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Daily Current Affairs 22.08.2022(Facing govt. action, Huawei to dial down R&D operations,Look-out notice against 8 in Delhi excise policy case, Welfare schemes have not made T.N. poor, says DMK, Bihar and the evolution of Mandal politics, What next on data protection?,A row over gender-neutral uniforms,‘Forcible’ Aadhaar-voter ID linking, ‘India-China ties can’t be a one-way street’, Freebies come at a price: economist)

Daily Current Affairs 22.08.2022(Facing govt. action, Huawei to dial down R&D operations,Look-out notice against 8 in Delhi excise policy case, Welfare schemes have not made T.N. poor, says DMK, Bihar and the evolution of Mandal politics, What next on data protection?,A row over gender-neutral uniforms,‘Forcible’ Aadhaar-voter ID linking, ‘India-China ties can’t be a one-way street’, Freebies come at a price: economist)

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1. Facing govt. action, Huawei to dial down R&D operations

Decision comes after I-T searches and probes into ‘national security’ aspects

Suhasini Haidar Mini Tejaswi NEW DELHI/ BENGALURU

Faced with income tax searches, exclusion from 5G telecom trials and increasing restrictions on research collaborations, Chinese telecom major Huawei is planning to downsize operations at its research and development (R&D) facilities in India, sources told The Hindu on Sunday. The move can affect many of the 3,500 jobs that the company has created in India over two decades.

The decision to consider downsizing and even shutting down some of the operations on its R&D campus just outside Bengaluru comes more than a year after Huawei had asserted it would continue its work in India “no matter what happens”.

The sources said the rethink came after a series of government actions, including income tax searches and audits of 20 years of company records, investigations into “national security” aspects of Huawei’s operations, and a look-out circular against Li Xiongwei, chief executive officer of Huawei Telecommunication India’s marketing operations. On August 12, Mr. Li appealed in court against the circular that prevented him from travelling abroad. A statement read out by his lawyer said, “I am a Chinese [national] and I am not a terrorist.”

Income Tax authorities asked the court, which is expected to give its verdict this week, not to allow him to leave, as he may not return to face charges of tax fraud and non-compliance.

The Hindu contacted Huawei for a response on Sunday, but did not receive it.

Informal restrictions

According to multiple sources, Huawei managers are finding it difficult to continue R&D activities, as the government, including the Home and Education Ministries and others, have placed informal restrictions on any collaborations by “critical ecosystem players” such as universities, start-ups and analytics firms. Since the pandemic, the sources said, Huawei’s experts from China are not able to get visas to visit India, ostensibly due to reciprocal restrictions by the Chinese government.

As a result, Huawei has already moved some of its critical projects back to China and redeployed Indian teams to existing projects. “It is almost like the end game for Huawei in India,” said a telecom analyst based in Gurgaon. “Without 5G [exclusion from Indian 5G trials], the company is out of the telecom market to service 2G, 3G and 4G networks as it isn’t on the Indian government’s list of trusted partners.”

In addition, while existing projects are being completed, no new projects are being contracted at present.

The case against Huawei is part of a series of government measures aimed at checking Chinese corporate influence in the country.

This comes especially after tensions between New Delhi and Beijing over transgressions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh in April 2020.

2. Look-out notice against 8 in Delhi excise policy case

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Sunday issued look-out circulars (LoCs) against eight private persons who have been arraigned in the case pertaining to irregularities allegedly committed by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and others in the now-withdrawn excise policy of the Delhi government.

The CBI clarified that no circular has been issued so far against any public servants named in the case.

An agency official has identified those facing the look-out circular as Vijay Nair, former chief executive officer of the Mumbai-based Only Much Louder, an entertainment and event management company; Amandeep Dhal, a director of Brindco Sales, Delhi; Sameer Mahendru, managing director of Indospirit Group, Delhi; Amit Arora, director, Buddy Retail Private Ltd., Delhi; Sunny Marwah, authorised signatory of Mahadev Liquors; Dinesh Arora; Arun Ramchandra Pillai; and Arjun Pandey.

In the first information report, the CBI has named 15 persons as accused.

3. Welfare schemes have not made T.N. poor, says DMK

They have reduced income gaps, contributed to development, party tells SC

Welfare measures, “uncharitably termed” “freebies” in the Supreme Court, have not made Tamil Nadu poor, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which is in power in the State, said in the SC.

In detailed written submissions, the DMK, through senior advocate P. Wilson, said it is these schemes which have reduced income gaps and contributed to development in the State.

Unparalleled, says DMK

“They have been instrumental in propelling Tamil Nadu to be among the top three States in terms of GDP and industrialisation, and 18 of the top 100 education institutions are located in Tamil Nadu. Due to such prosperity, inward migration from other States has increased to 8.3%… The free healthcare facilities are unparalleled,” Mr. Wilson argued.

The DMK even advised petitioner-advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay “to live in Tamil Nadu for a few years to understand how social welfare schemes can uplift a society as a whole and contribute to the happiness of the people”.

A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, is hearing a petition filed by Mr. Upadhyay to rein in “irrational freebies”, saying they are sucking the States into a debt trap.

Mr. Wilson said ‘freebies’ is a harsh moniker with a negative connotation. These are welfare schemes to uplift socially and economically the weaker sections who remain deprived because of centuries of social and economic oppression by upper castes.

“Today, the affluent sections, who come from generations of wealth, are asking why a child or groups of people from the downtrodden and oppressed sections should have free education, free books, free travel, free medicine, free food? The answer is because for hundreds of years, their families were not given the same opportunity as the upper echelons of society. It is not a freebie but a tool to bring about social and economic equality… The State of Tamil Nadu has been at the forefront of social justice and social welfare measures,” the written submission said.

For example, the submissions pointed out how the government under Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has made travel in State Transport Corporation-owned buses free for women.

“Data have shown that up to 12% of the household income is saved by this measure in the homes of the lowest economic strata. This makes a huge difference to their quality of living as they are able to spend that money elsewhere,” Mr. Wilson argued.

Money cannot be spent with a mathematical precision towards the welfare of people. India is a country with unity in diversity. What is good for people and how money has to be spent is certainly within the domain of State and State legislature, Mr. Wilson contended.

4. Bihar and the evolution of Mandal politics

The next few years will show whether the Mandal platform still has the potential to take on the Hindutva juggernaut

Politics in Bihar is set to revolve around the Mandal-Hindutva axis once more with the Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) joining hands again to form an alliance. In neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), after 2014, has trounced the main Mandal party, the Samajwadi Party (SP), in every single election. However, the BJP now faces a more difficult task in Bihar as Mandal politics in the State has evolved in a manner that makes it more resistant to the BJP’s advances.

A rewind to the past. By the mid-1990s, Mandal politics in Bihar had fractured and become two competing political formations — Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Janata Dal (later the RJD) and Nitish Kumar’s (and George Fernandes’) Samata party (later the JD(U)). The roots of both parties were each in a dominant backward caste: the Yadavs and the Kurmis, respectively. The political competition between both parties forced each one to evolve differing strategies of mobilisation, preventing the kind of political stagnation that beset Mandal politics in Uttar Pradesh. A JD(U)-RJD combine, therefore, would not have the same glaring weaknesses to the BJP’s backward caste strategy that proved decisive in Uttar Pradesh.

Challenges in Bihar

Let us start with a brief sketch of the political battleground. The core vote base of the JD(U)-RJD combine (15% Yadavs, 11% Kurmis-Koeris and 17% Muslims) is much greater than that of the BJP’s (15% upper castes). Thus, the BJP can only win the State if there is a major consolidation of the floating voters (26% Extremely Backward Castes, or EBCs, 16% Dalits). The BJP has effected a successful ‘coalition of extremes’ strategy in Uttar Pradesh to mop up these very segments, but such a consolidation in Bihar faces two challenges.

First, the EBCs are better integrated in the broader Mandal framework than in Uttar Pradesh. In fact, the politicisation of non-dominant backwards in Bihar started in the pre-Mandal, socialist phase under the leadership of former Bihar Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur. The sub-quota for EBCs was built into the scheme of reservation that Thakur (who himself was from the EBC nai caste) introduced in 1977. The existence of a separate reservation pie had ensured that the tussle between dominant and non-dominant backwards was often not as sharp as in Uttar Pradesh, which still has not seen the implementation of sub-quotas. Lalu Prasad carried the EBCs on the backward caste platform throughout the 1990s. When the EBCs were eventually repelled by the Yadav domination under the RJD, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) picked up the mantle.

Even though Nitish Kumar’s base lies among the Kurmi-Koeri castes, he has followed his mentor Karpoori Thakur in positioning himself as the leader of the EBCs, a heterogeneous grouping of smaller castes. One of the first major decisions he took as Chief Minister after first coming to power in 2005 was to implement a 20% quota for EBCs in panchayat elections. This quota gambit allowed the JD(U) to begin the process of building a base among the EBCs, who had till then only flocked to the NDA as an alternative to RJD rule. Therefore, it would not be easy for the BJP to mobilise the EBCs against the dominant backwards. Even in 2015, when the BJP was expecting to sweep the EBC vote, they split almost evenly between the Mahagathbandhan (MGB) or the RJD-JD(U) Mahagatbandhan and the BJP.

Dalit factor

Second, Mandal parties in Bihar have a long-standing record of accommodating Dalits within their platforms. This is one reason why lower-caste politics in Bihar neither ruptured along the Mandal-Dalit axis nor birthed a pan-Dalit party such as the Bahujan Samaj Party. As the political scientist Amit Ahuja has said in his book, Mobilising the Marginalized, while Dalits in U.P. saw Mayawati as their leader, they saw Lalu Prasad, and later Nitish Kumar as their leader in Bihar. In a broad sense, the Dalit energy in Uttar Pradesh was cultivated by the BSP in the politics of Ambedkarism and the idiom of everyday assertion, whereas in Bihar, it grew under the politics of Marxism and the idiom of class conflict. As the commmunist parties were declining in influence, the RJD co-opted their leftist vocabulary of attacking feudal upper caste landlords and mobilised the Dalits along class lines. In a National Election Survey in 2004, over 50% of Dalits agreed with the statement that Lalu Prasad was a “messiah of the poor”. Later, the JD(U) waded into Dalit politics by nurturing the constituency of Mahadalits (strategically excluding the dominant Paswans).

In 2015, the BJP corralled smaller Dalit parties such as the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) (a Paswan party) and the Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM), a Musahar party, within the NDA coalition, and yet could not garner a clear majority of Dalit votes. This is because these parties do not fully command even their own caste base: the LJP has never managed to garner more than 50% of the Paswan vote. Indeed, its performance against the MGB in the 2015 elections was disastrous — it won only three out of the 63 seats they contested. Thus, Bihar does not have the kind of intense antagonism between Dalits and the backwards that the BJP has exploited to the hilt in Uttar Pradesh.

However, caste chemistry alone would not suffice to keep out the BJP, which is a rising force, and now the chief occupant of the anti-incumbency space in Bihar politics — a growing space after nearly two decades of Nitish Kumar-led rule. Thus, the coalition would also need to fine-tune its governance platform so that it does not lose out on the rubric of ‘vikas’ (development).

Grades of Mandal politics

The RJD and the JD(U) have historically practised different brands of Mandal politics, which can be crudely categorised as hard Mandal and soft Mandal, respectively. The RJD under Lalu Prasad framed its politics in a pronounced ideological mould as a battle for izzat (dignity). Politics was framed as a zero-sum game between upper castes and backward castes. In his book, Democracy against Development, Jeffrey Witsoe characterised Lalu Prasad’s regime as marked not just by intense politicisation of the state machinery, but even a deliberate weakening of the bureaucracy as it was seen to be controlled by upper castes. If this led to poorer state capacity, and hence worse developmental outcomes, it was a reasonable price to pay for a thorough reconfiguration of social power. A popular RJD slogan was ‘vikas nahi samman chahiye (we need dignity, not development)’.

On the other hand, the JD(U) practised soft Mandal, where upper castes were never cast as the ‘Other’ to be mobilised against. Of course, this was necessitated by the alliance with the BJP, which brought upper caste voters into the JD(U) fold. But it also allowed Nitish Kumar to centre his party more around the pre-Mandal Janata model of social betterment rather than the post Mandal ideological politics of ‘forwards versus backwards’. Nitish Kumar expounded an inclusive, subnational Bihari identity and exhorted voters to rise above caste and vote for development. Thus, development was portrayed as the ultimate objective of politics, whereas social justice policies were merely the necessary complement to ensure an equitable distribution of its fruits.

The JD(U)-RJD tie up is therefore a marriage between hard and soft Mandal. The success of the marriage depends upon whether the respective strengths of the partners rub off on each other or do the weaknesses.

Squaring up

In the best-case scenario, the RJD could use the clean and development-oriented image of Nitish Kumar to dilute the ‘jungle raj’ perception that still afflicts the party and limits its support base to Yadav and Muslims. Meanwhile, the JD(U) could benefit from the dose of ideological replenishment provided by the grand Mandal alliance. Competing against the BJP means it can write off most of its upper caste vote, which had already slipped in the last election. Further, the BJP has largely co-opted the soft Mandal platform (both of its deputy Chief Ministers belonged to backward castes), in addition to its core Hindutva appeal. Thus, in order to fend off the BJP’s forays into its backward caste base, the party might require the ideological reinforcement of hard Mandal. In 2015, it was Lalu Prasad who had managed to transform the election into an ideological ‘forwards versus backwards’ contest.

Of course, there is an equally plausible worst-case scenario where the coalition gets defined by the governance deficits of the RJD and the ideological rootlessness of the JD(U). Moreover, it is unclear if the coalition’s strengths can coalesce in the same way they did seven years ago: Nitish Kumar’s approval ratings have registered a sharp decline, and Lalu Prasad’s campaigning ability stands severely restricted.

The next few years of Bihar politics would make it clear whether the Mandal platform still has the potential to compete against the Hindutva juggernaut. Or is the new alliance the last, futile stand of a receding past against the inevitable future?

Asim Ali is a political researcher and columnist based in Delhi

5. What next on data protection?

There are two issues – the form that a new law will take, and the nature of protections it will offer

The withdrawal of the Personal Data Protection Bill from Parliament came as a surprise, particularly after so much effort was put into it over the last five years. Between August 2017 and July 2018, a 10-member committee chaired by a former Supreme Court judge drafted the Bill. The committee included four senior government officials. The Bill was then revised by the government, approved by the Cabinet, and tabled in Parliament in December 2019. Subsequently, a joint parliamentary committee, or JPC, comprising a majority of BJP members, reviewed the bill and submitted its report in December 2021. The withdrawal does not reflect well on the government, the entire process having been played out under its regime. This also increases uncertainty about the future of privacy regulation in India.

One way to understand this decision is to go back to the genesis of this law, which arose out of the Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India case where the court held that the right to privacy had both a positive and negative aspect. The former implies the need for the state to actively take measures to protect an individual’s privacy. Thus, the government was more or less forced to initiate the drafting of a data protection law. This experience also tells us something about the limits of judicial inducement for regulation, for which active effort of the other two branches of the state is needed. The options of delay and dilution are always available.

The scope of the law

The growing importance of the digital economy and the broad scope of the proposed law also contributed to contestations between stakeholders as the law was being deliberated. Shaped by different interests and incentives, the state, industry, and advocacy groups all have very different expectations of what a data protection law should look like. For instance, for domestic industry such a law represents a compliance hurdle which could put it at a disadvantage. However, a law can also promote regulatory certainty, thereby opening up the possibility of increased data flows and the growth of data processing business. For the state, a law could limit intrusive data processing by state agencies, but it could also promote geopolitical, strategic or regulatory interests. Similarly, individuals could benefit by the restrictions on harmful data processing, but on the other hand, a poorly drafted law could legitimise certain intrusive practices.

Each version of the law — the 2018 Bill of the Srikrishna Committee, the 2019 Bill introduced in Parliament, and the version of the JPC in 2021 — faced different types of critique from different stakeholders. For instance, law enforcement interests were seen as being obstructed by the 2018 draft, leading to broad exemptions being provided in the 2019 Bill.

However, what appears striking is the consistent dilution of the focus on data privacy from the 2018 version onwards. From being the centerpiece of the legislation, privacy protection was increasingly being seen as one of several objectives being pursued. This was seen most clearly in the JPC’s recommendations, which sought to significantly revise the scope of the law. The JPC recommended moving away from a personal data protection law towards a law to govern the entire data ecosystem. It further suggested putting in place a number of broader restrictions on social media and other entities. This attempt to solve multiple problems in the digital ecosystem saw an already broad law being turned into an omnibus Bill. This made one question the ability to properly implement it. In addition, the provisions relating to many issues were lacking in detail. For example, the provisions related to processing of data by the state, governance of non-personal data and the regulation of social media could all have been fleshed out with greater substantive and procedural detail, which is required to balance the complex competing interests at hand.

The way forward

Looking forward, there are two critical issues – the form that a new law will take, and the nature of protections it will offer.

On the first issue, the government has suggested that it will introduce multiple legislation comprising a new comprehensive legal framework. This is the right approach, as trying to fit all objectives related to the digital ecosystem or even data governance into one Bill would be a mistake. It is healthy to maintain some polycentricity in the governance of a complex digital economy, and different laws and agencies should co-exist. It would be ideal if each bill addressed a single coherent set of objectives: For instance, one personal data protection bill should not be burdened with other objectives. Similarly, separate laws could deal with issues concerning state surveillance, or issues in the data economy such as dealing with competition-related concerns arising out of the monopolisation of data by certain entities. Over time, such a system may lead to more balanced and beneficial results. In the short term, however, the government would do well to put in place a specific personal data protection law – given the effort already dedicated to this (and the significant areas of agreement amongst stakeholders).

The second issue is the nature of privacy protection any new law will provide to individuals. The 2018 law, on which future drafts were based, borrowed heavily from the rights-based European General Data Protection Regulation. This framework was however criticised by some due to its perceived unviability in the Indian context. For instance, creating a cross-sectoral data protection entity with the power to take significant coercive action is seen as problematic given the rule of law, capacity and regulatory constraints in India. Some of these issues could be addressed in creating a new data privacy law.

First, it should build in a risk-based approach to data protection, so that the regulatory focus is directed towards addressing sources of potential harm. Second, based on risk assessments, the law could enable co-regulation and self-regulation (with the regulator acting as a backstop). These could reduce compliance burdens on entities without significantly affecting rights protection. Third, the current version of the law was weak on accountability measures for the data protection regulator. The new Bill should include more provisions to ensure that the regulator uses its powers well. These include provisions relating to appointments, consultations, reporting, and so on. Fourth, even while the law is being drafted, the government should invest in building some administrative capacity to implement it, so that when the law is eventually passed, implementation can begin soon after. This has been previously done with SEBI and PFRDA. Finally, it is vital that any new law is framed based on transparent and meaningful consultations with all stakeholders.

Rishab Bailey is an advocate and technology policy researcher, associated with the xKDR Forum, Mumbai; and Suyash Rai is a Deputy Director and Fellow at Carnegie India

6. A row over gender-neutral uniforms

The LDF’s challenge is to prevent religious groups from gaining political mileage from the issue

The stage seems set for a face-off between the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) and Muslim outfits over the draft proposals in the school curriculum framework being prepared by the State Council for Educational, Research and Training (SCERT). Recently, a meeting of various Muslim organisations under the aegis of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in Kozhikode decided to up the ante against the CPI(M)-led LDF government on the subject, especially the gender liberal ideology to be introduced in schools.

Incidentally two powerful rival Sunni organisations — the IUML- backed Samastha Kerala Jem-iyyathul Ulama and the All India Sunni Jamiyyathul Ulama led by Kanthapuram A. P. Aboobacker Musliyar — have sunk their differences over this issue. Even the Indian National League, a constituent of the LDF government, is fiercely opposing the proposals. Besides, representatives of the Kerala Nadvathul Mujhideen (Markazudawa), Wisdom Islamic Organisation, Jamaat-e-Islami, Muslim Educational Society, and the Muslim Service Society have come out against the revised curriculum. Simultaneously, major Muslim outfits are organising campaigns through mosques against gender-neutral uniforms and LGBTQ+. Also, the Samastha has planned to conduct a class for khatibs, who deliver the sermon during the Friday prayers, to discuss gender politics and homosexuality.

The remarks of the IUML leader M.K. Muneer that a unisex uniform was a LDF government ploy to promote denial of religion in schools has sparked a controversy. Often regarded as a progressive face among Muslim politicians, Dr. Muneer even asked why Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was not wearing a sari and blouse to ensure gender neutrality.

Politically, the IUML leadership feels that it can seize the moment through the gender issue to revive its lost electoral ground in Malabar. Already the LDF government had repeatedly bowed before the organised pressure of Muslim groups — once to withdraw its decision to hand over Waqf Board appointments to the Public Service Commission, and then to remove IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman as Alappuzha district Collector a week after his appointment.

The draft proposals initiated as part of the implementation of the National Education Policy of the Centre and the revision of syllabus by the State government are still not in the public domain. But portions of the framework, including suggestions that girls and boys share a bench in class, have been discussed in a section of the media.

The issue has to be read with a recent order of the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights that had asked the General Education Department to convert schools exclusively for boys and girls into mixed institutions.

However, Minister for General Education V. Sivankutty has stated that the government will not impose any decision on gender neutrality in schools and it was up to the school authorities and parent-teacher associations to decide on gender-neutral uniforms, which already exist in many schools. Last December, the Muslim Students Federation, the student wing of the IUML, launched a protest when the Balussery Higher Secondary School in Kozhikode pioneered the concept of unisex uniforms for students in Class 11.

The progressive ideal of gender neutrality had been inconspicuously seeping into Kerala’s consciousness. But when the ideal was projected as a policy formulation, all hell broke loose. The LDF government’s challenge would be to move cautiously without giving leeway to religious and pressure groups to derive political mileage out of this.

7. ‘Forcible’ Aadhaar-voter ID linking

While the govt. says the process is voluntary, reports of coercion emerge

Despite clarifications from various government authorities that the linking of Aadhaar with the voter identity card is “voluntary”, there have been instances of people being warned by booth-level officers that their voter ID would be cancelled if the linking is not done.

In a tweet about one such case, the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), which advocates digital rights and privacy, alleged that a booth-level officer called one of its staff members seeking the Aadhaar number, threatening that “or else they’ll be deleted from the electoral roll”.

The contentious Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which allows for the linking of electoral data with the Aadhaar number, was passed by Parliament in December 2021, amid strong protests by the Opposition.

At the time, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju informed Parliament that linking would be voluntary.

Responding to the tweet thread by the IFF, the Chief Electoral Officer of Haryana reiterated the same.

“Submission of Aadhaar number in Form 6B is voluntary. No entry in electoral roll shall be deleted on the ground of non-submission of Aadhaar number. Purpose of obtaining Aadhaar number is for authentication of electors’ entries in electoral roll & extending better electoral services,” the CEO said in a tweet.

Replying to a similar tweet on the issue by a different account, the Chief Electoral Officer of Delhi said that the matter had been “noted to seek more details”.

“Linking of Voter id with AADHAAR is voluntary…” the tweet added.

New form

However, the IFF pointed out that the Union Law and Justice Ministry recently amended Form 6, and introduced Form 6B to the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960. “These forms make it compulsory for those who have Aadhaar to provide their Aadhaar numbers in order to vote,” it noted.

The Election Commission of India started a campaign on August 1 for the “voluntary” linking of Aadhaar details with the voter ID. As part of the campaign, the commission has set up camps and begun door-to-door collection of data. It has collected over 2.5 crore Aadhaar details till August 11.

Mr Rijiju told Parliament in August that the reasons for linking voter IDs with Aadhaar numbers were to streamline electoral rolls and the process of registration of migrated voters without duplication in the rolls and to curb the menace of multiple enrolment of the same person in different places.

The move, however, has drawn flak from sections of society citing violations to an individual’s right to privacy. Many have also flagged concerns that the linkage would help in creating voter profiles which may be used to influence the voting process.

8. ‘India-China ties can’t be a one-way street’

Minister talks of disregarded pacts and need for respect

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has said that China has disregarded the border pacts with India, casting a shadow on the bilateral ties.

Mr. Jaishankar, who arrived here on the first leg of his six-day visit to South America aimed at boosting overall bilateral ties with the region, made the remarks during his interaction with the Indian community here on Saturday. He asserted that a lasting relationship cannot be a one-way street and there has to be mutual respect.

While responding to a question on India-China ties, Mr. Jaishankar said India and China have agreements going back to the 1990s, which prohibit bringing troops to the border area.

“They (Chinese) have disregarded that. You know what happened in the Galwan Valley a few years ago. That problem has not been resolved and that is clearly casting a shadow,” he said.

Chinese and Indian troops are engaged in a prolonged stand-off in eastern Ladakh.

The two sides have so far held 16 rounds of Corps Commander-level talks to resolve the stand-off, which erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas.

Mr. Jaishankar, who was the Indian Ambassador to China from 2009 to 2013, said that a relationship cannot be a one-way street and mutual respect has to be there in order to sustain it.

“They are our neighbour and everybody wants to get along with their neighbour… But everybody wants to get along with their neighbour on reasonable terms. I must respect you and you must respect me,” Mr. Jaishankar said.

“From our point of view, we’ve been very clear that if you have to build a relationship, then there has to be mutual respect. Each one will have their interests and we need to be sensitive to what the concerns are of the other party,” he added.

“Relationships are a two-way street. A lasting relationship cannot be a one-way street. We need that mutual respect and mutual sensitivity,” the Union Minister said, adding that it is no secret “we are going through a very difficult phase”.

Extremely difficult phase

Last week in Bangkok, Mr. Jaishankar had said that the relationship between India and China is going through an “extremely difficult phase” after what Beijing has done at the border and emphasised that the Asian Century will not happen if the two neighbours could not join hands.

“We very much hope that wisdom dawns on the Chinese side,” the Minister had said while replying to a question from the audience in Bangkok.

Besides Brazil, Mr. Jaishankar will visit Paraguay and Argentina, and it is his first trip to the South American region as the External Affairs Minister.

The visit is aimed at exploring new areas of cooperation in the post-pandemic era, the Ministry of External Affairs said.

9. Freebies come at a price: economist

Ashima Goyal says voters should be told about financing and trade-offs involved.

Freebies are never “free” and when political parties offer such schemes, they must be required to make the financing and trade-offs clear to voters, Ashima Goyal, Member of the RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), said on Sunday, adding this would reduce the temptation towards “competitive populism”.

Ms. Goyal further said a cost was imposed somewhere when governments provided freebies, but this was worth incurring for public goods and services that build capacity.

“Freebies are never free… especially harmful are subsidies that distort prices,” she said in an interview.

Noting that this hurts production and resource allocation and imposes large indirect costs, such as the water table falling in Punjab due to free electricity, Ms. Goyal said such freebies come at the cost of low-quality health, education, air and water that hurt the poor the most.

“When parties offer schemes, they must be required to make the financing and such trade-offs clear to voters. This would reduce the temptation towards competitive populism,” the economist argued.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has in recent days hit out at the competitive populism of extending revaris (freebies).

His comments were seen directed at parties such as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which have, in the run-up to the Assembly elections in States such as Punjab and more recently Gujarat, promised free electricity, water and others.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had suggested setting up a specialised body to examine “irrational freebies” offered to voters during elections.

Exceeded expectations

On India’s macroeconomic situation, Ms. Goyal, currently emeritus professor at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, said, “Indian growth is sustaining despite continuing global shocks and rate rises.”

While observing that India has done better than most expectations and in comparison to many countries under challenging conditions, she said among the reasons for this was the growing economic diversity that helped to absorb shocks.

“Large domestic demand can moderate a global slowdown; if industry suffers from lockdown, agriculture does well,” she said, adding that services compensate for less contact-based delivery with digitisation, distance work and exports.

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