1.Awaiting police reforms (The Hindu)

2.Strategy to revitalize PPPs in India (Live Mint)

3.The cold facts (The Hindu)

1.Awaiting police reforms (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of need to have the police reforms. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • There have been any number of commissions, both at the State and Central level – State Police Commissions, National Police Commission, Gore Committee, Ribeiro Committee, Padmanabhaiah Committee, Malimath Committee, to name only a few which made recommendations to reform the governance of police forces across the country,  but received no more than cosmetic treatment at the hands of the government.
  • The Indian Police Foundation was inaugurated in 2015 to mount pressure on State governments to implement the directions of the Supreme Court on police reforms (Prakash Singh v. Union of India). The court in 2006 had issued seven binding directions to implement those reforms.

Assessment

  • Eleven years have passed, but States have taken only some grudging steps to implement the reforms. September 22 is observed every year by the Police Foundation as Police Reform Day to create awareness for the much-needed reforms.
  • The political authorities have a stronghold over the police. When a new government is elected, the first thing it does (as happened recently in Uttar Pradesh) is to replace the Director General of Police (DGP) of the State. In some cases, this is also happening with the Chief Secretaries.
  • The result is that the police even today are not trusted by the people. They perceive the force as being partisan, politicised, and generally not very competent. Nothing confirms this more than the frequent demand for probes by the CBI into crimes which can be handled by Criminal Investigation Departments.
  • Much of the problem would not have been if the 2013 Lokpal legislation was put in place. The Lokpal would have the powers to oversee the CBI’s work and would ease the burden of the court. However, even the Opposition is not enthusiastic about the Lokpal as parties across the political spectrum have a vested interest in continuing with the present police system. 

Way ahead

  • There is need to emphasis on the police reforms, which are absolutely essential if India is to emerge as a great power. Economic progress cannot be sustained if we are not able to generate a safe and secure environment. The democratic structure may also crumble if we do not arrest the trend of criminals gaining ascendancy in public life. 

Question-With rising crimes discuss the steps taken by government for police reforms, also suggest what need to be done to address the challenge.

 

2.Strategy to revitalize PPPs in India (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue the need to revitalize PPPs in India. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • India’s infrastructure deficit continues to persist despite the relative catch-up in recent years. The Asian Development Bank, in its report “Meeting Asia’s Infrastructure Needs”, has estimated that $4.36 trillion is needed to fix India’s infrastructure deficit by 2030. That entails more than $300 billion of spending every year for the next 13 years; as compared to recent spend rates of $120 billion per year.

Private sector

  • There is need of investment which can come from the private sector, but weakening economic growth and the debt overhang problem have constrained both the capacity and flow of private investment in asset creation. Even the successful awards in roads, rail, airports and other infrastructure segments have been mired in implementation challenges, affecting the private sector’s capacity to invest afresh.
  • Broad estimates indicate that the private arm of public-private partnerships (PPPs) will need to contribute at least $90 billion every year for the next 10 years, entailing a potential borrowing of at least $55-60 billion a year. That is quite a large sum for the stretched balance sheets of lenders and investors.
  • India’s debt-to-gross domestic product ratio is relatively high (65%) and with already stretched finances, the government’s ability to fund new assets will remain constrained. The difficult circumstances have prompted the government to step in and increase public expenditure on infrastructure but by all counts the private sector will need to play a key role.
  • There is need of restructuring PPP contracts through an objective process, broadening and deepening access to long-term credit and tightening procurement processes and timelines. On the first, it is noteworthy that many of the base contracts were drawn up in a different era. That has changed, with disruptions in many forms overtaking every sector.
  • It has become impossible to foresee factors that would have a significant impact on the performance over a long-term contract period. The Kelkar committee recommendations in 2015 are worth reflecting on. These are not matters of negotiation of terms; deep changes and redrafts of concession contracts would be needed based on evolving asset risk profiles, market conditions, technology impacts, investor appetite and bankability.
  • On credit, the situation has aggravated sharply, with the non-performing assets (NPAs) of domestic lenders mounting. While the international credit and financing market is an avenue, high-quality sponsors and assets remain few.
  • The dearth of bankable projects has contributed partly to the financing challenge, but the inability of project development and procurement agencies to adopt fairer risk-sharing principles and take on contingent financing obligations has contributed equally. The Kelkar committee report has commented vigorously on this and if we indeed want private investments at scale, it is perhaps time to define objective rules of the game.
  • Poor project preparation also remains an issue. Without adequate preparedness and appropriate risk allocation, large capital pools remain out of access. Bonds have worked very well overseas as a source of project finance, given their relative advantages over commercial bank debt, but the corporate or municipal bond market in India is still not deep enough to support long-term credit and refinancing commitments, unless backed by sovereign guarantees, which are difficult to come by. High project risks, poor entity rating and regulatory uncertainties also make yield-based structures difficult to implement.
  • Financial institutions like India Infrastructure Finance Co. Ltd and the National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF) should lead the market-making role by securing foreign capital and providing equity support to critical infrastructure projects. These are imperative considering the government’s current logjam in cleaning up the balance sheets of public sector banks and making them creditworthy again.
  • Finally, elongated timelines due to lack of institutional capacity in the project-award process have been hurting. Single-window clearance has rarely worked and inability to resolve disputes during the implementation stage quickly has been a big deterrent for high-quality investors.
  • The whole value-for-money principle that favours PPPs over traditional public sector procurement is defeated with time and cost overruns resulting from delayed pre-development and procurement activities.

Way ahead

  • There is need to deal with all kinds of issues typical of large projects land acquisition, utility shifting, rehabilitation of displaced land owners, migrant workers, construction and engineering challenges, procurement risks and multiple stakeholders.
  • The Delhi Metro can be taken as a good example, the same quality of leadership is required for all mega projects, whether implemented by the government or its agencies or by the private sector, and needs to be nurtured and encouraged.

Question– India’s infrastructure deficit continues to persist for long time, suggest some measures to revitalise the sector to revive the economy.

3.The cold facts (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of avian Influenza in India. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • The 2009 global pandemic of influenza is currently active in around 207 countries including India, ever since the influenza virus known as H1N1 landed on Indian shores; the outbreaks have been an annual occurrence.
  • The worst was in 2015, when around 2,990 people succumbed to it. This year the virus has been particularly active; mortality, at 1,873 by the last week of September, is quickly catching up with the 2015 toll. In comparison, official figures show 2016 to be a relatively benign year, with an H1N1 death toll of 265.

About avian influenza

  • Humans can be infected with avian and other zoonotic influenza viruses, such as avian influenza virus subtypes A (H5N1), A (H7N9), and A(H9N2) and swine influenza virus subtypes A(H1N1) and (H3N2). These infections are primarily acquired through direct contact with infected animals or contaminated environments, but do not result in efficient transmission of these viruses between people. Avian and other zoonotic influenza infections in humans may cause disease ranging from mild conjunctivitis to severe pneumonia and even death.
  • There are 3 types of influenza viruses: types A, B, and C. Influenza A viruses infect humans and many different animals. Influenza B viruses only circulate among humans and cause seasonal epidemics. Influenza C viruses can infect both humans and pigs but infections are generally mild and are rarely reported.
  • Influenza type A viruses are classified into subtypes according to the combinations of different virus surface proteins haemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N). There are 18 different haemagglutinin subtypes and 11 different neuraminidase subtypes.
  • Depending on the origin host, influenza A viruses can be classified as avian influenza, swine influenza, or other types of animal influenza viruses. Examples include avian influenza “bird flu” virus subtypes A (H5N1) and A(H9N2) or swine influenza “swine flu” virus subtypes A(H1N1) and A(H3N2). All of this animal influenza type A viruses are distinct from human influenza viruses and do not easily transmit between humans.

Indian status

  • The influenza was present in India even before 2009 in the form of H3N2 and Influenza B virus types. Out of these, H3N2 is capable of causing outbreaks as big as H1N1, and yet India does not track H3N2 cases as extensively as it does H1N1. This means that seemingly benign years such as 2016 may probably not be benign at all.
  • Data from outside government surveillance systems are making this fact apparent. Differences in the indicators indicate that India’s surveillance systems are still poor and underestimate the influenza burden substantially. If numbers are unsatisfactorily tracked, so are changes in the viral genome.
  • According to the researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, India submits a woefully small number of H1N1 genetic sequences to global open-access databases for a country of its size and population. Sequencing is important because it can detect mutations in genetic material that help the virus evade human immune systems, making it more deadly.
  • India does not sequence a large enough sample of viral genomes; it would be missing mutations that could explain changes in the lethality of the virus. Put together, the numbers data and sequence data will enable sensible vaccination decisions.

Way ahead

  • The best weapon is Vaccination that India has against this menace, because Oseltamivir, the antiviral commonly deployed against flu, is of doubtful efficacy unless administered early enough. Yet, India has thus far stayed away from vaccinating even high-risk groups such as pregnant women and diabetics, because influenza is thought to be a more manageable public health challenge compared to mammoths such as tuberculosis.

Question– In India, endemic seasonal influenza had been generally ignored in public health and in healthcare. Critically analyse the steps taken by the government to stop the menace.