Daily Analysis: 11th September 2020

The Hindu, PIB, IE and Others

Index

A) Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

1. Living Planet Report 2020: WWF (DTE)

2. Frame rules for disposal of cigarette butts: NGT (TH, pg 1)

B) Polity/Bills/Acts/Judgments

3. Can exceed the 50% limit on quotas? (IE)

4. Explained: What constitutes a breach of legislature’s privilege? (IE)

5. Golden Temple gets FCRA registration (TH, pg 9)

C) Science and Technology

6. National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB) (PIB)

D) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

7. India Post launches Five Star Villages Scheme (PIB)

8. ‘Hooch’ or Spurious Alcohol (TH, pg 4)

9. Bru-Reang Refugees (TH, pg 4)

E) Economy

10. Expert committee to assist govt for assessment of relief to bank borrowers (PIB)

F) International Relations

11. India and Japan sign logistics agreement (TH, pg 14)

12. Russia-India-China (RIC) Trilateral Grouping (TH, pg 9)

G) Miscellaneous

13. SAROD-Ports (PIB)

14. Methods to reduce road construction costs (PIB)

A) Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

1. Living Planet Report 2020: WWF (DTE)

Context: The population of vertebrate species declined by around 68 per cent between 1970 and 2016, said the biannual Living Planet Report 2020 released by international non-profit World Wide Fund for Nature.

Analysis

  • The Living Planet Index (LPI) — a measure of the state of the world’s biological diversity based on population trends of vertebrate species in terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats — was used by the report to calculate this decline.
  • The LPI has been adopted by the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) as an indicator of progress towards its 2011-2020 target to ‘take effective and urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity’.
  • Wildlife populations in freshwater habitats suffered a decline of 84 per cent, equivalent to four per cent per year, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean, the index showed.
  • An example in the form of the population of the Chinese sturgeon — a species of fish found in the country’s Yangtze river — was cited by the report.
  • The population of this fish declined by 97 per cent between 1982 and 2015 because of the damming of the river’s waterway, the report said.
  • Megafauna — or bigger species in terms of size — were more vulnerable because they were subjected to intense anthropogenic threats and overexploitation, the report pointed out.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)

  • It is an international organization committed to conservation of the environment.

    Mission:
  1. To conserve the world’s biological diversity,
  2. To ensure that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and
  3. To promote the reduction of pollution and of wasteful consumption.
  • The WWF provides money for conservation initiatives around the world.
  • These include programs focused on individual species, forests, and freshwater and marine issues as well as climate change and responsible international trade.
  • The group has also been involved in efforts to provide a safe and sustainable habitat for the world’s peoples, both urban and rural, including clean water, clean air, healthful food, and rewarding recreation areas.
  • Among the WWF’s notable achievements is its use of debt-for-nature swaps, in which an organization buys some of a country’s foreign debt at a discount, converts the money to local currency, and then uses it to finance conservation efforts.
  • The WWF’s first successful debt-for-nature swap took place in 1987 in Ecuador.
  • The organization’s logo is a distinctive panda.

2. Frame rules for disposal of cigarette butts: NGT (TH, pg 1)

  • Following a report filed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the National
  • Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the board to lay down guidelines pertaining to disposal of cigarette and beedi butts within three months.
  • Cellulose acetate is a major component of the cigarette and beedi butts and its degradation studies show that it will persist for a longer duration.
  • The MoEF had responded by saying that cigarette and bidi butts were not listed as hazardous.
  • It told NGT that cellulose acetate—cigarette filters are made of this—is a biodegradable substance.

B) Polity/Bills/Acts/Judgments

3. Can exceed the 50% limit on quotas? (IE)

Context: The Supreme Court referred to a Constitution Bench the question of whether states can exceed the 50% limit on quotasthat was set by a nine-judge Bench in the landmark Indra Sawhney vs Union of India (1992) case. The question will now be taken up by a Bench comprising at least 11 judges.

Analysis

Case in Supreme Court

  • The petitions appealed a 2019 Bombay High Court decision that upheld the constitutional validity of the Maratha quota under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018.

Bombay HC ruling

  • A Division Bench of the Bombay High Court ruled last year that the limit of reservation should not exceed 50%”; however, “in exceptional circumstances and extraordinary situations, this limit can be crossed subject to availability of quantifiable and contemporaneous data reflecting backwardness, inadequacy of representation and without affecting the efficiency in administration”.
  • With the addition of 12-13% Maratha quota, the total reservation in the state went up to 64-65%.

4. Explained: What constitutes a breach of legislature’s privilege? (IE)

Context: A motion for breach of privilege was moved in the Maharashtra Assembly against Republic TV’s Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami.

  • A similar motion was moved in the Maharashtra Legislative Council against actor Kangana Ranaut.

Analysis

Parliamentary privileges and privileges of State Legislature

  • Parliamentary privileges (Article 105 of the Constitution)/privileges of State Legislature (Article 194 of the Constitution) are special rights, immunities and exemptions enjoyed by the two Houses of Parliament/State Legislatures, their committees and their members.

They are Necessary:

  1. To secure the independence and effectiveness of their actions;
  2. To maintain their authority, dignity and honour; and
  3. To protect their members from any obstruction in the discharge of their parliamentary responsibilities.
  • The Constitution has also extended the parliamentary privileges/privileges of State Legislature to those persons who are entitled to speak and take part in the proceedings of a House of Parliament/State Legislature or any of their committees.
  • These include the Attorney General of India/Advocate General of the State and Union/State Ministers.
  • It must be noted that the parliamentary privileges do not extend to the President/Governor who are also integral part of the Parliament/State Legislature.

Classification

  • Parliamentary privileges/privileges of State Legislature can be classified into two broad categories:
  • Those that are enjoyed by each House of Parliament//State Legislature collectively; and
  • Those that are enjoyed by the members individually.

Collective Privileges

The privileges belonging to each House of the Parliament/State Legislature collectively are:

  • It has the right to publish its reports, debates and proceedings and also the right to prohibit others from publishing the same.
  • The 44th Amendment Act of 1978 restored the freedom of the press to publish true reports of parliamentary proceedings/proceedings of the State Legislature without prior permission of the House.
  • But this is not applicable in the case of a secret sitting of the House.
  • It can exclude strangers from its own procedure and hold secret sittings to discuss some important matters.
  • It can make rules to regulate its own procedure and the conduct its business and to adjudicate upon matters.
  • It can punish members as well as outsiders for breach of its privileges or its contempt by reprimand, admonition or imprisonment (also suspension or expulsion, in case of members).
  • It has the right to receive immediate information of the arrest, detention, conviction, imprisonment and release of a member.
  • It can institute inquiries and order the attendance of witnesses and send for relevant papers and records.
  • The courts are prohibited to inquire into the proceedings of a House or its committees.
  • No person (either a member or outsider) can be arrested, and no legal process (civil or criminal) can be served within the precincts of the House without the permission of the presiding officer.

Individual Privileges

The privileges belonging to the member individually are:

  • They cannot be arrested during the session of Parliament/State Legislature and 40 days before the beginning and 40 days after the end of a session.
  • This privilege is available only in civil cases and not in criminal cases or preventive detention cases.
  • They have freedom of speech in Parliament/State Legislature.
  • No member is liable to any proceedings in any court for anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament/State Legislature or its committees.
  • This freedom is subject to the provisions of the Constitution and to the rules and standing orders regulating the procedure of Parliament/State Legislature.
  • They are exempted from jury service.
  • They can refuse to give evidence and appear as a witness in a case pending in a court when Parliament/State Legislature is in session.

Breach of Privilege and Contempt of the House

  • Normally, a breach of privilege may amount to contempt of the House. Likewise, contempt of the House may include may include a breach of privilege also.
  • Contempt of the House, however, has wider implications. There may be a contempt of the House without specifically committing a breach of privilege. Similarly, actions which are not breaches of any specific privilege but are offences against the dignity and authority of the House amounts to contempt of the House.

Sources of Privileges

  • Originally, the Constitution (Article 105) expressedly mentioned two privileges, that is, freedom of speech in Parliament/State Legislature and right of publication of its proceedings.
  • With regard to other privileges, it provided that they were to be the same as those of the British House of Commons, its committees and its members on the date of its commencement (26th January 1950), until defined by Parliament.
  • It should be noted that the Parliament, till now, has not made any special law to exhaustively codify all the privileges.

They are based on five sources:

  1. Constitutional provisions;
  2. Various laws made by Parliament;
  3. Rules of both the Houses;
  4. Parliamentary conventions; and
  5. Judicial interpretations.

Who can move a privilege motion? How?

  • A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.

What are the rules governing privilege?

  • A member may, with the consent of the Speaker or the Chairperson, raise a question involving a breach of privilege either of a member or of the House or of a committee thereof.
  • The rules however mandate that any notice should be relating to an incident of recent occurrence and should need the intervention of the House.
  • Notices have to be given before 10 am to the Speaker or the Chairperson.

What is the role of the Speaker/Rajya Sabha Chair?

  • The Speaker/RS chairperson is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion.
  • The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament.
  • If the Speaker/Chair gives consent, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement.

What percentage of privilege notices are rejected?

  • A large number of notices are rejected, with penal action recommended in only a few.

What is the privileges committee?

  • In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker nominates a committee of privileges consisting of 15 members as per respective party strengths.
  • In the Rajya Sabha, the deputy chairperson heads the committee of privileges, that consists of 10 members.

What is the punishment in case of breach of privilege or contempt of the House? 

  • The house can ensure attendance of the offending person.
  • The person can be given a warning and let go or be sent to prison as the case may be. 

5. Golden Temple gets FCRA registration (TH, pg 9)

Context: The Union Home Ministry has granted Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration to Gurdwara Harmandir Sahib, or the Golden Temple, in Amritsar, enabling it to receive foreign donations.

Analysis

  • Any association, non-government organisation (NGO) or registered society requires FCRA, 2010, registration to receive foreign donations for specified purposes.
  • According to the 2010 Act, registered NGOs can receive foreign contribution for five purposes — social, educational, religious, economic and cultural.
  • In the present case, the foreign contribution can be used by the Sikh shrine for activities such as providing financial assistance to the poor, medical assistance to the needy and organise langars, which serve as free community kitchens.

Golden Temple

  • Construction of the Amrit Sarovar (pool of nectar) was initiated by Guru Amar Das, the third Guru, in 1570 and was completed by Guru Ram Das, the fourth Guru.
  • His successor, Guru Arjan Dev began work on the building after inviting Mian Mir, the Sufi saint, to lay its foundation stone in 1588. 
  • Three years later, the Harimandar Sahib, or Darbar Sahib got completed.
  • In step with Sikhism’s basic tenet of universal brotherhood and all-inclusive ethos, the Golden Temple can be accessed from all directions. 

C) Science and Technology

6. National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB) (PIB)

  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has played a significant role in fostering and nurturing the fledgling startup ecosystem by steering it through its strong network of Incubators through the National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB).
  • Programs like National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovation (NIDHI-) initiated by NSTEDB, aligning its activities with the National Initiative of Startup India and Standup India has played a significant role in energizing the incubator led innovation value chain.
  • The collective strength and power of NIDHI program, the DST Incubator network and its startups was tested successfully during the COVID 19 pandemic through the Centre for Augmenting WAR with COVID-19 Health Crisis (CAWACH) program by supporting various solutions to resolve the crisis.

National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations (NIDHI)

  • It is an umbrella programme conceived and developed by the Innovation & Entrepreneurship division, Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, for nurturing ideas and innovations (knowledge-based and technology-driven) into successful startups.

D) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

7. India Post launches Five Star Villages Scheme (PIB)

  • The Department of Posts, Ministry of Communications, has launched a scheme called Five Star Villages, to ensure universal coverage of flagship postal schemes in rural areas of the country.
  • The scheme seeks to bridge the gaps in public awareness and reach of postal products and services, especially in interior villages.

The schemes covered under the Five Star scheme include:

  • Savings Bank accounts, Recurrent Deposit Accounts, NSC / KVP certificates,
  • Sukanya Samridhi Accounts/ PPF Accounts
  • Funded Post Office Savings Account linked India Post Payments Bank Accounts,
  • Postal Life Insurance Policy/Rural Postal Life Insurance Policy and
  • Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana Account / Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana Account.
  • If a village attains universal coverage for four schemes from the above list, then that village gets four-star status; if a village completes three schemes, then that village get three-star status and so on.

8. ‘Hooch’ or Spurious Alcohol (TH, pg 4)

Context: Seven people died in Baghpat and Meerut in 24 hours after drinking spurious liquor.

Analysis

  • ‘Hooch’ is a term used for spurious alcoholic preparations.

Spurious Liquors Include:

  • illicit liquor (un-authorized preparation, not fit for human consumption and not complying with the BIS standards) and
  • denatured alcohol (prepared for industrial uses and is rendered entirely unfit for human consumption by adding denaturants).
  • Methyl alcohol (methanol) is a commonly used adulterant because of its appearance and taste similar to ethyl alcohol and its easy availability.
  • On consumption, methanol is changed into formic acid inside the body and adversely affects various organ systems.
  • In cases of ‘hooch’ tragedy, toxicity often comes from drinking methanol, which results in blindness, tissue damage or death.
  • Delay in providing antidote (ethyl alcohol) at the initial stage leads to more casualties.
  • Ethyl alcohol, widely known as ethanol, grain alcohol or drinking alcohol, is found in alcoholic beverages.

9. Bru-Reang Refugees (TH, pg 4)

Context: A coordination body of non-Bru people in Tripura has opposed the large-scale settlement of Bru refugees across seven sites in the State saying that it would have “negative social, cultural, political, environmental and ecological impacts”.

  • More than 40,000 Brus — also called Reangs — have been living in relief camps in Tripura since 1997 after escaping ethnic violence in Mizoram. 

Analysis

  • In 1997, the murder of a Mizo forest guard allegedly by Bru (also known as Reangs) militants led to a violent backlash against the community, forcing several thousand of them to flee out of their home state of Mizoram to neighbouring Tripura.
  • Since then around 30,000 of them have been living in refugee camps in the Jampui Hills of Tripura.
  • The Bru militancy was a reactionary movement against Mizo nationalist groups who had demanded in the mid-1990s that the Brus be left out of the state’s electoral rolls, contending that the tribe was not indigenous to Mizoram.
  • Bru or Reang is a community indigenous to Northeast India, living mostly in Tripura, Mizoram and Assam. In Tripura, they are recognised as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group.
  • The Brus say the government’s package does not guarantee their safety in Mizoram. They had demanded resettlement in cluster villages, among other things.

E) Economy

10. Expert committee to assist govt for assessment of relief to bank borrowers (PIB)

Context: The Finance Ministry on has constituted a three-member expert committee to assess the impact of a waiver of interest and interest on interest accrued during the six-month moratorium period announced in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysis

  • The committee will be chaired by Rajiv Mehrishi, former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. Ravindra H Dholakia, former member of the Reserve Bank of India’s Monetary Policy Committee, and B Sriram, former managing director of the State Bank of India and IDBI Bank, are the other two members.
  • Committee’s terms of reference include assessment of the impact of the interest waiver on the Indian economy and financial stability.
  • It will also table suggestions to mitigate financial constraints of various sections and measures to be adopted for the same.
  • Various concerns have been raised during the proceedings of the ongoing hearing in the Supreme Court of India, in the matter of Gajendra Sharma versus Union of India and others, of the matter regarding the relief sought in terms of waiver of interest and waiver of interest on interest and other related issues.
  • This comes at a time when the Supreme Court is hearing a batch of petitions seeking interest waiver during the loan moratorium period.
  • A three-judge bench on September 10 adjourned the hearing to September 28, adding that no further adjournment would be allowed in the matter.
  • In the meantime, the apex court ordered an interim extension of the loan moratorium period, while reiterating that its September 3 order directing banks not to declare accounts as non-performing assets (NPAs) will remain in effect until further orders.
  • In March, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had granted a three-month moratorium on repayment of term deposits, which was later extended until August 31.
  • The move, aimed at providing borrowers relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, covered both interest and principal repayment.

F) International Relations

11. India and Japan sign logistics agreement (TH, pg 14)

Context:

India and Japan signed a logistics agreement that will allow the Armed Forces of both sides to coordinate closely in services and supplies and that will allow their militaries to access each other’s bases for logistics support.

Analysis

  • India has been signing MLSAs with countries primarily eyeing deeper maritime cooperation which is important considering China’s rapid military expansionism in the Indo-Pacific, Indian Ocean and South China Sea.
  • Similar agreement with Russia is in advanced stages and are likely to be concluded by the year-end.
  • India has already signed such agreements with a few countries beginning with the U.S.
  • India signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (LEMOA) with the U.S. in August 2016 after decade-long negotiations.
  • Since then, it has concluded several such agreements with Australia, France, Oman, the Philippines and Singapore and gained access to the Sabang port in Indonesia.

Logistics Agreements

  • Logistics agreements are administrative arrangements facilitating access to military facilities for exchange of fuel and provisions on mutual agreement, simplifying logistical support and increasing operational turnaround of the military away from India.
  • The biggest beneficiary of the logistics pacts has been the Navy which interacts and exercises the most with foreign navies.
  • When operating on the high seas, exercises or during humanitarian assistance missions fuel, food and other needs can be exchanged and settled through the established modalities later.

12. Russia-India-China (RIC) Trilateral Grouping (TH, pg 9)

  • RIC as a strategic grouping first took shape in the late 1990s under the leadership of Yevgeny Primakov as “a counterbalance to the Western alliance.”
  • Primakov, a Russian politician and diplomat who was also the prime minister of Russia from 1998 to 1999, is credited with the idea for RIC.
  • The group was founded on the basis of “ending its subservient foreign policy guided by the U.S.,” and “renewing old ties with India and fostering the newly discovered friendship with China.”

G) Miscellaneous

13. SAROD-Ports (PIB)

  • ‘SAROD-Ports’ (Society for Affordable Redressal of Disputes – Ports), launched by the Ministry of Shipping, is a dispute resolution mechanism for PPP Projects in the Major Ports/ maritime sector.

14. Methods to reduce road construction costs (PIB)

  • Some of the methods to reduce road construction costs without compromising on quality are:
  1. Increase the use of plastic and rubber wastes in road construction;
  2. Use of waste products like oil slags from steel plants and flash; and
  3. Use of local produce, like jute or coir, and waste products in road construction etc.

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