File photo of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
File photo of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah (representational image) | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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Understanding the local, in Jharkhand and beyond

Gilles Verniers | Assistant professor, Ashoka University & Director, Trivedi Centre for Political Data

Hindustan Times 

Verniers writes that “interpreting state elections is fraught with risk, as analysts combine explanations that rarely point in the same direction”. The data suggests “that state elections are fought and won on local lines, and that recognisable regional leadership can put a challenge to national political figures,” however, he writes “analysts try to interpret the meaning of the outcome in the larger political framework”.

In the recent Jharkhand elections, the Mahagathbandan’s (MGB) “advantage lay in the tribal belts, where the JMM won 16 seats and the Congress six, against the BJP’s two,” writes Verniers. He argues that given the relatively small size of the assembly “local and subregional dynamics are more likely to have had an impact on the outcome, more so than in the larger states where those effects tend to be more diluted”. Moreover, “another factor that played in favour of the alliance is the BJP’s decision to go alone in the polls.”

The Jharkhand “success shows the Congress that it pays off to assume the role of junior partner in a pre-electoral alliance,” writes Verniers and adds that this is an opportunity for the BJP “to rethink its strategy in state elections”. He writes that the BJP is left with two options, “either it tightens the grip on the organisation and centralises powers further, including pushing on levers against state governments” or “it gives some leeway to its state organisations and regional leaders and lets them lead the fight on local or regional terms”.

A more progressive Act 

Raja Muzaffar Bhat | RTI Activist, Kashmir

The Indian Express

Bhat notes that one of the reasons “given by the Narendra Modi government for making Article 370 redundant was that the ‘special status’ had deprived the people of Jammu and Kashmir of various rights that the rest of India enjoyed”. He argues that this “assertion is inaccurate for many reasons,” especially the claim that RTI was not applicable to the state.

The J&K RTI Act 2009 “was almost a carbon copy of the central RTI Act 2005”. In fact, it was “more progressive” on some counts, writes Bhat. Under this law, “the State Information Commission (SIC) was required to dispose of the second appeal within four months”. Bhat argues that this “time-bound provision ensured a better justice delivery mechanism, and is the reason for the least pendencies of appeals before the SIC”.

Jammu and Kashmir is now “governed by the RTI Act 2005” and Bhat writes that this Act’s repeal “feels like a personal loss”. Finally, “even if the SIC is set up, the central law has been watered down so much over the past few months that it would not have the same effect as that of the J&K RTI Act 2009,” concludes Bhat.

The Data Protection Bill only weakens user rights 

Apar Gupta | Executive director, Internet Freedom Foundation

The Hindu

The Data Protection Bill, 2019 is a “revolutionary piece of legislation that promises to return power and control to people in our digital society,” writes Gupta. However, throughout his piece he notes how the intent behind the bill is not matched by the content.

Gupta argues that the “government is seeking to not only access data but also collect it and then exploit it — making it an active data trader for the generation of revenue to meet its fiscal goals”. According to him, the existing draft of the Bill is “reflective of a political economy that is motivated towards ensuring minimal levels of protection for personal data”.

Gupta argues that the bill “seeks to place the privacy interests of individuals on the same footing as those of businesses and states. He writes that by placing “competing interests on the same plane, two natural consequences visit the drafting choices within it”. First, “the principle of data protection to actualise the fundamental right to privacy is not fulfilled as a primary goal but is conditioned from the very outset”. Second, by placing competing goals — which contradict each other — any balancing is clumsy, since no primary objectives are set, he adds.

In conclusion, Gupta maintains that the bill is “not a leaky oil barrel with large exceptions, but it is a perfect one” since it fulfills the objectives of the government. It will “refine, store and then trade the personal information of Indians without their control”.

A tale of two airports

T S Ramakrishnan | Managing director, Pursuitex LLP

K V Damodharan| CEO, Pursuitex LLP

Economic Times

In their piece, Ramakrishnan and Damodharan discuss the entry of an international player, Zurich Airport International (ZAI), in the construction of the Jewar airport in NCR. Since the existing airport is operated by GMR group and the new one is to be handled by ZAI, the authors question how much of a level playing field it will be to ensure that one does not “cannibalise” the other.

First, they criticise the Indian government’s decision to award the winning bid to ZAI, which was based only on the revenue share per passenger offered. They also point out that the entry of an international player could be “serious competition” for GMR in terms of services provided or traffic movements. How “GoI and the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (Aera) react to, or influence, the emerging market dynamics is of great interest”, they add.

Furthermore, the government should consider providing “multi-lane roads, metro, speed rail and last-mile connectivity projects to both airports, and leave it to the airport operators how they make use of these facilities”, they write.

Creating the utilities of the future

Sanjay Banga | President, T&D, Tata Power

Financial Express

A healthy power sector needs a healthy distribution sector for which private players, that bring in capital and technology, are key, writes Banga. He notes three models that can introduce competition and thereby “robust infrastructure and reliable power”.

The first is public-private partnership (PPP), which is sustainable in the long run as it bears “regulatory oversight and encourages capital investments to transform the sector”, he writes. Delhi Vidyut Board, privatised by the Delhi government in 2002, is one such example, he adds. The second is input-based distribution franchisee model that only focuses on “short-term commercial gains through better collection and billing” and is not “sustainable in the long run”, he writes.

The third is a hybrid distribution franchisee model, which states should consider for an “interim-measure”. The model allows for procuring of “additional power to meet the demands of consumers over and above the supply being given by the existing licensee”, explains Bangla. They also ensure that “discoms keep the network healthy and meet the requirements of multiple franchisees for network augmentation”, he adds.

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