Regulators don’t need constitutional status
(GS-II: Constitutional Status)
This article appeared in the Opinion section of Business Standard.
It talks about the need for giving constitutional status to regulators, rationale behind the present arrangements by the constitution and what are the alternatives available.
Why should Indian regulatory agencies be given constitutional status? – arguments in favour:
Too much political pressure on Indian regulatory agencies. This affects the way they perform their functions.
Providing constitutional status would restore symmetry between regulatory agencies and the elected government.
Issues arising by providing constitutional status to regulatory bodies:
This gives rise to cascading effects.
For instance, we detest government intervention in the affairs of higher educational institutions, stock exchanges (also mini-regulators) banks.
Should we then confer constitutional status on the IITs, stock exchanges and public sector banks?
Even if given, that would make for a bulky and potentially an easily amendable Constitution. This violates the original spirit of the Indian Constitution.
Why do some institutions need constitutional backing?
The Constitution fortifies institutions that are designed to exercise checks and balances on elected bodies and safeguard against majoritarian tendencies.
For instance, it fortifies the position of the higher judiciary, the comptroller and auditor general’s office and the election commission, all of them meant to exercise checks on an elected government.
Why do regulatory agencies not need constitutional backing?
Regulatory agencies do not comprise elected representatives of the people. In fact, many argue that they comprise technocratic elites who make regulations that have the binding effect of the law, license and regulate intermediating firms.
Why do we need regulatory bodies when there are elected bodies?
To build-up expertise and capacity to regulate complex areas.
Credible commitment: When the government sets up a regulator, it cedes its sovereign powers to govern that area of the economy. By doing so, it signals its commitment to policy stability.
Public interest: Sticking to this credible commitment elicits confidence in the public that policymaking in that sector will be driven by public interest and not election cycles.
What are the alternatives available?
Provide “fair contract terms” for these agencies under their governing law.
Align the incentives of the persons heading the regulatory agencies with public interest.
Require them to consistently explain their actions to the public.
Transparency of conduct is one of the most effective ways of incentivising the agency to act in public interest.
Shallow and deep ecologism
(GS-III: Conservation related issues)
Recent effects of climate change (Heatwaves, droughts etc.) have brought into focus two strands of environmental philosophy that reinvent the relationship between nature and humans — shallow and deep ecologism.
The concepts emerged in the 1970s, when Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss sought to look beyond the popular pollution and conservation movements of his milieu to address environmental degradation.
By placing humans at the heart of the environmental crisis, Næss outlines the difference between the two styles of ecologism.
What is shallow ecologism?
Also referred to as weak ecologism.
The powerful and fashionable fight against pollution and resource depletion is shallow ecologism or environmentalism.
Exponents of this philosophy believe in continuing our present lifestyle, but with specific tweaks aimed at minimising the damage to the environment.
It may include the use of vehicles that cause less pollution or air conditioners that do not release chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
What is deep ecologism?
Deep ecologism believes that humans should radically change their relationship with nature.
It aspires to sustain nature by making large-scale changes to our lifestyle.
These may include limiting the commercial farming of meat to preserve forest areas and reduce the artificial fattening of animals, or the reshaping of transport systems which involve the use of internal combustion engines.
What it advocates?
Robust policy formulation and implementation.
Policy-making must be aided by the reorientation of technical skills and inventions in new directions that are ecologically responsible.
Re-evaluate the ‘survival of the fittest’ doctrine. Survival of the fittest should be understood through the human ability to cooperate and coexist with nature, as opposed to exploiting or dominating it.
Deep ecologism thus prioritises a ‘live and let live’ attitude over an ‘either you or me’ approach.
Issues with shallow ecologism:
Its proponents reject shallow ecologism for prioritising humans above other forms of life, and subsequently preserving the environmentally destructive way of life in modern societies.
Deep ecologism maintains that by sustaining this lifestyle, shallow ecologism further widens the inequalities between countries.
For instance, despite constituting only five per cent of the world’s population, the U.S. accounts for 17% of the world’s energy consumption and is the second largest consumer of electricity after China.
Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN)
(GS-III: Open Radio Access Network)
Short for Open Radio Access Network, Open RAN, is critical to 5G deployment. In India, the Open RAN architecture is essential but also fraught with challenges.
What is Open RAN?
Open Radio Access Network, or Open RAN, is a key part of a mobile network system that uses cellular radio connections to link individual devices to other parts of a network.
It comprises antennae, which transmits and receives signals to and from our smartphones or other compatible devices. The signal is then digitised in the RAN-base station and connected to the network.
O-RAN uses software to make hardware manufactured by different companies work together.
Advantages of Open-RAN:
An open environment expands the ecosystem, and provides more Options to the Operators.
It will boost new opportunities for the Indian entities to enter into the network equipment market.
It is expected to make 5G more flexible and cost-efficient.
The Open RAN architecture allows for the separation or disaggregation, between hardware and software with open interfaces.
How is Open RAN different from traditional RAN?
In the traditional set-up, Radio Access Network is provided as an integrated platform of both hardware and software. Therefore, it is difficult to mix vendors for the radio and baseband unit, and in most cases, they come from the same supplier.
The idea of Open RAN is to change this, and enable operators to mix and match components.
Radio access network (RAN):
It is a part of a mobile telecommunication system. It implements a radio access technology.
Conceptually, it resides between a device such as a mobile phone, a computer, or any remotely controlled machine and provides connection with its core network (CN).
RAN functionality is typically provided by a silicon chip residing in both the core network as well as the user equipment.
The Goa civil code
(GS-II: Uniform Civil Code)
Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant recently said that the Goa civil code can be a model that other states can emulate. This statement comes amid the ongoing discussions for having a Uniform Civil Code for India.
What is Goa Civil Code?
In 1867, Portugal enacted a Portuguese civil code and in 1869 it was extended to Portugal’s overseas provinces (that included Goa). It is considered a Uniform Civil Code.
While when it comes to marriage and adoption, there is not complete uniformity, generally the Goa Civil Code is far more gender-just than other laws in the country.
The law also doesn’t recognise bigamy or polygamy, including for Muslims but grants an exception to a Hindu man to marry once again if his wife doesn’t conceive a child by the age of 21 or a male child by the age of 30.
The law provides for:
Compulsory registration of marriages before a civil authority, ensuring that the wife is an equal inheritor and is entitled to half of the “common assets” including those inherited by her husband in the case of a divorce.
The parents must compulsorily share at least half of the property with their children including daughters.
Why does a civil code enacted by the Portuguese continue to exist even today?
The Portuguese Civil Code in Goa continued in India by virtue of Section 5(1) of the Goa, Daman and Diu Administration Act, 1962, through which the Indian Government ruled that “all laws in force in Goa, Daman and Diu or any part thereof shall continue to be in force therein until amended or repealed by a competent legislature or other competent authority.”
Because of this, the Portuguese civil code continues to be in force in Goa.
What is UCC?
UCC essentially refers to a common set of laws governing personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and succession for all citizens of the country.
Article 44 of the Constitution, which is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy, also advocates a uniform civil code.
However, governments since Independence have allowed respective religion-based civil codes to respect the diversity of India.