Tuesday November 19, 2019
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Govt does background check on ministries’ consultants

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

New Delhi: Looking into the matter of alleged leak of official documents from ministries, government is starting to collect details of all consultants working in its department and ministries, but get their salaries from external agencies.

lok_sabha_india_hd_images_computer_backgroundExternal agencies, including UN bodies, fund many consultants under bilateral and multilateral agreements. A three member panel headed by Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha, is assessing the details collected. The other two members in the panel are Finance Secretary Ratan Watal and Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs.

The Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) is collecting and compiling together the information, to be viewed by the three-member panel.

As reported in The Indian Express, all ministries and departments have been sent a 24-point questionnaire about the consultants and told to explain “the need/justification for external support.”

The questionnaire also asks if the consultant in question reports to the ministry or directly to the bilateral/multilateral institution; and is the work of the consultant shared with the bilateral/multilateral institution.

The consultants work for ministries and departments which include the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change,Women and Child Development, Human Resource Development, Social Justice and Empowerment, Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Science and Technology, Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Planning Commission (now known as the NITI Aayog), and missions/directorates under them.

There is no exact count of number of consultants tabulated as of yet, but around 100 work with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and another 80 are attached to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

The DEA sent questionnaires to the ministries and departments on July 23, after a decision was taken regarding the same on July 16.

A letter by the DEA said, “Committee has now directed to obtain detailed information about engagement of consultants/advisers from each ministry/department.

Information collected from the questionnaire will reveal the level at which the decision was taken to engage the consultants; whether the position was advertised; whether an interview was held; whether the selection was made by the ministry or by the bilateral/multilateral institution; whether the consultant had prior experience of working in the ministry/bilateral-multilateral institution; the salary structure; terms of reference; and, whether feedback on quality of output is taken into consideration prior to release of payment.

Some ministries/departments have filled in the details while others are still in the process of submitting their replies.

 

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Toxicity in Air Affects Children’s Brain Development: UNICEF

UNICEF has warned that air pollution affects a child's brain development

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Brain Development
According to UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, air pollution toxicity can affect children's brain development. Pixabay

Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore has warned that air pollution toxicity can affect children’s brain development and called for urgent action to deal with the crisis gripping India and South Asia.

“I saw first-hand how children continue to suffer from the dire consequences of air pollution,” Fore, who recently visited India, said on Wednesday.

“The air quality was at a crisis level. You could smell the toxic fog even from behind an air filtration mask,” she added.

Air pollution affects children most severely and its effects continue all their lives because they have smaller lungs, breathe twice as fast as adults and lack immunities, Fore said.

Brain Development
Air pollution damages brain tissue and undermines brain development in babies and young children. Pixabay

She added that it “damages brain tissue and undermines cognitive development in babies and young children, leading to lifelong consequences that can affect their learning outcomes and future potential. There is evidence to suggest that adolescents exposed to higher levels of air pollution are more likely to experience mental health problems”.

“Unicef is calling for urgent action to address this air quality crisis,” affecting 620 million children in South Asia.

Also Read- Snowfall in Jammu and Kashmir to Help Bring Pollution Down in Neighbouring States

Schools were closed in Delhi till Tuesday because of the severe environmental situation caused by post-harvest burning of stubble in neighbouring states.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) on Sunday touched 625, considered “severe plus” level. (IANS)