Polity & Governance
- Commerce Minister reviews action plan to achieve Rs. One Lakh Crore GMV on GeM in FY 2019-20
Government Schemes & Policies
- Lok Sabha clears Bill on NHRC constitution
- Rajya Sabha passes Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill
- The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 introduced in Lok Sabha
Issues related to Health & Education
- 5 year old Dies of Chandipura Virus in Gujarat
- Economic impact of organic farming
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- List of threatened species gets longer a year before prevention target
Defence & Security Issues
- Summer User Trials of Nag Missile successfully Conducted by Indian Army
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Polity & Governance
Commerce Minister reviews action plan to achieve Rs. One Lakh Crore GMV on GeM in FY 2019-20
Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways formulate an action plan for Government e Marketplace (GeM) to achieve a target for Rs. 1 lakh crore Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) on GeM in FY 2019-20.
What is Government e Marketplace (GeM)?
- Government e-Marketplace (GeM) is a one stop portal to facilitate online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Government Departments / Organizations / PSUs.
- GeM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement. It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users achieve the best value for their money.
- The purchases through GeM by Government users have been authorized and made mandatory by Ministry of Finance by adding a new Rule in the General Financial Rules, 2017.
Features of GeM:
- Listing of products for individual, prescribed categories of Goods/ Services of common use
- Compare and buying facility on dynamic pricing basis.
- Market place buying of majority of common User Items.
- Buying Goods and Services online, as and when required.
- Single window system for aggregating demands and ordering
- Transparency and ease of buying
- Useful for low value buying and also for bulk buying at competitive price using Reverse Auction/ e-bidding.
- Continuous vendor rating system.
- User friendly dash board for buying and monitoring supplies and payments
- Return policy
Government Schemes & Policies
Lok Sabha clears Bill on NHRC constitution
The Lok Sabha passed The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill 2019.
About the Bill:
- The Bill amends the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
- The Act provides for a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC), as well as Human Rights Courts.
Key Highlights of the Bill:
Composition of NHRC:
- Under the Act, the chairperson of the NHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
- The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or a Judge of the Supreme Court will be the chairperson of the NHRC.
- The Act provides for two persons having knowledge of human rights to be appointed as members of the NHRC.
- The Bill amends this to allow three members to be appointed, of which at least one will be a woman.
- Under the Act, chairpersons of various commissions such as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and National Commission for Women are members of the NHRC.
- The Bill provides for including the chairpersons of the National Commission for Backward Classes, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as members of the NHRC.
Chairperson of SHRC:
- Under the Act, the chairperson of a SHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of a High Court.
- The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice or Judge of a High Court will be chairperson of a SHRC.
Term of office:
- The Act states that the chairperson and members of the NHRC and SHRC will hold office for five years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.
- The Bill reduces the term of office to three years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.
- Further, the Act allows for the reappointment of members of the NHRC and SHRCs for a period of five years.
- The Bill removes the five-year limit for reappointment.
Powers of Secretary-General:
- The Act provides for a Secretary-General of the NHRC and a Secretary of a SHRC, who exercise powers as may be delegated to them.
- The Bill amends this and allows the Secretary-General and Secretary to exercise all administrative and financial powers (except judicial functions), subject to the respective chairperson’s control.
- The Bill provides that the central government may confer on a SHRC human rights functions being discharged by Union Territories. Functions relating to human rights in the case of Delhi will be dealt with by the NHRC.
Significance of the amendment:
- The amendment will strengthen the Human Rights Institutions of India further for effective discharge of their mandates, roles and responsibilities.
- Moreover, the amended Act will be in perfect sync with the agreed global standards and benchmarks towards ensuring the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual in the country.
- The amendment will also make National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) more compliant with the Paris Principleconcerning its autonomy, independence, pluralism and wide-ranging functions in order to effectively protect and promote human rights.
- Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) had accorded A rating to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
- What differentiates India from China, Pakistan and others is that Indian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)”is more constitutionally valid.
Rajya Sabha passes Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill
The Rajya Sabha passed a Bill allowing the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (AERA) to bid out any new airport at a pre-determined tariff structure.
About the Bill:
- The Bill amends the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008 which established the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (AERA).
Highlights of the Bill
- The Act defines a major airport as a civilian airport with annual passenger traffic of over 15 lakh. The Bill increases this threshold to over 35 lakh.
- Under the Act, AERA is responsible for determining the: (i) tariff for aeronautical services every five years, (ii) development fees, and (iii) passengers service fee.
- Under the Bill, AERA will not determine: (i) the tariff, (ii) tariff structures, or (iii) the development fees, in cases where these amounts were a part of the bid document on the basis of which the airport operations were awarded.
- AERA will be consulted (by the concessioning authority, the Ministry of Civil Aviation) before incorporating such tariffs in the bid document, and such tariffs must be notified.
Need for amendment:
- The Statement of Objects of the bill states that the exponential growth of the sector has put tremendous pressure on AERA, while its resources are limited.
- Therefore, if too many airports come under the purview of AERA, it will not be able to perform its functions efficiently.
- The bill resolves the challenge availability of limited resources of AERA by reducing its jurisdiction/capacity.
Impact of the bill:
- Currently, there are 32 major airports (annual traffic above 15 lakh), and AERA regulates tariffs at 27 of these.
- As per the Bill, AERA will regulate 16 major airports (annual traffic above 35 lakh). The remaining 16 airports will be regulated by AAI.
- Till 2030-31, air traffic in the country is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 10-11%. This implies that in a few years, the traffic at the other 16 airports will increase to over 35 lakh and they will again fall under the purview of AERA. This may lead to constant changes in the regulatory regime at these airports.
Criticism of Bill:
- By amending the definition of a major airport, the regulator’s jurisdiction was being reduced and handed over to private entities.
- The rest of the airports (other than 16 airports handled by AERA) will be handled by the diktats of airport authority or private operators which does not subserve the interest of consumers.
- The government would not be able to fulfil its target to take the air travel to common man as the bill will result in increase of air fares.
Why AERA was created?
- Earlier, private companies started operating civilian airports. Typically, airports run the risk of becoming a monopoly because cities usually have one civilian airport which controls all aeronautical services in that area.
- To ensure that private airport operators do not misuse their monopoly, the need for an independent tariff regulator in the airport sector was felt.
- Moreover, before AERA was set up, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) fixed the aeronautical charges for the airports under its control and prescribed performance standards for all airports and monitored them.
- Various committees had noted that AAI performed the role of airport operator as well as the regulator, which resulted in conflict of interest.
- Consequently, the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008 (AERA Act) was passed which set up AERA.
- AERA regulates tariffs and other charges (development fee and passenger service fee) for aeronautical services at major airports with annual traffic above 15 lakh passengers.
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 introduced in Lok Sabha
Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions introduced Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
About the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019
- The Bill changes the terms and conditions of service of the Central Information Commission (CIC) and Information Commissioners at the centre and in states.
Key provisions of Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019:
- i) Term – As per RTI Act 2005:
- The Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (ICs) (at the central and state level) will hold office for a term of five years or till they attain the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier and is not eligible for reappointment.
- The Bill removes this provision and states that the central government will notify the term of office for the CIC and the ICs.
- ii) Quantum of Salary – As per RTI Act 2005:
- The salary of the CIC and ICs (at the central level) will be equivalent to the salary paid to the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners, respectively.
- Similarly, the salary of the CIC and ICs (at the state level) will be equivalent to the salary paid to the Election Commissioners and the Chief Secretary to the state government, respectively.
- The Bill removes these provisions and states that the salaries, allowances, and other terms and conditions of service of the central and state CIC and ICs will be determined by the central government.
iii) Deductions in Salary – As per RTI Act 2005:
- The Act states that at the time of the appointment of the CIC and ICs (at the central and state level), if they are receiving pension or any other retirement benefits for previous government service, their salaries will be reduced by an amount equal to the pension.
- Previous government service includes service under: (i) the central/state government (ii) corporation established under a central or state law, and (iii) company owned by the central or state government.
- The Bill removes these provisions.
What does the RTI Act do?
- Under the RTI Act, 2005, ‘Public Authorities’ are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning.
- This includes: (i) disclosure on their organisation, functions, and structure, (ii) powers and duties of its officers and employees, and (iii) financial information.
- If such information is not made available, citizens have the right to request for it from the Authorities under RTI act.
- The intent of such disclosures is that the public should need minimum recourse through the Act to obtain such information and to promote transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities.
Who is included in the ambit of ‘Public Authorities’?
- ‘Public Authorities’ include bodies of self-government established under the Constitution, or under any law or government notification.
- For instance, these include Ministries, public sector undertakings, and regulators.
- It also includes any entities owned, controlled or substantially financed and non-government organizations substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by the government.
How is the right to information enforced under the Act?
- The Act has established a three tier structure for enforcing the right to information guaranteed under the Act.
- Public Authorities designate some of their officers as Public Information Officers. The first request for information goes to Central/State Assistant Public Information Officer and Central/State Public Information Officer, designated by the Public Authorities.
- These Officers are required to provide information to an RTI applicant within 30 days of the request.
- Appeals from their decisions go to an Appellate Authority. Appeals against the order of the Appellate Authority go to the State Information Commission or the Central Information Commission. These Information Commissions consists of a Chief Information Commissioner, and up to 10 Information Commissioners.
Criticism of the bill:
- The original Act had quantified the tenures and defined the salaries in terms of existing benchmarks. The amendments are being viewed as implying that, in effect, the terms of appointment, salaries and tenures of the Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners can be decided on a case-to-case basis by the government. This will take away the independence of the RTI authorities.
- Therefore, the Bill is being seen as a “threat to the independence” of the Central Information Commissioner.
- By diminishing the status of the CIC, IC and State CIC from that of a Supreme Court judge would reduce their ability to issue directives to senior government functionaries.
- The amendments would empower the Centre to make rules to decide the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of information commissioners of the Central and also State Information Commissions. This will fundamentally weaken the institution of the information commissions as it will adversely impact the ability of commissioners to function in an independent manner.
- The government has brought about the Bill in complete secrecy and there have been no public consultations on the Bill, which will impact the fundamental right to information of the citizens of the country.
What are the government’s stated grounds for bringing the amendments?
- The statement of objects says “the mandate of Election Commission of India and Central and State Information Commissions are different. Hence, their status and service conditions need to be rationalised accordingly”.
- CIC has been given the status of a Supreme Court Judge, but his judgments can be challenged in the High Courts.
- Therefore, the amendments Have been brought to correct certain anomalies in the RTI Act. It does not dilute the Act in anyway and it was passed in a hurry in 2005. RTI Amendments would strengthen the overall RTI structure.
Over the last 14 years, how far has the RTI Act served the purposes for which it was introduced?
- The RTI Act is regarded as one of the most successful laws of independent India. It has given ordinary citizens the confidence and the right to ask questions of government authorities.
- According to estimates, nearly 60 lakh applications are being filed every year. It is used by citizens as well as the media. The law is seen as having acted as a deterrent for government servants against taking arbitrary decisions.
Issues related to Health & Education
5 year old Dies of Chandipura Virus in Gujarat
The virus is known to cause inflammation of the brain, and progresses rapidly from an influenza-like illness to coma and death.
About the Chandipura Virus:
- This virus was identified in 1966 during a dengue outbreak in Maharashtra’s Chandipura village.
- The Chandipura virus (CHPV) belongs to the Rhabdoviridae family of the genus Vesiculovirus.
- Interestingly, its continuing mutating trend has enhanced its lethality to cause human infections.
- The virus is spread through the bite of female phlebotomine sandfly.
- Apart from India, it has been detected in sand flies in Senegal and Nigeria,
- The virus is known to cause inflammation of the brain, and as mentioned already, progresses rapidly from an influenza-like illness to coma and death.
- The virus predominantly infects children between the ages of 2-16, spreading through the bite of a sandfly, and in some cases, even the mosquito during the monsoon and pre-monsoon season.
- It is distantly related to the virus that causes rabies and is known to have a case fatality between 55-75 per cent.
- There is no known vaccine to treat or prevent the Chandipura virus.
Economic impact of organic farming
Government of India has been promoting organic farming under two dedicated Schemes, namely, Parampragat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER) since 2015-16 under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA).
- Organic Farming has also been supported under other Schemes viz Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), Network Project on Organic Farming under Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
- Third party certification of organic farming is promoted by Agriculture Processed Food and Export Development Authority (APEDA), Ministry of Commerce.
About Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY):
- Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana is an elaborated component of Soil Health Management (SHM) of major project National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA).
- Under PKVY, Organic farming is promoted through the adoption of the organic village by cluster approach and PGS certification.
- Fifty or more farmers will form a cluster having 50-acre land to take up the organic farming under the scheme.
- The produce will be pesticide residue free and will contribute to improving the health of the consumer.
- It is being implemented in 29 States & UTs.
About Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER):
- Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare launched a Central Sector Scheme named “Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region” for implementation in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura during 2015-16 to 2017-18.
- The scheme aims at development of certified organic production in a value chain mode to link growers with consumers and to support the development of entire value chain.
- The scheme was approved with an outlay of Rs.400 crore for three years.
- The assistance is provided for cluster development, on/off farm input production, supply of seeds/planting materials, setting up of functional infrastructure etc.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
List of threatened species gets longer a year before prevention target
The latest update to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species shows that more and more species assessed are being threatened with extinction.
About the new Red list of IUCN:
- According to the new updated list which assess more than 1 lakh species making it largest ever such assessment of species, 28,338 species are threatened with extinction.
- The new list brings out an alarming rate of decline of freshwater and deep sea species. For example, over 50 per cent of Japan’s endemic freshwater fishes are under extinction. The main drivers of this decline are the loss of free flowing rivers and increasing agricultural and urban pollution.
- The world’s 18,000 freshwater species are under severe stress due to various reasons and are declining at a fast rate.
- Among ocean species, wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes, collectively known as Rhino Rays because of their elongated snouts, have been listed as the ‘most imperilled marine fish families in the world’.
- Close to 50 per cent of the species assessed by IUCN have been put under the ‘Least Concern’ category. It means the rest 50 per cent are under various degrees of decline.
- Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history — and the rate of species extinction is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely.
- According to the global assessment, one million animal and plant species are under extinction. Moreover, thousands of these would extinct within decades.
IUCN Red List:
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, also called IUCN Red List, is one of the most well-known objective assessment systems for classifying the status of plants, animals, and other organisms threatened with extinction.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) unveiled this assessment system in 1964.
- The IUCN Red List is a key indicator for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
- The IUCN Red List is often referred to as a ‘Barometer of Life.’
- The IUCN Red List Committee oversees the work of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) on biodiversity assessments.
- The IUCN Red List is used to inform decisions taken by Multilateral Environmental Agreements.
- It is often used as a guide to revise the annexes of some important international agreements, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).
- It uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies.
Classification by the IUCN Red List:
- Extinct (EX) – beyond reasonable doubt that the species is no longer extant.
- Extinct in the wild (EW) – survives only in captivity, cultivation and/or outside native range, as presumed after exhaustive surveys.
- Critically endangered (CR) – in a particularly and extremely critical state.
- Endangered (EN) – very high risk of extinction in the wild, meets any of criteria A to E for Endangered.
- Vulnerable (VU) – meets one of the 5 red list criteria and thus considered to be at high risk of unnatural (human-caused) extinction without further human intervention.
- Near threatened (NT) – close to being at high risk of extinction in the near future.
- Least concern (LC) – unlikely to become extinct in the near future.
- Data deficient (DD) – a condition applied to species in which the amount of available data related to its risk of extinction is lacking in some way.
- Not evaluated (NE) – a category used to include any of the nearly 1.9 million species described by science but not assessed by the IUCN.
Criteria to assess the extinction risk:
- The rate of population decline
- The geographic range
- Whether the species already possesses a small population size
- Whether the species is very small or lives in a restricted area
- Whether the results of a quantitative analysis indicate a high probability of extinction in the wild
- Three prestigious awards: The Harold Jefferson Coolidge Memorial Medal, the John C. Phillips Memorial Medal and Honorary membership of IUCN will be presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in France in June 2020.
- More than 27,000 species are threatened with extinction in world in which amphibians are highest with 40% followed by conifers (34%), Reef corals (33%), Shark and rays (31%), Mammals (25%), Selected Crustaceans (27%) and Birds (14%).
- According to the global Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011-2020)’s Target 12, the extinction of known threatened species has to be ‘prevented’ by 2020. The target also includes an improvement in the conservation status of species.
Defence & Security Issues
Summer User Trials of Nag Missile successfully Conducted by Indian Army
Indian Army has successfully carried out summer user trials of third Generation Anti-Tank Guided Missile NAG at Pokhran Field Firing Ranges.
- The trials were successfully carried out by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
- Completion of summer user trials (along with already done trials in winter season) will now pave the way for production and induction of the missile system into the Army.
- It is launched from NAG missile carrier (NAMICA) which is capable of carrying up to 6 combat missiles.
About NAG missile:
- Nag is a third-generation, fire-and-forget, anti-tank guided missile.
- It is developed by India’s state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
- NAG missile has been developed to engage highly fortified enemy tanks in all weather conditions with day and night capabilities.
- It can be launched from land and air-based platform.
- The Nag missile was indigenously developed under the Indian Ministry of Defence’s integrated guided missile development programme (IGMDP), which also involved the development of four other missiles that are Agni, Akash, Trishul and Prithvi.
- It has minimum range of 500 metres and maximum range of four kilometres.
- It uses an imaging infrared seeker in lock-on-before-launch mode.
- The robust imaging algorithm has made the missile hit the target at four-kilometre distance even in severe summer desert conditions which is unique in its class.