Contents

  1. SC lashes out at firecracker manufacturers
  2. Lockdowns slowed green energy push: IEEFA Report
  3. Orders issued for Ordnance Factory Board dissolution
  4. Transport Minister reviews work at Zojila tunnel

SC lashes out at firecracker manufacturers

Context:

  • The Supreme Court lashed out at firecracker manufacturers for violating the spirit of its 2018 judgment banning toxic ingredients like barium in fireworks, saying the prime focus of the court is the “right to life of innocent people”.
  • The Supreme Court has said that a preliminary enquiry by the CBI into the firecracker industry revealed rampant violation of its ban on the use of toxic ingredients like barium and its salts

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution, Environmental Degradation, Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the SC probe and the issues found with Firecrackers
  2. SC on Firecrackers in the past
  3. About the Court proceedings regarding firecrackers
  4. About the NGT ban on firecrackers
  5. Why was the ban on firecrackers needed in 2020?
  6. What are Green Crackers?

About the SC probe and the issues found with Firecrackers

  • In 2017, the Supreme court had banned the use and sale of toxic crackers during the celebration owing to diwali, Christmas, etc., on the basis of a petition filed by two infants.
  • In March 2020, the court ordered the CBI Joint Director in Chennai to conduct a detailed probe into allegations of violation of the court ban in 2018.
  • A chemical analysis of the samples of finished and semi-finished firecrackers and raw materials taken from the manufacturers showed barium content.
  • Firecracker covers did not show the manufacture or expiry dates.
  • Many firecracker manufacturers continued to use toxic ingredients fully knowing that the court had banned them.
  • Children are employed in these factories and are exposed to the poison.
  • The toxic ingredients end up poisoning the air and deteriorating the air quality.

SC on Firecrackers in the past

  • In 2017, the SC had banned the use and sale of toxic crackers on the basis of a petition filed by two infants who pleaded for their right to life.
  • The court had said the sale of green and improved crackers would be only through licensed traders. It dismissed arguments that bursting crackers was a fundamental right and an essential practice during religious festivals like Diwali.
  • The Court’s endeavour was to strive at balancing of two rights, namely, right of the petitioners under Article 21 and right of the manufacturers and traders under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution
  • The SC said it felt that Article 25 [right to religion] is subject to Article 21 [right to life].
  • If a particular religious practice is threatening the health and lives of people, such practice is not to entitled to protection under Article 25.

About the Court proceedings regarding firecrackers

  • The manufacturers contended that thousands of employees earn their livelihood in the industry.
  • The bench said that it had to balance between employment, unemployment and the right to life and health of citizens. And asserted that its prime focus is the “right to life of innocent people”.
  • The manufacture, sale and use of joined firecrackers (series crackers) are banned as the same causes huge air, noise and solid waste problems – the Supreme Court had directed the Centre in 2018.
  • However, the 2018 judgment had balanced employment concerns in the industry and the right to life of citizens by approving the government’s suggestions for “green crackers” and those with reduced emissions.

About the NGT ban on firecrackers

  • The NGT in its December 2020 order said that only green crackers (which use less polluting raw materials) would be permitted for Christmas and New Year, in areas where the ambient air quality was in the moderate or below categories. However, owing to Covid-19 pandemic, NGT again prohibited the sale and use of firecrackers.
  • The firecrackers companies argued that the ban was an impediment to their livelihoods.
  • In reply to the argument, the Tribunal had reasoned that the “right to business is not absolute (Article 19 (1) (g)) and there is no right to violate air quality and noise level norms.
  • The Tribunal had reasoned that the “right to business is not absolute. There is no right to violate air quality and noise level norms”.
  • The NGT order of 2020 provided concessions to cities and towns that have moderate air quality, by allowing them to burst green crackers at specified hours.
  • The NGT noted that Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Chandigarh, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and the Calcutta High Court had already banned firecrackers this year.
  • The NGT’s reasoning gave primacy to the precautionary principle in sustainable development over employment and revenue losses.

Why was the ban on firecrackers needed in 2020?

  • There were fears of a COVID-19 case surge during the winter, so it was incumbent on the Centre to work with States and prevent the burning of farm stubble ahead of Deepavali.
  • This annual phenomenon unfailingly pollutes the air across northern and eastern India, and imposes heavy health and productivity costs.
  • In the absence of pollution from agricultural residue, there might have been some room for a limited quantity of firecrackers.
  • But, climatic conditions of low temperature and atmospheric circulation at this time of year would still leave many in distress.
  • Only damage control is possible now, including steps to address the concerns of the fireworks industry.

What are Green Crackers?

  • Green crackers do not contain harmful chemicals and reduce air pollution. They are eco-friendly, i.e., green crackers are less harmful as compared to conventional firecrackers and reduces air pollution.
  • In green crackers, the commonly used polluting chemicals like aluminium, barium, potassium nitrate and carbon have either been removed or sharply reduced to slow down the emissions by 15 to 30%.

About the development of Green Crackers

  • These green crackers have been developed by the National Environmental and Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), a CSIR lab.
  • At the first phase of producing green crackers focus was on reducing pollutants and then further strategies will cover to remove pollutants from the compositions.
  • CSIR-NEERI have developed potential sound-emitting functional prototypes that do not emit sulphur dioxide. The crackers have been named as Safe Water Releaser (SWAS), Safe Thermite Cracker (STAR) and Safe Minimal Aluminium (SAFAL). The particulate matter will be reduced by 30-35 per cent in SWAS and 35 to 40 per cent in SAFAL and STAR.
  • According to the researchers, these crackers have the unique property of releasing water vapour, air as a dust suppressant and diluents for gaseous emissions that match with the performance in sound with traditional conventional crackers.
  • Basically, green crackers don’t contain barium substance which is used in the firecrackers to add green colour, as barium can cause burns, poisoning and deaths.
  • Green crackers will reduce at least 30 percent emissions using particulate matter Potassium Nitrate as an oxidant.

About SWAS and STAR

  • The reduce particulate matter including sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide by at least 30 percent and also eliminate the use of potassium nitrate and sulphur.
  • The two types have matching sound intensity with commercial crackers, that is, in the range of 105-110 dBA.

About SAFAL

  • Minimum use of aluminium that results in at least 35 percent reduction in a particulate matter as compared to commercial crackers.
  • Its sound intensity matches with commercial crackers in the 110-115 dBA range.
  • Product category consists of Chinese crackers, maroons, atom bombs, flowerpots, pencils and sparkles.

-Source: The Hindu


Lockdowns slowed green energy push: IEEFA Report

Context:

The lockdowns slowed renewable energy installations in the country and the pace of such installation is lagging India’s 2022 target, according to a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

Relevance:

GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure (Energy infrastructure), GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Conservation of the Environment, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the IEEFA report on Green Energy progress
  2. Indian Initiatives regarding renewable Energy
  3. Important points from the launch of “The India Story” booklet
  4. Important Green Energy Targets

Highlights of the IEEFA report on Green Energy progress

  • As part of its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, India has said that it would install 175 gigawatts (GW) of green energy by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030 but only 7 GW of such capacity was added in the financial year 2020-21. The pace of renewable energy installation is lagging behind India’s 2022 target.
  • In its analysis of monthly volumes and prices at the Indian Energy Exchange (IEX) (the largest power exchange in India), the IEEFA study found that the amount of power traded increased by 20% over 2020, by 37% from the 2019 figure and by 30% over 2018. This led to prices on average increasing by 38% from the 2020 rates. Had there been more access to renewable energy, particularly wind and hydropower, it could have contributed to lower energy prices.
  • Coal stocks hit a new record high at the end of 2020-21 and exceeded the monthly averages of the previous five years. Greater reliance on coal imports will increase thermal power prices in India, leading to higher prices for the ultimate consumer.

Indian Initiatives regarding renewable Energy

  1. National Solar Mission (NSM): The 100 GW solar ambition at the heart of the world’s largest renewable energy expansion programme
  2. The Wind Energy Revolution: Leveraging India’s robust wind energy sector to boost clean energy manufacturing and the rural economy
  3. National Biofuels Policy and SATAT: Building value chains to reduce fuel imports, increase clean energy, manage waste, and create jobs
  4. Small Hydro Power (SHP): Harnessing the power of water to integrate remote communities into the economic mainstream.
  5. National Hydrogen Energy Mission (NHEM): Exploring the commercial viability of a versatile clean fuel
  6. Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme: Integrating India into the global clean energy value chains
  7. National Biofuels Policy and SAYAY: Building value chains to reduce fuel imports, increase clean energy, manage waste and create jobs

Important points from the launch of “The India Story” booklet

  • As much as USD 70 billion (about Rs 5.2 lakh crore) has been invested in renewable energy across the country in the past seven years.
  • In the last 6 years, India’s installed renewable energy capacity has increased by over two and a half times and stands at more than 141 Giga Watts (including large Hydro), which is about 37 per cent of the country’s total capacity (as on 16th June 2021).
  • In the last 6 years, the installed solar energy capacity in India has increased by over 15 times, and stands at 41.09 GW.
  • India’s renewable energy capacity is the 4th largest in the world.
  • India’s annual renewable energy addition has been exceeding that of coal based thermal power since 2017.

Important Green Energy Targets

  • In the Paris Agreement India has committed to an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions target of achieving 40% of its total electricity generation from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.
  • We are also aiming for a more ambitious target of 57% of the total electricity capacity from renewable sources by 2027 in Central Electricity Authority’s strategy blueprint. According to 2027 blueprint, India aims to have 275 GW from renewable energy, 72 GW of hydroelectricity, 15 GW of nuclear energy and nearly 100 GW from “other zero emission” sources.
  • There is also a target for installation of Rooftop Solar Projects (RTP) of 40 GW by 2022 including installation on rooftop of houses.
  • In 2019 at UN climate summit, India announced that it will be more than doubling its renewable energy target from 175GW by 2022 to 450GW of renewable energy by the same year. These targets would place India among the world leaders in renewable energy use and place India at the centre of its “Sunshine Countries” International Solar Alliance project promoting the growth and development of solar power internationally to over 120 countries.

-Source: The Hindu


Orders issued for Ordnance Factory Board dissolution

Context:

The Defence Ministry has issued an order for the dissolution of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) with effect from October 1 2021. This would mean the end of the OFB, the establishment of which was accepted by the British in 1775.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Privatization and Commercialization, Fiscal Policy, Budgeting), GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Ordnance Factory Board (OFB)
  2. About the Current Major decision regarding OFB
  3. Privatization and Corporatization in the Economic Survey 2020, Volume 1 Chapter 9

About Ordnance Factory Board (OFB)

  • Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) consisting of the Indian Ordnance Factories is a Government agency under the control of department of defence production (DDP) Ministry of Defence (MoD), Government of India.
  • OFB is the world’s largest government-operated production organisation, and the oldest organisation in India.
  • It is engaged in research, development, production, testing, marketing and logistics of a product range in the areas of air, land and sea systems.
  • OFB comprises forty-one ordnance factories, nine training institutes, three regional marketing centres and four regional controllerates of safety, which are spread all across the country.
  • OFB is the 35th largest defence equipment manufacturer in the world, 2nd largest in Asia, and the largest in India.
  • Ordnance Factory Board predates all the other organisations like the Indian Army and the Indian Railways by over a century. The first Indian ordnance factory can trace its origins back to the year 1712 when the Dutch Ostend Company established a Gun Powder Factory in Ichhapur.
  • The Indian Ordnance Factories have not only supported India through the wars, but played an important role in building India with the advancement of technology and have ushered the Industrial Revolution in India starting with the first modern steel plant of India much before Tata Steel, first modern electric textile mill of India, first chemical industries such as smokeless propellant plants of India, established the first engineering colleges of India as its training schools, played key role in the founding of research and industrial organisations like ISRO, DRDO, BDL, BEL, BEML and SAIL.

About the Current Major decision regarding OFB

  • This restructuring is aimed at transforming the ordnance factories into productive and profitable assets, deepening specialisation in the product range, enhancing competitiveness, improving quality and achieving cost efficiency.
  • Currently, the Kolkata headquartered OFB functions as a department under the Department of Defence Production. There have been several recommendations by high-level committees in the past for corporatising it to improve efficiency and accountability.
  • All employees of the OFB (Group A, B and C) belonging to the production units would be transferred to the corporate entities on deemed deputation initially for a period of two years without altering their service conditions as Central government employees.
  • The 41 factories would be subsumed into seven corporate entities based on the type of manufacturing.
  • The new structure would also help in overcoming various shortcomings in the existing system of the OFB by eliminating inefficient supply chains and provide these companies incentive to become competitive and exploring new opportunities in the market, including exports.

Privatization and Corporatization in the Economic Survey 2020, Volume 1 Chapter 9

Evolution of Disinvestment Policy in India

  • The liberalization reforms undertaken in 1991 ushered in an increased demand for privatization/ disinvestment of PSUs.
  • In the initial phase, this was done through the sale of a minority stake in bundles through auction. This was followed by a separate sale for each company in the following years, a method popularly adopted till 1999-2000.
  • India adopted strategic sale as a policy measure in 1999-2000 with the sale of a substantial portion of government shareholding in identified Central PSEs (CPSEs) up to 50% or more, along with transfer of management control. This was started with the sale of 74 % of the Government’s equity in Modern Food Industries Limited (MFIL).
  • Thereafter, 12 PSUs (including four subsidiaries of PSUs), and 17 hotels of Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) were sold to private investors along with transfer of management control by the Government.
  • Another major shift in disinvestment policy was made in 2004-05 when it was decided that the government may “dilute its equity and raise resources to meet the social needs of the people”, a distinct departure from strategic sales.
  • Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) has laid down comprehensive guidelines on “Capital Restructuring of CPSEs” in May 2016 by addressing various aspects, such as payment of dividends, buyback of shares, issues of bonus shares and splitting of shares.

Privatization in 2019

  • In November 2019, India launched its biggest privatization drive in more than a decade. An “in-principle” approval was accorded to reduce the government of India’s paid-up share capital below 51% in select Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs).
  • Among the selected CPSEs, strategic disinvestment of the Government’s shareholding of 53.29% in Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) was approved which led to an increase in value of shareholders’ equity of BPCL by INR 33,000 crore when compared to its peer Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) and this reflects an increase in the overall value from anticipated gains from consequent improvements in the efficiency of BPCL when compared to HPCL which will continue to be under Government control.

-Source: The Hindu


Transport Minister reviews work at Zojila tunnel

Context:

India’s Transport Minister reviewed construction work at Zojila tunnel and said that road works totalling ₹1.5 lakh crore are being undertaken in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-I: Geography (Maps), GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure 

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Zoji La
  2. About Zoji La tunnel
  3. About the Z-Morh Tunnel

About Zoji La

  • Zoji La is a high mountain pass in the Himalayas in the Indian union territory of Ladakh (runs at an elevation of approximately 3,528 metres) and it is the second highest pass after Fotu La on the Srinagar-Leh National Highway.
  • Located in the Dras, the pass connects the Kashmir Valley to its west with the Dras and Suru valleys to its northeast and the Indus valley further east.
  • Since vehicle flow stops during winter every year due to heavy snowfall, the all-weather Zoji-la Tunnel is now constructed to mitigate this.
  • It provides a vital link between Ladakh and Kashmir Valley.
  • During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947–1948, Zoji La was seized by Pakistani raiders in 1948 in their campaign to capture Ladakh. The pass was recaptured by Indian forces on November 1948 in an assault codenamed Operation Bison, which achieved success primarily due to the surprise use of tanks, then the highest altitude at which tanks had operated in combat in the world.

About Zoji La tunnel

  • Zoji La Tunnel is a 14.2 km long road tunnel currently under construction, under Zoji La pass in the Himalayas between Sonmarg and Drass town in Kargil district of the Indian Union Territory of Ladakh.
  • The Zoji La tunnel will be Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel after completion.
  • The tunnel along with 6.5 km long Z-Morh Tunnel, (which is 22 km before Zoji La tunnel towards Srinagar) will ensure year-long road connectivity between Srinagar and Kargil.
  • It takes more than 3 hours to cross the pass but the tunnel will reduce the time.
  • This tunnel was a strategic requirement of the army and the Ladakhi people as the pass is close to LOC and vulnerable to hostile actions. Zoji La was re-captured from Pakistani raiders under Operation Bison.
  • The tunnel will be built under EPC mode (engineering, procurement, construction) wherein the Government of India will provide the money and the executing agency will do the construction and will later hand over the project to the Government of India.

About the Z-Morh Tunnel

  • The Z-Morh Tunnel is a currently under-construction 6.5 km long road tunnel that will provide connection throughout all weather conditions between Srinagar and Kargil in the Union Territory of Ladakh, India.
  • It is named for the Z-shaped stretch of road between Sonamarg and Gagangir that the tunnel will replace.
  • The tunnel is hoped to increase social and economic development throughout the region and boost tourism in Sonamarg, which boasts attractions including the Thajiwas Glacier and activities such as whitewater rafting on the Sind River.
  • The completion of the Z-Morh tunnel will also significantly reduce the travel time between Srinagar and Leh, as commuters will no longer need to stay overnight in Kargil to compete the trip—the tunnel will ensure the entire stretch of road is accessible to vehicles throughout the year.

-Source: The Hindu

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