Thursday, January 15, 2015

environment and pollution law

Existing environment and pollution law:
1. It mandates "consent to establish"(CTE) certificates from state pollution control boards for setting up of industry, changing output or any technological modification and is valid for a limited time.
2. This is time consuming because of the limited resources of the state boards and the increasing number of industries.
3. It further tangles businesses in bureaucratic red tape, thus hampering the ease of doing business.
Proposed modifications:
1. Do away with certification and implement self certification and self regulation.
2. Random scrutiny, inspections and audits by a third party.
3. Increased penalties for violation of norms.
4. It will bring uniformity to state laws, as some states require certification, and some dont.
1. Avoid the bureaucratic red tape 
2.Better utilization of human resource in state pollution boards.
3. Third party audits may enforce better accountability and reduce sources of corruption.
Opposition from environmentalists:
1. Self certification will increase flouting of norms as inspection after setting up industries may be useless.
2. There is no point of certification when industry has already been setup.
So, even though cutting down on bureaucratic red tape is the need for the hour, transparent third party audits and procedures can minimize the risk of flouting of norms which ensuring faster developmental efforts.

The political roots of black money / Subir Roy

Cashless transactions are one of the very important solutions to tame and should be promoted, Prime Minister has said. There is a problem of emphasis here. It is good for people to use as little cash as possible as non-cash (through book transfers in banks) transactions leave a trail that law enforcers like authorities or those tracking money laundering find extremely useful. But going off cash does not offer a major solution to the problem of black money.

To understand what works best in fighting black money it is critical to understand what black money is and is not. It is income that is not declared for income tax purposes. This can be simply tax evasion by a businessman or a professional engaged in legitimate activity. It can also be much more serious criminal offences like handling money that fuels trafficking in drugs or humans.

An enormous amount of black money flows in and out of the banking system and still remains black. A government official can take his family out for a lavish meal at a five-star hotel or buy the choicest Scotch whisky from liquor shops with cash taken as bribe. Once these sales enter the books of the hotel chain or the legitimate foreign liquor importer who pay taxes, the black money becomes "white". Then if the hotel chain's or the liquor importer's liaison person pays a bribe to any official functionary (there are ingenious ways of cloaking it as a legitimate cashless transaction), the amount paid, which will not be declared by the official as income to the tax authorities, becomes black money again.

Before going any further let us get a red herring out of the way. During its election campaign the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had promised to bring back black money stashed away by Indians abroad. How this is any more black than black money that stays within the country (there was no similar emphasis on unearthing it) is unclear. It seems there is greater interest in grandstanding on black money than actually doing something serious about it. Had the latter been the case the primary reason why black money thrives would have been addressed.

Black money thrives because it plays a critical role in and no of any consequence appears interested in putting an end to this. Had it been so the way elections are fought would have changed beyond recognition by now. It is widely believed that it costs at least Rs 5 crore and often much more to contest a parliamentary seat today, whereas the Election Commission-approved ceiling for such expenditure by a candidate is a mere Rs 70 lakh. What is fascinating is that many candidates, going by their declared expenses, do not even spend up to the permitted ceiling!

The Economist, in a report in May last year, picked up a frequently cited quote of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, saying that "every legislator starts his career with the lie of the false election return he files". Closer to today, the late Gopinath Munde, then deputy leader of the in the Lok Sabha, in 2013 publicly admitted that he had spent Rs 8 crore for his 2009 parliamentary election, and then, on being issued a show cause notice by the Election Commission, denied the statement by saying it was "rhetoric". Thus, how much gets spent in fighting elections is hardly a well-kept state secret.

It is easy to see what such electioneering lets loose. A person who has spent Rs 5 crore in getting elected will want to recoup that principal, plus inflation plus a reasonable return to create a corpus with which to fight for his re-election. Thus, in five years he will want to making close to Rs 10 crore in black money or more. If legislators who rule the country face this kind of compulsion to generate black money for their own political future, how can they be expected to put in place a system that will bring an end to the generation of black money?

It is, therefore, unsurprising that there is a big hole in the rules on permissible election expenses. While there is a cap on what a candidate can spend for his election, nothing like that exists for political parties. What is more, donations up to Rs 20,000 are not treated as donations and can be reported without any details. So all that a party needs to do to account for, say, Rs 1 crore, is to claim that it received it in the form of 500 donations of Rs 20,000 each!

Other rules, in this regard, are either of minuscule size and consequence (companies can now officially make political contributions) or routinely flouted (filing returns on expenses within 90 days of an election). There is no attempt to change the rules where they matter. The entire political class, across parties, is complicit in this.


Cash Transfer Scheme / Mihir Shah

Advocates of unconditional cash transfers claim that they can be both emancipatory and transformative. They argue that people are quite capable of making rational decisions. And that this kind of basic income support can improve their lives.
I have no quarrel with the claim that we must trust the poor. Such suspicion is part of an elite mindset, which we must firmly reject. However, what is equally true is Babasaheb Ambedkar’s reminder that we must not romanticise the poor. We need to bear in mind that historically Indian society has had more than its share of prejudice and discrimination, based especially on caste and gender. Robust empirical evidence suggests that access to food, rather than cash, favours children rather than just adults, and girls, not just boys. Income support goes a long way in providing a modicum of security to those left out of the mainstream development process. But the problem with regarding unconditional cash transfers as transformative silver bullets in themselves is that we may leave unattended many fundamental requirements of poverty elimination, without which cash transfers will just not work.
What will cash do without essential capabilities and skills? Development is much more about empowering the poor and creating concomitant conditions that allow them to translate their aspirations into tangible outcomes. A key part of these conditions is possessing requisite capabilities to be relevant in a rapidly evolving economy. Transmitting these skills is a completely different ball game than just transferring cash to the poor.
Providing linkages
What will cash do without forward and backward linkages? Poverty elimination demands sustainable livelihood options and these require not just cash but vital inputs (such as water or raw materials or veterinary services) and a market, where the outputs produced could be sold. It is good to see the National Rural Livelihoods Mission working not only on skills, but also on assuring these forward and backward linkages.
Can cash work for the unorganised poor when faced with exploitative markets? As any student of the poor in India knows, when individual small and marginal farmers enter any market, they face extremely onerous conditions. The nexus of interlocked markets presents grievously unfair terms for them and most of the time they end up making distress sales, getting even deeper into debt. It is for this reason that recent work on farmers’ poverty has focussed so much on building powerful economic institutions of the poor such as Self-Help Group Federations or Farmer Producer Organisations, so that they can compete on better terms in the market. A mere transfer of cash without this major innovation will do the poor little good.
Can cash work for the unorganised poor when faced with unresponsive governments? Another reason why the poor need to be organised is to generate greater accountability of systems of governance that are the weakest in our most deprived regions. When the poor get organised, especially when led by women, we get much higher quality of mid-day meals and primary health centres. Removing poverty without strengthening systems of public health delivery is almost inconceivable in the poorest regions of India. And without strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions, governance reform and better public service delivery will continue to remain a pipe dream. The 12th Plan Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan is a source of much hope in this direction.
What will people do with cash where there are no options? One of the fundamental requirements for cash transfers to succeed is the availability of affordable high quality options for the poor so that they can choose the best service provider. But as the repeated experience of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana shows, the poor have hardly any options for proper health care or for any other basic requirements of life. Indeed, the danger, as I have witnessed over the last 25 years first-hand, is that the poor are caught in a terrible web of low quality local, private providers of health and education. Cash transfers without strengthening quality of service provision could end up even making things worse in this respect.
In large parts of rural India, market failure is rampant. Here, a range of public goods and infrastructure need urgent provisioning. The trustworthy beneficiary of our direct cash transfer cannot arrange for this all by herself. No one has ever stopped the private sector from going there but there is no incentive for a profit-seeking capitalist to travel to these impoverished regions of India. What the markets cannot do, what the private sector will not do, the State must.
The Indian challenge
Governments in all developed nations in Europe, the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and many others have provided their citizens social security, education, health care, mass transport etc. Such public investments also generate many positive externalities and spur private investment; they are indeed, a precondition for it. Cash transfers cannot be a substitute for this. The challenge we face in India is of massive government failure in these crucial sectors. We need to extend the process of reform to these key parts of the economy, where the state is in close interface with our most vulnerable regions and people.
The almost irresistible seductiveness to the idea of cash transfers is a reflection of great intellectual, policy and political ennui. Since real change is hard to come by, why not go with a lazy short cut? Just give everyone a dole. Which is what unconditional cash transfers are. In fact, cash transfers are just one element of India’s anti-poverty programmes. They work only when they are accompanied by other enabling changes, each of which addresses key elements of the poverty syndrome in India. We have many such conditional cash transfer schemes, which I strongly support because their success is contingent upon something more than mere cash transfer: such as the creation of durable assets under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Act; incentivising education of girls and disincentivising their early marriage in the Ladli Lakshmi Yojanas of many States; or the Janani Suraksha Yojana that incentivises institutional deliveries. The real challenge is to reform their functioning and improve their quality, learning creatively from best practices set up by many States, so that these programmes can deliver up to their real potential.

(Mihir Shah is an economist who was Member, Planning Commission from 2009 to 2014. He has lived and worked at the grass-roots in tribal central India for the last 25 years.)

Only an average 48.1 per cent of Class V children across India can read a Class II-level text

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2014, says only an average 48.1 per cent of Class V children across India can read a Class II-level text. From your own experience of school days, or from observations you might have made in your surroundings, critically comment on the reasons behind such low levels of learning outcomes in Indian schools.

Both public and private school enrollment has increased sgnificantly around the country but, as the report by ASER points out, learning levels have remanined stubbornly low. Even though children are moving up the grade they fail to master the grade-level conpetencies they are expected to; like the report says - “only an average 48.1 per cent of Class 5 children across India can read a Class 2-level text”.
This could be attributed to a number of factors:
1. Lack of qualified teachers - owing to the political pressure many government schools have regularised the contract teachers who were not qualified otherwise.
2. Size of class - An ideal teaching ration should be 1:30 but in private schools it can go as high as 1:70! hence teachers are unable to pay attention to students indivisually.
3. Poor pedagogy and curriculum which stresses more on rote-learning then conceptual understanding. Teachers are pressurised to cover the syallabus rather than help students learn.
4. India does not follow TaRL (Teaching at the Right Level) system and students are given classes based on their age and not their calibre and learning capabilities.
5. With a removal of board exams till class X and even regular examinations from many schools there is no student evaluation going on. Hence students do not learn and still end up moving to higher grades.
What needs to be done:
1. Setting up of quality teachers training insitution all over India for capacity building of staff. Proposed Madan mohan malviya teachers training insititute is a good step in this direction.
2. Government should be ready to invest more in education sector to build infrastructre and hire more qualified teachers tpobring down the teacher-pupil ratio of a 1:30.
3. Curriculum should be updated and stress of TaRL should be given.
4. Continuous and Comprehensive evaluation (CCE) which restructures testing practices is a good move in the direction to ensure a systematic evaluation. Teachers should be given freedom to refine and customise this based on curriculum. Whatever method of evaluation is used, a rigrous evaluation of it is needed to ensure that it is working.
5. More community participation is required - like IIT students who go to nearby villages to teach science and maths and to keep a check on teacher's attendance and other infrastructural issues.
6. an equally important expect is that teaching should be promoted as a good career option so that talent should be attracted in this field.

India- Indonesia Relations / Shyam Saran

Prime Minister and President (better known as "Jokowi") of are often compared to each other. Both achieved high office despite their humble origins. Both have raised surging expectations, of being harbingers of transformational change, in their respective countries but confront similar challenges - of complex democratic polities, entrenched bureaucracies and a legacy of corruption.

It is not clear whether these commonalities engendered any special empathy between the two leaders when they met briefly on the sidelines of the in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on November 12 last year. Neither announced any initiative to impart new energy and direction to a relationship that has consistently fallen short of its evident potential. After their meeting, Mr Widodo said the discussions had covered coal and defence industries - and added somewhat oddly that "we had no exclusive cooperation in the maritime field". Odd, because the maritime field is precisely where we do have some modest cooperation.

As pointed out by an Indonesian analyst, India-Indonesia relations "remain mired in neglect". If this persists, then both countries would have missed an opportunity to work together to shape the emerging security landscape in Asia.

In my column entitled "Rising Indonesia" (May 19, 2010,Business Standard), I had spelt out the reasons why Indonesia qualified as a critical strategic partner for India. It is a close neighbour, separated by only 80 kilometres of ocean space. Together our two countries serve as sentinels of the ocean bridge connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and dominate the dense sea lines of communication running across them. They are Asia's two largest and vibrant secular democracies and share a strong cultural affinity. Just as they have an instinctive preference for a multi-polar world, so do they wish to ensure a multi-polar Asia, or what Indonesians describe as a "dynamic equilibrium".

Since India and Indonesia established a Strategic Partnership in 2005, there has been progress in enhancing maritime cooperation through coordinated ship patrols and joint exercises. The Indonesian navy participates in the and the Milan joint-naval exercises hosted by the Indian navy. India has offered to share its capabilities in maritime domain awareness. The Indonesian army has benefited from training at the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Mizoram. Training on Sukhois is part of cooperation between the air forces.

However, security cooperation remains thin and the overall relationship in terms of political, economic, trade and people-to-people exchanges is well below expectations. Till date, there are no direct flights between the two countries, despite 150,000 Indians travelling to Indonesia each year. Trade is modest at around $20 billion and Indian investment in Indonesia is mostly flat.

As would be apparent, maritime cooperation between the two countries, even though modest, is the centrepiece of their bilateral relations. Recent developments in Indonesia's maritime strategy pose a challenge. President Jokowi has declared that Indonesia must become a "maritime fulcrum" and a "power between the two oceans". As a maritime country, he adds, "Indonesia should assert itself as the World Maritime Axis". It is the first time that an Indonesian leader has enunciated a maritime doctrine with such clarity, and this is to be welcomed.

At the East Asia Summit, President Jokowi further declared his intention to develop maritime infrastructure and connectivity by "constructing sea highways along the shores of Java, establishing deep-sea ports and logistical networks as well as developing shipping industry and marine tourism". In all, 24 deep-sea and other ports are to be built in the next five years.

In theory, this should create expanded opportunities for India to promote maritime cooperation with Indonesia and offer to play a part in helping build the latter's maritime capabilities. However, it is that has emerged as the likely partner, subsuming Indonesian ambitions into its (MSR) project. Another attraction for Indonesia is the likely availability of funds from the newly established and Chinese-sponsored Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, of which Indonesia is a founder member - and has been pitching for the bank to be sited in Indonesia. When the Chinese foreign minister visited Jakarta in October 2014, he supported President Jokowi's ambitious plans: "China is willing to actively participate in Indonesia's process of building a maritime power and take Indonesia as the most important partner in building the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century."

It is learnt that China has agreed to finance the building of several of the ports identified by Indonesia.

It should be noted that for China, Indonesia is slated to play a key role in the initiative. A Chinese scholar has described the MSR route in a recent article: "The MSR will extend southwards from China's ports through the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca, Lombok and Sunda, and along the north Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. In other words, the Road will extend from Asia to the Middle East, East Africa and Europe and it will mainly rely on[Association of Southeast Asian Nations] countries."

India has been ambivalent about participating in the MSR project. Some analysts see it as a benignly dressed-up version of the String of Pearls strategy to encircle India. Others believe that we ought to participate and help shape its contours. Whatever our perceptions, it is necessary to examine the implications of Indonesia being co-opted into China's maritime strategy and becoming a platform for an extensive Chinese maritime presence in our sensitive ocean space. We may need to engage Indonesia in a frank dialogue about our concerns and also consult our other partners in the region, including the United States, Japan and Australia, and other Asean countries. Perhaps this coalition could offer an alternative source for assisting Indonesia's maritime project.

There is one inescapable conclusion though. India needs to speedily ramp up its all-round maritime capabilities in terms of modern ports, efficient port-handling facilities and ship-building. Above all, its naval forces must enjoy enhanced priority in resource allocation for defence.

The writer, a former foreign secretary, is currently chairman of the National Security Advisory Board and RIS, as well as a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi


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