Home ThoughtShot Justice Lokur on judicial reform, Richard Haas roots for India, Narayanan’s warning...

Justice Lokur on judicial reform, Richard Haas roots for India, Narayanan’s warning on Kashmir

The best of the day’s opinion, chosen and curated by ThePrint’s top editors.

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scales of justice
Scales of Justice | Representational image
Notice, consent, privacy: Why we need to do better

Smriti Parsheera | Fellow at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy

Hindustan Times

Parsheera writes how privacy policy documents are lengthy, full of “legal jargon” and hard to comprehend. The policies seem to legally protect companies from liabilities rather than inform consumers. Parasheera’s research paper, written with her peers, had quizzed ‘urban English-speaking’ students on policies about different commonly-used tech platforms like Google and Whatsapp, and the results were dismal.

Parsheera lists four reasons why privacy policies fail. First, there are barriers of accessibility as most of these policies are only available in English. Second, the sentence construction and phrases used require very advanced levels of comprehension skills. Third, the massive amount of digital transactions make it impractical for users to go through long privacy policies for each of their several apps. Fourth, the consumer still doesn’t have ‘bargaining power’ against the provider who is more powerful.

Consent should not remain the only basis for processing data, ‘protection principles’ and ‘accountability principles’ also need to factor in.

Justice delayed

Madan B Lokur | Former justice of the Supreme Court of India

The Indian Express

Lokur writes that the Economic Survey of 2018-19 and the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2018-19 offered many insights that are useful to debunk or confirm many myths surrounding judicial reform.

Firstly, judgements need to be better written as poorly drafted orders resulted in ‘contested tax revenues’ worth Rs 7.58 lakh crore in 2017, and about Rs 50,000 crore stuck in stalled projects and investments. Second, increasing the number of judges is not a solution as 87.54 per cent of total pendency cases occur in district courts where judicial activism does not even exist.

Third, reducing the number of holidays for judges is not a solution, improved ‘case and court management’ is.

Many tools provided to courts include a mobile app called National Service and Tracking of Electronic Processes (NSTEP), eCourts or Virtual Courts, and even ‘professional managers’. But few are implemented well or actually used properly by courts and judges. Real causes of delays need to be identified in our justice delivery system, and effective solutions should be provided.

Choppy waters lie ahead

M.K. Narayanan | Former National Security Adviser and former Governor of West Bengal

The Hindu

Narayan writes that the government’s move in Jammu and Kashmir has raised alarm over India’s ‘majoritarian nationalism’, and it would be wrong to assume that ‘all is well in J&K’. A big concern now is whether other ‘guarantees’ in the Constitution will also be under threat. India’s asymmetrical federal structure has been necessary to accommodate compromise and diversity, and every Article in the Constitution has been designed to do this.

India might find itself “isolated”, as foreign countries may criticise its handling of Kashmir. China has already voiced its concerns to India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. India should look at history, especially the crisis that hit Bosnia in the 1990s, and learn from past mistakes.

Our region’s geopolitical situation’ is also troubling, as Pakistan gains prominence over its role in Afghanistan, and its ties with China growing stronger. India needs to be alert to radical Islamist forces potentially exploiting the situation in Kashmir. Finally, outsiders “colonising” Kashmir could be disastrous, and also cause fear in the North East which is still under Article 371.

Reforms, Please, Not Stimulus

Arvind Panagriya | Professor of Economics, Columbia University

The Times of India

Panagriya writes that the ‘common tactic’ that many large corporations in India use today is to convince the government to bail them out of trouble, or else the entire economy will be adversely affected. With the auto industry’s alarming drop in sales, many new instances of “save us or deluge” cries have appeared. The government intervening to help pull up sectors from a ‘sagging economy’ should be in exceptional cases and not become a norm.

Losses should push entrepreneurs to ‘innovate and cut costs’. If they still fail, then they need to re-evaluate and move their investments to new sectors. The auto industry has for long enjoyed government protection from ‘foreign competition’ in the period post Independence as well as high tariff protection. It needs to utilise its past profits, offer discounts to continue sales and not burden taxpayers.

Before preparing ‘stimulus packages’, the governments should consider two things. First, sectors that incur loss tend to represent their problems in the media as the ‘plight of the entire economy’. Second, financing ‘stimulus packages’ means diverting financing from other important expenditure items for the government. Structural reforms and not stimulus packages are the answer.

Tilting at more than windmills in the subcontinent

Richard N. Haass | President of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of ‘A World In Disarray’ ©2019/project syndicate

Mint

Richard N. Haass talks about the tilts in US’ position in South Asia. He writes that the US was a strong supporter of Pakistan during the 1971 war but started gradually tilting towards India after the end of the Cold War. He writes that now the US is “considering” another tilt as it looks for an exit strategy from Afghanistan. Currently, the US sees Pakistan as a critical element in ensuring that the US troop withdrawal doesn’t lead to a collapse of the Afghan government. He also writes that India’s protectionist trade policies also lead to frustration on the American side.

However, he argues that the US should refrain from seeing Pakistan as a strategic partner as there is little hope that the Pakistani establishment will control Taliban. Also, India’s trade policies notwithstanding, it’s a populous country with a huge economy and “is a natural partner to help balance China”. Thus, the US should not alienate India, he recommends.

Urbanise India to push poverty out

TV Mohandas Pai and Nisha Holla | Pai is Chairman, Aarin Capital & Holla is Technology fellow, C-CAMP

The Financial Express

The writers make a case for greater urbanisation in India. They write that “the world is at 55.3 per cent urbanisation on average, whereas India lags at 34 per cent”. They cite the urbanisation figures from different parts of India to make their point. Based on the data, they observe “a clear correlation between urbanisation and prosperity”. They write that Indian states in the south-west zones are more urbanised, and they also have low fertility rates and higher gross enrolment ratios. These factors, they note, result in smaller populations which are better educated and earn more.

They argue that “urbanisation is driving this trend”. It “aggregates human activity, enabling specialisation and productivity improvements”. It also creates more economic prosperity measured through higher per capita incomes.

GDP measurement and the slowdown

S Mahendra Dev & Ashima Goyal | Dev is director, IGIDR and former acting chairman and member of the National Statistical Commission; Goyal is Professor, IGIDR and a member of the PM’s Economic Advisory Council

Business Standard

The writers argue against Arvind Subramanian’s recent papers which suggest overestimation of India’s GDP post-2011. In one of his papers, Subramanian looked at the demand side factors and suggested that there were drops in exports and investments. Thus, Indian GDP could not have been as much as government estimates – suggesting its overestimation. Here, the writers argue that high domestic consumption and service growth could have compensated for the drop in exports. They further write that demand side estimates are not as robust compared to production-based estimates.

Subramanian had pointed to a fall in consumer confidence measured through RBI’s consumer confidence survey to argue that growth could not have been consumption-led. He had also written about a decline in credit. Dev and Goyal argue that credit decline happened only in manufacturing and not in services. Also, they suggest that there was a rise in retail credit which led to a consumption boom.

They argue against other problems highlighted by Subramanian and suggest that the present slowdown “is largely due to cyclical factors, although there are some structural issues”.

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