SECURE SYNOPSIS: 08 April 2017
NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.
General Studies – 1;
Topic: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues
Mahatma Gandhi’s views can be understood from Gandhi’s personal practices with regard to caste restrictions and religious obligations; how community life in Gandhi’s different ashrams was organised, since it refl ected the basic principles of Gandhi’s philosophy of life and can be seen as an extension of his own practices and some explanations that are generally put forward to clarify some of Gandhi’s writings in which he explicitly defends and validates caste, varna, and some of its restrictions.
While Gandhi’s opposition to untouchability was consistent and uncompromising, his attitude to the caste system—of which untouchability was a morbid growth—seemed to be marked by a certain ambivalence in the early years after his return from South Africa. The Hindu epics had given him a romantic image of the varnashrama, in ancient India, the fundamental four-fold division, in which castes were the equivalent of trade guilds, and birth was not the sole determinant of status and privilege. It seemed to Gandhi that the system, despite its obvious faults, had served as a cushion against external pressures during turbulent periods; he wondered whether it could be restored to its pristine purity and adapted to the changing needs of Hindu society. This was the background of some complimentary references he made to the caste system, which are often quoted against him. It must, however, be borne in mind that all the kind words he ever said about the caste system were about what he believed it to have been in the hoary past and not about what it was in his own time. Closer acquaintance with the Indian social scene convinced him that the system was so flawed by superstition, ‘touch-me-not-ism’, social inequality and discrimination, that it was past mending.
We can see a progressive hardening of Gandhi’s attitude to the caste system. In December 1920, he wrote, ‘I consider the four divisions alone to be fundamental, natural and essential. The innumerable sub-castes are sometimes a convenience, often a hindrance. The sooner there is fusion, the better’. Fifteen years later he declared that ‘the varnashrama of the shastras [scriptures] is to-day non-existent in practice. The present caste system is the very antithesis of varnashrama. The sooner public opinion abolishes it, the better’. He suggested that all Hindus should voluntarily call themselves shudras, who were supposed to be the lowest in the social scale. He rejected the notion that untouchability was an essential part of Hinduism; it was, he said, a ‘plague which it is the bounden duty of every Hindu to combat’. In the 1920s, he had been prepared to defend taboos on inter-dining and inter-marriage between members of different castes as exercises in self-restraint. In the 1930s, he was denouncing any exclusiveness which stemmed from caste or local prejudice. ‘It must be left to the unfettered choice of the individual’, he wrote, ‘as to where he or she will marry or dine. … If India is one and indivisible, surely there should be no artificial divisions creating innumerable little groups, which would neither inter-dine nor inter-marry.’ In 1946, Gandhi made the startling announcement that no marriage would be celebrated in his ashram at Sevagram, unless one of the parties was an ‘untouchable’ by birth.
Gandhi’s reluctance to make a frontal assault on the caste system in the early years may have been a matter of tactics. In a conversation with the Hungarian journalist, Tibor Mende, in 1956, Jawaharlal Nehru recalled:
I spoke to Gandhi repeatedly: why don’t you hit out at the caste system directly? He said that he did not believe in the caste system except in some idealized form of occupations and all that; but that the present caste system is thoroughly bad and must go. ‘I am undermining it completely’, he said, ‘by my tackling untouchability’.
You see … he had a way of seizing one thing and concentrating on it. ‘If untouchability goes’, he said, ‘the caste system goes’, Nehru replied.
General Studies – 2
Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health,
Drug abuse refers to the habit of regular intake of illegal drugs characterized by mis-use of drugs. There is a thin-line of difference between Drug abuse and addiction. In case of drug abuse, the person may or may not be addicted to these harmful drugs. However, in case of drug addiction, the person is severely addicted to these drugs. Thus, drug abuse may often lead to drug addiction.
Problem of Drug Abuse and Addition in India:
- Drug abuse and addiction is one of the great evils of our time. It has become a serious problem in India. Young and old alike everywhere are addicted to drugs. It has resulted in increased crime, tension, disease, horror and lack of peace and security.
- The cities have attracted large number of youth who come in search of employment. Such people live a lonely and isolated life and become anti-social. They fall into evil company and get addicted.
- The children who are deprived of the loving care and affection, and do not get right type of education are prone to be addicted to drugs.
- In the beginning it comes as an escape from the monotony or drudgery of routine life, as an object of thrill, stimulation or excitement. Gradually the addicts depend more and more upon drugs. They develop a kind of madness. They add to the number of anti-social elements who disrupt peaceful social life.
- Drugs are often smuggled from one country to another and sold through the agents and sub-agents who work secretly.
Causes of drug addiction in India-
In India drug abuse has become wide-spread and a cause of concern for the people and the government. The major causes of drug abuse and addiction are given below:
- It is to be noted that despair very often drives many to drug addiction. Students who remain far away from parents and guardians and live in hostels and colleges become victims of addition.
- Their keeping contact with bad company pushes them to be addicts. There is no proper direction, no goal or objective before young men and women to move forward and reach.
- At a very basic level this happens because the person concerned feels a desperate need to deal with stress, to get a momentary high or to just ‘fit in’ with his or her peers, as happens in the case of youngsters. It soon reaches a stage where this need becomes much more than other needs in life and the person begins to believe their survival depends on those drugs.
- One of the major reasons for drug abuse – and this is specially applicable for youngsters doing drugs – is its presence, and at times glorification, in popular media such as television series and films. Quite often it so happens that doing drugs is romanticized and some fictional positive aspects of the same are shown. Thus it becomes a thrilling and seductive affair for youngsters who can be misguided easily because of their relative lack of experience in life.
- Personal and family problems also leads to drug abuse among youngsters who fail to cope up with the ever-growing family and personal problems. Workplace pressure and issues with the colleagues results in workplace deviance which later results in detrimental effects on the individual.
- It might begin with experimenting. A friend or your loved one’s must have tried it once out of curiosity because of friends or just to cope up with a problem. In the early stages, one might really find it helpful to erase some problems or make one’s life better, which leads to more and more consumption of drugs. But as addiction reaches a step further, it becomes more of a need rather than just a problem solver.
- In the recent time the cases of increasing drug addiction are being reported from the areas where alcohol prohibition was introduced. Eg Bihar. The people of these areas have taken to drugs like opioids, cannabis, inhalants and sedatives.
Effects of drug addiction-
- The most major impact of drug abuse is on the brain, which consequentially affects every other aspect of life of the person addicted to drugs. Drugs are primarily chemicals that affect the communication system of the human brain. They disturb the ways in which nerve cells send, process and receive information.
- Drug abuse manifests itself in euphoric behaviour by the user – and at most times unnaturally so. This leads to a sequence where the users keep on repeating the same action of drug abuse. When this pattern continues the brain tries to adapt to the usage by reducing its own dopamine production as well as dopamine receptors. The user tries to adapt to this through drug abuse so that his or her dopamine production level can be brought back to a level that seems normal to him or her.
Role of health professionals in addressing the issue of drug addiction-
- Screening-Screening and brief assessment tools administered during annual routine medical checkups can detect drug use before it becomes a serious problem. The purpose of screening is to look for evidence of any use of alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs or abuse of prescription drugs and assess how severe the problem is. Results from such screens can indicate whether a more extensive assessment and possible treatment are necessary. Screening as a part of routine care also helps to reduce the stigma associated with being identified as having a drug problem.
- Brief Intervention-Adolescents who report using drugs can be given a brief intervention to reduce their drug use and other risky behaviors. Specifically, they should be advised how continued drug use may harm their brains, general health, and other areas of their life, including family relationships and education. Adolescents reporting no substance use can be praised for staying away from drugs and rescreened during their next physical.
- Referral- Adolescents with substance use disorders or those that appear to be developing a substance use disorder may need a referral to substance abuse treatment for more extensive assessment and care.
- Follow-up-For patients in treatment, medical professionals can offer ongoing support of treatment participation and abstinence from drugs during follow-up visits. Adolescent patients who relapse or show signs of continuing to use drugs may need to be referred back to treatment.
Before prescribing medications that can potentially be abused, clinicians can assess patients for risk factors such as mental illness or a family history of substance abuse, consider an alternative medication with less abuse potential, more closely monitor patients at high risk, reduce the length of time between visits for refills so fewer pills are on hand, and educate both patients and their parents about appropriate use and potential risks of prescription medications, including the dangers of sharing them with others.
Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
3) What are the objectives and mandate of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT)? How does India’s increasing cooperation with Saudi Arabia and UAE affect Pakistan? Critically examine. (200 Words)
Objective and mandate of IMAFT-
It is an intergovernmental counter-terrorist alliance of countries in the Muslim world, united around military intervention against ISIL and other counter-terrorist activities. Its creation was first announced by Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Defense, on 15 December 2015. The alliance was to have a joint operations center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
When the coalition was announced there were 34 members. Additional countries joined and the number of members reached 41 when Oman joined in December 2016. On 6 January 2017, Pakistan‘s former Chief of Army Staff, General (Retd.) Raheel Sharif was named the IMA’s first Commander-in-Chief.
IMAFT has stated that its primary objective is to protect Muslim countries from all terrorist groups and terrorist organizations irrespective of their sect and name. The IMA affirmed that it would operate in line with the United Nations and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) provisions on terrorism.
India’s increasing cooperation with UAE and Saudi Arabis-
- UAE-With the visit of Indian Prime Minister to UAE and Abu Dhabi’s crown prince’s visit to India on republic day, the relationship has reached great heights. UAE and India signed deals for building strategic oil reserves, cooperation in maritime security, cyber-space, defence manufacturing and training. A large expatriate Indian population in UAE is also a source of foreign currency in the form of remunerations. Also UAE provided land for a temple in Abu Dhabi.
- Saudi Arabia- Bilateral trade between India and KSA reached USD 40 billion in 2014-15 with Saudi Arabia being India’s largest Crude oil supplier. Saudi Arabia has large sovereign wealth funds and India is a developing economy, both the countries have huge space for cooperation. Apart from energy security, terrorism and intelligence sharing are other areas in which both the countries are cooperating of late. Also recently Saudi Arabia conferred its highest civilian award on Indian prime minister.
How does India’s increasing cooperation with Saudi Arabia and UAE affects Pakistan?
- Though the Pakistan has been the strong Arab ally and fought various wars for the Arabian Kingdom, its relations with the Saudi Arabia have been strained in recent years due to the fact that Pakistan refused to fight Yemen war along with Saudi Arabia. This led to decrease in the remittances of Pakistan from Saudi Arabia. At the same time India is engaging actively with the Saudis and UAEs. This has made Pakistan anxious about growing India’s proximity in West Asia and its decreasing influence in the Saudi and other West Asian Nations.
- Organization of Islamic countries (OIC) has already refrained from mediating in the Kashmir issue. This would strengthen India’s stance of solving Kashmir issue bilaterally and peacefully.
- India is major market for the Oil and other petroleum products for Saudi Arabia and UAE. In the scenario of decreasing oil prices and discovery of new energy resources like Shale gas, India provides great cushion to these countries. Thus Saudi Arabia and UAE have greater interests in India.
- Further India can exert diplomatic pressure on Pakistan through these countries by leveraging its economic potential. Even neutrality of these countries in case of conflict with the Pakistan would be the major achievement.
Huge Indian diaspora and goodwill have helped India to gain strategic advantage in countries like Saudi Arabia vis-a vis Pakistan. Further vacillating policies of Pakistan in relation to the West Asian countries have only helped India to gain dominant position. Thus West Asia would continue to feature among top priorities in India’s foreign policy.
Topic: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these
Government has generated the controversy over the way it has passed the finance bill in the lower house of the parliament. Government also rejected all the amendments proposed by upper house fuelling the controversy.
Criticisms of the Finance Bill 2017-
- The Finance Bill, 2017 was introduced in the Lok Sabha as a money bill, which in our bicameral system of governance is a type of legislation over which the lower house of Parliament has supreme authority. Article 110(1) of the Constitution states that a money bill can be classified as one only if it deals with taxation, government borrowings and guarantees, government expenditures, or any matters incidental to these. As a part of the annual budgetary exercise, finance bills usually fit this classification. However, the Finance Bill, 2017 far exceeded such a purview on a number of counts. Finance Bill has said to breached the scope and limitations placed by art 110. Also speaker’s role has been criticized as partial in declaring finance bill as money bill.
- According to new bill Income Tax officers can now raid homes without having to provide any reason for it. Earlier, Section 132 of the Income Tax Act, 1961, made it mandatory for tax authorities to have “reasons to believe” that the person in question had undisclosed assets, and/or was unwilling to disclose information the IT department needed, which gave them the reason to hold a raid. This power to tax authorities would only increase their arbitrariness and personal discretion thereby.
- According to the Finance Bill, 2017, any property of the person in question can be “provisionally seized” during a raid. Originally, the IT Act, 1962, only gave the authorities the right to seize assets that were “the subject of the raid”. The Bill also gives the IT officers the right to raid a property where a charity event is taking place. They can also demand information they need to conduct the surveys.
Both the above powers given to tax authorities have been termed as draconian by political analysts.
- Income tax payers will now need their Aadhaar card for filing your income tax returns. It will also be mandatory to link Aadhaar card to PAN card, or the latter will become invalid after July 1, 2017. This provision has been added despite Supreme Court’s order that Aadhar card cannot be made mandatory.
- As per the bill, the Centre can choose the members of the tribunals through a gazette notification. Allowing the executive to determine appointment, reappointment and removal of members could affect the independent functioning of the Tribunal. There would be conflict of interest if the government were to be a litigant before a Tribunal, as well as determine appointment of its members.
Certain Tribunals are proposed to be replaced, and their functions are proposed to be taken over by existing Tribunals under other Acts. The rationale behind replacing certain Tribunals is unclear. For example, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) may not have the expertise to adjudicate matters related to the pricing of airport services. Similarly, it is unclear if the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) which deals with matters related to company disputes and governance will have the expertise to deal with matters related to anti-competitive practices, which are currently managed by the Competition Appellate Tribunal.
- Currently, a company may contribute up to 7.5% of the average of its net profits in the last three financial years, to political parties. The company is required to disclose the amount of contributions made to political parties in its profit and loss account, along with the name of the political parties to which such contribution was made.
The amendments to the Finance Bill, 2017 propose to remove: (i) the limit of 7.5% of net profit of the last three financial years, for contributions that a company may make to political parties, (ii) the requirement of a company to disclose the name of the political parties to which a contribution has been made.
With the Finance Bill, 2017, people can make use of the ‘electoral bonds’ to donate to political parties anonymously. The Bill has also removed the cap of how much one (or a company) can donate to a political party.
Various committees on electoral reforms were quite clear that corporate funding of political parties would mean that the promoters of companies would consider their contributions as “investments” from which “benefits” could be reaped in the future. Such funding, it was argued, would influence government decisions in favour of the concerned companies. The current amendment essentially takes the country in a diametrically opposite direction and strengthens the nexus between business and politics. By allowing anonymous contributions, corporate funding of political parties will become more opaque, and will end oversight and accountability.
Effective functioning of parliament has been the pivotal for the smooth working of democracy. Using constitutional caveats with the sole purpose of circumventing the authority of parliament would defeat the very purpose of its functioning. Government needs to introspect its behavior and should maintain the respect and dignity of the parliament.
Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
5) In many recent incidences in many parts of India, doctors in public hospitals were assaulted by angry relatives of patients alleging negligence. Critically examine why such assaults on doctors in public hospitals are taking place and what should be done to address causes of these assaults. (200 Words)
The attacks on doctors were carried on across the country for reasons like negligence, patient death, high charges and hospital bills etc but their frequency and intensity has increased now a days.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for 1995 indicate that more workplace assaults and violent acts occur in health care and social services industries than in any other. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which mandates that employers provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm” protects workers from a broad array of hazards such as chemicals, machinery, and communicable disease. Assaults and violent acts also present a significant, and not uncommon, hazard to employees’ health.
Recent incidents of violence against doctors and subsequent protests by medical practitioners once again highlight that the doctor-patient relationship has changed for the worse
Reasons for assaults on doctors:-
- Commercialisation of the medical profession:- This commercialisation process starts right from the medical education level where many students pay large capitation fees to gain admission through management quotas. As soon as such practices are allowed, medical education becomes an investment for future earning. And if the medical profession is treated just like any other career, then problems are bound to crop up.
- Economic exploitation of patients:- People may also be angry at the doctor’s involvement with drug companies — including pharmaceutical company incentives such as lunches, tours abroad and expensive gifts. These benefits are not given to patients who are involved in research and the patient will typically have to pay a lot more for a medication than the doctor does. For instance, an anti-clotting agent may cost Rs 27,000 to a patient but only Rs 21,000 to a doctor who ordered it. For patients who can ill afford their treatment and who have no choice in an emergency, this can feel like exploitation.
- Unsuitable behaviour of doctors:-Doctors behaviour like delay in attending the patient is one of the main reasons that relatives become angry, as well as not including them in decision-making processes about patient care. Requesting advance payments before agreeing to any treatment can cause considerable tension as can refusing to release a body from the morgue until the bill has been settled.
- Venting out frustration of poor public healthcare system: People in general are frustrated because at the one hand, public hospitals provide sub-standard services and on the other, private hospitals charge exorbitant rate for treatment.
- A commitment from health care administrators and physician educators to acknowledge the reality of violence and to allocate resources for the development of training, crisis management, debriefing, and surveillance programs.
- The development of training and educational programs for employees, supervisors, managers, and security personnel.
- Ongoing work site analysis to identify existing or potential hazards for violence and the implementation of measures to prevent or control such hazards.
- While security needs to be better, strengthening the doctor-patient relationship is undoubtedly the most important factor in reducing violence. Involving patients’ attendants in decisions regarding the patient so that they feel like part of the process can diffuse tense situations. Today’s patients are more aware of their rights and more assertive as a result.
- Improving the quality of medical facilities and reducing the financial burden on patient’s families is also important as large payments may be catastrophic for poorer people and if they then encounter poor facilities too, this may engender a feeling of corruption.
- Use of technology: to manage influx of patients, effective online appointment system with easy interface and efficient channel of communication between security staff and doctors to assure prompt action by the first one
- While it may be difficult for doctors to distance themselves from drug companies, since they often sponsor medical conferences and frequently ‘educate’ doctors about new drugs, it may be possible to choose what incentives they accept and avoid conflicts of interest. Accountability and openness will lead to a restoration of trust and that is what is missing in today’s doctor-patient relationship.
Physicians harmed by the people for whom they provide care experience a unique type of workplace violence. Because general internists have responsibilities in a wide range of clinical settings, the potential for aggression and violence is a realistic concern. The significant emotional, psychological, and financial costs of violence make this an important issue for us all. Efforts to address this problem should be aimed at better understanding the situations in which violence occurs and the unique way in which violence affects general internists.
General Studies – 3
Topic: Environmental pollution
Every year, about 55 million tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) and 38 billion liters of sewage are generated in the urban areas of India. In addition, large quantities of solid and liquid wastes are generated by industries. Waste generation in India is expected to increase rapidly in the future. As more people migrate to urban areas and as incomes increase, consumption levels are likely to rise, as are rates of waste generation. It is estimated that the amount of waste generated in India will increase at a per capita rate of approximately 1-1.33% annually.
On the other hand India faces problem of energy crisis. More than 300 million Indians today don’t have access to electricity. According to the World Bank, 78.7 of India’s population has access to electricity – but that access is spotty, inconsistent, vulnerable to seasonal and recurring brownouts and blackouts, and largely urban
Hence utilising this waste for recycling and energy generation can pave the way not only for its efficient management but also for solving energy crisis in India:-
Why Waste to Energy?
Most wastes that are generated find their way into land and water bodies without proper treatment, causing severe water and air pollution. The problems caused by solid and liquid wastes can be significantly mitigated through the adoption of environment-friendly waste to energy technologies that will allow treatment and processing of wastes before their disposal.
The environmental benefits of waste to energy, as an alternative to disposing of waste in landfills, are clear and compelling. Waste to energy generates clean, reliable energy from a renewable fuel source, thus reducing dependence on fossil fuels, the combustion of which is a major contributor to GHG emissions.
These measures would reduce the quantity of wastes, generate a substantial quantity of energy from them, and greatly reduce pollution of water and air, thereby offering a number of social and economic benefits that cannot easily be quantified.
In addition to energy generation, waste-to-energy can fetch significant monetary benefits. Some of the strategic and financial benefits from waste-to-energy business are:
- Profitability– If the right technology is employed with optimal processes and all components of waste are used to derive value, waste to energy could be a profitable business. When government incentives are factored in, the attractiveness of the business increases further.
- Government Incentives– The government of India already provides significant incentives for waste to energy projects, in the form of capital subsidies and feed in tariffs. With concerns on climate change, waste management and sanitation on the increase (a result of this increasing concern is the newly formed ministry exclusively for Drinking Water and Sanitation), the government incentives for this sector is only set to increase in future.
- Related Opportunities– Success in municipal solid waste management could lead to opportunities in other waste such as sewage waste, industrial waste and hazardous waste. Depending on the technology/route used for energy recovery, eco-friendly and “green” co-products such as charcoal, compost, nutrient rich digestate (a fertilizer) or bio-oil can be obtained. These co-product opportunities will enable the enterprise to expand into these related products, demand for which are increasing all the time.
- Emerging Opportunities– With distributed waste management and waste to energy becoming important priorities, opportunities exist for companies to provide support services like turnkey solutions. In addition, waste to energy opportunities exist not just in India but all over the world. Thus, there could be significant international expansion possibilities for Indian companies, especially expansion into other Asian countries.
India Waste to Energy Tapped Potential
From the above section one can infer that there exists an estimated potential of about 225 MW from all sewage (taking the conservative estimate from MNRE) and about 1460 MW of power from the MSW generated in India, thus a total of close to 1700 MW of power.
Of this, only about 24 MW have been exploited, according to MNRE. Thus, less than 1.5% of the total potential has been achieved.
Major Constraints Faced by the Indian Waste to Energy Sector
The growth of this sector has been affected on account of the following limitations/ constraints:
- Waste-to-Energy is still a new concept in the country;
- Most of the proven and commercial technologies in respect of urban wastes are required to be imported;
- The costs of the projects especially based on biomethanation technology are high as critical equipment for a project is required to be imported.
- In view of low level of compliance of MSW Rules 2000 by the Municipal Corporations/ Urban Local Bodies, segregated municipal solid waste is generally not available at the plant site, which may lead to non-availability of waste-to-energy plants.
- Lack of financial resources with Municipal Corporations/Urban Local Bodies.
- Lack of conducive policy guidelines from State Governments in respect of allotment of land, supply of garbage and power purchase / evacuation facilities.
- Some basic techniques applied:-
Topic: Land reforms
Land acquisition is a complicated issue, that a government has to face sometime or the other in the course of its pursual of developmental and other activities. With a number of stakeholders involved in the process, and their various interests, it would be worthwhile to focus on the grievances of the farmers, and see how their interests are affected.
The grievances of the farmers, both during and after the acquisition are as follows:
- Meagre compensations received, and that too in an arbitrary manner, after acquisition.
- The options for appeal are not existent according to the colonial-era law.
- The farmers claim that as per the previous law, no consent was required for acquisition of land, that was deemed to being done for a public purpose. This allowed the state to exercise its powers in an unfettered manner, without any safeguard in place.
- Also, they claim that many acquired lands have remained unused for several years, which defeats the whole purpose of acquisition.
- During acquisition, the farmers claim that the arbitrary evictions from land are very common, and that the most fertile lands are often targetted.
The new law seeks to address some of the grievances in the following manner:
- Before acquisition, consent of at least 70 % of the land owners, and 80 % of the owners, are needed for PPP and privately funded projects respectively.
- Before acquisition, the law mandates the conduct of a social impact assessment.
- After acquisition, a fixed compensation is to be paid. It is two times the market price for urban land, and four times the market price for rural areas.
- After acquisition, there is a provision for return of land, if it remains unused for over a period of five years.
Therefore, the new land acquisition law redresses a number of grievances of the farmers, especially regarding the issues of compensation and consent. Apart from this, rehabilitation and resettlement clauses have also been welcome measures in the new law.
Despite the list of exemptions cited by the government for exercising its powers without taking the consent of the farmers being too large, or there being ambiguity about how the market price for land would be determined, the new law can be considered as an extremely progressive piece of legislation. This is more so when compared with the archaic Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
In a move set to attract investments, the Union cabinet approved the setting up of a regulator for the railways—the Rail Development Authority (RDA). The need for a rail regulator has been emphasized since 2001 by various committees. The first recommendation for an independent rail regulator came in 2001 when an expert group under the chairmanship of Rakesh Mohan suggested the formation of a regulatory authority to fix rail tariffs. Later, several railway committees suggested a Railway Tariff Development Authority. The most recent recommendation for RDA came through the National Transport Development Policy Committee (NTDPC) in 2014 and Bibek Debroy’s Committee in 2015.
Functions of RDA
The railway regulator will work within the parameters of the Railway Act, 1989. Here is what it will do:
- Tariff determination:The regulator will frame principles, recommend tariffs, principles for classification of commodities, frame principles for social service obligation and guidelines for track access charges on dedicated freight corridors.
- Ensuring fair play:The Railway Board has been often accused of bias. The regulatory body will ensure level-playing field for all stakeholders. It will help propose modifications and send suggestions or advisory notes on investment in railways by the Indian Railways, make suggestions regarding policies for private investment to ensure reasonable safeguards to PPP investors and to resolve disputes regarding future concession agreements.
- Setting standards:It will help set efficiency and performance standards, and disseminate information in line with global best practices and benchmarking.
Constitution of RDA
- The RDA will have a chairman and three members with a fixed term of five years each. They can be removed by the Central government only on certain grounds, including insolvency, conviction, misbehaviour, physical and mental incapability.
- The organisation will be set up with an initial corpus of Rs50 crore and can engage experts from relevant areas for assistance.
- It will be an independent body with a separate budget. The independence is ensured through provision of a separate budget, and the appointment and removal process.
- The Central government will appoint the chairman and members by choosing from a panel of names recommended by the search and selection committee consisting of cabinet secretary as chairman, chairman railway board, secretary of department of personnel and training and chairman of any regulatory body of the Central government nominated by the cabinet secretary.
The regulatory authority will change the landscape of Indian Railways as it will
- Help the national carrier take decisions on pricing of services commensurate with costs,
- Protect consumer interests,
- Suggest measures for enhancement of non-fare revenue,
- Promote competition and encourage market development,
- Create positive environment for investment,
- Promote efficient resource allocation and benchmarking of service standards,
- Suggest measures for absorption of new technologies and human resource development.
Creating a Rail Development Authority for India is among the most significant reforms to an infrastructure system undertaken by the government. The railways connect the country’s far corners and act as a driver of the economy. High rates of economic growth have raised the demand for travel, but this remains largely unmet. The popular aspiration is for a modern system that offers high-quality travel with low risk of accidents, while industry wants smooth freight transfer. An independent, empowered regulator could be the paradigm shift that is needed.
Rail reform is complex and what was undertaken in Europe during the 1990s, separating infrastructure from operations, is an interesting model: sequential measures achieved sustainable results, rather than a package of changes introduced at once.