Polity & Governance
- ‘Why exempt CBI from RTI Act?’
- No more probe against officers and judges without prior sanction: Rajasthan law
- ‘Tribal hamlets to get panchayat status’
- may have to foot bill for rail safety fund
- Centre gives nod for banks to sell more small savings schemes
- PM inaugurates Phase 1 of RO RO Ferry Service between Ghogha and Dahej
- APEDA to promote NE products in Bangladesh and Myanmar
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Bhitarakanika has reasons to cheer
- Snakehead fish species
Science & Technology
- IIT Hyderabad uses activated jamun to remove fluoride from water
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
‘Why exempt CBI from RTI Act?’
The Delhi High Court has held that CBI cannot claim absolute exemption from disclosing information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations held by it under the RTI Act.
What’s the issue?
- A RTI activist had sought information pertaining to corruption in several top offices of the country from the CBI, but the agency said since it was exempted from the RTI Act, it would not share such records.
Why CBI denied sharing information?
- The CBI has been denying information citing Section 24 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, which says its provisions will not apply on intelligence and security organisations, which also include the IB, RAW, NIA and the Enforcement Directorate.
- The CBI was included in the list by the erstwhile UPA government.
- It also said that the information on alleged corruption and human rights violation could only be disclosed if the allegations were against any official of the agency.
The Act, however, clearly states that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violation will not fall under the exemption given to these organisations under Section 24 of the RTI Act.
About the HC decision:
- The information sought by the respondent would not be denied on the ground that CBI is excluded from the purview of the Act by virtue of Section 24(1) of the Act.
- However, Delhi HC added that the CBI would be at liberty to examine whether the information sought is otherwise exempt from disclosure under Section 8(1) of the Act.
- In the event the petitioner is of the view that the information sought is exempt under any of the clauses of Section 8(1) of the Act, the same would be communicated to the respondent within a period of six weeks from today.
- If aggrieved, the respondent would be at liberty to avail of such remedies as may be advised.
- The government could keep adding organisations to the Second Schedule, which do not meet the express criteria laid down in Section 24(2) of the RTI Act and ultimately render the RTI Act ineffective.
- Including the CBI in the Second Schedule of the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005 was arbitrary, especially when the organisation was only an investigating agency and not a security or intelligence organisation.
- Such an administrative decision has a profound impact on the citizens of India in as much as it restricts their fundamental right to information. The RTI Act was a promise to the citizens by Parliament for transparency and accountability.
No more probe against officers and judges without prior sanction: Rajasthan law
The government of Rajasthan has introduced a new Code of Criminal Procedure (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill that prohibits prosecution on both serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants in the state for on-duty action, without its prior sanction.
- The Code of Criminal Procedure (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2017 has replaced The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, promulgated on September 6.
About the new bill:
- The bill prohibits the courts from ordering investigation against both serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants in the state, without taking prior permission from the government.
- The ordinance provides 180 days of immunity to the officers. If there is no decision on the sanction request post the stipulated time period, it will automatically mean that sanction has been granted.
- Under the new law, the media has also been gagged and are not allowed to report on the accusation against such a person until the prosecution gets the go-ahead from the sanctioning authority, which may take up to six months.
- The amendment seeks curb on publishing and printing or publicising in any case the name, address, photograph, family details of the public servants. Violating the clause would call for two years imprisonment.
- The Ordinance empowers the sanctioning authority to take a decision in six months, from the date of the receipt of the proposal for sanction, which has been questioned by the opposition party which said it may give enough time for the accused to move files and dilute the case.
- Activists have also opposed the bill that seeks to “protect both serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants in Rajasthan” from being investigated for on-duty action without its prior sanction, saying it muzzles free speech.
‘Tribal hamlets to get panchayat status’
The Telangana cabinet has decided to bring out a new legislation aimed at according panchayat status to all tribal hamlets and special panchayat status to Koya and Gond habitations in the state.
- The proposed act will also ensure accountability for the sarpanch and other officials.
- The cabinet also decided to hold panchayat elections after enacting the new law.
- The Act is aimed to extend welfare schemes to residents of all habitations.
- The bill empowered the state government to take action on the non-performing panchayats and at the same time, provide funds in the annual budget and in the financial commission allocations.
- The bill will also provide funds received under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for the development of panchayats.
Govt. may have to foot bill for rail safety fund
The Ministry of Railways may ask the Finance Ministry to fund its share of the railway safety fund this year as the public utility is staring at an earnings shortfall of at least ₹10,000 crore in 2017-18.
- With earnings deficit, the Ministry of Railways may find it difficult to contribute its share towards the newly- constituted Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) – a dedicated fund for critical safety-related works.
- The Indian Railways’ income stood at ₹80,519 crore till September compared with ₹76,405 crore till September last year. However, the actual income was 8.45% lower than the targeted earnings till September this year.
- The Railways had set a target of earning ₹1.88 lakh crore in 2017-18 against ₹1.65 lakh crore in 2016-17.
- In late 2016, the Railway Ministry requested the Finance Ministry to create a non-lapsable safety fund named ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’.
- The Railways had asked the Finance Ministry to sponsor almost 93% of the fund. However, the Finance Ministry agreed to contribute only 25% and asked it to raise the rest.
About the fund:
- The Railways had asked for ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’ to be set up based on the recommendations of a high-level safety review committee under former chairman Atomic Energy Commission Dr. Anil Kakodkar.
- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced the setting up a special safety fund with a corpus of more than ₹1 lakh crore over a period of five years in Budget 2017-18.
- According to the plan, while the Finance Ministry would contribute ₹15,000 crore annually towards the fund, the Ministry of Railways would fund the balance ₹5,000 crore every year.
Utilization of the fund:
- The fund is proposed to be utilised for track improvement, bridge rehabilitation, rolling stock replacement, human resource development, improved inspection system, and safety work at level crossing, among other things.
Centre gives nod for banks to sell more small savings schemes
In order to encourage savings, the Centre in a recent government notification has allowed banks, including top three private sector lenders, to accept deposits under various small savings schemes such as National Savings Certificate (NSC), recurring deposits and monthly income plan.
- Until now, most of the small savings schemes were sold through post offices.
- This decision will allow increase outlets for selling small savings scheme that will result in higher mobilisation under scheme.
As per the notification,
- Banks can also sell National Savings Time Deposit Scheme 1981, National Savings (Monthly Income Account) Scheme 1987, National Savings Recurring Deposit Scheme 1981 and NSC VIII issue.
- All public sector banks and top three in the private sector — ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank — to receive subscription from the expanded portfolios. So far, these banks were allowed to receive subscription under Public Provident Fund, Kisan Vikas Patra-2014, Sukanya Samriddhi Account and Senior Citizen Savings Scheme-2004.
About Small saving schemes
- Small Savings Schemes are government run social welfare schemes that provide higher interest rate.
- The Small Saving Schemes (SSSs) are important source of household savings in India.
- Different small saving schemes have mobilized money from households and channelized it to government so that the centre and states can finance a prat of their expenditure.
PM inaugurates Phase 1 of RO RO Ferry Service between Ghogha and Dahej
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Phase 1 of the ‘roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro)’ ferry service between Ghogha in Bhavnagar and Dahej in the Gulf of Cambay.
- The project’s cost of 1st phase of RORO service is around Rs 615 crore.
What is RO RO ferry:
- The term ro-ro is generally reserved for large ocean-going vessels. The vessels have either built-in or shore-based ramps that allow the cargo to be efficiently rolled on and off the vessel when in port.
- This is in opposite to the lift-on and lift-off (lo-lo) vessels, which use a crane to load and unload cargo.
- The ro-ro ferry services are vessels made to carry wheeled cargo that are driven on and off the ferry on their own wheels or using a platform vehicle. The wheeled cargo includes, cars, trucks, semi-trailer trucks, trailers, and railroad cars.
- The service shall reduce the travel time between Ghogha in Saurashtra, and Dahej in South Gujarat, from about seven or eight hours, to just over an hour.
- The distance between the two places would be reduced to 31 km from the current distance of 360 km.
- When fully operationalised, it will also enable movement of vehicles.
- A first of its kind in India, the ferry will be able to carry up to 100 vehicles (cars, buses and trucks) and 250 passengers between the two ports.
- The ferry service is aimed at boosting the connectivity and infrastructure in Gujarat.
APEDA to promote NE products in Bangladesh and Myanmar
The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has taken up a programme for promotion of north eastern products in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
- The export of APEDA scheduled products to Bangladesh during 2016-17 was of 396.44 million USD.
- The major products exported to Bangladesh include rice, vegetables, fruits, wheat, maize, dairy products and pulses.
- The export of APEDA scheduled products for Myanmar during 2016-17 was of 24.15 million USD.
- The major products exported to Myanmar include rice, maize, cereal preparations, fruits, rice and vegetable seeds.
APEDA is an apex body of the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India, to promote the export of agricultural commodities and processed food products.
- APEDA was established by the Government of India under the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority Act 1985.
- The Authority replaced the Processed Food Export Promotion Council (PFEPC).
- APEDA links Indian exporters to global markets besides providing comprehensive export oriented services.
- APEDA provides referral services and suggest suitable partners for joint ventures.
- APEDA’s export basket ranges from typically Indian ethnic products like pickles, chutneys, sauces, curries etc. to rice, honey, fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, beverages, guar gum, poultry, livestock products, confectionery, cut flowers, food grains, aromatic plants and other Indian delicacies.
- Vietnam, UAE, Saudi Arabia, USA, Iran, Iraq and Nepal are the major destinations for export of food products from India.
- APEDA has marked its presence in almost all agro potential states of India and has been providing services to agri-export community through its head office, five Regional offices and 13 Virtual offices.
Composition of the APEDA Authority:
As prescribed by the statute, the APEDA Authority consists of the following members namely:
- A Chairman, appointed by the Central Government
- The Agricultural Marketing Advisor to the Government of India, ex-offical.
- One member appointed by the Central Government representing the Planning Commission
- Three members of Parliament of whom two are elected by the House of People and one by the Council of States
- Eight members appointed by the Central Government representing respectively; the Ministries of the Central Govt.
Products Monitored by APEDA:
APEDA is mandated with the responsibility of export promotion and development of the following scheduled products:
- Fruits, Vegetables and their Products.
- Meat and Meat Products.
- Poultry and Poultry Products.
- Dairy Products.
- Confectionery, Biscuits and Bakery Products.
- Honey, Jaggery and Sugar Products.
- Cocoa and its products, chocolates of all kinds.
- Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Beverages.
- Cereal and Cereal Products.
- Groundnuts, Peanuts and Walnuts.
- Pickles, Papads and Chutneys.
- Guar Gum.
- Floriculture and Floriculture Products.
- Herbal and Medicinal Plants.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Bhitarakanika has reasons to cheer
A slight increase in the number of tourists coming to see crocodiles basking on mudflats of the Bhitarakanika National Park has been reported.
About Bhitarkanika National Park:
- Bhitarkanika National Park is located in Kendrapara district of Odisha in eastern India.
- Bhitarkanika is one of the largest sanctuaries of crocodiles in the region with 1,671 reptiles.
- Apart from crocodiles, meandering water courses flanked by green mangrove forests and migratory birds flocking in search of prey in the swampy fields of Bhitarakanika are some of the major attractions.
- Mammals found in the place include leopards, wild boars, fishing cats, hyenas, sambar deer and Gangetic dolphins.
- Reptiles include olive ridley sea turtles, crocodiles, water monitors, pythons and king cobras.
- Around 166 species of birds have been spotted in the park.
- Researchers have come across 11 of the 70 mangrove species in Bhitarakanika which were at an elevated threat of extinction around the world.
Snakehead fish species
- The snakeheads are the elongated, predatory fish species.
- Since these species are mostly found in the inland waterbodies, no data on their catch is available.
- It’s mostly the brightly coloured ones from northeastern India that find their way into aquaria.
- Snakeheads are of great demand in the domestic market for food as well as for ornamental purposes.
- As per the analysis, the eastern Himalaya and the adjoining region of Myanmar were hotspots for snakehead diversity.
- India is currently home to 15 species of Channa (a new species from Assam, foothills of Bhutan, Myanmar)
- Many of the snakehead fish species are listed as of “least concern” in the Red List of IUCN.
- Currently, a global digital database of the snakehead fish species has been developed.
Science & Technology
IIT Hyderabad uses activated jamun to remove fluoride from water
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad have used activated jamun seed powder to bring the fluoride content to less than the WHO limit of 1.5 mg per litre in drinking water.
- The major objective of the current study was to evaluate the fluoride removal efficiency using a novel, low-cost activated carbon.
About activated jamun:
- Jamun seed powder is mixed thoroughly with potassium hydroxide and heated it to 900 degree C for an hour to produce activated jamun powder.
- The activated jamun powder can be reused up to five times by heating it to 50 degree C
- The activation increases the pore volume several times and the surface area by more than 50 times. As a result, the fluoride adsorption efficiency increased several times compared to samples that were not treated with KOH but heated to 900 degree C.
- With fluoride adsorption capacity of 3.65 milligram per gram, activated jamun seed was close to tea ash (3.75 milligram per gram) but much higher than other substances such as banana peel, coffee husk, and coconut shell.
- Next testing will be to study the efficiency of the activated jamun powder in water containing multiple ions such as fluoride, arsenic and heavy metals.