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The Hindu Editorial

1-November-2023

1. Ethics, parliamentary conduct and the Indian MP.

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity

Context:

  • Mahua Moitra received money from a businessman for putting questions up in
  • The Speaker referred the complaint to the Ethics Committee for examination and a report. 

Committee’s mandate

  • The Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha is a relatively new committee which was set up in 2000,with a mandate to examine every complaint that related to the unethical conduct of MPs referred to it and to recommend action.
  • It was also tasked with formulating a code of conduct for MPs.

Definition of ‘unethical conduct’

  • The term ‘unethical conduct’ has not been defined anywhere.
  • It is left entirely to the committee to examine a particular act of conduct and decide whether it is unethical or not.

Previous cases

  • In the past, the ethics committee has dealt with cases of MPs taking close female companions on parliamentary tours, misusing car parking labels, and taking along women and boys on foreign tours using the passports of their wives and sons.
  • The committee has also dealt with cases of MPs accepting illegal gratification, which is a serious case involving breach of privilege and contempt of the House.

Jurisdiction

  • If the complaint against Mahua Moitra is about her having accepted illegal gratification, then the case becomes a case of breach of privilege and cannot be dealt with by the ethics committee.
  • Normally, cases of public servants accepting bribes are investigated by the criminal investigative agencies of the government. Parliamentary committees do not deal with criminal investigation.

Differences between parliamentary and judicial probes

  • A parliamentary probe is not the same as a judicial probe.
  • A judicial body probes a matter as in the statutes and Rules, and is conducted by judicially trained persons.
  • Parliamentary committees consist of Members of Parliament who are not experts.
  • Parliament has the power to scrutinise the executive, which is accountable to it, and therefore possesses investigative power also.

Procedure followed by parliamentary committees

  • Parliamentary committees investigate matters through their committees which function under the Rules of the House.
  • The usual methods are examination of the written documents placed before the committee by the complainant and the witnesses, oral examination of all the relevant witnesses, deposition of experts, if deemed necessary, sifting of the whole volume of evidence placed before the committee, and arriving at findings on the basis of the evidence.
  • Findings are arrived at after the analysis of all the evidence made available to the committee.

Conclusion

  • Overall, parliamentary investigations focus on assessing the conduct of MPs and breaches of privilege or contempt of the House, while criminal investigations are conducted by law enforcement agencies for criminal offenses. 

Questions: Critically examine the powers and functions of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee in the light of the recent proceedings against Mahua Moitra.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/ethics-parliamentary-conduct-and-the-indian-mp/article67481699.ece

2. Stocktaking climate finance — a case of circles in red ink

Topic: GS3 – climate finance.

Role of Climate Finance in COP 28:

  • Climate finance plays a crucial role in maintaining the trust of developing countries in future climate change negotiations, particularly at COP 28.
  • The issues related to climate finance are expected to be prominent in the COP 28 meeting in Dubai, where the Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report will provide key scientific input for the global stocktake.

Challenges in Climate Finance:

  • Developed countries and climate-vulnerable nations may demand increased mitigation actions by developing countries.
  • Developing countries argue that the developed world has not met the $100 billion climate finance mobilization target, which is inadequate to address their transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient development.

Mandatory Climate Finance Commitments:

  • Developed countries are obligated to provide financial resources to developing country parties under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
  • They must report financial resources provided and projected levels in their Biennial Update Reports (BUR).
  • A commitment was made in 2009 to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020.

Shortfall in Climate Finance Commitment:

  • At the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference in Glasgow in 2021, developed countries expressed regret for only mobilizing $79.6 billion.
  • The nationally determined contributions (NDCs) collectively project overshooting the 1.5°C temperature goal, requiring substantial financial resources.
  • India’s financial needs for adaptation and mitigation, as per its NDCs, are significant.

Burden Sharing Challenge:

  • There is no agreed approach among developed countries to share the burden of climate finance goals.
  • The United States, for example, provided only 5% of its fair share in 2020.
  • The lack of a mandatory formula for collecting money makes it challenging to predict mobilization methods.

Replenishment and International Public Climate Finance:

  • The Global Environment Facility and the Green Climate Fund use replenishment processes to mobilize climate finance.
  • The second replenishment of the Green Climate Fund involved pledges from developed countries and voluntary contributions from some developing countries.

Conclusion: Urgency and Challenges in Climate Finance:

  • Urgent political will and commitment from developed countries are essential to meet climate finance goals and address the global climate crisis.
  • The lack of a similar sense of urgency and cooperation seen in the financial sector during the 2009 global financial crisis hinders effective climate finance transfers.
  • Climate finance is crucial to safeguard the global common of the atmosphere. 

Questions: What are the challenges and ethical concerns associated with climate finance in the context of global climate change negotiations?

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/stocktaking-climate-finance-a-case-of-circles-in-red-ink/article67481653.ece

3. Railways must upgrade its signalling and telecommunications network.

Topic: GS3 – railway safety

Context:

  • A recent train accident in Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh, resulting in 13 deaths and 38 injuries, highlights railway safety system inadequacies.
  • This accident follows a tragic three-train collision in Odisha’s Balasore district in June, claiming at least 275 lives.

Reasons for the train accident:

  • Human error may be a common factor in both accidents, with “signalling interference” suspected in the Odisha accident and “signal jump” in the Vizianagaram incident.
  • The indigenously developed train collision avoidance system, Kavach, was not available on the trains involved in both accidents.
  • Questions arise regarding the enforcement of rail safety regulations by the top leadership of the Indian Railways.

Issues with railway safety in India:

Introduction

India has one of the largest railway networks in the world, carrying over 23 million passengers and 3 million tonnes of freight every day. However, the Indian Railways also has a poor safety record, with over 15,000 people killed in railway accidents each year.

Causes of railway accidents in India

  • Aging infrastructure:Much of India’s railway infrastructure is old and in need of repair. This includes tracks, bridges, and rolling stock.
  • Human error:Human error is a major factor in many railway accidents in India. This can include errors by drivers, signalmen, and other railway staff.
  • Equipment failure:Equipment failure, such as brake failure or derailments, is also a cause of railway accidents.
  • Sabotage:Railway accidents are sometimes caused by sabotage, such as tampering with tracks or signals.

Types of railway accidents in India

  • Derailments:Derailments occur when trains go off the tracks. This can be caused by a number of factors, including track defects, equipment failure, and human error.
  • Collisions:Collisions occur when two or more trains collide with each other. This can be caused by human error, signal failure, or other factors.
  • Level crossing accidents: Level crossing accidents occur when trains collide with road vehicles or pedestrians at level crossings. These accidents are often caused by negligence on the part of road users.

Measures to improve railway safety in India

A number of measures have been taken to improve railway safety in India, including:

  • Investment in infrastructure:The Indian government has invested heavily in improving railway infrastructure in recent years. This includes upgrading tracks, bridges, and rolling stock.
  • Safety training for staff:The Indian Railways has also invested in safety training for staff. This includes training on procedures, safety protocols, and how to deal with emergencies.
  • Improved signaling systems: The Indian Railways has also upgraded its signaling systems. This has helped to reduce the number of signal failures, which can lead to accidents.
  • Public awareness campaigns: The Indian Railways has also launched public awareness campaigns to educate people about railway safety. These campaigns focus on the dangers of trespassing on railway tracks and the importance of following safety precautions at level crossings.
  • Role of technology:Technology can play a significant role in improving railway safety. For example, train collision avoidance systems can help to prevent trains from colliding with each other.

Conclusion

While there has been some progress in improving railway safety in India, more needs to be done. The Indian government should continue to invest in infrastructure and safety training for staff. It is also important to continue to educate the public about railway safety.

Questions: What are the major challenges to railway safety in India and how can these be addressed?

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/safety-first-the-hindu-editorial-on-the-lessons-from-the-train-accident-in-vizianagaram-andhra-pradesh/article67480946.ece

 

4. Matters of defection should be taken out of the purview of the Speaker.

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity

Context:

  • The Supreme Court of India has taken a welcome step by imposing deadlines on the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker for adjudicating disqualification petitions.
  • This move is in response to long-standing issues where Speakers have shown partiality in handling disqualification cases based on their political affiliations.

Issues with role of speaker in anti-defection law:

  • Discretion in deciding defection cases:The Speaker has wide discretion in deciding defection cases. This discretion can be used to favor or disfavor particular parties or politicians.
  • Lack of transparency and accountability: The Speaker’s decision-making process in defection cases is not transparent or accountable. This can lead to arbitrary and biased decisions.
  • Politicization of the anti-defection law: The anti-defection law has been politicized, with Speakers using their discretion to favor their own parties. This has undermined the credibility of the law and its ability to prevent defection.
  • Speaker’s role is not clearly defined:The anti-defection law does not clearly define the Speaker’s role in deciding defection cases. This gives the Speaker wide discretion, which can be misused.
  • Speaker is not required to give reasons for their decision:The Speaker is not required to give reasons for their decision in defection cases. This makes it difficult to challenge their decision in court.
  • Speaker’s decision is finalThe Speaker’s decision in defection cases is final. This means that there is no appeal against the Speaker’s decision.

Proposed reforms:

  • Establishing clear guidelines for the Speaker to follow in deciding defection cases:This would help to reduce the Speaker’s discretion and make the decision-making process more transparent and accountable.
  • Requiring the Speaker to give reasons for their decision in defection cases:This would allow for greater scrutiny of the Speaker’s decision and make it easier to challenge it in court.
  • Allowing for appeals against the Speaker’s decision in defection cases:This would provide a check on the Speaker’s power and ensure that their decisions are fair and just.
  • Making the Speaker’s decision in defection cases subject to judicial review:This would allow the courts to review the Speaker’s decision and overturn it if it is found to be arbitrary or biased.

Questions: What are the key concerns about the Speaker’s role in the anti-defection law, and how can these concerns be addressed?

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/welcome-assertion-the-hindu-editorial-on-the-defection-issue-and-the-supreme-courts-deadline-for-the-maharashtra-speaker/article67481001.ece

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