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The Hindu Analysis Free PDF Download

Date: 28 May 2021

Covid and the bureaucracy

  • The raging second wave of the virus revealed not only the governmental ineptitude but also exposed India’s soft underbelly – our heavy bureaucratic system, which wasn’t nimble enough to cope with the crisis.
  • Even more damning was the reminder of how this system fails us daily to deliver basic public goods – justice, health, education, water, electricity etc – which is why India is sometimes called a ‘flailing state’.
  • Covid will be gone one day. But the citizen’s day-to-day misery, coping with rotten institutions, will remain.
  • The best road to recovery from the Covid crisis was infrastructure investment, which is a multiplier, stimulating the private sector to invest, creating jobs, boosting consumption.
  • Unfortunately, infrastructure spending in India doesn’t deliver the full bang because it is executed via leaky government departments that focus on hardware – where kickbacks are available.
  • Thus we get more roads, pipes, wires, buses. But water pipes don’t ensure 24×7 water supply; electric wires don’t mean reliable electricity; buses don’t create an effective transport system.
  • India needs modern, effective utilities that are autonomous, accountable, and creditworthy.
  • Successful countries have created such institutions.
  • We too have excellent examples at home to emulate.
  • Shimla’s story is astonishing.
  • The popular hill station was no different from most Indian cities in its water woes.
  • When the tanker got delayed, there was another scramble, sometimes even a riot.
  • In the summer of 2018, Shimla’s woes hit a peak: You got water only once a week.
  • A jaundice epidemic broke out, tourists ran away, hotels closed, business down on its knees. It felt like a ghost town.
  • The municipal corporation acted with staggering wisdom.
  • It set up an autonomous utility company to manage both water and sewerage, accountable to citizens for service and to outside lenders for financing. It replaced leaky pipes
  • Upgraded old pumps that lifted water thousands of feet from river valleys
  • Established higher pay-for-what-you-use tariffs, monitored by meters
  • Subsidised the poor via a ‘lifeline slab’ of cheap water;
  • Brainwashed consumers on how to save water and water bills.
  • It made the same dramatic turnaround in sewerage.
  • Soon, Shimla achieved the unbelievable:  24×7 continuous water in all three test wards and much enhanced water supply, clean sanitation throughout the city.
  • Tourists and businesses came running back.
  • Shimla topped the most liveable small city index.
  • The secret of Shimla’s success was a dramatic change in governance.
  • The town created a modern utility with an autonomous CEO
  • CEO was insulated from political pressure and had to remain creditworthy for future financing.
  • India needs such institutions to manage its infrastructure – its electricity, ports, highways, even healthcare.
  • Whether these institutions are publicly or privately owned or public-private partnerships doesn’t matter.
  • The key is that they should be autonomous, with a firewall against meddling by politicians and bureaucrats.
  • The FM’s mantra should be ‘Don’t fix the pipes; fix the institutions that will fix the pipes.’
  • She should make her infrastructure largesse conditional to such institutional reform.
  • She should not fund specific projects but fund effective, accountable utilities like SJPNL to execute the projects.
  • Bureaucrats, politicians, and unions – a formidable interest group!
  • Politicians won’t be able to give away free electricity to farmers.
  • Bureaucracy, in any case, is allergic to reform – it’s a cunning survivor and will do anything to preserve its power.
  • Since employees of the modern utilities will have to adopt a new work ethic, it will send the unions into the trenches. All three vested interests will be ready to do battle. It won’t be easy.
  • Luckily, people will be on the reformer’s side: the prospect of 24×7 water and 24×7 electricity is nirvana in India.
  • The lesson from recent agricultural reforms is that you must carry the people in a democracy.
  • So, the smart reformer must sell the reforms before doing them, get the people on his side.
  • Finally, it may seem odd to be reforming in this horrific Covid crisis, but reforms generally happen in a crisis. So, don’t waste this crisis, prime minister!

NEWS

  • PM Modi to visit Odisha, West Bengal today to take stock of impact of Cyclone Yaas
  • National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) to unleash digital health tech revolution with innovations & various services for citizens: PM Modi
  • FM Nirmala Sitharaman to chair 43rd GST Council meeting through video conferencing today
  • India becomes the second country after the U.S. to administer over 20 cr COVID vaccine doses
  • Over 22 cr vaccine doses provided to States, UTs so far by Centre
  • Centre issues guidelines for Near to Home COVID Vaccination Centres for elderly, differently-abled citizens
  • Highest single day load of 1195 Metric Tonnes of Oxygen relief delivered by Oxygen Expresses
  • Govt rejects claims made by Twitter over freedom of expression in India
  • FM Nirmala Sitharaman to chair 43rd GST Council meeting tomorrow
  • ED attaches immovable assets worth Rs 166 cr of Varron Group of Companies, its promoter
  • Working group members suggest future directions of research collaboration among BRICS countries
  • Bangladesh may reopen Educational institutions on 13th June: Education Minister
  • US will remain deeply engaged with Afghanistan govt, Afghan people: Jake Sullivan
  • Hong Kong bans annual Tiananmen vigil for the second year running, in view of coronavirus
  • Mary Kom enters finals of Asian Boxing Championships
  • Tokyo Games could lead to Olympic coronavirus variant: Japanese doctor

Incorporating limits

  • A committee appointed by the Union Home Ministry, tasked with recommending changes in criminal law, is now seeking to formulate new provisions that will make hate speech a separate offence.
  • The term ‘hate speech’ may not be used, but the panel is examining recommendations made by the Law Commission and the Expert Committee headed by T.K. Viswanathan, on adding Sections 153C and 505A to the IPC.
  • The proposed Section 153C would target speech that gravely threatens any person or group with intention to cause fear or alarm, or incite violence towards them, and prescribe a sentence of two years in prison and a fine.
  • Section 505A, on the other hand, proposes to punish speech or writing that causes fear or alarm among a group, or provokes violence against it, on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, place of birth or disability.
  • Speech is free, but it is a freedom that comes with responsibility.
  • And responsible speech is not just something that does not contain abuse, defamation or incitement to violence.
  • It is increasingly seen as expression that tends not to discriminate against or incite hatred towards groups based on race, gender, caste, religious belief, sexual orientation, nationality or immigration status.
  • The Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws attracted criticism when it was formed last year, as many feared a hurried process without adequate and wide consultation.
  • Some lawyers and activists said it was not inclusive and questioned its ability to gather a wide range of opinion in the midst of a pandemic.
  • In the context of the hate speech provisions, it must direct its efforts to define narrowly the sections it proposes to formulate and avoid the pitfall of using vague and overbroad terms that would fall foul of the Constitution.
  • Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, it may be recalled, was struck down by the Supreme Court because it failed to define some terms that sought to criminalise offensive and annoying messages.

Weathering storms

  • Cyclone Tautae and Cyclone Yaas
  • The preparatory mass evacuation from habitations appears to have limited the loss of life.
  • Yet, thousands have lost houses and property.
  • All coastal States facing the Bay of Bengal have always been in the path of severe cyclones.
  • Their vulnerability may be growing as pre-monsoon and post-monsoon storms increase in frequency and strength.
  • States have been hobbled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • India will have to improve its resilience to cyclones.
  • Much work needs to be done when it comes to protecting assets and creating fiscal instruments to help people rebuild their lives.
  • The World Meteorological Organization in its State of the Global Climate 2020 report described Cyclone Amphan that hit Bengal in May last year as the costliest cyclone on record for the North Indian Ocean, with economic losses to India of the order of $14 billion.
  • Corruption in the distribution of relief
  • Insure people against losses from catastrophes using a system of documentation that makes relief and rehabilitation funds non-discretionary.
  • But the challenge is to address the risk of cyclones and other extreme weather events using specific funds, making citizens members in a social insurance model.
  • Whatever we build now should be green.

Arrest the slide

  • Uday Kotak, the president of CII and MD of Kotak Mahindra Bank, has urged the government to provide another round of fiscal support aimed at protecting livelihoods, especially for the weaker sections of the economy.
  • On February 1, when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget for the current financial year (2021-22), it was assumed that the Indian economy had seen off the worst of the Covid threat.
  • Due to the vicious second Covid wave, economists have been rapidly dialling down India’s GDP growth forecasts.
  • It is even possible that, at the end of the current financial year (March 2022), India may not be able to get back to the level of absolute GDP it had in March 2020.
  • The second wave resulted in job losses and reduced wages across almost all income classes while making matters worse for the poor.
  • Businesses will continue to hold back investments because there is not enough consumer demand, and consumers will not demand more because they do not have enough incomes.
  • And this vicious cycle could get worse if the pace of vaccination doesn’t pick up or if there is a deadly third wave.
  • Only one economic entity can break this cycle: The government.
  • By providing additional direct monetary help to the poor and extending its existing schemes for collateral-free loans to small businesses, as Kotak has also suggested, the government can arrest the slide.

ANS

Q.) In 2019, Odisha was struck by an extremly severe cyclone named?

  1. Phailin
  2. Gaja
  3. Fani
  4. Ockhi

MCQ

Q.) Which major vaccine company has said that its Covid-19 vaccine mRNA-1273 is 100% effective in preventing symtomatic infections in 12-17 year olds after two doses?

  1. Moderna
  2. Pfizer
  3. Johnson and Johnson
  4. Sinopharm