The HINDU Notes – 05th May 2019 - VISION

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Sunday, May 05, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 05th May 2019

📰 PMO ‘monitoring’ Rafale deal progress not interference: govt.

Centre’s submission follows SC’s directive to respond to review petitions

•The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) was “monitoring” the progress of the deal to buy 36 Rafale jets but this could not be taken as “parallel negotiations” with the French side, the government told the Supreme Court on Saturday.

•The submission follows the directive on Tuesday last that the government respond to the Rafale deal case review petitions by Saturday. The Centre had sought a whole month to respond.

•“The monitoring of the progress by the PMO of this government-to-government process cannot be construed as interference or parallel negotiations,” it said.

•A series of reports published by The Hindu had revealed that the PMO was conducting “parallel negotiations”. A Defence Ministry note that was published said the “parallel parleys” had “weakened the negotiating position of MoD [the Ministry of Defence] and the Indian Negotiating Team”.

•But the government denied any reason for objection from the Ministry. It referred to how the then Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, himself had noted that “it appears that PMO and French President’s office are monitoring the progress of the issues, which was an outcome of the summit meeting”.

•The government said these “selective” reports, based on “some incomplete internal file notings, procured unauthorisedly and illegally”, did not reflect the final decision of the competent authority. They could not form the basis for a review petition. The two affidavits filed by the MoD said the action of the review petitioners, who include former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, was “tantamount to questioning the sovereign decision concerning national security and defence”.

📰 State-owned NewSpace creates a flutter among space startups

No clarity yet on functioning of the new business arm of DoS

•In early March, the small set of NewSpace entities in the country sat up in disbelief to see a state-run company taking birth in that name although it did not fit the standard definition of their league.

•On March 6, the Department of Space (DoS) quietly registered its second commercial entity, NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL), in Bengaluru.

•At the time, the small, new age ventures and startups foraying into the space industry were still coming to terms with the news of February 19 that the Union Cabinet had cleared a new business arm for DoS.

•Surprise, because DoS already has a commercial venture, Antrix Corporation Limited, which was set up in September 1992 to market the products and services of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

•While the government hasn’t said much about NSIL plans since the first announcement, officials in the DoS and ISRO have been trying to figure out how exactly Antrix and NSIL would operate their respective businesses in the common, niche area.

•What we do know is that NSIL has an authorised capital of Rs. 10 crore and a paid up capital of Rs. 1 crore. And that two senior officials of Antrix — Executive Director D.R. Suma and Director (launch services) D. Radhakrishnan — were moved to NewSpace in March to help the new venture get off the ground.

Board soon

•Two senior ISRO officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was still early to talk about the new company. “Currently the department [DoS] is completing statutory formalities such as the formation of a board of 8-10 directors,” one of the officials said. “We would like to do it as quickly as possible. A selection committee will find the Chairman and Managing Director,” the official added.

•“Both the companies are there [now]. Their roles and responsibilities will be divided. The new company will basically focus on industry participation. Clarity will emerge as we go forward,” the official observed.

•“A lot of new [business] activities are cropping up, such as customer satellites, spinoff technologies, industry participation, production partners, ground stations, and satellite data sales,” the official said.

•Some serving and former DoS associates apprehend that NSIL may one day cannibalise Antrix and reduce it to an idle shell. They contend that the government may have created NSIL just to erase an eight-year-old blot and resultant liabilities associated with Antrix’s cancelled Devas contract. The ISRO official, however, ruled out any such eventuality, asserting that Antrix’s expertise, accumulated over decades, could not be recreated or transferred overnight.

📰 Farmers worried PepsiCo-govt. talks will dilute their rights

Union leaders slam the lack of transparency in talks

•In the wake of PepsiCo withdrawing its cases against Gujarat potato growers, farmers groups are still worried about the dilution of their rights by the State and Central governments.

•Sources familiar with this week’s negotiations between PepsiCo and the Gujarat government say that the company was given an “assurance for a long-term amicable settlement” regarding its seed-protection concerns.

•Some reports have also suggested that the State government on Friday agreed to persuade farmers to join the company’s contract farming programme and not to grow its registered variety without permission.

•“When the law allows farmers to grow any variety of crop that they want, why should the Gujarat government persuade the farmers otherwise?” said Vittalbhai Dudhatra, president of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. Other leaders slammed the non-transparent nature of the discussions, which exclude farmers.

•On Saturday, the Gujarat government denied being party to any such deal. “The PepsiCo executives only came to [meet the Chief secretary in Ahmedabad] and apprise us of their decision to withdraw the cases unconditionally. The law allows farmers to grow whatever they want,” said B.M. Modi, State’s Agriculture Director.

•Meanwhile, at the Central level, the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority is considering an extension of the period of protection for registered varieties, which farmers fear will dilute their rights. In its October 2018 meeting, the authority considered a proposal to increase the protection period for field crops from 15 years to 20 years, and for trees and vines from 18 years to 25 years.

📰 North Korea launches ‘short-range projectiles’

•U.S. President Donald Trump voiced confidence on Saturday that Kim Jong-un would not “break his promise”, following what if confirmed would be North Korea’s first short-range missile launch for more than a year.

•“I believe that Kim Jong-un fully realises the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it,” he said. “He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!”

•Since their historic summit meeting in Singapore in 2018, Mr. Trump has said Mr. Kim remains committed to the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula.

•North Korea “fired a number of short-range projectiles” from Hodo peninsula near the east coast town of Wonsan starting at 9.06 a.m., the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. The projectiles travelled northeast from 70 to 200 km towards the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, the JCS added.

•The last North Korean missile launch was in November 2017.

📰 UN agency praises India’s timely response

IMD’s early warnings helped save lives

•The UN agency for disaster reduction has commended the Indian Meteorological Department’s “almost pinpoint accuracy” of early warnings of Cyclone Fani that helped authorities conduct a well-targeted evacuation plan and minimise the loss of life.

•“India’s zero casualty approach to managing extreme weather events is a major contribution to the implementation of the SendaiFramework,” said Mami Mizutori, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). The Sendai Framework is a voluntary and non-binding agreement which recognises that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders, including the local government.

•“The almost pinpoint accuracy of the early warnings from the Indian Meteorological Department had enabled the authorities to conduct a well-targeted evacuation plan, which had involved moving more than one million people into storm shelters,” said Denis McClean, spokesperson, UNISDR.

•UNISDR also tweeted about the advisory distributed by India’s National Disaster Management Authority and local authorities days before Fani made landfall in an effort to minimise loss of life and injury.

📰 SpaceX launches cargo mission to space station

•After several attempts earlier, SpaceX on Saturday successfully launched a Dragon spacecraft for its 17th resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The capsule will deliver over 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the space station, NASA said.

📰 Why is northeast India drying up rapidly?

Decreasing monsoon rainfall is associated with natural changes in the subtropical Pacific Ocean

•Northeast India, one of the wettest places on the Earth has been experiencing rapid drying, especially in the last 30 years. Some places which used to get as high as 3,000 mm of rain during the monsoon season have seen a drop of about 25-30%.

•A team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, and Assam University set out to understand whether this decline is caused by anthropogenic activity or is it part of natural changes.

•The results published recently in JGR-Atmospheres show that the decreasing monsoon rainfall is associated with natural changes in the subtropical Pacific Ocean.

Pattern of fluctuations

•“We found that changes in the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) — a pattern of fluctuations in the ocean, particularly over the north Pacific basin — are mainly associated with this declined rainfall,” explains Abida Choudhury, a Ph.D. scholar at Assam University and the first author of the paper. “Just like El Nino/La Nina in the tropical Pacific, PDO has a signature for a longer time (on the decadal scale) in the sea surface temperatures and its interaction with the atmosphere, which in turn affects the northeast Indian summer monsoon.”

Natural and manmade

•The team used observed rainfall and sea surface temperature data for the period 1901-2014 for the study. The results show out that the reduction in rainfall during a major part of the last 114 years may be associated with global man-made factors, while the trend during the last 36 years is associated with natural phenomena.

•“Only about 7% of the rainfall in this region is associated with local moisture recycling, which means that anthropogenic activities can affect only this small percentage. So we concluded that the recent rapid drying is a part of interdecadal variability of monsoonal rainfall which is strongly associated with the PDO,” says Subodh Kumar Saha from IITM, Pune.

•The researchers note that this study can be used to predict the monsoon rainfall over the northeast region on a decadal time scale using Pacific Ocean region data.

•Previous studies have found that a dry spell may be preceded by a wet spell, so the researchers warn that “change in land cover and deforestation could potentially result in more natural disasters, for example, flash flood, landslides from torrential rains, and damage to crops and biodiversity”.

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