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May 2020

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Should Rajya Sabha be abolished?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Articles related to Rajya Sabha.

Mains level : Paper 2- Importance of Rajya Sabha.

This article is about Rajya Sabha, the second chamber of our union legislature. Its utility was intensely debated in the Constituent Assembly. Now, after almost seven decades of its existence, we know that the house has proved its utility. So, what was the reasoning of those who were in support of its creation and what those who opposed its creation had on their mind? How bicameralism is connected to federalism? You’ll come to know the answers to these questions after reading the article.

Historical background

  • The Rajya Sabha came into being on April 3, 1952 and held its first session on May 13 the same year.
  • The central legislature that came into being under the Government of India Act, 1919 was bicameral.
  • Under 1919 Act, Council of States had 60 members and Legislative Assembly had 145 members.
  • The membership and voting norms for the Council of States were restrictive.
  • These restrictions meant only wealthy landowners, merchants and those with legislative experience could enter it.
  • Women could neither vote nor seek membership.
  • The Government of India Act, 1935 proposed an elaborate and improved version of the second chamber, but this never materialised.
  • The Constituent Assembly, which was formed in 1947, after adoption of the Constitution became the Provisional Parliament and made laws till 1952.

Bicameralism and the utility of second house

  • Bicameralism is a principle that requires the consent of two differently constituted chambers of Parliament for making or changing laws.
  • This principle came into operation in 1787 with the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.
  • At present, 79 Parliaments of the world (41% of the total number) are bicameral.
  • In The Federalist, the famous essay, it was stated that the second chamber enables a second and reflective expression of representative opinion besides checking the propensity to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions.
  • French philosopher Montesquieu who said, “The legislative body being composed of two parts, they check one another by the mutual privilege of rejecting”.
  • Walter Bagehot later noted that the retarding chamber will impede minor instances of parliamentary tyranny, though it will not prevent or really impede revolution.

Federalism and link with bicameralism

  • Federalism has been in vogue since ancient times when some states got together to confer the power of law-making on a central authority.
  • But modern federalism is entirely different given the complexity of geographical, regional, social and economic diversities marking the constituent units of a federation or a union.
  • It is more so in India. The U.S. is a federation and so is India — each unit has a set of unique features.
  • Federalism and bicameralism are linked because the federal character of a nation comprising constituent units can be reflected in, and secured by, a bicameral legislature.

Debate in the Constituent Assembly over need for the second house

  • The proposal for the Rajya Sabha as a second chamber was subjected to serious argumentation and had a narrow escape.
  • Opponents’ stand: A member of the Constituent Assembly asserted that an Upper House was not essential and viewed it as a creation of imperialism.
  • Other member warned that such a chamber would only prove to be a “clog in the wheel of progress” of the nation.
  • The proponents’ stand: A supporter of idea felt that it would introduce an element of sobriety and second thought besides lending voice to the constituent units in the legislative scheme of things.
  • Ananthasayanam Ayyangar argued that a second chamber would enable the genius of the people to have full play besides checking hasty legislation.
  • Replying to the debate on the motion N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar had to make a strong case for the second chamber.
  • He argued that the most that we expect the Second Chamber to do is 1) to hold dignified debates on important issues 2) to delay legislation which might be the outcome of passions of the moment until the passions have subsided.

Consider the question, “Examine the role played by the Rajya Sabha as a law-making body. Do you agree that the Rajya Sabha has been successful in fulfilling the role expected of it by the makers of our Constitution?”


The mandate of the Rajya Sabha, as can be gleaned from the Constituent Assembly debates and the experiences of other Parliaments, is legislation — to revise or delay legislation without proving a clog in the wheel of the progress; to represent the interests of the States as a federal chamber, and be a deliberative body holding high-quality debates on important issues.

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Changes in labour laws: legal but not appropriate


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Emergency provision dealing with internal disturbance/ Provisions related to ordinances

Mains level : Paper 2- Changes made in labour laws without consultation.

The article examines the changes made in the labour laws by several states. The legal route to make these changes are different. While some states used the Emergency provision, others used the Ordinance route. One major issue with these changes is that these were brought in without consultation.

What legal route was used by the States?

  • Changes were made by the several state government in the labour laws dealing with the maximum working hours and other provisions.
  • These changes have been made through notifications issued by the State governments and will be applicable for the next three months.
  • M.P. has also suspended most provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1946 (except those related to retrenchment and layoffs) for 1,000 days for State undertakings.
  • In addition, M.P. issued an ordinance to amend two laws.
  • The M.P. Industrial Employment Standing Orders Act will apply to establishments with more than 100 workmen (up from the existing threshold of 50), in line with the Central Act.
  • The ordinance also enables the government to exempt establishments from the provision of another Act that provided for a labour welfare fund.
  • The Uttar Pradesh government has approved an ordinance that exempts establishments from all labour laws for three years with some exceptions.
  • As this will override provisions of some Central laws, it will require the assent of the President or, in effect, the assent of the Central government.
  • The question is, was there sufficient consultation before all these changes were made?

Constitutional provisions for the legal route taken: Emergency and ordinance

  • As per the Constitution, the legislature has the authority to make laws.
  • Such laws could delegate powers to the government which are in the nature of detailing some requirements.
  • For example, the Factories Act allows State governments to exempt factories from the provisions of the Act during public emergencies for a maximum period of three months.
  • A public emergency is defined as a grave emergency whereby the security of India or any part is threatened by war, external aggression or internal disturbance.
  • Most States have used this provision, presumably interpreting the current situation as an ‘internal disturbance’.
  • Haryana has used a provision that allows relaxation of work hours “to deal with an exceptional press of work”.
  • The Constitution also permits Central and State governments to make laws through the issuance of an ordinance when the legislature is not in session.
  • Such a law needs to be ratified by the legislature within six weeks of the beginning of the next session. M.P. and U.P. are using this procedure.

Issues with the changes made

  • Usually, any change in an Act follows a rigorous process of public consultation, scrutiny by committees of Parliament, and debates in the House before being approved.
  • The changes described here have not gone through such a process.
  • However, most of these have a three-month time limit, and any extension would need to be approved by the legislature.

The four labour codes

  • The Parliament is consolidating 29 existing laws into four codes dealing with- 1) wages, 2) occupational safety and health, 3) industrial relations,4) social security.
  • The first of these has been enacted, the Standing Committee on Labour has submitted the report on the next two, and is examining the last.
  • The Code on Occupational Safety and Health does not specify the maximum hours of work but empowers the government to do so.
  • The Standing Committee report states that the government agreed to incorporate a provision of maximum eight hours per day with overtime permitted for certain types of industry.

Consider the question “Several States made changes in the labour laws to deal with the problems caused by the corona pandemic. Examine the legal provisions used for making such changes by various States. What are the issues with such changes?”


Given the emergency, the government has to take quick action and change the response as the situation evolves. However, that should not be a reason to exclude the processes of consultation with and scrutiny by elected representatives. The legitimacy of state action in a parliamentary democracy comes from the fact that there is constant oversight and check by elected representatives.

WTO and India

Shift in the US trade politics and opportunities for India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WTO

Mains level : Paper 3- Changes in trade politics in the US and opportunities for India.

The article focuses on the changes in the US trade politics fueled by the corona pandemic. Also there has been a growing demand for abandoning the WTO. So, amid this shift in the US politics, what are the opportunities for India at the global level?

What went wrong with the WTO: The US point of view

  • Latest opposition to the WTO was expressed in a forceful article by a US senator, Josh Hawley.
  • In his opinion, corona pandemic expresses the hard truth about the modern global economy: it weakens American workers and empowers China’s rise.
  • So, what went wrong?
  • Capital and goods moved across borders easier than before but so did jobs. And too many jobs left America’s borders for elsewhere.
  • As factories closed, workers suffered, from small towns to the urban core.
  • So, he wants US to abandon the WTO.

Rise of trade politics in the US

  • Under Trump, the Republican Party has turned from the champion to a critic of free trade.
  • The Democratic Party, which embraced globalisation since the early 1990s, has seen the erosion of working-class support.
  • Elections this year could reveal if the shifting alignments on trade are now cast in stone or if anti-trade sentiment in America is deep and wide.

What alternatives are suggested by the senator?

  • In replacing the WTO, Hawley suggests the following two measures-
  • 1) The United States must seek new arrangements and new rules, in concert with other free nations, to restore America’s economic sovereignty.
  • 2) This, in turn, involves building a new network of trusted friends and partners to resist Chinese economic imperialism.

How this matters for India?

  • India will have to take a fresh look at the global economy battered by the coronavirus.
  • India should pay close attention to Hawley’s theme on working with “trusted friends and partners” to restructure international trade.
  • Hawley is not alone in articulating this view.
  • Reuters reported from Washington that the Trump Administration is “turbocharging” an initiative to rearrange the global supply chains currently centered on China.
  • This rearrangement of the global supply chain offers an opportunity for India to lead the future global supply chains.

Consider the question, “Critically analyse the opportunities presented to India by the changes in trade politics in the US”.


Hobbled as it was by shaky political coalitions and preoccupied by multiple domestic challenges, India in the mid-1990s struggled to cope with the profound changes in the global economic order. As the world trade system arrives at a contingent moment a quarter of a century later, India is hopefully better prepared.

What is the Sample Registration System (SRS)?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SRS, IMR

Mains level : Not Much

The Registrar General of India released its Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin based on data collected for 2018.

Since we are talking about birth rates and death rates, how about revising Demographic Transition Model. Can you recall 4 distinctive stages of Indian Demographic history?

Sample Registration System (SRS)

  • The SRS is a demographic survey for providing reliable annual estimates of infant mortality rate, birth rate, death rate and other fertility and mortality indicators at the national and sub-national levels.
  • Initiated on a pilot basis by the Registrar General of India in a few states in 1964-65, it became fully operational during 1969-70.
  • The field investigation consists of a continuous enumeration of births and deaths in selected sample units by resident part-time enumerators, generally Anganwadi workers and teachers; and an independent retrospective survey every six months by SRS supervisors.
  • The data obtained by these two independent functionaries are matched.

Highlights of the data

Birth and death rates

  • According to the data released the national birth rate in 2018 stood at 20, and death and infant mortality rates stood at 6.2 and 32, respectively.
  • The rates are calculated per one thousand of the population.
  • Madhya Pradesh has the worst infant mortality rate in the country while Nagaland has the best.
  • Chhattisgarh has the highest death rate, while Delhi has the lowest.
  • Bihar continues to remain at the top of the list in the birth rate while Andaman and Nicobar are at the bottom.

Infant mortality

  • The data shows that against the national infant mortality rate (IMR) of 32, Madhya Pradesh has an IMR of 48 and Nagaland 4.
  • Bihar has the highest birth rate at 26.2 and Andaman and Nicobar Islands has a birth rate of 11.2.
  • Chhattisgarh has the highest death rate at 8 and Delhi, an almost entirely urban state, has a rate of 3.3, indicating better healthcare facilities.
  • As far as IMR is concerned, the present figure of 32 is about one-fourth as compared to 1971 (129).
  • In the last 10 years, IMR has witnessed a decline of about 35 per cent in rural areas and about 32 per cent in urban areas. T

Birth rate

  • The birth rate is a crude measure of fertility of a population and a crucial determinant of population growth.
  • India’s birth rate has declined drastically over the last four decades from 36.9 in 1971 to 20.0 in 2018.
  • The rural-urban differential has also narrowed. However, the birth rate has continued to be higher in rural areas compared to urban areas in the last four decades.
  • There has been about an 11 per cent decline in the birth rate in the last decade, from 22.5 in 2009 to 20.0 in 2018. The corresponding decline in rural areas is 24.1 to 21.6, and in urban areas, it is 18.3 to 16.7.

Nuclear Energy

Pokhran-II nuclear tests


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NSG, NPT, Op Smiling Buddha

Mains level : India's nuclear policy

Yesterday, May 11 was celebrated as the National Technology Day. It marks the day on which India successfully test-fired its first nuclear bombs in 1998.

Practice question for mains

Q. India’s nuclear policy of ‘No First Use’ needs a revamp. Examine.

India and nuclear weapons

  • India is currently among eight countries in the world that have a publicly known nuclear weapons program.
  • At the time of our independence, leaders were opposed to fully embracing nuclear weapons.
  • Just two years before in 1945, the world had witnessed the horrific nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • Mahatma Gandhi called the use of nuclear weapons morally unacceptable.

Why India did equip itself with nuclear arms?

  • Then PM Jawaharlal Nehru was sceptical but kept the door open for future consideration.
  • This future beckoned early, as India’s defeat in the 1962 Sino-Indian War gave rise to legitimate fears about national security.
  • Then in 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test, codenamed “Smiling Buddha”, at Pokhran in Rajasthan.
  • Then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi called the test a peaceful nuclear explosion.
  • India demonstrated to the world that the country could defend itself in an extreme situation and chose not to immediately weaponize the nuclear device it tested at Pokhran.

 The Pokhran II tests

  • India’s fence-sitting finally ended when it detonated another device in 1998, again at Pokhran.
  • Assigned the code name Operation Shakti, the mission was initiated on May 11, 1998.
  • The tests consisted of 5 detonations, the first being a fusion bomb while the remaining four were fission bombs.
  • One fusion and two fission bombs were tested on May 11, and two more fission bombs on May 13.
  • With the tests, India achieved its objective of building fission and thermonuclear weapons with yields up to 200 kilotons.


  • After Pokhran-II, Vajpayee had declared India a nuclear state — then the sixth country in the world to join this league.
  • Unlike in 1974, India had this time chosen to actively develop its nuclear capabilities, and the tests followed economic sanctions by the United States and Japan. The sanctions were later lifted.

Back2Basics: India’s nuclear programme

  • India started its own nuclear programme in 1944 when Homi Jehangir Bhabha founded the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
  • Physicist Raja Ramanna played an essential role in nuclear weapons technology research; he expanded and supervised scientific research on nuclear weapons and was the first directing officer of the small team of scientists that supervised and carried out the test.
  • After independence, PM Nehru authorised the development of a nuclear programme headed by Homi Bhabha.
  • The Atomic Energy Act of 1948 focused on peaceful development.
  • India was heavily involved in the development of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but ultimately opted not to sign it.
  • In 1954, two important infrastructure projects were commissioned. The first established Trombay Atomic Energy Establishment at Mumbai (Bombay). The other created a governmental secretariat, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), of which Bhabha was the first secretary.

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

  • The NSG is a multilateral export control regime and a group of nuclear supplier countries that seek to prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.
  • The NSG was founded in response to the Indian nuclear test in May 1974 and first met in November 1975.
  • It was solely aimed to deny advanced technology, and isolate and contain India.

Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

Toda Embroidery of the Nilgiris


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Toda embroidery

Mains level : Not Much

Many women and indigenous Toda artisans from the Nilgiris are producing thousands of stylish, embroidered masks for local residents, police, and sanitary workers.

Recently, the Assamese Gamosa was in new. Now the Pukhoor Embroidery has made it into the list. Keep a note of all such handicrafts. We can expect a match the pair based prelim question.

Toda Embroidery

  • The Toda Embroidery, also locally known as “pukhoor” is an artwork among the Toda pastoral people of Nilgiris, in Tamil Nadu, made exclusively by their women.
  • The embroidery, which has a fine finish, appears like a woven cloth but is made with the use of red and black threads with a white cotton cloth background.
  • Both sides of the embroidered fabric are usable and the Toda people are proud of this heritage.
  • This handicraft product is listed as a geographically tagged product and is protected under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act (GI Act) 1999.

Related facts

  • The local terms used to describe the embroidery work are ‘kuty’ or ‘awtty’ meaning “stitching” and ‘kutyvoy’ meaning the embroidered piece.
  • The materials used in this work are roughly woven white cloth, woollen black and red threads with use occasionally of blue threads and manufactured needles.
  • The designs developed relate to nature and the daily cycle of life.
  • The patterns used in Toda embroidery do not cover many floral motifs but generally cover celestial bodies (like Sun and Moon), reptiles, animals, and horns of buffaloes, made in crimson and black colours.
  • Rabbit ears are a constant depiction on the boundary of the embroidered cloth. Another common design in the form of black triangles in a box design is done in honour of their first priest.
  • Women who do embroidery consider their work as a “tribute to Nature”.
  • As a traditional garment, it is worn by both men and women at all ceremonial occasions and also at funerals. Elderly people of the community wear this cloth daily.

History- Important places, persons in news

Person in news: Gopal Krishna Gokhale


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GK Gokhale

Mains level : Gokhale and his contribution in freedom struggle

The Prime Minister has paid tributes to Gopal Krishna Gokhale on his birth anniversary.

These days, personality-based prelims questions are quite prevalent.

Q.) He wrote biographies of Mazzini, Garibaldi, Shivaji and Shri Krishna; stayed in America for some time; and was also elected to the Central Assembly. He was – (CSP 2018)

a) Aurobindo Ghosh

b) Bipin Chandra Pal

c) Lala Lajpat Rai

d) Motilal Nehru

Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1866-1915)

  • Gokhale was a liberal political leader and a social reformer during the Freedom Movement.
  • Gokhale was a senior leader of the Indian National Congress (INC) and the founder of the Servants of India Society.
  • Through the Society as well as the Congress and other legislative bodies he served in, Gokhale campaigned for Indian self-rule and for social reforms.

Gokhale and INC

  • Gokhale became a member of the INC in 1889, as a protégé of social reformer MG Ranade.
  • He was the leader of the moderate faction of the Congress party that advocated reforms by working with existing government institutions.

Quest for political reforms

  • Gokhale’s mentor, justice M.G. Ranade started the Sarvajanik Sabha Journal.
  • Gokhale’s deposition before the Welby Commission on the financial condition of India won him accolades.
  • He played a leading role in bringing about Morley-Minto Reforms (1909), the beginning of constitutional reforms in India.

Servants of India Society

  • In 1905, when Gokhale was elected president of the INC and was at the height of his political power, he founded the Servants of India Society.
  • It aimed to specifically further one of the causes dearests to his heart: the expansion of Indian education.
  • The Society took up the cause of promoting Indian education in earnest, and among its many projects organised mobile libraries, founded schools, and provided night classes for factory workers.

Involvement in the government

  • In 1899, Gokhale was elected to the Bombay Legislative Council.
  • He was also elected to the Imperial Council of the Governor-General of India as a non-officiating member representing Bombay Province.

Mentor to Gandhi

  • Gokhale was famously a mentor to Mahatma Gandhi in the latter’s formative years.
  • In 1912, Gokhale visited South Africa at Gandhi’s invitation.
  • As a young barrister, Gandhi returned from his struggles and received personal guidance from Gokhale, including a knowledge and understanding of India and the issues confronting common Indians.
  • By 1931, Gandhi emerged as the leader of the Indian Independence Movement. In his autobiography, Gandhi calls Gokhale his mentor and guide.

His literary works

  • In 1908, Gokhale founded the Ranade Institute of Economics.
  • He started the English weekly newspaper, The Hitavad (The people’s paper).
  • He also published a daily newspaper titled Jnanaprakash, which allowed him to voice his reformist views on politics and society.

With inputs from

Financial Inclusion in India and Its Challenges

[pib] Atal Pension Yojana:  Marking 5 Years of Implementation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : APY, NPS, PFRDA

Mains level : Old age security concerns addressed by APY

The flagship social security scheme ‘Atal Pension Yojana’ (APY) has completed five years of successful implementation.

Five years of successfull implemention of APY is a significant feat. A statement based prelims question on terms of enrolment of the APY can be asked.

Atal Pension Yojana

  • APY is a government-backed pension scheme, primarily targeted at the unorganised sector.
  • It is a social security scheme launched by the government on 9th May 2015 to provide a defined pension between Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000.
  • It aims of delivering old age income security particularly to the workers in the unorganised sector with a guarantee of minimum pension after 60 years of age.

Terms of enrolment

  • APY can be subscribed by any Indian citizen in the age group of 18-40 years having a bank account and its uniqueness is attributable to three distinctive benefits.
  • First, it provides a minimum guaranteed pension ranging from Rs 1000 to Rs 5000 on attaining 60 years of age,
  • Secondly, the amount of pension is guaranteed for a lifetime to spouse on death of the subscriber.
  • And lastly, in the event of the death of both the subscriber and the spouse, entire pension corpus is paid to the nominee.

Success of the scheme

  • The scheme has now 2.23 crores enrolment.
  • Apart from remarkable enrolments, the scheme has been implemented comprehensively across the country covering all states and UTs with male to a female subscription ratio of 57:43.


  • Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) is the statutory authority established by an enactment of the Parliament.
  • It aims to regulate, promote and ensure orderly growth of the National Pension System (NPS) and pension schemes to which this Act applies.
  • NPS was initially notified for central government employees recruits w.e.f. 1st Jan 2004 and subsequently adopted by almost all State Governments for its employees.
  • NPS was extended to all Indian citizens (resident/non-resident/overseas) on a voluntary basis and to corporates for its employees.

Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

[pib] BiPAP Non-Invasive Ventilator “SwasthVayu”


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SwasthVayu

National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) Bangalore, a constituent of the lab of CSIR has developed a Non-Invasive BiPAP Ventilator ‘SwasthVayu ’in a record time of 36 days to treat COVID-19 patients.

The name ‘SwasthVayu’ can be tricky to guess, specially after some days. In prelims, UPSC may throw some options related to air pollution.


  • A ventilator is a machine that provides mechanical ventilation by moving breathable air into and out of the lungs, to deliver breaths to a patient who is physically unable to breathe, or breathing insufficiently.
  • BiPAP (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure) Non-Invasive ventilator is a microcontroller-based precise closed-loop adaptive control system.
  • It is a built-in biocompatible “3D printed manifold & coupler” with HEPA filter (Highly Efficient Particulate Air Filter).

Benefits of SwasthVayu

  • The major advantage of this machine is that it is simple to use without any specialized nursing, cost-effective, compact and configured with the majority of indigenous components.
  • This is ideal for treating COVID -19 patients in Wards, Makeshift Hospitals, dispensaries and home in current Indian COVID 19 scenario.