Polity & Governance
- Privilege motion against PM under consideration: Speaker
Government Schemes & Policies
- Parliament passes Bill to punish bribe-givers, along with takers
- Banks, financial institutions sign an agreement to speed up resolution of bad loans
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, Uganda sign four MoUs in various fields
- PM Modi gifted 200 cows as a part of Rwandan Government’s Girinka Programme
Science & Technology
- Scientists develop world’s fastest man-made spinning object
Key Facts for Prelims
- Venezuela’s inflation to top 1,000,000% in 2018: IMF
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Polity & Governance
Privilege motion against PM under consideration: Speaker
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said the notices for initiating breach of privilege proceedings against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman submitted by Congress leaders were under consideration.
What’s the issue?
- Congress members had charged the prime minister and the defence minister with misleading the House on the purchase price of Rafale fighter aircraft contending that the matter was governed by a confidentiality clause in the inter-government agreement signed by India and France.
What is parliamentary privilege?
- Parliamentary privilege refers to rights and immunities enjoyed by Parliament as an institution and MPs in their individual capacity, without which they cannot discharge their functions as entrusted upon them by the Constitution.
Are these parliamentary privileges defined under law?
- According to the Constitution, the powers, privileges and immunities of Parliament and MP’s are to be defined by Parliament.
- No law has so far been enacted in this respect. In the absence of any such law, it continues to be governed by British Parliamentary conventions.
- Rule No 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and correspondingly Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha rulebook governs privilege. It says that a member may, with the consent of the Speaker or the Chairperson, raise a question involving a breach of privilege either of a member or of the House or of a committee thereof.
- The rules however mandate that any notice should be relating to an incident of recent occurrence and should need the intervention of the House. Notices have to be given before 10 am to the Speaker or the Chairperson.
What is breach of privilege?
- A breach of privilege is a violation of any of the privileges of MPs/Parliament. Among other things, any action ‘casting reflections’ on MPs, parliament or its committees; could be considered breach of privilege. This may include publishing of news items, editorials or statements made in newspaper/magazine/TV interviews or in public speeches.
What is the punishment in case of breach of privilege or contempt of the House?
- The house can ensure attendance of the offending person. The person can be given a warning and let go or be sent to prison as the case may be.
- In the case of throwing leaflets and chappal, the offending individuals were sentenced to simple imprisonment.
- In the 2007 case of breach of privilege against Ambassador Ronen Sen, the Lok Sabha Committee on privileges held that the phrase “headless chicken” was not used by Shri Sen in respect of MPs or politicians. No action was taken against him.
- In 2008, an editor of an Urdu weekly referred to the deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha as a “coward” attributing motives to a decision taken by him. The privileges committee held the editor guilty of breach of privilege. The committee instead of recommending punishment stated that, “it would be better if the House saves its own dignity by not giving undue importance to such irresponsible articles published with the sole intention of gaining cheap publicity.”
Role of the Speaker/Rajya Sabha Chair:
- The Speaker/RS chairperson is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion.
- The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament.
- If the Speaker/Chair gives consent under Rule 222, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement.
- In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker nominates a committee of privileges consisting of 15 members as per respective party strengths. A report is then presented to the House for its consideration.
- The Speaker may permit a half-hour debate while considering the report. The Speaker may then pass final orders or direct that the report be tabled before the House. A resolution may then be moved relating to the breach of privilege that has to be unanimously passed.
- In the Rajya Sabha, the deputy chairperson heads the committee of privileges, that consists of 10 members.
Government Schemes & Policies
Parliament passes Bill to punish bribe-givers, along with takers
The Parliament has passed Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2018 to enhance transparency and accountability of the government and make anti-graft provisions under the law stringent.
- The Bill amends various provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988.
Key features of Bill:
Giving bribe made punishable offence:
- The Bill introduces offence of ‘giving a bribe’ as direct offence. Person who is compelled to give bribe who reports matter to law enforcement authorities within seven days will not be charged with this offence.
- It makes specific provisions related to giving a bribe to a public servant, and giving a bribe by a commercial organisation
Redefines Criminal misconduct:
- The bill redefines provisions related to criminal misconduct to only cover two types of offences viz. illicit enrichment (such as amassing of assets disproportionate to one’s known income sources) and fraudulent misappropriation of property.
Prior approval for investigation:
- It makes mandatory for taking prior approval of relevant Government or competent authority to conduct any investigation into offence alleged to have been committed by a public servan.
- Such approval will be not necessary in cases that involve arrest of person on spot on charge of taking a bribe.
Trial Time limit:
- The bill set trail time period within two if it is handled by special judge. In case of delays, reasons for it must be recorded for every extension of six months obtained.
- However, total period for completion of trial may not exceed four years.
Penalties for offences:
- The Bill modifies definitions and penalties for offences related to taking bribe, being habitual offender and abetting offence.
- It also introduces powers and procedures for attachment and forfeiture of property of public servants accused of corruption.
Protecting the honest:
- To empower honest public servants to perform their duty without fear or favour, as per laid down laws, policies and procedures; corrections have been made for protecting their bonafide decisions from malicious threats and harassment.
Banks, financial institutions sign an agreement to speed up resolution of bad loans
Nearly two dozen Banks and Financial Institutions, including SBI and LIC, have signed the inter-creditor agreement (ICA) framework to speed up the resolution of stressed assets which are under the 500-crore rupee bracket.
What is Inter-Creditor Agreement (ICA)?
The inter-creditor agreement is aimed at the resolution of loan accounts with a size of ₹50 crore and above that are under the control of a group of lenders.
- It is part of the ‘Project Sashakt’ approved by the government to address the problem of resolving bad loans.
- The agreement is based on a recommendation by the Sunil Mehta committee that looked into resolution of stressed assets.
How it works?
- The agreement says if 66% of lenders by value agree to a resolution plan, it would be binding on all lenders. The dissenting creditors will, however, have the option to sell their loans to other lenders at a discount of 15% to the liquidation value, or buy the entire portfolio paying 125% of the value agreed under the debt resolution plan by other lenders.
- The agreement says each resolution plan would be submitted to an overseeing committee comprising experts from the banking industry.
- For dissenting creditors, the agreement says the “lead bank has the right, but not the obligation, to arrange the buyout of the loan facilities at a value that is equal to 85% of the liquidation or the resolution value —whichever is lower.”
- Dissenting creditors can also exit by selling their loans to any entity at a price mutually arrived at between the lender and buyer.
- The agreement has a standstill clause wherein all lenders are barred from enforcing any legal action against the borrower for recovery of dues. During the standstill period, lenders are barred from transferring or assigning their loans to anyone except a bank or finance company.
- The standstill provision will be operative for 180 days from the reference date — the RBI had asked lenders to resolve their restructured loans within 180 days beginning March 1 or refer those to the bankruptcy court.
- However, the provision would not prevent lenders from acting against borrowers or directors for criminal offence. Lenders are in the process of getting this inter-creditor agreement approved by their boards.
Significance of ICA:
- The agreement is a “huge step forward” in tackling the bad loan issue as it is drawn up by banks themselves and is a reflection of bankers’ resolve to collectively find a solution to stressed asset mess.
- Almost the entire banking system and prominent NBFCs like REC, PFC are joining the ICA which has held back fast and effective resolution of stressed assets for decades in the past.
What is Project Sashakt?
‘Project Sashakt’ is a five-prong strategy to deal with non-performing assets unveiled by Finance Minister of India in July 2018.
- It has been announced to address the problem of NPAs of non-performing assets of government banks in the country.
- It aims to strengthen the credit capacity, credit culture and credit portfolio of public sector banks and to create a vibrant market which includes online trading of these stressed assets.
- The policy has been prepared based on the report of the committee formed under the chairmanship of Sunil Mehta.
- The committee has set a five-prong strategy towards resolution of stressed assets.
- An independent Asset Management Company (AMC) would be set up to focus on asset turn around, job creation and protection.
- AMC will be fully market based and more than one AMC can be formed in the country. It can also include foreign-foreign companies.
- This independent body would be aligned with Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) process and IBC laws.
- The AMC will be set up by state-run banks for resolution of loans above Rs 500 crore.
- The government will not interfere in the resolution process; it would entirely be led by banks.
- The benefit of this scheme will be that the hassles of collecting the loans from these customers will not remain on the banks.
Key Features of ‘Sashakt’ Project:
- A steering committee will be constituted in every bank for disposal of stranded loan accounts up to 50 million rupees. The advantage will be to the small and medium companies that they have NPAs up to Rs 50 crore.
- The committee will decide about these accounts within 90 days that they need to pay more or they need to close their accounts.
- It has been decided for NPA account of Rs 50 to 500 crores that a decision will be taken to settle the debts of Lead Bank headed by them.
- More than one bank lenders to the account holders of this category, hence a settlement will be made between the lending banks.
- Other NPA accounts of more than Rs 500 crores, which will not be settled through AMC, will be settled only under Bankruptcy Act.
- To implement this, a screening committee of these banks will also be constituted which will see whether the rules are being followed in a transparent manner or not.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, Uganda sign four MoUs in various fields
During PM Modi’s visit to Uganda, India and Uganda signed four MoUs in various fields.
MoUs signed in the areas:
- Defence cooperation,
- Visa exemption for official and diplomatic passport holders,
- Cultural exchange programme and
- Material testing laboratory.
India also announced two Lines of Credit worth nearly 200 million US dollars to Uganda in energy, infrastructure, agriculture and dairy sectors.
Location of Uganda:
- Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa.
- It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south-west by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania.
- The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania.
- Uganda is in the African Great Lakes region. Uganda also lies within the Nile basin, and has a varied but generally a modified equatorial climate.
PM Modi gifted 200 cows as a part of Rwandan Government’s Girinka Programme
During his Rwanda visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted 200 cows to villagers from Rweru villages as part of Rwandan Government’s Girinka Programme.
What is Girinka Programme?
Under this programme, poorest residing in region get cows from Government and gift first female calf to neighbour to promote brotherhood.
- The programme was initiated by President Paul Kagame in response to alarmingly high rate of childhood malnutrition and as way to accelerate poverty reduction and integrate livestock and crop farming.
- The programme is based on premise that providing dairy cow to poor, transforms livelihoods, reconciles communities improving agricultural productivity through use of manure as fertilizers.
- The program has contributed to increase in agricultural production in Rwanda – especially milk production and products and has reduced malnutrition and increased incomes.
Location of Rwanda:
Rwanda is a sovereign state in Central and East Africa and one of the smallest countries on the African mainland.
- Located a few degrees south of the Equator, Rwanda is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- Rwanda is in the African Great Lakes region and is highly elevated; its geography is dominated by mountains in the west and savanna to the east, with numerous lakes throughout the country.
- The climate is temperate to subtropical, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons each year.
Science & Technology
Scientists develop world’s fastest man-made spinning object
Scientists have developed world’s fastest rotor, which will help in studying quantum mechanics.
Speed of rotor:
- The rotor can spin at more than 60 billion revolutions per minute, making it world’s fastest man-made object.
- It is more than 100,000 times faster than a high-speed dental drill.
How was it developed?
- The scientists synthesised a tiny dumbbell from silica and levitated it in high vacuum using a laser. The laser can work in a straight line or in a circle – when it is linear, the dumbbell vibrates, and when it is circular, the dumbbell spins.
- A spinning dumbbell functions as a rotor, and a vibrating dumbbell functions like an instrument for measuring tiny forces and torques, known as a torsion balance.
- The fastest rotor has many applications, including material science as it can help to survivability of different materials in extreme conditions.
- It can also help in learning about vacuum friction and gravity, as understanding these mechanisms is one of essential goal for modern physics.
- In more advanced version, it can be used to study things like quantum mechanics and properties of vacuum.
Key Facts for Prelims
Venezuela’s inflation to top 1,000,000% in 2018: IMF
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that Venezuela’s inflation will hit 1 million per cent by the end of the year.
- The South American country’s economy has been steadily collapsing ever since the crash of oil prices in 2014.
- Venezuela’s economic turmoil compares to Germany’s after World War I and Zimbabwe’s at the beginning of the last decade.
Location of Venezuela:
- Venezuela is a federal republic located on the northern coast of South America.
- It is bordered by Colombia on the west, Brazil on the south, Guyana on the east, the Dutch Caribbean ABC islands to the north and the islands of Trinidad and Tobago to the north-east.