21 December, 2020 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu

  • Beyond just persuasion (Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude)
  • The right call (Polity & Governance)
  • Laying the foundation for faster growth- (Indian Economy)
  • Losing the plot on women safety - (Polity & Governance)
  • India, U.S. mull over unfinished work - (International Relations)
  • Question for the day (Polity & Governance)

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    UPSC Current Affairs: Beyond just persuasion |Page 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains Paper 4: Ethics & Integrity

    Sub Theme: Persuasion|UPSC

    Beyond just persuasion

    In light of protests against the new farm laws, the Centre has attempted to educate farmers — a form of instrumental reasoning based on exchange of superior information and data — to convince them of the merits of its reform agenda.

    Since it is presumed that complex matters of economic policy are beyond the intellectual capacities of agrarians, policy implementation often becomes a teacher-pupil dialogue, where persuasion is akin to enlightening ‘lesser intellectuals’ to the merits of technocratic governance. If people (in this case farmers) ‘know better’, they would support the government.

    However, persuasion is a qualitatively distinct psychological process from mere information-gathering and ‘rational’ decision-making.

    Persuasion is a method of changing a person’s cognitions, values, attitudes and  behaviours, toward some object, issue, or person, through some kind of communication.

    Most notably, in circumstances that involve vulnerability, it always includes an element of trust. But, do the farmers of India trust their government?

    Vulnerability of framers are  vexed by the precarity of the agricultural sector.

    • In 2019, as many as 10,281 farmer suicides were reported.
    • Small and marginal farmers own only 47% of the total crop area.
    • Farmers’ incomes are expected to rise “by about 9% to 16,017.96 rupees ($214) this year”, but there is still a high degree of financial precarity in the sector.

    Farmers recognise the exploitative nature of the existing supply-chains. But, how will they be persuaded that the alternative is better? Certainly not by signalling from the government, that mistakes information as a panacea for trust deficits.

    Aristotle identified that the art of persuasion consisted of three parts:

    Logos — Appealing to Logic

    Pathos — Appealing to Emotions

    Ethos — Appealing to Ethics, Morals and Character

    In the case of logos, a persuader uses facts, statistics, quotations from reputable sources/experts, as well as existing knowledge. This is the side of the argument that can prove how solid it is based on facts alone.

    Pathos involves delivering the argument in a way that appeals to the audience’s emotions. Logos alone has facts that are cold, flat and ‘dead’. For example, a scientist speaking at a world convention can talk about global warming and bring up facts and figures about how many tons of ice melt into the sea every year. There, she would be using logos. However, by arguing about the impact of global warming on living things, for instance, how many polar bears will die if the current trend continues, she’ll tap the emotions of the audience. Pathos is the emotional vehicle that carries the logos to the audience.

    Ethos has to do with who the persuader is. His/her identity will have a great impact on how the audience takes the message.

    So, what needs to be done?

    • Interpersonal dialogue is a good choice (something that is already being done).
    • Trust is a ‘psychological attitude’ that reflects ‘a positive expectation of Behavior’ and it can be built between individuals more easily than between groups. This also makes possible interactive problem-solving. But, for this to work, farmers would have to be convinced of the government’s sincerity. Negotiations should not be instruments to pacify protesters.
      • This requires, firstly, public commitments by key government functionaries with high degrees of social credibility, to reassure farmers of their intent to make policymaking an inclusive process.
      • Secondly, symbolic gestures such as visits by key government functionaries to grassroots areas may help.

    Shared vulnerability

    The most potent pathway for the government to build trust with farmers would be to develop what I call ‘shared vulnerability’. To accept risks associated with agricultural reforms, farmers would have to trust the government’s competence and willingness. This can be best achieved if farmers believe that the government’s self-interests are also being directly served through the success of these farm laws. Simply put, the government needs to raise the stakes for itself. One way to do this would be to treat the promise of doubling farmers’ income as the determinant yardstick to judge the success of the NDA regime and actively invite electoral costs in case the government fails to deliver.

    Lastly, if specific quantitative markers or indicators are put in place to judge the success of the new farm laws at every stage, monitoring and feedback loops can become important sources of trust. This would require distinguishing clearly between deficiencies in implementation that lead to tweaks and course correction and a conclusive failure of the reform agenda requiring a dramatic overhaul or potential reversion (opt-out clause). Certainly, effects of policy reform cannot be realised in the short term, but neither should farmers be asked to concede to an indefinite process of realisation.

    Building trust for the purpose of persuasion is not about providing more information and creating rational disciples. It is a process of proving one’s sincerity, credibility, and moral character.

    Power of Persuasion

    • Socrates defined knowledge as knowing what to do in certain situation. He said that no one knowingly does what is bad. This view is known as moral intellectualism.
    • Aristotle has said that man is a rational creature.
    • Immanuel Kant has said there is nothing above reason.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: The right call Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II– Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme: Governor’s discretionary power | UPSC

    What does the Editorial Highlight? (Backdrop)  

    • Andhra High Court in its judgment had ordered to examine if there is a "constitutional breakdown" in the State of AP. This decision of Andhra HC was challenged by state government in Supreme Court. SC stayed the judgment of Andhra HC as CJI found AP HC’s order “disturbing”.
    • The Supreme Court’s order comes in the wake of incidents pointing to a tussle between the judiciary and the elected government in Andhra Pradesh.     
    • In light of the SC Judgment, Andhra High Court and the State Government appears to be on a collision course.
    • Last month, the Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy had written a letter to the Chief Justice of India alleging that few judges of the High Court were trying to destabilize the government by passing adverse orders against it on petitions filed by the TPD, the political opposition.
    • Reporting constitutional breakdown to the President is the discretionary power of the Governor provided under Article 356. But reporting of such breakdown must be made on objective facts and not on mere suspicion.

    Discretionary Powers of Governor are:

    • Reserve any Bill for the consideration of the President under Article 200
    • To appoint the Chief Minister of State under Article 164(1) including inviting the leader of the single largest party in case of a hung verdict to prove majority on the floor of the House.
    • To dismiss the ministry as the Chief Minister and other Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor under Article 164(1).
    • Governor’s report under Article 356 in case of failure of Constitutional machinery in States.
    • Governor’s responsibility for certain regions such as the Tribal Areas in Assam and responsibilities placed on the Governor under Article 371A (Nagaland), 371C (Manipur), 371H (Arunachal Pradesh).

    Article 356 - Provisions in case of failure of constitutional machinery in States

    If the President, on receipt of a report from the Governor of a State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the Government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution, the President may by Proclamation

    • assume to himself
    • all or any of the functions of the Government of the State, and
    • all or any of the powers vested in or exercisable by the Governor or any body or authority in the State other than the Legislature of the State
    • declare that the powers of the Legislature of the State shall be exercisable by or under the authority of Parliament
    • make such provisions for giving effect to the objects of the Proclamation under Article 356

    including suspending in whole or in part the operation of any provisions of this Constitution relating to anybody or authority in the State.   

    However, the President under Article 356 cannot assume to himself the powers of High Court.

    Supreme Court in S.R. Bommai judgment held that the dissolution of State Assembly is not an automatic outcome of every proclamation under Article 356. The dissolution of the Assembly prior to the approval of the Proclamation under Article 356(3) shall be invalid.        

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Laying the foundation for faster growth | Page– 06

    UPSC Syllabus:| Mains GS Paper 3: Economic development

    Sub Theme: Economic Growth| UPSC

    The lockdown imposed due to COVID-19 has led to both demand and supply side disruption to the Indian Economy.  The GDP has contracted by 24% in the first quarter (April-June) of 2020-21. India has seen contraction in GDP for the first time in the last 41 years since 1979. In this regard, this article discusses as to what should be done in order to revive the Indian Economy.

    The article highlights that the Indian economy should grow at 8% in 2021-22 to compensate for the decline in 2020-21. Even with a strong growth of 8%, we will only be back to where the economy was at the end of 2019-20. Hence, in order to enable the Indian Economy to grow at 8% in 2021-22, the following measures need to be adopted:

    Enhanced Government Expenditure: According to Expenditure method, GDP is calculated as C+G+I+ (X-M) where C denotes Private final consumption expenditure (PFCE), G denotes Government Final consumption Expenditure (GFCE), I denotes Investment, X denotes Exports and M denotes Imports.  The PFCE and Investment are the major drivers of India's GDP. However, since the present economic crisis is quite unprecedented, there is a need to enhance Government Expenditure, particularly in creation of new capital assets such as Roads, railways, ports etc. The increase in Government's expenditure can enhance both consumption and investment expenditure and thus boost GDP growth rates.

    Keeping a check on Inflation: The CPI rate of Inflation has increased to 6.93% in November 2020. It is much above the targeted range of 6%. The higher rate of inflation prevailing in the Indian Economy may prolong the economic revival. Hence, necessary measures would have to be taken by the RBI to keep the inflation under check.

    Reviving Investment Climate: The Investment rate in the Indian Economy has declined from 39% in 2011-12 to 32% in 2018-19. Hence, measures should be taken to revive the Investment rates by reducing the NPAs of the Banks and improving their balance sheet. The National Infrastructure Pipeline is a good initiative.

    The Government has come up with a vision of $ 5 trillion economy by the end of 2025. To realise this vision, the Indian Economy needs to grow consistently at 9% over the next 6 years. Hence, the Government must take the lead, enhance its investment and thus promote economic revival.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Losing the plot on women’s safety| Page - 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains GS paper 2 : Social Issues

    Sub Theme: Women Safety | UPSC

    Losing the plot on women’s safety

    Most governments, when faced with the question of improving women’s safety, inevitably turn to enacting new laws rather than ensuring a more effective legal system.

    The Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law (Maharashtra Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the accompanying Special Courts and Machinery for Implementation of Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law follow the same cliché of harsher punishment, more authorities, and wider definitions. The Bills’ content reflects the absence of a larger consultative process and lack of understanding of existing criminal laws.

    For any criminal justice system to be effective there must be –

    • fair and just laws
    • a robust investigative mechanism
    • a dynamic judiciary and
    • adequate infrastructure

    The criminal law amendments post the Nirbhaya case and the recommendations of the Verma Committee brought in several progressive amendments to curb violence against women and children. What is currently lacking is the infrastructure required for effective implementation. The Maharashtra government should hence focus on improving infrastructure, rather than bringing in harsher and unreasonable provisions in the guise of securing women’s safety. Contrary to the government’s stated intention of curbing violence against women, the Bills are draconian and threaten the lives of sexual assault victims.

    Patriarchal ideas

    The Bill proposes punishment in cases of false complaints and acts of providing false information regarding sexual and other offences against women with the intention to humiliate, extort and defame.

    The only other law which has a similar provision is the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act), 2013. The provision only points to the patriarchal conception that women are manipulative liars and unworthy of being trusted. Even as most laws are indeed susceptible to misuse by individuals and authorities, no other legislation has such a provision.

    Offences against women often occur behind closed doors or at desolate places, making finding eyewitnesses difficult. Investigation and prosecution are often shabby and negligent. This results in unfair acquittals, and the victims, in turn, may be accused of having filed false complaints. A provision for punishing false complaints would result in counter cases being filed against victims, and may thus dissuade many victims of sexual assault and acid attacks from filing complaints, thereby muffling women’s voices. In a country where courts have directed women to marry their abuser, the possibility of a counter case would only make it more difficult for a woman to say ‘No’ to such a proposition.

    The other aspect of the Bill is the introduction of the death penalty for rape, acid attacks, and for rape of a minor. The amendment to the relevant sections adds that in cases where “the characteristic of the offence is heinous in nature and where adequate conclusive evidence is there and the circumstances warrant exemplary punishment”, the offence shall be punishable with death. However, it does not define what cases would qualify as being “heinous in nature”, thus leaving it open to the interpretation of courts. To date, courts have held cases of varying standards to be “heinous” and there is no uniform benchmark to identify what circumstances make an offence “heinous”. Further, the death penalty has been in the statute books for a long time, but there is no evidence affirming its potency as a deterrent in preventing crimes. It is time legislators realise that death penalty is not the absolute answer to the issue of rape — only the certainty that there will be effective investigation, trial, and therefore punishment, can act as an effective deterrent. Contrary to the State’s understanding, the death penalty will only mean that an accused may not stop at just rape and may murder the victim to get rid of the only witness, as the punishment for both will be the same. Importantly, studies have shown that often, the accused in sexual assault crimes are relatives or persons known to the victims. If the punishment for the crime is death, then not only the family of the victim, but the victim herself may choose not to report the crime or may turn hostile during the trial. Research has also indicated that judges are unlikely to convict a person when the punishment is death.

    Another provision stipulating that investigation should be completed within 15 days, the trial in 30 days and the appeal in 45 days, even if well-intentioned, will only result in improper investigation and trial. This timeline is glaringly insufficient for gathering all evidence or conducting a just trial and would result in hasty functioning and miscarriage of justice. Similar existing mechanisms for speedy and effective investigation and trial under the Juvenile Justice Act and the POCSO Act are rarely adhered to as neither the police nor the courts have the infrastructure to comply with these timeframes. Further, the Bill does not state what happens if the investigation, trial, or appeal is not completed within the prescribed time. In the current system, police officers are saddled with a large number of cases at the same time. There are not enough prosecutors at trial courts and in high courts; most of them are assigned three-four courts at a time and they prosecute hundreds of cases simultaneously. Unless these systemic problems are solved, new laws will only be a facade.

    Redundant proposals

    Lastly, the proposed amendments seem to have been recommended without considering similar, already-existing provisions in the criminal laws. For instance, the Bill seeks to introduce Section 354E (Harassment of Women by any mode of communication) into the IPC, aiming to punish intimidation of women through social media and electronic platforms. Similar provisions exist under the IPC and the Information Technology Act, 2000, which comprehensively cover all the offences mentioned under the new section. Similarly, the provision to punish public servants for failing to assist in investigation or perform their assigned duties is also sufficiently covered under the IPC, in terms of contravention of law or disobedience of orders and duties. Hence, in effect, these proposed amendments are of little significance. It would be more pragmatic if the government focused on improving the implementation of existing laws and infrastructure.

    The Bill was opposed by several women’s rights organisations and lawyers from Maharashtra, which seems to have led the State government to refer it to a joint select committee. This is a welcome move and it would be in the interest of women, and justice itself, if the committee has a larger consultative process, engages with stakeholders and experts to understand the existing criminal laws, and reconsiders passing this regressive legislation.

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