Friday, February 23, 2018

Assembly Elections 2018: Will Tripura Change its Hues?

By Anupama Ghosh*

Assembly elections in the Northeast of India have never caught the nation’s fancy, but elections in Tripura this time seem to be a different matter altogether. The major reason for the interest in Tripura elections is the long and uninterrupted rule of the Left Front, which has, for the first time, entered into a direct contest against the right-wing parties. Ending a high-pitched election campaign, the BJP claimed that it would successfully end the long rule of the CPM in Tripura.

The Left
The left parties have been in power in Tripura since 1993, with Manik Sarkar as the Chief Minister from 1998. Data from previous elections show that the Left Front has improved its seats tally and vote share consistently in the 60-seat assembly.

Graph 1: Seats Tally and Vote Share of Left Front in Tripura (1998–2013)

The Congress
The Congress, which has been in power in the state for two terms, had won 10 seats in the 2013 polls, securing 36.53 per cent of votes. However, six of the 10 Congress MLAs left the party in 2015, briefly joined the Trinamool Congress, before finally joining the BJP. Another Congress MLA, who had resigned from the State Assembly and joined the CPM, shifted loyalty to the BJP. The Congress received a major jolt, when just ahead of the poll announcement in Tripura another Congress MLA joined the BJP camp.

The Right
The BJP has made serious inroads into the state since the last assembly elections. It has not only been the prime beneficiary of the defections from the Congress but also built up a strong ground-level cadre in the state to take on the CPM party machinery. In the 2018 elections, the BJP tied up with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), with the national party contesting from 51 seats and the IPFT from nine. The IPFT had been demanding to carve out a separate state of Tipraland out of Tripura’s tribal areas. Though the BJP has been apprehensive of the demand for a separate state, it has assured to work towards tribal causes. This might become a significant factor in a state, where the primary fault line is between Bengalis and tribal communities.

Tripura – Development Indices and Major Issues
Tripura makes for an interesting case study, when the various development indicators of the state are analysed.
Health: The state has improved its statistics as far as Infant Mortality Rates (IMR) and mortality of children under five years are concerned. The National Family Health Survey 2015–16 puts Tripura’s IMR at 27 per cent, down from 51 per cent in 2005–06. Similarly, its under-five mortality rate improved from 59 per cent in 2005–06 to 33 per cent in 2015–16. The statistics for stunting (low height for age) and wasting (low weight for height) of children under five years in Tripura are better than the national average. While the national average of stunting is 38.4 per cent and wasting is 21 per cent, it is 24.3 per cent and 16.8 per cent, respectively, in Tripura.
The Rural Health Statistics 2016 shows that even though Tripura has an adequate number of health sub-centres, there is a shortfall of 14 per cent of Primary Health Centres and 26 per cent of Community Health Centres (CHC) in the state. The CHCs also reel under a severe shortage of specialist doctors, which is a matter of concern, since only 9 per cent of Tripura’s population avail themselves of private healthcare compared to 55 per cent nationally.
Access to drinking water and electricity: About 92.7 per cent of households in Tripura have access to electricity against the national average of 88.2 per cent. Nearly 87 per cent of households in the state have drinking water from a ‘piped or protected source of water’.
Literacy rate: The 2011 Census Data rates Tripura as the fifth most literate state with a literacy rate of 87.8 per cent.
Sex ratio: The state’s sex ratio of 960 females per 1000 males is better than the national average.
Unemployment: As per an analysis by ‘IndiaSpend’ of the Employment-Unemployment Survey, 2015-16, Tripura has the highest unemployment rate in India. At 19.7 per cent, it is four times the national average of 4.9 per cent. The Economic Survey Report of 2017–18 ranks Tripura at 24 in the list of 36 states and union territories based on its per capita income.
Given the geographical isolation of Tripura (situated in the northeastern extremity of the country bordered by Bangladesh on three sides), only about 27 per cent of the land is arable. This is in contrast to the fact that agriculture remains the main source of employment, engaging about 64 per cent of the state’s population. With other indices like high literacy rate and high unemployment rate, the situation in Tripura can be deemed restive.
The BJP has made unemployment the key weapon in the election battle in Tripura, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi promising a job for every household in the state, and special economic zones for food processing, bamboo and textiles industries. With its slogan of change and development, and a strong organisational base, the BJP has emerged as a major contender in the elections in a state that has been a stronghold of the left for decades.

*Anupama Ghosh is Research Intern with CPPR. Views expressed in this article are personal and do not reflect those of CPPR.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Time for Additional Fundamental Duties?

By Ispita Mishra*
Fundamental duties are moral and civic duties which are confined only to the citizens and not to the foreigners. They essentially contain codification of principles that are essential to the Indian way of life and are not justifiable like the Directive Principles of State Policy. They act as warning against the anti-national activities and are enforceable by law. Fundamental Duties were added by the Swaran Singh Committee as it emphasized that the citizens should also perform certain duties along with enjoying the rights. The need was felt during the internal emergency. Article 51A hence specified a code of 10 fundamental duties under 42nd Constitutional Amendment.
However, the Fundamental Duties are not without criticism that needs to be emphasized upon.
Firstly, they are superfluous and ambiguous. Terms like ‘scientific temper’, ‘composite culture’ etc mentioned in the fundamental duties are difficult to be comprehended by common man.
Secondly, they should have been added right after the fundamental rights. Adding them after Directive Principles of State Policy has reduced their weightage.
Thirdly, they are code of moral percepts because they are non justiciable in nature and this is taken as a defense.
Fourthly, Many important duties like paying tax etc are not found in the list of 10 Fundamental Duties.
Fifthly, in words of A.K Sen, willingness and cooperation of people are essential rather than thrusting fundamental duties like a school master asking the student to stand on the bench on not doing his homework.
The time has come when additional fundamental duties should be added to the exhaustive list of 10 Fundamental Duties.
Right to pay tax should be made a fundamental duty. It was initially recommended by the Swaran Singh Committee, however it was rejected.
Right to vote should also be added. Today, many youth who are the future of democracy do not vote because they migrate outside for employment and educational facilities and this right as a fundamental duty would imbibe a sense of responsibility to vote in every Indian Citizen.
Right to protect accident victims should also be added as a Fundamental Duty. Good Samaritan Law started by the Karnataka government is a good example where the people who rescue and help the road accident victims are incentivised according to the Law. This would save a lot of lives which are lost due to road accidents.
Right to protect the whistleblowers should be there too.  The Whistleblower Protection Act providing protection to the whistleblowers for disclosing corruption cases by protecting him/her is essential in a corrupt society of today. This would send a message that such acts of nepotism and corruption won’t be tolerated in democratic and civil country like India which aspires to become corruption free.
Rising voice against any form of injustice like domestic violence, child marriage etc would also make one an aware citizen.
Keeping the surrounding clean would help in achieving the Swacch Bharat mission of the government and Gandhiji’s ideology of cleanliness is next to godliness. This would help maintain hygiene, sanitation and diseases would be prevented.
In the garb of politics, activism has become strong in educational institutes. More of academics than activism should be encouraged. However, bonafide civil society movements should be supported if they are included in the list of fundamental duties. This can help in making a vibrant and participative democracy like India even stronger.
It is very important that fundamental duties should be included in syllabus of school so that they are well aware of these duties in their formative years which would help them in grooming up to be a responsible citizen of India. Adding these fundamental duties, would make the citizens conscious of their duties that they owe to the country. It is not fair that they enjoy rights and do not do their duties as both rights and duties go hand in hand.
Ispita Mishra is Research Assistant at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed by the author is personal and does not represent that of CPPR

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Modicare: Old Wine in New Bottle?

By Chithira Rajeevan*

Finance Minister (FM) Arun Jaitley presented his government’s last budget in the lead up to the general elections in 2019. The budget has directed its lens on the rural communities in the country, with a focus on women, and a few eye-grabbing announcements in the health sector. An outlay of 1200 crore has been announced towards bringing quality healthcare to the people through 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres offering maternal and child healthcare services along with free essential drugs and diagnostic aids. In a landmark pronouncement, Jaitley introduced the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), touted as the world’s largest government funded programme. The scheme will provide an annual coverage of 5 lakh to 10 crore families. This step towards universal health coverage is laudable but requires a closer inspection.
The FMhad announced these schemes in his previous budgets with no significant improvement in the status quo.Of the then proposed 1.5 lakh health centres, the National Health Mission had the capacity to strengthen only 3871 centres in 2017–18. Whether the current allotment would be sufficient for the projected plans seems doubtful, considering the allocation has been decreased by more than 2 per cent. The earlier NHPS remained dormant with the Union Cabinet without any concrete plan towards getting it cleared. The only difference between that and the current scheme seems to be a five-fold increase in the coverage provided, which makes one wonder what exactly has changed. A closer look at the current budget documents reveals no significant details regarding the same.The only contribution towards health insurance seems to be the allocation of 2000 crore for the Rashtriya Swasthya Bhima Yojana (RSBY), which was to be replaced with the NHPS by April 2017. The RSBY is currently in dire straits with private hospitals threatening to pull out,due to large arrears, persistently high proportion of out-of-pocket expenditure faced by the patients despite the scheme, and problems of transparency.The funds released and utilised as part of RSBY have also reduced along with the number of participating states. Various studies assessing the scheme reveal concerns including insufficient incentives for those involved in service delivery, exclusion of outpatient care, unethical practices among hospitals and so on.

A scheme that could strengthen our healthcare system, while protecting the poor and vulnerable from financial risk is a welcome move; however, it must be capable of addressing the existing shortcomings. Furthermore, the current allotment towards health has increased by only 12 per cent, which would not be sufficient to meet the aspirational goals set. The proposed funds that would be flowing into the secondary and tertiary hospitals, through the NHPS, must not come at the expense of our primary healthcare system. Our Primary Healthcare Centres and Community Healthcare Centres are already bogged down by poor infrastructure and shortage of personnel. These are concerns that require the same level of attention, if not more, especially in light of the increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases and other chronic conditions in India. The ambitious target of 10 crore families, if achieved, would be a huge success and give a necessary boost for the sector; although it seems far-reaching, considering the status of RSBY enrolment. The government has presently provided neither a clear picture on fund allocation nor a framework for the implementation of the scheme. The government needs to offer more clarity on the exact nature of the scheme, including the service delivery model and its financing, without which this would be just another election promise that does not see the light of day. 

*Chithira Rajeevan is Research Assistant at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed by the author is personal and does not represent that of CPPR