Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
Expansion of Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Expanding the Idea of India
What does the below article intends to say?
Our Constitution has guaranteed and envisaged certain Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties respectively.
However, since then, the scope of Fundamental Rights has seen significant expansion (especially through judicial pronouncements) and as a result, an imbalance has been created between the current set of Fundamental Rights and Duties.
Therefore, this particular article attempts to examine if a few additional Fundamental Duties in the Constitution of this country could help in balancing out the rights of its citizens and further make them more responsible towards the country’s development.
Basics: FRs and FDs
The Constitution of India has envisaged a holistic approach towards civic life in a democratic polity – through guaranteeing certain rights called as Fundamental Rights.
These Fundamental Rights uphold the equality of all individuals, the dignity of the individual, the larger public interest and unity of the nation.
Since human conduct cannot be confined to the realm of Fundamental Rights, the Constitution has also envisaged certain duties, known as Fundamental Duties.
Though the rights and duties of the citizens are correlative and inseparable, the original constitution contained only the fundamental rights and not the fundamental duties.
In other words, the framers of the Constitution did not feel it necessary to incorporate the fundamental duties of the citizens in the Constitution.
However, the post-Constitution civic life, for around a quarter century, did not portray a rosy picture, and therefore, it was thought fit to have a framework of duties in the Constitution itself.
The Fundamental Duties
In 1976, the Sardar Swaran Singh Committee was set up to make recommendations about fundamental duties, the need and necessity of which was felt during the operation of the internal emergency (1975–1977).
In 1976, the fundamental duties of citizens were added in the Constitution. In 2002, one more Fundamental Duty was added.
The following ten Fundamental Duties were introduced by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 — Article 51-A: It shall be the duty of every citizen of India:
To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;
to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;
to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures;
to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
to safeguard public property and to abjure violence;
to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity, so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement.
Subsequently, another duty was added by the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002: for a parent or guardian
to provide opportunities for education of the child or ward between the age of six and fourteen.
Since then, the scope of Fundamental Rights has seen significant expansionthrough judicial pronouncements:
the right to free legal services to the poor,
right to speedy trial and
right to live in a clean and healthy environment
As a result, an imbalance has been created between the current set of Fundamental Rights and Duties.
So let us examine whether adding a few new Fundamental Duties in the Constitution could help in balancing out the rights of its citizens and further make them more responsible towards the country’s development.
Duty to vote:
Article 326 of the Constitution read with Section 62 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951confers the right to vote. However, quite often the question arises as to whether that right also implies an obligation.
The voter turnout during the last general election amounted only to about 67 per cent. This voter apathy should be taken seriously and an attempt should be made to make voting a citizenship obligation.
The state can take several steps to ensure that this duty to vote is made operational and effective. One method through which this may be achieved is by developing a system of incentives for voters and conversely disadvantages for those who abstain from performing their duty to vote. A very large section of people can be motivated to vote this way.
Duty to pay taxes:
The tax gap (the revenue that a government is expected to receive as against the revenue it actually collects) continues to increase every year.
Research has found that tax evasion is a direct result of lack of trust among the people, in general, and the government, in particular. Citizens must believe that their taxes are bound to be used for public good.
The incorporation of the right to pay taxes as part of Fundamental Duties in the Constitution will shift the onus onto the taxpayer to pay taxes rather than the tax department to collect them.
Duty to help accident victims:
Every 60 minutes, 16 persons die in traffic accidents in India. According to the Law Commission of India, at least 50 per cent of fatalities can be prevented if road accident victims receive medical attention within thecritical first hour after the accident.
The Karnataka government’s decision to frame a ‘Good Samaritan law’ is a step in the right direction. With the increase in the number of accidents, it has become pertinent for India to recognise this duty as one owed by its citizens towards each other.
Duty to keep the premises clean:
PM Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission has received tremendous support from people from all walks of life. The most effective mechanism to tackle uncleanliness is to sensitise people about this duty. Therefore, it is imperative that a Fundamental Duty to this effect be added to the Constitution.
For a better society
Duty to prevent civil wrongs:
It is not enough that a citizen refrains from committing wrong; he has a duty to see that fellow citizens do not indulge in the commission of wrongs.
Duty to raise voice against injustice:
Today people seem to have stopped reacting to atrocities; they neither report crimes nor volunteer to testify in a court. The duties of a victim or a witness can be classified into two main categories, viz. duty to report a crime and duty to testify in court.
The state must also on its part work to ensure that the fight to bring the offender to book does not become a Kafkaesque nightmare for the victim or witness.
Duty to protect whistle-blowers:
With the coming into force of the Right to Information Act, 2005, every citizen has become a “potential whistle-blower”. While the state has a great deal of responsibility in providing for their protection through appropriate legislative instruments, the responsibility to protect torchbearers of transparency vests on each one of us.
Duty to support bona fide civil society movements:
Citizens have a moral duty to organise themselves or support citizen groups so that the gaps in governance left by the executive can be filled and the rights guaranteed by the Constitution are made available to every citizen. Therefore, it is proposed that there must be an addition to Part IV-A of the Constitution to that effect.
Reinvigorating civic responsibility:
In the modern context, it has become increasingly important to instill a reinvigorated sense of civic responsibility among Indian citizens.
This can be achieved by adding new duties to the existing list of Fundamental Duties while also laying emphasis on the performance of the existing ones.
The significance of Fundamental Duties is not diminished by the fact that there is no punishment prescribed for not following them. Fundamental Duties constitute the conscience of our Constitution; they should be treated as constitutional values that must be propagated by all citizens.
It appears our polity is not even aware of such a noble part of our Constitution. This should be included in the curriculum of high school students at least.
A new set of Fundamental Duties can go a long way towards instilling a reinvigorated sense of civic responsibility among citizens.
Connecting the dots:
The scope of Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties has seen significant expansion, especially through judicial pronouncements and as a result, an imbalance has been created between the current set of Fundamental Rights and Duties. Examine whether adding a few new Fundamental Duties in the Constitution could help in balancing out the rights of its citizens and further make them more responsible towards the country’s development.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Taking Pensions to the poor—Atal Pension Yojana (APY)
When: APY was introduced in 2015
For: The unorganised sector workers who do not have sufficient and reliable old age security
Earlier called: Swavalamban Yojana NPS (National Pension Scheme) Lite
Objective: To encourage unorganised workers to make regular small savings during their working years towards pension benefits later
Regulated by: Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA)
This is an important policy shift away from social assistance schemes to contributory schemes.
Ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5000 is guaranteed upon retirement (Age= 60 years) if subscribers contribute the prescribed amount for at least 20 years.
In NPS-Lite, the pension amount was uncertain.
Government of India (GoI) will co-contribute 50% of the subscriber’s contribution or Rs. 1,000 per annum, whichever is lower.
The Government’s co-contribution is available for those who are not covered by any Statutory Social Security Schemes and is not an Income Tax payer
It is available for 5 years, i.e., from 2015-16 to 2019-20 for the subscribers who join the scheme during the period from 1st June, 2015 to 31st December, 2015
The subscriber should be between 18 – 40 years
Therefore, minimum period of contribution by the subscriber under APY would be 20 years or more.
Record keeping, administration and customer service are performed by National Securities Depository Limited.
A Permanent Retirement Account Number (PRAN) is assigned to all subscribers.
Under a broader framework: Becomes a part of financial inclusion under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana—using banks as intermediaries for promoting, administering and extending pension benefits to low income workers.
E-governance focus: To use mobile SMS reminders/alerts, electronic KYC-based registration and online exit, withdrawal, claims settlement processes to overcome last mile challenges and simplify the experience.
However, unorganised workers covered by it are barely 1 per cent.
Major impediment- Stringent default penalties:
If a subscriber misses six months’ consecutive contributions, the account is frozen
After 12 months, it is deactivated
Beyond 24 months, the account is permanently closed.
Considering that APY is meant for unorganised workers with irregular income streams, this feature reduces the scheme’s effectiveness.
Limited government co-contribution:
Although co-contribution has been extended to 2019-2020, this could be availed of only by those joining before March 31, 2016 (revised from December 31, 2015).
In such a case when the coverage of the scheme is less than 1 per cent, many unorganised workers joining the scheme in future may not be able to fully access it.
Poor agent incentives:
Increased responsibilities: Banks are asked to administer APY so that new bank accounts opened under PMJDY could be used for promoting the scheme and expanding financial inclusion among the economically excluded.
Lesser incentives: In comparison to responsibilities, incentives to banks are considerably lower than those provided in previous schemes. Here, the incentives have to be mutually negotiated, and shared between banks and business correspondents.
Poorer reach: Due to low financial inclusion and low penetration of bank branches in rural areas, it will come in the way of the rural poor accessing the scheme.
Lower flexibility in exit and withdrawal:
Rigid exit process as the scheme permits premature withdrawals only in the event of death or terminal disease of the beneficiary.
Subsequently, the exit option was given to the beneficiary if she/he gave up the government’s contribution and interest earned on his/her contributions.
Thus, this reduces the reach of scheme considering that poor unorganised workers are highly vulnerable to workplace injuries, accidents and disability.
Scope of improvement
Removing account closure for defaults:
If there is sustained non-payment, a system should be devised by which subscribers are no longer entitled to a fixed monthly pension on retirement as per APY
But, they can continue making suitable contributions to the APY account at his/her discretion to get different returns.
At retirement, 40 per cent of the accumulated corpus can be converted into an annuity and the rest can be offered as a lump sum.
Encouraging mobile money payments:
APY hopes to leverage PMJDY’s success to expand its coverage among low income workers.
According to the RBI, though there is increased account density among underserved communities in PMJDY, the account usage is low with nearly 35 per cent of such bank accounts having zero balance.
This requires the deployment of low cost and flexible mobile money channels, which is a newly emerging technology, to improve last mile access to banks for the rural poor.
Ease of premature exits and withdrawals:
APY should provide for partial withdrawal of the corpus in an emergency after a reasonable lock-in period of 5 or 10 years.
Public Provident Fund schemes have a 15-year lock-in period prior to full withdrawal, and allow 50 per cent withdrawal at the end of the sixth year. APY should introduce similar flexibility.
Enhancing behavioural interventions:
Recently, behavioural interventions or ‘nudges’ have attracted significant attention as low cost policy tools to cause desired savings behaviour.
Studies around the world show that nudges such as peer comparison, commitment devices, goal-setting calendars and personalisation are effective in overcoming self-control issues and prompting regular savings.
Although APY has incorporated SMS reminders and auto-debit facility, scope for embedding behavioural interventions into the APY design still exists.
Thus, these improvements are urgently needed to improve the coverage of unorganised workers and enhance old age security among them.
Connecting the dots:
Do you think ‘Atal Pension Yojana’ has the potential to provide post retirement social security to 90% unorganised labour in India? Discuss.
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