Topic 1: Women’s reservation
Why in news: The government brought The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023 to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assemblies.
About the Bill:
- According to the bill, as nearly as maybe, one-third (including the seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election to the House of People shall be reserved for women.
- The Bill proposes a similar provision for Assemblies in the states and Delhi.
- The Bill proposes to introduce new articles — 330A and 332A — in the Constitution.
- These new provisions will introduce the changes for Lok Sabha and Assemblies respectively.
- The Bill has a sunset clause, mandating that the reservation will be for a period of 15 years from the date of commencement of the Act.
- The Bill makes the implementation of women’s reservation contingent upon the delimitation process.
When the Bill can be operationalized:
- Women’s reservation may not effectively be operationalised in Lok Sabha before the general elections of 2029.
- The 42nd Amendment froze the delimitation exercise until the results of the first Census after 2000 was published.
- In 2001, this was further extended for 25 years.
- And now, delimitation would happen after the results of the first Census after 2026 is published.
- Now that the 2021 Census has been delayed, ostensibly because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the earliest that the Census 2021 exercise can now be expected to happen is 2025.
- If the results of the 2021 Census are published after 2026, this could become the basis of delimitation of constituencies.
How will the reserved seats be identified in the first instance, and subsequently?
- The Bill states that one-third of the seats in Parliament and state Assemblies will be reserved for women.
- However, it doesn’t specify how these seats will be identified.
- It will grant the government the power to enact a law for its implementation.
- Hence, it is expected that the determination of seats will be addressed by a separate law that the government will introduce.
How are the seats that are reserved for SCs and STs decided currently?
- The Delimitation Act, 2002 lays down broad principles for reserving seats.
- The Delimitation Commission appointed under the Act is responsible for deciding the number of Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies to be reserved based on the population.
- Constituencies in which seats are reserved for the Scheduled Castes shall be distributed in different parts of the State and located, as far as practicable, in those areas where the proportion of their population to the total is comparatively large.
- Similarly, for the Scheduled Tribes, Constituencies in which seats are reserved for the Scheduled Tribes shall, as far as practicable, be located in areas where the proportion of their population to the total is the largest.
What is delimitation?
- Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in population.
- The main objective of delimitation is to provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
- For instance, in 1971, Assam’s population was 1.46 crore.
- In 2001, it increased to 2.66 crores.
- The population does not grow uniformly across all areas of a state.
- Hence, delimitation of constituencies is periodically carried out to reflect not only an increase in population but changes in its distribution.
Who carries out delimitation?
- Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission, appointed by the Government of India under provisions of the Delimitation Commission Act.
- The Delimitation Commission is appointed by the President of India and works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.
- It is composed of:
- a retired Supreme Court judge,
- the Chief Election Commissioner of India and
- respective State Election Commissioners.
- The Delimitation Commission is to work without any executive influence.
- The Constitution mandates that the Commission’s orders are final and cannot be questioned before any court as it would hold up an election indefinitely.
What is the process?
- Under Article 82, Parliament is to enact a Delimitation Act after every Census.
- Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up the Delimitation Commission.
- The Commission is supposed to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies in a way that the population of all seats, so far as practicable, is the same.
- The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- The Commission also holds public sittings.
- After hearing the public, it considers objections and suggestions, and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
- The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette concerned and comes into force on a date specified by the President.
- In the history of the Indian republic, Delimitation Commissions have been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002.
- There was no delimitation after the 1981, 1991 and 2001 Censuses.
- The 2002 Act did not make any changes in total Lok Sabha seats or their apportionment between various states.
- It also left out a few states including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur from the exercise due to security risks.
- The central government reconstituted the Delimitation Commission for these four states as well as the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir on 6 March 2020.
What constitutional amendments will be needed to operationalise the scheme of women’s reservation?
- For delimitation, Articles 82 and 170(3) of the Constitution would have to be amended.
- Article 82 provides for the readjustment of constituencies (number and boundaries) of both Lok Sabha and state Assemblies after every Census.
- Article 170(3) deals with composition of the Legislative Assemblies.
Reservation for women in Panchayati Raj institutions and Urban Local Bodies
- Article 243D of the Constitution provides for reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and women in Panchayats.
- The legislature of state can make any provision for reservation of seats in any Panchayat or offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayats at any level in favour of the backward classes of citizens.
- As per the provisions of Article 243D, not less than one-third of the total number of seats reserved for SCs and STs shall be reserved for women.
- In at least 18 states, the percentage of women elected representatives in Panchayati Raj institutions was more than 50 per cent:
- Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Kerala, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Manipur, Telangana, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh.
- The highest proportion of women representatives was in Uttarakhand (56.02 per cent) and the lowest was in Uttar Pradesh (33.34 per cent).
Background to the 73rd and 74th amendments
- Balwantrai Mehta Committee:
- Back in 1957, the Balwantrai Mehta Committee recommended that an agency should be set up at the village level, which would represent the village community’s interests, and carry out the government’s development programmes.
- The Committee suggested the early establishment of elected local bodies and the devolution of necessary resources, power, and authority to them.
- Ashok Mehta Committee:
- In 1977, the Asoka Mehta Committee suggested changing the concept of Panchayati Raj to a political institution.
- The Committee observed that Panchayati Raj Institutions had failed to live up to their promise, and suggested measures to strengthen the system.
- The Committee identified an unsympathetic bureaucracy, absence of political will, and lack of clarity over the institution’s role as the reasons for its undermining.
The 73rd and 74th Amendments:
- Constitutional status:
- 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.
- Basic units of democracy:
- The gram sabha became the basic unit of a democratic system in villages.
- In municipalities, the term ward committees was used.
- These bodies consisted of all adult citizens registered as voters, and the panchayat or municipality was made accountable to them.
- Direct elections:
- Direct elections for all three tiers of governance were introduced:
- gram panchayat at village level,
- taluka or block panchayat at the intermediate level, and
- zila panchayat or parishad at district level.
- States with a population of less than 20 lakh were exempted.
- Direct elections for all three tiers of governance were introduced:
- Reservation for SCs/STs:
- 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.
- A five-year-tenure was prescribed for each 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.
- State Election Commission:
- There would also be a State Election Commission in each state for superintendence, direction, and control of the electoral rolls for these elections.
- Under Article 243G, panchayats were tasked with preparing plans for economic development and social justice on subjects in the Eleventh Schedule, including agriculture, land, irrigation, animal husbandry, fisheries, cottage industries, and drinking water.
- The 74th Amendment also provided for the setting up of District Planning Committees to consolidate the plans prepared by panchayats and municipalities.
Topic 2: Simultaneous polls: do States have a say?
Why in news: The Union government set up a committee under the leadership of the former President of India Ram Nath Kovind to look into the feasibility of simultaneous polls to State Assemblies and the Lok Sabha.
- The eight-member High-Level Committee is set to examine the ‘one nation, one election’ idea and make recommendations for holding simultaneous elections in the country.
- The Law Ministry has outlined seven terms of reference for the panel.
- One of them is to examine and recommend if the constitutional amendments required to facilitate simultaneous elections would require ratification by the States.
What are simultaneous polls?
- Currently, elections to the state assemblies and the Lok Sabha are held separately.
- It is held whenever the incumbent government’s five-year term ends or whenever it is dissolved due to various reasons.
- This applies to both the state legislatures and the Lok Sabha.
- The terms of Legislative Assemblies and the Lok Sabha may not synchronise with one another.
- The idea of “One Nation, One Election” envisages a system where elections to all states and the Lok Sabha will have to be held simultaneously.
- This will involve the restructuring of the Indian election cycle in a manner that elections to the states and the centre synchronise.
- This would mean that the voters will cast their vote for electing members of the LS and the state assemblies on a single day, at the same time.
Which Articles deal with the process of amendment?
- Article 368 governs the process of amending the Constitution.
- Constitutional amendments can take place through three different procedures.
- Simple majority:
- The first is through a simple majority of those present and voting in each House of Parliament.
- That is, some provisions in the Constitution can be amended in the same way ordinary legislations are passed.
- It does not require a specific quorum.
- Such provisions are excluded from the purview of Article 368, thereby creating a separate category.
- Some examples include:
- amendments contemplated in Article 4 (changes related to the organisation of States),
- Article 169 (abolition or creation of Legislative Councils in States), and
- para 21(2)13 of Schedule VI (provisions for the administration of Tribal Areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram).
- Special majority:
- For amending provisions not within the first category, Article 368 stipulates that they can be effected by a prescribed ‘special majority,’.
- Here not less than two-thirds of the members are present and voting in each House of Parliament as well as by a majority of the total membership of each House.
- Ratification by state legislatures:
- A third category requires both a ‘special majority’ and ratification by at least one-half of the State legislatures.
- No specific time limit for ratification by the State legislatures has been specified but resolutions ratifying the proposed amendment should be passed before the Bill is presented to the President for his assent.
- Simple majority:
- It will need at least five constitutional amendments:
- Article 83 (2):
- It says the Lok Sabha’s term should not exceed five years but it may be dissolved sooner.
- Article 85 (2) (B):
- A dissolution ends the very life of the existing House and a new House is constituted after general elections.
- Article 172 (1):
- A state assembly, unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for five years
- Article 174 (2) (B) –
- The Governor has the power to dissolve the assembly on the aid and advice of the cabinet.
- The Governor can apply his mind when the advice comes from a Chief Minister whose majority is in doubt.
- Article 356:
- Imposition of President’s Rule in states.
- Article 83 (2):
- For a Constitutional Amendment, two-third members of the House must be present for the vote.
- A consensus of all political parties and state governments is needed.
- After the Constitutional Amendment Bill is passed in parliament, it needs to be ratified by half the states in India through resolutions in their assemblies.
Which amendments require ratification by States?
- The constitutional provisions that require ratification in order to be amended are specifically listed in the proviso to Article 368(2) and pertain to the federal structure of the Constitution.
- They are commonly referred to as ‘entrenched provisions’ and are as follows:
- if there is a change in the provisions regarding elections to the post of the President of India (Article 54 and 55);
- if there is a change in the extent of the executive power of the Union or the State governments (Article 73 and 162);
- if there is any change in the provisions regarding the Union judiciary or the High Courts. (Articles 124–147 and 214–231);
- if the distribution of legislative and administrative powers between the Union and the States is affected (Article 245 to 255);
- if any of the Lists in the Seventh Schedule is affected;
- if the representation of the States in Parliament is changed (Article 82); and
- if Article 368 itself is amended.
Can a constitutional amendment be struck down if not ratified?
- 57th Amendment:
- In Kihoto Hollohan versus Zachillhu (1992) popularly known as the Anti-Defection case, the constitutional validity of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution inserted by the Constitution (Fifty-second Amendment) Act, 1985 was challenged on the grounds that the amendment was not ratified by the States.
- Though the Tenth Schedule was to deal with defection, it also purported to oust the jurisdiction of all courts by virtue of Paragraph 7.
- The amendment brought about changes with respect to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the High Courts — one of the provisions that require ratification by half of the States.
- A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Tenth Schedule but declared Paragraph 7 of the Schedule invalid for want of ratification.
- 97th Amendment:
- In 2021, the Supreme Court struck down provisions of the Constitution (97th Amendment) Act, 2011 to the extent that it introduced Part IX B in the Constitution to deal with co-operative societies.
- The Court unanimously held that the amendment required ratification by at least one-half of the State legislatures as per Article 368(2) of the Constitution, since it dealt with an exclusive State subject.
- The majority judgment invoked the doctrine of severability to make Part IXB operative only insofar as it concerns multi-State cooperative societies.
Can a State rescind its ratification?
- There is no specific mention of it in the Constitution nor have courts in India dealt with this before.
- Moreover, since the prevailing constitutional practice makes ratification by at least half of all the States sufficient for compliance without requiring all States to consent, such a situation is unlikely to arise.
- Permitting the rescinding of a ratification not only creates confusion but also makes the amending process more rigid.
Law Commission and Simultaneous elections:
- In 2018, the Law Commission of India, chaired by Justice B. S. Chauhan, released a draft report stipulating that simultaneous elections are not feasible within the existing framework of the Constitution.
- It suggested that appropriate amendments have to be brought about in the Constitution, the Representation of the People’s Act 1951, and the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and State Assemblies before such a poll is conducted.
- Notably, the Commission highlighted that a constitutional amendment to this effect must receive ratification from at least 50% of the States.
- In order for simultaneous polls to take place all existing State Assemblies have to be dissolved, which currently have different tenures.
- This can be done in two ways:
- either the ruling government in the State recommends this voluntarily and the Governor gives assent, or
- there is a breakdown of constitutional machinery and the President gets involved through a recommendation of the Central government.
- However, since the latter is hardly likely for every State simultaneously, the only option left is for the Union government to amend Article 172 which stipulates that every legislative Assembly of every State, unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for five years from the date appointed for its first meeting.
- Holding simultaneous elections would cut down on the costs involved in separate elections.
- Experts argue that it will increase efficiency in the administrative set-up throughout the country since it slows down considerably during polling.
- However, such an amendment cannot be brought about without violating the federal structure, particularly in States ruled by the Opposition.
Topic 3: Operation Sajag
Why in news: Coastal security drill ‘Operation Sajag’ conducted by Indian Coast Guard along the west coast.
- ‘Operation Sajag’ was conducted by the Indian Coast Guard along the west coast.
- The drill facilitates revalidation of the coastal security mechanism and bring awareness among the fishermen at sea.
- The drill is conducted every month.
- The drill enables to verify implementation of various coastal security measures besides bringing out important lessons and highlight trends in coastal security.
- During the drill, extensive checking and verification of documents and crew passes of all fishing boats, barges and craft at sea was undertaken.
- Measures taken for coastal security:
- Issuance of Biometric cards for the fishermen,
- colour coding of fishing boats as per each state,
- manning of fish landing centres
- access control at entry/exit check points,
- coastal mapping,
- designating specific marine band frequency for security agencies,
- training of marine police personnel by Indian Coast Guard
Topic 4: SHREYAS scheme
Why in news: The government informed the Parliament about the success of SHREYAS scheme.
About the scheme:
- Scheme for Higher Education Youth in Apprenticeship and Skills (SHREYAS) is a central sector scheme for providing industry apprenticeship opportunities to the general graduates through the National Apprenticeship Promotional Scheme (NAPS).
- The program aims to enhance the employability of Indian youth by providing ‘on the job work exposure’ and earning of stipend.
- SHREYAS is a programme comprising the initiatives of three Central Ministries:
- Ministry of Human Resource Development,
- Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship and
- Ministry of Labour & Employment.
- The umbrella scheme of “SHREYAS” comprises 4 central sector sub-schemes namely:
- Top Class Education for SCs:
- The Scheme aims at recognizing and promoting quality education amongst students belonging to SCs, by providing full financial support.
- The Scheme will cover SC students for pursuing studies beyond 12th class.
- The scholarship, once awarded, will continue till the completion of the course, subject to satisfactory performance of the student.
- Free Coaching Scheme for SCs and OBCs:
- The objective of the Scheme is to provide coaching of good quality for economically disadvantaged Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) candidates.
- It aims to enable them appear in competitive and entrance examinations for obtaining appropriate jobs in Public/Private Sector as well as for securing admission in reputed technical and professional higher education institutions.
- National Overseas Scheme for SCs:
- Under this scheme financial assistance is provided to the selected students from SCs, De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes, landless agricultural labourers and traditional artisan categories, for pursuing masters and Ph.D. level courses abroad.
- National Fellowship for SCs:
- Under the scheme fellowship is provided to Scheduled Castes students for pursuing higher education leading to M.Phil/ Ph.D degrees in Sciences, Humanities and Social Sciences in Indian Universities/Institutions/ Colleges recognized by University Grants Commission (UGC).
- Top Class Education for SCs:
Topic 5: New science awards
Why in news: The Union government is set to institute the Rashtriya Vigyan Puraskar — 56 prizes to felicitate scientists, technologists and innovators.
- Akin to the prestigious Padma awards, these awards will not include any cash component.
- Instead, they will likely bestow a certificate and a medallion on the awardee.
- The RVP will comprise:
- three Vigyan Ratna,
- 25 Vigyan Shri,
- 25 Vigyan Yuva-Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar and
- three Vigyan Team awards.
- These prizes will be awarded annually for 13 categories including:
- physics, chemistry, biological sciences, mathematics and computer science, earth science, medicine, engineering science, agricultural science, environmental science, technology and innovation, atomic energy, space science and technology, and a 13th category, simply called “others”.
- The 56 proposed awards are a stark reduction from the almost 300 science prizes that used to be given by Union Ministries.
- The new awards will also be open to persons of Indian origin (PIOs).
- A maximum of one such may be awarded the Vigyan Ratna,
- Three PIOs each can be selected for the Vigyan Shri and the VY-SSB.
- PIOs will not be eligible for the Vigyan Team awards.
- There are no age limits for any prizes except the SSB, for which recipients must be 45 years or younger.
- The awards will be announced annually on May 11, which is National Technology Day, and will be awarded on National Space Day, August 23.
- These are the days on which India successfully conducted its second nuclear test in 1998, and then catapulted the Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander on the moon this year.
- The RVP awards, which will commence from 2024, will be given by the President or the Vice President.
- A committee will be constituted every year, comprising:
- the Secretaries of six Science Ministries,
- up to four presidents of science and engineering academies, and
- six distinguished scientists and technologists from various fields.
- The CSIR will coordinate the administration of the awards process for two years, after which it will be taken over by the proposed National Research Foundation.
Topic 6: Report on global impact of high BP
Why in news: World Health Organization (WHO) released its first-ever report on the global impact of high blood pressure recently.
Key findings of the report:
- Approximately four of every five people with hypertension are not adequately treated, but if countries can scale up coverage, 76 million deaths could be averted between 2023 and 2050.
- The WHO report states that hypertension affects one in three adults worldwide.
- It leads to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and many other health problems.
- The number of people living with hypertension (blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher or taking medication for hypertension) doubled between 1990 and 2019, from 650 million to 1.3 billion.
- Nearly half the people with hypertension globally are currently unaware of their condition.
- More than three-quarters of adults with hypertension live in low- and middle-income countries.
- Indian scenario:
- Hypertension is the most important risk factor for death and disability in India.
- It adds that less than one-fourth of hypertensive patients in India had their blood pressure under control during 2016-2020.
- The 2019-20 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) reported a hypertension prevalence of 24% in men and 21% among women, an increase from 19% and 17.
- The India Hypertension Control Initiative, a large-scale hypertension intervention under the National Health Mission, has been recognised for its positive work done within the primary healthcare system.
How to tackle hypertension:
- Lifestyle changes such as eating a healthier diet, quitting tobacco and being more active can help lower blood pressure.
- Prevention, early detection and effective management of hypertension are among the most cost-effective interventions.
- The economic benefits of improved hypertension treatment programmes outweigh the costs by about 18 to 1.
- Hypertension can be controlled effectively with simple, low-cost medication regimens, and yet only about one in five people have controlled it.
Topic 7: Green Nudges
Why in news: A team of researchers analysed customer-level response to green nudges on an online food delivery platform in China.
What are green nudges?
- Green nudges are gentle persuasions to influence environment-friendly behaviour in people.
- In behavioural economics, nudges are interventions that influence people’s choices to make certain decisions without restricting the choices available to them.
- A recent review of green nudging practices grouped them broadly into three categories:
- Nudges that appeal to people’s self-image
- Nudges that appeal to people’s tendency to socially conform
- Nudges that re-set the default choice
- A study conducted in China reveals that more people opt for no single-use cutlery in their orders through a simple change in default selection.
- The no-cutlery option came with “green points” – a non-pecuniary incentive where 16 points were awarded to a user for every order.
- Nudges have been criticised in the past for being manipulative.
- They are not always transparent and can sometimes bank on ignorance or lack of awareness in people to work.
Do green nudges work in India?
- Zomato, an online food delivery platform in India that occupies over 50% of market share in the space, also has similar nudges on its app.
- Zomato’s no-cutlery initiative was designed to reduce not just plastic but overall material waste.
- Three out of every five orders choose to opt out of receiving cutlery, which has resulted in an estimated 1,000 metric tonne reduction in cutlery waste till now.