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INDIAN EXPRESS EDITORIALS AND EXPLAINED 30TH DECEMBER 2019

ISSUE: ECONOMIC FIGURES

WHY IN NEWS?

Government has created a new Standing Committee on Economic Statistics “to review the extant framework relating to data sources, indicators, concepts/definitions and other issues” connected with measurement of economic activity.

Significantly, the panel is headed by the former chief statistician of India, Pronab Sen, and has at least three other economists — CP Chandrasekhar, Hema Swaminathan and Jeemol Unni — who have been critical of the alleged “political interference” in the working of the official statistical machinery and “the tendency to suppress uncomfortable data”.

The setting up of the committee signals an acknowledgment on the government’s part that there is a credibility problem with official data, which matters both for investors and for policy making itself. And that it has to be addressed.

WHY DATA IS IMPORTANT?

Accuracy of data, including its generation and dissemination, is important, especially in today’s context where the extent or even cause of the economic slowdown in India is not fully clear.

WHAT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE?

Besides restoring the credibility and independence of the official data system, the Modi government also needs to come clean on its fiscal accounts. The former chief economic adviser, Arvind Subramanian, has rightly argued that the absence of reliable data makes formulation of policy responses — including whether and how much room for fiscal expansion exists — difficult. It’s like running a car with broken dashboard instruments.

ISSUE: ATAL BHUJAL YOJANA 

IMPORTANCE OF WATER

In 2020, according to the Niti Aayog, 21 Indian cities, including Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru, will run out of groundwater.

The Aayog’s “Composite Water Management Index” (CWMI), released in June, notes that “Seventy per cent of our water resources are contaminated”.

Several other reports, including the Central Water Commission’s “Water and Water Related Statistics 2019”, have thrown light on the poor state of India’s groundwater aquifers.

RIGHT SCHEME

The urgency of the Atal Bhujal Yojana, launched by the Union Jal Shakti Ministry last week, can, therefore, hardly be overstated.

The groundwater revival scheme ticks quite a few right boxes.

It seeks to strengthen the “institutional framework of administering groundwater resources and aims to bring about behavioural changes at the community level for sustainable groundwater resource management”.

However, the Yojana that will be implemented in seven states — Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — should only be seen as the first step towards restoring the health of the country’s aquifers.

IMPORTANCE OF GROUNDWATER

Groundwater contributes to more than 60 per cent of the country’s irrigation resources. Power consumers in the agriculture sector are billed at highly subsidised rates, which several studies have shown accounts for the over-extraction of groundwater.

However, there is also a substantial body of work which shows that it is politically imprudent to install electricity meters on farmers’ fields.

The discourse on groundwater use has to move beyond this binary: Ways must be found to balance the demands of farmers with the imperatives of reviving the country’s aquifers. One solution — tried out in parts of Punjab — is to gradually reduce subsidies and offer cash compensation to farmers for every unit of electricity they save.

The CWMI report talks of other solutions like persuading farmers to adopt more efficient technologies such as drip irrigation.

By emphasising on local-level institutions like the WUAs, the Atal Bhujal Yojana has signaled the Jal Shakti ministry’s inclination towards such persuasive solutions.

 

ISSUE: HOW THE PREAMBLE WAS ADOPTED

The original Preamble, adopted by the Constituent Assembly in 1949, declared India a “Sovereign Democratic Republic”.

By the 42nd Amendment of 1976, enacted during the Emergency, the words “Socialist” and “Secular” were inserted; the Preamble now reads “Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic”.

Resolution and discussion

The Preamble is based on the Objective Resolution moved by Jawaharlal Nehru in the Constituent Assembly on December 13, 1946. The Resolution was adopted on January 22, 1947.

Constituent Assembly President Rajendra Prasad told members: “The time has now arrived when you should give your solemn votes on this Resolution. Remembering the solemnity of the occasion and the greatness of the pledge and the promise which this Resolution contains, I hope every Member will stand up in his place when giving his vote in favour of it.”

The Resolution was adopted, all members standing.

On October 17, 1949, the Constituent Assembly took up the Preamble for discussion.

Many members wanted name of God, Allah, Mahatma Gandhi to be included in the Preamble but this was rejected in the Constituent Assembly.

 

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