Electoral Reforms In India

States do not violate Constitution in appointment of Deputy CM: Supreme Court

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Deputy CM

Mains level: Political alliances and their stable functioning

Introduction

  • The Supreme Court recently dismissed a petition challenging the appointment of Deputy Chief Ministers in States, stating that the position does not breach the Constitution.
  • Despite lacking constitutional backing, Deputy CM play significant roles in state governments, raising questions about their powers, significance, and concerns.

What is the Deputy CM Position?

  • Constitutional Status: Unlike the Vice President of India, the Deputy CM post is political rather than constitutional.
  • Origin: The post traces back to the Deputy PM position established in 1947 post-independence, leading to the evolution of Deputy CM roles in states.
  • Appointment and Tenure: Deputy CMs are appointed and removed at the discretion of the Chief Minister, who may appoint multiple Deputy CMs.
  • Historical Context: Anugrah Narayan Sinha of Bihar was the first Deputy CM post-Independence, with 12 states in India having Deputy CMs as of July 2023.

Powers and Responsibilities

  • Rank and Pay: Deputy CMs hold a rank equivalent to cabinet ministers, receiving similar pays and perks.
  • Portfolio Allocation: They are entrusted with portfolios, although typically smaller in scale compared to the Chief Minister.
  • Financial Powers: Deputy CMs hold no specific financial authority, requiring approval from the Chief Minister for expenditures exceeding allocated budgets.
  • Administrative Role: They facilitate governance and administration, acting as a bridge between the ruling party and its allies.

Significance of Deputy CMs

  • Political Stability: Deputy CMs contribute to coalition government stability by bridging gaps between ruling parties and allies, reducing incidents of anti-defection.
  • Representation and Trust: Their presence ensures better representation of communities, fostering public trust in governance.
  • Succession and Accountability: Deputy CMs serve as potential successors to the Chief Minister, promoting transparency and accountability in government.

Concerns and Suggestions

  • Lack of Constitutional Backing: Raises concerns about role ambiguity and potential exploitation by Chief Ministers.
  • Multiplicity of Appointments: No limit on the number of Deputy CMs can lead to appeasement and governance complexities.
  • Complexity in Governance: Overlapping roles with cabinet ministers may complicate governance and administration.

Future Perspectives

  • Clarity and Limitations: Need for a defined role and limitations for Deputy CMs to simplify governance structures.
  • Political Literacy: Enhancing awareness among citizens about the role and function of Deputy CMs is essential for informed governance.

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) Breakthrough

ASEAN’s Approach to AI Governance

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ASEAN, DPDP Bill, GPAI

Mains level: Key takeaways from Global AI Governance Measures

Introduction  

  • Background: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) recently unveiled its AI governance and ethics guidelines during the 4th ASEAN Digital Ministers’ Meeting in Singapore.
  • Objective: These guidelines outline a voluntary and business-friendly vision for managing AI technologies while fostering economic growth.

About Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Established August 8, 1967
Members Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
Objective To promote political and economic cooperation and regional stability among member countries.
Key Areas of Cooperation
  • Economic Integration
  • Political and Security Cooperation
  • Social and Cultural Cooperation
Significance Promotes economic growth, stability, and peace in the Southeast Asian region. It is also a forum for diplomatic dialogue and conflict resolution.
ASEAN Secretariat Jakarta, Indonesia (The ASEAN Secretariat is the organization responsible for coordinating ASEAN activities.)

ASEAN’s AI Regulations

  • Flexibility and Specificity: ASEAN’s regulations are less prescriptive compared to the EU’s, reflecting the region’s diverse digital ecosystem and infrastructure.
  • Soft Law Approach: Instead of enacting hard law, ASEAN favors voluntary guidelines and codes of conduct to regulate AI.

Comparison with EU’s AI Regulation

  • Diverging Approaches: ASEAN’s approach to AI regulation contrasts with the European Union’s (EU) more stringent framework, known as the AI Act, which imposes stricter rules on AI usage.
  • EU Lobbying Efforts: EU officials have attempted to persuade Asian nations to align with their regulations, but ASEAN’s guidelines signal a departure from the EU’s stance.

About EU Framework for AI Regulation

European Union has prepared to implement the world’s first comprehensive legislation aimed at regulating AI, with a parliamentary vote expected in early 2024 and potential enforcement by 2025.

Components of the EU Framework:

Description
Safeguards in Legislation
  • Individuals can file complaints against AI violations.
  • Clear boundaries on AI use by law enforcement.
  • Strong restrictions on facial recognition and AI manipulation of human behaviour.
  • Tough penalties for companies found breaking the rules.
  • Real-time biometric surveillance in public areas is permitted only for serious threats.
Categorization of AI Applications AI applications are classified into four risk categories based on their level of risk and invasiveness.

  1. Banned Applications: Mass-scale facial recognition and behavioural control AI applications are largely banned.
  2. High-Risk Applications: Allowed with certification and transparency requirements.
  3. Medium-Risk Applications: Deployable without restrictions, with disclosure to users about AI interaction.
  4. No Risk
Other Regulatory Achievements General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): Enforced since May 2018, focusing on privacy and data processing consent.

Challenges in ASEAN’s Regulatory Landscape

  • Diverse Political Systems: ASEAN comprises nations with varied political systems, making consensus-building on issues like censorship challenging.
  • Varying Tech Sector Maturity: Disparities exist within ASEAN, with some members boasting advanced tech sectors while others are still developing their digital infrastructure.

ASEAN’s Voluntary Approach

  • Avoiding Over-Regulation: ASEAN nations are cautious about over-regulating AI to avoid stifling innovation and driving investment away.
  • Emphasis on Talent Development: The guidelines prioritize nurturing AI talent, upskilling workforces, and investing in research and development.

Future Prospects for ASEAN’s AI Regulation

  • Potential for Stricter Regulations: While ASEAN’s current approach is incremental, some member states, like Indonesia and the Philippines, have expressed interest in enacting comprehensive AI legislation.
  • EU’s Influence: The implementation of the EU’s AI Act will influence ASEAN’s policymakers, shaping their decisions on future AI regulation.

How India is planning to regulate AI?

Major Advocacies
  • #AIFORALL: Aimed at inclusivity, started in 2018.
  • NITI Aayog’s National Strategy for AI (2018): Includes a chapter on responsible AI.
  • Principles of Responsible AI: Outlined in a 2021 paper by NITI Aayog.
  • IndiaAI Program: Launched in 2023 by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • TRAI Recommendations: Proposed a risk-based framework for regulation.
Major Sector Initiatives
  • Healthcare: Ethical guidelines for AI issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research in June 2023.
  • Capital Market: SEBI circular in January 2019 guiding AI policies in the capital market.
  • Education: National Education Policy 2020 suggests integrating AI awareness into school courses.
Multilateral
  • India joined the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) as a founding member in 2020.
  • Became the Chair of the GPAI in November 2022 after France.
  • Hosted the GPAI Summit in December 2023.

Conclusion

  • Policy Considerations: ASEAN’s approach to AI governance balances the need for regulation with the promotion of innovation and economic growth.
  • Monitoring EU Developments: ASEAN will closely monitor the implementation and impact of the EU’s AI Act to inform its own regulatory decisions.
  • Evolution of AI Regulation: The trajectory of AI regulation in ASEAN will depend on factors such as technological advancements, regional cooperation, and global regulatory trends.

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Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

How Courts have been Granting Bail in UAPA cases?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UAPA Bail Provisions

Mains level: Bail as a diffuser in UAPA Provisions

Introduction  

  • The Supreme Court’s recent decision to deny bail to an accused in an alleged “Khalistan module,” highlights the stringent bail provisions under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
  • Unlike ordinary criminal law, the UAPA imposes higher hurdles for granting bail, reflecting the gravity of offenses related to terrorism and unlawful activities.

About Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)

Description
Purpose To provide for the prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations, dealing with terrorist activities, and activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.
Applicability
  • Indian and foreign nationals and applies throughout India.
  • Citizens of India outside India, persons in the service of the Government, and persons on ships and aircraft registered in India.
Origin
  • Enacted in 1967 based on the recommendation of the Committee on National Integration and Regionalism.
  • Followed the Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963, which empowered Parliament to impose reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech and expression, right to assemble peaceably, and right to form associations or unions.
Key Provisions
  • Declaration as unlawful (Section 3): Central government has absolute power to declare any association unlawful.
  • Chargesheet (Section 45): Investigating agency must file a chargesheet within 180 days after arrests, extendable further after court intimation.
  • Punishment (Section 16, 18): Includes death penalty and life imprisonment.
2004 Amendment
  • Added “Terrorist Act”: To the list of offenses enabling the ban of organizations involved in terrorist activities.
  • Expanded the definition of “unlawful” activities: To include terrorist acts, in addition to actions related to secession and cession of territory.
2019 Amendment
  • Central Government to designate individuals as terrorists based on specific grounds.
  • National Investigation Agency (NIA) DG, authority to approve seizure or attachment of property during NIA investigations.
  • NIA officers of the rank of Inspector or above to investigate terrorism cases, expanding the scope from officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police.

Bail Provisions in UAPA: Section 43D (5)  

  • Key Provision: Section 43D (5) of the UAPA stipulates that accused individuals charged under specific chapters of the Act shall not be granted bail unless certain conditions are met.
  • Bail Criteria: The law places the burden on the accused to demonstrate to the court that the accusations against them are not prima facie true, shifting the onus from the prosecution to the defense.

Impact of Judicial Precedents

  • Watali Judgment (2019): The Supreme Court’s ruling in Zahoor Ahmed Shah Watali v NIA established a precedent wherein bail decisions under the UAPA are based solely on accepting the prosecution’s case at face value.
  • Limitations on Defense: Legal scholars argue that the Watali judgment restricts the defense’s ability to challenge the prosecution’s case effectively, undermining the principle of a fair trial.

Post-Watali Developments

  • Court Discretion: Despite the stringent bail provisions, courts have granted bail in certain cases, emphasizing the need for specific, individual charges supported by credible evidence.
  • Differing Judicial Interpretations: Subsequent judgments, such as in Union of India vs KA Najeeb (February 2021) and Vernon Gonsalves v State of Maharashtra (July 2023), have provided nuances to the bail criteria, recognizing the importance of balancing liberty with the right to a speedy trial.

Challenges and Future Implications

  • Legal Ambiguity: Divergent interpretations by different benches highlight the need for clarity in UAPA bail provisions, with the potential for larger benches to resolve conflicting precedents.
  • Case Analysis: The recent denial of bail to a Khalistani protagonist underscores the predominance of the Watali ruling in UAPA bail decisions, despite potential inconsistencies with other judgments.

Conclusion

  • Balancing Rights: The debate over UAPA bail provisions reflects the delicate balance between safeguarding national security and protecting individual liberties.
  • Legal Evolution: The evolution of judicial interpretations will shape the future landscape of UAPA bail jurisprudence, influencing the rights of accused individuals in cases involving national security concerns.

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Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

Safeguarding Children Online: Addressing Tech Risks and Solutions

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: DPDP Bill, 2023

Mains level: Children's Online Safety

Introduction

  • Recent Congressional hearings, including Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s public apology, shed light on the alarming rise of online child exploitation, prompting global concerns over children’s safety on social media platforms.
  • Tech giants face mounting pressure worldwide as parents and activists demand increased accountability and safer online environments for children, highlighting issues beyond privacy concerns to encompass broader security risks.

Risks to Children’s Online Safety

  • UNICEF Report Findings: A UNICEF report titled ‘The Metaverse, Extended Reality and Children’ underscores significant risks associated with virtual environments, including exposure to explicit content, cyberbullying, and data privacy violations, which could have profound impacts on children’s well-being.
  • Emerging Dangers: Virtual environments and games, while not fully immersive yet, present dangers such as exposure to inappropriate content and exploitation, raising questions about the ethical implications of children’s digital interactions.

Issues Faced by Children Online

  • Exposure to Inappropriate Content: Children may inadvertently encounter violent, pornographic, or hate speech content while navigating the internet.
  • Online Predators and Grooming: Children face the risk of encountering online predators who exploit social media and gaming platforms to form relationships and groom them for exploitation.
  • Cyberbullying: Children can fall victim to cyberbullying, which entails using digital technology to harass, intimidate, or humiliate others.
  • Privacy Concerns: Due to a lack of awareness about privacy settings, children may unintentionally disclose personal information online.
  • Addictive Behavior: Excessive screen time and prolonged use of digital devices can foster addictive behaviors, impacting children’s mental and physical well-being, academic performance, and social interactions.

Challenges Posed by Generative AI

  • Potential Benefits and Pitfalls: Generative AI offers opportunities for creativity and learning but also poses risks, including the spread of disinformation and harmful content that could influence children’s cognitive development adversely.
  • Vulnerability to Misinformation: Children, with developing cognitive abilities, are particularly susceptible to misinformation propagated through AI-generated content, raising concerns about the impact on their perceptions and behaviors.

Measures in India: DPDP Bill, 2023

  • Definition of Minors: The DPDP Bill defines individuals under the age of 18 as minors. This definition acknowledges that children are particularly vulnerable and deserve additional safeguards for their personal data.
  • Data Processing Obligations: The bill places three specific conditions on data processing entities when handling children’s data:
  1. Obtaining verifiable parental consent: As mentioned above, entities must ensure they have proper consent from a parent or guardian before processing a child’s data.
  2. Not causing harm to children: Data processing activities should not harm or exploit children in any way.
  3. Not tracking or targeting ads at children: Entities are prohibited from tracking children’s online behavior for targeted advertising purposes.
  • Exemptions: The bill allows the government to exempt certain entities from the requirement of parental consent and tracking and targeting ads for specific purposes. However, such exemptions must be for the best interests of a child.

Way Forward

  • Corporate Responsibility: Tech companies must prioritize ‘safety by design,’ integrating measures to protect children’s well-being and privacy into their platforms, guided by principles outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Regulatory Intervention: Governments play a crucial role in periodically assessing and updating regulatory frameworks to address emerging challenges in child safety online, including combating harmful content and behavior.
  • Community Engagement: Upholding existing rules and norms that protect children offline should extend to the digital realm, fostering a collective responsibility among stakeholders to create a safer online environment for children.

Conclusion

  • Addressing the multifaceted risks to children’s safety online requires collaborative efforts from tech companies, governments, and communities, guided by a shared commitment to uphold children’s rights and well-being in the digital age.

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Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

India set to transition to Hyperlocal Extreme Weather Forecasting

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: History of IMD

Mains level: Hyperlocal Extreme Weather: Prediction Challenges

Introduction

  • Weather forecasting is vital for disaster management and decision-making in India, where extreme weather events like rain, cyclones, heatwaves, and droughts pose significant challenges.
  • The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) specializes in predicting weather patterns using sophisticated observation, modelling, and interpretation techniques.

About the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD)

Details
About
  • National Meteorological Service of India;
  • Principal government agency for meteorology and allied subjects
Ministry Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India
Objectives
  1. Provide meteorological observations and forecasts
  2. Warn against severe weather phenomena
  3. Provide meteorological statistics
  4. Conduct and promote research in meteorology
Evolution
  • Established in 1875 after devastating cyclones;
  • Started with just one individual
Advancements
  • Significant progress in understanding monsoons;
  • Enhanced cyclone forecasting post-1999 Odisha super cyclone
Diversified Roles
  • Expanded services beyond weather forecasting;
  • Provides specialized services for various sectors
Global Recognition
  • Recognized as Regional Climate Centre for South Asia;
  • Contributes to UN’s ‘Early Warning for All’ programme
Major Initiatives
  1. National Monsoon Mission (NMM)
  2. Mausam App
  3. Doppler Weather Radars

Challenges in Weather Forecasting

  • Variability in Tropical Regions: Tropical countries like India face inherently higher weather variability.
  • Hurdles: Despite advancements, IMD forecasts still encounter inaccuracies, particularly during winter and summer monsoons.
  • Insufficient Ground Stations: The limited number of ground stations hinders accurate monitoring, with only around 800 automatic weather stations (AWS) and 37 doppler weather radars (DWR) against the required thousands.

Transition to Modern Technologies

  • Prediction Software: Current forecasting software relies on global forecasting and weather research models, which are not the most modern.
  • Emerging Technologies: Start-ups are adopting artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) for predictions, necessitating an integrated data system to fill existing gaps.

Initiatives for Improvement

  • WINDS Program: The Weather Information Network and Data System (WINDS) aim to install over 200,000 ground stations (AWS and ARG) to enhance weather data utilization and promote wider applications in agriculture and other sectors.
  • Air Quality Monitoring: Make in India initiatives facilitate the production of low-cost, reliable sensor-based air quality monitoring systems, aiding in quick installations, particularly in urban areas.

Addressing Air Pollution Challenges

  • Fog and Air Pollution: Dense fog exacerbates air pollution issues, trapping pollutants and posing health risks. Initiatives to manufacture affordable air quality sensors and establish nationwide networks are underway.
  • Role of AI/ML: Integrated AI/ML-based models leveraging data from new sensors can improve fog prediction and aid in timely decision-making regarding transportation and health impacts.

Towards a Comprehensive Infrastructure

  • Advancements: India is on track to establish a robust air quality and weather information network.
  • Integration and Collaboration: Seamless data sharing and system integration among stakeholders are crucial for achieving this national infrastructure.
  • Potential Impact: A unified information gateway will play a vital role in addressing climate and environmental challenges.

Conclusion

  • India’s strides in weather forecasting and air quality monitoring underscore its commitment to enhancing disaster preparedness and environmental sustainability.
  • With concerted efforts and technological advancements, India is poised to establish a world-class infrastructure crucial for tackling climate-related issues.

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Uniform Civil Code: Triple Talaq debate, Polygamy issue, etc.

Is Polygamy more prevalent among Muslims?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Laws allowing Polygamy in India

Mains level: Societal implications of Polygamy

Introduction

Polygamy in India

  • In India, polygamy is allowed for Muslims under the Muslim Personal Law Application Act (Shariat) of 1937, as construed by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
  • Polygamy is recognized as a religious practice within the Muslim community, and Muslims have the legal right to enter into polygamous marriages.

Uttarakhand Law: Monogamy Extension to Muslim Community

  • Extension of Monogamy Rule: The UCC extends the rule of monogamy to the Muslim community.
  • Marriage Conditions: It mandates that neither party entering into marriage should have a living spouse at the time of marriage.
  • Alignment with Existing Laws: This aligns with the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, signifying a departure from previous allowances under Muslim personal law.

polygamy

Limitations in Data Assessment

  • Reliance on Census and NFHS: Government data primarily relies on the decadal census and the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), each with its constraints.
  • Census Inference: Census data indirectly infer polygamy from the disparity between the number of married men and women. According to the 2011 census, there are 28.65 crore married men in India, compared to 29.3 crore married women, suggesting a potential prevalence of polygamy or migration.
  • NFHS Insights: NFHS directly addresses polygamy through its survey questions but represents less than 1% of the total households in India, limiting its scope. The NFHS-5 data revealed polygamy rates highest among:
  1. Christians (2.1%)
  2. Muslims (1.9%) and
  3. Hindus (1.3%)
  • IIPS Study: According to a June 2022 study by the International Institute of Population Sciences (IIPS), polygynous marriages decreased from 1.9% in 2005-06 to 1.4% in 2019-21 among the whole population. Buddhists, who reported a 3.8% incidence of polygyny in 2005-06, saw a sharp decline to 1.3% in 2019-21.

Insights from Census and NFHS Data

  • Census Inference: Census data indirectly infer polygamy from the disparity between the number of married men and women.
  • NFHS Insights: NFHS directly addresses polygamy through its survey questions but represents less than 1% of the total households in India, limiting its scope.

Laws in India banning Polygamy

  • Hindu Marriage Act, 1955: This act applies to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs and declares polygamous marriages as void. Section 11 of the act specifically states that a marriage is void if either party has a living spouse at the time of the marriage.
  • Special Marriage Act, 1954: This act allows individuals from different religions or those who do not wish to follow their respective religious laws to marry. Like the Hindu Marriage Act, it also prohibits polygamy under Section 4(1)(i).
  • Indian Penal Code, 1860: Sections 494 and 495 of the IPC deal with the offence of bigamy. Section 494 states that marrying again during the lifetime of one’s spouse is illegal and punishable, while Section 495 prescribes punishment for concealing a former marriage.

Judicial Precedents against Polygamy

  • Parayankandiyal v. K. Devi & Others (1996): The Supreme Court concluded that monogamous relationships were the standard and ideology of Hindu society, which condemned polygamy. The court emphasized that polygamy was not allowed to become a part of Hindu culture due to the influence of religion.
  • State of Bombay v. Narasu Appa Mali (1951): The Bombay High Court ruled that the Bombay (Prevention of Hindu Bigamy Marriage) Act, 1946 was not discriminatory. The Supreme Court later affirmed this decision, asserting that state legislatures have the authority to enact measures for public welfare and reforms, even if they conflict with Hindu religious practices.
  • Javed & Others v. State of Haryana & Others (2003): The Supreme Court clarified that under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, freedom of religion is subject to social harmony, dignity, and wellness. While Muslim law allows for polygamous marriages, it is not compulsory, and the court emphasized that religious practices must align with constitutional principles.

Why it should be banned?

  • Gender Inequality: It perpetuates unequal treatment of women, often treating them as property and denying them autonomy.
  • Exploitation: Polygamous marriages can involve coercion and exploitation, especially of vulnerable individuals.
  • Financial Burden: Supporting multiple spouses and children can lead to economic instability and poverty.
  • Emotional Impact: Polygamous relationships can cause jealousy, conflict, and emotional distress among spouses and children.
  • Social Cohesion: Polygamy can disrupt social harmony, fostering competition and resentment within communities.
  • Legal Challenges: Polygamous marriages pose legal complexities related to inheritance, custody, and other matters.
  • Health Risks: There are increased risks of domestic violence, sexually transmitted infections, and inadequate healthcare in polygamous households.

Conclusion

  • Progressive Legislative Move: Passage of the UCC Bill in Uttarakhand signifies a progressive move towards legal uniformity in personal laws.
  • Data Collection Challenges: Assessment of polygamy prevalence underscores the need for comprehensive and accurate data collection methodologies.
  • Policy Implications: Addressing these challenges will be pivotal in formulating effective policies and fostering social cohesion in civil law.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2019:

Which Article of the Constitution of India safeguards one’s right to marry the person of one’s choice?

(a) Article 19
(b) Article 21
(c) Article 25
(d) Article 29

 

Post your answers here.

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Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Supreme Court’s Inquiry into Amending the Preamble

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Amendments to the Preamble

Mains level: Debate over Secularism as a constitutional principle

preamble

Introduction

  • A public interest litigation filed by former Rajya Sabha MP Dr. Subramanian Swamy seeks to delete the words “Socialist” & “Secular” from the Preamble to the Constitution of India.
  • The case questions the validity of the insertion of these words via the 42nd Constitution Amendment of 1976 during Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s tenure.
  • It argues that the amendment was beyond the amending power of the Parliament under Article 368.

Why discuss Preamble?

  • Original Draft: The Preamble was adopted on November 26, 1949, by the Constituent Assembly of India, setting out the Constitution’s guiding purpose and principles.
  • 1976 Amendment: The 42nd Constitution Amendment introduced the words “Socialist” and “Secular” to the Preamble, altering its initial declaration.
  • Legal Implications: The insertion faces scrutiny over its legality and alignment with the Constitution’s foundational principles.

Amending the Preamble

  • Judicial Inquiry: During the hearing, Justice Datta remarked on the amendability of the Preamble. He pondered if the Preamble could have been amended earlier (by the 42nd Amendment Act in 1976) to include the words Socialist and Secular while retaining the date of adoption (November 29, 1949).
  • Discussion on Academic Grounds: The judge prompted counsels to consider, academically, the feasibility of amending the Preamble while preserving its original adoption date.
  • Historical Context: Justice Datta noted that the Preamble, unique with its specified adoption date, underwent changes, but the inclusion of “Socialist” and “Secular” was a notable amendment.
  • Legal Challenge: The petition challenges the constitutionality of the insertion, arguing that it contradicts the Constitution’s original intent and undermines the citizens’ right to choose their political ideologies.
  • Kesavananda Bharti Precedent: The inquiry draws upon the landmark Kesavananda Bharti case (1973) where the Supreme Court held that the Preamble was an integral part of the Constitution and subject to amendment, provided it didn’t violate the Constitution’s basic structure.

Addition of “Socialist” and “Secular”

  • The 42nd Amendment: During the Emergency imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1976, the terms “socialist” and “secular” were added to the Preamble through The Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976.
  • Indira Gandhi’s Agenda: Indira Gandhi’s government aimed to emphasize a socialist and pro-poor image, aligning with slogans such as “garibi hatao” (Eradicate poverty). The addition of “socialist” highlighted socialism as a fundamental goal of the Indian state.
  • Distinctive Indian Socialism: The Indian version of socialism did not endorse complete nationalization but emphasized selective nationalization of essential sectors.

Understanding “Secular”

  • Religious Diversity: India is home to diverse religious beliefs and practices. The term “secular” was added to the Preamble to promote unity and fraternity among people of various faiths.
  • State Neutrality: Secularism in the Indian context implies that the state maintains neutrality and impartiality towards all religions. It does not favor any particular religion as a “state religion.”
  • Secularism as Law: Articles 25-28 of the Constitution secure the secular nature of the Indian state.
  • Inherent in the Constitution: The philosophy of secularism was inherent in the Constitution even before the 42nd Amendment.

Debates Surrounding “Socialist” and “Secular”

  • Consensus on Secularism: The concept of secularism was already part of the Constitution’s philosophy. The insertion of the word “secular” in the Preamble simply made explicit what was implicit in various provisions.
  • Constituent Assembly Discussions: The Constituent Assembly debated including these words in the Preamble but decided against it.
  • Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s Perspective: Dr. B. R. Ambedkar argued that issues related to the state’s policy, organization, and economic aspects should be determined by the people, not dictated by the Constitution itself.
  • Ongoing Debates: Over the years, there have been petitions and discussions regarding the removal of “socialist” and “secular” from the Preamble. Some argue that these terms were added arbitrarily during the Emergency.

Conclusion

  • The Supreme Court’s inquiry into the amendment of the Preamble reflects a critical examination of constitutional principles.
  • The case raises fundamental questions about the scope of parliamentary amending power and the preservation of constitutional integrity.
  • The outcome of this legal challenge will have significant implications for the interpretation of the Constitution’s core values and the balance of power between Parliament and the judiciary.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Myanmar

India suspends Free Movement Regime (FMR) with Myanmar

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Free Movement Regime (FMR), 16km buffer

Mains level: India-Myanmar Relations

Free Movement Regime

Introduction

About Free Movement Regime

  • Initiated in the 1970s, the FMR allowed people living within 16 km of the India-Myanmar border to travel up to 16 km into the other country without a visa.
  • India shares a 1,643 km-long border with Myanmar, which passes through the States of Arunachal Pradesh (520 km), Nagaland (215 km), Manipur (398 km), and Mizoram (510 km).
  • This regime recognized the deep-rooted familial and ethnic connections between communities on either side of the unfenced border.
  • The FMR was last revised in 2016, aligning with India’s Act East policy. However, it was suspended in Manipur since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Historical Context of India-Myanmar Relations

India’s relationship with Myanmar has evolved over time, shaped by historical events and geopolitical shifts:

  • Pre-1937: Deep-rooted cultural and religious ties, marked by ancient Buddhist exchanges.
  • 1937 Separation: Burma’s separation from British India, leading to distinct political trajectories.
  • Post-1962 Coup: Strained relations due to Myanmar’s military rule and alignment with China.
  • 1990s Shift: India’s re-engagement with Myanmar under its Look East Policy, emphasizing economic and strategic cooperation.
  • 2015 Democracy: Improved bilateral ties following Myanmar’s transition to democracy.
  • 2021 Coup: Renewed challenges in relations due to Myanmar’s military takeover and ensuing instability.

Why is Myanmar important to India?

[A] Geopolitical Perspective

  • Border sharing: India and Myanmar share a significant land border of over 1600 km and a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal, emphasizing the importance of stability in Myanmar for India.
  • Geostrategic Location: Myanmar’s location is pivotal for India’s “Act East” policy and the development of the Northeast region, acting as a vital link between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
  • Multilateral support: Myanmar’s unique position as the only ASEAN nation bordering India makes it crucial for regional cooperation. It is a member of BIMSTEC, SAARC observer, and part of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation, facilitating India’s multilateral engagement.
  • Security Imperatives: Myanmar’s territory serves as a base for insurgent groups like NSCN-K, necessitating collaboration for counter-insurgency efforts. Additionally, addressing the drug trade originating from the Golden Triangle region is a shared security concern.
  • Chinese Influence: India sees Myanmar as a strategic partner to counterbalance China’s expanding influence in the region, emphasizing the need for enhanced bilateral engagement.

[B] Socioeconomic Perspective

  • Cultural Affinities: Beyond geographical proximity, India and Myanmar share ethnic, religious, and linguistic commonalities, fostering cultural bonds.
  • Indian Diaspora: Myanmar is home to a sizable population of Indian origin, estimated at around 2.5 million, strengthening people-to-people ties between the two nations.
  • Investment in Infrastructure: Infrastructure projects, such as the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project and the Sittwe Port, IMT Highway aim to boost connectivity, trade, and investment.
  • Bilateral Trade: India ranks as Myanmar’s fifth-largest trading partner, registering bilateral trade at USD 1.03 billion in 2021-22.
  • Energy Cooperation: Myanmar holds significance for India’s energy security. With an energy portfolio of over USD 1.2 billion, Myanmar is the largest recipient of India’s investment in the oil and gas sector in Southeast Asia.

Reasons for the Policy Shift

  • Drug Trafficking and Insurgency: Myanmar’s status as an opium producer fuels drug trafficking and supports insurgent groups in India’s northeastern states.
  • Refugee Influx Post-Coup: Following Myanmar’s military coup in February 2021, over 40,000 refugees entered Mizoram, and around 4,000 entered Manipur, exacerbating security concerns.
  • Local Government Stance: Manipur’s Chief Minister urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to cancel the FMR and complete border fencing, linking ethnic violence in the state to the free movement across the border.

Way forward

  • Border Fencing: The government plans to fence about 300 km of the border, with a tender expected soon.
  • Regulatory Revisions: Experts suggest refining the FMR to better regulate movement while maintaining cross-border ties.
  • Infrastructure and Trade: Enhancing infrastructure and formalizing trade at designated entry points could mitigate some negative impacts.
  • Community Engagement: Involving border communities in decision-making is crucial for effective and sensitive border management.

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Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Supreme Court’s Deliberation on Sub-Classification of Scheduled Castes

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Scheduled Castes

Mains level: Horizontal Reservation and its Efficacy

Introduction

  • The Supreme Court’s recent deliberation on the sub-classification of Scheduled Castes (SC) within India’s reservation system raises questions about the balance of power between states and the Parliament.
  • This highlights the socio-economic implications of such sub-classification.

Who are the Scheduled Castes?

 

  • Scheduled Castes (SC) represent an administrative classification that encompasses various castes, including both touchable and untouchable groups, consolidated for preferential treatment purposes.
  • This classification fails to acknowledge the internal distinctions among the castes grouped together under the SC category.
  • Despite reservations, the pre-existing internal differences among the listed Scheduled Castes persist, posing challenges to effective upliftment measures.
  • Constitutional Provisions:
  1. Article 341 of the Indian Constitution empowers the President to designate specific castes and classes as Scheduled Castes within states or union territories.
  2. Article 342 allows Parliament to include or exclude castes or tribes from this list. It elaborates on the term “Scheduled Castes,” encompassing castes, races, or tribes, or their subsets, as specified under Article 341.
  3. Parliament: Inclusion or exclusion of any group from these lists is done through legislation by the Parliament.

Quest for Sub-Classification: SC Bench’s Examination

  • Questioning Tinkering with the List: Justice B.R. Gavai queries whether state-level preferential allotment to certain sub-castes affects the parliamentary power to manage the Presidential list.
  • Dismissal of “Balkanisation” Argument: The Bench dismisses concerns that sub-classification would lead to fragmentation of the SC list.
  • Argument for Homogeneity: Senior advocate Manoj Swarup argues that SCs form a homogeneous group and preferential treatment would perpetuate inequality.
  • Justice Gavai’s Counter: Justice Gavai challenges this view, highlighting the need for the upliftment of particularly backward groups within SCs.

Why discuss this?

[A] Socio-Economic Implications

  • Equality and Empowerment: Justice Vikram Nath underscores the aim of sub-classification as uplifting backward groups within SCs.
  • Ensuring Fairness: Justice Gavai emphasizes that preferential treatment should not exclude other deserving candidates from access to opportunities.

[B] Political and Societal Considerations

  • Potential for Political Appeasement: Concerns raised about states using sub-classification for political gains and electoral advantage.
  • Judicial Review and Empirical Basis: Justice Gavai highlights the role of High Courts in scrutinizing state decisions based on empirical data.

Why is the Sub-Classification needed?

  • Addressing Inequalities: Graded inequalities persist among SC communities, with some having limited access to services.
  • Disproportionate Representation: Certain sub-castes lack fair representation in employment and education due to current discrimination policies.
  • Overcoming Hierarchies: SCs vary socio-economically, with some progressing while others still face disadvantages.
  • Facilitating Mobility: Current policies hinder uniform benefits, leading to competition. Sub-categorization can aid in political empowerment and education.
  • Ensuring Justice: Targeted approaches are needed to address specific vulnerabilities within SC sub-groups.
  • Equitable Distribution: Sub-categorization prevents benefits from concentrating in certain groups, promoting fair resource allocation.

Challenges Associated

  • Inequality: Sub-categorization may not effectively address disparities within Scheduled Castes, per recommendations from the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), highlighting the need for existing schemes to reach the most backward communities first.
  • Federalism Issue: While a 2004 Supreme Court ruling barred states from unilaterally sub-categorizing SC lists, a 2020 judgment indicated states could decide benefit allocations within these lists, pending review by a larger Bench.
  • Identification Criteria Complexity: Determining sub-categorization criteria, as highlighted in judgments like State of Kerala v N M Thomas (1976) and E V Chinnaiah (2005), presents challenges in defining SCs due to socio-economic complexities.
  • Data Accuracy Challenge: Obtaining accurate socio-economic data for SC communities is difficult, hindering decision-making on caste categorizations and allocations.
  • Intra-group Disputes Risk: Sub-categorization may create internal divisions within SC communities, potentially exacerbating tensions as groups compete for affirmative action.
  • Fragmentation Risk: Sub-categorization could fragment the SC community, diluting their political and social identity, and weakening their collective advocacy for rights, as per concerns raised.

Chief Justice’s Perspective

  • Artificial Backward Class Creation: Chief Justice Chandrachud emphasizes the need for states to demonstrate objective criteria, like lack of representation, for sub-classification.
  • High Court Review: Asserts that High Courts can review state decisions to ensure fairness and adherence to constitutional principles.

Way Forward

  • Legal Options: Explore legal avenues like a constitutional amendment for sub-categorization, leveraging existing provisions like Article 16(4).
  • Data Collection: Enhance data collection on socio-economic status through a caste-based census to inform policy formulation.
  • Creamy Layer Concept: Apply the “creamy layer” concept within SCs to ensure fair allocation of benefits based on income eligibility.
  • Transparent Criteria: Develop transparent criteria for sub-categorization, considering socio-economic status, education, and regional disparities.
  • Balanced Approach: Strike a balance between recognizing diversity within SCs and maintaining unity, ensuring policies address specific needs without fragmenting the community.

Conclusion

  • As the case awaits judgment, the need for a nuanced approach that balances legal principles with social justice imperatives remains paramount.

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Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

India-China Bilateral Trade Hit a new record in 2023: Chinese Envoy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: India's over-dependence on Chinese imports

china

Introduction

  • Bilateral trade between India and China soared to a record $136.2 billion in 2023, marking a 1.5% year-on-year increase.

Why discuss this?

  • Trade Deficit Concerns: India has been grappling with a significant trade deficit in favor of China, exceeding $100 billion in 2022. Efforts to address this deficit remain a priority for India.
  • Diplomatic Vacancies: The absence of a Chinese Ambassador to Delhi for over 16 months and the lack of direct flights between the two countries underscore persistent diplomatic challenges.
  • Panchsheel Agreement Anniversary: The upcoming 70th anniversary of the India-China Panchsheel Agreement serves as a reminder of the importance of peaceful coexistence and adherence to international norms.

India-China Bilateral Trade Overview

  • Key Trading Partner: China stands as India’s largest trading partner, with significant exchanges in various commodities.
  • Major Imports from China: Electronic equipment, machinery, organic chemicals, and iron and steel are among the primary commodities imported from China into India.
  • Major Exports to China: Indian exports to China include cotton, gems, copper, ores, organic chemicals, and machinery.

Recent Measures to Curb Imports from China

  • Boycotts and Labeling Initiatives: Indian businesses are increasingly boycotting Chinese products, while the government mandates country of origin labelling for products sold online.
  • Ban on Chinese Apps: The Indian government has banned several Chinese mobile applications, citing concerns over national security and data privacy.

Challenges and Implications of Complete Boycott

  • Trade Deficits and Economic Realities: Complete boycotts may not be feasible as they could adversely affect Indian consumers, producers, and exporters.
  • Impact on Pharma Sector: The pharmaceutical sector, heavily reliant on Chinese imports for raw materials, could face significant disruptions.
  • Minimal Impact on China: UNCTAD data suggests that a complete boycott would have limited repercussions on China’s economy.
  • Integration and Policy Credibility: India’s integration with China and the potential fallout on policy credibility are crucial considerations.

Way Forward

  • Promoting Self-Reliance: India’s focus on self-reliance aims to bolster domestic capabilities and enhance competitiveness in global trade.
  • Government Support and Ecosystem Development: Government initiatives under the “Atmanirbhar” banner should prioritize industries needing support for self-reliance.
  • Addressing Cost Disadvantages: Long-term strategies must address the cost disparities in Indian manufacturing to reduce dependence on imports.
  • Conflict Resolution: Continued efforts towards conflict resolution and adherence to international norms will be crucial in navigating the complexities of this strategic partnership.

Back2Basics: Panchsheel Agreement

Details
Origin
  • Joint statement issued by PM Nehru during Chinese premier Zhou Enlai’s visits to India in 1954
  • Based on Westphalian norms of State Sovereignty
Principles
  1. Mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity
  2. Mutual non-aggression
  3. Mutual non-interference in internal matters
  4. Equality and mutual benefit
  5. Peaceful co-existence
Relevance
  • Preserving independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity
  • Reducing regional tensions and threats
  • Establishing India as an equal partner
  • Providing a framework for engagement
  • Portraying India as a robust democracy
  • Facilitating regional cooperation and connectivity

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Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

India to be biggest driver of global oil demand beyond China by 2027: IEA

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: International Energy Agency (IEA)

Mains level: Read the attached story

Introduction

  • India’s burgeoning economy is poised to become a significant player in global oil demand, with projections indicating that it will outpace China by 2027.
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts robust growth in India’s oil demand, driven primarily by industrial expansion and increasing mobility.

About International Energy Agency (IEA)

Details
Nature Autonomous inter-governmental organisation within the OECD framework
Mission Works with governments and industry to shape a secure and sustainable energy future for all
Establishment Founded in 1974 to ensure the security of oil supplies
Origin Created in response to the 1973-1974 oil crisis
Membership Consists of 31 member countries and eleven association countries
Criteria for Membership
  • Crude oil and/or product reserves equivalent to 90 days of the previous year’s net imports, accessible by the government
  • Demand restraint programme to reduce national oil consumption
  • Legislation and organisation for Co-ordinated Emergency Response Measures (CERM)
  • Legislation to ensure oil companies report information
  • Capability to contribute to IEA collective action
India’s Membership Joined as an Associate member in 2017
Key Reports Published World Energy Outlook,    World Energy Balances,    Energy Technology Perspectives,    World Energy Statistics,    Net Zero by 2050.

India’s Projected Growth in Oil Demand

  • Dominance in Oil Demand Growth: India is expected to surpass China as the biggest driver of global oil demand growth by 2027, according to the IEA.
  • Magnitude of Increase: The IEA projects an increase of nearly 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in India’s oil demand by 2023, contributing to over a third of the global demand growth by the end of the decade.
  • Key Drivers: Diesel consumption emerges as the primary driver of India’s oil demand growth, accounting for nearly half of the nation’s demand rise and a significant portion of global demand growth.
  • Sectoral Analysis: While jet-kerosene demand is expected to grow substantially, petrol demand is projected to increase moderately due to the electrification of India’s vehicle fleet.

Factors Influencing Demand Growth

  • Impact of EVs and Biofuels: Increased penetration of electric vehicles (EVs), energy efficiency measures, and growth in biofuels consumption are anticipated to mitigate around 500,000 bpd of additional oil demand by 2030.
  • Role of EVs: EV penetration alone is projected to displace 200,000 bpd of oil demand by 2030.

Why such a forecast for surge?

  • Rising Crude Oil Imports: India’s crude oil imports are expected to surge by over a fourth to 5.8 million bpd by 2030, driven by robust demand growth and declining domestic production.
  • Limited Domestic Production: Despite efforts to attract foreign investment, domestic crude oil production is projected to decline steadily, further increasing import dependence.
  • Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPRs): India is enhancing its capacity to respond to oil supply disruptions through strategic petroleum reserves.
  • Importance of SPRs: These reserves help mitigate the impact of emergencies on energy supplies and ensure oil resilience in case of market disruptions.

Major Policy Initiatives for Oil Import Cut

  • Urja Sangam 2015: In March 2015, the PM inaugurated ‘Urja Sangam 2015,’ aiming to boost India’s energy security. Stakeholders were urged to increase domestic oil and gas production to reduce import dependence from 77% to 67% by 2022 and further to 50% by 2030.
  • Production Sharing Contract (PSC) Regime: The government introduced policies like PSC, Discovered Small Field Policy, Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP), and New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) to incentivize domestic production.
  • Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP): India promotes the EBP to reduce crude oil imports, cut carbon emissions, and boost farmers’ incomes. The target for 20% ethanol blending in petrol (E20) was advanced to 2025 from 2030, expediting ethanol adoption as an alternative fuel.

Way Forward

  • Diversification Strategies: India must focus on diversifying its energy mix and promoting alternative fuels to reduce reliance on oil imports.
  • Investment in Renewable Energy: Accelerated investment in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power can mitigate the growth in oil demand and enhance energy security.
  • Policy Initiatives: Robust policy measures are essential to incentivize energy efficiency, promote electric mobility, and encourage sustainable practices in the transport sector.

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Uniform Civil Code: Triple Talaq debate, Polygamy issue, etc.

Uttarakhand UCC dares Right to Form ‘Intimate Associations’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Article 19(c)

Mains level: Regulation of marriage under UCC

Introduction

  • The recent enactment of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in Uttarakhand, specifically addressing live-in relationships, has sparked debates concerning individual freedom and state intervention.

What are Intimate Associations?

  • It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects.
  • This includes family relationships and other deep, personal connections that are important to individuals.

Uttarakhand UCC on Intimate Associations

  • State Oversight: Section 381 of Uttarakhand’s common civil code mandates individuals intending to enter a live-in relationship to submit a “joint statement” before a Registrar, subjecting their intimate associations to state monitoring.
  • Regulatory Measures: The Registrar is empowered to conduct an “enquiry” to determine the legitimacy of the relationship, infringing on the privacy of consenting adults.
  • Registration Requirement: Couples must obtain a “registration certificate” from the State authority, imposing bureaucratic hurdles on the exercise of personal choice.
  • Scope of Freedom: The freedom to choose a partner and enjoy their society is integral to personal autonomy and individual liberty, safeguarded under Article 19(c) of the Constitution.

Major Judgments upholding Intimate Associations

Key Takeaway
Lata Singh vs. State of UP (2006) Directed protection for inter-caste and inter-religious couples from harassment and violence.
S. Khushboo vs. Kanniammal & Anr. (2010) Declared sexual relations between consenting adults outside marriage as legal and within the right to privacy.
Naz Foundation vs. Government of NCT of Delhi (2009) Decriminalized consensual homosexual acts between adults, declaring Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code as a violation of rights.
Joseph Shine vs. Union of India (2018) Decriminalized adultery and declared it a violation of the rights to equality, dignity, privacy, and autonomy.
Navtej Singh Johar vs. Union of India (2018) Affirmed the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals to express their sexual orientation and identity with dignity.
Shafin Jahan vs. Asokan K.M. (2018) Upheld the right to marry a person of one’s choice regardless of religion or caste, nullifying the annulment of a Hindu-Muslim marriage.
Shakti Vahini vs. Union of India (2018) Condemned honour killings and violence against inter-caste and inter-religious couples, issuing guidelines for prevention and protection.
Supriyo versus Union of India (2023) Refers to how State should not interfere with the freedom of consenting adults to form legitimate “intimate associations”.

Critique of State Intervention

  • Infringement on Privacy: The UCC’s intrusive provisions undermine the autonomy and privacy of individuals by subjecting their relationships to state scrutiny.
  • Restriction on Freedom: Imposing regulatory requirements on live-in relationships contradicts established principles of personal liberty and restricts the exercise of fundamental rights.
  • Potential Discrimination: State interference in intimate matters risks perpetuating discrimination and infringing on the rights of consenting adults to form relationships of their choice.

Arguments in Favor of such Associations

  • Fundamental Rights: Denying individuals the right to choose their partners violates fundamental rights and equality.
  • Union Recognition: Diverse couples lack legal recognition and access to marital rights and protections.
  • Promotion of Equality: Legalizing diverse relationships reduces discrimination and fosters inclusivity.
  • Positive Impact: Recognizing diverse unions positively impacts mental health and societal acceptance.
  • Secularism: Recognizing diverse relationships aligns with democratic principles and equality.

Arguments Against

  • Preservation of Norms: Altering traditional marriage norms challenges societal expectations.
  • Cultural Preservation: Diverse relationships may conflict with cultural or religious beliefs.
  • Social Impact: Concerns exist regarding family structures and societal cohesion.
  • Legal Complexity: Legalizing diverse unions may introduce legal uncertainties and disputes.
  • Social Stigma: Societal stigma and discrimination persist against diverse relationships.

Way Forward

  • Advocacy: Continued advocacy for rights and societal acceptance of diverse relationships.
  • Policy Reforms: Push for policy reforms to recognize and protect the rights of individuals.
  • Support Services: Offer counseling and support services to address stigma and legal challenges.
  • Community Building: Create safe spaces and support networks for individuals in diverse relationships.

Conclusion

  • As debates continue, it is essential to strike a balance between regulatory measures and the protection of constitutional freedoms, fostering a society that values diversity and respects individual autonomy.

Try this PYQ:

Which Article of the Constitution of India safeguards one’s right to marry the person of one’s choice? (CSP 2019)

(a) Article 19

(b) Article 21

(c) Article 25

(d) Article 29

 

Post your answers here.

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Government Budgets

Kerala is one of most financially unhealthy States: Centre

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: FRBM Act, 2003

Mains level: Fiscal mismanagement by states

Introduction

  • The ongoing dispute between the Centre and the Kerala government regarding fiscal management has sparked debates on financial health, resource allocation, and federal governance.

Financial Mismanagement in Kerala

  • Poor Fiscal Health: The Centre contends that Kerala’s fiscal condition is precarious, attributing it to inadequate management of public finances.
  • Financial Assistance: Despite substantial financial support provided by the Centre, including additional funds beyond the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission, Kerala continues to face financial stress.
  • Mismanagement: Kerala’s alleged reckless borrowing, financing of unproductive expenditure, and poorly targeted subsidies exacerbate its financial woes, impacting both state and national economies.

What data has to say?

  • Rising Liabilities: Kerala’s outstanding liabilities, as a percentage of its Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), have consistently increased from 31% in 2018-19 to 39% in 2021-22, exceeding the national average.
  • Implications of High Liability Ratio: The Centre warns that the elevated outstanding liability ratio results in heightened interest payments, exacerbating fiscal deficits and potentially leading to a debt trap.
  • Increased Committed Expenditure: Kerala’s committed expenditure as a percentage of revenue receipts has risen from 74% in 2018-19 to 82.40% in 2021-22, surpassing that of any other state. This trend limits the state’s capacity for productive government spending, negatively impacting long-term growth.

Kerala’s Defence

  • Federal Structure: Kerala asserts its rights under the federal system to regulate its finances independently, highlighting the Centre’s infringement on its fiscal autonomy.
  • Economic Damage: The state argues that the Centre’s actions, such as imposing arbitrary borrowing ceilings, threaten Kerala’s economic stability, jeopardizing its ability to meet developmental goals.

Legal Response

  • Court Proceedings: The Attorney General’s submission to the Supreme Court forms part of the legal battle initiated by Kerala against the Centre’s alleged interference in state finances.
  • Protection of Federalism: Kerala seeks judicial intervention to safeguard the federal structure, emphasizing the state’s authority over budgetary management and borrowing decisions.
  • FRBM Rescue: While the FRBM Act of 2023 primarily applies to the central government, some states have enacted their own FRBM legislation to maintain fiscal discipline at the state level. Kerala doesn’t have its own version yet.

Implications

  • National Ramifications: The outcome of this dispute holds significance beyond Kerala, impacting the broader framework of fiscal federalism and intergovernmental relations.
  • Developmental Concerns: The protracted legal battle could impede Kerala’s developmental agenda and exacerbate financial strains, affecting the welfare of its citizens.

Conclusion

  • The Centre-State fiscal dispute underscores the complexities inherent in federal governance and fiscal management.
  • As legal proceedings unfold, the resolution of this conflict will shape the contours of intergovernmental relations and define the boundaries of fiscal autonomy within India’s federal structure.

Back2Basics: Fiscal Reduction and Management Act (FRBM Act), 2003

Description
Objectives To ensure fiscal discipline, transparency, and accountability in government spending.
Fiscal Deficit Targets Mandates the government to reduce its fiscal deficit to a specified target over a period of time.

Fiscal deficit target aims to be below 4.5 per cent by 2025-26.

Elimination of Revenue Deficit Requires the government to eliminate its revenue deficit, which is the excess of government’s total expenditure over its total revenue.
Medium-term Fiscal Strategy Mandates the government to formulate and implement a medium-term fiscal strategy outlining plans for reducing fiscal deficit over three years.
Annual Fiscal Reports Requires the government to present an annual fiscal responsibility statement to Parliament, detailing progress in achieving fiscal consolidation targets.
Penalties for Non-compliance Imposes penalties on the government for non-compliance, including fines and disqualification of elected members from holding public office.

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Electoral Reforms In India

Understanding the Delimitation Exercise

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Delimitation Commission, Article 82 and Article 170

Mains level: Representativeness in Democracy and the role of Delimitiation

Delimitation

Introduction

  • The impending delimitation exercise for Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies, based on the first Census after 2026, has sparked discussions and raised pertinent questions.

Understanding Delimitation

  • Definition: Delimitation entails fixing the number of seats and boundaries of territorial constituencies, including the reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), based on census data.
  • Constitutional Mandate: Article 82 (Lok Sabha) and Article 170 (State Legislative Assemblies) mandate readjustment of seats after each Census, performed by the Delimitation Commission.
  • Historical Precedent: Delimitation exercises were conducted post the 1951, 1961, and 1971 Censuses, highlighting its periodic nature.

About Delimitation Commission

  • The Delimitation Commission is a high-powered committee entrusted with the task of drawing and redrawing of boundaries of different constituencies for state assembly and Lok Sabha election.
  • It is appointed by the President and works in collaboration with the Election Commission.
  • The Commission consists of –
  1. A retired or working Supreme Court Judge (chairperson)
  2. Election Commissioner
  3. Concerned State Election Commissioners
  • DC’s orders have the force of law and CANNOT be called in question before any court.
  • The orders are laid before the Lok Sabha and the legislative assemblies concerned, but they cannot effect any modifications in the orders.

Need for Delimitation

  • Democracy and Representation: The essence of democracy mandates ‘one citizen-one vote-one value,’ necessitating periodic readjustment of seats to reflect population changes.
  • Freezing of Seats: Seats have been frozen since 1971 to encourage population control, with the freeze extended until 2026 through the 84th Amendment Act.

Why is this exercise problematic?

  • Uneven Population Growth: Population disparities among states pose challenges, with some states experiencing rapid growth while others stagnate.
  • Options Discussed: Options include redistributing existing seats among states or increasing the total seats to reflect population changes.
  • Constituency Shrinkage: Electorates often lose their representation due to the merger of constituencies.

International Perspectives

  • United States: The U.S. redistributes seats among states after each Census to maintain proportionality, ensuring minimal disruption.
  • European Union: EU Parliament uses a principle of ‘degressive proportionality,’ where seats are allocated based on population ratios.

Way forward

  • Harmonizing Principles: Balancing democratic representation and federal principles is crucial. Capping Lok Sabha seats at the current 543 ensures continuity, while increasing State Legislative Assembly seats aligns with democratic representation.
  • Empowering Local Bodies: Strengthening democracy involves empowering grassroots institutions like panchayats and municipalities, enhancing citizen engagement and governance.

Conclusion

  • The delimitation exercise presents a delicate balance between democratic representation and federal principles.
  • By adopting a nuanced approach that respects constitutional mandates while empowering local governance, India can navigate the complexities of delimitation, ensuring inclusive and effective representation for its diverse populace.

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Port Infrastructure and Shipping Industry – Sagarmala Project, SDC, CEZ, etc.

Book Review: How India ignored its Aqua-Geography of Histories

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ancient geographical division of India, ex. Madhyadesa, Udicya, Pracya etc.

Mains level: Maritime Geography and historic references to it

coast

Introduction

  • India’s coastal geography, often overshadowed in educational curricula, holds profound historical and cultural significance.
  • While India’s connection with its southern seas is acknowledged, the broader implications of its maritime heritage remain underexplored.

Irony of India’s Maritime Geography

  • Distance from the Sea: While some might remember that India is bound by sea all along the south, the connections with the sea do not consciously register — for a great many people even today, the sea is a very distant object.
  • Impact of Natural Events: It may perhaps impinge on the consciousness a little more when there are reports of cyclones or storms (or the tsunami that hit some years ago in 2004), but the expanse of the sea, the links with the oceans, and the historical and geographical connections are typically rather hazy.

Historical Perspectives on Indian Geography

  • School Definition: Moreover, children are mostly taught about only two parts of India — the plains to the north, and the peninsula to the south.
  • Sanskrit Texts: But historically, India was defined slightly differently. In early Indian Sanskrit texts, the subcontinent is seen as divided into five major regions
  1. Madhyadesa (middle country),
  2. Udicya or Uttarapatha (northern India),
  3. Pracya (eastern India),
  4. Dakshinapatha (Deccan) and
  5. Aparanta (western India)
  • Different Interpretations: The term Dakshinapatha came to be used in two ways: the entire peninsula, or more commonly, a more limited area from the Narmada to the Tungabhadra and Krishna rivers. To the south of this lay the Dravidadesa or Tamilakam.
  • Imperial Gazetteer’s Definition: On the other hand, as defined in the Imperial Gazetteer, the ‘Deccan’ has also been understood as referring to the entire landmass south of the Vindhya mountains and the great Gangetic plain, and so it can be taken to mean the entire peninsular region of India.

Geographical Features of the Indian Subcontinent

  • Demarcated Regions: Within the peninsula itself are five clearly demarcated regions — the Western Ghats skirting the Arabian Sea, the northern Deccan plateau, the eastern plateau, the Eastern Ghats towards the Bay of Bengal and the coastal strip between the ghats on either side and the sea itself.
  • Plateau Considerations: While studies have traditionally tended to focus on only the western part of the plateau as the ‘Deccan’, it is to be remembered that the plateau region covers much of the northern peninsula.
  • Extent of Ghats: Furthermore, the ghats bordering it extend almost down to Kanyakumari. The western coastal strip is generally narrow, being indented and segmented by spurs from the Western Ghats or by small rivers flowing to the sea from the hills.
  • Eastern Ghats Description: The Eastern Ghats are less continuous, with a wider and more fertile coastal strip, containing, as it does, the deltaic plains of the two major river systems of the Deccan plateau, the Krishna and Godavari.

Coastal Divisions and Sub-regions

  • Distinct Names for Ghats: On both coasts, the ghats are given different names in various regions. So, for example, the Western Ghats up to Karnataka are also often referred to as the Sahyadri ranges.
  • Plateau Description: What is normally understood as the Deccan plateau proper is a broad quadrangle covering most of the present-day Maharashtra state, with a topography typical of plateau land.
  • Transition to Plains: As it begins to give way to the plains in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka (the south-eastern and southern plateaus), the geography becomes rougher and rockier, and is interspersed with forest land and riverine stretches.
  • Coastal Strip Description: The western coastal strip is a narrow strip of land, very rarely extending more than eighty kilometres inwards from the sea. This strip is particularly narrow from the Tapi river to Goa, after which it widens a little on the Karnataka coast and finally includes all of present-day Kerala, for the ghats here form the demarcation between Kerala and modern Tamil Nadu.

Coastal Features and Subdivisions

[A] Western Coast

  • Technical Divisions: This coast is technically divided into three parts, excluding Gujarat. The northernmost section is called the Konkan, which is further subdivided into two segments — the northern one running approximately from the Tapi to Chaul (modern Revdanda) and the southern from Chaul to Goa.
  • Coastal Divisions: South of Goa is the Canara coast, stretching till Mount Eli (Ezhimala) in modern-day Kerala, known to early travellers as Mount Dilli or Dely. The Malabar coast begins here and extends to Kanyakumari, the tip of the peninsula.
  • Maritime Economic Considerations: However, in maritime economic terms, it is rather difficult to limit oneself only to this western stretch of the coastline, for connections extend northwards into the Gujarat coast and eastwards across the ghats into the plateau region.

[B] Eastern Coast

  • Ease of Access: The Eastern Ghats, as mentioned earlier, are not continuous, which means that access to the interior from the coast (or vice versa) is much easier.
  • Water Bodies: The eastern coastal strip features deltas and various other water bodies, including, in the northernmost part of the region, Chilika Lake in modern-day Odisha; Kolleru Lake between the Krishna and the Godavari deltas, approximately in the centre of the coast; and Pulicat Lake, which lies towards the southern edge of the Deccan region.
  • Historical Significance: All these lakes used to be hubs for trade and fishing, with Pulicat also being the heart of a thriving weaving industry through most of India’s medieval era.

Port Dynamics

  • Abundance of Ports: Both coasts are, of course, marked by innumerable ports. A brief survey of these ports is enough to indicate the ever-present climatic and natural hazards they faced.
  • Western Coast Considerations: The physical geography of the west coast, given its numerous indentations, offers ample natural shelters all along its length, with the two largest natural harbours being Mumbai (Bombay) and Goa.
  • Importance of Smaller Ports: However, throughout the medieval and early modern period (approximately the eighth to eighteenth century), the harbours of ports like Mangalore, Honawar, Bhatkal or Chaul were no less important in terms of the traffic they handled.

Challenges and Hazards on the Coasts

  • Monsoon Challenges: Western ports face closures during the southwest monsoon, with shifting sandbanks and shoals posing dangers to ships.
  • Lack of Natural Harbours: The east coast lacks natural harbors, with ports vulnerable to silting near river deltas.
  • Unstable Delta Mouths: Delta mouths are prone to instability, potentially rendering established channels unusable after monsoon cycles.
  • Cyclone Vulnerability: The Bay of Bengal presents cyclone risks due to its enclosed nature, leading to higher possibilities of circular winds compared to the west coast.
  • Open Roads for Ports: East coast ports operate as open roads, requiring ships to navigate high surf, rolling waters, and random winds while loading and unloading goods.

Trade Routes and Cultural Exchange

  • Port Competitiveness: Ports rely on their immediate interior areas, often shared by multiple ports, for sustenance and trade.
  • Political and Economic Factors: Port prosperity hinges on political stability and economic conditions in their vicinity.
  • Trade Patterns: West coast ports primarily trade with the Arabian Sea littoral, while east coast ports engage in trade across the Bay of Bengal.
  • Cross-Coastal Trading: Merchants from both coasts trade extensively across the Indian Ocean world, transcending geographical boundaries.
  • Established Routes: Trade routes across the Indian Ocean have existed for centuries, with changes in rulership but continuity in trade activities.

Conclusion

  • The multitude of functional ports, diverse trade patterns, and established trade routes highlight the resilience and adaptability of India’s maritime regions.
  • As India continues to navigate its maritime heritage into the future, understanding and appreciating its maritime geography remain crucial for fostering sustainable development and cultural preservation.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Myanmar

Fate of Indian Projects in Myanmar

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Kaladan Project

Mains level: Read the attached story

myanmar

Introduction

  • The Arakan Army captured Paletwa in the Chin State, near Bangladesh and India. This has cast aspersions about the development of key Indian projects in Myanmar.

Myanmar Coup: A quick recap

  • Myanmar’s military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in February 2021.
  • The military expected resistance to subside quickly. After three years, opposition to the military regime is growing.

Conflict Dynamics near Indian Borders

  • Complex Dynamics: The capture of Paletwa has triggered a complex dynamic between the Chin and Arakan ethnic groups.
  • Ethnic Majority: Majority of Paletwa’s residents belong to the Chin ethnic community.
  • Historical Claims: Some in the Rakhine State argue that Paletwa historically belonged to the Arakan Hill Tracts during colonial rule.
  • InterEthnic Solidarity: Inter-ethnic solidarity among EAOs is essential for an effective fight against the military.
  • Challenge of Compromise: Finding an inter-ethnic compromise on settlements like Paletwa is challenging due to its strategic location.

Impact on India’s Kaladan Project:

  • Significance for Kaladan: The developments in Paletwa have implications for India’s Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project (KMTTP) in Myanmar.
  • Addressing Challenges: The Kaladan project aims to address northeast India’s geo-economic and geo-political challenges.
  • Project Delays: Delays in project implementation were caused by rugged terrain, inadequate coordination, political instability, and security challenges.
  • Local Attitudes: Attitudes of local ethnic organizations must be considered for swift Kaladan project execution.
  • Local Interest: People in Mizoram and Chin State are interested in the project’s completion as it boosts economic activity.

China Factor in the Region

  • Three Brotherhood Alliance: The Arakan Army is part of the Three Brotherhood alliance, believed to have Chinese support. This alliance aims to safeguard Chinese investments in Myanmar.
  • Reports of Chinese Support: Reports suggest that the Arakan Army receives funding and military equipment from China.
  • Concerns for India: Concerns exist in India about Beijing using armed groups to hinder India’s connectivity projects in Myanmar.
  • China’s Economic Presence: China has increased its economic presence along Myanmar’s Bay of Bengal coast.
  • Infrastructure Initiatives: Operationalized pipelines and agreements for a deep-sea port and special economic zone are part of China’s initiatives in Myanmar.

Conclusion

  • India, as a liberal democracy, faces scrutiny regarding the impact of its external engagement on sectarian/identity-based violence in the neighborhood.
  • Scaling up humanitarian and development assistance while collaborating with ethnic organizations is essential.

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Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Places of Worship Act and Ongoing Disputes: Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Places of Worship Act

Mains level: Read the attached story

Introduction

  • The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, has once again come into focus due to ongoing civil suits challenging the religious character of mosques in Varanasi and Mathura.

Enactment of the Places of Worship Act

  • Background: The Act was enacted in September 1991, during the Babri-Masjid Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, to address issues related to the status of places of worship.
  • Objectives: It aimed to freeze the religious character of places of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947, and prevent the conversion of places of worship from one denomination to another.

Key Provisions of the Act

  • Continuity of Religious Character: The Act ensures that the religious character of a place of worship remains unchanged from its status on August 15, 1947.
  • Prohibition on Conversion: It prohibits the conversion of a place of worship of any religious denomination into one of a different denomination.
  • Abatement of Pending Cases: All pending legal proceedings regarding the conversion of a place of worship, initiated before August 15, 1947, would abate upon the Act coming into force, and no new proceedings can be initiated.

Exceptions to the Rule

  • Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites: The Act does not apply to ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
  • Settled Disputes: It does not apply to suits that were already settled or disposed of or to conversions by acquiescence.

Status of Ongoing Cases on the Gyanvapi Mosque

  • Current Litigation: Ongoing civil suits in Varanasi involve claims by Hindu worshippers asserting their right to worship deities within the Gyanvapi mosque premises.
  • Basis for Suits: The Hindu side claims that an old temple of Lord Vishweshwar existed at the center of the mosque compound, demolished by Emperor Aurangzeb in 1669.
  • Court Orders: Court orders have favored the position that these suits are not barred by the Places of Worship Act. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) conducted a survey that reported the existence of a temple before the mosque.

Implications of the Act in the Mathura Dispute

  • Shahi Idgah Mosque: Civil suits in Mathura pertain to the Shahi Idgah mosque near the Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple, with claims that it was built over Lord Krishna’s birthplace.
  • Challenging Compromise: The suits challenge a compromise reached in 1968 between Sri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sansthan and the Shahi Idgah Trust. The Allahabad High Court has transferred all Mathura dispute suits to itself.
  • Act’s Applicability: Court decisions have held that the Act does not bar these suits. In the Mathura dispute, the Act is not applicable as the compromise decree predates its enactment.

Conclusion

  • The Places of Worship Act, enacted to freeze the status of places of worship, is facing challenges in ongoing disputes, particularly in Varanasi and Mathura.
  • Courts have ruled that the Act does not prohibit these suits, emphasizing the need for a case-by-case examination to determine religious character.
  • These developments underscore the complexities and legal interpretations surrounding the Act’s application in the context of evolving disputes.

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Judicial Reforms

Four issues that CJI highlighted within Legal Profession

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Adjournment of Court

Mains level: Issues with Judicial Functioning

cji

Introduction

  • During the Supreme Court’s 75th-year Foundation Day address, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) highlighted four crucial issues within the judiciary that require “difficult conversations.”
  • This article delves into these issues and their historical context.

Major Issues with Legal Profession

[1] Problem of “Adjournment Culture”

  • Definition: Adjournment culture refers to the practice of lawyers repeatedly seeking adjournments, delaying scheduled hearings.
  • Effect on Justice: Prolonged adjournments lead to case delays and contribute to the growing backlog of pending cases.
  • Legal Framework: Order XVII of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 sets rules for granting adjournments, limiting them to three times, with sufficient cause shown.
  • Vicious Cycle: Advocates exploit heavy workloads to seek adjournments, perpetuating delays.

[2] Managing Lengthy Oral Arguments

  • Constitutional Bench Matters: The court directs parties to schedule oral arguments to avoid repetition in important cases.
  • Mixed Success: Past cases, like the Ayodhya title dispute, had lengthy hearings despite scheduling.
  • Recent Improvements: Under CJI UU Lalit, a Constitution Bench case involving EWS reservations achieved efficiency through time scheduling.
  • US Model: The US Supreme Court restricts oral arguments to 30 minutes per side, considered but not adopted in India.

[3] Alternatives to Extended Court Vacations

  • Flexi-Time: Introducing flexi-time for lawyers and judges is suggested, allowing them to choose working hours within a specified total.
  • Philippines Example: The Philippines implemented flexi-time for court employees based on valid reasons.
  • Historical Suggestions: Past reports and government recommendations aimed to reduce court vacations to tackle case backlog.
  • Supreme Court Rules: In 2014, the court limited summer vacations to seven weeks instead of ten.

[4] Ensuring Equal Opportunities for First-Generation Lawyers

  • Leveling the Field: The CJI emphasizes providing a level playing field for first-generation lawyers and marginalized segments with the potential to succeed.
  • Progress: Over 50% of junior civil judge exam candidates are women, and 41% of Supreme Court law clerk candidates are women.
  • Inclusivity Efforts: Initiatives by the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) aim to support diversity, including giving weightage to first-generation lawyers for Senior Advocate designations.
  • Judicial Recognition: The judiciary acknowledges the growth and contributions of first-generation lawyers, dismissing claims that recognition is solely based on wealth and proximity.

Conclusion

  • The judiciary faces multifaceted challenges, including adjournment culture, oral argument lengths, court vacations, and ensuring a fair platform for first-generation lawyers.
  • Addressing these issues requires frank discussions, reforms, and continued efforts to uphold the principles of justice and inclusivity within the legal profession.

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Government Budgets

Why is Fiscal Consolidation So Important?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Fiscal Deficit

Mains level: Not Much

Introduction

  • In her Budget speech, FM revealed the government’s plans to reduce the fiscal deficit to 5.1% of GDP in 2024-25 and below 4.5% by 2025-26, surprising many analysts who expected slightly higher deficit targets.
  • This article explains fiscal deficit, its significance, how the government funds it, and the implications of reducing the deficit.

What is Fiscal Deficit?

  • Definition: Fiscal deficit represents the gap between a government’s revenue and its expenditure. When expenses exceed revenues, the government must borrow money or sell assets to cover the deficit.
  • Revenue Sources: Taxes are the primary source of government revenue. In 2024-25, tax receipts are expected to be ₹26.02 lakh crore, while total revenue is estimated at ₹30.8 lakh crore. Total government expenditure for the same period is projected at ₹47.66 lakh crore.

Government Funding of Fiscal Deficit

  • Borrowing: To finance the fiscal deficit, the government borrows money from the bond market, where lenders compete to purchase government-issued bonds.
  • Central Banks: Central banks, such as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), play a significant role in the credit market by purchasing government bonds in the secondary market, indirectly providing funds to the government.
  • Borrowing Amount: In 2024-25, the Centre aims to borrow ₹14.13 lakh crore from the market, lower than the target for 2023-24.

Why Does Fiscal Deficit Matter?

  • Inflation: High fiscal deficits can lead to inflation, as the government may resort to printing money to fund the deficit.
  • Market Confidence: Fiscal discipline, reflected in lower deficits, can boost confidence among lenders, potentially improving bond ratings and reducing borrowing costs.
  • Debt Management: A high fiscal deficit can strain the government’s ability to manage public debt. India’s public debt may rise significantly, affecting the country’s fiscal health.
  • International Borrowing: A lower fiscal deficit may make it easier for the government to issue bonds overseas and access cheaper credit.

Future Prospects

  • Reducing Fiscal Deficit: The government plans to lower the fiscal deficit to 5.1% of GDP in 2024-25. It aims to achieve this primarily through increased tax collections, expecting a rise of 11.5%.
  • Balancing Act: Balancing the budget through tax hikes could dampen economic growth, but achieving the ambitious fiscal deficit target remains uncertain.

Conclusion

  • Fiscal deficit, the gap between government revenue and expenditure, holds significant implications for inflation, market confidence, debt management, and international borrowing.
  • The government’s plan to reduce the fiscal deficit in the coming years involves a delicate balance of revenue generation and expenditure control.

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Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Stricter Rules for Indian Students Pursuing Higher Education Abroad

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Higher education in foreign countries

Introduction

  • Indian students aspiring to pursue higher education in English-speaking countries, notably Canada and the U.K., are facing increased difficulties due to tightening immigration rules.
  • This shift in regulations is affecting various aspects of the admission process and has raised concerns among higher education experts.

Recent Policy Changes

[1] Canada’s Revised Requirements:

  • The Canadian government, responding to political tensions with India, revised its requirements in December 2023 to enhance the protection of international students.
  • Notable Changes:
    1. The Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) amount, necessary for visa applications, increased from 10,000 Canadian dollars (approximately ₹6.15 lakh) to 20,635 Canadian dollars (around ₹12.7 lakh).
    2. Canada has limited the total number of study permits or student visas to be issued to 3.6 lakh, down from nearly four lakh.

[2] UK’s Restriction on Dependant Family:

  • Starting in 2024, international students in the UK will be prohibited from bringing dependant family members while pursuing their studies.

[3] Increased GIC Requirements in Other Countries:

  • Countries like Germany and Australia have steadily raised their GIC amounts by around 10% annually, with Germany requiring 11,208 euros (₹10 lakh) for visa applications as of May 2023.

Impact on Students

  • Financial Challenges: The substantial increase in GIC requirements, such as in Canada, poses financial challenges for Indian students, making it difficult to afford living expenses in expensive countries.
  • Reduced Visa Accessibility: Canada’s reduction in the number of study permits affects Indian students’ access to higher education in the country.
  • Change in Study Choices: The stricter rules have led to changes in study preferences, with some students considering countries like Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the Netherlands, Finland, Taiwan, and Israel as alternative destinations for their education.

Mixed Implications

  • Addressing Diploma Mills: Canada’s measures are aimed at curbing the issue of ‘diploma mills,’ improving the quality of education, and discouraging unethical practices by agents.
  • Impact on Bachelor’s Degree Seekers: While master’s program students benefit from eased norms, those pursuing bachelor’s degrees in Canada face uncertainty and delays in their visa applications.

Conclusion

  • The recent changes in admission rules for Indian students seeking higher education abroad highlight the evolving landscape of international education.
  • These alterations necessitate adaptability among students and have sparked shifts in study preferences towards countries with more accessible pathways

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