Important Articles from The Indian Express Newspaper October 8, 2020

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1) Goals and penalties-

GS 2- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability


  1. There’s the company, the Board and now, the Real Board.
  2. Facebook Inc, under the scanner for how its flagship platform and other products (Instagram, WhatsApp) have been used to manipulate elections and spread misinformation, set up an Oversight Board in November last year.
  3. Its purpose, broadly: To provide more accountability by serving as a sort of final court of appeal over posts which have been flagged by users and removed by the algorithm and/or mediators.
  4. The severe limitations of this largely internal mechanism has led a group of civil society activists — including Facebook’s former head of election security — to form “The Real Facebook Oversight Board” to hold the company to account as the US elections take place.


  1. The Real Board’s role will be to exercise, at best, moral pressure. This pressure is needed. Because, quite simply, Facebook hasn’t done enough.
  2. First, the company’s oversight board is little more than a sophisticated(advanced) form of customer service.
  3. Real oversight is almost impossible when those doing the overseeing draw their paychecks from the company they are meant to hold to account.
  4. Second, and more importantly, the Facebook Oversight Board will not be functional in time for the US presidential elections.
  5. Now, the Real Board is asking Facebook to institute measures against posts inciting violence, ban ads that mention election results before the official announcement, and label posts about the election results before the results as premature.
  6. These are reasonable demands. They may also be naive.
  7. Quite a few of the members of the Real Board are leaders of the #StopHateForProfit campaign.
  8. But in Facebook’s case, it is important to understand that human monitoring of the sheer volume of data produced by users is next to impossible.
  9. And the algorithms that keep users hooked, like the profit motive, are amoral.
  10. Oversight, external or internal, will only make a real difference if it imposes pecuniary(money) penalties, not PR ones, and forces a change in the goal of the algorithm itself.


The ‘Real Facebook Oversight Board’ is an attempt at putting moral pressure to act against fake news. But it may not work.

2) Lessons for Recovery-

GS 3- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment


  1. Former central bankers Viral Acharya and Raghuram Rajan recently released a paper titled “Indian Banks: A time to reform”.
  2. Among other things, they argue that when there are fewer bids in a bankruptcy auction, the value on loans is better realised if a bad bank (read an asset reconstruction company) takes over the borrower and places the firm under new management.
  3. The ARC(asset reconstruction company) could parachute(appoint) a team of top managers to replace the promoter and her top aides.
  4. This situation is even more likely during an economic crisis when experienced industry players are unable to pay a reasonable price for the firm.
  5. This would effectively put an ARC in the role of a private equity manager.


  1. These arguments have a bearing on the ongoing debate regarding an ARC’s role in insolvency resolution.
  2. Going by the stance taken by the RBI, an ARC can participate in resolutions under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) only if it partners with an equity investor, which is the resolution applicant.
  3. If the application succeeds, the equity investor would acquire the shares, while the ARC trust would acquire the debt.
  4. Some stakeholders, however, prefer a simpler arrangement — why not let ARCs directly invest in the equity of distressed companies through IBC resolution just like private equity funds?
  5. The RBI doesn’t appear to favour such an extended role for ARCs. This hesitation is not without basis.
  6. In the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis, countries like Indonesia, Korea and Malaysia established centralised, typically state-owned, asset management companies (AMCs) for resolution or restructuring of distressed financial institutions.
  7. At that time, India’s non-performing assets stood at a whopping 14.4 per cent. This meant enhanced provisioning requirement for banks which severely constrained their ability to extend credit.
  8. The absence of an effective bankruptcy system posed additional challenges.
  9. It was in this context that the Narasimham Committee (1998) recommended setting up an ARC specifically for purchasing NPAs from banks and financial institutions.
  10. Subsequently, the SARFAESI Act, 2002 created the legal framework for establishing multiple private ARCs.


  1. With the advantage of hindsight, it is now evident that this policy achieved only modest success.
  2. The RBI’s Financial Stability Report (June 2019) indicates fairly low recovery for banks through the ARC model between 2004 and 2018.
  3. The maximum average recovery by ARCs as a percentage of total bank claims stood at 21.5 per cent in 2010.
  4. Since then, it has steadily declined and reached 2.3 per cent in 2018. Such low recovery is likely the outcome of a resolution model heavily dependent on collateral disposal rather than genuine business turnarounds.
  5. In 2002, India lacked an effective bankruptcy system. There was no market for corporate control of distressed firms.
  6. ARCs were originally designed for this peculiar institutional ecosystem.
  7. They were required to hand over the distressed business back to the original promoter once they had generated enough value to repay the debt.
  8. Consequently, ARCs had little incentive to turn around distressed businesses. This situation completely changed in 2016.
  9. Now the IBC seeks to maximise the value of distressed businesses through a market for corporate control.
  10. ARCs should be able to fully participate in this market and attempt successful turnarounds by acquiring strategic control over distressed businesses.


  1. A company that undergoes IBC resolution successfully, emerges solvent.
  2. In a solvent company, shareholders have stronger incentives than creditors to maximise enterprise value.
  3. This is because an increase in enterprise value automatically increases the value of its equity.
  4. In contrast, creditors do not benefit from increases in enterprise value beyond their individual claims.
  5. If ARCs could hold more equity instead of debt in the resolved company, they would also have a stronger incentive to take strategic control to ensure successful turn around.
  6. The law should therefore enable ARCs to invest in a distressed company’s equity, whether by infusing fresh capital or by converting debt into equity.
  7. Effectively, an ARC should act more like a private equity fund, as Acharya and Rajan envision.
  8. This in turn would make the market for corporate control under IBC deeper and more liquid, improving ex-ante recovery rates for banks.
  9. To appreciate how this market could work, consider the role played by hedge funds in the American distressed debt market.
  10. In the 1980s and early 1990s, market dynamics coupled with deregulation fuelled an active market for trading claims in companies undergoing resolution under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code.
  11. This market provided better opportunities than equity markets for acquiring control of distressed businesses. Consequently, it attracted hedge funds.
  12. Hedge funds hired entrepreneurs with industry expertise who could play a more active role in turning around distressed companies.
  13. Over time, these hedge funds had a salutary impact on turnarounds under Chapter 11.


  1. Distressed debt investors could similarly turnaround failing Indian businesses under the aegis of the IBC.
  2. Currently, investors could potentially use three kinds of domestic investment vehicles — Alternative Investment Funds, Non-Banking Finance Companies and ARCs — to invest in companies undergoing IBC resolution.
  3. While AIFs can invest in debt as well as equity subject to certain limitations, they don’t enjoy enforcement rights under SARFAESI Act, 2002.
  4. NBFCs enjoy the enforcement rights but are subject to provisioning norms for NPAs they purchase from banks.
  5. None of these limitations applies to ARCs.
  6. If only ARCs are allowed to directly participate in IBC resolutions by infusing equity, they could emerge as the most efficient vehicle for turning around distressed Indian businesses.

3) Good Laws in Bad Times-

GS 2- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

 To recognise that a lot of agricultural trade takes place outside APMCs is sensible. To think that all that happens under good conditions is silly.

  1. To know that arhtiyas are important in Indian agricultural markets is sensible.
  2. To know that they are a part of the supply chain in the north-west part of the country is also important.
  3. However, arhtiyas cannot dare to take on the FCI and the mai baap sarkar. Moreover, such arrangements do not work in other parts of the country.
  4. At the same time, to say that e-markets and farmer-managed companies are the way ahead is correct but to suggest that they are dominant rural organisations today, two decades later, is childish.


  1. Agriculture is the one good performing sector this year. We need to strengthen it, not feed off its glory.
  2. India has the largest spread of agricultural markets in the world, according to spatial maps. But these markets are not APMCs.
  3. Without first-stage processing, in the absence of other infrastructure and with thin markets in commodities other than grains, the farmer knows he is at the mercy of the trader — he takes to the streets when his predicament is not recognised, especially when his traditional exploiters are given the upper hand.
  4. No wonder, farmers in Punjab have taken to the streets.
  5. Policy can achieve a lot, but some caution in a bad non-agricultural year won’t hurt anyone.
  6. In a normal year, one would have suggested that if there are markets in place, the state should leverage them.
  7. But this year, the state will have to fight the pandemic and will not have the time to intervene with that selective touch.
  8. It will be good to create a few more FMCs, but I do not think they will become the dominant form of rural organisation this year.


  1. For starters, why not ask the Niti Aayog to write an implementation plan for the farm bills after giving a hearing to various parties — the Aayog’s member Ramesh Chand knows about MSPs and APMCs and the agency’s vice-chairman, Rajiv Kumar, understands the trade aspect of agriculture.
  2. Of course, the Essential Commodities Act should be ditched (thrown) along with the medical waste of the virus.
  3. And, next year, we can use these good laws we have always wanted. Good laws are harbingers of progress.
  4. Those who disagree should make their case. If they do so without sloganeering, we may actually progress.

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