1. 1,300-year-old Buddhist stupa found in Odisha’s Jajpur
Initial assessment showed that the stupa could be 4.5-metre tall and may belong to the 7th or 8th century.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) stumbled upon a 1,300-year-old stupa right in the middle of a mining site in Odisha’s Jajpur district from where Khondalite stones were supplied for the beautification project around the 12th century Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri.
“We have managed to unearth a Buddhist stupa at the Khandolite mining site at Parabhadi in Sukhuapada hamlet in Jajpur district. Another smaller stupa has been completely destroyed due to mining at the site,” said Dibishada Brajasundar Garnayak, Superintending Archaeologist of ASI’s Puri circle, on Monday.
Mr. Garnayak said the stupa could be 4.5-metre tall and initial assessment showed that it may belong to the 7th or 8th century.
The archaeological asset was found at Parabhadi, which is situated near Lalitagiri, a major Buddhist complex, having a large number of stupas and monasteries. After discovery of the Buddhist stupa from the mining site, the ASI intervened and asked the Odisha government to stop mining through its Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC). The mining has since stopped.
The newly discovered stupa was possibly disfigured in an earlier period. The ASI would now attempt to fully retrieve the structure’s archaeological heritage, restore it to its original form and undertake protection of the site.
“The State government must conduct heritage assessment of a site, particularly when it is situated near any place of archaeological interest, before giving permission for mining. The smaller stupa, which was destroyed, cannot be restored,” said Mr. Garanayak.
Local people and Buddhist scholars had warned the State government against mining in the Sukhuapada hamlet as the site was part of the Lalitgiri Buddhist site. Even local artisans expressed concerns that their livelihood would be hit by the mining of Khondalite stones at an industrial scale.
“Those who approved the plan for carrying out quarrying at Sukhuapada should have applied their mind. Knowing well that many massive Buddha statues were discovered from Sukhuapada and preserved in the museum inside the Lalitgiri archaeological site, they should not have allowed such big mining machines to be deployed there,” said Subhendu Bhuyan, member of the Jajpur Cultural Council.
Khondalite stones were widely used in ancient temple complexes. The State government had come up with an ambitious plan to spend ₹3,208 crore under the Augmentation of Basic Amenities and Development of Heritage and Architecture (ABADHA) scheme in three years to transform Puri into a world heritage city.
Khondalite stones are proposed to be used widely to maintain aesthetic value of some projects such as the heritage security zone, the Jagannath Ballav pilgrim centre, Puri lake development project, the Atharnala heritage project and the Matha Development Initiative.
Sukhuapada was the biggest of six Khondalite stone blocks reserved for the OMC. While Khondalite mining is being undertaken across 78.3 acres at Sukhuapada, other sites include Teligarh (27.5 acres), Gobindpur (20.3 acres), Chandia (4 acres), Kundakundi Kunda stone quarry (4.67 acres) and Kurumpada decorative stone quarry (1.67 acres) in Khordha district.
With the ASI taking control of Sukhuapada site, the OMC may find it difficult to supply Khondalite stones for the State government’s ambitious temple development programmes. It may trigger another round of confrontation between the Centre and the State government. Violation of the ASI guidelines was a major controversy surrounding the redevelopment project in Puri.
2. History of invasions dug up to keep nation on the boil: SC
History of a nation cannot haunt the present and future generations, so that succeeding generations become prisoners of the past, says Bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and B.V. Nagarathna
The Supreme Court on Monday said India cannot “remain a prisoner of the past” with its history of invasions being constantly dug up and served on the plate of the present and future generations to “keep the country on the boil”.
“History of a nation cannot haunt the present and future generations of a nation, so that succeeding generations become prisoners of the past,” a Bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and B.V. Nagarathna said.
The observations were made while hearing a petition filed by petitioner-advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who sought a judicial direction to the Home Ministry to constitute a ‘Renaming Commission’ to restore the ancient Hindu names of historic and religious places, and roads across the country which were looted by “barbaric, brutal, cruel invaders” in the 15th century.
He said the acts of the “barbaric invaders” has affected the citizens’ right to sovereignty, unity and integrity. “Names from the time of Ramayana and Mahabharata were changed during foreign rule. They have to be restored to protect our ancient culture,” Mr. Upadhyay said.
Justice Nagarathna asked Mr. Upadhyay to not “belittle Hinduism, which is a way of life where there is no room for bigotry”.
“Hinduism is not really a religion and because of Hinduism being a way of life, India has assimilated everybody, whether an invader or a friend. It is because of this we are able to live together,” Justice Nagarathna observed.
Justice Nagarathna said the British brought the ‘divide and rule’ policy, which caused a schism in the society. “Let us not break it up again with such petitions… Have the country in mind and not religion,” Justice Nagarathna told Mr. Upadhyay.
3. Karnataka best equipped to supply renewable energy: report
Karnataka is currently the State with the best equipped power systems to transition its electricity system from being fossil-powered to renewable energy sources, followed by Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, says an analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Ember on Monday.
As part of its international obligations, India has committed to generating about half of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources and reducing the emissions intensity of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 45% by 2030. Achieving this is predicated on States tweaking their infrastructure used to deliver electricity, to efficiently accommodate inputs from multiple power sources such as solar, wind, hydro-power and existing fossil fuel sources.
The Centre has approved the Intra-State Transmission System — Green Energy Corridor Phase-II that lays the infrastructure for connecting electricity generated from renewables with the power grid in seven States. The corridor scheme, with a total estimated cost of ₹12,000 crore, would receive 33% Central financial assistance, or ₹3,970 crore.
The authors of the analysis prepared a scoring system for 16 States, which account for 90% of electricity production in India. Performance on four broad parameters namely decarbonisation, performance of the power system, readiness of the power ecosystem and policies and political commitments determined their scores.
Karnataka scored well, as it was able to supply electricity to meet almost all its power requirements in FY2022, with a shortage of 9 million units (mu) against the total annual power requirement of 72,692 mu.
The State also exceeded its target of segregating feeders by 16% and achieved 100% of its target of installing smart meters, the analysis noted.
Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat were the next best performers whereas Bihar, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh scored the least on these parameters.
4. Editorial-1: Unpacking the new set of e-waste rules
Under the new rules, the informal sector, which plays a crucial role in e-waste handling, draws no recognition
The burgeoning problem of managing e-waste is a cross cutting and persisting challenge in an era of rapid urbanisation, digitalisation and population growth. The first set of e-waste Rules was notified in 2011 and came into effect in 2012. An important component of the Rules (2011) was the introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Under EPR compliance, ‘producers’ are responsible for the safe disposal of electronic and electric products once the consumer discards them. E-waste rules 2016, which were amended in 2018, were comprehensive and included provisions to promote ‘authorisation’ and ‘product stewardship’. Other categories of stakeholders such ‘Producer Responsibility Organisations (PRO) were also introduced in these rules.
In November 2022, the Ministry of Environment and Forests further notified a new set of e-waste rules, which will come into force from April 1, 2023. These rules address some of the critical issues but are silent on others. The first main chapter of the E-Waste (Management) Rules 2022 includes the provision of an EPR framework, the foremost requirement being the ‘Registration of Stakeholders’ (manufacturer, producer, refurbisher and recycler). The earlier rules placed importance on seeking authorisation by stakeholders, but a weak monitoring system and a lack of transparency resulted in inadequacy in compliance. Most of the ‘refurbishers’ or the ‘repair shops’ operating in Delhi are not authorised under the Central Pollution Control Board of India.
Further, many formal recyclers undertake activities only up to the pre-processing or segregation stage, and thereafter channelise e-waste to the informal sector, which is a pure violation of law. A ‘digitalized systems approach’, introduced in the new rules (2022), may now address these challenges. Standardising the e-waste value chain through a common digital ‘portal’ may ensure transparency and is crucial to reduce the frequency of ‘paper trading’ or ‘false trail’, i.e., a practice of falsely revealing 100% collection on paper while collecting and/or weighing ‘scrap’ to meet targets.
Myopic with the informal sector left out
Two important stages of ‘efficient’ e-waste recycling are ‘component recovery’ (adequate and efficient recoveries of rare earth metals in order to reduce dependence on virgin resources) and ‘residual disposal’ (safe disposal of the leftover ‘residual’ during e-waste recycling). The rules briefly touch upon the two aspects, but do not clearly state the requirement for ensuring the ‘recovery tangent’. Therefore, in order to ensure maximum efficiency, the activities of the recyclers must be recorded in the system and the authorities should periodically trace the quantity of e-waste that went for recycling vis-à-vis the ‘recovery’ towards the end.
Further, the new notification does away with PRO and dismantlers and vests all the responsibility of recycling with authorised recyclers; they will have to collect a quantity of waste, recycle them and generate digital certificates through the portal. This move seems to be a bit myopic and can cause initial turbulence, where the informal channels may try and seek benefits from. PROs acted as an intermediary between producers and formal recyclers by bidding for contracts from producers and arranging for ‘certified and authorised’ recycling. Fresh challenges might emerge as companies are no longer required to engage with PROs and dismantlers, who partially ensured ‘double verification’ in terms of quantity and quality of recycling.
The informal sector, which plays a crucial role in e-waste handling, draws no recognition in the new rules which could be on account of its ‘illegality’. The informal sector is the ‘face’ of e-waste disposal in India as 95% of e-waste is channelised to the sector. Therefore, they also hold immense potential to improve the state of e-waste management. In the hierarchical process of e-waste collection, segregation and recycling in the informal sector, it is the last stage that poses a major concern where e-waste is handed over to the informal dismantlers/recyclers. The rest of the stages (collection of mixed waste, segregation of e-waste, clustered accumulation of e-waste according to their type) do not involve any hazardous practices and should in fact be strategically utilised for better collection of e-waste. For instance, ‘Karo Sambhav’, a Delhi-based PRO, has integrated informal aggregators in its collection mechanism. Through this initiative, e-waste is entered in a safe and structured system and the informal sector also has an advantage in terms of financial and legal security.
The consumer knows little
Many producers in Delhi have still not set up collection centres and some brands have labelled their head office (located on the outskirts of Delhi) as the ‘only’ collection point. Similarly, formal companies, low in number and clustered in the metropolises, also fail to provide doorstep collection to consumers when the quantum of e-waste is not enough to meet their overhead expenses or transport. On the other hand, consumers lack awareness and information about the existence of any such services.
In order to ensure the efficient implementation of the law, stakeholders must have the right information and intent to safely dispose of e-waste. There is a need for simultaneous and consistent efforts towards increasing consumer awareness, strengthening reverse logistics, building capacity of stakeholders, improving existing infrastructure, enhancing product designing, rationalising input control (by defining ‘rare earth elements’ as ‘critical raw materials’), and adopting green procurement practices. This should be supplemented by establishing a robust collection and recycling system on the ground, making it responsive to meet legislative requirements.