1.India needs strong, directly elected mayors (Live Mint)
2.Reading between the numbers (The Hindu)
3.Malabar signals (Indian Express)
1.India needs strong, directly elected mayors (Live Mint)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of having directly elected mayors for the municipality. (GS paper II)
- Maharashtra cabinet approved a proposal for direct election of the village sarpanch, the head of the gram panchayat. Earlier, the sarpanchwas elected indirectly, by elected representatives.
- Notwithstanding the political motives, direct elections for the posts of sarpanchand municipal council president are welcome developments. But this needs to be extended to municipal corporations that govern larger urban areas. Such a step will have huge repercussions for governance.
Need to have directly elected mayors
- The passage of the 74th Constitution Amendment in 1992 resulted in Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) — Nagar Panchayats, Municipal Councils and Municipal Corporations — becoming a constitutionally recognised “institution of self-government”. However, it did not prescribe the manner of election, tenure or powers of the Mayors/Chairpersons of ULBs.
- Currently, the head of the municipal corporation, the mayor, is merely a ceremonial authority and executive decisions are carried out by the municipal commissioner appointed by the state government.
- Each time an Indian city is hit by a major urban crisis, we hear exasperated queries about why our cities are so dysfunctional. While there are multiple reasons for India’s urban woes, one of the underlying problems is the absence of powerful and politically accountable leadership in the city.
- Our cities have a weak and fragmented institutional architecture in which multiple agencies with different bosses pull the strings of city administration. Understandably, the most touted urban governance reform is that of having a directly elected Mayor.
Roadblocks to direct election
- The state governments do not want to let go of their powers. The resources generated from the cities are used to lubricate the political economies in rural areas.
- The structures of local government created by the 73rd and 74th amendments did not go far enough; the resources and the powers continue to be vested with the state governments, which have been reluctant to delegate them.
- Lack of direct elections is not the only problem. Indeed, some of the states do hold direct elections for mayors.
- Another issue is the short tenure of mayors in many states. For instance, the BMC mayor’s tenure is two-and-a-half years hardly enough to create lasting changes in a large metropolis.
- Sometimes, directly elected mayors run into corporations dominated by members of rival political parties. This leads to snags in day-to-day governance.
What can be done
- Mayoral reform has now made its way into Parliament with introducing a private member’s bill to amend the Constitution for strengthening local governments. While the chances of any private member’s bill, least of all a Constitution Amendment, becoming law is extremely low, it plays an important role in shaping parliamentary and public discourse.
- The bill aims to establish strong leadership for cities by providing for a directly elected and empowered Mayor.
- It also touches the right notes on other key urban governance reforms such as mandating the constitution of area sabhas and ward committees and strengthening the devolution of functions to local governments.
- Present bill seeks to mandates the direct election of the Mayor, fixes the Mayor’s term to be coterminous with that of the municipality, and makes the Mayor the executive head of the municipality.
- For responsive urban governance, we need a powerful political executive in the city with more autonomy, whether directly or indirectly elected. An empowered executive at the city can also be achieved through an indirectly elected “Mayor-in-Council” system in which, much like the cabinet system in Parliament, the Mayor has to maintain the support of the majority of the council.
- There is little evidence to suggest that directly elected mayors are better. In fact, States like Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh which introduced directly elected Mayors reversed the decision due to the difficulties posed by such a system.
Problems to indirect election
- A fundamental issue with a directly elected Mayor is that instead of enabling efficiency, it might actually result in gridlock in administration, especially when the Mayor and the majority of elected members of the city council are from different political parties.
- Notably, bill gives the Mayor veto powers over some of the council’s resolutions and also lets the Mayor nominate members of the Mayor-in-Council and vest it with powers. Essentially, it centralises power in the hands of the Mayor and his nominees and creates a political executive which neither enjoys the support of the elected council nor needs its acquiescence for taking decisions.
- A more fundamental question to consider is this: even if a directly elected mayoral system is a relatively good reform, should it be made mandatory for all municipalities under the Constitution? India is one of the few countries where the powers of the local government are laid out in the federal Constitution. However, local government is still under List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. Hence only the State is empowered to make laws on this subject. In such a federal system, constitutional provisions should only lay down the broad institutional framework for local governments.
- But since States are often reluctant to devolve functions to local government, it makes sense to mandate such devolution in the Constitution. However, the Constitution may not be the ideal instrument for prescribing the manner in which the head of a local government is elected.
- More cities should perhaps institute a directly elected mayor. But making it the only way through which Mayors can be elected limits the options of cities and States.
Question– How direct elections will address the civic perils of the cities. What more reforms will be required at grassroots level?
2.Reading between the numbers (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the need to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. (GS paper II)
- With the world confronting a host of major crises relating to climate, energy, severe poverty, food, the global economy and political instability, rising population is also among one of them. Overpopulation is an undesirable condition where the number of existing human population exceeds the carrying capacity of Earth. Developing nations face the problem of overpopulation more than developed countries.
- According to the latest data of April 2015 from World Bank, India’s population stands at 1.31 billion. It is only behind China which has a population of 1.37billion. The second most populous country in the world is set to surpass China as the most populous country by 2024 and according to estimates; the drop in India’s population will only come around 2050.
- The problem of increasing population in India has become a matter of deep concern. India is one of the most populous countries of the world, in which over 17 % of the total population of the world resides. The two main common causes leading to over population in India are:
- The birth rate is still higher than the death rate. We have been successful in declining the death rates but the same cannot be said for birth rates.
- The fertility rate due to the population policies and other measures has been falling but even then it is much higher compared to other countries.
World Population Day
- World Population Day, which seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, was established by the then Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989, an outgrowth of the interest generated by the Day of Five Billion, which was observed on 11 July 1987.
- In 1990, the United Nations General Assembly decided to continue observing World Population Day to enhance awareness of population issues, including their relations to the environment and development.
Theme for 2017 – Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations
- In 2017 World Population Day, 11 July, coincides with the Family Planning Summit, the second meeting of the FP2020–Family Planning 2020–initiative, which aims to expand access to voluntary family planning to 120 million additional women by 2020.
- Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) is a U.N.-affiliated organization that matches donor countries like the U.S. with partner countries in the developing world on family planning goals that aims to give 120 million women and girls access to modern contraceptives by 2020.
Population dynamics in India
- Population dynamics is the study of how and why populations change in size and structure over time. Important factors in population dynamics include rates of reproduction, death and migration.
- There are both benefits and burdens associated with having a large population; and a pressing onus on the State is to display a consistent engagement with well-defined, humane plans designed to enhance the benefits and alleviate the burdens of carrying an increasing population.
- The demographic dividend is the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working-age population (15 to 64) is larger than the non-working-age share of the population (14 and younger, and 65 and older).
- India has ‘window of opportunity’ or ‘demographic dividend’ during which the working-age population as a proportion of the total population is large enough in principle to supply resources.
- According to International Monetary Fund (IMF), India’s continuing demographic dividend can add about 2 percent to the annual rate of economic growth, if harnessed properly. We have a large number of young people but we do not have the skills or jobs for this to translate linearly into larger economic output advantage will begin to erode soon enough.
- According to the Human Development Report (HDR) published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), India is still in the medium human development category with countries like China, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Philippines, Egypt, Indonesia, South Africa, and even Vietnam has a better rank. Therefore health and education parameters need to be improved substantially to make the Indian workforce efficient and skilled.
- Our population size and growth require us to reflect more deeply on the implications of this size and growth for development. Are we exceeding our carrying capacity nationally and globally? Are the rising population densities increasing the spread of infection through too much close contact between people? Are we using up water and forests and energy faster than we can replenish them?
Population growth Concerns
Family planning is the key that unlocks that process of families and individuals managing those choices for themselves, improving women’s rights can be a powerful tool to tackle unsustainable population growth. According to the studies-
- In both the developing and industrialized world, women with more education have fewer children, according to the World Bank.
- Access to safe family planning options not only allows women to become more economically productive but would also result in a 75% decline in unintended pregnancies, unplanned births and induced abortions in developing regions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive justice and sexual health research institution.
- Access to contraception and information about family planning are vital components of gender equality. According to the UNFPA, “When women and couples are empowered to plan whether and when to have children, women are better enabled to complete their education; women’s autonomy within their households is increased; and their earning power is improved.”
- Government has undertaken some measures to impart skills to the Indian workforce to reap the benefits of demographic dividends. Major challenge of skill development initiatives is also to address the needs of huge population by providing skills in order to make them employable and help them secure decent work.
- Government established National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) to contribute significantly (about 30 per cent) to the overall target of skilling, up skilling 500 million people in India by 2022, mainly by fostering private sector initiatives in skill development programmes and providing funding. Major objectives of NSDC are:
- Upgrade skills to international standards through significant industry involvement and develop necessary frameworks for standards, curriculum and quality assurance
- Enhance, support and coordinate private sector initiatives for skill development through appropriate Public-Private Partnership (PPP) models; strive for significant operational and financial involvement from the private sector
- Focus on underprivileged sections of society and backward regions of the country thereby enabling a move out of poverty; similarly, focus significantly on the unorganized or informal sector workforce.
- Play the role of a “market-maker” by bringing financing, particularly in sectors where market mechanisms are ineffective or missing
- Prioritize initiatives that can have a multiplier or catalytic effect as opposed to one-off impact.
- India is in need to have a better understanding of what population growth does to resources given the vast disparities in consumption between the rich (and usually low-fertility) and the poor (and high-fertility) populations.
- It needs to publicise better the non-coercive and much more effective interventions that can lead to falls in fertility everywhere, for example girls’ education and women’s easy access to voluntary contraception in particular. As more women get educated, several of the economic and social reasons for wanting many children begin to seem less important and it organically results in fewer births if the means to achieve this are known and available.
- What women need is the right to make their own childbearing decisions and to have the information and services to make these decisions wisely and well. If this truly happens, the ‘population’ question will take care of itself.
Question– Population and poverty are two interrelated issues. How both are reinforcing each other?
3.Malabar signals (Indian Express)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the recent defence exercise of India and USA. (GS paper II)
- The on going naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal between India, US and Japan are taking place amid continuing tension between India and China in the Bhutan-China border.
- Considering that the US-China ties since North Korea tested its intercontinental ballistic missile are somewhat strained, the Malabar maneuvers have added to China’s overall concern over New Delhi’s relations with the US.
- The three-nation Malabar Naval Exercise involving India, Japan and the United States maritime forces began in the Bay of Bengal on Monday.
- Initiated in 1992 between the Indian and the US navies, the Malabar joint naval exercise is a series of exercises to test different naval strategies. The tri-nation exercise is being held in the backdrop of India’s prevailing border tension with China at Doka La.
- This is the Indian Navy’s biggest ever participation in the exercise: Nine warships, including aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, and a Kilo-class submarine, along with Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft P8I.
Importance of exercise
- But it is not merely about the numbers. It is also about the naval platforms being fielded for the exercise. India has never fielded the P8I and INS Vikramaditya in any exercise; in fact, the US Navy had requested for the Russian-built aircraft carrier’s participation last year but it was declined by the Indian side.
- A handful of navies operate aircraft carriers globally China is still learning the ropes of operating an aircraft carrier and for India to do joint training with the US using its sole aircraft carrier signifies a greater degree of cooperation and confidence in the bilateral relationship.
- The P8I aircraft is a variation of the American P8A aircraft and the Indian side will only learn from the Americans. It will bring out that India is unable to optimally utilise the asset, which is bound to reopen the debate over India signing the two pending foundational agreements with the US.
- As the three navies exercise in the Indian waters, the elephant in the room or the dragon in the sea is China. The Chinese have already issued a statement about their exercise and their intelligence gathering ship, Haiwingxing, had entered the area earlier this month, to keep track. It had responded very strongly in 2007 when five countries had participated in Malabar.
- This time, Australia was keen to be a participant but Indians vetoed the proposal because of its earlier acquiescence towards China. India, however, would be hoping that China will get the message, that its forays in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) won’t go uncontested.
- China has been flexing its muscle in the IOR and the Indian Navy has been stretched in trying to monitor the increased Chinese movement. A successful Malabar would further drive home the Indian commitment to safeguard its maritime interests.
Question What are the strategic importance of military exercises? In this context, will Malabar exercise benefit India?