Supreme Court declines urgent hearing on VVPAT
(GS-II: RPA related issues)
The Supreme Court has refused urgent hearing on a PIL seeking increase in the number of booths for EVM-VVPAT verification from five per constituency, as mandated by the apex court in 2019, to 25 or more for the March 10 counting of votes in five states.
Supreme Court’s April 18, 2019 directions for VVPAT verification:
In case of general elections, VVPAT slips of five EVMs in each Assembly segment of a Parliamentary Constituency would be subject to physical counting.
In State Assembly elections, the VVPAT verification would extend to five random EVMs in each Assembly constituency.
Challenges associated with increase in the number of booths for EVM-VVPAT verification:
Increased VVPAT slip counting would require extensive training and capacity building of election officials in the field. VVPAT slip counting takes place in specially erected VVPAT counting booths under the close monitoring of the returning officer and direct oversight of the observer.
What is VVPAT?
Voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) is a method of providing feedback to voters using EVMs.
A VVPAT is intended as an independent verification system for voting machines designed to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly, and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results.
It contains the name of the candidate for whom vote has been cast and symbol of the party/individual candidate.
Significance and the need for VVPATs:
The VVPAT helps to detect potential election fraud or malfunction in the Electronic Voting Machine.
It provides a means to audit the stored electronic results. It serves as an additional barrier to change or destroy votes.
The EVMs with VVPAT system ensure the accuracy of the voting system with fullest transparency and restores the confidence of the voters.
EVMs and VVPATs also speed up the election process as counting votes on EVMs takes much lesser time than counting paper ballots.
Need of the hour:
However the cynicism continues to remain, regarding the fallibility of EVMs and thus necessitates an in depth scrutiny to allay any apprehensions regarding the most important feature of a democratic polity- Elections.
Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) of the sub-regional Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) grouping
(GS-II: India and neighbourhood relations)
A meeting was recently held between three countries – Bangladesh, India and Nepal, to discuss the next steps in operationalising the Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) of the sub-regional Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) grouping for the free flow of good and people between them.
Bhutan has already announced that it is unwilling to sign this agreement.
Outcomes of the recent meet:
The BBIN meeting was the first such in-person meeting since February 2020 to discuss the MVA since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, and officials finalised the wording of two separate protocols on passenger and cargo movement with an “enabling” agreement.
The original BBIN MVA was signed by all four countries in June 2015, but after objections in Bhutan over sustainability and environmental concerns, the Bhutanese parliament decided not to endorse the plan.
As per the agreement, member countries would allow vehicles registered in the other countries to enter their territory under certain terms and conditions. Customs and tariffs will be decided by the respective countries and these would be finalised at bilateral and trilateral forums.
Asian Development Bank has supported the project as part of its South Asian Subregional Economic Cooperation programme.
Why Bhutan has remained out?
Tiven Bhutan’s “current infrastructure” and top priority to remaining a “carbon-negative” country, it said it would not be possible to consider joining the MVA.
Operationalising the MVA by concluding the Passenger and the Cargo Protocol will help realise the full potential of trade and people to people connectivity between the BBIN countries by fostering greater sub-regional cooperation.
(GS-I: Modern Indian history)
On Monday, March 7, the Gujarat government marked 100 years of the Pal-Dadhvav killings, calling it a massacre “bigger than the Jallianwala Bagh”.
What is Pal – Dadhvav massacre?
Took place on March 7, 1922, in the Pal-Chitariya and Dadhvaav villages of Sabarkantha district, then part of Idar state (present-day Gujarat).
Villagers from Pal, Dadhvav, and Chitariya had gathered on the banks of river Heir as part of the ‘Eki movement’, led by one Motilal Tejawat.
The movement was to protest against the land revenue tax (lagaan) imposed on the peasants by the British and feudal lords.
British Paramilitary force was on hunt for Tehawat. It heard of this gathering and reached the spot.
Nearly 200 bhils under the leadership of Tehawat lifted their bows and arrows. But, the Britishers opened fire on them. Nearly 1,000 tribals (Bhils) fell to bullets.
Tejwat, however, escaped and later “returned to the spot to christen it ‘Veerbhumi’.”
A Gujarat government release on the centenary of the massacre described the incident as “more brutal than the Jalliawala Bagh massacre of 1919”.
Edible oil prices
(GS-II: Effects of policies of developed nations)
Due to stringent measures by the government, prices of edible oil have been control for the last two years, despite the Covid situation.
However, the war in Ukraine has driven the prices of many commodities northwards including the edible oil prices.
What’s the issue?
Most of the sunflower oil supplies to the country was coming from Ukraine, while the domestic production accounts for less than a quarter of the demand. With Ukraine being war-hit, the supplies have completely stopped.
As sunflower oil supplies dwindle, consumers are invariably moving to groundnut and palm oils, driving up their prices as well.
Previously, What led to increase in oil prices previously?
Global commodity prices were extremely high. COVID-19 is a major factor, disrupting supply chains, closing down industries.
There was insufficient labour in the oil production industry in many countries.
Excessive buying of edible oil by China.
Many major oil producers were aggressively pursuing biofuel policies and diverting their edible oil crops for that purpose.
Governmental taxes and duties also make up a major chunk of the retail price of edible oils in India.
India’s Dependence on Edible Oil:
India is the world’s biggest vegetable oil importer.
India imports about 60% of its edible oil needs, leaving the country’s retail prices vulnerable to international pressures.
It imports palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, soyoil from Brazil and Argentina, and sunflower oil, mainly from Russia and Ukraine.
Facts about Edible Oils:
Primary sources of Edible oil (Soybean, Rapeseed & Mustard, Groundnut, Sunflower, Safflower & Niger) and secondary sources of Edible Oil (Oil palm, Coconut, Rice Bran, Cotton seeds & Tree Borne Oilseeds).
In India major challenges in oilseed production is