Contents

  1. PM CARES is not a public authority under RTI Act
  2. Major Impact on climate due to extension of Amery Ice Shelf
  3. Trump cuts ties with WHO as pandemic grips Latin America
  4. Monoclonal antibody to block nCoV-2 infection identified
  5. Assam well blowout: 1000 shifted
  6. Casteist Slurs over phone not an offence under SC/ST Act: HC

PM CARES IS NOT A PUBLIC AUTHORITY UNDER RTI ACT

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has refused to disclose details on the creation and operation of the PM CARES Fund, telling a Right to Information applicant that the fund is “not a public authority” under the ambit of the RTI Act, 2005.

Background to the RTI Petition of PM CARES

  • The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund was set to accept donations and provide relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, and other similar emergencies.
  • After the announcement of the PM CARES fund an RTI Application was filed asking the PMO to provide the Fund’s trust deed and all government orders, notifications and circulars relating to its creation and operation.
  • The Petition was filed regarding the need of a PM CARES fund when the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was already existing.

Related provision in the RTI that was in the response

The relevant section of the Act defines a “public authority” as “any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted —

  1. by or under the Constitution;
  2. by any other law made by Parliament;
  3. by any other law made by State Legislature;
  4. by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government — and includes any (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) non‑Government Organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.

Click Here to read more about the RTI Act

-Source: The Hindu


MAJOR IMPACT ON CLIMATE DUE TO EXTENSION OF AMERY ICE SHELF

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

  • There would be a 24 per cent increase in the expansion of the Ameri Ice Shelf (AIS) boundaries in Antarctica by 2021 and another 24 per cent by 2026 from its 2016 positions, the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in Goa has predicted.
  • This study would help understand the ongoing changes in the ocean and atmospheric forcing better, scientists said.

The Important role played by Ice Shelves

  • The floating sheets of ice called ‘ice shelves’ play a multi-faceted role in maintaining the stability of a glacier. Ice shelves connect a glacier to the landmass.
  • The ice sheet mass balance, sea stratification, and bottom water formation are important parameters for the balancing of a glacier.
  • The insulation of ice shelves from atmospheric forcing is dependent on a temperature gradient that the ocean cavity beneath the ice shelves provides.
  • It is the pressure exerted by the ice shelves upon the ocean cavity that determines this temperature gradient.
  • There is always a stress on the sea ice and ice sheets themselves play an indirect role in reducing the amplitude of the ocean swell.
  • This is assisted by the freezing atmospheric temperature, which is capable of promoting a change in the morphology of ice shelves.
  • The Amery Ice Shelf (AIS) is one of the largest glacier drainage basins in the world, located on the east coast of Antarctica.

What the NCPOR Study says?

  • It becomes clear from the study that the AIS (Amery Ice Shelf) is losing its stability owing to the impact of a downstream giant glacial drainage system over the past 19 years, thereby advancing the ice shelf boundaries due to higher freezing rates than basal melting.
  • NCPOR has also estimated the rate at which ice shelves have extended for the last three years (2017-2019).
  • The AIS extended by about 550 metres in 2017, 1,470 m in 2018, and 2,200 m in 2019. If this continues, it is entirely possible that in the next six years (2021-2026), the positions of the ice shelf would closely coincide with the actual boundary conditions.
  • NCPOR observations also revealed a critical cooling of the sea surface temperature, resulting in an advancement of the ice shelf by 88 per cent in the past 15 years. These changes would contribute in a major way to climate variability.
  • In the background of the global warming scenario, the study reveals that the advancement in the predicted ice shelf extent closely corresponds with the actual extent.
  • The study clearly demonstrated the application of satellite observations and statistical techniques methods for the determination and validation; the reconstruction of the past; and the prediction of the future dynamism of ocean heat fluctuation and Antarctic Amery ice shelf mass shifting-extent.

-Source: Down To Earth Magazine


TRUMP CUTS TIES WITH WHO AS PANDEMIC GRIPS LATIN AMERICA

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

U.S. President Donald Trump said he is severing ties with the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as the death toll from the disease spiked again in the United States and Brazil.

Significance of the move

The decision to end hundreds of millions of dollars in funding comes when the UN agency needs it most.

US is by far its biggest contributor, pumping in $400 million last year.

World Health Organization (WHO)

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health.
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Its main objective is ensuring “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.”
  • The WHO’s broad mandate includes advocating for universal healthcare, monitoring public health risks, coordinating responses to health emergencies, and promoting human health and well-being.
  • The World Health Assembly (WHA), composed of representatives from all 194 member states, serves as the agency’s supreme decision-making body.

Functioning of WHO

World Health Assembly

  • The Health Assembly is composed of delegates representing Members.
  • Each Member is represented by not more than three delegates, one of whom is designated by the Member as chief delegate.
  • These delegates are chosen from among persons most qualified by their technical competence in the field of health, preferably representing the national health administration of the Member.
  • The Health Assembly meets in regular annual session and sometimes in special sessions as well.
  • The Health Assembly determines the policies of the Organization.
  • It supervises the financial policies of the Organization and reviews and approves the budget.
  • It reports to the Economic and Social Council in accordance with any agreement between the Organization and the United Nations.

The Secretariat

  • The Secretariat comprises of the Director-General and such technical and administrative staff as the Organization may require.
  • The Director-General is appointed by the Health Assembly on the nomination of the Board on such terms as the Health Assembly may determine.

Membership and Associate Membership

  • Members of the United Nations may become Members of the Organization.
  • Territories or groups of territories which are not responsible for the conduct of their international relations may be admitted as Associate Members by the Health Assembly.

Objectives and Functions of WHO

It is stated in the constitution of the WHO that its objective “is the attainment by all people of the highest possible level of health”.

The WHO fulfills this objective through the following functions:

  1. By playing a role as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work.
  2. To maintain and establish collaboration with the United Nations, health administrations or groups and any other organisation as may be deemed appropriate
  3. To assist Governments, upon request, in strengthening health services
  4. To provide appropriate technical assistance and in the event of emergencies, necessary aid upon the request or acceptance of Governments
  5. To provide or assist in providing, upon the request of the United Nations, health services and facilities to special groups, such as the peoples of trust territories.

How is the WHO funded?

  • There are four kinds of contributions that make up funding for the WHO.
  • These are assessed contributions, specified voluntary contributions, core voluntary contributions, and (Pandemic Influenza Preparedness) PIP contributions.
  • According to the WHO website, assessed contributions are the dues countries pay in order to be a member of the Organization.
  • The amount each Member State must pay is calculated relative to the country’s wealth and population.
  • Voluntary contributions come from Member States (in addition to their assessed contribution) or from other partners. They can range from flexible to highly earmarked.
  • Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) Contributions were started in 2011 to improve and strengthen the sharing of influenza viruses with human pandemic potential, and to increase the access of developing countries to vaccines and other pandemic related supplies.

What are the contributions of the WHO in India?

  • The WHO Country Cooperation Strategy (CCS) – India has been jointly developed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW) of the Government of India (GoI) and the WHO Country Office for India (WCO). Its key aim is to contribute to improving health and equity in India. It distinguishes and addresses both the challenges to unleashing India’s potential globally and the challenges to solving long-standing health and health service delivery problems internally.
  • The National Strategic Plan for Elimination of Malaria (2017-2022) was launched by the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare. Its main goal is to totally eliminate Malaria by 2027. The National Strategic Plan has formulated year wise elimination targets in various parts of the country. It is formulated with the support of the World Health Organization’s Global Technical Strategy for Malaria (2016-2030).

-Source: The Hindu


MONOCLONAL ANTIBODY TO BLOCK NCOV-2 INFECTION IDENTIFIED

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

One of the antibodies frozen antibodies that recognized the 2002 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) was found to recognize the infection due to the novel coronavirus, SARS- CoV-2.

Further study showed that it can help block infection in cultured human cells.

Significance

This antibody — either alone or in combination — offers the potential to prevent and/or treat COVID-19, and possibly also other future emerging diseases in humans caused by viruses from the Sarbecovirus subgenus.

Monoclonal antibody

  • Monoclonal antibodies (mAb or moAb) are antibodies that are made by identical immune cells that are all clones of a unique parent cell.
  • Monoclonal antibodies can have monovalent affinity, in that they bind to the same epitope (the part of an antigen that is recognized by the antibody).
  • In contrast, polyclonal antibodies bind to multiple epitopes and are usually made by several different plasma cell (antibody secreting immune cell) lineages.
  • Production of monoclonal antibodies is rooted in the production of hybridomas, which involves identifying antigen-specific plasma/plasmablast cells (ASPCs) that produce antibodies specific to an antigen of interest and fusing these cells with myeloma cells.

-Source: The Hindu


ASSAM WELL BLOWOUT: 1000 SHIFTED

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Why in news?

Around 1,000 people have been evacuated from the vicinity of an Oil India Limited (OIL)-operated well at Baghjan in Assam’s Tinsukia as natural gas and condensate matter continued to leak from it for the fourth day on 30th May following a blowout on 27th May 2020.

Impact

  • People have noticed oil in Maguri wetland, which could have spilled from the well.
  • Because of the blowout, there is a layer of oil like substance dripping from trees and roofs of houses in the area.
  • Eco-sensitive zone outside the park is around 300 meters away from the site and there are reports that oil condensate has fallen on the wetlands in that area

Blowout in Oil Well

  • A blowout means uncontrolled release of crude oil or gas from a well when pressure control systems fail. Condensate is a low-density hydrocarbon generally found with natural gas.
  • An accidental spark during a blowout can lead to a catastrophic oil or gas fire.

-Source: Hindustan Times


CASTEIST SLURS OVER PHONE NOT AN OFFENCE UNDER SC/ST ACT: HC

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

The Punjab and Haryana high court has made it clear that casteist remarks made over mobile phone against a member of the Scheduled Caste community does not constitute any offence under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Court’s Clarification

Basic ingredients of the offence in the FIR are that there must be intentional insult, secondly the insult must be done in a public place within public view – to be considered as showing any intention to humiliate the complainant.

Legislations Related to SCs, STs and OBCs

  • The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 – It provides for penal provisions for untouchability.
  • SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act –It is aimed at atrocities against the members of the SCs and STs
  • The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 – Outlaws bonded labour
  • The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989- (Dealt Above)
  • Forest Rights Act 2006 – recognizes the rights to hold and live in the forest land
  • The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 — It is an Act to provide for the extension of the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to the Panchayats to the Scheduled Areas.

Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

  • The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to prevent atrocities against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
  • The Act is popularly known as the SC/ST Act, POA, the Prevention of Atrocities Act, or simply the Atrocities Act.
  • It was enacted when the provisions of the existing laws (such as the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 and Indian Penal Code) were found to be inadequate to check these crimes (defined as ‘atrocities’ in the Act).

The salient features of the SC/ST Act are

  1. Creation of new types of offences not in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or in the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 (PCRA).
  2. Commission of offences only by specified persons (atrocities can be committed only by non-SCs and non-STs on members of the SC or ST communities. Crimes among SCs and STs or between STs and SCs do not come under the purview of this Act).
  3. Defines various types of atrocities against SCs/STs (Section 3(1)i to xv and 3(2)i to vii).
  4. Prescribes stringent punishment for such atrocities (Section 3(1)i to xv and 3(2)i to vii).
  5. Enhanced punishment for some offences (Section 3(2)i to vii, 5).
  6. Enhanced minimum punishment for public servants (Section 3(2)vii).
  7. Punishment for neglect of duties by a public servant(Section 4).
  8. Attachment and forfeiture of property (Section 7).
  9. Externment of potential offenders (Section 10(1), 10(3), 10(3)).
  10. Creation of Special Courts (Section 14).
  11. Denial of anticipatory bail (Section 18).
  12. Denial of probation to convict (Section 19).

Amendment to the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act

  • Delineates specific crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as atrocities and describes strategies and prescribes punishments to counter these acts.
  • Identifies what acts constitute “atrocities” and all offences listed in the Act are cognizable. The police can arrest the offender without a warrant and start an investigation into the case without taking any orders from the court.
  • The Act calls upon all the states to convert an existing sessions court in each district into a Special Court to try cases registered under it and provides for the appointment of Public Prosecutors/Special Public Prosecutors for conducting cases in special courts.
  • Creates provisions for states to declare areas with high levels of caste violence to be “atrocity-prone” and to appoint qualified officers to monitor and maintain law and order.
  • Provides for the punishment for wilful neglect of duties by non-SC/ST public servants.
  • It is implemented by the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations, which are provided due central assistance.

-Source: The Hindu

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