IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 11th & 12th October, 2015
TOPIC – General Studies 2
Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
Limited finance limits democracy
That candidates in Indian elections grossly overshoot spending limits imposed by the Election Commission (EC), sometimes even by a factor of 20-30, is no secret.
If there is one thing that major Indian political parties agree upon it is that spending limits in Indian elections, and the country’s campaign finance rules in general, are unreasonable.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission (EC) raised the spending limit by candidates from Rs.30 lakh to Rs.70 lakh. However the increase did not reduce the number of spending violations.
Election spending limit: Backing by the statute
Representation of People Act, Chapter VIII, which states, “the total of the said expenditure shall not exceed such amount as may be prescribed”, gives the authority to EC to fix the election spending limits.
Why limit election spending?
The primary objective behind the EC’s visibly restrictive campaign finance rules is to level the playing field.
Critical issues associated with limiting election spending limit:
Firstly the Representation of People Act, does not say what the limit should be and why it should be so low.
The Indian state has chosen to interpret the Act as giving it the right to set unrealistically low limits to create a level playing field.
However this has failed, due to the official limits, candidates rely almost completely on unaccounted cash from undisclosed donors, which essentially renders all the other transparency initiatives of the EC redundant.
Once in office, the candidates must find ways to repay their debts to these donors, and often do so by favouring them through policy changes or resource allocation. Thus the restrictive campaign finance rules infuse corruption into day-to-day politics.
The desire to limit campaign finance also reflects a rather narrow view of representation. A possible implicit assumption is that wealthy candidates may not be able to adequately represent their constituencies, or at least not as well as their less wealthy counterparts. Ordinarily one would think that the candidate who wins is the one who best represents the constituency’s interests, regardless of wealth status. But the EC assumes that a wealthier candidate is not only more likely than a poor candidate to win the election, but also less likely to accurately represent his or her constituency’s interests.
A comparison of election spending limit across different countries:
The no-limits nations: Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey.
In these places, there are no limits on contributions, and no limits on what candidates can spend.
The all-limit nations: Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Poland, Slovenia.
In these countries, there are limits on both contributions and on spending.
The nations with limits on spending but not on donations: Austria, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and
The nations with contribution limits but no spending limits: Finland, the United States.
Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections:
The Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections, 1998, backed the idea of state funding of elections on principle, stating that
“The Committee see full justification constitutional, legal as well as on ground of public interest, for grant of State subvention to political parties, so as to establish such conditions where even the parties with modest financial resources may be able to compete with those who have superior financial resources.”
It added two limitations, namely
Such funds could not be doled out to independent candidates, and only to national and state parties having granted a symbol and proven their popularity among the electorate,
and In the short-term, State funding may be given only in kind, in the form of certain facilities to the recognised political parties and their candidates.
However, despite strongly backing full State funding of elections principle, it stated that only partial State funding would be possible in the short-term given the prevailing economic condition of the country.
Electoral corruption in India is a product of the institutions and systems that we have put in place.
The limits on election spending, along with the other restrictive campaign finance rules of the EC, perpetuates a tightly-guarded socialist mindset among many Indian policymakers, which often makes them wary of individual affluence.
By relaxing these rules, the Election Commission will be able to not only increase compliance, transparency and representation in Indian elections, but also help align India’s politics with its new economics.
Connecting the dots:
Even though the election spending limit has been increased, the inherent flaws within the election system still exist today. Critically analyse.
Critically evaluate the need for shift to state funding of elections in order to tackle electoral malpractices in India.
TOPIC – General Studies 2
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
A State of mind
Why Mental Health policy in news?
World Mental Health week was observed at the WHO in Geneva this week. The Disease Control Priorities project released its recommendations to governments to address the burden of mental disorders.
Findings of Disease Control Priorities project:
The Disease Control Priorities project has documented several findings relevant to India.
The burden of mental disorders is large and growing, and has been greatly underestimated.
A wide variety of effective interventions, including medicines, psychological treatments and social interventions can prevent and treat many disorders.
Some interventions can be delivered through legislative and regulatory measures — for example laws that restrict access to means of suicide (notably pesticides) and that reduce the demand for alcohol.
Some effective interventions are delivered through a variety of community-based sectors, such as parenting programmes from infancy through adolescence, and life-skills training in schools to build social and emotional competencies in children and adolescents.
Support to interventions by community health workers with appropriate training and supervision, in partnership with primary care doctors and mental health professionals.
Where does problem lies?
The vast majority of our population has no access to the benefits of this knowledge.
Those who are affected by mental disorders must rely entirely on their own resources to recover.
Many incur heavy costs as they seek cures from a variety of sources, including religious, traditional and private medical practitioners.
Stigma and discrimination lead many to endure the worst forms of human rights abuses, including torture, in their homes, communities and even in the hospitals set up to care for them.
What needs to be done?
There is the need for specialist care, such as in district hospital-based inpatient units, and continuing care, for instance through supported housing, for a relatively small proportion of people affected by severe disorders like psychosis, intellectual disability and dementia.
India a Step Ahead:
While India has the distinction of being one of the first countries in the developing world to establish a national mental health programme,
But, decades of mismanagement have led to small gains.
The government would need to look no further than to implement, in letter and spirit, its own National Mental Health Policy and District Mental Health Programme.
To do so, it would need to address the abject lack of technical capacity in most states and districts to implement the public health approach to mental health.
It will need to free mental health programmes from the narrow confines of medical school departments of psychiatry, embracing other public health institutions, sectors of government (such as education) and a broad range of civil society groups.
It will need to create a new cadre, or empower existing ones, of community health workers who address mental disorders alongside other chronic diseases, working through primary healthcare.
It will need to adopt the draft Mental Health Care Bill, which has been languishing in Parliament.
It will need to aggressively reform the country’s 40-odd mental hospitals to transform them into institutions that are seamlessly linked to the community.
It will need to actively empower networks and groups of persons affected by mental disorders and their families to enable their voices to be heard and hold services accountable.
Without these steps, both the mental health policy and programme will meet the same fate as two decades of government programmes to address mental health in India.
Connecting the dots:
What are the challenges that lie ahead of India’s Mental Health policy? What can be done to overcome these challenges?
‘India has the distinction of being one of the first countries in the developing world to establish a national mental health programme, decades of mismanagement has led to pitifully small gains.’ Comment.
TOPIC – General Studies 2
India and its Neighbourhood- relations
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
India- Nepal: The thin ‘roaring’ line: Economics, Politics and Superiority
With the hues and cries of the ‘Madhesis’ and the growing turbulence in the region on the eve of Bihar elections, India took a stand to avoid the spill-over effect to counter the long running instability in the region.
Being a propagator and a guarantor of ‘peace’, India had sought a consensus-based decision- encompassing all the section of people to be facilitated with sustainable livelihood conditions and ‘visible’ representation.
But the majoritarian viewpoint acted in haste, not allowing proper deliberations to take place and negated India’s concern for the larger good.
Chaos and Confrontations:
India’s Nepal Policy, 2005 involved India helping out Nepal in framing a new Constitution and this pursuit of stability has been back-tracked by the pursuit of denial of considerations on the part of Nepal. Adoption of competitive diplomacy vis-a-vis Nepal was a path-breaking move adopted by India to eliminate deep-seated resentment in the hearts of Nepalese population.
But the present economic blockade has started repeating the same consequences of that of the 1989-turmoil, giving rise to multiple crises, when the country is already reeling under the 360-degree turn departure from its own Constitution’s objective of bringing peace and stability in the region.
The Himalayan country is heavily dependent upon India and its routes for important commodities like food, fuel, consumer goods and imports from various countries. But the emergence of India from a ‘state of silence’ to resorting to pressure tactic has crippled Nepal’s economy to a major extent.
Though, the move doesn’t possess legal backing, it sure has tendencies to oscillate between the political vendettas of the ‘ignorance tactic’ adopted by the Nepalese leaders and the need of India to claim its superiority of being a “Big Brother” to Nepal.
New Delhi’s Signals:
India has always had direct or indirect influence on Nepal’s political transitions but her genuine concerns have been misread and been misinterpreted as a threat to their sovereignty. This short-sightedness needs to be dealt with, as the over-ambitiousness of the political leaders could put the million lives, still dealing with the aftermath of the disaster, at stake.
But given the fact that Nepal has historically been subjected to dark ‘political’ times, India needs to relax its stance and adopt the soft-power diplomacy over ‘dictation’ of its own terms.
Fault-lines of Nepal:
Nepal would do well to acknowledge Madeshis as Nepal’s citizens and letting them lead a dignified life by recognizing their natural stake at fundamental rights present.
There is also a need to recognize that the failure of Constitution isn’t an ‘imported concept’ but is a ‘real’ domestic issue which needs to be tackled to ensure survival of democracy.
Though, the Constitution, as a whole looks progressive, it must live up to its nature of a progressive path to be yielded for the society. Broad-based ownership is the key issue which needs to be implemented and owned.
Nepal needs to move away from the “times-of-need” based foreign policy to a more matured and a comprehensive one, as in the global world, policies and sentiments should be tackled carefully and a firm stand needs to be adopted to earn credibility.
Although India’s recommendations hold good intentions, it needs to remove the ‘invisible’ economic sanctions, if any, as incidents that happen in Nepal has its ramifications in India. The ‘economic blockade’ could also just be a media-hype that leads to alienation and more upsurges and thus, a closed-door fast-track solution is desired.
Nepal, as a nation has evolved and has given itself its living document ‘Constitution’. But this puts a major onus upon them to accept mistakes and correct them and not play the blame game. India has, time and again, proved its stand w.r.t Nepal and thus, has a natural right to derive answers for difficult questions that can plague both the countries.
The Constitution does have loopholes and with time, the configurations might and will change to accommodate the differences that exist but both India and Nepal should together, work out a temporary solution keeping in hindsight a permanent one, at the earliest.
Why is India concerned?
Porous Boundary: India shares a 1,751km open border with Nepal through which people pass freely but which has often concerned the country’s security agencies because of its use by smugglers, human traffickers and terror suspects.
Geopolitical Tension: Nepal’s handling of the crisis has drawn strong criticism from neighbouring India, which fears violence could spill onto its territory, where large numbers of Nepalese work.
Instability in the Region: India’s concern has been with the violent reaction to the constitution in the low-lying southern plains, adjoining India, the Terai.
Interests of Madhesis: Communities living in the Terai, especially the Madeshis and the Tharu ethnic minorities, have expressed concern that the proposed boundaries of the new provinces could lead to their political marginalization.
The two groups make up nearly 40% of Nepal’s population and the Madeshis share close ethnic ties with people in India.
Political Reason: Any political turbulence and violence in Nepal will inevitably have a direct adverse impact on poll-bound Bihar.
7 Amendments proposed:
The Interim Constitution provided electoral constituencies based on population, geography and special characteristics, “and in the case of Madhes on the basis of percentage of population”. Under this provision, Madhes, with more than 50 per cent of the population, got 50 per cent of seats in Parliament. The latter phrase has been omitted in the new Constitution. “It needs to be re-inserted so that Madhes continues to have electoral constituencies in proportion to its population,”
The Interim Constitution, it was mentioned that various groups would have “the right to participate in state structures on the basis of principles of proportional inclusion”. In the new Constitution (Article 42), the word “proportional” has been dropped— Delhi wants it re-inserted.
Constitution states that only citizens by descent will be entitled to hold the posts of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker of Parliament, Chairperson of National Assembly, Head of Province, Chief Minister, Speaker of Provincial Assembly and Chief of Security Bodies. This clause is seen as discriminatory for the large number of Madhesiswho have acquired citizenship by birth or naturalisation. This should be amended to include citizenship by birth or naturalisation.
The new Constitution states that National Assembly will comprise 8 members from each of 7 States and 3 nominated members. Madhesi parties want representation in National Assembly to be based on population of the Provinces.
Five disputed districts of Kanchanpur, Kailali, Sunsari, Jhapa and Morang: Based on the majority of the population, these districts or parts of them may be included in the neighboring Madhes Provinces.
Interim Constitution provided for delineation of electoral constituencies every 10 years. This has been increased to 20 years by the new Constitution. Echoing the Madhesi parties, India wants this restored to 10 years.
Constitution states that a foreign woman married to a Nepali citizen may acquire naturalized citizenship of Nepal as provided for in a federal law. Madhesi parties want acquisition of naturalized citizenship to be automatic on application.
Connecting the Dots:
To what extent does the move by Nepal stands justified in the ‘new world order’?
What are the implications of India’s ‘firm’ reaction on foreign relationships with other countries? According to you, has India shown departure from its past stances in dealing with foreign policy issues?