Relevance: GS Paper II
Theme of the article
Accountability to the citizen must be paramount in community-policing initiatives.
Why has this raised?
As part of its community-policing initiatives, the Maharashtra police has decided to institutionalise the “best policing practices” that were or are being followed in districts across the state. These include the “police didi” programme in Mumbai, the “bharosa (trust) cell” by the Pune and Nagpur police and so on.
The hurdles to effective Policing
- Such initiatives are discontinued after the officers who started them get transferred to other jurisdictions.
- India’s ratio of police persons per 1,000 people is 1.2, which is grossly below the United Nation’s recommendation.
- There are huge vacancies in almost every state, especially in the non-Indian Police Service posts.
- Problems of overwork, lack of leave, poor dietary habits due to long hours of duty, lack of decent housing and so on are just some of the issues they face.
- Lack of caste and religious diversity in the force.
- The attitude towards women constables and assistant inspectors.
- poor investigation, and forensic skills and means.
- “political interference” in police functioning and the political executive’s hold over the force
- The overall image of the police and the force’s efficacy—though different in different states—needs long-term bolstering through major reforms.
- The introduction of eight-hour shifts in Kerala and Mumbai has been welcomed by the police therein. This needs to be replicated by other states.
- The accountability of the police to the larger community and their attitudes towards tribal, marginalised, Dalit and women complainants must beensured.
- Their training, postings, etc, need to receive urgent attention.
- 10 states in the country have implemented a host of police reforms. More states need to follow.
Policing is the only non-combatant organsiation that can use force against citizens and curtail their liberty. Such power must be tempered by its own moral and social consciousness. The initiative announced by the Maharashtra police must take these factors into account when it institutionalises the best community practices.
Relevance: GS Paper III
PepsiCo’s lawsuit against a few farmers in Gujarat for alleged infringement of the company’s patents over a certain potato variety had generated a furore.
The Reality of Potato Farmers
- Why did farmers choose a variety that has high marketing barriers, if there was no assured buyer in their backyards?
- Farmers collaborating with PepsiCo have frequently mentioned the higher costs of production and lower rate of productivity of the company’s processing variety in comparison to the conventional cultivars.
- Yet, the number of farmers entering supply agreements with PepsiCo has increased by almost seven times over the past decade.
- These evidences act as eye-openers to the ground-level realities. Realities that indicate the dearth of marketing opportunities for the farmers and subsequently explain why they ascribe precedence to “certainty” rather than the “level” of income.
- Over the past three decades, potato production has increased by 227%, while consumption has evidenced only 22% rise in per capita terms.
- The consumption demand for potatoes constitutes barely 50% of the current production.
- The perils of supply management are further exacerbated by a general lack of market intelligence services and infrastructure facilities such as cold storages.
- The food processing sector in India contributes only 8.39% of the gross value added in agriculture, indicating the dominance of low value-added production.
- Even policies are in tandem to such production activities. The reforms for 100% FDI liberalisation is targeted towards primary processing, or more specifically, for mere food retailing.
- In the potato processing sector per se, technology transfer, capital inflow and assured marketing of the produce are restricted by the preponderance of informal, small-scale players, who hold more than half of the market share.
Both corporations and the state are at fault
- While entering a contractual agreement with the limited number of organised players can ensure all three criteria, it is also potent that the big corporations will exert their bargaining power to maximise their profits and pay the farmers just their labour costs. But, it is not the truth in entirety.
- Through the selective use of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act—whether by allowing collaborative farming arrangements bordering on contract farming where it is not legally permissible (as in West Bengal) or in facilitating the setting up of contract where permissible (as in Gujarat)—the state, too, is party to rent-seeking.
PepsiCo’s retraction of the case is not to be seen as a triumph of India’s laws on protection of plant varieties and farmers’ rights, forthere were perhaps no real “farmers” involved in the case. And in answering the activists’ allegations against multinational corporations of ruining the agrarian diversity of this country, one should not lose sight of the government’s failure.
Relevance: GS Paper I & II (Local Government / Urbanization)
Responses across academics and activists to the increasing onslaughts on women’s rights have been many and varied. Yet, what appears to be missing is the macroeconomic fundamentals. This article explores the violation of women’s rights and bodily integrity from a finance angle, or “feminist finance.”
The subjugation of women
- One, upholding a particular form of household with the woman combining the roles of the chief caregiver as well as “emergency” (but, secondary) earner during times of distress and exigency ensures cheap reproduction of labour power with women as the proverbial reserve army.
- Two, the subordination of women takes place within the productive and reproductive process through the denial of ownership of land and productive assets, and non-recognition as productive labour.
- Three, at the macro and meso levels, a corroborating extension occurs where women are termed as “volunteers” in the job market when they are employed as accredited social health activist (ASHA) and aanganwadi workers, and now under new categories called pashu sakhis, bank sakhis, krishi sakhis.
- Four, a form of household in which women provide unpaid services is supported, and their income-augmenting and saving activities are not recognised.
- Five, underpaid, unpaid and care work is depended on to fill gaps in public expenditure and “genderless” macroeconomic policies.
- Six, there is interlocking of production and reproduction at the four fundamental levels through economic and extra-economic structures in the sphere of non-domestic work, in domestic work and motherhood, by socialisation through ideological and cultural practices, beliefs and traditions, and by organisation of private lives and control of sexuality.
- Seven, women’s interests are suppressed by giving little access to political representation.
- Eight, oppression and exploitation are reinforced through the lack of response to violence both sexual and “extra-sexual.”
The State as a Non-enabler of women’ rights
- The state has retracted especially from provisioning of public goods and from its obligation to remove the constraints that exist on the visualisation of women’s contribution to the economy.
- The latest and most clear illustration of this is the interim budget of the current financial year.
- The debate on gross domestic product (GDP) attainment figures ignore the contribution of women.
- There is non-availability of information on employment, especially when women’s work participation rate has been consistently declining, work is being increasingly informalised, and the economy still has to recover from the aftermath of the double whammy of demonetisation and the problematic implementation of the goods and services tax.
- The attacks on women’s empowerment and their very existence are increasing by the day.
- Women have been short-changed even in the schemes and allocations applicable specifically to them. Women-exclusive allocations have been reduced.
- Although the overall allocation for the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (the erstwhile Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana, 2010) has been doubled from ₹ 1,200 crore, it still stands at a pathetic ₹ 2,500 crore.
- On the other hand, the interim budget has sought to increase the programme component of the National Nutrition Mission by a paltry ₹ 400 crore.
- A major challenge today is to increase the involvement of women in visible wage-earning activities, especially by removing constraints on their participation. One such important constraint that has been identified and universally accepted is the care of children. Yet, the allocations to the National Creche Scheme have been enhanced by a mere ₹ 20 crore to ₹ 50 crore.
- Other such cynical allocations are the much-touted “tripling” of the Working Women Hostel Scheme from ₹ 52 crore to ₹ 165 crore, the ₹ 35 crore rise in the Mahila Shakti Kendra Scheme to ₹ 150 crore, an additional ₹ 10 crore for rescued trafficked women to total a meagre ₹ 30 crore, and another ₹ 7 crore to the total of ₹ 15 crore now for homes for widows.
- The direct benefit transfer (DBT) for liquid petroleum gas or LPG (PAHAL) was introduced in 2013, with the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) being launched in 2016. What is most objectionable is it having been termed as a women’s scheme. The consequence of doing so has resulted not only in the reinforcement of the gender divide by reasserting that only women are responsible for the consumption needs of the household, it also negates the burden faced by single male migrants who perform this task.
- The support and rehabilitation system for women in distress called the Swadhar Greh Scheme has registered a 47% decline, the scheme for prevention of trafficking and rescue has been halved, the women helpline has witnessed a 38% decline, the Nirbhaya Fund is heavily underspent, more than half of the already meagre allocation to the much touted “beti bachao, beti padhao” and the acid attack victim’s welfare fund is yet to be introduced (CBGA 2019).
Way forward: the feminist finance
- apply all methods of gender responsive budgeting to all allocations in all ministries and departments;
- evaluate resource raising and revenue strategies through a feminist finance lens;
- make the techniques of monitoring and evaluation more sophisticated;
- enhance the public provisioning of services, especially for the women;
- decrease user fees while simultaneously increasing subsidies for all public goods, including food, health, education, water, energy, and transport;
- and evolve and apply gender-disaggregated ratio analysis of access to all public goods.
- evaluation of all “development” projects through a strong gender lens, and inclusion of indicators like the gender equality attainment scale in the methodology for resource distribution is required.
- it is necessary to universalize and ensure the social protection to all without conditionalities, including women and men who render massive amounts of unpaid labour in a largely informal economy.
- the foremost form of exclusion—the Aadhaar card—must be removed.
- the application of a gender-sensitive choice of commodities under the various rates of the GST, and analysis of the implicit and explicit impacts of prices of essential commodities is required.
- not just financial equity in resources between different local bodies, but also some standards of equality between local bodies in their performance of providing a minimum standard of the basic services that form their mandate should be considered.
- the number of females in the 0–6 age group should be included as the basis for determining the relative shares of the states from the divisible pool of resources.
- the maternal mortality rate, child sex ratio, incidence of crimes against women, etc, should be incorporated into fund formulae.
- Conditionalities such as the training of elected representatives and staffs should be incorporated in the performance component of the grant for local bodies, with a specific conditionality being the number of elected women representatives trained.
- To this longlist should be added the need to especially focus on the issues of single women, widening the definition from the basically cultural category of female-headed households to all women and other genders who are out of the macro-patriarchal slot, and who confront labour, life, and livelihoods with all the marginalisation, vulnerability, deprivation, and destitution that accompany “singleness.”
- There are a large number of additional issues that need to be reperceived and re-examined through the perspective of feminist finance, such as the capital–labour ratios, increase in the profits at the cost of wages, the trade regimes and the international trade in goods and services both globally and regionally, and the trade deficits, balance of payments, exchange rates and the commodity conditionalities.
It is hoped that the assertion that finance through a feminist perspective can function as an equaliser in order to offset the prevailing process of gender de-equalisation is extended and that this debate is deepened so as to enable all genders to claim the public from our republic.
Relevance: GS Paper III
Why has this issue been raised?
India is confronted with many challenges in the water sector. Yet, these fail to be taken up as electoral issues.
Water crises faced by India
- lack of reliable information on water,
- absence of any initiative to restructure the water institutions,
- a distressed groundwater lifeline,
- push for large dams,
- increasing footprint of the urban water sector
- rivers are getting more polluted, their catchments, water-holding and water-harvesting mechanisms are deteriorating,
- groundwater levels are depleting at an alarming rate
- large part of western and southern India is facing a drought
The issue of data on water
- Amongst the challenges that the water sector is confronted with, the first is that of the lack of credible “water information,” that is, information about water storage, groundwater, water flows and, in some cases, even rainfall and snowfall levels.
- Access to accurate water information could help one understand the risks and urgency of the situation and steer towards informed decisions. However, India is farthest from this goal.
- First, data is often not available at the adequate level of detail. For example, water use data for domestic and industrial sectors is available at only the aggregate level, and thus provides very little information to relevant policymakers and suppliers.
- Second, where data is available, it is often unreliable due to the use of outdated collection techniques and methodologies.
- The water institutions show a typical top-down, bureaucratic, unaccountable, non-transparent and non-participatory mindset.
- The CWC as the main body is an outdated mega institution with conflict of interest among its various functions and suffers from poor credibility.
- HYDROPOWER PROJECTS: Big hydropower projects are no longer viable. And, yet, it is the big irrigation, hydropower, multipurpose and river-linking projects that are getting a push.
- WATER INFRASTRUCTURE: The water infrastructure continues to perform far below its optimum, as India is not allocating even a fraction of the required annual maintenance budget of $4 billion that it needs.
- DAM SAFETY: India has the third largest number of big dams in the world, and with their increasing age, the issues of structural and operational safety are becoming more and more urgent, but it still does not have a dam safety act.
- RIVERS: The state of the rivers in general, and of the Ganga in particular, represents one of the most spectacular failures of the government. Even as more than ₹ 20,000 crore were allocated in the name of rejuvenating the Ganga, numerous massive projects, including waterways, dredging, riverfront development, char dham highway, hydropower projects, and interlinking of rivers like the Ken Betwa link work contrary to the rejuvenation objective.
- Groundwater is, has been, and is going to remain India’s lifeline for a long time to come. There is an urgent need that our plans, projects and programmes get tailored keeping this reality in mind and work to protect groundwater recharge, enhance recharge where possible, and most importantly, regulate the use of groundwater.
- Given the gravity of the situation, if groundwater sustainability becomes the officially acknowledged objective, there may not be any case for big dam projects, which both directly and indirectly adversely affect groundwater recharge and sustainability.
- There are many sub-issues that would need to be addressed to revive the rivers. These include monitoring of water quality and environmental flows, protecting the floodplains and sustainable biodiversity in the rivers, achieving sustainable sand mining, and credible reservoir and flood management, among others.
- For the farmers facing increasingly irregular rains with changing climate, the increased capacity of soil to hold moisture is hugely useful. The capacity of the soil to store water increases when there is more carbon in it, and this can be achieved with the use of greater organic inputs.
- The environmental decision-making process that affects the water sector is another major mess that needs urgent attention.
- There is a need for credible environmental and cumulative impact assessments, genuine public consultation process at multiple stages of planning and project implementation, confidence-inspiring appraisal, which includes the appointment of independent experts, and most crucially, achieving some real monitoring and compliance.
- As the urban water footprint is going up by leaps and bounds in multiple ways, there is a need for a national urban water policy to guide the urban water sector.
- Cities need to stop the destruction of local waterbodies and local tree cover, treat its sewage properly, harvest rainwater, and stop straightening and concretising the rivers and encroaching on their floodplain.
- As the government’s slogan of “Har Khet Ko Pani” (water to each field) implies, every farmer would benefit from better district-, block- and village-level water management. In this context, the key is to achieve appropriate cropping pattern.
- The impacts of climate change are already being felt, most importantly by the farmers, fisherfolk, coastal residents, tribals and mountain residents, hence the government should recognise them as climate victims, and make provisions to ensure justice to them for their suffering.
The primary need is to address the democratic deficit in water governance. The first step in tackling this would be the recognition of this reality as a problem. The water governance ought to be made transparent, accountable and participatory in every sub-sector, including management of rivers, groundwater, floods, and biodiversity, among others.
Relevance: GS Paper III
Origin of State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)
Over the years, finance commissions have provided guidelines to the central government on assisting the state governments in providing relief to disaster-affected communities. It began with the margin money prescription by the Second Finance Commission, which was modified into the Calamity Relief Fund by the Ninth Finance Commission, and further evolved into the current State Disaster Response Fund.
Issues with disaster relief financing
- The mode of computing the quantum of allocation to SDRFs has led to some states receiving less than their deserved allocations. Some states are more vulnerable to certain disasters than others. However, the SDRF allocations made by the Fourteenth FC do not take this into account.
- For instance, AP was given just 4% (₹ 2,430 crore) of the total SDRF allocation after division, which was less than half of what used to receive when undivided.
- On the other hand, Telangana, the newly formed state out of AP, was given ₹ 1,514 crore, an amount almost comparable to the SDRF allocation of Karnataka, despite the former having significant exposure to drought only in contrast to a more complex profile of disaster vulnerability of Karnataka.
- Financing Disaster Relief Disaster management and relief measures for natural calamities figure neither in the union and state lists, nor in the concurrent list. Hence, by default, it becomes the responsibility of the centre. However, in practice, this responsibility has been vested with the states.
Recommendations to improve Disaster Relief
- The Second FC came up with the innovative recommendation to allocate margin money as a separate fund to provide relief to communities affected by disasters. The quantum of this fund was to be calculated by averaging annual expenditure over the previous decade.
- The Seventh FC further recommended that, though the quantum of margin money should be sufficient to meet the disaster relief expenditure of a state, in the event of a severe calamity, the central government could extend assistance beyond the scheme.
- The Ninth FC recommended an alternate system of relief funding: a Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) for each state, with 75% of its funds coming from the central government and 25% from the state concerned. The quantum of allocation would be calculated based on the average of the actual ceiling of expenditure over the previous 10 years.
- The Tenth FC further recommended the setting up of a National Fund for Calamity Relief (NFCR) with a corpus of ₹ 700 crore to assist any state affected by a calamity of rare severity. It suggested that such calamities would have to be adjudged on a case-by-case basis. The management of this fund was to be under a national calamity relief committee chaired by the union minister for agriculture.
- The Eleventh FC suggested that a multidisciplinary group of 200–300 skilled professionals in each state and a team of about 3,000–4,000 trained personnel at the national level be kept in readiness to respond to disasters. It also recommended the setting up of a National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF), in place of the NFCR, with an initial corpus of ₹ 500 crore, which was to be recouped through the levy of a special surcharge on central taxes. The NCCF would function in addition to the CRFs.
- The Disaster Management Act, 2005 provided for effective management of disasters, including mechanisms for funding disaster relief and response. The act envisaged the creation of two types of funds, one for disaster response and the other for mitigation at three different levels: national, state, and district.
- The Twelfth FC extended the list of calamities to cover landslides, avalanches, cloud bursts, and pest attacks. It also recommended the continuation of the NCCF scheme in its existing form.
- Aligning with the Disaster Management Act of 2005, the Thirteenth FC recommended the creation of the NDRF and the renaming of the CRFs as SDRFs.
- The Fourteenth FC adopted the recommendations of Thirteenth FC for contributions from both the centre and the states for the NDRF.
The Finance Commission should pay close attention to the various issues to ensure effective disaster management and enable state governments to move towards disaster risk reduction.
Relevance: GS Paper II
Theme of the Article
Electoral reforms should look beyond “anonymity of donors” to make a real difference.
Election Expenditure in India
- Over the past six decades, election expenditure skyrocketed almost 274 times from ₹ 0.26 million to ₹ 71.38 million per constituency between 1952 and 2014.
- A recent survey of some 2,577 politicians across Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand shows that the preponderance of inscrutable sources of income reaches the zenith for high-level incumbents like a member of Parliament or a lower house in the stateassembly (constituting almost 44% and 47% of their respective incomes).
Electoral Bonds: the Issues
- Political financing in India is an economy in which the state will keep exerting a heavy hand to incentivise clandestine funding. Electoral bond scheme does not break through this opacity.
- The electoral bonds have lent the political parties the statutory immunity for denting, rather than simply circumventing, these regulations.
- The most disconcerting aspect of such sanctions is that these make the electoral system potentially an apparatus for legitimising the black income of both the “benefactor” and the “beneficiary.”
- For instance, relaxing the definition of “foreign source” companies has opened up the route for legalising the political donations even from shell companies.
- While the amendment in the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010 has removed the embargo on foreign funding for Indian elections, its application with retrospective effect for 42 years has enabled political parties to emerge clear of sub judice inquiries on “illicit” foreign donations in all previous elections.
- There are amendments in the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the Income Tax Act, 1961 that have legally reinstated the case for anonymous donations, though for amounts below ₹ 20,000. Yet, there remains an absence of clarity regarding the maximum number of times that donations of this magnitude can be made by any particular contributor.
- If money is the distorting factor for an ethically integrated polling process, why did the ECI raise the expenditure limit for individual candidates from ₹ 40 lakh to ₹ 70 lakh? And, that too, when the (self-declared) audit reports of key contestants from the dominant political parties showed only 15%–20% utilisation of the erstwhile prescribed expenditure limit.
- In fact, how does the ECI even determine how much money is “enough” for a candidate to contest an election?
- By raising the expenditure limit for candidates despite their (self) reported underutilisation, is the ECI silently admitting the deliberate under-reporting of incomes and expenditures by political parties and candidates, and in turn the porosity of its own monitoring mechanisms to prevent such manipulations?
The Institutional Paralysis
- Despite the plethora of commissions and recommendations, the failure to contain the costs of elections and the impropriety of their funding, suggests that the institutional ecosystem in this country is orchestrated to safeguard the state-driven laissez-faire attitude towards political funding.
- Regulatory institutions, be it the ECI or the Supreme Court are deliberating on the interests of the (relatively few) donors, rather than the 850 million voters, notwithstanding that the identity linkage between the political parties and their donors can dictate the degree of the voter-centricity of state policies.
The fundamental issues—such as the codification of election expenditures, monitoring beyond the period of the model code of conduct, and the very structure of the electoral system—can make a real impact on electoral reforms.
Relevance: GS Paper I & II (Local Government / Urbanization)
The Constitution of India considers states to be the smallest unit of governance, leaving further devolution of powers at their discretion. Even the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments do not sufficiently empower the panchayati raj institutions or urban local bodies to respond to the needs of citizens in a democratic manner. With growing urbanization, the problem of democratic deficit in the cities is going to become even more acute.
The weak position of ULBs
- Could a state government, by law, strip all urban local bodies (ULBs) in the state of their powers and hand it over to an administrator nominated by it? The answer is – Yes.The state government can do this, and it would not be unconstitutional.
- Nothing in the articles introduced into the Constitution under the 74th Amendment mandates that ULBs should enjoy certain powers at all costs.
- Articles 243W and 243X do not mandate that the state legislature has to bestow lawmaking or taxing powers upon the ULBs.
- This position of law reflects a situation that has existed since the Constitution has come into force: it has no conception of the city as a unit of governance.
- Whereas state legislatures and governments have been vested with legislative and executive powers under the Constitution, there is nothing in the Constitution which does the same for ULBs.
- More and more Indians are choosing to live in cities. This is a trend that is only going to increase as jobs become scarce in rural areas and opportunities beckon in megacities sprouting across the country.
- Unlike in the past where much migration from rural to urban areas was temporary and seasonal—with men moving to the cities for jobs and returning to the village—India is, perhaps, finally seeing the mass movement of families from rural areas to urban areas on a permanent basis.
- As of 2018, 54% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, with the figure expected to go up to 68% in 2050.
- By 2030 India will be home to seven cities with 10 million or more inhabitants, though—given that five cities already match this criterion—it is possible that many more may join the club.
Benefits of Urbanization
- While unplanned urbanization is definitely hazardous and could lead to environmental damage, well-planned urbanization can have positive impacts on the environment.
- Urbanization has many benefits, including more efficient resource use, reduced carbon footprints, and an opportunity to escape oppressive social structures.
Imagining the City
- One solution, perhaps, to address the absence of the city in the Constitution is to grant cities plenary legislative and executive powers in the same manner as has been granted to the union and state governments.
- This would mean replacing the existing provisions, enabling the state to grant such powers by a clause that directly vests such powers with the ULBs or PRIs.
- This would also entail a separate list for ULBs and PRIs in the Seventh Schedule and/or a potential second concurrent list where states share legislative power with such bodies.
- However, this suggestion only goes some way towards addressing the problem of the absence of the city in the Constitution. At the heart of the problem is a democratic deficit and a power–accountability imbalance.
The Democratic Deficit
The democratic deficit is evident in two ways.
- On the one hand, cities and urban areas are severely under-represented in the state and national legislatures relative to rural areas.
- There is another aspect to this democratic deficit, though it is not exclusive to cities alone. Although the Constitution mandates that ULB elections should be held every five years, in reality, several states have had much longer gaps between elections to ULBs.
- If the powers of the municipal corporation are simply a gift of the state government, voters might assume that it would make better sense to hold the state government directly responsible. Redressing this, therefore, requires framing the city and its place in governance under the Constitution in a holistic manner.
- This will require an acknowledgement of the role of the city in economic and social development in India.
- This will also require the strengthening of institutions like the state election commissions and the state finance commissions to ensure that they are able to carry out their mandate in an impartial and timely manner.
- This will require conceptualizing federalism under the Constitution as a three-tier structure, where each tier performs its constitutional roles and responsibilities, and is independently accountable to the citizens.
As India urbanizes rapidly, it is going to face challenges when it comes to governance of vast urban agglomerations. Placing the city within the framework of the Constitution will provide a path to deepen India’s democracy and federalism.
Relevance : GS Paper 2 & 4 ( Civil Service & Ethics)
Theme of the Article
Neutrality helps enlightened public officials escape the honeycomb-like structure of a partisan government.
Why has this issue cropped up?
Recently, an open letter was written by more than 80 retired bureaucrats to the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP).
Significance of such a letter
- First, it is written keeping in view the normative principles of the Indian Constitution as the reference point. It is committed to receive the command from the Constitution. It shows that public officials are not slaves to either the politicians or any other authority other than the moral authority of the Constitution.
- Second, it shows that the principle of neutrality implies a measure of independence both from the partisan interests of the government of the day and the exogenous agenda that prompts certain social groups to cow others down to humiliating vulnerability..
- Third, the letter also suggests that failure of the government makes the discussion on post-bureaucratic society irrelevant. In India, we do require constitutionally committed bureaucracy. Do we not? Bureaucracy is neutral in terms of ideology and politics.
- Finally, and most importantly, it also suggests that even in the post-retirement period, public officials could make significant interventions for more noble purposes underlying the good society even without joining a particular brand of formal politics.
Commitment to Constitutional Principles
- For a genuine public official, commitment to constitutional principles is not only a lifelong project, but, more importantly, it can be carried out without any political or ideological mediation. It does not have to relate itself, for example, to the constitutional principle of justice, politics or ideology.
- The Constitution serves as the standard by which one can measure the capacity of a bureaucracy to remain committed to peace, harmony and justice.
- They are supposed to give an account of how much their in-service performance favoured the constitutional ideal. This account-giving becomes important in a context where some of our public officials have not been able to keep their caste/patriarchy and the acute consciousness of hatred outside the office premises.
Moral functions of Bureaucrats
Public officials have two interrelated moral functions.
- First, to protect the very state of which it is a part from being disrupted or being undermined by the disquieting elements from civil society.
- Second, to prevent the disruptive efforts of a society that is ridden with caste and patriarchal consciousness.
- On the one hand, the formative conditions to perform these twin tasks involve public officials’ moral capacity to resist anti-constitutional interests that the government of the day may try to push.
- And, on the other, they, through their active intervention, need to translate these constitutional principles to understand everyday forms of people’s problematic social practice.
Bureaucracy serves as the third and neutral term that can be socially effective without the aid of politics or ideology. The neutrality principle has a moral function to prevent public officials from becoming slaves to the government of the day.
Relevance: GS Paper II (Polity and Governance)
Why has this issue cropped up?
The Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on 8 January 2019.
Major issue with the Amendment Bill
The bill violates the Constitution because the classification it adopts is manifestly arbitrary and unjustified. Citizenship law defines a country’s political and constitutional identity. Laying down rules that determine membership in our political community only on the basis of one’s religious beliefs completely violates this principle.
Previous position under the Citizenship Act
- In 2004, the act was amended by the introduction of the term “illegal migrant,” which was defined as someone who enters or stays in India without legal authorisation.
- The amendment was an obvious response to the anxiety that Bangladeshi migrants would get Indian citizenship and participate in elections.
- After the amendment, any child born 2004 onwards to even one parent who is an illegal migrant would be disqualified from citizenship by birth.
- Illegal migrants were also disqualified from the other routes to citizenship.
- Any person who was an “illegal migrant” or a descendant of an “illegal migrant” would be disqualified from getting Indian citizenship through any means whatsoever.
Proposed Amendments to the Bill
- The amendment bill removes the disqualification based on illegal migration for “minority communities,” specifically “Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.” These groups would not be considered “illegal migrants,” thus allowing them and their descendants to be Indian citizens or apply for Indian citizenship.
- The proposed amendment also shortens the minimum period of residence in India for them. Instead of the 11 years applicable to everyone, they need six years to qualify for citizenship through naturalisation.
- In other words, the proposed amendment seeks to make two changes, specifically for non-Muslim migrants from these three neighbouring countries: it removes the possibility of their and their descendants’ disqualification from citizenship, and accelerates obtaining citizenship by naturalisation.
Impacts of the proposed Amendments
- The most dramatic impact of the proposed amendment is to place certain Indian residents at a profound disadvantage because of their religious identity and the country of origin.
- If the proposed amendment were passed, the non-Muslim residents who illegally migrated from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh will be able to apply for citizenship through registration and naturalisation. Similarly placed Muslim residents will continue to be barred.
- If the proposed amendment were passed, a child born in India after 2003 to Hindu “illegal migrants” would qualify as a citizen by birth. If the child is born to even one Muslim “illegal migrant,” they would not.
- The proposed amendment also places residents who may have illegally migrated from other countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, China, and Myanmar at a disadvantage. For example, while a Buddhist who illegally migrated from Pakistan owing to religious persecution would qualify for citizenship, a Buddhist who fled China for the same reason would not.
Assessing Constitutionality of the Amendments
- This differential treatment of Indian residents must meet the requirement of equality before law and equal protection of laws under Article 14 of the Constitution.
- The Constitution extends this right to all persons within the territory of India irrespective of citizenship.
- Equal protection does not demand exact treatment. But, it does demand that any differential treatment be reasonable and justified. The classification made by a law should be rational and the differentiation must correspond with its proclaimed purpose.
- The central government has argued that the purpose behind the amendment is to accommodate minorities facing religious persecution.
- In light of this, the proposed amendment and the executive orders make three distinctions: (i) between Muslim and non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan; (ii) between migrants from these three countries and those from other countries; and (iii) between residents who migrated due to reasons of religious persecution and those who migrated due to other forms of persecution like racial or ethnic persecution.
- The question for the purpose of constitutional validity is whether this classification meet the test of equal protection; whether the classification is rational and corresponds with the proclaimed purpose. If the proposed amendment and executive orders fail to meet both these requirements, they will be deemed unconstitutional on account of discrimination.
- If the proclaimed purpose of the amendment bill and executive orders is to accommodate minority communities suffering from religious persecution, the distinction between Muslim and non-Muslim migrants is irrational and unjustified. So is the distinction between migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, versus those from other countries.
- What if a Muslim illegal migrant from Afghanistan converts to Hinduism during her stay in India? What about a child born in India to an inter-religious couple from Bangladesh that had to illegally migrate because of religious persecution?
- The fundamental constitutional flaw in the proposed amendment is that it is not based on an assessment of actual persecution. Rather than defining the nature of persecution and leaving the rest to a case-to-case evaluation for the purposes of granting citizenship, the amendment seeks to respond by generalisations that do not correspond with the proclaimed purpose. This makes the proposed amendment unjustified and discriminatory.
Arbitrary and Unconstitutional
- Various minority communities in India’s neighbourhood have suffered severe persecution, not only based on their religious beliefs, but also their race, ethnicity, and language. The case of Tamils in Sri Lanka and Tibetans in China are the most prominent examples.
- India has also received Hindu Nepalese migrants fleeing persecution in Bhutan. The persecution of the Rohingyas is religious and ethnic in equal measure. India’s neighbourhood has also seen political persecution.
- There is no good reason why religious persecution should be seen as more severe compared to any of these other forms of persecution.
- Secularism has consistently been declared to be a facet of the Constitution’s basic structure that Parliament cannot abrogate.
- Citizenship law defines a country’s political and constitutional identity. Laying down rules that determine membership in our political community only on the basis of one’s religious beliefs completely violates this principle.
Indian citizenship law has continued to remain compellingly secular. Religious and ethnic identity may have shaped this law, but have not filtered into it as qualifications or disqualifications. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill threatens to change this.
Relevance : GS Paper III (Environment)
Why has this Issue cropped up?
The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), 2018 notification has revoked some of its stringent provisions to permit the expansion of development activities into the environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs), hitherto deemed inaccessible by law.
Salient Features of the New Policy
- The salient features of the new policy include
- the reduction of the CRZ limits and the no-development zone (NDZ) area,
- and the classification of coastal zone areas, according to the density of population.
- For the setting up of “strategic projects,” for defence and public utilities, even the most ecologically critical areas that fall under the CRZ I classification have not been excluded.
Implications of the New Policy
- By facilitating the large-scale intrusion of commercial and industrial activities into the fragile coastal territories, the new CRZ policy would upset the prevailing human–ecological balance.
- This would lead to further degradation of marine ecosystems, and disrupt the livelihoods of resource-dependent populations, especially artisanal fishers living off the coasts.
- The policy would not only serve to facilitate the unhindered implementation of the central government’s ambitious Sagarmala project spread all along India’s coastline, but also promote the development of infrastructure, real estate and tourism, while permitting affordable housing along the coast.
- The utilitarian approach of the policy reveals a clear bias favouring business interests, while overriding the needs of coastal ecology, conservation and the fishers, the centuries-old custodians of the coasts, who do not view the sea merely as a resource.
The Plight of the Fishers
- The concerns of the fishers are often seen to be in conflict with those of other interest groups that seek to corner profits from unfettered use and commercialisation of coastal resources and commons.
- In coastal cities, such as Mumbai and Chennai, increasing urbanisation, changes in land use patterns, encroachments along the coast, construction of coastal roads, and unabated pollution have led to a decline in fish catch and landings over time, which has adversely affected livelihoods.
- By failing to recognise the traditional and customary rights of fishers, the enactment of the new CRZ policy would make legitimate the violations of the fishers’ customary norms regarding the use of coastal commons. This would intensify conflicts over resource use, eventually leading to the large-scale alienation of fishers from the coasts.
- The establishment of large development projects, such as international container trans-shipment terminals and ports along the coastline, in the recent past, have also adversely affected marine life and displaced thousands of fishers from coastal habitats without the formulation and implementation of a proper rehabilitation and resettlement policy.
- Promoting the business agendas of other interest groups at the cost of fisher livelihoods would further impoverish a community that already has been pushed to the margins of an unequal society.
- The state has paid no heed to the demands of fisher organisations, as it has on most occasions failed to implement or enforce the existing CRZ rules or check violations along the coasts.
The new lines of demarcation altering the governance of coastal zones have failed to take into account interrelated questions regarding the livelihoods of resource-dependent populations and the conservation as well as sustainability of coastal ecosystems. In the long run, this would entail huge costs for society and, in turn, prove to be detrimental to the cause of overall development by engendering new forms of disenfranchisement.