- Big Data and governance (Live Mint)
- Should Hindi be the sole official language? (The Hindu)
- Ending India’s Nuclear dependency (The Hindu)
- Explained: Waste to energy
Big Data and governance (Live Mint)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the usability of Big data in the governance measure. (GS paper II)
- Big Data and analytics could provide an injection of transparency and efficiency that spurs commerce and builds more inclusive economies.
- Corporates had taken full advantage of the big data analytics and now it is the government’s turn to spearhead the challenge.
What is Big data
- While the term “big data” is relatively new, the act of gathering and storing large amounts of information for eventual analysis is ages old. The concept gained momentum in the early 2000s. Definition of big data as the three Vs:
- Volume:Organizations collect data from a variety of sources, including business transactions, social media and information from sensor or machine-to-machine data. In the past, storing it would’ve been a problem but new technologies have eased the burden.
- Velocity:Data streams in at an unprecedented speed and must be dealt with in a timely manner. RFID tags, sensors and smart metering are driving the need to deal with torrents of data in near-real time.
- Variety:Data comes in all types of formats – from structured, numeric data in traditional databases to unstructured text documents, email, video, audio, stock ticker data and financial transactions.
Big data in governance
- On the technology side, several developments have converged to radically expand what analytics can do. The volume of available data has continued to double every three years as information pours in from transactions, social media, sensors in the physical world, and billions of mobile phones.
- The analysis of vast amounts of data collected from the different devices that we use on a day-to-day basis provides an opportunity to discover hidden secrets and enables us to do predictive analysis and informed decision making across individual, organizational, societal, national and international levels.
- The overwhelming amount of Big Data from the Web and the cloud offers new opportunities for discovery, value creation and rich business intelligence for decision support in any organization. This collected data is processed and disseminated in various forms.
- Data scientists now have unprecedented computing power at their disposal, and they are devising ever more sophisticated algorithms that can instantly sift through troves of data to find patterns and reveal insights. The upshot of all this innovation is that decisions no longer have to be based on gut instinct, or subject to human error. Algorithms can make them instantly and consistently, drawing on a mountain of evidence.
- The companies at the forefront of these trends are capturing enormous opportunities. Some are introducing radically new business models that are reshaping entire industries. “Fintech” firms are providing financial services without building bank branches, while Airbnb has become a major player in the hospitality sector virtually overnight without building a single hotel.
- Such a trend and such advantages of big data should also be reaped by Government in its policy making. Analytics capabilities are now the basis of competition. In many industries, a small group of technology leaders are consolidating major advantages.
- Big Data and associated analytics are beneficial in various areas, such as solving traffic problems in cities; targeting healthcare delivery; efficient supply chain management; preventive steps for environmental protection; providing a personalized educational experience for students; enabling security to individuals and society at large; and informed policymaking.
- One of the most critical aspects of Big Data is its impact on how decisions are made and who gets to make them. When data is scarce, expensive to obtain, or not available in digital form, it makes sense to let people with experience make decisions, based on patterns and relationships they have observed and internalized.
- Leaders state their opinions about what the future holds, what’s going to happen, how well something will work, and so on as per their “intuition”and then plan accordingly. However, in the age of Big Data, leaders and managers in private organizations and government have to be data-driven. They should have the courage to ignore their intuition and do what data says. This requires a change in mind-set and effective training to make data-driven decisions.
How government can respond?
- While businesses have adopted Big Data and analytics in various forms very effectively to personalize offerings, and to improve business efficiency, governments have been laggards. The possible benefits of Big Data analytics in government could range from transforming government programmes and empowering citizens to improving transparency and enabling the participation of all stakeholders.
- However, governments do differ from businesses in terms of goals (profit to stakeholders versus sustainable development), mission (development of competitive edge and customer satisfaction versus security of basic rights and promotion of general welfare) and decision making (short-term maximizing profit versus long-term promoting public interest).
- The government has an enormous amount of data in legacy databases and forms that need to be curated and migrated for new-age analytics tools. Collection of data is also a paramount task for government as data is received from multiple online and offline channels. Sharing data between departments and across ministries is a challenge that should be resolved at earliest.
- Several countries, such as the UK, US and European Union (EU) member countries, have started big data government programmes. The UN’s 2012 e-government survey gave high marks to several Asian countries, notably South Korea, Singapore and Japan. These leaders have launched diverse initiatives on Big Data and started numerous projects.
- It is time to formulate a comprehensive Big Data programme across Central and state government ministries/departments with help from industry, academic and research institutions. Big Data can enhance the government’s ability to serve its citizens and address major national challenges involving the economy, healthcare, job creation, natural disasters, and terrorism.
Question: In what way the usage of big data can fulfil the aim of digital India and usher an era of effective governance?
Should Hindi be the sole official language? (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on issue that whether we need ‘Hindi’ as sole official language or not? (GS paper II)
- As per the Constitution, India is a multi-lingual nation. It has 22 languages. But people in India give their first preference to English language. It is used as a medium of communication in most of the schools and offices.
- There has been massive uproar by the government asking the ministers and officials to use the Hindi language everywhere; however the National Language status for Hindi is a long debated subject across the nation today.
Hindi as sole official language- According to the different ideologies, there are different views, reasoning for the debate-
- According to the leftist view, the primary reason for why Hindi cannot become the national language of India is that it is not a language spoken by the entire population neither is it spoken even by a simple majority of 50% of the Indian population. Whether this elevation of one language to the status of official language endows great benefits and advantages on those whose mother tongue it is, but at the same time it also places a discriminatory burden on others.
- With the emergence of India as major economic country in the world, there are rapid strides in education which has underpinned the software revolution and the leap in the service sector; in modern India most of the major intellectual bypassed the Hindi language.
- Language is a form of identity that most people are deeply and emotionally attached to. Each language has a distinct history and pride of its own. Therefore putting forth a common language that would affect as it is seen as a submission of the mother tongue to that common language. Moreover, the process of making Hindi a national language has caused more division than cohesion.
- In 1965, there was a series of agitations that happened in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu during both pre and post Independence periods. The agitations involved several mass protests, riots, student and political movements in Tamil Nadu concerning the official status of Hindi in the state. In the time C. Rajagopalachari warned, “Let us not make the sixty million people in the south seditious, by one stroke.”
- It is over half a century since the anti-Hindi agitation of 1965 and Delhi’s assurance that English would continue to be associate official language until non-Hindi-speaking States so desire. Even from Subramanian Bharati to Periyar to C. Rajagopalachari, Tamil leaders promoted, in good faith, Hindi language teaching in Tamil Nadu to foster better integration.
- So the imposition of Hindi as a sole language will definitely drift away the unity India as secured from many years.
- According to the rightist ideology, in a country like India with a population of 125crore, Hindi is spoken by more than 50% of the population and understood by 20% of the non-Hindi-speaking population. Hence, Hindi is naturally the lingua franca of India.
- The argument they present is that, Non Hindi speaking States are wrong to assume that if Hindi flourishes, their languages will get suppressed. Around seventeen per cent of the world’s population resides in India, whose languages also constitute 25% of the languages in the world and each and every language is enjoying its own space.
- Indians were compelled to accept English as an official language and not as our mother tongue or our common language and not Hindi that is why, even after so many years of independence, English cannot become our communicative language or lingua franca.
- Given the example that In Nagaland, English is the State language yet, there is a growing demand for Hindi. The Northeast is considered to be the most disinterested in Hindi. But the lingua franca of its farthest part Arunachal Pradesh is Hindi. Arunachal Pradesh alone has 26 languages spoken by various tribes. Jammu & Kashmir has 11 languages, Meghalaya three; Nagaland about six languages as their lingua franca, but all the language is having their space, Hindi will not suppress their culture.
- Centre ideology argues that, Hindi is not the natural language of a majority of States in India. These include Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka in the south; Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat in the west; Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir in the north-west; Odisha and West Bengal in the east; Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya and Assam in the Northeast. These make 20 States of the existing 29 States.
- The Constitution has imagined India as a multilingual country and not as a monolingual nation. In terms of heritage value, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati, Sindhi, Kashmiri, Odia, Bangla, Nepali and Assamese have a historically longer legacy than the Hindi language.
- The inclusion of several languages in the Eighth Schedule of our constitution clearly indicates the unwillingness of the makers of the Constitution to tether India to any single language.
- However the claims to make Hindi as sole official language are not entirely misplaced. With the changing demography within the country, the global situation and the changing livelihood patterns have induced large-scale interstate migrations. This process has created the need for linguistic vehicles for delivery of education, processes of governance and simply internal communication in urban habitats.
- Hindi is globally the fastest-growing language, in terms of the number of speaker, since it has a small or big presence in nearly 65 countries. If one had to choose one of the 22 Schedule languages protected and promoted by the Constitution, Hindi clearly is the top ranker.
- However, languages issues are not to be sorted out only in terms of their numerical strength, the imposition will threaten various smaller languages in the States surrounding the Hindi heartland also, moreover political agenda should not allow threatening the diversity of the nation.
- The debate regarding the status of the official language of India is an ongoing process. One group of people demand Hindi to be recognized as the official language and another demand English.
- India is already divided into so many religions, castes and sub- castes, States, UTs, diverse languages etc, we do not need one more divisive factor based on Hindi and non-Hindi. Based on the unique diversity of our culture, there should be a wise decision, so that the sacred notion integrity should be there and all states should function as important wheels of the chariot to make our India united and progress. As unity of India is guarded by its diversity, not by its cultural fencing.
Question– What can be the impact on linguistic minorities if Hindi is made a sole official language?
Ending India’s Nuclear dependency (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the progress of nuclear development in India and the need to make India independent in nuclear energy capabilities. (GS paper II and III)
- After the slowdown following an initial phase of expansion, there is renewed global interest in nuclear power generation around the world. Nuclear technology offers important advantagescompared to other sources of electricity.
The Nuclear story (Development of nuclear power)
- India has a flourishing and largely indigenous nuclear power programme and expects to have 14.6 GWe nuclear capacity on line by 2024 and 63 GWe by 2032. It aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050.
- 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 or materials, which has hampered its development of civil nuclear energy until 2009.
- Moreover, 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.
- As of 2016, India has 22 nuclear reactors in operation in 8 nuclear power plants, having an installed capacity of 6780 MW.
- The first pair, located in Tarapur, Maharashtra, uses enriched uranium and incorporates U.S. nuclear technology. The second pair, located in Rajasthan, uses natural uranium and is based on Canadian technology.
- Commencing from 1983 and over a span of two and a half decades, India built 16 nuclear power units using its own technology, materials and equipment. These reactors use natural uranium as fuel.
India’s nuclear resources
- India’s domestic uranium reserves are small and the country is dependent on uranium imports to fuel its nuclear power industry. Since early 1990s, Russia has been a major supplier of nuclear fuel to India.
- However, recently large deposits of uranium, has been discovered in the Tummalapalle belt and in the Bhima basin at Gogi in Karnataka by the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD) of India. The Tummalapalle belt uranium reserves promises to be one of the top 20 uranium reserves discovery of the world.
- Following a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in September 2008 which allowed it to commence international nuclear trade, India has signed bilateral deals on civilian nuclear energy technology cooperation with several other countries, including France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and South Korea.
India’s pace on nuclear development
- During the period 2000-2010, India designed a nuclear power unit of 700 MW capacity, using natural uranium. Construction work on two such units in Kakrapar (in Gujarat) and two in Rajasthan was taken up. Work on two similar units has been taken up at a site in Haryana.
- All equipment and materials for these larger units will come from Indian suppliers. In recent years, two 1000 MW VVER power units have come up in Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu, using Russian technology.
- They use enriched uranium supplied by Russia. In 2016, work on two more such units were commenced. When all these units go into operation, India will have 30 reactors with a capacity of 13,000 MW. By then some of the earlier units will be reaching their retirement age.
- India has been in discussions with Areva of France on building six EPR reactors of 1600 MW at Jaitapur, Maharashtra. The first such reactor in Finland has been greatly delayed and may go into operation in 2018. There is a pending arbitration case between Finland and France regarding who is to bear the resulting cost increases. Moreover, Westinghouse which was also scheduled to built nuclear reactors in India, went into financial crisis.
- Anticipating some of these difficulties, the nuclear community in India has been looking at other options to expand the nuclear capacity. The fleet of pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR), of our own design and construction, have performed well. During the last five years, the cumulative capacity factor has been 78%.
- Given the context, the Union Cabinet’s nod on Wednesday for 10 700 MW PHWRs is timely. Indian industry is well placed to supply all the components and materials required for these reactors. Russia is willing to supply two more 1000 MW VVER units for Kudankulam and continue the cooperation to build six 1200 MW VVERs at a second site, to be identified by India.
- Designers at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and NPCIL have completed the design of a 900 MW reactor using enriched uranium as fuel, designated as the Indian Pressurised Water Reactor (IPWR).
- Moreover, industry is keen to mobilise and build up the capacity to make components for this design. Enriched uranium fuel can be sourced from international suppliers, as such reactors can be placed under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
- The government’s push for 10 IPWRs will secure India a position of nuclear power plant supplier not only for application in India, but also as a potential exporter. While our earlier plans on expanding nuclear power have not materialised, the alternative plan suggested now, which envisages building 28 units with a total capacity of about 25,000 MW in 15 years from now, can still ensure that nuclear power remains an important part of our strategy to minimise carbon emissions in the long run.
Question– What steps should be taken by the government to make India self dependent on nuclear front?
Waste to energy (GS paper III)
- Waste-to-energy is an important part of the waste industry in Europe. Significant demand for heat means efficient and tightly controlled waste incinerators are common.
- People are becoming more wasteful. The amount of rubbish we produce is growing more rapidly than both our population and our economy.
- Recycling has been the main approach for recovering resources and reducing landfill over the past 20 years, but a lot more needs to be done.
Waste to energy
- One part of the solution is “waste-to-energy”: using a range of thermal or biological processes, the energy embedded in waste is captured, making it available for the direct generation of heat and electricity, or for solid fuel production (also known as “processed engineered fuel”).
- Waste-to-fuel plants produce fuels from the combustible (energy-rich) materials found in waste from households and industry. Suitable materials include non-recyclable papers, plastics, wood waste and textiles. All of these typically end up in landfill.
- These materials are preferably sourced from existing recycling facilities, which currently have to throw out contaminated matter that can’t be recycled.
- Solid waste fuels are produced to specified qualities by different treatment methods. These include drying, shredding, and compressing into briquettes or fuel pellets. Fuels can be specifically tailored for ease of transportation and for different uses where industrial heat is required. This make them suitable alternatives to fossil fuels.
- As a replacement for coal and gas, solid waste fuel can be burned to generate electricity with a smaller carbon footprint than fossil fuels.
- In addition to the power sector, other industries requiring high-temperature heat use solid waste fuels for example, in cement works.
- The primary environmental benefit of solid waste fuel comes from the reductions in landfill emissions and fossil fuel use.
- Biodegradable carbon sources decompose in landfill, creating methane. This is a greenhouse gas with a warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide. Technology already exist for capturing and converting landfill gases to energy, but waste-to-fuel is a complementary measure that limits landfill in the first instance.
- Waste-derived fuel can also have a smaller carbon footprint than fossil fuels. This depends on the carbon content of the fuel, and whether it is derived from biological sources (such as paper, wood or natural fibres). Even though carbon dioxide is emitted when the fuel is burned, this is partly offset by the carbon dioxide captured by the plants that produced the materials in the first place.
- Without appropriate emission control, burning solid fuel can release nitrous oxides, sulphur dioxides, particulate matter and other harmful pollutants. But, with solid regulation and the best available pollution-control technology, these emissions can be managed.
- The recycling industry is also worried that energy recovery has the potential to undermine existing recycling by diverting waste flows. Famously, solid waste fuel is so important to Sweden it actually imports garbage from other European countries.
- These challenges point to the importance of investing in the appropriate infrastructure at the right size, and creating regulations that balance the needs of existing recycling processes. With careful planning, waste-to-fuel can be an important part of a broad strategy for transitioning towards a zero-landfill future.
Question– What can be the economical advantages of waste to energy and how it can fulfil the dream of Swachh Bharat?