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June 2, 2020
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June 4, 2020
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03 June Current Affairs

Jal Jeevan Mission: Funds allocated to Assam and Bihar

In News:

The Central Government has allocated Rs 1,832 crores to Bihar and Rs 1,407 crores to Assam under Jal Jeevan Mission..

Details:

Assam:

In Assam, the Jal Jeevan mission aims to provide tap connections to over 13 lakh rural households by 2020-21. The state aims weaker and marginalized sections on priority basis. Village Action Plans have been framed with active participation of the rural community.

Under the mission, the state will also aim at providing employment to the migrant workers returning to homes. The mission will provide jobs such as fitting, plumbing and water conservation.

Bihar:

With the help of funds allocated, the Bihar Government will offer tap connections to more than 50 lakh households. The Government is focusing on aspirational districts and SC ST villages.

Jal Jeevan Mission:

The Mission aims to supply 55 litres of water to all rural household by 2024. The mission will create necessary infrastructure such as ground water recharge, rainwater harvest and management of household waste water for reuse.

SpaceX: First Private Space Company to send NASA astronauts to space

In News:

The SpaceX has become the first private rocket company to send astronauts to space. The company sent Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to space initiating a new business model for NASA.

Details:

According to the US Government, the mission will end the reliance of NASA on Russian space rockets.

Why is a private Space Company hired?

NASA had plans to hand over the transport of crew to the space since 2000s. This decision came up after the Columbia Space Shuttle broke up while returning to the earth in 2003. In order to make space programmes such as transfer of crew and food to the International Space Station affordable; the step has been taken.

SpaceX:

SpaceX was the first private company in the world to return rockets back to the earth. Usually the rockets burn away after putting the satellites on their orbit or simply get thrown away to the space adding up space debris.

SpaceX was actively involved in delivering cargo to the International Space Station.

The US-Russia Factor:

NASA has been paying millions of dollars to Russia to launch its astronauts. This is the first launch of humans by the US in the decade.

Crew Dragon:

The Spacecraft that is transporting the Astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) is called Crew Dragon. The Crew Dragon is capable of carrying seven passengers. The Crew Dragon will return the astronauts after their tasks associated with the ISS is complete. The Crew Dragon is to parachute down into the Atlantic Ocean.

Starman Suits:

The Suits worn by the astronauts are called the Starman suits. They are designed only to be worn inside Crew Dragon and are not meant for spacewalks.

Official language in High Courts

In News:

Lawyers have challenged in the Supreme Court a law which makes Hindi the official language in courts in Haryana.

Details:

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.

PM CARES Fund Not A ‘Public Authority’ Under RTI Act

In News:

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.

23 additional MFP items included in MSP list

In News:

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.

Significance:

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.

Implementation:

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.

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