Polity & Governance
- EWS quota challenge referred to Constitution Bench
Government Schemes & Policies
- MyGoa Citizen Engagement Platform
Issues related to Health & Education
- Higher Education Funding Agency
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Conditions on Commercial Use of Groundwater
Bilateral & International Relations
- Blast in Lebanon’s capital
- Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bomb explosions
- Pakistan unveiled a new political map
- H1-B Visa Restrictions
Art & Culture
- Ram Mandir at Ayodhya
Science & Technology
- Shadesmart & Radiant Cooling Technologies
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
EWS quota challenge referred to Constitution Bench
The three-judge bench of Supreme Court referred to a five-judge Constitution Bench of pleas challenging the central government’s decision to grant 10 % quota to Economically Weaker Sections (EWSs) in jobs and admissions in the general category.
What is the issue?
- Several petitions had challenged the validity of
the 103rd Constitutional Amendment, saying the 50% quota
limit was part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution.
- The 103rd constitutional amendment introduces 10% reservation quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) for admission to Central Government-run and Private educational institutions (except for minority educational institutions), and for employment in Central Government jobs.
- It was introduced in the Constitution by amending Articles 15 and 16 and adding clauses empowering the State governments to provide reservation on the basis of economic backwardness.
- The Supreme Court of India in Indra Sawhney case (1992) said that reservations could not exceed 50 %. However, there are state laws that exceed this 50 % limit. For example, in Tamil Nadu, caste-based reservation stands at 69%.
- The Supreme Court Bench said the primary question for the Constitution Bench to decide whether “economic backwardness” can be the sole criterion for granting quota in government jobs and educational institutions for those who would otherwise have to compete in the general category.
Challenge of petitioners
- Violates basic structure: 103rd amendment violated the basic feature of the Constitution as reservation for EWS cannot be limited to the general category and the overall 50% ceiling limit cannot be breached.
- Above 50%: The Constitutional 103rd Amendment provides for 10% economic reservation over and above the existing reservations, which implies that the reservation would exceed the 50 % capping as set up by judicial precedents, because the present status of reservation quota has already reached 50 %.
- Arbitrariness: The definition of “economically weaker sections” is arbitrary in the sense that it does not specifically provide as to what constitutes ‘other indicators of economic disadvantage’ and the definition is left to be determined by the State from time to time.
What is Substantial questionable law?
- A question of law will be a substantial of law if it directly and substantially affects the rights of the parties. In order to be “substantial” it must be such that there may be some doubt or difference of opinion or there is room for difference of opinion.
- As per Article 145(3) of the Constitution: The minimum number of Judges who are to sit for the purpose of deciding any case involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of this Constitution or for the purpose of hearing any reference under Article 143 shall be five.
How does this issue is Substantial questionable law?
- The supreme court bench said that whether the 103rd
Amendment Act violates basic structure of the Constitution, by applying the
tests of ‘width’ and ‘identity’ with reference to equality provisions of the
Constitution, is a matter which constitutes substantial question of law.
- Width test: examines the boundaries of the amending power and whether any of the constitutional requirements have been destroyed by the amendments or not.
- Identity test: examines whether the amendment has altered the identity of the Constitution beyond recognition.
- It said that the question such as whether the ceiling of 50% can be breached as the Centre claimed that though it is ordinarily a rule but same will not prevent to amend the Constitution in view of the existing special circumstances also constitute as substantial question of law to be examined by a five-judge bench.
[Ref: The Hindu, Economic Times]
Government Schemes & Policies
MyGoa Citizen Engagement Platform
- The Chief Minister of Goa launched the MyGov Goa portal.
- The event made Goa join the MyGov Citizen Engagement Platform.
- 12 states had already launched their MyGov platforms, namely, Maharashtra, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
- Strengthening public participation in the governance process.
- Allow the state to connect to a nationwide audience.
About MyGov Platform:
- MyGov is the Government of India’s citizen engagement and crowdsourcing platform.
- It aims to promote active citizen participation in governance and policymaking.
- It was launched in July 2014.
- It has adopted multiple engagement methodologies like discussions, tasks, innovation challenges, polls, surveys, blogs, talks, quizzes and on-ground activities by innovatively using the internet, mobile apps, IVRS, SMS and outbound dialling (OBD) technologies.
- MyGov has expanded into various social networking sites like Facebook, WhatsApp etc.
- MyGov is implemented through a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model.
Issues related to Health & Education
Higher Education Funding Agency
Jawaharlal Nehru University got approval from the Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA) for ₹455.02 crores for construction of new academic buildings, hostels, research centres and installation of integrated and unified Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
About Higher Education Funding Agency
- Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) is a joint venture of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India and Canara Bank with agreed equity participation in the ratio of 90.91% and 09.09% respectively.
- HEFA is registered under Section 8 [ Not-for-profit] under the Companies Act 2013 as a Union Govt company and as Non–deposit-taking NBFC (NBFC-ND-Type II) with Reserve Bank of India.
- It was incorporated on 31st May 2017.
- Its scope has been greatly expanded to cover school education, educational institutes under the Ministry of Health etc.
- It works to provide timely finance at low-interest rates for capital assets creation in India’s higher education institutions and supplement it with grants by channelizing CSR funds from the corporate and donations from others.
- HEFA would incentivise better internal resource generation and at the same time allow substantial investments through market borrowings that can be repaid over a longer period.
- All the Centrally Funded Higher Educational Institutions would be eligible for joining as members of the HEFA.
- For joining as members, the Institution should agree to escrow a specific amount from their internal accruals to HEFA for 10 years. This would be securitised by the HEFA for mobilising the funds from the market.
- Each member institution would be eligible for a credit limit as decided by HEFA based on the amount agreed to be escrowed from the internal accruals.
- The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved the Serum Institute of India (SII), Pune, to conduct Phase II+III clinical trials of Oxford University-Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine (COVISHIELD).
- SII has a tie-up with AstraZeneca, to manufacture the Covid-19 vaccine for low- and middle-income countries.
The other candidates are:
- Developed by Moderna with the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
- Developed by Pfizer with BioNTech.
- Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin
- Zydus Cadila’s ZyCov-D
About Grand Challenges India
- Originally started in 2003 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
- Grand Challenges India is a partnership framework of the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in India and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
- It seeks to launch joint initiatives aimed at catalyzing innovative health and development research within India.
- It also seeks to foster collaborative research to improve health within their own countries and around the world.
- Uses challenges to focus attention and effort on specific problems.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Conditions on Commercial Use of Groundwater
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has set stringent conditions for commercial groundwater use.
- Authorities to be tightfisted in granting permits
- Initiating swift punitive action in case of breaches
- Mandating third-party compliance audit of businesses every year.
NGT has also struck down the Central Ground Water Authority’s (CGWA) 2020 guidelines, saying they were against the law.
Groundwater Status in India:
- Groundwater in India is a critical resource.
- India is the largest user of groundwater in the world. It uses an estimated 230 cubic kilometres of groundwater per year – over a quarter of the global total.
- An increasing number of aquifers are reaching unsustainable levels of exploitation.
Hard-rock aquifers of peninsular India:
- These aquifers represent around 65% of India’s overall aquifer surface area.
- Formed under hard rock formations.
- Found in central peninsular India.
- Poor permeability results in a rapid decline in the water table.
These aquifers are non- replenishable and will eventually dry out due to continuous usage
Alluvial aquifers of the Indo-Gangetic plains:
- Found in the Gangetic and Indus plains in Northern India.
- A valuable source of freshwater supply.
- Face risk of irreversible overexploitation.
- Groundwater acts as a critical buffer against the variability of monsoon rains.
- More than 60% of irrigated agriculture and 85% of drinking water supplies are dependent on groundwater.
- Urban residents increasingly rely on groundwater due to unreliable and inadequate municipal water supplies.
- Sustainability of agriculture
- Long-term food security, livelihoods, and economic growth.
- The Supreme Court has made it mandatory for all municipal corporations and state pollution control boards to use the ‘COVID19BWM APP’ for tracking biomedical waste daily.
- The order is based as per recommendations made in a report by Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA).
About the App:
- Launched by Central Pollution Control Board.
- The app allows the following to feed
in data so that biomedical waste could be tracked and monitored,
- The generator of waste (urban local body in the case of home care and hospital or laboratory).
- The picker of the waste (transport of the urban local body or the waste treatment facility).
- The waste treatment operator.
- Ensure that the waste is collected, transported and sent to a registered common biomedical waste treatment facility.
Bilateral & International Relations
Blast in Lebanon’s capital
At least 100 people were killed and nearly 4,000 injured in a massive explosion at Lebanon’s capital Beirut.
Cause of explosion
- According to the Lebanon government, the explosion, was of over 2700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored for six years in a warehouse in the port. Some suggest explosion was preceded by a fire, possibly of firecrackers.
- The blast casualties have overwhelmed the health system of Lebanon which has been in a serious financial crisis.
- Lebanon in the recent past has been crippled by serious economic woes. This has caused large-scale closure of businesses and soaring prices of basic commodities resulting in social unrest.
- The explosion has occured at the time when a UN tribunal is set give its verdict in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanase Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was killed in a truck bomb attack. The country has been bracing for the aftermath of the verdict of the case, which has at its core the age-old Shia-Sunni rift.
What is ammonium nitrate?
- In its pure form, ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) is a white, crystalline chemical which is soluble in water.
- It is the main ingredient in the manufacture of commercial explosives used in mining and construction.
- Health effects from ammonium nitrate: Slightly hazardous in case of skin contact. Prolonged exposure may result in skin burns. Over-exposure by inhalation may cause respiratory irritation.
Ammonium nitrate as an explosive
- Pure ammonium nitrate is not an explosive on its own.
- It is classified as an oxidiser (Grade 5.1) under the United Nations classification of dangerous goods.
- If mixed with ingredients like fuel or some other contaminants, or because of some other external factors, it can be very explosive.
- However, for combinations to explode, triggers like detonators are required. Many Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) used by terrorists around the world have ANFO as the main explosive, triggered by primary explosives like RDX (Royal Demolition eXplosive) or TNT (Trinitrotoluene).
- In the majority of terror attacks in India, including those in Pulwama, ammonium nitrate has been used along with initiator explosives like RDX.
Stored ammonium nitrate is a major fire hazard
- Large quantities of stored ammonium nitrate are regarded as a major fire hazard, with multiple reported cases across the world. The explosion of large storage can happen primarily in two ways.
- One is by some type detonation or initiation because the storage comes in contact with explosive mixture.
- Second, the blast can result due to a fire which starts in the ammonium nitrate store because of the heat generated due to the oxidation process at large scale. The second one is the likely cause of the incident at Beirut port.
- There are several documented examples of deadly ammonium nitrate fire and explosion incidents in the past, some with large numbers of fatalities like in Tianjin (China) in 2015 and in Texas (USA) in 1947.
Regulations in India about ammonium nitrate
- Because Ammonium Nitrate is used as an
ingredient for the production of industrial explosives, anaesthetic gases,
fertilisers, cold packs and has a strong possibility of misuse, Ammonium
Nitrate has been declared as an explosives and defined in Rule 2(b) of
the Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012.
- The Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012, under The Explosives Act, 1884, define ammonium nitrate as the “compound with formula NH4NO3 including any mixture or compound having more than 45 % ammonium nitrate by weight including emulsions, suspensions, melts or gels but excluding emulsion or slurry explosives and non-explosives emulsion matrix and fertilizers from which the ammonium nitrate cannot be separated”.
- The Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012 make storage of ammonium nitrate in large quantities in populated areas illegal in India.
- Under the 2012 Rules, assessment of the security provision of ammonium nitrate is the responsibility of the district authorities (Commissioner of Police, District Magistrate etc.) concerned.
- For the manufacture of ammonium nitrate, an
Industrial licence is required under the Industrial Development and Regulation
Act, 1951. A license under the Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012 is also required
for any activity related to ammonium nitrate.
- Exemption has been granted for acquiring license to Armed Forces of the Union and Ordnance Factories or other establishments of such Forces for own use in accordance with the rules of Central Government;
Location of Lebanon
- Lebanon is located in the Middle East.
- It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Israel to the south, and Syria to the east and north. It also shares maritime borders with Cyprus.
- The Anti-Lebanon mountain range forms long stretches of the border between Lebanon and Syria in the east.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bomb explosions
Hiroshima marks 75th anniversary of nuclear bomb attack that killed over 140,000.
About Nagasaki and Hiroshima nuclear bomb explosions
- On August 6, 1945, the US dropped an atomic bomb named “Little boy” on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, and on August 9, it dropped another bomb called “Fat Man” on Nagasaki of Japan.
- Nuclear fallout, particularly with regard to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is also known as Black rain.
Why did the US bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
- After the conclusion of World War II in 1945, the relations between Japan and the US worsened, especially after Japan forces decided to take an aim at Indochina for capturing the oil-rich areas of the East Indies.
- Therefore, US president Harry Truman authorized the use of atomic bombs in order to make Japan surrender in WWII, which it did.
- However, historian Gar Alperovitz argued that the use of nuclear weapons on Japanese cities was intended to gain a stronger position for postwar diplomatic bargaining with the Soviet Union.
Why were Hiroshima and Nagasaki chosen?
- US decided that only bombing a city would make an adequate impression and, therefore, target cities were chosen keeping in mind the military production in the area and while making sure that the target sites did not hold cultural significance for Japan. This was because the aim was to destroy Japan’s ability to fight wars.
- Hiroshima served as the headquarters of the Second Army and of the Chugoku Regional Army, making it one of the most important military command stations in Japan. It was also the site of one of the largest military supply depots and the foremost military shipping point for troops and supplies.
- The atomic bombs were a result of a scientific research project called Manhattan Project.
The Manhattan Project
- The Manhattan Project was the code name for the American-led effort to develop a functional atomic weapon during World War II.
- It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada.
- Two types of atomic bombs were developed concurrently during the war: a relatively simple gun-type fission weapon and a more complex implosion-type nuclear weapon.
- Since 1945, US, Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea have armed themselves with nuclear weapons that have much more destructive power in comparison to those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- Continuous production of nuclear weapons: Over 1,26,000 nuclear weapons have been built since the beginning of the atomic age. Over 2,000 of them have been used in nuclear tests to demonstrate their explosive power, causing grave and long-lasting damage to the environment and public health. But this damage is nothing compared to what might happen if some of the existing weapons are used against civilian populations.
- No realistic way to protect ourselves against nuclear weapons: The invention of ballistic missiles at the end of the 1950s, with their great speed of delivery, has made it impossible to intercept nuclear weapons once they are launched. Neither fallout shelters nor ballistic missile defence systems have succeeded in negating this vulnerability. Nuclear weapon states are targets of other nuclear weapon states, of course, but non-nuclear weapon states are vulnerable as well.
- False belief: The claims that “Nuclear weapons protect countries against use of nuclear weapons by others and prevent war and promote stability” do not hold up to evidence. Nuclear threats have not always produced fear and has not always induced caution. Nuclear threats in some cases have produced anger, and anger can trigger a drive to escalate, as was the case during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
- Draining defence budget: Strategic planners routinely use worst-case assumptions about the capabilities of other countries to argue for the acquisition of greater destructive capabilities, driving endless upgrades of nuclear arsenals, and draining defence budget.
- Overconfidence: The safety that a country gets from nuclear weapons creates overconfidence, which is dangerous. Overconfidence is more likely to lead to accidents.
Pakistan unveiled a new political map
Pakistan Prime Minister unveiled a new political map that includes all of Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Sir Creek and Junagadh in its map.
About Sir Creek
- Sir Creek is a 96-km tidal estuary in the Indus River Delta on the Kutch coastline between India and Pakistan. The creek flows into the Arabian Sea and separates Gujarat from Sindh province in Pakistan.
- Pakistan claims the entire width of the estuary, while India says the demarcation should be in the middle. Entire disagreement has revolved around the 100-150 sq. km. of a swamp that remains flooded through half the year.
- The agreement, whenever it happens, will determine the Exclusive Economic Zone of both countries from where the estuary opens out into the Arabian Sea.
- Junagadh is in the Kathiawar region of Gujarat, where most other princely states had acceded to India. The ruler of Junagadh was Nawab Mahabatkhan Rasulkhanji.
- In 1947, under the influence of Muslim Leaguer from Karachi, Shah Nawaz Bhutto, the Nawab of Junagadh decided to accede to Pakistan on August 15, though he had earlier given the impression that the future of his Kathiawari state lay in joining India.
- After failing over a month to get a response from Pakistan, India put in place a series of measures that held the threat of military action against Junagadh. Meanwhile, the Nawab of Junagadh fled to Karachi.
- In September, a parallel government of Junagadh called Arzi Hukumat had been formed in Mumbai which began to take over parts of Junagadh. However, on the urging of Muslim residents, Nawab asked the government of India to directly take over the administration of Junagadh through the regional commissioner at Rajkot. Pakistan characterised the takeover as a direct act of hostility.
- India replied it had stepped in to restore law on behalf of the Nawab. In 1948, a plebiscite was carried out in which people of Junagadh chose to join India.
- Jungadh was mentioned by Pakistan when the UN Security Council (UNSC) took up the issue of the hostilities in J&K in January 1948.
- Under USNC resolution 39, a commission was set up for the “peaceful resolution of the Kashmir conflict” to investigate allegations by India of the situation in J&K as well as other issues raised by Pakistan, which included Junagadh that Pakistan accused India of annexing.
- But after the initial resistance from Pakistan, Junagadh has been seen as a settled matter.
- Somnath, where the famous Shiva temple was ransacked by Mahmud Ghazni, is located in Junagadh, near the port of Veraval.
H1-B Visa Restrictions
- The US President has signed an executive order barring the federal agency from hiring H-1B visa holders and other foreign workers in place of US citizens or green cardholders.
- This is in line with the US government`s gradual move towards a more conservative work visa regime.
Possible Impacts to India:
- Impact workers of Indian companies that are on contract with federal agencies.
- Affect the contracts for services offered to several Indian IT companies like Infosys, TCS etc.
About H1B visa:
- The H1B visa is an employment-based, non-immigrant visa category for temporary workers given by the United States of America.
- This non-immigrant visa lets a firm employ foreigners for up to six years in positions for which they have been unable to find American employees.
- The H-1B visa holders can apply for permanent residency in the US and buy property in the country.
Art & Culture
Ram Mandir at Ayodhya
The grand temple at Rama Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya will follow the Nagara style of temple architecture.
Architectural elements of Hindu Temples:
|Garbhagriha||The small room where the principal deity/deities of the temple reside.|
|Mandapa||The portico or hall at the entrance of the temple generally designed to house a large number of people.|
|Shikhara||The mountain-like spire which can have different shapes from pyramidal to curvilinear.|
|Vahana||The mount of the main deity placed generally in line of sight from Garbhagriha.|
About Nagara Style:
- The Nagara style of temple architecture is found in northern India.
- Nagara school is further subdivided into different schools based on the regions like Odisha, Khajuraho, Solanki etc.
- In the Nagara style, the temple is generally constructed on an upraised platform called jagati. Mandapas are present in front of the Garbhagriha.
- These are adorned with the Shikhara, the tallest one being above the Garbhagriha.
Comparison of Nagara Style with South Indian Style of Temples:
- Usually do not have elaborate boundary walls or gateways.
- No water tank in the temple premises
- The pradakshina patha is covered.
- Have a stepped pyramid that rises linearly rather than in a curve, known as Vimana.
- Only the main shrine has Vimanas.
Key Facts about Ayodhya Ram Temple:
- The temple will be a 161-feet high and have three storeys.
- The temple will be designed according to the Vastushastra and Shilpishastra.
- The Ayodhya Ram temple will have five mandapas between the garbhagriha and the entrance.
- Follows a phamsana-style shikhara.
- The structure will have a total of 360 pillars.
- Stones from Banshi mountains in Rajasthan will be used for the construction.
Science & Technology
Shadesmart & Radiant Cooling Technologies
- The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in partnership with the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India under the project Habitat Model for Efficiency and Comfort are involved in two projects, namely, ShadeSmart and Radiant Cooling technologies.
- ShadeSmart is a shading system for indoor use.
- It changes its configuration depending upon the Sun’s position.
- Brings in more daylight with less heat.
- Cost-effective solution.
- Reduced electricity consumption in air conditioning and lighting.
- Make occupants comfortable and more productive and healthier.
- Cooling is achieved through radiant heat transfer.
- Currently, the technology is in the demonstration phase.
- Gives better quality of thermal comfort.
- A high potential of energy-saving (60-70%).
- Employs 100% fresh air supply.
Habitat Model for Efficiency and Comfort
- The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in partnership with the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India.
- Aims to provide Indian building market with external shading products that can reduce direct solar heat gain inside a building by more than 75%, while allowing natural daylight.
- To design and demonstrate the potential of low energy radiant slab cooling, integrated with natural heat sinks and establish their operational mechanism for optimum comfort and energy efficiency.
Scientists from the Institute of Nano Science and Technology (INST), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, have developed an equipment-free fluoride ion detection and quantification in drinking water with the naked-eye.
- Help evade Fluorosis-based disorders.
- Easy to use.
- Fluorosis is a disease resulting from deposition of fluorides in the hard and soft tissues of the body.
- Caused due to excess intake of fluoride through drinking water/food products/industrial pollutants over a long period.
- It results in dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis, and non-skeletal fluorosis.