Polity & Governance
- Amendments to Specific Relief Act being examined
- ‘No provision for referendum in Constitution’
- Centre returns 14 Delhi Govt Bills for not following procedures
- CAG of India Formulates Big Data Management Policy to Meet Future Challenges
- ADB extends $500-million loan for river bridge in Bihar
Environment & Ecology
- Experts demand more effort to save coral reefs
- Britain casts a dark shadow over Europe
Science & Technology
- NASA, ISRO join hands to develop data satellite
- MoU singed between RD Ministry & ISRO for geo-tagging assets
- New bio-ink for 3D printing with stem cells
Polity & Governance
Amendments to Specific Relief Act being examined
The Central government in its bid to ensure better ‘ease of doing business in India’ is keen to make changes to a 50-year-old law- ‘Specific Relief Act, 1963’ which provides for heavy compensation and penalties on land acquirers and industry in cases of violation of law.
- A high-powered committee studied the Specific Relief Act 1963 and has submitted its recommendations, calling for sweeping changes.
- Centre’s move comes against the backdrop of the courts actively allowing petitions by environmentalists and NGOs challenging various infrastructure ventures, contending that they are causing irreparable damage to ecology.
- In the last week of January, the government constituted a five-member expert committee headed by Anand Desai to review the Act and suggest changes needed to remove bottlenecks in execution of contract-based infrastructure development, public private partnerships and other public projects. These proposals involve huge investments and the panel had to also look at enforceability of contracts.
Why does the government want to change this law?
- Specific performance of contracts under the 1963 law is an alternative—only when monetary compensation is not sufficient can the court ask for it.
- There is a provision which says that there will be no specific performance of those contracts where monetary compensation is sufficient, or the contract involves performance of a continuous duty which the court cannot supervise.
- It is also a discretionary relief, that is, it is left to the court to decide whether specific performance should be given to a party asking for it. This gives rise to uncertainty in contracts.
The government wants to ensure that there is ease of doing business, and the specific relief law is a hindrance. Uncertainty in contracts often means investors become vary of getting entangled in legal trouble.
Key Recommendation of the committee:
- The committee has asked for specific performance to be made the rule and not an exception. This would mean that even if contractual obligations cannot be met, the court could ask the parties to fulfil terms of the contract. Monetary compensation will be an alternative when contracts cannot be fulfilled.
- The committee argued for lessening the impact of legal provisions for disputes regarding construction of public utility projects.
- It has also suggested guidelines to the courts for exercising discretion in these matters, in order to streamline how courts interpret the provisions.
- The committee said that the role of courts in this exercise is to interfere to the minimum extent so that public works projects will not be impeded or stalled.
About Specific Relief Act 1963:
- The Act was enacted by the Parliament to replace the earlier Act of 1877 with an aim to assure that whenever there is a wrong there must be a remedy.
- The Act does not confer any Rights on itself. Specific relief is only provided for the violation of a legal right.
‘No provision for referendum in Constitution’
A referendum on whether Delhi should be a full State or not, which Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said would happen “soon”, may not actually end up taking place, with legal experts saying it would be unconstitutional.
- Though the Aam Aadmi Party, as well as the Congress and the BJP governments before it, have all campaigned for full Statehood during election years, experts said only a constitutional amendment could bring about the change.
- After the United Kingdom voted to exit the European Union, Mr. Kejriwal tweeted that Delhi would see a referendum on full Statehood soon.
- Last year in July, after Greece held a referendum, the Delhi government had ordered a feasibility report on a referendum on full statehood for Delhi.
Article 239 (AA):
- Delhi enjoys a special status under the Constitution through Article 239 (AA), which changed the Union Territory of Delhi to the National Capital Territory of Delhi in 1991.
- The article gives Delhi an elected Assembly, but the Parliament has the final say in case of clashing legislations.
Legal experts said that
- There was “no provision” in the Constitution that allowed a referendum. Besides, a referendum cannot change the Constitution. Only the Parliament can amend it.
- An amendment to Article 239 (AA) would require two-thirds of the Parliament to agree.
- Delhi is the Capital, so if the people’s opinion is to be sought, it will have to be the people of India, not just Delhi. The Delhi government cannot hold such a referendum.
- The Delhi’s full Statehood issue was debated thoroughly by the Constituent Assembly and it was decided that being the seat of the Central government, Delhi cannot be a full State.
Centre returns 14 Delhi Govt Bills for not following procedures
As many as 14 bills passed by the Delhi assembly have been returned by the Home Ministry, saying proper procedures were not followed by the Delhi government while adopting the legislations.
Which are the procedures not followed by the Delhi government?
- Since Delhi is a Union Territory, any Bill it wants to adopt in the Assembly has to be first sent to the Central Government for approval. It can be moved by legislative approval only if the nod is given.
- Once the assembly passes the Bill, it has to go to the Lieutenant Governor and again to the Central Government for Presidential assent.
The Delhi government had not taken prior approval from the Central Government for any of the 14 Bills and had passed them in the Assembly straightaway.[Ref: Hindu]
CAG of India Formulates Big Data Management Policy to Meet Future Challenges
While emphasising the importance of big data management, Comptroller and Auditor General Shashi Kant Sharma said that India’s pilot results on using sophisticated data and visual analytic tools have already produced promising results.
- Sharma was delivering a keynote address at the first meeting of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) of BRICS countries in Beijing.
- For SAI India, this meeting assumes significance as India has recently assumed chairmanship of BRICS.
Key points of the statement:
- According to the statement, India has formulated a Big Data Management policy and is in the process of establishing a Data Analytics Centre.
- The CAG in India has taken several initiatives towards use of latest data analytical tools for audit planning and analysis and is also fine-tuning its methodology for audit of environmental issues for better impact.
- Indian government has taken big strides in automating its services as well as collecting, compiling and reporting data for its programme intervention.
- This has led to a digital data explosion and opened up an opportunity to the SAIs, which would be one of the few agencies to have access to such vast data held by different government agencies.
What is Big Data?
Big data is a term that describes a massive volume of both structured and unstructured data that is so large it is difficult to process using traditional database and software techniques.
- The term big data, especially when used by vendors, may refer to the technology (which includes tools and processes) that an organization requires handling the large amounts of data and storage facilities.
- In most enterprise scenarios, the volume of data is too big or it moves too fast or it exceeds current processing capacity. Despite these problems, big data has the potential to help companies improve operations and make faster, more intelligent decisions.
- Banking and retail have been early adopters of Big Data-based strategies. Increasingly, other industries are utilizing Big Data like that from sensors embedded in their products to determine how they are actually used in the real world.
- In healthcare, clinical data can be reviewed treatment decisions based on big data algorithms that work on aggregate individual data sets to detect nuances in subpopulations that are so rare that they are not readily apparent in small samples.
ADB extends $500-million loan for river bridge in Bihar
Asian Development Bank has approved $500 million (approximately Rs 3350 crore) loan for constructing a bridge across Ganga.
- Along with ADB’s loan, Bihar government will provide support equivalent to $215 million (approximately Rs 1460 crore).
- Once built, the 9.8 km road bridge in Bihar will be country’s longest river bridge.
- The bridge would provide vital transport links between the northern and southern parts of the state and with neighbouring country Nepal.
- The project will run for about 4 years and is expected to complete by the end of December 2020.
- According to the bank, the bridge is expected to benefit over nine million or ninety lakh people looking for job opportunities on both the sides of bridge.
- The new bridge would serve as an alternate route to the existing Ganga Bridge, which has begun to deteriorate.
- The height and length have been designed to minimize impacts on the river itself and to ensure the bridge is able to withstand climate-related stresses such as a rise in the water level.
Environment & Ecology
Experts demand more effort to save coral reefs
At the largest international gathering of coral reef experts- ‘International Coral Reef Symposium’ recently held in Honolulu, scientists and policy makers are moving ahead with plans for action to save the world’s imperilled reefs.
- A call to action from three Pacific island nations whose reefs are in the cross hairs of the largest and longest-lasting coral bleaching event in recorded history was presented at the meeting.
- These three Pacific island nations are:
- The Federated States of Micronesia,
- The Republic of Palau,
- The Republic of the Marshall Islands
- The call to action, signed by the three presidents, asked for better collaboration between the scientific community and local governments, saying there needs to be more funding and a strengthened commitment to protecting the reefs.
- The panel of scientists emphasized the progress they have made over the past 30 years and stressed that good research and management programs for coral reefs are available. The scientists said they just need the proper funding and political will to enact them.
- The researchers focused on the economic and social benefits coral reefs contribute to communities across the globe, saying the critical habitats generate trillions of dollars annually but conservation efforts are not proportionately or adequately funded.
- The Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000, which aimed to protect coral reefs and create programs to manage their conservation, has been plagued by political resistance and a severe lack of funding.
What is coral bleaching?
When corals are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white.
- Warmer water temperatures can result in coral bleaching. When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white. This is called coral bleaching.
- When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality.
- Not all bleaching events are due to warm water.
- Severe or concurrent years of bleaching can kill coral reefs, as has been documented over the past two years in oceans around the world. Scientists expect a third year of bleaching to last through the end of 2016.
- A third of the Great Barrier Reef has died in the past three months, said Hughes, who focuses his research there.
Britain casts a dark shadow over Europe
In a recently held referendum, the United Kingdom opted for a momentous change of course by voting to leave the European Union.
- The ‘Leave’ side won decisively with 52 per cent of the vote in the high-turnout vote, which overturned opinion polls that predicted a slender margin for ‘Remain’.
Science & Technology
NASA, ISRO join hands to develop data satellite
NASA and ISRO are working together to develop a synthetic aperture radar satellite to observe and measure ecosystem disturbances, ice-sheet collapses and natural hazards.
- The data gathered from this mission will help build climate resilience and potentially save lives.
- The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, is also working with the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop high resolution seasonal and long-term climate forecasts to prepare for the monsoons.
What is Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)?
Environmental monitoring, earth-resource mapping, and military systems require broad-area imaging at high resolutions. Often, this imagery must be acquired at night or during inclement weather. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) provides such a capability.
- Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) systems take advantage of the long-range propagation characteristics of radar signals to provide high resolution imagery.
- Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) complements photographic and other optical imaging capabilities.
- Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology has provided terrain structural information to geologists for mineral exploration, oil spill boundaries on water to environmentalists, sea state and ice hazard maps to navigators, and reconnaissance and targeting information to military operations.
MoU singed between RD Ministry & ISRO for geo-tagging assets
To keep track of assets created under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS), the ministry of rural development and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) signed an agreement on geo-tagging the assets.
- The move comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the need for online recording and monitoring of assets to check leakages.
- The scheme, under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), offers at least 100 days of manual work every year to one member of every rural household.
- According to the ministry of rural development, around three million assets are created annually across the country under the rural jobs scheme.
How will the scheme work?
- Under the agreement, it is envisaged that a Gram Rozgar Sahayak or junior engineer will take a photo of an asset created by beneficiaries of the scheme and through a mobile app created by ISRO upload the photo on the Bhuvan web portal run by ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre.
- When the photo is uploaded on the mobile app, the location and time will get encrypted and there will be an option to add more information according to a few parameters.
- The point is to keep track of these assets and to promote transparency. Once the location of the assets is known and what the gaps are, it will be easier to fill them.
What does Geotagging mean?
- Geotagging is the process of adding geographical information to various media in the form of metadata.
- The data usually consists of coordinates like latitude and longitude, but may even include bearing, altitude, distance and place names.
Applications of the geotagging:
- Geotagging is most commonly used for photographs and can help people get a lot of specific information about where the picture was taken or the exact location of a friend who logged on to a service.
- Geotagging location services can be used to find location-specific websites, news and other information. It is based on positions and coordinates and is often directly taken from a global positioning system (GPS).
- Some social networking sites and services give out the location of their users, which allows users to know exactly where their friends are as they are logged on to that website (or check-in to the service).
New bio-ink for 3D printing with stem cells
Scientists have developed a new stem cell-containing bio-ink that allows 3D printing of complex living tissues which may be used for surgical implants.
- The bio-ink contains two different polymer components:
- A natural polymer extracted from seaweed: It provides structural support when the cell nutrients are introduced.
- A sacrificial synthetic polymer: It is used in the medical industry. It causes the bio-ink to change from liquid to solid when the temperature is raised.
- During experiments, the special bio-ink formulation was extruded from a retrofitted benchtop 3D printer, as a liquid that transformed to a gel at 37 degrees Celsius, which allowed construction of complex living 3D architectures.
- When the cell nutrients were introduced, the synthetic polymer was completely expelled from the 3D structure, leaving only the stem cells and the natural seaweed polymer. This, in turn, created microscopic pores in the structure, which provided more effective nutrient access for the stem cells.
Significance of the findings:
- The findings could eventually lead to the ability to print complex tissues using the patient’s own stem cells for surgical bone or cartilage implants, which in turn could be used in knee and hip surgeries.
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), refers to various processes used to synthesize a three-dimensional object
- A 3D printer is a type of industrial robot.
- In 3D printing, successive layers of material are formed under computer control to create an object.
- These objects can be of almost any shape or geometry and are produced from a 3D model or other electronic data source.