Polity & Governance
- Three capitals for Andhra Pradesh
- Scrapping the disqualification power of Speaker
- National Start-up Advisory Council
- Rising global economic divide: Oxfam
- SEBI specifies Rules for issuance of units
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- CDP India Report
- Jal Shakti Rankings 2019
Bilateral & International Relations
- International Arbitration Tribunal dismisses claims against India
Science & Technology
- Proposal to shift Thirty Meter Telescope
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Polity & Governance
Three capitals for Andhra Pradesh
The Andhra Pradesh Assembly passed The Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Equal Development of All Regions Bill, 2020, paving the way for three capitals for the state.
The Three Capitals:
- Amravati: Legislative capital
- Visakhapatnam: Executive capital
- Kurnool: Judicial capital
Rationale for three capitals:
- Decentralised development: Presently and Historically too, decentralisation was the central theme in recommendations of all major committees that were set up to suggest a suitable location for the capital of Andhra Pradesh.
- Developing one mega capital city by ignoring others due to lack of fund was undesirable.
- Time and distance: Executive capital Visakhapatnam is 700 km from judicial capital Kurnool, and 400 km from legislative capital Amaravati. The Amaravati-Kurnool distance is 370 km. hence, the time and costs of travel will be significant.
- Coordination: Coordinating between seats of legislature, executive and judiciary in separate cities will not be easy.
- Infrastructure requirement: The massive shift to ministers, lawmakers, government officials from one place to other require transport connectivity, accommodation and new spaces for building official buildings.
Other examples of multiple capital cities:
Several countries in the world have implemented the concept.
- In Sri Lanka, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is the official capital and seat of national legislature, while Colombo is the de facto seat of national executive and judicial bodies.
- Malaysia has its official and royal capital and seat of national legislature at Kuala Lumpur, and Putrajaya is the administrative centre and seat of national judiciary.
- Maharashtra has two capitals– Mumbai and Nagpur (which holds the winter session of the state assembly).
- Himachal Pradesh has capitals at Shimla and Dharamshala (winter).
- The former state of Jammu & Kashmir had Srinagar and Jammu (winter) as capitals.
[Ref: Indian Express]
Scrapping the disqualification power of Speaker
The Supreme Court in a recent verdict has asked the Parliament to amend the Constitution to take away the exclusive power of Legislative Assembly Speakers to decide whether legislators should be disqualified or not under the anti-defection law.
- The speaker of Lok Sabha or legislative Assembly is himself a member of any political party, so he cannot stay aloof from the pressures and wishes of his political party.
- The SC asked to reconsider strengthening certain aspects of the Tenth Schedule, to discourage undemocratic practices.
- SC proposed to vest the final decision for disqualification proceedings under the Tenth Schedule to an ‘outside authority’ or an ‘independent mechanism’, rather than the Parliament or the Legislative Assemblies.
- As of now, the Speaker of Legislative assemblies should decide Tenth Schedule disqualifications within a “reasonable period” depending upon the case.
- Unless there were “exceptional circumstances”, disqualification petitions under the Tenth Schedule should be decided by Speakers within three months.
- The Tenth Schedule provides for the disqualification of Members of Parliament and State Legislatures who defect.
- It was inserted in the Constitution by the 52nd Constitution Amendment
Act, 1985, popularly known as the “anti-defection law”.
- It describes the Speaker’s or chairman’s’ decision regarding defection of any member of a House is final.
According to it, a member of a House belonging to any political party becomes disqualified for being a member of the House, if:
- He voluntarily gives up his membership of such political party; or
- He votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by his political party without obtaining prior permission of such party and such act has not been condoned by the party within 15 days.
- An independent candidate joins a political party after the election.
- A nominated member joins a party six months after he becomes a member of the legislature.
Exceptions to the disqualification on the ground of defection:
- If a member goes out of his party as a result of a merger of the party with another party. A merger takes place when two-thirds of the members of the party have agreed to such merger.
- If a member, after being elected as the presiding officer of the House, voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or rejoins it after he ceases to hold that office.
Is there any time limit currently?
- As of now, the law does not specify a time-period for the Presiding Officer to decide on a disqualification plea.
- Given that courts can intervene only after the Presiding Officer has decided on the matter, the petitioner seeking disqualification has no option but to wait for this decision to be made.
National Start-up Advisory Council
The Central Government has notified the structure of the National Start-up Advisory Council to advise the Government on measures needed to build a strong ecosystem for nurturing innovation and start-ups in the country.
- To drive sustainable economic growth and generate large scale employment opportunities.
Structure of the council:
- The council will be chaired by Minister for Commerce and Industry.
- It will consist of the non-official members who will be nominated by the Central government from various categories like founders of successful start-ups.
- The term of the non-official members of the Start-up Advisory Council will be for a period of two years.
- The nominees of the concerned department or organizations, not below the rank of joint secretary to the government, will be ex-officio members of the Council.
- Joint secretary, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade will be the convener of the council.
Functions of the Council:
- Suggest measures to foster a culture of innovation amongst citizens and students to promote innovation in all sectors of the economy across the country.
- Suggest measures to facilitate public organisations to assimilate innovation with a view to improving public service delivery, promote creation, protection and commercialization of intellectual property rights.
- Promote ease of access to capital for start-ups, incentivize domestic capital for investments into start-ups, mobilize global capital for investments in Indian start-ups, keep control of start-ups with original promoters and provide access to global markets for Indian start-ups.
Rising global economic divide: Oxfam
A recent report published by Oxfam, the international non-profit organisation focussed on the alleviation of global poverty, has highlighted the divide between rich and poor in India.
- Title of the report: ‘Time to Care: Unpaid and Underpaid Care Work and the Global Inequality Crisis’.
Highlights of the Report:
- The world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people.
- From 2011 to 2017, average wages in G7 countries grew 3%, while dividends to wealthy shareholders increased by 31%.
- Extreme poverty rates are 4% higher for women than men.
- The gap rises to 22% during women’s peak productive and reproductive ages due to childcare responsibilities.
- 42% of working age women are outside the paid labour force, compared with 6% of men, due to unpaid care responsibilities.
- 80% of the estimated 67 million domestic workers worldwide are women.
- An estimated 90% of domestic workers have no access to social security such as maternity protection and benefits.
- Women do 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work every day, equivalent to 1.5 billion people working 8 hours a day with no remuneration.
- The report stated that India’s richest 1% hold more than four times the wealth held by the 953 million who make up for the bottom 70% of the country’s population.
- The combined total wealth of 63 Indian billionaires is higher than the total Union Budget of India for the fiscal year 2018-19 which was at Rs 24,42,200 crore.
Concerns raised by the report:
- Economic inequality is out of control and has created a great divide in the world. This great divide is based on a flawed and sexist economic system which has accumulated vast wealth and power into the hands of a rich few. And they are also exploiting the labour of women and girls, and systematically violating their rights.
SEBI specifies Rules for issuance of units
Markets regulator SEBI has specified the manner of issuance of units under the rights issue by listed real estate investment trust (REIT) and infrastructure investment trust (InvIT).
- SEBI had first notified REITs and InvIT Regulations in 2014, allowing setting up and listing of such trusts.
- The issuer will have to disclose objects of the issue, related-party transactions, valuation, financial details, review of credit rating and grievance redressal mechanism in the placement document.
- SEBI has allowed listed REIT and InvIT to make a rights issue of units which is subject to several conditions including these investment vehicles obtaining in-principle approval of the stock exchanges for listing of units proposed to be issued.
- None of the respective promoters, partners, directors of the sponsor or manager or trustee of the REIT and InvIT is a fugitive economic offender.
- The investment manager on behalf of the REIT and InvIT, in consultation with the lead merchant banker(s), will decide the issue price before determining the record date.
- Units shall be allotted in the dematerialised form only and shall be listed on the stock exchange where the units of the REIT and InvIT are listed.
What are REITs and InvITs?
- Real estate investment trusts (REITs) and infrastructure investment trusts (InvITs) are innovative vehicles that allow developers to monetise revenue-generating real estate and infrastructure assets, while enabling investors or unit holders to invest in these assets without actually owning them.
- They are regulated by the SEBI (Infrastructure Investment Trusts) Regulations, 2014.
Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT):
- REIT gives investors, big or small, the opportunity to hold shares of the real estate investment trust by investing in it thereby benefitting them through good returns on the investment.
- It provides the advantage of portfolio diversification and long-term capital appreciation.
- REIT’s are a legitimate way of investing in the real estate sector as they have the provision of getting enlisted in the known stock exchanges.
Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvIT):
- It is a collective Investment scheme similar to a mutual fund, which enables direct investment of money from individual and institutional investors in infrastructure projects to earn a small portion of the income as return.
- The investors can invest into the eligible infrastructure projects either directly or via special purpose vehicles (SPVs).
- InvITs can be treated as the modified version of REITs designed to suit the specific circumstances of the infrastructure sector.
[Ref: Live Mint]
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
CDP India annual report
As per the recent report of Carbon Disclosure Project India, the India Inc. (formal sector comprising government and corporate sectors) is making bolder commitments to address climate change.
What is CDP?
- The CDP is a global disclosure system that enables companies, cities, states and regions to measure and manage their environmental impacts.
- It collects and collates self-reported environmental data in the world.
Highlights of the Report:
- The annual report which examines carbon reduction activities of companies, shows that boards of 98% of the firms directly monitor climate change risks with top management integrating these concerns in performance evaluation.
- 2/3rd of the 59 firms surveyed use climate analysis tools to formulate their business strategies.
- The improvement in disclosure rate has primarily been driven by investors who are actively pushing companies to reveal climate risks and take steps to reduce their carbon footprint.
- India is now among the top five countries globally when it comes to adopting science-based target initiatives (SBT) with the number of Indian companies in 2019 going beyond policy requirements to plan urgent climate action, saw a rise compared to 2018.
- The key focus area of Indian firms is renewable energy.
Jal Shakti Rankings 2019
Gujarat has been ranked as the most water-efficient state in India in a recent Jal Shakti survey, by the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti.
- Ranking has been done under the National Hydrology Project that aims to improve drought and flood management, creating a state specific database on availability, plugging leakages in canals and dams and meteorological forecast on water resources information system.
- Procurement, finance, real-time data acquisition system (RTDAS), data digitisation, analytical work, training and updating MIS.
- A total of 35 agencies were included in the second phase of the survey by the Jal Shakti Abhiyan, an intensive water conservation campaign of the Central government.
Highlights of the Survey:
- In the rankings, seven Central departments were reviewed of which the Survey of India stood first, the National Institute of Hydrology (NIH) came second, the Central Water Commission was ranked third. The Central Pollution Control Board stood last among them.
- Gujarat SW Department scored 80.51 (out of 100) to emerge as the winner, followed by Damodar Valley Corporation at 68.24 and Rajasthan with 66.73.
- Delhi is among the worst performing states.
- Kerala, Gujarat’s Surface Water (SW) Department, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal SW, Himachal Pradesh, and Telangana have been placed in the satisfactory category.
- In the previous year’s ranking, Telangana had got the top slot and this year’s topper, Gujarat, was ranked seventh last time.
- Among the states that significantly improved its ranking was Tamil Nadu, which stood at 13th position as compared to 33 in 2018.
- All of the remaining agencies in the satisfactory category scored below 50.
Ranking is aimed at:
- Reviewing all water departments to ensure that as per the target, piped drinking-water connection is provided to all households within the next 5 years.
- It facilitates the development of a nation-wide Water Resources Information System (WRIS) for all states to create a real-time integrated National Water Information Center (NWIC).
[Ref: Financial Express, Hindustan Times]
Bilateral & International Relations
International Arbitration Tribunal dismisses claims against India
An International Arbitration Tribunal has dismissed all claims brought against Republic of India in in relation to cancellation of Letters of Intent for providing 2G services.
- The verdict was pronounced last year in July 2019 by the International Arbitration Tribunal constituted in accordance with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Arbitration Rules, 1976.
What was the issue?
- The claims against India was filed by the private firms in Cyprus and Russia.
- They were under Agreement between Government of Russian Federation and Cyprus for promotion and protection of investments.
- The arbitration was due to the cancellation of Letters of Intent to these firms for the issuance of telecommunications licences to provide 2G services in five telecommunications circles in India, for India’s essential security interests.
United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)
UNCITRAL is the core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law.
- It was established by the UN General Assembly in 1996, with the general mandate for progressive harmonisation and unification of the law of international trade.
- It is responsible for helping to facilitate international trade and investment.
- Its mandate is “to promote the progressive harmonization and unification of international trade law” through conventions, model laws, and other instruments that address key areas of commerce, from dispute resolution to the procurement and sale of goods.
- The Tribunal constituted in accordance with the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules 1976 is seated at the Hague, Netherlands, and proceedings are administered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
- Annual sessions held alternately in New York City and Vienna, where it is headquartered.
Science & Technology
Proposal to shift Thirty Meter Telescope
India has demanded the TMT observatory to be shifted to a different site, away from Mauna Kea due to repeated delay in its construction.
- The project is under construction since 2019 and has been delayed by nearly five years that should have begun operations by 2025.
Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT):
- The TMT is a proposed extremely large telescope that will allow to see deeper into space and observe cosmic objects with unprecedented sensitivity and unparalleled resolution.
- With its 30 m prime mirror diameter, TMT will be three times as wide, with nine times more area, than the largest currently existing visible-light telescope in the world.
- It is an international project being funded by scientific organisations of Canada, China, India, Japan and USA.
- India has committed 10% of the project’s resources, a sum of about $200 million (Rs 1,423.46 crore) and Indian scientists in turn, are guaranteed 10% of observation time on the TMT.
Why Mauna Kea?
- Mauna Kea offers better viewing conditions for astronomers.
Why is the project delayed?
- The dormant Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii is a sacred location for the island’s native population.
- They are protesting the telescope’s construction since 2014.
- The Supreme Court of the State of Hawaii in 2018 allowed construction to proceed. However, it was forced to stop once again in 2019.