Current Affairs for today- 4th November 2019
GS Paper II, Paper III
Delhi chokes as air-pollution levels at a three-year high
According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the national capital’s 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) stood at 494 at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, the highest since November 6, 2016, when it was 497.
The pollution level’s peak is prompting hundreds of distraught people to leave the city and take to social media about the horrific decline in the air quality in the national capital.
What’s in the news?
- The Ministry of Earth Sciences’ air quality monitor, SAFAR, reports that the city’s overall AQI reached as high as 708 around 5 p.m., which is 14 times the safe level of 0-50.
- Some weather models showed that Delhi’s pollution could impact even south India.
- A chemical-pollutants dispersal model called SILAM (System for Integrated Modeling of Atmospheric Composition), developed by the Finnish Meteorological Institutes, indicated that the plume of dust and smoke hanging over Delhi would travel towards east India, move into the Bay of Bengal and hike pollution levels as far away as Tamil Nadu.
- However, the Meteorological Department disagrees to the possibility that the current pattern of wind could transport the pollutants as far as down south and that the chemical transport model they are testing will show a rapid disposal that would be immediately felt.
What is the ground reality?
- The thick haze in the capital threw all the flight operations in the India Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) into disarray with poor visibility, runway haze leading to many flights getting cancelled and delayed for 2-7 hours causing a chaotic scene. Similar was the case in other airports where flights were to depart to New Delhi.
- The Delhi government and the administrations of Ghaziabad, Noida, etc. ordered the government to shut down all private and government schools till November 5, 2019.
- The MD blames the adverse weather conditions and severe air pollution for the deterioration of the air quality.
- With the AQI rising to “severe plus” or “emergency” levels (PM more than 500) according to SAFAR, with the daily monitoring of the AQI (for air pollution) said that the situation warranted a declaration of “Public health emergency”.
It was due to the lack of the expected rainfall from the Western Disturbances and increased moisture from the passing WD. The WD stalled winds and retarded the disbursal of pollutants.
Causes of air pollution in Delhi:
- Massive stubble/ crop residue burning of almost 35 million tonnes in neighboring states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh contributes about 5-7% to Delhi’s pollution load, and could rise if there is wind blowing from the north.
- Less investment in infrastructure due to which there came about congested roads and long lines of traffic, hence adding to air pollution.
- Over-population due to people shifting for jobs, daily wages, etc causes more pollution.
- Large scale construction in the Delhi-NCR region that has severely contributed to the increasing dust and pollutants locked in the air.
- Industrial pollution and garbage dumps add up to the building smog in the air.
- Despite the ban on firecrackers, Delhi saw a negligent use of crackers that filled the air with more fine particles and pollutant smoke.
What has the Government done to mitigate the pollution rise?
- Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) came into effect on2016 and has, since then, stood as a guiding beacon for air pollution control in Delhi and NCR. The measures must be followed as it is incremental in nature.
- Approved by the Supreme Court in 2016, formulated
after meetings of the State Government representatives with the Environment
Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) to work only as an emergency
measure, i.e when the air quality deteriorates.
- If air quality reaches the severe+ stage, GRAP stresses on shutting down schools and implementing the odd-even road-space rationing scheme.
- The plan requires action and coordination among 13 different agencies in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan (NCR areas). At the head of the table is the EPCA, mandated by the Supreme Court.
- Starting October 15, stricter plans have been implemented in mitigating the rising levels of pollution.
How has GRAP aided?
- It has helped in fixing accountability and deadlines. For each action to be taken under a particular air quality category, executing agencies are clearly marked.
- Three thermal power plants equating 1245 MW generating capacity were shut.
- Dirty fuels like pet coke, furnace oil and coal were banned in Delhi NCR.
- Natural gas was put on the line both in the transportation and industrial sector.
- A major shift was the government’s initiative to turning the entire auto fleet to CNG as the initial mandate.
- Banning the use of diesel generator in Delhi. This year the measure is shifting to some NCR towns but is not heavily forced on the rural areas as they have broken power supply.
- For GRAP as well as EPCA, the next challenge is to extend the measures to other states effectively.
- Move Brick kilns out of Delhi within 3 years. This was done with tanneries almost 20 years ago.
- A complete ban on burning of leaves in Delhi through the year.
- Dust stoppers can be run through Delhi roads regularly, every morning. Air purifiers must be a norm to be set up at homes, in the public places, crowded areas, corporate offices, etc.
- Large scale afforestation must be implemented.
Measures announced to tackle pollution levels:
or Emergency (PM 2.5 over
300 µg/cubic metre or PM10 over 500 µg/cu. m. for 48+ hours)
- Stop entry of trucks into Delhi (except essential commodities)
- Stop construction work
- Introduce odd/even scheme for private vehicles and minimize exemptions
- Task Force to decide any additional steps including shutting of schools
- Severe (PM 2.5 over 250 µg/cu. m. or PM10 over 430
- Close brick kilns, hot mix plants, stone crushers
- Maximise power generation from natural gas to reduce generation from coal
- Encourage public transport, with differential rates
- More frequent mechanised cleaning of road and sprinkling of water
Poor (PM2.5 121-250 µg/cu. m.
or PM10 351-430 µg/cu. m.)
- Stop use of diesel generator sets
- Enhance parking fee by 3-4 times
- Increase bus and Metro services
- Apartment owners to discourage burning fires in winter by providing electric heaters during winter
- Advisories to people with respiratory and cardiac conditions to restrict outdoor movement
- Moderate to poor (PM2.5 61-120 µg/cu. m. or PM10 101-350 µg/cu. m.)
- Heavy fines for garbage burning
- Close/enforce pollution control regulations in brick kilns and industries.
- Mechanised sweeping on roads with heavy traffic and water sprinkling.
- Strictly enforce a ban on firecrackers.
GS Paper III
ISRO’s NavIC set to be commercialized by Antrix
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its commercial arm Antrix Corporation Ltd. Are committed to commercialize India’s regional navigation satellite system, NavIC.
What is NavIC?
NavIC abbreviated for Navigation with Indian Constellation is the Indian system of 8 satellites that is aimed at telling the business and individual users where they are, how their products and services are moving. This simply works like the Global Positioning System of the GPS (by the US) but within a radius of 1500 km over the sub-continent.
What’s in the news?
The earliest NavIC users could be potentially transporters of resources such as mined ore, coal and sand in various states. It is mandated by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways that all the national-permit vehicles must use such tracking devices. Many fishing boats have been fitted with these devices have a unique texting facility.
Qualcomm Technologies, a leading producer of semi-conductor chips had developed and tests NavIC-friendly chipsets across its user base and would NavIC to them.
An important milestone for NavIC was the certification of the Indian System by the 3GPP (The 3rd Generation Partnership Project), a global body for coordinating mobile telephony standards.
The Telecommunications Standards Development Society, India has announced that it would be using the device as a national standard.
What is NavIC?
NavIC is the operation name for Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS). It independent Indian Satellite based positioning system for critical National applications. The main objective is to provide Reliable Position, Navigation and Timing services over India and its neighbourhood, to provide fairly good accuracy to the user. In April 2016, with the last launch of the constellation’s satellite, IRNSS was renamed Navigation Indian Constellation (NAVIC) by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The IRNSS will provide basically two types of services:
- Standard Positioning Service (SPS)
- Restricted Service (RS)
NavIC is purported to be out for civilian use at the start of 2020.
This system was developed as there are high risks of lack of access to the foreign government-controlled global navigation satellite systems in hostile situations, as in the case of Kargil War (1999), where Indian military was fully dependent on the American Global Positioning System (GPS).
It can also play a significant role in relief efforts post disasters such as the tsunami in the Indian Ocean region in 2004, Pakistan-India earthquake in 2005 and aid in the management and mitigation by estimating the approach of disasters like floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.
The constellation consists of 7 active satellites. Three of the seven satellites in constellation are located in geostationary orbit (GEO)- over the Indian Ocean, i.e., they will appear to be stationary in the sky over the region and four in inclined geosynchronous orbit (IGSO) appearing at the same point in the sky at the same time every day.
Some applications of IRNSS are:
- Terrestrial, Aerial and Marine Navigation
- Disaster Management
- Vehicle tracking and fleet management
- Integration with mobile phones
- Precise Timing
- Mapping and Geodetic data capture
- Terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travellers
- Visual and voice navigation for drivers
GS Paper II
NRC exercise only to update 1951 list, says CJI
The Chief Justice of India said that the Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) meant only to identify illegal migrants residing in the border State; it neither was a new or novel idea but an attempt to update the 1951 list.
What’s in the news?
The NRC 2019 is an attempt to end the vicious cycle of violence and agitation emanating from Assam over the presence of illegal foreigners.
What is NRC?
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register containing names of all genuine Indian citizens. At present, only Assam has such a register.
The exercise may be extended to other states as well. Nagaland is already creating a similar database known as the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants. The Centre is planning to create a National Population Register (NPR), which will contain demographic and biometric details of citizens.
What is NRC in Assam?
The NRC in Assam for Indian citizens was first created in 1951. Manipur and Tripura were also granted permission to create their own NRCs, but it never materialized. The reason behind the move was to identify Indian citizens in Assam amid “unabated” migration from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
The list comprised of those who lived in India on January 26, 1950, or were born in India or had parents who were born in India or had been living in India for at least five years before the January 26, 1950 cut-off.
- The NRC in Assam is basically a list of Indian citizens living in the state. The citizens’ register sets out to identify foreign nationals in the state that borders Bangladesh.
- The process to update the register began following a Supreme Court order in 2013, with the state’s nearly 33 million people having to prove that they were Indian nationals prior to March 24, 1971.
The updated final NRC was released on August 31, with over 1.9 million applicants failing to make it to the list.
How does one prove citizenship?
- In Assam, one of the basic criteria was that the names of applicant’s family members should either be in the first NRC prepared in 1951 or in the electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971. (Recently certain sections of Assam have displayed their objection to the 1971 cut-off date, and revision of the date to 1951 to weed out illegal foreign migrants).
- Applicants also had the option to present documents such as refugee registration certificate, birth certificate, LIC policy, land and tenancy records, citizenship certificate, passport, government-issued license or certificate, bank/post office accounts, permanent residential certificate, government employment certificate, educational certificate and court records.
What happens with the excluded individuals?
“Non-inclusion of a person’s name in the NRC does not by itself amount to him/her being declared a foreigner,” according to the government. Such individuals will have the option to present their case before foreigners’ tribunals.
- If one loses the case in the tribunal, the person can move the high court and, then, the Supreme Court.
- In the case of Assam, the state government has clarified it will not detain any individual until he/she is declared a foreigner by the foreigners’ tribunal.
What has the Assam community been going through?
- With political nexus at the State and the Central Government that is working to change the entire rationale of the make of the NRC with the introduction of the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill (2016) that permitted Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, etc/ non-Muslims for naturalization.
- NRC was the outcome of the Assam Movement led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) from 1979 to 1985, and the subsequent accord they entered into with GoI on August 15, 1985.
The spontaneous protests of the local people, provoked public lynching, police repressions and encounter killings; triggered communal carnage against the Muslim peasants from Bengali origin.
- Many social contradictions within the Assamese society was not addressed and added to the structural changes of the fabric of the natives by inducing pressure on the clan-owned community lands and their livelihoods, beside the inflow of illegal immigrants.
- Their social status was reduced to the lower rungs of caste hierarchy, and their culture being either undermined or assimilated into the ‘mainstream’ was a major blockade to NRC’s implementation.
- There is fear in losing ownership of their lands to foreign inhabitants setting in their land complemented with them being politically and culturally disenfranchised.
- There is a notable drastic fall in the indigenous population in the nearby Tripura that has caused a spike in fear amongst the Assamese.
There is a need for sincere implementation of the NRC criterion without manipulation, obliteration or negligence. There needs to be a more imaginative policy of resettling, rehabilitating and caring for the ‘illegal migrant’, rather than send the border police to drive them off and build more detention camps.
(Source: Business Standard and Economic Times)