News & Editorial Analysis 14 February 2023
The Hindu News Analysis
1 – Delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir:
GS II Topic Constitutional Provisions:
The Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission was established to redraw the borders of the new Union Territory, but the Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to that commission’s establishment.
The Parliament has the authority to create new States and Union territories under Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. As a result, the two new Union territories were created. A statute passed under Article 3 may always call for the Delimitation Commission to modify the constituencies in the newly created States or Union territories. The Delimitation Commission was given authority to carry out this duty by the J&K Reorganisation Act, which established the two new Union territories, in accordance with the Delimitation Act, 2002.
Why was the Commission created?
Delimitation was required due to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act of 2019, which raised the number of Assembly seats.
The old J&K state had 111 seats, 24 of which were reserved for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Kashmir had 46 seats, Jammu had 37 seats, and Ladakh had four seats (PoK).
The state administration at the time employed the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act of 1957 to define assembly seat borders. The Indian Constitution established the boundaries of the parliamentary districts of the former state.
2019 will see the revocation of J&K’s special status, at which point the allocation of Assembly and parliamentary seats will be governed by the Constitution.
The Delimitation Commission was founded on March 6, 2020.
Former Supreme Court Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai serves as its chairman, while its other members are J&K’s five MPs, the Chief Election Commissioner, and the Chief Electoral Officer.
Which changes were made?
Legislative Assembly: The Commission increased seven Assembly seats (for a total of 43 seats), including one in Kashmir and six in Jammu (now 47).
Additionally, the design of the current Assembly seats has undergone major change.
Lok Sabha: There are five parliamentary districts in the region. The Delimitation Commission saw the Jammu & Kashmir region as a single Union Territory.
The Commission has redrawn the boundaries of the Anantnag and Jammu seats.
Originally part of the Jammu parliamentary seat, the Pir Panjal region of Jammu, which comprises the districts of Poonch and Rajouri, has been added to the Anantnag seat in Kashmir.
In addition, the Baramulla district now includes a majority-Shia component of the Srinagar parliamentary district.
Kashmiri Pandits: According to the Commission, the Kashmiri Migrant Community (Kashmiri Hindus) should have at least two representatives in the Legislative Assembly.
It has also recommended that the Centre consider providing representation in the J&K Legislative Assembly to those Kashmiris who were uprooted from Pakistan-occupied territory and moved to Jammu after Partition.
Tribes on the Schedule: A total of nine seats have been reserved for Tribes on the Schedule.
Why Is Exercise a Debateable Subject?
New constituency boundaries are only being established in J&K; they cannot be drawn anywhere else in the nation until 2026.
The final delimitation exercise in J&K was finished in 1995.
The J&K administration at the time altered the J&K Representation of the People Act in 2002 in order to freeze the delimitation process until 2026, similar to what had been done in the rest of the country.
Despite this being contested, the J&K High Court and later the Supreme Court both upheld the freeze.
Delimitation is normally done primarily on Census population, but the Commission noted that it will also take into account the size, isolation, and border closeness of J&K.
What Does the Change in Assembly Seats Mean?
Although the seat demarcation was based on the 2011 Census, the revisions result in 44% of the population (Jammu) voting in 48% of the seats and 56% of the population (Kashmir) voting in the remaining 52%.
The act of fixing or redacting the boundaries of geographic constituencies (Assembly or Lok Sabha seats) in a country or province with a legislative body is known as delimitation, according to the Election Commission.
The delimitation procedure is overseen by the Delimitation Commission, a strong, independent body whose rulings are final and cannot be contested in court.
Over time, it has become common practise to redefine a constituency’s boundaries based on its population (based on the last Census).
Along with changing the number of representatives in a state, the process can also change the borders of a constituency.
As part of this process, seats in the Assembly are also reserved for SC and ST in accordance with the Constitution.
In order to ensure that all political parties or candidates competing in elections have a level playing field in terms of voter turnout, the fundamental goal is to achieve equitable geographic distribution of the population.
What is the delimitation’s legal basis?
According to Article 82, the Parliament passes a Delimitation Act following each Census.
After every census, States are also divided into territorial constituencies in accordance with the Delimitation Act, as stated in Article 170.
After the Act is put into operation, the Union government establishes a Delimitation Commission.
Following each census, the Parliament approved a Delimitation Act, and in accordance with Article 82, the Delimitation Commission was constituted as a separate body.
However, the Election Commission worked with the President to carry out the first delimitation exercise in 1950–1951.
The Delimitation Commission Act was enacted in 1952.
Delimitation Commissions has been constituted four times, in 1952, 1963, 1972, and 2002, under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972, and 2002.
Following the 1981 and 1991 Censuses, the distinction was gone.
2 – ICMR:
GS II Topic Statutory and Non-Statutory Bodies
In contrast to summary ratings like the health star or “NutriScore,” warning labels can discourage consumers from choosing and consuming even moderately unhealthy foods, according to a study by the ICMR-National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) on the acceptability and potential use of various Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labels (FOPNL) formats in promoting informed food choices.
History of ICMR:
The Governing Body of the Indian Research Fund Association (IRFA) met for the first time on November 15th, 1911. (at the Plague Laboratory, Bombay, under the Chairmanship of Sir Harcourt Butler). A Scientific Advisory Board was created at the same meeting, and the bylaws of the Association were also discussed.
An crucial decision was made to start a journal for Indian Medical Research during the Governing Body’s second meeting in 1912, which took place.
The Indian Journal of Medical Research was established in 1913–1914. (under the authority of the Director-General, Indian Medical Services).
India’s leading organisation for organising, developing, and doing biomedical research
Plan, organise, and carry out medical research for the good of society.
utilising medical innovations to develop products and procedures that are then implemented into the public health system.
Translation for Improving Population Health
Develop, organise, and disseminate new knowledge.
Studies on the health problems that marginalised, impoverished, and vulnerable segments of society deal with need to receive more attention.
Utilize and encourage the use of modern biological tools to address difficulties with national health.
Encourage innovative research and translation in the fields of diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive practises.
Build the facilities and staff necessary to promote a research culture in academic institutions, especially medical schools and other organisations that work in the field of health research.
Other details about ICMR:
The Governing Body of the ICMR is under the control of the Union Health Minister. It receives assistance with scientific and technological issues from a Scientific Advisory Board composed of eminent experts in different biomedical disciplines. By evaluating and supervising the Council’s different research efforts, a multitude of Scientific Advisory Groups, Scientific Advisory Committees, Expert Groups, Task Forces, Steering Committees, etc. help the Board in its work.
The ICMR has significantly advanced our knowledge of a wide range of illnesses with national significance, including poliomyelitis, filariasis, leprosy, AIDS, kala-azar, tuberculosis, and Japanese encephalitis. The ICMR has made substantial contributions to the study of nutrition, reproductive, maternity, and child health, as well as occupational, environmental, and health system-supporting research. The local health challenges have been addressed with assistance from the regional ICMR medical research institutions and centres.
The ICMR has made other unique and significant contributions, such as teaching and developing the skills of young researchers, medical and allied health professionals, and providing funding support for research initiatives to researchers around the country.
Numerous research initiatives are still supported by extramural funding from the ICMR at the council’s institutes as well as at other research facilities, medical schools, and nonprofit organisations. It promotes extramural research through a number of initiatives, such as Centers for Advanced Research in certain fields of study, task forces with clear objectives and a goal-oriented strategy, and grants-in-aid for stand-alone research applications filed from around the country.
3 – Geological Heritages:
GS I Topic Indian Culture
A draught bill meant to protect the nation’s geological heritage, which includes fossils, sedimentary rocks, and natural formations, has raised concerns in the geosciences and palaeontology communities in India.
Despite the fact that the Geological Survey of India (GSI), a 180-year-old organisation that is a part of the Ministry of Mines, is given complete authority under the draught Geo-heritage Sites and Geo-relics (Preservation and Maintenance) Bill, 2022, many researchers do not agree that it is essential.
What are the functions of geological structures?
India’s rocky terrain and topography bear evidence of its chaotic geological past.
They should be thought of as a piece of our non-cultural legacy.
The ecological impacts of the loss of geological sites are also a major concern in this era of constantly changing climatic trends.
How vulnerable are these structures?
Land areas containing fossils and geofaults are irreversibly destroyed as a result of the construction of highways and real estate development.
India produces more than 30% of the stone used in the globe.
Without employing science, this industry has been mined and managed.
Typically, it continues to be unchecked and hidden from public view.
India’s geography and geological heritage at the risk of being lost forever because to insufficient environmental regulations.
The Geological Survey of India is the agency in responsibility of protecting geological characteristics.
More than 26 locations have been particularly selected for preservation.
On the ground, however, not much has altered.
What should be done?
A comprehensive inventory of the country’s geological features has to be created by GSI.
A sustainable protection strategy should be created for our natural geological heritage, just like for biodiversity.
Geological features that preserve historical records of natural occurrences, such as famous fossil locales, bodies of uncommon rock or mineral types, and landforms, should be recognised as national assets.
Geo-conservation should be heavily considered while planning how to use the land.
A rigid legal structure needs to be created in order to support these conservation initiatives.
Public figures, government officials, and other stakeholders must be included in educational outreach programmes about these assets.
How should individuals be taught?
Thanks to memorials and museums that preserve collective memory, communities will become aware.
the initiative of Japan A 150-meter-long section of the fault line that ruptured through the Japanese city of Kobe in 1995 is preserved in the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park.
We could adopt this Japanese method to preserve the memory of key geological occurrences.
Along similar lines, it could be possible to turn the defunct Kolar gold mines into a geological museum with a student outreach programme.
4 – Crypto Currencies:
GS III Topic Indian Economy
Cryptocurrencies are extensively regulated in India, but they are also not completely unregulated. Numerous statements made by government organisations imply that cryptocurrencies are undesirable and might not be formally permitted. An RBI circular from 2018 encouraged banks not to cooperate with or offer services to businesses that trade in virtual currency. However, in Internet and Mobile Association of India v. Reserve Bank of India in 2019, the Supreme Court nullified this circular. Banks were instructed to do due diligence for transactions in virtual currencies in compliance with current legislation regarding anti-money laundering, foreign currency, and fighting terrorism funding.
Why is it so well-liked?
Money transfers between two parties will be straightforward without the need of a third party, such as a bank or credit/debit card.
It is a cheaper choice when compared to other online transactions.
Payments offer a level of anonymity that is unrivalled and are safe and secure.
Modern cryptocurrency systems only allow access to a user’s “wallet” or account address via a public key and a pirate key.
The private key is only accessible by the wallet’s owner.
The processing charges for financial transfers are comparably minimal.
The importance of cryptocurrencies:
Blocks’ capacity to monitor money transfers and transaction activity on a peer-to-peer network aids in preventing corruption.
Time-Effective: Because bitcoin transactions are entirely online, have extremely low transaction costs, and execute almost instantly, they can save both senders and receivers a substantial sum of time as well as money.
Cost-effective: Intermediaries including banks, credit card firms, and payment gateways take about 3% of the $100 trillion yearly output of the global economy as payment for their services.
Incorporating blockchain technology could result in hundreds of billions of dollars saved in these sectors.
Concerns about cryptocurrencies:
Consumer risk: There is a government guarantee for cryptocurrencies. They are not recognised as legal tender and have no governmental backing.
They are extremely volatile on the market due to their speculative character. For instance, the cost of Bitcoin decreased from USD 20,000 in December 2017 to USD 3,800 in November 2018.
Security risk: Users who lose their private keys are unable to access their cryptocurrencies (unlike traditional digital banking accounts, this password cannot be reset).
Malware threats: On occasion, technical service providers (such bitcoin exchanges or wallets) may hold these private keys, making them susceptible to malware or hacking.
Money laundering: The use of cryptocurrency is more likely to be involved in criminal activity and money laundering. They provide greater anonymity than conventional payment methods since the public keys used in a transaction cannot be linked to any personal information.
Avoiding regulations: A central bank cannot manage the entry of new cryptocurrencies into the market. Its widespread use could jeopardise the nation’s financial stability.
Power consumption: Transaction validation uses a lot of energy, which could jeopardise the country’s energy security (the total electricity use of bitcoin mining, in 2018, was equivalent to that of mid-sized economies such as Switzerland).
Cryptocurrencies in India:
In 2018, the RBI issued a circular forbidding all banks from dealing in cryptocurrencies. In May 2020, the Supreme Court declared that this circular was unconstitutional. In order to create a national digital currency and simultaneously criminalise all private cryptocurrencies, the government has said that it will introduce the Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill in 2021.
Indian blockchain firms have received less than 0.2% of the total funding raised by the global blockchain industry. It is practically hard for blockchain investors and business owners to realise large financial gains given the current perception of cryptocurrencies.
Constraints of forbidding decentralised cryptocurrencies:
Blanket Ban: The proposed ban is the main component of the Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021. It intends to make all privately held cryptocurrencies illegal in India.
It is wrong to categorise cryptocurrencies as either public (sponsored by the government) or private (owned by an individual) because they are decentralised but not private.
Bitcoin and other decentralised cryptocurrencies are not under the authority of any private or public organisation.
Brain Drain: A limitation on cryptocurrencies is most likely to result in a talent and business exodus from India, much as what transpired after the RBI’s 2018 ban on cryptocurrencies.
Blockchain experts then moved to countries where cryptocurrencies were regulated, such as Switzerland, Singapore, Estonia, and the US.
A broad prohibition will put an end to blockchain innovation in India, which has applications in governance, the data economy, and energy.
Loss of Transformative Technology: If there is a restriction, a transformative technology that is swiftly gaining pace worldwide, including with some of the biggest corporations like Tesla and MasterCard, will not be available to India, its company owners, or its citizens.
An Ineffective Effort: Banning instead of regulating will only encourage unlawful usage and a parallel economy, which runs counter to the prohibition’s entire purpose.
Considering that anyone may purchase cryptocurrency online, a ban is not possible.
Conflicting Policies: The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitYDraft) does not support the outlawing of cryptocurrencies in its National Strategy on Blockchain, 2021, which lauded blockchain technology as a transparent, safe, and effective technology that adds a layer of trust to the internet.
How to Proceed:
The solution is market regulation. To prevent serious problems, ensure that cryptocurrencies are not misused, and protect inexperienced investors from unreasonable market volatility and potential scams, the market must be regulated.
The regulation must be clear, understandable, reasonable, and motivated by a broad objective.
The definition of “cryptocurrency” A legal and regulatory framework must first categorise cryptocurrencies as securities or other financial instruments under the applicable national laws. This framework must also identify the regulatory agency that has this authority.
Solid KYC Standards: Instead of outright outlawing cryptocurrency trading, the government should strictly enforce KYC standards, reporting obligations, and taxability.
Making Sure of Transparency Record keeping, inspections, independent audits, investor grievance redress, and dispute resolution may also be taken into consideration to solve issues with transparency, information accessibility, and consumer protection.
Blockchain engineers, designers, project managers, business analysts, promoters, and marketers could all find employment prospects thanks to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, which have the ability to revive India’s startup ecosystem’s entrepreneurial boom.
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The Hindu Editorial Analysis
India USA Space Cooperation:
The agreement between India and the United States to advance space cooperation in a number of areas, including human space exploration and commercial space partnership, comes at a crucial time for both countries. This follows the eighth gathering of the US-India Civil Space Joint Working Group (CSJWG), which was held on January 30 and 31, 2023.
In November 2022, the United States launched its Artemis mission by sending the Orion spacecraft towards the moon and safely bringing it back to Earth.
The launch of India’s first human spaceflight mission, Gaganyaan, is planned for 2024.
The two countries’ efforts have resulted in substantial advancements in the private space sector. These projects will shape and advance space policy and programmes in India and the United States during the next ten years. In this context, an alliance between the United States and India appears straightforward.
India may be able to obtain technologies and know-how by cooperating with a developed spacefaring country, while the United States may strengthen its relations with India on a subject that seems less divisive than others.
The level of collaboration between the US and India is limited in the short term by a number of structural factors, therefore it is not an easy task. Because of this, there is a chance that India-U.S. cooperation will advance at a controlled rate, enabling durable ties in both the civilian and military space sectors.
An incompatibility of skills and interests:
The main structural obstacle to long-term India-U.S. space cooperation is the misalignment of the two nations’ goals in space. The US has pledged to return to the moon and spend more time there permanently this time. While highlighting the importance of maintaining capabilities in low-Earth orbit, the United States and its partners have their sights set firmly on the moon.
The Artemis Program, the Artemis Accords, and the National Cislunar Science & Technology Strategy under the Biden administration form the basis for American goals beyond earth orbits.
The scientific community in India is focused on developing its capabilities in and below Earth orbits. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) now conducts less than 10 launches per year. The objective of the Gaganyaan human spaceflight programme is to sustain India’s human presence in space for the long term. Of course, India has ambitions to travel to Mars and beyond. India’s major priority is to considerably enhance its satellite and launch capabilities in earth orbit in order to catch up to other spacefaring nations like China.
The mismatch in competence is the second fundamental factor preventing India and the US from working together in space. The United States is the primary owner of registered spacecraft. It also offers a range of launchers that can be used for both industrial and national security purposes. For instance, the private corporation SpaceX successfully completed 61 launches in 2022, setting a record that was much exceeded by any other commercial organisation or country. The American commercial sector has also taken on the challenge of replacing the International Space Station (ISS) with a number of smaller stations by 2030.
The biggest issue India is currently facing is capacity. The country is unable to execute double-digit launches every year because there are only little more than 60 satellites in orbit. The Indian government didn’t open up the space industry to the private sector until 2020. Given its extensive network of space cooperation friends, the United States has few technological incentives to work with India.
These problems are made worse by disagreements over the best techniques to control space activity on the moon and other celestial worlds. Despite the fact that countries have a mindset towards cooperation, structural issues exceed diplomatic incentives to foster long-term partnership.
Moving forward, here are a few inventive answers:
The typical strategy to developing long-term collaboration is to maintain interaction between academics, business, and state-led organisations in the two countries. Collaboration on highly specialised initiatives such as the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) programme may reflect a continuous commitment.
However, these methods are onerous and insufficient in the modern space age, as diplomacy struggles to keep up with the rate of scientific innovation. In order to have a successful partnership in the new space age, India and the U.S. must therefore come up with novel ways to work together.
Two instances of cooperation are a public-private partnership and, as decided at the most recent conference, a gathering of American and Indian aerospace firms to develop collaboration under the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) programme.
Perhaps a more thorough organisation could be created. Indian astronauts might train at American private companies. India may be able to become less dependent on Russia if ISRO builds an astronaut training facility of its own.
Another novel arrangement might be a collaboration between American commercial companies and the state-owned NewSpace India Limited (NSIL). Thanks to this arrangement, the U.S. may be able to support Indian interests in earth orbits, which may help hasten India’s human spaceflight programme.
India and the USA can expand new horizons in space research and strategic cooperation as “natural allies.” However, the Indian space agency and the business sector (in space research) must improve their skills to catch up to the USA.
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The Indian Express Editorial Analysis
India’s Fiscal Dilemma:
The recently revealed budget offers a fantastic opportunity to assess the financial situation. Of course, as it is the last full budget before the 2024 elections.
More importantly, during the 2019 fiscal, India’s economy may really have a regular year for the first time in a long time.
Following the NBFC crisis in 2019–20, there was an epidemic in 2020–21, a recovery in 2021–22, and then, in 2022–2033, there was a global uprising due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Until the fiscal year after that, we won’t be able to compare “normal” budgets side by side, like with like.
The budget’s economic analysis has produced a mixed bag of conclusions, including some encouraging information and some cause for concern.
The good news about the budget is:
The good news is that the budgetary situation has proven to be durable in many ways despite the recurrent shocks.
Actually, the ratio of tax collections to GDP is a little bit greater than it was in 2018–19. As capital spending climbed from 1.5% of GDP to a budgeted 3.5% of GDP, the spending side’s composition has improved.
Additionally, two years ago, a major off-budget item was placed back to the budget, which was a significant and excellent attempt to boost transparency.
The budget deficit is presently on the decline after reaching a Covid peak of more than 9%, and it is anticipated to reach about 6% of GDP next year.
The following list summarises the budget’s mixed-development economic sectors:
Contradictory developments have also occurred, particularly in the field of revenue.
Personal income taxes have experienced a hopeful increase even as prosperity and the middle class expand; however, this development has been accompanied by increases in exemption limits, showing that revenue now comes from a smaller base of taxpayers.
Given that the GST’s collection ratio has essentially remained steady from five years ago, its promise has not yet been realised. This is partially due to the fact that repeated rate decreases have partially countered efficiency advances.
Furthermore, tax rate cuts have significantly reduced corporate tax receipts, which have once again more than offset the advantages of major companies’ increasing profitability and market share gains (at the expense of the informal sector).
The following financial concerns were brought up:
First, throughout the preceding five years, spending has grown considerably. One needs to be careful with the numbers in this case because the spending for 2018-19 was overstated due to multiple transactions being shifted off-budget.
The “real” increase in spending is still substantial and exceeds 1.5 percentage points of GDP even with this correction. The upshot will be an uncomfortably high structural fiscal deficit for the upcoming fiscal year of 6% of GDP.
Since a lot of borrowing was needed to cover the succession of sizable deficits from 2018 to 2019, interest liabilities have grown to the point that they now make up roughly half of the center’s tax revenue. In a piece we co-wrote with Olivier Blanchard, we showed how this exceptionally high ratio both increases the vulnerability of India’s finances and decreases funding for vital social programmes.
The states will only receive 31% of gross tax collections in the forthcoming fiscal year, down from 37% in 2018–19 in terms of revenue.
This is due to the center’s increased use of cesses, which are taxes that are not shared with the states, as well as the fact that a sizeable portion of tax revenues (from the GST compensation cess) are used to reimburse the GST Council for loans it extended to the states during the pandemic.
The process of centralization is more subtle on the expenditure side. A significant 1 percentage point of GDP will be cut from current expenditure that is neither subsidised nor subject to interest in 2022–2023, and an additional 0.5 percent of GDP will be reduced in 2019.
How does one do this?
There are several mechanisms at work, but one crucial one is that the federal government is reducing the payments it makes to the states for various programmes that are funded at the federal level.
Some of the reduction can be justified because the economy has recovered from the outbreak. A portion of it also tries to compel the states to manage their finances and expenditures more effectively.
This goal is admirable, particularly if the states are persuaded to reduce their horrendously wasteful power subsidies. The outcome, though, significantly pressures state government spending.
What does this mean for the overall effectiveness of the country’s budget?
We are currently unable to answer to this inquiry since there is a lack of recent data for the states.
However, we do have some information. For instance, we are aware that even while capital spending at the centre has increased significantly compared to 2018–19, overall public sector investment has dropped as a result of spending reductions by the states and specifically public sector undertakings.
In conclusion, despite the center’s wise choice to forgo implementing a major fiscal stimulus during the epidemic, the financial position has significantly gotten worse during the past five years.
The structural deficit at the centre is larger, the total debt has increased to an uncomfortably high 85 percent of GDP, and interest liabilities have reached exceptionally high levels.
The centre needs to undertake a consolidation strategy, but the fundamental element of this strategy is centralization, which has pros and cons.
The boundaries are clear. Even in the most optimistic scenario in which centralization results in the long-needed boost in state government efficiency, there is a limit to how much consolidation can be accomplished in this fashion. After that, the government will have to come up with alternative plans to reduce the deficit to its desired level of 4.5% of GDP.
Regarding the constraints, centralization would only result in a transfer of resources from the states to the federal government if it failed to boost productivity.
Therefore, states would either have to reduce the services they provide to their residents. They could also have to take out extra loans, in which case their financial status as a whole might worsen.
And all of this is assuming that as the 2024 elections approach, the budgeted financial condition would remain stable. On the other hand, if they were affected by the wider, intensely competitive national populism trend, the overall budgetary position would get worse.
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