File image of Omar Abdullah | Facebook
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J&K: A three-point political charter

Omar Abdullah | Former chief minister, Jammu and Kashmir
Hindustan Times

In this piece, Abdullah discusses the three expectations he has from the Modi government. First, he writes, that there should be free and fair assembly elections in the state. He mentions that there will be an opportunity to hold polls when other states like Maharashtra and Haryana conduct elections later this year.

His second expectation is that the central government and its handpicked people don’t play politics in the state. He cites two particular instances where he believes the decision should have been taken “by a government mandated by the people to do so, not by individuals appointed by New Delhi” – these are granting of division status to Ladakh and Kargil region and extending reservation to people living along the International Border.

The third expectation, he writes, is that the central government should stop trying to suggest that urban local bodies and panchayats can fill the space created by delayed elections because they cannot.

The burden of perfect 10

Ashok Thakur | Former education secretary
S.S. Mantha | Former chairman, AICTE
The Indian Express

The authors argue that the extraordinary scoring by students now “reflects a worrisome situation of the nature of our education system and is not at all a cause to rejoice”. Calling this phenomenon of high marks as the “perfect 10” culture, they suggest that it incentivises rote learning and promotes a coaching culture where the focus is on class notes and not on standard textbooks.

Thakur and Mantha write that such a culture has led to inflated cut-offs which are as high as 100 per cent and is leading to depression among students. To arrest this trend, the authors recommend that colleges and universities can also take an interview and an essay test alongside the common entrance exams.

Looming challenges to India’s standing

M.K. Narayanan | Former national security adviser and former West Bengal governor
The Hindu

Narayanan points out certain challenges India needs to overcome to enhance its global standing. First, he writes about the foreign policy challenges which confront India at the moment. He suggests that India needs to manage its relations with the US, Russia and China carefully as relations between the US and the other two deteriorate. He says that India should devise a policy that does not leave it isolated.

He also argues that India needs to augment its capabilities in the area of disruptive technologies. It needs to focus on Artificial Intelligence, biotechnology and cyber methodology to become a dominant power.

Lastly, he writes that India needs to focus on its economy which at present “remains a matter of increasing concern”.

NRC: A major storm is brewing

Sanjoy Hazarika | International director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
The Telegraph

In this piece, Hazarika highlights the problematic implications the NRC exercise can have. He cites cases ranging from that of a Kargil veteran to a policeman who have had to face problems because of NRC. He also writes that it is not just about religion, and many poor and vulnerable people who cannot afford lawyers are facing problems.

He further observes that the NRC exercise has led to other states also adopting similar plans. He cites the case of Nagaland which has started a 60 day exercise to identify indigenous people.

Hazarika also wonders what will happen to those who don’t make it to the list. Will they be sent to detention camps? Even those who are detected as Bangladeshis “cannot be deported unless Bangladesh acknowledges them as its own” which it is unlikely to do, he writes.

A good nudge to relieve businesses of regulatory sludge

Sumita Kale | Associated with Avantis Regtech, a TeamLease firm

Kale in her column underlines the need for India’s policymakers to remove sludge — something that makes it harder for individuals to take the right choice. This would boost ease of doing businesses as companies face 58,000-plus compliances in a year with multiple regulators. More formal jobs and an expanded formal sector is required if India’s economy has to grow to $5 trillion. Ease of doing business is not just about simplifying a one-time registration process but the “sludge to be removed includes the number of interactions a business has to have with multiple departments and the number of records that have to be maintained by a business”. Instead of multiple filings a Unique Enterprise Number that can be used across all central and state departments can be more effective, she writes.

Tradition of water revolution

Sunita Narain | Director general, Centre for Science and Environment
Business Standard

Discussions around rainwater harvesting have been taking place since 1990s. Narain points out how former CSE director Anil Agarwal had been fascinated with the idea. He also spent few years of his life teaching Indians the value of raindrops. But the idea died as the state took control from the local community or the households as provider of water. Besides local groundwater which was recharged using rainwater was replaced by surface water often brought from long distances in canals. The state cannot harvest rain, it has to be done by people. If cities get piped water the incentive to harvest rain will not be there. The other problem is that many drains channelising rain to underground storage have been destroyed. It’s important to learn from the wisdom that has been ignored, writes Narain.

Dissecting Budget at leisure

Omkar Goswami | Economist
The Economic Times

The Union Budget presents two macroeconomic numbers. The ‘Macro Economic Framework Statement’ states that nominal growth of the economy is expected to be 11 per cent in 2019-20, but calculations carried out in the ‘Budget at a Glance’ are based on a nominal GDP growth of 12 per cent — the difference is a whopping Rs 1,87,396 crore, writes Goswami.

There has been a steady decline in growth throughout last year. Many believe that growth during April-June 2019 will be between 5.5 per cent and 5.7 per cent. “In such a scenario, how can one blithely project 12 per cent nominal, or 8 per cent real, GDP growth?” he asks.

Goswami also underlines the need to end the over growing dependence on cess and surcharge and raises concern over the Modi government’s disinvestment target.

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