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Why In news:

Roorkee-based Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) that was roped in by ASI to examine structural damages in theSun Temple at Konark.

In brief:

The temple was filled with sand– a ‘quick fix’ that the British undertook from 1901 to 1903 under the instruction of the then Lt Governor Sir John Woodburn.

Present problems:

  • Konark is made of khondolite, which is known to be highly susceptible to weathering and cannot stand any form of chemical treatment.
  • The huge pile of sand inside is settling, creating enormous horizontal pressure and other complications.
  • The enclosed dark damp space within the structure that have become ideal breeding ground for harmful moss formation that slowly decomposes khondalite and can result in ejection of loose stones from the tightly gripping corbel.
  • The delicate nature of structure also makes application of pesticide to the damp corner impossible.
  • The effect of saline air and humidity also worsens the situation. Khondolite which is 10 to 12 per cent porous and when it comes in contact with sea wind, there is deposition of salt in skin of the stone.
  • Due to variation in temperature, the salt expands or contracts as a result of which, the stone layers ‘decay’.
  • If sand inside the Jagamohan is removed, the stability of the entire Jagamohan will be compromised. So ASI resorts to sand filling again.

Possible Alternatives:

  • Instead of sea sand, different sand variety that is spherical in shape, single-sized and fungi-leech free can be tried. The lightness of the sand will exert less pressure on the pedestal which is eight tonne per sqft, giving a bit more shelf life to Konark.
  • CBRI has suggested creation of a green-belt around the monument by planting casuarinas to shield saline wind blowing from the sea.

Other issues:

  • The beautiful sculptures and intricate carvings that fetched the World Heritage Site tag of UNESCO to the monument in 1984 have fallen prey to the vagaries of nature.
  • The lack of documentation of sculptural panels and motifs in the past to monitor and compare the deterioration process over the years.

About Sun Temple:

  • The Konark temple was conceived as a gigantic chariot of the Sun God, with 12 pairs of exquisitely ornamented wheels pulled by seven horses.
  • According to UNESCO, the temple is the only invaluable link in the history of diffusion of the cult of Surya which originating in Kashmir during the 8th century, finally reached UdraDesh during the peak of Silk Route.
  • It was built byNarasimhadeva I, of Ganga dynasty and is an example of Kalinga architecture
  • The Konark is the third link of Odisha’s Golden Triangle. The first link is JagannathPuri and the second link is Bhubaneswar
  • This temple was also known as ‘BLACK PAGODA’due to its dark color and used as a navigational landmark by ancient sailors to Odisha. Similarly, the Jagannath Temple in Puri was called the “White Pagoda”.
  • Every year around the month of February ChandrabhagaMela is held.

Time Running Out To Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Why in news?

  • Indian Institute of Science from the South Asia Future Earth Regional Office, Divecha Centre for Climate Change has released “The Future of Earth 2020 report”
  • Five global risks have been identified in the report.

More in news:

Objective:

Aim of reducing carbon footprint and halting global warming below 2 degree Celsius by 2050.

What are the Five Global Risks?

Global risks that are potential to impact and amplify one another and to create global systemic crisis.

  • Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  • Extreme weather events.
  • Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse.
  • Food crises.
  • Water crises.

Key findings of Report 2020:

  • Extreme heat waves can accelerate global warming by releasing large amounts of stored carbon from affected ecosystems.
  • Biodiversity loss also weakens the capacity of natural and agricultural systems to cope with climate extremes and More vulnerable to food crises.

Concerns:

  • Humans have now “significantly altered” 75% of our planet’s land areas
  • A quarter of species in assessed plant and animal groups are nearly threatened
  • During 2019, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached more than 415 ppm.
  • In last two years all the major assessments have argued that time is running out to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • It inspired declarations of a climate crisis or climate emergency by European parliament and by the leaders of more than 700 cities, States and governments.
  • World also witnessed two major wildfires in the Amazon rainforest and Australia in 2019.
  • Denial of climate change due to Right-wing politics, a breed of politics that focuses on nationalist tendencies is on the rise around the world.

Conclusion:

  • Digital platforms such as social media, search engines should tend to favour the spread of information designed to engage with new thinking about conservation is needed.
  • The National Education Policy should address the question of environmental health and education at the school level.

Publish Criminal History Of Candidates, SC Orders Parties

Why In News:

Indian Supreme Court orders political parties to publish their candidates’ criminal records.

In Brief:

  • The Supreme Court of India recently ruled that political parties should publish details of criminal proceedings against their candidates on websites and social media accounts before polls.
  • As a part of the judgement, the bench said that all details of compliance have to be reported to the Election Commission within 72 hours, beyond which failure to do so will be considered contempt of court.
  • In such a case, the court may hold the president of the party liable. If such directives are not followed, there is even a chance of the party being de-registered.

Slapping Sec.144 During CAA Protests ‘Illegal’ HC

Why In News:

The Karnataka High Court has declared as “illegal” the order passed by the Bengaluru City Police Commissioner imposing Section 144 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Cr.PC) from December 19 to 21, 2019, ahead of a series of pro- and anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) rallies.

In Brief:

  • The court held that the order did not stand judicial scrutiny in terms of the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court.
  • However, the Bench said that its order was confined only to the December 18, 2019, order passed by the District Magistrate and it had only examined the decision-making process while invoking Section 144, and had not examined the correctness of the decision.
  • The HC said the City Police Commissioner, discharging his duty as the District Magistrate (DM) had failed to give “reasons” in his December 18, 2019, order invoking Section 144 in contravention to the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court in the cases of Anuradha Bhasin Vs Union of India and the Ramlila Maidan Incident Vs Union of India.
  • Observing that the DM is expected to form an opinion citing reasons in his order for imposing Section 144, the Bench said that in the present instance, the DM has only referred to the recommendations made by eight Deputy Commissioners of Police to invoke Section 144 and ‘there was no indication of independent application of mind by the DM.”
  • The Bench also said the DM, after receiving inputs from DCPs, should have conducted an enquiry and suuggested that the parameters of the enquiry could have been different as the inputs he had received were from DCPs. The Bench also pointed out that barring a few, communications from the DCPs were identical.

What is section 144?

  • Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973 authorises the Executive Magistrate of any state or territory to issue an order to prohibit the assembly of four or more people in an area. According to the law, every member of such ‘unlawful assembly’ can be booked for engaging in rioting.
  • Section 144 is imposed in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger of some event that has the potential to cause trouble or damage to human life or property. Section 144 of CrPC generally prohibits public gathering.

Duration of Section 144 order

  • No order under Section 144 shall remain in force for more than two months but the state governments can extent the validity for two months and maximum up to six months. It can be withdrawn at any point of time if situation becomes normal.

USTR Takes India Off Developing Country List

Why In News:

The office of the United States Trade Representatives (USTR) has updated its list of developing and least-developed countries, removing India from the list of countries that are designated as developing.

In Brief:

  • Until February 10, 2020, India was on the USTR’s list of developing countries, making it eligible for preferential treatment against CVD investigations and de minimis thresholds.
  • The USTR has also updated its list of countries that are least-developed under the US countervailing duty (CVD) laws. Countries under this list are eligible for preferential treatment when it comes to CVD investigations.
  • Other countries that were removed from the list include Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia

What is the USTR list of developing and least-developed countries?

  • In the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), the US Congress had amended the CVD law in order to confirm US obligations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM).
  • Under this SCM agreement, countries that had not yet reached the status of a developed country were entitled to special treatment for purposes of countervailing measures. This meant that imports from the member countries included in the list by USTR were subject to different thresholds for determining if countervailing subsidies are “de minimis” (too trivial or minor to merit consideration) and whether import volumes are negligible.
  • Further, as per the Tariff Act of 1930, Congress delegated the responsibility to designate those WTO members whose imports would be subject to these special thresholds to the USTR. USTR is also required to publish this list of designations and update it if necessary in the Federal Register.
  • To determine these designations, the USTR relies on data such as World Bank’s data on Gross National Income (GNI) and trade data obtained from the Trade Data Monitor. This also contains official data from national statistical bureaus, customs authorities, central banks and other such government agencies.

What changes for India?

  • In 1998, the USTR published an interim final rule (1998 rule), which designated Subsidy Agreement countries eligible for special de minimis countervailable subsidy and negligible import volume standards under the CVD law.
  • This essentially means the lists USTR had prepared as per the 1998 rule helped it to determine if they were eligible for preferential treatment against CVD investigations or not.
  • Now, the USTR has revised the lists in the 1998 rule and removed the rule itself terming it “obsolete”. Further, for the purposes of the de minimis threshold, there will be no distinction between developing and least-developed countries, since both such countries will be subject to the same threshold.

Soon A Panel To Address Fiscal Policy Issues

Why In News:

The Fifteenth Finance Commission will soon set up a panel to address issues related to fiscal policy for both the Centre and the States.

About fiscal Committee:

  • It is a broad-based committee which will address some of the issues on fiscal policy, including the debt and the deficit of the States as well as the Central government.
  • There is a need to have a fiscal road map that covers the Centre and the State government.
  • The panel will be headed by commissions Chairman N.K. Singh and have representation from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the Reserve Bank of India, the Ministry of Finance, the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) panel and some of the States.