Polity & Governance
- Centre seeks debate in SC on J&K special status
- clears three export infra plans
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Geologists strike seabed ‘treasure’ in Indian waters
- Eco-bridges for the movement of tigers
Science & Technology
- Govt launches low-cost indigenously developed hearing screening device for newborns
- A smart glove that can translate sign language
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Polity & Governance
Centre seeks debate in SC on J&K special status
The Centre asked the Supreme Court to debate on the special status granted to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, saying it was both a sensitive and constitutional matter.
- The Bench agreed to schedule the case before a three-judge Bench after six weeks.
What’s the issue?
- The centre’s response came on a PIL plea filed by a Delhi-based NGO, We the Citizens, contending that the J&K government, given the State’s special autonomous status under Articles 35A and 370, was discriminatory against non-residents as far as government jobs and real estate purchases were concerned.
- The hearing comes in the backdrop of an earlier Jammu and Kashmir High Court, which ruled that Article 370 assumed a place of permanence in the Constitution and the feature was beyond amendment, repeal or abrogation.
J&K High Court ruling:
- The court said Article 35A gave “protection” to existing laws in force in the State.
- It also observed that the President under Article 370 (1) was conferred with power to extend any provision of the Constitution to the State with such “exceptions and modifications” as may be deemed fit subject to consultation or concurrence with the State government.
- The High Court said J&K, while acceding to the Dominion of India, retained limited sovereignty and did not merge with it.
What is Article 370?
- Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is a ‘temporary provision’ which grants special autonomous status to Jammu & Kashmir.
- Under Part XXI of the Constitution of India, which deals with “Temporary, Transitional and Special provisions”, the state of Jammu & Kashmir has been accorded special status under Article 370.
- All the provisions of the Constitution which are applicable to other states are not applicable to J&K. For example, till 1965, J&K had a Sadr-e-Riyasat for governor and prime minister in place of chief minister.
History of Article 370:
- The provision was drafted in 1947 by Sheikh Abdullah, who had by then been appointed prime minister of Jammu & Kashmir by Maharaja Hari Singh and Jawahar Lal Nehru.
- Sheikh Abdullah had argued that Article 370 should not be placed under temporary provisions of the Constitution. He wanted ‘iron clad autonomy’ for the state, which Centre didn’t comply with.
Provisions of Article 370:
- According to this article, except for defence, foreign affairs, finance and communications, Parliament needs the state government’s concurrence for applying all other laws.
- Thus the state’s residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to other Indians.
- As a result of this provision, Indian citizens from other states cannot purchase land or property in Jammu & Kashmir.
- Under Article 370, the Centre has no power to declare financial emergency under Article 360 in the state. It can declare emergency in the state only in case of war or external aggression.
- The Union government can therefore not declare emergency on grounds of internal disturbance or imminent danger unless it is made at the request or with the concurrence of the state government.
Govt. clears three export infra plans
The Union Government for the first time has given approval three infrastructure proposals to address the infrastructure problem under the Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES).
- An Integrated Cargo Terminal (ICT) at the Imphal International Airport.
- Modernisation of infrastructure facility in Karnataka for marine exports.
- Construction of a new ‘Standard Design Factory’ building at Cochin Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
- According to a March 2016 report on ‘Export Infrastructure in India’ by the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce, “deficient infrastructure and the manner in which infrastructure is being operated (in India) are the major obstacles to ensure competitiveness in manufacturing of goods and exports thereof.”
- It is estimated that the logistic cost in India is about 14% of the GDP whereas in advanced economies like the U.S. and the European Union, it is 8% and 10% of the GDP respectively.
- Owing to sub-optimal logistic capability, certain sectors dependent on logistics lose as much as 2% on sales return.
- An ASSOCHAM study conducted a few years ago shows that India runs against a disadvantage of about 11% of its trade due to deficient infrastructure.
- It noted that India can save up to $50 billion if logistics costs are brought down from 14% to 9% of country’s GDP which will also make domestic goods more competitive in global markets.
About Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES):
- The main objective of the scheme is to enhance export competitiveness by bridging the gap in export infrastructure, which has not been addressed by any other scheme.
- Under this scheme, all central and state agencies including Commodities Boards, SEZ authorities, Export Promotion Councils and Apex Trade Bodies recognised under the EXIM policy of Government of India will be eligible for financial support.
- The funding would be in form of grant-in-aid and in normal cases it would not be more than the equity being funded by the implementing agency or 50% of the total equity in the project.
- However, in cases of projects located in the North Eastern states or Himalayan states including Jammu & Kashmir, the grant will go up to 80% of the total equity.
- Five per cent of the grant approved would be used for appraisal, review and monitoring.
- The scheme, which is being implemented from FY18 till FY20, has a total budgetary allocation of Rs 600 crore for three years and an annual outlay of Rs 200 crore.
- The cost of projects under TIES would be equally shared by the Centre and the states.
- An empowered committee will be set up to periodically review the progress of the approved projects in the scheme. The committee will also take the required steps to ensure that the objectives of the scheme are achieved.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Geologists strike seabed ‘treasure’ in Indian waters
Scientists from the Geological Survey of India (GSI) have discovered the presence of millions of tonnes of precious metals and minerals deep under the waters that surround peninsular India.
- Under the discovery, the scientists have found the amount of lime mud, phosphate-rich and calcareous sediments, hydrocarbons, metalliferous deposits and micronodules that geologists.
- The discovery was a clear indication that deeper and more extensive exploration could lead to a larger treasure trove.
- The organisation has also confirmed the presence of Phosphate sediment off Karwar, Mangaluru and Chennai coasts, gas hydrate in the channel-levee system of Mannar Basin off the Tamil Nadu coast, cobalt-bearing ferro-manganese crust from the Andaman Sea and micro-manganese nodules around Lakshadweep Sea.
- Three state-of-the-art research vessels — Samudra Ratnakar, Samudra Kaustabh and Samudra Saudikama — carried out the ‘High Resolution Seabed Mapping and Natural Resource Evaluation’. “The main objectives were to identify potential zones of favourable mineralisation and evaluate marine mineral resources,” said Ashish Nath, superintendent geologist at GSI.
- The huge presence of marine resources was first identified off Mangaluru, Chennai, Mannar Basin, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and around Lakshadweep in early 2014.
- After three years of exploration, GSI has generated 181,025 square kilometres of high-resolution seabed morphological data and established the occurrence of more than 10,000 million tonnes of lime mud within the Exclusive Economic Zone of India.
About the Geological Survey of India (GSI):
The Geological Survey of India (GSI) was set up in 1851 primarily to find coal deposits for the Railways.
- Over the years, it has not only grown into a repository of geo-science information required in various fields in the country, but has also attained the status of a geo-scientific organisation of international repute.
- The main functions of GSI relate to creation and updation of national geoscientific information and mineral resource assessment.
- These objectives are achieved through ground surveys, air-borne and marine surveys, mineral prospecting and investigations, multi-disciplinary geoscientific, geo-technical, geo-environmental and natural hazards studies, glaciology, seismotectonic study, and carrying out fundamental research.
- Outcome of work of GSI has immense societal value. Functioning and annual programmes of GSI assume significance in the national perspective.
- GSI, headquartered at Kolkata, has six Regional offices located at Lucknow, Jaipur, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Shillong and Kolkata and State Unit offices in almost all States of the country.
- Presently, Geological Survey of India is an attached office to the Ministry of Mines.
Eco-bridges for the movement of tigers
Telangana State is planning to construct eco-friendly bridges over a canal cutting across the tiger corridor linking the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra with the forests in Telangana’s Kumram Bheem Asifabad district.
- The Telangana Irrigation Department has given its consent for the construction of the eco-bridges.
About the plan:
- The ‘eco-bridges’ will be constructed at key spots along the 72 km-long, and at some places over a kilometre wide.
- The plan involves laying of fertile soil to grow grass and plants over the structure, so that fragmentation of the reserve forest is camouflaged.
Recommendations on the size and locations of the bridges are awaited from the National Board of Wildlife.
- The concept emerged after visits by experts from the Wildlife Board of India and the Wildlife Institute of India.
- They were concerned about the large-scale destruction of pristine forest along the corridor, which would result in cutting off tiger movement between TATR and Bejjur.
About the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve:
- Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is a tiger reserve in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra state in central India.
- It is Maharashtra’s oldest and largest national park.
- It is one of India’s 50 “Project Tiger” – tiger reserves.
- Andhari, a minor river in waiganga basin flows through the tiger reserve.
Science & Technology
Govt launches low-cost indigenously developed hearing screening device for newborns
The Union Ministry of Science and Technology has launched SOHUM, an indigenously developed low-cost hearing screening device for newborns with an aim to make this battery-operated non-invasive device available across the country to cater nearly 26 million babies born every year in India.
- The newborn hearing screening device has been developed by School of International Biodesign startup Sohum Innovation Labs India Pvt. Ltd under Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology supported (SIB).
Features of SOHUM:
Sohum is a low cost and unique device which uses brainstem auditory evoked response, the gold standard in auditory testing to check for hearing response in a newborn. As of now, this technology is prohibitively expensive and inaccessible to many.
- It measures auditory brain waves via three electrodes placed on the baby’s head.
- When stimulated, electrodes detect electrical responses generated by the brain’s auditory system. If there is no response, it indicates child cannot hear. Once it is detected at quite an early age, measures can be taken to prevent other problems such as impaired communication skills and even possible mental illness.
- It is battery operated device and is non-invasive, it doesn’t require babies to be sedated, which is risky, testing in process at present.
- It has in-built algorithm that filters out ambient noise from the test signal. This is important because health clinics can be crowded and noisy.
About the School of International Biodesign (SIB):
- SIB is a flagship Program of the DBT aimed to develop innovative and affordable medical devices as per unmet clinical needs of India and to train the next generation of medical technology innovators in India, it is a valuable contribution to the Make in India campaign of the Government.
- This Program is implemented jointly at AIIMS and IIT Delhi in collaboration with International partners.
- Biotech Consortium India Limited manages techno-legal activities of the Program.
- Globally, 8,00,000 hearing impaired babies are born annually of which, nearly 1,00,000 are in India. And all this preventable damage needs early screening, which can facilitate timely treatment and rehabilitation.
A smart glove that can translate sign language
Scientists have created a low-cost smart glove, called “The Language of Glove”, that can wirelessly translate sign language into text and control objects in virtual reality games.
- The device was built for less than $100 using stretchable and printable electronics that are inexpensive, commercially available and easy to assemble.
How is it unique?
- The glove is unique in that it has sensors made from stretchable materials, is inexpensive and simple to manufacture.
- It could enable other researchers to develop similar technologies without requiring costly materials or complex fabrication methods.
How was it made?
- The device using a leather athletic glove and adhered nine stretchable sensors to the back at the knuckles — two on each finger and one on the thumb.
How does it work?
- Stainless steel thread connects each of the sensors to a low power, custom-made printed circuit board.
- The sensors change their electrical resistance when stretched or bent. This allows them to code for different letters of the American Sign Language alphabet based on the positions of all nine knuckles.
- The glove creates a nine-digit binary key that translates into that letter.
- The low-power printed circuit board on the glove converts the nine-digit key into a letter and then transmits the signals via Bluetooth to a smartphone or computer screen.