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9 PM for Main examination
- Need of an anti-discrimination law
- Setbacks in relations of India and Nepal
- Fiscal relations in times of COVID
- Public trust in police increases over the years
- COVID-19 and public transport
9 PM for Preliminary examination
1.Need of an anti-discrimination law
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2-Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
Context: Recent revelations made by the former West Indies cricketer Darren Sammy about racist remarks must awaken us to a problem of a society replete with racism.
Prejudice established in society:
- The former Indian cricketer Irfan Pathan pointed to how players from South India routinely faced abuse from crowds in the north.
- Pathan said that racism in our country goes beyond the colourof our skins as it enforces people seeking to buy houses based on their faith. He faced abuses and a cricketer who had represented India on the world stage was asked to prove his loyalty all over again simply on account of his faith.
- Blow against race-neutrality:
- Indirect discrimination: These damages pervade every aspect of life from access to basic goods to education and employment.
- S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Griggs vs. Duke Power Co. (1971): It held that an energy company had fallen foul of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 which made racial discrimination in private workplaces illegal by insisting on a superfluous written test by applicants for its better entry-level jobs. In practice, it allowed the company to victimiseAfrican-Americans.
Our Constitution has dealt with discrimination in public and private spheres.
Discrimination by the state:
- Both direct and indirect forms of discrimination are against India’s constitutional vision of equality.
- Such as the Delhi High Court in Madhu vs. Northern Railway (2018):The Railways had denied free medical treatment to the wife and daughter of an employee as it contended that the employee had “disowned” his family and had had their names struck off his medical card.
- The court held that to make essential benefits such as medical services subject to a declaration by an employee might be “facially neutral” but it produced a disparate impact particularly on women and children.
Discrimination in Private sphere:
- Such as entry barriers to goods such as housing, schools and employment.
- Constitutional basis:Article 15(2) stipulates that citizens shall not on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth be denied access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment.
- Conflict: This right comes into conflict with the rights of persons to associate with others often to the exclusion of certain groups.
- Zoroastrian Cooperative Housing Society vs District Registrar Co-operative Societies (Urban) and Others (2005): The SC ruled in favourof a bye-law of a Parsi housing society that prohibited the sale of property to non-Parsis.
- The judgment conflated the freedom to contract with the constitutional freedom to associate and alsooverlooked altogether Article 15(2).
- The scope in Article 15(2): The word “shops” used in it is meant to be read widely. A study of the Constituent Assembly’s debates on the clause’s framing shows us that the founders explicitly intended to place restrictions on any economic activity that sought to exclude specific groups. For example, when a person refuses to lease her property to another based on the customer’s faith, such a refusal would run directly counter to the guarantee of equality.
Our civil liberties are capable of being threatened by acts of private individuals as well as the state. Our rule of law must subsume an understanding that discrimination partakes different forms.
Attempts to end discrimination:
- Private members bill:It was introduced by Shashi Tharoor in 2017.
- Equality Bill: It was drafted and released by the Centre for Law & Policy Research.
To end discrimination, there is a need of enacting a law that will help reverse our deep-rooted culture of discrimination.
2.Setbacks in relations of India and Nepal
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2- India and its neighbourhood- relations
Context: The lower house of Nepal passed the constitutional amendment ratifying a change in its maps that include Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura.
Issue of contention:
- The territories of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura is controlled by India.
- Resurfacing of issue:
- In 2000 and 2014, India and Nepal agreed to hold talks about Kalapani and Susta, without much success.
- Nepal objected to the depiction of disputed territory: The issue resurfaced in 2019 when New Delhi published new political maps to reflect the changes after the decision to reorganize the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
- The India’s DefenceMinister inaugurated Lipulekh pass to which Nepal protested strongly.
- Role of China: The Indian Army Chief suggested it was at the “behest” of China. Nepal’s purposeful manner in pursuing the amendment at the same time as the India-China border stand-off further bolsters the belief.
- Diplomatic failure: India contends that it was willing to discuss matters at a mutually convenient date but Nepal says the MEA has rejected two dates suggested by Nepal and has routinely dismissed requests from the Nepal Ambassador for a meeting with the Foreign Secretary. It was further enraged by the MEA who said Kalapani talks could wait until both countries had dealt with the coronavirus pandemic first.
Need to Resolve issue:
- Two nations must resolve their issues through dialogue before facing serious consequences.
- Security issue for India:The deteriorating relations could cause a security nightmare for India if it opens up other parts of their long boundary and reverses old commitments on open and unsecured border posts.
India and Nepal need to move quickly to reverse the recent setback to ties.
3.Fiscal relations in times of COVID
Source – Indian Express
Syllabus – GS-2 Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Context – Covid exposes limits of centralized approach of government where Finance Commission must reset the balance in fiscal federalism.
The 15th Finance Commission is expected to submit its report in about four months from now and amid the pandemic has to deal with the following issues:
- Increased debt to GDP ratio– Factoring in the additional borrowings, the debt-to-GDP ratio may well be over 80 per cent this year. Thus the fiscal consolidation roadmap will have to be reworked, and as per its terms of reference, the Finance Commission will lay out the new path to be followed by both Centre and states.
- State borrowings– Recently, the Centre eased the states’ budget constraint, allowing them to borrow more this year, conditional upon them implementing reforms in line with the Centre’s priorities. Finance Commission, in line with its terms of reference, can go along with the Centre’s stance and recommend imposing conditions on additional borrowing and formalize this arrangement.
- GST compensation cess– The GST council, in which the Centre effectively has a veto, is yet to clearly spell out its views on the extension of the compensation cess to offset states losses beyond the five-year period. At a time when the Centre is struggling to fulfill its promise of assuring states their GST revenues, will the Commission argue in favour of extending the compensation period, as states desire is another major challenge.
- Tax devolution to states– The fiscal multiplier of central government capital spending is greater than that by the states. Also, Centralization of political power may well lead to demands for centralization of resources. Thus, centre would want reduced share of tax devolution.
Way Forward – Any attempt to shift the uneasy balance in favour of the Centre will strengthen the argument that the government’s talk of cooperative federalism serves as a useful mask to hide its centralizing tendencies. As a neutral arbiter of Centre-state relations, the Finance Commission should seek to maintain the delicate balance in deciding on contesting claims.
4.Public trust in police increases over the years
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS-2- Role of civil services in a democracy
Context: IANS-C voter tracking survey showed, public trust in the police has increased from around 30% to almost 70% between 2018 and 2020.
Role of Police during Covid-19 pandemic:
The Indian police has played a multifaceted role during the Covid-19 lockdown which has increased public trust on the institution. The functions played by police during Covid-19 lockdown are as follows:
- guarding containment zones,
- monitoring thousands of home quarantines,
- door-to-door help to elderly and isolated,
- distribute food to women’s shelters,
- ferry medication and essential commodities to remote tribal communities,
- assist stranded workers or facilitate their safe passage home.
- Launch helplines and conduct awareness programs
Police and Public trust issues:
- Police misconduct: The lack of effective accountability mechanisms and periodic review of performance has misplaced the public’s confidence in the police.
- Lack of proper justice:Due to corruption in the police system and poor criminal investigation process, people tend to lose trust on police system.
- Police Brutality: In the recent years, there have instances of police brutality. For example, Faizancase during the Delhi riots, 2020.
Other issues in the Police system:
- Archaic Police Act:Police is an exclusive subject under the State List (List II, Schedule 7 of the Indian Constitution). Most of the states follow the archaic Indian Police Act 1861 with a few alterations.
- Low police-to-population ratio:The global average ratio of police-population is 270 to 100,000, where it’s 120 in India. The police system is thus highly understaffed and overburdened.
- Modernization: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report “Compendium on Performance Audit Reviews on Modernisation of Police Force” highlighted that the police force continues to depend on outdated and unserviceable weapons.
|Supreme Court directions in Prakash Singh vs Union of India 2006|
The Supreme Court had put forward a slew of recommendations as follows:
· Constitute a State Security Commission in every state to lay down policy for police functioning, evaluate police performance, and ensure that state governments do not excessively influence on the police.
· Constitute a Police Establishment Board in every state to decide postings, transfers and promotions of officers below rank of DSP.
· Constitute Police Complaints Authorities to inquire allegations of police misconduct
· minimum tenure of at least two years for the DGP
· Separate the investigating police from the law and order police
Way Forward: The challenges faced by the police system requires immediate attention from the government and reforms should be initiated at the earliest. The concept of Strict and Sensitive, Modern and Mobile, Alert and Accountable, Reliable and Responsive; Techno-savvy and Trained (SMART) policing introduced in 2014 is a step-in right direction.
5.COVID-19 and public transport
Source – The Hindu
Syllabus – GS 3 – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc
Context – Based on opinion surveys, a significant drop in public transport ridership can be expected for months after easing the lockdown.
India closed its public transport during shutdown which is considered as one of the most lethal public places to promote the community transmission of virus.
Reasons for the apprehensions associated with public transport system are:
- Contact based commutation– Possibility of viral transmission through tokens, tickets, push buttons on lifts, and handrails at the station elevators are high as contact-less commutation is absent in India.
- Crowding– The population boom and the non-availability of enough numbers of pubic vehicle for commutation led to high crowding in the few available transport systems. This makes social distancing a mere rhetoric in public vehicles.
- Indoor-like environment– Correlation to the effect of air conditioning airflow has also been established based on precise seating locations of those infected at a restaurant and at a call centre which holds true for air conditioned buses and metro rails also.
- Absence of culture of hygiene – Bathrooms with water availability and other hand sanitizing facilities are not there in majority of bus, railway or metro stations.
All these challenges has the potential that people shift from public to private mode of transport which will have following implications:
- Increase in fuel consumption and thus, more air pollution.
- Heavy traffic, more noise pollution and longer commutation time.
- Increase in number of accidents and human lives lost in such accidents.
Suggested solutions to promote culture of hygiene in public transport systems:
- Contact-less commutation – This involves compulsory use of cards or e-ticketing. The regular sanitization of handrails, handgrips, and buttons on lift by the newly hired staff will create more hygienic public stations. Signs on hand hygiene vis-a-vis touching surfaces are needed.
- Increasing fleet of public transport– This is a solution which also solves the issue of increasing air pollution on account of use of private vehicles by people. With more buses and more metros the social distancing would be easier to practice.
- Creating outdoor-like environment– AC buses and metro rail AC systems could be changed to High Efficiency Particulate Air filters with frequent circulation of fresh air.
- Social influence and persuasion – Leaders need to come forward to persuade people to use all needed measures to prevent the spread of virus through touching, sneezing in public etc.
Way Forward – Actions are needed from both authorities and the public to keep our public transport systems safe. Our buses and trains must be perceived as safe, so it is vital to assure ourselves that public transport is for the public – not the virus.
9 PM for Preliminary examination
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