Bihar Assembly Passes Bill to Increase Caste Quota
Syllabus: GS2/Indian Polity
- The Bihar Assembly unanimously passed a Bill to increase reservation for Backward Classes, Extremely Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes from the existing 50% to 65%.
- Together with the 10% Economically Backward Class (EWS) quota, the Bill will push reservation in Bihar to 75%, well past the 50% ceiling set by the Supreme Court.
- Bills providing for the same increase in reservation in educational institutions and government jobs, which were drafted based on the caste survey conducted by the State government recently, too were passed unanimously through voice vote in the Assembly.
Reservation in India
- As per existing instructions, reservation is provided to Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) at the rate of 15%, 7.5% and 27%, respectively, in case of direct recruitment on all India basis by open competition.
- In direct recruitment on all India basis, other than by open competition, the percentage fixed is 16.66% for SCs, 7.5% for STs and 25.84% for OBCs.
- The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act 2019 enables the State (i.e., both the Central and State Governments) to provide reservation to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of the society.
- Whether or not to provide reservation to the EWS or appointment in States is to be decided by the State Government.
- Since the 1992 order, several states have passed laws breaching the 50% ceiling, including Haryana, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.
- Laws made by many of these states have either stayed or are facing legal challenges.
- Article 16: It provides for equality of opportunity for all citizens but as an exception the State can provide for reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class that is not adequately represented in the state services.
- Article 16 (4A): Provides that the State can make any provision for reservation in matters of promotion in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes if they are not adequately represented in the services under the State.
- Article 335: It recognises that special measures need to be adopted for considering the claims of SCs and STs to services and posts, in order to bring them at par.
- 103 Amendment of the Constitution of India: Introduced 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of society by amending Article 15 and Article 16 of the Constitution.
Arguments in Favour
- Caste-based reservations address the roots of social injustice — and shouldn’t be replaced by economic status-based reservations.
- The Constitution mandates realisation of substantive equality in the engagement of the fundamental rights with the directive principles.
- It is a stereotypical assumption that the promotions drawn from the SCs and STs are not efficient or that efficiency is reduced by appointing them.
- The main reason for giving reservations and even promotions is that there are very few SC/ST candidates in the higher echelons of government.
- Reservations discourage merit and genuine talent by providing an unfair advantage to reserved candidates.
- Many deem poverty to be eligible for reservations in education and employment over caste-based marginalization.
- Reservations should only exist to level the playing field initially; they should be discontinued for higher positions/promotions.
- Economically well-off members of marginalized communities should not avail benefits of reservation.
- Low-cutoffs and eligibility criteria for reserved candidates brings down the overall caliber of an institution or organization.
- Continued reservation in education and public service were only a temporary measure.
- The Supreme Court has established a provision that states must collect quantifiable data on the representation of SCs and STs in a particular cadre of service and form a judgement regarding the inadequacy of representation based on that data.
- Positive discrimination as represented can lead to important advances in societies along with deep-seated social inequalities, but such systems must be periodically examined and redesigned.
- The most obvious reform would be to reduce the number of relatively wealthy beneficiaries.
Ethics Panel Recommends Disqualification of Moitra
Syllabus: GS2/ Indian Polity
- The Lok Sabha Ethics Committee adopted a report recommending the expulsion of Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra from the Lower House over a “cash-for-query” allegation.
More About the News
- Ms. Moitra can be expelled only if the House votes in favor of the panel’s recommendation. This is the first time, since the Ethics Committee came into existence in the year 2000, that the panel has recommended expulsion of a Parliamentarian.
- The Privileges Committee has taken similar steps, including recommending expulsion of 10 MPs, in the 2005 cash-for-query scam.
|Cash for query
– It refers to a form of corruption or unethical practice in which a person, typically a politician or government official, is alleged to have received cash or financial benefits in exchange for raising specific questions or issues during legislative sessions or parliamentary proceedings.
Constitutional Provisions for Disqualification
- Article 102: Disqualification provisions are outlined in Article 102 of the Constitution, specifying conditions barring individuals from contesting elections or being a Member of Parliament.
- Disqualification Conditions: A person is disqualified if holding an office of profit under the Union or state government (except exempt offices), declared of unsound mind by a court, an undischarged insolvent, not a citizen of India, or disqualified under Parliament-made laws.
- Parliament’s Legislative Power: Article 102 grants Parliament authority to enact laws defining disqualification conditions. Similar provisions apply to members of state legislatures.
Representation of the People Act, 1951
- Imprisonment-Related Disqualification: The Act stipulates disqualification if convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more, lasting the period of imprisonment and an additional six years.
- Exception for Sitting Members: Sitting members have a three-month appeal window post-conviction, and disqualification is deferred until the appeal’s resolution.
Disqualification on Ground of Defection
- Constitutional Defection Clause:The Constitution mandates disqualification for defection under the Tenth Schedule.
- Defection Criteria: Disqualification occurs if a member voluntarily abandons party membership, votes against party directives, an independently elected member joins a party, or a nominated member joins a party after six months.
- Presiding Officer’s Role:
- Decision Authority: Disqualification decisions under the Tenth Schedule are made by the Chairman (Rajya Sabha) and Speaker (Lok Sabha), subject to judicial review since a 1992 Supreme Court ruling.
About Ethics Committee
- Appointment and Composition : The Ethics Committee consists of members appointed by the Speaker, serving a term of one year. It comprise of the 15 members,
- Function:The committee is tasked with the responsibility of scrutinizing complaints concerning the unethical conduct of Lok Sabha members.It is entrusted with the authority to make appropriate recommendations based on its examination.
- Procedure of Complaint:
- Complaint Submission: Any individual can file a complaint against a Member via another Lok Sabha MP, providing evidence and a non-false affidavit. Members can file complaints without an affidavit.
- Speaker Referral:The Speaker can forward complaints against MPs to the Committee.
- Prima Facie Inquiry:The Committee assesses complaints, avoiding those based solely on media reports or subjudice matters, conducting a preliminary inquiry before examination.
- Recommendation and Reporting:After evaluation, the Committee submits recommendations to the Speaker, who seeks House approval for consideration. A provision allows a half-hour discussion on the report.
Nagaland Passes Bill Reserving 33% of Seats for Women in ULBs
Syllabus: GS2/Indian Polity
- In a special session, the Nagaland Assembly unanimously passed a Bill that retained 33 percent reservation for women in urban local bodies.
- The Nagaland Municipal Bill 2023 has done away with women’s reservation for the post of chairperson in municipal bodies.
- A significant change in the new Bill is doing away with provisions for taxes on immovable property.
Urban Local Bodies (ULBs)
- The 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment Acts established local self-governance in rural and urban India respectively.
- The two amendments were added to the Constitution’s Part IX, titled “The Panchayats” and Part IXA titled “The Municipalities” respectively.
- Following the two amendments, panchayats and municipalities were termed as institutions of self-government.
- ULBs are small local bodies that administers or governs a city or a town of specified population.
- ULBs are vested with a long list of functions by the state governments.
- These functions broadly relate to public health, welfare, regulatory functions, public safety, public infrastructure works, and development activities.
- The ULBs mainly receive funds from the Government of India (GOI) and the State Government in the form of Grants.
- A five-year-tenure was prescribed for the body, and elections to the successor body had to finish before the previous body’s term expired.
- In case of the body’s dissolution, an election had to be conducted within 6 months compulsorily.
- There would also be a State Election Commission in each state for superintendence, direction, and control of the electoral rolls for these elections.
Reservation for Women in Panchayati Raj Institutions
- The Constitution 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts, mandated the reservation of one-third of seats for women in Panchayati Raj institutions and offices of the chairperson at all levels of Panchayati Raj institutions, and in urban local bodies respectively.
- Out of the total 1/3rd seats reserved for women, 33% had to be reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- One-third of the seats of office-bearers and chairpersons at all levels had to be reserved for women as well.
Need for Quick Trial Against MPs and MLAs
Syllabus: GS2/ Parliament & State Legislatures, Government Policies & Interventions, Important Aspects of Governance, RPA
- The Supreme Court recently asked High Courts to set up special benches for quick trials against MPs and MLAs.
More about the news
- Pending cases against MPs & MLAs:
- The SC noted that “as many as 5,175 subject cases (were) pending” against MPs and MLAs “as of November 2022”.
- Supreme Court’s directives for quick trials:
- Special benches: The Supreme Court has asked High Courts to set up special benches to monitor trials in over 5,000 such cases for their speedy disposal.
- Prioritising cases: A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said criminal cases:
- “Punishable with death or life imprisonment” should be given priority,
- Followed by “cases punishable with imprisonment for five years or more, and then other cases”.
- Condition for adjournment: The bench has also said that the trial should not be adjourned, except for rare and compelling reasons.
- Registration & hearing of case: In its directions, the SC asked the HC Chief Justices to register a suo motu case with the title, “In Re designated courts for MPs, MLAs”,
- The case may be heard by the Chief Justice, or a bench assigned by him.
- Ensuring infrastructure facility: The apex court has asked the principal district and sessions judge to ensure sufficient infrastructure facility for the designated court and enable it to adopt the necessary technology for effective and efficient functioning.
- Significance of the move:
- Apex court has noted that criminal cases pending against members of Parliament and State Legislatures “have a direct bearing on our political democracy”.
- Confidence and trust of the constituency in their political representative, be it an MP or MLA, is necessary for an interactive, efficient and effective functioning of a parliamentary democracy.
- However, such confidence is difficult to expect when figures, as indicated in the above referred table, loom large in our polity.
Criminalization of Politics
- Meaning: It means the participation of criminals in politics. This means that persons with criminal backgrounds contest in the election and get selected as a member of parliament or state legislature
- Major Reasons:
- Criminalization of political parties is a result of the connection between criminals and politicians and vote-bank politics
- Lack of enforcement of laws and judgments
- lack of ethics, and values, and loopholes in the function of the election commission.
- It is also linked to political control of state machinery and corruption
- The political system is unwilling to change the law or the system.
Issues of Criminalization of Politics
- Elected members with criminal records:
- Nearly 40 percent of members of the current Parliament have criminal cases pending against them.
- Most of them do not feel vulnerable or threatened as they are aware that it will take years for trials to conclude.
- Question of safety & security:
- The main purpose of governance is to provide safety and security to citizens who elect their representatives for this role.
- But if the elected members themselves have criminal records, would they be interested in a criminal justice system that is prompt and efficient?
- Low conviction rate:
- As per the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2021 report, only 10,416 cases of murder were disposed of during the year with just a 42.4 per cent conviction rate.
- The Law minister has admitted to more than 4.7 crore cases pending in various courts.
- Situation in police stations:
- Politicians play a very powerful role at police stations, compromising both the integrity and impartiality of field staff.
- In due course, ordinary criminals graduate to be dreaded ones and form gangs extorting money, grabbing land, threatening witnesses in criminal cases, etc.
Suggestions & way ahead
- Rightful demands:
- In this bleak scenario, our reaction as citizens should be to demand more courts, judges and judicial infrastructure and not to encourage “encounters”, which we seem to be applauding.
- Stopping the electability of criminals:
- Checking the nexus between crime, money, and muscle power will be among the first few steps required to be taken.
- The growing dependence of political parties on criminals for muscle power and “electability” must be stopped.
- It is high time all political parties came together and developed a consensus on keeping criminals — some with serious charges including kidnapping, rape, murder, grave corruption, and crimes against women — out of the system.
- Vigilant voters:
- Voters also need to be vigilant about the misuse of money, gifts, and other inducements during election.
- Efficient Use of technology:
- The use of technology as often stated by the current Chief Justice of India, is a potent weapon to ensure speedy trials.
- Citizens need to build up public opinion for the introduction of online court hearings at all levels.
- Courts shall curtail frequent adjournments and reduce the trial duration. Court production of jail inmates can also be online and relieve police from escort duties.
- For minor ailments, telemedicine facilities can be used for persons in custody.
- This will result in more police persons being available on the ground.
- Regular training of Police force:
- Police officers need to be regularly trained about the Constitution and human rights so that they do not resort to their guns.
- It is unfortunate that after their basic police training, very few officers undergo in-service courses either in law or investigation.
- Online training:
- Of late, online training is becoming popular in many state police organisations.
- As per the Bureau of Police Research and Development, vacancies in police all over the country range at around 20 percent. Police station officers are thus reluctant to relieve their field staff for training in police academies.
- Online training modules can bridge the gap.
- Police officers need to be regularly trained about the Constitution and human rights so that they do not resort to their guns.
Jurisdiction and Limits of CBI
Syllabus :GS 3/Various Security agencies and their mandate
- The Centre claimed in the Supreme Court that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is its own boss and the Union government has no control whatsoever over the probe agency in the registration, investigation and prosecution of cases.
About Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI),
- It is the premier investigating police agency in India. It is an elite force playing a major role in preservation of values in public life and in ensuring the health of the national economy.
- It is also the nodal police agency in India, which coordinates investigations on behalf of Interpol Member countries.
- CBI, functioning under Dept. of Personnel, Ministry of Personnel, Pension & Public Grievances, Government of India.
- Lokpal have power of superintendence and direction over any central investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the Lokpal.
- History : CBI traces its origin to the Special Police Establishment (SPE) which was set up in 1941 by the Government of India.
- The functions of the SPE then were to investigate cases of bribery and corruption in transactions with the War & Supply Deptt. Of India during World War II.
- The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act was brought into force in 1946.
- The DSPE acquired its popular current name, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), through a Home Ministry resolution dated 1.4.1963.
Power and Mandate
- CBI derives power to investigate from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 Section 2 of the Act vests DSPE with jurisdiction to investigate offences in the Union Territories only.
- However, the jurisdiction can be extended by the Central Government to other areas including Railway areas and States under Section 5(1) of the Act, provided the State Government accords consent under Section 6 of the Act.
- The executive officers of CBI of the rank of Sub Inspector and above, exercise all powers of a station office in-charge of the police station for the concerned area for the purpose of investigation.
- As per Section 3 of the Act, Special Police Establishment is authorised to investigate only those cases, which are notified by the Central Government from time to time.
- As the CBI, over the years, established a reputation for impartiality and competence, demands were made on it to take up investigation of more cases of conventional crime such as murder, kidnapping, terrorist crime, etc.
- Initially the offences that were notified by the Central Government related only to corruption by Central Govt. servants.
- In due course, with the setting up of a large number of public sector undertakings, the employees of these undertakings were also brought under CBI purview.
- Similarly, with the nationalisation of the banks in 1969, the Public Sector Banks and their employees also came within the ambit of the CBI.
- Apart from this, even the Supreme court and the various High Courts of the country also started entrusting such cases for investigation to the CBI on petitions filed by aggrieved parties.
- CBI has also the experience of handling high profile conventional crimes, economic offences, banking frauds and crimes with international linkages.
- The CBI is designated as the National Central Bureau of India for ICPO-INTERPOL.
- The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), as part of its ‘Chakra-II’ operation, has achieved a major breakthrough in two more cases involving an international online investment fraud worth hundreds of crores targeting Indians; and a cyber-enabled impersonation racket in which Singaporean citizens were cheated.
Issues and Criticism
- The agency is facing such a crisis of credibility.
- Its actions and inactions had raised questions regarding its credibility, in some cases.
- There are instances of corrupt officers in the CBI who become pliable in the hands of the government.
- The Supreme Court [in 2013] called it a “caged parrot”.
- The details of cases registered with the CBI, the progress made in their investigation and the final outcome are not available in public domain.
- Some States alleged that the CBI was probing several cases and registering FIRs in the State without taking prior consent .
Conclusion and Way Forward
- There is a need to enact a new law and define the status, functions and powers of the CBI and also lay down safeguards to ensure objectivity and impartiality in its functioning.
- In age of transparency, every public authority should strive to proactively disclose the data available with it or held by it in public domain to the extent possible
- providing access to information will not only empower the citizens but will also make the functioning of CBI more accountable, responsible, efficient and transparent.
- There should be a harmonious relationship between the State and Central agencies and collaboration was the key, given that the goal of all those organisations was to secure justice.
Agartala-Akhaura Rail Link
- PM Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina virtually inaugurated the Agartala-Akhaura rail link connecting Northeast India with Bangladesh.
- Project Description:
- The Agartala-Akhaura railway project of 12.24 kilometers connects Tripura (Agartala) with Bangladesh (Akhaura).
- Of this, 5.46 kilometers are on the Indian side in Tripura, and 6.78 kilometers are in Akhaura upa-zilla in the Brahmanbaria district of Bangladesh.
- The train route starts from Agartala, proceeds to Nischintapur (Indian-Bangladesh border) for immigration checks, and the first station in Bangladesh is Gangasagar.
- The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) had declared Nischintapur as a Land Customs Station (LCS).
- India is funding the entire project, with Rs 862.58 crore allocated for the Indian side by the Ministry for Development of North East Region (DoNER) and Rs 392.52 crore for the Bangladesh side by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
- Significance of Rail-link
- Connectivity: The project holds practical significance for land-locked Tripura as it enhances connectivity.
- Tourism: Tripura becomes a gateway for tourism and transport between India and Bangladesh.
- Trade: It would help the growth of small-scale industries in the border area, help local producers with quicker import and export of items.
- Travel Time: This would reduce the travel time between Agartala and Kolkata from about 31 hours at present to 10 hours, effectively reducing the distance between Agartala and Kolkata from 1600 km to 500 km.
- Cultural Linkages: Restarting old rail links and enhancing people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.
- Act East Policy: The project is in continued adherence to the Central government’s ‘Act East Policy’ and ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’.
- Passenger Trains between India-Bangladesh:
- Bandhan Express: between Kolkata and Khulna(3rd largest city of Bangladesh) started in 2017.
- Maitree Express: between Kolkata and Dhaka started in 2008.
- Mitali Express: between Siliguri and Dhaka started in 2022.
Gwalior: the ‘City of Music’
Syllabus: GS1/Art and Culture
- Gwalior city of Madhya Pradesh was recently added to UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network (UCCN) for its “strong commitment to harnessing culture and creativity”.
Gwalior Gharana’s Historical Significance
- Gwalior Gharana is the oldest and one of the most influential musical gharanas in the history of Hindustani classical music.
- Raja Man Singh Tomar, during the 15th century, played a crucial role in the flourishing of the Gwalior gharana.
- Dhrupad and the Evolution of Khayal: The Gwalior gharana played a significant role in the evolution of Hindustani classical music from dhrupad to khayal singing. Khayal, as we know it today, emerged from the Gwalior gharana while incorporating elements of qawwali.
- Influence of Persian Elements: Gwalior’s musical tradition is characterized by the inclusion of Persian words in musical pieces and the concept of bandish ki thumri, a structured style of thumri or love song.
- Mian Tansen was born in Gwalior and was trained under Swami Haridas. During Akbar’s reign, status of Gwalior was elevated as musical hub.
- Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan of Gwalior, was associated with the Bangash Gharana. He trained many renowned musicians, including his son Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Pt Bhimsen Joshi.
UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network (UCCN)
- Launched in 2004 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
- Promotes Cooperation: Aims to promote collaboration among cities recognizing creativity as crucial for sustainable urban development.
- Seven Creative Fields: Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music.
- Global Network: Cities demonstrating excellence in these fields can join the network to share experiences and best practices.
India-United States Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS X)
Syllabus: GS2/ International Relation
- Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) organised the maiden INDUS-X Investors Meet.
About INDUS X
- India-United States Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS X) was launched at an event in Washington DC, USA on 21 June 2023.
- The INDUS X event was co-organised by Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX), Ministry of Defence, and US Department of Defence (DoD) and hosted by US-India Business Council (USIBC).
- The initiative will expand the strategic technology partnership and defence industrial cooperation between the start-up ecosystems, businesses and academic institutions.
- The collaboration agenda under the Defence Innovation Bridge includes launch of Joint Challenges, Innovation Partnership Program, Academia partnership, Joint Innovation Fund, establishing of Testing & Certification facilities in India etc.
Annual Capacity Building Plan (ACBP)
- Union Minister for Heavy Industries launched the MHI’s ‘Annual Capacity Building Plan (ACBP)’ for 2023-24
- The Annual Capacity Building Plan (ACBP) is a comprehensive document, designed under the guidance of the Capacity Building Commission for a ministry/department.
- It gives details of all the interventions required to develop and enhance the competencies of individual officials within that ministry/department as well as the capacity of the ministry/department as a whole.
- It is aligned with the Vision of New India @2047.
Operation ‘Nanhe Faristey’
- In October 2023, Railway Protection Force reunited over 601 children with their families under Operation ‘Nanhe Faristey’.
- This initiative was introduced on the Indian Railways platform.
- It aims to rescue and safeguard children in need of care and protection who encountered by the railway system.
- Trained personnel rescue the children who have come to railway stations without informing their parents, because of some family issues or in search of a better life.
- Under this program, these children were promptly rescued and transferred to the relevant authorities before being reunited with their families.
Other Initiatives by Railways
|Combatting human trafficking on railways
|Operation Jeevan Raksha
|Saving lives of passengers in vulnerable situations
|Meri Saheli Initiative
|Ensuring the security of women passengers
|Cracking down on black marketing of tickets.
|Combating drug-related crimes on railways
|Rail Madad Portal
|Swift response to security-related passenger complaints
|Operation Yatri Suraksha
|Protecting passengers from offenses through collaboration with GRP/Police
|Ensuring passenger safety by addressing stone pelting on trains
|Providing assistance to elderly, sick, or injured passengers
|Curbing illegal transportation of goods on railways
- The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Euclid mission launched to investigate the mystery of dark matter and dark energy has released its first five science images.
- The newly launched Euclid space telescope is designed to investigate the dark matter and dark energy with contributions from The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
- About 95 per cent of the universe seems to be made of these units.
Dark Matter and Dark Energy
- The content of the Universe is widely thought to consist of three types of substance: normal matter, dark matter and dark energy.
- Roughly 68% of the universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 27%. The rest – everything on Earth ever observed adds up to less than 5% of the universe.
- Dark Matter: Unlike normal matter, dark matter does not interact with the electromagnetic force. This means it does not absorb, reflect or emit light, making it extremely hard to spot.
- Dark matter works like an attractive force — a kind of cosmic cement that holds the universe together. This is because dark matter does interact with gravity.
- Dark Energy: Dark energy is a repulsive force — a sort of anti-gravity — that drives the universe’s ever-accelerating expansion. Dark energy is the far more dominant force than Dark matter.