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Current Events 6 February 2017

 

NEWS

6 FEBRUARY 2017 

Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS II : INTERNATIONAL USA

U.S. court rejects plea to reinstate Trump’s travel ban

 

2.

GS III : S&T SPACE

ISRO to launch 104 satellites, 88 from U.S.

3.

GS II : POLITY

Committed to ending triple talaq: Prasad

4.

GS II : SOCIAL - EDUCATION

Aadhaar linkage to school subsidy schemes worries HRD Ministry

5.

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA BANGLADESH

Delhi, Dhaka push Ganga basin project

6.

GS III : S&T

Indian-American teen finds way to turn seawater potable

7.

GS III : S&T

New material to keep buildings and cars cool

8.

GS I - GEOGRAPHY

IIT Bombay: Chennai and Mumbai have high wind energy potential

9.

GS II : SOCIAL - HEALTH

E-cigarettes and risk

10.

GS III : ECONOMY BUDGET

Will Budget help double farmers’ income?

11.

GS III : ECONOMY BUDGET

Company staff must pay tax on gifts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





 

 

GS II : INTERNATIONAL USA

U.S. court rejects plea to reinstate Trump′s travel ban

  • In a significant blow to President Donald Trump, a U.S. federal appeals court rejected a request by his administration to immediately reinstate the travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.
  • The administration was fighting Seattle federal judge James Robart’s decision that imposed a temporary nationwide halt to Mr. Trump′s order.


 GS III : S&T SPACE

ISRO to launch 104 satellites, 88 from U.S.

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is on the cusp of making history when it sends 104 satellites into the orbit on its PSLV-C37 rocket on February 15. Only three of them are Indian satellites.
  • Notably, in ISRO′s first mission of 2017, a single U.S. Earth imaging company, Planet, has made an eye-popping bulk booking for 88 of its small ‘cubesats’.
  • The 88 cubesats are part of Planet′s earth observation constellation of 100 satellites.
  • They weigh around 5 kg each and are called ‘Doves’ or Flock 3p.
  • No space agency has launched such a large number of satellites in a single flight so far.
  • The PSLV will carry a main remote-sensing satellite, the fourth in the Cartosat-2 series, a very high resolution Earth observation satellite of about 650 kg, and occupying roughly half the space in the launch vehicle.
  • It will carry two more Indian nano satellites, INS-1A and INS-1B, each weighing about 10 kg. They have a short lifespan of six to 12 months.
  • The other co-riders are cubesats or small specialised satellites of customers from Israel, the UAE, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. They will be released separately into their orbits at around 500 km from Earth.
  • All the payloads will totally weigh around 1,500 kg.
  • While ISRO’s PSLV launched 20 satellites in 2016, Russia′s Dnepr launcher holds the record for lifting 37 satellites to orbit in June 2014.

 Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is the space agency of the Government of Republic of India headquartered in the city of Bengaluru.
  • Its vision is to "harness space technology for national development", while pursuing space science research and planetary exploration.
  • Formed in 1969, ISRO superseded the erstwhile Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) established in 1962 by the efforts of independent India′s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and his close aide and scientist Vikram Sarabhai.
  • It is managed by the Department of Space, which reports to the Prime Minister of The Republic of India.
  • ISRO built India′s first satellite, Aryabhata, which was launched by the Soviet Union on 19 April 1975. It was named after the Mathematician Aryabhata.
  • In 1980, Rohini was to become the first satellite to be placed in orbit by an Indian-made launch vehicle, SLV-3.
  • ISRO subsequently developed two other rockets: the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) for launching satellites into polar orbits and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) for placing satellites into geostationary orbits.
  • These rockets have launched numerous communications satellites and earth observation satellites.
  • Satellite navigation systems like GAGAN and IRNSS have been deployed.
  • In January 2014, ISRO successfully used an indigenous cryogenic engine in a GSLV-D5 launch of the GSAT-14.
  • ISRO sent one lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-1, on 22 October 2008and one Mars orbiter, Mars Orbiter Mission, which successfully entered Mars orbit on 24 September 2014, making India the first nation to succeed on its first attempt, and ISRO the fourth space agency in the world as well as the first space agency in Asia to successfully reach Mars orbit.
  • Future plans include the development of GSLV Mk III,(for the launch of heavier satellites), ULV, development of a reusable launch vehicle, human spaceflight, further lunar exploration, interplanetary probes, a solar spacecraft mission, etc.
  • On 18 June 2016 ISRO successfully set a record with a launch of 20 satellites in a single payload, one being a satellite from Google.


 

 

 

 

 


GS II : POLITY JUDICIARY

Committed to ending triple talaq: Prasad

  • The Centre is likely to take “a major step” to ban triple talaq after the ongoing Assembly polls, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said and dared the Samajwadi Party, the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party to make their stand clear on the contentious issue.
  • Insisting that the issue is not related to religion but involves respect and dignity of women, he said the government “respects faith but worship and social evil cannot coexist.”
  • He said the tradition of triple talaq denies respect to women and the central government was committed to ending the “evil social practice.”
  • The Centre would raise the issue in the Supreme Court on three points -- justice, equality and dignity of women.


GS II : SOCIAL - EDUCATION

Aadhaar linkage to school subsidy schemes worries HRD Ministry

  • The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has expressed concern over the Centre′s push to link the Aadhaar number with subsidy schemes related to school education.
  • The HRD Ministry official was responding to the Cabinet Secretariat’s directive in November, asking all the Ministries to issue notification under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, which makes the use of Aadhaar “an identifier for delivery of various subsidies or benefits or schemes” to beneficiaries.
  • Centre has identified 31 schemes where the Aadhaar number can be used as identification for providing various benefits.
  • A senior government official said the Ministries would either ask all beneficiaries to furnish Aadhaar details for receiving benefits under Central government schemes or would help them get enrolled under Aadhaar.
  • Some of the identified schemes include:
  •          i.         direct cash transfer of food subsidy under the National Food Security Act,
  •          ii.        supplementary nutrition to children below six and pregnant mothers, along with monthly honorarium for anganwadi workers under the Integrated Child Development Services, and
  •        iii.          subsidy on housing loans under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Grameen).
  • However, there is uncertainty over the 11 schemes of the HRD Ministry identified to be covered under the Aadhaar Act.
  • The proposed notification to link two Centrally sponsored student scholarship schemes — to promote enrolment of girl child and economically weaker sections in schools — with Aadhaar has been put on hold after the Supreme Court stayed the mandatory use of Aadhaar in one of the scholarship schemes of West Bengal in September 2016.
  • In the December meeting, the Cabinet Secretariat asked the Unique Identification Authority of India to “expedite and take the opinion of the Attorney General in respect of notifications to be issued for [two] scholarship schemes at the earliest.”
  • The Cabinet Secretariat asked the HRD Ministry to “expedite preparation of draft notification in respect of the remaining nine schemes”.

 


GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-BANGLADESH

Delhi, Dhaka push Ganga basin project

  • Bangladesh and India have held talks on the Ganga basin development project conceived in 2011, after dialogue on the Teesta water-sharing agreement slowed down.
  • Talks on the Teesta river-sharing has been stalled because of differences between West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • “Ganga basin development project will help agriculture and river navigation and revive the river economy,” said a source close to the ongoing discussions.
  • Joint dredging and development activities in the basin area are also part of the project.
  • “The main component of the Ganga basin development is the issue of joint development and management.
  • That apart, Bangladesh needs a new Ganga barrage to hold water released from the Farakka barrage,” said Mr. Zamir. The barrage will provide a solution to aridity in the Bangladeshi territory that Dhaka blames on the Farakka barrage.
  • Once completed, the Ganga barrage can hold water for the lower riparian system in the lean season.

 

 

  • GS III : S&T  
  • Indian-American teen finds way to turn seawater potable
  • Chaitanya Karamchedu from Portland, Oregon, is turning heads across the United States, all because of a science experiment that began in his high school classroom.
  • The Indian- American student has found a cheap method to turn salt water into drinkable freshwater.
  • His work has caught the attention of major technology firms and universities.
  • Isolating drinkable water from the ocean in a cost effective way is a problem that has stumped scientists for years.
  • “Scientists looked at desalination, but it’s all still inaccessible to [some] places and it would cost too much to implement on a large scale,” Mr. Karamchedu said.
  • The teenager figured it out, on his own, in a high school lab. “The real genesis of the idea was realising that sea water is not fully saturated with salt,” he was quoted as saying.
  • By experimenting with a highly absorbent polymer, the teen hit upon a less expensive method to remove salt from seawater and turn it into freshwater.
  • “It′s not bonding with water molecules, it′s bonding to the salt,” explained Mr. Karamchedu, who is called ‘Chai’ in school.
  • It is a breakthrough that is estimated to impact millions of lives if ever implemented on a mass scale.
  • Mr. Karamchedu won a $10,000 award from the U.S. Agency for International Development at Intel’s International Science Fair and second place at MIT’s Tech- Con where he won more money to continue his research.


GS III : S&T

New material to keep buildings and cars cool

  • Scientists have developed a thin, flexible, lightweight material that can block thermal detection and absorb light from every angle to keep buildings and cars cool on hot summer days.
  • The material, developed by engineers at the University of California San Diego in the US, is called a near-perfect broadband absorber.
  • It absorbs more than 87% of near-infrared light (1,200 to 2,200 nanometre wavelengths), with 98% absorption at 1,550 nanometres, the wavelength for fibre optic communication.
  • The material is capable of absorbing light from every angle.
  • It also can theoretically be customised to absorb certain wavelengths of light while letting others pass through.
  • Materials that “perfectly” absorb light already exist, but they are bulky and can break when bent.
  • They also cannot be controlled to absorb only a selected range of wavelengths, which is a disadvantage for certain applications.
  • Imagine if a window coating used for cooling not only blocked infrared radiation, but also normal light and radio waves that transmit television and radio programmes.
  • By developing a novel nanoparticle-based design, the team has created a broadband absorber that is thin, flexible and tunable.
  • The absorber relies on optical phenomena known as surface plasmon resonances, which are collective movements of free electrons that occur on the surface of metal nanoparticles upon interaction with certain wavelengths of light.
  • Metal nanoparticles can carry a lot of free electrons, so they exhibit strong surface plasmon resonance — but mainly in visible light, not in the infrared.
  • The researchers reasoned that if they could change the number of free electron carriers, they could tune the material’s surface plasmon resonance to different wavelengths of light.
  • “Make this number lower, and we can push the plasmon resonance to the infrared. Make the number higher, with more electrons, and we can push the plasmon resonance to the ultraviolet region,” said Sirbuly.
  • The problem with this approach is that it is difficult to carry out in metals. To address this challenge, engineers designed and built an absorber from materials that could be modified, or doped, to carry a different amount of free electrons: semiconductors.
  • The researchers used a semiconductor called zinc oxide, which has a moderate number of free electrons and combined it with its metallic version, aluminium-doped zinc oxide, which houses a high number of free electrons — not as much as an actual metal, but enough to give it plasmonic properties in the infrared.

GS I – GEOGRAPHY

IIT Bombay: Chennai and Mumbai have high wind energy potential

  • Of the six cities studied by Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay researchers, Chennai and Mumbai seem to have the highest potential to harvest wind energy during the time when the wind energy potential is very high (active period) during the monsoon period.
  • Compared with these two cities, Indore, Ahmedabad and Kolkata have less potential to harvest wind energy; Delhi has the least potential.
  • The researchers studied the strength of southwest wind during the time of the monsoon and called the period when the wind energy potential is high, the active period and the period when the wind energy potential is low, the break period.
  • The high wind energy potential during the active period also coincides with more rainfall; there is less rainfall and less wind energy potential during the break period.
  • “Amongst the six cities we have considered, Mumbai and Chennai have high wind energy potential, as there is strong wind because of their coastal location.
  • “Being coastline cities, the surface drag exerted in the wind flow is the least. Also, these two cities are predominantly closer to the onset locations of southwest monsoon winds.”
  • Though the wind speed is much higher in north India compared with south India during the break period, the wind energy cannot fully meet the energy demand in Delhi and Ahmedabad as the temperature is higher.


GS II : SOCIAL - HEALTH

E-cigarettes and risk

  • A new study links smoking e-cigarettes to risk of developing heart disease.
  • Comparing 16 e-cigarette smokers with 18 non-smokers, the study found that 2 risk factors were higher in the former group.


GS III : ECONOMY BUDGET

Will Budget help double farmers′ income?

  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced a slew of measures in the Union Budget 2017 to boost the agriculture sector.
  • Higher agricultural credit, higher allocation for irrigation projects, a crop insurance scheme and increased allocations for MGNREGA to dig farm ponds were among the measures announced on February 1.
  • But will these help attain the goal of doubling the farmer’s income by 2022, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had first suggested in by 2016?
  • Agriculture will have to grow at 12 or 14% to realise such rise in earnings. At present, the growth rates stand at a poor 1.2%, according to World Bank data.

Farmers′ income and expenditure

  • The average monthly income of the Indian farm household was estimated to be about RS 6,426 by the Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households in its NSS 70th round.
  • This included net receipts from cultivation, farming of animals, non-farm business and income from wages.
  • During the same period, the average monthly consumption expenditure per agricultural household was Rs 6223.
  • What this shows is that most of the earnings of the average farm household were spent in meeting consumption expenditures.

Farm loans:

  • For cultivation related expenses, the farmer is mostly dependent on loans and the NSSO survey revealed that half of the farm households were neck-deep in debt.
  • The agricultural credit is mostly netted by large companies.
  • Also nearly 50% of farmers are women, who often do not benefit from credit policies as they do have land titles in their name.
  • Unless land titling recognises female ownership of land for cultivation, half of India’s farmers cannot claim institutional credit.

Ensure higher returns for their produce:

  • For any real increase in income, farmers require higher returns for their produce.
  • In a statement issued on the Budget, Professor M. S. Swaminathan, founder of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation noted that it was high time that the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers - to provide the minimum price of the total cost of production plus 50% - are implemented.
  • The agriculture expert said that in the case of rubber, for instance, a price stabilisation fund was established which helped farmers get better prices for their produce.
  • He suggested that similar measures be introduced for other farm produce as well.
  • The problem of economic viability of farming is one of rising input prices such as for fertilisers, pesticides and seeds and stagnating output prices as MSP is not rising.
  • Further, protectionist barriers for Indian farmers are much lower now and there is little increase in expenditure for agriculture.

Drought-proofing farming

  • Tackling climate change and its potential impact also requires a budget to safeguard farmers.
  • Given the drought and errant rainfall affecting farmers, the government’s step to create five lakh more farm ponds that will work as a drought-proofing measure in gram panchayats is welcome, but everything depends on how well the schemes are executed on the ground.
  • While the crop insurance scheme aims to rightly protect farmers from the vagaries of the weather, allocations for which have been increased in the 2017 Budget, the terms of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Bima Yojana spell out that the amount of insurance cover depends on the premium paid and extent of cover, so a farmer may not necessarily recover all losses sustained from crop damage in case of an eventuality.

Other initiatives:

  • The credit ratings agency ICRA welcomed the expansion in coverage of National Agriculture Markets (e-NAM), an online agriculture market, from 250 to 585 APMCs in the Budget, as it will “help fertilisers companies in the medium term through higher demand”.
  • The subsidy hike of 6% for the phosphatic and potassic segment was also seen as a positive thrust for the manufacturers and traders of these fertilisers.
  • NABARD welcomed the hike in the corpus of the long term irrigation fund by another Rs 20,000 crore, taking the total fund size to Rs 40,000 crore.
  • The setting up of a dairy processing and infrastructure development fund at NABARD, with a corpus of Rs 8,000 crore over three years, was also appreciated by them.

Rich farmers benefit:

  • Indian farmers do not constitute a homogenous community. There are rich, landowning farmers and then there are poor, landless farmers.
  • Hannan Mollah, General Secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha observed that a new nexus was now emerging comprising farm contractors and big traders combined with rich landowners in rural India, which was replacing the feudal landowning structures of the past.
  • “It is this new class of rural landlords that will largely benefit from the Budget announcements of higher loan allocation and online trading of farm produce,” he said.
  • Also, in spite of food price inflation in recent times, farmers′ gross income will not increase automatically. Being both producers and consumers of food, farmers do not stand to gain from inflation either.
  • As Mr. Mollah points out, “The farmer sells his produce for a fixed MSP, but when he tries to buy the same from the market, he has to shell out a higher price for it.”


GS III : ECONOMY BUDGET

Company staff must pay tax on gifts

  • Company employees receiving large gifts, whether from the company itself or from somebody else, will now have to pay tax if they are valued at more than Rs. 50,000, according to changes made in this Budget, Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia told.
  • The Finance Bill 2017 has introduced an amendment to Section 56 of the Income Tax Act, which delineates the tax treatment meted out to ‘income from other sources.’
  • Right now, there is a provision that if you give a gift to any individual above 50,000 then it will be taxed,” Mr. Adhia said in an interview. “But that does not apply to companies. Now we have made it applicable to companies as well. People used to take gifts in companies and not pay tax on it.” “The earlier provisions were that if you get more than ? 50,000 from anybody but your close relatives, then the amount was subject to taxation,”
  • Section 56 outlines the kinds of gifts and from whom they can be received to still be exempt from tax (close family, on the occasion of the marriage of the individual, by way of inheritance, for example).
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