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Current Affairs 23 December 2021 for UPSC Exam | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. Winter session of Parliament concludes a day early
  2. UNSC adopts resolution to ease Afghan aid
  3. India gives 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Myanmar
  4. Start-up boom: India adds 33 unicorns in one year, displaces U.K.
  5. Rupee set to be worst Asian currency as global funds shun India

Winter session of Parliament concludes a day early

Context:

  • The winter session of Parliament started and ended on an acrimonious note, beginning with the suspension of 12 Opposition MPs in the Rajya Sabha and concluding with the passing of the controversial Electoral Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021 while ignoring strident protests from the Opposition.
  • The monsoon session has seen 20 bills passed in both Houses of Parliament, either without discussion or minimal, limited to treasury bench MPs speaking on the legislation.

Relevance:

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

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the performance of Legislature in the Winter Session
  2. Issues with the Functioning Of Parliament
  3. Implications of Reduced Parliament Functions
  4. Back to the Basics: Parliament sessions

About the performance of Legislature in the Winter Session

  • The Rajya Sabha utilized less than 50% of its allotted time during the 18 sittings. Of the scheduled sitting time of more than 95 hours, only 45 hours of business was conducted.
  • This decline in performance is owed much to the suspension of 12 Rajya Sabha MPs at the beginning of the session for its entirety that pretty much drew the battle lines in Parliament deeper than before.
  • The Bills passed during the session included the:
    1. Agricultural Laws Repeal Bill, 2021 (which saw the government take back the three contentious farm laws that had resulted in a year-long protest by farmers groups)
    2. The Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and the Delhi Police Establishment (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that has made possible the extension of the tenure of the Directors of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate up to five years
    3. The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021, that seeks to allow electoral registration officers to seek the Aadhaar number of people who want to register as voters for the purpose of establishing identity.
    4. The Dam Safety Bill, 2019 that provides for an institutional mechanism at both Central and State levels and also for adequate surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of all the large dams in the country so as to prevent dam failure related disasters
    5. Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to rectify an error that made provisions in Section 27 of the Act — providing for punishment of those financing illicit trafficking — inoperable.
    6. The Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020
    7. The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019
    8. The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (Amendment) Bill, 2021
    9. The High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021
    10. Appropriation Bill 2021.

Issues with the Functioning Of Parliament

  • Lack of discussion: The issue of lack of discussion in legislative assemblies on various laws before they are passed was recently raised by India’s Chief Justice. The CJI also mentions that in the past, there were “intelligent” and “productive” debates, but that presently, lawmaking is in a “sad state of affairs,” which has resulted in “gaps” and “ambiguity in making laws.”
  • Parliamentary Sessions are Getting Shorter: Due to political leaders’ engagement in campaigning for state assembly elections, Parliament’s Budget Session for 2021 finished two weeks earlier than expected. The 2020 Budget Session was similarly shortened due to the Pandemic-related nationwide lockdown.
  • Gradual Marginalization of Parliamentary Committees: According to PRS Legislative Research, the percentage of bills referred to Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSCs) has decreased from 71 percent in the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-14) to 27 percent in the 16th Lok Sabha, and only 11 percent in the 17th Lok Sabha (2019-present). Apart from the DRSCs, only a few bills are referred to House Select Committees or Joint Parliamentary Committees.
  • Absence of the Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha: The Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha are elected by the Lok Sabha under Article 93 of the Constitution. The Deputy Speaker, who is elected within a few months of the creation of a new Lok Sabha, is not present in the current Lok Sabha.

Implications of Reduced Parliament Functions

  • With less debate and interference from parliamentary committees, the Opposition’s capacity to hold the government accountable for its actions will be harmed.
  • Extensive debates avoid hasty legislation by assisting politicians in understanding the core issue underlying the proposals and assisting them in rectifying them in Parliament. As a result of the better functioning Parliament, the courts will be less burdened and superfluous litigation will be reduced.
  • The Chief Justice of India has expressed worry over legal loopholes that have resulted in a lot of litigation and annoyance for citizens, courts, and other parties.
  • Furthermore, the Tenth Schedule, inserted by the 52nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1985, has rendered an MP’s particular positioning meaningless.
  • The party whip’s decision takes precedence over a constituency’s interest as represented by its MP.
  • When compared to the considerably more reliable ‘division voting,’ which may record each member’s response, even abstentions, a large portion of bills in Parliament are carried using ‘voice voting.’

Back to the Basics: Parliament sessions

What the Constitution says on Parliamentary Sessions?

  • Article 85 requires that there should not be a gap of more than six months between two sessions of Parliament.
  • Please note, the Constitution does not specify when or for how many days Parliament should meet.
  • The maximum gap between two sessions of Parliament cannot be more than six months. That means the Parliament should meet at least twice a year.
  • A ‘session’ of Parliament is the period between the first sitting of a House and its prorogation.

Summoning

  • It is the process of calling all members of the Parliament to meet.
  • It is the duty of the Indian President to summon each House of the Parliament such that the maximum gap between two sessions of Parliament is NOT more than six months.

Adjournment

  • An adjournment suspends the work in a sitting for a specified time, which may be hours, days or weeks.
  • Remember the time of reassembly is specified.
  • Also, it only terminates a sitting and not a session of the House.
  • This Power lies with the presiding officer of the House, i.e., Speaker / Chairman.

Adjournment Sine Die

  • Adjournment sine die means terminating a sitting of Parliament for an indefinite period.
  • This means, house is adjourned WITHOUT SPECIFYING a day for reassembly.
  • The power of adjournment sine die also lies with the presiding officer.

Note: The presiding officer of a House can call a sitting of the House before the date or time to which it has been adjourned or at any time after the House has been adjourned sine die.

Prorogation

  • Prorogation means the termination of a session of the House by an order made by the President under article 85(2)(a) of the Constitution.
  • Prorogation terminates both the sitting and session of the House.
  • Usually, within a few days after the House is adjourned sine die by the presiding officer, the President issues a notification for the prorogation of the session.
  • However, the President can also prorogue the House while in session.

Note: All pending notices (other than those for introducing bills) lapse on prorogation and fresh notices have to be given for the next session.

Dissolution

  • A dissolution ends the life of the existing House, and a new House is constituted after general elections are held.
  • Rajya Sabha is NOT subject to dissolution, as it is a permanent house.
  • Only the Lok Sabha is subject to dissolution.
  • The dissolution of the Lok Sabha may take place in either of two ways:
    • Automatic dissolution: On the expiry of its tenure – five years or the terms as extended during a national emergency.
    • Order of President: If President is authorized by CoM, he can dissolve Lok Sabha, even before the end of the term. He may also dissolve Lok Sabha if CoM loses confidence and no party is able to form the government. Once the Lok Sabha is dissolved before the completion.

-Source: The Hindu


UNSC adopts resolution to ease Afghan aid

Context:

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a US-proposed resolution that facilitates humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, which is on the verge of economic collapse, while keeping funds out of Taliban hands.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests, Important International Groupings)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. UNSC Resolution on humanitarian aid to Afghanistan
  2. What is the current financial situation of Afghanistan?
  3. About the UNHCR appeals for Funds to support Afghans

UNSC Resolution on humanitarian aid to Afghanistan

  • The resolution is a first step by the UN after months of wrangling over how to avert a humanitarian catastrophe amid economic meltdown in Afghanistan since the Taliban swept back to power in mid-August.
  • Since then, billions of dollars in aid and assets have been frozen by the West in what the UN has described as an “unprecedented fiscal shock” to the aid-dependent Afghan economy, and the nation is in the middle of a bitter winter.
  • For months now, observers have been warning that millions face a choice between starvation or migration during a combined food, fuel and cash crisis.
  • The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed the resolution permitting a carveout in sanctions against the Taliban to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
  • The Security Council resolution states that “payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources, and the provision of goods and services necessary to ensure the timely delivery of such assistance or to support such activities are permitted.”
  • Such assistance is “not a violation” of sanctions imposed on entities linked to the Taliban, whose regime is not yet recognized by the international community, it adds.
  • An earlier US resolution had sought to authorize case-by-case exemptions to sanctions, but that was blocked by veto-wielding permanent Security Council members China and Russia.

What is the current financial situation of Afghanistan?

  • As a result of the Taliban takeover, most direct aid to the Afghan government has been stopped; its reserves have been frozen by the U.S., making it impossible for salaries to be paid.
  • The Taliban government’s refusal to allow women to work and its stopping girls from schooling have made the situation more problematic.
  • As the recognition of the Taliban and any governmental engagement is still a long way off, the world is faced with a critical choice of ensuring that Afghanistan does not suffer further.

 

About the UNHCR appeals for Funds to support Afghans

  • UNHCR has published a report that states that half the population in Afghanistan (more than 20 million people) are in need of lifesaving humanitarian assistance.
  • An estimated 270,000 Afghans have been newly displaced inside the country since January 2021.
  • The number of civilian casualties has risen 29 per cent during the first quarter of this year compared to 2020.
  • The UN has received only 35% of the funds needed for its relief operations.

About the pledges so far

  • EU has already committed $1.15 billion for Afghanistan and neighbouring countries where refugees have fled.
  • The U.S. and China pledged $1.1 billion at a donor conference in Geneva last month.
  • G20 leaders have also pledged to help for Afghan humanitarian crisis at special summit.

-Source: The Hindu


India gives 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Myanmar

Context:

India gave 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Myanmar. The doses were handed over by Foreign Secretary who is on a visit to the country, the first by any Indian high official after the February military coup in Myanmar.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, India’s Foreign Policy)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the aid to Myanmar
  2. What is Vaccine Maitri?

About the aid to Myanmar

  • Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla handed over 1 million doses of ‘Made in India’ vaccines to the representatives of the Myanmar Red Cross Society to support the people of Myanmar, including those along the India-Myanmar border, in their fight against COVID-19.
  • Myanmar was part of the first few countries alongside Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal that received Covishield vaccine of the Serum Institute of India (SII) in January as part of the Vaccine Maitri initiative.
  • However, the military junta ousted the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi on February 2 – following which the COVID-19 related preparations coincided with the political protests when doctors in the leading hospitals joined the spontaneous movement against the military takeover.

What is Vaccine Maitri?

  • India commenced its vaccine diplomacy (use of vaccines to increase a country’s diplomatic relationship with other countries) with the name “Vaccine Maitri” under its Neighborhood First policy.
  • Under Vaccine Maitri – India will supply Covid-19 vaccines which are Made in India to its neighboring and key partner countries under its Neighborhood First policy.
  • Bhutan and Maldives were set to be the first to get the vaccines followed by Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles.
  • Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius were also targeted for supplying vaccines following their necessary regulatory approvals.
  • Pakistan was the only neighboring country which was not named to get the vaccine.

Earlier Diplomacy measures by India

  • India had earlier supplied Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and Paracetamol tablets as well as diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical supplies to a large number of countries during the pandemic.
  • Under the Partnerships for Accelerating Clinical Trials (PACT) programme, India has also provided training to several neighboring countries to enhance and strengthen their clinical capabilities. PACT programme implemented by Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) and Clinical Development Services Agency (CDSA) under the aegis of the National Biopharma Mission and Ind-CEPI Mission of DBT, had been launched for supporting COVID-19 vaccine development activities in partnering countries.

-Source: The Hindu


Start-up boom: India adds 33 unicorns in one year, displaces U.K.

Context:

India has displaced the United Kingdom (U.K.) to be third in the list of countries that are home to such enterprises valued at more than $1 billion each, according to a report.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Unicorns and India

Unicorns and India

  • In business, a unicorn is a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion.
  • India currently has 54 unicorns, 33 more than what the country had in 2020, while the UK currently has 39 unicorns, 15 up from 2019.
  • Bengaluru has more unicorns than cities like Boston, Palo Alto, Paris, Berlin, Chicago among others, with a tally of 28 such companies (the seventh-highest in the world).
  • India led the way for emigrant unicorn founders, followed by China, Israel and Russia.
  • According to the report, Indians have founded 65 unicorns outside India, including Postman, Innovaccer, Icertis, Moglix among others.
  • Whilst there are a further 65 unicorns founded by Indians abroad, mainly in Silicon Valley, the percentage of homegrown unicorns has increased from one third to 45%, suggesting that the startup ecosystem in India is maturing.
  • According to the report, India has about 15 unicorns in the e-commerce space, which is the third-largest number after the US and China.

-Source: The Hindu


Rupee set to be worst Asian currency as global funds shun India

Context:

The Indian rupee is set to end a tumultuous year as Asia’s worst-performing currency with foreign funds fleeing the nation’s stocks.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Capital Market, Fiscal Policy and Monetary Policy)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Depreciation of the Indian Rupee
  2. Reasons for Current Depreciation of Indian Rupee

 

Depreciation of the Indian Rupee

  • The Indian currency declined 2.2% in the Sep-Dec 2021 quarter due to global funds worth $4 billion having been pulled out of the country’s stock market.
  • This downfall of currency makes the Indian rupee as Asia’s worst-performing currency.

Impact of the drop

  • Depreciation in rupee is a double-edged sword for the Reserve Bank of India.
  • While a weaker currency may support exports amid a nascent economic recovery from the pandemic, it poses risk of imported inflation, and may make it difficult for the central bank to maintain interest rates at a record low for longer.

Reasons for Current Depreciation of Indian Rupee

  • India’s trade deficit widened to an all-time high of about $23 billion in November amid higher imports. This growing trade deficit is driven by a rebound in oil prices.
  • The strengthening of USD in line with expectations of better growth in the US economy and favorable interest offered by the Federal Reserve (US’ Central bank). The RBI has been continuously buying dollars to build its reserves and prepare itself for any volatility.
  • Foreign capital exodus from stocks have led to the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex Index falling by about 10% below an all-time high touched in October 2021.
  • Concerns about the omicron virus variant are roiling the global markets.

-Source: Indian express

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