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Indian Express Explained Editorials 24/06/2020

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Editorials:- Comprehensive Action Plan For Covid-19

Covid-19 pandemic is a far greater social, economic, and political phenomenon than merely a biomedical one. Due to its ill-effects on lives and livelihood, the pandemic is turning into one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent human history.

Further, the mismanagement of the disease has made India on the verge of Covid-19 entering into the community transmission stage. Given the condition of public health infrastructure, the current pandemic is a great challenge for the government as well as citizens.

In this context, there is a need for a comprehensive strategy to combat the pandemic.

Hidden Issues Related to Covid-19 Management

  • Hidden Hunger: Hidden hunger needs more attention in times of record unemployment and a slowing economy.
    • Also, in the absence of proven technological medical tools against the virus, the body’s innate immunity is the most reliable defence against the disease.
    • India’s chances of staving off large-scale Covid-19 deaths will depend on how effectively the menace of hidden hunger is addressed.
  • Poor Preparedness: The lockdown was supposed to provide time for strengthening the healthcare facilities. However, still there is a long way to go for making adequate medical infrastructure like beds, testing kits, PPE kits.
    • This compromises the treatment of patients suffering Covid-19 and further aid in spreading the disease.
  • Untreated Morbidity due to Non-Covid Disease: Due to increased burden on public hospitals for treatment of Covid-19, patients suffering from other diseases have been largely neglected.
    • Given the large number of cases relating to Tuberculosis, upper respiratory diseases and Non-communicable diseases in India, millions of patients are at risk.
  • Data Obscurity: The importance of comprehensive data for an evidence-based and epidemiologically sound strategy can never be overemphasized.
    • However, there is still no unanimity between the different health related organisations, regarding the actual number of Covid-19 infections in India.
  • Lack of Epidemiological Research: Historically, there has been a near-absence of “managerial physicians” equipped with the social, political and technical understanding of health problems in the Indian public health system.
    • Consequently, the epidemiologists and social scientists have been marginalised in Covid-19 policy formulation.
    • While sound clinical knowledge is indispensable for clinical management of patients, a grounded understanding of epidemiology and socioeconomic dynamics of the disease is also very important.

Note:

  • Managerial Physicians are doctors with management positions who possess important skills and values such as observation, problem-solving, analysis and ethical judgement.
  • Issues Relating to Medical Personnels: The fulfillment of the elementary needs of health workers has been a major issue.
    • Many doctors have reportedly been served show cause notices, suspensions and even termination of services for simply demanding PPEs (personal protective equipment).
    • Reasonable demands like shorter durations of duty in Covid affected areas and regular rotation between Covid and non-Covid areas seem to have been ignored.

Steps To Be Taken

  • Issue Effective Guidelines To Private Hospitals: The central and the state governments may issue necessary guidelines seeking cooperation from the private sector.
    • This will ease the burden of public hospitals and help in availing treatment to all the patients suffering from Covid-19.
  • Increasing Public Funding in Healthcare: Public expenditure on health should be immediately increased.
    • This will ensure a well functioning of tertiary and secondary care in government hospitals.
    • Also, there is a need for improving sanitation and hygiene, provisioning of equipment, toning up of laboratory facilities, and recruiting the additional staff to meet the workload.
  • Outreach Clinics: To reduce crowding at hospitals, outreach clinics (for example Mohalla clinics in delhi) should be organised in communities to treat minor illnesses.
  • Ensuring Safety of Health Workers: All necessary equipment such as PPEs should be provided to the healthcare staff in accordance with the requirements of their station of work.
    • Shorter duty hours with rotation and periodic duty offs to relieve stress should be instituted for minimising the attrition of the workforce.
  • Effective Data Gathering: Primary and secondary level health facilities ought to be made fully functional and frontline health workers need to be trained and fully geared up for disease surveillance work.
  • Enabling Research: Rigorous research on the epidemiological, clinical, social, economic, and political aspects of the pandemic should be undertaken to ensure real time decisions to a rapidly evolving pandemic situation.

Conclusion

Along with reliance on medical measures, it is imperative to alleviate the socio-economic conditions of individuals to resist Covid-19 infection and prevent transmission.

Mains QuestionRather than exclusive reliance on medical measures, it is imperative to alleviate the socio-economic conditions of individuals to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. Discuss.

2)Decoupling India’s Manufacturing With China

I

n the aftermath of the confrontation between India and China in the Galwan Valley, there has been a growing clamour for a boycott of Chinese products in India.

In this pursuit of using trade as a blunt instrument of retaliation against China, the government of India is actively considering nudging private players to reduce their dependence on China-made equipment.

However, given India’s dependence on Chinese manufacturing, any trade war or a boycott of Chinese goods may have a more adverse impact on India rather than China.

Need For Revisiting India’s Trade Policy vis-a-vis China

  • Huge Trade Deficit: India’s imports from China in 2019-2020 reached $65 billion, out of $81 billion two-way trade.
  • Leveraging India’s Raw Material: Along with importing a lot of finished products from China, India exports several kinds of raw materials and intermediate products.
    • By saving these raw materials India can expand its manufacturing base more.
  • De-industrialisation: Dumping of cheap goods by China into India, has rendered much of domestic manufacturing industries uncompetitive and thereby led to virtual deindustrialisation in many sectors.
  • Relocation of Global Supply Chain: Amid Covid-19 pandemic, many multinational companies seek to move their businesses out of china. India should leverage this opportunity and attract these global supply chains.

Dependence of India on Chinese Manufacturing

  • Made in China often helps Make in India: India is dependent on China regarding capital goods.
    • This includes a wide variety of machinery, including electrical machinery, semiconductor driven machinery sector, etc.
    • Thus, the ban on Chinese imports will affect the competitiveness of domestic manufacturing, and thus further erode the country’s export competitiveness.
  • Minuscule Impact on China: India accounts for a minuscule share of China’s export market, it will have a limited impact on China.
    • If India and China stop trading then, China would lose only 3% of its exports and less than 1% of its imports, while India will lose 5% of its exports and 14% of its imports.
  • Impact on Indian Consumers: Any attempt to reduce imports from China, operationalised through tariffs or other non-tariff barriers, will raise prices for Indian consumers.
    • The poorest consumers will be the worst-hit in a trade ban of this kind because they are the most price-sensitive.
    • Also, without any alternative in the short-term, it is costly to replace Chinese products with much costlier imports from Japan and Germany.
    • This will further increase India’s total trade deficit.
  • China’s Investment In Indian Startups: There is also the issue of Chinese investment in the Indian start-up space to contend with.
    • Companies like Alibaba and Tencent have invested in Indian unicorns such as Zomato, Paytm, Byju’s, Ola cabs and others.
  • Centrality of China In Global Markets: It’s important to note along with being an exporter of assembled final products, China has also over the years become a major consumer for final products.
    • Due to this, the shifting of supply chains out of China is not very lucrative for many Multinational companies.
    • Also, blocking trade with China, India will miss out on one of the biggest markets.

Steps To Be Taken

  • Boost Domestic Manufacturing: India’s strategy should be to boost manufacturing competitiveness and increase its share in world trade.
    • In this pursuit, there is a need to create an infrastructure that raises the competitiveness of India’s exports.
  • Removing Structural Bottlenecks: There is a need to push through long-pending legislation that aims to address the structural bottlenecks (in 4Ls: Land, Labour, Law, Liquidity) that continue to plague and hinder domestic competitiveness.
  • Leveraging Service Sector: In spite of banning Chinese imports, India should tackle trade by trade.
    • India can lobby for a more liberalised service sector (India’s comparative advantage) in China.
  • Responding to China Strategically: In spite of drawing border disputes into a trade dispute, India should reply to China strategically in such matters of strategic importance.
    • Thus, in this context, India must increase its engagement in the South China Sea, which is a key strategic issue for China.

Conclusion

Given India’s dependence on Chinese manufacturing, there is a need to understand that turning a border dispute into a trade war is unlikely to solve the border dispute and this trade war may hurt India far more than China.

Mains QuestionIndia’s trade policy response to border clashes with China, should flow from a careful cost-benefit analysis, not be driven by knee-jerk reactions. Discuss.

3) Speaker and Anti- Defetion:-

Why in News

The ruling party crisis in Manipur has raised questions on the Speaker’s powers to disqualify under the Constitution.

Key Point

  • Background:
    • In 2017, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed the government in Manipur after seven legislators of Congress joined the BJP.
    • The Congress party asked the Speaker to disqualify these seven, but the petitions were kept pending.
      • According to paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, an elected member of the house shall be disqualified from being a member if they win the election as a candidate of one party and then join another. The power for this disqualification is vested in the Speaker, who is usually a nominee of the ruling party.
    • Recently, a crisis in the ruling party emerged because the four MLAs (out of seven MLAs, who had in 2017 jumped to BJP) once again pledged their votes to the Congress and the rest three were disqualified.
  • Role of Supreme Court:
    • Citing the 2016 SA Sampath Kumar vs Kale Yadaiah and Others case relating to the disqualification of a Telangana MLA, the Supreme Court directed the Speaker of Manipur to rule on the disqualification within three months.
    • The Supreme Court also questioned, “why a Speaker- who is a member of a particular political party and an insider in the House, should be the sole and final arbiter in the cases of disqualification of a political defector”.
    • The Speaker did not take a call on the disqualifications.
    • After, the Manipur High Court also passed similar orders relying on the SC verdict, the Speaker finally ruled on the petitions.
      • The High Court also reasoned that since the remedy under Tenth Schedule is an alternative to moving courts and if the remedy is found to be ineffective due to deliberate inaction or indecision on the part of the Speaker, the court will have jurisdiction.
  • Speaker and Issue of Impartiality:
    • The office of Speaker has been criticised time and again for being an agent of partisan politics especially in context of power for the disqualification.
    • The Supreme Court in Jagjit Singh versus State of Haryana (2006) highlighted the similar allegations about the confidence on the role of Speaker in the matters of impartiality.
    • In the Kihoto Hollohan versus Zachillhu case (1992), one of the judges observed that the suspicion of bias on the Speaker’s role could not be ruled out as his/her election and tenure depends on the majority will of the House (or specifically of the ruling party).
  • Suggestions:
    • The Supreme Court has held that the Parliament consider taking a relook at the powers of the Speakers citing instances of partisanship.
      • It has suggested independent tribunals to decide on disqualification.
    • In Britain, the Speaker is strictly a non-party person. There is a convention that the Speaker has to resign from his party and remain politically neutral. .
      • Hence, this mechanism can be adopted whereby Speakers need to renounce all political affiliations, membership and activity once they have been elected to the office.

Disqualification under the Tenth Schedule

  • The Anti-Defection Law was passed in 1985 through the 52nd amendment to the Constitution. It added the Tenth Schedule to the Indian Constitution. The main intent of the law was to combat “the evil of political defections”.
  • According to it, a member of a House belonging to any political party becomes disqualified for being a member of the House, if:
    • he voluntarily gives up his membership of such political party; or
    • he votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by his political party without obtaining prior permission of such party and such act has not been condoned by the party within 15 days.

Exceptions to the Disqualification on the Ground of Defection

  • If a member goes out of his party as a result of a merger of the party with another party. A merger takes place when two-thirds of the members of the party have agreed to such merger.
  • If a member, after being elected as the presiding officer of the House, voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or rejoins it after he ceases to hold that office. This exemption has been provided in view of the dignity and impartiality of the office.

Powers of Speaker with regard to Anti-Defection Law

  • Any question regarding disqualification arising out of defection is to be decided by the presiding officer of the House.
  • After the Kihoto Hollohan case (1992) the Supreme Court declared that the decision of the presiding officer is not final and can be questioned in any court. It is subject to judicial review on the grounds of malafide, perversity, etc.

Way Forward

  • Impartiality, fairness and autonomy in decision-making are the hallmarks of a robust institution. It is the freedom from interference and pressures which provide the necessary atmosphere where one can work with an absolute commitment to the cause of neutrality (as a Constitutional value).
  • At a time when India’s rank has fallen in the latest Democracy Index (2019), it is expected from Parliament to take steps to revamp and strengthen the institution of the Speaker.
  • Further, the structural issues regarding the manner of appointment of the Speaker and his tenure in office needs an urgent redressal.

4)

Indian Economy

Prev

Country of Origin Made Mandatory on GeM

Why in News

Government e-Marketplace (GeM), a Special Purpose Vehicle under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has made it mandatory for sellers to enter the Country of Origin while registering all new products on GeM.

Key Points

  • Provisions:
    • Indication of the Local Content: GeM has enabled a provision for indication of the percentage of local content in products.
      • Now, the Country of Origin as well as the local content percentage are visible in the marketplace for all items.
    • Make in India Filter: This new filter has been enabled on the portal so that the buyers can choose to buy only those products that meet the minimum 50% local content criteria.
      • They can also switch on a new Make in India filter to see products that match their preferences on local content.
  • Significance of GeM:
    • Promotion of the ‘Make in India’ Initiative: Since its inception, GeM has continuously worked towards promotion of the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
    • Entry of Small Local Sellers: The Marketplace has facilitated entry of small local sellers in Public Procurement, while implementing ‘Make in India’ and MSME Purchase Preference Policies of the Government in the true sense.
    • Transparent and Cost-effective Procurement: GeM is enabling quick, efficient, transparent and cost-effective procurement, especially when government organizations require products and services urgently to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • Promotion of Atma Nirbhar Bharat: GeM has been promoting the Atma Nirbhar Bharat policy, introduced in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, meant to encourage self-reliance and boost small Indian manufacturers.

Government e-Marketplace (GeM)

  • GeM is a one-stop National Public Procurement Portal to facilitate online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Central and State Government Departments/Organizations/Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs).
  • It was launched in 2016 to bring transparency and efficiency in the government buying process.
  • It operates under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • The procurement of goods and services by Ministries and the Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) is mandatory for goods and services available on GeM.
  • It also provides the tools of e-bidding and reverse e-auction to facilitate the government users achieve the best value for their money.
  • At present, GeM has more than 15 lakh products, around 20,000 services, and more than 40,000 Government buyer organizations.

Source: PIB


Indian Polity

Prev

Speaker and Anti-Defection Law

Why in News

The ruling party crisis in Manipur has raised questions on the Speaker’s powers to disqualify under the Constitution.

Key Point

  • Background:
    • In 2017, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed the government in Manipur after seven legislators of Congress joined the BJP.
    • The Congress party asked the Speaker to disqualify these seven, but the petitions were kept pending.
      • According to paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, an elected member of the house shall be disqualified from being a member if they win the election as a candidate of one party and then join another. The power for this disqualification is vested in the Speaker, who is usually a nominee of the ruling party.
    • Recently, a crisis in the ruling party emerged because the four MLAs (out of seven MLAs, who had in 2017 jumped to BJP) once again pledged their votes to the Congress and the rest three were disqualified.
  • Role of Supreme Court:
    • Citing the 2016 SA Sampath Kumar vs Kale Yadaiah and Others case relating to the disqualification of a Telangana MLA, the Supreme Court directed the Speaker of Manipur to rule on the disqualification within three months.
    • The Supreme Court also questioned, “why a Speaker- who is a member of a particular political party and an insider in the House, should be the sole and final arbiter in the cases of disqualification of a political defector”.
    • The Speaker did not take a call on the disqualifications.
    • After, the Manipur High Court also passed similar orders relying on the SC verdict, the Speaker finally ruled on the petitions.
      • The High Court also reasoned that since the remedy under Tenth Schedule is an alternative to moving courts and if the remedy is found to be ineffective due to deliberate inaction or indecision on the part of the Speaker, the court will have jurisdiction.
  • Speaker and Issue of Impartiality:
    • The office of Speaker has been criticised time and again for being an agent of partisan politics especially in context of power for the disqualification.
    • The Supreme Court in Jagjit Singh versus State of Haryana (2006) highlighted the similar allegations about the confidence on the role of Speaker in the matters of impartiality.
    • In the Kihoto Hollohan versus Zachillhu case (1992), one of the judges observed that the suspicion of bias on the Speaker’s role could not be ruled out as his/her election and tenure depends on the majority will of the House (or specifically of the ruling party).
  • Suggestions:
    • The Supreme Court has held that the Parliament consider taking a relook at the powers of the Speakers citing instances of partisanship.
      • It has suggested independent tribunals to decide on disqualification.
    • In Britain, the Speaker is strictly a non-party person. There is a convention that the Speaker has to resign from his party and remain politically neutral. .
      • Hence, this mechanism can be adopted whereby Speakers need to renounce all political affiliations, membership and activity once they have been elected to the office.

Disqualification under the Tenth Schedule

  • The Anti-Defection Law was passed in 1985 through the 52nd amendment to the Constitution. It added the Tenth Schedule to the Indian Constitution. The main intent of the law was to combat “the evil of political defections”.
  • According to it, a member of a House belonging to any political party becomes disqualified for being a member of the House, if:
    • he voluntarily gives up his membership of such political party; or
    • he votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by his political party without obtaining prior permission of such party and such act has not been condoned by the party within 15 days.

Exceptions to the Disqualification on the Ground of Defection

  • If a member goes out of his party as a result of a merger of the party with another party. A merger takes place when two-thirds of the members of the party have agreed to such merger.
  • If a member, after being elected as the presiding officer of the House, voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or rejoins it after he ceases to hold that office. This exemption has been provided in view of the dignity and impartiality of the office.

Powers of Speaker with regard to Anti-Defection Law

  • Any question regarding disqualification arising out of defection is to be decided by the presiding officer of the House.
  • After the Kihoto Hollohan case (1992) the Supreme Court declared that the decision of the presiding officer is not final and can be questioned in any court. It is subject to judicial review on the grounds of malafide, perversity, etc.

Way Forward

  • Impartiality, fairness and autonomy in decision-making are the hallmarks of a robust institution. It is the freedom from interference and pressures which provide the necessary atmosphere where one can work with an absolute commitment to the cause of neutrality (as a Constitutional value).
  • At a time when India’s rank has fallen in the latest Democracy Index (2019), it is expected from Parliament to take steps to revamp and strengthen the institution of the Speaker.
  • Further, the structural issues regarding the manner of appointment of the Speaker and his tenure in office needs an urgent redressal.

Source: IE


Indian Economy

Prev

Turant Customs

Why in News

The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) unveiled a Secure QR coded Shipping Bill that would be electronically sent to exporters.

  • This will enable end to end paperless exports under ‘Turant Customs’.

Key Points

  • This step has been taken by CBIC for fulfilling its commitment to a Faceless, Paperless, and Contactless Customs under the umbrella of its “Turant Customs” programme.
    • The launch of paperless documentation on exports is a sequel to a similar initiative that was begun for imports w.e.f. 15th April 2020.
  • Green Customs: These initiatives will do away with the present requirement to take paper printout of these documents thereby promoting Green Customs.
  • Business Friendly: Equally importantly exporters would not have to visit the Customs Houses for this purpose and can better utilize their time in promoting their business.
  • Implementation: Turant Customs, which has as its main component Faceless Assessment, would be implemented in phases across the entire country by 1st January 2021.
  • Benefits: These reforms are based on enhanced use of digital technology to reduce the time and costs for the importers, exporters and other stakeholders, thereby improving India’s ranking in the World Bank’s “Trading Across Borders” parameter of its Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) index.
    • India improved to rank 80 on “Trading Across Borders” parameter as compared with 146 in 2018.
    • This was possible due to reforms like Single Window Interface for Facilitating Trade, e-Sanchit (e-Storage and computerised handling of indirect tax documents), and Direct Port Delivery.
  • Other Recent Initiatives: Ministry of Finance (Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs) also launched two Information Technology (IT) initiatives – ICEDASH and ATITHI.
    • ICEDASH- For improved monitoring of customs clearance of imported goods.
    • ATITHI- For facilitating arriving international passengers.

Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs

  • CBIC is a part of the Department of Revenue under the Ministry of Finance.
  • The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) was renamed as the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) in 2018 after the roll out of Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • CBIC deals with the tasks of formulation of policy concerning levy and collection of Customs, Central Excise duties, Central Goods & Services Tax and Integrated GST, prevention of smuggling.

Way Forward

  • A better rank in ease of doing business and greater awareness about opportunities in Indian business sector would attract foreign investors to invest in India and will also bring advanced technologies to the country.
  • However, it would be unwise to judge the state of the business activity by observing movements in the ease of doing business index as it is just the reflection of regulatory measures taken in two big cities of Delhi and Mumbai and that too on limited parameters.
  • Therefore, more comprehensive measures must be taken, which would not only improve ease of doing business ranking, but also lead to a better business environment and greater prosperity for all.

Source: PIB


Indian Economy

Prev

Anti-dumping Duty on Steel Imports

Why in News

Recently, India imposed anti-dumping duty on imports of certain types of steel products from China, Vietnam and South Korea.

Key Points

  • Dumping:
    • In international trade practise, dumping happens when a country or a firm exports an item at a price lower than the price of that product in its domestic market.
    • Dumping impacts the price of that product in the importing country, hitting margins and profits of local manufacturing firms.
    • Anti-dumping duty is imposed to rectify the situation arising out of the dumping of goods and its trade distortive effect.
  • Imposition of Anti-dumping Duty:
    • The anti-dumping duty was imposed after the Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR), in its probe, found that the steel products imported in India from these three countries were below its associated normal value, which resulted in dumping.
      • The duty has been imposed for five years with a view to guard domestic manufacturers from cheap imports from these countries.
      • Earlier, a provisional duty was imposed in October 2019 on these products from these three countries, which expired in April 2020.
    • According to global trade norms, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) regime, a country is allowed to impose tariffs on such dumped products to provide a level-playing field to domestic manufacturers.
      • The duty is imposed only after a thorough investigation by a quasi-judicial body, such as DGTR, in India.
  • Different from Countervailing Duty:
    • Anti-dumping duty is different from countervailing duty. The latter is imposed in order to counter the negative impact of import subsidies to protect domestic producers.
    • Countervailing Duties (CVDs) are tariffs levied on imported goods to offset subsidies made to producers of these goods in the exporting country.
    • CVDs are meant to level the playing field between domestic producers of a product and foreign producers of the same product who can afford to sell it at a lower price because of the subsidy they receive from their government.

Directorate General of Trade Remedies

  • It is the apex national authority under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for administering all trade remedial measures including anti-dumping, countervailing duties and safeguard measures.
  • It provides trade defence support to the domestic industry and exporters in dealing with increasing instances of trade remedy investigations instituted against them by other countries.

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