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25th April Current Affairs

Pradhan Mantri Jan-Aushadhi Yojana

(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)

In News:

With a vision to provide quality medicines at an affordable rate for the common man especially the poor, Govt. has set a target to increase the number of Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras (PMBJKs) to 10000 by March 2024.

Background:

Till 31.03.2022, the number of stores has increased to 8610. Under the PMBJP, all 739 districts of the country have been covered. New applications have been invited to cover 3579 blocks of these 406 districts.

About PMBJP:

It is a campaign launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.

It seeks to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses through special kendra’s known as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra.

Initially launched in 2008, the scheme was rechristened in 2015.

Key features of the scheme:

Ensure access to quality medicines.

Extend coverage of quality generic medicines so as to reduce the out of pocket expenditure on medicines and thereby redefine the unit cost of treatment per person.

Create awareness about generic medicines through education and publicity so that quality is not synonymous with only high price.

A public programme involving Government, PSUs, Private Sector, NGO, Societies, Co-operative Bodies and other Institutions.

Create demand for generic medicines by improving access to better healthcare through low treatment cost and easy availability wherever needed in all therapeutic categories.

Panchayati Raj Ministry, UNDP sign pact on Sustainable Development Goals

(GS-III: Inclusive growth and issues arising out of it)

In News:

The Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have signed a joint statement of understanding on localisation of Sustainable Development Goals.

Need for understanding on localisation of SDGs:

Panchayati Raj institutions (PRIs) have been a critical component of local self-governance across rural India.

These institutions have achieved last-mile connectivity in execution of various schemes of different line departments/ministries. SDGs too can be achieved only if we actively involve PRIs.

Also, about 65% of India’s population lives in rural areas.

About UNDP:

UNDP provides expert advice, training and grants support to developing countries, with an increasing emphasis on assistance to the least developed countries.

It promotes technical and investment cooperation among nations.

The UNDP Executive Board is made up of representatives from 36 countries around the world who serve on a rotating basis.

It is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from member nations.

The UNDP is considered an executive board within the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Report:

The Human Development Report (HDR) is an annual report published by the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Arunachal Pradesh – Assam border dispute

(GS-III: Internal security related issues)

In News:

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and his Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma have decided to form district-level committees for settling their inter-state boundary disputes.

Details:

Recently, the Union government gave the seal of approval to an agreement to partially resolve the disputed sectors on the Assam-Meghalaya border.

Genesis of Assam – Arunachal Pradesh border dispute:

Assam has had boundary disputes with all the north-eastern States that were carved out of it.

Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram were separated from Assam as Union Territories in 1972 and as States in 1987.

None of the new States accepted the “constitutional boundary” that they said was dictated by the partisan administration of undivided Assam without consulting the tribal stakeholders.

The issue with Arunachal Pradesh has more to do with a 1951 report prepared by a sub-committee headed by Assam’s first Chief Minister, Gopinath Bordoloi.

The dispute:

Arunachal Pradesh and Assam have disputes at about 1,200 points along their 804 km boundary.

Efforts to resolve the dispute:

The apex court appointed a local boundary commission in 2006 headed by one of its retired judges.

In its September 2014 report, this commission recommended that Arunachal Pradesh should get back some of the areas transferred in 1951 besides advising both the States to find a middle path through discussions. This did not work out.

Anti-defection law

(GS-II: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure)

In News:

Vice President Venkaiah Naidu recently said it is time for amending the anti-defection law to plug the loopholes.

Challenges:

Despite a law in place, defection of legislators from one party to another is taking place as usual.

The speakers, chairpersons and the courts are also dragging the anti-defection cases for years.

There is no clarity in the law about the timeframe for the action of the House Chairperson or Speaker in the anti-defection cases.

What is anti defection law?

It is covered under the Tenth Schedule of the Indian Constitution:

It specifies the circumstances under which changing of political parties by legislators invites action under the law.

It was added to the Constitution by the 52nd Amendment Act, 1985.

It includes situations in which an independent MLA, too, joins a party after the election.

The law covers the following scenarios with respect to shifting of political parties by an MP or an MLA. These include:

When a member elected on the ticket of a political party “voluntarily gives up” membership of such a party or votes in the House against the wishes of the party.

When a legislator who has won his or her seat as an independent candidate joins a political party after the election.

In the above two cases, the legislator loses the seat in the legislature on changing (or joining) a party.

Relates to nominated MPs: In their case, the law gives them six months to join a political party, after being nominated. If they join a party after such time, they stand to lose their seat in the House.

Matters related to disqualification:

Under the anti-defection law, the power to decide the disqualification of an MP or MLA rests with the presiding officer of the legislature.

The law does not specify a time frame in which such a decision has to be made.

Last year, the Supreme Court observed that anti-defection cases should be decided by Speakers in three months’ time.

However, Legislators may change their party without the risk of disqualification in certain circumstances. Exceptions:

The law allows a party to merge with or into another party provided that at least two-thirds of its legislators are in favour of the merger.

On being elected as the presiding officer of the House, if a member voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or rejoins it after he ceases to hold that office, he won’t be disqualified.

Loopholes in the law:

Those against say that voters elect individuals in the election and not parties and hence the Anti-Defection law is infructuous.

In many instances, the Speaker (usually from the ruling party) has delayed deciding on the disqualification.

The amendment does not recognise a ‘split’ in a legislature party and instead recognises a ‘merger’.

Can the courts intervene?

Courts have, in certain cases, intervened in the workings of a legislature.

In 1992, a five-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court held that the anti-defection law proceedings before the Speaker are akin to a tribunal and, thus, can be placed under judicial review.

In January 2020, the Supreme Court asked Parliament to amend the Constitution to strip legislative assembly speakers of their exclusive power to decide whether legislators should be disqualified or not under the anti-defection law.

In March 2020, the Supreme Court removed Manipur minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar Singh, against whom disqualification petitions were pending before the speaker since 2017, from the state cabinet and restrained him “from entering the legislative assembly till further orders”.

Suggestions:

The Election Commission has suggested it should be the deciding authority in defection cases.

Others have argued that the President and Governors should hear defection petitions.

The Supreme Court has suggested that Parliament should set up an independent tribunal headed by a retired judge of the higher judiciary to decide defection cases swiftly and impartially.

Some commentators have said the law has failed and recommended its removal. Former Vice President Hamid Ansari has suggested that it applies only to save governments in no-confidence motions.