The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Proposed life ban for convicted politicians is at odds with our reformative system

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story

The Election Commission on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it favoured banning politicians convicted of serious crimes from contesting elections for the rest of their lives. The commission was responding to the court after Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Upadhyay filed a petition demanding a lifetime ban on convicted politicians with the aim of decriminalising politics. The Election Commission had earlier been unclear about the issue, telling the Supreme Court in July that Upadhyay’s plea was “not adversarial” and that it supported the idea of decriminalising politics. At the time, the Supreme Court chided the panel for not being clear in its response and demanded that it spell out an official position on a lifetime ban.

The Commission has now done so. Currently, politicians who are convicted of crimes that carry a jail sentence of more than two years are barred from contesting elections for six years after they leave prison. If the Election Commission’s recommendations become the rule, they would not be permitted to contest elections ever again. For example, this would mean that former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav or the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s VK Sasikala would be barred from fighting elections.

Upadhyay’s plea was, to some extent, a demand for parity. He pointed out that public servants are debarred from holding any government job if they are convicted even for a year, “but people’s representatives are totally immune from such deterrent penalties”. His plea, however, is predicated on the suggestion that the current rules for disqualification of Members of Parliament or state assemblies for six years is ultra vires the Constitution or beyond its scope.
The Centre, replying to the petition in April, opposed Upadhyay’s view on legislative grounds, saying simply that the courts have no cause to intervene when Parliament has created a law to this end. That is a sensible view and one the court ought to take into consideration despite the Election Commission’s recommendation. But even if Parliament were to consider a lifetime ban, that would be problematic.

There is a reason that India’s judicial system does not itself have true life sentences. Prison terms in the country are meant to be reformative, not punitive. Although reality may not match the intention, the idea of putting someone in jail is not just to punish them but to provide them with the conditions to re-enter society. A lifetime ban flies in the face of this, since it gives convicted politicians no chance or incentive to reform themselves. At the same time, bans aren’t exactly always useful either, as the continued political involvement of Lalu Prasad Yadav shows.

Considering all this, it is important for India to uphold the principles of its judicial system. We seek to reform and not punish. Following that, voters are wise enough to judge politicians who have finished their jail terms. The current system, a limited ban of six years – meant to be a deterrent and also a means of preventing the immediate use of coercive criminal power – seems both sensible and appropriate.

Subscribe to “The Daily Fix” by either downloading Scroll’s Android app or opting for it to be delivered to your mailbox. For the rest of the day’s headlines do click here.

If you have any concerns about our coverage of particular issues, please write to the Readers’ Editor at


  1. The recapitalisation effort is useless without accompanying reforms that can prevent a recurrence, writes Ajit Ranadae in the Hindu.
  2. “An unthinking diversion of the armed forces for routine civilian tasks seems highly affordable but has long-term costs for the country. The government should remember the lessons from the 1950s,” writes Sushant Sinha in the Indian Express.
  3. “Policymakers would do well to build on recent gains with an accelerated pace of reforms in areas such as land, labour and contract enforcement, which will help push investment and growth in the medium to long run,” says a leader in Mint.
  4. “Despite the power differential, India successfully raised the cost of China’s land grab activities at Doklam, a feat that even the U.S. has struggled to accomplish in East Asia,” writes Samir Saran in the Hindustan Times.


Don’t miss

Girish Shahane says that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was a bigot not just by modern standards but also by the ones held by his peers and predecessors.

“Should we not criticise sportspersons who take money to fix matches unless they do so in most games they play? Should we defend sexual predators on the grounds that the vast majority of their interactions with women are respectful? Should we object to a serial killer being called a psychopath because we can’t be sure why he targeted particular victims but not hundreds of other people he met? It is important to push back against the Hindutvavadi idea of Muslim rulers as genocidal maniacs who destroyed shrines indiscriminately. But it is imperative we do it without explaining away Muslim religious prejudice where it exists. That’s what clear eyed thinkers like Tagore, Nehru, Gandhi and Ambedkar managed in their assessment of medieval India. For all their differences, none of them turned apologists for past zealotry in their effort to counter contemporary biases. It’s a pity that Truschke fails to distinguish between Nehru’s assessment of Aurangzeb and that of Hindu right-wingers.”

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Relying on the power of habits to solve India’s mammoth sanitation problem

Adopting three simple habits can help maximise the benefits of existing sanitation infrastructure.

India’s sanitation problem is well documented – the country was recently declared as having the highest number of people living without basic sanitation facilities. Sanitation encompasses all conditions relating to public health - especially sewage disposal and access to clean drinking water. Due to associated losses in productivity caused by sickness, increased healthcare costs and increased mortality, India recorded a loss of 5.2% of its GDP to poor sanitation in 2015. As tremendous as the economic losses are, the on-ground, human consequences of poor sanitation are grim - about one in 10 deaths, according to the World Bank.

Poor sanitation contributes to about 10% of the world’s disease burden and is linked to even those diseases that may not present any correlation at first. For example, while lack of nutrition is a direct cause of anaemia, poor sanitation can contribute to the problem by causing intestinal diseases which prevent people from absorbing nutrition from their food. In fact, a study found a correlation between improved sanitation and reduced prevalence of anaemia in 14 Indian states. Diarrhoeal diseases, the most well-known consequence of poor sanitation, are the third largest cause of child mortality in India. They are also linked to undernutrition and stunting in children - 38% of Indian children exhibit stunted growth. Improved sanitation can also help reduce prevalence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Though not a cause of high mortality rate, NTDs impair physical and cognitive development, contribute to mother and child illness and death and affect overall productivity. NTDs caused by parasitic worms - such as hookworms, whipworms etc. - infect millions every year and spread through open defecation. Improving toilet access and access to clean drinking water can significantly boost disease control programmes for diarrhoea, NTDs and other correlated conditions.

Unfortunately, with about 732 million people who have no access to toilets, India currently accounts for more than half of the world population that defecates in the open. India also accounts for the largest rural population living without access to clean water. Only 16% of India’s rural population is currently served by piped water.

However, there is cause for optimism. In the three years of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the country’s sanitation coverage has risen from 39% to 65% and eight states and Union Territories have been declared open defecation free. But lasting change cannot be ensured by the proliferation of sanitation infrastructure alone. Ensuring the usage of toilets is as important as building them, more so due to the cultural preference for open defecation in rural India.

According to the World Bank, hygiene promotion is essential to realise the potential of infrastructure investments in sanitation. Behavioural intervention is most successful when it targets few behaviours with the most potential for impact. An area of public health where behavioural training has made an impact is WASH - water, sanitation and hygiene - a key issue of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6. Compliance to WASH practices has the potential to reduce illness and death, poverty and improve overall socio-economic development. The UN has even marked observance days for each - World Water Day for water (22 March), World Toilet Day for sanitation (19 November) and Global Handwashing Day for hygiene (15 October).

At its simplest, the benefits of WASH can be availed through three simple habits that safeguard against disease - washing hands before eating, drinking clean water and using a clean toilet. Handwashing and use of toilets are some of the most important behavioural interventions that keep diarrhoeal diseases from spreading, while clean drinking water is essential to prevent water-borne diseases and adverse health effects of toxic contaminants. In India, Hindustan Unilever Limited launched the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, a WASH behaviour change programme, to complement the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Through its on-ground behaviour change model, SASB seeks to promote the three basic WASH habits to create long-lasting personal hygiene compliance among the populations it serves.

This touching film made as a part of SASB’s awareness campaign shows how lack of knowledge of basic hygiene practices means children miss out on developmental milestones due to preventable diseases.


SASB created the Swachhata curriculum, a textbook to encourage adoption of personal hygiene among school going children. It makes use of conceptual learning to teach primary school students about cleanliness, germs and clean habits in an engaging manner. Swachh Basti is an extensive urban outreach programme for sensitising urban slum residents about WASH habits through demos, skits and etc. in partnership with key local stakeholders such as doctors, anganwadi workers and support groups. In Ghatkopar, Mumbai, HUL built the first-of-its-kind Suvidha Centre - an urban water, hygiene and sanitation community centre. It provides toilets, handwashing and shower facilities, safe drinking water and state-of-the-art laundry operations at an affordable cost to about 1,500 residents of the area.

HUL’s factory workers also act as Swachhata Doots, or messengers of change who teach the three habits of WASH in their own villages. This mobile-led rural behaviour change communication model also provides a volunteering opportunity to those who are busy but wish to make a difference. A toolkit especially designed for this purpose helps volunteers approach, explain and teach people in their immediate vicinity - their drivers, cooks, domestic helps etc. - about the three simple habits for better hygiene. This helps cast the net of awareness wider as regular interaction is conducive to habit formation. To learn more about their volunteering programme, click here. To learn more about the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hindustan Unilever and not by the Scroll editorial team.