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31st August Current Affairs

Power of states under the Disaster Management Act to override UGC exam guidelines

In News:

The Supreme Court has held that States are empowered under the Disaster Management Act to override University Grants Commission (UGC) exam guidelines in order to protect human lives amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s the issue?

UGC had on July 6 issued guidelines based on the recommendations of the R.C. Kuhad Expert Committee.

They provided three modes of examination – pen and paper, online and blended (both physical and online).

A “special chance” was also given to students unable to take the exams.

Following this, a batch of petitions were filed in the court against the direction to hold exams as per the UGC guidelines.

The petitioners also contended that the revised guidelines violate Article 14 on two counts — by fixing a date for the completion of exams for the entire country irrespective of the situation in different parts, and discriminating between final and first/second year students.

The judgment:

Universities and other institutions of higher education will have to conduct the final-year exams and “cannot” promote students on the basis of internal assessment or other criteria.

However, states and Union Territories, which may have postponed the exams in view of the Covid outbreak, can approach the University Grants Commission (UGC) for extension of the September 30 deadline.

Powers of states under the DM Act:

In case of a disaster, the priority of all authorities under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 is to immediately combat the disaster and contain it to save human life.

Therefore, under the DM Act, states can countermand the revised UGC guidelines of July 6 to conduct the final year and terminal semester examinations by September 30.

However, the powers of the States under the Disaster Management Act do not extend to promoting students on the sole basis of their internal assessment without taking exams.

Do these guidelines discriminate against final year students?

The court said the July 6 guidelines did not discriminate against final year students by compelling them to take exams while their juniors were promoted on their internal assessment marks.

Final year exam is an opportunity for a student to show his optimum calibre. It paves his future career both in academics and employment.

Future:

In future, if any State found it impossible to conduct the exams by September 30 and wanted to postpone them, it could apply to the UGC, which would consider the request and decide at the earliest, the court directed.

Relevance of DM Act in this pandemic:

Under the Act, the States and district authorities can frame their own rules on the basis of broad guidelines issued by the Home 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.

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).

Toy traders want quality control order suspended

In News:

The toy industry in India has asked the government to suspend a Quality Control Order (QCO) issued in February, for at least a year, failing which the industry would be forced to shut shop.

Details:

The complexity of Scheme-1 of the QCO and the challenges in adhering to its September 1, 2020 timeline “will have a devastating impact” on the industry. Hence, there is a need for further suspending the order.

Need of the hour:

The government must constructively engage with all the stakeholders of the industry to formulate a comprehensive policy for domestic and overseas manufacturers based on the rules that are already in place since 2017.

Overview of the Toys (Quality Control) Order:

This relates to the regulation of toys and/or materials for use in play by children under 14 years of age, or other products as notified by the Central Government.

The order has been issued by DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce & Industry.

The Order contains several important provisions for toy safety, including:

Requirement for toys to conform to the latest version of a list of Indian Standards.

Requirement for toys to bear the Standard Mark under a licence from the Bureau as per Scheme-I of Schedule-II of Bureau of Indian Standards (Conformity Assessment) Regulations, 2018.

Directing the Bureau to be the certifying and enforcement authority.

Overview of the Scheme-I:

Under this scheme, the ISI mark is granted to the factories (who is actually producing the goods) and products by the BIS which is the national standards body of India.

The main objective of the BIS is to ensure that the products that are delivered to the end consumers are safe for their use and are in adherence with all the quality and safety standards set by them.

In India, the ISI mark is the synonym for better quality and safety.

Need for safety:

Safety and quality are fundamental concerns for parents who buy toys and other products related to children.

It is imperative that not only the industry, but government should also assume an active role in enabling its adoption by a larger section of the society.

The recent survey conducted by Quality Council of India shows that 67% of imported toys are not safe for the children.

EU urges Turkey to stop Mediterranean drilling

In News:

The European Union has urged Turkey to halt its drilling activities in contested waters in the Mediterranean and ordered EU officials to speed up work aimed at blacklisting some Turkish officials linked to the energy exploration.

Details:

Over recent weeks, tensions have been rising in the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean, prompted by what seems like a simple rivalry over energy resources.

Turkey has pursued an aggressive gas exploration effort, its research vessel heavily protected by warships of the Turkish Navy.

There have been encounters with rival Greek vessels and a third Nato country, France, has become involved, siding with the Greeks.

These tensions also highlight another shift in the region – the decline of US power.

Cause for latest tensions:

Tensions are mounting to breaking point between Turkey and Greece over Turkey’s drilling work near the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, which like Greece is an EU member country.

Turkey doesn’t recognize the divided island of Cyprus as a state and claims 44 per cent of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone as its own.

Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

About the Mediterranean:

It is a vast sea positioned between Europe to the north, Africa to the south, and Asia to the east.

The Mediterranean Sea connects:

to the Atlantic Oceanby the Strait of Gibraltar(known in Homer‘s writings as the “Pillars of Hercules“) in the west.

to the Sea of Marmaraand the Black Sea, by the Straits of the Dardanellesand the Bosporus respectively, in the east.

The 163 km (101 mi) long artificial Suez Canalin the southeast connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.