Polity & Governance
- No-fly list: Soon, unruly flyers could be grounded for up to 2 yrs
- Kambala Bill to be sent again to President with minor modifications
Issues related to Health & Education
- Set up database of children in orphanages, SC tells govt.
- President’s nod for law on RBI taking action against loan defaulters
Defence & Security Issues
- Entire Assam declared ‘disturbed’
Science & Technology
- Researchers develop synthetic soft retina
- Facebook Launches Express Wi-Fi in India
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Polity & Governance
No-fly list: Soon, unruly flyers could be grounded for up to 2 yrs
The government plans to empower domestic airlines to ban unruly passengers for up to two years.
- In this regard, the civil aviation ministry has released draft rules for a “national no-fly list” of rowdy passengers — the first of its kind in the world — which allow an airline to bar an individual from three months to a maximum of two years, depending on the nature of the offence.
Three levels of disruptions:
The ministry has categorised “disruptions” by flyers into three levels:
- Level 1 is for disruptive behaviour like physical gestures.
- Level 2 is for physically abusive behaviour like pushing, kicking, and sexual harassment.
- Level 3 for life-threatening behaviour and damage to aircraft operating systems.
Actions against disruptions:
For offences under level 1, a passenger can be grounded for three months, while for level 2 and level 3 offences, he or she can be banned for six months and two years, respectively.
Who can use these guidelines?
- International airlines, too, could use these guidelines if they wanted to. Airlines can ban a passenger from flying immediately but that passenger won’t come on the national no-fly list immediately.
In case of injustice to passenger:
What happens when a passenger feels that he has been wrongly barred from flying?
- To address this issue, the government has proposed to form two redress committees — at the airlines-level to be headed by a retired district judge, and at the national level with a retired high court judge as its head.
- All such grievances will be addressed within 10 days.
International conventions related to unruly passenger issues:
- Criminal offences committed on-board international flights are governed by the Tokyo Convention 1963 (the Tokyo Convention).
- However, the Tokyo Convention failed to provide a suitable deterrent to unruly passengers. This rule had become outdated by the complex leasing agreements to which modern aircraft are subject.
- To address the increase in unruly passenger issues, the global airline lobby group the International Air Transport Association (IATA), conducted a detailed analysis of such incidents and, in 2009, made a formal request to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to review and enhance the Tokyo Convention of 1963.
- In April 2014, the International Civil Aviation Organisation adopted an amendment to the Tokyo Convention, known as the Montreal Protocol.
- IATA urged India to ratify the Montreal Protocol 2014, which deals with the safety of flights and passengers.
- The Protocol requires the ratification, acceptance, approval or accession of 22 nations to take effect. At present, there are 30 signatories and eight ratifications and accessions.
Montreal Protocol 2014:
Montreal Protocol 2014 makes several key improvements to the Tokyo Convention that strengthen an airline’s position when addressing unruly passengers. These include:
- The Protocol notably extends the jurisdiction to try the unruly passenger from the state of aircraft registration to also include the states in which the operator is located and that is the destination of the flight (including a state to which a flight may be diverted).
- This will greatly facilitate the prosecution of unruly passengers upon disembarkation.
- It also clarifies what constitutes unruly behavior by simply requiring reasonable grounds to believe that a serious offense has been committed. Such offenses include physical assault, or the threat thereof, and failure to follow crew instructions.
- Importantly, Montreal Protocol 2014 expressly recognizes an airline’s right to seek compensation for expenses caused by unruly behavior.
Kambala Bill to be sent again to President with minor modifications
What is Kambala?
- Kambala is an annual Buffalo Race held traditionally under the auspices of local land lords and households or Patel of village, in coastal Karnataka, India.
- The Kambala season generally starts in November and lasts until March.
- The contest generally takes place between two pairs of buffaloes, each pair raced in wet rice fields, controlled by a whip-lashing farmer.
- The ‘track’ used for Kambala is a paddy field filled with slush and mud.
- The “Kambala Committee” is formed and it usually arranges Kambala in several categories.
- People place massive bets on the buffaloes to win and one can witness more than 20,000 spectators in a well-organised Kambala, egging on and cheering the buffaloes to complete the race.
- In traditional form of Kambala, racing is non-competitive, and buffalo pairs run one by one in paddy fields.
- A ritualistic approach is also there, as some agriculturists race their buffaloes for thanks giving (to god) for protecting their animals from diseases.
- The buffaloes developed for the race are carefully fed and some owners of the buffaloes have even built separate swimming pool for competing buffaloes.
Why in news?
The Union Home Ministry has asked Karnataka to modify the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, 2017, and resend it for legalising kambala, the traditional buffalo slush race.
- Union Home Ministry has suggested to the government to modify or omit the phrase “subject to such other conditions as may be prescribed” in sub-section 2 of section 3, in the Bill.
- The phrase opens the window for inclusion of more such sports involving animals through government notifications in the future, as the Centre was keen to prevent such powers to the State government.
- As per the modification sought, State government’s powers to include more sports or races involving animals by notifications in future will be clipped.
- The Karnataka Legislative Assembly had cleared the Bill in February 2017. Governor had referred the Bill to the President for his assent. The Bill seeks to exempt kambala and bullock-cart racing from the ambit of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.
Issues related to Health & Education
Set up database of children in orphanages, SC tells govt.
The Supreme Court has passed a slew of directions, including setting up of a database of children living in orphanages and child care institutions to ensure their safety and welfare.
- The verdict came on a PIL petition filed on the basis of a 2007 newspaper report alleging that orphanages in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, run by NGOs as well as government institutions, were reportedly involved in systematic sexual abuse of children.
- The Centre, States and union territories (UTs) should complete the registration of all child care institutions by year-end.
- The registration process should also include a database of all children in need of care and protection and update it every month.
- Authorities concerned should ensure confidentiality and privacy in maintaining the database.
- Every child in need of care and protection must not be necessarily placed either in a child care institution and alternative option like adoption and foster care could seriously be considered.
- The Union government and the governments of States and UTs must concentrate on rehabilitation and social re-integration of children in need of care and protection.
- Centre’s schemes such as skill development and vocational training must be taken advantage of keeping in mind the need to rehabilitate such children.
- States and UTs should set up ‘Inspection Committees’ before July 31 to conduct regular inspections of child care institutions and prepare reports of such inspections so that the living conditions of kids there undergo positive changes.
- The first report after conducting the inspection should be filed before the government concerned by December 31.
- The process for preparing individual child care plans must be initiated immediately and an individual plan must be prepared for each child in each such centre on or before December 31.
- The process of conducting a social audit must be taken up in right earnest by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights as well as by each State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights.
President’s nod for law on RBI taking action against loan defaulters
President Pranab Mukherjee has approved an ordinance, Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, with amendments to the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, allowing the Reserve Bank of India to take timely action against loan defaulters.
- This comes after the Union cabinet recently approved the proposal to amend Section 35 of the BR Act and sent the ordinance for the President’s approval.
Key measures proposed in the ordinance:
- The government may authorise the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to issue directions to banks to initiate insolvency proceedings against defaulters under the bankruptcy code.
- RBI on its own accord can issue directions to banks for resolution of stressed assets.
- RBI may form committees with members it can choose to appoint to advise banks on resolution of stressed assets.
- Earlier banks couldn’t invoke the insolvency and bankruptcy code due to fear of being questioned. Now with RBI directing banks to initiate insolvency this will be a transparent and market-determined approach.
- Besides, banks that were part of a consortium found it difficult to trigger bankruptcy proceedings. This ordinance attempts to solve that problem.
Defence & Security Issues
Entire Assam declared ‘disturbed’
The government has declared the entire Assam as a “disturbed” area under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act for another 3 months.
- As per the notification, the entire Assam besides bordering areas of Meghalaya has been declared as “Disturbed Areas”.
- In addition, the government has placed three districts of Arunachal Pradesh, namely, Tirap, Changlang and Longding and other areas falling under 16 police stations bordering Assam as “disturbed” area under the AFSPA.
- Assam was placed under AFSPA in November 1990.
- The AFSPA has been under force in the three Arunachal Pradesh districts since January 2016.
- The decision was taken after the government observed various violent activities carried out by certain insurgent groups like ULFA, NDFB and others in these areas.
- In Assam, 75 incidents of violence were reported in 2016 and 9 in 2017.
- 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.
Science & Technology
Researchers develop synthetic soft retina
Scientists from the University of Oxford have developed a synthetic, soft tissue retina that closely mimics the natural retinal process.
What is synthetic soft retina?
- The synthetic, double-layered retina replica consists of soft water droplets (hydrogels) and biological cell membrane proteins.
- Designed like a camera, the cells act as pixels, detecting and reacting to light to create a grey scale image.
- The synthetic material can generate electrical signals, which stimulate the neurons at the back of our eye just like the original retina.
Significance of this discovery:
Until now, artificial retinal research has used mostly rigid, hard materials. The human eye is incredibly sensitive, which is why foreign bodies like metal retinal implants can be so damaging, leading to inflammation and/or scarring.
- But a biological synthetic implant is soft and water-based, so much more friendly to the eye environment.
- The researchers believe this could lead to the development of less invasive products that closely resemble human body tissues, helping to treat degenerative eye conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa. The condition changes how the retina responds to light, causing people to slowly lose vision.
- Just as photography depends on camera pixels reacting to light, vision relies on the retina performing the same function.
- The retina sits at the back of the human eye, and contains protein cells that convert light into electrical signals that travel through the nervous system, triggering a response from the brain, ultimately building a picture of the scene being viewed.
Facebook Launches Express Wi-Fi in India
Facebook launched Express Wi-Fi commercially in India.
- The Express Bill service will now be available via 700 hotspots across four states- Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Meghalaya.
- For the purpose of launching Express WiFi in India, Facebook tied-up with Bharti Airtel for setting up an additional 20000 hotspots covering millions of Indians.
- The commercial roll out of Express WiFi comes a year after Facebook pulled off the ‘Free Basics’ programme that drew severe criticism from advocates of net neutrality.
What is Express Wi-Fi?
- Express Wi-Fi is a part of Facebook’s global initiative to expand internet connectivity.
- Apart from India, Express Wi-Fi services are currently active in Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania.
- It will complement mobile data offerings by providing a low-cost, high bandwidth service allowing users to get online for accessing apps, downloading contents amongst other things at affordable rates.
- Anyone will be able to access the Express Wi-Fi network by signing up with an Express Wi-Fi retailer and purchasing a daily, weekly or monthly data pack.
- They will then be allowed to browse by connecting to the Express Wi-Fi hotspot.
- Unlike Free Basics that provided access to selected websites for free, Express Wi-Fi works on a paid model and the access will not be restricted to any particular websites.