Indian Express Explained 10/06/2020

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Indian Navy – The Third Pillar in our security establishment 

Syllabus – GS 3 – Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

Context – Uncertainty regarding construction and commissioning of third aircraft carrier in Indian Navy

Aircraft carrier in India and other countries 

Figure 1- Comparison chart of number of aircraft carriers India, China and Pakistan have

Need of third aircraft carrier in India:

  1. Changing geopolitics in Indian Ocean– Indian Ocean region is deemed to become heartland of world’s geopolitics in 21st This would require early preparedness which includes strengthening Indian Navy for better power projection.
  2. Long gestation period – Aircraft carriers need around 10 years from concept phase to commissioning phase. This requires foresight and strategic policy making which includes estimation of needs and wants of a future global power like India.
  3. China expanding its naval power– By 2030, the Chinese Navy will have around 6 aircraft carriers which are required for its objective of becoming global hegemony both in military and economy.
  4. Trade via Sea Line of Communications – 97% of Trade in India happens via Sea line of communications which require better protection from conventional threats like Piracy and terrorism.
  5. Long coastline– India has coastline of around ~7500km which is important source of country’s economy in terms of trade, tourism, aquaculture, conservation of maritime biodiversity. This underlines the importance of better equipped Navy to tackle unforeseen crises.
  6. Role played in previous wars– The Bangladesh War of 1971 was a strategic victory for India which was won because of combined efforts of three forces. It was Navy, however, which played predominant role to create blockade for Pakistan with its prowess of powerful systems.

Despite of the advantages third aircraft carrier offers to regional power like India, there has been argument against need of such carriers.

Argument against Aircraft Carrier

  1. Budget Constraint – Due to Corona pandemic and the slowdown in economic sectors, resource mobilisation for securing livelihood and strengthening health infrastructure is needed. This puts budgetary constraint on defence bill and construction of projects like INS Vishal will need to be postponed for now.
  2. Limited role of Navy in historical wars – Among the major wars India has fought in its neighbourhood in 1948, 1962, 1965 and 1971 Navy played a limited role as all were predominantly land border based wars. This requires strengthening the Army and Air Force on urgent basis.
  3. Border disputes –India has land border based disputes with Pakistan along LOC and with China along LAC. Budgetary resources are, hence, needed for Land border management and modernisation of related ammunition and forces.
  4. Aircraft Carriers need Aircrafts and helicopters– Indian Air force does not have required squadron strength to fight a two-front war. It currently has 33 squadrons when requires number is 42 squadron. This indicates lack of fighter aircrafts, helicopters needed for strong Air Force. Navy, if will have third aircraft carrier, will need more such aircrafts to be deployed on the upcoming carriers.

Way Forward – The increasing significance of Indian Ocean Region in this century demands a strong Indian Navy which can provide not only regional security to its littoral neighbours but also participate with other global power in securing the peace.

2)Fiscal Deficit – Direct Monetization as possible solution

Syllabus – GS 3 – Mobilization of resources for growth

Context – Recently rating agency Moody downgraded India from Baa2 rating to Baa3 rating

Reason for Downgrading – Moody has cited slowing growth, financial sector weakness and rising debt as the main reasons for downgrading the ratings.

  • Moody’s estimation of Public debt to GDP ratio is 72% in 2020-2021.
  • Non-Performing Assets in financial sector are over 9% of loan advances in pre-corona India.
  • Growth rate by World Bank has been projected at 3.1% in FY22.

Apart from the reasons cited by Moody’s, structural issues have been major contributor in the slowing growth rate.

Figure 1 – Structural issues in Indian Economy

Atma Nirbhar Mission – Government has introduced the Self-Reliant Mission to infuse Rs 20 lakhs crore in economy. This mission is aimed at resolving structural issues in all sectors on economy. This infusion can be done either by providing guarantees to bank or via deficit financing.

Need of monetizing the Fiscal Deficit –According to Keynesian economics theory, in any economy, the slowdown can be revived only by financing the fiscal deficit. The governments increased spending in turn leads to a virtuous cycle of growth.

Figure 2 – Virtuous cycle of growth

Methods of financing the deficit

  1. Borrowing by government– Government can borrow from internal sources as well as from external sources to finance its deficit. This however leads to crowding out effect and thus discourages investment by private sector. It also raises the public debt to GDP ratio which in turn affects the rating done by rating agencies.
  2. Printing Rupees or direct monetization– Government, can get money printed by RBI in return of bonds issued by government. This although has inflationary effect on economy but a slowdown in economy can be uplifted with the short-term inflationary pressure.

Difference between OMO and direct monetization – Direct monetization is different from the “indirect” monetizing that RBI does when it conducts the Open Market Operations (OMOs). In OMO, RBI purchases bonds in the secondary market and it does not include printing new currency.

Way Forward – Controlling inflation with monetary policy while financing the deficit with direct monetization is the need of the hour to revive the economy hit hard by lockdown as well as structural issues.

3) Challenges Related To RTI Act

The basic objective of the Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI Act) is to empower the citizens, to seek information from Public Authorities. Thereby it promotes transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, and makes Indian democracy work for the people in real sense.

The current Covid-19 pandemic has put lives and livelihoods at stake and led to a socioeconomic crisis. In this context, the free flow of information is an essential component of crisis management.

However, contrary to the basic axiom of the RTI Act, a query seeking details of PM Cares fund was denied by the Prime Minister’s Office. It stated that the PM Cares fund is not a public authority. Also, the State Bank of India refused to give these details on the ground that it was third party information held under fiduciary capacity.

This highlights one of many issues pertaining to RTI Act. Therefore, given the importance of public access to information, it is necessary to address the underlying issues that mar the functioning of RTI Act.

Note: History of RTI Act

  • First right to information law was enacted by Sweden in 1766.
  • The idea of RTI Act in India was floated by the former Prime Minister of India, Shri. V.P. Singh in 1990.
  • The first grassroot campaign for the introduction of RTI was started by Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) in 1994.
  • National Campaign for People’s RTI – Formed in 1996; formulated initial draft of RTI law for the Government.
  • Tamil Nadu became the first Indian State to pass RTI law in 1997.
  • Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2002 passed by Parliament, could not be implemented.
  • Bill for the present RTI Act, 2005 was passed on the recommendations of National Advisory Council (NAC) in May 2005, and RTI Act, 2005 became effective from October 12, 2005.

Associated Challenges

  • Misuse of RTI Act : Due to non-applicability of locus-standi rule to RTI case and non-requirement of giving reasons for seeking information, it has been observed that the RTI act is misused by the many petitioners.
    • This leaves ample scope for non-serious information seekers to misuse it for their personal interest rather than public interest in disclosure.
    • Also, this diverts the time of public servants and adversely affects their work.
  • Low Public Awareness: Public Awareness is very low in India regarding their rights as well as duties.
    • Some reasons behind this are lack of education and awareness. It was further observed that awareness level is low among the rural areas and in disadvantaged communities such as women, SC/ST/OBC.
  • Huge Backlog and Delay in Disposal of Cases: One of the reasons the RTI Act was considered to be revolutionary was that a response has to be provided in a fixed time, failing which the government official concerned would be penalized. However, this time-bound nature of the Act suffers due to multiple reasons:
    • Due to the insufficient number of Information Commissioners at the center level, there is a high backlog and delay in the hearing of the cases.
    • Further, because of poor quality, incomplete and inaccurate information, the filing the First appeal increases significantly under the RTI Act.
    • Moreover, the act doesn’t provide any limit within which the Second Appeal to Chief Information Commission (CIC) must be heard. Due to this, the applicant has to wait for months in order to have his or her case heard at CIC.
    • Ineffective record management systems and procedures to collect information from field offices lead to delays in processing RTI applications.
  • Dilution of the law: The RTI Act (Amendment) Act, 2019 gives the central government the power to fix the terms and the service conditions of the Information Commissioners both at central and state levels.
    • By vesting excessive powers with the central government, this amendment has hampered the autonomy of CIC.
  • Issue of Enforceability: The Act does not give adequate authority to the Information Commissions to enforce their decisions.
    • Information commissions can give directions to public authorities to take the steps necessary to comply with the Act, but are not empowered to take any action if such directions are ignored.
  • Secrecy: The free flow of information in India remains severely restricted by the legislative framework including several pieces of restrictive legislation, such as the Official Secrets Act, 1923.

Way Forward

  • Open Data Policy: Government institutions should put all disclosable information on their respective websites.
    • By this, the petitioners may immediately access whatever information they need.
    • This will also reduce the burden of the department to provide information which takes much of its valuable time.
  • Compiling of Similar RTI Applications: Many RTI Applicants file multiple RTI applications on the same subject/seek the same information, which increases the burden of the information department of various public institutions.
    • Also, a system needs to be put in to weed out such duplicate cases.
  • Preventing Misuse of RTI: RTI misuse can be prevented by introducing the reason knowing provision for filing the petition.
    • Also, there should be a provision of Penalty for wasting the valuable time of the Information Commissioner for demanding unnecessary information or which is not in public interest.
  • Balancing with Privacy Right: Another right of a citizen protected under the Constitution is the right to privacy. This right is enshrined within the spirit of Article 21 of the Constitution.
    • Thus, the right to information has to be balanced with the right to privacy within the framework of law.
  • Increasing Public Awareness: This can be done by the launch of awareness campaigns through Radio, Television and Print Media various regional languages in rural areas.
    • A chapter on RTI Act, 2005 should be added in school/college curriculum.
    • Central/State Information Commissions should be provided with sufficient funds for creating awareness about RTI Act, 2005.

Democracy is all about governance of the people, by the people and for the people. In order to achieve the third paradigm, the state needs to start acknowledging the importance of informed public and the role that it plays in the country’s development as a nation. In this context, underlying issues related to RTI Act should be resolved, so that it can serve the needs of Information societies.

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