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Current Affairs 21 August 2023

Contents:

  1. Chandrayaan-3
  2. Manipur Assembly fails to Convene
  3. Termination of Pregnancy
  4. Infiltration bid foiled near LoC in Poonch

Chandrayan-3


Context:

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been able to successfully establish a two way communication between Chandrayaan-3’s Lander Module and its predecessor Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter. 

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. How Space Missions Work?
  2. Chandrayaan Missions
  3. Chandrayaan-3 Mission Objectives
  4. Launch Window and its Precision
  5. Duration of Lander’s Journey to the Moon
  6. Reasons for Exploring the Moon

How Space Missions Work?

Rocket and Spacecraft Components:

  • A space mission consists of two main components: the rocket (or carrier) and the spacecraft (satellite or payload).
  • The rocket’s primary function is to transport the spacecraft into space, while the spacecraft carries out its mission once in space.
  • In most missions, the rocket is destroyed after completing its job, while the spacecraft remains operational.

Powered Flight and Launch:

  • The launch of a spacecraft involves a period of powered flight, where the rocket rises above Earth’s atmosphere and accelerates.
  • Rockets are powered by a propellant, a combination of fuel and oxidizers, which generate the energy required for lift-off.
  • The powered flight continues until the rocket’s last stage burns out and the spacecraft separates.
  • By this point, the spacecraft ideally should have been placed into the intended orbit of the planetary body it is targeting.

Chandrayaan Missions:

Chandrayaan-1:

  • Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first lunar exploration mission launched on October 22, 2008.
  • The primary objective was to create a three-dimensional atlas of the Moon and conduct chemical and mineralogical mapping of the lunar surface.
  • It operated for at least 312 days, making over 3,400 orbits around the Moon.
  • The mission made significant discoveries related to the presence of water (H2O) and hydroxyl (OH) on the lunar surface, with enhanced abundance towards the polar regions. Ice was also detected in the North polar region.

Chandrayaan-2:

  • Chandrayaan-2 aimed to explore the south pole of the Moon and consisted of an Orbiter, Lander, and Rover.
  • It was launched in July 2019 but encountered a partial success.
  • On September 7, 2019, the lander named Vikram and the rover named Pragyaan crashed on the Moon’s surface.
  • Despite the setback, the Orbiter performed well and continued to gather data.
  • It built upon the water discovery of Chandrayaan-1 and found signatures of water at all latitudes.
  • The Large Area Soft X-Ray Spectrometer (CLASS) on the mission also detected the minor elements chromium and manganese for the first time through remote sensing.

Chandrayaan-3 Mission Objectives:

  • The main objective of the Chandrayaan-3 mission is to demonstrate India’s technical capabilities and achieve a successful soft landing on the Moon.
  • A soft landing refers to safely landing a spacecraft on the Moon’s surface at a gentle pace, without human intervention, after traveling through space at high speeds.

Payloads and Scientific Objectives:

  • The payloads on the lander and rover will be similar to those used in the Chandrayaan-2 mission.
  • The lander will carry four scientific payloads to study lunar quakes, thermal properties of the lunar surface, changes in plasma near the surface, and perform a passive experiment to measure the distance between Earth and the Moon accurately. One of the payloads will be provided by NASA.
  • The rover will carry two payloads to study the chemical and mineral composition of the lunar surface, focusing on elements like magnesium, aluminum, and iron in the lunar soil and rocks.

Landing Site and Importance of the South Pole:

  • The landing site for Chandrayaan-3 will be near the south pole of the Moon, which is the same as the previous  Chandrayaan-2 mission.
  • The lunar south pole offers challenging conditions but holds promise for deep space scientific discoveries.
  • NASA highlights the significance of lunar polar volatiles, which are chemical elements or compounds in a solid state that can melt or evaporate at moderately warm temperatures. Understanding their distribution on the Moon is crucial.
  • If these volatiles contain elements like hydrogen and oxygen, it could have a profound impact on future deep space exploration and commerce, potentially reducing the need for Earth-based supplies to support human activities in space.

Launch Window and its Precision:

Definition of Launch Window:

  • A launch window refers to the specific time period during which a mission must be launched.
  • For example, Chandrayaan-3 took off at 2:35 pm, indicating the designated launch window for that mission.
  • Importance of Precision:
  • The precise timing of a launch window is crucial for missions that require the spacecraft to approach another spacecraft, a planet, or a specific point in space.
  • It ensures that the orbits of the spacecraft and the target body overlap at some point in the future.

Illustration with Athletics Race Track:

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) offers an analogy to explain the concept.
  • Imagine the Solar System as an athletics race track.
  • If you want to intercept a runner on the opposite side of the track, you could chase them, but it would require a lot of energy and a long distance to catch up.
  • However, a more efficient method is to walk across the center of the circular track, reaching the other side at the same time as the runner.
  • Timing is crucial: arriving too early means waiting, while arriving too late means missing the runner completely and having to wait for another lap.

Curved Paths in Spaceflight:

  • The analogy demonstrates that straight-line paths do not exist in spaceflight due to the curved paths of celestial bodies.
  • Planets, including Earth, move in long, curved orbits around the Sun, following circular or elliptical paths.
  • Calculating the constant movement of Earth and other planetary bodies is essential to determine the shortest and most fuel-efficient path for the spacecraft.

Duration of Lander’s Journey to the Moon:

The journey of the lander to the Moon is expected to take approximately 42 days, with the landing scheduled for August 23 at lunar dawn.

Process and Manoeuvres:

  • The Chandrayaan-3 mission will be launched into space by the Launch Vehicle Mark-III (LVM-III).
  • Initially, the spacecraft will be in an orbit around the Earth at an altitude of 179 km.
  • Through a series of manoeuvres, the spacecraft will gradually increase its orbit to escape Earth’s gravity and head towards the Moon.
  • Upon reaching proximity to the Moon, the spacecraft will need to be captured by the Moon’s gravity.

Orbit Reduction and Descent:

  • Following capture by the Moon’s gravity, further manoeuvres will be conducted to reduce the spacecraft’s orbit to a circular one at 100×100 km.
  • At this stage, the lander, carrying the rover inside, will separate from the propulsion module and begin its powered descent towards the Moon’s surface.

Lunar Day and Night:

  • The lander and rover have a mission life of one Lunar day, which lasts for 14 Earth days.
  • Each Lunar day and night is equivalent to approximately one month (close to 28 Earth days) as the Moon completes one rotation on its axis and one revolution around the Earth.
  • The extreme drop in temperatures during lunar nights makes it challenging for the lander and rover to survive, which is why they are being landed at dawn.

Reasons for Exploring the Moon:

  • The Moon is the closest cosmic body to Earth and provides an opportunity for space discovery and documentation.
  • It serves as a test bed to demonstrate technologies required for future deep-space missions.
  • Exploring the Moon can stimulate technological advancements, foster global collaborations, and inspire the next generation of explorers and scientists.

-Source: Indian Express, The Hindu


Manipur Assembly fails to Convene


Context:

Manipur assembly fails to convene despite the recommendation by the State Government.

Relevance:

GS-II Governance, Polity

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Key Points:
  • Date of the Assembly session
  • What is Article 356?

Key Points:

  • Article 174 of the Constitution authorizes the Governor to summon, dissolve and prorogue the state legislative assembly.
  • However, the Governor can exercise the above only as per Article 163 of the Constitution which says that the Governor acts on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister.
  • The Manipur Assembly did not convene on August 21, a date recommended by the State Cabinet.
  • The required summons by the Governor did not materialise, with the Congress calling it a “breakdown of constitutional machinery” in the state.
  • The last Session of the Manipur Assembly was held from February 21 to March 3. Article 174 of the Constitution states that “six months shall not intervene between its [state legislature] last sitting in one Session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next Session”.
  • The first sitting of the next Session hence can’t be later than September 2. However, this does not look likely as the summons has to go out from the Governor to the members of the Assembly at least 15 days before the House convenes, as per Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the Assembly.
  • The ongoing Meitei and Kuki conflict has further aggravated the situation.

Date of the Assembly session

  • Summoning the Assembly is a routine constitutional function of the Governor.
  • As per the normal procedure, once the Cabinet decides to call the session on a particular date, that decision is conveyed to the Governor who signs the summons order and sends it back the same day or the next day.
  • Under Article 174 of the Constitution, the Governor summons the Assembly, but the Governor can act only on the advice of the Council of Ministers.
  • The Governor, being a constitutional head, does not exercise any of the executive powers except where the Constitution assigns him certain functions to be performed in his discretion.
  • The Nabam Rebia case makes it clear that so long as the Chief Minister enjoys majority support in the Assembly, the Governor has no discretional powers and is bound to accept the decisions of the Cabinet in regard to the date of commencement of the session.
  • In Shamsher Singh v. State of Punjab (1974), the Supreme Court said: “The Governor has no right to refuse to act on the advice of the Council of Ministries. Such a position is antithetical to the concept of ‘responsible government’.”

What is Article 356?

  • Article 356 of the Indian Constitution contains provisions for the imposition of “President’s Rule” in a state and removing an elected government in case of failure of constitutional machinery in States.
    • Whether the constitutional machinery has broken down may be determined by the President at any time, either upon receipt of a report from the Governor, or suo motu.
  • Ground: Article 356 empowers the President to withdraw to the Union the executive and legislative powers of any state “if he is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution”.

Termination of Pregnancy


Context:

The Supreme Court of India recently allowed a rape victim from Gujarat to terminate her pregnancy.

  • It observed that in Indian society, within the institution of marriage, pregnancy is a source of joy for a couple and society. However, outside marriage, it has effects on the mental health of a woman when it is unwanted.
  • The apex court further lashed out the Gujarat High Court for rejecting the plea earlier saying any HC passing an order against a superior court’s ruling is against constitutional philosophy.

Relevance:

GS II- Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. How did abortion laws come about in India?
  2. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
  3. Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act, 2021
  4. Significance of the amendment
  5. Criticisms of the 2021 amendment to the MTP act
  6. Have there been judicial interventions in cases of abortions?

How did abortion laws come about in India?

Shantilal Shah Committee:

In the 1960s, in the wake of a high number of induced abortions taking place, the Union government ordered the constitution of the Shantilal Shah Committee to deliberate on the legalisation of abortion in the country.

Indian Penal Code (IPC) provisions of 312 and 313:

  • In order to reduce maternal mortality owing to unsafe abortions, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act was brought into force in 1971.
  • This law is an exception to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) provisions of 312 and 313 and sets out the rules of how and when a medical abortion can be carried out.
    • Section 312 of the IPC, a person who “voluntarily causes a woman with child to miscarry” is liable for punishment, attracting a jail term of up to three years or fine or both, unless it was done in good faith where the purpose was to save the life of the pregnant woman.
    • Section 313 of the IPC states that a person who causes the miscarriage without the consent of the pregnant woman, whether or not she is the in the advanced stages of her pregnancy, shall be punished with life imprisonment or a jail term that could extend to 10 years, as well as a fine.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 provides the legal framework for making CAC services available in India.

Termination of pregnancy is permitted for a broad range of conditions up to 20 weeks of gestation as detailed below:

  • When continuation of pregnancy is a risk to the life of a pregnant woman or could cause grave injury to her physical or mental health;
  • When there is substantial risk that the child, if born, would be seriously handicapped due to physical or mental abnormalities;
  • When pregnancy is caused due to rape (presumed to cause grave injury to the mental health of the woman);
  • When pregnancy is caused due to failure of contraceptives used by a married woman or her husband (presumed to constitute grave injury to mental health of the woman).

The MTP Act specifies

  • who can terminate a pregnancy;
  • till when a pregnancy can be terminated; and
  • where can a pregnancy be terminated.

Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act, 2021

  • The Act increases the gestation period of women seeking abortion up from 20 weeks to 24 weeks – It allows abortion to be done on the advice of one doctor up to 20 weeks, and two doctors in the case of certain special categories of women between 20 and 24 weeks.
  • The “special categories of women” include rape survivors, victims of incest, the differently-abled and minors.
  • In case of the gestational period beyond 24 weeks, pregnancy may be terminated only in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by the Medical Board or if there is a threat to the life of the mother.
  • Opinion of only one provider will be required up to 20 weeks of gestation and two providers for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation. (Opinion of only one doctor will be required up to 20 weeks of gestation and two doctors for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.)
  • Under the Act, a pregnancy may be terminated up to 20 weeks by a married woman in the case of failure of contraceptive method or device. It allows unmarried women to also terminate a pregnancy for this reason.
  • All state and union territory governments will constitute a Medical Board. The Board will decide if pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks due to substantial foetal abnormalities. 

Significance of the amendment

  • It will provide greater reproductive rights and dignity to women as abortion is considered an important aspect of the reproductive health of women.
  • Deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions are largely preventable provided services are performed legally by trained practitioners.
  • The rape victims and vulnerable victims will also be benefitted from Privacy Clause.
  • Many cases which were filed in High Courts to seek permission for abortion beyond 20 weeks will be reduced. Also, often 20 weeks were spent in completing the legal procedures and formalities – hence, there was a need to increase the upper limit of time.

Criticisms of the 2021 amendment to the MTP act

  • One opinion is that terminating a pregnancy is the choice of the pregnant woman and a part of her reproductive rights. Another is that the state should protect life and hence should provide for the protection of the foetus.
  • It enhances the gestational limit for legal abortion from 20 to 24 weeks only for specific categories of women. A woman who does not fall into these categories would not be able to seek an abortion beyond 20 weeks.
  • The Act does not provide a time frame within which the Board must make its decision. Also, the shortage of specialised doctors will further delay the case.
  • There may be cases where persons who identify as transgender (and not women) can become pregnant even after receiving hormone therapy to transition from female to male, and may require termination services. The Act is silent over this.
  • The boards are unnecessary and an invasion of privacy of the pregnant women which pushes the laborious process a woman had to undergo in order to get an abortion.
  • Many are still not aware of their reproductive rights and the amendment does not show concerns towards the need for awareness.

Have there been judicial interventions in cases of abortions?

  • Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India:
    • Despite the fact that existing laws do not permit unconditional abortion in the country, in the landmark 2017 Right to Privacy judgement in the Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India and others, the Supreme Court had held that the decision by a pregnant person on whether to continue a pregnancy or not is part of such a person’s right to privacy as well and, therefore, the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • Foetal abnormality:
    • Several women annually approach the apex court and High Courts, when medical boards reject their application to access MTP beyond the gestational upper limit (now 24 weeks), seeking permission to abort a pregnancy, mostly in cases where it is a result of sexual assault or when there is a foetal abnormality.
    • Recently, the Calcutta High Court allowed a 37-year-old woman, who was 34 weeks into her pregnancy, to get a medical abortion as the foetus was diagnosed with an incurable spinal condition. This judgment allowed abortion for the furthest gestational in the country so far.

Infiltration bid foiled near LoC in Poonch


Context:

The Army on Monday foiled an infiltration bid and killed two infiltrators near the Line of Control in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Relevance:

GS Paper 3: Border Areas (security challenges and management thereof); Security forces & agencies (mandate); Role of External State & Non-State actors in creating internal security challenges

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Strategic importance of Gilgit-Baltistan
  2. Challenges along the border with china and Pakistan
  3. India’s initiatives to improve border management
  4. Way forward

Strategic importance of Gilgit-Baltistan

Gilgit-Baltistan is the northernmost territory administered by Pakistan, providing the country’s only territorial frontier, and thus a land route, with China, where it meets the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor has made the region vital for both countries. In a recent analysis by Andrew Small, this ambitious project is seen to have been going slow for a combination of reasons. But given the strategic interests of both countries, CPEC will continue.

China occupies 5,180 square kilometres in the Shaksgam Valley in addition to approximately 38,000 square kilometres in Aksai Chin. China and Pakistan have colluded to obfuscate these facts, even as they brazenly promote the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which runs through parts of Indian territory under their respective occupation.

Therefore, this region is strategically very important to India, moreover this region belongs to India as Instruments of accession.

Challenges along the border with china

  • Border dispute at Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh, Doklam etc. with sporadic aggression.
  • Large scale smuggling of Chinese electronic and other consumer goods take place through these border points even after designated areas for border trade.
  • Inadequate infrastructure due to difficult terrain. However, China has undertaken a large-scale effort to upgrade air, roads and rail infrastructure, as well as surveillance capabilities near to the border.
  • Multiple forces along Indian border (for e.g.-ITBP, Assam rifles, Special frontier force) as opposed to single PLA commander on Chinese side.
  • Water-sharing issue as China is building dams on its side reducing water flows on our side.

Challenges along the border with Pakistan

  • Border dispute at Sir Creek and Kashmir.
  • River water sharing issue at Indus river.
  • Infiltration and Cross-border terrorism targeted to destabilise India. Recently BSF detected a fifth (since 2012) cross border tunnel in the forest area of Jammu.
  • Diverse terrain including desert, marshes, snow-capped mountain and plains makes border guarding difficult. · Time & cost overruns in infrastructure projects due to unforeseen circumstances& natural calamities.
  • Other issues include drug smuggling, fake currency, arms trafficking.

India’s initiatives to improve border management

  • Creating infrastructure: India is also constructing some critical bridges to cut down time for troop movement such as Dhola-Sadiya bridge.
  • India has joined hands with Japan to aggressively develop infrastructure projects in North east to contain China.
  • Army infrastructure projects within 100Km of LAC have been exempted from forest clearance.
  • To expedite border road construction, Ministry of Defence has decided to delegate administrative and financial powers to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO)
  • MHA sanctioned the implementation of Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) to establish an integrated security system at borders providing all-round security even in adverse climatic conditions.
  • The centre has decided to deploy Indian special forces unit National Security Guard (NSG) commandos in J&K to fortify counter terror operations by training J&K police and other paramilitary forces in room intervention, anti-terror skills, overseeing anti-hijack operations etc.

Way forward

  • Dispute resolution– Government should resolve pending border disputes with the neighbouring countries, as they later become matters of national-security threat.
  • No diversion of security forces– The border-guarding force should not be distracted from its principal task and deployed for other internal security duties. For e.g.-ITBP, a force specifically trained for India China border should not be used in the Naxalite-infested areas.
  • Involvement of army – It is felt that the responsibility for unsettled and disputed borders, such as the LoC in J&K and the LAC on the Indo-Tibetan border, should be that of the Indian Army while the BSF should be responsible for all settled borders.
  • Follow one-force-one-border principle to effectively manage borders as divided responsibilities never result in effective control.
  • Developing Infrastructure-accelerated development of infrastructure along the border, especially to wean the border population from illegal activities.
  • Use of advanced technology – The advances in surveillance technology, particularly satellite and aerial imagery, can help to maintain a constant vigil along the LAC and make it possible to reduce physical deployment.
  • Up-gradation of intelligence network and co-ordination with sister agencies, conduct of special operations along the border.
  • Raising the issues of infiltration from across the border during various meeting with counterpart countries.

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