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Summoning of Houses

Paper: General Studies 2

Topic: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

Why in the news?

The President of India has summoned both the houses of parliament for sessions from Monday, the 18th of November 2019. Both the Houses have issued bulletins on dates for the session, which is to conclude on Friday, the 13th of December 2019.

About Summoning of Both the Houses

  • Article 85(1) of the Constitution empowers the President to summon each House of Parliament to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one Session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next Session.
  • Notwithstanding outer limit laid down in article 85, the Parliament may have to be called in order to pass at least a Vote on Account to carry on the administration as no money can be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund of India except under appropriation made by law passed in accordance with article 114(3). Besides, articles 352(4 &8), article 356(3) and article 360(2)(c) lay down certain time limits for summoning the Houses of Parliament.
  • The President exercises the power to summon the Houses on the recommendation of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet. Normally, three Sessions, namely the Budget, Monsoon and Winter Sessions, are held in a calendar year.


Use of E-Technology in Elections

Paper: General Studies 2

Topic: e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

Why in the news?

  • In a first, the Election Commission of India has deployed an integrated ICT counting application which gives freedom to Returning Officers spread across the country to directly compute and enter the result data on the ECI new counting application. This application allows the Returning Officers to enter table-wise data in the software, thereby considerably reducing the time and makes the results & trends data error-free.
  • The counting software developed by the IT team of ECI called ENCORE (Enabling Communications on Real-time Environment) allows generation of various types of statutory reports during counting process which are mandatory for Returning Officers such as Form 20 Preparation/ Compilation of Final Result Sheet, 21C/D for Formal Declaration of Result and Form 21 E for Certificate of Return of Elections. The Returning Officer can download these system-generated reports after the counting is over and complete the statutory requirements in a hassle-free environment.
  • For the first time, the Election Commission of India has launched Election Trends TV, on which the graphically-rich micro-details of trends & results are published in real-time. As and when the counting data of each round is entered after officially been declared by the Returning Officers, the data is displayed on the Election Trends TV, without any manual intervention using advanced secure technologies. These panels can be customized and configured, for display automatically in public places using large TV Panels by Returning Officers & Chief Electoral Officers.
  • During the counting dissemination of trends and results are made with enhanced infographics and increased details through the ECI’s very popular mobile app ‘Voter Helpline App’ which is available from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store for free download. The user can bookmark their favourite candidate and closely follow the results in a comprehensive manner.


Kartarpur Sahib Corridor Agreement

Paper: General Studies 2

Topic: India and its neighborhood- relations.

Why in the news?

  • India has signed the Agreement with Pakistan on the modalities for operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor at Zero Point, International Boundary, Dera Baba Nanak. Representatives from the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Defence, and Ministry of Home Affairs along with the representatives from Government of Punjab have been present during the signing ceremony.
  • With the signing of this Agreement, a formal framework has been laid down for operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.

What are the highlights of the Agreement?

  • Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin can use the corridor;
  • The travel will be Visa Free;
  • Pilgrims need to carry only a valid passport;
  • Persons of Indian Origin need to carry OCI card along with the passport of their country;
  • The Corridor is open from dawn to dusk. Pilgrims travelling in the morning will have to return on the same day;
  • The Corridor will be operational throughout the year, except on notified days, to be informed in advance;
  • Pilgrims will have a choice to visit as individuals or in groups, and also to travel on foot;
  • India will send the list of pilgrims to Pakistan 10 days ahead of travel date. Confirmation will be sent to pilgrims 4 days before the travel date;
  • The Pakistan side has assured India to make sufficient provision for ‘Langar’ and distribution of ‘Prasad’;


What is the issue regarding the corridor?

  • The main issue that has been a point of discussion is the insistence of Pakistan to levy US Dollars 20 as service charge per pilgrim per visit. India has consistently urged Pakistan to not levy any fee on the pilgrims. It was stressed time and again, including in the previous three Joint Secretary Level meetings and at the diplomatic level, that this is not in consonance with the religious and spiritual sentiments of Indian pilgrims. India has shared its deep disappointment with Pakistan for its refusal to waive the fee. 
  • However, in the interest of the pilgrims and timely operationalization of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor before the 550th Prakash Purb, India has agreed to sign the Agreement today. While the Agreement has been signed, Government of India continues to urge this issue with the Government of Pakistan to reconsider its insistence on levying the fee. India remains ready to amend the Agreement accordingly.


What is the importance of Kartarpur Sahib?

  • The shrine was built to commemorate the site where Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life.
  • It is considered to be the second holiest site for Sikhism after Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Pakistan, which was built at the site where Guru Nanak was born.

Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI)

Paper: General Studies 2

Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Why in the news?

  • As part of Indo-US Bilateral Defence Cooperation, the 9th Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) meeting was held between the delegations of India and the United States
  • These meetings are held to bring leadership focus to the bilateral defence trade relationship and create opportunities for co-production and co-development of defence equipment.
  • The Joint Working Groups, established under DTTI to progress mutually agreed projects for the Armed Forces, provided a status update during the meeting. Engagement with the industry remains a key focus of DTTI for both sides and measures to achieve this goal were also discussed. A significant achievement of the meeting was the signing of ‘Statement of Intent’ with respect to key deliverables in the near, medium and long terms. This will assist in bringing sustained focus on some of the projects and signal commitment of both sides towards continued collaboration on mutually beneficial issues.


What is the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative?

The Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) is an undertaking to provide increased U.S. senior level oversight and engagement to get beyond differing bureaucratic processes and legal requirements among India and U.S to implement the strategic priority of defence cooperation among both countries.


Doing Business Report, 2020

Paper: General Studies 3

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Why in the news?

  • The World Bank released its latest Doing Business Report(DBR, 2020) today on 24th October 2019. 
  • India has recorded a jump of 14 positions against its rank of 77 in 2019 to be placed now at 63rd rank among 190 countries assessed by the World Bank. India’s leap of 14 ranks in the Ease of Doing Business ranking is significant considering that there has been continuous improvement since 2015 and for the third consecutive year India is amongst the top 10 improvers.
  • As a result of continued efforts by the Government, India has improved its rank by 79 positions in the last five years [2014-19].


What is the Doing Business Ranking?

  • The Doing Business assessment provides objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement across 190 economies on ten parameters affecting a business through its life cycle. 
  • The DBR ranks countries on the basis of Distance to Frontier (DTF), a score that shows the gap of an economy to the global best practice. This year, India’s DTF score improved to 71.0 from 67.23 in the previous year.


What are the highlights of India’s performance?

  • The World Bank has recognized India as one of the top 10 improvers for the third consecutive year.
  • Recovery rate under resolving insolvency has improved significantly from 26.5% to 71.6%.
  • The time taken for resolving insolvency has also come down significantly from 4.3 years to 1.6 years.
  • India continues to maintain its first position among South Asian countries. It was 6th in 2014.
  • India has improved its rank in 7 out of 10 indicators and has moved closer to international best practices (Distance to Frontier score).Significant improvements have been registered in ‘Resolving Insolvency’, ‘Dealing with Construction Permits’, ‘Registering Property’, ‘Trading across Boards’ and ‘Paying Taxes’ indicators.The changes in seven indicators where India has improved its rank are as follows:

Odisha Integrated Irrigation Project for Climate Resilient Agriculture

Paper: General Studies 3

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Why in the news?

  • The Government of India, Government of Odisha and the World Bank today signed a US$165 million loan agreement to support smallholder farmers strengthen the resilience of their production systems as well as diversify and improve the marketing of their produce, for increased income.
  • The Odisha Integrated Irrigation Project for Climate Resilient Agriculture will be implemented in rural areas vulnerable to droughts and largely dependent on rainfed agriculture. It will benefit about 125,000 smallholder farmer households from 15 districts of Odisha managing 128,000 ha of agricultural land. 
  • The project will strengthen the resilience of smallholder farmers against adverse climate by improving access to resilient seed varieties and production technologies, diversifying towards more climate-resilient crops, and improving access to better water management and irrigation services.
  • The project will support the rehabilitation of 532 water tanks – expected to irrigate 91,435 ha; promote productivity improvements at the farm level; support farmers to reduce the current emphasis on food grains (especially paddy and wheat) and increase the share of high-value and more nutritious products like fruits and vegetables; and provide marketing support to farmers who are able to generate a marketable surplus.
  • The project will also support aquaculture in rehabilitated tanks, help farmers access affordable and quality fingerlings, and disseminate improved aquaculture practices and post-harvest management.

What is the need of the project?

  • In recent years, climate variability has seriously affected agriculture in Odisha, where farming is largely dominated by farmers with landholdings of less than two hectares. More and more agricultural areas are coming under the ambit of extreme weather events. Since 2009, the frequency of droughts in the state has increased from 1 in 5 years to 1 in 2 years. 
  • Today, about 70 percent of total cultivated area is prone to droughts compared to 40 percent in the 1970s. In fact, since 2013, floods are now devastating areas beyond the traditional flood zone. Drier areas are projected to become drier, while wetter areas will become wetter. 
  • Agriculture is also a major source of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in Odisha, responsible for about 25 percent of the GHG emissions in the state.


Prelims Specific

  • Chenani Nashri Tunnel has been renamed after Dr. Syama Prasad Mookherjee. It is on NH 44 in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This 9 km tunnel is the longest such state of art tunnel in the country, connecting Udhampur to Ramban in Jammu.
  • A maritime trade centre based out of a fortified settlement near the banks of the Swarnamukhi river in Gottiprolu (Andhra Pradesh) may have had a trade guild with its own army to protect its interests around 2000 years ago.