Polity & Governance
- Lok Sabha passes IIT (Amendment) Bill
- Aadhar enrolment drive for students eligible for scholarship
- High-level panel to recast UGC, AICTE
- So what if jallikattu is an age-old tradition, SC asks Centre
- In a first, natural gas hydrates discovered in the Indian Ocean
- Blow to India as arbitration tribunal rules against Antrix
Science & Technology
- CSIR Ranks 12th in the World Among Government Institutions: Scimago Institutions Rankings
Persons in News
- Irom Sharmila to end fast, contest Manipur elections
- TVSN Prasad committee to Explore Alternatives to Pellet Guns in J&K
Polity & Governance
Lok Sabha passes IIT (Amendment) Bill
The Lok Sabha passed the Institutes of Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
Key features of the bill:
- The Bill seeks to amend the Institutes of Technology Act, 1961, which declares certain Institutes of Technology as institutions of national importance.
- The Bill seeks to add six new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in Tirupati, Palakkad, Goa, Dharwar, Bhilai, and Jammu.
- It also seeks to bring the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad within the ambit of the Act.
- All these institutions will be declared as institutions of national importance.
- The Bill provides for the incorporation of IIT (Indian School of Mines), Dhanbad. It states that until the statutes in relation to IIT (Indian School of Mines), Dhanbad are made under the Act, the statutes applicable to IIT Roorkee will apply to it.
Aadhar enrolment drive for students eligible for scholarship
UIDAI has launched a special enrolment drive for students eligible for scholarships, a move aimed at helping beneficiaries receive grants directly into their accounts.
- All the students entitled for any type of scholarships will be offered priority Aadhaar enrollment by August 15, 2016.
- The drive is being coordinated and supervised by district collectors in all schools of their respective districts and the schools have been made accountable to take the students to nearest Aadhaar Enrollment Centre and get them enrolled for Aadhaar.
- Enrolled students will be able to avail various scholarships in a hassle-free manner through Aadhaar-based direct benefit transfer into their bank accounts.
- Aadhaar is mandatory for people seeking benefit from schemes or subsidies funded by the Central government.
- Till date, over 103.5 crore Aadhaar has been generated for residents covering 97% of the adult population.
- However, Aadhaar saturation in respect of children of age 5-18 years is relatively lower at 64%.
High-level panel to recast UGC, AICTE
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has directed the high-level committee, headed by Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya, to prepare a road map for reforming the two regulatory bodies in the field of education — the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) — as well as the board looking after Homeopathy and Ayurvedic education in the country.
- The committee is also debating if a universal exit exam should be introduced for medical students to make the medical education system merit-based.
National Medical Commission:
The panel is already set to recommend the scrapping of the Medical Council of India (MCI) and replacing it with the National Medical Commission (NMC).
- The NMC will become the main regulatory body and will take over all roles and responsibilities of the MCI.
- The main objective of the reform is to end the Inspector Raj in the medical education sector.
- NMC will have 19-20 members, comprising eminent doctors and experts from related fields, who will be selected by a government-appointed search committee, rather than elected as is the case in the MCI.
- A Medical Advisory Council (MAC), with members representing States and two members from the union territories, will advise the Commission.
- There will be four Boards under the Commission,
- Under Graduate Medical Board,
- Post Graduate Medical Board,
- Accreditation and Assessment Board and
- A board for registration of medical colleges as well monitoring of the ethics in the profession.
- NMC will have eminent doctors and experts from related fields to suggest the direction that should be given to medical education in the country so as to ensure that the quality of education is at par with global standards.
So what if jallikattu is an age-old tradition, SC asks Centre
The Supreme Court said that just because the bull-taming sport of Jallikattu is a centuries-old tradition, it can’t be justified.
- Countering Tamil Nadu’s interpretation of Jallikattu as an ‘age-old tradition’ which is practiced far and wide in the state, the Supreme Court in a sharp remark said child marriage was also once an ‘age-old tradition’ before being banned.
- The Supreme Court has set August 30 as the final hearing date to decide on the constitutionality of Jallikattu.
State government’s arguments:
- Tamil Nadu, however, contended why Jallikattu is illegal when bull-fighting, where the animal is killed, has been given constitutional protection as part of cultural heritage.
What is Jallikattu?
- Jallikattu is an ancient bull taming blood sport played in Tamil Nadu. It’s a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day.
- According to experts, the term Jallikattu is derived from the term calli kacu (coins) and kattu (meaning a package) tied to the horns of the bulls as the prize money.
- One of the oldest blood sport, Jalllikattu is held in the villages of Tamil Nadu as a part of the village festival.
- ‘Jellicut’ are the bulls bred specifically for the Jallikattu sporting event.
Why is it so controversial?
- It is controversial because the blood sport often results in major injuries and deaths
- Reportedly, from 2010 to 2014, there were approximately 1,100 injuries and 17 deaths as a result of Jallikattu events
- Over 200 people have died from the blood sport over the past two decades.
- The court held that use of bulls in such events severely harmed the animals and constituted an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to the Animals Act.
- PETA India has protested against the blood sport over the years for animal cruelty.
In a first, natural gas hydrates discovered in the Indian Ocean
A large natural gas discovery has been made in the Indian Ocean following a joint expedition by India and the US, opening up a new resource to meet energy needs.
- India’s Oil Ministry and the US Geological Survey made the discovery of large, highly enriched accumulations of natural gas hydrate – an icy form of the fuel – in the Bay of Bengal.
- This is the first discovery of its kind in the Indian Ocean that has the potential to be producible.
- The gas hydrate discovered are located in coarse-grained sand-rich depositional systems in the Krishna-Godavari Basin and is made up of a sand-rich, gas-hydrate-bearing fan and channel-levee gas hydrate prospects.
- This discovery is the result of the most comprehensive gas hydrate field venture in the world to date, made up of scientists from India, Japan and the United States.
- The discovery will help unlock the global energy resource potential of gas hydrates as well as help define the technology needed to safely produce them.
About Natural gas hydrates:
Natural gas hydrates are a naturally occurring, ice-like combination of natural gas and water found in oceans and polar regions.
- The amount of gas within the world’s gas hydrate accumulations is estimated to greatly exceed the volume of all known conventional gas resources.
- Gas hydrates are considered as vast resources of natural gas and are known to occur in marine sediments on continental shelf margins.
- Gas hydrate resources in India are estimated at 1,894 trillion cubic meters and these deposits occur in Western, Eastern and Andaman offshore areas.
- Although it is possible to produce natural gas from gas hydrates, there are significant technical challenges, depending on the location and type of formation. Previous studies have shown that gas hydrate at high concentrations in sand reservoirs is the type of occurrence that can be most easily produced with existing technologies.
India had in September 2014 agreed to collaborate to explore gas hydrates potential in the country and identify sites for pilot production testing.[Ref: The Hindu]
Blow to India as arbitration tribunal rules against Antrix
A Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) tribunal in The Hague has ruled against Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of India’s space organisation, ISRO, in the ongoing case with Devas Corporation over sharing of spectrum on satellites.
- Following the ruling, India may have to fork out $ 1 billion as compensation to Devas.
- The ruling issued was the second by an international tribunal in favour of Devas on the cancellation of the Devas-Antrix contract.
- A PCA tribunal has found that the Government of India’s actions in annulling a contract between Devas and Antrix Corporation Ltd. and denying Devas commercial use of S-band spectrum constituted an expropriation.
What’s the issue?
About Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA):
- The Permanent Court of Arbitration, established by treaty in 1899, is an intergovernmental organization providing a variety of dispute resolution services to the international community.
- It is based in The Hague, the Netherlands.
- It is not a court and does not have permanent judges. The PCA is a permanent bureaucracy that assists temporary tribunals to resolve disputes among states (and similar entities), intergovernmental organizations, or even private parties arising out of international agreements.
- The cases span a range of legal issues involving territorial and maritime boundaries, sovereignty, human rights, international investment, and international and regional trade.
Science & Technology
CSIR Ranks 12th in the World Among Government Institutions: Scimago Institutions Rankings
According to 2016 report of the prestigious Scimago Institutions Rankings, the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) has been ranked 12th in the world among the government institutions in the world, improving its position after being at 14th spot for three consecutive years.
- The overall global ranking of CSIR also improved from 110 to 99th position.
- CSIR leads the country at the top spot and is the only Indian organization to have found a place among the top 100 global institutions.
- The constituent institute of CSIR, the CSIR-National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (CSIR-NIIST) has been ranked first among Indian government research institutions, improving its global overall ranking from 425 to 353.
- The CSIR-NIIST became the first among 59 ranked government institutions in the country, followed by CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (CSIR-NCL), Pune and Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT), Hyderabad.
About the Scimago rankings:
The Scimago rankings is a classification of academic and research related institutions ranked by a composite indicator that combines three different sets of indicators based on
- Research performance,
- Innovation outputs and
- Societal impact measured by their web visibility.
Persons in News
Irom Sharmila to end fast, contest Manipur elections
Sixteen years after starting her hunger strike demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, Irom Chanu Sharmila has decided to end her fast on August 9 and contest the Manipur Assembly elections as an Independent candidate.
About Irom Chanu Sharmila:
- Irom Chanu Sharmila also known as the “Iron Lady of Manipur” is a civil rights activist, political activist, and poet from the Indian state of Manipur.
- On 2 November 2000, she began a hunger strike.
- Having refused food and water for more than 500 weeks, she has been called “the world’s longest hunger striker”.
- On International Women’s Day, 2014 she was voted the top woman icon of India by MSN Poll.
- Amnesty International has declared her a prisoner of conscience.
- Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), is an Act of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in what each act terms “disturbed areas”.
Why is this required?
- The government (either the state or centre) considers those areas to be ‘disturbed’ “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.”
Under which conditions AFSPA can be declared?
- When the local administration fails to deal with local issues and the police proves inefficient to cope with them.
- When the scale of unrest or instability in the state is too large for the police to handle.
How does one officially declare a region to be ‘disturbed’?
- Section (3) of the AFSPA Act empowers the governor of the state or Union territory to issue an official notification on The Gazette of India, following which the centre has the authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid.
- It is still unclear whether the governor has to prompt the centre to send in the army or whether the centre on its own sends in troops.
- Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months, according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976.
What about the state government’s role?
- The state governments can suggest whether the Act is required to be enforced or not. But under Section (3) of the Act, their opinion can still be overruled by the governor or the centre.
AFSPA acts so far:
- The AFSPA act was passed on 11 September 1958 by the parliament of India to provide special legal security to the armed forces carrying out operations in the troubled areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura (Seven Sister States in India’s northeast).
- Another passed in 1983 and applicable to Punjab and Chandigarh was withdrawn in 1997, roughly 14 years after it came to force.
- In 1990 the act was extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir to confront the rising insurgency in the area.
- In Manipur, despite opposition from the Central government, state government withdrew the Act in some parts in Aug, 2004.
- The Acts have received criticism from several sections for alleged concerns about human rights violations in the regions of its enforcement alleged to have happened.
- In 2005 the Jeevan Reddy Commission said that AFSPA should be repealed and the clauses that are required should be included in other Acts.
Objectionable provisions of AFSPA:
- All that is necessary for a part of the State to be handed over to the armed forces is for the Governor or the Central Government to notify it to be in a “disturbed and dangerous” condition.
- Even a non-commissioned officer of the armed forces is free, on the mere suspicion of violation of the law or commission of an offence, to fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person.
- He can also without any warrant, arrest any person and enter and search any premises.
- No prosecution of anyone indulging in excesses purporting to act under AFSPA is possible except with the previous sanction of the Government.
- The decision of the government to declare a particular area ‘disturbed’ cannot be challenged in a court of law.
TVSN Prasad committee to Explore Alternatives to Pellet Guns in J&K
An expert team, headed by TVSN Prasad, a Joint Secretary in the Union Home Ministry, was constituted to explore possible alternatives to pellet guns, amidst strong criticism against their frequent use in Jammu and Kashmir for crowd control.[Ref: IE]