Insights Daily Current Affairs: 02 August 2016
Paper-3: Awareness in Space
NASA to explore asteroid Bennu during its close encounter with Earth
A near-Earth asteroid that is coming towards our planet after being dislodged by a gravitational pull can indeed strike us and cause massive destruction, but according to experts, it has a only a one in 2,700 chances of hitting.
Such an event will not take place for 150 years and the people living in the year 2135 would know whether the asteroid named Bennu posed an actual threat to hit Earth
- It is headed by NASA and the University of Arizona, plans to launch an unmanned spacecraft on September 8 in efforts to reach Bennu in August 2018.
- OSIRIS-REx will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on an Atlas V 411 rocket
- In August 2018, OSIRIS-REx’s approach to Bennu will begin. It will use an array of small rocket thrusters to match the velocity of Bennu.
- The spacecraft will begin a detailed survey of the asteroid two months after slowing to encounter Bennu. After the selection of the final site, the spacecraft will briefly touch the surface of Bennu to retrieve a sample
- The sampling arm will make contact with the surface for about five seconds, during which it will release a burst of nitrogen gas. This will cause rocks and surface material to be stirred up and captured in the sampler head
- In March 2021, the window for departure from the asteroid will open and OSIRIS-REx will begin its return journey to Earth, arriving two and a half years later in September 2023
What are asteroids?
- Asteroids are small, airless rocky worlds revolving around the sun that are too small to be called planets. They are also known as planetoids or minor planets.
- In total, the mass of all the asteroids is less than that of Earth’s moon. But despite their size, asteroids can be dangerous. Many have hit Earth in the past, and more will crash into our planet in the future.
What Are The Differences Between An Asteroid, Comet, Meteoroid, Meteor and Meteorite?
- Asteroid: A relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun.
- Comet: A relatively small, at times active, object whose ices can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas.
- Meteoroid: A small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun.
- Meteor: The light phenomena which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes; a shooting star.
- Meteorite: A meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and lands upon the Earth’s surface.
Where asteroids are located?
- Most asteroids lie in a vast ring between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
- Not everything in the main belt is an asteroid — for instance, comets have recently been discovered there, and Ceres, once thought of only as an asteroid, is now also considered a dwarf planet.
- Many asteroids lie outside the main belt. For instance, a number of asteroids called Trojans lie along Jupiter’s orbital path.
- Three groups — Atens, Amors, and Apollos — known as near-Earth asteroids orbit in the inner solar system and sometimes cross the path of Mars and Earth.
Human Exploration of Asteroids
- The first spacecraft to take close-up images of asteroids was NASA’s Galileoin 1991, which also discovered the first moon to orbit an asteroid in 1994.
- In 2001, after NASA’s NEAR spacecraft intensely studied the near-earth asteroid Eros for more than a year from orbit, mission controllers decided to try and land the spacecraft. Although it wasn’t designed for landing, NEAR successfully touched down, setting the record as the first to successfully land on an asteroid.
- In 2006, Japan’s Hayabusa became the first spacecraft to land on and take off from an asteroid. It returned to Earth in June 2010, and the samples it recovered are currently under study.
- NASA’s Dawn mission, launched in 2007, began exploring Vesta in 2011. After a year, it left the asteroid for a trip to Ceres, with a planned arrival time of 2015. Dawn was the first spacecraft to visit Vesta, and will also be the first to explore Ceres.
- In 2012, a company called Planetary Resources, Inc. announced plans to eventually send a mission to a space rock to extract water and mine the asteroid for precious metals. Since then, NASA has begun to work on plans for its own asteroid-capture mission.
Paper-3: Resource mobilization
Bill to amend Sarfaesi, debt recovery tribunal Acts cleared by Lok Sabha
In an important step aimed to resolve bad loans, the Lok Sabha on Monday passed a bill to amend the existing Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (Sarfaesi) Act, and the debt recovery tribunal (DRT) Act.
The amendments are aimed at
- faster recovery and resolution of bad debts by banks and financial institutions
- making it easier for asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) to function.
- put in place an enabling infrastructure to effectively deal with non-performing assets in the Indian banking system along with the new bankruptcy law which came into effect earlier this year
Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debts Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill, 2016
- The government had introduced the Bill in May. The bill was referred to a joint Parliament committee which submitted its report last month. The bill will amend four acts—Sarfaesi Act, 2002, the Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993, the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 and the Depositories Act, 1996.
- The bill will now go to the Rajya Sabha for its approval. The government has accepted all the recommendations of the joint committee.
- The bankruptcy law is now becoming operational. One of the big challenges we face is the enforcement of interest and recovery of bad debts. Securitization law and DRT law need to be amended for quick disposal of disputes
- DRTs were envisaged as an alternative to civil courts and for ensuring quick disposal. But things need to move faster. Procedures in front of DRTs cannot be similar to civil courts
- Indian banks have been under stress with many of them reporting losses and surge in non-performing assets (NPAs) after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) pushed lenders to classify visibly stressed assets as NPAs after an asset quality review in 2015-16.
- Total stressed assets of state-run banks as of 31 March were at 14.5% of total advances, and according to recent report released by RBI, this may increase further.
- The gross non-performing asset (NPA) ratio of state-run banks may rise to 10.1% by March 2017 from 9.6% as of March 2016, RBI’s financial stability report said, warning that under a severe stress scenario, it may rise to 11% by March 2017.
- Flaws in the existing recovery process have added to the problem of bad loans. For instance, more than 70,000 cases are pending before DRTs.
Salient Features of the Bill
- The bill gives RBI powers to audit and inspect ARCs and the freedom to remove the chairman or any director and appoint central bank officials to its board. The central bank will be empowered to impose penalties for non-compliance with its directives, and regulate the fees charged by these companies to banks at the time of acquiring such assets.
- The bill will also pave the way for the sponsor of an ARC to hold up to 100% stake. It will also enable non-institutional investors to invest in security receipts issued by ARCs and mandate a timeline for possession of secured assets.
- To be sure, RBI already regulates these entities, but the bill expands the regulator’s powers. It also increases the penalty amount that can be levied by RBI to Rs.1 crore from Rs.5 lakh.
- The bill proposes to widen the scope of the registry that will house the central database of all loans against properties given by all lenders.
- It also proposes to bring hire purchase and financial lease under the ambit of the Sarfaesi Act, and enable secured creditors to take over a company and restore its business on acquisition of controlling interest in the borrower company.
- As part of the overhaul of DRTs, the bill proposes to speed up the process of recovery and move towards online DRTs. To this effect, it proposes electronic filing of recovery applications, documents and written statements.
- DRTs will be the backbone of the bankruptcy code and deal with all insolvency proceedings involving individuals. The debtor will have to deposit 50% of the amount of debt due before filing an appeal at a DRT. It also seeks to make the process time-bound. A district magistrate has to clear an application by the creditor to take over possession of the collateral within 60 days.
- Political will is necessary and that seems to be missing. Bankruptcy and insolvency code has been passed. In spite of passage of laws, we have not seen much progress on either curbing black money or on NPAs of banks. Total stressed assets have crossed Rs.8 trillion
- The bill also proposes to amend the Indian Stamp Act to exempt deeds of assignment signed at the time of an ARC buying a loan from a bank from the levy of stamp duty.
- The amendments carry the work forward done in the insolvency and bankruptcy code. Automation will help in increasing the pace of recovery, but this requires an investment. Currently, the problem is that many DRTs from time to time do not have presiding officers
For More Reading: http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-enforcement-of-security-interest-and-recovery-of-debts-laws-and-miscellaneous-provisions-amendment-bill-2016-4279/
Paper-1: Salient features on Indian society
More toilets only mean more scavengers, says Bezwada Wilson
The Ramon Magasaysay award has turned the spotlight on manual scavengers again but the shadow of Swacch Bharat looms over them, says one of this year’s awardees, Bezwada Wilson — one of the founders and convener of the Safai Karmachari Andolan, a civil society movement that aims to eradicate manual scavenging.
Many of these toilets will be constructed in areas where sanitation facilities, including septic tanks and running water, are not available. Who will remove the waste there?
There are two lakh manual scavengers in India today, nearly all of them concentrated in North India.
The Safai Karmachari Andolan and its convener firmly believe the perpetuation of caste-based occupations in the country has trapped Dalits in demeaning occupations like manual scavenging.
Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA)
- It is a civil society movement committed to the total eradication of manual scavenging and the rehabilitation of all scavengers for dignified occupations.
- In 1994, Bezwada helped found Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) along with S. R. Sankaran and Paul Diwakar.
- SKA’s goal is to end the practice of manual scavenging and help those engaged in it find dignified work.
- SKA trains teams to work towards the elimination of manual scavenging in various Indian states. SKA initially worked on the state level, until 2003 when Bezwada and four other team members moved to Delhi to launch the Safai Karmachari Andolan nationwide.
- He is an Indian activist and one of the founders and National Convenor of the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA)
- He is well known as one of the leading figures of the Dalit movement in India.
- His work at SKA, a community-driven movement, has been recognized by the Ashoka Foundation which has nominated him a Senior Fellow.
- On July 27, 2016, he was honoured with the Ramon Magsaysay Award.
What is Manual Scavenging?
“Manual scavenger” means a person engaged in or employed for manually carrying human excreta and the expression “manual scavenging” shall be construed accordingly.
- The practice of manual scavenging, officially banned since decades in India, continues with impunity in several States.
- The latest Socio-Economic Caste Census data reveals that 1, 80, 657 households are engaged in this degrading work for a livelihood.
- Maharashtra, with 63,713, tops the list with the largest number of manual scavenger households, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and Karnataka, as per Census data.
Measures taken by the government to end manual scavenging
- In 1908-81, the Ministry of Home Affairs took up the Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Liberation of Scavengers by way of conversion of existing dry latrines into low cost pour flush latrines and providing alternative employment to the unemployed scavengers as one of the measures for removal of Untouchability and providing financial assistance in selected towns.
- A Task Force constituted by the Planning Commission in July 1989 on the subject suggested for separate scheme for liberation and rehabilitation. It also explored the bases for the enactment of certain legislation to ban construction and continuation of dry latrines and prohibit the practice of manual scavenging.
- In 1992, the scheme of ‘Liberation of Scavengers’ was bifurcated.
- For conversion of dry latrines into water borne flush latrines, an ‘Integrated Low Cost Sanitation (ILCS) Scheme, was started.
- The National Scheme for Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavengers and their Dependents (NSLRS) was started for providing alternative employment to the liberated scavengers and their dependents.
- Taking into consideration the seriousness of the problem and the requests of the State Governments, Parliament enacted the “Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines(Prohibition) Act, 1993”. The Act, inter alia, provides that no person shall:-
- engage in or employ for or permit to be engaged in or employed for any other person for manually carry human excreta; or
- Construct or maintain a dry latrine
- Nevertheless, there were reports of existence of manual scavenging. The Houselisting and Housing Census, 2011 reported that there are about 26 lakh insanitary latrines in the country. Accordingly, the Parliament passed the ‘Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013’ (MS Act, 2013) which came into effect from 6th December, 2013
- The objectives of 2013 Act
- Eliminate the insanitary latrines.
- Employment as Manual Scavengers
- Hazardous manual cleaning of sewer and septic tanks.
- Survey of Manual Scavengers and their rehabilitation
- Main features of the 2013 Act
- Definitions of manual scavengers and insanitary latrines widened to cover not only dry latrines but other insanitary latrines as well.
- Offences under the Act are cognizable and non-bailable and attract stringent penalties.
- Vigilance/Monitoring Committee at sub-Division, District, State and Central Govt. levels.
- National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) would, inter alia, monitor implementation of the Act and enquire into complaints regarding contravention of the provisions of the Act.
- Provision of construction of adequate number of sanitary community latrines in urban areas, within three years from the date of commencement of this Act to eliminate the practice of open defecation.
- Constitutional safeguards:
- Article 14: Equality before law. (Right to Equality)
- Article 16 (2): Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment
- Article 19 (1)(g) : Right to Freedom (Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech), to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
- Article 21 : Protection of life and personal liberty
- Article 23 : Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labor
Paper – 3: Prevention of money Laundering
Marans want money-laundering case shifted; ED opposes their bail
The Enforcement Directorate on Monday opposed the bail pleas of former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanidhi Maran and the latter’s wife, Kaveri, in a money laundering case connected with the Aircel-Maxis deal.
What is Money Laundering?
- Money is the prime reason for engaging in almost any type of criminal activity.
- Money-laundering is the method by which criminals disguise the illegal origins of their wealth and protect their asset bases, so as to avoid the suspicion of law enforcement agencies and prevent leaving a trail of incriminating evidence.
- The ability to prevent and detect money-laundering is a highly effective means of identifying criminals and terrorists and the underlying activity from which money is derived.
How is money laundered?
Traditionally money laundering has been described as a process which takes place in three distinct stages.
- Placement, the stage at which criminally derived funds are introduced in the financial system.
- Layering, the substantive stage of the process in which the property is ‘washed’ and its ownership and source is disguised.
- Integration, the final stage at which the ‘laundered’ property is re-introduced into the legitimate economy.
What does ED do?
Directorate of Enforcement is a specialized financial investigation agency under the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, which enforces the following laws: –
- Foreign Exchange Management Act,1999 (FEMA) – A Civil Law, with officers empowered to conduct investigations into suspected contraventions of the Foreign Exchange Laws and Regulations, adjudicate, contraventions, and impose penalties on those adjudged to have contravened the law.
- Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) – A Criminal Law, with the officers empowered to conduct investigations to trace assets derived out of the proceeds of crime, to provisionally attach/ confiscate the same, and to arrest and prosecute the offenders found to be involved in Money Laundering.
What is PMLA 2002?
- Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to prevent money-laundering and to provide for confiscation of property derived from money-laundering.
- PMLA and the Rules notified there under came into force with effect from July 1, 2005.
- The Act and Rules notified thereunder impose obligation on banking companies, financial institutions and intermediaries to verify identity of clients, maintain records and furnish information
Facts for Prelims
Norway considers a birthday gift for Finland
- Norway is pondering an unusual birthday gift for its neighbour Finland: an Arctic mountain peak.
- Mount Halti is the highest mountain in Finland, but its 4,478-foot summit is in Norway.
- To help commemorate the 100th anniversary of Finland’s declaration of independence from Russia on December 6, 1917, a group of Norwegians is urging the government to move a point on its border with Finland some 490 feet to the north and 650 feet to the east.
- Halti’s peak would become the highest point in Finland, surpassing a spur of the mountain that tops out at 4,344 feet.
- Norway’s highest peak, Galdhopiggen, has an elevation of 8,100 feet, making it nearly twice as high as Mount Halti, which is not even among the top 200 of Norway’s highest peaks.