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Special Issue Current Affairs UPSC CSE Nov Week 1

 

Current Affairs UPSC CSE

Special Issue Current Affairs UPSC CSE -Nov Week 1

Nanak Naam Lewa

Context: After Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan waived requirement of a passport and 10-day advance registration for Sikh pilgrims from India visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib via Kartarpur Corridor, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh ‘urged’ Islamabad to apply this “to all citizens of secular India”. The core values of Guru Nanak’s philosophy are not based on any one religion and nor are the Nanak Naam Lewa Sangat, who belong to other religions too and may not necessarily be Sikhs.

Who is a Nanak Naam Lewa?

  • Any person who believes in Guru Nanak and follows his teachings in life, irrespective of belonging to any religion is a Nanak Naam Lewa.
  • Any person who follows Guru Nanak and believes in his teachings is Nanak Naam Lewa or a Nanakpanthi.
  • During his four udaasis (travels), Guru Nanak had spread the message of oneness and people from different faiths had become his followers.
  • Nanak simply cannot be limited to just one religion (Sikhism) because the core value of his philosophy as he said was “Sabhna jiya ka ik daata” (There is only one giver of life, one God) and “Na koi Hindu, na Musalman” (There is no Hindu, no Muslim).
  • Bhai Gurdas, the most revered interpreter of Gurbani, has called Guru Nanak the Jagat Guru.

What is Nanakpanthi culture?

  • More than seven decades after the Pakistan was carved out of India, Guru Nanak continues to be a binding force for the two countries.
  • There are syncretic groups of people in this region who are followers of Guru Nanak irrespective of them being Sikhs or Hindus.
  • The syncretic faith of the ‘Nanakpanthi’ communities continues to be practiced in the Indus belt, which their forefathers’ followed before the Partition in 1947.
  • They do not have a defining line drawn between cultures and faiths. People might identify them as Hindus or Sikhs, but Guru Nanak is the essential fabric of their existence.
  • There are close to 8 lakh Nanakpanthis in Pakistan including in Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and remote areas of Punjab province.
  • There is a segment of Nanakpanthis who go to gurdwara as well as temple. Similarly, there was also a concept of ‘darbar’ in some parts of Pakistan where Guru Granth Sahib is placed along Geeta and idols. Sindhi Hindus in Pakistan are not counted among Sikhs but they follow Nanak and are Nanakpanthis.

How many Nanakpanthis or Nanak Naam Lewas are in India?

  • There is no data for specific number of Nanak followers in India, but they are believed to be in crores. Karnail Singh Panjoli, member, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, says that there are several communities within the term ‘Nanakpanthis’ too.
  • There are groups like Sikhligarh, Vanjaarey, Nirmaley, Lubaney, Johri, Satnamiye, Udaasiyas etc who call themselves Nanakpanthis.
  • They follow Nanak and Sri Guru Granth Sahib. According to rough estimates, there are 12-15 crore Nanak Naam Lewas across the world but then there is no specific count and there cannot be. Within India alone, they are spread across states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana among others.
  • Even the people from different ethnicities have become Nanakpanthis and spread across the countries like Canada, Kenya, China, New Zealand, Nepal, Sri Lanka etc. 

Why Kartarpur Corridor matters to all, and not just Sikhs?

  • While Sikh population in India is close to 2.4 crore and that in Pakistan around 20,000-25,000, the Nanakpanthis or Nanak Naam Lewas are in crores across the globe.
  • It is against the basic teachings of Nanak to differentiate his followers on basis of religion. If Pakistan had to waive off certain conditions, it should be done for all and not just the Sikhs.
  • Guru’s ghar (gurdwara) is open for everyone all the time and none can be differentiated on basis of religion. In fact, Nanak believed in humanity not religions.

The Danakil Depression

Context: Extremophile microbes can adapt to environmental conditions that are too extreme for everything else. New research, however, has pointed to a place on Earth — bubbling pools of water and mounds of salt covering its landscape — that is too daunting even for these microorganisms.

What is it?

  • The Danakil Depression in northeastern Ethiopia is one of the world’s hottest places, as well as one of its lowest, at 100 metres below sea level.
  • At the northern end of the Great Rift Valley, and separated by live volcanoes from the Red Sea, the plain was formed by the evaporation of an inland water body.
  • All the water entering Danakil evaporates, and no streams flow out from its extreme environment. It is covered with more than 10 lakh tonnes of salt.
  • In 2016, scientists ventured here to find out if anything could survive in such harsh conditions. At the time, expedition leader Felipe Gómez from Spain’s Centro de Astrobiologia said, “Any microorganisms living here will be extremophilic microbes of a major interest to astrobiologists.”
  • Now, a new study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution on October 28, says that active and naturally occurring life cannot be sustained at Danakil.
  • It identifies two barriers: magnesium-dominated brines that cause cells to break down; and an environment having simultaneously very low pH and high salt, a combination that makes adaptation highly difficult.

GRAP (Graded Response Action Plan)

  • GRAP, Graded Response Action Plan is a plan to combat air pollution of Delhi NCR.
  • The Hon’ble Supreme Court in its order of November 10, 2016, directed framing and submission of graded response action plan GRAP for various categories of National Air Quality Index (AQI).
  • Finally, on 12 Jan 2017, the ministry of environment forest and climate change provided a notification regarding the GRAP for Delhi NCR.
  • The supreme court mandated EPCA Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority to prepare the GRAP.
  • GRAP laid down a stratified action which is required when the concentration of pollution reaches a certain level.
  • Under GRAP the pollution level is divided into four categories for which actions are required to be taken when the concentration of pollutants, reaches a certain level.
  • This is the first ever plan of its kind that designates short, medium and long-term measures for all key sources of pollution and will help the Delhi NCR region to make a sustained improvement in air quality.

How graded response action plan works?

  • The MOEF&CC has formed a monitoring committee of seven members headed by Environment Secretary, to formulate short and long-term measures to solve air pollution of Delhi NCR.
  • The graded measures according to Air Quality Index are listed from public health emergency level to downward.
  • These measures are listed in the lower levels of AQI including Very Poor, Poor, and Moderate. And the actions listed in the poor category need to be implemented throughout the year.
  • The job of ensuring implementation of the action plan will be EPCA’s, which will delegate the responsibility to the concerned departments. According to EPCA’s report, at least 16 agencies will have to work together to implement the various parts of the plan.
  • The average concentration of pollutants AQI of the entire city is collected and communicated to EPCA by a task force. And this task force will include officials from Central Pollution Control Board and Indian Meteorological Department
  • EPCA then ensures the implementation of the graded response action plan and for this it delegates responsibility to 16 agencies which will work together to implement this the concerned department are like Municipal Corporation, Traffic Police, Transport Departments, Residents Welfare Association, Public Works Department, Delhi Transport Corporation, Central Public Works Department, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation etc.
  • Each body carries its own task and function which has been set to be carried out when EPCA asks it to do.
  • The idea behind this is to put in place some sort of action in a manner that the level of an emergency situation is never reached.
  • This plan focuses on taking tougher actions progressively as the pollution crosses each level, without waiting for emergency situations to arrive so that some strict measures are imposed to pacify such alarming situation.
  • In emergency situations, the required measures will be implemented under Air(Prevention & Control of Pollution)Act 1981 and Environment Protection Act 1986.

Comparison of Delhi NCR with cities (Bejing and Paris) where GRAP has a been implemented

  • Beijing and Paris, most notably, have implemented graded action plans over the past few years.
  • Paris recently implemented the odd-even road rationing scheme when PM 2.5 levels crossed 95 µg/m³.
  • It also made public transport free to encourage people to leave their vehicles at home.
  • Several Chinese cities have a road rationing scheme when pollution reaches severe levels.
  • They also shut schools and industries when particulate matter levels stay higher than around 300 µg/m³ for more than two days in a row, and a Red Alert is triggered.

Challenges in implementation

  • Things which need to be done so that the air pollution levels are brought down:
  • There is a great need for better weather forecasts so that agencies have an advance notice of the measures that need to be taken. As all around the world, where such smog alert systems are in place, a robust and reliable weather forecasting system is essential for action.
  • The other important step which needs to be taken is to have a significantly strengthened system of health advisories to people to take preventive action.
  • There is a huge demand for deterrence and a mechanism should be built and by the court’s direction, such plan should be implemented so that there is some deterrence for the offenders.
  • A far-reaching action is needed to immediately ban pet coke and furnace oil in entire NCR and for this, a strict monitoring of emissions in industrial areas is required.
  • Switching over to gas from traditional sources of energy is required in vehicles power plants and industry. The second transition to natural gas and clean fuel is required further we need a transition to electric vehicles and ensuring supply of power to stop the use of generator sets.
  • An enormous enhancement of public transport within and intercity is required as it will curb down the pollution crisis
  • A massive action plan is required to change the garbage management system and to stop the burning of garbage.

Global Value Chains

Context: In the lead-up to India pulling out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), some trade experts had been of the view that ignoring the RCEP would be a big mistake by India. That’s because of the fragmented nature of global trade which is best captured in the phrase “Global Value Chain”.

What is a Global Value Chain?

  • The common notion of international trade is that one country exports product X to the second country, and imports product Y from the second country. However, this is not how most of the trade actually happens.
  • Thanks to an increased level of fragmentation of the production process, product X is never fully made in the first country. Instead, the production cycle is optimised and this essentially involves half-made goods crossing and recrossing a country’s borders — sometimes as exports, and at other times as imports.
  • The final product may be given the last touch in the first country, but the “value chain” involves trading across several national boundaries.
  • According to the World Bank, “a global value chain (GVC) is the series of stages in the production of a product or service for sale to consumers. Each stage adds value, and at least two stages are in different countries. For example, a bike assembled in Finland with parts from Italy, Japan, and Malaysia and exported to the Arab Republic of Egypt is a GVC. By this definition, a country, sector, or firm participates in a GVC if it engages in (at least) one stage in a GVC”.

How important are GVCs?

  • The GVCs exploit hyper specialisation, and to do so they break down the production process across countries. This has resulted in firms across a variety of countries benefiting from trade.
  • In a new report on GVCs, World Bank states, “These gains were driven by the fragmentation of production across countries and the growth of connections between firms. Parts and components began crisscrossing the globe as firms looked for efficiencies wherever they could find them. Productivity and incomes rose in countries that became integral to GVCs—Bangladesh, China, and Vietnam, among others. The steepest declines in poverty occurred in precisely those countries”.
  • Also: “GVCs allow resources to flow to their most productive use, not only across countries and sectors, but also within sectors across stages of production. As a result, GVCs magnify the growth, employment, and distributional impacts of standard trade. In summary, unlike traditional international trade whose transactions involve only two countries (an exporting country multiple times. This approach to trade not only leads to the rich set of determinants and consequences of GVC participation for measuring GVC activity in the world”. 

What is India’s participation in GVCs?

  • India’s integration with GVCs is among the lowest in G20 countries. In a column in Business Standard, she wrote “Compared with the ASEAN group of countries, India’s GVC integration is not just far lower but it has also experienced a decline in both its backward (that is, import content of exports) and forward (domestic value added embodied in other country exports as a share of gross exports) GVC linkages”.
  • She also gave an example of Vietnam, another middle-income country, which has “a much higher level of GVC integration and has experienced a steady increase in its backward integration…”
  • Not signing the RCEP will likely result in India missing out on the regional and global value chains crisscrossing this region.

 

Cloud seeding technology

Context: Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to “undertake cloud seeding plan to combat the air pollution engulfing Delhi and NCR”. In his letter, Dushyant mentioned about a IIT Kanpur project on cloud seeding that was on “standstill” due to “non-availability of technical support and aircraft from the Central government”.

What is cloud seeding?

  • Cloud seeding is a kind of a weather modification technology to create artificial rainfall. It works only when there is enough pre-existing clouds in the atmosphere.
  • Rain happens when moisture in the air reaches levels at which it can no longer be held, and cloud seeding aims to facilitate and accelerate that process by making available chemical ‘nuclei’ around which condensation can take place.
  • These ‘seeds’ of rain can be the iodides of silver or potassium, dry ice (solid carbon dioxide), or liquid propane. The seeds can be delivered by plane or simply by spraying from the ground.

Where all has it been tried earlier?

  • Cloud seeding is not new to India and it has earlier been attempted in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra to address drought.
  • Similar experiments of cloud seeding had earlier been tried in Australia, America, Spain and France.
  • In United Arab Emirates, the cloud seeding technique led to creation of 52 storms in Abu Dhabi.
  • Till last year, IMD had around 30 successful incidents of seeding. Also, such seeding is routine in Russia and other cold countries where the technique is used to disperse fog at the airports.

The IIT Kanpur study

  • The scientists at IIT Kanpur had prepared a project to induce artificial rain via cloud seeding to clear smog in Delhi.
  • Officials in the Environment Ministry had approved the project. The project demanded an aircraft of National Remote Sensing Agency — an ISRO-affiliated body — to fly into the clouds and inject silver iodide that would lead to formation of ice crystals, making the clouds denser and causing them to condense into rain and settle atmospheric dust and clearing the sky.
  • It was in 2018 when IIT Kanpur had got all the clearances from DGCA and Defence and Home ministries for the project. But due to non-availability of the aircraft, the project could not take off.

Did state governments adopt this technology?

  • In May 2019, Karnataka Cabinet approved a budget of Rs 91 crore for cloud seeding for a period of two years. It involved two aircraft spraying chemicals on moisture-laden clouds to induce rainfall.
  • It was expected to begin by June end and continue for three months. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) had also partnered with IIT Kanpur and agreed to provide Dornier aircraft and their pilots to provide logistical support to the project.

Success of the cloud seeding technology

  • The Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology has been carrying out cloud seeding experiments for several years now.
  • These experiments have been done in areas around Nagpur, Solapur, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Jodhpur, and recently Varanasi.
  • The success rate of these experiments in inducing rains is about 60 to 70 per cent, depending on local atmospheric conditions, the amount of moisture in the air and cloud characteristics.
  • Apart from IITM, some private companies also offer cloud-seeding services. It is these companies that have been engaged by Maharashtra and Karnataka in the last few years. These also received mixed success.

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