Current Public Administration Magazine (MARCH 2019)

Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine

1. Accountability and Control

State Financing of Poll Funding

In just 28 days since the announcement of the general election, the Election Commission (EC) has seized cash, drugs, alcohol, precious metals and other items worth Rs 1,800 crore. Compare this to the legal upper limit of expenditure per candidate — Rs 70 lakh. Simple arithmetic would show that the seized amount can fully finance up to five candidates from each of the 543 constituencies. The amount seized is just the tip of the iceberg. The expenditure in any election is estimated to be several times the legal upper limit.

Fiscal constraints on electioneering give rise to the problem of unaccounted money. There have been a few solutions. However, all of them are premised on an adverse relationship between accountability and transparency. Alternately, state funding of the recognised political parties and outlawing of corporate funding could be instrumental in making the electoral process fairer and more participatory.

In 1962, the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee moved a Private Member’s Bill to prevent electoral donations by corporates. It was argued that since all shareholders need not subscribe to the political endorsement by a corporate, it was immoral to allow donations against their consent. Vajpayee had propositioned that such funding would only serve corporate interests. While all political parties welcomed the bill, the then ruling party did not vote in its favour. Never again was such a bill introduced.

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2. Indian Government and Politics

Article 35A

When the minions of the BJP promise abolition of Article 370 or Article 35A, especially prior to the elections, it is not to be taken seriously. In fact, the response, if any, should be to dare them to do it. Indeed, I had done so in 2014 in response to a rant by Jitendra Singh, a minister in the PMO, when he spoke out of turn (‘Dare them to do it!’, Kashmir Life, June 2, 2014). It has been almost five years since and Article 370 and 35A stand where they are even as Singh is sitting in the same chair!

But when an erudite political leader with the genteel and gravitas of Arun Jaitley goes public on it, it needs to be taken very seriously. In a blog, Jaitley has said that “Article 35 A was “surreptitiously” included in the Indian Constitution, terming it as a “historical blunder” committed by Jawaharlal Nehru.

One cannot pick a bone with Jaitley on his calling it a “historical blunder”. That is an opinion based not only on an ideology but a certain understanding of Indian history and a vision for Indian polity. But, the same cannot be said about besmirching Article 35A as a deceitful entry in the Constitution of India. Besides political, it has serious constitutional implications. It also makes the Constitution of India appear as if it were contaminated.

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3. Welfare Administration

Making Sense of NYAY

Guaranteed minimum income is a powerful idea that has already made some headway in various countries. Some European countries, for instance, guarantee a minimum income to their citizens. This requires extensive data collection as well as an effective cadre of welfare officers and social workers tasked with enquiring into the circumstances of people who claim to need income support.

It would be nice if India could achieve something similar, but the obstacles are daunting. Starting with the financial burden, a recent brief of the World Inequality Lab by Nitin Bharti and Lucas Chancel presents some useful figures. The authors essentially estimate the “minimum-income gap”, that is, the gap between minimum income and actual income summed over all households with actual income below the minimum. With a minimum income of Rs 72,000 per year, the gap turns out to be 1.3 per cent of GDP. This information is helpful, but it does not tell us much about what it would cost to guarantee a minimum income of Rs 72,000 per year to everyone. All it says is that if this could be done through perfectly targeted and costless top-up transfers, it would cost 1.3 per cent of GDP.

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4. Administrative Law

Police Reforms

Our newspapers, until recently, were full of BJP’s tagline “Namumkin Ab Mumkin Hai”. There is no doubt that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a number of initiatives in diverse fields, which would raise the standard of living of the common man and transform India into a cleaner, healthier and resurgent nation. Swachch Bharat is gradually becoming a reality. Ayushman Bharat aims to provide healthcare benefit to about 50 crore people. Electricity would appear to have reached every corner of the country. Ujjwala and Sukanya Yojana would go a long way in improving the plight of women, and so on. Different departments came out with their lists of achievements. Even if we make allowance for an element of exaggeration, these initiatives have been laudable and the progress impressive.

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5. Current Topic

The Politics of Information

An article in this publication, ‘The learning state: How information becomes insight’ (IE, March 18), written by two economists, has made some important points about “information”, but it is their perspective on “insight” that needs to be challenged.

Designing, using and evaluating information systems is all about perception and perspective. Information systems that might strengthen socio-economic transformation, is contingent on the active participation of people. Digital tools have proliferated over the last decade leaving millions out of the ambit of meaningful participation. For instance, an MGNREGA worker is the primary producer of information but she has no stake in its presentation and access. This raises pertinent questions about transparency of what and for whom. The citizen has been made transparent to the State and the market instead of the other way around — Aadhaar is a powerful example of this. Rural workers and pensioners have been coerced to migrate to the Aadhaar platform without their explicit consent.

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