upsc prelims
Strategies for tackling the UPSC prelims and tips for staying motivated during the preparation process.
February 8, 2023
9th February Current Affairs
February 9, 2023
Show all

8th February Current Affairs

Municipal Mess – From MCD to BMC, paralysis of urban local bodies undermines local governance and democracy

(GS-II: Devolution of Powers and Finances up to Local Levels and Challenges Therein)

In News:

For the third time in a month the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) failed to elect its mayor after AAP and BJP councillors again engaged in a row over the election process.

Background:

This MCD conflict is an extension of the years-long tussle between the two parties over the administration of the national capital.

Given the complex governance system in place in Delhi, the state and the central governments ought to cooperate, but this goal has proven challenging in the era of intense political competition.

What’s the ongoing issue in the MCD?

  • The Presiding Officer (a BJP councillor) for the mayoral election said that aldermen (nominated members) are allowed to vote in the House and elect the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and members of the Standing Committee.
  • However, the AAP had expressed apprehension, as they claim that aldermen do not have voting rights under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957.
  • In the absence of a mayor, major decisions related to policy matters, development works and projects that require big financial investment are

Case of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC): An astonishing 22 of 28 municipal corporations in Maharashtra (including the country’s richest civic body – BMC) have seen their terms expire with fresh polls nowhere in sight.

Examining urban local governance in India:

The Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 has introduced (Part IX A Article 243 P to ZG] and Schedule XII) in the Constitution, which provides for the establishment of urban local bodies (ULBs) as institutions of local self-government.

It has empowered state governments to devolve the responsibility of 18 functions including urban planning, regulation of land use, water supply, etc., and made periodic elections compulsory for them.

Urban governance is part of the state list under the Constitution. Thus, the administrative framework and regulation of ULBs vary across states.

Experts have highlighted that ULBs across India face similar challenges. For instance, lacking autonomy, city-level functions are managed by parastatals, devolution of powers is incomplete (lacks taxation powers – stressed municipal finances), irregular elections, etc.

These challenges have led to poor service delivery, severely curtailing urban governance at a time when 675 million Indians are slated to live in urban centres by 2035.

Key suggestions to improve urban local governance in India:

Constitutional amendments (for making devolution of powers mandatory and setting the accountability of state governments – ULBs) to achieve objectives of urban decentralisation.

Supporting reform-linked investments (on asset creation as well as management) is needed for different states based on the level of urbanisation.

Inter-government transfers should have in-built incentives to improve performance.

Integrate various urban development programs (including capacity building) at local, state and national levels to develop sustainable city or metropolitan regions.

Strengthen urban institutions and clarify the roles of different organisations.

The second generation of urban reforms should further focus on regulation, innovative financing and PPP, and climate change initiatives.

Conclusion:

In order to establish smarter cities, empowered instead of stalled local bodies are needed. Therefore, Mumbai needs municipal elections, while Delhi needs a mayor.

3 months deadline for cases of Remission

In News:

Supreme Court has dismissed a plea by the Uttar Pradesh government to not bind the governor with a three months deadline to decide on remission pleas of convicts serving a life term

Previously, SC had directed the state government to decide on 2,248 cases of remission within three months.

SC observation:

Even a constitutional authority cannot say that she or he is above the law

The law obligates each and every authority equally, and the Constitution ascertains there is no vacuum even at the level of constitutional functionaries.

About Remission:

Remission is releasing a convicted prisoner before the expiry of their sentence. The concept of remission was introduced through the Prisons Act, 1894.

Constitutional:

Article 72: The President of India has the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment.

Article 161: It empowers the Governor of the state to grant remission

Prisons Act: Under this act, only state governments can frame rules for granting remission.

The saga of a ‘Spy’ balloon in US airspace

In News:

The US shot down a Chinese ‘spy’ balloon, days after the surveillance device was first spotted over American airspace.

What are spy balloons?

Spy balloons are high-altitude surveillance tools that usually operate at 80,000-120,000 feet – well above the cruising altitude of commercial aircraft – to gather intelligence and carry out other military missions.

During the cold war, the U.S. military used high-altitude balloons (Project Genetrix, Project Mogul) to spy on the Soviet Union.

Economically viable unlike satellites

Due to their proximity to Earth’s surface, they can take high-resolution images of the target.

Disadvantage: Not directly steered, but roughly guided.

Israeli scientists develop sniffing robot with locust antennae

In News:

A new sniffing robot equipped with a biological sensor that uses the antennae of locusts could help advance disease diagnosis and improve security checks.

Details:

Locusts have an acute sense of smell, which the researchers have managed to harness into their bio-hybrid robot, making it far more sensitive than existing electronic sniffers.

On the four-wheeled robot, the researchers placed the insect’s antenna between two electrodes that send electrical signals as a response to a nearby odour. Each scent has a unique signature which, with machine learning, the robot’s electronic system can identify.

About Bio-Hybrid Robots:

Bio-hybrid robots refer to robots that integrate biological components with artificial components, such as electronics and mechanics.

These robots may use biological materials such as cells, tissues, or muscles as actuators, sensors, or energy sources.

The use of biological components can provide advantages such as greater dexterity, adaptability, and energy efficiency compared to traditional robotic systems.