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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs 24th July, 2017

  • July 25, 2017
  • 1
IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis, IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs July 2017, IASbaba's Daily News Analysis, National, UPSC
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 24th July 2017

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NATIONAL

TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Transforming Policy Implementation

The importance of constructive criticism lies  in strengthening democracy and the government’s performance. Independent evaluation of government initiatives helps in identifying the key challenges and thus improving implementation.

Mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation:

Governments in the past have devised different mechanisms to facilitate monitoring and evaluation.

  • An independent evaluation office was set up under the earlier regime but wound up after this government assumed office.
  • The development monitoring and evaluation office at NITI Aayog is currently responsible for monitoring and impact evaluation of centrally funded programmes.

Monitoring by NITI Aayog:

The NITI Aayog is engaged in outcome-based monitoring with states in sectors such as healthcare, education and water supply.

It is now mooting the idea of ranking each state based on health, education and water index, and identifying “champion states”. For instance, it has developed a composite water management index, comprising several key performance indicators, with different weights assigned to indicators. This is expected to incentivise states to collect data and analyse it to make better policies.

This approach of measuring and monitoring progress through ranking and encouraging competition among states is akin to the approach adopted in promoting ease of doing business reforms.

Issue:

  • Interaction with key stakeholders in different states suggests that owing to self-ranking by states sans independent review, reforms remain mostly on paper with key concerns remaining unaddressed.
  • Moreover, such approach might result in a race to the bottom, as legitimate beneficiaries get excluded by lowering of targets. The vision at the top level of polity and bureaucracy is unable to percolate to the middle and entry levels, resulting in limited change on the ground.

Consequently, such approach of self-ranking and comparing needs to be viewed with caution.

Transforming implementation is the need of the hour:

Independent monitoring and evaluation is important but not sufficient to ensure the success of policy reforms. It aids in identifying implementation-related challenges but falls short of transforming implementation, which is the need of the hour. The government needs to realize that a business-as-usual approach will work no more.

A comprehensive strategy to transform implementation required:

  • Working with key stakeholders to identify implementation-related challenges and design solutions is required.
  • A rigorous independent ex-ante and ex-post assessment of solutions is necessary.

Experts suggest that significant improvement in the ability to implement policies and projects in the states, cities, and at the centre can considerably add to citizens’ well-being and could even add about 2-3% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), without any additional resources.

Impediments to implementation:

  • Capacity constraints
  • Inadequate resources
  • Lack of incentives to perform
  • No disincentives for non-performance
  • Absence of policy and regulatory clarity among others.

Way ahead:

  • Identifying impediments is a tough ask. To this end, NITI Aayog could leverage available local skills for providing independent inputs and feedback.
  • NITI Aayog will need to design customized solutions depending on the impediment. For instance, a policy or regulatory bottleneck could require regulatory impact assessment to identify superior regulatory alternatives; convincing incumbents and potential losers for reform could require implementation of transformation change methodology; and customized training could be needed to deal with capacity constraints.
  • There could be vertical and horizontal coordination challenges which would require NITI Aayog to act as catalyst to enhance implementation capabilities and improving outcomes, rather than merely measuring them.
  • Further, data plays a key role in identifying causes and designing solutions. Agencies grappling with implementation should not be burdened with additional responsibilities of data collection and analysis. Independent agencies could be engaged to collect granular data and design different scenarios.

Conclusion:

It is high time that NITI Aayog realizes that it needs to metamorphose into an organization which can transform implementation of policy reforms in the country. It should be in a position to garner available independent expertise and capacity to objectively analyse specific governance or development challenges in a non-partisan manner, and design and implement solutions at different levels of governance. Over time, it must create a repository of best practices for dealing with implementation challenges, based on case studies from around the world. This strategy can aid NITI Aayog to achieve its objective of transforming India.

Connecting the dots:

  • Policy Implementation is yet to be transformed in India. The impediments are many and the steps being taken in this direction are few. Critically analyze.
  • Discuss how NITI Aayog as an organization can help transform policy implementation in our country.

SOCIAL ISSUES

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.
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Maharashtra first state to have law against social boycott

Introduction:

All Indians are equal, but some Indians have always believed that they are more equal than others. It is this belief that has been at the root of the caste-, gender- and religion-based discrimination and violence in India. Such discrimination is difficult to prevent or put an end to, since it often enjoys the tacit approval of the State, even though the Constitution grants equal rights to all citizens. In the light of this, it is heartening that the president, Pranab Mukherjee, gave his assent to the Maharashtra prohibition of people from social boycott (prevention, prohibition and redressal) bill, 2016.

In India, parallel forums of justice, called caste panchayats in Maharashtra and khap panchayats in Haryana, use “social ostracism” to punish citizens who defy conventional social hierarchies and exclusionary mores. These extrajudicial councils were formed to consolidate the position and power of the upper castes. Since the constitutional promises of equality and non-discrimination did not enjoy sufficient legislative backing before this, perpetrators found it easy to bend the rules and evade punishment.

The new, progressive law is geared towards dismantling the power that these extrajudicial bodies wield in underprivileged communities. Maharashtra has taken the step to become the first Indian state that recognizes social ostracism as an outright crime; all the other states should follow suit and enact such legislation as well. Moreover, this official rejection of bigotry should be broadened to include discrimination on the basis of faith and gender.

Definition of “Ostracism”

Ostracism refers to the act of ignoring and excluding individuals. It is differentiated from social exclusion in that ostracism generally requires ignoring or lack of attention in addition to social exclusion. Ostracism is distinguishable from overt acts of rejection and bullying because rather than combining acts of exclusion with verbal or physical abuse, ostracism involves giving no or little attention to the individual or groups.

Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016

  • The Act lists over a dozen types of actions that may amount to ‘social boycott’, which has been made a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment up to three years or a fine of Rs. 1 lakh or both.
  • The practices it prohibits range from preventing the performance of a social or religious custom, denial of the right to perform funerals or marriages, cutting off someone’s social or commercial ties to preventing access to educational or medical institutions or community halls and public facilities, or any form of social ostracism on any ground.
  • The law recognises the human rights dimension to issues of social boycott, as well as the varied forms in which it occurs in a caste-based society. Its progressive sweep takes into account discrimination on the basis of morality, social acceptance, political inclination, sexuality, which it prohibits.
  • It even makes it an offence to create cultural obstacles by forcing people to wear a particular type of clothing or use a particular language.

This is not the first law of its type. Bombay enacted a law against excommunication in 1949, but it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1962 after the Dawoodi Bohra community successfully argued that it violated the community’s constitutional right to manage its own religious affairs. One hopes the latest Act will not be vulnerable to legal challenge.

Article 17 of the Constitution and the Protection of Civil Rights Act outlaw untouchability in all its forms, but these are legal protections intended for the Scheduled Castes. In reality, members of various castes and communities also require such protection from informal village councils and gatherings of elders who draw on their own notions of conformity, community discipline, morality and social mores to issue diktats to the village or the community to cut off ties with supposedly offending persons and families.

Conclusion:

As always, while the enactment of the law is, in itself, a move in the right direction, the main challenge lies in implementing it. The law requires specially-appointed officers to identify instances of social boycott and aid the police in arresting the perpetrators. This is easier said than done, for it will require the victims of discrimination to come forward with their accusations. This will be difficult to achieve in a country where the diktats of village elders hold considerably more sway than the law of the land.

Social workers and non-governmental organizations, in collaboration with government officials, will have to work hard to allay people’s fears and make them aware of their rights. A bigger challenge lies in proving social ostracism in court, for there are rarely any paper trails in such cases of discrimination. But while these roadblocks might slow down the process of uprooting the evil perpetuated by the caste panchayats, there is a silver lining. Earlier, the State could wilfully ignore the suffering of the victims of ostracism; with the enactment of the law, it has committed to actively helping them.

Connecting the dots:

  • What do you mean by the term ‘social ostracism’? Will the decision to evolve a ‘new law’ on the same lines as that of the Maharashtra Law- yield positive benefits for the society or will it stay riddled with inefficient laws just to please the voters?

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