- LS Speaker: Performance review and ideas for panels
- Only 2,132 treated for COVID-19 under Ayushman Bharat scheme
- 60% of farmers faced losses
- Nepal’s new political map claims India’s territories
- U.S. slams China on Border disputes and threat posed
- Military, diplomatic talks on with China
- Israel’s hack of Iranian port
LS SPEAKER: PERFORMANCE REVIEW AND IDEAS FOR PANELS
Focus: GS-II Governance
Why in news?
- The Lok Sabha Speaker initiated an exercise to assess the effectiveness of the Parliamentary Standing Committees, from taking stock of the rate of attendance at their meetings to the list of recommendations that have not been accepted by the government.
- Lok Sabha Speaker, in a rare move, has suggested a host of ideas for parliamentary committees to consider.
Details of Why such moves came up:
- This comes in the backdrop of efforts by both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats to hold online meetings of the committees.
- None of the department related standing committees (DRSCs) have met since the Parliament Sessions ended abruptly due to the COVID-19 Lockdown.
- The Rajya Sabha secretariat had done a similar analysis and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha on March 1, pointed out that a total of 95 MPs did not attend a single meeting of the eight DRSCs that reviewed allocations for 18 Ministries after the presentation of the 2020-21 Union Budget on February 1.
- The Lok Sabha Speaker asked the secretariat to “follow up intensely” with the members to ensure that they attended meetings of the panels.
- The Speaker also asked all the committees to give suggestions to improve the rating/ranking of India in global indices.
- During a performance review of 16 department-related standing committees under the Lok Sabha on May 12 and 13, the Speaker also emphasized that the panels should work with an eye on the last people in line and keep them at the centre of their recommendations.
- The government gave blanket instructions on March 1 to all Ministries to improve Indian’s position on various global tally, including the World Press Freedom Index.
- The Lok Sabha secretariat, according to the sources, had been asked to prepare a list of cases where a committee’s recommendations have not been accepted by the government or where required action is pending for more than three months.
- Both, Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman have acceded the demands and now the National Informatics Centre will provide a safe platform for holding meetings.
Ideas of Parliamentary Panels
- This was the first comprehensive review of the panels in many years, said the two officials, and it is part of efforts to improve the efficiency of Parliamentary panels.
- The parliamentary committees, established in 1993, are seen as an extension of the house.
- Indian Parliament has 24 department related standing panels out of which 16 belong to Lok Sabha and remaining come under purview of Upper House.
- The Lok Sabha Speaker has also asked for detailed background notes for panels, a compilation of major recommendations of all committees which have had a significant impact on common citizens, and a report on recommendations which have an impact.
- For railways panel, Speaker suggested looking into use of land along railway lines to develop horticulture, floriculture and solar power plants, and privatization in Railways.
Powers and Duties of the Lok Sabha Speaker
- He maintains order and decorum in the House for conducting its business and regulating its proceedings. This is his primary responsibility and he has final power in this regard.
- He is the final interpreter of the provisions of
- the Constitution of India,
- the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Lok Sabha
- the parliamentary precedents, within the House.
- He adjourns the House or suspends the meeting in absence of a quorum. The quorum to constitute a meeting of the House is one-tenth of the total strength of the House.
- He does not vote in the first instance. But he can exercise a casting vote in the case of a tie. In other words, only when the House is divided equally on any question, the Speaker is entitled to vote. Such vote is called casting vote, and its purpose is to resolve a deadlock.
- He presides over a joint setting of the two Houses of Parliament. Such a sitting is summoned by the President to settle a deadlock between the two Houses on a bill.
- He can allow a ‘secret’ sitting of the House at the request of the Leader of the House. When the House sits in secret, no stranger can be present in the chamber, lobby or galleries except with the permission of the Speaker.
- He decides whether a bill is a money bill or not and his decision on this question is final. When a money bill is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha for recommendation and presented to the President for assent, the Speaker endorses on the bill his certificate that it is a money bill.
- He decides the questions of disqualification of a member of the Lok Sabha, arising on the ground of defection under the provisions of the Tenth Schedule. In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that the decision of the Speaker in this regard is subject to judicial review.
- He acts as the ex-officio chairman of the Indian Parliamentary Group which acts as a link between the Parliament of India and the various parliaments of the world. He also acts as the ex-officio chairman of the conference of presiding officers of legislative bodies in the country.
- He appoints the chairman of all the parliamentary committees of the Lok Sabha and supervises their functioning. He himself is the chairman of the Business Advisory Committee, the Rules Committee and the General-Purpose Committee.
-Source: The Hindu, Hindustan Times
ONLY 2,132 TREATED FOR COVID-19 UNDER AYUSHMAN BHARAT SCHEME
Focus: GS-II Social Justice
Why in news?
Only 2,132 people have availed or are now undergoing treatment for COVID-19 under Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) – According to figures released AB-PMJAY on 20th May.
Details of the AB-PMJAY Report
- AB-PMJAY is India’s cashless/paperless healthcare access service for the poor and vulnerable families.
- Testing for and treatment of COVID-19 is free under AB-PMJAY for all its 53 crore beneficiaries.
- The National Health Authority (NHA), mandated to implement AB PM-JAY and for COVID-19, has focused on how to get the private sector more actively involved in offering treatment for both COVID-19 as well as non-COVID-19 health conditions.
- As per information released by AB-PMJAY, among the 21,565 hospitals empanelled under it and of the total new hospitals onboarded, nearly 58% per cent are private ones.
- The NHA’s state of the art call centre was also being used as COVID-19 helpline.
- The NHA is also supporting ‘Aarogya Setu’ mobile application.
Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY)
- Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY) is the flagship scheme of the Union government as a part of the Indian government’s National Health Policy.
- AB-PMJAY provides a health cover of up to Rs. 5 lakh a family a year, for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization, to India’s bottom 40% poor and vulnerable population.
- The programme was launched in September, 2018.
- AB-PMJAY is under the aegis of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- The PM Jan Arogya Yojana beneficiaries get an e-card that can be used to avail services at an empanelled hospital, public or private, anywhere in the country, with which they can walk into a hospital and obtain cashless treatment.
- The scheme has certain pre-conditions by which it picks who can avail of the health cover benefit. While in the rural areas the list is mostly categorized on lack of housing, meagre income and other deprivations, the urban list of PMJAY beneficiaries is drawn up on the basis of occupation.
Key Features of AB-PMJAY
- PM-JAY is a health assurance scheme that covers 10.74 crores households across India or approximately 50 crore Indians.
- It provides a cover of 5 lakh per family per year for medical treatment in empanelled hospitals, both public and private.
- It provides cashless and paperless service to its beneficiaries at the point of service, i.e., the hospital.
- E-cards are provided to the eligible beneficiaries based on the deprivation and occupational criteria of Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 (SECC 2011).
- There is no restriction on family size, age or gender.
- All previous medical conditions are covered under the scheme.
- It covers 3 days of hospitalisation and 15 days of post hospitalisation, including diagnostic care and expenses on medicines.
- The scheme is portable and a beneficiary can avail medical treatment at any PM-JAY empanelled hospital outside their state and anywhere in the country.
- The Central government has decided to provide free testing and treatment of Coronavirus under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana.
-Source: The Hindu
60% OF FARMERS FACED LOSSES
Focus: GS-III Agriculture, Indian Economy
Why in news?
Despite most Farmers managing to harvest their crops despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 60% of them still faced losses, mostly related to the lockdown, according to a new survey in 12 States.
- A majority of farmers say the lockdown has hurt their preparations for the upcoming sowing season either because they cannot afford inputs such as seeds and fertilizer or because of labour shortages.
- The situation is worse for wage workers, with 80% seeing their incomes fall over the last month.
- On average, wages were 76% lower compared to the same time last year.
- The survey found that 63% of respondents had harvested a crop in the past month, while 26% said this was not a harvesting season for them.
- Only 10% were UNABLE to harvest their rabi or winter season crop, due to lockdown-related issues such as low market prices, difficulty in market access, government restrictions and a shortage of labour and machinery.
- Wheat is the biggest rabi crop and harvesting rates were especially high in northern States like Punjab (95%) and Haryana (81%) which also have high rates of mechanisation. In Rajasthan, while 86% of the crop has been harvested, less than 15% has been sold.
- The situation is worse with regard to other crops, especially vegetables which are a perishable crop highly vulnerable to the supply chain disruptions of the lockdown. In Karnataka, less than 40% of vegetables were harvested. Out of that, less than 60% could be sold.
- About 60% of farmers reported losses in yield, with bad weather being the single biggest reason. However, nearly 40% reported lockdown-related issues.
- 50% of Farmers were worried about the high cost of seeds and fertilizers, especially given the last season’s losses, while one in five said these key inputs were not even available.
- Almost 40% are worried about labour shortages, given that the primary kharif crop is paddy, which involves labour-intensive transplanting operations.
- Wage earning households saw a 76% fall in wages, with 90% of landless households experiencing a hit to incomes.
How has Government Helped farmers during the Lockdown?
- The Indian government announced a massive relief package of ₹ 1.7 lakh crore to cover those hit the hardest – farmers, rural workforce, women and other vulnerable groups.
- The package promises free cereal and pulse grains for three months through the Public Distribution System (PDS) and cash transfers to vulnerable people, mainly in rural areas.
- The government has promised an additional 15 kg food grains per person for 800 million people, thanks to about 60 million tonnes of grain buffer stock in the country.
- The government has also exempted the movement of agriculture commodities; farm labourers and harvesting and other machinery from the shutdown restrictions.
- Transportation and other logistics have to be organised well for the smooth availability of seeds and other agro-inputs at right time.
-Source: The Hindu
NEPAL’S NEW POLITICAL MAP CLAIMS INDIA’S TERRITORIES
Focus: GS-II International Relations
Why in news?
- Nepal’s new official map is “artificial” and unacceptable to India, the Ministry of External Affairs said on 20th May 2020 after Kathmandu unveiled a new political map that claimed Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh of Uttarakhand as part of its sovereign territory.
- Nepal Releasing the new map escalates the row over territorial claims between the two South Asian neighbours.
What the MEA of India said about the Map?
- This unilateral act is not based on historical facts and evidence. It is contrary to the bilateral understanding to resolve the outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue.
- Such artificial enlargement of territorial claims will not be accepted by India.
- India said Nepal was aware of the understanding on this issue and urged the Nepali Government to return to dialogue.
- India had published a new map on November 2, 2019, representing the political boundaries of the country which showed the status of the newly created Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The same map also showed the region of Kalapani as part of the Indian territory.
What has Nepal claimed?
- Nepali diplomatic sources maintain the region of Kalapani and the contiguous areas to the east of the river Kali and Susta on the Uttar Pradesh-Bihar border are the only parts of the nearly 1,800-km India-Nepal boundary that remain unresolved.
- Kathmandu claims that India has encroached upon the area of Susta near Gorakhpur, claiming tracts of land, and wants Delhi to evacuate population from the location.
- Nepal, however, maintains that not just the Kalapani region, but Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh are parts of its territory as demarcated in the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli. All three areas are to the east of the river Kali, according to the Nepali formulation.
- Nepal had also expressed displeasure that the 2015 agreement between India and China for using the Lipulekh pass for trade was reached without consulting it.
-Source: The Hindu
U.S. SLAMS CHINA ON BORDER DISPUTES AND THREAT POSED
Focus: GS-II International Relations
Why in news?
- In a sharp criticism of China over border tensions with India, the US on 20th May described Beijing’s actions as “disturbing behaviour”.
- The U.S.’s top diplomat for South and Central Asia, called the recent tensions between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) a reminder of the “threat” posed by China.
- The U.S. also said the skirmishes were a reminder of the threat China posed as it sought to use its power, whether in the South China Sea or on the borders with India.
Strained U.S.-China relationship
- The disapproval of the US is more direct than usual and is significant even as it comes in the backdrop of US-China bickering over the spread of the coronavirus with US President blaming China for the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
- U.S. is also accusing the WHO of behaving as a satellite of China.
China’s Neighbour tensions
- U.S. Diplomat also said China’s behaviour was causing other nations to group together to reinforce the post Second World War economic order.
- ASEAN, the trilateral partnership between India, the U.S. and Japan as well as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with these countries and Australia were cited.
- U.S. is offering grant assistance of $500 million to Nepal, which has led to controversy between the ruling and opposition parties in Nepal. The assistance has been seen as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which Nepal has signed on to.
U.S. Trade deal with India
On the prospects of India and the U.S. reaching a limited trade deal – U.S. said: Adopting more open and welcoming policies and reducing tariffs would help India make use of the opportunity.
Preparedness to call out China’s aggression in US stance
- The US stance goes beyond diplomatic phraseology that is more common and seems to reflect a preparedness to call out Chinese aggression.
- While aggressive stand-offs along the unsettled border during summer are not new, China this year opened up a new front in Ladakh, upping concerns in India’s security establishment.
- This is the area in Galwan and near the hot springs, in addition to deep incursions on the north bank of Pangong Tso, near what the Indian Army calls the Finger 4 areas.
- This came along with skirmishes in Sikkim near Naku La.
-Source: Times of India, The Hindu
MILITARY, DIPLOMATIC TALKS ON WITH CHINA
Focus: GS-II International Relations
Why in news?
India is trying to resolve the ongoing troop confrontation with China in some stretches along the unresolved border in eastern Ladakh as well as Sikkim, which has become the most serious since the major Doklam face-off in 2017, through both military and diplomatic channels.
“Flag meetings” and “military hotline talks” are being held at multiple-levels with the field commanders of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to de-escalate the heightened tensions and rival troop build-ups along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Points of tensions
- China has taken deep umbrage at India building border infrastructure in terms of roads, defences and advanced landing grounds along the western and eastern sectors of the 3,488-km long LAC in recent times.
- India’s completion of the 255-km Darbuk-Shyok-DBO road last year, which provides access to the Depsang area and Galwan Valley while ending near the Karakoram Pass, in particular, has riled the PLA.
- Both India and China pumped in additional troops, built fortifications and pitched tents at a few stretches along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, which include the northern bank of Pangong Tso, Demchok and Galwan Valley areas, after the tensions brewing since mid-April led to violent clashes on May 5-6.
- The PLA, for instance, has pitched around 80 to 100 tents near the Galwan river after virtually blocking India’s ongoing construction of a small road in the area, which was a flashpoint even during the 1962 war, while also deploying several vehicles and construction equipment in the Demchok region.
- China has also increased the number of its armed motorised boats for patrolling in the 134-km long picturesque Pangong Tso.
- India has responded by also deploying additional quick-reaction team (QRT) boats in the lake and troops on its northern bank.
- While the Indian establishment has so far maintained a studied silence on the bilateral border tensions, China has attacked India through both its foreign affairs ministry and state-controlled media for aggressive patrolling behaviour and “unilateral attempts” to change the status-quo along the Line of Actual Control.
-Source: Times of India
ISRAEL’S HACK OF IRANIAN PORT
Focus: GS-II International Relations, GS-I Geography, Prelims
Why in news?
- Israel was behind a cyber-attack on 9 May that disrupted operations at a major port in Iran.
- The attack on the computer systems at the Shahid Rajaee port in the strategically important Strait of Hormuz was limited in scope, creating traffic jams of delivery trucks and some delays in shipments but causing no substantial or lasting damage.
- Israel and Iran have recently been engaged in an exchange of attempted and successful cyber-attacks.
Strait of Hormuz
- Strait of Hormuz is the waterway separates Iran and Oman, linking the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.
- The Strait is 33 km wide at its narrowest point, but the shipping lane is just three km wide in either direction.
- Most crude exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Kuwait and Iraq – all members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) – is shipped through this waterway.
- It is also the route used for nearly all the liquefied natural gas (LNG) produced by the world’s biggest LNG exporter, Qatar.
- Strait of Hormuz marks the most sensitive transportation choke point for global oil supplies.
-Source: The Hindu from NY Times