Table of Contents:
GS Paper 1:
1. Pearl harbour attack.
GS Paper 2:
1. Parliamentary standing committees.
2. Prime Minister’s Research Fellows Scheme.
GS Paper 3:
1. All you need to know about Vizag gas leak.
2. What are the safeguards against chemical disasters in India?
Facts for Prelims:
1. MahaKavach App.
GS Paper : 1
Topics Covered: History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawing of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.
Pearl harbour attack
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: All about WW2 and pearl harbour attack.
Context: President Donald Trump has said the coronavirus outbreak has hit the US harder than the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II or the 9/11 terror attacks, pointing the finger at China.
Why? Since emerging in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, the coronavirus has infected 1.2 million Americans and killed more than 73,000.
What happened in Pearl Harbour?
The December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour was among the most significant moments of the War — it signalled the official entry of the US into the hostilities, which eventually led to the dropping of nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
What led up to the attack on Pearl Harbour?
- Before Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941, relations between the US and Japan were already worsening.
- In 1910, Japan annexed Korea and, in 1937, it invaded China, sending alarm bells ringing in the US and other Western powers about Japan’s manifest expansionist agenda.
- Between December 1937 and January 1938, an episode which is referred to as the “Nanking Massacre” or the “Rape of Nanking”, occurred — Japanese soldiers killed and raped Chinese civilians and combatants.
- Japanese historians estimate that anywhere between tens of thousands and 200,000 Chinese were killed.
- The US was against Japan’s aggression in China, and imposed economic sanctions and trade embargoes after its invasion. Japan was reliant on imports for oil and other natural resources — this was one of the reasons why it invaded China, and later French Indo-China (present day Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia). The intention was to take control of the major Chinese ports to have access to resources such as iron, rubber, tin, and most importantly, oil.
- In July 1941, the US ceased exporting oil to Japan. Negotiations between the two countries ended with the “Hull Note”, the final proposal delivered to Japan by the US. Essentially, the US wanted Japan to withdraw from China without any conditions.
- Ultimately, the negotiations did not lead to any concrete results, following which Japan set its task for Pearl Harbour in the last week of November, 1941. Japan considered the attack to be a preventive measure against the US interfering with Japan’s plans to carry out military operations in some parts of Southeast Asia.
What happened at Pearl Harbour?
About 7.55 am on December 7, 1941, about 180 aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the US Naval base at Pearl Harbour on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The bombing killed over 2,300 Americans, and destroyed the battleships USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma. Roughly 160 aircraft were destroyed, and 150 were damaged.
But the Pearl Harbor attack had failed in its objective to completely destroy the Pacific Fleet. The Japanese bombers missed oil tanks, ammunition sites and repair facilities, and not a single U.S. aircraft carrier was present during the attack. In June 1942, this failure came to haunt the Japanese, as U.S. forces scored a major victory in the Battle of Midway, decisively turning the tide of war in the Pacific.
- Countries involved in WW2.
- Important events and battles during WW2.
- Causes and outcomes of the war.
- What is the Battle of Midway?
- What led to attacks pearl harbour? Outcomes?
Discuss the reasons for attack on pearl harbour and its outcomes.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper : 2
Topics covered: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
Parliamentary standing committees
What to study?
For prelims and mains: Parliamentary standing committees- roles, need, functions and significance.
Context: Vice President of India and Chairman of Rajya Sabha Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu recently held a meeting with Lok Sabha Speaker Shri Om Birla and discussed the issue of feasibility of various Committees of Parliament holding their meetings at the earliest in the prevailing situation and in the context of restrictions on travel across the country.
They also discussed pros and cons of Parliamentary Committees holding meetings by video conferencing.
What are the types of committees?
- ‘Standing’committees: Their existence is uninterrupted and usually reconstituted on an annual basis. Some standing committees are departmentally related.
- ‘Select’ committees formed for a specific purpose, for instance, to deliberate on a particular bill. Once the Bill is disposed of, that select committee ceases to exist.
- Finance committees are considered to be particularly powerful. The three financial committees are the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings.
Parliamentary committees draw their authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).
Committee reports are usually exhaustive and provide authentic information on matters related to governance. Bills that are referred to committees are returned to the House with significant value addition. However, Parliament is not bound by the recommendations of committees.
Why have parliamentary committees?
- Parliament is the embodiment of the people’s will. Committees are an instrument of Parliament for its own effective functioning.
- The smaller cohort of lawmakers, assembled on the basis of the proportional strength of individual parties and interests and expertise of individual lawmakers, could have more open, intensive and better-informed discussions.
- Members of Parliament may have great acumen but they would require the assistance of experts in dealing with such situations. It is through committees that such expertise is drawn into lawmaking.
- Executive accountability to the legislature is enforced through questions in Parliament also, which are answered by ministers. However, department standing committees go one step further and hear from senior officials of the government in a closed setting, allowing for more detailed discussions.
- This mechanism also enables parliamentarians to understand the executive processes closely.
How can these committees be made more effective?
- Parliamentary committees don’t have dedicated subject-wise research support available. The knowledge gap is partially bridged by expert testimony from government and other stakeholders. Their work could be made more effective if the committees had full-time, sector-specific research staff.
- Currently, the rules of Parliament don’t require every bill to be referred to a parliamentary committee for scrutiny. While this allows the government greater flexibility and the ability to speed up legislative business, it comes at the cost of ineffective scrutiny by the highest law-making body. Mandatory scrutiny of all bills by parliamentary committees would ensure better planning of legislative business.
- Difference between Parliamentary vs Cabinet committees.
- Standing vs select vs finance committees.
- Who appoints chairperson and members of these committees?
- Committees exclusive to only Lok Sabha.
- Committees where Speaker is the chairperson.
What are Parliamentary Standing committees? Why are they necessary? Discuss their roles and functions to bring out their significance.
Topic: Issues related to education.
Prime Minister’s Research Fellows Scheme
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: PMRF- objectives and significance of the scheme.
Context: Union HRD Minister announces modifications in PMRF Scheme to boost research in the country. The modifications will enable more students to avail of the benefit under PMRF scheme.
Changes and Implications:
- Now for the students from any recognised institute/ university (other than IISc/ IITs/NITs/IISERs/IIEST/CF IIITs), the requirement of GATE Score is reduced to 650 from 750 apart from minimum CGPA of 8 or equivalent.
- Now, there will be two channels of entries, direct entry and lateral entry.
- Under the lateral entry, candidates pursuing PhD in any PMRF granting institution can apply for the PMRF scheme if he/she satisfies certain conditions, as prescribed.
- To boost research a dedicated Division is being created in the ministry with the name of “Research and Innovation Division”. This division will be headed by a director who will be coordinating research work of various institutions coming under MHRD.
The scheme was announced in the Budget 2018-19. The institutes which can offer PMRF include all the IITs, all the IISERs, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and some of the top Central Universities/NITs that offer science and/or technology degrees.
Aim: To attract the talent pool of the country to doctoral (Ph.D.) programs of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) for carrying out research in cutting edge science and technology domains, with focus on national priorities.
Candidates are selected for the fellowship through a rigorous selection process.
- For direct entry, applicants are judged on metrics including research exposure, publications, performance in international academic competitions, grades and recommendation letters.
- For lateral entry, the metrics are a strong research proposal, publications record and grades. Due weightage will also be given to publication in reputed journals/conferences.
- Eligibility for PMRF.
- How institutions are selected for PMRF?
- Direct vs Lateral entry.
Discuss the objectives and significance of PMRF scheme.
GS Paper : 3
Topics Covered: Disaster and disaster management.
All you need to know about Vizag gas leak
What to study?
For Prelims: Factors responsible for the disaster, legislations in this regard and laws in this regard.
For Mains: Concerns over such recurring disasters, need for uniform guidelines and measures.
Context: A gas leak in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam has killed eight people and reportedly led to the hospitalisation of more than a thousand. The leak occurred early morning May 7, 2020 at a private plastic making plant owned by LG Polymers Pvt Ltd, a part of South Korean conglomerate LG Corp.
The gas was confirmed to be styrene or vinyl benzene. The leak reportedly occurred because of overheating, leading to pipe leaks.
The impact zone has been in the range of 2-3 kilometres around the company.
What is Styrene?
Styrene — an organic compound used in the production of polymers, plastics and resins — is manufactured in petrochemical refineries.
- It is a poisonous, inflammable gas.
- It is used in the production of polystyrene plastics and resins.
- These materials are subsequently used in food packaging, rubber, plastic, insulation, fiberglass, pipes and automobile parts.
- It is also known as PVC gas (polyvinyl chloride), as it is used in the production of PVC.
- Styrene is the 20th most-used chemical in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
Where it can be found?
The chemical can be found in air, water and soil once released into the environment. It is broken down in air in 1-2 days, while it evaporates from soil and shallow water surfaces. It is broken down by micro-organisms if it reaches soil.
How it affects living beings?
It can enter the human body through breathing, eating food and contact through skin.
Once it enters the human body, styrene takes a few days to break down into other chemicals and pass through urine.
- It is the most harmful in its most basic form as a monomer (a single unit of styrene).
- When humans are exposed to styrene, it causes eye irritation and gastro-intestinal effects.
- It also impacts the outer layer of tissues in the skin causing erosion and bleeding in the short term.
- Long-term effects include central nervous system dysfunction, depression, hearing loss and peripheral neuropathy (a numb feeling in the hands and feet).
- It also leads to an increase in the colour confusion index that may lead to colour blindness.
- Animal studies show they are more sensitive to styrene exposure and suffer greater effects. The styrene concentrations that cause these effects are more than a thousand times higher than the levels normally found in the environment.
- Styrene is a possible carcinogen and can cause cancer under long exposure.
How people are treated?
The most important immediate treatment is to give oxygen to affected people. The people in the zone also need to be evacuated as long-term exposure can be detrimental to their health.
- Styrene at the levels of 300-375 ppb for a short period can cause neurological disorders and levels less than this can cause other health impacts.
- It stays in air for weeks and is highly reactive. It can also combine with oxygen to form styrene dioxide which is more lethal.
Risks are unavoidable while operating petrochemical units, which is why countries in the European Union are moving towards green approaches such as bioplastics which will reduce the demand for toxic chemicals such as styrene. Research is still underway on biodegradable bioplastics using agricultural wastes, which could replace polystyrene.
Topics Covered: Disaster preparedness.
What are the safeguards against chemical disasters in India?
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Safeguards, their need and significance, challenges in implementation.
Context: Vizag gas leak tragedy has put the spotlight on the safeguards available against chemical disasters in India.
At the time of the Bhopal gas tragedy, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was the only relevant law specifying criminal liability for such incidents.
- Section 304: culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
- Section 304A: deals with death due to negligence and imposes a maximum punishment of two years and a fine.
Soon after the tragedy, the government passed a series of laws regulating the environment and prescribing and specifying safeguards and penalties. Some of these laws were:
Bhopal Gas Leak (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985, which gives powers to the central government to secure the claims arising out of or connected with the Bhopal gas tragedy. Under the provisions of this Act, such claims are dealt with speedily and equitably.
The Environment Protection Act, 1986, which gives powers to the central government to undertake measures for improving the environment and set standards and inspect industrial units.
Hazardous Waste (Management Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 1989: Industry required to identify major accident hazards, take preventive measures and submit a report to the designated authorities
Manufacture, Storage And Import Of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989: Importer must furnish complete product safety information to the competent authority and must transport imported chemicals in accordance with the amended rules.
Chemical Accidents (Emergency, Planning, Preparedness and Response) Rules, 1996: Centre is required to constitute a central crisis group for management of chemical accidents; set up quick response mechanism termed as the crisis alert system. Each state is required to set up a crisis group and report on its work.
The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, which is an insurance meant to provide relief to persons affected by accidents that occur while handling hazardous substances.
The National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997, under which the National Environment Appellate Authority can hear appeals regarding the restriction of areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
National Green Tribunal, 2010, provides for the establishment of a National Green Tribunal for effective and expeditious disposal of cases related to environmental protection and conservation of forests.
Recent major gas-leak related disasters:
- 2014 GAIL Pipeline Blast: On 27 June 2014, a massive fire broke out following a blast in the underground gas pipeline maintained by the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) at Nagaram, East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.
- 2014 Bhilai Steel Plant Gas Leak: In another incident in June 2014 at Bhilai Steel Plant in Chhattisgarh’s Durg district, six people were killed and over 40 injured in an incident of leakage in a methane gas pipeline at a water pump house.
- 2017 Delhi Gas leak: Around 470 schoolchildren were hospitalised after inhaling poisonous fumes that spread due to a chemical leak at a container depot near two schools in the customs area of Tughlaqabad depot.
- 2018 Bhilai Steel Plant Blast: Nine people were killed and 14 others injured in a blast at the Bhilai Steel Plant of state-owned SAIL.
What happened in Bhopal?
In what is the biggest industrial disaster of the last hundred years in India, 5295 people died and 5,27,894 were affected after being exposed to some 40 tonne of methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a pesticide plant owned by the US multinational, Union Carbide Corp, in Bhopal.
It has been more than 35 years since the incident which happened on December 3, 1984, but there is still a massive debate on the number of people affected. Some activists estimate around 20,000 to 25,000 deaths.
Cause for concern now:
- According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), in the recent past, over 130 significant chemical accidents have been reported in the country, which have resulted in 259 deaths and caused major injuries to more than 560 people.
- There are over 1861 Major Accident Hazard (MAH) units spread across 301 districts and 25 states and three Union Territories in all zones of the country.
- Further, there are thousands of registered and hazardous factories and unorganised sectors dealing with numerous ranges of hazardous material posing serious and complex levels of disaster risks.
Sources: Indian Express.
Facts for Prelims
- Launched by the Government of Maharashtra.
- It is a real-time digital contact tracing mobile application which enables citizens to contribute and assist the health authorities in contact tracing, geo-fencing and tracking of quarantined COVID-19 patients.
- Selfie attendance feature has been also added in the application to get virtual attendance.
- This app is to be used by individuals as directed by their doctor or medical worker.
- The app will not be accessible to everyone, as the state government aims to use it for very targeted cases.
Insights Current Affairs Analysis (I–CAN) by IAS Topper