Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Are simultaneous elections to Panchayat, Assembly and Lok Sabha feasible?
The present Prime Minister’s recent suggestion that elections to the Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha and local bodies should be held simultaneously has brought to centre stage an issue that has been raised intermittently, for years.
Leaders of several parties also raised the issue, leading to a Parliament committee examining it.
Why the issue has resurfaced again?
The reasons that have prompted the proposal are
Frequent elections bring to a standstill normal functioning of the government and life of the citizens and bring a heavy recurring cost.
It is true that normal work comes to a standstill to a considerable extent.
Typically, elections to the Lok Sabha are spread over two and a half months.
As soon as the Election Commission announces the poll dates, the model code of conduct (MCC) comes into operation.
This means that the government cannot announce any new schemes, make any new appointments, transfers or postings without EC approval.
Ministers get busy in the election campaign, the district administration machinery gets totally focused on elections.
The cost of election, which is a major issue.
The costs of election have gone up enormously.
It has two components, the cost of management to the EC/ government. And the cost to candidates and political parties.
Though there are no exact estimates, one guesstimate puts it at Rs 4,500 crore.
The bigger problem is the havoc played by the money power of political parties and contestants.
Though the law prescribes a ceiling on the expenditure of candidates, the fact is that it is violated with impunity.
Another consequence of frequent elections is the aggravation of vices like communalism, casteism, corruption (vote-buying and fund-raising) and crony capitalism. If the country is perpetually in election mode, there is no respite from these evils.
Is there any benefit from frequent elections?
Frequent elections have some benefits too:
Politicians, who tend to forget voters after the elections for five years have to return to them. This enhances accountability, keeps them on their toes.
Elections give a boost to the economy at the grassroots level, creating work opportunities for lakhs of people.
There are some environmental benefits also that flow out of the rigorous enforcement of public discipline like non-defacement of private and public property, noise and air pollution, ban on plastics, etc.
An issue that needs attention if the elections are held simultaneously:
Voting for the same party:
It is a widely held belief among political observers and politicians that the Indian voter is astute and distinguishes between voting for her State government vis-a-vis the national government.
As with most such electoral narratives, this too is devoid of any evidence.
The analysis shows that on average, there is a 77 per cent chance that the Indian voter will vote for the same party for both the State and Centre when elections are held simultaneously.
This trend of choosing the same party has gone from 68 per cent in 1999 to 77 per cent in 2004 to 76 per cent in 2009 and 86 per cent in 2014.
Contrary to the popular notion that the average voter is acutely discerning of the difference between voting for her State representative and national, there is very little actual evidence of it.
We need to readily acknowledge that in a complex plural democracy such as India’s, electoral outcomes are a manifestation of various factors.
Whether elections to Lok Sabha and state legislature happen separately or together, what is important is to curb the role of money and muscle power during elections, as it undermines the democratic setup of the country.
Connecting the dots:
Critically examine the various factors that determine voter behaviour in India.
TOPIC: General studies 1
Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies; Social empowerment
Trafficking—Time to put an end
Millions of men, women and children are victims of human trafficking for sexual, forced labour and other forms of exploitation worldwide. The human and economic costs of this take an immense toll on individuals and communities.
The problem of trafficking cuts across a range of development issues, from poverty to social inclusion, to justice and rule of law issues, and thus has relevance for practitioners throughout the development community
West Bengal— A transit point for human trafficking, the hub of internal and cross-border human trafficking in India
Existing possibilities: Shares approximately 2,220 km of land border and 259 km of riverine border with Bangladesh- unfenced, making cross-border trafficking in persons, drugs, and fake currency seamless
Reasons: Promise of jobs
Trafficking in persons—
Human trafficking is a process of people being recruited in their community and country of origin and transported to the destination where they are being exploited for purposes of forced labor, prostitution, domestic servitude, and other forms of exploitation
2003 UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, to which India is a signatory— defines trafficking in persons including sex trafficking and forced labour
Article 23 of the Indian Constitution: Prohibits human trafficking but does not define the term
Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013—defined the term ‘trafficking’ by substituting Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code with 370 and 370A which deals with trafficking of persons for exploitation (‘forced labour’ not included; as well as not adequately addressed in other acts/laws)
Double victimization of the victim
The cross-national victim and the trafficker are arrested in India, they are both charged under the Foreigners Act of 1946—according to the Act, if an offender is a foreigner, he/she should be punished under this Act and deported. As a result, the trafficked person is treated as a criminal for his/her unlawful presence in India.
While the perpetrator, if a foreigner, is deported to his/her home country following the completion of the sentence, the victim is transferred to a shelter home in India and is required, as per court orders, to remain there till the court hearing, since he/she is the witness in the case
Indian laws do not target traffickers and their associates or penalise them adequately
The trafficker can be charged under Section 366B of the IPC which states that importation of a female below the age of 21 years is a punishable offence
Provision- is rarely implemented, as police officers are mostly unaware of its existence.
Delay in verification of the addresses:
May take as long as two or three years
Delay in confirmation by the Bangladesh government
Incorrect, incomplete, or vague addresses given by the trafficked persons
There needs to an increase in NGO’s dealing with cross-border trafficking as well as the lack of adequate human resources needs to be dealt with at a greater pace. Good coordination between the governments and NGOs on either side of the border can be the best foot forward to tackle the issue.
The transit homes run by NGOs in collaboration with the Border Security Force (BSF) along the Indo-Bangladesh border can be set up. Once the trafficker and the victim are apprehended by the BSF along the border, the victim can be sent to a transit home rather than to a police station till her antecedents are verified by the Bangladesh government.
There is also a need for the BSF to develop a good rapport with child care and protection agencies as well as community mobilisation, sensitisation of the BSF on the issue of cross-border trafficking, and good networking between community-based organisations and BSF border outposts.
Connecting the Dots:
Discuss the role of the stakeholders for responding to human trafficking.
Can human trafficking be regarded as a developmental issue? Discuss the risk factors associated with the same.