📰 THE HINDU – CURRENT NOTE 23 February
💡 7 Earth-like planets spotted
- Scientists have spotted seven Earth-sized planets, with mass similar to Earth, orbiting around a dwarf star, TRAPPIST-1, the size of Jupiter, just 39 light years from the Sun. The planets’ temperature is low enough to make possible the presence of liquid water on their surface.
- In May last year, scientists found three planets passing in front of TRAPPIST-1, the dwarf star.
- Based on further monitoring of the star from the ground and space, scientists have found four more ‘exo-planets’orbiting TRAPPIST- 1. These planets are found in the habitable zone of the star.
- “We are first trying to rule out the presence of large hydrogen envelope to make sure that the planets are indeed Earthlike.
- These will be followed by detailed study of climate and chemical composition to try and find out if there is life on these planets. If there is life on these planets we will know it in a decade.”
- The four newly discovered planets orbit around the star every 4.04 days, 6.06 days, 8.1 days and 12.3 days respectively; the orbital period of two of the three planets discovered last year is 1.51 days and 2.42 days respectively.
💡 ‘Case against Azhar solid’
- India hit out at China on Wednesday for demanding “solid evidence” for securing a United Nations ban on Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, saying the extent of his actions were “well-documented” and the “burden of proof” was not on the country.
- Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, briefing the media on his interactions with top Chinese officials, said the talks were “useful” in conveying India’s concerns and priorities on key issues.
- “On the issue of 1267 Committee’s sanctions on Masood Azhar, we once again explained the rationale for that application and pointed out that this was really pursued by other countries too, not India alone,” Mr. Jaishankar said. He was referring to the U.S. application this year, backed by the U.K. and France, to designate Azhar as a global terrorist.
- In the case of Azhar, Jaish itself is proscribed under 1267. So the proof is in [the] 1267 Committee action. In this case, what he has done, the extent of his actions, are well-documented.
- The proposal in question this time is not moved by India. t is not that the burden of proof is on India. The sponsors seem to be very well convinced… otherwise they would not have taken the initiative to move the proposal said the secretary.
- The talks included counter-terrorism issues, which reportedly covered efforts to get the JeM chief banned by the U.N. as well as Afghanistan, besides bilateral and counsellor issues.
- This is the first time China has fielded an executive Vice-Minister who is also the head of the Foreign Ministry unit of the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Mr. Jaishankar said he highlighted India’s concerns about the widening trade deficit, which last year amounted to over $46 billion.
- The Chinese side has taken some measures, but clearly these have not addressed the problem in a substantive way,” Mr. Jaishankar said, referring to Beijing’s promise that it would remove trade barriers for India’s IT and pharmaceutical sectors.
💡 3 lakh Indians in U.S. at deportation risk
- Nearly three lakh Indian-Americans are likely to be impacted by the Trump administration’s sweeping plans that put the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation.
- S. President Donald Trump has laid the groundwork for potentially deporting millions of undocumented immigrants by issuing new guidelines.
- “The Department no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in an enforcement memo.
- “Department personnel have full authority to arrest or apprehend an alien whom an immigration officer has probable cause to believe is in violation of the immigration laws,” the memo said.
- The DHS has issued two enforcement memos, which among other things, tighten deportation of illegal immigrants.
- According to the memo, the DHS Secretary has the authority to apply expedited removal provisions to aliens who have not been admitted or paroled into the U.S., who are inadmissible, and who have not been continuously physically present in the U.S. for the two-year period immediately prior to the determination of their inadmissibility, so that such aliens are immediately removed unless the alien is among other things, an unaccompanied minor, intends to apply for asylum or has a fear of persecution.
💡 Maintain law, order on SYL canal issue: SC
- The Supreme Court on Wednesday stood firm by its decision to construct the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal and urged the neighbouring States to maintain law and order at any cost.
- A Bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and Amitava Roy raised concern about violence after reports that the Indian National Lok Dal, Haryana’s main opposition party, had asked its workers to gather on Thursday at Ambala and march inside Punjab to start digging the SYL canal.
- The Supreme Court’s call for status quo in the inter-State water dispute came amidst Punjab’s affidavit that the Punjab Termination of Water Agreement Act of 2004 was still in force. It argued that a recent Supreme Court verdict that declared the 2004 Act as unconstitutional was only an opinion given by the court on a presidential reference and not a verdict as such to be complied as law.
- Supreme Court has already repealed the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act-2004 passed by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha and now the matter was pending with the apex court for implementation.
- Indian National Lok Dal’s (INLD) plan of marching towards Punjab on February 23 in an attempt to dig the controversial Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal.
- Security arrangements have been beefed by both Haryana and Punjab police at the border villages of the two States in a bid to keep law and order situation under check. Barricades have been erected at Shambhu barrier on NH1 on Punjab and Haryana border and to prevent individuals from assembling in the area, section 144 has been implemented.
- While Punjab has deployed 10 companies of paramilitary forces and around 5,000 policemen in villages adjoining Haryana border. Haryana on other hand has deployed five companies of paramilitary forces, besides heavy deployment of police.
- Even the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to maintain surveillance in view of the proposed march by INLD workers. Punjab and Haryana are set for a face-off on the issue of sharing water from the SYL canal after political parties from both the States have taken a stiff stance on water sharing.
💡 Navy frigate INS Betwa set upright in Mumbai dockyard
- Indian Navy frigate INS Betwa, which tipped over in the dockyard in Mumbai last December, has been set upright.
- In a related move, the Board of Inquiry (BoI) constituted to probe the incident has submitted its report to the Headquarters, Western Naval Command.
- Two people were killed and 14 injured when the 4,000 tonne indigenously built guided missile frigate INS Betwa suffered a mishap on December 05, 2016 while it was being undocked during a scheduled two-year refit.
- The refit began on April 15, 2016 and is scheduled to finish on April 15, 2018. The repair and refit would be completed as per schedule, Capt. Sharma said.
- The salvage operation was carried out by specialist firm Resolve Marine Group which was selected through tendering process. The operation cost about Rs. 20 crore.
💡 Tata Advanced’s Nova to execute radar contract
- Tata Advanced Systems’ subsidiary, Nova Integrated Systems (NISL), has signed a contract with the Defence Ministry to implement Indian Navy’s Surface Surveillance Radar (SSR) project.
- The project involves delivery, installation and commissioning of the systems on naval vessels,delivery of simulators and establishment of depot-level facilities besides integrated logistics support. The deliveries would be spread over 10 years.
- The SSR programme is the first procurement by the Ministry of Defence under the ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ category of the Defence Procurement Procedure. The radar is based on solid state technology and is also suited for coastal surveillance.
- The procurement of the SSR is part of the Navy’s plan for modernisation, according to a statement from Tata Advanced Systems (TASL). It would also be installed on the ships under construction and is in line with the Centre’s Make in India initiative.
💡 TRAI told to review tariff plans
- Following a decline in revenue of the telecom sector for two quarters in a row, (July-September & October- December) and its resultant impact on government earnings, the Telecom Commission asked the sectoral regulator TRAI to “review” mobile tariff plans offered by telecom operators, including promotional offers.
- The Centre earns revenue from the telecom operators through spectrum usage and license fees among others.
- The Telecom Commission, which is the highest decision making body in the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), has also asked the regulator to ensure proper implementation of its 2002 and 2008 amendments to the Telecom Tariff Orders, 1999.
- While the Commission did not name any company, the industry has been facing severe headwinds since the introduction of Reliance Jio, which has been offering free voice and data services to consumers since September last year under two different plans.
- Reliance Jio, which claims it has added 100 million subscribers in 170 days, on February 21 announced that it will start charging its subscribers from April 1, 2017.
- It has rolled out an offer wherein its current subscribers, after paying a one-time charge of Rs. 99, can avail unlimited voice and data services at a monthly charge of Rs. 303 for a year.
- The existing operators had alleged that the promotional offers were in violation of the norms and amounted to ‘predatory pricing’.
💡 Kashmir an internal affair: EU team
- Human rights ‘violations’ in Jammu and Kashmir must be resolved internally in India, says a visiting delegation of Members of European Parliament (MEP), accepting that the conflict in the State is an internal Indian matter.
- “The reports of breaches of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir have to be settled through Indian institutions. The conflict is a very sensitive issue, we know sensitive it is. Delegations of MEPs visited both sides of Kashmir in 2003-04. This has to be settled through domestic Indian institutions,” said David McAllister, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the EU Parliament, clearly ruling out the need to “internationalise” the Kashmir issue.
- However, while giving India its full support on the human rights issue, the delegation, however, will take up two other thorny issues:
1. India’s denial of a visa to a member of their delegation:
- Surely the way to solve the long running problem of Jammu and Kashmir is to have open dialogue and allow a diversity of views — not to ban dissenters from entering the country.
2. Recent Home Ministry action against NGOs in India:
- The only restriction can be blocking terror organisations. But when it’s about women’s rights, children’s rights, it’s very important to explain this approach.
- Preda is the head of a committee preparing a comprehensive report on political relations between India and the EU,building off their strategic partnership launched in 2004, including the issue of human rights, which the members said were an “integral part” of the EU’s foreign relations. Officials said they had also discussed “security cooperation and counter-terrorism issues” in New Delhi.
💡 NGO launches drive to save elephants
- In a bid to save a herd of wild elephants from the Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary, which has been living in the nearby Athagarh area of Cuttack district, the Sanctuary Nature Foundation has launched a campaign seeking to draw the attention of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
Strayed into village:
- The elephants from the sanctuary had strayed into Athagarh area after crossing the Mahanadi river about five years ago. At present, a herd of at least 22 elephants is living in the Athagarh area in constant conflict with local villagers and farmers. At least five persons have been killed in the past few years.
- Locals have been putting up road blocks from time to time to draw the attention of the authorities to deal with the menace. The campaign, through which the Odisha government’s attention is being drawn, seeks a long-term solution to the problem.
- The Sanctuary Nature Foundation has urged the people to tweet to Odisha CM asking him to take action to protect this wild elephant herd by using hashtag #GiantRefugees.
- The Foundation has also urged people to send at least 1,000 emails to Mr. Patnaik by March 15 seeking direct police intervention to control mobs so that the elephants are allowed undisturbed passage.
- The Foundation has demanded that a task force be set up to effect the restoration of the Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary.
💡 SC deadline for factories that pollute
- The Supreme Court on Wednesday gave polluting industrial units three months to install effluent treatment plants to remove contaminants from the wastes before they are released into water bodies.
- It directed the State Pollution Control Boards across the country to cut power supply to non-compliant companies. A Bench comprising Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar directed the pollution control boards to notify the industrial units about the judicial order through a common advertisement.
- After three months from the date of the advertisement, the officials would inspect to ascertain whether the industrial units had set up the treatment plants.
💡 Location norms soon for waste treatment plants
- Soon, waste-to-energy plants will be allowed to come up within 20-100 metres of residential areas, according to a draft law proposed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
- Currently the Union Environment Ministry and Urban Development Ministry guidelines have no defined limits on the minimum distance separating such plants from residential areas. Only specifications for landfills — that they be least 500 m. away from “habitable zones” — exist.
- This is the first time that waste processing plants will have to adhere to defined limits by creating a buffer zone separating the boundaries of the waste processing facility and public zones.
- These guidelines — now open for public consultation until the 26th of this month — will apply to prospective treatment plants across the country and existing plants will have to incorporate measures such as planting trees, odour-free technology and proper waste transport measures within the buffer zone.
💡 Goa to host See Sharp Fest
- The See Sharp Fest, a green living and learning festival, will be hosted by Goa for the first time. Described as a learning holiday in the arms of nature, the three-day festival will begin from February 24 at Ashwem beach.
- A statement issued by the organisers said the festival will hold classes on composting, connecting solar panels, rain water harvesting, generating cooking gas from waste food, converting waste oil into detergent, and even starting one’s own organic farm.