GS Paper III
Context: The Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), which provides food security to 81.35 crore people each month, is the largest beneficiary-centric programme governed under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) of India. The Plan for Modernization and Reforms via Technology in Public Distribution System is currently being implemented by the government (SMART-PDS). This project provides a tonne of data that may be used huge enhance the delivery of other government assistance programmes and initiatives.
Existing challenges for TPDS:
- Food grain theft and leakage: One of the most urgent problems with the TPDS is the theft and leakage of food grain intended for recipients, which causes fraud and losses in the system. Poor monitoring, a lack of transparency, and ineffective enforcement measures are the main causes of this issue.
- Beneficiaries are not accurately targeted: The TPDS frequently makes mistakes when identifying eligible beneficiaries, which leaves deserving families out and ineligible ones in. This misidentification can be attributable to manipulated records, obsolete data, and a lack of verification processes.
- Supply chain management that is inefficient: TPDS encounters logistical difficulties while shipping, storing, and distributing food grains across the huge nation. Waste and inefficiencies in the system are a result of inadequate storage facilities, inadequate transportation infrastructure, and delays in procurement and delivery.
- Benefit portability was restricted: Prior to recently, beneficiaries of the TPDS could only obtain their food grains from specified Fair Price Shops (FPS) in their home states. It was challenging for migrant workers and their families to obtain their legal entitlements as a result of this limitation.
- Lack of openness and accountability: Corruption, fraud, and record-manipulation are widespread problems in the TPDS, in part because the system lacks these two elements. These issues are made worse by the lack of real-time monitoring and the reliance on manual record-keeping.
- Technology limitations: While implementing IT-based solutions for TPDS operations, several states and union territories in India have technical difficulties. The implementation of technology-driven changes, such as electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices and biometric authentication systems, might be hampered by a lack of IT gear, software, and technical staff.
What is SMART-PDS?
The Indian government has launched a project called SMART-PDS (Scheme for Modernization and Reforms via Technology in Public Distribution System) with the goal of enhancing the effectiveness, transparency, and accountability of the nation’s Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
The key objectives of the SMART-PDS initiative:
- Aiming to eliminate theft and diversion of food grains while guaranteeing that the intended recipients receive their fair share of food subsidies, SMART-PDS uses technology to prevent food grain leakage.
- Increasing distribution chain efficiency: The programme aims to integrate technology-driven solutions, such as electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices, real-time monitoring, and tracking systems, to streamline the supply chain from procurement through distribution.
- Making decisions based on data: Data analytics on the TPDS ecosystem produces vital information about beneficiaries, food security requirements, and migration patterns, addressing the long-standing challenge of credible and dynamic data for effective delivery of central welfare schemes to vulnerable groups of society.
- Convergence and AI integration: The national leadership’s quest for trans-ministerial convergence and AI integration has the potential to transform both people’s lives and the way governments operate by bringing accountability to all initiatives.
- Technology-driven PDS Reforms: The Centre intends to standardise PDS operations through technology integration with FCI, CWC, the transportation supply chain, the Ministry of Education, Women and Child Development, and UIDAI. It will do this by using data analytics, BI platforms, and ICT tools. By institutionalising an integrated central system for all PDS-related processes across states and UTs, this is projected to eliminate technological constraints on the state level that currently exist in PDS operations.
- Almost 93% of the total monthly allotted foodgrains are given using the Aadhaar verification mechanism thanks to the installation of ePoS devices and the complete digitalization of ration cards.
Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS):
- To deploy One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC), establish a national-level data repository, and integrate data infrastructure/systems for ration card administration, the foodgrain supply chain, and FPS automation, the government has created the IM-PDS.
- Since its launch in 2019, the ONORC plan has tracked more over 100 crore portability transactions.
SMART-PDS benefits beyond ration distribution:
- To support programmes like e-Shram Portal, Ayushman Bharat, and PM-SVANidhiYojana, federal ministries and state governments have started using the data produced by SMART-PDS.
- The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoAFW) intends to map beneficiaries using ONORC/ration card data. With Aadhaar numbers for the newborns, continuous nutrition monitoring from ICDS clinics to PM Poshan will become a reality.
The revolutionary potential of SMART-PDS extends beyond food security, allowing data-driven decision-making, convergence, and integration with AI for enhanced delivery of national welfare programmes and central initiatives throughout India.
Source: The Hindu
India’s Solar PV waste problem
GS Paper III
Context: India’s solar photovoltaic (PV) industry is growing quickly, yet there are currently no efficient waste management plans for this industry. The shortcomings in India’s solar PV waste management are examined in this article.
Solar PV Waste in India:
- India has the fourth-highest solar PV deployment in the world, and as of November 2022, there were around 62 GW of solar panels deployed.
- India may produce 50,000 to 2,25,000tonnes of PV waste by 2030 and more than four million tonnes by 2050, according to a 2016 research by the International Renewable Energy Agency.
- Crystalline silicon (c-Si) technology, which primarily consists of a glass sheet, an aluminium frame, an encapsulant, a backsheet, copper wires, and silicon wafers, dominates the solar PV installations market in India.
- C-Si modules make up 93% of a typical PV panel, whereas cadmium telluride thin-film modules make up 7%.
Hazards posed by PV waste:
Some of the hazards of solar PV waste are:
- Pollution of the environment: As solar PV waste contains harmful substances like lead and cadmium and other dangerous elements, its accumulation in landfills may cause environmental pollution. Furthermore, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen fluoride, and hydrogen cyanide are released into the environment when the capsule is incinerated.
- Health risks: Workers and residents who live close to trash disposal facilities may experience health risks as a result of improper processing and disposal of solar PV waste. The waste contains hazardous substances that can irritate the skin, impair breathing, and harm other body systems.
Economy behind PV waste:
- Financial losses: Companies involved in garbage collection and treatment may suffer financial losses as a result of improper handling of solar PV waste. There is a little market for recycling or repurposing recovered PV waste in India due to the lack of appropriate incentives and plans in which enterprises may invest.
- Resource depletion: As solar PV waste is disposed of, important resources like silicon, silver, and other essential elements are lost, potentially causing resource depletion.
Recovery and Recycling of PV Waste:
- As PV panels are about to expire, some of the frame is removed and sold as scrap, junctions and cables are recycled in accordance with e-waste regulations, and the glass laminate is recycled to a certain extent before being disposed of with other debris.
- By igniting the module in cement furnaces, silicon and silver may be recovered.
- A study from 2021 states that about 50% of the total materials can be recovered.
Challenges particular to India:
- India confronts difficulties with PV waste collection, storage, recycling, and reuse.
- On general, only 20% of garbage is retrieved, and the remaining 80% is treated informally, which pollutes the environment.
Gaps in PV Waste Management:
- Generalized as e-waste: There should be particular provisions for PV waste treatment within the scope of e-waste rules since grouping PV trash with other e-waste might cause misunderstanding.
- There is a need for pan-Indian sensitization campaigns and awareness programmes on PV waste management because PV trash is categorised as hazardous waste in India.
Why does India need to act now?
- India is anticipated to produce a massive quantity of garbage over the next 20 years, given the rate at which solar panels are being put all throughout the nation.
- By 2050, India is anticipated to rank among the top five global producers of photovoltaic waste.
- India must thus implement clear policy instructions, tried-and-true recycling techniques, and more collaboration to avoid being caught off guard by a new issue in the future.
- India has to focus more on local R&D initiatives since relying just on one type of module may unevenly deplete some natural resources.
- Increasing recycling and material recovery capabilities is vital.
- This may be done by creating particular rules for the management of PV waste, organising awareness campaigns and sensitization drives across India, encouraging local R&D initiatives, and providing the necessary infrastructure and money.
Source: The Hindu
Model Code of Conduct
GS Paper II
Context: The date for the Karnataka Assembly elections was declared by the Indian Election Commission. The model code of conduct is introduced as a result.
- Model Code of Conduct:
- In order to control political parties and candidates before of elections, ECI created a set of rules.
- The regulations include a wide range of topics to ensure that free and fair elections are held, including those pertaining to speeches, election day, voting booths, portfolios, the content of election manifestos, processions, and general behaviour.
When does it come into effect?
- The PIB claims that Kerala’s 1960 state assembly elections were when the MCC was first used.
- In the 1962 elections, it was substantially adopted by all parties, and it was perpetuated in the general elections that followed.
- The EC included a provision in October 1979 to control the “party in power” and stop it from having an undue advantage during elections.
- From the day the election timetable is published until the day the results are released, the MCC is in effect.
Restrictions imposed under MCC:
There are eight clauses in the MCC that cover general behaviour, gatherings, processions, election day, polling places, observers, the party in power, and manifestos.
- The party in power, whether at the Center or in the States, must make sure that it does not exploit its official position for campaigning as soon as the code takes effect.
- Hence, no announcement of a policy, initiative, or plan that might affect voting behaviour is permitted.
- The code also prohibits ministers from using official resources for election-related activities or combining official trips with election-related work.
- Ad hoc nominations to positions in government, public enterprises, etc. are not permitted by the current administration since they might sway public opinion.
- Only the performance of political parties and candidates can be criticised; caste and sectarian feelings cannot be exploited to influence voters.
For Political Parties:
- The party must also refrain from spending public funds on advertisements or utilising official media to publicise accomplishments in an effort to increase its prospects of winning the election.
- Also, no government vehicles or equipment may be used for political campaigning by the ruling party.
- Moreover, it should make sure that the opposition parties are given access to infrastructure like helipads and public spaces like maidans for conducting electoral gatherings on the same terms and circumstances as the party in power.
- It is also banned to hold public gatherings within 48 hours of the scheduled time for the polls to close.
- The time frame known as “election hush” is 48 hours.
- The goal is to provide a voter with a space free from campaigning so she may consider the situation before casting her ballot.
- Advertising in newspapers and other media at the expense of the public coffers is also seen as a crime.
- No house of religion, including mosques, churches, temples, or others, should be utilised to spread electoral propaganda. Voter intimidation, bribery, and impersonation are all prohibited.
- Is it legally binding?
- The MCC was created as a result of agreement between the major political parties and developed as a component of the ECI’s efforts to ensure free and fair elections.
- It has no legal support. Simply expressed, this means that no one who violates the MCC may be subject to legal action under any provision of the Code.
- For its enforcement, the EU applies moral sanctions or condemnation.
What if violated?
- The ECI has the authority to notify a politician or a party for alleged violations of the MCC, either independently or in response to a complaint from another party or person.
- After receiving a notice, the offender or party must respond in writing by admitting guilt and offering a sincere apology or by disputing the claim.
- In the second scenario, if the person or party is ultimately found guilty, they may get a written reprimand from the ECI, which many people view as little more than a slap on the wrist.
- But, the ECI can also order the registration of a criminal case under the IPC or IT Act in severe circumstances, such as when a candidate uses money or alcohol to influence votes or tries to polarise voters in the name of religion or caste.
- The IPC and CrPC allow for the filing of complaints in cases of hate speech, and there are rules against the use of places of worship for political purposes, among other things.
Using powers under Article 324:
- Seldom does the Commission use punitive measures to enforce MCC, however there is a recent instance where persistent infractions pushed EC’s hand.
- The EC had prohibited a leader and current party president from campaigning during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in order to stop them from further defiling the election atmosphere with their statements.
- In order to enact the prohibition, the Commission used its exceptional powers granted by Article 324 of the Constitution.
- It was only lifted after the leaders expressed regret and made a commitment to follow the Code.
What if given Statutory Backing?
- Giving the MCC formal legitimacy, according to the ECI and numerous other independent experts, will only make the Commission’s task harder.
- This is due to the fact that each claimed offence would then have to be heard by the proper court all the way up to the Supreme Court.
- Election petitions that were filed decades ago are still pending in various High Courts due to the deficiencies in our legal system; it is unknown what could happen as a result.
Source: The Hindu
Dalai Lama’s Succession
GS Paper I
Context: The tenth KhalkhaJetsunDhampa, the leader of the Janang lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and the Buddhist spiritual head of Mongolia, has been appointed by the Dalai Lama to be a Mongolian boy born in the United States.
Who is the Dalai Lama?
- The spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism is known by the title of Dalai Lama.
- He is revered not only in Tibet but also all across the world and is said to be the previous Dalai Lama’s reincarnation.
- The Dalai Lama has historically served as both Tibet’s political and spiritual leader, but since leaving Tibet for exile in India in 1950 and returning, he has mostly served as a spiritual figurehead.
- Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th and current Dalai Lama, was born in Tibet in 1935 and has lived in exile in India since 1959.
Brief Outline of Tibetan Buddhism:
- By the ninth century AD, Tibetan Buddhism which developed from the Mahayana and Vajrayana styles of Buddhism and included numerous tantric and shamanic practices had become the majority religion in Tibet.
- It contains four main schools: Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug; one of the lesser schools that developed as a branch of the Sakya School is Janang.
- The Dalai Lama is a member of the Gelug School, which has been the main school of Tibetan Buddhism since 1640.
Hierarchy and Reincarnation in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition:
- One of Buddhism’s core tenets is the cycle of birth, death, and reincarnation.
- The first examples of “officially acknowledging the reincarnations of lamas” may be discovered around the time Tibet’s hierarchical structure appears to have begun in the 13th century.
- The sixth Grand Lama of the Gelug School was given the title of Dalai Lama, and the school established a rigid hierarchy and the custom of succession by reincarnation.
- To identify Tulkus, many processes and tests are used (recognized reincarnations).
- Chinese interference:
- The revelation of the boy’s reincarnation has renewed interest in the more significant issue of the 14th Dalai Lama’s own rebirth.
- International politics are profoundly affected by the question of his reincarnation since China wants to control the succession and annexe Tibet.
- The debate about the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation is expected to last for some time.
- Although he has hinted that there might not be another Dalai Lama after him, the Dalai Lama himself has not given a clear explanation as to what would occur.
- Because of his symbolic power and significance to millions of Tibetans worldwide, the question of his reincarnation continues to have significant political ramifications.
Source: Indian Express
GS Paper III
Context: The vital Z-Morh tunnel, which links Sonamarg and Gagangir on the Srinagar-Leh highway, will be officially opened in April of next year.
What is Z-Morh tunnel?
- The Zoji-Morh Tunnel, commonly referred to as the Z-Morh Tunnel, is a tunnel that is currently being built in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
- The tunnel is being built at an elevation of 11,578 feet, and it will give the Kashmir Valley connection in all weather conditions.
- The sole route that connects the Kashmir Valley to the rest of India is National Highway 1D, which is where the Z-Morh tunnel is situated.
- The Zoji-Morh area, a high-altitude mountain pass along the Srinagar-Leh Highway, is where the tunnel is now being built.
- The 6.5 kilometre Z-Morh tunnel is now under construction, and it will probably cost roughly Rs. 2,000 crore to finish it.
- The tunnel will be built utilising the most recent tunnelling technology and will include a two-lane highway.
- The National Roads and Infrastructure Development Company Ltd is carrying out the project (NHIDCL).
- The Kashmir Valley, which is now shut off from the rest of India for several months during the winter season due to severe snowfall and avalanches, would have all-weather access thanks to the tunnel.
- The tunnel will also shorten the distance between Srinagar and Leh’sZoji-Morh pass, cutting the trip’s duration by about four hours.