IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 23rd November 2017
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- Parliament and State Legislatures? structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
Ensuring more Parliament sittings
Parliament’s role in the decision-making process is becoming more marginal than it was in the formative years of Indian democracy. The decrease in the number of sittings of Parliament reflects poorly on its image as the highest law-making body.
Sessions of Parliament:
- There are normally three sessions in a year: the budget session (February-May), the monsoon session (July-September), and the winter session (November-December).
- The question of having fixed dates for the start of the three sessions was considered by the General Purpose Committee of the Lok Sabha at a sitting held on April 22, 1955.
- It recommended a time table for the three sessions. Later these recommendations were adopted by the Cabinet. The sessions start on different dates, though more or less in specified months in the parliamentary calendar. However, this time table has clearly not been observed in practice.
Parliamentary sittings- Decreasing over time:
- In the initial years of our Republic, Lok Sabha sat for about 125-140 days a year (this is despite poor connectivity in those days).
- Though it is far easier to travel today, Parliament has met for just 65-75 days per year in the last couple of decades.
Worse is the situation in State assemblies:
- Data for 20 Assemblies over the last five years indicate that they meet for 29 days a year on average.
- States such as Haryana (12 days a year) and Uttarakhand (13 days) rarely meet.
- There have also been some extreme cases in terms of session time. Example: a two-minute session in Puducherry assembly and a 10-minute session in Uttar Pradesh.
In the United Kingdom, the House of Commons met for an average of 150 days a year over the last fifteen years.
The United States House of representatives met for an average of 140 days every year during the same period.
- Less scrutiny of the government’s actions, and of bills and budgets. Less number of sittings means less effective Parliament.
- It has a detrimental effect on the ability of Parliamentarians to carry forward their constitutional responsibilities.
Importance of regular sessions:
- The holding of Parliament sessions in a regular manner is vital in a representative democracy as it is Parliament that links the government with the people.
- Parliament is the prime and foremost debating body, where functions such as the consideration of policy and legislation, articulation of constituency grievances or issues of national importance can be performed and solutions found.
- A serious and proactive Parliament can aid good governance.
- Ambedkar felt that daily assessment as in Parliamentary system is more effective in holding governments to account, and more appropriate for India.
What does constitution say?
The Constitution under Article 85 specifies that Parliament will be summoned by the President; the President shall act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers; and there cannot be more than six months between two sittings of Parliament. Similar provisions exist for State legislatures. Thus, it is effectively the Prime Minister (or the Chief Minister) who determines when Parliament (or an Assembly) will meet, subject to the gap being less than six months.
Effectively, this provision gives the government the power to decide when Parliament shall meet to oversee its functioning.
It is important that an independent Parliament meets often, and is able to convene itself without the permission of the government.
- Diluting the power of the government to be the sole decider of session dates. The issues of the government deciding when to summon the legislature, and its ability to adjust the dates in response to emerging circumstances needs to be addressed.
- Considering the practice in countries, like the UK and Australia, where an annual calendar of sittings is announced in advance. This will allow better scheduling of business and reduce the scope for the government to postpone a session if it wants to defer parliamentary scrutiny on some emergent issue.
- A variant, such as that followed by the British Parliament, is to have year-long sessions. Thus, the five-year term of Parliament consists of five sessions of a year each.
- Allowing a significant minority of members to call for a session. Pakistan’s Constitution requires a session of Parliament within 14 days if one-fourth of its membership demands one. It also states that Parliament should meet at least 130 days every year and there should be at least three sessions.
- The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution had recommended that a minimum number of working days for Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha should be fixed at 120 and 100 respectively. In 2008, Rajya Sabha MP Mahendra Mohan introduced a private member bill to amend the constitution to specify a minimum of 120 working days.
If Parliament were to meet more frequently, the pressure of completing legislative business in a limited time will also ease up leading to lesser number of pending bills. More parliamentary sitting days will allow both the treasury and opposition benches adequate time to bring their issues to the floor of the House.
Connecting the dots:
- Parliament’s role in the decision-making process is becoming more marginal than it was in the formative years of Indian democracy. Critically analyse.
TOPIC: General Studies 3
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
The below article deals with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC COP-23 meeting outcomes – both failures and positive aspects of the meeting.
- The 23rd COP was concluded on November 17 in Bonn, Germany. It was the second “conference of the parties” since the Paris Agreement was struck in 2015.
- It was the first COP to be hosted by a small-island developing state with Fiji taking up the presidency, even though it was being held in Bonn.
Central focus of COP-23 meeting
- COP-23 meeting intended to clarify processes for the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement through the creation of a rule book, with technical guidelines and processes.
- The key topics of contention were related to financial support, mitigation action, differentiation, and loss and damage — the same knots of disagreements that came up at COP-21 in Paris.
- About the role and obligations of developed countries to do their fair share to support poor and emerging countries.
Basics: About the Paris Agreement
- We know that, countries across the globe adopted an historic international climate agreement [called Paris Agreement] at the UNFCCC COP 21 in Paris in December 2015.
- Long-term goals of the Paris Agreement:
- to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C;
- to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C; and
- to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.
Therefore, this COP-23 meeting intended to explain what compliant measures would be taken to meet Paris Agreement goals and how it would be monitored.
Outcomes of COP-23
- Questions were raised in COP-23 meeting about the obligations and role of developed countries to do their fair share to support poor and emerging countries as they occupy the bulk of the planet’s available carbon space.
- The meeting highlighted the poor implementation of actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by rich countries and also emphasized on phasing out coal usage.
- Fulfilling Kyoto Protocol
- Actions related to the Paris Agreement are intended for 2020-2030. However, the pre-2020 period is part of the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol.
- Both the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol (2005-2012) and the second (2013-2020) principally laid out the responsibilities for reducing emissions by rich countries.
- However, there has been little progress and the 2012 Doha Amendment, the agreement concerning the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, has not been ratified by a sufficient number of countries to enter into force.
COP-23 Bonn outcome: (Hints at some positive advancement)
- Under pressure from poor and emerging economies, actions on the pre-2020 Kyoto period were added to the agenda in the first week of the Bonn meeting.
- As a result, in 2018 and 2019 there will be additional stocktaking on progress made on the Kyoto Protocol. There will also be climate finance assessments and all of these will be part of the overall process undertaken before 2020.
- Several countries have since expressed interest in ratifying the Doha Amendment and all these changes indicate some advancement.
- Fulfilling COP-19 Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage
- Another aspect of the obligations that need to be fulfilled by big emitters is related to economic and non-economic losses under the work programme on loss and damage.
- In Warsaw, Poland, COP-19 established the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage to address the destruction likely from climate change, including extreme events (such as severe storms) and slow-onset events (such as sea-level rise).
- The Warsaw negotiation recognised that even if the world were to drastically reduce its emissions, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions already in the atmosphere would cause warming and severely affect the poorest countries that are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
- Therefore, it is important that such countries have access to economic and non-economic support, especially since their actions have not led to these increased concentrations of harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
COP-23 Bonn outcome: (Failure)
- The Paris Agreement recognises loss and damage and calls for enhanced action and support from the parties. However, loss and damage was not included in the COP-23 agenda for the Paris rule book, and this was rightly a big bone of contention with poor and developing economies.
- Fund allocation and further discussion on this issue has been postponed to 2018.
- This is alarming given that the world has already faced the wrath of numerous extreme events just in the last couple of years.
- Rich countries obligation to provide finance, technology, and building capacity for poorer countries
- A third aspect of the support from rich countries is about providing finance, technology, and building capacity for poorer countries, both to protect themselves from the effects of climate change and to help them move along a low-carbon pathway.
COP-23 Bonn outcome: (Failure)
- There were conflicts on financial support at various points, and on this topic, COP-23 was a failure.
- Without the proper means of implementation, the targets set by each country in Paris will not be achieved.
- There is also the promise of $100 billion each year by 2020 into the Green Climate Fund, which has not seen much inflow to meet the goal.
- There was therefore little progress on the key issue of finance and several important decisions were moved forward to be discussed at the next meeting to be held in Katowice, Poland in 2018.
Conclusion: Progress and actions needed
On the plus side, some positive initiatives were launched which will help to meet Paris Agreement Goals and to be carried out under the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement.
- Member countries were required to submit detailed positions and information on their respective Nationally Determined Contributions.
- Steps were also taken to spell out the details of the global stock-taking that will occur every five years starting in 2023 and on transparency measures that are part of the overall process.
- Great ambitions have been shown to clamp down fossil fuels. The Bonn meeting saw the launch of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which was led by Canada and the U.K., and joined by numerous countries and substate actors.
- There was small but significant headway made regarding agriculture where a work plan was proposed by Parties on items related to climate change and agriculture, including improvements in soil fertility and carbon, management of land use and livestock maintenance. For India, these developments could be an excellent opportunity for learning from others and sharing local knowledge.
Much more needs to be done for the international community to truly grapple with climate change — we are still far from keeping the world safe from its harmful consequences. And for India, there is unfortunately no time left for delaying action on multiple fronts on the landscape of sustainable development, which itself will be derailed by a warming world.
Now what remains to be seen is the follow up from COP 23 Bonn meeting. How the conference of parties will take the UNFCCC mandate forward and the trajectory of climate change debate will shape that is what is eagerly being watched.
Connecting the dots:
- Discuss the outcomes of the recently concluded UNFCCC COP-23 meeting. Also highlight what measures should other countries and stakeholders go about dealing with climate change.
BrahMos (Land, Sea, Air variant)- Completing the triad
Part of: Main GS Paper III- Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology.
- In a milestone, a BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was recently fired succesfully for the first time from a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force.
- Brahmos Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) weighs 2.5 tonnes and has a range of 290 km.
- Brahmos is the world class weapon with multi-platform, multi-mission role.
- It is a joint venture between India and Russia and named after the Brahmaputra and Moscow rivers.
- It is now capable of being launched from land, sea and air, completing the tactical cruise missile triad for India.
- The land and sea variants of Brahmos are already operational with the Army and the Navy.
Article link: Click here
Disclosure of outcomes of clinical trials made mandatory
Part of: Main GS Paper II- Issues relating to development and management of social sector/services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
· ICMR makes it mandatory for companies, organisations to disclose outcomes of clinical trails.
· From April, companies and organisations that have registered for clinical trials in India will have to disclose the outcomes of their tests within a year of completing them.
· Globally less than 60% of clinical trial outcomes are disclosed.
· Currently, all trials in India are registered on the Clinical Trials Registry — India (CTRI).
- India has had a mixed record with clinical trials, with reports, earlier in the decade, of prospective drugs being tested on people who were not aware of what they had signed up for.
- In 2013, the Supreme Court of India forbade fresh applications for clinical trials following a public interest litigation petition due to reports that there had been a high number of deaths among those registered for trials.
Article link: Click here
Increasing number of women on the corporate boards
Part of: Main GS Paper II- Issues relating to development and management of social sector/services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
- About 15 per cent of board seats in listed Indian companies are now held by women.
- The numbers have risen from just 4 per cent three years ago, following a SEBI directive to have at least one woman director.
Gender diversity boosts performance:
- According to an analysis of 2,400 global companies, by Credit Suisse, organisations with at least one woman director yielded higher return on equity and higher net income growth than those that did not have any.
- Companies with greater gender diversity in leadership roles are more innovative, customer-centric and profitable.
- People like to work in companies that are diverse and have an inclusive culture. So, diversity also helps us attract and retain the best talent.
While women are adding diversity to boardrooms, it is not yet established if they are able to have a strong say in decision-making. As most companies have only one woman director just to comply with SEBI norm.
Article link: Click here
23rd meeting of PRAGATI
Part of: Main GS Paper II – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
The Prime Minister reviewed the progress towards handling and resolution of grievances related to consumers and expressed concern over the large number of grievances. He emphasised the need for improvement in the administrative arrangements so that consumers can be benefited.
- PRAGATI is the ICT-based, multi-modal platform for Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation. It is a unique integrating and interactive platform.
- Aims at –
Addressing common man’s grievances.
monitoring and reviewing important programmes and projects of both central and state governments.
- It offers a unique combination in the direction of cooperative federalism since it brings on one stage the Secretaries of Government of India and the Chief Secretaries of the States.
Article link: Click here
Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra: Women empowerment schemes
Part of: Main GS Paper II – Social issue, Welfare, Women empowerment, government schemes and policies
- Union Cabinet gave approval for setting up of the Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra (PMMSK)
- The government also approved expanding the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao scheme from 161 districts to 640 districts in the country.
Key PT pointers: Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra (PMMSK)
- PMMSK aims at empowering rural women through community participation to create an environment in which they realise their full potential.
- The scheme is part of the Umbrella Scheme “Mission for Protection and Empowerment for Women” of the ministry of women and child development.
- The expansion of the Mission scheme was approved by the cabinet for a period 2017-18 to 2019-20.
- The scheme intends to reach out to rural women and facilitate skill development, employment, digital literacy, health and nutrition.
Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao scheme, aims at improving child sex ratio and curbing female infanticide.
The financial outlay for these schemes from 2017 to 2020 will be Rs 3,636.85 crore.
- One common Task Force will be created at national, state and district level for planning, reviewing and monitoring all the sub-schemes under the Mission, with the objective of ensuring convergence of action and cost efficiency.
- Every scheme shall have a set of clear, focused target set forth in the guidelines, aligned with Sustainable Development Goals.
- Mechanism for monitoring of outcome based indicators for all the sub-schemes as suggested by NITI Aayog.
For further reading: http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=173722
Article link: Click here
Far from keeping the world safe
The simple economics of clean air pollution
A wilful negligence
Strengthening the foundation of education
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