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Indian Express Editorial Analysis

23-February-2024

1. A long institutional road

Topic: GS2 – Polity – Judiciary This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about the role of the Supreme Court within the constitutional framework, recent judicial decisions, and their implications for democracy and governance.
Context:
  • Two recent decisions by the Supreme Court of India have garnered attention for their impact on electoral democracy.
  • The first decision declared the electoral bonds scheme unconstitutional, while the second pronounced the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as the winner in the mayoral race in Chandigarh.
  • These decisions are viewed as a positive development in a context where the Supreme Court’s role in upholding democratic principles has been questioned.
  • However, while these decisions are lauded individually, their systemic implications and their ability to counteract the degradation of institutional legitimacy require further analysis.
  Balancing Institutional Legitimacy:
  • The Supreme Court, like any institution, must balance its actions to maintain its legitimacy while also fulfilling its constitutional duties.
  • The Court often treads cautiously to avoid antagonizing the executive branch, as its own legitimacy is intertwined with maintaining a delicate balance of power.
  • Even when the Court rules against the government, it may not challenge the core ideological projects of the ruling party.
  • Therefore, while decisions like those on electoral bonds and the Chandigarh mayoral race are commendable, they may not signal a fundamental shift in the Court’s relationship with the executive.
Maintaining the Façade of Legitimacy:
  • In some cases, the Court’s intervention serves to remind the executive of the need to maintain the façade of legitimacy, particularly concerning democratic principles and constitutional norms.
  • Decisions such as those related to electoral integrity or egregious violations of constitutional principles highlight the boundaries that even a brazen executive cannot cross without risking legitimacy.
  • However, the broader political culture’s response to such decisions indicates a normalization of institutional perfidy, where even significant breaches do not necessarily lead to political consequences for the ruling party.
Challenges to Systemic Regeneration:
  • Despite occasional positive rulings, skepticism remains regarding the Court’s ability to foster systemic regeneration.
  • The Court’s historical acquiescence to the executive’s agenda and the broader political culture’s acceptance of institutional degradation undermine hopes for significant change.
  • The fragmented opposition and the lack of consistent civic courage contribute to the normalization of institutional breaches, eroding expectations of accountability.
Conclusion:
  • While the recent decisions by the Supreme Court are welcome, they should not be seen as isolated instances of legitimizing the façade of constitutionalism.
  • Instead, they need to be part of a broader pattern challenging authoritarianism and communalism wherever they manifest.
  • In the absence of sustained efforts to hold the government accountable and restore institutional integrity, the significance of individual judicial interventions remains limited.
PYQ: Starting from inventing the ‘basic structure’ doctrine, the judiciary has played a highly proactive role in ensuring that India develops into a thriving democracy. In light of the statement, evaluate the role played by judicial activism in achieving the ideals of democracy. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2014)
Practice Question:  Critically analyze the recent decisions by the Supreme Court of India, particularly the declaration of the electoral bonds scheme as unconstitutional and the pronouncement of the winner in the Chandigarh mayoral race. Evaluate the significance of these decisions in upholding democratic principles amidst challenges of institutional degradation. (250 words/15 m)

2. How to make MSP work

Topic: GS3 – Agriculture – MSP This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about agricultural pricing policies, particularly the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system.
Context:
  • Since its inception in 1965, the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system in India has faced various challenges, including issues related to crop inclusion, MSP formula, effective implementation, and enforcement.
  • It is noteworthy that protests surrounding the MSP often emerge from regions benefiting the most from it, where implementation has been relatively successful.
  • This paradox underscores the complexity of agricultural pricing policies and their implications.
Reasons for Focus on MSP:
  • The focus on MSP stems from several factors, including inefficient and poorly competitive markets, the failure of markets to adapt to the changing needs of the agricultural sector, neglect of non-price factors affecting productivity and income, and the direct impact of prices on farmers’ income.
  • These issues have fueled demands for reforms aimed at ensuring fair remuneration for farmers and addressing agrarian distress.
Evolution of MSP Implementation:
  • Initially, MSP implementation was limited to a few states and a select set of crops, notably paddy, wheat, and cotton.
  • However, concerns over stagnating agricultural income, unfavorable terms of trade, and rising farmer suicides prompted attention towards the need for remunerative pricing policies.
  • The recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers, led by the Swaminathan Panel, emphasized reforms in agricultural markets, contract farming, and land reform, among others.
  • Particularly noteworthy was the recommendation that MSP should be at least 50 percent higher than the weighted average cost of production.
  Challenges with New MSP Concept:
  • The introduction of the “new MSP” concept, as proposed by the Swaminathan Panel, mandated a minimum of 50 percent margin over the comprehensive cost (C2) of production.
  • However, this approach raised concerns regarding its sustainability and impact on market dynamics.
  • By fixating on cost C2 and imposing a fixed margin, the new MSP may distort market signals and discourage demand-driven growth in agriculture.
Policy Options and Recommendations:
  • Various policy options, including legal guarantees for MSP, deficiency price payment systems, and assured prices to farmers, have been proposed to address pricing challenges.
  • However, each option presents its own set of complexities and trade-offs.
  • For instance, legalizing MSP may not ensure effective implementation or address market distortions.
  • Similarly, deficiency price payment systems may face fiscal constraints and WTO challenges if not properly designed.
Conclusion:
  • To address the challenges surrounding MSP effectively, a balanced approach is necessary.
  • This involves revisiting the MSP formula to incorporate variable margins and exploring alternative pricing mechanisms, such as Assured Price to Farmers (APF), which includes a component for farmer margin or profit.
  • Additionally, there is a need for greater coordination between the central and state governments to ensure the effective implementation of MSP across different crops and regions.
  • Ultimately, a comprehensive set of reforms is required to enable markets to provide remunerative prices to farmers and reduce their dependence on government intervention.
        Various Committees on Minimum Support Price (MSP)
  • The Agricultural Prices Commission (APC) was founded in 1965 with the purpose of recommending MSPs for agricultural commodities. The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) was later given its new name. For 23 different crops, including wheat, rice, pulses, oilseeds, and cotton, the CACP suggests MSPs.
  • National Commission on Farmers (NCF): The NCF was established in 2004 under the leadership of M.S Swaminathan, to address the problems of farmers and recommend policies for their welfare. The NCF recommended a minimum of 50% profit over the cost of production as MSP.
  • Shanta Kumar Committee: The Shanta Kumar Committee was set up in 2014 to review the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and suggest reforms. The committee recommended a shift from price-based to income-based support for farmers.
PYQ: Consider the following stements: (2020) 1) In the case of all cereals, pulses and oil-seeds, the procurement at Minimum Support Price (MSP) is unlimited in any State/UT of India. 2) In the case of cereals and pulses, the MSP is fixed in any State/UT at a level to which the market price will never rise. Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (a) 1 only (b) 2 only (c) Both 1 and 2 (d) Neither 1 nor 2 Ans: D
Practice Question:  Critically analyze the challenges and implications of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system in India, with a focus on recent reforms and policy options. Discuss the evolution of MSP implementation since its inception in 1965 and evaluate its effectiveness in addressing agrarian distress and ensuring remunerative prices for farmers. (250 words/15 m)

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