23rd November 2019
TOPIC: Elections in India (paper II)
Discuss the opacity around electoral bonds.
The recent disclosures that the Election Commission and the Reserve bank of India had expressed reservations about the Electoral Bonds scheme highlight the importance of this issue.
Need for funds:
- Money plays an increasingly larger role in elections.
- Today, India spends more on elections than the U.S. with a per capita GDP that is 3% of the U.S.
- Today, having more money does not guarantee success, but, at the other extreme, having no money certainly guarantees defeat.
- Some party may win a one-off election by spending very little, but sustaining victory over several elections requires funds.
- To reach voters, candidates and parties use hoardings and advertisements on printed, electronic and social media.
- They hold election rallies.
- In India, there is the added expenditure of buying votes through distribution of gifts, money, and liquor and so on.
Proper laws for the electoral bonds:
- The voter does not know who is funding whom through electoral bonds.
- This is supposed to protect the donors from harassment from the authorities.
- However, such harassment is always by the party in power through law enforcement agencies- police, the central bureau of Investigation, the Intelligence Bureau, and The Enforcement Directorate and so on.
- The simple remedy is to stop such motivated actions.
- However, the bank knows the purchaser of the bonds as well as the party that cashed it.
- The law agencies can obtain this information whenever they want.
- Can the ruling party use this to demand donations for itself, prevent donations to others, and use the law enforcement agencies to harass those who donate to rival parties?
- There is nothing in the electoral bonds scheme or existing laws to prevent this from happening.
Setback to democracy:
- Various commissions, including the Election Commission, have given detailed recommendations on suitable remedies.
- But, to date, no government has acted on them.
- We also need to benchmark ourselves against the best international practices and laws on campaign funding.
- Details are many, but there are a few simple principles for such remedies.
- First is complete transparency in all funding.
- Second, political parties need to be under the Right to Information Act.
- The central Information Commission ruled that they were, but the parties refuse to follow its directions.
Voters need to demand changes and we need voter awareness campaigns. The Supreme Court is hearing a petition on electoral bonds scheme. Let us hope Indian democracy survives without going through another crisis.
23rd November 2019
TOPIC: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests. (Paper II)
Discuss the two-state solution in Israel and Palestine.
The US administration declared that the Israeli settlements on the West Bank are not illegal. The decision is in line with President Donald Trump’s Israel policy, which has unconditionally favored the nation.
- This challenges international laws and consensus on the issue.
- It also complicates the already-stalled peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Line of events
- In 2017, Trump announced that the U.S. would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That broke an international consensus that the status of Jerusalem should be settled as part of a peace agreement.
- In 2019, the US recognised the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 war, as part of Israel.
- With the recognition of the Jewish settlements on the West Bank, the US has boosted Israel’s religious right, which wants the settlements to be annexed.
- The UN General Assembly, the Security Council and the International Court of Justice have all stated that the Israeli settlements on the West Bank are illegal.
- According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power “shall not transfer parts of its civilian population into the territory it occupies”.
- There are at least 4,00,000 Israeli settlers on the West Bank.
- The ‘security barrier’ Israel has built has cut deeper into the West Bank to incorporate some of the settlements.
- The check-points Israel has set up across the West Bank restrict the movement of Palestinians.
Two state solution
- Palestine wants the two-state solution implemented only based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state of Palestine. Israel is non-committal on Jerusalem.
- The right of return of the Palestinian refugees forced from their homes during the 1948 war remains an issue.
- Israel has already taken effective control of a huge chunk of the West Bank through the settlements.
- UNSC has asked Israel to stall the settlement activities, but Israel has hardly paid any attention to international opinion.
If Israel goes ahead with the annexation of the settlements, that will be the last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.