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Benjamin Netanyahu wins election in Israel; to form government 5th  time with right wing parties

As the right wing total seats have turned out to be 65 in poll results, despite Benjamin Netanyahu getting a tie at 35 with opposition leader Benny Gantz, he is set to serve a fifth term as Israel’s prime minister after his main rival conceded that he had lost the election. His number two, Yair Lapid, said while the party “didn’t win in this round, we will make Likud’s life hell in the opposition”. Despite three impending corruption indictments, the prime minister emerged as the winner from a tight election race to continue his 10-year stretch in high office. Thus far (till April 10) 97 percent votes have been counted.  Netanyahu has already begun to broker deals with religious and far-right parties to form Israel’s next government. The 69-year-old former commando, who first became prime minister in 1996, is on track to become Israel’s longest-ever serving leader this summer.Several world leaders, especially nationalists, rushed to congratulate Netanyahu. US president Trump had called him to congratulate and the two leaders agreed to continue working in the coming years in the closest way for Israel and the United States. Trump said, “ “The fact that Bibi won, I think we’ll see some pretty good action in terms of peace.” Trump has already tasked his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with drafting a Middle East peace plan. Palestinians have preemptively rejected it, citing overt Trump bias, while Netanyahu has shown open disdain for peace efforts. India’s Narendra Modi tweeted to his “dear friend”, and said he hoped to “take our bilateral partnership to new heights”.

On the campaign trail, Gantz had sought to capitalise on the corruption allegations, presenting himself as a clean, centrist alternative to Netanyahu. But by daybreak on Wednesday, the results showed the plan had backfired somewhat as Israelis saw the election as a referendum on “King Bibi”. Although they tied, the Likud party performed better than ever, possibly buoyed by its election campaign warnings that the right wing was in danger of falling to “leftists” and Arab parties. By presenting the election as a binary choice between the two main candidates, leftwing parties were decimated, leaving Gantz with few potential coalition partners. And while Netanyahu will have to offer concessions – such as ministerial posts – to rightwing parties to back him, the religious factions he already has agreements with gained seats. Meanwhile, some of his more demanding ultranationalist allies lost their bargaining power. Unofficial results showed former education minister Naftali Bennett, a political partner of necessity rather than choice, may not make it back into the Knesset. Solidifying Israel’s drift towards the right, a Netanyahu fifth term is expected to entrench the occupation over more than 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and the severe blockade on 2 million more in Gaza. A far-right alliance is expected to be in government, although its candidate from Jewish Power – whose members have called for the expulsion of Arabs and have been internationally condemned – did not make it into the Knesset.

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4th BIMSTEC Summit: Kathmandu declaration

The fourth BIMSTEC summit concluded in Kathmandu on August 31, 2018. At the end of the Summit a collective declaration was put forth by the member countries. In the declaration the leaders of member countries reaffirmed their strong commitment to make BIMSTEC a dynamic, effective and result-oriented regional organization.
Following are the main elements of the 18-point BIMSTEC Kathmandu declaration:

  1. The Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Sharma Oli presented the draft Kathmandu declaration which was unanimously adopted by all member states.
  2. Reiterating strong commitment to combat terrorism the leaders called upon all countries to devise a comprehensive approach to prevent financing of terrorists and terrorist actions from territories under their control.
  3. The member agreed on blocking recruitment and cross-border movement of terrorists.
  4. The members pledged to counter radicalization, countering misuse of internet for purposes of terrorism and dismantling terrorist safe havens.
  5. BIMSTEC will ‘identify and hold accountable states and non-state entities that encourage, support and finance terrorism’ and explore the possibility of establishing a BIMSTEC Development Fund.
  6. The leaders also committed themselves for promoting a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Bay of Bengal Region through meaningful cooperation and deeper integration.
  7. The leaders of all seven member states including Prime Minister Narendra Modi underscored the importance of robust institutional arrangements to effectively steer the process of regional cooperation under BIMSTEC.
  8. The Kathmandu Declaration underlined the importance of multidimensional connectivity as a key enabler for economic integration and shared prosperity of the region.

BIMSTEC

BIMSTEC is expanded as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). This is an international organisation of seven nations of South Asia and South East Asia. BIMSTEC member countries have a combined population of  1.5 billion and gross domestic product of $3.5 trillion (2018).The BIMSTEC member states include Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand , Nepal and Bhutan . All these countries are dependent on the Bay of Bengal. BIMSTEC countries have identified fourteen priority sectors of cooperation and several BIMSTEC centres have been established to focus on those sectors.  Leadership is rotated in alphabetical order of country names. BIMSTEC Permanent Secretariat is at Dhaka was opened in 2014 and India provides 33% (65% of region’s population) of its expenditure. BIMSTEC uses the alphabetical order for the Chairmanship. The Chairmanship of BIMSTEC has been taken in rotation commencing with Bangladesh (1997–1999). Nepal had been the Chairman of BIMSTEC till August 2018. Now Sri Lanka has assumed BIMSTEC chairm since September 1, 2018.

Chair of BIMSTEC since 1997:                                                                                                       

1997-1999 BANGLADESH
2000 INDIA
2001-2002 MYANMAR
2002-2003 SRI LANKA
 2004-2005 THAILAND
2005-2006  BANGLADESH
 2006-2008 INDIA
 2009-2014 MYANMAR
 2015-   AUG -2018 NEPAL
SEPT 2018- SRI LANKA

On June 6, 1997, a new sub-regional grouping was formed in Bangkok under the name BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation). On December 22, 1997 Myanmar became a full member, resulting in the renaming of the grouping to BIMST-EC. In 1998, Nepal became an observer. In February 2004, Nepal and Bhutan became full members. On July 31, 2004, in the first Summit the grouping was renamed as BIMSTEC or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation

The 14 main objective of BIMSTEC is technological and economic cooperation among south Asian and southeast Asian countries along the coast of the bay of Bengal. Commerce, Investment, Technology, Tourism, Human Resource Development, Agriculture, Fisheries, Transport and Communication, Textiles, Leather etc. have been included in it. Provide cooperation to one another for the provision of training and research facilities in educational vocational and technical fields. Promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in economic, social, technical and scientific fields of common interest. It also provides help to increase the socio-economic growth of the member countries.

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International Current Affairs Uncategorized

Yemeni Crisis: Political Instability, Civil War, Water Crisis and Outbreak of Cholera

Yemen is at present bruised because of ongoing political instability, civil war, water crisis and Malaria. The conflict has its roots in the failure of a political transition supposed to bring stability to Yemen following an Arab Spring uprising that forced its longtime authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in 2011. President Hadi struggled to deal with a variety of problems, including attacks by al-Qaeda, a separatist movement in the south, the continuing loyalty of many military officers to Mr Saleh, as well as corruption, unemployment and food insecurity. The Houthis and security forces loyal to Mr Saleh – who is thought to have backed his erstwhile enemies in a bid to regain power – then attempted to take control of the entire country, forcing Mr Hadi to flee abroad in March 2015. Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi’s government. The coalition received logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France.

The Yemeni Crisis began with the 2011–12 revolution against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had led Yemen for more than two decades. After protests Saleh resigned in 2012, the government led by Saleh’s former vice president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi struggled to unite the fractious political landscape of the country and fend off threats both from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Houthi militants that had been waging a protracted insurgency in the north for years. Political instability and civil war have continued since 2012 and it still continues unabated.

Background

Yemen started simmering after Arab Spring broke in Tunisia. The wave of protests arrived soon in Yemen after the Tunisian Revolution. Yemen was a poor country with a government widely acknowledged to be corrupt, with a large number of weapons in private hands. By 2011, the country was already facing challenges from al Qaeda-linked militants and separatists in the south and Zaydi Shia rebels in the north. Yemen had only been unified since 1990, and deep divisions persisted between the north and south. Popular protests broke out in early 2011, led by both secular and Islamist opposition groups. Longtime rebel groups like the Houthis and the Southern Movement also participated in the protests. Saleh responded with a violent crackdown, and the country nearly disintegrated into an all-out civil war as several army elements broke with the government and joined the protesters, beginning in March. Saleh quit after arbitration of the Gulf Co-operation Council. As part of the deal, the opposition agreed to allow Hadi to stand unopposed for the presidency in 2012.

Houthi fighters’ assault and political instability

In 2014, Houthi fighters swept into the capital of Sana’a and forced Hadi to negotiate a “unity government” with other political factions. The rebels continued to apply pressure on the weakened government until, after his presidential palace and private residence came under attack from the militant group, Hadi resigned along with his ministers in January 2015. The following month, the Houthis declared themselves in control of the government, dissolving Parliament and installing an interim Revolutionary Committee led by Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a cousin of Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.

Hadi claimed power from exile

It was reported that Hadi had “fled rebel forces in the city of Aden” and subsequently “arrived in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh” as “Saudi authorities began air strikes in Yemen”. Hadi later declared that he remains Yemen’s legitimate president, proclaimed the country’s temporary capital, and called on loyal government officials and members of the military to rally to him.  Civil War subsequently erupted between Hadi’s government and the Houthis. Since 2017 the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) has also fought against the government.

Conflict between Houthis and Salafis continued

Hadi visited the United States, a key overseas ally, in July 2013. The U.S. also lifted a ban on transferring detainees from its Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba to Yemen. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia deported as many as 300,000 to 400,000 Yemeni migrant workers to their home country during 2013, causing an influx of poor, landless Yemenis into northern Yemen. Meanwhile the conflict between Houthis and Salafis continued. In a dramatic turn of events, the rebel Houthis took broad control of northern Yemen, including the capital of Sana’a itself, in 2014. The Houthis achieved victory in Saada when the Yemeni government brokered a deal under which Salafi fighters and their families were evacuated to the neighboring Al Hudaydah Governorate. Fighting in the Amran Governorate intensified during the year, with clashes between Houthis and supporters of the Islamist Islah Party eventually leading to a Houthi takeover of the entire governorate. The conflict later spread to the Sana’a Governorate.

Houthi Coup and UN negotiations

The Houthis began protesting against Hadi’s government to demand concessions in order to resolve a years-long insurgency they had been waging against the Yemeni state in mid-2014. The uprising escalated dramatically as Houthi fighters swept into Sana’a, the capital, and effectively seized control of the city from the Yemeni military within a couple of days in September. The forces of General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmer surrendered to the Houthis after a brief fight. Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president, was widely suspected of aiding the Houthis behind the scenes and helping pave the way for their takeover.

UN tried to help negotiations between the warring factions. However, its negotiations were fruitless, and a Houthi ultimatum to Yemen’s political factions to find a solution was not met. Later, the Houthis declared themselves in total control of the Yemeni government, dissolving parliament and installing a Revolutionary Committee led by Mohammed Ali al-Houthi to lead the state in an interim capacity. The announcement sparked protests in Sana’a and other cities, especially in the south.

Post-coup developments and combined action against the Houthi Rebels

In 2015 the Houthis established a new government in Sana’a while Hadi retreated with his supporters to Aden, and later Saudi Arabia. The Arab League, led by the Saudis, began a bombing campaign and mobilization of various armed forces in the region for a possible invasion.

Saudi Arabia and several other countries announced (2016) that they had begun military operations in Yemen against Houthi rebels. Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates issued a statement along with Saudi Arabia saying their goal is to “repel Houthi aggression” in Yemen. Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan are also members of the coalition. In addition to airstrikes against targets throughout Yemen, which the General People’s Congress blamed for causing dozens of civilian casualties, Egyptian warships reportedly shelled a Houthi column as it advanced toward Aden and Saudi and Houthi forces traded artillery and rocket fire across the border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The 8 October 2016 attack by the Saudi Arabian-led coalition killed at least 140 people and injured more than 600 in Sana’a. This was one of the single worst death tolls in the two-year war. Saudi Arabia and its allies accepted the internal review’s finding, by the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), that the coalition’s bombardment of this funeral ceremony was based on faulty information, i.e., that this was a gathering of armed Houthi leaders.

Water Crisis aggravates the political crisis

Yemen faced severe water crisis in these years. Yemen’s political instability has been partly aggravated by the severe ecological crisis in the country. The average Yemeni has access to only 140 cubic meters of water per year for all uses, (101 gallons per day) while the Middle Eastern average is 1000 m3/yr, and the internationally defined threshold for water stress is 1700 cubic meters per year. Yemen’s groundwater is the main source of water in the country but the water tables have dropped severely leaving the country without a viable source of water. Even before the revolution, Yemen’s water situation had been described as increasingly dire by experts who worried that Yemen would be the “first country to run out of water”. Agriculture in Yemen takes up about 90% of water in Yemen even though it only generates 6% of GDP – however a large portion of Yemenis are dependent on small-scale subsistence agriculture. This water insecurity has a direct impact on political stability. The country’s Interior Ministry has estimated that across the country, water and land related disputes kill 40,000 people a year – more than terrorism.

Malnutrition and hunger in Yemen are the worst outcome of civil war

In Yemen, an estimated 22.2 million people require humanitarian assistance in order to meet their basic needs, including 17.8 million people who require emergency food assistance, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Due to ongoing conflict, Yemen faces the largest food security emergency in the world, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET). FEWS NET reports that 3.5 million people across Yemen face Emergency (IPC 4) levels of food insecurity, and famine is possible if food imports drop or conflict further restricts markets and humanitarian access.

In November 2017, a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition of countries involved in the Yemen conflict enacted a blockade of all of Yemen’s ports. While the coalition has since re-opened the ports to humanitarian and commercial shipments, import levels have not returned to pre-blockade levels as of March 2018. Even in the absence of additional disruptions, FEWS NET reports that certain populations face the threat of Catastrophe (IPC 5) conditions in 2018 as vulnerable people exhaust their coping capacities, such as selling assets or incurring debt to buy food, and are unable to access adequate food to meet their basic needs. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is a standardized tool that aims to classify the severity and magnitude of food insecurity. The IPC scale, which is comparable across countries, ranges from Minimal (IPC 1) to Famine (IPC 5).

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) has contributed $201 million to date to support UN partners in Yemen, including the UN World Food Program (WFP). WFP targets approximately 7 million severely food-insecure individuals with in-kind food assistance and food vouchers across 20 of Yemen’s 22 governorates. Since the beginning of FY 2017, FFP has supported UN and other non-governmental organization (NGO) implementing partners with more than $550 million in emergency food assistance, including the provision of U.S.-sourced wheat, peas and vegetable oil, locally- and regionally-procured food and food vouchers to Yemen’s most vulnerable populations. FFP support also provides therapeutic nutritional products to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for the treatment of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Yemen. Additionally, FFP supports the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as the lead coordinating body for the cluster of international organizations responding to food insecurity in Yemen

Cholera Epidemic

A severe cholera epidemic had begun in Yemen during the civil war. In July 2017, the United Nations Humanitarian Relief coordinator said that over 320,000 cases had been reported. He also blamed the epidemic on the war and on international forces supporting the combatants. As of October 2017, it was described as already the worst cholera outbreak in recorded history, with over 800,000 cases.

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India highest recipient of remittances in the World

According to a World Bank report, India retained the top position as recipient of remittances with its diaspora sending about USD 69 billion back home in 2017.
Remittances to India picked up sharply by 9.9 per cent, reversing the previous year’s dip, but were still short of USD 70.4 billion received in 2014. However, flows to Pakistan and Bangladesh were both largely flat in 2017, while Sri Lanka saw a small decline (-0.9 per cent). In 2018, remittances to the region will likely grow modestly by 2.5 percent to USD 120 billion. Pakistan received USD 20 billion in remittances, whereas Bangladesh received USD 13 billion.
In its latest Migration and Development Brief, the World Bank estimated that officially recorded remittances to low-and middle-income countries reached USD 466 billion in 2017. This was an increase of 8.5 per cent over USD 429 billion in 2016.
Global remittances, which include flows to high-income countries, grew 7 per cent to USD 613 billion last year, from USD 573 billion in 2016. The Bank said remittances to South Asia grew a moderate 5.8 per cent to USD 117 billion. India continued to top in terms of receiving remittance, and was followed by China (USD 64 billion), the Philippines (USD 33 billion), Mexico (USD 31 billion), Nigeria (USD 22 billion), and Egypt (USD 20 billion).

The stronger than expected recovery in remittances is driven by growth in Europe, Russia and the US. The rebound in remittances, when valued in US dollars, was helped by higher oil prices and a strengthening of euro and ruble. Reversing previous year’s sharp decline (8.9 per cent in 2016), remittances to India in 2017 picked up sharply by 9.9 percent, the bank said. As against USD 62.7 billion in 2016, it received USD 69 billion last year. The upsurge is likely to continue into 2018 on the back of stronger economic conditions in advanced economies (particularly the US) and an increase in oil prices that should have a positive impact on the GCC countries.

Remittances are expected to continue to increase in 2018, by 4.1 per cent to reach USD 485 billion. Global remittances are expected to grow 4.6 per cent to USD 642 billion in 2018. The Bank said, the global average cost of sending USD 200 was 7.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2018, more than twice as high as the Sustainable Development Goal target of 3 per cent. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most expensive place to send money to, where the average cost is 9.4 per cent.
Major barriers to reducing remittance costs are de-risking by banks and exclusive partnerships between national post office systems and money transfer operators. These factors constrain the introduction of more efficient technologies-such as internet and smartphone apps and the use of crypto currency and blockchain-in remittance services.

While remittances are growing, countries, institutions, and development agencies must continue to chip away at high costs of remitting so that families receive more of the money. Eliminating exclusivity contracts to improve market competition and introducing more efficient technology are high-priority issues,” said Dilip Ratha, lead author of the Brief and head of KNOMAD.
In a special feature, the Brief notes that transit migrants-who only stay temporarily in a transit country-are usually not able to send money home. Migration may help them escape poverty or persecution, but many also become vulnerable to exploitation by human smugglers during the transit. Host communities in the transit countries may find their own poor population competing with the new-comers for low-skill jobs.

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History (English) Uncategorized

Anglo-French rivalry In Carnatic

Carnatic became the theatre of a 20 years’ struggle between the French and the English for Supremacy, which ultimately resulted in the overthrow of the French power in India.

First Carnatic War (1745-48)

The English Navy under Barnatte captured the French ships in 1745 and Duplex, the French Governor captured Madras in 1746. The English made an appeal to the Carnatic Nawab Anwaruddin to secure Madras from the French. The French refused to obey the Nawab. The forces of Nawab and the French fought at St. Thome in which the Nawab was defeated. Finally, in 1748, the Anglo-French struggle in South India ended and the French restored Madras to the English.

Second Carnatic War (1749-54)

The French supported Muzaffar Jung of Hyderabad and Chanda Sahib of Carnatic. The English supported Nasir Jung in Hyderabad and Anwar-ud-din and his son Mohammad Ali in Carnatic. Initially the French succeeded in their plans but later the English under Robert Clive captured Arcote by defeating the French. The British executed Chanda Sahib and Mohammad Ali was made the Nawab of Carnatic. The French government recalled Duplex in 1754. However, the French position at Hyderabad was allowed to be held by their agents Bussy.

Third Carnatic War (1758-63)

The third Anglo-French War in India started with the outbreak of seven years’ war in Europe. In 1757, Clive captured Chandra Nagar. In 1760, the English General Eyri Coot in the famous battle of Wandiwash defeated Count de Lally the French governor. This marked the end of Anglo-French rivalry in south India.

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Democratic despots

Democracy is equally revered and reviled by citizens of practising democracies. While the advocates of democracy highlight the virtues of the system, the detractors cite equally compelling arguments.

The perceived “blessings” of choice, empowerment, voice in governance, and enfranchisement are ranged against the flip side of the democratic coin ~ conformism, minority oppression, populism and indecisive governments.

A very engaging point of departure in the discourse on democracy in recent times is the attention being paid to the inherent incongruity of one person or a group wielding enormous power, in the name of the people. This character of the system presupposes that the decisions of one or very few persons, underwritten by the will of the collective represented by ballot, will articulate the hopes and convictions of the people.

The presumption extends to the point that the willfully governed citizens must submit to be pronouncements of their representatives, in the form of obedience to the enacted laws. Since all functioning democracies have some form of legislature, the justification of government by representation is that legislators will, and must, bear in mind the interests of their respective electorates, if they wish to be elected again.

Going by conventional wisdom, the health of a democratic arrangement is predicated on the system of ‘checks and balances’.  Some institutions are put in place, to guard against the exercise of unbridled power on the part of the governing few.

The most common and haloed of these institutions are the Constitution, the courts, the legislature and a rule-bound bureaucracy. The Constitution is the basic law of the land, and circumscribes the legislative space, within which all subsequent enactment of laws can take place.

The courts, from the circuit bench to the Supreme Court, ensure that there is no transgression of the basic law by either the legislature or the executive. The legislature ensures that enactments are formulated after due deliberations, taking into account the concerns of all. And the bureaucracy is an entity that implements the policies of the state, dispassionately and without fear or favour.

At the core of the democratic structure of governance is the happy equilibrium of the right of dissent and the submission to laws one disagrees with. As Evelyn Beatrice Hall once said famously: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” This single sentence, in a remarkably eloquent fashion, encapsulates the duties and privileges of both the governing and the governed in a democracy.

This is where the importance of institutions lies, specifically in retaining the vibrant character of a democracy. When institutions like the Constitution, the courts and the legislature are allowed to discharge their objectives, the equilibrium between individual rights and the authority of the state is preserved.

Those who wax eloquent on democratic values have maintained that these institutions have evolved and continue to be germane as the guardians of both the freedom of the people and the majesty of the state. But the burden of institutions weighs more heavily in favour of guaranteeing the rights and freedoms of the citizenry. This argument leads to a ‘what if’ proposition, in which institutional roles are given a go-by, in favour of individual or group caprice in the exercise of the power of the state.

The state is a form of organised force on an enormous scale. Man is a weak creature of flesh and blood, with a built-in limitation of comprehension of such unrestrained power over his fellow men. Ergo, autocracy ensues when a man is given the baton of command over the fate of the populace, without being guided by a contrary force.

History, time and again, has been witness to this axiom. Demagogues have been elected and eclipsed. The irony is unmistakable ~ democracy can unwittingly play the midwife to despotism.

In his celebrated and criticised work, Orientalism, Edward Said has dwelt on the tendency of the West to debunk eastern civilisations as extremely prone to despotic rule. He attributes this to the misconception of the western commentator that the oriental mind is incapable of individualism and is in thrall of “The Chief”.

Said blames this colonial narrative of the imperial powers, mainly Britain and France, for the perversion of oriental history to cater to the prejudices of the western world. Whether or not one is swayed by Said’s critique, an objective question, may be asked ~ How has the orient fared in comparison to the west in terms of established democracies degenerating into authoritarian or despotic regimes? And in the degenerate category, I include those regimes where the exercise of franchise is hindered and not merely those where the franchise has been formally extinguished by a despot or a junta. The number of failed democracies, de facto and de jure, is higher in the Orient.

The civil service is the first institution which has been the most vulnerable to succumb to the iron fist of the despot. From the dictators of ancient Rome to the modern day authoritarian ruler, it has been apparent that the established bureaucracy of the day is the easiest to persuade to fall in line.

The collective bureaucracy of the world has even come up with a justification for this ~ following the line of least resistance. Bureaucrats are suitably placed to modify the system from within. And this is the insidious corruption of the democratic system. And once the functioning of the government is geared to the wishes of one individual, it is a matter of time before the other institutions ~ the Constitution, the courts and Parliament ~ topple in the fullness of time. This spectacle of bureaucratic rot has been very overt here, in the very recent past. Some would argue, not without reason, that the stench of the putrefaction endures even today.

Even though the west has had its share of systemic failures ~ most visible of which would be the transition of the Weimar Republic to the Fuhrer’s Third Reich ~ western democracies, as a rule, have endured fairly unchanged to this day. This is because of the strength and autonomy of their established institutions.

Demagogues have not been able to dent the resilience of the Constitutions, the legislatures, the courts and the civil service, in their various roles of protecting the ruled from the rulers. No wonder issue-based dissent and support, within party ranks and across aisles, is fairly common in western legislatures.

But one would be hard put to cite such a break in the ranks of the political parties in our neck of the woods. Extremely partisan politics, that puts loyalty before reason, can never be truly representative. Where numbers carry more weight than fairness, institutions have been systematically denigrated to serve the interests of the ruling party. And the tyranny of numbers cannot tolerate dissent. Most particularly when the cult of the individual leader becomes excessively strong. It has been borne out time and again, certainly in this sub-continent, that the institutions of the state have been reduced to playthings, subject to the whims and fancies of certain individuals. The state’s institutions are the bedrock of democracy.

The writer is a joint Secretary, Planning, Govt of West Bengal. The views are personal and not the government’s.
More on Democracy : 
PURIFYING DEMOCRACY , IS THIS THE END OF DEMOCRACY?

 

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The Dilemma of Growth Without Jobs

Worsening unemployment scenario

According to a Labour Bureau report, unemployment rate in India has shot up to a five-year high of 5 per cent in 2015-16, with the figure significantly higher at 8.7 per cent for women as compared to 4.3 per cent for men.  According to the fifth annual employment-unemployment survey at all-India level, about 77 per cent of the households were reported to be having no regular wage/salaried person. It said the unemployment rate was estimated to be 5 per cent at all-India level under the UPS (Usual Principal Status) approach. Unemployment rate was 4.9 per cent in 2013-14, 4.7 per cent (2012-13), 3.8 per cent (2011-12) and 9.3 per cent (2009-10). Labour Bureau did not bring out any such report for 2014-15. In rural sector, unemployment rate was 5.1 per cent whereas in urban sector, the rate was 4.9 per cent under the UPS approach. The figure was significantly higher among females compared to males. Female unemployment rate was estimated to be 8.7 per cent, whereas for males it was 4.3 per cent. In urban areas, female unemployment rate was estimated to be 12.1 per cent at pan-India level compared to 3.3 per cent for males and 10.3 per cent for transgender. The survey was conducted across all states and union territories during April 2015 to December 2015. A total sample of 1,56,563 households were covered in the survey – 88,783 households in the rural sector and 67,780 in the urban sector.

Topping the chart among the states and union territories was Tripura (19.7 per cent) followed by Sikkim (18.1 per cent), Lakshadweep (16.1 per cent), Andaman & Nicobar Islands (12.7 per cent), Kerala (12.5 per cent) and Himachal Pradesh (10.6 per cent).

Jobless Growth

Although the Indian economy is growing at little over 7 per cent growth rate, it is not adding employment to the burgeoning workforce in India.  The 2016 has seen worst performance in five years in employment. According to the labour ministry’s 27th Quarterly Employment Survey of eight employment-intensive industries- textiles, leather, metals, automobiles, gems & jewellery, transport, IT/BPO and handloom/powerloom)- there were 43,000 job losses in the first quarter of FY 2015-2016. The second quarter was better, with 134,000 new jobs, but even then the 91,000 net new jobs created in the first half of FY 2015-16 are not very rewarding.

At their peak, these sectors had added 1.1 million jobs in 2010. In the following five years, however, 1.5 million jobs were lost. FY 2014-15 saw a spurt, with 500,000 new jobs added as compared to 300,000 the year before, but it was still half the peak figure. There have been no signs of recovery in FY 2016; in fact, there is a decline. One reason for the decline in jobs could be a reduction in contract workers (nearly 70,000 of them were retrenched in the first half of FY 2016, compared to 161,000 additions in the first half of FY 2015).

Export sector in India is badly hit by global downturn in demand, especially in Europe and some BRICS nations. In export sector there were only 5,000 job additions in the first half of FY 2016 compared with 271,000 in the corresponding period of FY 2015. In the automobile sector, for instance, there were 23,000 job losses in export units compared to the 26,000 job additions in the other seven labour-intensive sectors in the second quarter of FY 2016.

Reasons for jobless Growth

Some economists hold technological improvement and mechanization as a reason for jobless growth. Today the economic growth is led by sectors which are less labour-absorbing (D.K. Joshi, chief economist Crisil). Some economists feel that due to adoption of value added methodology of GDP estimates and taking market prices instead of factor cost, the estimates of GDP are somewhat over estimated and the right estimate would have been somewhere at 5 per cent. Also the technology adopted in production in India is capital intensive. Either the growth is in sectors that are not employment-intensive, or overall growth is overstated (Ajit Ranade, chief economic advisor, Aditya Birla Group).Some observers claim that higher levels of automation have led to jobless growth. (Rajeev Dubey, group president, HR & Corporate Services, Mahindra & Mahindra). Others say that the labour market in India is rigid and this deters employers to provide more employment. They say that the pace of labour reforms is slow in India (CII president Naushad Forbes). Infirmities in the labour market have dissuaded companies from creating formal employment, and incentivised investments in automation.

The India Exclusion Report 2013-14 and electoral promises

The India Exclusion Report 2013-14 by the Delhi-based Centre for Equity Studies, an autonomous research and social justice advocacy institution, says only 27 million jobs were added in the supposedly high-growth period of 2004-2010 compared with over 60 million between 1999 and 2004. Despite repeated claims and hope trading with youth for votes, the government has not been able to add employment. The youth vote bank at present is working in government’s favour, but any time soon in future, it may boomerang, if there is no breakthrough in employment scenario.

The BJP, in its election campaign, highlighted the previous government’s failure to create jobs, reiterating that while the UPA could create only about 1.5 million jobs a year on average in the 10 years it was in power, the earlier NDA regime had created over 10 million a year. Accordingly, one promise the BJP made in the run-up to the 2014 election was that it would create 10 million jobs a year, leveraging the power of youth below 35, who comprise 65 per cent of the population-the much talked about ‘demographic dividend’. The government’s Make in India jamboree held in Mumbai in 2016 saw investment commitments of Rs 15 lakh crore from Indian and overseas investors, but those projects are still largely on paper. The programme aims to increase the share of manufacturing in GDP from the current 16 per cent to 25 per cent by 2022, and create 100 million additional jobs by then.

Will manufacturing sector do the miracle?

The future growth of India should be ideally led by manufacturing and services sector on both the levels- primitive& intermediate technology as well as higher level of technology. Manufacturing sector would be mainly driven by demand factor- both in the domestic market and external market. The demand is feeble in the external market and the domestic market is constrained by distressed rural economy. And even if the much advertised programmes succeed it is a matter of time. And the immediate reality is that manufacturing sector would not be able to add so much of job in so little time because of “unemployability” of labour force as well as benefits of automation and mechanization. The labour reforms are also sluggish. The tax reforms and easing of credit policy would have any effect with time lag. Currently, the manufacturing sector has an overall employment share of 12-13 per cent. While this share has been growing slowly in the past decade, the number of workers per factory has been dropping in the past 3-4 decades due to increased outsourcing. Moreover, the growth has not been consistent across the country and is primarily in mid-sized factories and through informal employment. The manufacturing sector has been losing people to the services sector, which is seen as more glamorous, and better paid. It’s also much easier to switch jobs and gain international exposure in this sector.

The dilemma

The government in its last two budgetary proposals has made specific provisions to expand productive employment, while also giving a push to certain sectors of the rural economy and infrastructure that would create jobs. It has taken initiatives to encourage small and medium enterprises to hire more workers. The government is giving emphasis on roads and other infrastructure which are expected to have maximum backward and forward linkages. But given the goal of fiscal consolidation and twin balance sheet problem in India, it will be an stupendous task to significantly increase investments by both private business and the state-before real benefits appear. As things stand, private investments have been static, and with the government firm on its fiscal consolidation targets, public spending too is somewhat constrained.

Real work will help and not slogans

 Like slogans in the past such as “Garibi Hatao”, today new slogans have come up including “make in India”, “skilling India” and “swachh Bharat”, Sabka Haath, “Sabka Saath” etc. Unfortunately the current times and discourses are preoccupied by non-issues; hence, there is a danger of disappointment among people at the end of the day. People hope for a better tomorrow. But their hope should not be driven by greed and short sightedness or anger and frustration reflected in voting patterns or violent demands and irrational ways of interest groups (Violent reservation protests, Cauvery water dispute or passion raised by Jallikattu issue). People should force the political parties through their voices and voting to take up the main issues before the country as mission, unemployment being one of the most important ones. They should not allow the politicians to raise passions on trivial or secondary issues, lest people will have to pay the price in future. From the past we know that passions rise and fall, but only the real achievements by honest and hard work through collective efforts remain forever as mark of our true love for the country and its people. The makers of Indian nation from Swami Vivekanand to Mahatma Gandhi defined the great vision of India in order to realise peace, prosperity and progress based on equal opportunity and justice.  We must follow that vision resolutely.

The way ahead

In contemporary times, the “trivial” has overshadowed the “main” as exemplified by the current political discourse. The sane voices are joked upon and the extreme and loud voices are heard more in media and elsewhere. The shelf life of irrational passion is not long. In the end it proves suicidal. The government must realise that it is not the time for blame game, but to consolidate the past achievements and build on them rather than seeking to demean those hard earned achievements so as to establish partisan political ideologies and goals. The guiding values of leaders as well as people will determine the quality and effectiveness of governance. In that sense who governs, matters. Governance is an important issue; no less important however, is the value that governs governance.  As people we have the responsibility to see that gains of the past in making the Indian nation are not frittered away.

In the next five years India should work assiduously to create productive employment to reap the advantages of demographic dividend, otherwise it will start tapering! And reaping demographic dividends would depend crucially on health and education as well as infrastructure and quality of services. Despite differences of opinions and divergent political ideologies, it is a time when India must hold together and stand up for the values around which the nation was made. If this happens, India can surmount all the hurdles. The challenges are big but the efforts are not so focused and targeted.  Time is running out. India should be placed above all considerations. It is the time to remember an old adage- Who will die if India lives and who will live if India dies!

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Election Results in 5 states: Anti incumbency again, but with a difference!

The Assembly election results in five states were declared on March 11, 2017. To a dispassionate analyst anti-incumbency has played again the most important role while a big crowd among voters who are  “god worshippers” would give the credit to their respective gods, their charisma and works. In Punjab the SAD alliance was voted out, in Uttarakhand the Congress Party lost while in UP the Samajwadi Party lost. The same happened in Goa where BJP lost to Congress. In an exception, the Congress was able to maintain lead in Manipur. In the decisive state of UP, the BJP has recorded a historic and landslide victory, which even to its own surprise will give it some more strength in the Rajya Sabha.  Thank god for many Arvind Kezriwal’s AAP didn’t make expected dent in Punjab and failed to register its winning presence in Goa, however, it has surely given an indication that if Congress fails to rise up at least as a potent opposition party AAP can fill the space. Punjab is just a beginning.

5 Assembly Election Results March 11, 2017

UP total 403: BJP-312; SP-47; INC-7; BSP-19; Others-28

Punjab total 117: BJP-03; SAD-15; INC-77; AAP-20; Others-02

Goa total 40: BJP-13; INC-17; MGP-03; AAP-0; Others-07

Uttarakhand total 70: BJP-57; INC-11; Others-02

Manipur total 60: BJP+ -21; INC-21; AITMC-01; Others-10

 

The BJP clinched 312 seats in UP and looks set to form a government in the state after a dry spell of 15 years. Punjab election result saw Captain Amarinder Singh leading the Congress to a convincing victory at a time when the party is losing big states to the BJP. Out of the 117 Assembly seats, the Congress won 77 seats. In Manipur Congress is close to clear majority with alliance and so it seems in Goa. But in Uttarakhand BJP has recorded a sweeping victory with 7 seats.

But the analysis of election results needs to be done cautiously. Losing or winning election has been a very poor guide in the present world and also India as to who is morally and ethically correct or who has met the promises done to the people or more capable. It had been in the past and it is at present, a competition between different interest groups and a race for power. It is mostly the number game this way or that way hardly having any deep connect with issues of concern or performance.  Also when anti incumbency plays a major role, votes of people to winning party mostly reflects angst and frustration against the rejected ruling parties. This jigsaw is not an indication of a mature democracy, but a democracy still searching its paths for a truly people’s government. One heartening factor is that nobody is given the seat of power permanently. A few days ago, people were taking about intolerance, unemployment, communal flare, authoritarianism and indecent political discourse, and the reward is 307 seats in UP, the biggest state of India.  Lalu Yadav was returned with 80 seats in the Bihar election despite well known Chara Ghotala, Mamata Benerjee won West Bengal election despite lot of noise about Sharda scam. That is the moral side of election and that is the proof of people’s rationality. People vote in impulses and only to repent in angst and frustration till the next election comes and they vote for the other party, the cycle to be repeated again.

Lessons

  • The most important lesson is for the INC. If Rahul has to fill the space, he has to do a lot of self study in the run-up to the 2019 general election. Or the dynastic rules of the Congress will have to end. As former finance minister P Chidambaram has been saying, the Congress is not a private enterprise that only a family member has to head it; there should be a decentralization of power. There are many talents in Congress party; they need to be set free and let loose to tell the people of India that Congress is not as bankrupt as it looks.
  • The Congress Party and the BJP both have lost the repository of local reliable leaders, the former being in a much bad situation. But BJP has a great support base of RSS while Congress has no backing of any nationwide cadre making institution. Congress is also relying mostly on the central leadership and nobody knows about any local effective leader being promoted by it. Organizational reforms need serious attention of the Congress party.
  • The people have given the National parties preference over the regional parties. It is a ringing bell which says that doing politics on the basis of group allegiance or as family fiefdom will work even lesser in future. The appointments done in by the previous government was alleged to have rigged the recruitments in favour of one caste having allegiance to a particular regional party. So voters from other castes preferred to vote for the BJP.
  • Fighting propaganda and raining of huge lies and manufactured information through social media require a prolonged work amid people and telling them the truth. Propaganda is the enemy of truth, but telling the truth to people is a very important role of competing political parties, failing which people would be confused and will take voting decision on the basis of hype and hoopla.
  • For people it is very important to compel the political leaders to talk more of what they achieved and what they are planning to achieve by their new policies. Debate should be issue and evidence based. If some leader is trying to play on the fracture lines in the India society, people need to be extremely vigilant. Otherwise whims, fancies and impulses would win over realities and rationality. The price would be ultimately paid by the people. Leaders would get their pension even if they are defeagted.
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UPSC CIVIL SERVICES MAINS EXAM 2016: General Studies Paper – 4 (Ethics)

Question Paper

  1. a. Explain how ethics contributes social and human well-being.
  2.   Why should impartiality and non-partisanship be considered as foundational                   values in public services, especially in the present day socio-political context?     Illustrate your answer with examples.
  3. a. What do you understand by the terms ‘governance’, ‘good governance’, and ethical governance’?
  4. Discuss Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of seven sins.
  5. a. Analyse John Rawls’s concept of social justice in Indian Context.
  6. Discuss the Public Service Code as recommended by the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission.
  7. a. “Corruption causes misuse of government treasury, administrative inefficiency and obstruction in the path of national development.” Discuss Kautilya’s view.
  8. How could social influence and persuasion contribute to the success of Swachh             Bharat Abhiyan?
  9. Law and ethics are considered to be the two tools of controlling human conduct so as to make it conducive to civilized social existence.

(a) Discuss how they achieve this objective.

(b) Giving examples, show how the two differ in their approaches.

  1. Our attitudes towards life, work, other people and society are generally shaped unconsciously by the family and the social surroundings in which we grow up. Some of these unconsciously acquired attitudes and values are often undesirable in the citizens of a modern democratic and egalitarian society.

(a) Discuss such undesirable values prevalent in today’s educated Indians.

(b) How can such undesirable attitudes be changed and socio-ethical values considered necessary in public services be cultivated in the aspiring and serving civil servants?

  1. Anger is a harmful negative emotion. It is injurious to both personal life and work life.

(a) Discuss how it leads to negative emotions and undesirable behaviours.

(b) How can it managed and controlled?

 

  1. “Max Weber said that it is not wise to apply to public administration the sort of moral and ethical norms we apply to matters of personal conscience. It is important to realise that the State bureaucracy might possess its own independent bureaucratic morality.” Critically analyse this statement.
  2. A fresh engineering graduate gets a job in a prestigious chemical industry. She likes the work. The salary is also good. However, after a few months she accidentally discovers that a highly toxic waste is being secretly discharged into a river nearby. This is causing health problems to the villagers downstream who depend on the river for their water needs. She is perturbed and mentions her concern to her colleagues who have been with the company for longer periods. They advise her to keep quite as anyone who mentions the topic is summarily dismissed. She cannot risk losing her job as she is the sole bread-winner for her family and has to support her ailing parents and siblings. At first, she thinks that if her seniors are keeping quiet, why should she stick out her neck. But her conscience pricks her to do something to save the river and the people who depend upon it. At heart she feels that the advice of silence given by her friends is not correct though she cannot give reasons for it. She thinks you are a wise person and seeks your advice.

(a) What arguments can you advance to show her that keeping quiet is not morally right?

(b) What course of action would you advise her to adopt and why?

  1. Land needed for mining, dams and other large-scale projects is acquired mostly from Adivasis, hill dwellers, and rural communities. The displaced persons are paid monetary compensation as per the legal provisions. However, the payment I often tardy. In any case, it cannot sustain the displaced families for long. These people do not possess marketable skills to engage in some other occupation. They end up as low paid migrant labourers. Moreover, their traditional ways of community living are destroyed. Thus, the benefits of development go to industries, industrialists and urban communities whereas the costs are passed on these poor helpless people. This unjust distribution of costs and benefits is unethical.

Suppose you have been entrusted with the task of drafting a better compensation-cum-rehabilitation-policy for such displaced persons, how would you approach the problem and what would be the mail elements of your suggested policy?

 

  1. Suppose you are an officer in-charge if implementing a social service scheme to provide support to old and destitute women. An old an illiterate woman comes to you to avail the benefits of the scheme. However, she has no documents to show that she fulfils the eligibility criteria. But after meeting her and listening to her you feel that she certainly needs support. Your enquiries also show that she is really destitute and living in a pitiable condition. You are in a dilemma as to what to do. Putting her under the scheme without necessary documents would clearly be violation of rules. But denying her the support would be cruel and inhuman.

(a) Can you think of a rational way to resolve this dilemma?

(b) Give your reasons for it

  1. You are a young, aspiring and sincere employee in a Government office working as an assistant to the director of your department. Since you have joined recently, you have to learn and progress. Luckily your superior is very kind and ready to train you for your job. He is a very intelligent and well-informed person having knowledge of various departments. In short, you respect your boss and are looking forward to learn a lot from him.

Since you have a good tuning with the boss, he started depending on you. One day due to ill health he invited you at his place for finishing some urgent work.

You reached his house and before you could ring the bell you heard shouting noises. You waited for a while. After entering the house the boss greeted you and explained the work. But you were constantly disturbed by the crying of a woman. At last, you inquired with the boss but his answer did not satisfy you.

Next day, you were compelled to inquire further in the office and found out that his behavior is very bad at home with his wife. He also beats up his wife. His wife is not well educated and is simple woman in comparison to her husband. You see that though your boss is a nice person in the office, he is engaged in domestic violence at home.

In such a situation, you are left with the following options. Analyse each option with its consequences.

(a) Just ignore thinking about it because it is their personal matter.

(b) Report the case to the appropriate authority.

(c) Your own innovative approach toward the situation.

 

  1. ABC Ltd. is a large transnational company having diversified business activities with a huge shareholder base. The company is continuously expanding and generating employment. The company, in its expansion and diversification programme, decides to establish a new plant at Vikaspuri, an area which is underdeveloped. The new plant is designed to use energy efficient technology that will help the company to save production cost by 20%. The company’s decision goes well with the Government policy of attracting investment to develop such underdeveloped regions. The Government has also announced tax holiday for five years for the companies that invest in underdeveloped areas. However, the new plant may bring chaos for the inhabitants of Vikaspuri region which is otherwise tranquil. The new plant may result in increased cost of living, aliens migrating to the region, disturbing the social and economic order. The company sensing the possible protest tried to educate the people of Vikaspuri region and public in general that how its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy would help overcome the likely difficulties of the residents of Vikaspuri region. In spite of this the protests begin and some of the residents decided to approach the judiciary as their plea before the Government did not yield any result.

(a) Identify the issues involved in the case.

(b) What can be suggested to satisfy the company’s goal and to address the residents’ concerns?

  1. Saraswati was a successful IT professional in USA. Moved by the patriotic sense of doing something for the country she returned to India. Together with some other like-minded friends, she formed an NGO to build a school for a poor rural community.

The objective of the school was to provide the best quality modern education at a nominal cost. She soon discovered that she has to seek permission from a number of Governments agencies.  The rules and procedures were quite confusing and cumbersome. What frustrated her most was the delays, callous attitude of officials and constant demand of bribes. Her experience and the experience of many others like her has deterred people from taking up social service projects.

A measure of Government control over voluntary social work is necessary. But it should not be exercised in a coercive or corrupt manner. What measures can you suggest to ensure that due control is exercised but well meaning, honest NGO efforts are not thwarted?