Polity & Governance
- SC accepts interim mechanism for appointments across tribunals
- First women Chief Justice of Manipur HC
Issues related to Health & Education
- National Deworming initiative launched
- India Health Fund to boost research on TB, malaria
- Prince Charles launches education impact bond for India
- NITI bats for separate debt office at Centre
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Rs 50,000 crore CAMPA fund stuck in turf war between environment and finance ministries
- Karnataka to prepare action plan to protect Great Indian Bustard
- Three new eel species found in Bay of Bengal
Science & Technology
- Scientists grow human eggs to full maturity in laboratory
Key Facts for Prelims
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Polity & Governance
SC accepts interim mechanism for appointments across tribunals
The Supreme Court effectively stayed the applicability of provisions of the Central Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualification, experience and other conditions of service of members) Rules, 2017 which gave the government primacy in making key appointments to tribunals, including CAT and NGT.
What’s the issue?
- The apex court was hearing a batch of cases challenging the constitutional validity of the amended draft rules under the Finance Act, 2017, which would govern the procedure of appointment, removal and service conditions of the chairperson and other members of as many as 19 tribunal across the country.
- Several petitioners, including Member of Parliament from Rajya Sabha Jairam Ramesh, moved the apex court challenging the constitutional validity of the Finance Act, 2017 and the rules under it, claiming that if they were adopted, it would destroy the independent functioning of tribunals.
- It is argued that the new rules would give primacy to the executive in deciding matters of appointments, constitution, removal of members across tribunals.
- The petitioners have also alleged that the new rules would undermine judicial independence and impinge upon the principle of separation of powers.
Interim search-cum-selection committee:
- The court has asked the government to form an interim search-cum-selection committee during the pendency of the petitions to appoint judicial and administrative members in tribunals.
- All appointments to be made pursuant to the selection made by the interim search-cum-selection committee shall abide by the conditions of service as per the old Acts and the Rules.
What would be the members of the search panel?
- The search panel would be headed by the CJI or his nominee.
- The chairpersons of tribunals to which appointments will be made and two secretaries, nominated by the central government, would be the members of the committee.
- Appointment to the post of chairman (of tribunals) will be made by nomination by the CJI.
About Central Administrative Tribunal:
The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) was established by an Act of Parliament namely Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 as sequel to the 42nd amendment of the Constitution of India inserting Article 323 A.
- The Principal seat of Central Administrative Tribunal is at New Delhi and it has 16 Outlying Benches scattered all over the Country.
Composition of CAT:
- The Tribunal is headed by the Chairman and 65 Members, 33 from Judicial (including Chairman) and 33 from the Administrative stream.
- The Chairman is normally a retired Chief Justice of a High Court.
Functions of CAT:
- The tribunal adjudicates disputes and complaints with respect to Recruitment and Conditions of Service of the persons appointed to the Public Services and Posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or any State or of any other Local Authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India.
- Apart from above the Tribunal also has the jurisdiction on the employees of 208 Public Sector Undertakings/ Organizations notified by the Government.
First women Chief Justice of Manipur HC
Abhilasha Kumari was sworn in as the Chief Justice of the Manipur High Court. With this, she becomes the first woman Chief Justice of the High Court of Manipur.
- Formerly, she was the Judge of the High Court of Gujarat.
- On re-organization of the North-Eastern region by the North Eastern Area (Re-organization) Act, 1971, a common High Court was established for the five North-Eastern States Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura) and the two Union Territories (Union Territory of Mizoram and the Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh) and called as the Gauhati High Court.
- Thereafter, when Manipur attained Statehood, Imphal Bench of the Gauhati High Court came into existence on Friday, the 21st day of January 1972.
- In 2013, the Manipur High Court was established after making suitable amendments in the Constitution of India and North-Eastern Areas (Re-organisation) Act, 1971.
Issues related to Health & Education
National Deworming initiative launched
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) launched National Deworming Initiative on the occasion of National Deworming Day (observed on 10 February).
- It aims to reach more than 32.2 crore children aged between 1 to 19 years to combat parasitic worm infections.
- This year it is fourth edition of National Deworming Day after it was launched in 2015.
About National Deworming Day (NDD):
The National Deworming Day is a single fixed-day approach to treating intestinal worm infections in all children aged 1- 19 years, and is held on 10 February and 10 August each year.
- Union Ministry for Health and Family Welfare had first launched National Deworming Day (NDD) in 2015 which was implemented in 11 States/UTs across all Government and Government-aided schools and Anganwadi centres targeting children aged 1 to 19 years.
- The National Deworming Day 2016 is launched to cover the whole country, aiming towards a massive target of 27 crore children in 536 districts of the country.
- The National Deworming Day aims to create mass awareness about the most effective and low-cost Soil Transmitted Helminth (STH) treatment— administering Albendazole tablets.
- Along with Albendazole administration, behaviour change practices in terms of cleanliness, hygiene, use of toilets, wearing shoes/chappals, washing hands etc. is also important to reduce incidents of re-infection.
- At the state and local level, community mobilisation and outreach efforts are underway to engage community-based health workers, like ASHAs, Gram Sabhas and others, to spread awareness and encourage participation in the program.
Alarming situations in India:
- India has the highest burden of parasitic worms in the world.
- Parasitic worms in children interfere with nutrient uptake, and can contribute to anaemia, malnourishment, and impaired mental and physical development.
- According to the 2012 report ‘Children in India’, published by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, 48% of children under the age of 5 years are stunted and 19.8% are wasted, indicating that half of the country’s children are malnourished.
Significance of the initiative:
- School-based mass deworming program is safe, cost-effective, and can reach millions of children quickly.
- Deworming has been shown to reduce absenteeism in schools; improve health, nutritional, and learning outcomes; and increase the likelihood of higher-wage jobs later in life.
- The National Deworming Day will mobilize health personnel, state governments and other stakeholders to prioritize investment in control of Soil Transmitted Helminth (STH) infections—one of the most common infections.
About National Deworming Programme:
- To combat Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) infections, government has adopted a single day strategy called National Deworming Day (NDD).
- The programme is being implemented through the combined efforts of Department of School Education and Literacy under Ministry of Human Resource and Development, Ministry of Women and Child Development and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
- During NDD single dose of Albendazole is administered to children from under 1 to 19 years of age group through the platforms of schools and aanganwadi centers.
- Albendazole is an extremely safe drug that has been used for decades by millions of people around the world and in India, with no or minimal side effects.
- Side effects such as nausea and vomiting can manifest in the children with high worm load.
What is Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH)?
Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH) also known as parasitic worm is a type of helminth infection (helminthiasis) caused by different species of roundworms.
- Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) interfere with nutrients uptake in children; can lead to anaemia, malnourishment and impaired mental and physical development.
- The situation of undernutrition and anaemia which is linked to STH ranges from 40% to 70% in different population groups across the country (WHO).
- They also pose a serious threat to children’s education and productivity later in life.
- India carries the highest burden of worm infestation and 64% of Indian population less than 14 years of age are at risk of Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) or worms’ infestation (WHO).
India Health Fund to boost research on TB, malaria
The India Health Fund (IHF) launched by Tata Trusts in collaboration with Global Fund in August 2016 has come forward to financially support innovations and technologies designed to combat tuberculosis (TB) and malaria.
About India Health Fund:
- The IHF aims to support new products and strategies that impact entire lifecycle of malaria and TB, from prevention to post-cure recovery. It has recently invited project proposals.
- It is a lead initiative of Tata Trusts, with technical support from the Global Fund. It is a pioneering vehicle by Tata Trusts, designed to not only influence philanthropic capital within India, but also serve as a trusted mechanism to generate significant impact in addressing key health challenges in the country – starting with malaria and tuberculosis.
- The IHF initiative will support individuals and organisations with already germinated innovative strategies, services, products, such that they become sustainable and scalable solutions in addressing TB and malaria.
- The initiative is not a fellowship programme to do research from scratch. It is long-term exercise aligned with country’s goal of eliminating TB by 2025 and malaria by 2030.
- It will promote innovative solutions such that they are widely accessible and are affordable
Areas of research:
- Use of technology and data science to strengthen surveillance of TB and malaria, inform early warning systems and improve early detection and prompt treatment.
- Promote robust molecular diagnostic facilities feasible for primary healthcare in low-resource settings;
- Promote innovations on effective communication strategies that will prevent transmission of malaria and TB and enable people to protect themselves from diseases.
- Research on innovative approaches to vector surveillance.
TB and malaria pose long-standing health challenges for India. These two diseases account for over 4.23 lakh deaths and around 15 million lab-confirmed cases every year.[Ref: PIB, The Hindu]
Prince Charles launches education impact bond for India
Britain’s Prince Charles has launched a new 10-million-dollar Development Impact Bond (DIB) to help improve education for over 200,000 children in India.
About Development Impact Bond (DIB):
- The DIB is the largest bond of its type in South Asia.
- It is the latest fundraising initiative by British Asian Trust (BAT) set up by royal 10 years ago to fight poverty in South Asia.
- The DIB was announced on occasion of celebration of 10th anniversary of BAT.
- It was launched by trust with support of UK government’s Department for International Development (DfID), Comic Relief, Mittal Foundation and UBS Optimus Foundation.
- The DIB is intended as result-oriented way to attract new capital into development projects, with strong emphasis on data and evidence.
- It is intended to improve literacy and numeracy learning levels for primary school students from marginalised communities in country.
- Under the initiative, DIB will provide funding to local not-for-profit delivery partners in India over 4 years period to deliver range of operational models including principal and teacher training, direct school management, and supplementary programmes.
NITI bats for separate debt office at Centre
NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar has made a strong case for setting up an independent debt management office, saying better servicing of loans could lead to substantial reduction in India’s interest payments.
Need for an independent debt management office:
- At present, government debt, including market borrowing, is managed by Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Setting up independent Debt Management Office will help to resolve issues relating to conflict of interest as RBI decides on key interest rates as well as undertakes buying and selling of government bonds.
- The setting up of Debt Management Office has been one of the top priority of government for bringing reforms in financial sector. It will divest RBI of its dual and often conflicting roles as banker and manager of Central Government’s borrowing.
- It will also facilitate in better planning and management of domestic and foreign market borrowings of Central Government.
- It will also help in strengthen bond market and help to promote investment. It will be in pursuance global practice of shifting public debt management from central bank to a debt management office.
- The merits of setting up an independent Debt Management office has been adequately debated for more than two decades now and there is very little scope left for any new deliberations on this.
- Many developed countries have shifted to independent agencies over the years. And the fact that none of these countries have revisited their decision or have asked central banks to reassume the responsibilities of debt management further reinforces the sustainable advantages of such a transition.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Rs 50,000 crore CAMPA fund stuck in turf war between environment and finance ministries
A nearly-Rs 50,000 crore green fund meant to help India restore its forest cover is caught in a turf war between the Union Environment and Forests ministry and the Finance ministry, hurting the implementation of a critical environment protection law.
- The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is in deliberation with the Ministry of Finance over the future of compensatory afforestation (CA) funds collected by the Centre.
What are the concerns?
- The adhocism in disbursal of the green funds to states continues, even though Parliament passed an act to end it in July 2016. State CAMPAs currently receive only 10 per cent of funds to use for afforestation and forest conservation, as against the act’s promise of 90 per cent.
- The Haryana government, for instance, recently raised the issue, demanding greater funds for increasing the state’s forest cover – something which requires the notification of the CAMPA rules.
Reason for deadlock:
- The disagreement between the ministries over where the cash rich fund should be kept – the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI) or the Public Account of India – and how it should be routed for allocation to the states.
What’s the difference?
- The environment ministry favours the fund to be parked in the Public Account of India whereas the Finance ministry favours Consolidated Fund of India (CFI) route.
CFI versus Public Account debate:
- The environment ministry is concerned that parking this huge fund in the CFI or even routing it through the CFI could open it to possible diversion for government expenditure other than greening the country.
- All taxes flow into the CFI, and it is from here that the government meets its expenditures with parliamentary approvals. Public Account, on the other hand, does not involve revenues or debt of the government, and its expenditure is not bound by legislative approval. Provident funds and small savings are parked in the Public Account.
- It is learnt that the finance ministry has argued that except General Provident Fund-related monies, there is no precedent of any other fund being held in the Public Account, and hence there is no case for CAMPA funds to be moved there either.
- The environment ministry, on the other hand, pointed out that the CAMPA itself clearly states that it is “an Act to provide for the establishment of funds under the public account of India and the public accounts of each state”. Even the CAG had earlier advocated transferring the amount to the Public Account for expeditious disbursal and timely utilisation. This has, in fact, been the government position on the issue so far.
- Currently, the CA funds, amounting to roughly Rs 50,000 crore, are with the ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA). The ad hoc body was created by the order of Supreme Court on July 10, 2009.
- Nearly two years after the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Act (CAMPA) 2016 was passed by Parliament, the rules to the act which are essential to its implementation are yet to be notified.
About the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2016:
The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2016 establishes the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of India, and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of each state.
- These Funds will receive payments for:
- Compensatory afforestation,
- Net Present Value of forest (NPV), and
- Other project specific payments.
- The National Fund will receive 10% of these funds, and the State Funds will receive the remaining 90%.
- These Funds will be primarily spent on afforestation to compensate for loss of forest cover, regeneration of forest ecosystem, wildlife protection and infrastructure development.
- The Bill also establishes the National and State Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authorities to manage the National and State Funds.
What is CAMPA?
- In 2002, the Supreme Court of India observed that collected funds for afforestation were underutilized by the states and it ordered for centrally pooling of funds under Compensatory Afforestation Fund.
- The court had set up the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (National CAMPA) to manage the Fund.
- In 2009, states also had set up State CAMPAs that receive 10% of funds form National CAMPA to use for afforestation and forest conservation.
Objectives of CAMPA
Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) are meant to promote afforestation and regeneration activities as a way of compensating for forest land diverted to non-forest uses.
Its mandate includes:
- Lay down broad guidelines for State CAMPA.
- Facilitate scientific, technological and other assistance that may be required by State CAMPA.
- Make recommendations to State CAMPA based on a review of their plans and programmes.
- Provide a mechanism to State CAMPA to resolve issues of an inter-state or Centre-State character.
What is NPV?
- NPV was defined by the Supreme Court in its landmark decision of 2005 to be “the present value of net cash flow from a project, discounted by the cost of capital.”
- In common parlance, it is the sum arrived at by deducting the cost of investment from the present value of all future earnings.
- NPV is a monetised value of forest land to be paid by the user agency to compensate for the loss of tangible and intangible benefits flowing from such lands.
Karnataka to prepare action plan to protect Great Indian Bustard
The Forest Department is framing an action plan to save Great Indian Bustard in Karnataka where its numbers are fast decreasing.
Need of conservation:
- According to experts, only around 200 Great Indian Bustards were now present in the mid-Karnataka region. If no steps are taken, this bird will not be seen in the next five years.
Novel experiment in Gujarat:
- In a novel experiment, a group of farmers at the Lala Sanctuary in Kutch, Gujarat have decided not to use inorganic fertilizers and toxic pesticides so as to save the Great Indian Bustard (GIB).
- According to experts, when farmers use pesticides, GIB loses a major portion of its food — insects, locust, lizard among others — and the bird is forced to look for smaller insects in the grains, resulting in damage to the crops.
- In January 2017, the third edition of Hakki Habba, a three-day bird festival, was organized at Daroji Bear Sanctuary, adjacent to Hampi,
Project Great Indian Bustard:
- The state of Rajasthan initiated “Project Great Indian Bustard”, on World Environment Day 2013, identifying and fencing off bustard breeding grounds in existing protected areas as well as provide secure breeding enclosures in areas outside protected areas.
- The species recovery plan also calls for ex situ conservation measures.
However, it has so far failed in its objectives.
About the Great Indian Bustard:
The Great Indian Bustard or Indian bustard is a bustard found in India and the adjoining regions of Pakistan.
- In India, the bird is found in Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat states of India.
- A large bird with a horizontal body and long bare legs, giving it an ostrich like appearance, this bird is among the heaviest of the flying birds.
- The species is listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, in the CMS Convention and in Appendix I of CITES, as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
- It has also been identified as one of the species for the recovery programme under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
- These birds are often found associated in the same habitat as blackbuck.
Three new eel species found in Bay of Bengal
Scientists from Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have discovered three new species of eel along northern Bay of Bengal coast.
- It was discovered at the Digha coast of the Bay of Bengal.
- It has dark brown with white dots on the dorsal side.
- It was discovered from the Visakhapatnam coast of the Bay of Bengal.
- It is uniformly brown.
- It was also discovered from Visakhapatnam coast.
- It is reddish brown body mottled with irregular creamy white spots.
- Eels are found mostly at the bottom of rivers and seas.
- Across the world about 1,000 species of eels have been identified. In India, the number is around 125.
- Eel species belonging to Muraenidae family, referred commonly as Moray eels, recorded about 200 species of which more than 30 species are found in India.
- With these new discoveries, the Bay of Bengal coast has yielded at least five new species of eel. In 2016, Mr. Mohapatra and his team identified Gymnothorax indicus, an edible species.
- In 2015, a short brown unpatterned moray eel, named Gymnothorax mishrai (Bengal moray eel), was discovered from the coast of Bay of Bengal.
Science & Technology
Scientists grow human eggs to full maturity in laboratory
Scientists from Britain and United States for first time have succeeded in growing human eggs in laboratory from earliest stages in ovarian tissue all way to full maturity.
- This is the first time human eggs have been developed outside the human body from their earliest stage to full maturity.
Significance of this new technique:
- The new technique could one day help in developing regenerative medicine therapies and new infertility treatments.
- Being able to fully develop human eggs in the lab could widen the scope of available fertility treatments.
- It can help cancer patients wishing to preserve their fertility while undergoing chemotherapy treatment, improve fertility treatments, and deepen scientific understanding of the biology of the earliest stages of human life.
- Experts praised it as important, but also cautioned that there is much more to do before lab-grown human eggs could be safely be made ready for fertilisation with sperm.
Key Facts for Prelims
- It is China’s fourth-generation medium and long-range fighter jet.
- It is single-seat, twinjet, all-weather, and stealth fighter aircraft.
- It has been developed by China’s Chengdu Aerospace Corporation for PLAAF.
- China is the first in the region to have a stealth bomber and the induction of J-20 fighter into its air force fleet is expected to boost the country’s ‘new war capacities’ and break the US and Japan’s monopoly in Asia-Pacific region.
- Its introduction is very significant for India as the Indian Air Force is yet to acquire a stealth fighter, leaving a major gap in the strategic forces levels, specially in the high-altitude Tibet region.