- India still in second transmission stage
- West Bengal invokes Epidemic Diseases Act
- Denied chance to ask supplementary question?
- Lok Sabha passes Appropriation Bill
- Ranjan Gogoi nominated to Rajya Sabha
- RBI’s focus on liquidity is correct
Focus: GS-III Disaster Management, Science and Technology
Why in news?
- Senior scientists and health officials have said that India currently is showing no evidence of any community transmission and that enough tests were being done to pick up any early indication of third stage transmission.
- So far there is no evidence for the need to go in for mass testing.
India’s Handling of the Spread
- India started proactive action from January 17 onwards, whereas our first cases came in the end of January.
- The country had put in early measures to ensure that transmission stays localised and any indications otherwise are picked up.
- ICMR will be getting the results of their Random Sampling by 18th March 2020, which will give an idea of where we are headed.
Stages of spread of Coronavirus
There are Four states of the spread of the disease:
- Stage 1 is getting imported cases
- Stage 2 is local transmission
- Stage 3 is community transmission
- Stage 4 is when it turns into an epidemic.
Is India not testing enough?
- Several experts have noted that India isn’t testing enough, which could be the reason for its relatively low number of COVID-19 cases, while also exposing the country to an outbreak.
- Currently, 63 laboratories (62 Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratories and 1 National Centre for Disease Control) are functioning to test COVID-19, and nine laboratories are expected to start functioning shortly.
- The ICMR has also noted that it has intensified random sample testing of people who display flu-like symptoms but don’t have a travel history to any of the coronavirus-hit countries.
Does the spread of Virus slow down because of Summer?
Since the virus hasn’t seen many seasons, we cannot say conclusively that the virus will slow down with higher temperature.
Focus: GS-II Governance, GS-III Disaster Management, Prelims
Why in news?
- The West Bengal government on 16th March 2020, invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and extended the closure of the educational institutions from March 31 to April 15.
- The wife and father of the coronavirus infected Google employee in Bangalore have been booked by the police under the Epidemic Disease Act 1897 for lying to health officials.
- The Centre has advised States and Union Territories to invoke provisions of the Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 so that all advisories being issued from time to time by are enforceable.
- An FIR will be lodged against those lying to health officials under Indian Penal Code sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life).
Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897
- The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 is a law which was first enacted to tackle bubonic plague in Bombay state in former British India.
- The law is meant for containment of epidemics by providing special powers that are required for the implementation of containment measures to control the spread of the disease.
- The Act has been routinely used to contain various diseases in India such as swine flu, cholera, malaria and dengue.
Section 2 of Epidemic Diseases Act
2. Power to take special measures and prescribe regulations as to dangerous epidemic disease
(1) When at any time the [State Government] is satisfied that [the State] or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease, the [State Government], if [it] thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient for the purpose, may take, or require or empower any person to take, such measures and, by public notice, prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as [it] shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, and may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.
Any person disobeying any regulation or order made under this Act shall be deemed to have committed an offence punishable under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).
4. Protection to persons acting under Act.
No suit or other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done or in good faith intended to be done under this Act.
Epidemic Diseases Act in the Past
In 2018 the Act was enforced as cholera began to spread in a region of Gujarat. In 2015, it was used to deal with dengue and malaria in Chandigarh and in 2009 it was invoked in Pune to combat swine flu.
Focus: GS-II Governance, Prelims
Why in news?
Speaker of Lok Sabha Om Birla decides to deny Rahul Gandhi an opportunity to pose a second supplementary to his question during Question Hour
- The question hour is slated for 11am every day (for an hour) in both the houses.
- This is a very important part of the proceedings where MPs ask questions on important subjects and the respective ministers respond with data, information & other details.
- These are also a very important source of information since a lot of latest up to date information/data is provided in the form of answers which are not usually available elsewhere.
Zero Hour in Parliament
- Firstly, there is no mention of zero hour in rules of Parliamentary Procedure. This term was coined by press in 1960s.
- A zero Hour is the hour after the Question Hour in the two houses of Parliament.
- During this hour, the members raise matters of importance, particularly those which they feel, cannot be delayed.
- Since this is unscheduled and without permission or prior notice, it generally results in avoidable loss of precious time of the house.
- It also obstructs the legislative, financial and regular proceedings and business of the House.
- A Half-an-Hour Discussion can be raised on a matter of sufficient public importance which has been the subject of a recent question in Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha, irrespective of the fact whether the question was orally answered or the answer was laid on the table of the House.
- Generally not more than half an hour is allowed for such a discussion.
- The Chairman/Speaker decides whether the matter is of sufficient public importance to be put down for discussion.
Type of Questions
Members have a right to ask questions to elicit information on matters of public importance within the special cognizance of the Ministers concerned. The questions are of four types:—
- Starred Questions- A Starred Question is one to which a member desires an oral answer from the Minister in the House and is required to be distinguished by him/her with an asterisk. Answer to such a question may be followed by supplementary questions by members.
- Unstarred Questions- An Unstarred Question is one to which written answer is desired by the member and is deemed to be laid on the Table of the House by Minister. Thus it is not called for oral answer in the House and no supplementary question can be asked thereon.
- Short Notice Questions- A member may give a notice of question on a matter of public importance and of urgent character for oral answer at a notice less than 10 days prescribed as the minimum period of notice for asking a question in ordinary course. Such a question is known as ‘Short Notice Question’.
- Questions to Private Members- A Question may also be addressed to a Private Member (Under Rule 40 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha), provided that the subject matter of the question relates to some Bill, Resolution or other matter connected with the business of the House for which that Member is responsible. The procedure in regard to such questions is same as that followed in the case of questions addressed to a Minister with such variations as the Speaker may consider necessary.
- Starred Questions are those for which an oral answer is expected. The member is allowed to ask a supplementary question, with the permission of the Speaker, after the reply is obtained from the Minister concerned.
- Non-starred questions are those for which a written reply is expected. After the reply has been provided, NO supplementary question can be asked.
- A notice period is to be given to the minister to reply to a question. However, if a Member seeks to ask a question urgently and cannot wait for the duration of the notice period, then the member can do so provided it is accepted by the Speaker. Such questions are called supplementary questions.
Focus: GS-II Governance, Prelims
Why in news?
- The Lok Sabha on 16th March 2020 passed the Appropriation Bill 2020-21, authorising the government to draw over ₹110-lakh crore from the Consolidated Fund of India for its working as well as implementation of its programmes and schemes.
- This completes two-thirds of the exercise for approval of the Budget for 2020-21.
- The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha had debated on Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s second Budget in the first half of the current session.
- In the second part, the lower house of Parliament passed the Appropriation Bill.
- In the third stage, the Finance Bill, which details the tax proposals, will be discussed and approved.
The house passed the Appropriation Bill, envisaging spending of ₹110.4-lakh crore during the financial year 2020-21 after Speaker Om Birla applied ‘guillotine’ on demands of grants for various ministries.
What is Guillotine?
- Guillotine refers to the exercise which the Speaker of the House, on the very last day of the period allotted for discussions on the Demands for Grants, puts to vote all outstanding Demands for Grants at a time specified in advance.
- The aim of the exercise is to conclude discussions on financial proposals within the time specified.
- With Parliament having very LIMITED TIME for scrutinising the expenditure demands of all the ministries, it takes up discussion on spending or demands for grants for a few ministries during a pre-decided period of time.
- Once this is over, a guillotine is applied.
- Once the Speaker applies the guillotine, all the outstanding demands for grants, whether discussed or not, are put to vote at once and passed.
- After this, Appropriation Bill was taken into consideration and passed.
Focus: GS-II Governance, Prelims
Why in news?
President Ram Nath Kovind on 16th March 2020, nominated former Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi to the Rajya Sabha.
In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-clause (a) of clause (1) of article 80 of the Constitution of India, read with clause (3) of that article, President is pleased to nominate Shri Ranjan Gogoi to Council of States to fill the vacancy caused due to the retirement of one of the nominated members.
Members of Rajya Sabha
Currently the Rajya Sabha has 245 members, including 233 elected members and 12 nominated. As per the constitutional limit, the Upper House strength cannot exceed 250.
Members of States:
Members are elected by the elected members of state legislative assemblies by Proportional Representation by means of Single Transferable Vote.
The population of the state is a factor that decides the representation of states in Rajya Sabha.
Members of Union Territories:
Members of Rajya Sabha belonging to Union Territories are indirectly elected by members of an electoral college, that is constituted for this purpose by Proportional Representation by means of Single Transferable Vote.
12 people are nominated by the President in Rajya Sabha for their contribution and expertise in the fields of:
- Social Service
- As per Article 80 (Part V) of the Constitution, President can nominate 12 members in the Council of States (Rajya Sabha).
- These persons should have special knowledge or practical experience in the field of Art, Science, Literature and Social Service.
- The rationale behind principle of the nomination is to facilitate the representation of eminent professionals and experts who cannot face direct elections.
Difference between Nominated and Elected members:
- Nominated members enjoy all powers, privileges and immunities available to an elected member of Parliament.
- They, however, are not entitled to vote in the election of the President of India.
- But in the election of the Vice-President of India, they have a right to vote.
- A nominated member is allowed six months, should he decide to join a political party after he has taken his seat in the House in terms of article 99 of the Constitution.
- A nominated member has also been exempted from filing his assets and liabilities under Section 75A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 which requires the elected member to do so within 90 days of his making or subscribing oath/affirmation.
Focus: GS-III Indian Economy
Why in news?
- The central bank has an armoury of weapons and it will not hesitate to deploy them to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy.
- The two steps that RBI Governor has outlined now: forex swap and a second long-term repo operation (LTRO) of ₹1 lakh crore – are aimed at supporting liquidity in the market.
- Market rates may incidentally fall as the LTRO is at the repo rate of 5.15%.
What is the Right way to handle Economic downfall?
- The focus on liquidity is the right thing to do at this point in time. A rate cut, while being a short-term sentiment booster, is not going to help in alleviating the situation as seen by the experience in the U.S., where the Federal Reserve has taken the funds rate to zero, but the markets remain unimpressed.
- The situation is clearly an evolving one and prudent action requires that the central bank keep its powder dry simply because we may not have seen the worst yet in terms of the virus impact, both in human and economic terms.
- In fact, in economic terms, this is just the start of what’s likely to be a long period of instability and falling growth in the global economy.
- The falling indices and currencies are only a manifestation of the first order impact. The second, and more severe one, will come when major economies either slow down sharply or tip into recession.
- The disruption caused to commerce, trade and travel already is so immense that the effects on the world economy will be felt for the rest of this calendar year.
- The effect will multiply if the virus infection curve does not flatten over the next 2-3 weeks.
- India cannot remain insulated from global economic turbulence and economic growth is sure to slow down in the coming quarters.
- In such a situation, it is sensible to hold on to the rate cut option for use at a more challenging time, which is bound to follow. With headline inflation and core inflation — both CPI and WPI — trending south, food prices reducing and fuel prices falling (despite the government appropriating some of the benefit in the form of higher excise duty), the environment is indeed favourable for a rate cut, if the monetary policy committee were to decide on one.
- The question is one of timing. The RBI Governor would surely want elbow room in the monetary policy space and not find himself in the position of the Fed or the central banks of other developed countries, where rates have been beaten down to zero or close to zero, leaving no space for action.
- The focus will be on the next meeting of the monetary policy committee in the first week of April, unless if the situation deteriorates so badly that the RBI is forced to act urgently.