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News Analysis

14th February, 2024 (Wednesday)

1Qualifications of Rajya Sabha MembersGS.2: Indian Polity – Parliament
2The Chief Election Commissioner & Other ECs (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023GS.2: Indian Polity – Constitutional Bodies
3Office of the Deputy SpeakerGS. 2: Indian Polity –Presiding Officers
4The Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006GS.2: Social Justice –  Forest dwellers
5Revitalizing India-EFTA Trade TalksGS.2: IR – India & Europe
6India-UAE ties (Editorial Analysis)GS.2: IR: India & West Asia (Mains)
7Minimum Support Price (MSP)GS.3: Indian Economy: Agricultural Policies


Syllabus: GS.2: Indian Polity – Parliament

Why it’s in the News: Recently, several members of the Rajya Sabha retired upon completing their tenure. News emerged of new nominations from various political parties and states, notably Sonia Gandhi filing her nomination for the RS polls from Rajasthan.

Qualification for Rajya Sabha Member

  • A person seeking membership of Rajya Sabha must possess the following qualifications:
    • She/He should be a citizen of India and at least 30 years of age.
    • She/He should make an oath or affirmation stating that s/he will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India.
    • She/He must be Parliamentary elector in the state from which he is seeking election.
    • She/He must make and subscribe before some person authorized in that behalf by the Election Commission an oath or affirmation asserting his allegiance to the constitution of India
    • She/He must possess such other qualifications as may be prescribed by the Parliament for that purpose from time to time.
  • According to the Representation of People Act, 1951, s/he should be registered as a voter in the State from which s/he is seeking election to the Rajya Sabha.
  • However, in 2003, a provision was made declaring, any Indian citizen can contest the Rajya Sabha elections irrespective of the State in which s/he resides.
NEWS PLUS: Term of Rajya Sabha Member The Rajya Sabha is a permanent house and is not subject to dissolution. But as nearly as possible, one-third of the members of Rajya Sabha retire after every two years in accordance with the provisions made by the Parliament by law. Thus, the members of the Rajya Sabha are elected for a term of six years. This arrangement ensures continuity as well as representation of the changing public opinion.

Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023,

Syllabus: GS.2: Indian Polity – Constitutional Bodies

Why it’s in the News: The Supreme Court declined to issue interim orders halting the implementation of a new law regarding the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.

About the Law

  • Supreme Court Directive and Legislative Response:
    • In response to the Supreme Court’s directive in the Anoop Baranwal v Union of India case in 2023, the legislative framework underwent revisions to enhance transparency in the appointment process for the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs).
  • Supreme Court Ruling on Appointment Process:
    • The Supreme Court emphasized the importance of an independent Election Commission of India (ECI) to uphold the integrity of elections.
    • It advocated for a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India (CJI), and the Leader of the Opposition or the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha for the appointment of the CEC and ECs.
  • Key Provisions of the Act:
    • The Act replaces the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991.
    • It focuses on the appointment, salary, and removal of the CEC and ECs.
    • Appointment Process:
      • The CEC and ECs are now appointed by the President upon the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
      • This committee comprises the Prime Minister, a Union Cabinet Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition/leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha.
      • A Search Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary proposes a panel of names to the Selection Committee.
      • Eligibility criteria include holding (or having held) a post equivalent to the Secretary to the central government.
    • Changes in Salary and Conditions:
      • The Act aligns the salary and conditions of service of the CEC and ECs with that of the Cabinet Secretary.
      • Previously, under the 1991 Act, it equated to the salary of a Supreme Court Judge.
    • Removal Process:
      • The Act retains the constitutional provision (Article 324(5)) allowing the CEC’s removal akin to a Supreme Court Judge.
      • However, ECs can only be removed on the CEC’s recommendation.
    • Protection for CEC And ECs:
      • The Act shields CEC and ECs from legal proceedings related to actions taken during their tenure if carried out in the discharge of official duties.
      • This provision aims to safeguard these officials from civil or criminal proceedings regarding their official functions.
  • Concerns Regarding the Bill:
    • Transparency and Independence Challenges:
      • Allowing the Selection Committee’s recommendations to remain valid despite vacancies may lead to a dominance of ruling party members, potentially compromising the committee’s diversity and independence.
    • Shift from Judicial Benchmark to Executive Oversight:
      • Equating the salary of the CEC and ECs with that of the Cabinet Secretary, determined by the executive, raises concerns about undue government influence. This shift jeopardizes the financial independence of the EC compared to the fixed salary of a Supreme Court Judge.
    • Restriction of Eligibility to Civil Servants:
      • Restricting eligibility to individuals with a background equivalent to the Secretary to the government may exclude qualified candidates, limiting diversity in the Election Commission of India’s expertise and perspectives.
    • Concerns Regarding Parity:
      • Retaining the constitutional provision allowing the CEC’s removal akin to a Supreme Court Judge, while requiring the CEC’s recommendation for ECs’ removal, lacks parity in the removal process, potentially undermining fairness and impartiality.
  • Way Forward
    • To address concerns regarding the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023, reforms should prioritize transparent appointment procedures and safeguard the Election Commission’s independence.
    • These legislative reforms underscore the nation’s commitment to upholding democratic principles and ensuring fair and impartial elections.


Syllabus: GS. 2: Indian Polity –Presiding Officers

Why it’s in the News: The 17th Lok Sabha stands out for several unprecedented occurrences, notably the absence of a Deputy Speaker, minimal sittings, passage of crucial bills amidst Opposition suspensions, and limited Prime Ministerial question engagements. These trends signify a concerning decline in parliamentary efficacy over three decades. This is the first time Lok Sabha did not elect the Deputy Speaker for its entire duration.

About Office of the Deputy Speaker:

  • Election of the Deputy Speaker:
    • The Deputy Speaker is elected from amongst the members of the Lok Sabha.
    • Following the election of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker is subsequently elected.
    • As per the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha, the election of the Deputy Speaker shall be held on a date determined by the Speaker.
    • Conventionally, the post of the Deputy Speaker is accorded to the opposition party in India.
  • Term of Office and Removal:
    • The Deputy Speaker serves during the tenure of the Lok Sabha, typically five years.
    • The Deputy Speaker may vacate office prematurely under three circumstances:
    • Ceasing to be a member of the Lok Sabha.
    • Resignation submitted to the Speaker.
    • Removal from office through a resolution passed by a majority vote of all members of the Lok Sabha, with a 14-day advance notice to the Deputy Speaker.
  • Powers & Functions:
    • In the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker assumes the Speaker’s responsibilities and powers.
    • The Deputy Speaker presides over joint sessions of both houses of Parliament when the Speaker is unavailable.
    • Like the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker holds the right to cast a deciding vote in case of a tie.
    • Additionally, the Deputy Speaker enjoys the privilege of automatic chairmanship in any Parliamentary committee to which they are appointed as a member.
  • By embodying the principles of impartiality and efficiency, the Office of the Deputy Speaker plays a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth functioning of parliamentary proceedings and upholding the democratic ethos of the nation.
  • The Missing Deputy Speaker
    • The absence of a Deputy Speaker in the 17th Lok Sabha and several state assemblies since 2019 has sparked debate. Experts argue it goes against the Constitution, while the government claims there’s no immediate need as legislative proceedings are functioning normally with alternative arrangements in place.


Syllabus: GS.2: Social Justice – Forest dwellers

Why it’s in the News: Forest-dwellers in Tamil Nadu’s Thanthai Periyar Sanctuary fear rights denial due to exclusion from revenue villages despite legal mandates.

About the Forest Right Act, 2006

  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, popularly known as the Forest Rights Act (FRA), stands as landmark legislation in India.
  • Its primary objective is to acknowledge and allocate forest rights to Scheduled Tribes (STs) and other communities with traditional ties to forest lands.
  • Salient Features of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006:
    • Recognition and Vesting of Rights:
      • Recognizes forest rights of Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDST) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD) residing in forests for generations.
      • Vesting of individual and community rights in forest-dwelling communities, acknowledging their historical and cultural ties to the land.
    • Categories of Rights:
      • Individual rights for cultivation, community rights over common resources, and traditional access to forests.
    • Role of Gram Sabha:
      • Central role in implementation, including beneficiary identification and rights allocation.
    • Cultural and Religious Rights:
      • Protection of customs, traditions, and rituals of forest-dwelling communities.
    • Consent of Gram Sabha:
      • Mandatory consent for forestland diversion, ensuring local participation in decision-making.
    • Protection against Eviction:
      • Prohibits eviction from traditional habitats, safeguarding against displacement.
    • Role of Committees:
      • Establishment of committees for verification and approval of claims.
    • Four Types of Rights:
      • Title rights: The law grants ownership rights (up to a maximum of 4 hectares) to land farmed by tribals or forest dwellers, limited to existing lands only, with no coverage for new land.
      • Produce rights: Forest dwellers will have rights over Minor Forest Produce, grazing areas, fishing, etc.
      • Rehabilitation rights: It provides in situ rehabilitation for displaced persons evicted without compensation prior to December 13, 2005.
      • Forest management rights: Forest dwellers are granted the right to protect, regenerate, conserve, or manage any community forest resource they have traditionally utilized.
      • Development rights: Forest villages and habitations located on forest lands will be converted into revenue villages. Leases granted by zamindars, kings, or previous governments will be converted into permanent land record
  • Eligibility Criteria:
    • Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribe (FDST):
      • Must belong to a Scheduled Tribe in the area where the right is claimed.
      • Must have primarily resided in forest or forest land prior to December 13, 2005.
      • Must depend on the forest or forest land for genuine livelihood needs.
    • Other Traditional Forest Dweller (OTFD):
      • Must have resided in forest or forest land for three generations (75 years) prior to December 13, 2005.
      • Must depend on the forest or forest land for genuine livelihood needs.
  • Authority to Determine Extent:
    • The Gram Sabha holds the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of Individual Forest Rights (IFR) or Community Forest Rights (CFR).
    • Process of Providing Rights:
      • The Gram Sabha (village assembly) passes a resolution recommending rights to specific resources.
      • This resolution undergoes screening and approval at the sub-division (or taluka) level, followed by approval at the district level.
  • Challenges in Implementing the Forest Rights Act (FRA):
    • Estimation of Eligible Beneficiaries:
      • Lack of clear records hampers determining the number of forest-dwelling communities benefiting from the act.
      • This ambiguity poses a risk to existing forest cover.
    • Apathy at Implementation Level:
      • Officials accused of indifference to forest dwellers’ concerns, hindering effective implementation.
    • Forest and Wildlife Destruction:
      • Granting legal rights to forest dwellers may prevent the creation of human-free areas, endangering wildlife conservation efforts.
    • Exclusion of Certain Groups:
      • Communities outside forests but reliant on them for livelihoods are excluded from the act’s provisions.
    • Lack of Resources:
      • The Department of Tribal Affairs lacks adequate human and financial resources for FRA implementation.
  • Way Forward:
    • Sensitiveness to Forest Dwellers’ Concerns: Implementing authorities must address forest dwellers’ concerns sensitively, aiming for consensus.
    • Regular Audits: Conducting regular audits to assess law’s impact and identify areas for improvement is essential.
    • Involving State Governments: Center-State cooperation crucial for effective FRA implementation.


Syllabus: GS.2: IR: India & Europe

Why it’s in the News:    India and EFTA countries consider reviving Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) negotiations. Leaked draft suggests potential delay in generic drug access by six years.

Resuming Negotiations for Trade and Economic Partnership: India and EFTA

  • In a recent meeting convened in New Delhi, India, and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) comprising Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland expressed their mutual interest in revitalizing negotiations for a Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA), which had been at a standstill since 2018.

About EFTA

  • EFTA, established in 1960, serves as an intergovernmental organization providing an alternative trade bloc for European states not part of the European Union (EU).
  • Its membership includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, all of which enjoy access to the EU’s single market through various agreements.

India-EFTA Trade Relations

  • India considers EFTA its 9th largest trading partner, constituting approximately 2.5% of its total merchandise trade in the fiscal year 2020-21.
  • The trade between India and EFTA primarily encompasses textiles, chemicals, gems, jewelry, machinery, pharmaceuticals, machinery, chemicals, precious metals, and medical instruments.

About TEPA

  • Objective:
    • TEPA aims to foster trade and investment opportunities between India and EFTA by dismantling tariffs and non-tariff barriers, ensuring equitable market access for service providers and investors, and bolstering cooperation in intellectual property rights protection and enforcement.
    • Additionally, TEPA seeks to streamline trade procedures, facilitate customs cooperation, and establish robust mechanisms for dispute resolution.
  • Coverage:
    • This comprehensive agreement spans various domains including trade in goods, services, investment, intellectual property rights, competition, government procurement, trade facilitation, trade remedies, dispute settlement, and other pertinent areas of mutual interest.
  • Recent Highlights of TEPA Negotiations
    • Acknowledgment of Challenges: Participants recognized the challenges posed by the global economic and trade environment.
    • Constructive Approach: Both sides agreed to address bilateral trade and economic partnership issues in a constructive and pragmatic manner.
    • Inclusion of Gender Equality Talks: India proposed incorporating discussions on gender equality and women empowerment within the TEPA negotiations, showcasing its commitment to social development alongside economic growth.
  • India’s commitment to promoting social development alongside economic progress underscores the holistic approach it seeks in fostering sustainable partnerships. As negotiations resume, the TEPA holds the promise of bolstering economic ties and fostering greater cooperation between India and the EFTA member states.


Syllabus: GS.2: IR: India & West Asia (Mains)

Why it’s in the News: The editorial highlights the strong personal bond and substantive engagements between Prime Minister Modi and President Sheikh Mohamed of the UAE.

Analysis of the Editorial:

  • At a time when diplomacy is widely regarded as transactional, the deeply personal relationship between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stands out as something of an old-world construct.
  • Personalized Diplomacy:
    • The editorial highlights the exceptional nature of the relationship between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, which transcends conventional diplomatic norms.
    • It emphasizes the importance of trust and credibility over mere diplomatic reciprocity, indicating a more profound level of engagement between the leaders.
  • Bilateral Relationship Dynamics:
    • The editorial underscores the frequency and significance of interactions between the two leaders, exemplified by Prime Minister Modi’s frequent visits to the UAE and Sheikh Mohamed’s reciprocal engagements in India.
    • These interactions have contributed to the development of a dynamic and consequential bilateral relationship.
  • Current Visit Highlights:
    • The editorial discusses the ongoing visit of Prime Minister Modi to the UAE, noting the unique timing dictated by the religious calendar for the inauguration of a grand Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi.
    • This event symbolizes the acknowledgment of India’s cultural and religious diversity within the UAE, fostering goodwill among the Indian diaspora.
  • Substantive Aspects of the Visit:
    • While the temple inauguration garners attention, the editorial underscores the importance of other substantive agendas, such as Prime Minister Modi’s participation in the World Government Summit in Dubai.
    • This platform provides India with an opportunity to showcase its perspectives on shaping future governments to a global audience.
  • Economic Cooperation:
    • The editorial highlights key economic initiatives aimed at strengthening bilateral ties, such as the Bharat Mart project and the India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
    • These initiatives aim to boost Indian exports and facilitate market access in the Middle East and Central Asia, enhancing economic cooperation between the two countries.
  • Bilateral Achievements:
    • The editorial enumerates significant achievements resulting from bilateral cooperation, including educational collaborations, foreign direct investments, and energy security agreements.
    • These achievements demonstrate the multifaceted nature of the India-UAE relationship, encompassing various sectors from education to energy.
  • Regional Concerns:
    • Furthermore, the editorial emphasizes the importance of addressing regional challenges, such as the conflict in Gaza and maritime security threats, through close coordination between India and the UAE.
    • Given the potential economic implications for India, particularly in terms of shipping and oil prices, collaboration with key regional players becomes imperative.
  • Conclusion:
    • The editorial paints a comprehensive picture of the evolving India-UAE relationship, characterized by personal rapport, substantive engagements, and shared strategic interests.
    • It underscores the significance of this partnership in navigating regional challenges and advancing mutual prosperity, transcending conventional notions of diplomatic engagement.


Syllabus: GS.3: Indian Economy: Agricultural Policies

Why it’s in the News: Farmer protests intensify as government rejects MSP demand. Talks offered, opposition pledges MSP. Tensions rise with Delhi March threat.

About Minimum Support Price (MSP)

  • Definition and Purpose:
    • MSP is a government measure designed to safeguard farmers from drastic price fluctuations in agricultural commodities, ensuring they avoid losses and maintain stable incomes.
    • Indian government sets MSP for 24 commodities biannually, providing a safety net for farmers, particularly during years of abundant crop production.
  • Implementation and Mechanism:
    • When market prices fall below MSP, government intervenes by purchasing the surplus produce from farmers at the predetermined MSP.
    • This intervention helps in stabilizing prices, incentivizing crop cultivation, and preventing distress sales by farmers.
  • Historical Context and Need:
    • MSP was introduced as a response to the challenges faced by farmers during the Green Revolution era, providing additional incentives for crop production, especially for labor-intensive crops like wheat and paddy.
    • Since 2014, farmers have experienced declining commodity prices due to factors such as droughts, economic slowdown, and the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the continued relevance of MSP in ensuring farmers’ welfare.
  • Determination of MSP:
    • MSP is determined by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), which considers various factors including production costs, market prices, global demand, and input costs such as labor, fertilizers, and machinery.
    • The CACP’s recommendations are presented to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for approval.
  • Role of CACP:
    • Established in 1965, CACP advises the government on MSPs, aiming to optimize resource use, increase productivity, and ensure fair returns for farmers.
    • Although CACP’s recommendations are not legally binding, they play a crucial role in setting MSPs and shaping agricultural policies.
  • Crops Covered under MSP:
    • MSP covers a range of commodities including cereals, pulses, cotton, jute, and sugarcane, promoting diversification and sustainability in agricultural practices.
    • Factors considered by CACP for MSP recommendations include demand-supply dynamics, manufacturing costs, market trends, and consumer preferences.
  • Significance and Impact:
    • MSP ensures better prices for farmers, promotes crop diversification, and supports self-sufficiency in food production.
    • It serves as a buffer against market uncertainties, stabilizes agricultural incomes, and fosters rural development.
    • MSP aligns with government initiatives such as Atma-nirbhar Bharat, emphasizing the importance of domestic production and reducing dependence on imports.
  • Conclusion:
    • MSP remains a crucial policy instrument for ensuring farmers’ welfare, stabilizing agricultural markets, and achieving food security goals. Its continued relevance underscores the government’s commitment to supporting agriculture and rural livelihoods in India.

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