of their GDP.

But this relieving picture has a flip side. The way states meet their deficit targets is not by raising more revenues but by cutting expenditure. Each year, the actual expenditure is considerably lower than the Revised Estimates (RE) presented in the budget. And within expenditure, as Manish Gupta of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) points out, capital expenditure is cut relatively more than revenue expenditure.

How much do state finances matter for India’s macroeconomic stability?

Far too often, analyses of the Indian economy focus on the Union government’s finances alone. But the ground realities are fast changing. The NIPFP study of state finances reveals that all the states, collectively; now spend 30 per cent more than the central government. Since 2014, state governments have increasingly borrowed money from the market. In 2016-17, for instance, total net borrowings by all the states were almost equal (roughly 86 per cent) of the amount that the Centre borrowed.



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