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Human Rights Issues

[oped of the day] Constitutional justice is non-negotiableop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Justice and the process of Law


Context

The four accused in the rape and murder of the young veterinarian in Hyderabad were encountered.  

A long list of cases

  • Including Nirbhaya and many such attacks on women, the list where women across India have been killed and maimed in the most brutal fashion is very long.
  • All this, while we have had a stringent, amended rape law in place and also fast track judicial processes.

What does this show

  • Sexual assault is pervasive. The response must be systemic, not episodic.
  • In such moments, families react with deep anger and grief. This is exhibited through a demand for instantaneous retribution. 

Quick justice

  • Public responses that equate judicial outcomes and “justice” to immediate and quick retribution are not just.
  • It is extremely important for us to rise above the heat of the moment and provide moral reassurance and comfort to families, while keeping sight of the rule of law and constitutional tenets. 
  • The ends of justice are not served by wanton killing and retributive blood lust. 
  • The course of justice cannot be determined by the grief and grieving of victims’ families. 
  • Justice lies in supporting them in their moment of grief and pain and insisting on due process that brings suspects and accused to trial through a robust, stringent and competent criminal investigation.

Justice system

  • After the December 2012 incident, the law on rape was amended substantially based on the recommendations and deliberations of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee. 
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, or Nirbhaya Act, 2013 is a testimony to the possibility of translating public angst into just law.
  • There is a procedure prescribed by the law for criminal investigation. This is a procedure embedded in constitutional principles. It evolved over decades of thinking on keeping constitutionalism alive.
  • Article 21 of the Constitution of India — “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law” — is fundamental and non-derogable. 
  • The police are bound by the Constitution — there are no exceptions.
  • In this case, the four suspects are apprehended and shot in custody without the criminal investigation had commenced in any substantive way.

Supreme Court

  • A core constitutional precept was as set out in the Salwa Judum case in 2011: “Modern constitutionalism posits that no wielder of power should be allowed to claim the right to perpetuate state’s violence against anyone, much less its own citizens, unchecked by law, and notions of innate human dignity of every individual.” 
  • This is the touchstone of the constitutionally prescribed rule of law.
  • The Supreme Court of India, in Puttaswamy in 2017, has prescribed the interpretation of Article 21: It is non-negotiable, non-derogable, and is not suspended even during conditions of Emergency. Any argument on the actions being carried out in ‘purported discharge of official duties’ especially involving the death of unarmed persons in custody cannot stand the narrowest test of Article 21.
  • There is no law in force in India that authorises the police to kill. The plea of self-defence cannot be used to rationalise a targeted, premeditated killing of suspects in custody. 
  • The police have confessions of the suspects while in custody and the evidentiary value of that must be evaluated by the court. But we have an open declaration by the police of shooting and causing death. 
  • As was argued in the Encounters case before the Andhra Pradesh High Court, the discussion on the law ‘was never whether there should be indictment and trial when homicide is committed in self-defense’. The debate was on ‘whether a plea of self-defense where excessive force is used, should be tried for manslaughter or murder’. 

A part of democracy

  • The case of the rape and murder of the veterinarian abates with the killing of all four suspects. Without giving a chance for the law to operate.
  • The pathways of justice are not linear nor without obstacles. 
  • We have chosen the route of democracy and the Constitution. We really have no option but to school ourselves in constitutional morality. 
  • Dr. B.R. Ambedkar cautioned in anticipation, constitutional morality must replace public morality. It is not easy, because it is not a natural sentiment. But it is non-negotiable.
Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Explained: Creamy layer principle in SC, ST quota for promotion: judgments, appealsExplainedSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Creamy Layer clause and its issues


The Centre has urged the Supreme Court to refer to a larger Bench its decision last year that had applied the creamy layer principle to promotions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government jobs.

What was the case about?

  • In Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta (2018), the court dealt with a batch of appeals relating to two reference orders, first by a two-judge Bench and then by a three-judge Bench, on the correctness of the Supreme Court’s judgment in M Nagaraj & Others vs Union of India (2006).
  • The Nagaraj case, in turn, had arisen out of a challenge to the validity of four Constitution amendments, which the court eventually upheld.

What were these amendments?

  • 77th Amendment: It introduced Clause 4A to the Constitution, empowering the state to make provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to SC/ST employees if the state feels they are not adequately represented.
  • 81st Amendment: It introduced Clause 4B, which says unfilled SC/ST quota of a particular year, when carried forward to the next year, will be treated separately and not clubbed with the regular vacancies of that year to find out whether the total quota has breached the 50% limit set by the Supreme Court.
  • 82nd Amendment: It inserted a proviso at the end of Article 335 to enable the state to make any provision for SC/STs “for relaxation in qualifying marks in any examination or lowering the standards of evaluation, for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of services or posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State”.
  • 85th Amendment: It said reservation in promotion can be applied with consequential seniority for the SC/ST employee.

What is Art. 335 about?

  • Article 335 of the Constitution relates to claims of SCs and STs to services and posts.
  • It reads: “The claims of the members of the SC’s and ST’s shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.”

How did the Nagaraj case proceed?

  • The petitioners claimed that these amendments were brought to reverse the effect of the decision in the Indra Sawhney case of 1992 (Mandal Commission case).
  • In that case the Supreme Court had excluded the creamy layer of OBCs from reservation benefits.
  • The court said reservation should be applied in a limited sense, otherwise it will perpetuate casteism in the country.
  • It upheld the constitutional amendments by which Articles 16(4A) and 16(4B) were inserted, saying they flow from Article 16(4) and do not alter the structure of Article 16(4).

Extending to SC’s and ST’s: A directive for the State

  • The SC ruled that “the State is not bound to make reservation for SC/ST in matter of promotions.
  • However if they wish to exercise their discretion and make such provision, the State has to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment.
  • It is made clear that even if the State has compelling reasons, the State will have to see that its reservation provision does not lead to excessiveness so as to breach the ceiling-limit of 50% or obliterate the creamy layer or extend the reservation indefinitely.
  • In other words, the court extended the creamy layer principle to SCs and STs too.

What happened in the subsequent Jarnail Singh case?

  • The Centre argued that the Nagaraj judgment needed to be revisited for two reasons.
  • Firstly, asking states “to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness is contrary to the Indra Sawhney v Union of India case where it was held that SC’s and ST’s are the most backward among backward classes.
  • And it is, therefore, presumed that once they are contained in the Presidential List under Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution of India, there is no question of showing backwardness of the SCs and STs all over again.
  • Secondly, the creamy layer concept has not been applied in the Indra Sawhney case to SC/ST’s; the Nagaraj judgment, according to the government, “has misread” the Indra Sawhney judgment to apply the concept to the SCs and STs.

How did the court rule?

  • Last year, a five-judge Constitution Bench refused to refer the Nagaraj verdict to a larger bench.
  • However, it held as “invalid” the requirement laid down by the Nagaraj verdict that states should collect quantifiable data on the backwardness of SCs and STs in granting quota in promotions.
  • It said that the creamy layer principle — of excluding the affluent among these communities from availing the benefit —will apply.
  • The whole object of reservation is to see that backward classes of citizens move forward so that they may march hand in hand with other citizens of India on an equal basis.
  • This will not be possible if only the creamy layer within that class bag all the coveted jobs in the public sector and perpetuate themselves, leaving the rest of the class as backward as they always were, the Bench said.
  • This being the case, it is clear that when a Court applies the creamy layer principle SC/ST’s, it does not in any manner tinker with the Presidential List under Articles 341 or 342.
  • It is only those persons within that group or sub-group, who have come out of untouchability or backwardness by virtue of belonging to the creamy layer, who are excluded from the benefit of reservation.

What happens now?

  • The Centre, while praying that the 2018 judgment be referred to a larger Bench, has referred once again to the 1992 Indra Sawhney judgment, submitting that the Supreme Court then did not apply the creamy layer concept to SCs and STs.
  • The Bench has said it will hear the matter within few weeks.
Citizenship and Related Issues

Areas where Citizenship (Amendment) Bill does not applyStates in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAB, ILP

Mains level : Citizenship issues in NE India



In the revised version of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) which is set to be introduced, the Centre has exempted certain areas in the Northeast, where the Bill has been facing protests.

CAB exempted states

In effect, it exempts the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, almost the whole of Meghalaya, and parts of Assam and Tripura, but keeps all of Manipur under its ambit.

Why are three states totally exempted?

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) states: “Nothing in this section shall apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under ‘The Inter Line’ notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.”
  • The Inner Line Permit (ILP) system prevails in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram. In Nagaland, Dimapur town is not under ILP as of now.

How does the ILP system work?

  • ILP is a special permit that citizens from other parts of India require to enter the three states. It can be obtained after applying online or physically, and specifies dates of travel and areas which the ILP holder can travel to.
  • When the regime was introduced under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act of 1873, the objective was to protect the Crown’s own commercial interests by preventing “British subjects” (Indians) from trading within these regions.
  • In 1950, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India”, to address local concerns about protecting their interests.

What does this exemption mean for beneficiaries under CAB?

  • In ILP states, there are already a large number of migrants from other Indian states. They live and work there equipped with long-term ILPs, and renew these.
  • The question now being asked, therefore, is whether a person who becomes an Indian citizen through CAB can, or cannot, apply for an ILP and work in such states, just like any other Indian citizen.
  • Also, multiple restrictions and regulations exist on entry and stay of “outsiders” (Indian citizens from outside that state/area) in areas under the Inner Line system or the Sixth Schedule.
  • These existing rules are expected to put the same restrictions on someone who has acquired citizenship through CAB.
  • The exemptions appear to imply, however, that no immigrant non-citizen living in these areas can be regularized as an Indian citizen through CAB.
  • The exemption means that no… Bangladeshi will be allowed to settle in Mizoram and other ILP states under CAB.

What is the Sixth Schedule, and which areas are exempted from CAB?

  • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, described in Articles 244(2) and 275(1), relates to special provisions in administration of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram and provides special powers for Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in these states.
  • ADCs have powers to enact laws in areas under their jurisdiction on a variety of subjects, with the objective of ensuring development of tribal areas and boosting self-governance by tribal communities.
  • Mizoram is covered under the ILP regime in any case.
  • Among the other three states that have areas protected under the Sixth Schedule, tribal-majority Meghalaya has three ADCs that cover practically the entire state, except for a small part of Shillong city.
  • Assam has three ADCs and Tripura one, all with Sixth Schedule powers.

So, why has Manipur been an exception to both these kinds of regimes?

  • Manipur, like Tripura, was a princely state. When they joined the Indian Union (both in 1949; they became full-fledged states in 1972), they were out of the scheme of the Sixth Schedule.
  • Only from 1985, the Sixth Schedule was implemented in Tripura’s tribal areas.
  • When Tripura was given, the Centre had said that even in Manipur it would be extended shortly —but it never turned out to be a reality.

What about Manipur’s tribal areas?

  • Manipur has two geographically distinct areas. The valley, which includes Imphal, constitutes roughly 10% of the geographical area but holds around 60% of the state’s population.
  • These belong mostly to the dominant Meitei community. The remaining 90% is hill areas, home to the other 40% that include a wide range of tribes, including Nagas and Kukis.
  • The Centre, while granting statehood, was aware that certain problems could come up for tribals and hence introduced Article 371C.

But what is Article 371C?

  • It mentions special provisions for Manipur.
  • The powers granted through this provision protect the tribals of Manipur in the Assembly, primarily through the Hill Areas Committee of the Manipur State Legislative Assembly — which comprises MLAs from the hill areas of the state.

Are there any other provisions for Manipur?

  • The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1971, passed by Parliament, paved the way for establishment of six Autonomous District Councils in Manipur in 1972.
  • However, that without the Sixth Schedule in place, these Councils have much lower powers in comparison to ADCs under the Sixth Schedule.
  • Last year, the Manipur People Bill, 2018 was passed by the Assembly. Said to be awaiting presidential assent, it proposes to several regulations on “outsiders” or “non-Manipuri people” in the state.
  • The Bill had undergone series of negotiations on defining the “Manipuri” people, after which a consensus was reached on 1951 as the cut-off year.

What about other states in the Northeast?

  • In November this year, the Meghalaya Cabinet approved amendments to the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act 2016, which will lead to laws that require non-resident visitors to register themselves.
  • The move came in the backdrop of demands for an ILP-like regime and concerns expressed by civil society and political leaders that people excluded from the NRC in Assam might try to enter Meghalaya.
  • In Assam too, there have been demands by certain sections for the introduction of an ILP regime.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

IUCN study on De-oxygenation of the OceansIOCR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Osteoporosis of the sea

Mains level : Impacts of oceanic warming



The world’s oceans have less oxygen today than they did up to, say, 1950 or 1960, according to a new study.

About the Study

  • The report is the work of 67 scientists from 17 countries around the world.
  • The IUCN, the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it, released the study at the United Nations Climate Change Conference currently underway in Madrid.
  • According to the findings of the study, the levels of oxygen in oceans fell by around 2 per cent from 1960 to 2010.
  • The deoxygenation of the oceans occurred due to climate change and other human activities (such as the nutrient runoff from farm fertilizers into waterways), the report said.

Threats posed by deoxygenation

  • In many parts of the world, including along the western coast of the United States, fish have been dying en masse — a clear illustration of the ways in which deoxygenation is choking the oceans.
  • Also, the loss of oxygen in the oceans can affect the planetary cycling of elements such as nitrogen and phosphorous which are essential for life on Earth..
  • As oceans lose oxygen, they become more acidic, a phenomenon that has resulted in some places in shellfish having their shells degraded or dissolved — the so called “osteoporosis of the sea”.
  • Apart from their declining oxygen content, oceans have, since the middle of the 20th century, absorbed 93 per cent of the heat associated with human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, leading to mass bleaching of coral reefs.
  • Also, since warmer water occupies more space than cooler water, NASA estimates that this is the reason for roughly a third of the rise in sea levels.
Banking Sector Reforms

International Financial Services Centres (IFSC) Authority Bill, 2019Bills/Act/Laws

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IFSC Bill

Mains level : Banking regulation in India


The International Financial Services Centres Authority Bill, 2019 is likely to be taken up by Parliament.

IFSC Authority Bill, 2019

  • The Bill provides for the establishment of an Authority to develop and regulate the financial services market in the International Financial Services Centres in India.
  • The Bill will be applicable to all International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) set up under the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005.

What is IFSC?

  • IFSCs are intended to provide Indian corporates with easier access to global financial markets, and to complement and promote further development of financial markets in India.
  • An IFSC enables bringing back the financial services and transactions that are currently carried out in offshore financial centres by Indian corporate entities and overseas branches/subsidiaries of financial institutions (FIs) to India.
  • This is done by offering business and regulatory environment that is comparable to other leading international financial centres in the world like London and Singapore.
  • The first IFSC in India has been set up at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) in Gandhinagar.

What is the need for such an Authority?

  • The release issued by the government explained that currently, the banking, capital markets and insurance sectors in IFSC are regulated by multiple regulators, i.e. RBI, SEBI and IRDAI.
  • However, the dynamic nature of business in the IFSCs necessitates a high degree of inter-regulatory coordination.
  • It also requires regular clarifications and frequent amendments in the existing regulations governing financial activities in IFSCs.
  • The development of financial services and products in IFSCs would require focussed and dedicated regulatory interventions.
  • Hence, a need is felt for having a unified financial regulator for IFSCs in India to provide world class regulatory environment to financial market participants.
  • Further, this would also be essential from an ease of doing business perspective.
  • The unified authority would also provide the much needed impetus to further development of IFSC in India in sync with the global best practices.

What is the Authority that the Bill seeks to set up?

  • The International Financial Services Centres Authority will consist of nine members, appointed by the central government.
  • They will include, apart from the chairperson of the authority, a member each from the RBI, SEBI, the IRDAI, and the PFRDA; and two members from the Ministry of Finance.
  • In addition, two other members will be appointed on the recommendation of a Search Committee.
  • All members of the IFSC Authority will have a term of three years, subject to reappointment.

Functions of the Authority

  • According to the PRS note, the Authority will regulate financial products such as securities, deposits or contracts of insurance, financial services, and financial institutions which have been previously approved by any appropriate regulator such as RBI or SEBI, in an IFSC.
  • It will follow all processes which are applicable to such financial products, financial services, and financial institutions under their respective laws.
  • The appropriate regulators have been listed in a Schedule to the Bill, and include the RBI, SEBI, IRDAI, and PFRDA.
  • The central government may amend this schedule through a notification.
  • Other functions of the Authority are the regulation of any other financial products, financial services, or financial institutions in an IFSC, which may be notified by the central government; and to recommend to the central government any other financial products, financial services, or financial institutions, which may be permitted in an IFSC.

Anglo-Indians left out as Bill to extend quota in legislature gets nodPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 331 of the Constitution

Mains level : Anglo-Indian MPs and thier powers and priviledges


  • The reservation for SC/ST communities and the Anglo-Indian community was to expire in January 2020.
  • But the new Bill will extend the reservation for SC and ST communities by 10 years, till January 25, 2030.
  • It did away with the reservation for Anglo-Indians in legislative bodies.

Representations of Anglo-Indians

  • To ensure representation of the communities in elected legislative bodies, similar to reservation for SCs and STs, Anglo-Indians were provided two nominated seats in the Lok Sabha and nominated seats in certain state Assemblies.
  • Article 331 of the Constitution provides for the representation of the Anglo Indian,
  • If President is of opinion that the Anglo Indian community is not adequately represented in the House of the people, he/she may nominate not more than two members of that community.
  • For the state Assemblies, Article 333 provided for the Governor to nominate the members.
  • Article 334(b) extended it for 40 years. Subsequent amendments ensured the reservation was extended till January 2020.
  • In 2009, the 95th Amendment extended it till 2020. But, according to the new Bill, it will cease to exist in January.

How are the different from elected one?

  • The nominated Anglo-Indian members of the legislative bodies enjoy voting privileges similar to other members.
  • It has exceptions when it comes to the election for President, as only elected members of both houses of Parliament, state Assemblies and Legislative Councils are allowed to vote as the electoral college.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

FrogPhonePrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FrogPhone

Mains level : Not Much


Researchers have developed a device that will allow scientists to monitor frogs in the wild.

FrogPhone

  • Described as the world’s first solar-powered remote survey device that can be installed at any frog pond and which receives a 3G or 4G cellular network, it has been named “FrogPhone”.
  • It has been developed by a team from various Australian institutions, including the University of New South Wales and the University of Canberra.

How it works?

  • With FrogPhone, researchers can simply “call” a frog habitat.
  • After a call is made to one of the FrogPhones already on a site, the device will take three seconds to receive it.
  • During these few seconds, the device’s temperature sensors will get activated and environmental data such as air temperature, water temperature and battery voltage will be sent to the caller’s phone via a text message.
  • Because frogs are most active during night, researchers are usually required to make nightly observations in order to monitor them on site.
  • The FrogPhone will allow researchers to dial these devices remotely, and analyse the data later.

Benefits

  • It will reduce costs and risks, including the negative impact of human presence on the field site.
  • These devices also allow for monitoring of local frog populations more frequently than before, which is important because these populations are recognised as indicators of environmental health.
Digital India Initiatives

[pib] RailWire Wi-FiPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RailWire

Mains level : Various Digital India initiatives


Indian Railways has successfully completed the work of providing free public Wi-Fi at 5500 stations across the country.  This is a unique initiative as this Wi-Fi network is one of the largest Wi-Fi networks in the world.

RailWire

  • To transform the Railway stations into the hub of Digital inclusion, Indian Railways mandated RailTel, a Miniratna PSU under Ministry of Railways, to provide free high-speed Wi-Fi at the Railway stations.
  • The journey started in January 2016 from the financial capital of India – Mumbai Central station and in a span of 46 months Railways has successfully provided Wi-Fi at 5500 stations across the country.
  • The mission is to provide Wi-Fi at all Railway stations (except the halt ones).
  • The Wi-Fi is being provided under the brand name of RailWire.
Financial Inclusion in India and Its Challenges

[op-ed snap] Small and inclusiveop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Small Finance Banks

Mains level : Financial Inclusion


Context

INDIA’S central bank has been criticized for being conservative in lifting entry barriers for new players in the banking sector.

On tap licensing

  • It has been three years after the RBI approved licenses to 10 small finance banks.
  • It has now issued the final guidelines for licensing such banks throughout the year or on tap.

Guidelines

  • The bar has been raised for new entrants in terms of higher capital requirements — Rs 200 crore from Rs 100 crore earlier.
  • Stiffer prudential norms on a continuing basis.
  • Mandatory requirement to list after three years when the net worth tops Rs 500 crore.

Benefits

  • The new approach to granting differentiated licenses to small finance banks and payment banks is welcome.
  • In the current context, established full-service large banks are scaling back their franchises to reduce expenditure.
  • There is also the impact of the planned mergers of some of the state-owned banks.

Small banks

  • Small finance banks have the potential to provide an alternative to some of the existing institutions.
  • Their mandated focus on small and medium businesses, the informal sector, small and marginal farmers will increase financial inclusion.
  • It also serves a variety of unserved clients in the hinterland and tier three and four cities and towns.

Performance of SFBs

  • The RBI’s review of the performance of small finance banks shows that they have achieved their priority sector targets and attained the mandate for furthering financial inclusion.
  • These banks account for less than 0.5% of total deposits and less than 1% of total advances.
  • Many of them have been growing their loan books at a good clip. 

Limitations

  • Their challenge is in building a franchise.
  • There are also the challenges of ensuring relatively low-cost operations by diversifying their loan portfolios and lowering the old legacy loan stock and wholesale deposits. All these can get costly. 
  • They need to put in place robust technology platforms and modern risk management systems.

Way ahead

  • Experience has shown that a competitive banking system can help foster a more inclusive financial sector. 
  • Small finance banks could occupy the space being gradually vacated by some of the bigger banks.
  • They can complement them in segments such as micro and small businesses and the informal sector.
  • Their success will depend on asset quality, the level, and standards of governance and regulatory oversight.

Back2Basics

Small Finance Banks

  • The small finance bank shall primarily undertake basic banking activities of acceptance of deposits and lending to unserved and underserved sections including small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries and unorganized sector entities.
  • There will not be any restriction in the area of operations of small finance banks.
Panchayati Raj Institutions: Issues and Challenges

[op-ed snap] Trampling on grassroots: On T.N. local body pollsop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Periodic elections to local bodies


Context

Three years the due date in 2016, rural local bodies in Tamil Nadu will witness elections in the last week of this month. Urban local bodies are also likely to have elected representatives next year. 

Travesty of law

  • It is a travesty of the law that these elections have been delayed. 
  • Cities, towns and villages have been under the rule of unelected officials for too long. 
  • Under a Supreme Court order, polls for all local bodies will have to be held.
  • The exception is only to those districts that have been divided recently to create new ones. 

Issues

  • Administrative lapses and political litigation over ward delimitation in various local bodies as per latest population figures in the 2011 Census resulted in the unprecedented delay. 
  • Originally announced on time in 2016, the notification was cancelled by the Madras High Court, citing irregularities in it. 
  • Since then, the issue of delimitation, the announcement of new districts and occasional litigation have contributed to the delay in elections.

Urban Local Bodies

  • There have been frequent changes in the mode of electing mayors of city corporations and chairpersons of municipalities. 
  • Originally, direct elections were held, but it was changed to an indirect mode in 2006. 
  • In 2016, the Jayalalithaa regime opted for indirect elections, that is, only ward councillors would be elected by the people and these representatives would elect mayors and municipal chairpersons. 
  • The current government reversed the decision and chose the direct election model. 
  • Recently, it once again changed its mind and restored the system of indirect election, citing “better accountability and collective responsibility”. 
  • It claimed that there was scope for conflict between a directly elected head and the councillors, and it would be eliminated if councillors themselves elected the mayor or chairperson. 

Other challenges

  • The attitude of the two main parties towards the importance of local bodies has been quite lukewarm. 
  • The posts of the heads of various local bodies are politicised. This hampers devolution of funds and letting the various tiers work independently. 
  • District panchayats frequently undermined as most parties consider them as a redundant third tier among Panchayati raj institutions. 
  • Including local self-government bodies as partners in development is still a far cry.