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Daily Current Affairs 5.02.2022 (Remove penal clauses from population control Bill: BJP MP,22nd Law Commission to study UCC,RS debates use of private Bills to amend Preamble to Constitution,Aware of data theft concerns on e-passports: Jaishankar,Villagers resist sanctuary tag for langur habitat)

Daily Current Affairs 5.02.2022 (Remove penal clauses from population control Bill: BJP MP,22nd Law Commission to study UCC,RS debates use of private Bills to amend Preamble to Constitution,Aware of data theft concerns on e-passports: Jaishankar,Villagers resist sanctuary tag for langur habitat)

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1. Remove penal clauses from population control Bill: BJP MP

Several members raise concerns during discussion in the Rajya Sabha

The Rajya Sabha on Friday discussed a private member Bill on population regulation moved by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Rakesh Sinha.

During the discussion, another BJP member Vikas Mahatme sought the removal of penal clauses from the Bill stating that if a family was penalised for more than two children, then the third child would develop a feeling that “he is an unwanted child”. “This is a very dangerous thought for the nation. Therefore, I say we can do something else instead of penalising,” he said. Mr. Mahatme said though he supported the Bill, he felt it could encourage “sex selection” and would lead to female foeticide.

Mr. Mahatme said efforts should be made to achieve population control as per the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Bill revitalises efforts towards promoting small family norms of up to two children per couple. It also proposes to ensure healthy birth spacing through measures related to augmenting the availability, accessibility and affordability of quality reproductive health services.

While moving the Bill, Mr. Sinha said India had a land availability of only 1.2 hectare per person, while the resources that get regenerated automatically was 0.43 only. “The ecological footprint which we use and the gap between their regeneration is 187%. We are an ecological debtor,” he said, adding that if this continued for 30 years, then resources would be exhausted and people would not be able to lead a dignified life.

“But in India, whenever population control is discussed, it is always dragged into the communal angle,” said Mr. Sinha. Some people see demographic dividend in the growing population but it was being used as cheap labour globally, he said.

“People are being misled in the name of demographic dividend. Many countries need cheap labour, from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, so they try to mislead and drive the discourse about demographic dividend. They talk about replacement level. As per the Total Fertility Rate figures, the national average is maintained in 174 districts, while the TFR is 4 in 72 districts. People who attack us in the name of saffron demography do not want the truth to come out,” he said.

Motive questioned

Congress member Ami Yagnik questioned the motive behind bringing in the Bill. “When we should be talking about human development and human rights, a Bill is moved on population regulation. What will happen if people start going for sex selection?” she asked.

Fauzia Khan of the NCP said the Bill was an attempt to systematically alter the social fabric of India. “The biggest victim of this Bill would be women, irrespective of religion,” she said.

RJD member Manoj Jha said that in 2020, the government of India told the Supreme Court that coercion was not desirable. “Demography is serious business and should be left to demographers, not politicians. It will lead to female foeticide. Women would bear the brunt of the two-child norm,” Mr. Jha said.

2. 22nd Law Commission to study UCC

The new Law Commission could take up the issue of Uniform Civil Code, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju has informed BJP member Nishikant Dubey in a letter. During the winter session of Parliament last year, on December 1, Mr. Dubey had raised the issue of a Uniform Civil Code during the Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha.

Responding to the issue, Mr. Rijiju in a letter, said the issue required in-depth study of the provisions of various personal laws governing different communities and given the sensitivity of the subject matter, the issue was referred to the 21st Law Commission.

“However, the term of the 21st Law Commission ended on 31.08.2018. The matter may be taken up by the 22nd Law Commission of India,” the Law Minister said in his letter.

Mr. Rijiju also stated that Article 44 of the Constitution provided that the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India. In December 2020, President Ram Nath Kovind, while addressing an event to mark the 60th anniversary of Goa’s Liberation, had hailed the Common Civil Code of Goa.

  • Background: 
    • The Law Commission of India is a non-statutory body constituted by the Government of India from time to time. 
  • The Commission was originally constituted in 1955 and is reconstituted every three years. The tenure of the twenty-first Law Commission of India was up to 31st August 2018.
  • 22nd Law Commission: 
    • It was constituted by the Government on February 21, 2020, for a period of three years from the date of publication of the Order of Constitution in the Official Gazette. It will consist of:
      • A full-time Chairperson;
      • Four full-time Members (including Member-Secretary) Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs as ex-officio Member; Secretary, Legislative Department as ex officio Member.
      • and not more than five part-time Members.
  • Functions: 
    • The Law Commission shall, on a reference made to it by the Central Government or suo-motu, undertake research in law and review of existing laws in India for making reforms therein and enacting new legislations.
    • It shall also undertake studies and research for bringing reforms in the justice delivery systems for elimination of delay in procedures, speedy disposal of cases, reduction in the cost of litigation etc.
    • Before finalizing its recommendations, the Commission will consult the nodal Ministry/ Department (s) and such other stakeholders as the Commission may deem necessary for the purpose.

Significance 

  • The various Law Commission have been able to make important contributions towards the progressive development and codification of Law of the country. 

3. RS debates use of private Bills to amend Preamble to Constitution

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh said on Friday that there have been number of instances in the past when a private member’s Bill to amend the Preamble to the Constitution has been introduced in both the Houses of Parliament and that its legislative competence is decided by Council and not the Chair.

Mr. Harivansh stated that during the last session, on December 3, member Manoj Kumar Jha had opposed the motion moved by K.J. Alphons to introduce a Bill on the subject. Mr. Jha had argued that Preamble is part of the basic structure of the Constitution and the Bill may not be allowed for introduction.

Mr. Alphons had moved a Bill to replace the word “socialist” with “equitable” in the Preamble. He had said the word carried political connotations.

Following this, Congress leader Anand Sharma said the Preamble cannot be changed. “I would urge the member concerned that in larger interest of the country where questions are being raised about the integrity of our commitment to the Indian Constitution, this should not be allowed.”

At which, Biju Janta Dal member Amar Patnaik interjected to say: “the two words — socialist and secular — were added to the Preamble of the Constitution by the 42nd amendment, so it can be changed.”

What is Private Bill?

  • A private member’s Bill differs from a government Bill and is piloted by a member of Parliament who is not a minister.
  • Individual MPs may introduce private member’s bills to draw the attention of the government to issues that they believe require legislative intervention.
  • A private bill is a proposed law that applies to a specific individual, group of individuals, or corporate entity.
  • Private law can provide relief from another law, grant a special benefit or powers not available under current law, or absolve someone of legal responsibility for an allegedly wrongdoing act.
  • It has a lower chance of being approved by Parliament.
  • The House’s rejection has no bearing on parliamentary confidence in the government or its resignation.
  • It must be introduced in the House with one month’s notice.
  • Its drafting is the responsibility of the member in question.
  • The Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha decide whether or not a private Bill is admissible.
  • A private member’s bill can only be introduced and debated on Fridays.
  • In the case of multiple bills, a ballot system is used to determine the order in which they are introduced.
  • The Parliamentary Committee on Private Member’s Bills and Resolutions examines all such Bills and categorises them according to their urgency and importance.

4. Aware of data theft concerns on e-passports: Jaishankar

‘Precautions taken to ensure privacy and safety’

The government is aware of concerns over data theft for existing passports, and the soon-to-be issued e-passports and has taken adequate precautions to ensure privacy and safety, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar told Parliament on Friday, amidst a lively exchange over both electronic chip safety for passports as well as whether their launch would “ignore” certain States or be rolled out uniformly across the country.

“The current Passport Seva Project includes robust safeguards for data privacy, as well as adequate measures for data security. Passport data is used for the specific purpose for which it is obtained. The introduction of the e-passports does not envisage any deviation from this practice,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in written answers in the Lok Sabha to questions posed by M.K. Raghavan of the Congress and Ravindra Khushwaha from the Bharatiya Janata Party. 

To a specific question from Congress member Shashi Tharoor on the dangers of “data-skimming” that has also been cited in a report of the American Civil Liberties Union that warned of data being misused by terrorists, identity thieves and marketeers, Mr. Jaishankar said the government is “very, very cognizant” of the concern. “Until we are sure that the skimming danger is adequately addressed, naturally we will not be going forward. But we have every confidence that will be the case,” he added.

During her budget speech this week, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced plans to roll out the e-passport, which will have an embedded Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip and antenna, and will conform with international biometric passports that allow for swifter immigration procedures.

Mr. Jaishankar said letters of intent for the procurement of 4.5 crore electronic chips compliant to the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had been issued by India Security Press in Nashik which prints the passport, while technical responsibilities would be with the National Informatics Centre (NIC). He said once the procurement contracts were finalised, the process would take about six months.

“Sample e-passports are currently being tested and the full-scale manufacture and issue will commence with the completion of the technical ecosystem and infrastructure,” the MEA reply added.

5. Villagers resist sanctuary tag for langur habitat

They want it to be a community forest resource

Neighbours of a golden langur habitat in western Assam’s Bongaigaon district have opposed a move by the State government to upgrade it to a wildlife sanctuary.

Kakoijana Reserve Forest is one of the better-known homes of the golden langur (Trachypithecus geei) found only in Assam and Bhutan and a Schedule-I species under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. It is listed as among the world’s 25 most endangered primates.

The Assam Forest Department had in January issued a preliminary notification for converting the 19.85 sq. km. patch of forest into the Kajoijana Bamuni Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.

Sustainable conversion

In a memorandum to Bongaigaon Deputy Commissioner M.S. Lakshmi Priya, the villagers of Bogoriguri Rabhapara said they have been protecting and conserving the flora and fauna of Kakoijana Reserve Forest for more than 25 years.

The memorandum submitted on February 2 was on behalf of 34 villages around Kakoijana inhabited by the Koch-Rajbongshi, Boro, Garo, Rabha and Gorkha communities. As primary stakeholders, the villagers demanded that the “conventional idea of wildlife sanctuary” be dropped and the reserve forest converted into a community forest resource “using Forest Rights Act, 2006, to ensure community co-managed system of participation for sustainable conservation”.

“We consider some of the areas inside the forest as sacred and its sanctity should be maintained. The joint forest management committee in the surrounding villages are doing a good job in protecting the forest and have an intricate relation with the forest,” the memorandum said.

Efforts of conservation

The villagers pointed out that the conservation efforts of the locals had helped the authorities concerned to restore the forest canopy from less than 5% to more than 70%.

This in turn helped increase the golden langur population from less than 100 to more than 600 over almost three decades.

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