IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 25th April 2018
New system to measure air quality: Being jointly developed by India, US & Finland
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Environment, Conservation
- India is tying up with the United States and Finland to develop a pollution-forecast system that will help anticipate particulate matter (PM) levels at least two days in advance and at a greater resolution than what is possible now.
- The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) will be coordinating this exercise.
- Currently, the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), run out of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, serves as the apex forecaster of pollution trends in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad.
It generates a likely air quality profile, a day in advance, for these cities.
IITM is an organisation under the MoES.
- The new system will use a different modelling approach as well as computational techniques from that employed in the SAFAR model.
Recently, the Union Environment Ministry released a draft of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) that aims to improve air quality monitoring in India by increasing the number of pollution monitoring stations and, incorporating it into a pollution forecast system.
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TOPIC:General Studies 2:
- 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.
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Panchayati Raj System: What remains to be done afer 25 years?
Panchayati Raj in the country received the president’s assent and was proclaimed as incorporated in Parts IX and IXA of the Constitution 25 years ago.
There is much that remains to be done.
- All states have ensured the full and conscientious implementation of the mandatory provisions of the Constitution on local self-government institutions in both rural and urban India.
- Most state legislation has rendered statutory several of the recommendatory provisions of the Constitution such as the 29 and 18 subjects for devolution illustratively set out respectively in the 12th and 13th Schedules.
- Successive (central) Finance Commissions have so substantially increased funding to the local bodies, and progressively converted this into untied grants, that panchayats are flush with funds.
If recommendation made by chairman NK Singh of the current 15th Finance Commission to increase current funding by about 2 per cent of the divisible pool, is implemented, we would be achieving standards of international best practice in respect of financing local bodies.
The roots of grassroots democracy in the country have been embedded deep:
- Today, we have in our 2.5 lakh panchayats and municipalities some 32 lakh elected people’s representatives.
- Uniquely, SC/ST representation is proportional to SC/ST population ratios in villages, talukas/blocks and districts respectively. Approximately one lakh sarpanches are SC/ST.
- Most staggering of all is the representation of women: Comprising about 14 lakh members, with some 86,000 chairing their local bodies, there are more elected women representatives (mostly from economically weaker and socially disadvantaged sections) in India alone than in the rest of the world put together!
- Effective devolution:
The 2013 expert committee laid out in detail how to achieve this through the device of “activity mapping”.
Activity Mapping involves clear cut delineation of functions for each level of the local governance. It does not imply that the subjects are devolved wholesale.
The Subjects or Sectors need to be unbundled and assigned to the different levels of Government on the basis of clear principles of public finance and public accountability, and, the governance principles of Subsidiarity, democratic decentralization and Citizen centricity.
The result of good Activity Mapping would be to clearly identify where competence, authority and accountability lie. Giving the Gram Panchayats the responsibilities of asset creation, operation, and maintenance, while involving it in the planning process through the Gram Sabha; giving the middle tiers responsibilities for human capital development; and giving higher levels of government the responsibility of policy, standards and monitoring of outcomes.
- Activity maps should be incorporated in the guidelines of all centrally sponsored schemes. The massive amounts of money earmarked for poverty alleviation should be sent directly to gram panchayat accounts, reinforced by detailed activity maps to ensure genuine “local self-government”.
- Financial incentivisation of the states to encourage effective devolution to the panchayats of the three Fs — functions, finances, functionaries.
- District planning based on grassroots inputs received from the village, intermediate and district levels through people’s participation in the gram and ward sabhas.
- Following the example of Karnataka, to establish a separate cadre of panchayat officials who would be subordinate to the elected authority especially in states with weak panchayat systems.
These bove outlined steps might constitute a useful beginning for second-generation reforms to secure grassroots development through democratic grassroots governance.
It has taken a generation to get to where we have and we need perhaps another generation to achieve with satisfaction the evolution in grassroots governance and development.
Connecting the dots:
- Panchayati raj system in India requires second-generation reforms to secure grassroots development through democratic grassroots governance. Comment.
TOPIC:General Studies 2:
- Parliament and State Legislatures- structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
Increasing female participation in national politics
For a country with a female population that is larger than that of the United States and a thriving democracy that prides itself on being robust and responsive, India has done rather poorly when it comes to female representation in national politics.
The 16th Lok Sabha has only 64 women among its 542 members, a mere 11.8 per cent. Afghanistan (27.7 per cent), Pakistan (20.6 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (19.9 per cent) do better.
Need to increase female participation in national politics:
As representatives, we need women-
- To eliminate the systemic biases and structural barriers that keep girls out of the tech industry, victims of gender-based violence in fear and women’s sports teams under-funded. To dismantle structural barriers, the responsibility falls on working women who have successfully overcome constraints to open the gates for other women.
- To design laws that encourage better education for girls. To secure financial independence and formal employment for women. To push up our abysmal female labour force participation rates. To ensure that female hygiene products are not taxed as luxury goods.
- Watching women in leadership positions reduces the negative perceptions men have about their effectiveness as leaders. It also induces men to dream better dreams for their daughters, and that is no mean feat.
More creative and competitive women needed in politics:
PRS research highlights that the share of lawyers in Parliament at the moment is a mere 7 per cent, relative to the 36 per cent in the very first legislature after Independence.
Today, the largest single occupation represented in Parliament is agriculture (27 per cent), followed by political and social service (24 per cent).
As India makes laws that determine what our technology, public safety, economy, and foreign policy will look like in the coming years, we need more of these professional skills in our legislative bodies. We need more lawyers, medical practitioners (currently 4 per cent), teachers (4 per cent), civil, police, and military service personnel (2 per cent), and journalists (less than 1 per cent) to use their knowledge and expertise to shape legislation, anticipating the challenges of tomorrow.
Over the past few decades, women have made their mark as effective managers, bankers, professors, corporate leaders, lawyers, doctors and civil servants. These are women who know how to solve problems, get things done and manage multiple responsibilities.
Electing able women professionals will help us simultaneously achieve better representation and expertise.
- Quotas at national level:
The government has instituted quotas for women political candidates at the local level — 33 per cent of seats are reserved for them. These quotas have been successful.
Yet, there is resistance to implementing them at the national level.
Critics allege that these quotas are neither meritocratic nor useful because women in politics are simply representatives of the men who would have been in politics — wives and daughters of male proxies.
The quotas at the local level have improved the quality of local policymaking, as women have tended to invest significantly more than their male counterparts on the provision of public goods — health, education, and roads.
- Professional women can voluntarily run for office and overcome criticism about women being male proxies and that quotas negatively affect meritocracy.
But, entering politics voluntarily, without a political background, is not easy. The financial, social and cultural barriers to entry are higher for women. There is more criticism and less support.
Voters subject women candidates to higher standards than male candidates.
Making the decision to run for office requires planning. It requires overcoming financial barriers, and it needs supportive partners and families. But once these challenges are overcome the women in politics would give the younger generations the opportunity to grow up in a more inclusive country, a country that makes better decisions for all.
Connecting the dots:
- Women in India especially the working women should enter politics as it will not only provide better representation at national level but also bring expertise. Comment.
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