23rd March, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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(GS2: Parliament and State legislatures)
Issue: The Congress said it would bring a privilege motion in the Rajya Sabha against External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for her statement on the killing of Indian labourers in Iraq
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.
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.
Have there been earlier cases of breach of privilege?
There have been several such cases. In 1967, two people were held to be in contempt of Rajya Sabha, for having thrown leaflets from the visitors’ gallery.
In 1983, one person was held in breach for shouting slogans and throwing chappals from the visitors’ gallery.
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.
(GS3: Environmental Pollution)
Issue: More than half of the country’s critically-polluted water-bodies, in terms of chemical pollution, are found in Karnataka, with its capital itself accounting for 17 lakes and tanks with the highest chemical pollution.
Current situation in Bengaluru’s lakes
From Bellandur to Hebbal, 17 lakes and tanks in the city have been categorised as critically-polluted with Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) levels, which indicate chemical pollution, topping 250 microgrammes per litre. The analysis was done by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), in association with the State Pollution Control Boards, for the years 2013-17. Over 253 rivers and 259 waterbodies are being monitored under the National Water Quality Monitoring Programme.
About National Water Quality Monitoring Programme
Water samples are being analysed for 28 parameters consisting of 9 core parameters, 19 other physico-chemical and bacteriological parameters apart from the field observations. Besides this, 9 trace metals and 15 pesticides are also analysed in selected samples. Bio-monitoring is also carried out on specific locations. In view of limited resources, limited numbers of organic pollution related parameters are monitored i.e. micro pollutants (Toxic Metals & POPs) are analysed once in a year to assess the water quality. The water quality data are reported in Water Quality Status Year Book.
The water quality monitoring results obtained during 1995 to 2011 indicate that the organic and bacterial contamination are continued to be critical in water bodies. This is mainly due to discharge of domestic wastewater mostly in untreated form from the urban centres of the country. The municipal corporations at large are not able to treat increasing the load of municipal sewage flowing into water bodies without treatment.
Secondly the receiving water bodies also do not have adequate water for dilution. Therefore, the oxygen demand and bacterial pollution is increasing day by day. This is mainly responsible for water borne diseases.
‘Rajya Sabha Elections 2018’
(GS2: Parliament: structure and functioning)
Issue: Voting for the Rajya Sabha elections 2018 in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Telangana, commenced on Friday.
About Rajya Sabha
The ‘Council of States’ which is also known as Rajya Sabha, a nomenclature that was announced by the chair in the House on the 23rd August, 1954 has its own distinctive features. The origin of the second Chamber can be traced to the Montague-Chelmsford Report of 1918. The Government of India Act, 1919 provided for the creation of a ‘Council of State’ as a second chamber of the then legislature with a restricted franchise which actually came into existence in 1921. The Governor-General was the ex-officio President of the then Council of State. The Government of India Act, 1935, hardly made any changes in its composition.
The Constituent Assembly, which first met on 9 December 1946, also acted as the Central Legislature till 1950, when it was converted as ‘Provisional Parliament’. During this period, the Central Legislature which was known as Constituent Assembly (Legislative) and later Provisional Parliament was unicameral till the first elections were held in 1952.
Extensive debate took place in the Constituent Assembly regarding the utility or otherwise of a Second Chamber in Independent India and ultimately, it was decided to have a bicameral legislature for independent India mainly because a federal system was considered to be most feasible form of Government for such a vast country with immense diversities. A single directly elected House, in fact, was considered inadequate to meet the challenges before free India. A second chamber known as the ‘Council of States’, therefore, was created with altogether different composition and method of election from that of the directly elected House of the People. It was conceived as another Chamber, with smaller membership than the Lok Sabha (House of the People). It was meant to be the federal chamber i.e., a House elected by the elected members of Assemblies of the States and two Union Territories in which States were not given equal representation. Apart from the elected members, provision was also made for the nomination of twelve members to the House by the President. The minimum age of thirty years was fixed for membership as against twenty-five years for the Lower House. The element of dignity and prestige was added to the Council of State House by making the Vice-President of India ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha who presides over its sittings.
Article 80 of the Constitution lays down the maximum strength of Rajya Sabha as 250, out of which 12 members are nominated by the President and 238 are representatives of the States and of the two Union Territories. The present strength of Rajya Sabha, however, is 245, out of which 233 are representatives of the States and Union territories of Delhi and Puducherry and 12 are nominated by the President. The members nominated by the President are persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service.
Allocation of Seats
The Fourth Schedule to the Constitution provides for allocation of seats to the States and Union Territories in Rajya Sabha. The allocation of seats is made on the basis of the population of each State. Consequent on the reorganization of States and formation of new States, the number of elected seats in the Rajya Sabha allotted to States and Union Territories has changed from time to time since 1952.
Qualifications: Article 84 of the Constitution lays down the qualifications for membership of Parliament. A person to be qualified for the membership of the Rajya Sabha should posses the following qualifications:
1. he must be a citizen of India and make and subscribe before some person authorized in that behalf by the Election Commission an oath or affirmation according to the form set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule to the Constitution;
2. he must be not less than 30 years of age;
3. he must possess such other qualifications as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament.
Disqualifications: Article 102 of the Constitution lays down that a person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament –
1. if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State, other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder;
2. if he is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court;
3. if he is an undischarged insolvent;
4. if he is not a citizen of India, or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign State, or is under any acknowledgement of allegiance or adherence to a foreign State;
5. if he is so disqualified by or under any law made by Parliament.
Besides, the Tenth Schedule to Constitution provides for disqualification of the members on ground of defection. As per the provisions of the Tenth Schedule, a member may be disqualified as a member, if he voluntarily gives up the membership of his political party; or if he votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the political party to which he belongs, unless such voting or abstention has been condoned by the political party within fifteen days. A member elected as an independent candidate shall be disqualified if he joins any political party after his election. A member nominated to the House by the President, however, is allowed to join a political party if he/she does so within the first six months of taking seat in the House. A member shall not be disqualified on this account, if he voluntarily leaves the membership of his political party after he is elected Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha.
Process for Election/Nomination
Electoral College: The representatives of the States and of the Union Territories in the Rajya Sabha are elected by the method of indirect election. The representatives of each State and two Union territories are elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of that State and by the members of the Electoral College for that Union Territory, as the case may be, in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote. The Electoral College for the National Capital Territory of Delhi consists of the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of Delhi, and that for Puducherry consists of the elected members of the Puducherry Legislative Assembly.
Rajya Sabha is a permanent House and is not subject to dissolution. However, one-third Members of Rajya Sabha retire after every second year. A member who is elected for a full term serves for a period of six years. The election held to fill a vacancy arising otherwise than by retirement of a member on the expiration of his term of office is called ‘Bye-election’. A member elected in a bye-election remains member for the remainder of the term of the member who had resigned or died or disqualified to be member of the House under the Tenth Schedule.
Issue: InSight is the next NASA lander scheduled to head to Mars. It will be a stationary mission, not like NASA’s famous Opportunity, Spirit and Curiosity rovers,. Staying in place is necessary for its major science goals, which include learning more about the Martian composition, and how tectonically active Mars is.
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and is the second smallest planet in the solar system. Named after the Roman god of war, Mars is also often described as the “Red Planet” due to its reddish appearance. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere composed primarily of carbon dioxide.
- Mars and Earth have approximately the same landmass.
Even though Mars has only 15% of the Earth’s volume and just over 10% of the Earth’s mass, around two thirds of the Earth’s surface is covered in water. Martian surface gravity is only 37% of the Earth’s (meaning you could leap nearly three times higher on Mars).
- Mars is home to the tallest mountain in the solar system.
Olympus Mons, a shield volcano, is 21km high and 600km in diameter. Despite having formed over billions of years, evidence from volcanic lava flows is so recent many scientists believe it could still be active.
- Only 18 missions to Mars have been successful.
As of September 2014 there have been 40 missions to Mars, including orbiters, landers and rovers but not counting flybys. The most recent arrivals include the Mars Curiosity mission in 2012, the MAVEN mission, which arrived on September 22, 2014, followed by the Indian Space Research Organization’s MOM Mangalyaan orbiter, which arrived on September 24, 2014. The next missions to arrive will be the European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission, comprising an orbiter, lander, and a rover, followed by NASA’s InSight robotic lander mission, slated for launch in March 2016 and a planned arrival in September, 2016.
- Mars has the largest dust storms in the solar system.
They can last for months and cover the entire planet. The seasons are extreme because its elliptical (oval-shaped) orbital path around the Sun is more elongated than most other planets in the solar system.
- On Mars the Sun appears about half the size as it does on Earth.
At the closest point to the Sun, the Martian southern hemisphere leans towards the Sun, causing a short, intensely hot summer, while the northern hemisphere endures a brief, cold winter: at its farthest point from the Sun, the Martian northern hemisphere leans towards the Sun, causing a long, mild summer, while the southern hemisphere endures a lengthy, cold winter.
- Pieces of Mars have fallen to Earth.
Scientists have found tiny traces of Martian atmosphere within meteorites violently ejected from Mars, then orbiting the solar system amongst galactic debris for millions of years, before crash landing on Earth. This allowed scientists to begin studying Mars prior to launching space missions.
- Mars takes its name from the Roman god of war.
The ancient Greeks called the planet Ares, after their god of war; the Romans then did likewise, associating the planet’s blood-red colour with Mars, their own god of war. Interestingly, other ancient cultures also focused on colour – to China’s astronomers it was ‘the fire star’, whilst Egyptian priests called on ‘Her Desher’, or ‘the red one’. The red colour Mars is known for is due to the rock and dust covering its surface being rich in iron.
- There are signs of liquid water on Mars.
For years Mars has been known to have water in the form of ice. The first signs of trickling water are dark stripes or stains on crater wall and cliffs seen in satellite images. Due to Mars’ atmosphere this water would have to be salty to prevent it from freezing or vaporising.
- One day Mars will have a ring.
In the next 20-40 million years Mars’ largest moon Phobos will be torn apart by gravitational forces leading to the creation of a ring that could last up to 100 million years.
‘Olive Ridley Turtles’
(GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: Forest officers and locals found several hatched Olive Ridley turtle egg shells at Versova after which the Maharashtra forest department confirmed that the beach had, indeed, become a turtle nesting site after two decades.
About Olive ridley turtle
Olive Ridleys are sea turtles found in the warm, tropical currents of the Indian and Pacific oceans. An endangered species, they travel thousands of kilometres in the ocean, with females returning to their original nesting sites within a minimum of two years to lay eggs.
Currently, the turtle nesting centres closest to Mumbai are in Raigad and Palghar districts. According to the mangrove cell, approximately 600 Olive Ridley turtles find their way to nesting sites across various districts of Maharashtra, on beaches such as Velas, Anjarle, Harihareshwar, Maral and Diveagar beaches in Ratnagiri, every year.
‘World Heritage site in India’
(GS1: Indian culture)
Issue: 36 Sites from India are inscribed on the World Heritage List which includes 28 Cultural, 7 Natural and 1 Mixed category site. There are 3686 monuments/sites under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
What are World Heritage sites?
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage adopted by UNESCO in 1972.
- Encourage countries to sign the World Heritage Convention and to ensure the protection of their natural and cultural heritage;
- Encourage States Parties to the Convention to nominate sites within their national territory for inclusion on the World Heritage List;
- Encourage States Parties to establish management plans and set up reporting systems on the state of conservation of their World Heritage sites;
- Help States Parties safeguard World Heritage properties by providing technical assistance and professional training;
- Provide emergency assistance for World Heritage sites in immediate danger;
- Support States Parties’ public awareness-building activities for World Heritage conservation;
- Encourage participation of the local population in the preservation of their cultural and natural heritage;
- Encourage international cooperation in the conservation of our world’s cultural and natural heritage.
‘Smart India Hackathon 2018’
(GS3: E-Technology in the aid for Indians)
Issue: Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology announced that the much awaited Smart India Hackathon 2018 – is scheduled to be held on Mar 30 & 31, 2018 simultaneously at 28 different nodal centers across India.
About Smart India Hackathon 2018
Launched on Oct 16, 2017 in Pune, Smart India Hackathon 2018 harnesses creativity & expertise of students, builds funnel for ‘Startup India, Standup India’ campaign, crowdsources solutions for improving governance and quality of life, and provides opportunity to citizens to provide innovative solutions to India’s daunting problems. All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) under the aegis of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and in collaboration with Inter Institutional Inclusive Innovations Center (i4c), MyGov, Persistent Systems, and Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini is organizing Smart India Hackathon 2018
‘Ethanol as primary fuel’
(GS3: Infrastructure related to Energy)
Issue: The Government, through Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) is implementing the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme under which OMCs sell ethanol blended petrol with percentage of ethanol upto 10% subject to its availability and as per BIS specifications. This programme is being implemented in 21 States and 4 Union Territories including the State of Maharashtra.
Ethanol fuel is ethyl alcohol, the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, used as fuel. It is most often used as a motor fuel, mainly as a bio-fuel additive for gasoline. The first production car running entirely on ethanol was the Fiat 147, introduced in 1978 in Brazil by Fiat. Ethanol is commonly made from biomass such as corn or sugarcane.
Ethanol fuel has a “gasoline gallon equivalency” (GGE) value of 1.5, i.e. to replace the energy of 1 volume of gasoline, 1.5 times the volume of ethanol is needed.
Ethanol-blended fuel is widely used in Brazil, the United States, and Europe (see also Ethanol fuel by country). Most cars on the road today in the U.S. can run on blends of up to 10% ethanol, and ethanol represented 10% of the U.S. gasoline fuel supply derived from domestic sources in 2011. Furthermore, many cars today’s are flexible-fuel vehicles able to use 100% ethanol fuel.
Since 1976 the Brazilian government has made it mandatory to blend ethanol with gasoline, and since 2007 the legal blend is around 25% ethanol and 75% gasoline (E25). By December 2011 Brazil had a fleet of 14.8 million flex-fuel automobiles and light trucks and 1.5 million flex-fuel motorcycles that regularly use neat ethanol fuel (known as E100).
Bio-ethanol is a form of renewable energy that can be produced from agricultural feedstocks. It can be made from very common crops such as hemp, sugarcane, potato, cassava and corn.
‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana’
(GS2: Welfare schemes for the vulnerable sections of the population)
Issue: The target of this scheme was to complete one crore houses by March 31, 2019. Since some Indira AawasYojana (IAY) houses were still incomplete, Department of Rural Development was given a target of 1.02 crore houses, which included completion of two lakh incomplete IAY houses. This was broken up in 51 lakh houses in 2017-18 and 51 lakh houses in 2018-19.
About the scheme:
PMAY-G aims at providing a pucca house, with basic amenities, to all houseless householder and those households living in kutcha and dilapidated house, by 2022. The immediate the objective is to cover 1.00 crore household living in kutcha house/dilapidated house in three years from 2016-17 to 2018- 19.The minimum size of the house has been increased to 25 sq.mt (from20sq.mt) with a hygienic cooking space. The unit assistance has been increased from Rs. 70,000 to Rs. 1.20 lakh in plain and from Rs75,000 to Rs 1.30 lakh in hilly states, difficult areas and IAP district. The beneficiary is entitled to 90.95 person day of unskilled labour from MGNREGS. The assistance for construction of toilet shall be leveraged though convergence with SBM-G, MGNREGS or any other dedicated the source of funding. Convergence for piped drinking water, electricity connection, LPG gas connection etc. different Government programmers are also to be attempted.
The cost of unit assistance is to be shared between Central and State Government in the ratio 60:40 in plain areas and 90:10 for North Eastern and the Himalayan States. From the annual budgetary grant for PMAY-G,90% of funds is to be released to States/UTs for the construction of new house under PMAY-G This would also include 4%allcation towards Administrative expenses .5%of the budgetary grant is to be retained at the central Level as reserve found for special Projects. The annual allocation to the states is to be based on the Annual Action Plan (AAP) approved by the Empowered Committee and the found to States /UTs is to be released in tow equal installments.
Once of the most important features of PMAY-G is the selection of beneficiary. To ensure that assistance is targeted at those who are genuinely deprived and that the selection is objective and verifiable, PMAY-G instead of selecting a the beneficiary from among the BPL households selects beneficiary using housing deprivation parameters in the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC), 2011 date which is to be verified by the Gram Sabhas. The SECC data captures specific deprivation related to housing among households. Using the data households that are houseless and living in 0,1 and 2 kutcha wall and kutcha roof houses can be segregated and targeted . The Permanent Wait List so generated also ensures that the states have the ready list of the household to be covered under the scheme in the coming years (through Annual Select Lists) leading to better planning of implementation. To adders grievances in beneficiary selection an appellate process has also been put in place.
Towards better quality of construction, setting up of a Nation Technical Support Agency (NTSA) at the national level is envisaged. One of the major constraints in quality house construction is the lack of the sufficient number of skilled masons. To address this, a pan-India training and certification programme of Masons has been launched in the States/UTs. This will, in addition, and career progression for rural masons. For timely construction/completion to ensure good quality of house construction, it has also been envisaged to tag a PMAY-G the beneficiary with a field level Government functionary and a Rural Mason.
The beneficiary to be assisted by in-house construction with a bouquet of house design typologies inclusive of disaster resilience features the are suitable to their local geo-climatic conditions. These designs are developed through an elaborate public consultative process. This exercise will ensure that the beneficiary does not over-construct in the initial stages of house building which often results in the incomplete house or the beneficiary is forced to borrow money to complete the house.
In PMAY-G, programme implementation and monitoring is to be carried out through an end to end e-Governance model- Using AwaasSoft and Awaas App. While AwaasSoft is a work –flow enabled, web-based electronic service delivery platform through which all critical function of PMAY-G, right from identification of beneficiary to providing construction linked assistance (throghPFMS), will be carried out; AwaasApp-a the mobile application is to be used to monitor real time, evidence based progress of house construction through date and time stamped and georeferenced photographs of the house. The tow IT application help identify the slip ups in the achievement of targets during the course of implementation of the programme. All payments to beneficiary is to be through DBT to beneficiary’s Bank/post office accounts registered in Awaas SoftMIS.
The States have to come up with their Annual Action Plan of PMAY-That will include a plan for convergence in with other Government programme. The mechanism for convergence in PMAY-G is also to be strengthened through a system to system real-time transfer of information between the programmes that are to converge with PMAY-G.
The programme implementation is to be monitored not only electronically, but also through community participation (Social Audit), Member of Parliament (DISHA Committee), Central and State Government officials, National Level Monitors etc.
The program is implemented by Ministry of Rural Development