Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
Inter-State Water Dispute
The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2017
In news: In the last session of Parliament, the government introduced the long-awaited Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2017, and called it a “revolutionary step” towards disputes resolution.
Parliament has enacted two laws under Article 262
· River Board Act, 1956 The purpose of this Act was to enable the Union Government to create Boards for Interstate Rivers and river valleys in consultation with State Governments. The objective of Boards is to advise on the inter-state basin to prepare development scheme and to prevent the emergence of conflicts. Note: Till date, no river board as per above Act has been created.
· Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956 It provides the legal framework to address inter-sate water disputes. In case, if a particular state or states approach to Union Government for the constitution of the tribunal, Central Government should try to resolve the matter by consultation among the aggrieved states. In case, if it does not work, then it may constitute the tribunal. The Supreme Court and other courts do not have jurisdiction over such disputes — they can interpret verdicts of tribunals.
Issues with present Inter State River Water Dispute Act, 1956:
Under the present Act, a separate Tribunal has to be established for each dispute. There are eight inter-state water dispute tribunals, including the Ravi and Beas Waters Tribunal and Krishna River Water Dispute Tribunal.
Currently there is no time limit for adjudication or publication of reports.
Only three of the eight tribunals have actually given awards accepted by the states.
Tribunals like those on the Cauvery and Ravi Beas have been in existence for over 26 and 30 years respectively without any award.
There is no upper age limit for the chairman or the members.
The disputes’ resolution generally has not been effective- Disputes have recurred, there have been long delays in adjudication and States have not complied with verdicts of tribunals.
The Interstate Water Disputes Act 1956, has been amended about half a dozen times. However, the amendments relied exclusively on tribunals for expeditious resolution of river disputes.
Features of the bill:
The bill proposes a permanent Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal (ISRWDT). In the current arrangement, tribunals are formed when a river water dispute arises. These are dispute-specific.
The ISRWDT will be an eight-member body comprising serving Supreme Court and high court judges. It will have a chairperson and a vice-chairperson. The members will retire when they are 70 — there was no such limit earlier.
Each dispute will be referred to a three-member bench and resolution will be time bound. At least on paper, the entire process is restricted to five-and-half years, taking into account all extensions. There is almost no limit on extensions in the current arrangement.
These measures can improve the efficiency of disputes’ adjudication.
The bill provides for a DRC (Disputes Resolution Committee) to enable ex-ante negotiated settlements, in place of earlier mediation by the Centre. This is an interesting provision, evidently to avoid disputes advancing to the next stage of legal adjudication.
The bill says the Centre will set up the DRC with “members from such relevant fields, as it deems fit, for resolving the disputes amicably”.
The DRC’s functions includes recording data, noting stands and claims of states and reporting facts.
There is a provision for a data bank and information system. The new bill allows the Centre to appoint or authorise an agency for the purpose, perhaps to draw on the existing capacities of the institution.
DRC’s benefits will depend on the mechanism’s efficiency. Unless the DRC is adequately high profile and commands credibility and legitimacy to engage proactively for negotiated settlement between states, it may be relegated to performing perfunctory procedures.
The arrangement for an agency to create a data bank and information system could hit a roadblock given the tenuous centre-state relations over managing river waters. The challenge is not about gathering data and information, but more about states agreeing over a particular piece of data. The challenge is also about tapping the data to produce knowledge that can be used for decision-making.
Addressing he challenge of implementing the tribunal’s awards – The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal Award, given in 2007, lamented about legal ambiguities which prevented it from recommending an institutional mechanism to implement its award. These ambiguities will persist even after the amendments. The power to devise such mechanisms is with the Centre. But the government is ill-equipped to offer competent and resilient mechanisms. The River Boards Act, 1956, the most potent law available for the purpose — drawn under Entry 56 of the Union List for regulating and developing interstate rivers — has become a dead letter. With this critical gap, implementing tribunal awards will be a huge challenge.
The government will do well to bring in a comprehensive legislation in place of the River Boards Act, 1956, to enable inter-state river water cooperation and collaboration.
The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2017 will surely be a “revolutionary step” towards the resolution of inter-state river water disputes if the loopholes are plugged and its implementation be effective.
Connecting the dots:
The inter-state water disputes is a long standing issue faced by India. The mechanisms in place to deal with such disputes have surely failed. Discuss how the newly introduced Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2017 may help resolve the issue.
How is Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2017 different from earlier amendments to The Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956. Discuss its provisions. Also outline the challenges its implementation may face.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
Swachh Bharat Mission: On our way to achieve the goal
India has set itself a seemingly impossible goal, to end open defecation by October 2, 2019. Leadership experts know that by offering a worthwhile, but difficult to achieve vision, you can mobilise an institution, motivate a workforce, drive change and, sometimes, even reach that goal.
Consequences of open defecation:
Diseases: It has long been known that lack of toilets allows faecal germs to spread, which cause sometimes fatal illnesses like cholera and diarrhoea, especially among children. But there is a more insidious danger from human excreta.
Stunting: Indians are shorter than they should be, and this pattern of stunted growth cannot be explained by genetics, poverty or lack of food. Being born and brought up in a place where open defecation is common as guts are constantly being damaged by faecal pathogens and parasites.
Poor cognitive development: Undernutrition sets in, leaving kids more vulnerable to infections, which in turn make them more malnourished. Energy is diverted from cognitive development, lowered intelligence compromises the ability to earn and poverty is entrenched.
By one estimate, open defecation costs India a staggering 6.4 per cent of its GDP.
The goal has surely become a mission:
Across India’s more than 600 districts, hundreds of thousands of village sarpanches and pradhans, teachers, youth groups, women, children and entire communities have come together, joined vigilance committees, made pledges, built toilets and stopped defecating in the open.
Billboards and wall paintings talk about the previously unmentionable toilet and excitement is maintained through events, competitions, awards, social media and even a movie.
The PM devotes a section of his radio address to the nation, Mann ki Baat, each month to the campaign.
Swachh Bharat has garnered international support and emulation, and NGOs, national and international development agencies have mobilised across India’s least well- off districts.
What has been done?
According to the Swachh Bharat dashboard, 44 million toilets have been built since the declaration of the goal in October 2014.
Over two lakh villages are open-defecation-free, as are 149 districts and 5 states. And the numbers keep ticking up.
The mission is igniting institutions around a visionary goal.
Still a long way:
There is, of course, still a long way to go to achieve the goal.
Getting toilets to every household in India is a huge task, with more than a third of the country still to be covered.
The biggest challenge: Not everyone who has a toilet, chooses to actually use it. Government has thus had to switch focus from building toilets to encouraging behaviour changes that can make villages truly open defecation free. Their surveys now aim to measure use as well as construction. The Quality Council of India as well as the World Bank’s Independent Verification Agents (IVA) have been commissioned to survey nearly 1,00,000 households to measure both toilet coverage and usage. The NSSO’s Swachhta Status Report 2016 puts usage among toilet owners at upwards of 90 per cent, which is encouraging.
The government’s monitoring system does not track open defecation; it tracks funds spent on latrine construction. Few people in villages want the pit latrines provided by the government, so in many cases funds spent on latrines do not result in functional latrines.
As pointed out by Mr. Wilson, National convenor of Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA), 12 crore toilets are being constructed under the SBM without taking into account the fact that they would still need manual scavengers to clean them.
Will 130 crore Indians be free of open defecation by the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019? Only time will tell, but India is at least on a mission to reach its ODF goal sooner rather than later.
Connecting the dots:
We are surely on track to achieve the goals set under the Swachh Bharat Mission(SBM). However there are challenges that still persist. Critically analyze.
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