- Question Hour and Zero Hour
THE ISSUE IN NEWS
Recently, the Central government has decided to suspend the Question Hour and curtail Zero Hour for Monsoon Session. This has been done in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- In the past too, the Question Hour has been suspended. However, they were suspended during national emergencies. The current suspension has been done during a regular session.
- Definition: The first hour of every parliamentary sitting is slotted for the Question Hour. However, in 2014 the Question Hour was shifted in the Rajya Sabha from 11 am to 12 noon.
- During this one hour, Members of Parliament (MPs) ask questions to ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their
- The questions can also be asked to the private members (MPs who are not ministers).
- Regulation: It is regulated according to parliamentary rules. The presiding officers of the both Houses (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha) are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question
- Kinds of Questions: There are three types of questions asked.
- Starred question (distinguished by an asterisk)- this requires an oral answer and hence supplementary questions can follow.
- Unstarred question- this requires a written answer and hence, supplementary questions cannot follow.
- Short notice question is one that is asked by giving a notice of less than ten days. It is answered
- Frequency: Question Hour in both Houses is held on all days of the session. But there are two days when an exception is made.
- When the President addresses MPs from both Houses.
- The President’s speech takes place at the beginning of a new Lok Sabha and on the first day of a new Parliament year. On the day the Finance Minister presents the
- Zero Hour is an Indian parliamentary innovation. It is not mentioned in the parliamentary rules book.
- Under this, MPs can raise matters without any prior notice. The zero hour starts immediately after the question hour and lasts until the agenda for the day (i.e. regular business of the House) is taken up.
- In other words, the time gap between the question hour and the agenda is known as zero hour.
- Over the last 70 years, MPs have successfully used the parliamentary device of ‘Question Hour’ to shine a light on government functioning. Their questions have exposed financial irregularities and brought data and information regarding government functioning to the public domain.
- Suspension of the Question Hour would mean that the Opposition would lose the right to question the government. Also, the Ministers are not liable to reply to the issues raised during the Zero Hour.
- This would mean that the MPs would not be able to hold the government accountable for its action. This will go against the spirit of parliamentary democracy.
- Covid-19 Detection Using Mass Spectrometer
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Researchers from the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have developed a technique that uses mass spectrometry to detect novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).
- IGIB is a premier institute of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), engaged in research of national importance in the areas of genomics, molecular medicine, bioinformatics, etc. It is based in New Delhi.
- NCDC is under administrative control of the Directorate General of Health Services in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Mass Spectrometry (MS):
- It is an analytical technique used for determining the elemental composition of samples, quantifying the mass of particles and molecules, and elucidating their chemical structure.
- MS is based on ionization and fragmentation of sample molecules in the gaseous phase.
- The instruments used in this technique are called mass spectrometers and mass spectrographs, and they operate on the principle that moving ions may be deflected by electric and magnetic fields.
- Clinical laboratories use the MS technology for disease screening, diagnosis of disease and metabolic disorders, monitoring of drug therapy, identifying drug toxicity and poisoning, and discovering new
- Biomarker is short for biological marker, and is used as an indication that a biological process in the body has happened or is ongoing.
New Technique Covid-19 Detection:
- The new technique based on mass spectrometry relies on detecting the presence of two peptides which are unique to SARS-CoV-2 virus and not seen in any other coronavirus or other viruses.
- Peptides are building blocks of the viral protein.
- Only two peptides are used for quick virus detection, though seven peptides were found to be unique to SARS-CoV-2. One of the peptides is the spike protein and the other is a replicase protein.
- The unique peptides were seen in over 54,000 genomic sequences of the SARS-CoV-2 virus deposited in a public database (GISAID) as on 1 July 2020.
- The GISAID initiative promotes the rapid sharing of data from all influenza viruses and the coronavirus causing Covid-19. It was launched on the occasion of the 61 World Health Assembly in May 2008.
New Technique vs RT-PCR:
No Amplification of RNA:
- The new method can directly detect the virus without amplifying the RNA for detection, as is the case with the Reverse Transcription- Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test, which is considered the gold standard of testing for the infection.
- Scientists could detect the peptides of SARS-CoV-2 virus even in patients who have recovered from the symptoms and have tested negative for the virus by RT-PCR. The peptides were present even after 14 days of initial infection.
- Sensitivity and Specificity: With the new technique, scientists have been able to detect novel coronavirus with 95% sensitivity and 100% specificity with respect to RT-PCR. This is much better than the alternative rapid antigen kits, currently in use in India for scaling up testing, that can throw up 20 to 50% false negatives.
- Sensitivity measures how often a test correctly generates a positive result for people who have the condition that’s being tested for (also known as ‘true positive’ rate).
- Specificity measures a test’s ability to correctly generate a negative result for people who don’t have the condition that is being tested for (also known as the ‘true negative’ rate).
- Detection Time: Detection of the virus takes less than three minutes; time from sample preparation to detection takes less than 30 minutes. The RT-PCR takes a minimum of 2-5 hours including time taken for a sample transportation.
- Cost: The mass spectrometer is expensive but it would cost only about 100 per test, and so cheaper than RT-PCR. Further, many research labs have the mass spectrometer.
- Pooled Testing: The method also allows for effective pooling of samples.
- Pooled testing is when samples from more than one person are mixed together and tested. And, if one of the batches comes back positive, the samples from only that batch are retested individually to detect the person who has the infection.
- This method helps save cost and scale up testing. Considering its benefits, it can either complement RT-PCR or be used as an alternative to RT-PCR.
- Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill 2020
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Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill 2020 to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament.
- The Bill will include Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi as official languages in the newly-created Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
- Only English and Urdu were official languages in the former State, which was bifurcated on 5 August 2019, with Ladakh becoming a separate Union Territory.
- Dogri along with Bodo, Maithili and Santhali was added to the scheduled languages under the Eighth Schedule by 92 Amendment Act of 2003, which consists of the following 22 languages:
- Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili and Dogri.
- Of these languages, 14 were initially included in the Constitution.
- Sindhi language was added by the 21 Amendment Act of 1967. Konkani, Manipuri, and Nepali were included by the 71 Amendment Act of 1992.
- The Bill not only fulfills a long-pending public demand of the region but also keeps with the spirit of equality.
- Part XVII of the Indian Constitution deals with the official languages in Articles 343 to 351.
- Article 345: Official language or languages of a State subject to the provisions of Article 346 and 347. The Constitutional provisions related to the Eighth Schedule are:
- Article 344: Article 344(1) provides for the constitution of a Commission by the President on expiration of five years from the commencement of the Constitution and thereafter at the expiration of ten years from such commencement, which shall consist of a Chairman and such other members representing the different languages specified in the Eighth Schedule to make recommendations to the President for the progressive use of Hindi for official purposes of the Union.
- Article 351: It provides for the spread of the Hindi language to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India.