GS Paper 3
News in Hindu : GST Stimulus being slim
Topic : Budgeting and public expenditure
Qn. Do you agree with the view that the fiscal deficit limits need to be breached so as to revive the economy? Enumerate the grounds on which such a breach would be permissible ?
• Fiscal deficit occurs when a country spends more than its income and was pegged at 3.5% of GDP for the financial year 2020-21 in the budget as mandated by the FRBM Act.
• Fiscal deficit is allowed by countries in the belief that such additional funds will aid in spur the economic activity and promote growth.
• Covid pandemic and resultant economic slowdown is definitely a cause warranting breach of fiscal deficit limits.
• FRBM Act 2003 aims at inculcating the habit of fiscal discipline in the governance structure of the country by capping the deficits. At the same time Section 4 of the same act exempt such limitation on the grounds of national security, national calamity and other exceptional grounds as the Central Government may specify. Covid is both a national calamity and exceptional circumstance required by the act.
• The cost of management of Covid itself require additional funding due to additionalities imposed by the disease like – PPE kits, Ventilators, costly testing facilities, increased quantum of critical care facilities, etc.
• Fiscal support without limiting to the targets of FRBM Acts are required to manage the Covid crisis, to maintain livelihoods of vulnerable people.
• The economic cost of Covid related lock downs, restricted access to work space, restricted functioning of business , etc are mounting day by day leading to a spiral of negativity, depressed economic activity and unemployment. The stressed economy and resultant low revenue income to the state tend to increase the deficit even to execute already committed expenditures.
• Revival of economy also needs to be focused simultaneous and stimulus packages needs to be timely and before economic contraction beyond redemption. Too much obsession on Fiscal deficit targets may result in loss of valuable time.
• Covid pandemic and economic slowdown revival definitely falls under explicit exemption provided by the FRBM Act.
• But any other reasons like public infrastructure, war financing, environment protection, etc may also be brought under the clause of “other exceptional grounds” mentioned in the Act
GS Paper 2
News in Hindu : A concerted attack on RTI
Topic : Statutory and quasi judicial institutions
Qn. “ The autonomy and the capacity of the transparency watchdogs determine the outcome of transparency laws in India “ – Discuss the statement in the context of the amendments made to the Right to Information Act (2019) ?
The right to information has been upheld by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right flowing from Article 19 of the Constitution, which guarantees every citizen the right to free speech and expression. Without access to relevant information, people’s ability to formulate opinions and express themselves meaningfully is curtailed. Since its enactment, the RTI law has been used by people to seek information to actively participate in
decisionmaking processes and hold governments accountable.
Lack of Protection in the RTI Act – The scenario after amendment in 2019
In 2019, amendments were made to the RTI Act which did away with statutory protection of fixed tenure and high status conferred on the
commissioners. Despite stiff opposition within and outside Parliament, the the RTI (Amendment) Act was passed which allows the Central government to determine the tenure and salaries of all Information Commissioners. This move has been a dent on the independent functioning of the commission.
Vacancies not being filled in a timely manner
The functioning of commissions has been severely impeded by governments not appointing Information Commissioners in a
Vacancies in Information Commissions lead to large backlogs of appeals/complaints and long delays in the disposal of cases, effectively frustrating the people’s right to know. Since May 2014, not a single commissioner of the Central Information Commission (CIC) has been appointed without citizens having to approach courts.
Despite Supreme Court orders to fill all vacancies, six out of 11 posts of commissioners are currently vacant in the CIC, including that of the chief. The post of CIC being vacant does not inspire confidence in the minds of the citizens who advocate a transparent government.
State governments appear to have adopted a similar strategy. Eight State Information Commissions are functioning without a chief. Two commissions — Tripura and Jharkhand — are totally defunct with no commissioners.
The right to question is the hallmark of a democracy. Any attack on the RTI law, whichhas empowered citizens to question those in power, is an attack on the foundation of ourdemocratic republic. It would be the moral duty on the politicians in power to strengthen democracy by opening their decisions to the scrutiny of the common man.