GS Paper I- Indian Heritage and Culture.

UNESCO Award For Srirangam Temple.

Background-

  • The massive renovation and restoration effort at the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, executed through the public-private partnership model, has won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of Merit 2017 for cultural heritage conservation.
  • The temple bagged one of the four Awards of Merit from a jury comprising nine international conservation experts, which considered conservation projects from 10 countries in the Asia Pacific region.
  • The renovation of the temple began in June 2014 at the behest of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who was elected from the Srirangam constituency back in 2011.

Highlights Of The Development–

  • The massive project was executed in phases, at a cost of about ₹25 crore, with contributions from the government as well as donors. The kumbabishekam was performed in two stages — in September and November 2015.
  • The temple, considered the foremost of the 108 divyadesams, is situated on an islet between the Cauvery and the Coleroon rivers.
  • It has seven prakaras and 21 towers, including the majestic 236-feet-high rajagopuram.
  • The renovation of the temple involved painstaking work by experienced sthapathis, under the guidance of experts in archaeology for over a year.
  • About 60,000 tonnes of construction waste/debris was removed during the renovation. The hundred-pillar and thousand-pillar mandapams and various other mandapams, some of which were out of the public view for long, have been restored, as were several sculptures in the numerous sub-shrines.
  • The project has revealed the original fabric of the shrines, water bodies and landscape within the temple’s four inner enclosures, which were once obscured under layers of inappropriate modern additions and tons of debris.
  • Employing traditional construction materials and techniques, the restoration work was carried out in an authentic manner by local craftspeople in accordance with ancient building principles and rites.
  • The second phase of renovation of damaged portions of the temple ramparts is set to begin soon. A few other conservation works are also on the anvil inside the temple.

Sources- The Hindu.

 

GS Paper II- Governance.

ONGC Gets Government Nod For Acquiring HPCL.

Background

  • The government has kicked off its ambitious plan to merge state-owned oil companies.
  • The Union cabinet approved Oil and Natural Gas Corp.’s (ONGC’s) proposal to acquire a majority stake in public sector refiner Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd (HPCL), creating an integrated energy giant.
  • A merger of the existing 11 government oil companies was proposed by finance minister Arun Jaitley in Union Budget 2017. The idea was to create better efficiencies and also an oil company that would be better placed to compete globally to acquire hydrocarbon resources.

Highlights Of The Development-

  • In a separate decision, the cabinet also approved creation of a new exchange-traded fund (ETF) for monetizing its stake in state-owned companies, banks and insurance firms without losing management control.
  • While the government will retain only 51% in disinvested companies, it will retain 52% in financial institutions.
  • The cabinet approved “disinvestment in respect to public sector banks, other listed public sector financial institutions and public sector insurance companies (when listed) through ETF or other methods, subject to government retaining 52%”, an official statement said.
  • Kalpesh Mehta, partner at Deloitte Haskins and Sells, said that clubbing different assets together under an ETF is an efficient way of disinvestment from the perspective of valuation.
  • Divestment of the 51.11% stake in HPCL to ONGC may fetch the exchequer about Rs20,000 crore.
  • While the deal will enable the government to meet part of its Rs72,500 crore disinvestment target for the year, officials clarified that raising revenue was not the chief goal of the transaction.
  • Now, ONGC’s board of directors have to approve the transaction and seek approval from all shareholders before seeking a high court endorsement of the transaction. The government expects to complete the whole process by the end of this financial year (2017).
  • ONGC, which has announced heavy investments in its deepwater block in the Krishna-Godavari basin, may finance part of the transaction through borrowing. The company has cash reserves of about Rs13,000 crore.
  • Stakeholders are looking forward to the integrated oil company encompassing ONGC, HPCL, Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd—a subsidiary of ONGC—and ONGC Videsh Ltd as an opportunity for value creation, said Deepak Mahurkar, leader of the oil and gas practice at PwC India.

Sources- Livemint.

 

GS Paper III- Security.

India Successfully Test Fires Sub-Sonic Cruise Missile ‘Nirbhay’.

Background

  • India on 8th November, 2017 successfully test-fired its first indigenously designed and developed long range sub-sonic cruise missile ‘Nirbhay’, which has 1,000 km operational range and a capacity to carry warheads of up to 300 kg.
  • It was successfully test fired from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur along the Odisha coast.
  • This was the fifth experimental test of the homegrown missile system. Out of the four earlier trials since its maiden launch in 2013, only one was successful.

 

Highlights Of The Development-

  • The flight test achieved all the mission objectives completely, from lift-off till the final splash, boosting the confidence of all scientists associated with the trial, the statement said.
  • Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman complimented DRDO scientists for this inspired achievement. She was optimistic that this would take India to the select league of nations possessing this complex technology and sub-sonic cruise missile capability, it said.
  • Chairman of DRDO and Secretary Department of Defence (R&D) Dr S Christopher, DG (Aero) Dr C P Ramanarayanan, along with other senior DRDO scientists and user representatives from the Army witnessed the launch and congratulated the ‘Nirbhay’ team for making the DRDO proud.
  • The state-of-the-art sleek cruise missile took off from a specially designed launcher from the launch complex-3 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur.
  • The missile has the capability to loiter and cruise at 0.7 Mach, at altitude as low as 100 m.
  • It took-off in a programmed manner and all critical operations like launch phase, booster deployment, engine start, wing deployment and other operational parameters demonstrated through autonomous way point navigation, the statement said.
  • The guidance, control and navigation system of the missile is configured around the indigenously designed Ring Laser Gyroscope (RLG) and MEMS based Inertial Navigation System (INS) along with GPS system.
  • The missile cruised for 50 minutes, achieving the range of 647 km. It was tracked with the help of ground-based radars and other parameters were monitored by indigenous telemetry stations developed by the DRDO.
  • According to a DRDO scientist associated with the project, powered by a solid rocket motor booster developed by the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), the ‘Nirbhay’ missile has an operational range of 1,000 km.
  • It can travel with a turbofan or turbojet engine and is guided by a highly advanced inertial navigation system indigenously developed by the Research Centre Imarat (RCI), and can be deployed from multiple platforms.
  • The two-stage missile is six metre long, 0.52 metre wide with a wing span of 2.7 metre.

Sources- Business-Standard.