Editorial Notes

Editorial Notes 23rd December 2016

Card Transactions; Challenges to digital push; Suggestions; Phenomenon of Anti-Incumbency
By IT's Editorial Notes Team
December 23, 2016


GS (M) Paper-2: “Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.”


In it for the short haul



According to a study, the average turnover of the members of the Uttar Pradesh state assembly between 1957 and 2012 was 58.5%. In other words, it means that on an average, nearly 60% of the members of the legislative assembly are first-time MLAs, in every assembly.

This number is high if one compares UP with most other democracies, where individual incumbency is the norm rather than the exception.

In the United States Congress, for instance, individual incumbency can be as high as 90%, the incumbent candidate benefiting from their established reputation and party support.

Main concern:

In India, the phenomenon of anti-incumbency, or the propensity of voters to reject those they elected in the previous election, is well known.

Even if governmental incumbency has increased in India in recent years, UP remains highly volatile: No government there has served two consecutive mandates since 1985.

Reasons behind this volatility:

  1. The first reason is that less than half of incumbent MLAs re-run after their first election, as parties frequently deny them a ticket for their own re-election. Parties may do so to prevent anti-incumbency, or to punish non-performing representatives. They may also change their local caste alliance and ditch their representatives accordingly.
  2. The second reason for the high turnover is that in every election, a number of sitting MLAs change party affiliation, hoping to join a stronger party.
  3. The third reason for high individual anti-incumbency comes from voters themselves, who tend to reject the people they voted for in the previous election.

Three important political consequences:

  1. The first is that the assembly has to work with a majority of inexperienced MLAs. One can laud the democratic value of alternation or of the rapid renewal of political elites, but a high turnover of representatives means a loss of accumulated experience after every election.
  2. A second consequence is that, considering the costs incurred and the hardships undergone to enter into politics, a short political life expectancy acts as a powerful inducement for predatory behaviour. In other words, legislators who spent crores of rupees to get elected know that they have a little less than five years to recoup their investment.
  3. A third consequence is that political power tends to be concentrated within a few hands, as the stable political class, or those who succeed in being elected more than twice, comprises on average about a hundred individuals at any point of time since Independence.
[Ref: Indian Express]


GS (M) Paper-3: “Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.”
GS (M) Paper-3: “Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.”


Digital hurdles



  • According to a new SBI report, card transactions have fallen to a nine-month low, posing a new challenge to the government’s demonetisation drive.
  • According to the report, the aggregate of debit and card transactions at point of source (PoS) terminals fell to a little more than Rs 35,000 crore in November, the lowest since February.


  • That the decline happened even when most banks have reported an increase in the number of transactions involving swipe cards after the announcement of the demonetisation drive throws up issues which the government must address.
  • It signifies a fall in consumer sentiment. People seem to be using their debit and credit cards for purchases of relatively inexpensive items, while there has been a sharp fall in big ticket purchases. This does not augur well for the economy.

Challenges to digital push:

  • A PoS machine costs between Rs 4,000 and Rs 8,000. There are low cost options but these require the use of smartphones. Given that only about 250 million people in the country have such phones, it’s difficult to imagine that the seemingly low cost options will be adopted without sound incentives.
  • The government took more than a month to announce incentives for cashless transactions. But these incentives did not address the problems at the level of digital infrastructure.
  • Also, people prefer making their purchases in cash because they are not convinced about data safety in digital transactions. In fact, a security breach a few weeks before the demonetisation drive had forced the SBI to recall more than three lakh debit cards.


  • The report points to the necessity of bolstering the digital transaction infrastructure. There are about 15 lakh PoS machines in the country. The report points out that the country needs an additional 20 lakh such machines. A vast majority of these should be in tier II and tier III cities, and in rural areas.
  • The government should bring in a privacy law with strong liability clauses to allay people’s fears. All this should be accompanied by robust awareness drives, hardly in evidence so far.
  • Bank officials have to play a major role in this endeavour. But they have their hands full in the aftermath of demonetisation.

Way ahead:

  • The SBI report is a warning that the economy needs a push. Sound digital infrastructure and robust privacy laws could be the first steps in that direction.
[Ref: Indian Express]


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