IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


11th August, 2019



A new parliament building is under consideration: Speaker Om Birla

  • Construction of a new parliament building is under consideration.
  • Proposal to include the expansion and modernization of Parliament Building in resolution for ‘New India’, on the completion of the 75th year of India’s Independence.

Speakers’ conference

-        A conference of Speakers of all State Assemblies will be convened soon to discuss how can the productivity of the state legislatures can be enhanced.

Parliament Building :

-        The Parliament House contains the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and is located in New Delhi.

-        Originally called the House of Parliament, it was designed by the British architects Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker in 1912-1913 as part of their wider mandate to construct a new administrative capital city for British India.

-        Construction of the Parliament House began in 1921 and it was completed in 1927.

-        The opening ceremony of the Parliament House, which then housed the Imperial Legislative Council, was performed on 18 January 1927 by Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India. 

-        The centre of the building is the Central Hall and radiating from this center were placed the three semi-circular Chambers, surrounded by garden courts.

-        The three Chambers are connected by a four-storied circular structure with a colonnaded verandah on the outside, with 144 pillars, each 27 feet high.

-        It was the Central Chamber of the Council House where the official transfer of power took place in 1947 and Jawaharlal Nehru made his famous ‘tryst with destiny’ speech. The Central Chamber still holds the joint sessions of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. 

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/a-new-parliament-building-is-under-consideration-speaker-om-birla/article28976517.ece


Why is it said that India has asymmetric federalism?


The Union government has withdrawn the special status conferred on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) under Article 370 of the Constitution. It has also divided the State into two regions and declared them as Union Territories. Thus, the government has made a significant alteration in the unique form of federalism that it has been practising in respect of the sensitive border State, which has seen war, terrorism and conflict since Independence. It has put in place an alternative form of federalism in which the two new units will be administered by the Centre.

How is this debate concerned with federalism?

Nations are described as ‘federal’ or ‘unitary’, depending on the way in which governance is organised.

-        In a unitary set-up, the Centre has plenary powers of administration and legislation, with its constituent units having little autonomy.

-        In a federal arrangement, the constituent units are identified on the basis of region or ethnicity, and conferred varying forms of autonomy or some level of administrative and legislative powers. 

As the current political status of J&K — as two Union Territories — is a form of demotion from the sort of autonomy it enjoyed, it becomes an issue concerning federalism.

Why is India called ‘quasi-federal’?

Supreme Court has noted that the essence of a ‘federation’ is the existence of the Union of the States, and the distribution of powers between them.

-        In S.R. Bommai vs. Union of India, it notes the commonly invoked model of federalism is the United States, by which it is clear that it is a federation of States. Their territories cannot be altered by the federal government.

-        In India, on the other hand, Parliament has the power to admit new States, create new States, alter their boundaries and their names, and unite or divide the States. In the latest exercise, the unprecedented act of converting a State into a Union Territory has also been performed. 

-        The concurrence of States is not needed for the formation and unmaking of States and Union Territories. 

-        In India, the residuary powers of legislation, that is the power to make law in a field not specified in the Constitution, is vested in Parliament, whereas in the U.S., residuary powers are with the States.

-        Further, in fiscal matters, the power of the States to raise their own resources is limited, and there is a good deal of dependency on the Centre for financial assistance.

-        Even though the States are sovereign in their prescribed legislative field, and their executive power is co-extensive with their legislative powers, it is clear that “the powers of the States are not coordinate with the Union”.

Why is it said that India has asymmetric federalism?

-        Besides the Centre and the States, the country has Union Territories with a legislature, and Union Territories without a legislature.

-        When the Constitution came into force, the various States and other administrative units were divided into Parts A, B, C and D. 

-        Part A States were the erstwhile provinces, while Part B consisted of erstwhile princely states and principalities. Part C areas were the erstwhile ‘Chief Commissioner’s Provinces’. They became Union Territories, and some of them initially got legislatures and were later upgraded into States. Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Goa belong to this category.

-        Puducherry and Delhi have legislatures, while the other territories under the Centre do not have legislatures or a ministerial council to advise the administrator. 

-        Even between Puducherry and Delhi, there is a notable difference. Puducherry has legislative powers on any matter mentioned in the State List or the Concurrent List, insofar as it applies to the Union Territory. Delhi, which has the same field, has three further exceptions: police, land and public order are outside its purview.

-        Parliament has overriding powers over any law made by the Assembly in the Union Territories.

-        Puducherry has one more unique feature. Despite being a single administrative unit, the Union Territory is ‘non-contiguous’. That is, its territory is limited to one extent of land. Besides Puducherry and its adjoining areas, it has enclaves located within other States: Karaikal (within Tamil Nadu) Yanam (within Andhra Pradesh) and Mahe (within Kerala).

What is special status? How did it work in J&K?

-        Under Article 370, the State was allowed to have its own Constitution, its own definition of ‘permanent residents’, the right to bar outsiders from holding property, and the privilege of not having any Indian law automatically applicable to its territory.

-        Indian laws had to be specifically permitted by its Assembly before it could operate there. 

-        It was allowed to have its own Penal and Criminal Procedure Codes. 

-        The President was empowered to notify, from time to time, the provisions of the Constitution that could be extended to the State, with or without modifications.

What does Article 371 provide?

Special status is not unique to Kashmir. However, the sort of asymmetry seen in J&K’s relationship to the Centre is not seen in other States. 

-        The ‘special provisions’ applicable to some other States are mainly in the form of empowering the Governors to discharge some special responsibilities.

-        These States are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Manipur, NagalandSikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. 

-        The common feature is that wherever Governors have been asked to discharge special responsibilities, their discretionary power overrides the process of consultation with the respective Council of Ministers.

-        Article 371 says the Governor of Maharashtra has a special responsibility to establish separate development boards for Vidarbha, Marathwada, and the rest of the State, while the Governor of Gujarat has a similar responsibility towards Saurashtra, Kutch and the rest of Gujarat.

-        The responsibilities cover equitable allocation of funds for development expenditure, and providing facilities for technical education and vocational training.

-        Article 371A confers special status on Nagaland. Under this provision, no law made by Parliament in relation to Naga customary law and procedure, including civil and criminal justice matters, and ownership or transfer of land and resources will apply to Nagaland, unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland decides so. 

-        The protection of Naga laws and customs was written into the Constitution following the July 1960 agreement between the Centre and the Naga People’s Convention, under which the State was later created. 

-        The Governor of Nagaland has a ‘special responsibility’ regarding law and order in the State.

-        Article 371B contained a special provision for Assam under which a committee of legislators from the tribal areas was formed to look after their interest. The tribal areas later became Meghalaya State.

-        Under Article 371C, the Hill Areas of Manipur ought to have a committee of legislators. The Governor has a special responsibility to make an annual report to the President on the administration of the Hill Areas.

-        The Centre is empowered to give directions to the State as far as these areas were concerned.

-        Article 371D is a detailed provision under which the President can pass an order to provide equitable opportunities and facilities to people belonging to different parts of Andhra Pradesh in public employment and education.

-         In particular, the President can create local cadres in various classes of employment and allot civil posts to specified local cadres only. The President can specify any part of the State as a ‘local area’ for this purpose.

-        To give effect to this arrangement, an Administrative Tribunal has been set up. No court, other than the Supreme Court, has any power of superintendence over this tribunal.

-        Article 371F incorporated special provisions after the addition of Sikkim to India. One major objective was to grant protection to existing laws in Sikkim so that they are not declared unconstitutional after being brought under the Constitution of India.

-        Article 371G contains special provisions to preserve the religious and social practices of Mizos in Mizoram and their customary law and procedure and administration of criminal and civil justice, besides ownership of land.

-        Article 371H vests a special responsibility on the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh with respect to law and order. It makes clear that the Governor shall discharge this function after consulting the Council of Ministers, but exercise his individual judgment as to the action taken.

Are there any other examples of decentralisation of power?

-        The Sixth Schedule to the Constitution contains provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. These create autonomous districts and autonomous regions.

-        Any autonomous district with different Scheduled Tribes will be divided into autonomous regions. These will be administered by District Councils and Regional Councils. These Councils can make laws with respect to allotment, occupation and use of land, management of forests other than reserve forests and water courses. Besides they can regulate social customs, marriage and divorce and property issues.

-        In Assam, the Karbi-Anglong Autonomous Council, Dima Hasao Autonomous District Council and the Bodoland Territorial Council have been set up under the Sixth Schedule.

Other Provisions for Quasi-federalism:

-        Constitution provides under article 355 that the central government is the duty-bound to ensure that there is no failure of constitutional machinery in the state and the states are protected from the internal disturbance and external aggression and war.

-        Article 356 provides to the central government to impose Presidential rule and it is the duty of the governor of the concerned state to make a report to the center about the constitutional failure of the machinery of the state for political or any other reasons.

-        Governor also enjoys some discretionary powers related to withholding the bill for the consideration of the president. 

-        The constitution provides a single and uniform citizenship for the whole of the country. However, in a federal state like the United States of America, there is dual citizenship in which citizen firstly owes the duty to the states and then to the union.

-        All the appointment on the highest positions are made by the Union Government such as the Chief Election Commissioner, the Comptroller, and Auditor General and All India Services such as IAS and IPS have been created which are kept under the control of the Union.

-        The Representation of the States in Rajya Sabha is not equal basis it depends from state to state and regulated by the center which is basically a unitary feature of the state.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/the-forms-of-federalism-in-india/article28977671.ece




Pakistan ups the ante over Kashmir

India’s decision to revoke Article 370 and bifurcate the state of Jammu & Kashmir into two Union territories has not gone down well with Pakistan. Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties and suspended trade. 

-        Expelled the Indian envoy

-        Decided not to send its High Commissioner-designate to India.

-        Pakistan has also decided to review all bilateral agreements with India and take the Kashmir issue to the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.


“Even though diplomatic ties are not cut-off with India completely, the strain in the already tense relationship is visible.” Pakistan and India currently hold several bilateral agreements “not just on Kashmir but other crucial issues such as trade, water and environment — a review of which would be consequential for the people of both countries, also affecting South Asia in general.”

Pakistan Reactions:

-        Pakistan’s reaction is “Unaware. Unprepared. Unwilling.”

-        Pakistan’s initial reaction, personified by the Prime Minister’s lament of ‘What can I do’ [about India], topped by a military/intelligence set-up that failed to see this coming, only underscores how weak a state Pakistan is, and how much under pressure it is from the powers-that-be to deliver on Afghanistan and quieten down about India.                                    

-        The embarrassing lack of policy articulation, a missing-in-action Foreign Minister, and expectedly clichéd dial-down diplomacy — like not sending the High Commissioner-designate to Delhi, which has been vacant for months anyway — only create one short-term opening for Pakistan.

-        The UNGA in New York, this September, may be Pakistan’s best shot at embarrassing India, but not vanquishing it,” he added.

-        The legal acrobatics displayed by the BJP-led government in tabling these amendments are breathtaking in their audacity and are unlikely to survive a Constitutional challenge before the Indian courts. 

-        Had India abided by the UNSC resolutions and held a plebiscite in Kashmir, then that would have definitively determined Kashmir’s status, Mr. Aziz said.

-        “As of now, Kashmir remains a disputed territory under International law but the recent actions have converted the occupation into an annexation which again is blatant violation of International law, specifically the UN General Assembly’s Resolution 2625,” he added.

Reference : https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/pakistan-ups-the-ante-over-kashmir/article28976702.ece


Rajapaksa cites Kashmir while commenting on political solution in Sri Lanka


Mr. Rajapakasa is quoted as saying: “There are two strands of opinion now. Some want a new constitution. Some want a federal arrangement. And some say that a political solution based on the 13th Amendment would suffice. But a solution should not be one that divides the country. Look at what has just happened in Kashmir. We need to take steps keeping all these in mind. We have to understand these factors while we pursue a political solution.”

13th Amendment:

The population of Sri Lanka is around 2 crore of which 74.8% are Sinhalese and 11.2 are Tamils. Most of the Tamils in Sri Lanka were brought as indentured laborers to work on estate plantations. The conflict between Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamils has been one of the longest ethnic strife in South Asia.

In the Indo-Sri Lankan Peace accord the Sri Lankan Government made a number of concessions to Tamil demands, which included

-        Devolution of power to the provinces.

-        Merger (subject to later referendum) of the northern and eastern provinces.

-        Official status for the Tamil language.

-        Setting up of a Provincial Council for each Province.

-        Establishment of a High Court for each Province.

It was to be achieved via the 13th amendment of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/rajapaksa-cites-kashmir-while-commenting-on-political-solution-in-sri-lanka/article28973836.ece




Why has the U.S. accused China of deliberately weakening the yuan?


United States has designated China as a “currency manipulator”. The Chinese central bank, let the yuan weaken past the psychologically significant CNY7 (CNY or the yuan is the basic unit of the renminbi, China’s official currency) to the dollar mark. 

-        The yuan, it is important to note, was last at this level against the dollar more than 10 years ago in April 2008. 

What does the move imply for China?

-        The tag of a “currency manipulator” per se does not mean any penal action against China.

-        It could be used by the United States as an excuse to justify other retaliatory sanctions against the country. 

-        The U.S. could also drag China to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) although the IMF does not have the teeth to punish China.

Why has the U.S. taken this stand?

-        The U.S. believes that China has been deliberately weakening its currency (the yuan) in order to boost exports to the U.S. 

-        US believes that the inflow of Chinese goods will affect the business of local U.S. manufacturers.

-        The tag of “Currency Manipulator” sends across the signal that economic ties between the U.S. and China are set to worsen further. 

-        It is also worth noting that the PBoC exerts far more direct control over the exchange rate of its currency by intervening in the forex market.

-        Other central banks such as the U.S. Federal Reserve for instance, usually employ general monetary policy tools, which they use to regulate the money supply in the overall economy, to weaken or strengthen the exchange rate of their currencies. 

Why is China letting the yuan weaken against the dollar?

-        Devaluing the currency is a common ploy employed by economies that face a slowdown in order to help boost demand for their goods.

-        In the case of the yuan, increasing its supply will allow more units of it to be purchased in exchange for fewer U.S. dollars.

-        This is a way of transferring more of the purchasing power to buy Chinese goods away from the hands of the local Chinese and into the hands of Americans.

-        Chinese economy has been witnessing a general slowdown, with growth dropping to a 27-year low of 6.2% in July, it is no surprise that China has decided to depend more heavily on exports as a way to boost demand for its goods.

What does this mean for the global economy?

-        If the U.S. weakens the dollar to retaliate against China’s yuan devaluation, it will enter a currency war.

-        The last time the world was engaged in an all-out currency war was during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when countries facing a domestic slowdown tried to boost their economies by devaluing their currencies in a retaliatory fashion.

-        This caused terrible uncertainty for businesses. Combined with high tariffs, this led to a steep fall in international trade.

-        Currency devaluation will also not undo any of the negative effects of the high tariffs that have already been slapped by the U.S. and Chinese administrations.

-        Currency devaluation may temporarily boost exports by transferring more purchasing power to the hands of foreigners, but it will not boost domestic production.

-        Eventually, as in the past, such competitive devaluations can cause the size of global trade to shrink.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/now-a-currency-war/article28977651.ece




UP, Delhi and Rajasthan among worst performers in breastfeeding


Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Punjab fare the worst when it comes to the practice of breastfeeding, according to a report-card released recently by the Union Health Ministry. 

-        The World Health Organisation says that if breastfeeding was scaled up to near-universal levels, lives of about 8,20,000 children could be saved every year.

-        The ministry report notes that these states have the lowest rate for breastfeeding within one hour of birth, exclusive breast feeding for six months and complementary breastfeeding from six to nine months.

-        “Inadequate breastfeeding puts a huge burden on our health system and we understand that there is an urgent need to ensure a conducive environment for all mothers to practice breastfeeding at home, outside homes and workplaces.

-        States that top the report card include Mizoram, Sikkim, Odisha and Manipur. These regions also show good indicators in terms of the other parameters where children are breast fed exclusively for six months etc.

-        Breastfeeding contributes to the health and well-being of mothers, it helps to space children, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, increases family and national resources, is a secure way of feeding and is safe for the environment. While breastfeeding is a natural act, it is also a learned behavior.

-        “Breastfeeding is one of the most cost-effective intervention which addresses both survival and growth of the child. Studies have highlighted how breastfeeding, if universalized, could prevent diseases and deaths of children and future breast and ovarian cancer in mothers. Early initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth can prevent neonatal mortality; whereas exclusive breastfeeding for six months can reduce under-five deaths significantly.”

-        Skilled counselling and practical support to women both during the time of birth and later linking them to community workers, are key to promoting breastfeeding.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/up-delhi-and-rajasthan-among-worst-performers-in-breastfeeding/article28977730.ece




State-run oil marketing companies to buy biodiesel made from used cooking oil

In a bid to encourage the biofuel sector, the state-run oil marketing companies would procure the entire supply of biodiesel produced from used cooking oil for a three-year period.

-        Biodiesel plants using used cooking oil as their raw material will be assured that their entire production will be procured by the oil marketing companies to be blended with normal diesel. The scheme is being launched in 100 cities across the country.

-        Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) has directed Food Safety Commissioners to ensure that Food Business Operators (FBOs), whose consumption of edible oils for frying is more than 50 litres per day, stop reusing the oil more than three times.

-        Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO)’ sticker and a phone app are launched to enable the collection of used cooking oil.

-        Restaurants and hotels interested in supplying used cooking oil can affix the sticker to show availability.

-        Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has to bring down import dependency of oil products by 2022, and this can be achieved by enhancing production, improving energy efficiency, promoting conservation and encouraging alternate fuels.

-        Four-pronged strategy will be adopted to promote ethanol, second-generation ethanol, compressed biogas and biodiesel.

-        Ethanol blending in petrol has gone up from 1.5% to about 8% and is likely to touch 10% soon.

-        The government is planning to allow production of ethanol from surplus foodgrains which now sometimes go waste and also entail expenditure on storage.

-        The National Policy on Biofuels 2018, released by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has set a blending target of 20% for ethanol in petrol and of 5% for biodiesel blending in diesel by 2030.

-        All FBOs should compulsorily dispose off their used cooking oil to authorised collection agencies or aggregators and lists eight biodiesel manufacturers enrolled with agency so far.

-        When used multiple times, cooking oil becomes acidic and darkens in colour. This may alter the fatty acid composition of the oil. FSSAI will also ask cooking oil manufacturers to come out with colour charts (either on the product or in a booklet along with the product) that will help people to identify if the oil is fresh or re-used. A prominent oil manufacturer is already doing this and we plan to ask others also to follow the same concept.

-        The directive was aimed at ensuring that reused cooking oil is neither directly used in food preparation nor re-enters the food chain.

-        Karnataka is the first State to have a Bio Energy Development Board and used cooking oil is being collected from big chain of restaurants by biodiesel manufacturing units, the main issue is regarding the registration of such units and empanelment of re-purposed used cooking oil (RUCO) collecting aggregators. 

-        Without empanelment, many aggregators are finding it difficult to collect used cooking oil from hotel chains.


-        The Policy categorises biofuels as “Basic Biofuels” viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel and “Advanced Biofuels” – Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc. to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.

-        The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.

-        Farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase. Taking this into account, the Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.

-        With a thrust on Advanced Biofuels, the Policy indicates a viability gap funding scheme for 2G ethanol Bio refineries of Rs.5000 crore in 6 years in addition to additional tax incentives, higher purchase price as compared to 1G biofuels.

-        The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/state-run-oil-marketing-companies-to-buy-biodiesel-made-from-used-cooking-oil/article28979554.ece




Cost is key: Chinese space firm revs up for reusable rocket race


Chinese startup LinkSpace on Saturday completed its third test of a reusable rocket in five months, stepping up the pace in the race to develop a technology key to cheap space launches in an expected global boom in satellite deployment.

-        China envisions constellations of commercial satellites that can offer services ranging from high-speed Internet for aircraft and rural areas to tracking coal shipments and commuter traffic.

-        Reliable, low-cost and frequent launches will be key, with recoverable or partially recoverable rockets like the Falcon 9 from Elon Musk’s SpaceX one way to eventually affordable satellite deployment missions.

-        SpaceX has already used recoverable rockets on a number of orbital missions since a historic launch early in 2017, spurring Europe, Russia, Japan and China to speed up their own research into the technology or at least consider studying it.

-        The reusable design of its next-generation rocket could lead to a predicted cost reduction of 70%, iSpace estimated.

Reusable Launch Vehicle:

-        A reusable launch system (RLS, or reusable launch vehicle, RLV) is a system capable of launching a payload into space more than once.

-        The cost of access to space is the major deterrent in space exploration and space utilization. RLV is the solution to achieve low cost, reliable and on-demand space access.

-        RLV-TD(technology demonstrator) was successfully flight tested by the ISRO, validating the critical technologies such as autonomous navigation, guidance & control, reusable thermal protection system and re-entry mission management.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/cost-is-key-chinese-space-firm-revs-up-for-reusable-rocket-race/article28977597.ece