Need larger Bench to examine ‘impartiality’ of Speakers under Tenth Schedule: Uddhav Thackeray to Constitution Bench
Relevance in UPSC: General Studies paper -2: Salient Features of the Representation of People’s Act.
- The Constitution Bench is hearing a series of petitions following the political crisis which rocked Maharashtra when current Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his camp of followers rebelled against Mr. Thackeray
Anti Defection Law
- The anti-defection law punishes individual Members of Parliament (MPs)/MLAs for leaving one party for another.
- Parliament added it to the Constitution as the Tenth Schedule in 1985.
- Its purpose was to bring stability to governments by discouraging legislators from changing parties.
The Tenth Schedule
- Popularly known as the Anti-Defection Act – was included in the Constitution via the 52nd Amendment Act, of 1985.
- It sets the provisions for disqualification of elected members on the grounds of defection to another political party.
- It was a response to the toppling of multiple state governments by party-hopping MLAs after the general elections of 1967.
Grounds of Disqualification
- If an elected member voluntarily gives up his membership of a political party.
- If he votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by his political party or anyone authorized to do so, without obtaining prior permission.
- If any independently elected member joins any political party.
- If any nominated member joins any political party after the expiry of six months.
Controversial Role of Speaker
- There is no clarity in the law about the timeframe for the action of the House Chairperson or Speaker in anti-defection cases.
- Some cases take six months and some even three years. There are cases that are disposed of after the term is over.
Argentina, and Egypt show interest in Tejas
Relevance in UPSC: General Studies paper -3: Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology; Indigenization of Technology and Developing New Technology.
- Argentina and Egypt have evinced interest in Tejas, the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
- The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme was started by the Government of India in 1984 when they established the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) to manage the LCA programme.
- It replaced the ageing Mig 21 fighter planes.
- Designed by: Aeronautical Development Agency under the Department of Defence Research and Development.
- Manufactured by: State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
- The lightest, smallest, and tailless multi-role supersonic fighter aircraft in its class.
- Designed to carry a range of air-to-air, air-to-surface, precision-guided, weapons.
- Air-to-air refueling capability.
- The maximum payload capacity of 4000 kg.
- It can attend the maximum speed of Mach 1.8.
- The range of the aircraft is 3,000km
Variants of Tejas
- Tejas Trainer: 2-seater operational conversion trainer for training air force pilots.
- LCA Navy: Twin- and single-seat carrier-capable for the Indian Navy.
- LCA Tejas Navy MK2: This is phase 2 of the LCA Navy variant.
- LCA Tejas Mk-1A: This is an improvement over the LCA Tejas Mk1 with a higher thrust engine.
Setback with Malaysia
- Apart from these two countries, HAL is pursuing a deal with Malaysia for the supply of 18 Tejas aircraft against a global tender issued by the Malaysian Ministry of Defence a few years ago.
- However, despite being shortlisted, Tejas has suffered a setback as Malaysia is said to be keen on the South Korean aircraft FA-50 Golden Eagle.
Wholesale inflation eased to 4.7% in January
Relevance in UPSC: General Studies paper -3: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment. Inclusive Growth and issues arising from it.
- India’s wholesale price inflation cooled further in January to a two-year low of 4.73% from 4.95% in December, thanks to a slight decline in manufactured products’ price rise and fuel and power inflation, even as pace of inflation in food and primary articles hardened sequentially.
Wholesale Price Index (WPI)
- The wholesale price index is an index that measures and tracks the changes in the price of goods in the stages before the retail level.
- WPI is used as a measure of inflation in some economies.
- WPI includes three components viz,
- Manufactured products – 64.2%
- Primary articles – 22.6%
- Fuel and power – 13.1%
- Instead of the earlier 2004-05, base year for the WPI will be 2011-12.
- The number of items covered in the new series of the WPI has increased from 676 to 697.
Consumer Price Index (CPI)
- It measures price changes from the perspective of a retail buyer. It is released by the National Statistical Office (NSO).
- The CPI calculates the difference in the price of commodities and services such as food, medical care, education, electronics etc, which Indian consumers buy for use.
- The CPI has several sub-groups including food and beverages, fuel and light, housing and clothing, bedding and footwear.
- Four types of CPI are as follows:
- CPI for Industrial Workers (IW)
- CPI for Agricultural Labourer (AL)
- CPI for Rural Labourer (RL)
- CPI (Rural/Urban/Combined)
Beijing tells U.S. to investigate balloons allegedly flown over China
- Relevance in UPSC: General Studies paper -3: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.
The U.S. government alleges the balloon it shot down on February 4 was part of an ongoing, global “fleet” of Chinese espionage balloons
- On Saturday, the F-22 scored its first “air-to-air” combat kill. Using a $400,000 AIM 9X Sidewinder missile, the F-22 destroyed the balloon with observers claiming that they “felt” the explosion, before the balloon dropped into the ocean.
- Relations between Washington and Beijing have nosedived following the shooting down of what the U.S. alleges was a Chinese spy balloon — China insisted it was an errant weather observation aircraft with no military purpose.
- A number of unidentified aerial objects have subsequently been shot down over North America, though the U.S. has not attributed them to China.
- On Tuesday, Beijing doubled down on unsubstantiated allegations that the U.S. has sent over 10 balloons since last year.
- The F-22 Raptor is a 5th Generation stealth tactical fighter aircraft, designed as an air superiority fighter, though with ground attack and advanced electronic warfare capabilities.
- The aircraft first flew in 1997 and was officially inducted into service with the USAF in 2005.
- These cheap, quiet, and hard-to-reach balloons have been used for reconnaissance purposes, including in conflicts like the American Civil War.
- The practice became widespread during World War I and was used extensively during the Cold War when the US launched hundreds of balloons to gather intelligence on the Soviet Union and China.
- China has for decades complained about US surveillance by ships and spy planes near its own territory, leading to occasional confrontations over the years. According to China, the balloon was for research but got off track.
Uses of Surveillance Balloons
- In the age of satellites, surveillance balloons which are typically advanced balloons equipped with high-tech, downward-pointing imaging gear offer close-range monitoring.
- The lower-flying balloons, which hover at about the same height as commercial airlines fly, can typically take clearer images than the lowest-orbiting satellites.
In a meeting with Raisi, Xi vows ‘unswerving’ support
Relevance in UPSC: General Studies paper -2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
- Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi is on a three-day visit to China
- Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday pledged “unswerving” support to visiting Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in talks in Beijing, with both countries vowing to step up trade ties despite the threat of American sanctions.
- Xi also added that China would support talks for an early resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue and implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal, which Beijing has backed while criticising Washington for its withdrawal from the agreement.
- One key issue on the agenda was taking forward and operationalising the 25-year cooperation agreement signed in 2021 but yet to be implemented, under which Beijing is reportedly considering long-term investments of up to $400 billion in various sectors of Iran’s economy, from infrastructure to oil and gas, in return for supplies of Iranian oil.
US Sanctions against Iran
- It refers to economic, trade, scientific and military sanctions against Iran related to its nuclear programme,
- They have been imposed by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, or by the international community under U.S. Pressure via the UN Security Council (UNSC).
- The sanctions include the official ban on dealing with Iran by the US, a ban on selling aircraft and repair parts to Iranian aviation firms, trading oil etc.
Shaping a more disabled-friendly digital ecosystem
Relevance in UPSC: General Studies paper -1: Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India. Social Empowerment, Communalism, Regionalism & Secularism.
- The estimation in Census 2011, that 2.21% of India’s population is disabled is a gross underestimation.
- According to the World Health Organization, about 16% of the global population is disabled.
- If that figure is extrapolated to the Indian context, it would mean at least 192 million disabled people. While technology has enormous potential to level the playing field for the disabled, it can, at the same time, reinforce the barriers that the disabled otherwise face if it is not designed with their needs in mind.
- India, it is reported, had 750 million Internet/smartphone users in 2020. Applying the 16% figure here, this works out to be roughly 120 million (12 crore) Internet/smartphone users with disabilities.
Apps and an evaluation
- To provide an evidence-based assessment of the problem and spur conversations and reforms, we co-authored (with like-minded colleagues) a report that evaluates the accessibility of 10 of the most widely used apps in India, across five sectors.
- These sectors were chosen based on broad stakeholder consultation with people with disabilities, and the 10 apps, based on the amount of online traffic.
- The apps were Zomato, Swiggy, PayTM, PhonePe, Amazon, Flipkart, Uber, Ola, WhatsApp and Telegram.
Use of AI and algorithms
- As with other sectors, we are excited by the role technology can play in our efforts.
- We currently use technology to automate a large number of accessibility tests, and combine that with in-depth manual testing to provide comprehensive accessibility feedback to developers.
- AI can help to further automate the accessibility testing process, and feedback from users with disabilities can now be analysed at scale to provide actionable insights to developers and companies.