6th January 2021

Index

A) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues

1. UJALA and SLNP complete six years (PIB)

B) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations

2. Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (RKA) (PIB)

C) International Relations

3. Gulf leaders sign deal to end years-long dispute (TH)

D) Science and Technology, Defence, Space

4. Pfizer skipped meeting with expert panel thrice, says Health Ministry (TH)

E) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

5. Install smog towers at big work sites: SC (TH)

6. Asian Waterbird Census-2021 (TH)

F) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments

7. HC permits transgender to contest panchayat poll from women’s category (TH)

8. SC says ‘no’ to intense Judicial Review (TH)

G) Miscellaneous

9. Toycathon 2021 (PIB)

10. Swasth Vayu (PIB)

11. Magneto-telluric (MT) (PIB)

12. Global Economic Prospects (GEP) Report (TH)

A) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues

1. UJALA and SLNP complete six years (PIB)

  • Launched in January 2015, the Government of India’s zero subsidy Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) and Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP) marks their sixth anniversary recently.
  • Both the programmes are being implemented by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a joint venture of PSUs under the Ministry of Power, since their inception.
  • Under UJALA, EESL has distributed over 36.69 crore LED bulbs across India.
  • This has resulted in energy savings, reduction in peak demand and decreased GHG emissions.
  • Additionally, over 72 lakh LED tube lights and over 23 lakh energy efficient fans have also been distributed at affordable price under this programme.
  • With SLNP, EESL has installed about 1.14 crore LED streetlights across India.
  • This has resulted in energy savings, reduced peak demand, GHG emission reduction and monetary savings in electricity bills of municipalities.

Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL)

  • EESL is a joint venture of four national Public-Sector Undertakings – NTPC Limited, Power Finance Corporation Limited, Rural Electrification Corporation Limited and POWERGRID Corporation of India Limited – under the Ministry of Power.
  • EESL also leads the market-related activities of the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE), one of the eight national missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change.
  • The company’s energy service model combines cost reduction achieved by demand aggregation and economies of scale, which in turn have stimulated India’s private energy efficiency investments and large-scale manufacturing.
  • EESL focuses on solution-driven innovation with no subsidy or capital expenditure (CAPEX).
  • It is able to do so using its Pay-As-You-Save (PAYS) model, which obviates the need for any upfront capital investment by the consumer.
  • The entire investment by EESL is recovered through monetised energy savings over a scheduled project period.
  • Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) is a Super-Energy Service Company (ESCO).
  • EESL is implementing the world’s largest non-subsidised energy efficiency portfolio across sectors like lighting, buildings, e-mobility, smart metering and agriculture at a scale which no organization has been able to achieve.
  • Objectives
  1. To carry out and promote the business of Energy Efficiency and climate change including manufacture and supply of energy efficiency services and products.
  2. To Provide consultancy services in the field of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects, carbon markets, demand side management, energy efficiency, climate change and related areas.
  3. To act as resource center in the field of Energy Efficiency and take up the activities of Capacity Building, Training and other related activities.

B) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations

2. Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (RKA) (PIB)

Context: Rastriya Kamdhenu Aayog announces Kamdhenu Gau-Vigyan Prachar-Prasar Exam

Analysis

  • Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (RKA) is a high-powered permanent body constituted vide a resolution in 2019.
  • It comes under the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying
  • Even though, the country is largest producer of milk, the average milk yield in India is only 50% of the world average.
  • The low productivity is largely due to deterioration in genetic stock, poor nutrition and unscientific management.

    The Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog has been constituted for:
  1. Conservation, protection and development of cows and their progeny;
  2. Proper implementation of laws with respect to prohibition of slaughter and / or cruelty to cows and
  3. Giving direction to the cattle development programmes.

The Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog is aimed at achieving following:

  1. Sustainable development and genetic upgradation of genetic resources of cows in India.
  2. Conservation and development of Indigenous Breeds of cows and improved management of cows of the country.
  3. Enhanced production and productivity throughout country, leading to higher farm income and better quality of life for the dairy farmers.
  4. Protection and promotion of the interest of dairy cooperatives, Livestock Development Agencies, farmer producer companies and dairy industries in the country.
  5. Effective implementation of laws for welfare of the cows and its progenies in the country and proper working of Gaushals, Gosadans and Pinjrapoles and other organizations/institutes for protection and development of cows and their progenies.

C) International Relations

3. Gulf leaders sign deal to end years-long dispute (TH)

  • Gulf leaders signed a “solidarity and stability” deal on Tuesday (5 Jan 2021) after leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar publicly embraced, bringing Doha back into the regional fold after a three-year-long rift.
  • Saudi Arabia had led a coalition of countries in the Gulf and beyond to cut ties and transport links with Qatar in June 2017, charging that it was too close to Iran and backed radical Islamist groups — allegations that Doha denied.
  • Those countries, along with Oman and Kuwait, which have mediated between the two sides, signed a deal in Al-Ula, after Riyadh overnight re-opened its land, sea and air borders to Doha.
  • Note: Qatar crisis has been comprehensively explained in 5th Dec File.

D) Science and Technology, Defence, Space

4. Pfizer skipped meeting with expert panel thrice, says Health Ministry (TH)

  • Pfizer Inc, which has applied for approval to market its RNA-based vaccine that has got the go-ahead in the U.S. and the U.K, has not yet appeared for a presentation before the Subject Expert Committee.
  • Pfizer’s vaccine has also been pre-qualified by the World Health Organization and is being made available in several other countries.
  • It employs a technology platform in which a small part of the SARS-CoV-2, called the messenger RNA, that normally gives instructions to cells to make protein, can instruct the body’s cells to make viral proteins that can then trigger an immune response.
  • This can reduce instances of adverse side effects without compromising on the immune system’s ability to launch a protective response that can protect against infection.
  • There have been challenges in keeping the m-RNA stable.
  • The technology also allows such vaccines to be made relatively quickly compared to the current approaches of culturing virus strain in chicken eggs.
  • However, a relative drawback is it requires extreme sub-zero degree refrigeration that is not available in most of the world, including India.
  • “What is an mRNA vaccine” was covered in 7th Nov file.

E) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

5. Install smog towers at big work sites: SC (TH)

Context: The Supreme Court ordered the Centre to issue directions for the mandatory installation of smog towers in all major development projects, including the construction of the new Parliament building.

Analysis

Recommendations of the High Level Committee (HLC) to control air pollution in Delhi

  • Painting roads with photocatalytic coating to clean air, using anti-smog guns at construction sites to reduce dust pollution and setting up of a 20 metre-high ‘smog tower’ with air purifiers are among the pilot projects suggested by a High Level Committee (HLC) to the Supreme Court to control air pollution in Delhi and NCR.

Painting roads

  • Photocatalytic paints can remove pollutants from the air in the presence of sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) rays.
  • It can be applied on a range of surfaces, such as roofing tiles or even on the surface of roads.
  • Photocatalytic paints contain titanium dioxide [TiO2] which acts as a catalyst when exposed to UV rays and removes atmospheric pollutants.
  • The catalyst converts the pollutants into other species.
  • But there is a risk that nano materials present in these paints may result in production of other undesirable species such as nitrous acid and formaldehyde, which will have adverse health impacts.

Smog tower

  • The HLC has also suggested that a pilot project of “smog tower.”
  • The committee said in its report that smog towers, as per the current knowledge and experience, may not provide a viable solution to improve air quality on a large scale, they are suitable for a localised effect only.
  • The system comprises a series of specially-adapted greenhouses situated at the base of the tower, which suck in polluted air and heat it using solar energy.
  • The heated polluted air then passes through multiple layers of filters before it is released back into the environment.  
  • China had, last year, set up the world’s largest air purification tower in the city of Xi’an. According to reports, the 100 metre-high tower was able to make significant improvements to Xi’an’s air quality.
  • Recently, a group of environmentalists have written an open letter to the Supreme Court, urging it not to direct the Centre or the States to spend public money on “expensive” and “inefficient” smog towers, which will “only benefit the manufacturers and sellers”.
  • India’s leading air pollution scientists and researchers unanimously say that outdoor air purifiers are inefficient to the point of being useless.
  • These are ineffective in bringing down PM2.5 levels and may even add to pollution when the dirty filters are disposed off in our already overflowing landfills and burnt.

Anti-smog gun

  • Anti-smog gun is a device that sprays nebulized/ atomised water droplets into the air through high pressure propellers, which help particles to settle down.
  • The gun is attached to a water tank built on a movable vehicle, which can be taken to various parts of the city.
  • Anti-smog guns may be effective in controlling localised dust during the period of application and more suitable to high dust emission zones such as large construction sites.

Oxy furnace

  • Oxy furnace uses only oxygen as fuel instead of atmospheric air (which contains nitrogen), thus reducing the production of NOx by about 90% in industries.
  • But the committee also said that NOx is mostly released in urban centres from vehicles and not industries.

Wireless Sensor Network

  • Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) technology to monitor air pollution is still in developmental stage and IIT and NEERI are reviewing its performance.
  • The committee has informed that WSN may be used as an indicative monitoring tool for a few activities like mining, large construction sites, to supplement air quality data and report to regulator for conducting further investigation.

LiDAR

  • LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging is a high-end application of LASER-based technology for monitoring pollution.
  • The HLC has recommended that this technology may be adopted for vertical monitoring at a few places to track transport of pollutants at higher altitude.

Smog Free Project

  • It is created by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde in 2016 as a means of purifying air. It also turns particulate matter it into jewellery by compressing 1,000 cubic meters of polluted air into rings, which visitors can purchase.

What is Smog?

  • Smog is a kind of air pollution, originally named for the mixture of smoke and fog in the air.
  • Today, smog generally refers to photochemical smog, which is the haze created when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that can be found in fossil fuel emissions from automobiles, factories, and power plants.
  • These reactions create ground-level ozone and tiny particles in the air, known as particulate matter.
  • Smog can form in almost any climate where industries or cities release large amounts of air pollution.
  • However, it is worse during periods of warmer, sunnier weather when the upper air is warm enough to inhibit vertical circulation.
  • During the winter months when the wind speeds are low, it helps the smoke and fog to become stagnate at a place forming smog.
  • Certain landscapes can also contribute to smog problems. For example, large cities located in basins surrounded by mountains are more likely to have problems with smog, because smog gets trapped in the valley where it can’t be blown away by winds.
  • Delhi, Los Angeles and Mexico City are cities known for having smog problems that are exacerbated by their landscapes

Harmful Effects of Smog

  • Not only does smog reduce visibility and create an unattractive haze on the horizon, it also has negative health effects.
  • Smog also affects plants and animals.
  • The ground level ozone present in the smog also inhibits plant growth and causes immense damage to crops and forests.
  • Heavy smog is responsible for decreasing the UV radiation greatly.
  • Thus, heavy smog results in a low production of the crucial natural element vitamin D leading to cases of rickets among people.
  • Smog has also been known to cause corrosive damage to buildings and vehicles.

6. Asian Waterbird Census-2021 (TH)

Context: The two-day Asian Waterbird Census-2021 commenced in Andhra Pradesh recently under the aegis of experts from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), covering at least two dozen sites, including Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, Kolleru Lake and Krishna Sanctuary.

  • Dr. Sathiyaselvam, who had previously explored the avian diversity in the Godavari estuary, said more study was still required to establish that the Indian Skimmer breeds on the Kakinada coast, which supports a great number of Indian Skimmer.

Analysis

  • Every January, thousands of volunteers across Asia and Australasia visit wetlands in their country and count waterbirds. This citizen science programme is the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC).
  • The AWC is an integral part of the global waterbird monitoring programme, the International Waterbird Census (IWC), coordinated by Wetlands International.
  • This is the 51st annual round of the International Birds Census and the 31st round of the Asian Birds Census.
  • It runs in parallel with other regional programmes of the International Waterbird Census in Africa, Europe, West Asia, the Neotropics and the Caribbean.
  • The AWC was initiated in 1987 in the Indian subcontinent and since has grown rapidly to cover major region of Asia, from Afghanistan eastwards to Japan, Southeast Asia and Australasia.
  1. The census, thus covers the entire East Asian – Australasian Flyway and a large part of the Central Asian Flyway.
  2. There are four separate regional schemes of the IWC that represent the major flyways of the world: Africa-Eurasia, Asia-Pacific, Caribbean and Neotropics.

The census has the following objectives:

  1. To obtain information on an annual basis of waterbird populations at wetlands in the region during the non-breeding period of most species (January), as a basis for evaluation of sites and monitoring of populations;
  2. To monitor on an annual basis the status and condition of wetlands;
  3. To encourage greater interest in waterbirds and wetlands amongst citizens.
  • The information collected is available to a wide range of government agencies and non-government organizations and contributes to conservation activities from the local to global level, including:
  1. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, in identifying and monitoring wetlands of international importance;
  2. The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), by monitoring the status of migratory waterbirds and their habitats;
  3. The Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) goal in conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity;
  4. Implementation of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership Initiative (EAAFP) and Central Asian Flyway Action Plan through monitoring important and Flyway Network sites;
  5. BirdLife International’s Important Bird Area (IBA) Programme;
  6. IUCN/BirdLife International’s Global Species Programme (Red List);
  7. Wetlands International’s Waterbird Population Estimates programme.
  8. Bird population is a criterion for declaring a place as a Ramsar site.
  9. Wetlands International is the only global not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wetlands.
  • 2020 was a special year for biodiversity as it marked the end of the landmark Aichi 2020 Biodiversity Targets, that governments around the world had agreed several years ago.  

F) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments

7. HC permits transgender to contest panchayat poll from women’s category (TH)

Context: The Bombay High Court’s Aurangabad Bench has allowed a transgender to contest village panchayat polls in women’s category, saying that such persons have the right to “self-perceived gender identity”.

  • The court in its order said that the Union government has introduced the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, and has permitted a transgender person to have a right to self-perceived gender identity.
  • Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 was covered in 15th July file.

8. SC says ‘no’ to intense Judicial Review (TH)

Context: Supreme Court refused to treat the Central Vista project as a unique one requiring greater or “heightened” judicial review.

  • A majority view of the Supreme Court said the government was “entitled to commit errors or achieve successes” in policy matters without the court’s interference as long as it follows constitutional principles.

Analysis

  • The doctrine of separation of powers implies that each pillar of democracy – the executive, legislature and the judiciary – perform separate functions and act as separate entities. 
  • The doctrine is a part of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution even though it is not specifically mentioned in its text. 
  • Thus, no law may be passed and no amendment may be made to the Constitution deviating from the doctrine.
  • Different agencies impose checks and balances upon each other but may not transgress upon each other’s functions. 
  • Thus, the judiciary exercises judicial review over executive and legislative action, and the legislature reviews the functioning of the executive.
  • There have been some cases where the courts have issued laws and policy related orders through their judgements.

    These include
  1. The Vishakha case where guidelines on sexual harassment were issued by the Supreme Court.
  2. The order of the Court directing the Centre to distribute food grains (2010).
  3. The appointment of the Special Investigation Team to replace the High Level Committee established by the Centre for investigating black money deposits in Swiss Banks.
  • In 2007 SC noted that, “Courts cannot create rights where none exist nor can they go on making orders which are incapable of enforcement or violative of other laws or settled legal principles. With a view to see that judicial activism does not become judicial adventurism the courts must act with caution and proper restraint. It needs to be remembered that courts cannot run the government. The judiciary should act only as an alarm bell; it should ensure that the executive has become alive to perform its duties.”
  • The power of judicial review is significantly vested upon the High Courts and the Supreme Court of India.
  1. Under Article 13 of the Indian Constitution, the compulsion of judicial review was described in fundamental rights in Part III.
  2. It is stated that the State or the Union shall not make such rules/acts that are inconsistent with or in derogation of the fundamental rights. If any law made by the Parliament or the State Legislature contravenes the provisions of this Article 13, it shall be void.

Meaning of Judicial Review

  • Judicial Review can be understood as a form of court proceeding, where the lawfulness of a decision or action is reviewed by the judge.
  • The main concern behind Judicial Review is that whether the law has been correctly applied with and right procedures have been followed.
  • Judicial review has evolved in three dimensions, namely:
  1. To protect the legality of essential rights under Part III of the Indian Constitution.
  2. To authorize the disinterest of organizational achievement.
  3. Guardian of public interest.

G) Miscellaneous

9. Toycathon 2021 (PIB)

  • Ministry of Education, Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), Ministry of Textile, Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Ministry of MSME, Ministry of I&B and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) have jointly launched Toycathon-2021.
  • This is a special kind of hackathon where students and teachers from schools and colleges, design experts, toy experts and startups will get together to crowd source ideas for developing toys and games that are based on Indian culture and ethos, local folklore and heroes, and Indian value systems.
  • While this will greatly help India develop into a global hub for toys and games (at present India imports 80 per cent of toys), it will also help our children to understand the ethos and values of Indian culture as envisaged in the National Education Policy 2020.

10. Swasth Vayu (PIB)

  • Swasth Vayu is the non-invasive ventilator developed by CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL).

11. Magneto-telluric (MT) (PIB)

  • Magneto-telluric (MT) is a geophysical method which uses natural time variation of the Earth’s magnetic and electic fields to understand geological (underground) structure and processes.
  • These measurements can help to ascertain the presence of fluid, which generally enhances the possibility of triggering of earthquakes.

12. Global Economic Prospects (GEP) Report (TH)

  • Global economic output is projected to grow by 4% in 2021 assuming widespread roll-out of a COVID-19 vaccine throughout the year, as per the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects (GEP) report released recently. 

Other Major World Bank Publications

  • Global Economic Prospects, World Development Indicators, World Development Report, International Debt Statistics, Migration and Development Brief, Ease of Doing Business Index, Human Capital Index (HCI), Human Capital Project (HCP) etc. are among the major publications of the World Bank.

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