When can a Rajya Sabha vote be rejected?
Why in News: Recently, Elections for 57 Rajya Sabha seats across 15 states have concluded.
How Raj Sabha members are elected?
• Members of the Rajya Sabha are elected through single transferable votes via an open ballot.
• Members of a state’s Legislative Assembly vote in the Rajya Sabha elections in what is called proportional representation with the single transferable vote (STV) system.
• Each MLA’s vote is counted only once.
When the Election Commission turned to Article 324?
The commission turned to Article 324 of the Constitution, which gives the panel unprecedented powers to hold free-and-fair polls in situations not covered by the Representation of People’s Act, the law governing the election process in India.
How can votes be rejected in an open ballot system?
• Open ballot voting applies in elections to Council of States only.
• Every political party which has MLAs can appoint an authorised agent to verify whom its members have voted for.
• If a member shows his/her vote to someone other than the authorized agent appointed by his party, his/her vote will be subjected to cancellation.
o In 2016, Randeep Surjewala’s vote was rejected after he showed it to another MLA instead of his party’s authorised agent.
What is Rule 39AA of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961?
Rule 39AA of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 says that MLAs belonging to a political party shall show their ballot papers (after marking their vote) to the authorised agent of that party only and not to the authorised agent of other parties.
• As per rule 39AA of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 the same person cannot be appointed as the authorised agent of more than one party.
• There is no such restriction for an MLA or minister to be the authorized agent imposed by the EC in elections to the Council of States and State Legislative Council.
• An Independent MLA can’t show his marked ballot paper to the authorised agent of any party, Independent MLAs are required to insert the marked ballot paper in the ballot box without showing the marked ballot to any agent.
• In the ballot paper, a MLA has to mark his or her choice of candidates by ranking them and they also have to use a special pen provided by the EC. If they use any other pen, or if their ballot papers remain incomplete, the vote would be regarded as invalid.
o In 2016, the EC directed the Haryana Police to register an FIR on the complaint of senior lawyer R K Anand against the Returning Officer for allowing the use of an unauthorised pen for voting in the Rajya Sabha election.
What action is taken by the Presiding Officer/Returning Officer in case an elector belonging to a political party refuses to show his/her marked ballot paper to the authorised agent?
• In such a case, the ballot paper issued to the elector will be taken back by the Presiding Officer, or a polling officer under the direction of the Presiding Officer, and the ballot paper will be kept in a separate envelope after recording on the reverse side of the ballot paper “Cancelled-voting procedure violates”.
• According to the EC, if the elector drops the ballot paper in the box without showing it to the authorised agent, then at the time of counting, the RO should first separate this concerned ballot paper and it shall not be counted.
Coal use to be banned in NCR
Why in News? The use of coal as a fuel will be banned across the National Capital Region (NCR) from January 1, 2023, the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) said.
• The use of coal as a fuel will be banned across the National Capital Region (NCR) from January 1, 2023.
• Once the ban is in force, coal can no longer be used for industrial or domestic purposes, but thermal power plants will be exempted from the ban.
• From October 1, 2022 onward, a ban on coal use will be applicable in areas where PNG infrastructure and supply is already available.
Why has the use of coal been banned?
• Coal is currently the dominant industrial fuel in the NCR, and it is important to have clean fuel across sectors, while looking for significant reduction in air pollution levels.
• The PM2.5 emissions attributable to industries in the NCR are reasonably high.
• As per the CAQM, the coal dominates industrial fuels in the NCR and industries in the region consume around 1.7 million tonnes of coal annually, “with about 1.4 million tonnes being consumed in six major industrial districts of NCR alone”.
• The move is meant to phase out the use of coal as a fuel to deal with concerns of air pollution across the NCR.
• According to a source apportionment study done by The Energy and Resources Institute in 2018, which showed source contributions for the year 2016, within the 30 per cent contribution of the industrial sector in PM2.5 level in winter in Delhi, industries using coal, biomass, pet-coke and furnace oil contributed around 14 per cent, while 8 per cent was contributed by the brick manufacturing sector, 6 per cent by power stations, and 2 per cent by stone crushers.
Is the ban likely to have an impact on air quality in the NCR?
• Experts say that It could help chip away at the use of dirty fuel in the NCR.
• The impact of the coal ban will be a boon for the regions outside NCT as they are bearing the brunt of the emissions, which locally worsen air quality.
What could be the challenges in enforcing the ban, and impact on the industries currently running on coal?
• The implementation will involve thousands of small point sources, and compliance monitoring will be that much more of a challenge, when compared to large sources.
• Pricing of gas could be a critical area while trying to enforce the ban. Natural gas is now more expensive than coal.
o Gas (price) has shot through the roof, which makes this a double whammy. It will come as a challenge for small entities.
• Switching over to operating on gas will involve changes in the equipment that can be expensive aas the Gas pipelines are yet to reach some places.
• The deadline could also be difficult to meet. Slowly, industries will be able to switch, but making the switch quickly could be difficult particularly for small industries.
• The challenge will be of expenses. For the entities, product costing could be difficult when it comes to competing with manufacturers outside the NCR.
• To negate the impact of gas pricing, there’s a need to find the correct pricing policy, then the industries will be willing to shift.
• To enable proper implementation of the ban, infrastructure needs to be scaled up along with building the supply
• The bear the expenses for the equipment subsidising is important.
• Ensuring the entities for the compensation and their ability to market the product in the NCR should not be compromised.
Why in News?
A delegation of MLAs from Gujarat visited the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly to learn about the novel e-Vidhan system for paperless proceedings that has been recently adopted by the UP state assembly.
What is the National e-Vidhan Application (NeVA) system?
• The National e-Vidhan Application (NeVA) is a system for digitising the legislative bodies of all Indian states and the Parliament through a single platform on which house proceedings, starred/unstarred questions and answers, committee reports etc. will be available.
• Nagaland became the first state to implement NeVA.
• The data will be available online for the use of both citizens and the members of Assemblies.
• It includes a website and a mobile app.
Why is NeVA being introduced
• To foster the idea of “One Nation One Legislative Platform
• This has been done for streamlining information related to various state assemblies, and to eliminate the use of paper in day-to-day functioning.
o Its website states: “Several thousand tons of papers would be saved, which in turn would help in saving lakhs of trees annually”.
o According to the Himanchal Pradesh government’s website, by adopting the digitised system, the state has annually saved 6,000 trees, and around Rs 15 crore in expenditure.
Has this been done elsewhere?
• Last year, the Government of Dubai became the world’s first government to go 100 percent paperless.
• The US government announced in 2019 that by the end of 2022, all government agencies would stop dealing with paper.
What are the challenges?
• The International Parliamentary Union, an organisation of more than 170 parliaments including India, in a 2018 report outlined some challenges in this regard.
o Access, particularly for legislators representing rural constituencies, to devices and reliable internet and electricity was an issue.
o In its 2020 report, it said lack of training and heightened concerns over security are some more recent issues in the road to digitisation.
Heterologous booster vaccine
Why in News? With the number of cases, rising by the thousands on a daily basis, repeat infections, breakthrough infections for those who have had the double dose of vaccine, the debate about getting a booster or precaution dose has gotten shriller.
Heterologous — any vaccine other than the primary dose, for a better immune response.
o A heterologous booster is when the third (booster) dose is different from the earlier doses.
o Carbovax vaccine manufactured by Biological E’s protein has become the first to be approved by DCGI as a heterologous booster in adults, meaning those who have received Covishield or Covaxin as their first or second dose can take it as a third booster shot.
Are heterologous booster shots better?
According to a study conducted by Christian Medical College (CMC):
• A booster dose with a COVID-19 vaccine different from the one used for the first immunisation raised antibody levels more than a booster with the same vaccine.
• A Covishield booster following a two-dose Covaxin immunisation gave the highest antibody response, compared with a Covaxin booster following two Covishield shots.
What are the other advantages?
• An option to use heterologous booster vaccines could simplify the logistics of administering such vaccines, since the booster formulation could be administered regardless of the primary series.
• Since the first introduction of a vaccine for COVID-19 several more vaccines have entered the market. More options are now available across the spectrum, made from various vaccine candidates. There are more vaccines available in the market is likely to level the playing field.
Why in news
• Holy Relics of Lord Buddha to be taken from India to Mongolia for an 11-day exposition on occasion of Mongolia’s Buddha Purnima. The Holy Relics will be displayed at the Batsagaan Temple within the premises of Gandan Monastery. The Holy Buddha Relics, currently housed in the National Museum, are known as the ‘Kapilvastu Relics’ since they are from a site in Bihar first discovered in 1898 which is believed to be the ancient city of Kapilvastu.
• India and Mongolia have interacted through history over a period of 2000 years. Following the emergence of Mongolia as a modern nation state in the 20th century, the two countries have continued to build relations based on shared historical and cultural legacy. In 2015 during the visit of the Prime Minister of India, the two countries declared strategic partnership. India announced a credit line of US$ 1 billion for the infrastructure sector in Mongolia.
Establishment of Diplomatic Relations:
• Diplomatic relations between India and Mongolia were established on 24 December 1955. India was the first country outside the Socialist bloc to establish diplomatic relations with Mongolia. India supported Mongolia in having UN(Union Nations) and NAM(Non-Aligned Movement) memberships.
Bilateral Cooperation Mechanism
• India and Mongolia have ‘India-Mongolia Joint Committee on Cooperation (IMJCC)’ headed by the Minister of State for External Affairs on the Indian side and the Minister of Education and Science from Mongolia.
• India and Mongolia also cooperate in the defence sector. There is an India-Mongolia Joint Working Group for Defence cooperation which meets annually. Joint India-Mongolia exercise ‘Nomadic Elephant’ is held every year. India is a regular participant in the multilateral exercise ‘Khan Quest’. India contributes to various regular training of Mongolian officers.
A Working Group for cooperation in the field of nuclear energy has been set up between the respective agencies of the two countries. The second meeting of this Working Group was held in Mumbai from 10-12 December 2012. The 3rd JWG meeting was held in March 2017 in Ulaanbaatar. Another JWG was constituted for cooperation in the field of Renewable Energy but there has not been any progress by either side.
India is also helping Mongolia in building an oil refinery. The USD 1 billion oil refinery being built with Indian aid in Mongolia will be completed by December 2022 and will meet about three-fourths of Mongolian oil requirement. Mongolia has its own oil fields producing enough crude for its requirements. However, almost all of its crude oil is exported and all of its finished petrochemical products are imported.
Mongolia and India look upon each other as spiritual and cultural neighbours and due to this commonality, Mongolia can also be said to be our ‘Third Neighbour’ even though we don’t enjoy any common physical boundaries. Mongolia’s strategic position at the cross junction of Central Asia, Northeast Asia, far East, China and Russia attracts major powers towards it. India should consider Mongolia as a green zone of economic development that absorbs hi-tech features and production skills in a modernization process.
Why in News
Recently the European Commission has provided Equivalence status to Central Counter Parties (CCPs) supervised by IFSCA.
On 1 October 2020, the International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) became the unified regulator for all financial services and financial products in the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC). Thereafter, IFSCA notified the IFSCA (Market Infrastructure Institutions) Regulations, 2021 on April 16, 2021 and since that date are applicable to CCPs established and operating in the IFSC.
International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) is an initiative by the government of India (GoI) intended to encourage foreign capital to participate in India’s growth journey. This would allow financial institutions/fund managers to compete in the international market through a globally competitive platform offering varied financial products and services. Accordingly, Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City), the first IFSC was set up in Gujarat in 2015.
Equivalence status by European Commission (EC)
• The European Commission (EC), on the basis of its assessment has concluded that the legal and supervisory arrangements in respect of CCPs authorised by IFSCA provide for effective supervision and ongoing enforcement, and comply with the requirements laid down by European Commission in this regard and accorded equivalence status to CCPs supervised by the IFSCA.
• Accordingly, in terms of the requirements laid down in European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR), the EC on June 08, 2022 has accorded equivalence status to the following CCPs operating in IFSC under the supervision of IFSCA:
a. India International Clearing Corporation Limited
b. NSE IFSC Clearing Corporation Limited
Benefits of Equivalence Status
This may bring benefits to both parties, such as for example
• it allows authorities in the EU to rely on supervised entities’ compliance with equivalent rules in a non-EU country
• it reduces or even eliminates overlaps in compliance requirements for both EU and foreign market players
• it makes certain services, products or activities of non-EU companies acceptable for regulatory purposes in the EU
• it allows EU banks to benefit from more favourable capital requirements as regards their exposures in non-EU countries and vice versa
• In specific equivalence areas, it may allow third-country firms to provide services without establishment in the EU single-market.
Binary super massive black hole
Why in news
A group of astronomers from Argentina, Spain, Italy, the USA, and India discovered a binary supermassive black hole system in the gravitationally lensed blazar AO 0235+164. The system will be a strong candidate for future detection of gravitational waves (GWs).
A blazar is a feeding supermassive black hole (SMBH) in the heart of a distant galaxy that produces a high-energy jet viewed face-on from Earth. They are among the most luminous and energetic objects in the Universe and are composed of ionized matter traveling at nearly the speed of light.
About blazar AO 0235+164
• The blazar AO 0235+164 is unique as it is gravitationally lensed by intervening galaxies. Astronomers used extensive optical photometric observations around the globe during the last four decades (1982 – 2019).
• They identified recurrent double-peaked flaring episodes that occur every eight years or so, with a gap of around 2 years between two flare peaks. Five such periodic patterns were discovered (The team detected five sets of double-peaked flaring activities during time ranges- January 1982- October 1984, March 1989- July 1993, April 1996- March 2001, June 2006- June 2009, and May 2014- May 2017), and the next flaring episode is expected to occur between November 2022 and May 2025. To confirm the following periodic pattern, a global optical photometric monitoring program has been launched under the WEBT (Whole Earth Blazar Telescope) consortium.