The need to have full disclosure electoral bonds and political funding
(GS-II: Government Policies and Interventions and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation)
According to an RTI reply, electoral bonds worth ₹10,246 crore have been sold by the State Bank of India (SBI) since the instrument was launched in March 2018.
Background in which electoral bonds were introduced:
Political parties violating FCRA: In 2014, the Delhi HC found both the Congress and BJP guilty of illegally accepting donations from a foreign company, in contravention of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 1976.
Amending FCRA: Following this, the two parties came together to amend the FCRA to retrospectively legalise the violations, bringing in full anonymity to corporate and foreign political donors.
Old vs new provisions:
Previously, only profit-making domestic companies could contribute to political parties, now, loss-making can as well.
Foreign companies could not previously contribute. A foreign firm operating in India or a foreign entity through a shell company may fund Indian political parties now.
Capping cash donations: In 2017, the anonymous cash donations to political parties were reduced from ₹20,000 to ₹2,000 to ensure greater transparency in political funding.
Introduction of Electoral bonds:
The Electoral Bond Scheme (EBS), announced in the 2017 Union Budget, was notified by the Central Government in 2018.
These bonds can be purchased from select SBI branches by any Indian person or corporation incorporated in India under the scheme.
The introduction of electoral bonds brought a new form of anonymity to thousands of crores of donations.
How did electoral bonds introduce a new type of anonymity?
By reducing public and legislative oversight: For example, only the ruling party via the SBI has a full account of all donations being made via electoral bonds.
Political parties do not disclose electoral bond donors: The only requirement is the annual audit reports with all donations received via electoral bonds. However, these reports are submitted with great delays.
Impact of anonymity:
Suggestions given by the SC: In 2021 (in response to ADR PIL challenging EBs as unconstitutional), the SC refused to stay the sale of electoral bonds and suggested matching the following (between the purchaser of the bond and political party) to bring in transparency.
Problems with the match the following approach:
No ordinary person has the time or money to go through documents on government websites or go through income tax returns.
The total number of registered companies is unknown, and many do not report political donations even if they file annual financial statements.
All private companies’ annual reports are not easily accessible on the government’s website since they are not mandated to produce them aside from filing annual returns.
The information regarding donors and donations should be accessible to the Parliament, the Election Commission of India, and the Opposition via SBI.
The RTI must be strengthened, as only RTI petitions filed with the SBI provide insight into the millions of dollars spent on political parties.
Conclusion: Companies and political parties can show moral leadership by voluntarily disclosing the identities of recipients and donors, as the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha did recently.
CDSL or Central Depositories Services India Ltd
According to media reports, certain services at CDSL were disrupted due to a suspected cyber-attack.
Share depositories hold shares in an electronic or dematerialised form and are an enabler for securities transactions, playing a somewhat similar role to what banks play in handling cash and fixed deposits.
While banks help customers keep their cash in electronic form, share depositories help consumers store shares in a dematerialised form.
What is CDSL?
Founded in 1999, CDSL is a government-registered share depository, alongside its other state-owned counterpart National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL).
It is a Market Infrastructure Institution (MII) that is deemed a crucial part of the capital market structure, providing services to all market participants, including exchanges, clearing corporations, depository participants, issuers and investors.
5 Bacteria types claimed 6.8 Lakh lives in India in 2019: Lancet
Five bacteria types — E. coli, S. pneumoniae, K. pneumoniae, S. aureus and A. baumanii — caused nearly 6.8 lakh deaths in India in 2019, according to a study published in The Lancet journal.
Description of five bacterias:
Changes in Demography
(GS-I: Indian Society, Governance- Population and related issues, Geography)
2022: China will for the first time register an absolute decline in its population
2023: India’s population, projected by the United Nationsto reach 1.428 billion, will surpass China’s425 billion
What factors are behind this shift?
Falling Mortality: Due to increased education levels, public health and vaccination programmes, access to food and medical care, and provision of safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.
Increasing life expectancy at birth: Between 1950 and 2020, it went up from 43.7 to 78.1 years for China and from 41.7 to 70.1 years for India.
A drop in fertility: It has slowed down population growth, ultimately resulting in absolute declines (in the case of China).
The total fertility rate (TFR) — the number of babies an average woman bears over her lifetime
A TFR of 2.1 is considered “replacement-level fertility”. Simply understood, a woman having two children basically replaces herself and her partner with two new lives. Since all infants may not survive to realise their reproductive potential, the replacement TFR is taken at slightly above two
India’s TFR is already below-replacement, but it will take a few generations for the absolute population to start declining
China’s TFR dipped below replacement first in 1991, which was almost 30 years before India’s
Implications of these demographic changes:
Decline in prime working age population: It creates a vicious cycle wherein the number of working people to support dependent decreases but the number of dependents starts increasing
In response, China officially ended its one-child policy, introduced in 1980, in 2016.
India has an opportunity of reaping a demographic dividend’: the working-age population’s share in the overall population crossed 50% only in 2007 and will peak at 57% towards the mid-2030s.
But reaping demographic dividend is contingent upon the creation of meaningful employment opportunities for a young population.
Going forward, the challenge before India’s policymakers is to promote growth that generates jobs outside of agriculture. The surplus labour from farms should find employment in sectors — manufacturing and modern services — where productivity, value-addition and average incomes are higher. In the absence of such structural transformation, the “demographic dividend” could well turn into a “demographic nightmare”