Current Public Administration Magazine (OCTOBER 2018)

Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine

1.Accountability and Control

Glass Ceiling, Caste Wall

The governing elite would like to believe that caste discrimination is an overblown problem that is a thing of the past. But for purveyors of the myth that caste no longer determines one’s social standing or life chances, a recent news report should be an eye-opener. In Jabalpur, a doctor belonging to the Scheduled Tribe community was assaulted by the relatives of two patients who wanted them treated by an “upper caste” person. The assailants then took the patients to another hospital for treatment.
Such inhuman treatment of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/STs) is routine in the life of our nation, irrespective of whether they belong to the so-called “creamy layer” or not. Every year, there are more than 40,000 registered cases of atrocities against Dalits though the actual number of heinous crimes committed against this beleaguered community is much higher. It is against the backdrop of this oppressive social milieu that one must view the recent SC pronouncement on reservation in promotion which has dealt a body blow to Dalit aspirations.

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2.Indian Government and Politics

Not A Holy Book

Religion has not only been an indispensable part of human existence, but it is an also ineffaceable part of our lives. Indian society is predominantly religious and as a result, we are not at ease with the idea of secularism and religion continues to play a dominant role in political discourse.
What an individual does with his own “solitariness” is how Alfred North Whitehead defines religion. For former President S Radhakrishnan, religion was “a code of ethical rules and that the rituals, observances, ceremonies and modes of worship are its outer manifestations”. Religions are nothing but the submission to some higher or supernatural power. Constitutions, like religions, do try to bring in some order and coherence into an otherwise disorderly world. Accordingly, even the US, despite its wall of separation between church and state is rightly termed as a “nation with the soul of [a] church”. Justice William O Douglas in Zorach v Clauson (1952) admitted that “we are religious people, whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being”.
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3.Indian Administration

Breaking The Cage

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has from time to time courted controversies and criticism for its handling of politically sensitive cases. In important cases, the organisation has generally toed the government line. No wonder, it was described by a former Chief Justice of India as a “caged parrot”. However, it is for the first time that the CBI finds itself in a quagmire due to an internecine feud among its top officers.
The Supreme Court has, over the years, been trying to insulate the CBI from political pressures and, in the process, give it a measure of autonomy. In Vineet Narayan vs. Union of India (1998), the apex court laid down that the director, CBI shall be appointed on the recommendation of a committee comprising the Central Vigilance Commissioner, vigilance commissioners, secretary (home) and secretary (personnel), and that he shall have a minimum tenure of two years. The CVC was given statutory status and authorised to exercise superintendence over the CBI in the investigation of offences committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Justice J S Verma, author of the aforesaid judgment, was however distressed to record in 2009 that “even now the CBI continues to disappoint the people whenever it deals with cases against the powerful”.
The Lokpal Act, 2013, modified the procedure for the selection of director CBI; it prescribed that he shall be appointed on the recommendation of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India or a judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him. Alok Verma was appointed as director CBI by such a committee.

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4.  Governance

Call It By Its Name

In the Analects of Confucius, one of his disciples, Tsze-Lu, asks Master Confucius what the first thing he intends to do before administering the territory belonging to the Duke of Wei. Confucius replies, “What is necessary is to rectify names.” On being asked why this is important, he says a wise man “corrects names, for if language is not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried onto success.” Not calling things by names which reflect what they truly are is duplicitous. Both the ends and the means of achieving them, are then, premised on deceit. “Police encounters” are an instance of this deceit.
Recently, there has been a spate of encounters across Uttar Pradesh. These extra-judicial killings bypass due processes for quicker results. The primary change, in this case, that needs to take place is to not hide under labels that mask what an encounter really is — premeditated murder. In the rarest of rare cases, the police needs to be able to exercise their ability to apprehend a violent criminal. However, encounters are highly choreographed affairs where the alleged criminal is taken to a suitable spot and then asked to flee. As the criminal tries to escape, he is gunned down and incriminating evidence is placed to fulfill the technical requirements under which an armed officer can shoot a fugitive. A desi katta or country-made revolver is a compelling piece of evidence as there is no way to trace it. Over the years, several policepersons have become infamous as encounter specialists, a dubious honorific that almost implies that there is an art to the whole affair.

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5.  Current Topic

An Area Of  Conflict

Friday’s A D Shroff Memorial Lecture by Reserve Bank of India Deputy Governor Viral Acharya on what the central bank views as an assault by the government on its independence should not be ignored as just another point of friction in government-central bank relations. Acharya cited three specific areas of interference by the government — demanding a higher portion of RBI reserves for transfer to government coffers, limiting RBI’s supervisory control over public sector banks, and restricting RBI’s regulatory scope, for instance, over payment banks. He asked the government to back off before the market forces it to pay for these transgressions. He did not mince his words: “Governments that do not respect central bank independence will sooner or later incur the wrath of financial markets, ignite economic fire, and come to rue the day they undermined an important regulatory institution.”
Across the world, governments are at loggerheads with their central banks. The political executive pushes for growth, better incomes, more jobs. The central bank strives for low inflation, and banking stability. It is difficult to question either of these objectives, the quibbling is more on the sequencing and pacing of interventions. Politicians have to face elections, and are generally in a hurry. Central bankers worry about the sustainability of growth. A degree of irreverence towards each other is par for the course. In fact, it provides space for discussion, deliberation and dissent. In India too, verbal duels and friction have characterised RBI-government relations. Bureaucrats, appointed as RBI governors in good faith with the hope that they would smoothen relations between North Block and Mint Street, acquire an altogether new vocabulary in Mumbai.

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