GS2- Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers
The Supreme Court prima facie found no harm in State Legislative Assemblies, such as those in Kerala and West Bengal, passing resolutions against Central laws like the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act or the new agriculture laws.
A Bench, led by Chief Justice said these resolutions are merely “opinions” of the majority members of a Legislative Assembly and do not have the force of law.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by a Rajasthan-based NGO that said State Assemblies, such as of Rajasthan, Kerala, Punjab and West Bengal, have no business passing resolutions against Central laws that come under the Union List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
NGO asked the Supreme Court to quash the resolutions and declare them void.
GS2- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), in an affidavit, said the policy was not in tune with the IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011.
The Ministry said WhatsApp’s policy “fails to specify types of sensitive personal data being collected”.
Crucially, there is no distinction between personal data or sensitive personal data which is being collected.
LS passes Bill on Devendrakula Vellalars
GS2- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
The Lok Sabha recently passed The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that seeks to put seven castes under one nomenclature of “Devendrakula Vellalars” with some exceptions for some of the castes in certain districts of Tamil Nadu.
The castes include Devendrakulathan, Kadaiyan, Kalladi, Kudumban, Pallan, Pannadi and Vathiriyan. Not a single MP from Tamil Nadu was present in the Lok Sabha when the Bill was debated and passed.
The State government had earlier accepted a recommendation of a committee to reclassify the seven sub sects under the generic name ‘Devendrakula Velalar’ and forwarded it to the Centre.
New IT rules target digital news producers, says plea
GS2- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability
The Delhi High Court recently asked the Centre to respond to a petition challenging the new Information Technology rules which seek to regulate digital news media.
A Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh asked the Ministries of Electronics and Information Technology and Information and Broadcasting to submit their responses on the plea by next date of hearing.
The petition filed by Quint Digital Media Ltd. has been tagged with a similar petition filed earlier by the Foundation for Independent Journalism and The Wire news portal.
The latest petition has challenged the constitutional validity of the IT Rules under the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The present petition challenges the IT Rules, 2021 only in so far as they affect digital news portals, and is not with reference to ‘publishers of online curated content’, that it, OTT media platforms or any other entities sought to be regulated by the impugned Rules.
Why in News: –
Bill to amend GNCTD Act is a rollback of the notion of representative government.
GS-2:The Centre’s Bill seeking to amend the law relating to the running of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
The Centre’s Bill seeking to amend the law relating to the running of the National Capital Territory of Delhi claims that it is aimed at giving effect to the interpretation given by the Supreme Court judgments on Delhi’s governance structure.
According to the bill, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, the “government” in Delhi would mean Lt Governor in context of all legislations to be passed by the state assembly
Framework of Delhi governance: –
Delhi holds a unique position in India’s administrative framework.
As a Union territory, it is governed by the 1991 Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act.
Act provides for both an elected assembly and an L-G appointed by the Union home ministry.
The 69th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1991 provided a special status to the Union Territory of Delhi, and redesignated it the National Capital Territory of Delhi and designated the administrator of Delhi as the lieutenant (lt.) governor.
It created a legislative assembly and a council of ministers for Delhi. Previously, Delhi had a metropolitan council and an executive council.
But unlike full states, many important departments such as land, police and personnel appointments don’t come under the purview of the city government and report directly to the L-G.
The proposed changes:
National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, Bill that gives overarching powers to the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of Delhi in day-to-day functioning of the national Capital.
According to the Bill, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, the “government” in Delhi would mean L-G in context of all legislations to be passed by the state assembly.
The statement of objects and reasons of the Bill said this is in consistency with the status
The Court verdict:of Delhi as a Union Territory to address the ambiguities in the interpretation of the legislative provisions.
The proposed changes are the very antithesis of what the Court has said. The Bill, if it becomes law, will wholly undermine the Court’s efforts to strengthen the elected government vis-à-vis the appointed Lieutenant Governor.
The Constitution Bench verdict of July 4, 2018, said: “The Lieutenant Governor has not been entrusted with any independent decision-making power.
He has to either act on the ‘aid and advice’ of the Council of Ministers, or he is bound to implement the decision taken by the President on a reference being made by him.”
The ‘aid and advice’ clause pertains only to matters on which the elected Assembly has powers under the State and Concurrent Lists, but with the exception of public order, police and land, and, wherever there are differences between the L-G and the elected government, the former should refer the question to the President.
The Court was at pains to clarify that the power to refer “any matter” to the President did not mean that “every matter” should be referred thus
The guiding principle was that the elected government should not be undermined by the unelected administrator.
The Constitution position of L-G:
The Bill seeks to declare that in the context of legislation passed by the Delhi Assembly, all references to the ‘government’ would mean the “Lieutenant Governor”.
It is somewhat incongruous for a territory with an elected House to be declared the sole domain of the L-G.
The apex court had rightly concluded that the scheme set out in the Constitution.
The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, envisages a collaborative structure that can be worked only through constitutional trust.
The proviso to Article 239AA, which empowers the L-G to refer a difference of opinion with the Council of Ministers to the President, does not mean that, the administrator is given an opportunity to come up with a different opinion on every decision made by the Ministry.
Way Forward: –
The bill will promote harmonious relations between the legislature and the executive, and further define the responsibilities of the elected government and the lieutenant governor, in line with the constitutional scheme of governance of National Capital Territory of Delhi, as interpreted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
The ‘Union Territory’ concept is one of the many ways in which India regulates relations between the Centre and its units. It should not be used to subvert the basis of electoral democracy. “Critically examine.
A booster shot for India’s vaccination plan
Why in News: –
The country is making good progress in its COVID-19 vaccination efforts, but there are still many gaps to cover.
GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Vaccination in India: –
India has vaccinated only 3.2% of the adult population.
The third of all vaccinations done in the world each day are in India, with over 40,000 sites, it is heartening to see how India is shaping the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Yet, these are baby steps, and there is a long way ahead in covering the vulnerable.
Although the country covered 2.6 million doses per day on March 15, the seven-day rolling average hovers only around 0.11 per 100 people
This slow pace, which is also cause for concern, and there is a long way ahead in covering the vulnerable.
Steps to scale up:
India has identified a target of 300 million vulnerable populations but there is neither a definitive time frame attached to it nor any specifics on the process.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise again in different parts of the country, time is running out.
If India can vaccinate 10 million people per day, the vulnerable can be protected over the next two to three months.
However, this requires speeding up the pace by five times. Given that India has 300,000 trained vaccinators (217780 auxiliary nurse midwives and over one lakh nurses;
Nearly three million people can be covered each day by the public health workforce. They are trained in vaccinating millions of children routinely through outreach sessions.
They can easily cover two million doses per day routinely.
By expanding participation by private health facilities, it would be possible to cover more than seven to 10 million doses per day.
To have a sustained campaign of 10 million doses per day, India will need to have a reasonable stockpile and production line of vaccines.
Several other vaccines are available internationally with established efficacy and safety, and can be approved under emergency use authorisation (EUA).
The bridging study can be done while vaccines are rolled out under the EUA before access to the market.
The government may proactively seek supplies from other manufacturers while rapid studies can assess safety and immunogenicity in the Indian context.
The ongoing arrangement with Russia for the local production of Sputnik while the vaccine is already undergoing clinical trials in India is an excellent template of using Indian companies to roll out other vaccines.
Regulated sales in the private market should be used as a careful option to accelerate the vaccination campaign.
The government should act as the assurer of quality and regulate the prices of all the vaccines in the country.
Any person who is 18 years should be permitted to get any vaccine approved by India, at any designated place, and at a fixed price regulated by the government.
This will scale up vaccination in the workplace settings across the country and for all others who can afford them.
While this happens, the inequities in the health system, which systematically neglect the poor and the marginalised, should be looked into on priority.
Make it simple:
Public health programmes should be as simple as possible to ensure scalability.
Simple age-based criteria should be used to expand vaccination without restrictive criteria such as insisting on a medical certification of comorbidities.
The preregistration and over-reliance on the CoWIN app through the entire process needs immediate remedy.
Simple, offline, walk-in vaccination should be done with paper-based collection of details.
This can be followed by uploading the details onto CoWIN. In addition to this, the authorities should use the opportunity to identify people with comorbidities.
More than half the people in India with comorbidities are unaware of their condition.
By opportunistic screening using simple digital measuring devices for blood pressure and blood glucose, the otherwise ‘missed persons’ from routine health-care provision can receive treatment for their non-communicable diseases, or NCDs.
This is a non-negotiable service element that no government can afford to neglect.
A ‘3M’ road map:
Microplanning is a process that is followed in India’s vaccination programmes, that captures the population details by identifying and mapping them.
It has details for workforce and logistic arrangement, and tags for people to clearly identify vaccination sites.
The micro plans are the blueprints of the vaccination programme, which connect houses, migrant population and institutions such as old age homes and dementia care centres with vaccination teams.
This is not just the fixed sites; the micro plans also provide details of mobile teams and outreach sessions to cover a population.
The central government can work with the States in strengthening micro plans so that the vaccination pace picks up and is sustained.
Mobilizing identified persons can be done by the accredited social health activists (ASHAs) in rural areas and other volunteers in urban areas.
There is one ASHA for 1,000 population in rural areas Based on the micro planning done, people should be mobilised to designated vaccination sites on a designated day.
The strategy for mobilisation in urban areas can include innovative technological solutions. Role models can influence many peers to get vaccinated as well. Monitoring and mentoring of each step of the process are essential.
The activities that need structured support include preparing micro plans, ensuring that all the necessary inter-sectoral coordination is done, and that the necessary logistical and transport supplies are provided.
Task forces can coordinate these at the district and sub-district levels.
Way Forward: –
The government as the sole provider of free vaccines and care for all Indians below the poverty line or who cannot afford to buy vaccines.
Vaccinating people in impoverished communities is a mandatory social responsibility.
By coordinating with the World Health Organization, India has an irrefutable track record of designing and updating micro plans, which have been used as templates in the global polio eradication programme.
India’s reputation as a world leader in vaccination programmes needs to be strengthened further by addressing these issues swiftly.
We are making good progress in COVID-19 vaccination efforts, but it is not sufficient to achieve what is necessary.
India has to balance compassion to supply vaccines to other countries with the compulsion to save the lives of millions of Indians, who are at risk of death due to serial waves hitting different parts of the country.
How did inflation targeting really impact India?
Why in News: –
Three decades after the start of the inflation targeting (IT) policy in New Zealand, and after its adoption by 33 countries, a question worth asking is whether it has succeeded in its primary objective of reducing inflation.
The primary goal of IT was to contain inflation at around 4 per cent, within the allowable range of 2 to 6 per cent.
It is a central banking policy that revolves around adjusting monetary policy to achieve a specified annual rate of inflation.
The principle of inflation targeting is based on the belief that long-term economic growth is best achieved by maintaining price stability, and price stability is achieved by controlling inflation.
The RBI has announced a formal review of the policy instrument now after six years of the Urjit Patel report (2014) on inflation and the use of inflation targeting.
It was formally adopted in 2016. At the first meeting of the RBI Monetary Policy Committee in October 2016, it was also formally announced that the MPC considered a real repo rate of 1.25 per cent as the neutral real policy rate for the Indian economy.
By a neutral real policy rate, the RBI meant a policy rate consistent with growth at potential (for the Phillips curve enthusiasts, growth equal to that obtained at full employment).
At the time of the announcement, GDP growth in India was averaging 7.9 per cent (second quarter of 2016) and inflation in August had come in at 5 per cent.
Hence, the announcement of the repo rate at 6.25 per cent.
Inflation Targeting Worked In India?
High real repo rates were the primary cause of the GDP growth decline in India from 8 per cent (pre-IT) to 5 per cent (post IT).
As the IT policy is up for review, it has generated a healthy debate about its pros and cons.
An interesting feature of the Indian defence of IT is that very few of the protagonists mention the global context of inflation in which the decline in inflation has occurred, and those that incorporate global inflation trends do so in a cursory manner.
First, that annual median inflation in Advanced Economies (AEs) has been consistently low, around 2.5 per cent for the last 30 years and a low of 1.5 per cent for the last five. So low that many central banks have official campaigns to raise the inflation rate.
One conclusion might be that IT succeeded beyond anyone’s dreams. But attributing this decline in inflation to IT would be erroneous.
If anything is truly global it is inflation and price-taking by millions of producers in the world means that no one producer or one country can influence the price of any item or the general price level.
Very few of the IT protagonists will mention that, the lowest inflation in Indian history occurred during 1999-2005.
After registering 13.3 per cent in 1998, inflation in India averaged only 3.9 per cent over the next seven years.
The average median rate among EM targetters during 2000-04 was 4 per cent, and among the non-targetters 3.8 per cent.
What About the Price Of Oil?
The price of oil is set by an oligopoly, and that surely affects general inflation, as we all inconveniently found out in the 1970s. But oil has ceased to be a factor in global inflation, at least post the mid-1980s.
In this regard, it is instructive to look at the price of Brent oil. In December 1998, the average price of oil was $9.8 a barrel. In July 2008, the monthly average price of oil peaked at $ 133/barrel. Trough to peak the rise was 13 times over nine years.
But what happened to AE inflation — nothing. More interesting is what happened to inflation among the non-targeters — median headline inflation declined — average AE inflation during 2005-2009 was 1.9 per cent, compared to the 2.7 per cent average in the 1990s.
Another important determinant of inflation is fiscal deficits. In 2003, India passed the FRBM act to control fiscal deficits and inflation.
There is precious little evidence, either domestically or internationally, about fiscal deficits affecting inflation.
Again, globalisation puts paid to that faith, as it did to the other fundamental of inflation — growth in money supply.
Regarding the latter, in 1984, the US stopped publishing the weekly money supply growth numbers, data which prior to that date moved financial markets.
Fiscal deficits is surely the cause of inflation in India, notwithstanding global evidence to the contrary.
For three consecutive years preceding the FRBM announcement, the consolidated Centre plus state deficits registered 10.9 per cent (in 2001), 10.4 and 10.9 per cent.
For the seven-year 1999-2005 period, consolidated fiscal deficits averaged 9.4 per cent of GDP.
Yet, we must acknowledge, and accept, that these years represented the golden period of Indian inflation — without FRBM and without IT.
Way Forward: –
Countries which have not adopted inflation targeting reveal lower inflation than those that did. There are also costs to inflation targeting in India.
It led to higher real policy rates, in the mistaken belief that high policy rates affect the price of food, oil, or anything else.
But high real rates affect economic growth, by affecting the cost of domestic capital in this ultra-competitive world.
It is very likely not a coincidence that potential GDP growth, as acknowledged by RBI, was reached just before the MPC took over decision making in September 2016.
Since then there was a steady increase in real policy rates, and a steady decline in GDP growth. It was only with a change in RBI leadership in late 2018 that real repo rates began to decline from historical highs.
This move was a welcome departure from inflation targeting and a welcome one towards respecting the important role of monetary policy in affecting growth.
It’s a move now acknowledged by most central banks in the advanced economies. Hence, we reach the conclusion, and the present reality of no country for inflation targeting.
Countries which have not adopted inflation targeting reveal lower inflation than those that did. Discuss.