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The Hindu Editorial

24-February-2024

1. Courts must act against governments issuing blocking orders on social media content

Topic: GS2 –  Indian Polity – Judiciary GS2 –  Governance – Important aspects of governance  – Transparency and accountabilityUPSC candidates need to grasp the significance as it involves democratic values, governance challenges, and free speech implications in India.
Context
  • The article highlights concerns over the arbitrary use of internet shutdowns and social media curbs by BJP-led governments in Haryana and Rajasthan during farmer protests.
  • It also discusses Twitter’s, now X, changing stance under Elon Musk’s ownership, raising worries about free speech and government influence.
Introduction:
  • Internet shutdowns and curbs on free speech via social media are increasingly employed by those in power.
  • Recent instances in Haryana, Rajasthan, and at the national level in India highlight arbitrary use of such measures against farmer protests.
Arbitrary Internet Shutdowns:
  • Bharatiya Janata Party-led State governments of Haryana and Rajasthan employed Internet shutdowns without clear justification.
  • Shutdowns lacked adequate cause, using vague reasons related to potential law and order breakdown.
  • Actions failed proportionality tests outlined by the Supreme Court in Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India case.
Union Government’s Social Media Control:
  • Union government issued notices to social media companies, including X (formerly Twitter), to block accounts without transparent reasons.
  • X previously challenged blocking orders during 2020-21 farmer protests, indicating resistance to blanket blocking without clear grounds.
  • X, under Elon Musk’s ownership, stopped publishing transparency reports, eliminating insight into legal requests from Indian state agencies.
Elon Musk’s Influence on X:
  • Post Elon Musk’s takeover, X shifted from a platform promoting free speech and discussion to aligning with owner’s views and business interests.
  • X’s decision to withhold flagged content without disagreement signalled a departure from being a thriving platform for free speech.
Karnataka High Court’s Troubling Judgment:
  • Karnataka High Court’s judgment dismissed X’s petition challenging blocking orders during farmer protests.
  • Single-judge decision granted government authorities wide discretion in issuing content blocking orders without providing notices or valid reasoning.
  • X’s ongoing appeal in the High Court aims to clarify social media companies’ rights and obligations regarding content on their platforms.
Government’s Indifference to Democratic Values:
  • Government actions raise concerns about the impact on India’s reputation as a free, open, and democratic society.
  • Lack of government concern suggests a disregard for the implications of such actions on the country’s global standing and social media companies’ operations.
Conclusion:
  • The situation underscores the need for clarity on the rights and obligations of social media platforms in India.
  • X’s appeal in the Karnataka High Court is crucial in defining the boundaries between government authority and free speech on digital platforms.
Internet Shutdowns and Implications On Free Speech
Instances of Internet Shutdowns in India:
  • Number: According to the SFLC.in Internet Shutdowns Tracker, between January 2012 and February 2024, India has experienced 805 government-imposed internet shutdowns, the highest globally.
  • Frequency: In the first half of 2023, India accounted for 58% of all documented internet shutdowns globally, according to Access Now.
Implications of Internet Shutdowns on Free Speech:
  • Direct Silencing: Shutdowns prevent individuals from expressing themselves online, hindering their right to free speech and assembly.
  • Limited Access to Information: People lose access to news, diverse viewpoints, and opportunities to learn and participate in public discourse.
  • Disruption of Daily Life: Shutdowns affect businesses, education, healthcare, and communication, causing economic and social hardships.
  • Chilling Effect: Fear of future shutdowns instills self-censorship and discourages critical voices from speaking up.
  • Undermining Trust: Frequent shutdowns erode public trust in government and weaken democratic institutions.
Way Forward:
  • Open Dialogue: Promote open discussions between governments, citizens, and civil society to address concerns and develop alternative solutions.
  • Proportionality & Legality: Establish clear legal frameworks ensuring internet restrictions are necessary, proportionate, and time-bound.
  • Independent Oversight: Create independent bodies to monitor internet shutdowns and hold authorities accountable for violations.
  • Technological Solutions: Invest in technologies that allow for targeted restrictions on specific content rather than complete shutdowns.
  • International Cooperation: Develop international frameworks and norms promoting open and accessible internet environments.
PYQ: Use of Internet and social media by non-state actors for subversive activities is a major concern. How these have misused in the recent past? Suggest effective guidelines to curb the above threat. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2016)
Practice Question:  Discuss the impact of internet shutdowns on freedom of speech and their implications on society. Suggest effective strategies for governments to balance security concerns with the protection of fundamental rights. (250 words/15 m)

2. Changing the growth paradigm

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy – Inclusive growth, Issues relating to development and employment
GS2 – Governance – Government policies Critical for UPSC as it addresses India’s economic model flaws, inequality, climate concerns, urging holistic, sustainable solutions.
Context
  • The article critiques India’s overemphasis on GDP growth, highlighting its failure to provide decent jobs and growing inequality.
  • It proposes a shift towards inclusive, sustainable development, urging a return to local solutions and community-driven innovations, particularly in rural India.
 The Governor’s Concerns: India’s Economic Health and GDP Growth
  • The Governor of the Reserve Bank of India expresses concern about the Indian economy’s health in an open letter to the Finance Minister.
  • Emphasizes that increased GDP doesn’t necessarily improve citizens’ well-being if income distribution remains unequal.
  • Highlights the failure of the Indian economy to provide decent jobs despite impressive GDP growth.
Critique of GDP as a Sole Indicator
  • Questions the prevailing emphasis on GDP growth as the primary measure of economic health.
  • Argues that the focus on increasing the size of the economic pie before redistribution has led to growing inequality.
  • Notes the lack of consensus among economists on measuring citizen well-being, poverty, employment, and adequate income.
Inequitable Growth and Flawed Development Model
  • Highlights that India is becoming one of the most unequal countries globally due to a flawed model of economic progress.
  • Points out that regardless of the political party in power, successive Indian governments have prioritized GDP growth since 1991.
  • Indicates that structural conditions causing inequitable growth have not improved and, in fact, have worsened over time.
Inclusive and Sustainable Development
  • Discusses the global paradigm of economic development, which typically involves a progression from agriculture to industry and then to services.
  • Challenges the “one path for all” model that views villages and farms negatively, advocating for a more inclusive and sustainable approach.
  • Acknowledges the need for India to address the global climate crisis while pursuing economic growth.
The Role of Fossil Fuels in Modern Economy
  • Identifies steel, concrete, plastics, and food production as dependent on fossil fuels, with alternatives in the pipeline but requiring significant time for implementation.
  • Emphasizes the integral role of fossil fuels in the production and distribution of food to meet the needs of the growing global population.
Local Solutions and Systems Thinking
  • Advocates for local systems solutions developed cooperatively by communities as a way to address global systemic problems.
  • Cites the Gandhian solution for India’s economic and social progress, suggesting a return to local solutions and community-driven development.
  • Urges policymakers to free themselves from Western-dominated economic theories and emphasizes the potential for rural India to lead in innovations for inclusive and sustainable growth.
Conclusion and Call for Paradigm Shift
  • The letter by the RBI Governor stresses the need for a paradigm shift in India’s economic development approach.
  • Urges a departure from Western-dominated economic theories and a return to local, community-driven solutions for inclusive and sustainable growth.
  • Proposes rural Bharat as a potential source of innovations in institutions and policies for the benefit of the world.
Critique of GDP as a Primary Economic Indicator
  • Nobel Laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen are prominent critics of using GDP as the sole indicator of economic health.
  • They argue that focusing solely on GDP growth can lead to policies that exacerbate inequality and environmental degradation while neglecting crucial aspects of human well-being.
  • Ignores Distribution: GDP doesn’t reveal how wealth is distributed within a society. A high GDP might co-exist with widespread poverty and inequality.
  • Excludes Informal Economy: It often underestimates economic activity in the informal sector, like street vendors and childcare, contributing significantly in many countries.
  • Environmental Costs: GDP growth might come at the expense of environmental degradation, which isn’t factored in. Pollution and resource depletion aren’t reflected as negative aspects.
  • Focuses on Quantity, not Quality: It prioritizes the production of goods and services, regardless of their quality or impact on well-being. This can lead to a focus on cheap, unsustainable products.
  • Ignores Social Progress: It doesn’t capture social aspects like education, healthcare, and social cohesion, crucial for well-being and development.
  • Limited Future Value: GDP doesn’t consider long-term sustainability and future generations’ needs.
Way Forward:
  • Develop and utilize complementary indicators: Advocate for complementary measures like the Human Development Index (HDI) which considers factors like life expectancy, education, and income alongside economic growth.
  • Focus on inclusive and sustainable growth: Policies should prioritize equitable distribution of wealth, environmental sustainability, and social progress alongside economic growth.
  • Invest in social well-being: Increased investment in areas like education, healthcare, and social safety nets is crucial for overall well-being.
  • Promote public discourse: Encouraging open dialogue and public debate about economic development goals and the metrics used to measure them is essential.
PYQ: What are the salient features of ‘inclusive growth’? Has India been experiencing such a growth process? Analyze and suggest measures for inclusive growth.  (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2017)
Practice Question:  In the context of India’s economic development, discuss the limitations of the GDP-centric approach and propose alternative strategies for inclusive and sustainable growth. (250 words/15 m)

3. The NB8 visit to India focuses on cooperation and trust.

Topic: GS2 – International Relations
The Nordic-Baltic cooperation’s engagement in Raisina Dialogue signifies global partnerships, economic dynamics, and strategic collaboration with India, relevant for UPSC.
Context
  • The article highlights the active participation of Nordic-Baltic countries in the Raisina Dialogue.
  • It emphasizes their economic significance, shared values, and diverse collaboration with India across various fields, including trade, innovation, and addressing global challenges.
 Introduction:
  • The Nordic-Baltic cooperation, comprising Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, and Sweden, is actively participating in the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi.
  • The NB8 nations share deep historical, social, economic, and cultural ties, with advanced, outward-looking, and innovation-driven economies.
  • These countries are fully integrated into the European Common Market, and their combined economic size qualifies them for not only the G-20 but also the G-10.
Common Values and Commitments:
  • The Nordic-Baltic countries are bound by a commitment to democracy and human rights, advocating for an international order based on multilateralism and adherence to international law.
  • They serve as champions of a rules-based global system, reflecting shared values that underpin their cooperation.
Diverse Areas of Collaboration:
  • The cooperation between the Nordic-Baltic region and India spans a multitude of fields, showcasing the breadth of their engagement.
  • Collaboration includes areas such as innovation, green transition, maritime affairs, health, intellectual property rights, new technologies, space cooperation, artificial intelligence, student exchanges, culture, and tourism.
Economic Integration and Potential:
  • The Nordic-Baltic economies are fully integrated into the European Common Market, reflecting their economic prowess.
  • The combined size of these economies not only qualifies them for the G-20 but also positions them favourably within the G-10, emphasizing their economic significance on the global stage.
Increasing Trade and Investment:
  • Trade and investment figures between the Nordic-Baltic region and India are on a steady rise, indicating a deepening economic engagement.
  • This trend reflects the mutual benefits derived from their collaboration and the potential for further economic integration.
Interconnected Regions:
  • The Nordic-Baltic region and the Indo-Pacific are interconnected, emphasizing the importance of collaborative efforts to uphold international law and address both traditional and non-traditional security threats.
  • Working together becomes essential to navigate shared challenges and contribute to global peace and stability.
Support for Ukraine and Global Implications:
  • The ongoing war in Ukraine has far-reaching global implications, impacting food and energy security, supply chains, macro-financial stability, inflation, and overall economic growth.
  • The Nordic-Baltic countries express support for Ukraine’s diplomatic efforts for peace, welcoming the involvement of an increasing number of countries and international organizations in peace formula meetings.
Objective of the Visit to India:
  • The primary objective of the Nordic-Baltic countries’ visit to India is to foster increased dialogue and cooperation on issues that dominate India’s and other global partners’ agendas.
  • This underlines the commitment to deepening ties and addressing shared challenges through collaborative efforts on a global scale.
Conclusion:
  • The Nordic-Baltic cooperation’s active participation in the Raisina Dialogue reflects a commitment to shared values, economic integration, and addressing global challenges.
  • The diverse areas of collaboration with India underscore the multifaceted nature of their partnership, emphasizing the potential for further growth and mutual benefits in the future.
Practice Question:  Examine the significance of the Nordic-Baltic cooperation’s collaboration with India in addressing shared challenges and fostering economic integration on the global stage. (150 words/10 m)

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