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3rd December 2020 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. Castes count
  2. Hard Bargains and the Art of Policymaking
  3. Law Promises People With Disabilities Equality of Opportunities

CASTES COUNT

Context:

The idea of a caste census is back in the realm of public debate, following the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to establish a commission to collect caste-wise data.

Relevance:

GS Paper 2: Historical underpinnings & evolution; Features, amendments, significant provisions, basic structure; Comparison of Indian constitutional scheme with other countries’.

Mains Questions:

  1. A caste-wise survey helps gather quantifiable data, but the aim must be a casteless society. Discuss the statement in context of reservation in India. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article

  • What is Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011?
  • Why Socio Economic and Caste Census is needed?
  • What are the objectives of the SECC?
  • Key Findings of the SECC
  • Criticism related to the SECC
  • Way Forward

What is Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011?

The Ministry of Rural Development commenced the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) in June 2011 through a comprehensive door to door enumeration across the country. This is the first time such a comprehensive exercise has been carried out for both rural and urban India. It has generated information on a large number of social and economic indicators relating to households across the country.

  • SECC 2011 is also first paperless census in India conducted on hand-held electronic devices by the government in 640 districts. The rural development ministry has taken a decision to use the SECC data in all its programmers such as MGNREGA, National Food Security Act etc.
  • SECC 2011 data will also be used to identify beneficiary and expand the direct benefit transfer scheme as part of its plans to build upon the JAM (Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana-Aadhaar Mobile number portability) trinity.
Key Insights on the Reality of Rural India: Socio-Economic & Caste Census  data

Why Socio Economic and Caste Census is needed?

  • The current definition of poverty — which was derived by identifying a basket of essential goods and services and marking the point in India’s income distribution where that basket could be purchased by an individual — was missing too much.
  • For one, the numbers seemed absurdly low — set at Rs.816 per person per month in rural areas and Rs. 1,000 in urban areas by the Planning Commission by updating the Tendulkar methodology, the numbers amounted to a daily expenditure of around Rs.30, which caused public indignation. A new committee was formed which drew a new line, but the Rangarajan methodology too wound up at a poverty line not very different from the Tendulkar line.
  • Thus, a broader and more dynamic definition of poverty seemed important. · Also, while the general census was about individuals, the SECC was based on households and this gives a more accurate picture of the economic status of families.

 What are the objectives of the SECC

  •  To enable households to be ranked based on their Socio- Economic status, so that State Governments can then prepare a list of families living below the poverty line.
  • To make available authentic information that will enable caste-wise population enumeration of the country, and education status of various castes and sections of the population.
  • The regular Population Census is carried out under Census Act, 1948. According to this Act, Government must keep individual’s personal information confidential. Besides aim of regular Population Census is to provide overview, it is not concerned with any particular individual / household. Thus, personal data given in Population Census is confidential.
  • On the contrary all the personal information given in the Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC) is open for use by Government departments to grant and/ or restrict benefits to households. This required the right of verification of socio economic profile.

What are the Key Findings of the SECC?

Data addresses multi-dimensionality of poverty, and provides opportunity for a convergent, evidence based planning with Gram Panchayat, as a unit. It is an opportunity for evidence based selection, prioritisation and targeting of beneficiaries in different programs. Some of the findings of the SECC are as under:

  • There are a total number of 24.39 crore households in India, of which 17.91 crore live in villages. Of these, 10.69 crore households are considered as deprived. The economic status of a household was computed through seven indicators of deprivation covering aspects of landlessness, housing, source of income, disability etc.
  • 49% of the households can be considered poor in the sense of facing some deprivation. These households show signs of poverty even though depth of poverty may be not enough to categorise them as poor. These deprivations range from lack housing facility and education, to absence of any male earning member, to households depending mainly on manual labour etc. This finding points to the need to have a comprehensive social security structure.
  • These extremely low income numbers follow from the nature of employment that most of rural India is engaged in. The vast majority – over 90% – of rural India, does not have salaried jobs.
  • Working in anything other than agriculture will be a tough ask, given the level of education – fewer than 10 per cent make it to higher secondary or above and just 3.41 per cent of households have a family member who is at least a graduate.
  • Only 30% of rural households depend on cultivation as their main source of income. Whereas, 51.14% derive sustenance from manual casual labour (MCL). Fragmentation of landholdings has made it difficult for even farmers to support themselves, let alone those dependent on MCL. Therefore, getting people out of farms will spur mechanisation and consolidation of land holdings, leading to increased agricultural productivity in the long run.
  • In nearly 75 per cent of the rural households, the main earning family member makes less than Rs 5,000 per month (or Rs 60,000 annually). In just eight per cent of households does the main earning member makes more than Rs 10,000 per month.
  • 56.25% of rural households hold no agricultural land. The numbers also point to the subsistence level of farming that rural India currently practices. Therefore, creation of gainful non-farm employment should receive top priority in policy making.
Machine generated alternative text:
SOCIO-ECONOMIC CENSUS OF RURAL INDIA 
The government on Friday released the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 
and said it would be an important input for policy-makers. The data addresses the 
multi-dimensionality of poverty and provides an opportunity for evidence-based 
planning with a gram panchayat as a unit, according to the finance ministry. Here are 
the main socio-economic data points: 
8.69cr 
Considered 
poor or 
deprived 
5.37cr 
(29.97%) 
Landless 
households 
1.97cr 
(11.04%) 
Households 
having a 
refrigerator 
2.37cr 
(13.25%) 
Households 
with single 
'kutcha' room 
2.50cr 
(14.01%) 
Households with 
one salaries member 
17.851akh 
(1%) 
Households 
having a landline 
7.161akh 
(0.40%) 
Households with 
differentially-abled 
members with 
no other adult 
able-bodied member 
81.11akh 
(2.58%) 
Households 
paying income tax 
12.24cr 
(68.35%) 
Households 
having a 
mobile phone 
17.91cr 
households 
3.5cr 
(20.6%) 
Households with 
motorised 
vehicles, including 
four-wheelers 
3.1cr 
(17.31%) 
No of illiterate 
Source: Rural development ministry

Criticism of the SECC

  • SECC 2011 data was criticized by few experts as it was not reliable. The methodology is not full proof and there are many errors and omissions in the draft data.
  • Experts have criticised conduction of the census by the ministry of rural development (MRD) rather than by the Registrar General, Census, or by the NSS. Both organisations have been doing survey/census work for the last sixty-five years; MRD is rather late in this game, and is prone to political compulsions rather than act as an objective, quasi-academic unit.
  • There is criticism that caste related data is deliberately withheld, similar to the religious data of 2011 Census of India, ostensibly because the findings could be politically controversial.

Way Forward

  • The government has signalled that this data would be the basis for targeted allocation of entitlements under various poverty alleviation programs. This was meant to better identify beneficiaries of welfare schemes.
  • Thus, the SECC helps to move to principle of ‘program specific indicators for program specific entitlements’. Recognizing many dimensions of poverty and tackling them with different programs, in multiple fields like health, education, sanitation, mid-day meal can be universal; others like affordable housing, disability can be targeted.

HARD BARGAINS AND THE ART OF POLICYMAKING

Context:

The Parliamentary committees play important role in detailed discussions and consultations while making law and policy.

Relevance:

GS Paper 2:  Union and State Legislatures (structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges; issues therein);

Mains Questions:

  1. Parliamentary committees perform a very important role in the law making process. Explain. 15 marks
  2. The Parliament has a well-established process to get inputs of experts and stakeholders, and to build cross-party consensus while enacting a law. Elaborate. 15 marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What are the Parliamentary committees?
  • Role of the parliamentary committees in Indian Political System
  • Issues related to Parliamentary committees
  • Way Forward

What are the Parliamentary committees?

The Parliamentary committees are of two kinds – standing or permanent committees and ad hoc committees. The former are elected or appointed periodically and they work on a continuous basis. The latter are created on an ad hoc basis as the need arises and they are dissolved after they complete the task assigned to them.

Infographic on Parliamentary Committees in India | Legacy IAS Academy

Role of parliamentary committees

  • Detailed scrutiny: Due to the magnitude of work and the limited time available in the parliament, comprehensive scrutiny of bills becomes difficult. Also, committees working continues to take place even if Parliament sessions are disrupted e.g. during COVID-19.
  • Impartial functioning: Since antidetection law does not apply to these committees, it provides a platform for building consensus on various issues.
  • Engagement with multiple stakeholders: The committees regularly seek feedback from citizens and experts on subjects it examines. E.g. RBI governor was summoned by the Finance Committee on the subject of demonetization.
  • Uphold government accountability: It increases the ability of Parliament to scrutinize government policies and make it accountable through an informed debate in the legislature. They examine budgetary allocations for various departments and other policies of the government.
  • Financial Prudence: The system ensures economy and efficiency in public expenditure, as the ministries/ departments would not be more careful in formulating their demands.

Concerns with their functioning

  • Bypassing parliamentary committees: E.g. only 25% of the bills introduced were referred to the Committees in the 16th Lok Sabha, as compared to 71% and 60% in the 15th and 14th Lok Sabha respectively.
  • Short tenure for members: Constitution of committees for a year leaves very little time for specialisations.
  • Lack of expertise: Members of the committee lack technical expertise required to go into intricacies of specialized subjects under consideration of some committees such as accounting and administrative principles,
  • Poor attendance of Members: The attendance of members in committee meetings has been a cause for concern as well, which is about 50% since 2014-15.
  • Politicization of the proceedings: With greater public interest shown in some issues, members have started taking strict party lines in committee meetings.

Way forward

The recommendations of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, 2002 like referring all bills to the Committees, longer tenure for its members and strengthening the Committees with adequate research support shall be taken up. Other measures:

  • Avoid overlapping functions: Additional responsibilities of financial oversight can be given to them and doing away with existing finance committees to avoid overlapping of work on budgets etc.
  • Regular Monitoring: There is a need to formulate mechanism for a regular assessment of the performance of the committee.
  • Adopting Best Practices: In several countries, the concerned minister appears before the committee to elaborate and defend the policies of the government while in India, ministers don’t appear before the committees.

LAW PROMISES PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITIES

Context:

Today, December 3, is the annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities, established by the United Nations in 1992 to “promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life”.

Relevance:

GS Paper 2: Welfare Schemes (centre, states; performance, mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for protection of vulnerable sections);

Mains Questions

  1. Law promises people with disabilities equality of opportunities and accessibility but our practices deny them that. Discuss in context of disabled people in India. 15 marks
  2. Does the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 ensure effective mechanism for empowerment and inclusion of the intended beneficiaries in the society? Discuss 15 marks

Dimensions of the Article

  • Disabled population in India
  • The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
  • Advantages of the Act
  • Issues related to Act
  • Way Forward

Disabled population in India

  • Census 2001 has revealed that over 21 million people in India as suffering from one or the other kind of disability. This is equivalent to 2.1% of the population.
  • Among the total disabled in the country, 12.6 million are males and 9.3 million are females. Although the number of disabled is more in rural and urban areas. Such proportion of the disabled by sex in rural and urban areas.
  • Such proportion has been reported between 57-58 percent for males and 42-43 percent females. The disability rate (number of disabled per 100,000 populations) for the country as whole works out to 2130.   
  • Among the five types of disabilities on which data has been collected, disability In seeing at 48.5% emerges as the top category. Others in sequence are: In movement (27.9%), Mental (10.3%), In speech (7.5%), and In hearing (5.8%).
  • The disabled by sex follow a similar pattern except for that the proportion of disabled females is higher in the category In seeing and In hearing.
  • Across the country, the highest number of disabled has been reported from the state of Uttar Pradesh (3.6 million). Significant numbers of disabled have also been reported from the state like Bihar (1.9 million), West Bengal (1.8million), Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra (1.6 million each).
  • Tamil Nadu is the only state, which has a higher number of disabled females than males. Among the states, Arunachal Pradesh has the highest proportion of disabled males (66.6%) and lowest proportion of female disabled.
  • About a billion people internationally live with a disability, with 80 per cent of these being residents of the developing world.
Persons with disabilities bear the brunt of coronavirus lockdown

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016

  • It replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 and is in line with the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and aims at encouraging establishments to have a disabled friendly workplace.
  • The types of disabilities have been increased from existing 7 to 21 and the Central Government will have the power to add more types of disabilities.
  • Persons with “benchmark disabilities” are defined as those certified to have at least 40 per cent of the disabilities mentioned in the Act.
  • Additional benefits such as reservation in higher education, government jobs, reservation in allocation of land, poverty alleviation schemes etc. have been provided for persons with benchmark disabilities.
  • Every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education.
  • Reservation in vacancies in government establishments has been increased from 3% to 4% for certain persons or class of persons with benchmark disability.
  • It has now brought private establishments within its ambit. Though it does not require private establishments to mandatorily appoint Persons with Disabilities (PwD), there are certain obligations imposed on private establishments under the Act.
  • Broad based Central & State Advisory Boards on Disability are to be set up to serve as apex policy making bodies at the Central and State level.
  • Creation of National and State Fund will be created to provide financial support to the persons with disabilities.
  • For strengthening the Prime Minister’s Accessible India Campaign, stress has been given to ensure accessibility in public buildings (both Government and private) in a prescribed time-frame.
  • It provides for penalties for offences committed against persons with disabilities and also violation of the provisions of the new law.
  • Special Courts will be designated in each district to handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs.

Advantages of the Act

  • Right based approach: This Law will be a game changer for the estimated 70-100 million disabled citizens of India and will help move the discourse away from charity to one that is rights based with provisions to enforce implementation.
  • Wider coverage: The list of disabilities is expanded from 7 to 21 and a wider definition of disabilities has been provided. The concept of mental retardation has also been widened and changed to Intellectual disability, which is more in sync with recent times.
  • Discrimination defined: Act of 2016 defined ‘discrimination’ which was missing in the previous legislation. However, the Act strangely makes the clauses on non-discrimination in employment mandatory only in government establishments.
  • Earlier the person with intellectual and multiple disabilities were not allowed the reservation in the vacancies.
  • The act of 2016 is the step toward the economic and social empowerment of the person with disability by providing property rights and acknowledging the legal capacity.

Issues related to Act

  • Reservation: When a greater number of disabilities are being brought under the purview of the Act, the percentage of reservation should go up proportionately. However, the Act provides only 4% reservation (5% was proposed in 2014 bill).
  • Financial sources: Specification of the manner of funding to implement the various aspects of the Act including disability budgets allocated to ministries and organisations at the state and central level. Further, basic social security should be provided free of cost, to the extent possible to persons with disabilities without any income ceiling or below poverty line criteria.
  • Insurance: Provisions regarding insurance matters of persons with disabilities must be incorporated explicitly in the Bill and the Committee recommends amending the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India Act, 1999 to ensure insurance companies do not charge higher premiums for persons with disabilities as compared to others.
  • Time bound redressal: Specific time frame to dispose of cases in Special Courts

Way Forward

It is critical that the government work with civil society and individuals with disabilities to craft an India where everyone feels welcome and treated with respect, regardless of their disabilities. Only then can we welcome the next International Day of Persons with Disabilities without a sense of shame.

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