Polity & Governance
- Why Pranab Mukherjee wants 1,000 MPs and why Lok Sabha has only 543 seats
- High Court quashes CIC order on EVMs
Government Schemes & Policies
- Phase-III of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana launched
- Centre okays ₹66,000 cr Kerala semi-high speed rail project
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Pakistan issues special permits to Qatari Emir
Bilateral & International Relations
- Donald Trump creates history: Becomes 3rd US president to get impeached
Defence & Security Issues
- Anti-hijacking exercise conducted off Kochi port
Art & Culture
- Sahitya Akademi announces annual Sahitya Akademi Awards in 23 languages
Science & Technology
- WHO prequalifies first biosimilar medicine to increase access to breast cancer treatment
Key Facts for Prelims
- Xi Jinping visits Macao to celebrate 20 years of China rule
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Polity & Governance
Why Pranab Mukherjee wants 1,000 MPs and why Lok Sabha has only 543 seats
Former President Pranab Mukherjee said that the number of seats in Lok Sabha should be increased to 1,000 from the present 543, and advocated a corresponding increase in the number of MPs in Rajya Sabha and state legislatures.
Reason for increase
Every MP currently represents an average 16-18 lakh Indians, which is a too large a number for representing such hug population in Lok Sabha by a single person.
What is the strength of Lok Sabha?
- At present, the strength of the Lok Sabha is 543, of which 530 have been allocated to the states, and the rest to the Union Territories.
- Under Article 331, the President could nominate up to two Anglo-Indians if he/she felt the community was inadequately represented in the House. However, recently passed Constitution (126th Amendment) Bill did away with the provision for nomination of Anglo Indians to Lok Sabha and some state Assemblies. This has brought the strength of Lok Sabha down to 543 now.
- As per Article 81 of the Constitution (which defines the composition of Lok Sabha), Lok Sabha shall not consist of more than 550 elected members of whom not more than 20 will represent Union Territories.
- Article 81 also mandates that the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to a state would be such that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is, as far as possible, the same for all states.
- This is to ensure that every state is equally represented. However, this logic does not apply to small states whose population is not more than 60 lakh. So, at least one seat is allocated to every state even if it means that its population-to-seat-ratio is not enough to qualify it for that seat.
- Here, the population refers to the population as per the 1971 Census. It will so until the first Census that is taken after 2026.
- Originally, Article 81 provided that the Lok Sabha shall not have more than 500 members. Since the Constitution provides for population as the basis of determining allocation of seats, the lower House’s composition has also changed with each Census up to 1971.
- A temporary freeze was imposed in 1976 on ‘Delimitation’ until 2001. Delimitation is the process of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in the population.
- However, the composition of the House did not change only with delimitation exercises in 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002. There were other circumstances as well. For instance, the first change in the composition of Lok Sabha happened in 1953 after the reorganisation of the state of
- The first major change took place after the overall reorganisation of states in 1956, which divided the country into 14 states and 6 Union Territories. With reorganisation, the maximum number of seats allocated to the states remained 500, but an additional 20 seats were added to represent the six Union Territories. Further down the years, the lower House’s composition also changed when Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966 and when Goa and Daman and Diu were liberated in 1961 and merged with the Indian Union subsequently.
When delimitation was suspended in 1976 (till 2001)?
- As per Article 81, the composition of the Lok Sabha should represent changes in population. But it has remained more or less the same since the delimitation carried out based on the 1971 Census.
- Article 81 says that population to seat ratio should be the same for all states. This implied that states that took little interest in population control could end up with a greater number of seats in Parliament. The southern states that promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced.
- To allay these fears, the Constitution was amended during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule in 1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.
- Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the Census of 2001, another amendment postponed this until 2026. This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026. So, the last delimitation exercise (started in 2002) was conducted on the basis of the 2001 Census and only readjusted boundaries of existing Lok Sabha and Assembly seats.
Demand for readjustment of seats
- There have been a few demands for readjustment in the number of Parliament and Assembly seats. These include statehood attained by Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram in 1986, the creation of a Legislative Assembly for the National Capital Territory of Delhi, and creation of new states such as Uttarakhand.
- With the total seats remaining the same since the 1970s, it is felt that states in north India, whose population has increased faster than the rest of the country, are now underrepresented in the Parliament.
High Court quashes CIC order on EVMs
The Delhi High Court rejected an order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) which had held that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) fall within the definition of ‘information’ under the RTI Act.
The CIC’s order had come on a plea by an applicant, who had sought access to an EVM maintained by the Election Commission (EC) under the RTI Act. The EC had said that EVMs do not fall under the scope of the RTI Act.
Argument in favour of putting EVM under RTI
As per Section 2(f) and 2(i) of the RTI Act, the definition of ‘information’ and ‘record’ includes ‘any model or any sample’ held by a public authority. Hence Calling the rejection of grating EVM to public is wrong.
Counter Argument of ECI:
Information was exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act as the software installed in the machines is an intellectual property of a third party, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of the third party concerned.[Ref: The Hindu]
Government Schemes & Policies
Phase-III of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana launched
Rural Development Minister launched Phase-III of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana in New Delhi to further enhance connectivity of villages with hospitals, schools and agricultural markets.
About PMGSY-III scheme
- PMGSY-III scheme, announced by Finance Minister, proposed to consolidate 1,25,000 Km road length in various states.
- The Scheme will also include through routes and major rural links that connect habitations to Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs), Higher Secondary Schools and Hospitals.
About Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana-I (PMGSY):
- The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was launched by the Govt. of India in 2000 to provide connectivity to unconnected Habitations as part of a poverty reduction strategy.
- It is a 100% Centrally Sponsored Scheme.
- It is a 5-year projecte., 2019-20 to 2024-25.
- It aims to provide single all-weather road connectivity to eligible unconnected habitation of designated population size (500+ in plain areas and 250+ in North-East, hill, tribal and desert areas as per Census, 2001).
PMGSY – Phase II
- Approved in 2013, under PMGSY phase II, the roads already built for village connectivity was to be upgraded to enhance rural infrastructure.
- National Rural Roads Development Agency (NRRDA) (formed by Ministry of Rural Development) and State Rural Roads Development Agency (SRRDA) in various states.
- Ratio of 60:40 between the Centre and State for all States except for 8 North Eastern and 3 Himalayan States (Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh & Uttarakhand) for which it is 90:10.
Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Area (RCPLWEA)
- In 2016, Government launched Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism affected Areas in as a separate vertical under PMGSY to provide all-weather road connectivity with necessary culverts and cross-drainage structures in 44 districts which are critical from security and communication point of view.
Centre okays ₹66,000 cr Kerala semi-high speed rail project
Kerala Chief Minister claimed that the Centre had given in-principle approval to the ₹66,000 crore Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod semi-high speed rail (SHSR) corridor project.
About Silver Line or SHSR corridor
- The SHSR is a high-speed rail corridor that would connect the, Thiruvananthapuram (capital city of Kerala) with Kasaragod in Kerala. It aims to connect major districts and towns with semi high-speed trains that will run on their own tracks.
- SHSR, a 532-km corridor, is envisaged to cut travel time between Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod from 12 hours to 4 hours.
- This project, conceived in 2010, is also known as Silver Line project. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by 2024.
- The Kerala Rail Development Corporation (K-Rail), a joint venture between the Ministry of Railways and the Kerala government to execute projects on a cost-sharing basis, will be the nodal agency.
- Kerala’s road networks experience dense traffic during peak hours. Less than 10% of the kerala’s roads handle nearly 80% of the traffic. This also gives rise to accidents and casualties.
- It will result in direct and indirect employment opportunities for 50,000 people, and will create direct employment for at least 11,000 people.
What are Semi High Speed Trains?
- Semi high speed trains are generally those trains which run at operational speed of 160 to 200 kmph with an average speed of about 110 kmph.
- Gatimaan Express is India’s first semi-high speed train that runs between Delhi and Jhansi. With the great success of Gatimaan Express, the Indian Railways plans to start additional semi-high speed services along the Delhi – Bhopal / Chandigarh / Kanpur routes.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Pakistan issues special permits to Qatari Emir
Pakistan has issued special permits to Emir of Qatar and other members of the royal family to hunt endangered bird species houbara bustards, amidst growing criticism in the country against the move.
- Originally an inhabitant of the colder central Asian region, the houbara bustard, in order to avoid harsh weather conditions, migrates southwards every year to spend the winter in Pakistan.
- People of Arabian Gulf nations, who wish to hunt houbara bustard, have to pay $100,000 to Pakistan government. The permits are issued every year to members of the royal families of Gulf countries. The houbara bustard is widely prized in Arabia and Egypt for its meat.
- Pakistanis are not allowed to hunt this bird.
About Houbara bustards
- The houbara bustard, which lives in arid climates, is a bustard native to North Africa, Canary Islands and southwestern Asia. The houbara bustard formerly included MacQueen’s bustard, which is native to Asia.
- It has two distinct species: one residing in North Africa (Chlamydotis undulata) and the other in Asia (Chlamydotis macqueenii).
- The population of the Asian houbara bustards extends from northeast Asia, across central Asia, Middle East, and Arabian Peninsula to reach the Sinai desert.
- The main reasons for the houbara’s decline are poaching, unregulated hunting, along with degradation of its natural habitat.
- IUCN Status: Vulnerable
[Ref: Indian Express, The Hindu]
Bilateral & International Relations
Donald Trump creates history: Becomes 3rd US president to get impeached
Recently, Donald Trump became the third US President to be impeached. The first was Andrew Johnson (1868) and then Bill Clinton (1998).
What is the issue?
US president faced impeachment on two grounds:
- He is accused of abusing his office by asking Ukraine to start corruption investigations against Joe Biden, a former US vice-president who is also the leading candidate in the 2020 US Presidential election. This in effect means trying to influence the election by pressuring a foreign country to investigate his rival candidate and smear his image.
- He is accused of obstructing Congress from investigating this case.
Can US president be removed from his office for abuse of power?
- According to the US Constitution, a President can be removed from office on grounds of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours. Some legal scholars have opined that the intent of constitution was that the phrase “other high crimes and misdemeanours” broadly encompasses abuse of power.
Impeachment process of US President
- Impeachment is a provision that allows Congress to remove the Presidentof the United States. Under the US Constitution, the House of Representatives (Lower House) has the sole power of impeachment while the Senate (Upper House) has the sole power to try all impeachments.
Three step process
- First, the Congress investigates. This investigation typically begins in the House Judiciary Committee. If they find that there is enough evidence of wrongdoing, it will refer the matter to the full House.
- Second, the House of Representatives must pass articles of impeachment, which constitute the allegations. When the full House votes, if one or more of the articles of impeachment gets a majority vote, the President is impeached. If the House of Representatives votes to pass articles of impeachment, the Senate is forced to hold a trial.
- Third, the Senate tries the accused. In the case of the impeachment of a president, the Chief Justice of the United States presides over the proceedings. Conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds supermajority vote of those present. The result of conviction is removal from office.
- The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, and consists of two chambers: The House of Representatives (same as Lok Sabha) and the Senate (Same as Rajya Sabha).
- No US President has ever been removed as a direct result of impeachment.
Defence & Security Issues
Anti-hijacking exercise conducted off Kochi port
The Indian Navy, in collaboration with Indian Coast Guard, Cochin Port Trust and all other concerned stakeholders, conducted a large-scale anti-hijacking exercise, code-named Apharan, off the Port of Kochi. This was the first time that such a large scale exercise involving all stake holders has been conducted in Kerala.
About Apharan exercise
- Apharan exercise was aimed at streamlining the response preparedness to thwart any attempt by anti-national elements to hijack a merchant vessel or attempt forced entry of a rogue/commandeered merchant vessel into the Kochi harbour.
- Within the ambit of Coastal Security architecture, hijacking of a merchant vessel is one of the challenging scenarios, response to which requires synergy of resources, assets and efforts of all stake holders including the State government.
Art & Culture
Sahitya Akademi announces annual Sahitya Akademi Awards in 23 languages
Several books of poetry, novel, short stories, essays, autobiography and biography have won the Sahitya Akademi Awards, 2019.
About the Sahitya Akademi award:
- Sahitya Akademi Award is conferred annually on writers of outstanding works in one of the twenty-four major Indian languages (22 Scheduled Languages+ English and Rajasthani).
- The award consists of a casket containing an engraved copper-plaque, a shawl and a cheque of 1 Lakh rupees.
- Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters, promotes literature in 24 languages of India recognized by it.
- The Akademi’s head office is situated in New Delhi with offices in Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai.
- Sahitya Akademi publishes three journals, Indian Literature (bimonthly in English), Samkaleena Bhartiya Sahitya (bi-monthly in Hindi) and Sanskrit Pratibha (quarterly in Sanskrit). The Akademi is also involved in promoting quality children’s literature.
- It organizes Festival of Letters every year to celebrate Indian writing. It promotes Tribal and Oral Literature through its Centre for Tribal and Oral Literature in Delhi and North-East Centre for Oral Literature in Imphal.
Other awards given by Sahitya Akademi
- Bhasha Samman: who have made considerable contribution to the enrichment of languages that have not been recognized by the Akademi.
- Translation Prize: given to outstanding translations in all the 24 languages recognized by the Akademi.
- Bal Sahitya Puraskar: given to outstanding contributions to children’s literature in 24 languages.
- Yuva Puraskar: given to young Indian writers in 24 languages.
Some of the Projects undertaken by Sahitya Akademi
- Monographs on Indian writers (MIL)
- Encyclopaedias, anthologies and archives of Indian literature
- National bibliography of Indian literature
- Encyclopaedia of Indian poetics and histories of Indian literature
Science & Technology
WHO prequalifies first biosimilar medicine to increase access to breast cancer treatment
World Health Organization (WHO) prequalified its first biosimilar medicine – trastuzumab – in a move that could make this expensive, life-saving treatment more affordable and available to women globally. Prequalification is a service provided by WHO to assess the quality, safety and efficacy of those products that address global public health priorities.
- Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody (group of cells produced from a single cell) for treatment of breast cancer.
- It was included in the WHO Essential Medicines List in 2015 as an essential treatment for about 20% of breast cancers.
- It has shown high efficacy in curing early stage breast cancer and in some cases more advanced forms of the disease.
What is a biosimilar medicine?
A biosimilar medicine is a highly similar version of a biological medicine. Biosimilar medicines can be treat the same diseases, in the same way, as the reference biological medicines.
Significance of biosimilar Trastuzumab
- The global average cost of trastuzumab from is very high ($20 000), that puts it out of reach of many women and healthcare systems in most countries. The biosimilar version of trastuzumab is generally 65% cheaper than the originator.
- The biosimilar Trastuzumab is supplied by Samsung Bioepis (Netherlands).
Difference between Biosimilar and generic drugs
Both Biosimilar drugs and generic drugs are marketed as cheaper versions of costly name-brand drugs. And both are designed to have the same clinical effect as their pricier counterparts.
- Generics are copies of synthetic drugs, while biosimilars are based on drugs that use living organisms as important ingredients.
- Generic drugs cost significantly less because they don’t require much testing. Because biosimilars are made from living organisms, they require some testing. So, they cost more than generics.
- Biotherapeutics are pharmaceutical products derived from biological and living sources. They include therapeutic vaccines, blood, blood components, cells and other materials.
- Several biologic medicines are ‘specialty drugs’, highly priced and effective in treating medical conditions for which no other treatments are available. Gene- and cell-based therapies are among these pharmaceuticals.
- Some biotherapeutics are effective treatments for certain forms of cancer, chronic diseases such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune conditions.
- Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it’s far more common in women.
Key Facts for Prelims
Xi Jinping visits Macao to celebrate 20 years of China rule
Chinese leader Xi Jinping met with Macao’s new chief executive amid celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the former Portuguese colony’s handover to Chinese rule.
- Macau was formerly a colony of the Portuguese Empire, after Ming dynasty of China leased the territory as a trading post in 15th Between 15th and 18th century, Macau was governed by the Portuguese under Chinese sovereignty.
- In 1887, Portugal was given perpetual colonial rights for Macau. The colony was transferred to China in 1999.
- Macao (along with Hong Kong) is run under a ‘one country, two systems’ framework, which allows them to retain their own legal and economic systems, while China exercises strict control over their political leadership.
Location of Macau
Macau shares land borders with only one country, China. It also shares border with South China sea.
- Macau is a major resort city and the top destination for gambling tourism. It’s the second richest territory in the world.
- Macau is the most densely populated region in the world (18,534 people per square kilometre). Macau’s small population set the world record for average longevity for an independent country/state.
- Macau has Chinese and European architecture and culture, some of which have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Due to huge annual profits from casino taxes, each year the Macau government gives permanent/ non-permanent residents of Macau a fixed amount of money.
- Macanese cuisine’ is a mix of southern Chinese and Portuguese ingredients and cooking techniques. With a history dating back over 400 years, the cuisine is often regarded as the world’s first fusion cuisine.