Daily Current affairs 18 May 2019UPSC - Daily Current Affair
Relevant articles from PIB:
What to study?
For prelims: A 324 and features.
For mains: Issues surrounding the credibility of EC.
Context: The Election Commission of India has passed an unprecedented order ending the campaign in West Bengal. It also removed the state’s Home Secretary, and a senior police officer.
The decisions were taken under Article 324 of the Constitution, in response to street violence in Kolkata between cadres of two political parties.
What Article 324 and RPA say on this?
Article 324 vests “in an Election Commission” the “superintendence, direction and control of elections”.
Parliament enacted The RP Act of 1950 and 1951 to define and enlarge the powers of the Commission.
The RP Amendment Act, 1988 (Act 1 of 1989) introduced Section 28A in the RP Act of 1951, which said that all officers deployed for the conduct of an election shall be deemed to be on deputation to the EC. This should be from the notification of the election to the declaration of the results, and such officers shall, during that period, be subject to the control, superintendence and discipline of the EC.
Ambedkar introduced the Article 324 on June 15, 1949, saying the whole election machinery should be in the hands of a Central EC, which alone would be entitled to issue directives to returning officers, polling officers and others.
Need for and significance of A 324:
Mohinder Singh Gill vs The CEC, New Delhi and Others (1977): The Court held that Article 324 “operates in areas left unoccupied by legislation and the words ‘superintendence, direction and control’ as well as ‘conduct of all elections’ are the broadest terms”. The Constitution has not defined these terms.
Article 324 is a plenary provision vesting the whole responsibility for national and State elections in the ECI and therefore, the necessary powers to discharge that function.
Comprehensive provision in Art. 324 is necessary to take care of surprise situations.
Relevant articles from various news sources:
- Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
What to study?
For Prelims: About Midday meals scheme and Akshaya Patra foundation.
For Mains: Features, need and significance of the scheme, performance analysis of the scheme.
Context: The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) has said that it stands by its findings certifying mid-day meals without onion and garlic provided by the Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF) in Karnataka schools as compliant with nutritional norms laid down by the State government.
About Akshaya Patra:
Funded by International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Akshaya Patra is a Bengaluru-based not-for-profit organisation that works with the government on mid-day meal schemes. It has a state-of-the-art kitchen in Vrindavan.
Today, Akshaya Patra is the world’s largest (not-for-profit run) Mid-Day Meal Programme serving wholesome food every school day to over 1.76 million children from 14,702 schools across 12 states in India.
What’s the issue?
In January, 2019, the Karnataka government had asked NIN to assess APF meals for nutritional compliance, food safety, taste and diversity of meals following objections by the Karnataka State Food Commission as well as activists that absence of onion and garlic from meals made the food unpalatable and resulted in children consuming less quantity of food.
About National Institute of Nutrition (NIN):
- It is an Indian Public health, Nutrition and Translational research center located in Hyderabad.
- The institute is one of the oldest research centers in India, and the largest center, under the Indian Council of Medical Research.
- It was founded by Sir Robert McCarrison in the year 1918 as ‘Beri-Beri’ Enquiry Unit in a single room laboratory at the Pasteur Institute, Coonoor, Tamil Nadu.
- Within a short span of seven years, this unit blossomed into a “Deficiency Disease Enquiry” and later in 1928, emerged as full-fledged “Nutrition Research Laboratories” (NRL) with Dr. McCarrison as its first Director.
- It was later shifted to Hyderabad in 1958. In 1969, it was renamed as National Institute of Nutrition (NIN).
Mandate of NIN:
- Periodic Assessment of Nutrient intakes, Health and Nutrition status of the population for optimal health, and assist the Government and regulatory bodies in policy making
- Establishment of Dietary Reference Intake values, Recommended Dietary allowances, Dietary guidelines for Indian population; and assessment of Nutrient Composition of Foods
- Identify various nutrition deficiency disorders prevalent among different segments of the population
- Conduct operational research for planning and implementation of National Nutrition Programmes in the country
- Conduct surveys and study the risk factors of NCDs through multidisciplinary research
- Conduct innovative basic science Research on nutrient interactions, requirements, responses etc
- Identify and study food and environmental safety challenges for providing scientific input for policy and regulation
- Development of human resource in nutrition and also provide evidence-based nutrition knowledge to the community
Sources: The Hindu.
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: green cards- features, recent changes proposed and implications.
Context: U.S. President Donald Trump has announced a proposal that will include significant changes to the way green cards are allocated.
- The new proposal will increase skills-based green cards to 57%.
- Points will be awarded to applicants based on their education, work experience, age (more points for younger workers), English language ability etc.
- New immigrants will have to show that they can financially support themselves and will need to pass a civics exam.
- There would be a new “Build America” visa – details of which were not provided.
- People given Green Cards on humanitarian and diversity grounds will now only constitute 10% of all Green Card recipients.
The plan outlined dramatically reduces the number of family-based green cards and moves towards a points-based (“merit-based”) system that will reward, among other factors, education, skills and English language proficiency.
It will increase the number of green cards that are given through the skills route versus the family-based route.
The plan is sought to boost border security and tighten asylum procedures.
Currently about 12% of those receiving green cards entered the U.S. based on skill-based visas (such as the H1B), while some 66% are family-based green cards.
How will it impact India?
- The proposals, if they eventually turn into law, are likely to have a significant impact on Indians who interact with the U.S. immigration system. A large majority (over 70%) of H1B visas, for skilled workers, went to Indians in fiscal year 2018. Many of these are eventually converted to green cards.
- Such a move is likely to benefit hundreds and thousands of Indian professionals on H-1B visa whose current Green Card wait, on an average, is more than a decade.
- However, it is far from clear that a shift towards a points-based system will make the prospects of Indian skilled migrants wanting to settle in the U.S. easier, as bringing family members over, especially elderly parents, may get more complicated.
Sources: The Hindu.
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: masala bonds- features, need and significance.
Context: Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board issued Masala Bonds to raise funds from the overseas market.
What are Masala Bonds?
Masala Bonds are rupee-denominated bonds i.e the funds would be raised from overseas market in Indian rupees.
Eligibility: Any corporate, body corporate and Indian bank is eligible to issue Rupee denominated bonds overseas.
- RBI mandates that the money raised through such bonds cannot be used for real estate activities other than for development of integrated township or affordable housing projects.
- It also can’t be used for investing in capital markets, purchase of land and on-lending to other entities for such activities as stated above.
Where can these bonds be issued and who can subscribe?
The Rupee denominated bonds can only be issued in a country and subscribed by a resident of such country that is a member of financial action task force and whose securities market regulator is a member of International Organisation of Securities Commission. While residents of such countries can subscribe to the bonds, it can also be subscribed by multilateral and regional financial institutions where India is a member country.
What is the minimum maturity of such bonds?
According to RBI, the minimum maturity period for Masala Bonds raised up to Rupee equivalent of USD 50 million in a financial year should be 3 years and for bonds raised above USD 50 million equivalent in INR per financial year should be 5 years. The conversion for such bonds will happen at the market rate on the date of settlement of transactions undertaken for issue and servicing of the bonds, including its redemption.
Sources: the Hindu
Facts for prelims:
What is NEFT? RTGS?
Context: The RBI has proposed to examine the possibility of extending availability of National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) round-the-clock on all the seven days of the week — 24×7 basis — to facilitate beyond the banking hour fund transfer. Besides, the central bank will also examine the possibility of extending the timings for Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) transactions.
What is NEFT?
- NEFT is an electronic funds transfer system maintained by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Started in November 2005, the setup was established and maintained by Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT).
- NEFT enables bank customers in India to transfer funds between any two NEFT-enabled bank accounts on a one-to-one basis. It is done via electronic messages.
- Unlike Real-time gross settlement (RTGS), fund transfers through the NEFT system do not occur in real-time basis.
What is RTGS?
- RTGS are specialist funds transfer systems where the transfer of money or securities takes place from one bank to any other bank on a “real time” and on a “gross” basis.
- Settlement in “real time” means a payment transaction is not subjected to any waiting period, with transactions being settled as soon as they are processed.
Vande Bharat Express:
Context: India’s first engineless train, ‘Vande Bharat Express’, also known as ‘Train 18’, completed 1 lakh running kilometres without missing a single trip on May 16, 2019 in just three months time span.
- The high speed has been manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in the period of 18 months under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
- It is India’s first semi-high speed train equipped with world class passenger amenities.
- It runs between Delhi and Varanasi at speed of 160 kmph.
- Touted as the Next Generation Shatabdi Express, Vande Bharat Express is the first long-distance train without separate locomotive (engine) and is driven by a self-propulsion module.
Commission to look into the problems faced by farmers:
Context: The Meghalaya government has approved setting up of a commission to look into the problems faced by farmers.
The proposal was made by the Agriculture Department in line with the resolution passed at the ‘farmers’parliament’. The ‘farmers’ parliament’, the first of its kind in the country, was organised in Meghalaya and attended by scientists, bureaucrats, apart from farmers, to discuss issues related to the agriculture situation in the State.
What is a Skimmer?
A skimmer is a device designed to look like and replace the card insertion slot at an ATM. The skimmers, which cannot be usually spotted by an untrained eye, have circuitry that read and store the data on the magnetic strip of an ATM card even as the ATM processes the same data.
Summaries of important Editorials:
India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP):
Context: The government’s launch of the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) on March 8 is a bold response to addressing India’s future cooling needs while neutralising its impacts.
- India is the first country in world to develop such a document (ICAP), which addresses cooling requirement across sectors and lists out actions which can help reduce the cooling demand.
- The overarching goal is to provide sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all while securing environmental and socio-economic benefits for the society.
The goals emerging from the suggested interventions stated in ICAP are:
- Reduction of cooling demand across sectors by 20% to 25 % by year 2037-38.
- Reduction of refrigerant demand by 25% to 30% by year 2037-38.
- Reduction of cooling energy requirements by 25% to 40% by year 2037-38.
- Training and certification of 100,000 servicing sector technicians by the year 2022-23, in synergy with Skill India Mission.
- Recognize “cooling and related areas” as a thrust area of research under the national S&T Programme.
The broad objectives of the India Cooling Action Plan include:
- Assessment of cooling requirements across sectors in next 20 years and the associated refrigerant demand and energy use.
- Map the technologies available to cater the cooling requirement including passive interventions, refrigerant-based technologies and alternative technologies such as not-in-kind technologies.
- Suggest interventions in each sector to provide for sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all.
- Focus on skilling of RAC service technicians.
- Develop an R&D innovation ecosystem for indigenous development of alternative technologies.
The following benefits would accrue to society over and above the environmental benefits:
- Thermal comfort for all – provision for cooling for EWS and LIG housing.
- Sustainable cooling – low GHG emissions related to cooling.
- Doubling Farmers Income – better cold chain infrastructure – better value of products to farmers, less wastage of produce.
- Skilled workforce for better livelihoods and environmental protection.
- Make in India – domestic manufacturing of air-conditioning and related cooling equipment’s.
- Robust R&D on alternative cooling technologies – to provide the push to innovation in a cooling sector.
Radar and its operation
Context: Recently, there was a controversy about a statement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ostensibly making a connection between cloud cover and the efficiency of Radar.
What is a radar?
In simplest terms, a radar comprises of a transmitter which sends radio waves along specific directions. The signals are reflected off the target which are used to construct an image of the target. If the target is moving at a specific velocity, there is a shift in the frequency of the signal which can be used to identify the target speed. As the received signal is just above the noise floor, a number of factors can influence the radar system and rainfall and clouds can certainly influence the measured signal.
Impact of weather conditions:
Although radio waves are transparent to weather conditions like fog, clouds and rain, change in weather conditions can influence scattering and overall propagation. The presence of moisture in air can influence propagation of signal in space.
Radar bands in general, operate over broad frequency ranges. Radars operating at high frequencies are not significantly affected by change in weather conditions. However, when the weather conditions are extreme, they can find it hard to detect a fighter aircraft zooming at very high speeds.
According to a report by Rand Corporation for US Air Force, for a dense cloud, the attenuation of the signal could be 0.1 dB/km for X band radar. It implies signal attenuation by a factor of 10 if the target is 50 Km from the source. The attenuation could increase by a factor of 10 if there is rainfall at the rate of 25 cm/hr.
According to Meneghini et al. (1986), signal attenuation by cloud and precipitation is a serious problem associated with airborne or spaceborne millimetre wave operation. Lhermitte (1990) wrote in the Journal of Atmospheric And Oceanic Technology, that at 15 GHz the attenuation coefficient is 0.12 dB per mm per hour of rain intensity. It implies that if the rain intensity is 1 cm/hr, the attenuation of signal power can be in the range of 1.2 dB or approximately 31%. For a 30 GH z signal, the attenuation under heavy tropic rain could be in the range of 30 dB (a factor of 1,000). Besides rain, lightning-based scattering can also attenuate radar signals over short periods which can open new opportunities for fighter aircraft.
In fact, attenuation of radio waves is widely used in measuring rain intensity and moisture content. Below 1 GHz, the attenuation is not that significant, but heavy rains, clouds and lightning effects can still make some impact on the measurement process.
To sum up, Modi’s statement does hold strong scientific basis which can be corroborated by existing research on the subject. The X band radar is significantly attenuated by rains, clouds and fog and related climatic conditions. For lower bands, the attenuation is less significant, but in high-speed warfare, slight change in conditions can offer huge leverage.