ISRO honoured with Gandhi Peace Prize
- Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been selected for the Gandhi Peace Prize for 2014 for its contribution to the country’s development through space technology and satellite-based services.The award, comprising Rs.one crore and a citation, was decided after the jury for the prize met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 27.
- Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu, Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, senior Member of Parliament L.K. Advani and Gopalkrishna Gandhi are other members of the jury.
- The Gandhi Peace Prize for social, economic and political transformation through non-violence was instituted in 1995.
- Some of its previous winners are Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Julius K Nyerere, Baba Amte, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan and Ramkrishna Mission. Gandhi Peace Prize for 2013 was conferred to Chandi Prasad Bhatt - Environmentalist, social activist and pioneer of the Chipko movement.
IAEA for more autonomy to AERB
- India has a “strong commitment to safety” but the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) needs more independence and separation from the government, the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency said after completing a 12-day review of India’s nuclear safety standards.
- IAEA also called for the Indian government to allow more on-site inspections at the nuclear power plants (NPPs) under international safeguards.
- According to a release from the IAEA in Vienna, six preliminary suggestions were given at the end of the review which were accepted by the Indian agency.
- The chairman of the AERB, S.S. Bajaj, was quoted as saying, “AERB is committed to pursuing the improvements suggested by the mission towards further strengthening the regulatory framework.”
- Among other suggestions, the international agency said India needs a “national policy” for nuclear safety and radioactive waste management, and needs more “internal emergency arrangements.”
- The IAEA review came at the invitation of the Indian government after it concluded handing over its civilian nuclear reactors for international scrutiny, and submitted to IAEA requirements for accounting for spent fuel and other nuclear processes.
- India has also completed its “policy issues” with the U.S. over administrative arrangements for the India-U.S. civilian nuclear deal, paving the way for nuclear trade to begin.
- Nuclear trade for reactors and fuel would be a part of Mr. Modi’s discussions when he visits France and Canada next month.
- India is also keen to get backing for a future bid for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which it has been kept out of as India has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
- All 93 signatories to the NPT will be meeting at a major review conference at the United Nations in April and May, which will be significant ahead of the NSG’s annual conference in June.
Garg panel submits report
- The Justice T.P. Garg Commission, which was appointed to probe the massacre of 32 Sikhs at Hondh Chillar village in Rewari district of Haryana on November 2, 1984 in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, on March 27 submitted its report to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
- Mr. Khattar said the government accepted the recommendations of the Commission in the Hondh Chillar case and also decided to give it six months extension for Gurgaon and Pataudi cases.
- The Commission recommended payment of additional amount of Rs.20 lakh over and above the amount already paid (which is Rs. 7 lakh on three occasions spreading over a period of 23 years from the year 1984-85 to 2006-07) to the claimants for each of 31 deceased (belonging to village Haud) and a sum of Rs.25 lakh to the widow of lone army man Inderjit Singh as she has not been paid any amount whatsoever by way of compensation till date.
- It recommended payment of additional amount of Rs.5 lakh for the loss of property to each of 36 petitioners over and above the amount of compensation already paid.
- Further a sum of Rs.5 lakh each would be paid to the gurdwara and the Janj Ghar to those religious structures which may have been raised by the majority of the survivors of village Haud. The panel has recommended payment of additional amount of Rs. 1 lakh to five persons who suffered simple injuries and a sum of Rs.50 lakh be paid to another claimant, Satpal, who had filed his claim through his mother.
India’s unrealised maternity entitlement
The Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana was introduced to provide partial wage compensation during pregnancy, but various issues plague its implementation
- The latest official figures indicate that India is well short of meeting the Millennium Development Goals that pledged to reduce the country’s maternal mortality ratio (MMR) by three quarters and the infant mortality rate (IMR) by two-thirds. The Sample Registration System (SRS), 2013, records MMR at 167 per 1,00,000 live births and IMR at 40 per 1,000 live births with a majority of these infants dying within seven days of birth. India is required to reduce MMR to 109 per 100,000 live births by 2015. India's Under 5 Mortality Rate(U5MR) target is 42 per 1,000 live births by 2015.
- India’s high MMR and IMR are partly due to delayed diagnosis and limited access to health care. Additionally, rest during or after pregnancy is not an option for most women who are unorganised workers. According to the District Level Household Survey 3, nearly a quarter of women in India do not receive any antenatal care and over 50% do not receive any postnatal care for up to two weeks.
- In 2010, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) launched the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) to address this critical situation. Leveraging(use (something) to maximum advantage) the Integrated Child Development Scheme’s (ICDS) platform, the programme was piloted in 53 districts across the country.
- The IGMSY provides partial wage compensation to pregnant and lactating women in order to promote rest and healthy feeding practices, as well as increase utilisation of healthcare services. Under the scheme, all pregnant women of 19 years and above, except those employed by the government (Central or State) or Public Sector Undertakings, for the first two live births were entitled to Rs. 4,000 per live birth, in three instalments. The scheme is conditional on timely registration, complete vaccination, attending counselling sessions and exclusive breastfeeding of the child.
- In September 2013, the IGMSY cash incentive was increased from Rs. 4,000 to Rs. 6,000 to comply with the minimum maternity entitlement provision of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013. Additionally the payment timeline was revised to two instalments of Rs. 3,000. However, the coverage and conditions were unaltered.
- Implementation of the IGMSY has been neglected since its launch. Official data show that between the years 2010 and 2013, approximately only 28% of the targeted beneficiaries were covered. At the end of 2014, the MWCD announced a proposed scale up of the IGMSY to 200 additional ‘high burden’ districts in 2015-16. Though this expansion did not comply with the NFSA’s mandate of maternal entitlements for the entire country, the willingness of the government to increase coverage of the IGMSY was seen by civil society as a step in the right direction.
- However, the government’s lack of commitment to expansion of the IGMSY is betrayed through this year’s budget allocation of Rs. 438 crore, an increase of Rs. 80 crore from 2014-15. Given the absence of Centre-State cost sharing, this increased allocation of approximately one-fifth of last year’s budget is disproportionate to the proposed expansion of nearly four times the current coverage. This indicates the government’s decision to not scale up the IGMSY, which is a clear violation of the NFSA.
- A qualitative study of the IGMSY was conducted by the Centre for Equity Studies, New Delhi, in 2014, in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. The study revealed widespread neglect of the scheme over three years, with teething trouble still being faced in some districts.
- It was found that most beneficiaries were unaware or misinformed about the scheme. One mother in Jharkhand believed that she was entitled to a maximum amount of Rs. 1,500. Without the government’s attention to awareness building, women fail to demand their entitlements. Several Anganwadi workers stated that a three-year gap between the first two children or sterilisation of the mother was essential for receiving IGMSY money for the second child. Such misinformation is a result of inadequate and improper counselling of women and training of workers.
- Under the IGMSY, cash is only deposited into an account. Opening and accessing accounts is often expensive and time consuming because banks and post offices are often far from villages. In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, banks and post offices were situated as far as 17-30 kilometres — a difficult terrain to traverse in some areas — and some of them are inefficient. IGMSY guidelines specify that the accounts should have to be zero-balance no-frill accounts. However, no woman reported having such an account. Initial deposits demanded from them ranged from Rs. 50-200 in post offices and Rs. 500-1,000 in banks. Such costs disincentivise participation in the programme.
- The IGMSY guidelines recommend creation of State and district implementation cells. These cells were either absent or not fully staffed at the time of the study. This failure combined with no provisions for block-level cells, and frequent transfer of officials, negatively impacts IGMSY implementation, monitoring and quality record-keeping. The study also revealed that no system of IGMSY-related complaint filing, time-bound investigation or appeals system exists in Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
- Delayed payment was a trend across the four States with no sampled beneficiary receiving the first instalment of IGMSY cash during pregnancy. In Bihar and Jharkhand, the complete amount was generally received when the child was around one-year-old. Such delays undermine the objective of the scheme — to provide partial wage compensation during pregnancy to enable adequate rest.
- Given the above, what is required is a focus on the basics such as awareness building, establishment of implementation cells, a responsive grievance redress mechanism and a publicly accessible management information system. Most importantly, the government needs to commit to the realisation of the right to maternal entitlements of all women as defined in the NFSA.
MMR and IMR's Base, Latest and Target record
Twitter Samvad to keep the govt.-citizen conversation going
- The Union government launched a new platform, in association with Twitter, on March 24 for direct communication among leaders, government agencies and citizens through tweets and text messages, helping boost e-governance plans.
- To start with, the service has 16 partners, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi; the Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, Chandrababu Naidu, Anandiben Patel, Akhilesh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee, respectively; the Railway Ministry; and the Bengaluru City Police.
- “Based on Indian technological innovation, Twitter Samvad is dedicated [to], and specially built, for the largest democracy of the world. As part of the Prime Minister’s Digital India initiative, this tweet-powered service enables citizens to be the first to know about the government’s actions by receiving political content in real-time on their mobile devices anywhere in the country,” said Dick Costolo, chief executive officer of Twitter, who met Mr. Modi on March 24.
- Through Twitter Samvad, a set of curated Tweets will be delivered every day from the accounts of the government and the leaders to mobile-phone users across the country as text messages. The service can come in handy during emergencies as government agencies can share live updates, even time-sensitive information on law and order or rescue.