1. RCEP: India to participate as ‘observer’ (IE)
- Context: India, as an original negotiating participant of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), has the option of joining the agreement without having to wait 18 months as stipulated for new members in the terms of the mega trade pact.
- RCEP has now been signed without India. It has been learnt that negotiators from Japan worked hard to keep the RCEP agreement “open for accession by India” and also said that India may participate in RCEP meetings as an “observer” prior to its accession.
- While India had been involved in RCEP negotiations since 2013, it walked out of the pact last year citing “significant outstanding issues” that were unresolved by the deadline to enter the agreement.
- Key issues for India were related to safeguarding the country against China, another RCEP member.
- Concerns included “inadequate” protection against surges in imports — a major concern for India, as its industry had fears that signing RCEP would allow cheaper products from China to “flood” the market here.
- India had been seeking an auto-trigger mechanism through which it could raise tariffs on products in instances where imports crossed a certain threshold to counter this.
- India had also sought more market access and raised issues over non-tariff barriers by nations like China that would prevent it from growing exports.
- Its demands that 2014 be used as the base year to reduce tariffs on the products traded as part of the pact were also not met — using a base year before then would mean a drastic drop in the import duties on these products for India.
- Other concerns included a “possible circumvention” of rules of origin — the criteria used to determine the national source of a product — which India felt had not been addressed at the time it walked out of the deal in November 2019.
- For India, there were no adequate provisions in the deal to prevent countries from routing, through other countries, products on which it would maintain higher tariffs.
- For India, RCEP hardly makes a difference as it has FTAs with ASEAN, and CEPAs (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements) with Japan and South Korea already.”
- Note: RCEP was comprehensively covered in 14th Nov file.
2. Office of the Economic Adviser (OEA) and WPI Vs CPI (PIB)
- The Office of the Economic Adviser, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade is releasing index numbers of wholesale price in India for the month of October, 2020 (Provisional) and for the month of August, 2020 (Final) in this press release.
- Note: Office of the Economic Adviser (OEA) and WPI Vs CPI were comprehensively covered in 13th Oct file.
B) Science and Technology/Defence/Space
3. What makes SpaceX NASA’s Crew-1 mission launch significant? (IE)
- As part of NASA’s first commercial human spacecraft system in history, a crew of four astronauts is now en route to the International Space Station (ISS), onboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft called Resilience.
- Crew-1 mission is the first of six crewed missions that NASA and SpaceX will operate as part of the Commercial Crew Program, whose objective is to make access to space easier in terms of its cost, so that cargo and crew can be easily transported to and from the ISS, enabling greater scientific research.
- The programme is a way to reduce the cost of going to space for agencies such as NASA and also makes it possible for any individual to buy a ticket on a commercial rocket.
4. Project-75 Vs Project-75 I (TH)
- Context: The fifth Scorpene/ Kalvari class conventional submarine of Project 75, Vagir, being built by the Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) with technology transfer from France was launched into water recently.
- Scorpene submarines are a category of diesel-electric attack submarines meant to stay submerged for extended durations and undertake operations like intelligence gathering also as they participate in special operations during hostilities.
- Under Project-75, six submarines of Scorpene design are being built at Mazagon Dock, Mumbai.
- The first submarine Kalvari was commissioned in December 2017, the second is Khanderi, followed by Karanj, Vela, Vagir, and Vagsheer.
- These submarines can attack with both torpedoes and tube-launched anti-ship missiles, whilst underwater or on the surface.
- In the deployment scenario, they are capable of operating in the entire Indian Ocean Region, in Malacca Straits from the east to the Persian Gulf on the west, and in the south of India up to Mauritius.
- But there are two main issues with Scorpene class submarines.
- The first issue is that they do not have an air-independent propulsion system, it means that they will have to come to the surface for fresh air to charge the batteries.
- The air-independent propulsion system gives the submarine the ability to stay silent and quiet and not give away its position while patrolling near enemy waters.
- India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed its own AIP system, which will eventually be fitted aboard all Kalvari-class submarines.
- The second limitation is that the missile they carry, EXOCET SM39, does not have adequate range, which is about 70km.
- It is not an adequate range to fire a missile, damage a ship, and get away from there. Because a torpedo also goes 50km, so it is better to go further and fire a torpedo than a missile.
- Conventional submarines like Scorpene are deployed closer to enemy harbours.
Project-75 India (Project-75 I)
- Under Project 75I India will purchase 6 next generation diesel submarines with Air Independent Propulsion System (AIP) technology for the Indian Navy by 2022.
- Conventional diesel-electric submarines have to surface every few days to get oxygen to recharge their batteries.
- With AIP systems, they can stay submerged for much longer periods.
- Project 75-I will probably have both:
- vertical launched BrahMos for the sea & land targets and
- tube-launched torpedoes for anti-submarine warfare.
- The procurement was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in January 2019 although it’s been in the works since December 2007.
- All six submarines under the project will be built in India by the selected Indian Strategic Partner in collaboration with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) selected by the government.
- In addition, Indian Navy should have the option to manufacture six more submarines under the project.
- The project is under the Strategic Partnership (SP) model, and is the second project to be processed through this route after the Navy’s tender for utility helicopters.
Strategic Partnership Model in Defence Acquisition
- The policy is to encourage broader participation of the private sector, in addition to DPSUs/OFB, in the manufacture of defence platforms.
- The following four segments have been identified for acquisition under Strategic Partnership (SP) route:
- Fighter Aircraft
- Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) / Main Battle Tanks (MBTs).
- The Strategic Partnership Model (SPM) is a different category of Capital Acquisition in addition to the existing categories as mentioned in Chapter-I of DPP-2016 i.e. ‘Buy (Indian-IDDM)’; ‘Buy (Indian)’; ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’; ‘Buy & Make’ and ‘Buy (Global)’.
5. Cyber Security and India (TH)
- Context: Referring to China as a major ‘challenge’ from a cybersecurity perspective for India, National Cyber Security Coordinator said cyberattacks have gone up multifold in the current environment.
- HDFC Bank launched the ‘Mooh Bandh Rakho’ campaign to create awareness through various mediums, including over 1,000 secure banking workshops and also a rap-song.
- Note: For further details, refer to 6th Nov and 27th April files.
6. Right to Dissent and Freedom of Assembly (TH)
- Context: Twelve individuals, who took part in the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protest at Shaheen Bagh, sought a review of the Supreme Court judgment which declared the demonstration of dissent as “unacceptable” for blocking a public road.
- The court had said the protesters should express their dissent only in designated areas chosen by the administration.
- Right to dissent should not hamper the right of movement of the public.
- Though it had upheld the right to peaceful protest against a law, it unequivocally made it clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied, and that too indefinitely.
- Fundamental rights do not live in isolation. The right of the protester has to be balanced with the right of the commuter.
Freedom of Assembly [Article 19(ii)]
- Every citizen has the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.
- It includes the right to hold public meetings, demonstrations and take out processions.
- This freedom can be exercised only on public land and the assembly must be peaceful and unarmed.
- This provision does not protect violent, disorderly, riotous assemblies, or one that causes breach of public peace or one that involves arms.
- This right does not include the right to strike.
- The State can impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of right of assembly on two grounds, namely, sovereignty and integrity of India and public order including the maintenance of traffic in the area concerned.
- Under Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (1973), a magistrate can restrain an assembly, meeting or procession if there is a risk of obstruction, annoyance or danger to human life, health or safety or a disturbance of the public tranquillity or a riot or any affray.
- Under Section 141 of the Indian Penal Code, as assembly of five or more persons becomes unlawful if the object is:
- (a) to resist the execution of any law or legal process;
- (b) to forcibly occupy the property of some person;
- (c) to commit any mischief or criminal trespass;
- (d) to force some person to do an illegal act; and
- (e) to threaten the government or its officials on exercising lawful powers.
7. Office of Profit (Livemint)
- Context: A parliamentary panel has sought the Centre’s response to a long-pending demand for amending the Constitution to clear ambiguity over definition of ‘office of profit’, which bars lawmakers from taking up any positions that offer remunerations.
- Parliamentarians and legislators can avoid disqualification if they join offices which figure in the exempted category outlined in the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959.
What is the concept of ‘office of profit’?
- It is a position in the government which cannot be held by an MLA or an MP.
- MPs and MLAs, as members of the legislature, hold the government accountable for its work.
- The essence of disqualification under the office of profit law is if legislators holds an ‘office of profit’ under the government, they might be susceptible to government influence, and may not discharge their constitutional mandate fairly.
- The intent is that there should be no conflict between the duties and interests of an elected member.
- Hence, the office of profit law simply seeks to enforce a basic feature of the Constitution- the principle of separation of power between the legislature and the executive.
- In India, the office of profit disqualifying the holder was imported from Britain and made its appearance for the first time in the Act of 1909 which embodied the Morley- Minto Reforms
According to the definition, what constitutes an ‘office of profit’?
- The law does not clearly define what constitutes an office of profit but the definition has evolved over the years with interpretations made in various court judgments.
- An office of profit has been interpreted to be a position that brings to the office-holder some financial gain, or advantage, or benefit.
- The amount of such profit is immaterial.
- In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that the test for determining whether a person holds an office of profit is the test of appointment.
What does the Constitution say about holding an ‘office of profit’? Can exemptions be granted under the law?
- The expression “office of profit” has not been defined in the Constitution or in the Representation of People Act 1951.
- Its ambit has to be inferred only from the pronouncement of the courts and other competent authorities like the Election Commission and the president.
- Under the provisions of Article 102 (1) and Article 191 (1) of the Constitution, an MP or an MLA (or an MLC) is barred from holding any office of profit under the central or state government.
- Provisions of Articles 102 and 191 of the Indian Constitution also protect a legislator occupying a government position if the office in question has been made immune to disqualification by law.
- In the recent past, several state legislatures have enacted laws exempting certain offices from the purview of office of profit.
- Parliament has also enacted the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959, which has been amended several times to expand the exempted list.
- There is no bar on how many offices can be exempted from the purview of the law.
What do parliamentary secretaries do?
- A parliamentary secretary is a Member of Parliament who assists a Minister in their duties.
- Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers usually appoint parliamentary secretaries from their own parties.
- Since the position may confer the rank of a junior minister on the legislator, the appointment of MLAs as parliamentary secretaries was an attempt by state governments to bypass the constitutional ceiling on the number of ministers.
- The Constitution specifies that the number of ministers including the Prime Minister/Chief Minister has to be within 15% of the total number of members of the House of the People/Legislative Assembly of that State (10% in the case of Delhi, which is a union territory with legislature) (91st Amendment).
8. Sessions of Parliament (TH)
- 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.
- 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.
- So far, the CCPA has not met and the government is mulling over combining the Budget session of Parliament, which usually begins on February 1, and the winter session.
- The Constitution mandates 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.
- The monsoon session that was called on September was cut short by eight days. The previous Budget session of Parliament too ended abruptly for a similar reason.
Sessions of Parliament
- The President from time to time summons each House of Parliament to meet. But, the maximum gap between two sessions of Parliament cannot be more than six months.
- In other words, the Parliament should meet at least twice a year.
- There are usually three sessions in a year, viz,
- 1. the Budget Session (February to May);
- 2. the Monsoon Session (July to September); and
- 3. the Winter Session (November to December).
- A ‘session’ of Parliament is the period spanning between the first sitting of a House and its prorogation (or dissolution in the case of the Lok Sabha).
- The period spanning between the prorogation of a House and its reassembly in a new session is called ‘recess’.
- A session of Parliament consists of many meetings.
- Each meeting of a day consists of two sittings, that is, a morning sitting from 11 am to 1 pm and post-lunch sitting from 2 pm to 6 pm.
- A sitting of Parliament can be terminated by adjournment or adjournment sine die or prorogation or dissolution (in the case of the Lok Sabha).
- An adjournment suspends the work in a sitting for a specified time, which may be hours, days or weeks.
Adjournment Sine Die
- Adjournment sine die means terminating a sitting of Parliament for an indefinite period. In other words, when the House is adjourned without naming a day for reassembly, it is called adjournment sine
- The power of adjournment as well as adjournment sine die lies with the presiding officer of the House. He can also 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.
- The presiding officer (Speaker or Chairman) declares the House adjourned sine die, when the business of a session is completed.
- Within the next few days, the President issues a notification for prorogation of the session.
- However, the President can also prorogue the House while in session.
- The specific differences between adjournment and prorogation are summarised in Table 22.1.
- Rajya Sabha, being a permanent House, is not subject to dissolution. Only the Lok Sabha is subject to dissolution.
- Unlike a prorogation, a dissolution ends the very life of the existing House, and a new House is constituted after general elections are held.
- The dissolution of the Lok Sabha may take place in either of two ways:
- 1. Automatic dissolution, that is, on the expiry of its tenure of five years or the terms as extended during a national emergency; or
- 2. Whenever the President decides to dissolve the House, which he is authorised to do. Once the Lok Sabha is dissolved before the completion of its normal tenure, the dissolution is irrevocable.
- When the Lok Sabha is dissolved, all business including bills, motions, resolutions, notices, petitions and so on pending before it or its committees lapse. They (to be pursued further) must be reintroduced in the newly-constituted Lok Sabha.
- However, some pending bills and all pending assurances that are to be examined by the Committee on Government Assurances do not lapse on the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
- The position with respect to lapsing of bills is as follows:
- 1. A bill pending in the Lok Sabha lapses (whether originating in the Lok Sabha or transmitted to it by the Rajya Sabha).
- 2. A bill passed by the Lok Sabha but pending in the Rajya Sabha lapses.
- 3. A bill not passed by the two Houses due to disagreement and if the president has notified the holding of a joint sitting before the dissolution of Lok Sabha, does not lapse.
- 4. A bill pending in the Rajya Sabha but not passed by the Lok Sabha does not lapse.
- 5. A bill passed by both Houses but pending assent of the President does not lapse.
- 6. A bill passed by both Houses but returned by the President for reconsideration of Houses does not lapse.
- Quorum is the minimum number of members required to be present in the House before it can transact any business.
- It is one tenth of the total number of members in each House including the presiding officer.
- It means that there must be at least 55 members present in the Lok Sabha and 25 members present in the Rajya Sabha, if any business is to be conducted.
- If there is no quorum during a meeting of the House, it is the duty of the presiding officer either to adjourn the House or to suspend the meeting until there is a quorum.
- It refers to the last session of the existing Lok Sabha, after a new Lok Sabha has been elected.
- Those members of the existing Lok Sabha who could not get re-elected to the new Lok Sabha are called lame-ducks.
9. Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) and Asset Monetization (PIB)
- Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM), Ministry of Finance, has signed an agreement with World Bank.
- Under the agreement, World Bank is to provide advisory services to DIPAM for asset monetization.
- DIPAM is mandated with facilitating monetization of non-core assets of government CPSEs under strategic disinvestment or closure and enemy property of value of INR 100 crores and above.
As per the present Allocation of Business rules, the mandate of DIPAM is as follows:
- All matters relating to management of Central Government investments in equity including disinvestment of equity in Central Public Sector Undertakings.
- All matters relating to sale of Central Government equity through offer for sale or private placement or any other mode in the erstwhile Central Public Sector Undertakings.
- Decisions in matters relating to Central Public Sector Undertakings for purposes of Government investment in equity like capital restructuring, bonus, dividends, disinvestment of government equity and other related issues.
- Advise the Government in matters of financial restructuring of the Central Public Sector Enterprises and for attracting investment in the said Enterprises through capital market.
10. International Year of Health and Care Workers (YHCW)
- Member States at the resumed virtual, 73rdWorld Health Assembly, recognizing the dedication and sacrifice of the millions of health and care workers at the forefront of the Covid-19 pandemic, unanimously designated 2021 as the International Year of Health and Care Workers (YHCW).