The HINDU Notes – 06th January 2019 - VISION

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Sunday, January 06, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 06th January 2019

📰 Court declares Vijay Mallya a fugitive economic offender under new law

He is the first person to be declared so under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act and government can now confiscate all his properties.

•Absconding liquor baron Vijay Mallya on Saturday became the first person to be declared a fugitive economic offender by the special court hearing cases under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act (FEOA).

•The FEOA, which became a law on July 31, 2018, allows for declaring a person as an offender after an arrest warrant has been issued against the individual and the value of offences exceeds ₹100 crore.

•Another condition for declaring a person a fugitive economic offender (FEO) is when the individual refuses to return to the country to face prosecution in the specified cases.

•Several non bailable warrants were issued against Mr. Mallya, who was declared a ‘proclaimed offender’ and an ‘absconder’ by the special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court.

•As per the new law, a special FEOA court can order the confiscation of a FEO’s properties, including those which are benami, and the proceeds of crime in and outside India. Once properties are confiscated, the Union government has the right over them, and it can dispose them after 90 days.

•Judge M.S. Azmi said the court was partly allowing the Enforcement Directorate’s application, through its counsel Hiten Venegavkar on June 22, 2018, which sought to declare Mr. Mallya a fugitive economic offender and confiscate all his properties, estimated to be worth ₹12,500 crore.

•The court said it would consider the second part of the application, on confiscation of properties, mentioned in the application when it hears the matter on February 5, when all intervenors in the case would be heard.

•The intervenors include the State Bank of India, Diageo Plc, Standard Chartered Bank, Mr. Mallya’s step mother, Ritu Mallya, the official liquidator of the Karnataka High Court and Heineken NV.

•When senior counsel Amit Desai, representing Mr. Mallya, sought a stay on the order as he wanted to move an appeal to the higher court, the judge declined stating that the court had no power to issue such an order.

•The ED had filed two separate complaints registered under PMLA for investigation of money laundering against Mr. Mallya, Kingfisher Airlines Limited (KAL) and United Breweries Holdings Limited (UBHL). The agency has reported to have attached assets worth approximately ₹ 4,234.84 crore, claiming them to be proceeds of crime from both the entities.

•Mr. Mallya, who left the country in March 2016, was arrested by the U.K. Metropolitan Police’s extradition unit on April 18, 2017. On December 10, 2018, a U.K. court ordered that Mr. Mallya could be extradited.

📰 MGNREGA scheme faces fund shortage

‘Employment given was 32% lower than work demanded’

•The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme is facing a severe fund crunch, with 99% of money allocated already exhausted three months before the end of the financial year, and 11 States and Union Territories having a negative net balance.

•Studies analysing government data show that the scheme faces difficulties in meeting the demand for work and paying wages on time. These issues are likely to be exacerbated by the current fund crisis, according to worried economists, researchers and workers on the ground.

Lean season

•The scheme’s financial statement shows that as on Saturday, the total availability of funds was Rs. 59,032 crore. The total expenditure, including payment due, stands at Rs. 58,701 crore. That leaves a slim margin of only Rs. 331 crore. For 11 States, that margin is non-existent, as their accounts are already in the red.

•“There are three more months to go and this is when the lean agricultural season is upon us, when demand for MGNREGA employment peaks, intensifying the suffering at a time when work is needed most,” said Nikhil Dey, an activist with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan. “Rainfall deficits and drought this year are likely to worsen the situation, as we saw in 2015-16 when the demand and need for work was higher than normal.”

•A team of independent researchers led by Azim Premji University’s Rajendran Narayanan has found that employment provided was already 32% lower than work demanded during 2017-18. Their ongoing study is analysing government data on the demand generated, employment provided, and fund availability in 3,500 panchayats across 10 representative States last year.

•In monetary terms, using this data to estimate national allocation, this means that Rs. 76,131 crore is the minimum amount needed to meet the registered work demand last year, almost 30% higher than the current allocation, said the study.

•“This shows that the employment provided is wilfully capped based on the funds available. On the ground, we are seeing that State governments and field functionaries are compelled not to register demand for work in order to contain the payment liabilities of the governments,” said Mr. Dey.

📰 Barred at border: record arrests of Rohingya in 2018

Barred at border: record arrests of Rohingya in 2018
Number of arrests spiked last year; BSF focusses on ‘push-back’ to prevent entry; porosity of border in West Bengal poses a challenge

•Between 2015 and 2018, the Border Security Force (BSF) arrested around 478 Rohingya along the India-Bangladesh border, with 230 held in 2018 alone.

•While the number of arrests in 2015 and 2016 were 54 and 71, respectively, it rose to 123 in 2017.

•The figures were tabled in the Lok Sabha on January 1 by the Union Home Ministry in response to a question by K. Gopal, AIADMK MP.

No influx

•Senior BSF officials operating along the India-Bangladesh border said the agency had apprehensions of large number of Rohingya trying to enter the country after August 2017, after nearly 7,00,000 fled Myanmar. However the expected influx did not take place. “Because of the designated camps set up by the Bangladesh government, Rohingya did not try to cross over to India in large numbers,” a senior BSF official told The Hindu.

•Of the 478 Rohingyas, who have been apprehended, some have been arrested not for trying to enter the country but while attempting to leave, BSF officials said. Home Ministry estimates say there are around 40,000 Rohingya in India, of whom only 16,000 are said to be registered with the United Nations.

•After the arrests along the border, the Rohingya are handed over to the police, who book them under the Foreigners Act. “Once Rohingya are arrested and handed over to the police, their presence in the country becomes official. The only process left with the agencies to send them to their country is through deportation which can take lot of time,” another BSF official said. Earlier this month, five Rohingya from Assam were deported to Myanmar through the Moreh border in Manipur. They entered the country in 2014.

600 pushed back

•Under such circumstances, BSF officials said they were pursuing a policy of “pushing back” anyone trying to enter the country. The number of those, including Rohingya, pushed back is much higher than those apprehended. According to reports more than 600 Rohingya were pushed back in 2018 alone.

•The influx and efflux of Rohingya refugees has brought into focus the porosity of the India-Bangladesh border. Of the 4,096.7-sq km border between India and Bangladesh, only 2,785.5-sq km has been fenced.

•The border in West Bengal is said to be the most porous stretch and used for illegal crossings. As recently as December 21, 2018, a group of 14 Rohingya, including six children, were apprehended for illegally entering the country at Habra in the State’s North 24 Parganas. Rohingya apprehended in other States like Manipur have also claimed that they had entered India through West Bengal.

•“The porosity in West Bengal-Bangladesh border is different than in other northeastern States. This is because of villages with dense population extending till the international border are located on the both sides of the border in the region,” a BSF official said.

📰 In Karnataka, row over midday meal

•The Karnataka government’s midday meal programme in schools has run into controversy with one of its NGO partners in the mammoth welfare exercise, International Society for Krishna Consciousness’s subsidiary Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF), refusing to include onion and garlic in cooking.

•Following this, the State government has not yet signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to continue the programme with APF that supplies food to 4.49 lakh students in government and government-aided schools through its centralised kitchens in several cities.

•In Bengaluru alone, it provides meals to 1.83 lakh students across 1,212 schools.

•In November, the Department of Primary and Secondary Education directed the foundation to include onion and garlic in the noon meal and start supplying hot milk instead of cold milk to the students. While the foundation has started supplying hot milk to some schools on a pilot basis, it has categorically said it will not add onion and garlic.

Why does it matter?

•An official of the State Food Commission said it had received complaints about students skipping the midday meals as they did not like the taste of the food without onion and garlic, which are an integral part of the food culture among most communities.

•Children skipping meals is worrying because malnutrition is a serious issue. According to the National Family Health Survey 4 (NFHS) data for Karnataka (2015-2016), 36.2% of the children below the age of five are stunted, while 26.1% are wasted. The survey also reveals that 10.5% of the children were severely wasted, while 35.2% are underweight.

•The Central Food Technological Research Institute has sent a report to the Department based on its earlier research findings that both onion and garlic were found to enhance the bioaccessibility of iron and zinc from grain.

•But the institute has stated that during its survey across 270 schools in Mysuru district between January and May 2017, it found the average calorific value of the meals supplied by the APF was more than a school-cooked meal. The APF has said in a statement that its cooked meals are in compliance with the nutritional norms prescribed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

What is the government’s stand?

•Principal Secretary S.R. Umashankar said a final call would be taken after considering the feedback from students and teachers. The APF has had a series of meeting with several stakeholders, including officials of the State Food Commission and the Education Department. The government will have to either accept the dietary norms of APF or make alternative arrangements for supplying food.

Are health activists worried?

•Around 145 health activists, experts and citizens, who are part of the Right to Food Campaign and the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, have written to the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Chief Minister, stating that children are eating less as they find the food bland.

•Sylvia Karpagam, a public health doctor and researcher who is one of the signatories, argued for cooking culturally appropriate food in de-centralised kitchens.

•Activists have also demanded that eggs be served as part of the midday meals as it is a good source of protein. They want the contract with the APF terminated, and meals prepared by self-help groups and other community-based organisations in accordance with nutritional norms and cultural practices, using fresh local produce.

•Veena Shatrugna, a clinical nutritionist and former Ddeputy Director of the National Institute of Nutrition, said, “Normally, phytates and oxalates found in vegetarian diets precipitate iron and zinc and prevent their absorption from the gut. Onion and garlic appear to enhance absorption of these minerals.” This is significant, she pointed out, because around 50% to 70% of children in India are anaemic.

📰 The lowdown on blood transfusions

What is it?

•A young pregnant woman in a government hospital at a rural centre in south Tamil Nadu’s Madurai district made an explosive revelation mid-December. Expecting her second child, she heard from doctors, after she was admitted following a bout of sickness, that she had tested positive for HIV.

•Later, as the story unravelled, in full media glare, it turns out she had acquired the virus after a blood transfusion in a district hospital following a diagnosis of anaemia. This opened up a Pandora’s box, and fear and distrust pervaded the community. Besides flagging the issue of the availability of safe blood in the State, it set in motion a sequence of events, mostly tragic, introspection, and some corrective action.

How did it come about?

•The story did not end, or even begin, there. The blood donor, who had donated as a replacement donor when a pregnant relative required a transfusion, only discovered his HIV positive status after a test for a job interview. He rushed back to the hospital, laden with guilt, to inform authorities. By then, his blood had been transfused to the pregnant woman, and she had tested positive. His blood donation history retrospectively exposed chinks in the blood donation and transfusion cycle in at least two instances. He had already donated blood in 2016, but his blood was discarded after he tested positive for HIV. However, though the HIV law mandates that the patient be informed with counselling about his/her status, in this case the donor remained in the dark. In the second instance, when he donated his blood in November last year, two years after the first, the lab failed to test and/or detect his infection, which was clearly not in the ‘window period’ where the virus may avoid detection. The donor was distraught, and attempted suicide, and died in hospital later.

•A few days later, another pregnant woman claimed she had been transfused with HIV-infected blood at Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital in Chennai. While her claim has been contested stoutly, the two incidents have, nevertheless, rocked the State that once won plaudits for its prevention of transmission programmes.

What is the process of donation?

•There is a chain of approved processes to be followed in blood donation, aimed at quality control and negating the possibility of transmitting infections. Every qualified donor is put through a basic clinical evaluation (blood pressure and pulse). If normal, a sample of the blood donated is tested for HIV, Hepatitis B and C, sexually transmitted diseases and malaria. Meanwhile, the donated blood is stored separately in an ‘unscreened refrigerator.’ If the sample clears these tests, or if the tests turn negative, the blood will then be moved to the ‘screened refrigerator.’ If it tests positive for any of the infections, another sample from the same blood bag is tested again. If positive, the bag is discarded. The HIV Act mandates that the blood bank inform the positive donor, besides referring to the appropriate department for further treatment. When a requirement crops up, the blood bank does a grouping to confirm that the group is the same, does a cross-match with the recipient and releases it to the ward.

What next?

•The Madras High Court has sought a report from the Health Department. The National and State Human Rights Commissions have taken suo motucognisance of the issue and asked for the State’s response. The need, however, is to build confidence in the community that the most exacting standards are followed in collecting, testing and storing blood, and then in transfusing it. Even if this calls for a re-look at the entire process, it must be done. It is as crucial as making sure no one dies because they could not get blood in time.