On April 24, 2022, India will observe the 12th National Panchayati Raj Day.
On the occasion of the Day, the Prime Minister launched the distribution of e-property cards under the SWAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) scheme.
The first National Panchayati Raj Day was observed in 2010. Since then, the 24th of April has been designated as National Panchayati Raj Day in India.
The day commemorates the passage of the 73rd amendment to the United States Constitution in 1992.
On the day, the following awards were presented:
In recognition of their good work, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj has been awarding the best performing Panchayats/States/UTs across the country.
Deen Dayal Upadhyay Panchayat Sashaktikaran Puraskar, Nanaji Deshmukh Rashtriya Gaurav Puraskar, Nanaji Deshmukh Rashtriya Gaurav Puraskar, Nanaji Deshmukh Rashtriya Gaurav Puraskar, Nanaji Deshmukh Rashtriya Gaurav Puraskar, Nanaji Desh Gram Sabha Puraskar, Child-Friendly Gram Panchayat Award, Gram Panchayat Development Plan Award, and e-Panchayat Puraskar (awarded only to states/UTs).
Following the implementation of the Constitution, Article 40 mentioned panchayats, and Article 246 empowered the state legislature to legislate on any subject relating to local self-government.
The Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) was established by the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992, to foster democracy at the grassroots level and to oversee rural development in the country.
In India, the PRI is a system of rural local self-government.
Local Self Government is the administration of local affairs by such local bodies as have been elected by the people.
The Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) has launched eGramSwaraj, a user-friendly web-based portal, to strengthen e-Governance in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) across the country.
It integrates Gram Panchayats’ planning, accounting, and monitoring functions. Its integration with the Area Profiler application, the Local Government Directory (LGD), and the Public Financial Management System (PFMS) makes reporting and tracking Gram Panchayat activities easier.
Part IX, titled “The Panchayats,” was added to the Constitution by the 73rd Constitutional Amendment.
Gram Sabhas (villages) are the basic unit of the democratic system, consisting of all adult members who have registered to vote.
Except in states where the population is less than 20 lakhs, a three-tier system of panchayats at the village, intermediate block/taluk/mandal, and district levels is used (Article 243B).
Direct elections will be used to fill seats at all levels (Article 243C (2)).
Seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), as well as chairpersons of Panchayats at all levels, shall be reserved in proportion to their population for SCs and STs.
Women will be given one-third of the total number of seats.
One-third of all chairperson positions at all levels are reserved for women (Article 243D).
Duration: A uniform five-year term with elections to form new bodies to be completed before the term expires.
Elections must be held within six months of dissolution (Article 243E).
Each state has an independent election commission in charge of supervising, directing, and controlling the electoral rolls (Article 243K).
Panchayats have been given the authority to prepare plans for economic development and social justice in relation to the subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule (Article 243G).
Revenue Source (Article 243H): The State Legislature may authorise the Panchayats to receive budgetary allocations from State Revenue.
A portion of the revenue generated by certain taxes.
The collection and retention of the revenue generated.
Establish a Finance Commission in each state to determine the principles that will be used to ensure adequate financial resources for panchayats and municipalities (Article 243I).
Because of socio-cultural and administrative considerations, the Act does not apply to the states of Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, as well as certain other areas. These areas include the states’ Scheduled Areas and tribal areas (as defined in Schedule VI of the Constitution).
Manipur’s hill districts have district councils, as does West Bengal’s Darjeeling district, which has the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.
However, through the Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act of 1996, the Parliament has extended the provisions of Part IX to the Vth schedule areas.
At the moment, the Fifth Schedule Area is shared by ten states: Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Telangana.
Recently, the Vice-President stated that the time has come to amend the country’s anti-defection legislation to close existing loopholes.
Individual Members of Parliament (MPs)/MLAs are punished under the anti-defection law for defecting from one party to another.
In 1985, Parliament added it to the Constitution as the Tenth Schedule. Its goal was to keep governments stable by discouraging legislators from switching parties.
The Tenth Schedule, also known as the Anti-Defection Act, was incorporated into the Constitution by the 52nd Amendment Act of 1985.
It establishes the procedures for disqualifying elected members for defecting to another political party.
It was a reaction to the overthrow of multiple state governments by party-hopping MLAs following the 1967 general elections.
The decision on disqualification on the basis of defection is referred to the Chairman or Speaker of such House, and is subject to ‘Judicial review.’
The law, however, does not specify a timeframe within which the presiding officer must rule on a defection case.
If an elected official voluntarily withdraws from a political party.
If he votes or abstains from voting in such House in defiance of any directive issued by his political party or anyone authorised to do so without first obtaining permission.
His abstention from voting should not be condoned by his party or the authorised person within 15 days of the incident as a precondition for his disqualification.
If a member who was elected independently joins a political party.
If any nominated member joins a political party after the six-month period has expired.
Following the enactment of the Anti-defection law, the MP or MLA must blindly follow the party’s direction and has no freedom to vote in their own judgement.
The chain of accountability has been broken as a result of the Anti-Defection law, which holds legislators primarily accountable to their political party.
Speaker’s Controversial Role:
There is no clarity in the law regarding the timeframe for the House Chairperson or Speaker to act in anti-defection cases.
Some cases take six months, while others take three years. There are some cases that are resolved after the term has ended.
The anti-defection law created an exception for anti-defection rulings as a result of the 91st amendment.
The amendment, however, does not recognise a’split’ in a legislature party, but rather a’merger.’
Defection is the subversion of electoral mandates by legislators who are elected on the platform of one party but then find it more convenient to switch to another due to the lure of ministerial berths or financial gains.
Affects the Normal Functioning of Government: In the 1960s, the infamous “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” slogan was coined against the backdrop of continuous legislator defections.
The defection causes instability in the government and has an impact on the administration.
Defection also encourages legislator horse-trading, which clearly contradicts the mandate of a democratic setup.
Only allows Wholesale Defection: It allows wholesale defection but not retail defection. To close the loopholes, amendments are required.
He expressed concern that if a politician leaves a party, he or she should not be given a position in the new party.
The Election Commission has proposed that it be the deciding authority in cases of defection.
Others have argued that defection petitions should be heard by the President and Governors.
The Supreme Court has proposed that Parliament establish an independent tribunal, led by a retired judge from the higher judiciary, to hear defection cases quickly and impartially.
Some commentators have said that the law has failed and that it should be repealed. Former Vice President Hamid Ansari has suggested that it only applies in no-confidence motions to save governments.
The issue stems from the attempt to find a legal solution to what is essentially a political issue.
If government stability is a concern as a result of people defecting from their parties, the solution is for parties to strengthen their internal systems.
In India, there is an urgent need for legislation that governs political parties. A law of this type would subject political parties to the Right to Information (RTI), strengthen intra-party democracy, and so on.
To mitigate the negative impact of the anti-defection law on representative democracy, the law’s scope can be limited to only those laws where the defeat of government can lead to a loss of confidence.
Every day, something new emerges in India. Furthermore, industrialization is rapidly increasing, putting many arable lands at risk. Vertical farming in India is the solution to all of these issues.
Background: Gilbert Ellis Bailey coined the term “vertical farming” in 1915 and went on to write a book of the same name.
Professor Dickson Despommier proposed the modern concept for the first time in 1999. His concept revolved around the idea that cities should grow their own food in order to save time and resources used for transportation.
Rather than growing crops horizontally on the ground, as traditional farming does, vertical farming grows crops in vertical, stacked layers, minimising the impact on scarce land and water resources.
It includes, among other things, soilless farming techniques.
Vertical farming systems such as aeroponics and hydroponics fall under the broad category of ‘protected cultivation,’ in which multiple variables such as water, soil, temperature, humidity, and so on can be controlled and regulated.
Protected cultivation, when practised at scale, has enormous potential to shorten and optimise our farm-to-plate supply chains by bringing food closer to the consumer, and thus can go a long way toward improving our nation’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and reducing reliance on imports.
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in a nutrient-rich, water-based solution.
The root system is supported in this method by an inert medium such as perlite, clay pellets, peat moss, or vermiculite.
The primary goal is to provide access to oxygen, which is required for proper growth.
Aeroponics is a low-impact farming method in which the roots are suspended in the air and plants grow in a humid environment without soil.
It is a type of hydroponics in which both the growing medium and the flowing water are not present.
The roots of the plants are sprayed with water and nutrient solution in this method.
Farmers can use this technique to control humidity, temperature, pH levels, and water conductivity within a greenhouse.
Aquaponics is a closed system that combines hydroponics and aquaculture.
The aquaponics process includes three biological components: fish, plants, and bacteria.
The system represents a symbiotic relationship between plants and fishes, with fish faeces used as fertiliser for the plants and plants cleaning the water for the fish.
Financial viability: While the initial capital cost of vertical farming is usually higher, if and when the entire crop production design is done correctly, it makes absolute sense and financial viability to grow, harvest, and produce a specific crop using vertical farming methods throughout the year or in a specific season.
More Water Efficient: When compared to traditional agricultural practises, all crops grown using vertical farming methods are typically more than 95 percent water efficient.
For a country like India, which has only about 4% of the world’s water resources, vertical farming-based technologies can not only increase the efficiency and productivity of our food production, but also lead to a quantum leap in water savings, which will support and give impetus to India’s ambitious goal of achieving carbon-neutrality within its food production ecosystem.
Furthermore, because most crops are grown “without the use of pesticides,” it leads to “a positive contribution towards better public health over time”; thus, consumers can expect zero-pesticide produce that is also healthy, fresh, and sustainable for the planet.
Advancing Soilless Techniques for Food Security: Improving food production and distribution systems is critical to combating hunger and reducing the burden of malnutrition.
Aquaponics and hydroponics development encompasses all aspects of food security.
The government should consider these methods as viable alternatives to traditional farming and help make them more affordable to a larger number of farmers.
While these alternative techniques can be used by a wide range of stakeholders, from household farmers to small- to large-scale farmers, specific knowledge and skills must be developed for safe, successful, and long-term implementation.
Facilitating Sustainable Farming: In a country like India, agricultural land is constantly under pressure and being converted to other uses.
With aeroponics and hydroponics, farming discussions can shift away from land constraints and toward more sustainable farming techniques.
The Way Forward for Schools: Such systems are difficult but not impossible to maintain; the prerequisite is to have at least a basic understanding of these systems.
Schools may also encourage students to install Aquaponic systems as a practical assignment for core STEM subjects such as Math, Biology, Chemistry, and Engineering.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has issued a plan to “make space more accessible.”The Space Equity Action Plan is NASA’s response to the United States government’s executive order of 2021, which aims to “advance racial equity and support for underserved communities.”This plan demonstrates NASA’s commitment to identifying and removing systemic barriers to opportunity in underserved and underrepresented communities, as well as ensuring representation.
It establishes fairness as a core component of every NASA mission in order to make NASA’s work in space and beyond more accessible to all.
For underserved communities, the space equity action plan identifies four priority areas.
Increasing the integration and use of contractors and businesses from underserved communities, as well as expanding equity in NASA’s procurement process,
Improving grants and cooperative agreements to expand opportunities, access, and representation for underserved communities
Using Earth Science and socioeconomic data to help mitigate environmental challenges in underserved communities, as well as advancing external civil rights compliance and expanding access to underserved populations with limited English proficiency.
NASA hopes to double the number of outreach events for underserved communities by fiscal year 2029.
Earth science and other data are being used to help mitigate environmental challenges:
NASA will make its 50 most-requested environmental data sets from last year available on the internet in order to make earth science information easily accessible to all, and the full transfer of NASA Earth science data to the cloud will be completed by 2025.
NASA will also train approximately 2,700 users on how to effectively use the agency’s data to address environmental parameters such as air quality and water resource management.
NASA intends to increase its civil rights compliance reviews to 10% by fiscal year 2024.
NASA will publish an updated language access plan by January 2023.
The Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIAP) has found support for one method of understanding the erratic behaviour of blue stragglers, a type of star seen in clusters and occasionally alone.
The observations by the Ultra Violet Imaging Telescope (UVIT) instrument of ASTROSAT, India’s first science observatory in space, were used by the IIAP for this purpose.
To understand what blue stragglers are, one must first understand how stars are classified and how their evolution is studied.
Given its mass and age, a main sequence star (such as our Sun) is expected to have a denser core once it has converted all of its hydrogen into helium.
It will swell into a red giant as its outer layers expand.
After this phase, its fuel will be depleted, and it will shrink to become a smaller, cooling star known as a white dwarf star at the end of its life.
A color-magnitude diagram can be drawn to study the star’s behaviour, in which we plot The colour of the star, which is an indication of its surface temperature, against The magnitude of the star, which is related to the total energy given off by it.
A large number of stars are seen in a globular cluster to find a place within a band known as the main sequence.
It is expected that all main sequence stars will evolve in a similar manner. However, the blue straggler stars defy conventional theories of stellar evolution.
Few stars, just at the stage of their lives when they should be expanding in size and cooling down, do the opposite.
They become brighter and hotter as their blue colour intensifies, making them stand out from the cooler red stars in their vicinity.
They are known as blue stragglers because they are blue in colour and lag behind their peers in evolution.
Blue stragglers are a type of star found in old, dense stellar systems such as globular clusters, as well as on their own occasion.
They are notable because old stellar populations are expected to be devoid of blue (high-mass) stars with extremely short life spans.
As a result, the blue stragglers in an old stellar population must have formed long after the system as a whole.
The IIAP researchers have discovered why a blue straggler is larger and more energetic than expected.
They’ve shown that the straggler takes matter from the giant companion star and grows more massive, hot, and blue, while the red giant shrinks to the size of a normal or smaller white dwarf.