Mains Q & A 17 February 2023
Q1. Although the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2016 was a big step towards ensuring accessibility and inclusivity for individuals with disabilities, much work remains. Examine. (250 words)
Paper & Topic: GS II Government Policies and Interventions
A “person with disability” is defined by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2016 as a person who has a long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairment that prohibits them from equally and completely participating in society. According to the 2011 Census, India is home to 26.8 million people with disabilities, a significant undercount.
The Supreme Court ruled in Avni Prakash v. National Testing Agency and Ors. that reasonable accommodations, such as extending exam times, should be made.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2016 is a significant win for the disabled:
The Union, the States, and the Union Territories are now tasked with finding a solution.
Also, it is essential to confirm that all public transportation complies with the unified guidelines for impaired accessibility.
The idea that underlies the definition of disability is one that is always evolving.
Disability classifications have increased from 7 to 21. The act added a number of disabilities that had been largely disregarded by the previous act, including deaf blindness, acid attack victims, Parkinson’s disease, mental illness, autism, spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions, speech and language disability, thalassemia, haemophilia, and sickle cell disease. Also, the government is allowed to inform any other category about a specific impairment.
It increases the ratio of reservations for people with disabilities in government jobs from 3% to 4% and in higher education institutions from 3% to 5%.
Every child with a baseline disability has a right to a free education between the ages of six and eighteen.
Offering inclusive education is a requirement for both government-recognized and -supported institutions.
The emphasis has been on achieving accessibility in public buildings within a set time frame, along with the Accessible India Campaign.
The State Commissioners and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities shall function as the Act’s regulatory and grievance redressal agencies, respectively.
Separate federal and state funds were set up to provide financial aid to people with impairments.
The act has restrictions:
Interestingly, the non-discrimination in employment provisions of the Bill only apply to government organisations.
The Bill maintains the necessity of a central commissioner and state commissioners from the 1995 act. None of the members of the commissioners’ advisory group are required to be disabled individuals.
Despite a 2013 Supreme Court decision that indicated reservations should be calculated using the total number of openings in a particular cadre rather than the posts designated by the government to be filled by persons with benchmark disabilities, the metric has continued to favour the latter.
Like it does for institutions desiring to be recognised as ones for PWDs, the proposal does not specify a deadline for obtaining a certificate of impairment. This keeps PWDs from addressing the issues they have when navigating the red tape to get what has long been their right.
The amended measure does specify which public buildings, facilities, and services must be “barrier-free” for people with disabilities. Notwithstanding all the benefits that this policy aims to provide, basic issues with accessibility, particularly with regard to information and communication technology, and certification of handicap remain unresolved impossibilities due to a lack of political will.
While being a rights-based law, the RPWD Act of 2016’s efficacy will largely depend on the proactive measures that the various state governments take to implement it.
It is time to utilise this vast human capital. The new proposed law is intended to ensure that people with disabilities can enjoy their rights on an equal basis with Indian citizens who do not have disabilities. It is a strong rights-based legislation with a robust institutional system.
Primary care doctors can now issue a variety of disability certifications after receiving specialised training, which will help a lot of disabled people who live in distant places. Yet, the disability laws should have also given private practising doctors the opportunity to certify patients in order to alleviate the shortage of human resources and provide for appropriate checks and balances.
In order to guarantee for them the rights that should have been a given given the sociocultural prejudices against them and the inability, or rather the refusal, to take into account the requirements of PWDs, this measure, like the 1995 legislation, would only go so far. As long as they are treated as second-class citizens and are not recognised as capable persons in their own right, India will continue to be an unjust and unequal nation.
Until each of us is firmly committed to the idea of implementing the two fundamental changes outlined above, we will continue to live in a society where, even as we sing the praises of the disabled who succeed despite the obstacles placed in their way, we do not pause to consider what it is that makes it so difficult for them to succeed in the first place and what we can do to change this situation.
Q2. The pandemic serves as a fresh reminder that forces of centralization have been thwarting growing federalist tendencies in recent years. Critical analysis (250 words)
Paper & Topic: GS II Issues related to Federalism
According to Article 1 of the Indian Constitution, India, or Bharat, must be a Union of States. Although the word “federal” is not used in the Constitution, it does call for a system of governance that is primarily federal in nature. The two divisions of the federal state of India’s polity are the Center and the State. Yet, India has an asymmetrical federalism, with a disproportionate amount of power held by the Center. Changing party system dynamics are increasingly dictating the sort of federalism in India.
The Union administration undertook a variety of initiatives prior to the outbreak that undermined federalist principles, particularly budgetary federalism.
This was evident in a variety of ways, such as the rising financial involvement of the States in Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS), the mandate of the 15th Finance Commission, and the implementation of demonetisation without enough interaction with the States.
The institutionalisation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), outsourcing of the services required by the Smart Cities Mission, a delay in the delivery of GST compensation, and “One Nation One Ration” were additional important challenges.
Federalism in the midst of a pandemic: challenges:
State resources are diminishing: According to the findings, state finances were already in danger due to recent changes to India’s fiscal framework, such as the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime and an increase in the state’s share of Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSSs).
Lockdown with no prior notice Without informing the states first, the lockdown was enacted on March 25. It badly upset supply chains and, more importantly, it wrecked havoc on migrant workers.
Lack of financial space: Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of the Rs 20 lakh crore Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self-reliant India Campaign) package, many people had trouble with the fiscal math.
Increasing dependency on the Centre: The states’ reliance on the Centre for funding has increased as the ratio of revenues from own sources has dropped from 55% in 2014–15 to 50.5% in 2020–21.
Some of this is due to the Indian fiscal system, in which the federal government controls finances but the states are the biggest spenders, but the introduction of the GST has made things worse.
With only a few exceptions, such as petroleum products, property tax, and alcohol excise, the GST regime has mostly absorbed indirect taxes, which has reduced the ability of states to produce their own revenue.
Devolution shortfall: For states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand that need greater financial support, the challenges are made worse by the considerable gap between the amount of GST compensation that was owed and the actual payments made in the past.
Even before COVID-19 went into effect, 11 states predicted a revenue growth rate below the anticipated 14% level, indicating larger amounts will be paid as Tax compensation.
Given that the majority of the states’ GST is derived from goods like electronics, apparel, and entertainment, all of which have been adversely affected by the pandemic, these revenues are likely to fall even further.
A different timetable for after the lockdown When Kerala opted to allow restaurants to open based on its own risk assessment, the Center urged Kerala to rescind a permit.
The pandemic fight has been bolstered by India’s adaptable federal structure, which enables all the states to collaborate as a single force under the leadership of the Centre at the top.
In comparison to other large federal nations like the US, the nation has done quite well to eliminate the conflicts and provide the states a sense of purpose.
To counteract Covid-19, however, would require a diverse and swift response across states, as seen from the experience of other countries, and the Centre can only aspire to act as a mentor by providing advice and resource support.
The strict approach that was evident during lockdown would be a major barrier. States need to have their debts paid off and be given enough of budgetary room in order to ensure that the economy is revived.
States need to be free to take the initiative in reviving the economy, generating income support, and jobs while also keeping the virus under control.
The 28 states will become truly federal in the sense of being economically self-sufficient regions for the production of food, water, energy, and waste when the current Center-state relationship is reframed in a way that enables this to happen.
Our economic geography must change; it must cease being centralised and start being spread in terms of production, transportation, and communication.
A central budgeted sum of money will need to be set aside specifically for each state’s capacity-building.
With the help of the instruments, they would be able to begin a long-lasting economic recovery that would be dispersed over the several panchayats and districts of each state.
The distributive recovery will be fueled by the following factors: energy, transportation, supply networks, public administration, the rule of law, agriculture, and rural development.
To put it another way, the true cooperative federalism that the Centre has long pushed for is now being put to the test, and the Centre must ensure that the states receive full support to handle the challenge in the post-pandemic phase.
On the front of development, the Center should uphold the independence of the other two tiers of government and consciously resist the impulse to consolidate authority and responsibility, even though in some cases it could be justifiable to provide the Union more authority (defence, currency, etc.). States and Local Bodies should be in charge of all aspects of execution, while its role should be limited to developing policies, awarding funds, and supporting coordination.
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