Divided we fall

(The Hindu)

 

Preventing accidents

(The Hindu)

 

Divided we fall

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on issue the debate on the Finance Commission’s terms of reference.

(GS paper III)

Overview

 

  • The 15th Finance commission was set up to give recommendations for five fiscal years commencing on 1 April 2020.The main tasks of the commission were to “strengthen cooperative federalism, improve the quality of public spending and help protect fiscal stability”.

 

  • Politicians and economists from South Indian states opposed the commission’s ‘terms of reference’ (ToR), as, it used the data of 2011 census, instead of the data of 1971 census, as previous commissions had. Politicians from the south believed that this would dilute the share of South India in the pool of Union’s tax revenue, because of its shrinking population vis-à-vis the north since 1971.

 

Assessment

 

 

  • The southern States are concerned that the Commission is switching from the 1971 Census to the 2011 Census. This means States that have done relatively better to control population growth could see their allocations, as a fraction of the total resources, reduced.

 

 

 

  • In October 2019, the Finance Commission’s final recommendations will come in, to assess the actual impact on States’ cash flows, but framing the issue as a southern vs. northern States debate is not constructive. 

 

 

 

  • The 14th Finance Commission had also given a 10% weightage for the 2011 Census in its calculations and there was no discernible impact on allocations to the more populous States such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

 

 

 

  • Also, there are other states whose share of India’s total population has declined between 1971 and 2011, including West Bengal, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. Finally, it is misleading for State governments to assume that all positive changes in demographics are a result of their own actions or policies there are a variety of factors at play when individuals make decisions about procreation.

 

 

  • For the Commission, it is more critical to ensure that resources reach those who need them the most and that the genuinely needy are not deprived, wherever they may be. States may spend their energies better by seeking more clarity on the Commission’s other terms of reference, especially the incentives proposed for shunning populism and the move to give the Centre a larger share of the resources to build the New India it envisions by 2022.

 

Way ahead

 

  • The Centre’s attempt to increase its share from the divisible pool of resources from the present 58% is something that should concern all States, whether populous or not. The debate on the Finance Commission’s terms of reference needs reshaping.

 

QuestionThe Finance Commission is the constitutional structure which divides the finances of the country between the Centre and the states. Explain why Southern States are rallying together over the Terms of the 15th Finance Commission?

 

Preventing accidents

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of road accidents in India.

(GS paper II)

Overview

 

  • A Report on Road Accidents in India 2016, published by Transport Research wing under Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Government of India, has revealed that more people died on roads accidents in India last year, as compared to the number of deaths in 2015.

 

  • India as a whole is inured to the ghastly toll every year, although the Supreme Court has been trying to shake governments out of their apathy through the Committee on Road Safety it constituted in 2014 and several specific and time-bound directions. The response of the Centre and the States has been far from responsible.

 

Assessment

 

  • The issue of safety black spots on roads were identified on the basis of fatal accidents between 2011 and 2014. The Union Road Transport Ministry stated in March this year that only 189 out of 789 such spots had been rectified, while funds had been sanctioned for another 256, and the rest were either under State jurisdiction or awaiting sanction. Incremental approaches such as this result in the shameful national record of about 150,000 dead and several hundred thousand injured annually.

 

 

  • The Kangra accident needs to be probed by qualified transport safety experts to determine the factors that caused it. There needs to be a report on the crash, to identify lapses, if any, and to take up remedial road engineering measures. The apex court has directed that the performance of district committees should be reviewed periodically.

 

 

  • Without expert help, executive agencies such as the Police and Public Works Departments are unable to conduct a technical investigation into an accident. Only a scientific system can stop the routine criminalising of all accidents. The present investigative machinery does not have the capability to determine faults, enabling officials responsible for bad road design and construction and lax traffic managers to escape liability.

 

  • Though the government had promised to address the burden of out of pocket expenditure issue through a cashless facility, but it has not been able to do so as the requisite amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act have not yet been passed.

 

Government efforts- The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has taken a number of steps to prevent   road accidents, such as-

 

  • The Government has approved a National Road Safety Policy.  This Policy outlines various policy measures such as promoting awareness, establishing road safety information data base, encouraging safer road infrastructure including application of intelligent transport, enforcement of safety laws etc.

 

  • The Ministry has formulated a multi-pronged strategy to address the issue of road safety based on 4 ‘E’s viz. Education, Engineering (both of roads and vehicles), Enforcement and Emergency Care.

 

  • Road safety has been made an integral part of road design at the planning stage. 
  • High priority has been accorded to identification and rectification of black spots (accident prone spots) on national highways. Around 700 such black spots have been identified for improvement.

 

  • Launch of pilot projects for providing cashless treatment of road accident victims for some areas.

 

  • Motor Vehicle Act (Amendment) Bill 2017 is important due to radical changes in the law which is as old as 30 years. It proposes high penalties for various traffic offences; three-year jail for parents of minor’s drivers causing fatal accidents and a tenfold increase in compensation for families of accident victims.

 

Way forward

 

  • According to a survey conducted by Consumer Voice, Ninety-six per cent believe that passage of the Bill would help meet the UN mandate to reduce road accidents up to 50 per cent by 2020.

 

  • Also forming the much-delayed National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board, with a provision for State governments to participate, has to be a top priority.

 

Question Road accidents are the ninth leading cause of death globally with over 12 lakh people dying on the roads each year across the globe, according to the World Health Organisation. India too has a fair share in this figure, losing 1.46 lakh people in 2015 alone. Explain the steps taken by government to address the issue also discuss what India can learn from other countries.