Updates on Parliament and state Governance
This section will provide you with updates on Central Governance and state Governance :
Governance News and updates
Declassification of War Histories – Challenges of Credibility
Synopsis: Challenges of credibility in the declassification of war history should be addressed. So that it can help us to analyse lessons learnt by the history and prevent future mistakes.
- Recently, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced the declassification of India’s war history.
- It enables the archiving, declassifying, and compiling of India’s war histories, which has been overdue for a long time.
- The Kargil Review Committee headed by K Subrahmanyam as well as the NN Vohra Committee suggested the requirement of a clear-cut policy on declassification of war records.
- Further, the responsibility for declassification of records is specified in the Public Record Act 1993 and Public Record Rules 1997. The policy mandates that records should ordinarily be declassified in 25 years
- Declassification of Military history will help to analyse lessons learnt and prevent future mistakes.
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What needs to be done to produce a credible war history document?
- One, in the war histories document, the directives given by political heads during war and conflicts should be compiled along with operational accounts of the Indian military.
- However, political directives are not included. It is the reason for the Indian Army’s reluctance to declassify the Henderson Brooks Report.
- The report considers only operational failures during the 1962 war with China. Thus, It does not clarify the role of political leaders involved at that time.
- On the other hand, several histories of the Vietnam War are now considered to be credible. Because researchers have had access not only to operational accounts but also to archived discussions between the political architects of the conflict.
- Two, compilation and analysis of events at multiple levels i.e., headquarters, commands, and field formations need to be made accessible. Otherwise, it will not be able to provide a clear analysis of the real picture.
- For instance, the military general and the ambassador involved in Operation Pawan (India’s intervention in Sri Lanka from 1987-1990) were subject to, much criticism by researchers while others are left unaccountable.
- This is because, researchers don’t get access to records of discussions involving other generals, admirals and air marshals, and even Prime Minister, Defence minister, etc.,
- In this regard, writing the official history of Exercise Brasstacks must be prioritized .it will highlight the fusion of decisions taken at multiple headquarters right down to the regiment and squadron level.
- Three, need to assign a team of dedicated researchers and historians with a mix of academics and practitioners with access to records and files.
- Non-inclusion of dedicated researchers and historians while declassifying files will restrict the in-depth analysis on strategic decision-making, operational analyses, leadership, and lessons for the future.
- Four, there is a need for Digitisation and the creation of oral histories. Because the absence of digital conversion will make it difficult to trace files and physical storing of files will lead to the destruction of priceless documents.
- A software company must be administered for digitization of files. Further, outreach must be made to individual historians, think tanks, and global repositories to share their oral history collections on contemporary Indian military history.
- Lastly, declassification of files should involve the writing of both the successful and failed operations with due sensitivity. In this context, the following war histories should be given priority.
- The Nathu La skirmish of 1967
- The Lightning Campaign’ in the Eastern Theatre during the 1971 War
- Operation Meghdoot (Siachen)
- Exercise Brasstacks
- Operation Falcon (Sumdorong Chu).
- Operation Pawan
Source: The Hindu
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Defence Minister Approves New Policy for Declassification of War History
What is the News?
The Defence Minister has approved a policy on archiving, declassification, compilation, and publication of war and operations histories.
Why do war histories matter?
- War Histories give an accurate account of events, authentic material for academic research, and help counter rumours. Earlier, reports on wars and operations were never made public.
Committees on war history: The Committees that recommended on archiving and declassification of war history includes:
- Kargil Review Committee: It was headed by K Subrahmanyam. It recommended the requirement of having war histories written with a clear-cut policy on declassification of war records.
- N N Vohra Committee: It had said war histories should be declassified in order to analyze lessons learned and prevent future mistakes.
Policy on declassification of war histories:
Period of Declassification of War History:
- According to the policy, records should ordinarily be declassified in 25 years.
- Records older than 25 years should be transferred to the National Archives of India once the war/operations histories have been compiled. However, first, it should be evaluated by archival experts.
- However, declassification of older wars like the Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 war with China and the Operation Bluestar of 1984 is not automatic. It is taken up on a case-by-case basis by a committee to be constituted under the policy.
- The History Division will coordinate with various departments for compiling, seeking approval, and publishing war/operations histories.
- Each organisation under the MoD will transfer the records including war diaries to the History Division for proper upkeep, archival, and writing the histories.
Committee to be constituted under the Policy
- The policy mandates the formation of the committee within two years of completion of war/operations.
- The committee will be headed by the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Defence (MoD). It will also have representatives of the Services, Ministry of External Affairs, Home Ministry along with prominent military historians for the compilation of war/operation histories.
- Thereafter, the collection of records and compilation will be completed by the committee in three years and disseminated to all concerned.
- The war histories will be for internal use first. Later the committee may decide to publicly release whole or parts of it, considering the sensitivity of the subject.
Source: The Hindu
PRAGATI (Proactive Governance And Timely Implementation) Portal
What is the News?
The Prime Minister is monitoring several railway projects through the (Proactive Governance And Timely Implementation) PRAGATI portal. He has observed a lack of progress in key railway projects across the country.
About PRAGATI Portal:
- PRAGATI is a multi-purpose and multi-modal governance platform launched in 2015.
- Nodal Body: The portal has been designed by the Prime Minister’s Office(PMO) team with the help of the National Informatics Center (NIC).
- Aim: The portal is aimed at:
- Addressing the common man’s grievances
- To simultaneously monitor and review important programmes and projects of the Government of India as well as projects flagged by various State governments.
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Key Features of the PRAGATI Portal:
- Firstly, the platform uniquely bundles the three latest technologies: Digital data management, video-conferencing and geo-spatial technology.
- Secondly, it is a three-tier system consisting of the PMO, Union Government Secretaries and Chief Secretaries of the States.
- Thirdly, the platform enables the Prime Minister to hold a monthly programme. In that, he will interact with the Government of India Secretaries and Chief Secretaries through Video-conferencing enabled by data and geo-informatics visuals;
- Lastly, the issues flagged before the PM are picked up from the available database regarding Public Grievances, ongoing Programmes and pending Projects.
Significance of PRAGATI portal:
- The platform offers a unique combination in the direction of cooperative federalism. Since it brings on one stage the Secretaries of Government of India and the Chief Secretaries of the States.
- It is also a robust system for bringing e-transparency and e-accountability with real-time presence and exchange among the key stakeholders.
- The platform is also an innovative project towards e-governance and good governance.
Read Also :-India’s new policy of proactive diplomacy
Source: The Hindu
Public’s right to information vs. national security interest
Synopsis: This article summarises the opinions and views of the former home secretary of India (G.K. Pillai) and retired Indian diplomat (Syed Akbaruddin). They provide their opinion regarding the public’s right to information vs. national security interest.
- Recently, the Government of India prohibited retired officials of security and intelligence organisations from publishing anything about their work or organisation without prior clearance from the head of the organisation.
- Though some restrictions on sharing of sensitive information related to the government are necessary, there is a need to ensure the public’s right to information by declassifying files in a timely manner.
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Are restrictions based on national security interest justifiable?
- One, officers of intelligence and security organisations and other departments are exposed to a lot of sensitive information. So, there needs to be some government control over that information.
- Two, there is a near-universal consensus among decision-makers, around the world, that some measure of secrecy is necessary to protect authorised national security activities.
- Three, no rights to freedom of expression can be absolute; they will always be restricted in certain contexts.
- However, there are certain ambiguities that need to be addressed. For instance, the notification calls for lifelong restriction and the word Sensitive information is not clearly defined.
- According to G.K. Pillai, there needs to be a time limit of 5 years after retirement rather than imposing lifelong restrictions. Because, in five years, operational information that is actually more sensitive will not be of concern in most cases.
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How to balance the public’s right to information vs. national security interest?
- One way of addressing this dilemma is by providing the information to the public through the declassification of files. A declassification is an important tool in raising public awareness after a specified period.
- For instance, In the US, at the end of 30 years, after a rigorous examination, they declassify most files and make them available in the public domain. However, In India, the availability of declassified information is less.
- Also, a consequence of extreme secrecy will produce undesirable effects such as the explosion of deep throats (secret informant who provided information). That is not good for any society.
- A free and democratic country should guarantee the free flow of information and the right of the public to be aware of situations.
- Information can be revealed without, revealing national secrets or difficult situations.
- The government needs to prioritise declassification of the top-secret files that are of less relevance today.
Read Also :-Judicial Review and Public Protests in India
Source: The Hindu
Issues with NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index 2020-21
Synopsis: Although India has a better score in the latest SDG India Index 2020-21, some procedural changes in the methodology have resulted in an inadequate measurement of economic inequality.
NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index 2020- 21 was released recently. India has improved its overall SDG score from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2021. This is being credited to the efforts put in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to clean energy, urban development and health.
Major findings of the NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index 2020-21
- Areas showed improvements in the index: Following categories of SDGs showed developments in many States and Union Territories,
- Abolition of poverty and hunger
- Steps related to the availability of affordable, clean energy. The campaign to improve the access of households to electricity and clean cooking fuel has been an important factor in this regard.
- Areas showed a decline in the index: The Index also mentions the following areas as worse due to the lockdowns imposed by the governments.
- Industry, innovation and infrastructure
- Inter-state inequality: There was a stark difference between the southern- western States and the north-central and eastern States in their performance on the SDGs. This points to socioeconomic and governance gaps. This will result in federal challenges if left unaddressed.
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Methodological changes and their impacts on SDG India Index 2020-21
The Index has made the following methodological changes:
- Change in indicators: The 2020-21 Index drops several economic indicators, like:
- Gini Coefficient: This year the index dropped the well-recognized Gini coefficient.
- The index did not use the growth rate for household expenses per capita among 40% of rural and urban populations (instead, only the percentage of the population in the lowest two wealth quintiles is used)
- Impact: Dropping of these indicators means that the SDG score on inequality may have missed out on assessing the impact of the pandemic on wealth inequality.
- Greater weightage to certain indicators: The index gives greater weightage to social equality indicators such as the representation of women and people from marginalized communities in legislatures and local governance institutions, and crimes against SC/ST communities
The second wave of the pandemic had similar outcomes on livelihoods and jobs. A better score for India to achieve SDGs will bring some optimism. However, governments must work on addressing persistent issues such as increased inequality and economic gloom.
Source: click here
“Vigilance clearance” is mandatory before offering jobs to retired Govt employee: CVC
What is the News?
Central Vigilance Commission(CVC) has laid down a procedure for employing a retired official on a contractual or consultancy basis. Under this guideline, government organisations have to get vigilance clearance before employing a retired official.
What is the Procedure?
- The organisations owned or controlled by the Center has to obtain vigilance clearance before offering employment to the retired officers. This guideline is applicable to the retired officers of All India Services, Group A officers of the Central government or their equivalent in other organisations.
- This clearance has to be obtained from the employer organisation, from which the officer has retired.
- In case a retired officer served in more than one organisation, clearance has to be obtained from all of them where the person was posted in the 10 years prior to retirement.
- Simultaneously, a communication seeking clearance should also be sent to the CVC.
- However, if no reply is received from the erstwhile employer(s) within 15 days of sending the communication by speed post, a reminder can be sent.
- Further, if there is no response within 21 days, vigilance clearance should be deemed to have been given.
- But later if the employee is found involved in any vigilance-related matter or not cleared from the vigilance point of view, the erstwhile employer organisation would be responsible for all consequential actions. As it failed to provide clearance within the required time.
What was the need for this Procedure?
The procedure has been issued by the CVC due to:
- Absence of a uniform procedure.
- Officials with tainted past or cases pending against them were engaged by the government organisations.
What about retired Government officials taking up private jobs?
- In the case of retired officials taking up full-time or contractual assignments in the private sector, the retired official has to maintain a “cooling off” period. If it was not observed, then that constitutes serious misconduct.
- Hence, CVC has directed all government organisations to formulate rules to ensure a proper cooling-off period was observed by retired officials.
Source: The Hindu
NITI Aayog releases “SDG India Index 2020-21”
What is the News?
NITI Aayog has released the SDG India Index 2020-21. It is the 3rd edition of SDG India Index.
Key Findings of the SDG India Index 2020-21:
- India’s overall SDG score improved by 6 points — from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2020-21.
- This is due to improvement in providing facilities including clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy among others.
- Categories: Currently, there are no states in the aspirant and achiever category. Around 15 states/UTs are in the performer category and 22 states/UTs in the front runner category.
- Kerala has topped the index with a score of 75.
- It was followed by Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu with a score of 74.
- Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam were the worst-performing states in the SDG India index.
- UTs: Chandigarh maintained its top spot among the UTs with a score of 79, followed by Delhi (68).
- Top Gainers: Mizoram, Haryana and Uttarakhand are the top gainers in 2020-21 in terms of improvement in score from 2019.
About SDG India Index:
- The SDG India Index was launched in 2018 by NITI Aayog. It was developed in collaboration with the United Nations.
- Aim: As the States, progress will determine India’s progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The index aims to instil competition among States to improve their performance across social indices.
- Indicators Covered: The third edition of the index covered 16 SDG Goals on 115 quantitative indicators.
- In 2018, around 13 SDG goals with 62 indicators were covered.
How are states ranked & classified?
- Scoring: A composite score for SDG Index is computed in the range of 0–100 for each State/UT based on its aggregate performance across 16 SDGs.
- The higher the score of a State/UT, the closer it is towards achieving the 2030 national targets.
- Classification: States/UTs are classified based on the SDG India Index Score as follows:
- Aspirant: 0–49
- Performer: 50–64
- Front Runner: 65–99
- Achiever: 100
Significance of the index:
- The index tracks the progress of all states and UTs on 115 indicators aligned with the National Indicator Framework (NIF) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
- It evaluates the progress of states and Union Territories(UTs) on various parameters including health, education, gender, economic growth, institutions, climate change and environment.
- The index helps in identifying crucial gaps related to tracking the SDGs and the need for India to develop its statistical systems.
Source: Indian Express
Government Amended Pension Rules for Central Civil Services
Synopsis- Center has amended pension rules for Civil services. Restrictions on government servants before and after retirement under CCS conduct rules.
Amendment in pension rules and its consequences-
- The Centre has amended pension rules for civil servants [working in organizations mentioned in the Second Schedule of the RTI Act].
- It restricts former officials of security and intelligence organizations under the 2nd Schedule of the RTI Act from writing anything without prior clearance. Such information includes;
- The domain of the organization, including reference or information about any personnel and his designation.
- Information relating to their expertise or knowledge gained by virtue of working in that organization.
- Sensitive information that might endanger India’s sovereignty and integrity, security, geopolitical, scientific, or economic interests, or its relationship with a foreign state.
- The Second Schedule of the RTI Act includes 26 organizations, including
- IB, Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, Directorate of Enforcement, NCB, Aviation Research Centre, Special Frontier Force, BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, NSG, Assam Rifles, SSB, CID and Andaman, and Nicobar.
Consequences of the amendment-
- The amendment means that pension can be withheld or withdrawn if the pensioner disobeys the said rules.
Why center has amended the rule?
There are some incidents where some high profile retired police and intelligence agency officials have sensitive revealed information in books. Or they regularly write columns in newspapers and magazines.
As a result, the Centre has amended the pension rule to prohibit retired officials from publishing information without prior clearance.
What restrictions are government employees under CCS Conduct Rules while in service?
- Rule 7 – It restricts them from resorting to or abetting any form of strike or coercion.
- Rule 8 – It restricts them from owning or participating in the editing or management of any newspaper or media.
- If they write or speak in public media, they shall at all times make it clear that the opinions expressed are their own and not that of the Government.
- Rule 9 – Restricts them from making statements of fact or opinion in writing or in a telecast or a broadcast that criticize any current or recent policy or action of the Central Government or a State Government.
What about political activity while in service?
- The Conduct Rules bars government servants from being associated with any political party and from taking part or assisting any political activity.
- Every government employee shall at all times maintain political neutrality.
- Every government employee commits himself to and upholds the supremacy of the Constitution and democratic values.
But after retirement, they can join politics and there is no cooling-off period. However, rules restricts a pensioner from any commercial employment for one year after retirement.
Source- The Indian Express
Controversies Surrounding Administrator of Lakshadweep
Synopsis: The role of the newly appointed administrator of Lakshadweep is under controversy. Some of the recent steps go against the interest of people.
Lakshadweep is a group of 36 islands in the Arabian Sea totaling 32 square kilometers. It has had a calm existence as a Union Territory. But recent governance changes introduced by the government have become a cause of concern.
An administrator is a representative of the President in the Union Territory like a Lieutenant Governor.
What are the controversial steps taken by administrator?
The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 empowers the Administrator to take over land and forcibly relocate people. It provides for strict punishments for those who resist. Following are some controversial steps taken by the administrator;
- Firstly, the consumption or sale of beef will be a punishable offence punishable for seven years in prison.
- Secondly, Those who have more than two children cannot contest panchayat elections.
- Thirdly, under the new Goonda Act, anyone could be held in prison without reason for up to a year. It is in a place that has a very low crime rate.
- The traditional livelihood of fishing communities has been obstructed by tedious regulations that negate their access to coastlines.
- Lastly, their sheds on the coastal areas have been demolished on the ground of violating the Coast Guard Act. Dairy farms run by the administration have also been shut.
- A development like this is a serious threat to the people of Lakshadweep and the delicate ecosystem.
What are the issues involved?
Lakshadweep administrator is the first politician to become an Administrator. In the past five months, he has showcased a sole disrespect for the people’s concerns and priorities.
- Firstly, There are fears of other motivations in the absence of any administrative rationale in these deliberately random methods.
- Secondly, Commercial interests could be one of the reasons. The land vacated by people could be transferred to buyers from outside.
- Thirdly, there could also be ill-advised political plans to change the demography of the islands. People are protesting, but the Administrator seems firm on his plans.
- Rajya Sabha Members from Kerala have urged the President to recall the Administrator in separate letters. The basis for carving out Union Territories as an administrative unit is to protect the unique cultural and historical situations of their people.
- The Centre is reversing its duty to protect into a licence to interfere. It must recall the Administrator and reassure the locals.
Source: click here
Collaborative Governance Should be the future of Governance
Synopsis: Outdated nature of public bureaucracy has to be accounted for the ineffective response to the COVID-19 crisis in India. A new public governance model based on collaborative governance need to be institutionalised.
What are the issues with Weberian model of Bureaucracy?
The Weberian bureaucracy model that India follows suffers from the following challenges. It needs improvements to make Indian bureaucracy more efficient.
- One, Weberian bureaucracy still prefers a generalist bureaucracy over a specialist.
- Two, Weberian bureaucracy prefers leadership based on position over leadership of function.
- Leadership of function is when a person has expert knowledge of a particular responsibility in a particular situation.
- In leadership of function, every official involved in a particular role responds to the situation rather than relying on directions from above authority.
Implications of Weberian model of Bureaucracy
- First, the rigid adherence to rules has resulted in the rejection of innovation.
- Second, the hierarchical nature of work flow and cumbersome clearance processes even during the period of crisis results in delayed efforts.
- Third, negligent of Specialist role results in policy failure and ineffective planning
What are the reforms suggested to address the issue?
- The reform often suggested in India is new public management. It promotes privatisation and managerial techniques of the private sector as an effective tool to improve public service delivery and governance.
- However, failure of private sector in public service delivery as witnessed during Covid19 and wide spread social inequality and regional variations in development had made this idea infeasible in India.
What is the Way forward?
- The model of new public governance based on collaborative governance will be the most appropriate solution.
- In this model, the public sector, private players and civil society, especially public service organisations (NGOs), work together for effective public service delivery
- All agencies will be involved in policy formulation and implementation.
- To institutionalise the model of new public governance, the behaviour of bureaucracy needs to change. It needs flexibility in hierarchy, a relook at the generalist versus specialist debate, and an openness to reforms such as lateral entry and collaboration with a network of social actors
All major revolutions with huge implications on public service delivery have come through the collaboration of public bureaucracy with so-called outsiders. These include the Green Revolution (M.S. Swaminathan), the White Revolution (Verghese Kurien), Aadhaar-enabled services (Nandan Nilekani) and the IT revolution (Sam Pitroda).
Source: The Hindu
What is “Article 311” of the Indian Constitution?
What is the News?
Recently Mumbai Police Commissioner dismissed a Police officer from service without a departmental enquiry. The commissioner did this by exercising his powers under Article 311(2) (b)
Article 311 of the Indian Constitution: Article 311 deals with the dismissal, removal or reduction in rank of persons employed in civil capacities under the Union or a State.
Safeguards under Article 311 for Civil Servants:
- Article 311(1): It says that no government employee either of an all India service or a state government shall be dismissed or removed by an authority subordinate to the one that appointed them.
- Article 311(2): It says that no civil servant shall be dismissed/ removed/ reduced in rank except after an enquiry. Further, they have to be informed of the charges and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges.
Process of Departmental Enquiry:
- In a departmental enquiry, after an enquiry officer is appointed. The civil servant is given a formal charge sheet of the charges. The civil servant can represent himself or choose to have a lawyer.
- Witnesses can also be called during the departmental enquiry. Following that the enquiry officer can prepare a report and submit it to the government for further action.
Exceptions under Article 311:
- Article 311(2) (a): It says that if a government employee is convicted in a criminal case, he can be dismissed without Departmental Enquiry (DE).
- Article 311(2)(c): It says that the government employee can be dismissed when the President or the Governor is satisfied that in the interest of the security of state it is not required to hold such an enquiry, the employee can be dismissed without DE.
Can the dismissal under section 311(2) be challenged by the government employee?
- Yes, the government employee dismissed under these provisions can approach either tribunal or courts.
Source: Indian Express
Poor State of Delhi Prisons Demand Urgent Attention
The condition of Delhi prisons has become immensely poor amidst the second wave of Covid 19. They have exceeded their sanctioned capacity and are on the verge of becoming hotspots for mass infections. Considering this, the government should take effective measures for decongesting prisons.
- Delhi is currently observing over 25000 new Covid 19 cases and 300 deaths every day.
- The virus has spread enormously across the state and the situation in Delhi prisons is even worse.
Poor state of Delhi Prisons:
- In April 2021, around 115 positive cases were reported among jail staff and 284 among inmates.
- Further, they have the highest occupancy rate in the country thereby possessing a high probability of virus spread and greater deaths.
- As of April 2021, the prison population has crossed 20,500. This is twice the sanctioned capacity.
Steps taken for Decongest prisons:
- The Supreme Court directed the states to set up High-Powered Committees (HPC) in March 2020. The objective of HPC was to determine which inmates could be temporarily released.
- Around 3,499 under-trial prisoners in Delhi had been granted interim bail, and 1,184 convicts had been released on emergency parole till February 2021.
- However, the HPCs refused to extend the relaxation after this as the number of cases had come down. This again created a burden on Delhi prisons.
The government now again wants to decongest the prisons however some issues would make the process more difficult.
Challenges in decongesting prisons:
- Unwillingness of Prisoners: Some prisoners feel more safe and secure in prisons. They are unwilling to leave the premises at a time of critical shortages in hospital infrastructure and greater difficulties in finding work.
- Reluctance of Criminal Justice system: The system failed to adjust as per the circumstances of pandemic-
- There were a high number of arrests by police during lockdown months.
- Similarly, reduced functioning of courts delayed trials and enhanced pressure on prisons.
- Further, bails were granted based on regular bail jurisprudence. This focuses on individual prisoners and not overall prison conditions.
- Inadequate Data: There is a dearth of data on the current prevalence of infection in jails. Effective decongesting is possible only when the government knows the degree of infection spread in jails.
- Lack of Priority: The authorities have shown very less concern towards the health and safety of prisoners-
- For instance, HPC did not reconvene till May 4, and the minutes from this meeting are not yet public.
- The last assessment of oxygen concentrators and other medical equipment within jails happened in January 2021.
- The higher courts have not acted on petitions demanding the safety of prisoners in jails.
- The government must take robust steps for decongestion. This includes setting up temporary prisons, relaxing criteria for releasing prisoners, etc.
- The government should restrict the interaction of inmates with jail staff. As it is believed that asymptomatic jail officials may have contributed to the spread of the virus.
- Further, the government must release data on the prevalence of testing, infection, and vaccination in jails periodically. This will improve public monitoring.
To conclude, we can say that the above steps will help in safeguarding the fundamental right to life of prisoners.
Source: Indian Express
Failure of Governance in India- Reason Behind the Pandemic Crisis
Synopsis: The article highlights at least 5 instances of Failure of Governance in India, in the past 15 months. This is the reason behind the failure of the center and states in handling the Pandemic crisis.
5 instances of Failure of Governance in India
- First, the sudden imposition of lockdown during the first Covid-19 wave was inhuman. The decision gratified the wellbeing of aspirational middle-class society. Whereas, the decision-makers were indifferent towards the problems of daily wageworkers especially the migrant community.
- Second, further, the lockdown was supported by weak legal instruments such as the epidemic diseases act and disaster management act. It led to the harassment of citizens. For instance, Custodial death of P Jayaraj and Bennicks in Tamil Nadu.
- Third, inadequate budgetary support for the economic safety, relief, and protection of vulnerable citizens.
- Fourth, delayed rollout of the vaccine policy compounded by a complex and multi-layered pricing policy.
- Fifth, there was a lack of preparedness in terms of health infrastructure. Even after the first Covid wave, neither long-term plans nor new budget provisions were available to strengthen the health infrastructure.
- Only makeshift shelters were planned during the first covid wave, however, they were either closed or not usable during the second covid wave.
- Apart from these issues, the problems in governance were complicated by the following issues,
- One, lack of transparency in the PM cares fund.
- Two, lack of public communication over the pandemic during post lockdown periods.
- Three, shifting the responsibility towards the States at a time when a large-scale human tragedy required statesmanship, partnership, and collaboration. This has resulted in a dirty blame game politics between the Centre and States.
The authoritarian rule will be the outcome of such mishandling by the Centre where citizens and political opponents will eventually be penalized. We have now entered that stage with threats of seizure of property for criticism of the mistakes, stating the facts, and for demanding accountability of the government.
Source: Indian Express
What is “Maharashtra’s two-child norm” for govt employees?
What is the News?
A woman officer from the Maharashtra Prison Department has three children. But she suppressed that information to the authorities during the inquiry. As this is a violation of Maharashtra Civil Services rules, she was dismissed from service recently.
About Maharashtra’s two-child norm for Government Employees:
- Maharashtra’s two-child norm for govt employees has been specified under the Maharashtra Civil Services (Declaration of Small Family) Rules,2005.
- The rules make the Small Family norm an additional essential requirement for Groups A, B, C, D of the Maharashtra government employees.
- It mandates filing a small family declaration at the time of applying for a government job.
- It defines a small family as wife, husband and two children. The definition of child under these rules does not include adopted children.
- Further, the rules specify that a person is not eligible for a job with Maharashtra Government if he or she has more than two children after 2005 (date of commencement of rule).
- The rules also provide that if one or more than one child is born in a single delivery within a year of the commencement. Then it shall not be considered for the disqualification of the rules.
- Further, the rules also empower the state government to give relaxation in a ‘just and reasonable’ manner. But it also mandates to record such reasons for relaxation.
- Maharashtra is one of the few states in the country that have a ‘two children’ policy for appointment in government jobs. This policy is also applicable even for the elections of some local government bodies also.
- Other states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Gujarat, Odisha, Uttarakhand and Assam also have a similar policy.
Source: Indian Express
“Chandlers Good Governance Index” 2021 Released
What is the News?
The Chandler Good Government Index(CGGI) 2021 has been released.
About Chandler Good Government Index(CGGI):
- The Chandler Institute of Governance(CIG) publishes the Chandler Good Government Index(CGGI) . It is an international non-profit organization, with headquarter in Singapore.
- Objective: The index measures the effectiveness and capabilities of 104 governments around the world in terms of government capabilities and outcomes.
- Parameters: The Index comprises of 34 indicators. They are organized into seven pillars:
- Leadership and Foresight
- Robust Laws and Policies
- Strong Institutions
- Financial Stewardship
- Attractive Marketplace
- Global Influence and Reputation
- Helping people rise.
- India’s ranking: India has been ranked 49th in the Chandler Good Government Index(CGGI).
- Topped by: Finland has topped the index.
- South Asian Countries: At 74th ranks Sri Lanka. Further, Pakistan is at 90th and Nepal at 92nd.
- Seven of the top ten countries are from Europe. But there are four continents represented in the top ten. Here, Singapore stands first in Asia, New Zealand leading Oceania, and Canada leading in the Americas.
- All the top ten countries are high-income as defined by the World Bank.
Source: The Hindu
Police Reforms Needed to Ensure Political Neutrality
Synopsis: There is a need to ensure a right balance between the government’s role in appointing or removing the police chief and the need to safeguard the Police’s operational autonomy.
- Recently, the State government removed Param Bir Singh (Mumbai Police Commissioner) from his post.
- It brings back the focus on the long-overdue reforms require, in the process of appointing and removing police chiefs.
History of recommendations for police reforms
- In 1979, National Police Commission (NPC), suggested for an independent body for the appointment and removal of police chiefs. The rationale was to avoid Political intervention and to maintain independence of the police.
- Further, the Supreme Court (SC) of India in its judgment, in Prakash Singh Case (2006) reaffirmed the NPC suggestions.
- Further, the Supreme court entrusted the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to shortlist candidates. After that, the State government can appoint the police chief from this list.
- However, the Model Police Bill, 2015 placed the responsibility of shortlisting candidates on the State Security Commission (SSCs).
- SSC is a multiparty State Police Board. It consists of government officials, the Leader of the Opposition, independent members from civil society.
What reforms are needed?
First, need to ensure bipartisanship in the appointment of police chiefs. For that, the constitution of the State Security Commission (SSCs) is needed. For instance,
- Around 26 States and the Union Territories have established SSCs. However, not a single state adheres to the balanced composition suggested by the SC. Some states do not include the Leader of the Opposition, others do not include independent members.
- Also, in as many as 23 States the governments retain the sole discretion of appointing the police chief.
- Further, there are concerns over concern over non-functioning SSCs. For example, according to RTI information, only four SSCs have held meetings since 2014.
- As a result, the commissions still remain dominated by the political executive.
Second, institutionalise an independent and transparent selection process for appointment and removal of police chief based on objective criteria. For instance,
- The Model Police Act require the SSC to shortlist candidates on some requirements. It includes the length of service, service record, and range of experience, and a performance appraisal of the candidates over the past 10 years.
- However, the criteria’s used are more subjective rather than objective. For example, what qualifies as a “good” range of experience?
- Further, there is no scrutiny process to justify removals from tenure posts.
- This allows for the use of Subjective terms such as “on administrative grounds” or “in the public interest” to justify the removal.
- This is against the Supreme Court ruling in Senkumar vs Union of India case, 2017.
- The SC ruled that satisfaction of the government” alone is not a sufficient ground to justify removal from a tenure post in government. Rather, it needs to be based on verifiable material that can be objectively tested.
What needs to be done?
- First, objective benchmarks need to be integrated into decision-making processes, both on appointments and removals. It will prevent politically motivated actions.
- Second, learning from UK’s example to improve transparency of the review process. UK’s ‘The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, 2011’, introduced public confirmation hearings as an additional layer of check for the appointment of police chiefs.
- This provides the police chief an opportunity to respond to the allegations leading to their removal.
Source: The Hindu
“World Press Freedom Index” 2021 Released
What is the News? The World Press Freedom Index 2021 released.
About World Press Freedom Index:
- Published by: Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders since 2002.
- Purpose: The purpose of the Index is to rank 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists.
- However, the index neither ranks public policies and nor is it an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country or region.
- Parameters: The index ranks 180 countries based on the following parameters, such as a) pluralism, b) media independence c) environment and self-censorship d) legislative framework e) Transparency f) Infrastructure, and g) Abuses.
Also Read- Reports and Index in news
Key Findings Related to India:
- India ranks 142nd on the World Press Freedom Index 2021. The rank is the same as in 2020 after it had consistently slid down from 133 in 2016.
- India continues to be counted among the countries classified “bad” for journalism. Similarly, India is termed as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists trying to do their jobs properly.
Other key Findings:
- Topped by: Norway tops the index, followed by Finland and Denmark.
- China: China ranks 177 in the index. It is only above North Korea at 179 and Turkmenistan at 178.
- India’s South Asian neighborhood: Nepal is at 106, Sri Lanka at 127, Myanmar (before the coup) at 140, Pakistan at 145, and Bangladesh at 152.
- Further, the report shows that journalism is completely or partially blocked in 73% of all the countries on the index
Source: Indian Express
SC Directions to CBI in ISRO Espionage Case, 1994
Synopsis – The Supreme Court has ordered the CBI investigation in the Nambi Narayanan ISRO Espionage case. CBI will review the involvement of the Kerala police.
What is the ISRO espionage case?
- In 1994, a Maldivian woman was arrested. She was suspected of selling secrets from ISRO scientists to Pakistan.
- Mr. Narayanan was arrested along with two other scientists by the Kerala Police on charges of sharing official secrets on space technology and launch missions.
- Later, the CBI took over the probe from the Kerala police. In 1996, CBI recommended closure of the case due to lack of evidence.
- The CBI also highlighted serious flaws in the police investigation, which relied on dubious tactics and was based solely on suspicion.
What is the court order ?
- Firstly, in 2018, the Supreme Court dismissed the case as a criminal frame-up based on “some sort of fancy or notion.”
- Secondly, according to the Court, the former ISRO scientist was “unnecessarily arrested and harassed”.
- Thus, the court ordered the State of Kerala to pay him Rs.50 lakh as compensation for the damage to his honor and dignity.
- Lastly, the court also formed a committee headed by Justice D.K. Jain to find ways and means to take appropriate steps against the erring officials
Recent court order-
- The SC ordered CBI to investigate the alleged espionage case against a former ISRO scientist in 1994 and to submit a report within three months.
- Furthermore, the CBI will investigate the report of Justice D.K. Jain Committee on senior Kerala police officials accused of framing ISRO scientist.
Concerning facts about the case-
- The ‘ISRO spying case’ has raised significant concerns about police investigations in the country.
- Also, Kerala’s government has been ignoring calls for disciplinary action against the erring police officers.
- Moreover, the State government opposed the CBI’s closure report and made an attempt to revive the investigation by its own police.
- SC order is a welcome and necessary step toward ensuring transparency for the alleged frame-up.
- Also, it would be in the best interests of the case if the CBI could continue with its inquiry into the officers involved without hindrance
OneSource– The Hindu
Degree of Trust in Public Institutions across different castes
The India Human Development Survey (IHDS) tries to ascertain the degree of trust that people across different castes hold in public institutions. A thorough analysis of the data calls for strengthening trust, especially among the vulnerable sections.
- The IHDS categorizes public institutions into state government, judiciary, and police. Caste categories are divided into General, OBCs, SCs, and STs.
- The survey asks a question on the degree of confidence that people have over public institutions.
- This confidence indicates their trust in them and people can choose from – a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, and hardly any confidence.
Findings of IHDS:
- Household Level:
- Judiciary is most trusted followed by state governments and police in public institutions.
- Across different Castes:
- Maximum general category people have low confidence in public institutions.
- A high proportion of OBCs displays great confidence in public institutions. A similar level of confidence is shown by STs.
- SCs display the highest level of confidence in public institutions. Only a small proportion choose the ‘hardly any confidence’ option.
Analysing the Findings:
- Firstly, SCs display a very high degree of confidence in state governments. They largely depend on affirmative actions and state support. The government gives quotas to SCs, STs, and OBCs in education and public sector employment.
- Secondly, STs, on the other hand, display slightly less confidence than SCs due to their isolationist nature. It has devoid them of various social security nets.
- Thirdly, the trust over the judiciary is quite high in comparison to state governments across all the castes. Eg- three-fourths of STs reported a great deal of confidence. This is surprising given the judicial overload of cases and prolonged delays.
- Fourthly, the overall confidence over police is also low with only 13-18% showing great confidence. Further SCs and STs have very little confidence in them due to the rampant corruption and discrimination against lower castes.
Need for strengthening Trust:
- Positive Correlation: There exists a positive relationship between trust and quality of governance or any other outcome.
- For instance, greater trust results in better functioning of financial markets as the higher the trust, the higher is the credibility of debtors.
- Similarly, greater trust manifests higher levels of cooperative relations between labour and management. It results in better functioning of labour markets.
- Eg. – Firms that have trade unions are better able to adapt to new management methods, and show better productivity.
- Declining Trust: The trust in institutions rose from 2005 to 2012. However, it is now showing a downward trend due to:
- Non-inclusive policies of the government
- Substandard judicial verdicts that compromise on autonomy and fairness
- Also, due to, action of Police that undermines rights of citizens
We need to transition to a policy environment that is inclusive and transparent. It is a challenging task that could be facilitated with growing awareness among the citizens.
Source: The Hindu
Darbar Move Tradition of Jammu and Kashmir?
What is the News?
Darbar move tradition in Jammu and Kashmir discontinues from this year. The move aims to take only sensitive records from Jammu to Srinagar, starting this summer. This is a shift from previous years. Earlier, the entire administration and records would get shifted.
About Darbar Move Tradition:
- Darbar move is the name for the bi-annual shift of the secretariat and all other government offices between Jammu and Kashmir. In Summers, shifting was to take place from Jammu to Srinagar and vice versa in winters. This is done as J&K has two capitals: Kashmir during summer and Jammu during winter.
Who started the Darbar move tradition?
- Origin: IN 1872, the Dogra King Maharaja Ranbir Singh, started the Darbar move practice.
- The practice aims to take the administration to the doorstep of the people of Kashmir. The move also enabled a greater interaction and bonding among the people of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Criticisms of the Darbar move:
- High Cost: The Darbar move draws criticism as the government spends nearly Rs. 200 crore on this exercise every year. The amount is significant as the government does not have enough funds even to pay salary to its employees.
- Impacts Administration: The move impacts the administration as it nurtures inefficiency and leads to a lack of governance.
- Movement of Sensitive Documents: The documents and resources are put to risk in the process of their transportation
Jammu and Kashmir(J&K) High Court on Darbar move:
- Firstly, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court observed that there was no legal justification or constitutional basis for the Darbar Move tradition.
- Secondly, the court said that the practice resulted in wastage of tremendous amounts of time, effort, and energy. Further, the court also held the move as inefficient and unnecessary activity.
- Therefore, the court recommended that instead of the move, the resources and time can get utilized towards the welfare and development of the people. Also, the amount can address issues like food shortage, unemployment, and healthcare.
Source: Indian Express
Need for Police Reforms in India
Synopsis: Police reforms require urgent attention. There have been many instances of Police-politician nexus. It is not right for democracy.
- The 21st century witnessed many crises. For instance,
- One, the 2007-08 financial crisis affected the growth of many economies and the recovery process has been slow.
- Two, the most recent impact of the Pandemic, it has affected every sphere of Human activity.
- Three, the crisis of Disinformation and fake news became a big menace for society.
- All these circumstances expose the fragility of today’s party-based democracies. Also, it exposed the inability to manage such problems.
- However, finding an optimal combination of authoritarian, populist and democratic trends will not be easy.
- It could give way to the rise of new political oligarchies, and the creation of new elites. They may identify themselves as the defenders of democracy.
- Recent trends within the country suggest the starting of such problems.
What are the recent issues affecting democracy in India?
- First, the concept of the free and fair election itself is under threat. This new reality gives way to authoritarian methods over democratic means. For instance,
- One, in most electioneering campaigns personal remarks dominate political debates, instead of developmental issues or policies.
- Two, the use of Money power and Violence during elections is very much evident.
- Three, the verdict of the election does not reflect the true will of the electorates.
- Two, the most worrying issue is the collapse of systems of governance in many States. For example, the recent case of Maharashtra after the Antilia bomb case.
- The event highlights the issues in the police system.
- Police made no or very little effort to discover the truth and the involvement of assistant police inspector, S. Vaze. It signifies the decline in standards of police mores.
- This incident is a prime example that reflects the problems in the law and order system across the country.
What needs to be done?
Police reforms by establishing a new police commission will not yield results. Because police commissions cannot change the system that compels police to operate by the politicians, bureaucrats, and others in authority.
So, we need to think of other alternatives to address the issue.
- Firstly, nurture courageous police leadership that can stand up for the right policies and punishes officers indulged in wrongdoings.
- Secondly, create and execute a national public awareness campaign against the kind of excesses that have been allowed to continue. Creating such a movement and sustaining it will not be easy, but if the system is to be saved, there is a need to consider such real alternatives.
Source: The Hindu
An Overview of Kerala Model of Development
Synopsis: Kerala’s model of Development prioritizes spending on Social infrastructure. It provides greater Economic security even during the time of adversities.
- ‘Kerala model’ of governance highlights that Human development welfare measures are effective even with low Economic growth.
- It has also highlighted the importance of the role of the People’s movement. It pressurizes the government to adopt redistributive measures.
Kerala’s growth story
- Many economists predicted the failure of the Kerala model of governance during the economic stagnation in the 1970s and 1980s. The reason was that a slow-growing economy will not have enough fiscal capacity to fund its welfare programs.
- But after the 1980s, the growth in Agricultural income and remittance increased. It provided a long period for economic growth. During this growth period,
- the workforce engaged in the secondary sector increased from 20% (1988) to 32% (2018-19).
- The per capita income that was 10% lower than national average during 1990, raised to more than 65% of national average by (2019-20)
- Health and education indicators improved, social security schemes were expanded.
- One issue was the quality of infrastructure of public schools and public hospitals. The inadequate facilities forced many people towards the private sector.
Innovativeness to raise Funding
- Kerala’s welfare policies were hampered due to a lack of adequate financial resources due to harsh limits on state borrowings. The passage of GST disallowed states to tax commodities based on their priorities. It affected their avenues for resource mobilization.
- In this context, KIFB was set up to raise funding from the financial market. The idea was that greater public spending will increase tax revenues by stimulating growth.
- The government assured repayment of loans by legally committing to pay a portion of its revenue from motor vehicle tax and petroleum Cess.
Public Spending on Social infrastructure
- In the last 5 years, Kerala invested a large amount in building up infrastructure for public schools and hospitals. For example, greater than 45000 classrooms were made ‘Hi-tech’ classrooms.
- The investments were sourced through ‘Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board’ (KIFB).
- The result was, the number of students in public schools increased. The effectiveness of Kerala public hospitals were witnessed during the Pandemic.
- Apart from public schools, KIFB funding was used to build economic infrastructure such as industrial parks, bridges, Kerala fibre-optic network (K-FON), TRANSGRID 2.0.
Implications of Investing in Social Infrastructure
- There are concerns over Kerala’s unsustainable levels of Debt. For example, the debt to gross state domestic product is 36%
- Further, Kerala is very much vulnerable to shocks of the economy such as natural disaster (floods in 2018,2019 & the pandemic), job losses in west Asian countries, the contradictory fiscal policy of the centre. All these can adversely impact its economic growth.
- However, public spending in social and economic infrastructure will create a more skilled, educated, healthier workforce along with quality infrastructure. This will ensure that even at times of adversities Kerala will be in a better position to absorb the shocks of the Economy.
Source: The Hindu
CIC Annual Report on “RTI Applications”
What is the News?
The Central Information Commission(CIC) released its annual report. The report provides the data on the number of RTI applications received and rejected by public authorities.
About CIC Annual Report:
- The CIC annual report provides the data on the number of RTI applications received and rejected by public authorities.
- It covers more than 2,000 public authorities across the Central government as well as the union territories.
What are the key findings of the report?
- RTI Applications: Public Authorities under the Central Government have received 13.74 lakh RTI applications in 2019-20. This is a nominal increase of 0.3% from 2018-19.
- RTI Applications Rejected: The Centre has only rejected 4.3% of all Right to Information(RTI) requests in 2019-20, the lowest ever rate.
- However, almost 40% of the RTI rejections did not include any valid reason. It is despite the fact that these applications were not qualifying under exemptions clauses in the RTI Act.
- Further, the report shows a category of “others” used by government departments to discard applications.
- The CIC in the 2011-12 report suggested for “closer scrutiny and inspection” of “others” category as rejection ground. But no further action took place.
- RTI Rejections Ministry wise:
- Firstly, the Home Ministry had the highest rate of RTI rejections. It rejected 20% of all RTIs received.
- Secondly, the Agriculture Ministry’s rejection rate doubled from 2% in 2018-19 to 4% in 2019-20.
- Thirdly, the Finance Ministry also rejected more than 10,000 cases. It didn’t provide a valid reason under the Act.
Right to Information Act, 2005 and exemptions:
- RTI Act provides for timely disclosure of information by citizens from both central and State Public Authorities. It seeks to empower citizens and promote accountability and transparency.
- Under the Act, public authorities are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning. This includes
- disclosure on their organization
- functions and structure
- powers and duties of its officers and employees and
- Financial information.
- Public Authorities: Public authority means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted under or by
- the Constitution;
- Any other law made by Parliament/State Legislature.
- Notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any—
- Body owned, controlled, or substantially financed;
- Non-Government organisations substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.
- Exceptions: The RTI Act allows public authorities to reject RTI requests on a number of grounds.
- The information which would endanger life and safety to that which involves irrelevant personal information,
- Cabinet papers,
- foreign governments
- copyrights, or sovereignty
- security and intelligence matters among others.
Source: The Hindu
Inefficiencies in the Aadhaar project
Synopsis: There are many issues regarding the use of Aadhaar for the identification of beneficiaries. So, the central and state governments should allow for an alternative identification mechanism.
- There was mandatory usage of Aadhaar for the identification of beneficiaries for several welfare schemes such as the PDS, the NREGA and LPG subsidy.
- It was challenged in 2018 as it was violating the individual’s privacy. But the court upheld the Aadhaar Programme by stating that a reasonable restriction on individual privacy is not unconstitutional. Specifically, if it fulfils welfare requirements and dignity.
- Recently, a review petition regarding the validity of Aadhar for public purposes was again filed in the supreme court. But, a 4-1 majority Bench rejected the review petition in January 2021.
- More recently, another petition was filed in the SC stating that 3 crore ration cards got cancelled for not being linked with the Aadhaar database. Further, these exclusions were connected to starvation deaths in some states.
- According to recent data, nearly 90% of India’s population has been assigned the Aadhaar number
What are the issues in Aadhar based identification system?
- Individuals to avail benefits under the PDS, the NREGA and LPG subsidy etc., need the aadhaar number. But many inefficiencies in the system have impacted the beneficiaries to access welfare schemes. For example,
- Inefficiencies in biometric authentication and updating,
- Inefficiencies in linking Aadhaar with bank accounts and the use of the Aadhaar payment bridge
- According to some reports, failures in authentication has led to delays in the disbursal of benefits.
- Also, in many cases, the cancellation of legitimate beneficiary names led to the denial of welfare services. For example,
- According to reports, from 2017, there have been starvation deaths in Jharkhand because of the denial of benefits and subsidies.
Other challenges in using Aadhar based identification system
- One, success rates of authentication and the generation of “false negatives” has always been an issue. For example, labourers and tribal people engaged in manual and hard labour, are susceptible to fingerprint changes over time.
- Two, there are instances of people losing cards leading to a denial of benefits.
- Three, poor implementation of exemption mechanisms that would help beneficiaries avail subsidies and benefits.
The elimination of ghost beneficiaries can also be addressed by the use of other verification cards and by decentralised disbursal of services at the panchayat level. So, the central and state governments should allow for an alternative identification mechanism.
Source: The Hindu
Flaws in design of lateral entry policy
Synopsis: The government has approved the policy of lateral entry in civil services. However, it has some flaws over entry requirements, job assignments, number of personnel, and training. This calls for reforming the policy for lateral entrants.
- The government has often complained about the problems associated with the permanent structure of bureaucracy. Recently, the PM talked about the overreach of the elite IAS cadre.
- Realising this, lateral entry is encouraged by the government at middle and senior positions.
- In various ministries, there was recruitment of eight professionals for joint secretary-level positions.
- UPSC has also advertised some other positions at the joint secretary and director-level.
- However, the lateral entry policy lacks on multiple fronts. This might reduce the efficacy of a lateral entrant.
Issues with Lateral Entry :
- Age Ceiling: The seniority rule decides the age of the lateral entrant. For instance, an IAS officer becomes a joint secretary at 45 years of age, so a lateral entry below 45 years is not allowed.
- It discourages the attraction of the best talent. At this age, a person can reach top positions in the private sector (CEO, CFO, etc.). And they would also be unwilling to join the government sector.
- Portfolio Assignment: There is no provision to restrict lateral entrants to important portfolios. Providing an unimportant portfolio discourages the work potential and urges him/her to resign.
- It is alleged that one lateral entry amongst the eight appointed joint secretaries had resigned due to this.
- Control over decision-making: The small number of lateral entrants can’t disregard decisions of permanent bureaucracy who easily outnumber them. It hinders their work.
- Training: The current policy doesn’t provide sufficient training to lateral entrants for understanding and working with the “permanent” establishment. By the time networks get built, it is time to move on.
- The government should appoint more lateral entrants at all levels in ministries to enhance their decision-making.
- Further, sufficient tenure and training are a must to better assimilate with the permanent bureaucracy.
- A recent lateral entrant like Parameswaran Iyer succeeded because he was a former IAS officer who understood the system well.
- The age ceiling for joint secretary-level should relax to 35 years. Likewise, similar relaxation should take place at other levels to attract the best talents.
- This was seen in the case of Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Bimal Jalan, and Vijay Kelkar. They were joint secretaries in their mid-30s and secretaries by their late 40s or by 50.
- The government can also reform the permanent system in order to reduce the unwelcoming behavior of senior bureaucrats towards the lateral entry.
- The first step could be a reconsideration of the seniority principle that allows promotion solely on seniority.
Source: Indian express
“MPLAD Scheme” Funds for 2019-20 cleared by Finance Minister
What is the news?
The Finance Minister has said that the funds under the MPLAD scheme (Members of Parliament Local Area Development) Scheme for 2019-20 are clear.
Note: The government of India has decided to make the MPLADS scheme non-operational for two years(2020-21 and 2021-22). These funds will be used to strengthen the Government’s efforts in managing the impact of COVID-19 in the country.
About MPLADs Scheme:
- Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme(MPLADS) is a Central Sector Scheme. It was launched in 1993.
- Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
- Aim: The aim is to provide funds to MPs to execute certain developmental projects in their constituencies.
Note: States have their own version of this scheme with varying amounts per MLA.
Key Features of MPLAD Scheme:
- Under the scheme, an MP receives Rs. 5 crores per annum to identify and fund developmental projects.
- The funds released under the scheme are non-lapsable.
- Non-Lapsable funds should be spent within the current financial year. The next year cannot carry forward these funds.
- The role of the MP is recommendatory in nature. Local authorities carry out the implementation of the project.
- The focus of the scheme is on the creation of durable community assets like roads, school buildings, etc. Further, recommendations for non-durable assets can be made only under limited circumstances.
- Elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works in the state from where they have been elected.
- Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the country.
Source: The Hindu
India rated as an “electoral autocracy” by V-Dem Institute
What is the News?
Sweden-based Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute released a report titled “Autocratisation Goes Viral”. The report has downgraded India from being an “electoral democracy” to an “electoral autocracy”.
Note: This report comes after US watchdog Freedom House has downgraded India’s status to “partly free” in its ‘Freedom in the World’ report.
About the Autocratisation Goes Viral Report:
- Released by: V-Dem (Varieties of Democracy) Institute. It is an independent research organization founded in 2014 by Swedish political scientist Staffan Lindberg.
- Objective: The report summarizes the state of democracies of the world against the backdrop of developments, over the past decade.
- Data: The report gathered its data using surveys from country experts and then analysed using a statistical model.
Key Findings Related to India:
- India is rated as autocratic along with Pakistan. It is a poor rating than both its neighbors Bangladesh and Nepal.
- India is also among 25 “autocratizing nations” along with Brazil, Turkey, and other countries.
Reasons for the downgrading of India:
- Frequent use of defamation(Section 499) and Sedition(Section 124-A) to silence journalists and critics.
- Use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act(UAPA) to place constraints on civil society.
- The passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 to grant citizenship based on religious lines.
- Increased use of Foreign Contributions Regulation Act(FCRA) to restrict the entry, exit, and functioning of Civil Society Organisations(CSO).
- In general, the report mentions National Security laws are getting misused in India.
Other key Global Findings:
- The liberal democracies have reduced over the past decade from 41 countries to 32 countries.
- The global decline during the past decade is increasing especially in the Asia-Pacific region, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.
Source: The Hindu
“Sansad TV”: A merger of the LSTV and the RSTV
What is the News?
The government of India has announced the merger of the Lok Sabha TV and the Rajya Sabha TV. The channels from now on will be known as Sansad TV.
About the Lok Sabha TV(LSTV):
- The Lok Sabha TV has been in operation since 2006. It was the first Parliamentary channel of India.
- The LSTV was the brainchild of Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee. He brought the idea of a 24×7 Parliamentary Channel with the objective to familiarise citizens with the functioning of Parliament.
Note: Before the LSTV started functioning as a channel, few selected parliamentary proceedings had been televised since 1989. However, after 2006 a separate dedicated channel was set up for the Lok Sabha.
About the Rajya Sabha TV(RSTV):
- The RSTV was launched in 2011. It will telecast the live proceedings of the Rajya Sabha. It also brings analyses of parliamentary affairs and provides a platform for knowledge-based programmes.
- The budget of the RSTV is bigger than that of the LSTV. The Union Budget allocates funds for the running of channels. The RSTV also employs more people than the LSTV.
Merger of the Lok Sabha TV and the Rajya Sabha TV:
- In 2019, a committee was set up under former Prasar Bharati Chairman Surya Prakash to look into the merger of two channels.
- The merger is being done to avoid duplicity of efforts, resources. Further, establishing Sansad TV will also reduce the financial burden.
Recommendations of the Surya Prakash panel:
- The committee has suggested that a merged Sansad TV should have two separate channels— Sansad 1 and Sansad 2.
- One channel will telecast the live proceedings of the Lok Sabha. On the other hand, the other channel will telecast the live proceedings of the Rajya Sabha.
- When Parliament is not in session, the first channel can air Hindi content and the second channel can air English content. This will result in better branding and increased viewership of Sansad TV.
Source: The Hindu
Issue of lateral entry into the bureaucracy – Explained pointwise
Recently, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has issued an advertisement. It is seeking applications for lateral entry in 30 government posts including joint-secretary level, director level postings. Similarly, in 2019 also, the UPSC recommended the appointment of nine professionals as joint secretaries. There is still a wider debate going on about lateral entry into civil services. The recent advertisement from the UPSC has again stirred the debate.
What is Lateral Entry?
- The word lateral means ‘from the side or sideways’. Hence, lateral entry involves the appointment of specialists from the private sector at middle and senior-level positions in the Central government.
- The lateral entry appointments are done on a contractual basis. Since it is not a permanent post like regular government jobs, it will dilute the monopoly of bureaucrats in the government departments.
- The appointments are mainly made to the post of Director, Joint Secretary, and Deputy Secretary.
- The maximum age limit for joint secretaries is 45 years and for director-level posts, it is 35 years.
- The process was adopted as numerous agencies and groups had recommended it in the past.
Agencies/ Committees supporting lateral entry:
- The Constitution Review Commission recommendation of 2002: The Commission supported the lateral entry. It recommended that there is a “Need to specialise some of the generalists” by infusing new talents from the private sector.
- The 2nd Administrative Reform Commission recommendation of 2005: The 2nd ARC recommended an institutionalized, transparent process for lateral entry at both the Central and State levels.
- Other such recommendations: Eminent institutions and groups have also supported the idea of lateral entry into civil services.
- The NITI Aayog in its three-year Action Agenda supported this idea.
- Similarly, the Sectoral Group of Secretaries (SGoS) on Governance in their 2017 report also supported the idea of lateral entry into public services.
Why India needs Lateral Entry into civil services?
- Lateral entry will ensure a balance in public service. After the economic reforms in 1991, the Indian government has taken the role of facilitator of public services. The civil servant sees the government from within, lacks the view of other stakeholders (private sector, NGO’s, etc). The Specialist, on the other hand, has domain knowledge and sees the government from outside. Thus, specialists will be able to address complex administrative challenges.
Further by providing the private sector and NGOs an opportunity to participate in the governance process, lateral entry will also strengthen participatory governance.
- The availability of external manpower to help in meeting the shortage of personnel.
- The Baswan Committee (2016) pointed out how large states such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan have a deficit of 75 to over 100 IAS officers. Due to this, they are unwilling to sponsor officers to go to the Centre on deputation. This can be overcome by encouraging lateral entrants.
- The recruitment of private individuals as consultants, officers on special duty by Central government ministries has given fruitful results. Thus, there is a need for encouraging private participation at middle-level positions to improve efficiency.
- For example, Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia (Economic Adviser in the Ministry of Finance) and C Rangarajan were few notable examples for lateral entry.
- Lateral entry will also solve two major flaws in public service recruitment.
- There are many potential and good administrators who do not participate in examinations conducted by the government during their young age. Lateral entry can be a good opportunity for them.
- There is also a good administrator who fall short of government requirements at a younger age. But gained a significant amount of talent at a later age. Lateral entry will provide an opportunity for him/her.
- Lateral entry will promote a sense of competition in bureaucracy. It will induce them to develop expertise in areas of their choice. This will reduce the self-righteous behaviour of government officials.
Criticisms against the process of Lateral Entry
- There is an ambiguity in the recruitment process. There is no clear policy on the determination of vacancy, shortlisting of candidates, evaluation procedure etc.
- Large-scale lateral induction may discourage motivated and talented officers. Such a move gives a signal that the present officers are not competent to run the government.
- Lateral entrants might have less field experience. The government officials reaching top positions serve 10-15 years at ground level. But the lateral entrants hired based on their theoretical (subject) experience might not have a field or practical knowledge about the government policy and its implementation.
- Lateral entry might act as a barrier for many aspirants preparing for competitive exams in the long run. As lateral entry means a decreased probability of reaching higher positions thereby discouraging the best talents to apply for these jobs.
- The lateral entrants would find it difficult to assimilate in the bureaucratic structure within their short contractual time. This will reduce the probability of delivering optimum results within due time.
- A potential conflict of interest may arise in policy framing. Private people may be focused on profit maximization while government officials aspire to public service.
- The vulnerable sections like SCs, STs, etc. have criticized the process for sidelining the reservation policy. As the UPSC does not offer any reservation policy for lateral entrants.
- Too much induction from lateral entry should be avoided so that a fine balance between government officials and lateral entrants can be maintained.
- The “13-point roster” system should be implemented in the reservation. This will ensure collective vacancies are not portrayed as numerous single post advertisements.What is a 13 point roster formula?
It is the Supreme Court backed formula for determining reservation in postings. After filling 13.33 positions (14 in the round figure) only,every reserved category gets at least one post.
For example, consider if there were 13 vacancies. Based on the 13 point formula, every 4th, 7th, 8th, 12th, and 14th vacancies are reserved for OBCs, SCs, OBCs, OBCs, STs respectively.
- A greater weightage can be given for ‘prior consultation work’ with the government. As these people will face less difficulty in assimilation with the bureaucratic structure.
- The recruitment and service rules for lateral entry posts have to be clearly defined and made incentive-compatible. Apart from that, the UPSC also ensure transparency in the recruitment process. It can be done by steps like,
- Framing a basic entry-level test to check the analytical skills, judgement capabilities, and personality traits.
- Exploring the options of allocating cadres and putting them at least one year under State governments. During this phase, training lateral entrants in their respective position at the field level.
- The appointment should be restricted to sectors of finance, economy and infrastructure which are only technical in nature. It shouldn’t be extended to Home, Defence, Personnel etc.
- India can also adopt good practices from the lateral entry system adopted by more developed parliamentary democracies like the UK.
The performance of the Indian bureaucratic structure can definitely be complemented with the lateral entry process. Lateral entrants can complement the regular government officials by bringing in new outside talents, pushing the government officials to work more for public welfare, etc. But a definite policy is the need of the hour to make the system of lateral entry more inclusive, transparent and effective.
Flaws in Corruption Perception Index
Synopsis– Corruption Perception Index as a measure of corruption cannot be used as a base for policymaking.
- Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is an index published annually by Transparency International [TI] since 1995.
- The index ranks countries by their perceived levels of corruption as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.
- India’s ranking– 86th with an overall rating of 40.
- Experts argue that there are shortcomings in CPI as it fails to highlight the key issues.
What are the major flaws in CPI?
- CPI lacks representativeness– TI uses only expert reviews and surveys of business owners. It does not use public polling.
- The index has been under criticism for substantial bias from the powerful elite.
- It ignores the perception of the poor.
- The index is not able to distinguish between a bribe and a customary act. For example– Global business persons may consider Diwali gifts as corruption at which are customary for locals.
- Not all countries are part of the index- It requires 3 surveys per country. As a result, it is not possible to have many countries in the CPI.
- For example- In 2003, only 133 countries were ranked by the CPI.
- Makes the ranking order irrelevant– A country’s rank can also change because new countries enter the index and other drops out.
- Changing methodology– Data cannot be compared from year to year as TI uses different methodologies and samples every year. This makes it difficult to evaluate the performance of the country.
- Perception rating depends on media coverage- Anti-corruption drive in a country has often translated into declines in that country’s CPI score in the following year.
For example- In 2011, the year of the massive anti-corruption movement, India’s CPI rating declined. While Countries that suppress a free press may escape with this.
CPI is a flawed instrument of corruption measurement, capable of only measuring ambiguous corruption proxies. CPI would be meaningful if used alongside other indices such as the Global Corruption Barometer, Press Freedom Index, and Rule of Law Index.
Issue of adultery in Civil Services and Army
Synopsis: SC decriminalized the act of adultery in the Joseph Shine vs Union of India case. However, it is still not clear whether adultery is the right ground for departmental enquiries against Civil Servants or Army officials.
- Members of All India Services (AIS) are governed by a moral code of conduct. It requires them to “maintain absolute integrity and devotion to duty” and do “nothing which is unbecoming of a member of the service”.
- Similarly, the Army Act also contains penal provisions for displaying “unbecoming conduct” or “disgraceful conduct”.
- However, the terms “unbecoming conduct” or “unbecoming of a member of a service” are not anywhere defined. It leaves the scope for employers or disciplinary authorities to define them as per their own understanding.
- It is the reason that there is doubt whether illicit or adulterous relations are covered under these definitions or not.
- This issue has become more prominent after SC decriminalised adultery in the Joseph Shine vs Union of India case. The Centre has filed an application for clarification with the SC that whether this judgment applies to armed forces or not.
- The matter has been referred to the constitutional bench. However, Justice Nariman made an observation while issuing the notice. He observed that even if the law is scrapped, the act of adultery will still be an ‘unbecoming conduct’.
Earlier High Court judgment on adultery and misconduct
- The above observation of Justice Nariman is in contrast to earlier High Court judgments.
- Calcutta High Court in Rabindra Nath Ghosh in a case of adultery held that the head constable who was living with another woman is not guilty of misconduct in the performance of his duties.
- Allahabad HC in In State of U.P. vs BN Singh (1989) held that the act of adultery by a government servant cannot be covered by default within the definition of ‘personal immorality’. For that, there should be a relation between the act of adultery and the reduction of his utility as a public servant.
- Rajasthan High Court in Mahesh Chand Sharma vs State of Rajasthan (2019) held that “no employer can be allowed to do moral policing on its employees which go beyond the domain of his public life”.
Various HC has declared that adultery is not a sufficient ground to initiate departmental proceeding if it is not interfering with official functions. Whereas Justice Nariman has provided a different interpretation. Thus it becomes utmost important to define the terms like “misconduct” and “immoral act”.
Allowing constructive criticism of Government Policies
Synopsis: India should respect the universal nature of human rights. It should allow constructive criticism of its policies by the Global community. Thus, India should welcome, praise as well as criticism from other nations.
- The use of military-grade barriers and internet shutdown against Farmer’s protest attracted criticism from global celebrities. However, the government has advised them to refrain from interfering in the internal issues.
- Moreover, The government has arrested activists (like Disha Ravi) and warned social media companies (Like Twitter) supporting such celebrities.
- It is not the first time global celebrities stood for human rights. They also advocated democratic and human rights in other cases, like for Syrians on an Italian shore, the Rohingya in Myanmar, or Hindus in Pakistan.
- The global community is surprised by such a response. It is because India has itself been a champion and propagator of the universal nature of human rights.
India supporting universal nature of human rights:
- The country criticized the practice of apartheid and arbitrary rivoria trail of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. The efforts led to the setting up of the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid.
- India was part of the committee that formulated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration was adopted in 1948. This created a list of universal rights available to every human being.
- Indian freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi played a pivotal role in drafting the UN charter at the 1945 San Francisco conference.
Respecting the Universality and Indivisibility:
- The framers of the Indian constitution didn’t intend to protect the customs and traditions. They adopted liberty, equality, and fraternity ideals of French Revolutions on the basis of following justifications.
- Liberty without equality will lead to the supremacy of few and equality without liberty would kill innovation.
- Without fraternity, liberty and equality could not become a natural course of things.
Why should we welcome Foreign Criticism?
- First, India itself intervened on matters of other countries on grounds of human rights. The 1971 intervention in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was justified on humanitarian grounds.
- Second, implementation of the latest laws like the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is only possible when criticism from other countries is accepted. The law offers a home for certain persecuted citizens of three foreign countries.
- Third, the interests of Sri Lankan Tamils can be protected when the country is itself open to foreign comments.
- Fourth, the country anyway welcomes praise from foreigners as observed in case of giving refuge to the Dalai Lama. Similarly, some Europeans were allowed to visit Kashmir in order to examine the human rights situation.
- Fifth, public criticism is not a direct intervention in internal affairs.
- India must realize that it can sustain its reputation as the world’s largest democracy only when it ensures and secure universal rights for all. This would require giving everyone a sense of security and respecting their dignity.
- Further, the practise of accepting only praise from foreign celebrities also needs to change. Constructive criticism also requires acceptance.
India must refrain from shunning the criticism on the grounds of ‘internal matter’. India has itself intervened in fellow countries to protect and uphold human rights.
Frequent transfer of public servants affect public administration
Synopsis- Frequent transfer of public servants ultimately affect their morale, performance, and also the public administration.
- An analysis of the executive record (ER) sheets of thousands of IAS officers reveals that the frequent transfers in service are normal.
- But, frequent transfers have an adverse impact on their morale. This will lead to a decline in productivity and efficacy.
- Few examples of frequent transfer of public servants
- IAS Ashok Khemka has been transferred more than 50 times.
- Pradeep Kasni has been transferred 65 times.
Why frequent transfers happening?
Frequent transfers happen due to two major reasons. Such as,
- Interference of local politicians in public policy.
- Transfer guidelines have been undermined by state governments. The 2nd ARC also highlighted this issue.
What are the impacts of frequent transfer of public servants?
- The officer is not getting the proper time to focus on the developmental needs of the area.
- For Example- the Shopian district in Jammu and Kashmir for the last 14 years witnessed the transfer of 13 Deputy Commissioners. Among them, two officials were transferred within 25 days of their posting. So the public servants not able to frame proper long-term developmental policies.
- Frequent transfers affect the functioning of public administration and demoralize the bureaucracy.
- The Hota Committee report on 2004 also highlighted a few impacts. Such as
- Frequent transfers will create a lag in the implementation of government policies. As the new public official has to know the status of the project, challenges in a particular area etc.
- Further, frequent transfers will result in the wastage of public resources. This is due to inadequate supervision of the program and large-scale corruption.
- Above all, transfers can create administrative favoritism among the public servants and create divisions among civil servants.
The government has to frame an efficient transfer policy. This will preserve the fundamental principles of civil services such as neutrality, impartiality, and anonymity.
“National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM)” and other governance initiatives
What is the News?
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched the National Urban Digital Mission(NUDM) and several other initiatives for transforming urban governance.
National Urban Digital Mission(NUDM):
- Launched by: It has been launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA). In partnership with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY).
- Aim: To build the shared digital infrastructure that will strengthen the capacity of the urban ecosystem to solve complex problems.
- Approach: The digital infrastructure will be built across three pillars of People, Process and platform. The infrastructure will provide holistic support to cities and towns.
- Target: The NUDM aims to institutionalise a citizen-centric and ecosystem-driven approach to urban governance and service delivery. The NUDM will be completed in 2022 cities by 2022. Further, it will be expanded across all cities and towns in India by 2024.
- The digital infrastructure will help cities to consolidate and cross-leverage the various digital initiatives of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
- It will also enable the cities and towns to benefit from holistic and diverse forms of support. Such as satisfying the needs and local challenges of the towns and cities.
India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX)
- Developed by: It has been developed in partnership between the Smart Cities Mission and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.
- Purpose: It is designed to address the problem of data silos both within and across cities. It will address the data silos by providing a seamless interface for data providers and data users including Urban local bodies(ULBs). They can share, request and access datasets related to cities, urban governance and urban service delivery seamlessly.What is a data silo?
A data silo is a group of raw data that is accessible by one department but isolated from the rest of the organization. This results in a severe lack of transparency, efficiency, and trust within that organization.
Read about Climate-Smart Cities Assessment Framework(CSCAF)
- What is it? It is a platform that enables all ecosystem stakeholders to contribute to a repository of open-source codes. This repository will be used in providing various solutions and applications for urban governance.
- Purpose: It is designed to address urban challenges that ULBs face in the development and deployment of digital applications.
- How does it help? Since the existing codes available, the ULBs will customise them to suit local needs. So the ULBs don’t have to develop new solutions from scratch.
- The smart codes will be free and without any licensing or subscription fees. This will reduce the costs of building a locally-relevant solution. Because the cost is involved only in customising the code and developing a solution. Not for developing the code from scratch.
Other Urban Governance Initiatives
Climate Centre for Cities(C3):
- It has been launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs within the National Institute of Urban Affairs.
- It has been set up to consolidate and institutionalize and mainstream the learnings from experiences in our cities on climate change.
City Finance Portal:
- It is a single platform to enable sharing and learning of best practices and to help ULBs in accessing market funds.
The case of Four Capitals or the Supreme Court bench in South India
Synopsis: The proposal of four capitals may not be feasible in India. However, a Supreme Court Bench in south India can be created.
West Bengal’s CM Mamata Banerjee suggested that there should be four capitals of India. She is of the opinion that Parliament sessions should be held in each of the four capitals in rotation. However, the proposal is not feasible.
Why is the plan not feasible?
Each one of the Four Capitals will require parliament buildings, accommodation for all the MPs, and adjunct staff. Moreover, there will be other cost involved with it:
- Firstly, if constructed, these residential accommodations would be vacant for a year or 2. There would be an added cost of traveling for all the MPs and their staff.
- Secondly, It will overburden the state police. All the MPs and their vacant accommodations will require security round the clock.
- Thirdly, depending on the risk factor, enhanced security will have to be necessarily provided to a fair number of MPs.
- Fourthly, the cost to the government exchequer to have capitals in three other States will be huge.
- For instance, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister proposed to shift the State capital to Tiruchirappalli in central Tamil Nadu in the 1980s. It was shelved due to the huge burden it would impose on the State exchequer.
The case for SC bench in Southern state
The Bar Councils of the five southern States called for a Supreme Court bench in south India in 2021. This demand needs consideration.
- Firstly, there is a long-distance between the southern states and Delhi. Many people cannot afford to travel all the way to New Delhi to engage lawyers and plead their cases.
- Secondly, The excessive fee of the Supreme Court lawyers in New Delhi is another constraint.
- Third, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal suggested that four benches of the Court of Appeal with 15 judges each should be created across the country. It will reduce the burden of the Supreme Court.
- Fourth, Moreover, Judges would be able to go through each case thoroughly. Thus, it will ensure the delivery of a well-thought-out verdict. However, implementing this would require an amendment to the Constitution.
The way forward
This arrangement will allow the Supreme Court to deal with constitutional issues. With cases rising in various courts, a practical solution needs to be worked out. Easy accessibility to justice for every citizen is a right that cannot be countered.
Defence Minister launches “E-Chhawani portal”
What is the news?
Union Defence Minister has launched the e-Chhawani portal.
About the Portal:
- The portal aims to provide online municipal services to more than 20 lakh citizens across 62 Cantonment Boards.
- Developed by: The portal developed jointly by eGov Foundation, Bharat Electronics Limited(BEL), Directorate General Defence Estates(DGDE) and National Informatics Centre(NIC).
- Features: Through the portal, the residents of cantonment areas will be able to avail basic services such as; the renewal of leases, application for birth & death certificates, water & sewerage connections, trade licences, mobile toilet locators and payment of different types of taxes and fees.
The need of explicit details of the offences against the children in POCSO Act
Source- The Hindu
Syllabus – GS 2 – Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
Synopsis: The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act was enacted especially to protect children from sexual assault.
- In the case of Satish Ragde v. State of Maharashtra, Bombay High Court acquitted the accused under the POCSO Act.
- The Court stated its ground that the accused groped the victim over her clothes and there was no skin to skin contact i.e. physical contact with the victim.
- The Supreme Court ordered a stay on the acquittal of the accused.
Why the legislature enacted the POCSO Act?
- First, to protect children below 18 years of age from any kind of sexual abuses.
- Second, before the enactment of this Act, there was no other Act which provides specifically for the sexual offences against children.
- Third, India has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. The Convention requires sexual exploitation and sexual abuse to be addressed as heinous crimes.
- Fourth, to provide for strict punishments to create a deterrence effect against the sexual offences against the children.
Thus, the need for an explicit Act was felt for the offences against children.
Why the POCSO act is comprehensive than IPC?
- First, in IPC the definition of assault is generic i.e. ‘assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty’. However, in POCSO the acts of sexual assault are explicitly mentioned.
- Second, Age- IPC provides punishment for the offence against a victim, irrespective of age. However, POCSO is specifically for the protection of the children.
- Third, POCSO provides for higher punishment as compare to IPC as the victims are children.
The findings of the Courts in the cases of sexual assault-
- The Supreme Court held in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997) that the offences relating to the modesty of woman cannot be treated as trivial.
- The High Court of Chhasttisgarh in Pappu v. State of Chhattisgarh (2015) held the conviction of accused of sexual harassment under Section 354A which requires ‘physical contact’ and advances as a necessary element. It didn’t go into the debate of skin-to-skin contact.
- The U.K. Sexual Offences Act 2003 mentions clearly that touching with sexual intent includes touching any part of the body, with anything else or though anything.
- POCSO act must also be modified to remove such ambiguities.
- However, for the time being, any interpretation which weakens the protection of the children need to be declared ultra vires. As it can set a dangerous precedent in society.
State Reform Action Plan (SRAP), 2019
What is the News?
Ministry of Commerce and Industry has informed Lok Sabha about the rankings of States and Union Territories(UTs) under State Reform Action Plan (SRAP), 2019.
About State Reform Action Plan(SRAP):
- SRAP: It is an index that ranks states and Union Territories based on the implementation of the Business Reform Action Plan.
- Released by: It has been released by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade(DPIIT) since 2015.
- Objective: To attract investments by increasing the Ease of Doing Business in each State. It introduces an element of healthy competition through a system of ranking states.
- Parameters: It includes 180 reform points covering 12 business regulatory areas such as Access to Information, Single Window System, Labour, Environment, Paying Taxes among others.
- Method of Ranking: The rankings are based on feedback obtained from users/professionals against 180 out of 187 reform points. Its method is similar to the methodology followed by the World Bank in its global Doing Business rankings.
- Ranking: The top five states under the SRAP 2019 are Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.
- Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade(DPIIT) has prepared a 301-point State Reforms Action Plan,2020, and shared with States/UTs.
- The Action Plan is spread across 15 reform areas. It seeks to promote a sector-specific approach to create an enabling business environment across various sectors in the country.
- The various sectors include Trade License, Healthcare, Legal Metrology, Fire License/NOC, Cinema Halls, Hospitality, Telecom, Movie Shooting and Tourism.
Economic Survey 2020-21: “Bare necessities index” introduced
What is the News?
The Economic Survey 2020-21 has introduced the Bare Necessities Index(BNI).
- Bare Necessities Index(BNI): This index is a means of assessing equity in economic development among states and regions in India. It uses the basic needs approach.
- Indicators: This index uses 26 indicators on five dimensions of basic necessities— water, sanitation, housing, micro-environment, and other facilities.
- Data Collection: The index has been created for all states based on data collected by the National Statistical Office(NSO) in 2012 and 2018.
- Range: The index classifies areas on three levels of access — high, medium, low — to bare necessities. The index has a range of 0 to 1 where 1 represents the best access to the basic necessities.
- Richer vs Poorer States: The Poorer States have reduced the gap with rich States in providing access to the basics of daily life — housing, water, power, sanitation, cooking gas.
- Inter-State disparity in access to the basic necessities has declined in 2018, when compared to 2012.
- Performance of States: States such as Kerala, Punjab, Haryana, and Gujarat top the index. While eastern Indian States of Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Tripura have occupied the lowest positions.
- States which showed significant improvement include Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh.
- Richer vs Poorer Households: The access to basic necessities has improved significantly for the poorest households when compared to the richest households.
- The gap between Rural and Urban India: There is still a gap between urban and rural India as well as among income groups in access to basic necessities.
- There should be effective targeting of the government schemes for the poorer population in both urban or rural areas.
- There should be better Centre-State coordination with local governments as they are responsible for civic amenities in urban areas.
- The BNI could also be constructed at the district level using large annual household survey data to show progress.
Source: The Hindu
“Corruption Perception Index 2020” – India’s Rank Slips to 86th
What is the News?
Transparency International(TI) has released the Corruption Perception Index, 2020.
About Corruption Perception Index, 2020:
- Transparency International publishes this index annually, since 1995.
- The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. Corruption is measured based on expert assessments and surveys of business people. It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
- India: India’s rank on this index, has slipped six places to 86th among 180 countries in 2020. However, the CPI score for India is constant at 40 this year as well as in 2019.
- Topped by: New Zealand and Denmark are ranked at the first position with scores of 88.
- Bottom in the index: Somalia and South Sudan were ranked lowest at 179th position with scores of 12.
Source: Indian Express
India Justice Report 2020
What is the News?
India Justice Report 2020 has been released by TATA Trusts.
India Justice Report 2020:
- Prepared by: The report has been prepared by Tata Trusts along with the Centre for Social Justice, Common Cause, CHRI, DAKSH and, TISS-Prayas and, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
- Parameters: The report analyzed the performance of 18 large and mid-sized states and eight smaller states. It is based on four pillars of the justice delivery system: 1) judiciary, 2) police, 3) prisons 4) legal aid.
- It also analysed expenditure, vacancies, representation of women and members of SC, ST, and Other Backward Classes of these states.
Overall Ranking of States:
- Maharashtra has retained the top spot on delivery of justice to people among large and mid-sized states followed by Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Punjab, and Kerala.
- Among the small states( with a population of less than 1 crore), Tripura has topped the list followed by Sikkim.
- Women’s representation has marginally increased in the police, prisons and the judiciary. Women now accounts for
- 10% of all police personnel up from 7% in 2017;
- 13% prison staff (10% in 2016) and
- 3% of judges (26.5% in 2017-18).
- Women: Bihar leads the list of 25 states for employing most women in its police force at 25.3%. However, women account for only 6.1% in the officer category in Bihar.
- Tamil Nadu has the highest percentage of women police officers (24.8%) followed by Mizoram (20.1%).
- Representation of Castes: Karnataka is the only state to meet its quotas for SC, ST and OBC in both officer cadre and constabulary.
- People Police Ratio: For every 1,00,000 people, there is just 156 police personnel.
- Vacancies: Vacancies among the police were 20%. There was a shortfall of police officers in all states except Sikkim. Telangana and West Bengal with vacancies of 40% each had the highest shortfall.
- Judges ratio per citizen: India has one judge per 50,000 citizens as against the recommended number of one per 20,000.
- Women: Only 29% of judges in High Courts across the country are women. Four states — Bihar, Uttarakhand, Tripura, and Meghalaya — have no woman judge in their high courts.
- Vacancies: Except for Chandigarh, no single High Court in states or Union Territories had a full complement of judges. One in every three posts for High Court judges is vacant, and in the subordinate courts, one in every four.
- Under trials: Two-thirds of all prisoners are undertrials, awaiting a conviction.
- Vacancies: Over the last three years, the average vacancy levels across all prison staff remained at a little over 30%.
Source: Indian Express
Stopping hate on TV is essential to prevent riots: SC
What is the news?
The Supreme Court in a recent hearing has said that stopping hate on television is essential for law and order.
- What was the case? A batch of petitions alleged that certain sections of the media communalized the Tablighi Jamaat congregation. It linked the congregation to a spike in the spread of COVID-19 infection
Key Highlights of the Supreme Court Order:
- The Supreme Court said that the Fair and truthful reporting is not a problem. The problem arises when the reporting is used to agitate others.
- Hence, it asked the Central Government about its powers under Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act 1994. Under this act, the government can control the broadcast of content (by electronic media) that has a tendency to incite violence.
- Government Response:
- The Solicitor General said that the Government has powers to regulate or prohibit the transmission or re-transmission of any channel or programme for public order.
- There is also a group under the Ministry to monitor broadcast content for violation.
- However, the problem arises during live, discussion-based programmes, as there cannot be pre-censorship of such programmes.
Source: The Hindu
The POCSO Act and associated issues
Bombay High Court in Satheesh vs State of Maharastra case acquitted a man of sexual charges under the POCSO ( Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) act. The court cited the stringent Mandatory Minimum Sentence provision in the POCSO act and punished the person based on the IPC section 354 (Outraging the modesty of women).
However, the Supreme Court stayed the Bombay High Court verdict. But this is not an only incident, where, an accused has been acquitted under POCSO Act. Today, one more HC acquitted an accused in a similar case.
There is an urgent need to understand the issues and challenges Courts are facing in the implementation of The POCSO Act. The recent interpretation by Bombay High Court is one such issue among many.
What is the POCSO Act?
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) enacted in 2012 and amended in 2019. The Act was formulated to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and pornography.
Salient provisions of the Act:
First, The Act defines Child as any person below eighteen. The Act also defines different forms of sexual abuses.
Second, The Act provides for relief and rehabilitation as soon as the complaint is made to the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local police.
Third, The Act prescribes a maximum punishment of life imprisonment or the death penalty. The Act provides a mandatory minimum punishment of three years.
Fourth, The Act provides for the establishment of Special Courts for the trial of offences under the Act.
What is the intent behind the enactment of the POCSO Act?
First, data from the 2011 Census shows, India has a 472 million population of children below the age of eighteen. To protect them from sexual offences separate legislation was required.
Second, India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. So the POCSO Act was a mandatory international commitment to protect the rights of children.
Third, the Goa Children’s Act 2003 was the only legislation which specifically focuses on child abuse. Thus national-level legislation was the need of the hour that can be implemented in every State and UTs.
Fourth, Child sexual abuse was prosecuted under various sections of IPC such as Section 375 deals with rape etc. But the IPC sections suffer from various issues such as
- IPC Section 375 does not protect male Child and protect only the traditional sexual offences like peno-vaginal intercourse.
- IPC Section 377 and IPC Section 354 does not define the terms “unnatural offences” and “modesty”.
What is the significance of the POCSO Act?
First, The Act provides for immediate relief at the filing of the case. The compensation amount can change, based on the need of the victim. For example, the Act does not define the outer limit. The Judges can include Child’s educational need, medical needs including trauma compensation while deciding the compensation amount.
Second, The Act is Gender-neutral and Child friendly. The Act defines Child as any person below 18 years of age. Apart from that, the Act includes various safeguards for the child, like protecting the identity, avoiding victimization etc.
What are the challenges associated with the POCSO Act?
First, The POCSO Act is suffered by Abysmal rate of conviction like 14% in 2014 and 18% in 2017. The National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB) data of 2016, mentions the conviction rate as 29.6%, while pendency is as high as 89%. The NCRB also mentions the cases are not disposed within a year due to reasons such as frequent adjournments, the inability of the police to file investigation report etc.
Second, Though, the Act mentions Special Children courts to be established to hear the cases. Many states did not establish such courts. This is highlighted by Re: Exploitation of Children in Orphanages in the State of Tamil Nadu v. Union of India & Ors case.
Third, the Act provides a maximum punishment of death penalty. But Justice J.S. Verma Committee (Constituted on the aftermath of the Nirbhaya case) and 262nd Report of the Law Commission of India, 2015, were against the imposition of the death penalty for rape cases.
Fourth, Section 8 of the POCSO Act prescribes a mandatory minimum sentence of three years. The state of J&K vs Vinay Nanda case the Court held that it cannot prescribe punishment lesser than the minimum prescribed punishment. This resulted into the various challenges such as
- More acquittals in POCSO cases: Percentage of acquittal is high because the Judges thinks the mandatory minimum punishment prescribed is more compared to the seriousness of the crime.
- Else the Court can acquit the accused and punish him like that of Satheesh vs State of Maharastra case. In other words, punishing the person under Section 354 of IPC (Outraging the modesty of women).
Section 7 and 8 of POCSO Act: Section 8 prescribes the punishment for the offence of sexual assault defined in Section 7 of the Act. It provides for the mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years and a maximum of 5 years.
Section 7 of the POCSO Act mentions whoever “with sexual intent” touches the private part of children or commit any such act “which involves physical contact”… “is said to have committed sexual assault”.
Difference between Section 8 of the POCSO Act and Section 354 of IPC:
|Section 8 of the POCSO Act||Section 354 of IPC|
|This section is gender-neutral||This section is only for women and not for male or transgender child|
|Punishment can be a minimum sentence of 3 years and may extend to the maximum sentence of 5 years||Punishment shall not be less than one year but it may extend to five years|
Fifth, The POCSO Act is considered as a victim-oriented statute (i.e., the damage caused to the victim assumes more importance). This makes the Act, not a neutral one. For example, Section 29 of the POCSO Act mentions If a person is prosecuted under the POCSO Act, the special court “shall presume” the accused to be guilty.
Sixth, The Act does not cover all the aspects of sexual violence of children. For instance, the Act is silent on cyberbullying and other online sexual crimes of children. The Act is also silent on cases were one child made sexual violence against another child/children.
First, the government has to amend the POCSO Act to overcome the challenges by removing the mandatory minimum sentence and the death penalty. The amendment should also include offences such as cyber bullying of children and other online sexual crimes against children.
Second, High courts should instruct the trial courts not to grant unnecessary adjournments during the trial. State police chiefs should constitute special task forces investigating cases to prevent the pendency of cases.
Third, The Supreme Court issued a direction to set up special courts within 60 days on the districts that are having more than 100 pending POCSO cases. This has to be implemented urgently.
Fourth, the introduction of sex education in schools and educating the children about good touch and bad touch is significant. In 2008-09 Parliamentary committee report mentions the introduction of sex education, but it never materialized. It has to be implemented.
Though the Act can be amended and faster implementation can provide relief to the Children, Awareness and sensitization of people is equally important to prevent the crime itself.
Criminalisation of government criticisms: Laws and issues
Recently Bihar government decided to categorize defamatory and offensive social media posts against government officials as cybercrime. Bihar Police has issued a circular to implement this order.
This is not the first instance when Sedition laws and criminal defamation have been used to silence the critics of the government.
Examples of Government silencing critics:
First, As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 70 people were accused of sedition in 2018. But only four cases actually ended in conviction.
Second, In August 2016, the court criticized the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for misusing the criminal defamation law to “suffocate democracy” and, the court held that, “public figures must face criticism”.
Third, In May 2020 Madras High Court declared 28 criminal defamation proceedings filed by the Tamil Nadu government as invalid.
Fourth, the NCRB Report 2018 mentions, the conviction rate of offenders prosecuted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act was just 14.5% in 2015.
These are clear examples of government using sedition, Criminal defamation and other suits as a means of harassment.
What are the laws governing criticisms against the government?
First, Sedition under section 124A of the IPC (Indian Penal Code). Sedition is defined as any action that brings or attempts to bring contempt or hatred towards the government of India. Sedition cases are punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Second, Criminal defamation under section 499 of the IPC. Defamation is defined as the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual person, group, product, business, government, religion, or nation.
Third, The Government enacted the Information Technology (IT) Act 2000 for matters related to cybercrime and e-commerce. Under this act, the Government can punish any crime involving a computer or a network. The Act can charge India citizens as well as foreigners.
Fourth, The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967. The Act aims to effectively prevent unlawful activities and associations involved. In 2019 the government amended the provisions of the Act to designate an individual as a terrorist. The Law prescribes a maximum punishment of death penalty or life imprisonment.
Fifth, Apart from these Acts several states have enacted specific laws to govern the criticisms. For example draft bill of Shakti Act of Maharashtra has a provision for stricter punishment for offenders who post defamatory messages on social media.
What are the Judicial interventions on Laws governing criticisms?
First, In Kedarnath Singh vs State of Bihar case 1962, Court upheld the constitutional validity of Section 124A (Sedition). The Court mentioned, “citizen right to freedom of speech and expression does not include incite people to be violent against the government or with the intention of creating public disorder”.
Second, In Balwant Singh v State of Punjab case 1995, the Supreme Court held that mere sloganeering that evoked no public response did not amount to sedition.
Third, The Supreme Court of India, in the Subramanian Swamy vs Union of India, 2014, upheld the constitutional validity of the IPC (Section 499 and 500). The court mentioned the fundamental right to live with dignity and reputation “cannot be ruined solely because another person can have his/her freedom”.
Fourth, In Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India 2015 case, the Supreme Court struck down Section 66A (this provision criminalizes sending offensive messages through a computer or other communication devices) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. The court also held that the provisions of section 66A have violated Right to freedom of speech and expression.
Why we need such laws in India?
First, These laws have utility in combating secessionist, anti-national and terrorist elements. Some highly publicized cases cannot be the reason to repeal section 124A, section 499 and UAPA.
Second, If contempt of court invites penal action, the contempt of government should also attract similar punishment for the smooth functioning of democracy.
Third, These laws provide stability to the democratically elected government. Sedition laws, Defamation laws and UAPA act as a strong defence against violence and illegal activities aimed to overthrow the government
Why the provisions have to be repealed?
First, These provisions are clear examples of a violation of the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression. Right to question, criticize and change rulers is one of the fundamental ideas of democracy. Both the sections of IPC(124A and 499) and the provisions of UAPA are in direct conflict with the aforesaid Rights.
Second, IPC and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act have provisions that penalize “disrupting the public order” or “overthrowing the government with violence and illegal means”. These are sufficient for protecting the national integrity. There is no need for Section 124A and 499. It can be repealed.
Third, In 1979, India ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR sets out internationally recognized standards for the protection of freedom of expression. However, the misuse of sedition, criminal defamation and UAPA is inconsistent with India’s international commitments.
Fourth, Even the UK (sedition law originated) and Australia have removed sedition laws. International bodies such as the UN had recognized the threat posed by criminal defamation laws.
Fifth, The criticisms if reach at right time to the government, then it can save a lot of resources, government machinery, etc.
There are certain ways to improve sedition, criminal defamation and the application of UAPA in India.
First, We have to educate the Law enforcement authorities to prevent the problem of misuse. The enforcement authorities might be trained regarding the application and non-application cases of sedition, criminal defamation and UAPA suits.
Second, the State has to follow the Parent-Child approach during the criticisms where raised. The Madras High court advocated this approach in May 2020.
Parent-Child approach: The state must act like it is the parent of all its citizens. Despite the insult (sedition or criminal defamation) by children (citizen), parents don’t discard their children quite easily. Like that State also accept the fact that public figures must face criticism.
Third, The Protection of Speech and Reputation Bill, 2016 in modified form can be enacted by the government. The Private member bill has certain important provisions such as
- Setting the maximum claim limits and barring governments, local bodies and other institutions (statutory functions) from filing suits for defamation and sedition.
- Providing punishments such as apologies, corrections and retractions, for a lesser form of crimes.
India is an open and liberal society, the largest democracy. But to secure national integrity, divisive forces have to be kept in check. So, it is necessary to retain the laws criminalising criticisms. But the wrongful enforcement and misuse have to be checked.
DPIIT launches regulatory compliance portal
Why in News?
The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has launched a portal called “Regulatory Compliance Portal”.
About Regulatory Compliance Portal:
- Objective: Portal is aimed at minimizing the regulatory burden on businesses and citizens. For that, it will act as a bridge between citizens, industries and the Government. It will also act as a first-of-its-kind central online repository of all Central and State-level compliances.
- Key Features:
- All Central Ministries and States/UTs will rationalize and simplify their regulatory processes and remove burdensome compliances
- All such changes would be captured and updated on the Regulatory Compliance Portal.
- Industry stakeholders would also be able to submit compliances and proposed recommendations. This will be assessed by concerned Government authority and suitable action would be undertaken to minimize the regulatory compliance burden.
- Nodal Department: DPIIT will act as the nodal department for coordinating the exercise of minimizing regulatory compliance burden for citizens and businesses.
2nd edition of India Innovation Index-2020
Why in News?
NITI Aayog along with the Institute for Competitiveness has released the second edition of the India Innovation Index-2020.
- India Innovation Index: The first edition of the index was launched in October 2019.
- The Index is aimed at providing an effective tool to track the state of innovation at both the national and the state level.
- Objectives: The index intends to accomplish the following three functions:
- Rank all States and Union Territories based on their index score.
- Identify innovation related opportunities and challenges for the states.
- Assist in modifying governmental policies to foster innovation.
- Parameters: The index measures innovation inputs through ‘Enablers’ and innovation output as ‘Performance.’
- Enablers: There are Five Enabler pillars that capture elements of the state economy. They act as inputs for the innovation environment. They are: Human Capital, Investment, Knowledge Workers, Business Environment, Safety and Legal Environment.
- Performance: The two Performance pillars that depict the performance are: Knowledge Output and Knowledge Diffusion.
- Ranking: The index has classified the States and Union Territories into three categories: Major States; NE and Hill States; and UT and City–States. These regions are categorized based on the area, as spatial homogeneity across states makes for a fair comparison for innovative capacity.
Key Findings of Innovation index:
- Level of Competitiveness: The index has found that the level of competitiveness among the States and Union Territories was high. This competitiveness is essential for improving on their enabling factors as well as innovation performance.
- Major States: Karnataka has continued to occupy the top position followed by Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
- UT and City–States: Delhi has retained its first rank in this category followed by Chandigarh.
- North-Eastern/Hill States category: Himachal Pradesh has topped the index in this category followed by Uttarakhand.
Significance of the index:
- The index is a major step towards measuring innovation outcomes of states. It will facilitate optimal utilization of national and state mechanisms to realize the goal of an ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’.
- The index can help Central and State governments to benchmark regional performance concerning innovation. It suggests policy decisions required to improve on the strengths and overcome the weak areas of the states.
One Nation One Ration Card system reform – Tamil Nadu becomes the 11th State to complete the reform
News: Tamil Nadu has become the 11th State in the country to successfully undertake the “One Nation One Ration Card system” reform stipulated by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance.
- One Nation One Ration Card(ONORC) System: It is an important citizen-centric reform. Its implementation ensures the availability of ration to beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and other welfare schemes, especially the migrant workers and their families at any Fair Price Shop (FPS) across the country.
- Features: To ensure seamless inter-state portability of a ration card, Aadhar seeding of all ration cards as well as biometric authentication of beneficiaries through automation of all Fair Price Shops (FPSs) with the installation of electronic point of sale (e-PoS) devices are essential under the system.
Benefits of One Nation One Ration Card:
- Empowers migrant Population: It empowers the migratory population who frequently change their place of dwelling as migrant beneficiaries can get their entitled quota of food grains from any electronic point of sale(e-PoS) enabled fair Price Shops of their choice anywhere in the country.
- Better Targeting: The reform enables the States in better targeting of beneficiaries, elimination of bogus/ duplicate/ineligible card-holders resulting in enhanced welfare and reduced leakage.
Are there any benefits given by the Centre for the implementation of the ONORC System?
- To meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of India had in May 2020 enhanced the borrowing limit of the States by 2% of their Gross State Domestic Product(GSDP).
- Half of this borrowing limit i.e 1% of GSDP has linked to undertaking citizen-centric reforms by the States.
- The four citizen-centric areas for reforms identified by the Department of Expenditure were (a) Implementation of One Nation One Ration Card System, (b) Ease of doing business reform, (c) Urban Local body/ utility reforms and (d) Power Sector reforms.
- Therefore, an additional borrowing limit of 0.25% of the GSDP is allowed to the States only on completion of both of the following actions: 1) Aadhar Seeding of all the ration cards and beneficiaries in the State and 2) Automation of all the FPSs in the State.
Dialogue and deliberation with beneficiaries are a prerequisite for Welfare Policymaking
Synopsis: The state and central government can learn from the good practices of Rajasthan on dialogue and deliberation with beneficiaries while policy making to transform from mere governance to good governance.
- The recently enacted Farm laws were passed without any consultation with the farmer community.
- Even when policies are made in good principles, for effective programme implementation, consultations and deliberations are needed during the initial stages of law making.
- If the farm laws were made by taking consultations from the relevant stakeholders especially from the farming community, we could have avoided the ongoing Farmers protest in Delhi.
- The case of Rajasthan, that has a healthy tradition of consulting with worker groups and civil society organisations during the initial stage of policy formulation and to take continuous feedback from the field to carry out periodic midway course corrections serves as a shining example for effective policy making.
How Rajasthan shines as a text book example for effective policy making?
- The example of the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Rajasthan can illustrate this better.
- Though MGNREGA wages are now directly credited from the central government to a worker’s bank account this system faces the Issue of payment rejections. There are numerous reasons for rejection, for example,
- There are instances where block level data entry operators make errors in entering the account or Aadhaar details of workers.
- There are instances where money does not get credited due to technical issues, for example, the issue of ‘Inactive Aadhaar’. This happens when the linkage of the worker’s Aadhaar and their bank account is broken in the software maintained by the NPCI.
- Sometimes banks are not able to transfer money as the beneficiary account remains
How the Rajasthan government was able to solve the Issue of payment rejections?
- To resolve payment rejections, the Department of Rural Development of the Government of Rajasthan has held numerous discussions which resulted in conducting periodic workshops with the relevant stake holders.
- Through workshops the worker groups and civil society organisations interacted directly with the aggrieved workers, administrative officers from the village level to the State level, and bankers.
- Through Continuous dialogues with aggrieved workers, they were able to finalise a detailed guideline with well-defined responsibility, clear timelines, and monitoring and protocols to be followed by officials to resolve the issue.
- This has resulted in a significant reduction in payment rejections in Rajasthan. Within a period of 1 year, the Rajasthan government was able to clear ₹380 crore worth of payments to workers that were earlier stuck due to rejections.
- By resolving the payment issue through dialogues, deliberations and constant feedback, the government ensured that every person who has worked, gets their full payment on time
- There is also another case of Jan Soochna Portal similar to MGNREGA where government through a ‘digital dialogue’ involving government officials and numerous civil society organisation have designed and formatted each scheme of Jan Soochna Portal.
- Jan Soochna Portal was launched to facilitate The Right to Information (RTI) Act that was obscured by issues such as ill-defined formats, inaccessibility
- The JSP is a single platform in the public domain providing information across 60 departments of over 104 schemes. The JSP makes disclosure of information accessible for all.
Federalism and good governance require constant constructive engagement between people and officials through Deliberation and debate. A constitutionally committed government should listen to the voices of the marginalised before making welfare policies.
E-Sampada Mobile App launched
Source: The New Indian Express
News: Directorate of Estates, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched a new Web Portal and Mobile App named “e-Sampada”.
- e-Sampada: It is a mobile application that provides a single window for all services including allotment for over one lakh government residential accommodations, office space allotment to government organisations among others.
- Significance: This will promote ease of living for Government of India officers / Departments as all services can be availed online on a single window with a live tracking of applications.The automated processes will also minimize human intervention and will lead to greater transparency.
Need for reform in Governance structure of public universities
Synopsis: The governance structure of public universities must be reformed on an urgent basis as it may help them become world class universities.
55 central universities, endowed with prime land and extensive central grants, are crown jewels of the Indian academic system.
However, lately, these universities are facing governance-related challenges. Six vice-chancellors (VCs) of central universities have been sacked and another five have been charge-sheeted.
Need for Public universities
- There are some important public universities, where cross-disciplinary research to solve complex modern problems take place, with the focus on all the major branches of learning.
- Locus of innovation has been switched towards innovative private universities which have failed to develop into broad-based universities with the full range of humanities, social and natural sciences and the professional disciplines.
Thus, central universities must be saved to save the academia.
What is the governance structure in public universities?
As each of the 55 central universities is governed by a separate Act, there are difference in governance structures, but broadly it is as follows:
- VC: President of India is the Visitor of the university. On his behalf, Ministry of Education appoints chancellor.
- For that purpose, Ministry appoints search committee to interview multiple candidates and to come up with the list of 3 candidates. From the list ministry appoints a VC.
- Senate or court: It is chosen through different process and constituted of nominees from various stakeholders, including the government, faculty, students, and citizens.
- Technically, this is the governing council (GC) of the university.
- Executive council: Council carry on the university work. It is chaired by VC and appoints the registrar.
- Finance committee: Finance committee is appointed to maintain financial checks and balances. It is headed by a chief finance officer.
What are the issues in governance structure in public universities?
- GC has no say in the selection of the VC and meets only once a year. In theories, it approves the annual plan of the university, presented by VC. But in reality, plan is approved without discussions or questions.
- After approval there is very minimal direction or monitoring from the GC throughout the year.
- Size of the GC is very big to organise any fruitful meeting. For example; GC of Delhi University has 475 members.
Example of IIM
- In contrast to the general Governance structure, IIM structure is much better version.
- It has set a limit on the members of GC at maximum of 19. All of them are expected to meet s certain standard i.e. eminent citizens with broad social representation and an emphasis on alumni.
- Functions of GC includes:
- Selection of Director,
- Providing overall strategic direction,
- Raising resources,
- Monitoring the performance of director
Example of Harvard
- Until 150 years ago, Harvard was also a government university and was on verge of collapse.
- It only became what it is today after governance reform by creating an empowered board comprising its most successful alumni. They brought dynamism, oversight, and resources with them and made it a world-class university.
- Thus, it is apparent that the governing councils of all central universities IITs, and all other central institutions is restructured by an Act of Parliament.
- Boards of these universities should comprise of their most eminent alumni.
- Recently the billion-dollar endowment campaign announced by university is being spearheaded by its most successful alumni, many of them created Unicorns, or billion-dollar companies. If alumni like them invited to GC, they may help it become a world-class university like Harvard.
Cabinet approves merger of four government-run film and media units
Source: The Hindu
News: Cabinet has approved the merger of four government-run film and media units — the Films Division, the Directorate of Film Festivals, the National Film Archives of India and the autonomous body Children’s Film Society with the National Film Development Corporation(NFDC).
- Significance of Merger: The merger of Film Media Units under one corporation will lead to convergence of activities and resources and better coordination, thereby ensuring synergy and efficiency in achieving the mandate of each media unit.It will also lead to reduction in duplication of activities and direct savings to the exchequer
- Films Division: It was established in 1948 and is the oldest of the four units created primarily to produce documentaries and news magazines as publicity for government programmes and to keep a cinematic record of Indian history.
- National Film Archives of India: It was established in 1964 with the primary objective of acquiring and preserving Indian cinematic heritage.
- Directorate of Film Festivals: It was set up in 1973 to promote Indian films and cultural exchange.
- Children’s Film Society: It is an autonomous body founded in 1955 with the specific objective of providing children and young people value-based entertainment through the medium of films.
- National Film Development Corporation of India(NFDC): It was established in 1975 to encourage high quality Indian cinema.
- It functions under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
- The primary goal of the NFDC is to plan, promote and organise an integrated and efficient development of the Indian Film Industry and foster excellence in cinema.
- Headquarters: Mumbai
How COVID-19 revealed the limits of Political Accountability?
Context: The COVID-19 pandemic has put governance under a stress test which exposed how poorly prepared the world’s governments were.
What was the response of the world leaders to the pandemic?
The world’s most powerful leaders failed to do their duty to protect the citizens.
- In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro irresponsibly refused to get vaccinated, even as his own government has launched a national vaccination campaign. He even remarked that the vaccine might turn people into crocodiles.
- In India, lockdowns of limited effectiveness, the sight of migrants desperately walking back to their villages and having the second largest number of cases, dented Prime Minister Modi’s popularity.
- In Russia, Vladimir Putin has hardly spoken even as the virus wraths unchecked across Russia. Further, the citizens are against a vaccine whose ability and safety are inadequately understood because of the opacity of Russia’s protocols.
Then why people of their country have not held their leaders accountable for the failure in handling this situation? Answer lies in the following propositions that shape the view of general public towards their leaders.
What are the limits of political accountability exposed during the pandemic?
Three propositions frame this analysis:
- Prospective Accountability: It is often understood that the voters vote retrospectively, i.e., give their judgement in the elections by voting based on the incumbent’s record. Instead, they vote prospectively, i.e., against candidates who the voters fear would put the opponents to a disadvantage.
- Underestimation of collective action: Second, disease, unlike war, does not offer a clear enemy to target. Public health advice that stressed the need for personal responsibility to stay home, wear a mask, washing hands. It underestimated the challenge of collective action predicted on millions of individual responses.
- It emphasises person’s responsible for own health, then getting sick is also his own fault. It absolves the govt. off the responsibilities.
- Poverty of collective empathy: Third, the coronavirus pandemic reveals our inability to empathise with what we do not see. For example, thousands of deaths due to pollution and road accidents go unnoticed, unlike thousands of deaths by COVID-19;
What is the way forward?
- Prolonged economic suffering demands government remedy more immediately as without some measure of accountability, democracy loses its power, and so do the people.
Court complexes across country connected under E-Courts Project
Source: Click here
News: As many as 2927 complexes across India have been connected so far by a high-speed Wide Area Network(WAN) under e-Courts Project.
What is e-court project?
It is an Integrated Mission Mode Project under implementation since 2007 as part of National e-Governance Plan.
- The project is based on the National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology in Judiciary-2005.
- Aim: To provide designated services to litigants, lawyers and the judiciary by universal computerisation of district and subordinate courts in the country by leveraging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for improved justice delivery.
- Implementation: The project is monitored and funded by the Ministry of Law and Justice.
Urban Governance Index 2020
Source : Click here
News: The Urban Governance Index 2020 has been released.
- Published by: The index has been published by Praja Foundation, a Mumbai-based think tank.
- Purpose: The index ranks states to indicate where they stand in terms of real empowerment of grassroot democracy and local self government.
- Themes: The ranking is based on these main themes— how empowered elected city representatives and legislative structures are; how empowered the state’s city administration is; how empowered the citizens are and finally the fiscal empowerment and financial autonomy of the state.
- Topped by: Odisha was ranked first in the index followed by Maharashtra, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
- Worst States: Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland performed the worst in the index.
Post Truth politics
Context: Untroubled by factuality and diversity, privilege and power are shaping public opinion in troubled democracies.
What is the relation between truth and politics?
- “Factual truth”: It is a reference to observations by living subjects of constantly changing reality. But factual truth was always prone to challenge as being no more than opinion.
- “Formal truths”: On the contrary, it is a part of the received wisdom, such as the proposition that two and two made four.
- Truth and politics: Both of them had always been “on rather bad terms with each other” and “truthfulness” was never counted “among the political virtues”.
- This was a reality with a deep bearing on the practice of politics, since “facts and events”, the outcome of the collective life of humanity, were the “very texture of the political land”.
How is truth altered by deception?
- Factuality:The lie in normal circumstances is “defeated by reality”. However large the tissue of falsehood, even when twisted with the help of computers, it would be inadequate to “cover the immensity of factuality”.
- Radical destruction:A fact could be removed from the world if a sufficient number of people believe in its non-existence.
- But this would require a process of “radical destruction”, an experiment that totalitarian regimes had undertaken with frightening consequences, though without the intended result of “lasting deception”.
What is the role of social media?
- The role of social media: Earlier modes of harvesting attention and securing assent for a particular perception of reality have been transformed in this intensely networked situation.
- Since the events of 2016, notably the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election as the U.S. President, social media has come in for intense scrutiny for its ability to create bubbles of political misinformation.
- The economist, Raghuram Rajan, and the philosopher, Michael Sandel, have in recent times pointed out how daily lives in the U.S. today are increasingly about sameness, less about exposure to diversities of culture and social perception.
- It is a context that enables particular population units to pretend that other worlds do not exist, that their perceptions, fortified in regular “check ins” with social media, are all that matter.
- Customary deliberative processes have been dispensed with: Parliament sessions conclude without the Question Hour and consultative meetings across party lines over significant legislative initiatives have been scrapped.
- Public opinion in democracies is now fashioned within cocoons of privilege and power, untroubled by factuality or diversities in perception. The U.S. seems to have tapped the sources of countervailing power to neutralise this drift towards a world of alternative truths.
Context: Analysing the need for common global governance
What are the impediments to international cooperation in the 21st century?
- USA & China: The rivalry between the world’s two largest economies has intensified spreading the fears of a new cold war breaking between them.
- India – China: The militaries of the two most populous countries of the world has been engaged in a tense standoff for the past seven months.
- India and Pakistan: Endless state of confrontation between the armies of two nuclear-armed countries.
- West Asia: Civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen that are externally instigated.
- Brazil: Fire in parts of the Amazon forest, the world’s largest sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide has been a global concern
- USA- Russia nuclear disarmament: Uncertainity over the extension of the only remaining nuclear weapons control pact between the US and Russia, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty which is set to expire on February 5, 2021.
What are the Other common challenges?
- Ensuring affordable availability of the COVID vaccine to the entire global population.
- Making the world economy inclusive, equitable and sustainable for complete eradication of poverty.
- Achieving time-bound climate action to protect the planet.
- Preventing the militarisation of oceans, outer space and other global commons.
How can we tackle this problem?
- Need to establish democratic world government: Since, Non-discriminatory and justice-promoting governance is necessary for creating a more united, safer and better world. So, this concept must be brought to the centre of global discourse and action.
- Principle of shared sovereignty: Exclusive national sovereignty has become the greatest barrier to human unity and fraternity. The concept of national sovereignty is invoked many times to threaten peace, well-being and development. In the age of globalisation, we must embrace the virtues of shared sovereignty, in which connectivity (physical, digital, cultural and people-to-people) takes priority over the territorial sovereignty.
- New laws of global governance: Where militarisation of international disputes must be criminalised.
- Disarmament: The world community must compel all nations, to destroy all their weapons of mass destruction and to reduce their military expenditures.
- Reform and strengthen United Nations: To gradually evolve into a future world government body. As a key element of UN reforms, permanent membership of its security council must be abolished and nations that wage offensive wars or have failed to resolve disputes with their neighbours should stand disqualified/suspended from UNSC membership.
- Making governance more broad-based and participatory: Technology and mobility have made it possible for artists, professionals, environmentalists, disempowered communities etc, to collaborate by transcending national barriers. Therefore, their empowered participation in global governance is a must.
- People’s Movement: Rally the people of all nations, races and religions around a new democratically governing body to address the issues caused by myopic, self-centred and unaccountable national governments.
The solution to polarisation is reform of government and state institutions in a way that they work for all citizens without discrimination and injustice. Societies are healed when governance becomes fair and compassionate.
Digital nation: On delivery of citizen services
Context: The true measure of digitalisation would be smooth delivery of all citizen services.
Analyse the development of India as a digital nation.
- Measure of digital nation: The true measure of digital nation is the readiness of governments to use technology to create open, participatory public systems that citizens consider trustworthy.
- Result of internet access: Affordable smartphones and Internet access have made India a digital nation with an estimated 750 million connections and a thriving financial technology sector.
- Digital platforms in Covid-19: Digital platforms providing goods and services, including online education and telemedicine, have grown vigorously during the COVID-19 pandemic, while many professionals have maintained productivity by working from home.
- Schemes and services: Government-to-citizen services using Common Service Centres for:
- Advice to agriculturists.
- Digital payments of welfare benefits through bank accounts.
- Online legal advice to four lakh people under the Tele-Law scheme.
Discuss the sectors which has potential for developing India’s digital governance.
- Digital method in road safety: If digital methods were applied to other sectors, such as road safety, the results could be dramatic as it can potentially reduce the accident mortality rate of about 1,50,000 deaths a year.
- Technology in social sectors: Enhanced adoption of technology in health and education;
- The nucleus plan is Ayushman Bharat, with a digital health identity for all.
- It should be possible to achieve measurable progress early on at least on one UHC component such as access to free, essential prescription drugs.
- Issuing a digital health ID: A digital health ID would help prescribe and dispense essential medicines free.
- The Planning Commission estimated that the public procurement cost for this, in 2011, would be 0.1% to 0.5% of GDP
- Transformation of internal process: Efficient digital government depends on transforming internal processes, and fixing deadlines for service delivery.
- If digital has to become a way of life, redefining the complex functioning of citizen-centric services would be a good place to start, with deadlines for government departments.
- Governance must achieve is a reliable system of digital welfare.
Context: Central scholarship scam underlines need to tighten checks and balances in DBT architecture, fix accountability
- An investigation by a newspaper has uncovered a nexus of middlemen, government employees, and bank staff were involved in cheating students from minority communities of a centrally funded scholarship in Jharkhand.
- It was found that the officials have bypassed the verification processes and have misused the DBT funds sanctioned by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs.
What is the need for Direct benefit transfer?
- Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) was perceived as a solution for the persistent problem of social welfare and subsidy schemes by the elimination of middlemen.
- The use of Aadhaar seeding ensures that nobody else can claim the share of the benefits by impersonation or any other means.
- The recent incident has proved that having a Unique Identification Number (UIN) is no guarantee against being robbed of scholarships, pensions, and other welfare entitlements.
How DBT funds are being misappropriated?
- Bank officials and school staff steal user IDs and passwords to divert benefits from schools that never applied for any grant.
- Middlemen compel parents to forego a big share of their children’s dues.
- Institutions overstate records to apply for scholarship funds.
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There is a need to find effective solutions to strengthen DBT schemes so that social welfare funds and subsidies will reach the intended beneficiaries.