13th October CURRENT AFFAIRS

1. 15 years of RTI Act

News: A report by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan and the Centre for Equity Studies has pointed out that more than 2.2 lakh Right to information cases are pending at the Central and State Information Commissions (ICs), which are the final courts of appeal under the RTI Act, 2005. The report was released on the occasion of completion of the 15 years of Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Details:

  • Out of the total 29 ICs that were studied, 21 were not holding any hearings.Even the websites of 3 ICs -Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Nagaland -were not accessible during the  Websites of 11 commissions out of 29, had no information/notification about the functioning of the IC during the lockdown.
  • Of the 29 ICs, two ICs -Jharkhand and Tripura -were found to haveno commissioners for varying lengths of time. They were completely defunct. 4 were functioning without a Chief Information Commissioner -Bihar, Goa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Under the RTI 2005 act, every commission should have a chief and up to 10 commissioners.
  • The assessment found that on average, the CIC takes 388 days (more than one year) to dispose of an appeal/complaint from the date that it was filed before the commission.
  • The highest number of pending appeals, with over 59,000 cases were in Maharashtra, followed by Uttar Pradesh and the Central Information Commissions (CIC).
  • The report found that the Government officials face hardly any punishment for violating the law.
  • Penalties were imposed in only 2.2% of cases that were disposed of, despite previous analysis showing a rate of about 59% violations which should have triggered the process of penalty imposition.

Right to Information

  • RTI is an act of the parliament which sets out the rules and procedures regarding citizens’ right to information. It replaced the former Freedom of Information Act, 2002.
  • Under the provisions of RTI Act, any citizen of India may request information from a “public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of State”) which is required to reply expeditiously or within 30.
  • In case of the matter involving a petitioner’s life and liberty, the information has to be provided within 48 hours. The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.

Who governs RTI?

  • The Right to information in India is governed by two major bodies:
  • Central Information Commission (CIC)– Chief Information commissioner who heads all the central departments and ministries- with their own public information officers (PIO)s. CICs are directly under the President of India.
  • State Information Commissions (SIC)– State Public Information Officers or SPIOs head over all the state department and ministries. The SPIO office is directly under the corresponding State Governor.
  • State and CIC are independent bodies and CIC has no jurisdiction over the SIC.

Impact on various bodies:

Private bodies:

  • Private bodies are not within the Act’s ambit In a decision of Sarbjit roy vs Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, the Central Information Commission also reaffirmed that privatised public utility companies fall within the purview of RTI.

Political parties:

  • The Central Information Commission (CIC) had held that the political parties are public authorities and are answerable to citizens under the RTI Act.
  • But in August 2013 the government introduced a Right To Information (Amendment) Bill which would remove political parties from the scope of the law. Currently no parties are under the RTI Act and a case has been filed for bringing all political parties under it.

Chief Justice of India:

  • Supreme Court of India on 13 November 2019, upheld the decision of Delhi High Court bringing the office of Chief Justice of India under the purview of Right to Information (RTI) Act.

2. FELUDA test

News: Union Health Ministry will soon roll out the FELUDA paper strip test for SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis.

FELUDA test

  • FELUDA is the acronym for FNCAS9 Editor Linked Uniform Detection Assay.
  • It uses indigenously developed CRISPR gene-editing technology to identify and target the genetic material of SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
  • According to CSIR, the test matches accuracy levels of RT-PCR tests, considered the gold standard in the diagnosis of Covid-19, has a quicker turnaround time and requires less expensive equipment.
  • It is also the world’s first diagnostic test to deploy a specially adapted Cas9 protein to successfully detect the virus.

How it works?

  • It uses indigenously developed CRISPR gene-editing technology to identify and target the genetic material of SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

Significance:

  • According to CSIR, the test matches accuracy levels of RT-PCR tests. It has a quicker turnaround time and requires less expensive equipment. ‘Feluda’ is also the world’s first diagnostic test to deploy a specially adapted Cas9 protein to successfully detect the virus.

3. Skal International Asia Area

News: The UT of Jammu and Kashmir has won the bid to host the 50th annual Skal International Asia Area (SIAA) Congress in 2021 during the annual general meeting recently against four other cities.

About SIAA:

  • Founded in 1934, Skål International is the only professional organization promoting global Tourism and friendship, uniting all sectors of the Tourism industry. It is the world’s largest global network of Tourism Professionals promoting Tourism, Business and Friendship worldwide.
  • Its members are Directors and Executives of the Tourism sector who relate to each other to address issues of common interest, improving a business network and promoting destinations.
  • It is an Affiliated Member of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
  • Skål International holds an annual World Congress each year in a different country.

4. Bharatmala Pariyojana

News: A total of 322 projects in a length of 12,413 km have been awarded under Bharatmala Pariyojana. Further, 2921 Km has been constructed under the Project till the date.

Bharatmala Pariyojana

  • It is a centrally-sponsored and funded the Road and Highways project.
  • It is an umbrella program for the highways sector that focuses on optimizing the efficiency of freight and passenger movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure.
  • The total investment for 83,677 km committed new highways is estimated at ₹5.35 lakh crore making it the single largest outlay for a government road construction scheme.
  • It works for the development of Economic Corridors, Inter Corridors and Feeder Routes, National Corridor Efficiency Improvement, Border and International connectivity roads, Coastal and Port connectivity roads and Green-field expressways.
  • The ambitious umbrella programme has subsumed all existing Highway Projects including the flagship National Highways Development Project (NHDP), launched in 1998.

Key features:

  • Improvement in the efficiency of existing corridors through the development of Multimodal Logistics Parks and elimination of chokepoint.
  • Multimodal Logistics Parks are a key policy initiative of the Government of India to improve the country’s logistics sector by lowering overall freight costs, reducing vehicular pollution and congestion, and cutting warehousing costs. A chokepoint is a single point through which all incoming and outgoing network traffic is funnelled and hence, leads to congestion and traffic.
  • Enhance focus on improving connectivity in North East and leveraging synergies with Inland Waterways.
  • Emphasis on the use of scientific and technological planning for Project Preparation and Asset Monitoring.
  • Satellite mapping of corridors to identify up-gradation requirements.
  • Delegation of powers to expedite project delivery for successful completion of Phase I by 2022.