Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Buddhist Stupa and Khondolite stones
- Report on Renewable energy
- Agnipath scheme
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Buddhist Stupa and Khondolite stones
Context: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) stumbled upon a 1,300-year-old stupa right in the middle of a mining site in Odisha’s Jajpur district from where Khondalite stones were supplied for the beautification project around the 12 th Century Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri
- A stupa is a reliquary, a shrine containing the remains of a holy or sainted person and/or artifacts (relics) associated with them, originating in India prior to the 5th century BCE as tombs of holy men and evolving afterwards into sacred sites dedicated to the Buddha (l. c. 563 – c. 483 BCE)
- The tradition of erecting stupas may have been pre-Buddhist, but they came to be associated with Buddhism. Since they contained relics regarded as sacred, the entire stupa came to be venerated as an emblem of both the Buddha and Buddhism.
- According to a Buddhist text known as the Ashokavadana, Asoka distributed portions of the Buddha’s relics to every important town and ordered the construction of stupas over them. By the second century BCE a number of stupas, including those at Bharhut, Sanchi and Sarnath had been built.
- Later, stupas were also raised to honor Buddhist arhats (saints), bodhisattvas (enlightened ones), other saintly figures, or local deities.
How were stupas built?
- Inscriptions found on the railings and pillars of stupas record donations made for building and decorating them. Some donations were made by kings such as the Satavahanas; others were made by guilds, such as that of the ivory workers who financed part of one of the gateways at Sanchi. Hundreds of donations were made by women and men who mention their names, sometimes adding the name of the place from where they came, as well as their occupations and names of their relatives. Bhikkhus and bhikkhunis also contributed towards building these monuments.
The structure of the stupa
- The Buddhist stupa is a physical manifestation of this understanding which invites adherents to both center and elevate themselves through various rituals or simply by gathering and focusing their energies at the site.
- The stupa (a Sanskrit word meaning a heap) originated as a simple semi-circular mound of earth, later called anda. Gradually, it evolved into a more complex structure, balancing round and square shapes. Above the anda was the harmika, a balconylike structure that represented the abode of the gods.
- The physical appearance of the stupa is intended to elevate the mind. The top spire (yasti) symbolizes the axis mundi (axis of the world), the line through the center of the earth which the universe revolves around. It is also thought to represent the World Tree whose roots are deep within the earth and branches in heaven, a symbol common in many cultures around the world. The yasti is surrounded by a square gate known as the harmika, and over the yasti and harmika are parasols which symbolize protection, majesty, and the Buddha himself. The large hemisphere descends from the yasti to a platform or base, sometimes square, which is often surrounded by a wall with four gates (toranas) corresponding to the four cardinal directions. These directions, in turn, relate to four events in Buddha’s life:
- East – Birth of Buddha
- South – Enlightenment of Buddha
- West – First Sermon of Buddha
- North – Nirvana/Release from Samsara of Buddha
- Khondalite is a foliated metamorphic rock. In India, it is also called Bezwada Gneiss and Kailasa Gneiss. It was named after the Khond tribe of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh because well-formed examples of the rock were found in the inhabited hills of these regions of eastern India.
- Distribution– Khondalite is found in the Eastern Ghats between Vijayawada and Cuttack in India.
- Composition – Khondalite is quartz–manganese-rich garnet–rhodonite schist. It may also contain sillimanite and graphite. Feldspar may occur in some cases.
- Formation– Khondalites are considered to be metasedimentary rocks formed during Archaean era.
- Uses – Khondalite stones are proposed to be used widely to maintain aesthetic value of some projects such as heritage security zone, Jagannath Ballav pilgrim centre, Puri lake development project, Atharnala heritage project and Matha Development Initiative
2 . Report on Renewable Energy
Context: Karnataka is currently the State with the best equipped power systems to transition its electricity system from being fossil-powered to renewable energy sources, followed by Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, says an analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Ember
About the Report
- The report ‘Indian States’ Energy Transition’ has analysed 16 Indian states, which together account for 90 per cent of the country’s annual power requirement, across four dimensions. The dimensions track a state’s preparedness to shift away from fossil-fuel-based power, its ability to incentivise greener market participation, its power systems reliability, and its policies pushing for power sector decarbonization.
- Parameters –Decarbonization, Performance of the power system, Readiness of the power system,and policies and political commitments
- The 16 states include Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, Odisha, and Bihar.
- Based on this analysis, the report devises a States’ Electricity Transition (SET) scoring system, which measures the performance of the different states in the transition to clean electricity.
- Karnataka is the only state that scored well across all the dimensions of clean electricity transition identified in this study. It was the best-performing state in decarbonising its power sector, the performance of its power system, and the readiness of its power ecosystem. It also has conducive policies and political commitments for a smoother transition. Gujarat was a little behind Karnataka in terms of decarbonising its electricity sector.
- Similarly, Haryana and Punjab have shown promising preparations and implementation for electricity transition in their respective states, said the report.
- Karnataka has been an early adopter of renewable energy through proactive policies around open access, solar park development, and public awareness. The state fared the best in decarbonising its power sector and has the highest share of renewables in its power supply mix (48%).
- The analysis has further found that currently, Karnataka is one of the few states overachieving its Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO) targets. Interestingly, the state still has a large amount of untapped renewable energy potential, having installed just 11% of its total potential. Report highlights the state’s tremendous opportunity to provide power to neighbouring states through green market mechanisms
- Rajasthan is second only to Karnataka, with renewables supplying 29% of the state’s power mix. The state saw a spurt in new renewable energy capacity and in March 2022, Rajasthan became the state with the largest installed capacity of renewable energy.
- Punjab and Haryana are also front-runners. Maharashtra, with the highest electricity demand in India, was found to be mid-table, mainly due to slow renewable energy uptake in the state and the inability to shut down older polluting coal power plants. Its renewable energy share (11%) is lower than most other states.
- The report outlines focus areas for states to improve their preparedness for transition, such as exploiting wind and solar generation potential and deploying more energy storage solutions, such as batteries and pumped hydro, for better renewable energy integration
Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
- The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) conducts research and analyses on financial and economic issues related to energy and the environment. The Institute’s mission is to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy and to reduce dependence on coal and other non-renewable energy resources.
3 . Agnipath Scheme
Context: The Delhi High Court upheld the validity of Agnipath scheme launched by the Union government for recruitment in the Armed Forces. The court dismissed a bunch of petitions challenging the scheme, and said that the scheme has been introduced in the national interest.
About the case
- Petitions have challenged the constitutional validity of the scheme,
Details of the Verdict
- Court maintained that from the perusal of material on record, the Agnipath scheme is a well thought out policy decision of the Government of India.
- According to the judgement scheme was made in national interest, to ensure that the Armed Forces are better equipped.
- Training period under the scheme would also instil a sense of nationalism in the recruits”, which would “more or less prompt them to use their skills and focus on the development of the country”.
- Such advantages cannot be overlooked and dislodged on the basis of the apprehension that after four years such individuals may be unemployed or may take to illegal or unethical activities…,” the court said.
- Besides pleas challenging the Agnipath scheme, the court also dismissed petitions relating to the recruitment process for the Armed Forces under certain previous advertisements, while clarifying that such candidates do not have the right to seek recruitment.
- On the matter of pension for the Agniveers, the court said that the petitioners had failed to realise the Indian government had not made it mandatory for youth to serve in the Armed Forces, as many nations do. The court also found no merit in the argument that the government had failed to make provide for the meaningful employment of Agniveers in the future.“The Government has in fact sought to extend entrepreneurship financial schemes such as MUDRA and Start-Up India to Agniveers as well…..” the court maintained.
What is Agnipath Scheme?
- Agnipath Scheme in the Indian Armed Forces is a scheme wherein selected candidates will be enrolled as Agniveers for four years Period
- The Agnipath scheme was approved by the Indian Government in June 2022 to be implemented from September 2022. The announcement was done on June 14, 2022.
- The scheme is for both male and female aspirants of age group 17.5 to 21 years. In the midst of widespread protests against the scheme, the Central Government raised the upper limit from 21 to 23, but only for recruitment in the year 2022.
- The recruitment through this scheme is to be twice a year for the Indian Army, the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force. The posts available are below the officer cadre. The Agnipath Scheme is the only route to serve in the military.
- The recruits named Agniveers serve for a tenure of four years that include training for six months followed by 3.5 years deployment. After retirement from the service, they will have the opportunity to apply to continue in the armed forces. Not more than 25 percent of the total strength of the retiring batch will be selected for the permanent cadre. Personnel who retire after 4 years of service will not be eligible for pension but will receive a lump sum amount of approximately ₹11.71 lakh at the end of tenure. The Indian government plans to recruit 45,000 to 50,000 new personnel every year through this scheme.
- On July 17, 2022, Jammu and Kashmir’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha announced a 10% reservation in Jammu and Kashmir Police service for those who retire after serving in the military under the Agnipath scheme
What are the broad objectives of the Scheme?
- To enhance youthful profile of the Armed Forces so that they are at their fighting best at all times with increased risk taking ability.
- To attract young talent from the society to effectively exploit, adopt and use emerging modern technologies with enhanced technical thresholds of intake while leveraging Technical Institutions of the country.
- To provide an opportunity to the youth who may be keen to serve the Nation in uniform albeit for a short period of time.
- To imbibe The Armed Forces ethos, cotzraye, camaraderie, commitment and teamwork in the youth.
- To provide abilities and qualities such as discipline, dynamism, motivation and work-skills so that the youth remains an asset.
What are the advantages of the scheme?
- This proposal envisages providing opportunity to the youth to serve in the military for short duration.
- It will also lead to a much more youthful and technically adept war fighting force by ensuring a fine balance between youthful and experienced personnel in the Armed Forces.
What benefits are envisaged to be accrued from the scheme?
- The scheme would be a win- win situation for the Armed Forces, Nation, individuals and the society at large.
- National Integration based in unity in diversity with equal opportunity to youth including women from all regions.
- Nation Building through empowered, disciplined & skilled youth with military ethos in civil society.
- Improved battle preparedness through transformative evolution with energetic, fitter, diverse, more trainable and resilient youth suited to the changing dynamics.
- Selection of the Best with rigorous and transparent selection process.
- Youthful Profile by optimal balance of youth & experience.
- Endeavour to Harness benefits of SKILL INDIA by induction from Tech Institutes.
- Opportunity for Youth to fulfil dream of joining the Armed Forces and serve the Nation.
- Imbibe military discipline, motivation, skill and physical fitness.
- Smooth integration into society with skill sets, certification and diplomas/ higher education/credits.
- Good financial package making him more stable than his civilian counterparts.
- Confident & better citizens by military training, team building, ethos & camaraderie forged over the years.
4 . Facts for Prelims
Intra-State Transmission System – Green Energy Corridor Phase-II scheme
- Intra-State Transmission System – Green Energy Corridor Phase-II scheme lays down the infrastructure for connecting electricity generated from renewables with the power grid in seven States. They are Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Kerala, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat
- The corridor scheme, with a total estimated cost of ₹12,000 crore would receive 33% Central financial assistance, or ₹3,970 crore.
- The scheme will help in achieving the target of 450 Gw installed RE capacity by 2030.
- The scheme will also contribute to long term energy security of the country and promote ecologically sustainable growth by reducing carbon footprint.
- The scheme will generate large direct and indirect employment opportunities for both skilled and unskilled personnel in power and other related sectors
- This scheme is in addition to GEC-Phase-I which is already under implementation in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu for grid integration and power evacuation of 24 Gw of renewable power and is expected to be completed by 2022.
- Green energy corridor :
- The Green Energy Corridor Project aims at synchronizing electricity produced from renewable sources, such as solar and wind, with conventional power stations in the grid.
- For evacuation of large-scale renewable energy, Intra State Transmission System (InSTS) project was sanctioned by the Ministry in 2015-16. It is being implemented by eight renewable-rich states of Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. The project is being implemented in these states by the respective State Transmission Utilities (STUs).
Hindustan 228-201 LW
- The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has approved a new variant of the Hindustan 228-201 LW aircraft developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
- This variant of the Hindustan 228-201 LW aircraft has maximum take-off weight of 5,695 kg with 19 passengers. With this modification, the aircraft would fall in the Sub 5,700 kg aircraft category.
- Benefits– This variant provides several operational benefits for operators such as reduced pilot qualification requirement enabling pilots with Commercial Pilot License to fly the aircraft, enhanced availability of pilot pool for the aircraft and reduced operational cost.
- The new variant will result in reduced training requirement for flying and ground crew including aircraft maintenance engineers
- The Raisina Dialogue is a multilateral conference held annually in New Delhi, India. Since its inception in 2016, the conference has emerged as India’s flagship conference on geopolitics and geo-economic.
- Every year, global leaders in policy, business, media and civil society are hosted in New Delhi to discuss cooperation on a wide range of pertinent international policy matters.
- The Dialogue is structured as a multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral discussion, involving heads of state, cabinet ministers and local government officials, who are joined by thought leaders from the private sector, media and academia.
- The conference is hosted by the Observer Research Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs.
Organ on a chip technology
- Organ on a chip (OOAC) is a novel in-vitro micro-scale biomimetic platform that helps in reproducing physiological environment of human organs. This technology involves cell biology, engineering and material sciences to simulate in-vivo tissues
- The organ-chips are designed to accurately recreate the natural physiology and mechanical forces that cells experience in the human body.
- The chips are lined with living human cells and their tiny fluidic channels reproduce blood and /or air flow just as in the human body. Their flexibility allows the chips to recreate breathing motions or undergo muscle contractions.
- Each organ-chip, such as the lung, liver, intestine or brain, is about the size of a AA battery.
- The chip’s transparency allows researchers to see the organ’s functionality, behaviour, and response, at the cellular and molecular level.