Under scrutiny

(The Hindu)

 

Marginalised from school

(The Hindu)

 

Should military spending be increased?

(The Hindu)

Under scrutiny

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on issue of to include BCCI under the Right to Information law regime.

(GS paper II)

Overview

 

  • The Law Commission of India recommended to the government that the 90-year-old Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should be declared a public body. The Board and all its member cricket associations should be brought under the Right to Information law regime.

 

  • Over the years, the popular expectation that India’s cash-rich and commercially successful apex cricket body will have to make itself more transparent and accountable has been rising.

 

Assessment

 

  • The BCCI is a private body that needs no financial help from the government, it is being increasingly recognised that it performs significant public functions. Even though a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in 2005 held by a 3-2 majority that the BCCI could not be termed an instrumentality of the ‘State’ under Article 12 of the Constitution, subsequent developments have ensured that the public character of its functioning is widely recognised.

 

  • In recent years, especially against the backdrop of the betting scandal that hit the Indian Premier League tournament a few years ago, the view that the cricket board is functioning in an opaque manner and not entirely in the game’s interest has gained ground.

 

  • The Supreme Court’s intervention led to the constitution of the Justice R.M. Lodha Committee, which recommended sweeping reforms in the board’s structure and the rules governing its administration. Many believe that implementing these reforms at both national and State levels would impart greater transparency in its functioning and lead to an overhaul of cricket administration in the country. The apex court also reaffirmed the public character of the BCCI’s functions.

 

  • The Lodha Committee recommended that the board be treated as a public authority under the RTI Act, and the Supreme Court wanted the Law Commission to examine this suggestion. The Central Information Commission favoured the idea.

 

  • The Union government has on different occasions maintained that the BCCI is a ‘national sports federation’ and, therefore, an entity that falls under the RTI Act’s ambit. However, the BCCI is not one of the national federations listed on the website of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

 

  • Summing up its reasoning, the Law Commission has taken into account “the monopolistic nature of the power exercised by BCCI, the de facto recognition afforded by the Government, the impact of the Board’s actions/decisions on the fundamental rights of the players, umpires and the citizenry in general” to argue that the BCCI’s functions are public in nature.

 

  • BCCI virtually acts as a National Sports Federation (NSF). The Commission recommended that the ministry website should explicitly mention BCCI in the list of NSFs. This would automatically bring BCCI within the purview of RTI Act, the Commission said.

 

Way ahead

 

  • Whether its autonomy would suffer as a result of being brought under the RTI. It is unlikely: other national federations are under the RTI and there is no reason to believe it would be any different for the BCCI. 

 

QuestionWhether BCCI needs a structural revamp or not? Explain how the proposal to bring the BCCI under the RTI reflects rising public expectation?

 

Marginalised from school

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of assessment of RTE act.

(GS paper II)

Overview

 

  • The recent Budget session of Indian Parliament was appallingly disrupted by the ruling party’s surrogates and Question Hour did not function most of the time, some things did work, almost on autopilot. The prestigious “starred questions” could not get asked, and the “unstarred” ones have given us an instructive insight into some crucial aspects of government policy.

 

  • The questions to the Minister of Human Resource Development in the Lok Sabha on the implementation of the Right to Education Act (RTE), almost a decade after its enactment, are a case in point. The answers received are alarming, and definitely warrant an emergency review of the implementation of the Act.

 

Right to Education Act (RTE)

 

  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE) is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted on 4 August 2009, which describes the modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 in India under Article 21a of the Indian Constitution. India became one of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child when the Act came into force on 1 April 2010.

 

  • The Act makes education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14 and specifies minimum norms in elementary schools. It requires all private schools to reserve 25% of seats to children (to be reimbursed by the state as part of the public-private partnership plan). Kids are admitted in to private schools based on economic status or caste based reservations.

 

  • It also prohibits all unrecognised schools from practice, and makes provisions for no donation or capitation fees and no interview of the child or parent for admission. The Act also provides that no child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education. There is also a provision for special training of school drop-outs to bring them up to par with students of the same age.

 

Assessment

 

  • Section 12(1)(c) of the Act mandates private unaided schools to reserve 25% of seats for children from economically weaker sections (EWS), in the age bracket of six to 14 years. This enabled economically marginalised communities to access high quality private schools, at the expense of the State. While Telangana may be excused due to its recent formation, it is unjustifiable that the other States have failed to undertake the most basic steps to implement Section 12(1)(c) of an Act passed eight years ago.

 

  • States have to notify per-child costs to pay the private schools, on behalf of the children admitted under this provision. However, out of 29 States and seven Union Territories, only 14 have notified their per-child costs. The provision does not apply to Jammu and Kashmir and there are no private schools in Lakshadweep; therefore, as per the data provided, a shocking 20 States/UTs have still not notified the per-child costs, a blatant violation of the letter and spirit of the RTE.

 

  • It is also shocking to note that in 2017-18, of the 15 States which submitted their reimbursement claims to the Central government, only six were approved. Many of the claims of the States were not provided funds by the Centre, as they had not notified the per-child costs.

 

  • According to Indus Action, an organisation which works in 10 States specifically on this provision, while there are higher order issues like the methodology used by States to calculate the per-child cost and lack of coverage of ancillary costs in the reimbursements, the absence of a streamlined disbursement framework both at the Central and State levels is one of the biggest reasons that reimbursements are not processed.

 

  • If the States are not provided sufficient funds, private schools would be forced to bear the costs of the children. Civil society activists have informed me of instances of schools refusing to admit children under the RTE provision, citing non-payment of dues by State governments.

 

Way forward

 

  • The Preamble to the Constitution states that the democratic Republic of India shall secure social, economic and political justice. Education is undoubtedly the most important element in the movement to secure this end.

 

  • Although the Directive Principles of State Policy mandate the state to provide children the right to access education, and the 86th constitutional amendment and the RTE dictate its implementation, it will only be fulfilled if sincere efforts are made by the States under the guidance and prodding of a committed Centre.

 

  •  The RTE aimed to provide a framework for private schools to supplement the efforts of the state to uplift disadvantaged sections of society through the means of education. We need to act immediately to address the gaps in the implementation of the law. 

 

Question The Centre must review the lack of implementation of the Right to Education Act across the country. Critically examine.

 

Should military spending be increased?

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of whether in India, military spending need to be increased or not?

(GS paper II)

Overview

 

  • For a developing country that is committed to enhancing the quality of life of its citizens, defence is usually the last thing on the nation’s mind. Yet, no government that is committed to such a cause can ignore the existing physical and psychological security threats. Comprehensive national security helps a nation attain its aspirations, and robust security is a subset of that. India has a robust military machine.

 

  • A recent report from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence found that the capital budget for the Indian Air Force was 46 percent lower than required, while the Army’s budget was 41 percent lower and the Navy’s was 32 percent.  India’s military spending is set to increase under the 2018-19 budget. Whether the military spending should be increased or not?

 

In the favour

 

 

  • In India the lack of a national security strategy, a national strategic culture and a transformational approach towards its military capability prevent it from obtaining optimum benefit from its defence expenditure. The defence budget is increasingly looked at as a means to provide incremental resources to other sectors, since procedural delays prevent its optimum and timely expenditure.

 

 

  • In February, the Army transparently deposed before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence and stated two pertinent things: one, 68% of its equipment was in the vintage category, and two, with the new budget allocation of 1.47% of GDP, the sustenance of at least 24 capital projects is in jeopardy. The Army received ₹268.2 billion for modernisation as against its demand for ₹445.7 billion.

 

  • With the Doklam crisis and the necessity of mobilising the Siliguri-based Corps, along with other priority resources from many other sectors to make up existing deficiencies and optimise the Corps’ capability, the Army expended almost its entire allocation of the transportation budget.

 

  • In January, it had no money to even hire vehicles. The revenue budget amounts to a little over 80%, leaving little for capital expenditure through which modernisation is to be executed. Drawdown of a manpower-intensive Army that consumes the revenue cannot be done overnight. Thus, even as this drawdown is seriously executed, we cannot allow modernisation to languish.

 

  • Without higher allocation, the armed forces may be unable to reach even the first level of transformation they seek. Management of expenditure also needs a complete revamp. Amid the focus on prevention of potential corruption, the larger picture of timely and optimum capability development has been ignored.

 

Against

 

  • The opponents argue that the West’s “alarm” over emerging Chinese and Russian systems is pure drama for the sake of getting bigger budgets. The reality is that the U.S. with over 325 million people and a per capita GDP of more than $57,000, and Europe with over 510 million people and a per capita GDP of $436,000, are a bigger pool of scientifically trained talent at much higher levels of human value addition than China and Russia combined. They also produce far superior technology. While the manufacturing age required strong centralised governments, the information age requires heavy decentralisation and personal freedoms.

 

  • India still procures based on outdated pre-information age, kinetic paradigms, which mean that it will always attempt to emphasise quantity over quality and fail miserably on both counts. In short, it is not obsolete equipment that is the problem, it is a fossilised mindset.

 

  • India’s mix-and-match procurement was smart when it was a poor, disliked and heavily sanctioned country. In the information age, though, this strategy is a disaster, imposing heavy logistical and training duplication/wastage, while vastly reducing the efficiency of equipment.

 

  • India needs to invest more heavily in fewer soldiers not in moving-talking target practice dummies. If India rationalises its suppliers, thinking and human resources, it can achieve a lot more in the resources provided. However, a budget reduction will be an important first step into jolting the military out of its sense of entitlement and intellectual laziness.

 

It’s complicated

 

  • The issue of military spending in India has been the subject of much debate ever since the announcement of the smallest allocation since 1962 to defence in terms of GDP. The Army’s frustration was apparent in the Vice Chief of Army Staff’s remarks to the Parliamentary Panel on Defence that the “budget has dashed our hopes” and that modernisation will be seriously impacted.

 

  • India faces serious external and internal security challenges. Insurgencies in the Northeast and Kashmir continue to tie down a large number of Army units. Hostility with Pakistan has sharpened, and in the absence of diplomacy, there is talk of greater reliance on the military option to deter the Pakistan Army from continuing support to terror activities.

 

  • Also China’s rise as a global power is the achievement of regional hegemony in Asia. The manifestation of this is already visible and this will lead to a heightened strategic competition between India and China. In the absence of strong Indian military power, this competition will be a no contest. Therefore, there is no option but to enhance the defence budget.

 

  • However, it can also be argued that India has the fifth largest defence budget in the world and any increase will only come at great cost to an already stressed population. Both sides have merit in their arguments but what is clear is that there is a complete mismatch between budget allocation and the existing structure of the military.

 

  • The nature of civil-military relations in India has resulted in an absence of regular consultations on strategic matters. The allocation of funds to the military, whatever the percentage of GDP, must be based on this plan and not the current ad hoc yearly allocations. The military also needs to look at its organisational structures.

 

  • The military is in danger of becoming a technologically second-rate force with no focus on robotics, unmanned systems, Artificial Intelligence, etc. There is no organisation within the military to tackle cyber threats. It is worrying that 68% of the Army’s equipment is vintage, but perhaps this also provides an opportunity to invest in new technology and ideas. 

 

Question Both the government and the military have to play their part for national security, critically examine why there is need to increase the military spending?