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MEA says world body has no right to file petition on India’s internal matter

In an unprecedented and rare move, the Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has announced that it plans to file an application in the Supreme Court, asking to be impleaded in petitions challenging the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

Responding to the announcement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the United Nations body had no right to file a petition that will ask the court to appoint the Commissioner for Human Rights as an assistant or amicus curiae in the case.

The OHCHR plan has been criticised by diplomatic and legal experts here, including one of the 22 petitioners in the case, as an “overreach”.

“The High Commissioner [Michelle Bachelet] intends to submit an amicus curiae brief shortly on the Citizenship [Amendment] Act [CAA] in the Indian Supreme Court, in accordance with the Court’s established procedures, and she has informed the Indian Permanent Mission in Geneva of her intention,” Rupert Colville, OHCHR spokesperson based in Geneva, confirmed to The Hindu.

“The amicus curiae will focus on providing an overview of relevant and applicable international human rights standards and norms to support the Court’s deliberations in the context of its review of the CAA,” the spokesperson said.

Last week, Ms. Bachelet informed the Human Rights Council that the UN body had “great concerns over the CAA”. She had also met with MEA Secretary (West) Vikas Swarup, who had travelled to Geneva to represent India at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council last Thursday. On Monday, the Indian Mission in Geneva was formally informed of the OHCHR’s plans to file the petition.

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Tuesday, “The Citizenship (Amendment) Act is an internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws. We strongly believe that no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty.”

“We are confident that our sound and legally sustainable position would be vindicated by the Honourable Supreme Court,” he added.

National Interlinking of Rivers Authority will also generate funds

Water management: A file photo of the Betwa river in Madhya Pradesh which is to be linked to the Ken river.

The Central government is working on the establishment of an exclusive body to implement projects for linking rivers.

To be called the National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA), the proposed body is expected to take up both inter-State and intra-State projects. It will also make arrangements for generating funds, internally and externally.

An official of the National Water Development Agency (NWDA), which is responsible for the formulation of proposals of the linking of rivers, said an updated draft Cabinet note has been circulated to other Ministries in the Central government. On receipt of comments, the note will be finalised by the Ministry of Jal Shakti and sent to the Union Cabinet for approval.

‘No specific timeline’

The proposal for an apex body on river linking has been under discussion for the past 18 months. However, the official said that as of now, no specific timeline has been determined for the constitution of the Authority. Also, the earlier idea of framing a Bill, envisaging the creation of the NIRA, is not being pursued now.

The subject of establishment of the Authority was discussed at the last meeting of the Special Committee on Inter-Linking of Rivers (ILR) last week in New Delhi. Headed by Union Minister of Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, the panel includes Irrigation or Water Resources Ministers and Secretaries of States. Since its formation, the Committee has held 17 meetings.

It is being assisted by a Task Force for ILR, which is a committee of experts essentially drawn from the Jal Shakti Ministry, Central Water Commission and the NWDA.

A Tamil Nadu government official said the Centre has not yet shared with States details regarding the new body though it has conveyed to them that it is planning to have an implementation agency for ILR projects.

The concentration near Gangotri glacier rose 400 times in summer, says study

Forest fires and stubble burning are major factors behind the rise.

Black carbon concentrations near the Gangotri glacier rose 400 times in summer due to forest fires and stubble burning from agricultural waste, and triggered glacial melt, says a study by scientists at the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG).

The team of scientists from WIHG, led by P.S. Negi, measured variations of black carbon concentration at Chirbasa, near the Gangotri glacier in the Indian Himalaya, located at an altitude of 3,600 metres, during the year 2016. “The monthly mean concentration of EBC (equivalent black carbon) was found to be minimum in August and maximum in the month of May. The observed seasonal mean concentrations of EBC indicated a pristine glacial source and an absence of EBC sources in the locality,” a press statement noted.

Black carbon results from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. The fine particles absorb light and about a million times more energy than carbon dioxide. It is said to be the second largest contributor to climate change after CO2. But unlike CO2, which can stay in the atmosphere for years together, black carbon is short-lived and remains in the atmosphere only for days to weeks, before it descends as rain or snow.

Second largest emitter

The concentration varied from a minimum of 0.01g/cubic metre in winter to 4.62g/cubic metre during summer.

India is the second largest emitter of black carbon in the world, with emissions expected to increase dramatically in the coming decades, says an April 2019 study in the journal Atmospheric Research, with the Indo Gangetic plains said to be the largest contributor.

Restrictions in place on paracetamol and 25 pharmaceutical ingredients

India restricted the export of common medicines such as paracetamol and 25 other pharmaceutical ingredients and drugs made from them on Tuesday, as it looked to prevent shortages amid concerns of the COVID-19 outbreak turning into a pandemic.

Besides over-the-counter painkiller and fever reducer paracetamol, drugs restricted for exports included common antibiotics metronidazole, those used to treat bacterial and other infections, as well as vitamin B1 and B12 ingredients.

A notification by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) said the export of 26 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and formulations would require licence.

In February, the Department of Pharmaceuticals asked the DGFT to issue orders restricting the export of 12 APIs and formulations in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

A high-level committee formed by the Department of Pharmaceuticals had recommended the restrictions

Although India is source of about 20% of the world’s generic drug supply, pharmaceutical companies in the country are dependent on China for two-thirds of the chemical components needed to make them.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has shut factories in China and impacted supplies, leading to fears of a shortage.

India’s API imports, the raw material used for pharmaceuticals, stand at around $3.5 billion per year, and around 70%, or $2.5 billion, come from China.

Although India is heavily import-dependent for APIs from China, it exports a limited quantity of pharma ingredients.


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