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 competitions
1.Inadequate response: On income criteria to identify EWS quota
The ₹8 lakh income criteria to identify EWS are not reasonably explained by the Government
The submission by a Government-appointed committee to the Supreme Court that the annual family income of ₹8 lakh is “a reasonable” threshold to determine if someone belongs to economically weaker sections to avail 10% reservations in admissions and jobs does not seem to hold water. The submission rejected the notion that the Government had “mechanically” adopted ₹8 lakh as the cut-off because it was used to identify the OBC creamy layer, by asserting that the income criterion was “more stringent” than the one for the OBC creamy layer. This justification, based on a few more criteria that exclude some income and occupational parameters from the OBC creamy layer, however, is not convincing as the Court’s key question remained unanswered satisfactorily. The Court had said that the OBC category is socially and educationally backward, and had therefore additional impediments to overcome, and had asked whether it “would… be arbitrary to provide the same income limit both for the OBC and EWS categories”. The submission does not adequately respond to this question. On whether at all differences in purchasing power across urban/rural regions and per capita income/GDP across States were considered to arrive at this number, the submission suggests that this exercise would be infeasible and complex. But while asserting that an annual family income criterion of ₹8 lakh is the right approach, the committee does not present any data on the estimated number of EWS persons in the population based on this.
If available consumer expenditure surveys such as the 2011-12 NSSO report, Key Indicators of Household Consumer Expenditure are any indication, a bulk of the population will be eligible for reservations under the “below ₹8 lakh” cut-off under the EWS category, rendering the limit irrational. The committee’s assertion that ₹ 8 lakh corresponds to the “effective income tax exemption limit” even as the only income slab exempt from paying taxes was for those earning below ₹2.5 lakh, also renders the criteria on “being economically weak” as less stringent. The submission lays emphasis on the fact that outcomes in the recent entrance and recruitment examinations (NEET, UPSC, JEE) showed an even bunching of eligible candidates in different income brackets (0-₹2.5 lakh, ₹2.5-₹5 lakh, ₹5-₹8 lakh), but it does not explain why marks cut-offs were even lower in recruitment exams than that of the socially and educationally backward OBCs. The validity of the 103rd Constitution Amendment, through which the EWS quota was introduced in 2019, is in any case still before a Constitution Bench. But the apex court must seek more clarity on the criteria adopted by the Government committee to set the income limit for identifying the EWS sections eligible for reservations.
2.Transition in peril: on military crackdown in Sudan
The military should end the crackdown in Sudan and pave the way for democracy
The resignation of Sudan’s civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has pushed the country, already battered by political instability, anti-military protests and violence, into further chaos. Mr. Hamdok, who was ousted in a military coup in October and then reinstated as part of an agreement, failed to convince the protesters that he could form an independent technocratic government that would complete Sudan’s democratic transition. As violent clashes continued, Mr. Hamdok, who was called a “traitor” by the protesters, was left with no other option but to go. The crisis is of the military’s own making. Sudan was on a slow but steady transition towards democracy under the Sovereignty Council, which was formed as part of a power-sharing agreement between the Generals and the civilian leaders. But General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan disbanded the Council and ousted Mr. Hamdok. Ever since mass protests in late 2018, the Generals have tried everything to protect the military’s privileges. They first removed long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir and took power in their hands. They agreed on power sharing only after direct military rule became unsustainable. And when the civilian leaders were consolidating power, the military struck again through the coup. But where they erred was in miscalculating the will of the protesters.
The military now has power, but is in a difficult situation. When Gen. Burhan reinstated Mr. Hamdok sans the Sovereignty Council after the coup, he may have calculated that the military could exercise greater control over the civilian government and the transition process, which includes elections. But with Mr. Hamdok’s resignation, this plan seems to have collapsed. A direct takeover of the government by the military would be extremely unpopular. Finding a legitimate Prime Minister would not be easy either. According to the constitutional declaration of 2019, the Prime Minister should be selected by a legislative council and then endorsed by the Sovereignty Council. The legislative council was never formed and the Sovereignty Council was disbanded. The military could appoint another technocrat. But if the protesters did not accept Mr. Hamdok, they are certainly not going to accept anyone the military appoints next. Weeks-long protests have also paralysed an already enfeebled economy. Inflation has soared to over 400%. The UN says at least a third of the country’s nearly 43 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2022. Sudan needs a stable, responsive government that can address the critical challenges. The military has the moral and political responsibility to resolve the crisis. It should immediately end the crackdown, respect the power-sharing agreement it signed with the civilian leaders in 2019, restore the Sovereignty Council and allow the country’s full transition into democracy.
3. No freebie lunch: Opposition is promising cash and free services to voters. Where’s the money for all this?
With state elections nearing, it’s open season for tempting the electorate with sops. And no party’s holding back. Punjab Congress chief Navjot Sidhu has promised financial incentives ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 20,000 for girl children in Classes 5 to 12, free e-scooters for female college goers and interest-free loans for their higher studies besides Rs 2,000 per month for women homemakers. Earlier, AAP in Punjab, Goa and Uttarakhand had promised Rs 1,000 per month for all women. In UP, SP adapted AAP’s playbook by announcing free electricity for irrigation and first 300 units free for households.
Despite governing at the Centre and in most poll-bound states, BJP too boasts significant cash bonanzas transferred in UP: a Rs 2,000 PM-Kisan tranche, Rs 1,000 crore for self-help groups targeting around 16 lakh women, Rs 1,100 to primary school students for buying school gear, and Rs 2,000 to 1 lakh girl children. True, some cash transfers are good policy, the PM-Kisan being an example. And some freebies, like Tamil Nadu’s Amma Canteens, addressed a real need. But most are just cash thrown at groups with no or little positive impact. Some cash for girl students will help far less than more education options, for example. And many freebies have massively distortionary effects.
Take former Punjab CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal’s election-eve free electricity scheme for tubewell owners in 1996. It didn’t help her win but institutionalised a policy that depleted groundwater, encouraged paddy cultivation and vitiated not just farm economies but also air quality and power discoms’ viability. AAP’s free power-water offerings in Delhi have less negative impact, thanks to the city-state’s surplus budgets and predominantly urban economy. But practically no other state has such advantages.
Most states have dodgy finances, and are always asking for more central support. Only recently, some states asked that GST compensation scheme be extended for another five years beginning 2022. When politicians promise sops, often fiscal constraints force governments into cutting corners elsewhere or raising new taxes. UP’s 2020-21 capital expenditure was 16% lower than budgeted outlay, a sure sign of strained finances. In Punjab, experts led by Montek Singh Ahluwalia, tasked by the government to prepare an economic revival road map, warned that its capital outlay at 0.7% of GSDP was the lowest and subsidy burden highest among similar states. States giving unviable sops will end up hurting citizens down the line. And freebies may not even win you the election.
4. Pangong message: India’s border infra better than before. But China far ahead. Project turnaround has to improve
China is further ramping up its border infrastructure along the LAC in Ladakh with a new bridge across the Pangong Tso as well as additional troop shelters, gun positions, helipads and jetties in the area between Finger-8 and its military bases at Sirijap-I and II. China’s border infrastructure is already superior, thanks to years of investment and the fact that China enjoys the easier bit of topography of the Tibetan plateau. India for decades had adopted the naive strategy that inaccessibility on our side would actually deter the Chinese from intruding across borders. It is only in the last 15 years that the Indian approach changed. And since the Galwan clash in June 2020, the pace of Indian border infrastructure development has quickened. In June last year, 63 bridges across six states and two Union territories along the LAC at a total cost of Rs 240 crore went operational. Just last week, a further 24 bridges and three roads in border states were ready for use.
However, India still has a lot of catching up to do. In May 2020, the government implemented the Shekatkar Committee recommendations regarding border infrastructure that enhanced the Border Roads Organisation’s procurement powers from Rs 7.5 crore to Rs 100 crore. This has allowed BRO to acquire critical equipment for speedier laying of border roads and other construction.
But Indian border infrastructure is also stymied by inter-ministerial turf wars and environmental clearances. The failure of the project involving the construction of over 40 integrated border outposts along the LAC due to poor coordination between the ministries of home affairs and jal shakti is a case in point. New Delhi must utilise its limited resources smartly by cutting red tape and clearing border projects quickly. Then only it can hope to stand a chance in countering China’s grey-zone tactics.