- World Bank approves $1.5-bn loan for Swachh Bharat
- Exclusive right to enter sanctum sanctorum is not untouchability: Supreme court
- MoU in energy saving and energy efficiency among BRICS countries
Environment & Ecology
- Luxury diesel vehicles banned in Delhi, NCR
Science & Technology
- Google’s Project Loon
- ISRO launches six Singaporean satellites
World Bank approves $1.5-bn loan for Swachh Bharat
The Swachh Bharat Mission received a significant boost with the World Bank approving a $1.5-billion loan.
- To aid the Indian government’s efforts to end the practice of open defecation by 2019.
- The loan is being extended by the World Bank’s International Bank of Reconstruction and Development.
- The loan is meant for supporting the rural section of the Swachh Bharat Mission over five years, focusing not only on toilet construction but also on ensuring its usage.
- The World Bank will also provide a $25-million technical assistance for building the capacity of select State governments.
World Bank data show that:
- Of the 2.4 billion people who lack access to improved sanitation worldwide, over 750 million live in India, around 80 per cent of them in rural areas.
- More than 500 million of India’s rural population continue to defecate in the open, suffering from preventable deaths, illness, stunting, harassment and economic losses.
- According to World Bank, one in every 10 deaths in India is linked to poor sanitation.
About Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin):
- The Swachh Bharat Mission, launched in October 2014, consists of two sub-missions – the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) (SBM-G), which will be implemented in rural areas, and the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), which will be implemented in urban areas.
- SBM-G seeks to eliminate open defecation in rural areas by 2019 through improving access to sanitation.
- SBM-G also includes the key components of the earlier sanitation schemes such as the funding for the construction of individual household toilets, construction of community sanitary complexes, waste management, and Information, Education and Communication (IEC).
[Courtesy: The Hindu, Business Standard]
Exclusive right to enter sanctum sanctorum is not untouchability: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has ruled that appointment of archakas in Tamil Nadu temples as per the Agamas was not a violation of the right to equality.
- The Supreme Court has ruled that the exclusive right given to a particular group or denomination to enter the sanctum sanctorum of a temple and perform rituals could not be construed as a practice of untouchability.
- To justify this reasoning, the Bench referred to a century-old ruling of the Madras High Court in the Gopala Moopanar case which explained that the exclusion prescribed in the Agamas was not on the basis of caste, birth or pedigree. [The Moopanar case revealed how some Agamas even excluded Brahmins from the sanctum sanctorum and duties of performance of pujas.]
- In the context of the Constitution Bench judgment of 1972 in the Seshammal case, the Supreme Court explained that Agamas were the “fundamental religious belief” of a particular sect.
- The court observed that inclusion or exclusion as per the Agama Shastras should not be based on the criteria of caste, birth or any other constitutionally unacceptable parameters.
- The controversy dates back to 1959 with the enactment of the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act. The statute, through Section 55, had upheld the right of hereditary priesthood in Tamil Nadu temples.
- The State moved to abolish hereditary succession of priesthood by amending the 1959 Act. The abolishment of Section 55 was challenged in the Seshammal case.
- A Constitution Bench upheld the abolishment of hereditary succession, but said the appointment of office-bearers or servants of the temples are required to be made from a particular denomination/group/sect as mandated by the Agamas, i.e. treatises pertaining to matters like construction of temples; installation of idols and conduct of worship of the deity.
- Matters continued peacefully until the DMK government issued the Government Order on May 23, 2006, followed by an ordinance which amended the 1959 Act to introduce the provision that “any person who is a Hindu and possessing the requisite qualification and training can be appointed Archaka in Hindu temples.”
- The word Agama means ‘that which has come to (us)’. Tantra means ‘that which protects with detail’.
- Agamas and Tantras are a vast collection of knowledge and form a major portion of spiritual literature and practices.
- Like the Veda, they have come down through Guru-Sishya parampara, in oral traditions.
- There are three main classes of Agamic/Tantric texts (though not limited to these)
- Vaishnava Agamas,
- Saiva Agamas and
- Sakta Tantras,
- The Vaishnava and Saiva texts are generally called Agamas, while the word Tantra in general applies to Sakta texts. However, technically Tantra is a part of Agama and owing to the centrality of Tantra the two words are used often interchangeably.
- While some Saivite temples practise Tamil Agamas too, rituals in Vaishnavite temples are based on Vaikhanasa Agamas and the Pancharathra Agamas, or the Five Nights.
- Pancharathra Agamas, considered an esoteric subject, is believed to have been taught by Lord Vishnu himself to the sages over five nights.
- Agamas incorporate a fundamental religious belief of the necessity of performance of the poojas by Archakas belonging to a particular and distinct sect/group/denomination, failing which, there will be defilement of deity requiring purification ceremonies.
[Courtesy: Hindu, Wiki]
MoU in energy saving and energy efficiency among BRICS countries
The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval to an MoU signed between India and its BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) counterparts for strengthening and further developing of energy saving and energy efficiency cooperation based on the principles of equality and mutual benefit.
The MoU provides the following areas of cooperation in the field of Energy Savings and Energy Efficiency:
- Joint scientific and technological research,
- Conferencing and holding of lectures and seminars;
- Capacity building and technology transfer;
- Technology development, sharing policies and best practices;
- Encouragement of use of energy efficient and energy saving approaches and instruments in the work of the business entities of the BRICS countries, carried out within the BRICS countries in Consultation with the host country.
Environment & Ecology
Luxury diesel vehicles banned in Delhi, NCR
In a strong step to release the stranglehold of air pollution on the Capital city, the Supreme Court has imposed a ban on the registration of diesel-run private cars of the capacity of 2000 CC and above and SUVs up to March 31, 2016.
- SC has noted that these vehicles are used by the rich and the common man or average citizen will hardly feel the pinch.
- SC has reasoned that these high-end diesel vehicles were more prone to cause higher levels of pollution.
Supreme Court’s other Rulings:
- All taxis including those operating under aggregators like OLA and UBER in the NCT of Delhi, plying under city permits, shall move to C.N.G. not later than March 1, 2016.
- The court further held that empty/unladen vehicles bound for Delhi, can enter Delhi on payment of the ECC earlier stipulated by the court at Rs.700 for light vehicles and Rs.1300 for four-axle ones.
- Goods-laden commercial vehicles entering Delhi would have to pay twice the current ECC. This was meant to “discourage any vehicle trying to enter Delhi on a false pretext of the goods loaded on it being Delhi bound”.
- Commercial vehicles registered in the year 2005 or earlier would also not qualify to enter Delhi and should be turned back by the neighbouring States and Union Territories.
- The court directed the Delhi government to take immediate steps for procurement of the requisite vacuum cleaning vehicles for use on Delhi roads.
- The court said norms of construction work prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board, including putting up curtains and other devices at construction sites should be strictly enforced to reduce dust.
- The court further ordered the local bodies and Delhi government to ensure that no solid waste is burnt and they are disposed off in a non-hazardous scientific manner.
[Courtesy: The Hindu]
Science & Technology
Google’s Project Loon
According to Google about two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access. In the wake of this, Google had a revolutionary plan to give everyone the opportunity to use the Internet.
About Project Loon:
- Project Loon is a research and development project being developed by Google.
- Objective of the project is to provide Internet access to rural and remote areas and to improve communication during natural disasters to affected regions.
How it works:
- The project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 18 km to create an aerial wireless network with up to 4G-LTE speeds.
- The balloons are manoeuvred by adjusting their altitude in the stratosphere to float to a wind layer after identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction using wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- Users of the service connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building.
- The signal travels through the balloon network from balloon to balloon, then to a ground-based station connected to an Internet service provider (ISP), then onto the global Internet.
Why in Stratosphere:
- Google asserts that this particular layer of the stratosphere is advantageous because of its relatively low wind speeds (e.g., wind speeds between 10 to 30 kmph) and minimal turbulence.
- Moreover, Google claims that it can model, with reasonable accuracy, the seasonal, longitudinal, and latitudinal variations in wind speeds within the 18–25 km stratospheric layer.
- The Centre has expressed fears that the frequency band proposed to be used by Google could interfere with cellular transmissions.
- The proposed frequency band to be used in Google’s Loon Project is being used for cellular operations and it will lead to interference with cellular transmissions
[Courtesy: The Hindu, Wiki]
ISRO launches six Singaporean satellites
The Indian Space Research Organisation has put Singapore’s first commercial earth-observation satellite in space through a launch on the polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV).
- The TeLEOS-I, a 400-kg satellite, was joined by five other smaller satellites, all from Singapore, on the PSLV-C29 mission.
- These six satellites were launched as part of the agreement entered into between ST Electronics (Satcom & Sensor Systems), Singapore and Antrix Corporation Limited, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), a government of India Company under the Department of Space (DOS).
- The six satellites, which together weight about 624 kg, were deposited into an orbit of 549 km from the earth’s surface.
- These six satellites took the count of foreign satellites launched by ISRO to 57.
- Call it coincidence or otherwise, the launch of six Singapore satellites came in the year when Singapore is celebrating its 50 years of Independence and 50 years of Indo-Singapore diplomatic ties.
[Courtesy: Indian Express]