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September 2020

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Departmental Standing committees


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Parliamentary committees.

Mains level : Paper 2- Department related committees

The article analyses the issue of tenure of the members of the Department related committees and suggest the changes to the rules about the tenure.


  • There was speculation in the media that the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, M. Venkaiah Naidu, is keen on amending the rules to give them a fixed tenure of two years.

Why 2-year tenure?

  • According to the Rajya Sabha Rules, the term of office of the “members” of the committees shall not exceed one year.
  • Thus, it is the term of office of the members and not that of the committees per se that is one year.
  • The tenurial issue has to be looked at against the backdrop of the fact that the Rajya Sabha itself undergoes partial biennial renewal.
  • While Lok Sabha has a fixed tenure of five years, unless sooner dissolved.
  • Given these facts,2-year tenure suggestion is in consonance with the biennial partial reconstitution of the Rajya Sabha.

Need to rethink the tenurial prescription

  • In case of Lok Sabha, the major reconstitution takes place when a new Lok Sabha is elected, that is normally after five years.
  • Since Rajya Sabha elects new member every two years and the Lok Sabha after every five years, it is only once in 10 years that the requirement of major reshuffle of the Standing Committees in both the Houses is expected to coincide.
  • Given the different election schedules of the two Houses, there is perhaps no need to mandate the same term for the members of both the Houses.

Way forward

  • There are 24 Department-related Standing Committees, each with a membership of 31 (10 of the Rajya Sabha and 21 of the Lok Sabha).
  • They can accommodate 240 members of the Rajya Sabha and 504 members of the Lok Sabha.
  • Therefore, once a member is nominated to a committee, he should be allowed to continue till he retires or otherwise discontinues the membership in order that the committee is able to benefit from his experience and expertise.
  • The Standing Committees are permanent. Hence, there should be no difficulty if the terms of the members of the two Houses on these committees are different, in consonance with the tenure of the Houses themselves.
  • Given these facts, it would stand to reason if the tenure of Department-related Standing Committees is prescribed differently for the two Houses.
  • The Rules could also provide that casual vacancies may be filled in by the Presiding Officers.


While making changes to the rules the Chairman and the Speaker should consider the different tenure for the members of the two Houses on the Department-related committees.

Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

Telecom sector in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Issues faced by Indian telecom sector

The article examines the challenges telecom sector in India is facing and suggests the measures to keep alive the competition in the sector.

From plenty to monopoly

  • There was a time when the number of unique service providers in Delhi, Mumbai, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka were in excess of a dozen.
  • Fragmentation of spectrum and subscribers, it was argued, increased costs to operators.
  • Three or four effective rivals could produce outcomes in favour of the consumer, they argued.
  • Now, consolidation has occurred, mergers have materialised and exits have taken place.
  • The dominant narrative in telecom today is how to preserve competition in the market by way of numbers.
  • The threat of monopolisation is real and palpable as incumbent private operators, Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi), struggle to keep pace.

Threat of duopoly

  • The theory of contestable markets suggests that as long as there is a real threat of entry, even monopolies will be compelled to behave as if they are operating in a competitive market place.
  • But this theory works in an environment where entry of a new player occurs once in a while.
  • India telecom market suffers from multiple entry barriers in the form of spectrum acquisition costs, the licence fee burden as a percentage of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR), infrastructure requirements and the policy uncertainty.
  •  It is far-fetched to expect a new entrant to come in and demolish a potential monopoly.

AGR issue and its implications

  • The recent “AGR” decision, brings the curtains down on a case that has been under litigation since 2003.
  • The contentious issues involved among other things the time period to settle accounts with the government.
  • The DoT recognised the debilitating consequences of the monetary demand and jointly, with the Indian Banks Association (IBA), pleaded before the SC that telcos be given 20 years to pay off dues of nearly Rs 1.47 lakh crore.
  • The IBA’s interest was to reduce potential non-performing assets (NPAs), since banks are heavily invested in telcos, while DoT’s interest was to protect competition.
  •  The final decision gives telcos 10 years to make good the payment.

What government can do to stimulate the competition?

  • With reports of network quality deteriorating by almost 20 per cent, the need of the hour is to augment network capacity immediately and be future-ready when 5G comes along.
  • One option could be to put some cash in the hands of operators by abolishing the licence fee based on AGR, prospectively.
  • Having introduced spectrum auctions, the government could forsake other forms of licence fee.
  •  A nominal administrative fee could be charged instead to administer licences as is the practice in other countries.
  • The National Digital Communications Policy of 2018 had recommended rationalisation of these charges.


Protecting competition and not competitors is a repeated refrain in policy circles. It is now up to the government to play its role and adopt measures to stimulate and fortify competition in Indian telecom without which our $1 trillion digital ambition will remain on paper.

Important Judgements In News

Understanding the significance of Kesavananda Bharati case


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Basic Structure doctrine

Mains level : Paper 2- Basic Structure and essential feature doctrine

The article revisits the impact and significance of the case for the democracy in India.

Understanding the Basic Structure doctrine

  • Basic Structure and essential features doctrine was expounded in the Kesavananda Bharati case.
  • In the case, the validity of the 29th amendment which immunised, in the Ninth Schedule Kerala’s takeover of the religious mutt’s property was challenged.
  • Basic structure is the power of judicial review and essential features are what the Court identifies as such in the exercise of that power.
  • Justice Bhagwati remarkably enunciated as an essential feature the “harmony” between fundamental rights and directive principles.
  • The crucial message though is that the apex court has, in the rarest of rare cases, the constituent power to pronounce a constitutional amendment invalid.

Limits on the powers of Supreme Court

  • The Court is bound by the “golden triangle” of rights created by Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution.
  • Court must derive the “spirit” of the Constitution by reference to the provisions of the Constitution.
  • Since 1973, the evidence shows the Apex Court has shown utmost democratic responsibility and rectitude in interpreting the doctrine of BSEF.

Consider the question asked by the UPSC in 2019 “Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution is limited power and it cannot be enlarged into absolute power”. In light of this statement explain whether parliament under article 368 of the constitution can destroy the Basic Structure of the Constitution by expanding its amending power? “


The ultimate message of BSEF doctrine is not merely to set limits to the power of the managers of people, but to make little by little the tasks of emancipation less onerous.

Delhi Full Statehood Issue

New Bill on powers of Delhi government, Lieutenant Governor


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Art. 239AA

Mains level : Special provisions for NCT

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is likely to introduce legislation in the ongoing Parliament session to amend a 1991 Act pertaining to the powers and function of the Delhi government and the Lieutenant Governor.

Try this PYQ:

Q. Consider the following statements

  1. Union territories are not represented in the Rajya Sabha.
  2. It is within the purview of the Chief Election Commissioner to adjudicate the election disputes.
  3. According to the constitution of India, the Parliament consists of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha only.

Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?

(a) Only 1

(b) 2 and 3

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) None

Key propositions of the Bill

  • The Bill proposes to clearly spell out the functions of the Council of Ministers and the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) by giving more discretionary powers to the L-G.
  • As per the Bill, the L-G could act in his discretion in any matter that is beyond the purview of the powers of the Legislative Assembly of Delhi in matters related to the All India (Civil) Services and the Anti Corruption Branch.
  • It will also give more teeth to the L-G, and the validity of any decision taken as per such discretion shall not be questioned.

Back2Basics: Special provisions for New Delhi

  • The Union Territory of Delhi with a Legislative Assembly came into being in 1991 under Article 239AA of the Constitution inserted by ‘the Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1991’.
  • It said that the UT of Delhi shall be called the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
  • The administrator thereof appointed under Article 239 shall be designated as the Lieutenant-Governor.
  • According to the existing Act, the Legislative Assembly of Delhi has the power to make laws in all matters except public order, police, and land.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

MPLAD Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MPLADS

Mains level : MPLADS and its implementation

While extending support to the move for salary-cut, most Members of Parliament have demanded that the MPLADS funds, meant for development work in constituencies, be restored immediately.

Try this PYQ:

Q.With reference to the Parliament of India, consider the following statements:

  1. A private member’s bill is a bill presented by a Member of Parliament who is not elected but only nominated by the President of India.
  2. Recently, a private member’s bill has been passed in the Parliament of India for the first time in its history.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

What is the MPLAD scheme?

  • The Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) is a programme first launched during the Narasimha Rao Government in 1993.
  • It was aimed towards providing funds for developmental works recommended by individual MPs.

Funds available

  • The MPs then were entitled to recommend works to the tune of Rs 1 crore annually between 1994-95 and 1997-98, after which the annual entitlement was enhanced to Rs 2 crore.
  • The UPA government in 2011-12 raised the annual entitlement to Rs 5 crore per MP.


  • To implement their plans in an area, MPs have to recommend them to the District Authority of the respective Nodal District.
  • The District Authorities then identify Implementing Agencies which execute the projects.
  • The respective District Authority is supposed to oversee the implementation and has to submit monthly reports, audit reports, and work completion reports to the Nodal District Authority.
  • The MPLADS funds can be merged with other schemes such as MGNREGA and Khelo India.

Guidelines for MPLADS implementation

  • The document ‘Guidelines on MPLADS’ was published by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation in June 2016 in this regard.
  • It stated the objective of the scheme to enable MPs to recommend works of developmental nature with emphasis on the creation of durable community assets based on the locally felt needs in their Constituencies.
  • Right from the inception of the Scheme, durable assets of national priorities viz. drinking water, primary education, public health, sanitation and roads, etc. should be created.
  • It recommended MPs to works costing at least 15 per cent of their entitlement for the year for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5 per cent for areas inhabited by ST population.
  • It lays down a number of development works including construction of railway halt stations, providing financial assistance to recognised bodies, cooperative societies, installing CCTV cameras etc.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

Re-scaling the height of Mt Everest


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Himalayan orogeny

Mains level : NA

China and Nepal are expected to announce the latest official height of Mt. Everest.

Try this PYQ:

Q.When you travel to the Himalayas, you will see the following:

  1. Deep gorges
  2. U-turn river courses
  3. Parallel mountain ranges
  4. Steep gradients causing land-sliding

Which of the above can be said to be the evidences for the Himalayas being young fold mountains?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 1, 2 and 4 only

(c) 3 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Mt. Everest

  • Mount Everest or Sagarmatha, Earth’s highest mountain above sea level, is located in the Himalayas between China and Nepal -– the border between them running across its summit point.
  • Its current official elevation – 8,848m – places it more than 200m above the world’s second-highest mountain, K2, which is 8,611m tall and located in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
  • The mountain gets its English name from Sir George Everest, a colonial-era geographer who served as the Surveyor General of India in the mid-19th century.
  • Considered an elite climbing destination, Everest was first scaled in 1953 by the Indian-Nepalese Tenzing Norgay and New Zealander Edmund Hillary.

Everest’s first survey

  • The mission to measure the world’s highest peak was taken up on a serious note in 1847 and culminated with the finding of a team led by Andrew Waugh of the Royal Surveyor General of India.
  • The team discovered that ‘Peak 15’ — as Mt Everest was referred to then — was the highest mountain, contrary to the then-prevailing belief that Mt Kanchenjunga (8,582 m) was the highest peak in the world.
  • Another belief, prevailing even today, is that 8,840 m is not the height that was actually determined by the 19th-century team.
  • That survey, based on trigonometric calculations, is known as the Great Trigonometric Survey of India.

Why is the height being measured again?

  • Everest’s current official height– 8,848m– has been widely accepted since 1956, when the figure was measured by the Survey of India.
  • The height of the summit, however, is known to change because of tectonic activity, such as the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
  • Its measurement over the decades has also depended on who was surveying.
  • Another debate is whether the height should be based on the highest rock point or the highest snow point.

Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

What are Interest Rate Derivatives (IRDs)?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Foreign portfolio investment (FPI)

Mains level : Not Much

The RBI has proposed allowing foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) to undertake exchange-traded rupee interest rate derivatives transactions subject to an overall ceiling of ₹5,000 crores.

Every year, there is a question on a capital market instruments. Make note of all such separately. Also, try this PYQ:

Q. Which of the following is issued by registered foreign portfolio investors to overseas investors who want to be part of the Indian stock market without registering themselves directly? (CSP 2019)

(a) Certificate of Deposit

(b) Commercial Paper

(c) Promissory Note

(d) Participatory Note

Interest Rate Derivatives (IRDs)

  • An IDR is a financial instrument with a value that is linked to the movements of an interest rate or rates.
  • These may include futures, options, or swaps contracts.
  • They are often used by institutional investors, banks, companies, and individuals to protect themselves against changes in market interest rates.
  • The proposed directions by RBI are aimed at encouraging higher non-resident participation, enhance the role of domestic market makers in the offshore market, improve transparency, and achieve better regulatory oversight, according to the central bank.

Back2Basics: Foreign portfolio investment (FPI)

  • FPI involves holding financial assets from a country outside of the investor’s own.
  • FPI holdings can include stocks, ADRs, GDRs, bonds, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds.
  • Along with foreign direct investment (FDI), FPI is one of the common ways for investors to participate in an overseas economy, especially retail investors.
  • Unlike FDI, FPI consists of passive ownership; investors have no control over ventures or direct ownership of property or a stake in a company.


  • With FPI—as with portfolio investment in general—an investor does not actively manage the investments or the companies that issue the investments.
  • They do not have direct control over the assets or the businesses.
  • In contrast, foreign direct investment (FDI) lets an investor purchase a direct business interest in a foreign country.

Wetland Conservation

Etosha Salt Pan, Namibia


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Etosha Salt Pan and its location

Mains level : NA

NASA has recently captured images depicting the wet and dry cycles of Etosha Pan in Africa’s Namibia through the year.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which of the following has/have shrunk immensely/ dried up in the recent past due to human activities?

  1. Aral Sea
  2. Black Sea
  3. Lake Baikal

Select the correct option using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 2 only

(d) 1 and 3 only

Etosha Salt Pan

  • The Etosha pan is hollow in the ground, wherein water may collect or in which a deposit of salt remains after the water has evaporated.
  • The 120-kilometre-long dry lakebed and its surroundings are protected as Etosha National Park, Namibia’s second-largest wildlife park.
  • The pan is mostly dry, but after a heavy rain, it acquires a thin layer of water that is heavily salted by the mineral deposits on the surface.