Daily Current Affairs 30.10.2022 (Kalanamak rice is now small strong, Tuberculosis finds easy pickings in closed tea gardens of north Bengal, A new target found to combat AMR Salmonella, Banana the highly nutritious fruit, Is the world’s climate action plan on track?, Why has Google got a second antitrust fine?, What is the doctrine of pleasure?)

Daily Current Affairs 30.10.2022 (Kalanamak rice is now small strong, Tuberculosis finds easy pickings in closed tea gardens of north Bengal, A new target found to combat AMR Salmonella, Banana the highly nutritious fruit, Is the world’s climate action plan on track?, Why has Google got a second antitrust fine?, What is the doctrine of pleasure?)


1. Kalanamak rice is now small, strong

Indian Agriculture Research Institute has successfully tested two new dwarf varieties in Uttar Pradesh that give double the yield

Kalanamak, a traditional variety of paddy with black husk and strong fragrance, which is considered a gift from Lord Buddha to the people of Sravasti when he visited the region after enlightenment, is all set to get a new look and name.

Grown in 11 districts of the Terai region of northeastern Uttar Pradesh and in Nepal, the traditional variety has been prone to ‘lodging’, a reason for its low yield. Lodging is a condition in which the top of the plant becomes heavy because of grain formation, the stem becomes weak, and the plant falls on the ground.

Addressing the problem, the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) has successfully developed two dwarf varieties of Kalanamak rice. They have been named Pusa Narendra Kalanamak 1638 and Pusa Narendra Kalanamak 1652.

The IARI says the new name is in recognition of its association with the Acharya Narendra Dev University of Agriculture and Technology in Ayodhya, for testing the two varieties.

The yield of the new varieties is double that of the traditional variety. The IARI and the Uttar Pradesh Council of Agriculture are working together to make the seeds available to farmers at the earliest.

The traditional Kalanamak rice is protected under the Geographical Indication (GI) tag system. It’s recorded in the GI application that Lord Budhha gifted Kalanamak paddy to the people of Sravasti so that they remembered him by its fragrance.

2. Tuberculosis finds easy pickings in closed tea gardens of north Bengal

Rampant malnutrition has led to a rise in TB among workers, many of whom are already grappling with loss of livelihood. With the disease taking a steep toll on their mental and physical health, the labourers, unable to move out for work, are hoping for their abandoned gardens to reopen

A tea factory and its related infrastructure lie in ruins at the Lankapara Tea Garden in Madarihat block of West Bengal. Tea plants on many hectares of land have either turned brown or wilted, suggesting years of neglect. The garden, next to the picturesque hills that separate India and Bhutan and home to thousands of tea workers, has remained closed since the spring of 2015. For workers, the closure has meant poverty, malnutrition and an unforeseen malaise — tuberculosis.

Kamal Mangar, 25, queues up at a State-run health clinic behind the hospital that had gone to seed along with the tea factory. A health worker takes his weight and shouts 39 kg. The youth with tuberculosis has been reduced to a bag of bones.

There have been 11 cases of tuberculosis at the garden since 2019, the health worker at the clinic said. Lankapara has a population of nearly 7,500 and about 30% of the people have migrated for work. Mr. Mangar cannot go out for work to Kerala like he did a few years ago because of his illness. His father, Kancha Mangar, also unemployed, said his son did not get the ₹500 monthly welfare assistance given by the State to tuberculosis patients.

Since the plantation has remained closed for seven years, the workers survive on five months of plucking (April to September) and selling the leaves through various committees.

About 30 km from Lankapara is the Dheklepara Tea Garden which has been closed since 2002. At the entrance of the garden in Alipurduar district stands a dilapidated tea processing factory and a few rusted vehicles. Near the structure, a few workers of the garden are weighing a pile of tea leaves collected from plants that still survive.

A few metres away, at the workers’ quarters, Praksh Tanti, 56, lies on his bed well past afternoon. On June 15, he was released from Birpara Sadar Hospital and the diagnosis states tuberculosis pleural effusion — one of the most common kinds of extra-pulmonary tuberculosis. He cannot work and doctors have prescribed him a high-protein diet including eggs, which he said he cannot afford. His 22-year-old son has migrated out for work and does not keep in touch with the family. Like Mr. Mangar, Mr. Tanti too does not get the ₹500 monthly assistance.

Poor conditions

Anuradha Talwar of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity, who has been working with unions of tea gardens in north Bengal, said the closed gardens provide ideal conditions for malnutrition and tuberculosis. “For workers of gardens that have been shut, the State government provides free rations, but there is no other support. Therefore, malnutrition leads to tuberculosis among the workers,” Ms. Talwar said. She said the government was providing ₹1,500 monthly to such workers under the FAWLOI (Financial Assistance to Workers of Locked-out Industries) scheme.

Over the past few years, the samity and other trade unions of north Bengal have raised the issue of malnutrition in the closed tea gardens. In 2015, the West Bengal Right to Food Campaign reported a death due to malnutrition in a closed tea garden.

In other districts too

There were also reports of malnutrition in abandoned tea gardens in the Dooars (Himalayan foothills) areas of districts such as Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling.

In 2014, the State health officials admitted that 25 children suffered from severe malnutrition and low weight in the five closed tea gardens. The children had to be admitted to State-run hospitals in Jalpaiguri district. According to trade unions, six tea gardens lie shut in the Dooars region.

In the first week of October, the Alipurduar district administration provided financial assistance to about 1,500 workers of Dheklepara and Lankapra tea gardens just before the Durga Puja. The workers, however, say that the solution to their plight lies in reopening the gardens.

In the closed plantations of Darjeeling district, the situation is eerily similar. At the State-run health centre at the Panighata Tea Estate, a health worker said there were nine patients — five men and four women — with tuberculosis. Lalita Trikey, 49, who had come to collect medicines for tuberculosis, said that she sought medical intervention when she started vomiting blood. Ms. Tirkey, who lives with nine members of her family, said that after the garden closed down, she had been travelling long distances to other gardens for work.

Phulmani Khalkho, an auxiliary nurse midwife at the health facility, said that even after completing the required dose, some patients had not gained weight. Tina Lakra, 39, a mother of two, weighs only 31 kg and has been out of work for almost three years. The State government officials, however, denied the prevalence of tuberculosis in the closed tea gardens of north Bengal. “We have a very good screening process to locate TB patients so it does not matter if a tea garden is open and closed. Even in the time of COVID-19, we continued with the screening. Our aim is to eliminate TB in the region by 2025,” Susanta Kumar Ray, Officer on Special Duty (Public Health), North Bengal, said.

3. A new target found to combat AMR Salmonella

Recent studies have found the emergence of multi-drug resistant Salmonella tphimurium DT104 that causes infections in humans and cattle

The rapid and unselective use of traditional antibiotics gives rise to the emergence of drug resistant phenotype in typhoidal and non-typhoidal Salmonella serovars, which has increased the difficulties in curing Salmonella-induced food-borne illnesses (majorly typhoid or paratyphoid fever, gastroenteritis, and diarrhoea) worldwide.

Salmonella typhimurium ST313, an invasive non-typhoidal Salmonella serovar, causes bloodstream infection in the malnourished and immunocompromised population of sub-Saharan Africa.

Recent studies have reported the emergence of multi-drug resistant (MDR) phenotype in Salmonella tphimurium DT104, which causes infection in humans and cattle. 

Conferring protection

The MDR phenotype in this pathogen was provided by Salmonella Genomic Island-1 (SGI-1), which confers protection against a wide range of antibiotics, including ampicillin (pse-1), chloramphenicol/florfenicol (floR), streptomycin/spectinomycin (aadA2), sulphonamides (sul1), and tetracycline (tetG) (ACSSuT).

Further emergence of extensively drug-resistant (XDR) S. Typhimurium ST313 (having multi-drug resistant (MDR) and resistance against extended-spectrum beta-lactamase and azithromycin) in Africa posed a significant threat to global health.

Recent studies reported an annual incidence of as many as 360 cases of typhoid fever per 1,00,000 people, with an annual estimate of 4.5 million cases and 8,930 deaths (0.2% fatality rate) in India.

The continuous adaptation of this bacteria to the available antibiotics creates a risk of developing antimicrobial resistance in the future. This is the reason why it is essential to study the effect of new drugs and find their potential targets in Salmonella in detail.

A recent study carried out by our group showed that outer membrane porins of Salmonella Typhimurium play an essential role in the survival of the bacteria in the presence of antibiotics.

The study was published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy on September 30, 2022.

In this study, we showed that deleting outer membrane protein A (OmpA) from Salmonella hampered its survival in the presence of two beta-lactam drugs — ceftazidime and meropenem. OmpA is one of the most abundant barrel-shaped porin proteins localised in the outer membrane of Salmonella.

Absence of OmpA

The absence of OmpA in Salmonella hampers the stability of the bacterial outer membrane and reduces the expression of efflux pump genes.

The study further showed that the outer membrane protein A could restrict the entry of antibiotics into the bacteria, thus improving the survival of the pathogen under antibiotic treatment.

Removing OmpA resulted in a greater intake of ceftazidime and meropenem, which ultimately killed the mutant bacteria by disrupting its outer envelope.

Most importantly, this study showed that disruption of OmpA can also effectively reduce the antibiotic-resistant persister population of Salmonella.

Administration of ceftazidime in mice infected with the OmpA-deleted strain of Salmonella cured the infection and proved that OmpA plays a crucial role in antimicrobial resistance. This study is a continuation of another important research work published by our team in August 2022 (PLoS Pathogens), which delineated the role of Salmonella OmpA against the nitrosative stress of host macrophages. The loss of integrity of the bacterial outer membrane in the absence of OmpA made the bacteria highly susceptible to killing by the host’s innate immune system.

Other Gram-negative pathogens (Escherichia coli, Acinetobacter baumannii, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, etc.) use outer membrane porins for various purposes, ranging from maintaining outer membrane stability to developing antimicrobial resistance.

Reducing AMR risk

As demonstrated in our study, the strategy to target outer membrane protein A (OmpA) of Salmonella can also be used to develop novel antimicrobials for other pathogens that can effectively reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the future.

4. Banana, the highly nutritious fruit

Are bananas an essential item in South Indian pujas (prayers) and celebrations? Yes, people decorate temple entrances, weddings, and festivals with banana trees at the entrance, offer banana fruits to the deity, and during meals use banana leaves as plates (no spoons or small bowls for liquids).

It is an art to eat rasam saadam on a banana leaf. Although these days one can buy ‘modern’ banana plates in restaurants, where dry banana leaves are ‘stitched’ together for convenience.

A sacred fruit

J. Meenakshi, a science writer, writes in BBC that the banana tree is equated to Lord Brihaspati (Jupiter) for fertility and bounty. Thus, bananas are considered sacred.

Dr. K.T. Achaya, in his book, Indian Food: a Historical Companion (Oxford Univ. Press, 1994) mentions banana in Buddhist literature in around 400 BC. He mentions that bananas came to South India from New Guinea island through the sea route. Some have claimed that it was in New Guinea that bananas have been first domesticated.

Many varieties

Ms. Meenakshi found during her travel from Hyderabad to Nagercoil that there are some 12-15 varieties of bananas. These plants grow in regions that are warm and humid, abutting the Western Ghats.

Given this, where all in India is banana grown? Largely in the peninsular southern coastal region, namely in parts of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Bengal, and in the Northeastern areas of the country such as Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

However, the central and northern regions (Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab) also grow the plant but neither in such variety nor in numbers.

India produces about 29 million tonne of banana every year, and next is China with 11 million. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) says that about 135 countries produce bananas, and banana plants like warm and wet conditions.

Of particular note are the Southeastern Asian countries, which have as many as 300 varieties of banana, many of which have visually beautiful plants.

The nutritive value 

What is it in bananas that has made them tasty, holy, of medicinal value, and nutritional value? The book Nutritive value of Indian Foods from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) points out that bananas have 10-20 mg of calcium, 36 mg of sodium, 34 mg of magnesium and 30-50 mg of phosphorous per 100 g of edible material. All these make bananas highly nutritious.

Dr. K. Ashok Kumar and colleagues, in their 2018 paper in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry have updated the nutritional value of cultivars of banana with similar results. It is relevant to point out that of all the fruits in India, banana is the cheapest, available even in the rural areas in most parts of India all through the year, and more nutritious than many other fruits in the marke, such as mangoes and oranges, most of which are seasonal, expensive, and less nutritious than the lowly banana. 

And, banana is not just a fruit that is tasty and good for health. Even its peel is of use as a ‘biochar,’ which is used both as a fertilizer and to generate electricity.

Efforts are on to use it to drive electric automobiles.

5. Is the world’s climate action plan on track?

What will be the key points of debate during the COP27 summit in Egypt in November? Why are issues such as food security, energy and biodiversity on top of the agenda? What are world leaders expected to do? What will be India’s contribution at the summit?

The story so far:

Leaders from around 200 countries will gather in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh from November 6-18 for the 27th round of the Conference of Parties, or COP27, to deliberate on a global response to the increasing threat of climate change. The annual summit comes at a crucial juncture against the backdrop of global inflation, energy, food and supply chain crises, fuelled by an ongoing war in Ukraine and exacerbated by extreme weather events, with data showing that the world is not doing enough. At COP27, negotiations are likely to focus on efforts to decarbonise, finance climate action measures and other issues related to food security, energy and biodiversity.

What have been the key takeaways from past COPs?

The participants at COPs are signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, adopted 30 years ago. At present, the UNFCCC has 198 members. The first COP was held in 1995 in Berlin. Since then, a few COPs have stood out with historic agreements. For instance, the Kyoto Protocol, adopted at COP3 in 1997, committed industrialised economies to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. COP21, another significant conference, ended with the 2015 Paris Agreement in which member countries agreed to keep global warming below 2°C , ideally no more than 1.5°C , compared to pre-industrial levels. The previous summit, hosted by Glasgow, ended with the Glasgow Climate Pact that called for the ‘phasing down’ of unabated coal power.

What’s on the agenda at the upcoming summit?

COP27 will seek to strengthen a global response and deliberate if wealthy nations emitting carbon dioxide should compensate for the loss to developing countries with a lower carbon footprint. Broadly, the summit seeks to “accelerate global climate action through emissions reduction, scaled-up adaptation efforts and enhanced flows of appropriate finance” through its four priority areas of mitigation, adaptation, finance and collaboration. As per the presidential vision statement, COP27 will be about moving from negotiations and planning to the implementation of promises and pledges made. Experts say the conference could emerge as an “in-between COP,” since climate change goals have either passed or are not due soon, giving COP27 a platform to push forward issues that developed economies pass over.

How has the world been doing on climate change since the Glasgow meet?

The world has changed since the last COP in Glasgow. Extreme weather events and scientific reports are a stark reminder of the devastating impact of human pressure on the climate and the inefficiency of existing plans. These reports, likely to leave an impact on political agenda and environmental diplomacy, have built momentum for the Egypt summit.

A recent UN report has warned that “efforts remain insufficient” to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, as per the Paris Agreement. The UN Climate Change report says the world is failing to act with urgency to curb greenhouse gas emissions despite the planet witnessing climate-enhanced heatwaves, storms and floods after just 1.2°C of warming. Even if the countries meet their pledges, we are on track for around 2.5°C of warming, which will be disastrous. The findings are based on an analysis of the latest Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), or country-specific action plans to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts. The report adds that emissions compared to 2010 levels need to fall 45% by 2030 to meet the Paris deal’s goal.

What did the IPCC report state?

This year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report stated that climate change has produced irreversible losses to natural ecosystems and has warned of severe consequences to food supply, human health and biodiversity loss if carbon emissions from human activity are not sharply reduced. As per the report, 3-14% of all species on earth face a very high risk of extinction at even 1.5°C, with devastating losses at higher temperatures in the current situation. It adds that limiting warming to around 1.5°C requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 and be reduced by 43% by 2030. Coal-fired power plants operating without technology to capture and store carbon would need to be shuttered by 2050, a warning relevant to India which operates roughly 10% of global capacity.

The World Resources Institute also paints a grim picture in its report. It suggests that the world needs to curb emissions six times faster by 2030 than the current trajectory to meet the 1.5°C target. Of the 40 indicators examined, none is on track to reach the 2030 target. “Unabated coal-based electricity generation, although declining worldwide, continues to expand across some regions, while unabated fossil gas-based electricity, is still rising globally,” it notes.

Mitigation measures to keep temperatures below 2°C and the need for climate change adaptation mentioned in these reports are likely to come up for discussion at the COP27.

Where does India stand?

India is one of the 197 countries that has promised to limit the increase to no more than 1.5°C by 2030. It is also working on a long-term roadmap to achieve its target of net zero emissions by 2070. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had committed at the Glasgow summit that the country would get its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030, meet half of its energy requirement from renewable sources and reduce carbon emissions. India is the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.Though India updated its climate pledges in line with commitments made at the previous summit, experts have slammed New Delhi for not setting ambitious targets. The Climate Action Tracker, an independent analysis that tracks government climate action classifies India’s action as “highly insufficient”. It says India’s continued support to the coal industry undermines a green recovery. India had previously come under intense criticism over its stand to “phase down” coal power, instead of phasing it out, at COP26. “While stronger on paper, India will already achieve these targets with its current level of climate action and the new targets will not drive further emissions reductions,” the tracker notes.

The country is, however, expected to play a key role at COP27. A government official told Associated Press that a key issue for India at the summit will be financing both — adapting to climate change and limiting fossil fuel emissions. The official said the country wants the $100 billion-a-year pledge of climate funds for developing countries, a promise that remains unfulfilled.

6. Why has Google got a second antitrust fine?

Did the tech giant engage in anti-competitive practices through its Play Store policies? How did the earlier fine pertain to the Android mobile device ecosystem? How has the Alphabet-owned company reacted to the second penalty in a week?

The story so far:

In the second blow to Google’s coffers in a week, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) on October 25 imposed a fine of ₹936.44 crore on the tech major for anti-competitive practices in its Play Store policies. On October 20, the CCI had imposed a provisional fine of ₹1,337.76 crore on the company for abusing its dominant position in multiple markets in the Android mobile device ecosystem.

Why has Google been fined for a second time?

The new fine by the CCI pertains to one of the three antitrust lawsuits Google is facing in India. The investigation into Google’s payment system used in the Play Store began in 2020 after an individual complainant, whose identity has been kept confidential, filed an antitrust case against Google. Indian startups and small digital companies have complained about Google’s policy of imposing the use of its own payment system on app developers. Similar probes are also on against Google in South Korea and Indonesia. A European court recently upheld a 2018 ruling against Google saying that the company imposed “unlawful restrictions on manufacturers of Android mobile devices.” Google faces a $4.1 billion fine and plans to appeal.

The Google Play Store is a marketplace for apps and services and has a collection of more than three million applications. In the current matter involving Google, the CCI examined if the company violated the Competition Act through its policy of requiring app developers to mandatorily use Google Play’s billing system (GPBS) not only for receiving payments for paid app downloads but also for in-app purchases. The probe also noted that if the app developers did not comply with Google’s policy of using GPBS, they would not be permitted to list their apps on the Play Store. The CCI thus concluded that making access to the Play Store contingent on mandatory usage of GPBS was “one-sided and arbitrary” and it also denied app developers “the inherent choice to use payment processor[s] of their liking from the open market.”

It also examined the service fee that Google charges developers of paid apps and for in-app purchases. Compared to the 0-3% fee by other payment aggregators in India, the Commission found Google’s service fee (between 15-30%) to be excessive, unfair, and discriminatory.

Google submitted that only 3% of developers on Google Play are subjected to a service fee. However, the commission found that the services provided by Google to these developers are in no way different or additional compared to services provided to developers of free apps. Further, it found that Google does not make it mandatory for some of its own apps like YouTube to use the GPBS, exempting them from paying the service fee. Besides, the Commission said that Google excluded rival UPI apps as effective payment options on the Play Store. It noted that it was discriminatory of Google to use an easy and efficient payment flow for its own UPI application GPay, while using a more cumbersome system with a lower success rate for other UPI apps like Paytm, PhonePe etc. The watchdog recorded that while GPay did not lead the overall UPI market in India, it was the dominant player in the UPI payments made on the Google Play Store.

The watchdog has directed Google to allow app developers to use any third-party billing service and given it three months to implement necessary changes in its practices.

What are some of the key findings?

The current investigation found that in the market for licensable Operating Systems (OS), Google enjoys a dominant position. OS are complex software products needed to run applications and programs on smartphones. Android, which is the most prominent such OS, was acquired by Google in 2005. Android is a licensable OS, meaning the developer Google licenses it to smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, Vivo, and so on.

According to Counterpoint research, 97% of India’s 600 million smartphones are powered by Google’s Android OS. While Android is an in-principle open-source OS, the CCI found that it is controlled by Google. The Commission noted that through its restrictive agreements with smartphone manufacturers, Google made sure that manufacturers who wished to use its proprietary apps such as Chrome, Play Store, YouTube and so on had to use Google’s version of Android.

The CCI also concluded that the Google Play Store is the largest app store in terms of users, availability of apps, and developers compared to other app stores. The order noted that the Play Store, which is a part of the Google Suite (Chrome, Gmail, YouTube etc.) comes pre-installed in 100% of Android OS devices and owing to the mandatory pre-installation and entry barriers in the market, users did not have the option of side-loading or downloading apps outside of the Play Store.

How has Google reacted?

While Google had called last week’s ₹1,300 crore fine a “major setback” for its Indian operations, it defended itself after the second penalty by saying that “Indian developers have benefited from tech, security, consumer protections & unrivalled choice & flexibility that Android & Google Play provide”. It added that its low-cost model had powered India’s “digital transformation” and expanded “access for hundreds of millions of Indians”.

It was reported that Google is also planning a legal challenge in response to the first antitrust ruling by the CCI.

7. What is the doctrine of pleasure?

Why did the Kerala Governor want to invoke it? What issues have brought things to such a pass?

The story so far:

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the State government have major differences over multiple issues. The latest controversy has arisen after he sought the resignation of several vice-chancellors following a Supreme Court judgment setting aside the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of a technology university. As a fallout of comments made by the State’s Finance Minister, K. N. Balagopal, the Governor has also sought his dismissal from his Cabinet, declaring that he has withdrawn the pleasure of having him in the Council of Ministers.

What is the concept?

The pleasure doctrine is a concept derived from English common law, under which the crown can dispense with the services of anyone in its employ at any time. In India, Article 310 of the Constitution says every person in the defence or civil service of the Union holds office during the pleasure of the President, and every member of the civil service in the States holds office during the pleasure of the Governor. However, Article 311 imposes restrictions on the removal of a civil servant. It provides for civil servants being given a reasonable opportunity for a hearing on the charges against them. There is also a provision to dispense with the inquiry if it is not practicable to hold one, or if it is not expedient to do so in the interest of national security. In practical terms, the pleasure of the President referred to here is that of the Union government, and the Governor’s pleasure is that of the State government.

Under Article 164, the Chief Minister is appointed by the Governor; and the other Ministers are appointed by the Governor on the CM’s advice. It adds that Ministers hold office during the pleasure of the Governor. In a constitutional scheme in which they are appointed solely on the CM’s advice, the ‘pleasure’ referred to is also taken to mean the right of the Chief Minister to dismiss a Minister, and not that of the Governor.

What did the Supreme Court say on one Vice-Chancellor’s appointment?

In a case challenging the appointment of Dr. M.S. Rajasree as V-C of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, Thiruvananthapuram, the Supreme Court held that her appointment was contrary to the regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC). The particular infirmity was that the Search Committee had identified only one candidate and recommended the name to the Chancellor for appointment. Under UGC regulations, a panel of three to five names should be recommended so that the Chancellor has a number of options to choose from.

How did the Governor react?

The Governor, in his capacity as Chancellor of universities, responded by directing the V-Cs of nine universities to resign the very next day, contending that the infirmities pointed out by the Supreme Court in one case also vitiated their appointments. Mr. Khan noted that the apex court had declared that an appointment not in line with the UGC regulations would be ab initio void that is invalid from the very beginning. He highlighted the fact that each of those appointments were either made on the basis of a single recommendation or were recommended by a panel in which the Chief Secretary was a member (contrary to the Regulations that say its members should be persons of eminence in the field of higher education). However, when the communication was challenged in the Kerala High Court, the Governor converted his directive into show-cause notices to the V-Cs to explain how their appointments were not illegal. Later, such notices were sent to two more V-Cs.

Why did he want a Minister removed?

Responding to remarks by Kerala Ministers, Mr. Khan warned that he could withdraw his pleasure in respect of individual Ministers if they made statements that lowered the dignity of his office. Later, taking note of a comment by Mr. Balagopal, he conveyed to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan that the Minister ceased to enjoy his pleasure and wanted him to take “constitutionally appropriate action”. Mr. Balagopal had said that someone who had seen only universities in Uttar Pradesh could not understand the system in universities in Kerala. Mr. Khan considered this an affront to the Governor’s office, and also claimed that it undermined national unity, stoked regionalism and was seditious. Mr. Vijayan rejected the suggestion: “viewed from a constitutional perspective, factoring in the democratic conventions and traditions of our country, the statement cannot warrant a ground for cessation of the enjoyment of the Governor’s pleasure.”

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