July 2018
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[op-ed snap] Simultaneous elections are a bad idea


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Simultaneous election is a hot topic of discussion these days.


The idea is gaining traction: Forthcoming General Elections

  1. A paper put out by NITI Aayog argued in favour of the proposal of simultaneous elections.
  2. More recently, the Law Commission invited political parties to a consultation on the simultaneous elections proposal.
  3. The most attractive argument in favour of simultaneous elections is the allure of the phrase, “one nation, one election”

Arguments in Favour

It was suggested that imposing a uniform calendar on elections for the Centre and the states and holding these synchronized elections every five years would involve:

  • Saving money and administrative expense,
  • Avoid “policy paralysis” caused by elections constantly being fought somewhere or
  • Other issues under the Election Commission’s model code of conduct.

No match with GST Rationale

  1. This matches the “one nation, one tax” rationale for the goods and services tax (GST), which, of course, came into force via its own constitutional amendment on 1 July 2017
  2. Simultaneous elections would sweep away the messiness of a nation always in election mode and replace it with the tidiness of elections everywhere, every five years, like clockwork
  3. “One nation, one election” would make sense if India were a unitary state. But we are a union of states, which is philosophically and politically an essentially different conception of the Indian nation-state

Why can election calendar not be synchronous with Centre?

  1. A government may choose to dissolve itself, or a government may fall if its loses its majority, and then the governor, acting on behalf of the president of the republic, will be obliged either to ask another combine to form a government, or must perforce call fresh elections.
  2. Keeping a hung assembly in a state of suspended animation while the governor rules the state, presumably under guidance from the Centre, until the next predetermined election date rolls around, is nothing other than anti-democratic in spirit.
  3. Suppose a Union government loses its majority within the middle of a fixed five-year electoral cycle. The normal course of events would be for either a new government to be formed, or for fresh elections if that is not possible.
  4. Now, if instead, we have president’s rule for the duration of the five-year period under the advice of a council of ministers drawn presumably from the now-defunct Lok Sabha and the still functioning Rajya Sabha will lead to constitutional oligarchy.

Threat to federal structure

  1. Apart from these philosophical considerations, a move to have simultaneous elections threatens the federal character of our democracy at a more practical level.
  2. It gives pole position to large national parties, such as the current or previous governing party, which govern and campaign at the Centre and in most if not all states.
  3. These parties would reap the economies of scale of one large election every five years, to the disadvantage of regional parties which campaign for Lok Sabha and assembly elections only in their own states.
  4. Likewise, in a single big election, national issues would tend to come to the fore and drown out issues of regional interest.
  5. The latter would presumably dominate an assembly election, which occurs organically rather than one forced to fit the Procrustean bed of a single national election.

Way Forward

  1. In sum, “one nation, one election” will only serve the interests of those bent on further centralization of an already overly centralized union.
  2. It will do a grave disservice to the federal character of our union as envisaged by the founders.
Electoral Reforms In India

[op-ed snap] Rhetoric and reality: on the UNHRC and human rights


Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: United Nations Human Rights Council

Mains level: Impact of tampered  and biased HR violation reports on India


Should India withdraw from UNHRC?

  1. The withdrawal of the U.S. from the UNHRC in June this year sent shock waves through the international community, foreign-policy think-tanks and human rights non-governmental organisations.
  2. However, some feel this was the right decision and are now advocating withdrawal by other countries; this includes those in India.
  3. The main criticism against it is that it is made up of states not known for their human rights records; that many are in fact egregious violators of human rights. C
  4. Current members include Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom — a few of the 47 states elected by the General Assembly, based on geographic quotas.

All states under scrutiny

  1. The ‘Universal Periodic Review’ process, where all states are scrutinised, is currently in its third cycle (2017-2021).
  2. No state is exempt from this process, including Security Council members.
  3. Politics is unavoidable, with states using the opportunity to highlight the records of other states.

Problem of monitoring

  1. An overly simplistic reading of the HRC paints this as purely partisan theatre, which is not the entire picture.
  2. What gets lost in all the rhetoric regarding the HRC is the actual track record — the overt manner in which a human rights agenda and the evolution of human rights norms are facilitated.
  3. Resolutions adopted have highlighted egregious violations despite efforts to the contrary by some members of the HRC such as Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, and North Korea.

But it is still important

  1. Subject areas that have been the source of much controversy have been addressed at the HRC, including LGBTIQ rights and discrimination on the basis of religion.
  2. The HRC is also a forum to monitor international obligations of a state based on international law that states themselves have undertaken.

UNHRC is different from United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

  1. It is also worth pointing out that the role of the Office of the OHCHR is often confused with the HRC.
  2. It is a separate institution which presents reports independent of the HRC, the recent report on Kashmir being an example (which has turned out to be tampered on facts).
  3. Hence, there are multiple strands in the monitoring functions of human rights by UN institutions, one of which is the HRC. In the promotion of human rights, all these play a critical role.

US withdrawal is a foul cry

  1. The factor that precipitated US withdrawal is the alleged targeting of Israel by the HRC.
  2. Discussions and reform proposals are already in the works, with engagement by states and human rights organisations indicating a consensus building approach.
  3. However, while committing to reform, the impatience of the current U.S. administration and its disdain for multilateralism has resulted in the impetuous decision to withdraw.
  4. By ceding a role at the HRC, a state reduces its ability to influence the agenda, and if it is so inclined, a genuine engagement in the monitoring of human rights.

Way Forward

  1. Withdrawal is not a feasible option.
  2. Not just states but also individuals who are in need of a more robust defence of their rights stand to lose much.
  3. It is worth instead contemplating the need to reduce rhetoric and, rather, increase substantive engagement with issues concerning the rights of individuals.


United Nations Human Rights Commission

  1. The UNHRC was established in 2006, as part of the UN’s reform process, replacing the Commission on Human Rights.
  2. Council members are elected by the General Assembly with three-year terms, with a maximum of two consecutive terms.
  3. The headquarters of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland
  4. The members of the General Assembly elect the members who occupy the UNHRC’s 47 seats. The term of each seat is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms
  5. The General Assembly can suspend the rights and privileges of any Council member that it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its term of membership
  6. The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities
Human Rights Issues

[op-ed snap] Don’t blame it on WhatsApp: on rumours and lynch mobs


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media & social networking sites in internal security challenges

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Mob lynchings cases and ways to prevent them


Whatsapp is an emerging threat

  1. A ‘serial killer’ painted in a luminescent green is on the loose and travels in the pockets of more than 200 million people in India
  2. Rumours on WhatsApp that there are child kidnappers and cattle traders roaming around have led to mob lynchings
  3. Such rumours are posited as incontrovertible facts

Ignorant masses

  1. A debate has been framed around the growing use of technology by the “ignorant” masses and the responsibilities of a technology platform
  2. But these actions can largely be attributed to the sectarian discourse set by our political leadership
  3. It is easy to get swept in this wave of social panic and draw neat narratives which ignore factual complexity
  4. It is a deepening divide that is damaging fraternity within society, and the structural reforms necessary to restore law and order

Important facts

  1. The government maintains no central data on public lynchings
  2. The legal framework in India does not have any anti-lynching offences either
  3. In the absence of official data or a substantive law, media reports which quote the police become the principal source to build a public narrative
  4. The victims of mob lynchings are quite often members of nomadic tribes and religious minorities
  5. Some of the identities of the victims demonstrate that their distinction from the local communities and lack of power, their “othering”, and absence of state protection were significant factors in the distrust which rose to the level of organised mob violence

Is WhatsApp the sole offender?

  1. We ignore the problems within our legal framework and law enforcement
  2. Making policy choices with the same ease with which we install applications on our smartphones is leading to WhatsApp being made the principal offender in designing a technical architecture which offers security, privacy and has expanded the avenues of free expression and political organising for masses of Indians
  3. But WhatsApp cannot and should not perform the duties of our democratically elected government

Way Forward

  1. Our problematic framing is leading to public officials and police departments escaping accountability as they continue to place the onus of governance on a private corporation for maintaining an ordered and democratic society
  2. It is the duty of public commentary to fix responsibility and penetrate the clouds of deception, rhetoric, mystification, obscurity and indeterminacy
Internal Security Trends and Incidents

MHA seeks cabinet nod for Bill which allows death penalty for rape of minors


Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018, Article 143

Mains level: Rising instances of child abuse and measures to prevent them


Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018

  1. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has sent the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018, to the Union cabinet for approval, to replace the related Ordinance
  2. Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018 allows courts to award death penalty to those convicted of raping girls below 12 years of age
  3. Besides providing for death penalty to those convicted of raping girls below 12 years, it also proposes to set up a National Registry for Sexual Offenders
  4. For rape with a girl under 16 years, minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for the rest of life
  5. The punishment for gangrape of a girl under 16 years of age will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict
  6. The draft Bill has provisions to make it difficult for rape accused to get bail

About Ordinances

  1. Ordinances are temporary laws which can be issued by the President when Parliament is not in session
  2. The purpose of Ordinances is to allow governments to take immediate legislative action if circumstances make it necessary to do so at a time when Parliament is not in session
  3. It must be approved by Parliament within six weeks of reassembling, failing which it shall cease to operate
  4. Powers related to it are mentioned in Article 143 of the Constitution
Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

India, South Korea agree on framework to improve trade


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)

Mains level: Issues related to the Korean peninsula and India’s stand on it


CEPA signed

  1. India and South Korea signed a joint statement agreeing to discuss an ‘early harvest’ package for the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) aimed at identifying key areas for enhanced trade between the two countries
  2. The CEPA came into existence in 2010
  3. The two countries also agreed to try to increase their bilateral trade to $50 billion by 2030, up from current levels of $20 billion


Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement

  1. The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is a free trade agreement between India and South Korea
  2. The agreement was signed on August 7, 2009
  3. The agreement was aimed at easing restrictions on foreign direct investments and provide better access for the Indian service industry in South Korea
Foreign Policy Watch: India-South Korea

Govt targets mobile and migratory population to prevent re-emergence of polio virus


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Polio Virus, Mission Indradhanush

Mains level: Preventing resurgence of Polio in India


Preventing Re-emergence

  1. To prevent the re-emergence of poliovirus in India, the ministry of health and family welfare is now targeting mobile and migratory population from neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  2. The government has already started the process of identifying children living with mobile and migratory families to prevent the spread of the virus.
  3. Health Ministry officials have prepared a database of children living near brick kilns, streets, tent houses and nomad families.

Still prevalent in the neighbourhood

  1. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 11 cases have been registered in 2018 in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  2. Since there is a possible movement of people from the countries to India, the Centre is continuing with the Pulse Polio campaign as a preventive measure despite being polio-free.

Polio incidence in India

  1. Polio is a highly infectious viral disease, which primarily affects young children.
  2. The virus is transmitted through person-to-person and spreads through the faecal-oral route or through contaminated water or food.
  3. It multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.
  4. The last reported cases of wild polio in India were in West Bengal and Gujarat on 13 January 2011.
  5. On 27 March 2014, the WHO declared India a polio-free country, since no cases of wild polio had been reported for three consecutive years.
  6. Currently, two types of vaccines–oral polio vaccine and injectable polio vaccine–are being used in India to provide enhanced protection.
  7. The nation-wide polio campaigns are continued along with routine immunisation under initiatives such as Mission Indradhanush.
  8. So far, the government has been administering polio doses to children under five years through the door-to-door Pulse Polio campaign, the immunisation programme seeks to eliminate poliomyelitis (polio) in India
Polio Eradication And Endgame Strategy

Eat Right Movement off to a healthy start


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Eat Right Movement

Mains level: Read the attached story.


The Eat Right Movement

  1. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has unveiled ‘The Eat Right Movement’, built on two broad pillars of ‘Eat Healthy’ and ‘Eat Safe’.
  2. The programme aims to engage and enable citizens to improve their health and well-being by making the right food choices.
  3. Kicked off in the city by National Award-winning actor Rajkummar Rao, the event saw the food industry, public health professionals, civil society and consumer organisations, and influencers.

The aim of the movement

To cut down salt/sugar and oil consumption by 30% in three years.


Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)

  1. It is an autonomous body established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
  2. The FSSAI has been established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 which is a consolidating statute related to food safety and regulation in India.
  3. FSSAI is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety.
  4. The FSSAI is headed by a non-executive Chairperson, appointed by the Central Government, either holding or has held the position of not below the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.
Food Processing Industry: Issues and Developments

Rajya Sabha members can use all 22 scheduled languages


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament & State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges & issues arising out of these

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Eighth Schedule of the Constitution

Mains level: Provisions in the constitution for preserving diversity and culture of India and status of their implementation


Use of language in RS

  1. Rajya Sabha members can speak in any of the 22 scheduled languages from this monsoon session
  2. The members will have to give notice of a reasonable period for the interpreter

Current status

  1. The Rajya Sabha already has a simultaneous interpretation for Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu


Eighth Schedule of the Constitution

  1. The Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India lists the official languages of the Republic of India
  2. The Government of India is under an obligation to take measures for the development of these languages, such that “they grow rapidly in richness and become effective means of communicating modern knowledge”
  3. In addition, a candidate appearing in an examination conducted for public service is entitled to use any of these languages as the medium in which he or she answers the paper
  4. The 22 languages which are listed in the Eighth Schedule are Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu
Official Language of the Union & the issues around