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Questions in Parliament: WhatsApp hard to decrypt, 52% of rural men use tobacco

‘Indian security agencies are unable to decrypt some of the communication on platforms like WhatsApp to readable formats for various reasons such as technical as well as legal and regulatory policy’. File photo  

‘Security agencies unable to decrypt some info on WhatsApp’

Indian security agencies are unable to decrypt some of the communication on platforms like WhatsApp to readable formats for various reasons such as technical as well as legal and regulatory policy, the Parliament was informed on Friday.

“Security/law enforcement agencies face difficulty while dealing with encrypted communications by various application service providers including end to end encrypted communication message provided by Whatsapp,” Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

He added that such applications make use of encryption technology and proprietary authentication protocols to secure messages.

“However, security agencies are able to intercept these encrypted communication services through the lawful interception facilities provided by the telecom service providers,” he said.

Ayurvedic anti-diabetic drug developed, says govt.

The Central Council of Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) has developed a new anti-diabetic drug whose trial has shown “significant” reduction in blood sugar levels, the Lok Sabha was informed on Friday.

“For the management of diabetes mellitus, the CCRAS has developed a formulation namely AYUSH-82 from five ayurvedic medicinal plants.

“The trails of the drug has shown significant reduction in blood sugar levels along with clinical improvements. No toxic effects were noted during the trial,” AYUSH Minister Shripad Yesso Naik said in a written reply.

He said that the Council has initiated action to commercialise AYUSH-82 and till now Dabur India, Kudos Laboratory India and La Granade Herbs and Pharma have been given licenses for manufacturing it.

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has also found “novel” use of cow urine distillate as activity enhancer and availability facilitator, for bio-active molecules including anti-infective and anti-cancer agents, Mr. Naik said.

“CSIR has reported that its constituent laboratory namely Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (Lucknow) in a study undertaken in collaboration with Go-Vigyan Anusandhan Kendra in Nagpur have found novel use of cow urine distillate as activity enhancer and availability facilitatory for bio-active molecules including anti-infective and anti-cancer agents,” Mr. Naik said.

He said that cow urine distillate was found to possess the property of bio-enhancement of an anti-cancer natural agent ‘taxol’ which is produced in microscopic amounts by the Yew tree.

He said cow urine distillate besides enhancing the killing activities of different antibiotics on bacteria could also enhance the cell division inhibitory activity of the paclitaxel drug against breast cancer line MCF-7.

“Further a white crystalline precipitate prepared from the cow urine distillate also showed similar activity as cow urine distillate. A U.S. patent on the research finding has also been obtained.

“Public and Private research institutes may seek grant from the government under various schemes of Ministry of AYUSH. However there is no plan with the Ministry of AYUSH to extend separate assistance to the institutions engaged in developing cancer medicines from cow urine only,” he added.

Govt. to set up network of VRDL laboratories

The government is setting up a national network of Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratories (VRDL) across the country to handle cases of bio-terrorism.

“The department of health research is setting up a three tiered national network of VRDLs under its ongoing research scheme viz Establishment of network of Laboratories for Managing Epidemics and Natural Calamities.

“The department is committed to set up a total of 160 VRDLs all across the country. These VRDLs are being equipped to handle 30-35 viruses of public health importance. These laboratories will also handle the possible cases of bio-terrorism,” Minister of State for Health Shripad Yesso Naik said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Friday.

48% men, 20% women consume tobacco

Nearly 35 per cent or 27.5 crore adults in India consume tobacco in some form or the other and the prevalence among males is 48 per cent, while in females it is 20 per cent, the Lok Sabha was told on Friday.

New rules had been notified for making it mandatory to carry pictorial health warnings occupying at least 85 per cent of the principal display area of the tobacco package, which includes 25 per cent of textual health warning, Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda said.

“As per Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS-India 2010), about 35 per cent of the adults in India consume tobacco in some form or the other. The estimated number of tobacco users in India is 27.5 crore, with 16.37 crore users of smokeless tobacco, 6.9 crore only smokers and 4.23 crore users of both smoking and smokeless tobacco,” Mr. Nadda said.

He said the prevalence of overall tobacco use among males is 48 per cent and that among females is 20 per cent while among both males and females, the prevalence of tobacco use is higher in rural than urban areas.

“More than half of rural males (52 per cent) and 24 per cent of rural females use tobacco compared with 38 per cent of urban males and 12 per cent of urban females,” he said.

Mr. Nadda said as per the report of Tobacco Control in India (2004), nearly 8-9 lakh people die every year due to diseases attributable to tobacco use.

A nationally representative study on smoking and death in India (published in 2008) found that smoking causes a large and growing number of premature deaths in the country. The study estimated that in 2010, the annual number of deaths from smoking in India would be around 10 lakh, he added.

Mr. Nadda said that published scientific literature suggests that exposure to promotional activities for tobacco leads to initiation and progression of tobacco use among youth and young adults in the country.

“Research corroborates that exposure to tobacco advertisements and receptivity to tobacco marketing are significantly related to increased tobacco use among students. There is evidence to suggest independent association between tobacco use in Indian movies and over tobacco use among adolescents in India,” he said.

No funds released to NFDC by I&B Ministry in last 3 years

The Information and Broadcasting ministry on Friday said that no funds were released to the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) during the last three years as it was decided to review the financial arrangements between it and the Ministry.

In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for I&B Rajyavardhan Rathore said that his Ministry provides funds to NFDC for production of films in Indian languages.

“No funds were released to NFDC during the last three years as it was decided to review the financial arrangements between NFDC and Ministry of I&B that required extensive consultations with stakeholders including C&AG and Ministry of Finance,” the Minister added in his reply.

Over 14,000 girls rescued from human trafficking in last 2 years

Over 14,000 victims were rescued from trafficking for prostitution in the past two years, the Lok Sabha was informed on Friday.

An Inter-Ministerial Committee has also been constituted for strengthening legislative and institutional frame work for combating human trafficking of all forms, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said in a written reply.

“As per the information provided by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the victims rescued from trafficking under sexual exploitation for prostitution is 4,743 and 9,483 for the year 2014 and 2015 respectively,” she said.

She said the Ministry is implementing a comprehensive scheme — “Ujjawala” for prevention of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and rehabilitation and re-integration of the victims to facilitate their rescue from place of their exploitation and place them in safe custody and provide rehabilitation services..

Under the scheme, rescue, rehabilitation and re-integration of victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation is done. It also facilitate rescue of victims from place of their exploitation and provide rehabilitation services.

25,000 women died due to dowry between 2012 and 2014

Around 25,000 women were either killed or committed suicide due to dowry harassment by their in-laws between 2012 and 2014, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi said in the Lok Sabha on Friday.

Also, 30,000 cases of dowry were registered during the same period of time, she said in a written reply on implementation of Dowry Prohibition Act.

“As per National Crime Records Bureau data, a total number of 8233, 8083 and 8455 cases were registered of dowry deaths in the country during 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively,” the Women and Child Development Minister said.

Similarly, 9038, 10709 and 10050 cases were registered under Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 in the country during 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively, she said.

NCPCR has proposed fee waiver for children of farmers

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has proposed a fee waiver for a year for the children of farmers affected by crop failure, the government informed the Lok Sabha on Friday.

Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, in a written reply, said the NCPCR has urged the HRD Ministry to reimburse the fee and provide entitlements to children of farmers affected by the unseasonal rain and hailstorm.

“In view of the unseasonal rain and hailstorm in the first week of March, 2016 in north, western and central India, NCPCR has written to the Ministry of Human Resources Development to reimburse the fee and to provide entitlements to the children of farmers, especially small farmers, under section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act 2009,” Ms. Gandhi said.

41 soldiers killed in Siachen since 2013

Forty one soldiers have lost their lives in Siachen Glacier since 2013, the government said on Friday.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in a written reply in the Lok Sabha said 10 soldiers were killed in 2013, eight and nine in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Till March 31, 2016, 14 soldiers have died this year, Mr. Parrikar said.

Only 307 firms complied with gender diversity in boardrooms

A total of 307 companies have complied with the mandate of nominating women to the board of directors, aimed at ensuring gender diversity in boardrooms.

All listed firms were required to have at least one woman director on board from April 1, 2015, as per a Sebi directive, as also under the Companies Act, 2013.

“There are 307 companies who have complied with the mandate of law of nominating women to the board of directors,” Corporate Affairs Minister Arun Jaitley said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha on Friday.

He further noted that prosecution has been launched against 169 companies for failing to comply with the mandate.

Sebi to act against defaulting brokers in NSEL scam

Sebi has been asked to take necessary action against the defaulting brokers in the nearly Rs. 5,600-crore NSEL scam while the Corporate Affairs Ministry and other agencies including the Enforcement Directorate are also investigating the case, the government said on Friday.

Union Minister Arun Jaitley, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha, said that other than Corporate Affairs Ministry, the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Mumbai police and the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) are also investigating the matter.

Quantum of CDR sees fourfold jump in less than 5 years

The government on Friday said the quantum of corporate debt restructuring (CDR) has grown about fourfold in less than five years.

According to the Corporate Debt Restructuring Cell, the aggregate debt amounted to Rs 4.03 lakh crore by way of 530 cases as on December 31, the Lok Sabha was informed.

As on March 2010, the total number of cases stood at 215 amounting to Rs 1.04 lakh crore.

Inspection of alleged irregularities in DDCA in progress

Inspection of the books of accounts and other records is under progress with regard to alleged irregularities in Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), the Parliament was informed on Friady.

In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said several cases of alleged irregularities in the functioning of the DDCA have come to the the notice.

Panel formed to suggest framework for MCI restructuring

The government on Friday said a four-member committee, headed by the NITI Aayog vice-chairman, has been constituted to suggest an implementation framework for restructuring of Medical Council of India (MCI).

Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda in a written reply in the Lok Sabha said the government had amended the Indian Medical Council (IMC) Act, 1956, through the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Act, 2010, and suspended MCI for one year with constitution of Board of Governors (BoG) to perform the functions of the council.

Guidelines for engagement of consultants in Ministries

Consultants of several foreign-funded organisations engaged with the various health programmes who have completed a tenure of three years should be “disengaged” by June this year, the government said on Friday.

Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda in a written reply in the Lok Sabha said the department of Economic Affairs in the Finance Ministry in its office memorandum has prescribed guidelines for consultants by the Ministries, government departments from bilateral partners and multilateral organisations.

Govt. examining proposal to declare IIMC as institute of national importance

The HRD Ministry is examining a proposal to declare several institutes, including Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), as ‘Institutions of National Importance’ under the Central Universities Act, the government said on Friday.

The government proposed to grant the status of ‘An Institution of National Importance’ to IIMC through an Act of Parliament. The “final draft” of the Bill — The Indian Institute of Mass Communication Bill, 2015 for soliciting the approval of the Cabinet for its introduction in Parliament has also been prepared, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore told the Lok Sabha in a written reply.

Measures are being taken to increase capacity of EMMC

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry on Friday said that measures are being taken to increase the capacity of its Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) which presently can track content of 600 TV channels to 900.

In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for I&B Rajyavardhan Rathore said that under the 12th Plan period, government has initiated a scheme for increasing EMMC’s monitoring capacity to 900 channels.

NPPA examining 92 applications to fix price of new FDCs

National drug price regulator NPPA is currently evaluating 92 applications for retail price fixation of new fixed dose combinations, Parliament was informed on Friday.

Besides, the National Pharma Pricing Regulator has directed all pharmaceutical companies whose applications for retail price fixation of new FDCs (fixed dose combinations) are pending to submit a declaration signed by the designated authority that the FDC has not been banned by drug control authorities.

“At present, 92 applications for retail price fixation of new FDCs are under examination at NPPA,” Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

Ceiling and retail prices are fixed only for those formulations, including fixed dose combination (FDCs), which have valid approvals from the Drug Control Authority.

Also, the government is looking at the financial viability for providing Rs. 200 crore each to three new bulk drug manufacturing parks in order to create common minimum facilities, Mr. Ahir told the House in response to another question.

12,000 cases of credit card, net banking frauds during April-December 2015

Close to 12,000 cases related to credit/debit cards and net banking were reported during April- December 2015, Parliament was informed on Friday.

As per the data made available by the Reserve Bank of India, 13,083 and 11,997 cases related to ATM/credit/debit cards and net banking frauds were reported by the banks during 2014-15 and 2015-16 (up to December 2015), respectively, Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

3.08 crore cases pending in HCs, lower courts

Despite disposal of over 2 crore litigations in 2015, over 3 crore cases are still pending in the 24 High Courts and various lower courts in the country, the Rajya Sabha was told on Friday.

Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda said in a written reply in the Upper House that 38.70 lakh cases were pending in the high courts and 2.70 crore cases were pending in the district and subordinate courts on December 31, 2015.

Referring to the disposal of cases, he said while the high courts disposed of 15,80,911 cases in 2015, the figure stood at 1,78,97,488 for the lower courts.

In 2014, the High Courts disposed of 17,34,542 cases while the lower courts settled 1,90,19,658 cases.

Rs. 25,834 crore subsidy released to FCI this fiscal

The government has released Rs. 25,834 crore subsidy to the Food Corporation of India so far this fiscal.

“The subsidy is provided to reimburse the FCI for expenses incurred on acquisition of foodgrains and the allied logistics of supplying it to States for distribution under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TDPS), National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 and other welfare schemes,” Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha on Friday.

Temples, trusts deposit 1,512 kg gold under GMS

Banks have collected about 1,500 kg of gold from temples and trusts under the Gold Monetisation Scheme (GMS) since its launch last November.

Under the GMS, 2015 approximately 1,512 kg of gold has so far been deposited by temples or trusts, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha .

EPFO investment in ETF at Rs. 6,577 crore

The total amount invested by retirement fund body EPFO in Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) of Nifty and Sensex-based index as on March 31, 2016 was Rs. 6,577 crore, Parliament was informed on Friday.

“Employee’s Provident Fund has not invested in individual stocks. It has invested only 5 per cent investible surplus in ETFs of Nifty and Sensex-based index. The total amount invested is Rs. 6,577 crore as on March 31, 2016,” Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

Centre seeks State, UT support for Jan Aushadhi stores

The government has sought cooperation from State governments and Union Territories to open Jan Aushadhi centres in all medical colleges and district hospitals, Parliament was informed on Friday.

“To make available drugs at affordable prices through Jan Aushadhi stores, the cooperation of state governments, union territories have been sought to open Jan Aushadhi stores in all the medical collages and district hospitals,” Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

Doctors in super specialities not keen to join to join government service

The government on Friday admitted that doctors in super specialities are “not very keen” to join government services and said it has taken several measures to retain the best talent and fill up vacant posts.

“The doctors in super specialities are not very keen to join the government service. During 2013 and 2014, requisitions for 83 posts in various super specialities were sent to UPSC.

“The UPSC could only recommend 38 candidates out of which 31 finally joined the services,” Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

Airtel, Voda, Tata Tele seeking spectrum liberalisation

Apart from Reliance Communications, telecom operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Tata Teleservices have applied for spectrum liberalisation in select areas, the Parliament was informed on Friday.

“Reliance Communications (RCL) and Tata Teleservices have applied for liberalisation of spectrum in 800 Mhz band in 20 licensed service areas (LSAs) and 2 LSAs, respectively,” Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

“Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Mobile Services have applied for liberalisation of spectrum in 1,800 Mhz in one LSA each.”

In a written reply to another question in the House, Mr. Parasad said the government will conduct special audit of telecom companies, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Communications and Idea Cellular for three years to 2010-11.


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