TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- India and its International relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Rebooting India-Nepal Relations
With global geopolitics on the boil, and the Hindi-Chini relationship in free fall, it should be in India’s interest to secure its own neighbourhood, and that can only be through letting national politics and governance of the smaller neighbours evolve without interference.
India-Nepal relationship in past decade:
- India played a valued role in ending the Maoist insurgency in 2006.
- The period thereafter was marked by escalating micro-meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs.
- The presence of India’s heavy hand contributed in numerous ways to the distortion of consensual governance needed in transitional times.
- India ‘noted’ rather than welcomed the Constitution.
- A society trying to emerge from the April 2015 Great Earthquake was slapped with the punitive Great Blockade.
New Delhi’s heavy-handedness:
While keeping silent for years on Nepal’s post-conflict transitional justice process, in November 2015 India’s representative in Geneva cynically utilised the forum of the Human Rights Council to influence government change in Kathmandu.
Motives behind heavy-handedness:
- At the tactical level, New Delhi’s motives behind the heavy-handedness of the recent past may have to do with electoral calculations related to the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh polls.
- On the Constitution, the idea of a ‘buffer’ province is thought to have been floated either to prevent third country militant infiltration or to control national-level politics in Kathmandu. Some point to an agenda to try to take Nepal back to ‘Hindu state’ constitutional status.
- For the long term, Indian strategists may be seeking ways to get Kathmandu to allow the construction of high dams and deep reservoirs on Nepal’s rivers — for flood control, navigation, urban use and irrigation in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. A particular federal demarcation might make Kathmandu more amenable.
The Great Blockade forced the Kathmandu political leadership to reach out to Beijing and sign a slew of trade, transit and infrastructural agreements with it. Few know that Nepal is today better connected by air to Chinese cities than to India.
The two nations need to concentrate on the numerous matters that need concentration and resolution.
- The open border:
It is a unique joint heritage of the two countries.
While it is Nepal’s Left that has traditionally demanded restrictions on the border, the call now rises from the Indian security establishment.
There are border disputes pending between the two countries — at Susta, Kalapani and the ‘tri-junction’ of Lipulekh.
A permanent bilateral mechanism is required to save the plains population of Nepal from suffering.
The Kosi Barrage and attendant embankments have the possibility of wreaking havoc because siltation of six decades has raised the riverbed within the levees far above the outlying tracts.
Options like high dam in the hills of Nepal or redistribution of waters into various older channels of the Kosi in Bihar must be discussed.
The impact of demonetisation and the application of Goods and Services Tax on Nepal’s economy and citizenry.
Similarly, Kathmandu prefers not to discuss the fact that the Nepali rupee is pegged to the Indian rupee and what it means for the long run.
The arbitrary blockages and go-slow at Indian Customs at border points, the selective use of quarantine for the export of Nepali agricultural produce, the increasing high-handedness of the Sashastra Seema Bal (India’s frontier force in this sector) in dealing with Nepalis crossing over — these are only some of the other challenges on the bilateral plane.
- Rights of migrants:
The rights of migrant Indian labour in Nepal and Nepali labour in India is a topic that rarely comes up.
Nepal has since long planned to sell electricity to India once it has a hydropower surplus, and the completion of the much-delayed Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur transmission line was supposed to facilitate that.
An Indian government directive that it will not allow import of electricity other than from power companies with more than 51% Indian equity is an issue here.
As Nepal is moving towards normalcy under its new Constitution, and with India seemingly changing gears on its Nepal policy, one hopes for a threshold of maturity in relations between South Asia’s oldest nation-state and its largest democracy. New Delhi must use the visit of Nepal’s newly anointed Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, as an opportunity to hit the reset button on Nepal-India relations. Indian interventionism having backfired, the Nepal PM’s visit is an opportunity to raise the level of bilateral ties.
Connecting the dots:
- India needs to reboot its relationship with Nepal. There are many issues ranging from open border, hydropower, trade to flood protection that needs serious attention from the leadership of both the nations. Elaborate.
General Studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General Studies 3
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Fundamental right to create jobs
During his fourth Independence Day address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the youth to generate employment rather than just seek jobs. He listed out several initiatives of his government to facilitate entrepreneurship. These include access to credit, ease of getting clearances, and skill development. Modi also called for a collective resolve to build a “New India” by 2022. A secure, prosperous and strong nation cannot be built without providing every able-bodied individual an opportunity to create jobs.
Limited impact of government initiatives:
It appears that government initiatives on job creation are having limited impact.
- According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, 1.5 million jobs were lost during the first four months of 2017.
- Simultaneously, the number of people declaring themselves unemployed fell by 9.6 million. Seasonal jobs, demonetization, underemployment, reskilling, a reduction in investment, and a shift towards entrepreneurship, are being offered as explanations. If none of these is true, there is a danger of unemployed youth straying towards undesirable activities.
Fundamental right to create jobs:
A fundamental right to create jobs will aid in unshackling growth in key sectors like agriculture and allied activities, by repeal of restrictive policies and practices. To ensure that jobs are created on a large scale, we need to treat the freedom to create jobs on a par with other freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution.
A comprehensive strategy is required:
There is a need for an urgent rethink on the strategy for creating job creators, while considering population control measures to regulate job seekers. An incremental siloed approach has been adopted. We have lacked a coherent and comprehensive strategy.
- There is a need to recognize that all sectors, from commercial sex services to defence manufacturing, have the potential to generate direct and indirect employment.
- Personal inclination, and not regulatory provisions, must guide professional choices. These will also help in mainstreaming practices considered unlawful. According legal recognition to activities like commercial sex services, betting, and manufacturing medical marijuana (as suggested by Union minister Maneka Gandhi recently) will help in optimal regulation, prevent abuse, and enable access to medical and insurance facilities. This will be no different from the government’s approach to alcohol or tobacco—which are not banned in spite of known adverse impacts, but only regulated, thus letting consumers make the final choice. These avenues also bring in huge revenue which can be used for development projects.
- Even today, close to half of the working population is engaged in agriculture, including tobacco production. Farmers have the potential to emerge as the largest direct and indirect job creators in the economy.
- The potential of a rural non-farm economy has also remained untapped in creating job creators. Due to lack of opportunities, the rural population is migrating to urban centres. However, if there is a fundamental right of job creation, then the divergence in delivery and quality of basic education, health and social service between urban and rural residents will be narrowed.
What should be done?
- The Startup India programme is focused on information technology and related sectors, and restricted to urban centres. It should be replicated in rural areas, with a focus on the non-farm sector. If the infrastructure is in place, investments in retail will open opportunities along the agriculture value chain, including processing, packaging, warehousing and transportation. Rural job creators should be involved in these plans. For every smart city, a smart village or cluster will need to be created.
- Despite the hardships, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) continue to create more jobs than large enterprises. MSMEs cannot be treated like large enterprises—they bear a disproportionately higher burden of compliance, while having fewer resources at their disposal. Government and financial institutions must realize this and treat them accordingly.
- A digital economy aimed at curing asymmetry in information, finance and data can help in operationalizing the fundamental right to create jobs.
- The existing trinity of Jan Dhan accounts, Aadhaar and mobile can act as a stepping stone. Digital tools transmitted through mobile phones can aid in providing information about technology, markets and price. Expanding the direct benefits transfer programme can help in expanding access to finance. Informed consent to share Aadhaar-linked data, with adequate privacy protections, can aid in designing customized policies, products and services that cater to the needs of job creators, creating an ecosystem that stimulates job creation.
If Modi expects citizens to create jobs in “New India”, enabling conditions will need to be created. There is no better way to do this than by recognizing that job creators are as important as the creation of jobs.
Connecting the dots:
- The issue of jobless growth in India remains despite various steps taken by the government. A comprehensive strategy is thus required. It’s time we recognize that job creators are as important as the creation of jobs. Discuss.
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