Polity & Governance
- Enemy Property Bill passed in Rajya Sabha
- Narendra Kumar takes over as Chairman Central Water Commission
- ‘Tests useful to find cause of stillbirth’
- Another river-linking project on cards
Environment & Ecology
- Synchronous elephant count by four States in May
- Great Barrier Reef witnessing second year of mass bleaching
Bilateral & International Relations
- Pakistan’s Hindu marriage bill passed by both houses of Parliament
- Tipu’s armoury moves to its new home
Science & Technology
- NASA to explore Jupiter’s icy moon
- NASA scientists found lost Chandrayaan-1 orbiting Moon
Key Facts for Prelims
- 2017 IEEE Spectrum Technology Award
Polity & Governance
Enemy Property Bill passed in Rajya Sabha
The Rajya Sabha has passed the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016.
- The amendments proposed include that once an enemy property is vested in the Custodian, it shall continue to be vested in him as enemy property irrespective of whether the enemy, enemy subject or enemy firm has ceased to be an enemy due to reasons such as death.
- The new Bill ensures that the law of succession does not apply to enemy property; that there cannot be transfer of any property vested in the Custodian by an enemy or enemy subject or enemy firm and that the Custodian shall preserve the enemy property till it is disposed of in accordance with the Act.
- The amendments are aimed at plugging the loopholes in the Act to ensure that the enemy properties that have been vested in the Custodian remain so and do not revert to the enemy subject or firm.
- The Bill also prohibits civil courts and other authorities from entertaining disputes related to enemy property.
In early 2016, the government had identified over 16,000 properties across India that could be taken over under this law. A rough estimate had indicated that 9,400 properties, where the process to take over the properties had been completed, were valued at 1 lakh crore rupees.
What are Enemy properties?
- In the wake of the Indo-Pak war of 1965 and 1971, there was migration of people from India to Pakistan.
- Under the Defence of India Rules framed under the Defence of India Act, the Government of India took over the properties and companies of such persons who had taken Pakistani nationality.
- These enemy properties were vested by the Union Government in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India.
- After the 1965 war, India and Pakistan signed the Tashkent Declaration on 10 January 1966.
- The Tashkent Declaration inter alia included a clause, which said that the two countries would discuss the return of the property and assets taken over by either side in connection with the conflict.
- However, the Government of Pakistan disposed of all such properties in their country in the year 1971 itself.
Narendra Kumar takes over as Chairman Central Water Commission
Shri Narendra Kumar, an officer of Central Water Engineering Service (1979 batch) has assumed the charge of Chairman, Central Water Commission (CWC).
About Central Water Commission:
- Central Water Commission is a premier Technical Organization of India in the field of Water Resources.
- It is presently functioning as an attached office of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India.
- The Commission is entrusted with the general responsibilities of initiating, coordinating and furthering in consultation of the State Governments concerned, schemes for control, conservation and utilization of water resources throughout the country, for purpose of Flood Control, Irrigation, Navigation, Drinking Water Supply and Water Power Development.
- It also undertakes the investigations, construction and execution of any such schemes as required.
‘Tests useful to find cause of stillbirth’
A U.S. study has found that two tests are particularly effective in determining the cause of a stillbirth, a death of a foetus at or after 20 weeks of gestation.
- An examination of the placenta helped find a cause in about two-thirds of stillbirths, and a foetal autopsy helped in roughly 40% of cases.
- Genetic testing was the third most useful test, helping to pinpoint a cause 12% of the time.
- Researchers had previously determined that complications during the birth process, including pre-term labour and premature rupture of the amniotic sac, accounted for 30% of stillbirths.
- Before labour, placental problems were the most common cause of stillbirth, accounting for roughly one-quarter of cases.
- Genetic conditions or birth defects were responsible for about 14% of stillbirths, infection for 13% and umbilical cord issues another 10%.
What is stillbirths?
- A stillbirth is a baby born dead after 24 completed weeks of pregnancy.
- If the baby dies before 24 completed weeks, it’s known as a miscarriage or late foetal loss.
Causes of stillbirths:
- In 18 countries with reliable data, congenital abnormalities account only for a median of 7.4 per cent of stillbirths.
- Many disorders associated with stillbirths are potentially modifiable and often coexist — maternal infections, non-communicable diseases, nutrition, lifestyle factors and maternal age older than 35 years.
- Prolonged pregnancies, when the baby is not born after 42 weeks of gestation, contribute to 14 per cent of stillbirths.
- Causal pathways for stillbirth frequently involve impaired placental function, either with growth restriction, or preterm labour or both.
- India continues to be at the top of the table in the rank for number of stillbirths in 2015, recording 5,92,100, followed by Nigeria, Pakistan, China and Ethiopia.
- Cultural taboos and superstitions often take the blame in the case of stillbirth.
- Worldwide, the number of stillbirths has declined by 19.4% between 2000 and 2015, representing an annual rate of reduction (ARR) of 2%.
- This reduction noted for stillbirths is lower than that noted for maternal mortality ratio (AAR=3.0 %) and under 5 mortality rate (ARR= 3.9 %), for the same period.
- It should also be noted that less than 5% of neonatal deaths and even fewer still births are registered.
- Hence, it is necessary to maintain meticulous records of all births and deaths (maternal and foetal) in order to increase the availability of data, rationalising that while data alone will not help save lives, it would certainly indicate a way to target interventions to reach more than 7,000 women every day worldwide who experience the reality of stillbirth.
Another river-linking project on cards
After successful linkage between the Godavari and Krishna rivers through the Pattiseema project, now the Andhra Pradesh government is embarking on linking the Godavari with the Penna.
- In this regard, highly advanced LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) Survey will be taken up by Water and Power Consultancy Services (India) Limited (WAPCOS) to prepare a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for supplying Godavari water directly to Rayalaseema.
- The project envisages transporting 20 tmcft from Godavari River to two reservoirs – the existing Somasila Reservoir in the Penna river basin and a new reservoir at Bollapalli.
About Godavari River:
- With a length of 1465 Kilometers, Godavari is India’s second largest river that runs within the country and also the longest river in South India.
- Measuring up to 312,812 km2 (120,777 sq mi), it forms one of the largest river basins in the Indian subcontinent, with only the Ganges and Indus rivers having a drainage basin larger than it in India.
- It originates near Trimbak in Nashik District of Maharashtra state and flows east across the Deccan Plateau into the Bay of Bengal near Narasapuram in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.
- The river is also known as Dakshin Ganga and Gautami.
- It starts in Maharashtra and flows east for 1,465 kilometres (910 mi) emptying into Bay of Bengal draining the Indian states Maharashtra (48.6%), Telangana ( 18.8%), Andhra Pradesh (4.5%), Chhattisgarh (10.9%), Madhya Pradesh (10.0%), Odisha (5.7%), Karnataka (1.4%) and Puducherry through its extensive network of tributaries.
- Important tributaries include Pravara, Purna, Manjira, Pranhita, Indravati and Sabari.
- Havelock bridge is on Godavari River. The brige has been a vital link enabling trains to run between Chennai and Howrah.
- The Coringa mangrove forests in the Godavari delta are the second largest mangrove formation in the country. Part of this has been declared as the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, renowned for its reptiles.
About Penna River:
- The Penna rises on the hill of Nandi Hills in Chikballapur District of Karnataka state, and runs north and east through the state of Andhra Pradesh to empty into the Bay of Bengal.
- The river basin lies in the rain shadow region of Eastern Ghats and receives 500 mm average rainfall annually.
- The estuary of the Penna river extends 7 km upstream from the Bay of Bengal.
- The upper basin of the Penna is largely made up of ancient Archean rocks, principally granite and schist. The lower basin is made up of young sediments, including laterite and recent alluvium.
Environment & Ecology
Synchronous elephant count by four States in May
For the first time in India, four states Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have decided to conduct a synchronised elephant census in May 2017.
- These four together have the maximum number of human-elephant conflict-prone regions in India.
- The census has consciously been scheduled for May 10, a full moon day on which the chances of elephant sightings are higher.
- The synchronised census will indicate the size, distribution, structure and density of the elephant population in the region.
- These states will conduct the census based on an identical set of rules using the direct and indirect counting methods.
- The direct counting method is based on sighting of elephants while the indirect method uses the elephant ‘dung decay’ formula, in which the analysis of dung is used to estimate the population.
- The indirect method has already been used by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
- Direct method can be used alone because it is not possible to cover entire area during the census
According to the 2015 census, Odisha has 1,954 elephants, while Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal have approximately 700, 275 and 130 elephants respectively.[Ref: The Hindu]
Great Barrier Reef witnessing second year of mass bleaching
Great Barrier Reef in Australia’s eastern coast is experiencing an unprecedented second straight year of mass coral bleaching.
- This is for the first time Great Barrier Reef has bleached two years in sequence.
- Earlier in March and April 2016, 2,300-km reef suffered had its most severe bleaching on record due to warming sea temperatures.
- The 2016 bleaching was more severe in the northern areas of the bio-diverse site. But now more bleaching was being observed in the central part of the reef, which earlier had escaped widespread severe bleaching.
- The back-to-back occurrence of widespread bleaching is resulting in decrease in stress tolerance of these corals, which means that they may not fully recover.
What is coral bleaching and how it occurs?
- Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, which in turn drain them of their colour.
- The coral uses the organic products of photosynthesis to help it grow. Therefore, algae are vital for them.
- The loss of algae makes the host vulnerable to disease, which will eventually make them die.
- However, coral can recover if the water temperature drops and the algae are able to recolonise them.
About Great Barrier Reef:
- The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system.
- It is composed of over 2900 individual reefs and 900 islands.
- The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
- The reef is so vast that it can be seen from outer space.
- It is also the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps.
- In 1981, it was selected as a World Heritage Site.
- A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact of human use.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Bilateral & International Relations
Pakistan’s Hindu marriage bill passed by both houses of Parliament
Pakistan National Assembly has passed the Hindu Marriage Bill, 2016 to regulate marriages of Hindus in Pakistan.
- The bill was passed again by the lower house after amendments were made by the Senate (Upper House) while passing the bill.
Key features of the bill:
- The law prohibits the marriage of minors and prescribes a minimum age of 18-years for contracting marriage.
- In addition, it protects the customs and customary rites of the Hindu community. The bill aims at easing growing insecurity among Hindus. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the bill provides a mechanism for registering Hindu marriages, conditions for contracting a marriage, and the procedure and grounds for dissolving a marriage.
- The bill also provides a mechanism for registration of marriage, separation and remarriage. It will help Hindu women get documentary proof of their marriage.
- It paves the way for a document called the ‘Shadi Parath’ – similar to the Nikahnama for Muslims – that will contain details of the bride and groom and be signed by a pundit before it is registered with the relevant government department.
- It also provides the concept of judicial separation, where the marriage remains intact while the parties are no longer under an obligation to cohabit. The legitimacy of children born out of voidable Hindu marriages has also been protected.
- The law will be applicable in the provinces of Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Tipu’s armoury moves to its new home
A 228- year-old armoury of the Tiger of Mysuru, Tipu Sultan, was finally translocated to its new location.
- The armoury is 20-km from Mysuru, towards Bengaluru, and comes two stops before Srirangapatna Railway Station. The armoury will be moved about 100 metres from the current location safely without causing any damage to the protected property.
- This was a first of its kind move by the railways to translocate a heritage property.
- The shifting process will be taken up by South Western Railway through M/S PSL -Wolfe (JV) under supervision by Department of Archeology.
- When the proposal of transporting the heritage structure was first presented, in 2009, no Indian independent firm or contractors came forward.
- Not only because they thought it would be controversial because the monument is revered by locals, but also because they thought it would be impossible.
- As there was no technology in India to shift these structures and with no scope for building replica of Tipu’s armoury, Railways has assigned US based company headed by project manager, Jamion Buckingham for the project.
The recent shifting of the Tipu Sultan armoury has almost coincided with yet another historical milestone this month — 226 years of the III Mysore War also called Third Anglo-Mysore war — the last major battle fought in Bengaluru where the British forces captured Bangalore Fort.
Lord Cornwallis, who had then taken over the command of East India Company led the contingent for the III Anglo-Mysore war against Tipu Sultan and the first attack was launched on March 21, 1791.
The battle ended with the East India Company capturing the Bangalore Fort and Tipu had to retract to Srirangapatna.
About the armoury:
- The armoury is one of eight built by Tipu Sultan and is a protected monument under the Department of Heritage, Archaeology and Museums.
- The armoury building is a single storey load-bearing brick masonry structure with arch roofing system and pyramid shape elevation that was built by Tipu between 1782 and 1799, to store ammunition.
About Tipu Sultan:
Tipu Sultan, prominently known as Sher-e-Mysore (Tiger of Mysore) is also given the sobriquet of Sher-e-Hind and Sher-e-Mashriq (Tiger of the East).
- He was a ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore. He was the eldest son of Sultan Hyder Ali of Mysore.
- Tipu introduced a number of administrative innovations during his rule, including his coinage, a new Mauludi lunisolar calendar, and a new land revenue system which initiated the growth of Mysore silk industry.
- Tipu expanded the iron-cased Mysorean rockets and commissioned the military manual Fathul Mujahidin.
- He is considered a pioneer in the use of rocket artillery. Tipu Sultan deployed the rockets against advances of British forces and their allies in their 1792 and 1799 Siege of Srirangapatna.
- Napoleon, the French commander-in-chief who later became emperor, sought an alliance with Tipu. In alliance with the French in their struggle with the British, and in Mysore’s struggles with other surrounding powers, both Tipu and his father used their French trained army against the Marathas, Sira, and rulers of Malabar, Kodagu, Bednore, Carnatic, and Travancore.
Science & Technology
NASA to explore Jupiter’s icy moon
NASA’s ‘Europa Clipper’ set to launch in the 2020s will probe the habitability of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.
- The mission plan includes 40 to 45 flybys, during which the spacecraft would image the moon’s icy surface at high resolution and investigate its composition and the structure of its interior and icy shell.
- Europa has long been a high priority for exploration because it holds a salty liquid water ocean beneath its icy crust.
- The ultimate aim of Europa Clipper is to determine if Europa is habitable, possessing all three of the ingredients necessary for life: liquid water, chemical ingredients, and energy sources sufficient to enable biology.
NASA scientists found lost Chandrayaan-1 orbiting Moon
Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have found India’s first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1 which was considered lost, is still orbiting the moon.
- They also have found NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
- The unmanned spacecraft is still circling some 200 km in the polar orbit around the moon.
How these probes were discovered?
Both space probes were discovered using JPL’s new ground-based radar technique by sending out a powerful beam of microwaves towards the moon. The beams were produced using 70-metre antenna at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California. The radar echoes bounced back from lunar orbit were received by the 100-metre Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost communication with Chandrayaan-1 on August 29, 2009, barely a year after it was launched on October 22, 2008.
- The Chandrayaan-1 mission performed high-resolution remote sensing of the moon in visible, near infrared (NIR), low energy X-rays and high-energy X-ray regions.
- One of the objectives was to prepare a three-dimensional atlas (with high spatial and altitude resolution) of both near and far side of the moon.
- It aimed at conducting chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface for distribution of mineral and chemical elements such as Magnesium, Aluminium, Silicon, Calcium, Iron and Titanium as well as high atomic number elements such as Radon, Uranium and Thorium with high spatial resolution.
It had sent more than 70,000 images of the lunar surface which provided breathtaking views of lunar mountains and craters, especially craters in the permanently shadowed areas of the Moon’s polar region.
- NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a robotic mission that set out to map the moon’s surface.
- Data collected by LRO has been described as essential for planning NASA’s future human and robotic missions to the Moon.
- Its detailed mapping program is identifying safe landing sites, locating potential resources on the Moon, characterizing the radiation environment, and demonstrating new technologies.
Key Facts for Prelims
2017 IEEE Spectrum Technology Award
- Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras has won the 2017 IEEE Spectrum Technology in the Service of Society Award for its solar-direct current (DC) inverter system.
- The system was developed by Centre for Decentralised Power Systems at IIT-M using micro grid technology.
- The system converts in-home power distribution from 230V Analog Current (AC) to 48V DC to directly power appliances and devices.
- It is equipped to tap rooftop solar power, making it most energy efficient solution for homes and offices.
- It has been currently deployed in 4,000 off-grid homes in Jodhpur and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan and also deployed in around 7,200 homes in Assam.
- It also has been installed in villages in Karnataka, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
- IEEE Spectrum Technology in the Service of Society Award is presented to the company/institution voted by IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Spectrum editors as having developed the technology that has the potential to benefit mankind.