Read The Hindu Notes of 15th August 2018 for UPSC Civil Service Examination, State Civil Service Examination and other competitive Examination

The Hindu Notes for 15 August 2018

Words of freedom

When the Prime Minister unfurls the national flag at the Red Fort, ‘we the people of India’ unfurl it through him

Our Independence Day is, very specially, our Prime Minister’s day. It has been that way since our very first Independence Day, August 15, 1947, when Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first Prime Minister, chiselled his name for all time into that date with his ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech in Parliament House. Independence Day, the Red Fort and our Prime Minister unfurling the national flag from there have come to make up a triptych of freedom.

So on this Independence Day we must felicitate our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, as he unfurls our flag at Red Fort. And when we felicitate him on this day, we celebrate the helmsman and the helm.

PM of all Indians

He is Prime Minister for all Indians, whether they voted for him or did not. He is also Prime Minister for those Indian voters who chose NOTA (None of the Above) or chose not to cast their votes at all.

And so when he unfurls the national flag, he unfurls it for all of us. In fact, all of us — ‘we the people of India’ — unfurl it with and through him. That phrase from the Constitution of India translates in sonorous Sanskrit as Vayam Bhaaratasya janaahaa, in lyrical Urdu as Hum Hind ki Aawaam and in categorical Tamil as Naam Intiyavin makkal. Some of us from that janaaha or aawaam or makkal of India will recall Nehru standing there 17 times and, all too fleetingly, Lal Bahadur Shastri. Some of us will remember Atal Bihari Vajpayee beckoning us from there in his very special Hindi.

Some would also wish one Indian with an unusual magnetism around him had had the chance to raise that flag — Jayaprakash Narayan. I certainly would. Federalists and republicans among us would have liked to see so-called ‘regional’ leaders hoist the flag from there — K. Kamaraj, C.N. Annadurai or E.M.S. Namboodiripad or Jyoti Basu — and be grateful for the fact that H.D. Deve Gowda brought a southern State, Karnataka, to the nation’s rampart. Hindi has gleamed on height but Hindi is not stingy. It can share that privilege with India’s other great languages. Men have shone from there, with Indira Gandhi changing the gender pattern emphatically. I can think of other women leaders with grit, vision and commitment who would have made great Prime Ministers — Sucheta Kripalani, Hansa Mehta, Aizaz Rasul, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Mrinal Gore. Independence Day is a day to remember them and others like them with nostalgia, but also with hope because leadership lies but an inch beneath the soil, like grass-seeds, and will unfailingly emerge, droughts of dedication and floods of opportunisms notwithstanding.

Nehru’s example

But to return to Nehru on his first Independence Day at Red Fort, on August 15, 1947. He too ‘remembered’ someone that day — Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. On that very first occasion — August 15, 1947 — Nehru said in his un-recorded but sporadically transcribed maiden speech from the Red Fort, “This should have been the day of his return.” Nehru, in a sense, made the aawaam see the two of them standing there, together, shoulder to shoulder — one real, the other imagined, but both there. When he made that plangent reference to Bose, Nehru extinguished himself for that moment on the ramparts and stood Netaji in what was his own place. The historian-democrat in him also knew that had Netaji been there, in Delhi, on the day India became free, he may well have commanded majority support in the Congress and certainly across the country and become India’s first Prime Minister.

Bose, with Abid Hasan, coined the phrase “Jai Hind” but Nehru gave that coinage currency, at the Red Fort, by ending his speech with it that day and every single Independence Day, thereafter. Hind has become, over the decades, an idea, a metaphor. It brings to India’s great name, Bharat, the vitality of its human emotions. If Bharat is mahan — great — as an ideal, Hind is real, a tactile, urgent state of being.

But this article is not about a word or words; it is about independence, freedom. It is about freedom in India, that is Bharat, as Article 1(1) of our Constitution puts it. And it is also about freedoms in India that is also Hind as an article of our collective faith.

All our Prime Ministers have unfailingly given to the nation a vision of its greatness and a sense of its agonising realities. On August 15, 1948, exactly 70 years ago today, Nehru said from Red Fort: “... freedom is not a mere matter of political decision or new constitutions, not even a matter of what is more important, that is, economic policy. It is of the mind and heart and if the mind narrows itself and is befogged and the heart is full of bitterness and hatred, then freedom is absent.”

On August 15, 1965 Lal Bahadur Shastri said the country was bigger than its leaders in these self-abnegating words: “... whether we remain or not, let this country remain strong.” In his characteristically blunt way Morarji Desai said on August 15, 1977: “You can catch me by the ear when I make a mistake. But do not catch me alone, catch all the colleagues of mine if mistakes are committed. That is the kind of people’s power we want to build.”

Mistakes are to be expected in leadership as they are in regular folk — large ones such as the one Emperor Ashoka lamented in his self-mortification over the Kalinga war or small ones. Owning them is the first step towards correcting them and preventing their recurrence. Will we hear of omissions, commissions, errors of judgment this August 15? We well might. If Prime Minister Modi says that for anyone lynched he feels responsible, he will make Bharat feel proud. And if he were to say that for anyone entitled to Indian citizenship in Assam but being kept out of the National Register of Citizens he would take responsibility, Hind would feel safe. Terrorism, a curse of our times, comes from no religion save the religion of blind hate and it hurts everyone regardless of religion or ethnicity, and so we must beware of its grim shadow — polarisation. If he were to chastise both terrorism and polarisation in the same breath, he would strengthen us politically and emotionally in our great plurality, compositeness and unity.

A long legacy

The march, five months ago, from Nashik to Mumbai, of 40,000 of India’s kisans, Bharat’s farmers, Hind’s peasants showed the severity of our agrarian crisis and their tenacity to fight it. Had Sardar Patel, hero of the Kheda and Bardoli satyagrahas, been Prime Minister, he would have agreed to their demand — a special session of Parliament to discuss their travails. If Prime Minister Modi were to do so, in the name of Sardar Patel and Babasaheb Ambedkar, who wanted political democracy to be supplemented by economic democracy, he will fulfil a historical imperative.

Jawaharlal Nehru, on August 15, 1947, made a metaphorical Subhas Chandra Bose stand there beside him. Will our Prime Minister make the metaphorical Indian peasant stand next to him to speak for her or his travails? Will our Prime Minister make this pre-election Red Fort speech of his an election-free speech? Will he on this historic day furl the politician in him and unfurl the Prime Minister of India, that is Bharat? If he were to do that, he would bring to life, as never before, the Bose-Nehru peroration – Jai Hind!

The market across the border

India and Pakistan will both gain immensely by encouraging bilateral trade

In his speech on July 26, after his electoral victory, Pakistan Prime Minister-elect and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan conveyed a sense of hope when he spoke of the need for harmonious relations with neighbouring countries, including India. He also laid emphasis on better bilateral trade relations. Given the immense potential and the peace dividend that comes with it, it was no wonder that the statement was largely welcomed by trade circles in Pakistan and India.

Over the last five years, the bilateral trade trajectory has been volatile. From a high of $2.70 billion in 2013-14, it fell to $2.40 billion in 2017-18. During this time, while Pakistan’s exports to India were (and have been) fairly consistent, India’s exports decreased. Overall, India still manages to have a significant trade surplus with Pakistan (about $1.4 billion in 2017-18). Interestingly, these figures reflect only the direct trade between the two countries. Indirect trade (largely routed through a third country like the United Arab Emirates) is estimated by much research to be up to 10 times more — exemplifying the existence of a huge bilateral trade potential, provided the tariff and non-tariff barriers are addressed and steps taken towards increasing awareness and building confidence among the trading communities.

Developing a value chain

In a highly integrated and interdependent global economy, regional value chains provide opportunities for India and Pakistan to diversify their exports and imports and intensify their integration into the global economy.

In an attempt to explore potential areas of increasing trade between India and Pakistan, a study by the Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals (BRIEF), New Delhi, looked at developing bilateral, product-specific, regional value chains. This included sectors such as textile and clothing, sports goods and surgical equipment. In textiles, while there is an existing bilateral engagement, there is potential for raw materials (raw cotton, fabric dye), grey fabric (polyester, chiffon, nylon), blended fabric (cotton-polyester-viscose blend for denim) and stitched clothes (track suits and sports wear) from Indian hubs such as Surat (Gujarat) and Tiruppur (Tamil Nadu) to Pakistan’s major production centre at Faisalabad and its Lahore and Karachi markets. Similarly, from Pakistan, there is a huge demand for salwar-kameez-dupatta made of lawn fabric and wedding attire (shararas). Given Pakistan’s expertise here, the demand in India for Pakistani fabric and designs as well as the cost benefits attached with trading between India and Pakistan, there is significant scope for collaboration. The market opportunity for these few high-demand products alone is about $2.3 billion.

Similar potential exists in sports goods. Pakistan’s sports goods manufacturing sector is emerging as an original equipment manufacturer for major global brands. Sialkot is a global manufacturing hub for professional-level goods such as footballs, hockey sticks, quality leather goods, and weightlifting and cycling gloves, some of which is imported by India. Also, footballs manufactured here were used in the FIFA World Cup. However, manufacturers in Sialkot require quality raw materials or semi-finished products to produce these goods. India can play a key role here in exporting raw material and semi-finished goods such as latex, rubber, and football bladders, which would work out to be more economical for Sialkot than sourcing them from other countries such as Thailand. In terms of finished goods, sportswear made of lycra is in demand in Pakistan. The market opportunity here is $1.1 billion.

In health care

Value chain development in surgical instruments is another area. Pakistan’s surgical instruments manufacturing industry, again based in Sialkot, is noted for its expertise. Pakistan is a major supplier of these instruments to the U.S., Germany, France and Belgium. India, on the other hand, is a large medical market which imports these instruments from these developed countries at high rates. Direct imports from Pakistan to India in this area would ensure considerable cost benefits in terms of economics and logistics. For example, forceps, clamps and surgical scissors can be imported from Pakistan in considerable volumes. To strengthen value chain linkages, India can potentially increase the supply of stainless steel to Pakistan, a major raw material used in instrument manufacturing, or even import semi-finished products. In India, dispensaries and clinics in Tier 2 and 3 cities, which are often unable to afford even re-useable surgical instruments, will benefit from the availability of cheaper and new instruments from Pakistan. The market opportunity in this sector is about $804 million.

Before Independence, Sialkot and Jalandhar were a unified manufacturing hub which was divided after 1947. Most of the skilled labour force moved to Sialkot. This has given it the historical edge in manufacturing in these sectors.

Business-level dialogue

Incremental steps towards bridging the gap between actual and potential trade is a must. First, it is important to alleviate fears, misconceptions and the trust deficit in the trading community. Second, business-to-business linkages need to be formed and strengthened between actual traders. While this can be initiated at the level of product-specific industry associations (for example at Jalandhar and Sialkot), this must also be taken up by national chamber associations. Third, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) business traveller visas must be implemented in practice. Though announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the SAARC summit in 2014, there has been a delay in its implementation.

There also needs to be focus on other issues such as key items in the textiles and clothing sector, border infrastructure and security, improved connectivity by sea and air, enhanced people-to-people contact and educational exchanges.

It is important to recognise that economics and politics are not completely disconnected from each other.

Engagements at the political level will be an important factor to reinforce economic ties between the two countries. Mr. Khan’s speech makes us optimistic about the future.

Afaq Hussain is Director, and Riya Sinha is Research Associate at the Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals, New Delhi. The views expressed are personal

‘Simultaneous polls can be done, but all parties have to agree’

The Chief Election Commissioner on proxy voting for NRIs, the fake news challenge, electoral bonds, and why EVMs are the best option

In the Monsoon session, the Lok Sabha passed a Bill that allows ‘proxy voting’ to non-resident Indians (NRIs). Is it going to be a game changer? Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat talks about the genesis of the idea, shares his concerns about the “opacity” that exists in political funding, and why the demand to return to the paper ballot is illogical. Excerpts:

The Congress has alleged that BJP president Amit Shah made no mention of his “liabilities” in his Rajya Sabha election affidavit. What is the Election Commission (EC)’s view?

The EC is seized of the matter. We will examine it and take necessary action. However, according to provisions of the law, anyone can file cases in such matters without approaching the EC. An FIR can be filed in the court or with the police if they are satisfied that they have sufficient proof.

The Lok Sabha has passed a Bill that allows ‘proxy voting’ for NRIs. Is this possible for voters in India?

This proxy is to encourage NRIs to register and vote. We have about three crore people of Indian origin settled abroad. Half of them are Indian citizens, nearly 10% may be voters. But the total number of NRIs registered in our electoral rolls is less than 25,000. It is very low. Why? Because they have to come here to vote. Who will spend that much money? They can now register at the address which is in their passport. The EC had suggested two options: either give them [NRIs] the authority to appoint proxies or have postal ballot. In Karnataka, we found that our embassy voters voted after registering online. So, we had suggested two options and the government has accepted proxy.

Say, someone in India is in hospital and can’t come to vote. Can this facility be extended to him?

For someone in a hospital, we are making all efforts to facilitate [the process]. We set up auxiliary voting stations. If there is a sizeable number — say, 200-300 voters in a hospital — we set up an auxiliary voting station in the same building. But if we provide proxy in India, [given] the abuse of money, this may become a scandal. It can be abused by parties or candidates to buy votes.

Earlier there was paid news. Now you have fake news that is shaping voting preferences. How are you dealing with this?

This is a major emerging challenge. In terms of paid news, our system has been able to ensure that whenever cases come to us and notices are issued, in 99.9% of the cases they [the candidates] accept that this may have been paid for, either in cash or kind, and agree that this expenditure may be added to their expenditure account.

But fake news is a different cup of tea. Now, you not only have to handle social media accounts but even print media. Even for our VVPAT [Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail] failure, many print media outlets said that EVMs that had never failed in 20 years failed in such a large number. It was fake news because EVMs never failed, VVPATs did. Our Section 126 [of the Representation of the People Act] Review Committee has engaged with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to tell them what exactly is required of them during the conduct of elections — from the day of announcement of polls to the declaration of results, and in the last two days before the conclusion of polls. I am happy to tell you that all of them have agreed to follow a discipline during the poll period as well as for those 48 hours. Even the Facebook regional head has agreed to have pre-certified electronic advertisements. And for the last 48 hours, everyone affecting the election, they say, will be removed from the platform. Every advertisement will be flagged with the cost paid for it, so that our observers can include the expenditure on that advertisement.

We understand that you are in talks with Google and you have set up a monitoring cell.

Yes, we have set up a social media monitoring hub. Our committee is also meeting Google in this regard.

The Kairana and Gondiya-Bhandara bypolls saw a lot of complaints regarding the malfunctioning of VVPATs — that the machines heated up in summer. Given that the general elections will likely take place during summer, how serious is the problem?

We have done a lot of analysis and our technical experts committee, which includes professors from IIT Delhi, Mumbai and Bhilai, found that light affects the contrast and leads to malfunctions. So they have suggested a hood at the place from where the slip appears, so that light gets scattered. Second, there is a deplete sensor that malfunctions because of our logo on the paper. When the logo appears, it sends out a signal that paper is not there. Even humidity affects the paper — as it is thermal paper, it absorbs the moisture and becomes heavy and damp. Then the motor can’t move the spool easily. That has also been resolved by using separate paper but this will be required only in 8-9% of the polling stations, like coastal areas and the Northeast where the humidity is high. Then there was also an issue with the length sensor. So, all these changes have been made and VVPAT manufacturing got a little delayed. Instead of September 30, VVPAT delivery will start taking place by November 15. All the EVMs will be delivered by September-end. For all four poll-going States — Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram — the requirements have been met 100%.

The Opposition parties, especially the Congress, have been talking about reverting to paper ballot. They say many advanced countries in Europe and elsewhere have gone back to it. Is it feasible in India?

It is not a question of feasibility. It’s a question of going back to the bullock cart age. There should be no reason to think that as technology advances, we should be moving backwards. It is not correct to say that Europe has gone back. Our status paper lists out why they couldn’t stick to this technology. They [Europe] couldn’t devise an EVM which is standalone, which doesn’t have connectivity with WiFi or Internet. All these devices could be tampered with. Our machine is just like a calculator; it is not even connected to a power supply unit. EVMs have addressed so many issues, like invalid votes and booth capturing. If you have any doubts which can be substantiated, the EC has to ensure that every single doubt must be squarely addressed. And in case we fail, we are open to anything.

Ahead of the 2019 polls, when the EC starts updating the electoral rolls in Assam, will the National Register of Citizens (NRC) be a factor? Will you debar people whose names don’t figure in the NRC (expected to be completed by January 2019) from voting?

First of all, even the reasons for non-inclusion of names in the NRC are yet to be intimated. The time frame for intimation is end of August. Then the period for claims and objections will be provided after August 30. If lakhs of claims and objections come up, it will be difficult for any authority to dispose these of in three or four months. We have a mandate to deliver the final electoral roll by January 4, 2019. The process has already begun. The draft electoral roll will be published on September 1. I don’t foresee the final NRC to be published by then [Jan. 4]. But even if the authorities complete the final NRC, anybody whose name comes in the NRC can simply give a copy. If somebody’s name doesn’t, she will get an opportunity to prove her citizenship before an ERO [Electoral Registration Officer]. If the ERO is satisfied, the name can be included.

Transparency in political funding has been a major issue. What is the EC’s view on electoral bonds?

As soon as the Finance Bill, 2017 was passed by Parliament, the EC discussed this new scheme for campaign financing. We decided to convey our worries to the Law Ministry: mainly the opacity regarding who purchased the bond, who gave to it whom, what is the source of funds. All these not being disclosed to the electorate is not healthy for democracy.

Secondly, there were some amendments to the Company Law. Earlier, the provision was that only companies whose last three years were in profit could contribute up to 7.5%. Now this has been done away with. So, even if the company is dying, it can donate and evaporate from the scene. That is dangerous. Some shell companies may be created for siphoning off money from anywhere. All these concerns were conveyed to the Ministry. The EC was told that only the Bill had been passed, that the scheme had not been floated, and so it was premature to raise the red flag. So, the EC waited for it. Since January, electoral bonds have been issued three times and now we are going to get contribution reports from political parties. We will be able to communicate our concerns, if any, backed by data within a month or so.

The EC’s Model Code of Conduct (MCC) comes into effect only after a poll schedule is announced. Many believe that the government of the day always has an unfair advantage. Welfare schemes are usually named after the Chief Minister or the Prime Minister, whose photos figure prominently in these schemes. Has the EC considered this aspect?

The EC feels that through election reforms, the whole of governance cannot be reformed. It’s a very small part of that exercise, but whatever influences a voter’s mind at the time of elections, we take care of that. Like in Punjab, we found that ration cards carried photographs of the political executive. The EC ensured that well before the announcement of elections, three months’ ration was distributed and then the ration cards were made redundant. But over four years of governance, a democratically elected government can do whatever it wants. In case there is any objection, people can challenge it through a public interest litigation.

The EC promptly gets cases registered against those who make hate speeches. But many believe that strong punitive action is not taken against the offenders as a follow-up. Should the EC have more powers?

Our system is quite robust. All legal provisions exist for substantive offences to be registered in appropriate cases. In case of regular hate speeches by someone that tend to influence the voters, there are MCC provisions to censure the politician. If they don’t relent, the EC debars them from campaigning, like Azam Khan and Amit Shah were debarred. Our election process is protected from interference under Article 329 of the Constitution. We have not given statutory backing to the MCC, but it is agreed upon by all political parties that they will submit to the Code. If they violate it, the EC can derecognise you, freeze your symbol.

What is your view on simultaneous polls?

Simultaneous polls can be done, but all political parties have to agree to it.

Bringing up a science

The lack of research in evolutionary biology in India is a matter of concern

The marginalisation of research and education in evolutionary biology in India has justifiably been a matter of concern for some time. Evolutionary biology is important in understanding multi-drug resistance in microbes, for instance. The Nipah virus outbreak, which was traced to the habitat destruction of fruit bats, is also a study in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Unlike in other countries, Darwinian medicine is poorly researched in India. Perhaps the only exception to this is the work of Milind Watve, an evolutionary biologist from IISER, Pune, who has studied diabetes from this perspective. Host-range expansion is a classic evolutionary biology concept. This is where, owing to climate change or other reasons, a pathogen moves from one host to another. In the Indian context, it sadly remains untapped as an approach to diseases that spread from animals to humans.

In education, too, evolutionary biology is at a disadvantage. For one, there are no postgraduate departments of evolutionary biology in any university. “The single, small post-graduate training programme in the field — an Integrated Ph.D. course in Evolutionary and Organismal Biology, conducted at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru — was abruptly terminated after a few years, despite appreciative student responses,” says Amitabh Joshi, an evolutionary biologist from the Centre.

DNA fingerprinting is a technology that has now caught the popular imagination. Using DNA fingerprinting and DNA statistics for forensics requires a nontrivial understanding of molecular population genetics. But do we have sufficient numbers of researchers working on these areas and training future generations?

A group of evolutionary biologists have recently established the Indian Society of Evolutionary Biologists (ISEB). This is a significant development because the ISEB hopes to not just bring together practitioners and senior researchers from the field, but also aims to reach members of the public and get them to engage with the mission of the Society. Talks and activities for students have been planned. “If India wishes to effectively leverage scientific understanding to address problems of public health, environment, agriculture and societal breakdowns, it cannot be done without greatly enhancing our appreciation of the importance of an evolutionary perspective in attacking these problems,” says Mr. Joshi, a member of the ISEB. At present, the Society has a small membership, mainly active researchers in the field of evolutionary biology. For it to be embraced by the public, membership drives will be crucial. If this project gains adequate momentum, it can help cultivate a citizenry that actively participates in the democratic process that is science.