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The Hindu Editorial

21-February-2024

1. Having Panchayats as self-governing institutions.

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity – Constitution – Significant provisions. Critical for UPSC as it assesses knowledge on constitutional amendments, fiscal devolution, and challenges in local governance for India’s aspirants.
Context
  • The article discusses the 30-year progress of local self-governance in India, emphasizing fiscal devolution.
  • It explores challenges and potential solutions, including the role of gram sabhas and the need to overcome dependency on grants for sustainable revenue generation at the grassroots level.
  Background:
  • 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments Acts in 1992 empowered local bodies for self-governance in India.
  • Ministry of Panchayati Raj formed in 2004 to strengthen rural local governments.
Fiscal Devolution:
  • Some states have excelled, while others lag in devolution commitment.
  • Constitutional amendment emphasizes fiscal devolution, including own revenue generation.
Current Revenue Status:
  • Panchayats earn only 1% through taxes; 80% from the Centre and 15% from States.
  • Despite 30 years of devolution, revenue raised remains meager.
Own Source of Revenue (OSR):
  • State Panchayati Raj Acts provide for taxation and non-tax revenue.
  • Major own source of revenue (OSRs): Property tax, land revenue cess, stamp duty surcharge, tolls, profession tax, advertisement tax, user charges for services.
Expert Committee Report:
  • Expert committee details OSR possibilities, including fees, rent, and income from investments.
  • Recommends creating a conducive environment for effective taxation.
Role of Gram Sabhas:
  • Gram sabhas crucial for local self-sufficiency and sustainable development.
  • They have been empowered for planning, decision-making, and implementing revenue initiatives.
  • Authority to impose taxes, fees, and levies for local development projects.
Discrepancies in Tax Collection:
  • Inequitable tax collection responsibilities among gram, intermediate, and district panchayats.
  • Gram panchayats collect 89%, intermediate 7%, and district panchayats only 5%.
Factors Hindering Revenue Generation:
  • Central Finance Commission grants contribute to reduced interest in OSR.
  • Dependency on grants increases, and tax collections decrease over time.
  • Lack of incentivisation and penalties for defaulters.
Overcoming Dependency:
  • Challenges include a societal ‘freebie culture’ and reluctance to impose taxes.
  • Need for educating elected representatives and the public on the importance of revenue generation.
  • Gradual reduction of dependency on grants for sustained self-sufficiency.
Future Recommendations:
  • Dedicated efforts needed at all governance levels, including state and central, to minimize dependency syndrome.
  • Panchayats should strive towards self-sufficiency through consistent revenue-generation initiatives.
Conclusion:
  • Despite constitutional provisions, challenges persist in achieving meaningful fiscal devolution and self-sufficiency at the grassroots level.
  • Education, incentivization, and consistent efforts are crucial for promoting local self-governance in India.
PYQ: Assess the importance of Panchayat system in India as a part of local government. Apart from government grants, what sources the Panchayats can look out for financing developmental projects. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2018)
Practice Question:  Discuss the challenges and prospects of fiscal devolution in Indian local governance, emphasizing the role of panchayats and strategies to enhance self-sufficiency. (250 words/15 m)

2. The real threat to the India as we know it

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity – Parliament Crucial for UPSC as it assesses understanding of contemporary Indian political dynamics, parliamentary challenges, and constitutional principles.
Context
  • The article discusses growing divisiveness in Indian parliamentary politics, raising concerns about the future of democracy.
  • It highlights challenges like polarized politics, federalism issues, and engineered defections.
 Introduction:
  • The conclusion of the 17th Lok Sabha sets the stage for the upcoming general election.
  • The final parliamentary session reflects increased divisiveness, raising concerns about the future of Indian parliamentary democracy.
Constitutional Safeguards:
  • India, with a robust Constitution, Fundamental Rights, Duties, and Directive Principles, has sustained democracy.
  • Current decline in parliamentary practices sparks worries about Parliament’s ability to maintain stable democracy.
Global and Internal Dynamics:
  • External factors like global tensions (Ukraine, West Asia) and concerns about China exist but don’t pose immediate threats.
  • Internal issues, like security concerns and regional conflicts, are manageable but require attention.
Political Division:
  • Nation appears more divided than before, with accusations and vitriol between the ruling party and the opposition.
  • The government cites the Opposition creating a “North-South Divide” and promoting divisive language.
Impact of Polarized Politics:
  • On the verge of a critical election, polarized politics exacerbates divisive tendencies.
  • Issues like the Ram Temple consecration become election points, contributing to a perceived Hindu majoritarianism.
Federalism Concerns:
  • Federalism, a constitutional cornerstone, appears compromised with attempts like Uniform Civil Code and “One Nation, One Election.”
  • Opposition accuses the ruling party of breaching federal principles, undermining regional parties.
Engineered Defections:
  • Engineered defections, especially in an election year, challenge democracy and electoral integrity.
  • Instances of high-level defections to the ruling party raise concerns about altering electoral verdicts by other means.
Governor’s Role and Centre-State Relations:
  • Governors’ roles in Opposition-ruled states become contentious, leading to strained Centre-State relations.
  • Perceived violations of constitutionally mandated conduct contribute to a breakdown in relations between the Centre and States.
Absence of Rules-Based Order:
  • Lack of a rules-based order in Centre-State relations and party-to-party interactions poses dangers to the democratic system.
  • Without adherence to constitutional principles, democracy under a constitutional mandate may cease to exist.
Need for Dispassionate Analysis:
  • Onus lies mainly on the Centre, but both the ruling party and the Opposition need to uphold constitutional niceties.
  • Tolerating differences, subordinating everything to the Constitution, and managing rivalries within constitutional boundaries are crucial.
Conclusion:
  • A collapse of Constitution-mandated rules of business threatens democracy, emphasizing the need for dispassionate analysis and adherence to constitutional principles.
Practice Question:  Discuss the challenges to Indian parliamentary democracy, emphasizing factors like political polarization, federalism concerns, and engineered defections. (150 words/10 m)

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