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Social Issues

Protect the dissenter: (Indian Express, Editorial)


There is a need to allow and respect  the dissenters for their courage and fearlessness. In doing so, we shall be preserving and strengthening the democracy in India.

What is the issue?

  • The recent murder of Gauri Lankesh, apparently not for any personal enmity or monetary gain, was most deplorable.
  • Equally deplorable is the murder of democracy, because dissent is the soul of democracy.

Democracy and Dissent:

  • Democracy is the system of government in which the power is vested in the people, who rule either directly or through freely elected representatives.
  • In fact, the history of progress of mankind is a history of informed dissent; much of creative activity of high quality in all areas of human endeavor at any given time has been a reflection of such dissent.

Test of democracy:

One critical test to adjudge the claim of any country of being democratic is its tolerance of dissent and the protection afforded to the dissenter.

Importance of dissent in a democracy like India:

  • We favor democracy as the most acceptable form of governance because a citizen has a right to dissent without fear of victimization.
  • Dissent in an authoritarian, dictatorial or colonial regime could lead to the severest of punishments.
  • Though, dissent should not lead to inhuman or unconstitutional action.
  • For example, In a democracy, non-governmental organizations provide a platform to civil society to dissent in an informed and reasoned manner. They provide a mechanism for the ruled to keep a check on the rulers.
  • However, there are of course many NGOs that engage in illegal or objectionable activities using Indian and/or foreign funds.
  • Liberal democracies give their citizens not only the right to express their views but also the right to protest and express dissent against prevailing procedures and laws, so long as they do not rely on violence or coercion.

What makes a society tolerant?

  • In any civilised society, people will have different notions of what is good and beneficial for the country.
  • A truly tolerant society grants a fair field and an honest race to all – radicals and reactionaries, industrialists and workmen, the religious and the free thinkers, capitalists and communists, and all the infinite variety of crackpots, fanatics, and self-appointed saviors of mankind.
  • The dissenter must feel free to express his views vigorously, pungently, without any lurking fear of incarceration. The only requirement is that there should be no incitement to violence.

What is the opinion of Courts on the right to dissent?

  • Courts in India have also recognised the right to dissent.
  • In 1967, the High Court of Bombay in the case of Anant Karandikar significantly ruled that “it is implicit in the freedom of press that everyone ought to have the privilege of expressing opinions which are unpopular or distasteful. Right to dissent is the very essence of democracy. Conformity to accepted norms and belief has always been the enemy of freedom of thought.”
  • The Supreme Court of India in a decision pronounced on 1974, observed: “Peaceful protests and the voicing of a contrary opinion are powerful wholesome weapons in the democratic repertoire. It is, therefore, unconstitutional to pick up a peaceful protester and to put him behind the prison bars.”
  • The historic dissent of Justice Fazl Ali in 1950 must be noted.
  • In the A.K. Gopalan case, the Supreme Court was required to construe Article 21 of the Constitution which reads as “Protection of life and personal liberty – No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
  • The majority in that case ruled that the expression “procedure established by law” in Article 21 means positive or state made law. It rejected the plea that the procedure prescribed by law should comply with the basic principles of natural justice.


  • The voice of dissent, when it is not the voice of violence, is essential for the advancement and progress of society. But for bold dissenters, the scourge of Sati and other social evils would be still haunting us.
  • Let us respect and honor the dissenters for their courage and fearlessness.
  • One need not accept the dissenter’s views. They can be rebutted in a dialogue.


India and neighbors

Bali action puts India on other side of debate: (The Hindu)


  • India’s had rejected a joint statement by the World Parliamentary Forum in Indonesia

What happened?

  • Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were all among countries that joined the Bali declaration at Nusa Dua
  • In two separate paragraphs, the Bali Declaration that was eventually made by 49 countries, expressed concern about the recent violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state
  • The UN has stated that at least 1,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed, and 2, 70,000 have fled, mainly to Bangladesh

What is Bali declaration?              

  • ‘Bali Declaration’ adopted at the ‘World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development’, in Indonesia.
  • The declaration adopted carried “inappropriate” reference to the violence in Rakhine State from where 1, 25,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh.

What is the reason for India’s stand?

  • India has stated that the declaration was unjustified as the Parliamentary forum was meant to focus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and not a particular country.
  • The proposed reference to the violence in Rakhine State in the declaration was considered as not consensus-based and inappropriate.
  • India senses that the conclusion of the Forum, was not in line with the agreed global principles of ‘sustainable development.
  • India objected spoke of the forum expressing deep concern on the ongoing violence in the Rakhine State of Myanmar.
  • Never before country have specific issues been included in the declaration as these dilute the objective of these forums.

All that data that Aadhaar captures: (The Hindu, Editorial)


Recently, Supreme Court affirmed that privacy is fundamental right. This has cleared the much-debated privacy issue related to Aadhar.

What is the issue?

  • The fact of the matter is that Aadhaar, in its current form, is a major threat to the fundamental right to privacy.
  • There is a common perception that the main privacy concern with Aadhaar is the confidentiality of the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR).

How relevant is the issue?

  • The perception that has built around Aadhar is a misleading for two reasons.
  • One is that the CIDR is not supposed to be inaccessible.
  • On the contrary, the Aadhaar Act 2016 puts in place a framework for sharing most of the CIDR information.
  • The second reason is that the biggest danger, in any case, lies elsewhere – leaking of private information
  • One obvious concern is the confidentiality of whatever personal information an individual may not wish to be public or accessible to others.
  • The Aadhaar Act puts in place some safeguards in this respect, but they are restricted to biometric and identity information.

What are the different types of private information?

There are three different types of private information:                      

i. Biometric information

In the Aadhar Act, biometric information essentially refers to photograph, fingerprints and iris scan, though it may extend to “other biological attributes of an individual”.

The term “core biometric information” basically means biometric information minus photograph, but it can be modified once again at the discretion of the UIDAI.

ii. Identity information

Identity information includes biometric information but also a person’s Aadhar number as well as the demographic characteristics that are collected at the time of Aadhar enrolment such as name, address, date of birth, phone number etc.

iii. Personal information

The term “personal information” (not used in the Act) can be understood in a broader sense, which includes not only identity information but also other information about a person, for instance where she travels, whom she talks to on the phone, how much she earns, what she buys.

What are the arguments in favor of Aadhar?

  • That part of the CIDR, where identity information is stored, is supposed to be inaccessible except for the purpose of biometric authentication
  • There is a view that, in practice, the biometric database is likely to be hacked sooner or later.
  • Be that as it may, the UIDAI can at least be credited with trying to keep it safe, as it is bound to do under the Act.

What are the arguments in against of Aadhar?

  •    Far from protecting your identity information, the Aadhaar Act puts in place a framework to share it with “requesting entities”.
  • The core of this framework lies in Section 8 of the Act, which deals with authentication. Section 8 underwent a radical change when the draft of the Act was revised.
  • In the initial scheme of things, authentication involved nothing more than a Yes/No response to a query as to whether a person’s Aadhaar number matches her fingerprints (or possibly, other biometric or demographic attributes).
  • In the final version of the Act, however, authentication also involves a possible sharing of identity information with the requesting entity.

What are the other issues apart from leaking of private information?

  • The proliferation and possible misuse of identity information is only one of the privacy concerns associated with Aadhaar, and possibly not the main concern.
  • A bigger danger is that Aadhaar is a tool of unprecedented power for mining and collating personal information
  • Aadhaar is a tool of unprecedented power for the purpose of mining personal information. Nothing in the Aadhaar Act prevents the government from using Aadhaar to link different databases, or from extracting personal information from these databases
  • In short, far from being “based on the premise that privacy is a fundamental right”, Aadhaar is the anti-thesis of the right to privacy

The very foundation of Aadhaar must be reconsidered in the light of the privacy judgment.


Science and Tech

India could embrace CO2 capture technology: (The Hindu)


  • Technologies for capturing carbon dioxide.


  • India will explore the possibility of introducing technologies for capturing carbon dioxide emitted while burning coal and other fossil fuels.
  • The International Energy Agency’s Green House Gas Research and Development initiative organizes the annual Post Combustion Carbon Conference.

What are the areas of focus?

  • Researchers are focusing on capturing carbon dioxide emissions from sources like coal-fired power plants.
  • To either reuse or store it so it will not enter the atmosphere.

What is the viability of commercial uses of such technologies?

  • CO2 has commercial and industrial uses, particularly for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) in depleting oil fields.
  • Carbon dioxide has the ability to change the properties of oil and make it easier to extract.

Scientists make fuel from oxygen in air:

Scientists have found a way to produce methanol using oxygen in the air.

Researchers from Cardiff University in the U.K. have discovered the process to produce methanol from methane through simple catalysis that allows methanol production at low temperatures using oxygen and hydrogen peroxide.

What is Methanol:

  • Methanol is currently produced by breaking down natural gas at high temperatures into hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide before reassembling them by the process known as ‘steam reforming’ and ‘methanol synthesis.
  • Methanol is also known as methyl alcohol among others, is a chemical with the formula CH3OH (often abbreviated MeOH).
  • Methanol acquired the name “wood alcohol” because it was once produced chiefly as a by-product of the destructive distillation of wood.
  • Today, industrial methanol is produced in a catalytic process directly from carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen.
  • Methanol is the simplest alcohol being only a methyl group linked to a hydroxyl group.
  • It is a light, colourless, volatile, flammable liquid with a distinctive odour very similar to that of ethanol (drinking alcohol). However, unlike ethanol, methanol is highly toxic and unfit for consumption.
  • Methanol is produced naturally in the anaerobic metabolism of many varieties of bacteria, and is commonly present in small amounts in the environment. As a result, the atmosphere contains a small amount of methanol vapour. But in only a few days, atmospheric methanol is oxidized by sunlight to produce carbon dioxide and water.

Uses of Methanol:

  • At room temperature, it is a polar liquid and is used as an antifreeze, solvent, fuel and denaturant for ethanol.
  • It is also used for producing biodiesel via transesterification reaction.

Implications of findings of new process of methanol production:

  • The findings, published in the journal Science, have major implications for cleaner, greener industrial processes worldwide.
  • The quest to find a more efficient way of producing methanol is a hundred years old. The new process uses oxygen — effectively a ‘free’ product in the air— and combines it with hydrogen peroxide at mild temperatures which require less energy.
  • It has major implications for the preservation of natural gas reserves as fossil fuel stocks dwindle across the world.
  • At present global natural gas production is about 2.4 billion tonnes per annum and 4% of this is flared into the atmosphere — roughly 100 million tonnes. Production of Methanol gas for commercial use will save carbon dioxide emissions.

Sun and sea water powers vegetable farms in Jordan:


Jordan , has launched a project to turn its sand dunes into farming land to produce food using sun and sea water.


  • King Abdullah II and Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon recently mark the official opening of the “Sahara Forest Project” near the southern port city of Aqaba.
  • The director of the project is Joakim Hauge.

Facts about Jordon:

  • Jordan has a lot of sunlight, it has a lot of desert, it has sea water, it has carbon dioxide.
  • It is a water poor country with 90 per cent desert

Objectives of the project:

  • In the first stage, the project aims to produce up to 130 tonnes of organic vegetables per year from an area the size of four football pitches.
  • It will use solar panels to provide power and include outdoor planting space, two saltwater-cooled greenhouses, a water desalination unit and salt ponds for salt production.
  • It will help in using technology that can be used in a sustainable way to produce agricultural goods in a quite tough climate.

Project funders:

  • The project, whose funders include Norway and the European Union, is to be expanded from three hectares to around 200 hectares of desert.


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