Daily Current Affairs 24.05.2023 ( The paradox of BRICS, its new pathway , Disregarding Constitution, court, citizens , The Telangana- A.P. water dispute , What counts is seldom counted: how the Census data remains under-utilised , Draft of Digital India Bill to be released in June: Minister )

Daily Current Affairs 24.05.2023 ( The paradox of BRICS, its new pathway , Disregarding Constitution, court, citizens , The Telangana- A.P. water dispute , What counts is seldom counted: how the Census data remains under-utilised , Draft of Digital India Bill to be released in June: Minister )


1.  The paradox of BRICS, its new pathway

Mysterious are the ways in which multilateral groupings prosper and wither away. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and G-77 had their heyday in the Cold War era. Later they lost their relevance, but they still exist. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summits ended in 2014, but the Secretariat somehow keeps itself busy. Despite serious policy divergences on China and Myanmar, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) continues to function, consuming reams of paper to issue long communiqués.

The case of BRICS is truly remarkable. Despite several achievements, it began to lose its sparkle. COVID-19, the Galwan clash, and the Ukraine conflict resulted in increased global economic stress, damaged India-China ties, and turned Russia into a diminishing power. The group may have lost its mojo, but numerous nations want to be admitted, thus showing the paradox of BRICS.

The balance sheet

Jim O’Neil’s conception of BRIC, a grouping of four emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), may not have gone far but it was a popular acronym over two decades ago. However, two of its components joined hands with South Africa to form IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) in 2003. China was keen to join it in the century’s first decade and managed to enlist South Africa’s support. But Brazil and India would not go along, maintaining that the forum was open to democracies only. Rebuffed, China played a trump card, and decided to bring South Africa into BRIC, thus turning it into BRICS. Soon, the new club overshadowed the old one. IBSA has been unable to hold its summit since 2011. But BRICS has held 14 summits in the past 13 years.

BRICS focused its attention on both geopolitical and economic dimensions. By articulating a common view on key global and regional issues, it projected a non-western view. This strengthened the world’s march towards multipolarity, thus helping to curb the dominating influence of the West. On the economic front, it launched new initiatives: the New Development Bank which has committed $32.8 billion in 96 projects; the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), a financial mechanism to protect against global liquidity pressures; and a comprehensive programme to expand trade and investment cooperation among the five-member countries. However, negative tendencies soon asserted themselves. If the IBSA trio within the BRICS expected that China and Russia would fully back their bid to secure membership of the UN Security Council, they were disappointed. A formulation, frozen in time, patronisingly supporting ‘the aspiration’ of Brazil, India and South Africa to play a greater role in the UN, figures in every BRICS communiqué, showing the grouping’s utter diplomatic bankruptcy.

The century’s second decade was also the era of China’s dramatic economic rise and, more importantly, military assertiveness. This disturbed the group’s inner balance. The post-Ukraine consolidation of Russia-China cooperation, economic malaise in South Africa that accelerates dependence on China, and Brazil’s long fling with rightist policies followed by the return of a tired Lula da Silva as the President, have generated new tensions. Beijing’s push for a common currency for intra-BRICS trade is also symptomatic of the group’s inner troubles.

An admission rush

Yet, 19 countries now stand in line, eager to join BRICS. The regional breakup is as follows: Latin America (four) – Argentina, Nicaragua, Mexico and Uruguay; Africa (five) – Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Senegal and Morocco; and Asia (10) – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Türkiye, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Bangladesh.

Several explanations may be offered. First, China is pushing the expansion as a strategic device to extend its global influence. Second, the demand to join BRICS stems from FOMO or ‘fear of missing out’ on the membership of a club that has some visibility. Third, many realize that the doors of other groupings are closed to them. Finally, the clamour reflects prevailing anti-western sentiments and a pervasive desire to create a sizeable forum of the Global South.

The next BRICS summit will be hosted by South Africa on August 23-24. It could take decisions on expansion and its criteria. Preparatory meetings of the Foreign Ministers and the National Security Advisers are certain to deliberate on this subject. Three options are available: a mega expansion that raises the membership from five to 21, thus surpassing the G-20; limited admission of 10 new members, two each supported by an existing member; and admission of only five new members, one each supported by an existing member, with none of the other four using their veto. India favours expansion if it is based on agreed criteria and moves gradually. Should the third option win consensus, Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, UAE and Bangladesh are the most likely states to make the cut.

Will the BRICS leaders meet physically? Fairly unlikely. Because of its legal obligations relating to the ICC, South Africa as the host may be compelled to arrest an honoured guest — the President of Russia. Therefore, chances are that a digital summit will take place. When the leaders talk, they should reflect on strengthening BRICS and redressing the internal imbalance. They should also know that once new members are admitted, they will certainly seek to change the group’s name. Perhaps then the grouping’s future will be better than its past.

The group may have lost much of its sparkle, but a long queue of nations awaits membership

2. Disregarding Constitution, court, citizens

Kailash Gahlot is Law Minister of Delhi

In the last 10 days, we have witnessed both the emancipation and subversion of the people’s will. The emancipation was at the hands of the Supreme Court, where a five-judge Bench unanimously recognised the control of the Delhi government over administrative services. The subversion was at the hands of the Central government, which, by promulgating an ordinance to nullify the effect of the Supreme Court judgment, snatched away the Delhi government’s power to control services and handed it to Central government appointees.

Government in the dark

The story began in 2015, when the Union Ministry of Home Affairs took away the elected Delhi government’s control over services and gave it to the Lieutenant Governor (LG), a Union government appointee. This severely impeded the Delhi government’s work. There were day-to-day problems in the functioning of important departments as secretaries were changed every now and then. Frequent transfers of officials, before they could even familiarise themselves with the departments they were working in, minimised any potential for vision, consistency and efficiency in governance. Over two years of the pandemic, the Centre changed Delhi’s Health Secretary eight times and derailed the Delhi government’s relief efforts.

Over the past one and a half years, decisions for appointments and transfers were made by the Services Secretary, the Chief Secretary, and the LG, while the elected government was kept in the dark. As the government had no functional control, it could not punish errant officers. Delhi witnessed the highest number of vacancies of teachers, doctors, engineers, clerks and other staff as a result of perennial mismanagement of the Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board, managed by the LG.

Most disappointingly, several honest and efficient officials were often penalised for their merits and subjected to punishment postings. They had no clarity on whose directions they were to follow. On the one hand, they felt duty-bound to honour the will of the people expressed through the elected government, and on the other hand, they had to stay under the functional control of the LG.

On the strength of the Home Ministry notification, the Services Department even refused to answer questions raised by MLAs in the Vidhan Sabha, which dealt with crucial issues such as vacancies, vigilance enquiries and corruption cases. Some senior officials even started skipping meetings called by Ministers. They avoided telephone calls and evaded answerability for delayed, inefficient and inadequate action. Thus, important issues such as procurement of anti-smog guns, prevention of dumpsite fires, infrastructure maintenance framework, upgradation of sewage treatment plans, supply of medicines in Mohalla Clinics and hospitals, and redevelopment of Inter-State Bus Terminals were left unattended.

By holding that services in Delhi are to be controlled by the elected Delhi government, the Supreme Court paved the way for an efficient, honest, responsive, accountable and compassionate bureaucracy. It ensured that the chain of accountability involving the people, the legislature, the government and bureaucracy was restored. Empowered by the Court’s decision, the elected Delhi government sought to make transfers and postings of officers based on their performance. It could have taken action against errant officials. With the clarity provided by the Court, the officials who felt suffocated in the previous system were eager to work towards the development of Delhi and the welfare of its people. The Delhi government planned to overhaul the bureaucracy, and after the success of its health and education models, sought to set up a skilled administration model.

What the ordinance does

The Services ordinance again hands over the control on services to the unelected LG, who will use his sole discretion in these matters. The National Capital Civil Service Authority will see two bureaucrats appointed by the Centre vetoing the views of Delhi’s Chief Minister. It will enable the appointment of officers who do not execute the government’s policies or attend meetings with Ministers, and have no responsibility to answer for bureaucratic delays. Those who cooperate with the elected government will be shunted out, and even subjected to disciplinary proceedings.

The Supreme Court decision was a scathing indictment against the Union government and its tendency to usurp powers of States and the National Capital Territory (NCT). But the ordinance, by disregarding the elected government in the matter of services, reduces the value of the citizen’s vote and of cooperative federalism. It is an institutionalisation of the Centre’s tendency to use the apparatus of Governor/LG to undermine democratically elected governments in non-BJP ruled States/NCT. The Supreme Court judgment will be noted for decades. So will the Services ordinance. While the judgment will be remembered as a vindication for the elected Delhi government and its people, the Ordinance will be remembered as a bleak attempt to disempower opposition-run governments and disenfranchise the people.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led government has a track record in delivering its promises even in a hostile environment created by the Centre. While we pin our hopes on the Supreme Court to again do justice to the people of Delhi, the Delhi government will continue to deliver even in the face of adversity.

By disregarding the elected government in the matter of services, the Centre’s Services Ordinance reduces the value of the citizen’s vote and of cooperative federalism

3. The Telangana- A.P. water dispute

No agreement: The surplus water being discharged from the Prakasam Barrage across river Krishna in Vijayawada. RAO G. N.

How did the Bachawat Tribunal allocate water resources to the three riparian States? What did the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, state about water shares? Has the Union government intervened in the issue? Why is Telangana asking for a larger share?

The story so far:

The nagging dispute over the water share of the Krishna river between Andhra Pradesh (A.P.) and Telangana remains unresolved, even nine years after the bifurcation of the combined State.

What is the origin of the Krishna water dispute?

The dispute dates back to the formation of Andhra Pradesh in November, 1956. Before the formation of Andhra Pradesh, four senior leaders each from different regions of Andhra, including the Rayalaseema Region and the Telangana region, signed a Gentlemen’s Agreement on February 20, 1956. Among others, one of the provisions of the agreement was the protection of Telangana’s interests and needs with respect to the utilisation of water resources with equitable distribution based on treaties followed globally. However, the focus of the combined dispensation with respect to irrigation facilities was on Andhra, which already had systems developed by the British at the cost of in-basin drought-prone areas in Telangana — a fact which was argued by the leaders of the latter region from the beginning.

Further on, in 1969, the Bachawat Tribunal (KWDT-I) was constituted to settle the dispute around water share among the riparian States of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh (before bifurcation). The Tribunal allocated 811 tmcft dependable water to Andhra Pradesh. The A.P. government later apportioned it in the 512:299 tmcft ratio between Andhra (including parts of Rayalaseema which comprise the Krishna Basin) and Telangana, respectively, based on the command area developed or utilisation mechanism established by then. The Tribunal had also recommended taking the Tungabhadra Dam ( a part of the Krishna Basin) water to the drought-prone Mahabubnagar area of Telangana. However, this was not followed through, giving birth to discontent among the people. Telangana had time and again reiterated how it had been meted out with injustice in Andhra Pradesh when it came to the matter of distributing water resources.

What was the arrangement for water sharing after the bifurcation?

There is no mention of water shares in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, since the KWDT-I Award, which was still in force, had not made any region-wise allocation. At a meeting convened by the then Ministry of Water Resources in 2015, the two States had agreed for sharing water in the 34:66 (Telangana:A.P.) ratio as an ad hoc arrangement with the minutes clearly specifying that it has to be reviewed every year. The arrangement in the Act was only for the management of water resources by setting up two Boards, the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) and the Godavari River Management Board (GRMB).

The KRMB, however, continued the same ratio year after year in spite of the opposition by Telangana. In October 2020, Telangana raised its voice for an equal share, till water shares are finalised. At a Board meeting held earlier this month, Telangana put its foot down for an equal share and refused to continue the existing arrangement. Unable to convince the member States, the river Board has referred the matter to the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS).

What does each State claim?

Telangana has been asking the Centre to finalise water shares from day one of its formation. Citing treaties and agreements followed globally in sharing river waters, Telangana has been arguing that as per the basin parameters, it is entitled for at least a 70% share in the allocation of the 811 tmcft. Besides, it has been highlighting how A.P. has been diverting about 300 tmcft water to the areas outside the basin from fluoride-affected and drought-prone areas within the basin in Telangana.

On the other hand, A.P. has also been staking claim for a higher share of water to protect the interests of command areas already developed.

What is the stand of the Centre?

The Centre has convened two meetings of the Apex Council comprising the Union Minister and Chief Ministers of Telangana and A.P. in 2016 and 2020 without making any attempt to deal with the issue. Following a suggestion made by the MoJS in 2020, Telangana has withdrawn its petition over the issue in the Supreme Court as the Ministry had assured to refer the matter of water shares to a Tribunal. However, the Centre has been sitting over the issue for over two years now even as the two States continue to spar over the matter day in and day out.


In 1969, the Bachawat Tribunal was constituted to settle the dispute around water share among the riparian States of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh (before bifurcation). The Tribunal allocated 811 tmcft dependable water to Andhra Pradhesh. The A.P. government later apportioned it in the 512:299 tmcft ratio between Andhra and Telangana.

Telangana had time and again reiterated how it had been meted out with injustice in Andhra Pradesh when it came to the matter of distributing water resources.

The Centre has convened two meetings of the Apex Council comprising the Union Minister and Chief Ministers of Telangana and A.P. in 2016 and 2020, without making any attempt to deal with the issue.

4. What counts is seldom counted: how the Census data remains under-utilised

The Census has a lot of potential in policymaking and the exercise is not merely about counting the population. Unfortunately, the limited information collected, and the under-utilisation or non-utilisation of Census data, have narrowed the role of the Census in policymaking

The 2021 Census, which has been indefinitely postponed, will be the first digital Census in the country as it will allow citizens, who have updated the National Population Register, to self-enumerate on a secured web portal. In this article, dated September 22, 2021, S. Irudaya Rajan and U.S. Mishra, talk about how the potential of Census data remains untapped

India is busy debating the caste census when the regular Census itself has not been conducted owing to the pandemic. It is quite ironic that various elections have been held, and people gathered together at large rallies flouting COVID-19 norms, while the Census has still not been conducted. This is the first time that India has not conducted its decadal Census since the exercise began.

Losing significance

The design of the Census (whenever the exercise is held) can be improved. A digital Census would ensure better quality, coverage and quick results in this digital age. Given this promise on the one hand and the uncertainty in conducting the Census on the other, the demand for including caste enumeration within the Census only adds to the confusion.

First, we must recognise what the Census does. It has lot of potential in policymaking and the exercise is not merely about counting the population. Unfortunately, though, the limited information collected, and the under-utilisation or non-utilisation of Census data, have limited the role of the Census in policymaking.

Its importance is further diminished when numerous large-scale surveys are funded by the various ministries of the Government of India. These surveys are conducted periodically. They allow for a detailed analysis of the socio-economic issues of significance since the raw data are made available in the public domain. Hence, the Census, at best, serves as a framework for designing these surveys.

But the fundamental reason why the Census has lost significance is because the data collected are not disseminated on time, despite the use of technology. The primary reason for this is that the government regulates the release of the numbers based on its calculations of whether or not the Census data have the potential to harm the political agenda. For instance, the data on internal migration collected in the 2011 Census were made available to the public only when the Chief Economic Advisor decided to write a chapter for the Economic Survey 2016-17 in 2017.

This more-than-century-old decadal exercise is a matter of pride and distinction for this country. Unfortunately, its potential is hardly tapped by policymakers. Concerns now are only about counting castes and minorities, which will help political masters serve their own interests. Census data are mainly used by demographers, who have now redefined themselves as data analysts.

That this exercise has been reduced to just a count of the population is a great pity. Census-based information was important at a time when there was no alternative way of gauging the dynamics of population change alongside its varied features like employment, education, etc. While there is no denying the fact that alternative sources of information have enriched our understanding of population dynamics and facilitated focused interventions through programmes and policies, the Census has lost its potential relevance. Information is released late owing to bureaucratic regulations. There is also a lack of interest by the scientific community in a nuanced exploration of the data.

Despite the decadal nature of the data, the inter-Censal and post-Censal information could very well be generated with interpolation and extrapolation. Further, the fundamental demographic attributes around which the Census data are structured offer a lot of scope for interpretation and exploration for understanding future trends as well. The pseudo cohort inspection of the Census data can go a long way in informing us of the changing dynamics of population attributes over time.

The fascination and engagement with the Census have been quite limited to two concerns: sex ratio and work participation (female work participation in particular). But the Census data, if explored intelligently and systematically without the limitation of survey-based data sets like biases, errors and representational issues, have much more potential.

Characteristic information

The primary axes of disaggregation of Census-based information are residence, age, gender, administrative units, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and religion. Apart from such disaggregation, the Census offers two units of analysis: at the individual level and at the household level. These may appear quite limited, but a lot can be inferred from these attributes of disaggregation. Attributes of disaggregation are simply meant for identification and they are more neutral for intervention purposes. Disaggregated attributes should serve a purpose, i.e., help policymakers make interventions, if any. If the reason behind such a purpose is to gauge selective adversity or failure in entitlements, then ascribed attributes like caste and religion are perhaps less important than objective criteria like adversity or failure itself. In fact, associating caste/religion for identification and intervention generates an environment of patronage. In political terms, this can create clientelism. While there is no disagreement that systematic adversities are generated by one’s caste position, it is not necessary to have the count of the attribute as it is to know the magnitude of adversity and its locational attributes. With a widespread information base through administrative records as well as periodic surveys, it is not difficult to focus on these adversities and alleviate them.

Counting ascribed identities like caste and religion is perhaps less progressive than counting achieved identities or capability attributes like education and profession and other tangible endowments like the ownership of land, house and other consumer durables. Further, associating any adversity with an ascribed identity may at best help focus the intervention but the effort should be on addressing the adversity irrespective of the identity. Injustice or wrongdoings need not necessarily be associated with ascribed attributes. In fact, many make the fallacy of association leading to causation and that leads them to conclude that adversity/discrimination associated with ascribed attributes are largely due to the attributes themselves. Going beyond this association and examining the failure in entitlements and circumstantial differences will perhaps be more effective in thinking of interventions and in addressing concerns. A better example to this effect is blaming certain minority communities for high fertility rates rather than identifying the real reason for the same in terms of socio-economic exclusion.

On the whole, count and characteristics are equally important, but the characteristics that are modifiable hold the key towards change. It is rightly said that what can be counted may not count and what counts is seldom counted.

5. Cheetah cub dies in Kuno Park

One more cheetah, this time a cub, died at the Kuno National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh, wildlife authorities said on Tuesday.

The two-month-old cub was one of four born to Jwala, who was among the set of eight cheetahs imported from Namibia.

The likely cause of death, officials said, was “from weakness”, with a press note from the Centre stating that the two-month-old cub was the “smallest and weakest of the litter”.

Literature and experience from Africa suggests that cheetah cubs, in the wild, have a survival rate of 10%, and roughly the same fraction make it to adulthood, the government’s press release noted.

This is the fourth cheetah to have died in India since 20 of the animals were relocated from Namibia and South Africa respectively to the KNP.

Earlier this month, an adult female, Daksha, died following injuries involving a skirmish among the animals. Two other animals, Sasha and Uday, died in February and April, respectively, from a renal infection and cardiovascular problems, respectively. Daksha’s death had brought the total number of adult cheetahs to 17.

“The typical mortality [in a litter] of tiger cubs is around 50% and wild cheetahs is 90%. So, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more deaths,” S.P. Yadav, Director, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the organisation tasked with coordinating Project Cheetah, told The Hindu.

The cub was one of four born to the cheetah Jwala, who was imported from Namibia

6. Draft of Digital India Bill to be released in June: Minister

Bill may significantly undo safe harbour, the principle protecting social media firms from legal liability for content posted by users; law set to overhaul rules governing Internet usage in India

A full-fledged draft of the Digital India Bill, set to be the biggest revamp of laws governing the Internet in India since the Information Technology Act, 2000, and subsequent amendments, will be published in the first week of June, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said in Mumbai on Tuesday.

“The idea is certainly to have this done in this calendar year,” Mr. Chandrasekhar said, indicating that the government aims to pass the law by the winter session of Parliament. He noted that much of the law will be a ‘framework’ based on foundational principles, following which the Act would be “regulated through rules”.

The minister pointed favourably to OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s testimony to U.S. Congress, where the executive behind ChatGPT pushed for limits on use of artificial intelligence (AI).

Regulating AI

“Our approach right now in the draft is about regulating [AI] through the prism of user harm,” the minister noted.

“So we will say these are the ‘no go areas’ for these technologies. That is our thinking at the moment,” Mr. Chandrasekhar said. The approach would be to create “guardrails” for high risk AI systems, he added.

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