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General Studies-01

{Op-Ed}The numbers game: IMD forecast for farmers

Issue:

With the India Meteorological Department getting its monsoon forecast wrong this year, its modelling has necessarily come under the spotlight.

Background:

  • In April, the IMD had predicted “near normal”, or 96%, rains and then upgraded the figure to 98% a couple of months later.
  • These percentages refer to the proportion of rains to 89 cm, a 50-year average of monsoon rains.
  • However, the country finally ended up with “below normal” rains .

Current scenario:

  • Crop sowing is expected to be only a little less than last year, which saw a record harvest, with more districts posting deficient rain.
  • Better drought management has over the years weakened the link between rain shortfall and food production, but the IMD continues to persevere with the meaningless practice of assigning a catch-all number to the quantum of rain expected during the monsoon.

India Meteorological Department

Problems associated with IMD:

  • While a single number, 96 or 95, has the power to brand rainfall as “near” or “below” normal, the IMD never admits to being in error.
  • It relies on the security of generous error margins. Thus, a 98% forecast, say, implies a range from 94% to 102% and so could span “below normal” to “above normal”.
  • The IMD is increasingly relying on supercomputers and sophisticated models to warn of weather changes at the district level.
  • The fallout of focussing on numbers to gauge a phenomenon as geographically and quantitatively varied as the Indian monsoon is that it has ripple effects of tricking everyone from policymakers to the stock markets that a ‘normal’ monsoon implies all will be well with rainfall distribution.
  • These localised estimates aim to warn of threatening weather — and are operationally useful — rather than reduce rain to numerical jugglery. The IMD must give momentum to this shift.

Indian Monsoon pattern:

  • The Indian monsoon has over the centuries stayed remarkably consistent at around 89 cm during the monsoon months, give or take 10%.
  • The challenge lies in capturing intra-seasonal variation or forecasting a sudden change in global weather (such as typhoons) that can affect rainfall over specific districts.
  • While more and more farmers are opting for crop insurance and have far greater access — via mobile phones — to news on weather patterns, what they seek are localised, actionable inputs to guide them on sowing or harvesting decisions.

General Studies-02

SC questions Kerala HC annulment of Hindu-Muslim marriage

News:

After ordering a National Investigation Agency probe into the alleged conversion and marriage of a Hindu girl to a Muslim in Kerala, the Supreme Court on Monday turned around to question the very annulment of the inter-religious marriage by the Kerala High Court and the legality of the girl’s father keeping her in his custody for the past several months.

Beyond news:

  • A Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud asked how the High Court, on May 24, annulled the marriage of a woman, who has reached the age of majority, while exercising writ jurisdiction under Article 226, which is used to challenge violations of fundamental rights, legal rights and other basic rights.
  • His recall petition requests the apex court to stop the NIA probe in light of subsequent events showing the girl converted of her own free will and she is being confined and “tortured” by her parents.
  • The chairperson of Kerala Women’s Commission, M.C. Josephine, indicating that there is “grave human rights violation in the case of the detenue (the girl) and that the commission is willing to act on a complaint”.
  • The application points out that the retired Supreme Court judge, Justice R.V. Raveendran, whom the Supreme Court had appointed to oversee the NIA investigation, has refused the assignment.
  • It said that in the light of Justice Raveendran’s refusal, the NIA probe should be stopped as it would not be a fair one.
  • It said that keeping the girl in custody against her will wherein she is not free to practice the religion she has chosen of her own free will is a clear violation of her fundamental rights,”

Police discount IS involvement despite claims

#NMI  -Not much important

News:

The barrage in Las Vegas from a 32nd-floor window in the Mandalay Bay hotel into a crowd of more than 40,000 people lasted several minutes, causing panic.

Beyond News:

  • The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the massacre, but U.S. officials expressed scepticism of that claim.
  • The death toll, which police emphasised was preliminary, eclipsed last year’s massacre of 49 people at an Orlando night club by a gunman who pledged allegiance to IS militants.
  •  In the past, the group has also claimed responsibility for attacks without providing evidence

General Studies-03

Three gravitational wave detecting scientists win 2017 Physics Nobel.

News:

  • The 2017 Nobel Physics Prize was divided, one half awarded to Rainer Weiss, the other half jointly to Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”.

Beyond News:

  • Ripples in the fabric of space-time, first predicted a century ago by Albert Einstein, sparked a revolution in astrophysics when their first detection was announced in early 2016.
  • The teams involved in the discovery quickly emerged as favourites for the prize.
  • Triggered when super-dense black holes merge, the waves were detected using laser beams at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

Significance:

  • “The signal was extremely weak when it reached the Earth, but is already promising a revolution in astrophysics,”.
  • The waves detected by the laureates came from the collision of two black holes some 1.3 billion light years away. A light year is about 9.5 trillion km.

8 core sectors witness growth by 4.9% in August, highest since April

News:

  • Eight core sectors grew by 4.9% in August, the highest growth rate since April. This growth is on account of robust performance of coal, natural gas and electricity segments.

Beyond news:

  • The core sectors are—
  1. coal
  2. crude oil
  3. natural gas
  4. refinery products
  5. fertilisers
  6. steel
  7. cement
  8. electricity
  • The infrastructure growth was 2.6% in July.
  • The production of coal, natural gas and electricity rose by 15.3%, 4.2% and 10.3%.
  • The production growth of refinery products and steel slowed down to 2.4% and 3% in August, against 2.5% and 16.7% respectively in the same month last year.
  • Cumulatively, the eight core sectors in April-August recorded a growth rate of 3%, against 5.4% in the same period a year ago.
  • The healthy growth of key sectors would have positive implications on the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), as these segments account for about 41% to the total factory output.

{Op-Ed}The cost of electricity

Issue:

The value addition in charges of electricity from generator to consumer via several generators in between.

Issue in detail:

  • Electricity reaches a consumer through the grid.Laying a grid needs significant investment.
  • A distributor buys electricity from a generator, adds transmission and distribution charges, a charge to recover technical losses, operating expenses, and his profit to determine the tariff to be charged from a consumer.
  • Since several generators are connected to the grid, interaction with the grid and grid-management policies influence the working of a generator.

Current scenario:

  • At present, electricity markets do not assign any price to system effects, that is, to the complex interactions among various generators connected to the grid.
  • In recent years, a large capacity based on variable renewable energy (VRE) sources has been connected to the grid.These sources are intermittent, but get priority feed-in due to nil fuelling cost.
  • A grid manager must ensure that enough dispatchable generation capacity is connected to the grid to meet the peak load in the evening when solar power is not available.
  • Dispatchable generation is provided by baseload technologies like coal and nuclear, and by large hydropower.

In December 2016, the Central Electricity Authority issued a draft national electricity plan (DNEP), which refers to system effect and resulting system cost at several places.

Other costs:

  • Other costs include those arising from the influence of electricity generation on health, influence on existing generation capacity due to adding new capacity, cost of accidents, security of supplies and net energy gain for society.
  • In the Economic Survey 2016-17 (Volume 2),adds adds health costs, costs of intermittency, opportunity cost of land, cost of government incentives and cost arising from stranded assets.
  •  It estimates that the total social cost of renewable was ₹11 per kWh, around three times that of coal..

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