About Guest Post Takshashila

Author Archive | Guest Post Takshashila

Europe’s changing attitude in the refugee crisis

By Anita van den Brandhof

In the current refugee crisis, the developing nations carry the burden of hosting refugees, but there is an increasing pressure on Europe to host more refugees from Syria.

Never before in history has the number of refugees and displaced people within their own country been as high as today. At the end of 2014 there were 19.5 million refugees worldwide and 38.2 million internally displaced people (IDPs). The number of persons on the move is rising as the conflicts in the Middle East and Africa continue. In the current refugee crisis, the developing nations carry the burden of hosting refugees: 86 percent of the refugees and IDP’s worldwide live in developing nations. The majority of the refugees are hosted in bordering countries; mostly in overcrowded and undersupplied refugee camps with little hope for a better future. More than half of the refugees worldwide are from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. The five main hosting countries are Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran and Ethiopia.  Europe is heavily debating on how to deal with the current refugee crisis, while neighbouring countries like Lebanon and Turkey host the majority of the refugees from Syria. There is a remarkable silence from the Gulf States, who are not hosting any Syrian refugees.

Main human smuggling routes to Europe. Source: The Economist

Main human smuggling routes to Europe. Source: The Economist

The international definition of the term “refugee” applies to any person who is:

“Owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

So the term refugee does not apply to a person who migrates for better economic prospects, but to persons who are fleeing from war or persecution. However, the word ‘refugee’ has become more and more synonymous with migrants in Europe. For almost a decade the influence of right wing populist parties has been growing in Europe. These parties promoted parochial national interests, which was seen as fewer migrants and less European integration. Migrants were portrayed as a threat to the national culture and identity.  Due to the economic crisis many Europeans feared that migrants and refugees would take their jobs and benefit from the social welfare system. Therefore, refugees and migrants were discouraged from entering EU territory through tight border controls and strict migration laws.

The 6 lakh refugees that entered the EU in 2014 often reached Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea in dangerously small boats. Last year more than 2200 people drowned on the way, and 1,66,000 were rescued by the Italian marine. This year more than 2600 people have drowned already on their way to Europe. For a long time these tragic deaths were ignored, but nowadays Europe is forced to revise its migration policy. The pictures of the drowned little boy Aylan on the beach of Turkey showed the immorality of neglecting refugees at sea. The refugee crisis is hotly debated and the support to host more refugees is growing in Western European countries. Many public initiatives have started to host refugees in family homes and collect money. Germany is expecting 8 lakh refugees this year, and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated that Germany can handle the influx of refugees.

The European Union has to respond to the refugee crisis and is preparing a new migration policy. In 2007 the European Union decided to harmonize the migration regulations of all member states. The process hasn’t been completed, because member states have a hard time giving up their sovereignty in this area. The Dublin regulation arranged that a refugee should apply for asylum in the member state of arrival. Because the main human smuggling routes arrive at Greece, Italy and Hungary, these countries have to deal with relatively more refugees than the other member states.  Therefore, the EU is negotiating with all member state to distribute the refugees more evenly. Since Germany agreed to take 8 lakh refugees from Syria this year, other countries are slowly agreeing to allow more refugees. The refugee crisis became a catalyst for discussing the righteousness of the current migration policy. Europe is forced to take more responsibility and become a more active political power in the crisis in the Middle East.

Anita van den Brandhof is a research scholar at Takshashila Institution.

Comments { 0 }

Unaccounted income: To begin from the beginning

The current approach towards unaccounted income overlooks the sources of the unaccounted income.

By Surya Prakash B. S. (@SuryaPrakashBS) and Devika Kher (@DevikaKher)

The focus of the political debate about corruption in India is primarily confined to the unaccounted wealth stashed abroad. The solutions demanded focus on disclosure of assets located outside India and implementation of anti-money laundering laws. Amidst all this, the root cause for the generation of the unaccounted income is being overlooked.

The current approach towards unaccounted income overlooks the sources of unaccounted income. In addition, the various statutes in this area primarily link generation of unaccounted income to the proceeds from criminal activities.

Background

In May 2015, the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 was passed with the objective of dealing with the undisclosed foreign income and assets. The Act also has a provision to impose tax on such income and assets.

Before the Black Money Act, 2015, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) was in place to curb the problem of money laundering in India. As per the Act, possession of money, and assets generated from crimes like arms, narcotics, immoral trafficking was made punishable with the objective of reducing proceeds from crime. The Act refers to definitions under the Indian Penal Code to define the term ‘crime’. Therefore, reach of the Act is constrained continues to be so even after the new Black Money Act.

Dr. Nigam Nuggehalli, an associate professor at Azim Premji University has looked into the shortcomings of the Black Money Act regulating the unaccounted and undisclosed income. As per Nuggehalli, the Black Money Act provides a lot of discretionary power to the officers in charge and does not serve any purpose above and beyond, what is served in the Income Tax Act, 1961 and the PMLA, 2002. However, there are more generic problems attached to the legislature enacted to reduce the unaccounted income in India.

Shortcomings

The legislature in place currently restricts the scope of ‘black money’ to the income generated through illicit activities or the undisclosed foreign wealth or assets. They completely overlook the instances where illegitimate income is generated while carrying on legitimate businesses.

Based on the data collected from I Paid A Bribe, an online platform to report corrupt activities, some education institutions collect Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 1,00,000 as bribes for admissions. For services like ensuring passport verification or getting passport renewed, the market price estimated for the bribe is Rs. 200- Rs. 10,000. The closest that PMLA, 2002 gets to addressing such instances is by declaring ‘public servants taking gratification other than legal remuneration’ as a crime. Even then it does not looks at the root causes behind the rise of the undisclosed income like the transaction cost and the principal agent problem.

The scope for corruption primarily exists due to the cumbersome processes and the ambiguous regulations set by the administrative authorities. An increase in the time and the money spent on completing the process makes the illegitimate methods look economically rational in comparison. In certain situations the corrupt practices are also used due to the principal agent problem. The provisioners exploit the opportunity to extract benefits from the customers, as the service provided is in the interest of the customer and do not affect the provisioner. For instance, a process like ensuring passport renewal is only in the interest of the passport holder. Hence, the passport authorities use this chance to gain extra benefits.

To sum up, a close scrutiny of both the generation and the flow of unaccounted income are needed. Addressing the root cause behind unaccounted income generation requires an in-depth analysis of the sectors prone to malpractices. This analysis will help to better understand the environment that facilitates and necessitates such behaviour.

We hope to explore in further detail these aspects over the next few blogs.

Surya Prakash B. S. is a research scholar at The Takshashila Institution. His twitter handle is @SuryaPrakashBS

Devika Kher is a Research Associate at Takshashila Institution. Her twitter handle is @DevikaKher.

 

Comments { 1 }

An assessment of international oil & gas pipelines

Oil & gas pipelines are a bad idea for India in the north-west sector but can be contemplated in the eastern sector with Bangladesh and Myanmar.

by Piyush Singh (@PiyushS7)

The nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers is being heralded as new era in diplomacy, creating a new player in the international energy supply scene. India too, does not want to be left behind and is slowly signing up with various projects in the region, including development of the long delayed Chabahar port.

Prime Minister Modi in his recent visit to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan has again floated the idea of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline and another one from Kazakhstan. India is also in talks with Russia to extend their gas pipelines through Central Asia and China to India. With the nuclear deal done, Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline proposal is again gaining steam. India had reportedly backed off the collaboration in 2009 under extreme US pressure.

These initiatives are counter-productive from a security point of view — they are akin to giving one’s adversary the trigger to hold you at ransom at will. Pakistan and/or its non-state agents will regularly create problems of transit on their side of the border.

Brief History of IPI

The IPI as an idea was first conceptualised in the 1990’s to meet India and Pakistan’s growing energy demands and to further regional cooperation. Iran has the largest reserves of natural gas in the world at around 33.8 trillion cubic meters, and is continuously looking to export some of these to develop their nascent industries. US led sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program halted progress on this, and Pakistan was also forced to back off under Saudi pressure.

However, in 2010, Pakistan and Iran signed a deal again to restart the project and Iran completed its share of construction of the pipeline within its borders by 2013. Iran also pressurised Pakistan to complete the construction on its side, failing which there will be a penalty of 1million dollars per day, if its not completed by the end of 2014. China during the same period showed interest in the project and agreed to finance 85% of the construction and infrastructure on the Pakistani side.

Af-Pak Factor
Pakistan and Afghanistan are geographically situated to utilise such natural resources and to reduce their huge energy deficits, but for one factor-insurgency and terrorism. Both these countries carry a huge political and economic cost for anyone looking to invest in them.

The proposed IPI and TAPI run through the most volatile regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and as such securing regular supply will become a headache for India if the project were to materialise.

Looking at the European example, Russia regularly cut-off gas supply to Ukraine on account of failure of payment by Ukraine, because of which much of the Eastern and Central Europe suffered. It is highly likely that Pakistan, as an intermediary cannot be trusted with such a project, disturbance of which will carry huge economic implications.

Alternatives
Myanmar-Bangladesh-India pipeline is a possible alternative to meet India’s energy shortages. Considering the recent upswing in relations between India and Bangladesh and India-Myanmar, it is a good time to pursue these energy deals. Myanmar has gas reserves of 20 trillion cubic feet, enough to satisfy India’s energy shortfall in the eastern sector. Both India and Bangladesh are energy starved, and Myanmar is looking to diversify its market apart from China, which recently started transferring natural gas from Myanmar.

Another alternative to the IPI is taking the sea route. Though much more costlier and technologically challenging than the land pipeline, it removes the perils of traversing through the most volatile sectors of the region in Af-Pak.

In the same way, Turkmenistan-Iran-India (TII) pipeline could replace TAPI.

However, India needs to move quickly on these fronts, as Iran will be courting a lot of customers to diversify its market. And China will be up with all its top dollars to carve a chunk out of it. It is already moving ahead with financing the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, with possibility of extension into China through the Gilgit-Baltistan region. It is imperative that India look at securing its energy sources, and move swiftly to meet and diversify its energy sources.

Piyush Singh is a Junior Research Associate with the Takshashila Institution. He is pursuing a law course at the Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur. He is on twitter as @PiyushS7

 

Comments { 0 }

On China’s Military Strategy: Implications for India

China’s White Paper on Military Strategy does not feature India explicitly, but points to stepping up of China’s involvement in the Indian Ocean Region

by Piyush Singh (@PiyushS7)

On May 26th, China released its white paper on military strategy, emphasizing a shift from “offshore water defence” to “open seas protection”. The white paper focuses on the current predicament in South China Sea. Otherwise, it contains the usual rhetoric of Taiwan’s unification, Tibetan independence, and makes thinly veiled references to outside powers perceived to be meddling in China’s domestic affairs, namely United States and Japan.

PLAN Harbin: Photo by Felix Garza, U. S. Navy

PLAN Harbin: Photo by Felix Garza, U. S. Navy

The paper mentions that while China has long followed the policy of defensive restraint, it will now follow a policy of “active defence”. Specifically, it means that China is going to be more involved in securing its interest abroad and participating in “regional and international security cooperation exercises actively”. However, the interpretation of “active defence” is that it is of defensive nature only in words, and can be used by party cadres to justify a military action. This means that if China initiates a military attack, then it will be interpreted as only defending itself and its interests against belligerent “expansionists”.

The armed forces of China are entrusted to adhere to the CPC’s leadership and take part in the dream of Chinese rejuvenation. This is being repeated in all propaganda campaigns across China, in light of the recent anti-corruption drive and arrest of certain high profile military leaders. Civil-Military Integration (CMI) is also being strengthened under Xi Jinping. It is further entrusted to build up strategic capability to counter threats in new domains, such as cyber-counterattacks and fighting off local wars within a limited timeframe. Chinese defence policy is highly influenced by the Gulf War of 1991 and the United States military complete dominance in bringing the war to a swift end.

The PLAAF will also expand on its defensive and offensive capabilities. PLA will be built into flexible and mobile units, capable of switching between theatres at short notice. This is important for India to ponder over because it shares a long border with China, divided into three sectors. China does not face any major land based threat in the region as much as it faces from India and this policy maybe directed at India. A rather proactive strategy is also being adopted for outer space security and cyber strategy.

Regarding its nuclear strategy, the paper notes that nuclear force will continue to be the centrepiece of national security and sovereignty. And it will continue to pursue a policy of no-first use.

The greatest emphasis has been laid down on the maritime domain. The paper states, “The traditional mentality that land outweighs sea must be abandoned, and great importance has to be attached to managing the seas and oceans and protecting maritime rights and interests.” China has actively studied the role of sea-lanes and their independence in securing a strong domestic front, both from history and United States dominance of open seas. ”Far Seas” concept would see a rise in offensive capabilities of the PLAN centred on aircraft carriers.

Days of Deng Xiaoping’s dictum of “keeping a low profile” are over. The military strategy paper clearly demonstrates China’s changing priorities and strategies. A blue water navy is surely up on the cards.

Even though the primary focus of the white paper is power projection in the Pacific sector, PLAN is bound to enter into the Indian Ocean.

India, does not feature prominently in the white paper, apart from obscure references, such as “Some external countries are also busy meddling in South China Sea affairs“, in an apparent reference to India’s deal with Vietnam for oil exploration in South China Sea. Implications of the white paper for India are that the land border is not as much a focus for China as the maritime domain is.

India should expect greater involvement of the PLAN in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), on the pretext of anti-piracy operations and naval exercises. As the Maritime Silk Road gets momentum, China will be actively be involved in protecting its interests in the region. China will also expand its capabilities to protect SLOC’s passing through Malacca Straits. Stand-offs in the regions could be expected.

India, has clearly not appreciated China’s involvement in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Selling of 2 diesel submarines to Bangladesh again questions China’s true intention in the region. The paper talks about fostering peace and development in the region, however its actions prove otherwise.

As a response, greater cooperation with the Australian and other regional powers is necessary for India. Furthermore, India should also deepen its relationships with its friends in the South China Sea. India’s 5-year defence agreement with Vietnam is likely to ruffle some Chinese feathers, and will surely see some counter action in coming days.

Piyush Singh is a Junior Research Associate with the Takshashila Institution. Piyush is a student of law at the Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur. He is on twitter as @PiyushS7

Comments { 0 }

An analytic framework for the net neutrality debate

Developing an analytical framework to talk about policies around net neutrality and why it is so hard.

By Soren Dayton

It is very easy to see telecommunications policy in local terms, as it is an industry that is literally grounded in a particular place. Indeed, speaking as someone who has been a consultant to US telecommunications companies, a remarkable amount of time and energy is spent, at least in the US, focused on issues like siting towers, getting access to particular places to lay cable, etc.

Given the salience of the net neutrality debate in India, it might be helpful to step back a little and try to consider it both in comparative and more abstract terms. One of the features of the net neutrality debate is that while the top-level messages have stayed the same at various times and places — “every bit is equal” versus “don’t over-regulate and restrict business models” — the underlying technical and policy questions have shifted with both jurisdiction and contemporary technology. In fact, the constancy of those messages in the various contexts, when you consider what the underlying policy differences are, should give you pause about them.

Rather than try to define net neutrality, I want to provide an analytical framework to allow us to talk about policies around net neutrality and why it is so hard. This should help explain why, in spite of there being no rules mandating net neutrality there also haven’t been significant violations. This is why US Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai has said that net neutrality, “a solution in search of a problem”. But it also shows why this might change.

So how should we understand net neutrality? I think it is helpful to focus, in schematic terms, on the changes of two numbers over time. The first is the cost of transmitting a given amount of data at a given level of performance (speed, latency, minimum speed, etc. — I would note that limiting to the total set of variables is hard, so this is just a sample). Think of it as: C (data, latency, average speed, minimum speed etc.)

The important thing to realise is that due to technical and economic innovation by the carriers, this cost should fall over time for any set of variables, assuming that there aren’t severe problems in policy such as spectrum scarcity or in competition.

At the same time, innovation by the application providers should drive another number up: the economic value that can be extracted from that data, which we will call V: V (data, latency, average speed, minimum speed, etc.)

When the internet was created, the costs of data connectivity were very high and commercial value was very low, so C > V. Since then, costs have fallen and companies have created new ways of extracting value. At some point in the future (this is schematic, so we don’t know when) V > C, that is the economic value created by the application logic will outweigh the cost of transmitting that data.

The whole debate about zero-rating and ‘freemium’ business models occur when C is very close to V. Facebook is willing to pay for your data costs when the activity you generate on Facebook creates more value for Facebook than the cost of that data.

This framework also explains why net neutrality was an abstract debate, “a solution in search of a problem,” when C > V. Internet access is being consumed as a leisure good.

This framework also explains why it is suddenly an interesting debate, as C and V get close. Because internet access generally creates value, there is a potential additional source of revenue for the carriers. Both the carriers and application providers are planning for the future, where the carriers are eyeing a future source of revenue and the application providers are trying to plan for and control their future costs.

Part of the conceptual problem of the net neutrality debate is that we are making policy in an environment when C is roughly equal to V about a world in which not only will V > C, but V – C will get larger over time. We are trying to make policy about a world that are aren’t in and have trouble really foreseeing.

If you accept this framework, the policy question in the future should be: what input should policy have in the distribution of V – C, especially as it grows? Net neutrality, as a policy, is really about putting the thumb on the side of the application provider to limit the amount of V – C that can go to the carrier.

The position of the application providers is, not unreasonably, that the market power is of the carriers will mean that they pocket an outsized amount of V – C. While the carriers point to the increasing size of the markets on the application side (and in the case of mobile, the device side).

My own instinct based on experience in the policy debates in the United States is that the growth of Apple and Google suggests that they have more leverage over the carriers than they care to admit and that we generally perceive. Indeed, one of the most remarkable demonstrations of the changing balance of power has been the ability of Apple to force the iPhone down the throats of carriers around the world. Any rich world telecom executive will tell you that being able to serve the iPhone is a major driver of profit. And, indeed, Apple has found technological innovations in the design of radios in their phones that means that they have nearly universal devices, allowing the phones to work on nearly every network, turning the network into a commodity.

Another way of stating this problem is, as V – C grows, should something that has always been a one-sided market become a two-sided market, and how should that be regulated? This is why Niranjan Rajadhyaksha has said that the economics of net neutrality is uncertain, referring to the work of Nobel Prize winner Jean Tirole. That’s why my own policy preference would be to keep a sharp eye on the question, but be slow to make policy, recognising that it will be made into a rapidly changing environment in which we don’t actually have good instincts about how the markets will work or even what the markets will be.

Now turning to real-world policy, you can see how the net neutrality debate might work in different places. In a place like India, where internet penetration is low and a primary objective of policy might be to get more people online, carriers might argue, in a way that is both self-serving and may align with the public good, that some of V – C should be reserved to get more people online. This is a generous understanding of the argument that Internet.org and Facebook make.

In a place like the United States where penetration is high and the limiting factor for further penetration is typically not cost but perceived need, the question is probably different. It is how to distribute V – C in such a way that the cost is optimal for consumers. Here, antitrust regulation would seem to be the preferred tool to ensure that the carrier’s don’t exert too much market power. The arguments for net neutrality in the US turn on the idea that antitrust regulation is too slow and that regulators are subject to capture.

Soren Dayton is a public affairs and political consultant from Washington, DC, on sabbatical and living in New Delhi. The views expressed are personal.

Comments { 0 }

वाढता हव्यास आणि संसाधनांचा तुटवडा

दुर्मीळ साधनसंपत्ती फुकट असावी काय?

Guest post by Ashlesha Gore

काही दिवसांपूर्वी दिल्ली सरकारने वीज आणि पाण्याचे भाव कमी केले. तेव्हा ह्या मुद्यावरून बरेच चर्वितचर्वण देखील झाले. आणि नेहेमीप्रमाणेच आपण समाजवाद आणि भांडवलशाही अशा अवजड शब्दांच्या जाळ्यात गुरफटलो. मात्र कोणत्याही वस्तूची किंमत मुळात कशी ठरते? हा प्रश्न आपण विचारलाच नाही.

सर्वसाधारणपणे ह्या प्रश्नाचे उत्तर अर्थशास्त्राचा मूलभूत अभ्यास केल्यास सहज मिळू शकेल. पण आपण अर्थशास्त्राच्या अभ्यासक्रमात अशाप्रकारच्या प्रश्नांकडे दुर्लक्ष करतो. अकरावी बारावीत आपण आधी भारताच्या पंचवार्षिक योजना पाठ करतो. त्यानंतर आपण मार्क्स आणि फ्रीडमन ह्या दोन विचारप्रणालींची एकमेकात तुलना करीत बसून आपले हात धुऊन घेतो. अर्थ ह्या विषयाशी संबंधित इतिहासाला अर्थशास्त्र असे म्हणणे साफ चुकीचे आहे. वास्तविक अर्थशास्त्र हा गणित किंवा विज्ञानाप्रमाणेच एक पायाभूत विषय आहे ज्याचा हेतू माणूस आणि मनुष्यजातीचे व्यवहार समजून घेणे हा आहे. तर मग काही काळासाठी आपल्या ठाम समजुती बाजूला ठेवून अर्थशास्त्र आपल्या ह्या मुख्य प्रश्नाबद्दल काय म्हणते ते पाहूया.

आपले जग हे तुटवड्याचे जग आहे. ह्याचा अर्थ असा की आपल्या गरजा ह्या आपल्या संसाधनांपेक्षा जास्त असतात. गरज आणि उपलब्धता ह्यात अशी तफावत असणे हे कोणत्याही महत्त्वाकांक्षी व्यक्तीचे द्योतक आहे. जेव्हा अशा महत्त्वाकांक्षी व्यक्ती एक समाज स्थापन करतात तेव्हा तो समाज देखील महत्त्वाकांक्षी बनतो. इथे एक लक्षात घ्यायला पाहिजे की हा काही कोणत्याही “मॉडर्न” काळाचा दोष नव्हे. ही तफावत समाजात पुरातन काळापासून चालत आलेली आहे. अश्मयुगात भूक भागविण्यासाठी बरीच शिकार उपलब्ध होती पण शिकार करण्याची क्षमता मर्यादित होती. जेव्हा माणूस शेती करू लागला तेव्हा पाण्याचे स्रोत मर्यादित होते. जेव्हा माणूस यंत्र बनवू लागला तेव्हा यंत्र बनविण्यासाठी लागणारे इतर सुटे भाग मर्यादित प्रमाणात होते. अशाप्रकारे मर्यादित संपदेचा विनियोग हा प्रश्न युगानुयुगे कोणत्याही अर्थव्यवस्थेच्या केंद्रस्थानी राहिला आहे.

दुर्मीळ संपदेच्या ह्या मूलभूत आव्हानाला समाज दोन पद्धतीने हाताळू शकतो. पहिला उपाय म्हणजे नवनिर्मिती. पूर्वी शिकार करण्यासाठी अनेक लोकांची गरज भासत असे जेणेकरून शिकारच शिकार करणाऱ्याला भारी पडू नये याची दक्षता बाळगता येईल. ह्या आव्हानावर एक उपाय होता – हत्यारांचा शोध. ज्यामुळे खाद्यस्रोतांची कमतरता काही प्रमाणात तरी कमी झाली. तसेच शेतीसाठी लागणाऱ्या पाण्याची कमतरता भरून काढण्यासाठी विविध सिंचनपद्धती शोधल्या गेल्या. अशाप्रकारे नवीन शोधांमुळे दुर्लभता कमी होत असली तरी ही प्रकिया नेहेमीच मंदगतीने होते.

कमतरतेशी मुकाबला करण्याचा दुसरा पर्याय म्हणजे प्राधान्यक्रम ठरविणे. म्हणजेच प्रत्येकाने आपापली गरज आणि परिस्थिती ह्याला अनुसरून कोणती गोष्ट अधिक मौल्यवान आहे ते ठरविणे. इंग्रजीमध्ये ह्यालाच ट्रेड-ऑफ असे म्हणतात. उदाहरणार्थ – परीक्षेच्या आधी मर्यादित वेळ असतो. ज्याला चांगले गुण मिळवणे महत्त्वाचे असते त्याला अशावेळेस सिनेमा, खेळ इत्यादी गोष्टी सोडून अभ्यासावर लक्ष द्यावे लागते. अशातऱ्हेने इतर करमणुकीबरोबर तो अभ्यास ट्रेड-ऑफ करतो.  हीच संकल्पना जेव्हा आपण सामाजिक स्तरावर लावून बघतो तेव्हा असे लक्षात येते की प्रत्येक माणूस संसाधने गोळा करण्यासाठी आपापल्या परीने असे ट्रेड-ऑफ कळत-नकळत करत असतो. ह्या प्रवृत्तीमुळे प्रतिस्पर्धा निर्माण होते आणि अनेक लोक साधनसंपत्ती मिळविण्याच्या स्पर्धेचा एक घटक बनतात. आता निर्णय हा घ्यायचा आहे की ह्या संपत्तीचे वाटप कसे करायचे? कोणाला किती मिळणार? कोणत्याही वस्तूची किंमत दुसरेतिसरे काही नसून ह्याच स्पर्धेची निदर्शक आहे. जास्त किंमत याचा अर्थ वस्तू मिळायला दुर्लभ असून तिला मागणी मात्र कितीतरी पटीने जास्त आहे.

ह्या दोन पद्धतींचा आधार घेऊन आता आपण आपल्या मुख्य प्रश्नाकडे येऊया. स्वच्छ पाणी ही एक दुर्मीळ संपदा आहे. ती जर फुकट वाटली तर काय होईल? एकतर जिच्यासाठी कमी ट्रेड-ऑफ करावा लागतो आहे अशा वस्तूची कदर केली जाणार नाही. त्यामुळे लोकांना आधीच दुर्मीळ असलेल्या साधनसंपत्तीचा अपव्यय करण्यासाठी किंवा अतिरेकी वापर करण्यासाठी प्रोत्साहन मिळते. दुसरे असे की पाण्याच्या कमतरतेच्या समस्येलाच आपण बगल दिल्यामुळे भविष्यात नवीन शोध लागण्यासाठी ते मारक ठरते. वरील उदाहरणात बघायचे तर “rainwater harvesting” किंवा पाण्याचे पाझर अडविणे इत्यादी चळवळी दडपल्या जातात.

पाण्याची किंमत वाढविणे गरिबांच्या विरोधात आहे असे येथे सुचवायचे नाही. गरजू लोकांना सरकार इतरही काही पद्धतीने मदत करू शकते. परंतु एखाद्या वस्तूची किंमत कृत्रिमरीत्या कमी केल्यास त्या वस्तूचा नाश तर होतोच शिवाय तिची गुणवत्ताही घसरते.

Ashlesha Gore handles her family retail cloth store in Pune. She is interested in languages and blogs at ashuwaach.blogspot.in and sanskritsubhashite.blogspot.in in Marathi and Marathi-Sanskrit

Comments { 0 }

The significance of lobbying in Indo-US ties 

by Sanjhana Dore

There are many factors that determine a country’s foreign policy. To understand a country’s foreign policy, like in the case of the USA, we have to first look local before global. That is, to understand American policy in this case towards India, or other countries, we first have to understand its domestic politics. We have to study their domestic push and pull factors. One of the most important and controversial domestic factors is lobbying.

What is lobbying and what role does it play in Indo-Us ties? There still does not seem to be a single definition that really covers all its elements. Nevertheless, it can simply, be understood as the process through which groups, organization or people directly or indirectly try to sway political decisions through various forms of advocacy directed at policymakers. Essentially, these groups, organization or people are self-interested. Wherein their interest or endorsements are on the bases of it resulting in the best outcome for them; one that might not be favorable to the other parties in concern or the country on the whole. The bitter truth of the matter is, this is how bills, laws or polices are, essentially, passed. Interestingly, the practice is frowned upon in India, as it is classified as an act associated with corruption or bribery and thus is largely unregulated. Contrary to that in the United States, it is a regulated practice and is important, if not central, in determining policy.

Lobbying can be understood through a cricket analogy. For example, the selectors are tasked with picking an additional player for an upcoming tour and there are four players to choose from. Among the four players, one decides to persuade an advisor to the board to endorse him. In the case that he does get selected, the advisor’s endorsement of the player might or might not have been solely based on the player’s ability. Many might view this negatively because it has by and large over the years been presented as such which has resulted in questioning the morality of the practice on the whole. The practice or method is not principally negative but certain forms of the advocacy involved or employed could be classified, as being unsavoury while others might not be. For example, persuading a company or group to support you by convincing them that you have what it takes or having credentials to back you is as much lobbying as an exchange of favours.

In the last couple of years, there has been a significant rise in the number of groups, organization and people that have been lobbying for the Indian cause in Washington; in an effort to strength Indo-US ties. Leading to many calling the Indian-American Lobby, the “New Kids on the Block”. Taking the lead for the, already well-know and well established, Israel or Jewish Lobby, the India lobby is getting results in Washington — and having a profound impact on U.S. policy. This not only has major implication towards Indo-US relations but also in regard to US policy in Asia and its implications for India. The USINPAC or the United States India Political Action Committee is, an example of, a lobbyist group in the US that is responsible for lobbying to secure stronger ties between the two countries. Their latest initiative, a Congressional Briefing on US Liquefies Gas (LNG) Exports to India, is aimed at convincing American lawmakers that India is the ideal import market and strengthening ties in this regard will, potentially, advance energy security, [which has been] a critical US foreign policy goal in the region. This does not, however, take into consideration whether or not the outcome really benefits India or the United States.

The USINPAC is only one of the players in the growing lobby, there are also businesses like those a part of the IT sector both in India and the US that are also very invested in the implications of the domestic rulings. Especially those that pose to have foreign policy implications like that of the US Senate rulings to limit the number of H-1B work visas. This issue has also seen pressure for the Indian government. There is data to show that in the past the Indian government has financed private lobby firms like BGR, about $2.5 million, to peruse their agenda in Washington. In this case it is clear why this is an issue of concern to the Indian government because this Senate ruling, limiting H-1B work visas, could lower India’s gross domestic product by up to 0.4 percent in 2015. In this regard, there has been intense lobbying from many organizations, like the US- India Business Council, to reconsider this ruling and the foreign implication it poses in the long term. This is a prime example of the India lobby in action and the fact that it consists of both domestic as well as international players.

Hence, it is fair to make the assumption that lobbying plays a significant role in the shaping of US foreign policy towards India. With its growing presence in Washington, the Indian-American or India lobby has become a force to be reckon with and one that policy advisors will be watching closely in the years to come when trying to determine or understanding Indo-US ties.

Sanjhana Dore is an intern at the Takshashila Institution

Comments { 0 }

Dynamics of Bangladeshi Migration into India

By Unmukta Sinha

Why we cannot disregard or oversimplify the Bangladeshi migrant issue into one of merely international border violation

In my previous post, we saw that migration from Bangladesh into India has been a continuous practice with the adjective “internal” before Partition in (1947) and “international” post Partition. For varied reasons, ranging from politically induced ones, to ecological issues such as the Farakka case, to loss of land and livelihood for the poor subsistence farmers; from religious persecution to the recent environmental degradation and climate change; and at times for quotidian reasons such as people visiting their relatives across the border, tending to their farmlands to simply getting tools from their warehouse situated in the borderlands, Bangladeshis have been consistently migrating into India.

Existing estimates suggest that Bangladeshi migration to India occurs mainly from eastern side of India particularly into three bordering states—West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. The author of the referred link further suggests that these states serve as major “conduits of the flow”, meaning migrants who come into West Bengal, Assam and Tripura through the porous border migrate further into Bihar, Delhi and Rajasthan and even to Maharashtra. Thus, apart from being the recipients of Bangladeshi migrants West Bengal, Assam and Tripura also serve as transit destinations. The trigger being highly economic in nature, poor Bangladeshi migrants are driven in search of better avenues for jobs and livelihood. This extends the length of the vector of migration and reinforces the fact that India’s border security measures have to be tightened, however in a humane manner. The other major trigger for Bangladeshi migrants is environmental. Bangladesh being a low lying nation, prone to ravaging floods and cyclones that lead to land loss and induce a general insecurity from a lack of sustainable livelihood.

Those who migrate for economic reasons could be termed as ‘ecomigrants’ and those for environmental issues as ‘environmental migrants’. While the geographic impact of ecomigrants stems from merely crossing over international borders, environmental problems rarely follow political lines. What is being crossed by environmental migrants is the “environmental border” where land degradation stops or disaster doesn’t reach. This kind of logic may be extended unto all out-migrants. Political refugees must cross political borders, usually of a nation. Those fleeing ethnic violence must cross ethnic borders, which may not follow political boundaries. Migrants leaving due to economic decline must cross the economic bounds of the decline, which again may not follow the political border. Thus in the environmental context, Bangladeshi migrants suffering from the discomfort of climate change are forced to migrate to a more secure zone even if it requires entering into neighbouring states, particularly India, by simply crossing the “environmental borders” regardless of whether these borders coincide with international political borders or not. For these migrants it is hard to peg the responsibilities of migration on any one geopolitical, economic or social entity.

For instance, floods do not occur only because of heavy rain in Bangladesh, but rather because such precipitation outstrips water management systems in the upriver areas—heavy monsoonal rains in China, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam swell the Brahmaputra’s banks in Bangladesh causing untold damage. Likewise, salinity intrusion in southern Bangladesh follows not only from climactic reasons of sea-level rise or severe cyclones, but also from economic reasons of large-scale shrimp farming which requires acres of saline water ponds.

Further the impact of the illegal Bangladeshi migrant on the economy of the receiving state is significant, for he is willing to work long hours for a low wage, and is thus an invaluable asset. Thus it may be argued that if indeed there are about 12 to 20 million Bangladeshi migrants in India, there must millions of Indians employing them. This indicates that certain regions in India have employers who would accept illegal labour migrants which pulled the Bangladeshi migrants to choose these places over others to integrate into the black/underground economic sector—for example Assam and West Bengal as tea plantation workers or Delhi and Mumbai as domestic help.

Thus even a simple cursory look at the issue of Bangladeshi migration into India throws up a multitude of challenges, ones that the Indian nation, awake to this deluge of illegal entries, cannot disregard or oversimplify the issue into one of merely international border violation. The dynamics of this movement of people is deeply intertwined with not just the economics of the two nations and overlapping regions, but also environmental and climactic reasons. Thus India needs to introspect into what it can do to alleviate some of the triggers: diverting the excess waters of the Brahmaputra could reduce chances of flooding in downriver areas in Bangladesh, or issuing work permits to labour migrants would stop their persecution at the hands of their Indian employers and make them more accountable.

Unmukta Sinha has previously interned with the Takshashila Institution.

Comments { 0 }

The Plight of People Living in between Spaces—the Migrant Perspective

By Unmukta Sinha

Bilateral policies regarding Bangladeshi migrants must not forget the vicissitudes of the migrants

The border dividing the nations India and Bangladesh is not a straightforward geometric line drawn from point A to B. In some areas it snakes across villages, agricultural farmlands, temples, and even households. Some of the families who live literally on the borderland, the in-between spaces also known as “contact zones” straddling two nations, often have members technically cross borders on a daily basis.

This brings forward a whole new dynamic of what “triggers” the migrant to move/migrate and what “destination” he chooses. While in the domain of geopolitical discourse this quotidian movement of people across the fence would constitute cross border migration, for those residing in the “contact zones” it might not be as simple or straightforward. In many cases, the “trigger” could be as basic as fetching water from the well and the choice of “destination” as simple as his own backyard.

Cultural affinities, common language, co-mingling and a long shared colonial history in the regions of today’s West Bengal, north-eastern India and Bangladesh (before the post-Independence political borders were formed) provide shared identities and thus a relatively strong bond between these rather poor and powerless border residents, especially when they have relatives living across the river, or their children attending school which stands in the political territory of the other nation. To these so-called “migrants” the notion of borders as international, national or local barriers is merely a symbol of power deeply entrenched in geopolitical disputes, and one that hinders the dynamic of their day to day lives.

Therefore, the people living at the borders, more than often people living hand to mouth, are found constantly toying with their lives (even to the extent of risking their lives) in an attempt to dismantle this barrier both physically and psychologically. In order to combat their dire poverty, adults as well as children are often drawn into rackets of bootlegging and human trafficking. The smuggling of goods – usually fish, oil, mobile handsets, soaps, fake currency metals and small arms from the Bangladeshi side and cattle, fruits, fertilizers, pesticide, salt, spices, sugar and “bidi” (hand rolled local cheap cigars) from the Indian side is rampant.

Along the porous borders of India and Bangladesh there are numerous shanties where prostitution is a roaring business. Minor Bangladeshi girls moreover are coerced into contractual marriages with the Indian farmers or sold as slaves by the poor Bangladeshi families. Driven by the need of survival, families at large and women and children specifically are subjected to rapes, murders, extortion, slavery and sexual abuse on a daily basis.

Furthermore, daily wage labourers are treated inhumanely and are subject to the whims and fancies of the border security personnel. For residents of these borderlands whose households, family ties, livelihoods, or even daily chores were disrupted all of a sudden by the Radcliffe Line, these are valid questions. These narratives hint/point towards the continuous plight of the residents, the volatility of their lives and violation of their basic human rights—those whose physical villages, communities or households straddle two nations while their basic needs as well as psychological needs transcend these artificially constructed geopolitical barriers.

Thus, while coming up with bilateral policies regarding the Bangladeshi migrants the Indian government as well as its Bangladeshi counterpart must factor in these sensitive issues. The region although divided by an international border has been historically, culturally, linguistically, quintessentially one; thus the people residing officially on either sides of the border are one—extremely close-knit and hard to break. In an attempt to escape poverty or sustain themselves borderland quotidian “migrants” will find a way to cut corners by resorting to illegal means supported by their vast migrant network—the local gangs, political parties, border security personnel and friends and kinship across the borders. If the States must break this vicious cycle and sincerely address this issue, it is imperative to factor in the migrant perspective.

Unmukta Sinha has previously interned with the Takshashila Institution

Comments { 1 }

Constituent assembly debate on Directive Principles of State Policy

by Surabhi Rao

Why were directives that were not enforceable included in the Constitution? Do these continue to remain mere ideals without form?

We do not want merely to lay down a mechanism to enable people to come and capture power.  The Constitution also wishes to lay down an ideal before those who would be forming the government.  That ideal is of economic democracy. – B.R. Ambedkar

India is at a point where she has to achieve economic development, to be at par with the rest of the world, and at the same time, ensure that social and economic justice is also achieved in the country. Thus it is relevant to discuss the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs) provided for in the Indian Constitution in Part IV (Articles 36-51) which lay down principles for the achievement of this social and economic justice. The DPSPs along with the Preamble and the Fundamental Rights can be said to be the soul of the Indian Constitution.

The DPSPs are merely guidelines for the establishment of a social order guided by social and economic justice, freedom, and liberty. The Articles include matters relating to right to work, right to education, the uniform civil code, and other principles of good governance that the State must take note of.

The august Constituent Assembly recognised the distinction between government and politics, and principles of good governance, even as far back as the 1940s while drafting the Constitution. Article 37 specifically mentions that DPSPs, though not enforceable through any court of law are “fundamental” to the governance of the country. It is interesting to see why the drafters would include something in the Constitution that is not enforceable.

There were apprehensions even at the time of drafting about how useful the DPSPs would actually be. Prof. K. T. Shah felt that by not making the Directive Principles justiciable, they were making merely pious wishes, and the intention of the Directives would never come into force.

But Dr. B.R. Ambedkar called the DPSPs ‘Instruments of Instructions’.  He referred to them as policies and principles to achieve economic democracy, which is an ever changing concept and is dependent on the times and circumstances, how it is achieved, and it would be wrong to lay down a fixed concept of it. Further, the State would have to answer to the people, and thus these Directive Principles would not be mere pious declarations.

Another reason, scholars say, why the Directive Principles were made unenforceable was because India did not possess the adequate resources to enforce all the DPSPs, and thus, it was left to the future Governments to follow them voluntarily.

Legally speaking, when the issue of the DPSPs has come up before the courts, the courts have stressed upon the importance of them time and again.

They have repeatedly read the DPSPs with the Fundamental Rights. Thus, the right to education mentioned in Article 41 has been held to be a part of Article 21, in turn making it a fundamental right. In a few cases, the Courts have even issued directives to the government to implement the DPSPs.

This leads to the question if this indeed was the intention of the Constitutional framers? If the DPSPs are being enforced by the Courts through Directives, could they still be said to be voluntary?  In today’s context, the implementation of the DPSPs should impose a financial burden on the government, and on the finite resources of the nation. For example, in many states the Right to Education was imposed mandatorily, even though the state lacked the resources leading to the result that the initiative did not succeed.

It is also to be noted that it has been 64 years since the adoption of the Constitution, and the relevance of the implementation of the DPSPs then was not the same as it is now. The ideals of the welfare state cannot be an unfulfilled principle.

Article 41 directs the State to make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want. This Article is an exemplification of social policy and security that every person ought to have. There have been various schemes by the government like the NREGA, integrated rural development schemes that have been enacted for the purpose of social and economic justice. However, the success of these schemes is dismal. The actual benefits derived to the people are marginal. Other initiatives taken like the Public Distribution System (PDS) have also not borne the desired fruits. The right to health under Article 46 has also not received the required attention. But there also exist Articles which exist merely because they have been there since time immemorial. Among these include the State’s duty to protect animal husbandry, and participation of workers in the management of industries.

A review of the DPSPs might be of use to organize, and to segregate them. Priority should be accorded to which Directive Principle is of greater importance. Moreover, the decision of prioritizing these principles should explicitly be decided by the Union and State governments. In 2002, it was recommended by the National Commission on the Working of the Constitution to reword Part IV to “Directive Principles of State Policy and Action”, to ensure that the DPSPs are implemented, and not remain a mere letter of the law.

The main problem with the Directive Principles is that even if were to be justiciable, who would it be enforced against? It cannot be against any individual, or even the State. The NCRWC has recommended the setting up of a body to oversee the schemes and the initiatives undertaken for social and economic welfare.

Making the DPSPs justiciable would result in complete restriction of the government’s freedom to legislate, and it would be a scenario of ‘one size fits all’ which is not what the drafters intended. The driving force behind the DPSPs is public opinion, and the necessity of the measure. Thus, middle ground can be found wherein welfare schemes are introduced voluntarily by the government, but a body set up oversees the successful implementation of these schemes, which ensures greater social and economic justice.

Surabhi Rao is an intern at the Takshashila Institution.

This article is part of a series of posts on the constituent assembly debates, meant to highlight the various points of views and negotiations that went into the creation of the Indian Constitution. Each post analyzes the debates on a particular issue.

Ruchita Sharma, Apoorva Tadepalli and Surabhi Rao are the contributors for this series.

The previous posts are here: Post1Post2, Post3.

Comments { 1 }