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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 25 March 2020

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. Parliamentary standing committees.

2. Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS).

 

GS Paper 3:

1. States asked to use cess fund to help construction workers.

2. Kurzarbeit scheme.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Hindu New Year.

2. What is hantavirus?

3. About the NCDC.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

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

Parliamentary standing committees

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Parliamentary standing committees- roles, need, functions and significance.

Context: All meetings of parliamentary standing committees have been deferred indefinitely because of the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.

What are the types of committees?

  1. Standing’committees: Their existence is uninterrupted and usually reconstituted on an annual basis. Some standing committees are departmentally related.
  2. ‘Select’ committees formed for a specific purpose, for instance, to deliberate on a particular bill. Once the Bill is disposed of, that select committee ceases to exist.
  3. Finance committees are considered to be particularly powerful. The three financial committees are the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings.

Powers:

Parliamentary committees draw their authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).

Significance:

Committee reports are usually exhaustive and provide authentic information on matters related to governance. Bills that are referred to committees are returned to the House with significant value addition. However, Parliament is not bound by the recommendations of committees.

Why have parliamentary committees?

  1. Parliament is the embodiment of the people’s will. Committees are an instrument of Parliament for its own effective functioning. 
  2. The smaller cohort of lawmakers, assembled on the basis of the proportional strength of individual parties and interests and expertise of individual lawmakers, could have more open, intensive and better-informed discussions.
  3. Members of Parliament may have great acumen but they would require the assistance of experts in dealing with such situations. It is through committees that such expertise is drawn into lawmaking.
  4. Executive accountability to the legislature is enforced through questions in Parliament also, which are answered by ministers. However, department standing committees go one step further and hear from senior officials of the government in a closed setting, allowing for more detailed discussions.
  5. This mechanism also enables parliamentarians to understand the executive processes closely.

How can these committees be made more effective?

  1. Parliamentary committees don’t have dedicated subject-wise research support available. The knowledge gap is partially bridged by expert testimony from government and other stakeholders. Their work could be made more effective if the committees had full-time, sector-specific research staff.
  2. Currently, the rules of Parliament don’t require every bill to be referred to a parliamentary committee for scrutiny. While this allows the government greater flexibility and the ability to speed up legislative business, it comes at the cost of ineffective scrutiny by the highest law-making body. Mandatory scrutiny of all bills by parliamentary committees would ensure better planning of legislative business.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Difference between Parliamentary vs Cabinet committees.
  2. Standing vs select vs finance committees.
  3. Who appoints chairperson and members of these committees?
  4. Committees exclusive to only Lok Sabha.
  5. Committees where Speaker is the chairperson.

Mains Link:

What are Parliamentary Standing committees? Why are they necessary? Discuss their roles and functions to bring out their significance.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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

Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS)

What to study?

For Prelims: Key facts on MPLADS.

For Mains: Significance, performance analysis and need for monitoring of the scheme, demand for a legal framework.

Context: As a part of Government’s efforts to contain spread of COVID – 19, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has issued a circular granting one-time dispensation for utilizing funds under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) to address the challenges in the fight against COVID-19.

  • This will facilitate Members of Parliament to recommend funds for purchase of equipments for Government Hospitals / Dispensaries for medical testing and screening of patients and also facilitate in setting up other related facilities in their respective constituencies.

About MPLAD scheme:

What is it?

It was launched in December, 1993, to provide a mechanism for the Members of Parliament to recommend works of developmental nature for creation of durable community assets and for provision of basic facilities including community infrastructure, based on locally felt needs.

  • The MPLADS is a Plan Scheme fully funded by Government of India. The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is Rs. 5 crore.

Special focus:

  • MPs are to recommend every year, works costing at least 15 per cent of the MPLADS entitlement for the year for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5 per cent for areas inhabited by S.T. population.
  • In order to encourage trusts and societies for the betterment of tribal people, a ceiling of Rs. 75 lakh is stipulated for building assets by trusts and societies subject to conditions prescribed in the scheme guidelines.

Works under the scheme:

Works, developmental in nature, based on locally felt needs and always available for the use of the public at large, are eligible under the scheme. Preference under the scheme is given to works relating to national priorities, such as provision of drinking water, public health, education, sanitation, roads, etc.

Release of Funds:

  • Funds are released in the form of grants in-aid directly to the district authorities.
  • The funds released under the scheme are non-lapsable.
  • The liability of funds not released in a particular year is carried forward to the subsequent years, subject to eligibility.

Execution of works:

The MPs have a recommendatory role under the scheme. They recommend their choice of works to the concerned district authorities who implement these works by following the established procedures of the concerned state government.

The district authority is empowered to examine the eligibility of works sanction funds and select the implementing agencies, prioritise works, supervise overall execution, and monitor the scheme at the ground level.

Recommendation of works:

  1. The Lok Sabha Members can recommend works in their respective constituencies.
  2. The elected members of the Rajya Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the state from which they are elected.
  3. Nominated members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha may select works for implementation anywhere in the country.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. How is MPLADS connected to Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana?
  2. Where can nominated MPs recommend their works?
  3. Is there any special focus on SC and ST Welfare?
  4. Difference between grants and loans?
  5. Implementing agencies.

Mains Link:

Critically examine whether MPLADS has helped in bridging the gaps in provisioning of public services?

Sources: pib.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Government Budgeting.

States asked to use cess fund to help construction workers

What to study?

For Prelims: What is Cess? Overview of BOCW Act.

For Mains: Significance of the move.

Context: The union government has asked all states to dip into the  ₹52,000 crore Construction Cess fund to give financial and allied benefits to the construction workers through direct benefit transfer (DBT).

  • The central advise comes as Corona outbreak spreads and the country is facing an unprecedented lockdown hampering livelihood of millions of informal workers.
  • The advisory comes under Section 60 of the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Act, 1996.
  • The amount to be granted to construction workers may be decided by the respective state governments and Union territories.

 

What is a cess?

  • A cess is levied on the tax payable and not on the taxable income. In a sense, for the taxpayer, it is equivalent to a surcharge on tax.
  • A cess can be levied on both direct and indirect taxes. The revenue obtained from income tax, corporation tax, and indirect taxes can be allocated for various purposes.
  • The proceeds of all taxes and cesses are credited in the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI), an account of the Government of India.

Difference between tax and cess?

Unlike a tax, a cess is levied to meet a specific purpose; its proceeds cannot be spent on any kind of government expenditure. While the tax proceeds are shared with the States and Union Territories according to the guidelines by the Finance Commission, the cess proceeds need not be shared with them.

Recent examples of cess are: infrastructure cess on motor vehicles, clean environment cess, Krishi Kalyan cess (for the improvement of agriculture and welfare of farmers), and education cess.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Difference between Cess and Tax.
  2. Who can levy and collect cess?
  3. How is it shared?
  4. What is a public account?
  5. Who governs is CFI?

Mains Link:

What is Cess? How is it different from a surcharge? Discuss.

Sources: pib.

 

Topics Covered: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

Kurzarbeit scheme

What to study?

For Prelims: Key features of the scheme.

For Mains: Significance of the scheme and can it be replicated in India?

Why in News? Amid the all-round disruption caused to the economy by the novel coronavirus outbreak, a concern across the world is the possibility of loss of jobs.

Germany’s Kurzabeit is being mentioned time and again in this context. Also, the German cabinet is planning to extend the benefit of short-time work allowance by the first half of April through legislation.

About Kurzarbeit:

Kurzarbeit is German for “short-work”.

The policy provides for a short-time work allowance, called kurzarbeitgeld, which partially compensates for lost earnings during uncertain economic situations.

The policy was rolled out during the 2008 economic crisis while its origins date back as far as the early 20th century, before and after World War I.

How it works?

  1. The scheme aims to address workers who are impacted by loss of income due to shortened work hours during such times.
  2. They can apply for short-term work benefits under the scheme, with the government stepping in to pay employees a part of their lost income.
  3. This helps the companies retain their employees instead of laying them off, and allows the latter to sustain themselves for a period of up to 12 months.

Quantum of payment:

Payment under Kurzarbeit is calculated on the basis of net loss of earnings. As per Germany’s Federal Agency for Work, short-time employees generally receive about 60 per cent of the flat-rate net wage, In case there is at least one child in the house of the short-time worker, he/she receives 67 per cent of the flat-rate net wage.

Sources: Indian Express.

 


Facts for Prelims


Hindu New Year:

  1. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana: Ugadi.
  2. Karnataka: Yugadi /Ugadi.
  3. Maharashtra: Gudi Padwa.
  4. Sindhis: Cheti Chand.
  5. Manipuris: Sajibu Cheiraoba.
  6. Hindus of Bali and Indonesia also celebrate their new year on the same day as Nyepi.

 

What is hantavirus?

Context: Case of hantavirus in Yunnan province of China.

Key facts:

  • The hantaviruses are a family of viruses spread mainly by rodents. A person can get infected if he/she comes in contact with a rodent that carries the virus.
  • It remains unclear whether human-to-human transmission of the virus is possible.
  • A person infected with the virus may show symptoms within the first to eighth week after they have been exposed to fresh urine, faeces or the saliva of infected rodents.
  • Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, chills and abdominal problems. Four to ten after being infected, late symptoms of HPS may start to appear, which include coughing and shortness of breath.

 

About the National Cente for Disease Control:

  • The NCDC is an institute under the Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
  • It was previously known as the National Institute of Communicable Diseases.
  • The institute engages in research, and it has several sections and laboratories dealing with different communicable diseases.