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1. INDEPENDENCE VS ACCOUNTABILITY OF RBI

Background

  • RBI had been favouring for more autonomy as governor after governor has raised this issue.

  • The government might invoke so far never-used Section 7 of the RBI Act 1934, in which it will issue an order to the RBI to take into account the government instructions in the public interest which might impact autonomy of RBI.

Why Independence of RBI is important?

  • Implementing policies: The RBI has multiple policy objectives that serve the public interest from price stability, growth, development to financial stability that also have political consequences. The central bank has to have a clear mandate and simultaneously the necessary operational freedom to fulfil its mandate.

  • Free from Political interferences: There had been numerous cases of interference by the political class in the RBI’s appointments and administration and in its credit authorization policies to the benefit of large business houses. Direct intervention and interference by the government in the operational mandate of the central bank negates its functional autonomy.

  • Regulation: It is also important that RBI is statutorily limited in undertaking the full scope of actions against public sector banks (PSBs) as also in case of PNB fraud which eroded credibility of RBI.

  • Separate institute: The central bank is set up as an institution separate from the government. It is not a department of the executive function of the government. Its powers are enshrined as being separate through relevant legislation.

  • Ensuring Sustainable Economic Growth: Central bank autonomy fosters price and financial sector stability that are conducive to sustainable economic growth.

Why Accountability of RBI is important?

  • Democracy: In a democracy, sovereignty lies with the people. And government, not the central bank, is answerable to the people. If the Reserve Bank, for instance, fails to keep inflation low, it is the government that pays the price, not RBI.

  • Answerable in failures: The flip side of autonomy is accountability and the RBI should be answerable if it fails to achieve these goals. The progressive widening and deepening of the activities of the RBI in different sectors of the economy affect the lives of millions. Hence any type of failure should be answerable by RBI.

  • More transparency: The central bank can also make mistakes, and is generally held publicly accountable through parliamentary scrutiny and transparency norms. This ensure more transparency in the system with clearly defined roles.

  • Accountable through Government: The RBI is autonomous but within the framework of the RBI Act. Hence Central bank cannot claim absolute autonomy. It is autonomy within the limits set by the government and its extent depends on the subject and the context.

Way forward

  • There is need to pay due regard to both autonomy and accountability. There has to be a forum within our democratic structure where the RBI is obligated to explain and defend its position.

  • Institutional autonomy of RBI has to be respected and all institutions will have to work together to achieve the common goal. All the institutions should integrate the objective of the overall governance.

  • However, the quality of governance is of utmost significance which is provided to the people, by public institutions. That does not get resolved by merely looking at institutional autonomy. In the theory and practice of good governance, autonomy must be counter-balanced by with robust instruments of transparency and accountability.

  • Transparency provides an essential basis for accountability and democratic legitimacy by enabling effective legislative oversight.

  • There should be a balance between autonomy and accountability. For example - we have an inflation targeting model now and the central bank is accountable for its inflation targeting. Similarly, there can be such autonomy and accountability for financial sector regulation by creating some desirable objectives.

  • FSLRC sought to modernize governance and make regulators more independent as well as more accountable. For example, it proposed to do away with the government’s power to give directions, while it sought to make boards of regulators more accountable and transparent with agenda and minutes of board meetings to be public, and with boards having the responsibility of approving all regulations after due process.

  • Since the goals of the government and the RBI coincide, both have to respect each other’s operational space. While economic growth is impossible without adequate credit, the RBI needs to ensure that its policies do not hamper the growth of credit and investment.

  • If regulatory powers need a review, Parliament should make law accordingly. There should be clarity on the regulatory powers of RBI as well as Government.

DEMAND FOR GORKHALAND

1.1. Gorkhaland Movement

  • The Gorkhaland movement is a long-standing quest for a separate State of Gorkhaland within India for Nepali-speaking Indian citizens (often known as ‘Gorkhas’).

  • With roots dating back over a century, Gorkhaland is a classic sub-nationalist movement, not unlike those that have produced other States, most recently Telangana, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand etc.

  • The movement is neither separatist nor anti-nationalist rather by demanding Gorkhaland, the people of Darjeeling-Kalimpong are opting out of West Bengal’s domination, and opting in to the democratic frameworks of India writ large.

1.2. About Gorkhas

  • Gorkhas (or Gurkhas) are Nepali-origin people who take their name from the 8th-century Hindu warrior-saint Guru Gorakhnath and from the Nepal hill town of Gorkha. In India, the word is sometimes used to make a distinction between Indian Gorkhas, who are citizens of India, and Nepali citizens who are living in India.

  • In a notification issued on August 23, 1988, the Home Ministry clarified that ‘Gorkhas domiciled in India at the time of commencement of the Constitution, and those born in India, or born to one or both parents born in India, are citizens of India’.

1.3. History of Gorkhaland movement:

  • In 1780, the Gorkhas captured Sikkim and most part of North Eastern states including Darjeeling in 1780. After 35 years of rule, the Gorkhas surrendered the territory to British in the Treaty of Segoulee in 1816, after they lost the Anglo-Nepal war.

  • However, though British handed over Darjeeling to Sikkim, it was taken back for political reasons in 1835. Before 1905, when Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon directed the partition of Bengal, Darjeeling was a part of Rajshahi division, which now falls in Bangladesh. For a short period from 1905-1912, it was even a part of Bhagalpur division. Darjeeling was merged with West Bengal after the partition of 1947.

  • All India Gorkha League began a movement for a separate state in 1949.

  • Ethnic differences: The people belonging to this area hardly have any connection with the Bengali community and are different in ethnicity, culture and language.

  • Aspiration of Indian Gorkha Identity: Due to racial discrimination, when they seek education and work in big cities like Bangalore, Delhi, etc., they are treated as foreigners. Therefore they seek a separate identity within the Indian dominion.

  • Economic deprivation: Gorkhas remain pegged to the lowest levels of employment, while outsiders own the tea industry, meaning its profits flow out of the hills.

  • Cultural impositions: The imposition of Bengali language by the state government is seen as extension of histories of domination and a threat to their identity.

  • Other reasons include linguistic chauvinism, resource extraction, unilateral territorial claims, denial of self-governance, political suppression; and an unwillingness to respect the ‘native point of view’.

1.4. Responses to Gorkhaland

  • Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC): Following the agitation that began in 1986, a tripartite agreement was reached between Centre, Government of West Bengal, and Gorkha National Liberation Front in July 1988. Under this, an autonomous Hill Council (DGHC) under a State Act was set up for “the social, economic, educational, and cultural advancement of the people residing in the Hill areas of Darjeeling District”. o The Council was given limited executive powers but in the absence of legislative powers the aspirations of the people of the region could not be addressed.

  • The non-inclusion of the Dooars region in the Council became a major reason of discontent.

  • Lack of legislative powers means that the people of the region have no control over laws to govern themselves by.

  • Dooars again has been left out and instead a verification team has been set to identify “Gorkha majority” areas in the Dooars.

1.5. Problems:

  • Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA): created in 2012 through a tripartite agreement signed by governments of centre and state and Gorkha JanmuktiMorcha (GJM), replaced the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. It is a semi-autonomous administrative body. It has administrative, executive and financial powers but no legislative powers.

1.6. Arguments in favour of new State of Gorkhaland:

  • Various states have been created on linguistic grounds or, more recently, for socio-economic reasons. Recent States such as Uttarakhand, Chattisgarh and Telangana have been created on the latter basis.

  • Gorkhaland fits the bill on both counts — it is linguistically and culturally distinct from the plains of Bengal and can justifiably perceive Statehood as the answer to its socio-economic concerns.

  • The experiments with incremental autonomy were not successful including the GTA’s first five-year term till 2017. These were only experiments with interim arrangements. The only permanent solution lies in creation of Gorkhaland.

1.7. Arguments against

  • Small geographical area: Darjeeling had been too small to be constituted as a state. According to official records Darjeeling district has a geographical area of about 3,149 sq km with three Assembly seats and only a part of a Lok Sabha seat.

  • Security Issues: It shares a complex relationship with unstable Nepal which has a history of using China as a trump card against India. The Maoist uprising in Nepal and Naxalite movement originated in the foothills of Darjeeling bolsters such fears.

  • Triger for other such demands: Once we recognize such a demand, a Pandora's Box shall be opened. It not only jeopardizes the plural character of our society, but also opens the flood-gates for similar such demands from vested interests in different parts of the country.

  • Administrative Feasibility: Firstly not all Nepali speaking people are demanding Gorkhaland. Secondly, they are very unevenly distributed throughout the region and it is very difficult to chalk out boundaries of the new state without administrative difficulties, as also observed by the Justice Shyamal Sen Commission (constituted to explore the feasibility of such inclusions).

Way forward

  • To start with there is an urgent need to make efforts both by the government and the community to make Gorkhas feel included both socially as well as economically. The Government needs to be more sensitive towards needs and aspirations of Gorkhas. E.g. Instead of imposing Bengali, it could have been made optional.

  • The state government and the Centre need to put in enough time and money to build civic amenities, culture and agency so that Gorkha communities can reset their connection with the state.

  • Discussions should be held to further delegate legislative powers as well.

  • Further, second State Reorganisation Commission can be set up to study and address the demands of statehood in various parts of India.

2. LIVE-STREAMING OF SUPREME COURT PROCEEDINGS

2.1. More on the News:

  • The SC agreed that live-streaming of court proceedings would serve as an instrument for greater accountability and formed part of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

  • The SC held that the right to justice under Article 21 of the Constitution would be meaningful only if the public gets access to the proceedings and to witness proceedings live.

2.2. Arguments in favour

  • Concept of open courts: Indian legal system is built on the concept of open courts, which means that the proceedings are open to all members of the public.

  • To promote transparency: Live-streaming has been allowed for both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha proceedings since 2004.

  • Lack of physical Infrastructure: On any given day, only a handful of people can be physically present and are allowed in the courtroom.

  • Digitization: While the courts are opting for digitisation, with online records of all cases, filing FIRs online etc. there is a need to make live streaming of the proceedings also.

  • Public Interest Issues: Matters which have a bearing on important public interest issues such as entry of women to the Sabarimala temple, or the scope of the right to the choice of one’s food should be available for all to watch which helps to build the right perception.

  • The right to information, access to justice and need to educate common people on how the judiciary functions are all strong reasons in favour of allowing live-streaming.

2.3. Arguments against

  • The unwanted public gaze caused by live-streaming will tend to make judges subject to popular public opinion and accountable to the general public.

  • The role of the judiciary cannot be equated with the roles of the legislature and the executive. The broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings may be good for ensuring accountability, this is not the case with the courts.

  • The individuality of judges is more likely to become a subject of public debate through live-streaming, creating problems of its own. The focus should be on the judgment delivered.

  • There is a greater likelihood of lawyers aspiring to publicise themselves tend to address not only the judges but also the public watching them which will hamper their objectivity.

  • Instead of live-streaming, audio and video recordings of court proceedings would reform the administration of justice. These can be used at the time of review or appeal of a case.

Way forward

  • Only a specified category of cases or cases of constitutional and national importance being argued for final hearing before the Constitution Bench be live streamed as a pilot project.

  • The discretion of the Court to grant or refuse to grant such permission should be, inter alia, guided by the following considerations: o Unanimous consent of the parties involved and the sensitivity of the subject matter.

  • Any other reason considered necessary or appropriate in the larger interest of administration of justice, including as to whether such broadcast will affect the dignity of the court itself or interfere with/prejudice the rights of the parties to a fair trial.

  • Provide for transcribing facilities and archive the audio-visual record of the proceedings to litigants and other interested persons who are unable to witness the hearings on account of constraints of time, resources, or the ability to travel long distances.

3. Sub-Ordinate Courts

Recruitment Process

District Courts

  • The appointment, posting and promotion of district judges in a state are made by the governor of the state in consultation with the high court. A person to be appointed as district judge should have the following qualifications: o He should not already be in the service of the Central or the state government.

  • He should have been an advocate or a pleader for seven years.

  • He should be recommended by the high court for appointment.

  • Appointment of other Judges (other than district judges) to the judicial service of a state are made by the governor of the state after consultation with the State Public Service Commission and the high court.

Background

  • Subordinate courts perform the most critical judicial functions that affect thelife of the common man: conducting trials, settling civil disputes, and implementing the bare bones of the law.

  • But there are various issues faced by the lower judiciary. Many of these emerge from the problem of high level of vacancy for the posts of judges. For example, there are 5,133 judges posts vacant in the subordinate judiciary against a sanctioned strength of 22,677 across the country.

3.1. Other Issues faced by Subordinate Courts

  • Issues in recruitment: There is tardiness in the process of calling for applications, holding recruitment examinations and declaring the results. o Apart from that, according to a recent study, the recruitment cycle in most States far exceeded the time limit prescribed by the Supreme Court.

  • Pendency of cases: Due to laxity in recruitment process there has been an increasing pendency in lower courts with 22. 57 lakh cases pending for more than 10 years, some as old as two or three decades.

  • Lack of uniformity in frequency of hearings among the subordinate courts in the country. Higher frequency shows that more cases are being heard in shorter time span. This may affect the overall quality of justice delivered.

  • Delays in evidence collection and examination of witnesses which impacts the overall process of the court.

  • Lack of Infrastructure: Any failure to allocate the required human and financial resources may lead to the crippling of judicial work in the subordinate courts. It majorly has two components- o Firstly, there is a lack of legal and para-legal staff and a dearth of well-trained investigating staff.

  • Secondly, lack of funds to support various processes like recruitment and support the needs of the recruited staff, is another issue.

Way Forward

  • A smooth and time-bound process of making appointments would, require close coordination between the High Courts and the State Public Service Commissions.

  • The situation demands a massive infusion of both manpower and resources. o Strengthening of court infrastructure requires "immediate attention" in the form of planning, enhanced budgeting and structured implementation.

  • Proportionate recruitment of legal and paralegal staff too has to be addressed along with the need for well-trained staff responsible for preliminary investigation such as evidence collection and examination of witnesses.

  • Create an All-India Judicial Service (AIJS) along the lines of the All India Services (AIS). It will create a cadre of judges who can be appointed at the district courts level across the country and ensure a transparent and efficient method of recruitment to attract the best talent in India’s legal profession.

  • Utilizing Information Communication Technology to improve the judicial and administrative process in courts and also scaling up E-courts projects to provide efficient & time-bound citizen centric services delivery has a potential to go a long way.

4. Sabki Yojana, Sabka Vikas

4.1. About Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas campaign

  • The campaign will involve people at the grassroots while preparing structured gram panchayat development plans.

  • It will also involve thorough audit of the works done in the last few years.

  • Under the campaign, which will conclude in December this year, gram panchayats will have to publicly display all sources of funds collected and their annual spending, along with future development initiatives.

  • This would help in making the exercise of formulating Gram panchayat development plans more structured which has been largely unorganized till now.

4.2. About Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP):

  • It is an annual plan of each panchayat where the villagers would decide where the money should be spent.

  • The Gram Panchayat Development Plan aims to strengthen the role of 31 lakh elected Panchayat leaders and 2.5 crore SHG Women under DAY-NRLM in effective gram sabha.

  • Some concerns about existing GPDP process

  • Lack of awareness and Inadequate people’s participation in the gram sabhas.

  • Over-emphasis on investment in infrastructure.

  • Inadequate public service delivery and e-enablement of panchayats.

  • Review of GPDP at Block/ District/ State levels non-existent.

  • Lack of integration in Plans at block and district levels.

  • GPDP being prepared as a wishlist owing to lack of technical support to GPs for GPDP preparation.

4.3. Significance of GPDP

  • Stakeholder involvement: Judicious planning with involvement of all stakeholders is critical for success of any activity. Community involvement leads to quality works and acceptance by local inhabitants

  • Consolidation of all financial resources at Gram Panchayat (GP) level: Pooling of resources helps in optimum outcomes.

  • Development works: They are undertaken in prioritized manner through collective visioning. It also helps to reach marginalized sections and achieve specific development goals within a specified time-frame.

  • Responsive government: It activates PRI level bureaucracy and also strengthens bond between government, GP & local inhabitants leading to responsive government.

5. Urban Slums

5.1. Problems associated with the Slums

  • Slums manifest deprivation that transcends income poverty. They are characterized by acute over-crowding, insanitary, unhealthy and dehumanizing living conditions.

  • They are subject to insecure land tenure, lack of access to basic minimum civic services such as safe drinking water, sanitation, storm drainage, solid waste management, internal and approach roads, street lighting, education and health care, and poor quality of shelter.

  • Many of these habitations are located in environmentally fragile and dangerous zones prone to landslides, floods and other disasters that make the poor residents highly vulnerable.

  • A significant proportion of the slum dwellers also face social burdens and health problems worse than their non-slum & rural counterparts.

  • Civic bodies do not provide the required municipal services in slums on the plea that these are located on ‘illegal’ space. Moreover, the scale of the problem is so colossal that it is beyond the means of Municipalities which lack a buoyant fiscal base.

5.2. Among the slum blocks (Census 2011)

  • 58% have open or no drainage

  • 43% must bring water from outside their communities

  • 26% do not have access to clean drinking water

  • 34% have no public toilets in their communities

  • 2 electricity outages occur per day

5.3. Slum in India

  • A Slum, for the purpose of Census has been defined as residential areas where dwellings are unfit for human habitation by reasons of dilapidation, overcrowding, faulty arrangements and design of such buildings, narrowness or faulty arrangement of street, lack of ventilation, light, or sanitation facilities or any combination of these factors which are detrimental to the safety and health.

  • Facts from Census 2011 Results and National Sample Survey (NSS) 69th Round on Urban Slums in India, 2012

  • A total of 65.49 million population live in slums. The slum population enumerated

  • constitutes 5.4 per cent of the total population of the country and 17.4 percent of the total urban population.

  • An estimated total of 33510 slums existed in the urban areas of India of which only 13761 were notified.

  • Maharashtra, with an estimated 7723 slums, accounted for about 23% of total slums in urban India, followed by Andhra Pradesh (14%) and West Bengal, which had a share of about 12%.

  • The proportion of Scheduled Castes was higher in the slum areas (20.4%) compared to the population of Scheduled Castes in the non-slum areas (11.0%), and urban areas of the country (12.6%).

  • About 8.08 million children are living in slums in India. In other words, every fifth urban child in the country in the age group of 0-6 is a slum dweller

5.4. Reason for development of Slums:

  • Slums are natural by-products of urbanisation, especially in a labour-surplus country like India.

Government Initiatives for Slum Redevelopment

  • National Slum Development Programme (NSDP) - (1996-2002)

  • Basic Services to Urban Poor (BSUP) (2006-2012) – It aimed to provide basic services to urban poor in 63 of the largest cities in India by population.

  • Housing for All: In June 2015, the Cabinet of India approved the Housing for All scheme, with the goal to provide housing to every Indian household by 2022.

Four main components of the Housing for All policy:

  • In-situ Slum rehabilitation will use land as a resource to involve private developers

  • Public-Private Partnerships to create affordable housing.

  • Affordable housing through the Credit Linked Interest Subsidy

  • Beneficiary-led individual house construction or enhancement.

  • Urbanisation requires provision of various kinds of consumer services. In a labour-surplus economy, cheap labour is available to provide these services. Hence, an informal sector develops to complement the formal sector. Wages are low but, at the same time, these jobs require physical proximity to centres of employment (cities). So, slums develop.

5.5. Governments Approach towards Slum Re-development

  • Development of basic infrastructure around a city (roads, electricity, water, sewerage, security) is state responsibility. Yet, we are increasingly witnessing withdrawal of the state from all kinds of public utilities due to financial constraints and push for privatization.

  • Increasingly, governments across the globe have come to recognise the right of people to occupy unutilised land for housing as their livelihood is intrinsically linked with where they live. The right to occupy unused land is guaranteed in Brazil's constitution. But in India, citizens don’t have such rights. In fact, we have the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971, which prohibits the general public from occupying any public premises.

  • Most official policies have looked at slums in isolation — not as part of the larger problem of housing and mass deprivation, rural and urban, that confront a city. The emphasis has been on providing built units to replace the ‘kutcha’ houses of slums.

  • In a high-value real estate market, government-owned lands and places where the slums exist are seen as potential sources of funding infrastructure and mixed residential development. Accordingly, when such lands are developed, only a fraction of the built area is dedicated to social housing and an opportunity is lost to accommodate more of the slum population.

  • Many State governments have failed to implement the National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy’s recommendation to allocate 15 per cent of land in residential projects for housing the poor.

  • Though there are more than 13.7 million households living in abysmal conditions, States have formally notified only about a third of them as slums. This leaves a large number of others in a more vulnerable condition: health and sanitation facilities hardly reach non-notified slums, and they are prone to forced eviction.

  • At the All- India level, only 24% of slums benefited from any welfare schemes like Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) or any other scheme for improvement of slums run by the Central Government or State Government or any local body.

Way forward

  • To address the growing needs and deficiencies in slums of India, several sustainable models to improve are recommended in four different categories- administrative, infrastructural, financial and architectural.

  • Administrative: There is a need to replicate Mumbai’s in-situ Slum Redevelopment Scheme in cities of similar land and population characteristics such as Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Pune. In these places, a fully subsidized, in-situ slum redevelopment policy, quite similar to the Slum Redevelopment Scheme- Housing for All, would likely see the same success as in Mumbai.

  • Infrastructural: Construct and retrofit apartment buildings with decentralized infrastructure such as solar energy and anaerobic digestion sanitation.

  • Solar energy proves to be a potential solution for slum redeveloped buildings because of good solar resource in India. Analysts estimate savings up to ₹2, 35,790 over a twenty five year lifetime of the project.

  • On a national policy level- Housing for All, energy analysis resulted in identifying potential of 10 MW worth of solar panel installation across India.

  • Decentralized Sanitation can prevent the environmental pollution and health risks associated with open defecation common among slum households. Upgrading existing septic tanks into bio digester facilities, and increasing dependence on resource recovery technologies, can reduce maintenance and costs, produce energy and nutrient resources, and improve water quality.

  • Financial: Government needs to ensure long-term ownership rights and improved access to formal financial resources. It is recommended that -

  • The government should grant leasehold rights during the interim period while incentivizing households to work toward an ownership, and encourage innovative lending mechanisms from Housing Finance Companies and Micro-finance Institutions to ensure that housing finance is accessible to large sections of slum population at the end of the transit period.

  • In this way whenever slum dwellers are able to make individual housing choices, the informal economy could truly convert into formal economy, and long-term financial sustainability could be achieved.

  • Architectural: It is recommended prioritizing community space and spaces for micro-entrepreneurship within building design to increase social and business opportunities.

  • Through incorporating some existing areas of social interaction in informal settlements, as well as past approaches to public housing and slum redevelopment, we need to maintain the social, semi-public, entrepreneurial atmosphere of the streets in newly developed dense vertical redevelopments

October Indian Polity and Constitution

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