Daily Mains Newsletter For UPSC
| RaghukulCS

07 APRIL 2021


Mains Value Addition

Mains Analysis

Topic No

Topic Name



Stamp out the canker thwarting democracy

The Hindu


Redefining combatants

The Hindu


Recognising the Migrant

Indian Express


A post-COVID fiscal framework

Indian Express

Mains Value Addition

EVM transport and campaign bans

Syllabus–GS 1: Polity

Analysis: –

What exactly happened in the EVM controversy?

  • The controversy broke after the second phase of voting wrapped up in Assam.
  • Within hours of the end of voting on April 1, a video showing polling officers transporting an EVM in a vehicle owned by a BJP candidate surfaced on social media.
  • The machine was used for voting in Polling Station 149 at Indira M V School in the Ratabari Assembly seat in Barak Valley, and the car belonged to the wife of Krishnendu Paul, a BJP contestant in the nearby Patharkandi seat.

What is the EC’s protocol for the transportation of EVMs?

  • The Commission’s transport protocol for polled and reserve EVMs dictates that the voting machines, under no circumstances, should be taken in private custody or a private place.
  • And also, that all EVMs, after voting is complete, should be under cover of armed police at all times.
  • So the polling party’s decision to hitch a ride in a private vehicle amounted to taking the EVM (used in Polling Station 149 of Ratabari seat) and hence was a violation of the EC’s rules.

The cryptocurrency market capitalisation hit an all-time peak of $2 trillion on Monday

Syllabus– GS 3: Science and Technology

Analysis: –

  • The cryptocurrency market capitalisation hit an all-time peak of $2 trillion on Monday, according to data and market trackers CoinGecko and Blockfolio, as gains over the last several months attracted demand from both institutional and retail investors.
  • The surge was led by bitcoin, which hit its own milestone by holding at a $1 trillion market cap for one week.
  • Bitcoin was last up 1.4 per cent at $59,045. Since hitting a lifetime peak of more than $61,000 in mid-March, bitcoin has traded in a relatively narrow range.

Mains Analysis

Stamp out the canker thwarting democracy

Why in News: 

The 21st century is host to multitudinous crises impacting different sectors.

A succession of unrelated crises has heralded forebodings of still graver damage not only to the economy but also to the body politic and people everywhere.

Syllabus: -GS 2: Social Justice

  • The impact of COVID-19 has been far reaching, which has included an economic tsunami, upheavals and dislocation affecting every sphere of human activity, an accompanying health crisis which has not spared any nation, and the fostering of a crisis mentality.
  • A churn in the post-1945 Westphalian order is only too evident.
  • Across different continents, we are again witness to a series of political and strategic crises.
  • Disinformation and distortions caused by an overload of fake information are creating an impression that the world is facing a systemic and multidimensional crisis, the consequences of which are unpredictable.
  • The combination of circumstances is exposing the fragility of today’s party-based democracies, leading to questions about their ability to deal with newer problems.
  • The situation demands a great deal of introspection followed by conscious action.
  • Finding an optimal combination of authoritarian, populist and democratic trends, to ensure the material well-being of the majority and achieving economic development is, however, not easy.
  • Concerns are that it could lend itself to the rise of new political oligarchies, masquerading in the garb of defenders of democracy, and the creation of new elites professedly seeking to defend democracy.

Fair polls under threat

  • Elections have of late become a kind of a no-holds-barred battle for power, irrespective of whether it is being held in a large State, a medium-sized State or even an Union Territory.
  • Levels of electioneering increasingly lend themselves to abuse, rather than a highlighting of issues or policies. Innuendoes and personal remarks dominate political debates.
  • Money power is all too evident, and violence is the leitmotif in many segments.
  • The most threatened aspect is the concept of fair and free elections. Concerns whether the verdict reflects the true will of the electorate are, hence, bound to persist long after the results are in.

Crisis in India: –

  • The real existential crisis that India confronts — in a period dominated by the pandemic and bitter electoral battles — is the virtual collapse of systems of governance in many States, as well evidenced by the events that took place recently in India’s Maximum City, and the nation’s economic capital, viz., Mumbai.

Recent Example; –

  • The Mumbai incident (Mukesh Ambani Bomb Scare Case) should be seen as merely the tip of the iceberg of what is the current reality, which is not confined to Mumbai city, but extends well beyond Maharashtra to other States in the country.
  • Established norms of conduct are sometimes given the go by during difficult periods, such as communal riots or other violent upheavals, but the extent of falsehoods indulged in by individuals in this instance has degraded not only the police force but also the entire system.
  • This is the real existential crisis we confront today.

An alliance with a difference

  • The reality is that it takes more than a courageous police leadership to stand up for the right policies, including not protecting officers who have clearly done something wrong.
  • Consequently, we need to look at newer alternatives. Repeating ad nauseum about reforming the police and establishing yet another blue-ribbon committee to undertake a thorough overhaul of the police machinery is a recipe for yet another disaster to come.
  • Police commissions cannot alter the milieu in which the police are compelled to operate, in which everyone — the politicians, bureaucrats and everyone in authority or presumes to have authority — seeks a police force that they can bend to their will.
  • Added to this is the widespread corruption that casts a larger-than-life shadow over not only police functioning but every facet of public life.
  • What is, perhaps, needed, or needs to be attempted, is an informal alliance of people and institutions, irrespective of ideology or interests which should come together to coalesce into a mighty stream of public-spirited action and activity.

Questions: –

Creating and executing a national public awareness campaign embarking instead on a determined campaign to stamp out the canker that is thwarting democracy and democracy-related procedures and actions. Discuss.

Redefining combatants

Why in News: –

A report in The New York Times on the October 2020 breakdown of the Mumbai power distribution system points a finger at Chinese cyber hackers.

Syllabus: – GS 3: Science and Technology

The Hague Convention and national security: –

The 1899 Hague Convention brings in further clarity of what constitutes a regular force.

  1. First, the force should be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates.
  2. Second, it must have a distinctive emblem recognisable at a distance.
  3. Third, it must carry arms openly.

And last, it must conduct operations in accordance with laws and customs of war.

A combatant, thus, needs to be redefined due to three reasons.

  1. First, a cyber ‘army’ need not be uniformed and may consist of civilians. After the cyberattack on Estonia, the government set up a voluntary Cyber Defence Unit whose members devotes their free time towards rehearsing actions in case of a cyberattack.
  2. Second, cyber ‘warriors’ do not carry arms openly. Their arms are malicious software which is invisible.
  3. And finally, the source of the attack could be a lone software nerd who does not have a leader and is up to dirty tricks for money, blackmail or simply some fun.

None of these meet the requirements of The Hague Convention but the actions of these non-combatants fall squarely in the realm of national security.

Challenges: –

This raises two very basic inquiries that need deliberation.

  1. First, would the nation employing civilians in computer network attacks not be in violation of the laws of war?
  2. And second, if these people are considered as combatants, would the target country have the right to respond in self-defence?

A response would be reactive, after the attacker has conducted his operation; hence, as a right of self-defence, would an act of pre-emption (through kinetic means and/or through cyber) be in order? This argument may appear far-fetched now but needs to be examined as India seems to have a new view on the concept of the right to self-defence.

View of the right to self-defence

  • In a February 24, 2021 UN Arria Formula meeting on ‘Upholding the collective security system of the UN Charter’, the Indian statement says, “…a State would be compelled to undertake a pre-emptive strike when it is confronted by an imminent armed attack from a non-state actor operating in a third state.”
  • It adds that “this state of affairs exonerates the affected state from the duty to respect, vis-a-vis the aggressor, the general obligation to refrain from the use of force.”
  • Though used with reference to an “armed attack”, the implications of the statement, when viewed vis-à-vis cyber attacks done by faceless persons who are non-combatants as per international law, open up an avenue that requires careful examination; cyber attacksmay not kill directly but the downstream effects can cause great destruction.
  • International actions against hackers have been generally limited to sanctioning of foreign nationals by target nations.
  • In 2014, for the first time, a nation (the U.S.) initiated criminal actions against foreign nationals (five Chinese operatives of Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army) for computer hacking and economic espionage.

Way Forward: –

The question is, how long before this escalates to covert and/or overt kinetic retaliation.

India seems to have made its intentions clear at the UN meet, but this is a game that two can play; if not regulated globally, it could lead to a wild-west situation, which the international community should best avoid by resolute action.

Question: –

Discuss the rising threat of cyber crimes in India. Explain the possible solutions for the same.

Recognising the Migrant

Why in News: –

Recently NITI Aayog brought the draft Migrant Labour Policy into the public domain intending to recognize migrants’ contribution to the Indian economy.

Syllabus: – GS2: Welfare Scheme for vulnerable & Issues relating to them

Significance of Draft Migrant Labour Policy:

  • It adopted a rights-based approach & establish an additional layer of institutions to create a more enabling policy environment for migrants.
  • It propses a new National Migration Policy & the formation of a special unit within the Labour Ministry.
  • That brings a much-needed convergence across line departments.
  • This brings a universal understanding of the cause & effects of migration as well as the interventions needed.
  • It calls for improving India’s record on the labour laws implementation that failed to make a difference to the labour migrants lives.
  • It also invokes both ILO’s Decent Work Agend& SDGs that aims to protect labour rights.
  • It acknowledges the challenges of welfare provision to a highly fragmented migrant workforce due to a lack of data.
  • So stresses the importance of collective action on improving the data on short-term migration.
  • It also emphaises on the measures for migrant children’s education.
  • The policy also focuses on addressing the issues of night shelters & seasonal accommodation for migrants in cities.
  • Establishing grievance cells to fast track legal responses on migrants issues.
  • Setting up of Inter-state migration management bodies for effective handling of migrant issues.

Issues with the Draft Policy:

  • It ignores the underlying cause for poor implementation of labour laws that is linked to disorganized recruitment & placement mechanism.
  • Though the new policy aims to be inclusive of all kinds of marginalized migrants, it ignores challenges faced by domestic workers, especially female migrants.
  • there is apparent ambivalence about the ability of tribal migrants in accessing the opportunities offered by migration.
  • It also denied cash-based approaches as part of social security schemes.
  • Its emphasis on the Labour code that promotes ease of doing business apparently weakens the bargaining power of labour migrants.
  • The biggest weakness of the policy is its focus on grievance & legal redressal above regulation & enforcement.

Way Forward: –

  • Though draft policy fails to address the identified issues but it is a good start in a positive direction to reduce vulnerability & risks faced by labour migrants and ultimately build a more sustainable model of development


Question: –

Critically evaluate the demerits and demerits of Draft Migrant Labour Policy

A post-COVID fiscal framework

Why in News: –

COVID crisis has upended already soaring India’s fiscal position. In this context, there have been suggestions to revamp the FRBM act.

Syllabus: – GS3: Government Budgeting (FRBM).

  • Fiscal Responsibility & Budget Management (FRBM) Act was enacted in 2003 to ensure inter-generational equity in fiscal management, Macroeconomic stability, better coordination between fiscal & monetary policy& mandated central govt to ensure greater transparency in its fiscal operations.
  • The main purpose was to eliminate the Revenue deficit of the country & to bring the Fiscal deficit to a manageable 3%.
  • FRBM Act has been amended from time to time and govt appointed NK Singh on the FRBM Act Review recommended following
  • Combine debt-to-GDP ratio of centre & state should be brought down to 60% by 2023(40% Centre & 20% States.)
  • Centre should reduce its fiscal deficit from 3.5% (2017) to 2.5%(2023)
  • Centre should reduce its revenue deficit steadily by 0.25% of GDP each year, to reach 0.8% by 2023
  • Recommended an Escape Clause to accommodate countercyclical fluctuations in case of any natural calamities.

Issues with Current FRBM:

  • It sets targets for the overall deficit, revenue deficit & debt, this proliferation of targets creates conflict & thereby impedes debt sustainability.
  • Fixating specific targets lack proper economic grounding & will encourage governments to use off-budget expenditures & revenues.
  • As long as pressure remains in achieving a specific target, transparency in transactions could not be possible.
  • FRBM in the initial period of growth booming helped in reaching deficit targets but later this framework failed to prevent breaching of deficit targets.

Problems of Indian fiscal position:

  • India’s government debt reached all-time high of 90% of GDP.
  • Even with current contending policies, debt likely to exceed 80% of GDP in future.
  • On the questions of India Debt Sustainability, this depends on two factors.
  • Primary Balance(PB) which is revenue less non-interest expenditures.
  • r-g, that is difference between the cost of borrowing & the nominal growth rate.

Based on the above factors India since 1998 undergone 3 Phases.

Phase 1(early 2000s)

  • During this period, India ran into high debt due to unfavourable interest-growth differential.
  • Where interest rates are higher than growth that led to holding of greater amounts of debt.
  • Phase 2: (Past decade)
  • When primary balance is greater than interest-growth differential(r-g) debt doesn’t explode.
  • Even though India has been running negative in primary balance, it was counterbalanced by favourable r-g(interest rates are lower than growth)

Phase 3 (from 2019)

  • The above equilibrium now has been broken due to a sudden increase in debt due to unfavorable r-g (whereby interest rates are higher than growth)
  • To overcome the above unsustainable debt, govt needs to maintain a primary balance surplus.

Remaking of FRBM: An Alternative

  • Govt should define a clear objective based on sound first principles to ensure debt sustainability.
  • Govt could use the following principles-strategy in remaking FRBM.
  • India should abandon multiple fiscal criteria for guiding policy.
  • The future framework should be not be fixated on specific numbers & targets.
  • Government should focus on targeting primary balance as a measure for guiding fiscal policy.
  • Keeping primary balance surplus helps in guarding the fiscal sustainability against the growth-interest differential turning unfavourable in the future.
  • Finally, Centre should focus on improving primary balance gradually, as %of GDP per year on average, which makes it feasible & easy to adapt & adjust.

Advantages of this approach:

  • It is simple & easy to adapt.
  • It is gradual & feasible, together makes it credible.
  • Improving credibility creates a virtuous cycle of improving growth-interest differentials which in turn reduce debt and finally improves the debt sustainability prospects.


Way Forward: –

  • Though COVID has upended India’s fiscal position. But from the learning’s of past we need to adapt &reinvent new strategies.
  • Without doubt, this approach represents a substantial departure from current practices. Most obvious is the change in objective, the emphasis on achieving sustainability, rather than a specific debt ratio.
  • And flowing from this change is an entirely new strategy:
  • The primary balance as the guiding metric, a broad downward trajectory rather than annual targets, flexibility in annual policies depending on the state of the economy, and an end-point consistent with the overall objective.
  • These elements are all radically different from the approach under the FRBM. But persisting with the failed approaches of the past cannot be the right answer.

Question: –

The new strategy that represents a substantial departure from the current objective of focusing on specific debt ratio to achieving debt sustainability will make the Indian economy in tackling future shocks & create a virtuous cycle. Discuss.

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