IASCLUB Daily Current Affairs : 19 August 2019

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Madhya Pradesh wants Legislative Council

Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity

Context:

The government in Madhya Pradesh has moved to create a Legislative Council for the state, in keeping with the promise in its manifesto ahead of the 2018 Assembly elections.

The second House

  • India has a bicameral system of legislature at the Union level. Just as Parliament has two Houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, individual states too, can choose to have a Legislative Council in addition to the Legislative Assembly. This option is available under Article 171 of the Constitution. As in the Rajya Sabha, members of a state Legislative Council too, are not directly elected by voters.

Origins and logic

  • When the founding fathers of the Republic were debating the Constitution of free India, opinion in the Constituent Assembly was divided on the idea of having a second House.
  • It was argued that a second House would help check hasty actions by the directly elected House. Also, non-elected individuals in the Upper House would be able to contribute to the legislative process.
  • Opponents of the idea argued that political parties would be able to use the Legislative Council in the states to delay legislation, and as a sop or sinecure for leaders who have failed to win an election.

Creation of Legislative Councils

  • Under Article 169, a Legislative Council can be formed “if the Legislative Assembly of the State passes a resolution to that effect by a majority of the total membership of the Assembly and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the Assembly present and voting”. Parliament can then pass a law to this effect.

Members of Legislative Councils

  • Under Article 171 of the Constitution, the Legislative Council of a state shall not have more than one-third of the total number of MLAs of that state, and not less than 40 members.
  • Jammu & Kashmir, which will soon cease to exist as a state, was the exception to this provision: as per Section 50 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, the Assembly had 87 members, and the Legislative Council 36.
  • As with Rajya Sabha MPs, the tenure of a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) in a state is six years, with one-third of the members of the House retiring every two years.
  • A third of the MLCs are elected by the state’s MLAs, another third by a special electorate comprising sitting members of local governments such as municipalities and district boards. A twelfth is elected by an electorate of teachers, and another twelfth by registered graduates.
  • The remaining members of the Council are appointed by the Governor for distinguished service in various fields.

States with Councils

  • If J&K, which has been split into two Union Territories, not be considered, six states currently have Legislative Councils.

They are:

  • Andhra Pradesh (176 MLAs; 58 MLCs)
  • Bihar (243 MLAs; 75 MLCs)
  • Karnataka (225 MLAs; 75 MLCs)
  • Maharashtra (289 MLAs; 78 MLCs)
  • Telangana (119 MLAs; 40 MLCs)
  • Uttar Pradesh (404 MLAs; 100 MLCs)
  • Before Madhya Pradesh, which is planning a 76-member Upper House, Odisha had, in 2018, moved to create a Legislative Council of 49 members (1/3rd of the 147-member Assembly).
  • Several years ago, Tamil Nadu’s DMK government had passed a law to set up a Council, but the subsequent AIADMK government had withdrawn it after coming to power in 2010.
  • The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council was set up in 1958, abolished in 1985, and reconstituted in 2007.
  • Proposals to create Legislative Councils in Rajasthan and Assam are pending in Parliament. The PRS Legislative Research website lists the status of both these Bills as pending.

Vidhan Parishad and Rajya Sabha

  • The legislative power of the Councils are limited. Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack a constitutional mandate to do so. State Assemblies can override the suggestions/amendments made to a legislation by the Council.
  • Unlike Rajya Sabha MPs, MLCs cannot vote in elections for the President and Vice President. The Vice President of India is the Chairman of Rajya Sabha.

Greenland

Topic: GS –II: International relations

Context:

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that United States President Donald Trump had spoken, “with varying degrees of seriousness”, about the possibility of purchasing Greenland.

  • Greenland has dismissed the suggestion, posting on Twitter: “We’re open for business, not for sale”, and politicians in Denmark, of which Greenland is an autonomous part, have reacted with incredulity and derision.

Greenland

  • Greenland is a very large island — the world’s largest, if the continents of Australia and Antarctica are not included — located in the higher northern latitudes, between the Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans.
  • It is physically close to North America, lying across the Baffin Bay to the east of Canada’s northern areas, but culturally and politically aligned with Europe, especially Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. The less than 60,000 individuals who inhabit its vast, icy expanse are predominantly Inuit, who speak both the Greenlandic and Danish languages.
  • Greenland was initially colonised by the Danes and Norwegians, but became Danish in the early 19th century, and was fully integrated with Denmark in 1953. In 1979, Greenland got home rule from the Danish crown, and since 2009, the territory has been largely autonomous barring affairs of defence and monetary policy.

Buying territories

  • There have been several instances in the history of nations, and especially the US, acquiring foreign territory against payment.
  • One famous example is the purchase of Alaska, which the Russian empire transferred to the US in 1867 when Andrew Johnson was President, for $7.2 million. The purchase added about 1.5 million sq km of land to the US. In 1959, the modern state of Alaska was created.
  • Earlier, in 1803, the US bought more than 2 million sq km of land from France in what is known as the Louisiana Purchase. The acquisition of Louisiana happened when Thomas Jefferson was President, and the US paid $ 15 million for the deal.
  • In 1917, the US bought the Danish West Indies, a group of islands in the Caribbean, and called them the US Virgin Islands.

Shopping for Greenland

  • Although the fact that buying Greenland — if it came to that — would require the approval of both Denmark and the people of Greenland, which seems almost impossible at the moment, the US has, in the past cast its eyes on the icy island.
  • In 1867, the same year that the US bought Alaska, the US State Department pointed to the fact that Greenland’s strategic location and abundant natural resources make it ideal for acquisition. However, no formal effort was made to move on the suggestion.
  • In 1946, just after the end of World War II, President Harry S Truman made an offer of $100 million to Denmark for Greenland. Truman had earlier considered exchanging some portions of Alaska for certain parts of Greenland. The proposal did not progress.

BASIC

Topic: GS –II: International relations

Context:

  • The BASIC countries — a grouping of Brazil, South Africa, India and China — held their 28th Ministerial meeting on Climate Change between August 14 and August 16 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  • India was represented by Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar, who underlined the importance of the grouping in “making the (2015) Paris (climate) Agreement accepted by all countries in its true letter and spirit”.

BASIC

  • The BASIC group was formed as the result of an agreement signed by the four countries on November 28, 2009.
  • The signatory nations, all recently industrialised, committed to acting together at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as the Copenhagen Summit, scheduled in Copenhagen, Denmark from December 7-18 of that year. These nations have a broadly common position on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and raising the massive funds that are needed to fight climate change. The BASIC countries constituted one of the parties in the Copenhagen Accord reached with the US-led grouping; the Accord, was, however, not legally binding.
  • The BASIC group wields considerable heft purely because of the size of the economies and populations of the member countries. China, India, and Brazil are the world’s second, fifth, and ninth-largest economies. And as Javadekar said in Sao Paulo this week, “Brazil, South Africa, India and China put together has one-third of the world’s geographical area and nearly 40% of the world’s population, and when we unitedly speak in one voice this shows our determination.”
  • the Environment Ministers of the BASIC nations expressed their concern about climate change and its adverse effects, and reaffirmed their commitment to the successful implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), its Kyoto Protocol and its Paris Agreement, based on the recognition of the needs and special circumstances of developing countries and in accordance with the principles of Equity and Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC), in the light of different national circumstances.
  • The Ministers stated the importance of responsible, comprehensive, urgent and ambitious actions against climate change, including in the urban environment. The BASIC nations will work together ahead of the United Nations Session on Climate Change and the next Conference of Parties (CoP25) in Chile. China will host the next meeting of the BASIC Ministers.
  • BASIC is one of several groups of nations working together to fight climate change and carry out negotiations within the UNFCCC. Other than BASIC, there are the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the group of countries of Central Asia, Caucasus, Albania and Moldova (CACAM), the Cartagena Dialogue, the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America (ALBA in Spanish), etc.
  • There are also the Group of 77 developing countries, the African Group, the Arab States, the Environmental Integrity Group, the Least Developed Countries the Small Island Developing States, etc.
  • CoP25 is scheduled from December 2-13 in the Chilean capital of Santiago.

India, Bhutan are natural partners

Topic: GS –II: International relations

No two countries in the world understand each other so well or share so much as India and Bhutan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, as he emphasised that New Delhi and are such “natural partners” in bringing prosperity to their peoples.

More in news:

  • Addressing students of the prestigious Royal University of Bhutan here, Mr. Modi said it is natural that the people of Bhutan and India experience great attachment to each other.
  • “India is fortunate to be the land where Prince Siddhartha became Gautam Buddha. And from where the light of his spiritual message, the light of Buddhism, spread all over the world. Generations of monks, spiritual leaders, scholars and seekers have burnt that flame bright in Bhutan,” the Prime Minister said in the Buddhist majority country.

India-Bhutan Relations

  • Diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan were established in 1968 with the appointment of a resident representative of India in Thimphu.
  • Before this India’s relations with Bhutan were looked after by India’s Political Officer in Sikkim.
  • The basic framework of India- Bhutan bilateral relations was the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed in 1949 between the two countries, which was revised in February 2007.
  • The India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty not only reflects the contemporary nature of their relationship but also lays the foundation for their future development in the 21st century.

Microplastic, the new pollutant

Topic: GS-III: Environment

Tiny particles of plastic, known as microplastics, have been found in the Arctic region and the Alps, carried by the wind, according to a new study. The study called for an urgent assessment of the risk of inhalation of the microplastics.

Research findings

  • Microplastics, which are defined as shreds of plastic less than 5 mm in length. The researchers found huge amounts of them in the Arctic snow; their study claims to be the first that contains data on contamination of snow by microplastics. The study was published in the journal Science Advances.
  • Several other recent studies have established the presence of microplastics in groundwater in the United States, and in the lakes and rivers of the United Kingdom. A study published in June estimated that the average human ends up consuming at least 50,000 particles of microplastics in food every year.

Where they come from

  • Microplastics are either manufactured — for instance, microbeads that are used in cosmetics and beauty products — or they are formed when larger pieces of plastic break down. The small, shiny particles advertised as “cooling crystals” in certain toothpastes qualify as microplastics if the ingredients of the toothpaste mention “polyethylene”.
  • Even so, manufactured microbeads are not a major contributor to microplastic pollution. One of the main contributors to this pollution, instead, is plastic waste, 90% of which is not recycled. Plastic bottles, bags, fishing nets, and food packaging are some examples of the larger pieces that break down into microplastics, eventually finding their way into the soil, water and the air we breathe.

Action by countries

  • In the recent past, several countries have passed laws to limit the amount of microplastics in the environment. The United States passed a law in 2015 to prohibit the manufacture of rinse-off cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads.

Pune Metro to get aluminium-bodied coaches

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

In what is touted as a game changer for Indian Metro rail projects, the Metro is set to get ultra-modern, state-of-the-art aluminium-bodied coaches.

More in news:

  • Thus far, Metros in the country have used stainless steel-bodied coaches.
  • A consortium formed by Kolkata-based wagon manufacturer Titagarh Wagons with its wholly-owned subsidiary Titagarh Firema SPA recently won the international bid to supply 102 aluminium coaches to the Pune Metro project. The Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (Maha Metro) had issued a tender for “design, manufacture, supply, testing, commissioning of passenger rolling stock (electrical multiple units) and training of personnel”.

Features:

  • This will be the first time that aluminium-bodied coaches, which are said to be lighter in weight, more energy efficient and have better aesthetics, will be manufactured in India.
  • Initially, the trains will consist of three coaches, which will subsequently be converted into six as per requirement. These coaches would be fully air-conditioned with humidity control, provided with digital route and station display and international standard interiors.
  • The coaches will have 100% CCTV camera coverage. [Passengers with disabilities] will be able to travel seamlessly to/from the station entry to the train with specially earmarked places for wheelchairs. Mobile and laptop charging facility will also be provided on board.
  • The coaches are to be ergonomically and aerodynamically designed, with the coach exterior reflecting the history and cultural heritage of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. They will have a maximum speed of 95 kmph and the capacity to accommodate more than 925 passengers.
  • They are energy efficient and will be equipped with a regenerative braking system. They will also be capable of operating in driverless mode.
  • Pune Metro will begin operating with coaches being used by Maha Metro in Nagpur, and will be augmented as and when the new coaches join the fleet.
  • An especially vital section in the project — comprising three lines with a total length of 54.58 km — is the elevated 23.3-km Line 3, which will bridge the city’s bustling Information Technology quarter in Hinjewadi with Shivajinagar.

Editorial section:

Unclear doctrine- The Hindu

An intervention that leads to more questions- The Hindu

Taking on TB- The Hindu

A lose-lose scenario- The Hindu

 

 

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