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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs 23rd May, 2017

  • May 24, 2017
  • 2
IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis, IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs May 2017, IASbaba's Daily News Analysis, National, UPSC
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 23rd May 2017

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NATIONAL

TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
  • Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

EVM Issues – hackathon challenge

Introduction

Elections are the test of any democracy and hence the process needs to be free and fair. With a level playing field needing to be established across the recent incidents of malfunctioning or hacking of electronic voter machines is a serious concern.

FAQs about EVMS:

Q1. What is an Electronic Voting machine? In what way its functioning is different from the conventional system of voting?

Ans: An Electronic Voting Machine consists of two Units – a Control Unit and a Balloting Unit – joined by a five-meter cable. The Control Unit is with the Presiding Officer or a Polling Officer and the Balloting Unit is placed inside the voting compartment. Instead of issuing a ballot paper, the Polling Officer in-charge of the Control Unit will press the Ballot Button. This will enable the voter to cast his vote by pressing the blue button on the Balloting Unit against the candidate and symbol of his choice.

Q2. When was the EVM first introduced in elections?

Ans:  EVMs manufactured in 1989-90 were used on experimental basis for the first time in 16 Assembly Constituencies in the States of Madhya Pradesh (5), Rajasthan (5) and NCT of Delhi (6) at the General Elections to the respective Legislative Assemblies held in November, 1998.

Q3. How can EVMs be used in areas where there is no electricity?

Ans: EVMs run on an ordinary 6 volt alkaline battery manufactured by Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bangalore and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd., Hyderabad. Therefore, even in areas with no power connections, EVMs can be used.

Q4. What is the maximum number of votes which can be cast in EVMs?

Ans: EVMs can record a maximum of 3840 votes. As normally the total number of electors in a polling station will not exceed 1500, the capacity of EVMs is more than sufficient.

Q5. What is the maximum number of candidates which EVMs can cater to?

Ans:  EVMs can cater to a maximum of 64 candidates. There is provision for 16 candidates in a Balloting Unit. If the total number of candidates exceeds 16, a second Balloting Unit can be linked parallel to the first Balloting Unit. Similarly, if the total number of candidates exceeds 32, a third Balloting Unit can be attached and if the total number of candidates exceeds 48, a fourth Balloting Unit can be attached to cater to a maximum of 64 candidates.

Q6. What will happen if the number of contesting candidates in a constituency goes beyond 64?

Ans: In case the number of contesting candidates goes beyond 64 in any constituency, EVMs cannot be used in such a constituency. The conventional method of voting by means of ballot box and ballot paper will have to be adopted in such a constituency.

Q7. What will happen if the EVM in a particular polling station goes out of order?

Ans:  An Officer is put on duty to cover about 10 polling stations on the day of poll. He will be carrying spare EVMs and the out-of-order EVM can be replaced with a new one. The votes recorded until the stage when the EVM went out of order will be safe in the memory of the Control Unit and it will be sufficient to proceed with the polling after the EVM went out of order. It is not necessary to start the poll from the beginning.

Q8. Who has the devised the EVMs?

Ans: The EVMs have been devised and designed by Election Commission in collaboration with two Public Sector undertakings viz., Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bangalore and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd., Hyderabad after a series of meetings, test-checking of the prototypes and extensive field trials. The EVMs are now manufactured by the above two undertakings.

Q9. What is the cost of the machines? Is it not too expensive to use EVMs?

Ans:  The cost per EVM (One Control Unit, one Balloting Unit and one battery) was Rs.5,500/- at the time the machines were purchased in 1989-90. Even though the initial investment is somewhat heavy, this is more than neutralised by the savings in the matter of printing of ballot papers in lakhs, their transportation, storage etc., and the substantial reduction in the counting staff and the remuneration paid to them.

Issue:

  • The electronic voting machine has been under strong scrutiny ever since it was deployed in the 1990s.
  • The Indian EVM is a singular instrument with its dependence on standalone hardware-firmware-led machine components to register and tally votes — it is not reliant on computer software or networked components.
  • Questions have been therefore raised about the possibility of EVM-tampering either by the introduction of malicious code (trojans) that could override the logic embedded in the chip, replacing its chip, or manipulating the communication between the ballot and the control units through remote signals or equipment.
  • The Election Commission has evolved improvements over time to address these concerns, and has strengthened technical and administrative safeguards to prevent any manipulation.
  • The steps include time-stamping of key presses, dynamic coding in second-generation machines besides tamper-proofing and self-diagnostics in the third-generation machines that are now being deployed.
  • A strict administrative protocol involving first-level checks after manufacture, randomised deployment, sealed strong rooms for storage, and conduct of mock polls has been instituted.
    • The EC has pledged the universal deployment of voter verifiable paper audit trails beginning 2019.
    • VVPATs will add another layer of accountability, allowing voters to verify the choice registered on the ballot unit in real time, and the machine-read vote tallies post-election.

Concerns of Political Parties:

  • These steps have obviously not satisfied some political parties which have used the logic of machine fallibility to claim that their recent electoral losses were a consequence of EVM tampering rather than actual voter choice.
  • The Aam Aadmi Party recently demonstrated what it claimed to be a possible hack of the EVM by the introduction of a trojan on to an EVM prototype; it said that, therefore, it was possible to manipulate all EVMs by the replacement of its motherboard (to accommodate a chip that carried a built-in trojan).
  • This critique does not stand scrutiny considering the EC’s technical and administrative safeguards that prevent trojans or the mass manipulation of EVMs.

Election Commission’s Challenge:

  • The EC’s challenge to political parties to participate in a hackathon on June 3, to test out manipulation of EVMs with the various safeguards in place, is welcome.
  • The scepticism of some political parties apart, there is definitely a case for constantly improving EVM design and security features in order to completely rule out any sophisticated tampering attempt, howsoever difficult it is to carry it off considering the strict administrative safeguards in place.
  • The more transparent the EC is about demonstrating the robustness of its safeguards and its determination to improve them further, the greater will be the public’s trust in the electoral process.

Conclusion:

Transparency in every aspect of elections is a fundamental necessity. Especially with a multiparty democracy and competitive politics at its rage always it is important for ECI to ensure people are assured of the hassle process in elections.

Connecting the dots:

  • Discuss relevance of a hackathon like exercise in solving issues of tampering of EVMs. Elaborate.

 

ECONOMICS

TOPIC: General Studies 3

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

The role of India’s Informal Economy: Informal is the new normal

Introduction: Role of Informal Sector

Our country’s socio-economic space is overwhelmingly informal whether it is relating to employment or other aspects of our life. However we tend to overlook and underestimate the importance of this sector which is multi-dimensional in its structure.

According to ILO India Labour Market Update (2016) and NSSO data (2011-12), more than 90 percent of the employment in the agricultural sector and close to 70 percent in the non-agricultural sector falls under the informal category. Clearly, the informal sector is not the residual sector of the economy. In reality, it is the dominant sector.

The informal sector may not contribute much to the national income but its dominance in employment is likely to continue for some more time. Even while the organised sector has lagged behind, the informal sector has shown improvement in productivity, real wages, employment and capital accumulation. It may be wrong to look down upon the informal sector as stagnant and under-performing.

Empirical data underlines the fact that the informal sector has done better than its formal counterparts on economic parameters such as investment, job creation and accumulation of fixed assets, among others.

Big concern: Challenge of job creation

It is generally agreed that a key element in the transformation of India is the creation of a large number of good jobs. However, by all estimates, the economy has seen a deceleration in the pace of employment creation with actual employment generation in the economy not even a fraction of the estimated 20 million jobs that need to be created every year as per government’s own commitment.

Recent reports on massive job losses in the organized information technology (IT) sector of more than 50,000 this year have only contributed to the gloom. Industry analysts suggest the situation may worsen in the coming years. That leaves the informal sector as the only saviour in the employment creation crisis.

But can the informal sector absorb the labour force which is entering the labour market every year? Whether it can deliver on the promise of employment creation without any state support?

The challenge is not just to provide employment to the new entrants in the labour force, but also to the millions who leave the agricultural sector in search of employment in the non-farm sector.

As the ILO and NSSO data pointed out – out of total net addition to jobs in the economy, the bulk of this was in the informal sector. These jobs, which were largely casual in nature, were created in sectors such as construction, retail trade and transportation. In most of these sectors, the majority of employment is informal.

Nearly 50% of workers are employed as informal workers. The share of informal workers in the private organized sector is as high as two-thirds of all employment. Increasing recourse to contractual workers by the organized sector is a trend that has gained momentum in the last decade, swelling the ranks of informal workers.

But the informal sector remains neglected in most policy initiatives. It was also the biggest sufferer in the demonetization drive last year but has bounced back since then. Despite its overwhelming contribution to the economy and employment, it is generally seen as parasitic with no contribution to tax income of the government and also because it is unregulated.

Despite employing the majority of the workers in the economy, the informal sector continues to show low productivity. In most non-farm informal sectors, productivity levels are not very different from the agricultural sector, which remains the sector with the lowest productivity.

With all its limitations, the informal sector continues to remain large and hasn’t shown signs of disappearing.

Should informal sector be regulated?

It seems more logical to take the informal economy of India as the mainstream which requires a proper regulatory framework to ensure that those who drive this sector are provided the opportunity to contribute to the well being of the nation while enjoying a life of dignity and an environment of ‘decent work’.

Most government policies attempt to regulate the informal sector and bring it into the mainstream, with the overall objective of reducing its share in the economy. However, any attempt to regulate it to bring it into the tax net, without adequate support, may kill the sector which has so far managed to absorb labour which is unskilled and uneducated.

Majority of the workers moving out of agriculture are unskilled and have low levels of education. These workers are unlikely to be absorbed in the formal sector.

Secondly, even though the informal sector is unregulated, it is not competing with the formal sector and is therefore unlikely to affect it. The cost of adhering to regulation and taxes will not only add to the cost of production but will also render the informal sector unviable.

Therefore, the best way is to recognize that the informal sector is the new normal. Despite its problems, it will continue to remain important for the economy. It may not contribute much to the national income but its dominance in employment is likely to continue for some more time. This is not only true for the informal manufacturing sector but also for the services sector which is likely to be the driver for employment creation.

It is not just cab hailing services like Uber that are creating a large workforce of self-employed workers including in small and medium towns. A large majority of workers in these sectors are not in employer-employee relationships but are either self-employed or casual/contractual employees.

Need of the hour:

What is needed is to upgrade the skills of those who are already in the informal sector with government support through easier access to credit, technology and availability of markets.

Unfortunately, existing labour laws have failed to help informal sector workers. What is needed is a social security architecture to be provided by the government for informal sector workers.

Such a proposal was part of the recommendations of the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS). However, there has not been any progress in implementing these.

What the informal sector needs is less of regulation and more of support as against the government policy of more regulation and no support. Any attempt to regulate and bring the informal sector into the tax network will only add to costs without increasing productivity. The formal and informal sectors are complementary to each other and any attempt to use one against the other will harm both. It is time to use the opportunity that the informal sector provides to strengthen and support it. This is not only essential for economic growth but the only way for growth with jobs.

Connecting the dots:

  • Job creation is taking place in the informal sector, there is a need to get them into the formal fold. Do you agree with this view? Give arguments in favour of your answer.
  • There is a debate in the country whether to regulate the informal sector or not. What in your opinion is the best solution? Discuss.

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