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Current Affairs – 20 November 2021

Farm Law Repeal

Indian Express

GS 2: Agricultural marketing

Context:

  • Prime Minister has announced the repeal of the three contentious farm laws, which had witnessed protests from farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, on the borders of Delhi for more than a year.

What were the farm laws that have been repealed?

  1. The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, which is aimed at allowing trade in agricultural produce outside the existing APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) mandis;
  2. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, which seeks to provide a framework for contract farming;
  3. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, which is aimed at removing commodities such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potato from the list of essential commodities.
    • Finance Minister had announced these laws as part of the third tranche under Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan to support the economy during the fight against Covid-19.
    • On June 3, 2020, the three laws were approved, then in the form of ordinances. Two days later, the President promulgated the ordinances.
    • During the Monsoon Session of Parliament, the government introduced Bills to replace the ordinances, which were eventually passed.

Why had the need been felt?

  • There has been a long-pending demand for reforms in agricultural marketing, a subject that comes under the purview of state governments.
  • The Centre took the issue up in the early 2000s by pushing for reforms in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Acts of the states.
  • The Agriculture Ministry designed a model APMC Act in 2003 and circulated it among the states. The subsequent government, too, pushed for these reforms.
  • But given that it is a state subject, the Centre has had little success in getting the states to adopt the model APMC Act.
  • It was in this backdrop that the present government went for reforms in the sector by passing these laws.

How does the repeal impact the political economy of rural India?

  • There may be some deficiencies in the exact design and mechanism of the reforms proposed in the three farm laws, but most advocates of agricultural reform would agree that they were in the right direction.
  • That the government chose to push these reforms through its own set of consultations left many stakeholders feeling left out, and created a backlash.
  • The repeal underlines that any future attempts to reform the rural agricultural economy would require a much wider consultation, not only for better design of reforms, but for wider acceptance.
  • The repeal would leave the government hesitant about pursuing these reforms in stealth mode again.

What does it mean for a law to be repealed?

  • Repealing a law is one of the ways to nullify a law.
  • A law is reversed when Parliament thinks there is no longer a need for the law to exist.
  • Legislation can also have a “sunset” clause, a particular date after which they cease to exist. For example, the anti-terror legislation Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act 1987, commonly known as TADA, had a sunset clause, and was allowed to lapse in 1995.
  • For laws that do not have a sunset clause, Parliament has to pass another legislation to repeal the law.
  • Article 245 of the Constitution gives Parliament the power to make laws for the whole or any part of India, and state legislatures the power to make laws for the state. Parliament draws its power to repeal a law from the same provision.
  • A law can be repealed either in its entirety, in part, or even just to the extent that it is in contravention of other laws.

Process for repealing a law:

  • In case an ordinance is used, it would need to be replaced by a law passed by Parliament within six months. If the ordinance lapses because it is not approved by Parliament, the repealed law can be revived.
  • The government can also bring legislation to repeal the farm laws. It will have to be passed by both Houses of Parliament, and receive the President’s assent before it comes into effect. All three farm laws can be repealed through a single legislation. Usually, Bills titled Repealing and Amendment are introduced for this purpose.

 

Proposed Norms for Digital Lending: RBI

The Hindu

GS 3: Mobilisation of resources

Context:

  • A Reserve Bank working group has suggested the enactment of separate legislation to prevent illegal digital lending through apps.
  • The other suggestions of the working group include subjecting the digital lending apps to a verification process by a nodal agency and establishing a Self-Regulatory Organisation (SRO) covering the participants in the digital lending ecosystem.

Proposals:

  • Digital lending apps should be subjected to a verification process by a nodal agency to be set up in consultation with stakeholders.
  • To set up a Self-Regulatory Organisation (SRO)covering the participants in the digital lending ecosystem.
    • The use of unsolicited commercial communications for digital loans to be governed by a code of conduct to be put in place by the proposed SRO.
    • The maintenance of a ‘negative list’ of lending service providers by the proposed SRO.
  • Disbursement of loans should be directly into bank accounts of borrowers.
  • All data to be stored in servers located in India.
  • Algorithmic features used in digital lending to be documented should ensure necessary transparency.

 

Speaker’s Powers

The Hindu

GS 2: Polity

Context:

  • The All-India Presiding Officers’ Conference (AIPOC) ended with the delegates failing to reach a consensus on whether the Speaker’s powers under the anti-defection law should be limited.

Major Highlights:

  • C.P. Joshi committee:
    • The committee was formed in 2019 to examine the role of the Speaker in cases of disqualification on grounds of defection under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • The committee has advocated that the power to disqualify MPs and MLAs under the anti-defection law should also be given to political parties rather than limiting the power only for Lok Sabha and assembly speakers
  • Other Recommendations: There is a need to increase the number of sittings of legislative bodies. It will provide maximum time and opportunities to the members so that the people’s representatives can discuss the major issues of their State and country extensively.
    • There is a need for drastic changes to the functioning of Standing Committees, including changes to their rules.
    • Tradition of Zero Hour should be started in all State legislatures to give members the chance to raise urgent matters pertaining to their constituencies.
  • Need of a Single platform: the work of creating a single platform for all legislatures would be done by 2022.
    • PM’s vision of “one nation, one legislative platform” should be realised.

 

PMGSY I and II and RCPLWEA

PIB

GS 2: Government policies and interventions

Context:

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave its approval for continuation of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana-I and II (PMGSY-I and II) upto September, 2022 for completion of balance road and bridge works.
  • The CCEA also approved continuation of Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas (RCPLWEA) upto March, 2023.

PMGSY-I:

  • Centrally Sponsored Scheme, launched in the year 2000 to provide connectivity to eligible unconnected habitations of 500+ in plain areas and 250+ in North-East and Himalayan states as per census 2001.
  • The Scheme also included a component of upgradation of existing rural roads for those districts where all the eligible habitations had been saturated.

PMGSY-II:

  • It was approved by the Cabinet in May, 2013, envisaged consolidation of 50,000 Km of existing rural road network.

PMGSY-III:

  • It was launched in the year 2019 for consolidation of 1,25,000 Km existing through routes and major rural links connecting habitations, inter-alia, to Gramin Agricultural Markets, Higher Secondary Schools and Hospitals.
  • The implementation period of the scheme is upto March, 2025.

 

Interpretation of the POCSO Act

The Hindu

GS 2: Polity

Context:

  • Recently, the Supreme Court quashed a Bombay High Court decision stating that sexual intent of the offender forms assault, not skin-to-skin contact.

About Bombay High Court decision:

  • The accused was sentenced to the minimum three years’ imprisonment under Section 8 of the POCSO Act.
  • That was set aside by the HC and his sentence was reduced to one year under Section 354 (assault of a woman to outrage her modesty) of the Indian Penal Code.

Supreme Court’s Stand:

  • The act of touching a sexual part of the body with sexual intent will not be trivialised and not excluded under Section 7 of the POCSO Act.
  • Limiting the ambit of “touch” to a narrow and pedantic” definition would lead to an “absurd interpretation.
  • When the legislature had clarified its intent, the court should not introduce ambiguity.

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