1. Curbs on Press
The Centre has issued a new policy on the accreditation of journalists, introducing an entire section about reasons that can result in the suspension of the accreditation.
|Central Media Accreditation Guidelines-2022.
It is prepared by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) and issued by the Press Information Bureau
Applications for accreditation are vetted by a Central Press Accreditation Committee headed by the DG, PIB.
At present, there are 2,457 PIB-accredited journalists in the country.
- For the first time, it specifies conditions that can result in the journalist losing accreditation- if a journalist acts in a manner prejudicial to the country’s security, sovereignty and integrity, friendly relations with foreign States etc.
- The new policy has ten points that may result in the accreditation being cancelled, including if a journalist is charged with a “serious cognisable offence”.
- Accredited media persons have been prohibited from using the words “Accredited to the government of India” on public/social media profile, visiting cards, letter heads or on any other form or any published work.
Provisions for granting accreditation:
- Accreditation is only available for journalists living in the Delhi NCR region. There are multiple categories.
- But a journalist needs to have a minimum five years’ professional experience as a full-time working journalist or a cameraperson in a news organisation, or a minimum of 15 years as a freelancer to become eligible.
- A newspaper or a periodical needs to have a minimum daily circulation of 10,000, and news agencies must have at least 100 subscribers.
- Journalists working with digital news platforms are also eligible, provided the website has a minimum of 10 lakh unique visitors per month.
How does accreditation help?
- Access to big events: In events with VVIPs or dignitaries only accredited journalists are allowed to report from the premises.
- An accredited journalist does not have to disclose who he or she intends to meet when entering offices of union ministries, as the accreditation card is “valid for entry into buildings under MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) security zone”. Thus, it protects identities.
- Accreditation brings certain benefits for the journalist and his or her family, like being included in the Central Government Health Scheme, and some concessions on railway tickets.
- The guidelines leave it to the discretion of government nominated officials to assess what is defamatory or prejudicial to the sovereignty or integrity of India while deciding on whether a journalist’s accreditation should be suspended or withdrawn.
- This could result, at times, in such powers trying to intimidate journalists or to block information from coming out.
- Any investigative story on sensitive issues could be held to be in violation of any of these provisions.
- Prevents constructive criticism: Journalists often report on issues and policy decisions that the government may not like.
- No watchdog: The policy is silent on who will decide if a journalist’s conduct violates any of these conditions.
2. Possibilities Down Under
External affairs minister’s visit to Australia signifies a new dawn in India-Australia relationship.
- Ideology: Both are vibrant democracies which have respect for international laws and a belief in the equality of all nations.
- Both believe in a rule-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region, and face challenges from a belligerent China.
|Australia’s Prime Minister has announced implementation of “An India Economic Strategy to 2035”, a vision document that will shape India-Australia bilateral ties.
It is based on three-pillar strategy- Economic ties, Geostrategic Engagement and Rethinking Culture-thrust on soft power diplomacy.
- Trade: Two-way trade between them was valued at $24.4 billion in 2020.
- Trade is rapidly growing and encompasses agribusiness, infrastructure, healthcare, energy and mining, education, artificial intelligence, big data and fintech.
- The India-Australia Grains Partnership aims to use Australia’s expertise in post harvest management to strengthen rural grain storage and supply chains so as to reduce losses and wastage.
- India is the 5th largest trade partner of Australia.
- Defence: Participation of Australia in Exercise Malabar.
- Various bilateral defence cooperation initiatives like AUSINDEX, Mutual Logistic Support Arrangement (MLSA) etc.
- Elevation of their ‘2+2’ Foreign and Defence Secretaries’ Dialogue to the ministerial level.
- International: Beyond bilateralism, both countries are also entering into partnerships with like-minded countries, including Indonesia, Japan and France, in a trilateral framework.
- The trade Ministers of India, Japan and Australia have formally launched the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI).
- Both India and Australia are members of the Quad, Commonwealth, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), ASEAN Regional Forum etc.
- A Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between the two countries was signed in September 2014.
- Both sides are also likely to explore other options such as a closer intelligence relationship, and in other areas such as high technology and outer space.
- An Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF), which was established in 2006, supports scientists in India and Australia to collaborate on leading-edge research. AISRF consists of India Australia Biotechnology Fund; India-Australia Science & Technology Fund; Grand Challenge Fund and Fellowship Schemes.
- India faces non-tariff barriers and its skilled professionals in the Australian labour market face discrimination.
- India has a high tariff for agriculture and dairy products which makes it difficult for Australian exporters to export these items to India.
- India and Australia are “too far apart” to conclude the bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) in the near term.
- There is no coherent Indo pacific strategy as countries do not have one definitive vision for the region. It is largely seen as global construct to arrest China’s rise.
In coming years, the overall relationship between India and Australia will continue to grow and has the potential to assume greater prominence. The prospects for bilateral relationship are recognised in both countries as strategically useful, economically productive and aligned with each other’s new agenda.
3. Governor’s Powers & Friction with States
Last week, West Bengal CM blocked its Governor on Twitter. Days earlier, the Tamil Nadu government had taken exception to Governor’s R-Day speech articulating the benefits of NEET.
Law on governor state relations:
- Although envisaged as an apolitical head who must act on the advice of the council of ministers, the Governor enjoys certain powers granted under the Constitution.
- EG: He has monopoly for giving or withholding assent to a Bill passed by the state legislature, or determining the time needed for a party to prove its majority, or which party must be called first do so, generally after a hung verdict in an election.
- However, there are no provisions laid down for the manner in which the Governor and the state must engage publicly when there is a difference of opinion.
|Who is a governor?
The governor is head of the state.
The governor is directly appointed by the President. Thus, he is considered to be a nominee of the Central government.
The term of the Governor is prescribed as five years. However, the governor is allowed to hold office at the will of the President.
The post of the governor is a constitutional post and not an employment under the Central government.
- Selection of the party to form a government
- Deadline for proving majority
- Sitting on Bills
- Passing negative remarks on the state administration.
- Nagaland: Governor has criticised affairs of the state and allegedly interfered in administration.
- J&K: In November 2018, then J&K Governor dissolved the Assembly amid indications that various parties were coming together to form the government.
- Maharashtra: In 2019, after a hung verdict in Maharashtra Governor quietly invited a party leader and administered him oath as CM at 6am early morning.
Why does this happen?
- Governors have become political appointees. Politicians become Governors and then resign to fight elections.
- The Governor is answerable to no one except the Centre. This is a fundamental defect in the Constitution.
- There is no provision for impeaching the Governor, who is appointed by the President on the Centre’s advice.
- In the Constitution, there are no guidelines for exercise of the Governor’s powers, including for appointing a CM or dissolving the Assembly.
- There is no limit set for how long a Governor can withhold assent to a Bill.
- When the Centre and states don’t agree on certain issues, the governor is likely to act on the advice of central government and hence is called ‘agent of Cente’.
- The Rajamannar Committee (1971) recommended the deletion of Articles 356 and 357 from the constitution of India and also emphasised that the governor of the state should not consider himself as an agent of the centre.
- Sarkaria Commission (1988) recommended that Article 356 should be used in very rare cases- before taking action under Article 356, a warning should be issued to the state government.
- Administrative Reforms Commission (1968) recommended that the report of the governor regarding the president’s rule has to be objective.
- Selection of the Governor through a panel comprising the PM, Home Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker and the CM.
- Provision to impeach the Governor by the Assembly.
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