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Insights Daily Current Events, 19 Janaury 2015

 

Insights Daily Current Events, 19 Janaury 2015

Fiscal autonomy of Local Self-Governments is at stake

Kerala State Finance Commission has said that the present system of devolving funds to local governments would be abolished on April 1 and substituted with a bill system under which funds would be released only against fully vouched contingent bills furnished by the drawing officers in the treasury. No further allocation would be made to LSGIs after the funds they hold at present get exhausted.

Why this move?

  • It is a measure to tackle the mounting revenue deficit. The state government has said that the fund devolution mode in vogue is not a welcome trend in the present Ways and Means situation of the government and should be urgently modified to address the financial crisis.

Impact:

  • Local self-government institutions (LSGIs) are likely to lose their fiscal and administrative autonomy and be reduced to the status of government departments.
  • The proposed reform is likely to reduce local governments to an appendage of the government. This would render the State Finance Commission and its recommendations in apportioning funds too redundant.
  • Local bodies would also be deprived of the leeway to carry over unspent funds to the next financial year.
  • This would deplete the financial and administrative powers of local governments and would run contrary to the concept of devolving powers to the grassroots level.
  • Local governments would have to work out only annual projects and need not have to plan beyond a year. If the government imposed curbs on treasury payments, it would definitely have a bearing on the bill clearing process and civic bodies would have to endlessly wait for payments.

What the Constitution says (73rd constitutional amendment act)?

  • The Act has ensured constitution of a State Finance Commission in every State/UT, for every five years, to suggest measures to strengthen finances of panchayati raj institutions.
  • The Constitution visualises panchayats as institutions of self-governance. However, giving due consideration to the federal structure of our polity, most of the financial powers and authorities to be endowed on panchayats have been left at the discretion of concerned state legislatures.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, GOI.

 

Supreme Court ruling limits life of ordinances

The government would be courting legal trouble if it attempts to re-promulgate the ordinances. The government had recently promulgated some ordinances.

SC’s views:

  • In 1986, the Supreme Court judgment in D.C. Wadhwa versus State of Bihar declared that it was the “constitutional duty” of the public to approach the court against re-promulgation of ordinances in a massive scale as a routine measure.
  • The apex court held “the power to promulgate an ordinance is essentially a power to be used to meet an extraordinary situation and cannot be allowed to be ‘perverted to serve political ends’.”
  • The judgment held that the apex court can adjudicate if the re-promulgation subverted “the democratic process which lies at the core of our constitutional scheme and subjected people to be governed not by the laws made by the legislature as provided in the Constitution but by laws made by the Executive”.

Impact:

  • This may undermine the government’s surge for an investment-friendly atmosphere. Few investors would like to gamble on such shaky grounds, banking their hopes on the continued survival of the government’s ordinances.

 

Ordinance:

Ordinances are temporary laws which can be issued by the President when Parliament is not in session.

  • Ordinances are issued by the President based on the advice of the Union Cabinet.
  • The President has been empowered to promulgate Ordinances based on the advice of the central government under Article 123 of the Constitution.
  • This legislative power is available to the President only when either of the two Houses of Parliament is not in session to enact laws.
  • Additionally, the President cannot promulgate an Ordinance unless he ‘is satisfied’ that there are circumstances that require taking ‘immediate action’.
  • The purpose of Ordinances is to allow governments to take immediate legislative action if circumstances make it necessary to do so at a time when Parliament is not in session.

Approval by the Parliament:

Ordinances must be approved by Parliament within six weeks of reassembling or they shall cease to operate. They also cease to operate in case resolutions disapproving the Ordinance are passed by both Houses.

Why are they issued?

  • Often, ordinances are used by governments to pass legislation which is currently pending in Parliament.
  • Governments also take the Ordinance route to address matters of public concern as was the case with the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, which was issued in response to the protests surrounding the Delhi gang rape incident.

History of Ordinances:

  • Ordinances were incorporated into the Constitution from Section 42 and 43 of the Government of India Act, 1935, which authorised the then Governor General to promulgate Ordinances ‘if circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action’.
  • Most democracies including Britain, the United States of America, Australia and Canada do not have provisions similar to that of Ordinances in the Indian Constitution. The reason for an absence of such a provision is because legislatures in these countries meet year long.
  • Some Members of the Constituent Assembly emphasised that the Ordinance making power of the President was extraordinary and issuing of Ordinances could be interpreted as against constitutional morality.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, prsindia.org.

 

 

RS chaos may stymie joint session on ordinances

The government has said that it would resort to all procedures, including a joint sitting of Parliament, to change a spate of ordinances into Acts of legislature. But it may run into some problems if the Rajya Sabha is stalled in the next session.

Article 108 of the Indian Constitution:

Article 108 of the Constitution cites the three grounds for the President notifying a joint sitting. They are:

  • If one House passes the Bill but the other rejects it.
  • If one House passes the Bill, but six months elapse without the other House passing it after reception.
  • When one House passes the Bill, but the other House passes it with certain amendments which the first House disagrees with and there is a deadlock.

What is the problem now?

  • A precondition for a joint sitting is that a Bill, along with a statement of reasons for promulgating the ordinance, should have been first defeated in one of the Houses.
  • If the motion does not come up and is not defeated, there is no chance of a joint session of Parliament.

  • If no business is undertaken, there is no chance of a joint session being called and the ordinances will lapse.

The Winter Session saw a paralysed Rajya Sabha unable to pass key Bills on insurance and coal mines cleared by the Lok Sabha.

If so, the government has to repromulgate the ordinances. On the other hand, the government would be courting legal trouble if it attempts to re-promulgate the ordinances.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, prsindia.org.

 

 

U.S. worried at ‘Make in India’ rule

A cooperation agreement between India and the U.S. on “clean” or renewable energy has run into U.S. concerns over the government’s “Make in India” plan.

  • The US officials brought up the worries over the government’s push for use of indigenous technology, calling it the new “make in India law”.

What is the issue:

  • The U.S. administration is irked over the government’s announcement of a series of 1,000-MW grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) power projects that has a mandatory condition that all PV cells and modules used in solar plants set up under this scheme will be made in India.
  • There is already an ongoing dispute at the World Trade Organisation, where the U.S. has complained against India over the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission’s domestic content requirement (DCR) for solar cells and solar modules in projects that it awards.

What has India said?

  • India maintains that U.S. subsidies on solar products threaten Indian manufacturers, and the domestic solar industry has accused the U.S. of dumping cheap outdated technology on India.

In 2014, India’s installed solar power capacity was at about 2,600 MW, and the increase to 100,000 MW (or 100 GW) will require an estimated $100 billion a year for the next five years for production and $50 billion a year for transmission and distribution costs, much of which is expected from the United States.

 


 

Sources: The Hindu.

 

Pulse Polio Immunization Programme

Pulse Polio Immunization Programme was launched on January 17th.

  • The National Immunization Day was celebrated on 18th January, 2015.
  • Around 174 million children under five years across the country will be administered polio drops as part of the polio eradication campaign as a part of Immunization Day.
  • Children of less than 5 years age will be given polio drops as part of the Government of India’s drive to sustain polio eradication from the region.

Indian scenario:

  • India has been implementing the Pulse Polio Programme since 1995.
  • In India, the last case of wild polio was reported on January 13, 2011.
  • The South-East Asia region of WHO has been certified on March 27, 2014 as ‘polio free’, meaning that transmission of wild poliovirus has been interrupted in this block of 11 countries including India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste for the last three years.
  • India is mindful of the risks that persist, both on account of indigenous transmission and importation. The risk of importation of wild polio virus from these countries with persistent ongoing transmission still persists and therefore high level of immunity in the population needs to be maintained.
  • The Government of India, therefore, continues to vaccinate children with polio vaccine on the occasion of National Immunization Day (NID) and Sub-NID.

Pulse polio programme:

With the global initiative of eradication of polio in 1988 following World Health Assembly resolution in 1988, Pulse Polio Immunization programme was launched in India in 1995.

  • Children in the age group of 0-5 years will be administered polio drops during National and Sub-national immunization rounds (in high risk areas) every year.
  • The Pulse Polio Initiative was started with an objective of achieving hundred per cent coverage under Oral Polio Vaccine.
  • It aimed to immunize children through improved social mobilization, plan mop-up operations in areas where poliovirus has almost disappeared and maintain high level of morale among the public.
  • India’s battle with this crippling disease began in 1978, when Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) was included in immunization schedule. To reach all eligible children in India, the vaccine was included in the nationwide Universal Immunization Program (UIP). By the year 1990, all districts in India were covered under UIP and that year >90% eligible children received OPV. The increased coverage led to a decline in number of polio cases.

World Health Organisation (WHO) had removed India from the list of polio-endemic countries. On 27 March 2014, World Health Organization (WHO) declared India a polio free country with no case of disease being reported in last three years.

Sources: The Hindu, NRHM, Wiki, PIB.

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