Centre unveils UDAN International :-
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has prepared a draft scheme document for “UDAN International” and invited comments from stakeholders.
Under Draft “UDAN International Scheme”
- The scheme is designed for State governments that are keen to promote air connectivity on international routes identified by them and for which they are willing to provide subsidy to airlines. State governments will be able to encourage tourism on preferred international air routes by offering subsidy to domestic airlines for a period of three years.
- The scheme is meant for domestic airlines. Only fixed wing aircraft with more than 70 seats can be operated under the scheme and airlines will have to conduct a minimum of three and a maximum of seven departures on a given route on three days in a week.
- The Centre has allowed airlines to enter into a code-sharing arrangement with international and domestic airlines for UDAN international.
- The AAI may also offer additional discounts at its own discretion such as landing, parking and housing charges at airports owned by it.
Greater say for State Governments
- As per the draft, a State will identify international routes for which the Airports Authority of India (AAI) will determine a subsidy amount per seat and invite bids from domestic carriers. This will be followed by airlines submitting their proposals, which will include the routes they wish to connect as well as the subsidy needed by them.
- The airlines will bid on the percentage of flight capacity for which they require financial assistance, provided that the figure doesn’t exceed 60% of the flight capacity. The entity that quotes the lowest amount will be awarded subsidy for a particular route. However, the government will grant financial aid only for the actual number of passenger seats that are unsold, even if the airline had sought subsidy for a higher percentage of seating capacity at the time of bidding.
- So far, Assam has proposed to offer ₹100 crore per year for flights to Kathmandu, Dhaka, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Yangon. Andhra Pradesh has also expressed its keenness to the Civil Aviation Ministry to encourage tourism.
- At present, the low-cost carrier AirAsia operates daily flights to Kuala Lumpur from Bhubaneshwar with a subsidy from the State government on a per-flight basis.
Swachhata to target open urination too :-
Under new norms, cities and towns wanting to be declared ODF+ (Open Defecation Free Plus) must also be free of public urination and not just open defecation.
This is the first time that the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) is officially including the elimination of public urination in its agenda. The rural division of SBM had previously said preventing public urination was not on their agenda. The Mission is focused on infrastructure and regulatory changes, on the assumption that this will lead to behaviour change.
Open Defecation Free Protocol
- The ODF+ and ODF++ protocols, which were released by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs are the next step for the SBM-U and aim to ensure sustainability in sanitation outcomes.The original ODF protocol is notified as ODF city/ward if, at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating in the open.
- The new ODF+ protocol says that a city, ward or work circle could be declared ODF+ if at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating and/or urinating in the open, and all community and public toilets are functional and well-maintained.
- The ODF++ protocol adds the condition that “faecal sludge/septage and sewage is safely managed and treated, with no discharging and/or dumping of untreated faecal sludge/septage and sewage in drains, water bodies or open areas.
Open Urination- A major problem
- Urination has always been implied as part of the ODF agenda, that’s why there is a subsidy for urinals, not just toilets.
- The third-party verification of ODF areas, being carried out by the Quality Council of India, has not so far checked for public urination.
- Public urination, especially by men, is almost entirely a behaviour change issue. Even men who have access to toilets use the roads as a public urinal.
- The ODF+ protocol lays down 20 specific conditions across cleanliness, support infrastructure, accessibility and operations and maintenance.
“Toilet Near Me” :- The Mission is also pushing forward in its drive to get public toilets listed on Google Maps. A search for toilets nearby will now display the location of public toilets in over 700 cities, and allow users to rate and review them. If people can easily find a public toilet, they will not use the road.
Way Forward: Monitoring Behaviour Change
- The SBM-U does have a 10% budget for IEC activities (Information, Education and Communication) using both digital media and on-field activities such as street dramas.
- The SBM is not depending on awareness activities for behaviour change. In urban areas, behaviour change is automatically guaranteed if there is proper access.
- The Mission’s monitoring of behaviour change is currently limited to the Swachh Survekshan surveys which include physical observation and citizen feedback.
Govt lifts ban on retail sale of oxytocin, with curbs :-
The health ministry has lifted the ban on retail sale of oxytocin, an essential drug used to prevent and treat bleeding after child birth, but imposed strict regulations on its sales.
The ministry issued yet another amendment to the original notification banning private manufacture and retailing of oxytocin while retaining the monopoly of the public sector on manufacturing the drug for the domestic market. The ban followed complaints of rampant misuse of the drug in the dairy industry in particular.
What does the new rules say following the amendment ?
- The new rules stated that with effect from September 1, 2018, oxytocin will be moved from schedule H to schedule H1.
- Drugs under schedule H can only be sold against a prescription by a registered medical practitioner but In the case of those under H1, a schedule introduced in 2013 to prevent misuse of third and fourth generation antibiotics, the retailer has to maintain a separate register giving the name and address of the prescriber, the patient, the drug and the quantity supplied.
- These records have to be maintained for three years and be available for inspection.
SC moots steps to clean up Politics :-
The Supreme Court proposed to make political parties accountable for criminalizing politics by welcoming in crooks who may later win elections on party ticket and grab power.
The Constitution Bench led by CJI suggested it could direct the EC to insist that parties get new members to declare in an affidavit their criminal antecedents and publish them. This will enable citizens to know how many criminals (charged) there are in a party. The court demonstrated that the EC could de-register a party or withdraw its symbol if it refused to comply.
Present Mechanism :- The law presently bars only convicted persons from fighting elections or continuing as law makers. A person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
SC directive :- Political party should incorporate a clause in your membership form requiring a member to file an affidavit disclosing his criminal antecedents.Then party will publish it. If not, party may face de-registration by the Election Commission.
Thus, it is as an alternative measure that the Bench suggested making the political party accountable for giving memberships to persons with a criminal record.
Legal Provisions for disqualification
- The Bench based its proposal on the power of the ECI to conduct an election and register/de-register political parties under Article 324 of the Constitution and Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act of 1951, respectively.
- The court invoked The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order of 1968 to clothe the Commission with the power to withdraw a reserved party symbol.
- Chief Justice Misra pointed to how Section 29A requires a political party to swear to uphold the principles of socialism, secularism, democracy, sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
SC orders scrutiny of entry, hygiene, assets of all shrines :-
The Supreme Court has begun a massive judicial audit of all religious places and charitable institutions with regard to hygiene, assets, access and accounts, asking district judges to examine complaints in these respects and send reports to high courts which can treat them as PILs.
The SC order will apply to all temples, mosques, churches and other religious and charitable institutions in India and reports submitted by district judges, to be treated as PILs, could be the basis for high courts to pass suitable judicial orders.
“Difficulties faced by visitors, deficiencies in management, maintenance of hygiene, appropriate utilisation of offerings and protection of assets with regard to shrines, irrespective of religion, is a matter for consideration not only for the state government and the central government but also courts,” said a bench of Justices Adarsh K Goel (since retired) and S Abdul Nazeer last month.
Major challenges lie ahead :-
- This suo motu initiation of an exercise of such magnitude, given that India has over 20 lakh major temples, three lakh active mosques and thousands of churches, could well prove to be a huge strain on the judiciary.
- Judiciary already groaning under the pendency of nearly three crore cases and further hamstrung by a large number of vacancies in district courts, HCs and the SC.
- The informal nature of many shrines and the absence of specific rules governing them will add to the challenge.
- The district judges may need the assistance of the local administration which will need to find the time and manpower to examine complaints.
CBSE to revamp Class X, XII exams pattern from 2020 :-
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) plans to change the question paper patterns of the Class X and XII exams from 2020 as part of a revamp that also includes holding vocational subject tests earlier (in February) and early declaration of results. Officials said the new exam pattern would test students on their analytical abilities and reduce the scope of rote learning.
New CBSE bylaws for affiliation :-
The CBSE board has also submitted new “CBSE bylaws” to the ministry for approval, according to which the focus during affiliation/renewal of schools will be on academic quality such as the quality of teachers, learning outcomes and pedagogy. For inspection of infrastructure in schools, the board will bank on reports of the recognising authorities, that is, the respective state education departments.
The board is also looking at completing all exams in March itself to give more time for evaluation and to declare the results earlier. For that, according to MHRD sources, CBSE is likely to schedule the board exams in two parts — vocational and non-vocational subjects.