A corroding steel frame

Typically steel does not corrode easily. Perhaps that was the reason why the civil services won the epithet of the steel frame of India but the recent turmoil in Lakshadweep and the episode in West Bengal tells a different story. The former is linked to the loopholes that exist in the administration itself while the latter exemplifies the influence of politics on administration.
The island which was known till yesterday for its natural beauty and booming tourism industry is now under the limelight for all the wrong reasons. The trending #savelakshadweep is the new slogan aimed at drawing the attention of commoners to the threat posed by the controversial policy changes to the local culture of the island. Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel has been accused of ‘imposing saffron agenda and corporate interests’.
The administration is being indicted for destroying people’s livelihood, eliminating their staple food (beef), and closing down dairy farms. These alleged religious colored actions have given rise to widespread opposition from the native inhabitants and civil society. The administrator has been given the powers of the district panchayat compounding the argument that administration is the new Goonda-raj. Health, education, fisheries, animal husbandry and agriculture now fall under the jurisdiction of the administrator. An administrator is an agent of the centre, therefore all fingers are pointing to the union government. The protestors are demanding a recall of the administrator. The Kerala assembly even passed a resolution to this effect.
In the second story, West Bengal chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay was suddenly recalled to Delhi. The whole tussle started when Bengal CM and Bandyopadhyay left a meeting being chaired by Prime Minister to review damage and mitigation caused by cyclone Yaas. According to the service rules an officer has to report to the prime minister in such an event. The centre has accused the chief secretary of breaching the service rules. However, CM stated that the rules were abided but the centre is of a different opinion.
These two instances show the Dark side of the Indian administration. Ideally, an officer should maintain political, ideological and religious neutrality and work under democratically elected representatives. When neutrality is compromised then the system fails to work for the common good of the country. The case of Lakshadweep is quintessentially a testament to this fact. The voice raised against the administration not only creates mistrust among people but also taints the name of the entire organisation.
The Supreme Court of India described a civil servant as a person who serves a master that is; the state. There is a difference between the state and the political party governing that state. Failure to see this difference by either of the two, the party in power or the officer, is detrimental to a functional democracy. In West Bengal, an officer is on a tight rope because of the animosity between the parties in power in state and centre.
India is one of the most diverse countries in the world needs a strong steel frame to rely on. The corrosive elements like political biases or unabated political pressure, should be kept far away or it won’t be long when we see the beautiful monument of democracy we built from blood and sweat, crumble to dust.

Prospects of Tourism industry

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India has a lot to offer to the world. Our cultural heritage is one of the richest. The remnants of the Indus valley civilisation gives a sneak peek into the lives of ancient societies. The forts and monuments of medieval India narrate the stories of the kings and their subjects. The colonial legacy left its imprint in India in the form of Victorian-style architecture and the westernisation of Indian culture. The unsurmountable Himalayas, the lush green western ghats, the islands, the deserts and a lot more is provided by nature for us to explore. All these wonders in India make for a potential tourist hub. To get the most out of it the government has taken a few steps. The tourism and hospitality industry gained impetus from initiatives mentioned as follows

Incredible India tourist facilitator certification (IITFC) portal was launched by the tourism ministry. The successful completion of the course would certify the tourist facilitated from the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.
—Visa norms were made easy to create ease in tourism. This was done by collaborative work of Ministry of tourism, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of external affairs.
Incredible India 2.0 campaign promoted tourism across the world through content creation.
—Adding Indian monuments and tourist spots to UNESCO World Heritage sites helps in the promotion of places of architectural significance or natural beauty.
—Complying with international norms and gaining recognition through various platforms like the Blue Flag certification for beaches, that can improve India’s impression while achieving sustainability goals.

The opportunities are enormous. Most of them have been left untapped for decades. Recently a significant acknowledgement of these opportunities started to take form. One such example is GI tag. Each state of India has a unique cuisine, tradition, costume, festivals and agricultural pattern. The geographical indication can mark these specialities on the map. Each state can use GI tag as a tool for protecting intellectual property. In this context, Uttar Pradesh has done a phenomenal job. One district one product initiative of the Uttar Pradesh government is a fruitful venture.

Beaches are a favorite destination for travelers. Who doesn’t want to steal a vacation on a Beach? Beautiful beaches, surrounded by vast endless ocean waters and recreational activities like swimming, boating, snorkelling, surfing can be part of the itinerary. Beaches in the west have developed into booming tourist hotspots. India too has the potential to develop a tourism industry.

Newer concepts like health tourism have emerged in the past few years. It is a term for travel with an emphasis on medical treatments and other health care services in other countries where these facilities are either available or available at a very cheaper rate with assured quality. According to some estimates, medical tourism is growing by 30% each year in India and Chennai attracts the most numbers.

The lockdown has put the tourism industry in a slump. The scars on the sector can heal only with a combined effort of government and private players. The revival of the industry is vital for the economy of the country.

Jamhuriyat and Kashmiriyat back on track

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The scenic beauty of the Kashmir valley Inspired many generations of artists. The northernmost territory of India lies in the lap of the Himalayas. It has a long history. The land saw the rule of many kings belonging to different religious sects. The colonial rule was another chapter. Post-independence the state was captured by Pakistan that became a bone of contention between the two neighbours. The Chinese interests in the region is another facet of the outstanding issues. It is a contested region and border issues with Pakistan and China Invariably made headlines after independence in 1947. The latest development took place in 2019 with the abrogation of special powers of Jammu and Kashmir (under article 370 and article 35A of the constitution of India). The presidential order brought these changes and the world saw a mix of reactions. The newly constituted union territory of Jammu and Kashmir lost its special powers and became strongly integrated with the rest of the country.

Recently it was in the news because the centre conducted an outreach program in Jammu and Kashmir. Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired an all-party meeting on June 24th in New Delhi. 14 political leaders were invited including four former chief ministers. It will be the first such gathering after the abrogation of special powers and article 370 from the constitution of India.

The meeting was a step towards strengthening the democratic structure of the region. The biggest achievement was that the government was vindicated of repealing the special status of the former state. The presence of the opposition in the meeting was a testament to this fact. Experts are sanguine about the new developments that will follow the meet. The most noticeable demand of the opposition parties was that statehood of Jammu and Kashmir should be restored. To this government has shown affirmation that statehood will be restored at some point in time in future giving assurance to the leaders and the people.

Another mooted topic about Jammu and Kashmir is the issue of migrants. In this context, Jammu is very important. Most of the migrants that left the violent stricken Kashmir valley moved to Jammu and settled there. Kashmiri pandits are one amongst them. Many Muslims also moved to this area in search of a peaceful living away from violence. Hence Jammu was able to absorb an enormous burden of migration. Till now the discussions were revolving around Kashmir. However, the new developments focus on Jammu and give a much-needed break to Kashmir centrism.

Delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir is underway. The administration is working on it. This exercise will strengthen the democratic system of the region. The voting rights will extend to the migrants who left the state but are willing to move back. The centre and the opposition needed to break the ice on matters of the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir cadre of the all India services which was merged with Arunachal, Goa, Mizoram and union territories cadre.

The meeting is a good initiative by the centre but it is a beginning. More changes are yet to come and the opinion of the opposition can help smoothen the process of transition.

Fact-file: Antarctica

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A beautiful land wearing white garb with nothing but snow is the identity of picturesque Antarctica. If we look close enough we will find that the southernmost point of the Earth, despite being a cold desert, has a unique biodiversity. Also, the South Pole hides many resources underneath the ice sheets. This region is a muse for many explorers, scientists, geographers and environmentalists.

The 5th largest continent is an uninhabited piece of land that is administered by a treaty. On 23rd June this year, Antarctica treaty celebrated its 60th anniversary. In 1959 the momentous document was signed between 12 countries in Washington amid the Cold War. It is the sole treaty that defines the rule based international order for the continent. India became a member of this treaty in 1983 and currently, there are 54 parties. The 14 articles of the treaty include provision for promoting freedom of scientific research, the use of the continent only for peaceful purposes and the prohibition of military activities, nuclear test and the disposal of radioactive waste. Article IV of the treaty neutralizes territorial sovereignty in Antarctica. Hence, The treaty prohibits the claim or enlargement of an existing claim over the land. The uninhabited continent is a treasure trove of many minerals. Hence the bordering countries have been interested in exploring the region and economize the resources.

India has also shown a keen interest in scientific research and exploration in the region. National Center for Antarctic and ocean research (NCAOR) was established in 1998. In 1981 the first Indian expedition to Antarctica took place. Few research bases were stationed in the cold desert including Dakshin Gangotri, Maitri, Bharti and Sagar Nidhi.

Threats to Antarctica

Climate change has not left any corner of the globe untouched. An alarming increase of 3°C in air temperature was recorded in the Antarctic peninsula. The upper ocean temperatures rose over 1°C. All this impacted the wildlife adversely. Penguin colonies and their distribution is changing drastically. Usually in cold desert plants are not able to grow due to the harsh climate and extreme temperatures. However, the temperature rise has made the environment conducive for plant growth. Antarctic krill found in the Southern Ocean have reduced in number. Glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates and ice shelves are retreating. Antarctic Thwaites glacier popularly known as the doomsday glacier is melting and is contributing to global sea level rise. Thus the ripples of the Antarctic are not limited to the South Pole. They will have far and wide ranging effects on coastal cities, wildlife across borders and humans themselves.

Humans are at the centre of this large scale destruction of the Antarctic ecosystem. To undo few of the mistakes that brought doom at the doors of Antarctic, a few agreements were signed. They include the 1972 convention for the conservation of the Antarctic seals, the 1980 convention on the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources and the 1991 protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic treaty.

Since it a global common, the onus of protecting the ecosystem and henceforth the interests of humans themselves lies on everybody, more so for the developed countries that became prosperous by unsustainable means. A strong commitment is required by all to reverse the follies of the past.

Inflation: Common man’s witch hunt

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Now may be the best time to sing the folk song ‘Mehangai daiyin khaye jaat h’ (Inflation named witch is a killer) but sadly singing a song is a challenge because coronavirus has killed the mood. Prices of food products and petrol have skyrocketed. The common man like always is helpless. With no job, the future seems shrouded in clouds of uncertainty. The government is doing its bit by provisioning the poor through ration distribution. This however cannot suffice for the uncertainties that are waiting ahead. To understand what is happening in India currently, we have to know about the concept of inflation.

Inflation simply means a rise in the price of goods that we, the consumers, use daily. In India, the ministry of statistics and program implementation has the responsibility of measuring inflation. It can occur due to a variety of reasons like excess money circulating in the economy that reduces the purchasing power of the money, high demand and low supply or the supply-side constraints that cannot cater to the present level of demand. There are many types of inflations depending on the reason and the effect. The one that we experienced most recently is called stagflation. It is a condition with no economic growth, relatively high unemployment along with high inflation.

Inflation decreases the purchasing power of the currency. This translates to a higher cost of living further pulling down the economic growth of the country. Like everything else inflation also affects people differently. It is profitable for borrowers because they own an asset that was bought from the borrowed money. On the other hand, inflation is bad for those who kept cash or liquidity since the money that they own now has less value than before.

Interestingly, a little inflation is good for the economy because it improves expenditure. In simple words, a small amount of inflation will prevent people from saving money. Instead of increasing the bank balance, the focus will shift on investment and this will bring economic growth to the country.

We are living in unprecedented times. India’s story of inflation is the same as other economies. The pandemic has disrupted supply and demand. Many external factors have influenced the economy. Crude oil price, for example, is determined by complex metrics of international economics which include import and export of the commodity amongst other things. Despite bumper production in the primary sector or agricultural sector, there were logistical issues that ensued during the pandemic. Customers were risk-averse and tried to save money by cutting down the investment. The demand for goods became low. There were incentives by the government and the Reserve Bank of India, the central bank, to improve the demand. These included decreasing the repo rate to make interest rates more lucrative to the people. Till now nothing seems to work since inflationary pressures persist.

To keep a check over inflation, the government tried to set a target in the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003. Albeit, the experts suggest that right now inflation should not be a matter of concern for the government. The focus should be on public investment so that the economic engine that went cold can run again. This means that price might remain high for some time. The government will try to compensate for the inflationary pressure through schemes and subsidies to give to impetus demand and this is the only silver lining that we can rely on during these tumultuous times while waiting for normalcy to get restored.

Lassitude of Human rights system in India

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The Human freedom index 2020 ranked India 111th among 162 countries. India fell 17 spots compared to the 2019 rank. The index scans the civil, economic and personal freedom within a country. In the past year, a lot happened in India. The protest against the farm bill, unimaginably large list of cases under UAPA, sedition charges, the new norms for social media platform and the face-off between the private companies and the government with regard to this issue are to name a few. In fact, the new IT rules allegedly infringe the right to privacy which is again a human right.

By definition, human rights are simply the rights and the freedom that an individual enjoys by virtue of being a human. The Universal Declaration of human rights is the document but lays down its foundation. It was proclaimed by United Nations General Assembly in Paris in 1948. The document comprehensively along with the two covenants- the international covenant for civil and political rights and the international covenant for economic, social and cultural rights the International Bill of Rights.

On the lines of the document, India established statutory committees in 1993 the National Human Rights Commission and State Human Rights Commission under the protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. It is a watchdog institution. Recently it was amended in 2019. Despite having a statutory body to overlook human rights Indian performance in the human freedom index was dismal. According to many experts, the Commission is a toothless body. The Commission has practically no power of investigation and hence it is reduced to a recommendatory body. Government can reject its recommendations. Also, most of the pleads go unheard since the legal period for registering a complaint is one year from the incident. The chairperson of the National Commission can be a person who has been chief justice of the Supreme Court or a judge of the Supreme Court. There are three members (At least one should be a woman) who are selected from amongst retired judge of the Supreme Court or retired Chief Justice of a High Court. From the structure itself, it is clear that most of the members are judicial and therefore critics often complain about NHRC being a retirement plan for judges. State Human Rights Commission have even more restricted powers.

We all know what is required to rehaul the system and make it more resilient. Firstly, few changes in the structure of the National Human Rights Commission and states Human Rights Commission by giving them more investigative powers can be the starting point of reforms. Secondly, dissensions should not be muffled. The government should withstand the scrutiny of the activists and answer their queries. No government is bigger than human rights in a democracy. Sedition charges or UAPA should not be used as tools of silencing. These are not new suggestions. The supreme court in its numerous judgements, expert committees and civil society have advocated for a robust human rights system. The wait for a more responsive system is not over and the people are sanguine that reforms will happen in future.

Housing for all: Chasing a target

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The trio of roti, kapda aur makan are the three essentials of a good life. In India last year the largescale migration of workers from urban areas back to their villages stole the headlines of the newspapers. These migrant workers were amongst those who lacked these essentials of life. This raised an important issue of urban housing, especially for the downtrodden sections of society. These people inhabit the slums that are plagued with congestion and poor sanitation. The government has taken a few initiatives to give a fatherly hand to the urban poor. These include the following.

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana- Urban: It was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban poverty alleviation in 2015. It targets the aim of providing housing for all by 2022 when India completes 75 years of independence. The mission was designed to deal with the issues arising out of slums. Slums are informal settlements with high population density characterized by substandard housing and lack of hygiene. It also aims at promoting affordable housing through credit linked subsidy of 6.5% on housing loan for 15 years. Construction of a house or its enhancement can be undertaken by the loan amount. Public private participation model will be used. The beneficiaries include economically weaker sections (EWS) and low income group (LIG) categories who will be granted rupees 1 Lakh rupees. Additionally, 1.5 lakh rupees will be given to all eligible urban poor for construction in urban areas or the renovation of existing houses. the scheme has three phases that will continue till 2022.

Affordable rental housing complexes for urban migrants was envisioned in 2020. It targeted workers who migrated from rural areas to urban areas. Under this government funded houses across cities that were not allotted yet, were converted to rental housing complexes. This conversion was to be done through concession agreements for 25 years after which they will be reverted to Urban local bodies (ULBs).

In June this year, the cabinet gave a green signal to the India-Japan memorandum of cooperation in the field of sustainable Urban Development. The Ministry of housing and urban affairs and the Ministry of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism signed the agreement. This program will generate employment opportunities while planning a sustainable urban landscape.

These initiatives by the government will accrue affordable housing to the poor. The major issue is that the progress is slow. Lockdown compounded this problem since infrastructure development was stalled during the pandemic. However, the government is sanguine about the progress of the projects.
Affordable housing and congestion have been addressed on global platforms like Habitat for Humanity summit III in Ecuador. The “New urban agenda” was a product of the summit. Giving slum dwellers upgraded housing with basic services by 2030 was envisioned in the document.
According to experts, congestion is a major contributor to the housing shortage. The United nations habitat defines overcrowding as when one habitable room is occupied by more than three people. The pandemic further highlighted the threats from congestion. Physically distancing and home quarantining created new standards. These new developments need to be incorporated into future city planning.

Plastic: A villain in disguise

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The invention of Plastic changed the face of the Earth. It saw the light of the day in 1869 when John Wesley Hyatt synthesised the first polymer to replace ivory. Ivory was costly and animals were culled for its production. Then came Bakelite, the first fully synthesised plastic, produced in 1907 by Leo Baekeland. Since then we have come a long way. We started small but now we have an assortment of plastics. It has become an inseparable part of our lives. Once a celebrated invention has become a burden on our planet.

Threats from plastic that are raising concerns worldwide include the following-

—Plastics does not decompose easily and hence remains in the environment for a long time.
—If they are incinerated during waste disposal, toxic fumes are produced directly into the atmosphere like dioxins, furans, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls apart from soot (carbon).
— Plastics serve as a surface for the transport of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to aquatic animals. POPs are organic chemical substances that remain in the environment for a long duration.
—It can be consumed by animals leading to death. The news about finding plastics in beached whale carcass is frequent. The weight of plastic inside large whales often leads to drowning induced death.
Microplastics which are plastic pieces smaller than 5mm are major pollutants. Through this plastics enter into the food chain because microplastics can be consumed by fishes, which in turn are consumed by others fishes or by humans. In a recent study, microplastics were found in the human placenta.
— Microplastics like Bisphenol A (BPA) can act as endocrine disruptors (ED’s). This means that plastic can cause hormonal imbalances. It affects sex hormones in humans and can disrupt menstrual cycles in females.
— Reduces soil fertility
— Reduces water seepage into the ground affecting groundwater level

Actions to curb single-use plastic
In the past, the government resorted to banning single-use plastic. This failed to achieve the desired target of zero plastic. Perhaps a new way of doing things is the need of the hour. A behavioural nudge can do wonders. Its efficacy was proved during Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. It includes incentivising actions that promotes voluntary avoidance of Plastic use. This can be done via awareness generation and educating young minds to become responsible adults.
Legislation can facilitate phasing out the plastic. Draft Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2021 were recently released by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. It aims at phasing out single-use plastic in three phases. A circular economy that is based on the concept of recycling and reusing, is another solution. India collaborated with Australia to work in tandem and develop a circular economy.
Globally actions like the Stockholm Convention on POP’s and the latest UNEP’s counterMEASURE are steps that work against plastic. Many non-governmental organisation and individuals have raised their voices against the burgeoning issue of plastic pollution. In the end, the people have to be the final piece of the puzzle that can solve the problem.

Today we are on the cusp of a big transition. We have a choice that will decide our future- a choice to eliminate the use of single-use plastic or continue to live unsustainably. The right choice today will give the generation next shot at living a good life, enjoying the luxuries that we enjoy.

The heart of Asia

Afghanistan, which has been given the epithet of the heart of Asia, is going through a transition. The United States troops that were deployed in the country will pull back by 11 September 2021. This comes after suffering from heavy losses- both militarily because of the loss of life of US soldiers and economically. This change which came after two decades will determine the fate of the entire region.

The experts believe that this might form a power vacuum because, in the absence of support for the United States, the elected government would not be able to hold peace and the Taliban might take over once again. The radical ideology supported by the group might retract the freedom that the afghans enjoyed during the brief period of an order under the Afghan government. However, the youth who received non-religious education might resist such surrender of rights, the pen cannot win a war against gun.

Peace in Afghanistan seems a distant goal because the tensions between the Afghan government and the Taliban were not resolved. The US endeavour failed because the peace process, which is a power sharing agreement, was never conceded by the Taliban. They see the US retreat as a victory. They will try to expand their influence which was confined to 19% of the country after a long and tiring operation in the past 20 years.

The Biden administration decision to leave the country in this state is being condemned globally and rightly so. The conditions in Afghanistan are conducive for a civil war. The biggest fear is that the rollback of US troops will bring things back to square one. All the progress achieved might vanish. In the end, it all boils down to the innocent lives that will churn in the politics and power play. Half of the pullback process is complete and the rush to fast track the process is clearly visible. Along with the US, Australia also closed its embassy till matters settle.

India and Afghanistan

India has upheld its stand. It will work for peace keeping in the Hindu Kush state. Assistance has been provided from India’s side in the past as well. These include road project from Zaranj to Delram, Salma dam power project in Herat province and construction of the Afghan Parliament. The American actions will have an impact on Indian investment in the region. India, along with other countries will have to play a bigger role in maintaining the gains that were achieved in the past while working for a peaceful Afghanistan. The developmental work done in the country will give some advantage to India. Also now India has opened communication with the Taliban. This gives a chance to serve as a better mediation of peace terms. India has been an advocate of ‘Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled’ peace process.

A developed and peaceful Afghanistan will be good for Asia as a whole. Lastly, the heart of Asia should not suffer from a stroke. The issue needs a resolution and the countries will have to come together to help Afghanistan.

Gender gap: The oldest unfinished business

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The systemic problem of the gender gap is one of the oldest unresolved issues. It has historical roots that bind the society to date. The gender performance of India has not been very motivating. The parity is visible in almost every field. Right from birth sex ratio, educational enrolment to employment participation of women, we lag by a lot compared to the developed countries of the world. Just to give a glimpse of this tragic truth let’s browse through some data, indices and reports.

— The sex ratio of India is 899 females per 1000 males according to NITI Aayog. This number is variable across the country. The sustainable development goals (SDG) index released by the NITI Aayog shows inter-state parity. Chhattisgarh has a sex ratio of 958 was the best performer, while Uttarakhand emerged as the worst-performing state with 840 females per 1000 males.
Sex ratio at birth is 934 in 2019-20.
Gross enrolment ratio (GER) of girls in school at the secondary level is 81.32 (2018-19-provisional figures).
Female labour force participation rate of India is 24.5% (2018-19) while the global average is 45%.
Global Gender Gap report of 2021 that was released by the world economic forum (WEF) ranked India 140 among 156 countries, making India the third worst performer among the south Asian countries. Four thematic dimensions were assessed that are-
1. Economic participation and opportunity
2. Health and Survival
3. Educational Attainment
4. Political Empowerment
India’s performance was comparatively good in health and survival indicators.
Reproductive health report 2021 titled ‘My Body is my health’ published by United Nations population Fund (UNFPA) showed a dismal state of women’s access to bodily autonomy across borders.

These statistics mirror the gender parity in India. Although there is still not a single country where both, males and females, are exactly equals but many are close to the target. India still has a long way to go. The reasons behind the poor performance are many but the two most important areas follows.

—Patriarchal society and the inherent rigidities resist reforms that can help in women empowerment. The mindset of the people is the biggest culprits. Consciously or unconsciously they enforce norms that are antithetic to the empowerment of women. We need not look for examples outside. Most of the households in India show such behaviours.
— The lax attitude of the political leadership is another factor. The political participation of women is a testament to this fact. This insensitivity in governance is reflected in the numerous controversial judicial pronouncements.

Not everything is bad for women in India. The silver lining for us women is the fact that people are willing to fight for the cause. The government and the international community recognises the issue and through joint efforts, they have improved the situation. Schemes like Beti bachao, Beti padhao, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, schemes to attract women in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) streams, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Medical termination of pregnancy act are all examples of these efforts. The list is long but when we assess the performance we find that developments are snail-paced. The fight for equal rights on paper might be over but the fight for its realisation continues.

The monsoon saga

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The dance of the winds over the Indian Ocean and the resultant monsoon are majestic geographical process. We are among the twenty countries of the world where 80% of all rainfall is attributed to the monsoon. Monsoon is very intricately linked to India’s history, culture, geography and economy. Let’s take a round trip to the various facets of the monsoon.

The historical bearings of the monsoon– A good monsoon overlapped with the period when in the past when armies could no longer go for expeditions. On the contrary, a bad monsoon was the right time for waging wars and expeditions. The fact that the Mughal successions were somewhat parallel to the monsoon failures shows that the Monsoon was a political factor which could dethrone an emperor. Later In colonial times, Indian budget got the epithet of a ‘gamble on monsoon’ by a British officer, another historical footprints of the Monsoon.

Monsoon’s cultural collection– The melody of ‘Sawan ka Mahina’ and the numerous songs in a panoply of languages or the rich collection of poetry dedicated to monsoon are testimony of its cultural importance. Paintings depicting the joyous moments exhibiting monsoon are other examples. The festival’s and celebratory rituals to welcome the monsoons dear to the farmers of India is another colour of the cultural significance of the season. The charisma of monsoon served as inspiration for the cultural renaissance of India.

Geography of the mighty monsoon– It all starts when the continental interiors of Asia and Africa heat up during the summers. This rise in temperature causes change in the location of the zone of convergence of winds coming from North and South. This region is called Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). The heat leads to northward shifting of the convergence zone. Hence the winds coming from the southern hemisphere travels its way through the southern Indian Ocean and when it crosses the equator it turns slightly towards the east. This wind carries the moisture from the ocean and brings precipitation to India. This is an oversimplification of the complex process there a lot of other factors that influences it like, La Nina and El Nino.

Ecological significance– According to the Koppen classification of climatic zones, India has a monsoon type of climate. The green cover or vegetation of India is influenced by the monsoon. The rich species diversity of India, both flora and fauna, is due to the climate and the seasons. This country is a holy abode for nature enthusiasts. Apart from the already exists aesthetic beauty, the rich collection of plants and animals, we hear almost regularly about the new species being discovered. Monsoon should be acknowledged for this diversity.

Economics of the monsoon– India is an agricultural country and it is no secret that this agro-economy is dependent on monsoon. A good monsoon equates with a good harvest and good economic indicators. On the other hand a bad monsoon directly implicates India’s gross domestic product (GDP). The food security and self-sufficiency provided by nature’s bounty also helps in feeding the country and hence reducing the need to import it from other countries. The amount of money that would have been used in the import of food can be utilised to fulfil other needs.

Clearly, Monsoon has many stories. India and its romance with monsoon is an amusing tale that continues to date.

When crime went Binary

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The rampant increase in cyber attacks in India is a cause of concern. These attacks range from blackmailing and fraud for extortion of money to paralysing an important digital infrastructure through distributed denial of service attack. Digitalization has the potential to change the way things work in India but it also exposes the vulnerability of our weaknesses. State and non-state actors are potentially involved in the veil of the digital ruse. Several in the past directed to India were orchestrated by Chinese hacker groups. This makes cybersecurity a national issue of internal security. India needs to be wary of the intentions of it’s naughty neighbours.

At the level of the individual, cyber crimes can take the form of fraud for money through various mobile applications. Recently a racket of such fraudsters was caught by the police. They used mobile based applications to lure people to invest their money. In fact, one application featured among the top five applications of the Google Play store. They made a large sum of money by looting the people. The lack of digital literacy and financial literacy in many people has compounded the problem.
At the national level, such attacks are aimed at disrupting of the availability of a service. The recent attack on Air India was one of the most malicious attacks of 2021. Data of millions of customers was compromised. In past, there have been many attempts on hijacking the power discoms, banks, and other important services.

Cybersecurity infrastructure in India
The ministry of communication and information technology designed the national cybersecurity policy in 2013. It aimed at protecting information including personal, financial, sovereign data and so on. National critical information infrastructure protection centre (NCIIPC) was established for strategic areas like air control, nuclear, space etc.
For noncritical digital assets, India’s computer emergency response team was set up under the ministry of electronics and information technology (MEITY). The National cyber coordination centre (NCCC) was set up to generate situational awareness of existing and potential cybersecurity threats.
Information technology act, 2000 also laid down some provisions for data security. Other initiatives include cyber Swachhta Kendra for botnet cleaning, training programs Like information security education and awareness project called cyber crisis management plan and so on.

Recently the government launched national helpline number 155260 to report cybercrime. Being the third largest Internet user in the world this action was rather late. But as the old saying goes better late than never, finally, citizens will have a platform dedicated to cybercrime.

With growing Internet coverage the need for cybersecurity, data protection and ensuring the privacy of data has also become pertinent. This human resource that is working against cybercrime can be given the assistance of artificial intelligence which are prompt in action and accurate in the identification of attacks. Digital literacy and awareness can no longer be neglected. Most importantly a data security law and an updated strategy should be designed. For a developing country of India’s proportion, a secure way of digitalising the country is a must. A safe digital space should be promised to the citizens of this country.

Maoist Insurgency

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Maoist insurgency is a national security issue. It has plagued India since 1967 when the rebellion in Naxalbari of West Bengal erupted under the leadership of Kanu Sanyal and Jagan Santhal. Soon the flames of rebellion engulfed eastern India especially the states today infamous as red corridor. These include Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Maoist ideology can be summed up as-
‘Maoism is a form of communism they’ve lapped by Mao Tse Tung. It is a doctoring to capture state pass through a combination of armed insurgency, mass mobilisation and strategic alliances. The Maoists also used propaganda and disinformation against state institutions as other components of their insurgency doctrine we do it Mao called this process, the protracted People’s War, where the emphasis is on military line to capture power.’

Reasons for spread
The main reasons behind the spread of Naxalism were the low level of socio-economic development. The districts affected by Naxalism are one the worst performing regions in various developmental indices of India. Poverty and inequality are rampant. Education, hospitals, roads and other basic infrastructure are not well-developed. This coupled with tribal discontent lead to widespread anguish among the people. The forests and the mineral-rich plateau are exploited threatening the livelihoods of the tribal population. The ideology could be metastasised among people who were left behind in the process of progress. Their minds can be manipulated easily since they lack a reliable source of income. They take arms to fight against the system.
The increasing incidences of Violence is a cause of concern. The latest big attack was observed in April this year. A joint operation of local police and central police force ended with the tragic death of 23 security personnel in Bastar. The failure of the operation highlighted major loopholes in the strategic preparedness as well as the intelligence system.

How to resolve the tension
The government has taken a few steps in this direction. They include the following
— Operation Green hunt initiated in 2010 brought down the number of districts under the clutches of Naxalism from 223 to 30.
— Aspirational Districts Program (ADP) which was recently recognised by UNDP as a model to tackle regional disparities, is another move by the government to solve the developmental problem of these districts and uplift them.
— National policy and action plan to address left-wing extremism was formulated to address the issue.
— SAMADHAN doctrine evolved as a result government efforts. It is an acronym.
S- Smart leadership
A- Aggressive strategy
M- Motivation and training
A- Actionable intelligence
D- Dashboard based key performance indicators and key result areas
H- Harnessing technology
A- Action plan for each theatre
N- No access to financing

Lastly, the experts are of the opinion that patience in getting the results is important. Any tactic to resolve left wing extremism will take time. It will be a slow process and even small acorns to win over the people will fetch results. For example, Telangana’s Guthi Kiya tribal region saw a reduced attendance of people in secret meetings called by the Maoists. This was so because the local police distributed water filter and television sets to the people who are busy using these facilities. This can weaker the influence of Maoists. Likewise, other small actions which can open the doors to the world outside the tribes can help in improving the situation by making people aspirational.

Terror of Trans-fat

In the world of health-conscious superjocks trans fat has emerged as the new villain. The terror is real! Food with zero trans fats is the new trend. The need to avoid it in the diet is pertinent since it has many baleful effects on health. This spotlight on trans fat has raised awareness about healthy eating habits. Even the government has taken the matter of healthy diet seriously and launched several schemes to nutrify the people of India.

Trans Fatty acids (TFA) or Trans Fat
They are unsaturated fatty acids that are harmful to the body (They have one or more double bond hydrocarbon chain that is, they can take up additional hydrogen). They occur naturally but artificially produced fats are also consumed. Vanaspati or Margarine or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are artificially produced by the addition of hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid while dairy products and meats have natural trans fatty acids. They are used as food preservatives and as a replacement for pure ghee. Since they are cheap they are used to increase profitability. They are responsible for high cholesterol levels and reduction off good cholesterol (HDLhigh density lipoprotein).

Effects on health
They increase the risk of heart diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and infertility. They are also known to cause certain types of cancers and compromised foetal development. Trans fat increases the amount of bad cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein) while reducing the amount of good cholesterol (High Density lipoprotein).

Government actions to tackle uptake of trans fatty acids
The World Health Organization made a clarion call to eliminate industrially produced trans fat by 2023. Denmark became the first country to ban trans fats In 2003. India too joined this initiative but did not ban the product entirely. The food safety and standards authority of India (FSSAI) put a cap of 3% for 2021 and 2% by 2022. Earlier permissible levels were 5%. The update took place in 2021 and is applicable to all the food producing enterprises using oils, Vanaspati, margarine, bakery shortenings, and other mediums of cooking such as vegetable fat spreads and mixed fat spreads.
Trans fat free logo was launched by the food regulator Food safety and standards authority of India (FSSAI) is an initiative to promote TFA-free food product. It is a voluntary action by the manufacturer. It can be used if the product does not have industrial trans-fat more than 0.2 g/100g of the food.
FSSAI also started a mass media campaign ‘Heart attack rewind’ to eliminate TFA’s in the food by 2022. It is descendant of the eat right campaign of 2018. It was launched when World Health Organization initiated the replace campaign in 2018 aimed at elimination of TFA’s by 2023 globally.
The government and the global community will do their bit but the actual onus lies on individuals themselves. They have to adopt healthy dietary habits like replacing trans fatty acids with other types of healthy fats like MUFA (Mono unsaturated fatty acid) and PUFA (Poly unsaturated Fatty acids). These are found in nuts, eggs, fish etc. In a nutshell, a balanced diet devoid of junk can promise a healthy life.

When India’s aspiration took flight

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The United Nations development program lauded India’s aspirational districts Program (ADP) for its work in the upliftment of 112 backward districts of India. Ranchi, Chandauli, Simdega, Sonbhadra and Rajghar emerged as the top five districts with maximum change since the program started in 2018 in net resilience according to the UNDP. The UNDP recognized that the Aspirational district program can be used as a template for regional disparities in any part of the world.

Overview of the Aspirational District Program

  • Launched in 2018
  • Anchored by NITI Aayog
  • Aim- quickly and effectively transform the socio-economic backward districts
  • The broad contours of the program are 3C’s
    Convergence of central and state schemes
    Collaboration of central, state-level ‘Prabhari’ officers and district collectors
    Competition among districts driven by a mass movement
  • District teams work to achieve the aim of the programme
  • There is a joint secretary or additional secretary-level officer appointed by the Government of India as a central officer for each district to guide the district team. Hence there is an element of experience.
  • The focus is on five critical sectors-
    – Education
    – Agriculture and water resources
    – Financial inclusion and skill development
    – Basic infrastructure
  • Monitoring real-time data
  • convergence across government programs and schemes (large funds are not given under the program. The teams have to make efficient use of the resources that they receive under the central and state schemes.)
  • Involvement of NGOs and the civil society
  • Real time data of the district indicators and a delta ranking dashboard to infuse competitiveness

UNDP report

The success story can be exemplified by the fact that few aspirational districts outperformed non aspirational districts. The districts have also admitted that the continued focus on the program on health and nutrition has made them resilient in tackling the pandemic.

The report highlighted a few best practices like competitiveness increases performance. The best practice of one aspirational district is shared with others. They can then develop a new model suited for their needs. Also, it was seen that if a district team is challenged, they will find a solution. Another notable feature of the initiative was that it is a team program. Example of GoalMart, an e-commerce portal launched by a Assam’s Goalpara district administration to promote rural, ethnic and agrarian products of the district in the national and global markets. This was gainful, particularly during the lockdown. Black rice was in high demand and it was even exported to Australia and New Zealand.

The UNDP report has highlighted few areas of improvement. For example, the sectors of emphasis can be expanded to include gender and environment. There is a need to focus on capacity building, especially the appointment of dedicated personnel in the aspirational areas. In this context, education, health and agriculture need attention due to the remoteness. People don’t want to work in secluded regions, away from towns. One major issue of concern is the misreporting and under-reporting of data. This however has been tackled by the involvement of central officers and a system of third party audit. An online dashboard shows progress in real-time. It applauds the good work of a district and at the same time, it highlights the districts which are left behind in the race. Likewise, the delta ranking exhibits the top-most and the bottom-most districts. Sitamarhi in Bihar, Gumla in Jharkhand, Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, Bijapur in Karnataka and Nawada in Bihar are among the least improved districts according to UNDP’s resilience and vulnerability index.

With the motto of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ an inclusive developmental model was designed. The recognition by UNDP’s resilience and vulnerability index speaks volumes about the potential of the program. Going forward the government has to make sure that the districts don’t remain aspirational for long. They should graduate by coming at par with other developed districts. This will mark the true success of the program.

Death by Lightning

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Lightning claimed many lives in India. Recently in West Bengal lightning death toll rose to 27. With an increasing number of tropical cyclones and the coming of monsoon the threat due to lightning has also increased. According to a report published by the climate resilient observing systems promotion council (CROPC), a non-profit organization that works closely with the India Metrological Department (IMD), there were 1,771 deaths due to lightning between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020. However, there was a reduction of 37% compared to the previous year. Uttar Pradesh saw the maximum death toll, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand. These are also the areas that fall under the influence of Norwesters (Kalbaisakhi).

Why lightning kills?
Lightning is defined as a natural electric discharge of high voltage between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud. It occurs within a few milliseconds. Hence it is an electric discharge of very short duration. Bright flash and sound due to shock waves are observed with lightning. Intra and inter cloud (IC) lightning do not cause any problem. Cloud to ground (CG) lightning is responsible for death and destruction.
Electrification of clouds occurs then warm air mixes with cool air. A fast upward movement of air during the thunderstorm (updraft) carries humid air that turns into super cooled water and ice as it moves upwards through the freezing clouds (Altitude of 10 km where the temperature is -40°C). Larger crystals (Graupel) are heavy and are present in the clouds. Moving water droplets (positively charged) and ice collide (positively charged) with each other and the Graupel (negatively charged) producing a potential difference that is, the top of the clouds are positively charged and lower parts are negatively charged. The Earth/ground is neutral (no charge) and a good conductor of electricity. However, in comparison to the middle layer of the cloud, it becomes positively charged. Hence the current gets directed towards the earth as well.
Most of the death are a result of people taking shelter below tree during rain. A side flash occurs when lightning strikes a nearby tall object like a tree and then jumps from the tree to a human. This happens within a radius of 2 feet from the object.
Though rarely but when a person is directly struck by lightning it can heat and burn the skin and travel to the ground through the nervous system.
Ground current is the electricity traveling along the ground especially in the presence of conductive materials like water when lightning strikes an object. This can kill a large number of humans and animals. In rural India where farmers are working in their fields drenched with irrigated waters fall victim to it.

The best way to prevent death due to lightning is through early warning systems that can alarm the people to take shelter before thunder storm. An application named Damini was developed by IITM to disseminate lightening alert. Other applications like Mausam and Meghadoot also help in early warning dissemination. Apart from this lightening as a disaster and the do’s and don’ts are taught in schools under disaster management. These initiatives by the government to improve early warning systems and establishment of monitors in vulnerable areas are commendable. It has resulted in reduction of death tolls. However, there is a scope for further improvement.

The Science of Immunity

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We all have been through doomsday surfing. Some of us reached a point where we do not want to talk about the virus and the pandemic but now after a long wait we have a vaccine and there is hope again. It won’t hurt to dive into the science of vaccine and understand our immune system and its main warriors, the antibodies.

A disclaimer before we start- I have tried to explain the system in a very simplified manner. The complexity of our bodies is beyond our comprehension. It is not fully understood even by scientists. So you can ask questions but answers are not guaranteed.

The immune system of humans has two major components- The innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The Innate immune system is present by birth and includes physical barriers like skin, chemical barriers like the acidity of the stomach and cellular barriers including an array of cells with sensitive receptors to detect pathogens. Adaptive immunity is acquired immunity that is induced when we are exposed to pathogens. When we get a vaccine we try to wake up the adaptive immune system. It is this adaptive immunity that is responsible for immunological memory. This means that the body will remember the pathogen and be ready to fight the next time it encounters it in a much robust and quick responsive manner.
Antibodies are part of the adaptive immune system. They are also called immunoglobulins. These belong to the protein family. There are five major classes of immunoglobulins. The most important ones that are studied for serological survey for testing COVID-19 are immunoglobulin G (IgG) and immunoglobulin M (IgM). Immunoglobulin M is the first immunoglobulin class produced in a primary response to antigen/pathogen, and it is also the first immunoglobulin to be synthesized by a newborn. Immunoglobulin G is the most abundant class in serum. Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay (ELISA) test is used to detect the presence and amount of these two antibodies.

Now let’s talk about vaccines.
Vaccines are pathogens that are weakened or killed or parts of pathogen that are introduced in the body to generate an immune response and create a memory. Therefore vaccine should not be confused with medicine. It is just a means of exploiting the immune system of the body itself to fight the pathogen. Vaccines facilitate in the creation of memory so that when the real virus comes the body is ready for it.

How to boost immunity
We can start with a proper diet and exercise. These two together work wonders. It’s a proven fact. You too know this but the only thing that is stopping you from having a disciplined lifestyle is procrastination or just laziness. When it comes to health you are your own master. You can make choices- to have prudence or not. Now people can argue that due to lockdown they are not able to go to parks for walk or jog or gyms. The truth is that exercise does require anybody to leave their homes. Yoga, high-intensity interval training or the fun-packed Zumba needs no equipment and can be done at home. It needs only the intention and motivation to get fit. As far as the pandemic is concerned, the only way in sight to get over it soon is to get a vaccine. So make your body an armour to tide over these tumultuous times through the right choices.

Ripening of a Big reform

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The fire against the farm bills has not doused yet. Elements of politics are also involved which will not let the matter fade away. The recent update about the mixing of political color and farmers concern is when the chief minister of West Bengal Mamta Banerjee and Bhartiya Kisan union leader Rakesh Tikait met. Sometimes politics can give an extra push to a movement, especially when it is dying. The people were not the only ones affected by the pandemic. It seems the movements also caught the flu.

In 2020 farm acts were Legislated by the centre. The three laws that were passed as a package include-
1) Farmers produce trade and commerce promotion and facilitation act 2020
2) The Essential commodities amendment act
3) Farmers empowerment and protection agreement on price assurance and farm services act 2020

Entry 33(b) in the concurrent list was invoked to enact the law. The subject that 33(b) talks about is trade and commerce in, and production, supply and distribution of, “foodstuffs”. Many states, most notably Punjab, accused the centre of extending the meaning of the subject to include agriculture although it is under the state list.
Usually when parliament passes a law on matter enumerated in concurrent list and states are against the law then
1) States can amend it, subject to the condition that provisions that contradict the parliamentary act will have to get president’s assent, without which they cannot be enforced
2) The aggrieved states can challenge the validity of the law in the Supreme Court
It remains to be seen what impact will the states legislating against the law have on the centre.

Apart from the disagreement between the centre and the state that did not attract much attention, there was a tussle between the farmers and the union government. The mobilisation of farmers against the laws in Delhi and the voice raised by them were heard overseas as well. A series of fight between the soft powers made many headlines within India as well as between Indian and foreign celebrities.

The contradiction
In laymen terms, the bone of contention between farmers and the centre was that the involvement of private companies will throw the poor farmers at mercy of big businessmen. Minimum support price (MSP) might soon be removed as the next strategy of privatisation.

The flaws and a suggestion
A big policy reform can be successful only if people are convinced that it will benefit them. Public needs proof that the reforms will be in their favour. If the government wants to introduce reforms then they need to take people into confidence. All the stakeholders must be on board. Therefore a big policy reform needs time. Since proof lies in eating the pudding, small pilot projects to observe the impact of the reform on society should be conducted. The success of such small projects can build confidence in people. If the project is not successful then there is a scope for improving and modifying the policy.
India is a vast and diverse country cannot be exposed to a big reform all at once. Take demonetisation for instance. The pan India exercise did not give the expected outcome. It dented the economy. Lesson from the past can help build a better future. So, the bottom line is that a big transition is not easy because it affects everyone- few benefit while few are at the receiving end. Giving it time to ripe while taking one step at a time can be an option that helps people accept the change.

Menace of Misinformation

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Online content is the new storehouse of information for people. Many online platforms are working in the field of information dissemination. Social media is one of them. The content posted here is not first hand. These platforms rely on other online sources for information and modify it to avoid plagiarism. This modification often takes the form of the intentional addition of more spice to the news to make it interesting and attract readers. This leads to disinformation and misinformation. Now it is becoming a menace at a global level.

The main reasons for misinformation include-
-Lack of proper research- Without knowing the adverse effects of misinformation online content authors post wrong facts mostly due to lack of knowledge and ignorance.
-Cascade effect- When one author refers to a wrong source that is already corrupted by modification, the content is bound to convey the wrong message. The chain of misinformation goes on and in many cases, the meaning of the fact changes completely.
-Social media platforms work to maximise likes and views. To attract audience facts are often misconstrued intentionally. This can take a dangerous turn like raging communal intolerance among people. The mob lynching cases are examples of the terrible effects of cooking facts.

Spreading rumours is not new. It is just that with the use of the internet, rumours spread like wildfire. Religious intolerance, casteism, and hatred have become prevalent. Thus to break the chain the government of India took stern measures. The latest tussle between WhatsApp and the government is a result of this. The new IT rules, 2021 is an attempt to control the free flow of misinformation. Its provisions with regard to disinformation include the following-

-It categorises social media intermediaries into- social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries
-In case due diligence is not followed by the intermediaries then the harbour provisions mentioned in section 70 of the IT act that gives them legal immunity will not apply.
-The grievance redressal mechanism was made mandatory. The grievance officer will have to take note of the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within 15 days. A monthly compliance report must be submitted enlisting the complaints.
-Significant social intermediaries especially those providing messaging services shall enable tracing of the originator of first information. It is required only for prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years.
-An intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court or being notified by the Appropriate Govt. or its agencies through an authorised officer should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc.
-Publishers of news on digital media have to follow the norms of the Journalistic conduct of the Press Council of India and the programme code under the cable television networks regulation Act, 1995.

There was an uproar against the new rules. Few people interpreted the new rules as an attack on the right to privacy. The debate is still going on.
During the pandemic footfall of people and the average time spent on social media skyrocketed. Misinformation about the vaccine and the virus was circulated which became a huge problem in dealing with the pandemic. Vaccine hesitation instead of promotion of vaccine was spread via social media and this delayed the progress of immunization. The solution to the problem lies in building trust in the government so that the public can differentiate between fact and fake. Educating people about the disasters of misinformation so that people voluntarily give a second thought about posting content online.
Coercive actions cannot improve the situation of misinformation ‘cause people have the freedom of speech and expression envisioned in article 19 of the constitution of India. Hence nudge or behavioural nudge can be the way forward in dealing with misinformation avalanche. The realization that with freedom there comes responsibility people will become responsible Internet users.

Not a drop to drink

A-five-year old girl from Rajasthan recently died from thirst. This headline was lost in the newspapers. The tragic event pushes us to think about water scarcity. Although this case got some attention in the sense that it found a corner in the newspaper, but there are many unreported cases. We are indeed blessed with many rivers and monsoon rains but India only has 4% of average global runoff and rivers which has to support 18% of the world’s population. In addition to this, due to sheer negligence of people, insensitivity towards the issue by the government at all levels and lax attitude of the administration, India suffers from water shortage. If the death of a child cannot be the reason behind the awakening of the government and the people then no one can know what will.
In 2019 one particular incident stole the spotlight. In Telangana school girls hair were cut to save water. The logic was that short hair will use less water during hair wash. The school was ordered by the administration. The students and their families were not informed about the plan and this led to a fuss. Was the bizarre experiment successful? There is no news. What we know is that this could have been avoided if water management was adopted. Water harvesting system and traditional ways of water conservation could have done a better job than resorting to haircuts. The problem is that the administration tries to solve a problem only when it hurts. The seasons when water is available in plenty are also the season when the administration is sleeping. This has to change.
It’s true that the government has taken many steps to generate awareness and incentivize people to save water but these actions are mere lip service if they do not fetch any result. Few measures in this regard include the flagship Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM). It aims to reach the target of 55 litres of water per person per day to every rural household through functional household tap connections (FHTC) by 2024. It envisions to creat a Jan Andolan by making water everyone’s priority. The initiative has operational guidelines at every level that is, national, state, district and village. Every village is expected to prepare a village action plan for water source maintenance, water supply and greywater management.
Since most of the water is utilised in agriculture water use efficiency is a part that should be emphasised in water management. Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana was designed to cater to water management in agriculture. The components of the Yojana include Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), Har Khet Ko Pani, Per Drop More crop and watershed development.
In the spirit of competitive federalism, NITI Aayog introduced a composite water management index. This will push states to work to avoid water shortage. Being the most important component of life to exist, no government in the world can take a chance. India can learn from other countries and transfer technologies used by them in the field of water conservation. India itself has a rich history of water conservation technologies. Mandu Fort, Baolis and other historical structures testify this fact.
In the sustainable development index, India’s Performance in SDG-6 has been progressive but it is snail-paced. To change the dismal situation of water shortage, we need to act fast as a country, as a society and as an individual facing the biggest threat.

Resurrection of a forgotten Movement

Lokpal, yes it’s the same forgotten institution that led to fall of the UPA In 2014. The word which let one of the biggest movements of India and leaders like Anna Hazare, Kejriwal, the present Chief Minister of Delhi amongst many others shone bright. Due to popular support it was finally passed in 2013. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas act, 2013 was the beacon of hope against corruption. After a long wait of many years, several debates and failed bills, the moment of victory of justice was here.

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Though the act was passed, it remained on paper for the about five months. The argument for the dawdle was given as delay in appointments of chairperson and members of Lokpal. Since no one could be recognised as leader of opposition after 2014 general election, the committee responsible for selecting members of Lokpal could not be formed. However in March 2019 chairman of the commission was appointed by the president on recommendation of a four member selection committee the devoid of leader of the opposition. Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose became the first chairman of the ombudsman. Further, the centre refused to disclose the deliberations of selection committees meetings. Central information Commission has taking account of the fact and this investigating the matter upon appeal by Ms. Bharadwaj who filed an RTI request. The information Commission gave its decision after two years. department of personnel and training stated that the minutes of the selection committee was confidential and henceforth was exempted under Section 8 of the RTI act. Ms. Bharadwaj Countered the argument sing that the larger public has a right to know about the basis on which their Lokpal or Lokayukta was selected. Finally in February, 2021 the final verdict was in favour of the centre. The verdict was substantiated by citing Supreme Court decision on local search committee and committees for selecting information commissioners.

The latest update about Lokpal has raised many ears. After 2 long years, anti-corruption ombudsman submitted its first annual report to the President. As per the report, Lokpal received 110 corruption complaints. Among them 4 were against remember yourself parliament in the year 2020 -21. 1,427 complaints were reported in 2019-20.

Back to basics: overview of Lokpal

  • First recommended by administrative reforms commission of India (1966-1970) inspired by Scandinavian countries and New Zealand. It is notable that the commission kept judiciary outside the view of Lokpal and Lokayukta
  • More than 10 official attempts were made before the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act was passed in 2013
  • Few States had established Lokayukta even before the act was passed like Odisha, Maharashtra, Rajasthan etc.
    composition -Chairperson and 8 members in which 4 should be Judicial members (50% members from SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities and women)
    Appointed by President on recommendation of a selection committee
  • Members of selection committee for selection of Chairperson-
  1. Prime Minister
  2. Speaker of Lok Sabha
  3. Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha
  4. Chief Justice of India
  5. Eminent jurist nominated by President of India on the basis of recommendation of first four members of the selection committee
  • Search committee to help selection committee – 50% members from SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities and women
  • Jurisdiction extends to group A, group B, group c and group D officers and employees of government, institutions fund partially or fully by government (excluding government aided agencies), entities receiving donations from foreign source in the context of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in excess of Rs. 10 Lakhs per year . Prime Minister is also under its purview.
  • Power of superintendence and direction over investigation agencies (like Central Bureau of Investigation)
  • Well defined time periods for preliminary enquiry (3 months extendable by 3 months), investigation (6 months extendable by 6 months) and trial (1 month extendable by 1 year)
  • Lokayukta should be set up by state governments within a year from the date of commencement of the act.

The watchdog agency is an important organ for a corruption free democracy. There are a few drawbacks regarding the transparency of procedure while dealing with cases related to Prime Minister. In addition, anonymous complaints are not allowed. This threatens the privacy of whistleblowers who file complaints against powerful people. Also there is a heavy penalty for false complaints which can deter people. There are some flaws which should be repaired.
The transparency in selection of Chairman of Lokpal is being questioned. The Lokpal movement might be getting a new lease of life after it faded away in 2014. The organisation was made for the people of India and hence it belongs to the people. Every fact related to it should be put to display for public. This will be the mantra of creating a strong and trustworthy Lokpal.

Digital divide and Vaccination

Digital divide can be defined as the difference in availability and use of technology among people. It is a malady for an economy as big as India to lag in digital connectivity. The silver lining is that we are bridging the gap rapidly. The pandemic tried to undo the progress made on that front by increasing poverty and therefore affecting people’s access to digital services. This is so because when there is no income due to joblessness, all the leftover money is spent on ration and not internet package. Apart from poor, the elderly also find it difficult to operate computers or smartphones. The lack of know-how was not a problem in pre-pandemic times but now since most of the vaccination campaign has gone digital, it has become a question of survival.

COWIN application and portal also called as COVID vaccine intelligence network was developed by the National Informatics Centre, Ministry of Electronics and IT. Earlier it was used for pulse polio and other important vaccination programmes by the Ministry of health and family welfare. The usage was expanded to cater to the needs of COVID vaccination. It is the only source of registration for the vaccine. Very few offline means are available for registration. Hence those who do not have access to phones or computers cannot register and take the vaccine. The elderly and poor are the worst affected because of a lack of digital sources and know-how.
The impact of this digital divide will compound the problem that arises from COVID. It will also slow down and limit vaccination drive which increases the probability of a third wave. Newer variants can cause havoc since the more the virus spreads and thrives, the more are the chances of it getting mutated. The relief that we all want from the pandemic will become more distant since many people will not be able to access the facility. As of now, the lack of vaccine is already a big problem and in the thick of things, government won’t be able to vaccinate people fast. Thus there is no reason for the centre to make offline registration as it can create confusion and act as the last straw for inviting the third wave. However, the government is responsible to all the citizens. Everyone should have a fair chance of accessing the vaccine despite the shortcoming they face. Then what are the possible solutions?
Vaccination centres should have provision for on the spot registration. This will not only help in giving people who are poor or who do not have phones to access the vaccine but will also curb the wastage of the vaccine. Doorstep vaccinations similar to doorstep testing in poor localities is another way. Certificate can be given to people or the officials who are providing vaccine can keep a digital record of the number of doses given to an individual. Delhi recently launched “Jaha vote, haha vaccine” campaign to use the sites of polling for vaccination.
Unprecedented times need unprecedented solutions. India is not fully digitalised. A large population remained aloof when the digital wave struck India. Therefore, vaccination policies should be more holistic in approach to reach the majority of the citizens as soon as possible.

Equality or Vote Bank?

To mend the follows of historic injustice, reservation system became part of post-independent India. The fight for reservation that started way back in colonial India is still going on in new forms. Many states have implemented or are mulling over the idea of reservation in private companies for the locals of the area. Many communities are demanding reservation. Earlier Patel community led demonstrations for reservation and now Maratha community from Maharashtra are following the same footsteps. Supreme Court unanimously paused the verdict on the validity of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens (SPBC) act, 2018. Classification of Marathas as socially and educationally backward class was deemed unreasonable because of the political dominance as well as financial well being. Indra Swahney case, 1992 was reiterated.

Historical overview of reservation
Caste based reservation was the brainchild of William hunter and Jyotirao Phule in 1882. It was introduced for the first time in Government of India act of 1909 in the form of communal award. It was part of the divisive policy of Britain. It made provision for a separate electorate for muslims which was extended to other religions and communities in 1919. Poona pact of 1932 gave reservation to certain sections of the society under the Hindu electorate.
In post independent India, originally constitution provided reservation in legislatures for a period of 10 years until 1960 to the scheduled cost and the scheduled tribes (Article 334 constitution of India). It was extended and presently it remains functional.
In 1990 mandal Commission was instituted. Based on its recommendation other backward communities were given reservation. The Mandal Commission reserved 27% in government jobs for OBCs. Indra Swahney case of 1992 upheld the 27% quota for backward classes and established that reservation should not exceed 50% of India’s population. The concept of creamy layer was also introduced. The latest reservation policy change place in 2019 through 103rd amendment act which reserved 10% government jobs an education institutions for economically backward in the unreserved category.

Constitutional status of reservation in India
Article 14 of constitution forms the basis for By legitimising the concept of equality as Equality before law and equal protection of law.
Article 15– reservation in educational institutions
Article 16– reservation in jobs
Article 330 and 332 -Reserves seat for SCs and STs in parliament and in state legislatures respectively
Article 243 and 233– Reserves seat for SCs and STs in panchayats and in municipalities respectively
-Special provisions for some states mentioned in Article 371

New demands
The new demands for quota put forward by many communities or the reservation for locals in private jobs by state governments like Haryana will have to stand the scrutiny of the judiciary. The experts are of the opinion that reservation is usually a trade off between social equality and merit. In most cases the quota policy is justifiable but its malafide use for vote bank politics is a cause of concern as it threatens India’s efficiency. The government must, at any cost, try to balance the two or else, the entire system of governance will bear the brunt. Now states have started using reservation for better opportunities for the people of the state. If things go south, this can discourage companies from making investment in such states. Fine tuning of the policy with larger goal of nation building should be the bedrock of any policy.


Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

Group of seven (G7) countries reached a consensus on increasing the global taxation on multinational giants. Global minimum tax will disincentivise multinational companies from tax base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS). BEPS are a set of techniques employed by private companies who have an international presence. It helps them to shift to low tax countries, otherwise called as tax havens, regardless of where they provide services. Tech giants like Amazon and Facebook are usually accused of engaging in BEPS. This leads to heavy losses specially for developing countries like India. Valuable revenue is lost and this affects directly affects development of a country.
Convention on BEPS is an initiative led by OECD and G20 countries. This will prevent private companies from exploiting the loopholes that exist in cross border taxation systems. BEPS convention will work alongside presently functional tax treaties but it will modify their application. It will provide a level playing field for domestic companies. It will also have a dispute resolution mechanism.
Like every law it will have a flip side as well. It will benefit many developing countries but will adversely affect low tax countries who were enjoying the benefits of a booming economy lead by investment. Many economies therefore oppose the convention. The lack of consensus thus stalls the progress of the convention. The organisation for Economic Cooperation and development (OECD) is engaged in negotiations with 140 countries on rules for taxing multinational digital services and eliminating tax base erosion. These long deliberations have not reached any conclusion.
Recent G7 meet is a ray of hope. Global minimum tax rate, decided at 15%, is a mechanism applicable to cross border profits. Governments would have the freedom to impose local corporate tax rate but if companies pay lower rates in a particular country, their home governments could ‘top-up’ their taxes to the minimum rate, eliminating the advantage of shifting profits.
G7 countries have done their bit by agreeing to a minimum global corporate tax rate of at least 15% apart from the tax a company will pay to the country where they make sales. Now G20 meeting in July 2021 scheduled for Venice will have to show support to the proposal by G7. This will be the first step against tax base erosion. Although many countries will get the benefit from the agreement, there will be negative effect on low tax countries as they might bleed white. Ireland for example made huge profits from multinational companies. Hence Dublin resisted changes in tax rules in European Union. 15% global minimum tax which is decided by G7 is thought as too low according to many experts. Albeit it is a welcome first step. It promises a level playing field for businesses and a positive competition.

India and BEPS
India is an important player in BEPS project and has already amended few domestic laws to tackle the problems related to it. These laws include country-by-country reporting (CbCR), patent box tax regime, amendments to income tax rules amongst other such moves. India can reap the benefits of the convention if all the members adopt the the anti-abuse outcomes of BEPS. The recent developments make India sanguine about BEPS convention.

India’s most dreaded yet dearest word


Sedition is a word that appears every day on news. The recent turn of events that made sedition the headlines was that the Supreme Court quashed the case of sedition filed against a journalist in Himachal Pradesh. He was accused of making remarks against the Prime Minister and the government’s handling of the migrant crisis that followed COVID- 19 lock down during the first wave last year in a video.
A sedition case was filed against him under section 124A of the IPC. The section penalises sedition as punishable with either imprisonment ranging from three years to a lifetime, a fine, or both. The Supreme Court once again as a saviour of constitutional rights quashed the case rendering his remarks as genuine criticism of the government. The Supreme Court reiterated the principles of the landmark case Kedarnath Singh versus union of India 1962. In landmark judgment the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of sedition law while restricting its scope for misuse.

A walk through the history of sedition

Sedition law was enacted in India during the colonial era. It was the brainchild of England who believed that only good opinions of the government should survive. Macauley is credited with drafting the sedition law for the first time in 1837. In 1870 section 124A was introduced in Indian Penal Code. Many freedom fighters were booked under sedation. The first person was Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who was accused of writing seditious articles in his newspaper, Kesari. His judgement in Bombay High Court was passed by Arthur Strachey for the ‘seditious libel’.
The law survived in post-independence India. In the constituent assembly an attempt was made by K.M. Munshi, a strong supporter of free speech, to repeal the word sedition from the list of exceptions for rights to free speech under article 19 of the constitution. It was a successful endeavour however sedition remained functional under the Indian Penal Code.
From time to time the Supreme Court took charge to interpret the law vis-à-vis Brij Bhushan vs the state of Delhi (1950), Romesh Thappar vs the state of Madras (1950), Kedarnath Singh vs state of Bihar (1962) and Balwant Singh vs State of Punjab (1995). The landmark 1962 judgement upheld the constitutionality of sedition but limited its application. It defined that the thin line between ‘very strong speech’ and ‘vigorous words’ strongly critical of the government.
Presently, Section 124A of IPC states-

‘Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by science, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brains or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite this affection towards the government established by law in India shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine’

What next?
Sedition cannot be repealed within a fortnight. It has a long history and will have a future as well. The best the government can do is the refrain from misusing it, the Supreme Court will remain the saviour of the people of India and us, the citizens should try to use freedom of speech in the best interest of the nation.

People’s participation in environment conservation

It starts from ‘US’

The famous Chipko movement is a tale that every child in India knows about. It’s a story of real life heroes who were ready to compromise their lives to protect Mother Nature. A similar movement called Apikko movement was led in South India with the same pious intentions. Nature is revered in India and it forms an integral part of our religious and cultural beliefs. Sadly today that knowledge vanished in thin air and the unsustainable lifestyle, in an urge to mimic the west blindly took a heavy toll on our environment. It all started way back in 1760s when industrial revolution saw a sunrise. Since then humanity committed many mistakes, few of them even irreversible. However soon we realised the effects of global warming and climate change. Scientific evidence supported our ‘theory of doom’. Today we stand at a crossroads where we can either try to eliminate the adverse effects of climate change or leave our world without hope for the generation next.
Governments are trying to do what they do best that is, make policies, debate, invest in green projects. This lip service and paperwork cannot change the situation. It will take the force of every last human that breathes the air, quenches the thirst for water from nature or just exist. This fact is understood by children who have become eco-warriors. Few names in the Hall of Fame include Greta Thunberg from Sweden, Ridhima Pandey from India and many others. They all made a clarion call for the governments to come together as well as people to take a pledge to act sustainably.
People’s participation in environmental restoration has many success stories. Beej bachao andolan of Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand, Silent valley movement and Narmada Bachao Andolan and other famous movements that saw popular participation of people.
Principle 10 of the Rio declaration recognises public participation. It states that environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. It encourages states to facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy shall be provided.
Environmental issues are closely linked to the rights of indigenous people or the tribal population. As a citizen they have right to live in a healthy environment under article 21 of the constitution of India and as indigenous people they have the right to protect and manage natural resources located on traditional indigenous lands. The latter right as mentioned in the Forest conservation act, 1980.
In India environment impact assessment (EIA) also has an important component of public participation. The provisions for environment impact assessment are given under the Environment (Protection) act 1986. It describes the process followed under EIA. Public hearing is a notable feature. There are a few drawbacks in the present EIA policy. For example, the public hearing is carried out at a very late stage. Also, a large number of projects have been excluded from the mandatory public hearing process. Few amendments are required in this respect.
The bottomline is that legal tools for public participation in environmental restoration are available albeit, there is need to strengthen them. The main actor here, is the public . An aware and enthusiastic public can bring the much needed change. It starts from ‘US’.

Traditional Vs Modern medicine

Traditional versus Modern

India has a rich lexicon of traditional medicinal practices. The recent tussle between the traditional systems and modern medicine has started the debate about which is better. After the government legalized the use of some surgical methods in the traditional system, the spark became a fire and the fight between the two intensified. In December 2020 postgraduates of Ayurveda were allowed to practice specific medical surgeries through a government notification. Indian Medical Association (IMA) criticized this move and protested against it.
India is a country with strong cultural beliefs and trust in traditional ways and means. Hence people cannot be coerced to completely reject these systems. A better model would be the one where both complement each other. Take China for example. In China, both traditional along with modern medicines were used during the COVID-19 pandemic and they reported a decrease in mortality rates.
In India, six traditional systems namely Ayurveda, Unani, Homeopathy, Sowa Rigpa, Naturopathy and Siddha are recognised by the government. A dedicated ministry of AYUSH was established to formalize these traditional systems. They can be used to complement modern Allopathy because India is a densely populated country with a shortage of medical experts. Synergies between the two systems and collaborative work can help ease the burden on the present healthcare infrastructure.
Hence instead of viewing each other as arch-nemesis, they should try to work in tandem for the goal of a better public health care system. Also, there is a large population in rural India and even among the urban intelligentsia who put their faith in traditional medicines for various non-lethal medical conditions. The traditional system can help reduce the burden faced by the modern system of medicine. COVID -19 overwhelmed the hospitals and less serious illnesses were sidelined. This created discomfort for many patients. In such a situation a well organized traditional system was able to provide relief to many. Together they can reinvigorate the health care system for the benefit of the public at large.
Although only six systems of traditional medicines are recognized by the ministry there are several other systems that are lesser-known because they are practiced amongst remote communities or tribal communities. A lot of research is required to compile that knowledge. India needs to get intellectual property rights for its rich heritage. Traditional knowledge digital library (TKDL) is an initiative by the government of India to collect these hidden cultural treasures.
Lastly, the choice remains with the public. They can decide where to get treated. The role of government should be to formalize the traditional system. More solid evidence of their efficacy and therapeutic effect should be collected. This will not only win the trust of the people but also the doctors practicing modern medicine.
Also, it is important to recognize the contribution of the doctors during the pandemic. Public figures should refrain from passing sensitive comments because the country is going through a tumultuous time. Solidarity and appreciation for the compromises made by the doctors should be instilled. The differences should be kept on the back burner. Instead, emphasis on the fight against the common enemy, the Wuhan virus, should be the pivot of all discussions.

Artificial Sun On Earth!

Sun on Earth

China’s artificial sun on earth might seem like a phrase from a fairy tale. However, now it’s a reality. Experimental advanced superconducting Tokamak (EAST) of China has won the epithet of sun on earth. It is an energy generation machine which uses the same principle that the sun uses. The tokamak became 10 times hotter than the sun for 20 seconds. It is a big milestone in the field of science. It will unleash the global quest for clean, green and unlimited energy. It is also sustainable as it produces comparatively less waste products.
EAST Reactor is located at the institute of plasma physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Hefei, China. It is an advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device. Nuclear fusion is a reaction in which one or more atoms combine to form one or more different atoms and subatomic particles. The sun (or any other star in the universe) generates its energy by this process in which Hydrogen nuclei combine to form Helium and two neutrinos. The east project is part of of the the international thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER) project. It will become the world’s largest nuclear fusion reactor when it becomes operational in 2035.
ITER is a collaboration of 35 nations which started in 1985. Its headquarter is located in France. Its aim is to build world’s largest tokamak, an experimental machine with the ability of producing energy from fusion reaction. Tokamak is a large vessel inside which heat energy is produced and the walls of the vessel absorb the heat which can be used to produce steam. The steam can rotate turbines and then produce electricity vis-a-vis generators like other conventional means of power generation. In the midst of climate change and global warming, nuclear fusion provides a carbon free source of power and is our chance to reverse the implications of climate change. ITER members include China, European Union, United States, Russia, South Korea, Japan and India. These seven members share the cost of project construction, operation and decommissioning. The European Union contribute the largest portion of construction costs whereas the remainder is shared equally by others. Experimental results and intellectual property are also exchanged between these 7 Members.
The member countries have shared responsibility in designing the machine. Likewise, India was given the task of Designing the chamber that can maintain very low temperatures. It is called cryostat and will be manufactured by India (Larson and Turbo). Once completed it will be the largest stainless steel high-vacuum pressure chamber to be ever built . It will provide high vacuum, ultra cool environment for the ITER vacuum vessel and the superconducting magnets. The target for its completion is 2025.
If we compare fusion technology with the present nuclear fission reactors, we find that nuclear fusion generates far more nuclear radioactive waste although it does not emit any greenhouse gases. On the other hand, nuclear fusion produces comparatively negligible amount of waste. Tremendous heat and pressure is applied on hydrogen atoms so that they can fuse. Fuel needs to be heated to temperatures over 150,000,000 degrees centigrades. The plasma soup of subatomic particles formed henceforth have to be kept away from the walls of the reactor to prevent cooling down and losing its potential to generate large amounts of energy. The only drawback with fusion technology is that making a vessel to contain hot plasma and maintaining stability for longer period of time is a challenge. The scientists are working on it and soon they will deliver the results.
EAST is a feat in the sense that it brought humanity closer to a cleaner and greener form of energy. Earlier in 2020 South Korea’s KSTAR (Korea superconducting Tokamak advanced research) achieved extremely high temperatures for 20 seconds. China broke their world record. With this page the wait for Earth’s own sun will soon be over.

Protecting innocence : POCSO Act, 2012

Protecting Innocence

Children are one of the most vulnerable sections of society. They are gullible and often fall under a bad influence or be a victim to sexual assault. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, there was an increase in crime against children in 2019. To protect their rights the government has taken many steps. Protection of children from sexual offences (POCSO) act is one such legislation introduced by the ministry of women and child development.
Despite having a comprehensive law there have been several issues with the interpretation. In January this year, a controversial ruling by Nagpur bench of the Bombay High court attracted widespread criticism. The bench held that skin-to-skin contact is essential to constitute the offence defined under Section 7 of the act. The court stated that punishment should be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime. This was perhaps the result of the amendment of the act in 2019 which increased the maximum punishment up to death penalty. Hence the court was of the opinion that a stricter proof was required to give death penalty to the criminal/accused. To understand the nuances of the act one has to know the basic provisions of the act.

Salient features of the act and the amendment

  • The act defines a child as any person below 18 years of age. It ensures physical, emotional, intellectual and social well being of a child. The act defines different forms of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and child pornography. The act is gender-neutral.
  • The amendment act in 2019 was aimed at deterring people from committing such heinous acts. Therefore It increased the maximum punishment to death penalty. Earlier the maximum punishment was life imprisonment.
  • The act enlists the provisions related to the conduct of trials of reported offences. Special courts for trials of offences were established under the act keeping the best interest of the child at paramount importance in every stage of the judicial process. Child-friendly procedures for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences were incorporated.
  • In 2020 POCSO rules were notified. The onus of awareness generation and capacity building was given to the central government and the state governments. They are responsible for preparing age-appropriate educational material and curriculum for children informing them about various aspects of personal safety. The rules details the procedure regarding care and protection of a child.
  • Monitoring of implementation of the act is under National Commission for the protection of child rights or state Commission for the protection of child rights, as the case may be.

Impact of the act
In the past few years, there have been abominable criminal incidents against children such as the infamous Muzaffarpur incident. Such occurrences substantiate the need for death penalty. Although experts believe that death penalty can be a deterring factor but it might lead to the murder of the victim by the assaulter in an attempt to cover the crime. Hence making an act stringent might be less effective. The real deal is working on its implementation. A strict law is meaningless if it fails to control the crime. Implementation is the key to success. This intern can be done by sensitising the law enforcing agencies against such criminal activities.

Intellectual property policy of india


According to World intellectual property organisation (WIPO) patent is an exclusive right granted for an innovation which is a product or process that provides, in general a new way of doing something or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application. It provides the patent owner the exclusive right to prevent others from commercially exploiting the patented invention. Since patents are territorial rights they are applicable within the boundaries of a country in which the patent application has been filed and granted.

Historically patent law in India can be traced back to Indian patents and design act, 1911. Other intellectual property laws which followed this act include copyrights act 1957, Patents act 1970, trademark act 1999, design Act 2000, geographical indication of goods act 1999, protection of plant varieties and farmers right Act 2001, and semiconductors and integrated layout design Act 2000. Many of the above mentioned acts were amended subsequently to align them with international norms. These laws cater to different intellectual properties like patent, copyright, trademarks, industrial design, plant varieties etc.

India amended its intellectual property legislations in 2005 to be abreast with TRIPS regulations. Patent Act 1970 (amended in 2005) has the following features-

1. Section 2 of the 1970 act defines invention as a new product or process involving an inventive step and capable of industrial application. It defines inventive step as a feature of an invention that involves technical advance as compared to the existing knowledge or having economic significance or both and that makes the invention not obvious to a person skilled in the art.

2. The act enlists the inventions which are not patentable; persons who are entitled to apply for patents; application procedure; publication and examination of applications and various other provisions pertaining to patents.

3. It states that term of patent will be 20 years and ever-greening of patents is not admissible.

4. Patentees have certain rights and it is defined in section 48 of the act. The purpose of these rights is to prevent third parties from using the product or the process with commercial intent. The rights of Co-owners of patents are also mentioned.

5. Patents can be surrendered and revoked and the provisions are stated under section 63 and section 64. Revocation of patent can be made in public interest when the central government is of the opinion that a patent or the mode in which it is exercised is mischievous to the state or generally prejudicial to the public. The patentee will be given an opportunity to be heard.

6. The controller general of patents, design and trademarks is appointed by the central government. The powers of controller is enlisted in the act.

7. Section 84 details about compulsory licenses. At anytime after the expiration of three years from the date of grant of a patent any person interested may make an application to the controller for grant of compulsory license or patent without the consent of the patentee, subject to in the following grounds
-That the reasonable requirements of the public with respect to the patented invention have not been satisfied, or
-That the patented invention is not available to the public at a reasonably affordable price, or
-That the patented invention is not worked in the territory of India.
The first compulsory license was granted in 2012 to Hyderabad based Natco pharma for the production of generic version of Bayer’s Nexavar, an anti cancer agent.

Need for a strong IP policy

The patent act of India is in line with international standards and international best practices. The amendment of 2005 completed this process of aligning the act with TRIPS. This makes India a strong candidate to fight for its intellectual property. As an ode to this development India won the Basmati rice patent case and the turmeric case. A strong domestic intellectual property policy and awareness can bring economic laurels to India. Post 2005 amendment, a comprehensive act defining procedures and methods of dispute resolution in case of opposition proceedings to grant patents and anticipation has been made available to Indians. Government has spread awareness about intellectual property and the need to register it timely. Initiatives like traditional knowledge digital library (TKDL) further strengthen India’s game in intellectual property. The most recent development in the field of IPR is the abolition of intellectual property appellate board. The high courts will be taking over the function of addressing the appeals.

New ideas in tandem with the culture influences can make India a hotspot of innovation. Fermenting new ideas is an untapped strength of India. Hence a robust and updated intellectual policy is a must to harness these assets to the fullest.

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A corroding steel frame

A corroding steel frame

Typically steel does not corrode easily. Perhaps that was the reason why the civil services won the epithet of the steel frame of India but the recent turmoil in Lakshadweep and the episode in West Bengal tells a different story. The former is linked to the loopholes that exist in the administration itself while the latter exemplifies the influence of politics on administration.

The island which was known till yesterday for its natural beauty and booming tourism industry is now under the limelight for all the wrong reasons. The trending #savelakshadweep is the new slogan aimed at drawing the attention of commoners to the threat posed by the controversial policy changes to the local culture of the island. Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel has been accused of ‘imposing saffron agenda and corporate interests’.

The administration is being indicted for destroying people’s livelihood, eliminating their staple food (beef), and closing down dairy farms. These alleged religious colored actions have given rise to widespread opposition from the native inhabitants and civil society. The administrator has been given the powers of the district panchayat compounding the argument that administration is the new Goonda-raj. Health, education, fisheries, animal husbandry and agriculture now fall under the jurisdiction of the administrator. An administrator is an agent of the centre, therefore all fingers are pointing to the union government. The protestors are demanding a recall of the administrator. The Kerala assembly even passed a resolution to this effect.

In the second story, West Bengal chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay was suddenly recalled to Delhi. The whole tussle started when Bengal CM and Bandyopadhyay left a meeting being chaired by Prime Minister to review damage and mitigation caused by cyclone Yaas. According to the service rules an officer has to report to the prime minister in such an event. The centre has accused the chief secretary of breaching the service rules. However, CM stated that the rules were abided but the centre is of a different opinion.

These two instances show the Dark side of the Indian administration. Ideally, an officer should maintain political, ideological and religious neutrality and work under democratically elected representatives. When neutrality is compromised then the system fails to work for the common good of the country. The case of Lakshadweep is quintessentially a testament to this fact. The voice raised against the administration not only creates mistrust among people but also taints the name of the entire organisation.

The Supreme Court of India described a civil servant as a person who serves a master that is; the state. There is a difference between the state and the political party governing that state. Failure to see this difference by either of the two, the party in power or the officer, is detrimental to a functional democracy. In West Bengal, an officer is on a tight rope because of the animosity between the parties in power in state and centre.

India is one of the most diverse countries in the world needs a strong steel frame to rely on. The corrosive elements like political biases or unabated political pressure, should be kept far away or it won’t be long when we see the beautiful monument of democracy we built from blood and sweat, crumble to dust.