ART AND CULTURE
THE CONTEXT: One of Delhi’s earliest Mughal-era monuments— Sabz Burj has been conserved and restored over the last four years using traditional materials and building-craft techniques favoured by 16th Century craftsmen.
ABOUT SABZ BURJ
- The tomb, which was built in 1530, does not have any markings pointing to the identity of those buried under it.
- It is of immense significance due to the ceiling on its double-dome structure painted in pure gold and lapiz and revealed after conservation efforts began.
- Conservationists believe that the painting on the ceiling that has floral motifs predates similar work that was seen in miniature paintings and textiles from the Mughal era and was covered with plaster sometime in the 20th Century when the structure was used as a police station.
- The monument stands at the entrance to Humayun’s Tomb and would have originally stood within an enclosed garden.
THE PURI HERITAGE CORRIDOR
THE CONTEXT: Odisha Chief Minister is expected to soon lay the foundation stone of the much-awaited Puri heritage corridor, which is being developed at a cost of Rs 800 crore.
ABOUT THE PURI HERITAGE CORRIDOR PROJECT
- Conceived in 2016, the Puri Heritage Corridor Project was unveiled in December 2019 to transform the holy town of Puri into an international place of heritage.
- The project includes redeveloping major portions of the holy town and in the vicinity of the temple for visitors and tourists. A resolution for the project was passed in the state assembly unanimously by all the parties in February 2020 to begin the first phase of work estimated at a cost of Rs 800 crore.
- Following this, the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) approved the architectural design plan of the project at an estimated cost of Rs 3,200 crore.
- A total of 22 different projects will be executed in a phased manner. After the initial funds of Rs 800 crore from the state government’s Augmentation of Basic Amenities and Development of Heritage and Architecture at Puri (ABADHA) scheme, another Rs 265 crore will be provided in the first phase.
- The project will include Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) building redevelopment, a 600-capacity Srimandir reception centre, Jagannath cultural centre including Raghunandan library, integrated command, and control centre, Badadanda heritage streetscape, Srimandir amenities improvement, Sri Setu, Jagannath Ballav pilgrim centre, multilevel car parking, municipal market development, Swargadwar development, Pramod Udyan, Gurukulam, Mahodadhi market, beachfront development, Puri lake, Musa river revival plan, Atharnala and housing for sevayats.
INDIAN POLITY, GOVERNANCE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
COVID’S IMPACT ON LEARNING
THE CONTEXT: 16th annual report of Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) released.
- The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) survey, which is facilitated by Pratham Education Foundation, is the oldest survey of its kind in the country and is well regarded for the range of insights it provides on levels of foundational learning at the elementary level. In the context of the pandemic, the ASER Centre switched its focus to access to learning opportunities in 2020.
- The 16th edition of the report is based on a phone survey, conducted in September and October, of 75,234 children ages 5-16 across 581 rural districts in 25 states and three Union Territories. The surveyors also contacted teachers or headteachers from 7,299 government schools offering primary grades.
- Headline numbers: The report shows a “clear shift” from private to government schools — from 64.3 per cent in 2018 to 65.8 per cent in 2020, to 70.3 per cent in 2021; and a fall in private school enrolment from 28.8 per cent in 2020 to 24.4 per cent in 2021.
- Tuition-dependent: Students, especially those from poor families, are dependent more than ever on private tuition.
- Digital divide: From having no experience of pre-primary class to the lack of access to digital devices, the pandemic has left the youngest entrants in India’s formal education system particularly vulnerable, and not addressing their specific needs can have grave consequences. While the percentage of enrolled children having at least one smartphone at home has risen from 36.5 to 67.6 between 2018 and 2021, only 19.9 per cent of children in Classes I-II have access to the devices whenever they require. The access to smartphones increases with age, with 35.4 per cent of students in Classes IX and above having constant access.
- Falling behind:65.4 per cent of teachers flagged the problem of children being “unable to catch up” as one of their biggest challenges. During the recent National Achievement Survey (NAS) of the central government, teachers and field investigators across the country reported that primary grade kids struggled to make sense of questions to test basic comprehension and numerical skills.
- Silver lining: The report captured a decline in the proportion of children not currently enrolled in the 15-16 age group. The survey also found that 91.9 per cent of enrolled children have textbooks for their current grade. But only about a third (33.5 per cent) of children in grades I-II of yet-to-reopen schools reported having received learning materials.
CABINET APPROVED USOF SCHEME FOR UNCOVERED VILLAGES
THE CONTEXT: The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister has given its approval for the provisioning of mobile services in Uncovered Villages of Aspirational Districts across five States of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra & Odisha.
- The Project envisages providing 4G based mobile services in the 7,287 uncovered villages of 44 Aspirational Districts across five States at an estimated cost of implementation of about Rs 6,466 crore including operational expenses for 5 years.
- The project would be funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF). The project will be completed within 18 months after the signing of the Agreement and is likely to be completed by November 23.
- The work related to the provision of 4G mobile services in identified uncovered villages will be awarded through an open competitive bidding process as per extant USOF procedures.
- It will enhance digital connectivity useful for self-reliance, facilitate learning, dissemination of information and knowledge, skill up-gradation and development, disaster management, e-Governance initiatives, the establishment of enterprises & e-commerce facilities, provision of adequate support to educational institutes for knowledge sharing & availability of job opportunity and fulfilling the vision of Digital India promoting domestic manufacturing and fulfilling the objectives of Atmanirbhar Bharat etc.
GLOBAL BRIBERY RISK RANKINGS
THE CONTEXT: India has slipped to 82nd position in 2021, five places down from 77th rank last year, in a global list that measures business bribery risks.
- The list by TRACE, an anti-bribery standard-setting organisation, measures business bribery risk in 194 countries, territories, and autonomous and semi-autonomous regions.
- According to this year’s data, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Venezuela and Eritrea pose the highest commercial bribery risk, while Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and New Zealand present the lowest.
- This score is based on four factors — business interactions with the government, anti-bribery deterrence and enforcement, government and civil service transparency, and capacity for civil society oversight which includes the role of the media.
- India fared better than its neighbours – Pakistan, China, Nepal and Bangladesh. Bhutan, meanwhile, secured 62nd rank.
CABINET APPROVED CONTINUATION OF PMGSY
THE CONTEXT: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave its approval to the proposals of the Department of Rural Development, Ministry of Rural Development for the continuation of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana-I and II up to September 2022 for completion of balance road and bridge works. The CCEA also approved the continuation of the Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas (RCPLWEA) up to March 2023.
- The interventions/verticals for which extension of time have been solicited are already under implementation under PMGSY. All the projects under PMGSY-I and II are already sanctioned.
- The Ministry would constantly follow up the progress with the states to ensure completion of the balance projects with the extended timeline.
- A total of Rs. 1,12,419 crore, including state share, is likely to be incurred from 2021-22 to 2024-25 for completion of all the ongoing interventions of PMGSY
- PMGSY-I was launched in the year 2000 to provide connectivity to eligible unconnected habitations of 500+ in plain areas and 250+ in North-East and Himalayan states as per census, 2001.
- The Scheme also included the component of up-gradation of existing rural roads for those districts where all the eligible habitations had been saturated.
- In the year 2013, it was decided to also cover habitations of population size 100-249 as per census, 2001 in the Left-wing Extremism Affected blocks identified by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- Out of 1,78,184 habitations of 250+ and 500+ population size identified for coverage under the scheme, 1,71,494 habitations have already been connected and 1,968 habitations are balanced as of 15thNovember, 2021.
- A total of 6,45,627 Km road length and 7,523 bridges have been sanctioned under PMGSY-I, of which only 20,950 Km road length and 1,974 bridges are balanced as of 15thNovember, 2021.
- The majority of the pending projects are in North-East & Himalayan states/UTs.
- All the balance habitations are targeted for connectivity within the proposed extended period, i.e. up to September 2022 by constructing 20,950 Km road length and 1,974 bridges.
- PMGSY-II, which was approved by the Cabinet in May 2013, envisaged the consolidation of 50,000 Km of the existing rural road network.
- All the proposals of states/UTs have been sanctioned.
- Out of a total of 49,885 Km and 765 bridges sanctioned under the scheme, only 4,240 Km road length and 254 bridges are balanced.
- The majority of the pending projects are in North-East & Himalayan states/UTs as also in the State of Bihar.
- All pending projects are targeted for completion within the proposed extended period, i.e. up to September 2022.
ABOUT ROAD CONNECTIVITY PROJECT FOR LEFT-WING EXTREMISM AFFECTED AREAS (RCPLWEA)
- Launched in 2016 for construction/up-gradation of 5,412 Km road length and 126 bridges of strategic importance in 44 districts in 9 states, viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh, with an outlay of Rs. 11,725 crore.
- Implementation period: 2016-17 to 2019-20
- Road and bridgework to be taken up under the scheme have been identified by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with states and security forces.
- 10,231 Km road length and bridges sanctioned under the scheme so far with an outlay of Rs. 9,822 crore, including the additional proposals recommended by MHA subsequently.
- 4,490 Km road length and 105 bridges have already been completed.
- Balance projects and additional projects of around 1,887 Km, which are yet to be sanctioned, are targeted for completion within the proposed extended period, i.e. up to March 2023.
INDIA PLACED ORDERS FOR FRENCH HAMMER MISSILES
THE CONTEXT: To strengthen the capabilities of the indigenous LCA Tejas fighter aircraft, the Indian Air Force has placed orders for HAMMER missiles from France which would allow it to take out any hardened bunkers or ground targets at stand-off ranges of more than 70 kilometres.
- The capability enhancement of the LCA Tejas fighter aircraft is being done in the middle of a military stand-off with China using the emergency procurement power granted by the government to the defence forces.
- The Indian Air Force had acquired the first lot of these HAMMERs for the Rafale fighters at the time when the aircraft had started coming to the IAF from France to further enhance the air to ground targeting capabilities of its most advanced plane.
- Due to the urgency at that time in view of the Chinese aggression, the French authorities had agreed to supply them at a short notice for our Rafale combat aircraft.
- HAMMER (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) is a medium-range air-to-ground weapon designed and manufactured for the French Air Force and Navy initially.
- The HAMMERs would give India the capability to take out any bunkers or hardened shelters in any type of terrain including mountainous locations such as Eastern Ladakh, the sources said.
- Indian armed forces have extensively utilised the emergency procurement powers granted to them in different phases by the government to equip themselves with necessary weaponry to handle any conflict or aggression by enemies on both sides.
- The Indian Air Force is strongly supporting the indigenous LCA Tejas fighter aircraft programme by adding more and more capabilities of the aircraft.
- The IAF has already operationalised two of its squadrons in the initial operational clearance and final operational clearance versions while a contract has been signed for the 83 Mark1As set to be delivered a couple of years from now.
THE PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTION
Q1. To strengthen the capabilities of the indigenous LCA Tejas fighter aircraft, the Indian Air Force has placed orders for HAMMER missiles from which country?
b) The USA
ANSWER FOR NOVEMBER 17th, 2021 PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS
Q1 Answer: C
- Statement 1 is correct: UNWTO was formed in 1975 as a UN specialised agency.
- Statement 2 is incorrect: Its headquarters are based in Madrid, Spain.
- Statement 3 is correct: The Tourism Villages is a global initiative of UNWTO to highlight villages where tourism preserves cultures and traditions, celebrates diversity, provides opportunities and safeguards biodiversity. Statement 4 is correct: Pochampally village in Telangana is set to be named as one of the best Tourism Villages by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).