Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1.Decriminalising Indian politics (Live Mint)

2.COP 23 at Bonn (Down to Earth)

3.Challenge of retaining farmers on field (PIB)

 

1.Decriminalising Indian politics (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the criminalization of politics in India. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Recently, he Supreme Court asked the government about the status of criminal cases pending against elected ministers, underlining the importance of breaking from the history of law-breakers becoming law-makers.
  • The court recommended setting upfast-track courts to deal with the cases, but that is unlikely to be an effective strategy, unless complemented with reforms to improve governance and bring transparency in campaign financing.

What is criminalisation of politics?

  • Criminalization refers to the use of criminal activities by politicians; either by direct malfeasance or by indirectly recruiting someone. It is not a new phenomenon; the first instances of “booth-capturing” were reported in 1957, and involved hired goons who would mobilize or suppress turnout, or vote on behalf of disenfranchised voters. In return for their work, politicians would protect these criminals from prosecution.
  • From such petty engagement with elections, goondas and gangs have come a long way to contest elections themselves. It is called as an example of vertical integration. Until the late 1960s, the re-election rates of incumbents were high.
  • Hence goons were relatively assured of political favours after they helped a politician win the election. As political competition increased, the uncertainty around re-election of incumbent candidates also increased.
  • This led to the entry of criminals in politics in order to maximize control over their own survival and protection. Many goons who had not been involved in politics joined it as a competitive response as they feared missing out on opportunities, or a crackdown by a competing gang.

Emergence of criminalization in politics

  • Vertical integration does not explain why political parties chose to field such ruffians; criminality of the candidates could have broughtbad press. That process began with Indira Gandhi banning corporate financing of elections in 1969.
  • This eliminated the most important legal source of campaign finance and pushed financing underground. At the same time, the costs of contesting elections kept increasing due to a rising population, increasing political competition the number of political parties increased from 55 in the 1952 general election to 464 in 2014 and the trend of giving freebies for votes.
  • This led parties to a competitive search for underground financing, and they played into the hands of criminals and racketeers who had the means to acquire and dispose of large amounts of cash without detection.
  • Thus parties fielded tainted candidates because they could contest an election without becoming a burden on the party’s limited coffers. Data from the last three general elections shows that the strategy was an electoral success as candidates with criminal cases were three times more likely to win than a “clean” candidate.
  • The root of the problem lies in the country’s poor governance capacity. On the one hand, India has excessive procedures that allow the bureaucracy to insert itself in the ordinary life of people; on the other hand, it appears woefully understaffed to perform its most crucial functions. The density of allopathic doctors, nurses and midwives is 11.9% per 10,000 residents in India (2014), at half of the benchmark set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Furthermore, the density is ten times larger in urban areas than villages. Despite internal security concerns—from Maoist violence to religious extremism and organized crime—there is a 30% shortfall in personnel of the Intelligence Bureau. India has the lowest number of police officers per capita—122.5 per 100,000 people of any G20 member state, and the vacancy rate stands at 25%. Vacancy rates are 37% for high courts and 25% for local courts.
  • This scarcity of state capacity is the reason for the public preferring ‘strongmen’ who can employ the required pulls and triggers to get things done someone who can enforce contracts, deal with the police when they get into trouble, handle the government babus while procuring a licence or help get admission to a government hospital for treatment.
  • Sometimes these politicians align on communal lines as well, promising to serve the interests of a caste or religious community. Criminality, far from deterring voters, encourages them because it signals that the candidate is capable of fulfilling his promises.

Way ahead

  • Fast-track courts are necessary because politicians are able to delay the judicial process and serve for decades before prosecution. But it is obvious that this will do little to break down the symbiotic relationship between politicians and criminals on the one hand, and the dependence of voters on strongmen on the other. Prosecuted politicians can field their relatives in the contest, thereby retaining power within the family.
  • The reform needs to change the incentives for both politicians and voters. First, bringing greater transparency in campaign financing is going to make it less attractive for political parties to involve gangsters. Thus, either the Election Commission of India (ECI) should have the power to audit the financial accounts of political parties, or political parties’ finances should be brought under the right to information (RTI) law. Second, broader governance will have to improve for voters to reduce the reliance on criminal politicians. That requires a rationalization of bureaucratic procedures and an increase in state capacity to deliver essential public goods like security of life and contracts, and access to public utilities.

Question– Criminalization of politics has gone a long way in India. What kind of effective remedies can be employed to curb this menace?

2.COP 23 at Bonn (Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the urgent need of a decisive action at climate change negotiations. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • The climate negotiations kicked off in Bonn to prepare the rule book for implementing the provisions of the Paris Agreement. The Bonn Climate Change Conference is the first UN climate conference after the US the world’s largest emitter in history announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

Weak strategy at Bonn to deal with climate change

  • It was expected that countries would come prepared to Bonn with a strategy to deal with the US. Consensus among the developing countries in this regard could have sent a positive message. However, talks with sources from different negotiating groups, including Association of Small and Island States (AOSIS), Least Developed Countries (LDC), Rainforest Coalition and Umbrella Group reveal a worrying aspect: countries do not want to focus on the US withdrawal.
  • In fact, word around the CoP is that US withdrawal will not impact the agreement much.  An AOSIS negotiator was of the opinion that US withdrawal had helped the climate change issue to garner political attention and increased awareness in general.
  • A business-as-usual approach seems to be driving negotiations at this CoP, which has watered down the strategy adopted in the G-20 Summit when major economies came out strongly against the US and reiterated their commitment to climate action. This CoP provided an opportunity for the countries to build on the momentum and adopt a similar approach, which is sadly missing.
  • Sources in the Secretariat have even shown hope about the US coming back on board as the withdrawal has not come into effect yet and the US would still be part of negotiations. As per the lock-in clause of the Paris Agreement, the withdrawal process will take three years until late 2020.
  • Members representing the Least Developed Countries (LDC), Rainforest Coalition and African Group have also signalled a business-as-usual approach. An African negotiator, who wished not be named, explained that the “negotiating groups primarily work on specific agenda issues and not on the geo-politics surrounding the negotiations.” This argument does not hold water because substantive discussion on issues cannot happen in isolation as they are influenced by the geopolitical settings. The negotiator failed to throw light on how to separate agenda items from geopolitical settings.
  • The Umbrella Group, comprising rich developed countries members, also has not shown any signs of aligning together to deal with US. As it stands, the members of the UNFCCC have not worked on any negotiating strategy and seem ill-equipped or simply unwilling to deal with the withdrawal of the US, reeking of an attitude that is mired in denial of the overwhelming possibility.
  • Without any forthcoming regulatory support from one of the largest emitters in the world, this lackadaisical attitude makes it ever more likely that the US would continue to hold the rest of the world hostage to its inaction.

Stakes at Bonn

  • The Bonn CoP is being seen more as a technical CoP with no major breakthroughs expected, although members such as the EU have called for “solid progress” towards preparation of the rule book. Considering that most of the provisions of the Paris Agreement are yet to see any significant progress, one can only wait and see how negotiations unfold in the next two weeks.
  • Among the major agenda items under discussion are the Facilitative Dialogue (scheduled to be held in 2018) for assessment of climate actions, enhanced transparency framework for monitoring of climate actions and support. Members have also expressed the need to update their commitments following the facilitative dialogue in 2018 and the long-awaited IPCC 1.5 Degree Report due to be released in the same year.

Way ahead

  • The need for equity was highlighted by many countries at the plenary session. India’s intervention during the plenary session, urging discussions on scaling up pre-2020 climate actions and ratification of the Doha Agreement to the second commitment period, is not expected to gain much traction. The focus of the negotiations is now largely on post-2020 climate actions when Paris Agreement becomes operative.
  • Somewhat ironically, unity among developing members is still lacking when it comes to dealing with commitments made towards pre-2020 climate actions.
  • Although India’s focus on pre-2020 actions is welcoming, over the past some time, its involvement in adaptation, loss and damage and agriculture is largely missing.

Question– How do you think the developing countries should cooperate to fight climate change?

3.Challenge of retaining farmers on field (PIB)

Synoptic line: It throws light on how farmers can be retained in farming activity. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • The World Food Day (WFD) is celebrated to commemorate the founding of Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 1945. This is the most celebrated day of the United Nations as over 150 countries across the world organize events to create awareness leading food security and to achieve Zero Hunger Huger by 2030.
  • This year the theme is ‘Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development’.

Food crisis induced migrations

  • The FAO estimates that about 763 million people move within their own courtiers due to hunger, poverty and the increase in extreme weather related events linked to climate change is forcing farmers to migrate in search of better livelihood opportunities.  Almost a third of India’s population, over 300 million is migrants.
  • The Census of India reports that about 84 per cent migrate within the state and about 2 per cent are intra –state migrants. Huge numbers from the Eastern regions and North East areas have moved to different parts of India in search of work and better employment opportunities. Most of them are seasonal migrants, working for short time and returning to their original state to fend the small farms they own.

State of farmers

  • According to National Sample Survey Organization, 45 per cent of the farmers interviewed wanted to quit farming. There are multiple factors, especially the declining productivity and profitability that acts as disincentive for younger generation forcing them to migrate.
  • FAO has called for creating conditions that allow rural youth to stay at home by providing resilient livelihoods to tackle the migration challenge. Creating business opportunities that are non crop based, in food processing and horticultural enterprises can lead to increased food security.  There is an urgent need to build sustainable growth based on long term recovery of the rural community.

Sustaining farmers in agriculture

  • The National Commission of Farmers called for attracting and retaining educated youth in farming sector. Heeding to this advice the National Policy for Farmers adopted by Parliament in 2007 emphasised the need to involve youth in agriculture through providing appropriate support measures to retain them in agriculture and allied ancillary processing industries.
  • Since 2014, government at the centre has launched several initiatives to address this crisis. The flagship programmes like Soil Health Card, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Rashtirya Krishi Vikas Yojana etc are some of the schemes providing support to farming community.  Each of these programmes attempts to provide solutions to reduce and mitigate the crisis, either of climate change or failure of crops due to lack of rainfall.
  • The government has set the ambitious target of doubling the farmer’s income by 2022, when the country completes 75 years of independence.  Towards achieving this target, the government is reorienting interventions in the farm and non-farm sectors.
  • The most unique initiative is ARYA or Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture.  Launched by Indian Council of Agricultural Research it aims at attracting and retaining youth in rural areas through providing sustainable income through value addition, establish market linkages to make it attractive for the younger generation to return to villages. This is being implemented in 25 states through Krishi Vigyan Kendra’s, in one district of each state. It attempts to showcase working model that economically feasible for the youth and which has the potential to attract them.
  • Another initiative as part of the Skill India programme is supporting Agriculture Skill Council of India. The main objective is to build the capacity of the agricultural sector and bridge the gap between the labs and farms. It is being done through upgrading the skills of cultivators, agricultural labours and those engaged allied industry   supporting agricultural activities.
  • It should be hoped that these schemes would attract youth to farming once again. Otherwise, we have reached a situation when majority of youth, even those belonging to farming families, do not want to pursue the farming as their vocation. They have experienced the harshness of the life of a farmer, where all his efforts to earn a decent income after putting in hard labour produces meagre income or total loss during the time of drought, leaving behind the burden to debt.

Way ahead

  • While launching ARYA, Prof M S Swaminthan said “”Unless agriculture is made remunerative and attractive, it would be difficult to retain youth in the field,” he said. When even existing farmers are moving away from farming, unless agriculture is made remunerative, it is unlikely that educated youngsters would take it up. Unless productivity or income is increased, farming cannot become an attractive venture for the young”.
  • The recent initiatives by the government and also the recent leaf forging of technological innovations can help them to resolve the technical crisis and establish a direct linkage with the consumer providing assured income. In this context, Centre’s initiative eNAM (National Agriculture Market) launched in 2016 is very significant. It is a pan India electronic trading portal which networks the existing Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities.
  • With 25 per cent of the country’s population between 18-29 years, it has great potential to entice youth towards farm sector. Farming offers young generation a chance to make a difference by growing food to meet the hunger needs of the countrymen. The government should identify such successful young farmers and provide media and policy support to entice youth with the grand mission of feeding the millions with safe and nutritious food.

Question–  Retaining farmers in the agriculture is most crucial issue linked with food security. Comment.