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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 17 March 2020

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. State Election Commissions.

2. What are starred questions?

3. Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019.

4. West Bengal invokes Epidemic Diseases Act.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Appropriation Bill.

2. Bharat Stage Emission Standards (BSES).

3. Uranium Contamination in Ground Water.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Article 80.

2. Pakke tiger reserve.

 

PIB one liner facts.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

State Election Commission

What to study?

For Prelims: SEC- composition, functions and powers.

For Mains: Issues surrounding their autonomy and functioning, ways to address them.

Context: The Andhra Pradesh government has filed petitions in the Supreme Court and the High Court over the issue of the State Election Commission (SEC) postponing the local body elections citing the COVID-19 threat.

What is the issue?

  • The government, in its petition before the apex court, accused the SEC of not taking it into confidence while taking the major decision of deferring the polls and called the move anti- constitutional. 
  • The government also found fault with the SEC for not consulting the High Court on whose instructions the elections were scheduled.

About the State Election Commission:

The Constitution of India vests in the State Election Commission, consisting of a State Election Commissioner, the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of all elections to the Panchayats and the Municipalities (Articles 243K, 243ZA).

The State Election Commissioner is appointed by the Governor.

As per article 243(C3) the Governor, when so requested by the State Election Commission, make available to the State Election Commission such staff as may be necessary for the discharge of the functions conferred on the SEC by clause (1).

What was the need for State Election Commissions?

Under the Constitution, establishment of local self-government institutions is the responsibility of the states (entry 5, List II, Seventh Schedule).

However, experience showed that not all state governments were serious about empowering Panchayati Raj institutions as elections were not being conducted regularly.

The Constitution was amended in 1992 to define the term (five years) for these institutions. Simultaneously, another provision was made for setting up a constitutional authority, the SEC, on the lines of the EC to conduct regular panchayat elections.

The ECI and SECs have a similar mandate; do they also have similar powers?

The provisions of Article 243K of the Constitution, which provides for setting up of SECs, are almost identical to those of Article 324 related to the EC. In other words, the SECs enjoy the same status as the EC.

In 2006, the Supreme Court emphasised the two constitutional authorities enjoy the same powers. In Kishan Singh Tomar vs Municipal Corporation of the City of Ahmedabad, the Supreme Court directed that state governments should abide by orders of the SECs during the conduct of the panchayat and municipal elections, just like they follow the instructions of the EC during Assembly and Parliament polls.

How far can courts intervene?

Courts cannot interfere in the conduct of polls to local bodies and self-government institutions once the electoral process has been set in motion.

Article 243-O of the Constitution bars interference in poll matters set in motion by the SECs; Article 329 bars interference in such matters set in motion by the EC.

Only after the polls are over can the SECs’ decisions or conduct be questioned through an election petition.

These powers enjoyed by the SECs are the same as those by the EC.

In practice, are the SECs as independent as the EC?

Although state election commissioners are appointed by the state governors and can only be removed by impeachment, in the last two decades many have struggled to assert their independence.

One of the most widely remembered cases of confrontation happened in Maharashtra in 2008. Then state election commissioner Nand Lal was arrested and sent to jail for two days in March 2008 after the Assembly found him guilty of breach of privilege in an alleged conflict over his jurisdiction and powers. Lal had asserted that as the state election commissioner he had the power to hold elections to the offices of mayor, deputy mayor, sarpanch and deputy sarpanch. After a Congress MLA moved a privilege motion objecting to the notification, the privileges committee of the Assembly asked him to appear and explain. Lal did not, which led to the committee concluding that he was creating hurdles in “constitutional and legislative functions”, a breach of privilege. He was sent for two days of civil imprisonment.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Breach of privilege- application, implications and provisions in this regard.
  2. Applicability of impeachment process for various bodies under the Indian Constitution.
  3. Article 243 vs 324, similarities and differences in powers of state election commissions vs Election Commission of India.
  4. Appeals against decisions of Election Commissions.
  5. Elections to Parliament and state legislatures vs Local Bodies.

Mains Link:

Are the State Election Commissions in India as independent as the Election Commission of India? Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

What are starred questions?

What to study?

For Prelims and mains: Difference between Starred and unstarred questions, supplementary questions.

Context: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi recently said his right as an MP to ask a supplementary question in Lok Sabha was taken away as Speaker Om Birla did not allow him to ask one. 

Rahul Gandhi was asking the government to name wilful bank loan defaulters, but was not allowed another supplementary question amid uproar in the lower house.

The right of MPs to question:

Members of Parliament have a right to ask questions which is one of the devices available to them to seek information on matters of public importance.

The Question Hour is one such mechanism in which the members ask questions on varied aspects of administration and governmental activity.

What is Question hour?

  • The first hour of every parliamentary sitting is termed as Question hour.
  • It is mentioned in the Rules of Procedure of the House.
  • During this time, the members ask questions and the ministers usually give answers.

How many starred questions can be asked?

The number of starred questions was fixed at 20 per Question Hour from the fourth session of the fifth Lok Sabha in 1972.

Type of Questions:

Members have a right to ask questions to elicit information on matters of public importance within the special cognizance of the Ministers concerned. The questions are of three types:

Starred Questions: A Starred Question is one to which a member desires an oral answer from the Minister in the House and is required to be distinguished by him/her with an asterisk. Answer to such a question may be followed by supplementary questions by members.

Unstarred Questions: An Unstarred Question is one to which written answer is desired by the member and is deemed to be laid on the Table of the House by Minister. Thus it is not called for oral answer in the House and no supplementary question can be asked thereon.

Short Notice Questions: A member may give a notice of question on a matter of public importance and of urgent character for oral answer at a notice less than 10 days prescribed as the minimum period of notice for asking a question in ordinary course. Such a question is known as ‘Short Notice Question’.

 Questions to Private Members:

A Question may also be addressed to a Private Member (Under Rule 40 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha), provided that the subject matter of the question relates to some Bill, Resolution or other matter connected with the business of the House for which that Member is responsible. The procedure in regard to such questions is same as that followed in the case of questions addressed to a Minister with such variations as the Speaker may consider necessary.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Question hour vs Zero hour.
  2. Starred vs unstarred vs short notice questions.
  3. When can supplementary questions be allowed?
  4. Role of chairperson I this matter.
  5. Questions to private members.

Mains Link:

Examine the various ways in which parliament exercises control over the executive?

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2020

Context: Parliament Passes Central Sanskrit Universities Bill 2020.

Covered previously on: https://www.insightsonindia.com/2020/03/03/how-the-centres-planned-sanskrit-universities-will-function/.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Central vs State universities.
  2. What are deemed universities?
  3. Sanskrit- origin, roots and protection.
  4. Bill vs Resolutions.
  5. Finance Bills vs Constitutional Amendment Bills.

Mains Link:

Discuss the objectives and significance of the Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2020.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

West Bengal invokes Epidemic Diseases Act

What to study?

For Prelims: Key provisions of the act.

For Mains: Criticisms surrounding, implications of this law and significance.

Context: West Bengal invokes Epidemic Diseases Act.

Details of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 is previously covered on: https://www.insightsonindia.com/2020/03/12/epidemic-diseases-act-1897/.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Previous examples of implementation of this Act, diseases for which it was declared.
  2. A notifiable disease vs a notified disaster.
  3. Implementing agency, penalty, protection and inspection of people under the act.
  4. Handling of the plague epidemic by British, criticisms by Tilak through his papers.

Mains Link:

Discuss the key provisions of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Government Budgeting.

Appropriation Bill

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Features, procedure followed and significance.

Context: The Lok Sabha has passed the Appropriation Bill 2020-21 that empowers the government to draw over ₹110 lakh crore from the Consolidated Fund of India for its working, as well as for the implementation of its programmes and schemes.

  • Now, only the Finance Bill that pertains to the government’s taxation proposal awaiting passage.
  • The Appropriation Bill was passed by a voice vote.
  • Following this, Speaker Om Birla applied “guillotine” — the Parliamentary tool to club all other pending subjects for discussion.

What is Appropriation Bill?

Appropriation Bill is a money bill that allows the government to withdraw funds from the Consolidated Fund of India to meet its expenses during the course of a financial year.

  • As per article 114 of the Constitution, the government can withdraw money from the Consolidated Fund only after receiving approval from Parliament.
  • To put it simply, the Finance Bill contains provisions on financing the expenditure of the government, and Appropriation Bill specifies the quantum and purpose for withdrawing money.

Procedure followed:

  1. The government introduces the Appropriation Bill in the lower house of Parliament after discussions on Budget proposals and Voting on Demand for Grants.
  2. The Appropriation Bill is first passed by the Lok Sabha and then sent to the Rajya Sabha.
  3. The Rajya Sabha has the power to recommend any amendments in this Bill. However, it is the prerogative of the Lok Sabha to either accept or reject the recommendations made by the upper house of Parliament.
  4. The unique feature of the Appropriation Bill is its automatic repeal clause, whereby the Act gets repealed by itself after it meets its statutory purpose.

What happens when the bill is defeated?

Since India subscribes to the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy, the defeat of an Appropriation Bill (and also the Finance Bill) in a parliamentary vote would necessitate resignation of a government or a general election. This has never happened in India till date, though.

Scope of discussion:

  • The scope of discussion is limited to matters of public importance or administrative policy implied in the grants covered by the Bill and which have not already been raised during the discussion on demands for grants.
  • The Speaker may require members desiring to take part in the discussion to give advance intimation of the specific points they intend to raise and may withhold permission for raising such of the points as in his opinion appear to be repetition of the matters discussed on a demand for grant.

Amendments:

No amendment can be proposed to an Appropriation Bill which will have the effect of varying the amount or altering the destination of any grant so made or of varying the amount of any expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of India, and the decision of the Speaker as to whether such an amendment is admissible is final. An amendment to an Appropriation Bill for omission of a demand voted by the House is out of order.

In other respects, the procedure in respect of an Appropriation Bill is the same as in respect of other Money Bills.

 Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Appropriation vs Finance bills- similarities and differences.
  2. Scope of discussion and amendments to appropriation bill.
  3. Powers of Rajya Sabha wrt to Appropriation Bill vs role of speaker.
  4. Procedure to be followed while passing appropriation bill vs financial bills.
  5. Consolidated vs Contingency funds.
  6. Guillotine- applicability and implications.
  7. Components of annual financial statement.

Mains Link:

Differentiate between appropriation bill and finance bill under Article 110 of the Indian Constitution.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

What are Bharat Stage Emission Standards (BSES)?

What to study?

For Prelims: BS norms and components.

For Mains: Need for and significance of these norms.

Context: The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers has said it has approached the Supreme Court seeking directions to ensure that sale and registration of BS-IV complaint is allowed till March 31, 2020.

  • The move follows circulars from some State governments setting a cut-off date ranging between February 29 and March 25, 2020, for accepting registration applications for BS-IV-compliant vehicles.

About the Bharat Stage Emission Standards (BSES):

  • Introduced in the year 2000.
  • They are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
  • Objective: To keep air pollutants emitted by the internal combustion engine of vehicles under control.
  • They are based on European (EURO) emission standards.
  • Bharat Stage (BS) emission norms were first brought into effect in 2000 under the head “India 2000”. This was followed by BS2 in 2001 and BS3 in 2005.
  • However, the emission norms were made more stringent only with the enforcement of Bharat Stage IV (BS4). Thereafter, the Government of India skipped the implementation of BS5 in 2016 and decided to introduce Bharat Stage VI (BS6) in 2020 instead.

How does BS6 emission norms differ from BS4?

The following are the key differences between BS4 and BS6 emission norms:

Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) are being introduced with the roll-out of Bharat Stage VI norms, which were not a part of Bharat Stage IV.

Real Driving Emission (RDE) will be introduced in India for the first time with the implementation of Bharat Stage VI emission norms. It will measure a vehicle’s emission in real-time conditions against laboratory conditions.

Onboard Diagnostics (OD) has been made mandatory for all vehicles.

Sulphur and Nitrogen Oxide content: Sulphur traces in BS6 fuel is five times lower (10 ppm) as compared to sulphur traces in BS4 fuel (50 ppm). Further, nitrogen oxide level for BS6-grade diesel engines and petrol engines will be brought down by 70% and 25%, respectively.

BS VI can bring PM in diesel cars down by 80 per cent . The new norms will bring down nitrogen oxides from diesel cars by 70 per cent and in petrol cars by 25 per cent.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. BS 1 vs 2 vs 3 vs 4 vs 6- key differences.
  2. BS vs Euro norms.
  3. Pollutants covered under these norms.
  4. Sulphur vs NOx vs CO- which has the maximum impact on environment?
  5. PM 2.5 vs 10.

Mains Link:

Examine the components of BS stage 6 norms and discuss implications of shifting from BS 4 to BS 6 stage on innovation in the automotive sector.

Sources: pib.

 

Topics Covered: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Uranium Contamination in Ground Water

What to study?

For Prelims: Uranium and contamination, affected states.

For Mains: Effects, concerns and ways to prevent.

Context: A report on Uranium Contamination in ground water in Parliament.

What is the acceptable limit?

The Indian Standard IS 10500: 2012 for Drinking Water specification has specified the maximum acceptable limits for radioactive residues as alpha and beta emitters, values in excess of which render the water not suitable.

These requirements take into account all radioactive elements including uranium. No individual radioactive elements have been specifically identified.

As per Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS), maximum permissible limit of Uranium is 0.03 mg/l (as per WHO provisional guidelines) in all drinking water standards after following due process.

Affected states:

A report brought out by Duke University, USA in association with Central Ground Water Board and State Ground Water departments states that Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir have localised occurrence of Uranium concentration.

Main factors responsible for uranium contamination:

  1. Amount of uranium contained in an aquifer’s rocks.
  2. Water-rock interactions that cause the uranium to be extracted from those rocks.
  3. Oxidation conditions that enhance the extracted uranium’s solubility in water.
  4. The interaction of the extracted uranium with other chemicals in the groundwater, such as bicarbonate, which can further enhance its solubility.
  5. Human factors such as groundwater-table decline and nitrate pollution may be exacerbating the problem.

What needs to be done?

  1. Revision of the current water quality monitoring program in India.
  2. Evaluation of human health risks in areas of high uranium prevalence.
  3. Development of adequate remediation technologies.
  4. Implementation of preventive management practices to address this problem.
  5. Including a uranium standard in the Bureau of Indian Standards’ Drinking Water Specification based on uranium’s kidney-harming effects.
  6. Establishing monitoring systems to identify at-risk areas, and exploring new ways to prevent or treat uranium contamination.

What is Uranium?

  1. Uranium is weakly radioactive and remains so because of its long physical half-life (4.468 billion years for uranium-238).
  2. The biological half-life (the average time it takes for the human body to eliminate half the amount in the body) for uranium is about 15 days.
  3. It is a naturally occurring element found in low levels within all rock, soil, and water.
  4. This is the highest-numbered element to be found naturally in significant quantities on earth. 
  5. It is considered to be more plentiful than antimony, beryllium, cadmium, gold, mercury, silver, or tungsten.
  6. It is about as abundant as tin, arsenic or molybdenum.

High_on_uranium

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Radioactive vs non radioactive elements.
  2. What is half life of an element? How is it measures?
  3. Abundance of various elements in earth’s crust.
  4. How uranium contaminates ground water?
  5. Uranium limits- BIS vs WHO.

Mains Link:

A recent report has highlighted uranium contamination in India’s groundwater. Discuss the causes, its effects and ways to address the issue?

Sources: pib.

 


Facts for Prelims


 

Article 80 of the Constitution of India:

In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-clause (a) of clause (1) of Article 80 of the Constitution of India, read with clause (3) of that article, President recently nominated Shri Ranjan Gogoi to Council of States to fill the vacancy.

 

Pakke tiger reserve:

Why in News? The Arunachal Pradesh government has decided to “keep in abeyance” the survey work for a road through the Pakke Tiger Reserve (PTR). 

A 40-km stretch of the East-West Industrial Corridor road proposed to connect Seijosa in Pakke Kessang district and Bhalukpong in West Kameng district of the State passes through PTR, a biodiversity hotspot of the eastern Himalayas.

Key facts:

  1. Pakke Tiger Reserve is also known as Pakhui Tiger Reserve.
  2. This Tiger Reserve has won India Biodiversity Award 2016 in the category of ‘Conservation of threatened species’ for its Hornbill Nest Adoption Programme.
  3. It is bounded by Bhareli or Kameng River in the west and north, and by Pakke River in the east.
  4. Neighbours: Papum Reserve Forest in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam’s Nameri National Park, Doimara Reserve Forest and Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary.
  5. The main perennial streams in the area are the Nameri, Khari and Upper Dikorai. West of Kameng River is Sessa Orchid Sanctuary.

 


PIB one liner facts


 

  1. The scheme of Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) was introduced in the year 1997-98 with an objective to provide quality middle and high-level education to Scheduled Tribe (ST) students. As per budget announcement 2018-19, every block having 50% or more ST population and at least 20,000 ST persons is to have an EMRS by the year 2022.
  2. Ministry of Tourism has sanctioned following two projects under Wildlife Theme Circuit under Swadesh Darshan Scheme: (i) Development of Wildlife Circuit at Panna-Mukundpur-Sanjay-Dubri-Bandhavgarh-Kanha-Mukki-Pench in Madhya Pradesh during 2015-16 & (ii) Development of Manas – Probitora – Nameri – Kaziranga – Dibru – Saikhowa as Wildlife Circuit in Assam during 2015-16.
  3. Under Stand-up India, assistance to Startups includes setting up Fund of Funds for Startups’ (FFS) at SIDBI for providing fund support for Startups, Legal Support and Fast-tracking Patent examination at Lower costs, Self-Certification based Compliance Regime, Setting up of Incubators and Tinkering Labs, etc.  
  4. National Waterway-1 (river Ganga), NW-2 (river Brahmputra) and NW-3 (West Coast Canal from Kottapuram to Kollam along with Udyogmandal and Champakara Canals) are operational and vessels are plying on them. 
  5. Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is implementing the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) at an estimated cost of Rs.5369.18 crore for capacity augmentation of navigation on the Haldia-Varanasi stretch of Ganga with technical and financial assistance of the World Bank.
  6. Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve Limited (ISPRL), a Government of India Special Purpose Vehicle, has established Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR) facilities with total capacity of 5.33 Million Metric Tonnes (MMT) (Under Phase-1) at 3 locations, namely (i) Vishakhapatnam, (ii) Mangaluru and (iii) Padur. Government has given ‘in principle’ approval for establishing two additional SPR facilities with total storage capacity of 6.5 MMT at two locations namely (i) Chandikhol in Odisha (4 MMT) and (ii) Padur in Karnataka (2.5 MMT)(Under Phase-2).  
  7. Ministry of MSME has launched MSME SAMADHAAN portal to facilitate online registration of references related to delayed payments.
  8. The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) has launched the Mission Solar Charkha in 2018-19 for implementation of 50 Solar Charkha Clusters across the country.
  9. As per AISHE 2018-19, females constitute 48.6% of the total enrolment in higher education and the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) for females in higher education at 26.4% is higher than the national GER of boys at 26.3%. Also, the Gender Parity Index (GPI) has increased during the last 5 years, from 0.92 in 2014-15 to 1 in 2018-19.
  10. Samagra Shiksha – an Integrated Scheme for School Education has been launched throughout the country as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with effect from the year 2018-19. This programme subsumes the three erstwhile Centrally Sponsored Schemes of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and Teacher Education (TE).
  11. In May, 2001, the Defence Industry sector, which was hitherto reserved for the public sector, was opened upto 100% for Indian private sector participation, with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) upto 26% both subject to licensing.
  12. iDEX: Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) framework, was launched with the aim to achieve self-reliance and to foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace Sector by engaging Industries including MSMEs, startups, individual innovators, R&D institutes and academia.
  13. Defence Corridors: Government has decided to establish two defence industrial corridors to serve as engines of economic development and growth of defence industrial base in the country. They span across Chennai, Hosur, Coimbatore, Salem and Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu and Aligarh, Agra, Jhansi, Kanpur, Chitrakoot and Luchnow in Uttar Pradesh.
  14. India has 38 World Heritage Sites at present.