[op-ed of the day] A welcome debate on electoral reforms

Mains Paper 2 : Representation Of People's Act |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Electoral Reforms


Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss at any cost.

CONTEXT

 A short-duration discussion in the Rajya Sabha on electoral reforms occured. It was initiated by Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Derek O’Brien, with the backing of as many as 14 Opposition parties.

Dimensions of reforms

  • The TMC MP touched on six major themes —
  • Appointment system for Election Commissioners and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC);
  • Money power;
  • Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs);
  • The idea of simultaneous elections;
  • The role social media;
  • And lastly, the use of government data and surrogate advertisements to target certain sections of voters.

1.Appointment process

  • On the issue of appointments of Election Commissioners, Mr. O’Brien quoted B.R. Ambedkar’s statement to the Constituent Assembly that “the tenure can’t be made a fixed and secure tenure if there is no provision in the Constitution to prevent a fool or a naive or a person who is likely to be under the thumb of the executive.”

Collegium system- All parties demanded the introduction of a collegium system.

2.Money power  –

As regards the chronic problem of the crippling influence of money power, Mr. O’Brien spoke about various reports and documents — a 1962 private member’s Bill by Atal Bihari Vajpayee; the Goswami committee report on electoral reforms (1990); and the Indrajit Gupta committee report on state funding of elections (1998).

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) – Congress MP Kapil Sibal, citing an independent think tank report on poll expenditure released in June, discussed at length the regressive impact of amending the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) and removing the 7.5% cap on corporate donations.

3.Funding of elections –

  • Congress MP termed electoral bonds “a farce” and gave a proposal for state funding (of political parties) based on either a National Electoral Fund or the number of votes obtained by the respective parties.
  • He also proposed crowdfunding in the form of small donations.
  • He said that the current expenditure cap on candidates is unrealistic and should either be raised or removed to encourage transparency.

4.EVM –

  • The old issue of returning to ballot papers was raised by several parties.
  • The TMC said that “when technology doesn’t guarantee perfection, you have to question technology.”
  • The BJD said that to strengthen public faith in Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trails, five machines should be counted right in the beginning. The BSP added that postal ballots should be scanned before counting so as to increase transparency.

5.On simultaneous elections

  • Many BJP MPs highlighted issues linked to electoral fatigue, expenditure and governance and also reports of the Law Commission and NITI Aayog to push for simultaneous elections.
  • But the TMC said that the solution lies in consulting constitutional experts and publishing a white paper for more deliberation.

6.Internal democracy

  • Internal democracy within political parties was also mentioned by a couple of speakers.
  • The BJD suggested that an independent regulator should be mandated to supervise and ensure inner-party democracy.

7.Wider representations

  • For improving the representativeness of elections, the demand for proportional representation system was put forth by the DMK, the CPI and the CPI (M).
  • The DMK cited the example of the BSP’s performance in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when the party got a vote share of nearly 20% in Uttar Pradesh but zero seats.
  • A number of MPs argued for a mixed system, where there was a provision for both First Past the Post and Proportional Representation systems.

8.Common electoral roll

  • The important issue of the “fidelity of electoral rolls” was raised by the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP).
  • The idea of a common electoral roll for all the three tiers of democracy was supported by the BJP and the SP.

Reforms in a streamlined manner

  •  Reducing the number of phases in elections by raising more security forces.
  • Depoliticisation of constitutional appointments by appointing Commissioners through a broad-based collegium;
  • State funding of political parties by means of a National Electoral Fund or on the basis of the number of votes obtained;
  • Capping the expenditure of political parties;
  • Giving the Election Commission of India (ECI) powers to de-register recalcitrant political parties;
  • Inclusion of proportional representation system;
  • Revisiting the Information Technology Act, to strengthen social media regulations.

Conclusion

  • The governments should also rise above their obsession with immediate electoral gains and think of long-term national interests.
  • The TMC MP was right in saying that Parliament must not only urgently “debate and deliberate but also legislate” on electoral reforms.
  • The time has come to find and enact concrete solutions in the national interest.
  • Having heard a number of practical and constructive proposals raised in the Rajya Sabha last week, I remain hopeful that Parliament will take it upon itself to enable the world’s largest democracy to become the world’s greatest.
Electoral Reforms In India

[op-ed snap] picking out plastic

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EPR

Mains level : Plastic waste management


CONTEXT

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has put 52 producers, brand owners and importers, including big online retailers such as Amazon and Flipkart, and companies such as Patanjali Ayurved and Britannia, on notice, for failing to take responsibility for their plastic waste. These and other entities with a large plastic footprint need to respond with alacrity.

Failure of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

  • It is eight years since the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) was incorporated into the Plastic Waste Management Rules, but municipal and pollution control authorities have failed to persuade commercial giants to put in place a system to collect and process the waste.
  • Tighter rules in 2016 and some amendments two years later put the onus on producers and brand owners to come up with an action plan for the retrieval of waste within six months to a year, but that too failed to take off.
  • Mountains of garbage with a heavy plastic load have been growing in suburban landfills, out of sight of city dwellers.
  • Without determined steps, the crisis is certain to worsen.

Retail sector’s Role

  • It should be noted that the retail sector expects e-commerce to grow from about $38.5 billion-equivalent in 2017 to $200 billion by 2026. Given the role played by packaging, the waste management problem is likely to become alarming.
  • There is also a big opportunity here, which the trade, municipal governments and pollution control authorities need to see.

Solutions

  • The two prongs of the solution are packaging innovation that reduces its use by using alternatives, and upscaling waste segregation, collection and transmission.
  • Recovering materials from garbage should be a high priority, considering that India is the third highest consumer of materials after China and the U.S.; the Economic Survey 2019 estimates that India’s demand for total material will double by 2030 at current rates of growth.
  • Plastics may be less expensive than other inputs in manufacturing, but recycling them into new products extends their life and provides a substitute for virgin material.
  • Keeping them out of the environment reduces clean-up and pollution costs.

Conclusion

  • Unfortunately, in spite of legal requirements, municipal and pollution control authorities fail to see this and mostly pursue business-as-usual waste management methods.
  • Recyclable waste is rendered useless when it gets mixed with other articles. Online retailers have not felt compelled to take back the thousands of polybags, plastic envelopes and air pillows used to cushion articles inside cardboard boxes.
  • This is in contrast to more developed markets where they are trying out labels on packages with clear recycling instructions.
  • These companies can form waste cooperatives in India, employing informal waste-pickers.
  • In such a model, consumers will respond readily if they are incentivised to return segregated plastic waste.
  • Making municipal and pollution control authorities accountable is also equally important.
Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

[op-ed snap] Tread with caution: on labour laws

Mains Paper 3 : Effects Of Liberalization On The Economy, Changes In Industrial Policy and their effects on Industrial Growth |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Labour Reforms


CONTEXT

As part of its commitment to simplify and consolidate labour rules and laws under four codes, the Union Cabinet has cleared the Occupational, Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, a week after it approved the Code on Wages Bill.

Objective

The latter seeks to include more workers under the purview of minimum wages and proposes a statutory national minimum wage for different geographic regions, to ensure that States will not fix minimum wages below those set by the Centre. These steps should be welcomed.

Labour safety

The Code on labour safety and working conditions include regular and mandatory medical examinations for workers, issuing of appointment letters, and framing of rules on women working night shifts.

Other Codes

  • Other codes that await Cabinet approval include the Code on Industrial Relations and the Code on Social Security.
  • Unlike these pending bills, especially the one related to industrial relations that will be scrutinised by labour unions for any changes to worker rights and rules on hiring and dismissal and contract jobs, the two that have been passed should be easier to build a consensus on, in Parliament and in the public sphere.

Challenges

  • Organised unions have vociferously opposed changes proposed in the Industrial Relations code, especially the proviso to increase the limit for prior government permission for lay-off, retrenchment and closure from 100 workers as it is currently, to 300.
  • The Economic Survey highlighted the effect of labour reforms in Rajasthan, suggesting that the growth rates of firms employing more than 100 workers increased at a higher rate than the rest of the country after labour reforms.
  • But worker organisations claim that the implementation of such stringent labour laws in most States is generally lax.
  • Clearly, a cross-State analysis of labour movement and increase in employment should give a better picture of the impact of these rules.

Way Forward

  • Simplification and consolidation of labour laws apart, the government must focus on the key issue of job creation.
  • The Periodic Labour Force Survey that was finally made public in late May clearly pointed to the dire situation in job creation in recent years.
  • While the proportion of workers in regular employment has increased, unemployment has reached a 45-year high.
  • The worker participation rate has also declined between surveys held in 2011-12 and 2017-18.
  • The government’s response to this question has either been denial, as was evident after the draft PLFS report was leaked last year, or silence, after it was finally released.
  • In such a situation, the government should be better off building a broader consensus on any major rule changes to existing worker rights rather than rushing through them for the sake of simplification.
  • The consolidated code bills should be thoroughly discussed in Parliament and also with labour unions before being enacted.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Lifting 271 mn out of poverty in 10 yrs, India fastest, Jharkhand No. 1 area: UN

Mains Paper 2 : Poverty & Hunger |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UN report


CONTEXT

India has registered the fastest absolute reduction in the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) value among ten countries, spanning every developing region, whose combined population is two billion people. And Jharkhand is among the poorest regions in the world improving the fastest.

  • According to the global MPI 2019 report released Thursday, between 2005-06 and 2015-16, India, lifted 271 million out of poverty, significantly reducing deprivations in many of the ten indicators, particularly in “assets, cooking fuel, sanitation and nutrition”.
  • The MPI captures both the incidence and intensity of poverty.
  • The global MPI tracks 101 countries on deprivations across ten indicators in health, education, and standard of living.
  • Developed in 2010 by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), it looks beyond income poverty and tracks poverty in terms of the deprivation faced by people in their daily lives.
  • The report stated: “Among selected countries with a significant reduction in MPI value, India demonstrates the clearest pro-poor pattern at the subnational level: the poorest regions reduced multidimensional poverty the fastest in absolute terms”.

Case Study of Jharkhand

  • It cites Jharkhand, which reduced multidimensional poverty from 74.9 per cent to 46.5 per cent in the ten years since 2005-06, as an example of the poorest region improving the fastest followed by Rattanak Kiri in Cambodia.
  • Among the four Indian states with the most acute MPI — Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh — Jharkhand has made the most progress.
  • Overall, India was among three countries where poverty reduction in rural areas outpaced that in urban areas, which as per the report, is an indicator of pro-poor development.

Other findings

  • The National Family Health Survey round three and four (NHFS 2005-06 & 2015-16) is the source for the comparative data on the indicators.
  • In this period, the report stated,  the incidence of multidimensional poverty in India has almost halved, to 27.9 per cent from 55.1 per cent, lifting 271 million out of poverty — from 640 million to around 369 million.
  • With regards to intensity, the reduction is negligible — from 51.1 per cent to 43.9 per cent — which goes to show that the experience of the poor person, how they face deprivation, hasn’t changed all that dramatically.
  • “Traditionally disadvantaged subgroups such as those living in rural India, Muslims, the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and young children are still the poorest in India,” said a UNDP official.
  •  The MPI captures the huge progress India has made in reducing multidimensional poverty across the country, while also providing a more complete picture of who is deprived, how they are deprived, and where they live.
  • That the poorest parts of the country are more quickly lifting people out of poverty demonstrates India’s commitment to ensuring no one is left behind, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and the government’s own priorities.

Conclusion

  • The ten developing nations for which the comparison is made include countries across income categories: upper middle (Peru), lower middle (Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Vietnam) and low (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti).
  • Across the 101 countries, 23.1 per cent of the people are multidimensionally poor. Fifty per cent of multidimensionally poor people are children, and a third are children under age 10 with over 85 per cent of poor children living in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Poverty Eradication – Definition, Debates, etc.

Model Tenancy Act

Mains Paper 2 : Schemes For Vulnerable Sections |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Features of act


CONTEXT

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has drafted a ‘Model Tenancy Act’, 2019 which envisages to balance the interest and rights of both the owner and tenant and to create an accountable and transparent ecosystem for renting the premises in disciplinedand efficient manner.

Benefits

  • It will enable creation of adequate rental housing stock for various income segmentsof society including migrants, formal and informal sector workers, professionals, students etc. and increase access to quality rented accommodation, enable gradual formalization of rental housing market.
  • It will help overhaul the legal framework vis-à-vis rental housing across the country.
  • It is also expected to give a fillip to private participation in rental housing for addressing the huge housing shortage across the country.
  •  The Draft MTA will also promote growth of rental housing and investment in the sector and promote entrepreneurial opportunities and innovative mechanism of sharing of space.

Features of Act

  •   MTA stipulates a robust grievance redressal mechanism comprising of Rent Authority, Rent Court and Rent Tribunal.
  •   It has been proposed to cap the security deposit equal to a maximum of two month’s rent in case of residential properties and, minimum of one month’s rent in case of non-residential property.
  •   After coming into force of this Act, no person shall let or take on rent any premises except by an agreement in writing.
  •    The Model Act provides for its applicability for the whole of the State i.e. urban as well as rural areas in the State.
  •    Within two months of executing rental agreement both landowner and tenant are required to intimate to the Rent Authority about the agreement and within seven days a unique identification number will be issued by the Rent Authority to the both the parties.
  •    A digital platform will be set up in the local vernacular language of the State for submitting tenancy agreement and other documents.
  •  Once finalized the Model Act will be shared with the States/Union Territory (UTs) for adoption.

 Need for such an act

  • As per Census 2011, nearly 1.1 crore houses were lying vacant in the country and making these houses available on rent will complement the vision of ‘Housing for All’ by 2022.
  • The existing rent control laws are restricting the growth of rental housing and discourage the owners from renting out their vacant houses due to fear of repossession.
  • One of the potential measures to unlock the vacant house is to bringing transparency and accountability in the existing system of renting of premises and to balance the interests of both the property owner and tenant in a judicious manner.
Housing for all – PMAY, etc.

Study in India’ programme

Mains :

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Study India


CONTEXT

To facilitate Internationalization of Higher Education in India, a Programme viz. ‘Study in India’ is under implementation.

 Objectives

  • To make India a preferred education destination/hub for foreign students;
  • Improve the soft power of India with focus on the neighbouring countries
  • Use it as a tool in diplomacy;
  • To rapidly increase the inflow of inbound International Students in India through systematic brand-building,
  • Marketing, social media and digital marketing campaigns;
  • To increase India’s market share of global education exports;
  • Improvement in overall quality of higher education;
  • To reduce the export-import imbalance in the number of international students;
  • Growth in India’s global market share of International students;
  • Increase in global ranking of India etc.

Special Focus

  • The programme focuses on attracting International students from select 30 plus countries across South-East Asia, Middle East and Africa.
  • The programme envisages participation of select reputed Indian institutes/universities by way of offering seats for the International students at affordable rates, along with fee waivers to meritorious foreign students ranging from 100% to 25%.
  • A centralised admission web-portal (https://studyinindia.gov.in) acts as a single window for the admission of foreign students.

Conclusion

  • With the increase in number of foreign students, the global ranking of the Indian Higher Educational institutions will improve.
  • The domestic students shall be exposed to a more diverse peer group and also get greater International exposure culminating in enhanced interest of Indian students to study in the country.
  • This information was given by the Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today.
Human Development Report by UNDP