13 July 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Consider the following statements with respective to Central Information Commission (CIC)

  1. It is a constitutional body chaired by Minister of Information and Broadcasting.
  2. It consists of a Chief Information Commissioner and not more than ten Information Commissioners.

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

a.   1 only
b.   2 only
c.   Both 1 and 2
d.   Neither 1 nor 2

2)Consider the following statements with respective to Himalayan Yak

  1. It is a high-altitude animal, usually found 2,000-5,000 metres above sea level.
  2. It is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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

a.   1 only
b.   2 only
c.   Both 1 and 2
d.   Neither 1 nor 2

3)National Dolphin Research Centre is set to be established in which of the following states?

a.   Uttar Pradesh
b.   West Bengal
c.   Bihar
d.   Odisha

Prelims Specific News Items

Election of Speaker:

Criteria:

The Constitution of India requires the Speaker to be a member of the House.

Although there are no specific qualifications prescribed for being elected the Speaker, an understanding of the Constitution and the laws of the country is considered a major asset for the holder of the Office of the Speaker.

Usually, a member belonging to the ruling party is elected Speaker. The process has evolved over the years where the ruling party nominates its candidate after informal consultations with leaders of other parties and groups in the House.

This convention ensures that once elected, the Speaker enjoys the respect of all sections of the House.

Voting: The Speaker (along with the Deputy Speaker) is elected from among the Lok Sabha members by a simple majority of members present and voting in the House.

Once a decision on the candidate is taken, his/her name is normally proposed by the Prime Minister or the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs.

Term of Office of the Speaker: The Speaker holds Office from the date of his/her election till immediately before the first meeting of the next Lok Sabha (for 5 years).

The speaker once elected is eligible for re-election.

Whenever the Lok Sabha is dissolved, the Speaker does not vacate his office and continues till the newly-elected Lok Sabha meets.

Role and Powers of Speaker:

Interpretation: He/She is the final interpreter of the provisions of the Constitution of India, the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Lok Sabha and the parliamentary precedents, within the House.

Joint Sitting of Both Houses: He/She presides over a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament.

Such a sitting is summoned by the President to settle a deadlock between the two Houses on a bill.

Adjournment of Sitting: He/She can adjourn the House or suspend the meeting in absence one-tenth of the total strength of the House (called the quorum).

Casting Vote: The speaker does not vote in the first instance but in the case of a tie; when the House is divided equally on any question, the Speaker is entitled to vote.

Such a vote is called a Casting Vote, and its purpose is to resolve a deadlock.

Money Bill: He/She decides whether a bill is a money bill or not and his/her decision on this question is final.

Disqualifying Members: It is the speaker who decides the questions of disqualification of a member of the Lok Sabha, arising on the ground of defection under the provisions of the Tenth Schedule.

The 52nd amendment to the Indian Constitution vests this power in the Speaker.

In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that the decision of the Speaker in this regard is subject to judicial review.

Chairing the IPG: He/She acts as the ex-officio chairman of the Indian Parliamentary Group (IPG) which is a link between the Parliament of India and the various parliaments of the world.

He also acts as the ex-officio chairman of the conference of presiding officers of legislative bodies in the country.

Constitution of Committees: The Committees of the House are constituted by the speaker and function under the speaker’s overall direction.

The Chairmen of all Parliamentary Committees are nominated by him/her.

Committees like the Business Advisory Committee, the General Purposes Committee and the Rules Committee work directly under his Chairmanship.

Privileges of the House: The Speaker is the guardian of the rights and privileges of the House, its Committees and members.

Removal of Speaker: Under following conditions, the speaker, may have to vacate the office earlier:

If he ceases to be a member of the Lok Sabha.

If he resigns by writing to the Deputy Speaker.

If he is removed by a resolution passed by a majority of all the members of the Lok Sabha.

Such a resolution can be moved only after giving 14 days’ advance notice.

When a resolution for the removal of the Speaker is under consideration of the House, he/she may be present at the sitting but not preside.

Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha:

Election:

The Deputy Speaker is also elected by the Lok Sabha from amongst its members right after the election of the Speaker has taken place.

The date of election of the Deputy Speaker is fixed by the Speaker (date of election of the Speaker is fixed by the President).

Term of Office and Removal:

Like the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker remains in office usually during the life of the Lok Sabha (5 years).

The Deputy Speaker may vacate his/her office earlier in any of the following three cases:

If he ceases to be a member of the Lok Sabha.

If he resigns by writing to the Speaker.

If he is removed by a resolution passed by a majority of all the then members of the Lok Sabha.

Such a resolution can be moved only after giving 14 days’ advance notice.

Responsibilities and Powers:

The Deputy Speaker performs the duties of the Speaker’s office when it is vacant.

He/She also acts as the Speaker when the latter is absent from the sitting of the House.

He/She also presides over the joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament, in case the Speaker is absent from such a sitting.

The Deputy Speaker has one special privilege, that is, whenever he/she is appointed as a member of a parliamentary committee, he/she automatically becomes its chairman.

2)A policy document from National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has proposed that cities situated on river banks should incorporate river conservation plans when they prepare their Master Plans.

The recommendations are currently for towns that are on the main stem of the river Ganga which are in five States — Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal.

NMCG is the implementation wing of National Ganga Council (set in 2016; which replaced the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA)). Along with its state counterpart organizations, NMCG implements the Namami Gange Programme.

The Master Plan can “create an environment” for facilitating the use of state-of-the-art technologies for river management.

These include satellite-based monitoring of water quality; artificial intelligence for riverine biodiversity mapping; big data and citizen science for river-health monitoring; unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for floodplain mapping.

3)Recently, the Chhattisgarh government has proposed to reduce the area of Lemru Elephant Reserve from 1,995 sq km to 450 sq km.

The Centre gave its approval in 2007 for the creation of the 450 sq km Lemru Elephant Reserve and in 2019, the state government decided to increase the area to 1,995 sq km.

About:

The reserve is located in the Korba district of Chhattisgarh.

The reserve is aiming at reducing human-animal conflict and destruction of property in addition to providing a permanent habitat to the elephants.

Earlier, the state government notified the reserve (Conservation Reserve) in October 2020 under Section 36A of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 (WLPA).

Section 36A has a special provision that gives the Union government a say in the process of notification in case the land to be notified as conservation reserve has areas belonging to the Centre.

Elephant reserves are not recognised under the WLPA.

Reason for Reducing Size:

The area proposed under the reserve is part of the Hasdeo Aranya forests, a very diverse biozone that is also rich in coal deposits.

Other Protected Areas in Chhattisgarh:

  • Achanakmar Tiger Reserve.
  • Indravati Tiger Reserve.
  • Sitanadi-Udanti Tiger Reserve
  • Kanger Valley National Park
  • Badalkhol Tamor Pingla Elephant Reserve.

4)The world-famous Kesaria Buddha stupa in east Champaran district of Bihar is waterlogged following floods in some parts of the district.

The ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) has declared it a protected monument of national importance.

About:

  • The stupa is said to be the tallest and the largest Buddhist stupa in the world.
  • It is located in Kesariya, at a distance of 110 kilometers from Patna, in the East Champaran district of Bihar.
  • It has a circumference of almost 400 feet and stands at a height of about 104 feet
  • In ancient times, Kesaria was under the rule of the Mauryas and the Licchavis.

Two great foreign travelers, Faxian (Fahien) and Xuan Zang (Hsuan Tsang), had visited this place in ancient times and have left interesting and informative accounts of their travels.

5) Important Monuments of Odisha:

  • Konark Sun Temple (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  • Lingaraj Temple
  • Tara Tarini Temple
  • Udaygiri and Khandagiri Caves

6) In blow to Oli, Nepal SC directs Deuba to be appointed PM :- Nepal’s Supreme Court reinstated the House of Representatives for the second time in five months, and directed President Bidya Devi Bhandari to appoint Nepali Congress chief Sher Bahadur Deuba as Prime Minister.

7)This ‘swadeshi’ ink-maker scripts a new chapter : This news is about the Sulekha Ink which was started in 1934 on the suggestion of Mahatma Gandhi, brothers Sankaracharya and Nanigopal Maitra started a small factory in Rajshahi (now in Bangladesh) to manufacture swadeshi ink. In 1939, they shifted to Calcutta.

The company reopened in 2006, after overcoming the cases piled up against it in various courts during the 18 years of closure.

8) Retail Direct Scheme for G-Secs:-

The RBI has announced a scheme under which retail investors will be allowed to open retail direct gilt accounts (RDG) directly with the central bank.

Retail Direct Scheme

  • The scheme is a one-stop solution to facilitate investment in government securities (G-secs) by individual investors.
  • Under RDG schemes, accounts can be opened through a dedicated online portal, which will provide registered users access to primary issuance of government securities and to NDS-OM.

What is a gilt account?

  • A “Gilt Account” means an account opened and maintained for holding Government securities, by an entity or a person including ‘a person resident outside India’ with a “Custodian” permitted by the RBI.

About Government Securities

  • These are debt instruments issued by the government to borrow money.
  • The two key categories are:
  1. Treasury bills (T-Bills) – short-term instruments which mature in 91 days, 182 days, or 364 days, and
  2. Dated securities – long-term instruments, which mature anywhere between 5 years and 40 years

Editorials of the Day

Editorial 01 :- Tracing the decline of U.S. power

In this article the author says that USA is losing its sheen and power because of the shift of its policy from Realist Pragmatist to Idealist.

The Idealist Approach holds that old, ineffective and harmful modes of behaviour i.e., war, use of force and violence should be abandoned in favour of new ways and means as determined by knowledge, reason, compassion and self-restraint.

The Realist Approach regards international politics as struggle for power among nations and justifies as natural the attempts of a nation to use national power for securing the goals of its national interest. It rejects the Idealist Approach as a Utopian approach. In fact both Idealism and Realism are opposed and competing approaches and each offers a particular view of international relations.

Editorial 02 :- Prioritising school reopening on the road to recovery

Context: Most schools in India have been closed since the national lockdown started in March 2020. 

Criticism of Prolonged School Closures 

  • Foreign Nations kept their schools running: Various regions around the world have kept their schools, especially primary schools, mostly open. This includes various European countries such as Portugal, France, the Netherlands, etc. 
  • Discriminatory Treatment to education: On the other hand in India, schools have mostly been shut even as other businesses have opened.
  • Widening Learning Gap: The bottom half of children passing Class 10 are about two years behind in terms of skills. Prolonged school closure has already widened this gap. The poorest families living in dense urban slums, who bore the brunt of the first wave are the ones suffering the most from school closures.
  • Increased Vulnerability to dropout: A survey across 10 States in India in November 2020 estimated that nearly two-thirds of children in rural India may drop out of school, a staggering statistic which is likely to have worsened with continuing closure.
  • Erosion of Socail Progress made: Prolonged school shutdown has severely set back India’s fight against ills such as child labour and child marriage.
  • Malnutrition: Due to the shutdown of schools, mid-day meal schemes have been disrupted; even as early as June 2020, it was estimated that about 800,000 additional children would face underweight and wasting.

Given the costs of prolonged school shutdown, there is a need to probe deeper into the risks of opening schools in the context of COVID-19.

  1. Assessing the risk factor
  • we must realise, and be grateful that the risk of COVID-19 for children is much lower than for adults.
  • A study among the nearly two million children in Sweden (where schools have been open throughout), found that there was not a single child death due to COVID-19
  •  As per Mumbai’s dashboard data, the COVID-19 IFR (Infection Fatality Rate) for under-19 is minuscule: about 0.003% . In comparison, the infant mortality rate in India is about 3% (1,000 times greater) 
  • In other words, school-age children are at a negligibly lower risk from COVID-19 when compared to other threats which we consider normal.
  1. Teachers as ‘essential’ staff
  • To reduce the concern among teachers about virus spread, the Government must treat them on a par with essential workers, and offer them prioritised vaccination.
  1. Vaccines for children
  • There are suggestions about tying school reopening to vaccines for children. 
  • Any medical intervention, especially for children, must be based on a careful risk-benefit analysis. 
  • It is pertinent to note that there are growing concerns in the U.S. of a potential link between heart inflammation and the mRNA vaccine, among adolescents

Conclusion

We cannot let our children suffer for that long, by further prolonging school closures. Policymakers must make evidence-based decisions toward school reopening. 

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