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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 11 August 2021

Contents

  1. SC: Political parties to publish candidates’ criminal records
  2. Constitution 127th Amendment Bill, 2021
  3. Students exposed to second-hand smoke: GYTS-4 survey
  4. PM launches Ujjwala 2.0

SC: Political parties to publish candidates’ criminal records

Context:

The Supreme Court warned Parliament that the nation is losing patience with the advent of criminals in politics even as it imposed fines on major political parties for covering up the criminal past of the candidates whom they had fielded in the Bihar Assembly polls in 2020.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Representation of People’s Act, Legislature, Important Judgements and Cases)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Criminalization of Politics in India
  2. Judgements regarding Criminalization of Politics
  3. Why are such tainted candidates inducted by political parties?

Criminalization of Politics in India

  • Criminalization of Politics means the participation of criminals in politics which includes that criminals can contest in the elections and get elected as members of the Parliament and the State legislature.
  • Criminalization of politics in India includes political control of the police, state money, corruption, weak laws, lack of ethics, values, vote bank politics and loopholes in the function of the election commission.

Data regarding Criminalization of Politics in India

  • According to a report submitted in the Supreme Court, there are more than 4 thousand cases against the legislators including that of corruption, money laundering, damage to public property, defamation and cheating. The cases were pending in various special courts exclusively set up to try criminal cases registered against politicians.
  • Of the massive 4,442 cases pending against legislators – cases against sitting Members of Parliament and members of State legislatures was more than 2,500.
  • Roughly 46% of Members of Parliament have criminal records. The number might be inflated as many politicians tend to be charged with relatively minor offences —“unlawful assembly” and “defamation”.
  • The real worry is that the current cohort of Lok Sabha MPs has the highest (29%) proportion of those with serious declared criminal cases compared to its recent predecessors.
  • A large number of cases were for violation of Section 188 IPC for wilful disobedience and obstruction of orders promulgated by public servants.
  • There are more than 400 cases in respect of offences, which are punishable with imprisonment for life, out of which in 174 cases sitting MPs/ MLAs are accused.
  • The trial of more than 350 cases had been stayed by High Courts and the apex court.
  • A large number of cases were pending at the appearance stage and even non-bailable warrants (NBWs) issued by courts have not been executed.
  • As per the report, Uttar Pradesh tops the chart when it comes to criminalization of politics.

Judgements regarding Criminalization of Politics

2002 Judgement on disclosure of information relating to criminal antecedents

  • In 2002, the Supreme Court, in Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) v. Union of India, mandated the disclosure of information relating to criminal antecedents, educational qualification, and personal assets of a candidate contesting elections.

2017 Judgement for Fast track courts

  • In November 2017, the Supreme Court had ordered setting-up of Special Courts in each state to try the pending cases. Accordingly, 12 such courts were set up across the country.
  • It was a move that significantly clips the powers of the state governments at a time when the top court has expressed grave concern over the criminalisation of politics.
  • The SC also asked all the high courts to furnish details of posting of judges and the number of pending and disposed cases before them. The SC order said that High court Chief Justices are to constitute Special Benches to monitor the progress of criminal cases against sitting and former legislators.
  • However, several states had withdrawn cases against legislators, under Section 321 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which allows the public prosecutor or assistant public prosecutor to withdraw from the prosecution of a case at any time before the judgment is pronounced.

2020 Judgement on parties publishing details of criminal cases

  • In February 2020, the SC passed a judgement which required political parties to publish details of criminal cases against its candidates on their websites, a local vernacular newspaper, national newspaper and social media accounts.
  • The order was a reply to the contempt petition about the general disregard shown by political parties to a 2018 Constitution Bench judgment (Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India) to publish the criminal details of their candidates in their respective websites and print as well as electronic media for public awareness.
  • According to the 2020 judgement – the political parties need to additionally offer an explanation as to why candidates with pending criminal cases are selected as candidates in the first place. All this information needs to be published in a local as well as a national newspaper as well as the parties’ social media handles.
  • The SC said that the information is mandatorily to be published either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.
  • Also, the political parties need to submit compliance reports with the Election Commission of India within 72 hours.
  • The judgment is applicable to parties both at Central and State levels.

2021, revisiting progress after the 2020 order

  • The Supreme Court has warned Parliament that the nation is losing patience with the advent of criminals in politics even as it imposed fines on major political parties for covering up from voters the criminal past of the candidates.
  • Cleansing the polluted stream of politics is obviously not one of the immediate pressing concerns of the legislative branch of government.
  • The court said it did not take political parties much time to flout its February 2020 judgment, which had directed them to prominently publish the criminal antecedents.

Why are such tainted candidates inducted by political parties?

  1. Popularity: Such candidates with serious records seem to do well despite their public image, largely due to their ability to finance their own elections and bring substantive resources to their respective parties.
  2. Vested interests: Some voters tend to view such candidates through a narrow prism: of being able to represent their interests by hook or by crook.
  3. Destabilizing other electors: Others do not seek to punish these candidates in instances where they are in contest with other candidates with similar records.
  • The NN Vohra committee’s report on the criminalization of politics discussed how criminal gangs flourish under the care and protection of politicians.
  • Many times the candidates themselves are the gang leaders.
  • This protection is paid back to them during elections through capital investment in election spending and voter support.

-Source: The Hindu


Constitution 127th Amendment Bill, 2021

Context:

The Lok Sabha passed the Constitution 127th Amendment Bill, 2021 restoring States’ rights to specify OBC groups.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Minorities, Government Policies and Interventions, Social Empowerment)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Constitutional 127th Amendment Bill, 2021
  2. Why was the 127th Amendment Bill needed?
  3. Why is the opposition supporting the amendment bill?

Constitutional 127th Amendment Bill, 2021

  • The Constitutional (127th) Amendment Bill, 2021 will amend clauses 1 and 2 of Article 342A and also introduce a new clause 3. The bill will also amend the Articles 366 (26c) and 338B (9).
  • It is designed to clarify that the states can maintain the “state list” of OBCs as was the system before the Supreme Court judgement.
  • The “state list” will be completely taken out of the ambit of the President and will be notified by the state assembly.
  • As per the Indian Constitution, Articles 15 (4), 15 (5), and 16 (4) confer power on the State Government to declare and identify the list of socially and educationally backward classes. As a practice, separate OBC lists are drawn up by the Central Government and each State concerned.

Why was the 127th Amendment Bill needed?

  • The latest amendment was necessitated after the Supreme Court in its Maratha reservation ruling in May 2021 upheld the 102nd Constitutional Amendment Act but stated that the President, based on the recommendations of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), will determine which communities will be included on the state OBC list.
  • The 102nd Constitution Amendment Act of 2018 had inserted the Articles 338B and Article 342 A (with two clauses) after Article 342.
  • Articles 338B deals with the structure, powers, and duties of the National Commission for Backward Classes. Article 342A says that the President, in consultation with the Governor, will specify the educationally and socially backward classes.
  • The 127th Amendment is required to restore the powers of the State Governments in order to maintain the state list of OBCs which was taken away by the Supreme Court interpretation.
  • In case the state list is abolished, nearly 671 OBC communities will lose access to the reservations in educational institutions and in appointments which will adversely impact nearly one-fifth of the total OBC communities.

Why is the opposition supporting the amendment bill?

  • The opposition in Parliament stated that it will extend its support to the 127th Constitution Amendment Bill which gives power to the States to identify the OBCs.
  • The amendment bill has political ramifications as restoring powers of State Governments to identify the backward classes has been demanded by many regional parties.
  • The ruling BJP and the opposition parties, including Congress plans to get support among OBC communities in poll-bound states, particularly in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh.
  • The political angle of the bill has forced the opposition parties to be on the same page as the Ruling party.

-Source: The Hindu


Students exposed to second-hand smoke: GYTS-4 survey

Context:

More than 29% of students in India were exposed to second-hand smoke, said the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4), India, 2019 which was recently released by the Health Minister.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues Related to Health, Issues Related to Children, Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4)
  2. Highlights of Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4)
  3. Steps taken by India to reduce tobacco usage

About Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4)

  • The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4) was conducted in 2019 by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) under the MoHFW.
  • The survey was designed to produce national estimates of tobacco use among school going children aged 13-15 years at the state level and Union Territory (UT) by sex, location of school (rural-urban), and management of school (public-private).
  • The survey’s objective is to provide information on tobacco use, cessation, second-hand smoke, access and availability, exposure to anti-tobacco information, awareness and receptivity to tobacco marketing, knowledge, and attitudes.

Highlights of Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-4)

  • There has been a 42% decline in tobacco use among 13-15 year-old school going children in the last decade.
  • Nearly one-fifth of the students aged 13-15 used any form of the tobacco product (smoking, smokeless, and any other form) in their life.
  • Use of any form of tobacco was higher among boys. Prevalence of tobacco use among boys was 9.6% and among girls was 7.4%.
  • Tobacco use among school going children was highest in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram and lowest in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka.
  • 38% of cigarettes, 47% of bidi smokers and 52% of smokeless tobacco users initiated the use before their tenth birthday.
  • The median age of initiation to cigarette and bidi-smoking, and smokeless tobacco use were 11.5 years, 10.5 years and 9.9 years respectively.
  • 52% of students noticed anti-tobacco messages in the mass media and 18% of students noticed tobacco advertisements or promotions when visiting points of sale.
  • 85% of school heads were aware of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003 and 83% of schools were aware of the policy to display ‘tobacco-free school’ boards.

Steps taken by India to reduce tobacco usage

  1. Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, (COTPA) 2003: replaced the Cigarettes Act of 1975 (largely limited to statutory warnings- ‘Cigarette Smoking is Injurious to Health’ to be displayed on cigarette packs and advertisements. It did not include non-cigarettes). The 2003 Act also included cigars, bidis, cheroots, pipe tobacco, hookah, chewing tobacco, pan masala, and gutka.
  2. Adoption of WHO FCTC: which is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO. It was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic and is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health.
  3. National Tobacco Quitline Services (NTQLS): with the potential to reach a large number of tobacco users with the sole objective to provide telephone-based information, advice, support, and referrals for tobacco cessation.
  4. Promulgation of the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Ordinance, 2019: which prohibits Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement of e-Cigarettes.

-Source: The Hindu


PM launches Ujjwala 2.0

Context:

The Prime Minister launched the second phase of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) or Ujjwala 2.0 Scheme.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Welfare Schemes, Government Policies & Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) – 1
  2. Why was PMUY Necessary?
  3. About PMUY-II
  4. Survey findings on Success and deficiencies in PMUY-I Implementation

About Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) – 1

  • The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) is a government scheme launched in 2016 which envisages the distribution of 50 million LPG connections to women below the poverty line.
  • PMUY is a scheme of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
  • There are 27.87 Crore active LPG consumers in the country, with the PMUY beneficiaries accounting for over 8 crores.
  • Advantages of PMUY:
    • Providing LPG connections to BPL households will ensure universal coverage of cooking gas in the country.
    • This measure will empower women and protect their health.
    • It will reduce drudgery and the time spent on cooking.
    • It will also provide employment for rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas.

Why was PMUY Necessary?

  • As per the estimates of the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 5 lakh deaths in India occurred due to unclean cooking fuel.
  • These deaths were caused mostly due to non-communicable diseases including heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.
  • Providing LPG connections to families below the poverty line will ensure universal coverage of cooking gas in the country.
  • The scheme can be a tool for women empowerment in that LPG connections and clean cooking fuel can reduce cooking time and effort, and in most of India, cooking is a responsibility shouldered solely by women.
  • The scheme also provides employment to the rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas.

About PMUY-II

  • The PMUY-II is aimed to provide maximum benefit to the migrants who live in other states and find it difficult to submit address proof.
  • Now they will only have to give “Self Declaration” to avail the benefit.
  • The scheme provides a financial support of Rs 1600 for each LPG connection to the BPL households.
  • Along with a deposit-free LPG connection, Ujjwala 2.0 will provide the first refill and a hotplate free of cost to the beneficiaries.
  • Under Ujjwala 2.0, an additional 10 million LPG connections will be provided to the beneficiaries. Government has also fixed a target of providing piped gas to 21 lakh homes in 50 districts.

Survey findings on Success and deficiencies in PMUY-I Implementation

Positives of PMUY-I

  • PMUY-I had overshot its target of giving 80 million free LPG connections according to data from the National Sample Survey conducted by the National Statistical Office (NSO).
  • The data also shows that in the last four years (2016-2020), PMUY connections account for 71% of growth in total domestic LPG connections in the country.
  • The fact that almost 70% of PMUY beneficiaries are from the bottom 40% of the households, shows the scheme has been remarkably successful in reaching poor households.

Negatives of PMUY-I

  • A unit level analysis of data from the NSO shows that 43% of PMUY beneficiaries were not using LPG for cooking. The share of beneficiaries not using LPG for cooking increases down the economic ladder.
  • The 2018 NSO survey findings show that the average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) of the poorest 20% households in India was Rs. 1,065 – which means a cylinder refill costing Rs. 500 would comprise nearly half of a household’s MPCE.
  • Even though PMUY and subsidised LPG consumers receive a subsidy on refill, they have to make the full payment upfront before the subsidy amount is transferred back to them.
  • The high cost of gas refills, the CAG report said, has become a constraint in ensuring sustained usage of LPG.
  • To be sure, beneficiaries under the PMUY scheme could also opt for a 5 kg cylinder in place of a routine 14.2 kg cylinder.
  • The government also allowed swapping the bigger cylinder with the smaller one to make it easier for consumers to get a refill.

-Source: The Hindu

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