📰 THE HINDU – CURRENT NOTE 13 February
💡 ‘New Zealand beached whale crisis over’
- The crisis began early Friday when a pod of 416 whales were found stranded on the 26-km Farewell Spit, with hundreds more following them over the weekend. The shallow, sweeping spit is believed to interfere with the whales’ navigation systems and is a regular scene of mass strandings.
- As low tide approached early Sunday evening, around 300 pilot whales were heading out of Golden Bay in the northwest of the South Island and swimming towards the deep-water safety of Cook Strait.
- The news came as a relief for the hundreds of exhausted volunteers, who had spent three days comforting the stranded animals and keeping them cool while waiting to refloat them on the high tide.
- Late Saturday afternoon, when rescuers believed the situation to be under control, about 240 whales moved around a small flotilla of boats and a human chain of rescuers standing in the water trying to herd them away.
- They beached themselves about three kilometers from the Friday stranding. By Sunday morning most had managed to refloat themselves and at high tide volunteer workers were able to get the remaining animals back into the water where boats were used to guide them towards the other survivors.
💡 Centre plans to invest ₹2,200 cr. in electronic technology start-ups
The Centre is targeting an investment of about ₹2,200 crore by 2019 in start-ups working on new technologies in the electronic sector under the Electronics Development Fund (EDF)
- The EDF is a ‘fund of funds’ that works with venture capitalists to create funds, known as ‘daughter funds,’ which provide risk capital to companies developing new technologies in the area of electronics, nano-electronics and IT.
- The EDF would put in 10% of the capital in ‘daughter funds’ and the rest would be invested by venture capitalists. Hence, a targeted investment of ₹2,200 crore by the government will help mobilise ₹22,000 crore for the ‘daughter funds,’ which will then invest primarily in start-ups.
- To create IPR there are a large number of tech start-ups, people working in nano-technology etc, but the problem is who will fund them, because it is almost like R&D, until they commercialise.
- In one year, the government had been able to mobilise ₹6,870 crore, of which the government’s share has been ₹687 crore.
💡 Switzerland votes on relaxed citizenship laws
- Switzerland voted on 12 Feb. on whether to make it easier for third generation immigrants to become citizens, after a campaign tainted by anti-Muslim messages and charges of religious prejudice.
- Preliminary results pointed to the measure being approved, in what would be a defeat for the far right nationalist Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which put issues of Islam and national identity at the centre of the debate.
- The government as well as most lawmakers and political parties supported the proposal that would allow the grandchildren of immigrants to skip several steps in the lengthy process of securing a Swiss passport.
- SVP party repeatedly accused of demonising Islam, that focused on the risks of more Muslims becoming citizens and the possible “loss of Swiss values”,
- The SVP in 2009 successfully persuaded Swiss voters to approve a ban on new mosque minaret construction, while religiously-charged messages have been a part of multiple referendums on immigration since.
- A per migration department study: less than 25,000 people in the country of about eight million currently qualify as third generation immigrants, meaning they have at least one grandparent who was born here or acquired Swiss residency.
- Nearly 60% of that group are Italians, followed by those with origins in the Balkans and Turkish nationals.
The Early trend:
- 8 Major population centres like Geneva, Zurich and Basel voted to approve the measure with two small cantons voting “No”, final results showed.
- The No camp faced heavy criticism over a widely-distributed poster showing a woman staring out from a black niqab with a tagline urging voters to reject “uncontrolled citizenship”. The SVP is not officially responsible for the poster.
- A change to citizenship laws requires a constitutional amendment, meaning the Yes side needs to win both a majority of votes and a majority of Switzerland’s 26 cantons.
- Political initiatives that either directly or implicitly target Muslims may be on the rise in the West, notably including U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban against seven mainly Muslim countries, which was undone in court last week. But in Switzerland such moves are nothing new.
💡 Korea test fires ballistic missile
- North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea early on 12 Feb. the first such test since U.S. President Donald Trump was elected, and his administration indicated that Washington would have a calibrated response to avoid escalating tensions.
- The test was likely to have been of an intermediate-range Musudan-class missile that landed in the Sea of Japan, according to South Korea’s military, not an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).
- The missile was launched from an area called Panghyon in North Korea’s western region just before 8 a.m. (2300 GMT Saturday) and flew about 500 km, the missile reached an altitude of about 550 km. While Seoul initially said the missile was probably a medium-range Rodong, it later said the launch was likely of a Musudan, which is designed to fly up to 3,000-4,000 km.
- The North attempted eight Musudan launches last year. Only one of those launches — of a missile that flew 400 km in June — was considered a success by officials and experts in South Korea and the U.S.
An expected provocation:
- The launch marks the first test of Mr. Trump’s vow to get tough on an isolated North Korean regime that last year tested nuclear devices and ballistic missiles at an unprecedented rate in violation of United Nations resolutions.
- The new Trump administration is also likely to step up pressure on China to rein in North Korea, reflecting Mr. Trump’s previously stated view that Beijing has not done enough on this front.
- China is North Korea’s main ally but has been frustrated by Pyongyang’s repeated provocations, although it bristles at pressure from Washington and Seoul to curb the North and its young leader, Kim Jong Un.
- U.S is deducing a series of possible responses, including new U.S. sanctions to tighten financial controls, an increase in naval and air assets in and around the Korean peninsula and accelerated installation of new missile defence systems in South Korea.
- Kim said in his New Year speech that the country was close to test-launching an ICBM and state media have said such a launch could come at any time.
💡 Single-point military adviser soon?
- The government is keen on appointing a single-point military adviser within the year to promote synergy among the Services. The issue was discussed in detail during the recent combined commanders’ conference chaired by Prime Minster Narendra Modi.
- The government is also intent on creating theatre commands for greater interoperability within the Services, which is likely to be an “incremental step”. “Generally, the guideline is that it should be done this year. The general discussion is on the mandate and how the operational command looks like.
- There was consensus on having a permanent Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), who will also be a four star officer, there have been apprehensions that it would end up being another ceremonial post in the absence of a clear-cut role and authority over the Service chiefs. However, discussions are still continuing on whether it should be a Permanent COSC or a five star Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) with specific functions.
- There is general consensus that it is high time India had its single-point military adviser and greater coordination among the three services. India had two adversaries who have managed to achieve this and it is not right for India to remain so.
- There are still some differences between the Services on the CDS. In addition to the CDS, the government is also looking at various other measures to bring in synergy between the Services. This includes set up theatre commands to integrate air, land and sea assets under one operational entity to improve efficiency as well as optimise resource utilisation.
💡 Solar power breaks a price barrier
- The auctioned price of solar photovoltaic (SPV) power per kilowatt hour has dropped below ₹3 to ₹2.97 in Madhya Pradesh, providing a clear pointer to the future course of renewable energy. The levellised tariff — factoring in a small annual increase for a given period of time — for the 750 MW Rewa project over a 25-year period is ₹3.29, which is less than half the rate at which some State governments signed contracts in recent years.
- A rapid scaling-up of solar capacity is vital also to meet the national goal of installing 100 gigawatts by 2022, a target that is being internationally monitored as part of the country’s pledges under the Paris Agreement on climate change.
- It will also be transformational for the environment, since pollution from large new coal-based power plants can be avoided.
- There is everything to accelerate the pace of growth that essentially began in 2010, with the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. Performance has not matched intent and the target of installing 12 GW solar capacity in 2016-17 is far from attainable, since it fell short by almost 10 GW as of December.
- The national policy on renewables failed to tap the investment potential of the middle class. While grid-connected large-scale installations have received maximum attention, there is slow progress on rooftop solar.
- The experience of Germany, where robust solar expansion has been taking place over the years, illustrates the benefits of policy guarantees for rooftop installations and feed-in tariffs lasting 20 years.
- SPV costs are expected to continue to fall, and tariffs paid both for large plants and smaller installations require periodic review. At some point, significant subsidies may no longer be necessary. Solar power is an emissions-free driver of the economy, generating growth in both direct and indirect employment.
💡 Multi-role chopper model to be unveiled at Aero India expo
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will reveal the mock-up of India’s first indigenous multi-role helicopter at the Aero India exhibition, beginning in Bengaluru next week. The medium-category helicopter is sought after by the services, and such helicopters have so far been imported.
Production on demand:
- HAL is expected to put up the initial design before the services for their response, and the design and development will commence based on a firm demand from the Army and the Air Force.
- It is planned as a twin-engine helicopter in the 10-tonne category, capable of flying at a height of 15,000 feet, and with a range of 500 km. It can perform several tasks, including counter-insurgency operations, casualty evacuation and combat search and rescue. It is envisaged as per the operational requirements of the military and to suit the high altitude requirements of the Army and the Air Force.
- The helicopter is designed to carry 24 fully equipped military personnel or 18 persons in the VVIP role. It can be a good substitute for the Russian built Mi-17, which is in use, and also fit the Navy’s requirement for medium-lift helicopters.
- HAL is building the 5.5-tonne Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv, which is operational in large numbers. The Light Combat Helicopter is in an advanced stage of induction and a Light Utility Helicopter is under development.
- A proposal to develop six long-range surveillance aircraft on the Airbus A330 platform is due to go before the Defence Acquisition Council this month, Defence R&D Secretary and DRDO Chairman S. Christopher said on the sidelines of the Aero India seminar..
- DRDO expects to develop the AWACS (air-borne warning and control systems) after the proposal is approved by the CCS and the purchase deal is signed.
💡 Women’s conclave in A. P. ends on a low note
- The three- day National Women’s Parliament ( NWP) ended here on a lacklustre note, with the meet postponing the adoption of the much- hyped Amaravati Declaration. The NWP did not present the widely publicised International Woman Icon and 12 best ‘ young achievers’ awards either.
- Thousands of girl students who participated in the three- day event were not given even the certificate of participation. This left them utterly disappointed on the concluding day of the conclave on Sunday.
- The Andhra Pradesh government entered into a Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU) with U. N. Women. They will compile and process the proceedings and discussions report will be submitted in three months.
Range of issues:
- List of the issues that had come up for discussion included women’s age of marriage, malnutrition- related problems, poor sanitation in schools, social development, equal access to resources, and digital literacy.
- There was a not word from the organisers on the ‘ young achievers’ awards and the International Woman Icon. Neither the Chief Minister nor Speaker Kodela Sivaprasada Rao, who is Chairman of the conclave, touched the topic.
💡 IGIA enters big league, is 12th busiest airport in the world
- Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), the busiest in the country, is now also among the top 15 busiest airports in the world.
- It was the 12th busiest airport worldwide in November 2016 as per the latest report published by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
- The Delhi airport also recorded the highest growth rate of 19.1% in November 2016 globally. Last year, the airport handled a record 55.64 million passengers, which is the highest ever in the country.
- The airport has also reached an average of 1,185 air traffic movements per day, the highest in the country. The Delhi airport connects to 127 destinations worldwide and is the hub for major airlines such as Air India, Vistara, IndiGo and SpiceJet.
- ICAO ranking based on passengers handled by airports, Atlanta airport in the USA is the world’s busiest, followed by Beijing and Tokyo airports.