- Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2023
- Glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF)
- Bihar Caste Survey
- UNCTAD’s Review of Maritime Transport 2023: GHG Emissions and Decarbonization Challenges
- Social Audit of MGNREGA Scheme
The 2023 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to Moungi G. Bawendi, Louis E. Brus and Alexei I. Ekimov for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots. These nanoparticles have wide-ranging applications across fields like electronics, advanced surgery, and quantum computing.
GS III: Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- Quantum Dots: A Closer Look
- The Nobel-Winning Research on Quantum Dots
- Modern-Day Applications of Quantum Dots
Quantum Dots: A Closer Look
- An element’s properties are typically determined by its electron count.
- However, when matter shrinks to nano-dimensions, its characteristics become size-dependent.
- Smaller particles have electrons packed tightly, influencing their properties.
- At nanoscale, quantum forces prevail, unlike the macroscopic world where gravity and classical physics govern.
- These size-driven particles are known as quantum dots.
Exploring Quantum Dots
- Quantum dots are minuscule particles, measuring just a few nanometers in width.
- Their tiny size grants them distinctive optical attributes.
- Despite sharing atomic composition with bulk materials, their properties are size-dependent.
The Concept of Quantum Dots
- Scientists had long hypothesized the existence of such particles.
- In the 1970s, physicists discovered that introducing minute quantities of elements like gold, silver, cadmium, sulfur, or selenium into glass could alter its optical properties.
- While the causes and effects of these changes were understood, the actual synthesis of quantum dots had not been achieved at that time.
The Nobel-Winning Research on Quantum Dots
Dr. Ekimov’s Pioneering Work
- In the early 1980s, Dr. Ekimov achieved a breakthrough by inducing size-dependent quantum effects in colored glass.
- Starting in 1979, he conducted research on glasses containing copper chloride, which were heated to high temperatures and then cooled.
- Different preparation methods resulted in varying light absorption properties.
- This variation was attributed to the formation of tiny copper chloride crystals during the process, with crystals of different sizes interacting with light in distinct ways.
Dr. Brus’ Advancements
- In 1983, Dr. Brus and his colleagues took a significant step forward by synthesizing similar crystals in a liquid solution, as opposed to in glass.
- This approach provided greater control and allowed for more detailed examination of the crystals.
- These liquid-formed crystals also exhibited varying light interactions based on their size variations.
Dr. Bawendi’s Definitive Technique
- Finally, in 1993, Dr. Bawendi developed a precise method to create well-defined quantum dots with high optical quality.
- The process involved injecting a substance (from which the quantum dot would be constructed) into a hot solvent and then heating the solution.
- Nanocrystals naturally began to form, with the duration of heating influencing their size.
- The solvent played a crucial role in ensuring the crystals had smooth outer surfaces.
- This straightforward technique made it accessible for numerous scientists to produce and study the quantum dots they needed.
Modern-Day Applications of Quantum Dots
Enhancing Visual Displays
- Quantum dots play a crucial role in illuminating computer monitors and television screens.
- Quantum dot technology is employed in displays known as QLED, where “Q” signifies quantum dots.
- Blue LEDs located behind the screen excite these quantum dots, leading to the emission of diverse colors.
- The combination of these colors results in a wider range of hues and increased brightness.
- Quantum dots are also utilized in select LED lamps to adjust the color temperature of the light, making it either energizing like daylight or soothing like dimmed bulb glow.
Biochemistry and Medicine
- In the realm of biochemistry and medicine, nanoscale quantum dots are utilized to map biological tissues.
- Quantum dots find applications in certain cancer treatments by facilitating targeted drug delivery and therapeutic interventions.
- Medical professionals are exploring the potential of quantum dots for tracking tumor tissue within the body, with broader implications in the field of nanomedicine.
Other Diverse Applications
- Quantum dots enhance the absorption and efficiency of photovoltaic cells, aiding in the conversion of solar light into electricity.
- As security markers, quantum dots are employed on currency and documents as a potent anti-counterfeit measure.
- In a broader context, quantum dots serve as fluorescent markers for tagging and tracking various objects and substances, offering versatility across multiple industries.
-Source: The Hindu
At least 10 people have been killed and 80, including 23 Army personnel, are missing in Sikkim after the South Lhonak Lake – a glacial lake situated in the state’s northwest at 17,000 ft – burst due to incessant rains. This resulted in the rise of water levels in (downstream areas) Teesta River that caused flash floods at least in four districts of Sikkim (Mangan, Gangtok, Pakyong and Namchi).
GS I: Geography
Dimensions of the Article:
- Glacial Lakes
- Causes Behind GLOF
- Factors Making South Lhonak Lake Susceptible to GLOF
- Actions Taken by the Sikkim Government to Address South Lhonak Lake Expansion
- Glacial lakes, exemplified by South Lhonak Lake, are expansive bodies of water situated in proximity to, on top of, or beneath a melting glacier.
- These lakes, as they expand, become progressively hazardous due to their containment by unstable ice or sediment comprising loose rock and debris.
- A breach in the boundary surrounding these lakes can result in the rapid release of vast volumes of water down mountain slopes, leading to downstream flooding, an event termed as a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF).
Causes Behind GLOF
- GLOFs can be precipitated by various factors, including seismic activity such as earthquakes, extraordinarily heavy rainfall, and ice avalanches.
- Given their typical presence in steep, mountainous terrains, occurrences like landslides or ice avalanches have the potential to directly impact these lakes.
- The result is the displacement of water, causing it to surpass the natural dam and inundate areas downstream.
- In 2013, a catastrophic event unfolded in Uttarakhand’s Kedarnath region, marked by flash floods and a consequential GLOF.
- The Chorabari Tal glacial lake was responsible for this incident, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives.
Factors Making South Lhonak Lake Susceptible to GLOF
- Rapid Glacier Melting
- The accelerated melting of glaciers in the Sikkim Himalayan region, primarily due to rising global temperatures, has led to the formation of numerous glacier lakes and the expansion of existing ones, including South Lhonak Lake.
- High Number of Glacier Lakes
- According to the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), there are currently over 300 glacial lakes in the Sikkim Himalayan region, with 10, including South Lhonak Lake, identified as vulnerable to outburst floods.
- Significant Growth in Lake Size
- South Lhonak Lake and its parent glacier, Lhonak, have experienced substantial growth, with South Lhonak expanding nearly 2.5 times its size since 1989.
- Earthquake Activity
- Earthquake events, such as a magnitude 4.9 earthquake in 1991 near the glacier feeding South Lhonak Lake and a more recent earthquake in 2011 with a magnitude of 6.9, may have weakened the boundaries of the lake.
- Impact of Heavy Rainfall
- Continuous heavy rainfall has further exacerbated the situation, contributing to the lake’s bursting.
Actions Taken by the Sikkim Government to Address South Lhonak Lake Expansion
- South Lhonak Lake has been under continuous observation by government authorities.
Siphoning Off Water
- In 2016, a collaborative effort involving members of the Sikkim SDMA, Sikkim’s Department of Science and Technology, and Climate Change led to the implementation of a technique to syphon off water from South Lhonak Lake.
- This process was executed under the guidance of innovator Sonam Wangchuk.
- Authorities installed three 8-inch wide and 130-140 meters long High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) pipes, enabling the extraction of 150 liters of water per second from the lake.
-Source: Indian Express
At a time when the political parties are vying with each other for the OBC vote in the coming elections, Bihar government revealed the results of its caste survey on Gandhi Jayanti (October 2).
GS I: Society
Dimensions of the Article:
- Findings of the Bihar Caste Survey
- Survey Methodology and History
- Key Takeaways from Bihar Caste Survey
- Challenges Ahead for the Bihar Caste Survey
- About the Census
Findings of the Bihar Caste Survey
- “Forward” castes or the “General” category constitute only 15.5% of the population, according to survey data released by the state Development Commissioner.
- Scheduled Castes (SCs) make up about 20% of the population, totaling 2.6 crores, while Scheduled Tribes (STs) account for just 1.6% of the population, amounting to 22 lakhs.
- Muslims represent 17.70% of the population, while other religious minorities have a minimal presence.
Survey Methodology and History
- The survey was conducted in two phases:
- The first phase involved counting the total number of households in Bihar, taking place from January 7 to January 21, 2023.
- The second phase aimed to collect data on people from all castes, religions, and economic backgrounds, as well as information about the number of family members living in and outside the state.
- The second phase was temporarily halted due to a stay order by the Patna High Court, which questioned the state government’s competence to carry out the survey.
- On August 1, the High Court declared the survey “perfectly valid,” allowing it to resume.
Key Takeaways from Bihar Caste Survey
OBC Population Insights
- The survey revealed that the share of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) population is substantial, with their combined strength in the state being 63%.
- This figure significantly surpasses the OBC population estimate from the 1931 census, which was the last time caste enumeration was conducted in the country.
- The findings may reignite demands for a reevaluation of the OBC quota, especially as OBCs argue that forward castes have disproportionately secured government jobs despite reservations.
- The caste survey holds significant political implications, as it is a vital component of Bihar’s current government strategy.
- The data may be used to advocate for “social justice” and “development with justice” and bolster the Bihar government’s role in national opposition politics.
- The findings could also energize demands for a nationwide caste census and an OBC quota within the 33% reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies.
Challenges Ahead for the Bihar Caste Survey
- The caste survey has faced legal challenges, and its final outcome is still pending before the Supreme Court.
- Critics argue that the survey violates the Supreme Court’s privacy judgment in the case of K S Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017).
- Petitions against the survey contend that it is essentially a census disguised as a survey, which falls beyond the legislative competence of the state government. They argue that it encroaches upon the legislative authority of the Union Parliament.
- The Census Act of 1948 explicitly empowers only the central government to conduct a census.
Impact on Reservation Policy
- The caste survey could reignite debates regarding the 50% quota ceiling set by the Supreme Court.
- In the 1992 case of ‘Indra Sawhney vs Union of India,’ the Supreme Court established the 50% ceiling for reservations, allowing breaches only under “exceptional circumstances.”
- In 2021, a unanimous Constitution bench of the Supreme Court struck down a Maharashtra law providing reservations to the Maratha community as unconstitutional. The court argued that the total quota limit would exceed 50%.
- However, a subsequent five-judge bench (in a 3:2 majority) of the Supreme Court upheld the 10% Economic Weaker Sections (EWS) quota, which also exceeded the 50% ceiling. The court clarified that the ceiling applied to backward classes.
- The Bihar caste survey may lead to discussions about whether it necessitates reconsidering the 50% reservation limit in the context of evolving caste demographics and demands for social justice.
About the Census
- The census provides information on size, distribution and socio-economic, demographic and other characteristics of the country’s population.
- The first synchronous census in India was held in 1881, and since then, censuses have been undertaken uninterruptedly once every ten years.
- India’s last census was carried out in 2011 when the country’s population stood at 121 crores.
- The Census 2021 will be conducted in 18 languages out of the 22 scheduled languages (under 8th schedule) and English, and the option of “Other” under the gender category will be changed to “Third Gender”.
- For the first time data is proposed to be collected through a mobile app by enumerators and they will receive an additional payment as an incentive.
- The last caste-based census was conducted by the British in 1931.
- Arthashastra by ‘Kautilya’ written in the 3rd Century BC prescribed the collection of population statistics as a measure of state policy for taxation.
- In India, a census is conducted every decade and Census 2021 will be the 16th national census of the country.
Key facts about India’s census
- In India, the census was first started under British Viceroy Lord Mayo in 1872 and the first synchronous census in India was held in 1881.
- It is being conducted at an interval of 10 years.
- The decennial Census is conducted by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs.
- Census is conducted under the provisions of the Census Act, of 1948.
- The population census is a Union subject under Article 246 of the Indian Constitution.
- It is listed as serial number 69 of the seventh schedule of the constitution.
-Source: Indian Express
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has published the Review of Maritime Transport 2023, focusing on the problem of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in international shipping and the difficulties associated with decarbonizing the industry.
GS II: International Relations
Dimensions of the Article:
- Key Highlights of the Review on Global Shipping and GHG Emissions
- UNCTAD’s Recommendations for Economic Incentives in the Shipping Industry
Key Highlights of the Review on Global Shipping and GHG Emissions
GHG Emissions and Industry Significance
- Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping have increased by 20% in 2023 compared to a decade ago.
- The shipping industry plays a crucial role, contributing to over 80% of the world’s trade volume and accounting for nearly 3% of global GHG emissions.
Shipping Volumes and Trade Projections
- Global maritime shipping volumes experienced a slight 0.4% decline in 2022 due to disruptions in global supply chains caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
- However, a growth rate of 2.4% is anticipated in 2023.
- Containerized trade is expected to increase by 1.2% in 2023 and further by 3% between 2024 and 2028.
- Oil and gas trade volumes showed robust growth in 2022.
Age of Commercial Ships
- In January 2023, the average age of commercial ships was 22.2 years, with over half of the world’s fleet exceeding 15 years in age.
- The increasing average age of the global fleet raises concerns about the availability and cost of alternative fuels, as well as the higher cost of ships capable of using them.
Challenges for Fleet Renewal
- Ship owners face challenges in renewing their fleets without clear guidance on technology and regulatory frameworks.
- Port terminals also encounter similar challenges, particularly regarding investment decisions.
Fuel Usage and Transition to Alternative Fuels
- The majority, 98.8%, of the global fleet utilizes conventional fuels such as heavy fuel oil, light fuel oil, and diesel/gas oil.
- Only 1.2% of the fleet employs alternative fuels, primarily LNG, LPG, methanol, and to a lesser extent, battery/hybrid technology.
- Progress is evident, with 21% of vessels currently on order designed to operate on alternative fuels, notably LNG, LPG, battery/hybrid systems, and methanol.
Investment and Decarbonization
- Achieving full decarbonization of the world’s fleet by 2050 may necessitate annual investments ranging from USD 8 billion to USD 90 billion.
- Full decarbonization could potentially double yearly fuel costs, underscoring the importance of a just transition for the sector.
IMO Targets and Strategies
- The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set a goal to achieve net-zero GHG emissions by around 2050.
- The 2023 IMO GHG Strategy aims to achieve at least a 5-10% uptake of zero or near-zero GHG fuels by 2030 as part of the industry’s decarbonization efforts.
UNCTAD’s Recommendations for Economic Incentives in the Shipping Industry
Suitable Fuels for Dual-Fuel Engines
- Renewable ammonia and methanol fuels are considered more suitable for newer ships equipped with dual-fuel engines.
Sustainability Criteria for Marine Fuels
- Sustainable marine fuels should achieve zero or near-zero carbon dioxide equivalent emissions throughout their life cycle, from production (well) to utilization (wake).
Promoting Collaboration and Investment
- UNCTAD emphasizes the importance of collaboration across the shipping industry and regulatory bodies.
- Swift regulatory interventions and increased investments in green technologies and fleets are recommended.
- Economic incentives, such as levies or contributions tied to shipping emissions, can enhance the competitiveness of alternative fuels.
- These incentives also support investments in climate-resilient infrastructure, facilitating the transition to cleaner shipping practices.
Balancing Environmental Goals and Economic Needs
- UNCTAD acknowledges the need to strike a balance between environmental objectives and economic imperatives.
- However, it underscores that the cost of inaction in addressing environmental concerns far exceeds the investments required for sustainability.
Digital Solutions for Efficiency and Sustainability
- Beyond cleaner fuels, the shipping industry should expedite its adoption of digital solutions like artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain to improve operational efficiency and sustainability.
-Source: Down To Earth
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), a fundamental component of India’s social welfare initiatives, has been marred by persistent concerns regarding a high incidence of corruption. Although the program incorporates mechanisms, such as social audit units, recent statistics reveal disappointing outcomes in terms of fund recovery and overall effectiveness.
GS II: Government Policies and Interventions
Dimensions of the Article:
- Recent Statistics on MGNREGA and the Social Audit Mechanism
- Social Audit Mechanism under MGNREGA
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)
Recent Statistics on MGNREGA and the Social Audit Mechanism
Financial Year 2023-24:
- In the ongoing financial year (2023-24), social audit units identified misappropriation amounting to ₹27.5 crore under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
- After corrective actions were taken, this amount was reduced to ₹9.5 crore, but only a minimal ₹1.31 crore (13.8% of the total) has been recovered.
Previous Financial Years:
- Recovery rates in previous financial years exhibit a similar trend of inefficiency:
- In 2022-23, the recoverable amount was ₹86.2 crore, but only ₹18 crore (20.8% of the total) was recovered.
- In 2021-22, ₹171 crore was flagged, yet a mere ₹26 crore (15% of the total) was recovered.
- Consistently low recovery rates raise significant concerns about the effectiveness of the MGNREGA scheme in combatting corruption.
- The low recovery rate also poses a threat to the credibility of the entire social audit process, potentially undermining public trust in MGNREGA’s integrity and purpose.
About Social Audit:
- Social audit is the examination and assessment of a program or scheme conducted with the active involvement of people, comparing official records with ground realities.
- It serves as a powerful tool for social transformation, community participation, and government accountability.
- Unlike financial audits that scrutinize financial records, social audits focus on evaluating a program’s effectiveness in achieving its social goals while involving stakeholders.
Social Audit Mechanism under MGNREGA:
- Section 17 of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) mandates social audits for all works executed under the program.
- The Audit of Scheme Rules, 2011, outlines the procedures for social audits and the responsibilities of various entities, including the Social Audit Unit (SAU), state government, and MGNREGA field workers.
Related Issues and Challenges:
- Social audit units often grapple with inadequate funding, hindering their effectiveness.
- While the Union government provides funds to these units to ensure their independence from states, issues with timely fund allocation have left some units without funds for extended periods.
Lack of Training:
- Inadequate training and resources further hinder the effectiveness of social audit units in identifying malpractice.
- Personnel Shortage:
- Insufficient staffing makes it difficult for social audit units to carry out their duties effectively.
Low Recovery Rate:
- Some states have consistently reported “zero cases” and “zero recoveries” over the last three years, raising questions about the effectiveness of monitoring in these regions.
- Even states with active social audit units, like Telangana, struggle with low recovery rates, indicating systemic challenges.
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, MGNREGA, is an Indian labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the ‘right to work’. This act was passed in September 2005.
- It aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
- It covers all districts of India except the ones with 100% urban population.
- MGNREGA is to be implemented mainly by gram panchayats (GPs). The involvement of contractors is banned.
- Apart from providing economic security and creating rural assets, NREGA can help in protecting the environment, empowering rural women, reducing rural-urban migration and fostering social equity, among others.
- The MGNREGA wage rates are fixed according to changes in the CPI-AL (Consumer Price Index-Agriculture Labour), which reflects the increase in the inflation in rural areas.
How MGNREGA came to be?
- In 1991, the P.V Narashima Rao government proposed a pilot scheme for generating employment in rural areas with the following goals:
- Employment Generation for agricultural labour during the lean season.
- Infrastructure Development
- Enhanced Food Security
- This scheme was called the Employment Assurance Scheme which later evolved into the MGNREGA after the merger with the Food for Work Programme in the early 2000s.
Features of MGNREGA
- It gives a significant amount of control to the Gram Panchayats for managing public works, strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions.
- Gram Sabhas are free to accept or reject recommendations from Intermediate and District Panchayats.
- It incorporates accountability in its operational guidelines and ensures compliance and transparency at all levels.
Objectives of MGNREGA
- Provide 100 days of guaranteed wage employment to rural unskilled labour
- Increase economic security
- Decrease migration of labour from rural to urban areas.
-Source: Indian Express