ISSUE: GOLDILOCKS ZONE
WHY IN NEWS?
On Tuesday, NASA reported the discovery of an Earth-size planet, named TOI 700 d, orbiting its star in the “habitable zone”. A habitable zone, also called the “Goldilocks zone”, is the area around a star where it is not too hot and not too cold for liquid water to exist on the surface of surrounding planets.
The newest such planet was found by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission, which it launched in 2018. Very few such Earth-size planets have been found so far, including some by NASA’s Kepler mission, and this one is the first such discovery by TESS. The find was confirmed by the Spitzer Space Telescope, which sharpened the measurements that TESS had made, such as orbital period and size.
TOI 700 d measures 20% larger than Earth. It orbits its star once every 37 days and receives an amount of energy that is equivalent to 86% of the energy that the Sun provides to Earth. The star, TOI 700, is an “M dwarf” located just over 100 light-years away in the southern constellation Dorado, is roughly 40% of our Sun’s mass and size, and has about half its surface temperature.
ISSUE: VOTING AT GST COUNCIL
WHY IN NEWS?
Breaking the tradition of consensus-based decisions in its 37 earlier meetings, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council voted for the first time in its 38th meeting held on December 18. The proposal to have a higher single rate for lotteries went through by a majority, with 21 votes in favour.
WHAT IS A GST COUNCIL?
The GST Council is a federal body that aims to bring together states and the Centre on a common platform for the nationwide rollout of the indirect tax reform.
The rules of voting in the GST Council are such that the odds are stacked in favour of the Centre in the normal course. However, in case of a vote, any disagreements within the ruling coalition at the Centre may bring its support below the three-fourths majority that is needed for the passage of a decision.
GST Council voting rules
As per The Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016, in case of a voting, every decision of the GST Council has to be taken by a majority of not less than three-fourths of the weighted votes of the members present.
The vote of the central government has a weightage of one-third of the total votes cast, and the votes of all the state governments taken together have a weightage of two-thirds of the total votes cast in that meeting.
As of now, out of the total 30 states and Union Territories (excluding Jammu & Kashmir), 20 are ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party or its allies (including parties who voted with the BJP on recent legislation in Parliament). This essentially means that a vote in the Council could largely be an academic exercise — unless a number of the BJP’s allies switch sides.
ISSUE: STATE OF CLIMATE OF INDIA REPORT
WHAT IS THERE IN REPORT?
An India Meteorological Department (IMD) report, released on Monday, confirms what climate scientists have been claiming for more than half a decade — extreme weather events have become par for the course in the country.
The Statement on Climate of India in 2019 notes that excessive heat, cold and rainfall killed 1,562 people during the year.
The mean temperature last year was 0.36 above normal while the country also recorded excess rainfall during both the southwest and northeast monsoons. Intense dry spells, even droughts, were interspersed with floods in several parts of the country — a phenomenon that policymakers will increasingly be called to factor while drawing up projects in areas as diverse as agriculture, urban planning, water resources and disaster management.
Last year, as the IMD report notes, the Indian Ocean witnessed eight cyclones. Ipso facto, cyclones don’t kill but buildings can turn hazardous during such extreme weather events.
This year, Kerala, southern Karnataka and Gujarat were heavily deficient till July. But within a few days in the last week of July, these states recorded surplus rainfall.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF THIS CLIMATE CHANGE?
For farmers, such vagaries mean disruptions in the entire cropping cycle. Increasing their resilience calls for efficient rainwater storage and use. The changing dynamics of weather also demand cooperation between states that share a river basin.
It’s clear that dealing with exceptional weather will require interventions at the national, state and local-levels. The Statement on Climate of India 2019 drives home the urgency of such interventions.