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11th February Current Affairs

ASEAN

(GS-II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate)

In News:

India is in discussion with the 10-nation bloc ASEAN for initiating the review of the FTA (free-trade agreement) in goods between the two regions to seek more market access for domestic products.

Free Trade Agreement (FTA):

It is a pact between two or more nations to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them.

Under a free trade policy, goods and services can be bought and sold across international borders with little or no government tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions to inhibit their exchange.

The concept of free trade is the opposite of trade protectionism or economic isolationism.

What is ASEAN?

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a regional organization which was established to promote political and social stability amid rising tensions among the Asia-Pacific’s post-colonial states.

The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.

ASEAN Secretariat – Indonesia, Jakarta.

Genesis:

Established in 1967 with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by its founding fathers.

Founding Fathers of ASEAN are: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Ten Members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Significance of ASEAN for India:

Against the backdrop of aggressive moves by China, including the Ladakh standoff, India placed the ASEAN at the centre of India’s Act East policy and held that a cohesive and responsive ASEAN is essential for security and growth for all in the region.

ASEAN is necessary for the success of the Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) Vision.

The region is significant for diversification and resilience of supply chains for post-Covid-19 economic recovery.

It is India’s 4th largest trading partner with about USD 86.9 billion in trade.

Nuclear Fusion Technology

(GS-III: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights)

In News:

Scientists in the United Kingdom said they have achieved a new milestone in producing nuclear fusion energy, or imitating the way energy is produced in the Sun.

What’s the new record now?

A team at the Joint European Torus (JET) facility near Oxford in central England generated 59 megajoules of sustained energy during an experiment in December, more than doubling a 1997 record.

A kg of fusion fuel contains about 10 million times as much energy as a kg of coal, oil or gas.

The experiment:

The energy was produced in a machine called a tokamak, a doughnut-shaped apparatus, and the JET site is the largest operational one of its kind in the world.

Deuterium and tritium, which are isotopes of hydrogen, are heated to temperatures 10 times hotter than the centre of the sun to create plasma.

This is held in place using superconductor electromagnets as it spins around, fuses and releases tremendous energy as heat.

Why is this achievement so significant?

Energy by nuclear fusion is one of mankind’s long standing quests as it promises to be low carbon, safer than how nuclear energy is now produced and, with an efficiency that can technically exceed a 100%.

Also, The record and scientific data from these crucial experiments are a major boost for ITER, the larger and more advanced version of the JET.

What is International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER)?

ITER is a fusion research mega-project supported by seven members – China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the USA – based in the south of France, to further demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy.

What will ITER do?

Produce 500 MW of fusion power.

Demonstrate the integrated operation of technologies for a fusion power plant.

Achieve a deuterium-tritium plasma in which the reaction is sustained through internal heating.

Test tritium breeding.

Demonstrate the safety characteristics of a fusion device.

What is Fusion?

Fusion is the energy source of the Sun and stars. In the tremendous heat and gravity at the core of these stellar bodies, hydrogen nuclei collide, fuse into heavier helium atoms and release tremendous amounts of energy in the process.

Three conditions must be fulfilled to achieve fusion in a laboratory:

  • Very high temperature (on the order of 150,000,000° Celsius).
  • Sufficient plasma particle density (to increase the likelihood that collisions do occur).
  • Sufficient confinement time (to hold the plasma, which has a propensity to expand, within a defined volume).

India bans import of drones

(GS-III: Science and technology, use of technology)

In News:

The government has banned the import of drones with immediate effect, except for research and development, defence and security purposes.

Details:

The move aims to promote made in India drones.

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has notified the Indian Trade Classification (Harmonised System), 2022 in this regard.

Highlights:

Exceptions are provided for R&D, defence and security, importing drones for these purposes which will require “due clearances”.

However, import of drone components will not require any approvals.

Boost to drones Industry in India:

Last year, the Ministry notified liberalised drone rules that abolished a slew of approvals with the aim to encourage R&D and creating India as a drone hub.

The government also approved a Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for drones and their components with an allocation of ₹120 crore for three financial years.

Last month, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has sent a note on use of drones across various sectors to different ministries at the centre.

Where all can drones be effectively utilised?

Ministry of Home Affairs: For surveillance, situational analysis, crime control, VVIP security, disaster management, etc.

Ministry of Defence: Drones for combat, communication in remote areas, counter-drone solutions, etc.

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare: Delivery of medicines, collection of samples from remote or epidemic/pandemic-affected areas.

The Petroleum and Natural Gas, and Power Ministries: For real-time surveillance of assets and transmission lines, theft prevention, visual inspection/maintenance, construction planning and management, etc. Environment, Forests and Climate Change Ministry: Anti-poaching actions, monitoring of forests and wildlife, pollution assessment, and evidence gathering.

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting: For high-quality videography of events and difficult-to-reach-places at a fraction of the cost and approvals required. This move would also facilitate low altitude shooting without noise, and prevent dust pollution and risk of accidents.

Other areas: To undertake disaster management, incidence response, inspection/maintenance works and project monitoring.

Significance:

Drones offer a tremendous benefits to almost every sector of the economy, including but not limited to, national defence, agriculture, law enforcement, and mapping, among others.

Drone management in India:

The Union government had on September 15 approved a production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for drones and drone components with an allocation of Rs 120 crore spread over three financial years.

The ministry had on August 25 notified the Drone Rules, 2021 that eased the regulation of drone operations in India by reducing the number of forms that need to be filled to operate them from 25 to five and decreasing the types of fees charged from the operator from 72 to four.

Need for stricter rules and regulations:

In 2021, Drones were used for the first time to drop explosive devices, triggering blasts inside the Air Force Station’s technical area in Jammu.

Over the past two years, drones have been deployed regularly by Pakistan-based outfits to smuggle arms, ammunition and drugs into Indian territory.

According to government figures, 167 drone sightings were recorded along the border with Pakistan in 2019, and in 2020, there were 77 such sightings.

With the rapid proliferation of drone technology and exponential growth of its global market in recent years, the possibility of a drone attack cannot be ruled out even in the safest cities in the world.

Drones are becoming security threats particularly in conflict zones where non-state actors are active and have easy access to the technology.

Privilege Motion

(GS-II: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these)

In News:

Four Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) members in the Rajya Sabha have submitted a Privilege Motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding his February 8 remarks in the Upper House about the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill.

What’s the issue?

Mr. Modi, during his Motion of Thanks to the President’s address, had questioned the parliamentary process adopted for the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh into the States of Telangana and Andhra in 2014, adding that doors were shut, pepper sprays were used and mikes were switched off to pass the legislation.

Issues raised by members:

Modi’s statement attempts to show the Parliament Houses in the most bad and contemptuous manner, denigrating and demeaning the procedures and proceedings of the House and its functioning.

It amounted to finding fault with the Members of Parliament and the Presiding Officers for their conduct in the house.

Even the decision of the Presiding Officer, to close the doors of the House to prevent the spread of disorder or mischief of a handful few Members, is brought under question.

This amounts to a contempt of the House, raising the issue of its Privilege.

What are Parliamentary Privileges?

Parliamentary Privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”.

Article 105 of the Constitution expressly mentions two privileges, that is, freedom of speech in Parliament and right of publication of its proceedings.

Apart from the privileges as specified in the Constitution, the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, provides for freedom from arrest and detention of members under civil process during the continuance of the meeting of the House or of a committee thereof and forty days before its commencement and forty days after its conclusion.

Motion against breaches:

When any of these rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament.

A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.

Role of the Speaker/Rajya Sabha (RS) Chairperson:

The Speaker/RS chairperson is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion.

The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament.

If the Speaker/Chair gives consent under relevant rules, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement.

Applicability:

The Constitution also extends the parliamentary privileges to those persons who are entitled to speak and take part in the proceedings of a House of Parliament or any of its committees. These include the Attorney General of India.

The parliamentary privileges do not extend to the President who is also an integral part of the Parliament. Article 361 of the Constitution provides for privileges for the President.