Daily Mains Newsletter for UPSC 21 Dec 2021

Daily Mains Newsletter For UPSC
| RaghukulCS

21 Dec 2021 - Tuesday

Index

Table of Contents

Can India Become a Technology Leader?

  • Every time a technology giant chooses an India-born techie as its leader, there is a justifiable swelling of pride in the country, but also some disappointment.
  • Despite having so many celebrated technologists around the world, India is still not a major player in technology. This failure can be attributed to lower public spending, high imports, and brain drain.

Role of Government in Global Tech Leaders

  • the US as Global Technology Leader: 
  • Undoubtedly, the U.S. is a country of fabled opportunities but its credit cannot be given to the private sector only because the invisible hand of the government has also been there.
  • The governmental agencies were proactive in identifying and supporting the more uncertain phases of the research.
  • The Case of China: China has succeeded by combining the strengths of the public sector, markets and globalization.
    • China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were seen as inefficient and bureaucratic, however, rather than privatizing them or letting them weaken, China restructured its SOEs.
    • The state has strengthened its presence in strategically important sectors (petrochemicals, telecommunication, electronics, etc.).

India and The Tech World

  • India’s Initial Efforts for Tech Revolution: 
  • India’s efforts for planning and industrialization in the early 1950swas possibly the most ambitious of such initiatives in the developing world.
  • In terms of growth in the IT and pharmaceutical industries, the development has been the fastest in Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
  • Achievements in STEM Education:
    • The number of persons enrolled for tertiary education in India (35.2 million in 2019) is way ahead of the corresponding numbers in all other countries except China.
    • As per UNESCOgraduates from STEM programs (as a proportion of all graduates) were 32.2% for India in 2019, one of the highest among all countries.
  • Issues Associated with Tech Development of India:
    • Brain-Drain: 
  • India’s failures are linked to its inability to make use of the market-driven growth opportunities.
      • As of 2019, there were 2.7 million Indian immigrants in the U.S who are among the most educated and professionally accomplished communities in the USA.
    • Gradual Decline in R&D Spending:
      • The spending on research & development as a proportion of GDP declined in India(0.85% in 1990-91 to 0.65% in 2018), whereas China and South Korea spent 2.1% and 4.5% of their GDP by 2018.
    • Lesser Public Spending for Tertiary Education: According to OECD, in 2017, 60% of total enrolled students for bachelor’s degrees were in tertiary education, so India needs to spend more on tertiary education to create job opportunities for these students.
    • High Import of Electronic Items:
      • The country is operating far below its potential in electronic manufacturing; electronic goods and components are the second largest item in India’s import bill after oil.
      • As of 2020-21, India’s imports are almost five times its exports in this technology sector.

Way Forward

  • Role of Government: The government should act as a catalyst, facilitator, and bring together the synergies of the private sector with the aim of innovating for India and the world.
  • More Public Spending on Education: The ‘Make in India’ initiative will have to go beyond increasing the ‘ease of business for private industry.
    • The universities and public institutions in the country should be strengthened by deepening and broadening their technological capabilities.
  • Strengthening the Public Sector: A strengthened public sector will create more opportunities for private businesses and widen the entrepreneurial base.
  • Utilising the ‘Techade’ up to its Maximum Potential: The “techie” is a portmanteau of technology and decade. Technology is going to be the key driver of the global economy in the next 20 years.
    • To take full advantage of the decade, India will need to play a constructive role in joining and shaping global standards that are currently in evolution – around privacy, data localization, tax laws, the definition of monopolies, cyber security, immigration and predictability of regulations.
  • Role of the Indian Diaspora:
    • Indian diaspora, IIT, BITS or NIT alumni, mostly settled in Silicon Valley in particular, can play a very crucial role in acting as a mentor to the young talents.
  • India-US Technology Partnership:
    • India should also make efforts for an Indo-US technology partnership decade.
    • India and the US can collaborate in making the next generation of quantum computers, achieving breakthroughs in the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), making genome sequencing and analysis affordable etc.
    • Besides, India’s good bilateral relations with other technologically developed countries like Japan and Israel can also be leveraged.

Conclusion

  • India has the potential to occupy the upper echelons of the global technology ladder.
  • What is required is that the PSUs in India should be valued for
  • Their potential long-term contributions to economic growth,
  • The technologies they can create, and
  • The strategic and knowledge assets they can build.

Functioning of the Election Commission

Introduction

  • Recently, a letter written by the Law Ministry to the Election Commission (EC) on November 15, has come under criticism regarding the independent functioning of the Election Commission.
  • The letter states that the Principal Secretary to the PM ‘expects the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and two Election Commissioners to be present during a discussion.
  • An official communication from the Law Ministry said that the meeting had been called to discuss electoral reforms, and it is an “informal interaction”.

What is the role of the Election Commission?

  • It is a permanent and independent body established by the Constitution of India to ensure free and fair elections in the country. 
  • Article 324 of the Constitution provides that the power of superintendence, direction, and control of elections shall be vested in the Election Commission.
  • This includes
  1. Conducting elections to the Parliament, State Legislatures, the Office of President of India, and the Office of Vice-President of India,
  2. It grant selection symbols and also recognizes political parties,
  3. It issues a model code of conduct and keeps an eye on the election expenditure of candidates.

Why the summoning is not a cause of concern?

  • To bring reforms in the electoral process, discussions are needed between Election Commission and the central government before a final proposal is brought to Parliament.
  • As long as the meeting is not held to discuss any subject relating to the conduct of elections, there is no wrongdoing in the Election Commission meeting with government officials.
  • Moreover, the independence of any functionary is defined by the conduct and integrity of the institution.
  • Merely meeting the executives does not compromise the independence of anybody.

Why the summoning is a cause of concern?

Summoning is a violation of the Constitution:

  • The PMO is summoning or “inviting” not just the CEC, but the full bench of the Election Commission, an autonomous constitutional body, is in violation of the Constitution, irrespective of how important or urgent the issue is.
  • The CEC is very high in the warrant of precedence (9th), while the PS to PM is 23rd. So, summoning a high constitutional functionary to attend a meeting is in violation of the spirit of the Constitution.

Compromises the independent image of the EC:

  • The Election Commission is a Constitutional authority whose functioning is insulated from the Executive, just like the Supreme Court.  
  • Free, fair, and credible elections are sine qua non of the Election Commission. Attending meetings or discussions called by officers of the government compromises the independence of the commission in the public eye.
  • The tone of the letter also raises questions because as per protocol, an officer of the government, no matter how senior, cannot call the CEC for a discussion.

What are the other concerns raised about the functioning of the Election Commission at present?

About 66 former bureaucrats, in a letter to the President, raised concerns about the functioning of the Election Commission. They raised several issues like:

  • In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the election commission had given a clean chit to the Prime Minister for making a reference to a process during an election rally.
  • Commissions’ belated decision to ban election campaigns in midst of the Covid pandemic.
  • Further, the Madras High court accused Election Commission of spreading the 2nd wave of pandemic and stated that its officers should be booked for murder charges.
  • There have been allegations of EVMs malfunctioning and not registering votes.
  • The Election Commission is also not able to contain money power and muscle power in Elections.

What are the challenges associated with the functioning of the Election Commission?

  • The Chief Election Commissioner and other ECs are appointed by the President on recommendations of the central government. This raises the question of the partisan behaviour of officials towards the ruling party.
  • CEC enjoys a secure tenure but other two ECs can be easily removed by the President on the recommendation of the CEC.
  • The Constitution has not debarred the retiring election commissioners from any further appointment by the government.
  • It has no power to derecognize a political party or control the extent of party expenditure. Further, the model code of conduct is not legally enforceable.
  • Inadequate Political Will for ensuring independent functioning of EC.

What should be done to improve the functioning of the Election Commission?

With respect to meetings

  • According to T.S. Krishnamurthy(a former CEC), the CEC and other Election Commissioners should refrain from attending any meeting convened by any official or Minister.
  • According to S.Y. Quraishi (a former CEC), instead of inviting CEC to the PMO, the Principal Secretary or the Law-Minister should visit the Election Commission and discuss the matters.

With respect to other functions

  • The Election Commission must be appointed by a collegium recommended by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission.
  • It should comprise the Prime Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Law-Minister, and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
  • The government should expeditiously accept the 50 reform recommendations sent by the EC. These include
    • Rules on decriminalizing politics, transparent party funding, paid news,
    • Empowering the Election Commission to countermand an election in cases of bribery, etc.
  • There must be a prudent cooling-off period for election commissioners’ post-retirement.
  • The expenditure of the Election Commission should be charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India similar to other constitutional bodies such as the UPSC.
  • The Election Commission and CEC should refrain from any political or official or Ministerial meeting to ensure their non-partisan behavior. This will not only ensure free and fair elections but also enhance people’s trust and the organization’s credibility.

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