Contents

  1. SKM seeks legal backing for MSP, repeal of electricity Bill
  2. Life expectancy lower for urban poor, says study
  3. Survey on Police and perception of “sensitivity”
  4. US’ emergency oil stash: Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)
  5. T.N. Speaker favours time frame to decide on Bills

SKM seeks legal backing for MSP, repeal of electricity Bill

Context:

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha – the umbrella body of farmer unions that is leading the agitation against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three contentious farm laws – demanded a legal guarantee of remunerative Minimum Support Price (MSP) and withdrawal of the draft of Electricity Amendments Bill, 2020/2021.

Relevance:

GS-III: Agriculture (Agriculture Pricing), GS-II: Governance (Government Policies & Interventions, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of policies), GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure (Energy Sector, Sources of Energy, Types of Resources and Sustainable use of Resources)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Minimum Support Price (MSP)?
  2. Why is there a need for MSP?
  3. What are the issues related to MSP?
  4. Highlights of the Draft Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020
  5. Key Issues and Analysis of the Draft Electricity Amendment Bill
  6. Way Forward regarding the draft Electricity Amendment Bill

What is Minimum Support Price (MSP)?

  • Minimum Support Price is the price at which government purchases crops from the farmers, whatever may be the price for the crops.
  • Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP) in the Ministry of Agriculture recommends MSPs for 23 crops. These include 14 grown during the kharif/post-monsoon season (see table) and six in rabi/winter (wheat, barley, chana, masur, mustard and safflower), apart from sugarcane, jute and copra
  • CACP consider various factors while recommending the MSP for a commodity like cost of cultivation, supply and demand situation for the commodity; market price trends (domestic and global) and parity vis-à-vis other crops etc.
  • MSP seeks to:
    • Assured Value: To give guaranteed prices and assured market to the farmers and save them from the price fluctuations (National or International).
    • Improving Productivity: By encouraging higher investment and adoption of modern technologies in agricultural activities.
    • Consumer Interest: To safeguard the interests of consumers by making available supplies at reasonable prices.

Why is there a need for MSP?

  • The MSP is a minimum price guarantee that acts as a safety net or insurance for farmers when they sell particular crops.
  • The guaranteed price and assured market are expected to encourage higher investment and in adoption of modern technologies in agricultural activities.
  • With globalization resulting in freer trade in agricultural commodities, it is very important to protect farmers from the unwarranted fluctuation in prices.

What are the issues related to MSP?

  • Low accessibility and awareness of the MSP regime: A survey highlighted that, 81% of the cultivators were aware of MSP fixed by the Government for different crops and out of them only 10% knew about MSP before the sowing season.
  • Arrears in payments: More than 50% of the farmers receive their payments of MSP after one week.
  • Poor marketing arrangements: Almost 67% of the farmers sell their produce at MSP rate through their own arrangement and 21% through brokers.
  • According to NITI Aayog report on MSP, 21% of the farmers of the sample States expressed their satisfaction about MSP declared by the Government whereas 79% expressed their dissatisfaction due to various reasons. Although, majority of the farmers of the sample States were dissatisfied on MSP rates, still 94% of them desired that the MSP rates should be continued.

Highlights of the Draft Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020

  • The Bill provides for the constitution of Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority (ECEA).  The ECEA will have sole authority to adjudicate upon specified contract-related disputes in the electricity sector.
  • A common selection committee will be constituted to select the chairperson and members of the Appellate Tribunal (APTEL), the central and state regulatory commissions (CERC, SERCs), and ECEA.
  • Currently, SERCs are required to specify regulations to progressively reduce cross-subsidy.  The Bill requires them to adhere to the National Electricity Tariff Policy while determining the cross-subsidy.
  • Government subsidy will not be accounted for while determining the tariff.  Such subsidy will be provided directly to consumers.
  • The Bill adds that a franchisee will be authorised with the information given to the SERC.  The Bill provides for a new entity called Distribution Sub-licensee.  A distribution licensee can authorise a sub-licensee to distribute electricity on its behalf with the prior permission of the SERC.
  • State and regional load despatch centres will not schedule or despatch electricity if the distribution licensee has not provided adequate payment security, as agreed in the contract.
  • The Bill empowers the central government to notify a National Renewable Energy Policy in consultation with state governments and prescribe minimum renewable and hydro purchase obligation.

Key Issues and Analysis of the Draft Electricity Amendment Bill

  • The proposed common selection committee will have chief secretaries of two states as members, by rotation.  A concerned state may not have a representative in the committee when recommending appointments to its SERC.  The question is whether this undermines a state’s powers to appoint its regulator.
  • The proposed selection committee will also recommend appointments to the Appellate Tribunal.  The composition of the proposed selection committee is contrary to the principles laid out by the Supreme Court to safeguard the independence of tribunals.
  • The Draft Bill requires the SERCs to adhere to the National Electricity Tariff Policy for determining cross-subsidy.  The question is whether matters of cross-subsidy should be determined by a uniform National Policy or continue to be determined by the SERCs.
  • A distribution licensee can authorise a franchisee as well as a distribution sub-licensee to distribute electricity on its behalf.  There is a need for clarity on the role of a franchisee and a distribution sub-licensee.

Way Forward regarding the draft Electricity Amendment Bill

  • The Bill will set the process of de-licensing power distribution after the monopoly of the state is dismantled and this will provide the consumers with an option of choosing the service provider, switch their power supplier and enable the entry of private companies in distribution, thereby resulting in increased competition. (Success Story example: privatisation of discoms in Delhi has reduced AT&C losses significantly from 55% in 2002 to 9% in 2020.)
  • Open access for purchasing power from the open market should be implemented across States and barriers in the form of cross subsidy surcharge, additional surcharge and electricity duty being applied by States should be reviewed.
  • Tariffs ought to be reflective of average cost of supply to begin with and eventually move to customer category-wise cost of supply in a defined time frame. This will facilitate reduction in cross subsidies.
  • Electrical energy should be covered under GST, with a lower rate of GST, as this will make it possible for power generator/transmission/distribution utilities to get a refund of input credit, which in turn will reduce the cost of power.
  • Another possible way forward is the use of technology solutions such as installation of smart meters and smart grids which will reduce AT&C losses and restore financial viability of the sector.

-Source: The Hindu


Life expectancy lower for urban poor, says study

Context:

The report, “Healthcare equity in urban India”, released recently by Azim Premji University, notes the health vulnerabilities and inequalities in cities in India.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Poverty)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the report on life expectancy of urban poor
  2. Causes of Urban Poverty
  3. Issues related to urban poor
  4. Way forward suggested by the report

Highlights of the report on life expectancy of urban poor

  • Life expectancy among the poorest is lower by 9.1 years and 6.2 years among men and women, respectively, compared to the richest in urban areas.
  • One-third of India’s people now live in urban areas, with this segment seeing a rapid growth from about 18% (1960) to 28.53% (2001) to 34% (in 2019). Close to 30% of people living in urban areas are poor.
  • The report, besides finding disproportionate disease burden on the poor, also pointed to a chaotic urban health governance, where the multiplicity of healthcare providers both within and outside the government without coordination are challenges to urban health governance.
  • The other key findings include a heavy financial burden on the poor, and less investment in healthcare by urban local bodies.

Causes of Urban Poverty

Uncontrolled migration:

  • The lack of infrastructure in rural areas, forces inhabitants of these regions to seek out work in India’s mega-cities.
  • As more and more people make this migration, the space left to accommodate them becomes less and less.
  • Urban development can’t keep up with the growing numbers of informal settlers and leads to an increase in the number of slums.

Lack of investment:

  • Urban poverty is a result of the lack of opportunities and skills training for most of the working age population.
  • Over the years, a shortage of adequate investment in quality education and basic services like health, sanitation, waste management and skill training has had its consequences.
  • It has led to generations of malnourished, uneducated, unaware and unskilled or semi-skilled people who find it difficult to find decent paying jobs.

Lack of infrastructure in villages:

  • Due to lack of basic amenities and employment options in villages people migrate to cities.
  • Agriculture is barely a lucrative option in villages, so their only job option is to seek out work in the cities’ informal economies.
  • Millions migrate to the cities every day to take up informal jobs such as domestic help, taxi driving, construction site work, etc.
  • However, this creates overcrowding in the already packed urban infrastructure.

Issues related to urban poor

  • Housing Vulnerability: Majority of urban poor generally live in low quality unhygienic areas such as slums. They have no ownership rights and entitlements. As occupants construct on the empty land, the civic body does not provide them basic amenities- therefore they have no access to individual water connection, toilets, electricity, and roads. Also, poor live in unhealthy and insanitary living conditions. According to Census 2011, 17.7% of urban population comprising 65 million people lives in slums.
  • Economic Vulnerability: Irregular employment with low wages makes them more vulnerable. This restricts availability of formal credit from banks, they have no access to formal safety net programmes, and productive assets.
  • Social Vulnerability: The income inequality creates divergence between lower strata of society i.e. poor and middle class. It increases social differences in education and skill development programmes.
  • Personal Vulnerability: At personal level, poor are more vulnerable for getting social justice in their day-to-day work. The poor are victims of all types of injustice and violence. Particularly, low caste people and minority, especially women, children, the elderly, disabled and destitute have no access to social justice.

Way forward suggested by the report

  1. Strengthening community participation and governance
  2. Building a comprehensive and dynamic database on the health and nutrition status, including co-morbidities of the diverse, vulnerable populations
  3. Strengthening healthcare provisioning through the National Urban Health Mission, especially for primary healthcare services
  4. Putting in place policy measures to reduce the financial burden of the poor
  5. Establishing a better mechanism for coordinated public healthcare services and better governed private healthcare institutions.

-Source: The Hindu


Survey on Police and perception of “sensitivity”

Context:

According to a survey (SMART Policing Index) conducted by Indian Police Foundation (IPF), a think tank run by retired IPS officers and academics – Police in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh scored the lowest among all States when it came to perception of “sensitivity”.

Relevance:

GS-II: Governance (Transparency and Accountability, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the SMART Policing Index
  2. Highlights of the SMART Policing Index 2021
  3. Various Commissions and their recommendations on Police Reforms 

About the SMART Policing Index

  • The “SMART” in SMART Policing stands for:
    • S- Strict and Sensitive,
    • M- Modern and Mobile,
    • Alert and Accountable,
    • R- Reliable and Responsive,
    • T- Techno-savvy and Trained.
  • SMART Policing idea was envisioned, articulated and introduced by the Indian PM at the Conference of DGPs of State and Central Police Organizations, held at Guwahati, in the year 2014.
  • The strategy combined the development of physical infrastructure, technology adoption, a focus on the critical soft skills and attitudes, as well as a deep commitment to the values of professional excellence and service to the people, considered essential to take the Indian Police to the next level.
  • The SMART Policing Index aims to gather information on citizens’ perceptions about the impact of the SMART policing initiative.
  • 10 sets of questionnaires in the survey include:
    • Six indices of “Competence-Based Indicators” dealing with issues such as police sensitivity, accessibility, responsiveness and technology adoption among others;
    • Three indices of “Value-Based indicators” dealing with integrity of the police; and
    • One index of “Trust”.

Highlights of the SMART Policing Index 2021

  • Around 67% of the citizens believe that the police are doing their job well and strongly support the police, despite police being continuously attacked for insufficient sensitivity, declining public confidence and growing concerns about the quality of policing.
  • The levels of popular satisfaction with the quality of policing were highest in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Assam, Kerala, Sikkim, Mizoram and Gujarat. (Southern states and some in the Northeast fared better on most policing indices compared to states in the north.)
  • Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Punjab were ranked at the bottom of the Index.
  • Bihar has been ranked last with respect to responsible policing, public trust in police and integrity & corruption free service.

Various Commissions and their recommendations on Police Reforms 

  1. Gore committee on police training (1971-73) – recommended to enlarge the content of police training from law and order and crime prevention to a greater sensitivity and understanding of human behaviour.
  2. National police commission 1977 – recommended insulating the police from illegitimate political and bureaucratic interference.
  3. Padmanabhaiah Committee 2000 – recommended that constables, and the police force in general, should receive greater training in soft skills (such as communication, counselling and leadership) given they need to deal with the public regularly.
  4. The ARC recommended separation of crime investigation from other police functions i-e maintenance of law and order, establishment of state police boards, welfare and grievances redressal mechanisms for police personnel.
  5. Prakash Singh vs Union of India case directed the government to constitute –
    1. State Security Commission (SSC) to ensure that state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police.
    2. Police Establishment Board (PEB) – made up of the DGP and four senior officers – to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of police, for the rank below DSP.
    3. Police Complaints Authority (PCA) at state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
    4. National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organizations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two years.

-Source: The Hindu


US’ emergency oil stash: Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)

Context:

In wake of the 2022 midterm elections in the US, the Biden administration is considering tapping the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to check rising oil prices.

Relevance:

GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure (Sources of Energy), GS-III: Indian Economy (Foreign Trade and Growth and Development of Indian Economy)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR)
  2. The Need of SPRs in India
  3. Strategic Petroleum Reserves in India

Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR)

  • The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is an emergency stockpile of petroleum maintained by the United States Department of Energy (DOE).
  • It is the largest known emergency supply in the world which was started in 1975 after oil supplies were interrupted during the 1973–1974 oil embargo, to mitigate future supply disruptions.
  • In the basic sense Strategic petroleum reserves are huge stockpiles of crude oil to deal with any crude oil-related crisis like the risk of supply disruption from natural disasters, war or other calamities (thus moderating prices).
  • According to the agreement on an International Energy Programme (I.E.P.), each International Energy Agency (IEA) country has an obligation to hold emergency oil stocks equivalent to at least 90 days of net oil imports.
    1. In case of a severe oil supply disruption, IEA members may decide to release these stocks to the market as part of a collective action.
    2. 3 Biggest ‘Strategic Petroleum Reserves’ are with Japan, US, China.

The Need of SPRs in India

  • The current capacity of this is not sufficient to tackle any unpredicted event that occurs in the international crude market.
  • 86% of the country is dependent on oil with nearly 5 million barrels of oil consumption in a day.
  • The fluctuation in the price of crude oil in the international market leads to a dire need for India to make petroleum reserves to ensure the country’s energy security and avoid monetary loss.

Strategic Petroleum Reserves in India

  • The construction of the Strategic Crude Oil Storage facilities in India is being managed by Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited (ISPRL). ISPRL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB) under the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
  • Strategic crude oil storages are at Mangalore (Karnataka), Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Padur (Karnataka) as per Phase I. They have fuel storage of total 5. 33 MMT (Million Metric Tonnes).
  • The government of India is planning to set up two more such caverns at Chandikhol (Odisha) and Udupi (Karnataka) as per phase II through Public-Private Partnership. This will give an additional 6.5 million tons of the oil reserves.
  • After the new facilities get functional, a total of 22 days (10+12) of oil consumption will be made available.
  • With the strategic facilities, Indian refiners also maintain crude oil storage (industrial stock) of 65 days.
  • Thus, approximately a total of 87 days (22 by strategic reserves + 65 by Indian refiners) of oil consumption will be made available in India after completion of Phase II of the SPR programme. This will be very close to the 90 days mandate by the IEA.
  • India became an associate member of the IEA in 2017 and recently, IEA has invited India to become a full-time member.

-Source: Indian Express


T.N. Speaker favours time frame to decide on Bills

Context:

Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker questioned why the President does not provide reasons for withholding assent and returning a Bill passed by the State Assembly.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions, Legislature)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Legislative Powers of the Governor
  2. What can a President do after a bill is reserved by a Governor?
  3. Issues Highlighted by the T.N. Speaker
  4. Recent Developments on the Issues raised by the T.N. Speaker
  5. More on Veto Powers of the President

Legislative Powers of the Governor

  • Governor has powers to summon and prorogue state legislature and dissolve the state assembly.
  • He addresses the first session of the state legislature after the general elections in the state.
  • He also appoints 1/6th members of the State Legislative Council in states wherever there is a bicameral legislature.
  • He also nominates one member in the state Legislative Assembly from the Anglo-Indian Community if, in his view, the community is not well represented.

All the bills passed by the state legislatures are sent to the Governor for assent and once a bill is sent to the Governor for assent, he can:

  1. give assent to the bill
  2. withhold the assent
  3. return the bill to the legislature for reconsideration (if it is not a money bill). If the bill is repassed by the legislature with or without amendment, the Governor has to give assent to the bill.
  4. Reserve the bill for consideration of the President in circumstances when the bill violates the Constitution or is against directive principles of state policy or may involve some kind of conflict with union powers or is against the larger interest of country and people or may endanger the position of the high court in the state.

As per provisions of Article 213, the Governor has special legislative power of promulgating the ordinances during the recess of the State legislature.

  • To issue an ordinance, the Governor must be satisfied with the circumstances that make it necessary for him/her to take immediate action.

Governor cannot promulgate an ordinance in any of the three situations:

  1. If the ordinance has the provisions which of embodied in a bill would require the President’s sanction.
  2. If the ordinance has the provisions which the Governor would reserve as a bill containing them for the President’s sanction.
  3. If an act of the state legislature has the same provisions that would be invalid without the assent of the President.

All ordinances promulgated by the Governor in the state have the same effect and force.

  • The ordinance must be laid before the state legislature when it reassembles and it must be upheld by the State legislature, failure to which the ordinance would be invalid.
  • Governor decides on the question of disqualification of members of the state legislature in consultation with the Election Commission.

Governor lays the reports of the State Finance Commission, the State Public Service Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor-General relating to the accounts of the state, before the state legislature.

What can a President do after a bill is reserved by a Governor?

When Governor reserves a bill passed by the State legislature for consideration of the President (Veto over State Legislation), the President can:

  1. Give his assent to the bill, or
  2. Withhold his assent to the bill, or
  3. Direct the Governor to return the bill for reconsideration of the state legislature and if the State Legislature passes the bill again (with or without Amendments) – it is NOT obligatory for President to give assent to such a bill.

Issues Highlighted by the T.N. Speaker

  • The governors sometimes sat over the Bills without giving assent or returning the Bills for an indefinite period, even though the Constitution required it to be done as soon as possible.
  • The governors were also taking months together to reserve the Bills for the assent of the President even though it was to be done immediately.
  • This erodes the authority of the legislatures and the governors, though heads of the state executive, are appointed by the Union government.
  • The governors sometimes sat over the Bills without giving assent or returning the Bills for an indefinite period, even though the Constitution required it to be done as soon as possible.
  • The governors were also taking months together to reserve the Bills for the assent of the President even though it was to be done immediately.
  • This erodes the authority of the legislatures and the governors, though heads of the state executive, are appointed by the Union government.

Recent Developments on the Issues raised by the T.N. Speaker

  • The Speaker’s comments assume significance in the backdrop of a Bill passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly in September, 2021 seeking exemption for students from the state from the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) required for undergraduate medical college admissions.
  • The Tamil Nadu assembly passed a resolution in 2018 regarding the release of the seven prisoners convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The resolution was sent to the then Governor but he did not take any action for more than two years.

More on Veto Powers of the President

Absolute Veto

Withholding assent to a bill passed by the Parliament, after which the bill ends and does not become an act.

Absolute veto is usually used in the following cases:

  • With respect to private members’ bills (i.e., bills introduced by any member of Parliament who is not a minister)
  • With respect to the government bills when the cabinet resigns (after the passage of the bills but before the assent by the President) and the new cabinet advises the President not to give his assent to such bills.

Suspensive Veto

  • Returning a bill for reconsideration of the Parliament. However, if the bill is passed again by the Parliament with or without amendments and again presented to the President, it is obligatory for the President to give his assent to the bill.
  • This is not possible in the case of Money Bills and the President can either give his assent to a money bill or withhold his assent to a money bill but cannot return it for the reconsideration of the Parliament.

Pocket Veto

  • Keeping the bill pending for an indefinite period without giving it assent, or rejecting it or returning it.
  • This is possible because the Constitution does not prescribe any time-limit within which he has to take the decision with respect to a bill presented to him for his assent. (In the case of the USA, the time limit is just 10 days.)

Veto power NOT Provided to the President – Qualified veto

  • The qualified veto power can be exercised by the American President under which the bills passed by Parliament to the President must be sent back to the Legislature within 10 days if he/she decides to withhold it or does not give his/her approval.
  • Then the same bill can be overridden by the legislature with a higher or special majority.

-Source: The Hindu

Share this article on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enable Notifications    OK No thanks