13, January 2018

  1. Indian harvest festivals

Source: The Hindu

The Harvest season is on and festivities have gripped the nation from the north to down south.

Various festivals across the nation:

  • Makar Sankranti: The festival of Makar Sankranti is being celebrated today when the Sun enters the Makar zodiac and the days begin to lengthen compared to nights.
  • Pongal: In South India and particularly in Tamil Nadu, it’s the festival of Pongal which is being celebrated over 4 days at harvest time.
  • Magha Bihu: In Assam and many parts of the North East, the festival of Magha Bihu is celebrated. It sees the first harvest of the season being offered to the gods along with prayers for peace and prosperity. People in Assam celebrate this festival wearing colourful and bright clothes.
  • Uttarayan: Gujarat celebrates it in the form of the convivial kite festival of Uttarayan.
  • Maghi: In Punjab, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Maghi. Bathing in a river in the early hours on Maghi is important.
  • Saaji: In Shimla District of Himachal Pradesh, Makara Sankranti is known as Magha Saaji. Saaji is the Pahari word for Sakranti, start of the new month. Hence this day marks the start of the month of Magha.
  • Kicheri: The festival is known as Kicheri in Uttar Pradesh and involves ritual bathing.

  1. Urban heat island

Source: The Hindu

Every winter, the whole of north India is covered by dense fog. But a phenomenon called urban heat island is burning holes in this grey shroud over New Delhi and other cities on the Indo-Gangetic Plain, says a new study.

Impacts:

  • The urban heat island effect is so strong in Delhi, the largest city in the region, that it saw 50% less fog than surrounding areas. In Delhi, the heat island effect also appears to be suppressing the very formation of fog. Scientists found that while areas outside Delhi have seen a 20 per cent increase in fog in the period 2012-2016 compared with 2000-2004, Delhi itself did not see an increase.
  • The analysis found a correlation between the size of the urban population and that of the fog hole. Population size has been shown to be related to the intensity of urban heat islands since they are an indicator of urban growth.

Way ahead:

  • The findings from the study are important since dense and polluted winter fog envelopes north India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh every year from December to January severely affecting air quality and disrupting air, rail and road traffic. The study will be very useful in understanding the process of why fog occurs and ultimately to predict its occurrence.

Urban heat island effect

  • The urban heat island is a phenomenon when the heat gets trapped near the earth’s surface as a result of a decline in green cover, rapid urbanisation, energy-intensive activities, and concrete structures.
  • Urban heat islands can have worse air and water quality than their rural neighbours. UHIs often have lower air quality because there are more pollutants (waste products from vehicles, industry, and people) being pumped into the air.
  • These pollutants are blocked from scattering and becoming less toxic by the urban landscape: buildings, roads, sidewalks, and parking lots. Water quality also suffers. When warm water from the UHI ends up flowing into local streams, it stresses the native species that have adapted to life in a cooler aquatic environment.

  1. Model code

Source: The Hindu

The Election Commission (EC) has set up a 14-member committee to suggest changes to Section 126 of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, which prohibits poll campaign in the last 48 hours leading to voting, in the wake of media expansion. The committee, chaired by Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha, will submit its report within three months.

Terms of reference:

  • Apart from suggesting modifications to the election law, the committee will also study the impact of new media and social media during the “silence period” and its implication in view of Section 126 and suggest changes to the model code of conduct (MCC) accordingly.
  • It has also been tasked to examine the difficulties faced in regulating media platforms during the prohibitory 48 hours in a multi-phase election.

Need for review:

  • Election Commission is of the considered view that due to multifold expansion of digital and electronic media, the extant Model Code of Conduct, Section 126 of the RP Act, 1951, and other related provisions require revisiting to cater to the requirement and challenges of the present and emerging situations.

Model Code of Conduct(MCC):

  • These are the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, election manifestos, processions and general conduct.

Key facts:

  • To ensure free and fair elections.
  • The Model Code of Conduct comes into force immediately on announcement of the election schedule by the commission. The Code remains in force till the end of the electoral process.
  • The need for such code is in the interest of free and fair elections. However, the code does not have any specific statutory basis. It has only a persuasive effect. It contains what is known as “rules of electoral morality”. But this lack of statutory backing does not prevent the Commission from enforcing it.
  • The Commission issued the code for the first time in 1971 (5th Election) and revised it from time to time. This set of norms has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code and also binds them to respect and observe it in its letter and spirit.
  • The salient features of the Model Code of Conduct lay down how political parties, contesting candidates and party(s) in power should conduct themselves during the process of elections i.e. on their general conduct during electioneering, holding meetings and processions, poll day activities and functioning of the party in power etc.

  1. North Koel Reservoir Project

Source: The Hindu

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India, State of Bihar and State of Jharkhand for completion of balance works of North Koel reservoir project at an estimated cost of Rs. 1622.27 crore.

  • A supplementary Memorandum of Agreement has also been signed between Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India, National Water Development Agency, NABARD with State Governments of Bihar and Jharkhand for funding of the state share under Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) for North Koel reservoir project.

The North Koel Reservoir Project:

  • The project is situated on North Koel river which is a tributary of Sone river finally joining the river Ganga. The North Koel Reservoir is located in the most backward tribal areas in Palamau and Garhwa districts of Jharkhand State.
  • The construction was originally started in the year 1972 and continued till 1993 when it was stopped by the Forest Department, Govt. of Bihar. Since then, the work on dam is at a standstill.
  • The project aims to provide irrigation to 111,521 hectares of land annually in the most backward and drought prone areas of Palamu & Garhwa districts in Jharkhand and Aurangabad & Gaya districts in Bihar.

 Background:

  • LTIF was announced in the Union Budget 2016-17 with an initial corpus of Rs 20,000 crore for funding and fast tracking the implementation of incomplete major and medium irrigation projects. LTIF has instituted in NABARD as a part of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY).

Key facts:

  • North Koel river rises on Ranchi plateau and flows through Jharkhand. It joins the Sone a few miles north-west of Haidarnagar.
  • The North Koel, along with its tributaries, meanders through the northern part of Betla National Park.
  • The principal tributaries are the Auranga and the Amanat.

  1. Chandrayaan-2

Source: The Hindu

To prepare for landing on the moon, the Indian Space Research Organisation is planning to conduct landing simulation tests for Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft at Mahendragiri in coming weeks.

Chandrayaan-2:

  • Chandrayaan-2 includes soft-landing on Moon and moving a rover on its surface. It is an advanced version of the previous Chandrayaan-1 mission. It consists of an orbiter, lander and rover configuration.
  • The Orbiter spacecraft when launched from Sriharikota will travel to the Moon and release the Lander, which will in turn deploy a tiny Rover to roam the lunar surface — all three sending data and pictures to Earth.
  • It is planned to be launched as a composite stack into the earth parking orbit (EPO) of 170 X 18,500 km by GSLV-Mk II.



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