- Dormant Parliament
- Standing External Advisory Committee
- ‘Move health to Concurrent list’
- HYPNEA INDICA; HYPNEA BULLATA
Context: The Budget session of Parliament ended, two weeks ahead of the original plan, as many political leaders are busy with campaigning for the forthcoming State Assembly elections.
- This follows the trend of the last few sessions:
- The Budget session of 2020 was curtailed ahead of the lockdown imposed following the novel coronavirus pandemic,
- A short 18-day monsoon session ended after 10 days as several Members of Parliament and Parliament staff got affected by COVID-19, and
- The winter session was cancelled.
- As a result, the fiscal year 2020-21 saw the Lok Sabha sitting for 34 days (and the Rajya Sabha for 33), the lowest ever.
- The casualty was proper legislative scrutiny of proposed legislation as well as government functioning and finances.
- While COVID-19 was undoubtedly a grave matter, there is no reason why Parliament could not adopt remote working and technological solutions, as several other countries did.
No Bill scrutiny
- An important development this session has been the absence of careful scrutiny of Bills.
- During the session, 13 Bills were introduced, and not even one of them was referred to a parliamentary committee for examination.
- Many high impact Bills were introduced and passed within a few days.
- The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which is the Bill to change the governance mechanism of Delhi – shifting governance from the legislature and the Chief Minister to the Lieutenant Governor – was introduced on March 15 in the Lok Sabha, passed by that House on March 22 and by Rajya Sabha on the March 24.
- Another Bill, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021, amends the Mines and Minerals Act, 1957 to remove end-use restrictions on mines and ease conditions for captive mines; this Bill was introduced on March 15 and passed by both Houses within a week.
- A Bill – The National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NaBFID) Bill, 2021 – to create a new government infrastructure finance institution and permit private ones in this sector was passed within three days of introduction.
- The Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021, the Bill to increase the limit of foreign direct investment in insurance companies from 49% to 74% also took just a week between introduction and passing by both Houses.
- In all, 13 Bills were introduced in this session, and eight of them were passed within the session.
- This quick work should be read as a sign of abdication by Parliament of its duty to scrutinise Bills, rather than as a sign of efficiency.
Standing External Advisory Committee
Context: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has set up a five-member Standing External Advisory Committee (SEAC), headed by former RBI Deputy Governor Shyamala Gopinath, for evaluating applications for universal banks and Small Finance Banks (SFBs).
- The committee will have a tenure of three years.
- The secretarial support to the committee would be provided by RBI’s Department of Regulation.
- The applications for universal banks and SFBs will first be evaluated by the RBI to ensure prima facie eligibility of the applicants, after which the SEAC will evaluate the applications.
Small finance banks
- The small finance bank will primarily undertake basic banking activities of acceptance of deposits and lending to unserved and underserved sections including small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries and unorganised sector entities.
‘Move health to Concurrent list’
Context:Recently 15th Finance commission chairman said that Health should be shifted to the Concurrent list under the Constitution, and a developmental finance institution (DFI) dedicated to healthcare investments set up.
- Making a case for enhancing government spending on health to 2.5% of GDP by 2025, Mr. Singh said primary healthcare should be a fundamental commitment of all States in particular and should be allocated at least two-thirds of such spending.
- Bringing health into the Concurrent list would give the Centre greater flexibility to enact regulatory changes and reinforce the obligation of all stakeholders towards providing better healthcare.
- Addressing the NATHEALTH summit, he said the health sector was in dire need of a DFI similar to the one being set up to stimulate infrastructure investments.
- Such a DFI would increase healthcare access in tier-2 and tier-3 cities and also come in with technical assistance that ensures proper usage of funds.
- He also emphasised the importance of universalising healthcare insurance as a large section of the society still remained uncovered.
- While the PMJAY covers the bottom two income quintiles, commercial insurance largely covers top-income quintile, thereby creating a ‘missing middle’ class in between.
- This refers to people in the middle two income quintiles, where the population is not rich enough to afford commercial insurance and not poor enough to be covered under government-sponsored health insurance schemes.
HYPNEA INDICA; HYPNEA BULLATA
Context:Two new species of seaweed have been discovered by a group of marine biologists from Central University of Punjab, Bathinda.
- Named Hypnea indica (after India) and Hypnea bullata (because of the blisterlike marks on its body – bullate), the seaweeds are part of the genus Hypnea or red seaweeds.
- While Hypnea indica was discovered Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, and Somnath Pathan and Sivrajpur in Gujarat, Hypnea bullata was discovered from Kanyakumari and Diu island of Daman and Diu.
- They grow in the intertidal regions of the coast, namely the area that is submerged during the high tide and exposed during low tides.
- The genus Hypnea consists of calcareous, erect, branched red seaweeds. There are 61 species of which 10 were reported in India. With our two new species, the total number of species now would be 63.