Mitras Analysis of News : 25-04-2017

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1.Improving Policy making with Big data (Live Mint)

2.The climate fight is global (The Hindu)

3.The appeasement of none (The Hindu)

4.Explained: 3-year Action Plan to replace planning in India

 

1.Improving Policy making with Big data (Live Mint)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the concept and utility of using big data in policy making.(GS paper II)

Overview

  • When the Planning Commission was created in 1950, early planners such as P.C. Mahalanobis realized the importance of good data. Consequently, India had one of the most effective data systems going at the time. The quality of data collection and usage has declined since.
  • NITI Aayog had contended in the third meeting of its governing, the need of policy making to be governed or assimilated with evidence (evidence based policy making). In such a scenario, only possible meaningful respite can be provided by Big data.

Evidence based policy making(EPBM)

  • In order to be precise and effective, all policy is or should be based on solid data. But it became a guiding philosophy of policymaking globally only in the 1990s. It has evolved since then as technological advances have allowed more data to be captured and analysed.
  • To say evidence-based policymaking (EBPM) today is to say policymaking guided by Big Data.

Indian examples

  • Governance in India is also being recasted in this mould. The Aadhaar programme, with its hundreds of millions of data points that can be mined for policy formulation and implementation, is a leading example.
  • Even recent demonetisation exercise was an attempt in this regard. The actual amount of black money netted by the initiative might still be a matter of conjecture and debate, but the entire exercise has generated data that can make it tougher for individuals to evade taxes in the future.
  • Geo-tagging of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme assets is also one such effort in this direction.
  • All these efforts and programmes initiated by govt. will lead to efficient and swift EBPM.

Rise of EPBM

  • The spread of the Internet and the rise of social media and the Internet of Things mean that the volume of data we generate is growing exponentially.
  • This is a goldmine for the private sector and governments alike. Online searches can be trawled for data that helps predict disease outbreaks.
  • Cell phone data can help direct relief efforts in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Power-usage data can be analysed to optimize energy grids and plant power generation.
  • The uses can range from the national using healthcare data to revamp the public health system to the local, where the massive amounts of data generated by cities, from traffic signals to public transport usage, can be used to improve infrastructure and transport systems as Singapore has done.

Certain Challenges and Way ahead

Utilizing Big Data effectively in this fashion will mean keeping a few factors in mind.

  1. Infrastructure in India for efficient data collection and management is lacking; this must be strengthened. The comptroller and auditor general’s Big Data management policy and its establishment of the Centre for Data Management and Analytics are positive signs in this context.
  • Volume and veracity also necessitate sharing of data across ministries and departments indeed, with the public at large to allow private-sector solutions that can in turn be utilized in government policymaking.
  • India has done well to join the Open Government Data movement and formulated a national data sharing and accessibility policy in 2012. The government’s Open Government Data portal is a significant step, with thousands of data sets available regarding everything from health to agriculture.
  • However, the reliability of the data, the tendency to work in silos, the reluctance to share data and lack of standard formats are all concerns.
  1. Another marker of Big Data analytics is data velocity. Large amounts of data are collected swiftly today; this also means that much of it loses relevance after some time. Using Big Data effectively for policy formulation will thus mean changing policymaking structures and processes continuously re-evaluating and rejigging policies based on the feedback generated by new data, from on the ground results to public opinion scraped from social media.
  1. Third, the ethics of Big Data analytics is an area of major debate. The issues range from anonymisation of data to what data should be collected and what use it should be put to. These issues will loom larger as new fields like psychometrics the combination of Big Data with behavioural science to determine various aspects of people’s lives evolve.
  • The Indian state must engage robustly with these issues. This is currently lacking given the failure to enact even basic laws about data privacy and the right to privacy.
  1. The right dynamic between political imperatives and EBPM will have to be struck. When the latter gained currency in the UK in the 1990s, the government of the day touted it as a “post-ideological” approach to policymaking. This is an illusion. All the data in the world will not replace the political process.

While Big Data can and should be used to inform policymaking, the biases and motives of the political process that guide its usage should not be forgotten.

Question: EBPM (evidence based policy making) can emancipate India’s policy failure and can lead to more favourable outcomes. Critically analyse?

 

2.The climate fight is global(The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of USA’s reluctance to implement the climate change negotiations (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Climate change is real and its repercussions are being felt all over the world including India. Moreover, it has been contended in IPCC’s 5th assessment report that climate change may alter the monsoon pattern as well.
  • However, USA a major carbon emitter is reluctant to take any lead in the initiatives to curb the climate change.

Climate change and reluctance of USA

  • There are several droughts in many parts of the world, including Bolivia and several regions of Sub Saharan Africa. Scorched lands have led to dying livestock, withering crops, and parched communities.
  • Several recent extreme events such as wildfires, droughts, severe heatwaves and cyclones in other places have a clear signature of a changing climate
  • None of this has, however, persuaded the present U.S. government that anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs) are responsible for climate change.
  • The U.S. is still the world’s second largest annual emitter of GHGs and has generated more than a quarter of the total anthropogenic GHGs in the atmosphere since 1850.
  • Situation in USA is even more stubborn now as President Donald Trump’s recent decisions are a sweeping refutation of former U.S. President Barack Obama’s policies to reduce and limit pollution and GHGs.

Curb at Clean power plan

  • The curbs on power plant emissions by the Obama administration the Clean Power Plan (CPP) were aimed at reducing the power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions by about a third below the 2005 levels by 2030.
  • The regulations would require states and electric utilities to reduce emissions either by deploying renewables, reducing demand or increasing power plant efficiencies.
  • New orders not only directed federal agencies to cancel or amend policies that might interfere with domestic energy production, but also slashed research budgets for climate change.
  • Even though, Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) CPP has been in the courts for more than a year due to a legal challenge mounted by over half the U.S. states and a number of companies that opposed the rule.
  • However, EPA’s rules are themselves not easy to reverse by a presidential oder, especially given another 2009 EPA finding that GHGs “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations”.

Changed ideology

  • Recent moves by US President are a clear signal that the U.S. is no longer interested in curbing GHGs to stabilise the climate and neither is it keen to meet its Paris commitments.
  • These actions also demonstrate that allowing countries to write their own Nationally Determined Contributions, seen as an improvement to a global top-down approach, still has to confront the same political problem continued implementation of the agreement by successive governments within each country.
  • That a major emitter is retreating from its former commitments is of course a danger to the world’s climate, but this may not be a big step back if other countries persist with their efforts and if renewables continue to get more affordable as they have recently.

Way ahead

  • Unilateralism of USA shows that a change in political leadership could lead to the backing out of an international treaty by any signatory. Hence support of both state as well as non-state actors is crucial to back any global negotiation of this level.
  • Global movement created by 350.org and other climate protection advocacy groups in Europe and elsewhere has made impressive progress on many fronts. The philanthropies that are supporting improvements in efficiencies and innovations in the climate and energy sector which are committed to building a low-carbon future, are all examples of sub-national entities that have a powerful influence. Therefore, there efforts should be capitalised for supporting the fight against climate change.

Question: In what way USA is unilaterally derailing the climate change negotiations. How India should respond to such a situation?

 

3.The appeasement of none (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on issue for the need to move beyond minority-majority binary towards end of communal politics(GS paper II)

Overview

  • Communal politics has been seen as the bane for Indian politics. Even the constitution rejected the suggestions for a separate electorate for the minorities and the proportional representation system, which it felt would lead to a perpetually enervated nation. But from British policy of ‘divide and rule’, upto now Indian politics has perpetuated this idea, in most policies that have been followed until now, we have seen furtherance of vote-bank politics.
  • In the recent PIL filed by a Jammu based advocate in the Supreme Court, alleged that the rights of religious and linguistic minorities in the State are being “siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily” gives us a chance to look again into the secularism versus communalism debate.

Minorities in India

  • In India, articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution guarantee certain rights to minorities for protection of their culture, script, and languages, but the Constitution has not defined or identified religious and linguistic minorities but the question of who will determine which group is a minority was also left unanswered.
  • In the TMA Pai Foundation vs. State of Karnataka, Supreme Court held that the unit for the purpose of determining the definition of minority would be the State, not the whole of India.
  • To ensure that minorities are able to enjoy the safeguards provided for them in the Constitution and in various central and state laws, The National Commission for Minorities Act was passed in 1992. According to the Act, it extends to the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir, and ‘minority’ means a community notified as such by the Central government.
  • Using this power the Central government through a gazette notification in 1993 notified Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) as ‘minorities’ for the purpose of this Act. (Jains were declared as a minority later.)

Violation of minority rights

  • Even after the constitutional provisions, minorities have been deprived of their basic rights. Different identity and their small number relative to the rest of the society develop a feeling of insecurity about their life, assets and well-being. This sense of insecurity may get accentuated at times when relations between the majority and the minority communities in a society are strained or not much cordial.
  • According to the 2011 Census, Hindus are a religious minority in seven States (Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Punjab) and in one UT Lakshadweep. In J&K, Hindus have been at the receiving end of majoritarian wrath and the constitutional guarantee of liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship is being violated there. They are not recognised as state subjects and are denied the most basic human rights.

Vote bank politics

  • Vote bank politics is often referred as voting on the basis of one’s cast or religion. In India, where diversity is one of the main feature, each party has its own vote bank- Hindus, Muslims, Dalits etc.
  • In India vote bank politics is very decisive is ensuring the rights and progress of a certain group, but it has been used as a tool to invoke the regional and casteist prejudices among the people of this country, the vote banks are divided only on the basis of their religion, caste, language or place of living. In every manner, this criterion has damaged the unity and integrity of India.
  • SC in the Bal Patil vs. Union of India case said that the National and State Minorities Commissions should direct their activities to maintain the unity and integrity of India by gradually eliminating the minority and majority classes. It said that the Minority Commission should act in a manner so as to prevent generating feelings of aversion towards multiculturalism in various sections of India.
  • But still political parties have continuously used the vote bank politics for their political gimmicks.

Way forward- the appeasement of none

  • We need to move ahead of minority-majority binary. We have to stop to look at citizens through the prism of caste, religion, language, or sect. There should be are equal opportunities for all, The major role of the parties should be to maintain the democratic structure, secular structure and unity and integrity of the masses then only our nation will lead towards growth & prosperity.

Question: Do we have made more harm than benefit by creating a division on minority and majority lines? Comment.

Explained

4. (3 year Action Plan to replace planning in India)(GS paper II)

Context

  • Government is readying to embark on a three-year action plan for holistic growth and development of the country prepared by the Niti Aayog after deliberations with states and central ministries.

3-year action plans

  • The Nehruvian-era planning process was replaced, and according to the new plan, the Niti Aayog would prepare a fifteen-year vision document, seven-year strategy paper, and a three-year action plan.
  • The action plan for the period 2017-18 to 2019-20 was expected to be rolled out from April 1, and the framework was to align with the fourteenth finance commission. The action plan will help predict what the growth rate will be, and depending on that what the revenues will be, and how it will be distributed among the ministries.
  • Government has engineered a shift in centre-state relations with chief ministers becoming governing body members of Niti Aayog, giving them a say in various policy making efforts at the national level. The erstwhile Planning Commission, before its reconstitution as Niti Ayog in January 2015, had exercised considerable influence in allocation of Central funds to various schemes under a centrally planned development regime.
  • Moreover, a draft action agenda for the three years till 2019-20, with 300 specific action points has been prepared.
  • This agenda is meant to be the first step towards attaining the envisioned outcomes by 2031-32. It will ensure housing for all, with toilets, LPG, power and digital connections; access to a personal vehicle, air conditioner and white goods for ‘nearly all’; and a fully literate population with universal health care.

Question: DO you think that 3-year action plans are really a radical change in development process or is it just an old wine in a new bottle?

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