Polity & Governance
- Delhi declared free of bird flu
- Govt forms panel to look into Haj subsidy issue
- NITI Aayog calls for review RTE Act
- Supreme Court won’t interfere with whistleblower law
- Health ministry streamlines polio vaccine supply in lieu of global shortage
- Complete disciplinary inquiries in time: Central Vigilance Commission to departments
- 29th meeting of SCOVA
Environment & Ecology
- Hope Island becomes graveyard for Olive Ridleys Turtles
Key Facts for Prelims
- China commissions sophisticated naval reconnaissance ship
Polity & Governance
Delhi declared free of bird flu
The Animal Husbandry Department of the Delhi government issued a circular declaring the National Capital Territory of Delhi “free from H5N8 strain of Avian Influenza.”
- This is declared after two consecutive samples collected at 15 days’ intervals from the last positive results tested negative at the epicenters.
What is Avian influenza?
- Avian influenza (AI), commonly called bird flu, is an infectious viral disease of birds.
Effects of Avian influenza:
- Outbreaks of AI in poultry may raise global public health concerns due to their effect on poultry populations, their potential to cause serious disease in people, and their pandemic potential.
- Reports of highly pathogenic AI epidemics in poultry, such as A(H5N1), can seriously impact local and global economies and international trade.
Govt forms panel to look into Haj subsidy issue
The Union Ministry of Minority Affairs has decided to set up a six-member committee to look into the Hajj subsidy issue.
- The committee will figure out whether the pilgrims can travel to Saudi Arabia paying less in the absence of such subsidy.
- It will look into the subject whether giving subsidy has any benefits.
- It will engage all the stakeholders concerned before submitting its report.
- The decision has been taken in light of a 2012 Supreme Court order on gradually reducing and abolishing subsidy given to pilgrims by 2022.
What is the issue?
- The Union Government gives Haj subsidy to Indian Muslim Hajj pilgrims in the form of airfare subsidy as well as assistance to pilgrims for domestic travel to reach specially designed haj departure airport terminals.
- In 2012, the Supreme Court had directed the Union Government to gradually reduce and abolish Haj subsidy by 2022. It had ordered government to invest the subsidy amount (approximately Rs 650 crore a year then) on educational and social development of the community.
NITI Aayog calls for review RTE Act
The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has called for a review of the provisions of the Right To Education (RTE) Act that stipulate children who do not perform well cannot be held back up to 8th Class.
Why NITI Aayog called for a review?
The RTE Act aims to provide primary education to all children aged 6 to 14 years. It stipulates that no child can be held back in a grade, regardless of his performance, all the way up to the 8th grade. This means that a child is entitled to an 8th grade diploma even if he cannot recognise a single letter or a number if he has spent eight years in school.
- Though the purpose behind this move is to minimise drop-out rates, the Niti Aayog pointed out that this provision has a detrimental effect on learning outcomes, since it takes away the pressure to learn and to compete.
- According to NITI Ayog, the real problem is the quality of education as measurement by student achievements. The education quality trend between 2010 and 2014 has been worsening instead of improving performance.
- Despite good intention, the provision has a detrimental effect on learning outcomes, since it takes away the pressure to learn and to compete. So the NITI Aayog called revision of the RTE Act.
- The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 report, the proportion of children aged 6-14 years enrolled in school in rural areas has been above 96% for the past six years but more than 50% of the 5th graders cannot read second standard level text.
Supreme Court won’t interfere with whistleblower law
The Supreme Court declined to direct the government to implement the 2014 law on protecting whistleblowers.
What’s the issue?
- The apex court was hearing a plea, dates back to 2004 in which the court had issued various orders to bring a legal framework to protect whistle-blowers.
- The law provides a mechanism to investigate allegations of corruption and misuse of power by public servants while protecting those who tip off investigative agencies against officials.
- In 2014, the Whistleblowers Protection Act replaced a 2011 legislation aiming to strengthen the legal framework.
- However, the central government is yet to set up a mechanism under the 2014 law as certain amendments are being debated in parliament.
- The amendment bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in May 2015 but is yet to be passed.
- The amendment proposed to exclude from the purview of the Whistleblowers Act, categories like cabinet proceedings, scientific interests and the security of India.
The Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015:
The Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015 provides a mechanism for receiving and inquiring into public interest disclosures against acts of corruption, wilful misuse of power or discretion, or criminal offences by public servants.
- The Bill amends the Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2014.
- The Bill prohibits the reporting of a corruption related disclosure if it falls under any 10 categories of information.
- These categories include information related to: (i) economic, scientific interests and the security of India; (ii) Cabinet proceedings, (iii) intellectual property; (iv) that received in a fiduciary capacity, etc.
- The Act permits disclosures that are prohibited under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), 1923. The Bill reverses this to disallow disclosures that are covered by the OSA.
- Any public interest disclosure received by a Competent Authority will be referred to a government authorised authority if it falls under any of the above 10 prohibited categories. This authority will take a decision on the matter, which will be binding.
Health ministry streamlines polio vaccine supply in lieu of global shortage
Amid a global shortage of injectable inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) polio vaccine, countries in the South East Asian region have now opted for fractional doses of IPV.
- It is important to note that India was the first country to introduce fractional doses of IPV under the childhood immunisation programme in eight of its 36 states and union territories in early 2016.
Fractional doses of IPV in India:
- With a global shortage of injectable inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has clammed down on indiscriminate release of the vaccine to dispensaries and health centres – who may hold on to unneeded stock – to prevent wastage of the drug.
- Even as several states in India including the national capital Delhi are running short of IPV doses, the union health ministry will now supply vaccines only as per requirements raised by the health institutions.
What is Fractional IPV?
- Fractional IPV is an alternative to the intramuscular injection of a full dose of IPV.
- It administers a fractional doses (1/5 of the full IPV dose) via the intradermal route (injection in the dermis, one of the layers of the skin).
Is Fractional IPV effective?
- Studies confirm that two fractional doses (one fractional dose is one-fifth of a full dose) of IPV, given twice to infants – first at the age of six weeks and then at 14 weeks – provide the same protection against all polio viruses as one full dose of IPV.
- By using fractional IPV, countries are saving vaccine and vaccine cost, without compromising on the protection that the vaccine provides to children against polio.
- Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), also called the Salk vaccine, consists of inactivated (killed) poliovirus strains of all three poliovirus types.
- IPV is given by intramuscular or intradermal injection and needs to be administered by a trained health worker.
- IPV produces antibodies in the blood to all three types of poliovirus. In the event of infection, these antibodies prevent the spread of the virus to the central nervous system and protect against paralysis.
- IPV is an evidence-based intervention that not only ensures continued protection of children against all types of polio viruses, but also helps save vaccine — a move bound to positively impact global vaccine supply in the coming years.
Complete disciplinary inquiries in time: Central Vigilance Commission to departments
Irked over delay in completion of departmental inquiries, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has asked all departments to ensure that such proceedings are completed in time.
- The commission has observed that all departmental inquiries need to be completed in time so that an honest employee is not harassed.
What rules say?
- As per rules, a departmental inquiry against a government employee needs to be completed within six months and a final decision has to be taken by authorities concerned on it in the next two months.
The Commission has observed that the conduct and finalisation of departmental inquiry proceedings are unduly delayed and even after receipt of Inquiry Officer’s report, further processing for its consideration and final orders of the respective disciplinary authorities take long time.
In a study conducted by the Commission, it has been noticed that
- The average time taken by the administrative authorities in finalisation of disciplinary proceedings is more than two years,
- The maximum time taken in a particular case was eight years and
- At least in 22% cases the inquiry took more than two years.
Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is an apex Indian governmental body created in 1964 to address governmental corruption.
- It has the status of an autonomous body, free of control from any executive authority.
- It is charged with monitoring all vigilance activity under the Central Government of India, advising various authorities in central Government organizations in planning, executing, reviewing and reforming their vigilance work.
- It was set up by the Government in February,1964 on the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, headed by Shri K. Santhanam, to advise and guide Central Government agencies in the field of vigilance.
- The Commission shall consist of:
- A Central Vigilance Commissioner – Chairperson;
- Not more than two Vigilance Commissioners – Members;
- The Central Vigilance Commissioner and the Vigilance Commissioners shall be appointed by the President on recommendation of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister (Chairperson), the Minister of Home Affairs (Member) and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People (Member).
- The Central Vigilance Commissioner or any Vigilance Commissioner can be removed from his office only by order of the President on the ground of proved misbehavior or incapacity after the Supreme Court, on a reference made to it by the President, has, on inquiry, reported that the Central Vigilance Commissioner or any Vigilance Commissioner, as the case may be, ought to be removed.
29th meeting of SCOVA
The Union Minister of Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions Dr. Jitendra Singh chaired the 29th meeting of the Standing Committee of Voluntary Agencies (SCOVA).
- The SCOVA meeting is organised by the Department of Pensions & Pensioners’ Welfare (DoP&PW), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions.
The Department of Pensions & Pensioners’ Welfare (DoP&PW) constituted a Standing Committee of Voluntary Agencies (SCOVA) in 1986.
- It was constituted on the recommendations of Parliamentary Consultative Committee.
- SCOVA consists of 15 Non-official members (5 Standing Group and 10 Rotating Group Members) represented by the Pensioners Associations from various Ministries/Departments/Regions/States etc.
- Official Members are representatives of various Ministries/Departments of Government of India.
- It is a useful forum for holding consultation with the stakeholders i.e the pensioners through their Associations and concerned Ministries/Departments.
- It provides the Associations an opportunity for raising their issues concerning pensioners’ welfare etc. directly before the concerned Ministries/Departments.
Objectives of SCOVA:
SCOVA functions to promote the following objectives:
- To provide a feedback on implementation of process/programmes of the Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare
- To discuss and critically examine the policy initiatives and
- To mobilize voluntary efforts to supplement the Government action
Environment & Ecology
Hope Island becomes graveyard for Olive Ridleys Turtles
Hope Island in Andhra Pradesh has become graveyard for Olive Ridleys turtles after 54 carcasses of this species were spotted on the shores of island.
- This indicates that the breeding cycle of this species got severe blow due to mechanised fishing boats scouring in the Bay of Bengal coastline. These boats crush most of these turtles under it leading to their death.
- The Fisheries Department is encouraging the mechanised boat owners to fit a Turtle Excluder Device (TED) to their trawl nets to allow thee turtles to pass.
About Olive Ridley turtles:
The Olive ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world, inhabiting only in warmer waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.
- These turtles, along with their cousin the Kemps ridley turtle, are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
- Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years, and the species is recognized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red list.
- The Olive Ridley turtles live in the Indian Ocean, but they can’t mate there.
- They have to come all the way to the Bay of Bengal by travelling thousands of kilometres to mate and to lay eggs.
- Interestingly, the male turtles won’t reach the sandy stretch, but wait for their mates to return to the waters. After laying eggs, both male and female turtles return to their native ocean.
- After laying the eggs in the sandy stretches, they begin their return journey. Hatching takes place naturally and the baby turtles too swim back to the Indian Ocean by June every year.
Key Facts for Prelims
China commissions sophisticated naval reconnaissance ship
- Chinas Navy has commissioned a sophisticated electronic reconnaissance ship, capable of conducting all-weather, round-the-clock observation on multiple targets.
- The new ship is named CNS Kaiyangxing, or Mizar.
- The Kaiyangxing is capable of conducting all-weather, round-the-clock reconnaissance on multiple and different targets.
- The Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) now operates six electronic reconnaissance vessels.