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Wind direction

Why do most of the clouds move from south to north direction over our subcontinent?

Clouds usually move according to the wind pattern. Wind is caused due to difference
in temperatures and pressures which may be affected by various factors. Movement
of wind is a very complex phenomenon affected by latitude, proximity of water
bodies, sea shore and land undulations. It is also affected by the rotation of the
Earth.

Wind blows from points of high pressures to low pressure points. Wind caused due
to difference in temperatures is known as convection current. Wind moves from
warmer regions near the Earth surface to higher up colder regions. Where the land
mass is surrounded by sea water, air near land surface is warmer and moves up. To
replace the air mass, wind blows from sea to the land mass. This is also known as
breeze. Then there is global movement of wind.

Earth regions near the equator get maximum heat energy from the sun. This causes
air to rise up vertically near the equator. To replace, cold wind blows from higher
latitude regions. There are also seasonal variations in the direction of wind due to tilt
of the Earth, which further makes the phenomenon more complex.

In our subcontinent, the southern regions are surrounded by sea water which causes
the wind to move from sea to the land mass i.e. from south to north. The direction
changes as the seasons change.

This is how the wind blows in lower atmosphere.

This is because of different pressure belts - which forces wind to blow from high pressure to
low pressure, and Coriolis force due to Earth's rotation which makes winds to deflect
towards right in northern hemisphere, and left in southern hemisphere.

But in upper atmosphere, the wind direction is opposite as the pressure reverts in upper
atmosphere. That is, high pressure in lower atmosphere means low pressure in higher
atmosphere on 30 degree north. Same applies to all other tropics.

And hence clouds in India, which fall roughly in 0-30 degree north, seem to be moving from
south to north.
SIMPLY PUT: DIPLOMATS AND RULES OF THE GAME

As the Saudi Arabian embassy invokes the immunity clause for its diplomat accused of
rape, Indian Express explains the guidelines that govern such privileges and looks at
how India reacted when its envoys got into trouble abroad.

What is diplomatic immunity?

It’s the privilege of exemption from certain laws and taxes granted to diplomats by the
country in which they are posted. It was framed so that diplomats can function without fear,
threat or intimidation from the host country. Diplomatic immunity is granted on the basis of
two conventions, popularly called the Vienna Conventions — the Convention on Diplomatic
Relations, 1961, and the Convention on Consular Relations, 1963. They have been ratified by
187 countries, including India. Which means, it is a law under the Indian legal framework
and cannot be violated.

What is the extent of their immunity?

According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, the immunity enjoyed
by a diplomat posted in the embassy is “inviolable”. The diplomat cannot be arrested or
detained and his house will have the same inviolability and protection as the embassy. It’s
this point that the Saudi Arabian embassy has raised — that by entering the house of the
diplomat to conduct investigations, the Gurgaon police have flouted the immunity rules. It is
possible for the diplomat’s home country to waive immunity but this can happen only when
the individual has committed a ‘serious crime’, unconnected with their diplomatic role or has
witnessed such a crime. Alternatively, the home country may prosecute the individual.

Is this immunity the same for all diplomats?

No. The Vienna Convention classifies diplomats according to their posting in the embassy,
consular or international organisations such as the UN. A nation has only one embassy per
foreign country, usually in the capital, but may have multiple consulate offices, generally in
locations where many of its citizens live or visit. Diplomats posted in an embassy get
immunity, along with his or her family members. While diplomats posted in consulates too
get immunity, they can be prosecuted in case of serious crimes, that is, when a warrant is
issued. Besides, their families don’t share that immunity.

Isn’t that what happened in the Devyani case?

Yes. In December 2013, Devyani Khobragade, a deputy consul general at the Indian
consulate in New York, had been arrested and reportedly strip-searched for alleged visa fraud
on grounds that she did not honour the commitment to pay minimum wages as per US rules
to her domestic help. Since she was a diplomat in the consulate, she was governed under the
Vienna Convention on Consular Relations which provided her limited immunity. But the
Indian government side-stepped this rule by transferring Khobragade to the Permanent
Mission of India to the UN, which has the status of an embassy. That move gave her full
diplomatic immunity as the Permanent Mission is covered by the Vienna Convention on
Diplomatic Relations besides other UN rules. She was later moved to Ministry of External
Affairs in New Delhi. The issue had escalated into a full-blown diplomatic spat between the
US and India, which retaliated by downgrading privileges of certain category of US
diplomats, among other steps.

Have there been other instances of Indian diplomats getting into trouble?

In June this year, India’s high commissioner to New Zealand, Ravi Thapar, was recalled over
allegations that his wife had assaulted their chef. Police were denied permission to interview
both Thapar and his wife Sharmila because of the immunity they enjoyed. He was recalled to
India. In January 2011, the Indian government informed Britain’s Foreign and
Commonwealth Office of its decision to transfer senior diplomat Anil Verma to India. Verma
had been questioned by Scotland Yard on allegations that he had assaulted his wife. He too
escaped prosecution.

What are the other cases of diplomats invoking immunity?

In May 2003, Mansur Ali, the 24-year-old son of then Senegalese ambassador to India
Ahmed el Mansour Diop, was accused of murdering his driver Dilwar Singh, but the Delhi
police could not pick him up for questioning as he had diplomatic immunity. The ambassador
and his son soon left India. In 2011, Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor in Pakistan, was
arrested after he shot dead two armed men on a Lahore street. The US claimed immunity
since he had been admitted into Pakistan on a diplomatic passport. He was later let off by a
Pakistani court after he coughed up ‘blood money’ to the relatives of the men he killed. But
there is a case of a Czech diplomat working in U.S while driving rashly killed a girl and the
diplomatic immunity was waived off by the chile government.

Article 29 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations says that “the person of a
diplomatic agent shall be inviolable”, and that “he shall not be liable to any form of arrest or
detention”. Diplomatic immunity is based on the principle that diplomats should be able to
function without fear or intimidation in a foreign country. It was aimed at protecting
diplomats especially in times of international conflicts, and promoting civilised international
relations.

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Comments (0)Activists of All India Democratic Women’s Association shout slogans during a
protest outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in New Delhi. Two Nepalese girls who alleged
they were beaten and raped by a Saudi diplomat in India have been taken to a women’s
shelter in Nepal. (Source: Express file Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Saudi Arabian diplomat Majed Hassan Ashoor, accused of raping two Nepalese women, left
India without facing trial last week. The fact that Ashoor could invoke “diplomatic
immunity” to escape the wheels of justice has caused deep concern and outrage. In a space
dominated by hyper-ventilating TV and social media debates, outrage may sometimes seem
misplaced. In this case, it isn’t.

Article 29 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations says that “the person of a
diplomatic agent shall be inviolable”, and that “he shall not be liable to any form of arrest or
detention”. Diplomatic immunity is based on the principle that diplomats should be able to
function without fear or intimidation in a foreign country. It was aimed at protecting
diplomats especially in times of international conflicts, and promoting civilised international
relations.

Watch Video: (App users click here)

Over the past few decades, however, cases of abuse of diplomatic immunity have raised
questions on whether the Vienna Convention should be re-examined.

* In 1967, the Burmese ambassador to Sri Lanka shot his wife whom he suspected of having
an affair. The next morning, he built a pyre on the back lawn of his house and set the body on
fire. The ambassador reportedly told the Sri Lankan police that his house was Burmese
territory. Police could do nothing, because the ambassador enjoyed diplomatic immunity.
However, he was later recalled.

* In 1981, the son of a Ghanaian diplomat to the UN was identified as the perpetrator of at
least two — and possibly 15 — rapes and robberies in New York. But he never faced charges
because he, as a family member, enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

* In 1983, a Saudi Arabian diplomat’s son raped a 16-year-old in the US. He could not be
charged because of diplomatic immunity, and was said to have voluntarily left the US.
However, some months later, the girl encountered the accused at her workplace. The Saudi
embassy claimed to the US State Department that the victim had actually seen the brother of
the accused, and continued to insist that the accused had left the US. It was only after a
private investigator photographed the alleged rapist that he finally left the US.

* In April 2012, in Manila, Panamanian diplomat Erick Bairnals Shcks was accused of raping
a 19-year-old Filipino woman, but was released from detention because he enjoyed
diplomatic immunity.

* In 1987, a delegate from Barbados to the UN sought to extend diplomatic immunity to his
dog after it bit several neighbours in Pelham, New York, and warned of “possible
international consequences” if any action was taken against the German Shepherd.

In his authoritative paper ‘Rethinking Diplomatic Immunity’ in the American University
International Law Review in 2011, Mitchell S Ross wrote, “…Diplomats, their families,
personal servants, and staff abuse this privilege to escape prosecution for… offences ranging
from minor traffic violations to the most heinous criminal acts… Diplomatic immunity also
permits diplomats to escape civil liability in personal injury actions.”

Governments have generally respected diplomatic immunity, even through the World Wars.
Despite several cases of abuse of diplomatic immunity, however, they have rarely “waived”
immunity for their diplomats so they could face action in the country of posting. But there
have been exceptions.

* In 1999, the wife of the Japanese consul-general in Vancouver showed up in hospital with
two black eyes and a bruised neck. She told doctors that her husband had beaten her. The
diplomat admitted to punching his wife, but immunity prevented police from arresting him.
After a public uproar, however, the Japanese government waived the diplomat’s immunity.
He pleaded guilty in a Canadian court, but was discharged; he was, nonetheless, recalled to
Japan, where he was reassigned to office duty and had his pay cut.
* In 1997, the second-highest ranking Georgian diplomat in the US was involved in a car
accident that killed a 16-year-old Brazilian girl in Washington DC. The diplomat was alleged
to have been driving drunk and too fast, but escaped a breathalyser test due to immunity.
Public uproar was amplified after Georgia prepared to recall him, but the Georgian president
finally bowed to pressure and waived the diplomat’s immunity. He pleaded guilty and served
his sentence in the US.

* Last year, a Malaysian diplomat at the High Commission in Wellington claimed diplomatic
immunity after facing charges of burglary and assault with intent to rape after allegedly
following a 21-year-old woman to her home. The diplomat returned to Malaysia with the case
ongoing, provoking a sharp reaction from Prime Minister John Key. The Malaysians
eventually agreed to send the diplomat back, and the trial is set to begin this November.

Because diplomatic immunity is not waived often, the only options before an aggrieved
government are to expel the diplomat and to declare him persona non grata under Vienna
Convention’s Article 9, or to take the extreme step of terminating relations with his country.

In the history of international relations, bilateral relations have been terminated over
diplomatic immunity on only two occasions. Once, in 1984, after a Libyan embassy staffer
shot and killed a British policewoman and, earlier in 1979, between the US and Iran, after the
hostage crisis.

While diplomatic immunity is intended to “insulate” diplomats from harm, it does not
insulate their countries from a bad reputation and a blow to bilateral ties. The privilege of
diplomatic immunity is not for an individual’s benefit. If a diplomat acts outside his business
of conducting international relations, a question arises over whether his immunity still
applies.

The case of the Saudi diplomat who left India is a reminder of the need to review diplomatic
immunity. As the UN celebrates its 70th year this month, nations will do well to ponder over
mechanisms to ensure that more diplomats like Ashoor do not get away.

The Vienna Convention classifies emissaries according to three types of assignment:
embassy, consular, and international organisation. The embassy is the primary diplomatic
presence established by one country in another that it recognises. The embassy’s chief official
is the ambassador, who serves as his country’s official representative.

A nation has only one embassy per foreign country, usually in the capital, but may have
multiple consulate offices, generally in locations where many of its citizens live or visit. The
consulate, which is headed by a consul, provides government services to individuals abroad,
most having to do with travel. The consulate issues visas to foreign nationals, issues and
renews passports for its own citizens, and assists its citizens travelling abroad with issues of
marriage, divorce, adoption, legal emergencies, and the like.

A consulate may be managed not by a foreign service officer but a prominent national; such
posts are of limited authority and the persons holding them are called honorary consuls.
Diplomats posted in an Embassy get immunity, along with his or her family members.
Similarly, the administrative and technical staff in the embassy will get immunity, along with
one’s family. This is applicable according to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
For the diplomats posted in the consulates, they get diplomatic immunity except for charges
of serious crime if a warrant is issued. But their family doesn’t get that immunity. This is
based on the Vienna convention on Consular Relations.

It is possible for the official’s home country to waive immunity; this tends to happen only
when the official has committed a serious crime, unconnected with their diplomatic role or
has witnessed such a crime. Alternatively, the home country may prosecute the individual.

EMISSIONS FROM BIOMASS BURNING CROSS THE
HIMALAYAS

The organic acids present in the aerosols serve as a unique
fingerprint in identifying the source of pollution.
Contrary to the general assumption that the southern slopes of the Himalayas act as a barrier
and effectively block the transportation of pollutants from India and other parts of South
Asia, a study published a couple of days ago in the Nature Group journal Scientific Reports
finds sound evidence to prove otherwise.

Aerosols have been found to rise and cross the entire range of the Himalayas. So much so that
studies conducted in the northern slope of the Himalayas at an elevation of 4,276 metres
above MSL could find markers distinctive of pollution arising from India and other regions of
South Asia.

Local meteorological conditions and regional atmospheric flow process have been the two
major factors enabling the pollutants to cross over, notes Zhiyuan Cong, the first author of the
paper from the Institute of Tibetan Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing.

The culprit

The organic acids present in the aerosols serve as a unique fingerprint in identifying the
source of pollution. In this case, the dicarboxylic acids served as a fingerprint.

Though dicarboxylic acids can be produced by biomass burning, vehicular exhausts and
cooking (primary source), as well as atmospheric photooxidation (secondary source), the
researchers were able to pinpoint the source as biomass burning.

Levoglucosan is a specific marker of biomass burning — it is “produced through the
pyrolysis of cellulose during the combustion process,” Dr. Cong notes. Another unique
marker of biomass burning is the water-soluble potassium. Both the markers showed strong
positive correlation with dicarboxylic acids thereby confirming biomass burning as the source
of pollution.

Though the pollutants were found to reach the northern slopes of the Himalayas during all the
seasons — pre-monsoon, monsoon, post-monsoon and winter seasons — the amount of
aerosol found peaked during pre-monsoon. This, according to them, is one more indicator of
biomass burning as the source.

Agricultural burning and forest fires along the southern Himalayan foothills and the Indo-
Gangetic Plain reach a high during the pre-monsoon period. That probably is the reason why
the amount of biomass burning marker found peaked during the pre-monsoon time.

Dr. Cong attributes the local topographic relief of the Himalayas as playing an important role
in allowing the pollutants to cross the mountains and reach the northern slopes.

The up-valley wind during daytime, being maximum in the afternoon, helps in pushing the
pollutants to higher altitude. On the northern slopes, a down-valley wind is prevalent during
the same time. The combination of the up-valley wind in the southern slopes and down-valley
wind in the northern slopes allows the accumulation of aerosol on the glacier surfaces.

“Acting as efficient channels of south-to-north air flow, the mountain valleys could allow the
air pollutants to easily penetrate throughout the Himalayas,” the authors write.

“Regardless of where the pollutants come from, the study has provided compelling evidence
that they are due to biomass burning. We must step up the global effort to drastically cut
down biomass burning as much as we can,” Veerabhadran Ramanathan, an atmospheric
scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, who is
unconnected with the study, told Nature.

What is the reason behind greying of hair with age?

The reason for hair greying is that it is either due to intrinsic factors such as genetic defects,
hormones, age etc or extrinsic factors such as climate, pollutants, toxins, chemical exposure etc. Hair
greying is a physiological process and is not always related to one’s age as grey hair can occur in
teens and range into late 50’s and even older. Premature hair greying is basically hereditary and
inherited from parents or grandparents.

Hair follicle is composed of specialized group of cells called melanocytes and keratinocytes and
undergoes a cyclic process of degeneration and regeneration regulated by endocrine and paracrine
mediators. Melanocytes are responsible for the melanotic pigment production and for the delivery of
melanin to the keratinocytes of the hair follicle. Keratinocytes produce keratin, the chief protein in
hair. The natural colour of hair depends upon the amount and type of melanin pigments. Made from
two aminoacids such as tyrosine and phenylalanine, melanin pigments are produced by melanocytes
by a process called melanogenesis. There are two types of melanin : eumelanin, which is dark brown
or black, and pheomelanin, which is reddish yellow. They blend together to form a wide range of hair
colours and pass the melanin to the keratin – producing cells called keratinocytes.

This process employs the enzymes such as tyrosinase, tyrosinase-related protein 1, and tyrosinase –
related protein 2, and takes place inside of organelles called melanosomes. Melanin production has
been shown to occur only during the anagen phase ( a period of growth ) of the follicular cycle.

When the keratinocytes die, they retain the melanin. When failure of melanocyte stem cells (MSC) to
maintain production of melanocytes occur or melanocytes die, then the hair turns grey. With age
melanocytes lose their ability to make pigment then the colour is absent from new hair. The control of
this pigment production is complex but there are genetic factors. One factor is MCIR gene and alleles
of this gene are associated with red hair in humans. Thus hair follicle has a ‘melanogentic clock’
which slows down or stops melanocyte activity, thus decreasing the pigment our hair receives.
Due to the presence of superoxide dismutase ( SOD ) enzyme each of hair cells produce a tiny bit of
hydrogen peroxide on their own. As we get older and due to reduction of the enzyme catalase, these
tiny bits becomes a big bits and begin to damage hair follicles and block the melanin production.

So, hair bleaches itself from within and the pigmentation becomes grey, then to white. In younger
people catalase breaks the hydrogen peroxide down into water and oxygen and removes it from the
body. As we age, we lose some of this enzyme and buildup of hydrogen peroxide occur. Stress causes
the release of numerous neurotransmitters in our fight or flight response and long term production of
this can cause DNA damage and promote aging and greying of hair.

REPROMULGATION GAME (LAW ARTICLE 123)
The Narendra Modi government has repromulgated the Right to Fair Compensation and
Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance,
2014 a second time. Originally introduced on December 31, 2014, the ordinance was
repromulgated on April 3, 2015, and then again on May 30.

Article 123 of the Constitution authorises the President to promulgate ordinances if a law is
“immediately necessary” and at any time, except when both Houses of Parliament are in
session. But ordinances aren’t permanent. They lapse unless they are converted into Acts
within a specified duration. The Land Ordinance would have lapsed on June 3. To avoid that,
the Modi government repromulgated it. But the question is, is this legal?

The Wadhwa decision

This is not a new question. The Supreme Court addressed it in D. C. Wadhwa v. State of
Bihar (1986), when it held that it is unconstitutional to repromulgate ordinances, unless in
exceptional circumstances. Ordinances themselves are an exception, the Court noted. The
primary authority to enact legislation is the legislature. It is only to tide over a temporary
urgency that the executive resorts to an ordinance. But to repromulgate it is to circumvent the
legislature’s primacy; it is an underhanded way of prolonging the life of an ordinance.

In a book, authored by the petitioner about the verdict, D.C. Wadhwa documented how the
Bihar Assembly had effectively stopped functioning. The executive had taken over, and
ordinances were being systematically repromulgated to keep them in effect, at times, for as
long as 15 years. Aghast at this misuse of power, five judges hurriedly declared
repromulgation unconstitutional or a “fraud on the Constitution”.

This was in 1986, before which, interestingly, the Central government had never
repromulgated ordinances. The practice began only in 1992 when the Narasimha Rao Cabinet
resorted to it, thus starting a trend. During the 1990s, 196 ordinances were promulgated in all;
almost 25 per cent of them (53 ordinances) were repromulgated. How could a practice that
had already been declared unconstitutional, a fraud no less, be so common?

The Wadhwa exception

This was because, unfortunately, the general rule in the Wadhwa verdict came with an
exception. It was stated that the government may, occasionally, be unable “to introduce and
push through” a Bill to convert an ordinance either because “the Legislature [has] too much
legislative business” or the time at its disposal is short. In such a case, the verdict stated, the
President may “legitimately find that it is necessary to repromulgate the Ordinance”. And
such “repromulgation of the Ordinance”, the Court said, “may not be open to attack”.

This makes little sense. In our system of government, the executive has complete control over
parliamentary sessions, their durations, and the business agenda. Ministers (occasionally in
consultation with the Speaker, Chairman and others) decide which legislative matters to list
and when. If there are important matters to be dealt with, surely the proper response is to
lengthen the parliamentary session and not resort to ordinances?

Because of the Wadhwa exception, the executive today may justify repromulgating an
ordinance by simply withholding it from a parliamentary vote and then declaring that time
was too short to deal with it in Parliament. The formula is simple: don’t present an ordinance
before the two Houses, and keep the sessions short. Apparently, a “fraud on the Constitution”
may alchemise into lawful action through sheer inaction.

The Wadhwa verdict has encouraged, rather than prohibited repromulgations, and
incentivised shorter parliamentary sessions. The 1990s speak for themselves. After Mr. Rao,
Deve Gowda, I.K. Gujral and Atal Bihari Vajpayee ran minority coalition governments.
Unable to enact legislation properly, given their lack of numbers, these governments took to
Article 123 as an alternative. Political expediency, not legislative urgency, motivated and
spiked these ordinances.

Governments, though, were always careful to claim the ‘proper’ excuse: the Houses were too
busy to deal with the ordinances. In Gyanendra Kumar v .Union of India (1997), 10
repromulgations of the Rao Cabinet were put under the scanner. Two lawyers petitioned the
Delhi High Court to pierce the Cabinet veil and see the ordinances for what they were: a
“fraud on the Constitution”. The government quickly took refuge in the Wadhwa exception:
because of “heavy and urgent” workload, “the Bills could not be debated upon” in
Parliament. Therefore, repromulgations were necessary, it argued. The Court bought it,
without testing the veracity of those claims. Merely uttering the exception, it seems, is
sufficient to satisfy the exception.

The Wadhwa exception must be reconsidered, an opportunity for which is at hand. A petition
challenging the constitutionality of the Land Ordinance 2015 is pending before the Supreme
Court. The petitioners argue that the ordinance was repromulgated in April simply because
the government didn’t have the numbers to properly enact it. Even the Modi government
acknowledges this. The Court must settle the issue. And in doing so, it would do well to
remember that Parliament is a not a constraint on the lawmaking process; rather, it is the only
way by which laws may be properly made.

(Repromulgation began in 1992, with the Narasimha Rao Cabinet, and soon started a
trend, that has since been over-exploited

WHY ARE ALL SATELLITES AND MISSILES LAUNCHED
FROM THE EAST COAST?

A launch near the equator towards the east direction will get an initial
boost equal to the velocity of Earth surface.
Before we discover the reason, let us know about the Earth’s rotation. When seen from the
North Pole, the Earth rotates anti-clock wise. It means in general term, from west to east as
we see the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. The surface velocity of rotation varies
from point to point on the Earth. It is about 1600 km per hour or about 460 meters in a second
near the equator.

The velocity gradually reduces as we move to the poles and it is practically zero there. A
satellite launched from the sites near the equator towards the east direction will get an initial
boost equal to the velocity of Earth surface. This is similar to an athlete circling round and
round before throwing a discus or a shot put.

The initial boost helps in cutting down the cost of rockets used to launch the satellites.

This is the major reason for launching satellites in the east ward direction. But this benefit
can be taken only for such satellites which are placed in geo-stationary orbit or which circle
the Earth parallel to the equator. Such satellites are usually communication satellites or
satellites used for scientific research such as ISS.

There are other satellites which are placed in polar orbits moving across the equator in north
south direction and used mainly for mapping or some times for spying. Such satellites are
generally launched in south ward or north ward direction and therefore cannot take advantage
of the Earth’s rotation.

ALLERGIC TO AIR-CONDITIONERS?

Got the sneezes and the sniffles? It could be caused by the
air-conditioner
The temperature has dropped a notch; there's a hint of rain and more grey than blue in the
sky. But the summer, at least in Chennai, is by no means over. Anytime now, the sun will be
back from its sabbatical and the men from the Electricity Board will peer into your fuse box
and shake their heads sadly. The air-conditioner, you see, does more than just overload the
electricity grid. It often bungs up the nose, lines the throat with thorns and makes you feel
miserable. At least that's what a friend, who sought respite from the wretched mugginess in
an air-conditioned room, told me.

Susceptibility

She is, of course, hardly alone; legions of office-goers complain of headaches and stuffy
noses when they wrap up work. Mums fret over their infants as they snuffle and snort all
night in air-conditioned bedrooms; and the elderly talk fondly of a time when air-conditioners
were unknown to humankind. And yet, though many people sleep in an air-conditioned
environment, not everyone ends up with the sniffles. “It is a question of susceptibility,” says
Dr. H. Ganapathy, consultant ENT surgeon, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai. “People who have a
sensitive nose, who’re predisposed to allergies, those with compromised immune systems and
those who’re already suffering from an infection, say, common cold, are especially prone to
the ill-effects of air-conditioning,” he says.
The symptoms of rhinitis precipitated by air-conditioners range from blocked nose, and
repeated sneezing all the way to tonsillitis, pharyngitis, sinusitis and body-ache. “It can affect
the quality of life,” says Dr. Ganapathy. “If the nose is constantly blocked, you can feel sick
and irritable, and your efficiency goes down. As for children, how can they play, study or
attend school comfortably? So the important thing to do is identify why the symptoms
occur.”

Cause and effect

Sleeping directly in a draught of air can compromise the airways, especially when there is an
inherent block — either a blockage in the nose caused by a deviated septum or due to an
infection such as a cold. But very often, when the air-conditioning filters have not been
cleaned, if there are stuffed toys or pets in the room, pollen (from flowers/indoor plants),
chemicals (mosquito repellents), or perfumes (aerosol room-fresheners), the symptoms can
get aggravated in sensitive people.

Often, it’s people who work in centrally air-conditioned buildings, who complain frequently
about rhinitis and infections. “In such buildings, if the air ducts are not cleaned regularly, it
leads to what we call the ‘sick building syndrome’. Infections spread easily in a closed
environment,” says Dr. Ganapathy. People susceptible to rhinitis are also advised not to
frequently move between a hot, humid area and a cold, dry one. “The thermostat should
ideally be set at 22 or 23 degree C; and it’s important to have humidifiers in place. When
there is insufficient moisture in the air, the nose gets dry,” he says.

Several over-the-counter medications and nasal sprays can provide relief, although the
benefits are short-lived. Besides, drugs are not a practical, long-term solution for a young
boy/girl who develops allergic rhinitis. Steam inhalation is usually flogged as a good option,
as it clears the nasal passage; but Dr. Ganapathy cautions against doing it when you have a
bacterial infection, since it can carry the bacteria deep into the ear, leading to an ear infection.

“You have to find out the basic issue and treat that, not just the symptoms,” says Dr.
Ganapathy. Typically, wait for a few days to see if the symptoms subside; if they do not run
their course (as they would, if it were an infection), or you don’t feel any better in a week,
you need to see a doctor. Identify if there are polyps or a deviated septum in the nose that is
obstructing the free movement of air; find out if you’re allergic to dust/ mould/ smells and
check if pollution is exacerbating your problem. Periodic maintenance of the air-conditioning
filters is essential. If you can’t avoid the triggers of your allergy — i.e., if air-conditioning
bothers you, but your place of work is fully air-conditioned — then you need to discuss with
your doctor how best to alleviate your suffering.

With a/c now a necessity, these tips may be useful

* A/C maintenance is the crux of the issue. If the filters and ducts are cleaned regularly, it
can minimise the problem.

* Maintain room temperature at a comfortable 22 or 23 degree C.

* Ensure there are humidifiers in A/C spaces.

* Keep out stuffed toys and pets from A/C bedrooms.
Dr. Ganapathy explains sinusitis

Imagine the nose is the main hall from which various rooms branch out. The rooms would be
the sinuses. Air goes through the main hall and into the sinuses; mucous secreted there
drains through the nose. When the nose gets blocked because of allergies, there is no
ventilation and no drainage. So the sinuses, which should normally feel light (like a balloon
filled with air) become heavy because of the trapped mucous. We then try to open the door by
using anti-histamines or nasal sprays.

NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is the premier body that investigates
abuses and violations of human rights in India. Set up in 1993, the NHRC has wide-ranging
powers to investigate, recommend prosecutions, and award compensations for human rights
violations. High-profile cases investigated by the Commission include encounter killings by
the police and other acts of violence by the state. In 2002, the Commission under former
Chief Justice J.S. Verma, was the first official body to visit Gujarat after the riots; it moved
the Supreme Court to transfer cases outside the State to secure a fair trial.

The NHRC, set up under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, consists of nine
members. Four are ex-office appointments — serving Chairpersons of the National
Commissions for Minorities, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Women. Two are
persons who have done work in the area of human rights. And three are from the judiciary: a
sitting or retired judge of the Supreme Court; a Chief Justice of a High Court; and, the most
important of all, a former Chief Justice of India (CJI) who heads the Commission.

Needing an icon of independence
That the head has to be a former CJI is for good reason. Commonly, human rights
violations are committed by, or with the connivance of, or allowed to be perpetrated by
high-level political leaders, the police or other officers. The public needs to have
unquestionable confidence that these cases will be investigated without a tinge of favour,
by the most independent persons available. The Commission’s public face and guiding
force is the Chairperson. Hence, the insistence on a former CJI as the Chairperson of
the Commission. Even a puisne judge of the Supreme Court is not to be considered for
the post; nothing less than a person who has occupied the highest rank in the judiciary
will do. If there is an icon of independence in the country who has received no favour
from the government and is fearless about tackling the powers that be, surely it is the
CJI. So proceeds the Act.

FILM CERTIFICATION: A, U, A/U AND EVERYTHING
IN BETWEEN

The question of censorship vs certification, in a vibrant democracy, and in
an age where everything is a download away, needs to be addressed with a
great deal more thought than it has been till now.

The two steps forward, three shuffles back of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)
over the Punjabi film The Mastermind: Jinda Sukha is just the latest instance of the
deepening chasm between ‘censorship’ and ‘certification’ in today’s India. The revoking of a
duly certified film underlines the growing trend of ‘if there are people who don’t like it, and
will make a noise about it, we won’t show it’.

The difference between certification and censorship is vast, and unbridgeable, and rightly so.
Censorship is ‘to censor’, to arrogate unto an appointed body or an individual the power to
decide what can be watched, and what cannot. Back when the British instituted censorship,
they framed rules to restrict exhibition of such cinematic works as could potentially be
considered subversive or ‘pro-freedom’.

After Independence, when The Cinematograph Act of 1952 came into being, ‘censorship’
came to mean much more. The guidelines of the Act, while accepting the constitutional right
of freedom of speech, which extends to press and cinema, are a detailed list of what can be
considered ‘reasonable restrictions’: any work that can be deemed against “the sovereignty
and integrity of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or
morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence”.

Basically, that covers Everything. And the implementation of such ‘rules and guidelines’ by
people who misuse or raise them as red flags without any understanding of the arts, rather
than interpret them wisely, is what has led us to the situation where we can vote,
marry, procreate and decide on many other crucial decisions that impact our lives, but not on
what we can watch in our theatres.

Early in this writer’s tenure on the CBFC, a wizened officer had said, ‘If we try going strictly
by the guidelines, no film will be passed’. But the corrosive extent of the ‘restrictions’, which
to a long-time journalist and film critic were far from being reasonable, became evident only
gradually.

It also became clear just how, all other things being equal, a bunch of individuals can find it
easier to veer towards censorship not because they themselves necessarily favour it, but by a
default decision which falls into the ‘let’s not offend anyone’ sphere. And that, given the
imperatives — political, cultural, moral — that go with such a decision, and the ease with
which we are all offended by everything, the mandate of the Board — certification, not
censorship — is the first to be sacrificed.

If the recreation of the Jinda-Sukha tale, even in the most mainstream of manner, causes
offence to a ‘section of society’, why, the easiest thing to do is to stop the film from
releasing. If a Kaum De Heere, on the assassination of Indira Gandhi, will cause ‘communal
tension’, ban it. If the Kamalahasan film Vishwaroopam causes ‘hurt to Muslim sentiments’,
demand changes. It matters not which government is in power: any film that is seen to be
challenging the status quo, or brings up disquieting facts even in fiction, invites an outright
ban, or mutilation before a certificate is granted.

Certification is a two-tiered process. Depending on the language it is made in, a film goes
first to an examining committee or an advisory panel at a regional centre (there are nine in the
country: Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Hyderabad,
Cuttack, Guwahati). This process — a viewing by the panel — leads to a decision on the
certification. Most producers naturally want a U certificate, because that gives them
unrestricted theatrical (and television access for subsequent screenings). If there is content
unsuitable for children below 12, cuts and deletions are suggested, and depending on those,
the certification can be either a U or a U/A. If the film is clearly adult-themed, and adult in
content, an A certificate is handed out.

If a filmmaker is unhappy or dissatisfied at the certification at this stage, she or he can ask for
a second viewing. A Revising Committee cannot have any of the members who were on the
earlier committee; and it also has to have a Board member (or more) on it, mandatorily. It is
only at this stage that a Board member gets involved with the certification process: there is
nothing to prevent a Board member from being part of the initial viewing, but their presence
becomes mandatory only at the revising stage.

Most revising committee screenings usually lead to a satisfactory conclusion. But if there is
still contention, the filmmaker is free to take her work to the FCAT, or the Film Certification
Appellate Tribunal, which is a body set up under a retired justice of the High Court, based in
New Delhi. Once the film is certified, it can, notionally, be shown anywhere in the country.

But equally clearly, ‘notional’ is the operative word, because at any step, the release and
exhibition of the film can be stopped, both at the state level, and by the Central government.
What is the point of going through a certification process if censorship hovers so close?

The question of censorship vs certification, in a vibrant democracy, and in an age where
everything is a download away, needs to be addressed with a great deal more thought than it
has been till now. Knee-jerk has only brought us to our knees.
Why does our heart beat rate rise when we get frightened?
Our body responds to stress, worry, anxiety, fear and excitement by activating the “fight or
flight” system. At chemical level, our body releases a series of hormones that makes us
hyper-alert, focused, and energised, and this chemical cascade causes increased heart rate,
respiratory rate, and perspiration.

From an evolutionary standpoint, this is a system we needed in place for survival.

When a danger is encountered, our brain just sends signals to our entire body warning us that
we need to leave the life-threatening situation. The hormones then create adrenaline that will
keep us awake and alive while we are fighting or fleeing. Our cells too contribute by keeping
everything working and pumping and so that adrenaline can pump through our blood. While
the adrenaline is pumping through our blood, so are the fat and sugar. That fat and sugar
make our bronchi open wider causing heart beat and breathing rate to accelerate. That is why
our heart beats faster when we get frightened.

Normally, heart-rate control is a balance between the two circuits of the Autonomic Nervous
System – the Parasympathetic Nervous System and the Sympathetic Nervous System. The
Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is often referred to as our “fight or flight” system. The
Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS) is its counterpart, and can be termed as the “rest
and digest” system. Together, the PSNS and SNS work in all areas of the body to help us act,
react, recover and survive

IS THE RAJYA SABHA ESSENTIAL?
The bicameral nature of the Parliament is likely to be interpreted as a ‘basic structure’ of the
Indian Constitution, rendering it incapable of being amended.

The Upper House of the Indian Parliament traces its direct history to the first bicameral
legislature introduced in British India in 1919 as a consequence of the Montagu-Chelmsford
reforms. The Council of State, as it was called then, was made up of 60 members, 34 of
whom were Indian and elected by a narrow and elite group. There were no women in the
council and the direct election was conducted under a framework of communal franchise that
the Indian National Congress opposed vehemently.

Immediately before and after Independence, the bicameral question was raised in the
Constituent Assembly debates. Professor Shibban Lal Saksena represented the position
against a bicameral legislature thus: “In this motion, we have been asked to vote for two
Houses, the Lower House and the Upper House. I wish to point out that our experience has
been that the Upper House acts as a clog in the wheel of progress. I think that everywhere in
the world the experience about Upper Houses has been the same. It has always acted as a sort
of hindrance to quick progress.”

Many years later, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, speaking as the first chairman of the Rajya
Sabha, said, “There is a general impression that this House cannot make or unmake
governments and, therefore, it is a superfluous body. But there are functions, which a revising
chamber can fulfil fruitfully. Parliament is not only a legislative but a deliberative body. So
far as its deliberative functions are concerned, it will be open to us to make very valuable
contributions, and it will depend on our work whether we justify this two chamber system,
which is now an integral part of our Constitution.”

Even though some ancient civilizations had a bicameral legislature, the modern version can
be traced to estates of the realm in medieval Europe: think of it as a European caste system
with the clergy, nobility and commoners representing the three estates. During the French
Revolution, many arguments for and against a bicameral system were made. Most modern
democracies that have a bicameral legislature do so on the grounds of a federal polity. The
role of the Upper House is to be a deliberative body that would balance what James Madison,
the author of the Federalist Papers, called “fickleness and passion” of an elected Lower
House. The relative size, scope and power of the two Houses are different in different
countries. The US Senate has two senators from each state with the Senate holding equal
power to the House of Representatives. A (very large) House of Lords in the UK has an
advisory role to the House of Commons.

India’s Rajya Sabha has equal powers to the Lok Sabha except for money bills, where it has
no jurisdiction. It is a 250-member body, 12 of whom are appointed from the field of art,
literature, science and social services. Other members are elected by an electoral college
made up of state legislators.

Is the Rajya Sabha necessary today?

The contemporary argument against it comes from two primary angles. The first one suggests
that a Lok Sabha that has representation from several regional parties more than adequately
represents a federal country. The recent reversal on the land acquisition ordinance is an
example of this federal character of the Lok Sabha in practice. The second argument charges
that the Rajya Sabha has become a haven for losers in elections, crony capitalists,
compromised journalists and party fundraisers. Far from being deliberative, the Rajya Sabha
appears to have descended into the same fickleness and passion as the Lok Sabha and has
shown a disconcerting trend away from the decorum expected from it.

Now for the reality check. It is virtually impossible to abolish the Rajya Sabha without
adopting a new Indian Constitution. The bicameral nature of the Indian Parliament is likely to
be interpreted as a “basic structure” of the Indian Constitution, rendering it incapable of being
amended. Even if this were to be tested, it would be ensnared in a judicial process for a very
long time. It is much more practical to try and reform the Rajya Sabha than seeking to abolish
it.

One useful reform step would be to have members of the Rajya Sabha be directly elected by
the citizens of a state. This will reduce cronyism and patronage appointments. This step
should be combined with equal representation for each state (say, five members) so that large
states do not dominate the proceedings in the House. This streamlined Rajya Sabha should
remain deliberative, but there should be deadlines set for responding to bills initiated in the
Lok Sabha.

The Rajya Sabha is here to stay. It is our responsibility to make it an effective and time-
bound contributor to India’s parliamentary system.

Only then will India be able to make (progress) haste, slowly.
P.S. “Men are mortal. So are ideas. An idea needs propagation as much as a plant needs
watering. Otherwise both will wither and die,” said B.R. Ambedkar, the principal author of
India’s constitution.

FROM THE LAB | NANO TALK: LIQUID FUEL GETS AN
EFFICIENCY SHOT

Developing an efficient fuel using nanoparticles of metals like titanium and cerium for
cleaner combustion during aero propulsion, power generation etc.

Most of the engines today use liquid fuel to produce energy. Internal combustion engines in
automobile industry, aero propulsion engines, and those used in the power generation
industry, all of them use some sort of liquid fuel.

The efficiency of liquid fuels cannot be increased by using the existing technologies. But
given the ever-increasing demand for energy in the developing countries, and its harmful
impact on environment, the need to get more out of less fuel has been growing.

In our laboratory, we have been working on combustion engines for some time, trying to see
whether the current levels of efficiency can be enhanced. In some places in Germany,
nanoparticles (nanometer in scale) of metals like titanium and cerium were being used as an
additive in bus fuel, and it was observed that these had increased the efficiency of the engine
and reduced soot. But the exact mechanism behind this process was largely unknown.

So we decided to use these nanoparticles as additives in liquid fuel that is utilised in many
industrial activities. We added varying quantities of nanoparticles to individual droplets of
fuel, and observed how it affected the ‘bursting’ of the droplet. Bursting is a very important
step in combustion, because it makes the whole process efficient through secondary
atomisation, a process in which the liquid breaks up into very fine mist.

More bubbles result in vigorous atomisation leading to a larger surface area. It results in
greater mixing and combustion efficiency. In fact, inside gas turbines or engines, the fuel is
actually sprayed into the combustion chamber.

When a droplet loaded with nanoparticles, bursts, it naturally spreads the daughter droplets
homogeneously over a larger area, improving the fuel combustion process.

We observed that at dilute nanoparticle concentration, the droplet had a greater probability of
bursting, and hence spread the nanoparticle-loaded fuel droplets. However, at higher particle
concentrations, the droplet was less likely to burst because the particles formed a porous shell
inside the droplet. Also, at lower concentration, the frequency of ejection of secondary
droplets was greater.

The work has far reaching practical implications. Better atomisation and mixing of fuels
through the secondary atomisation pathway, as indicated by our work, can lead to better
combustion and an increase in efficiency. Even a small percentage of improvement in fuel
efficiency can save millions of rupees.
In addition, nanoparticles in liquid fuel also act as scavengers for pollutants. When these
nanoparticles burn, there is a possibility of reduction in soot and an improvement in the
ignition delay timing can also be seen. Both enable cleaner combustion, crucial in these days
of environmental concerns.

Our work essentially has highlighted the intrinsic physical mechanisms responsible for
nanofuel combustion. This in turn enables better design, customisation and favourably affects
multiple domains ranging from aero propulsion, power generation to IC engines.