Current Affair – May 18, 2021

Cyclone Tauktae

  • Cyclone Tauktae, classified as a very severe cyclonic storm (VSCS) and developed in the Arabian Seahit southern Gujarat. In recent years, strong cyclones have been developing in the Arabian Sea more frequently than earlier.

Why is Cyclone Tauktae unique?

  • Tauktae is the fourth cyclone in consecutive years to have developed in the Arabian Sea, that too in the pre-monsoon period (April to June).
  • All these cyclones since 2018 have been categorised either ‘Severe Cyclone’ or above. Once Tauktae makes its landfall, three of these will have hit either the Gujarat or Maharashtra coast.
  • After Cyclone Mekanu in 2018, which struck Oman, Cyclone Vayu in 2019 struck Gujarat, followed by Cyclone Nisarga in 2020 that struck Maharashtra.
  • Tauktae has been intensifying very rapidly. Compared to Tauktae’s 2 days, Cyclone Vayu had taken 36 hours to become a VSCS, while Cyclone Mekanu (4 days) and Cyclone Nisarga (5 days) had developed slower.
  • Also, the first cyclones to form in 2020 and 2021 were in the Arabian Sea during the pre-monsoon period, both in the VSCS category.

What is aiding such rapid intensification?

  • Any tropical cyclone requires energy to stay alive. This energy is typically obtained from warm water and humid air over the tropical ocean.
  • Currently, sea water up to depths of 50 metres has been very warm, supplying ample energy to enable the intensification of Cyclone Tauktae.
  • The more the heat released through condensation of water vapour, the steeper the drop in pressure. A low-pressure system undergoes multiple stages of intensification to form cyclones.
  • Typically, tropical cyclones in the North Indian Ocean region (Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea) develop during the pre-monsoon and post-monsoon (October to December) periods. May-June and October-November are known to produce cyclones of severe intensity that affect the Indian coasts.

Is the Arabian Sea becoming cyclone-friendly ?

  • Annually, five cyclones on average form in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea combined. Of these, four develop in the Bay of Bengal, which is warmer than the Arabian Sea.
  • Inthe Arabian Sea, cyclones typically develop over Lakshadweep area and largely traverse westwards, or away from India’s west coast.
  • However, in recent years, meteorologists have observed that the Arabian Sea, too, has been warming. This is a phenomenon associated with global warming.
Source: Indian Express

Why and how of creating a district

  • On May 14, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh declared Malerkotla the 23rd district of the State.

How are new districts carved?

  • The power to create new dis­tricts or alter or abolish ex­isting districts rests with the State governments. This can either be done through an executive order or by pass­ing a law in the State As­sembly.
  • Many States prefer the ex­ecutive route by simply issu­ing a notification in the official gazette.

How does it help?

  • States argue that smaller dis­tricts lead to better administration and governance. For example, in 2016, the Assam government issued a notification to upgrade the Majuli sub­division to Majuli dis­trict for “administrative expediency”.

Are there any exceptions?

  • The State government has been vested with unfettered powers under Section 5 of the Punjab Land Revenue Act, 1887 to create new dis­tricts.
  • This power is generally held temporarily in abeyance only during active census operations or during the delimitation exercise of Lok Sabha/Vidhan Sabha constituencies.

Does the Central government have a role to play here?

  • The Centre has no role to play in the alteration of dis­tricts or creation of new ones. States are free to de­cide.
  • The Home Ministry comes  into the picture when a State wants to change the name of a district or a rail­way station. The State go­vernment’s request is sent to other departments and agencies such as the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Intelli­gence Bureau, Department of Posts, Geographical Sur­vey of India Sciences and the Railway Ministry seeking clearance.
  •  A no-objection certificate may be issued af­ter examining their replies.

What has been the trend?

  • According to the 2011 Cen­sus, there were 593 districts in the country. The Census results showed that between 2001-­2011, as many as 46 dis­tricts were created by States.
  • Though the 2021 Census is yet to happen, Know India, a website run by the Govern­ ment of India, says currently there are 718 districts in the country.
  • The surge in number is al­so due to bifurcation of And­hra Pradesh into A.P. and Telangana in 2014. Telangana at present has 33 districts and A.P. has 13 districts.
Source: The Hindu

China’s ‘Zhurong’ Rover

  • China’s uncrewed ‘Tianwen-1’ spacecraft landed safely on the surface of Mars. This made making China only the second in the world to send a rover to explore Red Planet.
  • Onboard the lander was the ‘Zhurong’ rover, which will soon be deployed to study the Martian atmosphere and geology.
  • The Chinese spacecraft landed on a large plain located in the northern hemisphere of Mars, known as Utopia Planitia.

Tianwen-1 Mission

  • Launched by the China National Space Administration from southern China in July 2020, the Tianwent-1 mission consists of an orbiter, a lander and a golf cart-sized rover called ‘Zhurong’. Zhurong has been named after an ancient fire god from Chinese folk tales.
  • The spacecraft arrived in Mars’ orbit in February this year.
  • The mission aims to make full use of the window that emerges once every two years, when Earth and Mars are closest together during their journey around the sun.
  • Chinese scientists are hoping to explore Mars and study its geology for at least 90 days via the rover.

‘Zhurong’ rover

  • The ‘Zhurong’ rover will not immediately be offloaded from the lander. The probe will first survey the Utopia plane and take several high-resolution images to locate the safest spot to put the rover down.
  • The aim is to find a stretch of land devoid of craters or large boulders.
  • After a few days, the rover will roll off the lander and join the US’ Perseverance and Curiosity rovers to explore the surface of the Red Planet.
  • Weighing about 240 kilograms, the ‘Zhurong’ rover is slightly heavier than NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers, but only one-fourth the weight of Perseverance and Curiosity.
  • The Chinese rover is powered by retractable solar panels and fitted with seven primary instruments — cameras, ground-penetrating radar, a magnetic field detector and a weather station. The purpose of the radar is to look for signs of ancient life as well as subsurface water.

How did the rover land on Mars?

  • After orbiting around the Red Planet for about three months preparing for a safe landing attempt, the lander carrying the rover separated from the orbiter and descended towards the surface of Mars.
  • The target was to land on Utopia Planitia — which is also where NASA’s Viking-2 touched down in 1976. The vast plain, measuring over 3,000 km across, was formed by an impact very early in the history of Mars. Satellite findings have indicated that a significant amount of ice is stored deep beneath Utopia’s surface.
  • There was “nine minutes of terror” as the landing module entered the Martian atmosphere, decelerating and gradually descending to the surface. During the descent, the rover was covered with an aeroshell for the initial phase. The speed of the capsule was lowered after it started pushing up against Martian air. At a predetermined point, a parachute was released to reduce the capsule’s velocity even further.
  • Soon after, it landed.

Other attempts by China

  • This is not the first time China has attempted to send a spacecraft to Mars.
  • Nearly 10 years ago, the country launched the Yinghuo-1 mission, which ultimately failed after the spacecraft burnt while still in the Earth’s atmosphere after the Russian rocket that was carrying it failed in flight.
  • If ‘Zhurong’ is deployed without a hitch, China will become the first country to successfully orbit, land and offload a rover during its maiden Mars mission.

Which other countries have managed to send rovers to Mars?

  • Apart from China, only the United States has been able to deploy rovers to study the surface of the Red Planet.
  • The first successful landing was made by NASA in July 1976, when the Viking 1 rover touched down on Mars.
  •  after that, Viking 2 arrived on the Red Planet.
  • In the decades that followed, the US successfully sent the Opportunity and Spirit rovers to explore Mars.
  • In 1971, the former Soviet Union managed to launch a Mars probe, however, communication was lost within seconds of it landing.
  • Most recently, in February this year, NASA’s Perseverance rover landed at the Jezero Crater on the Red Planet, after which it resumed work to look for signs of past life.
Source: Indian Express

Decoding India’s stance on Israel-Palestine issue

India statement at UNSC

  • India reaffirmed its support for Palestine, but stopped short of making any direct reference to the status of Jerusa­lem or the future Israel­-Pal­estine borders, at the United Nations Securi­ty Council.
  • T.S. Tirumurti, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, said: “In conclu­sion, India reiterates its strong support for the just Palestinian cause and its un­wavering commitment to the two-state solution.”
  • India has ex­pressed “our deep concern over the violence in Jerusa­lem, especially on Haram esh­Sharif/Temple Mount during the holy month of Ramzan and about the possi­ble eviction process in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhood in East Jeru­ salem.
  • India has also urged both sides to “refrain from at­ tempts to unilaterally change the existing status quo, including in East Jerusa­lem and its neighbourhood.” Here, it is Israel which is try­ing to unilaterally change the status quo by moving to evict the Palestinian families, and deploying troops to the Al­ Aqsa compound.
  •  India called for “the historic status quo at the holy places of Je­rusalem, including Haram esh­Sharif/Temple Mount must be respected”. So, without mentioning any country, India has, in effect, called for the eviction pro­cess to be stopped and status quo ante to be restored at the Al Aqsa compound.

Evolving position of India

  • In­dia’s comments point to its evolving position on the larger Israel-Palestine issue.
  • The statement called for the status quo re­lating to East Jerusalem. But the crucial point that’s mis­sing is that East Jerusalem should be the capital [of a fu­ture Palestinian state]. Ear­lier, this used to be the man­tra from India regarding the two­-state solution. This portion is now taken out. – Talmiz Ahmad.
  • Until 2017, India’s position was that it supported “the Palestinian cause and called for a negotiated solution re­sulting in a sovereign, inde­pendent, viable and united State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, liv­ing within secure and recog­nised borders, side by side at peace with Israel”. Then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated this position in November 2013. So did then President Pranab Mukher­jee, in October 2015.
  • India dropped the refe­rences to East Jerusalem and the borders in 2017 Prime Minister Na­rendra Modi- “[W]e hope to see the reali­sation of a sovereign, independent, united and viable Palestine, coexisting peace­ fully with Israel.”
  • “It [the statement] is vague enough while at the same time firmly putting the two­-state solution on the ta­ble. That’s what the point is — whether there is a refe­rence to Jerusalem, whether it is [the] 1967 [border], these are all minor issues. The real issue is this: a two­ state solution, coexisting side by side. What are the contours of the boundaries will be discussed, settled and recognised by the parties. In 2018, when Mr. Modi vi­sited Ramallah, he reaf­firmed the same position, with no direct reference to the borders or Jerusalem.
  • Ambassador Tirumurti stat­ed this line while calling for a “just” solution, without giving specifics on what that so­lution should be, is sensible way of saying what is acceptable to both par­ties”.
  • The references to Haram esh­ Sharif come twice. And it says, Haram esh­Sharif/Tem­ple Mount. This is a very sub­tle way of saying that this is not a Palestinian narrative. The Palestinian narrative is that it is Haram esh­Sherif— that means exclusive Islamic control and ownership. By saying Temple Mount togeth­er with Sharam esh­Sherif, it says… the real issue is it is Jewish as well as Islamic.
  • Openly condemned the rockets, but no referenc­es to Israeli reaction. Talmiz Ahmad, a former diplomat also noted the different ap­proaches India took to the rocket firing and Israeli strike.
“It [the statement] is vague enough while at the same time firmly putting the two­-state solution on the ta­ble. That’s what the point is — whether there is a refe­rence to Jerusalem, whether it is [the] 1967 [border], these are all minor issues. The real issue is this: a two­ state solution, coexisting side by side. What are the contours of the boundaries will be discussed, settled and recognised by the parties.
Source: The Hindu

A Case for National Tribunal Commission (NTC)

  • The establishment of tribunals as adjudicatory bo­dies in specific fields is based on the idea that spe­cialisation and expertise are required to decide complex cases of a technical nature. Example: National Green Tribunal
  •  The ‘tribunalisa­tion’ of justice is driven by the recognition that it would be cost­effective, accessible and give scope for utilising expertise in the respective fields. Central to this scheme is the principle that the ‘experts’ appointed to these tri­bunals should bring in special knowledge and expe­rience.

Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance 2021.

  • The Centre has abolished several ap­pellate tribunals and authorities and transferred their jurisdiction to other existing judicial bodies through the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance 2021.
  • Ordinance has incorporated the sug­gestions made in Madras Bar Association v. Union of India (2020) on the composition of a search-cum-selection committee and its role in dis­ciplinary proceedings

 National Tribunals Commission

  • National Tribunals Commission (NTC) would be an independent umbrella body to supervise the func­tioning of tribunals, appointment of and disciplinary proceedings against members, and to take care of admi­nistrative and infrastructural needs of the tribunals.
  • The idea of an NTC was first mooted in L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India (1997)

Need for NTC

  • Need for an authority to support uniform administration across all tribunals.
  • Separation of the admi­nistrative and judicial functions car­ried out by various tribunals.
  • Executive interference in functioning, often in matters of appointment and removal of tribunal members, as well as in provision of finances, infrastructure, personnel and other resources.
  • Legal framework that protects its in­dependence and impartiality.
  • It could func­tion as an independent recruitment body to develop and operationalise the procedure for disciplinary pro­ceedings and appointment of tribu­nal members.
  • It could set performance standards for the efficiency of tribu­nals and their own administrative processes.
  • Importantly, Giving the NTC the authority to set members’ salaries, allowances, and other service condi­tions, subject to regulations, would help maintain tribunals’ indepen­dence.
  • Administrative roles of the NTC include providing support ser­vices to tribunal members, litigants, and their lawyers.

Way forward 

  • NTC must be esta­blished vide a constitutional amendment or be backed by a statute that guarantees it functional, operational and financial independence.
  • A ‘cor­poratised’ structure of NTC with a Board, a CEO and a Secretariat will al­low it to scale up its services and pro­vide requisite administrative support to all tribunals across the country.
Source: The Hindu

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