Bypassing Rajya Sabha; character of money bill

29ss1Arun Jaitley, the incumbent finance minister recently stated in a press talk that money bill seems to be the last resort to get bills implemented in the wake of disruptions by opposition in the Upper House. In this context, one must understand the importance of Money Bill and its character. According to Indian constitution, Rajya Sabha has limited powers in matters related to money bill. Any money bill is first presented in Lok Sabha and if passed there, it is presented in the Rajya Sabha. The Rajya Sabha can only put recommendations to the bill and cannot reject it. Moreover, the Lok Sabha has its discretion to reject the recommendations in toto. Even then it will be considered to be passed by both the Houses. This is the reason why many persons have raised concerns over this issue, citing probable attempt to undermine the power of Rajya Sabha. However, the constitution strictly defines what constitutes a money bill in the strictest of terms under Article 110, thereby eradicating any sense of arbitrariness. Also constitution gives absolute power to speaker to decide whether a bill is money bill or not, and Rajya Sabha cannot question the speaker’s decision. This is a matter of concern particularly if the speaker has some vested interests or political alignment to a specific party.

Need to overhaul the current state of India’s iconography

red-fort-05When one wanders through the streets of Paris, one realizes the essence of iconography as it instantly reminds him or her of the great history the place beholds. It immediately connects him or her to the ionic personalities who have left permanent impressions in the history. Unfortunately complete opposite to this is our Indian iconography where more than half of the namings have been attributed to either Jawahar lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, clearly demonstrating the parochiality of Gandhi family led Congress  party. However, BJP is no monk when it comes to this matter, as there has been repeated inclination to project prominent hindutva leaders like Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Deendayal Upadhyaya, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar at the helm of Indian iconography. When we come across such sectarian outlook, it stirs in us a sense of injustice done to the pluralistic nature of our society where the contributions of many are forgotten and overlooked in light of petty politics. Also, important incidents of our history like Jallianwala Bagh massacre etc. needs to be enshrined through proper iconography. There is also the need for a majestic museum that enshrines the story of Indian freedom struggle in great details, as most of the smalller incidents are almost forgotten as there is hardly any mention of them anywhere. In order to do true justice to the contributors of various fields, India’s iconography needs a paradigm shift. This can be achieved by dividing the entire work of iconography into national, regional and local where iconic figures of all levels (national, regional, local) are given due importance. Also an analytical and logical approach needs to be considered. Say for eg. an institute of education named after famous mathematician Ramanujan, a music and arts institute named after Amir Khusro and so on.Only by doing this, iconography will serve its purpose in the true sense and will remind the coming generations of the great personalities and their contributions.

RBI and Monetary Policy Committee

bl15newRaja_JPG_924156fThe new agreement between Government of India and Reserve bank of India (RBI) in February 2015 clearly defines the role of RBI. According to this, the main purpose of RBI is to keep inflation in check within the levels of 4% with an additional +/- 2% deviation. When inflation crosses 6%, RBI has to take strict inflation reducing measures whereas, when it is within acceptable limit, RBI can consider various other factors eg. growth etc. to formulate policy rates. In recent years, money supply has not played a significant part while the overall liquidity in the market has, in influencing policy rates set by the RBI. On the basis of this underlying role of RBI and to maintain its accountability, certain pundits are brainstorming to come up with an effective Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). It is to be noted that different countries have different composition of MPC while in some countries the entire autonomy of managing policy rates lies with the central bank. The three main proposed composition of MPC are-

  • RBI having more strength in MPC compared to external members.
  • Both RBI and external members have equal representation and the discretion lying with the RBI governor to   decide on a policy in case of a tie while voting on a policy.
  • RBI having less members compared to external members, but the governor is given a veto power.

Any of these three compositions of MPC will help to maintain the accountability of RBI while making sure that it does not infringe RBI in its primary role of curbing inflation.

Higher education in India: challenges and solutions

venezuela-higher-edRecent data collected imparts a horrifying picture of the status of higher education in India. The main concerns are the low enrollment rates, higher disparities and unequal access, lack of relevance of curriculum etc. It has to be noted that a contemporary comprehensive policy structure is missing to rejuvenate or catapult the state of higher education in India. Data show low enrollments in higher education among backward classes and financially deprived sections of society. Meanwhile there is huge influx of self-financing private colleges whose main agenda is to earn profit. The government’s role in improving the public and private aided educational institutions is crucial in this regard. Coming to the problem of less relevant course structure, government initiatives like Skill development program and entrepreneurship, collaborations with industries to impart relevant job oriented study are noteworthy. However a lot has to be done in this context.  While some people believe that global universities should be allowed to setup their institute in India independently, majority are of the view that setting up of few world class institutes will hardly cater to the needs of rural population of our country. Collaborations between these global institutes and local institutions is important to facilitate international level education here in our institutes, and will answer many pressing problems related to our higher education system.

The faults in our finances and investments

student-loan-bubbleThe recent decision to invest EPFO (Employee’s Provident Fund Organisation) funds in stock market raises the basic question – Is saving not possible without investment? This is from the employee’s point of view rather than the point of view of so called prodigies of our financial markets. Left to the prodigies, everything will be treated as an economic entity and the economic disparity among individuals will be ever increasing. The act of creating profits without generating anything of value but simply by managing risks puts us at a risk of future indebtedness. We are thus creating burden of debts on our future generations, classic example in this regard is the Greece debt crisis. The debt thus created is often met with imposing taxes on individuals. More often than not the risk taken by financial institutions has adverse effects on the taxpayers rather than the risk takers, take any bailout as an example. Whether it be Jan Dhan Yojana scheme, Gold Monetisation scheme etc., the underlying agenda is to increase the flow of capitals in the form of individual’s investment. It seems saving without investment is hardly possible these days, it’s just like how it is becoming difficult to spend without borrowing. Someone rightly described us as ‘the risk society’. We must just make sure that someone else does not need to pay for the risk we are taking.

Right to Privacy: Do we enjoy it or not?

Fingerprint and data protection on digital screenIn the last half of the century, privacy as a fundamental right has often been a major part of discussion in the legal community. This is mainly due to the varying interpretations and the varying levels to which it can  be enjoyed by citizens as cited by Supreme court in numerous  cases. Most of these cases points to the fact that privacy as a right has not been explicitly mentioned in our constitution but comes under the broader interpretation of right to life and liberty mentioned under article 21. Also right to human dignity has been implicitly mentioned in our preamble. If we look at the fundamental rights mentioned in our constitution, one thing becomes perfectly clear that every individual has his right to exercise his own freedom and liberty unless it does not affect the interests of others. Hence it becomes imperative for the government to ensure that citizens of this country enjoy a certain degree of privacy and that it does not get violated arbitrarily. This is quite contrasting to the opinion expressed by the Attorney General of India, Mukul Rohatgi in the case filed against the collection of personal information under Aadhar scheme, as an infringement of privacy. The Attorney General argued that there is no such privacy rights enjoyed by citizens and that it is a vague concept. While one can discuss the merits and demerits of the data collection for Aadhar and the security implications associated with its safeguarding policies, one cannot simply declare personal data collection as justifiable on the argument that an individual has no right to privacy and that state can interfere whenever it wants and however it deems fit.

Capital Punishment: not everything is black and white

death-penalty-croppedCapital punishment, often considered as a deterrent in case of serious heinous crime is a misplaced concept. Same has been retorted by UN on multiple occasions. Also, capital punishment as a tool for retributive justice is also not true. In this context, people (especially the pro-capital punishment preachers) fail to fathom that life imprisonment without remission  or remand is as strong or as hard a punishment for the convicted as is capital punishment. However, in the former punishment, the convict gets a chance to reflect on his mistake and more often than not, rues the missed chance to lead a better life. The jail time often leads to self evaluation and there has been numerous examples of convicts coming out refined and ready to lead a civic life after the jail term is over. Hence, we as a society has to decide which path we choose to met out justice, as the saying goes- “It is not sufficient enough that justice is served, it must also appear so.”

Narmada Bachao Andolan and the last 30 years

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists – villagers affected principally by Sardar Sarovar Dam and also other dams on the river Narmada in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in India – stand in chin-deep water demanding land to replace land which was submerged after the water level in Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar dams was raised.

Today when almost everything is seen through the lens of ‘development for majority’, a look back at the history of Narmada Bachao Andolan suggests that the sufferings of voiceless minority is often neglected. However, sometimes the resistance of these voiceless become so transcendental that it leaves a blot or sometimes a footnote in the history books of a nation. The credit for Narmada Bachao Andolan goes to personalities like Medha Patkar, Baba Amte and many others. Each person associated with this movement has his or her’s own story to tell. If we look into the last two decades or so, we will see that there comes a date quite often when certain misdoings, injustices and sufferings have in one way or the other dawned upon this weaker section, mainly the people living in settlements across Narmada basin in states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. With each metre increase in height of dams, the number of houses submerged increased exponentially. Though the politicians often talked about rehabilitation of displaced people, this was hardly achieved in letter and in spirit. To add to this, often lethargic forces were used to silence down the protests. At times, these settlers received rays of hope through crucial SC interventions, but ultimately SC too had to rely on official reports only. And it is no rocket science to understand the kind of role governments play in influencing these reports. Thus the judgements succumbed under the weight of this gullible “development for majority” argument. In this sorry state of affairs, as is always the case, it was the poor and the weak who were crucified. These stories are engraved in the history books forever now, and will remind us of our inactions and cruelty for generations to come.