Facts Corner-Part-4

What is the Katas Raj Temple case?

  • Pakistan’s Supreme Court is hearing a suo motu case relating to the Katas Raj temple complex in Chakwal district of Punjab province.
  • The court took cognizance of media reports, which stated that the pond in the temple complex was drying up as surrounding cement factories draw water through its borewells.
  • The court had, in November, set up a committee to probe the issue.
  • Katas Raj, also known as Qila Katas, is a Hindu pilgrimage site comprising several temples linked to one another by walkways. 
  • The pond is named Katas (Raj temple) after Kataksha, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘tearful eyes’.
  • According to a legend, the pond was formed as Lord Shiva wept upon the death of wife Satti.
  • The site is considered the second most sacred for Hindus in Punjab.
  • In a hearing, a three-judge bench, headed by Justice Nisar, sought to know the names of the factories in the area surrounding the temple, news agency PTI reported.
  • It also barred lower courts from hearing any petitions regarding the case.

What is an open prison?

  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to hold meetings with prison officials across the states and the Union Territories in the first week of February to set up open prisons in the country.
  • The issue came up when the court was hearing a PIL on the poor state of the prisons in the country.
  • Prisons in India are governed by the Prisons Act, 1900 and each state follows their prison rules and manuals.
  • India has a maximum number of central jails, sub jails, which are controlled jails, and 63 open jails according to the amicus curiae in the case above.

What are open prisons?

  • Open prisons have relatively less stringent rules as compared to the controlled jails. They go by many names like minimum-security prison, open air camps or prison without bars. The fundamental rule of an open prison is that the jail has minimum security and functions on the self-discipline of the inmates.
  • Every state in India has a prison law, like the Rajasthan Prisoners Rules and Andhra Pradesh Prison Rules, 1979. Seventeen states are reported to have functional open jails with Rajasthan having 29 such prisons, the highest that any state has.
  • The Rajasthan Prisoners Open Air Camp Rules, 1972 define open prison as, “prisons without walls, bars and locks.” Inmates in Rajasthan open prisons are free to go out of the prison after a first roll call and have to return before the allotted second roll call. The jail does not confine them completely but requires them to earn their living to support their families, living with them inside the jail.
  • The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, popularly known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, laid down the objectives of open prisons stating, that such prisons provide no physical security against escape but rely on the self-discipline of the inmates, provide the conditions most favourable to the rehabilitation of carefully selected prisoners.
  • The All-India Committee on Jail Reform constituted in 1980 recommended the government to set up and develop open prisons in each state and UT similar to the Sanganer open camp. Sanganer open camp is the largest open prison in Rajasthan and houses nearly 400 prisoners. The Committee also stated the number of open prisons and prisoners each state has.

Who are eligible for open prisons?

  • Every state law defines the eligibility criteria of inmates who can be in an open prison. The principal rule is that an inmate eligible for open air prison has to be a convict.
  • Good conduct in prison and at least five years spent in a controlled jail are the rules followed by the Rajasthan open prisons.
  • The Rajasthan open prison do not take in undertrial prisoners.
  • The Rajasthan Prison Rules also specify the ineligibility criteria for admission of inmates in open prison.
  • The All-India Committee on Jail Reform too recommended that life convicts who offer good prognosis should be transferred to semi-open & open prisons.

What is an M4 Carbine assault rifle?

  • Indian security forces confirmed that the nephew of Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar was killed in an encounter in Pulwama in Kashmir. An M4 carbine assault rifle was also recovered from the encounter site. The rifle had featured in his online propaganda videos on multiple occasions.

What is an M4 Carbine rifle?

  • The M4 Carbine rifle is a more compact and lightweight variant of M16A2 assault rifle of the 5.56X45 NATO caliber class.
  • A carbine is essentially a long gun that has a shorter barrel than a conventional rifle or musket.
  • Some of the carbines are compacted forms of full length rifles but use the same caliber ammunition.
  • Some even fire ammunition designed for handguns.
  • The appeal of an M4 for troops is the compact size which allows greater maneuverability as well as ease of movement and agility due to the lighter weight. The M4 Carbine is therefore used by mobility troops, special operation troops, paratroopers etc. It is also used by those troops who are not required for full combat operations. However, the weapon is being used as standard-issue in many Armies like in the US, precisely for the fact that the reduced weight can be offset against added equipment that gives the troops added edge in the battleground.
  • The design of the M4 Carbine originated in the US and has been adopted and modified by various manufacturers around the world. The gun has been used in several wars including the Colombian conflict, Kosovo war, Afghanistan war after 9/11, Iraq, Syrian civil war, Iraqi civil war, Yemeni civil war etc.
  • The gun weighs 2.9 kgs without cartridges and 3.4 kgs with a 30 rounds. It has a standard iron sight but is capable of being fitted with various kinds of scopes. It can fire at a rate of 750-900 rounds per minute depending upon the barrel temperature and ambient conditions. Its shots travel at a rate of 910 m/s and it has an effective range of 500 metres.

What is Article 35A?

  • It is a constitutional provision that allows the Jammu-Kashmir assembly to define permanent residents of the state.
  • According to the Jammu-Kashmir constitution, a Permanent Resident is defined as a person who was a state subject on May 14, 1954, or who has been residing in the state for a period of 10 years, and has “lawfully acquired immovable property in the state”.

When was Article 35A introduced?

  • It was brought in by a presidential order in 1954 in order to safeguard the rights and guarantee the unique identity of the people of Jammu-Kashmir. Only the Jammu-Kashmir assembly can change the definition of PR through a law ratified by a two-thirds majority.

What is the challenge before the Supreme Court?

  • A batch of petitions challenged the constitutional validity of the Article 35A. A Supreme Court bench headed by the then Chief Justice J S Khehar referred the matter to a three-judge bench which will take up the petitions today.
  • Delhi-based NGO We the Citizens, in its petition, argued that Article 35A goes against the “very spirit of oneness of India” as it creates a “class within a class of Indian citizens”.
  • Another petition, filed by lawyer Charu Wali Khanna, claims Article 35A discriminates against a woman’s right to property.

View and counter-view

  • The view from the Right is that by striking down Article 35A, it would allow people from outside Jammu-Kashmir to settle in the state and acquire land and property, and the right to vote, thus altering the demography of the Muslim-majority state.
  • The state’s two main political parties, PDP and NC, contend that there would be no J&K left if this provision is tampered with, and have vowed to fight the battle together.
  • Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has warned that if Article 35A is removed, there won’t be anyone left to carry the Tricolour in Kashmir; Omar Abdullah has called it the death knell for pro-India politics in the Valley.
  • The Centre has, however, refused to take a stand on the issue, with Attorney General K K Venugopal informing the court that it was  “very sensitive” and required a “larger debate”.

What is Bharatmala Project?

  • Bharatmala Project, which was cleared by the Union Cabinet on October 25, is the second largest highways construction project in the country since NHDP, under which almost 50,000 km or highway roads were targeted across the country.
  • Bharatmala will look to improve connectivity particularly on economic corridors, border areas and far flung areas with an aim of quicker movement of cargo and boosting exports.
  • The project is expected to create nearly 100 million man days of jobs during the road construction and subsequently 22 million jobs as a result of the increased economic activity across the country.
  • The construction will be billed via several routes including debt funds, budgetary allocation, private investment, toll operator transfer model etc.
  • Bharatmala includes economic corridors of around 9,000 km, inter-corridor and feeder routes of around 6,000 km, 5,000 km roads under the National Corridors Efficiency Program, border and international connectivity roads of around 2,000 km, coastal and port connectivity roads of around 2,000 km, expressways of around 800 km and 10,000 km of NHDP roads. The total length in phase 1 comes to around 34,800 km.
  • Bharatmala project will start in Gujarat and Rajasthan, followed by Punjab and subsequently traversing the Himalayan belt through Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur (next to the Indo-Burmese border) and then to Mizoram. Northeastern states have been given special focus in the project and international trade is a key aspect as well.
  • The newer roads are expected to increase the speed of vehicles and decrease supply chain costs from the current average 18 per cent to six per cent.

What is Nilavembu Kudineer controversy?

  • As Tamil Nadu grapples with dengue outbreak, the controversy over the use of a herbal drug, Nilavembu Kudineer, for prevention and treatment of the disease is growing. 
  • The state government has endorsed the use of Nilavembu Kudineer for fever management, including dengue, as well as for improving immunity. 

What is Nilavembu Kudineer?

  • Nilavembu Kudineer is a herbal drug comprising nine ingredients in equal measure.
  • The primary ingredient of the drug — nilavembu (andrographis paniculata)–is a small plant that is said to have antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and anti-analgesic properties and several other health benefits.
  • Under Siddha treatment, it is prescribed for all types of fevers and also for body aches. It is consumed as a drink mixed in measures prescribed by Siddha medical practitioners.

Controversy surrounding Nilavembu Kudineer

  • Usage of Nilavembu Kudineer was approved by former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister late J Jayalalithaa during her term in office for treating dengue and chikungunya.
  • Some researchers claimed the drug was not completely safe and could have side-effects like infertility.
  • However, state health minister Vijaybhaskar quashed all such claims and said it has been scientifically proven that the Nilavembu decoction can treat fevers like dengue and chikungunya.
  • Actor Kamal Hasaan’s tweet last week whipped a controversy when he raised concerns about the possible side effects of the drug.  “It’s not that the research should be done by allopathics. The traditionalists should also have done it. It is traditional for medicines to have side effects,” he posted.

What does research say?

  • According to allopathic scientific research, there is no cure for fevers like dengue and standard treatment is essentially management of fever and symptoms till the body recovers from the ailment.
  • US-based Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre found “Andrographis possesses antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and immunostimulating properties. Either alone, or in combination with other herbs, andrographis has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of upper respiratory infections such as those associated with the common cold or flu. Andrographis extract may benefit patients with ulcerative colitis. It also reduced symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. However, patients should use caution before using this herb as it may interact with many drugs.”
  • It also found that if a patient is on chemotherapy drugs, antiplatelets or anticoagulents, blood pressure drugs, Andrographis would interfere with the medicines the patient is taking.
  • MSKCC research found common side effects to be headache, fatigue, allergic reactions, lymph node pain, nausea, diarrhea, altered taste etc.

Drug in high demand

  • The Government Siddha Medical College Hospital has, meanwhile, provided nilavembu kudineer chooranam to over 8.6 lakh people through its outpatient department, according to a report. The drug is available in a powdered form which is made into a concoction with water.
  • The Tamil Nadu Medicinal Plant Farms and Herbal Medicine Corporation Limited is reportedly selling the medicine at GSMC. It is also being sold on call with doorstep delivery options.

What is Gujarat’s Ro-Ro ferry service?

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Phase 1 of the ‘roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro)’ ferry service between Ghogha and Dahej in Gujarat on Sunday. 
  • The ro-ro ferry will ply the Gulf of Khambhat between peninsular Saurashtra and South Gujarat.
  • Ghogha situated in Bhavnagar district of Saurashtra lies 17 nautical miles (32 km), across the gulf from Dahej in Bharuch district.
  • A first of its kind in India, the ferry will be able to carry up to 100 vehicles (cars, buses and trucks) and 250 passengers between the two ports.
  •  The ro-ro ferry services are vessels made to carry wheeled cargo that are driven on and off the ferry on their own wheels or using a platform vehicle. The wheeled cargo includes, cars, trucks, semi-trailer trucks, trailers, and railroad cars.
  • The term ro-ro is generally reserved for large ocean-going vessels.
  • The vessels have either built-in or shore-based ramps that allow the cargo to be efficiently rolled on and off the vessel when in port.
  • This is in opposite to the lift-on and lift-off (lo-lo) vessels, which use a crane to load and unload cargo.
  • The service shall reduce the travel time between Ghogha in Saurashtra, and Dahej in South Gujarat, from about seven or eight hours, to just over an hour.
  • The distance between the two places would be reduced to 31 km from the current distance of 360 km. When fully operationalised, it will also enable movement of vehicles. 
  • Earlier, an attempt was made by a private firm with the support from the state government to launch a modern passenger ferry service (the “Kutch-Sagar Setu”) between Okha in Devbhumi Dwarka district and Mandavi in Kutch district across the Gulf of Kutch in 2016. However, it had to be suspended after it faced technical and financial challenges.

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