Q1.Social audits ensure a citizen-centric mode of accountability. Comment.
The breakdown of institutions has underlined the fact that democracy — and especially public funds — need eternal public vigilance. But in India, the elites close ranks to neutralise voices of dissent and alarm, thus preventing public vigilance.
Democratic governance needs the citizen to be legally empowered to ask questions, file complaints, and be a part of the corrective process. Social audits, as they have begun to evolve in India, can potentially become a powerful democratic method by which transparency can be combined with an institutionalised form of accountability to the people.
In the mid-1990s, the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) experimented with, and began to conceptualise, village-based Jan Sunwais (public hearings) on development expenditure. These helped establish the Right to Information (RTI) as a potent, usable people’s issue and, in parallel, the institutionalised form of social audits.
Information is empowering
In a Jan Sunwai campaign, organised in five different development blocks of central Rajasthan, people learnt by doing. They realised that information is at the core of their empowerment. The process of verification, inquiry and auditing of records was demystified. Public readings of informally accessed development records had dramatic outcomes.
As the names were read out from government labour lists, the responses were immediate and galvanised the people. Information about payments made to dead people and non-workers propelled residents to testify in the Jan Sunwai.
These included serving government and armed forces personnel and names randomly copied in serial order from electoral lists. Even animals absurdly enough found their way into the lists of workers. Unfinished buildings without doors, windows or a roof were shown as audited and ‘complete’. Ghost names and ghost works were exposed. Fake development works paid for and ‘completed’ on paper enraged local residents.
The people made four sharply focussed demands and circulated them in a pamphlet: full and open access to records of development expenditure; the presence and accountability of officials who are responsible to answer people’s questions; the immediate redress of grievances, including the return of defalcated money to its intended purpose; and mandatory ‘social audits’ .
The Jan Sunwai facilitated the reading of information and recorded the people’s response. The effective institutionalisation of this platform could be a fundamental breakthrough in the attempt to give people and communities real monitoring powers. One of the defining slogans of the RTI movement that emerged from these Jan Sunwais and people’s agitations — “hamaara paisa, hamaara hisab” (our money, our accounts) — succinctly encapsulated the concept of a social audit.
The RTI Act brought into effect the first prerequisite for social audits — giving citizens access to government records. The last 13 years of its use have demonstrated its salutary effect, but also made it obvious that information itself is not enough. Contemporary discourse on the RTI reflects frustration when ordinary people are armed with information but are unable to obtain any redress. The social audit places accountability in the centre of its frame, and transfers the power of scrutiny and validation to the people: a citizen-centric mode of accountability.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) was the first law to mandate social audit as a statutory requirement. However, even within the MGNREGA, social audits made painfully slow progress.
They faced their most trenchant opposition in Rajasthan, where the concept was born. Elected representatives and officials reacted with intimidation, violence and pressure on the political leadership to stall and neutralise the process. The notable exception was undivided Andhra Pradesh which institutionalised social audits and drew significant positive outcomes.
There have been innovative efforts in States like Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand. Nationally, institutionalised social audits have begun to make real progress only recently, with the interest and support of the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), and the orders of the Supreme Court. In what was a social audit breakthrough in 2017, Meghalaya became the first State to pass and roll out a social audit law to cover all departments.
The Office of the CAG developed social audit rules for the MGNREGA in 2011, conducted a performance audit in 2015, and finally a year later formulated social audit standards in consultation with the Ministry of Rural Development — the first time in the world. If these are followed, it can be ensured that the social audit process is viable, credible and true to first principles of social accountability.
The Supreme Court has recently passed a series of orders to give social audits the robust infrastructural framework they need. Citing the statutory requirements in the MGNREGA and the National Food Security Act, the court has ordered that the CAG-formulated Social Audit Standards be applied to set up truly independent state-supported State Social Audit units.
It has also ordered that social audits be conducted of Building and other Construction Workers Cess, and the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act. Social audits, if properly implemented, will help address the impunity of the system in delivery and implementation.
The current dispensation makes a cursory mention of social audits in its manifesto. But there has been no delivery on legal accountability frameworks such as the Lokpal Bill and the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill.
The system of social audits needs synergetic endorsement and a push by multiple authorities to establish an institutionalised framework which cannot be undermined by any vested interests. It is now an opportune time for citizens groups to campaign to strengthen social audits, and make real progress in holding the political executive and implementing agencies to account.
Q2. Should heat wave be considered as a natural disaster in compliance with Article 14 of the constitution?
It is expected that extreme heat waves will become more common worldwide because of rising average global temperature. Since the beginning of the 21st century,
this has increased by nearly a degree Centigrade. This weather pattern, coupled with the
El-Nino effect, is increasing the temperatures in Asia.
Further, high humidity compounds the effects of the temperatures being felt by human beings.
Extreme heat can lead to dangerous, even deadly, consequences, including heat stress
India is also vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Experts have been warning that the rising temperatures will lead to more floods, heat-waves, storms, rising sea levels and unpredictable farm yields. There is evidence that climate change is causing increase in extreme weather events as well as severity and frequency of natural disasters. Deforestation is also adding to the environmental instability and contributing to global warming and climate change.
There has been an increasing trend of heat-wave in India over the past several years whereby several cities in India have been severely affected. Heat wave killed about 3000 people in 1998 and more than 2000 in 2002.
Heat wave caused over 2000deaths in 1998 in Odisha and more than 1200 deaths in 2002 in southern India. Morethan 2400 people died in the heat wave of 2015. Heat wave also caused death of cattle and wildlife besides affecting animals in various zoos in India. The increased occurrences and severity of heat-wave is a wake-up call for all agencies to take necessary action for prevention, preparedness and community outreach to save the lives of the general public, livestock and wild life. Heat Wave Guidelines aims to facilitate the stakeholders in preparing a Heat Wave Management Plan by providing insight into the heat related illness and the necessary mitigative and response actions to be undertaken. It will also help in mobilization and coordination of various departments, individuals and communities to help and protect their neighbours, friends, relatives, and themselves against avoidable health problems during spells of very hot weather.
Q3. Komagata Maru incident was an important landmark event in the political history of India. Examine
Komagata Maru was a Japanese steamship that sailed from Hong Kong to Vancouver, Canada via Japan in May, 1914. It was carrying 376 passengers who were immigrants from Punjab, India. Of these, only 24 were granted admittance in Canada when the ship docked in Vancouver.
At that time, Canada had laws restricting entry of migrants of Asian origin. Following a two month stalemate, the ship and its 352 passengers were escorted out of the dock by the Canadian military and forced to sail back to India.
Adding further insult to the injury, some of the passengers were killed in protests on their return to India, when they were prevented from docking and attempts were made to arrest its leaders who were suspected by the colonial government to be political agitators.
The Komagata Maru episode attracted worldwide attention and condemnation for the violation of human rights and racism.
This was one of several incidents in the early 20th century in which exclusion laws in Canada and the United States were used to exclude immigrants of Asian origin
The episode further inspired the Ghadar party to engage in its struggle against the colonial rule and therefore it indirectly gave a fillip to the Indian struggle for freedom.
Further, the inflamed passions in the wake of the incident were widely cultivated by the Indian revolutionary organisation, the Ghadar Party, to rally support for its aims.
In a number of meetings ranging from California in 1914 to the Indian diaspora, prominent Ghadarites including Barkatullah, Tarak Nath Das, and Sohan Singh used the incident as a rallying point to recruit members for the Ghadar movement, most notably in support of promulgating plans to coordinate a massive uprising in India.
The episode also reminds Indians of the role played by those who lived away from the country but kept struggling for the Independence of the country.
It is widely cited at the time by Indian groups to highlight discrepancies in Canadian immigration laws.
After the ship reached India , the Sikhs were treated as law breakers and were detailed which further led to resentment and anger in the Indian community
Q4.Why Industrial Revolution started in England?
England took the lead in industrial revolution, because of following reasons
It had accumulated vast profits which could provide the necessary capital through overseas trade including slave trade. It had acquired colonies which ensured a regular supply of raw materials as well as markets
There was a prolific exchange of scientific and technological ideas. And Britain, unlike many European countries, did not suffer censorship by Church or state. It was the Age of Reason. The established Christian view, of a world created by God, was being challenged by one which conformed to scientifically proven principles of nature.
The system of parliamentary government that followed the Glorious Revolution of 1688-9 provided the background for stable investment and for a basis of taxation favorable to economic expansion. Commercial classes had acquired more political power and there was no danger of government interference.
After the disappearance of serfdom, people were no longer tied to the land and were free to do to any job they could find. The enclosure movement had begun in the 18th century. Big land-owners wanted consolidate their large land-holdings. In this process, small peasants who had all holdings in land were ousted and large army of landless unemployed people was created. Thus there was no shortage labor force to work in the factories.
England had plenty of natural resources, such as iron and coal, essential for industries. The sources of iron and coal existed side by side and this saved England from many difficulties that other countries faced.
England developed a large shipping industry and had no problem of transportation. Its geographic location as an island provided not only cheaper transport alternatives but kept it protected from continental wars.
No other country enjoyed all these advantages in this period. Some suffered from a lack of capital or natural resources and some from an unfavorable political system. These factors made England a natural place for the Industrial Revolution to begin. Almost all other European countries had agrarian economies and lived under backward political systems. Many of them, such as Italy and Germany, were not even united and suffered from many economic restrictions.