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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 21 December 2020


NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.


General Studies – 1


 

Topic:  Salient features of world’s physical geography.

1. Explain in detail the factors influencing the climate in India? Bring out the importance of winter sown crops in India? (250 words)

Reference: Class-XI NCERT: India Physical Environment.

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 1.

Key Demand of the question:

To identify the factors that impact the climate in India and explain them.

Directive:

Explain –

Clarify the topic by giving a detailed account as to how and why it occurred, or what is the particular context. You must be defining key terms where ever appropriate, and substantiate with relevant associated facts

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly mention the important and defining features of Indian climate like temperature, rainfall and seasonality etc.

Body:

The main demand of the first part of the body is to mention the factors which influence Indain climate. Mention the factors such as Location, Distance from sea, Influence of the Himalayas, Monsoon, Cyclones etc. Cite examples along with explanation.

In the next part, mention about crops sown in India in the winter (Rabi) with a few examples. Then outline its importance in agriculture, food security, crop diversity, nutrition and farmers income etc.

Conclusion:

Conclude by overall importance of winter crops to India.

Introduction:

The climate of India belongs to the ‘tropical monsoon type’ indicating the impact of its location in tropical belt and the monsoon winds. Although a sizeable part of the country lying north of the Tropic of Cancer falls in the northern temperate zone but the shutting effects of the Himalayas and the existence of the Indian Ocean in the south have played significant role in giving India a distinctive climatic characteristic.

Body:

Factors Affecting Indian Climate 

  • Latitude and Location:
    • The places which are closer to the equator have a high temperature. One move towards the poles temperature decreases.
    • India is located in the northern hemisphere closer to the equator at 8°4 N and 23½° N.
    • The tropic of cancer passes through the middle of the country.
    • Parts lying south of the Tropic of Cancer receive more solar heat than those lying north of it.
    • The northern part of India lies in the warm temperate zone, hence these areas have low temperatures
    • While the southern part is relatively hotter than the northern part.
  • Distance from the sea:
    • Regions closer to the sea coasts have marine influence hence the climate has moderating influence of the sea.
    • Interior areas don’t have maritime influence hence they have an extreme climate.
    • For example, the area of North India which is far away from the sea has an extreme type of climate
    • The area of south India which is nearer to the sea has an equable type of climate.
    • Delhi has a yearly variation of 20 degrees while Mumbai temperature doesn’t vary more than 5 degrees Celsius.
  • Altitude:
    • It means the height above the average sea level.
    • The atmosphere becomes less dense and thus the temperature also decreases with the height.
    • For example, the cities located on the hills are cooler like Shimla whereas the cities lying in the plains will have a hot climate like Ludhiana.
  • Mountain Ranges:
    • Mountain ranges also affect the climate of any region to a great extent.
    • India is separated from rest of Asia by the impenetrable wall of Himalayas which has an average height of 6000m.
    • These ranges protect India from bitterly cold and dry winds from the Siberian region during the winter.
    • Without this wall, India would have been a cold desert.
    • Further, these mountains also check rain-bearing South-West Monsoon winds and compel them to shed their moisture in India.
    • Similarly, Western Ghats force rain-bearing winds to cause heavy rainfall on the Western slopes of the Western Ghats.
  • Physiography:
  • Physiography has great bearing on major elements of climate such as temperature, atmospheric pressure, the direction of winds and amounts of rainfall.
  • India has physiographical diversity in terms of presence of plains, deserts, plateau, hills and mountains.
  • Areas lying in deserts and around it has low rainfall and high absolute temperature along with high daily variation.
  • Jaisalmer records one the highest temperature in India as it lies in the Thar desert.
  • The western part of Western Ghats has very high rainfall due to obstruction of South West Monsoon while leeward side receives scanty rainfall.
  • The monsoon winds of Bay of Bengal are bifurcated into 2 branches by physiographic features.
  • One branch goes to the Brahmaputra Valley where Cherapunji Valley receives world’s largest rainfall.
  • The other branch enters Ganga plains, which is obstructed by the Himalayas and advances westward and brings rains in the Gangetic plains.
  • The direction of surface winds:
    • This system consists of monsoon winds, land and sea breeze, and local winds.
    • In winter the winds blow from land to sea so they are cold and dry.
    • On the other hand, in summer wind blow from sea to land bringing the moisture along with them from the sea and cause widespread rain in most part of the country.
    • Coastal regions remain under the influence of sea breeze while interior areas get affected by local winds and monsoon winds.
    • Interior areas often observe cold wave in winter and heat waves in summer.
    • A complete reversal of monsoon winds brings a sudden change in the seasons- hot summer season gives way to rainy season.

  • Upper air Currents:
    • Besides surface winds, there are strong air currents called Jet streams which also influence the climate of India.
    • Westerly jet:
      • These jet streams are a narrow belt of fast blowing winds located generally at 12,000 m height above sea level.
      • They bring western cyclonic disturbances along with them.
      • These cyclonic winds originate near the Mediterranean Sea and move eastwards.
      • In the way, they collect moisture from the Persian Gulf and shed it in the North-western part of India during winter seasons.
      • These Jet streams shift northwards during the summer season and blow in Central Asia. Thus, helps in the onset of monsoons.
    • Easterly Jet:
      • The westerly Jet is replaced by Easterly Jet in summer due to heating of the Tibet Plateau.
      • This jet stream blows over India and pushes south-west Monsoon into India at in Equatorial Indian Ocean.
    • Tropical cyclones:
      • Tropical cyclones originate in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea and affect large parts of the peninsular region.
      • They originate during south-west monsoon and bring heavy rainfall in the areas where they enter.
    • El Nino and La Nina:
      • El Nino is a warm current which appears in tropical Pacific off the coast of Peru.
      • It replaces the cold Peru Current. The emergence of El Nino current brings huge rainfall in Peru but it brings drought in India.
      • El Nino reduces the temperature contrast between land and sea in the Indian subcontinent.
      • La Nina is a reverse condition of El Nino where cold current at the coast of Peru is strong.
      • In India, during La Nina Phase the rainfall is good due to better south-west Monsoon.
      • Stronger La Nina though brings active hurricane seasons in North America.

    • Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD):
      • It involves see-saw changes in the sea surface temperature (SST) between the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal where both seas get cooler and warmer alternatively.
      • Depending on this, there are positive, negative and neutral phases of IOD.
      • Positive IOD is a relative warming of Arabian Sea more than Bay of Bengal which is helpful for the South West Monsoon in India while negative IOD affects monsoon negatively.
      • Some years IOD counter the effects of El Nino in India.

Importance of winter sown crops in India: 

  • Rabi crops are sown in winter (from October to December) and harvested in summer (from April to June).
  • Major rabi crops are wheat, barley, gram, peas, mustard etc.
  • Though these crops are grown in large parts of India, states from the north and north-western parts such as Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir are important for the production of wheat and other rabi crops.
  • This can be attributed to:
    • The availability of precipitation in the winter months due to the western temperate cyclones.
    • The success of green revolution in these areas.
  • Record rabi production of nearly 150 million tonnes (MT) would take India’s annual food grain output to an all-time high 292 MT in 2019-20 even as the country eyes a whopping target of 298 MT in the coming crop year.
  • According to the second advance crop estimates released by the Agriculture Ministry at the national kharif conference, bumper wheat production of 106.21 MT this year would help the country achieve rabi output of 149.6 MT compared to 139 MT in the previous rabi season. Wheat production last year was around 99 mt.
  • The rabi prospects looked up this year mainly because of the excess monsoon rainfall the country received last year, filling reservoirs in most parts of the country.
  • Almost all major rabi crops this season did better than last year. The most impressive performance was of winter rice, with output slated to be 15.53 MT as against 13.63 MT in the previous season; maize was 8.22 MT (7.58 MT in 2019 season); and sorghum stood at 2.66 MT (1.84 million tonnes).

Conclusion: 

Indian farmers should diversify their cropping pattern from cereals to high-value

crops. This will increase incomes and reduce environmental degradation simultaneously. Because fruits, medicinal herbs, flowers, vegetables, bio-diesel crops like jatropha and jojoba need much less irrigation than rice or sugarcane. India’s diverse climate can be harnessed to grow a wide range of high-value crops.

 

Topic:  Salient features of world’s physical geography.

2. Account for the seasonal variation in the India monsoons. Strong monsoon isn’t always good news for farmers.  Critically Analyse. (250 words)

Reference: Class-XI NCERT: India Physical Environment.

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 1.

Key Demand of the question:

Bring out the seasonal variations in the monsoon and to analyse the impact of too much monsoonal rain on Indian farmers.

Directive:

Critically analyze

When asked to analyse, you have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary. When ‘critically’ is suffixed or prefixed to a directive, one needs to look at the good and bad of the topic and give a fair judgment.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start by introducing Indian monsoon and its importance briefly.

Body:

Start by briefly mentioning about mechanism of the monsoon and the reasons for fluctuations in Indian monsoon according to the seasons.

Divide the answer in to various months and how monsoon varies with it. Use a diagram to explain it more systematically. Do include the Western Disturbances, Somali Jet Streams, Easterly Jet streams etc.

In the next part, start by mention how both monsoon deficit and too much monsoon in counterproductive in the Indian scenario. Mention the drawbacks of the too much surplus in monsoon such as floods, crop damage, increased pest infestation and disease, low outputs etc with supporting examples. Also, include the indirect costs incurred such as increased imports and reduced exports.

Conclusion:

Conclude with a way forward to deal with excess and surplus of monsoonal rain.

Introduction:

The term monsoon has been derived from the Arabic word mausin or from the Malayan word monsin meaning ‘season’. Monsoons are seasonal winds (Rhythmic wind movements) (Periodic Winds) which reverse their direction with the change of season. The monsoon is a double system of seasonal winds – They flow from sea to land during the summer and from land to sea during winter.

Body:

Factors affecting monsoon in India:

  • The differential heating of the landmass of Asia and the Indian Ocean.
  • The existence of the Himalayan ranges and the Tibetan Plateau.
  • The occurrence of heavy-light snow over the Tibetan Plateau.
  • The existence and circulation of the upper air jet stream in the troposphere.

Seasonal variation in the India monsoons

Northeast Monsoon and Southwest Monsoon:

  • Southwest summer monsoon brings widespread rain across the country.
  • For many parts of India, this is the only time they receive rain. These four months bring about 75 per cent of India’s annual rainfall.
  • However, for some regions of South India, it is the winter monsoon that is much more important.
  • Though much less heard of, especially in the north of the country, the northeast monsoon is as permanent a feature of the Indian subcontinent’s climate system as the summer monsoon.
  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) recognizes October to December as the time for the northeast monsoon.
  • During this period, rainfall is experienced over Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh, along with some parts of Telangana and Karnataka.
  • The northeast monsoon does not have anything to do with India’s Northeast, even though a part of the system does originate from the area above it.
  • Rather, it derives its name from the direction in which it travels – from the northeast to the southwest.
  • Similarly, the summer monsoon (at least the Arabian Sea branch of it; there is also a branch that swerves in an anticlockwise direction in the Bay of Bengal before entering the Indian landmass and bringing rain to the eastern, northeastern and northern parts of the country) moves in exactly the opposite direction – from the southwest to the northeast.

Setting of northeast monsoon:

  • The southern peninsular region receives rain in the first half of October as well, but that is attributable to the retreating summer monsoon.
  • The summer monsoon season ends on September 30 but the withdrawal does not happen overnight.
  • The southward withdrawal takes place over a period of three to four weeks.
  • It usually starts around the second week of September and continues till about the second week of October, bringing rain as it retreats.
  • 2019 was unusual in that the withdrawal was completed in just eight days, beginning on October 9.

Rainfall During Northeast Monsoon Season:

  • The northeast monsoon brings rain to just five of the 36 meteorological divisions in the country – Tamil Nadu (which includes Puducherry), Kerala, Coastal Andhra Pradesh, Rayalaseema and South Interior Karnataka.
  • This season contributes only 11 per cent to India’s annual rainfall of 1,187 mm, compared to about 75 per cent in the summer monsoon season (the remaining rain comes in other non-monsoon months).
  • Many other parts of the country, like the Gangetic plains and northern states, also receive some rain in November and December but this is not due to the northeast monsoon.
  • It is caused mainly by the Western Disturbances, an eastward-moving rain-bearing wind system that originates beyond Afghanistan and Iran, picking up moisture from as far as the Mediterranean Sea, even the Atlantic Ocean.
  • In the higher reaches of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, the precipitation is often in the form of snow. The northeast monsoon is particularly important for Tamil Nadu, which receives almost half its annual rainfall (438 mm of the annual 914.4 mm) during this season.
  • The southwest monsoon contributes just 35 per cent to Tamil Nadu’s annual rainfall (the rest comes in other non-monsoon months). Within the state, some districts get up to 60 per cent of their annual rainfall during this time.
  • Similarly, Rayalaseema region and Coastal Andhra Pradesh both about 30 per cent, and South Interior Karnataka receives about 20 per cent of its annual rainfall during the northeast monsoon season.

Factors influencing South-West Monsoon Formation:

  • The differential heating and cooling of land and water creates a low pressure on the landmass of India while the seas around experience comparatively high pressure.
  • The shift of the position of Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) in summer, over the Ganga plain (this is the equatorial trough normally positioned about 5°N of the equator. It is also known as the monsoon-trough during the monsoon season).
  • The presence of the high-pressure area, east of Madagascar, approximately at 20°S over the Indian Ocean. The intensity and position of this high-pressure area affect the Indian Monsoon.
  • The Tibetan plateau gets intensely heated during summer, which results in strong vertical air currents and the formation of low pressure over the plateau at about 9 km above sea level.
  • The movement of the westerly jet stream to the north of the Himalayas and the presence of the tropical easterly jet stream over the Indian peninsula during summer.
  • Tropical Easterly Jet (African Easterly Jet).
  • Southern Oscillation (SO): Normally when the tropical eastern south Pacific Ocean experiences high pressure, the tropical eastern Indian Ocean experiences low pressure. But in certain years, there is a reversal in the pressure conditions and the eastern Pacific has lower pressure in comparison to the eastern Indian Ocean. This periodic change in pressure conditions is known as the SO.

Significance of Monsoon in India:

  • India gets around 70 percent of its annual rainfall during the monsoon season, which also affects the yield of some key Kharif or summer crops like rice, pulses, and oilseeds such as soybeans.
  • A delayed monsoon can lead to supply issues and even accelerate food inflation.
  • The Monsoon rains in India also replenish reservoirs and groundwater that help in improving irrigation and also boost hydropower production.
  • Leads to bumper farm output that keeps food prices under control.
  • Below normal monsoon can also lead to drought.

Strong monsoon isn’t always good news for farmers:

  • India received the heaviest monsoon rain in 25 years. While rain usually cheers up the agricultural heartland, the erratic monsoon left many crops damaged.
  • While crops in the ground have been damaged by the monsoon, the rains have replenished reservoirs and groundwater reserves, which augurs well for India’s rural economy in 2020.
  • By the end of July, rainfall was so heavy that rivers flooded and crops were damaged.
  • The combination of a prolonged dry spell followed by heavy rainfall increased pest infestation and disease, forcing farmers to spend more on pesticides.
  • Heavy rains damaged the major crops- soybean, rice, cotton, sugarcane, pulses and vegetables.
  • India’s main summer-sown oilseed, Soybean, was particularly damaged as the state of Madhya Pradesh received rainfall 44% above average.
  • Maharashtra and Karnataka, the second- and third-biggest producers of sugarcane in India were flooded
  • Hence, the country is likely to receive the lowest sugar output in three years.
  • Maturing cotton in the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, the country’s top producers, was damaged by heavy rains
  • Rice was affected by excessive rains in southern and western India, as well as low rainfall in the top producing eastern state of West Bengal.
  • Vegetables such as tomatoes and onions went rotten due to heavy rainfall in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Following the heavy rains, moisture levels are adequate, and most reservoir levels are well-above their 10-year averages.
  • India could harvest a record wheat crop and production from winter-sown rice is expected to jump
  • But that could also create excess rice and wheat supplies at a time when India has been struggling to encourage exports because local prices are higher than global benchmarks.

 

Topic:  Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

3. The road to economic and social independence for India’s women was already a daunting one. The pandemic is making a bad situation dangerously worse. Comment. (250 words)

Reference: Live Mint

Why the question:

As we recover from the pandemic, we are seeing disparities in women freedom and social independence get worse. This article captures

Key Demand of the question:

To capture how the pandemic has affected the freedom and social independence of Indian women and suggest remedies.

Directive:

Comment-

Here we have to express our knowledge and understanding of the issue and form an overall opinion thereupon.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Mention about the harsh realities and disparities that has been exposed by the pandemic to begin your answer. Quote a relevant statistic as well.

Body:

In the body bring out how the pandemic has affected the economic independence of women. Use various aspect such as Job losses, Lack of savings, loss of bargaining power, unequal divisions of household labor and low labor participation rate etc. Use relevant facts and figures to substantiate you answer.

In the next part, bring out the impact of pandemic on the social independence of women. Mention about over dependence on men for finances, reduced choices and culturally burdened with high family expectations etc.

In the final mention some possible remedies for the above issues like effective utilization of SHG’s, upskilling and reskilling for woman workforce, recouping the lost jobs etc.

Conclusion:

Conclude with a way forward

Introduction:

Empowerment of women is perceived as equipping them to be economically independent, self-reliant, with positive esteem to enable them to face any situation and they should be able to participate in the development activities. However, Social mores, rising incomes of men, and gender-based segregation in the job market are limiting women’s economic empowerment in India. Empowerment can be approached from distinct perspectives, which carry different political priorities and strategies.

Body:

The road to economic and social independence for India’s women was already a daunting one:

  • The under-representation of women in the workforce is both a social and economic loss.
  • A McKinsey Global study in 2015 found that India could increase its GDP by 16-60% by 2025 by simply enabling women to participate in the economy at par with men.
  • Three key factors that have limited the role of women in the Indian economy: the role of entrenched gender norms in our society, the rising incomes of men (which raises family income and makes it easier for women to quit working), and the lack of quality jobs for women.
  • The latest evidence on regressive attitudes towards women comes from the Social Attitudes Research India survey covering Delhi, Mumbai, UP and Rajasthan in 2016.
  • A new study based on the survey shows that a significant share of men and women feel that married women whose husbands earn a good living should not work outside the home.

There is a grave necessity of social and political empowerment. It does not happen due to:

  • Crimes:
    • Crimes against women are discussed merely as a barrier to women’s mobility, one that hampers their supply in the labour market.
    • NCRB data recording an 83 per cent increase in crimes against women between 2007 and 2016, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global poll in 2018 naming India as the most dangerous country for women.
    • The MeToo movement tumbled out many skeletons from the drawers showing most women kept quiet about the sexual harassment due to fear of losing jobs and affecting their livelihoods and career.
  • Social barriers:
    • Married women are not allowed to work in some religions and culture. Further, the patriarchal mindset prevalent in Indian people forces such barriers on women.
    • According to recent research by Public Affairs Centre (PAC), a major metropolis like Delhi has only 196 female workers per 1,000 workers, and Mumbai has only 188. In contrast, a state like Nagaland, which has historically been matrilineal, has more than 500 women workers per 1,000 in most districts.
  • Unpaid care:
    • Unpaid work done by women in the household demonstrates no understanding of how it constrains women from entering the labour force.
    • The lack of basic facilities like drinking water, cooking gas in rural areas forces women into drudgery to arrange the basic stuff.
  • Fixed Gender Roles:
    • There are fixed gender roles in most families, again a consequence of patriarchal mindset.
    • The concept of paternity leaves and mainstreaming of gender education in schools is still miles away in India.
    • Without the renegotiation of gender roles, most women will only juggle jobs and not enjoy fulfilling careers.
  • Gender-wage gap:
    • Unequal pay for equal work is a stark feature which directly violates the fundamental right to equality of women.
    • A government report in 2018 finding a 30 per cent wage gap even for men and women with the same qualifications.
    • Women also lack equal inheritance rights leading to Feminization of poverty.
    • There is absence of any discussion on over-representation of economically active women in the informal sector, which leaves them poor and vulnerable, deprived of many work benefits.

Impact of Covid-19:

  • A major factor is that coronavirus has significantly increased the burden of unpaid care.
  • According to one survey, covid-19 has increased by 30% the time women in India spend on family responsibilities.
  • Unsurprisingly, therefore, women have dropped out of the workforce at a higher rate than is explained by market dynamics alone.
  • COVID-19 is depressing global economic growth and causing mass unemployment, especially among women. Women are more vulnerable, not only because of their jobs, but also because of gender inequalities within housework division, education, and healthcare.
  • A tiny elite of urban, educated women has benefited from the shift to remote work under lockdown: A recent study released by LinkedIn, based on internal data for India, found women’s participation in the labor force actually increased by 7% between April and July.
  • But this only applies to jobs in the formal, white-collar, urban economy — a tiny fraction of the labor market. For most Indian women, the situation is deeply worrying.
  • With so many unemployed competing for jobs, these workers are likely to have even less bargaining power in the labor market after the pandemic.
  • Many are now depending for support on their extended families, a trend that may not reverse even when society returns to normal.
  • India has one of the worlds’ most unequal divisions of household labor between men and women.
  • As household incomes increase, women are more likely to enjoy greater support for household work since they can afford to hire staff.
  • But the economic lockdown and school closures have severely disrupted this system, with the burden falling on women.
  • A recent study by economist Ashwini Deshpande found that Indian men initially stepped in to share household chores when the spring lockdowns were imposed.
  • By August, however, men’s time spent on housework, while still higher than pre-pandemic levels, had declined.
  • And more educated men spent less time on domestic work than their less-educated counterparts.
  • According to the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, the economic shock and the pandemic have shrunk the already low labor participation rate for women even further: It’s now 11% for women compared to 71% for men.
  • And, even with so few of them in the workforce, women have suffered a much higher unemployment rate of 17% compared to 6% for men.
  • The recovery, like the pandemic, has also been unequal.
  • By November 2020, men had regained most of the jobs they’d lost during the spring lockdowns.
  • Women accounted for nearly half of the remaining job losses.
  • Perhaps the most disturbing trend reported by CMIE is the impact of the pandemic on women in their early 20s.
  • By the end of last year, young women were just beginning to recover from the twin shocks of demonetization in 2016 and the introduction of a goods-and-services tax in 2017; their workforce participation rate had climbed up to 14.3%. The recession has shrunk that rate to 8.7%.

Way Forward:

  • Implementation of the laws viz. Protection of women from sexual harassment at workplace act, maternity benefit Act in true letter and spirit.
  • Breaking the social barriers by gender sensitization and education at families, schools and workplaces.
  • Incentivizing companies to employ women and promoting safe work spaces are necessary.
  • Companies must compulsorily grant paternity leave so that the responsibility is shared.
  • Gender-wage gap should be reduced by bringing in stringent laws.
  • Formalization of jobs should be pushed to avail benefits to many women. Until then, social security benefits should be provided to women in unorganized sector.

Conclusion:

The need of the hour to reap economic benefits is by addressing the issues of gender rights and justice. Economic agency is one of the most enabling elements to shift gender relations of power, to release women from the kind of oppression, violence and powerlessness that they experience. Women’s inclusion in the development design would enhance the outcomes of development it the self. All the Departments of States at all levels, to Ministries, to Niti Aayog and its State-level counterparts, as well as to research and policy forums should work and implement the schemes realizing the importance of women in the economy and elsewhere in the society to achieve holistic empowerment.

 

 


General Studies – 2


 

Topic:  Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

4. What does the term ‘constitutional breakdown’ mean? Does the suo motu inquiry of courts in inquiring conditions as to whether, there exist situation/s that constitute a ‘constitutional breakdown’, make it judicial over-reach on the part of the court? Analyse. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu 

Why the question:

The Supreme Court on Friday quite rightly stayed an Andhra Pradesh High Court order that sought to convene a judicial inquiry into whether there is a “constitutional breakdown”

Key Demand of the question:

To explain about constitutional breakdown and its feature and to examine the recent order of the HC, if that makes it a case of judicial over-reach.

Directive:

Analyze –

When asked to analyse, you have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start by writing about article 356 and defining constitutional breakdown.

Body:

In the body, elaborate up on, the expression “breakdown of constitutional machinery” has not been defined in the Constitution and can happen due to political reasons such as hung assembly, the government losing majority in the assembly, failure of any political grouping to form a government, defections and break-up of coalition or because of insurgency etc.

Analyse the recent judgement of the A.P High Court order and subsequent stay by the SC on it. Make a case for it being judicial over-reach on the part of the HC.

Conclusion:

Suggest measures to have proper separation of powers between the executive and judiciary.

Introduction:

Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) has stayed an Andhra Pradesh High Court (HC) order intending to embark on a judicial enquiry into whether there is a constitutional breakdown in the State machinery, requiring a declaration of President’s rule (Article 356). A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India found the order disturbing and will take up the matter later on after vacations.

Body:

Article 356

  • Article 356 of the Constitution of India is based on Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935.
  • According to Article 356, President’s Rule can be imposed on any state of India on the grounds of the failure of the constitutional machinery. This is of two types:
  • If the President receives a report from the state’s Governor or otherwise is convinced or satisfied that the state’s situation is such that the state government cannot carry on the governance according to the provisions of the Constitution.
  • Article 365: As per this Article, President’s Rule can be imposed if any state fails to comply with all directions given by the Union on matters it is empowered to.
  • In simple words, President’s Rule is when the state government is suspended and the central government directly administers the state through the office of the governor (centrally appointed).
  • It is also called ‘State Emergency’ or ‘Constitutional Emergency’.

President’s Rule

  • Parliamentary approval is necessary for the imposition of President’s Rule on any state. The proclamation of President’s Rule should be approved in both Houses of the Parliament within two months of its issue. The approval is through a simple majority.
  • The President’s Rule is initially for a period of six months. Later, it can be extended for a period of three years with parliamentary approval, every six months.
  • The 44th Amendment to the Constitution (1978) brought in some constraints on the imposition of the President’s Rule beyond a period of one year. It says that President’s Rule cannot be extended beyond one year unless:
    • There is a national emergency in India.
  • The Election Commission of India certifies that it is necessary to continue the President’s Rule in the state because of difficulties in conducting assembly elections to the state.

What happens after President’s Rule is imposed?

  • The governor carries on with the administration of the state on behalf of the President. He or she takes the help of the state’s Chief Secretary and other advisors/administrators whom he or she can appoint.
  • The President has the power to declare that the state legislature’s powers would be exercised by the Parliament.
  • The state legislative assembly would be either suspended or dissolved by the President.
  • When the Parliament is not in session, the President can promulgate ordinances with respect to the state’s administration.

When is President’s Rule imposed?

  • It has been seen that the President’s Rule has been imposed when any one of the following circumstances have occurred:
  • The state legislature is not able to elect a leader as the Chief Minister for a time prescribed by the state’s governor.
  • Breakdown of a coalition in the state government, that leads to the CM having minority support in the legislature, and the CM is unable to prove his majority within the time prescribed by the governor.
  • A no-confidence vote in the legislative assembly leading to a loss of majority.
  • Postponement of elections owing to unavoidable reasons such as a natural disaster, epidemic or war.

Revocation of President’s Rule

  • President’s Rule can be revoked any time after such a proclamation has been made by a subsequent proclamation by the President. A proclamation of revocation does not require approval by the Parliament.
  • This occurs when the leader of a political party produces letters indicating majority support for him in the assembly and stakes his claim to form the state government.

Misuse of Article 356

  • Article 356 gave the Central government wide powers to stamp its authority on the state governments. Although it was meant only as a means to preserve the integrity and unity of the country, it had been used blatantly to oust state governments who were ruled by political opponents of the centre.
  • It was used for the first time in 1951 in Punjab. Between 1966 and 1977, Indira Gandhi’s government used it about 39 times against various states.
  • In the S.R. Bommai case (1994), the Supreme Court of India put forth strict guidelines for the imposition of Article 356.
  • The proclamation (of President’s Rule) is subject to judicial review on grounds of mala fide intention.
  • The imposition of Article 356 should be justified by the centre.
  • The court has the power to revive the suspended or dissolved state government if the grounds for the imposition is found to be invalid and unconstitutional.
  • The state assembly cannot be dissolved before parliamentary approval for the imposition of Article 356 and the President can only suspend the assembly.
  • Serious allegations of corruption against the state ministry and financial instability are not grounds for the imposition of Article 356.
  • Any action by the state government that leads to the security of secularism (which is a basic feature of the Constitution) cannot be grounds for the use of Article 356.
  • Article 356 cannot be used to sort out any intraparty issues in the ruling party.
  • If the Ministry of the state resigns or is dismissed or loses the majority, then the governor cannot advise the President to impose this article until enough steps are taken by the governor for the formation of an alternative government.
  • The power under Article 356 is to be used only in case of exigencies. It is an exceptional power.
  • There have also been subsequent judgements of the SC that have limited the room for the misuse of this Article.

Suo motu inquiry of courts: judicial over-reach on the part of the court

  • There is a thin line dividing judicial activism and judicial overreach.
  • While the former implies the use of judicial power to articulate and enforce what is beneficial for the society in general, the latter is when judicial activism crosses its limit.
  • Although this is a matter of perspective, there are many examples that are widely regarded as cases of judicial overreach in India.
  • Judicial overreach is when the judiciary starts interfering with the proper functioning of the legislative or executive organs of the government, i.e., the judiciary crosses its own function and enter the executive and legislative functions.
  • Judicial overreach is considered undesirable in a democracy.
  • It also goes against the principle of separation of powers.
  • In defense of judicial overreach, the judiciary has always maintained that it stepped in only when there were cases of executive and legislative underreach.

Andhra Pradesh High Court’s Move:

  • While hearing a clutch of habeas corpus petitions in October 2020, it Suo motu summoned the State counsel to assist it in deciding “whether in circumstances prevailing in the State, the court can record a finding that there is constitutional breakdown or not”.

State Government’s Appeal:

  • The HC framed the question in an unprecedented manner and without any basis or pleadings by any of the parties to that effect.
  • It highlighted that Article 356, which deals with failure of Constitutional machinery in a State, is a power exclusively vested in the executive and not the judiciary.
  • Under the Constitutional framework, it is not for the Courts to decide as to whether there is a Constitutional breakdown in a State as they do not have any judicially discoverable and manageable standards to determine so.
  • The said fact is essentially an executive function and is necessarily required to be based on a detailed factual analysis.
  • The HC order is a serious encroachment on the powers of the executive as enumerated under the Constitution and is violative of the doctrine of separation of powers and thus, violative of the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • Separation of powers is the division of the legislative, executive, and judicial functions of government.
  • Since the sanction of all three branches is required for the making, executing, and administering of laws, it minimizes the possibility of arbitrary excesses by the government.
  • The constitutional demarcation precludes the concentration of excessive power by any branch of the government.

Way Forward:

  • The Sarkaria Commission Report (1983) recommended that Article 356 should be used “very sparingly” and only as a last resort.
  • The President’s proclamation of President’s Rule should include reasons as to why he thinks the state cannot run normally.
  • Whenever possible, the centre should give the state government a warning before imposing Article 356.
  • The Article should not be used for settling political scores.
  • The commission recommended the amendment of the article in order for the President to be authorised to dissolve the state legislature only after getting parliamentary approval.
  • The Punchhi Commission recommended that the centre should try to bring only a specific troubled area under its jurisdiction and that too for a brief period, not more than three months.
  • The commission recommended that suitable amendments should be made to incorporate the guidelines established by SC in the Bommai case.
  • The commission recommended the provision of a ‘Localized Emergency’ which implies that the centre can tackle issues at town/district (local) level without dissolving the state legislative assembly while at the same time, performing the duty of the Union to protect States as per Article 355.

 

 


General Studies – 3


 

Topic:  Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

5. What are the major causes of Industrial Disputes in India? With India on the cusp of a new labour law regime being marketed as a business-friendly regimen, misgivings about their provisions or unresponsive systems for employees’ grievances can only foment more such unrest. Examine. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu 

Why the question:

On Saturday, Apple placed all fresh production orders on hold for its Taiwanese supplier Wistron. The trigger was one of the biggest expressions of industrial unrest in India in recent years — at a new facility set up by the firm in Kolar, Karnataka,

Key Demand of the question:

To identify the major causes industrial disputes in India and bring out the impact of recent unrest on India.

Directive:

Examine –

When asked to ‘Examine’, we must look into the topic (content words) in detail, inspect it, investigate it and establish the key facts and issues related to the topic in question. While doing so we should explain why these facts and issues are important and their implications.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start by giving context to you answer about the recent violence at the Wistron Plant in Karnataka and the losses accrued the premium suppliers.

Body:

In the body, mention about the major causes of Industrial disputes in India such as Demand for Wages and Allowances, Demand for Bonus, Personnel and Retrenchment, Demand for Improved Working Conditions, demand for improved working conditions such as leave, lesser hours of work, better working conditions like better safe measures, canteen facilities etc, employers’ apathy to recognise trade unions, strikes of political nature and Lock-Outs etc. Mention some examples of major industrial disputes such as violence at Maruti’s Manesar Plant etc.

In the next part bring out the impact of such disputes on Indian economy, ease of doing business, invest sentiment and employment opportunities etc.

Suggest solution to the above problems both on the industry side as well as the workers side. Bring out how the new labor laws can help prevent such disputes

Conclusion:

Conclude with a way forward.

Introduction:

In capitalist and mixed economy, industrial disputes are very much common. Industrial disputes are the result of conflicts between employers and workers. While the employers are always trying to resist increase in wages and also try to increase the hours of work but the workers or employees are organizing themselves through trade union for raising their wages along with betterment of other conditions of work.

Body:

Major causes of Industrial Disputes in India:

  • Demand for Wages and Allowances:
    • The most striking cause of industrial disputes in India is the demand for higher wages and allowances by the workers.
    • While the price level has been increasing constantly at a higher rate but the increase in the rate of wages could not keep pace with it.
    • This led to a situation where workers resort to strike for raising their rate of wages.
    • In India most of the industrial disputes have resulted from demand for the higher wages.
    • If steps could have been taken for ensuring a system of automatic adjustment process in the wages and prices, then the number of disputes would have been reduced to minimum.
  • Demand for Bonus:
    • Another important cause of industrial disputes in India is the demand for bonus by the workers.
    • This has resulted from workers’ increasing demand to share profits of the industrial units and employers’ non-acceptance of this provision.
    • During emergency the government reversed its decision and reduced the rate of bonus from 8.33 per cent to 4 per cent.
    • Later on, the rate of minimum bonus was raised to 8.33 per cent again.
    • The economic demand for workers, i.e., for wages and bonus has resulted in about 46 to 50 per cent of industrial disputes in India during 1961-71 and during 1976-84 wages and bonus has been responsible for 32 to 40 per cent of industrial disputes in the country.
  • Personnel and Retrenchment:
    • Another important cause of industrial dispute in India is the retrenchment and personnel which accounted nearly 29 per cent of the total disputes during 1961-76.
    • During 1981-84, these causes resulted in about 21 to 22 per cent of the total industrial disputes occurred in the country.
  • Demand for Improved Working Conditions:
    • Industrial disputes in India has also resulted from demand for improved working conditions such as leave, lesser hours of work, better working conditions like better safe measures, canteen facilities etc.
    • About 2 to 3 per cent of the total disputes is resulted from such demand.
  • Other Causes:
    • There are varieties of other causes which are also very much responsible for higher incidence of industrial disputes in the country.
    • These causes include introduction of rationalization measures in the factory, employers’ apathy to recognize trade unions, conflict between rival unions, insult of union leaders by the employer, fear of retrenchment arising through computerization, strikes of political nature etc.
    • All these other causes are responsible for about 30 per cent of the disputes during 1961 and 1976 and around 40 per cent during 1981-86.
  • Lock-Outs:
    • Lock-out declared by the employers to counter the militant workers is also another important cause of industrial disputes in the country. Lock out is the result of prolonged strikes and irresponsible trade unionism.
    • The major causes of increasing number of lock outs are:
      • Lower labor productivity
      • rising wage rate
      • Increasing competition arising through the introduction of liberalization policy,
      • Higher degree of bargaining power of employer etc.
    • Thus the bargaining power of the trade unions has weakened considerably due to the policy of liberalization and restructuring introduced in the country in recent years.

Policy of the Government:

  • Growing industrial disputes is not a healthy sign of industrial development in the country.
  • Thus, from the very beginning the Government has been taking various steps and policies for the settlements of industrial disputes in the country.
  • The main objectives of industrial relation policy of India are:
    • Prevention and peaceful settlement of industrial disputes and Promotion of better industrial relations.
  • The Industrial Disputes Act 1947 and its Amendments in 1956:
    • In order to prevent and settle the industrial disputes, the Government of India passed the Industrial Disputes Act in 1947 which was later on amended in 1956.

Following are some of the provisions of the Act to settle industrial disputes in the country:

  • Work Committees:
    • Work committees are to be formed taking the employers and employees together for all undertakings employing 100 or more workers for maintaining good relations between them.
    • At the end of December 1987, work committees were functioning in 546 establishments.
  • Conciliation:
    • This Act permits the Government to appoint conciliation officers and also to constitute board of conciliation, representing employers and workers for the settlement of such disputes.
  • Court of Enquiry:
    • When conciliation failed to yield any result then the matter must be referred to court of enquiry for making investigation on the dispute and report it to the Government.
  • Labor Courts:
    • Labor Courts were set up by the State Governments to consider the disputed matters like dismissal, suspension of employees, legality of strikes and lock-outs etc.
  • Industrial Tribunals:
    • Two types of industrial tribunals were set up by the Government which includes: state tribunals and national tribunals.
    • These tribunals are adjudicating disputes relating to wages, bonus, profit sharing etc.
    • The adjudications of these tribunals have a binding on the concerned parties.
  • Formation of joint management Councils with the participation of workers in the management for bringing better relationship between management and labor
  • Introducing code of discipline evolved in Indian Labor Conference 1958 by which the employers and workers voluntarily agree to maintain mutual trust and co-operation within the industrial unit
  • Adopting industrial truce resolutions in 1962 by the central organization of employers and employees pledging neither to interrupt nor to slow down production
  • Setting up of National Arbitration Promotion Board in July, 1967 by the Government for settling industrial disputes.

Salient Features of Labor Regulations in India:

  • India has a federal government and the Constitution has demarcated law making authority between the centre and the states through the Union list, State List and the Concurrent List.
  • Regulation of labour is on the Union List but certain aspects such as industrial disputes and social security also figure on the Concurrent List.
  • As a result, both the Parliament and state legislatures have been enacting labor laws and there is multiplicity of such laws.
  • State amendments provide mostly for minor variations, but sometimes for more significant ones, without departing from the main thrust of the central enactment.
  • According to the list given in the Annual Report of the Ministry of Labour and Employment for 2013-14, there are at present 44 extant enactments of the central government.
  • In addition, there are some 160 state level enactments containing supplementary provisions.
  • A general comment is that the uncertainty caused by complex, overlapping and outdated laws is influencing ‘labour market outcomes’ in India.
  • In order to eliminate the widely perceived deficiencies in labour regulations, the National Commission on Labour (2002) had recommended the clubbing of the laws into five or more groups relating to industrial relations, wages, social security, safety, welfare and working conditions etc.

The biggest concern: Exploitation of labour:

  • Meanwhile, the new labour law changes are also seen as a bane for the workers desperately looking for a job to end their financial nightmare.
  • Instead of providing protections to the most marginalized and vulnerable, as exposed by the COVID-19 crisis, and thus an opportunity to rectify the fractured economic system, these moves will further exacerbate the crisis for those who are worst affected by it.
  • It goes against the grain of transformative reforms, which is the need of the hour, in an effort to build back better and it rings the government’s mantra of ‘sabka Saath, sabka vikas’ hollow.

Labour reforms must also be takes into consideration:

  • Labour reform is a tedious process but once implemented, it will be beneficial for industries and ultimately help in job creation.
  • As a country with sizable youth population, we should strive to create a conducive atmosphere for industries for better employment generation.
  • The labour reforms including the code on occupational safety will reduce hassles and paper works for industries, and in a way improve productivity.
  • The reforms will give the required push for simpler labour laws, and help in economic growth.
  • It needs to come into force faster for a developing economy like ours.

Way Forward:

  • With global firms under pressure to exhibit higher standards in environmental, social and corporate governance, India also needs to up its game on enforcing compliance with the laws of the land and treating labour-employer disputes in an even-handed manner.
  • When a showcase project becomes an exemplary basket case within months, for whatever reasons, the repercussions are deeper and wider.
  • It may be a good time for the government to rekindle a tripartite dialogue mechanism with trade unions and employers like the erstwhile Indian Labour Conference

Conclusion:

Changes in the manner in which labour laws operate in a State may require the Centre’s assent. One hopes the Centre, which is pursuing a labour reform agenda through consolidated codes for wages, industrial relations and occupational safety, health and working conditions, would not readily agree to wholesale exemptions from legal safeguards and protections the law now affords to workers.

 

Topic:  Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion

6. You can change your behavior by changing your attitude. Elucidate. (150 words)

Reference: Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude by Lexicon Publications.

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 4.

Key Demand of the question:

To develop a link between changing your attitude and changing your behavior.

Directive:

Elucidate –

Give a detailed account as to how and why it occurred, or what is the particular context. You must be defining key terms where ever appropriate, and substantiate with relevant associated facts.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

In the introduction, define attitude and behavior. Mention the difference between attitude and behavior.

Body:

With relevant examples elaborate on how attitude can be change and that change in the resultant behavior.

How behavior and attitude affect us and the need to adopt behaviors which are of empathy, compassion, fortitude and integrity.

Conclusion:

Complete the answer by stressing how changing to right behaviors and attitude can impact our life positively.

Introduction:

Attitude refers to a set of emotions, beliefs, and behaviors toward a particular object, person, thing, or event. Attitudes are often the result of experience or upbringing, and they can have a powerful influence over behavior.

Body:

Attitude Behaviour
Attitude refers to a person’s mental view, regarding the way he/she thinks or feels about someone or something. Behaviour implies the actions and conduct of an individual or group towards other persons.
Attitude is more personal. Behaviour is more social.
Factors like environment, experiences, and moral values mainly influence attitudes. Attitudes, character traits, biological factors like endocrine and nervous responses influence our behaviour.
It is a hypothetical construct whose direct observation is not possible. Behaviour is visible through consequences and result.
A person’s attitude is mainly based on the experiences gained by him during the course of his life and observations. The behavior of a person is based on the situation and circumstances.
Attitude is a person’s inner thoughts and feelings. Behaviour is an expression of person’s attitude.
Attitude is defined by the way we perceive things. Behaviour is ruled by social norms.
Attitude reflects one’s emotions, opinions and thoughts. Behaviour reflects one’s attitude as actions are the reflection of our thoughts.

 

Attitude guides an individual’s behavior

  • Attitude is one of the main factors that trigger emotions, decision-making, thinking and behavior in an individual. Following are some examples of how attitude influence the behavior:
  • A positive attitude can will lead to a positive behavior. Ex: A person who has positive attitudes towards work and co-workers (such as contentment, friendliness, etc.) can positively influence those around them.
  • Similarly, negative attitude led to negative behavior. Ex: if a person has a negative attitude towards women, he will discriminate women in all fronts of life.
  • A selfish attitude will guide individual’s action in same manner. Ex: A cricketer who put his self-interest and profit above the nation, will take money to lose the game.
  • Logic or rational attitudes develop a rational behavior. Ex: a rational person will not act superstitiously and will always try to find rational behind any act.
  • An egoistic attitude will result in a negative attitude and behavior. Ex: elder individuals control their younger siblings even if they are wrong to satisfy their ego of being elder.
  • An attitude based on values and beliefs will act according to the values. Ex: in India touching feet of elders is guided by attitude of giving respect to them.

Conclusion:

Thus, it can be said that attitude guides one behavior. Therefore, a person’s attitude will define his/her actions. By training and persuading the people the attitude and behaviour can be changed in the right direction

 

 


General Studies – 4


 

Topic: Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information;

7. In a democracy, citizens are the rulers of the government and are thus, owners of all the information on public records. Debate in the light of dilution of RTI act, 2005. (150 words)

Reference: The Hindu

Why the question:

This question is part of your static GS-4.

Key Demand of the question:

Bring out the key issues regarding the balance between transparency and secrecy, the right of the public to know and touch upon the recent amendments to RTI act, 2005.

Directive:

Debate –

Weigh up to what extent something is true. Persuade the reader of your argument by citing relevant research but also remember to point out any flaws and counter- arguments as well. Conclude by stating clearly how far you agree with the original proposition.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Begin the answer by right of citizen that the information and data that the government holds.

Body:

In the first part of the body, mention importance of transparency in public records. The right of the public to know the affairs of the government.

Weigh down the balance between transparency and need to maintain the secrecy for the functioning of the government.

Bring out the recent changes to RTI act, 2005 and debate upon Amendments adopted with haste and without much scrutiny and discussion have diluted the RTI Act and reduced transparency in public dealing. At the same time, the amended Act has hit at citizens’ rights and have strengthened hands of the government of the day. Officials, now, are going to be reluctant to give information about the ruling dispensation.

Conclusion:

Conclude with a balanced way forward.

Introduction:

This year marks 15 years of the enactment of the Right to Information (RTI) law, which has empowered millions to assert their citizenship and show truth to power. A report by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan and the Centre for Equity Studies has pointed out that more than 2.2 lakh Right to information cases are pending at the Central and State Information Commissions (ICs), which are the final courts of appeal under the RTI Act, 2005. The report was released on the occasion of completion of the 15 years of Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Body:

Right to Information (RTI) law:

  • It was a vibrant grassroots movement, led not just by the educated elite but the working poor across the country, that eventually resulted in the passage of the historic law in 2005.
  • The right to information has been upheld by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right flowing from Article 19 of the Constitution, which guarantees every citizen the right to free speech and expression.
  • Without access to relevant information, people’s ability to formulate opinions and express themselves meaningfully is curtailed.
  • Since its enactment, the RTI law has been used by people to seek information to actively participate in decision-making processes and hold governments accountable.

The potential of the law: even during the COVID times also:

  • Every year nearly six million applications are filed under the RTI Act, making it the most extensively used transparency legislation in the world.
  • National assessments have shown that a large proportion of these are filed by the poorest and the most marginalized who have understood the tremendous potential of the law to empower them to access their basic rights and entitlements, especially in the absence of effective grievance redress mechanisms to address service delivery failures.
  • During the COVID-19 crisis too, the law has been widely used to seek information about availability of medical facilities, like ventilators and ICU beds, and to hold government departments accountable for delivery of food grains and social security benefits meant for those in distress, including migrant workers.
  • The RTI Act has also been put to effective use by public-spirited citizens to shine the light on corruption and arbitrary abuse of power by the state. People have used it to question the highest offices.
  • Information has been accessed about the anonymous electoral bonds though which thousands of crores have been channeled into political parties.
  • The Prime Minister’s Office has been queried about the expenditure of the PM CARES Fund set up to provide relief during disasters like the current pandemic.
  • By giving every citizen of India the right to access government files and records, the law has potentially created 1.3 billion whistle-blowers and auditors.
  • It has empowered citizens to question those who govern and hold them to account.
  • Consistent attempts by governments to denigrate the law bear testimony to this tilting of the balance of power.

Recent Amendment: Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019:

  • It provided that the Chief Information Commissioner and an Information Commissioner (of Centre as well as States) shall hold office for such term as prescribed by the Central Government. Before this amendment, their term was fixed for 5 years.
  • It provided that the salary, allowances and other service conditions of the Chief Information Commissioner and an Information Commissioner (of Centre as well as States) shall be such as prescribed by the Central Government.
  • The RTI (Amendment) Act, 2019 was criticized on grounds of diluting the law and giving more powers to the central government.

Dilution of the RTI Act:

  • The worst blow to the RTI regime has come in the form of a persistent and concerted attack on the transparency watchdogs set up under the law.
  • Information Commissions at the Centre and in the States are the final adjudicators empowered to act against violations of the legislation.
  • In 2019, regressive amendments were made to the RTI Act which did away with statutory protection of fixed tenure and high status conferred on the commissioners.
  • Despite stiff opposition within and outside Parliament, the government pushed the RTI (Amendment) Act which allows the Central government to determine the tenure and salaries of all Information Commissioners, signaling that directions to disclose inconvenient information could invite adverse consequences.
  • The functioning of commissions has been severely impeded by governments not appointing Information Commissioners in a timely manner.
  • Vacancies in Information Commissions lead to large backlogs of appeals/complaints and long delays in the disposal of cases, effectively frustrating the people’s right to know.
  • Since May 2014, not a single commissioner of the Central Information Commission (CIC) has been appointed without citizens having to approach courts.
  • Despite Supreme Court orders to fill all vacancies, six out of 11 posts of commissioners are currently vacant in the CIC, including that of the chief.
  • The CIC is headless for the fifth time in the last six years! State governments appear to have adopted a similar strategy.
  • Eight State Information Commissions are functioning without a chief. Two commissions Tripura and Jharkhand are totally defunct with no commissioners.

Important limitations that need urgent attention:

  • The assessment found that on average, the CIC takes 388 days (more than one year) to dispose of an appeal/complaint from the date that it was filed before the commission.
  • The highest number of pending appeals, with over 59,000 cases were in Maharashtra, followed by Uttar Pradesh and the Central Information Commissions (CIC).
  • The report found that the Government officials face hardly any punishment for violating the law.
  • Penalties were imposed in only 2.2% of cases that were disposed of, despite previous analysis showing a rate of about 59% violations which should have triggered the process of penalty imposition.

Conclusion:

  • The right to question is the hallmark of a democracy. Any attack on the RTI law, which has empowered citizens to question those in power, is an attack on the foundation of our democratic republic.
  • It is a clear reflection of the lack of political will of governments to be answerable to the people of the country.
  • As the RTI law completes 15 years, it is again time for those whom it empowers the citizens to assert themselves and protect their fundamental right to information, which they attained after a long struggle.

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