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4th January

Both India and China have a role to play in political transition in Afghanistan.
It does not have to be a zero sum game. But it is not essential that we must
agree on all of the key issues, before we start cooperating.

Good governance is not just about policy but about integrating science and
technology into the choices we make.

Recently-constituted International Solar Alliance a global initiative of top


industrialists from Bill Gates to Mukesh Ambani were key measures to
achieve a low-carbon, sustainable energy future.

We are at the cusp of a new era, where oceans will become important drivers
of our economies. Their sustainable use can bring prosperity; and, give us
clean energy, new medicines and food security beyond just fisheries.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) too has understood the importance of the
fintech boom. It recently announced the introduction of a technology
competition. It has invited startups and individuals to build innovations to
prevent fraud, bring convenience to customers and use emerging
technologies for payments.

In the wider banking context, technology is enabling more effective, lower


cost delivery of corporate financial services, facilitating rapid and seamless
payments, enhancing the retail customer experience, and increasingly,
allowing increased access to financial services among the hitherto excluded.

Anytime, anywhere banking, using differentiated channels and technology,


will enable a multi-fold increase of reach in rural and remote areas. Coupled
with the emergence of a new class of banksthe small and payments banks
one of the biggest impacts of technology adoption will be rapidly
accelerating financial inclusion by making last-mile access more cost
effective and expanding the reach of banking to the unbanked.

Kerala Liquor Prohibition: Regardless of what our respective moral positions


on policies of prohibition might be, and regardless of the potential efficacy of
such programmes, the new law, as is only plainly evident, militates against
the fundamental promise of equal concern and treatment under the
Constitution. Equality, as the legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin once wrote, is
a contested concept. But it is however, in its abstract form, a solemn
constitutional pledge that underpins our democracy. The Supreme Court, in
some of its earliest decisions, interpreted Article 14 as forbidding altogether
any law that seeks to make distinctions based on class, except where

reasonable classifications are made in a manner that does no violence to the


provisions core promise. The court also crystallised a basic two-prong test to
determine what constitutes such a classification: there must be, it held, an
intelligible differentia, which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped
together from others left out of the group, and this differentia must have a
rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the law in question.

The resource curse phenomenon is very much at work in countries such as


Nigeria, where the wealth of natural resources has not empowered the local
communities, but has fuelled social conflict instead.

Transformational changes were already suggested last year by the Shanta


Kumar panel for food and fertiliser subsidies and restructuring the Food
Corporation of Indias role. The key recommendations were to move towards
cash transfers and outsource much of the storage functions to the private
sector. If these suggestions were implemented in earnest, one could have
plugged massive leakages in the PDS, saved large resources that could have
been ploughed back into irrigation, raised productivity and moved towards
better drought-proofing.

The existing crop insurance system system isnt serving peasants well. It
needs to be recast. Crop damages need to be assessed in a few days with the
help of automatic weather stations (AWS), satellites, drones and low-earth
orbits (LEOs). Compensation should be sent directly to farmers accounts,
with digitised farm records locked-in with Jan Dhan accounts, Aadhaar and
mobile numbers.