The HINDU Notes – 20th January 2020 - VISION

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Monday, January 20, 2020

The HINDU Notes – 20th January 2020

📰 Centre for tougher law against sexual harassment at work

GoM finalises recommendations, which will be put up for public comments

•The Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Home Minister Amit Shah, which was constituted to strengthen the legal framework to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace, has finalised its recommendations, a senior official said.

•The recommendations, which include addition of new provisions to the Indian Penal Code, will be put up for comments from the public, the official said.

•The GoM was constituted first in October 2018 in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement after many women shared their ordeal on social media. It was reconstituted in July 2019 under Mr. Shah.

•The other members are Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Human Resource Development (HRD)Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal and Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani.

•Another official said changes to the existing laws on sexual harassment at the workplace would be incorporated when the overhaul of the IPC was complete.

Another project

•The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is working on another project to reboot the IPC. Several retired judges, legal luminaries and State governments are being consulted by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D).

•“When changes are made to the IPC, the various sections on crime against women will also be amended. The laws need to change with time, and sexual harassment of women at the workplace will be addressed through the IPC amendments also,” the official said.

•The Women and Child Development Ministry had steered the Sexual Harassment of Women and Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act in 2013, which was applicable to government offices, the private sector, NGOs and the unorganised sector.

•The official said the proposed amendments would be largely based on the Vishaka Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in 1997, on which the 2013 Act was based.

•It made the employer responsible to prevent or deter acts of sexual harassment at the workplace.

•“When changes are made to the IPC, the various sections on crime against women will also be amended. The laws need to change with time, and sexual harassment of women at the workplace will be addressed through the IPC amendments also,” the official said.

•The Women and Child Development Ministry had steered the Sexual Harassment of Women and Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act in 2013, which was applicable to government offices, the private sector, NGOs and the unorganised sector. The official said the proposed amendments would be largely based on the Vishaka Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in 1997, on which the 2013 Act was based. It made the employer responsible to prevent or deter acts of sexual harassment at the workplace.

•The 2013 Act had shortcomings like giving the powers of a civil court to the internal complaints committee without specifying if the members need to have a legal background. It only imposed a fine of Rs. 50,000 on employers for non-compliance. The Act said the employer shall provide assistance to the woman if she chooses to file a complaint under the IPC “against the perpetrator after the conclusion of the enquiry”.

📰 Sheikh Hasina says India’s citizenship law is unnecessary

‘Modi has assured me that NRC will not affect our people’

•India’s new law to grant citizenship to the minority communities of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan is not necessary, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said.

•In a newspaper interview, she said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured her that the National Register of Citizens was India’s internal matter that would not affect her people. “We don’t understand why [the Indian government] did it. It was not necessary,” she told Gulf News in Abu Dhabi. The statement is the first by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh since the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was cleared by the Rajya Sabha on December 11.

•During the parliamentary debates, Home Minister Amit Shah referred to the persecution of the minority communities, mainly Hindus, in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and argued that these groups should get Indian citizenship. Ms. Hasina distanced her country from the line of the Indian government.

📰 U.K. Navy chief seeks cooperation

Radakin highlights electric propulsion

•Observing that both India and the U.K. are working on aircraft carriers, fifth generation fighter aircraft and integrated electric propulsion, Admiral Tony Radakin, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, U.K., says it feels “immensely comfortable and strategically sensible that we should be looking to converge and come together”.

•There are amazing sets of investments going on in the Indian military, Adm Radakin said, which are aircraft carriers, submarines and thinking about integrated electric propulsion and the Royal Navy is going through its own significant recapitalisation, growing for the first time in 70 years. We will grow in tonnage terms by 30% in size between 2015 and 2025. And while five years ago the U.K. had no aircraft carriers, “We now have two,” he said.

•“When you marry that with a nation like India and the journey that it is on, it is immensely comfortable and strategically sensible that we should be looking to converge and come together. Those are the conversations we are having and they are exciting…,” he told The Hindu on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue last week jointly organised by the External Affairs Ministry and the Observer Research Foundation.

•On this, the Royal Navy chief laid particular emphasis on cooperation on aircraft carriers and discussions on electric propulsion. He said there was clarity for most Navies seeking to modernise and embrace technology that electric propulsion “is the way to go” and it then started to open up opportunities with directed energy weapons. “The U.K. position is that we have very clear, shared values and responsibilities and ambitions and therefore we would look to collaborate with India as a friend.” The U.K.’s renewed focus on the Indo-Pacific comes as the country prepares to leave the European Union. Referring to this, Adm. Radakin said as part of the U.K.’s long presence in the Indian Ocean and in conjunction with that, the ability of the U.K. to be “both taking stock as it leaves the EU and the clarity of the government that this is not retrenching the world. If anything, there is a need for us to emphasis our broader role in the rest of the world”.

📰 Why ‘Make in India’ has failed

It is too ambitious, spectacularly ill-timed, and has brought in too many sectors into its fold

•On September 25, 2014, the Indian government announced the ‘Make in India’ initiative to encourage manufacturing in India and galvanise the economy with dedicated investments in manufacturing and services. Immediately after the launch, investment commitments worth crores were announced. In 2015, India emerged as the top destination for foreign direct investment, surpassing the U.S. and China. In line with the national programme, States too launched their own initiatives. Five years later, as we brace for another Union Budget, it would be appropriate to take stock of the much-hyped initiative as the economy in general, and the manufacturing sector in particular, is on a slippery slope.

•The ‘Make in India’ idea is not new. Factory production has a long history in the country. This initiative, however, set an ambitious goal of making India a global manufacturing hub. To achieve this goal, targets were identified and policies outlined. The three major objectives were: (a) to increase the manufacturing sector’s growth rate to 12-14% per annum in order to increase the sector’s share in the economy; (b) to create 100 million additional manufacturing jobs in the economy by 2022; and (c) to ensure that the manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP is increased to 25% by 2022 (revised to 2025) from the current 16%. The policy approach was to create a conducive environment for investments, develop modern and efficient infrastructure, and open up new sectors for foreign capital.

Designed to fail?

•Given that big-ticket projects for grand initiatives such as ‘Make in India’ have long gestation periods and lag effects, assessments of such initiatives can be premature. Also, governments often use the excuse of inheriting an economy riddled with macroeconomic problems, and demand more time to set things right. This is an argument that the current government invokes frequently. However, five years is a reasonable time period to assess the direction and magnitude of outcomes. As the policy changes were intended to usher growth in three key variables of the manufacturing sector — investments, output, and employment growth — an examination of these will help us gauge the success of the policy.

•The last five years witnessed slow growth of investment in the economy. This is more so when we consider capital investments in the manufacturing sector. Gross fixed capital formation of the private sector, a measure of aggregate investment, declined to 28.6% of GDP in 2017-18 from 31.3% in 2013-14 (Economic Survey 2018-19). Interestingly, though the public sector’s share remained more or less the same during this period, the private sector’s share declined from 24.2% to 21.5%. Part of this problem can be attributed to the decline in the savings rate in the economy. Household savings have declined, while the private corporate sector’s savings have increased. Thus we find a scenario where the private sector’s savings have increased, but investments have decreased, despite policy measures to provide a good investment climate.

•With regard to output growth, we find that the monthly index of industrial production pertaining to manufacturing has registered double-digit growth rates only on two occasions during the period April 2012 to November 2019. In fact, data show that for a majority of the months, it was 3% or below and even negative for some months. Needless to say, negative growth implies contraction of the sector. Thus, we are clearly waiting for growth to arrive.

•Regarding employment growth, we have witnessed questions being raised over the government’s delay in releasing data as well as its attempts to revise existing data collection mechanisms. The crux of the debate has been that employment, especially industrial employment, has not grown to keep pace with the rate of new entries into the labour market.

•Thus on all three counts, ‘Make in India’ has failed.

Policy casualness

•Accusing the previous governments of policy paralysis, the NDA government announced a slew of policies with catchy slogans. This has resulted in an era of never-ending scheme announcements. ‘Make in India’ is a good example of a continuous stream of ‘scheme’ announcements. The announcements had two major lacunae. First, the bulk of these schemes relied too much on foreign capital for investments and global markets for produce. This created an inbuilt uncertainty, as domestic production had to be planned according to the demand and supply conditions elsewhere. Second, policymakers neglected the third deficit in the economy, which is implementation. While economists worry mostly about budget and fiscal deficit, policy implementers need to take into account the implications of implementation deficit in their decisions. The result of such a policy oversight is evident in the large number of stalled projects in India. The spate of policy announcements without having the preparedness to implement them is ‘policy casualness’. ‘Make in India’ has been plagued by a large number of under-prepared initiatives.

•The question that begs an answer is, why did ‘Make in India’ fail? There are three reasons. First, it set out too ambitious growth rates for the manufacturing sector to achieve. An annual growth rate of 12-14% is well beyond the capacity of the industrial sector. Historically India has not achieved it and to expect to build capabilities for such a quantum jump is perhaps an enormous overestimation of the implementation capacity of the government. Second, the initiative brought in too many sectors into its fold. This led to a loss of policy focus. Further, it was seen as a policy devoid of any understanding of the comparative advantages of the domestic economy. Third, given the uncertainties of the global economy and ever-rising trade protectionism, the initiative was spectacularly ill-timed.

•‘Make in India’ is a policy initiative with inbuilt inconsistencies. The bundle of contradictions unfold when we examine the incongruity of ‘swadeshi’ products being made with foreign capital. This has led to a scenario where there is a quantum jump in the ‘ease of doing business’ ranking, but investments are still to arrive. The economy needs much more than policy window dressing for increasing manufacturing activity. The government must realise that industrialisation cannot be kick-started by a series of bills in Parliament and hosting investors’ meets.

📰 For Brus, a permanent home

The decision to settle displaced Brus in Tripura is humanitarian, but could lead to conflicts in the State

•A quadripartite agreement in New Delhi on January 16 allowed some 35,000 Bru tribal people, who were displaced from Mizoram and are living in Tripura as refugees since 1997, to settle permanently in Tripura. The Centre, State governments of Tripura and Mizoram, and representatives of Bru organisations signed the agreement in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The “solution” has evoked mixed reactions with rights activists fearing it could “legitimise” the ejection of minority communities by ethnocentric states.

Who are the Brus and how did they become internally displaced?

•The Brus, aka Reangs, are spread across Tripura, Mizoram and southern Assam. In Mizoram, they are scattered in Kolasib, Lunglei and Mamit districts. While many Brus of Assam and Tripura are Hindu, the Brus of Mizoram converted to Christianity over the years. Clashes in 1995 with the majority Mizos led to the demand for the removal of the Brus, perceived to be non-indigenous, from Mizoram’s electoral rolls. This led to an armed movement by a Bru outfit, which killed a Mizo forest official in October 1997. The retaliatory ethnic violence saw more than 40,000 Brus fleeing to adjoining Tripura where they took shelter in six relief camps.

Have there been efforts to repatriate them?

•The Centre and the two State governments involved made nine attempts to resettle the Brus in Mizoram. The first was in November 2010 when 1,622 Bru families with 8,573 members went back. Protests by Mizo NGOs, primarily the Young Mizo Association, stalled the process in 2011, 2012 and 2015. Meanwhile, the Brus began demanding relief on a par with the relief given to Kashmiri Pandits and Sri Lankan Tamil refugees. The Centre spent close to Rs. 500 crore for relief and rehabilitation until the last peace deal was brokered over three years since 2015. A final package of Rs. 435 crore was arrived at in July 2018 and it involved Mizo NGOs besides the governments concerned.

Why did the Mizoram rehabilitation package not work out?

•The package covered 32,876 members of 5,407 Bru families, entailing a one-time assistance of Rs. 4 lakh as fixed deposit within a month of repatriation, monthly cash assistance of Rs. 5,000 through DBT, free rations for two years, and Rs. 1.5 lakh in three instalments as house-building assistance. The package also included Eklavya residential schools, permanent residential and ST certificates besides funds to the Mizoram government for improving security in Bru resettlement areas. The refugees were given a deadline, September 30, to move or face harder times at the relief camps. But most stayed back, demanding resettlement in close-knit clusters and an autonomous council for Brus in Mizoram.

What are the implications of the Tripura resettlement?

•The demand to rehabilitate the Brus in Tripura was first raised by Pradyot Manikya, the scion of the Tripura royal family. The BJP-led Tripura government agreed. Chief Minister Biplab Deb called the “solution” within Tripura historic, as did his Mizoram counterpart Zoramthanga. Guwahati-based researcher on social issues and conflicts, Walter Fernandes, said the decision was humanitarian from the point of view of the Brus, who were apprehensive about returning to Mizoram, but felt it could lead to conflicts with the locals of Tripura. Delhi-based rights activist Suhas Chakma said it could set a bad precedent, encouraging ethnocentric states to eject minorities of all hues besides making the Brus of Mizoram opt for the rehabilitation package in the relative safety of Tripura. The displaced Brus who returned to Mizoram have already begun demanding a package equivalent to the one those who stayed behind in the Tripura relief camps would be getting. And conflicts between the Brus and the local Bengali non-tribal people have started taking place in Tripura.

📰 Needless fracas

Governors must not push boundaries of their limited powers to check elected governments

•The endless squabbles between the Governors and respective State governments in Kerala and West Bengal are disconcerting. Arif Mohammad Khan and Jagdeep Dhankhar, Governors of Kerala and West Bengal, respectively, have arrogated to themselves an activist role, which is at the heart of the tensions. Mr. Khan has made repeated public statements on controversial questions such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019; he has even said that it was his duty to defend the laws made by the Centre. It is a dubious claim to make, and at any rate, there is no discernible precedent as such. His view that his office is not a rubber stamp is true, but he must also be mindful that the Constitution envisages the execution of popular will through an elected government. Mr. Dhankhar has placed himself at the centre of several controversies, and often appears eager for the next spectacular showdown with the State government. Kerala’s Left Democratic Front has been more restrained than the combative resistance by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, but parties barring the BJP in both States are agitated over the proactive, and often provocative roles of their respective Governors. The boisterous profiles of these Governors are symptomatic of a larger malaise of degrading relations between the Centre and States ruled by parties opposed to the BJP, aggravated by an insatiable yearning of the former for centralisation of power.

•The Constitution seeks to bolster centripetal forces in this vast and diverse country, and the Centre’s power to appoint Governors is one such. The Governor’s constitutional role has been debated and interpreted through several cases, but ingenious occupants of the office have managed to push the boundaries with unprecedented moves. Sagacious occupants have used the Governor’s office to promote national integration. Many others have merely acted as agents of the ruling party at the Centre. Using a pliant Governor to undermine a State government or engineer a legislative majority is an old and secular trick used by all parties at the Centre. State government-Governor conflicts have hence not been rare, but what makes the current situation extraordinary is the political context. No other government in the past has sought to construct a centralising narrative for the nation as the current one at the Centre; and no government in the past has been as intolerant towards its diversity. In this schema, the Governor appears to have a critical, instrumental role. The ignominious role played by the then Governor of Jammu and Kashmir in ending its special constitutional status last year is instructive. The Governor’s role as a link between the State and the Centre shall not be an imperial one. The office of the Governor must be a dialogic and consultative one. The combative posturing in Kerala and West Bengal will bring more disarray, no unity. The Centre must treat State governments with the respect that democratically elected governments deserve.