- Model Code of Conduct
- Windfall tax
- Article 142
- Gig Economy
- Similipal Tiger Reserve
As the Karnataka Assembly Elections draw closer, political parties are trading accusations of hate speech against each other.
- The parties have approached the Election Commission of India regarding violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
GS II: Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Article:
- Model Code of Conduct (MCC)
- MCC (Model Code of Conduct) for political parties and candidates
- Criticisms of the MCC
Model Code of Conduct (MCC)
- The MCC refers to a set of guidelines created by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
- It serves as a regulatory tool for political parties and candidates in the run-up to elections.
- The primary objective of the MCC is to enable the EC to fulfill its constitutional mandate of supervising and conducting free and fair elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures.
Duration and applicability:
- The MCC becomes operational from the date on which the election schedule is announced.
- It remains in effect until the date of the result announcement.
MCC (Model Code of Conduct) for political parties and candidates:
- Political parties can criticize opponents based on policies, programs, past records, and work only.
- Prohibited activities include using caste or communal feelings, criticizing candidates based on unverified reports, bribing or intimidating voters, etc.
- Political parties must inform local police authorities of the time and venue of any meetings to allow for adequate security arrangements.
- Parties should establish contact to avoid clashes between processions of multiple candidates.
- Carrying and burning effigies representing members of other political parties is not allowed.
Polling Booth and Identity
- Only voters and those with a valid pass from the EC can enter polling booths.
- Authorized party workers at polling booths should wear suitable badges or identity cards.
- Identity slips provided to voters by party workers should be on plain paper without symbols, candidate names, or party names.
Conduct of Party in Power
- Ministers cannot combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same.
- The party in power cannot advertise at the cost of the public exchequer or use official mass media for publicity to improve election chances.
- The party in power cannot announce financial grants, promise construction of roads or provision of drinking water from the time of election announcement until the end of the election process.
- Public spaces and rest houses cannot be monopolized by the party in power.
- Manifestos should not contain anything against the ideals and principles of the Constitution.
- Political parties should avoid making promises that may influence voters or vitiate the purity of the election process.
- Manifestos should indicate the rationale and ways to meet financial requirements for promises.
- Manifestos cannot be released during the prohibitory period prescribed under Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act 1951.
Recent Additions to the MCC:
- Regulation of opinion polls and exit polls during the period notified by the ECI.
- Prohibition of unapproved print media advertisements on polling day and one day prior to it.
- Restriction on government advertisements featuring political functionaries during the election period.
Legally Enforceable MCC:
- The MCC does not have statutory backing but is strictly enforced by the EC.
- Certain MCC provisions can be enforced through corresponding provisions in other statutes such as the IPC 1860, CrPC 1973, and RPA 1951.
- The Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice recommended making the MCC legally binding in 2013.
- The ECI is against making the MCC legally binding, citing the short duration of elections and the length of judicial proceedings.
Criticisms of the MCC
Limitations and Failures of the MCC:
- The MCC has not been effective in preventing various forms of electoral malpractices such as hate speech, fake news, money power, booth capturing, voter intimidation, and violence.
Challenges with New Technologies and Social Media:
- The ECI faces difficulties in dealing with new technologies and social media platforms, which enable the rapid and extensive spread of misinformation and propaganda during elections.
Non-Binding Nature of the MCC:
- The MCC is not a legally binding document, and its implementation depends on moral persuasion and public opinion, which makes it less effective in preventing electoral malpractices.
Implications on Policy Decisions and Public Interest:
- The MCC places certain limitations on policy decisions, public spending, welfare schemes, transfers, and appointments, which can have implications for development activities and public interest.
Criticism of Application Timing:
- The ECI has been criticized for applying the MCC too early or too late, which affects the timing of development activities and public interest.
Lack of Awareness:
- The MCC is not widely known or understood by voters, candidates, parties, and government officials, which may lead to non-compliance with its provisions.
-Source: The Hindu
India recently slashed the windfall tax on domestically produced crude oil to ₹4,100 per tonne from ₹6,400 per tonne.
GS III: Indian Economy
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is a windfall tax?
- Why are countries levying windfall taxes now?
- What are the issues with imposing such taxes?
What is a windfall tax?
- Windfall taxes are designed to tax the profits a company derives from an external, sometimes unprecedented event — for instance, the energy price-rise as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
- These are profits that cannot be attributed to something the firm actively did, like an investment strategy or an expansion of business.
- The U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) defines a windfall as an “unearned, unanticipated gain in income through no additional effort or expense”.
- Governments typically levy this as a one-off tax retrospectively over and above the normal rates of tax.
- One area where such taxes have routinely been discussed is oil markets, where price fluctuation leads to volatile or erratic profits for the industry.
- There have been varying rationales for governments worldwide to introduce windfall taxes, from redistribution of unexpected gains when high prices benefit producers at the expense of consumers, to funding social welfare schemes, and as a supplementary revenue stream for the government.
Why are countries levying windfall taxes now?
- Prices of oil, gas, and coal have seen sharp increases since last year and in the first two quarters of the current year, although they have reduced recently.
- Pandemic recovery and supply issues resulting from the Russia-Ukraine conflict shored up energy demands, which in turn have driven up global prices.
- The rising prices meant huge and record profits for energy companies while resulting in hefty gas and electricity bills for households in major and smaller economies. Since the gains stemmed partly from external change, multiple analysts have called them windfall profits.
What are the issues with imposing such taxes?
Brew uncertainty in the market about future taxes:
- Analysts say that companies are confident in investing in a sector if there is certainty and stability in a tax regime. Since windfall taxes are imposed retrospectively and are often influenced by unexpected events, they can brew uncertainty in the market about future taxes.
IMF’s Advice Note:
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which released an advice note on how windfall taxes need to be levied also said that taxes in response to price surges may suffer from design problems—given their expedient and political nature.
- It added that “introducing a temporary windfall profit tax reduces future investment because prospective investors will internalise the likelihood of potential taxes when making investment decisions”.
- There is another argument about what exactly constitutes true windfall profits; how can it be determined and what level of profit is normal or excessive.
- A CRS report, for instance, argues that if rapid increases in prices lead to higher profits, in one sense it can be called true windfalls as they are unforeseeable but on the other hand, companies may argue that it is the profit they earned as a reward for the industry’s risk-taking to provide the end user with the petroleum product.
Another issue is who should be taxed:
- Only the big companies responsible for the bulk of high-priced sales or smaller companies as well— raising the question of whether producers with revenues or profits below a certain threshold should be exempt.
-Source: The Hindu
The Supreme Court recently held its extraordinary discretion under Article 142 of the Constitution can be used to do “complete justice” for couples trapped in bitter marriages by granting them divorce by mutual consent.
GS II: Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Article:
- Extraordinary powers under Article 142
- Pros of Article 142
- Cons of Article 142
- Significant cases where Article 142 was invoked
Extraordinary powers under Article 142
- Article 142(1) states that “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”.
- From Article 142, the Supreme Court derives overarching powers to perform the functions of Executive and legislative in order to bring about complete justice.
- In this pursuit, Article 142 is supplemented by the Articles 32 (Right to constitutional remedies), Article 141 (The law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India) and Article 136 (Special Leave petition).
- This is often termed as judicial activism.
Pros of Article 142
- For upholding citizens’ rights and implementing constitutional principles when the executive and legislature fails to do so.
- Sets out a system of check and balance and controls to the other branches of the government.
- For example:
- In Vishakha v State of Rajasthan case, Supreme Court laid down the guidelines to protect a woman from sexual harassment at its workplace
- Bandhua Mukti Morcha Case Court gave its landmark judgment on bonded labour system of India
- In Olga Tellis Case where Right to livelihood was declared part and parcel of the right to life.
Cons of Article 142:
- Judiciary cant be held accountable for its decisions.
- It creates slippery slope of Judicial overreach.
- Repeated use of Art 142 can diminish the faith of the people in the integrity, quality, and efficiency of the government.
Significant cases where Article 142 was invoked:
Babri Masjid Case:
- The article was used in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case.
- It was instrumental in the handover of the disputed land to a trust to be formed by the union government.
Bhopal Gas Tragedy:
- The SC invoked its plenary powers in the Union Carbide vs Union Govt case.
- It intervened to provide compensation to victims of the deadly Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
-Source: The Hindu
Scientists recently deciphered the structure of the protein methyltransferase from the monkeypox virus. It is with the help of methyltransferase protein that the virus escapes human immunity and causes monkeypox disease.
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Monkeypox virus
- Zoonotic disease
- Symptoms and treatment
About Monkeypox virus
- The monkeypox virus is an orthopoxvirus, which is a genus of viruses that also includes the variola virus, which causes smallpox, and vaccinia virus, which was used in the smallpox vaccine.
- Monkeypox causes symptoms similar to smallpox, although they are less severe.
- While vaccination eradicated smallpox worldwide in 1980, monkeypox continues to occur in a swathe of countries in Central and West Africa, and has on occasion showed up elsewhere.
- According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), two distinct clade are identified: the West African clade and the Congo Basin clade, also known as the Central African clade.
- Monkeypox is a zoonosis, that is, a disease that is transmitted from infected animals to humans.
- According to the WHO, cases occur close to tropical rainforests inhabited by animals that carry the virus.
- Monkeypox virus infection has been detected in squirrels, Gambian poached rats, dormice, and some species of monkeys.
- Human-to-human transmission is, however, limited — the longest documented chain of transmission is six generations, meaning the last person to be infected in this chain was six links away from the original sick person, the WHO says.
- Transmission, when it occurs, can be through contact with bodily fluids, lesions on the skin or on internal mucosal surfaces, such as in the mouth or throat, respiratory droplets and contaminated objects.
Symptoms and treatment
- According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox begins with a fever, headache, muscle aches, back ache, and exhaustion.
- It also causes the lymph nodes to swell (lymphadenopathy), which smallpox does not.
- The WHO underlines that it is important to not confuse monkeypox with chickenpox, measles, bacterial skin infections, scabies, syphilis and medication-associated allergies.
- The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for monkeypox is usually 7-14 days but can range from 5-21 days.
- Usually within a day to 3 days of the onset of fever, the patient develops a rash that begins on the face and spreads to other parts of the body.
- The skin eruption stage can last between 2 and 4 weeks, during which the lesions harden and become painful, fill up first with a clear fluid and then pus, and then develop scabs or crusts.
- According to the WHO, the proportion of patients who die has varied between 0 and 11% in documented cases, and has been higher among young children.
- There is no safe, proven treatment for monkeypox yet.
- The WHO recommends supportive treatment depending on the symptoms.
- Awareness is important for prevention and control of the infection.
-Source: Indian Express
The recent strike by Zomato-owned Blinkit delivery agents has once again brought to the forefront issues plaguing the gig economy in the country.
GS III- Indian Economy
Dimensions of the Article:
- Who is a ‘gig worker’?
- Proposed Law
- Concerns related to gig workers and the proposed labour codes in India
- Advantages of Gig economy.
- Challenges related to Gig economy
- Measures to address the issues related to Gig economy
Who is a ‘gig worker’?
- Gig workers are those who work outside the traditional employer-employee relationship.
- There are two groups of gig workers – platform workers and non-platform workers.
- Gig workers who use online platforms are called platform workers, while those who work outside of these platforms are non-platform workers.
- Gig workers have characteristics of both employees and independent contractors and do not fit into any rigid categorization.
- As a result, gig workers have limited recognition under current employment laws and fall outside the ambit of statutory benefits.
- The Code on Social Security, 2020, brought gig workers within the ambit of labor laws for the first time.
- The Code defines a gig worker as a person who performs work outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship and earns from such activities.
- The Code recognizes both platform workers and non-platform workers as gig workers.
- Central and State governments must frame suitable social security schemes for gig workers on matters relating to health and maternity benefits, provident funds, and accident benefits.
- The Code mandates the compulsory registration of all gig workers and platform workers to avail of the benefits under these schemes.
Concerns related to gig workers and the proposed labour codes in India:
Limited benefits and protections:
- Gig workers are excluded from the benefits and protections offered by the other proposed labour codes, such as minimum wage and occupational safety.
- They are also not allowed to create legally recognised unions.
Lack of effective remedy:
- Gig workers are excluded from accessing the specialised redressal mechanism under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
- This denies them an effective remedy for grievances against their employers.
No right to collective bargaining:
- Gig workers do not have the right to collective bargaining, which is a fundamental principle of modern labour law crucial to safeguard the rights of workers.
Poor working conditions:
- A 2022 report by Fairwork India highlighted the deplorable working conditions of digital platform workers in India.
- There is a need for statutory affirmation of the rights of gig workers.
Delay in implementation:
- The proposed labour codes have received the assent of the President, but are still awaiting implementation three years on.
- The Centre has cited the delay in framing of rules by the States as the reason for the delay.
Advantages of gig economy:
- Cater to immediate demand: Gig economy can benefit workers, businesses, and consumers by making work more adaptable to the needs of the moment and demand for flexible lifestyles.
- Cheaper and more efficient: Most times, employers cannot afford to hire full-time employees. In a gig economy, large numbers of people work part-time or in temporary positions. The result is cheaper, more efficient services, such as Uber or Airbnb, for those willing to use them.
- Wider choice to employers: Technology and connectivity through the internet don’t require the freelancer to come into the office for work. Hence, employers have a wider range of applicants to choose from as they don’t have to hire someone based on their proximity.
- Offers specific expertise: Professional services firms are hiring gig workers to add deep domain expertise to client-impact teams. Majority of professional services contact workers have years of domain-specific knowledge, like consultants.
- The wider choice to employees: People often find they need to move around or take multiple positions to afford the lifestyle they want. These days, people also tend to change careers many times throughout their lives; the gig economy is a reflection of this rising trend.
- Youth economic productivity: India has a high share of young population which is only expected to grow. According to economists at IMF, youth inactivity in India is at 30%, the highest amongst developing countries.
- Gig economy offers the perfect platform for engagement of youth in productive employment activities.
- It is also estimated that the gig economy offers a relatively high gender-parity in the workforce, as compared to traditional employment.
Challenges related to Gig Economy:
- Erosion of traditional economic relationships: Gig economy can have downsides due to the erosion of traditional economic relationships between workers, businesses, and clients. This can eliminate the benefits that flow from building long-term trust, customary practice, and familiarity with clients and employers.
- It could also discourage investment in relationship-specific assets that would otherwise be profitable to pursue since no party has an incentive to invest significantly in a relationship that only lasts until the next gig comes along.
- Crowding out traditional workers: Workers who prefer a traditional career path, stability and security that come with it are being crowded out in some industries.
- The gig economy makes it harder for full-time employees to develop fully in their careers since temporary employees are often cheaper to hire and offer more flexibility in their availability.
- Disrupted work-life balance for gig workers: Flexibility in a gig economy often means that workers have to make themselves available at any time the gig comes up, regardless of their other needs, and they must always be on the hunt for the next gig.
- Hence, for some workers, the flexibility of working gigs can disrupt the work-life balance, sleep patterns, and activities of daily life.
- No employment-related rights: Unlike traditional employment, workers in the gig economy are usually ineligible for any social benefits such as insurance, medical benefits, employees’ provident fund, bonus or gratuity.
Measures to address the issues related to gig workers:
- Evaluating scale of Gig economy: As of now there exists no authoritative estimate on the total number of gig workers in India, though the centralised nature of the platforms, and the larger platform labour market should make the collating of this data relatively straightforward for the Labour Ministry.
- Making regulations related to Gig economy: A more viable strategy then would involve conditional government partnerships with platforms under some of its flagship schemes. Here, the successful pilot of Swiggy’s Street Food Vendors programme under the PM SVANidhi, or PM Street Vendor’s Atma Nirbhar Nidhi scheme, may prove to be an illustrative example.
-Source: The Hindu
A rare melanistic tiger was found dead in the core area of Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR).
GS III: Environment and Ecology
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR)
- What are Melanistic animals?
- Other Major Protected Areas in Odisha
About Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR)
- Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) is a protected area located in the Mayurbhanj District in the Northernmost part of Odisha.
- It was declared a ‘Tiger Reserve’ in 1956 and is included in the national conservation programme ‘Project Tiger’ since 1973.
Location and Terrain:
- STR is surrounded by high plateaus and hills, with the highest peak being the twin peaks of Khairiburu and Meghashini (1515m above mean sea level).
- The terrain is mostly undulating and hilly, interspersed with open grasslands and wooded areas.
- A mix of different forest types and habitats dominate, with Northern tropical moist deciduous dominating some semi-evergreen patches.
- Sal is the dominant tree species here.
- There are a staggering 1078 species of plants, including 94 species of orchids, found in STR.
- STR is home to a variety of wildlife, including the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger, Leopard, Gaur, Elephant, Langur, Barking and Spotted Deer, Sloth Bear, Mongoose, Flying Squirrel, Porcupine, Turtle, Monitor Lizard, Python, Sambar, and Pangolin.
- The region around STR is home to a variety of tribes, including Kolha, Santhala, Bhumija, Bhatudi, Gondas, Khadia, Mankadia, and Sahara.
- The STR, along with a ‘transitional area’ of 2250 sq. km, has been included as a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO in 2009.
- It is the only landscape in the world that is home to melanistic tigers.
What are Melanistic animals?
- Melanism is a genetic trait that causes an animal to have an unusually high amount of dark pigmentation, resulting in a black or very dark coloration of their fur, skin, or feathers.
- Melanistic animals can occur in a variety of species, including big cats, such as tigers and leopards, as well as birds, reptiles, and rodents.
- In some cases, melanistic animals may have a survival advantage in certain environments, such as in heavily forested areas where their dark coloration can provide better camouflage.
Other Major Protected Areas in Odisha
- Bhitarkanika National Park
- Badrama WLS
- Chilika (Nalaban island) WLS
- Hadgarh WLS
- Baisipalli WLS
- Kotagarh WLS
- Nandankanan WLS
- Lakhari Valley WLS
- Gahirmatha (Marine) WLS
-Source: The Hindu