November 14, 2013
Union Govt. rejects CBI’s demands
- The Centre has rejected the CBI’s demand for complete functional autonomy and vesting its Director with the powers of a government Secretary.
- The CBI had said its Director should report ‘directly’ to the Minister concerned as the agency faced hurdles at every stage of its administrative functioning.
- The Director should also have the powers to appoint special counsel/retainer for the agency.
Union Govt’s argument:
- But according to the Centre the non-statutory changes in the administrative arrangement sought by the CBI would be detrimental to the criminal justice system.
- On the CBI’s argument that the changes would ensure functional efficacy and insulate investigation from outside interference, the Centre has said that, these objectives could be achieved without disturbing the present statutory scheme of government, with necessary checks and balances established at several levels.
- If the CBI Director reports directly to the Minister, the superintendence of the Minister would stand compromised and an independent layer of scrutiny would no longer be available. This would go against not only the legislative intent of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DPSE) but also the democratic constitutional principle that the police or investigating agencies function under the administrative supervision of the executive.
- According to the Centre, while considering the demands of a subordinate office like the CBI, the issue of parity with similarly placed organizations also needs to be considered as this would set a bad precedent.
- Though the three police officers — the Secretary, RAW; the Secretary, Intelligence Services, and the Secretary, Security were all vested with the powers of a government Secretary, the Centre has said that, the functional requirements of these agencies could not be compared with those of the CBI.
- However, the files of these Secretaries were routed only through the Cabinet Secretary and not directly to the Minister concerned.
- One of the consequences of vesting the CBI Director with the ex-officio powers of a Secretary would be that he/she would be in a position to put up candidates for public prosecutors/assistant public prosecutors, and this would mean dilution of the principle of separation between the prosecuting and investigating agencies. This would seriously jeopardise the scheme of checks and balances envisaged in governance and have a detrimental to the criminal justice system.
Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry forms over-arching body
- The HRD Ministry has now set up an over-arching body though an administrative order, following lack of consensus to create a single regulator through an Act of Parliament for all streams of higher education.
- The mandate of the Higher Education Apex Coordination Committee (HEACC) would be to resolve issues arising out of “varying and sometimes conflicting regulatory provisions” mandated by regulatory bodies and professional councils that have been set up to maintain standards in specialised areas.
- The HEACC will not be similar to the National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), which was envisaged as a super-regulator by dismantling the University Grants Commission (UGC) or the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) or the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE). It will not impinge on the authority or functioning of statutory regulatory bodies or professional councils.
- The six-member body will be headed by the HRD Minister and will include the UGC and the AICTE chairpersons, besides the president of the Council of Architecture. It will be serviced by the UGC and will meet once every three months.
- From the above mandate it can be seen that the HEACC is a diluted version of the NCHER, it borrows heavily from the Statement of Objects and Reasons of The Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011. The Bill was introduced in Parliament and referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which raised questions about some of its provisions, especially the States’ concerns at their autonomy and jurisdiction in higher education and the practicality of an over-centralised body.
- The Health Ministry had opposed the HRD Ministry’s bid to extend its mandate to health education and the Bar Council of India was concerned, as NCHER would have encroached on its control over legal education. Hence, the attempt to set up the super-regulator was given up earlier this year (2013).
- Since then, the HRD Ministry had been working on a coordination mechanism for the regulators within its purview.
India on alert against polio import
- In the wake of Polio outbreak in Syria, all States with international borders have been put on alert to reduce the risk of spread of poliovirus from neighbouring countries
- As many as 102 vaccination posts have been set up along the international borders – Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan borders.
- Meanwhile, the WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have begun the largest-ever, consolidated emergency immunisation response in the Middle East, aiming to vaccinate over 20 million children in seven countries and territories repeatedly. They are Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, Syria and Turkey.
- Preliminary evidence indicates that the poliovirus is of Pakistani origin and is similar to the strain detected in Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
- With the threat looming large, India has taken all possible measures are being taken to maintain immunity of children. The entire network is now geared to strengthening Routine Immunisation, which is the key to ensuring a polio-free India until the risk of the infectious viral disease is eliminated from the world.
How is the disease transmitted and its impact on children?
- Polio anywhere is a threat to unprotected children everywhere. The polio virus usually infects children in unsanitary conditions through faecal-oral transmission associated with close person-to-person contact and consumption of food and drink contaminated with faeces.
- It attacks the nerves and can kill or paralyse, spreading widely and unnoticed before it starts crippling children. For every one case of polio, 200 children can be infected. There is no cure for polio — it can only be prevented through immunization.
(To know more about Polio virus – refer our ‘October Insights Current Event Analysis magazine -2013’)
Article 371(D) under focus
- Apart from addressing the status of Hyderabad, there is another major issue – Article 371(D) – that needs to be resolved if the Centre is determined to proceed with the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh (AP).
- It divided the State into six zones, ensuring that the residents of each zone got certain benefits, privileges and safeguards.
- But post-bifurcation, residents cannot be deprived of these benefits without suitably amending Article 371 (D).
Article 371 (D):
- Article 371 (D) is a special provision for the State of AP, and its primary purpose was to promote speedy development of backward areas, balanced development and to provide equitable opportunities and facilities to people of all regions in the fields of education and public employment.
India scores a win in Warsaw on emission cuts affecting farmers
- India has ensured that the Climate talks focused on adapting agricultural practices to climate change and not on costly emission reduction measures that would impact farmers directly.
- India found wide-ranging support from other countries, including the entire G77+China bloc and United States (US).
- The developed countries, especially the European Union (EU), have for several years been keen on ensuring that climate negotiations focus on reducing emissions in the agricultural sector.
The developing countries argument:
- India, China and a large number of African countries have countered this by pointing out that emission reduction efforts in the agricultural sector would affect farmers, who constitute a large percentage of the population, and are often the poorest, in the developing world.
- They also argue that the effort to reduce emissions should be focused on fossil-fuel-based activities that are the main reason behind increased carbon dioxide emissions (the greatest contributor to global warming). As paddy fields and livestock are some of the biggest causes of emissions, emission reduction in the sector has major implications for India and China.
- The Indian delegation and other developing countries were taken by surprise on the first day of the Warsaw meet when the elected chairs of the talks announced that there was a plan to have a formal decision adopted on the agriculture sector by the end of the two weeks of negotiations.
- At the on-going Warsaw meet, it was announced that a formal decision of reducing emissions in the agriculture sector would be taken by the end of the meet, but many countries objected this, as it was never discussed before nor was it the agenda of the talks.
- Significant Indian intervention supported by many other countries ensured that the talks remained focused on adaptation and only a report on this specific matter is produced for the countries to discuss in future.
More about G77
- The Group of 77 (G-77) was established on 15 June 1964 by seventy-seven developing countries signatories of the “Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Countries” issued at the end of the first session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva.
- Beginning with the first “Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 in Algiers (Algeria) on 10 – 25 October 1967, which adopted the Charter of Algiers”, a permanent institutional structure gradually developed which led to the creation of Chapters of the Group of 77 with Liaison offices in Geneva (UNCTAD), Nairobi (UNEP), Paris (UNESCO), Rome (FAO/IFAD), Vienna (UNIDO), and the Group of 24 (G-24) in Washington, D.C. (IMF and World Bank). Although the members of the G-77 have increased to 133 countries (as on November,2013) the original name was retained due to its historic significance.
- The Group of 77 is the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries in the United Nations, which provides the means for the countries of the South to articulate and promote their collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major international economic issues within the United Nations system, and promote South-South cooperation for development.
Fiji holds the Chairmanship for 2013.
Courtesy – http://www.g77.org
England PM, David Cameron’s Indian visit to focus on trade
- During the England PM’s visit to India, the focus would be on trade expansion as well as bilateral and regional concerns. This would be his 3rd visit to India as PM.
Issues that would be discussed:
- Vodafone issue – Discussions on whether or not Vodafone owes $2 billion in taxes relating to its 2007 takeover of the Indian operations of Hutchison Whampoa.
- Immigration controls – Two recent amendments to the Immigration Bill would make it even more difficult for Indian students to study in the UK.The Conservative government’s unfriendly immigration policies are seen as the main reason for the fall this year by almost 10,000 overseas Indian students.
Maldives on CMAG agenda
- The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) — the disciplinary panel of Commonwealth has placed the Maldives on its formal agenda, implying its suspension from the panel.
- In such a situation, the membership is suspended for as long as a nation remains on the formal agenda.
- CMAG has observed that Ministers had expressed deep disappointment that the Maldives presidential election process had not concluded prior to the expiration of the President’s term in office on November 11, 2013.
- The Group noted that the breach of the November 11 constitutional deadline to inaugurate a President followed repeated delays to the electoral process. Emphasis was on the urgency of ensuring a swift conclusion to the electoral process and holding the second round on November 16 as scheduled, in a credible and peaceful manner.
Bar coding of tree species in Western and Eastern Ghats
- Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) bar coding is a new tool using a DNA bar code, a very short standardised DNA sequence in a well-known gene. (Trees are known as forest genetic resources).
What is the Purpose/Need for Bar-coding?
- It provides the way to identify the species to which a plant, animal or fungus belongs. It uses universal markers in conserved genomic regions. The bar coding projects have already generated reference bar codes for many species, such as animals, birds, butterflies and fishes. These species have been selected because they are of special interest to users, who need the ability to identify scientific, economic or social importance
- The projects would play a significant role in health management of trees by identifying pests and making it easier to control them. Bar code libraries were being constructed for hard wood trees with an objective to improve the management and conservation of these natural resources.
‘Research in India happens in a few elite institutions’- refer the below link
(This is as per the GS (syllabus)- III – ‘Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology)
Complexities in Policy-making
- In the era of LPG (liberalization, Privatisation, Globalisation) there are bound to exist complexities in policy making.
- Recently, the remarks made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram at a conference has brought in the question that- whether treating an administrative decision that goes wrong, as criminal misconduct would lead to policy paralysis?
- On these lines, the political leaders have cautioned authorities like CBI, CAG not to exceed their limits
- From this, one can understand that, the government is clearly uneasy with recent developments: the CBI had demanded for an independent status and also it wanted to scrutinize decisions such as those relating to allocation of coal blocks (a policy decision). Also there has been greater public and judicial support for granting it functional autonomy.
- If all that the government wants is – errors of judgment during decision-making, not be misconstrued by an investigating officer as a crime, then CBI’s operational freedom should be distinguished from the need for accountability and executive oversight. This would solve the problem.
- Moreover, there are safeguard mechanisms available within the administration to protect honest policy decisions and honest officials against annoying enquiries, which the government itself administers. For example, a prior sanction is needed before prosecution is launched against an official of rank Joint Secretary and above.
- However, there are instances where corrupt deals have taken place in the name of honest administrative decisions; while policies and norms apparently serving the public interest are on many occasions framed in such a way as to suit vested interests
- Hence, great caution is required while seeking amendments to provisions that currently criminalise actions that procure monetary advantage to any person without any public interest. The requirement would be to find a balance between- protecting honest civil servant who makes risky judgment calls and on the other punishing the dishonest taking decisions in the name of policy-making.