News & Events
In this section, we are presenting our readers/aspirants compilation of selected editorials of national daily viz. The Hindu, The live mint,The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, PIB etc. This section caters the requirement of Civil Services Mains (GS + Essay) , PCS, HAS Mains (GS + Essay) & others essay writing competition.
1.Just not justice: NCRB data reveals badly struggling judicial system, and several action points for policymakers
In a year dominated by Covid, NCRB’s Crime in India report 2020 reveals that much policing effort went into enforcing Covid-related social distancing norms. Around 16 lakh of the total 66 lakh cognisable offences registered in 2020 (nearly 25%) were offences like disobeying an order promulgated by a public servant and negligent act likely to spread infection. Covid also massively hobbled the judiciary, with lower court pendency up from 3.2 crore pre-pandemic to over 4 crore cases now. Judiciary’s struggle is best illustrated by rape trials.
Besides 1.46 lakh rape cases pending trial from 2019, another 23,693 cases were sent for trial in 2020. But only a paltry 3,451 cases from previous years and 363 from 2020 ended in conviction out of a total of 9,898 cases disposed of by courts. In essence, backlogs grew to 1.6 lakh rape cases. The situation demands prioritising heinous offences and quickly settling the Covid-related offences without letting them be a drag – through handy options like Lok Adalats or by governments withdrawing them.
NCRB also throws light on states clamping down on protest. UP’s resort to Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act (logging nearly half of India’s 4,500 cases) gives it the dubious record of accounting for nearly 40% of offences against the state in India. Across states, 50,000 rioting and 10,000 unlawful assembly cases were lodged, a 12% rise from 2019. But many categories of rioting offences saw abysmally low conviction rates, in the 10-20% range. They also saw high court pendencies of over 96%.
The futility of widespread application of sedition charge is evident from the police adding 73 cases in 2020 to 157 pending investigations from previous years. Courts initiated 23 sedition trials apart from 86 pending from previous years, and disposed of merely six cases by year end (four of them acquittals). Ultimately, NCRB’s data makes a strong case for expediting judicial appointments given the huge pendency rate and improving the quality of policing, evident from low conviction rates in many heinous offences. Will policymakers act?
2. 3 reforms, 1 worry: GoI does well to address NPAs, telecom. But it must see growth impulses are weak
Three economic policy announcements over the last two days show that GoI remains focussed on reforms despite immediate challenges posed by the pandemic. This augurs well for the economy. Two announcements, on the bad bank and telecom, aim to offset festering problems. The third on extending fiscal incentives through Production Linked Incentives (PLIs) to the automobile and drone sectors tries to address industry’s challenge of inadequate competitiveness in relation to India’s relevant peers.
The bad bank structure announced yesterday is potentially the most far-reaching of the three policies. The overarching aim is to clear bad loans from banks’ books and unclog credit flow. The structure envisages two complementary entities. The bad bank, or NARCL, will be the repository of bad loans from banks. The majority stake will be held by public sector banks. These loans will be managed by another firm, IDRCL, with a majority private sector stake. The success of the bad bank, backed by government guarantees, will eventually depend on the incentive structure that emerges during operations.
The telecom package will reduce the burden of levies – it’s illogical to first auction spectrum and then levy charges on its use. There are also process reforms and liquidity support to help. However, it remains to be seen if these measures can prevent the emergence of a de facto duopoly in India when major markets have three to four competitors.
GoI has bet big on sectoral PLIs to boost competitiveness. Its efficacy depends once again on how the incentives are designed as India’s earlier policies to provide fiscal support foundered because of design flaws.
Reforms notwithstanding, the overall state of the economy remains worrisome. RBI’s assessment yesterday was that despite the expected recovery this year, catching up with the trend may take more time. Even if its current projection of 9.5% GDP growth holds, the economy’s size will be around what we had in 2019-20. There’s no room for complacency. In this context, GoI needs to keep the option of additional fiscal support on the table. This remains the only credible policy tool left as RBI has already done all it can to support economic growth.
3.The role of civil society organisations
The government must treat civil society as an ally; non-governmental organisations must be transparent
The Indian State has historically been uncomfortable with independent civil society organisations, especially those which have received foreign support and may be engaged in research and activism that does not always align with the State’s agenda or worldview. This was true during the Cold War, when accusations were hurled at organisations for being fronts of western intelligence outfits. Under the United Progressive Alliance government, contradictory impulses were at play. On the one hand, the high-powered National Advisory Council institutionalised engagement between the ruling party and civil society; on the other, the government used the draconian sedition law against activists, tightened rules of foreign funding, and expanded the home ministry’s control. This Indian State was often democratic, but also illiberal at times.
The State-civil society dynamic changed post-2014. The new political dispensation was deeply distrustful of civil society organisations, which had raised issues of human rights, environmental safeguards, development projects-induced displacement, and democratic freedoms. Such organisations, too, were deeply distrustful of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, and the line between active political work and civil society activism got blurred. The fact that there are indeed many non-government organisations (NGOs) which have engaged in corruption, and used funds for purposes other than what was the stated mandate added to the trust deficit. The government then deployed a range of measures — surveillance on foreign-funded activist organisations, restrictive provisions which make international grants difficult to access even for research organisations, and, the rather-too-frequent use of investigative agencies to conduct raids — against organisations and activists that it is suspicious about because of their political worldview.
Ensure healthy competition to revitalise industry
Over six years after the launch of the Digital India programme, aimed at transforming the country into a ‘digitally empowered society and knowledge economy’, the Union Government has approved a major relief package for the debt-burdened telecom sector. Such a bailout plan was long overdue, considering that one of the major players, Vodafone Idea, was on the brink of bankruptcy. In all, Vodafone and other telecom firms owed about Rs 92,000 crore to the Centre as licence fee and Rs 41,000 crore as spectrum usage fees. The confidence-building measures include a four-year break for companies from paying statutory dues, the scrapping of the Spectrum Usage Charge for airwaves acquired in future spectrum auctions, and 100 per cent FDI (foreign direct investment) in the sector under the automatic route. The breather should hopefully spur the firms to overcome their financial woes and provide affordable and improved services.
The government has claimed that the reforms package is adequate for the survival of the existing players and will ensure robust competition, besides paving the way for the entry of new players. This is easier said than done as a duopoly has become well-entrenched in the industry in recent years. What’s needed is a level playing field that can attract new firms and encourage investment, along with a sustainable tariff regime. From the consumer’s point of view, the more choices he has the merrier.
India’s telecom sector has the potential to spearhead an economic turnaround. The nation accounts for the world’s second-largest telecommunication market (after China) with a subscriber base of over 115 crore. It is estimated that over the next five years, the rise in mobile phone penetration and the drop in data costs will add 50 crore new Internet users. The disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic over the past year and a half have driven more people towards digital platforms. Still, the digital divide persists and the government has a key role to play in making digital resources universally accessible. Much will depend on how transparently and effectively the reforms are implemented.
5.Crime in Covid time
Lockdown-related violations behind spurt in cases
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for 2020 assumes significance as it is a reflection of the crime rate of the time when the country was under a pandemic-induced lockdown for almost three months, followed by curbs imposed by the states. This partly explains the dip in the usual IPC cases in comparison with 2019. But for the same reason, there was an overall jump of 28 per cent cases, as curfew or Covid protocol violations saw thousands being booked across the country. So also there was an uptick in murders, suicides and domestic violence cases that were attributed to the forced grounding of people at homes or the depletion of families’ resources due to Covid-19 or the loss of lives of loved ones and jobs during this period.
Interestingly, the survey has introduced the column of charge-sheeting to better indicate the police performance in dealing with the cases registered, No doubt, strict enforcement of rules and efficient follow-up of cases has a direct bearing on building confidence among the citizens to report crime as also acting as a strong deterrent for criminals. Worrisomely, Haryana fares poorly on this score, necessitating introspection. Against the national average of 82.5 per cent chargesheeting rate, Haryana’s 39.7 per cent puts it among the bottom three states. For a state that has one of the highest crime rates in India, this gaping hole in the investigation process — the pivot on which delivery of justice rests — is a sad commentary on its law and order. The NCRB-2020 figures pointing to Haryana recording the most number of cases of abetment to suicide and Dalit murders, and the second highest dowry deaths corroborate the gravity of the situation.
Neighbouring Punjab, though commendably better placed with 82 per cent chargesheeting rate, continues to be bogged down by the drug menace. The 40 per cent decline in FIRs under the NDPS Act is offset by the fact that the state still has the second highest number of cases, after UP. That the amount of heroin seized surpassed the previous year’s haul shows that it remains a major transit point for drug traffickers.