INDIAN POLITY, GOVERNANCE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
REPORT ON REFORMS IN URBAN PLANNING CAPACITY IN INDIA
THE CONTEXT: The report, titled ‘Reforms in Urban Planning Capacity in India’, was released by NITI Aayog.
REFORMS IN URBAN PLANNING CAPACITY: SUMMARY
India is home to 11% of the total global urban population. By 2027, India will surpass China as the most populous country in the world. Unplanned urbanization, however, exerts great strain on our cities. In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the dire need for the planning and management of our cities.
Urban planning is the foundation for the integrated development of cities, citizens, and the environment. Unfortunately, it has received due attention so far. The existing urban planning and governance framework is complex, which often leads to ambiguity and a lack of accountability.
The report makes several recommendations that can unblock bottlenecks in the value chain of urban planning capacity in India. Some of them are:
- Programmatic Intervention for Planning of Healthy Cities: Every city must aspire to become a ‘Healthy City for All’ by 2030. The report recommends a Central Sector Scheme ‘500 Healthy Cities Programme’, for a period of 5 years, wherein priority cities and towns would be selected jointly by the states and local bodies.
- Programmatic Intervention for Optimum Utilization of Urban Land: All the cities and towns under the proposed ‘Healthy Cities Programme’ should strengthen development control regulations based on scientific evidence to maximize the efficiency of urban land (or planning area). The report recommends a sub-scheme ‘Preparation/Revision of Development Control Regulations for this purpose.
- Ramping Up of Human Resources: To combat the shortage of urban planners in the public sector, the report recommends that the states/UTs may need to a) expedite the filling up of vacant positions of town planners, and b) additionally sanction 8268 town planners’ posts as lateral entry positions for a minimum period of 3 years and a maximum of 5 years to meet the gaps.
- Ensuring Qualified Professionals for Undertaking Urban Planning: State town and country planning departments face an acute shortage of town planners. This is compounded by the fact that in several states, ironically, a qualification in town planning is not even an essential criterion for such jobs. States may need to undertake requisite amendments in their recruitment rules to ensure the entry of qualified candidates into town-planning positions.
- Re-engineering of Urban Governance: There is a need to bring in more institutional clarity and also multi-disciplinary expertise to solve urban challenges. The report recommends the constitution of a high-powered committee to re-engineer the present urban-planning governance structure. The key aspects that would need to be addressed in this effort are i) clear division of the roles and responsibilities of various authorities, appropriate revision of rules and regulations, etc., ii) creation of a more dynamic organizational structure, standardisation of the job descriptions of town planners and other experts, and iii) extensive adoption of technology for enabling public participation and inter-agency coordination.
- Revision of Town and Country Planning Acts: Most States have enacted the Town and Country Planning Acts, that enable them to prepare and notify master plans for implementation. However, many need to be reviewed and upgraded. Therefore, the formation of an apex committee at the state level is recommended to undertake a regular review of planning legislation (including town and country planning or urban and regional development acts or other relevant acts).
- Demystifying Planning and Involving Citizens: While it is important to maintain the master plans’ technical rigour, it is equally important to demystify them for enabling citizens’ participation at relevant stages. Therefore, the committee strongly recommends a ‘Citizen Outreach Campaign’ for demystifying urban planning.
- Steps for Enhancing the Role of the Private Sector: The report recommends that concerted measures must be taken at multiple levels to strengthen the role of the private sector to improve the overall planning capacity in the country. These include the adoption of fair processes for procuring technical consultancy services, strengthening project structuring and management skills in the public sector, and empanelment of private sector consultancies.
- Steps for Strengthening Urban Planning Education System
- The Central universities and technical institutions in all the other States/UTs are encouraged to offer postgraduate degree programmes (MTech Planning) to cater to the requirement of planners in the country in a phased manner.
- The committee also recommends that all such institutions may synergize with the Ministry of Rural Development, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and respective state rural development departments/directorates and develop demand-driven short-term programmes on rural area planning.
- ‘Planning’ as an umbrella term, including all its specializations such as environment, housing, transportation, infrastructure, logistics, rural area, regional, etc., or any other nomenclature approved by AICTE, should be included as a discipline under the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) of MoE to encourage healthy competition among the institutions.
- The committee recommends that AICTE may retain the names of specializations based on industry requirements while limiting them to an appropriate number, as 25 nomenclatures seem too high for market acknowledgement and absorption.
- Faculty shortage in educational institutions conducting degree and PhD programmes in planning need to be resolved in a time-bound manner by 2022.
- Measures for Strengthening Human Resource and Match Demand–Supply: The report recommends the constitution of a ‘National Council of Town and Country Planners’ as a statutory body of the Government of India. Also, a ‘National Digital Platform of Town and Country Planners’ is suggested to be created within the National Urban Innovation Stack of MoHUA. This portal will enable the self-registration of all planners and evolve as a marketplace for potential employers and urban planners.
AIM IN PARTNERSHIP WITH DASSAULT SYSTÈMES
THE CONTEXT: Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) NITI Aayog in partnership with Dassault Systèmes’ is all set to rave up the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem across the country.
- With an aim to promote innovation and entrepreneurship amongst aspiring entrepreneurs, this program will act as a catalyst for an open innovation collaboration to accelerate disruptive innovation in the community.
- There are six aspects of engagement between Dassault and AIM, NITI Aayog. These include access to Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE Lab start-up acceleration program to selected AIM start-ups; mentorship to selected AIM start-ups for capability building of their products; 3DEXPERIENCE Lab related global community access to selected AIM start-ups; industry connect for selected AIM start-ups with Dassault Systèmes’ worldwide customers, partners and technology collaborators as and when applicable; participation of selected AIM start-ups in Dassault Systèmes national and global events; and organization and participation in joint events, hackathons, challenges with AIM and NITI Aayog
ENVIRONMENT, GEOGRAPHY AND AGRICULTURE
GLOBAL OZONE DAY
THE CONTEXT: India observes the 27th Global Ozone Day.
- World Ozone Day is celebrated on 16th September each year to commemorate the signing of the Montreal Protocol, an international environmental treaty for phasing out of production and consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances, that came into force on this day in 1987.
- The Day is celebrated every year to spread awareness among people about the depletion of the Ozone Layer and the measures taken/ to be taken to preserve it.
- The Ozone Cell, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Government of India has been celebrating World Ozone Day since 1995 at the National and State levels.
- The theme of World Ozone Day 2021 is “Montreal Protocol – Keeping us, our food and vaccines cool”.
- Action Plan Released for implementing the recommendations of the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) for the thematic Area Space Cooling in Buildings.
- The India cooling action plan (ICAP), the first of its kind in the world to be developed by the MoEF&CC, addresses cooling requirements across sectors and lists out actions that can help reduce the cooling demand through synergies in actions for securing both environmental and socio-economic benefits. The ICAP aims to reduce both direct and indirect emissions.
THE CONTEXT: Ministry of Labour & Employment has developed an e-SHRAM portal for creating a National Database of Unorganized Workers (NDUW), which will be seeded with Aadhaar.
- It will have details of name, occupation, address, educational qualification, skill types and family details etc. for the optimum realization of their employability and extend benefits of social security schemes to them.
- It is the first-ever national database of unorganised workers including migrant workers, construction workers, gig and platform workers, etc.
WHO CAN REGISTER IN E-SHRAM (NDUW) PORTAL?
Any individual satisfying the following conditions can register on the portal:
- An unorganised worker (UW).
- Age should be between 16-59 years.
- Not a member of EPFO/ESIC or NPS (Govt. funded)
WHO IS AN UNORGANISED WORKER?
- Any worker who is a home based-worker, self-employed worker or a wage worker in the unorganised sector including a worker in the organised sector who is not a member of ESIC or EPFO or not a Govt. employee is called an Unorganised Worker.
WHAT IS REQUIRED FOR REGISTRATION?
- Aadhar Number
- The mobile number is linked with Aadhaar.
- Savings Bank Account Number with IFSC code
GOVERNMENT SETS UP BAD BANK
THE CONTEXT: Paving the way for a major clean-up of bad loans in the banking system, the Cabinet cleared a ₹30,600 crore guarantee programme for securities to be issued by the newly incorporated ‘bad bank’ for taking over and resolving non-performing assets (NPAs) amounting to ₹2 lakh crore.
- The Reserve Bank of India is in the process of granting a license for the National Asset Reconstruction Company Limited (NARCL), following which toxic assets worth ₹90,000 crores that banks have already fully provided for will move to the NARCL.
- Finance Minister said the Cabinet’s decision, to extend a five-year guarantee for NARCL-issued security receipts to banks, completed the entire cycle of cleaning up India’s banking system that began with the recognition of the extent of bad loans in 2015.
- Under the mechanism, the NARCL will acquire assets by making an offer to the lead bank. Private sector asset reconstruction firms (ARCs) may also be allowed to outbid the NARCL.
- Separately, public and private lenders would combine forces to set up an India Debt Resolution Company (IDRC) that would manage these as- sets and try to raise their value for final resolution.
- The upfront cash payment by the NARCL will immediately be accretive for the profitability and capital of the banks, however, the ability of the NARCL to resolve these assets in a time-bound manner will be critical for future provision writeback by banks.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
CONVERTING THE KERATIN WASTE TO FOOD
THE CONTEXT: Indian scientists have developed a new sustainable and affordable solution for converting keratin waste such as human hair, wool, and poultry feathers to fertilizers, pet, and animal feeds.
- India generates a huge amount of human hair, poultry feather waste, and wool waste each year. These wastes are inexpensive sources of amino acids and protein, underlining their potential to be used as animal feed and fertilizer.
- Professor A. B. Pandit, Vice-Chancellor, Institute of Chemical Technology Mumbai, along with his students, has developed a technology to covert the keratin waste to food for pets and fertilizers for plants.
- This novel technology is patented, easily scalable, environment-friendly, energy-efficient, and it will make amino acid-rich liquid fertilizers more economical as compared to currently marketed products.
- They used advanced oxidation for the conversion of the waste to marketable fertilizers and animal feed. The key technology behind this involves pre-treatment followed by hydrolysis of keratin using a technique called Hydrodynamic Cavitation, which involves vaporization, bubble generation, and bubble implosion in a flowing liquid.
EXPLORING FORMATION AND EVOLUTION OF STARS
THE CONTEXT: Resolution of scientific challenge in calculating chemical abundance in stars can help explore their history better.
- The probe of astronomers into the history of formation and evolution of stars through the chemical constitution of the stars has long been hampered by an intriguing ‘carbon problem’—a mismatch between predicted and observed values of an abundance of elements that prevented the scientists from correctly calculating the abundances of the various elements particularly on the surface of certain Hydrogen-deficient stars called R Corona Borealis stars.
- They have now found a resolution to this with a new method to analyze the abundances and have revised the existing values available in the literature. This method will allow astronomers to calculate the elemental abundances in RCB stars more accurately and better explore their formation and evolution.
- Astronomers use the spectral lines of various elements to determine their abundances in stars. Different kinds of stars can have very different abundances of these elements on their surface. One such class of stars, called R Coronae Borealis stars (RCB), have very little hydrogen, comparable to the abundance of elements heavier than helium, one of them being carbon. This is in stark contrast to the majority of stars whose atmospheres are dominated by hydrogen.
- These are supergiant stars, with surface temperatures of 5000K to 7000K. The surface abundances of hydrogen poor stars are measured relative to helium (He), the most abundant element in their atmospheres.
- The abundance of an element is measured from its absorption line spectra. The extent of this absorption is calculated as a fraction of the underlying continuum absorption. The continuum absorption is due to Hydrogen for Sun-like stars.
- However, it is due to Carbon for RCB stars. Hence astronomers have been able to measure the abundances of heavier elements as a function of Carbon in RCB stars rather than as a function of hydrogen. This implies that the actual abundances can be calculated only if we know the ratio for Carbon relative to Helium.
- However, spectroscopic determination of carbon to helium ratio (C/He) is not possible from the observed optical spectra of RCBs. Therefore, for constructing the model atmosphere to derive the surface abundances of RCBs, a C/He of 1% was assumed. But, the predicted strengths of the neutral carbon lines are stronger than what is observed. This mismatch is called the “carbon problem”.
LOW CARBON BRICKS
THE CONTEXT: Researchers have developed a technology to produce energy-efficient walling materials using construction and demolition (C&D) waste and alkali-activated binders. These are called low-C bricks, do not require high-temperature firing, and avoid the use of high-energy materials such as Portland cement.
- Conventionally, building envelopes consist of masonry walls built with burnt clay bricks, concrete blocks, hollow clay blocks, fly ash bricks, lightweight blocks, and so on. The envelopes spend energy during their production, thus incurring carbon emission (i.e., possess embodied carbon) consume mined raw material resources which lead to unsustainable constructions.
- Scientists of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) developed a technology for producing alkali-activated bricks/blocks by utilising fly ash and furnace slag. The team of researchers developed low embodied carbon bricks from CDW waste through an alkali activation process using fly ash and ground slag and characterising the thermal, structural, and durability characteristics of Low-C bricks and their masonry.
- After ascertaining the Physico-chemical and compaction characteristics of the CDW, the optimum mix ratios of the materials were obtained, and then the production process was evolved to produce low-C bricks. Based on the optimum binder proportions, the compressed bricks were manufactured. The bricks were examined for engineering characteristics.
AUKUS SEEKS TO RESHAPE INDO-PACIFIC TIES
THE CONTEXT: Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. (AUKUS) have announced their forming a new security alliance that will help equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR DIFFERENT STAKEHOLDER COUNTRIES?
- The US.: Under President Joe Biden, the U.S. has now withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan while finding that tensions with China have only grown. In the Pacific, the U.S. and others have been concerned about China’s actions in the South China Sea and its antipathy toward Japan, Taiwan and Australia.
- Britain: The U.S. had previously only shared the nuclear propulsion technology with Britain. Leaving the EU under Brexit has left Britain seeking to reassert its global position. Part of that has been an increased focus – or tilt – towards the Indo-Pacific.
- Australia: Under the arrangement, Australia will build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines using U.S. expertise, while dumping a contract with France for diesel-electric submarines. Experts say the nuclear submarines will allow Australia to conduct longer patrols and give the alliance a stronger military presence in the region. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had called the leaders of Japan and India to explain the new alliance.
- France: Australia told France it would end its contract with state majority-owned DCNS to build 12 of the world’s largest conventional submarines. France is furious, demanding explanations from all sides.
- New Zealand: Left out of the new alliance is Australia’s neighbour New Zealand. It has a long-standing nuclear-free policy that includes a ban on nuclear-powered ships entering its ports. That stance has sometimes been a sticking point in otherwise close relations with the U.S.
PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS:
Q1. E-Shram portal registers workers satisfying certain conditions. Which of the following are correct conditions among them?
- An unorganised worker.
- Age should be between 19-59 years.
- Not a member of EPFO/ESIC or NPS.
Select the correct answer using the code given below
a) 1 only
b) 1 and 2 only
c) 1 and 3 only
d) 1, 2 and 3
ANSWER FOR SEPTEMBER 15, 2021 PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS (REFER TO RELEVANT ARTICLE)
Q1. ANSWER: B)
- A new trilateral security partnership for the Indo-Paciﬁc between Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. (AUKUS).
- A central feature of the partnership would involve a tri-lateral 18-month eﬀort to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines which are quieter, more capable (than their conventional counterparts) and can be deployed for longer periods, needing to surface less frequently.
Q2. ANSWER: B)
- NITI Aayog, with RMI and RMI India’s support, today launched Shoonya—an initiative to promote zero-pollution delivery vehicles by working with consumers and industry.
- The campaign aims to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in the urban deliveries segment and create consumer awareness about the benefits of zero-pollution delivery.