Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine
1.Accountability & Responsibility
Lack of debate is weakening Parliament
The stormy monsoon session of Parliament, adjourned sine die last week, was a virtual washout because of the deadlock between the government and the Opposition over issues ranging from the Pegasus phone-hacking row to the government’s handling of the pandemic and the farmers’ protest. The government attacked the Opposition, accusing it of not allowing the Parliament’s monsoon session to function.
To put all the blame on the Opposition for the impasse in Parliament obscures the government’s share of responsibility for this denouement. A closer look at parliamentary proceedings reveals that the session was disrupted by the ruling party’s deliberate deflection and stubborn refusal to discuss issues of national importance.
The faceoff between the government and Opposition escalated over the Pegasus issue, resulting in the non-stop disruption of Parliament. This government, having a huge majority, has nothing to fear, and yet it refused to be flexible and accommodating towards the Opposition or even acknowledge the public issues raised by the latter.
With both sides unwilling to give in, acrimonious events marked the session with legislators on both sides engaging in competitive disruption. The embarrassing turn of events led the government to field seven ministers at a press conference to take on the Opposition on the adjournment issue and to determinedly dismiss the snooping scandal as an issue of no consequence.
2. Indian Government and Politics
Hate speech thrives and divides
The hijab, halal and aazaan controversies are rocking the state of Karnataka. They have been manufactured as part of a carefully designed campaign to divide the people of Karnataka into two camps — Hindus and Muslims — ahead of the State election in 2023.
Hijab is a dress where the girl/woman covers her head when she steps out of her home. Hindu women in north India, Sikh women, Christian nuns and some others (including Sikh men) also cover their heads.
Halal is meat from slaughtering animals or poultry, according to Islamic law, through a cut to the jugular vein or windpipe and draining all the blood. Other religions have rules for preparing food: Judaism prescribes kosher food and many Hindu sub-divisions prepare food according to certain rules.
Aazaan is a call to prayer broadcast from mosques five times a day, often through loudspeakers. Hindu and Christian places of worship toll bells. Hindu religious festivals are usually accompanied by reciting scriptures or playing devotional music that is amplified through loudspeakers.
3. Financial Administration
Budget 2022: In need of fiscal space
Enduring states are quick to create fiscal space for future shocks, uncertain events or a rainy day. The fiscal space used up in the 2008 global financial crisis was never sufficiently recouped in the last decade. Thus, when Covid-19 struck in March 2020, India’s debt-to-GDP ratio had reached 74%; it has been pushed up to 90%. Ever since private investment weakened from 2011-12, the clamour for more and more public capex has grown with every budget; recourse to revenue expenditure has grown with populist social sector programmes, subsidies, and cash dole-outs becoming the foundation of electoral successes. The fallout has been a conspicuous slowdown in fiscal consolidation and repeated toying with publicly pronounced roadmaps. The chickens have now come home to roost.
When the government has needed more resources to support distressed citizenry from a lengthy pandemic atop a prolonged economic slowdown, the headroom to manoeuvre barely existed. Months before the budget, international conditions turned adverse—it was clear the budget would have to weigh macroeconomic stability concerns even as it had to focus on growth support with a fragile recovery and a large negative output gap. The apprehension was that fiscal consolidation could have adverse short- and long-run impacts. This had considerable merit.
Therefore, the budget favours gradual consolidation—a 50-basis points reduction in the fiscal deficit to 6.4% of GDP in FY23 from an overshot 6.9% this year—with a capex push. Yet the growth push is tepid. One, the effective Rs 10.7 lakh crore capital spending—Rs 7.5 lakh crore budgetary and Rs 3.2 lakh crore as grants in aid for capital asset creation includes MGNREGS allocations, budgeted at Rs 73,000 crore in FY23 against Rs 98,000 crore in FY22RE. Two, combined public capex—budgetary and resources of public enterprises—actually moderates to 4.7% of GDP in FY23 from 4.8% of GDP in FY22RE; at Rs 12.2 lakh crore total in FY23, this increases just 10.4% from Rs 11.1 lakh crore (FY22RE), which grew 22.3% over -7.5% in FY21. The truth is PSEs’ capex is falling—in FY23, this is 27% below FY20 level. Fiscal resources are insufficient to offset the slack.
4. Current Topic
Face the facts on communal violence in India
Hate and bigotry feed on each other. They germinate and flourish on a toxic diet of divisive and schismatic ideologies and polarising creeds that discriminate against human beings on the basis of colour, region, gender, faith — and divide them between believers and non-believers — ranging the chosen ones against the idolatrous.
‘Calling out hate’ by S Y Quraishi (IE, April 15) has little to do with the anatomy of hate or its ongoing malignancy. It is more of an ad hominem attack on the ruling dispensation. A complex phenomenon has been over-simplified to suit a convenient political narrative. The arguments are drearily familiar, facts dodgy and conclusions delusional.
For aeons, India has had syncretic traditions inspired by the Vedic aphorism, “Ekamsadviprabahudhavadanti” (there is only one truth and learned persons call it by many names). Because of this underpinning, Indian society has never insisted on uniformity in any facet of life. Indian philosophy is a smorgasbord of varied ideas and traditions — incongruous at times, but always a part of a harmonious milieu.
This equanimity of Indian society was, however, disrupted by invading creeds claiming only their God, and His messenger were true, and the rest were false and worthy of destruction, along with their followers and places of worship.
The first such incursion came in 712, when Muhammad bin Qasim vanquished Sindh, and as Chach Nama, a contemporary Arab chronicle states, introduced the practice of treating local Hindus as zimmis, forcing them to pay jizya (a poll tax), as a penalty to live by their beliefs. “Hate” and “bigotry” thus made their debut in India, which was hitherto free from this virus. Pakistan’s official website credits this invasion as when the country was born as an Islamic nation in the Subcontinent.
5. Indian Administration
Upholding the right to repair
Though the world of consumer technology is bustling with electronic goods, options to get them repaired are getting fewer. Repairing is becoming unreasonably expensive or pretty much impossible because of technology becoming obsolete. Companies avoid the publication of manuals that can help users make repairs easily, manufacturers have proprietary control over spare parts and most firms refuse to make their products compatible with those of other firms. Planned obsolescence results in products breaking down too soon and buying a replacement is often cheaper and easier than repairing them.
However, this trend is changing in several parts of the world. Apple recently announced that consumers will have the right to purchase spare components of their products, following an order of the Federal Trade Commission of the United States, which directs manufacturers to remedy unfair anti-competitive practice and asks them to make sure that consumers can make repairs, either themselves or by a third-party agency. The momentum is, however, not so strong in India.