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06 March, 2020

10 Min Read

GS-II :
Freedom in the World 2020 report

Syllabus subtopic: Important International Institutions, agencies and fora - their Structure, Mandate.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the key highlights of the report and India’s performance

 

News: Freedom in the World 2020 report, a yearly survey and report by the U.S.-based non-governmental organization ‘Freedom House’ that measures the degree of civil liberties and political rights in every nation and significant related and disputed territories around the world, was recently released.

 

About the report

  • The report derives its methodology from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

 

  • It covers 195 countries, awarding scores based on political rights indicators such as the electoral process, political pluralism and participation and government functioning, as well as civil liberties indicators related to freedom of expression and belief associational and organisational rights, the rule of law and personal autonomy and individual rights.

 

Key highlights of the report

  • The report ranks India at the 83rd position, along with Timor-Leste and Senegal. This is near the bottom of the pile among the countries categorised as “Free”, with only Tunisia receiving a lower score.

 

  • India’s score fell by four points to 71, the worst decline among the world’s 25 largest democracies this year.

 

  • India scored 34 out of 40 points in the political rights category, but only 37 out of 60 in the civil liberties category, for a total score of 71, a drop from last year’s score of 75.

 

  • The report treats “Indian Kashmir” as a separate territory, which saw its total score drop precipitously from 49 to 28 this year, moving it from a status of “Partly Free” to “Not Free”.

 

 

Reasons given in the report for India’s dismal performance

  • The annulment of autonomy and the subsequent shutdown of Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, as well as the crackdown on mass protests have been listed as the main signs of declining freedom in the report.

 

  • The report noted that India has long been seen as a democratic counterweight to China and hence a strategic partner for the United States in the region. However, that view is changing, with India attracting criticism similar to that levied against China.

 

  • The report slammed the internet blackout in Kashmir, terming it the longest shutdown ever imposed by a democracy. It said freedom of expression was under threat in India, with journalists, academics and others facing harassment and intimidation when addressing politically sensitive topics.

Source: The Hindu

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GS-II :
Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO)

Syllabus subtopic: Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the move and its significance; about EPFO

 

News: Salaried employees are set to get 0.15% less in interest on provident fund deposits for 2019-2020, with the Central Board of Trustees of the Employees’ Provident Fund reducing the interest rate from 8.65% to 8.5%.

 

Other measures taken

  • The Board also ratified the restoration of normal pension after 15 years from the date of commutation — a move that will benefit about 6.3 lakh pensioners who had opted for commutation on or before September 25, 2008.

 

  • It also approved a proposal to empanel the Jammu and Kashmir Bank as one of the banks for the collection of EPF dues in J&K.

 

 

About EPFO

The Constitution of India under "Directive Principles of State Policy" provides that the State shall within the limits of its economic capacity make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old-age, sickness & disablement and undeserved want. The EPF & MP Act, 1952 was enacted by the Parliament of India and came into force with effect from 4 March 1952 as part of a series of legislative interventions made in this direction.

 

  • EPFO is one of the World's largest Social Security Organisations in terms of clientele and the volume of financial transactions undertaken. At present it maintains 19.34 crore accounts (Annual Report 2016-17) pertaining to its members.

 

  • The Employees' Provident Fund came into existence with the promulgation of the Employees' Provident Funds Ordinance on the 15th November, 1951. It was replaced by the Employees' Provident Funds Act, 1952The Employees' Provident Funds Bill was introduced in the Parliament as Bill Number 15 of the year 1952 as a Bill to provide for the institution of provident funds for employees in factories and other establishments. The Act is now referred as the Employees' Provident Funds & Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 which extends to the whole of India. The Act and Schemes framed there under are administered by a tri-partite Board known as the Central Board of Trustees, Employees' Provident Fund, consisting of representatives of Government (Both Central and State), Employers, and Employees.

 

  • The Central Board of Trustees administers a contributory provident fund, pension scheme and an insurance scheme for the workforce engaged in the organized sector in India. The Board is assisted by the Employees’ PF Organization (EPFO), consisting of offices at 135 locations across the country. The Organization has a well equipped training set up where officers and employees of the Organization as well as Representatives of the Employers and Employees attend sessions for trainings and seminars. The EPFO is under the administrative control of Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India.
  • The Board operates three schemes - EPF Scheme 1952, Pension Scheme 1995 (EPS) and Insurance Scheme 1976 (EDLI).

Source: The Hindu

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GS-II :
Suspension of MPs

Syllabus subtopic: Parliament and State Legislatures—Structure, Functioning, Conduct of Business, Powers & Privileges and Issues Arising out of these.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the issue of suspension of MPs and the rules and procedure regarding it

 

News: Seven Congress members were suspended on March 5 for unruly behaviour in the Lok Sabha. The motion was passed by a voice vote.

 

What is the reason for suspending an MP?

  • The general principle is that it is the role and duty of the Speaker of Lok Sabha to maintain order so that the House can function smoothly. This is a daunting task even at the best of times

 

  • In order to ensure that proceedings are conducted in the proper manner, the Speaker is empowered to force a Member to withdraw from the House (for the remaining part of the day), or to place him/her under suspension.

 

What are the rules under which the Speaker acts?

  • Rule Number 373 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business says: “The Speaker, if is of the opinion that the conduct of any Member is grossly disorderly, may direct such Member to withdraw immediately from the House, and any Member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall remain absent during the remainder of the day’s sitting.”

 

  • To deal with more recalcitrant Members, the Speaker may take recourse to Rules 374 and 374A. Rule 374 says:

 

“(1) The Speaker may, if deems it necessary, name a Member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business thereof.

 

“(2) If a Member is so named by the Speaker, the Speaker shall, on a motion being made forthwith put the question that the Member (naming such Member) be suspended from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session: Provided that the House may, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.

 

“(3) A member suspended under this rule shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.”

 

And what does rule 374A say?

  • This clause was incorporated in the Rule Book on December 5, 2001. The intention was to skirt around the necessity of moving and adopting a motion for suspension.

 

  • According to Rule 374A:

 

“(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in rules 373 and 374, in the event of grave disorder occasioned by a Member coming into the well of the House or abusing the Rules of the House persistently and wilfully obstructing its business by shouting slogans or otherwise, such Member shall, on being named by the Speaker, stand automatically suspended from the service of the House for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less: Provided that the House may, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.

 

“(2) On the Speaker announcing the suspension under this rule, the Member shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.”

 

What is the procedure for revocation of a Member’s suspension?

While the Speaker is empowered to place a Member under suspension, the authority for revocation of this order is not vested in her. It is for the House, if it so desires, to resolve on a motion to revoke the suspension.

 

What is the procedure in Rajya Sabha?

  • Like the Speaker in Lok Sabha, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is empowered under Rule Number 255 of its Rule Book to “direct any Member whose conduct is in his opinion grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately” from the House.

 

  • “…Any Member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall absent himself during the remainder of the day’s meeting.”

 

  • The Chairman may “name a Member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the Council by persistently and wilfully obstructing” business. In such a situation, the House may adopt a motion suspending the Member from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session.

 

  • The House may, however, by another motion, terminate the suspension.

 

  • Unlike the Speaker, however, the Rajya Sabha Chairman does not have the power to suspend a Member.

 

Is suspending an MP a common practice in Parliament?

  • In November 2019, Speaker suspended two Congress Members. And in January 2019, the Speaker suspended a total 45 Members belonging to the TDP and AIADMK after they continuously disrupted proceedings for days.

 

  • On February 13, 2014, then Speaker suspended 18 MPs from (undivided) Andhra Pradesh following pandemonium in the House. The suspended MPs were either supporting or opposing the creation of the separate state of Telangana.

 

  • Before that, on September 2, 2014, nine Members were suspended for five days.

 

  • On August 23, 2013, 12 Members were suspended for five days. And on April 24, 2012, eight Members were suspended for four days.

 

  • On March 15, 1989, when Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister, as many as 63 Members were suspended from the Lok Sabha for three days.

 

Isn’t the barring of an elected representative of the people an extreme step to take in order to curb unruly behaviour?

  • A balance has to be struck. There can be no question that the enforcement of the supreme authority of the Speaker is essential for smooth conduct of proceedings. However, it must be remembered that her job is to run the House, not to lord over it.

 

  • The solution to unruly behaviour has to be long-term and consistent with democratic values. A previous Speaker had ordered that television cameras be focussed on the demonstrating members, so that people could see for themselves how their representatives were behaving in the House.

 

  • A step in that same direction could be to discontinue the practice of herding people out of the visitors’ gallery when the House witnesses chaos. It has been suggested that it may perhaps be a good idea to let them be — and to also reserve a few blocks in the gallery for schoolchildren, who could see for themselves the conduct of Members.

 

  • What cannot, however, be denied is that Speakers’ actions are often dictated more by expediency and the stand of the party that they belong to, rather than by the Rules and principles.

 

  • So, the ruling party of the day invariably insists on the maintenance of discipline, just as the Opposition insists on its right to protest. And their positions change when their roles flip.

Source: Indian Express

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GS-II : International Relations South Asia
Common Electricity Market for India’s neighbourhood

Syllabus subtopic: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the move and its significance

 

News: The Union government plans to set up a regional grid that will be leveraged to create a common electricity market for nations in India’s neighbourhood, according to the power and new and renewable energy minister.

 

About the move

  • The proposed market, which will include Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, could aid regional peace and improve utilization of generation assets—including the stranded assets in India —and efficient price discovery.

 

  • While India has been procuring hydropower from Bhutan, it is also supplying electricity to Bangladesh and Nepal. The plans now include the option of an overhead electricity link with Sri Lanka. An overhead line is being considered after the earlier proposal to set up an undersea power transmission link to supply power to the island nation turned out to be prohibitively expensive. India has notified cross-border trading regulations.

 

India’s energy diplomacy

  • India’s energy diplomacy initiatives range from cross-border electricity trade to supplying petroleum products and setting up liquefied natural gas terminals.

 

  • Cross-border energy trade is a key part of PM Modi’s South Asia-focused neighbourhood-first policy, with the electricity link attempting to negate the growing influence of strategic rival China in the region.

Source: Livemint

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