1. Point of disorder: Disruption of proceedings, suspension of MPs undermine parliamentary democracy equally
GS 2: Legislature
Expected Question: Enlist the importance of the Parliamentary proceedings, what role does the disruptions play in this regard. (250 words)
Context: Twelve Opposition members of the Rajya Sabha were suspended for the entire winter session on Monday for “unprecedented acts of misconduct”, “unruly and violent behaviour” and “intentional attacks on security personnel” on August 11, the last day of the previous monsoon session.
Following the decision, the Opposition was mulling several options including boycotting the entire winter session of Parliament.
An unprecedented step:
It is evidently an extreme step by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu, that has turned the spotlight on the use of disruption of proceedings as a parliamentary tactic.
The Government and the Opposition should try and work a way out of this situation, but that may not resolve the underlying affliction of perennial conflict between the two sides.
A guiding principle of parliamentary proceedings is that the majority, i.e. the Government, will have its way, and the minority, the Opposition, will have its say. This principle has been observed in its violation in India for several years now. As the principal Opposition in the years leading up to 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) so disrupted Parliament that a majority government was rendered dysfunctional for years;
Tinkering with Parliamentary Procedures: Since 2014, in power, the BJP has tinkered with parliamentary processes in a way that the Opposition has been pinned down.
Bills are passed in a hurry and even amidst din;
The scrutiny of Bills by committees and debates are few and far between.
Also, the decision to suspend Members for their conduct in the previous monsoon session at the beginning of a new session seems excessively punitive.
The trend of weakening that process in the name of efficiency is not merely undermining the spirit of democracy; it is also landing the Government itself in a difficult spot as the mayhem that followed the hurried passage of three controversial farm laws last year shows
The Role of Parliament:
It is the platform where the executive is held accountable to the representatives of the people.
It is a platform for the people’s representatives raise matters of public concern and seek the Government’s attention.
Parliamentary debates should not be viewed as a distraction or waste of time; they are a barometer of public mood and must be respected as such, by both the ruling side and the Opposition.
The absence of the Opposition will only leave the Government even more unchecked.
The Philosophy of disruption:
It was the BJP’s Arun Jaitley who theorised on the legitimacy of disruptions as a parliamentary instrument.
It is time to shun that idea: Disruption as a brief, momentary reaction to a situation that demands debate is understandable, but as a sustained strategy, it is self-defeating.
Way forward: The Government must make amends to restore the function of Parliament by deferring to parliamentary mechanisms, and also through informal channels of communication with the Opposition.
2. A capital functioning from different regions; Distributed development and decentralised governance will pave the way for an inclusive Andhra Pradesh
GS 2: Governance
Context: The Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Repeal Bill, 2021, aiming to repeal the earlier laws that stipulated a three-capitals plan for the State, was passed by the Andhra Pradesh (A.P.) Assembly on November 22, 2021.
That the current government would like to introduce a comprehensive, complete, and better Bill afresh is indicative of its resolve to utilise decentralisation for an inclusive A.P.
Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated into A.P. and Telangana under the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act of 2014 with the capital, Hyderabad, going to Telangana.
Decentralised development in Andhra Pradesh:
In 2014, after the state's bifurcation, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs constituted the K.C. Sivaramakrishnan Expert Committee to come up with a strategy for the new capital of A.P. After State-wide public consultations and studies.
Against Megacities: The committee recommended the trifurcation of primary capital functions, instead of concentrating wealth in select centers to create megacities like Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
New Capital: However, the then A.P. government chose to ignore the recommendations of the committee and selected an area of Vijayawada, which was specifically classified as unsuitable by the committee. The government chose to opt for a green field city — Amravati — as its capital.
In 2019, the then government revisited the decision on Amravati. It appointed yet another committee with a mandate to suggest a “comprehensive development strategy for all-round balanced development of the state, including the Capital”. The committee’s views were aligned with the earlier committees’ views on decentralising capital functions while also recommending a scaling down of the proposed works at Amravati.
Both the committees have recommended the latter.
The State has three distinct regions with uneven socio-economic development.
The Rayalaseema region in the south-west, comprising the Chittoor, Kadapa, Anantapur and Kurnool districts, has dismal development indices.
Similarly, the culturally rich Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam to the north-east support vast forest tracts and tribal belts that are deprived of development. In both these areas, deficiency of basic services, inadequate social and physical infrastructure and low employment opportunities pose serious challenges.
In contrast, coastal A.P., comprising nine districts, is a better developed region. The regional imbalance is further compounded by a similar spatial imbalance of urban settlements.
Reasons for Trifurcation of capital:
Two Guiding principles
Development interventions should derive from the ‘genius’ of the geography rather than externally imposed, contextually blind suggestions.
While focusing on infrastructural development, there should be ‘positive constraints’ in order to protect the natural resource base that must be mapped.
The suggested trifurcation provided an opportunity to correct the regional imbalance and redistribute wealth.
The historically perpetuated regional imbalances in A.P. as well as its elongated shape necessitate a ‘multi-nodal region’.
The unsuitability of a capital in Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam region was premised on the area being a part of the floodplains of the Krishna River; supporting fertile agricultural land; and having soil that is not conducive for construction.
Creating pluralisation of services and/or conduits for services and the attendant dispersal of geographic space, one that responds to regional development needs.
The State, while well-endowed with natural resources, showcases regional variations that need corrective measures. An emerging imperative therefore was to trigger development in the Rayalaseema districts as well as the north-eastern belt while simultaneously reducing pressure on the coast.
Distributed development and decentralised governance. The already functioning Grama Sachivalayams ensuring administration at the lowest level underpinned this recommendation.
Decentralization in India:
Spatial and administrative decentralization — has been advocated by many committees since the 1950s through the 1980s to be finally enacted as the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution.
Idea of Distribution of the capital functions:
It is neither a new nor a novel idea.
Maharashtra, for example, performs its capital functions from Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur.
In Madhya Pradesh, while the executive and legislative functions are performed from the capital at Bhopal, the High Court is located at Jabalpur with Circuit Benches at Indore and Gwalior, respectively.
Jammu and Srinagar have been performing the capital functions for the State (now Union Territory) of Jammu and Kashmir.
Uttar Pradesh functions from Prayagraj (Allahabad) and Lucknow, Uttarakhand has declared that Gairsen would be its summer capital.
South Africa has three capitals: Pretoria (executive); Bloemfontein (judicial); and Cape Town (legislative). None of these functions is in Johannesburg, the largest city in the country.
Difference between decentralised capitals and decentralising capital functions: While the former assumes three capitals anchored around the functions of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, the latter connotes one seat of capital — symbolically and physically — with the three functions being performed in different locations.
The New Proposal:
In the proposed decentralised ‘capital functions’ strategy, the committee recommended that the Amravati-Mangalagiri complex host the Legislative Assembly (winter), Governor’s seat and the Chief Minister’s camp office. The Secretariat was proposed at the Visakhapatnam Metropolitan Region (VMR), preferably away from the coast and away from Visakhapatnam city, closer to Vizianagram.
The High Court was to be located at Kurnool. High Court benches were proposed in the Amaravati–Mangalagiri complex and the VMR. The idea was to trigger a just model of development while taking services to people.
The recommendations of both the committees to distribute capital functions predates the pandemic which has exposed the massive inequalities both at the national and State levels and the fallacies of centralising growth. While the pandemic is a reminder that urbanisation must be a balanced, equitable and inclusive process, floods and droughts are a warning against urbanising the floodplains of our rivers.