INDIAN EXPRESS EDITORIALS AND EXPLAINED 19TH DECEMBER 2019

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ISSUE: OPPOSITION OF CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT BY STATES

WHY IN NEWS?

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is the latest to join a line-up of non-BJP CMs who have come out in opposition either to the NRC or CAB or both.

WHAT STATES CAN DO?

Citizenship is a Central subject and, legally speaking, the states may have limited room for manoeuvre when it comes to determining who is a citizen and who is not, or in implementing a law on the matter framed by the Centre.

And yet, when duly elected chief ministers stand up and oppose a central law, when they pledge resistance to it in their states, they make a political and symbolic point that the Centre in a federal democracy would be unwise to ignore or attempt to ride roughshod over.

Be it CM Banerjee in Bengal, Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi, Amarinder Singh in Punjab, Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala, Bhupesh Baghel in Chhattisgarh, or Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik in Bihar and Odisha respectively, the objections to the NRC-CAB seem two-fold.

One, these chief ministers are pointing to the lack of consultation, the go-by to norms of negotiation and consensus-building, by a Centre drunk on an electoral majority, on vital issues that affect the country.

CONCLUSION

The push-back by the chief ministers is important, and the Centre must respond to it. In times when checks on power are conspicuously feeble and countervailing institutions seem unable or unwilling to rise to their mandate, the CMs’ voices are also a valuable reminder — that India’s largeness and its diverse locales are not its weakness, but its strength, and a reason to hope.

 

ISSUE: 10 YEARS OF AADHAAR

On September 29, 2010, Ranjana Sonawane, a resident of Tembhli in the tribal district of Nandurbar in Maharashtra received the first Aadhaar number. In less than 10 years, 95 per cent of the adult residents in India have gotten theirs.

For a large number of these people, Aadhaar was the first usable ID, in the absence of which they found it difficult to access services.

ACCESS OF AADHAAR

The report finds that nearly 50 per cent of the people have used Aadhaar to access rations, MGNREGS, social pensions, SIM cards or bank accounts for the first time, and that 81 per cent of Aadhaar holders say that they will provide it if they have a choice of which ID to provide. Sixty one per cent of beneficiaries trust that Aadhaar prevents others from accessing their benefits.

The report indicates a need for the state to double down on the unfinished agenda of ensuring that Aadhaar works for everyone, that is, marginalised groups are enrolled, the process to update records is made simpler, the grievance redress systems are strengthened, and exclusions due to Aadhaar are eliminated.

Aadhaar has touched the life of almost every Indian resident. If there is one learning from the study, it is that the best way to deliver on the promise of Aadhaar is to focus on improving the user experience, making it easier for everyone to use Aadhaar safely every day.

It is only then that the bold bet which began with Ranjana Sonawane in a remote corner of Nandurbar a decade ago, will achieve its full potential.

 

ISSUE: RIGHT TO INFORMATION

WHY IN NEWS?

On Monday, Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde called for a “filter” to check “abuse” of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. “There is paralysis and fear about this Act. People are not taking decisions… We want to find a way to stop the abuse of RTI Act,” he said.

EVOLUTION OF THE RTI ACT

It was the Supreme Court that had sown the seeds of the RTI Act when, in 1975, in State of Uttar Pradesh vs Raj Narain, Justice K K Mathew observed, “The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way by their public functionaries.

They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing. Their right to know, which is derived from the concept of freedom of speech, though not absolute, is a factor which should make one wary when secrecy is claimed for transactions which can at any rate have no repercussion on public security.”

Since that remark, the country saw many demands for an RTI Act; 12 states had enacted their own transparency laws before it was passed as a central legislation and implemented in 2005.

WHY STRONGER RTI?

The ideal of ‘Government by the people’ makes it necessary that people have access to information on matters of public concern. The free flow of information about affairs of Government paves way for debate in public policy and fosters accountability in Government. It creates a condition for ‘open governance’ which is a foundation of democracy.”

CRITICISM OF THE RTI ACT

In Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) & Anr vs Aditya Bandhopadhyay and Others in 2011, the Supreme Court said: “The nation does not want a scenario where 75% of the staff of public authorities spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties.”

 

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