10, September 2016

Indian defense deal under scanner in Brazil, U.S.

Source: The Hindu

A new case of corruption in defense deals involving India has surfaced in Brazil, the issue is being investigated by the authorities in Brazil and the United States.

Brazilian aircraft major Embraer is alleged to have resorted to bribes and used middlemen to secure contracts in India and Saudi Arabia. In India’s case, the payoff was done to a United Kingdom-based middleman in the deal for three Embraer aircraft ordered by the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for building indigenous Airborne Early-Warning and Control Systems (AEW&C) aircraft for the Indian Air Force.

$208-million deal in 2008

India had signed a $208-million deal in 2008 for procuring three Emb-145 aircraft. The planes were delivered beginning 2011 and the project is now nearing completion after a series of delays.

This is the second major defense deal under the scanner after the VVIP chopper case involving Augusta Westland and both the deals were signed by the previous government.

Indian defense procurement prohibits the employment of middlemen in defense deals.

Enforce curbs for Eid, says Centre

Source: The Hindu

The Centre has asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to impose restrictions on the movement of people on Eid-ul-Azha (Bakrid) on September 13 after the separatists called a protest march to the United Nations office in Srinagar that day.

Section 144 in the Indian Penal Code

Joining unlawful assembly armed with deadly weapon.—Whoev­er, being armed with any deadly weapon, or with anything which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, is a member of an unlawful assembly, shall be punished with imprison­ment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Stocktaking in the dengue war

Source: The Hindu

This year, Kerala has recorded 4,060 dengue cases, the highest in the country. With a situation at hand in a State like Kerala, which has been acclaimed for having a well-coordinated and effective health-care system, highest life-expectancy, pride in personal hygiene and, above all, a near-universal literacy; it may as well be said that vector control in isolation is not enough to curb the growing incidence of dengue.

In recent decades, dengue is being reported in explosive proportions globally, bringing with it a substantial socioeconomic impact on individuals and society. The truth is that no drugs are available to treat dengue. Mortality from dengue still prevails in developing countries, forming a formidable threat to public health.

India has reported an annual average of 20,474 dengue cases (2006-12). However, it surged to 40,571 with 137 deaths in 2014. Last year, there were 100,000 cases and 220 deaths. Today, urban hubs like the national capital New Delhi, and State capitals like Kolkata and Bengaluru are struggling to fight the endemic form of dengue.

Significance of Vector control

Among the interventions for dengue prevention, vector control takes center stage. However, community-level implementation of small interventions to prevent water accumulation in coolers, manhole lids, tyres and water tanks along with general cleanliness particularly in the urban areas are far from optimal. It is also observed that dengue mosquitoes are found inside homes; hence impregnating indoor curtains with insecticides such as Pyrethroid has proved efficacious.

A comprehensive strategy is deemed necessary due to absence of a specific antiviral therapy for treatment of dengue. Solitary vector control is unable to yield a satisfactory reduction in viral transmission, therefore, these make the implementation of a safe, efficacious and cost-effective dengue vaccine remains a high public health priority.

Vaccine Development

In the past decade, substantial progress has been made towards developing an effective dengue vaccine, which one candidate completing all stage of development. The vaccine by Sanofi Pasteur has been licensed after Phase III trials and approved by some national regulatory authorities. It has been introduced in Philippines and a few other endemic countries. The results are expected soon and keenly awaited. This candidate vaccine has also been recommended by SAGE, a WHO body which looks at various vaccines for infectious diseases. The vaccine against dengue at the moment can be used only for those between 9 – 45 years of age.

Similarly, the NIH vaccine made in Brazil by Butantan has been successfully tested in Brazil. Parallel evaluation is under way in Brazil and Mexico. Two Indian companies, the Serum Institute of India and Panacea Biotech, are also developing this vaccine. The Takeda vaccine has a promising design and undergone trials in Singapore and currently in the Phase III evaluation.

Despite these promising efforts, a more comprehensive approach towards effective vaccine introduction, vector control techniques, robust and accurate surveillance, modelling studies, and heat maps of global data and release of sterile mosquitoes need to be seriously taken into consideration.

Now, ISRO eyes missions to Venus

Source: The Hindu

The ISRO is considering over missions to Venus or an asteroid and is under discussions for these, apart from a second mission to Mars, ISRO Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said.

ISRO has also planned a number of launches in the coming years including the Chandrayaan-2 and a joint mission with NASA. ISRO has plans to launch at least two GSLV Mark II missions every year.

Review of National Rural Drinking Water Programme held in Capital

Source: PIB

Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation organized the ‘National Review Meeting of National Rural Drinking Water Programme’ with respect to water quality, sustainability, and rural water supply.

It was observed, during the review, that effective measures are required to ensure sustainable supply of contaminant-free drinking water in India in the short term, medium term and long term.

Brainstorming sessions were organized at the review to strengthen monitoring and plan for piped water supply under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) and for ODF-verified villages, as well as the progress of Solar Dual Pump schemes.

Experts also emphasized the importance of water quality and the need to eliminate contaminants like Fluoride and Arsenic which cause adverse effects on public health. It was announced that a National Sub-Mission to address Fluoride and Arsenic-affected habitations with additional Central funding is being considered and the guidelines for its implementation are being developed in consultation with NITI Aayog and the States.

Experts particularly highlighted the need to strengthen monitoring, evaluation and start geotagging of water sources for ensuring sustainability and addressing real time issues.

About National Rural Drinking Water Programme:

The aim and objective of National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) is to provide every rural person with adequate safe water for drinking, cooking and other basic domestic needs on a sustainable basis, with a minimum water quality standard, which should be conveniently accessible at all times and in all situations. Achieving this aim and objective is a continuous process.

Under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme NRDWP, various mechanisms have been put in place to monitor the activities at different levels. The State Governments are required to prepare and discuss with the Central Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, an Annual Action Plan to implement various components and activities of the NRDWP.

The deficiencies which have been noticed in the implementation of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) in some States include the non-achievement of annual targets of coverage of rural habitations, especially quality affected habitations, and the inadequate utilization of central funds in time resulting in high unspent balances.

The reasons for some States being unable to spend the available funds under NRDWP fully and in time include delays in procurement processes, taking up multi-village schemes that require 2-3 years for completion thus delaying expenditure, delays in preparatory activities, long time taken for completion of legal formalities including obtaining various clearances, delayed release of funds to implementing authorities etc.

Commissioning of Offshore Patrol Vessel ICGS ‘sarathi’

Source: PIB, the Hindu

The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has commissioned well-equipped offshore patrolling (OPV) vessel named ‘Sarathi’. It was commissioned by Union Home Minister and Union Defence Minister at Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) shipyard at Vasco in south Goa.

Facts:

Indian Coast Guard Ship ‘Sarathi’, third ship in the series of six Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV), built by GSL for Indian Coast Guard (ICG). It is designed and built indigenously by GSL.

‘Sarathi’ meaning charioteer is a projection of Indian Coast Guard’s will and commitment ‘To serve and protect’ the maritime interest of the nation.

The ship draws 2500 tons (GRT) propelled by two 9100 KW diesel engines to attain a maximum speed of 26 knots and have an endurance of 6500 NM at economical speed.

The sustenance and reach coupled with the latest and modern equipment and systems, provides her the capability to perform the role of a command platform and accomplish all Coast Guard charter of duties.

Significance:

 The commissioning of ICGS ‘Sarathi’ will enhance the Indian Coast Guard’s operational capability to discharge the multifarious maritime tasks. With the increased threat from sea borne terrorism, the induction of a sophisticated and state-of-the-art OPV will give a fillip to the maritime security of our vast coastline and in particular the maritime State of Kerala and island territories of Lakshadweep and Minicoy.

Mariyappan Thangavelu wins India’s first Gold medal at 2016 Rio Paralympic Games

Source: The Hindu, Indian Express

Mariyappan Thangavelu became the first Indian to win a gold medal in the T 42 high jump event of the Paralympic games in Rio de Janiero. Thangavelu’s medal was joined by a bronze medal won in the same event by Varun Singh Bhati that brought India’s overall medal tally in Rio to two.

Thangavelu and Bhati’s achievment comes on day two of the Rio Paralympics in the T42 high jump event. The T42 is a disability classifications for sports events in which athletes have single above the knee amputations or comparable disability.

Thangavelu’s gold medal was followed by USA’s Sam Grewe and the bronze medal went to Varun Singh Bhati, both of whom jumped 1.86 metres. India’s had a third medal prospect in Sharad Kumar. Kumar was leading the pack at one point after clearing hurdles of 1.55m and 1.60m but he could only register a best of 1.77m, which brought him a sixth place finish.

Haryana bagged Best Horticulture State award

Source: Jagran Josh

Haryana has bagged ‘Best Horticulture State’ award for the concerted efforts made by the state government to increase the income of the farmers in horticulture.

The award was received by Haryana Agriculture Minister OP Dhankar on 9 September 2016 at two-day 9th Agricultural Leadership Summit 2016. The summit was organized by Indian Council of Food and Agriculture (ICFA) in New Delhi.

Horticulture in Haryana

At present, about 2.5 lakh hectares of land of the state is under horticulture and a target has been set to increase it up to nine lakh hectares. For this purpose, the state has decided to set a Horticulture University in the state.

It also decided to set up centers of excellence in horticulture in every district of the state and create 340 horticulture villages in the state.

In addition, it would also set biggest Horticulture Mandi of the country at Ganaur on the pattern of Rungis Mandi of France and Shenzhen Mandi of China.

Besides, the 2016 best agriculture state award went to Odisha. It was awarded with the award in recognition of the efforts towards development of agriculture and bringing rural prosperity.

CBDT launches ‘e-nivaran’ facility to resolve income tax grievances

Source: Economic Times

CBDT has launched the ambitious ‘e-nivaran‘ facility for online redressal of taxpayers’ grievances related to refunds, ITRs and PAN among others as part of its initiative to reduce instances of harassment of the public when it comes to complaints related to the I-T Department.

The ‘e-nivaran’ module will work on the lines of the internet-based Income Tax Returns (ITRs) filing system and taxpayers can register all complaints related to delay in refunds, filing of e-returns, Tax Deducted at Source (TDS), PAN issues, and those pertaining to their Assessing Officer (AO).

Significance:

The new system will ensure, like e-filing, that the taxpayer gets his grievance redressed by just using an internet-enabled computer and does not require them to travel to a tax office. The ‘e-nivaran’ has been now connected to all electronic databases and the modern business application software platform of the department to ensure quick resolution,

RBI cancels registration certificate of 5 NBFCs

Source: Economic Times

The Reserve Bank have cancelled registration certificates of five non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) while two surrendered their certificate to the central bank.

The seven entities, RBI said, “cannot transact the business of a non-banking financial institution“.

The entities whose certificates were cancelled are Simco Consultants, Lunkad Securities, Rajvir Marketing and Investment, Crystal Investments, and Shri Jaya Investments Agency.

The NBFCs which surrendered the certificate are Texas Resources and Vivek Vyapar. The registration certificates of the two Kolkatta based entities stands cancelled.

SC to lay down law on LG’s power

Source: The Hindu

Issue: Tussle over Delhi NCT administration between Delhi Government and Centre. The Supreme Court has agreed to lay down the law on whether the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi can unilaterally administer the National Capital without being bound by the “aid and advice” of the elected government.

The stand-off, especially over control of key bureaucratic appointments, was sparked by Mr. Jung’s appointment of IAS officer Ms Shakuntala Gamlin as acting Chief Secretary. This was opposed by Mr. Kejriwal on grounds that it fell beyond the scope of the Lieutenant Governor’s powers to do so without the aid and advice of the Ministers.

Background: SC issued notice to the Union on a batch of seven petitions filed by the Delhi government challenging the Delhi High Court’s August 4 judgment.

The HC had upheld the LG’s power not only over the police, land and public order but also in “services”. The judgment had effectively shrunk the Kejriwal Cabinet’s girth.

The Bench however, refused to stay the HC judgment as the verdict “affects all future governments and all future relationships between the Centre and the State”.

LG unqualified’

The Delhi government dismissed Delhi’s LG as “unqualified” to administer the National Capital, a mere “employee of the Centre” and the latter half of a “master-servant relationship”.

The relevant laws

The laws relevant to understanding the relation between the Lieutenant Governor and the Chief Minister in Delhi are Article 239AA of the Constitution, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 (GNCT Act), the rules formulated under this Act (Transaction of Business Rules), and the relevant judicial pronouncements. It needs to be said that the precise contours of the sharing of powers between the Lieutenant Governor and the Delhi government are a grey area. Yet, a reasonable case may be made to suggest that the Lieutenant Governor’s discretionary powers do not extend to the appointment of the Chief Secretary without the “aid and advice” of the Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers. Further, it will be argued that the Home Ministry notification may not stand the test of constitutionality, being ultra vires of Article 239AA of the Constitution.

As far as States are concerned, the Chief Secretary is appointed by the Chief Minister and the Ministers. The reasoning for this can be found in these landmark Supreme Court judgments.

E.P. Royappa (1974) states that “The post of Chief Secretary is a highly sensitive post… [Chief Secretary is a] lynchpin in the administration and smooth functioning of the administration requires that there should be complete rapport and understanding between the Chief Secretary and the Chief Minister.

Salil Sabhlok (2013) says: “it may be necessary for [the] Chief Minister of a State to appoint a ‘suitable’ person as a Chief Secretary or the Director General of Police…because both the State Government or the Chief Minister and the appointee share a similar vision of the administrative goals and requirements of the State.

The underlying premise also is that the State Government or the Chief Minister has confidence that the appointee will deliver the goods, as it were, and both are administratively quite compatible with each other. If there is a loss of confidence or the compatibility comes to an end…” These precedents clarify the rationale that the Chief Minister ought to have the discretion to appoint Chief Secretaries in the interest of a smooth functioning representative government.

Declining water yield in Cauvery basin a cause for concern, say scientists

Source: The New Indian Express

Cauvery River is in crisis. It is not just about the ongoing water dispute among two states — Karnataka and Tamil Nadu — but also about the state of the Cauvery catchment area and a decline in water yield, says a report by the researchers of Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

Water yield in the Cauvery river basin is coming down every year, faster than the rate of declining rainfall in the region. Scientists are now suggesting the authorities concerned to find out an ecological solution for the conflict, as catchment destruction and decreasing rainfall does not seem to be helping Karnataka.

Reasons:

Change in land use in the catchment area has its own adverse effects. This has been proved in cases of Malaprabha (deforestation in Khanapur forests), Sharavathi (deforestation in Shivamogga and surrounding areas) and Cauvery River (deforestation in Kodagu district)

The water availability in a catchment depends upon the integrity of the land use and meteorological parameters. The land use in the catchment plays an important role in maintaining the water flow into the rivers or streams. A number of perennial streams, which fed Cauvery, are drying due to increase in agricultural activities in the shola forests of Ghats in Kodagu district. Both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu must come forward to reverse the damage.



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