Thursday, February 18, 2021

Does giving the Lieutenant Governor more authoritative power have an impact on India's Federal structure?

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Vaishnavi Krishna Mohan

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Does giving the Lieutenant Governor more authoritative power have an impact on India's Federal structure?

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Global Views 360

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February 18, 2021

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Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi in a rally

Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi in a rally | Source: Wikimedia

On 3rd of February 2021, the NCT bill cleared by cabinet along with 20 other bills proposed to be introduced in the parliamentary session. The amendment was passed on 9th of February in the Rajya Sabha.

“The Bill proposed to amend the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, in the context of judgment dated 14.02.2019 of Hon’ble Supreme Court (Division bench) in Civil Appeal No 2357 of 2017 and other connected matters.”

The article explains the timeline and the practical implications of the NCT Amendment Act 2021 on the federal structure.

The Centre's amendments to the NCT of Delhi Act, gives more powers to the Lieutenant Governor and Delhi’s Kejriwal government were totally against the amendment as due to their bitter experience with the previous and current LG.

The Arvind Kejriwal government described the NCT Bill, as a murder of constitutional democracy and accused BJP of secretively drafting the amendments so as to govern Delhi in an unconstitutional manner using the LG's office.

The new amendment is expected to now clearly define the powers and functions of the Lieutenant Governor and the Delhi Government based on the 2019 judgement. The amendments add a category of bills, which fall outside the ambit of Delhi legislative assembly and which the Lieutenant Governor must reserve for consideration of the President. This category is supposedly added for the sake of “better governance” and to reduce potential conflicts. The amendments also specify that the elected government needs to send legislative proposals to Lieutenant-Governor (LG) at least 14 days in advance to seek his opinion and avoid any delays.

The tussle between the Delhi government and the Centre reached the Supreme Court 2017. The honourable Supreme court defined the role of the LG in Delhi and ruled that the LG cannot interfere in every decision of the Delhi Government. The tussle between the Union and Delhi government has that Article 239 AA of the Constitution at its core. The Article 239 AA gives Delhi the special recognition of a Union Territory with a Legislative Assembly that has a lieutenant governor as its administrative head.

In July 2018, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra stated that the lieutenant governor’s powers in the National Capital were only limited to land, police and public order.

“The lieutenant governor must work harmoniously with the elected government. The LG is the administrative head but can’t act as an obstructionist”, the bench stated. The supreme court also stressed upon the fact that the power and status of the LG was different from the state governors. They mentioned that the Lieutenant Governor must not be an obstructionist and must work harmoniously with the Delhi government. “There is no room for absolutism and no room for anarchy,” the bench stated. The verdict is not complete yet as the issue of services divided the bench that delivered the order and the matter is now addressed by a three-judge bench on the Supreme Court which has not concluded the hearing yet.

So far, the AAP has argued that former LG Najeeb Jung and the current LG Anil Baijal are undermining the federal structure of the Republic of India by objecting the decisions made by the Delhi government and overruling their authority in bureaucratic matters.

Former LG of Delhi with Prime Minister Modi | Source: Wikimedia

In July 2013, Najeeb Jung took charge as the LG of Delhi and Arvind Kejriwal swore in as the Chief Minister (CM) of Delhi in December 2013. After 49 days of governance, Arvind Kejriwal stepped down as his minority government was unable to pass the anti-corruption legislation due to lack of support provided by other political parties. In February 2015, the Aam Aadmi Party came back to power by a staggering majority of 67 out of 70 seats. However, the party faced a higher veto obstruction while making several decisions. In May 2015, LG Jung annulled all the bureaucratic postings by Delhi government and stated that power to appoint and transfer rests with him.

In June 2015, five officers of Bihar Police joined Delhi Government’s Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB). Jung rejected their employment at the ACB claiming that he was the person in charge even before the new amendment. In the same month, the Delhi government replaced the Home Secretary Dharam Pal and Jung obstructed the decision by vetoing the order. When the AAP government decided to hike circle rates in Delhi for agricultural land, the former LG Jung objected to the decision although the State government has the complete authority to take such decisions. In another instance in 2016, Jung set up a panel to probe over 400 files related to decisions taken by Delhi government. The CM of Delhi deemed it to be illegal.

Kejriwal and the AAP government blamed the former LG and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the CBI raids of his office, FIRs filed by ACB against Arvind Kejriwal and former Delhi CM Late Sheila Dikshit in water tanker scam, restriction of control on appointing state bureaucrats and general obstruction of decisions.

Anil Baijal, the now LG of Delhi with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh | Source: Wikimedia

On 31st December 2016, Anil Baijal swore in as the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi. While the tussle between AAP and the LG continued, the alleged assault of Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash by AAP leaders at CM Arvind Kejriwal’s residence in February 2018 gave a new momentum to the tug of war.

Following the incident, the IAS association reportedly skipped routine meetings with ministers as a mark of protest but claimed that they have not suspended work. Before that, on December 2017, the turf war between Kejriwal and Baijal reached Parliament, with a Rajya Sabha member claiming that the CM was being treated like a “peon”.

In 2018, the AAP government demanded LG’s approval for the proposal for doorstep delivery of rations and also demanded grant of complete statehood for Delhi and installation of CCTVs. Baijal did not approve both the demands directly and further complicated the process. Kejriwal stated that the LG rejected the demands over “petty-politics”.

In June 2018, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal sat in a nine-day long hunger strike at the Lieutenant Governor’s office against the “strike” by IAS officers and Kejriwal wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him, “with folded hands”, to intervene and end the agitation of the IAS officers.

The Aam Aadmi Party argues that the BJP is hell bent on ruining efficient governance of Delhi through the LG. Critics believe that the tussle has failed the federal system of our Democracy.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Sikri and Justice Khanwilkar, in their written opinion devoted a significant portion to explain the understanding of federalism, and its fusion with democracy to achieve an “egalitarian social order”. According to our Constitutional scheme neither the States isolated islands, with their distinct vision, nor the Union government can make decisions that are meant to affect the interests of the States. The Chief Justice highlighted that there should be a sincere effort to avoid conflict and not encroach on each other spheres in a collaborative framework of federalism. To exercise authority, “there should be perception of mature statesmanship so that the constitutionally bestowed responsibilities are shared by them.” To attain the ideal balance in a federal structure, the Chief Justice suggested the Union and the States to have “mutual respect and deference to actualise the workability of a constitutional provision.”

Collaborative federalism involves healthy negotiation and coordination between the Union and State governments to ensure that the governance works within the circumference of the Constitution and in harmony.

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April 13, 2021 2:10 PM

Detecting The Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays With Smartphones

Smartphones have become the most commonplace objects in our daily lives. The unimaginable power that we hold in our hands is unrealized by most of us and, more importantly, untapped. Its creativity often gets misused but one can only hope that it’s fascinating abilities would be utilized. For example, did you know that the millions of phones around the globe can be connected to form a particle detector? The following article covers the CRAYFIS (Cosmic RAYs Found in Smartphones) phone-based application developed by the physicists from the University of California—Daniel Whiteson, Michael Mulhearn, and their team. CRAYFIS aims to take advantage of the large network of smartphones around the world and detect the cosmic or gamma rays bursts which enter the Earth’s atmosphere almost constantly.

What Are Cosmic Rays?

Cosmic rays are high velocity subatomic particles bombarding the Earth’s upper atmosphere continuously. Cosmic ray bursts have the highest energy compared to all forms of electro-magnetic radiation. When we say ultra-high energy particles (energy more than 1018^eV), we mean two million times more energetic than the ones that can be produced by the particle colliders on Earth.  These rays are thought to be more powerful than typical supernovae and can release trillions of times more energy than the Sun. They are also highly unpredictable as they can enter Earth’s atmosphere from any direction and the bursts can last for any period of time ranging from a few thousand seconds to several minutes.

Despite many theoretical hypotheses, the sources of these ultra-high energy cosmic rays are still a mystery to us even after many decades of their discovery. These rays were initially discovered in the 1960’s by the U.S. military when they were doing background checks for gamma rays after nuclear weapon testing. Cosmologists suggest that these bursts could be the result of super massive stars collapsing - leading to hypernova; or can be retraced to collisions of black holes with other black holes or neutron stars.

How Do We Detect Them?

When the high-energy particles collide with the Earth’s atmosphere, the air and the gas molecules cause them to break apart and create massive showers of relatively low-energy particles. Aurora borealis i.e., the Northern and the Southern lights are the lights that are emitted when these cosmic rays interact with the Earth’s magnetic field. Currently, these particles are hitting the Earth at a rate of about one per square meter per second. The showers get scattered to a radius of one or two kilometers consisting mostly of high-energy photons, electrons, positrons and muons. But the fact that these particles can hit the Earth anytime and anywhere is where the problem arises. Since the Earth has a massive area, it is not possible to place a detector everywhere and catch them at the exact moment.

Energetic charged particles known as cosmic rays hit our atmosphere, where they collide with air molecules to produce a shower of secondary particle | Source: CERN

Detecting such a shower requires a very big telescope, which logically means a network of individual particle detectors distributed over a mile or two-wide radius and connected to each other. The Pierre Auger Observatory in South America is the only such arrangement where 1,600 particle detectors have been scattered on 3,000 square kilometers of land. But the construction cost of the same was about $100 million. Yet, only a few cosmic ray particles could be detected using this arrangement. How do we spread this network around the Earth?

In addition to being cost-effective, such a setup must also be feasible. The Earth’s surface cannot possibly be dotted with particle detectors which cost huge fortunes. This is where smartphones come into the picture.

Detecting The Particles Using Smartphones

Smartphones are the most appropriate devices required to solve the problem. They have planet wide coverage, are affordable by most people and are being actively used by more than 1.5 billion users around the planet. Individually, these devices are low and inefficient; but a considerably dense network of such devices can give us a chance to detect cosmic ray showers belonging to the highest energy range.

Previous research has shown that smartphones have the capability of detecting ionizing radiation. The camera is the most sensitive part of the smartphone and is just the device required to meet our expectations. A CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) device is present in the camera- in which silicon photodiode pixels produce electron-hole pairs when struck by visible photons (when photons are detected by the CMOS device, it leaves traces of weakly activated pixels). The incoming rays are also laced with other noises and interference from the surroundings.  Although these devices are made to detect visible light, they still have the capability of detecting higher-energy photons and also low-ionizing particles such as the muons.

A screenshot from the app which shows the exposure time, the events- the number of particles recorded and other properties

To avoid normal light, the CRAYFIS application is to be run during nighttime with the camera facing down. As the phone processor runs the application it collects data from its surroundings using a camera as its detector element. The megapixel images (i.e., the incoming particles) are scanned at a speed of 5 to 15 frames per second, depending on the frame-processing speed of the device. Scientists expect that signals from the cosmic rays would occur rarely, i.e., around one in 500 frames. Also, there is the job of removing background data. An algorithm was created to tune the incoming particle shower by setting a threshold frequency at around 0.1 frames per second. Frames containing pixels above the threshold are stored and passed to the second stage which examines the stored frames, saving only the pixels above a second, lower threshold.

The CRAYFIS app is designed to run when the phone is not being used and when it is connected to a power source. The actual performance would be widely affected by the geometry of the smartphone’s camera and the conditions in which the data is being collected. Further, once the application is installed and is in the operating mode, no participation is required from the user, which is required to achieve wide-scale participation. When a Wifi connection is available the collected data would be uploaded to the central server so that it could be interpreted.

There is much complicated math used to trace back the information collected from the application. The most important parameters for the app are the local density of incoming particles, the detection area of the phone and the particle identification efficiency. These parameters are used to find the mean number of candidates (photons or muons) being detected. Further, the probability that a phone will detect no candidates or the probability that a phone will detect one or more candidates is given by Poisson distribution. The density of the shower is directly proportional to the incident particle energy with a distribution in x and y sensitive to the direction in which the particle came from. An Unbinned Likelihood (it is the probability of obtaining a certain data- in this case the distribution of the cosmic rays including their energy and direction, the obtained data is arranged into bins which are very, very small) analysis is used to determine the incident particle energy and direction. To eliminate background interference, a benchmark requirement has been set that at least 5 phones must detect and register a hit to be considered as a candidate.

It is impossible to express just how mind-blowing this innovation is. As the days pass, Science and Technology around us keep on surprising us and challenge us to rack our brains for more and more unique ways to deal with complex problems. The CRAYFIS app is simply beautiful and it would be a dream-come-true to the scientists if the project works out and we are able to detect these high energy, super intimidating cosmic rays with smartphones from our backyard.

Further Reading

The paper by Daniel Whiteson and team can be found here.

An exciting book “We Have No Idea” by Daniel Whiteson and cartoonist Jorge Cham can be found here.

The CRAYFIS app can be found here.

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