Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan: Centre is taking a ‘cautious and conscious approach’ of ensuring a balance in fuel prices and aims to use the resultant savings for welfare is on the face of it unexceptionable.
Global oil prices are 45% lower than 2019.
India had an opportunity to pass on the benefit to consumers and provide a fillip to becalmed consumption.
It is the government’s decision, earlier in May, to raise Excise Duty on petrol and diesel for a second time in less than two months that raises several concerns.
In 2018, when global crude prices were on the ascent, the Centre had cut the excise duty.
The government’sgoal of maximising revenue from fuel products to fund welfare measures can only bear fruit if demand for petrol and diesel remains unaffected by the continuinghigh costs.
Centre’s ambitious disinvestment target of ₹2.1-lakh crore for this fiscal had included a stake sale in BPCL.
A time for reform in courts
The judiciary has limited its work to hearing urgent mattersvia video conferencing.
ITinfrastructure move without first revamping procedural law would be futile.
In subordinate civil courts and High Courts, a significant time of daily proceedings is taken up by cases where only adjournments are sought for procedural matters like filing of replies.
A system needs to be devised where cases are not listed before the courtunless all the documents are filed within strict timelines and every procedural requirement complied with.
Listing can be done before the court only in cases requiring urgent interim intervention from the court.
When courts reopen, apart from fresh cases, only a limited number of cases (say, 20-30 a day) which are ripe for arguments can be posted.
Circulation of the cases to be listed in advance (say, two weeks before listing) will give advocates enough time to take instructions from clients and prepare for arguments.
Reports show that Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) comprise about 60-70% of the Supreme Court’s docket.
The Supreme Court Rules, 2013 should amend provisions pertaining to SLPs.
Article 136 of the Constitution enables people to file a petition seeking leave to appeal a decision of any judicial or quasi-judicial authority.
The Supreme Court grants leave to appeal if the petition raises a question of law of general public importance, or if the judgment appealed against is especially perverse, which would require interference from the Court.
The provision has been abused over the years to only clog the docket of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court was never intended to be a court of appeal, barring such appeals which specific statutes provide for. The High Courts are usually meant to be thefinalcourtsofappeal.
Instead, SLPs are now being treated as the last round of appeal.
80-90% of SLPs are dismissed, which means only 10-20% of such cases raise important questions of law.
This takes up a lot of time of the Court.
A simple solution would be to do away with immediate oral hearing of SLPs.
Every SLP must be accompanied by an application for oral hearing which must be decided first by the Court, and that too in chambers.
To assist the Court for that, a cadre of judicial research assistants made up of qualified lawyers should be created.
The research assistants can go through each SLP and cull out the important questions of law as envisioned in Article 136.
Thereafter, the Court may or may not allow applications for oral hearings based on whether such questions of law merit its attention.
Even in cases of statutory appeals, and appeals where leave is granted in SLPs, the Court should do away with the system of filing reply to the appeals and rejoinders to such replies.
Every case can be decided based on recordsof the subordinate courts.
Asno new arguments on facts can be raised before the Court in appeals, the system of filing additional pleadings should be rendered redundant as the pleadings are simple regurgitation of the records of the subordinate courts.
Most such appeals can be dwelled upon by judges and their research assistants in chamber, and only such appeals should be granted detailed hearings where the judges require clarifications.
The above mechanisms will ensure that the Supreme Court moves away from an oral hearing-based system to a written submission-based one.
How India can become self-reliant
Addressing the nation on the COVID-19pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the necessity of a self-reliant India.
Modi said there needs to be improvement in quality and domestic supply chains going forward.
Self-reliancein state-run heavy industries and strategic sectors in the decades following independence had placed India ahead of most developing countries.
In the 1970s and 80s, however, India did not modernise these industries to climb higher up the technological ladder.
The private sector, which had backed the state-run core sector approach in its Bombay Plan, stayed content with near-monopolyconditions in non-coresectors in a protected market.
Little effort was made to moderniselightindustries or develop contemporary consumer products.
India’s industrial ecosystem was thus characterised by low productivity, poor quality and low technology, and was globally uncompetitive.
India completely missed out on the ‘third industrial revolution’.
Today, India is the world’s second largest smartphone market.
However, it does not make any of these phones itself, and manufactures only a small fraction of solar photovoltaic cells and modules currently used, with ambitious future targets.
In 2000s the concept of self-reliance was rubbished.
Buy advanced tech from others.
PSUs we seen as large and incapable. No efforts were made to sharpen
Disinclination of most of the private sector towardsR&D and high-techmanufacturing.
Inviting foreign direct investment and manufacturing by foreign majors would bring new technologies into India’s industrial ecosystem, obviating the need for indigenous efforts towards self-reliance.
Learning from Japan’spost-warsuccess, countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
South Korea emerged as a global powerhouse in manufacturing, but also in indigenously developed technologies.
These self-reliant capabilities were enabled, among other factors, by planned state investments in R&Dincluding basic research (3-5% of GDP), technology and policy support to private corporations, infrastructure and, importantly, education and skill development (4-6% of GDP).
China advanced purposefully from low-endmass manufacturing to a dominant role in global supply chains.
Self-reliantcapabilities in electric and fuelcellvehicles, electricity storage systems, solar cells and modules, aircraft including UAVs, AI, roboticsandautomation, biotech/pharma and others are well within reach.
Reforms in a Covid era
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has taken most observers by surprise by including wide ranging reforms in her stimulus package.
Alongside, some states have announced some equally bold reforms.
Most notable among the latter are those relating to labour laws by Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat and to land laws by Karnataka.
Proposals relating to the Essential Commodities Act; agriculturalmarketing; and legal framework for farmers to engage with processors, aggregators, largeretailers and exporters represent the deepest reforms in agriculture to date.
Even these reforms cannot make India’spoorestfarmersprosperous.
70 million or 48% of all land holdings in India are smaller than half hectare, with an average size of just 0.23 hectare.
Even triplingincome would fall short of making the owner prosperous.
These farmers need an exit to gainful employment in industry and services.
Ideally, the starting point for exit is a liberal land leasing law that allows the farmer to lease out her holding for any use and for any length of time thereby yielding the maximum possible rent.
The only way India can create well paid jobs in services or manufacturing in large numbers is by replacing China as the world’s factory of light manufactures.
Noshock ranging from the black death pandemic of the 14th century to Spanish Flu and Great Depression of the 20th to 9/11 terrorist attacks and the global financial crisis of the 21st, has been able to bottle up trade for long.
World trade will rise up again sooner than most pessimists think.
In fact, Covid-19 lull offers India an excellent window of opportunity to implement reforms that would help it maximise the benefit of reopening of export markets post-Covid-19.
India’s factor markets – capital, labour and land – still remain major constraints on economic activity.
Financialmarkets in India remain weak.
Once Covid-19 recedes, it will need to infuse large sums of resources into banks to recapitalisebanks.
What India needs most are many more mediumand large enterprises in light manufactures that are globally competitive.
Landmarket rigidities too need to be addressed. High land prices have made even infrastructure projects excessively costly in India.
stregthen the public health and social security system
A decade ago, India demonstrated a health-relatedresponse that was acclaimed as a blueprint for how public health challenges can be successfully tackled.
We seem to have forgotten (or dismissed) the fundamentals of that success already.
The decades-long response to HIV/AIDS fronted the following principles.
Dealing with epidemics requires placing the most marginalised and vulnerable at the forefront of any strategy.
Shaping inclusive and nurturing health systems and social environments means that those delivering health are attuned to the realities of the vulnerable and marginalised, and can better serve their needs.
Governmentbureaucrats, physicians, nurses, police, employers, and NGOs were open to conversations on sex, sexuality, illness and law.
Over time, these dialogues fostered an enabling environment in the health sector, which began to reflect in policy, and in wider societal efforts to counter HIV.
In the case of HIV, fostering such an environment meant sex workers, hijras, people living with HIV, drug users, men who have sex with other men were at the heart of health and public policy efforts.
In the context of COVID-19, it means centering frontline personnel such as healthcareworkers, sanitationworkers, and the police, people with co-morbidities, senior citizens, and those whose lives are turned chaotic by harsh measures such as lockdowns — daily wage and migrantlabourers, women and the urban poor.
HIV was thwarted from ravaging India not by an intimidatingtop-downapproach.
This requires humility, a consciousness to know that whatever our expertise, we don’t have the solutions to health issues that are entwined with complex human realities.
Admittedly, the response to HIV was disease-centric, strengthened with large sums of financing and human resources.
Unfortunately, it failed to transform health systems more broadly, which should have been another positive outcome of such a resource-intensive effort.
PM reviews LAC standoff with NSA, CDS and 3 Service Chiefs
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday reviewed the current situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the ongoing standoff with China with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat and the three Service Chiefs, multiple sources said.
The meeting comes a day before the biannual Army Commanders conference.
Army chief Gen. Manoj Naravane made a detailed presentation on the standoff at various points of the LAC in eastern Ladakh, it has been learnt.
Several rounds of talks on the ground up to the level of Division Commanders have failed to break the impasse.
The meeting was to review the implementation of the recommendations of the Shekatkar Committee but the Ladakh standoff was discussed, sources said, without stating the specifics of the discussion.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) denied reports that Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla had been asked to brief the meeting as well.
Ensure transport, food for migrants, SC tells Centre, States
A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday said there have been “inadequacies and certain lapses” on the part of the Central and State governments in dealing with the migrant workers’ crisis during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The court ordered the Centre and the States to immediately provide transport, food and shelter free of cost to the stranded migrant workers.
‘No WHO bar on India testing HCQ as preventive’
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) moratorium on testing hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), the controversial anti-malarial drug, for treating COVID-19, which was announced on Monday, doesn't imply that India should pause testing the drug as a preventive, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, WHO, told The Hindu in an email.
Hottest May day in 18 years
10-year RI for ex-Kerala DSP, three others for murder bid
Recovery rate up, says Health Ministry
India’s COVID recovery rate has improved from 26.59 % on May 2 to 41.61% on May 26, according to figures released by the Union Health Ministry on Tuesday.
The Ministry, however, maintained that this improved recovery rate should not allow complacency to set in. “The war against COVID-19 is a long-drawn one and we are far from safe,”, it said.
Marauding locust swarms killed in Dausa with insecticide spray
The huge locust swarms, which appeared in the skies of Jaipur on Monday, were killed in Rajasthan’s Dausa district on Tuesday with the spray of high-intensity insecticide by the Agriculture Department officials.