Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 31/03/2015

Flood alerts issued in Indian-administered Kashmir
  • A flood alert has been issued in Indian-administered Kashmir following torrential rain and a surge in the water level of the Jhelum river.
  • Authorities have asked people living near the river to leave their homes and move to safer places.
  • At least 10 people are missing after landslides buried a number of houses.
Excavation to begin in search of Saraswati
  • The Haryana government would soon start the excavation of the mythical Saraswati river from Adi Badri, the point from where it is said to have originated.
  • Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on March 30 said his government would ensure development of Adi Badri Heritage Board to increase the importance of the site. At a public meeting in Yamunanagar district, he announced the start of the excavation, among the biggest projects to be undertaken in the area.
  • Since assuming office last October, the BJP government has worked to preserve and promote Hindu cultural sites. Earlier in February, the Forest Department started work on bringing the Saraswati to the surface by creating a stream at its point of origin at Saraswati Udgam Sthal at the foothills of the Shivaliks in the Adi Badri area.
  • Department officials visited the Udgam Sthal and surrounding areas to find ways to create a water channel that would retrace the path of the river which is believed to have flowed all the way to Allahabad.
  • Forest department official Randhir Kumar said to create a stream, water would be collected from sources in and around the Udgam Sthal. “We will take the water from the stream that originates here, the water from a drain which flows nearby and from two-three tubewells that would be sunk at spots along the route of the ancient river.”

China releases details of Silk Road plans
  • China has provided details about its proposed Silk Road initiatives, which would impact 4.4 billion people and, within a decade, could generate trade above 2.5 trillion dollars.
  • A vision document jointly prepared by a composite team from the Ministries of Commerce, Foreign Affairs and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) — a top organisation that steers the Chinese economy — has with precision revealed the geographic parameters of China’s “One belt One Road” initiative.
  • The “belt and road” have two components — the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) that would be established along the Eurasian land corridor from the Pacific coast to the Baltic Sea, and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR).
  • Analysts say that the “belt and road” initiative, backed by an extensive China-led funding infrastructure, could shift the centre of geo-economic power towards Eurasia, and undermine the “Asia Pivot” of the United States and its allies.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping is hopeful that the mega-trade volumes among the Silk Road economies would touch $ 2.5 trillion over the next 10 years.
  • The “belt and road” run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and developed European economic circle at the other, says the government report.
  • Specifically, the SREB focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe (the Baltic); linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia; and connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean.
Silk Road Economic Belt

Safe food, from the farm to the plate
  • Do we know the food we are eating is free of bacteria, viruses, parasites, chemicals, other contaminates, additives and adulterants which can cause over 200 diseases ranging from diarrhoea to cancer? Every year, diarrhoea caused by contaminated food and water kills 2.2 million people, including 1.9 million children, globally. Unsafe food and water kills an estimated 7,00,000 children in the World Health Organization’s South-East Asia Region every year. Access to safe food remains a challenge in the region. Whether as individuals, families, farmers, contributors to and handlers of the food chain or policymakers, we need to make food safety our priority.
  • Food safety is critical for public health as food-borne diseases affect people’s health and well-being. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, the elderly and the sick. Food-borne diseases impede socio-economic development by straining health care systems and adversely impacting national economies, tourism and trade.
RBI tightens takeover norms for shadow banking
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) plans tougher rules for takeovers involving non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), according to draft guidelines published on March 30, outlining a demand that all substantial deals seek its prior approval.
  • In its latest effort to boost transparency and strengthen its grip on the alternative lenders that account for a large part of the domestic shadow-banking sector, the RBI said any purchase of a stake of 26% or more in a company, or a change in more than 30% of its directors, would need the central bank’s permission.
  • “The RBI has been continuously trying to strengthen this sector so that this should not be a back yard for people we don’t know,’’ said Sanjay Agarwal, Managing Director of Au Financiers (India), an NBFC from Rajasthan.
  • There are some 12,000 NBFCs registered with the RBI, and they largely offer loans. Some, like traditional banks, also take deposits.
  • The RBI also said in its circular that the source of funds behind new investors in any NBFC will have to be disclosed. It also asked for an undertaking that the new proposed investors are not associated with any existing but unregistered body that accepts public deposits.
  • NBFCs play a critical role in extending credit to areas where traditional finance cannot reach in a country where only just over half of the population has access to the mainstream banking system. However, controlling these NBFCs has been made a key priority for the RBI, given their size and reach.
Difference between NBFC and Bank

NBFC vs Bank 
  • In a country like India with a huge population, it is impossible for banks to cater to all sections of the society as many areas are inaccessible and remote. Also, to provide banking facilities to the illiterate and the poor, finance institutions that work on similar lines as banks are required. In India, this requirement has traditionally been fulfilled by NBFC, or non banking financial company. As the name suggests, NBFC is not a bank though it performs many functions similar to that of banks. This article intends to find out the major differences between NBFC and banks and other features of these entities.
  • NBFC were created by the government of India as it felt the need to provide banking facilities to the poor and underprivileged who could not get access to banks. NBFC is required to be registered under the Companies Act 1956 to be able to perform functions similar to a bank. Normally, a NBFC is engaged in the business of loans and advances, acquisition of shares, debentures, stocks, bonds and securities issued by the government. It also indulges in hire-purchase, leasing, insurance and chit business.
However, there are several notable differences between NBFC and a bank.
  • NBFC cannot collect deposits in the manner of a bank.
  • NBFC cannot issue checks drawn on itself.
  • NBFC cannot issue Demand Drafts like banks.
  • NBFC cannot indulge primarily in agricultural or industrial activity.
  • NBFC cannot engage in construction of immovable property.
  • NBFC cannot accept demand deposits.
  • While banks are incorporated under banking companies act, NBFC is incorporated under company act of 1956.
NBFC is required to register with Reserve Bank of India. There are many types of NBFC registered with RBI.
  • Equipment leasing company
  • Hire-purchase Company
  • Loan Company
  • Investment Company

Monday, 30 March 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 30/03/2015

Stephen Hawking will trademark his name
  • British physicist Stephen Hawking is getting his name trademarked, joining the ranks of celebrities like J.K. Rowling and David Beckham, who have turned their names into brands.
  • Professor Hawking, 73, has applied to the Intellectual Property Office to have his name formally registered, while another English physicist, Brian Cox, has already made the move.
Stephen Hawking

The legacy of the architect of Singapore
  • Lee Kuan Yew is no more. But the city state will be there to tell the story of his work — the transformation of Singapore from a Third world country to a First world nation. There are several pillars that have promoted the transformation.
  • One major accomplishment of the founding Prime Minister was in practically eradicating corruption, which was the key ingredient in effective governance. Singapore stands at rank 7 on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2014; there are 167 countries below it on the index. India is ranked 85. How could Singapore do it? It was done not via endless litigation, but by demonstrating that corruption will not tolerated, come what may. For example, in 1975, the Minister for Environment, returning from a holiday, was arrested at the airport for accumulating some ill-gotten wealth, and in 1989, the Minister for National Development committed suicide after being informed about investigations into corruption charges.
Disciplined workforce
  • The second pillar holding the prosperity fort has been a workforce that has the discipline of adhering to productivity-linked wages and bonuses. Non-performers seldom get away in Singapore under the guise(an external form, appearance) of workers’ solidarity. Singapore’s National Trades Union Congress is a shining example of a centre that is truly working for the welfare of workers. The provident fund system that assures decent retirement benefits also helps in times of an economic crisis. The contribution rates are toned down to assure that overall wage costs ensure competitiveness. The third pillar has been economic policies favouring a strong Singapore Dollar. It helped in keeping the domestic inflation rate as low as it was feasible, while orderly wage rises combined with skill development and productivity growth have helped in maintaining competitiveness.
  • The fourth pillar is internal security. No young woman feels insecure while standing at a bus stop at night in Singapore. The fifth — which is, for many reasons, the most crucial pillar — is equality of educational opportunity: excellent government schools catering to the first 12 years of education, and Cambridge A-level exams that effectively eradicated the need for sundry entrance tests. The high calibre of students entering the undergraduate programmes, and the implicit demand for excellent professors is what has helped the country climb world rankings for higher education. The National University of Singapore ranks 25 while the relatively younger Nanyang Technological University ranks 61 in the World University Rankings, 2014-2015.
Pragmatism in policymaking
  • The list of pillars supporting the nation can go on — the development of excellent infrastructure, a work culture that discourages more talk and less work, a no free lunch philosophy. It’s because of believing in pragmatism as the ideology in policymaking that Singapore capitalised on foreign direct investment and trade, when practically the entire developing world was inimical(harmful) to both.
  • A final point worth noting is Singapore’s respect for individual freedom to pursue one’s religion on the understating that politics is kept far away from religious discourse.
The war in Yemen
  • Yet another Arab nation faces a humanitarian crisis following military conflict, as the localised war between various forces in Yemen has taken on a regional dimension. After the besieged Yemeni government requested help, the Gulf Cooperation Council, led by Saudi Arabia, launched air attacks against Houthi rebel positions in Yemen on March 26. The Saudis have deployed a large force with help from Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan and others such as Pakistan and Sudan. This military action — without UN sanction — has also involved logistical help from the United States. The ostensible reason for the Saudi intervention is to temper the rising Iranian influence in its immediate neighbourhood. The U.S. involvement — which seems to have bipartisan support in the U.S. polity — is more of a reflexive reaction to register support for its Saudi allies and for the besieged transitional government in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and its allies who have joined the effort allege that the Houthis are being funded and armed by Iran.
  • The Houthis are a Zaidi Shia group that had participated in uprisings against former Yemeni President and long-time ruler Abdullah Saleh and who had felt left out from the transitional government that followed Saleh’s rule. It is the failure of the transitional government — which was set up with help from the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2012 — to accommodate the Houthis’ interests that fuelled the insurgency. The Houthis have a large degree of control over many areas of northwestern Yemen, including over the capital, Sana'a. The Houthi-led insurgency is not the only military conflict raging in Yemen. The al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leads another insurgency in the southeast along with the Ansar al-Sharia; this one is a Sunni Islamist rebellion. The regional intervention against the Houthis is bound to strengthen the AQAP. The inability of the ineffectual transitional government to effectively govern a nation that has steadily been divided on sectarian lines, and the weakening of the economy, have helped the various insurgent forces strengthen themselves. The Houthi forces’ consolidation in the south could have presented an opportunity for a new, more inclusive and legitimate government following a ceasefire, but that option is now ruled out as the conflict has been effectively regionalised with the Saudi intervention. Yemen increasingly appears to be heading towards Syria’s fate — a nation torn asunder into enclaves controlled by sectarian and fundamentalist groups and constantly at war among one another. What started as yet another promising chapter of the Arab Spring has now taken a turn that follows events elsewhere in the region — regression into a harsh Arab Winter.
Congratulations to Australia
  • My congratulations to the Australians for being crowned World Champions. They completely outplayed New Zealand in what was a one-sided contest, to become champions for the fifth time.
  • In many ways, this was a disappointing final because the occasion deserved a better and closer contest. However, it was Australia’s day, and their performance was outstanding. They handled the pressure better than New Zealand. Sadly for the Black Caps, they played their worst game of the tournament.
  • The motivation for both teams was the extreme desire to be World Champions. Both teams wanted the honour and glory of being the best team in the world, but only one team could get there and it wasn’t New Zealand.
  • This was a great opportunity for the Black Caps to do something historic for NZ cricket. They had gone beyond what ten previous New Zealand teams had done by reaching the final for the first time. But they wanted more, they wanted to win. They wanted to beat ‘big brother’ who were the No.1 ranked team in world cricket.
  • Having been undefeated in the tournament with eight wins in a row they wanted the big prize. They wanted to send Daniel Vettori out on a winning note as he has now retired from International cricket after 18 years of great service to the game. Brendon McCullum wanted his team to play well, and play for all New Zealanders who had supported them throughout this campaign.
  • For Michael Clarke, it was his last ODI and the team wanted to send him out on a high, and they did. Australia always said they were the best team in the competition and could win the World Cup.
  • After playing in seven World Cup finals they knew how to rise to the occasion and win. The thought of losing to New Zealand would have been unbearable.
Srinivasan handing over World Cup Trophy to Australian Team

Daily News Mail - News of 29/03/2015

India successfully launches IRNSS-1D, fourth of seven navigation satellites
  • India took another step towards putting in place an alternative to the American GPS on Saturday, putting in orbit IRNSS-1D, the fourth of the seven satellites that would form a navigation satellite network.
  • Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C27) lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota at 5.19pm on March 28 and placed IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System)-1D weighing 1,425kg in a sub-geostationary orbit after a 20 minutes flight.
  • With the launch of IRNSS 1 D, four active satellites will be transmitting navigation signals. This meets the minimum number of satellites required for the system to be fully functional enabling a navigation receiver to compute position.
  • PSLV-C27 that lifted off from the second launch pad was an `XL' version of the PSLV rocket as was the case with the previous three launches. After injection into the preliminary orbit, the two solar panels of IRNSS 1D were deployed in quick succession.
  • Speaking after the launch, ISRO director A S Kiran Kumar said, "This was 28th consecutive launch that shows that we have come of age. The satellite is in orbit."
  • He also said that the PSLV did four launches this financial year and it had evolved into a world class brand of excellence.
  • VSSC director M Chandraduthan said that 2015 was going to be a critical year as five launches including three PSLV and one GSLV D6 are planned. "There will also be a demonstration of a reusable technology for launch vehicle. One third of ISRO is youngsters which show that the future is bright," he added.
  • IRNSS 1D carries two payloads- a navigation payload and a ranging payload. The navigation payload will transmit navigation service signals to users, while the ranging payload the satellite has a C-band transponder which helps accurate determination of the range of the satellite. ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar has said that the new satellite would help a person on the ground locate his geographical position in the subcontinent.
  • The first three satellites in the series were launched from Sriharikota in July 2013, April 2014 and October 2014.

Modi to join Lee's funeral along with world leaders
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join several world leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the former U.S. President Bill Clinton, at the funeral service for Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, even as India marks an official day of mourning on March 29.
  • He will personally condole(express sympathy for (someone); grieve with) with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s son, at the funeral.
  • Mr. Modi is accompanied by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and senior officials. After his return, he will begin preparations for his next international foray, a nine-day visit to Europe and Canada from April 9. On March 28, he tweeted his expectations from the visit, saying “My France, Germany and Canada visit is centred around supporting India’s economic agenda & creating jobs for our youth.”
Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first Prime Minister

Saina becomes World No. 1
  • Saina Nehwal has what it takes to be World No. 1. She is taking over the top spot from Olympic gold medallist Li Xuerui.
  • With Li Xuerui — at the top for 119 weeks since December 20, 2012 — choosing not to defend the points earned in reaching the final of the Indian Open last year for being fully fit to defend her Malaysia Open title next week, the ranking points earned by Saina in reaching the final of the Indian Open here on Saturday were enough to overtake the Chinese.

Wang Yhan,Li Xuerui and Sina Nehwal(left to right) at London Olympics, 2012

DRDO to develop indigenous AWACS
  • The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, which met on March 29, approved the development of an indigenous Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • The council allocated Rs. 5,113 crore for two systems based on the A-330 aircraft, which will be procured from Airbus. Eventually, six systems will be built for use by the Air Force. In all, the DAC cleared deals estimated at Rs.7,400 crore.
  • AWACS are radars mounted on an aircraft to provide seamless 360-degree coverage of the airspace. The Air Force is currently operating three Israeli Phalcons based on Russian Il-76 aircraft. In addition, the DRDO is developing two smaller Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) based on the Embraer aircraft, scheduled to be delivered this year.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 28/03/2015

ISRO honoured with Gandhi Peace Prize
  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been selected for the Gandhi Peace Prize for 2014 for its contribution to the country’s development through space technology and satellite-based services.The award, comprising Rs.one crore and a citation, was decided after the jury for the prize met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 27.
  • Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu, Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, senior Member of Parliament L.K. Advani and Gopalkrishna Gandhi are other members of the jury.
  • The Gandhi Peace Prize for social, economic and political transformation through non-violence was instituted in 1995.
Previous winners
  • Some of its previous winners are Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Julius K Nyerere, Baba Amte, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan and Ramkrishna Mission. Gandhi Peace Prize for 2013 was conferred to Chandi Prasad Bhatt - Environmentalist, social activist and pioneer of the Chipko movement.

IAEA for more autonomy to AERB
  • India has a “strong commitment to safety” but the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) needs more independence and separation from the government, the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency said after completing a 12-day review of India’s nuclear safety standards.
  • IAEA also called for the Indian government to allow more on-site inspections at the nuclear power plants (NPPs) under international safeguards.
  • According to a release from the IAEA in Vienna, six preliminary suggestions were given at the end of the review which were accepted by the Indian agency.
  • The chairman of the AERB, S.S. Bajaj, was quoted as saying, “AERB is committed to pursuing the improvements suggested by the mission towards further strengthening the regulatory framework.”
  • Among other suggestions, the international agency said India needs a “national policy” for nuclear safety and radioactive waste management, and needs more “internal emergency arrangements.”
  • The IAEA review came at the invitation of the Indian government after it concluded handing over its civilian nuclear reactors for international scrutiny, and submitted to IAEA requirements for accounting for spent fuel and other nuclear processes.
  • India has also completed its “policy issues” with the U.S. over administrative arrangements for the India-U.S. civilian nuclear deal, paving the way for nuclear trade to begin.
  • Nuclear trade for reactors and fuel would be a part of Mr. Modi’s discussions when he visits France and Canada next month.
  • India is also keen to get backing for a future bid for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which it has been kept out of as India has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
  • All 93 signatories to the NPT will be meeting at a major review conference at the United Nations in April and May, which will be significant ahead of the NSG’s annual conference in June.

Garg panel submits report
  • The Justice T.P. Garg Commission, which was appointed to probe the massacre of 32 Sikhs at Hondh Chillar village in Rewari district of Haryana on November 2, 1984 in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, on March 27 submitted its report to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
  • Mr. Khattar said the government accepted the recommendations of the Commission in the Hondh Chillar case and also decided to give it six months extension for Gurgaon and Pataudi cases. 
  • The Commission recommended payment of additional amount of Rs.20 lakh over and above the amount already paid (which is Rs. 7 lakh on three occasions spreading over a period of 23 years from the year 1984-85 to 2006-07) to the claimants for each of 31 deceased (belonging to village Haud) and a sum of Rs.25 lakh to the widow of lone army man Inderjit Singh as she has not been paid any amount whatsoever by way of compensation till date.
  • It recommended payment of additional amount of Rs.5 lakh for the loss of property to each of 36 petitioners over and above the amount of compensation already paid.
  • Further a sum of Rs.5 lakh each would be paid to the gurdwara and the Janj Ghar to those religious structures which may have been raised by the majority of the survivors of village Haud. The panel has recommended payment of additional amount of Rs. 1 lakh to five persons who suffered simple injuries and a sum of Rs.50 lakh be paid to another claimant, Satpal, who had filed his claim through his mother.
India’s unrealised maternity entitlement
The Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana was introduced to provide partial wage compensation during pregnancy, but various issues plague its implementation
  • The latest official figures indicate that India is well short of meeting the Millennium Development Goals that pledged to reduce the country’s maternal mortality ratio (MMR) by three quarters and the infant mortality rate (IMR) by two-thirds. The Sample Registration System (SRS), 2013, records MMR at 167 per 1,00,000 live births and IMR at 40 per 1,000 live births with a majority of these infants dying within seven days of birth. India is required to reduce MMR to 109 per 100,000 live births by 2015. India's Under 5 Mortality Rate(U5MR) target is 42 per 1,000 live births by 2015.
  • India’s high MMR and IMR are partly due to delayed diagnosis and limited access to health care. Additionally, rest during or after pregnancy is not an option for most women who are unorganised workers. According to the District Level Household Survey 3, nearly a quarter of women in India do not receive any antenatal care and over 50% do not receive any postnatal care for up to two weeks.
  • In 2010, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) launched the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) to address this critical situation. Leveraging(use (something) to maximum advantage) the Integrated Child Development Scheme’s (ICDS) platform, the programme was piloted in 53 districts across the country.
  • The IGMSY provides partial wage compensation to pregnant and lactating women in order to promote rest and healthy feeding practices, as well as increase utilisation of healthcare services. Under the scheme, all pregnant women of 19 years and above, except those employed by the government (Central or State) or Public Sector Undertakings, for the first two live births were entitled to Rs. 4,000 per live birth, in three instalments. The scheme is conditional on timely registration, complete vaccination, attending counselling sessions and exclusive breastfeeding of the child.
  • In September 2013, the IGMSY cash incentive was increased from Rs. 4,000 to Rs. 6,000 to comply with the minimum maternity entitlement provision of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013. Additionally the payment timeline was revised to two instalments of Rs. 3,000. However, the coverage and conditions were unaltered.
Poor implementation
  • Implementation of the IGMSY has been neglected since its launch. Official data show that between the years 2010 and 2013, approximately only 28% of the targeted beneficiaries were covered. At the end of 2014, the MWCD announced a proposed scale up of the IGMSY to 200 additional ‘high burden’ districts in 2015-16. Though this expansion did not comply with the NFSA’s mandate of maternal entitlements for the entire country, the willingness of the government to increase coverage of the IGMSY was seen by civil society as a step in the right direction.
  • However, the government’s lack of commitment to expansion of the IGMSY is betrayed through this year’s budget allocation of Rs. 438 crore, an increase of Rs. 80 crore from 2014-15. Given the absence of Centre-State cost sharing, this increased allocation of approximately one-fifth of last year’s budget is disproportionate to the proposed expansion of nearly four times the current coverage. This indicates the government’s decision to not scale up the IGMSY, which is a clear violation of the NFSA.
  • A qualitative study of the IGMSY was conducted by the Centre for Equity Studies, New Delhi, in 2014, in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. The study revealed widespread neglect of the scheme over three years, with teething trouble still being faced in some districts.
  • It was found that most beneficiaries were unaware or misinformed about the scheme. One mother in Jharkhand believed that she was entitled to a maximum amount of Rs. 1,500. Without the government’s attention to awareness building, women fail to demand their entitlements. Several Anganwadi workers stated that a three-year gap between the first two children or sterilisation of the mother was essential for receiving IGMSY money for the second child. Such misinformation is a result of inadequate and improper counselling of women and training of workers.
  • Under the IGMSY, cash is only deposited into an account. Opening and accessing accounts is often expensive and time consuming because banks and post offices are often far from villages. In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, banks and post offices were situated as far as 17-30 kilometres — a difficult terrain to traverse in some areas — and some of them are inefficient. IGMSY guidelines specify that the accounts should have to be zero-balance no-frill accounts. However, no woman reported having such an account. Initial deposits demanded from them ranged from Rs. 50-200 in post offices and Rs. 500-1,000 in banks. Such costs disincentivise participation in the programme.
  • The IGMSY guidelines recommend creation of State and district implementation cells. These cells were either absent or not fully staffed at the time of the study. This failure combined with no provisions for block-level cells, and frequent transfer of officials, negatively impacts IGMSY implementation, monitoring and quality record-keeping. The study also revealed that no system of IGMSY-related complaint filing, time-bound investigation or appeals system exists in Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
  • Delayed payment was a trend across the four States with no sampled beneficiary receiving the first instalment of IGMSY cash during pregnancy. In Bihar and Jharkhand, the complete amount was generally received when the child was around one-year-old. Such delays undermine the objective of the scheme — to provide partial wage compensation during pregnancy to enable adequate rest.
Improving effectiveness
  • Given the above, what is required is a focus on the basics such as awareness building, establishment of implementation cells, a responsive grievance redress mechanism and a publicly accessible management information system. Most importantly, the government needs to commit to the realisation of the right to maternal entitlements of all women as defined in the NFSA.
MMR and IMR's Base, Latest and Target record

Twitter Samvad to keep the govt.-citizen conversation going

  • The Union government launched a new platform, in association with Twitter, on March 24 for direct communication among leaders, government agencies and citizens through tweets and text messages, helping boost e-governance plans.
  • To start with, the service has 16 partners, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi; the Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, Chandrababu Naidu, Anandiben Patel, Akhilesh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee, respectively; the Railway Ministry; and the Bengaluru City Police.
  • “Based on Indian technological innovation, Twitter Samvad is dedicated [to], and specially built, for the largest democracy of the world. As part of the Prime Minister’s Digital India initiative, this tweet-powered service enables citizens to be the first to know about the government’s actions by receiving political content in real-time on their mobile devices anywhere in the country,” said Dick Costolo, chief executive officer of Twitter, who met Mr. Modi on March 24.
  • Through Twitter Samvad, a set of curated Tweets will be delivered every day from the accounts of the government and the leaders to mobile-phone users across the country as text messages. The service can come in handy during emergencies as government agencies can share live updates, even time-sensitive information on law and order or rescue.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Paper 6 - General Science and Technology

Life Science

Introduction to basic functional aspects of mammalian systems- digestive, circulatory, respiratory, nervous, excretory, endocrine and reproductive

1. The Mammalian Digestive System

The mammalian digestive system consists of the alimentary canal ( complete digestive tract) and various accessory glands that secret digestive juices into the canal through the ducts. The food is moved along the tract by the contraction of smooth muscles in the walls of the canal.  These rhythmic contraction waves are called peristalsis.  The regulation of passage of material from one chamber to another within the canal is controlled by ring-like valves called sphincters.

The accessory glands of the mammalian digestive tract are three pairs of salivary glands, the pancreas, the liver, and its storage organ the gall bladder.

Now lets  follow a meal through the human digestive canal. 

The Oral Cavity – Mouth
Physical and chemical digestion of food begin in the mouth.  During chewing the food is made easier to swallow and the food’s surface area is increased.   The presence of food in the mouth triggers a nervous reflect that causes the salivary glands to secret saliva into the mouth. Often saliva is secreted due to a smell or sight.  In humans , almost a liter of saliva is secreted into the mouth daily. That may sound like a lot, but for horses it is gallons! Human saliva contains mucin which is a slippery glycol-protein which protects the mouth from abrasion and lubricated  the food for swallowing. Saliva contains buffers that help prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acids in the mouth.  There are also antibacterial agents in the saliva. The digestion of carbohydrates begins in the mouth.  Saliva contains salivary amylase, a digestive enzyme that hydrolyses starch (a glucose polymer from plants and glycogen (a glucose polymer from animals).  This enzyme breaks down the carbohydrates into smaller polysaccharides and the disaccharide maltose. The tongue located in the oral cavity helps to manipulate the food during chewing and shapes the food into a ball called the bolus which it pushes to the back of the mouth and into the pharynx.

The Pharynx
Out throat is the pharynx which leads to both the esophagus and the windpipe (trachea).
When a human swallows the to of the windpipe moves up so that its opening , the glottis, is blocked by a flap of cartilage called the epiglottis. This helps to ensure that the bolus enters the esophagus.

The Esophagus
The esophagus channels food from the pharynx to the stomach. The muscles in the walls move the food. The first part of swallowing is a voluntary act but then the involuntary waves of contraction of the smooth muscles take over. Salivary amylase continues to hydrolyze starch as the bolus passes through the esophagus.

The Stomach
The stomach is located on the left side of the abdomen , just below the diaphragm. Since its walls are elastic and it has accordion-like folds, the stomach can hold up to 2 liters of food and water. The walls of the stomach secret gastric juices, a digestive fluid that mixes with the food. Since this fluid has a high percentage of HCl , its pH is about 2 which is acidic enough to dissolve iron nails. The functions of this acid include : 1. disrupt the extra-cellular matrix that binds cells together 2. kill most bacteria in the food.
Also present in this gastric juice is pepsin, an enzyme that begins the hydrolysis of proteins by breaking peptide bonds.  Cells of the stomach wall are protected from pepsin by a coating of mucus.  The epithelial cells which generate this mucus are eroded by the acid  and therefore the stomach lining must be replaced by mitosis every three days.

Much of the time the stomach is closed off at both ends. The opening from the esophagus to the stomach is called the cardiac orifice. This opening will open when a bolus is ready to pass.  Occasionally there will be backflow of acid chime from the stomach  into the lower ed of the esophagus, causing heartburn.  If heartburn persists, An ulcer could develop in the esophagus.  The opening from the stomach to the small intestine is the pyloric sphincter. This opening regulates the passage of chime into the small intestine. This happens a squirt at a time, taking about 2-6 hours to empty the stomach after a meal.

Small  Intestine
The small intestine is the major organ of digestion and absorption. The small intestine is the longest section of the digestive tract at more than 6 meters in length.  It is referred to as the small intestine because its diameter is smaller than the large intestine. Most digestion and absorption happens in this organ. The pancreas, liver and gall bladder  participate in digestion.

The first part of the small intestine is called the duodenum ( about 25 cm in length). This is where the chime from the stomach mixes with digestive juices from the pancreas, liver gall bladder and gland cells from the intestinal wall. The pancreas produces bicarbonate which helps to offset the acidity of the stomach. The liver produces bile which is stored in the gall bladder. Bile does not contain digestive enzymes. It contains bile salts which act as detergents and aid in the digestion and absorption of fats. Bile also carries wastes from the liver (where old red blood cells are destroyed).

Carbohydrate digestion
Pancreatic amylases hydrolyze starch, glycogen, and smaller polysaccharides into disaccharides including  maltose. The enzyme maltase completes the digestion of maltose by splitting it into two molecules of glucose. Sucrase hydrolyzes sucrose ( table sugar). Lactase digest lactose ( sugar found in milk).  As people get older, they have less lactase in their system. These disaccharidases are in the membranes of the intestinal epithelial where the final monomers are absorbed by the blood.

Protein digestion
Enzymes in the duodenum break the polypeptide chains down into amino acids. These enzymes are supplies by the pancreas.

Nucleic acid digestion
Enzymes called nucleases hydrolyze DNA and RNA in food into their nucleic acids. Other enzymes break the nucleotides down.

Fat digestion
Nearly all the fat in a meal reaches the small intestine completely undigested. Fat molecules are insoluble in water. Bile salts coat the tiny fat droplets to keep them from coalescing in a process called emulsification.  Since the droplets are small, a large surface area is exposed to lipase which is an enzyme which hydrolyzes fat.  Most of this digestion happens in the duodenum. The remaining regions of the small intestine, jejunum and ileum, function mainly in the absorption of nutrients and water.

Absorption of nutrients
Most of the absorption of nutrients takes place in the small intestine while there is some absorption in the stomach and small intestine. The lining of the small intestine has a surface area about the size of a tennis court. Large circular folds in the lining have villi and each of the cells of the villi have microvilli. These villi absorb nutrients which are then transported across the capillary membranes. 

Large Intestine
The large intestine or colon is connected to the small intestine at a T-shaped junction where a sphincter regulates the movement of materials. One arm of the T structure is a sac called the cecum which has a fingerlike extension called the appendix. The main part of the colon is an upside down U about 1.5 meters in length. Connected to the cecum is the right or ascending colon which is connected to the transverse colon which is connected to the descending colon which is connected to the sigmoid colon which is connected to the rectum.
The main function of the colon is to reabsorb water although most re-absorption of water happens in the small intestine with the absorption of nutrients.  The small and large intestines absorb about 90% of the water that enters the digestive tract. The wastes of the digestive tract, feces, become more solid as they move along the colon.

Many harmless bacteria live in the colon. E. coli is in the colon. Intestinal bacteria live on organic bacteria that would otherwise be included in feces. By-products of colon bacteria metabolism include gases (like methane and hydrogen sulfide) and some vitamins. Bacteria in the colon generate Vitamin K which is used in blood clotting. The terminal portion of  the colon is called the rectum which is where feces are stored until they can be eliminated. Between the rectum and the anus are two sphincters, one involuntary and one voluntary. Once or more a day, strong contractions of the colon create an urge to deficate.

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2. Animal Respiratory System
Every cell in an animal requires oxygen to perform cellular respiration which gives off carbon dioxide and water as waste products. Respiration is the process by which animals exchange these gases with their environment. Animals have specialized systems of structures that help them to do this successfully and efficiently. Even a fish will drown if it cannot successfully breathe underwater.

Gas Exchange
The actual exchanging of the gases is dependent upon important structures such as lungs or gills, and the principle of diffusion. Diffusion says that the molecules or particles will move from an area where they are very concentrated into an area where they are less concentrated.

Mammals Respiratory System
The chief organ in mammalian respiration is the lungs. The lungs are actively ventilated via a suction-pump mechanism of inhalation and exhalation. Breathing is dependent upon the rib muscles and the diaphragm, which is a structure located just beneath the lungs like a dome-shaped floor (or a dome-shaped roof for the intestinal cavity.

Inhalation happens when the rib cage opens up and the diaphragm flattens and moves downward. The lungs can then expand into the larger space that causes the air pressure inside them to decrease, and the drop in air pressure inside the lung makes the outside air rush inside. 

Exhalation is the opposite process. The diaphragm and the rib muscles relax to their neutral state that causes the lungs to contract. The squashing of the lungs increases their air pressure and forces the air to flow out.
A diagram of ventilation in most mammals. The left image shows inhalation with a flattened diaphragm. The right side shows the dome shaped diaphragm forcing the air out during exhalation.

In most mammals, the first place that air enters upon inhalation is the nose. It gets warmed, moistened, and filtered by cilia and mucus membranes which can trap dust and pathogens. Air then reaches the epiglottis, which is the tiny leaf shaped flap at the back of the throat. The epiglottis regulates air going into the windpipe and closes upon swallowing to prevent food from being inhaled. It is the gatekeeper to the lungs. If the epiglottis is the gatekeeper, who's the key master?
The trachea is a long structure of soft tissue surrounded by c-shaped rings of cartilage. In humans the trachea splits into two bronchi branches that lead to each lung. Each bronchi divides into increasingly smaller branches, until they form a massive tree of tubes. The smallest branches are called the bronchioles, and each bronchiole ends with a tiny air sac (no larger than a grain of sand) called an alveolus.
The tiny alveoli (alveoli is the plural of alveolus) are crucial because they increase the surface area that can be used for gas exchange. If the lungs were just empty sacs the only area available for gas exchange would be the walls of the lungs, which in humans is approximately 0.01 meters squared. In contrast, the alveoli structures provide 75 square meters of surface area where oxygen absorption can take place. That is the size of half a volleyball court.
Diagram of an alveolus near a capillary and the gas exchange process in the lungs

As discussed above, gas exchange takes place in the capillaries, so the alveoli are closely aligned with the network of capillaries. This brings the blood carrying waste products into close enough proximity with fresh air for diffusion to take place. The waste is removed and the oxygen is taken up by the blood.

The blood is able to carry the fresh oxygen in red blood cells because of the hemoglobin protein, which can attach oxygen molecules. Think of hemoglobin like a bus that carries oxygen passengers. Each hemoglobin protein can carry four passengers of oxygen at one time. 

When red blood cells are oxygen rich they are bright red, and when they are deoxygenated they are a deep purple. When the blood reaches the systemic capillaries near the cells, the carbon dioxide and oxygen diffuse in opposite directions. 

After circulating through the heart, the blood arrives at the capillaries near the lungs. Water vapor and carbon dioxide are exhaled, and the process begins again with inhalation.

Just as the heart beats on its own, following sinoatrial node signals, breathing is done without conscious effort. There are sections of the brain, called the medulla and pons, that regulate respiration. They decide how fast respiration needs to take place by monitoring the level of carbon dioxide in the blood. In times of excitement or during exercise, the cells require more oxygen than normal. Respiration speeds up. Additionally, the heartbeat increases because the circulatory system is required for the respiration system to function.

Tidal volume is the amount of air breathed in or out during a respiratory cycle. The tidal volume and respiratory frequency vary amongst species and can also be affected by age, pregnancy, exercise, excitement, temperature, and body size. Horses have an average respiration of 12 times per minute, but pigs breathe an average of 40 times per minute.

Horses are obligate nasal breathers, which means that they must breathe through their noses. Humans and many other mammals can breathe through either their mouths or their nasal passages. A horse cannot breathe through its mouth. It is thought that this modification allows horses to graze with their heads down while separate nasal passages breath in air and sniff for potential predators.

Marine mammals breathe oxygen with lungs just like their terrestrial brethren, but with a few differences. First of all, to prevent water from getting into their airway they have adapted muscles or cartilaginous flaps to seal their tracheas when under the water. Additionally, they exchange up to 90% of their gases in a single breath, which helps them gather as much oxygen as possible. A sperm whale can last for 138 minutes on a single breath.

Lastly, it can be dangerous for diving mammals to have air in their lungs when they dive to great depths. For this reason, many marine mammals will prepare for a deep dive by taking a breath, exchanging gases in the blood, and exhaling to empty their lungs.

Diagram of structures of the lungs

Reptiles and Amphibians
Reptiles and amphibians both have lungs and exchange gases in the capillaries like mammals, but there are some differences in how they ventilate their respiratory systems. Reptiles do not typically breathe the same way as mammals since many reptiles lack a diaphragm. Without it they rely on muscles used in locomotion to ventilate their lungs.

Amphibians are capable of buccal pumping to push air into the lungs. This begins by muscles pulling air through the mouth or nose into a buccal cavity. Throat muscles then pump and move the floor of the mouth up in a way that Is visible from the outside. This forces air out of the mouth and into the lungs. Have you seen at frog's throat that is constantly moving.

Apart from their capillaries, amphibians can also perform gas exchange directly through their highly vascularized skin. This means that their skin has lots of blood vessels going through it. Since the blood vessels are close to their permeable skin surface, diffusion can take place right through the skin. In fact, some salamanders have no lungs at all, and they get all of their oxygen through their skin. The take home message is never get in a breath holding contest with a salamander. We wouldn't recommend a staring contest, either.

The respiratory system of birds is similar to that of mammals. Air is pulled in using a suction-type pull. Gases are exchanged in the capillaries. The major difference is the route of airflow through the bird. Birds have air sacs that collect air. They then force the air through their lungs like bellows stoking a fire. 

When a bird inhales, air is brought into the posterior air sacs, which expand. Upon exhalation, the air is forced from the posterior air sacs into the lungs. This is where gas exchange takes place. A second inhalation will move the air from the lungs to the anterior air sac. A second exhalation will push the air out of the body. 

This progression of air through the bird means that the lungs are compressed during inhalation and expand during exhalation. It also takes two full inhalations and exhalations to move one gulp of air through the bird. That's a lot of gulps.
Aquatic Respiration
In fish, respiration takes place in their gills. Gills can collect dissolved oxygen from the water and release carbon dioxide. Gills are much more complex than just a slit in the cheek of a fish. 

Gills are comprised of gill arches with hundreds of gill filaments extending from them. Each filament is lined with rows of lamellae, and the gas exchange takes place as water flows through them. The frills and flaps increase the surface area to allow more gas exchange to take place, just as the alveoli do in the lungs.

Fish utilize a countercurrent exchange pathway (except for cartilaginous fish), which means that their arteries are arranged so that blood flows in the opposite direction of water movement against the gills. By having their respiration pathway in this orientation, maximum gas exchange can take place. 

If the blood and the water were moving in the same direction, the blood would always be next to the same bit of water which would soon be depleted of oxygen. By setting up a countercurrent pathway, the blood is always passing water that still has oxygen. This allows the blood to gather as much oxygen as it can hold.

Since water must be flowing over the gills to provide a continual source of oxygen, fish have developed several ways to keep them ventilated. Some fish swim with their mouths open almost all of the time. Other fish have a special flap called an operculum, which is used to force water across the gills. 

The exception to all fish having gills is the lungfish, which has working lungs. It can survive when its water habitat dries up from seasonal drought. Aptly named fish. Similarly, there are also certain land crabs that use gills to breathe outside of the water.

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3.Human Circulatory system
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4.Human Excretory system
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5.Human Nervous system
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6.Human Endocrine system
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7.Human Reproductive system
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Daily News Mail - News of 27/03/2015

Australia brings India down, makes final

  • India’s World Cup campaign juddered((especially of something mechanical) shake and vibrate rapidly and with force) to a halt after a 95-run defeat to Australia in the semifinal here on March 26. 
  • Steve Smith made a splendid century as Australia posted a massive 328 batting first. In response, India sank to 233 all out, done in by the pressure of a big chase and the home team’s excellent fast bowling.
  • Australia will face New Zealand in the final in Melbourne on Sunday. Smith, who flourished against India in the Test series, made an unruffled, classy 105, stitching a partnership of 182 runs for the second wicket with Aaron Finch.
  • India’s fast bowlers, who played a vital role in its unbeaten run to the semifinals, proved expensive. Umesh Yadav took four important wickets, but he leaked 72 runs from nine overs. No team had made over 300 in a World Cup semifinal; India was always going to be running uphill.
Captains of Australian and Indian Cricket Team

SC nod for finalising apectrum auction results
  • The Supreme Court on March 26 allowed the Union government to finalise the results of the telecom spectrum auction, which ended on March 25, fetching the exchequer a huge revenue of Rs. 1.09 lakh crore.
  • The order means the government can now collect initial payments of over Rs. 28,000 crore from successful bidders , helping to narrow the fiscal deficit.
  • The final allocation of spectrum, however, will be subject to the court’s verdict as the auction criteria and guidelines have been challenged by some telecom companies.
Foreign Trade Policy likely on April 1
  • The government is likely to unveil the new Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) on April 1, which is expected roll out incentives to boost exports.
  • “We are trying to unveil the new FTP on April 1. It will be aligned with ‘Make In India’, ‘Digital India’, ‘ease of doing business’ and India’s free trade pacts with its partner countries,” a Commerce Ministry official told PTI.
  • The much-delayed FTP may include sops for labour incentive sectors such as leather and handicraft. It is likely to talk about ways to enhance services exports.

Daily News Mail - News of 26/03/2015

Mani to head GST committee
  • Beleaguered Finance Minister K.M. Mani has received a shot in the arm(shot in the arm - Something that boosts one's spirits) with the Union government deciding to pick him to head the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers on Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • The committee, which is preparing the framework for implementation of GST, has by convention a chairman from a State not ruled by the party in power at the Centre. The post fell vacant when Abdul Rahim Rather quit following the defeat of the National Conference in the J&K Assembly elections.
  • “The Central government has announced rollout of GST in April 2016. This is, therefore, a big responsibility for me,” Mr. Mani said.
K M Mani
CAG report points a finger at Hooda govt.
  • A Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report charging the previous Congress government in Haryana with showing undue favours to Robert Vadra, son-in-law of party president Sonia Gandhi, in a land deal was tabled in the Haryana Assembly on the last day of the Budget Session on March 25.
  • Mr. Vadra made a huge profit from selling the land to DLF after getting permission for changing the land use, the report says. The case shot into limelight after IAS officer Ashok Khemka scrapped the deal, declaring it illegal. However, the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government issued a clean chit to Mr. Vadra.
  • The report was sent to the Haryana government earlier this month after Comptroller and Auditor-General Shashi Kant Sharma signed it. The draft report last year directed the State government to seek a refund of Rs. 41.51 crore from Mr. Vadra for the money he made from the DLF deal.
China 'welcomes' India's proposed visa on arrival move
  • China said on Wednesday it would welcome any move by India to grant visa on arrival for Chinese citizens, amid reports that the Indian government may announce the move when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits China in May.
  • The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it would welcome the move and would consider reciprocating the gesture to allow greater travel between both countries.
The judgment that silenced Section 66A
  • The Supreme Court, in Shreya Singhal versus Union of India , has stepped to the fore with a delightful affirmation of the value of free speech and expression, quashing, as unconstitutional, Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act). Section 66A had attained particular infamy after the arrests by the Mumbai police in November 2012 of two women who had expressed their displeasure at a bandh called in the wake of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s death. Since then, several arrests have been made by different State police, of various individuals, for the most benign dissemination of online content.
  • The latest in the slew of pernicious cases reportedly booked under Section 66A was the arrest of a class 11 student in Uttar Pradesh for posting, on Facebook, “objectionable” comments apparently attributable to a State Minister.
  • In a judgment authored by Justice R.F. Nariman, on behalf of a bench comprising himself and Justice J. Chelameswar, the Court has now declared that Section 66A is not only vague and arbitrary, but that it also “disproportionately invades the right of free speech.”
  • This verdict in Shreya Singhal is a hugely important landmark in the Supreme Court’s history for many reasons. It represents a rare instance of the court adopting the extreme step of declaring a censorship law passed by Parliament as altogether illegitimate. 
  • As Justice Nariman’s opinion has highlighted, the liberty of thought and expression is not merely an aspirational ideal. It is also “a cardinal value that is of paramount significance under our constitutional scheme.”
  • Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution guarantees to citizens a right to freedom of speech and expression. The immediately succeeding clause, Article 19(2), however limits this right in allowing the state the power to impose by law reasonable restrictions in the interests, among other things, of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, public order, decency or morality, defamation, or incitement to an offence. 
  • According to the petitioners in Shreya Singhal , none of these grounds contained in Article 19(2) were capable of being invoked as legitimate defences to the validity of Section 66A of the IT Act. They also argued that the provisions of Section 66A were contrary to basic tenets of a valid criminal law in that they were too vague and incapable of precise definition, amounting therefore to a most insidious form of censorship. Further, in the petitioners’ argument, Section 66A produced a chilling effect that forced people to expurgate their speech and expressions of any form of dissent, howsoever innocuous.
  • The Supreme Court agreed with the petitioners on each of these arguments. According to the court, none of the grounds, which the state sought to invoke in defending the law, in this case, public order, defamation, incitement to an offence and decency or morality, each of which is contained in Article 19(2), was capable of being justifiably applied. “Any law seeking to impose a restriction on the freedom of speech can only pass muster,” wrote Justice Nariman, “if it is proximately related to any of the eight subject matters set out in Article 19(2).”
  • The judgment in Shreya Singhal however did not concern itself only with Section 66A. There were other provisions of the IT Act, Section 69A — and its concomitant rules — and Section 79, which were also challenged by the petitioners. The first accords the government the authority to block the transmission of information, including the blocking of websites, when it is necessary or expedient to do so, for among other reasons, the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence. And the second grants protection, under certain limited circumstances, to intermediaries (websites such as Facebook and YouTube, for example) for content published by individuals who use their platforms. The court struck neither of these provisions down. It found the law in both instances to contain sufficient safeguards against governmental abuse. Even if one were to consider these aspects of the decision as detrimental, in some way, to our civil liberties, any such concerns, at this juncture, ought to only represent minor quibbles.
Shreya Singhal(in front), the first PIL 
petitioner against draconian Section 66A