I have an Uncle, a retired Chief Engineer, who has worked in the water department of Jammu & Kashmir for many years. He gets really angry when he sees someone wasting water. He loves to quote Samuel Taylor Coleridge from the ‘Rhime of the Mariner’, “Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink”. He has warned us of the impending water crisis in the country like a million times. Once he told us in a very serious tone, “Beta, a time will come when we will need loans for buying drinking water”. At that time, I couldn’t understand the concern in his voice, but now I do.
At the start of 2016, drought ravaged many States causing crop failure, mass forced migration, suicide and deaths. Now, the year is nearing its end and the situation has taken a 360 degree turn. The present condition prevailing in the country provides a stark contrast to the situation at the beginning of the year. The monsoon floods have wreaked havoc in many parts of India. States like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh have been worst affected. Around 400 persons have been killed and more than 6,00,000 persons have been displaced. According to experts, while the rainy days have become fewer, the intensity of rain on those days has increased. In this situation, the rainwater has less chance of percolating underground and recharging the water table. It rushes along the surface instead. Riverbeds silted due to ill-planned embankments, dams and barrages do not help.
This set of two contrasting situations provide a compelling evidence that there’s something seriously wrong with the way we manage or rather mismanage water. In the light of these circumstances, it becomes imperative to have an effective water management authority that can address all the issues of water management relating in the country. Recently, the Committee on Restructuring the Central Water Commission and Central Ground Water Board led by Mihir Shah, member of the erstwhile Planning Commission, submitted its final report, “A 21st Century Institutional Architecture for India’s Water Reforms: Restructuring the CWC and CGWB” to the Water Resources Ministry. In the report, the Committee has recommended a new National Water Commission (NWC) be established as the nation’s apex facilitation organisation dealing with water policy, data and governance. The report has recommended an urgent overhaul of the current water management systems. NWC will advise the States on how to judiciously tap their water resources and avoid damage to rivers and groundwater.
Presently, there are two institutions- Central Water Commission (CWC) and Central Ground Water Bureau (CGWB) which deal with issues relating to water management. But they both are proving to be incapable of dealing with the present day challenges. CWC was set up in 1945 with a view to manage surface water and creating storage structures such as dams and reservoirs. On the other hand, CGWB was established in 1971 to manage groundwater. Both these institutes do not deal with the water management issues in a holistic manner. At the time of their establishment, India was yet to tap the irrigation potential. Then the main concern of the Government was to address the problems regarding food self-sufficiency through creation of adequate irrigation capacity, but now the situation is entirely different. India has invested trillions of rupees in irrigation projects, but their benefit is yet to be fully realized. There is a gap between created potential and utilization and that is widening with each passing year. It is an alarming situation. Moreover, at that time, climate change was not that big a problem, but now it is. It has created many new socio-economic and political problems which need to be addressed without any further delay.
According to analysts, the restructuring of the present water authorities would ensure proper and effective management of water resources in the country and such a restructuring has been long overdue. The proposed National Water Commission would be subordinate to the Ministry of Water Resources, functioning with both full autonomy and requisite accountability. It would be headed by a Chief National Water Commissioner; aided by full-time commissioners. These commissioners would represent Hydrology (present Chair, CWC), Hydrogeology (present Chair, CGWB), Hydrometeorology, River Ecology, Ecological Economics, Agronomy (with focus on soil and water) and Participatory Resource Planning & Management.
The successful experiments of Asians countries like Singapore and Cambodia with restructuring of their water management authorities can teach India a lesson or two about good water governance. These countries, though much smaller in size than India, have shown great expertise in handling the water crisis. These countries were facing severe water management problems at one time. But after restructuring their water authorities, they were able to overcome those problems. Singapore has been able to successfully cater to the drinking and industrial water needs despite all odds, which at independence in 1965, was more daunting than anything India has ever faced. 
It is advisable for the Indian Government to seriously consider implementing the recommendations of the Mihir Shah Committee and now is the time, when half of the country is writhing under the havoc unleashed by the rain floods. It is hoped that NWC would have a robust and transparent management system with minimum government interference. But changes in policy alone cannot cure the problem. Take for instance the case of Nmami Ganga Project. Crores of rupees have been spent on cleaning Ganga, but it hasn’t yielded the desired results. It has continued to become dirtier. It’s because of the attitude of our people. It’s our apathy towards this valuable resource because of which we are having these problems. Our exploitative nature knows no bounds. Unless that changes, we cannot expect policies to work and solve all our problems ‘miraculously’. Therefore, along with the policy changes, the Government needs to devise certain strategies for education and awareness of the citizens regarding water issues, so that they are able to contribute significantly towards preservation and conservation of this precious gift of nature.
“When the well is dry, we will know the worth of water.”
The aam aadmi or common man had a lot of expectations from the Union Budget 2016-17. While the salaried class had hoped that the budget would ease tax burden and would provide some respite from the rising inflation, the farmers had expected that there would be enhanced budgetary allocations for the agricultural sector. So when the budget was finally presented by the Finance Minister, Mr. Arun Jaitley on 29th February, it became clear that the priority of the government this time was to resolve the agrarian crisis that has engulfed the country since past 2 and a half years due to rain deficit. The budget focused extensively on the revival of agricultural growth and did not have much to offer to the vast majority of Indian middle class.
It was unveiled with the aim to double farmers’ income in next 5 years. It fixed the agricultural credit target at Rs 9 lakh crore. To achieve these targets, nearly Rs. 36,000 crore have been allocated for the farm sector. This includes Rs 15,000 crore for interest subvention on the farm credit for easing the burden of loan repayment on farmers, Rs 5,500 crore for the new crop insurance scheme called Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana and Rs 500 crore under national Food Security Mission for boosting the output of pulses. Apart from this, the Government has promised to launch 89 projects for irrigation and has decided to create a Long Term Irrigation Fund in NABARD with an initial outlay of about Rs 20,000 crore. Investments will also be doubled up in rural roads to provide better market access to farmers. To provide a common e-market platform to the farmers, Unified Agriculture Marketing Scheme will be implemented covering 585 regulated wholesale markets.
To encourage farmers in making judicious use of soil by providing them with adequate information about the nutrient level of soil, the Soil Health Card Scheme would be implemented with greater vigour. Thrust has been laid upon organic farming especially in rain fed areas. For this, two schemes have been launched- the ‘Parmparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana’ and “Organic Value Chain Development in North East Region”. To generate funds for various farm initiatives in the budget, a Krishi Kalyan Cess of 0.5 per cent on all taxable services effective from June 1, was also announced.
Through this budget, the Government has sought to achieve the following twin objectives:
- Firstly, to revive the growth of the agriculture sector that forms the backbone of the Indian economy.
- Secondly, to address the growing discontent among the farmers due to lack of government help. Farmers form an important vote bank in the upcoming elections in four states. Therefore, it is crucial for the NDA government win their trust back.
In its move to lure the rural voters, the Government has, to a great extent, sidelined the interests of the service class, the same class who voted for the Modi government in heavy numbers. They have got only marginal relief in the present budget. They are the ones who will have to shell out more for what they buy and services they avail. They won’t be getting any tax breaks or concessions and definitely no respite from the rising inflation. On the contrary, introduction of new cesses such as Krishi Kalyan cess have made things like phone bills, dining out, air tickets and insurance premiums more expensive for them. Even small cars have been subjected to a new tax. Initially, the budget had also come with a proposal to make up to 60 per cent of savers’ corpus withdrawn from the EPF tax-free if invested in annuity, but it was withdrawn as it drew sharp criticism. It was felt that such a move would force people to invest in annuity product against their will.
The Budget could have followed a balanced approach. No doubt, agricultural crisis is an issue of serious concern, but the interests of the middle class population of the country cannot be left ignored. After all, a strong economy depends on a strong middle class. When will the middle class finally have their acche din? Maybe it’s true when they say, “If you’re rich, you get a bailout. If you’re poor, you get a handout. If you’re middle class, you get left out”.
In 1870, when the otherwise submissive Indians, had started raising their voices in large numbers against the atrocities of the Colonial Government, the latter felt a need to introduce a new penal offence to suppress those voices. Hence, Section 124-A, dealing with the law of sedition was adopted in the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The law was drafted by Thomas Macaulay, however it was not included in the original IPC.
Section 124A defines the offence of ‘sedition’ as:
‘Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine’.
According to Explanation 1, the expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.
Further, explanations 2 & 3 specifically talk about comments which do not constitute offence of sedition under this section:
- Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection.
- Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
The language of Section 124-A is too wide. It gives unbridled powers to the Government to charge anyone with sedition. As a result, this section was frequently invoked by the British to send many great Indian freedom fighters, like Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak behind bars during the freedom struggle. But even the British did not misuse this provision as much as our democratic, free Indian Governments have in 68 years after independence, be it the arrest of Vice-resident of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Binayak Sen for possessing Naxal literature or more recently, Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi or that of JNU Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar who was accused of raising anti-India slogans.
Many leaders have opposed its presence in the penal code. Jawaharlal Nehru went to the extent of calling it fundamentally unconstitutional and highly objectionable and obnoxious. Maybe he had foreseen the potential dangers of such an antiquated and draconian provision in the code. From time to time, Indian courts have been making efforts to explain the scope of the law of sedition. The Privy Council in Queen Empress v. Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1897) explained the law on sedition as given under Section 124A in the IPC in the following terms;
“The offence consists in exciting or attempting to excite in others certain bad feelings towards the government. It is not the exciting or attempting to excite mutiny or rebellion or any sort of actual disturbance, great or small. Whether any disturbance or outbreak was caused by these articles is absolutely immaterial.”
In 1942, the Federal Court gave a diametrically opposite view in Niharendu Dutt Majumdar v. King Emperor by holding that if there is no incitement to violence, there is no sedition. In 1962, for the very first time the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court explained the scope of sedition as a penal offence in the case of Kedarnath v. State of Bihar (1962). The court followed the Federal Court and held that the gist of the offence of sedition is “incitement to violence” or the “tendency or the intention to create public disorder”.
Though the Supreme Court adopted a strict construction of Section 124-A, the Central and State Governments have excessively deployed this weapon to crush free speech and expression. They follow the law propounded by the Privy Council, ignoring the one laid down by the Supreme Court in Kedarnath.
The Apex court and various High Courts have recognized the importance of free speech and mostly, took views favouring this cherished fundamental right. More recently, in 2015, the Supreme Court in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, by ruling that speech howsoever offensive, annoying or inconvenient cannot be prosecuted unless its utterance has, at the least, a proximate connection with any incitement to disrupt public order. The same should hold true for Section 124-A IPC.
Right to dissent is the very essence of democracy and Section 124-A is antithesis of it. Only those words which directly provoke violence or which directly threaten the maintenance of public order deserve censure. Each and every act or speech which is not in conformity with the ideas of the ruling Government should not be viewed as anti-national or seditious, after all the term ‘nationalism’ is a relative concept and may hold different connotations to different persons. No one has the right to decide what is ‘national’ or ‘anti-national’, not even the government.
Section 124-A of IPC in its present form is draconian and antiquated. It is against the very ideals of democracy and must therefore be reviewed. In its present form, it is dangerous and likely to produce more inflammatory situations in future similar to the one which recently occurred at JNU.
Indian trade history is phenomenal. Since ancient times, Indian trade has benefitted the world in many ways. Its dazzling wealth and abundance of gold, pearls and spices attracted not only travelers and treasure hunters, but also invaders from across the world. Had Christopher Columbus not been fascinated by the riches of India, America would not have been discovered. Despite frequent political upheavals starting from 12th century onwards, the country remained prosperous and its trade flourished.
However, under the British rule, India’s foreign trade suffered a setback. The British exploited the country’s resources for their benefits. They discouraged the production of final products. Therefore, raw materials were exported from India and finished products imported from England which ultimately, led to the decline of Indian industries.
After independence, the Indian government followed a protectionist economic strategy by closing the Indian economy to the outside world. The Government believed that India needed to rely on internal markets for development, not international trade. In 1991, when the Indian economy had undergone deep crisis with rising inflation and widening fiscal deficit, the process of economic reforms was started by then Finance Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. The three tenets of economic reforms were liberalization, privatization and globalization. The importance of international trade for survival of Indian economy was realized and hence, it was made an important part of economic strategy.
The reform process which started in 1991, hasn’t stopped even now as Indian government coalitions have been advised to continue liberalization. Over the years, the foreign trade policies have been reflective of this ongoing process. The Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) 2015-2020 unveiled on April, 2015 also aims to achieve the same. By launching FTP 2015-2020, the Government has made an attempt to achieve the following:
- To increase participation of India in world trade
The policy aims at making India a significant participant in world trade and doubling its exports to $ 900 million by 2020.
- To promote ‘Make in India’
For integrating ‘Make in India’ with the policy, following steps have been taken:
- A new Merchandize Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) has been introduced, which has replaced 5 different schemes. Export items with high domestic content and value addition would attract higher rewards under MEIS.
- Export obligation for domestic procurement has been reduced from 90% to 75%.
- To encourage service exports
In order to boost export of services from India, Service Exports from India Scheme (SEIS) has been introduced. It has replaced Served from India scheme. The new scheme will apply to all services providers in India instead of Indian Service Providers.
- To recognize status holders for special incentives
Business leaders who have excelled in exports will be recognized as Status holders and will be given special treatment and incentives. The criteria for export performance for recognition of status holder have been changed from Rupees to US dollar earnings.
- To provide incentives to Special Economic Zones under the new schemes
The benefits of FTP from both MEIS & SEIS will be extended to units located in SEZs.
- To promote ‘ease of doing business’, ‘Digital India’ and ‘e-governance’
For this, the following steps have been taken:
- Paperless processing of reward schemes to be developed to upload digitally signed documents by Chartered Accountant/Company Secretary/Cost Accountant.
- Nomenclature of Export House, Star Export House, Trading House, Premier Trading House certificate has been changed to 1,2,3,4,5 Star Export House.
- Inter-ministerial consultations would be held online for issuing various licenses.
- The duty credit scrip issued under both MEIS and SEIS will be made freely transferable and can be used for payment of customs duty /excise duty/service tax.
Apart from above changes, the new policy has added Calicut Airport, Kerala and Arakonam ICDS, Tamil Nadu to the list of registered ports for import and export and Vishakhapatnam and Bhimavarm to the list of ‘Towns of Export Excellence’.
It is important to note that the new FTP was launched at a time when Indian exports were already dwindling due to global economic crisis. Therefore, it was expected that the Government would take drastic measures to boost the exports.
Undoubtedly, the new FTP is different from the previous policies in many ways. It has taken a holistic view of the situations prevailing in the domestic market as well as global economy. It is appreciable that the new trade policy has not only dealt with global economy and domestic challenges, but has also undertaken region wise and country wise SWOT analysis. It has given a detailed analysis of market strategy for specific markets and also of the current status of WTO (World Trade Organization), TRIPs (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) and other WTO based agreements, and their potential impacts on India’s exports. According to some experts, unlike earlier Trade Policies, this policy demonstrates the wisdom dawning in India to handle global challenges with mature and erudite leadership.
The Government also decided to rope in States and Union Territories in the process of international trade, which is a welcome move. A Council for Trade Development and Promotion will be set up comprising of representatives from States and Union Territories. The new policy will be reviewed after two-and-a-half years and not annually as was the practice earlier.
The Prime Minister has already taken a lot of initiatives to develop a personal rapport with the heads of all the leading global economies and has entered into multiple trade agreements with them. He has focused on improving ties with oil rich countries like UAE in order to secure energies for the energy-consuming manufacturing sector of the country. The new policy reflects his vision towards realizing this goal. Moreover, by integrating Make in India with the new policy, the government has made an attempt to portray India as a friendly destination for manufacturing and exporting goods with an aim to integrate it into Global Value Chain.
It can be concluded that the new policy has been prepared after analyzing several aspects of the world trade. It is a good policy which can be beneficial only if it is implemented effectively.
Christopher Columbus had said, ‘Gold is a treasure, and he who possesses it does all he wishes to in this world, and succeeds in helping souls to paradise’. However, for Indians, gold is more than just a treasure. For ages, it has been holding held a significant place in our lives. It has various references in Indian mythology. Many ancient kingdoms of India had adopted gold as a medium of exchange. In fact, at one stage in history, India had been a storehouse of world’s gold. That’s why it had earned the title of ‘Golden Sparrow’. Even today, Gold is an indispensable part of our lives. It is one of the main and sometimes, the only means of saving in rural India. Apart from investment purpose, Indians also buy gold for other reasons namely, for occasions like marriage, festivals, for ornamental purposes and for offering to deities, etc. In fact, the Indian Hindu calendar even has auspicious days to buy gold like Dhanteras. It is also considered as a symbol of status in our society. All this has helped evolve a great avidity for gold among Indians.
Over 20,000 tonnes of stocks of gold in India are estimated to be lying idle with the Indian households. Mostly, people keep their gold ornaments in safe deposits. Gold Monetization Scheme (GMS), as the name itself suggests, aims at monetizing this idle gold and facilitate the gold depositors to earn interest on their gold. This scheme has replaced the Gold Deposit and Gold Metal Loan Schemes.
A special gold savings account will be provided to each depositor in which he will deposit the gold and earn interest over it. Before accepting the deposit, the specified agency or bank will determine the purity of gold. Collection and Purity Testing Centres have also been established for this purpose. Exact quantity of gold will be credited in the metal account. Gold may be deposited in the form of jewelry, coins or bars. The interest will be paid on the basis of gold weight and also the appreciation of the market value. At the time of making such deposit, the depositor has the option to get back the gold either in the equivalent of 995 fineness gold or Indian rupees. The gold deposits will be securely kept by the bank. They will be accepted under three schemes:
- Short Term, for period of 1-3 years
- Bank Deposit as well as Medium, for a period 5-7 years; and
- Long Term Government Deposit Schemes, for a period of 12-15 years.
The bank will further lend the deposited gold to jewelers at an interest rate slightly higher than the interest paid to the depositor. It may also sell or lend the gold accepted under the short-term bank deposit to MMTC for minting India Gold Coins. Taxes such as capital gains tax, wealth tax and income tax won’t be charged on the earnings appreciation in the value of gold deposited, or on the interest.
At the time of launching the scheme, the Government was highly optimistic about its success. Unfortunately, the scheme hasn’t really taken off till now. It has managed to mobilize only 3.7 tonnes of gold. The critics cite, inter alia, the following main reasons for its failure:
- Firstly, as discussed already, gold has great sentimental value for Indians because of which most of them would be unwilling to be part with their ornaments and other gold possessions which they might have been in their families for generations.
- Secondly, gold may not always be bought with accounted money. Such gold would never be deposited because of obvious reasons.
- Thirdly, there is lack of public awareness. Moreover, before launching the scheme, the Government did not make much effort to find out about the gold consumption habits of people of different regions across the country.
- Fourthly, ‘under-carating’ is also a big deterrent. In India, jewellery and other gold products are less pure than what they should be. This could be a major factor holding back people from depositing their gold items.
- Fifthly, the Collection and Purity Testing Centres are limited in number. Presently, there are only 54 such centres in 30 cities.
- Lastly, the provisions relating to taxation of capital gains and income are ambiguous.
For meeting domestic consumption, India largely depends on imports. In the last financial year, gold imports constituted almost 1.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) and contributed significantly to the current account deficit of 1.4% of GDP. The Gold Monetization Scheme can go a long way in helping the country cut its gold imports and become self-sufficient in gold reserves. It can provide a major boost to the economy. But, to make this scheme a success, the factors which halts its success will have to be taken care of.
While nothing much can be done about the mentality and attitudes of the people as they cannot be changed overnight or even in a matter of few months or years, awareness campaigns must nevertheless be organized. According to an independent researcher Anant, who is also the RBI Chair Professor of Economics at IIM Bangalore, ‘it is necessary to undertake household-level surveys to determine the attitude of households towards gold in different parts of India’. Steps must also be taken to make the scheme more user-friendly. The confusion relating to taxation provisions must be cleared out at the earliest. Reputed jewelers can also be assigned the task of determining the purity of gold items. This will help in making the scheme more market-friendly. Research must be undertaken to find out additional ways to make the scheme more lucrative.
Definitely, the Gold Monetization Scheme has the potential to perform better than the previous schemes though it will take some time to gain traction. We will have to be patient to see whether it helps India, the Golden Sparrow, regain its sheen or not.
Since its establishment in 1935, the Reserve Bank of India or RBI has played a crucial role in protecting the Indian economy from the downturn and helping it to sail smoothly through various crisis. It has always reiterated its economic independence and voiced its opinions fearlessly. There are very few who doubt its credibility. Just as judiciary needs to be kept away from the influence of the Government, the Central Bank also needs to be freed from executive interference so that it can continue to act as a voice of caution and reason. Independence is raison d’être of RBI.
In March 2011, the UPA Government constituted the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) following the reason that a need was felt to club all existing financial laws and regulations and remove regulatory gaps and promote coherence and efficacy. In March 2013, when the Commission came up with its first report, it drew a lot of criticism from the central bank.
The present government came up with a fresh draft of the Indian Financial Code in August, 2015, which was put up in public domain for comments. There were major changes that had been made in the code which, if get implemented later, would have a huge impact on the functioning of the financial sector. The revised Indian Financial Code aims at vesting various boards with the general direction and management of the financial agencies. For instance, the Financial Authority Board and the Reserve Bank Board will be vested with the supervisory power over the Financial Authority and Reserve Bank, respectively. It also provides for the following:
• Creation of a Central Financial Redressal Agency for addressing the grievances of Financial Consumers.
• Prudential regulations of financial firms in order to protect the interest of the financial consumers.
• Establishment of a unified resolution corporation to take care of the winding up of firms suffering from financial failures.
• Single agency for management of government debt.
• Establishment of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) at the central level to look after the matters relating to systematic risk.
• Establishment of a Monetary Policy Committee for deciding policy rates.
The revised draft is also facing censure for a number of reasons. The most controversial aspect of the draft perhaps, is the establishment of Monetary Policy Committee. Presently, RBI and its Governor enjoy absolute power to set the rates. Though they are guided by a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), but the ultimate decision-making power rests with the Governor. However, with the enactment of the IFC, this power will shift into the hands of a 7-member committee comprising of three members appointed by the RBI and four members appointed by the Central Government. The earlier code gave veto power to the RBI Governor to supersede the decision of the committee in unusual and special circumstances. However, no such provision is incorporated in the present draft. Being in the minority in the MPC, RBI would lose its autonomy and thereby, resulting in conflict of interest with the external members. Providing executive with power to control the monetary policy is menace to the economy. The Government mostly pitches for lower rates for boosting economic growth, but RBI’ approach is deemed rationale which would always opt for a feasible policy.
Having MPC is not a bad idea per se. However, more power should rest with the central bank than the Government. According to a former RBI Governor, “There is no problem with the setting up of a MPC. But the ultimate responsibility for setting the interest rates must reside with the RBI Governor because who else can take hard decisions in difficult times.”
In November 2015, the Hindu reported that the Reserve Bank of India and the Finance Ministry had finally agreed to set up a Monetary Policy Committee. However, the proposed committee would have five members instead of seven (recommended earlier by FSLRC) with two government nominees and three RBI nominees. Each member would have one vote and in case of tie, the RBI Governor, also the chair of the committee, will have a casting vote. The inflation target for the RBI in each financial year will be determined by the Government in consultation with the RBI itself. This is a welcome move as it would not only make the latter more accountable as well as transparent in its functioning, but would also ensure its autonomy. Recently, the RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said that the negotiations over the MPC have been completed and soon, the government will table it before Parliament through an amendment. It is hoped that the Government would fulfill its promise and would not downgrade it or in any way, curtail the powers of the central bank.
Crime of rape is the worst of all crimes. It is a crime against humanity which is more heinous than murder as the victim of rape faces social stigma throughout her life. It violates victim’s most cherished of fundamental rights, namely, the right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. While delivering the judgment in 2010 Dhaula Kuan Gang Rape case, the court held, ‘Rape is a serious blow to the honour, dignity and womanhood of the victim and besides causing immense trauma to her, it has an everlasting impact upon her mind as well as soul’. Perpetrator of rape should be dealt severely, even if he is the husband of the victim. Marital relationship cannot and should not be a cover for sexual violence in home. Unfortunately, this is not the case in India. Indian law does not treat marital rape as a crime.
Exception to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 provides that sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, who is not under 15 years of age, is not rape. This section indirectly provides husbands with a “licence to rape” their wives. Thus, the present legal position is that marital rape is not a crime and a husband cannot be punished for raping his wife as consent to sexual intercourse is an implied term of the contract of marriage, and the wife cannot breach that term of the contract. While on one hand, Indian law prevents a girl below 18 years from marrying, but on the other hand, it legalizes marital rape of a wife who is just 15 years of age. When a husband who has murdered his wife not given any kind of legal immunity then why is he spared for raping his wife? Why should any kind of distinction between marital and non-marital rape be allowed to exist? The justification for this exemption can be found in the following statements made by Sir Matthew Hale, C.J in 17th century England:
“The husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract, the wife hath given herself in kind unto the husband, which she cannot retract.”
That was in 17th century when the draconian judgment had been pronounced and today, in 21st century, over 100 countries across the globe have criminalized marital rape, but India is not amongst them. We are still stuck in a rut. Ironically, we find immense pride in calling ourselves one of the oldest civilizations in the world, but in reality, we behave in the most uncivilized manner when there is a question of one’s personal liberty and right. The way we treat our women is a disgrace to the fundamental rights of the Constitution. Sexual violence against women is nothing but a backlash of patriarchy and patriarchy is deep-rooted in our culture. Women have always been regarded as subservient homemakers, with their voices remained silent within four walls and who live only at the mercy of their masters, i.e. their husbands. ‘Manusmriti’, the most authoritative statement on Dharma, says, ‘Men may be lacking virtue, be sexual perverts, immoral and devoid of any good qualities, and yet women must constantly worship and serve their husbands’. Our religious thinkers feel that men have God-given right to use their wives for their sexual entertainment.
Many research studies have been conducted from time-to-time that came to the conclusion that there are several physical, gynecological and psychological consequences associated with marital rape. Hence, they often fail to report abuse in the interest of saving their marriages. More than two-thirds of married women in India, aged 15 to 49, have been beaten, or forced to provide sex. A study conducted in Uttar Pradesh in 2011 found a significant increase in the exposure to physical, emotional and most importantly, sexual violence in women who were admitted to the hospital with a sexually transmitted disease in the last 12 years.
The present law is not only archaic and discriminatory, but also outrageous that it cannot have any place in a civilized society. On one hand, it snatched the right over body from married women, and it has taken legal recourse to get their attackers punished on the other. Many international as well as national organizations have recommended that marital rape be made a crime. But our law makers did not deem it fit to criminalize the same and thereby varying on different opinions. For them, protecting the so-called ‘sacrosanct’ institution of marriage is more important than that of honour, dignity and basic human rights of women, respectively. In December 2015, the Government took a U-turn from its earlier stand over bringing in the crime of marital rape within the ambit of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and announced that it will put forward a comprehensive legislation to criminalize marital rape.
However, there are serious impediments to criminalizing marital rape. Firstly, men’s rights organizations oppose criminalization of marital rape on the grounds that there is rampant misuse of existing women centric laws and criminalizing marital rape would fuel circumstances wherein dissatisfied, angry and vengeful wives harass their husbands and in-laws under the umbrella of statutes. Unfortunately, this is the present scenario and hence, cannot be ignored. If the marital rape is required to be criminalized, its potential misuse will have to be checked so that genuine cases do not suffer from frivolousness. Secondly, it is very difficult to ascertain whether the sexual intercourse in a particular case, is forced or consensual. It becomes even more difficult for the doctor if a long period of time has passed after the occurrence of incidence or there is no accompanying physical violence that could corroborate the occurrence of said incidence. The onus of proving non-consent is also not that easy. The Government should consult widely with medical experts in its process of reforming the present law and procedures. Lastly, despite several debates over the issue of marital rape in the parliaments and in the courts, most of the people have only the faintest and extremely misleading picture of what marital rape actually is. It hasn’t really come out of the closet. There is widespread ignorance among women which is pertaining in our society. Due to fear of stigmatization and societal pressures, victims of marital rape remained silent and thereby accepting the abuse as their fate.
Therefore, what really needs to be changed first before bringing in the new law or amending the existing one is the attitude of the people. It is important for our society to understand ‘marriage does not and cannot mean consent’. We need to hold men accountable for their unacceptable act and stop stigmatizing rape victims. Marital rape is the ugliest form of abuse and it needs to be dealt harshly. It is a grey area of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Criminalizing marital rape is not an option, but the only solution to protect the rights of women.
Foreign Direct Investment or FDI plays an important role in the economic growth of a nation. It contributes a great deal to employment creation, transfer of technology, foreign exchange earnings, and increase in income levels of workers.
When the NDA Government came into power in May 2014, it was faced with a sluggish economy with stagnant sub-5 percent growth, an underperforming manufacturing sector, increasing Consumer Price Index (CPI) and shortfall in foreign investment, etc. According to HSBC, Indian economy was stuck in a rut. In order to revive the economy and put it back on the path of development, the Government took a number of initiatives including campaigns like ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’ and ‘Start-up India’, etc. In November 2015, it introduced major reforms in 15 key sectors of the economy like defence, media, civil aviation and construction with an intent to attract investors from around the globe and to give impetus to the dream of making India ‘a global manufacturing hub’.
FDI norms were relaxed in these sectors so as to promote ease of doing business and simplify the procedure of foreign investments in the country. More and more FDI proposals have been put on automatic route to save time and effort involved in Government route. The limit of Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) has also been increased from Rs. 3000 crore to Rs. 5000 crores. Up to 49% consolidated FDI has been allowed in the defence sector under the automatic route. The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) has been asked to prepare a booklet by consolidating all instructions related to FDI given in different notifications & press notes so that instead of referring to several documents, the investors have to refer to only a single document. Construction Development Sector has been highly liberalized by easing of area restriction norms, reduction of minimum capitalisation and easy exit from projects. Steps have also been taken to boost low-cost affordable housing.
According to the World Investment Report 2015 by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), India was placed at the ninth slot in the list of top 10 countries which attracted the highest FDI in 2014. India has entered into multi-million dollar agreements with many countries and big companies. It sold the exclusive rights to Japan for the construction of the first bullet train, for which the latter has offered a loan of US$ 8.11 billion. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between Foxconn and Maharashtra State government in which the former has agreed to invest US$ 5 billion over the next three years for setting up a manufacturing unit between Mumbai and Pune. Russia’s Rostec has also agreed to form a joint venture with HAL, an Indian PSU for manufacture of Kamov 226T military helicopters in the country. It has provided a major boost the ‘Make in India’ campaign. According to DIPP, India attracted FDI inflows amounting to US$ 44.9 billion during the financial year 2015 as compared to US$ 36.0 billion in the financial year 2014.
However, many challenges still remain. The critics are divided over the success of ‘Make in India’ campaign. Some are of the opinion that the year 2015 was below expectations and the response of foreign investors was lacklustre. But the fact that these reforms have ushered in an array of opportunities cannot be disputed. Optimism among the investors is definitely high. A favourable business environment has been created in the country to attract and keep attracting foreign capital. It is hoped that 2016 will prove to be a better year for FDI than 2015, especially after the latest reforms.