Insights Daily Current Affairs, 13 January 2018
Topic: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
Indian harvest festivals
Context: The Harvest season is on and festivities have gripped the nation from the north to down south.
Various festivals across the nation:
- Makar Sankranti: The festival of Makar Sankranti is being celebrated today when the Sun enters the Makar zodiac and the days begin to lengthen compared to nights.
- Pongal: In South India and particularly in Tamil Nadu, it’s the festival of Pongal which is being celebrated over 4 days at harvest time.
- Magha Bihu: In Assam and many parts of the North East, the festival of Magha Bihu is celebrated. It sees the first harvest of the season being offered to the gods along with prayers for peace and prosperity. People in Assam celebrate this festival wearing colourful and bright clothes.
- Uttarayan: Gujarat celebrates it in the form of the convivial kite festival of Uttarayan.
- Maghi: In Punjab, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Maghi. Bathing in a river in the early hours on Maghi is important.
- Saaji: In Shimla District of Himachal Pradesh, Makara Sankranti is known as Magha Saaji. Saaji is the Pahari word for Sakranti, start of the new month. Hence this day marks the start of the month of Magha.
- Kicheri: The festival is known as Kicheri in Uttar Pradesh and involves ritual bathing.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
Urban heat island
Context: Every winter, the whole of north India is covered by dense fog. But a phenomenon called urban heat island is burning holes in this grey shroud over New Delhi and other cities on the Indo-Gangetic Plain, says a new study.
The urban heat island effect is so strong in Delhi, the largest city in the region, that it saw 50% less fog than surrounding areas. In Delhi, the heat island effect also appears to be suppressing the very formation of fog. Scientists found that while areas outside Delhi have seen a 20 per cent increase in fog in the period 2012-2016 compared with 2000-2004, Delhi itself did not see an increase.
Reasons behind this:
The analysis found a correlation between the size of the urban population and that of the fog hole. Population size has been shown to be related to the intensity of urban heat islands since they are an indicator of urban growth.
The findings from the study are important since dense and polluted winter fog envelopes north India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh every year from December to January severely affecting air quality and disrupting air, rail and road traffic. The study will be very useful in understanding the process of why fog occurs and ultimately to predict its occurrence.
What is urban heat island effect?
The urban heat island is a phenomenon when the heat gets trapped near the earth’s surface as a result of a decline in green cover, rapid urbanisation, energy-intensive activities, and concrete structures.
Urban heat islands can have worse air and water quality than their rural neighbours. UHIs often have lower air quality because there are more pollutants (waste products from vehicles, industry, and people) being pumped into the air. These pollutants are blocked from scattering and becoming less toxic by the urban landscape: buildings, roads, sidewalks, and parking lots. Water quality also suffers. When warm water from the UHI ends up flowing into local streams, it stresses the native species that have adapted to life in a cooler aquatic environment.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
Context: The Election Commission (EC) has set up a 14-member committee to suggest changes to Section 126 of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, which prohibits poll campaign in the last 48 hours leading to voting, in the wake of media expansion. The committee, chaired by Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha, will submit its report within three months.
Terms of reference:
- Apart from suggesting modifications to the election law, the committee will also study the impact of new media and social media during the “silence period” and its implication in view of Section 126 and suggest changes to the model code of conduct (MCC) accordingly.
- It has also been tasked to examine the difficulties faced in regulating media platforms during the prohibitory 48 hours in a multi-phase election.
Need for review:
Election Commission is of the considered view that due to multifold expansion of digital and electronic media, the extant Model Code of Conduct, Section 126 of the RP Act, 1951, and other related provisions require revisiting to cater to the requirement and challenges of the present and emerging situations.
Model Code of Conduct(MCC):
What is MCC? These are the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, election manifestos, processions and general conduct.
Aim: To ensure free and fair elections.
When it comes into force? The Model Code of Conduct comes into force immediately on announcement of the election schedule by the commission. The Code remains in force till the end of the electoral process.
Status: The need for such code is in the interest of free and fair elections. However, the code does not have any specific statutory basis. It has only a persuasive effect. It contains what is known as “rules of electoral morality”. But this lack of statutory backing does not prevent the Commission from enforcing it.
Evolution: The Commission issued the code for the first time in 1971 (5th Election) and revised it from time to time. This set of norms has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code and also binds them to respect and observe it in its letter and spirit.
What it contains? The salient features of the Model Code of Conduct lay down how political parties, contesting candidates and party(s) in power should conduct themselves during the process of elections i.e. on their general conduct during electioneering, holding meetings and processions, poll day activities and functioning of the party in power etc.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
North Koel Reservoir Project
Context: A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India, State of Bihar and State of Jharkhand for completion of balance works of North Koel reservoir project at an estimated cost of Rs. 1622.27 crore.
A supplementary Memorandum of Agreement has also been signed between Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India, National Water Development Agency, NABARD with State Governments of Bihar and Jharkhand for funding of the state share under Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) for North Koel reservoir project.
About the North Koel Reservoir Project:
The project is situated on North Koel river which is a tributary of Sone river finally joining the river Ganga. The North Koel Reservoir is located in the most backward tribal areas in Palamau and Garhwa districts of Jharkhand State.
- The construction was originally started in the year 1972 and continued till 1993 when it was stopped by the Forest Department, Govt. of Bihar. Since then, the work on dam is at a standstill.
- The project aims to provide irrigation to 111,521 hectares of land annually in the most backward and drought prone areas of Palamu & Garhwa districts in Jharkhand and Aurangabad & Gaya districts in Bihar.
LTIF was announced in the Union Budget 2016-17 with an initial corpus of Rs 20,000 crore for funding and fast tracking the implementation of incomplete major and medium irrigation projects. LTIF has instituted in NABARD as a part of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY).
Key facts for Prelims:
- North Koel river rises on Ranchi plateau and flows through Jharkhand. It joins the Sone a few miles north-west of Haidarnagar.
- The North Koel, along with its tributaries, meanders through the northern part of Betla National Park.
- The principal tributaries are the Auranga and the Amanat.
Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.
Nepal ends India’s monopoly on internet access with new Chinese link
By opening a new optical fibre link across the Himalayan mountains to China, Nepal has ended India’s monopoly on internet access. The Chinese optical fibre link enters Nepal at Rasuwa, 175 km north of the capital Kathmandu.
Significance of this move:
Till recently, landlocked Nepal was totally dependent on India for access to the worldwide web through connections at Biratnagar, Bhairahawa and Birgunj, for which it pays a substantial sum as fees and royalties. Besides state-run Indian firms, Nepal has been acquiring bandwidth from private players such as Tata and Airtel and BSNL. The opening of new line shows China’s growing engagement in a region seen as India’s backyard.
The internet was first introduced to Nepal in 1993 by a venture between the Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (RONAST) and a private firm, the Mercantile Office Systems. The Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai had a UNDP-funded internet connection and RONAST set up a system whereby it could connect to Mumbai to transfer email messages. The first optical fibre link to India was built four years later.
Data use in Nepal has been increasing constantly with more people using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and communication platforms such as Viber, Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat, especially to communicate with family members abroad.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space.
Context: To prepare for landing on the moon, the Indian Space Research Organisation is planning to conduct landing simulation tests for Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft at Mahendragiri in coming weeks.
Chandrayaan-2 includes soft-landing on Moon and moving a rover on its surface. It is an advanced version of the previous Chandrayaan-1 mission. It consists of an orbiter, lander and rover configuration.
- The Orbiter spacecraft when launched from Sriharikota will travel to the Moon and release the Lander, which will in turn deploy a tiny Rover to roam the lunar surface — all three sending data and pictures to Earth.
- It is planned to be launched as a composite stack into the earth parking orbit (EPO) of 170 X 18,500 km by GSLV-Mk II.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space.
Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology
Context: NASA has invented a new type of autonomous space navigation that could see human-made spacecraft heading into the far reaches of the Solar System, and even farther – by using pulsars as guide stars. It’s called Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology, or SEXTANT (named after an 18th century nautical navigation instrument).
About Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology:
What is it? SEXTANT works like a GPS receiver getting signals from at least three GPS satellites, all of which are equipped with atomic clocks. The receiver measures the time delay from each satellite and converts this into spatial coordinates.
How it works? The technology uses X-ray technology to see millisecond pulsars, using them much like a GPS uses satellites. The electromagnetic radiation beaming from pulsars is most visible in the X-ray spectrum, which is why NASA’s engineers chose to employ X-ray detection in SEXTANT. To do so, they used a washing machine-sized observatory attached to the International Space Station. Called Neutron-star Interior Composition Explorer, or NICER, it contains 52 X-ray telescopes and silicon-drift detectors for studying neutron stars, including pulsars.
Applications: SEXTANT could be used to calculate the location of planetary satellites far from the range of Earth’s GPS satellites, and assist on human spaceflight missions, such as the space agency’s planned Mars mission.
What are pulsars?
Pulsars are highly magnetised, rapidly rotating neutron stars – the result of a massive star’s core collapsing and subsequently exploding. As they spin, they emit electromagnetic radiation. If an observer is in the right position, they can appear as sweeping beams, like a cosmic lighthouse. They’re also extraordinarily regular – in the case of some millisecond pulsars, which can spin hundreds of times a second, their regularity can rival that of atomic clocks.
Facts for Prelims:
What is it? Saksham (Sanrakshan Kshamta Mahotsav) is an annual flagship event of Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Govt. of India , with active involvement of the Oil & Gas PSUs along with other stakeholders like State Governments, for creating focused attention on fuel conservation through people centric activities and to sensitize the masses about the conservation and efficient use of petroleum products leading to better health and environment.
Giant extinct bat burrowing bat fossil discovered in New Zealand:
Fossilized remains of a giant burrowing bat, which lived on New Zealand between 16 and 19-million-years ago, have been found. It is “the first new bat genus to be added to New Zealand’s fauna in more than 150 years.” It has been given the name Vulcanops jennyworthyae, after team member Jenny Worthy who found the fossils.
Key facts: The ancient bat would have hunted by air and by land, and its specialized teeth and large size would have helped it burrow under flora to satisfy its broad diet. The omnivore ate invertebrates like insects and spiders, as well as fruit, flowers, and nectar. Compared with other short-tailed New Zealand bats, this species shows a shift in diet, which is more similar to that of its South American relatives. They are of particular interest because they can fly, as well as walk on all of its limbs along the forest floor.
INS Nirbhik, Nirghat decommissioned:
Context: The Indian Naval Ships Nirbhik and Nirghat have been decommissioned at Naval Dockyard, Mumbai, after a glorious 30 and 28 years respectively in the service of the nation.
Nirbhik and Nirghat in their new avatars were commissioned at Poti, erstwhile USSR on 21 Dec 1987 and 15 Dec 1989 respectively. During their service over almost three decades, these ships have participated in numerous operations including Operations Parakram and Vijay.
What is it? It is a new missile frigate commissioned recently by the People’s Liberation Army Navy.
Key facts: Rizhao is a 140-metre-long and 16-metre-wide missile frigate designed and made by China. the missile frigate is equipped with an advanced weapons systems and can attack enemy ships and submarines alone or in coordination with other naval forces. The frigate was named after the city of Rizhao in Shandong Province.