Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019

Image source: The Hindu Businessline

Gazi Hassan

Tansgender is defined as a person whose gender does not match with the gender assigned to that person at the time of his/her birth. Tansgender includes trans man or trans woman, a person with intersex variations, queer and a person having known by identities such as kinner, hijra and aravani.

Transgenders have been living in India since time immemorial and exist in the Indian historical records since the 9th century BC. They have held prominent positions in the society like political advisors to King and administrators. However, their status started degrading when the British government, after the fall of the Mughal Empire, passed Criminal Tribes Act in 1871 which targeted them. Although after the independence of India the Act was repealed, the damage it had caused is still visible.

History of the Bill
The first version of Transgender Rights Bill was introduced in August, 2016. The Bill defined transgender individuals as “neither wholly female nor male”. It criminalised begging, which forms a part of their culture in South Asia and is a mean of survival to the vast majority of transgender people. The Bill also required a certificate as a proof of identity of a transgender person to be issued by the District Magistrate on the recommendation of a Screening Committee. The members of the Screening Committee comprised of a medical officer, a psychologist or psychiatrist, a district welfare officer, a government official and a transgender person. This led to massive public outcry and protests. After this, the Bill was sent to a Standing Committee which submitted its report in July 2017 with various recommendations.

The Lok Sabha tabled and passed a newer version of the Bill in December 2018. The criminalisation of begging was retained affecting the community who engage in begging for livelihood. The clauses where the District Magistrate was authorised to issue transgender certificates, lesser punishment for crimes against transgender persons and the absence of provisions on reservations for transgender persons were retained. These were contradictory to the judicial mandate of the Supreme Court in 2014 in NALSA v. UOI, thus violating right to equality and other fundamental rights of transgender persons. The members of the opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha stalled the Bill.

The final draft of Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 was passed in the Lok Sabha on August 5, 2019. The Bill prohibits discrimination against a transgender person, including denial of service or unfair treatment in relation to: (i) education (ii) employment (iii) healthcare (iv) access to, or enjoyment of goods, facilities, opportunities available to the public (v) right to movement (vi) right to reside, rent, or otherwise occupy property (vii) opportunity to hold public or private office and (viii) access to a government or private establishment in whose care or custody a transgender person is.

Why the Bill is Not Acceptable?
The Bill became controversial in many aspects. People opposing the Bill see it inappropriate to include the intersex community in the definition of transgender as all intersex people do not identify themselves as trans people. The requirement of the court order to decide whether a trans child will live with the biological family or the community family (gharana) is also seen as a blatant human rights violation. Also, the provision of penalty for rape of a trans person is just 6 months to 2 years, whereas it is life imprisonment in case of rape of a woman. Endangering the life of transgender is punishable by a maximum of only 2 years in prison.

Although the Bill discusses right to residence, prohibition of discrimination, inclusive education, livelihood, protection at the workplace and healthcare, it lacks information on how it will ensure all these. The Rajya Sabha has passed the Bill on November 26, 2019 without making suggested revisions. The issues of not excluding intersex people from the definition of trans person, doing away with the medical screening for identification, taking the punishment at par with other genders for crimes against transgenders, etc. will not lead to the intended social, economic and educational empowerment of the community.

Gazi Hassan is Senior Research Associate at CPPR-Centre for Strategic Studies. Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.


Thursday, November 07, 2019

How is NRC Shaping a New Identity?


Image source: The Hindu

Gazi Hassan

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register maintained by the Government of India containing names and relevant information for identification of Indian citizens of the state of Assam. The first NRC was compiled in 1951, after the Census was completed that year. The aim is to identify the so-called “illegal immigrants” believed to have entered Assam after the Bangladesh War of 1971. In 1979, eight years after the war, the State saw an anti-foreigner agitation led by the All Assam Student Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP). In 1985, the anti-foreigner agitation led to the signing of Assam Accord. The accord was signed between the AASU, the AAGSP, the Government of India and the Assam government. Under this accord, those who entered the State between 1966 and 1971 would be deleted from the electoral rolls and lose their voting rights for 10 years, after which their names would be restored to the rolls. Those who entered on or after March 25, 1971 — the eve of the Bangladesh War — would be declared foreigners and deported.

In May 5, 2005, a tripartite meeting was held in New Delhi between the Centre, Assam government and the AASU. During the meeting, it was decided that the NRC would be updated for Assam. In June 2010, the Assam government started two pilot projects to update the NRC in two blocks in the State's Kamrup and Barpeta districts. The Supreme Court (SC) in 2013 set a deadline to update and publish a revised NRC which was to be monitored by it. In 2015, NRC application forms were distributed in Assam. The applications stopped getting accepted on August 31, 2015 and the process of verifying the applications began on September 1, 2015.

The mammoth process went through several phases, the first being data collection. Most individuals applying for inclusion in the NRC had to prove not only that their ancestors had lived in Assam pre-1971 but also their relationship with the ancestor. Then came the verification process, and the documents were sent to the original issuing authorities. In the meantime, NRC officials conducted field verification. Once the data was submitted, the applicant’s blood relations were plotted on a family tree.

There was no official community-wise or district-wise data. Of the 3.29 crore people who applied, 2.89 crore people made it to the first draft published on July 30, 2018. Over 40.07 lakh were excluded — including army veterans, government employees, families of former Presidents and Assam’s only woman chief minister. 

The publication of the final list was on August 31, 2019. As many as 19 lakh Assam residents are now staring at statelessness. The Assam government has assured people that those who find their names missing from the final NRC will not immediately be termed "foreigners" or illegal immigrants. They will be allowed to register complaints with the Foreigners Tribunals that have been set up to examine the cases. In case they are not satisfied with the response of the Tribunal, they can even approach the Assam High Court or even the SC. The government has also promised legal aid to the poor who find their names missing from the list. Whether they will be detained, deported or allowed to stay on without the rights and privileges of citizenship is still not clear.

In the past, those deemed to be foreigners were transferred to detention centres carved out of local prisons. Presently, there are six such centres across Assam and a new one, with the capacity to accommodate 3000 people, is being built in Domini (Matia) — a Muslim majority area — in Goalpara district at a cost of Rs 45 crore.

The Assam NRC is being seen as a precursor to a more general NRC for the entire country. There are concerns and fears that the NRC could end up targeting minorities in the country. It will neither stop the transnational flow of undocumented migrants from Bangladesh, nor reduce the demand of their labour in India’s growing urban construction industry.

At the very least, the NRC process is likely to cause large-scale and long-term human suffering and leave many stateless. It will alter the fabric of the society in India, fostering a sense of mutual suspicion, intolerance and the hardening of social and cultural boundaries between citizens.

Gazi Hassan is Senior Research Associate at CPPR-Centre for Strategic Studies. Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

How Can Congestion Pricing Solve Traffic Woes?

Image source: LiveMint
By Devika P V,

The term ‘congestion pricing’ is used to describe a distance, area or cordon-based road user charging policy around congested areas to reduce the use of private vehicles and increase the use of public transportation. Congestion pricing is also known as electronic road pricing. Drivers usually ignore the social costs of using the road and only calculate their benefits which result in traffic congestion and air pollution. Singapore was the first country to implement Congestion pricing in 1975, followed by London in 2003 and Stockholm in 2007. The need for congestion pricing is increasing every year due to many reasons, the main being population growth which affects the number of vehicles on the roads and causes delays, air pollution and increased fuel consumption. While the number of vehicles is increasing, the size of the roads remains the same. As of now, Delhi is considered to be the highly congested state followed by Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata. If India tries to adopt congestion pricing, it would help reduce the traffic congestion and pollution level which will in turn improve the quality of the environment. Also, the overuse of the roads will be minimised as drivers will divert to less-travelled routes or change the times they drive to avoid the cost.

The purpose of implementing congestion pricing is to divert the profits generated into building a robust public transportation system. However, pricing of the charge should be reasonable as people might react negatively to a high price. At the same time, low price might also lead to congestion charge to fail as the number of cars may not decrease. Therefore, a good pricing scheme is needed before implementing congestion pricing.

In London, cordons tolls are placed in areas where congestion increases during peak hours. The drivers pay the price through TAGS system or automatic vehicle deduction system. Introduction of such a system will have many advantages — it will improve the mobility in urban areas, save time, encourage people to use public transport, lower air pollution, give wider economic benefits and raise revenue, which can be diverted for maintaining public transportation. However, the move is not bereft of challenges. There are also disadvantages like lack of advanced technology, especially in developing countries. Additionally, if there is no sufficient public transport it will cause over- crowding and may become tough to administer, which might result in increased instances of evasions.

The key to successful implementation of congestion charges is to get public acceptance for the policy. This can be created by making people aware of the benefits of reduced congestion. Rule- based systems for changing prices appear to be more popular than those requiring political discretion. Ancillary benefits, including reduced environmental impacts, can in some cases help in creating acceptance and take decision on how much to charge. Another matter of concern is the cost of implementing congestion pricing. Congestion charges potentially raise substantial amounts of revenue, but at the same time it is costly to run the system. Some studies have suggested revenue neutrality with respect to congestion charges, but emphasising revenue neutrality may reduce policy flexibility. Hence, getting public and political support becomes the key issue in the implementation of congestion charges.

Devika P V is a Research Intern at CPPR. Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Powering Kerala’s Electric Vehicles

Image source: topgear.com

By Jacob Thamarappally,

India is set to move further towards an automobile industry that is primarily electricity powered. The government has introduced certain initiatives in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint in India’s mobility scenario by 2030 and electric vehicles (EVs) are seen to be pivotal to these plans. With schemes like the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) and the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME), the government has set lofty targets that if realised would result in a significant increase in the number of EVs on roads in India. Currently, India is aiming for 30 per cent of all vehicles on the road to be electric by 2030. As reported by Autocar India, in the FY2019, the number of EV sales reached a total of 7,59,600 units. However, this is a small fraction of the more than 252 million registered vehicles on Indian roads as on 2017. And with an annual growth rate of 9.48 per cent (for 2016−17), this number is expected to be significantly larger in 2030, which would require a significant increase in the number of EVs from where it is now in the country. This increase would call for substantial development in both the country’s charging infrastructure and the nation's system for producing and delivering electricity. However, India is still heavily dependent on coal as its primary source of energy. According to the BP Energy Outlook 2019, despite some efforts from the government to promote renewable resources — a plan by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to install 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022 — India still would depend on coal for almost 50 per cent of its energy requirements. This blog will analyse the feasibility of EVs in India, in particular, the state of Kerala with a focus on the sourcing of the electricity required to power these vehicles.

The state of Kerala is at the forefront of the nation’s vision of an electric future. It is one of the seven states to be granted the first-mover advantage from the Centre’s push for EV regime in the Budget of 2019. The state government has also announced an ambitious target in its Electric Vehicle Policy — 1 million EVs on the road by 2022. A pilot fleet of 3000 buses, 100 ferries, two lakh two-wheelers, 50,000 three-wheelers and 1000 goods carriers are planned as a part of this. The state generates power from four sources — hydel (2107.96 MW), thermal (718.46 MW), wind (59.27 MW) and solar power (75.42 MW). Hydel and thermal are a considerable majority. Furthermore, the state is heavily dependent on its monsoons to sustain the hydropower base in the state, and a shortage in rainfall usually creates a power crisis. The electricity demand of the state is provided through power generation from Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd (KSEB), Central Generation Station (CGS), Independent Power Producers and Traders. However, according to an economic review conducted by the State Planning Board, domestically produced electricity accounts for only 51.18 per cent of the total electricity consumed in the state. The development of the power grid at the regional and national level has allowed states like Kerala to purchase large amounts of power from sources and producers outside the state. At present, KSEB imports around 57 million units of power in order to meet the daily demand. Out of this, the state gets 29 million units from the centre, and the rest is brought through long, medium and short- term power purchases. As a result of these purchases, the state has suffered a total loss of almost `9000 crore.

The growth rate of energy consumption in the state has also been steadily increasing every year. The growth rate from 2015−16 to 2016−17 was 5.84 per cent, with the average power consumption in the state reaching almost 64 million units. As per the 19 th Electric Power Survey by the Central Electric Authority, over the next 10 years, there will be an increase of 74 per cent in the commercial consumption and a 60 per cent increase in the domestic consumption of energy in the state. However, if the state were even to come closer to its ambitious target of 1 million EVs by 2022, the extra demand for power would be considerable. These numbers do not take into account the rise in demand that the widespread adoption of EVs would cause.

An average electric car consumes approximately 0.20 kWh/Km. Most of the Indian drivers drive their vehicles for about 10,000−15,000 kilometres per year. This means that just a single EV would require around 3000 kWh of electricity per year. When we consider the scale of Kerala’s proposed electric policy, the total energy required would seem to be an astronomical number. However, this number might be a little deceptive. On average in 2017, the state of Kerala consumed 64 million kWh of electricity daily. This means that in a year, they would consume 23,360 million kWh of electricity. In the best-case scenario, if the state realises its dream of 1 million electric vehicles, all these vehicles would require 3000 million kWh. This would mean that EVs may take up only 12.84 per cent of the state’s total energy requirements. This number, while not insignificant, is by no means a death blow to the industry, as some people make it out to be. For instance, the extra energy required for EVs would only be half of the energy currently consumed for industrial use (around 20 per cent). This is also not taking into account the fact that the total consumption of electricity will definitely increase by 2022 and similarly, technological advancements in future shall result in more efficient electric vehicles. This will also reduce the amount of power consumed by EVs in relation to the total power consumed. Furthermore, under the Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO), as part of the Tariff Policy issued by the Ministry of Power, it is mandatory for the states to purchase a certain portion of their electricity needs from solar power plants. This share will keep on increasing on a yearly basis, and will help to provide the excess power required by the EVs.

Examples of this phenomenon materialising can already be seen in more developed countries where EVs are more widespread. For instance, according to a report by Mckinsey, in Germany, EV growth is not likely to cause large increases in power demand through 2030. As per the report, even with a 25 per cent EV penetration rate, it will only cause a 5 per cent increase in the total amount of electricity consumed, and almost all this new-build capacity will involve renewables including wind and solar power. The bulk of electricity demand will still be from industries and homes. For example, for a typical residential feeder circuit of 150 homes at a 25 per cent EV penetration rate, analysis has indicated that the load would increase only by around 30 per cent. This means at the peak charging times (usually around midnight) the increase in the load would be 30 per cent. While this may seem significant, when we consider the aggregate increase in demand over both residential and non-residential areas (where there are fewer EVs), the effects are not as consequential. Similarly, time of use tariffs can give incentive to EV owners to charge their vehicles after midnight rather than during the peak hours.

Finally, we must also consider the fact that EVs in the future are going to be more advanced than the ones currently in the market. Battery costs are already on the decline and the range of newer models is getting larger and larger. Similarly, initiatives are being taken on both the state and national level to promote the use of renewable sources of energy. With 40 ongoing projects, generating more than 20 MW of energy, KSEB is taking initial steps to promote the use of solar power in the state. Much needed power reforms are also set to be implemented on a national level with the ‘One nation, one grid’ initiative announced by the finance minister during the 2019 Budget. This scheme, if implemented, would bring electricity to a wider ambit of the population and help increase the popularity of EVs in the more rural areas of the country.

Once Kerala is able to build ubiquitous charging infrastructure equipped with fast charging facilities and increase the share of renewable energy sources, the EV industry will really take off. And despite global fuel prices expected to decline in the future, the price of electricity is still much lower than the equivalent amount of fuel. Not to mention it is much better for the environment, especially with a greater share of electricity coming from renewable resources.

Jacob Thamarappally is a Research Intern at CPPR. Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.

References

  1. https://www.ceicdata.com/en/india/number-of-registered-motor-vehicles/registered-motor-vehicles-total.
  2. http://spb.kerala.gov.in/ER2017/web_e/ch52.php?id=50&ch=52.
  3. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/keralas-power-usage-nears-64-mu-per-day/56675124.
  4. Anilkumar, B.S. 2017. "Kerala's Power Usage Nears 64 MU Per Day”. Etenergyworld.Com, January 20, 2017. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/keralas-power-usage-nears-64-mu-per-day/56675124.
  5. Balkrishna and Anand Patel. 2018. "Fact File: This is Why Petrol Is on Fire". India Today, September 11, 2018. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/this-is-why-petrol-is-on-fire-1338077-2018-09-11.
  6. "EV Charging 101 - How Much Electricity Does an Electric Car Use?" 2018. Virta.Global, September 10, 2018. https://www.virta.global/blog/ev-charging-101-how-much-electricity-does-an-electric-car-use.
  7. Hauke Engel, Russell HensleyStefan Knupfer, and Shivika Sahdev. 2018. "The Potential Impact of Electric Vehicles on Global Energy Systems". Mckinsey& Company, August 2018. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/our-insights/the-potential-impact-of-electric-vehicles-on-global-energy-systems.
  8. KSEB. “Generation". http://www.kseb.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=45&Itemid=553&lang=en.
  9. "Oil Price Outlook”.  2019. Globalpetrolprices.Com, September 2019. https://www.globalpetrolprices.com/articles/3/.
  10. Sioshansi, Fereidoon. 2018. "The Impact of Electric Vehicles on Electricity Demand - Energy Post". Energy Post, November 6, 2018.  https://energypost.eu/the-impact-of-electric-vehicles-on-electricity-demand/.
  11. State Planning Board. "Economic Review 2016- Infrastructure”. Spb.Kerala.Gov.In. http://spb.kerala.gov.in/EconomicReview2016/web/chapter05_09.php.
  12. State Planning Board. "Economic Review 2017- Energy”. Spb.Kerala.Gov.In. http://spb.kerala.gov.in/ER2017/web_e/ch52.php?id=50&ch=52.
  13. Todd, F. Davidson, Dave Tuttle, Joshua D. Rhodes, and Kazunori Nagasawa. 2018. "How Future Fleet of Electric Cars could Cause the Power Outages of Tomorrow". Inverse. https://www.inverse.com/article/51486-electric-cars-demand-better-infrastructure.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Libertarian Principles of Intellectual Property


By Saira Banu, 

Image source: pmcorporatelaw.com

Libertarianism as a philosophy emerged in an attempt to cure the unfairness that plagues our world. This blog will attempt to question the basis for its very existence, along with assessing the effect of libertarian principles on intellectual property.

While it rose from a need to make living fairer, whether this principle is translated into the libertarian view of intellectual property (IP) is explored throughout this blog. Libertarianism assumes the existence of a natural harmony between productive people, and an analysis of how this harmonious existence seeks to protect or prevent intellectual property rights (IPRs) will be done. Essentially a political doctrine, human flourishing and human happiness are seen as the central takeaways of libertarian philosophy. Freedom of speech is celebrated in libertarianism, and the role and power of the government is optimally kept to a minimum to allow humans to exercise their own autonomy. While libertarians advocate “minimal government interference”, they do not prescribe to any sense of lawlessness as the government’s minimal responsibilities include protection against force, fraud and theft, as well as the enforcement of contracts. This is where we first see traces of libertarian principles in IPRs, which also emphasise the maximum freedom of the individual and minimum authority of the government.

A vital principle of libertarian philosophy is the “Non-aggression principle”. The non-aggression principle (NAP) holds that aggression against a person or property of others is always wrong, where aggression is defined narrowly in terms of the use or threat of physical violence. The NAP is considered the defining principle of the philosophy of Libertarianism and suggests that aggressive behaviour if initiated can be met with reciprocal aggression. The notion of liberty preached by libertarians requires a great sense of restraint, but the only restraint compatible with libertarianism is self-restraint.

Having established a basic premise of libertarianism and how its principles could or could not be compatible with IPRs, we will now elucidate what comprises IPRs and how it is impacted by the principles of libertarianism.

Very simply put, IP refers to creations of the mind. It is divided into two categories: (1) Industrial property that comprises inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications, (2) Copyrights that comprise literary works, films, music, artistic works and architectural design. IPRs are treated like any other property right as they allow creators, or owners, of patents, trademarks or copyrighted works to benefit from their own work or investment in a creation. In this sense, IPRs embody the very essence of libertarianism as it restores individual agency to these “creations of the mind”, and allow these productive creators or owners to benefit from the fruit of their intellectual labour.

Several arguments exist supporting the establishment of the protection for IPRs. The WIPO argue that the progress and well-being of humanity rest on its capacity to create and invent new works in the areas of technology and culture. It further argues that the legal protection of new creations encourages the commitment of additional resources for further innovation, and that the protection and promotion of IPRs spurs economic growth, create new jobs and industries, and enhances the quality of life. Through the course of this blog, we will try to ascertain whether these are compatible with the principles of libertarianism.

Multiple scissions have erupted in the libertarian school of thought concerning the validity of IPRs in Libertarian philosophy. There is a stringent disagreement about the application of the fundamental principles of libertarianism. Two predominant schools of thought exist concerning this. The first school of thought postulates that patents and copyrights are a necessary component of a legal framework that protects open competition and individual rights, while the second school of thought is of the opinion that IP is a form of aggression or coercion, a violation of an individual’s legitimate prerogative.

IP has a central role in the global economy. Hence, the stakes are high and the public policy implications are far reaching. We will now look at libertarians who share a conflicting barrage of ideas ceding to IPRs. Murray Ruthbard defended a contract theory of copyright, provided that the work was properly contracted, as libertarians uphold the enforceability of legal contracts. He did however distinguish between patents and trademarks as the principle of attaining “copyrights by contract” does not extend to patents as the latter goes beyond the scope of the free market and the “original contract”. Benjamin Tucker, an individual anarchist was of the view that IP constituted protectionist economic privilege. During the course of his lifetime, he instituted a privatised mail delivery enterprise to challenge the US government’s monopoly over the postal system. He considered IPR as averse to individual rights and that it served no higher purpose than the insulation of the powerful against competition. He argued that copyrights and patents replaced the intrinsic worth of labour and provided a profit excess to the amount legitimately earned by them. Ayn Rand is another avid libertarian who vouches for IP, but does not reflect the same in her writings. Her values of libertarianism are enshrined in her acclaimed Atlas Shrugged, which also contributed to the popularisation of libertarianism. Rand argues that a man’s right to the product of his mind is unquestioned, while prescribing to a completely contradictory notion in her novel. What patent and copyright law acknowledges is the paramount role of mental effort in the production of material values. According to Rand, IP is validated by the protection it affords to creators in their fabrication of concrete things that did not previously exist in nature. Certain contemporary libertarian thinkers like Stephen Kinsella argue that IPRs are incompatible with libertarianism as it is nothing more than the redistribution of wealth and hence it becomes un-libertarian and unjustified.

Hence, there are varied instances to prove that libertarianism has influenced certain aspects of IPRs as illustrated above, but the fragmented ideological perspectives that accompany any school of philosophy exist in this scenario as well, preventing a reader from ascertaining a concrete understanding of the role of libertarianism in IPRs.

Saira Banu is a Research Intern at CPPR-Centre for Strategic Studies. Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Some Thoughts on National Education Policy Draft

By Rajesh K P,


The Draft National Education Policy (Committee for DNEP 2019) is a vision document which aims at a major overhaul of our present education system — school as well as higher education. The document is very detailed and gets into every aspect of the education system including governance, regulation and accreditation. With the mention of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), there is a significant change in the way we look at foundational education. There is an emphasis on revamping teacher education with higher education reforms providing ways to achieve these goals. Talking of higher education, one could see that the policy document aims at a significant revamp of the higher education system. Two major policy documents with regard to education in recent times were the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) in 2005 and Right To Education (RTE) in 2008. ECCE is expected to make its way into the RTE Act, while NCF could see a significant direction
change with the new policy.

The vision looks grant. Capturing what National Education Policy (NEP) sets in motion is an arduous task. However, there are some aspects which call for attention. First one is the incorporation of ECCE into the thinking on education and the potential positive impact it could have on early education. Another is the aspect of regulation, which is repeated in the document as “light, but tight”  Committee for DNEP 2019). The institutions which are going to be setup to ensure this lighter version of regulation do not appear to be light in terms of size and powers. This would require a closer look. The third aspect is the question on underrepresented groups (URGs) and how inclusivity is going to be addressed in the new landscape of education, higher education in particular. To conclude, we will also see some interesting use of vocabulary in the policy document. Does it have a political tinge which favours the regime in power?

Early Childhood Care and Education — a Welcome Beginning

“Every child in the age range of 3-6 years has access to free, safe, high quality, developmentally appropriate care and education by 2025” (Committee for DNEP 2019). This is how the objective statement on ECCE reads. The significance of this is the acknowledgement that cognitive development in the early ages is fundamental to the outcomes during the latter part of your education. Those who miss out early, tend to miss out altogether. There is an emphasis on improving the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER), which is pretty poor in India compared to developed nations and even BRICS. A high percentage of dropouts is an indication of the problems which exist during the early development of a child and the reasons for this are many. Kids born into less privileged social groups fail to get the necessary attention from their parents, nutritious food in adequate amount and fail to develop the necessary social skills to further help them in education. To ensure that this is available to
all kids in the country, this policy proposes to include “free and compulsory quality pre- primary education for all 3-6-year old” (Committee for DNEP 2019). This is quite remarkable and could prove to be a major step in ensuring “equality of outcome” when it comes to early education. The restructuring of the school education system to 5+3+3+4 with five years of foundational phase restates the stress given in the policy for the ECCE aspect. The foundational phase will have more activity-based learning and the play school type of curriculum could prove to be innovative enough to achieve the ECCE goals. Improved midday meal scheme could take care of the nutritional aspect of early childhood care. Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) linked with Anganawadi system as had some success in this area and the learnings from the implementation of this could provide valuable guidance on ECCE aspect.

Light, but Tightly Controlled?

The idea of ECCE looks significant in terms of vision as well as implementation and it would appear that the concept of “light, but tight” regulation might turn out to be similar — till one tries to go deep into the details. There is an entire chapter dedicated to explaining the structure of Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA) — a new constitutional body which would be controlling almost all aspects of education including regulatory and governance aspects. Each state will setup its own RSA which would then be controlled by the RSA at the Centre. School education regulation would be with the state education commissions, controlled by the national education commission which is the overarching body. These state education commissions do not appear to be autonomous bodies and are tightly controlled by the RSA. This could prove to be a constitutional hurdle since education appears in the concurrent list with states having significant decision-making powers. The policy document proposes to constitute RSA through an act in Parliament and if RSA is to have the powers mentioned in the document it has to have an impact on the ‘concurrent’ nature of legislation on education. It would also be interesting to see how a centralised governance system could remain light and tight. The proposed regulatory bodies report to the RSA, which also has multiple standing committees, and another Joint Review and Monitoring Board (JRMB).

Changing(?) Ideas on Affirmative Action?

Autonomy in higher education is a frequent demand from several quarters. Various groups call for greater autonomy for different reasons. The presence of a large and powerful body under RSA — National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA) with the sole responsibility of regulating higher education, and National Research Foundation that could potentially call the shots on what to research and what not to — we are looking at a potentially not-so-autonomous higher education. While things appear that way when it comes to day-to-day educational activities, private institutions seem to enjoy autonomy in terms of admission and fee structure. In terms of admission, they are not bound to abide by the existing reservation norms based on caste groups and the only criterion seem to be with respect to the economic status of the family. Private institutions are free to decide their fee
while providing scholarships based on, again, the income status. With the potential of seeing an increase in participation of the private sector (Shankar 2016) in education, this autonomy could prove detrimental to the caste groups — SCs, STs and OBCs in particular. Given that GER further declines when we consider caste groups, this could have a negative impact on inclusivity and could potentially undo the positives we might achieve as part of ECCE.

Casteism and Secularism — Glaring Omissions?

Implicit endorsement of an economic basis for affirmative action is diagonally opposite to what the Constitution envisioned while talking about a social revolution that would bring about an inclusive society. Talking about the Constitution, one cannot ignore the fact that DNEP document does not invoke secularism even while talking about constitutional principles. There is a mention about patriarchy and racism (Committee for DNEP 2019) as social issues which would be discussed in the curriculum, but casteism fails to make an entry into the document. One could argue that these are not intentional and a mention of a broad spectrum of values could cover these; but talking about inclusive education without the mention of caste and religion is as meaningless as it can get, especially in the Indian context. Given the controversies we have had over NCERT text books, specifically in the recent past (TheWire, March18,2019), the apprehensions over certain omissions are justified.

Great Vision, but…

The 480-page long document is a significant effort and a lot of suggestions have the potential to transform the education sector for good. However, the power of RSA and the potential it has to encroach on the autonomy of institutions could sound as a warning. On one hand, we talk of autonomy, yet NRF could still dictate terms on research topics. The concept of topics of national interest could be further interpreted by these authorities in a way that suits the aspirations of a political regime. The idea of a liberal education could become real only when educational institutions could enjoy greater autonomy. Breaking down the entry barrier is the way to increase inclusivity, but we cannot get there by ignoring social disparities which are largely at play (Shankar 2016). RSA’s potential to override the federal nature of education- related legislation is also a worrying sign. These sections would require a rethink keeping the constitutional provisions in mind, if we were to achieve the goals stated in this omnibus.

(Rajesh K P was a Research Intern at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed by the author is personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research)

References

1. Committee for DNEP. 2019. Draft National Education Policy. New Delhi: Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India.
2. NCERT to drop chapters on caste struggles, colonialism from class 9 history book. 2019. The Wire, 18 March. Accessed on 19 March 2019 at https://thewire.in/education/ncert-history-textbook-caste-struggles-colonialsm.
3. Shankar, Apoorva. 2016. Role of private sector in higher education. PRS Legislative Research. January. https://www.prsindia.org/policy/discussion-papers/role-private-sector-higher-
education.

Monday, September 16, 2019

India and IPRs Laws


By Ayush Kukreja,
(Image source: LegalDocs)

Copyrights, trademarks, patents, etc are terms which are often non-synonymous with economic significance and put away as indifferent to the facets of micro and macro trade. It suffices to attach the notion of ‘proprietorship’ and hence the meaning of ‘intellectual property rights’ is lost. Intellectual property rights (IPRs) basically refer to industrial and copyright laws. Industrial laws can be further broken down into trademarks, patents, industrial designs and geographical indications. While copyright laws are mostly restricted to the entertainment industry, we lay specific significance to industrial laws because they bear the most relevance for the economy.

Amidst the crippling trade war between the US and China, IPRs should be given more importance now than ever. India seems to be the next target of the US conglomerates, who cannot stand the 5th largest GDP churning country free riding the tariff benefits it enjoys. India stands at 36th rank out of 45 countries when it comes to the protection of IPRs and this explains the lack of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), investments in Research and Development (R&D) or technology transfers into the country. The year 2018 saw India at 43rd position and the renewed ranking seems definitely promising, but it was the result of the delayed effects of the one and only policy on IPRs implemented by the Indian government in 2016. It lays the bare minimum standards for IPRs implementation in India under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) TRIPS agreement and ensures fast track procedures for startups and legislative issues.

On the surface, all this promises optimism and reform in the “Ease of doing business” index for India but the country has bigger issues in the field of healthcare to deal with, which is where the IPRs agreements and norms allow “developing countries” like India some leeway for cheaper alternatives. Methods such as ‘compulsory licensing’ and ‘ever greening’ legally allow India to manufacture drugs at highly subsidised costs. This trendsetting activity by India has made several big pharmaceuticals take the matter to the courts where India has always courted the matter in its favour. The recent Pepsico Lays vs Gujarat farmers’ case is not just all about infringement of IPRs on the grounds of genetically modified potato seeds but also casts a moral shadow over the ethics of conducting business and agriculture. Regardless, there remains an unquestionable stance on the lack of public-private partnerships. Government interests never coincide with corporates and nobody seems to be least bothered about investing in India.

TRIPS Agreement saw the shift in India’s policy from ‘process-patents’ to ‘product-patents’ which was a huge transitional move away from the reverse engineering technique which the Indian manufactures would apply to get to the product without putting brains into it. There seems to be substantial upliftment in the R&D sector, but the lack of other forms of investments has hindered the incentive generation process. Returns on borrowing money from the banks are usually higher and have a short-time window. One dollar invested through venture capital channels certainly bears more outputs than one dollar invested in the R&D sector. Labour, capital and manufacturing are no longer the driving forces of the economy and this is the realisation India needs to have. Innovation and entrepreneurship should be the primary objective initiatives likes ‘Make in India’ and ‘Startup India’ need to devise. Globalisation as a blanket force, undeniably requires a “keeping up with the trends” strategy which Japan’s software industry failed to realise in the 90s and was forced to copy IBM illegally, following which the FBI’s probe sent the Japanese economy for a major setback.

WTO rules need to be complied with formal measures and India cannot make its membership value vulnerable to threats. US Chamber of Commerce ranks countries taking into account six indicators: patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, market access, enforcement and ratification of international treaties. The infrastructure required to enforce all this is already in the pipeline but pragmatic shifts in the nature of bilateral and multilateral agreements made by India in the arena of technology transfers will bear serious answers to the problems we are faced with. A storm of ‘intellectual’ wars awaits if India fails to realise the gravity of the situation.

(Ayush Kukreja was a Research Intern at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed by the author is personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research)

Green Bonds for Sustainable Development

By Puja Meiyammai S,
(Image source: Smart Prosperity Institute)

What are green bonds? How can they tackle major environmental issues faced by India and save the environment for the future generation?

In the early years, institutions like banks and non-banking sectors financed environmental projects. However, a huge investment requirement for these projects made it financially unviable. Thus, the concept of green bonds came into existence to keep these projects on track.

Green bonds are fixed income financial instruments that are lined up in the process of promoting and implementing climate change and environmental solutions. The funds are raised by issuing bonds to investors who are interested in financing green projects. The green bonds assure the investors of prompt repayment of the amount that is borrowed by remunerating them with either fixed or variable rate of return. Second, they create positive public relations and help in diversification of investors.

The green bond market in India has been flourishing for the past three years. It came to existence in 2015 when YES Bank issued the bond for solar and wind energy projects with an amount of $1.1 billion. The green bonds issued in India are certified by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Following this, in January 2016 SEBI announced the official green bond requirements for India and made it the second country to establish a national-level guideline plan next to China. Successively, a circular containing disclosure norms was sent out with all the information about the issuance and listing of green bonds in India.

In the Union Budget session of 2018, it was proposed that only A-rated green bonds are to be accepted for investment and not AAA-rated bonds. This was to help the corporate bond market expand further as green bonds are sub-sets of corporate bonds. As of 2019, India holds 8th position in the green bond market with a market value of $7 billion. India has announced a target of 175 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity that is to be achieved by 2020 and currently we have only 30 gigawatts. In order to achieve this target, India will need a large amount of money. Additionally, since we are a developing economy we need to be careful in selecting investors, especially in the backdrop of the USA recently withdrawing from the UNFCCC Paris agreement. Due to this exit, pressure on the developing economies has increased as now they would not be able to get investors from the USA, which forces them to find more domestic investors to increase the source of funds. In order to be successful in finding domestic investors, India needs to overcome the barriers like lack of proper measures for this nascent financial instrument, consider diversification of sectors and try to include national institutions, as till date only state and state-owned institutions are the issuers of green bonds. Also, it should come up with new ideas to attract more domestic investors. After rectification or overcoming these barriers, India would be able to use these bonds to tap more resources and use them wisely than the other developing economies with properly equipped technologies.

(Puja Meiyammai S was a Research Intern at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed by the author is personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

TRIPS Agreement and Challenges


Image source: ictsd.org
By K A Dhananjay,

Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement is a framework which brought a unified Intellectual Property standard across the globe. It is a complementary standard to the existing WTO regime, and tries to accommodate GATT principles in its text. Now, what does TRIPS protect? TRIPS protects copyright and related rights (i.e., the rights of performers, producers of sound recordings and broadcasting organisations); trademarks including service marks, Geographical Indication (G.I), industrial designs; patents including the protection of new varieties of plants, layout-designs of integrated circuits, trade secrets and test data.

When we talk about the legal aspects of TRIPS, it is necessary that we go by the fundamentals. TRIPS has two main pillars — Most Favoured Nation (MFN) principle and National Treatment principle. MFN principle states that there shall be no discrimination and reciprocity shall be binding in trade. It is rather a status given by a country to another country under a condition that the country will provide certain concessions, privileges and immunity in trade agreements. However, it allows for exceptions — preferential trade agreements and regional free trade agreements. On the other hand, National Treatment principle moots no discrimination between foreign and domestic products. It is one of the guiding principles of the TRIPS Agreement and reiterates the position taken by its complementary predecessor, GAAT.

Legally, there are many challenges to the Agreement. However, four are very pertinent to the current trends in Intellectual Property Law per se. They are: How can intellectual persona be acknowledged as a property? Where does traditional property stand? How can Article 23 (Additional Protection for Geographical Indications for Wines and Spirits) be revamped? and Where does compulsory licensing stand in TRIPS and Is it feasible?

Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) are a new area of law which is booming across the world. Yet, intellectual property has been a debatable issue in itself. Many scholars believe that manifestations of the brain, and its allied organs though which fruitful inventions unravel, cannot be subject to law. Intellectual capacity of an individual cannot be stored or secured, rather it can only be parted, which again is disputed through IPRs. Even though it incentivises new innovations, intellectual property cannot be ascertained as a ‘property’. Left aligned thinkers and critics of IPRs and subsequently TRIPS, view IPRs as a colonial idea of aggrandising their imperial exploits through their ‘home-grown’ products over indigenous ones and a capitalist measure to outpower substitutes, mainly through excessive lobby. Hence, the very existence of TRIPS itself has a challenge, which is very objective and cannot be easily mitigated.

Another issue is traditional property. There are two concerns which are mainly debated under this heading and they are inappropriate patenting and biopiracy. Inappropriate patenting has been a real menace to curb. It involves claimed invention that is not new or does not involve an “inventive step”. This leads to complications as to the origin of the invention as well as its holder. On the other hand, biopiracy has been an ‘unequal’ step to degrade traditional indigenous knowledge belonging to certain ethnic communities. Biopiracy includes the unauthorised use of genetic resources or traditional knowledge (as laid down in the international treaty on biodiversity) without the permission of the countries or communities considered to be the rightful owners. This makes the livelihood of many ethnic communities at stake, given the outpowering tenacity of big corporations. This needs to be seriously addressed.

TRIPS Agreement does not characterise goods and articles in separate concentrations, yet Article 23 is a spot to critique. Article 23 of TRIPS Agreement gives additional protection for GI tag of wines and spirits, but draws flak for not characterising other products and articles. This is discriminating tons of products which are GI protected but do not get sufficient protection as wines and spirits do.

Next comes the most controversial debate on TRIPS — compulsory licensing. Compulsory licensing happens when the authorities license companies or individuals other than the patent owner to use the rights of the patent — to make, use, sell or import a product under patent without the permission of the patent owner. This has been protected by TRIPS and is mainly discussed in terms of medicine exports. However, compulsory licensing is only applicable to domestic markets and not to international markets. This makes it tough for poorer countries to obtain cheaper generic versions of patented medicines by setting aside a provision of the TRIPS Agreement (Article 31(f)), which could hinder exports of pharmaceuticals manufactured under compulsory licences to countries that are unable to produce them. There were many waivers to this effect, yet nothing was done to amend TRIPS. Even at times of amendment, many developed countries did not agree to it due to the powerful lobby existing in their domestic markets.

In conclusion, these challenges are very concerning due to the growing aspects of TRIPS and IPRs laws. Traditional knowledge can be protected by amending TRIPS Agreement in such a way that patent applicants are required to disclose the origin of genetic resources and any traditional knowledge used in the inventions. Governments can create a database so that communities will be provided with extra access and protection. Strict domestic laws should also be introduced to address the issue. As to giving separate protection for wines and spirits, Article 23 can be amended and be inclusive in accommodating other products as well. The best way could be to differentiate various products and characterise them with subheadings. In the case of compulsory licensing, an amendment would be a good initiative to end the deadlock — providing countries with better generic medicines at times of epidemic or a spurt in diseases. The members of TRIPS should also stop creating Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreements, which defeat the purpose of TRIPS and rather create a framework within the agreement so that better accountability is achieved. Hence, with the TRIPS Agreement facing these legal challenges, it would be the right time to seek consensus and decide the fate of intellectual property.

(K A Dhananjay was a Research Intern at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed by the author is personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research)

Monday, August 26, 2019

Refugee Resettlement: Humanitarian Governance vs the Politics of Refugee Protection

Image source: shutterstock.com

By Jacob Thamarapally

The term ‘Refugee’ is one that is often misrepresented in political discourse. As per the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), a refugee is a person fleeing armed conflict or persecution. The situation in this person’s country of origin is often so perilous and intolerable that they cross national borders to seek safety in nearby countries. These people have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular group. As per this definition, there are currently more than 21.3 million refugees worldwide. Out of these, more than 1.4 million refugees need resettlement right now. These refugees still in need of resettlement mostly come from Syria. In fact, two-thirds of all refugees come from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.

Although all countries are obligated by the UNHCR to take in refugees seeking asylum, in reality, the distribution of refugees is highly skewed. The countries that host the most number of refugees are Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan and Uganda. It is also interesting to note that 80 per cent of all refugees are hosted in developing regions, and a third of all refugees, i.e. 6.7 million people are hosted by the world’s poorest countries. Only 16 per cent of all refugees are settled in Europe. Once a refugee is resettled, the status provided by the resettlement state ensures protection against refoulment and provides a resettled refugee and his or her family with access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights similar to those enjoyed by nationals.

The rights that refugees are entitled to today came about as a result of the 1951 Refugee Convention. The Convention clearly spelt out who a refugee is, and what kind of legal protection and other assistance and social rights he or she should receive from the countries who have signed the document. Initially, it focused mainly on European countries, but the 1967 protocol expanded the scope of the Convention. As of July 2014, there were 145 parties to the Convention and 146 for the Protocol. It should be noted that several groups have built upon the 1951 Convention to create more objective definitions. For instance, the Cartagena Declaration was signed by 14 Latin American countries, which broadened the definition of who a refugee is.

The equal intake of refugees by different countries is an important part of the refugee resettlement and the resolution of the refugee problem. Common policy in the field of asylum, migration and borders should be based on solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility including its financial implications and closer practical co-operation among member states. According to Astri Suhrke, a researcher at Michelsen Institute, refugee protection has important public good characteristics. A public good is a good that is non-excludable and non-rivalrous; for instance, the air we breathe. She argues that the increased security that comes from refugee resettlement can be regarded as the principal (non-excludable and non-rival benefit), as accommodation of displaced persons can be expected to reduce the risk of them fuelling and spreading the conflict they are fleeing from. However, this makes it possible for free riding to occur; i.e., some countries might benefit from other countries taking in refugees, despite not taking in any themselves.

However, Suhrke has further expanded the scope of her model arguing that refugee protection provides a spectrum of outputs ranging from purely public to private or country-specific outputs. What is often regarded as a public good has, in fact, excludable (private) benefits to a country. “The joint product model” suggests that a country’s contributions to the provision of refugee protection (with its public and private characteristics) will be positively related to the proportion of excludable benefits occurring to that country. Thus, a market-based sharing mechanism needs to be explored further and that such market-driven policies when combined with policy harmonisation and quota-based initiatives are likely to contribute to a more equitable, efficient and effective refugee burden-sharing system.

However, with the rise of right-wing populism in many European countries, the unequal intake of refugees from these countries has been especially prominent. While local conflicts involving newly arrived refugees break out in European countries, many commentators jump to a declaration of an existential threat to Europe. This erases the fact that Europe has long been a secular continent and moreover, Europeans in the past have been one of the largest populations of economic migrants.

(Jacob Thamarapally was a Research Intern at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed by the author is personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research)

Friday, August 16, 2019

Strengthening India’s Bond Market


Image Source: LiveMint
By Pavithra Manoj,


The bond market in India is still not completely developed, even after several committees being formed throughout the years to augment the bond market. This means that the bond market is unable to share the credit burden that the banking system in India is currently facing. Since there is an absence of a well functioning bond market in the country, it is the banks and the government that take on the task of financing infrastructural projects like roads, airports, bridges and ports. This puts the banks under pressure, since they are buying into long-term assets such as bridges or highways that have a long gestation period, while they entertain short-term liabilities such as deposits of 3–5 years. This invariably creates an asset liability mismatch. This in turn leads to inefficient resource allocations on the banks’ part and ultimately weakens their balance sheet. This pressure, then, is reflected in the increase in bad loans among the banks. This whole scenario is part of the Twin Balance Sheet problem prevailing in the country, where, on one side, the companies are weighed down by high debt, and on the other, the balance sheets of PSU banks are weakened because of alarmingly high bad loans in the form of non-performing assets (NPAs), eventually causing a slowdown in the credit cycle.

It is not that companies have not tried resorting to non-bank sources of financing such as External Commercial Borrowings (ECBs), Commercial Papers (CPs), and so on. India’s share of non-bank credit to total new debt did rise from around 20 per cent in 2015 to 53 per cent in 2016. Prior to 2012, most of the non-bank credit came from ECBs. But after the rupee depreciated and weakened, the source of financing was shifted to CPs. Commercial Papers are not a long-term source of financing, but rather a short-term source, and so, Corporate Bonds were determined to be the most suitable source of long-term financing for projects with long gestation periods. Therefore, the bond market in India should be strong enough to be a source of long-term financing. But what exactly are corporate bonds? Corporate Bonds are a form of debt financing. They are debt securities issued by both private and public corporations as a major source of capital. But, for a company to be able to issue corporate bond at a reasonable and favourable enough coupon rate, it has to have some sort of consistent earnings potential. Each company has a credit rating attached to it. If a company’s rating is high (BBB or higher), then the bond issued by it is an investment grade corporate bond. These bonds are deemed less likely to default and therefore will fetch the investors a lower interest rate as compared to high yield bonds with lower credit ratings (BB or lower), as they carry a higher risk of defaulting, but have the potential for higher income.

The Indian corporate bond market has failed to take off due to the fact that, for years, the investor base in the corporate bond market just included banks, insurance companies, pension retirement funds and mutual funds. And most of these investors do not trade in corporate bonds, but rather hold them until maturity resulting in very little liquidity in the market. Also,most of the corporate bonds issued by the companies are issued through the private placement route, which means that they are privately paced with a select few investors rather than through a public issue in India. This is mainly done to save time and because it involves fewer disclosures and low costs of issuance, and is much faster as compared to issuing it publicly. This ultimately does nothing to strengthen the bond market as bonds are being issued through private routes. Several measures have been taken over the years in an attempt to amp up the bond market in India. In 2016, RBI made it mandatory for large companies to raise at least 25 per cent of their fresh borrowings from the bond market and also companies those plan to debt finance over Rs 200 crore to execute it on an electronic platform to ensure transparency. It was also made clear that there is a need for bonds to be acquired easily, either with foreign investors being allowed to trade directly without involving brokers or maybe with retail investors encouraged to trade more in the bond market. Another way to expand the market was to increase the liquidity prevailing in trading in bonds by allowing brokers to take part in the bond repo market. Banks were also encouraged to issue new bonds, such as masala bonds to increase the size of the market and the volume of trading in the market. Banks were also suggested to be roped in to ensure the bonds were made less risky by extending the Partial Credit Enhancement (PCE) scheme which allowed the banks to extend a line of credit along with an issue of a bond, so that companies can meet commitment in case they are not able to meet interest payments. But there are a few conditions set in order to extend this facility, such as the bond rating should already be a BBB minus or better in order to be eligible, and that the total PCE cannot exceed 50 per cent of the issue size of the bond. The
main aim of PCE is to eventually reduce risk and enhance the overall rating of the corporate bond.

The 2019 Budget too included mentions about measures to deepen the Indian corporate bond market and to increase the depth of the secondary bond market in order to help it function better. Nirmala Sitharaman has stated that the Central Government would be working with RBI and SEBI to allow AA rated bonds to be eligible to be considered as collateral in the RBI under its Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF), a monetary tool, especially overnight operations, as risks would be minimal. This will in turn ensure there is higher liquidity in the market. She also announced that a Credit Guarantee Enhancement Corporation will soon be set up this year to further deepen the bond market. Whether these measures, announced as a part of the current budget, will be different from the ones made in the previous budgets which were consequently faced with lukewarm responses can only be witnessed as the year progresses.

(Pavithra Manoj was a Research Intern at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed by the author is personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Can Strict Laws Rein in Social Media during Polls?

(Image Source: theasiadialogue.com)
By Deepit Mudaliar,

In India, there are nearly 400 million Internet users who are easily accessible to the political party campaigners through Facebook and WhatsApp. There is a huge potential for social media to alter the course of election campaigns. A sensational content stirs the mind and can help false news spread in no time.

Even a minor swing of over two per cent is enough to influence the electoral outcome. The recently held general elections were greatly influenced by the use of social media during campaigning. The Election Commission (EC) of India had to dig deep into the existing legislations to provide for adequate measures to control and prevent the misuse of the medium.

Social media as a tool of empowerment has been used by major political parties who have unleashed media campaigns all over the world. For example, Donald Trump’s controversial but highly effective digital campaign for the 2016 presidential elections. The BJP’s social media election campaign in 2014 swayed the youth, mostly first-time voters in the age group of 18–23 and comprising around 150 million voters. This had a direct effect on nearly 40 per cent of the seats in the 2014 elections and more than 60 per cent in the 2019 elections.

Social media is extensively used as a hate tool for circulating videos and fake manufactured news items. The Dadri mob lynching in 2015 is a sad example of how social media was used to instigate hate.

Two international events worth mentioning are the manipulative techniques used through WhatsApp for targeting opponents and supporting the presidential candidate in Brazil and the Russian government interference in the US presidential elections of 2016.

In India, the EC has certain legislations to curb the ill-effects of social media. The Information Technology Act, 2000 is the primary law dealing with cybercrime and e-commerce. Some controversial sections of the Act, like the Section 66A which prescribes punishment for sending offensive messages, was found to be unconstitutional and repealed in 2016. Section 69 of the Act gave -authorities the power of interception, monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer resource. While this is seen as a violation of the fundamental right to privacy by some, the Ministry of Home Affairs has claimed its validity on the grounds of national security. Implementation aspects of this act are still unclear, especially handling end-to-end encryption and decryption at device level in WhatsApp and Blackberry messages. A draft amendment has been issued by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and is being evaluated.

The National Cyber Security Policy of 2013 aims at creating a secure computing environment for electronic transactions, for protecting the public and private infrastructure from cyber-attacks and safeguard personal, financial and banking information. It also encourages wider usage of Public Key
Infrastructure (PKI) for trusted communication and transactions. However, there is no mechanism yet in place for obtaining strategic information regarding threats to the infrastructure. There is no development on public- private partnerships and on greater civil-military cooperation. Cyber security,
privacy and civil rights are not clearly dealt with within the policy framework. Data collection and processing procedures too are not clearly mentioned. A well-crafted, long-term cyber security policy is a critical part of Indian electioneering.

The EC should also address the issue of re-designating its election infrastructure to “critical information infrastructure” (CII) under the Information Technology Act, 2000. This will also help enable regular coordination between the national security establishment and the cyber security advisories.

The poll body did begin well in dealing with the social media at the onset of the Lok Sabha election campaigning. It insisted pre-certification for any political advisory during the campaign duration and published a social media code of ethics in consultation with top social media companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter for the elections. It also launched a smartphone app cVIGIL to capture code of conduct. Yet, major challenges like monitoring fake news in local languages and dealing with the overwhelming number of social media users remain. Even if the EC had taken enough measures to curb social media usage, a sudden burst of inflammatory messages over a matter of a week
would have been difficult to restrict considering the sheer volume (200 million WhatsApp users).

The EC as well as other regulatory bodies will have to adopt the use of some superior artificial intelligence-based technology where detection and intervention is much faster and effective. Also, for the proper implementation of the Cyber Security Policy, the gaps should be identified first and filled in a timely manner. The existing Information Technology Act, 2000 and the National Cyber Security Policy, 2013 need to be reviewed for the provisions, their sufficiency and relevance with rapidly changing technology.

Technology is only set to improve, and along with it come challenges and threats. The need to keep a constant check, proper security measures and strengthening the legislations must be a continuous process for the sake of a healthy democracy and a robust election mechanism.

(Deepit Mudaliar was a Research Intern at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed by the author is personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research)

References
1. Tikku, Aloke. September 2016. SC scrapped it, but thousands held last year under dead cyber law. https://wwww.hindustantimes.com/india- news/despite-sc-order-thousands-booked-under-scrapped-section-66a- of-it-act/.
2. Patil, Sameer. 18 April2019. The cyber security imperative for India’s elections.https://www.gatewayhouse.in/cyber-security-india-election/.
3. Nalon, Tai. 1 November 2018. Did WhatsApp help Bolsonaro win the Brazilian presidency?
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theworldpost/wp/2018/11/01/whatsapp-2/.
4. Alarming lessons from Facebook's push to stop fake news in India. May 2019. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/internet/alarming- lessons-from-facebooks-push-to-stop-fake-news-in-india/.
5. Comments/suggestions invited on Draft of “The Information Technology [Intermediary Guidelines (Amendment) Rules]. 2018. https://www.meity.gov.in/content/comments-suggestions-invited-draft-
%E2%80%9C-information-technology-intermediary-guidelines.