1. The process of electing India’s President
Will the recent Assembly Elections impact the presidential election in July? How is the vote value for each MP/MLA calculated?
The Indian President is elected through an electoral college system, wherein the votes are cast by national and State-level lawmakers. In the upcoming polls, the number of electors will be 4,896 — 543 Lok Sabha MPs, 233 MPs of the Rajya Sabha, and 4,120 MLAs of all States and UTs.
The fixed value of each vote by an MP of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha is 708. Meanwhile, the vote value of each MLA differs from State to State based on a calculation that factors in its population vis-a-vis the number of members in its legislative Assembly.
Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu is reportedly the frontrunner for the presidential race nominated by the ruling NDA while Opposition parties are contemplating jointly putting up a candidate for the race.
The story so far: The tenure of the current President of India Ram Nath Kovind is set to end in July this year, which is also when the 16th Indian Presidential election will be held to elect his successor. The Assembly elections held in five States this year, and the changes in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), are expected to alter the dynamic of votes in the upcoming presidential race.
How is the President elected?
The Indian President is elected through an electoral college system, wherein the votes are cast by national and State-level lawmakers. The elections are conducted and overseen by the Election Commission (EC) of India.
The electoral college is made up of all the elected members of the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha MPs), and the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of States and Union Territories (MLAs). This means, in the upcoming polls, the number of electors will be 4,896 — 543 Lok Sabha MPs, 233 MPs of the Rajya Sabha, and 4,120 MLAs of all States, including the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi and Union Territory of Puducherry.
Before the voting, comes the nomination stage, where the candidate intending to stand in the election, files the nomination along with a signed list of 50 proposers and 50 seconders. These proposers and seconders can be anyone from the total of 4,896 members of the electoral college from the State and national level. The rule for securing 50 proposers and seconders was implemented when the EC noticed, in 1974, that several candidates, many without even a bleak chance of winning, would file their nominations to contest the polls. An elector cannot propose or second the nomination of more than one candidate.
What is the value of each vote and how is it calculated?
A vote cast by each MP or MLA is not calculated as one vote. There is a larger vote value attached to it.
The fixed value of each vote by an MP of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha is 708. Meanwhile, the vote value of each MLA differs from State to State based on a calculation that factors in its population vis-a-vis the number of members in its legislative Assembly. As per the Constitution (Eighty-fourth Amendment) Act 2001, currently, the population of States is taken from the figures of the 1971 Census. This will change when the figures of the Census taken after the year 2026 are published.
The value of each MLA’s vote is determined by dividing the population of the State by the number of MLAs in its legislative Assembly, and the quotient achieved is further divided by 1000. Uttar Pradesh for instance, has the highest vote value for each of its MLAs, at 208. The value of one MLA’s vote in Maharashtra is 175, while that in Arunachal Pradesh is just 8. The total votes of each Legislative Assembly are calculated by multiplying the vote value of each MLA by the number of MLAs.
Finally, based on these values, the total number of votes of all Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha MPs would be 5,59,408 (776 MPs X 708), and the total votes of all MLAs from State Legislative Assemblies would come up to 5,49,495. Thus, the grand total vote value of the whole electoral college comes up to 10,98,903.
What is required to secure a victory?
A nominated candidate does not secure victory based on a simple majority but through a system of bagging a specific quota of votes. While counting, the EC totals up all the valid votes cast by the electoral college through paper ballots and to win, the candidate must secure 50% of the total votes cast + 1.
Unlike general elections, where electors vote for a single party’s candidate, the voters of the electoral college write the names of candidates on the ballot paper in the order of preference.
What can be expected in the upcoming presidential polls?
Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu is reportedly the frontrunner for the presidential race nominated by the ruling NDA, unless a second term ticket is given to Mr. Kovind. Meanwhile, Opposition parties are contemplating jointly putting up a candidate for the race. As per data after the Assembly elections held in five States —U.P., Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur, and Goa, the BJP-led NDA alliance can secure a total vote value of 5,39,827 if all its MPs and MLAs cast their vote.
This is still around 9,625 votes short of the halfway mark. It is important to note, however, that victory will be calculated based on those who actually cast their votes this time; their vote value will then be divided by 50, with the number one being added to the figure. In the Upper and Lower houses of Parliament, if all NDA MPs cast their vote in favour of its nominated candidate, it can secure a vote value of 3,23,556, and this number in the case of all NDA MLAs voting is 2,16,271.
Things have changed for the NDA from the 2017 Presidential polls.
In Maharashtra, which has a high total vote value of 50,400; the BJP is no longer allied with the Shiv Sena, which supported the NDA candidate in 2017. The NDA now has a vote value of 19,775 from Maharashtra’s total. In Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) broke away from the BJP-led alliance over the farmers’ agitation issue. Punjab has a total vote value of 13,572, of which the NDA’s vote value comes up only to 464. In this year’s Assembly polls in Punjab, the BJP did not win any more than the two seats it already had.
After the recent U.P. Assembly election, the NDA’s tally of MLAs in the State Legislative Assembly went up to 273, which if multiplied by the value of each member’s vote (208), comes up to 56,684, which is more than half the total value of all U.P. MLAs.
Meanwhile, despite winning in Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur, the tally of seats won by the BJP came down in all three States compared to the previous presidential election.
This article is written taking into consideration all the Assemblies in the country. However, as J&K Assembly is not eligible to vote and only Delhi and Puducherry UTs can (as of now) vote in the presidential elections, the figures might slightly vary.
2. Cardless cash withdrawals at ATMs
How will the recent move by the RBI affect financial transactions? How safe are UPI-enabled cash dispensing machines?
RBI has announced cardless cash withdrawals at ATMs across the country. These withdrawals are to be authenticated via UPI.
Cardless cash withdrawals will enhance security of cash withdrawal transactions. It would also help prevent frauds like card skimming and card cloning.
However, while the security vulnerability of a card is minimised through cardless withdrawals, the risk will soon transfer to mobile-enabled features.
The story so far: Last week, India’s Central bank announced cardless cash withdrawals at ATMs across the country. The feature will let consumers use Unified Payment Interface (UPI) on their smartphones to withdraw cash from ATMs.
All ATMs across the country must enable this feature in their cash-dispensing machines, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said.
How will this system work?
Cardless cash withdrawals are to be authenticated via UPI.
ATMs are expected to show an option for withdrawing cash using UPI.
Once a user selects this option, they can input the amount to be withdrawn and a QR code will be generated on the ATM screen.
Users will then need to scan that code via their UPI app, and enter the password to withdraw cash from the ATM.
Until now, only fund transfers between accounts were enabled via UPI. With this option, consumers can also take cash out from ATMs without a card.
What issues does this technology solve?
According to the RBI Governor, Shaktikanta Das, cardless cash withdrawals will enhance security of cash withdrawal transactions. Besides, it would help prevent frauds like card skimming and card cloning.
Currently, only existing customers of a few banks are allowed to withdraw cash without cards, and from specific bank’s ATM networks. However, the RBI’s move to allow interoperability in cardless withdrawals will enable users to take cash from any and all ATMs. The RBI’s move will invite more players into the payment ecosystem in India to innovate and solve further problems of customers, says Swapnil Bhaskar, Head of Strategy, Niyo, a millennial- focused neo-banking platform.
What is card skimming?
Criminals steal data from credit/ debit cards by tracking a card swiped at ATMs. They pick this information from using a skimming device that reads the card’s magnetic strip. These devices are surreptitiously installed on ATMs.
Once the device picks up the data, it can be used to gain unauthorised access to the user’s banking records. The stolen information can be coded onto a new card, a process called cloning, and be used to make payments and transact with other bank accounts. Problematic ATMs that function intermittently, and the ones located in isolated areas are often used to install such skimming devices.
Fraudsters also install scanning devices on point-of-sale machines. These devices stealthily scan a card before it is swiped at the payment counter at a departmental store. These are especially tough to spot if the billing counter is not in the line of sight of the card owner. These devices are difficult to identify as they appear to be a legitimate part of an existing ATM, or like a regular in-store card reader. It is skilfully fitted into the payment machines.
What are the limitations and challenges of the cardless cash withdrawal feature?
Currently, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, HDFC Bank and SBI allow cardless cash withdrawals for their users. But, accessing the feature is cumbersome as it has certain withdrawal limits, and the transaction is charged. The cardless feature at these banks work with each specific bank’s app.
HDFC Bank customers are allowed to withdraw up to ₹10,000 per day and ₹25,000 per month using the cardless cash method. These withdrawals also have a service fee of ₹25 per transaction. At the moment, it is not clear whether UPI-based cash withdrawals will have the same restrictions and service fee inclusions.
Scalability of this feature might be a challenge as it has to be seen how many banks quickly roll it out to their customers, Gurjodhpal Singh, CEO, Tide India, a digital banking platform, said.
In cardless withdrawal, the security vulnerability of a card is minimised, but the risk will soon transfer to a mobile-enabled feature. The mobile can now become the epicentre of transactions, making it the next target for fraudsters, Mr. Bhaskar said.
What is the future of debit cards?
Issuing cards will not be stopped as they have several other utilities beyond cash withdrawals. They can be used at a restaurant, shop, or for payments in a foreign country, Mr. Das said in a statement.
A debit card is a very evolved financial product and has already gone through a lot of iterations to reach its current perfection. In its further evolution, we are seeing new use cases for debit cards like having standing instructions or EMI payments, Mr. Bhaskar said. “There is still a lot of time for UPI to come to the level of sophistication of a debit card. Moreover, the debit card will continue to serve some segments of the economy which are not comfortable with pure digital payment solutions like UPI or who want to have higher transaction limits,” he added.
3. Understanding software copyright and licences
How do operating systems license their domains? What are the different types of software licences?
Software has all shades of licences facilitating its use. On one end, we have proprietary software which is to be purchased as a one-time transaction or as yearly licences and on the other end we have the Creative Commons licence (CC) which is public domain and free of cost.
All free and permissive software licences are similar to Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), a set of rules and free software brought under one umbrella in the 1980s by Richard Stallman, a famous computer scientist and activist.
The core of the internet is free: it is free to use ideas like linking contents on the internet, transferring them with a network software protocol and adopting the associated standards like maintaining website addresses.
Does software have copyright? Even more specifically, is the Internet free inspite of software copyright? Are software programming languages free of cost? How does copyright apply to software?
A copyright gives a creator the legal right to own, distribute and profit from his or her creative work. Software, like any other technology has all shades of licences facilitating its use. On one end of the spectrum, there is proprietary software which is to be purchased as a one-time transaction or as yearly licences. A popular example is Microsoft Windows which is purchased along with the computer or Microsoft Office which typically has a yearly licence that has to be renewed upon payment.
On the other hand, there are different kinds of software licences that allow free use of software. There is the Creative Commons licence (CC) which is public domain: any software or work that is in CC can be used and distributed free of cost. For example, Wikipedia is under CC and hence its contents can be used freely with the condition that attribution is made to Wikipedia (this is called ‘Creative Commons – Attribution-ShareAlike).
Another form of free software licence is Permissive Software licence which is popular in the software developer community and in the commercial world. This licence allows free use and modification of software. There are further specific licences under this category, like the Apache licence and MIT licence. The Apache licence is maintained by the Apache Software Foundation which is a non-profit entity. Many popular and powerful softwares like Spark (used in Big Data) have been developed under Apache licence. MIT licence is maintained by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and it covers hundreds of software packages including GitLab and Dot NET.
All free and permissive software licences are similar to Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), a set of rules and free software brought under one umbrella in the 1980s by Richard Stallman, a famous computer scientist and activist. FOSS maintains its own licence, called GNU GPL (Gnu’s Not Unix General Public Licence) to govern and distribute free software but it comes with restrictions that its adoption and modification be for free use.
In the software community, ‘open source’ means any of the above non-proprietary licences. Open source software packages are developed and maintained by programmers from around the world. Until the mid-1990s, the idea of the general public collaborating to create software for free seemed to be unrealistic and confined to small, elite communities. However, with the success of a free operating system like Linux (which is under GNU GPL licence), many were convinced that open source could create sophisticated solutions because of access to top programmers around the world.
Proprietary software also has its own place. Many software companies release certain generic portions of their software under open software licences but keep the critically important ones under proprietary licence. Companies like Google and Meta (Facebook) have made significant open source contributions to software packages on artificial neural networks and machine learning, after a few years of using them within their organisation and perfecting them.
Is the Internet free?
Going back to our original question, does internet involve copyright payment? To access and to create content on the internet, there are costs involved such as infrastructure costs like network and the cost to host and maintain the content.
However, the core of the internet itself is free: it is free to use ideas like linking contents on the internet, transferring them with a network software protocol and adopting the associated standards like maintaining the website address (Uniform Resource Locator-URL).
The core software packages that implement these ideas are made available to everyone for free, thanks to the foresight of Sir Tim Bernes-Lee who conceived of the key concepts behind the internet between 1989 and 1991 (the first web page was launched in 1990) and was one among the internet pioneers.
Now to the other question: are programming languages free of cost? Until the 1980s, popular programming languages had a price but with the advent of Java in the 1990s and thanks to the initiatives of Richard Stallman and his Free Software Foundation in the 1980s, many languages, especially modern ones like Go or popular ones like Python are free. Java is somewhere in the middle where there are free implementations of the language that most software developers use but there are also paid implementations provided by Oracle. In general, the realisation in the software community is that a free language has widespread adoption and leads to the availability of an expert pool of programmers.
The last two decades have seen proliferation of open source software and the future is even more exciting.
4. India likely to miss year’s solar capacity target
Report cites inadequate uptake of rooftop solar as among the reasons for the shortfall
India is likely to miss its 2022 target of installing 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity, largely due to inadequate uptake of rooftop solar, according to a report by JMK Research and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
As of December 2021, India’s cumulative installed solar capacity was 55 GW, with grid-connected utility-scale projects making up 77% of the total and the rest from grid-connected rooftop solar (20%) and mini or micro off-grid projects (3%).
With just eight months of 2022 remaining, only about 50% of the 100GW target, consisting of 60 GW of utility-scale and 40 GW of rooftop solar capacity, has been met.
Approximately 19 GW of solar capacity is expected to be added in 2022 — 15.8 GW from utility-scale and 3.5 GW from rooftop solar.
“Even with this capacity addition, about 27% of India’s 100 GW solar target would be unmet,” Jyoti Gulia, founder, JMK Research, and a co-author of the report, said in a statement.
The analysis projects a 25 GW shortfall in the 40 GW rooftop solar target, compared to just 1.8 GW in the utility-scale solar target by December 2022.
“Utility-scale solar capacity addition is on track. India is set to achieve nearly 97% of its 60 GW target,” says Ms. Gulia. “This makes it imperative to have a more concerted effort towards expanding rooftop solar.”
Solar capacity is a major prong of India’s commitment to address global warming according to the terms of the Paris Agreement, as well as achieving net zero, or no net carbon emissions, by 2070.
Factors impeding rooftop solar installation include pandemic-induced supply chain disruption to policy restrictions, regulatory roadblocks; net metering limits; the twin burdens of basic customs duty (BCD) on imported cells and modules and issues with the Approved List of Models and Manufacturers (ALMM); unsigned power supply agreements (PSAs) and banking restrictions; financing issues plus delays in or rejection of open access approval grants; and the unpredictability of future open access charges.
“The anticipated 27 GW shortfall from the 2022 solar target can be attributed to a string of challenges which are slowing overall progress on renewable energy targets,” says co-author Vibhuti Garg, Energy Economist and Lead India, IEEFA.
To get back on track, the report proposes “short and long-term measures.
These include uniform policies to apply nationally for at least the next five years, consistent regulations for net metering and banking facilities, which should apply nationally, strictly enforcing renewable purchase obligations (RPO) of companies.
5. TRAI seeks views on media ownership
Broadcast regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Tuesday sought views from various stakeholders on the need for monitoring cross-media ownership and control.
TRAI released a consultation paper on ‘Issues relating to media ownership’ after the government asked it to reconsider its recommendations made in 2014 in light of the changes in the media and entertainment industry with the advent of new digital technologies such as over-the-top platforms.
“Considering (the) overall scenario, do you think there is a need for monitoring cross-media ownership and control?… Should there be a common mechanism to monitor ownership of print, television, radio, or Internet-based news media,” TRAI asks in the paper.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)
- About: TRAI was established with effect from February 20, 1997, by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act 1997.
- Setting Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was necessary after opening up the telecommunication sector to private operators.
- TRAI Headquarters: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)’s headquarter is located in New Delhi.
- Legal Status: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is a statutory authority set up under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act 1997.
- Mandate: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)’s mandate is to regulate telecom services, including fixation/revision of tariffs for telecom services.
- These responsibilities were earlier vested in the Central Government.
Key Objectives of TRAI
- Growth of the Telecommunication Sector: TRAI’s mission is to create and nurture conditions for the growth of telecommunications in the country.
- Regulating Telecom Services: TRAI regulates telecom services including fixation/revision of tariffs for telecom services that were earlier vested in the Central Government.
- Ensuring Fair and Transparent Policy Environment: TRAI also aims to provide a fair and transparent policy environment for the telecom sector.
- This promotes a level playing field and facilitates fair competition.
Composition of TRAI
- TRAI Members Appointments: TRAI members are appointed by the Government of India.
- TRAI Members: The TRAI consists of-
- A Chairperson,
- Two whole-time members and
- Two part-time members
- Tenure of TRAI Members: The Chairperson and other members shall hold their office for a term of three years or till the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- Chairperson: The Chairperson has the powers of general superintendence. He/She presides over the meetings of the TRAI.
- Vice-Chairperson: The Central Government may appoint one of the members of the Authority as the Vice-Chairperson of TRAI.
- Responsibility: He/She exercises and discharges the powers and functions of the Chairperson in his/her absence.
Removal of TRAI Members
- Removing Authority: The Central Government is empowered to remove any member of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
- Grounds of Removal: TRAI Act mentions following grounds on which the central government can remove a TRAI Member. A person can be removed from TRAI office if he/she-
- has been adjudged an insolvent
- has been convicted of an offence that involves moral turpitude
- has become physically or mentally incapable of acting as a member
- has abused his/her position; rendering his/her continuance in office prejudicial to the public interest.