Insights Daily Current Events, 17 December 2015
Paper 3 Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT.
Pichai pitches Project Loon for connectivity
During his recent visit to India, Google CEO, Sundar Pichai said that amid natural disasters — like the one in Chennai where people get cut off from the grid — Google’s Project Loon that uses helium-filled balloons to provide data connectivity in remote areas could be of great help.
- It should be noted here that Pichai was born in Chennai. He had some anxious moments during the recent floods in Chennai as he was unable to reach his family members.
How would this model help?
When a natural disaster hits, people often get no network coverage. Project Loon, which is focused on providing connectivity in rural areas, can be useful in this regard. Using software these balloons can be placed in areas where there’s no coverage or network capacity is less.
About Project Loon:
- Project Loon is a research and development project being developed by Google X with the mission of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas.
- The project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 32 km to create an aerial wireless network with up to 3G-like speeds.
How it operates?
- The balloons are maneuvered by adjusting their altitude 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 stratosphere was chosen?
Google asserts that the stratosphere is advantageous because of its relatively low wind speeds and minimal turbulence. Google also claims that it can model, with reasonable accuracy, the seasonal, longitudinal, and latitudinal variations in wind speeds within the 18–25 km stratospheric layer.
Significance of this project:
- The technology designed in the project could allow countries to avoid using expensive fiber cable that would have to be installed underground to allow users to connect to the Internet.
- This will also greatly increase Internet usage in developing countries in regions such as Africa and Southeast Asia that can’t afford to lay underground fiber cable.
- The project also brings Internet access to remote and rural areas poorly served by existing provisions, and improves communication during natural disasters to affected regions.
sources: the hindu, wiki.
Paper 3 Topic: space.
ISRO launches 6 Singapore satellites
The Indian Space Research Organisation recently 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.
- 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.
It was overall PSLV’s 32nd space flight. PSLV is the first operational launch vehicle of ISRO. It is capable of launching 1600 kg satellites in 620 km sun-synchronous polar orbit and 1050 kg satellite in geo-synchronous transfer orbit. It has four stages using solid and liquid propulsion systems alternately. The first stage is one of the largest solid propellant boosters in the world and carries 139 tonnes of propellant.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: pollution.
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.
Why only these vehicles?
- According to the Supreme Court, these vehicles are used by the rich and hence the common man or average citizen would hardly feel the pinch.
- The order also reasoned that these high-end diesel vehicles are prone to cause higher levels of pollution.
Please note the Court has banned registration of these vehicles only for three months. That is, up to March 31, 2016.
Other decisions taken by the Supreme Court:
- Diesel commercial vehicles, registered before 2005, are barred from entering Delhi.
- Commercial vehicles, which are not Delhi bound, have been banned from entering the city.
- Double the green tax imposed on trucks entering the city.
- All taxis in the national capital to “move to CNG fuel” by March 1, 2016.
- Delhi govt to vacuum-clean roads, make pavements.
- Construction activities must adhere to pollution norms.
- Solid waste not to be burnt but disposed appropriately.
The Supreme Court’s decision came in response to a clutch of petitions including one on banning diesel vehicles in some cities in the face of alarming pollution levels in the country.
sources: The hindu.
Paper 1 Topic: art and culture.
Exclusive right to enter sanctum sanctorum is not untouchability: 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. It further said that the exclusive right given to a particular group or denomination to enter the sanctum sanctorum of a temple and perform rituals cannot be construed as a practice of untouchability.
- To justify this reasoning, the court 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.
- The judgment explained how in the first stage of mankind, worship was merely service to fellow creatures. Then notions of inferiority and superiority crept in among men and finally to settle the squabbles of men, sages introduced image worship in temples regulated by treatises known as Agamas and Thantras.
- 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 also made it clear that appointment of priests should conform to the Agama practices prevalent in a particular temple, even if it meant that archakas (priests) were appointed from a given “denomination, sect or a group” in the State.
The Tamil Nadu government had, in 2002, announced that temple priests would be appointed from people belonging to all castes, and had even launched Agama training schools in several temples, to impart the required training and qualifications to become archakas in Hindu temples.
What are Agamas?
Agamas in Sanskrit mean “that which has come to us.”
- There are two kinds of Agama texts, Agama and Tantra, the former practised in Saivite and Vaishnavite temples, and the latter in Sakthi temples.
- Agamas expound a variety of subjects and they are really the stylebook, on which Hindu rituals are based.
- 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.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Government schemes
$1.5-bn WB loan for Swachh Bharat
To help India ensure that all its citizens in rural areas have access to improved sanitation to end open defecation by 2019, the World Bank has approved a $1.5-billion loan for a support operation project of Swachh Bharat, a sanitation campaign launched by the Union government.
- This will support Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin, the rural component of the campaign, over five years with a programme which links funds to the results.
- World Bank data show that of the 2.4 billion people who lack access to improved sanitation worldwide, over 750 million live in India, 80% 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.
- One in every 10 deaths in India is linked to poor sanitation. And studies show low-income households bear the brunt of poor sanitation.
Hence, this project, aimed at strengthening the implementation of Swachh Bharat, will result in significant health benefits for the poor and vulnerable, especially those in rural areas.
- 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. It also seeks to generate awareness to motivate communities to adopt sustainable sanitation practices, and encourage the use of appropriate technologies for sanitation.
- SBM-Gramin mainly focuses on ensuring the use of toilets, besides their construction. The States and their implementing agencies will be given incentives for meeting performance standards: reducing open defecation, sustaining their open defecation-free status and improving solid and liquid waste management in rural areas.
- The World Bank will also provide a $25-million technical assistance for building the capacity of select State governments.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Angry SC takes ‘extraordinary’ step of appointing Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta
Using its extraordinary powers granted under Article 142 of the Constitution to enforce its own orders in order to do “complete justice”, the Supreme Court for the first time in its history appointed a Lokayukta after slamming the failure of the constitutional authorities of the State to comply with its orders. The Supreme Court has invoked its extraordinary powers to assume authority to appoint Lokayukta of Uttar Pradesh.
- The Court has appointed former high court judge Justice Virendra Singh as Uttar Pradesh’s Lokayukta after expressing its annoyance at how the U.P. government failed to meet its deadline.
No consensus had been reached among the three-member committee of the Chief Minister, the Opposition Leader and the Chief Justice of the State High Court despite two rounds of talks. The committee was supposed to submit the name with the Supreme Court.
sources: the hindu.