INDEX :

  1. Bureaucrats cannot be State Election Commissioners: SC 
  2. WHO says no reason to stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine
  3. Benzene Pollution
  4. Jet fuel be brought under GST regime

PIB SUMMARY: 

  1. MERA RATION MOBILE APP
  2. JHARKHAND APPROVES TO RESERVE 75% PRIVATE SECTOR JOBS TO LOCALS

 

 

Bureaucrats cannot be State Election Commissioners: SC 

#GS -3 #POLITY #CONSTITUTIONAL UNDERPINNINGS

In news.

  • Giving government employees the additional charge of State Election Commissioners is a mockery of the Constitution”
  • The Supreme Court held that independent persons and not bureaucrats should be appointed State Election Commissioners. 
  • Court directed that the States should appoint independent persons as Election Commissioners all along the length and breadth of the country. 

Guidelines.

  • Government employees holding the post of State Election Commissioners as additional charge should give up the post. 
  • The Supreme Court said its direction should be followed strictly. 
  • The independence of Election Commissions cannot be compromised at any cost, the Bench said, adding that it was “disturbing” to see government employees manning State Election Commissions as an add-on job. 
  • The judgment criticised the Goa government for giving its Law Secretary the additional charge of State Election Commissioner. 
  • Under the constitutional mandate, it is the duty of the State to not interfere with the functioning of the State Election Commission. 
  • The judgment came on an appeal against an order of the Bombay High Court which had set aside the election notification issued by the Goa State Election Commission in the municipalities of Margao, Mapusa, Mormugao, Sanguem and Quepem. 
  • The Supreme Court ordered the Goa State Election Commission to issue a notification for panchayat polls within 10 days and complete the election process by April 30. 

BIASA BASICS 

Autonomy of State Election Commission 

  • In India, the constitution envisages an Election Commission of India (ECI) and State Election Commissions (SEC) for every state to safeguard the free and fair election and grants them with certain constitutional safeguards to secure their independent functioning. 
  • The State Election Commissioner is appointed by the Governor. 
  • Article 243(C3) - The Governor, when so requested by the State Election Commission, make available to the State Election Commission such staff as may be necessary for the discharge of the functions conferred on the SEC. 
  • Article 243K(1) - It states that the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to the Panchayats (Municipalities under Article 243ZA) shall be vested in a State Election Commission consisting of a State Election Commissioner to be appointed by the Governor. 
  • Article 243K(2) - It states that the tenure and appointment will be directed as per the law made by the state legislature. 
  • However, State Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his/her office except in like manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of a High Court. 

Exact Same Status Of EC

  • The provisions of Article 243K of the Constitution, which provides for setting up of SECs, are almost identical to those of Article 324 related to the EC. In other words, the SECs enjoy the same status as the EC. 
  • In Kishan Singh Tomar vs Municipal Corporation of the City of Ahmedabad case, the Supreme Court directed that state governments should abide by orders of the SECs during the conduct of the panchayat and municipal elections, just like they follow the instructions of the EC during Assembly and Parliament polls. 

Are the SECs as independent as the EC? 

  • Although state election commissioners are appointed by the state governors and can only be removed by impeachment, in the last two decades many have struggled to assert their independence. One of the most widely remembered cases of confrontation happened in Maharashtra in 2008. 
  • Then state election commissioner Nand Lal was arrested and sent to jail for two days in March 2008 after the Assembly found him guilty of breach of privilege in an alleged conflict over his jurisdiction and powers. 
  • Lal had asserted that as the state election commissioner he had the power to hold elections to the offices of mayor, deputy mayor, sarpanch and deputy sarpanch. 
  • After a Congress MLA moved a privilege motion objecting to the notification, the privileges committee of the Assembly asked him to appear and explain. 
  • Lal did not, which led to the committee concluding that he was creating hurdles in “constitutional and legislative functions”, a breach of privilege. He was sent for two days of civil imprisonment. 

Challenges with the functioning of SEC.

Lack of Autonomy: Although the state election commission on many occasions tried to exercise its duties enshrined in the constitution of India, they struggled to assert their independence. For example: 

○ In Maharashtra, SEC had asserted that he should have the power to hold elections to the offices of mayor, deputy mayor, sarpanch and deputy sarpanch. 

○ On the contrary, he was arrested and sent to jail for two days in March 2008 after the Legislative Assembly found him guilty of breach of privilege in an alleged conflict over his jurisdiction and powers. 

Lack of Safeguard for SEC: Though the State Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his/her office except in like manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of a High Court (Art 243K(2)), yet it has been diluted on many instances. 

 

○ In the Aparmita Prasad Singh vs. State of U.P. (2007), the Allahabad High Court held that if the Governor has power to fix or prescribe tenure by rule, he also enjoys the power to amend the rule, either for extending the term of the tenure or reducing the same. 

○ Once the prescribed tenure comes to end, the incumbent SEC must cease to hold office and this shall not amount to removal from office. 

Non Uniform Service Conditions for SECs: Article 243K(2) states that the tenure and appointment will be directed as per the law made by the state legislature and thus each SEC is governed by a separate state Act. 

○ This gives power to states to amend rules unilaterally and even sometimes take ordinance routes to bypass legislative scrutiny like the recent example of Andhra Pradesh SEC.

WAY FORWARD 

Steps To Be Taken

 1.Supreme Court Directive 

● The state governments need to follow the guidelines given by the Supreme Court in Kishan Singh Tomar vs Municipal Corporation of Ahmedabad case

○ The provisions of Article 243K of the Constitution, which provides for setting up of SECs, are almost identical to those of Article 324 related to the ECI. 

○ Also, the state governments should abide by orders of the SECs during the conduct of the panchayat and municipal elections, just like they follow the instructions of the EC during Assembly and Parliament polls. 

 

2. Second Administrative Reforms Commission Recommendation 

Constitution of the State Election Commission: The State Election Commissioner should be appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of a collegium, comprising the Chief Minister, the Speaker of the State Legislative Assembly and the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly. 

● An institutional mechanism should be created to bring the Election Commission of India and the SECs on a common platform for coordination, learning from each other‟s experiences and sharing of resources. 

 

3. Law Commission 255th Report on Electoral Reforms 

● It recommended, to add a new sub-clause to Article 324 of the Constitution to provide for a separate independent and permanent Secretariat for the ECI along the lines of the Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha Secretariats under Article 98 of the Constitution. 

● Similar provisions can also be made for the State Election Commissions to ensure autonomy, and free and fair local body election. 

 

 

 

WHO says no reason to stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine

#GS-2 #HEALTH #POLICIES #WHO

Why In News 

  • The World Health Organization said there was no reason to stop using AstraZeneca‟s COVID-19 vaccine after several countries suspended the rollout over blood clot fears. 
  • The WHO stressed that no causal link had been established between the vaccine and clotting. 
  • The UN agency also said that after the injection of more than 260 million vaccine doses so far around the world, no deaths had yet been attributed to a COVID-19 jab. 

AstraZeneca jab  was halted for further usage.

  • Denmark, Norway and Iceland paused the use of the AstraZeneca jab as a precaution after isolated reports of recipients developing blood clots. 
  • Italy and Austria have banned the use of shots from separate batches of AstraZeneca, and Thailand and Bulgaria said they would delay the rollout of the shot. 
  • A range of health authorities around the world have insisted the jab is safe, including the European Medicines Agency and the WHO. 

No causal link found 

  • There had been 30 cases of so-called thromboembolic events among five million people who had received the jab in Europe. 
  • But European countries could still keep using the vaccine, the EU‟s drug regulator said. 
  • While a few countries had, as a precaution, suspended the use of a specific batch of AstraZeneca vaccine distributed in Europe, based on reports of blood coagulation disorders, “a causal relationship has not been shown”. 
Covid vaccine: Moderna seeks approval in US and Europe - BBC News

Oxford university‟s ChAdOx1 Covid-19 vaccine 

  • ChAdOx1 COVID-9 was jointly developed by British-Swedish company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. 
  • It has been found to be safe and induced an immune response in early-stage clinical trials. 
  • The vaccine belongs to a category called non-replicating viral vector vaccines. 
  • This vaccine is made from a genetically engineered virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. 
  • Scientists did this by transferring the genetic instructions of the coronavirus‟ “spike protein” - the crucial tool it uses to invade human cells - to the vaccine. 
  • This was done so that the vaccine resembles the coronavirus and the immune system can learn how to attack it. 

BIASA BASICS 

Type of vaccines 

  • Inactivated: These are vaccines made by using particles of the Covid-19 virus that were killed, making them unable to infect or replicate. 

○ Injecting particular doses of these particles serves to build immunity by helping the body create antibodies against the dead virus. 

  • Non-replicating viral vector: It uses a weakened, genetically modified version of a different virus to carry the Covid-19 spike protein. 
  • Protein subunit: This vaccine uses a part of the virus to build an immune response in a targeted fashion. 

○ In this case, the part of the virus being targeted would be the spike protein. 

  • RNA: Such vaccines use the messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules that tell cells what proteins to build. 

○ The mRNA, in this case, is coded to tell the cells to recreate the spike protein. 

○ Once it is injected, the cells will use the mRNA‟s instructions, creating copies of the spike protein, which in turn is expected to prompt the immune cells to create antibodies to fight it. 

  • DNA: These vaccines use genetically engineered DNA molecules that, again, are coded with the antigen against which the immune response is to be built. 

 

 

 

Benzene Pollution 

#GS-3 #POLLUTANTS IN NEWS 

Recently In News 

  • A joint committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to study air pollution in Kerala has recommended the installation of vapour recovery system at fuelling stations and retrofitting of diesel vehicles with particulate filters to improve air quality. 

Major source of benzene emissions 

  • The report submitted before the Southern Bench of the tribunal pointed out that petrol refuelling stations were a major source of benzene emissions, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter 2.5 concentration. 
  • Therefore, installation of vapour recovery system is an important step in improving air quality. 
  • This is to be implemented in coordination with the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization [PESO] shortly. 

District-wise analysis 

  • The joint committee comprises officials of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Central and State Pollution Control Boards, and the CSIR-National Environment Engineering Research Institute, Chennai. 
  • The committee was directed to assess the ambient air quality levels in the State, especially in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kochi, Alappuzha, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Kasaragod, and Kannur. 
  • The panel recommended stringent action against industrial units that do not comply with emission norms. 

Diesel generators 

  • The Pollution Control Board has already suggested retrofitting of emission control devices of generators and replacing diesel generators with gas-based ones. 
  • Other recommendations include promoting battery-operated vehicles and banning old diesel vehicles in a phased manner, greening of open areas, and creation of green buffers along traffic corridors. 
  • The short term measures recommended include strict action against visibly polluting vehicles (to be initiated by the Motor Vehicles Department), introduction of wet / mechanised vacuum sweeping of roads, controlling dust pollution at construction sites, and ensuring transport of construction materials in covered vehicles. 

Study in June 

● The tribunal has asked the committee to assess the air quality in the post-pandemic phase to study the scenario when activities are expected to peak. 

● The committee has said that the study could be held in June, anticipating that educational institutions may reopen, and public transport will return to normal. 

Benzene Pollution 

  • Benzene Pollution is a colourless or light-yellow chemical that is liquid at room temperature. 
  • It has a sweet odour and is highly flammable. Benzene is formed from both natural processes and human activities. 
  • Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. 
  • Normal environmental concentrations of benzene are unlikely to damage animals or plants. 
  • It does have a low to moderate toxicity for aquatic organisms, but this is only likely to be apparent when high concentrations arise from significant spills. 
  • The indoor benzene exposure is often higher than outdoor. 
  • The outdoor air usually contains a low level of benzene from tobacco smoke, gas stations, motor vehicle exhaust, and industrial emissions. 
  • The benzene in indoor air comes from products such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents. 
  • Further, fuels such as coal, wood, gas, kerosene or liquid petroleum gas (LPG) for space heating and cooking also lead to higher benzene concentration indoors. 
  • Polyurethane is used majorly its two major applications, soft furnishings and insulation. 
  • Its thermal decomposition consists mainly of carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene, oxides of nitrogen, hydrogen cyanide, acetaldehyde, acetone, propene, carbon dioxide, alkenes and water vapor. 

 

 

Jet fuel be brought under GST regime

#GS-3 #MODERN TECHNOLOGY #TAXATION #GST REFORMS 

Context 

  • Inclusion In The Gst : The Civil Aviation Ministry is working on the airline sector‟s demand to bring aviation turbine fuel (ATF) under the ambit of Goods and Services Tax (GST) and has taken up the matter with the Finance Ministry. 

Steps for optimum utilisation 

  • The Ministry has taken specific steps for optimum utilisation of the country‟s airspace, which would help international airlines flying over India as well as domestic carriers, in saving costs. 
  • ATF or jet fuel cost, which account for 45-55% of an airline‟s operating expenses, in India is among the highest in the world. 
  • The industry been asking for it to be brought under the GST. 

BIASA BASICS 

Aviation turbine fuel (ATF) 

Airlines need sustainable fuel strategy
  • Jet fuel or aviation turbine fuel (ATF, also abbreviated avtur) is a type of aviation fuel designed for use in aircraft powered by gas-turbine engines. It is colorless to straw-colored in appearance. 
  • The most commonly used fuels for commercial aviation are Jet A and Jet A-1, which are produced to a standardized international specification. 
  • The only other jet fuel commonly used in civilian turbine-engine powered aviation is Jet B, which is used for its enhanced cold-weather performance. 
  • Jet fuel is a mixture of a variety of hydrocarbons. 
  • Because the exact composition of jet fuel varies widely based on petroleum source, it is impossible to define jet fuel as a ratio of specific hydrocarbons. 
  • Jet fuel is therefore defined as a performance specification rather than a chemical compound. 

Inclusion of Petrol and Diesel under GST 

  • As of now LPG, kerosene, naphtha, furnace oil, and light diesel oil are under GST. 
  • Five other petroleum products viz. crude oil, high speed diesel, motor spirit (petrol), natural gas, and aviation turbine fuel lie outside the GST. 
  • Even if petrol and diesel are included under GST, prices are unlikely to fall. 
  • This is because of the GST principle of keeping rates close to the earlier tax rates. 
  • The international trend also suggests that if petrol and diesel are included in GST, states levy additional taxes to prop up their revenue. 
  • Since, the state governments levy value-added tax (VAT) on the fuel price inclusive of central excise duties, not the base price, leading to double taxation and further price amplification. 
  • GST may not stop prices from moving up, but will at least ensure no cascading effects of taxes like double taxation. 

Factors  Determining Fuel Prices 

  • Crude: The revision in the price of fuel corresponds to the change in the global crude oil prices on that day. 
  • Rupee/ Dollar Exchange Rate: Indian oil companies import crude oil which is quoted in US dollars, but eventually incur the expense in rupees. Thus, even if the price of the crude oil is on the fall but the rupee is also weakening against the dollar at the same time, it may offset the potential gains to oil refiners. 
  • Demand-supply situation: Short supply or low output of fuel often leads to a rise in its price; while conversely, an increase in the supply mostly results in the decrease in the price. 
  • Logistics: Petrol and diesel transported to over longer distances to cities or regions farther from depots would typically be priced higher than at the places nearer to the oil companies‟ storage areas. 
  • Pricing mechanism: Daily or quaterly revision of retail prices of petrol and diesel across the country also affects the price of fuel. The government recently decided that petrol and diesel prices will change on daily basis in keeping with international rates. 

 

PIB SUMMARY 

MERA RATION MOBILE APP

#GS-2 #PDS #AI #PRELIMS FACT 

The government has launched the ‘Mera Ration’ mobile app to benefit citizens in identifying the nearest fair price shop. This is a step to facilitate the One Nation-One Ration Card system in the country.

Key Points

  • This app will especially benefit those ration card holders who move to new areas for livelihoods.
  • The app has been developed by the government in collaboration with NIC with an aim to facilitate various ONORC related services among National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiaries, particularly migrant beneficiaries, FPS dealers, and other relevant stakeholders.
  • Implementation of the One Nation-One Ration Card system ensures availability of ration to beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and other welfare schemes, especially the migrant workers and their families, at any fair price shop (FPS) across the country.
  • On this occasion, Sudhanshu Pandey, Secretary, Department of Food & Public Distribution, said that the ONORC, system which was started on August 19 in 4 States, has been rolled out in 32 States/UTs by December 2020 and the integration of the remaining 4 States/UT (Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, and West Bengal) is expected to be completed in next few months.
  • The system at present covers nearly 69 Crore NFSA beneficiaries (about 86% NFSA population) in the country and a monthly average of about 1.5 to 1.6 Crore portability transactions are being recorded under ONORC.
Mera Ration app Download: सरकार ने लॉन्च की 'Mera Ration' मोबाइल ऐप, मिलेगी  ये सुविधा, Government launches 'Mera Ration' mobile app, will get this  facility.

Features of Mera Ration App

  • Beneficiaries will be able to identify and locate the nearest fair price shop.
  • Beneficiaries will be able to check details of their recent transactions, foodgrain entitlement, and also the status of Aadhaar seeding.
  • Migrant beneficiaries will be able to register their migration details through the application.
  • The app also provides an option for beneficiaries to enter suggestions/feedback.
  • The Mera Ration app is presently available in English and Hindi and more languages will be added later.

One Nation One Ration Card System

  • As per the finance ministry, 17 states have operationalized the ‘One Nation-One Ration Card’ system and Uttarakhand is the latest state to complete the reform. States completing the One Nation-One Ration Card system reform are eligible for additional borrowing of 0.25 percent of gross state domestic product (GSDP). The government provides 5 kg of subsidized food grains to each person per month through 5.4 lakh ration shops.
  • In May 2020, the Government of India enhanced the borrowing limit of the states by 2 percent of their GSDP to tackle the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Half of this special dispensation (1 percent of GSDP) was linked to undertaking citizen-centric reforms by the states. The four citizen-centric areas for reforms identified by the Department of Expenditure were — implementation of ease of doing business reform; the One Nation-One Ration Card system; the urban local body and utility reforms; and power sector reforms.

 

JHARKHAND APPROVES TO RESERVE 75% PRIVATE SECTOR JOBS TO LOCALS 

#GS-3 #UMEMPLOYMENT #PRELIMS FACT 

On the lines of the Haryana government, the Jharkhand Cabinet has approved an employment policy requiring private sector units to reserve 75% of jobs for local people. This will be applicable to positions providing up to a salary of Rs 30,000 per month. Before this, the Haryana government had come up with a similar policy.

Key Points

  • As per the reports, Chief Minister Hemant Soren is expected to announce the new policy on March 17 during an Assembly session.
  • According to reports, a few modalities of the policy have not been decided yet.
  • The decision on the new policy comes days after Soren had gone to Delhi to discuss a draft Jharkhand Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy, 2021 with various stakeholders.
  • The state government has also signed an agreement with FICCI on the sidelines of the event.

Several other proposals were also approved during the Cabinet meeting

  • As per the Economic Survey, the unemployment rate of the state gradually decreased to 11.3% in January 2021 after rising to 59.2% at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in May 2020.
  • In January 2020, the unemployment rate was 10.6%.
  • Problem in determining Jharkhand Domicile
  • One major problem for implementing the local reservation policy is to identify the beneficiaries. In 2002, questions around the definition of a ‘Jharkhandi’ had led to the resignation of former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi, and governments thereafter had refrained from the issue.
  • In 2016, the state government had notified a “relaxed domicile policy” that listed six ways in which one could be treated as a domicile of the state. The policy was, however, criticized for not giving priority to tribals.
  • A sub-committee will be formed to decide on who would be treated as a ‘Jharkhandi’ and based on the same, the local employment policy will be enacted.
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