Daily Current Affairs for UPSC
- Anti Defection Law
- Coral reefs
- Santhal Rebellion
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Anti Defection Law
Context : The political turmoil in Maharashtra intensified on Sunday, with rebel Shiv Sena MLA and Minister Eknath Shinde moving the Supreme Court against the disqualification notice issued by the Deputy Speaker to him and 15 other legislators.
Background of Anti Defection Law
- Indian political scene was besmirched by political defections by members of the legislature. This situation brought about greater instability in the political system.
- Legislators used to change parties frequently, bringing about chaos in the legislatures as governments fell. In sum, they often brought about political instability. This caused serious concerns to the right thinking political leaders of the country.Several efforts were made to make some law to curb defections
- Finally, in 1985, the Rajiv Gandhi government brought a Bill to amend the Constitution and curb defection.
- Through 52nd constitutional amendment act 10th Schedule of the Constitution, which contains the anti-defection law, was added to the Constitution.
About Anti Defection Law
- The purpose of the law is to curb political defection by the legislators.
- The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
- There are two grounds on which a member of a legislature can be disqualified.
- If the member voluntarily gives up the membership of the party, he shall be disqualified. Voluntarily giving up the membership is not the same as resigning from a party. Even without resigning, a legislator can be disqualified if by his conduct the Speaker/Chairman of the concerned House draws a reasonable inference that the member has voluntarily given up the membership of his party.
- If a legislator votes in the House against the direction of his party and his action is not condoned by his party, he can be disqualified.
About Speaker’s Power under Anti Defection Law
- The ultimate evaluator in the case of disqualification under the Tenth Schedule is the Speaker of the House.
- The Speaker can disqualify a member-only if a claim of disqualification is made before him under Para 2 of the Tenth Schedule.
- Under the light of Articles 102 and 191 of the Constitution and the Tenth Schedule, the Speaker’s exercise is of judicial nature as he can take a decision only after a member files a disqualification petition.
Exception from Disqualification
- The 10th Schedule says that if there is a merger between two political parties and two-thirds of the members of a legislature party agree to the merger, they will not be disqualified.
- When it was enacted first, there was a provision under which if there occurs a split in the original political party and as a result of which one-third of the legislators of that party forms a separate group, they shall not be disqualified.
- This provision resulted in large scale defections and the lawmakers were convinced that the provision of a split in the party was being misused. Therefore, they decided to delete this provision.
- Now, the only provision which can be invoked for protection from disqualification is the provision relating to the merger
Is the law, as it stands now, open to interpretation?
- The first ground for disqualifying a legislator for defecting from a party is his voluntarily giving up the membership of his party. This term “voluntarily giving up the membership of his party” is susceptible to interpretation. As has been explained earlier, voluntarily giving up the membership is not the same as resigning from a party.
- The Supreme Court has clarified this point by saying that the presiding officer (Speaker), who acts as a tribunal, has to draw a reasonable inference from the conduct of the legislator.
- The law certainly has been able to curb the evil of defection to a great extent. But, of late, a very alarming trend of legislators defecting in groups to another party in search of greener pastures is visible.
- The recent examples of defection in state Assemblies and even in Rajya Sabha bear this out. This only shows that the law needs a relook in order to plug the loopholes if any. But it must be said that this law has served the interest of the society. Political instability caused by frequent and unholy change of allegiance on the part of the legislators of our country has been contained to a larger extent.
- The anti-defection law seeks to provide a stable government by ensuring the legislators do not switch sides. However, this law also restricts a legislator from voting in line with his conscience, judgement and interests of his electorate. Such a situation impedes the oversight function of the legislature over the government, by ensuring that members vote based on the decisions taken by the party leadership, and not what their constituents would like them to vote for.
- Political parties issue a direction to MPs on how to vote on most issues, irrespective of the nature of the issue. Several experts have suggested that the law should be valid only for those votes that determine the stability of the government (passage of the annual budget or no-confidence motions
- Various expert committees have recommended that rather than the Presiding Officer, the decision to disqualify a member should be made by the President (in case of MPs) or the Governor (in case of MLAs) on the advice of the Election Commission.
- This would be similar to the process followed for disqualification in case the person holds an office of profit (i.e. the person holds an office under the central or state government which carries a remuneration, and has not been excluded in a list made by the legislature).
2 . BRICS
Context : India’s digital economy and the infrastructure sector has a total potential for $2.5 trillion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday. Addressing a meeting of the BRICS Business Forum, Mr. Modi said the digital transformation unfolding in India had never been seen before on the world stage.
- BRICS is an informal group of states comprising the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Russian Federation, the Republic of India, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of South Africa.
- On November 30, 2001, Jim O’Neill, a British economist who was then chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, coined the term ‘BRIC’ to describe the four emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
- It was the Russian side that initiated the creation of BRICS.
- On 20 September 2006, the first BRICS Ministerial Meeting was held at the proposal of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the margins of a UN General Assembly Session in New York. Foreign ministers of Russia, Brazil and China and the Indian Defence Minister took part in the meeting. They expressed their interest in expanding multilateral cooperation.
- It was agreed to expand BRIC to BRICS with the inclusion of South Africa at the BRICS Foreign Ministers’ meeting in New York in September 2010.
- The 6th BRICS Summit (Fortaleza and Brasilia, 15-16 July 2014) produced a highly important result. The sides signed the Agreement on the New Development Bank and the Treaty for the Establishment of a BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement. These institutions will possess a total of $200 billion.
- Considering the increasing instances of global financial crisis, BRICS nations signed BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) in 2014 as part of Fortaleza Declaration at Sixth BRICS summit. The BRICS CRA aims to provide short-term liquidity support to the members through currency swaps to help mitigating BOP crisis situation and further strengthen financial stability.
- BRICS does not exist in form of organization, but it is an annual summit between the supreme leaders of five nations.
- The Chairmanship of the forum is rotated annually among the members, in accordance with the acronym B-R-I-C-S.
- BRICS cooperation in the past decade has expanded to include an annual programme of over 100 sectoral meetings.
Importance of BRICS for India
- From the Indian perspective, BRICS has emerged the voice of developing countries, or the global south. As these countries face an aggressive club of developed countries, raising challenges on issues from WTO to climate change, New Delhi believes BRICS has to protect the rights of the developing countries. The five BRICS countries are also members of G-20.
- While the economic heft of three of the five countries has been dented in the last few years, the BRICS cooperation has two pillars — consultations on issues of mutual interest through meetings of leaders and ministers, and cooperation through meetings of senior officials in areas including trade, finance, health, education, technology, agriculture, and IT.
- Also, India has to maintain the balancing act between Russia-China on the one side and the US on the other. While India has had a growing role in global affairs in the last decade or so, and is seen to be helping drive the global agenda, the current crop of BRICS leaders too are seen as strong personalities — from Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russian President Vladimir Putin to Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro — with a pronounced nationalistic agenda. South Block views this as a potential for cooperation, as the leaders have more in common than their predecessors. New Delhi believes that over the last few years, India has taken the lead in galvanising BRICS has also worked within the grouping to take a strong stand against terrorism and bring about focused consultations on specific aspects relating to terrorism.
3 . Coral Reefs
Context : Scientists have recorded four species of corals for the first time from Indian waters.
About the News
- Scientists found new species of azooxanthellate corals from the waters off the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- The azooxanthellate corals are a group of corals that do not contain zooxanthellae and derive nourishment not from the sun but from capturing different forms of planktons.
- They are deep-sea representatives with the majority of species being reported from depths between 200 metres and 1,000 metres. They are also reported from shallow waters unlike zooxanthellate corals that are restricted to shallow waters.
- All the four groups of corals are from the same family, Flabellidae.
- Truncatoflabellum crassum (Milne Edwards and Haime, 1848), T. incrustatum (Cairns, 1989), T. aculeatum (Milne Edwards and Haime, 1848), and T. irregulare (Semper, 1872) under the family Flabellidae were previously found in Japan, the Philippines and Australian waters, while only T. crassum was reported with the range of Indo-West Pacific distribution.
- Azooxanthellate corals are a group of hard corals and the four new species recorded are not only solitary but have a highly compressed skeletal structure. These new species enhance our knowledge about non-reef-building solitary corals
- The new species enhance the national database of biological resources of India and also define the expansion of scope to explore these unexplored and non-reef building corals
What are coral reefs?
- Corals are marine invertebrates or animals not possessing a spine. Each coral is called a polyp and thousands of such polyps live together to form a colony, which grows when polyps multiply to make copies of themselves.
- Corals are of two types — hard coral and soft coral. Hard corals, also called hermatypic or ‘reef building’ corals extract calcium carbonate (also found in limestone) from the seawater to build hard, white coral exoskeletons. Soft coral polyps, however, borrow their appearance from plants, attach themselves to such skeletons and older skeletons built by their ancestors. Soft corals also add their own skeletons to the hard structure over the years and these growing multiplying structures gradually form coral reefs. They are the largest living structures on the planet.
- Corals share a symbiotic relationship with single-celled algae called zooxanthellae. The algae provides the coral with food and nutrients, which they make through photosynthesis, using the sun’s light. In turn, the corals give the algae a home and key nutrients. The zooxanthellae also give corals their bright colour.
- Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system stretching across 2,300 km. It hosts 400 different types of coral, gives shelter to 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc.
Why does it matter?
- Coral reefs support over 25% of marine biodiversity, including fish, turtles and lobsters; even as they only take up 1% of the seafloor.
- The marine life supported by reefs further fuels global fishing industries. Even giant clams and whales depend on the reefs to live.
- Coral reef systems generate $2.7 trillion in annual economic value through goods and service trade and tourism.
- Dead reefs can revive over time if there are enough fish species that can graze off the weeds that settle on dead corals, but it takes almost a decade for the reef to start setting up again. The reefs which were severely damaged in 1998 did recover over time.
4 . Santal Hul (revolution) of 1855-56
Context : Droupadi Murmu, belonging to the Santhali tribe, is all set to become the first woman tribal President of India. The Santhalis, the third-largest scheduled tribe community in the country, are mostly distributed in Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal. The Santhals are also credited for taking on the force of the East India Company through the Santal Hul (revolution) of 1855-56.
About the Rebellion
- The Santal Hul (revolution) of 1855-56 was one such landmark revolt fought by the Santal Adivasis and lower caste peasants against the exploitative upper caste zamindars (landlords) mahajans (moneylenders), darogas (police), traders, and imperial forces from the East India Company in the erstwhile Bengal presidency.
- The Santals settled into the present-day Santhal Parganas between 1790-1810 after being driven away by zamindars from the neighbouring Birbhum estate.
- The area was called Damin-i-Koh (skirts of the hills), a khas property of the colonial government created for the Paharias who lived in the hill tracts. The Santals were welcomed to clear the dense jungles for cultivation and given land for settlement in the foothills on rent.
- They came to assert that since they were the first to clear and inhabit the land, they were its rightful stewards. But a final, peaceful and sovereign homeland for the tribe was not to be because of the diku – the exploitative outsiders.
- When the lands were cleared, the zamindars raised their rent. The mahajans charged unreasonable interest rates, took control of their lands as foreclosure, and forced them into bonded labour.
- Traders in the markets often swindled the Santals by using heavier weights when buying from them and lighter weights when selling to them.
- Appeals to the British administration went unheard and seeking recourse from the law was not easy since the courts were in the faraway districts of Deoghar and Bhagalpur.
- Fragmentary records exist of that era, but all confirm that these combined oppressions together incited the revolution. According to lore, the great spirit of the Santals, Thakurjiv, appeared to the brothers Sidho and Kanhu, directing them to revolt.
- Word was spread using the dharwak, a system of communication using uniquely folded sal leaves.
- On June 30, 1855, about ten thousand Santals met in the village of Bhognadih. They sent out parwanas (orders) to the colonial authorities and the zamindars, issuing ultimatums and asked them to reply within a fortnight.
- Neglected by local authorities, the Santals began marching to Calcutta seeking the governor-general. They were joined by the Bhuiyan and Paharia tribes and lower caste groups such as the Lohars and Kumhars. But they never reached the capital as fighting was precipitated when a Santal head man, Harma Desmanjhi, was arbitrarily arrested at Panchkatia. From there the rebellion spread across the land like wildfire.
- It was indeed an unequal conflict, since the Santals fought with bows and arrows against troops armed with artillery. One record stated that it was not a war but rather an execution. To unflinchingly stand in the face of an enemy more powerful, even if it meant certain death, is an indicator of how precious self-rule was to them.
- In November of 1855, martial law was introduced to quell the rebels and the Hul was quashed by early 1856.
- It led to the formation of the Santhal Parganas and the passing of the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, 1876, which forbade the transfer of Adivasi land to non-Adivasis.
5 . Facts for Prelims
- As per global rules set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), each aircraft has to be registered in a country, where it is allotted a registration number.
- The prefix ‘VT’ stands for ‘Victorian Territory and Viceroy Territory’, which is the nationality code that each aircraft registered in India is required to carry. Now there is a plea for a change in the code.
- The Group of Seven (G7) is an inter-governmental political forum consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
- Its members are the world’s largest IMF advanced economies and wealthiest liberal democracies;
- The group is officially organized around shared values of pluralism and representative government.
- The G-7 was, for a while, known as the Group of Eight (G-8), until 2014 when former member Russia was removed after annexing the region of Crimea illegally from Ukraine.
- The European Union (EU) is sometimes considered to be a de-facto eighth member of the G-7 since it holds all the rights and responsibilities of full members except to chair or host meetings.
- The major purpose of the G-7 is to discuss and sometimes act in concert to help resolve global problems, with a special focus on economic issues.
- Since its inception in the early 1970s, the group has discussed financial crises, monetary systems, and major world crises, such as oil shortages.
- The G-7 has also launched initiatives to fund issues and relieve crises where it sees an opportunity for joint action. Those efforts include several aimed at debt relief for developing nations.
Strait of Hormuz
- The Strait of Hormuz is a strait between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
- It provides the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and is one of the world’s most strategically important choke points.
- On the north coast lies Iran, and on the south coast the United Arab Emirates and Musandam, an exclave of Oman.
- The strait is about 90 nautical miles (167 km) long, with a width varying from about 52 nautical miles (96 km) to 21 nautical miles (39 km).
- A third of the world’s liquefied natural gas and almost 25% of total global oil consumption passes through the strait, making it a highly important strategic location for international trade