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The court must re-examine the SC/ST Act verdict, but in an atmosphere of calm
Two factors: Keeping a balance
There are two disparate factors at play
- Protecting the innocent against harassment and misuse of a law
- Faithfully preserving the letter and spirit of a piece of legislation aimed at upholding the rights and dignity of the historically oppressed classes
Conducive environment needed
- Given the mood of anger and discontent, it is both pragmatic and necessary for the entire question to be re-examined by the court
- The first requirement for this is a conducive atmosphere for such a hearing.
What has happened?
The Speaker has enough powers to restore order in the Lok Sabha and act upon a notice for a no-trust vote
- About three weeks ago, several members of Lok Sabha gave written notices to the Speaker for a no-confidence motion against the current council of ministers
- The rules of procedure require the Speaker to verify whether 50 Members of Parliament support the motion by asking them to stand at their seats and taking a count
- Since March 16, the Speaker has every day expressed her inability to count the members supporting the motion as some members were shouting slogans and showing placards in the well of the House.
A primary function
- Parliamentary processes recognise the primacy of the no-confidence motion
- These processes cannot be undertaken when the very legitimacy of the government is being questioned.
- Thus, if there are any notices for the no-confidence motion, the Speaker has to verify whether there are at least 50 MPs who support its introduction, and then fix a time for discussing it
- It is this process that has been stalled.
What can the Speaker do if some MPs are not allowing the House to function?
- Duty bound to verify: She is duty bound to verify whether there are 50 members in the House who support its introduction
- Removal of disruptive MPs: She can ask these MPs to return to their seats, failing which they can be named and asked to withdraw from the House. If they don’t, they can be forcibly removed
A long tradition
- Till now, there have been 26 no-confidence motions
- Many of these were symbolic in nature, such as the first one against Jawaharlal Nehru in 1963
- On all these occasions, the no-confidence motion was given priority over all other business. It is this tradition that the Speaker must follow.
Undermining our democratic structure
The inability of Parliament to function and to test the support for the government undermines the very basis of our democratic structure
The Speaker has the responsibility of ensuring that the House functions and taking whatever steps are necessary — including suspension of members, if needed – to ensure order and check whether there is requisite support to admit the debate on the no-confidence motion.
What has happened?
The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to respond to an affidavit filed by the Election Commission (EC) of India to amend the law to prevent candidates contesting from multiple constituencies
A petition seeking a declaration striking down Section 33(7) of the Representation of the People Act of 1951, which allows candidates to contest from two constituencies at a time, as invalid and unconstitutional
Effect of contesting from multiple constituencies
The consequence is that a by-election would be required from one constituency, involving avoidable labour and expenditure
- It suggested that a candidate should deposit Rs. 5 lakh for contesting in two constituencies in an Assembly election or Rs. 10 lakh in a general election
- This would be used for the conduct of a by-election in the eventuality that he or she had to relinquish seat
The court posted the case for hearing in July
What has happened?
The Assembly on Wednesday unanimously passed a Bill regularising the controversial admission of 180 students to the Karuna and Kannur self-financing private medical colleges in 2016-17.
To save the future of the students
Kerala Professional Colleges (Regularisation of Admission in Medical Colleges) Bill, 2018 was a one-off bipartisan law to save the future of the NEET-qualified students who found their prospects imperilled after the Supreme Court upheld the State Admission Supervisory Committee decision to annul their admissions after it found that the colleges had conducted the process in an opaque and illegal manner.
- The flawed process had occurred when the admission to professional colleges was in transition from the State entrance list to NEET.
- The colleges ignored the orders of the regulatory committee and admitted students.
- The colleges had refused to cooperate with the government in the admission process or concede 50% of their seats to State merit and violated the law that prohibited capitation fee and exploitative tuition charges
- The students realised that the colleges had cheated them when the Supreme Court threw out the management’s prayer to regularise the admissions they had illegally conducted.
The legislation proposed a fine of Rs. 3 lakh for every student admitted by the colleges.
What has happened?
The Supreme Court on Wednesday declared invalid a Karnataka government condition restricting postgraduate admissions for medical and dental government quota seats to students with minimum 10 years domicile in the State.
Modify info bulletin
- SC directed Karnataka to amend and modify the information bulletin jointly issued by the State Directorate of Medical Education and Karnataka Examinations Authority on March 10.
- The court ordered the State to re-publish the calendar of events in terms of the judgment and complete the entire process within the timeline stipulated by the regulatory authorities.
Plea by 44 doctors
- The judgment was based on a petition filed by 44 doctors, who did their MBBS/BDS courses from Karnataka and have cleared the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for Post Graduation (NEET-PG) 2018 with high merit and are aspiring for admission to PG courses in the State.
- The court said the domicile condition of 10 years bars even students who completed their MBBS and BDS from colleges in Karnataka to compete for government quota seats.
Making a paradigm shift in South Asia’s regional integration strategy
Complicated current situation: South Asian nations caught in a tug of war among themselves
- India-Pakistan rivalry, further complicated by China-Pakistan proximity and India-China hostility
- A new dimension has been added with souring of Pakistan-Bangladesh relations and the India-China tug of war over Bangladesh
If the big three (IPB- India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) can have a strategic partnership that also factors in China, the remaining five can effortlessly fit into positive regionalism with a win-win situation for all
- Increasing inward investment into IPB
- If Indian sensitivities can be addressed in CPEC, it can be a multilateral project, integrating India as well as other South Asian and Central Asian regions.
- Synergetic integration of the economic corridors with other BRI projects can accelerate inward investment into IPB
- Facilitating freight movement
- Due to cross-border barriers and lack of transport facilitation among IPB, freight movement is taking place along expensive routes, escalating investment cost
- The deep-pocketed Chinese can invest in land and rail infrastructure to develop both inter-regional connectivity and intra-regional connectivity
- China can lead in transport and transit agreements to facilitate smooth movement of freight and passenger vehicles across IPB resulting in integration with China and also South Asia.
- Energy sector cooperation
With greater electricity generation and utilisation of domestic energy endowments, combined efforts of BCIM (Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation), CPEC and the proposed China-Nepal-India (CNI) Economic Corridor under BRI, can capitalise on regional energy potential.
- Huge Potential for water sharing in future
- The three largest trans-boundary river basins, Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra, are all within CIPB
- This represents a huge potential for water-sharing and hydro power projects across the basins, but political mistrust is an impediment
- Water-sharing treaties with China
- China has expressed interest to pursue water- sharing treaties and the other three (IPB) affected can come together in a collaborative framework
- This can boost the livelihoods of millions across the region.
- Potential in internet penetration
- Higher broadband connectivity and Internet access can boost regional e-commerce
- Digital connectivity can act as the gateway to a holistic transformation of the region via the CIPB conduit.
- Promotion of tourism
- Inadequate, expensive and mediocre travelling facilities against the backdrop of pickpockets, burglary, and sexual assaults have resulted in tourists lacking interest in the region.
- Of China’s total outbound tourists, only 1% are to IPB.
- China unable to attract students
- China is unable to attract students from South Asia against the improved facilities provided by the U.S. and U.K
- Only 5% of outbound students of IPB go to China, compared to 22% to the U.S
Strategic collaboration needed
A strategic collaboration that rises to the occasion, looking beyond historical animosity and misgivings, can unlock a new era of regionalism whose benefits far outweigh negatives
Solving the jigsaw puzzle will need political statesmanship which will see friends and foes, living next to each other, knowing where to connect and when to disconnect.
Port mentioned: Ashuganj river port in Bangladesh
Dam: The Zangmu hydroelectricity dam, situated in the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra in tibet
What has happened?
Senior diplomats of India, Japan and the U.S. held the 9th trilateral meeting here on Wednesday, focusing on connectivity, counter-terrorism and other regional and global issues of common concern, a joint press release issued after the meeting, said.
Increase connectivity in Indo-Pacific
The officials reviewed the outcomes of the Trilateral Infrastructure Working Group that met in Washington in February and agreed to continue to collaborate to promote increased connectivity in the Indo-Pacific
The officials explored practical steps to enhance cooperation in the areas of connectivity and infrastructure development, counter-proliferation, counter-terrorism, maritime security, maritime domain awareness and HA-DR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief)
What has happened?
China’s Commerce Ministry on Wednesday listed 106 U.S. products, which will be subjected to a 25% tariff, in retaliation to Washington’s intent to impose fresh tariffs on Chinese products worth $50 billion. The items include soya beans, cars, chemicals and aircraft, triggering fears that the world’s top two economies maybe locking horns in a major and escalating trade war.
US imposed additional duties
The Chinese move was announced soon after the U.S. listed nearly 1,300 Chinese products worth $50 billion for additional duties.
Targeting Beijing’s Made-in-China 2025 plan
- S. tariffs targeted Beijing’s cutting edge Made-in-China 2025 plan
- The blueprint is meant to upgrade China’s overall industry, through Internet-based intelligent manufacturing, covering 10 key advanced sectors.
What is “Made in China 2025”?
“Made in China 2025” is an initiative to comprehensively upgrade Chinese industry
Inspired from Germany’s “Industry 4.0” Plan: The initiative draws direct inspiration from Germany’s “Industry 4.0” plan, which was first discussed in 2011 and later adopted in 2013
Intelligent manufacturing: The heart of the “Industry 4.0” idea is intelligent manufacturing, i.e., applying the tools of information technology to production
Using IoT to increase production: In the German context, this primarily means using the Internet of Things to connect small and medium-sized companies more efficiently in global production and innovation networks so that they could not only more efficiently engage in mass production but just as easily and efficiently customize products.
What has happened?
NASA has inked a deal with Lockheed Martin to develop a supersonic “X-plane” that could break the sound barrier without a sonic boom.
The goal is to enable quieter supersonic flight and create new commercial cargo and passenger markets in faster-than-sound air travel
Test Flight by 2021
The $247.5 million contract allows for the design, building and testing of a plane that would make its first test flight in 2021
Sound level upto 75db only
The experimental plane “will cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 1,513 kmph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom
Flight in mid-2022
As early as mid-2022, NASA plans to fly the X-plane over certain, as yet to be determined, U.S. cities to collect data and gather community responses.
What has happened?
India emerged as the third most vulnerable country in terms of risk of cyber threats, such as malware, spam and ransomware, in 2017, moving up one place over previous year, according to a report by security solutions provider Symantec
Report: Internet Security Threat Report
- Metrics: The global threat ranking is based on eight metrics — malware, spam, phishing, bots, network attacks, web attacks, ransomware and cryptominers.
- India’s ranking: India continues to be second most impacted by spam and bots, third most impacted by network attacks, and fourth most impacted by ransomware.
- Cryptojacking: Cryptojacking is a rising threat to cyber and personal security
The coin mining gold rush resulted in an 8,500% increase in detections of coinminers on endpoint computers during the final quarter of 2017
Impact of Coinmining
- While the immediate impact of coin mining is typically performance related — slowing down devices, overheating batteries and in some cases, rendering devices unusable— there are broader implications, particularly for organisations.
- Corporate networks are at risk of shutdown from coinminers aggressively propagated across their environment
- There may also be financial implications for organisations who get billed for cloud CPU usage by coinminers
What has happened?
In a major achievement, India has overtaken Japan to become the world’s second largest producer of crude steel in February, according to the Steel Users Federation of India (SUFI). At present, China is the largest producer of crude steel in the world, accounting for more than 50% of the production
- India’s crude steel production was up 4.4% and stood at 93.11 million tonnes (MT) for the period April 2017 to February 2018, compared with April 2016 to February 2017.
- This had helped India to overtake Japan and become the second largest producer of crude steel in the world, SUFI said in a statement here.
Overtook US in 2015
India overtook the U.S. in 2015 to become the third largest producer of crude steel.
- Push local demand with initiatives like ‘Make in India’, and implement GST and infrastructure projects, to encourage the domestic market.
- In addition, quick resolution of various big-ticket steel mills under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and the National Company Law Tribunal is expected to further hasten the process of achieving higher capacity utilisation
What has happened?
Last month, Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Mahesh Sharma informed Parliament that his Ministry has collected over Rs. 50,000 crore in a Central compensatory afforestation fund (CAF). This money is to be used though the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act, 2016 or CAF, a purported mechanism to offset forest loss. Before issuing forest clearances to a mine, dam or industry, the Ministry fixes a monetary value for the forest that is to be destroyed and collects this as “compensation”
CAF is flawed
- Because it reduces their displacement, hardship and loss of livelihood and food sources to a monetary value to be paid to the state
- The law, and now its draft rules, spells further capture of Adivasi lands in the name of compensatory afforestation.
- Misuse of CAF funds by bureaucracy
Placing a huge fund at the unilateral disposal of the forest bureaucracy, giving it unchecked powers to undertake plantations on private and common property resources
- No safeguards against forest bureaucracy
The rules provide for mere “consultation” with communities in the planning of compensatory afforestation: a clear step backward from the consent provisions in the FRA and the 2014 Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act
- CAF projects on forest land
An ongoing study of 2,479 compensatory afforestation projects across 10 States by forest rights groups has shown that over 70% were on existing forest land, including dense forests
- Violence against protesting villagers
The study chronicled multiple forms of state violence against villagers protesting against such plantations (including beatings, arrests, criminal cases, food insecurity and forcible takeover of land).
Under implemented FRA
- The Forest Rights Act (FRA) was enacted in 2006 to provide forest-dependent communities with resource rights via individual and community forest land titles
- It also recognised long-standing knowledge systems and community efforts in protection of forest resources by formally establishing the authority of the gram sabha in forest stewardship
A decade on, the FRA remains grossly under-implemented, and its vision of devolving power to rural communities stonewalled.
Resource rights movements by Adivasi and forest-dwelling communities ignored
- Since the CAF Bill was floated, forest rights advocates report that over 2,500 gram sabhas across India have opposed it
- But resource rights movements by Adivasi and forest-dwelling communities are marginal in our public discourse, except during momentous events like the recent Nashik-Mumbai march.
The government’s ongoing policies do not address such demands for justice and dignity
Instead, they prepare the ground for a fresh chapter of the violent denial of rights and ecological damage.