Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 23 September 2023

Issue of delimitation in Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam — The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, which provides for 33% reservation for women in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies — was passed by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. However, it might be several years before the reservation becomes applicable — mainly because it has been made contingent on the delimitation exercise.

What does the Bill say about the implementation of the quota?

  • The Bill says the provisions of the new law shall come into effect “after an exercise of delimitation” undertaken “after the relevant figures for the first Census” carried out “after the commencement” of this law is “published”.
  • In other words, the implementation of the reservation provision is not immediate, and is contingent on two processes — a delimitation exercise, and a CensusDelimitation is the process of redrawing Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies based on the latest population data.
  • Under the provisions of the Bill, the 2021 Census — whenever it is actually carried out — will become the basis for the delimitation exercise that would result in an increase, and redefining of boundaries, of Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies.
  • Of these increased numbers of Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies, 33% would be reserved for women, whenever the next elections are due.
  • Since the 2024 elections are now only months away, the 2029 election is the earliest that women’s reservation could take effect in Lok Sabha — provided the Census is carried out and its findings are published, and the delimitation exercise is completed before that.

Why is delimitation needed, and how is it carried out?

  • The boundaries of Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies must be redrawn to ensure equitable representation — so that the vote of every person carries similar weight.
  • Lok Sabha constituencies have to be allotted to every state in a manner that the ratio of the number of constituencies and the population of the state is broadly similar.
  • A similar approach is adopted for state Assemblies as well. As populations change, there is a need to readjust the number and boundaries of the constituencies.
  • Apart from population figures, delimitation also aims at a fair division of geographical areas into seats to guard against allegations of gerrymandering, which means redrawing seat boundaries in a way that no political party has an unfair advantage over another.
  • It is a constitutional requirement to carry out delimitation of constituencies after every Census. Article 82 of the Constitution (“Readjustment after each census”) mandates the “readjustment” in the allocation of seats to every state in Lok Sabha, and the division of every state into constituencies “upon completion of each Census”.
  • Articles 81, 170, 330, and 332, which deal with the composition and reservation of seats in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies, also refer to this “readjustment”.
  • The delimitation exercise is conducted by an independent delimitation commission. Its decisions are considered final, unchallengeable in any court, to prevent indefinite delays in elections.

When was the last delimitation exercise carried out?

  • While the Census has been carried out seven times since Independence, delimitation has happened only four times — in 1952, 1963, 1973, and 2002.
  • The last delimitation exercise, in 2002, only involved itself with redrawing the boundaries of constituencies.
  • It did not result in the increase in the number of constituencies. This means that the number of Lok Sabha constituencies has not changed since 1976.
  • The Constitution has been amended suitably — the 42nd Amendment Act in 197684th Amendment Act in 2001, and 87th Amendment Act in 2003 — to allow for deviations from the original provisions.
  • As per the current provisions in the Constitution, the next delimitation exercise should take place on the basis of the first Census carried out after 2026 that is 25 years after the 84th Amendment.
  • In normal course, this would have meant that delimitation would happen after the 2031 Census. However, the Census of 2021 could not be carried out due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • If everything progresses smoothly, and swiftly, the 2029 general elections could be held with an increased number of Lok Sabha seats.

 Separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh surrender

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

Armenian separatist forces in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region of the South Caucasus surrendered and agreed to a ceasefire, after Azerbaijan began an offensive to restore its full control over the territory. Under the agreement, effective from 20 September 2023, separatist forces will disband and talk on the future of the region and the ethnic Armenians who live there.

More about the conflict

  • For approximately four decadesterritorial disputes and ethnic conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan have severely impacted the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
  • The two countries went to war over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, and months after the war, Russia brokered a truce.
  • But now, with Moscow’s attention diverted by the war in Ukraine, tensions have resurfaced.

Recent developments in Nagorno-Karabakh

  • For the past nine months, Azerbaijan has imposed a blockade on the only route into the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia, known as the Lachin Corridor.
  • The residents of Nagorno-Karabakh have accused Azerbaijan of causing a humanitarian crisis since December 2022 when the blockade was first imposed, saying that it has resulted in the crippling of critical civilian infrastructure like access to gaselectricityhealth services, and internet accessNagorno-Karabakh has also accused Azerbaijan of blocking the import of essential goods and causing the shortage of everyday supplies like food and water.
  • On 19 September 2023, air raid sirens rang out and the sound of artillery and gunfire could be heard in Stepanakert, Karabakh’s main city, which resulted in damage to residential buildings.
  • These recent “anti-terror” operations, Azerbaijan says, have been launched in response to the death of six of its citizens, including two police officers, in landmine explosions on 19 September 2023.

Background of the conflict

  • Nagorno-Karabakh is a mountainous and heavily forested region that under international law is recognised as part of Azerbaijan. However, ethnic Armenians who constitute the vast majority of the population reject Azeri rule.
  • After Azerbaijan’s troops were pushed out of the region following a war in the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Unionethnic Armenians have been in administrative control of Nagorno-Karabakh, with support from Armenia.
  • But the region has been the focus of a long-standing dispute between both countries for years, with each laying its claim on the territory.
  • In September 2020, clashes broke out that rapidly escalated to become the deadliest since the 1990s.
  • Back then, Armenia had said it was Azerbaijan that reopened the conflict by launching a major offensive in September 2020, while Baku had claimed it was forced to respond to provocations by the other side.
  • In 2020, when Azerbaijan had recaptured areas in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, the escalating conflict was halted following a truce monitored by Russian peacekeepers.
  • Following the escalation this week, some of the estimated 120,000 ethnic Armenians who live in this mountainous enclave have had to relocate.

India slips in economic freedom index

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

India has fallen one notch to the 87th position out of 165 countries on the economic freedom index, according to a report released. The country was at the 86th spot in previous year's rankings. The 'Economic Freedom of the World: 2021 Annual Report' by Canada's Fraser Institute has been released in India in conjunction with New Delhi-based think tank Centre For Civil Society.

More about the report

  • From 1980 to nowIndia's rating has gone up considerably, from 4.90 to 6.62 but our rank has fallen.
  • This means while India is improving considerably in absolute terms but is not doing enough relative to other countries. However, in South AsiaIndia is doing pretty well, as per the report.
  • India reported a marginal increase in the size of government (7.64 from 7.57) and regulation of credit, labour and business (5.98 from 5.96), while it was down slightly in legal system and property rights (5.29 from 5.3) and freedom to trade internationally (6.19 from 6.27). A score closer to 10 indicates a higher level of economic freedom.
  • India ranks 114th out of 165 countries in freedom to trade internationally and 116th in regulation. Prioritising reforms in these areas is crucial.

Other countries in ranking

  • According to the report, Singapore topped the index. It was followed by Hong Kong, Switzerland, New Zealand, the US, Ireland, Denmark, Australia, the UK, and Canada.
  • India has been ranked higher than China, which stands at the 111th position. Venezuela once again ranks last.
  • Other notable rankings include Japan (20th)Germany (23rd)France (47th), and Russia (104th).

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