SYNOPSIS: Insights Secure Q&A August 08, 2016
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General Studies – 1;
Topic: Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country
Yes India’s policies have consistently alienated Kashmiris from India :
- Civilian uprisingsin 2008, 2009, and 2010 as the major turning points. Local disgruntlement towards India intensified among the general public after hundreds of civilian youths were killed during these protests.
- The government did more damage by disregarding the recommendationsof a government-appointed panel and not punish the cops involved in shooting at the unarmed protesters .
- Added to this the rigid posturing of the successive governments from time to time and the continuum of human rights violations with enforced and systemic pattern of impunity to shield guilty men in uniform has fueled the alienation and helped transform it into bitter hatred and anger for anything that symbolizes India.
- India has repeatedly used the Public Safety Act (PSA) deemed “a lawless law” by Amnesty International to detain Kashmiri political leaders
- The imposition of a banon student politics, and the repeated clampdown on internet and mobile SMS services have alienated Kashmiri youths in particular.
- Repeated calls by various civil society and human rights groups for the repeal of draconian laws such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act(AFSPA) which gives sweeping impunityto the armed forces of India operating in Kashmir have been met with a cold shoulder
- Stalling of dialogue process:
- While the Vajpayee government welcomed any opportunities for dialogue even allowingseparatist Hurriyat leaders to hold talks with Pakistan the current government has taken a different approach which prohibited the Hurriyat leaders from meeting with Pakistani officials and told it as a pre-condition for talks with Pakistan.
- To many Kashmiris, India’s insistence on this pre-condition seemed to embody an effort to deny them a voice in the dispute.
- India is losing popular support in Kashmir by adhering to its policy of focusing solely on economic development while maintaining the security status quo.
- The policy of non-engaging with the people of Jammu and Kashmir politically as well as the government’s inability to offset a comprehensive economic programme for sustainable economy that provides opportunities and jobs to youth is a far bigger factor in pushing alienated and frustrated youth towards radicalization and militancy.
- When Kashmir acceded to India, the Indian Constitution made a special provision to allow for Kashmir to have certain national rights, and to allow for the future of Kashmir to be settled by a plebiscite. The plebiscite never happened. The special autonomy provisions in the constitution have not been honoured.
- Water resources:
- The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) controls the water and sells it back to the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
- The J&K government wants several power projects returned to it, and accuses NHPC of retaining these projects illegally
- . From the NHPC perspective, this is efficient allocation of resources. From Kashmir’s perspective, it is internal colonialism, and given the physical geography of the state, leaves people freezing in the dark when they have ample hydroelectric capacity.
- Kashmir does not control its own water resources and sell to the centre, as other states have negotiated.
- Regulating the yatras:
- The Amarnath yatra brings Hindus from different parts of India to Kashmir to worship. The yatra has grown immensely over the years and, like many other religious festivals, has become politicized.
- In the context of Kashmir, it has also become militarized. The yatra is controlled by a board that is ultimately controlled by India.
- Even though the board was constituted in 2000 by the governor of J & K, the composition of the board is heavily weighted towards the Centre, effectively disenfranchising the locals in an event with an increasingly high impact.
- Delhi’s blinkered Kashmir policy since partition in 1947 – ignoring UN demands for a self-determination plebiscite, rigging elections, manipulating or overthrowing elected governments, and neglecting economic development – lies at the heart of the problem.
No, India has done some significant efforts with respect to Kashmir:
- Militancy-related causalities decreased significantly from 4,507in 2001 to 377 in 2009. A major factor that contributed to the decline in the violence was the endorsement of the dialogue process by India’s then-Prime Minister Vajpayee, which led to the historic Lahore Declaration in 1999, in which both India and Pakistan committed to the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue.
- The option of autonomywithin the ambit of the Indian constitution offered by Vajpayee further fed the optimism for a peaceful settlement with India. This political shift resulted in a relative calm over the ensuing years, with tourism and business in Kashmir flourishing.
- Government is trying to push through developmental policies for the alienated youth like UDAAN,HIMAYAT which give them an opportunity for employment and gaining necessary skills in line with the industrial demand .
- Despite government actions other reasons like militancy from the state and non state actors also is causing the continuous unrest in the region
What is to be done ?
- India to end this long quagmire of armed conflict with Kashmiris, it must shift away from its current policy and allow political space for Kashmiris.
- It should repeal its draconian laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Public Safety Act and punish soldiers involved in human rights violations.
- by giving people, particularly youth, relief from a stifling atmosphere of excessive militarization and curbs on their movement and free expression, by opening channels of communication with them without setting preconditions and by addressing the economic discontent in the state without making the people feel that they are being robbed of even their existing resources in the name of charity and financial aid.
Topic: Role of women
- In the recent years women are increasingly being appointed in the international organizations. In 2014, Michaëlle Jean became the first woman Secretary-General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. This year, a woman became Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, and another the Secretary-General of FIFA.
- This brought to light the question about women heading UN.
Why women should lead the UN?
- A recent Guardian pollfound that 96% of respondents believe it’s time to have a female secretary general. And there are more women in power than ever before and the once indefensible connection between masculinity and leadership is breaking.
- This guarantees equal opportunities for women and men in gaining access to senior decision-making positions, Member States are encouraged to consider presenting women, as well as men, as candidates for the position of Secretary-General.
- Women very often have a different way of leading, which could reinvigorate the United Nations as a whole, because there is more listening, being inclusive and working in practical ways to resolve problems. These are the kind of attributes that can very much help strengthen the role of secretary-general.
- They pave the way for gender equality in politics and reduce the gender gap in political ambition. A woman as secretary general would send a strong signal of progress.She will truly champion the UN’s core values of human rights, equality and justice
- Indeed, while gender equality is embedded in the work of the UN, its eight leaders since it was founded in 1945 have all been men. Even outside of the top spot, the UN hasn’t quite achieved the right balance: women hold only a quarter of the highest positions in the secretariat.Now if this happens it will show UN is actually striving for upholding its
- In women’s and girls eyes, the symbolic empowerment of a woman top official, with responsibilities in peace, stability and development, is fundamental. It has a great psychological impact.
- women in power are influential role models. Even those who do not implement a strong feminine agenda still advance the cause for women like Margaret thatcher.
- Experts hope if a woman is at the helm, there will be a greater focus on conflict prevention and sustainable peace at a moment when the U.N. is embroiled in sexual abuse peacekeeping scandals, confronting growing challenges from terrorism and facing a refugee crisis around the globe.
- It would fulfill promises given by world leaders 21 years ago at the historic UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing to nominate more women to senior UN posts. In the past decade, women have filled less than a quarter of senior roles at the organisation.
- While a woman secretary general would be a symbolic achievement, there are doubts how much it would matter at the grassroots level around the world.
- One thing world has seen is that women leaders aren’t always great for ordinary women.
In the Philippines, for example, women presidents have resisted family-planning access for women, while male presidents have pushed those rights.
General Studies – 2
Topic: Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein
- The GST Council will comprise Union and state finance ministers. It would take decisions regarding GST through a three-fourth majority. The Centre will have one-third voting rights, while the states will have two-third.
- GST Council aims to develop a harmonized national market of goods and services.
- GST Council may decide the system of resolving disputes arising out of its recommendations
- The GST Council will make recommendations on:
- taxes, cesses, and surcharges to be subsumed under the GST
- goods and services which may be subject to, or exempt from GST
- the threshold limit of turnover for application of GST
- rates of GST
- model GST laws, principles of levy, apportionment of IGST and principles related to place of supply.
- The current GST bill seeks to entrust the power of dispute resolution to the GST Council, comprising the Centre and states, instead of an independent body like GST Dispute Settlement Authority as proposed earlier.
- The proposed GST Council as the dispute resolution body is criticised on the ground that how can it resolve the disputes arising out of its own recommendations .
- The GST Council provides veto power to centre along with state governments. The GST Council will give the Centre one-third voting power and the states two-thirds. Any decision will need three-fourth of the votes. Thus, neither the states together nor the Centre alone can change the GST.
- However, the dispute resolution body cannot work on this principle. Because any dispute resolution mechanism would need a judicial member. The authority was supposed to have a former Supreme Court judge or chief justice of a high court as its chairman.
- All states have exactly one vote:-
- The express purpose of the GST Bill is to concentrate on manufacturing and achieve excellence so that the same product is not manufactured locally with sub-optimal efficiency in every state for tax reasons.
- That being the case, it is natural there are going to be only a few manufacturing states while the rest will be consuming states. To have a council where the manufacturing state has one vote whereas all other states, likely consumers, also have a vote each is unfair.
- Governments that were elected laid an emphasis of social spending. Sometimes they paid for it by levying new forms of indirect taxes. What the GST does is take this power away from a state government.
- The rates for both, the CGST and the SGST, will be fixed by the GST Council, whose members will be State finance/revenue ministers and chairman will be the Union finance minister. Once the rates are set by the GST Council, individual States will lose their right to tax whichever commodities they want at the rates they want.
- The GST council, arguably, makes the states significant decision partners in national-level macro-economic management.
- collectively, they will have to be mindful of the aggregate national-level macro-economic impact on things like inflation. In short, the states will have to think nationally as well.
Topic:Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these
Reasons why procedures of India’s parliament need to be reformed are:-
- The circular edifice of parliament are the rules of procedure that govern its functioning. The last major procedural change was in the early 1990s when the standing committee system was introduced
- Therefore the rules applicable in the two houses while being broadly similar differ on some aspects.
- For example, Rajya Sabha MPs are required to declare their financial interests in a register maintained by their committee of ethics. However, Lok Sabha MPs do not have a similar requirement.
- The rules committee of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have produced a total of 14 reports in the past 15 years recommending changes in the functioning of the two houses.
- Currently all bills are not referred to standing committees for scrutiny:
- When the government wants to push certain legislation through parliament quickly it can request the presiding officer of a house to not refer the bill to a committee. While this ensures quick passage of legislation it also means that parliamentary scrutiny is compromised.
- During the last five years, about a fourth of all Bills were passed in Lok Sabha within 30 minutes, i.e., with practically no debate
- Changing the rules of procedure making it mandatory for all bills to be examined by committees will strengthen parliament’s law making ability.
- Similarly, at times, the government tries to introduce, discuss and pass a bill on the same day. Suspension of certain procedures in the rule book gives the government the ability to do so.
- Mandating that bills can only be passed after members of the house have been given a reasonable time to study the bills will ensure that MPs are able to contribute effectively to legislative discussions.
- Also, there is no record in most cases of how MPs voted. Most Bills are passed by voice vote, and one does not know how, or even whether, each MP voted on it. As discussed last week, it should be mandatory to record the votes on Bills to bring greater transparency and accountability of the MP to his voters.
- In practice, only government Bills are passed into law:
- Only 14 private members’ Bills have been passed in India’s history, the last one in 1970.
- Contrast this with the British Parliament, which passed 17 private members’ Bills in the three years since the last elections in 2010.
- Providing greater importance to private members’ Bills would enable a new law to be made, without government sponsorship, if an MP can convince others of the merits of the proposal. This reform is needed to make MPs true “legislators”.
- The performance of committees is also not consistent:
- For example, the human resource development ministry’s standing committee examined over 100 witnesses from a range of stakeholders while examining the Copyright (Amendment) Bill but did not hear even a single non-government person while examining the Educational Tribunals Bill.
- Committees should also be provided with an adequate number of researchers to help them understand complex and technical issues; at present they do not have any research staff.
- The post-legislative step of overseeing the rules and regulations made by the government following the enactment of a law also needs to be overhauled.
- Currently, each House has a committee on subordinate legislation that examines rules.
- However, these committees rarely engage with stakeholders: during the five years of the 14th Lok Sabha, just one witness was invited and in the first three years of the 15th Lok Sabha, three witnesses deposed.
- Also, any member may move a motion to amend or repeal a rule. However, no rule has been amended using this procedure, though four such motions have been moved in the last five years.
- The number of days on which the Houses of Parliament sit each year and the time that is devoted to transacting business has come down considerably in recent years.
- Parliament was conceived as the legislature or the law-making body, but of late law- making has ceased to be even the most important of its functions either qualitatively or quantitatively.
- From about 48 per cent, it has comedown to occupy less than 13 per cent of its time. The character of Parliament has also changed as a result of changes in membership composition.
- There has been a distinct change in the content, canvas and culture of debates right from the first Lok Sabha days.
- In the earlier Lok Sabhas, there was much greater emphasis on discussion of national and international issues.
- Increasingly more regional and even local problems are coming to acquire greater relevance and importance for the members.
- Members are increasingly looking at national problems from regional, communal, linguistic or otherwise parochial angles rather than the other way round.
- The information explosion, the technological revolution, the growing magnitude and complexities of modern administration cast upon Parliament other vastly extended responsibilities.
- Inadequacy of time, information and expertise with Parliament results in poor quality legislation and unsatisfactory parliamentary surveillance over administration.
- Inadequacy of education and training in the sophisticated mechanics of parliamentary polity and the working procedures of modern parliamentary institutions has adversely affected the performance of both the legislators and the bureaucracy.
- In today’s situation, there is every case for appointment of a Parliamentary Reforms Commission or a Study of Parliament Group (as was done in the UK) to consider the various issues and policy options to make Parliament a more effective instrument of socio-economic development and national rejuvenation.
Topic: Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein
5) Political parties are disrupting Parliament demanding fulfilment of the promise of Special Category State status to Andhra Pradesh following the creation of Telangana. Why is Andhra Pradesh demanding Special Category status? What benefits does Special Category status provide? Examine. (200 Words)
- In 1969, the Fifth Finance Commission proposed Special Category States based on recommendations made by the National Development Council. The idea was to give preferential treatment to certain states that were deemed disadvantaged, by allocating more central funds and tax concessions.
- The criteria for granting special status were :
1) a lot of hilly terrain
2) economic and social backwardness and lack of infrastructure
3) a large tribal population
4) international borders
5) non-viable nature of finances.
- Assam, Nagaland, and J&K were the first to get Special Category State status; subsequently Arunachal, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura, Himachal, and Uttarakhand got it too.
Why is Andhra demanding special category status?
- The 2014 bifurcation has left the successor state with several disadvantages
- Revenue deficit of approximately Rs 20,000 crore.
- 70% of the revenue of undivided AP came from Hyderabad, which is now in Telangana.
- Hudhud cyclone and drought-like conditions in some districts last year compounded problems.
- The previous government had promised to bridge the revenue deficit, apart from industry incentives, a special development package, assistance to develop the state capital, and Special Category status.
- The expectations from the Centre in the form of funding to build the capital, Amaravati, the Polavaram dam, and infrastructure projects like Metros in Vijayawada and Vizag, have not fructified.
- AP has lost significant resource base and is at a disadvantage compared with its revenue-surplus neighbours.
- Revenue deficit of approximately Rs 20,000 crore.
Benefits of special category status:-
- SCS states would get 30% of the normal central assistance with the remaining 70% being split among other states based on their population, per capita income, and fiscal performance.
- Special Category states would also get concessions in income-tax rates, excise and Customs duties.
- Additional funds for centrally-sponsored schemes and special projects could also be granted, with the Centre bearing 90% of the cost.
- External aid was also devolved in the same ratio as received by the Centre. For general category states, the grant to loan ratio was 30:70. But all of this has now changed.
However based on the recommendations of the fourteenth financial commission special category status has been dismantled .
Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability
- The ability of a government to administer its territory effectively is defined as state capacity.
India can build state capacity by concentrating on the following areas:
- Administrative reforms:-
- In Indian state machinery being a civil servant is a permanent job. There is no practice of weeding the poor performers out of the system at regular intervals.
- The number of lateral entrants, as a result of firm opposition by the “insiders”, also remains minuscule. Lateral entry will help in bridging the deficit of numbers and also provide much-needed expertise in the process of policymaking and execution.
- Police reforms:-
- The shortage of police forces too is acute in India. The UN recommends 222 cops per 100,000 population; India’s number is around 140.
- The situation in many backward states is much worse Bihar’s cops-to-population ratio is roughly half of India’s average.
- the problems of politicization of the force, institutional issues such as non-separation of the investigation arm from the law and order maintenance arm, and the terrible state of stations and equipment are the additional woes.
- Judicial reforms:-
- The number of pending cases in Indian courts is pegged at a number upwards of 30 million, around two-thirds of which are lying in the district courts.
- The overall battle on judicial reforms—increasing capacity, repealing old laws, incorporating technology is long and arduous.
So all these reforms can help India build state capacity for facing effective challenges like terrorism and be an epitome of good governance.
General Studies – 3
7) India leads the world in road crash deaths and injuries. In your opinion, who is to be blamed for this? What measures should be taken by concerned authorities to prevent deaths due to road accidents? Discuss. (200 Words)
- The antiquated traffic management and transportation system resulted in 1,50,000 deaths and left more than half a million injured last year,affirming the country’s status as among the riskiest in the world for road users.
- Data also show that more than half of those killed last year were in the productive age group of 15 to 34, pointing to a calamitous loss of young lives.
- India accounts for 5 lakh road accidents annually in which 1.5 lakh people die and another 3 lakh are crippled for life. The loss due to this is equivalent to 3 per cent of the GDP of the country.
- Over the years, India has seen a steep rise in road accidents. According to a report on road accidents in India released by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, 2015 has seen the greatest rise in number of accidents in five years- 12,023 accidents more than the previous years.
Who is to be blamed for this?
- In a majority of road accident cases (more than 75 per cent in 2015), the blame is primarily placed on the driver according to government analysis.
- even victims are often booked for “negligence” in many cases involving poorly designed and maintained roads.
- However blaming on the driver entirely is a faulty mechanism.There are other institutions to be blamed as well
- slow pace is best exemplified by the fact that it was only in 2014 that ‘potholes’, among other causes, found a mention in the official figures as factors causing accidents.
- There are no established robust data collection systems to ascertain the causes of crashes, track their effects on the victims through a national trauma registry.
- In Cambodia, the Road Crash and Victim Information System combines data collected from both the police as well as the hospitals.
- India lacks both a crash investigation system as well as a trauma registry, and has a antique method of ascertaining the causes of road deaths.
- When an accident occurs, the document which is relied upon to ascertain the cause is the FIR, which is prepared by the police.
- Due to lack of proper training, the police are unable to capture the various human, infrastructural, and vehicular factors that play a vital role in each accident.
- The primary gap lies in the current legislative framework that governs road safety in India.
- The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, is silent on fixing accountability for road accidents that are caused due to poorly designed and maintained roads.
- So it is left to the police to use their discretion, which in the present scenario always results in all the blame being heaped on the driver.
Some measures have already been taken to address this issue by states and centre:-
- Will conduct road safety audit of 3,000 km of central and state highways this year.
- Also planning to engage the state governments to undertake safety audits of state highways and district roads
- Government is also planning to launch a programme to sensitise and educate truck drivers on road safety on the lines of AIDS awareness and prevention programme launched for heavy vehicle drivers several years ago.
- The government has endorsed the United Nations’ Safe System Approach,and is introducing road safety as part of school curriculum
- Asking all states and particularly those reporting high number of accidents to take measures including traffic rule enforcement, removing liquor vends along national highways, notifying speed limits, streamlining issuance of driving licences and to have a robust emergency rescue system to save lives,
- have an autonomous agency for road safety – national road safety board,
- The roadmap for Decade of Action was finalized recently by the road transport ministry almost three years after India became a signatory to the UN call to reduce accidents, injuries and deaths across the globe.
- To grade the safety of Indian cars and make them safer an agency will be set up -the Bharat National Car Assessment Programme. Even scooters and motorcycles in India will have automatic headlamps on.
- The Ministry is also hoping that the passage of the Road Safety Bill will further bring down road fatalities.
- The various efforts taken are listed below:
- i) Accident Prevention checking/ standing duty at Accident spots:
- With a view to curb the tendency of rash driving, jumping signals at junctions by driving at excessive speed, non-stopping of buses at scheduled bus stops, not allowing sufficient time to passengers for boarding/alighting, etc.
- During the checking the drivers/conductors are suitably instructed and the drivers/conductors committing breach of instructions are reported and disciplinary action is taken.
- ii) Night checking:This special check is carried out twice in a month
- iii) Counselling Bus Drivers:
- With a view to make accident prevention more effective drivers are counselled personally by the Officers of Traffic
- Officers and are sent to Traffic Training Centre for refresher training course.
- i) Accident Prevention checking/ standing duty at Accident spots:
- The various efforts taken are listed below:
- In public works department a cell dedicated to road safety will be created to identify the black spots in the city, road safety enforcement.
What needs to be done ?
- One of the most productive measures to bring down accidents is zero tolerance enforcement. Strong policing reduces the risk for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and two-wheeler riders, who must be compelled to wear helmets.
- Case study:-Sustainable Safe Road System in Netherland:-
- It aims to prevent crashes and even if it occurs it intends to minimize the consequences, which include increase in size of zones to 30km/hr in, built up areas and 60km/hr outside built up areas.
- Several measures including amendment in Motor Vehicle Act ( MVA), improvement in roads from engineering perspective, road safety audits in all stages of road construction as well as the identification and remedy of black spots will help reduce fatal road accidents are needed.
- India does not have a scientific accident investigation agency
- Implementation of the Sundar Committee on Road Safety and Traffic Management which recommended the creation of a safety board through legislation.
- It is unlikely that the proposed National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board will lead to dramatic improvements, since it is envisaged only as an advisory body.
- Without empowered oversight, it is impossible to eliminate systemic corruption in transport departments in vehicle certification and licensing of drivers, and poor monitoring of roadworthiness of commercial vehicles.
- Develop awareness:
- lack of awareness of basic traffic rules, absence of traffic signage and change the situation where neither passenger nor commercial vehicles come equipped with basic safety features.
- Police harassment need to reduce:
- The general public are reluctant to help accident victims for fear of getting caught up in court battles, whilst medical help is often too little too late.
- Traffic police need better road infrastructure and technology to police speeding and drunk driving two primary causes of road accidents and enforce penalties.
- In 2015 alone, over 10,800 accidents in India were caused by potholes, leading to the deaths of more than 3,400 people.
Topic: Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate
Territorial army and why India needs it:
- The Territorial Army (TA) is a volunteer force that is recruited and trained to relieve the regular troops from static security duties in the rear areas during operations, like manning of important bridge, guarding lines of communications in the hinterland and security of important installations, supply dumps, etc.
- In case of a threat to the security of the country, the TA units may be called upon to augment the resources of the Regular Army units, e.g. some TA units are periodically deployed in the active counter insurgency areas to provide assistance in certain essential static duties.
- Territorial Army provided a yeoman service during ‘Operation Pawan’ in Sri Lanka, ‘Operation Rakshak’ in Punjab and J&K, ‘Operation Rhino’ and ‘Operation Bajrang’ in the North East. Moreover, Territorial Army units were actively involved in military operations in 1962, 1965 and 1971.
- To assist the civil administration in dealing with natural calamities and maintenance of essential services in situations where life of the communities is affected
- In an exigency where a section of a particular department goes on a strike or is rendered defunct for whatever reasons, certain departmental Territorial Army units have been raised and they are trained to take on the onerous duties being performed by the railway, IOC, ONGC, telecommunication and General Hospital.
- Territorial Army is part of the Regular Army, but is an adhoc force that is recruited from already “employed or self-employed” candidates.
- It is a second line of defence after the Regular Indian Army. It is only meant for those people who are already in mainstay civilian professions; in fact, gainful employment or self-employment in a civil profession is a prerequisite for joining the Territorial Army.
- The TA units get embodied every year for a two to three months training camp and then, it gets disembodied. The personnel go back to their respective trades in the civil; some of them are banker, lawyer, agriculturists, etc.
- TA currently has a strength of approximately 40,000 first line soldiers, and another 160,000 second line troops