official language of high court
What to study?
For Prelims: What the constitution says? Who can change authorise the use of Hindi?
For Mains: Concerns associated and ways to address them.
Context: Lawyers have challenged in the Supreme Court a law which makes Hindi the official language in courts in Haryana.
What’s the issue?
The petition contends that the Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act of 2020 has unconstitutionally and arbitrarily imposed Hindi as the sole official language to be used in lower courts across the State.
What’s the concern?
- The lawyers have argued that English is widely used by advocates and the subordinate judiciary in lower courts in justice administration work.
- The imposition of Hindi as the sole language would result in an unreasonable classification between lawyers who are fluent in Hindi and those who are not.
- They say the amendment was a violation of the fundamental right to equality, freedom to practice a profession of choice, dignity and livelihood.
What the Constitution says?
Article 348 (1) of the Constitution of India provides that all proceedings in the Supreme Court and in every High court shall be in English Language until Parliament by law otherwise provides.
- Under Article 348 (2), the Governor of the State may, with the previous consent of the President, authorize the use of the Hindi language or any other language used for any official purpose of the State, in the proceedings of the High Court having its principal seat in that State provided that decrees, judgments or orders passed by such High Courts shall be in English.
Section 7 of the Official Languages Act, 1963, provides that the use of Hindi or official language of a State in addition to the English language may be authorized, with the consent of the President of India, by the Governor of the State for purpose of judgments etc. made by the High Court for that State.
The provision of optional use of Hindi in proceedings has already been made in the High Courts of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.
- Which states in India have the provision of optional use of Hindi in Court proceedings?
- What is Eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution.
- What is Article 348 related to?
- Governors’ powers to authorise the use of Hindu in High Court proceedings.
- Who can add or remove languages from 8th schedule?
Why lawyers in Haryana have opposed the state government’s move to impose Hindi as the official language in courts in Haryana? Discuss.
Sources: the Hindu.
PM CARE FUND
What to study?
For Prelims: Features of PM CARES fund, about RTI, what is a public authority?
For Mains: Implications of this verdict, need for reconsideration and concerns associated.
Context: Stating that PM CARES FUNDS is not a ‘public authority’ under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, the Prime Minister’s Office(PMO) has refused to divulge information sought in an application filed under the RTI Act.
What is ‘public authority’ under RTI?
As per Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, “public authority” is means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted:
- by or under the Constitution;
- by any other law made by Parliament;
- by any other law made by State Legislature;
- by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government.
The definition of ‘public authority’ also includes bodies owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government and non-governmental organizations substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.
Implications of this move:
- For a trust which is created and run by 4 cabinet ministers in their ex-officio capacities, denying the status of ‘public authority’ is a big blow to transparency and not to mention our democratic values.
- The name, composition of the trust, control, usage of emblem, government domain name everything signifies that it is a public authority. By simply ruling that it’s not a public authority and denying the application of RTI Act, the Government has constructed walls of secrecy around it.
What is PM CARES fund?
The PM CARES Fund was created on 28 March 2020, “with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic”.
It is a “public charitable trust”.
Who administers the fund?
Prime Minister is the ex-officio Chairman of the PM CARES Fund and Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance, Government of India are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund.
Why it should be monitored?
Reports suggest that PM CARES has already received contributions in excess of Rs. 10,000 crores. It amassed a staggering Rs. 6,500 crores in its very first week with donations from large corporate houses and celebrities.
What’s government‘s argument?
The argument against conferring PM CARES the status of a “public account” seems to be that it is a fund based on voluntary contributions of individuals and organisations, and as such, beyond the full-fledged scrutiny of the CAG.
Need of the hour:
The very purpose of having a separate public account of India under Article 266(2), as against the Consolidated Fund of India [Article 266(1)] and the Contingency Fund of India (Article 267), is to cover receipts that do not fall in either of these two funds.
Similarly, since PM CARES conforms to being a “public account” and as vast sums of money have been collected manifestly at the behest of the government of India, allowing the CAG to audit it will be a step in the direction of transparency and instil public confidence in the Fund.
What the Constitution of India says?
Under Article 266(2) of the Constitution, “public moneys received by or on behalf of the Government of India”, which is not on account of revenue from taxes, duties, repayment of loans and the like should be credited to the Public Account of India.
- Articles 266 vs 267.
- What is a public account?
- Who administers PM CARES fund?
- Which organisations are exempted from the ambit of RTI act?
- What is Consolidated fund of India?
Discuss why PM CARES fund should be brought within the ambit of RTI act?
Sources: the Hindu.
23 ADDITIONAL ITME ADDED TO MSP
What to study?
For Prelims: What is MSP? MFP? Scheme related?
For Mains: Significance of the scheme and MFP for tribals.
Context: Ministry of Tribal Affairs has announced inclusion of 23 additional Minor Forest Produce (MFP) items in Minimum Support Price (MSP) list.
They include Van Tulsi seeds, Van Jeera, Mushroom, Black Rice and Johar Rice among others.
This enhances the coverage from 50 to 73 items. This comes in view of the COVID-19 pandemic so that much needed support could be provided to the tribal MFP gatherers.
What is this scheme all about?
The Union Cabinet, in 2013, approved a Centrally Sponsored Scheme for marketing of non-nationalized / non monopolized Minor Forest Produce (MFP) and development of a value chain for MFP through Minimum Support Price (MSP).
This was a measure towards social safety for MFP gatherers, who are primarily members of the Scheduled Tribes (STs) most of them in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas.
Objectives of the scheme:
- Ensure that the tribal population gets a remunerative price for the produce they collect from the forest and provide alternative employment avenues to them.
- Establish a system to ensure fair monetary returns for forest dweller’s efforts in collection, primary processing, storage, packaging, transportation etc, while ensuring sustainability of the resource base.
- Get them a share of revenue from the sales proceeds with costs deducted.
- The responsibility of purchasing MFP on MSP will be with State designated agencies.
- To ascertain market price, services of market correspondents would be availed by the designated agencies particularly for major markets trading in MFP.
- The scheme supports primary value addition as well as provides for supply chain infrastructure like cold storage, warehouses etc.
- The Ministry of Tribal Affairs will be the nodal Ministry for implementation and monitoring of the scheme. The Minimum Support Price would be determined by the Ministry with technical help of TRIFED.
What is MFP?
Section 2(i) of the Forest Rights Act defines a Minor Forest Produce (MFP) as all non-timber forest produce of plant origin and includes bamboo, brushwood, stumps, canes, cocoon, honey, waxes, Lac, tendu/kendu leaves, medicinal plants etc.
The definition of “minor forest produce” includes bamboo and cane, thereby changing the categorization of bamboo and cane as “trees” under the Indian Forest Act 1927.
- Who decides about Products to be covered under MFP?
- How many products are currently covered under MFP?
- Permission for collection of MFPs inside National Parks and other protected areas?
- Centrally sponsored vs Central Sector schemes.
- Who decides on MSP?
Recognition of tribal rights over non-timber forest products (NTFPs) would accelerate empowerment of the poor and marginalised. Comment.
What to study?
For Prelims: Locust attack, reasons, effects and economic impacts.
For Mains: How to contain and control?
Context: As India struggles to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, it faces a new challenge. Several parts of the country have experienced heavy infestations of locusts – an insect that devours crops and foliage, often leaving devastation in its wake.
It is said to be the worst attack in 26 years. The species attacking are desert locusts.
What is the attack all about? What are ‘desert locusts’?
Desert locusts (Schistocerca gregaria), which belong to the family of grasshoppers, normally live and breed in semi-arid or desert regions. For laying eggs, they require bare ground, which is rarely found in areas with dense vegetation.
How they form swarms?
As individuals, or in small isolated groups, locusts are not very dangerous. But when they grow into large populations their behaviour changes, they transform from ‘solitary phase’ into ‘gregarious phase’, and start forming ‘swarms’. A single swarm can contain 40 to 80 million adults in one square km, and these can travel up to 150 km a day.
Large-scale breeding happens only when conditions turn very favourable in their natural habitat, desert or semi-arid regions. Good rains can sometimes generate just enough green vegetation that is conducive to egg-laying as well as hopper development.
If left uncontrolled, a single swarm can increase 20 times of its original population in the first generation itself, and then multiply exponentially in subsequent generations.
What factors led to their sudden and early growth this year?
These locusts usually breed in the dry areas around Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea along the eastern coast of Africa, a region known as the Horn of Africa. Other breeding grounds are the adjoining Asian regions in Yemen, Oman, southern Iran, and in Pakistan’s Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
- Many of these areas received unusually good rains in March and April, and that resulted in large-scale breeding and hopper development. These locusts started arriving in Rajasthan around the first fortnight of April, much ahead of the normal July-October normal.
- Cyclonic storms Mekunu and Luban had struck Oman and Yemen respectively that year. Heavy rains had transformed uninhabited desert tracts into large lake where the locust swarms breed.
- Apart from the search for food, their movement has been aided by westerly winds that were, this time, further strengthened by the low-pressure area created by Cyclone Amphan in the Bay of Bengal. Locusts are known to be passive flyers, and generally follow the wind. But they do not take off in very strong windy conditions.
Why worry about them?
The danger is when they start breeding. A single gregarious female locust can lay 60-80 eggs three times during its average life cycle of 90 days. If their breeding is coterminous with that of the kharif crop, we could well have a situation similar to what maize, sorghum and wheat farmers of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia experienced in March-April.
The origins of locust control:
In the nineteenth century, India experienced serious locust outbreaks in 1812, 1821, 1843-’44, 1863, 1869, 1878, 1889-’92, and 1896-’97. Several efforts were made to combat the swarms.
The first of these measures was to systematically collect and record data regarding locust occurrences.
The colonial system employed an interesting mix of local reliance and global cooperation in collecting data. It rested on the exchange of knowledge and techniques between various provinces of India as well as with other countries similarly ravaged by the pestilence.
Genesis of LWO:
Only after the 1927-’29 outbreak that ravaged the central and western parts of India was the need felt for a centralised organisation to gather information about locusts and control them. This resulted in the formation of the Standing Locust Committee in 1929 and the Central Locust Bureau in 1930. This culminated in 1939 in the establishment of the present-day Locust Warning Organisation.
- Currently, the most commonly used control is insecticide. Sprayed from land or aerial vehicles, whole swarms can be targeted in relatively short periods of time.
- Swarms of locusts are being scared away by the district administration in Panna using police sirens.
- Farmers in Budhni and Nasrullaganj areas of Madhya Pradesh’s Sehore district have been beating utensils in a bid to drive away locusts.
Experts have expressed disappointment over the fact that despite the known side-effects of aerial spraying of pesticides, governments’ locust control policies are focussed only on chemical spray.
Few non-chemical measures to consider:
- Destroy the breeding grounds and locust larvae before they could fly.
- Use of oil-tarred screens to kill locusts (also known as Cyprus screen).
- Net system and the dhotar method. The net system involved holding a “capricious” bag and swinging it around fields, trapping young locusts in the process. The dhotar method involved using a blanket to trip locusts resting on bushes.
- Devise an insect-control technique that involved ploughing the fallow lands where locusts are resting: the escaping insects became an easy target for birds.
- Natural predators such as wasps, birds and reptiles may prove effective at keeping small swarms at bay.
- Emphasise inter-state and international cooperation, along with coordinated efforts of the state.
Insecticides may give temporary relief during an infestation, but they might also endanger the birds that act as natural predators of locusts. The way ahead lies in state-supported protection of birds. This should include a conscious effort to bring back species like house sparrows that have been disappearing rapidly.
- Different types of locusts?
- Difference between solitary and gregarious natures of locusts?
- What are westerly disturbances?
- What is Indian Ocean Dipole?
- What is Locust Warning Organisation?
Discuss the economic impacts of severe locusts attacks on India.
Sources: the Hindu.
Topics Covered: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-technology, Bio-technology and issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights.
What to study?
For Prelims: What is Elisa based test? How is it carried out?
For Mains: Significance of these tests and comparison with other tests.
Context: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has advised the States to conduct sero-surveys to measure the coronavirus exposure in the population using IgG ELISA Test.
As per the direction of the council, the coronavirus (COVID-19) exposure in the general population as well as in high-risk populations would be measured and the outcome will help “decide the future course of action against the pandemic”.
What is an ELISA-based test?
The Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISAs) based test is used for the detection of antibodies that are produced by the body to fight against antigens or foreign substances.
How is it carried out?
ELISA-based tests are blood-based tests, which have high sensitivity and specificity.
- The test involves drawing the blood of the person.
- The sample is then placed inside the small wells of an ELISA plate.
- These plates are coated with the antigen or the inactivated form of the virus.
- If the blood contains antibodies, it binds to the antigen and a substrate solution is added to the well.
- The reaction usually produces a colour change, thus detecting antibodies.
What is IgG?
Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is an antibody.
The body produces Immunoglobulin M (IgM) and IgG antibodies to fight against a pathogen.
- The IgM antibodies are produced in four-seven days after pathogens enter the body.
- The IgG antibodies are produced between 10-14 days of the pathogen’s appearance. If the IgG antibody is detected, it can be concluded that the person was exposed to SARS-CoV-2.
How is it different from rapid antibody kits and RT-PCR tests?
ELISA is also a form of a rapid test. However, other rapid antibody test kits are point-of-care and use a finger-prick method to draw blood. They take much lesser time and do not need a laboratory process to detect antibodies.
Both, ELISA-based tests and point-of-care tests are not used for confirming Covid-19 infection and are only used for surveillance purpose.
Those who test positive using these tests are usually tested with RT-PCR tests.
- RT-PCR tests are considered as the gold standard for confirming the presence of SARS-CoV-2.
- RT-PCR is a time consuming, lab-based test and involves the collection of throat and nasal swabs and is not a blood-based test.
- What is RT PCR?
- What is ELISA based test?
- What are antigens and antibodies?
- Differences between IgG and IgM antibodies.
- What is ICMR?
Discuss how Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISAs) Based test is carried out to detect the presence of SARS- COV2 in individuals.
Sources: the Hindu.
Topics Covered: Cyber security related issues.
What to study?
For Prelims: Overview of the guidelines.
For Mains: Need for and significance, why data privacy needs protection?
Context: Kerala government issues guidelines on COVID-19 data collection, processing. This is in the wake of the Sprinklr controversy.
What’s the issue?
The government had engaged the U.S.-based data analytics firm in collecting data. It ran into a controversy.
- The government had said it had contracted Sprinklr as an emergency measure to crunch the health data of citizens to understand how the pandemic would behave in Kerala.
- However, the Opposition had dragged the government to the High Court, accusing it of having used the outbreak as a cover to allow the U.S.-based firm to “harvest and monetise” the medical information of the State’s population.
- Consent: If any sensitive personal data is breached, explicit consent should be obtained from the data principal.
- Anonymity: Officials should ensure that all the data collected and collated from Kerala on COVID-19 containment activities should be anonymised so that unique identification of the data principal is not possible.
- Access to third party: Every citizen who has provided data will be informed that it is likely to be accessed by third party service providers.
- Storage of data: The data collected will be stored in encrypted form. If data is stored in Cloud, the Cloud service provider will be approved by the Central Government and the guidelines issued for procurement of cloud by government departments should be strictly followed.
- If data is collected from a data principal involuntarily using an automated device like GPS and Bluetooth, it will be done on prior explicit consent of the data principal.
- Security audit: Any software or application to be hosted in the SDC will be subjected to security audit before hosting it.
What’s the reason behind bringing of these guidelines?
Recently, Kerala High Court had expressed its concern over the confidentiality of information gathered from COVID-19 patients.
The Court asked the state government to anonymize all data collected from citizens before allowing access to US company Sprinklr Inc.
The Court had also asked the state government to explore the Central Government’s submission that it’s the Ministry of Information and Technology that is capable of providing a service similar to Sprinklr which later saw them informing that it will be done through State Data Centre (SDC).
Sources: the Hindu.
Topics Covered: Disaster and disaster management.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key provisions, powers given to the centre and states under the act.
For Mains: Significance and relevance of these measures, need for and implications.
Context: In the 68 days since the nationwide lockdown was imposed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the Union Home Ministry on an average, issued 1.3 orders a day.
The orders were issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, invoked for the first time in the country since the legislation was drafted after the tsunami in 2004.
Relevance of DM Act in this pandemic:
COVID-19 is the first pan India biological disaster being handled by the legal and constitutional institutions of the country.
The current lockdown has been imposed under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DM Act).
Under the Act, the States and district authorities can frame their own rules on the basis of broad guidelines issued by the Ministry.
- The legal basis of the DM Act, is Entry 23, Concurrent List of the Constitution “Social security and social insurance”.
- Entry 29, Concurrent List “Prevention of the extension from one State to another of infectious or contagious diseases or pests affecting men, animals or plants,” can also be used for specific law making.
Central government has included the Covid-19 outbreak as “Notified Disaster” as a “critical medical condition or pandemic situation”.
About the Disaster Management Act, 2005:
The stated object and purpose of the DM Act is to manage disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and more.
It came into force in India in January 2006.
The Act provides for “the effective management of disasters and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
The Act calls for the establishment of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), with the Prime Minister of India as chairperson.
The Act enjoins the Central Government to Constitute a National Executive Committee (NEC) to assist the National Authority.
All State Governments are mandated to establish a State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA).
Powers given to the Centre:
- Power bestowed by DM Act on Central Government and NDMA are extensive.
- The Central Government, irrespective of any law in force (including over-riding powers) can issue any directions to any authority anywhere in India to facilitate or assist in the disaster management.
- Importantly, any such directions issued by Central Government and NDMA must necessarily be followed the Union Ministries, State Governments and State Disaster Management Authorities.
- In order to achieve all these, the prime minister can exercise all powers of NDMA (S 6(3)). This ensures that there is adequate political and constitutional heft behind the decisions made.
- What is DM Act?
- Bodies established under this act.
- Composition of NDMA.
- Powers of states and centre under DM act.
- What is a notified disaster?
- Functions of NDRF.
Is the Disaster Management Act, 2005, ill-suited to be the main economic law of the country? Analyse the need for a pandemic law in the current situation facing the world.
Sources: the Hindu.
Facts for Prelims
Goa plans to bring back collector-approved travel pass system:
With Goa witnessing a huge influx of people in the last couple of days, the state government is planning to go back to its previous system of issuing travel passes that require approval by authorities, in place of the self-generated e-passes introduced earlier this week.
As per the previous system, district collectors would issue travel passes to people if they wanted to enter the state. Once the travel pass system is introduced, the health authorities will know how many people are going to arrive on a particular day.
Rule 266 and 267 of the Lok Sabha:
Context: Rajya Sabha secretariat has denied permission for members of the standing committee on Home Affairs to join a meeting of the panel through videoconference.
Why? The reason videoconference meetings were not being allowed was because it violated the principle of confidentiality, as there was no guarantee of a member sitting alone at such events.
What do rules say?
Rule 267 states that committee meetings have to be held in the Parliament building. However, the Speaker has the powers to change the venue.
Rule 266 mandates that all committee meetings have to be held in private.
Nepal’s Constitution Second Amendment Bill:
- The government of Nepal has tabled the crucial Constitution Amendment Bill to formalise the country’s new map, which claims parts of India as its territory.
- The Bill will change the Schedule 3 of the Nepalese Constitution and replace the existing map with the map that was unveiled on May 20.
- The new map depicts the sliver of strategically important land covering Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani as part of Nepal.
India- Nepal Boundary has been covered in detail:
Scientific name- Scorpaenospsis neglecta.
It is well-known for its stinging venomous spines and ability to change colour.
The fish is called ‘scorpionfish’ because its spines contain neurotoxic venom.
Why in News?
Researchers have found a rare fish from Sethukarai coast in the Gulf of Mannar. This was the first time that the particular species was found alive in Indian waters.
National Career Service (NCS) project:
Ministry of Labour and Employment under its National Career Service (NCS) project has now started offering free online Career Skills Training for its registered job-seekers.
- This course on soft skills assists the learners in enhancing personality development with modules on corporate etiquette, improving inter personal skills, making impactful presentation including other necessary soft skills demanded by the industry at present.
- The Ministry is implementing the NCS Project for transformation of the National Employment Service to provide a variety of employment related services like job search, career counselling, information on skill development courses, apprenticeship and internships through an on-line portal of NCS.
Missile Park ‘Agneeprastha’ to be set up at INS Kalinga:
It aims to capture glimpses of missile history of INS Kalinga from its establishment in 1981 till date.
- It will be dedicated to all the officers, sailors and support staff of INS Kalinga.
- It will also commemorate the award of the prestigious Unit Citation to INS Kalinga for the year 2018-19.
- P-70 ‘Ametist’, an underwater launched anti-ship missile from the arsenal of the old ‘Chakra’ (Charlie-1 submarine) which was in service with Indian Navy during 1988-91 is the main attraction point in the Park.
- INS Kalinga is a premier Naval Establishment located on the Visakhapatnam– Bheemunipatnam beach road under the Eastern Naval Command.
It is an auspicious Hindu festival that is celebrated by the devotees of Lord Shiva– also known as Lord ‘Mahesh’.
- The festival is primarily celebrated by people of Maheshwari community, who are usually known for their family business.
- The festival is observed on the ninth day of Shukla Paksha (Waxing moon) in the month of Jyeshta according to the Hindu Calendar.
- This year, Mahesh Navami is being observed on May 31.
- The festival is mainly celebrated by the people of Rajasthan.
“My Life – My Yoga” contest:
Also called “Jeevan Yoga” contest.
- It is a Video Blogging Contest.
- It is a joint effort by the Ministry of AYUSH and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
- Announced by PM during the course of his monthly Mann Ki Baat address to the nation.
- The contest focuses on the transformative impact of Yoga on the lives of individuals, and comes as one of the activities related to the observation of the sixth International Day of Yoga (IDY) coming up on 21st June 2020.
- For the India contestants, prizes worth Rs. 1 lakh, 50K and 25K for 1st, 2nd and 3rd ranking within each of the categories have been announced within the first leg.
- It is held both at the national level and global level.