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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 3 September 2020

Contents

  1. Question Hour dropped in Lok Sabha
  2. Kashmiri, Dogri, Hindi in J&K Official Languages
  3. Capping MEIS benefits will seriously affect traders
  4. Parliament panel grills FB officials
  5. Government Bans 118 Applications

QUESTION HOUR DROPPED IN LOK SABHA

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

  • The Lok Sabha Secretariat on officially released the schedule for the monsoon Parliament session with Question Hour being dropped.
  • In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, private members business, usually fixed for every Friday, has also been skipped.
  • Unstarred questions, or written questions that ministers need to reply to, will be allowed during the monsoon session of Parliament.
  • The decision has been taken at a time when Opposition parties have strongly protested against the move to not schedule question hour, calling the decision an attempt by the government to avoid being questioned, and describing it as an attempt to curb their rights.

Details

  • The session will have staggered timings to accommodate members of one House in both chambers and follow strict physical distancing norms.
  • The unstarred questions will have to be submitted to the secretariat and answers will be provided on the day the question is listed (it will also be uploaded on the website).
  • However, oral or starred questions will not be allowed – in the interests of time, and to ensure that the number of people in Parliament is kept low (when a question from a ministry is listed to be asked as a starred one, key officials of the ministry are expected to be in Parliament).
  • The session may also not allow private member bills—through which MPs seek policy or legislative changes—and the Zero Hour during which MPs raise current issues, might be limited to just half an hour.
  • These changes have been necessitated by the fact that the session is happening against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, which continues to surge across India.

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.

Half-an-Hour Discussion

  • 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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’.
  4. 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.

Supplementary Question

  • 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.

-Source: The Hindu


KASHMIRI, DOGRI, HINDI IN J&K OFFICIAL LANGUAGES

Focus: Prelims, GS-II Governance

Why in news?

  • The Union Cabinet approved a Bill to include Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi as official languages in the newly-created Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Only English and Urdu were official languages in the former State.

Note: This is not the same as adding languages to the Eight Schedule of the Constitution

Scheduled Languages in India and More about Languages in India

  • The Article 343(1) of the Indian constitution specifically mentions that, “The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script. The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union shall be the international form of Indian numerals.”
  • The business in Indian parliament can only be transacted in Hindi or in English.
  • States within India have the liberty and powers to specify their own official language(s) through legislation.
  • States can specify their own official language(s) through legislation.
  • However, states are not mandated to choose their official languages from the scheduled languages.
  • In addition to the official languages, the constitution recognizes 22 regional languages, which include Hindi but not English, as scheduled languages, that is not to be confused with the official status of the Union. Hindi and English are the only two languages mentioned on the Indian passport.
  • The Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution contains a list of 22 scheduled languages.

-Source: Hindustan Times


CAPPING MEIS BENEFITS WILL SERIOUSLY AFFECT TRADERS

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

The government’s decision to cap export incentives under MEIS scheme at Rs. 2 Crores per exporter on outbound shipments made during September-December, 2020 is going to “seriously” affect traders, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) said.

Details

  • The Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) said exports that will be made during September-December are based on orders that had been negotiated earlier, factoring in the existing Merchant Export from India Scheme (MEIS) benefit.
  • These benefits are part of the export competitiveness and therefore the sudden change will affect exporters’ financially as buyers were not going to revise their prices upwards.
  • However, the sudden imposition of a cap on IEC (Import Export Code), on MEIS benefit of exports made during September to December in 2020, is going to seriously affect exporters, whose numbers may not be very large, but their contribution to exports warrant a revisit to the imposition of the cap.

Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS)

  • MEIS was introduced in the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) for the period 2015-2020.
  • The MEIS was launched as an incentive scheme for the export of goods. The rewards are given by way of duty credit scrips to exporters.
  • The MEIS is notified by the DGFT (Directorate General of Foreign Trade) and implemented by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) is to offset infrastructural inefficiencies and associated costs involved in export of goods/products, which are produced/manufactured in India, especially those having high export intensity, employment potential and thereby enhancing India’s export competitiveness.
  • MEIS intends to incentivise exports of goods manufactured in India or produced in India.
  • The incentives under the schemes are calculated as a percentage, which is 2%, 3% or 5% of the realised FOB (free-on-board) value exports in free foreign exchange or FOB value of exports as per shipping bills in free foreign exchange.

-Source: The Hindu


PARLIAMENT PANEL GRILLS FB OFFICIALS

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

  • The parliamentary standing committee on information and technology held a meeting with Facebook officials and experts discussing recent allegations of political bias against the social media company. (Meeting was adjourned with no conclusions.)
  • Facebook officials were summoned following a string of media reports in the last three weeks that showed that a key executive from its India operations team intervened to protect a politician from action over hate speech.

Details

  • During the meeting questions were raised at the meeting about Facebook’s neutrality and the backdrop of people working with the social media magnate.
  • In the meeting, the members asked about Facebook’s ties with governmental organisations and the Election Commission, and its executive was asked why the company functions as a publisher in the United States but as an ‘intermediary’ in India.

Cambridge Analytica controversy

  • The Cambridge Analytica controversy refers to the misuse of Facebook in the run up to the US presidential election in 2016 to glean political preferences of Americans and target them with misinformation, a concerted operation that involved Russia-linked individuals and is believed to have influenced the outcome of the polls.

Click Here to read more about IT Act, Content Moderation and How it works?

Click Here to read more about Parliamentary Committees and their types (2nd Article)

-Source: Hindustan Times


GOVERNMENT BANS 118 APPLICATIONS

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

The government banned 118 applications – majority being Chinese, including popular ones such as PUBG, WeChat Work, Baidu etc.

Details

  • The reason stated was that these apps were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of State and public order”.
  • This is in addition to the ban on 59 Chinese applications, including TikTok, Shareit etc., in June 2020.
  • The announcement comes amid renewed tensions between India and China owing to the standoff on the disputed boundary in Ladakh that has been on since May 2020.
  • In a statement, the government said this move would safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and Internet users and the decision was a targeted move to ensure safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.
  • The Ministry said it had received many complaints about the misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers that have locations outside India.
  • Additionally, the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs, has sent an exhaustive recommendation for blocking these “malicious apps” and similar bipartisan concerns have been flagged by various public representatives, both outside and inside Parliament.

-Source: The Hindu

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