TOPIC: General Studies 3:
- Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
- Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
Strengthening Border Management System
The Jammu sector has witnessed quite a few instances of successful infiltration by terrorists during the past couple of years as a prelude to attacks on strategic installations — prominent among these being the Pathankot and Uri terrorist attacks in 2016.
These incidents have not only raised serious concerns about the efficacy of the existing border security system in thwarting such breaches but also a consequent demand for the deployment of high-tech border surveillance equipment by the BSF.
A high-level committee on Security and Border Protection under the chairmanship of Madhukar Gupta, a former Home Secretary, was constituted.
Besides finding gaps in the fencing and other vulnerabilities along the India-Pakistan border and strengthening manpower, the committee was explicitly tasked to recommend technological solutions to secure the international border.
The Madhukar Gupta Committee has given its recommendations broadly on the issues of Threats and Border Protection, assessment of force level, deployment on the border, infrastructure and technology issues for protection of border and administrative issues.
Gaps in the present system of border security:
The emphasis on the use of high-tech gadgets for border security is not new. Equipments like Passive Night Vision Goggles (PNG), Night Weapon Sights (NWS), Hand Held Search Lights (HHSL), Hand Held Deep Search Metal Detectors (HHMD), etc proved to be game changers and force multipliers by enhancing the detection capabilities of BSF personnel.
Despite these successes, sustained and successful attempts by infiltrators in breaching the international border continued.
An in-depth assessment of the existing border management system revealed that it suffered from a number of shortcomings which hampered effective functioning. Some of the shortcomings highlighted were:
- The high-tech equipment being used did not provide all-round security and did not work in adverse climatic conditions.
- Significant gaps remained at rivers and nullahs running along the fences.
- Being manpower intensive, the system was not effective in providing rest and relief to BSF troops.
- It is not an integrated system and therefore failed to provide a common operating picture at all levels.
Given these shortcomings, the BSF argued that a new, efficient and high-tech surveillance system for border guarding is urgently required to prevent infiltration by terrorists and smugglers.
The CIBMS is seen as a more robust and integrated system that is capable of addressing the gaps in the present system of border security by seamlessly integrating human resources, weapons, and high-tech surveillance equipment.
It has three main components:
- New high-tech surveillance devices such as sensors, detectors, cameras, ground-based radar systems, micro-aerostats, lasers as well as existing equipment for round-the-clock surveillance of the international border.
- An efficient and dedicated communication network including fibre optic cables and satellite communication for transmitting data gathered by these diverse high-tech surveillance and detection devices.
- A command and control centre to which the data will be transmitted in order to apprise the senior commanders about the happenings on the ground and thus providing a composite picture of the international border.
The purpose of the CIBMS is to eventually replace manual surveillance/patrolling of the international borders by electronic surveillance and organising the BSF personnel into quick reaction teams to enhance their detection and interception capabilities.
Other factors such as power back up, training of the BSF personnel in handling the sophisticated equipment, and maintenance of the equipment are incorporated into the CIBMS project.
In the case of the CIBMS, a similar dependence on vendors for designing a suitable surveillance system can be observed. This clearly demonstrates that the BSF does not have the required technical expertise to offer clear guidelines to the vendors so that they can provide suitable products. This fact is further evidenced by media reports that the two attempts at testing the system were stalled due to technical mismatch and budgetary projections.
- The operation and maintenance of the existing sophisticated equipment remain a problem. At present, many of the high-tech surveillance devices deployed by the BSF are not optimally utilised because the required technical expertise is not uniformly available among the force’s personnel.
- The high cost of the electronic devices and the lack of easy availability of spare parts act as a deterrent against their use.
- Besides the lack of technical expertise, erratic power supply and adverse climatic and terrain conditions in the border areas could potentially undermine the functioning of the sophisticated system.
Technical solutions are necessary to augment and complement the traditional methods of border guarding. They not only enhance the surveillance and detection capabilities of the border guarding forces but also improve the impact of the border guarding personnel against infiltration and trans-border crimes.
However, caution must be exercised while advocating the use of high-tech and high-cost electronic devices for border security.
The experiences of countries such as the United States that have employed high-tech devices demonstrate that not only are the costs of such devices prohibitive but that they also fail to provide a comprehensive solution to border security problems.
Instead of high-cost and innovative technological solutions that require extensive technical expertise, a judicious mix of properly trained manpower and affordable and tested technology will yield better results.
Connecting the dots:
- High-tech and high-cost equipment will ofcourse be helpful in border management. However, to yield better results it is required that a judicious mix of properly trained manpower and affordable and tested technology is adopted. Discuss in the light of present border management system that is Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System.
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
Universal Basic Income: Is it the best way to eradicate poverty?
Universal Basic Income is seen by many as an alternative to the existing system of subsidies, which is often associated with systemic inefficiencies.
The latest Fiscal Monitor of the IMF, in its analysis, showed that the available fiscal space can finance an annual Universal Basic Income of Rs2,600 per person, with the estimated cost at about 3% of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Although the basic idea of Universal Basic Income is not new for India—the erstwhile Planning Commission had worked on it in the early 1960s—it has attracted significant attention in the recent past.
- A large proportion of the population in India still lives below the poverty line and a number of government programmes providing subsidies and support to the poor are marred by inefficiencies. There are leakages in the system, and often, people who actually need government support are left out. Therefore, it is argued that Universal Basic Income will overcome these problems by providing a basic income to all citizens.
- The 2016-17 Economic Survey argued that Universal Basic Income is “…more feasible in a country like India, where it can be pegged at relatively low levels of income but still yield immense welfare gains”.
Is Universal Basic Income the best way to eradicate poverty in India?
There are strong economic and political reasons why India cannot opt for Universal Basic Income, at least in the present circumstances.
- The biggest issue is that India doesn’t have the fiscal capacity to implement Universal Basic Income.
The Economic Survey calculations showed that a 75% universality rate with an annual Universal Basic Income of Rs7,620 per year at 2016-17 prices will cost about 5% of the GDP.
It is often assumed that resources can be raised by rationalizing subsidies and capturing a part of the revenue forgone on account of various tax exemptions, including in the personal income tax. These may not happen.
Further, politically, it will be extremely difficult to roll back subsidies in order to create fiscal space for Universal Basic Income.
It is always advisable for the government to work on reducing non-merit subsidies, but the gains should be used to increase capital spending, which will help boost growth in the medium-to-long term.
- Universal Basic Income can create distortions in the labour market.
A steady, permanent and guaranteed income without any work is likely to affect labour mobility and participation.
It is also likely to increase wages, as has been witnessed after the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Higher wages without a commensurate increase in productivity will affect India’s competitiveness. This could also have longer-term implications in terms of higher inflation and lower growth.
- The nature of Indian politics can create complications.
It is highly likely that political parties, in order to improve their chances in elections, would want to increase the amount of Universal Basic Income or try to bring back subsidies in some form or the other, which will have fiscal implications.
What India needs is not Universal Basic Income.
- Steps like rationalization of subsidies, better targeting and operational efficiency are needed.
- We need to move to cash transfers at an accelerated pace with the use of Jan-Dhan, Aadhaar and mobile.
This will help reduce costs and spare resources for capital spending to augment growth.
As history has shown, the best way to pull people out of poverty is sustained higher growth. Therefore, rather than creating permanent doles like Universal Basic Income for the entire population, which will be impossible to reverse in the future, the idea should be to save costs with better targeting. This will help create the necessary conditions for higher growth which will decisively lift people out of poverty.
Connecting the dots:
- There are several constraints in adoption of universal basic income in India. Discuss these constraints and also outline how other steps like rationalization of subsidies, better targeting, cash transfers etc can go a long way in eradication of poverty.
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