IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 23rd November, 2015
TOPIC: General Studies 2
Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
Rajya Sabha and Bad Monsoon memories
Article 79 of our Constitution lays down the principle of a bicameral Parliament consisting of two Houses, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
Lok Sabha members are elected directly by the people, while Rajya Sabha members are elected by members of state legislative assemblies.
The president of India has to nominate 12 members to the Rajya Sabha.
The elected and nominated persons become MPs only after taking a solemn oath as per Article 99 of the Constitution.
The solemn oath:
The operative portion of the oath is: “I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India… and that I will faithfully discharge the duty upon which I am about to enter”.
The bad monsoon memories:
Every day of the 2015 monsoon session, we witnessed the chairperson of the Rajya Sabha helplessly pleading with MPs to discharge their responsibilities and maintain the decorum of the House, and later sitting dumbfounded, watching the violent uproar in the house as a silent spectator before calling for adjournment of the house.
The justification by MP’s for violent uproar:
The justification advanced by the opposition for disrupting proceedings was ridiculous, when they were in the ruling front, those in the opposition (who are in power now) used the same tactics.
This means whoever is in the opposition has the right to ruin proceedings.
The saddest and most deplorable facet is that when Parliament did not function due to their own fault, the MPs did not show the righteousness to forgo their salary and daily allowance.
MPs right to demolish parliamentary functioning:
From where did these MPs get the licence to demolish parliamentary functioning?
The Constitution does not empower them.
There is no platform in India, or even in the world, where proceedings are allowed to be disrupted in such a deplorable way.
If students in a classroom misbehave, the teacher can send them out or take disciplinary action.
If anyone disrupts proceedings inside a courtroom, he is liable to be proceeded against.
In football matches, the referee would expel any player who disobeys the rules of the game.
But in Parliament, the supreme legislative body, the chairman remains a helpless spectator.
Definition of democracy:
The definition of democracy given by the late C. Rajagopalachari is perhaps the most apt in this context.
He said, “Democracy is a government by discussion”.
But, now, in India, this has became, “Democracy is a Parliament by disruption”.
The paradox is that those who are engaged in such activities are elected (directly or indirectly) by the people to uphold the Constitution.
Comparing Britain’s House of Lords with Indian Rajya Sabha:
In Britain, no such unruly activity happens in the House of Lords.
Members of the Lords Chamber are also called “elders”.
Discussions in the Upper House take place in a serious and dignified manner.
The Indian Constitution made the Rajya Sabha the equivalent of the House of Lords.
However the major difference is, Rajya Sabha MPs do not conduct themselves like the MPs of House of Lords.
Criminalisation of politics:
There was a time when persons convicted in criminal cases could continue as MPs, but now this, too, has become a thing of the past.
Now, the pathetic situation of MPs, expected to be lawmakers, transforming into law-breakers and this needs to be reformed.
Some suggestions to reform Rajya Sabha:
Rajya Sabha should be there exclusively to re-examine the decisions of the Lok Sabha.
If any decision is unacceptable, it should be returned to the Lower House for reconsideration. The dissent expressed by the Rajya Sabha can be discussed by the Lok Sabha, but the decision of the Lok Sabha that is then adopted shall be final.
The person presiding over the House should be empowered to take disciplinary action against disrupting MPs, by first warning them and then, if they persist, suspending them till the end of the session. If the suspension has to be repeated, such an MP should be disqualified from membership of the House.
Connecting the dots:
Democracy is hindering the growth and development of the country. Critically analyse.
Critically examine the importance of Rajya Sabha in ensuring democratic functioning of Indian parliamentary system.
General Studies 2:Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General Studies 3:Infrastructure: Energy
Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana
When a 2 per cent loss of GDP makes an entry in the balance sheet, it creates a wave of turbulence for the Government. Ironically, the government stayed away from taking any major steps to supress the substantial growth of the loss.
Power, in a practical sense, still remains a sought after commodity; with the scheduled-unscheduled power cuts, very much prevalent in the country. A CRISIL data exhibits the consistent lag towards power availability since 2012.
Settlement for dues have always been used as a major tool to take care of the problem at hand but when the problem is looked into more deeply, it becomes clear that short term solutions pave way for long term deteriorations.
Problems with the Sector:
The massive transmission and distribution losses can be attributed to the following reasons:
Inadequate Tariff increases
Poor Power purchase planning
Sale of power at prices lower than the discom’s procurement costs
Lack of timely Subsidy Payments
Inefficiencies in metering and billing
Reckless funding by banks to loss-making Discoms
The UDAY Scheme (not compulsory) will pave way for the takeover of the 75 per cent of Discom liabilities by state governments over a two-to-five year period
Financing of the Debt: Via bonds with a maturity period of 10-15 years
It will help relieve debt-ridden discoms
It will lead to the acceptance of debts in the balance sheet of the discom while encouraging them to align tariffs to costs and ensuring the sustainable working of the same
The utility of UDAY:
Unsustainable borrowings should be curbed to put a stop on ever-increasing loss. Under Uday, the future losses can be permitted to finance only when a discom bond is guaranteed by the State Government, thus ensuring that the discom applies a profitable discretion
With elements like the guided intervention of the State governments and the graded manner in which it needs to be taken up, the scheme assumes an all-season ongoing approach and not a one-time settlement effort.
Certain conditions put across by Uday involves:
Loss reduction needs to be aided by circle-wise targets, feeder and DT Metering as well as upgrading and replacement of transformers
Regions with sustained loss reduction should be incentivised (rewarded) by increased hours of supply
Other initiatives that can be taken to reduce discom inefficiencies:
Laying down a specific performance-monitoring & compliance mechanism (can be incentivised by additional funding and other inputs)
Monitoring of lending by banks to ensure reliable supply of investment
Ensure regular tariff setting
Energy auditing of feeders
Metering of distribution transformers (DT)
Elimination of revenue gaps
Allow fuel-cost adjustments in final tariffs
Reduction in short-term power purchase
Liquidation of Regulatory Assets
Ensuring advance payments of subsidies
Attractive to States:
The additional liability will not be considered for assessing fiscal responsibility limits of States
The 3 to 4 percentage point reduction in interest rates will serve as a relief
Issues with Uday
State Subject: Electricity is not a Central subject and thus, the scheme cannot be made a compulsory one- which leaves the door open for unequal working of the Discom per State.
No monetary assistance is being provided by the State though states willing to become a part of the scheme will be granted with subsidised funding in the government’s schemes and priority in the supply of coal
The conversion of discom debt into bonds is not as difficult as is finding a suitable buyer for those bonds, not enjoying SLR Status additionally
Political unwillingness needs to be fixed and mechanisms need to be strictly followed to plug the loopholes to address the debt-ridden discoms and fix the losses.
This restructuring package needs to be designed in a way that it can deal with both; an unexpected tariff shock or an increased burden on the State Government, taking into due consideration the certain measures that needs to be effectively worked out (enumerated above)
Connecting the Dots:
Do surplus and shortages go together? Analyse
In the light of the grave situation of power loss, can State prove to be a beacon of light, leading the path away from the crisis? Discuss
The need to look beyond the Pay Commission- India needs to build state capacity to meet the challenges of the new century