Table of Contents
THE INDIAN POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. CONCLUSION OF WINTER SESSION 2021
THE CONTEXT: The winter session of Parliament ended the same way it started on November 29,2021 — on an acrimonious note. Both Houses have adjourned sine die a day ahead of schedule.
- According to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, that the productivity of the Lok Sabha was around 82% and that of the Rajya Sabha around 48%.
- During the session, 13 Bills (12 in the Lok Sabha and one in the Rajya Sabha) were introduced, while 11 Bills were passed by both Houses of Parliament.
- Also, the government had referred six Bills to parliamentary committees for closer scrutiny, including the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill that seeks to override personal laws of different religions to increase the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years.
Sessions of Parliament
Summoning of the Parliament is specified in Article 85 of the constitution.
The power to convene a session of Parliament rests with the government. The decision is taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs. The decision of the Committee is formalized by the President, in whose name MPs are summoned to meet for a session.
There are usually three sessions in a year, viz,
- the Budget Session (February to May);
- the Monsoon Session (July to September); and
- the Winter Session (November to December).
Also, every year the session starts with the Presidential address.
- Adjournment refers to postponing the further transaction of the business for a specified time. Adjournment terminates the sitting of the House which meets again at the time appointed for the next sitting.
Adjournment sine die:
Adjournment sine die refers to the termination of a sitting of the House without any definite date being fixed for the next sitting.
- The termination of a session of Rajya Sabha by an order made by the President under article 85(2) (a) of the Constitution is called Prorogation. A prorogation puts an end to a session and not Lok Sabha itself.
- Dissolution may take place either by end of the 5-year term of Lok Sabha or the end of term as extended by emergency or by an order of President as mentioned in article 85 (2).
- Dissolution puts an end to the Lok Sabha and fresh elections must be held.
2. KARNATAKA’S ANTI-CONVERSION LEGISLATION
THE CONTEXT: The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021 introduced in the Karnataka Assembly aims to prohibit conversion by misrepresentation, force, fraud, the allurement of marriage, coercion and undue influence.
THE PROVISIONS OF THE BILL:
- According to the Bill, any person intending to convert will have to inform the district magistrate at least thirty days in advance, following which an inquiry will be conducted.
- After getting converted, the person has to again inform the district magistrate within 30 days and must appear before the district magistrate to confirm his/her identity. Not informing the district magistrate will lead to the conversion being declared null and void.
- The offence of conversion will attract a jail term of three to five years and a fine of ₹25,000 for people found violating the law and a jail term of three to 10 years, and a fine of ₹50,000 for people converting minors, women and persons from the SC and ST communities.
About conversion, the Bill claims that “allurement” includes any offer of any temptation in the form of:
- Any gift, gratification, easy money, or material benefit either in cash or kind;
- Employment, free education in school or college run by any religious body;
- Promise to marry;
- A better lifestyle, divine displeasure or otherwise;
- Portraying practice, rituals and ceremonies or any integral part of a religion in a detrimental way vis-a-vis another religion; or
- Glorifying one religion against another religion.
How has Parliament handled anti-conversion bills?
- In post-Independent India, the first Indian Conversion (Regulation and Registration) Bill was introduced in 1954, which sought to enforce “licensing of missionaries and the registration of conversion with government officials.” This bill was rejected.
- This was followed by the introduction of the Backward Communities (Religious Protection) Bill in 1960, “which aimed at checking conversion of Hindus to ‘non-Indian religions’ which, as per the definition in the Bill, included Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism,” and the Freedom of Religion Bill in 1979, which sought “official curbs on inter-religious conversion.”
- These bills fell through for want of majority approval.
- Research indicates that in the 1980s, the focus of anti-conversion laws was Muslims seeking to convert non- Muslims, while Christianity has received its share of attention since the 1990s.
3. 15 YEARS OF FOREST RIGHTS ACTS
THE CONTEXT: According to the Monthly Progress Report on Forest Rights Acts, published by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), Government of India, only 14.75% of the minimum potential forest areas for forest rights in India has been recognized since the Act came into force.
THE ANALYSIS OF THE FOREST RIGHTS ACT
- A 2015 report by the Rights and Resources Initiative, Vasundhara and Natural Resources Management Consultants pointed out the FRA has the potential to restore the rights of forest dwellers over at least 40 million hectares or 100 million acres of forest land in 170,000 villages, i.e. one-fourth of the villages across the country. Importantly, at least 150 million people, including 90 million tribal people, are estimated to benefit from the recognition of forest rights under the FRA.
- Even within this lower recognition rate, there is uneven implementation of FRA across states. For example, Andhra Pradesh has recognized 23% of 29,64,000 acres of its minimum potential forest claim, while Jharkhand, with 52,36,400 acres of minimum potential forest area, has recognized only 5%.
- A similar phenomenon is at work within states, where some districts have performed better than others. For example, within a high performing state like Odisha, a district like Nabarangapur has a 100% IFR recognition rate, but in Sambalpur, it is at 41.34%
- The MoTA’s monthly FRA progress report reveals that since 2016, the total FRA claims received have declined. Advocates of the Act argue that this is not because of a delay in claim filing, but rather that state administrations have done too little to facilitate the claim process. A perennial challenge in the enforcement of the FRA at the state level, regardless of the political party in power, is the lack of political and administrative support to implement the Act.
IFR = Individual Forest Rights and CFR = Community Forest Rights
- The biggest challenge throughout the country has been a lack of coordination between tribal, forest and revenue departments at the local level. Equally pathetic is the sedentary attitude of the state-level monitoring committee to supervise the activities of the DLC and SDLC.
- Claims are arbitrarily rejected without any written explanation to the claimants. Invariably, the claimed forest area for IFR and CFR is not recognized. Lesser forest area against the claimed area is recognized without giving justification.
- Wherever rights are recognized, little or no attempt is made to enhance the title holders’ livelihood and increase the productivity of the recognized land. Recognition of claims in protected and tiger reserve areas is very low or rejected by misinterpreting the law.
- It is probably no mere coincidence that over the past few years, as several forest rights claims have been pending and rejected, the Union government has diverted more than 20,000 hectares of forest areas for developmental activities across the country.
MYTHS ABOUT FRA
- Degradation of forests: The FRA is hardly the primary factor contributing to a decline in forest cover. According to another report, there is no correlation between FRA implementation and forest cover decline. While isolated examples of encroachment by the local community can surely be uncovered, there are countless studies and a lot of evidence to illustrate how forest-dwellers across the country have sustainably managed their surrounding forest. The campaign against the FRA may be a function of parties that have little to do with forest conservation and more to do with vested interests of tourism and corporate business.
- The disappearance of tigers: The implementation of FRA in tiger reserve areas has not caused the disappearance of tigers. In fact, the number of tigers has gone up after the FRA came into the picture and the number of animals has increased in reserves where the Act has been implemented. For example, after giving forest titles to the Soliga tribal community in the BRT Hills of Karnataka, a 2013 government estimate shows tiger density to be 11.3 tiger/100 sq km, making it second only to Kaziranga.
- It is essential to ensure that the potential of FRA is maximized. Several steps can be taken to achieve the law’s goal. Each state’s intervention strategies need to be different given the distinctive nature of forest history and landscape. To this effect, concerted political and administrative interventions to strengthen the enforcement of the law at the grassroots level would help ensure that forest-dwellers get their statutory rights. The intervention strategies of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh to upscale the implementation of FRA is worth emulating.
- As gram sabhas struggle to file their claims, it will be critically important for the state machinery to create a climate that enables them to exercise rights recognized under the FRA.
- It is essential to build a consistent, uniform and transparent database across states and build a fair understanding of lacunas in implementation over the years.
- Policies that aim to support the post-recognition phase would also help the titleholders improve their livelihood and land productivity.
About Forest Rights Act 2006:
- The symbiotic relationship between forests and forest-dwelling communities found recognition in the National Forest Policy, 1988.
- The policy called for the need to associate tribal people in the protection, regeneration and development of forests.
- The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, was enacted to protect the marginalized socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to the environment with their right to life and livelihood.
Provisions of the 2006 Act
- The Act recognizes that tribal and other traditional forest-dwelling communities would be hard put to provide documentary evidence for their claims.
- Rule 13 of the Act, therefore, stipulates that the gram sabhas should consider more than one evidence in determining forest rights.
- The rule sanctions a wide range of evidence, including “statements by village elders”, “community rights” and “physical attributes such as houses, huts and permanent improvements made to lands such as leveling, bunds and check dams”.
Features of the Act
- The act recognizes and vests the forest rights and occupation in Forest land in forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDST) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD)who have been residing in such forests for generations.
- The act also establishes the responsibilities and authority for sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of the ecological balance of FDST and OTFD.
- It strengthens the conservation regime of the forests while ensuring the livelihood and food security of the FDST and OTFD.
- It seeks to rectify colonial injustice to the FDST and OTFD who are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem.
The act identifies four types of rights:
- It gives FDST and OTFD the right to ownership to land farmed by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares.
- Ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family and no new lands will be granted.
- The rights of the dwellers extend to extracting Minor Forest Produce, grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, etc.
Relief and development rights
- To rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection
Forest management rights
- It includes the right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use.
THE ECON0OMIC DEVELOPMENT
4. MINIMUM SUPPORT PRICE (MSP) FOR COPRA FOR 2022 SEASON
THE CONTEXT: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister has given its approval for the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for copra for the 2022 season.
According to the statement released by the Government,
- The MSP for Fair Average Quality (FAQ) of milling copra has been increased to Rs10,590/- per quintal for the 2022 season from Rs.10,335/- per quintal in 2021 and the MSP for ball copra has been increased to Rs.11,000/- per quintal for 2022 season from Rs.10,600/- per quintal in 2021. This is to ensure a return of 51.85 percent for milling copra and 57.73 percent for ball copra over the all-India weighted average cost of production. The increase in MSP for copra for the 2022 season is in line with the principle of fixing the MSP at a level of at least 1.5 times the all India weighted average cost of production as announced by the Government in the Budget 2018-19.
- It assures a minimum of 50 percent as a margin of profit as one of the important and progressive steps towards making possible doubling of farmers’ incomes by 2022.
- The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited and National Cooperative Consumer Federation of India Limited will continue to act as Central Nodal Agencies to undertake price support operations at the MSP in the coconut growing States.
What is the Minimum Support Price:
- Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a form of market intervention by the Government of India to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices.
- The minimum support prices are announced by the Government of India at the beginning of the sowing season for certain crops on the basis of the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
- MSP is price fixed by the Government of India to protect the producer – farmers – against excessive falls in price during bumper production years. The minimum support prices are a guaranteed price for their produce from the Government
Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP)
- CACP is an expert body that recommends minimum support prices (MSPs) to the Government (CCEA) by taking into account the cost of production, trends in domestic and international prices.
- It is a statutory panel under the Ministry of Agriculture, established in January 1965.
- It makes recommendations for MSPs for 23 Kharif and rabi crops
- However, its suggestions are not binding on the government.
- National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED), established in 1958, is registered under the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act.
- NAFED was set up with the object to promote Cooperative marketing of Agricultural Produce to benefit the farmers.
- The objectives of the NAFED shall be to organize, promote and develop marketing, processing and storage of agricultural, horticultural and forest produce, distribution of agricultural machinery, implements and other inputs, undertake inter-state, import and export trade etc.
5. DEMAND TO EXTEND TOKENIZATION DEADLINE
THE CONTEXT: Digital payment firms and merchant bodies have petitioned the Reserve Bank of India to extend the deadline for implementation of the new credit and debit card data storage norms, or card-on-file tokenization (CoF). The RBI mandate on tokenization kicks in from January 1, 2022.
WHAT IS TOKENISATION?
- Tokenization refers to the replacement of actual credit and debit card details with an alternate code called the “token”, which will be unique for a combination of card, token requestor and device.
- A tokenized card transaction is considered safer as the actual card details are not shared with the merchant during transaction processing. Customers who do not have the tokenization facility will have to key in their name, 16-digit card number, expiry date and CVV each time they order something online.
Challenges with the process
- If implemented in the present state of readiness, the new RBI mandate could cause major disruptions and loss of revenue, especially for merchants.
- According to the Digital payment firms and merchant bodies, “the disruptions of this nature erode trust in digital payments and reverses consumer habits back towards cash-based payments.
- They have voiced their concerns over industry readiness on the RBI directive on card-on-file tokenization and urged the central bank for an extension of the December 31 deadline for implementation of card data storage norms.
- An estimated 5 million customers, who have stored their card details for online transactions on various platforms, could be impacted if the online players and merchants are not able to implement the changes at their backend.
E-commerce platforms, online service providers and small merchants
- could be especially hit. Equated monthly installments and subscription-based transactions that are paid through stored cards will also have to adhere.
- “India has an estimated 98.5 crore cards, which are used for about 1.5 crore daily transactions worth Rs 4000 crore. The value of the Indian digital payments industry in 2020-21, as per RBI’s annual report, was Rs 14,14,85,173 crore. Digital payments have triggered and sustained economic growth, especially through the trying times of the pandemic…While RBI’s intent is to protect consumer interest, the challenge on ground pertains to implementation.
- In September 2021 the RBI prohibited merchants from storing customer card details on their servers with effect from January 1 and mandated adoption of CoF tokenization as an alternative to card storage.
THE ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
6. ADVERSE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
THE CONTEXT: Forest officials from Sirnapalli forest in Telangana spotted a rare Albino flap shell species, researchers later suggested they were traced only twice before in 2020 — once in Odisha and then in West Bengal,
About Indian Flapshell turtle
- It is a freshwater species of turtle found in South Asia.
- The “flap-shelled” name stems from the presence of femoral flaps located on the plastron. These flaps of skin cover the limbs when they retract into the shell. It is unclear what protection the flaps offer against predators.
- It is morphologically an evolutionary link between the softshell and hardshell aquatic turtles.
- Habitat: The Indian flap shell turtle is found in Pakistan, India (common in lakes and rivers), Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh (Indus and Gange’s drainages), and Myanmar (Irrawaddy and Salween Rivers). It has been introduced to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is also found in the desert ponds of Rajasthan, where hundreds are killed every year during the dry summers.
- In 2020 a farmer found a yellow flap shell turtle, believed to be an albino version of the species.
Threat: Exploitation on for-profit and habitat change are threats to their survival.
- Conservation status:
- Appendix- I of CITES
- IUCN – Vulnerable
Add to your Knowledge:
SC: Possession of ‘Indian Flap Shell Turtle’ not an offence under the Wildlife Protection Act
SC said that the Turtle which has been seized is not that which is included in Part II of Schedule I. It stated that the Veterinary Surgeon has identified the Turtle as ‘Indian Flap Shell (Lissemy’s Punctata)’ whereas the Turtle which is included in Part II of Schedule I of the Act, 1972 is “Indian Soft-shelled Turtle (Lissemys punctata punctata).”
THE PRELIM PRACTICE QUESTION
1. Consider the following statements:
- Summoning of parliamentary session is done by the President.
- Prorogation of parliamentary session is done by the Presiding officer of the Houses.
Which of the given statements is/are correct?
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2
FOR 22TH DECEMBER 2021 PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS
- Statement 1 is correct: is published annually by Reporters Without Borders
Statement 1 is correct: In 2021, India was ranked 142nd out of 180 countries, placed in ‘bad category.Spread the Word