Current Affairs (8th July 2021)
- The West Bengal Assembly has passed a resolution to set up a Legislative Council with a two-thirds majority.
- India has a bicameral system i.e., two Houses of Parliament. At the state level, the equivalent of the Lok Sabha is the Vidhan Sabha or Legislative Assembly; that of the Rajya Sabha is the Vidhan Parishad or Legislative Council.
- The resolution for the Legislative Council was moved under Article 169.
- Under Article 169 of the constitution, Parliament may by law create or abolish the second chamber in a state if the Legislative Assembly of that state passes a resolution to that effect by a special majority.
- Clause (1) states that Parliament may by law provide for the abolition of the Legislative Council of a State having such a Council or for the creation of such a Council in a State having no such Council, if the Legislative Assembly of the State passes a resolution to that effect by a majority of the total membership of the Assembly and by a majority of not less than two thirds of the members of the Assembly present and voting.
- Clause (3) states that such a law shall be deemed to be an amendment of the Constitution for the purposes of Article 368.
How are members of the Council elected?
- 1/3rd of members are elected by members of the Assembly.
- 1/3rd by electorates consisting of members of municipalities, district boards and other local authorities in the state.
- 1/12th by an electorate consisting of teachers.
- 1/12th by registered graduates.
- The remaining members are nominated by the Governor from among those who have distinguished themselves in literature, science, art, the cooperative movement, and social service.
Meeting among the OPEC+ group
- Recently, the latest round of meetings among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Plus(OPEC+) group of oil-exporting countries has stalled.
- In April 2020, the OPEC+ group of countries entered into a two-year agreement, which entailed steep cuts in crude production to deal with a sharp fall in the price of oil as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The price of Brent crude hit an 18-year low of under USD 20 per barrel in April 2020 as economic activity around the world crashed as countries dealt with the pandemic.
- The initial production cut by OPEC+ was about 10 million barrels per day or about 22 per cent of the reference production of OPEC+ nations.
- However, in November 2020, the price of Brent crude started climbing consistently and has, now, risen to USD 76.5 per barrel, up from about USD 40 per barrel at the end of October, after the steady rollout of vaccination programmes around the world.
- Still, OPEC+ maintained lower levels of production despite crude oil prices reaching pre-Covid levels, with Saudi Arabia, notably, announcing a further cut in production of 1 million barrels per day for the February-to-April period, which helped boost rising prices even further.
- Due to this, the OPEC+ has been criticised by developing economies, including India, for deliberately maintaining low supply levels to raise prices.
- India held that the high price was slowing down the economic recovery of developing economies post the pandemic.
- In April 2021, OPEC+ agreed to gradually increase crude production as prices reached USD 64.5 per barrel including a phased end to Saudi Arabia’s 1 million barrel per day cut in production by July.
- The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has pushed back proposals making an increase in crude oil supply conditional on an extension to an output agreement.
- Another round of discussions between OPEC+ countries have been also called off because key players failed to make any progress in resolving key issues.
- The UAE initially agreed that there was a need to increase crude oil production from August, but did not agree to a condition by the OPEC Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) that the two-year production agreement be extended by six months.
- For it, the only option of extension to the current agreement did not make any sense with respect to increasing the production.
- The UAE’s key objection to the existing agreement is the reference output used to calculate the total production apportioned to each oil-exporting country.
- It noted that the baseline production level reference used in the current agreement was not reflective of the UAE’s production capacity and, therefore, led to the UAE being apportioned a lower share of total production of crude oil.
- It held the baseline reference production levels as unfair and it would only agree if the baseline production levels were reviewed to be fair to all parties.
Impact on India:
- If OPEC+ and the UAE are not able to reach an agreement for increasing the production, expected relief in the form of lower crude oil prices could be delayed.
- India is the world’s third-biggest oil importer and consumer stated that the delay in decision can threaten the consumption-led-recovery in some countries.
- India imports about 84 per cent of its overall crude needs with over 60 per cent of that coming from Middle Eastern countries, which are typically cheaper than those from the West.
- Rising oil prices are posing fiscal challenges for India, where heavily taxed retail fuel prices have touched record highs in some parts of the country, threatening the demand-driven recovery.
- India is currently facing record-high prices of petrol and diesel, with pump prices of the former exceeding Rs. 100 per litre in 13 states and Union Territories(UTs).
- High crude prices have led to Indian oil marketing companies hiking the price of petrol by about 19.3 per cent and that of diesel by about 21 per cent since the beginning of 2021.
Steps Taken by India:
- India has asked state refiners to speed up the diversification of oil imports to gradually cut their dependence on the Middle East after the OPEC+ decision.
- India, hit hard by the soaring oil prices, has urged producers to ease output cuts and help the global economic recovery.
- One plan is to import oil from a new producer, Guyana.
- The country’s top refiner Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has also renewed its oil import contract with Russia.
- India is also hoping to resume Iranian oil imports.
Religions in India
- A recent survey of nearly 30,000 individuals by the Pew Research Center (‘Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation’) suggests that most Indians respect religious diversity, and yet draw clear lines between communities when it comes to marriage.
- More Indians see diversity as a benefit (53%) than view it as a liability (24%) for their country; the rest do not take a clear position.
- Again, 84% of Indians believe that respecting all religions is very important to being truly Indian, and 80% believe respecting other religions is a very important part of their religious identity. And yet, about two in every three Indians put a high priority on stopping interfaith and inter-caste marriages.
- Indians do simultaneously express commitment to religious tolerance and a consistent preference for keeping their religious communities in segregated spheres — they live together separately.
- While people in some countries may aspire to create a ‘melting pot’ of different religious identities, our data suggest that many Indians prefer a country more like a patchwork fabric or thali, with clear lines between groups.
- For all the new laws aimed at stopping inter-community marriages, the survey found very little change caused by conversion to the size of various religious groups among the respondents.
- When it comes to neighbours, large sections among the minority communities say they would be willing to live near a Hindu. Most Hindus, too, say they would be willing to live near a Muslim, a Christian or a Jain. But many Hindus also have reservations: for example, 36% would not be willing to live near a Muslim.
- A majority of Muslims say they are against triple talaq, with women more opposed to it than men. The survey also found three-quarters of Muslims in favour of having access to their own religious courts for family disputes.
- Muslim opinions of triple talaq also differ based on several other factors. For example, Muslims with college degrees are more supportive of triple talaq than are Muslims with less education (46% vs 37%).
- And Muslims who say religion is very important in their lives are more likely to support triple talaq than those who say religion is less important (39% vs 26%).
Being Hindu or Muslim
- For most Hindus and Muslims, avoiding beef and pork respectively is central to their idea of who is truly Hindu or Muslim. 72% of Hindus say a person who eats beef cannot be Hindu; 77% of Muslims say a person cannot be Muslim if he or she eats pork.
- A majority of both groups also says a person cannot be Hindu or Muslim, respectively, if they celebrate each other’s festivals.
- The two groups diverge to an extent on religiosity as a marker on identity. The shares of Muslims who say namaz and visiting mosques are essential to being Muslim (67% and 61% respectively) are higher than the shares of Hindus who say a person cannot be Hindu if they don’t say their prayers or don’t visit temples (48% each).