Archive for the ‘Political Terminology’ Category

The Cabinet of India: the ultimate, collective decision-making authority comprised of the Prime Minister and 35 Cabinet Ministers

Officially termed as the Union Council of Ministers of India, the Cabinet of India is a body of high-ranking, senior-most Government ministers, typically belonging to the executive branch. The Cabinet includes the Prime Minister, followed by the Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State and the Deputy Ministers. The Cabinet may be contracted or expanded. However, the number of members is stated by the Constitution of India. The council is supposed to report to the Indian Parliament.

Originally, Cabinets were born as small groups named as ‘Cabinet Counsel’ that referred to the advice given to the monarch in private.

THE MEMBERS

Cabinet Secretary: India’s most powerful bureaucrat and the right hand of the PM

  • Heads the Cabinet after the President of India
  • Comes under the direct charge of the Prime Minister
  • Administrative head
  • Also the ex-officio Chairman of the Civil Services Board, and thus the head of the Indian Administrative Service
  • Generally, he is the senior most civil servant
  • Provides assistance to the Ministers, PM and Cabinet Committees
  • Lends an element of stability and continuity in the administration
  • No fixed tenure, though the average is less than 3 years, can be extended
  • Heads all the civil services under the constitution like IAS, IPS, IRS, IFS, PCS, PPS et al
  • Ranks eleventh in the Table of Precedence of India

The Cabinet Secretariat has 3 wings: Civil, Military and Intelligence.

Civil: Provides help and advice to the Union Cabinet
Military: Provides secretarial assistance to the Defense Committee of the Cabinet, the Military Affairs Committee, the National Defense Council and other committees dealing with defense matters
Intelligence: Deals with matters pertaining to the Joint Intelligence Committee of the Union Cabinet

Council of Ministers:

In a Cabinet, apart from collective responsibilities, the members are also individually responsible for the functioning of their respective departments. They are given the title of ‘Minister’ and each holds a different portfolio of Government duties (E.g. ‘Minister for the Environment’). Also, the Constitution has made it mandatory for the Council Ministers to be the members of either House of the Parliament.
Apart from this, the Council

  • Prepares and introduces bills in the Parliament
  • Assists the President to execute his functions
  • Determines policies and administers the same
  • Implements all the decisions adopted by the Parliament of India

There are three categories of Ministers:

  • Union Cabinet Minister: Senior Minister in-charge of any ministry
  • Minister of State (Independent Charge): Handles a portfolio that no other Union Minister oversees
  • Minister of State (MoS): Junior Ministerusually looks after a specific responsibility in any ministry

Together, the Cabinet forms the big wheel of the Government that runs the Republic of India.

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General understanding on the IPC – Indian Penal Code

Every country needs a system to function smoothly. A system is made up of laws. And where there are laws, there is breach of laws. This is when the Indian Penal Code (IPC) comes into picture.

IPC is the backbone of the Indian Criminal Justice System. It is a document that has been formulated to counter crimes of various natures and breach of laws. IPC is a complete code that covers all the aspects of criminal law. It was first drafted in 1860, while it came into force in colonial India during the British Raj in 1862. It has been amended several times since then and is now supplemented by other criminal provisions. IPC covers different crimes separately and lists out the penalties for those found guilty under any of the mentioned offences.

TRACING THE ROOTS

The First Law Commission, chaired by Lord Macaulay, prepared the draft of the Indian Penal Code. The base of the code had derived inspiration from the laws of England, French Penal Code and Livingstone’s Code of Louisiana. The other members of the Legislature then were Chief Justice Sir Barnes Peacock and judges from the Calcutta High Court. After reviews and careful revisions, the law was passed on October 6 1860.

IPC COVERS

IPC covers all states of India and is also applicable to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. However, it is known in this state as the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC). It covers any Indian citizen or a person of Indian origin. The exception here is that any kind of crimes by military or the armed forces have a different dedicated list of laws and the IPC does not have the privilege to replace any part of it. The code also has the power to charge for any crimes committed by a person who is an Indian citizen on any means of transport belonging to India – an Indian aircraft or an Indian ship.

After independence, Indian Penal Code was inherited by Pakistan and Bangladesh, as then they were a part of British India. It was also adopted wholesale by the British colonial authorities in Burma, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. It remains the basis of the criminal codes in those countries.

THE ULTIMATE LAW ENFORCER

None of the 511 sections of the IPC includes any special favors or relaxations on any particular person at some position of power. It is universally acknowledged as a clear, logical and convincing code. It has substantially survived for over 150 years in several jurisdictions without major amendments.
The Indian Penal Code has over the years evolved into a modern, law enforcing and the most fundamental document that stands as a pillar of the Indian judiciary.

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• Vishwanath Pratap Singh (1990)
• H. D. Deve Gowda (1997)
• Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1999)

What is common amongst the three? These all were defeated Prime Ministers of India – defeated by a parliamentary motion of no confidence.

WHAT IS A MOTION OF NO CONFIDENCE?

It is alternatively known as vote of no confidence, censure motion or no-confidence motion. It is a parliamentary vote that represents the parliament’s lack of confidence in the ruling party’s ability to lead the country. The elected members of the parliament vote for this motion. A passed motion of no confidence usually results in the Government’s fall and the calling of a general election.

RESPONSE TO THE MOTION

In an existing Government, when a motion of no confidence is passed, the head of state replies in either of the two ways:
• Ask another individual, who he believes will command the confidence of parliament, to try to form a Government
• Dissolve the elected parliament and call a general election to elect a new parliament
To determine whether an individual can gain the confidence of the parliament or not, the head of state examines whether that individual has the backing of a parliamentary party or a coalition of parties and MPs. He may also be selected based on an agreement of support with enough parliamentary seats to withstand any confidence challenges against them. If this cannot be done, parliament is dissolved and a general election is called.

EXAMPLES

The first record of a motion of no confidence occurred in the United Kingdom in 1782 immediately after the British defeat in the American colonies at Yorktown. The then Prime Minister Lord North presented his resignation to King George III. In the United Kingdom, there have been 11 Prime Ministers defeated through a no-confidence motion. There has been only one (against James Callaghan) since 1925.

Unlike the British system, in Germany the Chancellor is not required to resign if he or she receives a motion of no confidence.

MOTION OF NO CONFIDENCE IS NOT IMPEACHMENT

Many people mistakenly associate a motion of no confidence with the term ‘impeachment’. The two words mean different things. Impeachment implies that a crime has been committed by a Government official. It is a rare political process. However, politicians may receive motion of no confidence. And that doesn’t imply that the person under the vote has committed a crime.
It should be noted that in modern times, votes of no confidence are relatively rare occurrences in democracies. Parties typically handle tiffs among their members without resorting to the motion of no confidence.

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India is a collection of small and big villages. In addition, Panchayats have been the backbone of Indian villages since the beginning of recorded history. Gandhiji, the father of the nation, in 1946 had aptly remarked that the Indian Independence must begin at the bottom. He wished that every village should be a Republic or Panchayat having powers. He named this as ‘Gram Swaraj’ (Village Self-rule).
On 15th May 1989, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had introduced a constitutional amendment bill in the Lok Sabha. This was initiated to make Panchayati Raj a truly representative and effective system in India. The bill could not become a law, as it was not passed by the Rajya Sabha. It was reintroduced in the new parliament by the Narasimha Rao Government.
And the wish of Gandhiji came true, when through the 73rd Amendment in 1992; on April 23, 1993 the Institution of Panchayati Raj was accorded the constitutional status.

THE FOUNDATION

Panchayati Raj is a system of governance in which Gram (village) Panchayats are the basic units of administration. It is a decentralized system of self-government, where each village is responsible for its own affairs.
The concept comes from the traditional assemblies that settled individual and village disputes. ‘Panchayat’ literally means assembly (yat) of five (panch) wise and respected elders chosen and accepted by the village community.
The main aim of Panchayati Raj is to see that the community at large participates in strengthening of the systems and in the development journey along with the Government. This aim has been translated into reality with the introduction of the three-tier system viz.

  • Gram Panchayat
  • Taluka Panchayat
  • District Panchayat

In Gujarat, there are 26 District Panchayats, 224 Taluka Panchayats and 13,693 Gram Panchayats, while the revenue villages are 18,356.
The Panchayati Raj system exists in all the states of India except Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram.

THE 73RD AMENDMENT

The Amendment Act of 1992 contains provision for devolution of powers and responsibilities to the Panchayats. These are delegated to Panchayats at the appropriate level:

  • Preparation of plan for economic development and social justice
  • Implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice in relation to 29 subjects given in 11th schedule of the Constitution
  • To levy, collect and appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees

The provisions of the Act are as follows:

  • Establishment of a three-tier structure
  • Establishment of Gram Sabhas at the village level
  • Regular elections to Panchayats every five years
  • Proportionate seat reservation for SCs/STs
  • Reservation of not less than 1/3 seats for women
  • Constitution of State Finance Commissions to recommended measures to improve the finances of Panchayats
  • Constitution of State Election Commission
  • Others

To support this Act and to look after all the matters related to the Panchayati Raj, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj was formed on 27th May 2004. The Ministry advocates the working and implementation of this Act and ensures systematic function of the Panchayati Raj.
Panchayati raj is indeed the grassroots of any self-government. It ensures greater participation of people and more effective implementation of rural development programs. Freedom and development can be sustained only when it begins from the bottom. And thus, every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its affairs even to the extent of defending itself against the whole world. What can be a better system than Panchayati Raj for achieving this goal?

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In the times of recession, when most of the organizations suffered, banks were also one of them. But one bank that is always cared for and is on the upward slide in India, is the Vote Bank.

Vote Bank is a loyal group of voters who belong to a single community. The quality of such voters is that they always support one particular candidate or a party in the democratic elections. This practice is more common in India due to the existence of caste-based social structure that constrains the individual choice while voting. Often, the votes are driven by the expectation of real or imagined benefits from the political formations. This is ultimately considered harmful for a democracy.

The practice of creating and maintaining such Vote banks is called Vote Bank Politics. This term has no actual, universal definition and is exclusively Indian. However, an understanding of the phrase can be articulated – Vote Bank Politics is a political strategy in which a politician or a party concentrates on the well-being of just one particular group of people to win the elections and doesn’t really focus on other groups, or the country/society as a whole.

COINED BY:

The term Vote Bank was first coined by the Indian sociologist MN Srinivas, in his 1955 paper entitled ‘The Social System of a Mysore Village’. The term talked about the political influence exerted by a patron over a client. The phrase was re-used by FG Bailey, an anthropology professor at the University of California, in 1959, in a book entitled ‘Politics and Social Change’. It referred to the caste based politics and electoral influences.

Since then, the term has been used popularly throughout Asian countries and soon expanded to describe Vote Bank Politics based on other community characteristics as well, like religion and language.

Apart from the diversity in social structure in India, one more reason exists why Vote Bank Politics here is rampant. Any election in which people cast their votes, the party or candidate with the maximum votes is the winner. In India, there are several parties and candidates, each representing a group. So among them, whoever gets the maximum votes win. These ‘maximum votes’ may even be as less as 10%. So if the electorate is as diverse as it is in India, all one needs to ensure is to keep one’s ‘Vote Bank’ happy. And be assured of an election win!

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LOBBYING: IT IS NOT A NEGATIVE CONNOTATION, IT’S THE NERVE OF THE MODERN CORPORATE COMMUNICATION

Lobbying – a word that is used very frequently and commonly – but its meaning is often misunderstood. One definition that makes the connotation clear is offered in the ‘Principles for the Ethical Conduct of Lobbying’ developed by Georgetown’s Woodstock Center: “Lobbying means the deliberate attempt to influence political decisions through various forms of advocacy directed at policymakers on behalf of another person, organization or group.”

A lobbyist is an activist employed by an interest group to promote their positions to legislatures. A lobbyist can also work to change public opinion through advertising campaigns or by influencing ‘opinion leaders’ or pundits, thereby creating a climate for the change that his or her employer desires.

THE ORIGIN OF THE WORD
The term lobbying has been used since as long as 1820. There are different beliefs regarding its etymology. The BBC believes that the word originates from the gathering of the Members of Parliament and the peer groups in the hallways (lobbies) of Houses of Parliament before and after parliamentary debates.

Another story believes that the word comes from the act of meeting important people in the lobby of the hotel they are staying. It is said that the term originated at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC, where it was used by Ulysses Grant to describe the political wheelers and dealers who frequented the hotel’s lobby to access Grant – who was often there to enjoy a cigar and brandy.

In American politics, most lobbyist organizations are headquartered on or near K Street in Washington DC, so ‘K Street’ has become somewhat synonymous for lobbying.

MISCONCEPTIONS AND FACTS
Lobbying is often misunderstood as consultation or yet another act of bribery. Also, lobbyist has a negative connotation these days, which is not the case. The reason for this is that a lobbyist rarely makes the news unless he or she has infringed the regulations. The caricature is as little familiar as the name: well-built, cigar-smoking men who wine and dine lawmakers while slipping money into their pockets. However, the facts are little known to the public.

Lobbying involves much more than simply persuading legislators. Its principal elements include researching and analyzing legislation or regulatory proposals; monitoring and reporting on developments; attending regulatory hearings; working with coalitions interested in the same issues; and then educating not only Government officials but also employees and corporate officers as to the implications of various changes. What most laymen regard as lobbying – the actual communication with Government officials – represents the smallest portion of a lobbyist’s time; a far greater proportion is devoted to the other aspects of preparation, information and communication.

THE MISUSE OF POWERS
“The problem is not lobbying, it’s the misuse of authority and discretionary powers. Middlemen will always exist in a corrupted and opaque system that privileges influence peddling.” This is the take of IBN on ‘Whether lobbying should be legalized’.

On one hand, where lobbying helps to voice the opinions, on the other, it supports campaigns with large amounts of money and sways opinions. And therefore it limits the mobility of politicians by creating the sense that they are owed.

Yet, there are examples of bad actors in all the professions. To paint all lobbyists with the same brush as those who have run into conflict with the laws, however, is unfair simply because it is not supported by the facts.

IT’S IMPORTANT
The Government lays down many rules and restrictions on lobbying to prevent any sort of misuse. It is an important part of any democracy as Government decisions affect both people and organizations, and information must be provided in order to produce informed decisions. Public officials cannot make fair and well-versed decisions without considering information from a broad range of interested parties.

Indeed, networking is the name of the game in lobbying, where people are hired as much for who they know as what they know.

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UNDERSTANDING THE UNION BUDGET OF INDIA

‘Budget 2011-12 to focus on inflation and growth’
‘Budget 2011: The bullish view stays’
‘Budget 2011: India’s subsidy bill up by over 100% in 4 years’
‘Budget 2011: Concerns of power sector’

Budget is something that has dominated the headlines of all the newspapers and other media channels in India, since a couple of months. But, unfortunately, many of us do not know the actual meaning of budget and how did it start.

MEANING

In simple terms, budget is the systematic plan for the inflows and outflows of money during a given period. And the one that ruled the headlines is the Union Budget of India which is the annual budget of the Republic of India.

The term is derived from the French word ‘Bougette’ meaning ‘Sack or Pouch’. It was a bag used by the British Chancellor to keep his papers to be presented to the Parliament. The present sense of the term was used for the first time in 1873.

The Union Budget is preceded by an Economic Survey which outlines the broad direction of the budget and the economic performance of the country. The budget is the most extensive account of the Government`s finances, in which revenues from all sources and expenses of all activities undertaken are aggregated.

The Union Budget is presented each year on the last working day of February by the Finance Minister in the Parliament. The budget has to be passed by the Lower House before it can come into effect on April 1, the start of India’s financial year. It is the most important economical and financial event of the country.

OVER THE YEARS

The first budget of Independent India was presented on 26th November, 1947 by the then Finance Minister, Sir RK Shanmukham Chetty. Also, the former Finance Minister Morarji Desai presented the budget eight times, the most by any. On February 29 in 1964 and 1968, he became the only Finance Minister to present the Union Budget on his birthday.

After Desai’s resignation, the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi became the only woman to hold the post of the Finance Minister.

The current budget was presented by the Finance Minister of India, Pranab Mukherjee on 28th February, 2011 and the budgetary proposals would be applicable from 1st April, 2011 to 31st March, 2012.

TIME OF ANNOUNCEMENT

The British Parliament would pass the budget in the noon followed by India in the evening of the day – This was the practice of the Colonial Era, that continued until the year 2000. It was then, in 2001, that the then Finance Minister of India, Yashwant Sinha changed the announcement time from 5 pm to 11 am.

The Ministry of Finance, Planning Commission, Administrative Ministries and the Comptroller & Auditor General are the main players in the declaration of the Union Budget.

THE PROCESS OF APPROVAL

– The Finance Minister introduces the budget in the Lower House of the Parliament or the Lok Sabha and makes a short speech, giving an overall view of the budget.
– After the presentation of the budget, Parliament allots some time for a general discussion on the budget.
– After the Finance Minister’s reply, Lok Sabha takes up a discussion for each ministry’s expenditure proposals, that are known as demand for grants.
– After the prescribed period is done with, the Speaker puts all the demands to vote and only the Lok Sabha is entitled to vote for the same.
– Appropriation Bill is introduced in the Lok Sabha after it has passed all demands for grants related to all ministries. This bill authorizes the Government to withdraw funds and eventually transforms to a Money Bill.
– After this bill, the Finance Bill is introduced and it incorporates all taxation proposals. After the passing of this bill, it enters the statute as the Finance Act. Thus, the final budget gets approved.

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