04th October 2018, Current Affairs and News Analysis for UPSC Civil Service Examination, SSC CGL and State Civil Service Examinations.

04th October 2018 - Current Affairs for UPSC IAS and State Civil Service Exam

Art and Culture

Vice-President inaugurated the World Peace Monument, the largest dome in the world

Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu inaugurated the world’s largest dome at the Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT)’s World Peace University (MIT-WPU) campus at Loni Kalbhor on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

World Peace Monument
  • The structure, called the ‘World Peace Monument’ dome, took nearly 13 years to be built.
  • At 160 ft. in diameter and 263 ft tall, it is larger in area than the dome at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City (which is 136 ft. in diameter and 448 ft. in height).
  • Among the statues are: Gautam Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mahavir, Moses, Guru Nanak and Mahatma Gandhi; intellectual giants like Confucius, Adi Shankaracharya, Aristotle, Aryabhatta, Socrates, Plato, Galileo and Copernicus; philosopher-saints like Dnyaneshwara, Tukaram, Abdullah Shah Qadri (famous as Baba Bulleh Shah), Francis D’Assissi, Peter, Mother Teresa and Kabir; and scientists like Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edison, C.V. Raman, Jagadish Chandra Bose and Marie S. Curie.

‘Remarkable architecture’

This enormous structure is an architectural wonder. Constructing a 160 ft diameter structure with only 24 columns as the foundation is a remarkable feat. I am delighted to inaugurate one of the largest domes in the world and appreciate the efforts of MIT for this structure.

  • The dome is built atop the MIT World Peace Library and the World Peace Prayer Hall, which are named after the 13th century poet-saint and philosopher Dnyaneshwar — a pivotal figure of the Bhakti movement in Maharashtra.
  • Massive proportions

    • Each of the 24 massive columns in the ‘World Peace Monument’ dome stand 63 feet tall.
    • The prayer hall can accommodate about 3,500 people and is embellished with more than 50 statues of saints, philosophers, scientists and statesmen from India and the world.

    Ecology

    88 million-year-old isle and crater to be geoparks

    • In a first, an ancient circular lake created by a meteorite strike in Maharashtra and a hexagonal mosaic of basaltic rocks in an island off Udupi are poised to become global geoparks, under a Geological Survey of India (GSI) plan.
    • Lonar Lake in Maharashtra and St. Mary’s Island and Malpe beach in coastal Karnataka are the GSI’s candidates for UNESCO Global Geopark Network status.

    UNESCO Global Geopark Network status

    • The Geopark tag is akin to that of a ‘World Heritage Site’ for historical monuments that can bring India’s famed geological features to the global stage.
    • UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.
    • While a UNESCO Global Geopark must demonstrate geological heritage of international significance, the purpose of a UNESCO Global Geopark is to explore, develop and celebrate the links between that geological heritage and all other aspects of the area’s natural, cultural and intangible heritages.
    • Their bottom-up approach of combining conservation with sustainable development while involving local communities is becoming increasingly popular.
    • At present, there are 140 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 38 countries.
    • UNESCO’s work with geoparks began in 2001.
    • In 2004, 17 European and 8 Chinese geoparks came together at UNESCO headquarters in Paris to form the Global Geoparks Network (GGN) where national geological heritage initiatives contribute to and benefit from their membership of a global network of exchange and cooperation.
    • On 17 November 2015, the 195 Member States of UNESCO ratified the creation of a new label, the UNESCO Global Geoparks, during the 38th General Conference of the Organisation.
    • This expresses governmental recognition of the importance of managing outstanding geological sites and landscapes in a holistic manner.
    • The Organization supports Member States’ efforts to establish UNESCO Global Geoparks all around the world, in close collaboration with the Global Geoparks Network.
    • An aspiring Global Geopark must have a dedicated website, a corporate identity, comprehensive management plan, protection plans, finance, and partnerships for it to be accepted.
    • In mid-August, GSI moved ahead with the plan, setting a follow-up time frame of 100 days.

    Lonar lake

    • Lonar lake is the only known meteorite crater in basaltic rock and is world famous.
    • This lake, which lies in a basalt impact structure, is both saline and alkaline in nature.
    • The lake is a haven for a wide range of plant and animal life.
    • Resident and migratory birds such as black-winged stilts, brahminy ducks, grebes, shelducks (European migrants), shovellers, teals, herons, red-wattled lapwings, rollers or blue jays, baya weavers, parakeet hoopoes, larks, tailorbirds, magpies, robins and swallows are found on the lake.
    • Among reptiles, the monitor lizard is reported to be prominent.
    • The lake is also home to thousands of peafowls, chinkara and gazelles.
    • The area of 3.83Sq.km was declared as Lonar Wildlife Sanctuary by the government on 20 November 2015.
    • Lonar crater became a geo-heritage site in 1979.
    • It is relatively young geologically, at just 50,000 years old.
    • A meteorite estimated to weigh two-million-tonnes slammed into the Earth, creating a 1.83-km diameter crater where the lake formed.
    • It is distinguished by a near-perfect, circular ejecta blanket, which refers to earth thrown up during the collision, around it.

    St. Mary’s island

    • Mary’s Islands, also known as Coconut Island and Thonsepar, are a set of four small islands in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Malpe in Udupi, Karnataka, India.
    • They are known for their distinctive geological formation of columnar basaltic lava.
    • Mary’s Island, declared a national geo-heritage site in 1975, is estimated to be an 88-million-year-old formation that goes back to a time when Greater India broke away from Madagascar.
    • According to folk legend, in the year 1498, Vasco da Gama landed at St. Mary’s Islands on his journey from Portugal, fixed a cross on the island and named one of these islands, O Padrão de Santa Maria, as a dedication to Mother Mary.

    Governance

    Rape survivor can’t subvert trial

    The turning hostile of a rape survivor should not deter a court from continuing with the trial. Neither the accused nor the victim of a sexual assault can make a criminal trial, once the wheels have turned, into a ‘theatre of the absurd’, the Supreme Court has held in a recent judgment.

    • A criminal trial is but a quest for truth,” a Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Naveen Sinha and K.M. Joseph declared in a judgment.
    • Justice Sinha observed that societal interest for rule of law, to bring the accused to book in the face of incontrovertible proof, is as important as the rights of the victims.
    • Neither the accused nor the victim can be permitted to subvert a criminal trial by stating falsehood and resort to contrivances, so as to make it the theatre of the absurd.
    • The court held that ideally the victim, now married, should face the law for lying in her testimony. But the court pardoned her, saying she was barely nine years old on the date of occurrence.
    • The occurrence had taken place 14 long years ago. She may have since been married and settled to a new life, all of which may possibly be jeopardized.

    Background

    • The case dealt with a rape committed on a nine-year-old in Gujarat in 2004.
    • The case was registered six months after the incident.
    • The child had turned hostile during the trial.
    • She deposed that her injuries were due to a fall.
    • However, medical reports and physical examination of her clothes proved rape.

    Science and Technology

    Physics Nobel Goes to Laser Pioneers

    Three scientists won the Nobel Physics Prize, including the first woman to receive the prestigious award in 55 years, for inventing optical lasers that have paved the way for advanced precision instruments used in corrective eye surgery.

    Physics Nobel Goes to Laser Pioneers
    • Arthur Ashkin of the U.S. won one half of the nine million Swedish kronor (about $1.01 million) prize, while Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada shared the other half.
    • Ashkin, who made his discovery while working at AT&T Bell Laboratories from 1952 to 1991, is the oldest winner of a Nobel prize, beating out American Leonid Hurwicz who was 90 when he won the 2007 Economics Prize.
    • Meanwhile Mr. Mourou, 74, and Ms. Strickland ,59, — only the third woman to win the Physics Prize — won for helping develop a method to generate ultra-short optical pulses, the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by mankind.
    • Their technique is now used in corrective eye surgery.
    • Mourou was also involved in building the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) project and what is believed to be one of the world’s most powerful lasers, the Apollon, in developments that researchers hope will one day help deal with nuclear waste, treating tumours and clearing debris in space.

    Optical tweezers

    • Ashkin, 96, was honoured for his invention of “optical tweezers” that grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers.
    • With this he was able to use the radiation pressure of light to move physical objects.
    • A major breakthrough came in 1987 when Mr. Ashkin used the tweezers to capture living bacteria without harming them.
    • Optical tweezers are scientific instruments that use a highly focused laser beam to provide an attractive or repulsive force, depending on the relative refractive index between particle and surrounding medium, to physically hold and move microscopic objects similar to tweezers.

    Economy

    Rescuing IL&FS

    The Centre’s move to supersede the Board of Directors of the troubled Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS) has come not a day too soon. By explicitly stating its intent to “ensure that needed liquidity is arranged for IL&FS from the financial system”, the Centre has sent out an unambiguous message to the markets that it will not allow the company to fail.

  • A series of defaults by the IL&FS holding company and group outfits beginning in August have set off a market-wide contagion.
  • Background

    • Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. (IL&FS) was set up in 1987 by the legendary M.J. Pherwani (former chairman of Unit Trust of India, National Housing Bank, etc.) to finance and promote infrastructure projects in the country.
    • This holding company is now a financial behemoth with assets of over Rs. 1,15,000 crore and a  debt of Rs. 91,000 crore.
    • IL&FS Finance, which is a group company of the holding IL&FS company, defaulted in late August on a commercial paper repayment. This development was followed by a default by IL&FS on repayment of a Rs. 1,000 crore deposit to Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI).
    • Pursuant to this, a series of defaults by the holding company and group outfits followed. These defaults ran into the weeks leading up to the annual general meeting of IL&FS on September 29.
    • Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. (IL&FS) is listed as “systemically important” by the Reserve Bank of India. The company has over Rs. 1,15,000 crore of assets and Rs. 91,000 crore of debt. Thus, it is too big to fail. This is further underlined by the fact that interlinkages between IL&FS and other financial sector entities such as banks, mutual funds and infrastructure players are too strong and the company would have taken them all down with it if it were allowed to fail.
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    India’s drone use policy makes the possibility of a red tape-free flight very slim

    While the rest of the world has been soaring ahead in making the futuristic promise of unmanned flying vehicles a more immediate reality, India has largely been dragging its feet. Up until the end of August, flying a drone was mostly illegal here. With the publication of the drone regulations in late August, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has attempted to give some structure to the development of drone infrastructure in India.

    What are Drones ?

    • Drones are a technology platform which has wide-ranging applications from photography to agriculture, from infrastructure asset maintenance to insurance. Drones range in size from very small and those that can carry multiple kilograms of payload.

    Drones are divided into five categories

    1. nano,
    2. micro,
    3. small,
    4. medium and
    5. large.

    There is very little regulation for flying a nano up to 50 metres height, except for not flying near airports, military sites or in segregated airspace.

    Long Procedure

    • For drones that fall under the micro category, operators have to start with the application for a unique identification number (UIN) for each drone. There is a long list of documentation including security clearances from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in several cases.
    • Once the UIN is obtained, operators get to move to the next step. They have to apply for an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP). This implies more forms.
    • To compound matters, in the current system, even to fly a micro drone below 200 ft, users have to intimate the local police station 24 hours prior. (One application requires that it be submitted with seven copies.)
    • These provisions curb manufacturers of drones as well as technologists and researchers who have to test fly these drones frequently, often several times a day. The very structure of these regulations makes the possibility of a red tape-free flight very slim. There is also a chance that operators could be slapped easily with real and perceived violations.
    • Critics further point out that although the regulation provides a list of identified areas for testing and demonstration, the locations provided are so far from technology and development hubs that it is unclear how practical these will be. Although one must concede that flying drones in these areas comes with less paperwork.
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