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09 September, 2019

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-II Criticizing executive, judiciary and bureaucracy cannot be called sedition: SC Judge
Ration Card Portability
Throttled at the grass roots.
GS-III Nilgiri Tahr
Privatizing public sector banks Economic Issues
GS-II :
Criticizing executive, judiciary and bureaucracy cannot be called sedition: SC Judge

GS-II: Criticizing executive, judiciary and bureaucracy cannot be called sedition: SC Judge

News

Justice Deepak Gupta, judge of Supreme Court, opined about the chilling effect caused by sedition law on legitimate criticism on the organs of state. As citizens, Indians have the right to criticize the government, and criticism cannot be construed as sedition, he said, adding that stifling such criticism will make us a police state.

Sedition and Right to dissent

  • Criticism of the executive, the judiciary, the bureaucracy, the armed forces cannot be termed sedition.
  • If we stifle criticism of these institutions, we shall become a police state instead of a democracy.”
  • There is a very important right which is not spelt out in the Constitution… the right of freedom of opinion, the right of freedom of conscience, by themselves, include the most important right  the right to dissent.

Why is dissent important?

Every society has its own rules, and over a period of time, when people stick to only age-old rules and conventions, the society degenerates; it doesn’t develop.

New thinkers are born when they disagree with well-accepted norms of the society. If everybody follows the well-trodden path, no new paths will be created and no new vistas of the mind will be found.

A right to expression

He said that in a secular country such as India, a non-believer, an atheist, an agnostic, ritualistic or a spiritualist person all has the right to expression.

When we talk of dissent, it reminds of Justice H R Khanna in the habeas corpus case.

That dissent is more important than any decision that may have come before or after it. Today, it is the rule of law.

Judiciary not above criticism

  • The judge emphasized that allowing a climate for free expression of thoughts and ideas without fear of criminal prosecution is essential for growth of civilization.
  • The judiciary is not above criticism. If Judges of the superior courts were to take note of all the contemptuous communications received by them, there would be no work other than the contempt proceedings.

 

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GS-II :
Ration Card Portability

GS-II: Ration Card Portability

News

The government is showcasing the rollout of the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme as one of the biggest achievements of its first 100 days in power.The launch of the nationwide food security net is scheduled for June 2020, but several challenges remain before migrants can take advantage of full portability.

Ration Card

A ration card is issued to the head of the family, depending on the number of members in a family and the financial status of the applicant.

It is used by households to get essential food grains at subsidised prices from designated ration shops (also called fair price shops) under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).

Over the years, different types of ration cards were issued depending on the level of deprivation.

Later, in 2013, when the National Food Security Bill was passed, different ration cards were compressed to just two  priority and Antyodaya (for the most poor).

One Nation One Ration Card scheme

  • Until recently, this has been a location-linked benefit, leaving crores of migrant workers and families out of the food safety net.
  • Each household’s ration card is linked to a specific fair price shop and can only be used to buy rations in that particular shop.
  • Over the last few years, 10 States (partially in one) have implemented the Integrated Management of Public Distribution System, which allows beneficiaries to buy rations from any fair price shop within that State.
  • The Centre is now in the process of expanding these efforts into a nationwide portability network which is called the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme.
  • It is scheduled to come into full effect by June 2020, after which a ration card holder can buy subsidised grain at any fair price shop in the country.

Beneficiaries of the scheme

The main beneficiaries of the scheme are the country’s migrant workers.

According to data from the Census 2011, there are more than 45 crore internal migrants in India, of whom more than half have not completed primary education, while 80% have not completed secondary education.

Registering for ration cards at their new location is an arduous process, especially if some members of the household still remain in their original home.

What is needed to make it work?

The scheme involves the creation of a central repository of NFSA beneficiaries and ration cards, which will integrate the existing databases maintained by States, UTs and the Centre.

Aadhaar seeding is also important as the unique biometric ID will be used to authenticate and track the usage of ration by beneficiaries anywhere in the country.

Currently, it is estimated that around 85% of ration cards are linked to Aadhaar numbers.

For the scheme to work, it is critical that all fair price shops are equipped with electronic point-of-sale machines (ePoS), replacing the old method of manual record-keeping of transactions with a digital real-time record.

Progress so far

  • Two pairs of States  Andhra Pradesh-Telangana and Maharashtra-Gujarat  became the first to begin implementing portability between their States last month.
  • From October 1, two more pairs  Kerala-Karnataka and Rajasthan-Haryana  will join the experiment.
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GS-II :
Throttled at the grass roots.

GS-II: Throttled at the grass roots.

Context

25 years after the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, very little actual progress has been made in this direction. Local governments remain hamstrung and ineffective; mere agents to do the bidding of higher-level governments.

Facts

About 32 lakh peoples’ representatives are elected every five years to the local bodies.

Devolution is not mere delegation. It implies that governance functions are assigned by law to local governments, along with adequate transfer of financial grants, taxes, and staff so that they carry out their responsibilities.

Local governments are to report primarily to their voters, and not so much to higher-level departments.

The Constitution mandates that panchayats and municipalities shall be elected every five years.

States are mandated to devolve functions and responsibilities to them through law.

Issues remain – Finance

The volume of money set apart for them is inadequate to meet their basic requirements.

Much of the money given is inflexible; even in the case of untied grants mandated by the Union and State Finance Commissions, their use is constrained through the imposition of several conditions.

Functionaries

Local governments do not have the staff to perform even basic tasks.

As most staff are hired by higher-level departments and placed with local governments on deputation, they do not feel responsible for the latter; they function as part of a vertically integrated departmental system.

Problems with centralisation

  • The current Union government has centralised service delivery by using technology, and panchayats are nothing more than front offices for several Union government programs.
  • The ‘Smart City’ program does not devolve its funds to the municipalities; States have been forced to constitute ‘special purpose vehicles’ to ring-fence these grants.

Decentralisation

A decentralisation is always a messy form of democracy, but it is far better than the operation of criminal politicians at a higher level. We can keep track of corrupt local government representatives; at a higher level, we will never know the extent of dirty deals that happen.

Way Forward

Gram sabhas and wards committees in urban areas have to be revitalised.

Consultations with the grama sabha could be organised through smaller discussions where everybody can really participate.

Even new systems of Short Message Services or social media groups could be used for facilitating discussions between members of grama sabha.

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GS-III :
Nilgiri Tahr

GS-III: Nilgiri Tahr

News

In more good news for the State animal, the Nilgiri tahr, its sightings in the Mukurthi National Park have risen from 568 in 2018 to 612 this year.

Why a good news?

There was a decrease in tahr numbers in 2017, when a population of only 438 was recorded, down from 480 in 2016.

This was the second consecutive year that an increase in the population of the animal had been recorded in the park, meaning the population of the Nilgiri tahr, also known as the Nilgiri ibex, has risen by 132 since 2016.

Nilgiri tahr

IUCN Conservation Status: Endangered

The Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) aka the Nilgiri ibex or simply ibex.

It is endemic to the Nilgiri Hills and the southern portion of the Western Ghats in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in Southern India.

It is the state animal of Tamil Nadu.

The Nilgiri tahr inhabits the open montane grassland habitat of the South Western Ghats montane rain forests eco-region.

At elevations from 1,200 to 2,600 metres (3,900 to 8,500 ft), the forests open into grasslands interspersed with pockets of stunted forests, locally known as sholas.

Eravikulam National Park is home to the largest population of this Tahr.

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Privatizing public sector banks

GS-III: Privatizing public sector banks

News

Former RBI governor D. Subbarao raised the question of whether India needs public sector banks at all in this day and age.

Reasons for privatization

  • The country’s financial sector is now wide enough and deep enough to take care of financial intermediation without state support.
  • Even after the bank nationalization of 1969, the state dominance of the sector has kept competition levels low.
  • There was unnecessary micro-management by RBI, resulting in poor lending decisions and market distortions.

Problem with interest rate benchmarking:

  • Right now, banks are largely expected to do as they are told. Last RBI’s directive to commercial banks to link their loan rates with its repo rate or other external benchmarks need not be issued in truly free markets.
  • Competition for loan customers would not let a bank keep its lending rates higher. Rivalry for deposits and other funds would mean a bank pays as much as it could afford to.
  • In India, state lenders are under little pressure to do this. Tough the entry of private banks has upped service standards and induced some changes, the sector is saddled with non-performing loans, inefficiencies and heavy costs.

Cause for privatization

The sector’s health requires banks to assess and price risks properly. For this, bankers need to act diligently in the interest of profit-seeking shareholders. This would be better enabled by privatization.

Challenges with privatization

  • State’s exit could result in foreign equity control of banks and even a loss of sovereignty.
  • Since large banks would be “too big to fail”, the government would still need to bail them out in case they approach bankruptcy. This would involve public funds and amount to the socialization of losses.

Conclusion

With all the challenges above, the state could argue it needs to retain ownership control as well. Immediately, at least the appointment of public sector bank chiefs must be freed of state control.

 

 

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