Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- China’s new law on foreign relations
- Anti Defection Law
- New flora and fauna
- Facts for Prelims
1 . China’s new law on foreign relations
Context : On June 28, China’s National People’s Congress, the Communist Party-controlled legislature, adopted a new Law on Foreign Relations of the People’s Republic of China, which came into effect on July 1. The law will tighten President Xi Jinping’s control over foreign policy, which has, since his taking office in 2012, become increasingly centralised.
What is the new law?
- The law involves foreign affairs, and as the very first article puts it, it was drafted to “safeguard China’s sovereignty, national security and development interests”. Explaining the need for the law, an unnamed official of the National People’s Congress (NPC) told state media the “legal system concerning foreign affairs still has some shortcomings” and “gaps exist in laws safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests.” The official said that “speeding up the building of the legal system concerning foreign affairs will help China more effectively deal with risks and challenges.”
- The broader aim of the law appears to be aimed at giving a legal stamp to many of the key objectives of Chinese foreign policy under Mr. Xi, and to make it a punishable offence if individuals or organisations were deemed to act against those objectives. In a similar vein, a border law was adopted in October 2021 that warned against “any act that undermines territorial sovereignty and land boundaries”.
What will be the impact on foreign policy?
- The law specifically mentions several key initiatives championed by Mr. Xi, such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and the Global Security Initiative (GSI).
- The law also emphasises sovereignty and security as being at the heart of Chinese foreign policy. While this was, to some extent, always the case, the new law coincides with a broader political shift in China that many observers say has, for the first time in the reform era, prioritised security over development and opening up — a key change that will likely have long-term political and economic ramifications.
- For instance, the law says China “has the right to take, as called for, measures to counter or take restrictive measures against acts that endanger its sovereignty, national security and development interests in violation of international law or fundamental norms governing international relations.” It also says “the state shall take measures as necessary in accordance with the law to protect the safety, security, and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens and organizations overseas and safeguard China’s overseas interests against any threat or infringement.”
- One of the objectives was a legal response to Western sanctions aimed at China. The law will reinforce the Law on Countering Sanctions and will essentially make it illegal for Western companies operating within China to comply with sanctions aimed at the country.
- Besides sanctions, another section of the law appears to be a response to criticisms of China’s foreign lending which has come under scrutiny amid debt crises in several of its partners. According to Article 19 of the new law, in providing aid Beijing would “respect the sovereignty of recipient countries” and “not interfere in their internal affairs or attach any political conditions to its aid”.
What does the new law mean for India?
- As with the Border Law adopted in 2021, the emphasis of security, sovereignty and territorial integrity as key tenets of Chinese foreign policy coincide with the border dispute returning to the centre of India-China relations. Indian experts saw the Border Law as essentially looking to formalise China’s moves along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), with the transgressions of April 2020 upending both bilateral relations and decades-old mechanisms aimed at carefully managing the boundary dispute. The two laws also coincide with territorial disputes being framed by Beijing as matters of national sovereignty rather than issues to be negotiated by two sides — framing that may narrow the scope for resolution.
- Article 6 of the new law says all “state institutions, armed forces, political parties, people’s organisations, enterprises, public institutions, other social organisations, and citizens have the responsibility and obligation to safeguard China’s sovereignty, national security, dignity, honour and interests in the course of international exchanges and cooperation.”
- Article 31 may have a potential bearing on the signing of agreements to resolve disputes, as it declares that “implementation and application of treaties and agreements shall not undermine the sovereignty of the State, national security and public interests”.
- Article 17 says the main aim of the conduct of foreign relations is “to uphold its system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, safeguard its sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity, and promote its economic and social development.” The law also says China will at the same time “grow relations with its neighbouring countries in accordance with the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness and the policy of enhancing friendship and partnership with its neighbours.”
- Another article that will be scrutinised, particularly by Indian and foreign companies operating within China, is Article 8, which declares that “any organisation or individual who commits acts that are detrimental to China’s national interests in violation of this Law and other applicable laws in the course of engaging in international exchanges shall be held accountable by law.”
- Article 33 says the government “has the right to take, as called for, measures to counter or take restrictive measures against acts that endanger its sovereignty, national security and development interests in violation of international law or fundamental norms governing international relations.” What is deemed as “detrimental to China’s national interests” is not clear , giving the authorities a wide scope in how this may be implemented
2 . Anti – Defection Law
Context : In a dramatic turn of events which followed months of speculation that he was cosying up to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar led a split in the party and joined hands with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Sunday afternoon. Though he claimed to have the support of all MLAs of the party, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, his uncle, made it clear that he did not back the move.
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).
3 . Census
Context : The deadline to freeze the administrative boundaries of districts, tehsils and towns, among others, has been extended till December 31, ruling out the Census exercise before the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
What is Census?
- A population Census is the process of collecting, compiling, analyzing and disseminating demographic, social, cultural and economic data relating to all persons in the country, at a particular time in ten years interval.
- It generates a wealth of data, including numbers of people, their spatial distribution, age and sex structure, as well as their living conditions and other key socioeconomic characteristics.
- These data are critical for good governance, policy formulation, development planning, crisis prevention, mitigation and response, social welfare programmes and business market analyses.
Census in India
- A Census is Constitutionally mandated in India. There are repeated references to the Census exercise in the Constitution in the context of reorganisation of constituencies for Parliament and state Assemblies.
- But the Constitution does not say when the Census has to be carried out, or what the frequency of this exercise should be. The Census of India Act of 1948, which provides the legal framework for carrying out the Census, also does not mention its timing or periodicity.
- There is, therefore, no Constitutional or legal requirement that a Census has to be done every 10 years. However, this exercise has been carried out in the first year of every decade, without fail, since 1881. Most other countries also follow the 10-year cycle for their Census. There are countries like Australia that do it every five years.
- The Census is essentially a two-step process involving a house-listing and numbering exercise followed by the actual population enumeration. The house-listing and numbering takes place in the middle of the year prior to the Census year. The population enumeration, as mentioned earlier, happens in two to three weeks of February.
4 . New flora and fauna
Context : India added 664 animal species to its faunal database in the year 2022. These comprise 467 new species and 197 new records (species found in India for the first time).
About the Survey
- The faunal discoveries have been compiled in a publication by Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) titled Animal Discoveries – New Species and New Records 2023, whereas floral discoveries are contained in Plant Discoveries 2022 published by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI).
Newly discovered Flora and Fauna
- The country added 339 new plant taxa — 186 taxa that are new to science and 153 taxa as new distributional records from the country in 2022.
- Among the major fauna species discovered are three new species and one new record of mammals; two new records of birds; 30 new species and two new records of reptiles; six new species and one new record of amphibia; and 28 new species and eight new records of fish.
- The mammal species discovered include two species of bats — Miniopterus phillipsi, a long-fingered bat, and Glischropus meghalayanus, a bamboo-dwelling bat — both from Meghalaya. Sela macaque (Macaca selai), a new macaque species discovered in the western and central Arunachal Pradesh and named after the Sela Pass, is also among the highlights of Animal Discoveries 2022.
- The new records include Macaca leucogenys, a white-cheeked macaque earlier found in Modog, southeastern Tibet, and sighted in India for the first time in 2022 in West Siang, Arunachal Pradesh.
- The list also includes Ficedula zanthopygia, the yellow-rumped flycatcher, earlier known from Mongolia, Transbaikal, southern China, Korea, western Japan, and found last year in Narcondam Island of the Andaman archipelago.
- The maximum number of new faunal discoveries has been of invertebrates with 583 species, while vertebrates constitute 81 species. Insects dominate among invertebrates with 384 species, whereas fish dominated among vertebrates, followed by reptiles, amphibia, mammals and aves.
- In 2022, the maximum new discoveries were recorded from Kerala. As many as 82 animal species new to science and 15 new records were from Kerala, which contributes to 14.6% of the new species and new records. Karnataka followed with 64 new species and 24 new records accounting for 13.2%. Tamil Nadu saw 71 new discoveries and 13 new records, contributing to 12.6% of all the new discoveries and new records in the country. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands contributed to about 8.4% of the discoveries, whereas 7.6 % discoveries were from West Bengal and 5.7% from Arunachal Pradesh. With the new discoveries and new records, the fauna diversity of the country increased to 1,03,922.
5 . Facts for Prelims
- Osmosis is the spontaneous net movement or diffusion of solvent molecules through a selectively-permeable membrane from a region of high water potential to a region of low water potential, in the direction that tends to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides
- For example, you fill a container with a concentrated sugar solution on one side and a diluted sugar solution on the other of a semipermeable membrane. Water molecules will travel from the diluted solution to the concentrated one through the membrane until the concentration of water is equal on both sides. This is osmosis.
- A German plant physiologist named Wilhelm Pfeffer first thoroughly studied osmosis in 1877, after various other studies by other scholars on leaky membranes.
- This process is incredibly important in biology, where liquids move from one part of an organism to another through cellular membranes that are semipermeable. In trees, osmosis is part of a pumping system that transports water and nutrients up from the roots to the leaves.
- You can observe osmosis in many real-life scenarios, such as in the swelling of raisins or other seeds when they are soaked in water, and in the pruning or wrinkling of your fingers after taking a long bath.
Parliamentary Research and Information Support for Members of Parliament (PRISM)
- Parliamentary Research and Information Support for Members of Parliament (PRISM) is a 24-hour research reference telephone hotline for Members of Parliament, as well as a reference section for legislations. PRISM is a round-the-clock service and also available on weekends during Parliament sessions. “A team of 30 to 32 officers serve on the hotline on a rotational basis
Botanical Survey of India
- Botanical Survey of India (BSI), the apex taxonomic research organization of the country which is under the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India was established on 13thFebruary 1890 under the direction of Sir George King. The organization’s mandate was to explore, collect, identify and document the rich plant resources of the erstwhile British India.
- During the colonial period, all the botanical research, collection and experimentation of Botanical Survey of India was concentrated in the Indian Botanical Garden erstwhile known as Royal Botanical Garden, Sibpur, Howrah.
- However, after Independence, Botanical Survey of India was reorganized in 1954, under the leadership of Dr. E.K. Janaki Ammal. Over the years, the mandate of the organization has been broaden to biosystematics research, floristic studies, documentation, databasing of National Botanical collection, digitization of herbarium specimens, development of molecular taxonomy laboratory, advisory services and capacity building training programmes etc.
Zoological Survey of India
- The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) is the premier taxonomic research organization in India.
- It was established on 1 July 1916 to promote surveys, exploration and research leading to advancement of our knowledge of various aspects of the exceptionally rich animal life of India.
- The ZSI had its genesis as the Zoological Section of the Indian Museum at Calcutta in 1875.
- Since its inception, the ZSI has been documenting the diversity and distribution of the fauna of India towards carrying out its mandate of conducting exploration-cum-taxonomic-research programmes.
- The ZSI has published an extremely large amount of information on all animal taxa, from Protozoa to Mammalia.