The Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) is an important source of study material for IAS, especially for the current affairs segment. In this section, we give you the gist of the EPW magazine every week. The important topics covered in the weekly are analysed and explained in a simple language, all from a UPSC perspective.
Topics covered in this article are:
Are Competitive Examinations Ideological?
- India’s Cities without Ownership
Are Competitive Examinations Ideological?
- India has a population of over 130 crores. Among them, more than half of the population is in the working age. Less opportunities and large number of population has created an environment of competition in India. The growing population is also increasing the level of competition for youths across the different fields.
Analysis of the issue
- An examination in any competitive form involves mutually exclusive realities of success and failure. But, not all exams are intense, except for when they are couched in a competitive mode.
- Arguably, exams that propel aspirants into what are publicly perceived as “darling destinations,” such as the civil services, and the medical, management and software engineering fields, are really intense as the fruits accruing from them are much sought after.
- These desires to make it to such destinations tend to trap the aspirants into the syndrome of competition while they are still in their childhood.
Positive impacts of competition
- Competition encourages the youth to work hard. Success is not so easy in the world of competition.
- Any person can do the work; but working efficiently and effectively leads to success. So competition makes the person to be hungry for knowledge and the diverse skills required for their job.
- In this competition, in be order to be in demand youth has to be multitasking; they have to handle the task efficiently, achieve the success in less time.
- Help the youth to understand their strengths and weaknesses
- Competition requires you to be different from others; it enhances person’s creativity in given work
- Help to manage success and failures in life: Competition helps persons to deal with winning and losing. How they react to it is a crucial skill to possess in managing life.
- Help to plan for long term and short goals: Competition makes youths aware about the opportunities available for them. After knowing these opportunities they can make short term plan and long term plan for them.
Negative impacts of competition
- Since these examinations are necessary to acquire entry into these distinct destinations, they naturally attract a huge number of candidates who compete only for a few hundred or a few thousand seats.
- Examinations in general act as filters and tend to produce more failure and less success.
- For example, those conducted under the aegis of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), and the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), Indian Institute of Technology Joint Entrance Exam (IITJEE), and National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) select only a few thousand candidates from among the several lakhs of canditates who appear for these examinations.
- Those who face failure tend to take the blame onto themselves and yet make repeated attempts that may lead to further failure and extreme steps such as committing suicide.
- The individualisation of success as well as failure provides an opportunity for the government to escape the moral responsibility of not generating decent jobs through the creation of different opportunity structures.
- Vulnerability to crime: Youths who can’t manage to compete with other youths often become vulnerable to crime and drugs. They got trapped in anti-social work such as robbery, murder, etc. to earn money.
- Due to the failure they become addicted to alcohol and drugs. They try to forget their failure by these means.
- Youth often pressurized by their family members and relative to achieve success. Due to this pressure they become ill to various mental problems such as stress, anxiety, tension.
- There are many youths who have got the success because competition has enhanced their skills, ability, and quality of work. Competition has also resulted into the failure, suicide and alienation of several youths. These impacts have been seen because of the less available opportunities.
- The government must restore the essence and dignity of employment in agriculture and industry.
- In the absence of this basic sphere of employment, the UPSC would continue to remain the darling destination for a few and a frustration for many.
- For the past few weeks, Maharashtra has witnessed a stand-off between wildlife activists and the state government and villagers in Ralegaon over a reportedly man-eating tigress.
- The activists had approached the Supreme Court when the forest department decided to shoot the tigress who has two cubs. The Court refused to stay the shooting.
What is Human–Wildlife Conflict?
- It refers to the interaction between wild animals and people and the resultant negative impact on people or their resources, or wild animals or their habitat.
- The conflict takes may results into loss of life or injury to humans, and animals both wild and domesticated.
What does the law say about this?
- Hunting is illegal as per the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- Protected wild animals can be put down, when authorised by the chief wildlife warden, only if they are a danger to human life.
- While animals that are habitual man-eaters need to be lawfully removed or killed, the operations should be precise, surgical, and state-run, and not theatrical and vengeful.
- On December 2016 judgment of the Uttarakhand High Court expressly forbade the display of a dead body of wild animals in print or electronic media.
Causes of this conflict
- Expansion of human population into animal habitats; there by natural wildlife territory is displaced.
- The availability of natural prey/food sources is reducing
- The new resources created by humans in the form of crops draw the wildlife resulting in conflict.
- Competition for food resources also occurs when humans attempt to harvest natural resources such as fish and grassland pasture.
- Land should be organized in such a way that both animals and humans have the space they need.
- Key wildlife areas have to be protected without negatively affecting the human needs.
- Proper insurance/compensation mechanism
- practical field-based solutions has to be given priority
- Role of different stakeholders has to be considered – local community, NGOs, governments and international organizations.
- Modern techniques like Strobe Lights, Natural Barriers, Disguise, corridors, mappings can help in handling the conflict in more smoother manner.
- The only answer to this is robust fieldwork that seeks to optimise solutions.
- Crop and livestock insurance schemes need to be made friendly and workable, and wild animal avoidance behaviour needs to be widely disseminated.
- The forest department needs to look into cases of conflict in a fair, quick, and consistent manner. This will need to be backed by a sensitive ear towards other problems that people may have specific to a place or habitat, such as difficulty in protecting livestock.
- As anthropogenic pressures on wilderness areas grow, precise, place-specific solutions are no longer a choice, but a necessity.
India’s Cities without Ownership: A Continuing Tale of Deficiency
Urban Governance-Key Components
Most of the world’s population now lives in Cities. If cities can be considered as complex systems, there are several interconnected sub-systems that help govern it and determine quality-of-life.
The 4 key components of city governance are:
- Political leadership
- Municipal capacities-financial and human
- Spatial Planning; and
- Accountability, Transparency and participation.
The want of an effective political leadership for Urban Governance is the most spoken about but least effective. The 74th Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA) provides for empowered Mayors. But Indian cities have weak leaders. Our ULB’s are nothing more than glorified service providers and Mayors are glorified figureheads. Single point accountability is missing.
(Constitution (Seventy Fourth Amendment) Act, 1992 has introduced a new Part IXA in the Constitution, which deals with Municipalities in an article 243P to 243 ZG. This amendment, also known as Nagarpalika Act, came into force on 1st June 1993. It has given constitutional status to the municipalities and brought them under the justifiable part of the constitution. States were put under constitutional obligation to adopt municipalities as per system enshrined in the Constitution.)
- Empowered Mayor
The mayor is the driving force and is the determining factor as regards the future of the city. A mayor is generally a local resident and knows the pulse of the city. When the mayor is empowered to decide the finance, functions and personnel and is also made accountable, the city has a better chance to develop and flourish.
Globally, there are several examples of mayors who have been/are ‘role models’ in terms of the leadership they provided for their cities.Example.Ken Livingstone ex-mayor London, Mayor of New York-Michael Bloomberg, Joko Widodo ex-mayor of the city of Surakarta(Indonesia) etc
The successful implementation of various govt programmes such as JNNURM, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan etc requires leaders with ability and legitimacy, a mayor’s role is pivotal in this respect.
According the Report of the ASICS (Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2017 mayors and the mayorial councils are toothless.A truncated urban governance is due to a mayoral system that has crippled and power devolution that is ineffective.
Ineffective Mayor and Mayorial Council
Indian cities are mostly governed by career bureaucrats whose tenure is less than a year. This makes it difficult to face urban governance challenges. But the most effectively governed cities of the world are governed by mayors who are not only very powerful but also with fixity of tenures.
The 74th CAA desired that municipalities function as democratic cogs with greater people’s participation at the base. But in reality that has not been realised. This is because cities come under the ‘state subject’, and the penning of laws are left to the states.
The soul of the 74th constitutioanal amendement has been diluted by state governments due to the following reasons:
- Absence of clearcut provisions wrt mayoral terms
- Powers/responsibilities of the mayor and his council,
- financial devolution which is vague
- No timeline for devolution
- In the devolution provisions,use of the word “may” in place of “shall”.
A city should be led by a leader who is elected with a reasonable tenure.While some cities have mayor who is directly elected for a period of five years(Kanpur,Lucknow etc),others have indirectly elected mayors with a year’s tenure (Delhi,Bengaluru etc).
Article 243ZA bestows all responsibilities wrt conduct of elections with the SEC including the task of delimitation. No regular urban elections are being held by states nor do they entrust its responsibility to the State Election Commission (SEC).
Municipal elections needs to be conducted by every democratic city. Where elections have been held the turnout of voters is abysmal. Questions arise with respect to the representative character of the elected body when the turnout of voters in municipal elections is low.
- State of Devolution
Devolution at low levels are seen in Indian cities in three areas -functions, functionaries, and funds.
- Functional devolution:
Cities in India lack the capacity to take decisions over planning, housing, water, environment, fire and emergency services, etc. 9 out of the 18 functions listed under the 74th CAA have been effectively devolved to the ULB.
Some of the mandated functions have not been devolved by the states.Article 243W does not makes devolution time bound giving the scope for state governments to delay it indefinitely.
- Functionary devolution: Support of staff is necessary to handle functions devolved to cities and for bottom-up governance. But state governments have been reluctant to devolve such powers. India’s mayors and councils cannot adopt the policy of hire or fire their management teams. The mayor and his council lack the authority to appoint the ULB executive head..
- Fiscal devolution: Indian cities are handicapped with respect to fiscal decentralisation. Indian cities are highly dependent on state and central grants and generate about 39% of the revenue they expend.
The average score of Indian cities w.r.t devolution of various taxes such as on property, entertainment etc is 8 out of 10. Cities also have little freedom to invest or borrow and in finalising budgets.
The crippled mayoral and council system and the goals of devolution which have not been achieved have resulted in municipalities becoming glorified service providers instead of local self-government or a city government.
The Way Forward
According to the United Nations Population Division (UNPD) by 2030, India is projected to have 71 metropolitan cities, of which at least about seven cities will have a population in excess of 10 million.
A city has various problems -flooding during rains or overflowing sewerage, slow or poor mobility, costly and less housing, climate change impacts etc, which exceed municipal boundaries. They need to be dealt at the metropolitan level.
In future, Metropolitan regions will play a greater role in the overall economy but unfortunately they are suffering from governance deficit.
Many countries were able to achieve rapid transformation of their cities through strong and effective reforms which also addressed questions such as “Who will lead?” and “Who is accountable?”
State governments are the key transformational agents in India’s urban space. ASICS Study suggests the following reforms to empower a city’s political leadership.
(i) A national-level stage to be created for mayors and city councils to solidify decentralisation
(ii) For decentralisation to succeed it is necessary for citizen connectivity, trust building and winning their support.
- Municipal Acts should be amended so that mayors have a term of 5 years, functions are devolved, and mayors/Councils have full powers over staffing and finances; and
- Parastatal agencies should report to the mayor and his council.
- 74th CAA needs to be amended so that municipalities serve as LSG’s; and
- Evolve consensus with state governments and create a metropolitan governance paradigm .
By 2030 cities are projected to contribute 70% of India’s GDP, generate about 70% of new jobs in India and be the drivers towards a near fourfold increase in per capita income.
Socio-economic prosperity and sustainable development within cities needs to be ensured as the country’s future lies in its urban areas. Our cities need leaders who are empowered with mayors being their guardians.
For more EPW articles, read “Gist of EPW”.