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G.S I - History

Usage of Iron in Tamil Nadu


Why in news?

Carbon dating of excavated finds in Tamil Nadu pushes evidence of iron being used in India back to 4,200 years ago.

What is the historical significance Iron?

  • Iron is not known to have been used in the Indus Valley, from where the use of copper in India is said to have originated (1500 BCE).
  • Iron technology led to the production of agricultural tools and weapons, leading to production required for a civilisation ahead of economic and cultural progress.
  • Iron tools were used to clear dense forests and bring land under agriculture.

What are the findings of the excavation?

  • The excavations are from Mayiladumparai near Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu, about 100 km south of Bengaluru.
  • Mayiladumparai is an important site with cultural material dating back between the Microlithic (30,000 BCE) and Early Historic (600 BCE) ages.
  • The site is situated in the midst of several archaeological sites such as Togarapalli, Gangavaram, Sandur, Vedarthattakkal, Guttur, Gidlur, Sappamutlu and Kappalavadi.
  • Prof Rajan had discovered the site in the 1990s, and the first excavations from there were made in the 1990s.
  • The results of dating that used accelerator mass spectroscopy pushes evidence of iron being used in India back to 4,200 years ago.
  • The Accelerator Mass Spectroscopy (AMS) dating by Beta Analytical Lab in Florida, US has established three important features
    • Iron appeared in Tamil Nadu as early as 220 BCE
    • The late Neolithic phase was identified before 2200 BCE as there is a cultural deposit of 25 cm below the dated level
    • Black-red-redware was in use the late Neolithic phase itself, in contrast to the wider belief that they were introduced in the Iron Age.
  • Before this, the earliest evidence of iron use was from 1900-2000 BCE for the country, and from 1500 BCE for Tamil Nadu.
  • The latest evidence dates the findings from Tamil Nadu to 2172 BCE.

The carbon dating of artefacts in Keeladi, a Sangam Era site near Madurai, and paddy husks found in a burial urn in Sivakalai in Thoothukudi district established their age to 2,600 and 3,200 years old.

What is the timeline regarding the iron usage in India?

  • In 1979, use of iron was traced to 1300 BCE at Ahar in Rajasthan.
  • Later, samples at Bukkasagara in Karnataka, indicating iron production, were dated back to 1530 BCE.
  • The date was pushed back to 1700-1800 BCE with excavations finding evidence of iron smelting at Raipura in the Mid-Ganga valley
  • It was then pushed to 1900-2000 BCE based on investigations in sites at Malhar near Varanasi and Brahmagiri in North Karnataka.
  • Before the latest discovery, the earliest evidence of iron use for Tamil Nadu was from Thelunganur and Mangadu near Mettur, dating back to 1500 BCE.

 

References

  1. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/tamil-nadu-iron-usage-carbon-dating-cultural-significance-explained-7916375/
  2. https://www.deccanherald.com/national/south/tamils-knew-use-of-iron-4000-years-ago-archaeological-findings-show-1107771.html

 

G.S II - Health

Focusing on Public Health Engineering


Why in news?

Expanding the cadre of sanitation engineers will help us confront water-related public health challenges.

What are the water-related public health challenges?

  • According to the United Nations, around 80% of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused globally.
  • In India, about 70% of sewage is discharged untreated into water bodies in the absence of cost-effective, sustainable water management solutions.
  • 21% of diseases are caused by contaminated water in India, according to the World Bank.
  • One in five children die before their fifth birthday because of poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, according to Startup India.

What is the need for having public health engineers?

  • The public health engineering sector is responsible for the collection of water, purification, transmission and distribution of water.
  • Currently in India, civil engineering incorporates a course or two on environmental engineering for students to learn about wastewater management.
  • The nexus between wastewater and solid waste management and public health issues is not brought out clearly.
  • Mostly civil engineers do not have adequate skills to address public health problems and public health professionals do not have adequate engineering skills.
  • The specialised cadre of public health engineers (sanitation engineers or environmental engineers) is best suited to provide the growing water supply and to manage solid waste and wastewater.

How can India achieve its SDG of clean water and sanitation?

Sustainable Development Goal 6 ensures access to water and sanitation for all.

  • To address the growing demands for water consumption and preservation of water resources, it is essential to find and implement innovative ways of treating wastewater.
  • Engineering and public health, together can offer a wide range of opportunities for
    • development of advanced wastewater treatment systems
    • understanding complex quality and monitoring processes,
    • designing and managing septic tank systems
    • supplying good quality water in adequate quantities
    • maintaining hygiene and access to water
    • ensuring that water supply is sustainable
  • There is a need for expansion of the pipeline network and identification of sustainable sources of water which have water available year-round.
  • Installation of online systems for monitoring the quantity and quality of supply and collection and treatment of wastewater become increasingly important.

India aims to supply 55 litres of water per person per day by 2024 under its Jal Jeevan Mission to install functional household tap connections.

What are the international trends in public health engineering?

  • Specialisation- In India, public health engineering is executed by the Public Works Department or by health officials.
  • To manage a wastewater treatment plant in Europe, a candidate must specialise in wastewater engineering.
  • India can introduce public health engineering as a master’s degree or diploma programmes to meet the need of increased human resource in this field.
  • Courses and training- Refresher courses for health and engineering institutes with an updated knowledge in areas of environment science should be made available.
  • Public health professionals can be groomed through in-service training.
  • Inter disciplinary field- Public health engineering should be developed as an interdisciplinary field where both engineers and public health professionals can contribute.
  • It can also enable contextualised decision-making regarding water management in India.
  • Quality water- Most of the world’s diseases can be prevented by providing good quality and adequate quantity of water.
  • Currently, institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) are considering initiating public health engineering as a separate discipline which is laudable.

States like Meghalaya have the Public Health Engineering Department since 1972.

 

References

  1. https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/focusing-on-public-health-engineering/article65421078.ece
  2. https://megphed.gov.in/dept.htm

 

G.S II - Polity

The Places of Worship Act, 1991


Why in news?

The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the order of a civil court in Varanasi directing a videographic survey of the Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal in the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque complex.

What is the issue?

  • The controversy erupted in 1991 when a group of local priests sought permission to worship in the Gyanvapi complex, claiming the mosque was built on a demolished portion of Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
  • The matter was reignited after petitioners demanded an archaeological survey of the Gyanvapi complex but the Allahabad High Court stayed the archaeological study of the complex.
  • A videography survey of the mosque was ordered on the plea of some women petitioners who seek to perform worship of idols that are said to be located on the walls of the mosque.
  • The Muslim side alleged bias from the side of the court-appointed commissioner of the survey and called videography inside the mosque, a violation of the Places of Worship Act, 1991.
  • The court has ordered the continuation of the video survey of the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque complex and has asked to submit the report.

To know more about the Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque Site, click here

What is the Places of Worship Act?

  • Aim- The Places of Worship Act, 1991, seeks to prohibit the conversion of a place of worship and maintain its religious character as was at the time of India’s Independence on August 15, 1947.
  • Features- It bars the conversion, in full or part, of a place of worship of any religious denomination into a different religious denomination or even a different segment of the same religious denomination.
  • Any suit or legal proceeding regarding the conversion of the religious character of any place of worship existing on August 15, 1947, pending before any court shall end and no fresh suit shall be instituted.
  • Exemptions- Section 5 stipulates that the Act shall not apply to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case.
  • The law exempts any place of worship, which is an ancient and historical monument or an archaeological site covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.

What is the controversy around the Act?

  • Justification of the Act- The Act was brought during the P V Narasimha Rao period, at a time when the Ram temple movement was at its peak.
  • The Babri Masjid was still standing, but L K Advani’s rath yatra, his arrest in Bihar, and the firing on kar sevaks in Uttar Pradesh had raised communal tensions.
  • The bill was said to be adopted to prevent any new controversies from arising in respect of conversion of any place of worship.
  • Challenges to the Act- The Act was challenged in the Supreme Court on the basis that the law was a contravention of the principle of secularism as laid down by the Constitution of India.
  • At present the question is “Could the survey at the Gyanvapi compound lead to its exemption from the Places of Worship Act?”

What did the Supreme Court say about the Act in Ayodhya judgment?

  • The court provided a guarantee for the preservation of the religious character of places of public worship as they existed on 15 August 1947 and against the conversion of places of public worship.
  • It held that the State has enforced a constitutional commitment to uphold the equality of all religions and secularism which is a part of the basic features of the Constitution.
  • The Places of Worship Act imposes a non-derogable obligation (whose infringement is not justified under any circumstances) towards enforcing our commitment to secularism.

 

References

  1. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-places-of-worship-act-7920852/
  2. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/gyanvapi-masjid-news-places-of-worship-act-shivling-in-mosque-1950314-2022-05-17
  3. https://www.mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/PlaceWorshipAct1991.pdf

 

G.S III - S & T

Strengthen cyber security the right way


Why in news?

Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) has issued directions relating to information security practices, procedure, prevention, response and reporting of cyber incidents under Section 70-B(6) of  Information Technology Act 2000.

What are the new directions issued by CERT-In regarding Cyber security?

  • Synchronisation of computer clocks to the network time protocol set at the National Physical Laboratory and National Informatics Centre (NIC).
  • Mandatory reporting of all cyber incidents within 6 hours of noticing or being brought to their notice in the prescribed format.
  • Designating point of contact and notifying CERT-In.
  • Perform the actions notified by CERT-IN for cyber security mitigation.
  • Maintain all logs of all ICT systems up to 180 days within Indian jurisdiction.
  • Data centres, virtual private network service providers, cloud service providers and virtual private server providers has to maintain all records of their users and usage for a minimum of 5 year even after the cancellation or withdrawal of registration.
  • The virtual asset industry too will have to maintain all KYC records and details of all financial transactions for five years.

Why new directions are issued?

  • CERT-IN has been struggling to get information and incident reporting from service providers, intermediaries as per section 70B(4) of the IT Act.
  • This was impacting its responsibility as a collector, analyser and disseminator of information on cyber incidents as well as coordinating incident responses and emergency measures.

What are the concerns raised regarding these new directions?

  • Unrealistic deadlines - A window of 60 days has been provided before implementation of these compliances begins. Given the scale of the revamp, this might be too short a window.
  • Multiple companies even from the MSME sector will take time to set up systems for compliances.
  • Recruitment of additional manpower for compliance may take far longer.
  • Also penalty for non-compliance is stiff (including up to one year of imprisonment and monetary fines).
  • Additional data storage requirement - At present, most entities maintain logs for around 30 days. To maintain logs for 180 days, the additional data storage device cost would be huge.
  • To maintain the data for 5 years the compliance cost is going to rise substantially.
  • Data localisation - Many entities having offshore servers have to shift their servers geographically in line with the government’s objective of localising data storage.
  • Privacy concerns - VPNs and virtual asset wallets are being asked to store and share KYC and transaction data. This raises privacy concerns.
  • VPNs have been successful for corporates as well as individuals because they address privacy concerns.
  • Incidents to be reported - The directions do not differentiate between the scales and nature of the incident to be reported.
  • An organisation might receive hundreds of phishing emails and the effort to notify each would drastically increase their compliance cost.
  • In the absence of data protection law there is ambiguity on which information can be held back or how his sensitive personal information is being protected.

 

Reference

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/strengthen-cyber-security-right-way-7920843/

G.S III - Renewable Energy

Controls over Renewable energy technology


What is the issue?

The concentration of technology and tacit knowledge related to renewable energy can emerge as an additional constraint to its wider adoption

What is the share of electricity from different sources of renewable energy?

  • At present, renewable energy accounts for only around 12% of all energy sources in the world.
  • Wind and solar energy have grown exponentially in the two decades.
  • However hydropower has dominated other renewable energy sources accounting for 58% of all renewable energy generation.
  • The shares of solar and wind power in total renewable energy still remain so small.
  • This is despite the fact that many countries are able to benefit from the sun and wind.

What prevents the greater use of solar energy?

  • Levels of investment required and developing it as sources of power generation.
  • Requirement of complementary infrastructure like storage and distribution, which in turn requires large-scale investment.
  • Access to the required technologies. Profit orientation of large companies, geopolitical considerations affects knowledge transfers.
  • Stranglehold of intellectual property rights and the monopolisation of knowledge by a few countries and corporations.
  • Distribution of world’s rare earths which are critical for green transition.

Which countries hold most patents for solar energy?

  • Earlier only few countries of the Global North, particularly Germany, Japan and the US dominated the renewable energy technologies.
  • Later China began to be a major player in developing renewable energy, particularly solar and wind sources.
  • Between 2008 and 2014 these countries showed increased patenting activity in energy innovations.
  • This was due to public investment in R&D and in related infrastructure investments, direct subsidies and credit guarantees provided to producers of solar and wind energy.
  • India also became a more important developer of such technologies and production over this period.
  • Today US, China and Japan accounts for 62% of all the renewable energy patents. China alone accounts for around one-third of all such patents.
  • After 2014 there was a dip in patenting the technologies.
  • This is because the basic technologies involved in both solar and wind energy have become off-patent and is widely known for years now.
  • New patents involve only incremental improvements, and many of these can effectively be designed around.

How the concentration of patents hampers the adaption of green technologies?

  • Patents and investments made in the major countries has meant a serious concentration of knowledge relating to green energy sources.
  • The bigger complication comes from trade secrets.
  • Trade secrets are information about how a particular product is made. It is known only to the company that makes it.
  • Legal mechanisms exists to prevent such tacit knowledge from being used.
  • Rich countries have used these to prevent the dissemination of green technology. For example US government took action against Chinese renewable energy companies.
  • All these makes it critical to adapt green technologies to specific local conditions.
  • This remains a concern for low and middle income countries.

What are the geographical constraints?

  • China currently provides more than 85 per cent of the world’s rare earths.
  • They are critical for the green energy transition.
  • Around two-thirds of the global supply of rare metals and minerals like antimony and barite essential for the manufacture of electric car batteries, satellites, weapons, wind turbines and solar panels comes from China.

Reference

  1. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/who-controls-renewable-energy-technology/article65420294.ece

Prelim Bits

Prelim Bits 17-05-2022 | UPSC Daily Current Affairs


Fair and Average Quality Wheat

The Centre relaxed the Fair and Average Quality (FAQ) norms for “shrivelled and broken grains” of wheat in the ongoing rabi marketing season in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh.

The Centre has raised the FAQ permissible limit of “shrivelled and broken grains” of wheat to 18% from the existing 6%. This decision will reduce the hardship of farmers and avoid distress sale of wheat.

  • Every year, before procurement begins in this region in April, the specifications to ensure the quality of the procured wheat are notified.
  • These specifications are notified by the Storage and Research (S&R) division of the Department of Food & Public Distribution in the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
  • This year, wheat containing up to 0.75% foreign matter, 2% damaged grain, 4% slightly damaged grain, 6% shrivelled and broken grain, and 12% moisture was cleared for procurement.
  • Implementation - The specifications are implemented at the time of procurement by the quality control wing of the Food Corporation of India (FCI), the central government’s nodal agency for procurement.
  • The FCI conducts physical and chemical analyses on the crops during the procurement process, and on the stored crop to ensure quality standards and parameters are met.
  • FAQ wheat - According to FCI, fair and average quality (FAQ) wheat is one that meets all all-down specifications.
  • FAQ wheat is fully developed, and has a proper shine or lustre.
  • The main varieties are golden or pale yellow in colour, the grain is not dark, and does not have any streaks.
  • It is properly dry, and meets all nutritional conditions, the values of which are tested in the lab in case of doubt.
  • If a layman takes a handful of wheat and finds the grain is shiny and beautiful, it would usually mean that the wheat meets FAQ.

Reference

  1. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-wheat-faq-quality-norms-7920706/
  2. https://newsonair.com/2022/05/16/centre-relaxes-fair-average-quality-norms-to-procure-wheat-in-punjab-haryana-and-chandigarh/

Lithium-Sulphur Cell Technology

Engineers in the USA have come up with a new Lithium-Sulphur (Li-S) cell technology.

  • The Li-S cell technology could pave the way for the development of more efficient, sustainable and cost-effective batteries than the current lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries in use today.
  • The Li-S batteries use Sulphur instead of the cobalt found in the electrolyte (the liquid inside the battery) in the Li-ion batteries.
  • This is done by stabilizing gamma sulfur at room temperature to enable the carbonate electrolyte in the Li-ion batteries.

The Sulphur is an extremely common element that is cheaply available.

But the Cobalt is rare and expensive and associated with unethical mining in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

  • In a Li-S battery cell, metallic lithium is used as the negative electrode while the positive electrode is of sulfur.
  • One benefit of Li-S batteries is that they have a higher theoretical energy density and can hold twice the charge of a regular Li-ion battery.
  • Problems - In Li-S batteries, when sulphur reacts with lithium, it creates many intermediaries called polysulphides.
  • These polysulphides dissolve in the electrolyte as the cell functions.
  • This results in the loss of the energy storing capacity with each charging cycle of Li-S batteries.
  • Another problem is that most Li-S technologies use ether electrolytes which have a boiling point of around 50 degrees celsius making them quite dangerous and inappropriate for most practical applications.
  • Vapour Deposition method -The US engineers tried to address these problems with a new technique called Vapour Deposition method.
  • In this method, the sulphur is physically confining into micropores of carbon in order to enable a Li-S battery with a carbonate electrolyte.
  • If the sulphur is physically confined, even if polysulphides are found, they would not directly interact with the carbonate solvent species and that would help prevent an adverse reaction (Hypothesis).

Reference

  1. https://indianexpress.com/article/technology/science/engineers-at-drexel-university-develop-new-lithium-sulphur-tech-that-can-revolutionise-batteries-7891660/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/lithium-sulfur-batteries#:~:text=In%20a%20lithium%2Dsulfur%20battery,is%20typically%20about%202%20V.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Researchers have identified a biochemical marker in the blood that could help identify newborn babies at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

  • SIDS is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old.
  • SIDS is known as crib death because the infants often die in their cribs.
  • Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) is an enzyme that plays a major role in the brain's arousal pathway.
  • In the new study, the researchers have found that the babies who died of SIDS had lower levels of the BChE enzyme shortly after birth.
  • So, the low levels of BChE would reduce a sleeping infant's ability to wake up or respond to its environment, leading to death in SIDS.
  • Other causes - Physical factors (Brain defects, low birth weight, respiratory infection); and environmental factors (sleeping on the stomach or side, sleeping on a soft surface, sharing a bed or overheating)
  • Risk factors - Infants are most vulnerable between the 2nd and 4th months of life.
  • Boys are slightly more likely to die. Nonwhite infants are more likely to develop SIDS.
  • Babies who live with smokers have a higher risk of SIDS (Secondhand smoke).
  • Premature babies and babies having a low birth weight result SIDS.
  • During pregnancy, the mother also affects her baby's risk of SIDS, especially if she is younger than 20, smokes cigarettes, uses drugs or alcohol, and/or has inadequate prenatal care.
  • Prevention - The actions are to be taken based on the above risks like placing your baby to sleep on his or her back, etc.,
  • Breast-feeding your baby for at least six months lowers the risk of SIDS.

Reference

  1. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/blood-marker-identified-for-babies-at-risk-of-sids/article65413718.ece
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sudden-infant-death-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20352800

Anang Tal Lake

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is asked by a Union Minister to restore the historic Anang Tal Lake in Mehrauli, South Delhi.

  • The Anang Tal Lake is believed to have been built a thousand years ago.
  • It is said to be created by Tomar King, Anangpal II, in 1,060 AD.
  • Anang Tal has a strong Rajasthan connection as Maharaja Anangpal is the maternal grandfather of Prithviraj Chauhan.
  • The millennium old Anang Tal signifies the beginning of Delhi.

Reference

  1. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/national-monument-tag-for-1000-year-old-lake-in-delhis-mehrauli-7895459/
  2. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2022/apr/27/centre-orders-restoration-of-historic-1000-year-old-anang-tal-lake-in-delhis-mehrauli-2447181.html
  3. https://www.theindianwire.com/news/government-plans-to-declare-delhis-anang-tal-a-national-monument-330307/

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