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Coronavirus – Economic Issues

Reforms that will lead to economic Poorna Swaraj

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Long term prospects for Indian economy and reforms needed

The article discusses the long term and short term strategy to deal with the disruption caused by the pandemic and using it to bring about the reform in various sectors.

Context

  • The pain of COVID is real, GST shortfall of Rs 3 lakh crore, expected new bad loans of Rs 3 lakh crore, and a 25 per cent first quarter contraction of GDP.
  • COVID will end, the last quarter was unique, and COVID has created a policy window for overdue reform.

3 Questions to be answered to determine short term measures

  • 1) Are we at the start, middle, or end of the virus?
  • This matters because life will be tentative until companies and individuals know where we are.
  • 2)Will companies will they save for a rainy day or live for today?
  • This matters because lower demand is fantastic for the environment but fatal for the economy (the paradox of thrift).
  • 3) Do we have an effective solution for professions that can’t be done without social distancing until the vaccine arrives?
  • All policy can do in the short run is ensure that disease doesn’t lead to death, unemployment doesn’t lead to hunger, and working capital problems don’t lead to bankruptcy.

Factors in favour of India in the long run

  • Our post-COVID, post-Trump, post-China, post-GST, and post US Federal Reserve economic strategy must recognise factors in our favour.
  • China’s territorial arrogance may be premature.
  • China’s credit to GDP is an unsustainable 300 per cent, many of its big companies will not survive when faced with open market, and its domestic consumption is not sufficient to substitute for global trade.
  • China’s military overreach is unifying the region and creating coalitions and alliances that they will regret but India will enjoy.
  • Muted global growth means oil prices will remain low; this is a huge macroeconomic gift for a country like India.
  • The global digitisation supercycle creates insatiable demand for software talent which would be big advantage for India.
  • Over the next few decades, most rich countries will struggle to grow.
  • This forces investors to overprice growth. And because of our past sins, India is the only big country with decades of growth left.

Reforms India need

  • Our problem is not jobs but productivity.
  • This needs compliance reform-taking an axe through our 67,000 compliances and 6,700 filings.
  • Labour law reform.
  • Banking reform: raising our credit to GDP ratio from 50 per cent to 100 per cent by licensing more banks and fixing existing ones.
  • Education reform.
  • Ease-of-doing-business reforms: reduce the number of ministries from 52 to 15.
  • Civil service reform:cut the number of people in Delhi with the rank of Secretary from 250+ to 50, a risk-averse bureaucracy must be sidestepped or overruled.

Consider the question “The disruption caused by the pandemic offers a window for India to create enduring change through economic reforms to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the pandemic. Discuss.”

Conclusion

We should focus on creating climate change for our entrepreneurs, firms, and citizens with reforms that will give them economic Poorna Swaraj. And take our per capita income of $2,500 to $10,000 in five years. If not now, then when?

Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Examining the legislative error of disentitling daughters

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hindu Succession Act 1956 and amendments

Mains level : Paper 2- The Supreme Court judgement making daughters coparcener in her own right

The article highlights the importance of the latest Supreme Court Judgement making daughter coparcener in own right by birth removing the conditions laid down in the previous judgement.

Background

  • In Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma (2020), the Supreme Court held that a coparcener’s daughter would become a coparcener in her own right by birth.

Amendment in 2005 and related SC judgement

  • There is a difference between rights conferred by the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 and the amendment to that act in 2005.
  • In 1956 Act, equal right of succession at par with a son was given to a daughter, but only after the demise of the father or mother.
  • The 2005 amendment gave the right to property to a daughter in a joint Hindu family during the lifetime of the father.
  • In Prakash v. Phulavati 2005, the Supreme Court decided on the prospectivity or retrospectivity of the law creating coparcenary rights in favour of daughters.
  • It created a condition that the rights under the amendment are applicable only to living daughters of living coparceners as on September 9, 2005; however, it gave no reason as to why this was chosen as a condition.
  • The status of a daughter to be subject to her father being alive is apparently a mistake.
  • The death of an individual should not determine the rights of their heirs.
  • If any right had accrued in the daughter’s favour by a legislation, the same can’t be disturbed by death of her father.

What the SC said in latest judgement

  • In the present judgment, Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma , the court rightly held that as laid down in Section 6 (1) (a), daughter is to be a coparcener by birth; so there is no question of being prospective or retrospective.
  • It is the physical status that matters and should not be linked to a date.
  • Even in the case of unregistered partition deeds executed before December 20, 2004, the court has opened a new window for daughters.
  • Daughters can claim a right even in an unregistered partition deed which has not been proved conclusively.

Conclusion

There is a need to examine all the existing laws and wherever discriminatory practices exist, they need to be amended appropriately.

Digital India Initiatives

Issues with the Gopalakrishnan Committee Report

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Personal data and non-personal data

Mains level : Paper 3- Making open data-society by sharing making open the data collected by the government

The article highlights the importance of non-personal data collected by the government and lack of any reference to it in the Gopalakrishnan Committee report.

Background

  • The Committee of Experts on the Non-Personal Data Governance Framework headed by K Gopalakrishnan has recommended making privately held non-personal data “open”.
  •  This has raised concerns about state interference in the private data ecoystem.

Importance of data collected by government agencies

  • The report is a missed opportunity to address the governance frameworks around data created by government agencies.
  • Some of the most important non-personal data sets are held by the government, or result from taxpayer funding.
  • Such data can be useful in either framing public policy or creating and providing new services.

Why government data should be open to citizens: 5 Reasons

  • First, the state should be transparent about information that it has. This will improve accountability.
  • Second, if taxpayer money has funded any of the data sets, then it is an obligation of the state to return the fruits of that funding to the taxpayer.
  • Third, by permitting the reuse of government data sets, we avoid the need for duplication.
  • Fourth, government data sets, curated according to publicly verified standards, can lead to increased confidence in data quality and increased usage.
  • Finally, free flow of information can have beneficial effects on society in general.

Government policies promoting openness of data

  • The Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, mandates the disclosure of government data on a suo moto basis.
  • One of the nine pillars of the Digital India Policy is “information for all”.
  • The National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), 2012 requires all non-sensitive information held by public authorities to be made publicly accessible in machine readable formats (subject to conditions).
  • The government has also set up an Open Government Data Platform to provide open access to data sets held by ministries and other agencies of the government.
  • Various States have also either created their own data portals or have provided data sets to the Open Government Data Platform.

Challenges in making the data open to society

  • There are two reasons for our failure to create an open data-based society.
  • The first is lack of clarity in some of the provisions of the NDSAP or the relevant implementation guidelines.
  • The second is the inability to enforce guidelines appropriately.
  • Data sets released by governments are often inconsistent, incomplete, outdated, published in non-machine readable or inconsistent formats, include duplicates, and lack quality (or any) metadata, thereby reducing re-usability.

Issues with Gopalakrishnana Committee Report

  • The Gopalakrishnan Committee could have evaluated what is going wrong with existing policies and practice pertaining to government data.
  • The report is a missed opportunity to address the governance frameworks around non-personal data sets in a country created by government agencies, or those resulting from taxpayer money.
  • The report largely focuses on the dangers posed by data collection by private sector entities.
  • This has raised concerns about state interference in the private data ecoystem.
  • Many of the concerns that should be addressed in the report that are central to the governance of the data ecosystem have remained in the background.
  • For instance, India’s cybersecurity framework continues to be inadequate, while even the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee report of 2018 highlighted the need to restrict the growing power of the state to carry out surveillance.

Consider the question “What are the key recommendation made by the Gopalakrishnan Committee for the regulation of non-personal data? What are the shortcomings in of the report in your opinion?”

Conclusion

Since data governance is a relatively new concept in India, the government would be better served in taking an incremental approach to any perceived problems. This should begin with reforming how the government itself deals with citizens’ data.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

What are Question Hour and Zero Hour?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Question hour, Zero Hour

Mains level : Not Much

The Lok Sabha Secretariat officially released the schedule for the monsoon Parliament session with Question Hour being dropped. Zero Hour will also be restricted in both Houses.

This newscard is very narrative in its form and scope.

Q.Discuss the various instruments of Parliamentary Control in India.

What is Question Hour, and what is its significance?

  • Question Hour is the liveliest hour in Parliament. It is during this one hour that MPs ask questions of ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries.
  • Prior to Independence, the first question asked of government was in 1893. It was on the burden cast on village shopkeepers who had to provide supplies to touring government officers.
  • The questions that MPs ask are designed to elicit information and trigger suitable action by ministries.
  • Over the last 70 years, MPs have successfully used this parliamentary device to shine a light on government functioning.
  • Their questions have exposed financial irregularities and brought data and information regarding government functioning to the public domain.
  • With the broadcasting since 1991, Question Hour has become one of the most visible aspects of parliamentary functioning.

And what is Zero Hour?

  • While Question Hour is strictly regulated, Zero Hour is an Indian innovation. The phrase does not find mention in the rules of procedure.
  • The concept of Zero Hour started organically in the first decade of Indian Parliament when MPs felt the need for raising important constituency and national issues.
  • During the initial days, Parliament used to break for lunch at 1 pm.
  • Therefore, the opportunity for MPs to raise national issues without an advance notice became available at 12 pm and could last for an hour until the House adjourned for lunch.
  • This led to the hour being popularly referred to as Zero Hour and the issues being raised during this time as Zero Hour submissions.
  • Its importance can be gauged from the support it receives from citizens, media, MPs and presiding officers despite not being part of the rulebook.

How is Question Hour regulated?

  • Parliament has comprehensive rules for dealing with every aspect of Question Hour.
  • And the presiding officers of the two houses are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question Hour.
  • For example, usually, Question Hour is the first hour of a parliamentary sitting.

What kinds of questions are asked?

  • Parliamentary rules provide guidelines on the kind of questions that can be asked by MPs.
  • Questions have to be limited to 150 words. They have to be precise and not too general.
  • The question should also be related to an area of responsibility of the GoI.
  • Questions should not seek information about matters that are secret or are under adjudication before courts.
  • It is the presiding officers of the two Houses who finally decide whether a question raised by an MP will be admitted for answering by the government.

How frequently is Question Hour held?

  • The process of asking and answering questions starts with identifying the days on which Question Hour will be held.
  • At the beginning of Parliament in 1952, Lok Sabha rules provided for Question Hour to be held every day. Rajya Sabha, on the other hand, had a provision for Question Hour for two days a week.
  • A few months later, this was changed to four days a week. Then from 1964, Question Hour was taking place in Rajya Sabha on every day of the session.
  • Now, Question Hour in both Houses is held on all days of the session.
  • But there are two days when an exception is made. There is no Question Hour on the day the President addresses MPs from both Houses in the Central Hall.
  • Question Hour is not scheduled either on the day the Finance Minister presents the Budget.

How does Parliament manage to get so many questions answered?

  • To streamline the answering of questions raised by MPs, the ministries are put into five groups. Each group answers questions on the day allocated to it.
  • For example, in the last session, on Thursday the Ministries of Civil Aviation, Labour, Housing, and Youth Affairs and Sports were answering questions posed by Lok Sabha MPs.
  • MPs can specify whether they want an oral or written response to their questions.
  • They can put an asterisk against their question signifying that they want the minister to answer that question on the floor. These are referred to as starred questions.
  • After the minister’s response, the MP who asked the question and other MPs can also ask a follow-up question.
  • This is the visible part of Question Hour, where you see MPs trying to corner ministers on the functioning of their ministries on live television.

How do ministers prepare their answers?

  • Ministries receive the questions 15 days in advance so that they can prepare their ministers for Question Hour.
  • They also have to prepare for sharp follow-up questions they can expect to be asked in the House.
  • Governments’ officers are close at hand in a gallery so that they can pass notes or relevant documents to support the minister in answering a question.
  • When MPs are trying to gather data and information about government functioning, they prefer the responses to such queries in writing.
  • These questions are referred to as unstarred questions. The responses to these questions are placed on the table of Parliament.

Are the questions only for ministers?

  • MPs usually ask questions to hold ministers accountable. But the rules also provide them with a mechanism for asking their colleagues a question.
  • Such a question should be limited to the role of an MP relating to a Bill or a resolution being piloted by them or any other matter connected with the functioning of the House for which they are responsible.
  • Should the presiding officer so allow, MPs can also ask a question to a minister at a notice period shorter than 15 days.

Is there a limit to the number of questions that can be asked?

  • Rules on the number of questions that can be asked in a day have changed over the years.
  • In Lok Sabha, until the late 1960s, there was no limit on the number of unstarred questions that could be asked in a day.
  • Now, Parliament rules limit the number of starred and unstarred questions an MP can ask in a day.
  • The total numbers of questions asked by MPs in the starred and unstarred categories are then put in a random ballot.
  • From the ballot in Lok Sabha, 20 starred questions are picked for answering during Question Hour and 230 are picked for written answers.
  • Last year, a record was set when on a single day, after a gap of 47 years, all 20 starred questions were answered in Lok Sabha.

Have there been previous sessions without Question Hour?

  • Parliamentary records show that during the Chinese aggression in 1962, the Winter Session was advanced.
  • The sitting of the House started at 12 pm and there was no Question Hour held. Before the session, changes were made limiting the number of questions.
  • Thereafter, following an agreement between the ruling and the Opposition parties, it was decided to suspend Question Hour.

Civil Services Reforms

Mission Karmayogi for Civil Services Capacity Building

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mission Karmayogi

Mains level : Civil services reforms

The Union Cabinet gave its approval for Mission Karmayogi, a new national capacity building and performance evaluation programme for civil servants.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The Mission Karmayogi recently seen in news is related to:

a) EPFO reforms

b) Labour laws reforms

c) Civil Services reforms

d) Artisans and Handicrafts

Mission Karmayogi

  • The mission is established under the National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building (NPCSCB).
  • It is aimed at building a future-ready civil service with the right attitude, skills and knowledge, aligned to the vision of New India.
  • It is meant to be a comprehensive post-recruitment reform of the Centre’s human resource development, in much the same way as the National Recruitment Agency approved last week is pre-recruitment reform.

Why such a mission?

  • The capacity of Civil Services plays a vital role in rendering a wide variety of services, implementing welfare programs and performing core governance functions.

Major undertakings of the scheme

  • The scheme will cover 46 lakh, Central government employees, at all levels, and involve an outlay of ₹510 crores over a five-year period, according to an official statement.
  • The programme will support a transition from “rules-based to roles-based” HR management so that work allocations can be done by matching an official’s competencies to the requirements of the post.
  • Apart from domain knowledge training, the scheme will focus on “functional and behavioural competencies” as well, and also includes a monitoring framework for performance evaluations.
  • Eventually, service matters such as confirmation after probation period, deployment, work assignments and notification of vacancies will all be integrated into the proposed framework.
  • The capacity building will be delivered through iGOT Karmayogi digital platform, with content drawn from global best practices rooted in Indian national ethos.

Apex bodies under the mission

  • The Prime Minister’s Public Human Resource Council will be set up as the apex body to direct the reforms.
  • There will be an autonomous Capacity Building Commission to be established to manage the reformed system and harmonize training standards across the country so that there is a common understanding of India’s aspirations and development goals.
  • A wholly government-owned, not-for-profit special purpose vehicle will be set up to own and operate the digital platform and its content.

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

OBC categorization: findings, progress by a panel so far

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : OBC categorization

While the ongoing legal debate on sub-categorisation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for reservations is undergoing, a Commission has been examining sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBC) for almost three years now.

Practice question for mains:

Q.The quota policy for OBCs needs an urgent revisit. Comment.

What is the sub-categorisation of OBCs?

  • OBCs are granted 27% reservation in jobs and education under the central government.
  • The question of sub-categorisation arises out of the perception that only a few affluent communities among the over 2,600 included in the Central List of OBCs have secured a major part of this 27% reservation.
  • The argument for sub-categorisation — or creating categories within OBCs for reservation — is that it would ensure “equitable distribution” of representation among all OBC communities.

Who is examining sub-categorisation?

  • The Commission to Examine Sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes took charge on October 11, 2017.
  • It is headed by retired Delhi High Court Chief Justice G Rohini.
  • Initially constituted with tenure of 12 weeks ending January 3, 2018, it was granted an extension recently.

What are its terms of references?

It was originally set up with three terms of reference:

  1. To examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of OBCs with reference to such classes included in the Central List;
  2. To work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such OBCs;
  3. To take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.

A fourth was added on January 22, 2020, when the Cabinet granted it an extension:

  1. To study the various entries in the Central List of OBCs and recommend correction of any repetitions, ambiguities, inconsistencies and errors of spelling or transcription.

What progress has it made so far?

  • In its letter to the government on July 30, 2019, the Commission wrote that it is ready with the draft report. This could have huge political consequences and is likely to face a judicial review.
  • The current tenure of the Commission ends on January 31, 2021.
  • Its budget is being drawn from the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) which was given constitutional status by the government in 2018.

What progress has it made so far?

  • The Commission is ready with the draft report. This could have huge political consequences and is likely to face a judicial review.
  • The current tenure of the Commission ends on January 31, 2021.
  • Its budget is being drawn from the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) which was given constitutional status by the government in 2018.

How do these data compare with OBCs’ share in the population?

  • A hurdle for the Commission has been the absence of data for the population of various communities to compare with their representation in jobs and admissions.
  • Sources said the data of Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) were not considered reliable.
  • The Commission has requested for an appropriate Budget provision for a proposed all-India survey for an estimate of the caste-wise population of OBCs.

NCRB data on Accidental Deaths and Suicides

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NCRB

Mains level : NCRB and its report

The cases of suicide and the number of accidental deaths registered an increase across the country last year compared to 2018, according to the annual National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report.

Do you know?

NCRB also released data on hate crimes, fake news, and anti-national activities etc.

(1) Data on Suicides

  • Statewise data: The maximum cases of mass/family suicides were reported from Tamil Nadu (16), followed by Andhra Pradesh (14), Kerala (11) and Punjab (9) and Rajasthan (7).
  • Unemployed person: Suicides by unemployed persons amounting to 14% were in Kerala (1,963), followed by 10.8% in Maharashtra, 9.8% in Tamil Nadu, 9.2% in Karnataka and 6.1% in Odisha. Of the 97,613 male suicides, the maximum were daily wage earners (29,092), followed by self-employed persons (14,319) and the unemployed (11,599).
  • Farmer’s suicide: Majority of victims engaged in the farming sector were reported in Maharashtra (38.2% of 10,281), Karnataka (19.4%), AP (10.0%), MP (5.3%) and Chhattisgarh & Telangana (4.9% each),” said the report.
  • Rural-Urban: The suicide rate in cities (13.9%) was higher compared to the all-India average. Family problems (other than marriage related problems)’ (32.4%); ‘marriage related problems’ (5.5%); and ‘illness’ (17.1%) accounted for 55% of the total suicides.
  • Gender-specific cases: The overall male-female ratio was 70.2:29.8. Nearly 68.4% of males were married and the ratio was 62.5% for female victims. While 12.6% of the total victims were illiterate, 16.3% had studied up to primary level, 19.6% up to middle level and 23.3% up to Matriculation level. Only 3.7% were graduates and above.
  • Defence personnel: In the Central Armed Police Forces, a total of 36 personnel died by suicide, 38.9% were due to “family problems”.

(2) Data on Accidents

  • Accidental deaths in the country increased by 2.3%. Compared to 4,11,824 in 2018, the figure stood at 4,21,104 last year.
  • The rate (per lakh population) increased from 31.1 to 31.5. The maximum casualties of 30.9% were reported in the 30-45 years age group, followed by 26% in the 18-30 years’ age group.
  • The highest rate was reported from Puducherry (72.8), followed by Chhattisgarh (68.6), Maharashtra (57.4), Haryana (54.3), Goa (51.5) and Madhya Pradesh (51.4).
  • Maharashtra reported the highest deaths (70,329), amounting to nearly one-sixth of the total figure. UP, the most populous state, accounted for 9.6% cases, followed by MP (10.1%).
  • Maximum deaths (85.4%) were in road accidents. While 38% of the victims were two-wheeler riders, 14.6% involved trucks.
  • Dangerous/careless driving or overtaking contributed to 25.7% road accidents, claiming 42,557 lives and leaving more than 1 lakh people injured.

(3) Deaths due to disasters

  • A total of 8,145 deaths were due to the causes attributable to forces of nature, including 35.3% due to lightning, 15.6% by heat/sunstroke and 11.6% deaths in floods.
  • Maximum deaths (400) due to lightning was reported each from Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, followed by Jharkhand (334) and Uttar Pradesh (321).

Back2Basics: NCRB

  • The NCRB is an Indian government agency responsible for collecting and analyzing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Special and Local Laws (SLL).
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi and is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • It was set-up in 1986 to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
  • It was set up based on the recommendation of the Task-force 1985 and National Police Commission 1977.

Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

Green Term Ahead Market (GTAM)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Green Term Ahead Market (GTAM)

Mains level : Not Much

As a first step towards Greening the Indian short term power market, the  Ministry of Power and New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) has launched pan-India Green Term Ahead Market (GTAM) in electricity.

Try this question

Q.What is the Green Term Ahead Market (GTAM)? Discuss its working and key benefits to the Renewable Energy sector.

About GTAM

  • GTAM is an alternative new model introduced for selling off the power by the renewable developers in the open market without getting into long term PPAs.
  • This would promote RE merchant capacity addition and help in achieving RE capacity addition targets of the country.

Benefits of GTAM

  • It would lessen the burden on the RE-rich States and incentivize them to develop RE capacity beyond their own RPO.
  • It will benefit buyers of RE through competitive prices and transparent and flexible procurement. It will also benefit RE sellers by providing access to the pan- India market

Key features

  • Transactions through GTAM will be bilateral in nature with clear identification of corresponding buyers and sellers, there will not be any difficulty in accounting for RPO.
  • GTAM contracts will be segregated into Solar RPO & Non-Solar RPO as RPO targets are also segregated.
  • Further, within the two segments, GTAM contracts will have Green Intraday, Day Ahead Contingency, Daily and Weekly Contracts
  • Green Intraday Contract & Day Ahead Contingency Contract – Bidding will take place on a 15-minute time-block wise MW basis.
  • Daily & Weekly Contracts – Bidding will take place on an MWh basis.
  • Price discovery will take place on a continuous basis i.e. price-time priority basis. Subsequently, looking at the market conditions open auction can be introduced for daily & weekly contracts.
  • Energy scheduled through GTAM contract shall be considered as deemed RPO compliance of the buyer.