Special Issue Current Affairs UPSC CSE -Sept Week 4
Lotus Tower – Sri Lanka’s tallest tower
- The grand opening of Sri Lanka’s tallest tower was mired in controversy recently when President Maithripala Sirisena said one of the Chinese firms contracted to work on the project had disappeared with $11 million of state funds.
- Sirisena made the allegation at the launch ceremony of the China-financed Lotus Tower, a 356.3 metre construction in the shape of a lotus bud featuring a revolving restaurant, conference hall and observation area.
- The tower overlooks Beira Lake in central Colombo.
- Sirisena said that in 2012, under his predecessor former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the state-run Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) had deposited 2 billion rupees ($11.09 million) with Aerospace Long-March International Trade Co. Ltd (ALIT), a Chinese firm chosen as one of the main contractors.
- Sirisena’s audience at the opening ceremony included Chinese envoy to Colombo Cheng Xueyuan.
- Sirisena had suspended most of the Chinese-backed infrastructure projects started under Mr. Rajapaksa when he came to power in 2015 over allegations of corruption, overpricing and flouting government procedures.
- But more than a year later, the Sirisena government allowed Chinese projects to resume after a few changes in some of them.
- China’s Exim Bank in 2012 agreed to lend 80% of the total investment of $104.3 million in the Lotus Tower, with the rest to be met by TRC.
- Sirisena said the government had started repayment of the loans made, but more funds were needed to complete the project.
Sir Visvesvaraya’s contribution to nation building
- September 15 was observed as Engineer’s Day in India to mark the birth anniversary of Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, a civil engineer and statesman. Sir MV, as he is also known, made contributions to several technical projects in his career in Hyderabad, Mysore, Maharashtra and Orissa. In 1955, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna.
- Sir MV’s career spanned 34 years and after taking a voluntary retirement from state service in 1918, he continued work including on the Mysore Iron and Steel Works and established the Sir Jayachamarajendra Occupational Institute in Bangalore in 1943, which was later renamed to Sir Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic. This institute was meant to impart special training to technicians keeping in mind the impending industrial development of India.
- His works, “Reconstructing India” and “Planned Economy of India” were published in 1920 and 1934, respectively.
In the field of Education
- During his three-month visit to Japan in 1898, Visvesvaraya realised that education largely determines the health of an economy.
- In his, “Memoirs of Working Life”, which was published in 1951, he noted that while in Japan there were some 1.5 million girls in school, there were only over 400,000 of them in Indian schools, “notwithstanding the vastly greater population in our country”.
- Visvesvaraya was instrumental in the setting up of the University of Mysore in July 1916, as he was the Dewan of Mysore at the time.
- He believed that the aim of an educational institution should be in line with the “state of the country’s civilisation and of its material prosperity”, and that the conditions inside a university should not be very different from the ones a student has to encounter in real life.
Life in Work
- After completing his engineering from the Poona College of Science, Visvesvaraya accepted an offer to work as an Assistant Engineer in the Public Works Department of the Government of Bombay.
- He was 22 at the time and one of his first projects was to construct a pipe syphon across one of Panjra river’s channels. On November 15, 1909 he joined the Mysore service as Chief Engineer, ultimately assuming the position of the 19th Dewan of Mysore.
- He took voluntary retirement in 1918 because he did not agree with the proposal to set aside state jobs for “non-brahmin” community.
- After his retirement he presided as chairman or became a member of various committees including the Bombay Technical and Industrial Education Committee, Bombay University Committee for promoting chemical industries and the Cauvery Canal Committee.
- Some of his significant works include the introduction of the block system of irrigation in the Deccan canals in 1899, solving the problem of the “muddy and discoloured” water in the city of Sukkur located on the banks of the Indus river and inventing automatic gates meant to regulate the flow of water in reservoirs, which is patented.
- The Krishnaraja Sagar Dam in Karnataka was the first to install these gates in the 1920s.
Trade in Particulate Matter
- Recently, the Gujarat government launched what is being described as the world’s first market for trading in particulate matter emissions.
- While trading mechanisms for pollution control do exist in many parts of the world, none of them is for particulate matter emissions. For example, the CDM (carbon development mechanism) under the Kyoto Protocol allows trade in ‘carbon credits’; the European Union’s Emission Trading System is for greenhouse gas emission; and India has a scheme run by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency that enables trading in energy units.
How will the Gujarat scheme work?
- Launched in Surat, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is a regulatory tool that is aimed at reducing the pollution load in an area and at the same time minimising the cost of compliance for the industry.
- ETS is a market in which the traded commodity is particulate matter emissions. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) sets a cap on the total emission load from all industries.
- Various industries can buy and sell the ability to emit particulate matter, by trading permits (in kilograms) under this cap. For this reason, ETS is also called a cap-and-trade market.
How many industrial units are participating in ETS?
- 88 industries took part in the first round out of 155 that have joined ETS so far. Emission permits worth Rs 2.78 lakh were traded.
- These industries are from sectors including textiles, chemicals and sugar, and spread over an area of 50-30 sq km.
- These industries use either coal or bagasse (residue after juice is extracted from sugarcane) as fuel, thus emitting a high amount of ash.
- The participants were selected on the basis of the size of their chimneys — those with a diameter of 24 inches or more.
Why was Surat chosen for the scheme?
- In the last five years, the quality of air in Surat has deteriorated. In 2013, when the project was conceptualised, the PM10 level at Air India Building in Surat was 86 micrograms per cubic metre.
- According to GPCB annual reports, pollution levels have increased between 120-220 per cent, with PM10 in 2018 reaching 189 µg/cu. m at Air India Building, 282 µg/cu. m at Sachin Industrial Estate and 261 µg/cu. m at Garden Silk Mills.
- Surat was chosen because its industrial associations agreed to run the pilot scheme, said officials associated with the project. Also, industries in Surat had already installed Continuous Emission Monitoring Systems, which makes it possible to estimate the mass of particulate matter being released.
How does the trading take place?
- At the beginning of every one-month compliance period (during which one emission permit is valid), 80 per cent of the total cap of 280 tonnes for that period is distributed free to all participant units.
- These permits are allocated based on an industry’s emission sources (boilers, heaters, generators) as this determines the amount of particulate matter emitted.
- GPCB will offer the remaining 20 per cent of the permits during the first auction of the compliance period, at a floor price of Rs 5 per kilogram.
- Participating units may buy and sell permits among each other during the period. The price is not allowed to cross a ceiling of Rs 100 per kilogram or fall below Rs 5 per kg, both of which may be adjusted after a review.
How will ETS help reduce emissions?
- Industries in this area are emitting way above [the cap] at 362 tonnes per month. To bring them down to 280 will be a huge reduction. In the future this cap may be reduced below 280 tonnes.
- These permits are not a way to allow industries to keep polluting. Purchasing permits is only an interim measure for many of these units who find it financially difficult to install air pollution control measures.
- In other words it helps you buy some time and make investments later. So the idea of this scheme is also to make sure that some units realise that it is cheaper to install APCM and reduce emissions rather than buy permits at a higher cost that will vary due to the bidding process.
Will there be a punitive action for non-compliance?
- Based on permits held by units at the close of the compliance and true-up periods, units will be declared compliant or non-compliant. An environmental damage compensation at Rs 200/kg will be imposed for emissions in excess of a unit’s permit holdings at the end of the compliance period.
- This amount will be deducted from an environmental damage compensation deposit that each unit has to submit before the start of the scheme — Rs 2 lakh for small units, Rs 3 lakh for medium ones and Rs 10 lakh for large units. After any deduction, a unit will have to deposit extra money to meet that shortfall.
- To prevent any participant from hoarding permits, an upper limit has been set — 1.5 times the initial allocation for the compliance period, or 3 per cent of the market cap for the compliance period. Also, no unit may sell more than 90 per cent of its initial allocation.
Participatory Guarantee System
- PGS is a process of certifying organic products, which ensures that their production takes place in accordance with laid-down quality standards. The certification is in the form of a documented logo or a statement.
- According to ‘Participatory Guarantee System for India [PGS-India]’, an ‘Operational Manual for Domestic Organic Certification’ published in 2015 by the National Centre of Organic Farming, Ghaziabad, under the Ministry of Agriculture’s Department of Agriculture and Co-operation, PGS is a “quality assurance initiative that is locally relevant, emphasize[s] the participation of stakeholders, including producers and consumers, and (which) operate[s] outside the framework of third-party certification”.
- According to a 2008 definition formulated by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the Bonn-based global umbrella organisation for the organic agriculture movement, PGSs are “locally focused quality assurance systems” that “certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange”.
- PGS, according to this definition, is “a process in which people in similar situations (in this case small holder producers) assess, inspect and verify the production practices of each other and take decisions on organic certification”.
Four pillars of PGS
- The government’s 2015 PGS manual underlines that the system in India is based on “participatory approach, a shared vision, transparency and trust”.
- PARTICIPATION: Stakeholders such as producers, consumers, retailers, traders, NGOs, Gram Panchayats, and government organisations and agencies are collectively responsible for designing, operating, and decision-making. Direct communication among the stakeholders helps create an integrity- and trust-based approach with transparency in decision-making, easy access to databases and, where possible, visits to farms by consumers.
- SHARED VISION: Collective responsibility for implementation and decisionmaking is driven by a common shared vision. Each stakeholder organisation or PGS group can adopt its own vision conforming to the overall vision and standards of the PGS-India programme.
- TRANSPARENCY: At the grassroots level, transparency is maintained through the active participation of producers in the organic guarantee process, which can include information-sharing at meetings and workshops, peer reviews, and involvement in decisionmaking.
- TRUST: A fundamental premise of PGS is the idea that producers can be trusted, and that the organic guarantee system can be an expression and verification of this trust. The mechanisms for trustworthiness include a producer pledge made through a witnessed signing of a declaration, and written collective undertakings by the group to abide by the norms, principles and standards of PGS.
Advantages and limitations
- Among the advantages of PGS over third-party certification, identified by the government document, are:
- Procedures are simple, documents are basic, and farmers understand the local language used.
- All members live close to each other and are known to each other. As practising organic farmers themselves, they understand the processes well.
- Because peer appraisers live in the same village, they have better access to surveillance; peer appraisal instead of third-party inspections also reduces costs
- Mutual recognition and support between regional PGS groups ensures better networking for processing and marketing.
- Unlike the grower group certification system, PGS offers every farmer individual certificates, and the farmer is free to market his own produce independent of the group.
- However, the operational manual also identifies some limitations of PGS.
- PGS certification is only for farmers or communities that can organise and perform as a group within a village or a cluster of continguous villages, and is applicable only to farm activities such as crop production, processing, and livestock rearing, and off-farm processing “by PGS farmers of their direct products”.
- Individual farmers or group of farmers smaller than five members are not covered under PGS. They either have to opt for third party certification or join the existing PGS local group.
- PGS ensures traceability until the product is in the custody of the PGS group, which makes PGS ideal for local direct sales and direct trade between producers and consumers.
- Recently the Financial Times published from the UK reported that a draft research paper claimed Google researchers have achieved a long-sought-after goal in physics called “quantum supremacy”. The paper had appeared on the NASA website and was then pulled down, but the FT had retrieved a copy.
- Quantum supremacy refers to a quantum computer solving a problem that cannot be expected of a classical computer in a normal lifetime. This relates to the speed at which a quantum computer performs.
- According to reports about the vanished draft paper, said to have been written by scientists at Google and the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab collaboration that includes NASA researchers, the quantum processor took 200 seconds to perform a calculation that the world’s fastest supercomputer, Summit, would have taken 10,000 years to accomplish.
- The draft paper is believed to be an early version of a paper that has been submitted to a scientific journal. What differentiates a quantum computer from a traditional computer is the way the two store information.
- The former stores information in the form of bits that can take only two values, zero or one, whereas a quantum computer stores it in the form of quantum bits (qubits) that can take on various combinations of zero and one.
- The phrase “quantum supremacy” was coined in 2011 by John Preskill, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology in a talk he delivered on the benefits of using quantum hardware over traditional computers.
- Recently, President Ram Nath Kovind will visit Odisha’s Khorda district to lay the foundation of a memorial dedicated to the 1817 Paika Rebellion.
- The BJP had been demanding that the state government identify land for the Paika memorial — a project planned and proposed by the central government. Earlier this month, the state government identified 10 acres for the memorial in Khordha.
Paika Rebellion of 1817
- Paikas had been recruited since the 16th century by kings in Odisha from a variety of social groups to render martial services in return for rent-free land (nish-kar jagirs) and titles. After entering Odisha in 1803, the British introduced new revenue settlements, due to which many Odia proprietors ended up losing their lands to absentee Bengali landlords.
- Changes in the currency and revenue systems meant the Odias had to pay taxes in silver, which was more expensive for them, and resulted in their further marginalisation and oppression.
- In 1817, some 400 Kondhs, who belonged to the state of Ghumsur, banded together to revolt against the British. Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar Mohapatra Bharamarbar Rai, the highest-ranking military general of King of Khorda Mukund Dev II, led the Paikas to join the uprising.
- During the course of the rebellion, government buildings in Banapur were set on fire, policemen and British officials were killed, and the treasury was looted. The uprising lasted for a few months but was eventually crushed by the better-equipped and trained forces of the East India Company. Bakshi escaped to the jungles, and ultimately surrendered in 1825 under negotiated terms.
Remembrance of the Rebellion
- In April 2017, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Paika Rebellion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi honoured descendants from 16 families that were associated with the uprising.
- By recognising the contribution of these families, and by associating itself with the Paika tradition, the BJP hoped to tap into latent subnationalist impulses in the politics of Odisha.
- In July 2017, the Odisha government decided to formally ask the Centre to declare the rebellion as the “first war of independence in Indian history”.
- On this, then Culture Minister Ashok Chandra Panda had said, “In the real sense, the rebellion of Khorda in 1817 is the first well organised rebellion against the British.”
- In May 2018, after a review of school textbooks, the NCERT introduced a page on the Paika rebellion in the Class-8 history textbook. In December 2018, Modi released a stamp and a coin to commemorate the rebellion.
Nationalist movement or a peasant rebellion?
- The Paika Rebellion is one among the peasant rebellions that took place in India when the British East India Company was expanding its military enterprise.
- Because these uprisings violently clashed with European colonialists and missionaries on many occasions, their resistance is sometimes seen as the first expression of resistance against colonial rule — and therefore considered to be “nationalist” in nature.
Voluntary Code of Ethics
- Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) on behalf of its members has agreed to observe the “Voluntary Code of Ethics” during all future elections including the ongoing General Elections to the Haryana & Maharashtra legislative assemblies and various bye elections being held simultaneously.
- IAMAI and social media platforms Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Google, Sharechat and TikTok had presented and observed this “Voluntary Code of Ethics” during the General Election to 17thLok Sabha 2019.
- IAMAI has assured the Commission that the platforms will cooperate in ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections.
- As a result of Commission’s vigorous persuasion, all the major social media platforms and IAMAI came together and mutually devised this “Voluntary Code of Ethics” for the General Elections 2019. This came into immediate effect from the day it was presented to the Commission on 20th March, 2019.
- During the election period,social media platforms took action on 909 violative cases, reported by the ECI.
- The highlighted features of “Voluntary Code of Ethics” are as follows:
- Social Media platforms will voluntarily undertake information, education and communication campaigns to build awareness including electoral laws and other related instructions.
- Social Media platforms have created a high priority dedicated grievance redressal channel for taking expeditions action on the cases reported by the ECI.
- Social Media Platforms and ECI have developed a notification mechanism by this ECI can notify the relevant platforms of potential violations of Section 126 of the R.P. Act, 1951 and other electoral laws.
- Platforms will ensure that all political advertisements on their platforms are pre-certified from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committees as per the directions of Hon’ble Supreme Court.
- Participating platforms are committed to facilitate transparency in paid political advertisements, including utilising their pre-existing labels/disclosure technology for such advertisements.
- It is a five-year programme initiated in December 2018 that focuses on developing tools and techniques to bolster ecosystem management and harnessing ecosystem services in forest landscape management.
- Tetra Tech ARD, a consulting and engineering company headquartered in the US, was given the contract to implement the programme and IORA Ecological Solutions, a New Delhi-based environmental advisory group, is its implementation partner.
- Forest-PLUS 2.0, the second set of pilot projects, is meant to enhance sustainable forest landscape management after Forest-PLUS completed its five years in 2017.
- The programme’s first set focused on capacity building to help India participate in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+). It included four pilot projects in Sikkim, Rampur, Shivamogga and Hoshangabad.
- Under these, field tests, innovative tools and approaches for Indian forest management were developed. Promotion of bio-briquettes in Sikkim, introduction of solar heating systems in Rampur and development of an agro-forestry model in Hoshangabad were some of the achievements of this programme.
- Forest-PLUS 2.0 comprises pilot project in three landscapes — Gaya in Bihar, Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Medak in Telangana. The choice of these sites was driven by the contrast in their landscapes – Bihar is a forest deficit area, Telangana is a relatively drier area where there is ample scope for community livelihood enhancement and Kerala is rich in biodiversity.
- The targets of this set are –
- 1,20,000 hectares of land under improved management
- New, inclusive economic activity worth $12 million
- Measurable benefits accrued to 800,000 households
- Three incentive mechanisms demonstrated in managing landscapes for ecosystem services
- To achieve these targets, the programme has three focal points of action –
- Developing tools for multiple services in forests management. The tools consist innovative apps for automating forest planning processes, model forest management plans. These tools are expected to result in enhanced water flow and quality, improved livelihoods and resilience of forest-dependent communities.
- Developing incentive-based instruments for leveraging finance. For example, a payment mechanism where a municipality or industry would pay upstream forest communities to use water flowing down because of improved forest management.
- Unlocking economic opportunities for forest-dependent people by modelling and setting up conservation enterprises and mobilising investment from the private sector.
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