QUESTION : What are parliamentary committees? How do they ensure legislature’s and executive’s efficiency and accountability?
Topic- PARLIAMENT AND ITS PANELS
- Parliamentary Committees
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The Rajya Sabha Secretariat is considering changing the rules governing the Departmentally-Related Standing Committees’ (DRSC) tenure to make it to two years from the present one year.
REASON BEHIND THIS :
- A significant amount of the tenure of the committees was lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of the panels have not been able to complete reports on the subjects they were working on.
- The panels should have enough time to work on the subjects selected by them.
WHAT ARE PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES ?
- A good deal of Parliamentary business is transacted in the committees. Both Houses of Parliament have a similar committee structure, with a few exceptions.
- Their appointment, terms of office, functions and procedure of conducting business are also more or less similar and are regulated as per rules made by the two Houses under Article 118(1) of the Constitution.
- Broadly, Parliamentary Committees are of two kinds – Standing Committees and ad hoc Committees.
- The former are elected or appointed every year or periodically and their work goes on, more or less, on a continuous basis.
- The latter are appointed on an ad hoc basis as the need arises and they cease to exist as soon as they complete the task assigned to them.
THEIR SIGNIFICANCES :
- Apart from debates on bills and issues discussed and debated on the floor of the House, more detailed and in-depth discussions take place on issues as well as legislation in the parliamentary standing committees.
- Here, MPs belonging to all major parties put forward their views without much consideration to the political differences they have.
- A considerable amount of legislative work gets done in these smaller units of MPs from both Houses, across political parties.
- Their reports are tabled in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. The Houses do not hold a specific debate on the report, but it is often referred to during the discussions on the bills and the key issues.
- Committee meetings also provide a forum where members can engage with domain experts as well as senior-most officials of the concerned ministries.
DEPARTMENT-RELATED PARLIAMENTARY STANDING COMITTEES :
- Out of the total 24 standing committees, 8 work under the Rajya Sabha and 16 under the Lok Sabha.
- Each standing committee consists of 31 members (21 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha).
- The members of the Lok Sabha are nominated by the Speaker, just as the members of the Rajya Sabha are nominated by the Chairman from amongst its members
- Ministers cannot be members of these committees.
- The tenurial issue has to be looked at against following backdrop:
- The Rajya Sabha undergoes partial biennial renewal, since one-third of its members retire every two years by virtue of clause (1) of Article 83 of the Constitution.
- The Lok Sabha has a fixed tenure of five years, unless sooner dissolved.
- Thus it is only once in 10 years that the requirement of major reshuffle of the Standing Committees in both the Houses is expected to coincide, that is after the second round for the Lok Sabha and the fifth biennial round of the Rajya Sabha.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
- Different tenures
- The terms of the members of the two Houses on these committees can be different, in consonance with the tenure of the Houses themselves.
- It may be two years for the Rajya Sabha members and for the Lok Sabha members, it may be coincidental with its life.
- The sittings of Parliament are steadily declining over the years. From 100-150 sittings in the 1950s, the number is down to 60-70 sittings per year in 2019-20.
- In such a scenario, a major part of parliamentary work is done by DRSCs. A longer tenure will help in completion of tasks and deliberations assigned to them.
QUESTION : Write a note on the origin of Earth and the planets in solar system. Also examine how do scientists study birth of planets in universe.
Topic- VENUS IN FOCUS
- Venus Planet
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Scientists have detected the presence of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus.The detection indicates the possibility of the presence of lifeforms on Venus.
- Phosphine is a phosphorus atom with three hydrogen atoms attached (PH3) – is highly toxic to people.
- On rocky planets such as Venus and Earth, phosphine can only be made by life—whether human or microbe.
- Phosphine is made naturally by some species of anaerobic bacteria—organisms that live in the oxygen-starved environments of landfills, marshlands, and even animal guts.
- Venus is Earth’s closest planetary neighbour. It is also known as earth’s twin.
- Similar in structure but slightly smaller than Earth, it is the second planet from the sun.
- Early science observations of Venus revealed that it is a menace of a world that could kill life in multiple ways. Venus is wrapped in a thick and toxic atmosphere that traps in heat.
- High Temperature: Surface temperatures reach a scorching 880 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt lead. It is the hottest planet in the solar system.
- High Pressure: Highly dense, 65 miles of cloud and haze, puts atmospheric pressure more than 90 times what’s felt on Earth’s surface.
Also, the planet’s atmosphere is primarily suffocating carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid clouds.
IMPORTANT POINTS :
The international scientific team first spotted the phosphine using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii and confirmed it using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope in Chile.
o JCMT is the largest astronomical telescope in the world designed specifically to operate in the submillimetre wavelength region of the spectrum.
o ALMA is currently the largest radio telescope in the world. The researchers did not discover actual life forms, but noted that, on Earth, phosphine is produced by bacteria thriving in oxygen-starved environments.
Biosignatures: Scientists have used probes and telescopes to seek “biosignatures” – indirect signs of life – on other planets and moons in the solar system and beyond.
o Phosphine was seen at 20 parts-per-billion in the Venus atmosphere which is a trace concentration. However, Venus is considered to be hostile to phosphine as its surface and atmosphere are rich in oxygen compounds that would rapidly react with and destroy phosphine.
o Phosphine acts as a biosignature because it is known to be produced mainly through biological processes, and not through any naturally occurring chemical process.
o Earlier in 2011, the European Space Agency’s mission, Venus Express, found signs of ozone, a biomarker, in the upper atmosphere of Venus.
PAVING WAY FOR FUTURE MISSION :
- Missions to Venus are not new. The finding can further ignite interest in space missions to Venus.
- Spacecraft have been going near the planet since the 1960s, and some of them have even made a landing.
- In fact, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is also planning a mission to Venus, tentatively called Shukrayaan, in the near future.
- As of now, the plan is still on the drawing board. All future missions to Venus would now be attuned to investigating further evidence of the presence of life.
- The finding can further ignite interest in space missions to Venus. Missions to Venus are not new. Spacecraft have been going near the planet since the 1960s, and some of them have even made a landing.
- All future missions to Venus would now be attuned to investigating further evidence of the presence of life. This can now only be taken further by making in situ measurements in the atmosphere of Venus. This poses its own challenges.