IASCLUB Daily Current Affairs : 16 August 2019

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Fertility rate

Topic: GS–II: Social Justice and Human Resources

THE GRAPH shows trends for the total fertility rate (TFR) in various states.

  • TFR, defined as the number of children born to a woman until the end of her child-bearing age, is a key indicator for population trends.
  • During his Independence Day speech Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi underlined challenges posed by population growth in the country. “I would like to highlight the issue of population explosion in our country from the aegis of the Red Fort today. This rapidly increasing population poses various new challenges for us and our future generations,” the Prime Minister said.
  • The graph is based on TFR data from the Sample Registration System (SRS) undertaken by the Office of the Registrar General of India. The SRS also looks at other indicators such as crude birth rate, general fertility rate, age specific/marital fertility rate, gross reproduction rate along with sex ratio at birth. While Census figures provide the total population every decade, the regular SRS estimates provide dynamic trends underlying the population growth.

  • After four successive years (2013-2016) when the TFR stagnated at 2.3 births per woman of child-bearing age, the latest SRS estimates (2017) show the TFR dropping to 2.2. This figure is only marginally higher than the fertility rate (2.1) required for replacement of the existing population.
  • SRS estimates over the last decade and more, meanwhile, show a declining trend across the country. Even the states that have a higher TFR — Uttar Pradesh (3.0), Bihar (3.2), MP (2.7), Rajasthan (2.6), Assam (2.3), Chhattisgarh (2.4) and Jharkhand (2.5) — have been witnessing a declining trend in fertility rates. These seven states account for about 45 per cent of the total population in the 2011 Census. Two more states, Gujarat and Haryana, recorded a TFR of 2.2, which is above the replacement rate but is equal to the national average. Taken together, these nine major states account for 52 per cent of the 2011 population.
  • This means that in the states barring these nine, and accounting for almost half the population, the replacement level is either 2.1 or has gone below it. These states with a lower TFR include Kerala (1.7), Tamil Nadu (1.6), Karnataka (1.7), Maharashtra (1.7), Andhra Pradesh (1.6), Telangana (1.7), West Bengal (1.6), Jammu and Kashmir (1.6) and Odisha (1.9).

One Nation, One Election

Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity

Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeated from the ramparts of the Red Fort his idea of simultaneous elections in all of India.

  • The Prime Minister has been committed to the idea for several years now, and he had announced soon after being reelected to office that a committee would be formed to discuss the idea with all political parties.

Arguments for and against

  • There are arguments for both seeking and opposing simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and all State Assemblies across India.
  • One Nation, One Election would reduce the cost of holding elections, and limit all elections to a single season. At present, elections happen somewhere or the other almost all the time, and it is often argued that the Model Code of Conduct gets in the way of the government announcing projects or policy plans for the benefit of the people.
  • On the other hand, critics argue that holding just one mega election would be too complex an exercise to tackle in a country as large and as complex as India. It would be a logistic nightmare — requiring, for example, about twice as many electronic voting machines and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail machines as are used now.
  • There is also the view that simultaneous elections would benefit the party that is nationally dominant at the cost of smaller regional players — in other words, the BJP would get an unfair advantage. Also, what happens if any government collapses before completing its term? Several state legislatures have been extremely unstable in recent years, and the BJP has been the primary agent of instability in many cases. Even the central government could fall — in fact, of the 17 Lok Sabhas since 1952, seven were dissolved ahead of schedule (in 1971, 1980, 1984, 1991, 1998, 1999 and 2004).

The beginning was simultaneous

  • India did start out with simultaneous elections. Lok Sabha and state legislatures went to polls together in 1952 and 1957. The cycle was first broken in Kerala, in July 1959, when the government of Jawaharlal Nehru used Article 356 of the Constitution to dismiss the government of the Communist E M S Namboodiripad. EMS had become Chief Minister after the elections of April 1957 and, Kerala voted for a new five-year Assembly again in February 1960.
  • In the 1967 elections, the Congress suffered setbacks in Bihar, UP, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal, Orissa, Madras and Kerala, and governments of the Samyukta Vidhayak Dal, comprising the Bharatiya Kranti Dal, Samyukta Socialist Party, Praja Socialist Party, Swatantra Party, Bharatiya Jana Sangh and defectors from the Congress, were formed. The governments were unstable, there were rampant defections, and many of these Assemblies were dissolved before their terms were over, resulting in the separation of the election cycles of many states from that of the Lok Sabha.
  • At present, Assembly elections in only Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are held together with the Lok Sabha elections.

Early explorations of the idea

  • More than 35 years ago, in 1983, the Election Commission had suggested simultaneous elections. The Law Commission headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy, in its 170th Report in May 1999, had stated: “We must go back to the situation where the elections to Lok Sabha and all the Legislative Assemblies are held at once”.
  • In 2003, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took up the matter with Congress president Sonia Gandhi who was receptive to begin with, but the idea could not be ultimately pursued.
  • In 2015, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, headed by E M Sudarsana Natchiappan, prepared a report on the ‘Feasibility of Holding Simultaneous Elections to House of People (Lok Sabha) and State Legislative Assemblies’. The report said that simultaneous elections would help to reduce:
  • The massive expenditure that is currently incurred for the conduct of separate elections.
  • The policy paralysis that results from the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct during election time.
  • The impact on the delivery of essential services.
  • The burden on crucial manpower that is deployed during election time.

 

  • The Congress opposed the idea as “impractical” and “unworkable”. The Trinamool Congress said it was anti-democratic and unconstitutional. The CPI and the NCP said it was “not feasible”. The CPI(M) pointed towards “practical problems”.
  • In 2017, in his address to the Joint Session of Parliament President Pranab Mukherjee said frequent elections “put on hold development programmes, disrupt normal public life, and impact essential services and burden human resource with prolonged periods of election duty”. The President’s speech to the Joint Session of Parliament is prepared by the government.
  • That same year, in a discussion paper titled ‘Analysis of Simultaneous Elections: The What, Why, and How’, Bibek Debroy and Kishore Desai of NITI Aayog pointed out that the general elections of 2009 had cost the exchequer about Rs 1,115 crore, and the 2014 elections about Rs 3,870 crore. The total expenses, including spends by the parties and candidates, would be several times more.
  • In a draft report on August 30, 2018, the Law Commission headed by Justice B S Chauhan said simultaneous elections could not be held within the existing framework of the Constitution. “…Appropriate amendments to the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act 1951, and the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and state Assemblies” would be required, the report said.
  • The Commission recommended that all elections due in a calendar year should be conducted together. To preempt the disruption that a no-confidence motion, if carried, may cause, the Commission recommended that the “no-confidence motion” should be replaced with a “constructive vote of no-confidence” through appropriate amendments, and that a government may be replaced only if there is confidence in an alternative government.
  • In his address to the Joint Session of Parliament this June, President Ram Nath Kovind said: “One Nation, Simultaneous Election is the need of the hour, which would facilitate accelerated development, thereby benefiting our countrymen.”
  • Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said at a public function that simultaneous elections were “a very desirable goal, but for that, political systems of the country will have to take steps to align the life of a state Assembly with the life of Parliament”.

What happens from here on?

  • The Opposition is likely to remain wary of an idea that has the potential to take away the regional element of state elections, and allow national leaders to overshadow regional ones. The 2019 Lok Sabha elections demonstrated the unmatched appeal of Prime Minister Modi, and a single campaign and election for all state Assemblies and the Lok Sabha might give the BJP an overwhelming advantage across the country
  • On the other hand, the Prime Minister’s clear commitment to the idea suggests that the BJP will push the envelope as much as it can. It will be waiting for a majority in Rajya Sabha, but as the matter of Article 370 and change of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status showed, crucial policy matters can be pushed through even in the absence of numbers. This, however, will be a more complicated process.

Post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)

 Topic: GS -III: Security

In his Independence Day address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff to provide “effective leadership at the top level” to the three wings of the armed forces, and to help improve coordination among them.

What is the office of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)?

  • The CDS is a high military office that oversees and coordinates the working of the three Services, and offers seamless tri-service views and single-point advice to the Executive (in India’s case, to the Prime Minister) on long-term defence planning and management, including manpower, equipment and strategy, and above all, “jointsmanship” in operations.
  • In most democracies, the CDS is seen as being above inter-Service rivalries and the immediate operational preoccupations of the individual military chiefs. The role of the CDS becomes critical in times of conflict.
  • Most countries with advanced militaries have such a post, albeit with varying degrees of power and authority. The United States Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), for example, is extremely powerful, with a legislated mandate and sharply delineated powers.
  • He is the most senior military officer and military adviser to the President, and his remit extends to the National Security Council, the Homeland Secuirty Council, and the Defence Secretary.
  • The Chiefs of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and National Guard too, are members of the JCSC. All, including the CJCSC, are four-star officers, but by statute only the CJCSC is designated as the “principal military adviser”. However, the CJCSC is barred from exercising any operational authority over combat commanders in varied theatres; this authority rests exclusively with the US President.

Arguments against

  • The appointment of a CDS is long overdue, but there appears to be no clear blueprint for the office to ensure its effectiveness. India’s political establishment is seen as being largely ignorant of, or at best indifferent towards, security matters, and hence incapable of ensuring that a CDS works.
  • Militaries by nature tend to resist transformation. In the US, the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act elevated the Chairman from first among equals to the “principal military advisor” to the President and the Secretary of Defence. In the Indian context, critics fear, the absence of foresight and understanding might end up making the CDS just another case of “jobs for the boys”.

Who at present advises India’s Prime Minister on military matters?

  • In effect it is the National Security Adviser. This has been especially so after the Defence Planning Committee was created in 2018, with NSA Ajit Doval as its chairman, and the foreign, defence, and expenditure secretaries, and the three Service Chiefs as members.

 NEWS IN BREEF:

Minister to launch drive against single-use plastic

  • Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday announced that a massive campaign will be launched to make India free of single-use plastic.
  • Javadekar made this announcement at Sau Paulo in Brazil, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech urged people to shun single-use plastic and go in for jute and cloth bags.
  • Single-use plastic — any plastic item that has to be discarded after being used once and can’t be recycled

Editorial section:

Rajapaksa redux and a democracy in peril-The Hindu

Words and deeds-The Hindu

Trade rhetoric-The Hindu

Lessons after the great deluge-The Hindu

 

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