28th FEBRUARY 2017
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
GS II: POLITY – ELECTIONS
- What is NOTA in electoral politics in India? Discuss its utility and consequences on electoral results in India.
- Three years, one Lok Sabha election and four rounds of Assembly elections have passed since the introduction of ‘None of The Above’ (NOTA) option in the Indian electoral system.
- NOTA was introduced in India following the 2013 Supreme Court directive in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India judgment.
- Thus, India became the 14th country to institute negative voting.
- However, NOTA in India does not provide for a ‘right to reject’. The candidate with the maximum votes wins the election irrespective of the number of NOTA votes polled.
- The 2016 Assembly elections also saw some active canvassing for NOTA, which allows voters to express their dissent against all the contestants.
- In Kerala, a group of women activists hit the road urging people not to elect any candidate if no woman was present in the fray.
- In Tamil Nadu, a youth group campaigned for NOTA as a protest vote against corruption.
Implications of NOTA
- NOTA polling figures are still small. On an average, the maximum NOTA vote share has not crossed 2.02% of the total votes polled in any election cycle.
- The perceived cynicism of Indian voters against the political class thus seems exaggerated.
- One can argue that the NOTA votes did make a difference to the election results assuming that in the absence of this option a majority of NOTA voters would have preferred one or the other candidate in the fray.
Analysis of NOTA usage
- A quick analysis of NOTA usage in all elections so far does suggest some interesting early pointers.
- First, reserved constituencies have seen a relatively larger number of NOTA votes, which points to the continued social prejudice against political reservation for SC/STs.
- Second, constituencies affected by left-wing extremism have also recorded higher NOTA performance and here probably it served as an instrument of protest against the State itself.
- Last, NOTA figures are comparatively higher in those constituencies which have seen a direct contest between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. One may read into this some indication of the people’s disenchantment with two mainstream political parties and yearning for alternatives.
- Overall, Indian voters seem to be using NOTA not just to show their disapproval of the candidates in the fray but to express their protest against many things they perceive wrong in the political system.
- So far, a small number of Indian voters have come to see NOTA as an instrument of protest.
- This electoral option will become a meaningful means of negative voting only if it becomes a ‘right to reject’ rather than being a symbolic instrument to express resentment as it is now.
- A PIL has already been filed in Madras High Court seeking the full right to reject in place of NOTA.
GS II: BILATERAL INDIA-USA
- Discuss the cases regarding domestic content requirement in the renewable energy sector which India and USA have against each other at WTO. Can this dispute be amicably resolved?
USA’s case against India at WTO:
- In September 2016, India lost the case brought by the U.S. on the domestic content requirement under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), which, the U.S. claims, violates World Trade Organisation (WTO) law.
- JNNSM required that 20 gigawatt (GW) of solar power should be generated from domestically produced modules or solar cells.
- The WTO found that the mandatory domestic content requirement under JNNSM violated the National Treatment provision of Article III:4 of the WTO agreement.
Amicable resolution efforts:
- The Indian government has significantly reduced the domestic content requirement after the initiation of proceedings at the WTO.
- At the beginning of the mission, the domestic content requirement in the auctioned contracts was as much as 50% of the total output generating capacity. This value dropped significantly through the auctions and is currently down to 5%. The U.S. is still unsatisfied with the measures undertaken by the government.
Efforts before WTO ruling:
- Before the final judgment was delivered by the WTO, there was a lot of chatter about the case being settled by the two governments.
- Assurances were given by high-ranking officials from both nations that a settlement would be reached.
- The Indian government also offered to restrict the domestic content requirement to government-owned companies, saying that only public sector undertakings would be mandated to use domestically produced modules.
Efforts after WTO ruling:
- After the WTO ruling was delivered, India asked the U.S. not to implement it.
- Under WTO law, the complainant can give 15 months to the defendant to implement the ruling.
- If 15 months were provided, India would be able to complete the JNNSM without having to painstakingly restructure the entire mission. After the 15-month period, the ruling would be applicable.
- However, nothing meaningful came from from these negotiations.
India’s case against USA at WTO:
- In September 2016, India requested consultations with the U.S. under the dispute settlement system regarding alleged domestic content requirements and subsidies provided by eight U.S. states.
- India alleges that these states have been granting subsidies to local manufacturers in the renewable energy industry along with the requirement that the products be made domestically.
- As India lost the case filed by the U.S. at the WTO, critics claim that the present case has been filed by India as a reciprocation.
- India seems to be charging the U.S. of the same issues in the same field to leverage a settlement in the case that it lost.
- The Indian government then announced that it had decided to file many cases against the U.S. because eight of the latter’s states had domestic content requirements in the renewable energy sector.
Resolution efforts under Trump:
- Few imagined that India would pursue the dispute and ask the WTO to establish a panel.
- The decision to not pursue the formation of a WTO dispute resolution panel came after Indian officials met the transition team of U.S. President Donald Trump and were assured that a settlement would be reached.
- It was decided that the cases would not be pursued further and that the Trump administration would seriously consider the settlement once in office.
- The request for the establishment of a panel came on January 24, 2017.
- The reasons stated by India include that the eight U.S. states were giving “performance-based incentives” for generating renewable energy.
- These incentives were contingent on the fact that domestically produced goods were being used and were given to offset the investment cost.
- India claims that this violates Article III:4 because the measures provide less favourable treatment to imported products than domestically produced goods.
- Even though India has requested establishment of the panel, is it still possible that an amicable solution may be found.
- However, with the new Trump administration and its ‘America First’ policy, there is a good chance that the panel will be established and the case argued before the WTO.
- This would affect relations between the U.S. and India.
- Both the cases are in fact the same, so it would be in the best interest of both nations to settle it.