DAILY MAINS NEWSLETTER FOR UPSC | 19 APR 2021 | RaghukulCS

Daily Mains Newsletter For UPSC
| RaghukulCS

19 APRIL 2021

Index

Mains Value Addition

Mains Analysis

Topic No

Topic Name

Source

1

The ECI cannot be a super government

The Hindu

2

Get farmer numbers right

Indian Express

Mains Value Addition

National climate vulnerability assessment identifies eight eastern states as highly vulnerable

Syllabus– GS 1: Geography, GS 3: Environment

Analysis: –

  • The National climate vulnerability assessment report released today has identified Jharkhand, Mizoram, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, and West Bengal as states highly vulnerable to climate change.
  • These states, mostly in the eastern part of the country, require prioritization of adaptation interventions, the report pointed out.
  • The report titled ‘Climate Vulnerability Assessment for Adaptation Planning in India Using a Common Framework’, which identifies the most vulnerable states and districts in India with respect to current climate risk and key drivers of vulnerability, was released by DST Secretary Professor Ashutosh Sharma.
  • Assessing vulnerability was the first step towards assessing climate risk.
  • There are two other components like Hazard and Exposure that need to be also assessed to arrive at overall climate risk.
  • DST would take up these assessments in the next phase along with sectoral vulnerability assessments and assessments at sub-district levels.
  • The assessments can further be used for India’s reporting on the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement.
  • And finally, these assessments will support India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change.
  • The assessments undertaken with the active involvement and participation of States and Union Territory governments and hands-on training and capacity-building exercises have identified vulnerable districts.
  • Among all states, Assam, Bihar, and Jharkhand have over 60% districts in the category of highly vulnerable districts.

New Regulatory Regime for 8 Medical Items under Drugs and Cosmetics Act

Syllabus– GS 3: Indian Economy

Analysis: –

  • Adopting a proactive and sensitive approach to address the needs of the Indian Industry, the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has taken a significant decision for ensuring continued access of eight regulated medical devices today.
  • Accordingly, as per the said order the importers/manufacturers are required to take import/manufacturing licence from Central Licencing Authority or State Licencing Authority, as the case may be, for import/manufacture of above devices, w.e.f. 1st April, 2021.
  • In order to ensure supply chain continuity and access to these Medical Devices, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has now decided that in case an existing importer/manufacturer, has submitted application to Central Licencing Authority or State Licencing Authority.

Beyond the Jal Shakti Abhiyan

Syllabus– GS 3: Environment

Analysis: –

  • NITI Aayog reckons that nearly 600 million Indians are already facing “high to extreme” water stress.
  • The situation is set to worsen as the water demand is likely to double by 2030.
  • For the first time, the government has got its timing right in conducting the rainwater-harvesting drive, the Jal Shakti Abhiyan phase-II.
  • The programme was launched on March 22, the International Water Day, much before the onset of the monsoon, and is slated to continue till November-end.
  • Normally, soil and water conservation measures are taken up during the monsoon season, which is an inappropriate time to do so.
  • Jobs like cleaning, dredging and widening water streams and water-holding ponds, lakes, and reservoirs need to be carried out prior to the onset of the monsoon.

5G's bouquet of promises: A technology that can change our lives forever

Syllabus– GS 3: Science and Technology

Analysis: –

  • With the myriad possibilities that super high speeds and ultra-low latency could bring, telcos in India are looking at killer applications to attract consumers initially.
  • Consumers already know that 5G would mean an increase in their mobile internet speeds of anything from eight to 10 times, throwing up new opportunities which could fundamentally change our lives.
  • With the myriad possibilities that super high speeds and ultra-low latency could bring, telcos in India are looking at killer applications to attract consumers initially.

Mains Analysis

The ECI cannot be a super government

Why in News?

A recent decision of the ECI to stop the Government of Kerala from continuing to supply kits containing rice, pulses, cooking oil, etc is a case in point.

Syllabus– GS 2: Constitutional Bodies

  • The Congress in Kerala had approached the Election Commission asking the poll body to stop the distribution of welfare pensions in the state until the elections are done.
  • Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan lashed out at the Congress in Kerala after the Election Commission in the state responded to the opposition party’s complaint and ordered that the distribution of the food kits, which was started during the pandemic, be stopped.

About Election Commission of India: –

  • The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes in India at national, state and district level.
  • The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, state Legislative Assemblies, state legislative Councils, and the offices of the President and Vice President of the country.
  • The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution per Article 324, and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act.
  • The commission has the powers under the Constitution, to act in an appropriate manner when the enacted laws make insufficient provisions to deal with a given situation in the conduct of an election.
  • Being a constitutional authority, Election Commission is amongst the few institutions which function with both autonomy and freedom, along with the country higher judiciary, the Union Public Service Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
  • At the state level, Election Commission is assisted by the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, who is an IAS officer of Principal Secretary rank.
  • At the district and constituency levels, the District Magistrates (in their capacity as District Election Officers), Electoral Registration Officers and Returning Officers perform election work.
  • Part XV of the Constitution entitled as Elections constitutes a code in itself, providing the groundwork for the enactment of appropriate laws and the setting up of suitable machinery for the conduct of elections.

Constitutional Obligation: –

Election Commission (Article 324)

  • Article 324 provided for the appointment of an Election Commission to superintend, direct and control the elections.
  • The Commission is an all-India body having jurisdiction over elections to Parliament, State Legislatures, offices of the President and Vice-President.
  • The constitution of one central body, the Election Commission, having control over the entire election process in the country, is done to prevent injustice, which could be done by regional, State Governments, discriminating against any section of the people in the matters relating to elections.
  • The Commission is constituted as an autonomous and independent body, with a view, to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections, which feature is held to be a basic structure of the Constitution.
  • It has been said to be the most important arbitrator on holding of the elections.

Supreme Court Verdicts on Election Commission

  • In T.N. Seshan v. Union of India,{10} the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the Act equating the status, powers and authority of the two Election Commissioners with that of the CEO.
  • The Court held that the CEC did not enjoy a status superior to other Election Commissioners even though there were differences between the service conditions of the CEO and other CEs.
  • The scheme of Article 324, it was held clearly provided for a multi-member body comprising of the CEO and other Ecs.

Independence of Election Commission

  • The Constitution envisages the setting up of an independent, autonomous Election Commission.
  • To secure independence of action, Article 324 contains the following provisions:
  • That the CEC shall not be removed from his office except in the like manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court.
  • That the conditions of service of the CEC shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
  • The CEO is, therefore, protected against political and executive influence and for that reason, he can discharge his functions without fear, favour or pressure from the executive or the party in power.
  • Even the tenure of office of other Election Commissioners and the Regional Commissioners is also free of the executive control in so far, none of them can be removed from office except on the recommendation of the CEC.
  • This check on the executive power is to safeguard the independence of not only these functionaries but the Election Commission as a body.

Functions of the Election Commission

  • The Election Commission performs the following functions:
  • The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for all elections to Parliament and to the Legislature of every State and of elections to the offices of President and Vice-President.
  • The conduct of all the elections mentioned.
  • To advise the President or the Governor of a State, as the case may be, on the question of disqualification of any Member of Parliament or a member of a State Legislature, respectively.
  • Article 324 has been held to be plenary in character, vesting the whole responsibility in the Election Commission for national and State elections.
  • The power conferred on the Commission under Article 324 (1) is subjected to two limitations, namely:
  • When Parliament or any State Legislature has made a valid law relating to or in connection with elections, the Commission shall act in conformity with such law.
  • The Commission while exercising power shall conform to the rule of law, act bone fide and be amenable to the norms of natural justice.

Superintendence, Direction and Control of Elections

  • The expression superintendence, direction and control and the conduct of all elections in Article 324 (1) has been held to include such powers which though not specifically provided but are necessary to be exercised for effectively accomplishing the task of holding the elections to their completion.
  • It would, therefore be legitimate, on the part of the Commission, to make general provisions even in anticipation or in the light of experience, in respect of matters relating to symbols.
  • In the interest of free and fair elections, for the safety and security of electors and with a view to prevent intimidation and victimisation of electors, the Commission has full power to direct the manner of counting of votes.
  • Directives issued by the Election Commission for transfer of those officers from one district to another, who had completed more than four years of stay in one district, have been held not ultra vires Article 324(1).
  • The word elections in Article 324 includes the entire process of election, which embraces many steps some of which have an important bearing on the process of choosing a candidate.
  • It includes every process issued after the issuance of the Notification for holding the election.

 

  • The powers in respect to the allotment of symbols to political parties, adjudication of disputes with regard to recognition of parties and rival claim to a particular symbol, are vested with the Election Commission under Article 324.
  • Providing and reserving election symbols for recognised political parties would not amount to undemocratic act.
  • Orders passed by the Commission for re-scrutiny of nomination papers are held binding on the Returning Officer.
  • The direction issued by the Commission of rescinding the election notification for general elections to the Legislative Assembly of a State, on the ground of abduction of a candidate of a political party for preventing him from filing nomination papers, has been upheld.
  • The phrase conduct of elections in Article 324 has been held to be of wide amplitude, which would include power to make all necessary provisions for conducting free and fair elections.
  • Since, every contingency cannot be foreseen or anticipated with precession, the Apex Court in Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms, held that the Commission could cope with situation where the field was unoccupied by issuing necessary orders.
  • Article 324 has been said to be a reservoir of power, leaving scope for exercise of residuary power by the Commission in its own right, as a creature of the Constitution.
  • The Commission, may, therefore, issue directions, asking the candidates to furnish information relating to their assets, educational qualification, antecedents of his life, etc.
  • However, the words superintendence, direction and control in Article 324(1) are meant to supplement and not supplant the law and therefore, the Commission cannot proceed against a validly made law concerning the elections.
  • Also, no power is conferred on the Election Commission to de-register a political party.
  • The Commission may, however, regulate, with the approval of the Government, any gray area, not covered by the Rules framed by the Legislature.

Challenges: –

  1. Paragraph 16A of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 says that the commission may suspend or withdraw recognition of a recognized political party if it refuses to observe the model code of conduct.
  2. But it is doubtful whether this provision is legally sustainable.
  3. The reason is that withdrawal of the recognition of a party recognized under these orders seriously effects the functioning of political parties.
  4. When the code is legally not enforceable, how can the ECI resort to a punitive action such as withdrawal of recognition?
  1. One issue relates to the abrupt transfer of senior officials working under State governments by an order of the commission.
  2. It may be that the observers of the ECI report to it about the conduct of certain officials of the States where elections are to be held.
  3. The ECI apparently acts on such reports and orders the transfer on the assumption that the presence of those officials will adversely affect the free and fair election in that State.
  4. Transfer of an official is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the government.
  5. It is actually not clear whether the ECI can transfer a State government official in exercise of the general powers under Article 324 or under the model code.
  6. Further, Article 324 does not confer untrammelled powers on the ECI to do anything in connection with the elections.
  7. If transfer of officials is a power which the ECI can exercise without the concurrence of the State governments, the whole State administration could come to a grinding halt.
  8. The ECI may transfer even the Chief Secretary or the head of the police force in the State abruptly.
  9. In Mohinder Singh Gill’s case (supra), the Court had made it abundantly clear that the ECI can draw power from Article 324 only when no law exists which governs a particular matter.
  10. It means that the ECI is bound to act in accordance with the law in force.
  11. Transfer of officials, etc is governed by rules made under Article 309 of the Constitution which cannot be bypassed by the ECI under the purported exercise of power conferred by Article 324.

Way Forward: –

  • It has been ruled that the Election Commission and the Election Authorities, are also governed by the Representation of People Act, 1951 and that they cannot act in a manner inconsistent with the Act.
  • It is thus ruled that Article 324 has to be read in the light of the Constitutional Scheme and the Act 1950 and the Act, 1951.
  • In A.C. Jose v. Sivan Pillai, the Apex Court had listed out some serious faults in the use of EVM.
  • Since the new improved version of EVM had taken care of those defects as also the Representation of People Act, 1951 and the Rules there under were accordingly amended, the Apex Court in T.A. Ahammed Kabeer v. A.A. Azeez, approved the use of EVM. Relying on the Apex Court observations the Karnataka High Court in M.B. Fernandes v. C.K. Jaffer Sharief, upheld the amendment incorporated in the Act, providing the use of EVM as not violative of Article 14, being not arbitrary or ultra vires the Constitution.
  • In T.A. Ahammed Kabeer v. A.A. Azeez, {40} the Supreme Court approved the use of the present version of EVM, wherein it was held possible to get at the disputed impersonated votes by decoding, though identity of the impersonator could not be detected, which shortcoming was well with the manual ballot system also, the Court said.

Question: –

The independence of the Election Commission is the major concern in today’s time and it has been challenged from time to time extensively. Discuss.

Get farmer numbers right

Why in News: –

Recent Farm Acts 2020, brought many issues into the limelight, one among them is issue of actual farmer’s numbers in India.

Syllabus: – GS3: Issues related to Agriculture.

  • According to Agriculture Ministry’s Input Survey 2016-17, India has a total of 157.21 million hectares of farmlands with 146.19 million holdings with an average holding size of 1.08 hectares.
  • As per NABARD All India Rural Financial Inclusion Survey 2016-17, India’s Total Agriculture Households are 100.7 million.

  • It defines Agricultural households as any household whose value of produce from farming activities is more than Rs 5,000 during a year.
  • Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) data shows 111.5 million beneficiaries enrolled with an average of 102 million-plus getting payments during 2020-21.

The Issue of Numbers:

  1. Though official estimates indicate that India’s Farmers numbers between 100-150 million but in reality, actual farmer’s numbers are ½ or 1/3rd of official numbers.
  2. Even NABARD’s Household definition criteria of RS 5000 farm income is also too little to qualify as living income.
  3. A real farmer derives a significant part of his/her income from agriculture by growing at least two crops in a year.
  4. In reality, in India out of 157.21 million hectares only 140 mh is cultivated
  5. Even out of this net sown area, only 50.48 mh is cropped two times or more.
  6. That includes 40.76 mh irrigate & 9.72 un-irrigated area.
  7. From official estimates, it can be derived that number of “serious full-time farmers” cultivating a minimum of two crops a year would be 47-50 million.
  1. Based on other inputs metric data such as farmers planting certified seeds (59.01 million), using tractors (72 million) & availing institutional credit (57 million).
  2. It can be estimated that the farmer population significantly engaged & dependent on agriculture as a primary source is within 50-75 million, but not 100-150 million farmers.

The Problem of Actual farmers:

  • The ongoing agriculture crisis of India is largely about 50-75 million actual farmers.
  • The crisis is based on the absence of price parity in the agriculture sector.
  • In 1971, when MSP of Wheat was at Rs 76/ quintal, 1 kg of wheat brought 1 ltr diesel but today the ratio of diesel: wheat is 4:1.
  • The absence of farm price parity didn’t hurt initially when crop productivity was rising.
  • During the Green Revolution period, the output gains reaped by farmers from planting high-yielding varieties more than offset the lower price increases in their produce relative to that of other goods & services.
  • During 2000-15, a farmer in cotton, maize, dairy & poultry products experienced,
    • Yield gains due to
    • Usage of BT & Hybrid seeds technology
    • Drip/Sprinkler irrigation
    • Laser leveling
    • Crossbreeding
    • Improved agronomic & feeding practices.
    • Favourable prices due to
    • Growing domestic incomes
    • Increased export demands.
    • Mismatch in demand & supply
  • Escalation of production costs due to increasing prices of diesel, pesticides & non-urea fertilizers.

The question of defining farmers: –

  • The National Commission on farmers set up in 2004 under M.S. Swaminathan sought to address the question of defining farmers.
  • According to Narayanan and Saha’s paper that definition is “very broad and inclusive” as it did not seek to define a farmer based on ownership of land alone and paved the way for a tiller or cultivator to be classified as a farmer too.
  • It also allowed for women to be characterised as farmers, something they continue to be deprived of as it is male members overwhelmingly who are landowners.
  • How a farmer is defined in government papers has very practical implications.
  • It determines who benefits from government schemes, and who does not.
  • For instance, availing a loan under the Kisan Credit Card (KCC), in practise, requires land ownership title.
  • That financial inclusion under KCC remains sub-par despite this, is another story.
  • Those without a clear land title are excluded from the Pradahan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) too as it requires farmers to possess a KCC account.

MSP a Legal Right:

  • Demand for making MSP a legal right is a demand for price parity that gives agriculture commodities comparative purchasing power.
  • This demand comes from the actual 50-75 million farmers who have a surplus to sell & with a real stake in agriculture.
  • Most welfare schemes are aimed at poverty alleviation & lifting those at the bottom of the pyramid.
  • but no policy for those in the middle & in danger of slipping to the bottom.
  • PM-Kisan’s annual transfer of Rs 6000, for a part-time farmer supports his/her needs substantially.
  • But for the full-time agriculture who spends more than Rs 15000-60000/ acre, the Rs 6000 is a pittance for him/her.
  • When crop prices failing to keep pace with production cost escalation, it seriously impact 50-75 million surplus producers.

Way-Forward:

  • The agriculture policy first & fore mostly address the problem of price parity through
  • MSP- based procurement.
  • Paying the difference between MSP & the Market price.
  • When official numbers are par with actual numbers, then govt can formulate a policy guaranteeing “minimum income rather than price support”.
  • Govt needs to continue welfare schemes to support Subsistence agriculturalists & other interventions to boost farm & non-farm employment.
  • The need of the hour is that agriculture policy needs to target & focus on the middle level “serious full-time farmers”, be it crop, livestock, or poultry. The govt to ensure doubling farmer’s income needs to instill confidence again in the rural middle-class farmers who risk everything for a brighter future.

Questions: –

Any “agriculture policy” has to first and foremost address the problem of price parity. Should this be ensured through MSP-based procurement, paying the difference between MSP and the market price, or simply per-acre transfers?

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