British Prime Minister Theresa May has reiterated the UK government’s long-standing expression of ‘deep regret’ over the April 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre and called the massacre a ‘shameful scar’ on British Indian history. However, she did not issue any formal apology.
About the incident:
April 13, 1919, marked a turning point in the Indian freedom struggle. It was Baisakhi that day, a harvest festival popular in Punjab and parts of north India. Local residents in Amritsar decided to hold a meeting that day to discuss and protest against the confinement of Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew, two leaders fighting for Independence, and implementation of the Rowlatt Act, which armed the British government with powers to detain any person without trial.
The crowd had a mix of men, women and children. They all gathered in a park called the Jallianwala Bagh, walled on all sides but for a few small gates, against the orders of the British. The protest was a peaceful one, and the gathering included pilgrims visiting the Golden Temple who were merely passing through the park, and some who had not come to protest.
While the meeting was on, Brigadier-General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, who had crept up to the scene wanting to teach the public assembled a lesson, ordered 90 soldiers he had brought with him to the venue to open fire on the crowd. Many tried in vain to scale the walls to escape. Many jumped into the well located inside the park.
Considered the ‘The Butcher of Amritsar’ in the aftermath of the massacre, General Dyer was removed from command and exiled to Britain.
Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi, as a sign of condemnation, renounced their British Knighthood and Kaiser-i-Hind medal respectively.
In 1922, the infamous Rowlett Act was repealed by the British.
Source: The Hindu
EC stalls release of biopics
The Election Commission of India has banned the release of any biopic, including a film on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which was scheduled to release on April 11, the same day when the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections are scheduled to begin.
Any poster or publicity material concerning any such certified content, which either depicts a candidate for the furtherance of electoral prospect, directly or indirectly, shall not be put to display in print media, without the prescribed instructions of pre-certification in the area where MCC is in operation.
Any cinematograph material, certified by the appropriate authority, if there exists such a violation or on receipt of complains in this regard, shall be examined by a committee duly constituted by the commission, which will then suggest appropriate action. The committee would be headed by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court or retired Chief Justice of any High Court.
Why they should not be allowed?
They have potential to disturb level playing field during the election. Creative contents that are claimed to either diminish or advance the electoral prospect of a candidate or a political party in the garb of creative freedom are a kind of surrogate publicity by the candidate or the political party during the period of MCC.
Though the display materials claim to be a part of creative content, it is contended that these have propensity and potentiality to affect the level playing field, which is not in consonance with the provisions of the Model Code of Conduct.
As these contents are incorporated in the storyline of the programmes being shown and there would be difficulty in proving the payment of money, they may not fall under the category of ‘advertisement’ strictly and may remain outside the purview of MCC certification requirement and thereby evade the directive given by the Supreme Court.
According to the commission, such political contents pose a serious threat to the level playing field, as they may create an impression of the truthfulness of such content being shown through television, cinema, internet-based entertainment programmes or the social media.
Under Article 324 of the constitution, superintendence, directions and control of elections are bestowed upon the commission and it is its main duty to take necessary measures to create a level playing field and provide a conducive electoral environment to all the stakeholders.
Free and fair elections has not only been held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to be a part of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution (People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs Union of India and Anr, 2013) but is also sacrosanct right of every citizen in a democracy.
Source: The Hindu
International Maritime Organisation (IMO)
International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has launched new rules to introduce electronic information exchange between ships and ports for national governments.
Its objective is to make cross border trade easy and hassle free. It was important measure because 10 billion tonnes of goods are traded by sea annually across the globe.
The requirement, mandatory under IMO’s Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention), is part of amendments under the revised Annex to the FAL Convention, adopted in 2016.
What is Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention)?
Adopted in 1965, the main objective of the convention is to achieve the most efficient maritime transport as possible, looking for smooth transit in ports of ships, cargo, and passengers.
The Convention encourages the use of a “single window” for data, to enable all the information required by public authorities in connection with the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargo, to be submitted via a single portal, without duplication. Under the requirement for electronic data exchange, all national authorities should now have provision for electronic exchange of this information.
The International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
The IMO’s primary purpose is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and its remit today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping.
IMO is governed by an assembly of members and is financially administered by a council of members elected from the assembly.
The IMO’s structure comprises the Assembly, the Council, the Maritime Safety Committee, the Marine Environment Protection Committee, the Legal Committee, the Technical Cooperation Committee, and the secretariat, headed by a Secretary-General.
Source: The Hindu
International Finance Corporation (IFC)
US Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a group of fishermen and a Gujarat village panchayat in a suit against the US-headquartered International Finance Corporation (IFC). The case, which now goes back to a US district court, relates to alleged pollution caused by a Gujarat-based power plant partly funded by IFC.
Indian fishermen and villagers had recently taken the International Finance Corporation (IFC) before US Courts alleging severe ecological destruction due to working of a coal-based power plant in Gujarat which was financed by IFC.
The Supreme Court of the United States in Budha Ismail Jam, et al. v. International Finance Corporation has now held that the international organisations are not immune from suits and hence the suit against the IFC can proceed.
Why international institutions should not be immune?
International organisations have been provided with privileges and immunities under International Law similar to the immunities provided to foreign states. The grant of immunities to international organisations generally rests on functional grounds and it is without any doubt a requirement for them to effectively and independently carry out their functions. But absolute immunity may bring with it some undesirable consequences leading to violations of International Law. Complete lack of accountability can also lead to many undesirable consequences.
About the International Finance Corporation (IFC):
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is an international financial institution that offers investment, advisory, and asset management services to encourage private sector development in developing countries.
It is a member of the World Bank Group and is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States.
It was established in 1956 as the private sector arm of the World Bank Group to advance economic development by investing in strictly for-profit and commercial projects that purport to reduce poverty and promote development.
The IFC is owned and governed by its member countries, but has its own executive leadership and staff that conduct its normal business operations.
It is a corporation whose shareholders are member governments that provide paid-in capital and which have the right to vote on its matters.
It offers an array of debt and equity financing services and helps companies face their risk exposures, while refraining from participating in a management capacity.
The corporation also offers advice to companies on making decisions, evaluating their impact on the environment and society, and being responsible.
It advises governments on building infrastructure and partnerships to further support private sector development.
Deadly drug-resistant fungus’ India connection
The killer germ, a fungus called Candida auris, has showed up in countries as far apart as Australia and Canada, Venezuela and Japan, over the past few years. It has set alarm bells ringing because it is often resistant to multiple anti-fungal drugs.
Candida auris is an emerging fungus that presents a serious global health threat. Patients can remain colonised with C. auris for a long time and C. auris can persist on surfaces in healthcare environments. This can result in spread of C. auris between patients in healthcare facilities.
auris is difficult to identify with standard lab methods. It may have had a role to play in the development of its resistance. Healthcare personnel oblivious to it for long continue to prescribe antibiotics — giving the organism time to acclimatise to the medication. C. auris is known to cause outbreaks in hospitals, where it finds vulnerable individuals.
The key is to prevent the fungus from spreading, so the management of the infection is hinged on isolation of the patient, ideally in a single room, with strict hand hygiene.
Everyone who has come in contact with a patient should be screened for the fungus, and all equipment used for the care of the patient should be cleaned every day in accordance with clinical care recommendations.
Guidelines for treatment say that only when there are symptoms of an infection should the patient be given anti-fungals such as Caspofungin and Micafungin.
What are the signs and symptoms of C. auris infection?
Symptoms may not be noticeable, because patients infected with C. auris are often patients in the hospital with another serious illness or condition. Symptoms can vary greatly depending on the part of the body affected and can cause different types of infection such as bloodstream infection, wound infection, and ear infection, etc. Doctors say symptoms can include fever, body aches, and fatigue.
Are C. auris infections treatable?
auris infection often goes unnoticed and its resistance to drugs makes it even more difficult to treat. Moreover, it is difficult to identify with standard laboratory tests, increasing the risk of mismanagement or misidentification if not diagnosed properly.
As per CDC, more than 90 per cent of C. auris infections are resistant to at least one drug, and 30 per cent are resistant to two or more antibiotics. And other prominent strains of the fungus Candida have not developed significant resistance to drugs, said the CDC. Finding a cure for the infection is now a matter of urgency.
How does C. auris spread?
Basically, C. auris can spread in hospitals, targetting people with weakened immune systems. It can spread from one patient to another in healthcare settings through contact with contaminated environmental surfaces or equipment. Healthy people usually don’t get infected with the fungus. Yet, more research is required to further understand how it spreads.
How fatal can C. auris infection be?
Nearly half of patients die within 90 days of being diagnosed with the fungus. In most cases, patients who have died with C. auris had other serious conditions that increased their risk of death.
Infection prevention and control measures for C. auris:
Why is multidrug resistance a problem?
The increase in resistant organisms is fueled by overuse of antimicrobial drugs, not just in healthcare settings but also in agriculture. As more microorganisms evolve ways to survive commonly used drugs, treating infections becomes more difficult. This increases the risks associated with hospitalizations and surgeries.
Source: The Hindu
The first photograph of a black hole was revealed by scientists recently.
A black hole is an object in space that is so dense and has such strong gravity that no matter or light can escape its pull. Because no light can escape, it is black and invisible.
There’s a boundary at the edge of a black hole called the event horizon, which is the point of no return — any light or matter that crosses that boundary is sucked into the black hole. It would need to travel faster than the speed of light to escape, which is impossible.
Anything that crosses the event horizon is destined to fall to the very centre of the black hole and be squished into a single point with infinite density, called the singularity.
If black holes are invisible, how can we detect or photograph them?
By looking for the effects of their extreme gravity, which pulls stars and gases toward them.
Also, while anything past the event horizon is invisible, outside that boundary there is sometimes a spiral disk of gas that the black hole has pulled toward — but not yet into — itself.
The gases in that accretion disk are heated up as they accelerate toward the black hole, causing them to glow extremely brightly. The colours they glow are invisible to us, but are detectable with an X-ray telescope.
Scientists have also detected the gravitational waves generated when two black holes collide. light surrounding the black hole right to the edge of the event horizon, which is the goal of the Event Horizon Telescope.
How big are black holes?
Small black holes are called stellar-mass black holes. They have masses similar to those of larger stars — about five to 20 times the mass of the sun. The other kind is supermassive black holes, which are millions to billions of times more massive than the sun. That’s the kind the Event Horizon Telescope has been trying to photograph, as bigger objects ought to be easier to see. There is some evidence that black holes between these two sizes exist, but that has yet to be confirmed.
While black holes are very massive, that doesn’t mean they take up a lot of space. Because they’re so dense, they’re actually quite small. According to NASA, a black hole 20 times the mass of the sun could fit inside a ball 16 kilometres wide — the width of the Island of Montreal at its widest point.
Where are black holes found?
Supermassive black holes are found at the centre of most galaxies, including our own Milky Way. The one in our galaxy is called Sagittarius A* and is one of those the Event Horizon Telescope has been attempting to photograph.
Sagittarius A* isn’t the only black hole in our galaxy, though. Earlier this year, astronomers discovered another 12 within three light-years of it, suggesting there could be upwards of 10,000 black holes around the galactic centre.
Where do black holes come from?
Supermassive black holes are believed to form at the same time as the galaxy that surrounds them, but astronomers aren’t sure exactly how.
Stellar mass black holes form when a star with a mass greater than three times that of our sun runs out of fuel. It explodes into a supernova and collapses into an extremely dense core that we know as a black hole — something predicted by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
Einstein’s theory also predicts the size and shape of the black holes that the Event Horizon Telescope is trying to photograph.
Electoral bond scheme
Softening its stand on electoral bonds for funding of political parties, the Election Commission has told the Supreme Court that it is not against such mode of donations as such but only the anonymity of donors, a stand stoutly opposed by the Centre which insisted that secrecy of political funding is important.
A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking to strike down the ‘Electoral Bond Scheme 2018’ and amendments in the Finance Act, 2017, which allow for “unlimited donations from individuals and foreign companies to political parties without any record of the sources of funding.”
How govt defends its move?
Electoral bonds have been introduced to promote transparency in funding and donation received by political parties.
The scheme envisages building a transparent system of acquiring bonds with validated KYC and an audit trail. A limited window and a very short maturity period would make misuse improbable.
The electoral bonds will prompt donors to take the banking route to donate, with their identity captured by the issuing authority. This will ensure transparency and accountability and is a big step towards electoral reform.
About Electoral bonds:
Electoral bonds will allow donors to pay political parties using banks as an intermediary.
Key features: Although called a bond, the banking instrument resembling promissory notes will not carry any interest. The electoral bond, which will be a bearer instrument, will not carry the name of the payee and can be bought for any value, in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh or Rs 1 crore.
Eligibility: As per provisions of the Scheme, electoral bonds may be purchased by a citizen of India, or entities incorporated or established in India. A person being an individual can buy electoral bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals. Only the registered Political Parties which have secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last Lok Sabha elections or the State Legislative Assembly are eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.
Need: The electoral bonds are aimed at rooting out the current system of largely anonymous cash donations made to political parties which lead to the generation of black money in the economy.
How will the Bonds help?
The previous system of cash donations from anonymous sources is wholly non-transparent. The donor, the donee, the quantum of donations and the nature of expenditure are all undisclosed
According to government the system of Bonds will encourage political donations of clean money from individuals, companies, HUF, religious groups, charities, etc. After purchasing the bonds, these entities can hand them to political parties of their choice, which must redeem them within the prescribed time.
Some element of transparency would be introduced in as much as all donors declare in their accounts the amount of bonds that they have purchased and all parties declare the quantum of bonds that they have received.
The move could be misused, given the lack of disclosure requirements for individuals purchasing electoral bonds.
Electoral bonds make electoral funding even more opaque. It will bring more and more black money into the political system.
With electoral bonds there can be a legal channel for companies to round-trip their tax haven cash to a political party. If this could be arranged, then a businessman could lobby for a change in policy, and legally funnel a part of the profits accruing from this policy change to the politician or party that brought it about.
Electoral bonds eliminate the 7.5% cap on company donations which means even loss-making companies can make unlimited donations.
Companies no longer need to declare the names of the parties to which they have donated so shareholders won’t know where their money has gone.
They have potential to load the dice heavily in favour of the ruling party as the donor bank and the receiver bank know the identity of the person. But both the banks report to the RBI which, in turn, is subject to the Central government’s will to know.
Source: The Hindu