Polity & Governance
- India declares itself Free from Avian Influenza (H5N1)
- End sterilisation camps, says Supreme Court
- Centre blames High Courts for vacancies
Environment & Ecology
- Goyal calls for global implementation of ‘polluter pays’ principle
Bilateral & International Relations
- US sign 38 billion dollars defence deal with Israel
Defence & Security Issues
- Unaccounted flow of funds to NGOs a ‘major problem’: SC
Key Facts for Prelims
- Exercise ‘Yudh Abhyas 2016’
- Ramesh Raskar
- International Democracy Day
- National Hindi Divas
- Abraham Verghese
Polity & Governance
India declares itself Free from Avian Influenza (H5N1)
The Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers welfare has declared India free from Avian Influenza (H5N1).
- India had notified outbreak of Avian Influenza (H5N1) in May 2016 at Humnabad, Bidar district, Karnataka. There has been no further outbreak reported in the country thereafter.
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.
What is H5N1?
- Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans. However, some, such as A(H5N1) and A(H7N9), have caused serious infections in people.
- H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza (or “bird flu”).
- Human cases of H5N1 avian influenza occur occasionally, but it is difficult to transmit the infection from person to person. When people do become infected, the mortality rate is about 60%.
How does H5N1 influenza spread to people?
- Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments.
- The virus does not infect humans easily, and spread from person to person appears to be unusual.
- There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly prepared and thoroughly cooked food.
Why is there so much concern about H5N1 influenza?
- H5N1 infection in humans can cause severe disease and has a high mortality rate.
- If the H5N1 virus were to change and become easily transmissible from person to person while retaining its capacity to cause severe disease, the consequences for public health could be very serious.
- Controlling the disease in animals is the first step in decreasing risks to humans.
End sterilisation camps, says Supreme Court
The Supreme Court directed the Centre on Wednesday to end sterilisation camps within three years and strengthen the primary healthcare centre system.
- Expressing unhappiness over the fact that the government had not yet finalised the National Health Policy, the court directed the Centre to take a decision on it before December 31, 2016.
Key remarks made by SC:
- The apex court has remarked that poor and tribal men and women men are treated with respect and dignity and not as mere statistics in the sterilisation programme.
- The sterilisation program is not only a Public Health issue but a national campaign for Population Control and Family Planning.
- The Union of India has overarching responsibility for the success of the campaign and it cannot shift the burden of implementation entirely on the State Governments and Union Territories on the ground that it is only a public health issue.
- Although the Centre has not set any target for implementation of the sterilisation programme, it appeared that there was “an informal system of fixing targets”.
- Sterilisation surgeries, despite not being complicated, have caused several deaths across the country. Undoubtedly, this needs looking into by the Government of India and the State Governments and remedial and corrective steps need to be taken.
- Persons who are negligent in the performance of their duties must be held accountable and the victims and their families provided for.
- It was “pained to see the casual approach” of some states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Kerala with regard to the allegations of mismanagement of sterilisation camps.
- The policies of the Government “must not mirror the systemic discrimination prevalent in society but must be aimed at remedying this discrimination and ensuring substantive equality.”
- In this regard, it is necessary that the policies and incentive schemes are made gender neutral and the unnecessary focus on female sterilisation is discontinued.
- There is a need for transparency coupled with accountability and the death of a patient should not be treated as a one-off aberration. Therefore, it is directed that the Annual Report prepared by the Quality Assurance Committees (QAC) must indicate the details of all inquiries held and remedial steps taken.
The verdict was delivered when the court was dealing with a PIL which had brought to light the mismanagement of sterilisation camps which had led to the death of several persons in recent years in many states.[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]
Centre blames High Courts for vacancies
The government has blamed the judiciary for delaying the process of judicial appointments.
What has the government said?
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on behalf of government told the Supreme Court that:
- The government alone can’t be blamed for judicial vacancies as many posts have been lying vacant for over five years.
- Filling of judicial vacancies is its top most priority but it is the judiciary delaying the process.
- The high courts had themselves initiated the process for filling up the vacancies late.
- As per rules, it ought to have moved the files at least six months in advance before the actual vacancy arises. However, it hasn’t been done.
- There was no logjam in appointment and transfers of high courts judges.
The government pointed to the case of the Allahabad High Court, which has the “oldest” judicial vacancies dating back to 2007. Despite this, the appointment process started only recently
- The government and the judiciary have been at loggerheads with the CJI repeatedly pointing out that delay in judicial appointments was making it difficult for courts to function.
- CJI had recently asked the Centre to show urgency in this matter.
- There are more than 450 vacancies in 24 high courts which have over four million pending cases.
Environment & Ecology
Goyal calls for global implementation of ‘polluter pays’ principle
Power Minister Piyush Goyal reiterated India’s stand for the implementation of ‘Polluter Pays’ principle on international carbon emissions.
Why India is in favour of the implementation of ‘Polluter Pays’ principle?
- The U.S. and China are putting out 39% or 40% of the greenhouse gasses in the world, while India is putting out about 4%, if not less, supporting 17 per cent of the world’s population. Even today, India is the only country in the world which taxes carbon.
- All those greenhouse gases up there are not our responsibility. Therefore, the world will have to recognise the polluter pays principle.
What is Polluters Pay Principle?
- The ‘polluter pays’ principle basically works on the premise that those responsible for higher pollution—whether it is an individual factory or a country—should bear the costs of managing it to prevent damage to health or the environment.
- For instance, a factory that produces a potentially poisonous substance as a by-product of its activities is usually held responsible for its safe disposal.
Bilateral & International Relations
US sign 38 billion dollars defence deal with Israel
The US has signed the biggest-ever aid deal in its history worth USD 38 billion with Israel.
- Under which it will buy advanced planes and weaponry and boost the missile defense shield of the Israeli military.
- The MoU will be valid for ten years i.e. from 2019 through 2028.
As per the MoU:
- The US commits to providing Israel USD 38 billion in military aid over ten years, including USD 33 billion in foreign military financing funds and an unprecedented commitment of USD 5 billion for missile defence.
- In the event of an emergency, Israel can request additional budgets for missile defence systems, but only if the US agrees to it.
- Once the agreement comes into effect, there will be a gradual phasing out of Israel’s right to use 26% of US’s aid to buy equipment from Israel defence industries.
- Besides, Israel will immediately stop using 14% of the US’s aid to buy fuel for the Israel Defence Forces.
Defence & Security Issues
Unaccounted flow of funds to NGOs a ‘major problem’: SC
The Supreme Court has expressed concern over lack of laws to regulate the mind-boggling funds Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) get annually.
- The Supreme Court indicated that it may ask the Law Commission to recommend a law to regulate the flow of funds to about 29.99 lakh NGOs functioning in the country.
Why a law to regulate the flow of funds of NGOs is needed?
According to the court, regulation of funds flowing to NGOs has become a major problem. NGOs in India are getting money from all over the world. Yet, there has not been any comprehensive law to deal with this.
- According to CBI reports, only 2,90,787 NGOs file annual financial statements of a total of 29,99,623 registered ones under the Societies Registration Act.
- In some States, the laws do not even provide for the NGOs to be transparent about their financial dealings.
- In the Union Territories, of a total of 82,250 NGOs registered and functioning, only 50 file their returns.
- New Delhi has the highest number of registered NGOs among the Union Territories at 76,566. But none of these organisations submit returns.
- In Kerala, which has 3,69,137 NGOs, there is no legal provision to submit returns. The same is the case for Punjab with 84,752 and Rajasthan with 1.3 lakh NGOs.
- Uttar Pradesh, which has the highest number of NGOs at 5.48 lakh among 26 States, has only about 1.19 lakh filing returns.
- Tamil Nadu has about 1.55 lakh NGOs registered, however, only 20,277 file returns.
Implications of the move:
- This could spell trouble for many NGOs as the Centre has initiated a process to examine which NGO received what amount from foreign sources and whether they had been permitted to receive monetary assistance from abroad under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
Key Facts for Prelims
Exercise ‘Yudh Abhyas 2016’
The Yudh Abhyas 2016, the joint military drill between the Indian and US, got underway at Chaubattia in Uttarakhand. It is the 12th edition of the joint military exercise hosted alternately by the two countries.
An Indian-origin scientist Ramesh Raskar is the 2016 recipient of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize.
A pioneer in the field of vision technologies, Raskar has invented an ultra-fast imaging camera that operates at the speed of light to see around corners and do-it-yourself tools for medical imaging of the eye.
He is an associate professor at MIT’s Media Lab.
The annual Lemelson-MIT prize, administered by the School of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, honors U.S. inventors who are mid-career and trying to improve the world through science and technology.
International Democracy Day
- The International Democracy Day is being observed every year on 15 September to raise public awareness about the democratic system.
- It focuses on essential elements of democracy i.e. values of freedom, respect for human rights and principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage.
- The theme for the year 2016 is: “Democracy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
- United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in November 2007 had decided to observe ‘International Democracy Day’ every year on September 15. It was observed for first time in 2008.
- In this regard a resolution was passed by UNGA in 2007 to strengthen national programmes devoted to the promotion and consolidation of democracy.
National Hindi Divas
National Hindi Divas is an annual literary-day celebrated on 14 September.
- National Hindi Divas is observed to mark adaptation of Hindi written in Devanagari script as the official language of India by the Constituent Assembly of India on 14 September 1949.
- The decision of using Hindi as the official language was ratified by the Constitution of India which came into effect on 26 January 1950.
- Under the Article 343 of the Indian Constitution, Hindi written in Devanagri script was adopted as the official language. But presently, there are 2 official languages: Hindi and English.
Indian-American physician-author Abraham Verghese, whose work has emphasised empathy in medicine, has been selected for the prestigious 2015 National Humanities Medal.
Inaugurated in 1997, National Humanities Medal bestowed upon individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of human experience, broadened citizens’ engagement with history, languages, philosophy, literature and other humanities subjects.