Polity & Governance
- Andhra Pradesh Assembly adopts resolution to abolish Legislative Council
- Supreme Court agrees to hear pleas against NPR
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Indian Railways opens its 1st waste-to-energy plant
- Colour- Coded Weather Warning
Defence & Security Issues
- Centre, Assam govt. sign accord with Bodo groups
- 155th birth anniversary of Lala Lajpat Rai
Key Facts for Prelims
- India’s first underwater metro
- Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve
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Polity & Governance
Andhra Pradesh Assembly adopts resolution to abolish Legislative Council
Andhra Pradesh Cabinet has approved a statutory resolution seeking the abolition of the Legislative Council.
Why such move?
- The AP Legislative Council with 58 members is dominated by the opposition Party with 32 members and the ruling Party has 9 members. With the numbers not expected to change for at least two more years, the ruling government expects a tough task in carrying out legislative business.
About Legislative Council:
- 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.
- The Legislative Council of a state is constituted as per Article 168 of Constitution (Constitution of Legislatures in States) while Article 71 of the Constitution provides for the option of a state to have a Legislative Council in addition to its Legislative Assembly.
- Under Article 169 (Abolition/Creation of Legislative Councils), a Legislative Council can be formed if the Legislative Assembly of the State passes a resolution to that effect by a majority of the total membership of the Assembly and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the Assembly present and voting. Parliament can then pass a law to this effect.
- As in Rajya Sabha, members of a Legislative Council are not directly elected by voters.
Which states have Legislative Council?
- Currently, six states have Legislative Councils which are Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh. (Jammu and Kashmir had it until it was bifurcated recently).
Members of Legislative Council
- Under Article 171 of the Constitution, the Legislative Council of a state shall not have more than one-third of the number of MLAs of the state and not less than 40 members.
- One-third of the Members of Legislative Council (MLCs) are elected by the state’s MLAs, another one-third by a special electorate comprising sitting members of local governments such as municipalities and district boards, 1/12th by an electorate of teachers and another 1/12th by registered graduates.
- The remaining members are appointed by the Governor for distinguished services in various fields.
- As with Rajya Sabha MPs, the tenure of a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) is six years with one-third of members retiring every two years.
Do Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishads have similar 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.
Argument in favour of having Legislative Council
- It acts as a check on hasty actions made by the elected lower house.
- It fulfils the deliberative functions of parliament.
- It enables non-elected individuals (academicians and intellectuals) to contribute to the legislative process.
- Even some ancient civilizations had a bicameral legislature.
- It is virtually impossible to abolish the Rajya Sabha without adopting a new Indian Constitution. Hence, it is much more practical to reform the Rajya Sabha than seeking to abolish it.
- R. Ambedkar also said in favour of having Rajya Sabha that “Men are mortal. So are ideas. An idea needs propagation as much as a plant needs watering. Otherwise both will wither and die.”
- Unlike the US Senate which ensures equal representation for all federal units (each state having two representatives), India’s Rajya Sabha does have more members from populous states.
Argument against having Legislative Council
- They can be used to park leaders who have not been able to win an election.
- They can be used to delay progressive legislation.
- They would strain state finances.
- If there was any real benefit in having a Legislative Council, all States in the country would have it.
- With low educational standards, Graduates as a non-elected individual is no guarantee of any real intellectuality.
- Rajya Sabha has become a haven for losers in elections, crony capitalists, compromised journalists and party fundraisers.
- Lok Sabha, that has representation from several regional parties, is more than enough to represent India.
- The Upper House of the Indian Parliament was introduced in the first bicameral legislature of British India in 1919 as a consequence of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms.
- The Council of State, as it was called then, was made up of 60 members, 34 of whom were Indian.
- There were no women in the council and the direct election was conducted under a framework of communal franchise that the Indian National Congress opposed.
Supreme Court agrees to hear pleas against NPR
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the pleas challenging the process to compile a National Population Register as being a violation of Right.
About the National Population Register (NPR)
- The National Population Register (NPR) is a Register of usual residents of India.
- The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity databaseof every usual resident in the country including demographic as well as biometric particulars along with Aadhaar number.
- It is being prepared at the local (Village/sub-Town), sub-District, District, State and National level.
- The NPR will collect both demographic data and biometric data. Demographic data has 15 categories, ranging from name and place of birth to education and occupation. For Biometric data, Aadhaar details of the residents will be fetched.
- A resident is defined for the purposes of NPR as a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.
- The NPR was conducted earlier in two phases in 2010 and 2015.
Significance of NRP
Every country must have a comprehensive identity database of its residents with relevant demographic details.
- help the government formulate its policies better and also aid national security.
- help target government beneficiaries in a better way and further cut down paperwork in a similar manner that Aadhaar has done.
- streamline data of residents across various platforms.
- help residents to not to show various proofs of age, address and other details in official work.
- eliminate duplication in voter lists
What is the controversy around NPR?
- NPR comes in the backdrop of the National Register of Citizens (NRC of Assam) excluding 19 lakh people from NRC list.
- Even as a debate continues on Aadhaar and privacy, the NPR intends to collect a much larger amount of personal data on residents of India.
- The idea of conducting a nationwide NRC would only happen on the basis of the upcoming NPR. After a list of residents is created, a nationwide NRC could go about verifying the citizens from that list. However, there is yet no clarity on the mechanism for protection of this vast amount of data.
- India, with a current population size of 1.37 billion, is the second-most populous country in the world.
- India’s birth rates are falling but the population continues to grow due to the fact that more than 30 % of the population is young and in the reproductive age group.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Indian Railways opens its 1st waste-to-energy plant
The East Coast Railways commissioned the first waste-to-energy plant of Railways sector of India.
- The plant, a patented technology called Polycrack, is first-of-its-kind in the Indian Railways and fourth in the country.
- It converts multiple feed stocks into hydrocarbon liquid fuels, gas, carbon and water.
What is Polycrack Technology?
Polycrack Technology is the world’s very first patented heterogeneous catalytic process which converts multiple feedstocks into hydrocarbon liquid fuels, gas, carbon as well as water.
- In Polycrack Technology, waste is processed and reformed in 24 hours.
- The technology involves de-polmerization, cracking, reforming, scrubbing, particle filtration and rapid quenching.
- The waste generated will become the feeder material for the waste to energy plant.
- The energy which will be produced at the plant, will be in the form of light diesel oil and this oil will be used to light furnaces.
The plant, having a capacity of 500 kg per batch can be fed with all kinds of existing plastic, Petroleum sludge, Un segregated MSW with moisture up to 50 per cent, E-waste, Automobile fluff, Organic waste including bamboo, garden waste, Jathropa fruit and palm bunch.
Advantages of this plant:
- The major benefit of the method is that it does not require pre-segregation. The waste as collected from the source, can be directly fed into the polycrack plant.
- The plant has high tolerance to moisture hence drying of the waste after treatment, is not required.
- The waste is processed in the plant and reformed within a period of 24 hours
- The biological decomposition is not allowed as the waste is treated in the plant as it is received
- All the constituents are converted to valuable energy therefore, making it a zero discharge process through the plant
- The gas generated in the process of the plant is reused in order to provide energy to the system, hence making it self reliant and self sufficient for its energy requirements. This also brings down the operating cost of the plant.
- The plant does not cause atmospheric emission during the process unlike the other conventional methods except for the combustion of gases which have pollutants less than the prescribed norms across the world.
The only drawback is that it requires larger area.[Ref: Live Mint, Financial Express]
Colour- Coded Weather Warning
Recently, Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a yellow weather warning for heavy rain and snowfall in the Himachal Pradesh.
- Yellow, the least dangerous of all the weather warnings, indicates possibility of a severe weather.
What is Colour- Coded Weather Warning?
- It is issued by the IMD.
- Warnings are updated daily.
- Its objective is to alert people ahead of severe or hazardous weather which has the potential to cause damage, widespread disruption or danger to life.
Types of warning declared by IMD:
Alerts by the IMD are colour-coded from Green to Red.
Green (No Warning):
- No action needs to be taken by the authorities, and the forecast is of light to moderate rain.
- Authorities are advised to “Be updated” on the situation.
- Yellow indicates severely bad weather spanning across several days. It also suggests that the weather could change for the worse, causing disruption in day-to-day activities.
- Authorities are expected to “Be prepared”. The forecast during an Orange warning is of heavy to very heavy rainfall.
- The orange alert is issued as a warning of extremely bad weather with the potential of disruption in commute with road and rail closures, and interruption of power supply.
- The forecast is for extremely heavy rainfall and asks authorities to take action. Red colour warning does not mean Red Alert and that it only means take action.
- When the extremely bad weather conditions are certainly going to disrupt travel and power and have significant risk to life, the red alert is issued.
These alerts are universal in nature and are also issued during floods, depending on the amount of water rising above land/in a river as a result of torrential rainfall.[Ref: The Hindu]
Defence & Security Issues
Centre, Assam govt. sign accord with Bodo groups
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Assam government and the Bodo groups have signed an agreement to redraw and rename the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD) in Assam.
- As of now the agreement has not addressed the issue of “citizenship or work permit” for non-domiciles in the BTAD, to be renamed as the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR).
Key features of the agreement:
- As per the agreement, villages dominated by Bodos that were presently outside the BTAD would be included and those with non-Bodo population would be excluded.
- The memorandum of settlement says that the criminal cases registered against members of the NDFB factions for “non-heinous” crimes shall be withdrawn by the Assam government and in cases of heinous crimes it will be reviewed.
- The families of those killed during the Bodo movement would get Rs. 5 lakh each.
- A Special Development Package of Rs. 1500 Crore would be given by the Centre to undertake specific projects for the development of Bodo areas.
- A committee will decide the exclusion and inclusion of new areas in the BTAD. Subsequent to this alteration, the total number of Assembly seats will go up to 60, from the existing 40.
Significance of the agreement:
- The signing of the agreement would end the 50-year-old Bodo crisis.
- Around 1500 cadres of NDFB(P), NDFB(RD) and NDFB(S) will be rehabilitated by Centre and Assam Government. They will be assimilated in the mainstream now.
- After the agreement, the NDFB factions will leave the path of violence, surrender their weapons and disband their armed organisations within a month of signing the deal.
Who are Bodos?
- Bodos are the single largest tribal community in Assam. They have controlled large parts of Assam in the past.
- The constitute the Bodo Territorial Area District (BTAD) constitute four districts in Assam — Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang.
History of the Bodo Movement:
- In 1966-67, the demand for a separate state called Bodoland was raised under the Plains Tribals Council of Assam (PTCA).
- In 1986, the prominent group Bodo Security Force (BdSF) was formed. The BdSF subsequently renamed itself as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).
- The official movement of the Bodos started under the leadership of Upendranath Brahma of All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) in 1987.
- While the movement was suppressed by the then government, the ABSU created a political organization called the Bodo People’s Action Committee (BPAC).
- ABSU began the new movement with the slogan ‘Divide Assam Fifty-Fifty’, but it ended up with the creation of Bodo Accord in 1993.
- The accord collapsed and there was a split in ABSU and other political parties. After the Bodo Accord, the Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC) was constituted, which was later replaced by the BTQ.
- In the 1990s, Indian security forces launched operations against the NDFB, causing the NDFB to flee to bordering Bhutan. In Bhutan, it faced counter-insurgency operations by the Indian Army and the Royal Bhutan Army in the early 2000s.
- The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) was created in 2003 with some more financial and other powers.
The BTAD and other areas mentioned under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution have been exempted from the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, that enables undocumented non-Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014 to apply for Indian citizenship.
Why they are demanding separate Bodoland?
- For centuries, they survived sanskritisation without giving up their original ethnic identity. However, in the 20th century, they had to tackle a series of issues such as illegal immigration, encroachment of their lands, forced assimilation, loss of language and culture.
- The 20th century also witnessed the emergence of Bodos as a leading tribe in Assam which pioneered the movements for safeguarding the rights of the tribal communities in the area.
- From then on, they have been consistently deprived of the political and socio-economic rights by successive state and central governments.
- The Bodos have not only become an ethnic minority in their own ancestral land but have also been struggling for their existence and status as an ethnic community.
155th birth anniversary of Lala Lajpat Rai
Lala Lajpat Rai’s 155th birth anniversary celebrated on January 28, 2020.
About Lala Lajpat Rai
- Born at Dhudike near Ludhiana in Punjab in 1865, he is known as the Punjab Kesari (The Lion of the Punjab).
- He studied law at the Government College, Lahore and had a legal practice in that city.
- Early in life, he became a follower of Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, and went on to become one of the society’s leaders.
- He joined the Indian National Congress at the age of 16.
- In 1885, he established the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic School in Lahore.
- He also helped found the Punjab National Bank.
- Rai, Tilak, and Bipin Chandra Pal (called Lal-Bal-Pal) advocated the use of Swadeshi goods and mass agitation in the aftermath of the controversial Partition of Bengal in 1905 by Lord Curzon.
- After taking part in a demonstration in Punjab in 1907, colonial authorities deported Rai to Mandalay in present-day Myanmar without trial, but he was allowed to return the same year for lack of evidence.
- He founded the Indian Home Rule League of America in New York City in 1917.
- He was elected President of the Kolkata Indian National Congress Session (1920), which saw the launch of Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-cooperation Movement.
- In 1920, representatives of trade unions established the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) under the Chairmanship of Lala Lajpat Rai.
- In 1924, he openly advocated the partition of the Punjab into Hindu and Muslim Provinces.
- He died at Lahore in 1928 after he was attacked by police during a protest rally against the Simon Commission.
Works of Lala Lajpat Rai
- He wrote extensively in English and Urdu.
- His important works include: ‘The Arya Samaj’, ‘Young India’, ‘England’s Debt to India’, ‘Evolution of Japan’, ‘India’s Will to Freedom’, ‘Message of the Bhagwad Gita’, ‘Political Future of India’, ‘Problem of National Education in India’, ‘The Depressed Glasses’, and the travelogue ‘United States of America’.
Key Facts for Prelims
India’s first underwater metro
- India’s first underwater metro nears completion after costs double.
- It is expected to be completed by March 2022, after being delayed several times due to doubled costs.
- The first underwater metro project is being constructed in Kolkata, a part of which will pass under the iconic Hoogly river on which the famous Howrah bridge is constructed.
Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve
- Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is a tiger reserve in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra state in central India.
- It is Maharashtra’s oldest and largest national park.
- It is one of India’s 50 “Project Tiger” – tiger reserves.
- Andhari, a minor river in waiganga basin flows through the tiger reserve.