The HINDU Notes – 16th February
📰 THE HINDU – CURRENT NOTE 16 February
💡 ISRO launches 104 satellites in one go, creates history
- The PSLV, which created launch history on 15 Feb by placing a record 104 spacecraft in their desired orbits, has totally launched 46 Indian spacecraft, most of them Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites. As many as 180 small satellites of foreign customers contracted by ISRO’s commercial company Antrix Corporation have also reached space on this vehicle.
- The feat was performed by the PSLV launch vehicle, numbered C-37, which took off from the first launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, at 9.28 a.m. This time, it took to space a total of 1,378 kg, of which the primary satellite was 714 kg.
- PSLV C-37 was a largely commercial flight as all but three passenger satellites, small nanosats, belonged to six other countries. The 29-minute launch went off precisely as planned; it took just 11 minutes from the release of the primary Cartosat-2 series spacecraft to the last launch of a client satellite.
- After a flight of 16 minutes and 48 seconds, the satellites achieved a polar Sun synchronous orbit of 506 km inclined at an angle of 97.46 degrees to the equator — very close to the intended orbit. In the next 12 minutes, all 104 satellites successfully separated from the PSLV fourth stage in a predetermined sequence, beginning with the Cartosat-2 series, INS-1 and INS-2.
- The PSLV, 39 flights old since 1993, also launched the Indian Moon mission Chandrayaan-1 in 2008; and is set to launch a private lunar mission for Bengaluru start-up Team Indus in late December this year. The PSLV now marks 38 successful missions in a row out of a total of 39 flights.
- The latest Cartosat is the fifth in the series of six Cartosat-2 spacecraft, starting from Cartosat 2 in 2007 and followed by what were earlier marked A, B, C, D and E. After separation, the two solar arrays of Cartosat-2 series satellite were deployed automatically and ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Bengaluru took over the control of the satellite.
💡 Can′t advance Rafale deliveries: Dassault
- Responding to India′s request to advance the delivery schedule of Rafale fighter jets, the manufacturer Dassault Aviation has stated that it was not possible as the jets have to be customised.
- Dassault Aviation CEO, Mr. Eric Trappier observed that 36 jets was a small number to enable greater technology transfer, pitching for more Rafales for India to gain access to better technologies under the ‘Make in India’ drive.
- Parrikar had already reiterated that India did not intend to order any more Rafales.
- Under the terms of the contract, Dassault will begin training Indian pilots and technicians in operating the jets in 2018.
- India ordered 36 jets in 2016 from France and deliveries are scheduled between 2019 and 2022. Dassault will also bid for the Navy’s tender for at least 57 carrier based aircraft.
- Trappier said Rafale was the only aircraft which had both land-based and maritime variants.
💡 Clouds over Maharashtra will have a silver iodide lining
- During monsoon 2017, weather scientists will fly airplanes loaded with silver iodide over clouds hovering above Solapur, Maharashtra and begin a three-year investigation on cloud seeding.
- The ₹250-crore programme, coordinated by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, will be the first controlled experiment to quantify the extent to which clouds form water drops large enough to make rain.
- Seeding involves spraying chemicals into clouds. China used the technique during the 2008 Olympics to veer rain away from the inaugural venue and now has a full-fledged department that blasts rockets into clouds to induce rain and control pollution.
- Maharashtra has frequently toyed with the idea of cloud seeding because of the frequency of droughts over the Vidarbha region. The State Cabinet had approved a plan to seed clouds for 113 hours with a rainfall level of 1,381mm, at ₹28 crore. However above-normal rains pushed the plan to the back-burner.
- Scientists will fly two aircraft and spray dry ice and silver iodide on 100 clouds and compare them with 100 unseeded clouds. Ground radar will track the clouds and verify which ones contributed rain.
- The programme will account for the variability of the monsoon. The move is part of a larger experiment of the Earth Sciences Ministry to understand how clouds and aerosols interact and influence climate.
💡 Bajaj panel fails to make headway
- The expert Central committee, headed by A.K. Bajaj, former chairman of the Central Water Commission. which toured Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in the last three days to study the disputes between the two States on the utilisation of Krishna water, was convinced that the issues were not easy to resolve.
- It was deputed by the Ministry of Water Resources to suggest a mechanism for making the Krishna River Management Board discharge its duties as per the States′ Reorganisation Act.
- Quoting Mr. Bajaj, sources said the committee would have to take a detailed look at the issues raised by the States. It would come back next month after perusing the data supplied by them.
- Bajaj said the issues were not insurmountable if both States cooperated. He said the States had presented their stakes on diversion of Godavari water to Krishna basin but the allocation of water to compensate for inter-basin transfer should be done by the water disputes tribunal.
- The committee′s silence on its demand for compensating diversion by A.P. of Godavari water to the Krishna basin through thePattiseema project has irked the Telangana government.
💡 SC refuses to defer SYL case hearing
- The Supreme Court reacted sharply and rejected a Punjab government request for posting the hearing on the crucial Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal dispute matter after declaration of the Assembly poll results on March 11.
- At the outset, the Punjab government told the Bench that it has not yet filed its response on Haryana′s petition seeking compliance of the apex court′s earlier order and that it will be filed soon.
- The Bench, which said that the interim order of status quo will continue till further order, asked Punjab to file the response by February 20. The apex court had earlier said that decrees passed cannot be flouted.
💡 An ancient reptile that gave live
- An unusually long-necked marine reptile gave birth to live young 245 million years ago — the only known member of the dinosaur, bird and crocodile family to not lay eggs, researchers have found.
- Archaeologists examining the fossil of a female Dinocephalosaurus from Yunnan Province in southwest China were amazed to discover the remains of a baby among the bones where her abdomen would have been. This discovery rewrites our understanding of the evolution of reproductive systems.
- Dinocephalosaurus was a member of the archosaur family, which includes extinct dinosaurs as well as today’s birds and crocodiles, which are all egg-layers.
- Dinocephalosaurus was a strange-looking ocean-dweller with a neck almost twice the length of its trunk — some 3-4 metres in total. It was a fish eater, snaking its long neck from side to side to catch prey. It had paddle-like flippers, a small head and a mouth with teeth, including large canines, perfect for snaring fish.
- The baby Dinocephalosaurus, or what remained of it, was about a tenth of the mother’s size.
- The archosaurs’ sister clade of turtles also lays eggs, but a third group of reptiles called lepidosaurs, including lizards and snakes, contains some species that give birth to live young — including some sea snakes, boas, skinks and slow worms.
- Live birth is usually associated with mammals, and egg-laying is considered the original, “primitive” state of animals.
- The specimen “demonstrates the curled posture typical for vertebrate embryos,” and there were no calcified shell bits found.
- Archosaurs are known to lay their eggs at a much earlier developmental stage, he added — long before the young one would had grown to this size. Not laying eggs provided advantages to Dinocephalosaurus, the researchers said.
- It indicated the creature was fully marine, not having to leave the ocean to lay eggs on land like sea turtles, exposing the eggs or hatchlings to land predators.
💡Cabinet nod for SBI merger with 5 associate banks
- The Cabinet on 15 Feb approved the merger of State Bank of India with five of its associate banks – State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala, and State Bank of Travancore.
- The merger is likely to result in recurring savings, estimated at more than ₹1,000 crore in the first year, through a combination of enhanced operational efficiency and reduced cost of funds.
- Existing customers of subsidiary banks will benefit from access to SBI’s global network. The proposal was announced in May 2016 and scheduled for March 2017.
- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Cabinet had earlier given in-principle approval for the merger and sent it to the respective banks for their suggestions. The suggestions were taken on-board and decision formally approved by the Cabinet.
💡 Cabinet approves contract awards for 44 small oil and gas fields
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on 15 Feb approved the awarding of contracts in 31 contract areas of discovered small oil and gas fields earlier belonging to Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Oil India Limited (OIL).
- The contract areas include 44 fields, 28 inland and 16 offshore. According to the government, a total of 134 e-bids were received for 34 contract areas. As many as 47 companies, 43 of them Indian, submitted their bids. Four were foreign firms.
- These areas were discovered long back but these discoveries could not be monetised due to various reasons such as isolated locations, small size of reserves, high development costs, technological constraints, fiscal regime etc.
- In September 2015, the Cabinet approved the auction of 69 of such small and marginal fields. Of these, 67 discovered small fields were clubbed into 46 contract areas and put on offer through online international competitive bidding.
- It is expected that in-place locked hydrocarbons volume of 40 million metric tonnes of oil and 22 billion cubic metres of gas will be monetised over a period of 15 years.
💡 Exports record positive growth for a fifth consecutive month
- India′s goods exports recorded positive growth for the fifth consecutive month with shipments in January 2017 rising by 4.32% to $22.1 billion following good performance by major sectors such as engineering and petroleum as well as low base of 14.1% contraction in January 2016.
- Increasing protectionism, volatility in currencies and uncertainties clouding over global economy pose major challenges for India’s exports in 2017.
- Imports in January, meanwhile, increased by 10.7% – a five-month high – to $31.9 billion, data released on 15 February 2017 by the Commerce Ministry showed.
- This resulted in trade deficit increasing to $9.8 billion, more than $7.6 billion seen in January 2016.
- Gold imports shrunk by about 30% to $2 billion in January. In December, imports of the yellow metal had contracted 50.1% to $1.8 billion after having risen in the previous two months.
- As per latest World Trade Organisation statistics, the growth in exports is positive for the U.S. (2.63%), the European Union (5.47%) and Japan (13.43%) but was negative for China (1.51%) for November 2016 over the corresponding period of previous year.
💡 Help us export more to Pakistan, says Punjab
- Punjab wants the Centre to negotiate with Islamabad to boost exports to Pakistan through the land route, keeping aside the ongoing diplomatic stand-of following the Uri attack and the surgical strike.
- Punjab said this would also improve India′s trade with countries that were part of Commonwealth of Independent States (part of the erstwhile Soviet Union, except Baltic States).
- The Centre, however, thinks it may not be “appropriate” to take up this matter with Pakistan now.
- Trade in goods between India and Pakistan was worth $1.32 billion in April- November 2016-17 and $2.6 billion in 2015-16.
- The trade balance was in India′s favour as its exports to Pakistan were $660 million and $1.7 billion more than its imports from that country in April- November 2016-17 and 2015- 16.
- India-CIS goods trade was of the order of $7 billion in April-November 2016-17 and $9.43 billion in 2015-16.
- The trade balance was in favour of CIS as India’s imports stood at $3.55 billion and $4.67 billion more than exports in April-November 2016-17 and 2015-16.
💡 Constitution bench to hear Delhi-Centre turf dispute
- A two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court referred to a Constitution Bench a series of appeals filed by the Delhi government for laying 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.
- The batch of seven special leave petitions filed by the Delhi government has challenged the Delhi High Court′s August 2016 judgment, which upheld the L-G′s power not only over the police, land and public order but also in “services.” The Supreme Court had, however, refused to stay the high court judgment.
- The Delhi government has highlighted the primary question whether the dispute between the AAP and the Centre was a federal dispute coming under Article 131 of the Constitution and which only the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear and decide.
- A question that arises for consideration now is whether the appeals would have to be heard by an eleven- judge Constitution 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.
- However, recently in his arguments before the two judge Bench, senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, representing the Delhi government, had submitted that the petitions did not seek full Statehood for Delhi, but was asking for more freedom for an elected government to administer and govern the national Capital.