1] Parliament is abdicating its oversight role (GS 2 Legislature)

Context –

  • In numerous ways, Parliament’s monsoon session, which ended on Wednesday, was a letdown.
  • Except for the cancelled winter 2020 session, this was the fourth consecutive session that finished ahead of time. Numerous significant concerns, such as the COVID-19 response and strategy, the Chinese advance into Ladakh, the economic crisis, growing costs of many vital products, and farmer problems, to name a few, were not discussed.
  • And, of course, right before the meeting, news of surveillance via the Pegasus system leaked.

Shrinking work time –

  • The Government and Opposition parties could not agree on the themes to be debated, causing frequent disruptions in both Houses.
  • The Lok Sabha only worked for 19% of its scheduled time, while the Rajya Sabha only functioned for 26%.
  • The government rushed through 20 bills, most of which were passed without debate.
  • Only one of the 18 bills enacted by the Lok Sabha received more than 15 minutes of debate. While most Bills passed the Rajya Sabha’s low standard, just two Bills were debated for more than an hour.
  • In 15 of these Bills, not a single Lok Sabha member spoke; each Bill was carried following a brief remark from the Minister in charge.
  • One Bill, the Scheduled Tribes (Order) Amendment, was considered for ten minutes in the Lok Sabha, during which seven members spoke, two Ministers intervened, and the Minister responded.
  • Every bill that was introduced during the session was passed within the same session. This meant that there was no time for members to scrutinise the situation.
  • While similar behaviour has been observed in state legislatures (in 2020, 91 percent of all bills introduced in 19 legislatures were passed within five days of introduction), this is a new trend in Parliament.
  • During the Fifteenth Lok Sabha’s tenure (2009-14), 18% of bills were passed during the same session. This increased to 33% in the 16th Lok Sabha and is now at 70% halfway through the current Parliament.

No Scrutiny –

  • There was no referral of any of the bills to a legislative committee for review. These committees allow lawmakers to interact with experts, stakeholders, and government officials in order to better understand the ramifications of legislation.
  • They discuss the implications of various provisions and provide recommendations for changes. As a result of parliamentary committee recommendations, significant changes have been made to bills such as the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill in recent years.
  • Bills referred to them have fallen sharply in recent years, from 71 percent in the Fifteenth Lok Sabha to 27 percent in the Sixteenth, and 12 percent in the present one.
  • An amendment was proposed in the Rajya Sabha to refer the Tribunals Reform Bill to a select committee of that House, but it was defeated by a vote of 79 to 44.
  • Given the current membership of 232, this means that over half of the members were not present for the voting.

Crucial Bills –

  • This session saw the passage of a number of significant bills. The Constitution was changed to empower states to identify backward classes (i.e. Other Backward Classes) in order to provide reservations.
  • The National Commission for Backward Classes has been changed from a statutory entity established by an Act of Parliament to a constitutional body as a result of a recent Constitutional Amendment.
  • The President of India must additionally identify the list of OBCs, according to the legislation.
  • The Supreme Court of India recently interpreted this rule to mean that the state government cannot establish a backward classes list.
  • This session’s Amendment clarified that states have the authority to do so.
  • All bank deposits are insured against default by the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (currently up to $5 lakh).
  • If a bank is in the process of liquidation or reconstruction, the Act was revised to mandate an interim payment within 90 days.
  • The General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Act was changed to allow the government to reduce its stake in general insurance companies to less than 51 percent.
  • The bill to reform tribunals was passed. The Bill repealed an ordinance that outlined the procedure for appointing members, as well as their terms and conditions of service.
  • It kept two clauses struck down by the Supreme Court last month: a four-year term for judicial members, which the Court altered to five years, and a minimum age for judicial members of 50 years, which the Court revised to allow lawyers with ten years of experience.
  • If the Act is challenged in court, it will be interesting to observe how the Court responds.

Conclusion –

  • In all of its functions, Parliament looks to be ineffectual. The purpose of keeping a legislative separate from the executive branch is to keep executive power in check.
  • This session, the government was able to have every bill it filed voted into law without debate or committee review. Question Time was a flop.
  • There was only one policy debate in the Rajya Sabha and none in the Lok Sabha. In less than 10 minutes, a huge extra budget was enacted without a single member remarking on it.
  • Next year marks the 70th anniversary of Parliament. Parliament is also planning to relocate to a larger facility. Many speeches will be given to commemorate these events.
  • Unless lawmakers get their act together, they will be little more than hollow words in a gleaming new building.

2] Eye in the sky: On ISRO’s hits and misses (GS 3 Science)

Context –

  • Anything to do with space research, whether it is a success or a failure, is larger than life, because this is a new frontier for achievement and conquest in the worlds of science and technology.
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) recent effort to send an earth observation satellite (EOS-3) in a geosynchronous orbit using the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F10) failed owing to a “performance anomaly” – the trusted rocket launcher malfunctioning.
  • The stage two and three split as intended, but when it came time for the cryogenic third stage to light up, there appeared to be a failure and a subsequent divergence from the expected course, as visible in the control panel.

Causes of the failure –

  • During the pandemic of 2020, ISRO launched fewer satellites than in previous years. This launch was initially scheduled for March 5, 2020, but was postponed due to a technical issue that occurred just hours before the scheduled launch.
  • It’s also worth noting that, unlike the GSLV Mark III rocket, the cryo engine in question is Russian-designed from the start.
  • The loss of this mission is concerning not only because it ends a long, successful run, but also because there are other major missions in the works: the sun watcher Aditya-L1 and the Gaganyaan mission, which will transport humans to space, are both scheduled for launch in the coming years.
  • The failure on Thursday will put even more on on ISRO scientists to ensure that these missions succeed. Meanwhile, the consequences of this botched mission are being kept hidden from the public eye for the time being.

The work culture –

  • For the time being, there will be no official word on what happened and how the mission failed, thanks in no small part to ISRO’s proclivity for concealing and obscuring events, particularly mistakes.
  • Although the stakes are great in terms of money and national pride, scientists, more than anyone else, should believe that failure is just as much a part of the game as success. From a culture of avoiding the spotlight, the company should embrace it.

Conclusion –

  • ISRO has many stories to tell about scientific endeavours, methods, and methods of progress, and it can only ascend to the heavens if it opens its doors to the public.


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