First-past-the-post (FPTP) system and Proportional representation system- A debate
GS 2 – Polity
India’s parliamentary democracy is going through a phase of intense confrontation between the dominant ruling party and a weakened but belligerent Opposition.
Some say that this situation is a consequence of the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, where a party with the highest votes gets the seat even if it doesn’t win a majority.
In 2014, the National Democratic Alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party won 336 seats with only 38.5% of the popular vote.
Emergence of a second dominant party system in India
At the national level, 2014 marked the end of a 25-year period of a coalition/minority government. And post-2014, there was the emergence of a second dominant party system.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) became the central pole of Indian politics ever since it came to power at the Centre in 2014.
The hegemony enjoyed by the Congress in the 1950s and ’60s gave way to trends in Indian politics such as federalisation and regionalisation.
The similarity is in the vote share numbers garnered by the dominant party and in its capacity to fragment the Opposition.
The critics of the FPTP system have called for reexamining this constitutional choice and have argued for adopting the system of proportional representation. They believe that this system is undemocratic and unrepresentative of diverse identities. The first-past-the-post (FPTP) system
The Indian constitution adopts the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system of elections, otherwise known as simple majority where a candidate with the most number of votes from a constituency wins the seat.
It is also known as the simple majority system.
This system is used in India in direct elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. The advantages and benefits of a FPTP voting system
Voter’s convenience: It’s simple to understand.In a political environment, FPTP enables voters to clearly express a view on which party they think should form the next government.
Lesser expenditure: It doesn’t cost much to administer.
It’s is fairly quick to count the votes and work out who has won; meaning results can be declared relatively quickly after the polls close. Issues with FPTP system
It does not always allow for a truly representative mandate, as the candidate could win despite securing less than half the votes in a contest.
The FPTP system tends to magnify the seat share of the party with the largest vote share, while parties receiving a lower vote share tend to get a much lower seat share.
The disproportionate number of seats accrued by a party despite a lower vote share.
The other issue with the FPTP is that the threshold is so high that newer parties cannot enter the fray.
Breeds Two-Party system: Duverger, a French political scientist, argued that the FPTP system tends to bring about a two-party system at the constituency level. In countries like India, this translated into the establishment of a two-party system at the State level which happened between 1967 and 1989.
But the FPTP system can’t be blamed for polarisation in Indian Politics. Polarisation is linked to the politicisation of certain social cleavages.
Proportional representation system (PR)
This refers to an electoral system in which the distribution of seats corresponds closely with the proportion of the total votes cast for each party.
This is a more complicated but representative system than the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, which is used in India.
If a party gets 40% of the total votes, for example, a perfectly proportional system would allow it to get 40% of the seats. Some countries used a combination of the proportional representation system and the FPTP system.
FPTP is currently used to elect members of the House of Commons in the UK, both chambers of the US Congress and the lower houses in both Canada and India.
Advantages of PR system
This system avoids the anomalous results of plurality/majority systems and is better able to produce a representative legislature.
Facilitate minority parties’ access to representation. Unless the threshold is unduly high, or the district magnitude is unusually low, then any political party with even a small percentage of the vote can gain representation in the legislature.
This fulfils the principle of inclusion, which can be crucial to stability in divided societies and has benefits for decision making in established democracies, such as achieving a more balanced representation of minorities in decision-making bodies and providing role models of minorities as elected representatives.
Encourage parties to campaign beyond the districts in which they are strong or where the results are expected to be close.
The incentive under PR systems is to maximize the overall vote regardless of where those votes might come from. Every vote, even from areas where a party is electorally weak, goes towards gaining another seat.
Restrict the growth of ‘regional fiefdoms’. Because PR systems reward minority parties with a minority of the seats, they are less likely to lead to situations where a single party holds all the seats in a given province or district.
Issues with Proportional representation system
Logistical difficulties: First, as certain constituencies have a large population, its implementation becomes impractical and administratively difficult.
India’s poor literacy rate: This system may be too ‘advanced’ for our nation which had a poor literacy rate.
Threatens the stability of the government.
Coalition governments, which in turn lead to legislative gridlock and consequent inability to carry out coherent policies.
A destabilizing fragmentation of the party system. PR can reflect and facilitate a fragmentation of the party system. It is possible that extreme pluralism can allow tiny minority parties to hold larger parties to ransom in coalition negotiations.
The proportional representation (PR) system in Europe and elsewhere, where seats are allocated roughly in accordance with the vote share, also produces distinct polarisations.
The 1978 Sri Lankan Constitution instituted the PR system. Since then, there has been ethnic polarisation despite the small parties getting seat shares higher than what they would have received in a FPTP system. o Similarly in Israel, which also enjoys a thoroughgoing PR system, there is severe polarisation in ethnic, religious and political terms.
Reasons behind Deteriorating relations between the ruling party and the Opposition
The confrontational situation in Parliament and other legislatures has heightened in the last couple of years.
This is due to the sharpening of the ideological level in politics, which reflects the cleavages in the society, and to the suspicion that the fundamentals of the system are being sought to be changed.
One of the general reasons for the adversarial relations between the ruling party and the Opposition is the failure in institutionalising the parliamentary system, which presupposes a certain negotiation, a spirit of give and take and continuous deliberation between the ruling party and the Opposition.
Weakening state parties and federal relations o Also, the ability of Central government in the last three decades to directly transfer resources to local bodies in the States bypassing the State government besides controlling the administrations of the States has weakened the State parties’ ability to take on the Central government.
Constitutional safeguards against executive’s dominance
There is a perception that the ruling party is pushing against the constitutional consensus, which is fairly strong in our system.
There are about three and a half layers of protection to the basic structure of our Constitution.
The government needs a two-thirds majority in both Houses subject to the presence of at least 50% of the House in attendance.
Then, it has to go through judicial review.
Finally, for some articles on Centre-State relations, it has to pass them through half the State Assemblies.
FPTP system with a preference rule system: Inthe Australian electoral system the first choice party with the plurality vote share will receive second/third choices of the voter in a process of elimination from the bottom, till it reaches the 50% threshold to be declared the winner.
Such an alternative system should be assessed in terms of the ease of its use for the voters.
But we must keep in mind that putting an extra burden on the voter in the act of voting is unfair.
Making the political system adequately competitive: Then that aspect of the FPTP system gets politically neutralised and parties tend to get a share of seats which is roughly commensurate to their vote share also.
Safeguards for smaller parties: We can have 10% of the seats in the legislature which are included based on the parties’ vote shares. This will ensure an entry point for smaller/ newer parties and keep the political system more competitive.
The larger point is if we artificially try to make the political system fairer, the natural competitiveness gets distorted and that is why India should generally prefer FPTP, both on the grounds of voters’ convenience and a natural competitiveness being allowed in the system.There is sufficient diversity at the societal level. There is the theory that in a socially diverse country, the party system will be diverse — it will not be limited to a two-party system.
Source: THE HINDU
Helping and Hindering Justice
GS 2 – Governance
Indian courts are taking help of technologies to its maximum extent but it has its own limits and over-reliance on technology is not a panacea to all the ills plaguing the courts.
On one hand technology is useful in tackling many challenges but courts have to examine its usage very carefully. The Supreme Court observation in the CoWIN portal case is a good example of this.
Court observed that relying solely on digital transformation may not be a great idea and it could result in exclusion of a large section of the population on account of the enumerated shortfalls.
Soon after this, the government said that CoWIN registration would no longer be mandatory for vaccination. Rising the challenge
During covid 19 pandemic, Courts have risen to the challenges posed by it by using technology but it is still an uphill task.
Steps taken by Court: In 2020, the Supreme Court also introduced a new system of e-filing and artificial intelligence-enabled referencing.
Court has not just a task of handling pandemic-created emergencies. It needs to harness technology in overcoming and resolving the intractable ills like massive backlog of cases and huge levels of judicial vacancies across the country at all levels.
Technology can help courts in reaching to all litigants in a cost-effective, convenient and efficient manner and can transform the creaking justice delivery system in India but overreliance on technology can also become counterproductive.
Though we have seen considerable investment to digitalise judicial infrastructure and administration but judiciary’s performance during the pandemic period has left a lot of questions.
National Judicial Data Grid Data shows that pendency reached an all-time high during this year of virtual functioning of the courts.
District courts’ pendency rose sharply by 18.2% between December 31, 2019 and December 31, 2020.
Across the 25 High Courts, pendency witnessed its sharpest increase of 20.4% in 2019-2020. Way Forward
Courts need to follow an evidence-based rational approach. It must be known that video conferencing in criminal cases has neither shortened trials nor reduced the number of people awaiting trial.
Though mobile phones are widely used across the country, access to the Internet is limited to urban users only and Lawyers in semi-urban and rural districts find online hearings challenging due to connectivity issues.
Technology cannot replace Judges and its way of work. Problem lies with the vacant posts in the judiciary which need to be filled.
Technology is useful only when it is deployed with adequate data-based planning and safeguards, otherwise, it is not immune to biases.
Shortage of technical infrastructure often resulting in online hearing curtailment cannot be a habit of convenience and open court must always be a cardinal principle in the delivery of justice.
Vision documents like ‘document for Phase III of the e-Courts Project’ have well addressed the problems related to judiciary’s digital deprivation. However, it must be known that there will always be an inherent resistance to change. Therefore, two preconditions need to be addressed: adequate trained manpower, and tailoring systems to the specifications and contexts that we require. This is more a matter related to mindset- not just of judges, but of litigants and lawyers as well and is linked closely to trust in digital interventions.
CONNECTING DOTS FOR PRELIMSeCourts Project
It was conceptualized on the basis of the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary – 2005” submitted by eCommittee, Supreme Court of India with a vision to transform the Indian Judiciary by ICT enablement of Courts.
The e Courts Mission Mode Project, is a Pan-India Project, monitored and funded by the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India for the District Courts across the country. The Project envisages
To provide efficient & time-bound citizen centric services delivery as detailed in eCourt Project Litigant’s Charter.
To develop, install & implement decision support systems in courts.
To automate the processes to provide transparency in accessibility of information to its stakeholders.
Phase III of the e-Courts project
There is commitment to the digitisation of court processes, and plans to upgrade the electronic infrastructure of the judiciary and enable access to lawyers and litigants.
The document proposes an “ecosystem approach” to justice delivery.
It suggests a “seamless exchange of information” between various branches of the State, such as between the judiciary, the police and the prison systems through the Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS).
Inter-operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) is a common platform for information exchange and analytics of all the pillars of the criminal justice system comprising Police, Forensics, Prosecution, Courts & Prisons.
Source: THE HINDU
Greater Malé Connectivity Project
Maldives government signed an agreement with Indian company AFCONS, for the construction of the Greater Malé Connectivity Project by 2023.
This is a follow-up agreement worth of 500 million US Dollar signed by India and Maldives in 2019.
This project was funded by India in a grant of $100 million, with a line of credit of $400 million.
Line of Credit is not a grant but a ‘soft loan’ provided on concessional interest rates to developing countries, which must be repaid by the borrowing government.
This infrastructure project is the largest-ever by India in the Maldives, and also the biggest infrastructure project in the Maldives overall.
It involves the construction of a 6.74-km-long bridge and causeway link that will connect the Maldives capital Malé with the neighbouring islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi.
Significance – This project is significant because it facilitates inter-island connectivity in the country.
Committee on Urban Co-operative Banks
The RBI’s expert committee on urban co-operative banks (UCBs) has suggested a four-tiered structure to regulate them, based on size of deposits.
Umbrella Organisation – The committee suggested setting up an Umbrella Organisation (UO) to oversee co-operative banks.
UO should be financially strong and be well governed by a professional board and senior management, both of which are fit and proper.
As an alternative to mandatory consolidation, the Committee preferred smaller banks acquiring scale via the network of the UO.
Merger – The Committee has suggested that the UCBs should be allowed to open more branches if they meet all regulatory requirements.
If the UCBs don’t meet the prudential requirements, the RBI should mandatorily merge or reconstruct the UCBs to resolve them.
Four-Tiers – UCBs may be categorised into 4 tiers for regulatory purposes, based on the banks’ cooperativeness, availability of capital and other factors,
Tier 1 with all unit UCBs and salary earner’s UCBs (irrespective of deposit size) and all other UCBs having deposits up to Rs 100 crore,
Tier 2 with UCBs of deposits between Rs 100 crore – 1,000 crore,
Tier 3 with UCBs of deposits between Rs 1,000 crore – 10,000 crore
Tier 4 with UCBs of deposits more than Rs 10,000 crore.
The Committee has suggested that the minimum Capital to Risk-Weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR) for them could vary from 9% to 15% and for Tier-4 UCBs the Basel III prescribed norms.
It has also prescribed separate ceilings for home loans, loan against gold ornaments and unsecured loans for different categories of UCBs.
SAF – The Supervisory Action Framework (SAF) should follow a twin-indicator approach instead of triple indicators at present in order to find a time-bound remedy to the financial stress of a bank.
So, the asset quality and capital should be measured only through two indicators NNPA and CRAR.
If a UCB remains under more stringent stages of SAF for a prolonged period, it may have an adverse effect on its operations and may further erode its financial position.
It is a new frog species that was discovered from the globally recognised biodiversity hotspot, the Western Ghats.
This new species is endemic to the southern Western Ghats – Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
It is also among the smallest known Minervarya frogs.
It is a species of frog in the fork-tongued frog family, Dicroglossidae.
Covid-19 to Become Endemic
The World Health Organization Chief Scientist said that Covid-19 may be entering a stage where it will become endemic.
Endemic refers to the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area.
Epidemic refers to a scenario when the number of cases of the disease increases, often suddenly, which means the cases are more than the expected levels.
This announcement means that some people will get infected but the levels at which it will circulate will be low to moderate, depending upon
Vaccine-induced immunity and
Geographical area’s population
When epidemics become endemic, they become “increasingly tolerated” and the responsibility of protecting against it shifts from the government to the individual.
A modelling study said that in a few years, SARS-CoV-2 may be no more virulent than the common cold.
The virus needs a host to survive, in the present case, it requires a human host to sustain its own survival.
Therefore as more people get infected or get vaccinated, the virus should become less life threatening, but it will still keep infecting people.
India’s Highest Herbal Park
At Mana, Uttarakhand, India’s highest herbal park was inaugurated.
The main aim of the herbal park is to conserve medicinally and culturally important alpine species, and to facilitate a study on the propagation of these species, as well as their ecology.
Most of the species of herbal plants conserved in this park built by Uttarakhand government are,
Found in high alpine areas in the Himalayan region,
Included in the “red list” of the IUCN, and
Declared “endangered and threatened” by State Biodiversity board.
The park is categorised into 4 sections – Sections for “Ashtavarga” species, Saussurea species, species associated with Badrinath (Lord Vishnu), and for assorted alpine species.
“Ashtavarga” species consists of group of 8 Himalayan herbs.
The land for the project was provided by Mana Van panchayat under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act (CAMPA).
Absolute IAS Academy was started with the essential target of providing training to civil service aspirants in an engaged way and preparing them to effectively qualify civil services examination conducted by UPSC, a standout amongst the most difficult examination across the globe.