17 November, 2020
- Winter session of Parliament unlikely amid rising COVID cases (Polity)
- Andhra Pradesh's capital conundrums (Polity)
- Unabating attacks on journalists (Polity)
- Needed, a policy framework in step with technology (Governance)
- Comply with FDI ceiling, govt. tells digital news firms (Eco)
- What's behind the conflict between Ethiopian govt. and Tigray rebels? (I.R)
- Fallen through the cracks (Eco)
- Question for the day
UPSC Current Affairs: Winter session of Parliament unlikely amid rising COVID cases|Page 1
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains: GS Paper II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: | Winter Session of Parliament | Article 85 of the Constitution | UPSC
Context: The winter session of Parliament that usually commences by last week of November is unlikely to be held due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in Delhi. As per parliamentary records, there have only been three instances in the past of the winter session not being held - in 1975, 1979 and 1984.
- Generally, the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) meets to decide the dates for the session and the announcement has to be made giving Members of Parliament at least two weeks’ notice. However, so far the CCPA has not met and the government is thinking to combine the Winter Session along with Budget session which usually begins on February 1.
- Article 85 of the Constitution mentions that there should not be a gap of six months or more between two sessions. With the monsoon session of Parliament held in September, the government has no constitutional compulsion to hold a winter session before March 2021.
Article 85 - The President shall from time to time summon each House of Parliament to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session.
UPSC Current Affairs:Andhra Pradesh’s capital conundrums – Article | Page 7
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains: GS Paper II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: Three State Capitals |Arguments in favour/against – Three Capital Policy | UPSC Context: Andhra Pradesh’s is proposed to have three capitals as per the proposal of the incumbent Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSRCP government.
In previous session of the Assembly, the govt. introduced Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill, 2020, according to which the state of Andhra Pradesh will have Visakhapatnam, Amaravati and Kurnool respectively as the executive, legislative and judicial capitals of the State. This proposal replaces the earlier plan of the previous TDP government of building Amaravati as a world-class green field capital city. The Bill being a contentious one is facing legal challenges.
Is it new for India?
- In Rajasthan, the high court is located in Jodhpur, and not in the capital city of Jaipur.
- Maharashtra has summer and winter capitals (Nagpur).
- Himachal Pradesh has capitals at Shimla and Dharamashala, while the former state of Jammu and Kashmir had Srinagar and Jammu as capitals.
- Uttarakhand has Gairsain and Dehradun as capitals and judicial seat at Nainitaal.
Why three capitals - to have a decentralised growth
Origin of Three Capital Concept?
- C. Sivaramakrishnan (KCS) Committee was constituted in the aftermath of Andhra Pradesh’s bifurcation which in turn was caused by claims of regional imbalance in development. It said the state should see decentralised development, and that one mega capital city was not desirable.
- Earlier in 2010, the Justice B N Srikrishna Committee, set up to look into the demand for a Telangana state, said Rayalaseema and North Coastal Andhra were economically the most backward, and the “concentration of development efforts in Hyderabad is the key reason for demand of separate states”.
Arguments in favour / Rationale
- The government says it is against building one mega capital while neglecting other parts of the state. Three capitals ensure equal development of different regions of the state. Secretariat in Vizag can help in the development of regions like Vizianagaram and Srikakulam, which consists of most of the tribal and rural areas and are the most backward regions of the state. This may bring health and educational access to the region and may prevent uddanam like incidents, where several people are suffering from chronic kidney disease. Kurnool having a high court is like doing Justice to the district or even entire Rayalaseema, as it is the most backward region when compared with coastal Andhra and Telangana with Hyderabad at the time of bifurcation.
- Decentralisation has been the central theme in recommendations of all major committees that were set up to suggest a suitable location for the capital of Andhra Pradesh.
- The multiple capital idea is not new, it has been a prevailing practice in countries like South Africa, Brazil, Australia and Bolivia and even in some states in India like.
- Furthermore, it would be a boost to urbanisation and then economic development. In India, cities contribute anywhere between 59% and 70% of the GDP.
- Separation of executive and legislative capital can be challenging. In the Parliamentary system of government, which has been adopted in India, functions of the executive and the legislature are closely connected. For example, a policy or a bill is made by the cabinet in Secretariat in Vizag and the bill has to be passed in the legislature in Amaravati and if any conflict arises it has to be given judgment in the high court situated in Kurnool. It will result in the traveling cost not only for the public authorities but also for a common person, for example, a person in Kurnool has to travel about 700 km to get work done in Secretariat in Vizag. So a single capital not only reduces the cost but also time is taken to get the work done.
- Logistics nightmare: The development of a region can be done through policy interventions like industrial policy. However, separating the capitals can be against the convenience of the administration as well as the people. Also, it will be logistically difficult to implement Coordinating between seats of legislature and executive in separate cities will be easier said than done, and with the government offering no specifics of a plan, officers and common people alike fear a logistics nightmare. The proposal to have the legislature and executive at different places will lead to an unnecessary drain of resources for the state given that the ministers who perform both executive, as well as, legislative functions will need to constantly move between the two capitals at the expense of the state resources.
- Another counter-argument is strengthening the local bodies, both in urban and rural areas - If the government’s goal is to decentralize development, the best way possible is the financial strengthening of the local bodies, granting more money to execute their functions in the 11 th and 12 th schedule of the Indian constitution. This not only results in the development of even remote areas but also improve governance, as it increases the participation of common people in the development process.
- People mostly farmers of 29 villages, who gave farmland in and around previously selected Amaravati region, to the previous government in land pooling, where they are expecting to get in return land and commercial building. Now they feel cheated after backing out of the previously proposed single capital. This may result in people from other regions being sceptical of the government’s Promises in the future, Making it very difficult in the land acquisition or pooling for any development process.
- Its immediate effect, though, would mostly be an artificial spike in real estate prices in the two new proposed capital regions, and land sharks would move into part people from their land before the state turns up with offers.
- Must focus on the prime goal of‘distributed development and few points will help ensuring that.
- Focus on well-developed infrastructural network linking the growth centres:Running legislative business with most of the secretariat located 400 km away can lead to logistic nightmares and inefficiencies, especially in the absence of efficient infrastructure. Andhra Pradesh can learn from Maharashtra’s experience of running Winter Sessions in Nagpur, aimed essentially at placating regional sentiments. Success of distributed development depends on a well-developed infrastructural network linking the growth centres. Andhra Pradesh lacks these linkages now, and sooner the State focuses on these preconditions the better for it. Eg Chennai-Visakhapatnam Industrial Corridor is important.
- Second, focuson infrastructure development within cities — the proposed growth centres — is critical - Visakhapatnam, as the executive capital, will experience much stress. The basis cannot be just the availability of land and built-up area, but also the ability to cope with such an intense development. Visakhapatnam is lacking in its infrastructure. It could not even deliver a functional Bus Rapid Transit system, even with the availability of resources.
- Weak institutions cannot regulate growth: The KCS committee warns about the environmental impact of such intensification and densification in cities, with a special reference to Visakhapatnam. The recent environmental disasters, including the LG Polymers gas leak, expose the city’s vulnerabilities. The ongoing processes of preparing the Master Plan and Strategic Plan for the Visakhapatnam Metropolitan Region are an opportunity to address these challenges. Ad hocism and a casual approach can undo its future potential.
- People should question the expenditure: People should be empowered to question the government if the later takes the decision to implement huge capital expenditure which might not be financially prudent. Having multiple capitals can have huge financial implications. Therefore, people should have the right to question the expenditure of the tax payer's money.
- Empowering the local governments: Decentralization in the State should take place by empowering the local governments i.e. the Panchayats and Municipal Corporations which were constituted after the enactment of the 73rd and the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act.
- Development through policy interventions: Multiple capitals should not be used as an instrument for the development of the region. The development of the region can be brought by making an investment in the manufacturing and service sectors, bringing different policies benefiting the farmers and ease of doing business, development of the infrastructure, development of the social-cultural institutions such as universities, hospitals, etc.
Parliament VS State: Who has the power to decide?
- Article 2 and Article 3 of the Constitution of India confer exclusive powers upon Parliament to form or establish or completely alter and destroy the identity of the existing state.
- It is within the exclusive domain of Parliament to form any state, set boundaries, and name a state, set boundaries, and name a state in the Union as defined in Article 1 of the Constitution.
- The power to establish a state’s capital is inherent to, and inseparable from, the power conferred upon Parliament under Articles, 2, 3 and 4 of the Constitution of India.
- The matter of establishing the capital of a new state formed by Parliament by law is not covered by any Entry in List-II of the Schedule-VII of the Constitution.
- It is specifically because the capital of a state shall foster the needs of all sections of the society of the state without any political discrimination as to the development of a particular region of such a state.
- Therefore, only the Indian Parliament can, by law, establish the capital of a newly reconstituted state, which after reconstitution and reorganization by enacting a law, under Article 3(a)(c)(d) of the Constitution.
- The current proposal of three capitals in the state has not received the consent of the central government.
UPSC Current Affairs: Unabating attacks on journalists – Article | Page 7
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains: GS Paper-II – Governance
Sub Theme: New Law to punish violence against journalists | World Press Freedom Index Report | UPSC
Context: Considering increased attacks on journalists in India which is also reflected through India’s low rank in the World Press Freedom Index, the article suggests that there is an urgent need to enact laws that protect media persons and provide accountability on lines of laws framed by Maharashtra. As per 2020 World Press Freedom Index Report, 39 journalists have been killed globally in 2020.
Situation World Over
- According to the United Nations, “Journalism is one of the most dangerous professions in the world”. Between 2006 and 2019, over 1,200 journalist have been killed the world over.
- On an average, it is estimated that one journalist is killed every four days. Unfortunately, in just 1/10 cases, the killers get convicted, while the rest go free.
No. of Journalists Killed
10 - suicide bomb attack in Kabul
- Such attacks on journalists who dare to expose corruption and misdeeds of anti-social elements, or who do not toe the line of the establishment, have proved to be a threat to journalists the world over including India.
Increasing Attacks on Journalists in India
- Number of journalists in India has been subject to illegal detention, torture, attacked or even killed because of their reporting or coverage on sensitive issues or matters.
- Report of an NGO released in 2019 states that 40/198 journalists attacked in India between 2014 and 2019 died due to the attack. The killing of journalists is more rampant in smaller towns, while the figures in metro towns are quite low.
- Killing of Gauri Lankesh in 2017 in Bengaluru drew country wide agitation and compelled police to investigate further.
World Press Freedom Index Report 2020 on India
- Three abovementioned journalists were killed in India in 2020 as per the Report.
- Decreasing Press Freedom has also been highlighted by World Press Freedom Index Report where rank of India has continuously deteriorated from 138 in 2018, 140 in 2019 and 142 in 2020 out of 180 countries.
- World Press Freedom Index is compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
- The Report for India highlights that despite no death of journalists in 2019 in India, there have been constant press freedom violations, including police violence against journalists, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials.
Demand for New Legislation to prevent attacks on Journalists
Considering increased attacks on journalists in India, the Chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad, has counselled the government “to enact a special law for protection of journalists and speedy trial of cases of attacks and assaults”. The PCI’s records indicate that 96% of the cases of attacks on journalists end up without conviction.
Example of Maharashtra
- Maharashtra has become the first state to enact a law to prevent attack on journalists namely The Maharashtra Media Persons and Media Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2017.
Special Feature of the Maharashtra Law
- The Act provides for the prevention of violence against Media Persons while carrying out their duties as Media Persons and prevention of damage or loss of property of Media Persons or Media Institutions in the State of Maharashtra.
- Punishment - Any act of violence against media persons or Media Institutions shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to 3 years, or with fine, which may extend to Rs. 50,000, or with both.
- Investigation - a police officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police shall investigate any offence under this Act.
- Nature of Offence - Any offence committed under this Act, shall be cognizable and non-bailable and shall be tried by the Court of Judicial Magistrate of the First Class.
- Compensation for Damage – In addition to punishment of imprisonment or fine, the offender shall be liable to pay compensation for damage or loss caused to the property of Media Person or Media Institution, as may be determined by the Court.
- Reimbursement of Medical Expenditure – The offender shall also be liable to reimburse medical expenditure incurred by the Media Person.
- Arrears of Land Revenue if Compensation not Paid - If, any person upon conviction under this Act has not paid the compensation and medical expenditure, it shall be recovered as arrears of land revenue.
- Media Persons Misusing the Act - Media Persons who willfully misuses the provisions of this Act or uses the same for malicious purposes or makes a false complaint under this Act shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to 3 years, or with fine, which may extend to Rs. 50,000 or with both.
- Accreditation Card of Media Persons to be Revoked if found Misusing the Act - Such media persons arrested for misuse of the Act shall not be entitled for any Government benefit as a Media Person and their accreditation card shall be permanently revoked.
Chattisgargh also enacting a New Law to Protect Journalists
- Chhattisgarh Protection of Mediapersons Act - Even Chhattisgarh government is in the final stages of enacting a law known as the Chhattisgarh Protection of Mediapersons Act. The Draft Bill intends to protect freedom of speech and expression of media in the state.
Committee for the Protection of Mediapersons
- Chhattisgarh government shall constitute a Committee for the Protection of Mediapersons.
- The state-level committee will deal with complaints of harassment, intimidation or violence, or unfair prosecution and arrests of mediapersons.
- The Committee shall be comprised of a police officer not below the rank of additional director general of police, head of the department of public relations and three mediapersons of at least twelve years’ standing, at least one of whom shall be a woman.
- Mediapersons will be appointed as members of the committee for two years and shall not hold office for more than two consecutive terms.
Covers Wider Areas including Officers found guilty of dereliction of duties
- The law has a wider definition of journalists, covering drivers, and even relatives of journalists.
- On conviction, the attacker would be liable to be punished under relevant sections of the IPC.
- If any public servant is found guilty of dereliction of duties, is liable to be punished with imprisonment of up to 1 year and/or fine of up to Rs. 10,000.
Conclusion – The Article concludes by saying that similar laws must be legislated by other states in India to protect freedom of speech and expression of media in their respective states.
UPSC Current Affairs: Needed, a policy framework in step with technology – Article |Page 6
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy| Mains: GS Paper-III – Indian Economy – ICT Sector
Sub Theme: Need structural change in policy to reap benefits associated with ICT | UPSC
Context: This article has appeared in the newspaper in the context of the growing advancements in the field of ICT. This article highlights that the Government of India has to bring about radical shift in its structure and processes to reap the benefits associated with ICT.
Need for Reorienting Structure of the Government
- The ICT has made deep inroads in almost every sector the economy. It has come to be adopted in the field of agriculture (Drones, Precision Farming, Weather forecasts etc), Manufacturing (Machine Learning, Robotics, 3D Printing etc) and Services (Big Data, AI etc.).
- Take for instance, Automobile Industry. Today a modern Car uses 40% of its components based on ICT. Going forward, with the adoption of Self-driving vehicles, the percentage of ICT based components could further increase.
- However, the structure of the Government is not well-equipped to reap these benefits. The Government has set up multiple ministries and departments to deal with specific issues such as Agriculture, Rural Development, Urban Development, Civil Aviation etc. Quite often, these ministries and departments work in silos without any coordination mechanism.
- For example, it is the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Road Transport Ministry that would lay down policies related to Automobile Industry. However, it is the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology that would lay down policies related to adoption of ICT in the Indian Economy. Unless there is convergence in the policies laid down by these individual Ministries, we would not be able to integrate ICT into each and every sector of Indian Economy.
- The Technology has emerged as key enabler for fostering growth and development and hence needs to be leveraged to the optimum level. However, the present departmentalisation of Government policies is preventing us from harnessing technology in a synergistic and coordinated manner.
- This needs to be addressed through greater inter-ministerial coordination by setting up Inter-secretarial team, setting up of Separate Technology cells in all Ministries and Departments etc.
UPSC Current Affairs: FDI Cap in Digital Media|Page 10
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy| Mains: GS Paper-III – Indian Economy
Sub Theme: FDI Policy for Uploading/ Streaming of News and Current Affairs through Digital Media | UPSC
Context: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has recently issued a detailed notification calling upon the digital news portals to comply with the 26% cap on FDI. The notification reiterates the Cabinet decision announced in August last year.
FDI Policy for Uploading/ Streaming of News and Current Affairs through Digital Media
Presently, FDI is allowed in the Digital Media for uploading/streaming of News and Current Affairs. However, the limit is 26% and it is allowed only through the Government Route. This is applicable to the following entities:
- Digital Media entity streaming/uploading news and current affairs on websites, apps etc.
- News agency which gathers, writes and distributes news to digital media entities
- News aggregator- Aggregates news content from various sources such as News Websites, blogs, podcasts etc.
Note: FDI Cap in Print Media: 26%
UPSC Current Affairs: What’s behind the conflict between Ethiopian government and Tigray Rebels? |Page 13
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Current Events of International Importance
Sub Theme: | Tigray People's Liberation Front | TPLF | Horn of Africa | UPSC
Context: Ethiopian government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed started a military operation against an insurgent group Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) which militia cum political party which dominates northern Tigray region of Ethiopia.
Ethiopian government wanted this to be a limited campaign. However, after two weeks have passed into the conflict, there is a risk of it snowballing into an ethnic civil war with regional implications.
About Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF)
- Founded in 1975 as a resistance army of Tigrayan people against military dictatorship, which was called the Derg.
- The leftist Derg, which was established in 1974, later changed its name in 1987 but remained in power till it was ousted by armed rebels in 1991.
- TPLF played a crucial role in ousting the junta and they were welcomed as national heroes in 1991.
- Leader of TLPF MelesZenawi took over as interim President in 1991 and became first elected Prime Minister in 1995. Zenawi is seen as the architect of Ethiopia's ethno-federal system and remained in power till 2012.
- However, coalition government (EPRDF) led by Zenawi was criticised of being authoritarian and there were frequent protests against it.
- In 2018, Mr Abiy (current PM) (Oromo) was chosen as the leader of the coalition (EPRDF) amid growing protests and a political deadlock.
Criticism of EPRDF government:
- EPRDF coalition provided Ethiopia with a stable government for 17 years and rapid economic growth. However, the ethno-federal arrangement of the country was criticised.
- Tigray people make 6%, Oromos 34% and Amharas 27% of Ethiopian population. While the TLPF dominated political power through the EPRDF, the Oromos alleged marginalisation.
- PM Abiy tried to curb the dominance of TPLF in the government by removing TPLF functionaries from key government posts, relesing political prisoners and increasing media freedom.
- He reached out to Eritrea, which is sworn enemy of TPLF, which shares a long border with the Tigray region.
- Abiy is Ethiopia first Oromo leader has promised that his actions are not driven by ethnic calculations but aimed at democratising the Ethipian society and making peace with neighbours. But TPLF saw his moves as hostile.
Rise of tensions:
- When Mr Abiy formed a new political coalition called the Prosperity Party all constituents of EPRDF joined it except TLPF. TPLF saw the formation as an attempt of Mr Abiy to consolidate power and marginalise Tigrays.
- In August 2020, Mr Abiy postponed parliamentary elections due to COVID, TPLF saw it as power grab. TPLF held elections in the northern region in defiance of federal government.
- Later the TPLF attacked the federal military command in Tigray region and captured military hardware prompting Mr Abiy to declare a military operation.
- Abiy's outreach to Eritrea outraged TPLF which had fought a long war with Eritrean government along the Tigray region. Tigray rebels have fired rockets into Eritria and Amhara region threatening a regional war.
- The short operation can spill out of control as Tigray rebels have thousands of fighters in their command who have experience in resisting Derg regime.
- Tigray region shares boundary with Sudan with which it enjoys good relations. Sudan has a border dispute with Ethiopia. If the new Sudanese regimes supports TPLF then the struggle can continue for long.
- There is an armed struggle going on between Tigray region of Ethiopia and Ethipia's government led by Mr Abiy who come from Oromo ethnic group. Mekele is the seat of power of Tigray people's TPLF.
- Addis Ababa is capital of Ethiopia.
- Important facts: Major ethnicities in Ethiopia: Tigray, Oromo, Amhara.
UPSC Current Affairs: Fallen through the cracks – Article |Page 7
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Social Issues| Mains: GS Paper-II – Social Justice
Sub Theme: Status of Women's Participation in Workforce | Reasons for Decline in LFPR | UPSC
Context: The year 2020 marks the 25th anniversary the adoption of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action which deals with the empowerment of women across the world. In this regard, let us focus on the following dimensions:
- Status of Women's Participation in Work force
- Reasons for decline in female LFPR
- Effect of Pandemic on Women
Status of Women's Participation in Workforce
- The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report ranks India at 149 among 153 countries in terms of women’s economic participation and opportunity. Similarly, women are paid far lower wages as compared as men. It is evident in 2019 Oxfam report which highlighted that gender wage gap for India is highest in Asia.
- Further, majority of women are employed in informal sector wherein they do not have access to minimum wages or the social security benefits. For example, agriculture sector employs almost 60% of women who work as agricultural labourers without any form of guaranteed minimum wages.
- Labour Force Participation Rate in 2017-18: Total- 49.8%; Male- 75%; Female- 25.3%.
- Female LPFR in Rural Areas (26.6%) higher as compared to Urban Areas (22.3%)
- Decline in the total Female LPFR from 45.2% in 1993-94 to 25.3% in 2017-18.
- Decline in Female LPFR sharper in Rural areas (from 52% in 1993-94 to 26.6% in 2017-18) as compared to Urban areas (from 25.1% in 1993-94 to 22.3% in 2017-18).
Reasons for decline in Female LFPR
· Higher Enrolment of Females in higher Educational Institutions.
· More number of Women opting for Household duties due to increase in household incomes.
· Cultural factors- Social Constraints and Patriarchal norms.
· Structural Transformation: Decline in agriculture not accompanied by creation of jobs for women in other sectors.
· Decline in Labour Intensive Industries in Urban areas.
· Significant wage gap between males and females
How lockdown has adversely affected Female Work Participation?
According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), almost 39% of women lost their jobs in April and May 2020 as compared to 29% of men
- Lower demand for Female Labour in Agriculture and Allied activities: In the rain-fed agriculture areas, there was no agricultural activity during the lean months of March to May. In areas of irrigated agriculture, there were harvest operations (such as for rabi wheat in northern India) but these were largely mechanised. Further, in most of the cases, farmers resorted to Family labour instead of hired labour due to the fear of Infection. Similarly, women are considered to be integral part of labour in allied sector such as Diary. During the lockdown, the demand for Milk reduced leading to decline in the employment opportunities as well as income levels.
- Adverse Impact on Non-Agricultural sector: The lockdown led to loss of informal jobs for the women in various non-agricultural related activities such as Construction, Brick kilns, Hotels and Restaurants etc.
- Non-Implementation of MGNREGA: The women account for more than half of the workers under MGNREGA. However, the MGNREGA was not implemented in the first month of the lockdown leading to decline in female work participation
- The Indian Parliament has recently passed the 3 labour codes to simplify the labour laws, reduce the compliance burden and boost employment creation. However, the author opines that these 3 labour codes have explicitly failed to include provisions to reduce the gender wage gap or improve conditions of work for women
- For instance, the Labour Codes allow women to work in the night shifts. However, it does not place much emphasis on ensuring their safety at workforce or fixing the responsibility on the management.
- Going forward, there is need to incorporate gender sensitive policies and rules in our Labour Codes to improve the conditions of work for women, reduce the gender wage gap and boost female participation.