Editorial Simplified: Ensuring Access to Justice| GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper  II


Theme of the Article

The Supreme Court must set up more Benches, and disciplinary jurisdiction over lawyers must go back to the judiciary.


Aim of the Justice System

The justice system in any democracy is set up, under the Constitution to serve the public without “fear or favour, affection or ill-will” as far as judges are concerned.


Article 130 of the Constitution

  • The Central government had proposed that the Supreme Court should sit in other places in the country under Article 130 of the Constitution.
  • Article 130 of the Constitution says that the Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the Chief Justice of India may,with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint.

Should Supreme Court sit in other places as well?

  • It is feared that the authority of the Supreme Court would get diluted. However, this notion is fallacious.
  • Many High Courts in this country have different Benches for meting out justice.For example, the Bombay High Court has four Benches — in Mumbai, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Panaji (Goa) — and the quality of its decisions or status have certainly not been diluted thereby.

Negative Consequences of Supreme Court sitting only in Delhi

  • First, the Supreme Court sitting only in Delhi has resulted in excellent lawyers from other High Courts not appearing before the Supreme Court, possibly because it casts too large a monetary burden on their clients, many of whom are impoverished.
  • Second, all lawyers, whatever their calibre or competence, who happen to be in Delhi now appear in the Supreme Court. Some of the good lawyers have settled down in Delhi, but they have established a monopoly, and, as a result, charge unconscionable fees even from charitable concerns.
  • The third fallout of the failure to act under Article 130 is that the Supreme Court in Delhi has been flooded with work and been reduced to a District Court instead of a Court of Final Appeal and Constitutional Court as envisaged under the Constitution.

Unethical lawyers

  • The fault in actually denying access to justice to citizens is the fault of unethical lawyers.
  • Lawyers are the middle-men between judges and the litigating public, they act like dishonest brokers.
  • Some of the lawyers specialising in victim compensation cases take huge money as a percentage of compensation amount awarded towards victim compensation. Such a practice is frustrating the whole purpose of victim compensation.
  • More than 70% of the delays in the disposal of cases are attributable to lawyers, a major reason being sometimes unjust pleas for adjournments.
  • Unfortunately the disciplinary powers available to Bar Councils both in Delhi and in States are more often than not ineffective. Some are politically motivated and some States do not have disciplinary committees at all.

The way forward

  • First, the Supreme Court should reconsider setting up Benches in different States in keeping with the recommendations of the Law Commissions (125th Report and 229th Report).
  • Second, the Bar Council of India should exercise its powers under the Advocates Act, 1961 more effectively. If not, the disciplinary jurisdiction must be returned to the judiciary as was the position prior to the Advocates Act, 1961 by repealing the 1961 Act.
  • Third, lawyers should be made irrelevant by referring more cases to trained mediators, as the Supreme Court has done in the Ayodhya dispute.

Gist of Editorials: Consensus in Foreign Policy | GS – II


Relevance : GS Paper II


Theme of the Article

India needs a measure of political consensus on regional policies.

Disadvantage of Absence of Consensus

India’s adversaries will continue to gain ground in India’s neighbourhood.

Involving States in Foreign Policy

  • Modi government enhanced the role of states in India’s engagement with the world.
  • It created a “states division” in the Ministry of External Affairs.
  • It has also hosted visiting dignitaries in state capitals.

The Coalition Problem

  • During UPA, some states had unprecedented control over foreign policy towards the neighbours.
  • West Bengal govt derailed agreements such as Teesta water sharing.
  • To keep Tamil Nadu parties happy, Delhi could not pursue an independent policy towards Sri Lanka.

The Majority Government

Absolute majority had an immediate positive effect on foreign policy, for example, in relations with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Rival Politics not Always a Problem

Congress govt in Punjab had worked in tandem with the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government at the Centre.

Conclusion

India needs a measure of political consensus on regional policies.


Editorial Simplified: Consensus in Foreign Policy |


Relevance :  GS Paper  II (International relations)


Theme of the Article

India needs a measure of political consensus on regional policies.


Disadvantage of  Absence of Consensus

If the political classes choose to turn every problem in the neighbourhood into a domestic contestation, Delhi’s adversaries will continue to gain ground in India’s neighbourhood.


Introduction

One of the interesting foreign policy ideas that Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled early in his tenure, was to enhance the role of states in India’s engagement with the world.


States Division

The NDA government created a “states division” in the Ministry of External Affairs to facilitate the international interactions of the state governments on a range of issues — from promoting trade and tourism to attracting foreign investments. It has also hosted visiting dignitaries in state capitals.


Problem of Finding Common Ground : The Coalition Problem

  • The problem of finding common ground with state chief ministers on developing effective neighbourhood policies has not disappeared.
  • The decade-long UPA rule had seen some states wresting unprecedented control over foreign policy towards the neighbours.
  • In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee wrecked a carefully prepared visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh in 2011. It brought into stark relief Delhi’s inability to deliver on initiated agreements such as Teesta water sharing , Land Boundary Agreement, etc and exposed the profound domestic weakness of the government.
  • In Tamil Nadu, the imperative of keeping the Dravidian parties happy made it hard for Delhi to pursue a sensible policy towards Sri Lanka. The worst moment came in 2013. Under pressure from Congress leaders in Tamil Nadu, including senior figures like P Chidambaram, PM Singh cancelled plans to attend the Commonwealth Summit in Colombo.

The Change: The Majority Government

  • Modi won an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha in 2014 and has had a stronger say in shaping the ruling party’s policies.
  • This had an immediate positive effect on foreign policy, for example, in relations with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Modi overruled internal opposition in the BJP to the ratification of the land boundary agreement with Dhaka and ensured its early passage in Parliament
  • A majority in the Lok Sabha helped Modi to prevent the Sri Lanka policy becoming a hostage to Chennai politics.

Rival Politics not Always a Problem

  • Affiliation to rival parties has not always been a barrier for collaboration between the states and the Centre.
  • During his earlier tenure as the Congress Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, worked with the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government at the Centre in launching sub-national diplomacy with the chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
  • Again, he has taken a responsible approach on the issue of Sikh pilgrimage to Pakistan.

Conclusion

Prospects for a sensible neighbourhood policy can’t rest solely on having single-party governments at the Centre and “responsible” CMs in the border states. India needs a measure of political consensus on regional policies.


 

Editorial Simplified: On the Learning Curve| GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper II 


Theme of the Article

The systemic approach to transforming education outcomes in India is leading to success.


Adequately Staffed Education Departments

  • Among the lakhs of employees on the payrolls of State governments in India, the education department, unarguably, has the largest share of employees.
  • Besides frontline service providers (teachers), there are a number of other officials and administrators who form an important part of the educational set-up.

The Haryana Case Study : SAKSHAM

  • Education transformation programmes by States run the risk of falling flat, as they are often unaccompanied by a single transformation change road map that all key actors agree upon and work towards.
  • However, a successful example of implementing such a road map can be seen in Haryana, which has created a race among its administrative blocks to be declared as ‘Saksham’, i.e. have 80% or more students who are grade level competent.
  • If a block is found to be ‘Saksham’, the block officials are recognised by no less than the Chief Minister, and a large-scale ‘show and tell’ event is organised to honour them.
  • Further, when all blocks in a district are declared as ‘Saksham’, the entire district is also accorded ‘Saksham’ status.
  • More than 90 blocks out of a total of 119 in Haryana have been declared ‘Saksham’ and overall grade competence has been assessed at 80%, which is a giant leap in learning outcomes when compared to the overall grade competence of 40% in 2014.
  • Given these early successes, many other States are also embarking on such programmes.

The Lesson Learnt

  • The valuable lesson from all this is that inducing competition among administrative units helps invigorate key stakeholders to work in tandem in order to achieve intended outcomes.
  • Competition also makes abstract goals such as ‘learning outcomes’ more real by defining exact ‘actionable’ metrics on which improvement is desired.
  • Further, with encouragement from above, such campaigns lead to a shift in the mindset of a State’s education administrators, many of whom otherwise believe that high learning outcomes are almost unachievable.
  • Political commitment to improving the quality of education backed by strong review and monitoring mechanisms can spur meaningful activity in States.

The Efforts of NITI Aayog Towards Education

  • NITI Aayog has developed the State-level ‘School Education Quality Index’ (SEQI), which seeks to make improvements in learning outcomes a focal point of governance.
  • The NITI Aayog launched the Aspirational Districts programme in 2018. Here, 112 under-served districts across the country compete with each other in order to achieve targets in five crucial sectors; these include education, which has among a weightage of 30%.

Way Forward

  • Right incentive structures for stakeholders lead to administrative efficiency, which then improves the quality of service delivery.
  • States therefore need to induce competition and give a boost to put all key actors in education in the driver’s seat to improve their learning levels.

Conclusion

Improvement in learning outcomes is an immediate goal for India to fulfil its aspirations of playing a greater role in the global economy and a systemic transformation is the best solution that we have so far.


 

Editorial Simplified: Rhetoric of Human Rights


Relevance :  GS Paper  II (Human Rights)


Theme of the Article

Isolated innovations are not enough to stop cases of custodial torture.


Why has this Issue Cropped Up?

Recently,  in Bihar, two families received the bodies of their two sons from the police. They were victims of custodial torture.


A Common Story in India

  • That torture is ‘endemic’ across police stations in India is well known.
  • Last year there were 144 deaths in police custody.
  • About 40% of complaints received every year by the NHRC are against the police — mainly for custodial violence.

Factors Responsible for Custodial Deaths in India

  • Though forbidden by law, top police officials tolerate it, turn a blind eye to it, citing it as a ‘practical tool’, or go easy on the perpetrators.
  • Lower judiciary is frequently not vigilant in checking if arrested persons are secure in custody, have a lawyer assigned, or have the means to speak out.
  • Often, pliant doctors further weaken protections to those in custody by willingly minimising or not disclosing the nature of the harm or injuries they have sustained.
  • Oversight bodies like police complaints authorities and human rights commissions are comfortable with the slow pace of accountability from state actors and do no doggedly pursue outcomes.
  • The brazenness is strengthened when legal precedents towards torture prevention are not paid heed to.
  • South Asia is among the last regions where the political executive must grant permission before public servants can be prosecuted for acts done in the course of their work.
  • Courts have repeatedly said that torture is no part of policing and so there is no question of waiting for permission for prosecution. Yet, the executive is still asked, decisions are delayed, and trials cannot proceed.
  • According to judicial precedent, recovery of evidence made as a result of torture cannot be used in court, but without proactive lawyers and magistrates, these important details are overlooked in the early stages of the legal process. For victims of torture, this means a harder fight in courts.

Is Custodial Torture Helpful to Reduce Crime?

  • Besides being illegal and immoral, torture is not even a useful tool to stop crime.
  • Eliciting unreliable confessions — the bedrock of the use of torture — destroys the process of deciding through evidence-based means whether the accused is the real perpetrator or not.
  • Moreover, whenever it goes unpunished, torture actually supports more crime by creating a class of criminals within law enforcement.

Attempts to Restrain the use of Torture

There have been attempts to restrain the use of torture.

  • The Kerala Police Act puts the onus on all police officers to report any physical torture they know of.
  • Prisons in Telangana refuse to admit people brought into judicial custody if they appear injured; such persons are sent back to hospitals, forcing their injuries to be properly recorded.

Way forward

  • Isolated innovations are not enough to stop this horror that has embedded itself in the subculture of policing. A comprehensive solution would be to ensure that disincentives are put in place and that there is proper accountability.
  • India signed the UN Convention against Torture in 1997, but there has been no attempt to create a specific and comprehensive torture prevention law. Until we have such a law, custodial torture cannot be reduced.

Conclusion

For those who now plead on behalf of the police personnel and say “let the law take its course”, this is absolutely right. Let the effort to establish guilt or innocence be thorough and speedy.


 

Editorial Simplified: The Basics are Vital| GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper II


Theme of the Article

Making hospitalisation affordable will spell relief, but there is no alternative to strengthening primary health care.


Why has this Issue Cropped Up?

In 2011, a high-level expert group on universal health coverage reckoned that nearly 70% of government health spending should go to primary health care. The National Health Policy (NHP) 2017 also advocated allocating resources of up to two-thirds or more to primary care.


Is India on the Path of Providing Primary health Care?

  • Going by the government’s own estimate, in 2017, it would cost ₹16 lakh to convert a sub-health centre into a health and wellness centre. The current expenditure outlay is less than half of this conservative estimate.
  • Building health and wellness centres at the given rate (15,000 per year) can fulfil not even half the proposed target of 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres till 2022. Picture of extremes
  • The overall situation with the NHM, India’s flagship programme in primary health care, continues to be dismal. The NHM’s share in the health budget fell from 73% in 2006 to 50% in 2019 in the absence of uniform and substantial increases in health spending by States.
  • Today, the condition of our primary health infrastructure is lamentable: there is a shortage of PHCs (22%) and sub-health centres (20%), while only 7% sub-health centres and 12% primary health centres meet Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) norms.
  • Further, numerous primary-level facilities need complete building reconstruction, as they operate out of rented apartments and thatched accommodations, and lack basic facilities such as toilets, drinking water and electricity.
  • There is a staggering shortage of medical and paramedical staff at all levels of care: 10,907 auxiliary nurse midwives and 3,673 doctors are needed at sub-health and primary health centres, while for community health centres the figure is 18,422 specialists.

Significance of Primary Health Care

  • While making hospitalisation affordable brings readily noticeable relief, there is no alternative to strengthening primary health care in the pursuit of an effective and efficient health system.
  • It’s role shall also be critical in the medium and long terms to ensure the success and sustainability of the PMJAY insurance scheme, as a weak primary health-care system will only increase the burden of hospitalisation.

Conclusion

Apart from an adequate emphasis on primary health care, there is a need to depart from the current trend of erratic and insufficient increases in health spending and make substantial and sustained investments in public health over the next decade. Without this, the ninth dimension (‘Healthy India’) of “Vision 2030” will remain unfulfilled.


 

Editorial Simplified: Ensure A Minimum Income For All| GS – II

Relevance :  GS Paper II (Welfare)


Why has this issue cropped up?

The idea of a universal basic income (UBI) is gaining ground globally. It has supporters among proponents as well as opponents of the free-market economy.


What is UBI ?

A UBI requires the government to pay every citizen a fixed amount of money on a regular basis and without any conditionalities.


Why a UBI ?

Crucial to the appeal for such a demand — for a UBI — is that millions of people remain unemployed and are extremely poor, despite rapid economic growth in the last three decades.


Limited version of UBI

The present govt has already unfolded a limited version of the UBI in the form of the Pradhanmantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN) which promises ₹6,000 per annum to farmers who own less than 2 hectares of land.


Where will  UBI work ?

  • The UBI is neither an antidote to the vagaries of market forces nor a substitute for basic public services, especially health and education.
  • Besides, there is no need to transfer money to middle- and high-income earners as well as large landowners.
  • However, there is a strong case for direct income transfers to some groups: landless labourers, agricultural workers and marginal farmers who suffer from multi-dimensional poverty.
  • These groups have not benefited from economic growth. They were and still are the poorest Indians. Various welfare schemes have also failed to bring them out of penury.

How the above groups have not been historically able to avail the benefits?

  • Institutional credits account for less than 15% of the total borrowing by landless agricultural workers; the figure for marginal and small farmers is only 30%.
  • These groups have to borrow from moneylenders and adhatiyas at exorbitant interest rates ranging from 24 to 60%. As a result, they do not stand to benefit much from the interest rate subsidy for the agriculture sector.
  • Likewise, the benefits of subsidised fertilizers and power are enjoyed largely by big farmers.
  • In urban areas, contract workers and those in the informal sector face a similar problem. The rapid pace of automation of low-skill jobs and formalisation of the retail sector mean the prospects of these groups are even bleaker.

How can UBI help these groups?

  • An income support of, say, ₹15,000 per annum can be a good supplement to their livelihoods — an amount worth more than a third of the average consumption of the poorest 25% households, and more than a fourth of the annual income of marginal farmers.
  • This additional income can reduce the incidence of indebtedness among marginal farmers, thereby helping them escape moneylenders and adhatiyas.
  • Besides, it can go a long way in helping the poor to make ends meet. Several studies have shown that at high levels of impoverishment, even a small income supplement can improve nutrient intake, and increase enrolment and school attendance for students coming from poor households.
  • Income transfers to the poor will lead to improved health and educational outcomes, which in turn would lead to a more productive workforce.
  • It will help bring a large number of households out of the poverty trap or prevent them from falling into it in the event of exigencies such as illness.
  • It will reduce income inequalities.
  • Since the poor spend most of their income, a boost in their income will increase demand and promote economic activities in rural areas.

Can UBI discourage beneficiaries from seeking work?

  • Cash transfers can result in withdrawal of beneficiaries from the labour force. However, the income support suggested above is not too large to discourage beneficiaries from seeking work. In fact, it can promote employment and economic activities.
  • For instance, income receipts can come in handy as interest-free working capital for several categories of beneficiaries (fruit and vegetable vendors and small artisans), thereby promoting their business and employment in the process. Moreover, such a scheme will have three immediate benefits.

Can UBI replace basic services?

  • An income transfer scheme cannot be a substitute for universal basic services.
  • The direct income support to the poor will deliver the benefits mentioned only if it comes on top of public services such as primary health and education.
  • This means that direct transfers should not be at the expense of public services for primary health and education.

How to make UBI effective?

  • It seems to be a good idea to transfer the money into the bank accounts of women of the beneficiary households. Women tend to spend more of their income on health and the education of children.
  • Budgetary allocation for basic services should be raised significantly.
  • Programmes such as the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme should also stay.
  • It will have to be restricted to the poorest of poor households. The Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 can be used to identify the neediest.
  • Groups suffering from multidimensional poverty such as the destitute, the shelter-less, manual scavengers, tribal groups, and former bonded labourers should be automatically included.
  • It should include many small farmers who face deprivation criteria such as families without any bread-earning adult member, and those without a pucca house.
  • The Aadhaar identity can be used to rule out duplications and update the list of eligible households.
  • The tax kitty can be expanded by reintroducing wealth tax.
  • The required amount for UBI is beyond the Centre’s fiscal capacity at the moment. Therefore, the cost will have to be shared by States.
  • States such as Telangana and Odisha are already providing direct income support to their farmers. These States can extend their schemes to include the ‘non-farmer poor’. The other States too should join in.

Conclusion

The income transfer scheme is costly. However, the cost of persistent poverty is much higher.


 

Gist of Editorials: Before Eviction | GS – II


Relevance : GS Paper II ( Polity & Governance)


The Supreme Court has  ordered to evict occupants of forest lands who failed to make a successful claim un FRA.

Non-establishment of claims

  • The Forest Rights Act protected possession and conferred heritability of land to over 44 lakh claimants.
  • But over 20 lakh other applicants who could not establish their claim through gram sabhas and appellate authorities.

Eviction unjustified

When the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act was passed, it aimed to make these communities partners in conservation.

Way forward

  • The answer in many areas may lie in resettlement.
  • In some cases, alternative land and cash compensation are needed .
  • States must determine if procedural lapses deprived forest-dwellers of their rights
  • States must also declare critical wildlife habitats under the FRA Act.

Editorial Simplified: Before Eviction | GS – II

Relevance :  GS Paper II (Polity & Governance)


Theme of the article

States must quickly determine if procedural lapses deprived forest-dwellers of their rights.


Why has this issue cropped up?

The Supreme Court’s order to evict, over the next five months, occupants of forest lands who failed to make a successful claim for tenure under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, has once again highlighted the dilemma of reconciling inalienable tribal rights with biodiversity conservation.


Non-establishment of claims

  • The Forest Rights Act protected possession and conferred heritability of land to over 23 lakh out of 44 lakh claimants who are either specified Scheduled Tribes, or people who have lived in forests traditionally, relying on forest produce for at least 75 years prior to the cut-off year of 2005.
  • But over 20 lakh other applicants who could not establish their claim through gram sabhas and appellate authorities have now been ordered to be evicted by July 12.

Eviction unjustified

When the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act was passed, it was with the wholly welfarist goal of making these communities partners in conservation. They would be stewards of forests that have shrunk and become fragmented over the decades


Way forward

  • The answer in many areas may lie in resettlement.
  • In some well-documented cases, such as in the Western Ghats, alternative land and cash compensation are needed to convince tribals to move out of core areas. s
  • States must quickly determine if procedural lapses deprived forest-dwellers of their rights
  • State governments need to pursue such programmes in a humane and vigorous fashion.
  • They must also come forward to declare critical wildlife habitats under the Act. This will aid in formulating resettlement schemes for tribal residents.

Editorial Simplified: Coalition of the Concerned | GS – II

Relevance :  GS Paper II( International Relations)


Theme of the article

Multi-pronged diplomacy is vital to compel Pakistan to end its support for terrorist groups.


Why has this issue cropped up?

In the wake of the Pulwama attack on February 14, the government has iterated once again its plan for the “diplomatic isolation” of Pakistan.


What should India do?

  • Recently, Iran and Afghanistan have faced terror attacks on their security forces along the border with Pakistan. Thus, India should try to repackage its idea of “isolating Pakistan” into one of building a more inclusive ‘coalition against terrorism emanating from Pakistan’. In today’s interconnected world, it is vainglorious to expect countries to join a unilateral plan for isolation.
  • Second, India must focus on the case against Masood Azhar. His banning and prosecution should be pursued.
  • Third, India must prepare for a pushback from Pakistan, most likely in terms of internationalising the Kashmir issue, and linking it to progress in Afghanistan.
  • Next, the government must prioritise action over words. It is better for New Delhi to use India’s considerable diplomatic leverage to ensure action that would shut down the JeM and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) permanently and bring their leaders to justice.
  • India must also press the U.S. to place travel sanctions on specific entities in the Pakistani military establishment unless visible action is taken against the JeM, whose leaders hold public rallies and issue videos threatening India.
  • A similar line of talks must be pursued by New Delhi with Riyadh — which once was a donor to Pakistan’s Islamist institutions, but now is wary of funding extremism — to withhold any funds that may trickle down to charitable wings run by the JeM and LeT.
  • With China, it is surprising that the issue of a simple ban at the UN Security Council has not been made India’s chief demand from Beijing. It is hoped that this will be rectified soon when the next proposal to ban Azhar is brought to the UNSC. More than the ban, however, India must ask China for action against any entities dealing with the JeM in Pakistan, given that China is the partner with the most influence in Pakistan today, and one with the most to lose from terror groups in Punjab operating along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
  • Finally, India must look to its own actions on the diplomatic front with Pakistan. Calling off a formal dialogue process for more than a decade has clearly yielded no desired outcome. South Asia as a region, and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) process too have suffered the consequences of this disengagement, without yielding any desired outcomes.

Conclusion

A measured, steady and non-political level of dialogue is a more effective way of impressing India’s determination to root out terrorism than the present on-again, off-again policy.