1. Why should Urban Local Bodies have financial independence? Discuss. In this light, examine the features, significance and challenges of municipal bonds.
Urban local bodies in federal setup are bodies at local level or third tier level, whose jurisdiction are restricted to local regions. In India they are mainly sub-divided into three types, Municipal Corporation, municipalities and Nagar panchayat which varying responsibilities.
Need for financial independence of Urban local bodies:
Local problem: India is a vast country with varying local problems, one size solution doesn’t fit all regions.
Fund crunches: One size package for all regions results in severe shortage. Ex: Bangalore and Mysore local bodies cannot have same budget.
Efficiency: Financial independence increases performance, efficiency of work and better revenue management.
Allocations: It will help in efficient allocations and works with more accountability.
Accountability and transparency: It will increase accountability and transparency of urban local bodies.
Competition: It will increase healthy competition between various local bodies of country to raise more funds and provide better facilities.
Municipal bonds significance:
Finance: It will help in raising cheap finance from various quarters.
Self-sustaining: It will help urban local bodies to self-sustain.
Public accountability: It will help in accountability of municipal bodies and increase accountability.
Revenue management: It will help in increasing efficiency, revenue management, better balance sheet management etc.
Funds: Initial stages of fund raising will be very difficult.
Returns: People will think about returns on investment and wont view it as profitable option.
Commercialization: It will lead to commercialization of corporation and they will start seeing everything in profit and loss.
Urban bodies should become self-sustaining and try to compete against each other. Each body should try to become a model for others. For that, financial independence and self-financing is required, they cannot just depend on budgetary support and grant in aids from government.
2. Aadhaar is considered to be a tool of distributive justice and equality. What is your opinion in this regard? There have been certain disputes and controversies with respect to Aadhaar. Why? Examine.
Aadhaar, a unique identification authority of India initiative by government, is a biometric ID with 12 digits unique identity number issues to all Indian residents which currently is being used as single identity proof for obtaining all benefits from government.
It is a tool for distributive justice and equality:
Subsidies: It is being used to provide subsidies on various purchases at market price like LPG cylinders, PDS etc.
Farmer purchases: Like MSP to farmers produce.
Scholarships: For needy and reserved category people who are in need of finance to pursue their higher studies.
Beneficiaries: It is intended to identify beneficiary for various programs like housing, low interest loans, interest waivers etc.
Privacy: People are concerned about privacy and afraid about being watched by government.
Security: Of data being safely stored and not accessible to third party.
Proof: Requirement of aadhaar for availing government benefits and other facilities like LPG connection, opening bank account etc.
Compulsory: Being made compulsory for all citizens and proof for majority government related services.
Supreme Court recently squashed the aadhaar form being made compulsory in view of right to privacy being a fundamental right which ever citizen is entitled to. But aadhaar is an innovative project which has helped government save in billion in leakages and corruption. It can be used in progressive way as a tool for nation building.
3. Concerns regarding increasing politics in educational institutions in India have surfaced. Examine the issue and discuss the recommendations made by T.S.R. Subramanian committee in this regard.
Proximity of politics has degraded the education system in India. Most of the times these institutions are in news not for their academic achievements but for the controversies surrounding them.
Increasing politics in educational institutions:
Protest of the students and fraternity against the appointment of Mr Gajendra Chouhan as as chairman of the governing council of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).
Suicide by a Dalit student from University of Hyderabad. The whole instance was politicised.
Instance of sedition charges imposed on some students of JNU.
Agitations, disturbances, gheraos and other disruptive movements are being increasingly witnessed on campuses with potential to interfere with normal academic activities.
Political interference in the administration and management of these institutions- Lack in the transparency and accountability in the due process followed in the appointments to these institutions.
The consistency in policy making and the independence of the regulations from the whims and fancies of the political leadership is very much essential for the improvement of higher education in India.
The resource allocation cannot be on a subsistence model. Instead, the sector needs to be more liberal and independent so that all the stake holders have equal footing for their investment plans and autonomy under a free and fair regulatory system.
The systemic improvements in the policy making including granting autonomy to the institutions both at the administrative and financial matters are key to overcome the abusive type of political interferences.
The students should not be the tools in the hands of wily politicians. The decisions regarding the education sector should be far more data driven than politically influenced.
Recommendations by TSR Subramaniam committee:
The panel suggested an alternative arrangement of UGC so as to reduce political interference and to tackle the issue of widespread irregularities in grant of approval of institutions and courses.
Political parties and affiliates be banned from universities.
An Indian Education Service (IES) should be established as an all India service with officers being on permanent settlement to the state governments so as to reduce bureaucratic interference.
Educational institutions should consider de-recognising student groups based “explicitly on caste and religion” and also restrict the period for which students can stay on campus.
Politicisation of educational institutions is a serious issue which needs to be resolved immediately. In this light its time the recommendations by TSR Subramaniam committee are studied and implemented in true spirit.
4. The criminal justice system in India is in dire need of reforms. Do you agree? Give a holistic assessment.
The criminal justice system suffers from problems like long trials, inadequate punishments, lack of deterrence, wide discretion to police and prosecution and is plagued by allegations of corruption and manipulation along with high economic cost on the victim and state exchequer. Reformation is now the need of the hour.
The justice Malimath committee and NR Madhava Menon committee have given recommendations regarding the same.
Salient amongst them are
The Penal code should be modified to incorporate the present day societal, economic, and other changes.The Penal code can be divided into various codes incorporating social offences, correctional offences (parole, probation and conditional instead of prison terms), economic offences and Indian penal code (which will deal with cases that warrant 10 years punishment or more). The other categories can be settled through administrative procedures, minimum police intervention, plea bargaining.
POLICE PROCESSES: Institutional reform including proper investigation of crimes, rationalization of court systems by inducting technology, limiting appeal procedures to a minimum.
The system should be victim centric to ensure that the victims get justice. The victim should get a chance to put forth his case and quick completion of trials is needed to ensure that they do not lose faith in the system and also get compensation if falsely accused.
Fixing responsibility quickly and transparently will maximize the sense of justice to the victim.
Reforming the property based bail system, provision of proper legal support to remove problem of under trials, improvement of prison conditions is needed.
Thus, India needs to reform its archaic system to incorporate more efficient practices like restorative justice from the present adversarial model, plea bargaining, etc. which will ensure a more robust, holistic and a fair criminal justice system.
5. The RTI in its current form and shape requires certain changes to make it more effective. Do you agree? Substantiate.
The RTI act,2005 was a watershed moment in Indian governance. It gave people the right to an accountable and transparent government. In recent times though, there have been attempts by vested interests to thwart the implementation of the act.RTI has had a phenomenal effect on Indian governance.
1) Several scandals such as 2G, CWG etc. have come up due to RTI
2) NGOs and think tanks use this information to come up with reports on governments functioning, greatly influencing public opinion.
3) Media has played a proactive role and more than the penalty their pressure has forced officials to provide information.
Some of the issues with its implementation are
1) The CIC has not been appointed since an year. This has resulted in pending of cases and more importantly shows the complete disregard to the institution and the act.
2) Infrastructure provided to Information commissioner-ate is inadequate. It results in delay in processing application and penalising authorities.
3) Political parties have still not replied to the CIC orders. More so, they have not even initiated a legal response to the orders. This shows utmost disregard.
4) State governments such as Karnataka have come up with orders reducing the word limit, making formats for question and in some cases prohibited questions in regional languages.
5) Penalities are rarely imposed and even that is too minimal. Having no inventive on the officials to provide information.
6) Data in government departments is not kept, not organised and this makes getting information difficult.
7) Government have misused provisions related to secrecy and national security to become immune to RTI applications.
Changes to make it more effective
The success of the Right to Information Act basically depends on the awareness of the people. There is lack of specific institutional and financial provision to spread awareness in the public for the Act to generate expected results. The government should take steps to increase awareness among the people by providing the institutional financial support.
Abusing of provisions, frivolous allegations, and asking for information with no specific intent may result in putting authorities into embarrassment and killing their time and energy to no effect. It is suggested to the general public to ask for sensible information with a good intention.
People seeking redressal of their civic issues can visit the Right to Information clinics established by the government. These clinics act facilitation centre for dissemination of information.
The Public Information Officers at the institutions providing information are found busy with number of other activities other than providing information. The Public Information Officers thus appointed should perform gathering and disseminating of information as their prime job.
It is suggested that every public authority should computerise their records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
It is observed that due to inadequate support staff, there is slow pace of disposal of request, the applications pile up and there is long waiting period. Adequate and efficient support staff should be put in place for quick and effective pro-active communication and information transfer.
There are many exemptions to the Act like the class exemptions, prejudice based exemptions and time limited exemptions. These exemptions prevent the information from being received by the seeker. The exceptions should be minimized so that there is more transparency.