- Amnesty by another name
Bilateral & International Relations
- Mending fences with Myanmar a must
Art & Culture
- Indian languages face threat of fossilisation, need revitalisation
Science & Technology
- Allay the fear
GS (M) Paper-3: “Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.”
GS (M) Paper-2: “Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.”
Amnesty by another name
The Income Declaration Scheme (IDS) announced in the 2016-17 budget closed on September 30.
The finance ministry has announced that 64,275 people have come forward to declare Rs 65,250 crore of black money.
This is the largest amount declared as black money in the history of Indian taxation.
Voluntary Disclosure of Income of 1997:
Similar scheme in 1997 — the Voluntary Disclosure of Income, also called Amnesty scheme, with declaration of Rs 33,000 crore on which Rs 10,000 crore collected as tax.
Key Outcomes of Income Declaration Scheme (IDS) 2016:
- Average amount of black income per declaration is about Rs 1 crore.
- It is reported that the income tax officers pressurised people under their charge to make declarations in the last three weeks.
- According to an estimate amounting to total black money circulation, barely 0.2-0.3 per cent of the black wealth has been declared in the 2016 scheme.
- This is indeed low when there is daily news about people being caught with hundreds of crores of rupees of black incomes.
- It is likely that either the big earners of black incomes have not come forward or declared a negligible part of their black money.
Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme 1997 vs Income Declaration Scheme 2016:
- The 1997 scheme was called an amnesty scheme because of the low tax that had to be paid. But this time, IDS 2016 is not called as an amnesty because a higher rate of tax is being charged. However, according to Author, the IDS is also an amnesty scheme because the penalty charged under it is less than what was being charged for tax evasion before the scheme was launched.
- Both the schemes are based on Voluntary i.e. self-declaration.
- The declarations under the 1997 scheme was roughly five per cent of the black income generated that year. For IDS 2016 author estimates the current size of the black economy at 60 per cent of the GDP; at current prices, Rs 90 lakh crore, roughly 0.7 per cent of the black income generated this year.
- Earlier in 1997 Government has given guaranteed to SC that it will not again launch this type of amnesty Scheme Because it is unfair to the honest tax payers while those evading taxation get a concession for declaring their past income. So this Scheme at present is a counter to previous Government Commitment
- The number of declarations in 1997 was over four lakhs, now, surprisingly, it is a sixth of this number.
- If it is assumed that the top one per cent of the population generates substantial black incomes, the numbers should have been close to 13 million.
- It is the CAG that pointed to the various infirmities in the 1997 scheme. Giving data to the CAG does not violate any confidentiality, but in present scheme Data is not shared to any agencies including CAG.
Concerns surrounding IDS:
- If “round tripping” can be done at 5% to 10% of the amount of the funds, why pay 45% under the IDS?
- The government seems to be trapped between unearthing black money and not applying pressure on businesses. Why this dilemma?
- A person who has hoarded black wealth can only be caught in a raid; such a person will not declare black wealth voluntarily unless there is a cost to not declaring.
CAG should be kept under the ambit of present scheme, as it needs to be assessed whether those declaring their black incomes are doing so correctly. Example: They could be misdeclaring their recently purchased gold as that bought 20 years ago at one tenth the cost and thereby turning 90 per cent of their black wealth into white.
The success of the IDS scheme in the last three weeks also suggests that if the income tax department applies pressure, black money can be unearthed.[Ref: Indian Express]
Bilateral & International Relations
GS (M) Paper-2: “Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests”
Mending fences with Myanmar a must
There have been a number of indications in recent months that measures were being considered by India to deal with the dismal role of SAARC in failing to promote economic integration, develop transportation and energy corridors, and promote cooperation to deal with terrorism.
In this scenario, India should pay attention to strengthen the regional group like BIMSTEC.
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven Member States lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity.
- It came into being in 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.
- It constitutes seven Member States: Five deriving from South Asia: [Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka] and Two from Southeast Asia: [Myanmar and Thailand].
- Unlike many other regional groupings, BIMSTEC is a sector-driven cooperative organization. Starting with six sectors—including trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism and fisheries—for sectoral cooperation in the late 1997, it expanded to embrace nine more sectors—including agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people to people contact and climate change—in 2008.
Look to BIMSTEC- India’s Plan:
Taking inspiration from past where BRICS summits hosted by Brazil and Russia, where partner-nations from Latin America and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation were invited to attend, India has invited the leaders of its six BIMSTEC partners to meet with the leaders of BRICS in coming BRICS summit at Goa.
- It has thereby prevented Pakistan from undermining its diplomacy across its eastern neighbourhood and made BIMSTEC the primary organisation for regional outreach.
- The BRICS meeting in Goa will also send a message to China that we are willing to cooperate with it in regional forums.
What India should do?
- To make BIMSTEC the primary organisation for regional outreach, India should develop a quadrilateral India-Sri Lanka-Maldives-Seychelles corridor across the western Indian Ocean.
- India should develop a policy for regional containment of Pakistan by complementing these efforts with an India-Iran-Afghanistan economic partnership.
- India needs to pay more attention to relations with Myanmar, which can play a salient role across our eastern shores in this new strategic setting.
- As Prime Minister Modi earlier noted, ”A bright future for Myanmar is not just your objective. It is also our aspiration.”
- For over two decades Myanmar has cooperated with us in counter-terrorism operations on their soil against armed separatist groups from India. We have reciprocated appropriately.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly spoken of improving connectivity across our eastern borders by a trilateral “friendship highway” through Myanmar to Thailand.
Impediments in India-Myanmar relations:
- There are reasons to believe that while Myanmar has sought to take relations forward, there is unhappiness over the insensitivity we have shown by undertaking cross-border strikes against NSCN(K) separatists on Myanmar’s soil, without prior approval from that government.
- The work on “friendship highway” has been in sluggish mode.
- Unlike Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, India also has a very bad record in executing development projects in Myanmar.
- Over two decades ago, we agreed to construct an 1800-MW hydroelectric project across the Chindwin river close to our border in Manipur. We have debated and discussed this project for over two decades and have invited ridicule.
- An even greater financial and planning disaster has been our approach to providing the landlocked North-Eastern States access to the Bay of Bengal through a land and river corridor in Myanmar, combined with the development of the strategically located port of Sittwe in the Bay of Bengal.
- In comparison with China, India is poor in project planning and implementation in Myanmar.
- India did not repair and upgrade an estimated 80 World War 2 bridges when we initially undertook to rebuild the road which, if properly utilised, could be the centrepiece for tourist traffic across Manipur to Mandalay and beyond, to Thailand.
- Sadly, because of poor project implementation and unimaginative restrictions and procedures, this road is hardly utilised. The bus service that was inaugurated with much fanfare has come to a halt.
India’s fencing project across the Myanmar border:
- There are reports suggesting that India is planning to fence this border. One of the unique features of our border with Myanmar has been that tribals living on both sides can travel freely across it.
- This has invited strong opposition from the chief ministers of the four bordering States: Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
In this context, what India should do?
- Rather than building fences across its border with Myanmar, India should be carefully studying how other countries and most notably China manage their border with Myanmar.
- Fencing should be limited and not affect the free movement of tribals.
- It should be undertaken primarily to prevent the rapidly growing and illegal imports of Chinese products from across the India-Myanmar border.
- We should seriously ask ourselves why we couldn’t have a booming economic interaction across our borders with Myanmar, as China does.
Suggestions and Conclusion:
- We should focus on accelerating all the pending development works and other proposed projects with Myanmar, like in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka where our work was credible.
- We should learn a lesson from Japan’s meaningful trade, investment and economic ties with Myanmar.
- Institutions such as the SAARC University and the SAARC Secretariat can be kept going, with all other facets of South Asian cooperation being shifted to new groupings.
- Marginalising Pakistan in South Asian regional forums till it mends its ways should be the salient feature of India’s policy to promote regional economic cooperation.
Art & Culture
GS (M) Paper-1: “Indian culture covering the salient aspects of Literature”
Indian languages face threat of fossilisation, need revitalisation
Even after the 70 years of Independence, the state of Indian languages seems to be sharply deteriorating.
Since the 1960s, we have lost 220-odd minor languages and dialects, and condition of major languages, is also not in good state.
What’s the bigger threat?
The bigger threat that surround now is — fossilisation. For example, Harivansh Rai Bachchan is an important figures in Hindi literature but his great grand-children are almost certainly more comfortable in English than in Hindi, this not a unique case.
India’s experiences with link languages:
- Indians have long been comfortable with a link language that was different from what they used in daily life.
- Over the centuries, Sanskrit, Persian and English were used for government, commerce, legal documents, high culture and so on. Far from displacing local languages, they enriched them with new words, ideas and themes.
- This is why the greatest writers and poets in most Indian languages were themselves multilingual and happily borrowed from the link languages.
What are the factors responsible for the current crisis in Indian Language?
Current crisis in Indian languages comes from a set of interlinked factors that are holding them back from evolving with the times.
The first problem is that school textbooks are hopelessly outdated.
- In lower grades, textbooks will have a smattering of folktales, stories from the Panchatantra and the epics, the lives of folk-heroes and so on. These are acceptable as they are timeless; analogous to nursery rhymes and fairy tales in English.
- The other rest of the material seems stuck somewhere between the 1930s and 1970s.
- A survey of the technology reflected in the stories is quite telling. Forget mobile phones and laptops, you will rarely find television sets and aircraft. It is still a world of steam engines and animal husbandry, totally outdated.
- Matters do not improve in higher grades — a great deal of preaching about “good habits” and the need to help the poor, makes simply no sense of fun in the material.
- This is no way to promote a language in a country where the young, including the poor, are so aspirational.
- Example: Munshi Premchand’s Idgah may be a great story but, at the risk of offending his fans, it may no longer resonate with most school children.
The second major problem with Indian languages is that the output of innovative new literature has slowed drastically.
- Allowing for the odd exception, publishing is increasingly limited to literary novels aimed at winning government awards rather than engaging readers.
- Once there was a flourishing culture of writing science fiction, detective novels and travelogues in languages like Bengali but these have slowed to a trickle.
- Less than a decade ago, pretentious literary writing was strangling Indian English publishing till the arrival of Chetan Bhagat, Amish Tripathi and Devdutt Patnaik. whatever one thinks of their writing styles, there is no denying that they opened up the field. The steadily improving editorial quality of Indian language newspapers shows that there is demand for good writing. A similar revolution in popular writing needs to happen in other languages.
The third problem is a dearth of translations into Indian languages.
- For example, a Tamil or Marathi writer will be pleased that his/her novel has been translated into a foreign language. While this may be good for the personal reputation of the writer, it does little for Tamil or Marathi.
- A language is a medium for transmitting ideas and its repertoire grows as it absorbs material from elsewhere.
- The success of English lies in the fact that we can read Homer and Kapuscinski
- without having to learn ancient Greek or Polish.
- Therefore, inward translation is more important than outward translation.
- For several languages, translation is an area where government support may be critical to creating a minimum ecosystem of material.
Way ahead and Conclusion:
Popular culture depicted in cinema and television are today the most important factors that have kept Indian languages alive. However, these will not be enough in the long run if they do not keep evolving by generating and absorbing new material that fires the imagination of successive generations.
The time demands and need a popular revolution and revitalisation in various Indian literature, before it’s too late.[Ref: Hindustan Times]
Science & Technology
GS (M) Paper-3: “Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life”
Allay the fear
- Recently Supreme Court sought answers from the government on a range of questions pertaining to mobile towers.
- There is confusion in many People about the ill effects of radiation from the mobile towers.
With response to a petition filed by a Noida resident, alleging the adverse effects of mobile towers, A bench asked the department of telecommunications (DoT):
- If it had set standards to deal with the radiation from Mobile towers.
- If there were any harmful effects.
The petitioner claimed the adverse effects of mobile towers range “from headaches, sleep disturbances, dizziness, other neurophysical disturbances to life-threatening brain tumours”.
Timeline – Mobile radiation from towers: Hazards or Not?
- The health hazards as claimed in the Petition and other environment hazards were, in fact, recognised by the ministry of environment and forests in 2011.
- A committee of the ministry suggested that electromagnetic radiation (EMR) by mobile towers be treated as a pollutant.
- In 2012, DoT framed guidelines for issuing clearances for these towers. They reduced the permissible radiation limits for towers to 10 times lower than those recommended by the ICNIRP.
- The stringent norms were criticised by the telecom industry and the WHO.
- The present governments and past both have partly confessed considering radiation from mobile towers as pollutants.
- Still guidelines for setting up mobile towers do not bar the installation of towers near hospitals, old age homes and schools.
- Citizen’s groups, resident welfare associations and individual citizens have petitioned the government constantly since and kept up the pressure, even as scientists have reiterated the safety of these towers.
- In 2013, a group of scientists from IITs of Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Madras, and Kanpur and the IISC in Bengaluru wrote to the government saying that radiation from cellphone towers is too little to cause harm.
- In July, the DoT organised an awareness campaign in Hyderabad to allay people’s misgivings. Such initiatives have, however, been very few.
About International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection:
The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is an international commission specialized in non-ionizing radiation protection.
- The organization’s activities include determining exposure limits for electromagnetic fields used by devices such as cellular phones.
- ICNIRP is an independent non-profit scientific organization chartered in Germany.
- It was founded in 1992 by the International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA) to which it maintains close relations.
- The mission of ICNIRP is to screen and evaluate scientific knowledge and recent findings toward providing protection guidance on non-ionizing radiation, i.e. radio, microwave, UV and infrared.
What does Non-Ionizing Radiation mean?
- Non-Ionizing Radiation (NIR) refers to electromagnetic radiation such as ultraviolet, light, infrared, and radiowaves, and mechanical waves such as infra- and ultrasound.
- In daily life, common sources of NIR include the sun, household electrical appliances, mobile phones, Wi-Fi, and microwave ovens.
Way ahead and Conclusion:
Mobile towers have become controversial in the past decade and answers to the apex court’s queries could clear the air.
Any Scientific backing with accurate information and analytics in clearing this radiation dilemma would be a welcome step and will clear the way for formulating stricter guidelines by the Government.
The apex court’s queries will goad the government — and the scientific community — into allaying people’s fears.[Ref: Indian Express]