Polity & Governance
- Odisha cabinet approves formation of legislative council
- NETA app to rate and review ministers launched
Government Schemes & Policies
- Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana: Centre Approves 1.12 Lakh More Houses
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Commute-related pollution: Kolkata shines among megacities
Bilateral & International Relations
- 2nd Protocol Amending India – Singapore CECA Signed
- Exercise SCO Peace Mission 2018
- Sweden launches “Feminist Foreign Policy” Manual
Defence & Security Issues
- Home Ministry withdraws security clearance to Al Jazeera
Science & Technology
- AJ Paulraj committee submits its report to DoT
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Polity & Governance
Odisha cabinet approves formation of legislative council
The Odisha government has approved a proposal for setting up a legislative council in the state. A resolution will be brought in the monsoon session of the Odisha legislative Assembly.
- The proposed legislative council will have 49 members.
- The members of the proposed council will get salary and allowance as given to the members of the legislative Assembly.
What are the Legislative Councils, and why are they important?
India has a bicameral system i.e., two Houses of Parliament. At the state level, the equivalent of the Lok Sabha is the Vidhan Sabha or Legislative Assembly; that of the Rajya Sabha is the Vidhan Parishad or Legislative Council.
- A second House of legislature is considered important for two reasons: one, to act as a check on hasty actions by the popularly elected House and, two, to ensure that individuals who might not be cut out for the rough-and-tumble of direct elections too are able to contribute to the legislative process.
- Opposition to the idea of Legislative Councils is centred on three broad arguments. One, they can be used to park leaders who have not been able to win an election. Two, they can be used to delay progressive legislation. Three, they would strain state finances.
- Opinion in the Constituent Assembly was divided on the question of having a Legislative Council. The idea was backed on the above grounds; it was also suggested that having a second chamber would allow for more debate and sharing of work between the Houses.
Do all states have Legislative Councils?
- Our constitution does not force a bicameral legislature on states. It gives states the option of having a second House. As of today, seven states have Legislative Councils.
- These are Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
How much money is needed to set up a Legislative Council?
- Requirements would differ from state to state. Rajasthan told the Standing Committee that approximately Rs 100 crore would be required; Assam quoted a one-time expenditure of Rs 68.88 crore, and a recurring annual expenditure of Rs 19.28 crore.
How are members of the Council elected?
- Under Article 169 of the constitution, Parliament may by law create or abolish the second chamber in a state if the Legislative Assembly of that state passes a resolution to that effect by a special majority.
- Membership may vary, but the Legislative Council must not have more than a third of the total membership of the Assembly of that state, and in no case fewer than 40 members. (The exception is J&K, where the Legislative Council has 36 members vide Section 50 of the constitution of the state.)
- About 1/3rd of members are elected by members of the Assembly, another 1/3rd by electorates consisting of members of municipalities, district boards and other local authorities in the state, 1/12th by an electorate consisting of teachers, and 1/12th by registered graduates.
- The remaining members are nominated by the Governor from among those who have distinguished themselves in literature, science, art, the cooperative movement, and social service.
- Legislative Councils are permanent Houses, and like Rajya Sabha, one-third of their members retire every two years.
Were any prominent national leaders earlier members of Legislative Councils?
- As per Lok Sabha data, 21 MPs were MLCs earlier. The list includes Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Sadananda Gowda, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Ashok Chavan and Jagdambika Pal.
Do Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishads have similar powers?
- Not really. The constitution gives Councils limited legislative powers. Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack the constitutional mandate to do so.
- Legislative Assemblies have the power to override suggestions/amendments made to a legislation by the Council.
- Also, while Rajya Sabha MPs can vote in the election of the President and Vice-President, members of Legislative Councils can’t. MLCs also can’t vote in the elections of Rajya Sabha members.
NETA app to rate and review ministers launched
Former President Pranab Mukherjee launched National Electoral Transformation (NETA) mobile application that allows voters to rate and review their political representatives.
- The app is first of its kind platform in India that allows voters to rate and review the political representatives in their constituencies.
- The app aims to foster political accountability and transparency among leaders. It is inspired by US’ approval system.
- Using it, voters can review and rate their elected representatives (MLAs, MPs and ministers) and hold them accountable as well. It will also help to determine popularity of politicians and electoral candidates, using public polls.
Government Schemes & Policies
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana: Centre Approves 1.12 Lakh More Houses
The Centre has approved construction of nearly 1.12 lakh more affordable houses for urban poor in eight states under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, with Andra Pradesh bagging the largest share of over 37,000 housing units.
- According to the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry, which is mandated to implement the scheme, the total number of houses being funded under the PMAY (Urban) is close to 55 lakh across the country so far.
The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) Programme launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA), in Mission mode envisions provision of Housing for All by 2022, when the Nation completes 75 years of its Independence.
- The Mission seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers through following programme verticals:
- Slum rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource.
- Promotion of Affordable Housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy.
- Affordable Housing in Partnership with Public & Private sectors.
- Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction /enhancement.
- The beneficiaries are poor and people living under EWS and LIG categories in the country.
- The scheme is divided into three phases. In the first phase, a total of 100 cities will be covered from April 2015 to March 2017. In phase two, 200 cities will be covered from April 2017 to March 2019. In the third phase, the leftover cities will be covered from April 2019 to March 2022.
- The government is providing an interest subsidy of 6.5% on housing loans which can be availed by beneficiaries for 15 years from start of loan date.
- The government will grant Rs 1 lakh to all the beneficiaries of the scheme. In addition, Rs 1.5 lakh will be given to all eligible urban poor who want to construct their houses in urban areas or plan to go for renovation in their existing houses.
- One can also avail loans under this scheme to build toilets in existing houses.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Commute-related pollution: Kolkata shines among megacities
A report, titled ‘The Urban Commute and How it Contributes to Pollution and Energy’, compiled by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), has been released.
About the report:
- The report is an analysis of 14 cities in India on how they fare when it comes to pollution and energy consumption from urban commuting.
- In the study, with an aggregate of toxic emissions from urban commuting practices, such as particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, the cities were ranked based on calculations of heat trapping (CO2).
- The study took two approaches to rank the cities one based on overall emission and energy consumption and the other on per person trip emissions and energy consumption.
Highlights of the report:
- Kolkata is the top-performing megacity. Bhopal leads the list on the lowest overall emissions.
- Delhi and Hyderabad are the two cities that fare at the bottom of the table in terms of pollution and energy use.
- In terms of overall emissions and energy consumption, Bhopal was followed by Vijayawada, Chandigarh and Lucknow.
- Kolkata, which comes in at the sixth place on overall emissions, won among the six megacities.
- In fact, smaller cities such as Ahmedabad and Pune ranked below Kolkata for overall emissions.
- Delhi ranked at the bottom of the table for overall emission. Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai fared a little better than Delhi.
- Motorization in India is explosive. Initially, it took 60 years (1951-2008) for India to cross the mark of 105 million registered vehicles. Thereafter, the same number of vehicles was added in a mere six years (2009-15).
- According to the report, though metropolitan cities scored better than megacities due to lower population, lower travel volume and lower vehicle numbers, they were at risk due to a much higher share of personal vehicle trips.
Message from the study:
- Kolkata provides a resounding message that despite population growth and rising travel demand, it is possible to contain motorization. This is possible only with a well established public transport culture, compact city design, high street density and restricted availability of land for roads and parking.
- Both Kolkata and Mumbai have grown with a unique advantage of a public transport spine well integrated with existing land use patterns.
- Mumbai had the highest GDP but a lower rate of motorization compared with other megacities, proving that income levels were not the only reason for deciding a population’s dependence on automobiles.
- Meanwhile Chennai was the first city to adopt a non-motorized transport (NMT) policy in 2004 that aims to arrest the decline of walking or cycling by creating a network of footpaths, bicycle tracks and greenways.
Bilateral & International Relations
2nd Protocol Amending India – Singapore CECA Signed
India and Singapore signed the Second Protocol amending the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) to boost bilateral trade between the two countries.
- It will help to boost bilateral trade between India and Singapore.
- It formally brings to closure negotiations on second review of CECA.
- It will give effect to provisions agreed between India and Singapore during closure of second review of CECA.
- It will give effect to provisions agreed between India and Singapore during closure of the second review of CECA.
- The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) was signed on June 29, 2005.
- The CECA was the first comprehensive agreement signed by India with any of its trading partners, covering trade in goods, services and investments.
- Its First Review was concluded on October 1, 2007.
- The signing of the Second Protocol formally brings the negotiations on Second Review of the CECA to a closure, depicting that both the sides successfully reached the level of mutual understanding and agreement. The Second Review began on May 11, 2010.
- The conclusion of the Second Review of CECA was announced during the visit of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Singapore on June 1, 2018.
India-Singapore bilateral trade:
- Singapore is the second largest trading partner of India within ASEAN. Singapore’s trade with India constitutes about 21.8 percent of the total trade with ASEAN and 2.3 percent of country’s global trade.
- On the other hand, India is the largest trading partner of Singapore in South Asia, with a bilateral trade of USD 17.7 billion in 2017-18. India had a trade surplus of USD 2.73 billion with Singapore in 2017-18.
Exercise SCO Peace Mission 2018
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Peace Mission 2018 was held in Chebarkul, Russia.
- As part of the SCO initiatives, the SCO Peace Mission Exercise is conducted biennially for the SCO member states.
- The exercise was aimed at enhancing cooperation between member states to deal with growing threat of terrorism and extremism.
- Military contingents of the all eight SCO member nations (China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, India and Pakistan) participated in this exercise.
- The exercise will involve tactical level operations in an international counter insurgency or counter-terrorism environment under the SCO Charter.
- The previous SCO counter-terrorism drills were mainly limited to the Central Asian nations. But due to the entry of India and Pakistan, the SCO’s counter-terrorism mission has expanded to South Asia.
- The 2018 exercise will be the first for India and Pakistan since becoming full members of the SCO in 2017. It also will be the first time India and Pakistan take part in a military exercise together since their independence, though their militaries have previously worked on United Nations peacekeeping missions.
About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO):
Seen as a counter to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), SCO is a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
- These countries, except for Uzbekistan, had been members of the Shanghai Five, founded in 1996; after the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the members renamed the organisation.
- Its headquarters is located in Beijing, China.
- India, which has had an observer status for the past 10 years, was accepted along with Pakistan as full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in July 2015.
- It has now eight members: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
- SCO has Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia and Belarus as observers.
- The SCO has established relations with the United Nations, where it is an observer in the General Assembly, the European Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Sweden launches “Feminist Foreign Policy” Manual
Sweden released a handbook of its “feminist foreign policy” for rights groups and foreign governments, showcasing lessons from the nation’s flagship approach to promote women’s rights globally.
Need for a feminist foreign policy:
- Sweden began its feminist foreign policy in response to the discrimination and systematic subordination that still marks the daily lives of countless women and girls around the world.
- The manual stated that while gender equality was “an object in itself,” it was “essential” in achieving more general government objectives, like peace, security and sustainable development.
Key features of the handbook:
- The policy’s main goals include the promotion of economic emancipation, fighting sexual violence and improving women’s political participation.
- The projects cited in the manual include an action plan for five war-torn and post-conflict nations – Afghanistan, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and the Palestinian Territories – building in targets for women’s rights and empowerment for the first time.
- The manual also highlights Sweden’s work in Congo, where it has run initiatives to promote positive masculinity in the country such as promoting social media debate on men’s role in society.
- The term feminist has been used in the manual, as it is able to demonstrate what it exactly means, which is that women and men should enjoy the same rights, the same duties and the same opportunities in society.
Defence & Security Issues
Home Ministry withdraws security clearance to Al Jazeera
India withdrew the security clearance granted to Qatar’s Al Jazeera network, an international English news channel, after a documentary on Indian-occupied Kashmir was aired by the channel.
- It is important to note that the role of MHA is limited to matter related to security clearance. The decision on cancellation of broadcasting licence of news channel is taken by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
- Ministry of External Affairs had reminded foreign journalists in its May 2018 notifications that it is mandatory for them to take prior permission before travelling to areas such as J&K as well as Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and parts of Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan as these are considered protected and restricted areas.
Science & Technology
AJ Paulraj committee submits its report to DoT
The 5G steering committee chaired by Stanford University’s Professor Emeritus AJ Paulraj submitted its recommendations to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
- The committee was set up by Government in September 2017 to suggest a road map for adoption of 5G.
Key recommendations made by the committee:
- The committee proposed that the key norms on regulatory matters are promulgated by March 2019 in order to facilitate early deployment of 5G. The committee said it expects the commercial rollout of 5G in India by 2020.
- It noted that 5G technologies will start entering service globally beginning 2019 and advance to full range of services by 2024.
- It recommended that deployment of 5G in India should be classified into three phases based on technologies and use cases. By early embracing 5G technology, India can accelerate its dividends and potentially also become innovator in 5G applications. It expects that economic impact of 5G to be over $1 trillion.
- The committee noted that vendor ecosystem for 5G is maturing as telecom tech giants like Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei and ZTE have production ready equipment in trials based on 5G-NR standard. China Telecom is doing a pilot deployment in six cities ahead of the full 5G commercial launch in 2020.
- The committee also pointed out conflicting considerations faced by early adoption of 5G. The early adoption will likely make equipment needed for 5G roll out more expensive and it will also be glitchy as needed for cost maturing. However, early adoption will fast track India’s embrace of 5G’s benefits and increase opportunities to develop innovative use cases that support Indian needs.
- The committee also noted that even after entry of 5G into Indian telecom sector, the earlier generation mobile technologies – 2G, 3G and 4G, will continue to remain in use and it may take 10 or more years to phase out.