The HINDU Notes – 28th April 2019 - VISION

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Sunday, April 28, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 28th April 2019

📰 A 15,600-year old human footprint

•A 15,600-year old human footprint discovered in southern Chile is believed to be the oldest ever found in the Americas, according to researchers. The footprint was first discovered in 2010 by a student at the Universidad Austral of Chile. Scientists then worked for years to rule out the possibility that the print may have belonged to some other species of animal, and to determine the fossil’s estimated age.

📰 Data theft bid hits Ayushman Bharat

•Ayushman Bharat, the government run health insurance programme, on Saturday confirmed that there had been an attempted security breach. “There have been attempts to get illegal access to large medical data including sensitive personal information,’’ said Dr. Indu Bhushan, CEO Ayushman Bharat - Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.

•Alerted about the intrusion 48 hours ago, the National Health Authority — which administers the programme — has now written to all State Governments alerting them about the threat and warning that no sensitive data be shared.

•Describing the nature of the attempted breach, Dr. Bhushan said contact had been made with Ayushman Bharat employees urging them to leak sensitive information on the available health profiles of those covered by the scheme.

•With more than 3 crore e-cards issued countrywide to individuals covered under the scheme and over 21 lakh hospital admissions, worth ₹2,820 crore, having been approved, the scheme is one of the world’s largest state-run health insurance programmes, according to the government. Health data is extremely sensitive and of great value to commercial and pharmaceutical companies.

•“We have this data enveloped in multiple layers of security which is tough to penetrate,” explained Dr. Bhushan. “We also have a stringent access system for those within Ayushman Bharat and we were alerted, almost immediately, when the breach was attempted,’’ he said.

•The authority is now also seeking assistance from the public to help ensure that the programme stays cybersecure and that patient data and records are not compromised in any manner.

•“We are making a public appeal to please report such cases to @AyushmanNHA at the earliest for proper investigation and actions to mitigate any potential risk,’’ Dr. Bhushan said.

•Ayushman Bharat has also had to combat multiple attempts to defraud individuals and companies “using our programmes as a disguise,” said an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “People have been offered jobs and some have even been duped saying that we charge for registration. All of this is illegal,’’ the official added.

•The official said that an FIR had been registered in Delhi on Friday after some persons came to the city headquarters to deposit ₹10,000 as training fee for a job that was being offered on the programme’s behalf. “All the documents given to them were fake. Three weeks ago we busted a centre that was being run on the outskirts of the capital where people were being charged to get their names registered for accessing healthcare under our programme,’’ he added.

📰 Submit report on any adverse reaction to pelvic mesh, J&J told

Emulate USFDA in banning use of the product, govt. requested

•Days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned surgical pelvic meshes — used to support the abnormal descent of the pelvis in women — following reports of adverse reactions, the Union Health Ministry has written to pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson seeking information on the import, sale and stock of the product in the last three years.

•“We have also requested for information/report on any adverse reactions,’’ said a senior health official.

•The Ministry is also looking at the fact that the company’s licence to import it expired in March 2019 and it hasn’t come up for renewal yet.

•While the Indian manufactures claim that they aren’t making vaginal mesh, an official added that other international mesh makers — Boston Scientific and Coloplast — were not registered for the import of mesh in India.

•Seeking an immediate ban on the use of the product, Rajiv Nath, forum coordinator of the Indian Medical Device Industry, said: “Our regulators approve import of notified medical devices on the basis of the USFDA and other such regulatory approval so when these countries ban specific devices, Indian regulators too need to automatically cancel import licences and impose the same restrictions. It is distressing when these reputed overseas manufactures continue to sell in India suspect quality batches of products that they have recalled or been asked to recall by their regulatory authority abroad.’’

•Explained Malini Aisola, health researcher, co-convenor of the All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN): “As per AIDAN’s analysis, a number of mesh products for use in hernia repair, urinary incontinence and prolapse repair have been approved in India. Given the horrific adverse events associated with the pelvic mesh in Western countries which has led to the ban, the Indian regulatory body must take immediate measures to protect patients — by initiating local investigations and issuing show cause notices on the way to ordering mandatory withdrawal of these products.’’

•She added that it was tragically ironic that the Indian regulator willingly relies on the decisions of foreign regulatory authorities to grant companies access to the market, but was reluctant to act on the decisions of those same agencies to protect patient safety.

📰 India issues advisory for citizens travelling to Sri Lanka

“Indian nationals intending to travel to Sri Lanka are advised not to undertake non-essential travel,” said the advisory

•As more violence erupted in Sri Lanka during raids by security forces in the wake of the Easter bombings, the government has advised Indian citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to Sri Lanka.

•“In view of the prevailing security situation in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of terror attacks on 21 April 2019, Indian nationals intending to travel to Sri Lanka are advised not to undertake non-essential travel,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement on April 27, adding that the nationwide emergency and night-time curfews in place will make travelling within Sri Lanka more difficult.

•Several countries including the U.S., the U.K, Canada and Australia, who had issued travel advisories after the Easter bombing, have upgraded their advisories after reports that more attacks could be planned by the same group.

•On Friday, the Australian government said in its advisory that terrorists were “likely to carry out further attacks in Sri Lanka. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners”, while the U.S. raised its advisory to a “Level 3”, telling American nationals to “reconsider travel to Sri Lanka” and ordering the departure of all schoolgoing children of U.S. government employees and others.

•Indian officials have been concerned about the possibility of more terror attacks in Sri Lanka, as well as their links to groups in South India, particularly Tamil Nadu.

•India’s travel advisory came nearly a week after the bombings on April 21 at a number of churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, carried out by suicide bombers believed to be members of an ISIS-inspired group the National Towheeth Jamaat (NTJ), that killed more than 250 people.

•Subsequently, Sri Lankan police have narrowed in on others affiliated to the bombers, making several arrests, and recoveries of a large amount of explosives materials.

•At least 15 people were killed inside a house in the Eastern town of Kalmunai, where three suicide bombers detonated explosives and others exchanged gunfire with police.

📰 Lens on U.K. Home Office over treatment of Asian students

Their visas cancelled over charges of cheating during tests

•Britain’s Home Office is under investigation by the country’s spending watchdog over its treatment of thousands of students — from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh — who had their visas cancelled over allegations of cheating on English language tests that they had taken to come to the U.K.

•The investigation follows years of warnings from campaigners that tens of thousands of students had been unjustly treated, after being mistakenly deemed to have cheated on their tests in a crackdown by the government that followed revelations of fraud at two testing centres.

•While many have been deported, others have returned home voluntarily, unable or unwilling to contest the charges against them, while other have had their lives disrupted — and access to basic public services blocked — as they remained in the UK, attempting to appeal the decision taken against them. Around 34,000 students and entrepreneurs have been accused of cheating, and a further 22,000 had their results questioned.

‘Important step’

•The National Audit Office (NAO) said in a statement that it was “looking at the information held by the Home Office on the number of people alleged to have cheated and the action the Home Office has taken to date”.

•“This is an important step on the road to justice for thousands of innocent students,” said Nazek Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice, which has been working to support impacted students and has been working with the NAO over the past few months, including holding focus groups with impacted students.

•“The Home Office’s handling of the issue has been spectacularly unfair and opaque, and it’s high time the truth was brought to light.”

•“This is one of the biggest forgotten immigration scandals of [Theresa] May’s hostile environment policies,” said Zubaida Haque, deputy director of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think tank, referring to the phrase used by the Prime Minister while she was still Home Secretary to describe the government’s approach to immigration. It had tried to drive net migration from the “hundreds of thousands” to the “tens of thousands.”

•During a parliamentary debate last year, MPs called for an independent investigation, as well as an apology and potential compensation from the government, with many drawing a parallel between the situation and the controversy over the treatment of Commonwealth citizens, mostly from the Caribbean that has come to be known as the Windrush scandal.

•For a number of years now, the Home Office has been taking foreign students, workers and others to court on fraud charges to obtain the English-language qualification to stay in the U.K. Since 2010, a number of institutions, including Educational Testing Services (ETS), an American company with many TOEIC centres, have been responsible for running exams — covering different levels of English language proficiency required by different types of visas — that were recognised by the U.K. government.

Evidence of fraud

•In February 2014, a BBC Panorama investigation found evidence of fraud at an ETS centre, a trigger for the British government’s deportation programme.

•Since then, thousands of people, who had gained their qualification via ETS centres across the U.K., were accused of fraud. The system used to determine whether fraud was committed has faced much criticism and challenges in courts. Campaigners say blanket decisions on questionable voice recognition software was used as the basis for the charge that proxies were used to take the test.

📰 $64 bn deals signed at BRI summit: Xi

•Chinese President Xi Jinping said Saturday $64 billion in deals were signed at a summit on his Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and more nations would join the global infrastructure programme.

•Mr. Xi and 37 world leaders wrapped up a three-day forum in Beijing with pledges to ensure that projects on the new Silk Road are green and financially sustainable.

•“This year's forum sends a clear message: more and more friends and partners will join in the Belt and Road co-operation,” Mr. Xi said. A document released after the meeting showed Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Luxembourg, Jamaica, Peru, Italy, Barbados, Cyprus and Yemen were the latest countries to join the club.

📰 Pharma exports grow 11%, cross $19 bn

Growth comes amid challenges of margin pressure, more regulatory scrutiny, says Pharmexcil D-G

•India’s pharmaceutical exports grew a robust 10.72% in 2018-19, and raced past the $19-billion mark for the first time, a performance marked by a rebound in the U.S. market, improved show in almost all the top 25 destinations and across categories.

•Exports touched $19.13 billion as against $17.28 billion of 2017-18, the previous highest, details available with Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India show. While it fell short of the $20-billion mark that was widely expected to be crossed, the performance was still special. Though pharma exports have done relatively better with the nearly 25% rise to $13.30 billion in 2011-12, the circumstances under which the latest performance came were different, Pharmexcil Director General Ravi Uday Bhaskar said.

•Making matters challenging for exporters over the last few years has been the increased regulatory scrutiny, pressure on margins in the face of mounting competition and the need to geographically diversify the market. In the five years to 2018-19, exports had declined in one year (2016-17). Other factors such as price control in Germany, Brexit and the lockdown in the U.S. also influenced trends.

Good practices help

•Positives for the exporters were increase in the price of APIs/bulk drugs, the health regulators classifying lesser number of cases, post inspection, under the official action indicated class that sometimes led to import alerts.

•According to Mr. Bhaskar, improved good manufacturing practices (GMP) maintenance would have saved more mandays that otherwise would have been lost to carrying out rectifications suggested by regulatory authorities.

•Category-wise, drug formulations and biologicals with $13.56 billion ($12.09 billion) dominated the 2018-19 exports. The 12.13% increase was the highest across all categories and took drug formulations and biologicals share in total exports to 70.87%. Bulk drugs and drug intermediates, the other mainstay of exports, was next at $3.89 billion ($3.52 billion) or a share of a little over 20% to the total.

•Herbal products was the only segment with negative growth, while exports of vaccines, surgicals and Ayush increased.

•Region-wise it was North America, primarily the U.S. market, that figured at the top, accounting for $6.14 billion or nearly one-third of the total exports. Compared to 2017-18, the change was 14.92%. The U.S., specifically with $5.82 billion, contributed to 30.42% of the exports.

•In terms of their contribution to the exports, Africa with $3.43 billion and 17.96%; and the European Union with $3.03 billion and 15.70% occupied the top slots. ASEAN, LAC, West Asia markets for Indian pharma grew at a rate above the overall export growth, he said.

•Country wise, the U.S. with $5.82 billion led the list. While the U.K., South Africa and Russia followed, the rate at which exports grew was higher to Brazil (17.81%); Canada (41.54%); the UAE (102.85%) and Bangladesh (17.79%).

📰 Will closing LoC trade end terrorism?

Will closing LoC trade end terrorism?
With the government withdrawing a Kashmir-specific confidence building measure, are the chances for peace better or worse?

•The story so far: On April 18, the government announced suspension of tradefrom midnight at two designated points along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, citing concerns about “misuse” by elements from across the border to smuggle weapons, narcotics and fake currency. The Ministry of Home Affairs has said that cross-LoC trade will only be resumed after it puts in place stricter measures and systems. What does the suspension of trade mean for the two countries?

When did trade across LoC begin?

•Trade across the LoC began in October 2008, as part of the Kashmir-specific confidence building measures (CBMs) that had been initiated by former Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr. Manmohan Singh and former Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

•The zero-duty trade of goods at the Uri trading point, along with the cross-LoC bus between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, was meant to “soften boundaries”, allowing people of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) to engage with one another more freely, and was soon followed by another trading point at Poonch connected to Rawalakot in PoK.

Why has trade been suspended?

•Explaining the decision to suspend trade, sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs said the trade corridor was being misused by terrorists based in Pakistan, as a channel to smuggle arms, ammunition, narcotics, counterfeit currency and funds to support anti-India activities within Jammu and Kashmir. They also cited the illegal trade of goods from the United States, such as “California almonds”, while the cross-LoC system was meant exclusively for locally-sourced items. This week, the government alleged that 10 of the trading companies involved were run by Kashmiri militants who had crossed over to Pakistan. Officials referred to the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) ongoing case of terror-funding against the former president of the LoC Traders’ Association Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, who is charged with funding terror groups. Finally, the Ministry of Home Affairs said the route was now being used to facilitate non-Kashmiri trade, and that after India cancelled Pakistan’s MFN (most favoured nation) status in the wake of the Pulwama attack (February 2019), traders would likely misuse the route further to evade higher duties and taxes on goods.

How is cross-LoC trade different?

•Business across the LoC is different because it works on a barter system between traders on both sides of Kashmir. So far, 21 goods has been approved for barter, which include handicrafts, saffron, mushrooms, fruit, cereals, honey, spices and carpets. Since the Line of Control is disputed between India and Pakistan and not recognised as an International Boundary (IB), the goods are referred to as ‘traded out’ and ‘traded-in’, instead of exports and imports. Also, unlike regular cross-border trade between India and Pakistan at the Wagah-Attari border, cross-LoC trade takes place only four days a week.

What will be the impact?

•Since it began, experts estimate that more than ₹6,000 crore worth of trade has been conducted over the LoC points, and a total of 1.6 lakh job days created because of it. Starting from a mere three crore Pakistani rupees (PKR) worth of goods traded in and 2 crore Indian rupees (INR) worth of goods traded out in 2008-2009, the cross-LoC trade in 2018-2019 was pegged at 441 crore (PKR) and 454 crore (INR) respectively. According to a study by the Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals (BRIEF), about 662 traders from Jammu and Kashmir are registered to trade at both points at Uri and Poonch, of which about 110 of them trade actively. The affected traders says that with uncertainty over the reopening of the trade, their livelihoods will be in jeopardy, along with those of loaders, transporters, retailers who are part of their trade, as well as their families, totalling 40,000-50,000 people. Many political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir like Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah have also protested against the move, given that the government has also severely curtailed civilian traffic on the main Srinagar-Jammu highway. This they say will lead to small- and medium-scale traders being squeezed at both ends, and result in heavy losses particularly for the fruit business; the State is renowned for its apples and cherry crops. Like on other issues, Jammu leaders like former Minister Prof. Chaman Lal Gupta said the trade had been run on an ad hoc basis, without adequate security measures, and must not be restarted in the prevailing circumstances.

Is this the first time this has happened?

•In the past decade, trading at the Uri-Muzaffarabad (Chakan da bagh-Salamabad) post has been stopped thrice because of cases of narcotic smuggling, and once when a shipment of arms was seized during checks in 2017. According to the authorities, numerous seizures have been made recently of pistols, grenades, spares and ammunition, including one particularly large cache concealed in a consignment of bananas. The drug hauls have been sizeable too: in 2017, J&K police found 66.5 kg of suspected heroin worth ₹300 crore packed between boxes of garments in a truck that came from PoK, while five other seizures yielded nearly ₹1 crore in counterfeit notes. At the Poonch-Rawalakot point, trading has been suspended more frequently due to cross-LoC shelling, particularly between 2016 and 2018, when ceasefire violations rose sharply. Even so, the LoC trade was seen as one of the most resilient CBMs introduced more than a decade ago, as it had been able to continue despite major hostilities between New Delhi and Islamabad.

What lies in store?

•Unlike cases in the past, the April suspension wasn’t due to any one particular incident but a series of investigations over the misuse of the cross-LoC trade service. As a result, resumption of trade is likely to be a more long-drawn out process. Traders have protested against some of the allegations levelled by the MHA, especially the case of the California almonds, which, they insist have not been traded since 2016. They have also asked why the government has been dragging its feet on the procurement of “truck body scanners” (which would ensure easy detection of contraband currency, drugs and arms) and save much time for traders who have to undergo lengthy manual searches. The case for full body truck scanners has been pending since 2010, when the government first agreed to install them.

•After many false starts, the MHA and J&K announced they would complete the installation of the scanners by end 2017, but still have made no headway in the process yet. The MHA has said that cross-LoC trade will only be resumed after it puts in place stricter measures and systems, but has not specified what they may entail. It seems unlikely that the suspension will be lifted soon, especially given the security requirements during the ongoing general election and with State polls due later this year.

📰 How is a Supreme Court judge to be probed?

What is the mechanism in place to examine allegations of misconduct against members of the higher judiciary?

•The story so far: The allegations made by a former Supreme Court employee against the Chief Justice of India have brought the focus on the mechanism that exists to examine charges of misconduct against members of the higher judiciary. What exactly is the procedure involved and how was it devised?

How are allegations of misconduct against judges of High Courts and the Supreme Court dealt with?

•Allegations of misconduct against serving judges of the superior judiciary, that is, the various high courts and the Supreme Court, are dealt with through an ‘in-house procedure’. Most complaints may pertain to judicial conduct, and may be at the behest of parties aggrieved by the outcome of their cases. However, some may concern the personal conduct of judges. Two purposes are served by the adoption of an internal procedure to deal with such complaints: when the allegations are examined by the judge’s peers, outside agencies are kept out, and the independence of the judiciary is maintained. Second, awareness about the existence of a mechanism to examine such complaints will preserve the faith of the people in the impartiality and independence of the judicial process. The in-house procedure envisages that false and frivolous allegations can be rejected at an early stage and only those that are not baseless, and may require a deeper probe, are taken up for inquiry.

What is the origin of the ‘in-house’ procedure?

•The idea of self-regulation as a method by which allegations of misconduct against judges can be approached came up first in a 1995 case concerning the then Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court. The Chief Justice resigned amidst an uproar caused by reports that he had been paid unjustifiably high amounts by a publisher. In a case relating to this allegation, the Supreme Court outlined the procedure that may be adopted in such situations. Until then, misconduct on the part of superior court judges was perceived as something that only Parliament could deal with through the procedure for removal of judges given in the Constitution. However, the court made a distinction between ‘impeachable behaviour’ and bad behaviour. Later, in 1997, when Justice J.S. Verma took over as Chief Justice of India, he took up the issue. He circulated a document titled ‘Restatement of Values of Judicial Life’, a guide containing the essential elements of ideal behaviour for judges so that their independence and impartiality are beyond reproach. The Full Court passed a resolution that an ‘in-house procedure’ would be adopted for action against judges for acts of commission or omission that go against accepted values of judicial life.

When was the in-house procedure adopted?

•A five-judge committee was formed to devise the procedure. The report of the committee was adopted by a resolution of the Full Court on December 15, 1999. This procedure has been adhered to since then. However, the in-house procedure was not in the public domain for many years. In 2014, a Supreme Court Bench directed the court’s registry to make the in-house procedure public for the sake of transparency. The court was then dealing with a serious allegation made by a woman district and sessions court judge that she faced harassment from a sitting judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

How does the in-house procedure work? What are the various steps?

•When a complaint is received against a High Court judge, the Chief Justice concerned has to examine it. If it is frivolous or concerns a judicial matter, she may just file the complaint and inform the Chief Justice of India. If she considers it serious, she should get a response from the judge concerned. If she is satisfied with the response and feels no further action is required, she may close the matter and keep the CJI informed. However, if the CJI feels a deeper probe is needed, she should send the complaint as well as the judge’s response to the CJI, with her own comments, for further action.

•The procedure is the same if the CJI receives the complaint directly. The comments of the high court Chief Justice, the judge concerned and the complaint would be considered by the CJI. If a deeper probe is required, a three-member committee, comprising two Chief Justices from other High Courts and one High Court judge, has to be formed. The committee will hold a fact-finding inquiry at which the judge concerned would be entitled to appear. It is not a formal judicial proceeding and does not involve lawyers or examination or cross-examination of witnesses.

•If the charge is against a high court Chief Justice, the same procedure of getting the person’s response is followed by the CJI. If a deeper probe is deemed necessary, a three-member committee comprising a Supreme Court judge and two Chief Justices of other High Courts will be formed.

•If the charge is against a Supreme Court judge, the committee would comprise three Supreme Court judges. There is no separate provision in the in-house procedure to deal with complaints against the CJI.

What are the possible outcomes from the inquiry committee?

•If it finds that there is substance in the allegations, the committee can either hold that the misconduct is serious enough to warrant removal from office, or that it is not so serious as to warrant removal. In the former case, it will call for initiation of proceedings to remove the judge. The judge concerned would be advised to resign or take voluntary retirement. If the judge is unwilling to quit, the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned would be advised to withdraw judicial work from him, and the President of India and the Prime Minister would be informed of the situation. Such an action may clear the way for Parliament to begin the political process for impeachment. In case, the committee finds substance in the allegation, but it is not grave enough to warrant removal from office, the judge concerned would be advised accordingly, and the committee’s report will be placed on record.

📰 State on alert, braces for Fani

It may intensify into a severe cyclonic storm in the next 72 hours

•The cyclonic storm ‘Fani’ (pronounced as ‘Foni’), over southeast Bay of Bengal and adjoining east Equatorial Indian Ocean moved north northwestwards and lay centred over southeast Bay of Bengal about 870 km east-southeast of Trincomalee (Sri Lanka), 1,240 km southeast of Chennai and 1,440km south-southeast of Machilipatnam.

•It is very likely to intensify into a severe cyclonic storm during the next 72 hours and reach north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coast by April 30 evening.

•As per the weatherman at the Cyclone Warning Centre in Visakhapatnam, there may be light to moderate rain or thunder showers at isolated places over coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema region, in the next 24 hours.

•Thunder storms accompanied with gusty winds up to speed of 30 kmph to 40 kmph and lightning is very likely to occur at isolated places in all the districts of coastal Andhra Pradesh, the weatherman said.

High alert in Krishna

•Officials in Krishna district have been put on high alert. Collector A. Md. Imtiyaz asked officers of various departments to take measures to prevent losses to paddy and horticulture farmers.

•He directed the Revenue, Medical and Health, Panchayat Raj, AP Transco, Municipalities, Fisheries, Agriculture and other departments' officials to be on alert. “About 2 lakh tonnes of paddy is expected to arrive during Rabi.

•The government has opened about 100 Paddy Purchase Centres and collected 35,000 tonnes of produce. We request the farmers to protect their crop in wake of the cyclone,” Mr. Imtiyaz said.

Review meet

•At a review meeting, the Collector directed the officers to arrange flood lights in all MRO offices and keep the Ham Radio operators and sets ready. He asked the Panchayat Raj and municipal officials to fill water in overhead tanks and keep generators ready, if case of failure of power supply. The Irrigation officials were asked to take steps to strengthen the canal bunds.

•The Medical department staff were asked to keep necessary medicines ready in all area hospitals, primary and urban health centres in the district.

•The Fisheries department officials were asked to ensure that fishermen who entered into sea returned immediately, Mr. Imtiyaz said.

Advice to fishermen

•The Srikakulam district administration has urged fishermen not to venture into the sea for next couple of days as rough weather is likely to prevail due to formation of cyclone in the Bay.

📰 Humans make safer user profiles than AI: study

•People trust human-generated profiles more than artificial intelligence-generated profiles, particularly in online marketplaces, reveals a study in which researchers sought to explore whether users trust algorithmically optimised or generated representations.

•The research team conducted three experiments, particularly in online marketplaces, enlisting hundreds of participants on Amazon Mechanical Turk to evaluate real, human-generated Airbnb profiles. When researchers informed them that they were viewing either all human-generated or all AI-generated profiles, participants didn’t seem to trust one more than the other. They rated the human and AI-generated profiles about the same.

•That changed when participants were informed they were viewing a mixed set of profiles. Users then distrusted the ones they believed to be machine-generated.

•“Participants were looking for cues that felt mechanical versus language that felt more human and emotional,” said Maurice Jakesch, a doctoral student in information science at Cornell Tech in America. “The more participants believed a profile was AI-generated, the less they tended to trust the host, even though the profiles they rated were written by the actual hosts.”

•“We’re beginning to see the first instances of artificial intelligence operating as a mediator between humans, but it’s a question of: Do people want that?”

•The study suggests that there are ways to design AI communication tools that improve trust for human users. “Design and policy guidelines and norms for using AI-mediated communication is worth exploring now,” said Ms. Jakesch.

📰 Jamia team develops ultrasensitive quantum thermometer

The thermometer can measure micro Kelvin changes in temperature and has quick response time

•Researchers at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, have developed an ultrasensitive quantum thermometer using graphene quantum dots. The thermometer can precisely measure a wide range of temperature: 27 degree C to –196 degree C. The thermometer has high sensitivity when measuring different temperatures and can measure very minute (micro Kelvin) changes in temperature.

Sensitive device

•The thermometer developed by a team led by Saikh S. Islam, Director of the Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology also showed extremely quick response time of just about 300 milliseconds to register a change in temperature from 27 degree C to –196 degree C. And the time taken to return to its initial temperature value was as little as about 800 milliseconds. The results of the study were published in the journal Nanoscale Advances.

•“The thermometer showed excellent repeatability with negligible variation in sensing response when tested for over 50 cycles during a one-year period. The sensor was stable and responded ultra-fast when we tested it repeatedly,” says Prof. Islam.

•“The device can find widespread applications in cryogenic temperature sensing. Since the sensor has high sensitivity and ability to measure minute changes in temperature, it will be useful in the pharmaceutical industry, healthcare to measure the incubation temperature of biological cells and molecules and the automobile industry to measure the ignition temperature within the engine,” he says.

•The sensor can also be used for measuring high temperatures up to 100 degree C. “In the past, we have tested it up to 300 degree C. Compared with low temperature, the high-temperature sensitivity is low but it is still much higher than currently available solidstate thermometers in terms of sensitivity, resolution, response and recovery timings,” says Poonam Sehrawat from Jamia Millia Islamia and first author of the paper. “Since the sensor is stable and shows linear sensitivity behaviour, it does not need calibration.”

Sensor preparation

•The researchers first prepared graphene oxide and chemically made it reduced graphene oxide. “The physical and chemical properties of reduced graphene oxide are very close to monolayer graphene. So by using reduced graphene oxide it is easy to synthesise in large-scale materials having properties similar to graphene,” says Prof. Islam. During the reduction process, quantum dots are formed in the graphene oxide. The reduced graphene oxide having quantum dots is mixed with a ceramic (aluminium oxide), to produce the sensor. The sensor does not need any encapsulation as ceramic forms the matrix.

•The reduced graphene oxide flakes containing the quantum dots (measuring 3-6 nanometre in size) are dispersed in the ceramic; the ceramic does not interfere with the sensor response but provides rigidity to the film. “The graphene oxide flakes are in contact with each other in the composite. So a continuous network of current path is obtained,” he says. The temperature sensors were fabricated from this film by using small piece measuring 1x1 cm and depositing two silver electrodes to it for measuring the sensor response.

•“The synthesis process is extremely cost effective, has high yield and batch fabrication is possible. One of the main advantages is that this device can be made to any shape and dimension,” Prof. Islam says.

•“We are working on making a prototype of this thermometer to be used in electronic devices, as on-chip thermometers that do not even require calibrations. We will now replicate these achievements in single electron transistors (SETs) to miniaturise it for integration in integrated circuits,” he adds.