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Daily Hindu notes for UPSC IAS preparation

General Studies-01

Yamuna in distress after immersions

News:

  • Government agencies in the national capital have failed the dying Yamuna yet again this year, as the nine-day-long Durga Puja festivities, which came to a halt on Saturday, left the river in dire straits.

Beyond News:

  • On the banks of south Delhi’s Kalindi Kunj Ghat and north Delhi’s Nigam Bodh Ghat, half submerged idols of Durga, most of them made of Plaster of Paris (PoP), were seen on Sunday.
  • A sea of plastic bags floating in river with glass bangles, flower petals and other decorations made of metal and plastic.

Legal interference: 

  • The green court had in 2015 placed a complete ban on the use of PoP and paints with high levels of lead for making idols, which are known to cause serious damage to the soil and water of the ecologically-sensitive area when immersed.
  • Guidelines were also issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2010 and by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), which have largely been unheeded.
  • Sanjay Upadhyay, a senior environment lawyer who raised the issue of the pollution caused by idol immersions in the Yamuna before the NGT in September, had made a special appeal before the court that a detailed action plan be filed by agencies — the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), three municipal corporations of the city (east, south and north), and the Delhi government — on how they would tackle the high influx of devotees to the ghats and check pollution.

General Studies-02

Let Ayodhya be melting pot, says Mahant Vedanti

News:

  • The Supreme Court’s suggestion in March for a consensual decision to end the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute involving all parties has set off some churn in the decades-old dispute, with a proposal to build an inter-faith Vishwadharmi Shriram Manavata Bhavan in Ayodhya.

Beyond News:

  • The Bhavan is proposed to be built on the disused 67-acre plot of land adjacent to the makeshift temple at Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya.
  • The proposal will be discussed at a conference to be held in New Delhi under the aegis of the World Peace Centre at Alandi in Maharashtra, headed by Vishwanath Karad (who has filed an intervention petition in the Ram Janmabhoomi case).
  • A scale model of the proposed inter-faith Bhavan will be on display at the Constitution Club in Delhi for public viewing during the conference.
  • The Shia Waqf Board had, in April, filed a 30-page affidavit saying that they were amenable to the construction of a mosque at a distance from the disputed site.

Police issue summons to 14 BHU students

News:

  • The Uttar Pradesh police have issued summons to more than a dozen students of the Banaras Hindu University involved in last week’s protests, citing various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including attempt to murder.

Beyond News:

  • An FIR had been lodged at the Lanka police station in Varanasi under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including:
  1. 148(rioting with armed weapon),
  2. 307 (attempt to murder),
  3. 353 (criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of duties),
  4. 332 (voluntarily causing hurt) and
  5. 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house).

{Op-Ed}Back to paper: on using VVPAT in Gujarat polls

Issue:

  • The Election Commission’s decision to deploy the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail system for all the constituencies in the Gujarat Assembly elections is questionable.

VVPAT & voting machines

Background:

  • This will be the first time VVPAT will be used on a State-wide basis.
  • A costly but useful complement to the Electronic Voting Machine.
  • It had also challenged political parties to a hackathon to see if, with these safeguards in place, EVMs could be manipulated.

Concerns:

  • The implementation of VVPAT was to have been undertaken by the EC in a phased manner, but this blanket use appears to have been expedited after a series of unwarranted attacks on EVMs by some political parties and scaremongers.
  • The introduction of VVPAT and the audit process should allay some of the doubts raised by EVM naysayers — but this is a costly process and should not become the norm going forward.
  • The EC had sought to allay concerns and confront allegations of voter fraud by running through the administrative and technological safeguards instituted to keep EVMs and the voting process tamper-proof.

Advantages:

  • it allows the voter to verify her vote after registering it on the EVM,
  • the paper trail allows for an audit of the election results by the EC in a select and randomised number of constituencies.

General Studies-03

{Op-Ed} Maximum neglect: on Elphinstone stampede

Issue:

  • Mumbai’s ghastly suburban railway stampede, in which 23 people died after being crushed on a narrow staircase, was the inevitable consequence of prolonged neglect of urban public transport in India.

Background:

  • The financial capital depends mainly on the 300 km suburban system, which has some of the highest passenger densities for any city railway in the world. Yet, it has no single accountable manager.
  • It is unthinkable for a modern railway system to continue with business as usual when about 3,500 people die on its tracks in a year.

Solutions:

  1. Creating canopies to shield passengers, such as those crowding the staircase to escape the rain in Mumbai,
  2. putting in escalators and lifts,
  3. providing exits on both sides of train coaches towards the street level wherever feasible…etc

Challenges:

  • Reforming archaic transport planning and management for urban India remains the still bigger challenge.
  • A sound transport demand management strategy would consider mapping travel patterns, and shifting some institutions to areas in the wider Mumbai Metropolitan Region where infrastructure, including housing, and amenities can be planned in advance.
  • The latest carnage is evidence of the failure of civic policy to factor in the need for pedestrian access, and it applies not just to stations but to the wider city.
  • The number of private vehicles and taxis has grown in Mumbai by four and six times, respectively, over the past two decades, leading to lobbying for wider roads and more flyovers, while mass mobility systems and facilities for walkers and cycle-users have not received similar attention.

Way ahead:

The families of the dead and the injured should be given exemplary compensation, to reinforce the accountability of the railway administration.

Coal is still the secret of our energy

  • With India embarking on an ambitious journey to achieve renewable energy capacity of 175 gigawatt (GW) by 2022, questions have been raised on the relevance of coal in the present context.

Does coal, the principal source of energy for now, face a dark future?

  • According to analysts, renewable energy sources and coal will coexist, as the availability of coal is abundant in India and it can provide affordable power to propel India’s growth and light every household.
  • Despite the rapid growth in renewable energy, legacy coal plants will continue to generate thermal energy.
  • This is evident from the fact that captive power plants purchased 80% of the coal offered on a five-year contract at an auction at an average premium of 25% over the notified price.
  • At a similar auction held last year, Coal India had managed to receive a premium of 19% over the notified price.

In Indian context:

  • In India, coal has always been thought of as the raw material for power. Because the demand from the power sector was much more than the availability of coal in the last 10 years, no serious thought has gone into any other use for coal.
  • Once the power sector begins to use increasing amounts of power from solar and other renewable sources, then coal can be put to use elsewhere: eg, coal can be deployed in the manufacture of ammonia and for conversion of ammonia to fertilizer.
  • With the government’s plans to usher in a second green revolution, the demand for domestically-made fertilizer will be high.
  • Thoughts are being channelised now to come up with methods to produce chemicals such as methanol and others of its ilk from coal.
  • India’s total coal reserve is estimated at a little more than 300 billion tonnes. If 50% of that is extractable, a 1-billion-tonne annual consumption will translate into availability for 150 years.

Green energy may power Kochi water metro ferries

News:

  • The 78 ferries proposed for the Kochi water metro will make it the world’s second largest in terms of the number of vessels.

Beyond News:

  • The biggest fleet, comprising 156 ferries, operates in Venice.
  • A general consultant, which is reviewing the ₹747-crore project mooted as a water-based extension of the Kochi metro, will shortly suggest specifications for boats, jetties, and other components.
  • The first lot of modern ferries, including air-conditioned ones, is expected to take to Kochi’s waterbodies by the end of 2018, said sources in Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL).

Advantages:

  • The advantage is power can be drawn simultaneously from diesel and electric energy.
  • The diesel generator will step in if the vessel exhausts its electric power, they added.
  • The ferries will rely on an intelligent navigation system.
  • They will also have passenger information system, GPS tracking, on-board WiFi and surveillance systems, all monitored from an operational control centre.
  • There might even be provision to carry bicycles on board, to promote eco-friendly transport.

111 leopards spotted at tiger reserve

News:

  • In what is seen as a healthy sign of leopard population in the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR), the Forest Department has identified and tagged 111 leopards through camera traps over a period of three years.

Beyond News:

  • These included a leopardess with her three cubs.
  • To promote conservation of the tiger, the Ministry of Environment and Forests is implementing ‘Project Tiger’ at the 50 tiger reserves in the country through the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
  • Tiger estimation is done through camera traps in association with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The STR — spread across 1,411.60sq.km. — has tigers, elephants, leopards, gaurs, blackbucks, four-horned antelopes, hyenas, wild dogs, white-backed vultures, deer and other animals.
  • As many as 320 camera traps were placed in the forest during the last three years to capture the images of tigers and other animals.
  • After profiling the images based on the unique skin rosette pattern, the department identified 111 leopards, including 35 male, 56 female and 20 unclassified leopards.

General Studies-04

Army veteran asked to prove Indian identity

News:

  • Mohammad Haque retired as a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) last year after serving the Army for 30 years, but that wasn’t a proof enough that he was Indian.

Beyond News:

  • Last month, he was issued summons by a foreigners tribunal in Assam to prove his identity.
  • It resulted in widespread outrage.
  • Mr. Haque who served in the Army’s Corps of Engineers was summoned by the foreigners tribunal to appear before it on October 13 as he figured in the list of “doubtful voters” and prove he is not an illegal migrant from Bangladesh.

Background:

  • This is not the first time he had to face such an ordeal.
  • In 2012, Mr. Haque’s wife Mumtaz Begum had a similar experience but was declared an Indian by the tribunal.
  • He has been summoned on the premise that he moved to India after 1971.
  • Mr. Haque said that he is a citizen of India and his mother Rahimon Nesa was in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) of 1951.
  • While he retired from the Army, one of his sons is studying at the Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), Dehradun and wants to join the Army.

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