20th April – Predictable chaos in Libya

Predictable chaos Libya

General Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army, is advancing on the capital Tripoli, having taken control of the east of the country including most of the oilfields.

Predictable chaos Libya

Background –

  • Gen. Haftar had helped Muammar Qaddafi seize power in 1969 before going into exile in the U.S. in the 1980s, but returned to Libya in 2011 to join in Qaddafi’s overthrow.
  • The revolt against Qaddafi began in Benghazi, and western intervention was legitimised by the fig leaf of a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire, a no-fly zone and protection of civilians, on which there were five abstentions which included India, Russia and China.
  • Qaddafi accepted the resolution. Shortly thereafter, France, the U.K. and the U.S. attacked Qaddafi’s forces and NATO assumed responsibility for regime change at the same moment that an African Union mediation mission was en route to Libya.
  • He now casts himself as a conservative Salafist opposing Islamists and the Muslim Brothers, and has the backing — for their individual reasons — of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and some West Asian states, apart from Russia (openly) and France (covertly).

Libya’s descent

  • The United Nations recognised Tripoli’s administration is called the Government of National Accord, but is anything but that, being dependent on a motley of warlords, militant or moderate Islamists, secessionists and monarchists, all split on regional and ethnic lines.
  • Even before Gen. Haftar launched his offensive, West Libya was replete with inter-militia battles and kidnappings. The Tripoli government commands no security forces, public administration scarcely exists, water, petrol and power shortages abound, and few banks operate. Thousands are fleeing towards Tunisia, and 180 people have been killed so far in the recent fighting.

Post Cold-War phenomenon

  • In 1965 and 1981, the UN adopted declarations on the inadmissibility of intervention in the domestic affairs of states, and until the 1990s the UN was the custodian of state sovereignty.
  • The Iraqi-Libyan species of intervention, professedly with UN approval but actually under western control, is a post Cold-War phenomenon, the motivation being to implant liberal democratic institutions and human rights, along with security concerns, usually thinly justified by 9/11 and lately the Islamic State.
  • Exogenous state-building and a peripheral role for local leaders characterise this innovation in international relations. The spectre of failed states became a major concern, leading to the imposition of a neo-liberal agenda in the guise of human rights protection.
  • The ambiguous legal justification for interventions not specifically authorised by the UN showed that attempting nation-building in societies divided by ethnic, factional, ideological and religious lines is beyond the capacity of any minority group of UN members.

Justifying the wars –

Two factors paved the way for these neo-protectorates;

  1. activists with rights-based agendas joined the political mainstream, and
  2. western outrage to televised suffering.
  • Activists united with foreign policy establishments, and third world disorder presented opportunities for sly expansion of mandates into new operating areas. Added to these was post-1990 revisionism towards state sovereignty and permissiveness to humanitarian interventions.
  • Relativism towards sovereignty was anathema to post-colonial independent states, especially when western interventions were selective and political in nature, and the victims of intervention lacked the power to oppose.
  • There could be no institution building in such countries because the interveners were more concerned with checking the power of institutions rather than building them, and to appease domestic opinion back home, concentrated on exit strategies and political markers such as holding elections.

Conclusion –

Whether in Libya or elsewhere, expeditionary interventions to implant human rights and democracy have a certain heuristic value in understanding the illusions of western hegemony which rose to prominence in our times and sought to mould the third world in its image.

SourceThe Hindu

Also Read: 19th April – Trawling for a sustainable livelihood

 

19th April – Trawling for a sustainable livelihood

Trawling sustainable livelihood

For a country which is home to 10 per cent of the world’s total biodiversity of fish, one which happens to be the world’s second largest producer of fish, has over 1.5 crore people directly dependent on it for survival and gets more than 5 per cent of its GDP and over 10 per cent of its foreign exchange earnings by exporting fish and marine products, fishermen and fisheries get little to no attention from either policy makers or the political class.

Trawling sustainable livelihood


Potential for fisheries –
India is fantastically well-endowed as far as fisheries is concerned. It has over 8,118 km of coastline, an exclusive marine economic zone of 2.2 million sq km, nearly 2 lakh km of rivers and canals and more that 5 million hectares of reservoirs and ponds.

Department of Fisheries – A reality check –
In a report tabled in Parliament last year by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on inland fisheries and aquaculture (inland fishery accounts for about 65 per cent of India’s total fish production), the committee observed that despite being funded for assessment and development of water bodies, the department of fisheries had not reported any actual work carried out and did not even have an estimate for the number of water bodies where aquaculture activities could be carried out.

Fishermen concerns –
Their list of woes range from the rising cost of diesel to poaching by foreign trawlers to lack of market access and a minimum support price for fish to lack of access to capital and absence of cold storage and processing infrastructure which impacts their earnings directly. Over and above that is periodic, catastrophic losses inflicted by cyclones, and routine harassment by authorities.
To top it all, fishermen on both coasts face the threat of detention by foreign powers — Sri Lanka in the Bay of Bengal and Pakistan in the Gulf of Kutch.
Coastal fishermen, who rely on small country craft and catamarans, on their part, say that mechanised trawlers and indiscriminate fishing, as well as pollution and climate change are destroying their livelihoods.
To top it all, even the meagre subsidies that they get currently are under threat, with both the US and Australia putting pressure to do away with the ‘special and differentiated treatment that India currently enjoys as a developing economy and to cap its subsidies to fisherfolk on a specific and individual basis.
Phytosanitary, as well as tariff barriers are erected by a number of competing major economies with a significant fisheries sector. For instance, India’s shrimp exports have been hit hard by bans imposed by the EU and the US for alleged antibiotic presence.

Way forward –
It is high time that we took a more focused approach to this sector which contributes a tenth of our total GDP.
A focused thrust on developing inland fisheries and protecting and developing our marine fisheries has the potential to have a transformative impact on coastal and rural economies and livelihoods.
India also needs to up its game to protect its ₹45,000 crore plus export market.

Conclusion –
Both leaders of the ruling party and the opposition have promised to create a separate ministry for fisheries (currently, it is a department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare). One could argue that a mere ministry does not mean that the target sector will actually benefit (just look at agriculture!) but at least it will be a start.

SourceThe Hindu Business Line

Also Read: 18th April – Police reforms must be expedited

18th April – Police reforms must be expedited

police reforms

In the run-up to the 2019 general elections national security has emerged as a major issue. To strengthen only external security and ignore internal security proves inadequate for effective national security management.

Concern –

On the internal security front, the lack of the our government’s political will to implement long-pending police and intelligence reforms amounts to a failure of good governance.

Need of reforms –

  • The intelligence agencies continue to be helmed and staffed predominantly by police personnel and others on deputation from various government services.
  • The rank and file of policemen across the country have their grievances with no effective redressal mechanism in place. For instance, in June 2016 the Karnataka Police planned a protest but was reined in by systemic checks and balances. The Haryana Police were unable to control law and order when godman Baba Ram Rahim was arrested in August 2017; besides, the February 2016 Jat agitation. Clearly that amounts to failure of the police machinery in the State.
  • Today, the country is vulnerable to externally-fostered internal security threats wherein jihadi terrorists from Pakistan strike targets not only in the border States of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat — but also operate in the hinterland States like Karnataka or Tamil Nadu. Only the police and intelligence services can ensure strong internal security management.
  • The police are hobbled by political interference and the police chain of command does not really function because the subordinate police officers cultivate MLAs and Ministers to intervene on their behalf particularly their postings to different appointments. This hampers professional policing and investigations which is to the disadvantage of the common man.
  • Another aspect of police reform is linked to Intelligence reforms. Both the internal and external intelligence agencies are predominantly staffed with police officers and there have been several acts of omission and commission.

A shallow progress –

  • The Supreme Court directed the States to review the progress on police reforms in 2006 and cracked the whip on States which were reluctant to initiate reforms.
  • In July 2018, the Supreme Court once again reviewed the progress of States and UTs on this front.
  • Almost 23 States have ignored guidelines on appointment of DGPs. As of today, 12 States have not implemented the separation of investigation and law and order wings.

Way forward –

  • Police reforms include fixed tenures for Director Generals of Police (DGPs) and Superintendents of Police. Also, the DGPs should have a minimum residual service to ensure continuity and stability and avoid frequent leadership changes.
  • As much as the police as an institution requires reform to insulate it from political interference, the intelligence agencies too merit a review in terms of accountability, staffing and operations.
  • Unlike the police whose performance is tangible, the intelligence agencies work remains invisible and away from public gaze.

Conclusion –

Reforms will help the state police forces and intelligence agencies to evolve into professional organisations and avoid future failures of law and order and more importantly, provide security oriented to the common man.

SourceThe Hindu Business Line

Also Read: 17th April – State funding of elections

17th April – State funding of elections

State Funding

Why state financing is the only way to ensure fair and transparent poll funding?

In just 28 days since the announcement of the general election, the Election Commission (EC) has seized cash, drugs, alcohol, precious metals and other items worth Rs 1,800 crore. Compare this to the legal upper limit of expenditure per candidate — Rs 70 lakh. Simple arithmetic would show that the seized amount can fully finance up to five candidates from each of the 543 constituencies.

State funding

What is the solution?

State funding of the recognised political parties and outlawing of corporate funding could be instrumental in making the electoral process fairer and more participatory.

Background –

  • In 1962, the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee moved a Private Member’s Bill to prevent electoral donations by corporates. It was argued that since all shareholders need not subscribe to the political endorsement by a corporate, it was immoral to allow donations against their consent.
  • Vajpayee had propositioned that such funding would only serve corporate interests. While all political parties welcomed the bill, the then ruling party did not vote in its favour. Never again was such a bill introduced.

Electoral funding provisions –

  • Under Section 29B of the Representation of the People Act 1951, political parties are free to accept donations from any person, except from a foreign source.
  • Two inferences can be drawn from this — first, money wields the ability to disrupt political agenda; second, foreign money dilutes electoral integrity.
  • Both reasons would equally be valid for any person who is alien to the election process — a non-voter.
  • The concerns that arise from foreign-funding are equally applicable to funding from corporates, with the distinction that while the former is a jurisdictional alien; the latter, on account of being a non-participant, is an alien. However, party interests deter further expansion in the law.

Limitation of Electoral Bonds –

  • Of the Rs 2,722 crore donated through the scheme in the last 15 months, almost 95 per cent has gone to the ruling party, which enjoys a 31.34 per cent vote share.
  • The remaining contestants with a 68.66 per cent vote share could only garner 5 per cent funding. The anonymity provision under the scheme is antagonistic to transparency — the bonds merely enable an “on-the-books” secretive transfer.
  • The State Bank as the facilitator would be privy to the details of the depositor and the political party funded, therefore allowing the ruling party to monitor its rivals. What would be unknown to others will be known by the ruling party.

Role of corporates –

  • Corporates have long defended their political donations on the grounds of freedom of speech. Like citizens, they seek to endorse their economic and political views through contributions to campaign finance.
  • Corporates are associations that further economic interests of their members who enjoy a freedom of trade. Therefore, their freedom of speech is based on their exercise of the freedom of trade, which is essentially for a commercial purpose.
  • Citizens, on the other hand, enjoy an unfettered freedom of speech which extends onto the political domain. Since corporates are not participants as voters, they have no claim to freedom of “political” speech and expression. Therefore, while citizen-voters can donate to a political party pursuant to free speech, corporates must refrain from donating to a political party.

Way forward –

  • In realpolitik terms, there is no incentive for any ruling political party to reform the law as it stands. Thus, necessity would dictate that the task of electoral funding be given to the EC under Article 324.
  • A fair and transparent manner to finance the political parties would require a censure of unaccounted money and direct donations by corporates and non-voters to political parties.
  • State funding of recognised political parties is a viable alternative. A state funding scheme would be viable through the levy of an election cess on the direct taxes.
  • A National Election Fund could be maintained by the EC, into which the proceeds from this cess may be deposited. At the current GDP-Direct Tax ratio and voter numbers, a 1 per cent election cess can fund Rs 500 for each vote cast in elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies.
  • The cess being progressive would spare the poorer candidates from the costs of funding elections. Direct donations to political parties may be permitted only from persons who are entitled to vote. Those not entitled to vote may contribute to the neutral National Election Fund.
  • Donations from corporates into this fund will not distort the election process, but would instead improve the integrity of the peoples’ electoral choice.
  • Parties would be inclined to adopt a more inclusive agenda when in government since more votes will translate into more state funding.
  • Parties will also vie for votes in absolute numbers than merely be the first past the post. Democracy will then truly be of the people, for the people and by the people.

SourceThe Indian Express

Also Read: 16th April – Necessary steps to ending poverty

15th April – Our bankruptcy code is world class

BANKRUPTCY CODE

The World Bank conducts an annual examination to gauge the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ in nearly 200 economies and ranks them on ten sets of parameters, which include ‘Resolving Insolvency’. India ranked 142nd in ‘Ease of Doing Business’ for 2015.

In terms of resolving insolvency, the country ranked 137th. The government set an ambitious target of breaking into the top 50 on this index, and initiated a plethora of institutional reforms, including an overhaul of the insolvency framework. After four years, India ranks 77th, up by 65 places, in the aggregate rankings, and 108th on ‘Resolving insolvency’.

Bankruptcy

 

Features of IBC –

  • Its primary focus is revival of an ailing firm, while recovery by creditors is an incidental outcome. Secured creditors have absolute priority over other claims in insolvency (liquidation) proceedings.
  • The recovery rate is a function of time, cost and outcome of insolvency proceedings. In addition to reviving ailing firms, the insolvency proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (Code) have returned 210 per cent of liquidation value for creditors. They are realising on an average 48 per cent of their claims through reorganisation, as compared to the erstwhile regime which recovered 26 per cent.
  • The Code provides a timeline of 180 days to conclude a corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP), extendable by a one-time extension up to 90 days. Probably, no other regime in the world mandates a time-bound resolution. This push has meant that proceedings under the Code take on average about 300 days, including time spent on litigation, in contrast with the previous regime where processes took about 4.3 years.
  • The insolvency resolution process cost, which includes fee of insolvency practitioner and other professionals, and expenses related to meetings of committee of creditors (CoC), public announcements, filings and litigations, etc., have been 0.5 per cent of the realisation by the creditors in contrast with a cost of 9 per cent under the previous insolvency framework.
  • With realisation of 48 per cent of claims through reorganisations coupled with pre-admission and post-admission settlements, the Code has proved to be an efficacious remedy even for loan recovery.
  • The strength of an insolvency framework is a function of four indices relating to commencement of proceedings, management of a firm’s assets, reorganisation proceedings, and creditor participation. The Code does not envisage separate applications or processes for reorganisation and liquidation.

Transparency in proceedings –

  • The Code envisages a resolution plan for reorganisation of a defaulting firm. Irrespective of the composition of the CoC, other stakeholders have a right to receive the agenda and participate in the meetings of the CoC.
  • The CoC takes major decisions on behalf of the firm under CIRP. It appoints the insolvency practitioner to run the operations of the firm as a going concern and run the process as well.
  • Any creditor may seek any information about the firm’s business and financial affairs from the insolvency practitioner. Any creditor may contest the decision of the insolvency practitioner accepting or rejecting its own claims or claims of other creditors.

Conclusion –

It is a matter of satisfaction that within two years of the enactment of the Code, the Indian insolvency regime has all the essential elements and practices that any mature insolvency regime ought to have. Not surprisingly, it bagged the award for the ‘Most Improved Jurisdiction’ for 2018 from the Global Restructuring Review. Hopefully, it will also pass with flying colours in the ongoing examination of the World Bank.

SourceThe Hindu Business Line

Also Read: 13rd April – Fixing FAME-II

Simultaneous Elections | Editorials Simplified

After India gained independence and the electoral process started, the 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967 elections were held simultaneously. Later because of early dissolution of state assemblies and even the Lok Sabha the process was disrupted. Should we not hold elections to the state assemblies and the Lok Sabha simultaneously?
Arguments in favor –

  • First, frequent elections lead to disruption in public life due to regular political rallies and incessant use of loud speakers. Each time an election is held political parties collect money. It lays the foundation of corruption which occurs in government decision taking when parties come to enjoy power after winning elections. The election commission also spends money on holding elections. Large public money is wasted due to frequent elections.
  • Second, policy making and social environment get vitiated when elections are held. Governments tend to focus on short term issues rather than long term governance policies when frequent elections are faced by them. This leads to poor governance. Inevitably, caste, religion, sub-caste and other divisive forces get strengthened in election campaigning. This weakens our national fabric.
  • Third, since such elections are being held in some or the other part of the country all the time, operation of model code of conduct, which bars most decisions in the concerned state and all decisions which may have any effect on such elections by the centre, strongly hampers decision taking. It impacts efficient project execution and governance.
  • Fourth, very large number of personnel and para military forces are needed during the elections. Each time there is an election such forces are redeployed. In many cases this reduces our flexibility to use them in other sensitive areas like the north east, J&K and left wing extremism districts.

Arguments against –

  • Some people feel simultaneous elections would weaken the fabric of our federal system. When people go to the same booth and vote for both assembly and Lok Sabha together, there is a very strong chance that they would vote for the same national political party.
  • The holding of simultaneous election is also not feasible in view of current constitutional provisions. It would require amendment in the constitution to provide for large change, curtailment or extension, in terms of assemblies, to align with Lok Sabha elections scheduled in March-June 2019.

Way forward –
We can maximise the togetherness of election to these bodies and thus reduce the disruption in our governance process. This will require provisions to ensure stability in tenures of these elected houses and giving some flexibility to EC to fix the election schedule. Following policy changes may achieve this objective

  • First, provide for curtailing terms or extending it by six months of a state assembly by amending the constitution. This will give a one-year window to election commission to maximise togetherness of elections. Even if Lok Sabha is dissolved early at some point in future, EC can maximise the cluster of states holding simultaneous election using these powers.
  • Second, to bring stability in these bodies, we may provide for all no confidence motions to be accompanied by a confidence motion in a person and both to be voted together. Law commission and election commission have made similar suggestions.
  • Third, Election Commission must sensitise the voters and reduce their penchant to vote for the same party when elections are held simultaneously by starting an education process. Such campaigns should also be also run by NGOs and other organisations interested in strengthening the federal nature of our polity.

RTE and No Detention Policy | Livemint

Introduction –

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or the Right to Education Act (RTE and no detention) was supposed to drive India’s big leap in social development. Recently, the Government had decided to scrap one of its most controversial features, the no-detention policy (NDP.

No-detention Policy (NDP) –

The NDP was interpreted as a call for all students to be automatically promoted to the next class, without having to take any examinations until class VIII.

Analysing NDP –

The latest edition of the well-regarded “Annual Status of Education Report” (ASER), which measures overall learning levels, has found, yet again, that learning outcomes remain below par.

Less than 48% of children in class V can read a class Ii-level textbook; only 43.2% of class VIII students in rural India can do simple divisions; only one out of every four students in class V could read an English sentence.

The NDP has also been found to be faulty by the comptroller and auditor general as well as the Central Advisory Board of Education.

More than 20 states and union territories have asked for the policy to be either scrapped or modified.

Arguments in favour of NDP –

Supporters of the NDP argue that the policy—successfully deployed in countries known for their high-quality education systems, such as Finland and Japan—wasn’t properly implemented in India.

NDP cheerleaders also claim that the objective of the policy was to keep students in school and prevent dropouts—and in that, it has succeeded.

What went wrong with NDP?

The NDP was supposed to be part of the larger continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) effort which replaced the annual examination system. The CCE, however, was stillborn—at least in part because teachers were never really trained in how to implement the new methods of evaluation and interpreted the policy as one that required no assessment at all.

Criticism of RTE and No Detention –

The Act makes it compulsory for schools to reserve 25% of seats for poor students, mandates a high teacher-student ratio, enumerates expensive standards for school buildings and infrastructure, defines working days and teacher hours, etc., but doesn’t offer any benchmarks for learning outcomes or link teacher assessment to student performance.

Many schools have been shuttered since they could no longer afford the RTE requirements.

Enrolment rates were high and improving even before RTE and no detention, thanks to much older schemes such as the mid-day meal scheme and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)

Conclusion –

In other words, the RTE and no detention has resulted in shutting down those schools that students wanted to attend while giving preferential treatment to those that they didn’t care for. It has, on the whole, promoted an education system that focuses on just about everything else but education.

GST impact on the Infrastructure sector | Livemint

GST impact on the Infrastructure sector

The infrastructure sector is the backbone of the Indian economy. The government has been making efforts to boost the sector through various schemes and incentives.According to the government, total infrastructure spending is expected to be about 10% of GDP (gross domestic product) during the 12th Five-year Plan (2012–17), up from 7.6% during the previous Plan.

GST impact | Background

  • In the pre-GST era, there was dichotomy in the applicable indirect tax regime relevant to infrastructure. While Central laws provided exemptions and concessions, state VAT (value-added tax) and entry tax laws were applicable to goods procured.
  • In addition, the cascading effect of Central and state indirect taxes was a concern, due to a high base for levy of respective taxes and a restrictive credit mechanism.
  • There was also litigation at the Central and state levels on classification of contracts, valuation, jurisdiction of state on inter-state works contracts and other issues.

GST impact | Analysis

GST being a concurrent tax on supply of goods and services is expected to bring in predictability for infrastructure projects.

  • There are some changes that would have an impact on indirect taxation—taxability of works contracts being one. As works contracts are limited to only immovable properties, turnkey contracts which do not result in immovable property would now be treated as composite supplies.
  • Works contracts would be regarded as supply of services, so the valuation of goods and services in works contracts that sparked differences earlier would be put to rest.
  • Other contracts which do not result in immovable property could be regarded as composite supplies, and depending on the principal supply, tax liability would arise either as a supply of goods or services.
  • While there is apprehension that a flat GST rate of 18% would lead to increased incidence on infra projects, availability of input tax credits would neutralize such concerns.
  • Exemptions and concessions to infrastructure have been completely withdrawn. This could also lead to increased working capital requirements. Project cost could rise due to increased burden of indirect taxes.
  • Electricity being outside the purview of GST, power generation companies would continue to have indirect taxes as a significant cost factor
  • Withdrawal of exemptions for road, water supply and sewerage projects sponsored by government and local authorities is expected to increase government spend.

GST impact | Conclusion

Therefore, the introduction of GST seems to be a mixed bag for the infra sector—predictability and efficiency being the key advantages, while non-inclusion of sub-sectors, higher rate and certain restrictions are negatives.

Vibrant Democracy, Dormant Parliament | Livemint

As an institution, Parliament is central to the very idea of democracy and was assigned a pivotal role in our Constitution by the founding fathers of the republic. Yet, so many decades later, it has neither evolved nor matured as it could, might or should have. If anything, slowly but surely, it has diminished in stature and significance

Role of Parliament

There are three designated roles for Parliament in a democracy

  1. It is responsible for legislation—laws of the land—by which people govern themselves.
  2. It must ensure accountability of governments—on policies or actions—to the people.
  3. t should engage in discourse and debate on issues that concern the nation and the citizens.

Qualitative decline in Parliament’s performance in recent times

  • The process of legislation is slow and lagged.
  • There are times when it extends from one Parliament to the next.
  • Laws are often passed in a rush through loud voices or large numbers.
  • There is little scrutiny of draft legislation.
  • There is almost no follow-up on rules when laws are put in place.

Reasons for decline

There are two reasons for this decline –

  1. Parliament does not meet or work long enough – The duration for which Parliament meets in India, compared with other democracies, is short. In the UK, both the House of Commons and the House of Lords meet for more than 150 days per year. In the US, both the House of Representatives and the Senate meet for 133 days per year. In Japan, as a norm, the Diet meets for 150 days per year and this is often extended.
  2. Institutional constraints 
  • The allocation of time for MPs to speak is proportional to the strength of their political party in the house and its leadership decides who gets to speak and for how long. The only other opportunities for MPs are during question hour or zero hour. Answers to unstarred questions are simply laid on the table of the house. Starred questions are too many. Only a few come up for discussion. And these are just not taken up if the concerned MP is not present at the time. In zero hour, the speaker or the chairman have the discretion to invite an MP to speak, but time is too little and speeches are often drowned out in pandemonium.
  • It is not only time. MPs do not quite have the freedom to speak in our Parliament as in other democracies. For one, they are afraid of what the party leadership might think, which could affect their future. For another, party whips, of three types, are a problem. A one-line whip is non-binding, informing members of the vote. A two-line whip requires attendance in the house for the vote. A three-line whip is a clear-cut directive to be present in the house during the vote and cast their vote in accordance with the party line. Any violation of this whip could lead to an MP’s expulsion from the house.
  • In India, the anti-defection law stipulates that a three-line whip can be violated only if more than one-third of a party’s MPs do so. This is the unintended consequence of a law that might have mitigated one problem but created another, which is emasculating our Parliament as an institution. 
  • The standing committees and select committees can be diligent and are often not partisan. Alas, these committees are often used in form than substance. Moreover, their recommendations are not binding. 

Way forward

The answers lie, inter alia –

  • in electoral reform through public funding of elections,
  • political reform that mandates disclosure on the sources of financing for political parties, and
  • set rules for elections within political parties to foster intra-party democracy that has been stifled not only by dynasties but also by oligarchies.

Conclusion

Almost 70 years after we began life as a republic, there is a clear and present danger that we could be the world’s most vibrant democracy with the world’s least effective, and perhaps most dormant, Parliament. It is time for MPs in India to reclaim their rights in Parliament as representatives of the people.

Directly Elected Mayors | Livemint

Last week, the Maharashtra cabinet approved a proposal for direct election of the village sarpanch, the head of the gram panchayat. Earlier, the sarpanchwas elected indirectly, by elected representatives.

Background

  • The centralization of governance in postcolonial India is also at variance with the long history of local self-governments coexisting with ancient kingdoms.
  • Currently, the head of the municipal corporation, the mayor, is merely a ceremonial authority and executive decisions are carried out by the municipal commissioner appointed by the state government.

Analysis

The direct elections for the posts of sarpanch and municipal council president need to be extended to municipal corporations that govern larger urban areas.India needs directly elected and empowered mayors for all its big cities.

Case for directly elected mayors

It helps in the construction of central leadership. Several countries have successful mayors go on to head national governments. For instance,

  • the current presidents of Indonesia and Turkey—Joko Widodo and RecepTayyipErdoğan—had previously served as mayors of Solo and Istanbul, respectively.
  • Both Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji were mayors of Shanghai before reaching the highest echelons of Chinese national politics.
  • While Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel honed their administrative skills as mayors of Allahabad and Ahmedabad, Subhas Chandra Bose served as the chief executive officer of the Calcutta Corporation before stepping into the role of Calcutta’s mayor.

Directly Elected Mayors | Challenges

  • The state governments do not want to let go of their powers. The resources generated from the cities are used to lubricate the political economies in rural areas.
  • The structures of local government created by the 73rd and 74th amendments did not go far enough; the resources and the powers continue to be vested with the state governments, which have been reluctant to delegate them.
  • Another issue is the short tenure of mayors in many states. For instance, the BMC mayor’s tenure is two-and-a-half years—hardly enough to create lasting changes in a large metropolis. Sometimes, directly elected mayors run into corporations dominated by members of rival political parties. This leads to snags in day-to-day governance.
  • Since power lies largely with state and Central governments, the new dynasts that proliferate in Indian politics also prefer the parliamentary and legislative bastions controlled for generations rather than proving their mettle by transforming a city.

Directly Elected Mayors | Way forward

A solution can be founded in a private member Bill that was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Congress parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor last year. Tharoor’s Bill on direct elections for mayors included a provision for a mayor-in-council that would be nominated by the directly elected mayor. Such a council, with an executive role, has existed in Kolkata and has performed reasonably well.

Directly Elected Mayors | Conclusion

The excessive fear of fragmentation in a newly independent India led to a reluctant federation and a dirigiste economy. While the pace of economic liberalization remains slow, the decentralization of administration has been slower. It is high time for corrective steps.