Category Archives: GS2

International Organisations and Reports: Annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.

Headline : India protests over UN chief’s report

Details :

In News:

  • The United Nation has recently released its Annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.
  • India is disappointed with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for including in the report situations in India that are neither armed conflicts nor a threat to international security.

 

About Annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.

  • The present report covers the period from January to December 2018, was submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2427 (2018).

UN Resolution 2427In 2018, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution aimed at a framework for mainstreaming protection, rights, well-being and empowerment of children throughout the conflict cycle.

  • The report highlights global trends regarding the impact  of  armed  conflict  on  children  and  provides  information  on  violations committed as well as related protection concerns.
  • The present report also include a list of parties that, in violation of international law, engage in the recruitment and use of children, the killing and maiming of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, attacks on schools and/or hospitals and attacks or threats of attacks against protected personnel,1and the abduction of children.

Highlights of the Report:

  • Violence against Children: More than 12,000 children were killed or maimed in around 20 conflict situations of 2018. Children continue to be used in combat, particularly in Somalia, Nigeria and Syria. They also continue to be abducted, to be used in hostilities or for sexual violence,
  • Sexual Violence against children: Some 933 cases of sexual violence against boys and girls were reported, but this is believed to be an under-estimate, due to lack of access, stigma and fear of reprisals.
  • Overall decrease in attacks on schools and hospitals: Attacks on schools and hospitals have decreased overall, but have intensified in some conflict situations, such as Afghanistan and Syria, which has seen the highest number of such attacks since the beginning of the conflict in the country.
  • Access to education: Mali provides the most serious example of children being deprived of access to education, and the military use of schools.
  • Detention and release of children involved in conflict: Rather than being seen as victims of recruitment, thousands of children around the world were detained for their actual or alleged association with armed groups in 2018 (in Syria and Iraq), the majority of children deprived of their liberty are under the age of five.
  • Increase in number of children benefiting from release and reintegration: The number of children benefiting from release and reintegration support, however, rose in 2018 to 13,600 (up from 12,000 in 2017).

Recommendations given:

  • All parties to conflict must refrain from directing attacks against civilians, including children, as peace remains the best protection for children affected by armed conflict.
  • Parties to conflict must protect children and put in place tangible measures to end and prevent these violations.
  • The nations to work with the UN to help relocate foreign children and women actually or allegedly affiliated with extremist groups, with the best interests of the child as the primary consideration.
  • Increased resources and funding to meet the growing needs, as more children are separated from armed groups.

 

About India in the report:

  • India was mentioned under a section of the report titled “Situations not on the agenda of the Security Council or other situations”.
  • The report mentions terrorist groups in Jammu & Kashmir and Maoist groups elsewhere that recruit child fighters, children killed in these areas, and sexual violence against them, although India is not in armed conflict.
    • According to the report, terrorist groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir and Maoists groups elsewhere have recruited children as fighters.
    • It also added that children continued to be killed or injured in operations by the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir and in areas of Maoist activity.
    • The report noted that there were reports of sexual violence against girls by security forces in Kashmir citing the Kathua rape case.

 

India’s Objections to the Report:

  • India has strongly expressed its disappointment over the report.
  • The section on “Situations on the agenda of the Security Council”, which conforms to its mandate, deals with countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are in a civil war situation that overwhelms the nations. (This section also included Israel and Palestine territories.)
  • The inclusion of India and countries like Thailand and even Pakistan in an added section appears to be arbitrary because it places them on the same level as those countries covered by the Council mandate.
  • However, at the same time the report ignored countries in Central America, for example, where violence has led to an exodus of thousands of children escaping the brutalities.
  • Such attempt to expand mandate in a selective manner to certain situations only politicises and instrumentalises the agenda, obfuscating and diverting attention from the real threats to international peace and security.
Section : International Relation

Electrifying India’s transport Editorial 7th May’19 TimesOfIndia

Headline : Electrifying India’s transport Editorial 7th May’19 TimesOfIndia

Details :

Rapid urbanization and transport problems:

  • India’s urban population will nearly double in the next decade.
  • More than half a billion people will live and work in Indian cities.
  • Travel within and between cities will grow exponentially.
  • This rapid growth poses several social, economic and environmental challenges.

Converting this into opportunities:

  • To convert these challenges into opportunities, India needs to prioritise shared and public modes of transportation and turn to new sunrise industries (like electric vehicles) that can help combat pollution, reduce congestion, strengthen energy security and also create jobs.

 

Initiatives aimed at transforming India’s mobility system:

  • Recently, the Union government approved two initiatives:
    • Fame-II: The second phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles scheme
    • National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage

Focus on electrification:

  • Both these actions signal India’s commitment to transforming its mobility system, with focus on electrification as the primary technology pathway to achieve this transformation.
  • This focus presents India with a powerful opportunity to emerge as a leader in clean, connected and shared mobility solutions, battery manufacturing and renewable energy integration.
  • Renewably supplied electricity can deliver long-term, fixed cost power supply for mobility services throughout the economy, and solar energy can become a transportation fuel.

Benefits:

  • Energy security: From the perspective of energy security and competitive advantage too, new mobility solutions will reduce oil import costs, lower trade deficits, and limit vulnerability to oil supply disruptions and process shocks.
  • Environmental benefits: Shared, connected and clean mobility solutions will deliver a host of environmental benefits, including cleaner air so Indian citizens can breathe more easily.

 

Future of mobility in India:

  • Addressing the Global Mobility Summit, the Indian Prime Minister outlined a vision for the future of mobility in India based on 7Cs.
  • These 7 Cs include: Common, Connected, Convenient, Congestion-free, Charged, Clean and Cutting-edge.

Steps to achieve these objectives:

  1. Focus on shared electric transportation:
  • India’s per capita car ownership is quite low with fewer than 20 vehicles per 1,000 persons (5% of the people), as compared to 900 per 1,000 in the US and 800 per 1,000 in Europe.
  • India’s low per capita car ownership affords it the chance to pursue a different model from the western world.
  • Our emphasis must be on shared, connected and electric transportation.
  1. Focus on EVs in two and three wheelers segments: 
  • Two and three wheelers constitute almost 80% of India’s domestic automobile sales.
  • India must leverage this and provide impetus to electrification of these two segments to provide size and scale to India’s e-mobility efforts.
  1. Push public transportation:
  • India must push for public transportation to become the preferred mode of travel.
  • At present, India has only 1.2 buses per 1,000 people, which is far below the benchmarks of developing nations.
  • Only 63 of the 458 Indian cities have a formal city bus system and 15 cities have a bus or rail based mass rapid transport system.
  • Public transport must become the core focus area for municipalities and state governments.
  1. Creating an ecosystem for EVs:
  • As we shift from Internal Combustion Engine vehicles (which have 2,000 components) to Electric vehicles (which have 20 components), India must create a unique ecosystem to encourage and ensure Make in India as far as possible.
  • This would require measures, including Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP) across the entire value chain, and an efficient fiscal and tax structure.
  • This ecosystem should also be able to attract global OEMs for manufacturing.
  1. Promote battery manufacturing:
  • Batteries account for almost 40% of the total purchase cost of EVs today.
  • Domestic battery manufacturing is a massive market opportunity for India to rapidly enable the transition to EVs.
  • India has the opportunity to pursue manufacturing of both battery cells and packs while importing only raw materials.
  • With this, India can capture nearly 80% of the total economic opportunity.
  • New battery technologies, like solid-state lithium ion batteries, sodium ion batteries and silicon-based batteries, are under development.
  • India needs to vigorously pursue research and development in these areas and have a clear roadmap for manufacturing on a mega scale.
  1. Creating charging infrastructure:
  • India’s cities must build charging infrastructure to remove worries over the range the EVs can travel.
  • The existing network of our marketing oil companies must be fully utilised to ensure charging facilities in urban areas and highways.

Other steps:

  • Innovation: India must therefore explore newer models of swapping batteries and pay as you go, and facilitate startups that are innovating and disrupting status quo in mobility.
  • Capacity building: Our IITs and engineering institutions must also include courses on new technologies as an essential component of their curriculum.
  • Policies by states: States must drive uptake of these solutions by dynamic models of charging a fee for polluting combustion vehicles, while providing rebates on electric vehicles, and tightening norms of fuel efficiency across vehicle segments.

 

Conclusion:

  • Forecasts indicate that EVs prices will drop and can reach price parity with ICE vehicles by 2024.
  • A recent report by Morgan Stanley has highlighted that half of India’s car fleet will be EVs and half of all miles driven will be on shared platforms by 2040.
    • This is on account of rapid spread of digitisation and mobile telephony and low per capita car usage in India.
  • This new sunrise area can emerge as the biggest catalyst of clean environment, lower trade deficit and new jobs for India.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Indian Economy

 

Related question:

India has committed to transforming its mobility system, with focus on electrification as the primary technology pathway to achieve this. Suggest steps towards achieving this transformation.

Section : Editorial Analysis

SC reserves verdict on changes to SC/ST law

Headline : SC reserves verdict on changes to SC/ST law

Details :

The News

  • Recently, the Supreme Court has reserved its judgment on a batch of petitions challenging the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018.

 

The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

  • Objective: to prevent atrocities against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
  • A person accused of such a crime cannot get anticipatory bail, but soon after his arrest, he can get regular bail even in offences where the punishment is just six months.

 

Timeline

  • On 20 March 2018, Supreme Court gave its judgment banning registration of criminal cases and automatic arrests under the SC/ST Act and allowing anticipatory bail to those booked for committing atrocities against the SCs and the STs
  • The verdict triggered a nationwide protest by the Dalit community costing loss of lives and property.
  • The government filed a review petition and subsequently amended the 1989 Act back to its original form through the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018.
  • Several petitions were filed last year challenging the amendments. However, the Supreme Court had refused to stay the implementation of the amendments.

 

Changes in Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 after the March 20 Supreme Court Judgement

  • The top court banned registration of criminal cases and automatic arrests under the SC/ST Act.
  • The public servants cannot be prosecuted without the approval of the appointing authority and private citizens can be arrested only after an inquiry under the law.
  • A preliminary inquiry under the Act would be conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police to be certain that the allegations are not superficial.
  • The amendment in the law was a bid to protect honest public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.
  • Earlier provisions in the Act provided for taking immediate action in respect of any complaint relating to harassment of a victim, informant or witness, etc. Any such complaint shall be tried separately from the main case and be concluded within two months.

 

The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018

  • The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018 nullified a controversial March 20 Supreme Court judgment.

For amendment Act : There had been no decrease in the atrocities committed on the SCs/STs despite the laws meant to protect their civil rights and they continue to face the same social stigma, poverty and humiliation. Thus it is necessary to safeguard their rights by restoring original act.

Against amendment act: Article 21, the fundamental right of an individual cannot be protected if an innocent is jailed on a complaint without its prior scrutiny.

 

 

Section : Polity & Governance

India and Pak Relation: In Brief : Cross-LoC trade, Intra Kashmir Trade Report

Headline : Explained: LoC trade, in perspective

Details :

Context of the topic:

  • Last week, the government of India suspended the cross-LoC trade, alleging misuse of the facility by individuals linked to terrorist groups

 

Theme of the topic:

  • The topic gives a brief account of information about the History of the cross-LoC trade and its objective.

 

Historical background of the Cross-LoC trade

  • The cross-LoC trade between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and also the cross LoC bus service, these two measures were started in 2005 as “Kashmir specific confidence building measures” and to improve India-Pakistan relations.
  • In October 2005, two crossing points, Srinagar-Muzaffarabad at Uri, and Poonch-Rawalakot at Chakan da Bagh, were opened for trade.

  • However, the Mumbai attacks, 2008 put a hold on India-Pakistan relations, but the cross-LoC trade remained unaffected by that.

 

Issues in trade

  • The agreement was for zero duty trade for a list of 21 items.
  • Traders on both sides struggled through currency and communication issues, which led to the formation of the Intra Jammu & Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (IJ&KCCI).

 

Trade Suspension:

  • Last week, the government of India cited malpractice and the involvement of terrorist groups in the trade and thus suspended the LoC trade.

 

The Intra Kashmir Trade Report:

  • In 2011, a report called Intra Kashmir Trade,was jointly prepared by the Delhi-based IPCS, Conciliation Resources of London, and the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency.
  • According to the report, cross border trade could be insulated from the India-PAkistan relationship, and has been establishing a “bottom up” approach to peace-building.
  • Trade has also attracted divided families and some former combatants and thus provided them an alternative non-violent option for change and conflict transformation.

Note: The cross Loc trade holds much symbolic value in Jammu & Kashmir more than its value in currency terms.

Section : International Relation

Pakistan’s economy and IMF’s help

Headline : Either way, the news is bad Editorial 20th Apr’19 TheHindu

Pakistan’s economy in free-fall:

Pakistan’s economy is in ruins, with almost every indicator deteriorating substantially.

  • Inflation: Inflation, at 9.4%, is at its highest level in five-and-a-half years and is likely to rise to double digits for the months ahead.
  • Currency depreciation: The Pakistani rupee continues to lose value regularly, which adds to further inflation especially with the oil price on the way up.
  • Fiscal Deficit: The fiscal deficit is about to hit more than 6% of GDP, and even a cut in development expenditure will not stop this, as defence spending and interest payments continue to rise.
  • Exports: Pakistan’s exports have been stuck at around $26 bn for years, despite the 35% devaluation of the rupee over one year.
  • Debt: The government owes power producing companies huge amounts of money, and interest rates are also going up making the cost of business even more uncompetitive.
  • Falling GDP growth: The State Bank of Pakistan recently lowered the expectations of the GDP growth for the current fiscal year to an eight-year low, to around 3.5%, an estimate. The expected growth as per the IMF and the World Bank is a dismal 2.9% for the current fiscal year, and expected to fall further over the next three years.

Economic Mismanagement:

  • A major reason why the economy has taken such a sharp plunge, is the economic mismanagement by the government.
  • On top of that, political leaders have been high on rhetoric and display of pride rather than reaching out to IMF for a major structural adjustment loan.

 

Reaching out to the IMF now:

  • While Pakistan managed to secure some loans from friendly countries to avoid IMF (and thereby also avoid structural reforms to the economic management), it is not sustainable.
  • It is increasingly apparent that Pakistan now has to reach out to IMF.
  • Any IMF help will come with implementation of strict conditionalities and adjustment programme.

Earlier help came easy due to US backing:

  • This will be the 13th IMF rescue package for Pakistan’s governments and its elites in less than four decades.
  • Each time there is an economic crisis in Pakistan created due to mismanagement, the IMF and World Bank saved them, as U.S. supported it due to its geostrategic position and importance to them (especially vis-a-vis Afghanistan).

Now Pakistan isolated:

  • As global power shifts and the region changes, Pakistan’s position and importance in it have also fallen. The US has refused to support Pakistan’s economy especially in light of its support to terrorist groups operating from its soil.

 

IMF help will come with strict oversight on economic management:

  • Under the new IMF programme, Pakistan is expecting to receive between $6-$10 bn.
  • However, the IMF will also ensure austerity, stabilisation and will cut the growth rate further.
  • It will insist on further devaluation of the rupee, causing greater inflation, and will insist on raising utility prices.
  • Thus, things will get worse for Pakistanis (in the short term), including further economic slowdown, fewer jobs and high and rising inflation.

IMF will also force Pakistan to open up on its debt-heavy deals with China:

  • Another major problem in making a deal this time has been the IMF’s insistence that Pakistan reveal the financial deals made with China, including financial loans, as well as the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

 

Conclusion:

  • If Pakistan doesn’t take the IMF loan, it is in a mess as its economy is in deep trouble.
  • If it takes the loan from IMF, it will again be in a mess due to strict conditionalities imposed by the IMF.

 

Importance:

GS Paper II: International Relations

 

Section : Editorial Analysis

In Brief: Undertrials and Covicts: Fundamental Right, Right to equality, Right to Constitutional Remedies

Headline : Plea in SC on voting rights of undertrials and convicts

Details :

The News

  • Recently a plea has been filed in the Supreme Court under Article 32 challenging an electoral law denying undertrials and convicts their right to vote.

 

Provision violating the right to equality

  • Section 62(5) of the Representation of People Act of 1951 : The provision deprives any person confined to a prison of the right to vote at any election.
  • Issues:
    • In addition to convicts (a person found guilty of a criminal offence and serving a sentence of imprisonment), the law prohibits voting right to even under-trials (a person who is being held in custody awaiting trial for a crime ) , whose innocence or guilt has not been conclusively determined.
    • Moreover, a convicted person on bail still enjoys his voting right.
  • Since Section 62(5) deprive any confined person of the right to vote in an arbitrary manner, it violates the rights to equality(Article 14) and vote (Article 326).

Note: Section 62(5) of the RPA, exempt a person held under preventive detention.

Article 14: Article 14 of the Constitution of India provides for equality before the law or equal protection within the territory of India.

Article 326: Article 326 of the Constitution provides for elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assemblies of States to be on the basis of universal adult suffrage.

 

About Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32)

  • Article 32 gives right to an individual to move to the Supreme Court for the enforcement of fundamental rights, including the writs of:
    • Habeas corpus
    • Mandamus
    • Prohibition
    • Certiorari
    • Quo warento
  • It has been referred as the “soul of the constitution and very heart of it” by Dr. Ambedkar.
  • Supreme Court has included it in basic structure doctrine, which cannot be abridged or taken away even by the way of Constitutional amendment.
  • However, the right is suspended at the time of national emergency (Article 359).

Note: The High Courts also have the power to issue writs under article 226.

Section : Polity & Governance

Pak launches guidelines to implement UNSC 1267 Sanctions in country

Headline : Pak launches guidelines to implement UNSC 1267 Sanctions in country 

Details : 

The news

  • Pakistan has launched guidelines for implementing the UNSC 1267 Sanctions targeting UN-proscribed individuals and entities in the country.

 

Background

  • After Pulwama attach and India’s counter airstrikes, tensions escalated between India and Pakistan.
  • Since then, Pakistan is under intense global pressure to take action against terrorist outfits operating from its soil.
  • The launch of latest guidelines has come against this backdrop of global intensified pressure.

 

Summary of the news

  • Pakistan has launched guidelines for implementing the UNSC 1267 Sanctions targeting the UN prescribed individuals and entities in the country.
  • The guidelines were prepared by the National Committee for overseeing implementation of Sanctions against individuals and entities designated by the UN Security Council 1267 regime, which includes-
    • Al Qaida/Da’esh Sanctions regime
    • Taliban Sanctions regime (Security Council 1988)
  • They have been formulated in compliance with international standards as required by the UNSC 1267 Sanctions Committee and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

 

Significance of the guidelines

  • International obligations: It will help Pakistan meet international obligations against people and groups targeted by the UN.
  • Improve understanding: The guidelines would help officials to better understand the provisions of the UN 1267 sanctions regime.
  • Better compliance: It is expected to improve the understanding of the concerned domestic legislations among the officials and also make them realise their obligationsand hence, facilitate compliance.
  • Effective implementation: The guidelines would assist all the stakeholders in better discharging their responsibilities for the effective implementation of the UN Sanctions.
  • Global demonstration: Launch of guidelines also helps Pakistan to show the world that it is serious about countering terrorism.
  • Prevent downgrading of its economy: By demonstrating itself as resolved and serious about countering terrorism, Pakistan is trying to prevent itself from blacklisting by FATF, which may lead to downgrading of the country by lenders like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank, etc.

 

 

About UNSC 1267 resolution

  • The UNSC resolution 1267 was adoptedin 1999.
  • It is a consolidated list of people and entities it has determined as being associated with Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and laws which must be passed within each member nation to implement the sanctions.
  • Over time, the regime evolved and the measures became a targeted assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo against designated individuals and entities.
  • The sanction extended with inclusion of Al Qaida and ISIL.
  • The measures to counter terrorism under the UN 1267 regime includes:
    • Assets Freeze: All states are required to freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of designated individuals and entities.
    • Travel Ban: All states are required to prevent the entry into or transit through their territories by designated individuals.
    • Arms Embargo:All states are required to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale and transfer from their territories or by their nationals outside their territories, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related materiel of all types, spare parts, and technical advice, assistance, or training related to military activities, to designated individuals and entities
  • All UN member states are required to take these above measures with respect to ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and Taliban and other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with them.

Section : International Relation

Open up the Supreme Court Editorial 9th Apr’19 TheHindu

Headline : Open up the Supreme Court Editorial 9th Apr’19 TheHindu 

Details : 

Delhi HC judgement said RTI applicable to higher judiciary:

  • In 2009, the High Court of Delhi handed down a landmark judgment dealing with the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
  • It held that the Office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was a “public authority”, and therefore, subject to the provisions of the Act.
  • Information held by the CJI — including, in the context of the case, information about judges’ assets — could be requested by the public through an RTI application.

But SC stayed it:

  • When the case reached the Supreme Court, a stay was granted.
  • In April, 2019, a five-judge Bench of the apex court finally heard the case on merits, and reserved judgment.
  • Expansion of issues under consideration:
    • By this time, the issues under consideration moved beyong Delhi HC’s ruling on the status of the Chief Justice as a public authority and the disclosure of judges’ assets.
    • It also involved the question of whether the correspondence of the Collegium was subject to the RTI.

Various aspects:

  1. Office of CJI and higher courts should be subject to RTI:
  • The answer to the basic question, i.e. whether or not the Office of the CJI is subject to the RTI Act, is a clear yes.
  • The Delhi High Court judgment noted that, “all power — judicial power being no exception — is held accountable in a modern Constitution”.
  • A blanket judicial exemption from the RTI Act would defeat the basic idea of “open justice”.
  • The courts are powerful organs of state, and their workings have to be as transparent and open to public scrutiny as any other body.
  • Some private information could be withheld as per RTI Act itself:
    • It would be incorrect to say that bringing the judiciary under the RTI Act destroys the personal privacy of judges.
    • The RTI Act itself has an inbuilt privacy-oriented protection, which authorises withholding the disclosure of personal information unless there is an overriding public interest.
    • For example, disclosure of assets is arguably justified by an overriding public interest, but information related to medical details or marital status need not be revealed.
  1. Correspondence of the Collegium:
  • The most complex issue regarding information from the judiciary involved the disclosure of the correspondence of the Collegium.

Collegium and its working:

  • India is one of the few countries where judges have the last word on judicial appointments, through the mechanism of the Collegium.
  • The Collegium includes the five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, who collectively constitute the selection panel for judicial appointments to the Supreme Court (and the three senior-most judges when it comes to the High Courts).
  • The Collegium itself is not mentioned in the text of the Constitution: it arose out of a judgment of the Supreme Court, and in response to increased executive interference in judicial appointments.
  • The Collegium system of appointments arose, therefore, as a tool to secure and guarantee the independence of the judiciary.

Collegium system facing criticism:

  • However, the Collegium has come under increasing criticism.
  • A major point of critique was its opacity: it was increasingly being perceived that judicial appointments were too often made in an ad hoc and arbitrary manner.
  • For example, certain lawyers were ruled out from being recommended to High Court judgeship because of being in a live-in relationship without being married.

More transparency promised:

  • In 2015, the Supreme Court struck down a constitutional amendment establishing a National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), which would have replaced the Collegium.
  • However, the apex court vowed to evolve a system where concerns of transparency were addressed.
  • A small step towards this was made in the recent years, when the resolutions of the Collegium began to be published online.

Fears that disclosing correspondence of collegium would destroy Judicial Independence:

  • During the arguments of the case related to judiciary and RTI, the Attorney-General of India (AG), who represented the Supreme Court before the Constitution Bench, argued that disclosing the correspondence of the Collegium would “destroy” judicial independence.
  • The CJI who was hearing the matter also agreed, noting that disclosing the reasons for rejection of a judge would “destroy” his or her life or career.

Such fears are unjustified:

  • This line of argument is difficult to accept.
  • It was first argued that only collegium system can secure judicial independence by ensuring judicial primacy in the appointments process.
  • Once that is done, it is unacceptable to then argue that the only permissible way in which this system can work is by making it immune to transparency.

Court must be transparent and accountable as it controls all appointments:

  • If the SC has instituted a process of appointment that makes itself the final arbiter of judicial appointments, then it must also ensure that that same process meets the standards of accountability in a democratic republic.

Transparency in judicial appointments is a feature of all major democracies:

  • A look at judicial appointments elsewhere suggests that transparency in appointments is integral to the process.
  • In the United States, for example, candidates for judicial appointments in the federal judiciary are subjected to public confirmation hearings by the Senate.
  • In Kenya and South Africa, the interviews of candidates taken by judicial appointments commissions are broadcast live.
  • The public, thus, is in a position to judge for itself the selection process.
  • This is crucial to maintaining public faith in the impartiality of the institution.

Collegium cannot be above scrutiny:

  • The Collegium in India has immunised itself from any form of public scrutiny.
  • The nomination process is secret, the deliberations are secret, the reasons for elevation or non-elevation are secret.
  • This creates an extremely unhealthy climate, in which rumours are rampant about judicial integrity as well as executive interference.
  • What truly destroys an insititution like the SC is not transparency but erosion of trust due to lack of it.

Conclusion:

  • The Collegium’s recent decisions to recommend a set of names for elevation, and then hastily backtrack on them without any publicly stated reasons, dealt a serious blow to its reputation for impartiality and independence.
  • The only way to salvage this is to open up the court.
  • A judiciary that is confident of itself and of its place in the democratic republic should not be worried about subjecting judicial appointments to public scrutiny.
  • The occasional discomfort that might come from the harsh public scrutiny is more than outweighed by the cleansing value of transparency.

Importance:

GS Paper II: Polity

Section : Editorial Analysis 

Steps to cement ties with China Editorial 10th Apr’19 IndianExpress

Headline : Steps to cement ties with China Editorial 10th Apr’19 IndianExpress 

Details : 

Focus must remain on foreign policy even in election season:

  • Even as India heads into a general election, it is important to keep focus on and not lose track of how the country must shape its foreign policy over the coming five years.
  • Suggestions, inputs, advice on these issues will be valuable to whichever government is formed.

China:

  • Within the larger foreign policy matrix, India’s relations with China constitute one of our most important challenges in the national security arena.
  • Thus, analysts continues to be pay attention regarding the next steps in India-China ties. 

Possible next steps in India-China ties for the new government:

  1. Regular high level interaction:
  • Given the nature of China’s polity, which is highly centralised, it will continue to remain important to drive the relationship from the top down.
  • Therefore, there should be intense political interaction, starting with the top leadership and filtering down to the ministerial level and then senior official level.
  • It will be essential to have an early visit to India by Chinese President in the second half of 2019 to keep up the momentum from the Wuhan Informal Summit of April 2018 as well as to impart new impulses with the new government in India. 
  • Informal summits also useful:
    • The positive aspect of the informal summit format (like the Wuhan Summit) is that it permits just the two leaders to interact with each other over significant amounts of time, thereby enabling strategic communication on all relevant aspects.
    • Such an exchange of views is indeed of significant value, especially amongst nations which need to build upon mutual trust.
  1. Enhanced military-to-military interaction and cooperation
  • It will be important to enhance military-to-military interaction and cooperation between India and China.
  • Currently, the exchanges are mainly between the armies of the two countries.
  • It will be essential to expand this to the navies, which are meeting on the high seas more often.
  • Such exchanges should go beyond mere symbolism (like study visits, port calls) and aim at getting a better understanding of the doctrines, practices and assessments of the other side.
  • On the border, there is a need for new confidence-building measures, which will aim at defusing the increasing close proximity situations that have been witnessed in the recent past. Additional Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) may also have to be put into place.
  1. More balanced trade:
  • To address the increasingly adverse balance of trade India experiences with China, it is essential to work with the Chinese government to ensure greater market access in China for Indian pharmaceutical products, particularly our cheap formulations.
  • Also, we must look at the “invisible” part of our payment balance with China and make a focused effort at attracting more Chinese tourists.
  • Marketing Incredible India in China will be a first step, but we shall also have to work with Chinese travel agents, the various airlines which fly between our countries, the new online agencies as well as the social media methodology to popularise India as a tourism destination.
  • If such an effort is indeed made, our mountains and our beaches, our temples and our heritage sites, our Buddhist trail as well as our wildlife sanctuaries are likely to be hugely popular with the Chinese.
  1. Movies:
  • It is important to acknowledge that China has rediscovered Bollywood, as seen by the success of recent movies in China.
  • While Bollywood will continue to tap the Chinese market on its own, since the government is important in China, India should offer whatever assistance may be required by our filmmakers in marketing their ware in China.
  • Films are important since they are a vehicle for promoting mutual trust and understanding between societies and peoples, while at the same time helping earn our movie-makers important markets and foreign exchange.
  1. Yoga:
  • India’s other export which is reaching out to millions of ordinary Chinese folk is yoga.
  • We must continue to promote yoga in China and, once again, this is best done through the private sector, but the government could consider effecting policies which promote this export.
  • It is significant that in order to celebrate International Yoga Day in China on June 21 each year, our official outposts in that country are able to bring in as many as 8,000 to 10,000 people at each of the many events in China.
  1. Sports:
  • It will be essential to engage China in the field of sports, where they are extremely strong.
  • We can encourage Chinese coaches in table tennis, gymnastics, track and field, as well as shooting, archery and swimming to come to India and train our youngsters.
  • We shall benefit from such assistance.
  1. Cooperation on global issues:
  • ISA:
    • On global issues, India has established the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in partnership with France with its headquarters in India.  China, which is an important manufacturer of solar panels and other related equipment, must join the ISA at an early date.
    • This would be a win-win proposition for both countries and will provide an excellent example of how the two can work together in international organisations.
    • Now that Japan and Saudi Arabia have joined the ISA, it is time to step up our encouragement to China to participate in this important area of environmental policy where we have no fundamental differences.
  • Counter-terrorism:
    • India must continue working with China to convince them that they must remove their hold at the UN Security Council on the listing of Masood Azhar under the 1267 sanctions. 
  1. RCEP:
  • The negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are now mainly between India and China.
  • We must ensure that RCEP has a strong commitment with respect to services and the movement of natural persons which is important for India. 
  1. Simultaneous stronger ties with other players in the region:
  • It is important to understand that better relations with China do not mean we have to go slow in our relations with other countries — whether the ASEAN or Australia, Japan or the US.
  • Putting our links with China on a firmer footing can be done simultaneously with stronger ties with other players in the region. 

Importance:

GS Paper III: International Relations

Section : Miscellaneous

How Election Commission draws manpower for polls, and what disciplinary control it exercises over these officers

Headline : How Election Commission runs poll machinery?

Details :

Theme:

  • The article analysis how Election Commission draws manpower for polls, and what disciplinary control it exercises over these officers.

 

Election Commission of India:

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) is an autonomous constitutional body responsible for administering election processes in India.
  • It was established on January 25, 1950.
  • Elections administrated by the ECI
    • Elections to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha
    • Elections to the state Legislative Assemblies and Legislative Councils
    • Elections to the offices of the President and Vice President
  • The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution per Article 324, and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act.
  • The commission has the powers under the Constitution, to act in an appropriate manner when the enacted laws make insufficient provisions to deal with a given situation in the conduct of an election.

 

Manpower for conducting elections:

  • The EC headquarters is in Delhi essentially monitors the conduct of elections.
  • Article 324 of the Constitution provides that the President or the Governor of a state is obliged to provide all “such staff as may be necessary” for the EC to conduct elections, not just in the state concerned, but outside as well.
  • The EC and the government jointly decide the staff and paramilitary forces required for conduct of elections through mutual consultation.

 

Exceptions: There are 10 categories of government officers and employees that are exempted from election duty. These are:

  1. Senior officers of the Indian Forest Service;
  2. Doctors and compounders working in veterinary hospitals;
  3. Grade B officers of veterinary hospitals;
  4. Medical staff including doctors and nurses;
  5. Territorial staff of the forest departments;
  6. All India Radio employees;
  7. Doordarshan employees,
  8. Operational/technical staff of UPSC, BSNL and educational institutions;
  9. Officers/staff of commercial banks located in rural areas which happen to be a single-officer branch;
  10. A person retiring in six months.

 

EC’s disciplinary control over the electoral machinery

  • Under the Representation of the People Act, all staff deputed to perform election arrangements in their respective states and outside are subject to be under control and discipline of EC from the date elections notified till the results are announced.
  • The disciplinary control of the Election Commission of India over the electoral machinery during election period shall extend to:
    • Suspending any officer/police personnel for insubordination or dereliction of duty;
    • Substituting any officer / official / police personnel by another such person, and returning the substituted individual to the cadre to which he belongs, with appropriate report on his conduct;
    • Making recommendation to the competent authority for taking disciplinary action for any act of insubordination or dereliction of duty while on election duty. On this, the disciplinary authority will have to take action, which needs to be communicated to the Election Commission within six months from the date of the EC’s recommendations;
    • The Government of India will advise the State governments that they too should follow the above principles and decisions, since a large number of election officials are under their administrative control.

 

Section : Polity & Governance

Everything about UNESCAP’s ‘Ambition beyond Growth’ Report , SDG progress of Asia Pacific, Investment Plan, Policy Interventions to achieve SDG by 2030

Headline : To achieve development goals, Asia-Pacific countries need to spend USD 1.5 tn/yr, says UN report

Details :

The News

  • UNESCAP’s report ‘ambitions beyond growth’ has projected $1.5trillion as the additional annual cost of meeting the targets set in SDG by 2030 for the countries in the Asia Pacific region.

 

In focus: UNESCAP’s ‘Ambition beyond Growth’ Report

Introduction

  • The UNESCAP has released a report called ‘ambitions beyond growth’ as a precursor to ‘SDG Progress Report’ to be released in the near future.
  • The report is summarized in the following framework
  • Progress achieved by Asia Pacific countries in meeting SDGs
  • Policy prescriptions
  • Region-wise investment priorities in the Asia Pacific
  • Prediction of additional investments required to meet SDGs by 2030.

 

SDG progress of Asia Pacific

  • The progress achieved so far on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals is mixed in Asia Pacific region.
  • Progress is made but not enough to meet targets on
  • SDG 1 (poverty eradication)
  • SDG 3 (health)
  • SDG 4 (quality education)
  • SDG 7 (reliable and clean energy).
  • Asia Pacific has regressed in goals such as
  • SDG 6 (water and sanitation)
  • SDG 8 (decent work)
  • SDG 12 (sustainable consumption and production).

 

Challenges

  • High Poverty and Hunger in South and South East Asia
    • 400 million people living in extreme income poverty
    • 931 million people in conditions of multidimensional poverty
    • 486 million people remain undernourished
  • Income Inequality
    • Income inequality has increased with the top 10% people accounting for more than half of income.
    • Reach of social protection benefits is low among extremely vulnerable groups including children, women, old aged and poor.
  • Climate Change
    • GHG emissions have increased 6 fold, from 0.9 to 5.8 metric tons per capita.
    • 5 of the world’s 10 economies most affected by climate change in the past 10 years in Asia Pacific (Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam)
  • Job Losses
    • Weaker demand in Europe and United States and trade war between US and China has increased tariffs and a loss of at least 2.7 million jobs.
  • Low social sector spending
    • Low social sector spending as a result of distressed bank assets, high corporate debt and household debt.
  • Late entrant in Manufacturing
    • Countries shifting from an agriculture-based economy to services-based one bypassing the manufacturing sector may reduce the scope for industrialization.

 

Investment to achieve SDG by 2030

  • Additional annual investment of $1.5 trillion which is equal to $1 per person per day.
  • This is 5% of the combined GDP of Asia-Pacific developing countries in 2018.

 

 

 

Region-wise priorities

  • Least developed countries and South and South-West Asia
    • Should scale up investments to end poverty and hunger and reach health and education targets
  • East and North-East Asia
    • Step up on clean energy and climate action.
  • Pacific island developing States
    • Additional investments in disaster-resilient infrastructure

 

 

Policy Interventions to achieve SDG by 2030

Prudent financing

  • Efficient public spending
  • Proactive fiscal policy to support near- and long-term development needs beyond just economic growth.
  • Leveraging private sector
  • Innovative financial instruments such as green bonds
  • Strengthened multilateral financing mechanisms

 

Strategic investments

  • $669 billion to support basic human rights and develop human capacities
  • $590 billion to achieve clean energy for all and live in harmony with nature
  • $196 billion for improved access to transport, information and communications technology (ICT), and water and sanitation

 

Structural transformation towards sustainable development

  • Invest in people and enabling infrastructure.
  • Focus on agricultural productivity and rural industries
  • Resource-efficient systems of production and consumption to reduce carbon emissions

 

Social Protection

  • Targeted cash transfers to eliminate poverty
  • Social protection floor for vulnerable groups including child, maternity, unemployment, disability and old-age

 

Nutrition

  • Nutrition-specific interventions to address wasting, breastfeeding, anaemia and stunting

 

Health and Education

  • Additional investment of $158 billion to scale up health systems.
  • Additional investment of $138 billion per year would be needed for providing universal pre-primary to upper-secondary schooling of a certain quality.

 

Clean Energy and Energy security

  • Additional cost for
  • Shifting from fossil fuel to renewable energy
  • Enhancing energy efficiency in the transport, building and industry sectors
  • Achieving universal access to electricity and clean cooking.

 

Regional cooperation

  • North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation to accelerate the pace of sustainable development
Section : Social Issues

India and China : Trade- Areas of concern

India’s imports from China decelerating: Report

News Context:

  • Recently PHD chamber of Commerce has reported that there has been deceleration of demand for China’s products in India, during the April-January period of 2018-19 financial years.

Indo- China Trade

  • China is India’s 3rd largest export destination and largest sources of imports to India.
  • There was a tremendous jump in total trade between the two countries from USD 3 billion in 2001-02 to around USD 90 billion in 2017-18.
  • However, the trend has seen a reversal in the April-Jan 2018-19.

Important facts from the report :Trade between India and China during the April- January 2018 to April- January 2019

  • India’s exports to China grew by 31% (from USD 10 billion to USD 14 billion).
  • India’s import growth from China shrunk from 24% during to (-) 5% .
  • India’s trade deficit with China has also eased from USD 53 billion in April-January 2018 to USD 46 billion in April-January 2019.
  • India’s import items from China (majorly)
    • Electrical equipments
    • Mechanical appliances
    • Organic Chemicals
  • India’s export items to China comprise (Majorly)
    • Organic chemicals
    • Mineral fuels
    • Cotton

Areas of concerns:

  • India is one of the biggest manufacturers of generic pharma products. However, we are unable to export to China because of China’s stringent non-tariff barriers, which needs to  be mitigated.
  • Despite being neighboring countries, India and China witness high trade cost because of extra barriers imposed on agricultural and processed products, which needs to be mitigated to boost the agri-products trade and reduce the ever rising trade costs.

Way ahead

  • In recent years, there has been a shift in taste and preferences for products made in China as well as growing and competitive Indian production capabilities and shift in the consumption patterns of Indian consumers, which is sought to be in favour of India.
  • Although the mounted trade deficit with China is substantial, given the recent trends and amendments in the Foreign Trade Policy 2015-20, the volume of trade deficit is expected to ease in the coming years.
Section : Economics

What was hoped to be a ‘dead-letter’ of the Constitution has become one of the most controversial provisions. Discuss in the context of Article 356.

Approach:

  • Briefly explain Article 356 and the grounds for its
  • Explain why it was hoped to be a ‘dead-letter’.
  • Discuss how it has become the most controversial provisions of the

Answer:

Article 356 of the Indian Constitution empowers the Centre to take over the State Government on certain grounds. Popularly known as the President’s rule it authorizes the President to assume both legislative and executive powers of the state.

Grounds for imposition:

  • 355: It shall be the duty of the Union to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
  • 365: When State fails to comply with or give effect to any direction from the Centre.

It was hoped to be a dead-letter and was supposed to be used as a measure of last resort because:

  • It is an extraordinary device in the hands of the
  • It alters and infringes upon the federal feature of the Indian
  • It goes against the people’s mandate by removing the democratically elected State It has become controversial due to the following reasons:
  • Frequent use: Since 1950, the President’s Rule has been imposed on over 100
  • Imposition on arbitrary grounds for political or personal
  • Imposition when there are different parties at the Centre and State
  • The expression ‘breakdown of constitutional machinery’ is not defined in the
  • Misuse of Art. 365 as ‘directions from the Centre’ are vague and
  • Biased and distorted reports sent by the Governor to the Centre, which results in imposition of President’s
  • A law made by the Parliament during State Emergency continues to be operative even after

The Sarkaria Commission has recommended rare use of this article i.e. only after all the other alternatives are exhausted. In S.R.Bommai vs. Union of India (1994), the SC held that the President’s proclamation imposing President’s rule is subject to judicial review and is liable to be struck down if it is based on irrelevant and malafide sources/intentions. The courts can reinstate the State Government in such a case. This was recently upheld in the Nabam Rebia and etc. vs. Deputy Speaker and Ors. 2016.

Even after the SC ruling, many State governments were dismissed without the compulsory floor test. Therefore, it is imperative to follow the SC directives in letter and spirit to promote the ideal of cooperative federalism.

In Brief: Money Bill , Finance Bill , It’s comparison and Authority over Bills

Headline : Finance Bill, 2017 certified as Money Bill by Speaker, court can’t interfere: Centre to SC

Details :

News Summary

  • A batch of petitions were filed in the Supreme Court challenging that the passing of Finance Act, 2017 as a Money Bill was a “colourable exercise of power and a fraud on the Constitution.”
  • Arguments given by Attorney General of India in center’s defense:
    • The decision of Speaker to categorise a Bill as money bill is beyond the scope of judicial review.
    • This aspect is consistent with the broad parameters of separation of powers given in the Constitution.
    • Article 122 of the Constitution, states that the conduct of business and Proceedings of the parliament cannot be questioned before the Court of Law.
  • However, the hearing remained inconclusive and would continue on April 2.

Note: The Supreme Court had also sought centre’s view on bringing all the tribunals under one central umbrella body for ensuring “efficient functioning” and “streamlining the working” of quasi-judicial bodies.

 

Difference between Money Bill and Finance Bill

Money Bill:

  • Article 110 of Constitution of India deals with Definition of Money Bill.
  • A Bill is said to be a Money Bill if it only contains provisions related to taxation, borrowing of money by the government, expenditure from or receipt to the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Bills that only contain provisions that are incidental to these matters would also be regarded as Money Bills

Finance Bill:

  • A Bill that contains some provisions related to taxation and expenditure, and additionally contains provisions related to any other matter is called a Financial Bill.
  • Therefore, if a Bill merely involves expenditure by the government, and addresses other issues, it will be a financial bill.

 

Who decides if a Bill is a Money Bill?

  • The Speaker certifies a Bill as a Money Bill, and the Speaker’s decision is final.
  • Also, the Constitution states that parliamentary proceedings as well as officers responsible for the conduct of business (such as the Speaker) may not be questioned by any Court.

 

Basis

for Comparison

Money Bill Finance Bill
Introduction Lok Sabha only Category A bills (provisions of Article 110 (1) of the Constitution of India) are introduced in Lok Sabha while Category B (expenditure from Consolidated Fund of India) bills can be introduced in any of the two houses.
Power of Rajya Sabha The power of Rajya Sabha is restricted. Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha has equal powers.
Joint Sitting No provision of joint sitting Provisions are there regarding joint sitting of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

 

Note: Every money bill is a finance bill until and unless it is specified by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha as the money bill. Further, every finance bill is not the money bill.

 

Section : Polity & Governance

Every about Sino- India Border Dispute

China destroys maps showing ‘wrong’ border

The news

  • Chinese Customs officials have destroyed 30,000 world maps printed in the country for not mentioning Arunachal Pradesh and Taiwan as part of its territory.

Background

  • China claims the north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet and persistently objects to Indian leaders visiting Arunachal Pradesh.
  • However, India maintains that the State of Arunachal Pradesh is integral and inalienable part of the country and the leaders frequently visit the state.
  • The two countries have so far held 21 rounds of talks to resolve the border dispute covering 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh but with no conclusions.

 

News Summary

  • According to a report in Global Times, a Chinese media house, customs officials in China have destroyed 30,000 world maps, which were printed by China for export to an unspecified country.
  • The 30,000 World maps were “incorrect” according to the officials as they were showing Taiwan as a separate country and had wrong depiction of the Sino-Indian border.
  • They destroyed the maps as it didn’t mention Arunachal Pradesh and Taiwan as part of China’s territory.
  • They consider this step as legitimate and necessary to maintain their sovereignty and territorial integrity, considering both Taiwan and South Tibet as integral parts of Chinese territory.

 

About India China border Dispute

  • The entire disputed Sino-Indian border is depicted below.
  • The border stretches from the Aksai Chin plateau in the west (administered by China but claimed by India), through Sikkim in the middle, and across to the eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh (administered by India but claimed by China as ‘South Tibet’).

  • The dispute originatedin 1914, at the Anglo-Tibetan Simla Conference, where the British colonial authorities drew the McMahon Line, which established the boundary between British India and Tibet.
  • Although Chinese representatives were present at Simla, but they refused to sign or recognise the simlaconvention ‘on the basis that Tibet was under Chinese jurisdiction and therefore did not have the power to conclude treaties’.
  • After independence in 1947, India made the McMahon Line its official border with Tibet.
  • Later, following the 1950 Chinese invasion of Tibet, India and China came to share a border with each other, which was demarcated by the McMohan line drawn by the same Simlaconvention.
  • China viewed this McMahon Line as an illegal, colonial and customary borderline.
  • After a brief period of soured relationship between India can China, armed conflict erupted between the two nations in 1962.
  • During the conflict, Chinese forces advanced deep into Indian Territory in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, before withdrawing back to their previous positions.
  • Since then, China maintains that the McMahon Line effectively sees India occupying some 90,000 square kilometres of its territory in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh whereas India says the State of Arunachal Pradesh is its integral and inalienable part.
  • On the other hand, India claims that China is ‘occupying 38,000 square kilometres of land in Aksai Chin in the North Eastern corner of Jammu and Kashmir’ and a further ‘5180 square kilometres of land in Kashmir ceded to it by Pakistan in 1963’.
  • Since then, both the countries are trying to resolve this dispute but despite over 30 years of regular dialogues, Sino-Indian border issues remain complicated and difficult.

 

About Arunachal Pradesh

  • Arunachal Pradesh is a state of India created on 20 January 1972, located in the far northeast.
  • It borders the states of Assam and Nagaland to the south, and shares international borders with Burma in the east, Bhutan in the west, and the China in the north.
  • The majority of the territory is claimed by China as part of South Tibet.
  • The northern border of Arunachal Pradesh reflects the McMahon Line, a 1914 treaty between the United Kingdom and the Tibetan government which was never accepted by the Chinese government.
  • The treaty is also considered invalid by Tibetans due to unmet condition specified in the treaty, and not broadly enforced by the Indian government until 1950.
  • This territory is administered by India.

 

Section : International Relation

Another look at fiscal transfers Editorial 25th Mar’19 TheHindu

Headline : Another look at fiscal transfers Editorial 25th Mar’19 TheHindu

Details :

Significance of federalism:

  • The origin of the concept of federalism is mainly political.
  • It is well known that the efficiency of a government depends on, among other factors, its structure.
  • In large countries, it has been felt that only a federal structure can efficiently meet the requirements of people from different regions, as preferences vary across regions.

Federalism in India with much centralisation:

  • In India, during the independence struggle, provincial autonomy was regarded as an integral part of the freedom movement.
  • However, after Independence, various compulsions like defence and internal security led to a scheme of federalism in which the Centre assumed greater importance.
  • Also in the initial decades following Independence, when the Centre and all States were ruled by the same party and when many of the powerful provincial leaders migrated to the Centre, the process of centralisation gathered further momentum.
  • Economic planning at a nation-wide level helped this centralising process.

Central government held responsible for all subjects:

  • Due to centralised planning for most of the period after independence,  the performance of the Central government came to be judged not only on the basis of actions taken which fall strictly in its jurisdiction (Union list) but also on initiatives undertaken in the areas which fall in the Concurrent and even State lists.
  • Also, through Centrally sponsored schemes, the Centre has often ‘encroached’ on the territory of States.
  • Today, the Central government is held responsible for everything that happens, including, for example, agrarian distress (though Agriculture is a state subject).

 

Fiscal federalism

  • Fiscal federalism is the economic counterpart to political federalism.
  • Fiscal federalism refers to the assignment of functions to different levels of government along with appropriate fiscal instruments for carrying out these functions.

Distribution of functions to various levels:

  • It is generally believed that the Central government must provide national public goods that render services to the entire population. A typical example cited is defence.
  • Sub-national governments are expected to provide goods and services whose consumption is limited to their own jurisdictions.

Distribution of fiscal powers:

  • Fiscal federalism also requires determination of the specific fiscal instruments that would enable the different levels of government to carry out their functions.
  • This is the ‘tax-assignment problem’ – determining the taxes that are best suited for use at different levels of government.
  • How to decide?
    • One basic consideration is in relation to the mobility of economic agents, goods and resources.
    • It is generally argued that the de-centralised levels of government should avoid non-benefit taxes and taxes on mobile units.
    • This implies that the Central government should have the responsibility to levy non-benefit taxes and taxes on mobile units or resources.

Various models on this:

  • Building these principles into an actual scheme of assignment of taxes to different levels of government in a Constitution is indeed very difficult.
  • Different Constitutions interpret differently what is mobile and what is purely a benefit tax.
  • US: For example, in the United States and Canada, both Federal and State governments have concurrent powers to levy income tax.
  • India: On the contrary, in India, income tax is levied only by the Central government though shared with the States.
  • Recognising the possibility of imbalance between resources and responsibilities, many countries have a system of inter-governmental transfers.

 

Finance Commission recommendations and other modes of revenue sharing:

  • The Indian Constitution lays down the functions as well as taxing powers of the Centre and States.
  • Unconditional Transfers: Correction of vertical (Centre vs States) and horizontal (State vs State) imbalances have been addressed by every Finance Commission, taking into account the prevailing set of circumstances.
  • Conditional/Discretionary transfers: However, Central transfers to States are not confined to the recommendations of the Finance Commissions.
    • There are other channels such as those through the Planning Commission until recently as well the discretionary grants of the Central government.

Revenue sharing between Centre and States moving towards greater share for States:

  • 2010-11:
    • In 2010-11, in the combined revenue receipts of the Centre and States, the share of the Centre was 64.68%.
    • After transfer, the share came down to 40.20%.
    • In the case of the States, their share before transfers was 35.32%. After the receipts of transfers the share of States went up to 59.80%.
    • Thus the shares got reversed.
  • 2016-17:
    • In 2016-17, the share of the Centre after transfers was 33.37% and that of the States was 66.63%.
    • In the case of total expenditures, the share of the Centre in 2014-15 was 41.14% and that of the States was 58.86%.

 

Modes of revenue sharing

  • While the current position on revenue sharing appears reasonable, the question remains on the mode of transfers.

Finance Commission now in control of unconditional transfers with Planning Commission disbanded:

  • Finance Commissions prior to the Fourteenth recognised that some transfers were being made by the Planning Commission; this was kept in mind while deciding on tax devolution.
  • But the Planning Commission was replaced by the NITI Aayog in 2014, with no powers of resource allocation.
  • Now all the unconditional transfers are being done by the Finance Commission alone, and the 14th FC greatly increased this devolution to the states.
  • 14th FC:
    • The Fourteenth Finance Commission has broken new ground in terms of allocation of resources.
    • One of its major recommendations has been to increase the share of tax devolution to 42% of the divisible pool.
    • This is a substantial increase by almost 10 percentage points.
    • The commission has argued that this does not necessarily affect the overall transfers but only enhances the share of unconditional transfers.

What happens if a future government brings back centralized planning?

  • The moot question is about what happens if any future government revives the Planning Commission with financial powers.
  • This will put the Central government in a fix.

 

Ways to ensure States’ revenues are not too dependent on the government at the centre:

  1. Fixing the proportion of shareable taxes:
  • One way to achieve this is for the Constitution to be amended and to fix the proportion of shareable taxes that should go to the States.
  • The shareable tax pool must also include cesses and surcharges as these have sharply increased in recent years.
  • Fixing the ratio at 42% of shareable taxes, including cesses and surcharges, seems appropriate.
  1. Powers to States to tax income:
  • Another possible route is to follow the practice in the U.S. and Canada: of allowing the States to levy tax on personal income, with some limitations.
  • Since one of the concerns is that resources do not match functions, this may be a way out.
  • But States’ powers must be limited:
    • But, as in the U.S., the scheme should be simple and ride on federal income tax, that is, just a levy on the income assessed by federal authorities.
    • The freedom given to the States must be limited.
    • It is important to note that the levy by the Centre and States together should be reasonable.
  • Tax sharing also needs to be adjusted:
    • Also once this power is given to the States, the transfers from the Centre need adjustment.

Option 1 more feasible:

  • As far as India is concerned, this is an area which needs a fuller study.
  • Adoption of any one of these alternatives will avoid friction between the Centre and the States.
  • Perhaps the first alternative of constitutionally fixing the ratio is the easiest.

 

Horizontal distribution also needs balanced criteria without taking too much from the richer states:

  • There are issues relating to horizontal distribution.
  • Equity considerations have rightly dominated the allocations. However, the ability of bringing about equalisation across States in India has limitations.
  • Even the relatively richer States have their own problems and they feel ‘cheated’ because of the overuse of the equity criterion.
  • An appropriate balancing of criteria is needed particularly in the context of the rise in unconditional transfers, and Finance Commissions will need to achieve that.

 

Importance:

GS Paper II: Polity

 

 

Section : Editorial Analysis