Public demonstrations resorting to violence, including stone-throwing,
are not protected by the fundamental right to free speech and expression,
the Supreme Court has held.
A Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan observed that the
reason for the demonstration might be genuine, but this did not give
agitators the licence to resort to violence, destroying property and, at
times, lives of citizens.
The judgment came on a plea by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Bimal
Gurung for protection against arrest in several cases filed against him by
the West Bengal government for violent unrest in the Darjeeling Hills.
Justice Bhushan, who wrote the judgment, observed that the Constitution
only protects the right to assemble peacefully.
“Demonstrations, whether political, religious or social or other
demonstrations, which create public disturbances or operate as nuisances or
create or manifestly threaten some tangible public or private mischief are
not covered by protection under Article 19(1) (free speech),” the court
A demonstration was meant to convey a feeling of disillusionment to
those in authority. But it might take different forms, it said.
Likewise, it held that the right to free speech includes the right to
speak in public, but this too should not be used to incite violence.
The court referred to the Kerala High Court’s judgment on ‘bandhs’ to
evoke the judicial objections against methods used by particular groups or
parties or sects to paralyse the entire citizenry.
Medicinal Plants Knowledge Hub
The use of Indian medicinal plants for drug discovery and therapeutics
just received a boost.
A database of such plants has been built by a Chennai-based team led by
Areejit Samal of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences.
By documenting 1,742 Indian medicinal plants and 9,596 chemicals that
plants use to thrive and ward off threats (phytochemicals), this database
has the distinction of being the largest so far.
This is a first step towards validating and developing traditional
systems of medicine that use plant extracts.
For the repository, the scientists sourced information from several
texts including those that documented tribal medicine.
With supporting studies in the form of well-planned lab tests, this work
has the potential to improve health care and enhance drug discovery.
Plants secrete various special chemicals to ward off predators, fight
pathogens and survive in difficult situations.
Some of these so-called phytochemicals have been used to prepare
traditional medicines and also poisons.
While there are extensive databases of phytochemicals of Chinese herbs,
there has no similar work in India.
The new database, named IMPPAT (Indian Medicinal Plants, Phytochemistry
And Therapeutics) brings together not just the Indian medicinal plants and
their associated phytochemicals, but also the latter’s 2D and 3D chemical
structures, the therapeutic use of the plants and the medicinal
Among the many challenges in building IMPPAT was in removing redundancy
and standardising names and spellings that varied across the several books
and documents they have referred to.
From previous work we know that natural products are made of highly
complex molecules, which therefore are more likely to bind to very specific
proteins unlike commercial (or synthesised) drug molecules.
Drug molecules which are specific protein binders are likely to have
fewer side-effects as they will bind specifically to their target protein.
Envoy’s return withheld: Pakistan
India issued another note verbale to Pakistan on the continued
harassment of Indian High Commission officials, including two incidents.
According to the note — India’s second formal protest in two days —
Indian diplomats had been subjected to ‘aggressive surveillance and
harassment’, as the month-old diplomatic spat intensified.
Pakistan said it would skip a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial
meeting in Delhi.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said
Islamabad had not confirmed the participation of its minister for the WTO
meeting on March 19-21.
Pakistani diplomatic sources said that there would be no representation
from the Delhi mission either.According to Dr. Faisal, Mr.
Mahmood and the Foreign office will begin discussions on on the next
When asked if India was considering a similar recall of its High
Commissioner Ajay Bisaria for consultations in Delhi, diplomatic sources
said no such action was contemplated yet, and attempts were on to “settle
the situation calmly.”
Loktak River sees floating laboratory
Three days a week, four women in white lab-coats ferry the Loktak Lake
in a custom-motorboat, scooping flaskfuls of water for analysis. Via their
instruments they record changes in the temperature, acidity, conductivity
and dissolved-oxygen in the 300-sq km lake.
Rising urbanisation and land-use change over the years has seen the
Loktak Lake, the largest in the northeast, become a dump-yard for the city’s
municipal waste, ranging from plastic refuse to chemical runoff from
This worsens during years of floods.
Though the Loktak Lake is yet to see worrying levels of pollution, early
signs suggest that there’s need to be wary.
This is similar to the phenomenon of coral bleaching in oceans, where
rising sea surface temperature cause organisms that live on corals to
disengage, thereby killing the corals themselves.
The model of a floating laboratory ties into a larger initiative by the
Centre’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) to monitor the health of aquatic
systems in the northeast.
Last September, the DBT announced plans to have multiple floating boats
cruising the 3,500-km Brahmaputra river and collecting water samples to
track its health.
The health of the lake also affects the Phumdis, or the unique ‘floating
islands’, of the Loktak lake. These islands, made of a mix of vegetation and
soil, coalesce to form a thick mat that, for centuries, has hosted huts and
The pH of the lake, as per measurements so far, varies from 6.8-7.2
(ideally the pH of a healthy lake should be slightly below 7).
However studies of ocean acidification have shown that even a 0.1
increase in pH can cause (harmful) decalcification.
China’s Parliament unanimously elected Xi Jinping as President for a
second consecutive term, paving the way for a new leadership line-up that
includes his trusted ally Wang Qishan as Vice-President.
All the 2,970 delegates of the National People’s Congress (NPC) voted
for Mr. Xi as President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission
(CMC). Mr. Xi is already the General Secretary of the Communist Party of
In an unprecedented move, President Xi took a public oath of allegiance
to the Constitution in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People.
Only one delegate opposed Mr. Wang as Vice President — the face and
mastermind of President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign. Mr. Wang has staged a
powerful comeback, after he had officially “retired” in October during the
19th Congress of the CPC.
Eighty delegates had opposed Li Yuanchao, Mr. Wang’s predecessor when he
stood for Vice Presidency during the 2013 NPC session.
Prior to that, 28 lawmakers had opposed Xi Jinping’s candidacy for Vice
President in 2008.
Lawmakers also unanimously elected Li Zhanshu, Mr. Xi’s former chief of
staff, as the next chairman of the NPC.
The post becomes especially relevant as the burden of passing new
legislation is expected to mount, in tune with President Xi’s focus on “rule
of law” as the template for China’s governance in the “new era”.
Besides, NPC legislators also approved a major reform plan of
streamlining the central government structure, by slashing bureaucracy,
improving institutional efficiency and ending turf wars.
The reforms also include setting up a new immigration agency, as well as
a merger of China’s banking and insurance regulators under a China banking
and insurance regulatory commission.
The South China Morning Post earlier reported that a thorough revamp of
the foreign policy architecture was currently under way in the NPC.
According to the report, the powerful international department of the
CPC and the Party’s Leading Group on Foreign Affairs, which reports directly
to President Xi, are expected to merge.
It is likely that the new body will be headed by Yang Jiechi, a
politburo member, under the overall supervision of Vice President Wang.
Wang Yi, the Foreign Minister, is expected to step into the shoes of
State Councilor, vacated by Mr. Yang on account of his likely elevation to
the new body.
16 Tejas LCA per year from HAL: CFO
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is enhancing its capacities to make
improved versions of light combat aircraft (LCA), also known as Tejas,
according to a top company official.
The Centre had issued a request for proposal (RFP) for 83 LCA in
December, setting the ball rolling for finalising the contract for the deal
worth about Rs. 50,000 crore.
In addition to the 83 Mk-1A to be ordered, there are 40 aircraft of
earlier variants on order.
However, while the current production rate is eight aircraft per year,
only six aircraft have been delivered to the IAF in the last two years,
HAL is building the improved version of Tejas after getting feedback
from the Indian Air Force.
The final contract for the procurement of 83 LCA is expected to be
To take advantage of the government’s UDAN or regional connectivity
scheme, HAL was in negotiations with airlines to sell the civilian version
of Dornier 228 transport aircraft, the sources added.
Man-made Fibre sector in tight corner due to multiple tax slabs
Multi-stage and different tax slabs are affecting the man-made fibre (MMF)
sector, according to the industry.
Narain Aggarwal, chairman of the Synthetic and Rayon Textiles Export
Promotion Council, told that the MMF sector saw almost 9% growth in the
domestic market every year.
However, exports were stagnant for the last couple of years. The export
target for this financial year was $7.5 billion.
The Indian MMF sector was expensive in the international market by 5% to
8 % compared to the East Asian countries.
This was mainly because of multi-level taxes that were not fully
rebated, and high interest rates, he said.
In China, the GST was 17% on textiles, while in Vietnam and Bangladesh
it was 15%. In India, there were multiple rates for different fibres, Mr.
Mr. Aggarwal said the average annual wage rate in China was $8,000 and
in Vietnam it was $3,000. In India, it was $1,500.
The actual production cost for the domestic MMF sector is lower compared
to China. But, “we are not competitive because of taxes,” he added.
On increasing import of MMF yarn, fabric and garments, he said that
prior to GST, the import duty on MMF was 26.42 %. Now, it was 15%.
So, the domestic sector has had a disadvantage and imports had gone up.
The industry took it up with the governemnt and the basic customs duty rates
were increased for fabric.
In the case of yarn and readymade garments, the imports were still high,
West Bengal improves EODB
West Bengal was now more conducive to doing business, offering
satisfactory environment even as concerns remained over the acquisition of
land for large projects, according to a survey.
Participants in the survey on ease of doing business, conducted jointly
by CII and PwC, also listed labour and trade union issues and lack of
skilled manpower as areas of concern for the State even as they said that
West Bengal offered cost competitiveness in terms of raw material and
The participants felt that the State needs to put in place stringent and
progressive laws for trade unions and streamline the process of acquisition
and conversion of land for industry.
The ease of doing business survey was released on March 17 at a CII
event.Size of the market was one of the main drivers of business along with
low operational costs, the survey showed.
As per the 2011 census, West Bengal had a population of about 9.1 crore
of which 6.2 crore are in rural areas.
The State offered natural resources and minerals, is a major agriculture
base and hosts industries like petrochemicals, chemicals, coal iron and
steel, heavy and light industries, dairy, leather, tea and jute industries.
A majority of the respondents felt that there was scope for improvement
in registration process, incubation systems and legal processes.
Although more than 60% of the participants said telecom and power
availability was good, some felt that the power tariff structure was not
The survey showed that it mostly took a year to get the approvals to
start a business and an equal amount of time to get the regulatory
clearances. Land acquisition took longer — upto three years.
Even as many units were looking to expand their business in the State,
some said that they were as keen to expand their network and manufacturing
facilities across multiple regions.
Commenting on the survey, CII eastern region’s immediate past chairman
Smita Pandit Chakraborty said that CII West Bengal Committee formed a
separate committee on ease of doing Business.
The survey was conducted within the State and outside to understand
industry perception on West Bengal as an investment destination.
::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::
Supplements of Vitamin B12 can reduce diabetes risk
Researchers from CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB),
Hyderabad along with scientists from Pune, Singapore and UK studied the
molecular pathway to understand how B12 supplements are associated with Type
2 diabetes and its associated genes.
Previous studies from the lab have shown that B12 supplementation for a
year was able to bring down the level of homocysteine (a marker for
The study involved 108 children from the Pune maternal nutrition study (PMNS).
The children were randomly divided into four groups.
One group was not given any supplements while the second was given B12
supplements (10 microgram/day), third B12 with folic acid (known to
influence homocysteine levels) and fourth only folic acid.
After a year, their blood samples were collected and genomic DNA was
isolated and studied for differences before and after supplementation.
Reason behind babies’ movement in the womb
Formation of joints in the developing embryo and their maintenance after
birth is sensitive to mechanical movement.
Now, researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur have
deciphered the molecular mechanism underlying this phenomenon.
They have demonstrated how permanent cartilage is formed in an embryo
due to mechanical movement.
They also found out how permanent cartilage is lost and temporary or
transient cartilage is formed in its place in the absence of movement.
While permanent cartilage lines the joint, the transient cartilage is a
Earlier this group demonstrated that during embryonic development, a
bipotential cartilage population gives rise to both permanent and transient
cartilage. BMP and Wnt are two major signals regulating this process.
In patients with osteoarthritis, the permanent cartilage acquires all
the characteristics of a temporary cartilage, which affects joint function.
Currently, in people with osteoarthritis, it is not possible to reverse
the fate of permanent cartilage that has become a temporary-like cartilage.
The work done by a team led by Prof. Amitabha Bandyopadhyay from the
Department of Biological Sciences and Bioengineering at IIT Kanpur suggests
that it might be possible to prevent osteoarthritis from worsening if
intervened at an early stage.
The results were published in the journal Development. The work was
carried out in collaboration with the laboratory of Prof. Paula Murphy of
Trinity College Dublin.
BMP signalling — which helps in the formation of transient cartilage —
is normally not present in permanent cartilage cells in a joint.
That transient cartilage forms in the place of permanent cartilage due
to joint immobilisation was already known.
And independently, the team had shown that BMP signalling promotes
transient cartilage formation.
The investigation into what causes the BMP signalling to be present in
future permanent cartilage cells when the joint is immobilised led them to a
The lead author, Pratik Singh, found out that an inhibitor of BMP
signalling (Smurf1) is absent in the joint that is immobilised resulting in
increased BMP signalling.
The Smurf1 inhibitor is not directly involved in joint cartilage
formation but creates an environment that permits the formation of permanent
cartilage by keeping the BMP signalling under check.