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3rd September – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. Question Hour and Zero Hour Explained
  2. OBC sub-categorisation: findings, progress
  3. A guide to flattening the curve of economic chaos

QUESTION HOUR AND ZERO HOUR EXPLAINED

Focus: GS-II Governance, Polity

Why in news?

  • The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats notified that there will be no Question Hour during the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
  • Opposition MPs have criticised the move, saying they will lose the right to question the government.

What is Question Hour, and what is its significance?

  • Question Hour is the liveliest one hour in Parliament during which Members of Parliament ask questions of ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries.
  • The questions that MPs ask are designed to elicit information and trigger suitable action by ministries.
  • With the broadcasting of Question Hour since 1991, Question Hour has become one the most visible aspects of parliamentary functioning.

Asking questions of the government has a long history in our legislative bodies.

What is Zero Hour?

  • While Question Hour is strictly regulated, Zero Hour is an Indian parliamentary innovation.
  • The phrase does NOT find mention in the Rules of Procedure.
  • The concept of Zero Hour started organically in the first decade of Indian Parliament, when MPs felt the need for raising important constituency and national issues.
  • When the Parliament used to break for lunch at 1 pm, the opportunity for MPs to raise national issues without an advance notice became available at 12 pm and could last for an hour until the House adjourned for lunch. This led to the hour being popularly referred to as Zero Hour and the issues being raised during this time as Zero Hour submissions.

How is Question Hour regulated?

  • Parliament has comprehensive rules for dealing with every aspect of Question Hour.
  • And the presiding officers of the two houses are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question Hour.

What kind of questions are asked?

  • Parliamentary rules provide guidelines on the kind of questions that can be asked by MPs. Questions have to be limited to 150 words.
  • They have to be precise and not too general.
  • The question should also be related to an area of responsibility of the Government of India.
  • Questions should not seek information about matters that are secret or are under adjudication before courts.
  • It is the presiding officers of the two Houses who finally decide whether a question raised by an MP will be admitted for answering by the government.

How frequently is Question Hour held?

  • The process of asking and answering questions starts with identifying the days on which Question Hour will be held.
  • Now, Question Hour in both Houses is held on all days of the session.

But there are two days when an exception is made.

  1. There is no Question Hour on the day the President addresses MPs from both Houses in the Central Hall.
  2. Question Hour is not scheduled either on the day the Finance Minister presents the Budget.

How does Parliament manage to get so many questions answered?

  • To streamline the answering of questions raised by MPs, the ministries are put into five groups.
  • Each group answers questions on the day allocated to it.
  • MPs can specify whether they want an oral or written response to their questions.

Starred and Unstarred Questions

  • They can put an asterisk against their question signifying that they want the minister to answer that question on the floor. These are referred to as starred questions.
  • After the minister’s response, the MP who asked the question and other MPs can also ask a follow-up question.
  • This is the visible part of Question Hour, where you see MPs trying to corner ministers on the functioning of their ministries on live television.
  • When MPs are trying to gather data and information about government functioning, they prefer the responses to such queries in writing.
  • These questions are referred to as unstarred questions.
  • The responses to these questions are placed on the table of Parliament.

How do ministers prepare their answers?

  • Ministries receive the questions 15 days in advance so that they can prepare their ministers for Question Hour.
  • They also have to prepare for sharp follow-up questions they can expect to be asked in the House.
  • Should the presiding officer so allow, MPs can also ask a question to a minister at a notice period shorter than 15 days

Is there a limit to the number of questions that can be asked?

  • Parliament rules limit the number of starred and unstarred questions an MP can ask in a day.
  • The total number of questions asked by MPs in the starred and unstarred categories are then put in a random ballot.
  • From the ballot in Lok Sabha, 20 starred questions are picked for answering during Question Hour and 230 are picked for written answers.
  • In 2019, a record was set when on a single day, after a gap of 47 years, all 20 starred questions were answered in Lok Sabha.

-Source: Indian Express


OBC SUB-CATEGORISATION: FINDINGS, PROGRESS

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Why in news?

  • A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court reopened the legal debate on sub-categorisation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for reservations, referring the issue to a larger Bench to decide.
  • While this concerns SCs and STs, another Commission has been examining sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBC).

What is sub-categorisation of OBCs?

  • OBCs are granted 27% reservation in jobs and education under the central government.
  • The question of sub-categorisation arises out of the perception that only a few affluent communities among the over 2,600 included in the Central List of OBCs have secured a major part of this 27% reservation.
  • The argument for sub-categorisation — or creating categories within OBCs for reservation — is that it would ensure “equitable distribution” of representation among all OBC communities.

Commission to Examine Sub-categorisation of OBCs

  • The Commission to Examine Sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes took charge in 2017 and it is headed by retired Delhi High Court Chief Justice.
  • Initially constituted with a tenure of 12 weeks, it has been receiving extensions with the current tenure extended till 2021.
  • Its budget is being drawn from the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) which was given constitutional status by the government in 2018.

What are its terms of references?

It was originally set up with three terms of references, with the 4th being added in 2020:

  1. To examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of OBCs with reference to such classes included in the Central List
  2. To work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such OBCs
  3. To take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories
  4. To study the various entries in the Central List of OBCs and recommend correction of any repetitions, ambiguities, inconsistencies and errors of spelling or transcription.

What have its findings been so far?

Based on the 2018 analysis, based on 1.3 lakh central jobs given under OBC quota over the preceding five years and OBC admissions to central higher education institutions, including universities, IITs, NITs, IIMs and AIIMS, over the preceding three years-

  • 97% of all jobs and educational seats have gone to just 25% of all sub-castes classified as OBCs;
  • 24.95% of these jobs and seats have gone to just 10 OBC communities;
  • 983 OBC communities — 37% of the total — have zero representation in jobs and educational institutions;
  • 994 OBC sub-castes have a total representation of only 2.68% in recruitment and admissions

What is the level of OBC recruitment in central jobs?

  • As per the 2018-19 annual report of the Department of Personnel and Training OBC representation is 13.01% in group-A central government services, 14.78% in group-B, 22.65% in group-C (excluding safai karmacharis) and 14.46% in group-C (safai karmacharis).
  • According to an RTI-based report in 2019 there was not a single professor and associate professor appointed under the OBC quota in central universities.
  • The data showed that 95.2% of the professors, 92.9% of associate professors and 66.27% of assistant professors were from the general category (which may also include SCs, STs and OBCs who had not availed the quota).
  • A number of posts reserved for OBCs were being filled by people of general category as OBC candidates were declared “NFS” (None Found Suitable).
Lack of Data
  • A hurdle for the Commission has been the absence of data for the population of various communities to compare with their representation in jobs and admissions.
  • Sources said the data of Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) were not considered reliable.

-Source: Indian Express


A GUIDE TO FLATTENING THE CURVE OF ECONOMIC CHAOS

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Introduction

  • The estimated 24% GDP contraction in April-June 2020 compared to the previous year is the worst performance among G20 economies, and even compared to other South Asian countries.
  • Physical indicators such as the index of industrial production (covering registered manufacturing) declined by more than 20%, but ground reports indicate that unorganised manufacturing declined by much more.
  • The good rabi harvest and very good monsoon provided some respite in agriculture, but with incomes down, farm prices are unlikely to revive and ensure sufficient returns for cultivators over the year.
  • Gross value added in public administration, defence and other services fell by more than 10%.
  • Both consumption and investment were declining well before the pandemic struck.

Possible ways to help the Economy

  1. Pay the State governments their pending GST compensation dues and provide more resources in addition to deal with the pandemic and its effects
  2. Universalising the Public Distribution System (PDS) and providing more food grains to households for additional months for free
  3. Increasing the number of days of employment per household under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
  4. Starting an urban employment guarantee programme
  5. Make sure that fresh credit reaches MSMEs and farmers
  6. For all the pandemic-required spending, and to deal with other health concerns that have been ignored or postponed – the government can provide more dedicated resources.

-Source: The Hindu

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