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29th August – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. National well-being and the counts that matter
  2. SC: Flag inequalities within SC-ST categories
  3. Government and Common Electoral Roll

NATIONAL WELL-BEING AND THE COUNTS THAT MATTER

Focus: GS-II Governance, Social Justice

Introduction

  • Measuring and tracking matters of import is critical to individual, community as well as national well-being.
  • If we equally value all Indians, we should not stick to decennial census operations alone and count ourselves the way we do — on lines that tell us how we can be sorted and addressed in the political economy; rather, we should do so to understand what our cumulative human capital and potential look like.

Births in the country

  • Current stillbirth numbers in India are hard to pin down, but after accounting for background losses and abortions, there still remains a distressingly large number of still births, sometimes mis-recorded as early neonatal deaths.
  • A birth weight is much more than a number — it is a complex outcome, telling of how well the woman and her family eats, her status among them, and also of any particular condition that the individual mother or newborn child has.
  • Tracking average birthweights by district and subdistrict on a regular basis is a fair proxy for food security, the status of women and the delivery of primary health care.

Height-weight proportions

  • Parental hopes of a child growing up, going to school and becoming successful hit a major hurdle if the height-weight proportions at age five are not normal.
  • If India is to be truly taking advantage of its large birth cohort in the form of a demographic dividend, then the correlate of birthweight and five-year height-weight needs to be reviewed at the highest political levels regularly.
  • It reflects the physical and cognitive nurture of human capital that the country can bank on for its future.

Improved learning

  • Schooling is a socio-economic and gender parity springboard if school completion rates show no gender, rural-urban or parental income divides.
  • Consequently, India may not only bring down its maternal mortality ratios but also improve neonatal and under five mortality rates, through delayed marriages and exercising of reproductive choices by its empowered young women.
  • Grading cognitively ill-equipped or ill-taught children on standardised tests is as much a waste of effort as letting large numbers of young people graduate through courses which are hopelessly out of sync with the expectations of the job interview board.
  • Deworming, school toilets, sanitary pads and bicycles for girls are progressive policy steps in the right direction; adding remedial training and affirmative feedback for teachers will be transformative.
  • With better cognitive capacities and supportive environment, the stress of learning reduces, and outcomes improve.
  • Improved learning should translate into better completion rates at post-secondary and baccalaureate levels but need not necessarily correspond to universal, meaningful employment.

-Source: The Hindu


SC: FLAG INEQUALITIES WITHIN SC-ST CATEGORIES

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Why in news?

  • A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled that state governments can sub classify Scheduled Castes and Tribes to provide preferential treatment to the more deprived among them so that the real purpose of reservation can be achieved.
  • This contradicts a 2004 order of a five-judge bench that had ruled against states creating subcategories within the SC-ST categories.
  • The final word has not been said since the case has now been referred to a seven-judge Constitution bench of the apex court.

The Merit

  • There is merit in the Supreme Court’s reading that “reservation creates inequalities within the reserved castes itself”.
  • Its support for sub-classification in order for the government to adopt “a distributive justice method so that State largesse does not concentrate in few hands and equal justice to all is provided” is in consonance with the principle and spirit of reservation spelt out in the Constitution.
  • Evidence suggests that a few castes have been cornering most of the benefits extended by reservation to SCs, including in employment and admission to educational institutions.

Unfair Advantage

  • This is not surprising since some groups have historically had a relative advantage of access to material resources, including land, cultural capital, and education, over other groups in the Scheduled Castes.
  • With reservation treating the SCs as a homogenous community, these social and economic inequalities within have widened.
  • The relatively dominant sections have gained at the expense of the weaker groups, causing resentment among the latter and forcing them to mobilise on the issue.
  • In the absence of state intervention, the dominance of certain castes may continue at the expense of more depressed communities and diminish the emancipatory potential of reservation.

Conclusion

  • State intervention must be carefully thought through and protected from political-electoral exigencies.
  • Political opportunism only serves to discredit an instrument that has gone a long way in addressing historical injustice and inequality.

-Source: Indian Express


GOVERNMENT AND COMMON ELECTORAL ROLL

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

The Prime Minister’s Office held a meeting with representatives of the Election Commission and the Law Ministry to discuss the possibility of having a common electoral roll for elections to the panchayat, municipality, state assembly and the Lok Sabha.

How many types of electoral rolls do we have in our country and why the distinction?

  • In many states, the voters’ list for the panchayat and municipality elections is different from the one used for Parliament and Assembly elections.
  • The distinction stems from the fact that the supervision and conduct of elections in our country are entrusted with two constitutional authorities — the Election Commission (EC) of India and the State Election Commissions (SECs).
  • Set up in 1950, the EC is charged with the responsibility of conducting polls to the offices of the President and Vice-President of India, and to Parliament, the state assemblies and the legislative councils.
  • The SECs, on the other hand, supervise municipal and panchayat elections. They are free to prepare their own electoral rolls for local body elections, and this exercise does not have to be coordinated with the EC.

Do all states have a separate voters list for their local body elections?

  • No, each SEC is governed by a separate state Act.
  • Some state laws allow the SEC to borrow and use the EC’s voter’s rolls in toto for the local body elections.
  • In others, the state commission uses the EC’s voters list as the basis for the preparation and revision of rolls for municipality and panchayat elections.
  • Currently, all states, except Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, adopt EC’s rolls for local body polls.

Why is the Union government working on a common electoral roll for elections to all local bodies, state assemblies and Lok Sabha?

  • The common electoral roll is among the promises made by the BJP in its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections last year.
  • It ties in with the party’s commitment to hold elections simultaneously to the Lok Sabha, state assemblies and local bodies, which is also mentioned in the manifesto.
  • The incumbent government has pitched a common electoral roll and simultaneous elections as a way to save an enormous amount of effort and expenditure.
  • It has argued that the preparation of a separate voters list causes duplication of essentially the same task between two different agencies, thereby duplicating the effort and the expenditure.
  • The Law Commission recommended it in its 255th report in 2015. The EC too adopted a similar stance in 1999 and 2004.

How does the government intend to implement it?

  • In the meeting called by the Prime Minister’s Office on August 13, two options were discussed.
  • First, a constitutional amendment to Articles 243K and 243ZA that give the power of superintendence, direction and control of preparation of electoral rolls and the conduct of local body elections to the SECs.
  • The amendment would make it mandatory to have a single electoral roll for all elections in the country.
  • Second, to persuade the state governments to tweak their respective laws and adopt the Election Commission’s (EC) voters list for municipal and panchayat polls.

-Source: Indian Express

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