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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

Monthly DNA

30 Jul, 2020

81 Min Read

Cabinet Approves National Education Policy 2020

GS-II : Governance Education policy

Cabinet Approves National Education Policy 2020

GS-PAPER-2 Education policy (PT-MAINS)

“In June 2017 a ‘Committee for the Draft National Education Policy’ was constituted under the Chairmanship of eminent scientist Padma Vibhushan, Dr. K. Kasturirangan, which submitted the Draft National Education Policy, 2019 to the Hon’ble Human Resource Development Minister on 31st May, 2019”

Summary

  • New Policy aims for Universalization of Education from pre-school to secondary level with 100 % GER in school education by 2030
  • NEP 2020 will bring 2 crore out of school children back into the main stream
  • New 5+3+3+4 school curriculum with 12 years of schooling and 3 years of Anganwadi/ Pre-schooling
  • Emphasis on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy, no rigid separation between academic streams, extracurricular, vocational streams in schools ; Vocational Education to start from Class 6 with Internships
  • Teaching upto at least Grade 5 to be in mother tongue/ regional language
  • Assessment reforms with 360 degree Holistic Progress Card, tracking Student Progress for achieving Learning Outcomes
  • GER in higher education to be raised to 50 % by 2035 ; 3.5 crore seats to be added in higher education
  • Higher Education curriculum to have Flexibility of Subjects
  • Multiple Entry / Exit to be allowed with appropriate certification
  • Academic Bank of Credits to be established to facilitate Transfer of Credits
  • National Research Foundation to be established to foster a strong research culture
  • Light but Tight Regulation of Higher Education, single regulator with four separate verticals for different functions
  • Affiliation System to be phased out in 15 years with graded autonomy to colleges
  • NEP 2020 advocates increased use of technology with equity; National Educational Technology Forum to be created
  • NEP 2020 emphasizes setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund, Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups
  • New Policy promotes Multilingualism in both schools and HEs; National Institute for Pali, Persian and Prakrit , Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation to be set up

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister approved the National Education Policy 2020 today, making way for large scale, transformational reforms in both school and higher education sectors. This is the first education policy of the 21st century and replaces the thirty-four year old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986. Built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability, this policy is aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and aims to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making both school and college education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, suited to 21st century needs and aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities of each student.

Important Highlights

School Education

Ensuring Universal Access at all levels of school education

NEP 2020 emphasizes on ensuring universal access to school education at all levels- pre school to secondary. Infrastructure support, innovative education centres to bring back dropouts into the mainstream, tracking of students and their learning levels, facilitating multiple pathways to learning involving both formal and non-formal education modes, association of counselors or well-trained social workers with schools, open learning for classes3,5 and 8 through NIOS and State Open Schools, secondary education programs equivalent to Grades 10 and 12, vocational courses, adult literacy and life-enrichment programs are some of the proposed ways for achieving this. About 2 crore out of school children will be brought back into main stream under NEP 2020.

Early Childhood Care & Education with new Curricular and Pedagogical Structure

With emphasis on Early Childhood Care and Education, the 10+2 structure of school curricula is to be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively. This will bring the hitherto uncovered age group of 3-6 years under school curriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for development of mental faculties of a child. The new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/ pre schooling.

NCERT will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8 . ECCE will be delivered through a significantly expanded and strengthened system of institutions including Anganwadis and pre-schools that will have teachers and Anganwadi workers trained in the ECCE pedagogy and curriculum. The planning and implementation of ECCE will be carried out jointly by the Ministries of HRD, Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs.

Attaining Foundational Literacy and Numeracy

Recognizing Foundational Literacy and Numeracy as an urgent and necessary prerequisite to learning, NEP 2020 calls for setting up of a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by MHRD. States will prepare an implementation plan for attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools for all learners by grade 3 by 2025.A National Book Promotion Policy is to be formulated.

Reforms in school curricula and pedagogy

The school curricula and pedagogy will aim for holistic development of learners by equipping them with the key 21st century skills, reduction in curricular content to enhance essential learning and critical thinking and greater focus on experiential learning. Students will have increased flexibility and choice of subjects. There will be no rigid separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams.

Vocational education will start in schools from the 6th grade, and will include internships.

A new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21, will be developed by the NCERT.

Multilingualism and the power of language

The policy has emphasized mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium of instruction at least till Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond. Sanskrit to be offered at all levels of school and higher education as an option for students, including in the three-language formula. Other classical languages and literatures of India also to be available as options. No language will be imposed on any student. Students to participate in a fun project/activity on ‘The Languages of India’, sometime in Grades 6-8, such as, under the ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ initiative. Several foreign languages will also be offered at the secondary level. Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardized across the country, and National and State curriculum materials developed, for use by students with hearing impairment.

Assessment Reforms

NEP 2020 envisages a shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessment, which is more competency-based, promotes learning and development, and tests higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity. All students will take school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority. Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be continued, but redesigned with holistic development as the aim. A new National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development), will be set up as a standard-setting body .

Equitable and Inclusive Education

NEP 2020 aims to ensure that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of the circumstances of birth or background. Special emphasis will be given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups(SEDGs) which include gender, socio-cultural, and geographical identities and disabilities. This includes setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups. Children with disabilities will be enabled to fully participate in the regular schooling process from the foundational stage to higher education, with support of educators with cross disability training, resource centres, accommodations, assistive devices, appropriate technology-based tools and other support mechanisms tailored to suit their needs. Every state/district will be encouraged to establish “Bal Bhavans” as a special daytime boarding school, to participate in art-related, career-related, and play-related activities. Free school infrastructure can be used as Samajik Chetna Kendras

Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path

Teachers will be recruited through robust, transparent processes. Promotions will be merit-based, with a mechanism for multi-source periodic performance appraisals and available progression paths to become educational administrators or teacher educators. A common National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council for Teacher Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, SCERTs, teachers and expert organizations from across levels and regions.

School Governance

Schools can be organized into complexes or clusters which will be the basic unit of governance and ensure availability of all resources including infrastructure, academic libraries and a strong professional teacher community.

Standard-setting and Accreditation for School Education

NEP 2020 envisages clear, separate systems for policy making, regulation, operations and academic matters. States/UTs will set up independent State School Standards Authority (SSSA). Transparent public self-disclosure of all the basic regulatory information, as laid down by the SSSA, will be used extensively for public oversight and accountability. The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) through consultations with all stakeholders.

Higher Education

Increase GER to 50 % by 2035

NEP 2020 aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035. 3.5 Crore new seats will be added to Higher education institutions.

Holistic Multidisciplinary Education

The policy envisages broad based, multi-disciplinary, holistic Under Graduate education with flexible curricula, creative combinations of subjects, integration of vocational education and multiple entry and exit points with appropriate certification. UG education can be of 3 or 4 years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this period. For example, Certificate after 1 year, Advanced Diploma after 2 years, Bachelor’s Degree after 3 years and Bachelor’s with Research after 4 years.

An Academic Bank of Credit is to be established for digitally storing academic credits earned from different HEIs so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned.

Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, to be set up as models of best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country.

The National Research Foundation will be created as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education.

Regulation

Higher Education Commission of India(HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body the for entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education. HECI to have four independent verticals - National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation, General Education Council (GEC ) for standard setting, Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding, and National Accreditation Council( NAC) for accreditation. HECI will function through faceless intervention through technology, & will have powers to penalise HEIs not conforming to norms and standards. Public and private higher education institutions will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards.

Rationalised Institutional Architecture

Higher education institutions will be transformed into large, well resourced, vibrant multidisciplinary institutions providing high quality teaching, research, and community engagement. The definition of university will allow a spectrum of institutions that range from Research-intensive Universities to Teaching-intensive Universities and Autonomous degree-granting Colleges.

Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism is to be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges. Over a period of time, it is envisaged that every college would develop into either an Autonomous degree-granting College, or a constituent college of a university.

Motivated, Energized, and Capable Faculty

NEP makes recommendations for motivating, energizing, and building capacity of faculty thorugh clearly defined, independent, transparent recruitment , freedom to design curricula/pedagogy, incentivising excellence, movement into institutional leadership. Faculty not delivering on basic norms will be held accountable

Teacher Education

A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT. By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree .Stringent action will be taken against substandard stand-alone Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs).

Mentoring Mission

A National Mission for Mentoring will be established, with a large pool of outstanding senior/retired faculty – including those with the ability to teach in Indian languages – who would be willing to provide short and long-term mentoring/professional support to university/college teachers.

Financial support for students

Efforts will be made to incentivize the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs. The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support, foster, and track the progress of students receiving scholarships. Private HEIs will be encouraged to offer larger numbers of free ships and scholarships to their students.

Open and Distance Learning

This will be expanded to play a significant role in increasing GER. Measures such as online courses and digital repositories, funding for research, improved student services, credit-based recognition of MOOCs, etc., will be taken to ensure it is at par with the highest quality in-class programmes.

Online Education and Digital Education:

A comprehensive set of recommendations for promoting online education consequent to the recent rise in epidemics and pandemics in order to ensure preparedness with alternative modes of quality education whenever and wherever traditional and in-person modes of education are not possible, has been covered. A dedicated unit for the purpose of orchestrating the building of digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be created in the MHRD to look after the e-education needs of both school and higher education.

Technology in education

An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration. Appropriate integration of technology into all levels of education will be done to improve classroom processes, support teacher professional development, enhance educational access for disadvantaged groups and streamline educational planning, administration and management

Promotion of Indian languages

To ensure the preservation, growth, and vibrancy of all Indian languages, NEP recommends setting an Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI), National Institute (or Institutes) for Pali, Persian and Prakrit, strengthening of Sanskrit and all language departments in HEIs, and use mother tongue/local language as a medium of instruction in more HEI programmes .

Internationalization of education will be facilitated through both institutional collaborations, and student and faculty mobility and allowing entry of top world ranked Universities to open campuses in our country.

Professional Education

All professional education will be an integral part of the higher education system. Stand-alone technical universities, health science universities, legal and agricultural universities etc will aim to become multi-disciplinary institutions.

Adult Education

Policy aims to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy.

Financing Education

The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.

Unprecedented Consultations

NEP 2020 has been formulated after an unprecedented process of consultation that involved nearly over 2 lakh suggestions from 2.5 lakhs Gram Panchayats, 6600 Blocks, 6000 ULBs, 676 Districts. The MHRD initiated an unprecedented collaborative, inclusive, and highly participatory consultation process from January 2015. In May 2016, ‘Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy’ under the Chairmanship of Late Shri T.S.R. Subramanian, Former Cabinet Secretary, submitted its report. Based on this, the Ministry prepared ‘Some Inputs for the Draft National Education Policy, 2016’. In June 2017 a ‘Committee for the Draft National Education Policy’ was constituted under the Chairmanship of eminent scientist Padma Vibhushan, Dr. K. Kasturirangan, which submitted the Draft National Education Policy, 2019 to the Hon’ble Human Resource Development Minister on 31st May, 2019. The Draft National Education Policy 2019 was uploaded on MHRD’s website and at ‘MyGov Innovate’ portal eliciting views/suggestions/comments of stakeholders, including public.

Source: PIB

Environmental Impact Assessment and EIA Draft analysis

GS-III :

Environmental Impact Assessment and EIA Draft analysis

Gs-Paper-3 EIA Environment (PT-MAINS)

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse.

UNEP defines Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making. It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers.

Environment Impact Assessment in India is statutorily backed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which contains various provisions on EIA methodology and process.

History of EIA in India

  • The Indian experience with Environmental Impact Assessment began over 20 years back. It started in 1976-77 when the Planning Commission asked the Department of Science and Technology to examine the river-valley projects from an environmental angle.
  • Till 1994, environmental clearance from the Central Government was an administrative decision and lacked legislative support.
  • On 27 January 1994, the then Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, under the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986, promulgated an EIA notification making Environmental Clearance (EC) mandatory for expansion or modernisation of any activity or for setting up new projects listed in Schedule 1 of the notification.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) notified new EIA legislation in September 2006. The notification makes it mandatory for various projects such as mining, thermal power plants, river valley, infrastructure (road, highway, ports, harbours and airports) and industries including very small electroplating or foundry units to get environment clearance. However, unlike the EIA Notification of 1994, the new legislation has put the onus of clearing projects on the state government depending on the size/capacity of the project.

The EIA Process

EIA involves the steps mentioned below. However, the EIA process is cyclical with interaction between the various steps.

  • Screening: The project plan is screened for scale of investment, location and type of development and if the project needs statutory clearance.
  • Scoping: The project’s potential impacts, zone of impacts, mitigation possibilities and need for monitoring.
  • Collection of baseline data: Baseline data is the environmental status of study area.
  • Impact prediction: Positive and negative, reversible and irreversible and temporary and permanent impacts need to be predicted which presupposes a good understanding of the project by the assessment agency.
  • Mitigation measures and EIA report: The EIA report should include the actions and steps for preventing, minimizing or by passing the impacts or else the level of compensation for probable environmental damage or loss.
  • Public hearing: On completion of the EIA report, public and environmental groups living close to project site may be informed and consulted.
  • Decision making: Impact Assessment Authority along with the experts consult the project-in-charge along with consultant to take the final decision, keeping in mind EIA and EMP (Environment Management Plan).
  • Monitoring and implementation of environmental management plan: The various phases of implementation of the project are monitored.
  • Assessment of Alternatives, Delineation of Mitigation Measures and Environmental Impact Assessment Report: For every project, possible alternatives should be identified, and environmental attributes compared. Alternatives should cover both project location and process technologies. Once alternatives have been reviewed, a mitigation plan should be drawn up for the selected option and is supplemented with an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) to guide the proponent towards environmental improvements.
  • Risk assessment: Inventory analysis and hazard probability and index also form part of EIA procedures.

**** In the Samarth Trust Case, the Delhi high court had considered EIAs- a part of participatory justice in which the voice is given to the voiceless and it is like a Jan Sunwai, where the community is the jury.****

Salient Features of 2006 Amendments to EIA Notification

  • Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006 has decentralized the environmental clearance projects by categorizing the developmental projects in two categories, i.e., Category A (national level appraisal) and Category B (state level appraisal).
    • Category A projects are appraised at national level by Impact Assessment Agency (IAA) and the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) and Category B projects are apprised at state level.
    • State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) are constituted to provide clearance to Category B process.
  • After 2006 Amendment the EIA cycle comprises of four stages:
    • Screening
    • Scoping
    • Public hearing
    • Appraisal
  • Category A projects require mandatory environmental clearance and thus they do not undergo the screening process.
  • Category B projects undergoes screening process and they are classified into two types.
    • Category B1 projects (Mandatorily requires EIA).
    • Category B2 projects (Do not require EIA).
  • Thus, Category A projects and Category B, projects undergo the complete EIA process whereas Category B2 projects are excluded from complete EIA process.

Importance of EIA

  • EIA links environment with development for environmentally safe and sustainable development.
  • EIA provides a cost effective method to eliminate or minimize the adverse impact of developmental projects.
  • EIA enables the decision makers to analyse the effect of developmental activities on the environment well before the developmental project is implemented.
  • EIA encourages the adaptation of mitigation strategies in the developmental plan.
  • EIA makes sure that the developmental plan is environmentally sound and within the limits of the capacity of assimilation and regeneration of the ecosystem.

Shortcomings of EIA Process

  • Applicability: There are several projects with significant environmental impacts that are exempted from the notification either because they are not listed in schedule I, or their investments are less than what is provided for in the notification.
  • Composition of expert committees and standards: It has been found that the team formed for conducting EIA studies is lacking the expertise in various fields such as environmentalists, wildlife experts, Anthropologists and Social Scientists.
  • Public hearing:
    • Public comments are not considered at an early stage, which often leads to conflict at a later stage of project clearance.
    • A number of projects with significant environmental and social impacts have been excluded from the mandatory public hearing process.
    • The data collectors do not pay respect to the indigenous knowledge of local people.
  • Quality of EIA: One of the biggest concerns with the environmental clearance process is related to the quality of EIA report that are being carried out.
  • Lack of Credibility: There are so many cases of fraudulent EIA studies where erroneous data has been used, same facts used for two totally different places etc.
  • Often, and more so for strategic industries such as nuclear energy projects, the EMPs are kept confidential for political and administrative reasons.
    • Details regarding the effectiveness and implementation of mitigation measures are often not provided.
    • Emergency preparedness plans are not discussed in sufficient details and the information not disseminated to the communities.

In News:

Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has proposed a draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020, that seeks to replace the current notification which goes back to 2006.

EIA is an important process for evaluating the likely environmental impact of a proposed project. It is a process whereby people’s views are taken into consideration for granting final approval to any developmental project or activity. It is basically, a decision-making tool to decide whether the project should be approved or not.

The draft notification is issued under the powers vested in the central government under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to take all such measures for “protecting and improving the quality of the environment.

According to the government, the new notification is being brought in order to make the process more transparent and expedient by the implementation of an online system, further delegation, rationalisation and standardisation of the process. However, the environmentalist said that the draft will further dilute the EIA process.

Issues pertaining to draft EIA Notification 2020

Post-Facto Approval

  • The new draft allows for post-facto approval for projects. It means that the clearances for projects can be awarded even if they have started construction or have been running phase without securing environmental clearances.
  • This also means that any environmental damage caused by the project is likely to be waived off as the violations get legitimised. As the only remedy would be to impose a fine or punishment; but that would not reverse the detrimental consequences on the environment.
  • Post facto approval is the derogation of the fundamental principles of environmental jurisprudence and violation of the “precautionary principle,” which is a principle of environmental sustainability.
  • In 2017, post-facto clearance given to projects in Tamil Nadu was struck down by the Madras high court.

Public Consultation Process

  • The draft notification provides for a reduction of the time period from 30 days to 20 days for the public to submit their responses during a public hearing for any application seeking environmental clearance.
  • The danger is that if adequate time is not given for the preparation of views, comments and suggestions to those who would be affected by the project, then such public hearings would not be meaningful.
  • Unless a public hearing is meaningful, the whole EIA process would lack transparency and credibility.
  • Further, the reduction of time would particularly pose a problem in those areas where information is not easily accessible or areas in which people are not that well aware of the process itself.

Compliance Report Issue

  • The 2006 notification required that the project proponent submit a report every six months, showing that they are carrying out their activities as per the terms on which permission has been given.
  • However, the new draft requires the promoter to submit a report only once every year.
  • During this period, certain irreversible environmental, social or health consequences of the project could go unnoticed because of the extended reporting time.
  • For example, if a mining project is being carried out at someplace which can be potentially hazardous to the nearby population and can contaminate the air, and water nearby, a half-yearly compliance report would better help in addressing these concerns.

Bypassing EIA Process

  • Through the draft notification, the central government gets the power to categorise projects as “strategic.”
  • Once a project is considered as strategic, the draft notification states that no information related to such projects shall be placed in the public domain.
  • Violations can only be reported suo motu by the project proponent, or by a government authority, appraisal committee, or regulatory authority. This is against the principles of natural justice.
  • Further, the draft notification states that the new construction projects up to 1,50,000 square metres (instead of the existing 20,000 square metres) do not need “detailed scrutiny” by the Expert Committee, nor do they need EIA studies and public consultation.

Way Forward

On a positive note, the 2020 draft notification has a clause dedicated to definitions to several terms related to EIA. It may be beneficial in the sense that it consolidates the EIA rules and has the potential of alleviating some ambiguity in the present law.

However, it needs to address the above issues. In this context:

  • The ministry, instead of reducing the time for public consultation, should focus on ensuring access to information as well as awareness about the public hearing and its impact upon the whole EIA process.
  • In order to improve ease of doing business, the government should bring down the average delay of 238 days in granting environmental clearance, that emanates from bureaucratic delays and complex laws.
  • Grow now, sustain later should not be the policy, as the notion is dangerously tilted against the concept of sustainable development.

Source: TH

ITER: World's largest nuclear FUSION project begins assembly

GS-III :

ITER: World's largest nuclear FUSION project begins assembly

GS-PAPER-3 S&T Nuclear energy (PT-MAINS)

In NEWS

  • The world's biggest nuclear fusion project has entered its five-year assembly phase. After this is finished, the facility will be able to start generating the super-hot "plasma" required for fusion power. The £18.2bn (€20bn; $23.5bn) facility has been under construction in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, southern France.
  • Advocates say fusion could be a source of clean, unlimited power that would help tackle the climate crisis.
  • ITER is a collaboration between China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the US. All members share in the cost of construction.
  • “Current nuclear energy relies on fission, where a heavy chemical element is split to produce lighter ones. Nuclear fusion, on the other hand, works by combining two light elements to make a heavier on. This releases vast amounts of energy with very little radioactivity”
  • Iter will confine hot plasma within a structure called a tokamak in order to control fusion reactions.
  • The project will aim to help demonstrate whether fusion can be commercially viable. France's President Emmanuel Macron said the effort would unite countries around a common good.

ITER Timeline

2005: Decision to site the project in France

2006: Signature of the ITER Agreement

2007: Formal creation of the ITER Organization

2007-2009: Land clearing and levelling

2010-2014: Ground support structure and seismic foundations for the Tokamak

2012: Nuclear licensing milestone: ITER becomes a Basic Nuclear Installation under French law

2014-2021: Construction of the Tokamak Building (access for assembly activities in 2019)

2010-2021: Construction of the ITER plant and auxiliary buildings for First Plasma

2008-2021: Manufacturing of principal First Plasma components

2015-2023: Largest components are transported along the ITER Itinerary


2020-2025: Main assembly phase I

2022: Torus completion

2024: Cryostat closure

2024-2025: Integrated commissioning phase (commissioning by system starts several years earlier)

Dec 2025 First Plasma

2025-2035: Progressive ramp-up of the machine

2035: Deuterium-Tritium Operation begins

WHAT WILL ITER DO?

The amount of fusion energy a tokamak is capable of producing is a direct result of the number of fusion reactions taking place in its core. Scientists know that the larger the vessel, the larger the volume of the plasma ... and therefore the greater the potential for fusion energy. With ten times the plasma volume of the largest machine operating today, the ITER Tokamak will be a unique experimental tool, capable of longer plasmas and better confinement. The machine has been designed specifically to:

1) Produce 500 MW of fusion power The world record for fusion power is held by the European tokamak JET. In 1997, JET produced 16 MW of fusion power from a total input heating power of 24 MW (Q=0.67). ITER is designed to produce a ten-fold return on energy (Q=10), or 500 MW of fusion power from 50 MW of input heating power. ITER will not capture the energy it produces as electricity, but—as first of all fusion experiments in history to produce net energy gain—it will prepare the way for the machine that can.

2) Demonstrate the integrated operation of technologies for a fusion power plant ITER will bridge the gap between today's smaller-scale experimental fusion devices and the demonstration fusion power plants of the future. Scientists will be able to study plasmas under conditions similar to those expected in a future power plant and test technologies such as heating, control, diagnostics, cryogenics and remote maintenance.

3) Achieve a deuterium-tritium plasma in which the reaction is sustained through internal heating Fusion research today is at the threshold of exploring a "burning plasma"—one in which the heat from the fusion reaction is confined within the plasma efficiently enough for the reaction to be sustained for a long duration. Scientists are confident that the plasmas in ITER will not only produce much more fusion energy, but will remain stable for longer periods of time.

4) Test tritium breeding One of the missions for the later stages of ITER operation is to demonstrate the feasibility of producing tritium within the vacuum vessel. The world supply of tritium (used with deuterium to fuel the fusion reaction) is not sufficient to cover the needs of future power plants. ITER will provide a unique opportunity to test mockup in-vessel tritium breeding blankets in a real fusion environment.

5) Demonstrate the safety characteristics of a fusion device ITER achieved an important landmark in fusion history when, in 2012, the ITER Organization was licensed as a nuclear operator in France based on the rigorous and impartial examination of its safety files. One of the primary goals of ITER operation is to demonstrate the control of the plasma and the fusion reactions with negligible consequences to the environment.

WHAT IS FUSION?

Fusion is the energy source of the Sun and stars. In the tremendous heat and gravity at the core of these stellar bodies, hydrogen nuclei collide, fuse into heavier helium atoms and release tremendous amounts of energy in the process. Twentieth-century fusion science identified the most efficient fusion reaction in the laboratory setting to be the reaction between two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium (D) and tritium (T). The DT fusion reaction produces the highest energy gain at the "lowest" temperatures.

Three conditions must be fulfilled to achieve fusion in a laboratory:

  • very high temperature (on the order of 150,000,000° Celsius);
  • sufficient plasma particle density (to increase the likelihood that collisions do occur); and
  • sufficient confinement time (to hold the plasma, which has a propensity to expand, within a defined volume).

At extreme temperatures, electrons are separated from nuclei and a gas becomes a plasma—often referred to as the fourth state of matter. Fusion plasmas provide the environment in which light elements can fuse and yield energy. In a tokamak device, powerful magnetic fields are used to confine and control the plasma.

For further READING: https://www.iter.org/proj/inafewlines

Source: ITER web

Rafale fighter jet deal analysis

GS-III : Economic Issues Defense procurement

Rafale fighter jet deal analysis

GS-Paper-3 Internal security (PT-MAINS)

  • December 30, 2002: Defence Procurement Procedures (DPP) were adopted to streamline procurement.
  • August 28, 2007: Ministry of Defence issues Request for Proposal for procurement of 126 MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) fighters.
  • September 4, 2008: Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance group incorporates Reliance Aerospace Technologies Ltd (RATL).
  • May 2011: Air Force shortlists Rafale and Eurofighter jets.
  • January 30, 2012: Dassault Aviation’s Rafale aircraft comes up with the lowest bid.
  • March 13, 2014: The work Share agreement was signed between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Dassault Aviation under which they were responsible for 70 per cent and 30 per cent of the work, respectively, for 108 aircraft.
  • January 26, 2016: India and France sign MoU for 36 Rafale aircraft.
  • November 18, 2016: Government states in Parliament that the cost of each Rafale aircraft to be approximately Rs 670 crore and that all aircraft will be delivered by April 2022.
  • December 31, 2016: Dassault Aviation’s Annual Report reveals the actual price paid for the 36 aircraft at about Rs 60,000 crore, more than double the government’s stated price in Parliament.
  • March 13, 2018: Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in SC seeks an independent probe into the Centre’s decision to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets and disclosure of the cost.
  • September 5, 2018: SC agrees to hear PIL seeking stay on Rafale fighter jet deal.
  • October 10, 2018: SC asks the Centre to provide details of the decision-making process in the Rafale fighter jet deal in a sealed cover.
  • November 12, 2018: Centre places price details of 36 Rafale fighter jets in a sealed cover before SC. It also gives details of the steps that led to the finalisation of the Rafale deal.
  • November 14, 2018: SC reserves order on pleas seeking court-monitored probe in Rafale deal.
  • December 14, 2018: SC says there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets and dismissed the petitions seeking an investigation into alleged irregularities in the Rs 58,000 crore deal.
  • January 2019: Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, advocate Prashant Bhushan, and AAP MP Sanjay Singh moves SC seeking review of Rafale verdict.
  • February 26, 2019: SC decides to hear pleas seeking review of Rafale verdict in open court.
  • March 6, 2019: Documents related to Rafale deal stolen from Defence Ministry, Centre tells SC.
  • March 8, 2019: Attorney General clarifies that Rafale documents not stolen, petitioners used photocopies.
  • April 10, 2019: SC allows use of leaked documents, dismisses Centre’s objections claiming privilege.
  • May 4, 2019: Centre filed reply in SC related to the review petition filed against the SC order of 14 December and submitted all the pricing details related to the Rafale deal to CAG.
  • May 10, 2019: SC reserved its verdict on review petitions.

Competitors of Rafale:

  • The military had to replace hundreds of obsolete IAF MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-27 fighters that had been steadily retired from service by the indigenous Tejas fighter.
  • But as the fighter’s development got delayed, the then government 2007, ordered a global tender for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, of which 108 would be built in India by public sector firm Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Over the next four years, the IAF flight-tested six fighters:

  • Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet,
  • Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Super Viper,
  • Saab’s Gripen C/D,
  • Russian MiG-35,
  • Eurofighter’s Typhoon,
  • Rafale.

In 2011, the Typhoon and the Rafale were found to have met the Indian Air Force (IAF’s) performance requirements. In January 2012, Dassault’s bid was declared lower than Eurofighter’ and the Rafale became India’s combat aircraft of choice.

Importance of the deal:

  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, recently received the first of the 36 Rafale fighter jets (as part of the Rs 59,000 crore deal signed in 2016) at Dassault Aviation’s facility in Merignac.
  • Four of the total 36 aircrafts will be flying over the Indian skies by May 2020.
  • All 36 jets are expected to arrive in India by September 2022.
  • Apart from Dassault, French companies Thales and Saffron are also involved in the Rafale’s production through offset contract.
  • The Rafale is a twin-jet fighter aircraft able to operate from both an aircraft carrier and a shore base.
  • The fighter jet is armed with potent meteor and scalp missiles.
  • The meteor is a beyond visual range air-to-air missile and scalp is a long-range cruise missile that can be launched from the aircraft for deep strikes to hit fixed and stationary targets.
  • The first batch of Rafale will be stationed in Ambala, while the second batch will be stationed at Hasimara in West Bengal to combat the Chinese threat.
  • The induction of Rafale aircraft in the IAF will increase it’s combat capability.
  • Rafale will make India one of the four countries, besides France, Egypt and Qatar, to possess the next-gen fighter jet.
  • Rafale will enhance the air strike capabilities of the IAF and will be used as a deterrent against any country.

Specifications of Rafale:

  • Rafale can attain a maximum speed of Mach 1.8/750 kt (2,222.6 km per hour) and can climb up to 50,000 ft.
  • Though Rafale can fly up to a range of 3,700 km, it can be refuelled mid-air.
  • The 15.27 metre long aircraft has wing length of 10.8 metres each.
  • While Sukhoi 30 MKI can carry ammunition up to 8,000 kg, Rafale can easily carry bombs up to 9,500 kg.
  • Rafale can carry out all combat aviation missions, including air defence, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence.
  • Its ‘delta wings‘ are extremely stable and have supersonic speed.
  • Rafale’s cannon can release over 2,500 rounds in one minute.
  • The aircraft’s advanced engine is capable of allowing the throttle to shift from combat to idle power in less than three seconds.
  • It can jam enemy radars, detect targets anywhere including sea, ground and air.
  • Other superior capabilities include close air support, dynamic targeting, air-to-ground precision strike, anti-ship attack capability and buddy-buddy refuelling.
  • The advanced Rafale aircraft can carry a nuclear weapon, and deploy long range air-to-air missiles, laser-guided bombs with different warheads and non-guided classic bombs.

Source: TH

Global Tiger Day

GS-III :

Global Tiger Day

GS-PAPER-3 Environment – Animals (PT)

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released a detailed ‘Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India (2018) Report’ on the eve of the Global Tiger Day (29th July).

The report compares information obtained from the earlier three tiger surveys (2006, 2010, and 2014) with data obtained from the 2018-19 survey to estimate tiger population trends at country level.

St. Petersburg declaration: With 2,967 tigers, India, four years in advance, has achieved the target set in the 2010 St Petersburg Declaration of doubling tiger population by 2022. India had around 1,400 tigers in 2006.

The Heads of the Governments of Tiger Range countries at St. Petersburg, Russia, had resolved to double tiger numbers across their global range by 2022 by signing the St. Petersburg declaration on tiger conservation. During the same meeting it was also decided to celebrate 29th July as Global Tiger Day across the world, which is since being celebrated to spread and generate awareness on tiger conservation.

**There are currently 13 tiger range countries - India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

National Scenario:

  • The national tiger status assessment of 2018-19 estimated the overall tiger population in India at 2,967 - 33% increase from 2014 (2,226).
  • The 2018 census (once in every four years) has set a Guinness record for being the largest camera-trap wildlife survey.
  • Tigers were observed to be increasing at a rate of 6% per annum in India from 2006 to 2018.
  • The largest contiguous tiger population in the world of about 724 tigers was found in the Western Ghats (Nagarhole-Bandipur-Wayanad-Mudumalai- Sathyamangalam- Biligiri Ranganathaswamy Temple block).

Regional Scenario:

  • Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of tigers at 526, closely followed by Karnataka (524) and Uttarakhand (442).
  • The Northeast has suffered losses in population. Further, the tiger status in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha has steadily declined, which is a matter of concern.
  • Out of 50 tiger reserves in the country, three reserves - Mizoram’s Dampa reserve, Bengal’s Buxa reserve and Jharkhand’s Palamau reserve - have no tigers left.
  • Corbett Tiger Reserve (Uttrakhand) had the largest population of tigers at about 231 in 2018.
  • India’s Project Tiger was launched in 1973 with 9 tiger reserves.

Concerns:
Most of the populations remain confined to small Protected Areas, some of which have habitat corridors that permit tiger movement between them. However, most of the corridor habitats in India are degrading due to unsustainable human use and developmental projects. Some reserves nearing full capacity is another issue.

Solutions:
In areas where tigers have not been recorded or the population has declined, restoration needs to be proceeded by improving protection, augmentation of prey, and reintroduction of tigers from an appropriate source. Some reserves like Similipal (Odisha), Pakke (Arunachal Pradesh) are below their potential and require resources and targeted management.

Government’s Response:

Tigers and other wildlife are a kind of soft power that India has to show on the international front.

Despite several constraints such as less land mass, India has 8% of biodiversity because of its culture of saving and preserving nature, trees and its wildlife.

India has 70% of the world's tiger population. It is tirelessly working with all 13 tiger range countries towards nurturing the tiger.

The Government is working on a programme to provide water and fodder to animals at the forest itself to deal with the challenge of human-animal conflict that is causing the death of animals. For this, Lidar-based survey technology will be used for the first time. Lidar is a method of measuring distance by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the reflection with a sensor.

List of Tiger Reserves in India

Sl. No.

State

Name of Tiger Reserve

1

Andhra Pradesh

Nagarjunsagar Srisailam

2

Arunachal Pradesh

Namdapha National Park

3

Arunachal Pradesh

Kamlang Tiger Reserve

4

Arunachal Pradesh

Pakke Tiger Reserve

5

Assam

Manas Tiger Reserve

6

Assam

Nameri National Park

7

Assam

Orang Tiger Reserve

8

Assam

Kaziranga National Park

9

Bihar

Valmiki National Park

10

Chhattisgarh

Udanti-Sitanadi Wildlife Sanctuary

11

Chhattisgarh

Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary

12

Chhattisgarh

Indravati Tiger Reserve

13

Jharkhand

Palamau Tiger Reserve

14

Karnataka

Bandipur Tiger Reserve

15

Karnataka

Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary

16

Karnataka

Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve

17

Karnataka

Nagarahole National Park

18

Karnataka

Biligiri Ranganatha Temple Tiger reserve

19

Kerala

Periyar Tiger reserve

20

Kerala

Parambikulam Tiger reserve

21

Madhya Pradesh

Kanha Tiger reserve

22

Madhya Pradesh

Pench Tiger reserve

23

Madhya Pradesh

Bandhavgarh Tiger reserve

24

Madhya Pradesh

Panna Tiger reserve

25

Madhya Pradesh

Satpura Tiger reserve

26

Madhya Pradesh

Sanjay-Dubri Tiger reserve

27

Maharashtra

Melghat Tiger reserve

28

Maharashtra

Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve

29

Maharashtra

Pench Tiger Reserve

30

Maharashtra

Sahyadri Tiger Reserve

31

Maharashtra

Nagzira Tiger Reserve

32

Maharashtra

Bor Tiger Reserve

33

Mizoram

Dampa Tiger Reserve

34

Odisha

Similipal Tiger Reserve

35

Odisha

Satkosia Tiger Reserve

36

Rajasthan

Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

37

Rajasthan

Sariska Tiger Reserve

38

Rajasthan

Mukandra Hills Tiger Reserve

39

Tamil Nadu

Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

40

Tamil Nadu

Anamalai Tiger Reserve (Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park)

41

Tamil Nadu

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

42

Tamil Nadu

Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve

43

Telangana

Kawal Tiger Reserve

44

Telangana

Amrabad Tiger Reserve

45

Uttar Pradesh

Dudhwa Tiger Reserve

46

Uttar Pradesh

Pilibhit Tiger Reserve

47

Uttar Pradesh

Amangarh Tiger Reserve (buffer zone of Corbett Tiger Reserve)

48

Uttarakhand

Jim Corbett National Park

49

Uttarakhand

Rajaji Tiger Reserve

50

West Bengal

Sunderban National Park

51

West Bengal

Buxa Tiger Reserve

Source: TH

ASTHROS mission

GS-III :

ASTHROS mission

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has begun work on a balloon that will carry a 2.5-meter telescope into the stratosphere to observe wavelengths of light that are not visible from the ground.

The mission named Astrophysics Stratospheric Telescope for High Spectral Resolution Observations at Submillimeter-wavelengths, or ASTHROS in short, will tentatively be launched by December 2023 from Antarctica. It will spend three weeks in the air, observing and collecting crucial data.

  • ASTHROS will observe far-infrared light, which is light with wavelengths much longer than what is visible to the naked eye, and to do that the balloon will reach heights of about 40 kilometres — altitudes that are roughly four times higher than what commercial airliners fly.
  • The mission will still be well under the boundary of space (100 kilometres above Earth’s surface), and the altitude will be high enough for it to observe light wavelengths that are blocked by Earth’s atmosphere.
  • The mission will carry instruments that can measure the speed and the motion of gas around newly-formed stars.
  • It will attempt to study four main targets — that will include two star-forming regions in the Milky Way galaxy. In first, it will also map and detect the presence of two specific types of nitrogen ions.
  • The mission is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The balloon missions are at a higher risk than space missions, they still yield high rewards at lower costs. The ASTHROS, scientists are aiming to accomplish some never-before astrophysics observations.
  • The ASTHROS mission will be carried on a big balloon that will be about 150 meters wide — or roughly the size of a football stadium — and will be inflated with helium.
  • A carrier below the balloon will hold the instruments and the telescope. During its flight, it will allow scientists to control the direction of the telescope with precision and download the data in real-time using satellite links.
  • The ASTHROS team expects that stratospheric winds will help the balloon complete two to three loops around the South Pole in approximately 21 to 28 days.
  • Once complete, the parachute will return the carrier to the ground and the telescope will be recovered and refurbished for future missions.

Source: TH

Status of Tigers in India Report

GS-III :

Status of Tigers in India Report

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released a detailed ‘Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India (2018) Report’ on the eve of Global Tiger Day (29th July).

The report compares information obtained from the earlier three tiger surveys (2006, 2010, and 2014) with data obtained from the 2018-19 survey to estimate tiger population trends at the country level. India’s Project Tiger was launched in 1973 with 9 tiger reserves. India has 70% of the world's tiger population, it is tirelessly working with all 13 tiger range countries toward nurturing the tiger.

Highlights of the report

  1. The national tiger status assessment of 2018-19 estimated the overall tiger population in India at 2,967 - 33% increase from 2014 (2,226).
  2. Tigers were observed to be increasing at a rate of 6% per annum in India from 2006 to 2018.
  3. Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of tigers at 526, closely followed by Karnataka (524) and Uttarakhand (442).
  4. The Northeast has suffered losses in population.
  5. Further, the tiger status in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha has steadily declined, which is a matter of concern.
  6. With 2,967 tigers, India four years in advance has achieved the target set in the 2010 St Petersburg Declaration of doubling the tiger population by 2022.

Source: PIB

Mausam Mobile App

GS-III :

Mausam Mobile App

Union Minister for Earth sciences launched a mobile App "Mausam” for India Meteorological Department (IMD). It is designed to communicate weather information and forecasts to the general public in a lucid manner without technical jargon.

It has the following services

  • Current Weather,
  • Now cast,
  • City Forecast,
  • Warnings
  • Radar products.

MoES-Knowledge Resource Centre Network (KRCNet)

Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) aims to develop a World-Class Knowledge Resource Centre Network (KRCNet). Under it, the traditional libraries of the MoES system will be upgraded into top-notch Knowledge Resource Centres (KRC). KRCs will be connected with each other and integrated into the KRCNet portal.

Source: TH

BIS-Care App

GS-II : Governance

BIS-Care App

Union Ministry for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has launched the ‘BIS-Care’ app and e-BIS portal.

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Care app enables Consumers to check the authenticity of the ISI-marked and hallmarked products and lodge complaints using this app. It is important to ensure that consumers are aware of the standards and quality products and help in eliminating the supply of sub-standard products.

e-BIS portal - It has three components namely the Standardization, Conformity Assessment and Training Portals for consumers. It is an integrated portal covering all functions of BIS, enlisting the services of outside agencies for factory and market surveillance.

BIS is a statutory body established under the BIS Act 1986, it replaced the Indian Standards Institution (ISI).

Source: TH

Lyfas App

GS-III :

Lyfas App

KAWACH initiative is supporting market-ready innovations for the control of COVID-19. Under this initiative, a Covid risk assessment profile called Lyfas is being developed.

Department of Science and Technology has selected Acculi Labs, a Bangalore-based startup. Lyfas is an android application in which, when any person keeps the index finger on the rear phone camera of a mobile phone for five minutes, it captures the capillary pulse and blood volume change. The technology is focused on population screening, monitoring of quarantined individuals and surveillance at the community level.

Source: TH

Inter-planetary Contamination in Mars

GS-III :

Inter-planetary Contamination on Mars

Recently, astrobiologists have expressed concerns about possible ‘interplanetary contamination’ on Mars. Interplanetary contamination refers to biological contamination of a planetary body by a space probe or spacecraft, either deliberate or unintentional.

In the past, space missions have established physical contact with astronomical bodies such as comets and asteroids, and crewed missions have landed on the Moon. However, since these bodies are known to be hostile to life, the possibility of their contamination has not been a pressing issue.

Type of Contaminations

  • Forward Contamination- It means the transport of Earth-based microbes to other celestial bodies.
  • Back Contamination - It is the transfer of extraterrestrial organisms (if they exist) into the Earth’s biosphere.

‘Planetary protection policy aims to limit the number of microbes sent to other planets, as well as ensure that alien life does not cause havoc on Earth. The policy was laid down by Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) established by International Council for Science (ICSU).

Source: IE

Joykali Matar Temple

GS-I : Art and Culture Temples

Joykali Matar Temple

India inaugurated the reconstructed Joykali Matar temple at Natore in Bangladesh. It was built approximately 300 years back in the early 18th century by Shri Dayaram Roy. He was an influential Dewan of Queen Bhahani of Nature and the founder of the Dighapatia Royal Family.

The MoU for the reconstruction of the temple at Lalbazar, Natore was signed between India in Bangladesh in 2016. The Government of India provided grant assistance for the reconstruction of the historic temple under its High Impact Community Development Project (HICDP) scheme.

Source: PIB

Natesa idol- Pratihara style

GS-I : Art and Culture Architecture

Natesa idol- Pratihara style

  • A long-pending case of idol theft finally saw an important development as Natesa, a rare sandstone idol in the 9th-century Prathihara style of Rajasthan, is returning to the country after 22 years.
  • The Natesa icon, currently at the Indian High Commission, London, was originally from the Ghateswara Temple, Baroli, Rajasthan.
  • The sandstone Natesa figure stands tall at almost 4 ft. in a rare and brilliant depiction of Shiva in the late 9th century Prathihara style of Rajasthan.
  • The Rajasthan Police opened an investigation into one of Vaman Ghiya’s Operation Blackhole. Ghiya was arrested in 2003, standing accused of having stolen 20,000 pieces of art and laundering them via a host of Swiss front companies and Sotheby’s, the international auction house.

Source: TH

NUCLEAR PROGRAMME PAST TO PRESENT

GS-III :

NUCLEAR PROGRAMME PAST TO PRESENT

Gs-paper-3 Nuclear Programme (PT-MAINS-I.V)

In 2018, India commemorated 20 years since it conducted its five nuclear tests, known as Operation Shakti–98, and 10 year since India – U.S Civil Nuclear Agreement in 2008, also called as 123 Agreement. India on November 5, 2018, declared that its nuclear triad, stated in its nuclear doctrine, is operational after indigenous ballistic missile nuclear submarine INS Arihant achieved a milestone by conducting its first deterrence patrol.

Nuclear power in India delivers a total capacity of 6.7 GWe (Giga Watt Electricity), contributing about 2% of the country’s electricity supply. India has ambitious plans to increase nuclear power generation capacity to 275 GWe by 2052. At the start of 2018, six reactors were under construction in India, with a combined capacity of 4.4 GWe.

India has a largely indigenous nuclear power programme which is controlled by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), a state-owned corporation founded in 1987. Because India is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty due to its weapons programme, it was, for 34 years, largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant and materials, which hampered its development of civil nuclear energy until 2009.

Due to earlier trade bans and lack of indigenous uranium, India has uniquely been developing a nuclear fuel cycle to exploit its reserves of thorium.

India’s Nuclear Energy Program

  • India has consciously proceeded to explore the possibility of tapping nuclear energy for the purpose of power generation. In this direction three-stage nuclear power programme was formulated by Homi Bhabha in the 1950s.
  • Atomic Energy Act, 1962 was framed and implemented with the set objectives of using two naturally occurring elements Uranium and Thorium having good potential to be utilized as nuclear fuel in Indian Nuclear Power Reactors.
  • The estimated natural deposits of Uranium are about 70,000 tonnes and Thorium are about 3, 60,000 tonnes in the country.

Three Stage programme

  • Stage one – Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor uses
    • Natural UO2 as fuel matrix,
    • Heavy water as moderator and coolant.
  • In the reactor, the first two plants were of boiling water reactors based on imported technology. Subsequent plants are of PHWR type through indigenous R&D efforts. India achieved complete self- reliance in this technology and this stage of the programme is in the industrial domain.
  • The future plan includes the setting up of VVER type i.e. Russian version of the Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) is under progress to augment power generation.
  • MOX fuel (Mixed oxide) is developed and introduced at Tarapur to conserve fuel and to develop new fuel technology.
  • Second stage of nuclear power generation envisages the use of Pu-239 obtained from the first stage reactor operation, as the fuel core in fast breeder reactors (FBR).
  • Third phase of India’s Nuclear Power Generation programme is, breeder reactors using U-233 fuel.
  • India’s vast thorium deposits permit design and operation of U-233 fuelled breeder reactors.

Nuclear Power plants in Operation

Nuclear Power Plants under Construction

Planned Nuclear Power Plants

  • Rawatbhata (Rajasthan)
  • Tarapur (Maharashtra)
  • Kudankulam (Tamil Nadu)
  • Kakrapar (Gujarat)
  • Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu)
  • Narora (Uttar Pradesh)
  • Kaiga (Karnataka)
  • Kakrapar 3&4 (Gujarat)
  • Rawatbhata (Rajasthan)
  • Kudankulam 3&4 (Tamil Nadu)
  • Kalpakkam PFBR (Tamil Nadu)
  • Jaitapur (Maharashtra)
  • Kovvada (Andhra Pradesh)
  • Mithi Virdi (Gujarat)
  • Haripur (West Bengal)
  • Gorakhpur (Haryana)
  • Bhimpur (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Mahi Banswara (Rajasthan)
  • Kaiga (Karnataka)
  • Chutka (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Tarapur (Maharashtra)

Challenges

  • Genuine problems of Nuclear technology includes safety and waste management. Incidents like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukushima are serious case of concern.
  • Complete phase out of nuclear power generation for the fear of nuclear accident would be a wrong move. If nuclear energy is generated adhering to the highest standards of safety, there is less possibility of catastrophic accidents.
  • Land acquisition and selection of location for Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) is also major problem in the country. NPP’s like kudankulam in Tamil Nadu and Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh have met with several delays due to the land acquisition related challenges.
  • As India is not a signatory of NPT and NSG, nuclear supply is severely contained by sanctioned against India. This situation has changed after 2009 waiver and bilateral civil nuclear energy agreements with many countries.
  • Reprocessing and enrichment capacity also required boost in India. For this India needs advanced technology to fully utilise the spent fuel and for enhancing its enrichment capacity.
  • On the front of Infrastructure and Manpower needs, India has worked very hard for development of Industrial infrastructure to manufacture equipment and skill development. Many Universities and institutes provide engineering manpower for NPP.

Suggestions

To ensure the safety and security of using nuclear power there is need to:

  • ensure maintenance of the skills base
  • maintain continued effective safety regulation
  • foster progress on facilities for waste disposal and management must be given serious consideration.
  • maintain and reinforce international non-proliferation arrangements.

Nuclear Tests and Nuclear Doctrine

  • In 2003, India has adopted its Nuclear Doctrine of 'No First Use' i.e. India will use nuclear weapons only in retaliation against a nuclear attack on its Territory.
  • In addition with this in 1965, India with NAM countries proposed five points to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to UN Disarmament commission. These are:
    • Not to transfer Nuclear technology to others
    • No use of nuclear weapons against non nuclear countries
    • UN security cover to non nuclear States
    • Nuclear disarmament
    • Ban on the nuclear test
  • In May 1974, India has conducted its first nuclear test in Pokharan with the codename of "Smiling Buddha".
  • Between 11 and 13 May, 1998, five nuclear tests were conducted as a part of the series of Pokhran-II. These tests were collectively called Operation Shakti–98.
  • According to a 2018 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Pakistan has 140-150 nuclear warheads compared to India’s 130-140 warheads.
  • Pakistan has not stated a “no first use” policy and there is little known about its nuclear doctrine.

India’s Stand on different Nuclear Treaties

  • Limited Ban Treaty: US, UK and USSR in 1963, signed this treaty. It allows nuclear tests only underground thus, prohibits the nuclear experiments on ground, underwater and in outer space. India has also ratified the treaty.
  • Treaty on Outer Space: Signed in 1967, it prohibits countries to test nuclear weapons in orbit or on celestial bodies like moon.
  • Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT): Signed in 1968, the treaty entered into force in 1970, now has 190 member states. It requires countries to give up any present or future plans to build nuclear weapons in return for access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
  • Three main objectives of the treaty are non-proliferation, disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology.
  • India is one of the only five countries that either did not sign the NPT or signed but withdrew, thus becoming part of a list that includes Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan.

Why India didn’t sign the NPT?

  • The quest for freedom of action in an uncertain regional strategic environment and an asymmetric international system dominated by superpowers and China drove India to not sign the NPT and hedge, and to conduct the 1974 test.
  • India perceives its nuclear weapons and missile programs as crucial components of its strategic doctrine.
  • India rejects the Treaty on the grounds that it perpetuates—at least in the short-term—an unjust distinction between the five states that are permitted by the treaty to possess nuclear weapons, while requiring all other state parties to the treaty to remain non-nuclear weapon states.
  • One major point raised by India is that the five authorized nuclear weapons states still have stockpiles of warheads and have shown reluctance to disarmament which also angered some non-nuclear-weapon NPT states.
  • For eliminating the last nuclear weapons, the nuclear weapons state requires confidence that the other countries would not acquire nuclear weapons.
  • Moreover, India’s pledge of not to use nuclear weapons unless first attacked by an adversary and a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear test since 1998, established its credibility as a peaceful nuclear power even without joining the treaty.
  • Perceived security threats from Pakistan and Pakistan’s ally China and demonstration of a nuclear weapons capability guaranteed New Delhi’s ability to effectively hedge in an asymmetric international system, and a regional strategic environment where New Delhi felt largely cornered.
  • Maintaining a degree of political autonomy has driven independent India’s foreign policy choices. Major decisions that New Delhi took in the nuclear realm are representative of that. The grand bargain of NPT was certainly going to restrict India’s policy options.
  • Domestic political imperatives also dictated the timing and the rhetoric about the nuclear power.
  • Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) intends to ban all nuclear explosions - everywhere, by everyone. It opened for signature on 24 September 1996 and since then 182 countries have signed the Treaty, most recently Ghana has ratified the treaty on 14 June 2011.
  • The Treaty will enter into force after all 44 States listed in Annex 2 to the Treaty will ratify it. These States had nuclear facilities at the time the Treaty was negotiated and adopted.
  • As of August 2011, 35 of these States have ratified the Treaty. Nine States still need to do so: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States. India, North Korea and Pakistan have not yet signed the Treaty.

Reasons behind India’s rejection to CTBT

  • India has always stood by its demand for a nuclear weapons-free world but various procedural, political, and security concerns have stopped India to join the treaty.
  • India’s relationship with the CTBT has undergone distinct changes. In 1954, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru championed the cause of a nuclear test ban by calling for a "standstill" agreement. In 1993, India was among those that co-sponsored the call for a test ban treaty. However, in 1996, India’s reservations about the Treaty blocked its adoption by the Conference on Disarmament.
  • India, after negotiation was ready to sign the treaty provided United States should presents a schedule for eliminating its nuclear stockpile, a condition the United States rejected.
  • India believed that the universal and complete nuclear disarmament should be the end goal not a mean.
  • India considered, Article XIV, the entry-into-force (EIF) clause of the treaty as a violation of its right to voluntarily withhold participation in an international treaty.
  • The treaty initially made ratification by states, that were to be a part of the CTBT’s International Monitoring System (IMS), mandatory for the treaty’s EIF. Because of this, India withdrew its participation from the IMS.
  • The treaty didn’t talk about the disarmament of the stocks by nuclear weapon states.
  • Further, the treaty is vague on the ban of laboratory testing of nuclear weapons. It means sophisticated technology of developed countries permit them for laboratory testing and ban on field test only affect the developing countries nuclear programme.
  • India’s scientific community believes that accepting the CTBT would hinder India’s strategic nuclear program development and the option to test must be kept open.
  • On the security front, India thought that it faced uncertain dangers from Pakistan, and China, which had conducted nuclear tests even while the CTBT was being negotiated.
  • Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) is a proposed international agreement that would prohibit the production of two main components of nuclear weapons: highly-enriched Uranium and Plutonium.
  • An FMCT would provide new restrictions for the five recognized nuclear weapon states (NWS— United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, and China), and for the four nations that are not NPT members (Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea).
  • Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is not a treaty and does not impose any legally binding obligations on Partners (members). Rather, it is an informal political understanding among states that seek to limit the proliferation of missiles and missile technology.
  • The regime was formed in 1987 by the G-7 industrialized countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the United States). There are currently 35 countries that are members (Partners) of the MTCR. India has become the 35th full member MTCR In July 2016.
  • MTCR membership enables India to buy high-end missile technology, strengthen its export control regime and it supports India’s bid to become the member of Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG).

India and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

  • The NSG was created in response to India’s first nuclear test ‘Smiling Buddha’ (Pokharan-I) in 1974. The NSG first met in November 1975 in London, thus popularly referred to as the "London Club".
  • It’s a group of nuclear supplier countries that seek to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of two sets of Guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.
  • NSG consists of 48 members, include the five nuclear weapon states US, UK, France, China, and Russia. It is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding.
  • A non-NPT state cannot become a member of NSG which keeps India out of the group.
  • India was left outside the international nuclear order, which forced India to develop its own resources for each stage of the nuclear fuel cycle and power generation, including next generation reactors such as fast breeder reactors and thorium breeder reactors.
  • More recently in January 2019, China has again reiterated its previous stand that India’s accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is pre-requisite for its membership to the NSG or else there should be a common guidelines for the membership of the non-NPT states.
  • Rejecting India’s claims for NSG membership, China cited the reasons that there should be no double standards in enforcing the NPT and the international community should stick to multilateralism and promote the three pillars namely non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
  • Except China, all P5 members have endorsed India’s membership of NSG based on India’s non-proliferation record.
  • Pakistan has also applied for the NSG membership while being also a non-signatory to the NPT. But it has a dubious record and its credibility is very much doubtful as a peaceful nuclear state.
  • Membership of the NSG will provide India, greater certainty and a legal foundation for India's nuclear regime and thus greater confidence for those countries investing billions of dollars to set up ambitious nuclear power projects in India.
  • Though India is not a member of NPT and NSG, its track-record in observing the provisions of either body, is impeccable. NSG was able to grant a waiver to India in 2008 on the basis of its past performance, now it should have no objection to admitting the country as a member.
  • Australia Group admitted India as the 43rd member on 19 January 2018. It’s an informal group that keeps a control over exports of substances used in making of chemical weapons.
  • The group membership will help India to raise its stature in the field of non-proliferation, and help in acquiring the critical technologies. It will also strengthen India’s bid to gain NSG membership.
  • Wassenaar Agreement, established in 1996, is a group of countries which subscribe to arms export controls. It seeks to bring about security and stability, by fostering transparent practices in the process of sale and transfer of arms and materials and technologies that can be used to make nuclear weapons.
  • It is a grouping of 42 countries, of which India is the latest entrant on December 8, 2017. With the exception of China, all the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are signatories of this arrangement.
  • After joining the group India will be able easily access dual use technologies and materials and military equipment that are proscribed for non-participating members. In addition India will also be able to sell its nuclear reactors and other materials and equipment indigenously produced without attracting adverse reactions.

Way Forward

  • In his presidential address at the first International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva in August 1955, Homi J Bhabha, traced the growth of the civilization, correlating it with increase in energy consumption and the development of new energy sources.
  • He emphasized that the acquisition by man of the knowledge of how to release and use atomic energy must be recognized as the third epoch of human history.
  • To maintain pace of development, it is important to build a constant and reliable supply chain of nuclear materials.
  • The fundamentals underlying the possibility of breakthrough growth in India’s civil nuclear programme are strong: political will, bilateral agreements with most supplier countries, an NSG waiver for nuclear trade, domestic human resources and capability developed in the last 30 years of nuclear power operations.
  • While the political will and commitment to nuclear power remains strong, the government in recent months tried hard to secure membership in the NSG, an effort that was ultimately unsuccessful.
  • It is crucial to remember that India does not need NSG membership to import nuclear technology that was already cleared through the exemption given in 2008.

Source: Web

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