The Indian Express

 

Head Line: Long period average: The IMD yardstick for determining whether rainfall

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/long-period-average-the-imd-yardstick-for-determining-whether-rainfall-5677506/

1) Mains Paper I: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location-changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

Why in news:

  • ON MONDAY, while releasing its monsoon forecast, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) expressed the projected rainfall in terms of Long Period Average (LPA), saying that it was expected to be 96% of LPA.

What is LPA of Monsoon:

  • The LPA for the season is calculated on the basis of the mean rainfall during the four-month monsoon season over the 50-year period from 1951-2010.
  • It works out to an average of 89 cm for the country as a whole.
  • This is the average rainfall recorded during the months from June to September, calculated during the 50-year period.
  • It is kept as a benchmark while forecasting the quantitative rainfall for the monsoon season every year.
  • When IMD forecasts the category of rainfall, be it for country, region or month, the forecast is based on these standardised figures calculated for a period of 50 years.
  • As per the outputs obtained from the weather models, the rainfall is categorised as normal, below normal, or above normal.

 Five Rainfall Distribution categories:

  1. Normal or Near Normal: When per cent departure of actual rainfall is +/-10% of LPA, that is, between 96-104% of LPA
  2. Below normal: When departure of actual rainfall is less than 10% of LPA, that is 90-96% of LPA
  3. Above normal: When actual rainfall is 104-110% of LPA
  4. Deficient: When departure of actual rainfall is less than 90% of LPA
  5. Excess: When departure of actual rainfall is more than 110% of LPA

 Region-wise LPA

Like the countrywide figure, IMD maintains an independent LPA for every homogeneous region of the country, which ranges from 71.6 cm to 143.83 cm.

  • The region-wise LPA figures are:
  • 83 cm for East and Northeast India,
  • 55 cm for Central India,
  • 61 cm for South Peninsular India,
  • 50 for Northwest India
  • The monthly LPA figures for the season are 16.36 cm for June, 28.92 cm for July, 26.13 cm for August and 17.34 cm for September.

 

Head Line: What black hole image tells us

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/what-black-hole-image-tells-us-5677497/

2) Mains Paper III: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers

Why in news:

  • And yet, when scientists announced last week that they had, for the first time ever, been able to capture a photograph of a black hole, the image they unveiled was anything but dark.
  • It appeared bright orange and doughnut-shaped in what became one of the most widely circulated images in the last one week.

What the image shows:

  • The main subject of the photograph, a black hole located 55 million light-years from Earth, at the centre of a galaxy named Messier 87, was confined to the small and dark central core of the doughnut shape in the image, identifiable only because of the bright surroundings it was enclosed within.
  • This was the only way that a black hole could have been photographed — by capturing the entire area surrounding it.
  • The black hole itself does not emit or radiate light, or any other electromagnetic waves that can be detected by instruments built by human beings.
  • But the area just outside the boundary of the black hole — referred to as event horizon — which has vast amounts of gas, clouds and plasma swirling violently, emit all kinds of radiations, including even visible light.

Why it matters:

  • Scientists have been using computer-simulated images of black holes for several years to study these regions.
  • For the first time, they have an actual image. While they appear quite similar, scientists will now start looking closely at the actual image to see whether it differs from the computer-simulated images in the details, and whether these differences could be explained by instrumentation, observation or other errors.
  • This can provide a test for existing theories of the universe, and lead to a better understanding of black holes and the nature of the universe itself.

 Choosing the black hole:

  • There was an alternative to photographing the black hole in the M87 galaxy — trying to photograph a black hole that was much nearer.
  • There are thousands, possibly millions, of black holes much nearer to Earth, but not every black hole could be a candidate for being photographed.
  • Scientists were looking for a particular size of black hole, large enough to be captured by instruments available on Earth.
  • The black hole in the M87 galaxy is about 6 billion times the size of the Sun, and one of the biggest ones known.

Setting up the telescope:

  • An Earth-size telescope was not something that could be made available.
  • So, scientists had to devise ingenious new methods to overcome the limitations of their instruments. They decided to use eight of the biggest and most sophisticated radio telescopes in the world, and linked them with a technique that could make them act like a virtual Earth-sized telescope.
  • The telescopes made simultaneous recordings of the radiations coming in from the black hole region.
  • Each of the telescopes was fitted with atomic clocks so that their recordings could later be matched with extreme precision.
  • The individual telescopes each collected the radiation coming in from the black hole region.
  • But because of limitations of size, they all had only very limited information about the black hole.
  • Matching the data recorded by each of these telescopes at exact moments in time gave the scientists some more information, but nothing could be done about the huge amount of information that could not be captured by these telescopes.

Building image from data:

  • It is here that scientists took the help of supercomputers to recreate the full image of the black hole with the limited information that the telescopes had captured. Rebuilding entire pictures with limited data is not unusual.
  • The compression techniques that we use to reduce the sizes of music, image or video files on our computers work on similar principles. We throw away a lot of information while reducing the size, but the computer is still able to recreate the music or video, though with some loss of quality.
  • As a result, a large number of pixels on that photo presented to the world could have been generated by the computer.
  • But they were generated using the information in the pixels that were the result of direct observation of the telescopes, rather than being produced from mathematical models, as happens in a computer-simulated images.
  • It took two years for some of the world’s fastest supercomputers to process the huge amount of data and recreate the image of the black hole in the M87 galaxy.

Head Line: Why state financing is the only way to ensure fair and transparent poll funding

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/level-playing-field-matters-fair-transparent-lok-sabha-poll-funding-5677387/

3) Mains Paper II: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

Context:

  • The finance ministry’s electoral bond scheme has afforded a way to fund political parties without disclosing the donor’s identity.
  • The anonymity provision is antagonistic to transparency — the bonds merely enable an “on-the-books” secretive transfer.

Money power in Current General Election:

  • In just 28 days since the announcement of the general election, the Election Commission (EC) has seized cash, drugs, alcohol, precious metals and other items worth Rs 1,800 crore.
  • Compare this to the legal upper limit of expenditure per candidate — Rs 70 lakh.
  • Simple arithmetic would show that the seized amount can fully finance up to five candidates from each of the 543 constituencies.
  • The expenditure in any election is estimated to be several times the legal upper limit.

 Need for state Funding of elections:

  • Fiscal constraints on electioneering give rise to the problem of unaccounted money.
  • There have been a few solutions.
  • However, all of them are premised on an adverse relationship between accountability and transparency.
  • Alternately, state funding of the recognised political parties and outlawing of corporate funding could be instrumental in making the electoral process fairer and more participatory.

 Previous attempts of introducing State funding of elections:

  • In 1962, the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee moved a Private Member’s Bill to prevent electoral donations by corporates.
  • It was argued that since all shareholders need not subscribe to the political endorsement by a corporate, it was immoral to allow donations against their consent.
  • Vajpayee had propositioned that such funding would only serve corporate interests.
  • While all political parties welcomed the bill, the then ruling party did not vote in its favour.

 RPA, 1951 regarding donations:

  • Under Section 29B of the Representation of the People Act 1951, political parties are free to accept donations from any person, except from a foreign source.
  • Two inferences can be drawn from this — first, money wields the ability to disrupt political agenda; second, foreign money dilutes electoral integrity.
  • Both reasons would equally be valid for any person who is alien to the election process — a non-voter.

 Concerns from Foreign Funding and Corporate Funding:

  • The concerns that arise from foreign-funding are equally applicable to funding from corporates, with the distinction that while the former is a jurisdictional alien; the latter, on account of being a non-participant, is an alien. However, party interests deter further expansion in the law.
  • Corporates’ Standing on donations to political Parties
    • Corporates have long defended their political donations on the grounds of freedom of speech.
    • Like citizens, they seek to endorse their economic and political views through contributions to campaign finance. However, casting such a wide net of freedom of speech seems misplaced.
  • Corporates are associations that further economic interests of their members who enjoy a freedom of trade.
  • Since corporates are not participants as voters, they have no claim to freedom of “political” speech and expression.
  • Therefore, while citizen-voters can donate to a political party pursuant to free speech, corporates must refrain from donating to a political party.
  • Corporates have long defended their political donations on the grounds of freedom of speech.
  • Like citizens, they seek to endorse their economic and political views through contributions to campaign finance. However, casting such a wide net of freedom of speech seems misplaced.

 Electoral Bond Scheme:

  • The finance ministry’s electoral bond scheme afforded a way to fund political parties without disclosing the donor’s identity.
  • The ruling party is the main Beneficiary – Of the Rs 2,722 crore donated through the scheme in the last 15 months, almost 95 per cent has gone to the ruling party, which enjoys a 31.34 per cent vote share.
  • The remaining contestants with a 68.66 per cent vote share could only garner 5 per cent funding.
  • The anonymity provision under the scheme is antagonistic to transparency — the bonds merely enable an “on-the-books” secretive transfer.
  • The State Bank as the facilitator would be privy to the details of the depositor and the political party funded, therefore allowing the ruling party to monitor its rivals.
  • What would be unknown to others will be known by the ruling party.

 The Brazilian Supreme Court’s Verdict on the corporate donation:

  • In 2015, the Brazilian Supreme Court declared corporate financing of elections to be unconstitutional.
  • Right to equality is violated – The court understood that right to equality was essential to ensuring fairness through the extrinsic (fair options between candidates) and intrinsic (fair options between ideologies) conceptions.
  • Because 95 per cent of all campaign finance came from corporates, the courts felt that disclosure norms could only address the extrinsic aspect.
  • Corporate Funding Suppress ideological diversity – Corporates would still be able to collectively suppress certain socio-economic ideologies (welfare measures, controlled economy, wage-labour regulations) to their advantage, by inducing political parties and candidates.
  • So, the electoral contest would not allow certain policies to flourish, irrespective of who won. Outlawing corporate funding was important to ensure the right to equality.

 What can be done:

  • In realpolitik terms, there is no incentive for any ruling political party to reform the law as it stands.
  • Even the main Opposition party lives in the hope that it would derive similar advantage when it comes to power.
  • Electoral Funding to EC –
    • Thus, necessity would dictate that the task of electoral funding be given to the EC under Article 324.
    • A fair and transparent manner to finance the political parties would require a censure of unaccounted money and direct donations by corporates and non-voters to political parties.
  • State Funding –
    • State funding of recognised political parties is a viable alternative.
    • A state funding scheme would be viable through the levy of an election cess on the direct taxes.
    • A National Election Fund could be maintained by the EC, into which the proceeds from this cess may be deposited.
    • At the current GDP-Direct Tax ratio and voter numbers, a 1 per cent election cess can fund Rs 500 for each vote cast in elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies.
    • The cess being progressive would spare the poorer candidates from the costs of funding elections.
    • Direct donations to political parties may be permitted only from persons who are entitled to vote. Those not entitled to vote may contribute to the neutral National Election Fund.

Conclusion:

  • Donations from corporates into this fund will not distort the election process, but would instead improve the integrity of the peoples’ electoral choice.
  • Parties would be inclined to adopt a more inclusive agenda when in government since more votes will translate into more state funding.

Parties will also vie for votes in absolute numbers than merely be the first past the post. Democracy will then truly be of the people, for the people and by the people.

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