07&08, January 2018

1.e-Sansad and e-Vidhan

Source: PIB

18th All India Whips Conference

The  rolling out of e-Sansad and e-Vidhan in Parliament and State Legislatures to digitize and make their functioning paperless.

Key facts:

  • e-Sansad and e-Vidhan are mission mode projects of Government of India under Digital India, to make the functioning of Parliament and State Legislatures paperless.
  • MoPA is the Nodal Ministry for implementation of both the projects.
  • According to the agenda prepared by MoPA for the Conference, these projects would make the functioning of Parliament and State Legislatures participative, responsive, transparent, productive and more accountable to the public and make the entire Legislative process more efficient.
  • Further, this environment friendly initiative is in line with the ‘Go Green’ initiative of the Government.

Whip Conference:

  • The Whips’ Conference would make other recommendations for smooth and efficient working of Parliament and the State Legislatures in the light of the experience gained by the Whips.

The Union Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs would then forward these recommendations to the

  1. The State Chief Ministers;
  2. Ministers-in-charge of Department of Parliamentary Affairs in the State Governments; and
  3. Presiding Officers of the State Legislatures and all the invitees to the conference, for information and necessary action.

Whip:

  • A whip is an important member of a political party’s parliamentary body, having a central role in ‘Floor Management’ in both the Houses of Parliament and is responsible for discipline within the party.
  • Their main job is ensuring that their members in Parliament and legislature vote in line with the party’s official policy on important issues and make sure that the members turn out for important votes.
  • Such an importance of Whips in the Parliamentary system had been acknowledged by organizing the First All India Whips Conference at Indore in 1952, in the very first year of general elections to the First Lok Sabha.

2.‘Green’ crackers on the anvil

Source: The Hindu

In a bid to fight air pollution, Science and Environment Minister has tasked the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to come up with a way to make crackers that are “environmentally friendly” and to use science to save jobs in the industry.

Significance:

  • Several CSIR laboratories have come together and are putting together a robust S&T strategy for development of eco-friendly firecrackers and fireworks.
  • The first phase will cover reduction of pollutants, while future strategies will cover removal of pollutants from the compositions
  • Other than smoke-aggravating partially-burnt paper that sheaths the gunpowder in crackers, metals in fireworks such as strontium and barium are toxic to human and animal health, and the burning process produces other harmful emissions such as polychlorinated hydrocarbons.

Way ahead:

  • A key ingredient in several crackers is perchlorate and replacing them with nitrogen-rich materials or nitrocellulose could make them burn cleaner and produce less smoke, according to a report in the Chemical & Engineering News, of the American Chemical Society. These however make crackers costlier.

3.Indian diaspora a platform for stronger ties with ASEAN

Source: The Hindu

The India-ASEAN Partnership at 25

India and the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are currently celebrating 25 years of their rapidly expanding partnership. They are also marking 15 years of their Summit engagement and five years of Strategic their Partnership.

  • Several events are being held in India and various ASEAN countries to mark these milestones. In addition, ASEAN completed 50 years of its establishment in 2017.
  • The presence of the entire ASEAN leadership on this occasion is a natural extrapolation of the Act East Policy (AEP) launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the first East Asia Summit (EAS) attended by him in Myanmar in November 2014.
  • Relations with ASEAN have become multi-faceted to encompass security, connectivity, strategic, political, space technology, counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency operations, anti-radicalisation, trade and investment, maritime security and defence collaboration, in addition to economic ties.

Act East Policy

  • AEP is the successor to the Look East Policy (LEP) that was put in place by then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in 1992 under radically different geo-political and economic circumstances.
  • LEP was primarily focused on strengthening economic ties between India and ASEAN states.
  • The end of the cold war and disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 provided a welcome opportunity for India to reach out to South-East Asia to capitalize upon its historical, cultural and civilisational linkages with the region.
  • As External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said at the recently held ninth edition of the Delhi Dialogue, India’s age old ties with South-East Asia have been established through culture, trade and religion and not through ”conquest and colonization.’
  • India and Having become a sectoral partner of ASEAN in 1992, India became a dialogue partner and member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1996.
  • India and ASEAN entered into a summit partnership in 2002, the 10th anniversary of LEP, and launched negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in goods in 2003. These discussions culminated in a bilateral deal being concluded in 2009 and becoming effective in 2010. Bilateral trade and investment showed impressive gains in the first decade of this century.

India ASEAN Free Trade:

  • The India-ASEAN Free Trade pact in services and investments, which was concluded in 2014 and came into effect a year later, has the potential to reduce India’s trade deficit with the region as also impart a strong impulse to bilateral exchanges.
  • India is also a part of the ASEAN-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which, when concluded and implemented, will cover almost 40 per cent of the world’s population, 33 per cent of global GDP and 40 per cent of world trade.
  • Currently, there exist 30 different dialogue mechanisms between India and the ASEAN states focusing on a range of sectors. These comprise an annual Summit and seven Ministerial meetings focused on a variety of areas that include foreign affairs, economy, environment, tourism, etc.

Challenges and Opportunities

  • Common concerns and aspirations as well as similar threats and challenges confront the ASEAN countries and India at a time when not only Asia but the whole world is in the throes of an uncertain and unpredictable phase
  • Connectivity between India and ASEAN, particularly Myanmar and Thailand, has emerged as a significant element in cementing bonds between the two regions. Better infrastructure connecting Northeast India and ASEAN has become the sine qua non for stronger economic and trade partnership and vital contributor to prosperity and economic development of the region. Two major connectivity projects, viz.,
  • The Trilateral Highway between north-east India and Myanmar and onwards to Thailand (and Laos and Vietnam) as well as the Kaladan multi-modal transit and transport project, have been under implementation for several years.

India, ASEAN, and the Chinese Conundrum

  • In a rapidly evolving geo-political scenario marked by China’s assertive military, political and economic rise, the AEP has imparted greater dynamism to India’s ties with ASEAN.
  • The issue of ownership, control, use and exploitation of oil, gas, mineral and fisheries resources in the South China Sea has emerged as a major dispute between China and several ASEAN countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.
  • This is an issue that has divided ASEAN down the middle. There is no unanimity amongst them on how to deal with China on this issue.
  • India is concerned because more than 40 per cent of its trade passes through the South China Sea. It is also interested in harnessing fossil fuel resources in the region for meeting its energy needs.
  • In all recent discussions in regional and international fora, India and several other countries have supported freedom of navigation, ensuring maritime security, expeditious resolution of disputes according to provisions of international law, viz., the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas 1982, developing a Code of Conduct, and settlement of disputes through dialogue and peaceful means.

Conclusion

  • India and ASEAN account for about 30 per cent of the global population (i.e., 1.85 billion people) and a combined GDP of approximately USD 5.1 trillion.
  • Together, they would form the third largest economy in the world.
  • Originally conceived as an economic initiative in 1991, this engagement has evolved in terms of geographical expanse and sectoral reach across the three pillars of politico-security, economic and socio-cultural cooperation.
  • Besides geographical proximity, historical commonalities, cultural affinities and commercial interests, India’s AEP has been driven by geo-strategic concerns as well.
  • The promotion of India’s geostrategic interests in the Indo-Pacific region depend on India’s bilateral and multilateral/regional engagements with the countries in the region.
  • It is hence essential to strengthen collaboration with ASEAN as an organisation as well as with individual Southeast Asian countries.

ASEAN:

  • ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • ASEAN: A Community of Opportunities
  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the Founding Fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
  • Brunei Darussalam then joined on 7 January 1984, Viet Nam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999, making up what is today the ten Member States of ASEAN.

The ASEAN Vision 2020,

  • The ASEAN Vision 2020, adopted by the ASEAN Leaders on the 30th Anniversary of ASEAN, agreed on a shared vision of ASEAN as a concert of Southeast Asian nations, outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together in partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies.

4.SpaceX launches secretive Zuma mission

Source: The Hindu

SpaceX a secretive U.S. government payload known as Zuma, a mission whose nature — and the agency behind it — remains a mystery.

  • SpaceX commentator as the Falcon 9 rocket launched under cover of darkness from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

SpaceX

  • SpaceX has launched national security payloads in the past, including a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, and an X-37B space plane for the U.S. Air Force.
  • The company’s live webcast did not show video coverage of the Zuma spacecraft after it separated from the first stage of the rocket, but confirmed that the fairings deployed and the payload was well on its way to low-Earth orbit.

FALCON 9

  • Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of satellites and the Dragon spacecraft into orbit.
  • Falcon 9 is the first orbital class rocket capable of reflight.
  • SpaceX believes rocket reusability is the key breakthrough needed to reduce the cost of access to space and enable people to live on other planets.
  • Falcon 9’s simple two-stage configuration minimizes the number of separation events — and with nine first-stage engines, it can safely complete its mission even in the event of an engine shutdown.
  • Falcon 9 made history in 2012 when it delivered Dragon into the correct orbit for rendezvous with the International Space Station, making SpaceX the first commercial company ever to visit the station.
  • Since then Falcon 9 has made numerous trips to space, delivering satellites to orbit as well as delivering and returning cargo from the space station for NASA. Falcon 9, along with the Dragon spacecraft, was designed from the outset to deliver humans into space and under an agreement with NASA, SpaceX is actively working toward this goal.

5.NASA to launch two missions to explore nearest space

Source: The Hindu

The two missions — GOLD and ICON will team up to explore the ionosphere.

  • NASA has announced that it would launch two missions to explore the little-understood area of 96 km above Earth’s surface.
  • The Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission will be launched in January 2018, and the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) will be launched later this year, the US space agency

Key facts:

  • GOLD and ICON will team up to explore the ionosphere, a boundary area between Earth and the space where particles have been cooked into a sea of electrically-charged electrons and ions by the Sun’s radiation, reports Xinhua news agency.
  • These layers of near-Earth space are increasingly becoming a part of human domain as it is home to radio signals used to guide airplanes, ships and Global Positioning System satellites
  • ICON will be in low-Earth orbit, at 560 km above Earth, like a close-up camera while GOLD will be in a geostationary orbit over the Western Hemisphere, about 35,398 km above the planet’s surface. It will help in full-disk view of the ionosphere and the upper atmosphere beneath it every half hour
  • GOLD will also explore how the upper atmosphere reacts to geomagnetic storms, which are temporary disturbances of Earth’s magnetic field caused by solar activity.
  • At night, GOLD will examine disruptions in the ionosphere, which are dense, unpredictable bubbles of charged gas that appear over the equator and tropics, sometimes interfering with radio communication.

6.Barren island on Hooghly estuary turns into bountiful habitat

Source: The Hindu

Till 1990, Nayachar, a newly emerged island in the middle estuary of the Hooghly river, was completely barren, with hardly any plant or animal species.

  • The land mass, which falls under West Bengal’s Purba Medinipur district, was created in the Indian Sunderbans by river silt deposits, and remained largely submerged, rising occasionally above the water level.
  • Now, an October 2017 publication by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) titled ‘Studies on the Succession and Faunal Diversity and Ecosystem Dynamics in Nayachar Island Indian Sundarban Delta’ has listed 151 animal species on the island, making it a rare case in ecology.

Nayachar:

  • Nayachar is a mangrove ecosystem and the species succession we have observed here is unique. So far, we have recorded about 20 species of microfauna, which represent eight species of Acarina and six species of Collembola.
  • The island has not only recorded a growth in species of fauna but also increased in size over the past five decades.
  • “What’s interesting is that Nayachar is surrounded by water on all sides and the nearest landmass — the sinking island of Ghoramara — is about 30 km away. The natural succession of species on the island has been aided by the inundation of water during tides, and the soil brought from other places by fishermen.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/barren-island-on-hooghly-estuary-turns-into-bountiful-habitat/article22387348.ece

 The Hindu

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