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01 June 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA)

What is Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act?

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA) is a social security scheme that aims at providing employment and livelihood to rural labourers in the country. In an endeavor to make overall and inclusive development a reality, the NREGA was passed as law and implemented across 200 districts in 2006. By 2008, the scheme was implemented across the country. Under the scheme, any adult who registers for rural employment will get a minimum job guarantee of 100 days each financial year. It was later renamed the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). If a person does not get employment within 15 days of registration, he/she becomes eligible for an unemployment allowance.

The implementation of MGNREGA was left to Gram Panchayats.Government incurred expenditure of INR 289817.04 crores towards the scheme since its inception and as of June 2015, 68, 26,921 workers are employed on 2, 61,942 worksites. Initially the minimum wages determined by the government were INR 100 a day but later it was revised in keeping with the state labor employment conventions. Now states determine the minimum wages and range between INR 163 in Bihar to INR 500 in Kerala. But over the years, the scheme has been at the receiving end of criticism. According to the critics, the benefits of the scheme were not reaching the poor and it was corruption-ridden.

NaMo’s Take on the MGNREGA

Modi-led NDA government does not see the scheme in a good light. The prime minister himself is the greatest critics of the scheme and ever since the Modi-led NDA government came to the power, there has been considerable uncertainty regarding the scheme. BJP considers MNREGA as a living example of Congress failure. There is no denying to the fact that the scheme has been corruption-ridden and the benefits could not completely reach the poor, but it has positively impacted the lives of many people as well. The International Food Policy Research Institute’s Global Hunger Index, for instance, has cited the scheme and its benefits for the poor as the main cause for the decrease in underweight children (under five years) in the country. There were only about 30 per cent underweight children in 2014 vis-à-vis 43.7 percent in 2005, according to news reports.

Social Security and MGNREGA Scorecard

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NDA government have shown great interest in social security. Government has launched several schemes like Jan DhanYojana which aims at inclusive financial growth. The low-cost Atal Pension Yojana and the life and accident insurance schemes launched by the government shows that the administration is focusing on overall development and giving due importance to the interests of lower income groups. MNREGA can flourish and attain its objectives if it is linked with these schemes launched by the NDA government.

Are Reforms on the Cards?

In 2015, PM Modi tried to restrict the scope of MGNREGA and attempted to retain the scheme in only about 200 districts, which were the poorest in the country. The PM’s decision met with mass criticism and leading economists of the nation criticized the move. Massive criticism was based on the logic that the scheme is a well-defined security net for many families and without which they would perish in abject poverty.

If implemented properly, schemes like MGNREGA can bring about substantial changes in the lives of the people and greatly benefit the people belonging to lower echelons of society.

01 June 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

Introduction:The article discuss about the Upper House in different countries and the holding up of GST in India.

Topics:General Studies, Paper-II & III

Italian scenario :
    • Italy has been a parliamentary democracy since World War II. But not even once did it elect a government that could last a full term of five years.
    • One source of this instability is the nature of its bicameral legislature.
    • The upper House has equal power and a very unusual veto.
    • This dysfunctional feature has led to instability, revolving-door governments and frequent charges of horse-trading.
    • To change this, Italy needed to reform its constitution, and curtail the power of its upper House.
    • This reform bill was finally passed in Parliament in April, despite huge opposition. This portends more stable governments in the future.
The Origin:
      • The problem of the upper House of bicameral legislatures holding up crucial reform is also being experienced in Canada and Australia, albeit less severely than Italy.
      • The origin of this problem can be traced to a mini-crisis in 1911 in UK Parliament. It led subsequently to the Parliament Act of 1911 and 1949, establishing the formal dominance of the lower House.
      • One consequence of this is that ‘money bills’ are required to be passed only in the lower House, a feature codified in India’s Constitution.
Indian Rajya Sabha:
      • India’s upper House is council of states whose members are elected indirectly by state legislatures. (By contrast in the US, the upper House, i.e. the Senate members, are directly elected).
      • The Rajya Sabha represents the states. Its role is also that of providing checks and balances in lawmaking, to provide reason and deliberation, and to function beyond considerations of party politics.
      • If a legislation that originates from the Lok Sabha is driven by popular will and brute majority, then Rajya Sabha can subject it to the broader test of rationality, practicality, relevance and reasonableness.
      • That’s because the Rajya Sabha is more immune to electoral interests. But sometimes its deliberations can also slow down legislation or eventually kill it.
      • In rare instances, the Rajya Sabha’s delay and intransigence can become counter-productive.
The GST saga:
      • It will be the most important indirect tax reform since independence. It is a huge deal, because it entails all 29 states and seven Union territories voluntarily giving up their constitutional right to impose sales tax (and sundry other taxes) in exchange for a uniform country wide system.
      • It will create a borderless common and integrated economic market within India, and is expected to permanently add to GDP growth significantly.
      • The roll-out of GST requires a constitutional amendment, and hence passage in both Houses. It has cleared the lower House. But now, it is stuck in the Rajya Sabha.
      • Of the three technical objections raised in the Rajya Sabha, two have been sorted out. These relate to eliminating the 1% additional tax, and evolving an autonomous dispute resolution scheme.
      • The only sticking point is whether to put an upper numerical limit in the law on the applicable tax rate.
      • This can surely be incorporated in the rules that will be framed or in some appropriate manner.
The Rajya Sabha should now develop an informal convention that a policy which has been thoroughly discussed, has broad and bipartisan support, and has passed with a majority in the lower House, should not be held up.

Question: The Rajya Sabha represents the states. Its role is also that of providing checks and balances in lawmaking, to provide reason and deliberation, and to function beyond considerations of party politics. Discuss.

Suggested Approach:

  1. Why do we need Upper House.
  2. How Upper House can become an obstruction.
  3. Suggested measures.

Link: http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/fInViX7ZukN0RN5RNsAyMI/GSTs-Rajya-Sabha-impasse.html

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01 June 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

Introduction:The present article discuss about the new geopolitical dynamism in the globalised Southeast Asia and the challenges posed by it in front of India’s Foreign policy.

Topics:General Studies, Paper- II

    • The Japanese invitation to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka last week at G7 summit underlines the remarkable rise in Tokyo’s strategic interest in the Subcontinent. It also highlights the growing salience of South Asian nations on the international stage.
    • China has already begun to integrate India’s neighbours into its larger international and regional strategies. E.g. The $ 46 billion China-Pakistan economic corridor, “dialogue partner” status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
    • As other powers begin to devote quality time to engaging South Asian nations, India must lend additional depth and energy to its current “neighbourhood first” strategy in the globalisation of the Subcontinent.
    • Since independence, India has been compelled to pay special attention to Pakistan. An Islamic identity, critical geopolitical location, association with Western military alliances and the possession of nuclear weapons have given Pakistan much weight in regional affairs.
    • India has also devoted considerable energy towards Afghanistan. It has become a vital part of India’s strategy towards Pakistan and the battle against violent religious extremism.
    • With its focus on the Af-Pak region, however, Delhi has tended to miss the growing strategic significance of the other nations in the neighbourhood.
New geopolitical dynamism:
      • Bangladesh is today one of the fastest growing economies of the world and is open to massive investments in the infrastructure sector. China and Japan are competing vigorously for project contracts in Bangladesh. It is being seen as a bridge between South Asia, China and Southeast Asia.
      • Long viewed as India’s buffers to the north, Bhutan and Nepal have now become theatres of contestation with China.
      • Sri Lanka is rediscovering its central location in the Indian Ocean, as all major powers like China, US and Japan pay unprecedented attention to Colombo.
      • Maldives, which straddles the vital sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean, has now become a highly coveted piece of maritime real estate as China turns its gaze upon the Indian Ocean.
Challenges to India:
      • India no longer has the luxury of viewing the region as India’s “backyard”. It must begin to recognise the growing gulf between its claims of primacy in the region and the growing economic, political and military influence of China in the Subcontinent.
      • The new international opportunities have allowed the ruling elites in our neighbourhood to pursue greater “strategic autonomy” from India. This means India will have to work harder than ever before to retain its historic leverages in the neighbourhood.
      • The economic geography of the Subcontinent was inherently in India’s favour. But we lost the advantage and the present efforts are no match to the Chinese efforts to reconfigure the economic geography of the Subcontinent.
      • India’s “neighbourhood first” strategy is complicated by its deep involvement in the internal politics of the South Asian nations. In the changed scenario, neighbours are seeking intervention of other powers. Delhi, therefore, will have to rethink the nature of its intervention in the internal affairs of its neighbours.
      • India must stop seeing itself as the “lone ranger” in South Asia. While it must necessarily compete with rival powers when they threaten its interests, it must also learn to collaborate with friendly powers, wherever possible, in shaping the regional environment. This requires a new mindset in Delhi that focuses on strategic regional outcomes rather than the right to unilateral means.

Question: The reference to South Asian nations, apart from India and Pakistan, as “smaller nations” is largely inaccurate. As other powers are engaging with these nations, India must change its “neighbour first” policy. Comment.

Suggested Approach:

      1. The population data shows that South Asian nations are not small by any means.
      2. Engagement of other nations with South asian nations.
      3. Challenges to India
      4. The way forward for a pragmatic foreign policy

Link: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/raja-mandala-regional-india-global-south-asia-2826416/

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