Comprehensive News Analysis - 10 September 2016

Table of Contents:

A. GS1 Related:
B. GS2 Related:

1. SC agrees to lay down statute on LG’s power

2. North Korea claims nuclear warhead test

C. GS3 Related:

1. Chandrayaan-2

2. NASA launches Osiris-Rex spacecraft

3. Bacteria power’s a tiny engine

D. GS4 Related
E. Important Editorials : A Quick Glance

The Hindu

1. Dark clouds over the Indian PDS

F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:
G. BILLS/ACTS/SCHEMES/ORGS IN NEWS
G. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
H. Archives

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Useful News Articles

A. GS1 Related


B. GS2 Related


  1. SC agrees to lay down statute on LG’s power

Category: Polity and Governance 

Topic:   Judiciary 

Key Points:

  • Describing the prolonged Centre-Delhi government turf war over who controls Delhi as an extraordinary matter, the Supreme Court agreed to lay down the law on whether the Lieutenant Governor (LG) can unilaterally administer the National Capital without being bound by the aid and advice of the elected government.
  • In a boisterous hearing, bordering on the acrimonious, the Apex court issued notice to the Union based on the petition filed by the Delhi government challenging the Delhi High Court’s August 4 judgment. The HC had upheld the LG’s power not only over the police, land and public order but also in services. The judgment had effectively shrunk the Delhi government’s Cabinet girth.
  • The Supreme Court bench also refused to stay the HC judgment, despite submissions by Delhi government’s counsel that the verdict affects all future governments and all future relationships between the Centre and the State.
  • The Delhi government dismissed Delhi’s LG as unqualified to administer the National Capital, a mere employee of the Centre and the latter half of a master-servant relationship. Delhi’s counsel accused the LG Najeeb Jung of making deliberate attempts to thwart the appeals from being filed in the Supreme Court. After the HC verdict, the LG had directed the withdrawal of all Delhi government-appointed panel of advocates and senior advocates, thus handicapping its legal representation in courts. Even to employ a lawyer to fight our case, even filing of a complaint, the Secretary has been asked to get the LG’s permission. Payments to the government’s lawyers have been held up because he said the amounts are exorbitant.
  • The Centre, represented by Attorney-General promptly retorted that the AAP-led Delhi government’s petitions against the High Court judgment were incompetent as they were filed without the prior permission of the LG.
  • Delhi government’s counsel requested the Bench to refer the appeals to a Constitution Bench. The petitions, if referred to a Constitution Bench, would have to be heard by an 11-judge Bench of the Supreme Court. This is because a nine-judge Bench of the apex court had in 1996 in the NDMC versus State of Punjab case, recognised Delhi as a Union Territory for taxation purposes.


  1. North Korea claims nuclear warhead test

Category: International Relations     

Topic:  Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

Key Points:

  • North Korea said it conducted a higher level nuclear warhead test explosion, which it trumpeted as finally allowing it to build at will an array of stronger, smaller and lighter nuclear weapons. An earthquake was reported near North Korea’s northeastern nuclear test site, a strong indication of a nuclear test.
  • South Korea which believes North Korea has conducted its fifth nuclear test explosion called the detonation, which it estimated had produced the North’s biggest-ever explosive yield, an act of fanatic recklessness. The North Korea’s boast of a technologically game-changing nuclear test defies both tough international sanctions and longstanding diplomatic pressure to curb its nuclear ambitions. It will raise serious worries in many world capitals that North Korea has moved another step closer to its goal of a nuclear-armed missile that could one day strike the U.S. mainland.


C. GS3 Related


  1. Chandrayaan-2

Category: Science and Technology      

Topic:  Space

Key Points:

  • The significance of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F05) mission’s success is that the rocket is now more than qualified to put Chandrayaan-2 into orbit making the Space road clear for Chandrayaan-2. ISRO has also finalized the interfaces between GSLV-Mk II and Chandrayaan-2.
  • Chandrayaan-2 with a lander and a rover will be put in the designated orbit by GSLV-Mk II vehicle in the first quarter of It will be a totally indigenous mission – the vehicle, the spacecraft, the lander and the rover are all made in India, and together it will weigh 3,280 kg. After the spacecraft is inserted into the lunar orbit, the lander with the rover inside it will separate and land softly on the moon’s surface.
  • The lander will have a throttleable engine for performing a soft landing and four sites have been short-listed for this. After it touches down on a flat surface on the moon, the 25-kg rover which is a kind of a toy car will emerge from it. It will have six wheels, made of aluminium, to move about on the lunar soil. The wheels will interact in such a way that the rover does not sink. The rover will move at a speed of two cm a second. Its lifetime on the moon is 14 earth days; it will have two payloads for analysing the soil’s chemical properties.


  1. NASA launches Osiris-Rex spacecraft

Category: Science and Technology      

Topic:  Space

Key Points:

  • NASA launched Osiris-Rex, a robotic hunter atop an Atlas V rocket to explore the big, black, unexplored Asteroid Bennu to gather a few handfuls of gravel for return to Earth. These bite-size bits of ancient space rock from asteroid Bennu could hold clues to the origin of life, not just on our planet but potentially elsewhere in the solar system.
  • The spacecraft looks something like a bird with its solar wings and is the first NASA explorer of its kind has taken off on a seven-year quest. It will take two years for Osiris-Rex to reach Bennu, which is circling the sun in a slightly wider orbit than Earth’s. Round trip, the spacecraft will travel more than 6 billion kilometers by the mission’s end in 2023.


  1. Bacteria power’s a tiny engine

Category: Science and Technology      

Topic:  Developments

Key Points:

  • Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc) researchers and the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNASR) scientists achieved a major breakthrough when they designed a microscopic heat engine that operates at 50-60 per cent efficiency by relying on changes in bacterial activity. While a conventional engine relies on very high temperature difference to move the piston back and forth, the microscopic heat engine developed by the researchers relies on very small changes in temperature input to impact bacterial activity to achieve large work done by the engine.
  • The tiny heat engine uses a colloidal particle of 5 micrometre size (1/50 the thickness of the human hair) that is optically trapped using a laser beam. The extent to which the particle can move is controlled by varying the intensity of the laser beam – the more the intensity the less the particle can move and vice versa. At high temperature the intensity of the laser beam is reduced so the particle can get displaced more; the intensity is increased at lower temperature.
  • Soil dwelling bacteria used: The colloidal particle is kept in a water bath that contains soil-dwelling bacteria Bacillus licheniformis. When the temperature of the bath is increased to 40 degree C, the bacterial activity becomes very high as the bacteria tend to move around vigorously. The vigorous movement of the bacteria influences the colloidal particle and it undergoes a large displacement resulting in large work done by the engine. When the temperature of the bath is changed to 17 degree C the bacterial activity becomes less due to sluggishness of the bacteria resulting in smaller displacement of the colloidal particle. The change in temperature, which is carried out every four seconds, leads to changes in bacterial activity and hence the work done by the engine.


D. GS4 Related


E. Important Editorials: A Quick Glance

 

The Hindu


Editorials:

  1. Dark clouds over the Indian PDS

Category: Polity and Governance       

Topic:  Government Initiatives

Key Points:

India’s Public Distribution System (PDS) has improved steadily during the last 10 years. The system used to be most ineffective and corruption-ridden, with leakages of around 50 per cent at the national level, going up to 80 or 90 per cent in some States. Around 2007, Chhattisgarh took the lead in reforming the PDS making it more inclusive, methodical and transparent. Within a few years, the system was overhauled. Today, most rural households in Chhattisgarh have a ration card, and are able to secure their entitlements (typically 7 kg of rice per person per month) on time every month.

The Chhattisgarh model – Later on, it turned out that the Chhattisgarh model was replicable. Odisha was among the first States to emulate Chhattisgarh’s experience, with similar results. Many other States also initiated Chhattisgarh-style PDS reforms: broad coverage, clear entitlements, de-privatisation of PDS shops, separation of transport agencies from distribution agencies, computerisation, fixed distribution schedules, tight monitoring, active grievance redressal, and more. In the last few years, I have been involved in several surveys of the PDS initiated by independent researchers with student volunteers. In 2011, we studied the PDS in nine States: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. We found that the system was working reasonably well for “below poverty line” (BPL) households: on average, they were receiving 84 per cent of their foodgrain entitlements from the PDS. A similar picture emerged from a follow-up survey in 2013. However, high leakages continued in the “above poverty line” (APL) quota, which tended to be used by the Central government at that time as a dumping ground for excess food stocks.

The National Food Security Act (NFSA) – It was enacted three years ago, was and still is a chance to complete the process of PDS reform and ensure a modicum of food security for everyone. Under the NFSA, the APL category is abolished and eligible households come under two well-defined categories: priority households, entitled to 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month at nominal prices, and Antyodaya households (the poorest), entitled to 35 kg per household per month. The PDS is to cover at least 75 per cent of rural households at the national level, rising to 80-90 per cent in the poorest States.

Impending setbackIn June 2016, we went back to six of India’s poorest States (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal) for an update. We found that four out of six had a fairly good PDS, with most NFSA cardholders receiving the bulk of their entitlements every month and relatively low exclusion errors. The last two, Jharkhand and especially Bihar, still have a long way to go. Even there, however, the situation is much better than it was a few years ago. In Jharkhand, for instance, the transparency of the system has vastly improved, and the official NFSA website is among the best in the country. However, recent progress is in danger of being undone soon due to the Central government’s counter-productive push for Aadhaar-based biometric authentication in the PDS. This involves installing Point of Sale (PoS) machines at PDS shops, and verifying the identity of cardholders by matching their fingerprints against the Aadhaar database over the Internet.

This system requires multiple fragile technologies to work at the same time: the PoS machine, the biometrics, the Internet connection, remote servers, and often other elements such as the local mobile network. Further, it requires at least some household members to have an Aadhaar number, correctly seeded in the PDS database. This is a wholly inappropriate technology for rural India, especially in the poorest States. Even in State capitals, network failures and other glitches routinely disable this sort of technology. In villages with poor connectivity, it is a recipe for chaos. Note that Internet dependence is inherent to Aadhaar since there is no question of downloading the biometrics.

Recent developments in Rajasthan illustrate the dangers of forcing biometric authentication on the PDS. During the last few months, the Government of Rajasthan has tried hard to enforce the system. The use of PoS machines is compulsory and every PDS shop has one. Yet, according to official data compiled by Nikhil Dey, only 61 per cent of Rajasthan’s foodgrain allocation found its way through the PoS system in July 2016, with a similar figure (63 per cent) for August. The rest is either siphoned off or delivered using the old “register” system – which of the two is hard to say since utter confusion prevails about the permissibility of using registers as a fallback option. Further evidence comes from Ranchi district in Jharkhand where the PoS system is also mandatory. In July 2016, NFSA cardholders in Ranchi district received less than half of their foodgrain entitlements through that system, according to the model website mentioned earlier. The situation was much the same in August.

As in Rajasthan, it is not clear whether those for whom the PoS system does not work in Ranchi are getting any grain through the old “register” system. Officially, that is not allowed, according to local PDS dealers and officials (indeed, some dealers have been suspended for using this fallback option). Even if it happens unofficially, this dual system, where PDS grain goes partly through the PoS system and partly through the fallback register system, is the worst. The reason is that only PDS dealers know whether and when the register system is permissible, and they have no incentive to share that information with the cardholders. Quite likely, the new system is reviving PDS corruption in Jharkhand, reversing a healthy trend towards lower leakages in recent years.

A short visit to a PDS shop just outside Ranchi quickly brings out the multiple vulnerabilities of the new system. Within minutes we met many people who had been deprived of their food rations for months because they had no Aadhaar number; or because their Aadhaar number had not been correctly seeded; or because their biometrics did not work, or simply because the PoS machine returned various error messages. Even those for whom the system works face huge inconvenience. Often they have to make repeated trips to the PDS shop, or send different members in turn, until the machine cooperates. Sometimes schoolchildren are asked to skip classes and try their luck at the PDS shop. This unreliable system causes a colossal waste of time for everyone. By the way, all this is one year after I was told by the Food Department’s upbeat consultants that the PoS system is functional throughout Ranchi district.

The Aadhaar juggernaut In spite of ample warnings, the Central government continues to push for compulsory Aadhaar-based biometric authentication in the PDS. Incidentally, this is a violation of Supreme Court orders. The court did allow the use of Aadhaar in the PDS, but not making it compulsory for PDS users. Nor can the government invoke the Aadhaar Act to justify this move: the relevant sections of the Act are yet to be notified.

PoS machines seem to be expected to ensure a corruption-free PDS. This expectation, however, builds on a misunderstanding of PDS leakages. The main vulnerability today, at least in the States I am familiar with, is not identity fraud (e.g. bogus cards), but quantity fraud: PDS dealers often give people less than what they are entitled to, and pocket the rest. PoS machines are ineffective in preventing quantity fraud. They may help in reducing identity fraud, such as it is, but that does not justify depriving people of their food entitlements when the technology fails.

The Central government and its advisers pride themselves on their commitment to “evidence-based policy”, but this is a case where evidence is being systematically ignored to press on with technological solutions based on blind faith (handsomely nurtured by commercial interests). The drive to impose biometric authentication on the PDS must stop immediately to avoid further damage. There are better ways of plugging last-mile leakages, including the use of simpler technologies not dependent on the Internet. Imposing a technology that does not work on people who depend on it for their survival is a grave injustice.


F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:
  • The National Food Security Act (NFSA)
  • Bacillus licheniformis
  • Chandrayaan-2
  • GSLV-F05
  • Osiris-Rex
  • Asteroid Bennu


G. BILLS/ACTS/SCHEMES/ORGS IN NEWS

BILLS/ACTS/SCHEMES/ORGS IN NEWS

Links to Refer

The National Food Security Act (NFSA)

http://dfpd.nic.in/nfsa-act.htm


H. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
Question 1: Which of the following countries recently claimed to have tested Hydrogen bomb?
a) North Korea

b) Pakistan

c) Iran

d) South Korea


Question 2: NASA’s spacecraft which is exploring the biggest asteroid ‘Ceres’ is –
a) Neowise mission

b) Oriris rex

c) Dawn

d) New horizons


Question 3: In addition to fingerprint scanning, which of the following can be used in the biometric identification of a person?
  1. Iris scanning
  2. Retinal scanning
  3. Voice recognition

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

a) 1 only

b) 2 and 3 only

c) 1 and 3 only

d) 1, 2 and 3 only


Question 4: The bio-toilets proposed to be installed in the Indian railways works on the principle of
a) Fungal bio-degradation

b) Worm based bio-degradation

c) Bacterial bio-degradation

d) None of these


Question 5: Chandrayaan-2 will be launched by –
a) PSLV

b) RSLV

c) GSLV

d) None of these

 

Check Your Answers

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