Monday, 21 December 2015

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22 Dec 2015 editorials

Prepared by Ashok Sharma

22 Dec 2015 

editorials


 The Hindu: Rajya Sabha's winter of disquiet
Parliament has suddenly been galvanised into action, and the Rajya Sabha is now to take up for discussion amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act. On Monday, the Supreme Court, wisely, refused to stay the release after three years of detention of one of the men involved in the gang rape of December 16, 2012 who had not turned 18 at the time of the horrific crime. It is a sign of falling standards that a resolve by parliamentarians to take up anything at all for deliberation is notice-worthy. But Rajya Sabha MPs must pay heed to the disquiet that they are echoing a mob-like frenzy in signing up to the amendment to reduce the age of juvenility, without enough reflection on why crime by young people puts different responsibilities for rehabilitation on a society. The Rajya Sabha is on test today not only for the urgency with which it takes note of the sentiment on the street — it will be judged for the sense of proportion it brings to the subject and the evenness with which its members grapple with the distinction between retribution and rehabilitation, between collective responsibility for the country's young and abdication of the vulnerable. In a larger sense, too, in 2015 the Rajya Sabha has been asked to make a case for its institutional relevance, and how the House rises to the challenge would have implications for the assertiveness of Parliament as a whole.

The numbers are dismal. According to data compiled by PRS Legislative Research, a Delhi-based think tank, as of December 18 the Rajya Sabha had wasted more than half its available hours in the winter session. Question Hour had functioned in the House for only 15 per cent of the allotted time — in contrast to 88 per cent in the Lok Sabha. The numbers do not reflect the initiatives taken by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, in trying inventive ways to keep the deliberative and questioning spirit alive. Over his two terms he has, for instance, got the House to take up questions even if the MP against whose name it had been listed was absent, and to reschedule Question Hour to a quieter time of day — but to little avail. Discipline apart, of late there has been criticism of the Rajya Sabha's capacity to hold up non-money bills passed by the Lok Sabha. This obviously draws from the ruling NDA's numerical disadvantage in the House. Critics overlook the essential need for a permanent House in a country as diverse as India — to ensure continuity as a check against sudden changes in government and agendas, and to reflect the voice of States in this federal polity. If anything, the lack of numbers should propel the ruling party to reach the extra inch across the aisles in the Lok Sabha, to agree to have its Ministers put to more stringent questioning, even to interest Opposition MPs by adopting Prime Minister's Questions, and, most importantly, to loosen the debate-snuffing restrictions of the anti-defection law and allow bipartisan coalitions to be built around specific pieces of legislation. In India's unique form of bicameralism, the key to unlocking a stand-off in one House inevitably lies in the other House. Just as the way to institutional strength lies in empowering individual MPs.


dis·qui·et
A feeling of anxiety or worry.

gal·va·nize
Shock or excite (someone), typically into taking action.

heed
Pay attention to; take notice of.

ech·o
(of a sound) be repeated or reverberate after the original sound has stopped.

fren·zy
A state or period of uncontrolled excitement or wild behavior.

juvenility
Callowness: lacking and evidencing lack of experience of life

grap·ple
Engage in a close fight or struggle without weapons; wrestle.

ret·ri·bu·tion
Punishment inflicted on someone as vengeance for a wrong or criminal act

assertiveness
Aggressive self-assurance; given to making bold assertions

pro·pel
Drive, push, or cause to move in a particular direction, typically forward.

aisle
A passage between rows of seats in a building such as a church or theater, an airplane, or a train.

em·pow·er
Give (someone) the authority or power to do something.



The Hindu: Right moves on the Soccer League

For all the flutter that the Indian Super League (ISL) has managed to create so far, a thrilling finish of the kind witnessed on Sunday, when Chennaiyin FC defeated FC Goa 3-2 in the final, seemed just apt. That the match was turned on its head with barely seconds remaining, even as it ensured a fairy-tale end, brought out in good measure the vagaries of sport in general and the quirkiness of football in particular. If Goa thought it had done enough to drag itself past the finish line when it took the lead with three minutes left, it was not to be. It showed, yet again, how a momentary lapse in concentration can damage fortunes in high-pressure situations. If anything, only the unsavoury incidents which followed the final whistle marred what was a fierce but evenly contested tie. On the match itself there might not have been much to write home about. The flair and zest displayed by both teams in their run to the final was seen only in patches. But final matches, in which caution is often the watchword and avoiding mistakes is paramount, have a tendency to turn out the way this one did. However, there can be no doubting that the league's two best teams contested the final. Goa scored a league-high 29 goals to enter the knock-outs while Chennaiyin, in addition to the 25 goals scored, also had the best defensive record, conceding only 15.

After a successful opening season, there was a fair amount of scepticism as the second season got under way two months ago. For, the sophomore's test is perhaps the toughest to pass. In spite of the bad press owing to the national team's capitulation in the World Cup qualifiers, it can indeed be said that the ISL has managed to not lose its sheen. As Chennaiyin FC's manager Marco Materazzi said on the eve of the final, "I hope that everyone sees the difference. All of us have done well to raise the level. Last year it took 19 points to reach the play-offs. This year it is 22. I hope the improvement keeps happening. If it does, we will be the happiest people." It also helped that, unlike the previous season, the cream of Indian football including captain Sunil Chhetri participated. Also, other Indian players under the tutelage of coaches such as the legendary Zico and Materazzi himself have blossomed. Having said that, there is still room for considerable improvement. The tournament must be scheduled in such a way that ISL matches do not run parallel to India's international forays. The two are meant to complement each other, ultimately leading to the uplift of both. Zico's repeated call for a single league, as against two separate entities in I-League and ISL, with very limited, but extremely good foreign players, is to be considered. The Brazilian great's wealth of coaching experience in developing nations coupled with his standing in world football does merit that.

flut·ter
(of a bird or other winged creature) fly unsteadily or hover by flapping the wings quickly and lightly.

apt
Appropriate or suitable in the circumstances

un·sa·vor·y
Disagreeable to taste, smell, or look at.

mar
Impair the appearance of; disfigure.

par·a·mount
More important than anything else; supreme.

skep·ti·cism
A skeptical attitude; doubt as to the truth of something.

ca·pit·u·la·tion
The action of surrendering or ceasing to resist an opponent or demand.

blos·som
(of a tree or bush) produce flowers or masses of flowers.



Business Standard:The elusive toilets goal

The attempt to make India free of open defecation appears to be a classic example of how goals can remain elusive despite the best of intentions of the government and the availability of money. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, launched by the prime minister over a year ago, is really the fourth avatar of a three-decade long effort. Yet the fate of the latest repackaging, which has reset the target date at 2019, may not be very different from that of the earlier efforts. An indication of the mindset at work is available from the fate of a well-meaning effort by the central ministries responsible for various parts of the programme to find out how things are going and learn quick lessons. But when the quick survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation earlier this year found that less than half the toilets built since the Abhiyan was launched were being used, the government decided to keep the results under wraps lest the Opposition made an issue of it.

Fortunately, a detailed report by the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General into the earlier avatar, Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, has unearthed highly useful findings which can in fact make it a classic case study. With rare pungency, the CAG report, covering the period of 2009 to 2014, declares: "The (sanitation) programme which is running in mission mode for three decades has not succeeded in evoking the missionary zeal in various government agencies, participating NGOs and corporates." The audit found no proper bottom-up planning like gram panchayat plans being linked to district plans. Less than half the number of toilets targeted were constructed, and a third of those which saw the light of day were defunct. They were either incomplete, or poorly constructed, or badly maintained. In the years studied, not only did the Centre release less than half the funds it was to, as many as 16 states either did not release or did less than what was their share of funding. As the government runs innumerable programmes whose tasks overlap, there was a plan for convergence. For example, the material cost for toilets in homes built under Indira Awas Yojana could come from the sanitation programme and the labour costs from the rural employment programme - but this did not happen. Finally, the programme was to be monitored through an online management information system, but not only was the data uploaded not verified, it was not cross-checked with the departments' annual performance reports.

A course correction is due. There may be some change form the past in a critical area - persuading people to actually use toilets. Brand ambassadors have been appointed to spread the message. The NSSO survey has revealed that some are using the new toilets as store rooms. There is every reason for the government to institute a more detailed study, which discovers the reasons behind the reality, and to shares those results with the public. Again, money will not be a problem. The World Bank has approved a $1.5 billion loan to focus on behavioural change to further the project.


e·lu·sive
Difficult to find, catch, or achieve.

def·e·ca·tion
The discharge of feces from the body.

un·earth
Find (something) in the ground by digging.

pungency
Wit having a sharp and caustic quality; "he commented with typical pungency"; "the bite of satire"

de·funct
No longer existing or functioning.

in·nu·mer·a·ble
Too many to be counted (often used hyperbolically).


Indian Express A maha claim

The national executive of the JD(U) has announced that it will make an effort to replicate the grand alliance that defeated the BJP in Bihar in the states scheduled for assembly elections in April-May next year. The JD(U) seems to believe that the Bihar model of anti-BJP alliance-making can be replicated elsewhere and could hurt the BJP's plans for Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondichery. The impetus behind the JD(U)'s ambition to build a national anti-BJP coalition seems to be the outsized impact of the Bihar verdict. The party hopes to use the Bihar outcome as a launching pad for its own national ambitions.
But every assembly poll is driven by a political dynamic all its own. Local equations and considerations influence coalition-building and moreover, in many states, the strategy of building an anti-BJP alliance may have little salience. At this juncture, the only state where the JD(U) initiative could find some resonance is Assam. The 2014 general election trends from Assam point to an ascendant BJP. Even the state Congress has hinted that the party may need to build tactical alliances with regional outfits, including the AGP and the AUDF, to overcome anti-incumbency and keep the BJP out of power. Yet, though these parties identify a common foe in the BJP, their political constituencies and compulsions are not necessarily in sync. In West Bengal, the BJP remains a marginal player, while the Congress could influence the outcome. Sections within the Left Front may want an alliance with the Congress to consolidate the anti-Trinamool sentiment, but ideological reservations within the CPM stand in the way. Here the JD(U) could well broker a pre-poll understanding between the Congress and the TMC. Kerala's coalition politics is a saturated space and the BJP's third front is yet to take shape. The JD(U)'s dilemma in Kerala is whether to stay on in the Congress-led UDF or accept the invitation from the Left and join the LDF. The JD(U) is inconsequential in Tamil Nadu, where the political space, though fragmented, continues to revolve around the two Dravidian parties, the DMK and the AIADMK. In the last election, the BJP stitched together a third front that mopped up nearly 20 per cent of the vote, but the front unravelled after the election.
Certainly, coalitions will determine the outcome of the April assembly elections, but the BJP is likely to have a limited impact. And the JD(U) may be overstating its influence when it assumes the role of an alliance facilitator in next year's poll-bound states.

rep·li·cate
Make an exact copy of; reproduce

im·pe·tus
The force or energy with which a body moves.

junc·ture
A particular point in events or time.

res·o·nance
The quality in a sound of being deep, full, and reverberating.

tac·ti·cal
Of, relating to, or constituting actions carefully planned to gain a specific military end.

in·cum·ben·cy
The holding of an office or the period during which one is held.

foe
An enemy or opponent.

frag·ment
Break or cause to break into fragments.

co·a·li·tion
An alliance for combined action, especially a temporary alliance of political parties forming a government or of states.




The Guardian view on the Spanish elections: the end of an era

The old joke about Franco is that when the news that he had died was announced to the cabinet, there was a long silence, and then one minister said: "Yes, but who's going to tell him?" Franco's long reign did indeed in some ways go on after his death, in that the new democracy's politics came to be dominated by a rightwing party that drew together the modernising and more moderate elements in the old regime, and a leftwing party that grouped some of the forces that had opposed the dictator. The settlement between the two, their alternation in power, and the influence of an enlightened monarch produced a two-party system that gave Spain stability, containing once visceral divisions and sustaining a rapid economic development which had begun under Franco and which has faltered only recently.

But over time it also became calcified, intermittently corrupt, incapable of responding imaginatively to discontented minorities, and one of the two parties was committed to a centralisation of power that was increasingly a bad fit with Spain's diversity. When it also began to fail to deliver economically, the writing was on the wall. This era ended on Sunday in the Spanish general elections when the mainstream parties, the conservative People's party, or PP, and the Spanish Socialist Workers' party, or PSOE, were rudely bumped out of their accustomed orbits by two newcomers.

Podemos, or "We can", a radical party on the left, has been in existence for less than two years, while Ciudadanos, or Citizens, originally a Catalan party opposed to independence there, only began organising, as a new kind of centrist party, in the rest of Spain in 2013. Together they took more than a third of the vote, leaving the older parties with just over a half, and stripping the ruling People's party of its parliamentary majority.

The arithmetic makes coalition building difficult. There are not enough seats for the obvious coalition of the right, but mustering one on the left will be hard because of critical differences between the possible partners. The outcome may not be clear for some time, and a return to the electors cannot be ruled out. What is more important than these contingent matters is that Spanish politics has been opened up in a dramatic way.
A new pluralism has replaced the old duopoly. The immediate causes were an upsurge of feeling against austerity policies similar to that elsewhere in Europe, especially in Greece and Italy, rage over unemployment, and disgust over corruption scandals that undermined the reputation of the older parties. But the transformation of the party landscape reflects deeper changes in Spanish society, generational, economic, historical and philosophical.

A large number of Spaniards have no memory of the Franco years, and a significant fraction no particular recall of, or gratitude for, the skilful way in which the country was guided through the early years of the transition from dictatorship, avoiding army intervention, making Spain internationally respected, and creating a prosperous society.

Their background was not one of rising prosperity but one of rising inequality. The youngest cohorts, looking at up to 47% unemployment in their age group, have indeed had an exactly opposite experience to the relatively secure circumstances of their parents, which is why millions of them took to the streets in 2011. Many older people in their families, even when well off themselves, were drawn to these indignados.

Soon men and women from a slightly older age bracket, most of them from academic or non-corporate business backgrounds, emerged as leaders to give party-political form to this movement. All wanted constitutional change. Podemos, especially, called for a new politics in which there would be continuous popular participation.

It would be foolish to draw too sharp a line under the past. The vote was a reaction to inequality but also reflected it, with anecdotal evidence suggesting older, better–off people voted on Sunday for the old parties. Those parties are reduced but far from finished.

The new parties will find their programmes diluted as they are forced to compromise in coalition building or in forging opposition alliances, so that Podemos's ideas, for example, already modified in the search for electoral advantage, are unlikely to be put into practice in any full way. But Spain needed to change and it has changed. That is enough for the moment.



                dic·ta·tor
A ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has obtained power by force.

vis·cer·al
Of or relating to the viscera.


vis·cer·a
The internal organs in the main cavities of the body, especially those in the abdomen, e.g., the intestines.

fal·ter
Start to lose strength or momentum.

cal·ci·fy
Harden by deposition of or conversion into calcium carbonate or some other insoluble calcium compounds.

mus·ter
Assemble (troops), especially for inspection or in preparation for battle.

con·tin·gent
Subject to chance.

co·hort
An ancient Roman military unit, comprising six centuries, equal to one tenth of a legion.
indignados
The 2011–present Spanish protests, also referred to as the 15-M Movement, the Indignants Movement, and Take the Square #spanishrevolution, are a series of ongoing demonstrations in Spain whose origin can be traced to social networks such as Real Democracy NOW or Youth Without a Future among ...

an·ec·do·tal
(of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research.










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