22nd November 2019
TOPIC: Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure. (Paper II)
Discuss the draconian Beggary laws.
Two centuries of colonial rule visited many cruelties upon Indians. One form that this took was the criminalization and stigmatism of entire populations that did not “fit in” to a certain, narrow way of life.
- Through laws such as the Criminal Tribes Act, indigenous peoples were deemed criminals by birth and herded into concentration camps, where families were separated and forced labour was the norm.
- While independence and the Constitution were supposed to herald a new dawn, the reality turned out to be different.
- The post-colonial Indian state replicated many of the worst excesses of the British regime, one example of such being the beggary laws.
The Beggary laws:
- Beggary law was enacted in 1958 in Bombay and later extended to many States and UTs.
- These draconian laws criminalise itinerant and nomadic communities i.e., effectively anyone who does not fit the State’s definition of a “normal” citizen.
- Beggary laws go substantially beyond criminalizing the act of begging, they criminalise people who are wandering about and who look like they might need to beg at some point.
- It is evident that the purpose of such provisions is not to protect public peace or prevent crimes, but to effectively “cleanse” these spaces of individuals who appear poor or destitute.
- The substance of these laws is worsened by the process.
- People found begging can be arrested without a warrant, and after a summary procedure, thrown into “beggars home” for anything between a year and three years.
- Upon a “second offence”, the punishment could extend up to seven years.
- Chief Justice observed that by effectively criminalizing poverty, the beggary law violated basic human dignity.
- The legislation, it noted, was steeped in prejudice against poverty and premised on an absolute presumption of potential criminality of those faced with choicelessness and undeserved want of those who have no support at all, institutional or otherwise and are bereft of resources of any kind.
- This, coupled with the draconian processes under the Act, violated the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The beggary laws belong to the family of punitive constitutionalism. The Jammu and Kashmir high court’s judgment, which explicitly premised upon the unconstitutionality of “invisiblising” a social problem by criminalizing it shows us the exact way in which our Constitution rejects this harsh world view.
22nd November 2019
TOPIC: Indian Economy (Paper III)
Discuss India’s decision on not joining RCEP and its implications.
India decided not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). This decision can be seen in the lens of experiences countries have had with free trade agreements (FTAs).
- Some have argued that by not signing the RCEP, Indian exporters would miss on exporting to RCEP countries.
- India has FTAs with the ASEAN, Japan, and South Korea. Three-fourths of the bilateral trade already happens zero duty.
- India also has a small preferential trade agreement with China.
- The mere signing of an FTA does not guarantee an increase in exports.
- If import duty in the partner country is high, there is a likelihood of an increase in exports by 10% when this duty becomes zero.
- But the chances of exports increasing are low if the import duty of the partner country is low at 1-3%.
- FTAs are of no use for exporting to Singapore, Hong Kong as regular import duties are zero.
- FTAs with Malaysia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, etc. benefit few product groups only as more than 60% of imports into these countries happen at zero duty for all countries.
- Even the high import duties coming down to zero through the FTAs do not guarantee exports. Japan reduced duty from 10% to zero for Indian apparels through an FTA in 2011. But India’s apparel exports to Japan have nosedived from $255 million in 2010 to $152 million in 2018.
- Non-tariff barriers to trade (NTBs) such as special sourcing requirements are generally not negotiated in FTAs. Countries have to resolve these bilaterally.
Flow of Investment
- Many argue that a lower import duty regime help in getting significant investments.
- Australia, in 1987, produced 89% of the cars it used. It protected the car industry through a high 45% import duty. But the share of locally produced vehicles came down as the duties were reduced.Today, Australia imports nearly all cars as tariffs came further down to a 5% level. Most manufacturers such as Nissan, Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Mitsubishi, etc. which produced cars in Australia shut shop.
- India could attract significant investments in the car sector on account of high import duties. This resulted in the development of an indigenous car and auto component industry. India can think of lowering import duties to promote competition.
- Most investments are a result of the package, such as tax cuts, cheap land, power, etc. offered by the host country.
- If a country is not the most efficient economy, some level of an import wall helps in getting external investments. Without an import wall, many firms may shift production to the more efficient FTA partner countries for exporting back to the home market.
- The quality of investments increases as a country moves towards becoming a more efficient economy. Such countries are in an ideal position to become a manufacturing and services hub.
- The FTAs can ensure market access to only the right quality products at competitive prices.
- Improvement in firm-level competitiveness is a must.
- The government can lower duties on raw materials and intermediates than on the concerned finished products.
- It can set up an elaborate quality and standards infrastructure for essential products.