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9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – 16 February



Front Page / NATIONAL

[1]. ISRO launches 104 satellites in one go, creates history

[2]. Constitution Bench to hear Delhi-Centre spat

[3]. Clouds over Maharashtra will have a silver iodide lining 

[4]. Can’t advance Rafale deliveries

Editorial/OPINION

[1]. The devil is in the fine print

[2]. ISRO sets the bar high

[3]. The foul air we breathe

[4]. Time to Break in India

[5]. A few good officers

ECONOMY

[1]. RBI signalling end to easing cycle

Indian Express

[1]. Happiness, beyond measure

Live Mint

[1]. The GPS is a time machine


NoteDownload the Summary of ECONOMIC SURVEY 2016-17 Here 


Click here to Download 9 PM Brief PDF (16 Feb. 2017)

Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]. ISRO launches 104 satellites in one go, creates history

ISRO launches 104 satellites in one go, creates history


The Hindu

Context

Satellites include the country’s earth observation satellite Cartosat-2 series

What has happened?

ISRO launched 104 satellites on 15thFeb 2016 creating world record

Relevant points from this article has been covered in the editorial later on.


 

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[2]. Constitution Bench to hear Delhi-Centre spat

Constitution Bench to hear Delhi-Centre spat


The Hindu

Context

A two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court referred to a Constitution Bench a series of appeals filed by the Delhi government for laying down the law on whether the Lieutenant Governor (LG) can unilaterally administer the National Capital — without being bound by the “aid and advice” of the elected government

Appeals referred

A Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and R.K. Agrawal referred the appeals to the Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, who will constitute a Constitution Bench of the appropriate number of judges

The burning question

A question that arises now is whether the appeals would have to be heard by an eleven-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. This is because a nine-judge Bench of the court had, in 1996, in the NDMC versus State of Punjab case, recognised Delhi as a Union Territory for taxation purposes.


 

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[3]. Clouds over Maharashtra will have a silver iodide lining

Clouds over Maharashtra will have a silver iodide lining


The Hindu

Context

State government responds to frequent droughts in Vidarbha with a three-year cloud seeding experiment

 Investigating an old question

During monsoon 2017, weather scientists will fly airplanes loaded with silver iodide over clouds hovering above Solapur, Maharashtra and will begin a three-year investigation into an old question: does cloud seeding produce sufficient rain?

The programme

The programme will account for the variability of the monsoon and quantify the extent to which clouds form water drops large enough to make rain.

  • The move is part of a larger experiment of the Earth Sciences Ministry to understand how clouds and aerosols interact and influence climate.

 How it will be done?

Scientists will fly two aircraft and spray dry ice and silver iodide on 100 clouds and compare them with 100 unseeded clouds. Ground radar will track the clouds and verify which ones contributed rain.

Cost of the programme: ₹250-crore.

It is coordinated by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.

How cloud seeding works?

China: Ahead of the pack

China used the technique during the 2008 Olympics to steer rain away from the inaugural venue and now has a full-fledged department that blasts rockets into clouds to induce rain and control pollution.


 

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 [4]. Can’t advance Rafale deliveries

Can’t advance Rafale deliveries


The Hindu

Context

Dassault: India has ordered 36 jets, and the deliveries are scheduled between 2019 and 2022

Give it a light read. Nothing pertinent


 

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Editorial/OPINION


[1]. The devil is in the fine print

The devil is in the fine print


The Hindu

Context

Electoral reforms announced in the Budget are not what they are claimed to be — they will neither cleanse our politics nor bring transparency

Issue: Dissection of the Budget proposals wrt electoral funding

 Reforms announced

  • Cash ceiling for donations: A ceiling of ₹2,000 on the amount of cash donation that a political party can receive from one person in a year
  • Donations through cheque or digital mode: Political parties would be “entitled to receive” donations by cheque or digital mode from their donors
  • Electoral bonds: A new scheme of Electoral Bonds
  • Filing of IT return in prescribed time: The Finance Bill now proposes a new proviso in Section 13A clause (d) of the Income Tax Act 1961 that explicitly says that the return should be filed within the stipulated time limit

Critique of the reforms

The second and the fourth components of this scheme are redundant, as these are no different from what the existing law provides for

  • It does not require a new law to say that political parties are “entitled” to receive donations by cheque or digitally. They were always entitled to this and were already doing so

What was needed?

Instead we needed a new law which mandated that the parties would be “required” to receive donations by cheque or digitally.

  • Enforce present law: Similarly, the existing law requires political parties to file their income tax returns to enjoy tax exemption. Big national parties file their return months after the due date and many parties don’t file the return at all. No one gets penalized for this non-compliance. The government really did not need an amendment if it had the will to enforce the existing law
  • Cash donations: The existing limit of ₹20,000 on anonymous donation as per Section 23 of the Representation of the People Act (RPA) has been left untouched. Only a new, additional, clause that limits cash donation from one source to ₹2,000 in one year has been proposed. Moreover, a limit of Rs 2000 would merely a mean more number of fraudulent  book entries than earlier

 What was needed?

A limit on overall donations: Following the Law Commission’s recommendations, the EC had proposed that no party should be allowed to receive more than ₹20 crore or 20% of its overall donations from anonymous sources

  • Trouble with electoral bonds:  Here is how the scheme is going to work,
  • Anyone who wants to donate to a political party would be able to purchase bonds from authorized banks. This purchase will have to be in ‘white money’ against cheque and digital payments only
  • Once purchased, these bonds will be like bearer bonds and will not contain the name of the eventual beneficiary
  • These bonds shall be redeemable only in the designated account of a registered political party within a prescribed period
  • So, the donor’s bank would know about who bought how much of Electoral Bonds, but not the name of the party which received it
  • The party’s bank would know the amount deposited through Bonds, but not the identity of the donor

The problem

The Income Tax authorities and the EC would not know anything: reporting of donor, beneficiary, or even the amount of contribution has been exempted by amending the Income Tax Act Section 13A (b) and the RPA, Section 29C

Example

Author gives the following example to make it clear that provision of electoral bonds is not going to boost transparency

Let us think of a classic quid pro quo. A government favours a business house in a mining or spectrum or oil deal to the tune of ₹5,000 crore. Both of them have a fifty-fifty deal. Under the existing arrangement, the business house would have to either declare in its balance sheet a ‘donation’ of ₹2,500 crore to the ruling party, or find that much cash to secretly hand over to the party bosses. If the payment is in white, the party will have to declare the amount and the name of the company to the Income Tax authorities and to the EC. Now, the company could simply purchase Election Bonds worth ₹2,500 crore and hand it over to the party. The company’s balance sheet will show “purchase of Election Bonds” with no name of the beneficiary, while it enjoys 100% tax deduction on that amount. The party will simply deposit the money in its account, with no obligation to report anything to the IT authorities or to the EC. It may well report an innocuous amount of, say, ₹3.8 crore as its annual reportable income!

Why would anyone give any money to a political party through cheque or digital payment and face all the hassle of disclosure when a perfect cover in the form of electoral bonds has been provided by the law?


 

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[2]. ISRO sets the bar high

ISRO sets the bar high


The Hindu

Context
ISRO boosted its reputation further when it successfully launched a record 104 satellites in one mission from Sriharikota by relying on its workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket

What has happened?

ISRO has successfully launched 104 satellites in one go using PSLV. It accomplished the task in about 12 minutes.

What satellites were launched?

Indian satellites

  • An earth observation Cartosat-2 series satellitewhich is used for Earth observation. It will return high resolution images which will warn us against, and help tackle, natural disasters
  • Two Nano satellites: The two from India are called INS-1A and INS-1B, which carry 4 different pay loads from the Laboratory for Electro Optics Systems (LEOS) and Space Applications Centre (SAC). These will be used for conducting experiments

US

  • 96 were from the U.S.

Remaining countries

  • 1 each from the other five countries viz, Israel, the UAE, the Netherlands, Kazakhstan and Switzerland

 Which country held the previous record?

Till now Russia held the record of launching 37 satellites in a single mission, in 2014, while the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the U.S. launched 29 satellites in one go in 2013.

Significance of the launch

The launch is particularly significant as ISRO now cements its position as a key player in the lucrative commercial space launch market by providing a cheaper yet highly reliable alternative

PSLV: A workhorse

The PSLV, which created launch history by placing a record 104 spacecraft in their desired orbits, has totally launched 46 Indian spacecraft, most of them Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites. It also launched the Indian Moon mission Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and is set to launch a private lunar mission for Bengaluru start-up Team Indus in late December this year

Probing other revenue streams

In the interim, ISRO must try to probe other revenue streams like Reusable Launch vehicles like Avatar

Read More: Reusable Launch vehicle System


 

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[3]. The foul air we breathe

The foul air we breathe


The Hindu

Context

Article talks about the recently released The State of Global Air 2017 study report conducted jointly by the Health Effects Institute and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation

Observations

  • Particulate matter concentration is growing: Concentration of the most significant inhalable pollutant, fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less (PM2.5), has been growing in India
    • Growth rate registered: The weighted national PM2.5 level estimated in the international report rose from 60 micrograms per cubic metre in 1990 (the acceptable limit) to 74 in 2015, with a steady rise since 2011

Effect of rising pollution

Premature death of an estimated 1.1 million Indians annually

Rising concentration indicates a failed policy

The rise in average annual population-weighted PM2.5 levels indicates that the Centre’s initiatives to help States reduce the burning of agricultural biomass and coal in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi have failed.

Problem of crop residues

Amount of crop residue produced annually: 500 million tonnes

Author states that although the role of crop residues in causing pollution is well known, little is being done in this regard by the government. Steps proposed by Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) to convert waste into useful products such as enriched fodder, biogas, biofuel, compost and so on have had little effect. Why? Because,

  • Lack of supply of machinery: Government has not been able to supply affordable seeder machinery in sufficient numbers to eliminate the need to remove the straw

Other helpful steps

  • Easy access to cheap solar cookers and biogas plants will also cut open burning, and help the rural economy
  • Reliable distribution mechanism is also required so that only intended beneficiaries receive the benefits

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[4]. Time to Break in India

Time to Break in India


The Hindu

Context

There is no point in hitching our bandwagon to what will soon be an obsolete patent game. We must think through alternative innovation incentives such as prizes and open source formats

What has happened?

US Chamber of Commerce has ranked India 43rd out of 45 countries on its IP index

Give the rest of the article a light read.


 

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[5]. A few good officers

A few good officers


The Hindu

Context

The Supreme Court verdict in the disproportionate assets case should boost the morale of all those who are investigating corrupt public servants

Give it a light read. Article is devoid of any relevant fodder points from examination point of view.


 

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ECONOMY


[1]. RBI signalling end to easing cycle

RBI signalling end to easing cycle


The Hindu

Context

The indications from the recent RBI policy are that we have probably come to the end of this easing cycle

Article presents an interview with Badrinivas N.C. , Managing Director, Country Treasurer and Head – Local Markets Treasury, Citi India

Give it a cursory read


 

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Indian Express


[1]. Happiness, beyond measure

Happiness, beyond measure

Context

People are jumping on to the Gross National Happiness bandwagon, in an attempt to capture something that remains elusive

Introduction

Bhutan, Venezuela, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Madhya Pradesh, All of them have a ministry/department for happiness.

GNHI is based on four pillars (political, economic, cultural and environmental) and nine domains.

Process of data aggregation in for GNH in Bhutan

GNH is built into Bhutan’s constitution, in Article 9, on Principles of State Policy

In Bhutan feedback received from GNHI surveys is factored into government policies and public expenditure priorities, reflected in central and local body plans

There were surveys in 2010 and 2015 to determine how Bhutan performed on GNHI.

But survey was based on subjective responses to questionnaires that were then aggregated.

In Venezuela

While initial idea in Venezuela seems to have been to converge anti-poverty programmes directed at disabled, homeless, poor and old-age pensioners.

Here government didn’t asked people what their priorities are.

This also illustrates why discussions on happiness that mention both Bhutan and Venezuela in the same breath are misleading.

In UAE 

In 2016, UAE announced a new ministry (and minister of state) for happiness.

It may be early days, but so far, all this ministry seems to have done is to train officers from federal and local government to become “chief happiness and positivity officers”.

MP

Among India’s states, Madhya Pradesh was the first one to start a happiness department in 2016.

Criticisms of GNH

There is discretion and diversions in the approaches adopted by different governments to measure the happiness

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[2]. Orbital momentum

Orbital momentum


Indian Express

Context

ISRO has established its presence in the booming launch vehicle market. It is time to start spinning off products and services

Relevant points from this article has been clubbed in the Hindu editorial related to ISRO launch


 

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Live Mint


[1]. The GPS is a time machine

The GPS is a time machine

Live Mint

Context

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is not only for navigation. Modern technology depends on it for telling time.

What is GPS?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system. The GPS (Global Positioning System) is a “constellation” of approximately 30 well-spaced satellites that orbit the Earth and make it possible for people with ground receivers to pinpoint their geographic location.

How does GPS work?

  • A GPS receiver calculates its position by a technique called satellite ranging, which involves measuring the distance between the GPS receiver and the GPS satellites it is tracking.
  • The Global Positioning System, or GPS, uses passive range-finding technology to pinpoint your exact position on the globe by calculating the time it takes for a pulse from its satellites to reach your receiver.

 

Need for GPS

  • Today, timeliness is core to everything we do.
  • Existence of a common and coordinated system of telling time.
  • Many of the complex networked technologies that we take for granted today depend on precisely synchronized time to function.
  • Most modern technologies depend on having a single precise system of telling time—that works everywhere.
  • GPS is the most accurate, perfectly synchronized timing system on the planet—that is, to boot, accessible, free of cost, from anywhere on earth.
  • Due to the accuracy of GPS technology, along with improvements in GPS technology applications, we are starting to see industries such as automotive, light air, marine navigation, surveying, mapping, environmental research, and now construction applications.

 

Use of GPS Technology

  • Efficient delivery of products and materials
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Getting to meetings in unfamiliar locations

Conclusion

GPS systems certainly are becoming more and more prevalent in their application with daily advancements in the technology. GPS is an increasingly influential product, both in our personal and business lives, and new products will continue to be developed and fine-tuned to help us do our work faster and more efficiently.


 

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