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INDIAN EXPRESS EDITORIALS AND EXPLAINED 2ND JANUARY 2019

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ISSUE: ROLE OF CHIEF OF DEFENSE STAFF

WHY IN NEWS?

With General Bipin Rawat taking over as the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) on New Year’s Day, a new structure is being created in the Defence Ministry.

It is said that the CDS is a ‘dual-hatted role’. What does that mean?

The dual-hatted role refers to the two hats the CDS wears: one of the permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee which has the three service chiefs as members, and the other of the head of the newly created Department of Military Affairs (DMA) in the ministry. The former is a military role while the latter is a role in the government; it is as the head of DMA that his major responsibilities within the ministry will be discharged.

How many other departments does the Defence Ministry have, and who so far was looking after what will now be the charter of DMA?

The ministry already had four departments: Department of Defence; Department of Defence Production; Department of Defence Research and Development; and Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare. Each of them is headed by a Secretary, with the Department of Defence being the nerve centre of the ministry, looking after all issues pertaining to the armed forces, defence policy and procurement.

Are the armed forces — the Army, the Navy and the Air Force — not departments of the ministry?

No, the service headquarters, and thereby the armed forces, are attached offices in the ministry. They used to come under the Department of Defence so far, but will now fall under the ambit of DMA, and will have an appropriate mix of civilian and military officers at every level.

But won’t the CDS command the three service chiefs, and be the single-point military adviser to the government?

No, neither. He will act as the Principal Military Adviser to the Defence Minister only on tri-services matters. In fact, the three service chiefs will continue to advise the Defence Minister, as done so far, on matters exclusively concerning their respective services. The government has also made it explicitly clear that the CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three service chiefs. But the service chiefs will be members of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, which will be headed by the CDS. And the DMA, headed by the CDS, will also have the armed forces under its ambit — if promotions, postings and disciplinary matters of three services fall under the DMA, it will give the CDS extensive influence over the three service chiefs.

Have the service chiefs lost any of their major powers or tasks to the CDS?

Not really. None of the powers of the service chiefs, including of advising the government, has been curtailed and transferred to the CDS. The only thing is the role of Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, which used to be headed by the senior-most chief by rotation. That has been shelved with the CDS being the permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, where he will be supported by the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff.

However, the CDS has been given a time-bound task, to be done within three years, to bring about jointness in operations, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, and repairs and maintenance of the three services, which will eventually lead to shedding of responsibilities by the service headquarters. As the head of the DMA, the CDS has to also facilitate restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/ theatre commands. This is again a far-reaching move, which will potentially impinge on the remit of the service chiefs.

The CDS has the status of a Cabinet Secretary, but functionally will head a department headed by a Secretary. Also, he will be under a ministry where the Defence Secretary is in charge of the ministry. Isn’t this a bit complicated?

Yes, it is. But that is the nature of government functioning and his dual-hatted role will decide the different kind of powers, access and relationships that will be forged by the CDS. Norms of functioning and political guidance, more than hard-coded bureaucratic rules, will determine the functional efficiency and effectiveness of the CDS and it will be upon General Rawat to establish this as the first incumbent of the new office.

Finally, will the CDS be responsible for the defence of the country?

No, as per the gazette notification issued by the government on December 30, the Department of Defence — headed by the Defence Secretary — will be responsible for the “defence of India and every part thereof, including defence policy and preparation for defence and all such acts as may be conducive in times of war to its prosecution and after its termination to effective demobilisation”.

ISSUE: INFRASTRUCTURE PUSH BY FINANCE MINISTER

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled an ambitious infrastructure agenda, announcing projects worth Rs 102 lakh crore, to be implemented by 2024-25. As infrastructure investments (as a proportion of GDP) have fallen sharply over the twelfth five year plan period (2013-17), attempts to revive the investment cycle are welcome.

WHY THIS SEEMS UNREALISTIC?

However, considering that infrastructure investment over the past six years adds up to Rs 51.2 lakh crore, doubling this over the next six years is a tall order. These are not normal times. The economy has slowed down considerably.

The financial system remains choked. And a broad-based pick up in growth is unlikely in the near term. Reviving the investment cycle requires more than just ambitious targets.

While this does indicate that the investment cycle will continue to be driven by the public sector, there is little clarity over how both the public and private sector will finance this massive push.

It is now increasingly likely that both the Centre and the states will miss their fiscal deficit targets this year. A sustained fiscal push, as this plan envisions, therefore, seems unlikely.

Add to that an overleveraged corporate sector that is in no mood to invest, and achieving these targets looks increasingly difficult.

There are also questions over the nature of projects. Roughly a fourth of investments are estimated in the power sector. However, as existing plants are operating well below their peak capacity, whether the corporate sector will invest in new plants whose financial viability is unclear is debatable.

Then, of the total projects, 31 per cent are still at the conceptual stage, while another 8 per cent are unclassified, suggesting little clarity over almost 40 per cent of the pipeline.

WHAT COULD BE DONE?

Given the state of government (Centre and state) finances, creating the necessary fiscal space for this kind of investment push requires rationalising subsidies such as food and fertiliser, as well as an aggressive push towards asset monetisation.

ISSUE: SIX GUIDING PRINCIPLES FROM SWACHH BHARAT ABHIYAAN THAT CAN BE APPLIED TO ANY LARGE SCHEME

A — Align: Different people at different positions may have competing priorities. A goal congruence has to be achieved across the administrative ecosystem. After the PM announced the SBM, the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation had to ensure that the same message percolated down to the chief ministers, 700 district collectors and 2,50,000 sarpanches. This was achieved through a continuous engagement with the states. Team SBM-Grameen visited each state multiple times and also engaged directly with district collectors through learning workshops, informal gatherings and WhatsApp groups, ensuring that sanitation remained on top of everyone’s agenda. The three layers of the PM-CM-DM model working in cohesion is the first and most important step towards policy translating into real delivery.

B — Believe: Often when faced with a seemingly unsurmountable goal, teams that don’t genuinely believe that the goal can be achieved find themselves not motivated enough, and hence not trying hard enough and not achieving results — a self-fulfilling prophecy. The next important step was building a team of people who believed that the goal is achievable. Younger people with fresh perspective and lesser administrative baggage believe more easily and focus on finding creative solutions. The SBM brought in a unique blend of young professionals and experienced but driven bureaucrats, at the centre and in the states, and each person quickly became a believer.

C — Communicate: At its core, the SBM is a behaviour change programme. Communication at all levels, above and below the line, mass and inter-personal, was fundamental to the SBM. An army of trained grassroots volunteers called Swachagrahis were created, who went from door to door to communicate the message of swachhata. And then the SBM attempted to make sanitation glamorous by engaging extensively with the media, leveraging popular culture, and associating Bollywood stars, sportspersons and other influencers to promote the message of sanitation. And lastly, the Mission kept the buzz alive throughout its life-cycle through regular, large-scale events with the PM at important milestones, helping sanitation stay on top of public recall. A recent study by Dalberg estimated that each rural Indian was reached by SBM messaging about 3,000 times over the past five years. Such was the effectiveness of SBM’s communication. Of course, we had a big advantage — the PM was our Communicator-in-Chief!

D — Democratise: As the prime minister has said on many occasions, the SBM became a Jan Andolan. It nudged people to realise that sanitation is not an individual good, but a community good, as its full benefits accrue only when it is universal. Over the years, everyone became a stakeholder and sanitation became everyone’s business. People constructed their own toilets and motivated others, communities planned activities and monitored progress, villages declared themselves open defecation free (ODF). Even corporates, NGOs, civil society organisations and other government ministries and departments played a role in mainstreaming sanitation.

E — Evaluate: The SBM was operating at a massive scale in a largely decentralised manner. As progress started surpassing expectations, many people questioned the veracity of official administrative progress figures. And hence, it became even more important to encourage third-party monitoring of progress and evaluate outputs, outcomes and impacts to reinforce the credibility and keep the implementers motivated. At the same time, pockets of excellence emerged which deserved to be studied and shared with others to replicate. Organisations such as the World Bank, UNICEF, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and WHO conducted various assessments of sanitation coverage and usage, successes and areas of improvement, as well as the health, economic and social impacts of the SBM. India became the global laboratory for sanitation. Lessons from these studies were incorporated into the programme in real-time.

F — Follow-through: The PM said on October 2 while commemorating the ODF declaration by all states that this is but a milestone and not the finish line. There is a strong focus on not declaring “mission accomplished”, and continuing to work towards sustaining the ODF behaviour and ensuring that no one is left behind. We recently released a forward-looking 10-year sanitation strategy, articulating the goal of moving from ODF to ODF Plus. This post-delivery follow through is a critical to ensure that the change becomes the norm and that things don’t reset to what they used to be in the past. Only then will the delivery be truly complete

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