Current Public Administration Magazine (FEBRUARY 2019)

Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine

1. Accountability and Control

The Pillar Stands

One unfortunate fallout of the recent controversy regarding the non-publication of the labour force survey report by the National Sample Survey Organisation has been the questions raised on the autonomy and independence of the Indian official statistical system. As reported in this newspaper, the possibility of junking the survey report in favour of more acceptable numbers from other sources are being explored. An objective understanding of the official statistical system would dispel many of the fears raised in this context, but cannot overstate the need to further strengthen the institutions.

The credibility of processed official statistics require the government to stay at an arms-length from the processes of data collection, processing and dissemination. It is in this context that the need for an independent board or authority to manage national statistics is widely accepted.

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2. Indian Government and Politics

Quota, Old Plus New

Reservations are sometimes criticised in a constructive manner by analysts who argue that quotas are cornered by a few jatis at the expense of those who “really need them”. Among Dalits, the Jatavs of Uttar Pradesh and the Mahars of Maharashtra have been targeted by such critiques. The India Human Development Survey, and its last two rounds of 2004-05 and 2011-12, helps us assess the limitations of such a discourse which, usually, does not rely on any solid data.

In terms of their annual per capita mean income (APCMI), Jatavs are not at all doing better than other important Dalit jatis of UP: They earned only Rs 6,135 a year in 2011-12, against Rs 6,643 for the Pasis and Rs 9,077 for the Dhobis. Interestingly, the APCMI of the Jatavs had increased by 125 per cent between 2004-05 and 2011-12, whereas that of the Pasis has jumped by 162 per cent and that of the Dhobis by 198 per cent.

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3. Welfare Administration

SC Verdict Turns Blind Eye

The recent Supreme Court judgment (in the writ petition (civil) No 109/2008) has evoked much ire and anxiety, and the first reactions to the judgment have been against the suggestion that Adivasis and forest-dwellers be evicted. However, the petitioners, all conservationists, have qualified the objectives of their petition and highlighted the case for safeguarding the forests against “bogus claims to forest rights”, calling for the state to take action against the loss of forest cover. Even if we accept their standpoint as valid and read the judgment as an attempt to address the maladministration of forests, we must recognise the long-term neglect of the rights of Adivasis and forest-dwellers.

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4. Administrative Law

Framework to Regulate Bias In Alogrithms

What is an algorithm, and what is the big deal about permitting it to make decisions? After all, it is merely a set of instructions that can be used to solve a problem. The reasons for the increasing reliance on algorithms are evident. First, an algorithm can make decisions more efficiently than human beings, thus indicating its superiority to human rationality. Second, an algorithm can provide emotional distance — it could be less “uncomfortable” to let a machine make difficult decisions for you.

However, algorithms are susceptible to bias — and machine learning algorithms are especially so. Such bias may often be concealed until it affects a large number of people. We should examine their potential for bias as algorithms are being used to make evaluative decisions that can negatively impact our daily lives. Algorithms are also dictating the use of scarce resources for social welfare.

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5. Current Topic

The Best Way to Vote

Whether or not to use EVMs (electronic voting machines) for elections in India has been a raging debate of late. There have been claims of hacking of EVMs and counter-claims of impossibility, steadfast assurances about their safety from election commissioners and technocrats, open challenges through ECI (Election Commission of India)-sponsored “hackathons”, and even live television shows by masked hackers alleging conspiracies.

Public arguments on computer security in India have often been outrageous. On the one hand there have been fatalistic claims that all computer systems can be hacked and that it is just a matter of time before they will be. There indeed are computer systems that are provably secure, but sometimes such guarantees are difficult even for many well-designed ones. The question of whether they can be hacked or not is often “undecidable”, even in a technical sense, and is hence futile.

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