Hamid Ansari Current Affairs

India, Rwanda sign MoUs in innovation, aviation and visa requirements

India and Rwanda have inked three agreements in the fields of innovation, aviation and visa requirements to boost bilateral relations.

These agreements were signed in Kigali in the presence of Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari and Rwandan Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi during a business forum meet. Vice President is the first Indian leader to officially visit Rwanda. He launched India-Rwanda innovation growth programme.

Three important agreements signed are
  • Bilateral air service agreement between two countries.
  • Agreement for exemption of visa requirements for diplomatic and service passports.
  • Agreement for establishment of an Entrepreneurship Development Centre in Rwanda duly financed by India,
Background

Vice President Hamid Ansari visited Rwanda on the first leg of his 2-nation visit to East Africa. Later he will travel to Uganda, the second leg of his tour to another East African country. Both Rwanda and Uganda are important from India’s viewpoint of trade, especially in the pharmaceuticals, automobiles, mechanical appliances and machinery sectors. Since 2012, India’s trade with Rwanda has doubled and it is one of Uganda’s largest trading partners and largest investors.

India-Africa Relations

  • India is key partner of African nations in the 1950s and 1960s. However in the past decade, India lost influence in Africa to China and other Asian nations.
  • In recent years, India is seeking to broaden its general outreach to resource-rich Africa and establish its footprint in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • India has positioned itself as a partner of choice to African countries in areas such as education, healthcare, investment and trade.
  • In 2014-15, India-Africa trade was almost $70 billion and Indian investments in Africa in the past decade was amounted to $30-35 billion.
  • The figures, however, are low in comparison with the Africa’s trade and investment ties with China which is around $200 billion. China has built large infrastructure projects like roads, railways, airports and government buildings in Africa.
  • Together, President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vice President Ansari have visited 12 African nations in 2016.
  • This was in keeping with PM Modi’s promise to maintain the tempo of interaction with Africa, made to leaders to 54 African nations during the 3rd India-Africa summit in New Delhi in October 2015.

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22 MPs from smaller parties, independents in Rajya Sabha recognised as a consolidated bloc

Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari has recognised a group of 22 MPs belonging to smaller parties and certain Independents as a consolidated bloc — the United Group.

With this recognition the United Group, will be the third largest group of MPs in the Rajya Sabha, after the Congress and the BJP.

Background

  • This is only the third time in the history of Indian Parliament consolidated bloc has been recognised, the first was in 1983 and the second in 1990.
  • In 1983, the first such consolidated group was called United Associations of Members was recognised by the then Rajya Sabha Chairman M.Hidayatullah.
  • In 1990, the then chairman of Rajya Sabha recognised organised group of Parliamentarians and was renamed as the United Group.

What are benefits for consolidated bloc?

  • The newly recognised bloc will find a place in the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) that decides time allotment. Thus, MPs of bloc will secure more time to speak in House debates.
  • At present, time allotted to parties to speak on debates depends entirely on their strength in the House.
  • Earlier due to their solitary or numerically lean status, members of this bloc had as little as three minutes of speech time.
  • Thus, a grouping of this kind will make it possible for a party like Sikkim Democratic Front with a single MP to speak for as much time as say, a Samajwadi Party with 19 MPs in Rajya Sabha.

About Rajya Sabha

  • The Council of States or Rajya Sabha is the upper house of the Parliament. It is permanent house of the Parliament and unlike the Lok Sabha it is not subject to dissolution.
  • The origin of the Rajya Sabha as the second chamber can be traced to the Montague-Chelmsford Report of 1918 and the Government of India Act, 1919.
  • As per Article 80 of Constitution, the maximum strength of Rajya Sabha is 250, out of which 238 are representatives of States and of two Union Territories having legislatures (Delhi and Puducherry).
  • These members are indirectly elected by state and territorial legislatures using single transferable votes.
  • Remaining 12 members are nominated by the President for their contributions to art, literature, science, and social services.
  • Members of Rajya Sabha have six-year term and one third of the members retire every two years.
  • The Vice President of India is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, who presides over its sessions.

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