GS PAPER I NEWS

Vesak Global Celebrations on Buddha Poornima

Why in News

Prime Minister of India delivered the keynote address on the occasion of Vesak Global Celebrations on Buddha Poornima through video conference.

Key Points

  • On the day, the Prime Minister remarked that the life of Gautama Buddha was about peace, harmony and co-existence.
  • The PM also stated that the teachings of Lord Buddha and the importance given to social justice can become a global unifying force.
  • On the auspicious and sacred day of Vesak – Buddha Poornima, Minister’s pledge to truly put the Eightfold Path in practice and conduct in daily lives accordingly.
  • “Vaisakh Samman Prashasti Patra” for 2019, 2020 and 2021 to Dhamma Masters also has been conferred to those who are outstanding scholars of Buddhist philosophy, having made immense contributions to humanitarian services, inter-religious understanding, and peace and harmony.
  • A digitised set of 50 volumes of the rare text of Mongolian Kangyur (Tri- pitika) was virtually presented symbolically by the people of India to the people of Mongolia on the occasion.
  • Buddha Poornima celebrations were held through a virtual congregation owing to the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic across the globe.
  • This year the Buddha Poornima is dedicated to Global Peace and Relief from the Pandemic- Covid 19.
  • Ceremonies and prayers were simultaneously held at Bodhgaya-India, Lumbini-Nepal, Kandy- Sri Lanka and the main Buddhist temples in Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.

Vesak- Buddha Purnima

  • Vesak- Buddha Purnima, is considered the Triple Blessed Day as Tathagata Gautam Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment and MahaParnirvana.
  • This day celebrated as the ‘birth of Lord Buddha’ and to reflect on the noble ideals and sacrifices he made for the betterment of Earth.
  • The 2021 Buddha Poornima is dedicated to Global Peace and Relief from the Pandemic- Covid 19.
  • In 2020, Vesak day programme dedicated to all the front-line workers leading humanity’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vaisakh Samman Prashasti Patra

  • The Vaisakh Samman Prashasti Patra was instituted in 2015.
  • It is given annually on the auspicious occasion of Buddha Poornima by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India and International Buddhist Confederation.
  • It is given to honour prominent national and international personalities for their contribution to Buddhist studies, research, writing, dissemination of Buddha’s teachings and preservation of Buddhist cultural heritage.

International Buddhist Confederation (IBC)

  • IBC is a global Buddhist umbrella.
  • In 2021 event of Vesak- Buddha Purnima, in collaboration with Government of India, IBC organised the Virtual Prayer Event with the participation of heads of Buddhist Sanghas globally.

Lord Buddha

  • Lord Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha Gautama on the Purnima Tithi (full moon day) in 563 BC in Lumbini (modern day Nepal) near Kapilavastu, Shakya republic, Kosala kingdom, in Nepal.
  • In Hinduism, Buddha is considered as the ninth avatar of Lord Vishnu.
  • He was the founder of Buddhism which is one of the major religions and philosophical systems of southern and eastern Asia and of the world.
  • At the age of 29, he left home and embraced a lifestyle of asceticism, or extreme self-discipline.
  • He attained Bodhi (enlightenment) under a pipal tree at Bodhgaya, Bihar after 49 consecutive days of meditation.
  • Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath, in Uttar Pradesh which is named as Dharma-Chakra-Pravartana (turning of the wheel of law).
  • He ended his life at the age of 80 in 483 BCE at a place called Kushinagara in UP and this event is known as Mahaparinibban.

Significance

  • According to the British Library blog, “Every full moon day is an auspicious day for Buddhists, but the most important of all is the day of the full moon in May, because three major events in the life of the Gautama Buddha took place on this day:
  • Firstly, the Buddha-to-be, Prince Siddhattha was born at Lumbini Grove on the full moon day in May.
  • Secondly, after six years of hardship, he attained enlightenment under the shade of the Bodhi tree and became Gautama Buddha at Bodh Gaya also on the full moon day of May.
  • Thirdly, after 45 years of teaching the Truth, when he was eighty, at Kusinara, he passed away to nibbana, the cessation of all desire, on the full moon day of May.

GS PAPER II

Social media and safe harbour

Why in News

The new rules for social media platforms and digital news outlets, called the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code, came into effect from 26th May.

Key Points

  • The guidelines which announced in 25th February 2021, had asked all social media platforms to set up a grievance’s redressal and compliance mechanism.
  • It included appointment of a resident grievance officer, chief compliance officer and a nodal contact person.
  • The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology had also asked these platforms to submit monthly reports on complaints received from users and action taken.
  • A third requirement was for instant messaging apps was to make provisions for tracking the first originator of a message.
  • Failure to comply with any one of these requirements would take away the indemnity provided to social media intermediaries under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act.

Section 79 of the Information Technology Act

  • Section 79 of IT Act stated that any intermediary shall not be held legally or otherwise liable for any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted on its platform.
  • The Act stated that the protection shall be applicable if the said intermediary does not in any way, initiate the transmission of the message in question, select the receiver of the transmitted message and does not modify any information contained in the transmission.
  • It means that as long as a platform acts just as the messenger carrying a message from point A to point B, without interfering in any manner, it will be safe from any legal prosecution brought upon due to the message being transmitted.
  • The protection under Section 79 is not granted if the intermediary, despite being informed or notified by the government or its agencies, does not immediately disable access to the material under question.
  • The intermediary must not tamper with any evidence of these messages or content present on its platform, failing which it loses its protection under the Act.

Need for provisions for protection

  • The need to provide protection to intermediaries from actions of third parties came into focus following a police case in 2004.
  • In November 2004, an IIT student posted an obscene video clip for sale on bazee.com, an auction website.
  • Along with the student, the Crime Branch of Delhi Police also arrested the then chief executive officer of the website, Avnish Bajaj, and a then manager, Sharat Digumarti.
  • In 2005, the Delhi High Court held that prima facie, a case was made out against Bajaj and his website. The case against the website was made out for listing of the video clip and its content, which were pornographic in nature, while Bajaj was held liable under Section 85 of the IT Act.
  • Section 85 of the IT Act stated that when a company commits an offence under the IT Act, all executives in-charge at that time should be held liable and proceeded against.
  • This decision was overturned in 2012 by the Supreme Court, which held that Bajaj or the website could not be held accountable since they were not directly involved in the said transaction.
  • Following the decision, the IT Act was amended to introduce Section 79.

Global norms on safe harbour protection for social media intermediaries

  • Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which provides Internet companies a safe harbour from any content users posts of these platforms.
  • Experts believe it is this provision in the US law that enabled companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google to become global conglomerates.
  • Like Section 79 of India’s IT Act, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”.
  • This effectively means that the intermediary shall only be like a bookstore owner who cannot be held accountable for the books in the store, unless it is proven that there is a connection between the writer or publisher of the book and the bookstore owner.

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD)

Why in News

Recently, a seminar has been organised by China’s Consulate in Mumbai on poverty reduction along with the South Indian Education Society in Mumbai and the Yunnan International Research Centre.

Key Points

  • In the seminar, China Consulate stated that it is self-contradictory for some Indian media and think tanks to ask China keeping the supply chain open on the one hand, and threaten decoupling with China on the other. Such opportunistic and protective ideas will only add up to the problem.
  • China also hit out at the India-United States-Japan -Australia group, known as the Quad, describing it as “an attempt for containment”.
  • China also drew a contrast between the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal, which India withdrew from, and the Quad, describing RCEP as bringing in “a new wave of multilateralism and free trade”.
  • The integration and development of East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia are unstoppable.
  • RCEP has always opened its door to India.

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD)

  • The ‘Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’, is a strategic forum between the four nations for exchanging strategic intelligence and conducting joint military exercises.
  • Quad meetings have semi-regularly happened only at the foreign ministers’ level.
  • The dialogue was initiated in 2007 by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, with the support of Vice President Dick Cheney of the US, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India.
  • It is the group of the India-United States-Japan -Australia.
  • During the 2017 ASEAN Summits in Manila, all four former members were agreed to revive the quadrilateral alliance in order to counter China militarily and diplomatically in the South China Sea.
  • The grouping was conceived as a space to cooperate for safeguarding joint security and other interests in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • In a 2021 “The Spirit of the Quad,” Quad members described “a shared vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” and “rules-based maritime order in the East and South China Seas,” which Quad members are needed to counter Chinese maritime claims.
  • The Quad pledged to respond to COVID-19 and held a first Quad Plus meeting with New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam to work on its response to it.

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership was introduced during the 19th Asean meet held in November 2011.
  • The RCEP negotiations were kick-started during the 21st Asean Summit in Cambodia in November 2012.
  • It is a free trade agreement between the Asia-Pacific nations of Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • The 15 member countries account for about 30% of the world’s population (2.2 billion people) and 30% of global GDP as of 2020, making it the biggest trade bloc in history.
  • Unifying the pre-existing bilateral agreements between the 10-member ASEAN and five of its major trade partners, the RCEP was signed on 15 November 2020 at a virtual ASEAN Summit hosted by Vietnam,
  • It will take effect 60 days after it has been ratified by at least six ASEAN and three non-ASEAN signatories.

Foreign reserves

Why in News

Recently, Bangladesh cleared a $200 million currency swap facility for Sri-Lanka, becoming the first South Asian country to extend crucial financial assistance to the island nation in 2021.

Key Points

  • Dhaka ­based Star newspaper reported that Bangladesh was extending “a lifeline of sorts to the beleaguered Sri Lankan economy.
  • The board of the Bangladesh Bank has decided in principle to lend $200-­250 million from Bangladesh’s reserves to Sri Lanka for three months.
  • With Sri Lanka’s main foreign exchange earning sector (tourism, export of garments and tea) badly hit due to the pandemic, the country has been struggling to maintain its reserves in the face of a daunting debt repayment schedule.

Foreign Reserves

  • In April 2021, Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves stood at $4.5 billion, about the same amount that the country is due to settle this year in external loan repayment.
  • So, in 2021, Colombo has obtained financial assistance from China, through a $1.5 billion currency swap arrangement, and a $500 million loan, in addition to the $500 million extended last year.
  • Sri Lanka also inked a $500 million loan agreement with the EXIM Bank of Korea a fortnight ago.
  • India, which extended a $400 million currency swap facility from the Reserve Bank of India is yet to respond to Sri Lanka’s year-old request for an additional $1.1 billion currency swap facility.
  • New Delhi is also yet to approve Sri-lanka request for a debt moratorium, which he sought before the pandemic hit the region.

Conclusion

  • Meanwhile, Dhaka clearing the request brings some relief to Colombo, although the decision is yet to be formalised in a bilateral agreement.
  • Despite the pandemic, Bangladesh’s foreign reserves hit a record high in April, crossing the $45 billion mark.

GS PAPER III

National Mission on use of Biomass in coal based thermal power plants

Why in News

On 25th May, the Ministry of Power has decided to set up a National Mission on use of Biomass in coal based thermal power plants.

National Mission on use of Biomass in coal based thermal power plants

  • The duration of the proposed National Mission would be a minimum five years.
  • The mission will facilitate overcoming the constraints in supply chain of biomass pellets and agro- residue and its transport up to the power plants.
  • It also considers regulatory issues in biomass co-firing.
  • The Mission would have a Steering Committee headed by Secretary (Power) comprising of all stakeholders including representatives from Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoPNG), Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) etc.
  • The Executive Committee would be headed by Member (Thermal), CEA. NTPC will play a larger role in providing logistic and infrastructure support in the proposed National Mission.
  • The Mission would have full time officers from CEA, NTPC, DVC and NLC or other participating organizations.
  • The proposed National Mission on biomass will also contribute to the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

Sub-groups of the National Mission on Biomass

  • The Mission will have five sub-groups which will be designated to perform various tasks.
  • Sub-Group 1: to be responsible to carry out research on properties/ characteristics of biomass.
  • Sub-Group 2: to carry out technical specification and safety aspects including research in boiler design etc. to handle the pilot project for higher amount of co-firing of biomass with coal in pulverized coal (PC) fired boilers.
  • Sub-Group 3: for resolving the issues of supply chain during the mission period and sensitization programme.
  • Sub-Group 4: to select designated labs and certification bodies for testing of Agro-based biomass pellets and Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) pellets.
  • Sub-Group 5: be formed on regulatory framework and economics of biomass co-firing in coal based Thermal power plants.

Objectives of the Mission

  • The objectives of the National Mission on use of Biomass in coal based thermal power plants are:
  • To address the issue of air pollution due to farm stubble burning and to reduce carbon footprints of thermal power generation.
  • To increase the level of co-firing from present 5% to higher levels to have a larger share of carbon neutral power generation from the thermal power plants.
  • To take up R&D activity in boiler design to handle the higher amount of silica, alkalis in the biomass pellets.
  • It also supports the energy transition in the country and targets to move towards cleaner energy sources.