Mizoram not only reined in its high fiscal deficit of 2014-15 — 9% of its gross state domestic product — but also clocked a surplus of 2.7% and 1.3% in 2015-16 and 2016-17, respectively.
The election-bound Northeastern state, however, has seen a fall in its expenditure on the social sector, development and education. Its social sector expenditure fell from 25.1% of its GSDP in 2014-15 to 9.1% in 2017-18, compared with a national average of 6.7% and 7.9%. Development expenditure, which in 2014-15 was much higher than the national average as a proportion of GDP, fell through the last four years in Mizoram even as the national average moved higher.
One parameter in which Mizoram continued to perform better than India was health spending. India’s expenditure (as a percentage of total expenditure) remained largely flat over the four years, while Mizoram’s rose slightly in 2015-16 and 2016-17, before falling in 2017-18.
This Word Means: Breach of privilege
BJP MP Nishikant Dubey wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan recently, giving notice for raising a question of privilege against Congress MP Veerappa Moily (The Indian Express, November 23). What is privilege in the context of Parliament? As British Constitutional theorist Erskine May defines it, “Parliamentary privilege is the sum of certain rights enjoyed by each House collectively… and by members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals. Some privileges rest solely on the law and custom of Parliament, while others have been defined by statute. Certain rights and immunities such as freedom from arrest or freedom of speech belong primarily to individual members of each House and exist because the House cannot perform its functions without unimpeded use of the services of its members.”
Dubey’s allegation pertains to making public certain information that is the property of the House. The rulebook says: “Closely linked with the power to exclude strangers is the power of the House to prohibit publication of its debates and proceedings. Under the Constitution, absolute immunity from proceedings in any court of law has been conferred on all persons connected with the publication of proceedings of either House of Parliament, if such publication is made by or under the authority of the House. The publication of proceedings of Parliament is subject to the control of the respective Houses. The Secretary-General is authorised to prepare and publish a full report of the proceedings of the House in such form and manner as the Chairman from time to time directs.”
Tip for Reading List: Atheist takes on other atheists
Philosopher John Gray, widely known as an atheist, makes a scathing criticism of various kinds of atheists in his latest book. Seven Types of Atheism is particularly scathing about “the “new atheists” in whom he sees contradictions. In an interview published in Vox, Gray says: “The New Atheists — Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and others —attack religions in the sublime confidence that these religions are myths and that they themselves harbour no myths, but that’s not true.” Although they react against God, the “new atheists” have taken over many of the assumptions of those who believe in God, Gray notes. “… Most recent forms of atheism have substituted faith in humanity for faith in God and assumed that with the aid of science life will get better,” a review in The Guardian says. In the Vox interview, Gray counters the “new atheist’s” view that religion is a solution to the problem of knowledge: “Religion is a body of practices, of stories and images, whereby humans create or find meanings in their lives. In other words, it’s not a search for explanation. Even if everything in the world were suddenly explained by science, we would still be asking what it all means.”