Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 30 August 2022
- The Landmark Judgement of Subramaniam Balaji Vs TN
- The Perils of Manual Scavenging
The Supreme Court referred to a three-judge Bench a series of petitions seeking a judicial direction that political parties who make wild promises of largesse should also reveal where they will get the money to pay for them in their election manifestos. The reference departs from the court’s position in the 2013 Subramaniam Balaji vs Tamil Nadu decision.
GS Paper 2: Government policies
Do you believe that populism, personality cults, and freebie culture in politics, as seen during elections in states such as Tamil Nadu, are beneficial to economic growth and development? Comment critically. (250 Words)
Constitutional and Statutory Provisions
- Articles 324 to 329 of Part XV of the Indian Constitution contain provisions relating to the conduct of free and fair elections in India.
- These provisions gave Parliament the authority to enact legislation to govern the electoral process.
- In order to implement these provisions, Parliament passed the Representation of the People Act, 1950, and the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
Representation of the People Act, 1950
- The Representation of the People Act of 1950 addresses the following aspects of the electoral process:
- Voter qualification.
- Creating electoral rolls.
- Constituency delimitation
- Seat allocation in Parliament and state legislatures.
1951 Representation of the People Act
- The RP Act 1951 was passed prior to the first general election. The act mandates the holding of elections in India.
- It addresses the following election issues:
- Actual election conduct;
- Administrative machinery for conducting elections; o Poll;
- Election offences;
- Election disputes;
- Registration of political parties.
Corruption, as defined by the RP Act of 1951
- Section 123 of the RP Act 1951 defines corrupt electoral practises. The following practises have been identified as corrupt:
- Bribery is defined as any gift, offer, promise, or gratification given to another person as a motive or reward.
- Undue influence – any interference or attempt to interfere with the free exercise of any electoral right, whether direct or indirect.
- Spreading hatred – Spreading feelings of enmity or hatred among different classes of citizens on the basis of religion, race, caste, community, or language.
- Providing false information – The publication of any statement of fact that is false in relation to any candidate’s personal character or conduct, or in relation to the candidature.
- Vehicle hiring – The hiring or procuring of any vehicle for the free transportation of any elector to or from any polling station.
- Incurring or authorising expenditure in excess of the approved limit is also a corrupt process.
- The Supreme Court ruled in the 2013 Balaji case that making promises in election manifestos does not constitute a corrupt practise under Section 123 of the Representation of People Act (RP).
- As a result, the Supreme Court has decided to reconsider the Balaji decision.
The 2013 Judgment’s Highlights
- The Supreme Court ruled that: o It would be deceptive to conclude that all promises in the election manifesto amounted to corrupt practise.
- A political party’s manifesto is a statement of its policy.
- The question of manifesto implementation arises only if the political party forms a government.
- The court agreed, however, that freebies create an uneven playing field.
- It had requested that the Election Commission of India consult with political parties and issue guidelines on election manifestos, which would be included in the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
The significance of the current Supreme Court decision to review the 2013 judgement
- Fiscal burden and associated concerns
- The court anticipates that freebies will lead to a situation in which the state government will be unable to provide basic amenities due to a lack of funds, pushing the state into bankruptcy.
- The court wants a transparent debate before the three-judge Bench on whether an enforceable judicial order can prevent political parties from promising and distributing irrational freebies.
- One-of-a-kind o This case is one-of-a-kind because the Supreme Court is investigating whether judicial parameters can be imposed on a purely political act of promising freebies.
- All cleaning jobs are regarded as demeaning and are assigned to people at the bottom of the social hierarchy. The majority of Dalits work in sanitation as manual scavengers, drain cleaners, garbage collectors, and road sweepers.
- According to government data, 97 percent of manual scavengers in India are Dalits.
- Despite the fact that manual scavenging is illegal under the Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers Act of 2013, the inhumane practise continues.
GS Paper 2: Protection of vulnerable sections of the society
Although manual scavenging is illegal in India, the inhumane practise persists. Analyze critically. (150 Words)
Manual scavenging: Harsh Indian Reality
- Inefficient Sewage Management System: Because most municipalities in India do not have the most up-to-date machines for cleaning sewage systems, sewage workers must enter underground sewerage lines through manholes.
- Meanwhile, unskilled labourers are much cheaper to hire, and contractors illegally employ them on a daily basis.
- Ineffective Policy Implementation: Government programmes have primarily focused on the financial aspect of rehabilitation, failing to address the caste-based oppression and related social conditions that have persisted for centuries.
- Furthermore, no proper strategies have been proposed to psychologically liberate manual scavengers. This encourages those involved in the practise to delve even deeper into manual scavenging.
- Lack of Social Mobility: Manual scavengers are compelled to work because of a lack of basic amenities, education, and employment opportunities, and society does not accept them for community activities.
- Nobody wants to hire them, and landlords won’t let them rent their homes. This exposes them to danger and prevents them from moving up the strata.
Manual Scavenging’s Effects
- Social Discrimination: Because of the nature of their work, most manual scavengers are stigmatised by the community.
- They are considered untouchable and are forced to accept their situation.
- This issue is much more serious because their children are also discriminated against and forced to work in the same jobs as their parents.
- Inequalities Based on Caste: The caste is still regarded as a lower class and is barred from advancing to a better occupation.
- As a result, scavenging is regarded as a natural occupation for them.
- Furthermore, marginal castes from rural areas who move to cities in search of a better life always end up in the same occupation.
- Problems with Health: The scavengers are exposed to gases such as carbon dioxide, ammonia, and methane. Long-term exposure to these gases can cause serious health problems or even death.
- They are also exposed to various infections in the sewer, which is common due to the large number of bacteria that live in sewers.
- According to the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) database, 608 manual scavengers died while cleaning septic tanks between 2013 and 2017.
Steps taken to combat the scourge of manual scavenging
The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (Amendment) Bill 2020, The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 The Building and Maintenance of Insanitary Latrines Act of 2013, The Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989
How Can We Prevent Manual Scavenging?
- Manual scavenging is a violation of human rights as well as a disgrace to humanity as a whole. To ensure effective policy implementation, state governments should prioritise identifying workers who clean toxic sludge.
- Proactive Stakeholder Involvement: In order to address this issue, all of the major skateholders must be involved.
- They include District Administrative Officers, Chief Medical Officers, NGOs, and Municipal Corporations, among others.
- It is also critical to include the community surrounding the most affected areas in the programme.
- Seeking information from officials and the community will assist in making an informed decision about how to proceed with the initiative.
- Mass Awareness: Holding a workshop with locals would help officials spread awareness about the legal ramifications of scavenging and using dry toilets, as well as understand the root cause of the practise.
- The awareness campaigns should not only address the dangers of scavenging, but also provide an alternative means of income for the affected community.
- Locals may also be permitted to propose solutions with which they are familiar.
- Rehabilitation and Compensation for Manual Scavengers: One of the most important rehabilitation processes is the creation of more employment.
- The jobs created would aim to give locals equal opportunities. The jobs created also serve to integrate manual scavengers into the community.
- A Supreme Court order in 2014 required the government to identify all those who died in sewage work since 1993 and compensate their families with Rs. 10 lakh each.
- Investing in Proper Human Waste Management: Solving solid and liquid waste segregation issues, as well as municipal bio composting, are some of the ways we can use waste for the benefit of humanity.
- Manual scavenging will be reduced in the future as waste is treated as an asset rather than a liability, paving the way for Swacch Bharat and Swasth Bharat.
- Robotic Scavenging: Using robotics and artificial intelligence, machines that can replace humans in manual labour can be created.
- Bandicoot is one such robotic machine designed to clean any type of sewer manhole.
- Towards Social Integration: Scavenging work earns little money, which is insufficient to educate a child. The child eventually drops out and joins their parents in their line of work.
- Implementing schemes to assist these children in completing their studies would be an effective strategy for dispelling the theories and myths associated with manual scavenging.
The Way Forward
- Empowering Local Administration: The 15th Finance Commission identified the Swachh Bharat Mission as a top priority area, and funds are available for smart cities and urban development, making a strong case for addressing the problem of manual scavenging.
- To address the social sanction behind manual scavenging, it is necessary to first acknowledge and then understand how and why manual scavenging remains embedded in the caste system.
- The state and society must take an active interest in the issue and investigate all possible solutions in order to accurately assess and eventually eradicate this practise.