Current Public Administration Magazine (JANUARY 2023)

Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine

(JANUARY 2023)

1.Accountability & Responsibility

  • How the Opposition is firing at the Centre from the court’s shoulder

Lately, the Opposition in India has found itself in a difficult position. In an attempt to stay afloat, it has adopted a new strategy of casting aspersions not only on judicial institutions but also on judges and advocates, even court registries. While these allegations are often couched in the language of protecting “transparency”, behind them lie the desire to save face in the courts of justice after having failed in the people’s arena. The past two general elections show that the Opposition has failed to put forward a viable alternative to the present government. It has now undertaken the futile task of firing bullets at the Centre from the shoulders of the judiciary. The judiciary has, however, quelled every attempt to turn it into a pawn in the political slugfest. This refusal has led the Opposition to reiterate its longstanding allegation of the judiciary’s surrender to the government.

In addition to mindlessly blaming the institution, Opposition leaders and their aides have taken to filing frivolous petitions challenging key executive policies. This is despite the substantial precedence of the judiciary not sitting on judgment on the executive’s wisdom in policy-related matters. The judiciary has, at times, also clarified its position on the sacredness of the separation of powers as enshrined in the Constitution. For instance, in the first week of January, in its verdict on the demonetisation case, the Supreme Court stated that executive decisions, such as those related to the economy, are not open to judicial review.

Several eminent lawyers, many of whom are also Opposition leaders, advanced the same argument about the separation of powers of the judiciary and executive before 2014. The true picture is, therefore, very different from what is being painted by the Opposition.

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2. Indian Government and Politics

  • New NCERT transgender inclusion manual won’t make life easier for trans students

When I was growing up, everyone around me — family members and relatives, schoolmates and teachers — described me using an Odia word for a person who is assigned male at birth and exhibits femininity. The word is often used as a transphobic slur. They were all uncomfortable with how I behaved. I was always asked: “Why do you walk or talk like a girl?” Their discomfort with me would take many forms – sometimes leading to curiosity, and many times to the policing of my behaviour through jokes, mild warnings, and even bullying and shaming.

To exist as a gender non-confirming individual in school was a violent lesson in shame and fear. Schools reinforce the norms of the gender binary, regimented through uniforms, gender-segregated seating, toilets and activities like sports. Transgressing those binaries in any form invites violence — emotional, physical, and/or sexual.

A school teacher once asked me to drop out of a dance group that was to perform in the annual day function because I could not dance like a boy. I know of many trans friends who gave up on sports because they did not fit into the binary. Many of us gave up dreams because we could not conform to the gender binary. I lost friendships because I could not act masculine. To avoid shaming and bullying, I started performing masculinity, slowly unlearning my femininity. I desperately wanted to fit into the gender binary.

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3. Social Administration

  • Women’s Reservation Bill

All parties in the Opposition have jointly taken a call. Unless the Union government themselves disrupt the functioning of Parliament, the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address will begin in both Houses on Monday at 2 pm. Speakers from over 20 parties will skewer the Modi government: LIC, SBI and public sector institutions being forced to invest in questionable enterprises, which has led to massive losses. These public sector institutions are the custodians of the hard-earned savings of crores of the poor and the middle class. This scam of monumental proportions must be discussed on the floor of Parliament.

As is the convention, the President’s Address to both Houses of Parliament is written by the Union government. There were two miserly lines about the Northeast in the speech, and no mention of controlling prices, creating jobs, strengthening (fiscal) federalism, promoting communal harmony, or passing the Women’s Reservation Bill.

The second part of the session starting on March 13 will see Bills being introduced by the Union government. But will they introduce the Women’s Reservation Bill? Will the BJP keep its electoral promise? This will be the 29th session of Parliament with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister.

The 2014 BJP manifesto stated, “…the BJP is committed to 33 per cent reservation in Parliament and state assemblies through a constitutional amendment.” The promise was repeated in 2019 “…the BJP is committed to 33 per cent reservation in Parliament and state assemblies through a constitutional amendment.”

Evidence has piled up to back the case for the reservation of women in Parliament and state legislatures. More than half of the countries today have introduced some form of electoral apportionment for women. India has lagged behind.

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4. Current Topics

  • The Indian middle class has never had it so good

The Indian middle class is perhaps the most heterogeneous section of our society. While most impacted by common problems, it has also gained the most from incisive yet simple solutions over the past nine years. This has been largely due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focus on the middle class, through his government’s mantra of “ease of living”. Its unambiguous focus has been to rationalise the tax burden of the middle class, put more money in their hands, improve healthcare and secure their future, provide state-of-the-art infrastructure, and most importantly, to eradicate corruption.

At the time of Independence, our nation had a pyramid of classes. The wealthy were at the apex, followed by the middle class and the vast base of the deprived and destitute. Today, things are changing at a fast pace. Many sections of society are now inching towards the ballooning phase, where the middle class has a lot more occupants with few at the top and the bottom. Not so long ago, the middle class found themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea, forever trying to make ends meet while aspiring for improving their quality of life.

The anger of the middle class was visible in the streets and on social media during the UPA years. The middle class got a ray of hope with the victory of Narendra Modi in 2014. At that time, many critics said that the middle class was infatuated with Narendra Modi and hoped this spell would soon end. However, the Prime Minister has continued to prevail by delivering consistently on expectations, breaking all precedents. The fact that the people have repeatedly blessed PM Modi in national and state elections is proof of the tremendous support he enjoys among the middle class.

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5. Indian Administration

  • New UGC proposal: A better way to open up Indian universities

One thing that is certain about any interaction on the internet today is that somebody will try to sell you something, and most likely will offer you a discount as well. The interesting question to ask is: Just because a discount is offered, does everyone purchase the item? Access and uptake are different things. The recent University Grants Commission (UGC) announcement to let foreign universities set up campuses in India is a great idea. What is less clear is the results it would deliver.

We had already opened up our education sector to private entrepreneurs. While private institutions have mushroomed, the majority haven’t really kept up in quality. Opening up to another set of private entrepreneurs can potentially introduce more competition — just as discounts are a good idea, because they enable some the option to buy items that were unaffordable earlier. In that sense, the UGC has done well to allow more providers and possibly expand the market for higher education within the country.

Having said that, let’s get something clear: Higher education is a costly business. Setting up science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) departments requires costly labs with stringent quality control and safety protocols in place. Add to this policy uncertainties in India and the non-trivial impediments the UGC can offer, it’s unclear that the best global universities will come marching in. It’s not like they are short of students in their primary campuses.

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