List of Contents
- Updates on Parliament and state Governance
- Flaws in Corruption Perception Index
- Issue of adultery in Civil Services and Army
- Allowing constructive criticism of Government Policies
- Frequent transfer of public servants affect public administration
- “National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM)” and other governance initiatives
- The case of Four Capitals or the Supreme Court bench in South India
- Defence Minister launches “E-Chhawani portal”
- The need of explicit details of the offences against the children in POCSO Act
- State Reform Action Plan (SRAP), 2019
- Economic Survey 2020-21: “Bare necessities index” introduced
- “Corruption Perception Index 2020” – India’s Rank Slips to 86th
- India Justice Report 2020
- Stopping hate on TV is essential to prevent riots: SC
- The POCSO Act and associated issues
- Criminalisation of government criticisms: Laws and issues
- DPIIT launches regulatory compliance portal
- 2nd edition of India Innovation Index-2020
- One Nation One Ration Card system reform – Tamil Nadu becomes the 11th State to complete the reform
- Dialogue and deliberation with beneficiaries are a prerequisite for Welfare Policymaking
- E-Sampada Mobile App launched
- Need for reform in Governance structure of public universities
- Cabinet approves merger of four government-run film and media units
- How COVID-19 revealed the limits of Political Accountability?
- Court complexes across country connected under E-Courts Project
- Urban Governance Index 2020
- Post Truth politics
- Global governance
- Digital nation: On delivery of citizen services
- DBT Scam
Updates on Parliament and state Governance
This section will provide you with updates on Central Governance and state Governance :
Governance News and updates
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.