Polity & Governance
- SC upholds rules to support Good Samaritans
- No law prevents women from entering temples: HC
- Centre to promulgate ordinance on Enemy Property Bill
- Norms for clinical trials eased
- Budget sets priorities for government spending
- ‘Market access for India’s services key to BTIA’: Commerce Minister
Environment & Ecology
- Sand-eating tadpoles
Science & Technology
- Virtual Earth-Space Telescope Reveals New Details About the Milky Way
Also in News
- Karnataka gets its first skin bank
Polity & Governance
SC upholds rules to support Good Samaritans
The Supreme Court has upheld a Central notification issuing standard operating procedure (SOP) for the protection and examination of ‘Good Samaritans’ — those who help road accident victims — and make it binding on all State governments and authorities.
- The court has endorsed the January 21, 2016 notification issued by the Transport Ministry as a positive signal for a concerted effort to change the public’s attitude of turning away from helping a road accident victim reach critical medical care.
- The court said wide publicity should be given by the Centre and the States about the guidelines.
About Standard Operating Procedure (SOP):
- The SOP was framed by the government on the orders passed by the Supreme Court on a PIL plea filed by NGO SaveLIFE Foundation in 2012, highlighting the fact that more lives of accident victims can be saved if a law can be made to protect Good Samaritans from legal and procedural hassles at the hands of police and hospitals.
- Following this, the Centre issued a series of guidelines on May 12, 2015, to protect Good Samaritans. These included assuring them anonymity and protecting them from any civil or criminal liability for taking the victim to the nearest hospital. The government had also indicated that an SOP should be further evolved in this regard.
- In the January 16 notification, the government highlighted that bystanders or passers-by, who chose to help a person in distress on the road, should be “treated respectfully and without discrimination on the grounds of gender, religion, nationality, caste or any other.”
- Other SOPs include complete anonymity in case the Good Samaritan does not want to reveal his name or details, use of video-conferencing in case of any further interaction with him by the authorities and provision for the police to examine him at his residence or office or any place of his convenience. This should be done only once and in a time-bound manner.
No law prevents women from entering temples: HC
The Bombay High Court has come out in favour of women’s right to worship. The court has observed that there is no law that can prevent women from entering a place of worship.
- These observations by the court were made during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition challenging the prohibition of entry of women in the Shani Shingnapur Temple in Maharashtra.
- The petition seeks the entry of women not just into the temple, but also inside its sanctum sanctorum.
- The petition says that the prohibition is arbitrary, illegal and in violation of fundamental rights of citizens.
High Court’s important observations:
- The High Court has remarked that under the Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act, 1956, if any temple or person prohibits any person from entering a temple then he or she faces a six-month imprisonment.
- If a male can go and pray before the deity, then why not women?
- It is the state government’s duty to protect the rights of women and the government should give wide publicity to the Act and issue circulars, informing the general public at large about the Act and its provisions.
Centre to promulgate ordinance on Enemy Property Bill
The Union Cabinet has recommended repromulgating an Ordinance to amend the nearly 50-year-old Enemy Property Act to guard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China after the wars.
Why repromulgate ordinance?
- Enemy Property Ordinance was ratified by the Lok Sabha in January 2016 and when it went to Rajya Sabha, it was referred to a Select Committee. The duration of this Ordinance is going to expire in the first week of April 2016.
- Hence, union cabinet has decided to repromulgate the ordinance till the receipt of the report of the Select Committee.
An ordinance lapses if it is not replaced by an Act of Parliament within six weeks or 42 days of the beginning of a Parliament session.
What are Enemy properties?
- In the wake of the Indo-Pak war of 1965 and 1971, there was migration of people from India to Pakistan.
- Under the Defence of India Rules framed under the Defence of India Act, the Government of India took over the properties and companies of such persons who had taken Pakistani nationality.
- These enemy properties were vested by the Union Government in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India.
After the 1965 war, India and Pakistan signed the Tashkent Declaration on 10 January 1966.
The Tashkent Declaration inter alia included a clause, which said that the two countries would discuss the return of the property and assets taken over by either side in connection with the conflict.
However, the Government of Pakistan disposed of all such properties in their country in the year 1971 itself.
Enemy Properties Bill:
Enemy Properties Bill includes amendments to plug the loopholes of the Enemy Property Act, 1968.
The amendments include:
- Once an enemy property is vested in the Custodian, it shall continue to be vested in him as enemy property irrespective of whether the enemy, enemy subject or enemy firm has ceased to be an enemy due to reasons such as death and others.
- The law of succession does not apply to enemy property. There cannot be transfer of any property vested in the Custodian by an enemy or enemy subject or enemy firm and that the Custodian shall preserve the enemy property till it is disposed of in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
- A new section has been inserted in the Bill to say that “the Custodian, may, after making such inquiry as he deems necessary, by order, declare that the property of the enemy or the enemy subject or the enemy firm described in the order, vests in him under this Act and issue a certificate to this effect and such certificate shall be the evidence of the facts stated therein”.
The Enemy Property Act was enacted in the year 1968. It provided for the continuous vesting of enemy property in the custodian. The Union Government through the Custodian of Enemy Property for India is in possession of enemy properties spread across many states in the country.
- To ensure that the enemy property continues to vest in the Custodian, appropriate amendments were brought in by way of an Ordinance in the Enemy Property Act, 1968 by the then Government in 2010.
- However, the ordinance lapsed on 6 September 2010. Later on 22 July 2010, it was introduced in Lok Sabha in form of a Bill but was withdrawn and another bill with modified provisions was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 15 November, 2010. This bill was thereafter referred to the Standing Committee. However, the said bill could not be passed during the 15th term of the Lok Sabha and it lapsed.
Norms for clinical trials eased
With the aim to speed up innovation and research in India, the Health Ministry has amended the Drug and Cosmetics Act, exempting clinical trials conducted at academic institutions from taking the hitherto mandatory permission from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI).
- The latest amendment to the Drug and Cosmetics Act follows recommendations by the Professor Ranjit Roy Choudhury Committee, which had suggested that academic research should be approved by the Institutional Ethics Committees.
- The once booming clinical trials in India came under the Supreme Court scrutiny in 2013, after at least 370 deaths were attributed to Serious Adverse Events (SEAs) during such trials.
- In 2013, the Supreme Court banned trials after a public interest litigation petition brought to light that trials conducted in various parts of the country had violated patient rights as informed consent was not taken, and the patients subjected to clinical trials included newborns, children, pregnant women and mentally challenged persons.
- The apex court also ruled that no new clinical trials be permitted until the regulatory mechanism was reformed.
According to Public health experts,
- The move is a setback for those working towards a safer, more transparent clinical trials regime.
- With the latest amendment chances of misuse are also higher. The only defence for this decision can be that this is academic, not commercial, research.
Budget sets priorities for government spending
Budget 2016-17 has introduced a new classification system for the Centre’s spending.
- The new system divides Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) into three categories:
- Core of the Core
- Optional Schemes
- The new system has accorded the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme the highest priority by deeming it ‘Core of the Core’.
- This system has been put in place as a run-up to the next financial year, when the Plan/Non-Plan distinction in government expenditure will be done away with.
- As per the new system, the Core of the Core schemes will retain their expenditure allocation framework. For example, MGNREGA had 75 per cent of the material expenditure from the Centre and 25 per cent from the states.
- The Core schemes will have a 60:40 formula, while the Optional schemes will have a 50:50 formula, with the states having the flexibility to decide whether to invest in these or not.
- Under the new classification, eight schemes will be classified as Core of the Core. including MGNREGA and all the umbrella schemes for the upliftment of minorities, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes.
- The Core schemes, 33 in number, include schemes as far-ranging as the Krishi Unnati Yojana, the Smart Cities programme, and the modernisation of the police force.
- This system is based on the recommendations of a sub-committee of chief ministers formed by Niti Aayog for the rationalisation of the CSS.
- The exercise, to rationalise Plan and Non-Plan schemes of all Ministries and Departments, was undertaken by the committee for effective outcome based monitoring of implementation of the programmes and schemes and to ensure optimum utilisation of resources.
- According to some experts, it is a good move. The classification is trying to segregate the schemes by importance. The state governments were earlier taking their own decisions regarding many of these schemes. Now the Centre has said that some are important schemes and the states can take their own decisions regarding the others.
- While some others viewed that it is meaningless to have 30-odd specific-purpose transfers (where central funds are transferred for a specific use) without any standard of outcomes. Also, the new system does not address this issue of linking expenditure to outcomes, it simply re-classifies the expenditure.
‘Market access for India’s services key to BTIA’: Commerce Minister
Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharman recently said that obtaining greater access to the market for services in the European Union (EU) is key for the progress of the Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) between the EU and India.
- India and EU are hoping to make progress on the trade deal during the 13th EU India Summit in Brussels.
Data Secure Status:
- India has not been granted data securestatus by the EU, and this has mainly hampered the progress of negotiations around the liberalisation of trade in services in the BTIA talks.
- Being considered ‘data secure’ is crucial for a number of services especially in the IT and ITES sectors.
On various issues with U.S.:
- Regarding higher fees for temporary United States work visas, Commerce Minister said that India was not happy with higher fees for temporary United States work visas (H-1B and L-1 caterogies). India initiated a dispute with the U.S at the WTO on this issue on March 3.
- She also said that this is against an increasingly disputatious background between India and the U.S. in the WTO with the trade body recently ruling in favour of the US in a case involving domestic component requirements in India’s solar panel program.
India is also considering filing a counter complaint with the WTO on similar practices in the U.S.
- The summit will also provide an opportunity for leaders to raise more sensitive bilateral issues such as the ongoing international arbitration under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in regard to the case of two Italian marines, as well as the case of fourteen Estonian and six U.K. Guards sentenced to prison by an Indian court.
CAMM, joint declaration on terror:
- A Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM), addressing regular and irregular migration as well as trafficking, as well as a joint declaration on terrorism are expected to be adopted during Mr. Modi’s visit.
- The counter-terrorism declaration was already on the cards prior to the March 22 terror attack in Brussels, but has come into sharp focus since then.
- In addition to the BTIA, the leaders are expected to endorse an EU-India Agenda for Action 2020 which will set strategic priorities for the next five years.
- Several of the expected joint declarations specifically address pet projects of the Modi government including the ‘Indo-EU Water Partnership’ regarding the Indian government’s ‘Clean Ganga’ and ‘Clean India’ projects and a declaration on 5G spectrum networks which speaks to the Indian government’s ‘Digital India’ scheme as well as the EU’s ‘Digital Single Market.’
- There will also be a declaration on clean energy and climate, which will form the basis of implementing a dialogue on climate and renewable energy between India and the EU following the Paris COP21 meetings of last year.
About Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA):
- On 28th June 2007, India and the EU began negotiations on a broad-based Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) in Brussels, Belgium.
- These negotiations are pursuant to the commitment made by political leaders at the 7th India-EU Summit held in Helsinki in October 2006 to move towards negotiations for a broad-based trade and investment agreement on the basis of the report of India-EU High Level Technical Group.
- India and the EU expect to promote bilateral trade by removing barriers to trade in goods and services and investment across all sectors of the economy. Both parties believe that a comprehensive and ambitious agreement that is consistent with WTO rules and principles would open new markets and would expand opportunities for Indian and EU businesses.
- The negotiations cover Trade in Goods, Trade in Services, Investment, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, Technical Barriers to Trade, Trade Remedies, Rules of Origin, Customs and Trade Facilitation, Competition, Trade Defence, Government Procurement, Dispute Settlement, Intellectual Property Rights & Geographical Indications, Sustainable Development.
So far, 15 rounds of negotiations have been held alternately at Brussels and New Delhi.
Environment & Ecology
Researchers have discovered a sand-eating tadpole that lives fully in total darkness until it fully develops into a young frog.
- The discovery was made in Western Ghats.
- These frogs belong to the Indian Dancing Frog family, Micrixalidae. They get that name from their habit of waving their legs as a sign of territorial and sexual display while sitting on boulders in streams.
- The purple tadpoles were discovered from the deep recesses of streambeds in the Western Ghats and they possess muscular eel-like bodies and skin-covered eyes, which helps them to burrow through gravel beds.
- Though they lack teeth, they have serrated jaw sheaths, to possibly prevent large sand grains from entering the mouth while feeding and moving through sand.
- Unlike most tadpoles that swim early on, the Micrixalidae tadpoles hang onto underwater rocks with their powerful suckering mouths. When their arms grow strong enough they dig underground, where they live most of their lives, only to emerge in forest streams to reproduce.
- Other unusual features of the tadpoles were ribs and whitish globular sacs storing calcium carbonate, known as “lime sacs”. Only four families of frogs are reported to have ribs, but the latest discovery shows that at least some of Micrixalidae also have ribs, even as tadpoles; this adaptation may provide for greater muscle attachment, helping them wriggle through sand.
Science & Technology
Virtual Earth-Space Telescope Reveals New Details About the Milky Way
Scientists have created a virtual Earth-space telescope system with the highest resolution of any astronomical observation ever made.
About the telescope:
- Researchers combined the Russian RadioAstron satellite with the ground-based telescopes to produce a virtual radio telescope more than 160,934 kilometres across.
- The RadioAstron satellite was combined with
- The Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia,
- The Very Large Array in New Mexico,
- The Effelsberg Telescope in Germany, and
- The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
Discovery of Quasars:
With this telescope, scientists have unveiled an unusually hot quasar jet in the Milky Way.
- Scientists have pointed out these quasar jets at a quasar called 3C 273, more than 2 billion light-years from Earth.
- Quasars like 3C 273 propel huge jets of material outward at speeds nearly that of light. These powerful jets emit radio waves. The emission was about 100 billion degrees.
- The observations also showed, for the first time, substructure caused by scattering of the radio waves by the tenuous interstellar material in our own Milky Way Galaxy.
What are Quasars?
- Quasars are supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies. Quasars, also called quasi-stellar radio sources, are the most energetic and distant members of a class of objects called active galactic nuclei (AGN).
- Their spectra contain very broad emission lines, unlike any known from stars, hence the name “quasi-stellar.” Their luminosity can be 100 times greater than that of the Milky Way.
- Quasars also emit visible light, ultraviolet rays, infrared waves, X-rays, and gamma-rays.
Also in News
Karnataka gets its first skin bank
Karnataka recently got its first skin bank, the sixth in the country. It was inaugurated at the State-run Victoria Hospital.
- The skin bank may help save the lives of countless burn victims, as harvested skin is the best form of “biological dressing” available today.
- Although artificial skin is available, it is prohibitively expensive. The government has agreed to fund all skin grafts done at the skin bank. A nominal charge may be executed.
Working of the skin bank:
- Like any other organ donation, skin donation needs to be pledged by a living person or needs to be offered for donation by the family soon after death.
- The skin is harvested within 6 hours of death either at hospital or home. The harvesting is done from hidden areas such as the back and the thigh with no bleeding or deformity to the body. The skin donation does not hamper the rituals of last rites.
- The process is fairly simple and takes less than 45 minutes. The donor could be anyone above 16 years of age.
- The donor should not have skin disease or skin cancer and should be negative for HIV and Hepatitis C.
- No blood group matching is required.
- The harvested skin is processed and stored as per international protocol in the skin bank ready for dispensing and safe use in burns care as the best biological dressing. This dressing not only saves the life but also relieves the pain, reduces infection increasing chances of survival significantly, especially when the burn area exceeds 40%.
[Ref: Hindu; ToI]