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1.The impact of caste on economic mobility (Live mint)

2.No case for an all India judicial service (The Hindu) 

3.Living with the Deluge (The Indian Express)

 

1.The impact of caste on economic mobility (Live mint) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue that Caste networks play an unusually important role in shaping economic mobility in the Indian economy. (GS paper I)

Overview

  • India’s caste system is among the world’s oldest forms of surviving social stratification. The Indian population is divided into four hierarchical classes, or varnas, with a large sub-population of untouchables excluded entirely from the system. Within each of these classes, and among the untouchables, are thousands of castes, or jatis. For centuries, caste dictated almost every aspect of Hindu religious and social life, with each group occupying a specific place in this complex hierarchy.
  • The continuing importance of caste in Indian society has led to an obvious question that- how occupational and spatial mobility in the Indian economy has been shaped by the caste system?

Economic mobility and Caste system

  • Economic mobility is a prerequisite for development but the the exploitation, prejudice, and discrimination that are associated with the hierarchical aspect of the caste system have been stifled mobility among the lower castes. It is certainly true that the lower castes remained locked in unskilled, low-paying occupations for centuries in the traditional economy.
  • However, despite the obstacles evidence from surveys of nationally representative samples indicates that there has been convergence between the upper castes and the lower castes on education and occupations over the past decades.
  • These convergences are, may be due to the affirmative action policy that has been in place since Independence like reserving seats in institutions of higher education and the central government for former untouchables and other disadvantaged groups. Another force driving convergence could be the caste-based networks that facilitate economic activity and support the mobility of their members in an economy where markets function imperfectly.
  • Due to the growth of cities in the 19th century, there have been the rural-urban migration. Particular castes found particular niches in the urban labour market, and once networks in the city were established, they supported the movement of fresh migrants from the hinterland, often over the course of many generations.
  • Structural change has created new economic opportunities over the past 25 years, but it has also brought new challenges. Research documents the movement of castes from agriculture and administrative occupations into business in recent decades.
  • However informal institutions have limitations of their own. The same networks that can be so effective in supporting the movement of groups of individuals across space and occupations can also restrict the mobility of individual members once they are established.
  • It is evidence that based on the schooling choices of the children, the blue-collar networks turned out to be a hindrance in this economy, keeping their members in the traditional (now less remunerative) occupations and preventing them from taking advantage of the new opportunities that became available.
  • Caste networks can have some unintended consequences for mobility. According to a research paper, it has been shown that rural mutual insurance networks, which have smoothed consumption within castes for centuries, can also restrict the (permanent) migration of individual members to the city. These networks are based on reciprocity. When a household suffers a negative income shock, it receives monetary transfers from caste members that allow it to consume at its customary level. In the future, it is expected to provide transfers to other households when they receive a negative shock.
  • The urban component of its income is also unobserved by the rural network. If the consequent loss in insurance is sufficiently large, then rural households could forego substantial gains in income from migration and keep all their members in the village.
  • The reason why rural-urban migration is unusually low in India, despite the presence of large rural-urban wage gaps is the restriction on mobility which leads to inefficiency in the labour market, arises because of inefficiency in another market. And because formal substitutes for the rural insurance network, such as private credit or government safety nets, are unavailable.

Way ahead

  • Caste networks thus play an unusually important role in shaping economic mobility in the Indian economy. These networks support or hinder mobility will depend on the circumstances. In general, networks are effective in supporting the movement of groups, but they can restrict the mobility of individuals trying to follow a path of their own. The caste networks will disappear when the market economy starts to function efficiently.

Question–  How caste and economic development are linked in India? Is it good or bad in the context of India?

 

2.No case for an all India judicial service (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue whether we need All-India Judicial Service (AIJS) or not. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • The proposal to create an All-India Judicial Service (AIJS) along the lines of the All India Services (AIS) is one that has been endlessly debated since the idea was first mooted by the Law Commission in the 1950s. There are no neat lines which can be drawn between those who favour and oppose it as there have been disagreements within the judiciary, the government and the Bar over its necessity and desirability.
  • The debate has once again come to the fore with a fresh move to implement it and nine High Courts expressing their disapproval.

Futile attempt

  • An all-India judicial service will create a cadre of judges who can be appointed at the districts courts level across the country. The AIJS is an attempt to ensure that younger judges are promoted to the SC and HCs.
  • The chief justices’ conferences in 1961, 1963 and 1965 favoured creation of an AIJS, but the proposal had to be shelved after some states and HCs opposed it, according to a consultation paper of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution.
  • Subsequently, The Constitution (Fourty-second Amendment) Act 1976 inserted an “all-India judicial services” provision into Article 312 that lays down the legal ground for creation of All-India Services. The proposal was again floated by the government in 2012 when it got it vetted by a committee of secretaries and prepared a Cabinet note. But the draft bill was shelved again after opposition from HC chief justices who found this an infringement of their rights.
  • The recently government has given a fresh push to the long-pending proposal to set up the new service to have a separate cadre for lower judiciary in the country. The government had also suggested to the Supreme Court various options, including a NEET-like examination, to recruit judges to the lower judiciary.
  • According to the latest statistics, there is a shortfall of at least 5,111 judicial officers in district courts of the country. These courts have only 16,192 judges as against its sanctioned strength of 21,303 judicial officers.

Views

  • According to the one view an AIJS is a terrible idea in so far as judicial reforms in India are concerned as it does not solve even a single problem being faced by the Indian judiciary. Through AIJS district judges will be recruited centrally and allocated to each State along the lines of the AIS. It has been argued that it will ensure a transparent and efficient method of recruitment to attract the best talent in India’s legal profession. However, judges recruited by High Courts on the basis of a common examination is currently being debated in the Supreme Court. This is also a proposal with serious drawbacks.
  • The first objection to this idea is that it does not adequately diagnose the problem. What exactly holding back the smartest and the best from the judiciary is in the fact that the Bar Council of India has mismanaged legal education. Barring a few islands of excellence, almost no effort has gone into improving the standard of legal education across the country. The best law schools in India are the few set up and funded by the State governments, barring a few exceptions.
  • Apart from this within the incredibly small talent pool, the judiciary competes by offering very unremunerative pay and limited avenues for career advancement. Though there have been lot of effort by the Supreme Court to ensure uniformity in pay scales across States through its orders in the All India Judges’ Association case, but it is still abysmally low when compared to that in the private sector, notably law firms, litigation and the corporate sector.
  • Lower pay would also be acceptable, as with the civil services, if the position was accompanied by sufficiently good terms and conditions of service, and a defined career progression. The trial court judges face much the same problem in the case of transfers and such issues as civil services officers, they have fewer avenues for growth and promotion.
  • According to study published in the Economic and Political Weekly 2016, it has been shown that less than a third of seats in the High Courts are filled by judges from the district cadre. They are also appointed later in their careers and tend to have shorter tenures than judges appointed directly from the Bar. Even if a lawyer is eager to serve as a judge, he/she would rather wait to be eligible for direct elevation to the High Court than have to go through the grind in the district judiciary.
  • The AIJS will create new problems, a “national exam” that risks shutting out those from less privileged backgrounds from being able to enter the judicial services. It may also end up not taking into account local laws, practices and customs which vary widely across States, vastly increasing the costs of training for judges selected through the mechanism.
  • However, apart from the above views there are also some advantages, AIJS will be an independent body like UPSC which can conduct an open competition examination for the direct recruitment of judges from the entry level. It ensures the fair selection of incumbents. These entry level AIJS officers can start their career as additional district judges and they can rise up to become high court and Supreme Court judges. This process will attract bright and capable law graduates to the judiciary to take over as judges. The process will ensure equitable service conditions for the subordinate judicial officers. Uniformity in the standards will send only the qualified judges to the high courts.
  • There is a huge shortage of judges in the country. Nearly three crore cases are pending in courts across the country. But all this doesn’t mean that there aren’t enough judges or enough applicants. However, If AIJS is implemented, it will allow a huge number of judges to fill those vacancies through an all-India test. Applicants, on being selected through AIJS, could be posted in states where more judges are needed.

Way ahead

  • While some problems are in the hands of the State governments concerned, but some are also in the hands of the judiciary itself, but no changes have been made to ensure better district judge representation in the High Courts.
  • There is need to focussing our attention on implementing more direct solutions to address the problems of the Indian judiciary.

Question– Do you think that AIJS holds the prospects to cure glitches in judicial system in India? What more can be done in this regard?

 

3.Living with the Deluge (The Indian Express) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the need to shift focus from relief measures to building resilience in flood-prone areas. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Countries all over the world face increasing flood risks because of urbanization and the effects of climate change. In India, flooding is the most common of all natural disasters and accounts for the largest number of casualties and highest amount of economic damage.
  • Continuous downpour in many parts of India has paralyzed the lives of more than a million people. The states of Gujarat, Bihar, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal has resulted in flash floods. Continuous rainfall has left many dead across India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Millions of people are affected across borders and many are forced to flee their homes because of the heavy rain.
  • However, there is need to shift the focus from flood protection to flood governance. It would require a shift in the understanding of floods from being an extreme weather event, to a hazard that is partly natural and partly anthropogenic.

Flood in the North-east

  • In the Northeast, Flooding is natural because the rivers mostly originating in the Eastern Himalayas, experience a sharp fall in gradient as they move from Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan to reach Assam’s floodplains. This fall in altitude causes a large volume of water to gush to the floodplains.
  • Most of these rivers carry large amounts of sediments, which then get deposited on the floodplains, reducing the storage capacity of the river channels and resulting in inundation of the adjoining floodplains. Flooding is partly anthropogenic as the sediment load carried by the rivers is accentuated through “developmental” interventions in the Eastern Himalayas that result in deforestation.
  • The flood protection includes measures such as embankments, dredging rivers and bank strengthening, in the villages of Assam, Bihar, UP, and Bengal, embankments are cost-intensive options, however the scope of storage dams in Arunachal Pradesh is limited, given the region’s geology and the ecology. There has been constant more focus on construction and less on maintenance.
  • People in the flood-prone areas in the Northeast, by and large, practice subsistence agriculture. While the land remains inundated for an extended period in the monsoons, limited irrigation coverage constrains intensification of agriculture in the dry months.
  • Floods are also accompanied by outbreaks of diseases such as diarrhoea. During the flood months Water and sanitation issues require attention, access to veterinary services is get limited resulting in high cattle mortality and morbidity, access to schools also get restricted.

Flood governance

  • There is need to shift our focus towards flood governance, it can help in reducing vulnerability, increasing access to services, and maximising productivity through optimal use of available resources. Community-based advance flood warning systems, for example, have been successfully piloted in parts of Assam. Providing adequate number of boats will enhance access to developmental activities during floods and also facilitate safe commute for schoolchildren. 
  • Elevated toilets, Eco sanitation units promoted in the flood-prone areas like of North Bihar and elevated dug wells or tube wells with iron filter need to be installed in the Northeast. Though these are more expensive than the Swachh Bharat toilets and wells or handpumps. But if promoted on a large-scale, they will reduce the public health challenges in the flood-prone areas.
  • Productivity can be maximised by giving people access to cheaper sources of irrigation, innovative agriculture techniques like floating vegetable gardens, scientific fish farming on the water bodies and the inundated land can ensure that inundation, when it cannot be avoided, is put to optimal use.

Way ahead

  • There is need of strategic environment assessment of development activities, a practice that followed in several countries, needs to be undertaken in the Brahmaputra basin.
  • The debate on how urban agglomerations can be made more resilient to the flood risks includes a discussion on how a diversification, coordination, and alignment of flood risk management strategies (FRMSs), including flood risk prevention through proactive spatial planning, flood defense, flood risk mitigation and flood recovery, can contribute to flood resilience.

Question– Capacity building is any day far better mechanism than mitigating mechanism after the tragedy has occurred. Comment.