. Value of ISRO’s workhorse goes up
India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in its thirty-seventh flight (PSLV-C35), launched the 371 kg SCATSAT-1 for weather related studies and seven other satellites into polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO).
- SCATSAT – 1: India
- ALSAT-1B, ALSAT-2B, ALSAT-1N: Algeria
- NLS-19: Canada
- Pathfinder-1: USA
- PRATHAM: IIT Bombay
- PISAT: PES University, Bengaluru
Highlights of the mission
- PSLV C-35 is the “longest mission” of the PSLV so far
- This mission has enhanced the global marketability of PSLV thereby placing PSLV in a unique position in the global satellite launch services market
A little something about PSLV
Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle(PSLV) – It is a satellite-launch vehicle (rocket) developed by ISRO. PSLV is designed mainly to deliver the “earth-observation” or “remote-sensing” satellites with lift-off mass of up to about 1750 Kg to Sun-Synchronous circular polar orbits of 600-900 Km altitude.
- Apart from launching the remote sensing satellites to Sun-synchronous polar orbits, the PSLV is also used to launch the satellites of lower lift-off mass of up to about 1400 Kg to the elliptical Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO)
What is sun-synchronous orbit?
An orbit is called sun-synchronous when the angle between the line joining the centre of the Earth and the satellite and the Sun is constant throughout the orbit.
- PSLV is a four-staged launch vehicle with first and third stage using solid rocket motors and second and fourth stages using liquid rocket engines
- Domestic as well as foreign – PSLV rockets have so far launched 79 satellites from 21 foreign countries
ISRO plans to launch
- The GSAT-18 communication satellite from French Guiana on October 4
- The Resourcesat 2A on board a PSLV rocket in November
- GSLV Mk III by the end of 2016
- ISRO is also planning to design satellites based on customers’ requirements
. River Sutra: Stay within treaty but use India’s rights fully
The Union government has decided to set up an inter-ministerial committee to study India’s further options on the Indus Waters Treaty. The decision came during Prime Minister’s meeting to review the treaty following the terror attack in Uri.
Indus Water treaty
As per the treaty, India is entitled complete access to eastern rivers compared to only 20% of western rivers.
Note: – For an in-depth info on Indus water treaty please refer to 9pm Brief dated 23rd September 2016
Committee would look into storage possibilities that would help irrigate fields in Jammu and Kashmir
Government has further decided to
- Build more run-of-the-river hydropower projects on western rivers, to exploit the full potential of 18,600 MW (current projects come to 11,406 MW) and to expedite the construction of the PakalDul, Sawalkot, Bursar dams in Jammu and Kashmir
What is run-of-the-river (ROR) hydroelectric project?
It is a type of hydroelectric generation plant whereby little or no water storage is provided. Run-of-the-river power plants may have no water storage at all or a limited amount of storage and is, therefore, subject to seasonal river flows. Thus, the plant will operate as an intermittent energy source while a plant with proper storage can regulate the water flow at all times and can serve as a continuous source of power.
- Review restarting the Tulbul navigation project that India had suspended after Pakistan’s objections in 1987
After Uri attack, India is considering all its options to force Pakistan to put a stop to the sponsored terror activities. Utilizing the full quota of rights guaranteed under Indus water treaty is one such option. It should be noted that if India goes ahead with this option then it would not be in violation of the treaty. The treaty itself allows India to utilize a percentage of the water of the western rivers, which India had not been using fully up till now.
. The case against simultaneous polls
Article discusses about various questions related to the simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies
Author says that,
- Government has opened up the issue of simultaneous conduct of elections for LS and State assemblies for public consultation till mid-October.
- The real question that should be discussed is about the feasibility of the simultaneous election
Can simultaneous elections for both the Central and State legislatures be implemented given the federal nature of Indian democracy guaranteed by the Constitution? Author tries to answer this question.
- Argument for simultaneous election: During elections in India the political parties, candidates & the Election commission of India i.e. the government spend a lot of money. Candidates do so to reach maximum number of voters and increase their chances of winning. Simultaneous elections would save government a lot of money that it has to spend to conduct elections.
- Demolishing the argument: However, the argument in favor of simultaneous elections does not seem to be based on saving the money spent by political parties and candidates, but by the Election Commission. This is not right as per the author because elections being the lifeblood of the democracy cannot be measured in terms of monetary expenses that they incur. It is government’s responsibility to conduct free and fair elections. In order to save the monetary expense the democratic principles should not be compromised.
Simultaneous elections resulting in better governance is another argument that has been put forward
Argument for simultaneous election: With multiple elections, the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is in force for much of the time, which prevents the government from initiating new projects and ultimately slows down development work.
Demolishing the argument: The argument that the governance in other states and the centre comes to a standstill holds no ground because MCC is applied only in the state where elections are held. Unless the government at the centre has a sinister agenda of influencing the electoral outcome in the state where MCC is applied the argument of hindrance to governance is baseless.
Author suggests an alternative path
- Changes in MCC: In order to overcome this problem, it may be more useful to make changes in the Model Code of Conduct to allow the government to initiate projects and programmes till a reasonable period (maybe till the notification of elections) instead of the existing scenario where the code comes into force the day the elections are announced.
- Exceptions in MCC exist: There is a provision in the Model Code of Conduct that the government can consult the Election Commission about policy decisions and if the decisions are not likely to have any implications for the electoral outcome, the Commission can permit the government to take those decisions
One country, one election
Argument for simultaneous election: “One country, one election”. India is a one country and there should be one election.
Demolishing the argument: Above argument fails to appreciate the fact that despite being a one nation, our constitution recognizes the existence of 29 different states which have a constitutional status of their own in matters of elections and government formation. Constitution envisages India to be a federal state rather than a unitary one. Imposing one election at all levels will go against the idea of federal polity.
- Voting for the same party: Separate elections help voters make conscious and informed choices as they have ample time to think over various options. There is a tendency among the voters to vote for the same party both for electing the State government as well as the Central government, if simultaneous elections are held. This is a rule rather than an exception, not based on assumption but on evidence.
To support his claim author has listed instances proving that whenever elections took place simultaneously in various states and centre, major political parties accounted same proportion of votes both at centre and state level.
- Andhra Pradesh (1989, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014)
- Odisha (2004, 2009 and 2014)
- Karnataka (1989, 1999 and 2004)
- Sikkim (2009 and 2014)
- Tamil Nadu (1989, 1991 and 1996)
- Maharashtra (1999)
- Assam (1991 and 1996)
- Haryana (1991 and 1996)
- Kerala (1989, 1991 and 1996)
- Uttar Pradesh (1989 and 1991)
- West Bengal (1991 and 1996)
- Arunachal Pradesh (2009 and 2014)
- Telangana (2014)
- When simultaneous elections for the Assembly and the Lok Sabha were held in these States, in 24 elections the major political parties polled almost a similar proportion of votes both for the Assembly and the Lok Sabha, while only in seven instances was the choice of voters somewhat different
- During the same period, when in many States the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections were held at different times, the electoral outcome (votes polled by different parties) of the two elections has been different
Author finally ends the article saying that political diversity in India is going to be affected if the provision of simultaneous election is implemented. (Political diversity is guaranteed when different parties representing different views are elected instead of a single party at both centre and state)
. Joining the climate high table
Editorial discusses about the recent decision of India to Paris agreement and the possible changes it would need to make to implement it successfully at domestic level.
Author points out that,
- India is currently in a tough situation as it needs to balance the need for rapid economic growth and development of millions of its people suffering from poverty with minimal environmental damage.
- Deadline for signatures on Paris agreement is April 2017 and it will be achieved much earlier than that as 61 country-parties responsible for 47.79 per cent of emissions have ratified it so far. What remains is for individual countries in Europe, and the European Union, to review their commitments after Brexit, and sign up to reach the target of 55 per cent of total GHG emissions.
Following the commitments
India would need to implement the commitments it made in the Paris agreement. In order to do so,
- a national consultative process on low carbon strategies need to be initiated
- Every aspect of energy use would need precise measurement in the years ahead, which several sectors of the economy are ill-equipped to do at present
- Upgrading the electricity grid to take in higher volumes of renewable power
- A bold new policy on urban design to curb emissions from buildings and transport has to be written
- National policy should mandate even higher levels of taxes on fossil fuels and transfer the benefits to eco-friendly options like solar panels, efficient light bulbs, bicycles, green buses/trains, and greening initiatives.
Such far-reaching steps can only be taken if state governments are involved in the entire process
. Towards a database nation
Author talks about the possible dangers of an ever increasing trend of government surveillance in India through databases like NATGRID, Aadhaar & Central Monitoring System (CMS)
Author warns that with increased surveillance systems India is on its way to be transformed into a National Information State.
What is National Information State?
A form of governance in which governments use surveillance, data collection, data mining and other such invasive methods to prevent crime, terrorist attacks and to deliver welfare services.
Your every move is being watched (Source: Alternet.org)
What is NATGRID?
It is a database that offers law enforcement agencies data access to 21 providers such as airlines, banks, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, railways and telecommunications operators by 2017
What is CMS?
The Central Monitoring System, is a centralized telephone interception provisioning system m installed by the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT), an Indian Government owned telecommunications technology development centre.
CMS will automate the process of lawful interception and monitoring of telecommunications
Why author feels that India might be transformed into a National Information state?
Author lists out following reasons for her prediction,
- Invasion of privacy: Every citizen in India has a right to privacy. Access to citizens’ call data records violates privacy since it reveals their relationships and potentially confidential transactions. CMS is already scanning public communication in real time in Delhi and Mumbai and its reach will be expanded gradually. Moreover, the communication intercepted by intelligence agencies is in real time. Such interception will take place secretly, without the involvement of the telecommunications service provider, eliminating the only third party that ever had any idea of government excesses in this context.
- The state will use the system for surveillance excesses as it has done in the past.
- Whoever actually executes process through which the government accesses our communication in real time may abuse this access to private information for personal gain.
- Tightened government control: No one knows whetherAadhaar, with its access to our biometric identification and its connection with all kinds of databases from banking to health and scholarships, will be a part of NATGRID. If yes, then it further tightens government control.
- Security of the databases: Author points out that we are unaware as to how secure these databases are and have given no thought to what will happen if someone hacks them or misuses the sensitive information contained in them
- Exemption from RTI: It should be noted that NATGRID is exempted from the ambit of RTI making it non-answerable in case of any violation of rights of the citizens whose data it holds.
- Trapping the next generation: People are lining up to add their children to Aadhaar database. Given that no one can opt out of the database once enrolled, it is a very serious human rights violation. It does not offer adults a way to withdraw consent and does not offer the next generation the opportunity to reverse their parents’ decisions
- At present government is not required to disclose any information to citizens regarding breach of public databases. If Aadhaar and NATGRID are hacked government is not obligated to tell the public about it. This creates a serious imbalance of power between state and its people.
Author concludes by saying that public needs to wake up from its comatose state. A debate needs to be initiated in public domain as to what is the effectiveness of creating such databases and safeguards institutionalized within them to protect the sensitive information that they contain. Without such a discourse we are heading towards a society where civil liberties would once again reside within the hands of the state.
. Preventing death in custody
Article begins with the mention of suicidal deaths in Tamilnadu’sPuzhal jail while simultaneously touching upon the larger debate of suspicious custodial deaths in Indian jails, reasons behind them and possible solutions
- From 1995 to 2014, 999 suicides were reported inside Indian prisons
Condition in Tamilnadu: Tamil Nadu alone has seen 141 of them. The State houses less than 4 per cent of the country’s prisoners, yet it accounts for 14 per cent of suicides inside prisons. With such a poor track record, the State machinery should at least deliberate possible solutions
- Data show that in the last 20 years, three inmates on average have been found dead daily in Indian prisons.
- In 2014, there were five deaths every day, so 35 deaths in a typical week. Two of these deaths were suicides. In the same period, the death rate inside prisons rose by 42 per cent. Ninety per cent of these deaths were recorded as ‘natural’
Observation: Above numbers show that prison department is ill-equipped to protect the health and safety of inmates
Condition in prisons
- Dismal prison conditions: Inmates live in despair of little or no contact with the outside world, are denied the basic desires to eat or wear clothes of their choice, to forge relationships. They wait for basic medical needs, their movements are restricted, and they are frustrated as they know nothing about their cases. As they are not taken to court often, they miss the chance of meeting a judge, their lawyers, and families. There is also lack of a mechanism to hear their complaints.
- Violation of rights of the prisoners: Little public scrutiny in jails provides the possibility of violation of basic rights. It is only when violations result in deaths that questions are raised
- Prison suicides:Suicide is also a critical problem in prison complexes. In the last 20 years, the suicide rate (suicides per lakh population) in prisons is recorded at 15.4. A person is 1.5 times more likely to kill himself or herself inside jail than outside it.
- Post–mortem reports: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed concern in the past about post-mortem reports “appearing to be doctored due to influence”. There is no information in the public domain about the details of these reports, whether the magistrate visited the death scene, what evidence was gathered, the time taken for the inquiry, the outcome, and whether prison officials were charged or found guilty.
- Prison institutions should be made accountable.
- Prison monitors: Prison monitors are mandated to regularly visit jails, listen to prisoners’ grievances, identify areas of concern, and seek resolution. These visitors include magistrates and judges, State human rights institutions, and non-official visitors drawn from society. Regular and honest monitoring of jails via prison monitors can help improve the condition in jails.
Ground situation: An upcoming Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative study (CHRI), ‘Looking into the haze — a study on prison monitoring in India’, shows that not even 1 per cent of Indian jails are monitored
- Surveillance: As per the Supreme Court, Centre and the States need to install CCTV cameras in all the prisons in the country. CCTV cameras serve two purposes,
- They bring on record incidents that could otherwise be suppressed
- They play a preventive role in violation of rights as fear of facing the consequences increase under vigilance
- Counselling the inmates: Providing proper counselling to inmates can be crucial in helping inmates to deal with harsh prison conditions.
- Post–reports: Recently, SC made it mandatory to upload FIRs within a stipulated time online. A similar direction vis-à-vis post mortem reports of deaths inside prisons will go a long way in ensuring that prison system works properly.
- Increased human contact: If the state works to promote communication between the inmate and his family and lawyer, increase conjugal visits (A conjugal visit is a scheduled period in which an inmate of a prison or jail is permitted to spend several hours or days in private with a visitor, usually their legal spouse)
- Adequately trained correctional staff: Ensuring adequate trained prison staff will help in a sensitized interaction between prison staff and the inmates instead of being ridiculed by them.
- Open up the prison to civil society: Letting the civil society representatives inside the prison institutions will help in independent monitoring of the entire system.
While the liberty of a person inside custody can be curtailed according to “procedures established by law”, it cannot be stretched to destroy life itself.
Note: – Please refer to the following article regarding information on terms ‘procedure established by law’ & ‘due process of law’.
. Cabinet’s formal nod to be sought for Budget on Feb. 1
The Finance Ministry has settled on February 1 as the new date for the presentation of the Union Budget, with the decision expected to be placed before the Cabinet for formal approval soon.
Why government wants to bring the budget forward?
Present situation: At the moment, with the Budget being presented at the end of February, several processes, including the vote on account, result in states being able to disburse funds only by late May.
After bringing the budget date forward: Ministries and state governments would be able to begin disbursing funds from the beginning of the financial year i.e. by April
Does changing the budget date requires parliamentary approval?
No. It is entirely a cabinet decision.