Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Waste-to-energy (WTE) plants
- Delhi Power Tussle
- Minimum Wages
- Opportunity Rover
- Global Terrorist / UNSC Sanctions against Individuals and Entities for Terrorism
1 . Waste to Energy Plants
Context : Nearly half of India’s waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, meant to convert non-biodegradable waste, are defunct. Further, the country’s inability to segregate waste has resulted in even the existing plants working below capacity,
- Since 1987, 15 WTE plants have been set up across the country. However, seven of these plants have shut down.
- Apart from Delhi, these include plants at Kanpur, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Vijayawada and Karimnagar.
- The NITI Aayog, as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, envisages 800 megawatt from WTE plants by 2018-19, which is 10 times the capacity of all the existing WTE plants put together.
- It also proposes setting up a Waste-to-Energy Corporation of India, which would construct incineration plants through PPP models. Currently, there are 40-odd WTE plants at various stages of construction.
Reasons for Waste to Energy plants not being Successful in India
- Quality and composition of waste – MSW (municipal solid waste) in India has low calorific value and high moisture content. As most wastes sent to the WTE plants are unsegregated, they also have high inert content. These wastes are just not suitable for burning in these plants. To burn them, additional fuel is required which makes these plants expensive to run
- Despite all the subsidies, the electricity produced from WTE plants is the most expensive. Compared to Rs 3-4 per kWh from coal and solar plants, WTE plants sell electricity at about Rs 7/kWh. Discoms are not interested in buying such expensive electricity when cheaper electricity is available. In fact, if subsidies are removed, the electricity produced from these plants will simply not be affordable
- Environmental and health impacts – Experiences across the country indicate that these plants are not able to meet environmental norms. The reason again seems to be the highly variable and poor quality of waste which the plants are not able to burn properly. As they have to handle vast quantities of mixed waste, the housekeeping is extremely challenging, leading to odour and visual pollution. This has led to the NIMBY (not in my backyard) syndrome. People do not want smelly and polluting plants near their homes
What kind of waste can be used in the plant
- The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, spell out clearly that only segregated non-recyclable high-calorific fractions like used rubber tyres, multilayer plastics, discarded textile and paper, etc., are sent to WTE plants.
- Issue – Of the 1.5 lakh tonnes of MSW generated every day, only about 15% can be classified as non-biodegradable, non-recyclable, high-calorific-value waste. This translates into about 25,000 TPD of waste which can be fed to the WTE plant. But the total waste treatment capacity for 40-odd under-construction and proposed WTE plants is over 30,000 TPD.
- There is clearly a need for different technologies to manage different fractions of waste. WTE plants have a role, but not in the way our planners are envisaging. They should be the last resort to manage high-calorific-value waste that cannot be managed by other technologies. They must, in addition, be operated with the most advanced technologies to contain pollution
2 . Delhi Power Tussle
Context : In a split verdict Thursday on the power tussle between the Centre represented by the Lt-Governor and the AAP-led Delhi government, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court referred to a larger bench the question of who should have control over administrative services.
- In June last year, a five-judge Constitution Bench ruled that decisions of the Delhi government will not require the concurrence of the Lieutenant-Governor, except in matters relating to Land, Home and Public Order.
- That judgment was silent on matters relating to services and other issues. On Thursday, a two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court ruled on five crucial issues.
About the Verdict
3 . Minimum Wages
Context : An expert panel has recommended that a need-based national minimum wage for workers across the country be set at Rs. 375 per day, or Rs. 9,750 per month.
- The Ministry of Labour and Employment had constituted an expert committeeunder the Chairmanship Dr. Anoop Satpathy, to review and recommend methodology for fixation of National Minimum Wage (NMW).
- The Expert Committee has submitted its report on “Determining the Methodology for Fixation of the National Minimum Wage
Features about the Report
- The report using scientific approach has updated the methodological framework of fixation of minimum wages based on the overall guidelines of the ILC 1957 and the Supreme Court Judgment of Workmen v Reptakos Brett & Co. in 1992.
- Using the nutritional requirement norms as recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for Indian population, the report has recommended a balanced diet approach which is culturally palatable for fixation of national minimum wage.
- Accordingly, it has proposed that food items amounting to the level of ± 10 per cent of 2,400 calories, along with proteins ≥ 50 gm and fats ≥ 30 gm per day per person to constitute a national level balanced food basket.
- Further, this report proposes minimum wage should include reasonable expenditure on ‘essential non-food items’, such as clothing, fuel and light, house rent, education, medical expenses, footwear and transport, which must be equal to the median class and expenditure on any ‘other non-food items’ be equivalent to the sixth fractile (25-30 per cent) of the household expenditure distribution as per the NSSO-CES 2011/12 survey data.
Proposed National Minimum Wage
- The report has recommended to fix the need based national minimum wage for India at INR 375 per day (or INR 9,750 per month) as of July 2018, irrespective of sectors, skills, occupations and rural-urban locations for a family comprising of 3.6 consumption unit.
- It has also recommended to introduce an additional house rent allowance (city compensatory allowance), averaging up to INR 55 per day i.e., INR 1,430 per month for urban workers over and above the NMW.
- The report has also estimated and recommended different national minimum wages for different geographical regions of the country to suit the local realities and as per socio-economic and labour market contexts. For the purpose of estimating national minimum wages at regional levels it has grouped
|Region I||Region II||Region III||Region IV||Region V|
|Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal||Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, and Uttarakhand||Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu||Delhi, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab||Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim, Mizoram and Tripura|
|INR 342 per day(INR 8,892 per month)||INR 380 per day(INR 9880 per month)||INR 414 per day(INR 10,764 per month)||INR 447 per day(INR11,622 per month)||INR 386 per day(INR 10, 036 per month)|
4 . Spirit & Opportunity Rover
Context : The record-breaking 15-year-long Mars mission of NASA’s Opportunity rover was declared over after the US space agency failed to contact the robotic explorer for over eight months. The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June last year.
Spirit and Opportunity
- Spirit and Opportunity were identical, golf-cart-sized, solar-powered rovers with the aim of exploring Mars
- Spirit landed at Gusev Crater on January 4, 2004; Opportunity followed, landing on the opposite side of Mars at Meridiani Planum on January 24. Contact with Spirit was lost in March 2010, and the mission was declared over on May 25, 2011.
- Opportunity continued to roam Mars — and sent out its last signals on June 10, 2018, when the most intense duststorm in recorded Martian history encrusted its solar panels, and damaged critical components.
- Opportunity was the first rover to identify and characterise sedimentary rocks on a planet other than Earth. Besides small spheres of haematite nicknamed “blueberries” that formed late from rising, acidic groundwater, Opportunity found white veins of gypsum, a telltale sign of water that travelled through underground fractures. It also discovered clay minerals that formed in neutral-pH water
5 . Global Terrorist / UNSC Sanctions against Individuals and Entities for Terrorism
- Counter-terrorism is an important objective of UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
- The two main UNSC regimes establishing sanctions against individuals and entities suspected of terrorism are known as the 1267 regime and the 1373 regime. They impose mandatory obligations on all UN members concerning their implementation
- India wants Masood Azhar to be put in 1267 regime of UNSC sanctions
- The 1267 sanctions regime was initially based on three UNSC resolutions.
- First, UNSCR 1267 (1999), adopted following the Al-Qaeda attacks on United States (US) embassies in East Africa, imposed a limited air embargo and assets freeze on individuals and entities connected with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
- Second, UNSCR 1333 (2000), extended those sanctions to individuals and entities associated with Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. This regime evolved to include asset freezes, travel bans and arms embargoes against individuals and entities named on the 1267 Sanctions List, without the requirement of any territorial connection and for a potentially unlimited period of time (UNSCR 1390 (2002)). A Sanctions Committee was established to oversee the regime. In 2011, UNSCR 1988 split the regime in two: a new Taliban sanctions regime was established alongside the Al-Qaida sanctions regime.
- Finally, UNSCR 2253 (2015) extended the Al-Qaida Sanctions List to individuals and entities connected with the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), changing the title of the Sanctions Committee3 and of the Sanctions List, now the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List.
- Under the listing procedure, any UN member state may submit names to the Sanctions Committee to request their inclusion on the Sanctions List. The committee approves or rejects the listing requests, unless a UNSC member objects within a certain period. Once an individual or entity is placed on the Sanctions List, all UN member states are obliged to implement the asset freeze, arms embargo and travel ban against them.
- The other main counter-terrorist sanctions regime was set up by the UNSC by means of Resolution 1373 (2001) in the aftermath of the attacks on 11 September, 2001.
- The resolution requires states to criminalise the support of terrorism, by freezing the funds of those suspected of making financial resources available to terrorists and by introducing domestic legislation making support for terrorist acts a serious criminal offence, sanctioned accordingly.
- UNSCR 1373(2001) therefore establishes a ‘parallel’ or ‘decentralised’ listing system, whereby UN member states are given discretion over decisions on whom to list.
- Under this regime, suspects or groups need not therefore necessarily be associated with Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, as UNSCR 1373 allows for the listing of individuals or groups as considered necessary ‘to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist acts’.
- As these designations are made at national or regional level, however, individuals or groups have greater means to challenge their listing, including through judicial review.
- The 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) was established as a subsidiary body of the UNSC to monitor the implementation of the 1373 regime