05, September 2016

Real time video monitoring of crowds at railway stations
Source: The Hindu
Indian Railways has deployed ‘intelligent video analytics’ to assess crowd density at major railway stations and initiate crowd control measures when the number of passengers/visitors exceeds a prescribed limit.
The technology incorporated in the integrated security system will give an automatic alert to the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel to set in motion certain Standard Operating Procedures that include a temporary ban on the issue of platform tickets and closure of parking lots till normalcy is restored.
Why such measures are needed?
The inflow of passengers is usually high during long weekends and festive season. Major railway stations are vulnerable to terror attacks in view of the large gathering of people, multiple entry/exit points and stoppage of trains at wayside stations where adequate security arrangements are not in place. Chennai was witness to twin blasts in the Bangalore-Guwahati Express soon after the train arrived on May 1, 2014. A woman passenger was killed in the incident.

India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh vulnerable to Zika virus: Study
A new study says that parts of Africa and the Asia-Pacific region may be vulnerable to outbreaks of the Zika virus, including some of the world’s most populous countries and many with limited resources to identify and respond to the mosquito-borne disease. The study said India, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Bangladesh may be at greatest risk of local outbreaks
Why these countries are vulnerable?
These countries receive a combination of high volumes of travelers from Zika-affected areas, have mosquitoes capable of transmitting Zika virus, climate conditions conducive to local spread, and limited health resources.
According to the study, identifying where and when populations would be most susceptible to local transmission of Zika virus could help inform public health decisions about the use of finite resources.
Even though Zika virus was first identified in Africa, and sporadic cases have been reported in both Africa and Asia-Pacific, little is known about whether the Asian strain of the virus (now circulating in the Americas) will affect individuals differently if they have previously been infected with the African strain.
What is Zika:
Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters. They can also bite at night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Other problems have been detected among fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth, such as defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth. There have also been increased reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, in areas affected by Zika.
History of Zika:
Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 and is named after the Zika Forest in Uganda. In 1952, the first human cases of Zika were detected and since then, outbreaks of Zika have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Zika outbreaks have probably occurred in many locations. Before 2007, at least 14 cases of Zika had been documented, although other cases were likely to have occurred and were not reported. Because the symptoms of Zika are similar to those of many other diseases, many cases may not have been recognized.

Indian scientists unlock preterm birth mystery
Indian researchers have made a major discovery by understanding the mechanisms by which preterm births (between 28 and 32 weeks of gestation) occur. At 35 per cent, India accounts for the highest burden of preterm births in the world.
What are the findings?
The researchers found for the first time that gram-positive Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria produce small balloons called membrane vesicles, which contain toxins that kill both foetal and maternal cells and destroy the collagen that binds the cells together.
What is Group B Streptococcus (GBS)?
Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria are normally found in human vagina and their numbers can shoot up in some pregnant women. The GBS bacteria have been associated with premature rupture of amniotic membrane and preterm birth.
‘Scientific reason too’ “Besides curiosity, there is a scientific reason too. A lot of women who suffer from inflammation of the amniotic membrane do not have bacterial infection in the amniotic sac. So we thought that the bacteria present in the vagina were secreting certain factors that travels up the reproductive tract and acted in a synchronised fashion to cause preterm birth and stillbirth.”
What is Preterm Birth?
A Preterm birth is a birth that takes place more than three weeks before the baby is due. In other words, a Preterm birth is one that occurs before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy. Normally, a pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks. Preterm birth gives the baby less time to develop in the womb.

Mobile access scheme for remote areas soon
The government will soon unveil a new scheme to provide mobile phone access to over 55,000 villages, particularly those in Border States and in the Himalayan region, to push forward its flagship Digital India programme. The scheme will be funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)
The USOF, which is maintained by the government, was formed to help fund projects to boost connectivity in rural areas. The money for this fund comes through a ‘Universal Access Levy,’ charged from the telecom operators as a percentage of various licenses fees being paid by them.
Under the scheme, the villages have been divided into Himalayan regions such as Jammu and Kashmir, Uttrakhand and Himachal Pradesh; and the second set will be those states which share borders with other nations.
Another Scheme funded by the USOF to connect Left wing extremism (LWE)-affected areas in ten identified states in on the “verge of completion.” Together, these will help take forward the Digital India drive. Government is also in middle of executing the Bharat Net project which aims to connect all of India’s households, particularly in rural areas, through broadband by 2017.

G20 countries score poorly in climate goals report
A report from Climate Transparency, an open global consortium, has shown that Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of G20 countries are continuing to increase. The study analyzed key indicators, including carbon intensity and share of coal in total electricity produced, to assess the performance of these countries
Highlights of the study:
Between 1990 and 2013, the absolute carbon dioxide emissions of G20 countries, which account for three-fourths of global CO2 emissions, went up by 56%.
The study found that half of G20 countries are inadequate as regards actions taken to curb climate change. This is despite energy intensity and the carbon intensity of the G20 economies decreasing as overall economic activity increased.
The study also found that the carbon intensity of the energy sector was found increasing, due to the strong and continuing role that coal plays. The G20 countries rely heavily on coal in their primary energy supply.
G20 countries are planning a large number of new coal-fired power plants, which if realized, would almost double coal capacity, making it virtually impossible to keep the temperature increase to below 2°C, let alone 1.5˚C as mandated by the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Performance of various countries:
India received a ‘medium’ rating with good scores for emissions, share of renewables in total primary energy supply (TPES) and climate policy, but poor scores in carbon intensity, share of coal in TPES and electricity emissions.
The worst overall performers were Australia, Argentina, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
Of all the G20 member-states, Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia and the United States stand out with by far the highest per capita energy-related CO2 emissions.
Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan still show an increase over the five-year period 2008-2013. Argentina and South Africa have declining per capita emissions, as with the EU and its big member-states Germany, France, Italy and the U.K.
China’s per capita emissions were found to be above the G20 average: at 38%, with China having the highest economic growth rate between 2008 and 2013.
The coal share of China, India, South Africa and Turkey will remain clearly above the maximum 2˚C benchmark in the time period until 2030.
Investment gap:
According to the study, to be in line with a 2°C-compatible trajectory by 2035, G20 countries face an investment gap of almost $ 340 billion/year in the power sector.
Though plugging the gap requires an increase in green investments, G20 governments provided, on average, almost $ 70 billion in subsidies for fossil fuel production between 2013 and 2014. This was despite G20 leaders pledging to phase out ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies in 2009.
The report also points out that reducing fossil fuel subsidies could theoretically create fiscal space for more international climate finance.

Union Government approves use of chilli-based PAVA shells as alternative to pellet guns
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has approved the use of Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide (PAVA) shells as an alternative to pellet guns for crowd controlling in Jammu and Kashmir. PAVA sheels also called Nonivamide are chilli-filled grenades. They are less lethal compared to pellet guns and immobilises the target temporarily rather than causing physical injury.

The PAVA shells contain Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide, an organic compound (also known as Nonivamide) found in chilli pepper. It derives its name from the compound. It causes severe irritation and paralyses for a short duration It is considered to be bio-safe and less lethal than pellet guns but equally effective. The PAVA shells once fired burst out to temporarily stun, immobilise the target (protesters) in a more effective way compared to tear gas shell or pepper sprays. However, MHA has not completely banned use of Pellet Guns and they will be used in rarest of rare cases to control violent crowd.

Election Commission grants National Party status to All India Trinamool Congress
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has granted national party status to All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) Party led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The party has fulfilled the required conditions to become a national party after getting status of state party in four states. The TMC is ruling the West Bengal Government and has its presence in north eastern states Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura.
With this recognition, TMC became seventh national party in the country along with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM).
Eligibility to get National Party Status: If any political party

(i) Secures at least 6% of the valid votes polled in any four or more states, in the Lok Sabha election or to the State Legislative Assembly and

(ii) In addition, it wins at least 4 seats in the Lok Sabha from any State or States. OR

(iii) Wins at least 2% seats in the Lok Sabha (i.e., 11 seats in the existing Lok Sabha having 543 members) and these members are elected from at least three different States. OR

(iv) It is recognized as a State party in at least four States.

My fight is for transparency, says Justice Chelameswar
Nothing personal
“There is nothing personal in my stand. Let judicial appointments be made on some objective criteria. The judiciary should evolve a procedure for bringing in transparency in appointments after having rejected both the government’s arguments and rescinded a parliamentary law on NJAC,”  says Justice Chelameswar.
Need for records
The fifth senior most judge in the Supreme Court, Justice Chelameswar’s stand is that there should be some record of the Collegium’s proceedings. The record should contain the basis on which High Court judges are transferred or names are rejected for appointment as judges. A procedure has to be evolved at the highest level for holding Collegium meetings, he said.
What is the NJAC?
The NJAC proposes to make the appointment of high court and Supreme Court judges and chief justices more transparent. They will be selected by the commission, whose members will be drawn from the judiciary, legislature and civil society. This will replace the present system of Collegium.
What is the Collegium system?
The Collegium system is one where the Chief Justice of India and a forum of four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court recommend appointments and transfers of judges. However, it has no place in the Indian Constitution. The system was evolved through Supreme Court judgments in the famous Three Judges Cases
Who will be in the NJAC?
It will consist of six people —

  • Chief Justice of India,
  • The two most senior judges of the Supreme Court,
  • The Law Minister, and
  • Two ‘eminent persons’.

These eminent persons are to be nominated for a three-year term by a committee consisting of the Chief Justice, the Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and are not eligible for re-nomination.
How did the collegium system come about?
The collegium system evolved after three landmark judgments of the Supreme Court, known as the ‘three judges cases’: the first, second and the third judges cases.
The so-called first judges’ case was the S.P. Gupta case. It decided on 30 December 1981 that the President could, with sensible reasons, refuse judges’ names recommended by the CJI. This gave the executive more power than the judiciary in the appointments process.
In the second judges case, a nine-judge bench of the SC went the other way and created the collegium by reversing the first judges case: the majority verdict written by Justice J.S. Verma in the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association vs the Union of India case on 6 October 1993 said that the CJI must be given the primary role in judicial appointments.
The reasons Verma gave for his ruling were “justiciability” and “primacy”, or, in his words, “…this being a topic within the judicial family, the executive cannot have an equal say in the matter” of appointments. “Should the executive have an equal role and be in divergence of many a proposal, germs of indiscipline would grow in the judiciary,” Verma added.
However, the three judges ruling in this case could not agree on the precise role of the CJI in the process, leading to years of confusion surrounding the appointment and transfer of judges.
The last judgment in the series, the 1998 third judges’ case, cleared things up after the President asked the Supreme Court to do so. In this case, the Supreme Court came up with nine guidelines on how the collegium system should function.
This third case cemented the supremacy of the judiciary in the appointment and transfer of judges.

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