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Thursday, 24 May 2018

The Hindu Editorial: Do We Need The Office of The Governor?

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The Hindu Editorial: Do We Need The Office of The Governor?

Title: Do we need the office of the Governor? 

(To understand why we don’t, it is important to understand its origins in the colonial regime) 

Context:- Among all the players who strutted and fretted across the stage during the recently concluded Karnataka elections, it is the Governor of the State, Vajubhai Vala, who emerged with least credit to his name. 

His decision to first invite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to take a stab(attempt) at forming the government was perhaps a legitimate exercise of his constitutional discretion(preference) (albeit without any recorded reasons for ignoring the post-poll Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance’s claims to having an absolute majority). 

His decision to grant B.S. Yeddyurappa 15 days to prove his majority, when the latter himself asked for only a week, was troubling enough for the Supreme Court to intervene and order an immediate floor test. So was his appointment of BJP MLA K.G. Bopaiah as Pro Tem Speaker to conduct the floor test, when the latter had been castigated(criticize) by the Supreme Court in 2011 for partisan conduct (although this time the Court chose not to intervene). 

Short-term options 

In the aftermath, some have called upon the Governor to resign; others have suggested that the post of the Governor be reserved for non-political appointees; and still others have urged the Supreme Court to lay down the law on how the Governor ought to act when an election yields a fractured verdict. 

All of these, however, are patchwork solutions that miss the point: the flaw lies not with the identity of the individual who occupies the post, but in the design of the Constitution itself. 

If we want to put an end to the continuous misuse of the Raj Bhavan for partisan political ends in a manner that threatens both federalism and democracy, we have to rethink the role of the Governor in the constitutional scheme. 

To do that, it is important to understand the origins of the office in the colonial British regime. 

In order to ensure that overriding power remained with the British, the Government of India Act, 1935 retained the post of Governor, and vested him with “special responsibilities” that, in essence, allowed for intervention at will. In a searing critique, K.T. Shah (who was later one of the most articulate members of the Constituent Assembly, or CA), wrote that the Governor would inevitably be biased in his functioning, and his actions would remain at odds with those of popularly elected Ministers. 

Despite the nationalist movement’s bitter experience with Governors over almost three decades, the CA chose to retain the post, and continue to vest it with discretionary power. 

Soon after the first general elections, the State of Madras went to the polls in 1952. In a 375-member Assembly, the United Democratic Front (UDF), a coalition of parties, held 166 seats. The Congress finished with 152. 

The Governor, Sri Prakasa, ignored the UDF’s claim to form the government, and instead invited the Congress, which did form the government with Rajaji as Chief Minister. 

The purpose of this history is not to draw an equivalence between 1952 and 2018, or to suggest that the sins of the past justify sinning in the present. It is to demonstrate that the post of the Governor, by constitutional design, acts as a check upon both federalism and popular democracy. 

Final Words: 

Would it not be better, for example, to clearly specify the rules governing government-formation in the Constitution itself. 

Title: Natural capital in the 21st century 

(India must calculate ‘its green GDP’ to factor in the value of the environment in its growth) 

Context:- A few years ago, India suffered a cost of $550 billion, about 8.5% of GDP, due to air pollution, according to a World Bank report; the cost of externalities such as water pollution and land degradation were possibly far higher. 

Within a century, our food production could see a loss of 10-40% if these trends continue. 

Estimation is a challenge 

The idea of having a national account for wealth accrued(उपार्जित) over a year is accepted in most major economies. Such national accounts (GDP, net national product, gross savings) provide a measure of an economy’s performance and form the basis for socio-economic policies, while highlighting the gap between potential and actual economic output. 

GDP computations indicate the economic activity in a country, with rising GDP growth rate often leading to international prestige. 

However, such estimates often exclude the variations in natural capital by assuming them to be constant and indestructible. Such natural capital is often self-generating but needs to be handled in a sustainable way in order to avoid depletion. 

Natural capital can cover entire ecosystems such as fisheries and forests, besides other hidden and overlooked services — for example, the regeneration of soil, nitrogen fixation, nutrient recycling, pollination and the overall hydrological cycle. 

Valuing such ecosystems can be challenging, with their market value often termed as zero. When pollution happens, it is actually a depletion of our natural capital as, for example, acid rain damages forests and industrial seepage affects water quality. In a modern economy, the challenge is to estimate such depreciation to natural capital. 

Consider groundwater. Most groundwater basins in India are subjected to unrestricted extraction until the ‘marginal value of extracting water is less than the unit extraction cost’ — i.e. when the water table drops so low new borewells are needed. Effectively, any rents due to groundwater depletion are dissipated indefinitely. 

Now many economists have pushed for an “environmental Kuznets curve”, highlighting that the ‘relationship between GDP per capita and the concentration of sulphur dioxide in the local air’ is an inverted U curve. 

While India might have a GDP of $2.65 trillion in nominal terms, it fails to take into account the externalities of such economic growth. For example, India routinely suffers from high levels of air pollution that impose costs on local transport, health and liveability in urban and rural areas. 

When economic growth leads to the destruction of forests, wetlands and woodlands for agriculture, mining or even urban expansion, it is typically the poorest of the traditional dwellers who suffer. 

Some attempts 

India has sought to unveil “green GDP” figures in the past. In 2009, the Centre announced that it would publish a “green GDP” that would include the environmental costs of degrading and depleting our forests, grasslands and natural stock. 

While the 12th Five Year Plan undertook groundwater resource mapping at the national level, a similar focus is essential for data on land usage, forests and mineral wealth. ‘India’s current national accounts incorporate such environmental considerations in a limited fashion’. 

Final Words: 

India should seek to publish “green GDP” figures that take into account depreciation of natural capital stock due to economic exploitation and environmental degradation. 

Vocabulary words: 

Strut (verb) = Walk with a stiff, erect, and apparently arrogant (अकड़कर चलना) 

Fret (verb) = Be constantly or visibly anxious (चिड़चिड़ाना) 

Stab (noun) = An attempt to do something 

Discretion (noun) = Judgement, preference 

Castigate (verb) = Reprimand severely (तिरस्कार करना) 

Aftermath (noun) = The consequences of a significant unpleasant event (परिणाम) 

Verbatim (adj & adv) = In exactly the same words as were used originally (शब्दशः) 

Culmination (noun) = The highest or climactic point of something (चरम बिंदु) 

Suffrage (noun) = The right to vote in political elections (मताधिकार) 

Eerily (adv) = In a strange and frightening manner (डरते हुए) 

Bulwark (noun) = A defensive wall 

Tinker (verb) = Attempt to repair or improve something in a casual way 

Accrue (verb) = Accumulate or receive (payments or benefits) over time (उपार्जित) 

Seepage (noun) = Leakage (रसाव) 

Dissipated (adj) = Dissolute (भ्रष्टाचरण) 

Postulate (verb) = Suggest or assume the existence 

Dearth (noun) = A scarcity or lack of something (कमी) 

Definition 

Fait accompli = A thing that has already happened or been decided before those affected hear about it, leaving them with no option but to accept it. 

No confidence motion = A motion of no confidence is a statement or vote which states that a person(s) in a position of responsibility is no longer deemed fit to hold that position. 

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