Current Public Administration Magazine (JUNE 2020)

Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine

1. Accountability and Responsibility

The Solicitor General’s outburst

When the Supreme Court took up suo motu the plight of migrant labourers, the country’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta claimed that the Centre is doing a lot to address the situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a rare display of combativeness, he described those who contested his claim as prophets of doom. He alleged that these critics were spreading “negativity, negativity, and negativity”. Mehta urged the court to call upon such persons to prove their credentials by filing affidavits disclosing their contribution towards easing the crisis. He also took potshots at journalists reminding the Court of a photographer who went to Sudan where he photographed a vulture and a panic-stricken child; the photograph earned him the Pulitzer prize, but within days of receiving the honour, the photographer committed suicide because he suffered from the guilt of having preferred photography to rescuing the beleaguered child.

Simply put, Mehta’s outburst tantamounts to asking the media, or for that matter any public-spirited person or a group of persons, to refrain from highlighting the plight of the migrants who have been forced to walk on foot for hundreds — even thousands — of kilometres without food and water and without a penny in their pockets in a desperate attempt to be with their loved ones. Such reporting, in the Solicitor General’s view, spreads negativity. Mehta is reported to have clarified that his remarks were not directed against the media but the context in which he spoke did imply that he was referring to the media.

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2. Indian Government and Politics

Judiciary should not unwittingly lend its shoulders for somebody else’s gun to rest and fire

In a democracy, sovereign power of the state rests on three pillars — legislature, executive and judiciary. Well-defined boundaries prevent encroachment by one into the area of the other. The judiciary is the trustee of democracy and fundamental rights of the people. It has the power of judicial review over the legislature and the executive.

The Supreme Court, in the Eighties, devised Public Interest Litigation methodology, relaxing the rule of locus standi, if a case for the Court’s intervention is made out, in particular, where the fundamental rights of poverty-stricken, disabled, downtrodden or hapless are involved. The constitutional courts have also commenced taking suo motu cognisance of such facts, as impelling them to act if the fundamental rights of such people run the risk of being lost or irreparably damaged.

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3. Significant Issues in Indian Administration

MGNREGA in need

A record 4.89 crore persons belonging to 3.44 crore households sought work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in May. This is against 3.18 crore persons from 2.26 crore households for the same month last year, when large parts of India were experiencing drought-like conditions. The current surge in MGNREGA work demand reflects a drought, not of water, but of jobs and incomes. And it seems to be coming mainly from migrant workers returning to their villages from cities and industrial centres post the COVID lockdown. Proof of it is the states where the number of households registering demand has shown the highest increase: Uttar Pradesh (299.3 per cent in May 2020 over May 2019), West Bengal (214.5 per cent), Odisha (113.5 per cent), Chhattisgarh (68.9 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (65.1 per cent) and Bihar (62.1 per cent). These are all labour exporting states. What’s now being seen is an extraordinary phenomenon of distress reverse migration from city to village. The lockdown hasn’t hit the rural economy, more so agriculture, that badly.

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4. Current Topic

When poverty became visible

The greatest comfort for the privileged citizens of India is that the poor and their misery are invisible. Ensconced as they are in a world of the visible, to them what is not visible does not exist. It is enough that their part of India is shining. But a time comes when this changes in an alarming way. That time has now come, and it is called COVID-19.

This crisis has torn apart a façade. The stark reality is now to be seen everywhere. Migrant labourers moving — like hordes of refugees in their own land — across states, walking hundreds of kilometres in near-death desperation. A few perished out of exhaustion. Dozens got crushed in street accidents. And when the situation apparently improved, dead bodies were found inside Shramik Special trains that were ferrying them like cattle to their home states. A little child was found trying to wake up his mother, who lay dead on the platform. But who will wake up the calloused conscience of a nation that has become blind to human suffering in its obsession with the politics of profit and the profit of politics?

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5. Financial Administration

Self-reliance is about resilience and decentralisation, not isolationism

In recent weeks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered two important speeches outlining his long-term vision for the economy. The first speech was part of the context-setting for the stimulus package subsequently announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The second speech was an address to the annual session of Confederation of Indian Industry. In both cases, the Prime Minister emphasised the idea of “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (self-reliant India). But, what does Atmanirbhar Bharat really mean? How does it fit with the reforms being currently announced? What does it imply for future policy?

It is important, at the very onset, to clarify that this idea of self-reliance is not about a return to Nehruvian import substitution or autarkic isolationism. The prime minister emphasised that his vision includes active participation in post-COVID global supply chains as well as the need to attract foreign direct investment.

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