December 2, 2021
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Good morning. We’re slowly moving into Blade Runner territory here – “self-replicating robots” are now a thing. Scientists from Tufts, University of Vermont and the Wyss Institute joined forces to make these self-replicating “living” robots – Xenobots. Designed from the genome of a frog, Xenobots can find a cell, bring tons of them together and basically, make a baby version of it in its mouth. As this happens, the embryonic cells get busy creating skin around it. So, be nice to your computers. A revolution is coming.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Suspension of 12 MPs – Is it justified?
Parliaments, depending on how you see them, can be filled with Machiavellians or dolts. The Indian parliament often hasn’t done itself any favours in trying to dispel that notion. Former President of India Pratibha Patil once said, “Parliament of the country is the repository of the sovereign will of the people”. They can be venues for spirited debate and discussion or unruly behaviour.
As the winter session of parliament gets underway, there is a lot on the government’s table. The recent repeal of the farm laws, for example. However, parliamentary dysfunction came to the forefront once again. 12 MPs were suspended for ‘unruly and violent behaviour’ during the monsoon session. Their suspension was extended for the remainder of the winter session, pending an apology. Is this a fair decision, or are the 12 MPs right to stand their ground?
Currently ongoing is the winter session of parliament. However, the 12 MPs were suspended for their alleged disruptions during the recently concluded monsoon session. Since the passage of the farm laws in the 2020 monsoon session, there have been multiple disruptions. Since then, contentious and controversial issues have dominated the parliamentary debate.
One such issue was the Pegasus scandal. In the Rajya Sabha, Electronics & Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw made a statement on the issue. As he was speaking, Trinamool Congress MP Shantanu Sen snatched his papers. What followed was a contentious exchange between Sen and Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri. Sen was suspended for the remainder of the monsoon session. As a melee ensued, opposition MPs accused security staff of manhandling them. This is just one example.
While it may often not seem obvious, MPs are required to obey parliamentary rules. In the Lok Sabha, for example, MPs shouldn’t interrupt speeches through any obstruction. In 1989, these rules were updated and MPs were barred from shouting slogans, displaying placards, etc. There are similar rules in the Rajya Sabha. The rulebook gives some powers to the presiding officers of both Houses to maintain order.
These officers can direct MPs to be withdrawn from the chamber. In cases of persistent disturbance, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister can move a motion to suspend the concerned MP from service. It can last till the end of the session. In 2001, a Lok Sabha rule was amended to introduce Rule 374A. It gives the Speaker the power to suspend an MP. In 2015, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan used this on 25 Congress MPs.
Rules are rules for democracy’s sake
The suspension of 12 MPs from the Rajya Sabha was the biggest in its history. But the optics or historical significance of it didn’t matter to Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu. He said it was a matter of protecting democracy. He added that the decision was of the House and not the Chair.
He rightfully pointed out that the Chair and the House have powers entrusted with them to take necessary action in cases of indiscipline by MPs. It’s clearly laid out in the Rules of Procedure of the House. He also said the MPs haven’t apologised or showed any remorse for their actions, but in fact, have justified them.
After the end of the previous session, Piyush Goyal wrote to Naidu about the conduct of 20 MPs in the House. He wanted a special disciplinary committee to decide any action to be taken against them. However, opposition parties didn’t take part and missed their chance to present their case.
Naidu said the names of the concerned MPs were there in the bulletin. There’s the argument for lack of precedence for punishing MPs for their actions in a previous session. On this, Naidu cited Rule 256 that states an MP can be suspended for a period that doesn’t exceed the remainder of the session.
The action was unprecedented, excessive, and selective
Mallikarjun Kharge of the Congress termed the suspension as excessive and went against the rule of the Rajya Sabha. They are suspended for the entire Winter Session. He cited violation of Rule 256(1) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States. Similarly, one of the suspended MPs, Priyanka Chaturvedi of the Shiv Sena, also pointed this out.
Kharge said the fact that the motion was passed by the House doesn’t hold true as the entire opposition was opposed to it. Hence, it can’t be considered as the consensus of the House. He said the suspended MPs didn’t have an opportunity to present their case. He cited that under Article 83 of the constitution, the Council of States is a continuous House. It can be adjourned or discontinued.
The monsoon session ended on August 11 and was discontinued on August 31 by the President of India. Kharge said if the House was only adjourned and then reconvened, there would be an argument of continuity. He pointed out that per the rules, there is a procedure to be followed. First, the Chairman has to name the MP. Second, a question has to be asked before a suspension, then a motion for suspension can be moved. This has to be done on the day of the incident. However, the MPs’ names weren’t named before the motion.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Connect the dots from Doval and Rawat to Arun Mishra and a disturbing picture emerges
For the Left:
India 1989-2014 and after — a paradigm shift
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Tatt-oops (Delhi) – A candidate, who had qualified for a constable (driver) post in the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), was deemed unfit by the Delhi High Court. His offence: a tattoo on the right arm. According to the division bench, the real issue isn’t even the tattoo, it’s the fact that “the tattoo is visible while saluting.” The candidate said that the tattoo isn’t offensive or prejudicial; it’s just “his own name”. His counsel even brought up the fact that the guidelines don’t say anything about prohibiting tattoos. Yet, the Court still believes that “he is not eligible as per the minimum medical standard”.
Reviving traditions (Sikkim) – After a gap of 9 years, the Tholung Monastery in North Sikkim got to witness the centuries-old tradition of Khamsel. It’s basically an exhibition of “ancient Buddhist and Tibetan relics” that is supposed to happen once every 3 years. The relics date back to as far as the 7th century A.D. Around 6000 people had to trek for 6 hours to go witness history as the monastery is at an “elevation of 8,000 ft”.
A jumbo fly-over (Odisha) – Right now, whenever elephant herds are close to National Highway 55, the Forest and Environment Department has to step in to stop traffic on it. This is to make sure that no elephants get harmed in the process of human travel. So, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has said that they will build a 1 km long fly-over to avoid any human-elephant accidents. This is the first time the NHAI will be taking into account animal movement patterns for the construction of a structure. Well, better late than never.
Another new first! (Gujarat) – A stretch of barren land along the Sabarmati is now becoming India’s first greenfield integrated smart city. Interestingly, this is a dream project of our PM Narendra Modi, who had envisaged this back when he was still Chief Minister. The Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) is located 7 km away from the state’s capital, Gandhinagar, and is about 886 acres large. It is also India’s one and only International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) where financial ventures have “set up their global operations.”
Dumping paddy (Telangana) – In a press conference on Monday, CM K.C. Rao put up a strange threat to the central government. Given that the Centre refuses to buy paddy from the state, Rao says that he will dump the paddy in front of India Gate, the BJP office and Union Minister Kishan Reddy’s house. He said that “the state government will spend 250 crores, hire 1000 lorries and dump the paddy.” He even added that the Centre’s “behaviour” towards the paddy crisis in Telangana is clearly “anti-farmer”.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
6,08,162 – Over the last five years, from 2017 to 2021, over 6 lakh people have given up their Indian citizenship. 2019 saw the largest number of people give it up, i.e. 1,44,017 people. According to the data, as of September 10 this year, 1,11,287 people gave up their status as Indian citizens. 2020 saw the least with 85,248 people giving up their citizenship.