Polity & Governance
- Om Birla became the Lok Sabha Speaker
Government Schemes & Policies
- Genetically modified (GM) cotton: what is allowed, what farmers sowed
- Commerce & Industry Minister Meets Industry Stakeholders on E-Commerce & Data Localization
Issues related to Health & Education
- World Food India to be held in November 2019 in New Delhi
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Govt committed to saving land from getting degraded
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, Myanmar conduct joint operation ‘Sunrise 2’ to destroy militant camps in Northeast
- Why employers fear Brazil’s slavery ‘dirty list’
Science & Technology
- International Space Station (ISS)
Key Facts for Prelims
- 20th anniversary of ‘Operation Vijay’:
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Polity & Governance
Om Birla became the Lok Sabha Speaker
Om Birla has been named as the new Lok Sabha Speaker by the NDA.
- He is elected Member of Parliament from Kota, Rajasthan.
Speaker of the Lok Sabha:
- The Speaker of the Lok Sabha is the presiding officer of the Lok Sabha (House of the People), the lower house of the Parliament.
- The Constitution of India provides that the Speaker’s salary and allowances are not to be voted by Parliament and are to be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.
- He is the chairman of the Business Advisory Committee, the Rules Committee and the General Purpose Committee.
Term of Office of the Speaker:
- The Speaker continues in office till immediately before the first meeting of Lok Sabha after dissolution of the one to which he/she was elected, unless he/she ceases to be a Member by any of the reasons specified in articles 94, 101 and 102 of the Constitution.
- The speaker is eligible for re-election.
- On the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, although the Speaker ceases to be a member of the House, he/she does not vacate his/her office.
- In case of vacant seat of speaker, the date of election of the Speaker is fixed by the President.
Election of Speaker:
- In the Lok Sabha, both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker are elected from among its members by a simple majority of members present and voting in the House.
- As such, no specific qualifications are prescribed for being elected the Speaker except he/she should be a member of the House.
- Usually, a member belonging to the ruling party is elected the Speaker. Once a decision on the candidate is taken, his/her name is normally proposed by the Prime Minister or the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs.
- Any member of Parliament is eligible to be nominated as a speaker but most commonly the candidate of ruling party or the party with majority wins this post.
- However, there are certain cases when the elected Speaker does not belong to the majority ruling party of Lok Sabha (G. M. C. Balyogi, Manohar Joshi, Somnath Chatterjee).
- In case of newly constituted House, the Speaker pro term presides over the sitting in which the Speaker is elected. If the election falls later in the life of a Lok Sabha, the Deputy Speaker presides.
- After the results are announced, the elected Speaker is conducted to the Chair by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
The Speaker of Lok Sabha automatically disqualifies from his post if:
- he is no longer the Member of Parliament.
- if he tenders his resignation to the Deputy Speaker.
- if he holds the office of profit under central government or any state government.
- if he is of unsound mind and that too declared by the court of law.
- if he is declared undischarged insolvent.
- if he is no longer the citizen of India or voluntarily accepts the citizenship of any other country.
- if he is removed from the post of Speaker by passing a resolution by majority of the members of Lok Sabha. This is to note that during resolution for removal of Speaker, the Speaker is not in position to cast his vote even if there is tie.
Speaker and the Committees:
- The Committees of the House function under the overall direction of the Speaker. All such Committees are constituted by her or by the House.
- The Chairmen of all Parliamentary Committees are nominated by her.
- Any procedural problems in the functioning of the Committees are referred to her for directions.
- Committees like the Business Advisory Committee, the General Purposes Committee and the Rules Committee work directly under her Chairmanship.
Who presides over the House in the absence of both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker?
- In the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker discharges her functions.
- A member from the Panel of Chairmen presides over the House in the absence of both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.
Responsibilities of Lok Sabha speaker:
- To preside over the House, whenever he is present in the House, excepting when a resolution for his removal from office is under consideration.
- To maintain order as well as decorum in the House for conducting its business.
- To Act as 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.
- To presides over a joint setting of the two Houses of Parliament in case of deadlock between the two Houses on a bill.
- On the request of the Leader of the House, to allow a secret sitting of the House.
- To adjourn the House when there is no quorum.
- To permit a member who cannot adequately express himself in Hindi or English or the official language of the state, to address the House in his mother tongue.
- To exercise a casting vote in the case of an equality of votes.
- To determine whether a Bill is a Money Bill and to certify a Money Bill.
- To decide on the disqualification of a member of the Lok Sabha (power given following the 52nd Constitution amendment), on the ground of defection as enumerated in the Tenth Schedule.
- To acts as the ex-officio chairman of the Indian Parliamentary Group as well as acts as the ex-officio chairman of the conference of presiding officers of legislative bodies in India.
- To appoints the chairman of all the parliamentary committees of the Lok Sabha and supervises their functioning.
Power of Lok Sabha Speaker:
- Except on a substantive motion, work/conduct of speaker are not allowed to be discussed in the Lok Sabha
- His powers of regulating procedure are not subject to the jurisdiction of any Court.
- He is placed at seventh rank, along with the Chief Justice of India in the order of precedence. In other words, he has a higher rank than all cabinet ministers, except the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister.
Removal of Speaker:
- The Speaker can resign from office by writing under her hand to the Deputy Speaker.
- The Speaker can be removed from office only on a resolution of the House passed by a majority of all the then members of the House.
- Such a resolution has to satisfy some conditions like: it should be specific with respect to the charges and it should not contain arguments, inferences, ironical expressions, imputations or defamatory statements, etc.
- This motion of removal can be considered and discussed only when it has the support of at least 50 members.
- It is also mandatory to give a minimum of 14 days’ notice of the intention to move the resolution.
- The speaker cannot be removed an ordinary majority (a majority of the members present and voting in the House).
Government Schemes & Policies
Genetically modified (GM) cotton: what is allowed, what farmers sowed
A group of more than 1,000 farmers in a village in Akola of Maharashtra sow seeds of an unapproved, genetically modified variety of cotton defying government regulations.
What is BT Cotton?
- BT cotton is an insect-resistant transgenic crop designed to combat the attack of Cotton bollworm insect (also known as Heliothis bollworm or pink ballworm).
- It was developed by a US company Bayer-Monsanto which involves insertion of two genes – ‘Cry1Ab’ and ‘Cry2Bc’ from the soil bacterium ‘Bacillus thuringiensis’ into cotton seeds.
- BT cotton remains the only GM crop allowed to be cultivated in India. The commercial release of BT cotton was sanctioned by the government in 2002.
Which organization decides the decision regarding GMO?
- In India, it is the responsibility of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Environment Ministry to assess the safety of a genetically modified plant, and decide whether it is fit for cultivation.
- The GEAC comprises experts and government representatives, and a decision it takes has to be approved by the Environment Minister before any crop is allowed for cultivation.
- Besides Bt cotton, the GEAC has cleared two other genetically modified crops — brinjal and mustard — but these have not received the consent of the Environment Minister.
Varity of cotton sown by villagers in Akola village:
- The farmers in Akola planted an herbicide-tolerant variety of BT cotton (HtBt). This HtBt variety of cotton is being surreptitiously used by farmers across the country, smuggled from abroad.
- This variety (HtBt) involves the addition of another gene, ‘Cp4-Epsps’ from another soil bacterium, ‘Agrobacterium tumefaciens’.
- It is not cleared by GEAC. The farmers claim that the HtBt variety can withstand the spray of glyphosate, a herbicide that is used to remove weeds, and thus it substantially saves them de-weeding costs.
- Farmers spend around Rs 3,000-5,000 per acre for de-weeding. Along with the uncertainty in finding labour, de-weeding threatens economic viability of their crops.
Legality of GMO in India:
- Legally, sale, storage, transportation and usage of unapproved GM seeds is a punishable offence under the Rules of Environmental Protection Act 1989.
- Also, sale of unapproved seeds is not allowed under the Seed Act of 1966 and the Cotton Act of 1957.
- The Environmental Protection Act provides for a jail term of five years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for violation of its provisions, and cases can be filed under the other two Acts.
What is GMO?
- Genetically modified crops (GM crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering methods to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species.
Pros of GMO:
- Higher crop yields
- Reduced farm costs
- Increased farm profit
- Safer environment
- More nutritious food
Cons of using GMO
- Some are unsafe for consumption having adverse impacts on human health
- Can introduce problems in the soil or neighbouring crops
- Some traits of genes start expressing themselves only after several generations
- Risk of genes from certain GMO plants mixing with those of conventional crops
Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)
- The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) functions in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
- GEAC, having 24 members, is chaired by the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of MoEF&CC and co-chaired by a representative from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
- To appraise activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
- To appraise proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials.
- The committee or any persons authorized by it has powers to take punitive action under the Environment Protection Act.
Commerce & Industry Minister Meets Industry Stakeholders on E-Commerce & Data Localization
Union Minister of Commerce and Industry & Railways is holding a meeting with Industry stakeholders on e-Commerce and data localization
Highlights of the meeting:
- In the meeting, issues such as opportunities for India in the growing digital economy, how e-commerce can help with value addition in Indian GDP, understanding data flows from the aspects of privacy, security, safety and free choice and how to monitor the use of data etc. were discussed.
- The anticipated increase in costs and efficiency losses due to data localisation, the need for a timeline to create a data infrastructure to comply with data localisation norms were also discussed.
What is Data localization?
- Data localization is the act of storing data on any device that is physically present within the borders of a specific country where the data was generated.
- It is a concept that the personal data of a country’s residents should be processed and stored in that country.
- To protect the personal and financial information of the country’s citizens and residents from foreign surveillance
- To give local governments and regulators the jurisdiction to call for the data when required.
- To help law-enforcement agencies to access information that is needed for the detection of a crime or to gather evidence
- To create domestic jobs and skills in data storage and analytics
- To get free form the dependency of mutual legal assistance treaties (MLATs) to obtain data access resulting delayed investigations.
- In 2018, The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a directive imposing stringent data localisation requirements which requires all payment system providers and their suppliers and intermediaries to store the entire data related to payment transactions only in India.
- In 2018, Justice B.N Srikrishna was tasked with the responsibility of proposing a new data protection framework for India (Srikrishna Committee, 2018).
- The Srikrishna Committee submitted its report and a draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 to the government in 2018. After the release of the Srikrishna Committee’s recommendations, reports about a draft e-commerce policy set up by the government also came to light.
- Goals set in the Draft National Digital Communications Policy 2018, and the Guidelines for Government Departments for Contractual Terms related to Cloud Storage 2017, draft e-commerce policy and the draft report of the cloud policy panel show signs of data localization.
Issues related to Health & Education
World Food India to be held in November 2019 in New Delhi
World Food India 2019 will be the biggest gathering of all global and domestic stakeholders in Food Processing Sector.
About the World Food India 2019:
- World Food India (WFI) 2019 will be held from 1- 4th November 2019 in New Delhi which will position India as Food Processing Destination of the World.
- The tagline of the event is “Forging Partnerships for Growth”.
About the World Food India:
- The government of India initiated biennial event of World Food India to promote food processing sector at global level.
- It is a Global event to facilitate domestic and global investments into food processing sector in India. It encompasses the entire food spectrum from production to consumption.
- It is also the largest gathering of investors, manufacturers, producers, food processors, and organizations from the global food ecosystem in India.
- The first such event was conducted in 2017 which put India in global food map as a World Food Factory.
- The growth rate of Indian food processing industry is 11 per cent which is twice the pace of global industry.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Govt committed to saving land from getting degraded
At an event held to mark ‘World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought’, Ministry of Environment announced that the India will host COP 14 (Conference of the Parties) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in September by reiterating the future success of the Bonn Challenge.
What is Bonn challenge?
- The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
- It was launched in 2011 by the Government of Germany and IUCN, and later endorsed and extended by the New York Declaration on Forests at the 2014 UN Climate Summit.
- It is a practical means of realizing many existing international commitments, including the CBD Aichi Target 15, the UNFCCC REDD+ goal, and the Rio+20 land degradation neutrality goal.
- Underlying the Bonn Challenge is the’ forest landscape restoration’ (FLR) approach, which aims to restore ecological integrity at the same time as improving human well-being through multifunctional landscapes.
Forest landscape restoration (FLR)
- Forest landscape restoration (FLR) is the ongoing process of regaining ecological functionality and enhancing human well-being across deforested or degraded forest landscapes.
Principles of FLR:
- Focus on landscapes – FLR takes place within and across entire landscapes representing mosaics of interacting land uses.
- Maintain and enhance natural ecosystems within landscapes – enhances the conservation, recovery and sustainable management of forests.
- Engage stakeholders and support participatory governance – engages stakeholders at different scales, including vulnerable groups, in planning and decision making.
- Tailor to the local context using a variety of approaches – uses latest science and indigenous knowledge in the context of local capacities.
- Restore multiple functions for multiple benefits – aim to restore multiple economic and social functions and generate a range of ecosystem goods and services.
- Manage adaptively for long-term resilience – seeks to enhance the resilience of the landscape and its stakeholders over the medium and long-term.
Current FLR projects:
- Bonn Challenge Barometer – Gives progress on implementation of the Bonn Challenge and forest landscape restoration.
- Land Use Stabilization – to demonstrate conservation and development benefits in four targeted landscapes in Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
- SUSTAIN (Sustainability and inclusion strategy for growth corridors in Africa) – It applies the landscape approach to support climate-resilient, inclusive green growth in the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) and the Zambezi Valley Development Corridor of Mozambique.
- The Restoration Initiative – Unites 10 Asian and African countries and three Global Environment Facility agencies, IUCN, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the UN Environment Program, to restore degraded landscapes at scale.
- About 30% of India’s total geographical area being affected by land degradation.
- Various schemes such as: Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), Soil Health Card Scheme, Soil Health Management Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojna (PKSY), Per Drop More Crop, etc. were launched to reduce land degradation.
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and World Resources Institute (WRI) have developed a proven Restoration Opportunities Methodology Assessment (ROAM) with practical steps for diverse stakeholders to restore landscapes at any scale.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, Myanmar conduct joint operation ‘Sunrise 2’ to destroy militant camps in Northeast
The armies of India and Myanmar carried out a three-week-long operation in their respective border areas targeting several militant groups operating in Manipur, Nagaland and Assam.
About Operation Sunrise:
- The Operation Sunrise was conducted jointly by the armies of India and Myanmar.
- It was executed in two phases of joint operations along the Myanmar border targeting camps of insurgent groups who are impacting both India and Myanmar operating in North East region.
- Due to threat to the mega Kaladan Project, the first phase of Operation Sunrise was conducted between February and March 2019 along the Indo-Myanmar border in which number of camps of north-east-based militant groups were destroyed.
- In the recent 2nd phase of Operation Sunrise (Operation sunrise 2), launched in May 2019, the armies of India and Myanmar coordinated with each other to bust camps of several militant outfits after the re- uprising of militant groups.
- India and Myanmar are expected to launch the third phase of the operation soon depending on actionable intelligence and the ground situation.
About the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project:
- The Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project (KMTTP) in Myanmar, administered by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), aims to facilitate connectivity between the mainland and the North Eastern States of India through maritime shipping, inland waterways and roads of Myanmar.
- Conceived as a part of Act East Policy of Indian government, both the countries entered into a Framework Agreement and two protocols (Protocol on Transit Transport and Protocol on maintenance) in 2008 to facilitate implementation of this project.
- Seen as India’s gateway to Southeast Asia, the transit project will connect Kolkata to Sitwe port in Myanmar and finally end up linking Mizoram.
- The link between North Eastern States of India and Myanmar will pave the way for enhanced trade & commerce across the border and enable cultural and social integration at the regional level.
- Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the Project Development Consultant (PDC) for implementation of the Port & IWT components.
- Construction of a highway from Paletwa to India-Myanmar border
- Kolkata to Sittwe port in Myanmar via Shipping
- Sittwe to Paletwa (River Kaladan) by Inland Water Transport (IWT)
- Paletwa to Indo-Myanmar Border (in Myanmar) by Road
- India-Myanmar Border to Nantinal Highway 54 (Lawngtlai) (in India) by Road
Where is Sittwe port located?
- Sittwe is the capital of Rakhine State situated in south-western Myanmar.
- It is located at the mouth of the Kaladan river, which flows into Mizoram in north-eastern India.
- The Sittwe port is starting point for the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project in Myanmar.
Significance of this port for India:
- Provides alternative route to India to ship goods to the landlocked north-eastern States.
- Significantly lower the cost and distance of movement from Kolkata to Mizoram and beyond.
- Reduces dependency on only route narrow strip dubbed as the Chicken’s Neck in West Bengal, sandwiched between Bhutan and Bangladesh.
- India has piped post Chinese endeavour to create a deep-sea berthing infrastructure and SEZ at Kyaukphyu in Rakhine.
- Myanmar is one of the strategic neighbours of India and shares a 1,640-km border with a number of north-eastern states, including the militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur.
- China has also been carrying out development projects at Kyaukpyu port near Sitwe.
- India is also planning to extend the Aizawl-Saiha National Highway by 90 km which connects Paletwa river terminal to Zorinpui on the Mizoram border in Myanmar.
Why employers fear Brazil’s slavery ‘dirty list’
Brazil’s ‘dirty list’ of employers that have engaged in slave labour is considered one the country’s best tools in its efforts to end slave labor.
What is the dirty list?
- It is a registry of employers that have been found by the government to have engaged in slave labour.
- Created in 2004, it has been hailed by the United Nations as a key tool in Brazil’s anti-slavery drive.
- It is edited by the Division of Inspection for the Eradication of Slave Labor (DETRAE), a state body staffed by labour inspectors.
How does a company get added to it?
- If a labour inspector fines someone for employing slave labour, it starts an internal government procedure where the employer can defend himself.
- After all possibility of appeal is exhausted, if the employer is found guilty, his name or the name of his firm is added to the list.
- The name will stay on the list for two years. During that time, labour inspectors will monitor the employer to see if labour conditions have improved.
How often is the list published?
- Government guidelines state it can be updated at any time, but it must be published at least every six months.
Do people on the list face jail time?
- Being on the list does not mean the employer has been found guilty of slave labour in a criminal court.
- In Brazil, the judiciary and the executive branches are independent and can reach different conclusions.
- A person found guilty of engaging in slave labour faces up to eight years in jail.
Why is the dirty list feared by employers?
- Beyond having their brand or names associated with slave labour, employers on the list have their access to credit lines by state banks restricted.
- Private banks also use it to gauge credit risk. International buyers concerned with their supply chain also look up names on the list.
Is there a way to avoid the list?
- A government guideline from 2016 established that an employer may strike a deal with the government by agreeing to a series of obligations.
- Employers that reach a deal are put on a separate monitoring list. Being named on this list does not carry the same consequences as being on the “dirty list.
- In 2005, Brazilian government launched a ‘National Slave Eradication Pact’ in which private sector company pledged to keep their businesses free of forced labour proactively and cut commercial ties with businesses profiting from slavery.
Science & Technology
International Space Station (ISS)
The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit.
- The ISS is now the largest artificial body in orbit.
- The ISS consists of pressurised modules, external trusses, solar arrays and other components.
- ISS components have been launched by Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets as well as American Space Shuttles.
- The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology and other fields.
- The ISS is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars.
- ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations as well as Skylab from the US.
- The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitude of between 330 and 435 km by means of reboost manoeuvres using the engines of the Zvezda module or visiting spacecraft. It completes 15.54 orbits per day.
Use and ownership rights:
- The ISS programme is a joint project among five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA.
- The ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements.
- The station is divided into two sections, the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), which is shared by many nations.
Key Facts for Prelims
20th anniversary of ‘Operation Vijay’:
- Commemorating the 20th anniversary of ‘Operation Vijay’, Defence Minister ignited a victory flame from the National War Memorial.
About Operation Vijay:
- Operation Vijay was the Indian operation to clear the Kargil sector during an armed conflict between India and Pakistan that took place between May and July 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir and elsewhere along the Line of Control (LOC).
- The Kargil war began with the infiltration of both Pakistani troops and terrorists into Indian territory.
- The infiltrators, disguised as Kashmiri militants, positioned themselves in key locations that gave them a strategic advantage during the start of the conflict.
- Based on information from local shepherds, the Indian Army was able to ascertain the points of incursion and launch Operation Vijay.
- Safed Sagar, the Indian Air Force’s operation, was a major part of the Kargil war. It used air power at the height of 32,000 feet for the first time.
- The Indian Army declared the mission successful on July 26, 1999, since then the day has been celebrated annually as Kargil Vijay Diwas.