Daily Current Affairs – 27th January, 2017

Daily Current Affairs – 27th January, 2017

The Need for a Basic Income for All

Introduction

The concept of basic income is not new to the socialist world and the policy makers and economists promoting the welfare approach. Basic income was discussed as early as 16th century by Thomas More who suggested it to be an unconditional universal basic income for all adults regardless of other income sources. Recently in the 20th century as well, Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell emphasised on a basic income important for basic necessities.

What Constitutes Basic Income?

Basic income refers to a minimum income which can provide for basic necessities sufficiently for all. It should be given to all irrespective of their employment status. Additionally, even post education if a person is not employed, he / she should be given the basic income.

Contemporary Examples

The world over, policymakers from various advanced countries are considering to include basic income as part of the social welfare model in their countries. Finland, on a pilot basis, is planning to select two thousand unemployed persons who will receive certain basic monthly tax free income for next two years. A similar experiment of guaranteed unconditional basic income was done in Madhya Pradesh also in 2014.

Basic Income – Rationale

Economists and policy makers advocate the provision of basic income due to following reasons:

  • For the purpose of fighting inequality.
  • To tackle slow wage growth and aid financial security.
  • To tackle increasing fears of advancing automation due to globalisation and immigrants competing for jobs which are meant for the local population.
  • To reduce the gap between haves and have nots.

Benefits arising from Basic Income Provision

Studies and surveys on the basis of trials and pilot studies have reported various benefits of providing basic income to people which are as follows:

  • The nutrition intake of those suffering from poverty rose. Data provides that consumption of pulses, fresh vegetables and meat was up by huge number of 1,000%, 888% and 600% respectively.
  • People were also able to spend more on healthcare and as a result, incidence of illness dropped.
  • Among other social indicators education also witnessed progress in terms of enrolment and attendance, especially among female students.
  • Basic income lived up to its rationale of reducing the gap between rich and poor and led to more equitable development.
  • People living in villages worked harder than before and also took up multiple economic activities with the help of the basic income.
  • With this confirmed source of income, indebtedness of people decreased and the capacity to save increased, hence placing them in a better financial position.
  • Basic income acts as a kind of a social security for the weak, unwell or physically challenged.
  • Also for people who are skilled and have employment but are not able to receive quality wages due to lack of opportunities or other reasons, basic minimum income acts as a supplement to the existing economic resources.

Way Forward for India

  • Along with the National Food Security Act, MGNREGA, a plan for provision of basic income can be a game changer for the country. The Government of India has also decided to dedicate a special chapter to basic income as a tool for poverty reduction in the upcoming Economic Survey.
  • However, the government needs to be cautious of its impact on the fiscal deficit.
  • A major reformation will have to be done to ensure smooth implementation of guarantee all three basic requirements for the poor i.e. food, basic income and wage jobs.
  • As a part of these reform measures, the government needs to work on the funding, implementation and mid-term review of MGNREGA.
  • To ensure the financial viability the government will have to replace existing subsidies and other such existing programmes. This will help in elimination of all over lapping policies and check the expenditure of the government as well.
  • The government can implement the basic income using the Socio-Economic Caste Census.

Connecting the dots

  • A minimum basic income provision can be helpful in poverty reduction, livelihood security and improvement of social indicators. Discuss. Also comment on the administrative feasibility and financial viability of such a programme for India.

Is democracy limited only to elections?

Democracy and India

  • Ambedkardefined democracy as a means to bring about a significant change in the living conditions of the depressed without resorting to bloodshed.
  • In a democracy, people have sovereign power to consciously participate in the democratic process of choosing their representatives who would ultimately reinforce their will.
  • However,there are certain basic foundations to be created to have successful democracy in India:
    • Empowerment of weaker sections of society like poor, disabled, minorities, women to exercise their democratic rights like participation in elections, access to fundamental rights etc.
    • Elected representatives should perform sincerely and not misuse power.
    • Presence of strong public opinion
    • Eradication of social evils
    • Tolerance and communal harmony among people
    • Space to express dissent and freedom to criticise
  • Of these, election process is one of the first means to realise the ideals of democracy as it allows people to choose their representatives to create a sustainable liveable society for them.

Assertion of political equality

  • When the constitution was being prepared, universal suffrage was easily accepted which was morally daring act of the nationalist movement.
  • This assertion of political equality marked the creation of a new India at the time of independence.
  • So far, India’s greatest achievement has been adhering to political equality in every election. The scale, excitement and dignity of Indian election has been such that it has evoked positive response about India’s democracy.
  • The Election Commission has emerged as the vital institution that safeguards this cornerstone of modern Indian identity.
  • The commitment required to institutionalise political equality, ensure that each voter was recognised, transformed the character of the Indian state.The mundane act of preparing lists is not just a bureaucratic exercise; it is the fundamental act through which each individual is given political standing.
  • Hence, elections formed a critical portion of upholding the democratic values.

Democracy and elections- which follows what?

  • Elections are one of the events that have united Indians. So far, the state and the citizens have zealously safeguarded, enthusiastically participated in and lively celebrated this event.
  • However, it is frequently being realised that the democracy is found to limiting itself to just to election process and elections cannot always be safeguarding the democracy.
  • Sometimes, the concentration of power gets legitimised by elections under certain circumstances which can be contrary to ideals of democracy- liberty, equality of opportunity, freedom to express and opinionise, regard for due process and non-arbitrariness in state action and more.
  • It has been joked that, in many countries elections exist for democracy but in India, democracy exists for elections. Though it can be taken as political humour, it raises questions about the relation between election and democracy in India.
  • Whether election is the floor or ceiling of democracy? Whether meaning of India’s democracy is limited to conduct of elections? If elections hide and make subordinate almost all other issues in society?
  • The great quality of election is that it politicises all aspects of Indian society. Whether it is class, caste, religion or income. But this quality can also be a handicap if they are expressed against the constitutional values to attain electoral power and position. Thus, there is need to reflect between elections and constitutional values.
  • The civic structures of the state and its administration have to be made by imbibing the democratic values in them so that the elections and its result don’t shake the foundations.
  • The founders of the constitution, particularly Dr.Ambedkar, were absolutely clear that entering into a relationship with fellow citizens through a constitution was a very special type of relationship.This relationship was not founded on kinship or bloodties but based on shared values.
  • The universal adult suffrage embossed new modality of human relationships and the right to vote created a new political structure. This structure would have people respond to each other as fellow citizens, honour individuality as well as arguments of opposition.
  • This would make the criticism of government possible without fear and at the same time continue to have respect for constitutional framework.
  • However, constitutional politics has been threatened from many sources like when community sentiment is evoked without evaluating underlying moral claims. If community sentiment becomes the basis of legislation or administration, it negates the promise of modern constitutionalism.
  • Constitution ideal is also threatened when electoral politics becomes too corrupt or when the state becomes an extended arm of the rich.
  • When the constitutional politics becomes subordinate to individual leaders and there is impatience in the institutions, challenges surface to maintain constitutional values.

Conclusion

Elections are part of democracy and a shining example that overcome tremendous odds, to consistently bring more and more people each year to the ballot box, through a process that is efficient, quick and uses technology for the advantage of its citizens.The aim of election should be to elect representatives that have the abilities to uphold the constitutional principles and assist democracy to never assault constitutional core. Elections suspend the everyday reality of inequality of wealth and status that dominate day-to-day life and asserts popular sovereignty on that day. This is the strength of elections which manifest the idea of democracy. However, practice of democracy should not be limited to conduct of elections and further it in many spheres. With major elections round the corner, it needs to be asserted thatthe success of India’s democracy depends on believing in constitutional values and practising the same.

Connecting the dots:

  • Election exists for democracy or democracy exists for election? Analyse.
  • Election is the first step to climb the ladder of successfuldemocracy. Do you agree?

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