Editorials - 11-08-2021

 டோக்கியோ ஒலிம்பிக் போட்டி வெற்றிகரமாக நிறைவு பெற்றிருப்பது, மனித இனத்துக்குக் கிடைத்திருக்கும் அசாதாரண வெற்றி. 205-க்கும் அதிகமான நாடுகளின் 11,000-க்கும் அதிகமான போட்டியாளர்கள் 33 விளையாட்டுகளில் களம் கண்டு பதக்கம் வென்று சாதனை படைத்திருக்கிறார்கள்.
 ஒலிம்பிக் 2020 நடக்குமா, நடக்காதா என்கிற ஐயப்பாட்டை உருவாக்கியது கொவைட் 19 தீநுண்மி நோய்த்தொற்று. கடந்த ஆண்டில் நடைபெற இருந்த 32-ஆவது ஒலிம்பிக் போட்டி ஓராண்டு தள்ளிப்போடப்பட்டது. ஜப்பானியர்களிடையேயும், உலக அளவிலும் கடுமையான எதிர்ப்புக்கும், அச்சத்திற்கும் நடுவிலும்கூட ஒலிம்பிக் போட்டிகளை வெற்றிகரமாக நடத்திக் காட்டியிருக்கும் ஜப்பான் அரசுக்கும், சர்வதேச ஒலிம்பிக் சங்கத்துக்கும் பாராட்டுகள்.
 2008-இல் துப்பாக்கி சுடுதலில் அபினவ் பிந்த்ரா தங்கப் பதக்கம் வென்று 13 ஆண்டுகள் கழித்து இப்போது நீரஜ் சோப்ரா ஈட்டி எறிதலில் தங்கப் பதக்கம் பெற்றிருக்கிறார். சர்வதேச தடகளப் போட்டிகளில் இந்தியாவால் தங்கம் வெல்ல முடியாது என்கிற கருத்தை 87.58 மீட்டர் தொலைவு ஈட்டியை வீசியெறிந்து முறியடித்து விட்டார் நீரஜ் சோப்ரா.
 கிரிக்கெட், ஹாக்கி, டென்னிஸ், கால்பந்து உள்ளிட்ட அணி சார்ந்த விளையாட்டுகளில் மட்டுமே சர்வதேச அளவிலான வெற்றிகளை ஈட்டி வந்திருக்கும் இந்தியா, "தடகளம்' என்று அழைக்கப்படும் ஓட்டப்பந்தயம், குண்டு எறிதல், ஈட்டி எறிதல், உயரம் தாண்டுதல் போன்ற தனிநபர் போட்டிகளில் வளர்ச்சி அடைந்த நாடுகளைப்போல வெல்ல முடியாது என்கிற அபவாதம் இப்போது அகற்றப்பட்டிருக்கிறது.
 ஒலிம்பிக் வரலாற்றைத் திரும்பிப் பார்க்கும்போது, 1900-இல் நடந்த பாரீஸ் ஒலிம்பிக் போட்டியில் இந்திய ஓட்டப் பந்தய வீரர் நார்மன் பிரிட்ச்சர்டு இரண்டு வெள்ளிப் பதக்கங்கள் வென்றிருக்கிறார். ஆனால், அவர் பிரிட்டன் குடிமகன் என்பதால் அதை நாம் இந்திய வெற்றியாகக் கருத முடியாது.
 1984 லாஸ் ஏஞ்சலீஸ் ஒலிம்பிக் போட்டியில் வெண்கலப் பதக்கத்தை நழுவவிட்ட பி.டி. உஷாவின் நிறைவேறாத தடகளத் தங்கப்பதக்கக் கனவு, 37 ஆண்டுகளுக்குப் பிறகு நீரஜ் சோப்ராவால் நனவாகி இருக்கிறது. 1960 ரோம் ஒலிம்பிக் போட்டியில் கண்ணிமைக்கும் நேரத்தில் வெண்கலப் பதக்கத்தை இழந்ததால் ஏற்பட்ட மில்கா சிங்கின் வாழ்நாள் சோகத்தை, நீரஜ் சோப்ராவின் தங்கப் பதக்கம் துடைத்தெறிந்திருக்கிறது.
 நீரஜ் சோப்ரா மட்டுமல்ல, இந்திய அணியைச் சேர்ந்த பல வீரர்கள் டோக்கியோ ஒலிம்பிக் போட்டியில் இந்தியாவிற்குப் பெருமை தேடித் தந்திருக்கிறார்கள். 2012 லண்டன் ஒலிம்பிக் போட்டியில் ஆறு பதக்கங்களை வென்ற நாம், இந்த முறை ஏழு பதக்கங்களை வென்றிருக்கிறோம். அமெரிக்கா, சீனாவுக்கு நிகராக நாம் பதக்கங்களை வெல்லவில்லை என்று ஆதங்கப்படுவதில் அர்த்தமில்லை. உலக விளையாட்டு அரங்கில் விளையாட்டு வல்லரசாக இந்தியா உயர்ந்து வருகிறது என்பதற்கான அறிகுறிகள் தோன்றத் தொடங்கிவிட்டன என்பதை டோக்கியோ ஒலிம்பிக் அறிவித்திருக்கிறது.
 பளு தூக்கும் போட்டியில் மணிப்பூரைச் சேர்ந்த மீராபாய் சானுவும், மல்யுத்தப் போட்டியில் ஹரியாணாவைச் சேர்ந்த ரவிகுமார் தாஹியாவும் வெள்ளிப் பதக்கம் வென்றிருக்கிறார்கள். குத்துச்சண்டை போட்டியில் அஸ்ஸாமைச் சேர்ந்த லவ்லினாவும், பாட்மிண்டனில் தெலங்கானாவின் பி.வி. சிந்துவும், மல்யுத்தப் போட்டியில் பஜ்ரங் புனியாவும் வெண்கலப் பதக்கம் வென்றிருக்கிறார்கள். ஆடவர் ஹாக்கி அணி வெண்கலம் வென்றிருக்கிறது. இவை அனைத்துக்கும் சிகரம் வைத்தாற்போல, நீரஜ் சோப்ரா ஈட்டி எறிந்து தங்கப் பதக்கம் பெற்று வந்திருக்கிறார்.
 2004 முதல் தொடர்ந்து மூன்று ஒலிம்பிக் போட்டிகளில் இந்தியாவுக்குப் பதக்கம் பெற்றுத்தந்த நமது துப்பாக்கி சுடும் அணியினர், இரண்டாவது முறையாகப் பதக்கம் வெல்லாமல் திரும்பி இருக்கிறார்கள். அதிதி அசோக், பவானி தேவி, ஃபௌவாத் மிர்ஸா மூவரும் பதக்க வாய்ப்பை இழந்தனர். அதேபோலத்தான் மகளிர் ஹாக்கி அணியும். ஆனால், சர்வதேச அளவில் இந்தியாவும் ஒரு கடுமையான போட்டி நாடு என்பதை அவர்கள் அனைவரும் நிறுவியிருக்கிறார்கள் என்பதை நாம் உணர வேண்டும்.
 ஒலிம்பிக் போட்டியில் மிகப் பழைய விளையாட்டுகளில் ஒன்று வாள் வீச்சு. ஐரோப்பியர்கள் மத்தியில் பிரபலமான அந்த விளையாட்டுக்கு இந்தியா இதுவரை தகுதி பெற்றதில்லை. முதன்முறையாக டோக்கியோ ஒலிம்பிக்கில் இந்தியாவின் சார்பில் தமிழ்நாட்டைச் சேர்ந்த பவானி தேவி பங்கேற்றார். அதேபோல, "ரோயிங்' எனப்படும் படகோட்டும் போட்டியில் இந்தியா சார்பில் பங்கேற்கும் முதல் பெண்ணாக தமிழ்நாட்டைச் சேர்ந்த நேத்ரா குமணன் கலந்து கொண்டார். அவர்கள் பதக்கம் வெல்லாமல் போனாலும், இந்தியாவுக்கான சர்வதேச அங்கீகாரத்தை உறுதிப்படுத்தியிருக்கிறார்கள்.
 டோக்கியோவில் போட்டி தொடங்கிய முதல் நாளில் பளு தூக்கும் போட்டியில் மீராபாய் சானு வெள்ளிப் பதக்கத்தையும், நிறைவடையும் தறுவாயில் நீரஜ் சோப்ரா தங்கப்பதக்கத்தையும் பெற்றது, ஒட்டுமொத்த இந்தியாவையும் ஒலிம்பிக் போட்டிகளைப் பார்க்கத் தூண்டின. இத்தனைக்கும் கிரிக்கெட் டெஸ்ட் போட்டி நடந்து கொண்டிருந்தும்கூட, அதைத் தவிர்த்துவிட்டு பலர் ஒலிம்பிக் போட்டிகளைப் பார்த்துக் கொண்டிருந்தனர். அதுவே மிகப் பெரிய மாற்றத்தின் அறிகுறி என்றுதான் சொல்ல வேண்டும்.
 நீரஜ் சோப்ரா பெற்றிருக்கும் தங்கப் பதக்கத்தின் சுற்றளவு 85 மி.மீ. எடை 556 கிராம். அதன் மதிப்பு என்ன தெரியுமா? சர்வதேச விளையாட்டு அரங்கில் இந்தியாவுக்குக் கிடைத்திருக்கும் அங்கீகாரம்!
 

வெள்ளை அறிக்கை தாக்கல்செய்ததன் மூலம் தமிழ்நாட்டின் நிதிநிலையை அனைவரும் அறியச் செய்துள்ளார் நிதியமைச்சர் பழனிவேல் தியாகராஜன். மாநில அரசின் கடன் மற்றும் செலவுகள் அதிகரித்து, வருவாய் குறைந்துள்ளதால் வரி உயர்வு மற்றும் பயன்பாட்டுக் கட்டண உயர்வுகள் தவிர்க்க முடியாதது என்பதையும் அவர் சுட்டிக்காட்டியுள்ளார். பெருந்தொற்று நிவாரணம் ரூ.4,000 தேவைப்படாத வசதி படைத்தோருக்கும் சென்றடைந்துள்ளது என்று குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளது சிந்திக்க வேண்டிய விஷயமாக உள்ளது.

அரசுப் பேருந்துகளை ஒரு கிமீ இயக்கும்போது, அரசுக்கு ரூ.59.15 நஷ்டம் ஏற்படுவதாகவும், மின்சார விநியோகத்தில் ஒரு யூனிட்டுக்கு ரூ.2.36 நஷ்டம் ஏற்படுவதாகவும் குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளதன் மூலம், இந்த இரண்டு கட்டணங்களும் உயரப்போகின்றன என்பதைப் பொதுமக்கள் புரிந்துகொள்ளலாம். அதேபோன்று, குடிநீர் சுத்திகரிப்புக்கு ஆகும் செலவுக்கும், கிடைக்கும் வருவாய்க்கும் உள்ள இடைவெளியைக் குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளார். வாகனப் பதிவுக் கட்டணங்கள் 2008-க்குப் பின் உயர்த்தப்படவில்லை என்றும் கூறியுள்ளார். இதன்மூலம் இந்தக் கட்டணங்கள் அனைத்தையும் உயர்த்தினால் மட்டுமே நிதிநிலையைச் சரிசெய்ய முடியும் என்பதைத் தெளிவாக உணர்த்தியுள்ளார்.

வரிகளையும் கட்டணங்களையும் உயர்த்துவது என்று முடிவாகிவிட்ட நிலையில், ஏழை, நடுத்தர, உயர்வருவாய்ப் பிரிவினர், வசதிபடைத்தோர் எனப் பலதரப்பட்டோர் வாழும் சமூகத்தில் அனைவருக்கும் ஒரே அளவுகோலில் வரிகளை உயர்த்துவது பொருத்தமாக இருக்காது என்பதே சாதாரண பொதுமக்களின் கருத்தாக உள்ளது. ஒரே வீட்டில் குடியிருந்துகொண்டு, கடன் பெற்று மாதத் தவணை செலுத்துபவர்களுக்கும், பல வீடுகளை வாங்கிக் குவித்து வருவோருக்கும் ஒரே மாதிரியான வீட்டு வரி என்பது பொருத்தமற்றது. ஒரு வீடு வைத்திருப்பவர்களுக்குக் குறைந்த அளவு வீட்டு வரியும், இரண்டாவது வீடு, மூன்றாவது வீடு அதற்கு மேல் வைத்திருப்போருக்கு இருமடங்கு, மும்மடங்கு வரிகளையும் விதிப்பதே பொருத்தமான நடைமுறையாக அமையும்.

அதேபோன்று, அன்றாடப் பயன்பாட்டுக்கு இருசக்கர வாகனம் வைத்திருப்போருக்குக் குறைந்த வாகன வரியும், இரண்டு, மூன்று, நான்கு கார்கள், வாகனங்கள் எனத் தேவைக்கு மிஞ்சிப் பகட்டுக்காக வைத்துள்ள வசதி படைத்தோருக்குக் கூடுதல் வரியும் விதிப்பதே நியாயமானதாக இருக்கும். மின்கட்டணத்தில் பயன்பாடு அதிகரிக்க அதிகரிக்கக் கட்டண விகிதம் எப்படி மாறுபடுகிறதோ, அதேபோன்று தேவைக்கு அதிகமாகச் சொத்து வைத்திருப்போர், வாகனம் வைத்திருப்போர், குடிநீர் உபயோகிப்போருக்கும் கட்டண, வரி விகிதங்கள் மாறும்படியாக இருக்க வேண்டும்.

மிதமிஞ்சிய அளவில் சொத்து, வாகனம் வைத்திருப்போரிடம் வரிகளைக் கூடுதலாக வசூலித்து, நிதிநிலையைச் சரிசெய்ய வேண்டும். தன் தேவைக்கு மட்டுமே சொத்து, வாகனம் வைத்திருக்கும் ஏழை, எளியோரிடமும், குறைந்த அளவில் மின்சாரம், குடிநீர் பயன்படுத்துவோரிடமும் முடிந்தவரை குறைந்த கட்டணம் மற்றும் வரி வசூலிப்பதே நல்ல நிர்வாகத்துக்கு அழகாக அமையும்.

அறுபதுகளின் மத்தியில் தொடங்கிய பசுமைப் புரட்சி காலத்திலிருந்து தமிழ்நாடு விவசாயத் துறையில் சிறந்த மாநிலமாகப் பெயர் பெற்றிருந்தாலும், அதன் விவசாயிகள் வருவாய்க் குறைவு காரணமாகக் கடன் தொல்லையில் சிக்கிப் பெரும் துயரங்களைச் சந்தித்துவருகிறார்கள். விவசாயிகள் சந்திக்கும் பிரச்சினைகளை வேளாண் துறைக்குத் தனி வரவு-செலவுத் திட்டம் தயாரிக்க உள்ள திமுக அரசின் கவனத்துக்குக் கொண்டுசெல்வது அவசியமாகிறது.

மற்ற மாநிலங்களோடு ஒப்பிடும்போது, முக்கியப் பயிர்களின் ஒரு ஹெக்டோ் மகசூல் தமிழ்நாட்டில் அதிகமாக இருந்தாலும், மொத்த உற்பத்தியில் மக்காச்சோளம், சில பருப்புப் பயிர்கள் தவிர மற்ற பயிர்களில் நம் மாநிலத்தின் பங்கு இந்தியாவின் மொத்த உற்பத்தியில் கடுமையாகக் குறைந்துள்ளது.

1980-83-களில் சராசரியாக 59.07 லட்சம் டன்களாக இருந்த மொத்த உணவு தானியங்களின் உற்பத்தி 2017-20 ஆண்டுகளில் 107.91 லட்சம் டன்களாக அதிகரித்துள்ளபோதிலும், தமிழ்நாட்டின் பங்கு நாட்டின் மொத்த உற்பத்தியில் 4.51%-லிருந்து 3.73%-ஆகக் குறைந்துள்ளது. இதே காலகட்டத்தில், தமிழ்நாட்டின் முக்கியப் பயிரான நெல் உற்பத்தியின் பங்கு 8.62%-லிருந்து 5.73% ஆகவும், துவரை 2.13%-லிருந்து 1.38% ஆகவும், மொத்த எண்ணெய்வித்துப் பயிர்களின் உற்பத்தி 9.31%-லிருந்து 3.17% ஆகவும், பருத்தி 3.52%-லிருந்து 1.17%-ஆகவும், கரும்பு 10.18%-லிருந்து 4.19%-ஆகவும் குறைந்துள்ளது.

இந்தப் புள்ளிவிவரங்கள் கூறுவது என்ன? தமிழ்நாட்டின் உற்பத்தி வளர்ச்சி வேகம் சராசரி இந்தியாவின் வளா்ச்சி வேகத்தைக் காட்டிலும் குறைவாக உள்ளது. இதற்கு முக்கியக் காரணம், எந்த மாநிலத்திலும் இல்லாத அளவுக்குக் குறைந்துவரும் நிகர சாகுபடிப் பரப்பு. 1970-71-லிருந்து 2018-19 வரையில், மொத்தமாக 15.87 லட்சம் ஹெக்டோ் சாகுபடிப் பரப்பை தமிழ்நாடு இழந்துள்ளது.

வேளாண் உற்பத்தி சார்ந்த பிரச்சினைகள் ஒருபுறம் இருக்க, தமிழ்நாட்டு விவசாயிகள் பல்வேறு பிரச்சினைகளைச் சந்தித்துவருகிறார்கள். முதல் பெரும் பிரச்சினை பயிர்ச் கிடைக்கும் குறைவான வருமானம். இந்தியக் கிராம மக்களின் நிதி நிலவரத்தை அறிய நபார்டு வங்கியால் 2016-17-ல் நடத்தப்பட்ட ஆய்வின்படி, தமிழ்நாட்டு விவசாயக் குடும்பத்தின் மாத வருமானம் வெறும் ரூ.9,775 மட்டுமே. இதைவிட அதிர்ச்சியான விஷயம், தமிழ்நாட்டு விவசாயிகளின் மொத்த ஆண்டு வருமானத்தில் பயிர்ச் சாகுபடியில் கிடைக்கும் வருவாய் வெறும் 27%. இது இந்தியாவின் சராசரி அளவைவிட (73%) மிகவும் குறைவு.

அதிகமாகத் தேவைப்படும் பயிர்ச் சாகுபடிச் செலவு குறைவான வருமானத்துக்கு முக்கியக் காரணம். இந்திய அரசின் வேளாண் செலவு மற்றும் விலை ஆணையத்தின் (2017-18) புள்ளிவிவரப்படி, தமிழ்நாட்டில் முக்கியப் பயிர்களின் உற்பத்திச் செலவு, நாட்டின் சராசரிச் செலவைவிட மிகவும் அதிகம். நெல்லுக்கு 26.01%, சோளத்துக்கு 67.78%, உளுந்துக்கு 33.59%, நிலக்கடலைக்கு 13.32%, பருத்திச் சாகுபடிக்கு 42.99% கூடுதலாகத் தமிழ்நாட்டு விவசாயிகள் செலவுசெய்துள்ளார்கள்.

வருமானக் குறைவால் விவசாயிகள் பெரும் கடனாளிகளாக மாறிவிட்டனா். 2016-17 புள்ளிவிவரப்படி, தமிழ்நாட்டில் 61% விவசாயிகள் கடன்பட்டுள்ளார்கள். இது இந்திய சராசரி அளவைவிட (47%) அதிகம். விவசாயக் குடும்பத்தின் கடனளவும் (ரூ.1,00,266), இந்திய அளவைவிட (ரூ.70,580) அதிகம். தொடர்ந்து கடன் வாங்கி விவசாயம் செய்வதால், தமிழ்நாட்டு விவசாயிகளின் கடன்-சொத்து விகிதம் (4.19), இந்தியாவின் சராசரி அளவைக் (2.46) காட்டிலும் மிகவும் அதிகம்.

விவசாய வளர்ச்சியும், விவசாயிகளின் வருமான வளர்ச்சியும் நெருங்கிய தொடர்புடையவை. விவசாயிகளின் வருமானத்தை உயர்த்த வழிவகை செய்யாமல், விவசாயத் துறையில் வளர்ச்சி ஏற்படுத்துவது சிரமம். எனவே, விவசாயிகளின் வருமானத்தைப் பெருக்க புதிய அரசு நடவடிக்கைகளை எடுக்க வேண்டும். முதலில், நீர்ப்பாசன வளர்ச்சியைப் பெருக்க நடவடிக்கை வேண்டும். 1960-61 முதல் 2016-17 வரையிலான காலகட்டத்தில் மொத்த நீர்ப்பாசனப் பரப்பளவில் எந்த வளர்ச்சியும் அடையாத ஒரே மாநிலம் தமிழ்நாடு. ஆகவே, செலவு குறைவான குளம், கால்வாய்ப் பாசனத்தை உயர்த்த வழிவகை செய்ய வேண்டும்.

இரண்டு, பயிர்ச் சாகுபடியில் கூலிச் செலவு அதிகமாக உள்ளதால், மகாத்மா காந்தி ஊரக வேலைவாய்ப்பு உறுதித் திட்டத்தைப் பயிர்ச் சாகுபடி வேலையுடன் இணைப்பதால் செலவைக் குறைக்க முடியும். மூன்று, தமிழ்நாட்டின் மொத்த நெல் உற்பத்தியில், 21% மட்டுமே 2018-19-ல் கொள்முதல் செய்யப்பட்டுள்ளது. இது ஆந்திரம் (58.36%), தெலங்கானாவை (77.75%) விடக் குறைவாகும். அரசு கொள்முதல் நிலையங்களில் பொருட்களை விற்றால் மட்டுமே விவசாயிகளால் குறைந்தபட்ச ஆதார விலையைப் பெற முடியும். எனவே, வேளாண் பொருட்களின் கொள்முதலை அதிகரிக்க வேண்டும்.

நான்கு, இடைத்தரகர்களின் நடவடிக்கைகளால், குறைந்தபட்ச ஆதார விலையை விவசாயிகளால் பெற முடியாத சூழல் ஏற்படுகிறது. குறைந்தபட்ச ஆதார விலையில் மட்டும் விளைபொருட்களை விற்பதற்கான உறுதிச் சட்டத்தை (Right to sell at MSP) இயற்ற வேண்டும்.

ஐந்து, குறு, சிறு விவசாயிகள் பல்வேறு சிரமங்களில் உள்ளனர். இவர்களுக்கு வட்டியில்லா வங்கிக் கடன்களை வழங்க வேண்டும். ஆறு, காய்கறி, பழவகைப் பயிர்களுக்குப் பெரும்பாலான நேரங்களில் உரிய விலை கிடைக்கவில்லை. கேரள அரசால் கடந்த ஆண்டு கொண்டுவரப்பட்டுள்ள தோட்டப் பயிர்களுக்கான குறைந்தபட்ச ஆதார விலைத் திட்டத்தைத் தமிழ்நாட்டிலும் கொண்டுவர வேண்டும். ஏழு, தெலங்கானா, ஒடிசா மாநிலங்கள் போன்று, விவசாயிகளுக்கான நேரடிப் பணவரவுத் திட்டத்தை, குறு மற்றும் சிறு விவசாயிகளுக்கு அமல்படுத்த வேண்டும். வேளாண் பொருட்களை நகரச் சந்தைகளுக்குக் கொண்டுவர விவசாயிகளுக்குக் குறைந்த கட்டணத்தில் போக்குவரத்து வசதி செய்துதர வேண்டும்.

எட்டு, வேளாண் சந்தையின் அடிப்படைக் கட்டுமான வசதிகள் பெரும்பாலான இடங்களில் மிகவும் மோசமாக உள்ளன. இதனை மேம்படுத்த நடவடிக்கை எடுப்பதோடு, வேளாண் பொருட்களுக்கு உரிய விலை கிடைக்கும் வகையில், அனைத்து தாலுகாக்களிலும் உழவர் சந்தையை ஏற்படுத்த வேண்டும்.

- அ.நாராயணமூா்த்தி, இந்திய விவசாயச் செலவு மற்றும் விலை ஆணையத்தின் முன்னாள் உறுப்பினா்.

தொடர்புக்கு: narayana64@gmail.com

‘என்ன படிக்கிற சதீஷ்?’ ‘மூணாம் வகுப்பு’. ‘தேவா! நீ என்ன படிக்கிற?’ ‘நானும் மூணாவதுதான் சார்’ - இப்படி ஓர் உரையாடல்... இடம், ஈரோடு மாவட்டம், அந்தியூர் வனச் சரகம் தாமரைக்கரை சோளகர் மக்களின் குடியிருப்பு.

12 மாணவர்கள் மற்றும் 8 மாணவிகள் இந்த உரையாடலில் பங்குகொண்டனர். ‘என்ன வகுப்பு படிக்கிறீங்க?’ என்றால், தடுமாற்றம் இன்றி, தங்கள் வகுப்பைச் சொல்கிறார்கள். ‘சரி, உங்க கிளாஸ் டீச்சர் யாரு.. பெயரென்ன?’ என்று கேட்டால் பலருக்கும் தெரியவில்லை. கிளாஸ் டீச்சர் பெயரைச் சரியாகச் சொன்ன மாணவர்களிடம், ‘அவர்தான் உங்க கிளாஸ் டீச்சர்னு எப்படித் தெரியும்?’ என்று திருப்பிக் கேட்டால், தான் கடைசியாகப் படித்த வகுப்பின் ஆசிரியர் பெயர் அது எனத் தெரியவந்தது.

கடந்த 16 மாதங்களாக, அவர்கள் வனத்திற்குள்தான் சுற்றித் திரிகிறார்கள். அந்த மலையில்தான் எவ்வளவு தாவரங்கள்! யானைகள் நடமாட்டமோ சகஜம். கரடிகள், செந்நாய்கள், புலிகள் எனப் பல்வகை விலங்குகளும் உண்டு. வனத்துக்குள் சென்று என்ன விளையாடினார்கள்? என்ன கற்றுக்கொண்டார்கள்? இது ஒரு மிகப் பெரிய கேள்வி. இது ஓர் அரிய, சிறந்த, திறந்தவெளிச் செயல்வழிக் கற்றல். மாணவர்கள் வீடு திரும்பிய பிறகு, தொலைக்காட்சி பார்க்கிறார்கள். கார்ட்டூன் படங்களை மிகவும் விரும்பிப் பார்க்கிறார்கள். நிறைய சினிமா பார்க்கிறார்கள்.

வேறொரு ஆய்வுக்காகச் சென்ற தருணத்தில், இந்தச் சந்திப்பு எதேச்சையாக நிகழ்ந்தது. கையில் இருந்த எளிய வாசகங்கள் அடங்கிய தாளைக் கொடுத்து வாசிக்கும்படி கோரினோம். ஒன்பதாம் வகுப்பு மாணவர் ஒருவரைத் தவிர, மற்ற அனைவருக்கும், எழுத்துக் கூட்டிக்கூட வாசிக்கத் தெரியவில்லை. இதில், பத்தாம் வகுப்பு படிக்கும் இருவரும் அடக்கம். இத்தனைக்கும், வாசிக்கக் கேட்டுக்கொண்ட தாளில், பெயர், வயது, கிராமம், ஊராட்சி ஒன்றியம் போன்ற சொற்களே இருந்தன.

‘கல்வி டிவி பார்க்கிறீர்களா?’ என்றால், எல்லோரும் இல்லை என்று தலையசைத்தார்கள். ‘ஒரே ஒருநாள் கூடப் பார்க்கவில்லையா?’ என்றால், ‘பார்த்தோம்’ எனச் சிலர் தலை ஆட்டினார்கள். ‘ஏன் தொடர்ந்து பார்ப்பதில்லை’ என்ற கேள்விக்கு, ‘புரியவில்லை’ என்பதுதான் பதிலாக இருந்தது.

‘ஆசிரியர்கள் யாரேனும் வந்து உங்களைச் சந்தித்தார்களா?’ என்று விசாரித்தபோது, ‘ஒருவர்கூட வரவில்லை’ என்று பதிலளித்தார்கள். ‘தொலைபேசியில் தொடர்புகொண்டு உங்களோடு பேசினார்களா?’ அதற்கும் ‘இல்லை’ என பதில் அளித்தார்கள். ‘எங்க அப்பாவிடம் பேசினார்’ என்று மூன்று குழந்தைகள் கூறினார்கள். ‘தொலைபேசியில் என்ன பேசினார்கள்?’ ‘சத்துணவு உணவுப் பொருள் வாங்க வரச் சொன்னார்கள்’ என்ற பதில் வந்தது.

‘படித்து என்ன வேலைக்குப் போகப்போகிறீர்கள்?’ என்று கேட்டால் டிப்பர் லாரி, பொக்லைன், 12 வீல் லாரி, இட்டாசி லாரி போன்றவற்றின் ஓட்டுநர்களாக வேண்டும் என்பதுதான் பெரும்பாலான மாணவர்களின் விருப்பம். நூல் மில்லுக்கு வேலைக்குப் போக வேண்டும் என்றார்கள் இரண்டு மாணவர்கள். மர வேலை செய்ய வேண்டும் என்றார் ஒருவர். இருப்பதிலேயே சரளமாக வாசிக்கத் தெரிந்த சித்தலிங்கத்துக்குப் பேருந்து ஓட்டுநர் ஆக வேண்டும் என்று ஆசை.

சமவெளிக் குழந்தைகளிடம் இந்தக் கேள்வியைக் கேட்டால் டாக்டர், இன்ஜினீயர், கலெக்டர் என ஆளுக்கு ஒன்றைச் சொல்லி அசத்துவார்கள். அத்தகைய கனவுகள் இவர்களிடம் இல்லை. ஆனால், இவர்களைப் பொறுத்தவரை இவையே பெருங்கனவுகள். இது பலருக்கும் அதிர்ச்சியூட்டலாம். அந்தியூர் - கொள்ளேகால் மலைப் பாதையின் ஓரத்தில் அமைந்துள்ள மலைக் கிராமம் இது. நாள்தோறும் அவர்களை பிரமிக்க வைப்பது அவர்கள் கூறிய வாகனங்கள்தான். அவற்றைச் சார்ந்தே தங்கள் வாழ்நாள் பணியை அமைத்துக்கொள்ள வேண்டும் என்று ஆசைப்படுகிறார்கள்.

இதே மலைப் பகுதியில், சோளகனை என்ற மற்றுமொரு சோளகர் பழங்குடிக் கிராமம் இருக்கிறது. பேருந்தையே பார்க்காத குழந்தைகள் இக்கிராமத்தில் ஏராளமாக உள்ளனர். பேருந்து நிறுத்தத்திலிருந்து சுமார் ஏழு கிலோ மீட்டர் காட்டுக்குள் நடந்து சென்றால்தான், இந்தக் கிராமத்தை அடைய முடியும். பழங்குடியினர் நலத் துறையின் நடுநிலைப் பள்ளி ஒன்று அங்கு உள்ளது. அதில் படிக்கும் 17 குழந்தைகளைச் சந்தித்து உரையாடினோம். வாகனங்களையே பார்க்காத இவர்களில், ஒருவருக்குக்கூட வாகனம் ஓட்டும் கனவு வரவில்லை. வனத் துறை கார்டாக, தலைமை ஆசிரியராக, ஆசிரியராக ஆக வேண்டும் என்று ஓரிருவர் கூறினார்கள். சமையல்காரராக வர வேண்டும் என்றே பாதிக்கும் மேற்பட்ட மாணவர்கள் விருப்பம் தெரிவித்தனர். உணவளித்து, விடுதியில் உடனிருந்து, ஆசிரியர் இல்லாத நேரத்தில் பாடம் சொல்லித்தரும் சமையல்காரரே மாணவர்களின் மனம் கவர்ந்த மனிதர் என்று அறிய நேர்ந்தது.

நாங்கள் சந்தித்த எட்டுப் பெண் குழந்தைகளில், மூவர் மருத்துவர் கனவில் இருக்கிறார்கள்; இன்னுமொரு மூவர் செவிலியராக வர வேண்டும் என்றார்கள். ஆசிரியராக வர ஆசைப்படுகிறது ஒரு குழந்தை. எந்தக் கனவும் இல்லை என்று கூறிய குழந்தை ஒன்று.

ஆசிரியர்களின் செல்பேசி அழைப்புகள் ஏதும் இல்லை. கல்வி தொலைக்காட்சி பார்ப்பதில்லை. பார்த்தாலும் புரிவதில்லை. திறன்பேசி இல்லை. இணைய வசதியும் இல்லை. ஆண் குழந்தைகளைப் போலவே, பெண் குழந்தைகளுக்கும் எந்த வசதிகளும் இல்லையென்றாலும், பெண் குழந்தைகள் இந்த ஒன்றரை ஆண்டுகளில் கற்றதை மறக்கவில்லை என்பது ஆச்சரியமாக இருக்கிறது. எல்லாப் பெண் குழந்தைகளும் சரளமாக, எழுத்துக் கூட்டாமல் வாசித்துக் காட்டினார்கள். இவர்கள் அனைவரும் ஆறாம் வகுப்பு முதல் எட்டாம் வகுப்பு வரை படித்துக்கொண்டிருப்பவர்கள். ஆனாலும், மருத்துவர், செவிலியர், ஆசிரியர் என்ற பெருங்கனவு இருக்கிறது.

பெண் குழந்தைகளின் விளையாட்டுகளுக்கும் ஆண் குழந்தைகளின் விளையாட்டுகளுக்கும் பெருத்த வேறுபாடு இருக்கிறது. பெண் குழந்தைகள் பெரும்பாலும் வீட்டைச் சுற்றியே விளையாடுகிறார்கள். பாட்டு, கதை என்று உட்கார்ந்த இடத்திலிருந்து விளையாடும் விளையாட்டுகளாக அவை இருக்கின்றன. தொலைக்காட்சி பார்க்கிறார்கள்.

ஆண் குழந்தைகளின் எதிர்காலக் கனவுகள் நிறைவேறுமா? தெரியவில்லை. ஆனால், பெண் குழந்தைகளின் கனவுகள் பொய்த்துப்போகவே அதிக சாத்தியம் இருப்பதை அறிந்தால் மிகவும் வேதனையாக இருக்கிறது.

ஆண்டுதோறும், 4 முதல் 6 மாதங்கள் வரை குடிப்பெயர்ச்சி நடக்கிறது. இதனால் படிப்பு வீணாகிறது. கல்வி உரிமைச் சட்டத்தால் எட்டாம் வகுப்பு வரை தேர்ச்சி என்பதாலும், எட்டாம் வகுப்பு படித்திருந்தால்தான் பழங்குடிப் பெண்களுக்கு திருமண உதவித்தொகை என்பதாலும், எட்டாம் வகுப்பு வரை ஏதோ வந்து சேருகின்றனர். பெண் குழந்தைத் திருமணங்களும் மலைக் கிராமங்களில் அதிகம். இச்சூழலில், இந்தப் பெண் குழந்தைகள் எங்கே மருத்துவர்களாகவோ செவிலியர்களாகவோ ஆகப்போகிறார்கள் என்று நினைக்க நினைக்க ஆழ்ந்த வருத்தமே வெளிப்படுகிறது.

பழங்குடி மக்கள் வேலைக்காகக் குடிபெயராமல் இருப்பது இந்தக் கரோனா காலத்தில்தான். பர்கூர் மலைப் பகுதியில் 25 கிராமங்கள் உள்ளன. இங்கெல்லாம், முதல் அலையின்போது ஒருவருக்குக்கூடத் தொற்று ஏற்படவில்லை. இரண்டாம் அலையில், ஒரே ஒரு கிராமத்தில் ஒருவருக்கு மட்டும் தொற்று ஏற்பட்டிருந்தது. ஆசிரியர்கள் பாதுகாப்பு ஏற்பாடுகளோடு வந்து இக்குழந்தைகளுக்குப் பாடம் நடத்தியிருந்தால், ஒன்றரை வருடம் தொடர்ச்சியாகக் கல்வி கிடைத்திருக்கும்.

ஜூலை 10 மற்றும் 11 தேதிகளில் தமிழ்நாடு முழுவதும் ஒரு கள ஆய்வை மேற்கொண்ட தமிழ்நாடு அறிவியல் இயக்கம், பள்ளித் திறப்பைப் பொதுமைப்படுத்தாமல் பகுதிவாரியாக ஆராய்ந்து திறக்க வேண்டும் என தமிழ்நாட்டு அரசுக்குக் கோரிக்கை வைத்துள்ளது. இக்கோரிக்கை, இந்த மலையகப் பழங்குடி மக்களின் வாழிடங்களுக்கு நிச்சயம் பொருந்தும்.

- நா.மணி, பேராசிரியர். தொடர்புக்கு: tnsfnmani@gmail.com

These days, India’s national capital, Delhi, is a sight to behold — strangely, not for reasons connected to the city-State. As a matter of fact, a visitor might think she was in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh seeing the profusion of posters and flex boards featuring its Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, all of them claiming that U.P. is today India’s number one State.

Bagging the top rank

U.P. as India’s number one State? The miracle owes to an award that was given out this summer by the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry under the Smart Cities Mission (https://bit.ly/3yAAPJx). Tamil Nadu, with an exemplary record on development and welfare, was placed third on the list after Madhya Pradesh. If anyone had quibbles about the line-up, they had to lump it. U.P. and its Chief Minister were going to savour the trophy which had most conveniently arrived in the months ahead of the 2022 State Assembly election. By another coincidence, it was also the first time that States had been picked for the award.

In the days since the award, the Chief Minister has found himself hit by an avalanche of praise, most notably from the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah. The praise also settled speculation that Mr. Adityanath and Mr. Modi were in conflict over a State-level appointment proposed by the Prime Minister. In the end, Mr. Adityanath had his way. The Gujarat cadre retired IAS officer, said to have been Mr. Modi’s nominee for the State Cabinet, got appointed to an ornamental party post. If indeed there was a conflict over this, it made sense for both sides to sue for peace. U.P. is the all important State that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has to win, and win by a wide margin. What has followed is a mammoth, nothing- left-to-chance effort to rebrand Mr. Adityanath as the leader of India’s best-run State.

In their speeches, Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah have attributed qualities to the U.P. Chief Minister that are in embarrassing contradiction of evidence and felt experiences. Some of the flattery and claims were so over- the-top that fact-checking sites such as Alt News instantly demolished them, among them the astonishing one that the Chief Minister’s handling of the second COVID-19 wave was “unparalleled”. The situation in U.P. at the time was indeed unparalleled, but not in the glowing manner it has been imagined and told. Quite the opposite with images of floating corpses and mass burning of pyres making it to the international media.

In the pandemic’s grip

As the second wave raged, there was no sign that U.P. had become a shining example of good governance. Hundreds lost their lives in the scramble for hospital beds, ambulances and oxygen. Men and women collapsed unattended and many died begging for oxygen. These deaths were not statistics that the Government could hide or dispute. These happened in real time as friends and families watched helplessly. A Lucknow journalist’s last cries for help are recorded in the phone of an editor friend she desperately called. He continues to be hounded by her cries and remains inconsolable over not being able to save her despite his access to higher-ups in the Government. The sad truth is that U.P failed its citizens during the second COVID- 19 crisis — the better off died trying in vain to work the political system for beds and oxygen. The worse off died anyway, some of them abandoned by their kin and turning up as bloated corpses in the swirling waters of the Ganga.

The floating bodies, discovered along the length of the Ganga by the reporting teams of the Hindi newspaper,Dainik Bhaskar, have since become a metaphor for all that is wrong with U.P. The U.P. government and the Chief Minister have underplayed the deaths and passed them off as jal samadhis — the ancient practice of burying the dead in shallow river beds.

However, the explanation has not convinced many. In his report dated May 22, 2021 (https://bit.ly/37sZTGu),The Hindu’s Omar Rashid cites residents who had watched the bodies wash up as saying they had not witnessed floating bodies on this scale before. For Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, the head priest of Varanasi’s Sankat Mochan temple, the floating bodies represented a truth that could not be hidden. “Ganga has revealed the truth,” he told Mr. Rashid.

Mr. Rashid also reported on the deaths of Government employees who had contracted COVID-19 while on polling duty in the panchayat elections that were held irresponsibly at the peak of the second wave. The Government at first denied the deaths, but has now confirmed them by awarding compensation to the families of over 2,000 employees who fell to COVID-19 after being on election duty.

The horror of U.P.’s second wave is too recent and too graphically captured for it to be so easily forgotten. To insist that the virus was controlled with “incomparable efficiency”, therefore, amounts to a reconstructed truth, an alternative reality intended to replace the original memories by the time the 2022 Assembly election is held.

There have been other exaggerations in the project to build Mr. Adityanath as a brand, among them claims that U.P. has topped the charts for COVID-19 testing and administration of vaccine shots and also that it has provided a violence-free environment to its residents. The State does have impressive absolute numbers for both COVID-19 testing and vaccine shots but plunges close to the bottom once the figures are adjusted for population. U.P. has so far lagged behind even the national average on both counts.

Crime data

On general law and order and women’s safety, the less said the better. Women’s safety, a key promise in the BJP’s election campaigns, has been callously treated in U.P. An Alt News analysis of national crime data placed U.P. on top for custodial rapes and dowry deaths. Further, National Crime Records Bureau data show that the number of dowry deaths per one lakh people in U.P. is the highest in the country. This is besides the gang rapes that have regularly hit the headlines. The State BJP’s sweep of the recently held blockpramukhelections came amidst widespread violence and allegations of booth capturing and intimidation. Clearly, in the current day U.P., law and order has come to mean just one thing: the State government’s aggression against minorities and its crackdown on alleged gangsters and anti-nationals, many of whom are in fact students and rights’ activists.

U.P.’s self-appointed status as India’s top State is ironic considering it was at the bottom among large States in an index (Public Affairs Index) compiled by the Public Affairs Centre, a not-for-profit organisation headed by K. Kasturirangan, formerly chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation. Released in October 2020, the index used 50 indicators to measure the quality of State-level governance on the three pillars of equity, growth and sustainability. Unsurprisingly, Kerala was adjudged the best-governed State while U.P. came last (in the large States category).

Political impact

So what are the BJP’s opponents in U.P. doing to counter the party’s public relations offensive? Not much as both the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) seem focused on chasing the elusive Brahmin vote in U.P. This is baffling logic considering the well-known Brahmin affinity to the BJP. The SP and the BSP both came to power on rainbow alliances of the forward and backward castes. Having lost that platform to the BJP, they now watch as Mr. Adityanath plays his ‘Shining U.P.’ card.

Vidya Subrahmaniam is a senior journalist

In the last year, the devastating impact of COVID-19 pandemic has shrunk the world economy by 4.4% and global trade by 5.3%; job losses have been estimated to be to the tune of 75 million. Around the world, countries have responded to pandemic-induced shortages with protectionist reactions and nationalist aspirations with the potential to disrupting complex cross-border supply chains. The blame game on trade openness and trade agreements for widening trade deficits, income inequalities and growing unemployment are all but natural domestic reactions. These trends make projections for the post-COVID-19 world even more dismal and depressing.

Past trends

Going by past experiences, historic ruptures often generate and accelerate new global links that lay foundations for institutional changes, seeking enduring cooperation among nations. The Second World War created sustaining multilateral institutions; besides the United Nations, the Bretton Woods Institutions such as World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and International Trade Organisation (ITO) were created to help rebuild the shattered post-war economy. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was negotiated in 1947 as a means to reducing barriers to international trade. The oil shocks of the 1970s led to the establishment of the International Energy Agency (IEA) in 1974 to manage oil supply disruptions and went on to create awareness on the need for global energy security. The financial crisis of 2008 led to the G20 Leaders Summit, an elevation from the G20 Finance Ministers forum in 1999, in a bid to take cooperation beyond the G7 in a global quest to control inflation due to fiscal expansion. These developments had a consequential impact on global trade, with dramatic surges in volumes; from a mere $60.80 billion in 1950 to $2,049 billion in 1980; $6,452 billion in 2000; $19,014 billion in 2019 (Source: wto.org).

Future prospects

The patterns above leave much hope for optimism for global trade in the post-COVID-19 crisis in the collective belief that international trade is vital for development and prosperity, while competition is central to generating competence. Stimulus packages and forced savings in several countries in the last year have created financial buffers. Global supply chains that have remained dormant for long are expected to be resilient to help revive manufacturing with lower production costs, induce investments and promote technology transfers.

In a post COVID-19 world, members of the World Trade Organization are expected to stitch trade facilitating rules that may impinge on national sovereign policy space with a collective resolve to discipline errant nations that are known to dumping goods and erecting trade barriers through multilateral rules. Mutually beneficial trade arrangements that seek deeper economic integration will be entered into at the bilateral and regional levels to create win-win situations for all stakeholders, including consumers, who tend to benefit from lowered barriers and harmonised standards.

Countries that harness technology are expected to dominate international trade in future with a transformational impact on the global economy. Just as the steam engine in the 19th century and computing power in the 20th century, data will be the main driver of economic growth in the 21st century. Businesses will aim to harness data for innovation to remain ahead of the curve in a post-COVID-19 world. However, increasing use of data and automation will make nations vulnerable to job losses. Rapid growth in e-commerce and the virtual world will demand entirely new skills from the workforce. Therefore, economic policies are likely to focus on stronger safety nets for workers; income protection, skill training, health care and educational support for families.

India’s outlook

India’s challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic have been no different from those faced by other countries: its GDP contracted by 7.3% according to the National Statistical Office; and about 10 million jobs were lost according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt. Ltd; trade remained subdued at $493 billion (goods at $290 billion and services at $203 billion). The projections of the International Monetary Fund for India’s economic growth ahead are positive and in line with the general trends world-wide, assuming that the widespread vaccination might limit the COVID-19 agony. Unleashing trade potential is expected to have a ripple effect on the economy. Merchandise exports for the second quarter of 2021 from April-June at $95 billion (+6%), is indeed encouraging, but would need to remain focussed on value added products, beyond the traditional exports basket comprising refined petroleum products, pharma, gems and jewellery, textiles and garments, engineering items, rice, oil meals and marine products (Source: DGCI&S).

Building an ecosystem that incentivises value- added manufacturing and technology-induced finished products should form a part of our long-term strategy. Plug and play manufacturing units under Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) schemes, if carefully nurtured, could lead the industry on that path. Beyond the timely stimulus packages for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), supporting them with cheaper input costs, including raw material and intermediate goods would help sustain them with job creation at the local level. Developing a synergistic relationship between the big industry and MSMEs is at the core of a successful Atmanirbhar Bharat; the former should be encouraged to move into technology space and finished products, while the latter feeds them with locally made inputs at competitive prices. Skills upgradation to global standards should form a part of India’s strategy in a post-COVID-19 world.

Dammu Ravi is a serving Foreign Service Officer, currently working in the Ministry of External Affairs. The views expressed are personal

A working paper for the Center for Global Development, co-authored by former Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian, concludes that excess deaths during the pandemic period could be as high as 49 lakh in India as against the 4.14 lakh reported in government data.The Hinduhas come out with estimates of excess deaths based on Civil Registration System (CRS) data for many States which showed that the death toll was several times higher than the official death toll due to COVID-19. Such discrepancies have been reported from other countries including the U.S. and Europe though they may not have been of such magnitude.

Capturing excess mortality

‘Excess deaths’ are defined as the difference between the observed number of deaths in specific time periods and the expected number of deaths in the same time periods. At the time of a pandemic, when the normal system is disrupted, it is not likely that every person who dies could have been tested for COVID-19 or the death could have been mistakenly assigned to some other cause.

Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, has tweeted in this connection: “For every country, it’s important to capture excess mortality – only way to prepare the health system for future shocks & to prevent further deaths. It’s also why we need to invest in strong civil registration and vital statistics, so policies can be adjusted based on real data”.

Section 19 of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969, stipulates that the State governments have to “publish for the information of the public a statistical report on the registered births and deaths during the year at such intervals and such form as may be prescribed”. The Act also stipulates that the deaths be registered at the place of occurrence.

In India, the annual report for 2019 that is based on the data provided by the Chief Registrars has been released though the States themselves have not published the data. According to the Rules, these were to be submitted by the Chief Registrars to the State governments by July 31, 2020 and published within five months thereafter. Considering that technology enables the States to release data on the number of deaths registered on a monthly, weekly or daily basis, it is shameful that in some States researchers had to use the Right to Information law to obtain data on the number of deaths registered. What stands in the way of our ability to record deaths and bring out reports that are of critical importance today?

Complicating factors

Let us look at the organisational structure of the administrative machinery that is responsible for this task. While the Registrar General, India, is the head of the national organisation tasked with the registration of births and deaths, the actual work is carried out by the State and Union Territory (UT) administrations. The heads of the State organisations are called Chief Registrars. These officers come from the Health Department in 21 States/UTs and the Department of Planning, Economics and Statistics in 13 States/UTs. In two States/ UTs, they are from the Panchayat/Local Administration Departments. We also have Secretaries to the State government functioning as Chief Registrars in a few States. The multiplicity of agencies responsible for the registration of births and deaths is replicated at the district and lower levels with municipalities and panchayats playing a major role in registration. This impedes effective oversight. Also, the traditional bureaucratic practice is to function within departmental silos.

Another complicating factor is that civil registration involves good coordination between different actors. The responsibility to report births and deaths to theRegistrar rests with the hospital where the event occurred or with the head of the household if it occurred at home. The Registrar then provides them with a legal document (the birth or death certificate) that is the evidence for registration. The Registrar could be a full-time government employee, or a medical officer in a hospital or a health centre, or the secretary of a local panchayat or municipality as appointed by the State government. In case of deaths occurring in public places, other agencies like the police or the local government would need to be involved. The State governments have not given adequate attention to the CRS. This has resulted in an inadequate budget for carrying out its regular activities including processing of the data.

The data needed to establish ‘excess deaths’ originates from the processes described briefly above. The information on deaths registered are compiled at regular intervals by the Chief Registrar. Dissemination of this data is neglected to such an extent that the Health Departments, including the States where they are in charge of the system, are generally not aware of this data.

All the agencies involved in the processes of civil registration will need to coordinate their activities seamlessly to ensure that the civil registration work is carried out efficiently. Committees established at the State, district and local government levels to ensure coordination meet rarely and the challenges of coordination continue to be a major issue in most parts of the country.

Strengthening the system

The first step that needs to be taken to address this is to accord high priority to strengthening civil registration and generation of vital statistics. The top level of the leadership at the Central and State governments must announce a time-bound commitment to achieve 100% registration of deaths in the country.

While eleven States register more than 90% of deaths, they do not include several of the larger States including Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Uttar Pradesh registered 63% of the deaths and Bihar registered only 51.6%, according to the 2019 report of the Registrar General, India.

Vital Statistics Reports that the government is required to publish are expected to meet a standard that is set by the UN Statistics Division, which seeks to ensure that all national reports are produced in a way that they can be internationally comparable. Apart from the problem that our reports are overdue, they do not contain all the tables that are prescribed even under our own Rules. Data include deaths that took place in previous years but are registered in the years that the report is published. This distorts the accuracy of the report. Some reports do not cover some major areas in the country. For instance, the Kerala report does not include data for Kochi Corporation.

We need data that fully meets quality standards. This is what the pandemic has called on us to do. We need to use this as an opportunity to mend matters in this critical area of public concern and swiftly assign resources and give high priority to make the changes that are badly overdue in all States and UTs.

Gopalan Balagopal is a former civil servant and continues to work on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems, primarily in Africa. K. Narayanan Unni is a statistician and former Deputy Registrar General (CRS)

On the first day of the monsoon session of the Vidhan Sabha in Madhya Pradesh, Opposition leaders staged a protest demanding that the State holiday on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9 be restored. At first glance, the demand seems ordinary. Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-ruled Jharkhand and Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, both of which have considerable Adivasi populations, declared that August 9 would be a public holiday. The Congress-led government in Madhya Pradesh had declared it a public holiday too. When the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, it made the holiday optional and did not allocate any money for celebrations despite the fact that over a fifth of the State’s population comprises Adivasis. The roots of this intransigence are located within the ideological imperatives of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), its approach to Adivasi identity and its fundamental opposition to the discourse of Adivasiyat (indigeneity).

Imagined community of Hindus

The RSS’s stated objective is the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra. In this imagined community of Hindus, the community will be the master race by virtue of being the majority. However, nations are not a given entity; they need to be constructed, nurtured and sustained. Each nation is sustained by an ideological edifice erected upon shared historical experience, myths, memories and folklore. These elements combine to create a sense of a shared past which imparts the feeling of oneness and a common destiny. It is this sense of a shared past which forms the fountainhead of any collective identity.

The Hindutva discourse situates the Hindu nation at the intersection of history and mythology, thereby investing it with a divine and timeless quality. V.D. Savarkar used myths and symbols from the Ramayana and Vedas to construct the foundational notions of the geographical sovereignty and cultural identity of the Hindu nation. This quasi-historical narrative performed the twin functions of anchoring the identity of the Indian nation in the framework of Vedic Hinduism and, by implication, establishing the adherents to Vedic Hinduism as the indigenous inhabitants of this land; and ‘othering’ Muslims and Christians within the nation.

However, the discourse of Adivasiyat or non-Vedic cultural survival dislocates this narrative. Moreover, it strips the Hindu nation of its divine quality and re-establishes it within the secular historical framework. This is why the RSS is opposed to the category of Adivasi, for accepting it would entail giving up its claim of being autochthonous.

Competing indigeneities

Hindutva’s approach towards Adivasis is dictated by the need to address the twin anxieties of destabilisation of the imagined ethnic Hindu nation by the discourse of Adivasiyat and the conversion of Adivasis to Christianity. Therefore, the RSS re-articulates the Adivasi identity asVanvasior forest dweller, who is just an imperfectly integrated Hindu. It takes upon itself the task of integrating the Adivasis within the Hindu fold by co-opting their rituals. It constructs an undifferentiated Hindu past by retelling the narratives of autonomous Adivasi struggles as fragments of the larger Hindu nation’s story of resistance against Christian and Muslim oppressors. It is in a bid to construct such an alternative tribal past that the RSS-BJP advocate the celebration of Birsa Munda’s anniversary as ‘Tribal Pride Day’ in place of observing World Indigenous Day. In Hindutva’s narrative, the Vanvasis are simple, animistic Hindus who need to be protected primarily against the onslaught of proselytisation by Christian missionaries. Towards this end, the memory of Birsa Munda is also reshaped in order to paint him as an antagonist of the Christian ‘other’, while historical facts point to a much more complicated picture of his resistance movement.

Progressive forces like the Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti construct the Adivasi identity primarily in terms of dispossession and exploitation. Therefore, while they look upon proselytisation by missionaries with scepticism, they consider the exploitative outsider, irrespective of religion, as the primary other. This figure of the non-Christian other, the outsider, is absent within the Hindutva discourse.

The discourse of Adivasiyat enables politics to be framed in terms of ownership of resources, rights and dignity. In this discourse, the Adivasi is the owner of the land rather than an imperfectly integrated cultural fragment. Hence, it links the story of the Adivasi with the global story of oppression and dispossession of indigenous populations at the hands of outsiders. It is in this context that the observance of such a past on World Indigenous Day assumes great ideological significance for the Adivasis. What is playing out in Madhya Pradesh is that very struggle against the silent erasure of Adivasiyat.

Anshul Trivedi is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Political Studies, JNU. He tweets @anshultrivedi47

The news from Tokyo has warmed the hearts of Indians. It is not as if we have not had success at the Olympics in the past. For about half a century our hockey players excelled on the global stage through a display of skill and wile. Their dominance declined with the change in the surface on which the game is played. When astroturf replaced dirt the attributes for success altered; skill and nimbleness were replaced by speed and strength. But Indian hockey is bouncing back, with a medal for the men’s team and a commendable performance by our young women. In fact, it may be on the ascendant. Actually, this could be said for all of India’s future sporting endeavours, with Neeraj Chopra’s sterling performance opening up vistas in the track and field space.

Road to success

The rising level of India’s performance in sport has been evident for a while now, arguably starting with victory in World Cup Cricket in 1983. But something has changed of late. While half a century ago some of our stars were aristocrats, many of today’s sportspersons come from far less privileged backgrounds. Unlike the former, they were not trained on the storied playing fields of England but come from Tier-3 towns and even villages, rising through their own determination and self-belief. However, admirable as their individual efforts may be, this could not have by itself got them where they are today. Their naturally endowed capability has been nurtured by an external agency. Though what is apparent to us are the sports bodies that are their chaperones, their rise has received financial support from the Indian state. There has been a substantial step up in this too, which has made a great difference. The training facilities at the nationally dispersed camps of the Sports Authority of India are close to being world class and the sportspersons get their healthy diet there. Funds have added a dimension unimaginable in the past. The best Indian sportspersons are now able to compete in global championships and have international coaches. In his interviews, Neeraj Chopra has spoken of the former driving him to produce superior results as he is pitted against the world’s best. Foreign coaches, trainers and physiotherapists are almost commonplace now. It is not their foreignness that has mattered but that they bring along the highest class of expertise available. It may be seen in the winning outcome from badminton to hockey. Something more than money would have been necessary to bring these wonderful gurus to our shores. This was the Indian government’s willingness to finally recognise what is takes to succeed globally.

An enabling ecosystem needed

Staring at the harvest of medals for India’s sportspersons the economist is left wondering how some of this can be replicated in our struggling economy. Surely it is a wonder that a land that once exported goods to West Asia and ideas to China, then the richest and most evolved civilisations, is now one of the poorest in the world. Why is India no longer a flourishing arena of economic activity?

A message has now reached us. It may be from faraway Japan but has emanated from the performance of our youthful compatriots in Japan. One may as well paraphrase it as ‘It’s the ecosystem, stupid!’ Economic activity in India needs an enabling ecosystem, and everything from the availability of infrastructure to regulation of economic activity must be re-oriented towards creating it.

Compared to the attitude of our sportspersons, who went out fearlessly to meet their opponents on the world stage, the leadership’s last-minute withdrawal from the prolonged negotiations on accession to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership appears as a skittish volte face. India’s producers, irrespective of their size, cannot expect permanent protection. At the same time, they would be within their rights to expect global standards in the bureaucracy they face and the infrastructure the state provides.

Pulapre Balakrishnan teaches at Ashoka University, Sonipat, Haryana

It was only a matter of time before the controversy over the Union government delaying judicial appointments hit the headlines again. In recent days, the Supreme Court has voiced concern over the Government’s lackadaisical attitude towards the large number of vacancies in High Courts and tribunals. Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana confronted the Government with a list of 240 vacancies in various tribunals. He asked rather bluntly whether there was a plan to close down some tribunals. Many tribunals lack presiding officers, and recommendations made by selection committees have not been acted upon. The vacancies in High Courts are at a staggering 455, as on August 1. It appears that exhortations from the courts, and even a judicial order from the top court in April — fixing time-frames for the Intelligence Bureau and the Government to process names forwarded by the Collegium for making appointments to the High Courts or returning files and for accepting names reiterated by the judges’ body — has not imparted a sense of urgency. A two-judge Bench has noted that the Centre’s delay in making appointments to the High Courts is adversely affecting the adjudication of commercial disputes.

The judiciary’s concern over the vacancies in the tribunals is quite justified, as the jurisdiction previously exercised by High Courts is now being exercised by the tribunals, and the failure to adjudicate or dispose of disputes in these fields would amount to denial of justice to the parties. The present regime’s eagerness to undermine the independent functioning of tribunals is quite apparent. It has been repeatedly framing rules that seek to provide for greater executive control over the tenure, emoluments and conditions of service of those manning the tribunals. If specialisation, domain expertise and relatively quicker adjudication are the reasons for which certain kinds of disputes are being resolved through tribunals, these purposes are lost if these bodies are rendered nearly dysfunctional through a large number of vacancies. To compound the problem, the Union government has been inexplicably reluctant to create a national body for overseeing the work related to the appointment of members on tribunals as well as the appraisal of their functioning. As far as higher judiciary appointments are concerned, there is little to enlighten the public on what is causing the delay. Whether it is a dispute over the undoubtedly problematic memorandum of procedure, or the desire of the executive to subject the Collegium recommendations to its own political scrutiny is not clear. In any case, the delay is causing great harm to India’s justice delivery system.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the stage to address the UNSC on a debate on maritime security — the first Indian premier to do so — he might have hoped to keep the focus of the discussion on building maritime ties and developing maritime infrastructure through regional cooperation initiatives. Yet, once more the discussion veered toward major nations trading barbs on continuing strategic dissonance in this sphere. At the heart of the strident claims and counterclaims regarding allegations of abuse of maritime resources and disrespect of territorial sovereignty rights of nations were the U.S., on the one hand, and China and Russia on the other. Mr. Modi deserves credit for bringing to the table a five-prong plan to enhance maritime security worldwide through cooperation, including removing barriers to legitimate maritime trade, settling maritime disputes peacefully and based on international law, jointly facing natural disasters and maritime threats created by non-state actors, preserving maritime environment and resources, and encouraging responsible maritime connectivity. Indeed, the acceptance at the UNSC of the legislative framework for UNCLOS, the “legal framework applicable to activities in the oceans, including countering illicit activities at sea”, is seen as an important achievement during India’s month at the helm of the Council. The sustained interest of India in promoting maritime security also draws from Mr. Modi’s SAGAR vision plan aimed at strengthening economic and security connections with regional maritime nations.

If there are strategic barriers to creating momentum in achieving these goals, they are associated with specific regions of maritime tension including the South China Sea and the Black Sea. Regarding the former, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken decried the “dangerous encounters between vessels at sea and provocative actions to advance unlawful maritime claims”, rejecting “actions that intimidate and bully other states from lawfully accessing their maritime resources”. Similarly, regarding the Black Sea, the Kerch Strait, the Sea of Azov, Mr. Blinken at the UNSC debate hit out at what Washington considered “continued aggressive actions against Ukraine... which are disrupting commerce and energy access”. Although India’s presidency of the Council is brief, its sustained commitment to promoting maritime security and boosting trade through sea routes will require it to be adroit in negotiating with these squabbling powers and creative in seeking resolution of the very real conflicts at the heart of their disputes. While some may deride UNCLOS as lacking teeth for enforcement, ultimately it is the only comprehensive framework of laws available to maritime powers to assert their rights consistent with the rules-based international order. Through its UNSC presidency and beyond, New Delhi must faithfully advocate for ratification of UNCLOS by all major maritime powers, including the U.S.

U.S. Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy was greeted by thousands of Bangla Desh refugees shouting slogans like “Joi Bangla”, “Kennedy zindabad” and “Sheikh Mujib zindabad” as he arrived at the Salt Lake camp on the outskirts of Calcutta [Calcutta, August 10]. Some of them carried placards saying “Make Yahya quit Bangla Desh, we will return in seven days,” “Thank you for coming to see us,” “Independent Banga Desh only solution,” “Helping Yahya is helping genocide” and “Save Democracy.” At camp No. 5 camp commandant Major S.K. Deb welcomed My. Kennedy and apprised him of the conditions there. Mr. Kennedy also inquired about the organisations working in the camp. On being asked, Maj. Deb told Mr. Kennedy that so far there had been no political activities in the camps. Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s press secretary Badsah requested Mr. Kennedy to save the life of the Sheikh and thus save democracy. Barrister Maudud Ahmed of Bangla Desh sought an interview “to present our case.” Mr. Kennedy assured them that he would try to find some time to meet Bangla Desh intellectuals. Mr. Kennedy, who was then taken around the camps, talked with some refugees who broke down while narrating their sufferings at the hands of Pakistani army.

Delhi has pointed to the developed countries’ poor track record with respect to fulfilling their technology transfer and financial-aid commitments to developing countries.

Humans have already put so much greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that damage control is now their best possible recourse. The planet is likely to be hotter by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next two decades, even if nations begin cutting emissions sharply immediately, warns a report issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The already noticeable effects of warming could become harsher as a result — rainfall could become more unpredictable, heat waves more scorching and droughts more taxing. The threshold of 2 degrees Celsius, the more conservative determinant for several Paris Climate Change Pact goals and critical to check cataclysmic weather events, is likely to be passed by 2060 in the business-as-usual scenario — decades earlier than that predicted by the IPCC scientists in 2018. The report does, however, leave a small window of opportunity to take corrective measures. Its hypothesis that “aggressive emission cuts beginning now could reduce warming after 2050”, may set the tone for climate diplomacy in the coming months and years.

In about three months from now, climate negotiators will meet in Glasgow, where upscaling climate ambitions is likely to be the major issue of contention. The nationally determined contributions (NDC) to check emissions, the core of the Paris Pact, have been criticised as inadequate for attaining the agreement’s goals. Increasingly, the NDCs are being seen as a precursor to achieving carbon neutrality by mid-century — net-zero commitments announced by more than 100 countries. Net-zero is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorption and removal of GHGs from the atmosphere through natural processes as well as futuristic technologies such as carbon capture and storage. It also requires phasing out fossil fuel-based energy. Developed countries expect India to do more heavy lifting on this count. India regards the emphasis on net-zero as a deviation from the landmark pact’s architecture. Moreover, as a UN Climate Change Report, released in February, pointed out, “there remains a significant gap between longer-term carbon neutrality and the commitments undertaken in the NDCs, which must be addressed”.

India has rightly argued that any commitment to net-zero would mean compromising developmental goals of countries with a far shorter legacy of emissions compared to the developed world. Delhi has pointed to the developed countries’ poor track record with respect to fulfilling their technology transfer and financial-aid commitments to developing countries. At the same time, the small window of opportunity to make the planet less hotter in 30 years would be lost if the world’s third largest emitter is not on board in the carbon neutrality project. Resolving this tension would hold the key in obviating the grim scenario projected in the IPCC report.

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on August 11, 2021 under the title ‘Dire necessity’.

One important takeaway from these meetings is that the Congress continues to be the pivot of Opposition politics. The thin attendance at Pawar's residence a few weeks ago, had revealed that an anti-BJP national front without the Congress was a non-starter.

A week after Rahul Gandhi hosted a breakfast meeting for Opposition MPs, Congress leader Kapil Sibal held a dinner conclave on Monday at his residence ostensibly to deliberate on building a united front against the BJP before the 2024 general election. If Gandhi was focussed on formulating a consensus within the Opposition in Parliament against the government on its handling of Covid-19, the Pegasus scandal and the farmers’ agitation, the Sibal show had markings of the making of a broader front of parties opposed to the BJP. These conclaves are significant since many Opposition fronts in the 1980s and thereafter, were born out of meetings held over a meal or two. Though the Monday event has not revealed a roadmap for forging a united Opposition front, it stood out for the impressive guest list: Leaders such as NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, representatives of the BJD, YSRCP, TRS etc. who were absent at the meeting convened by Gandhi, showed up at Sibal’s residence.

One important takeaway from these meetings is that the Congress continues to be the pivot of Opposition politics. The thin attendance at Pawar’s residence a few weeks ago, had revealed that an anti-BJP national front without the Congress was a non- starter. Some of the leaders who attended the dinner on Monday reportedly said the Congress has to get its act together for the Opposition to mount a real challenge in 2024. Ironically, the dinner conclave may not add up to more than a show of strength by the G-22 leaders in the Congress and a signal to the Gandhi family that they continue to be together and have the clout to attract the support of other Opposition leaders. However, can such conclaves subsume the contradictions that have prevented the Opposition parties from fighting the NDA as a united front? For instance, parties such as the Trinamool Congress, YSR Congress, TRS, and BJD have benefited from the decline of the Congress and see the party as their rival in their strongholds. The fact remains that the Opposition, other than presenting itself as a loose coalition of anti-BJP parties, is yet to project a political vision or present policy measures that distinguishes it as an alternative to the BJP.

Meanwhile, the BJP has taken note of the Opposition moves to isolate it. The NDA has been shrinking since the 2019 win, with allies such as Akali Dal and Shiv Sena leaving the alliance. The BJP seems to be wanting to reverse the tide and has used the recent Cabinet expansion at the Centre to induct MPs from JD(U) and LJP in the Cabinet. A new phase of coalition politics seems to be in the making.

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on August 11, 2021 under the title ‘Food for thought’.

As politicians rush to congratulate the Indian Olympians, they could learn a bit about statesmanship, sporting spirit and magnanimity from a 23-year-old whose pride in his nation is not contingent on hating the neighbouring one.

George Orwell wasn’t often wrong. “Serious sport,” he said, “has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting.” At least this once, though, he didn’t quite get it right. And it is India’s Olympic Gold winner, Neeraj Chopra, and his friend and rival Arshad Nadeem from Pakistan, who fly against the face of Orwell’s cynical wisdom.

Serious sport, and all the sportspersons worth admiring, play a game well and appreciate their competitors. Unfortunately, the tensions between the two largest countries in the Subcontinent — despite their shared culture and history — has often spilled into sports. Cricket is the usual casualty, with the two countries rarely being able to play a bilateral series. But the javelin, even though its origins are as a weapon, was not allowed to be a pawn in the bitter games between jingoists. When asked about Nadeem, Chopra was clear: “It would have been good to have Nadeem on the podium too. Asia ka naam ho jata.”

For all the talk of sports as war and the players as warriors, the true spirit of competition comes from pursuing excellence and building solidarity. On the grandest stage of his career, the world’s best javelin thrower — an Indian soldier — did not put down a friend who had lost, one who appreciated his win. That, as much as Neeraj’s athletic ability, is worth admiring. As politicians rush to congratulate the Indian Olympians, they could learn a bit about statesmanship, sporting spirit and magnanimity from a 23-year-old whose pride in his nation is not contingent on hating the neighbouring one.

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on August 11, 2021 under the title ‘Sporting gesture’.

The United Nations conference on new and renewable sources of energy opened on August 10 with a call by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for equal distribution of conventional energy and help to the developing world in its crippling crisis.

The United Nations conference on new and renewable sources of energy opened on August 10 with a call by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for equal distribution of conventional energy and help to the developing world in its crippling crisis. Both Mrs Gandhi who delivered the keynote address and the Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi who inaugurated the 10-day conference asked industrialised nations to stop reckless use of fossil fuels and help poor countries get the energy they need to develop. The Prime Minister said that energy should become the focal point of contemporary international cooperation to facilitated development of new and renewable sources of energy such as wind power, solar power wind power and biomass energy.

Flying rules

The departmental enquiry into the Pitts crash which killed Sanjay Gandhi has recommended that rules governing grant of “open rating” licenses should be tightened and only qualified pilots should fly acrobatic planes. At present, any pilot who has flown four types of light planes get an open rating which allows them to fly all kinds of planes including light ones.

Opposition merger

Leaders of the Lok Dal, Janata Party and Congress (U) have agreed to merge their outfits into a “united party”. Lok Dal general secretary Madhu Limaye said that the BJP president Atal Bihari Vajpayee had informed that his party was against merging with any other party but would extend cooperation to the united party. He said Chandrashekar had expressed his willingness to work with Charan Singh.

Dacoits held

The Delhi Police has arrested three dreaded dacoits of eastern Uttar Pradesh. A large stock of arms, including a foreign-made pistol, was recovered from them.

Rekha Sharma writes: There have been cases where the nearest relative of Supreme Court judges has been appointed as a high court judge, ignoring merit

Lord Denning said, “Every judge, in a sense, is on trial to see that he does his job honestly, and properly”, and that “justice is rooted in confidence, and confidence is destroyed when right-minded people go away thinking that the judge is biased”. It goes to the credit of our earlier judges, though appointed by the state, that they administered justice judicially, and with the requisite detachment within the rule of law.

The situation, however, changed with Indira Gandhi assuming office. In the matter of appointment of judges, political philosophy, and the political leaning of a candidate became a major consideration. And then came the Emergency. Judges were put to test in the matter of ADM Jabalpur, and barring one brave exception, the judges failed the Constitution, and thus the nation. They just forgot, nay ignored, the words of Lord James Mansfield in Rex versus Wilkes: “The constitution does not allow reasons of State to influence our judgments: God forbid it should! We must not regard political consequences; how formidable soever they might be: If rebellion was the certain consequence, we are bound to say ‘fiat justitia, ruat caelum’, meaning, let justice be done though the heaven falls.”

Realising the gravity of the said situation, and with an ardent desire to stop the judiciary from becoming an organ of state power, it was felt that the role of the state in the appointment of judges in terms of Article 124 (2) and 217 needed to be reconsidered. But then, in 1982 in S P Gupta’s case, the Supreme Court gave its approval to the primacy of the state in the matter of appointment of judges. Mercifully, that judgment of a bench of five judges was overturned subsequently by a bench of nine judges. It held that the provisions for consultation with the Chief Justice of India, and the Chief Justices of the high courts in Articles 124 (2) and 217 of the Constitution were introduced because of the realisation that the Chief Justice is best equipped to know and assess the worth of a candidate, and his/her suitability for appointment as a superior judge. It also held that the initiation of the proposal for appointment of a judge to the SC must be made by the CJI after wider consultation with senior judges, and likewise in the case of high courts. And no appointment of any judge to the SC or any high court can be made unless it conforms with the opinion of the CJI. Thus, what is known as the “collegium system” was born.

Governments, irrespective of which party is in power, have from time to time expressed their reservations about the courts taking upon themselves the power to appoint judges. The present government tried to dilute the primacy of the judiciary by introducing Article 124 (A) by a constitutional amendment, and by enacting National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014. The SC has struck down both the amendment and the Act. Hence, the judiciary continues to enjoy primacy in the matter of appointments.

Has the collegium system succeeded? Unfortunately, in some cases, it has not covered itself with glory. There have been cases where the nearest relative of Supreme Court judges has been appointed as a high court judge, ignoring merit. During the regime of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, judges far lower in the combined All India Seniority of High Court judges were appointed to SC, and the reason assigned was that those selected were found more meritorious.

More recently, three senior-most district judges of Delhi who were directly appointed as Additional District Judge from the Bar with impeccable integrity, and with “very good” ACRs have not been recommended for elevation to the High Court by the collegium, while officers junior to them have been recommended. This has raised eyebrows and protests, including by the coordinate committee of the various Bar Associations, and Bar Council of Delhi. The collegium must remember that the brightest star of the Indian judiciary, Justice H R Khanna, was from the subordinate judiciary, and was elevated as high court judge solely on account of his honesty and seniority. The collegium system is still the best, but it needs to weed out what is wrong in its actual working. It is hoped that the system will make course corrections in deserving cases.

This column first appeared in the print edition on August 11, 2021 under the title ‘Collegium, heal thyself’. The writer is a former judge of the Delhi High Court

Arunabha Ghosh writes: Of late, several large emitters have promised net-zero emission targets. But that does little to retard their “carbon grab”

Is there a way to shift from the sensational to the strategic? Earlier this week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported on climate science, warning against the folly of a business-as-usual development model. Past assessments have been disregarded as sensationalist. For attention to shift from a day of front-page news to a more strategic conversation, we must understand what the science says, what the politics delivers, and what the economy demands.

Globally, average surface temperatures have already risen by 1.09°C between 1850-1900 and 2010-2019 thanks to anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. What happens next depends on our development and technological choices.

The IPCC document explores several scenarios based on shared socioeconomic pathways and different levels of radiative forcing (or the change in the energy balance in the atmosphere due to natural or human causes). If we followed high fossil fuel development (doubling emissions by 2050), temperatures would rise by 4.4°C (range of 3.3-5.7°C) by 2100. If a more sustainable pathway were pursued (with net-zero emissions by 2060 and negative emissions thereafter), average global temperature rise would be 1.4°C (range of 1.0-1.8°C).

Regardless, it is likely that average rise in temperatures will breach the 1.5°C barrier within the next two decades. If emissions are not mitigated rapidly, we are staring at rising climate risks and catastrophic impacts.

Science has become better at attributing warming to human influence and extreme events to a changing climate. Less than 0.1°C of the warming observed since the pre-industrial era is thanks to natural reasons. Human influence is very likely the main reason behind glacial retreat since the 1990s. Since observations began, glaciers have lost the maximum mass during 2010-19.

India is particularly vulnerable. If warming exceeds 4°C, India could see about 40% increase in precipitation annually, leading to extreme rainfall events. My colleagues at CEEW find that three-quarters of India’s districts are now hotspots of extreme weather events. Since 1990, more than 300 such events have resulted in damages exceeding INR 5.6 lakh crore.

Just because our time horizons are limited does not mean that the climate will stop changing at the end of the century. Average rate of sea-level rise was 1.3 mm per year during 1901-71. Scientists say with high confidence that this rate increased to 3.7 mm annually during 2006-18. Even with warming restricted to 1.5°C, we are still on course for more than 2 metres of sea-level rise beyond this century. We are bequeathing a very different world to future generations.

The world needs transformational change but countries have more myopic outlooks. The IPCC says that in order to stabilise rise in temperatures, two things have to happen: Anthropogenic emissions must become net-zero and in the interim cumulative emissions cannot exceed a global carbon budget. To stay within the 1.5°C limit, starting in 2020 the remaining global carbon budget is 300-500 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2) (with a likelihood of 50%- 83%). But who will cut their emissions?

Of late, several large emitters have promised net-zero emission targets. But China and the United States have already emitted 129 GtCO2 and 344 GtCO2, respectively, between 1990 and 2010. CEEW analysts calculate that despite their self-laudatory targets, China would consume 87% of the global carbon space (if it reached net- zero in 2060) and the US would eat up 26% (if it reached net-zero in 2050). Clearly, mere announcements of net-zero targets do little to retard the “carbon grab” of the largest emitters. To use a Tokyo Olympics analogy, the largest current and historical polluters are putting gold medals on themselves, while poorer participants are left to compete on a very uneven playing field.

The carbon budget did not, however, begin in 2020. What’s left of it is a consequence of past inactions. In a pathbreaking study, CEEW researchers find that rich countries, as a whole, emitted ~25 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2eq) more than their estimated emission allowance during 2008-20, thanks to non-participation in pre-2020 climate agreements and misuse of accounting loopholes. To put it in context, this is more than half the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, or nine years’ worth of India’s 2016 emissions. Climate justice demands that developed countries now take steps to free up carbon space for others.

If climate science is stark and climate politics has been unjust, how do we meet our development aspirations? The claim on a fair share of the carbon budget is not a licence to pollute. India must adopt a more climate-friendly development pathway for its own sake. Its per capita incomes, energy consumption and carbon footprint are well below the global average but it must deliver high rates of economic growth within a shrinking carbon budget.

India has an energy revolution underway. This ranges from household electrification to smart meters, scaling up solar and wind to new ambitions in biofuels and hydrogen, energy efficiency to clean cooking for millions, electrification of railways to electric vehicles, first country with a cooling action plan to skilling thousands in green jobs.

Next, the discourse must shift from energy to the economy. There are very few sunrise sectors that are not low- carbon. India must tap new technology frontiers (green hydrogen), new business models (distributed and digitalised services, for distributed energy, EV charging, cold chains), new construction materials (low-carbon cement, recycled plastic), new opportunities in the circular economy of minerals, municipal waste and agricultural residue, and new practices for sustainable agriculture and food systems. Many of these technologies and business models are proven but need policy and regulatory support.

Finally, it will become imperative to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and repair the climate in critical regions, such as the poles. If those tipping points are breached, there will be disastrous consequences. This will require new levels of international cooperation.

Climate science is not sensationalism but gets plugged that way because of our short attention spans. The climate crisis is a strategic threat to our development prospects. It deserves sober, continuing analysis, deliberation and action. The headlines look bad; reality will get worse.

This column first appeared in the print edition on August 11, 2021 under the title ‘The Climate deadline’. The writer is CEO, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (ceew.in) and a member of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, an independent international scientific body

Jamyang Tsering Namgyal writes: Since Ladakh was made a Union territory, it feels like the government has moved closer to the people.

Over the past few days, there has been much discussion about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to remove Articles 370 and 35 (A). For many Indians, this was a decision long overdue. The last two years have seen peace and progress in Jammu and Kashmir. However, as the Member of Parliament from Ladakh, I would like to throw light on how this period has been for the people of Ladakh, who are equally important stakeholders in the debates around 370 and 35 (A).

Ladakh is a land of enchanting beauty and diversity. People of different faiths and communities co-exist here. Ladakh is also of great strategic importance to our nation. For decades, the people of Ladakh had aspirations which were not met in full. The most fundamental demand we had was to become a Union Territory — with the slogan “Free Ladakh from Kashmir” — so that our development needs are addressed faster. It was PM Modi who heeded this foundational demand of the people of Ladakh.

Since Ladakh was made a UT, it feels like the government has moved closer to the people. Earlier, going to Srinagar or Jammu was tedious. Moreover, the complexities of the Valley and Jammu were such that Ladakh often featured as an afterthought.

In the last two years we are already seeing glimpses of what is sure to be a glorious future for Ladakh. A budget allocation of almost Rs 6,000 crore, the highest ever, has been given to Ladakh during 2021-22. This will be used across different sectors to fulfil long-pending demands, particularly in healthcare, infrastructure connectivity and more. The allocation for the welfare of the ST community has also seen a sharp rise.

An integrated multi-purpose corporation is being proposed to take up various projects as per the specific needs of the Ladakh region. Such emphasis on localised governance to support the UT administration and the central government is laudable. It will give a shot in the arm to grassroots and participative governance.

Whenever I have interacted with PM Modi, he has spoken about boosting the education levels in Ladakh. It is a matter of great happiness that the Sindhu Central University is being set up in Ladakh. This project is going to go a long way in augmenting educational infrastructure. The youngsters of Ladakh are talented, but are in need of the right nurturing, which this University will provide.

Solar energy is a sector of the future. In that context, the MoU with the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) for setting up a 50 MW solar energy plant is a major positive development. Similarly, a tripartite MoU, between ONGC, the UT administration and Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh, for the first-ever Geothermal Field Development Project has been inked. I see these projects as beneficial for India’s energy requirements and our commitment to a sustainable future.

Work has been progressing at a rapid pace in some areas in the last two years. Tunnel construction is happening faster and covering even the remotest areas like Drass and Lungnak. For a connectivity- deprived land, this is great news. Recently, Rs 1,300 crore was approved for laying an Inter-State Transmission line to connect Zanskar and the Nubra valley to the National Grid. Work is underway to ensure high speed internet access across Ladakh. Youngsters are particularly excited about this development as it brings the world to their phones. We are on track to realise the dream of a digital Ladakh through hundreds of 4G mobile towers under the Universal Service Obligation Fund. Ladakh is also home to the highest motorable roads in the world.

The development of border infrastructure, such as the ongoing construction of the Zoji La Tunnel, the approval for the Shinkun La Tunnel, the Lachung La and Taglang La Tunnel, the road to Daulat Beg Oldi, Umling La road, Col. Rinchen Bridge at the river Shyok are strategically vital for us. Rs 250 crore has been allotted under the Changthang Development Package to build requirements for the people living in the eastern border villages of Ladakh. Such care towards remote areas is a welcome sign.

The people of Ladakh can never forget February 3, 2019. That was the day PM Modi inaugurated many development works and laid the foundation stone for several more projects. He described Ladakh as a land of heroes and recalled Ladakh’s role in upholding the unity of India. Two projects that stand out are the Dah Hydroelectric project and the Srinagar-Alusteng-Drass- Kargil- Leh Transmission system which will cater to the power and water needs of Ladakh. The people of Ladakh often faced the brunt of delayed projects and rising project costs. In the last seven years, thanks to the vision of the Modi government, we are seeing a change in the old culture of keeping projects in suspended animation so that the pockets of a few could be lined.

The PM also laid the foundation stone for a new terminal at the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport. This will bring more tourists to Ladakh and take our people to different parts of our country and the world.

For long, it was ingrained in us that Ladakh is an “also-ran” alongside more powerful participants. It was unthinkable that it would emerge from the shadow of others and that we would get the opportunity to shape our own destiny. What PM Modi did in 2019 has set the stage for a long-standing transformation of Ladakh, placing it in the fifth gear of development. He has successfully developed a sense of integration, security, and acceptance. He has respected and honoured us, moving us away from the erstwhile sense of isolation and insecurity.

Arun Prakash writes: The conundrum that needs to be resolved is the IAF’s certainty about the indivisibility of air power, versus the army and navy’s belief that aviation must be available at their disposal.

The conundrum that needs to be resolved is the IAF’s certainty about the indivisibility of air power, versus the army and navy’s belief that aviation must be available at their disposal overlap and confusion, and this led the US Congress to enact the National Security Act of 1947, which, apart from unifying the armed forces, created an independent US Air Force.

However, many issues related to resources as well as institutional boundaries remained unresolved and bitter infighting broke out between the US Navy and the USAF over aviation “roles and missions”. Given the urgency of addressing these contentious issues, in March 1948, the US Secretary of Defence cloistered himself with the service chiefs, and, together, they hammered out a consensus. This was enshrined in the “US Code of Federal Laws”, and remains the legal basis for roles and missions of the US military.

In India, no such discussion has ever taken place and there is no mutually agreed upon or government-mandated demarcation of aviation roles and missions. Periodic “sniping” and even “poaching” has, therefore, taken place, leaving the IAF beset with a deep sense of insecurity, for reasons that I outline.

The 1970s saw an acrimonious debate between the IAF and the Indian Navy (IN) about the discharge of the maritime reconnaissance (MR) role, which the air force had inherited at independence. The penetration in 1971 of our waters by Pakistani submarines, having brought matters to a head, the government decided to hand over the MR role and aircraft to the IN in 1976.

The Indian Army, too, had been demanding the creation of an integral air arm, citing unsatisfactory aviation support by the IAF in forward areas. The issue became another inter-service squabble till the government intervened in 1986 and sanctioned the transfer of assets from the IAF to the newly formed Army Aviation Corps. The controversy did not end here as control of attack helicopters remained an issue of inter-service contention.

The IAF, having seen sister services appropriate its roles and assets, remained wary about jointness. Concepts of CDS and integrated commands which would require air assets being placed under non-IAF control, ring alarm bells in Air HQs. There are misperceptions on both sides of the “air-power divide”, and the crying need of the day is for the tri- service leadership to sit around a table and provide mutual reassurance regarding service “roles and missions”.

Air power, in the post-Cold War era, acquired a new aura. Based on the lethality and speed of modern air power, it is claimed that once “air dominance” has been achieved, the war is virtually won. In this paradigm, close support of surface forces receives low priority because quick military victories can be won from the air at minimal cost. However, such euphoric assumptions were based on recent conflicts where modern air forces wielding advanced technology had encountered irregular forces.

India, on the other hand, is faced with well- equipped, motivated and competent adversaries. The PAF, although numerically inferior, is a professional peer and has the assurance of Chinese support. The PLA Air Force not only outnumbers the IAF, but has the advantage of an advanced technological base. In our calculus, therefore, we cannot afford to bank on any specific advantage, nor speak nonchalantly about establishing “air dominance” over Pakistan or Tibet.

For too long have we treated the demarcation of air power roles and missions as a “holy cow” and shirked from free and frank discussion. The facade of inter-service bonhomie has concealed a germ of discord which needs to be exorcised. The conundrum that needs to be resolved is posed by the IAF’s certainty about the “indivisibility of air power”, versus the belief of the army and navy that aviation must be an integral resource, available at their disposal.

Questions that military leaders will need to address, jointly, are: One, should attainment of air dominance be an end in itself, superseding military and maritime strategies? Two, should air power be seen as merely an instrumentality to gain operational objectives on land, sea and air? Three, is there a via-media which will maximise the synergy and combat effectiveness of all three services, perhaps by modifying the IAF’s 2012 doctrine?

Three final points need to be made in the closely related context of the joint commands being currently contemplated/constituted. First, it must be ensured that allocation of air power is not made piece- meal, but flows from an integrated, tri-service plan. Second, operational deployment of the command’s aviation resources must be managed on behalf of the C-in-C, by his 2/3-star IAF component commander. Finally, the government must clarify that most high- level posts will, eventually, be tenable by officers of all three services. The rationale for integrated commands must, therefore, not be dictated by provision, to each service, of its “quota” of ranks/posts.

This column first appeared in the print edition on August 11, 2021 under the title ‘Arriving at a consensus.’ The writer is a retired chief of naval staff, who flew with the IAF fighter squadron in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war

Surjit S Bhalla writes: The end to the retro tax is also a pointer to more capital reforms to come.

The repeal of the retrospective tax was long overdue, and strongly signifies that the reformist trend in Modi 2.0 is not only continuing, but also strengthening. The institution of the tax in 2012 — it meant that the state could impose a tax on an activity ex-post, that is, the government could change the goalpost according to its fancy — was a stunner. Rumour has it that very few people in the Ministry of Finance, or outside, knew about this policy. Did PM Manmohan Singh know? Likely, but not entirely certain. Most experts believed that this policy was uniquely Indian, one befitting a country which had the word “socialism” inserted into the preamble to the Constitution some quarter century after the Constitution was written.

We were foolish to think that a retrospective tax could not happen in modern India. A year after the retro tax, it came to light that ITC had been fighting a retrospective excise tax case for 17 years, and that the Supreme Court had decided in its favour. The allegation — ITC had evaded excise taxes for four years from March 1983; it had allegedly sold cigarettes at a higher price than that printed on the packaging.

It was widely anticipated that the retro tax would be thrown into the dustbin of history (where it belonged) in the interim budget of 2014. The tax lingered till now, with assurance by the late Arun Jaitley that the Indian government would not impose any new retro taxes. Mercifully, the BJP has kept to that principled promise. In recent days, instead of losing cases in its own Supreme Court (the ITC case noted above), it has been losing in international courts (Cairn and Vodafone).

According to some critics, this delivery on a pre-2014 election promise is little more than window dressing on a tax that de facto does not exist anymore. The Modi government could easily claim that it was only following Indian law, an Act of Parliament, by pursuing the Cairn and Vodafone cases to their logical losing conclusion. So why make de facto de-jure? And why now? The reason offered by FM Nirmala Sitharaman is, “the country today stands at a juncture when a quick recovery of the economy after the Covid-19 pandemic is the need of the hour and foreign investment has an important role to play in promoting faster economic growth and employment.”

Was that the reason? Possible, but it is contradicted by the fact that India is enjoying one of the best years of foreign direct investment and foreign portfolio investment. What more could foreign investors want?

It is not just a question of what investors (domestic or foreign) want. The larger answer is that this is what Modi and his team wanted before the 2014 election, and they are holding to their promise. Not only the promise of not imposing new retro taxes, but also the promise of repeal. Like many others, I had consistently argued that a modern nation, especially a democratic nation, does not go about imposing retroactive taxes. It is bad enough that for many decades, India had one of the highest effective corporate taxes in the world. (An effective tax is simply the ratio of the tax paid to income earned. The difference between the stated nominal and the actual effective arises because of legal tax deductions). At around 27 per cent, India had one of the highest effective corporate tax rates in 2019 (and earlier). That changed in October 2019, when Sitharaman reduced corporate taxes to near world competitive levels. In parallel, after having one of the highest real policy rates in the world, the Shaktikanta Das-induced trend is for India to have a competitive real policy rate.

This march towards an internationally competitive economy needed the stamp of a tax litigation friendly regime — an empty dream with the retro-tax still a possibility. Why should investors, domestic and foreign, trust that India will no longer indulge in the unthinkable?

The end to the retro tax is a pointer of more capital reforms to come. The Commerce Department HLAG committee report was published in September 2019. That report had argued for several reforms, including some major reforms in the capital market. A long- neglected aspect of Indian exports are exports related to financial services. In 2018, Indian financial sector exports were a paltry $5 billion. Putting this in perspective is the reality that food exports from a food-deficit India in 1980 were of a higher value — $10 billion.

Major foreign investment banks enjoy one of the largest rents from participating as “monopolists” in the Indian equity markets. If rumours become reality, Indian investors will soon be able to directly buy and sell securities in foreign capital markets — and enjoy zero commissions on most trades. And no fees to financial intermediaries. These purchases will be curtailed at $2,50,000 per individual as part of the long- standing RBI Liberalised Remittance Scheme. Today, financial transactions can easily be tracked by tax authorities.

Think what would happen to portfolio inflows into India if a foreigner could purchase securities directly from the Indian capital market. Where would tax havens go? Commission rates in India will go down for all investors, including domestic. Markets will be more stable, as a collection of individual investors is unlikely to collude as big investors allegedly do. At present, the only way a foreign individual can participate in Indian markets is via the expensive high commission (low returns?) monopolistic FII route.

Another financial market reform, and one directly influenced by this goodbye to the retro tax, is that Indian sovereign (and corporate) bonds can become part of global bond indices. The cost of borrowing for governments and corporates will come down as individuals across the world invest in the now high nominal (and real) Indian yields. Today, Europe and Japan have zero nominal 10-year yields, and the US is at 1.3 per cent.

More capital will mean more investment — and more investment means higher growth. The 2020s are being defined by the US-China cold economic war. China has enjoyed superlative economic growth for three decades. There is the important stylised inverted U-shaped pattern of catch-up growth. In early stages, a country is far from the productivity frontier defined by the advanced countries. Little investment goes a long way and a country grows faster than the average GDP growth of 2 per cent of an advanced country. After the peak (of the inverted U), growth decelerates and the economy begins to approach the low productivity growth of the West.

China’s GDP growth peaked more than a decade ago. The deceleration of Chinese growth will likely increase in the coming decade. There is only one country in the world that has the scale to match China. India can enjoy a late-comer advantage for the next two decades.

But it cannot do so with a retrogressive tax regime. India needs to be trusted completely on the rule of law. The rule of law will also help privatisation and other associated best practices. This is likely the real reason why the retro tax had to be formally booted out.

This column first appeared in the print edition on August 11, 2021 under the title ‘Retro tax out, reforms in’. The writer is Executive Director IMF representing India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management

The sixth IPCC assessment report has served as a reality check on world governments. The key finding is that unless there are immediate and huge reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the goal of limiting warming close to 1.5°C or even 2°C – calculations are based on using the period 1850-1900 as baseline – will be beyond reach. Moreover, some of the changes are irreversible for centuries.

Climate change solutions need global efforts as spillovers are not confined to national borders. This is acknowledged universally. But it will be unrealistic for GoI to proceed on the assumption that the main polluters, both historically and today, will enable a smooth transition to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities. The vaccine response to the pandemic is illustrative. Of the 4.03 billion vaccine doses administered globally, more than 80% have gone to richer countries. Even India has prioritised its needs over those of poorer countries. Therefore, India will have to take care of its own needs on climate change even as it contributes to the global response. With our long coastline and monsoon-dependent rural economy, we are already witnessing the fallout. There’s no time to lose.

India’s track record is not dismal. According to IEA, both energy and emission intensities of India’s GDP have declined by more than 20% the past decade. The takeaway here is that economic growth and mitigation strategies of climate change are not at odds. A large section of the population ekes out a precarious existence which makes growth the topmost priority of public policy. The pursuit of growth needs to be accompanied by policy action in areas that are at the heart of both economic performance and climate change mitigation.

The energy sector falls right at the intersection point of these two goals. There are some gains here, particularly in the rapid ramp-up of solar energy production. However, to meet emerging needs, fiscal policy needs to be reoriented to encourage more R&D in India. The scale of our needs makes renewable power an area where Indian firms should be at the vanguard of research. Cleverly designed fiscal incentives can make that happen.

The Supreme Court’s disquiet over mounting vacancies in high courts and tribunals and GoI’s delay in accepting SC’s recommendations for appointments reveal a dangerous divide. Many domain-specific tribunals were set up in the initial decades of liberalisation after HCs struggled with disposal of specialised matters. But neither have the pendency woes of HCs been sorted nor have tribunals achieved their aims.

SC judges who head statutory selection committees for tribunal vacancies have decided to stop working until 100 recommendations made since 2017 are appointed. 21 names recommended for NCLT and NCLAT (company law), 10 for NCDRC (consumer disputes), 35 recommended for ITAT (income tax) and 20 for AFT (armed forces) hang fire. Other tribunals like TDSAT (telecom), DRT (debt recovery), RCT (railways), and CAT are headless or plagued by crippling vacancies. HCs, where tribunal disputes land up, are faring no better with 455 vacancies among 1,098 sanctioned posts.

GoI-SC differences delaying appointments can be traced back to the 2015 SC strikedown of the National Judicial Appointments Commission as well as court negation of GoI attempts at restructuring tribunals since 2017. The Memorandum of Procedure to guide the post-NJAC collegium in judicial appointments remains in limbo. GoI’s move to regulate service conditions for judicial members of tribunals triggered resistance from the legal community. In July, SC ruled a 2021 Ordinance provision reforming tribunals contrary to principles of separation of powers and independence of judiciary.

On another plane of reality, the pandemic and social distancing norms have dealt a severe blow to functioning of courts and tribunals. In 2019, HCs had disposed of, by a small margin, more matters than were instituted. Cut to 2020, new matters instituted fell 33% y-o-y but disposal witnessed a staggering 53% crash, swelling pendency burden by 4 lakh cases. With normalcy creeping back, vacancies won’t help courts and tribunals hit the ground running. Like infrastructure, courts and tribunals are equally key to the India story. The ease of doing business experience depends on the speed of disposal of litigation and the quality of justice. End the ego and/or procedural battles.