Nirmala Sitharaman during the post-Budget press conference | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
Nirmala Sitharaman during the post-Budget press conference | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
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India’s defence planning has no strategic direction

Brahma Chellaney | Geostrategist
Hindustan Times

In this piece, Chellaney argues that if India has to become a great power, it must reduce its dependence on arms imports. He suggests that India’s arms imports lack a well-planned long-term direction. They are also sometimes influenced by foreign policy and other non-military considerations.

He writes that while the ‘Make in India’ initiative recognises the importance of indigenous industries for national security, it is yet to take off. He argues that the customs duty waiver for arms imports in the latest budget also might ensure that India’s domestic arms production remains uncompetitive. He recommends that India should start spending a portion of its defence budget on development of unconventional weapons in areas like artificial intelligence.

Lastly, Chellaney says that India’s arms imports also undermine its democracy in many ways. “The corruption caused by such imports has spread deep and wide,” he writes.

One more quota

Suhas Palshikar | The writer taught political science and is based at Pune
The Indian Express

Palshikar argues that the Bombay High Court ruling upholding reservation for Marathas raises a set of four questions. First, the court approved the MG Gaikwad Commission report even though it was hardly discussed in the public realm, “and thus the Court did not have the benefit of arguments and counterarguments about approach, method and interpretation”.

Second, he objects to the process of determining “exceptionality”. He says that the HC ruling failed to “evolve acceptable, substantive criteria of exceptionality”.

Third, he critiques the creation of a separate quota for a particular community. He writes that such an approach gives guaranteed quota to one community while others have to compete within the total allotted share.

And fourth, he argues that this ruling overwhelms “the logic of backwardness on grounds of traditional status” by “the logic of backwardness on grounds of contemporary economy”. This undermines the logic behind social justice, he says.

The malaise of malnutrition

Thomas Abraham | Bengaluru-based writer on social issues and the author of ‘Polio: The Odyssey of Eradication’
The Hindu

In his piece, Abraham cites a report titled “Food and Nutrition Security Analysis, India, 2019” authored by the Indian government and UN World Food Programme, to highlight the extent of the malnutrition problem in India.

He writes that the Modi government’s target of reducing the proportion of stunted children in the population to 25 per cent by 2022 will involve doubling the current annual rate of reduction. He further says that the government’s Poshan Abhiyaan is failing to take off, and even after a year, many states have only used 16 per cent of the funds allotted to them.

He also notes that the problem of stunting and malnutrition starts from the mother. The child of a malnourished mother has higher chances of being born malnourished. He also writes that malnourishment affects a child’s cognitive capacity, thereby affecting their future prospects as well.

Path to resurrection

Prabhat Patnaik | Professor emeritus, Centre for Economic Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
The Telegraph

Patnaik makes a case for reviving the Left in India. He argues that at the present moment, there is little to distinguish India’s Left parties from others. The Left, he writes, has diluted its basic principles as can be seen from the efforts of some Left governments to attract foreign and Indian businesses in states where they have power.

To revive itself, the author recommends that the Left should take two measures. First, he says, that BJP’s proposal to generalise NRC to other parts of the country will amount to an ethnic cleansing. Thus, the Left should actively raise this issue and rally people around it.

Second, he argues, that the Left should intervene against Home Minister Amit Shah’s purported plans to remove Article 370 and Article 35A from the constitution. The Left should launch a nationwide campaign over this issue, writes Patnaik.

Budget’s flawed swadeshi objective

Shyam Saran | Former foreign secretary and senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research
Business Standard

Saran writes that the goal to make India a $5 trillion economy is welcome but says the reappearance of import substitution as a policy objective is worrying. He writes how this budget is the third consecutive one where tariffs have been raised on a range of imports. He points out that India runs the risk of slipping to the pre-1991 sub-optimal strategy of growth based implicitly on import substitution and protected domestic production. He adds that these policies will make Indian industry less competitive and will “neither deliver a $5 trillion economy nor sustain India’s greater geopolitical salience”.

Why 15% should be the target rate for all taxes in the country

R. Jagannathan | Editorial director, Swarajya
Mint

Jagannathan writes that one of the few missteps of the budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was to tinker again with the tax rates for the high income earners when the basic tax code is not ready. A higher tax rate on the rich will encourage evasion. The basic principles of a tax code should be stated upfront and not added as an afterthought. Tax on basic income and product taxes should be low and not just moderate. Taxes on income from labour and earnings on capital investment must be the same. Inheritance should be taxed with exemptions, he writes. He proposes a flat 15 per cent tax rate.

For better arming and loading

Laxman K Behera | Research fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
The Economic Times

Behera writes on how the defence budget constitutes a mere 2.04 per cent of GDP even though it constitutes 15.5 per cent of the total expenditure of the government. He writes that even though the total allocation has increased by over 9 per cent, the defence establishment is unlikely to be happy.

The armed forces have projected a shortfall of Rs 1.12 lakh crore and most of it was in the capital procurement budget that determines the “potency of India’s arsenal”. The increase in the share of manpower budget in total budget is coming at the cost of the acquisition budget, Behera writes.

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