WHIP IN THE LEGISLATURE
Members of a House are bound by the ‘whip’, and if any section of MLAs within a political party that is part of a ruling coalition says it does not want to go with the alliance, the MLAs will attract disqualification
A five-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud is hearing petitions filed in the wake of last year’s political crisis in Maharashtra precipitated by a division in the Shiv Sena
2.What is 'Whip' in the House
- In parliamentary parlance, a whip may refer to both a written order to members of a party in the House to abide by a certain direction, and to a designated official of the party who is authorised to issue such a direction
- The term is derived from the old British practice of “whipping in” lawmakers to follow the party line
- A whip may require that party members be present in the House for an important vote, or that they vote only in a particular way
- In India, all parties can issue whips to their members
- Parties appoint a senior member from among their House contingents to issue whips this member is called a chief whip, and he/ she is assisted by additional whips
3.Seriousness of Whip issued by Parties
- Whips can be of varying degrees of seriousness. The importance of a whip can be inferred from the number of times an order is underlined
- A one-line whip, underlined once, is usually issued to inform party members of a vote, and allows them to abstain in case they decide not to follow the party line
- A two-line whip directs them to be present during the vote.
- A three-line whip is the strongest, employed on important occasions such as the second reading of a Bill or a no-confidence motion, and places an obligation on members to toe the party line
- The penalty for defying a whip varies from country to country. In the United Kingdom, an MP can lose membership of the party for defying the whip, but can keep her/ his House seat as an Independent
- In the US, as per a note published by PRS Legislative Research, “the party whip’s role is to gauge how many legislators are in support of a Bill and how many are opposed to it and to the extent possible, persuade them to vote according to the party line on the issue”
- In India, rebelling against a three-line whip can put a lawmaker’s membership of the House at risk.
- The anti-defection law allows the Speaker/ Chairperson to disqualify such a member; the only exception is when more than a third of legislators vote against a directive, effectively splitting the party
Kolkata’s iconic tram service celebrated 150 years since the first tram was flagged off. The celebration saw tram enthusiasts from as far away as Germany and Australia come to the city for a historic “Tramjatra”, organised by the West Bengal Transport Department
The first trams, drawn by horses, took to Calcutta streets on February 24, 1873. Today, Kolkata remains the only city where trams are still plying. However, once upon a time, in the heyday of trams, they were a popular mode of urban transport that could be found across India, in big metropolises such as Delhi, Bombay, and Madras, as well as smaller towns such as Nasik, Patna and Bhavnagar
- The second half of the 19th century saw rapid urban development in India, especially in the three Presidency cities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras
- It is in this environment that the idea of tramcars emerged
- While a licence for horse drawn trams was granted in Bombay in 1865, due to multiple reasons, the project fell through
- Instead, the first trams entered service in the then British capital of Calcutta in 1873
- The horse-drawn trams plied on a 3.8 km route between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street
- However, by the end of the year, the service was discontinued as the venture was not economically viable
- In 1874, the first horse-drawn trams emerged in Mumbai, plying on two routes – Colaba to Pydhonie via Crawford Market, and Bori Bunder to Pydhonie
- Nasik would be the third city in India which saw trams -a four-horse-driven tram (with two cabins) that would travel a distance of around 8 km, from the present day Old Municipal Corporation building located on the Main Road to the Nashik Road railway station.
- Horse-drawn trams also debuted in Patna in 1886, with tracks stretching between Patna City (Old Patna) and Bankipore, 3 km away
- These initial tram systems were little more than horse taxis being driven on fixed lines
- They were slow and required an immense number of horses to be viable, making them difficult to succeed economically
- In 1880, trams re-emerged in Calcutta, when Lord Ripon inaugurated a new, longer, metre-gauge route between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street via Bowbazar Street, Dalhousie Square and Strand Road
- Two years later, The Calcutta Tramway Company would experiment with steam locomotives (instead of horses) to pull trams
- However, locomotives were never universally adopted for tram systems
- This was primarily because older locomotives were notoriously unreliable and often very polluting, drawing opposition from citizens
- Thus, by the end of the 19th century, The Calcutta Tramway Company would boast of seven locomotives and over 1000 horses, with both being used to pull trams
- The Cochin State Forest Tramway began operations in 1907, transporting teak and rosewood from the forests of Palakkad to the town of Chalakudy in Thrissur District
- At the time, this was the longest tram route in India, stretching nearly 80 km and the only one not geared towards urban transport
- In 1926, under the reign of Colonel Maharaja Raol Sir Shri Krishna Kumarsinhji Bhavsinhji, locomotive-driven tramways would be introduced in the Princely State of Bhavnagar
- In 1895, Madras (present-day Chennai) saw India’s first electric tramways enter service with seven cars
- This was a revolutionary new mode of transport, connecting the city’s docks to its inland areas
- Unlike steam locomotives, these were far cleaner and less noisy, and thus immediately became a preferred option
- By 1902, Calcutta saw its first electric tramcars, plying between Esplanade and Kidderpore, and Esplanade and Kalighat
- Bombay would see electrification too, in 1907, under the newly formed Bombay Electric Supply and Tramway Company (BEST).
- Cawnpore (present-day Kanpur) saw a 6.4-km track between the railway station and Sirsiya Ghat, which became operational in 1907
- Delhi saw its first trams a year later, in the area now called Old Delhi
- In their heyday, trams could be seen in Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, Chawri Bazaar, Katra Badiyan, Lal Kuan, and Fatehpuri as well as Sabzi Mandi, Sadar Bazar, Paharganj, Ajmeri Gate, Bara Hindu Rao and Tis Hazari
6.Decline of Trams culture
- By the 1960s, tramways, which were once seen as a revolutionary development in urban transport, had all but vanished in India
- Today, Kolkata remains the last city which still operates trams, though these old colonial relics are perpetually at risk of being discontinued.
- Trams saw their demise due to a variety of reasons, from the emergence of better alternatives to issues with economic viability.
- Patna would be the first city to discontinue tram service in 1903, on account of low ridership.
- Nasik shut down its tramways in 1933, in the aftermath of successive years of famine and plague
- Cawnpore shut its trams down in the same year after running into insurmountable losses. Madras’s tram company would go bankrupt in 1950, operating its last tram in 1953
- In Bombay, as the suburban railways extensively connected the city to its suburbs and buses took to the streets, trams quickly became obsolete
- In fact, as early as 1926, BEST actually launched its own bus service. Trams would chug on in the city till 1964
- Delhi would see trams being discontinued on account of urban congestion in 1963
However, recently, trams have made their way back into public consciousness, if not in India, abroad
Melbourne operates the largest tram network in the world and plans to continue upgrading its system
One of the reasons behind this is that trams are seen as among the most sustainable modes of urban transport available
Myanmar and India who say the conflict on the ground and frequent change of regulations by Myanmarese authorities pose twin challenges.
2. Myanmar Teak
- Teak from Myanmar's deciduous and evergreen forests is considered the most tensile and durable hardwood, resistant to water and termites.
- This prized wood is in demand for high-end furniture, veneer, and ship decking much sought after by the luxury yacht industry.
- Adding to its value, ironically, is Myanmar's shrinking forest cover and depleting teak reserves.
- Global Forest Watch says the country, over the last two decades, has lost forest cover roughly the size of Switzerland.
3. Why is teak imported from Myanmar described as “conflict wood”?
- Since the February 2021 coup in Myanmar when the democratically elected government was overthrown, the military junta has also taken control of Myanma Timber Enterprises (MTE), the state-owned company which has exclusive rights over the country’s precious timber and teak trade.
- The MTE has held an estimated dozen timber auctions since the coup and sales of this “conflict” wood, pro-democracy supporters allege, are a key revenue stream for the military regime.
4. Steps were taken to check the illegal harvesting of timber and teak from Myanmar
- In 2013, the European Union introduced the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), which put the onus on timber merchants to do sufficient due diligence to disallow illegal timber from entering their markets.
- A year later, Myanmar itself banned the export of whole logs-the same year international NGO Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released data that showed that over 70% of the logs exported from Myanmar between 2000-2013 were illegally harvested.
Under sanctions, prized Myanmar teak finds its way to the US, and EU markets via India.
Finally, months after the February 2021 military coup, both the EU and the US imposed sanctions on all timber trade with Myanmar and categorized MTE as a banned entity.
5. Impact of the sanctions
- The EU consensus has been that since due diligence is not possible for all Myanmar timber and teak, any imports from Myanmar are a violation of the law.
- Also, as Forest trends have analyzed in its March 2022 report, since all MTE auctions are held in US currency, regardless of the nationality of the traders and imports from Myanmar should again be considered a violation.
- Despite this, the flow of teak originating from Myanmar continues into the US and several EU countries, as borne out by global trade data.
- Ans although direct trade into countries like Germany, Belgium, and Netherlands has come down to negligible quantities, imports into countries like Italy, Croatia, and Greece have increased.
- Plus, there have been numerous seizures of smuggled teak along Myanmar's borders of China and India, traditionally the largest importers of its teak.
6. What are the loopholes to be plugged to ensure that India is not looked upon as a leakage country?
- On the question of continuing exports (as evident from trade data) from Myanmar to countries where sanctions are in place, timber traders said their buyers were free to do DNA testing on the hardwood for traceability of origins.
- However, this science is a nascent one even in the developed world and has not been introduced in India either by timber traders or by police forces, for instance, as evidence against smugglers who are frequently caught along the Indo-Myanmar border with stolen truck consignments.
- The Indian Express noticed clear loopholes in regulations while teak was being exported to EU countries, which the trader's claim was paid for before the 2021 coup.
- Trade data reveals some Indian companies simply put "Asia" in the column for the origin of the wood, without specifying which country.
- Also, forest officials in Nagpur said that in transit passes they signed, traders wrote"imported" in the space for declaring where the teak was purchased from. These are loopholes that can be plugged in.
7. About Forest Steward Council (SFC)
- The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international, non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting the responsible management of wood forests.
- Since its foundation in 1994, FSC has grown to become the world's most respected and widespread forest certification system.
- FSC's pioneering certification system, which now covers more than 200 million hectares of forest, enables businesses and consumers to choose wood, paper, and other forest products made with materials that support responsible forestry.
For Prelims & Mains
For Prelims: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Global Forest Watch, Myanmar teak, EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), and Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
For Mains: 1. Why is teak imported from Myanmar described as “conflict wood”? Discuss the Steps taken to check the illegal harvesting of timber and teak from Myanmar.
Source: The Indian Express
A conclave on exploring synergies between DAY-NRLM’s initiatives of Rural Transformation and Corporate House’s CSR efforts in rural areas was held under the chairpersonship of Additional Secretary, Rural Livelihoods (RL), Shri Charanjit Singh in New Delhi
In his keynote address, AS (RL) Shri Charanjit Singh stated that the aim of DAY-NRLM is to uplift the lives of the people at the last mile and for that it is important to bring together as many partners as we can. He added the approach needs to be expanded from ‘Whole of Government’ to ‘Whole of Society’ towards ‘Antyodaya’ as guided by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi
Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM) as a flagship poverty alleviation program aims to reduce poverty by enabling the poor household to access gainful self-employment and skilled wage employment opportunities resulting in sustainable and diversified livelihood options for the poor
This is one of the world's largest initiatives to improve the livelihoods of the poor
The Mission seeks to achieve its objective through investing in four core components
1.social mobilization and promotion and strengthening of self-managed and financially sustainable community institutions of the rural poor women
4.social inclusion, social development and access to entitlements through convergence
DAY-NRLM promotes sustainable agriculture, livestock and NTFPs in intensive blocks under the Farm interventions
The focus of the interventions is on training and capacity building, and promotion of agro-ecological practices as well as livestock practices to enhance crop and animal productivity.
3.CSR in Rural Development
It is important to note that the CSR budget spend is not necessarily a reflection of the effectiveness or impact of a company's CSR initiatives
There are also concerns about companies fulfilling the mandatory spending by making token donations or CSR activities that lack strategic planning and impact assessment
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives can face several pain areas or challenges in their implementation, some of them are:
3.1.Regional Disparity: Due to compulsion of expenditure in the act to spend the amount in the catchment area of the operations, so it has been observed that in the same geographical area many of the organizations are working, whereas in some areas there is a little spending. This leads to regional disparity, where some community are not able to receive any support.
3.2.Sectoral Disparity: As per the CSR act, every organization has a CSR mandate to spend on the sectors defined as per SDG. As every organization can decide its expenditure independently, so it has been realized that some sectors are receiving a lot of funds, whereas other sectors are not able to get adequate budgetary allocation
3.3.Treatment of Unspent Budget: The latest amendment in the act requires companies to deposit the unspent CSR funds into a fund prescribed under schedule VII of the act within the end of the fiscal year.
3.4.Finding the right Implementation Partners: Companies may not effectively engage with their stakeholders, such as communities, NGOs, and other organizations, so finding the right Implementation Agency is a difficult task
3.5.Duplication of activities in the same project area: Companies may not have information about all the beneficiaries and the support they are receiving from different CSR initiative, so there are high chances of duplication in the project area, where the benefits are drawn from the same set of beneficiaries
3.6.Limited sustainability: Companies may not focus on long-term sustainability and may not have the ability to scale their CSR initiatives to achieve greater impact
3.7.Compliance over Impact: Companies may focus more on compliance with legal requirements, rather than on the impact of their CSR initiatives.
3.8.Tokenism: Companies may make token donations or undertake CSR activities that lack strategic planning and impact assessment, just for the sake of fulfilling the mandatory spending
3.9.Lack of Community Participation: Majority of the companies focus on expenditure, but may fail to ensure participation of community due to lack of systems
As far back as 1949, when the Chairman of the Drafting Committee Dr. B R Ambedkar told the Constituent Assembly that thinking about an "unfit person" becoming Chief Election Commissioner gave him a "headache", the issue of how appointments to the Election Commission of India (ECI) are to be made has been a tricky question.
2. Constitutional Provision
- Article 324(2) of the Constitution only says that "the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made on that behalf by Parliament, be made by the President", which essentially gives the central government the power to appoint the members of the ECI.
- The Supreme Court on Thursday gave its answer to the problem when it ruled that the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the two Election Commissioners (EC) that make up the ECI should be appointed on the advice of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.
- In its Judgement, the apex court said its arrangement of the committee would remain till parliament passes a law on the subject.
3. Structure of ECI
- Originally the commission had only one election commissioner but after the Election Commissioner Amendment Act 1989, it has been made a multi-member body.
- The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and such number of other election commissioners if any, as the President may from time to time fix.
- Presently, it consists of the CEC and two Election Commissioners.
- At the state level, the election commission is helped by the Chief Electoral Officer who is an IAS rank Officer.
4. Appointment & Tenure of Commissioners
- The President appoints CEC and Election Commissioners.
- They have a fixed tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court (SC) of India.
- They can resign anytime or can also be removed before the expiry of their term.
- The CEC can be removed from office only through a process of removal similar to that of an SC judge by parliament.
6. Procedure for Removal
- Judges of High Courts and Supreme Court, CEC, Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) may be removed from office through a motion adopted by parliament on grounds of 'proved misbehavior or incapacity'.
- Removal requires a special majority of 2/3rd members present and voting supported by more than 50% of the total strength of the house.
- The Constitution does not use the word 'impeachment', for the removal of the judges, CAG, and CEC.
- The term 'Impeachment' is only used for removing the President which requires a special majority of 2/3 rd members of the total strength of both houses which is not used elsewhere.
7. Current Process of appointment of EC and CEC
- The Chief election commissioner and other ECs are appointed by the President on recommendations of the central government. This raises a question about the partisan behavior of officials toward the ruling party.
- Appointment of Election Commissioners falls within the purview of Article 324(2) of the Constitution.
- Although the Constitution provided the 'subject to' clause in which Parliament has the power to decide the appointment procedure for ECs, Parliament has so far not enacted any changes to the appointment process.
8. Views on the Current Process
- The Election Commission is not only responsible for conducting free and fair elections, but it also has quasi-judicial functions, so the Executive cannot be a sole participant in the appointment process. This also gives the ruling party unlimited power to choose someone whose loyalty to it is ensured.
- The current process also lacks transparency.
- Several petitions in SC have called the current practice into question. They argue that the current practice of appointment violates Articles 14, 324(2), and democracy as a basic feature of the Constitution.
9. What were the Concerns that Ambedkar expressed?
- While discussing the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner by the President, Dr. Ambedkar expressed his apprehensions in the Constituent Assembly on June 16, 1949.
- Giving the example of the United States, where the Senate has some say on certain appointments by the President, Ambedkar noted that the Provision in the American Constitution was a 'very salutary check upon the extravagance of the President in making his appointments'.
- These checks, he said, were likely to lead to "administrative difficulties".
- The Drafting Committee had paid considerable attention to this question because as Ambedkar said it is going to be one of our greatest headaches and as a via media, it was thought that if this Assembly would give or enact what is called an Instrument of Instructions to the President and provide therein some machinery which it would be obligatory on the President to consult before making any appointment, Ambedkar thought that the difficulties which are felt as resulting from the American Constitution may be obviated and the advantage which is contained therein may be secured.
10. Recommendations on the Selection Process
- Over the years, the question of the independence of the ECI from the executive has cropped up several times, given that the persons appointed to the posts have been retired senior bureaucrats.
- The UPA-era Second Administrative Reforms Commission in its report in January 2007 recommended that a collegium headed by the Prime Minister and comprising the Lok sabha speaker, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Law Minister, and the Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha be formed to make recommendations to the President regarding appointments of the CEC and ECs.
- During debates in the Constituent Assembly on the procedure for appointment, there were suggestions that the person appointed as the Chief Election Commissioner should enjoy the confidence of all parties, and therefore his appointment should be confirmed by a 2/3 majority of both Houses.
- Thus even at that stage, there was a view that the procedure for appointment should be a broad-based one, above all partisan considerations,” the reforms commission report stated.
- Giving the example of the Committees for the appointment of the National Human Rights Commission and Central Vigilance Commissioner chairperson and members, the reforms committee said: Given the far-reaching importance and critical role of the Election Commission in the working of our democracy, it would certainly be appropriate if a similar collegium is constituted for selection of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners.
For Prelims & Mains
For Prelims: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Election Commission of India (ECI), President of India, Prime Minister, Council of Ministers, Leader of Opposition, 2nd Administrative reforms commission, Articles 14, and Article 324(2)
For Mains: 1. The role played by the Election Commission of India has bestowed a very high level of confidence in the minds of Indian citizens in ensuring the purity of the elected legislative bodies in the country. Critically examine.
Source: The Indian Express