Synoptic line: It throws light on issue of simultaneous elections in India.
(GS paper II)
- As simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies have the benefits of saving poll expenditure and helping ruling parties focus on governance instead of being constantly in election mode. For this reason, the idea of holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies appears to have caught the imagination by the centre.
- Simultaneous elections were held in the country during the first two decades after Independence up to 1967. Dissolution of certain Assemblies in 1968 and 1969 followed by the dissolution of the Lok Sabha led to the “disruption of the conduct of simultaneous elections.”
- The Law commission panel refers to a January 2017 working paper of the NITI Aayog on simultaneous elections. The white paper contains a series of “possible recommendations” of the commission.
- The first among these is that “simultaneous elections may be restored in the nation by amending the Constitution, Representation of the People Act of 1951 and the Rules of Procedure of the Lok Sabha and Assemblies.”
- It recommends that in 2019, the election could be held in phases. In the first phase, it says, elections to the legislatures which are scheduled to go for polls synchronous with the Lok Sabha in 2019 could be held together. The rest of the States could go to elections in proximity with the Lok Sabha elections of 2024.
- The Law Commission’s move to seek the opinion of the public, political parties, academicians and other stakeholders, on the proposal appears to be aimed at giving concrete shape to this political viewpoint. The Commission has released a three-page summary of its draft working paper, setting out the amendments that may be required in the Constitution and electoral laws.
- It proposes to put together a report to forward to the Centre after getting the views of the public. Among its “possible recommendations” is a “constructive vote of no-confidence”: while expressing lack of confidence in one government, members of the legislature will have to repose trust in an alternative.
- It also suggests that premature dissolution of the House could be avoided if all members sit together and elect a leader. This would entail a temporary waiver of the anti-defection law so that members could help form a stable government without the fear of disqualification.
- The flip side is that it is nearly impossible to implement, as it would mean arbitrarily curtailing or extending the term of existing legislatures to bring their election dates in line with the due date for the rest of the country. This would be the most difficult change to execute; as such a measure would undermine federalism as well as representative democracy.
- The Law Commission has suggested an alternative: categorise States based on proximity to the next general election, and have one round of State Assembly polls with the next Lok Sabha election, and another round for the remaining States 30 months later. Given the difficulties involved in shifting to simultaneous elections, we may have to live with the reality that some part of the country will go to polls every few months. The reforms can be adopted even if simultaneous elections are not held.
Question – Discuss why Law commission is recommending simultaneous election for India? Critically analyse its feasibility.
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of Rohingya crisis.
(GS paper II)
- About 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh from their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine province since August 2017. The scale of the humanitarian crisis faced by Rohingya refugees was highlighted this month when Myanmar claimed it had repatriated a family of five.
- The Rohingya, who numbered around one million in Myanmar at the start of 2017, are one of the many ethnic minorities in the country. Rohingya Muslims represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, with the majority living in Rakhine state.
- They have their own language and culture and say they are descendants of Arab traders and other groups who have been in the region for generations. But the government of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, denies the Rohingya citizenship and even excluded them from the 2014 census, refusing to recognise them as a people. It sees them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
- Late last year, the two countries had struck an agreement for their return. Bangladesh, however, rejected the claim about the repatriation of the five family members, saying they had not travelled into its territory, so their so-called return did not qualify as repatriation.
- In fact, in London this week, Bangladesh Prime Minister repeated statements by her officials on the repatriation claim, and asked the international community to put more pressure on Myanmar to “take back their own people and ensure their security”.
- Facing persecution at home in Myanmar, Rohingya have for years been fleeing in the most hazardous of ways, and the UN reckons there were already 200,000 refugees in Bangladesh before the mass flight began in August, with most refugees now concentrated in Cox’s Bazar. Bangladesh has been at the forefront of seeing to the needs of the refugees, and trying to get Myanmar to create the conditions for their eventual safe return to their homes.
- The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said last week that “conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of refugees”. It clarified that there needs to be more than physical infrastructure and logistical arrangements for their journey back. It is crucial that there be movement on Rohingyas legal status and citizenship in Myanmar and their identification with Rakhine.
- Myanmar refuses to recognise the Rohingya, who are mostly Muslim, as a separate ethnic group and denies them citizenship. It just gives them the option of self-identifying themselves as Bengali, which has its own implications for their rights as inhabitants of the country.
- Pressure on Myanmar, which won plaudits for its recent democratic transition, to recognise the rights of a people who trace their ancestry in Rakhine for generations has so far yielded nothing.
- The world needs to do a lot more especially India, as a neighbour that has an estimated 40,000 Rohingya refugees living precariously on its territory, and as a regional power that is failing this time round to keep up its legacy of providing succour to those fleeing persecution.
- At the heart of the human rights problem that confronts the world is that no one is confident that conditions obtain in Myanmar to receive the refugees
Question – Explain the Rohingya issue and discuss how the world can increase pressure on Myanmar to do right by the Rohingya?