Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES)
First AES case of the year suspected in Muzaffarpur.
Usually AES, locally called chamki bukhar, surfaces during summer in the flood-prone districts of north Bihar.
AES cases were reported from five north Bihar districts in 2019. More than 150 children died. More than 600 children suffering from AES were admitted in the hospitals, including SKMCH and nearly 450 recovered.
Acute encephalitis syndrome is a basket term used for referring to hospitals, children with clinical neurological manifestation that includes mental confusion, disorientation, convulsion, delirium, or coma.
Meningitis caused by virus or bacteria, encephalitis (mostly Japanese encephalitis) caused by virus, encephalopathy, cerebral malaria, and scrub typhus caused by bacteria are collectively called acute encephalitis syndrome.
The disease most commonly affects children and young adults and can lead to considerable morbidity and mortality.
It is characterized as acute-onset of fever and a change in mental status (mental confusion, disorientation, delirium, or coma) and/or new-onset of seizures in a person of any age at any time of the year.
Cause of the disease:
Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) is considered a very complex disease as it can be caused by various agents including bacteria, fungi, virus and many other agents.
Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is the major cause of AES in India (ranging from 5%-35%).
Nipah virus, Zika virus are also found as causative agents for AES.
How is it related to litchi fruits? How it affects?
In India, AES outbreaks in north and eastern India have been linked to children eating unripe litchi fruit on empty stomachs.
Unripe fruit contain the toxins hypoglycin A and methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG), which cause vomiting if ingested in large quantities.
Hypoglycin A is a naturally occurring amino acid found in the unripened litchi that causes severe vomiting (Jamaican vomiting sickness), while MCPG is a poisonous compound found in litchi seeds.
Why it affects undernourished children?
Blood glucose falls sharply causing severe brain malfunction (encephalopathy), leading to seizures and coma, and death in many cases.
This is because under-nourished children lack sufficient glucose reserve in the form of glycogen and the production of glucose from non-carbohydrate source is blocked midway leading to low blood sugar level.
This causes serious brain function derangement and seizures.
Amendments made to the Right to Information Act
The Supreme Court has criticised the Union government for having not filed a reply to a petition by parliamentarian Jairam Ramesh challenging the amendments made to the Right to Information Act for over a year.
What’s the issue?
The petitioner argues that the amendments gave the Centre unparalleled powers to dictate the tenure, salaries and service conditions of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners as per its “whims and fancies”.
The petitioner contended that the RTI Amendment Act of 2019 and its Rules cripple the objectivity and independence of the Central Information Commission (CIC) by bringing under the yoke of the government.
What were the amendments?
The Centre shall have the powers to set the salaries and service conditions of Information Commissioners at central as well as state levels.
Term of the central Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners: appointment will be “for such term as may be prescribed by the Central Government”.
While the original Act prescribes salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the state Chief Information Commissioner as “the same as that of an Election Commissioner”, and the salaries and other terms of service of the State Information Commissioners as “the same as that of the Chief Secretary to the State Government”, the amendment proposes that these “shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government”.
Why these amendments are criticised?
The amendments are seen as a “threat to the independence” of the Central Information Commissioner.
By diminishing the status of the CIC, IC and State CIC from that of a Supreme Court judge would reduce their ability to issue directives to senior government functionaries.
The amendments would empower the Centre to make rules to decide the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of information commissioners of the Central and also State Information Commissions. This will fundamentally weaken the institution of the information commissions as it will adversely impact the ability of commissioners to function in an independent manner.
The government held no public consultations on the Bill.
What are the government’s stated grounds for bringing the amendments?
The statement of objects says “the mandate of Election Commission of India and Central and State Information Commissions are different. Hence, their status and service conditions need to be rationalised accordingly”.
CIC has been given the status of a Supreme Court Judge, but his judgments can be challenged in the High Courts.
Therefore, the amendments Have been brought to correct certain anomalies in the RTI Act. It does not dilute the Act in anyway and it was passed in a hurry in 2005. RTI Amendments would strengthen the overall RTI structure.
Kerala govt. annuls agreement with U.S. firm
The Kerala government has invalidated a controversial agreement that the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) had reached with a U.S.-based firm, EMCC International, to build and operate a deep-sea trawling fleet to harvest the marine wealth off the State’s coast.
What’s the issue?
Opposition called this deal as a bid to sell off the state’s marine wealth, endangering the livelihood of lakhs of fishermen in the state.
What was the agreement all about? What were the objectives of the project?
One of the stated objectives of the deal was deep sea fishing with state-of-the-art technology.
The components of the project were building 400 deep sea fishing trawlers as per the design proposed by EMCC.
The EMCC would train and deploy 1.60 lakh fishermen in deep sea fishing. Their skills would be upgraded, and the local fishing community would benefit in terms of direct and indirect employment opportunities.
How is the proposed project against fisheries policy?
The Union Government had in 2017 withdrawn permission given for foreign trawlers for deep sea fishing in the exclusive economic zone of the country.
The EEZ of the country extends up to 370 km from the coastline.
Illegal fishing by foreign vessels in Indian waters is punishable under provisions of Maritime Zone of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels Act) 1981.
Besides, Kerala’s fisheries policy, brought in 2018, opposed allowing foreign and native corporate vessels along the state’s coast.
The professed policy of the state is to equip the traditional fishermen for deep sea fishing by making them owners of deep sea fishing vessels.
Besides, there would be restrictions on the number of vessels. Only traditional fishermen would be given permission to replace their old boats.
What is Deep Sea Trawling?
The Deep Sea Trawling can be defined as the Industrial way or method fishing in which large nets with heavy weight are carted across the seafloor to lift out the catch marine animals such as fishes, shrimp, cod etc. It is considered as the most prominent method of fishing which is a practice across the world at large scale.
Impact of Deep Sea Trawling on Environment:
The gears of Deep Sea Trawling creates huge on the life of marine plants and animals as well as the seafloor by disrupting the sediment column structure, overturning boulders, re-suspending sediments and imprinting deep scars on muddy bottoms.