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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 18 May 2021

Contents

  1. Creation of a new district of Malerkotla in Punjab
  2. West Bengal to set up a Legislative Council
  3. Is India’s Palestine policy evolving?
  4. Cloudbursts and Floods in Uttarakhand

Creation of a new district of Malerkotla in Punjab

Context:

Punjab Chief Minister declared Malerkotla the 23rd district of the State by provisions in the Punjab Land Revenue Act, 1887.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Federalism, Government Interventions, Territory of India)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. How are new districts carved?
  2. What is the objective of creating new districts?
  3. Understanding the Districts in India and the trends

How are new districts carved?

  • The power to create new districts or alter or abolish existing districts rests with the State governments.
  • This can either be done through an executive order or by passing a law in the State Assembly.
  • Many States prefer the executive route by simply issuing a notification in the official gazette.

Does the Central government have a role to play here?

  • The Centre has NO role to play in the alteration of districts or creation of new districts. States are free to decide.
  • The Union Home Ministry comes into the picture when a State wants to change the name of a district or a railway station. The State government’s request is sent to other departments and agencies such as the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Intelligence Bureau, Department of Posts, Geographical Survey of India Sciences and the Railway Ministry seeking clearance. A no-objection certificate may be issued after examining their replies.

What is the objective of creating new districts?

  • States argue that smaller districts lead to better administration and governance.
  • If the area of administration is vast, it will cause delays in implementing welfare schemes and projects.
  • The population, human settlements, commercial establishments and industries continue to grow in modern times – hence public offices will stop being able to cater to the increasing population effectively and the people may not get the benefits of the welfare schemes etc., in time.
  • The purpose of delimitation of districts is ensuring that the people have easy access to the administration and enjoy the benefits of government schemes.
  • A new district will have a new Collectorate and will encourage employment opportunities and the creation of new commercial establishments and industries.

Understanding the Districts in India and the trends

  • The larger states predicatbly have a higher number of districts, with Uttar Pradesh (75) leading the count, followed by Madhya Pradesh (52), while the smallest state, Goa (2), has the lowest number.
  • However, the number of districts in a state is not always a function of the area of the state, or of its population. For example, Andhra Pradesh is the seventh largest state by area but has among the smallest counts of districts at 13. Another example: Tripura being a small state, has 8 districts which gives it a very high number of districts per unit area (An average Andhra Pradesh district is more than nine times the size of an average Tripura district).
  • According to the 2011 Census, there were 593 districts in the country. The Census results showed that between 2001-2011, as many as 46 districts were created by States.
  • Though the 2021 Census is yet to happen, Know India, a website run by the Government of India, says currently there are 718 districts in the country.
  • The surge in number is also due to bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh into A.P and Telangana in 2014. Telangana at present has 33 districts and A.P has 13 districts.

-Source: The Hindu


West Bengal to set up a Legislative Council

Context:

The West Bengal government will set up a Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad), as per a decision taken up at the Cabinet meeting.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Legislature, Bicameralism)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Bicameral Legislature?
  2. Advantages of having the Upper House (Benefits of Bicameralism)
  3. Disadvantages of having a second house (Advantages of Unicameral Legislature)
  4. About State Legislative Council – Vidhan Parishad
  5. Election to the Legislative Council
  6. Creation of a Legislative Council for a State
  7. Who can abolish a legislative council?

What is Bicameral Legislature?

When the legislative body consists of two separate houses – it is called Bicameral Legislature. In a bicameral legislature, the function to administer and implement the laws are shared between the two houses.

India is one such example where there are two houses of legislature both at the Union and also in some states.

At the central level, the Indian Parliament has two houses:

  1. Lok Sabha (Lower House)
  2. Rajya Sabha (Upper House)

At the state level, currently 6 of the 28 state legislatures have two houses:

  1. Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha – similar to Lower House)
  2. Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad – similar to Upper House)

Advantages of having the Upper House (Benefits of Bicameralism)

  1. The Rajya Sabha at the Centre helps to better represent the States. In general, legislature with 2 houses can better represent sub-national / sub-state governments.
  2. The Second house (Upper House/Legislative Council) can act as a body of expert scrutiny and review.
  3. The Upper House/Legislative Council provides a further democratic check on the power of the Lower House/Legislative Assembly
  4. The Second House helps provide better representation for various ethno-cultural minorities or socio-economic interests.

Disadvantages of having a second house (Advantages of Unicameral Legislature)

  1. A single chamber can be cheaper, simpler and more efficient
  2. A single house avoids duplication and deadlock,
  3. Unicameral legislature helps in concentrating democratic responsibility in one elected assembly.
  4. The checks and balances of bicameralism can also be provided by other institutions, without the need for a second legislative chamber. Hence, it may be argued that a second house is redundant for the purpose of providing a democratic check.

About State Legislative Council – Vidhan Parishad

  • Legislative Council or Vidhan Parishad is the upper house in bicameral legislatures in some states of India.
  • While most states have a unicameral legislature with only legislative assembly, currently, six states viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh have legislative councils.

Strength of the Legislative Council: The total number of the Legislative Council should not exceed 1/3rd of the total number of members of the Legislative assembly, but it should not be less than 40 (Article 171).

Election to the Legislative Council

In the Legislative Council, there are 5 different categories of representation:

  1. 1/3rd of the total membership is elected by the electorates consisting of the members of the self-Governing bodies in the state such as Municipalities, District Boards etc.
  2. 1/3rd members are elected by the members of the Legislative assembly of the State
  3. 1/12th members are elected by an electorate of University Graduates.
  4. 1/12th members are elected by the electorate consisting of the secondary school teachers (3-years’ experience)
  5. 1/6th members nominated by the Governor on the basis of their special knowledge / practical experience in literature, art, science, cooperative movement or social service.

The election is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote and secret ballot method for the first 4 categories of representation (i.e., except for nomination by the governor).

Qualifications for election as MLC

  1. Must be a citizen of India
  2. Must have completed the age of 30 years
  3. Must possess such other qualifications as prescribed by the Parliament by law.
  4. The member should not hold the office of the profit.
  5. Should not be of unsound mind; and
  6. Should not be an undischarged insolvent.

Term of Legislative Councils

  • The legislative council is a permanent body but 1/3rd of its members retire every 2 years.
  • The members of the council elect a chairman which is called “presiding officer”.
  • The council also elects the Deputy chairman.

Creation of a Legislative Council for a State

  • Article 168 of the Constitution of India provides for a Legislature in every state of the country. The same Article mentions that there are some states where there is a legislative council as well. Thus, the Indian Constitution does not adhere to the principle of bicameralism in the case of every legislature.
  • The framers of the Constitution as well as members of the Constituent Assembly had in mind that it may not be possible for all the states to support two houses, financially as well as for other reasons. For example, some of the members of the Constituent assembly criticized the idea of a bicameral legislature in the states as a superfluous idea and a body that is unrepresentative of the population, a burden on the state budget and causing delays in passing legislation.
  • That is why, whether there should be a legislative council in the state or not, is decided by the Legislative Assembly of the state itself.
  • But it does not mean that the Legislative Assembly can itself create a legislative council. The Constitution of India has full provisions about the creation of a Legislative Council and its abolishment.

Who can abolish a legislative council?

  • The power of abolition and creation of the State legislative council is vested in the Parliament of India as per Article 169.
  • But again, to create or to abolish a state legislative council, the state legislative assembly must pass a resolution, which must be supported by 50% majority of the total strength of the house and 2/3rd majority of the members present and voting (Absolute + Special Majority).
  • When a legislative council is created or abolished, the Constitution of India is also changed.
  • However, still, such type of law is not considered a Constitution Amendment Bill. (Article 169).
  • The resolution to create and abolish a state legislative council is to be given assent by the President as well.

-Source: The Hindu


Is India’s Palestine policy evolving?

Context:

  • The violence between Israel and Hamas has been intensifying for more than a week in May 2021, showing no signs of abating despite regular diplomatic efforts to bring about a ceasefire.
  • At the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on 16th May 2021, India, a non-permanent member, reaffirmed its support for Palestine, but stopped short of making any direct reference to the status of Jerusalem or the future Israel-Palestine borders.
  • India reiterated its strong support for the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-state solution.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Foreign Policies, Important International Developments)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Israel-Palestine conflict: A 100-year-old issue
  2. What is the Two-state Solution?
  3. India’s stand in the Israel – Palestine conflict
  4. India’s Evolving position

Israel-Palestine conflict: A 100-year-old issue

  • Britain took control of the area known as Palestine after the Ottoman Empire (ruler of that part of the Middle East) was defeated in WW1. The land was inhabited by a Jewish minority and Arab majority.
  • Tensions between the two peoples grew when the international community gave Britain the task of establishing a “national home” in Palestine for Jewish people. For Jews, it was their ancestral home, but Palestinian Arabs also claimed the land and opposed the move.
  • In 1948, unable to solve the problem, British rulers left and Jewish leaders declared the creation of the state of Israel.
  • Many Palestinians objected and a war followed. Troops from neighbouring Arab countries invaded. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced out of their homes in what they call Al Nakba, or the “Catastrophe”.
  • By the time the fighting ended in a ceasefire in 1949, Israel controlled most of the territory.
  • Jordan occupied land which became known as the West Bank, and Egypt occupied Gaza.
  • Jerusalem was divided between Israeli forces in the West, and Jordanian forces in the East.
  • Because there was never a peace agreement – each side blamed the other – there were more wars and fighting in the decades which followed.

After 1960s

  • In another war in 1967, Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as most of the Syrian Golan Heights, and Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai peninsula.
  • Most Palestinian refugees and their descendants live in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as in neighbouring Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
  • Neither they nor their descendants have been allowed by Israel to return to their homes – Israel says this would overwhelm the country and threaten its existence as a Jewish state.
  • Israel still occupies the West Bank, and although it pulled out of Gaza the UN still regards that piece of land as part of occupied territory.
  • Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The US is one of only a handful of countries to recognise Israel’s claim to the whole of the city.
  • In the past 50 years Israel has built settlements in these areas, where more than 600,000 Jews now live.
  • Palestinians say these are illegal under international law and are obstacles to peace, but Israel denies this.

Click Here to read more about the understanding the territory of the region: West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem

What is the Two-state Solution?

  • The two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict envisages an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, west of the Jordan River.
  • The boundary between the two states is still subject to dispute and negotiation, with Palestinian and Arab leadership insisting on the “1967 borders”, which is not accepted by Israel.
  • Many attempts have been made to broker a two-state solution, involving the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel (after Israel’s establishment in 1948).
  • In 2007, the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians, according to a number of polls, preferred the two-state solution over any other solution as a means of resolving the conflict.

India’s stand in the Israel – Palestine conflict

  • In the early 1920s and amidst the Khilafat struggle, Indian nationalists made common cause with the Arabs of Palestine and adopted a position that was unsympathetic to the Jewish aspirations for a national home in Palestine.
  • Mahatma Gandhi’s 1938 statement said “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English and France to the French”.
  • Prime Minister Narasimha Rao hosted Arafat in 1992 for the first time and signalled India’s intention of abandoning its four decades old policy of non-relations with Israel.
  • India has consistently voted in favour of those resolutions that promote the two-state solution with a Palestinian claim to East Jerusalem.
  • Peace based on two-state solution is much needed in the face of international proposals that are in breach of these principles, and cannot be forged between Israel and a third country [U.S.], but can only come from Israel-Palestine talks, which India also supports.

India’s Evolving position

  • While refusing to toe the Israeli line on the conflict, India’s comments also point to its evolving position on the larger Israel-Palestine issue.
  • In the May 2021 UNSC meet: India called for the status quo relating to East Jerusalem, but the crucial point that’s missing in India’s statement is that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Earlier, this used to be the mantra from India regarding the two-state solution.
  • Therefore, India simply gave lip service to the two-state solution without mentioning that East Jerusalem is the core part of that two-state solution.
  • Until 2017, India’s position was that it supported “the Palestinian cause and called for a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel”. India dropped the references to East Jerusalem and the borders in 2017.

-Source: The Hindu


Cloudbursts and Floods in Uttarakhand

Context:

A number of cloudbursts caused several homes and roads in a number of villages in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli, Tehri and Rudraprayag districts to be flooded with water and debris in early May 2021.

Cloudburst-like events have hit Uttarakhand since May 2021 and have caused considerable damage in the four hilly districts of Tehri Garhwal, Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi and Chamoli.

Relevance:

GS-I: Geography (Physical Geography, Climatology, Important Geophysical phenomena), GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Climate Change and its effects), GS-III: Disaster Management

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a Cloudburst?
  2. Why do cloudbursts happen only in the mountains and hilly areas?
  3. Why does cloudburst cause so many deaths?

What is a Cloudburst?

  • Cloudbursts are sudden and extreme rainfall events over a limited area in a short span of time. There is no universal definition of a cloudburst.
  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) defines a cloudburst as any event where 100 millimetres of rainfall have fallen in a span of an hour over a region that is 20-30 square kilometres in area. By this definition, 5 cm of rainfall in half an hour would also be classified as a cloudburst.

How do Cloudbursts occur?

  • A cloudburst occurs when moisture-carrying air moves up a hilly terrain, forming a vertical column of clouds known as ‘cumulonimbus’ clouds.
  • Such clouds usually cause rain, thunder and lightning. This upward motion of the clouds is known as an ‘orographic lift’.
  • These unstable clouds cause an intense rainstorm over a small area after becoming heavy enough and locked in the ridges and valleys between the hills.
  • The energy necessary for the cloudburst comes from the upward motion of air. Cloudbursts mostly occur at elevations between 1,000-2,500 metres above sea level.
  • The moisture is usually provided by a low-pressure system (usually associated with cyclonic storms in the ocean) over the Gangetic plains associated with low level winds flowing in from the east.
  • Sometimes winds flowing in from the north west also aid the occurrence of cloudbursts. The many factors that have to come together to make a cloudburst event happen make them highly unlikely.

Why do cloudbursts happen only in the mountains and hilly areas?

  • Cloudbursts do happen in plains as well, but there is a greater probability of them occurring in mountainous zones; it has to do with the terrain.
  • Cloudbursts happen when saturated clouds are unable to produce rain because of the upward movement of very warm current of air.
  • Raindrops, instead of dropping down, are carried upwards by the air current.
  • New drops are formed and existing raindrops gain in size. After a point, the raindrops become too heavy for the cloud to hold on to, and they drop down together in a quick flash.
  • Hilly terrains aid in heated air currents rising vertically upwards, thereby, increasing the probability of a cloudburst situation.
  • In addition, as pointed out earlier, cloudbursts get counted only when they result in largescale destruction of life and property, which happens mainly in mountainous regions.

Why does cloudburst cause so many deaths?

  • The rainfall itself does not result in the death of people, though sometimes, the raindrops are big enough to hurt people in a sustained downpour.
  • It is the consequences of such heavy rain, especially in the hilly terrain, that causes death and destruction.
  • Landslides, flash floods, houses and establishments getting swept away and cave-ins lead to the deaths.

Is the frequency of cloudbursts increasing?

  • There is a paucity of past data on cloudbursts; in addition, since only some of them get counted – only those that result in death and destruction – there is a problem of accuracy as well.
  • But what is very clear is that events of extreme precipitation have been on the rise in the last few decades due to global warming; it is expected, keeping in mind that trend, that cloudburst events might be on the increase as well.
  • Extreme weather events are indeed increasing in the Himalayan region.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

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