20th January 2021

Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha to have 5-hour sessions with Question Hour, Zero Hour: Speaker
Budget session of Parliament is going to start on 29 January 2021, Lok Sabha Speaker said both Houses will have five-hour sessions each with Question Hour and Zero Hour.

  • On January 29, President will address a joint session of Parliament in the Central Hall, for which MPs will be seated also in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha chambers.
  • Lok Sabha will sit 30 minutes after the presidential address for the tabling of the presidential address and Economic Survey. Rajya Sabha will sit later for the same.
  • The Union Budget will be presented on 1 February 2021 in Lok Sabha.
  • The budget session will break for a recess on February 15 to meet again on March 8. The budget session is scheduled to conclude on April 8.
  • During the monsoon session held during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was cut short, each house sat for four hours and had no question hour.
  • Private Members’ business, which usually takes place on Friday afternoons, was not taken up during the monsoon session and has made a comeback in the budget session.

QUESTION HOUR

  • The first hour of every parliamentary sitting is slotted for the Question Hour.
  • In 2014, it was shifted in the Rajya Sabha from 11 am to 12 noon.
  • Members of Parliament (MPs) ask questions to ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries. Questions can also be asked to the private members.
  • The presiding officers of the both Houses (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha) are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question Hour.
  • It is regulated according to parliamentary rules.

ZERO HOUR

  • It is an Indian parliamentary innovation. It is not mentioned in the parliamentary rules book.
  • MPs can raise matters without any prior notice.
  • Starts immediately after the question hour and lasts until the agenda for the day

 

Indian star tortoises were smuggled

  • Indian star tortoises were seized while being smuggled from Andhra Pradesh to Odisha.
  • Found across the Indian sub-continent, more specifically, in the Central and Southern parts of India, in West Pakistan and in Sri Lanka.
  • Threats: loss of habitat to agriculture and illegal harvesting for the pet trade
  • Convention on International Trade in Species (CITES): Appendix I
  • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
  • Wild Life Protection Act 1972: Schedule IV (species that are not endangered)

 

‘Explore crowdfunding to help two children with rare disease’

  • Delhi High Court (HC) has ordered the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to explore “crowdfunding” to help two children, who are suffering from a Rare Disease known as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
  • HC also give a specific timeline to the Ministry in respect of the finalisation and notification of the Draft Health Policy for Rare Diseases, 2020. The draft policy has a section where the government proposed crowdfunding for treatment of high-cost Rare Diseases.
  • ‘Right to Health and Healthcare’ is a fundamental right and it has been recognised by the Supreme Court to be a part of the ‘Right to life’ under Article 21.
  • HC directed the society in general and authorities in particular to ensure that the life of such children is not compromised, even if there is a small window of improving their chances of survival or even providing a better quality of life.

CROWDFUNDING

  • Method of raising capital through the collective effort of a large pool of individuals, primarily online via social media and crowdfunding platforms and leverages their networks for greater reach and exposure.
  • The 3 primary types are donation-based, rewards-based, and equity crowdfunding.
  • Donation-based crowdfunding – Any crowdfunding campaign in which there is no financial return to the investors or contributors.
  • Rewards-based crowdfunding – Any crowdfunding campaign that involves individuals contributing to business in exchange for a “reward,” typically a form of the product or service your company offers.
  • Equity-based crowdfunding – Any crowdfunding campaign that allows contributors to become part-owners of your company by trading capital for equity shares.

RARE DISEASE:

  • There is no universally accepted definition of rare diseases and the definitions usually vary across different countries.
  • A rare disease is a health condition of low prevalence that affects a small number of people compared with other prevalent diseases in the general population.
  • Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy : Genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness due to the alterations of a protein called dystrophin that helps keep muscle cells intact. 

 

Notice to Haryana govt. over Panchayati Raj Act

  • The Punjab and Haryana High Court issued a notice to the Haryana government over certain amendments on reservation system to the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Second Amendment) Act, 2020.
  • The petition was filed by two women member in Panchayati Raj institutions and they have challenged the recently passed Haryana Panchayati Raj (Second Amendment) Act, 2020, particularly relating to the scheme of reservation provided therein.
  • The Act has inter alia amended sections 9, 59 and 120 of the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, that deals with the reservation of seats in Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad.
  • As per the amended sub section (1) of sections 9, 59 and 120 of the Amendment Act, all wards are to be sequentially numbered viz. odd and even for the purposes of reservation of seats.
  • Also, as per amended sub sections (3) and (6) of Sections 9, 59 and 120, the posts of Sarpanch, Members and Chairman falling in even numbered wards have been reserved for women — falling in both categories viz. reserved and general.
  • In so far as the odd numbered wards are concerned, the Act provides that “persons other than women” can contest from such wards.
  • The term “persons other than woman” has not been defined under the amendment and would logically include males and transgenders and exclude women.
  • The amendment thus restricts women candidates from contesting from odd numbered wards which are otherwise open or general wards.
  • The amendment discriminates between eligible women and their male counterparts, which is in violation of Articles 14 and 15 of Constitution.

 

India to fly out vaccines to neighbours

  • India will begin to ship out lakhs of doses of the novel coronavirus vaccine to neighbouring countries, with the first batches expected to reach Bhutan and the Maldives among several countries by special planes as a grant or gift.
  • Shipments to Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles would commence this week, while those to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius were awaiting “necessary regulatory clearances”.
  • India is deeply honoured to be a long-trusted partner in meeting the healthcare needs of the global community.
  • The “pharmacy of the world would deliver to overcome the COVID challenge”.
  • The release of the shipments is part of the government’s “Neighbourhood First” initiative, and will make India the first country to reach COVID-19 vaccines in South Asia, ahead of China, which has promised but not so far delivered, the World Health Organization and GAVI’s vaccine alliance programme.
  • The region’s preference for Indian vaccines, including the Covishield from the Serum Institute of India (SII) developed with Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, are due to cost, easier storage requirements and the geographical proximity.
  • The only exception to India’s regional vaccine diplomacy would be Pakistan, which has cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine for use, but has neither requested nor discussed any doses from India yet.

NEIGHBOURHOOD FIRST POLICY

  • It is part of India’s foreign policy that focuses on improving ties with India’s immediate neighbours. 
  • It focuses on vigorous regional diplomacy by engaging with neighbouring nations and building political connectivity through dialogue. 
  • Focus is on resolving bilateral issues through mutual agreement. 
  • India has entered into MoU with members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). These agreements ensure a free flow of resources, energy, goods, labour, and information across borders.
  • It focuses on enhancing trade ties with neighbours. India has participated and invested in SAARC as a vehicle for development in the region like Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) grouping.
  •  India’s offer cooperation on disaster response, resource management, weather forecasting and communication and also capabilities and expertise in disaster management for all South Asian citizens.
  • India is also focusing on deepening security in the region through military cooperation. 
  • India’s immediate neighbourhood directly impacts it geopolitically, geo-strategically and geo-economically because of its vicinity. Thus, working with them is important for India to rise as a superpower.
  • India’s soft power and common culture provide an opportunity for India to strengthen its cultural roots further in the region.
  • Emphasis must be on sustainable and inclusive development.
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