Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Census and NPR
- Smart city project
- US Debt Ceining
1 . Census and NPR
Context: If citizens want to exercise the right to fill the Census form on their own rather than through government enumerators, they will have to first update their National Population Register (NPR) details online.
What is Census?
- A census is an official enumeration of population done periodically. It is a process of acquiring the data of each and every member of the given population and recording it in the database.
- In India the first census was held in the year 1872. The first complete census, however was taken in the year 1881. Since then censuses have been held regularly every tenth year.
- The Indian Census is the most comprehensive source of demographic, social and economic data.
- The responsibility of conducting the decadal census rests with the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
What is National Population Register?
- The National Population Register (NPR) is a Register containing details of persons usually residing in a village or rural area or town or ward or demarcated area within a ward in a town or urban area.
- NPR was first prepared in 2010 and updated in 2015 under Sub-rule (4) of Rule 3 of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, framed under the Citizenship Act, 1955.
- To incorporate the changes due to birth, death and migration, the NPR would be updated along with House listing and Housing Operations of forthcoming Census.
- The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive database of usual residents in the country. No document will be collected during this exercise.
- Census 2021, which has been postponed indefinitely, will be the first digital Census giving citizens an opportunity to “self-enumerate” as and when it is conducted.
Two Phases of Census-
- The Census is conducted in two phases. The first phase — the Houselisting Operations (HLO) and Housing Census — is to be conducted with simultaneous updating of NPR. Population enumeration is the second and the main phase, which collects details on key social and economic parameters.
- Self-enumeration for Census will be provided to only those households that have updated the NPR online.
Self enumeration of NPR-
- According to the Citizenship Rules 2003, the NPR is the first step towards compilation of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC/NRC).
- The Office of the Registrar of General of India (ORGI), which conducts the Census, has developed a “self-enumeration (SE)” portal which is presently available in English only.
- The yet-to-be-launched mobile-friendly portal will allow users to register the mobile number in the NPR database, self-enumerate and fill the details under Houselisting Operations.
Significance of Self enumeration-
- It is an opportunity to give the power in the hands of the public by making them a part of Census operations so that they themselves can enumerate in Census.
- Respondents can update the details of their family members online without the help of an enumerator for “privacy” and to reduce financial and administrative burden incurred in collection of field data.
- The NPR pre-test form in 2019 collected details on 14 parameters of all family members of a household. The final form is yet to be published.
2 . Smart City Project
Context: The government said that more than 90% of the funds allocated under the Smart Cities Mission have been utilised till now, while 73% of the projects have been completed.
Smart Cities Mission
Need of Smart Cities Mission-
- Cities accommodate nearly 31% of India’s current population and contribute 63% of GDP (Census 2011). Urban areas are expected to house 40% of India’s population and contribute 75% of India’s GDP by 2030. This requires comprehensive development of physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure. All are important in improving the quality of life and attracting people and investment, setting in motion a virtuous cycle of growth and development. Development of Smart Cities is a step in that direction.
Smart Cities Mission–
- Smart Cities Mission was launched by the Hon’ Prime Minister on 25 June, 2015.
- The Smart Cities Mission is an innovative and new initiative by the Government of India to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local development and harnessing technology as a means to create smart outcomes for citizens
- The main objective of the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure, clean and sustainable environment and give a decent quality of life to their citizens through the application of ‘smart solutions’.
- It also aims to drive economic growth and improve quality of life through comprehensive work on social, economic, physical and institutional pillars of the city.
- The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development by creation of replicable models which act as lighthouses to other aspiring cities.
- 100 cities have been selected to be developed as Smart Cities through a two-stage competition.
Smart City Projects-
- The Smart Cities Mission has around 7,800 projects worth ₹1.8 lakh crore, of which more than 5,700 projects worth ₹1.1 lakh crore have been completed.
- The Smart Cities Mission, launched in June 2015, got a year’s extension last month. Only 22 out of 100 cities have been able to finish all projects commissioned under the mission.
- The implementation is monitored by an Apex Committee headed by the Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. It regularly reports on the progress of projects through the Real Time Geographical Management Information System (GMIS).
- A Smart City Advisory Forum (SCAF) has also been established at the city level to advise and enable collaboration among various stakeholders. So far, the Smart Cities have convened more than 756 meetings of SCAF.
- For each smart city, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) has also been created to plan, appraise, approve, release funds, implement, manage, operate, monitor and evaluate the Smart City development projects. The SPV is headed by a full-time CEO and has nominees of Central and State governments and ULB on its Board.
What challenges are faced by smart city plans?
- The key features of smart cities, according to the Ministry, are liveability, economic ability and sustainability.
- These broad ideas have a universal character and incorporate access to clean water, safe streets and public spaces, good public transport, facilities for health and education and places for recreation.
- They also seek to expand economic opportunity for all and address environmental stresses – rising temperatures, extreme weather events, bad air quality, flood and drought, and lost urban biodiversity.
- In practice, smart city plans have been critiqued as being distanced from elected democratic institutions and wide public discussion, reflected in project finalisation that involves mainly State governments, the bureaucracy and independent experts.
- This is in spite of processes that have been incorporated to tap public sentiment using online tools and platforms.
- A core factor of liveability and inclusivity, such as affordable rental housing, determines the usability of other features of a smart city.
- Some centres, such as Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Indore, and Thane have pencilled in housing developments of various models, ranging from slum improvement to free sale of houses, into their smart city projects, a few involving over ₹1,000 crore; others have smaller levels of outlays for housing.
- Ongoing smart city plans also face the pressure of designing for climate change.
- The Climate Smart Assessment Framework would need to put in compulsory features to align all investments with national commitments towards obligations under the Paris Agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
3 . US Debt Ceiling
Context: In little more than a week, the US government could default on its borrowings — an unprecedented situation that could potentially hit economies worldwide — if Congress doesn’t raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
What is the debt ceiling?
- The debt ceiling, or debt limit, is the total amount the US government is allowed to borrow to finance its expenditure, such as paying salaries and welfare allowances.
- Currently, this limit is at $31.4 trillion. The Republicans, who have a majority in the House, are refusing to raise it unless the Democrat-run government agrees to their demands, which include a significant cut in spending.
When was it introduced? –
- The debt limit was introduced in 1917, when the US entered World War I. Constitutionally, Congress controls the government’s purse strings. The debt ceiling was introduced in order to make it easier for the executive to operate without having to turn to Congress every time it wanted to spend — it allowed the government to borrow as required as long as it kept under the debt limit approved by Congress.
How many times ceiling had been raised? –
- According to the Treasury Department website, since 1960, “Congress has acted 78 separate times to permanently raise, temporarily extend, or revise the definition of the debt limit — 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents.” The most recent raising was in 2021.
What happens if the government defaults? –
- Since this has never happened, no one has the exact answer. However, the consequences could be catastrophic. The government would no longer have the money to function, and would have to decide who gets salaries, and how much.
- Analysts say the dollar would weaken, the stock markets would collapse, and millions might lose their jobs. Also, the US’s credit rating would be downgraded, making future borrowing more expensive.
What do the Republicans want? –
- Republicans are ideologically fiscal conservatives, while Democrats believe the government should spend more on social welfare schemes.
- To agree to raising the debt ceiling, the Republicans have demanded that spending be kept at 2022 levels in the next financial year, and subsequent increases capped at 1% for some years. The Democrats say the spending should be kept at 2023 levels.
Has anything similar happened earlier?
- The crisis is similar to what happened in 2011 when Barack Obama was President, but the House of Representatives was controlled by Republicans. Back then, the crisis ended just hours before the deadline, only after the Obama administration agreed to spending cuts worth more than $ 900 billion.
4 . Ordinance
Context: The central government had promulgated an Ordinance that undid the unanimous verdict of a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, which gave the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government of Delhi control over the transfer and posting of officials in the National Capital Territory (NCT), except with regard to public order, police, and land.
About the News
- The Ordinance promulgated by President Droupadi Murmu gave the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, who is appointed by the Centre, power over services, and established a “National Capital Civil Service Authority” comprising the Chief Minister and two senior IAS officials, which would decide matters “by majority of votes of the members present and voting” — essentially creating a situation in which the view of the elected CM could potentially be overruled.
Ordinance in Constitution–
- Under Article 123 of the Constitution (“Power of President to promulgate Ordinances during recess of Parliament”), “if at any time, except when both Houses of Parliament are in session, the President is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, he may promulgate such Ordinances as the circumstances appear to him to require.”
- An Ordinance “shall have the same force and effect as an Act of Parliament”. But the government is required to bring an Ordinance before Parliament for ratification — and failure to do so will lead to its lapsing “at the expiration of six weeks from the reassembly of Parliament”.
- The Ordinance may lapse earlier if the President withdraws it — or if both Houses pass resolutions disapproving it. (Rejection of an Ordinance would, however, imply the government has lost majority.)
- Also, if an Ordinance makes a law that Parliament is not competent to enact under the Constitution, it shall be considered void.
- Since the President acts on the advice of the Council of Ministers, it is in effect the government that decides to bring the Ordinance. The President may return the recommendation of the Cabinet once if she feels it warrants reconsideration; if it is sent back (with or without reconsideration), she has to promulgate it.
- Article 213 deals with the broadly analogous powers of the Governor to promulgate/ withdraw an Ordinance when the state legislature is not in session.
- An Ordinance is valid for six weeks, or 42 days, from the date on which the next session starts. If the two Houses start their sessions on different dates, the later date will be considered, say the explanations in Articles 123 and 213.
Repromulgation of Ordinance–
- If, for whatever reason, an Ordinance lapses, the only option for the government is to reissue or repromulgate it.
- Krishna Kumar Singh and Another v. State of Bihar– In 2017, the Supreme Court examined a case where the state of Bihar re-promulgated an Ordinance several times without placing it before the legislature. A seven-judge Bench of the court, which included now Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud, reiterated that legislation should normally be done by the legislature, and the Governor’s power to issue an Ordinance is in the nature of an emergency power. The court clarified that there might be circumstances permitting the re-promulgation of an Ordinance — however, it said, repeated re-promulgations without bringing the Ordinance to the legislature would usurp the legislature’s function, and will be unconstitutional.
- Dr. D C Wadhwa and Ors v. State of Bihar and Ors (1986)- The court declared the actions, in that case, to be “a fraud on constitutional power”, and said that the Ordinances were repromulgated in violation of the SC judgment in Dr D C Wadhwa and Ors v. State of Bihar and Ors (1986). In D C Wadhwa, a challenge was mounted against the power of the Governor to repromulgate various Ordinances in Bihar, after 256 Ordinances were promulgated between 1967 and 1981, out of which 69 were repromulgated several times and kept alive with the permission of the President.
- A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court headed by then CJI P N Bhagwati held that “an Ordinance promulgated by the Governor to meet an emergent situation shall cease to be in operation at the expiration of six weeks from the reassembly of the Legislature.”
- If the government wishes for the Ordinance to continue in force beyond the six-week period, it “has to go before the Legislature”, which is the constitutional authority entrusted with law-making functions.
- The court also said that it would “most certainly be a colourable exercise of power for the Government to ignore the Legislature” and “repromulgate the Ordinance” while continuing to regulate the life and liberty of its citizens through Executive-made Ordinances.