Polity & Governance
- Election Commission panel to review law barring campaigning 48 hours before poll
- MoU signed for completion of North Koel Reservoir Project
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Urban heat island burns hole in fog over Delhi
- Giant extinct bat burrowing bat fossil discovered in New Zealand
Bilateral & International Relations
- Nepal ends India’s monopoly on internet access with new Chinese link
- 4th ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture & Forestry
Art & Culture
- Various harvest festivals celebrated in India
Science & Technology
- Chandrayaan-2, country’s second mission to Moon, is on schedule: ISRO
- Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology
Key Facts for Prelims
- Indian Navy decommissions warships INS Nirbhik and INS Nirghat
- China commissions new missile frigate – Rizhao
- Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA)
- Global Economic Prospects (GEP)
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Polity & Governance
Election Commission panel to review law barring campaigning 48 hours before poll
The Election Commission (EC) has constituted 14 member committee headed by Umesh Sinha to suggest changes to Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RP Act) in view of social media expansion.
What is Section 126 of RP Act?
- Section 126 of RP Act, 1951 prohibits displaying any election matter by means of television or similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency.
- It does not include social and new media under its ambit.
Terms of Reference of the Committee
- The committed will study impact of new media and social media during the “silence period” i.e. during 48 hours period prior to elections and its implication in view of Section 126 of RP Act, 1951.
- It will suggest modifications to the RP Act, 1951and model code of conduct (MCC).
- It will also examine 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.
About Model Code of Conduct (MCC):
- Model Code of Conduct 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.
- The aim of these Model Code of Conduct is to ensure free and fair elections.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Commission issued the code for the first time in 1971 (5th Election) and revised it from time to time.
MoU signed for completion of North Koel Reservoir Project
The Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has inked Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bihar and Jharkhand for completion of balance works of North Koel reservoir project.
- Moreover, supplementary Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed between Ministry of Water Resources, National Water Development Agency, NABARD with both states for funding under Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) for the project.
- 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).
About 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.
About North Koel River:
- North Koel River rises on Ranchi plateau in Jharkhand.
- It joins the Sone River (only right bank tributary of Ganga River) a few miles north-west of Haidarnagar.
- Its principal tributaries are the Auranga and the Amanat.
- It meanders through the northern part of Betla National Park.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Urban heat island burns hole in fog over Delhi
Every winter, the whole of north India is covered by dense fog. According to a latest study, a phenomenon called urban heat island is burning holes in this grey shroud over New Delhi and other cities on the Indo-Gangetic Plain.
Urban heat island effect in Delhi:
- 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.
- 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.
Significance of this study:
- 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 the urban heat island effect?
- An urban heat island (UHI) is an urban area or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities.
- Due to urban heat island effect, urban areas getting significantly warmer during the day compared with the surrounding areas.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
Bilateral & International 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.
- Nepal has started accessing internet from China after commercial operation of Nepal-China optical fibre link via Rasuwagadhi gateway across Himalayan Mountains became operational.
- The commercial operation of Chinese bandwidth project now ends Nepal’s sole dependence on India for internet bandwidth.
- 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. This gave India complete monopoly in supplying internet to Himalayan nation.
Implications of the move:
- The opening of new line shows China’s growing engagement in a region seen as India’s backyard.
- It is also considered as milestone for developing internet infrastructure in Nepal and boost bilateral relations between both countries.
- It is considered as loss for India, both revenue wise and strategically.
- 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.
- In December 2016, state owned Nepal Telecom (NT) had signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China Telecom to acquire internet bandwidth. NT had begun test transmission of project from September 2017.
4th ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture & Forestry
The 4th ASEAN-INDIA Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry was held in New Delhi.
Aim of the meeting was:
- To facilitate promotion of joint research for development of technologies for increasing production and productivity of crops, livestock and fisheries, and natural resources management, among others in the region.
- It was announced that 5th ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry will be held in 2019 in Brunei Darussalam.
- Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei are the members of ASEAN.
Art & Culture
Various harvest festivals celebrated in India
Harvest festivals of Indian states occurs at the time of main harvest of the region and people.
- However, dates for harvest festivals in different parts of the country vary due to diversity in climate.
Various harvest festivals
- The festival of Makar Sankranti is being celebrated on 14th January when the Sun enters the Makar zodiac and the days begin to lengthen compared to nights.
- Gujarat celebrates it in the form of the convivial kite festival of Uttarayan.
- In Punjab, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Maghi. Bathing in a river in the early hours on Maghi is important.
- 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.
- The festival of harvest, Lohri is being celebrated in North India especially in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. Popcorns, peanuts, Rewari and Gajak are distributed to all neighbours, friends and relatives on the occasion. Lohri marks the end of the long nights of winter and welcomes the longer days of summer, as the Sun begins its journey to the Northern Hemisphere.
- Nuakhai is an agriculture festival celebrated primarily in western Odisha by farmers to thank ‘Mother Earth’ for being so bountiful. Nuakhai is observed to welcome the new rice of the season.
- In South India and particularly in Tamil Nadu, it’s the festival of Pongal which is being celebrated over 4 days at harvest time.
- The festival is known as Kicheri in Uttar Pradesh and involves ritual bathing.
- 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.
Science & Technology
Chandrayaan-2, country’s second mission to Moon, is on schedule: ISRO
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.
About Chandrayaan-2 mission:
- Chandrayaan-2 is an advanced version of the previous Chandrayaan-1 mission.
- The mission includes an Orbiter, a Lander and a Rover.
- The Orbiter spacecraft will be 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.
- The mission includes soft-landing on Moon and moving a rover on its surface.
- All three project components will be sending data and pictures to Earth.
Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology
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).
- 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.
Mechanism of SEXTANT:
- 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.
- 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.
Key Facts for Prelims
Indian Navy decommissions warships INS Nirbhik and INS Nirghat
- 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.
- INS Nirbhik and INS 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.
China commissions new missile frigate – Rizhao
- China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy has commissioned new missile frigate, named ‘Rizhao‘, in a naval port in Northeast China’s Dalian.
- Rizhao is China’s indigenous missile frigate. It is 140-meter-long and 16-meter-wide with the capability to displace more than 4,000 tonnes.
- Rizhao is equipped with an advanced weapon systems.
- It has the capability to attack enemy ships and submarines alone or along with other naval forces.
- Every year the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MOP & NG) conduct mass awareness drive on oil and gas conservation across the country on January 16.
- The programme is being organized by PCRA (Petroleum Conservation Research Association) and other Oil & Gas PSUs under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
- Saksham aims at creating focused attention on fuel conservation through people centric activities and sensitize masses about conservation and efficient use of petroleum products leading to better health and environment.
- During one-month long drive, workshops will be held for drivers of commercial vehicles and housewives, cooks on adopting simple fuel saving measures.
Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA)
- Established in 1978, the PCRA is an organization under the aegis of the Indian Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
- It is engaged in promoting energy efficiency in various sectors of the economy.
- It helps government in proposing policies and strategies aimed at reducing India’s dependency on oil, in order to save money, reduce environmental impact of oil use and also conserve fossil fuel.
Global Economic Prospects (GEP)
- GEP is World Bank Group’s flagship report that examines global economic developments and prospects with special focus on developing and emerging market economies.
- It is issued twice a year in January and June.
- The 2018 GEP report has projected India’s growth rate to 7.3% in 2018 and 7.5 for the next two years i.e. 2019 and 2020.