SYNOPSIS [Day 5]: TLP 2020- UPSC Mains Answer Writing (General Studies)
1. What is ‘online extremism’? What are the ways to curb it? Can restrictions on internet in the highly disturbed pockets really help in curbing online extremism? Critically comment. (GS Paper 3, IS)
Demand of the question:
It expects students to explain concept of ‘online extremism’ along with ways to curb it. Students should also write critical analysis whether internet restriction can curb online restriction.
The Indian government recently extended restrictions on access to high speed internet on mobile devices in the country’s northern union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, impairing local’s access to information amid the pandemic.
- It’s simply use of internet to spread extremism.
- Extremists and violent extremists are using the Internet and social media to inspire, radicalise and recruit young people to their cause, whether as passive supporters, active enthusiasts or those willing to become operational.
- Different terror group and extremist groups differ in their approach, but there is a tendency towards disseminating a high volume of material, the use of wider range of multimedia tools and techniques like images, video, music and compelling stories and arguments delivered by charismatic individuals designed to influence a computer savvy, media saturated, video game addicted generation.
- Extremist messages mix ideological, political, moral, religious and social narratives, based on narratives or stories, they often convey one dimensional interpretations of the world and seek to de-humanise their enemy.
Ways to curb online extremism:
To curb online extremism governments of the world often goes for reactionary approach like,
- Removing: Make private sector industry ‘take down’ user-generated content or websites usually through legal means.
- Filtering: Blacklist key words or web addresses that are intentionally dropped from search results.
- Hiding: Influence choice-architecture of users by manipulating search engine results to boost or reduce content.
Along with Pro-active measures like,
- Strengthen digital literacy and critical consumption: Build capacity to enable users to critically engage with extremist content.
- Increase counter-messaging activities: Enable the design and dissemination of online products that counter violent extremist narratives or direct challenge via forums and social media platforms and promote credible alternatives.
- Build the capacity of credible messengers: Assist civil society to provide credible alternatives to violent extremism online.
Internet restriction is reactionary step considering ways to curb online extremism, which has limited success,
- The Indian government claims that the restrictions are intended to control terrorism and extremist violence in Jammu and Kashmir, but the state has witnessed a spike in violence with the onset of spring.
- Extremist propaganda posted by militant groups on Telegram, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media sites continues unabated, as malicious actors seek to take advantage of the paucity of credible sources reporting on the ground to spread disinformation and rumours.
- Multiple Telegram channels run by groups such as Jaish e Muhammad, Hizbul Mujahideen, Laskhar e Toiba, and the newly formed The Resistance Front continue to operate and attract a significant audience online. A Twitter account purporting to be linked to Al Aqsa Media Jammu and Kashmir managed to get 1,475 followers amid the digital blockade before it was removed by the authorities.
- Video clips, hundreds of images, infographics, and text statements are uploaded on Telegram channels every day, providing ample evidence to suggest that internet restrictions have failed to curb the proliferation of militant propaganda online.
- In some cases, these militant groups appear to be capitalizing on Kashmiri’s growing frustration with the physical and digital restrictions in an attempt to attract them to extremist content.
- Academics studying the effect of network shutdowns in dissident movements in India argue that internet shutdowns are an unproductive strategy in the long run, particularly within the context of a festering insurgency, with the use of informational blackouts accelerating the adoption of violent tactics that are less reliant on effective communication and coordination.
- According to data collected by the internet shutdown tracker, an open-source tool created by the Software Freedom Law Centre India, a domestic digital right NGO, India has had 377 internet shutdowns since 2014, with 172 of these shutdowns occurring in Jammu and Kashmir alone.
However, government authorities believe internet is mere necessity where as national security is paramount. Removal of Article 370 one of the biggest developments as far as Jammu and Kashmir’s administrative status is considered. Pakistan could have tried best in spreading extremism with the help of high speed internet given the emotional connect of valley people with Article 370.
Even though, internet restriction cannot be answer to the threat of online extremism for indefinite period.
India’s growing proclivity for applying internet restrictions against its own population ties into a broader wave of digital authoritarian practices by a range of illiberal democracies across the developing world. This export of digital authoritarian tactics has seen a growth in state organizations operationalizing the internet as a mechanism to surveil, repress, and manipulate domestic and foreign populations.
2. The COVID-19 pandemic can serve as an opportunity for India to redefine its approach to economic growth. Do you agree? Substantiate with the help of suitable arguments. (GS Paper 3, Economy)
Demand of the question:
It expects students to write about the opportunity provided by pandemic of COVID-19 to redefine economic growth along with ways to adopt new approach.
The COVID-19 pandemic can serve as an opportunity for India to redefine its approach to economic growth. The policy objective should be that once the threat of the current pandemic subsides, the country will not return to business-as-usual mode and rather build an economy for the future.
The Indian government has declared that it is considering measures towards distress mitigation, relief disbursement, and a revival of growth. At the same time, however, the government must aim for qualitative changes in the country’s growth pattern. The relief policies should have built-in elements to repair the country’s broken economic model and aim for economic stimulation that considers objectives of pollution reduction and bridging inequities. Any future claims of success in tackling the COVID-19 crisis will only be unquestionable if the pandemic paves the way for a new economic framework.
Opportunity to redevelop Economic Growth:
- Sustainable Infrastructure development: The country’s real estate development has received multiple rounds of support from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government. Going forward, the support can discriminate positively in favour of energy efficient homes, buildings and factories.
- Green stimulus: The bailouts for companies, big or small, and relief for individuals ought to have green goals built into them. Polluting industries, especially those that release waste into rivers and groundwater, should be provided conditional bailouts if at all. The MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) relief packages, for example, should differentiate between auto-ancillary units linked to the production of electric cars, including charging stations for them, and those linked to fossil fuel vehicles, favouring the former.
- Priority for job security: If a stimulus is being provided to the big corporate houses, the green-non-green distinction should be maintained. Eventually, large corporate houses will need bailouts and concessions and regulatory forbearance on stressed loans. Otherwise, the NPAs in the banking system will surge. India must make such relief conditional on guarantees of no job cuts and reduction in wage inequality, as measured by the ratio of promoter and senior management remuneration to that of lower-level employees. Eg. US made loan schemes conditional on companies freezing share buy-backs and capping management pay and bonuses.
- Airlines, airports, hotels and tourism industries—all of which generate employment—are among the worst hit and are likely to seek relief sooner than later. Any lifelines extended to them must be made conditional on measurable goals for emissions reduction, cleaner environment, more equitable pay structures, more jobs and greater commitment to a better deal for casual labour.
- Increased resilience of vulnerable: Steps must be taken to ensure that the support from banks and the government reaches workers. One way is for regulatory filings by companies to require disclosures about how they are ensuring that their contractors for casual labour are paying workers. Ideally, formalisation of casual jobs to ensure better bargaining power for casual labour should be one of the conditions of the stimulus and support packages.
- Water and energy efficient agriculture: Similarly, relief for agriculture can be designed to move farming away from depleting groundwater, and towards more sustainable practices and crop choices. Technical improvements for energy efficiency in irrigation include facilitating the upgrade to energy-efficient pump sets, and reduction of diesel consumption in irrigation can be incentivised.
- Robust green technologies: Banks are reluctant to lend in the current business scenario of heightened uncertainty. But policy signals can stimulate the market for green technologies and services and products, making it less risky for banks to finance growth in this sector, one that will also have export potential as the world re-orients its green business policies post-COVID-19.
- Strong healthcare infrastructure: Healthcare’s availability and affordability does not receive as much attention in policymaking as hard infrastructure does. This approach needs to change. The total per capita government spending on healthcare has doubled from INR 1,008 per person to INR 1,944 over the last five years but continues to remain low. Even total healthcare spending (private and government combined), at 3.6 percent of GDP, as per the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) data, is very low compared with other countries. The average for OECD countries in 2018 was 8.8 per cent of GDP.
- On the reforms side, the regulatory, intellectual property, import tariffs and pricing policy frameworks will have to be simultaneously overhauled to strike a balance between affordability and viability of the health and pharmaceutical industries.
Affordability, quality and accessibility will be key for new business models. If all citizens across income groups are able to use the public health system equitably, the wealthy will not resent having to pay taxes to maintain quality standards. Those in the highest income quintiles do not resent paying taxes for defence because they need protection as much as those who are in the bottom of the ladder, and there is no private sector alternative.
Once urgent distress relief has been attended to, the focus must shift to correcting structural weaknesses. Wherever possible, distress relief measures must incorporate policy objectives of sustainability, repairing labour’s bargaining power, and reducing the healthcare infrastructure deficit. Increased fiscal spending on such a package will provide income opportunities for individuals and business and at the same time alleviate long-term bottlenecks.
3. The COVID-19 outbreak has reemphasised the need of having a basic minimum income scheme. Comment. (GS Paper 3, Economy)
Demand of the question:
It expects students to write about the critical necessity of basic minimum income scheme along with feasibility to implement such programme on nationwide scale.
In the time of nationwide lockdown various state governments and central government has provided the economic relief package for the BPL families through direct benefit cash transfers. Below poverty families stands for section of households economically disadvantage with low income earning and identified by government for assistance and aid. Around 23% of population falls under this criteria. COVID-19 pandemic has reasserted the need of basic minimum income scheme.
Noted French journalist Thomas Piketty expressed need of basic minimum income scheme to make lockdown work. Idea of universal basic income was mooted in economic survey of 2016-17; however India needs targeted basic income scheme.
Need of basic minimum income support in the time of pandemic:
- Basic minimum income holds the potential to yield better social security. Households under BPL face very less savings; government assistance in DBT form can provide them daily basic needs.
- Basic minimum income to daily wage earners will help in maintaining the strict lockdown, law and order situation which is necessary for curbing transmission of corona virus.
- Many senior citizens and divyangs will have financial security and can maintain their daily medical requirements.
- It will help to reduce deepening of poverty and vulnerability in the times pandemic. It is also significant due to the social contract with government for empowerment of people in hard times.
- Economic injustice due to increased inequality in India and its visible impact exemplified in migrant crisis can increase violence in society.
- This type of measures can also lead to fight hunger and malnutrition in the underprivileged households such as in tribal areas.
- Central government with various others measures like free LPG cylinders and Rs. 500 DBT to women Jan Dhan account of BPL family is ensuring safety during pandemic. Basic minimum income will increase resilience of poorest population in India.
- Once lockdown is lifted there will be economic slowdown and other economic hardships such as huge unemployment problem therefore basic minimum income scheme is critical.
However along with basic minimum income few more initiatives for economic safety is needed,
- Central government role in promoting the uniformity and coordination among the various state government measures. For example charter of common minimum relief package.
- State governments can provide various relief packages with food grains and other basic needs. Collaboration with various charity house and NGO’s to work on local community level for migrant construction landless laborers those are not registered under BPL households in particular state.
In the absence of social safety net, weaker sections of Indian society can face hunger and malnutrition further reducing immunity to infectious diseases. Minimum basic income support not only strengthens economic security but also important factor in united efforts of every section to fight pandemic of COVID-19.