Editorial Analysis

Editorial Analysis
Daily Important News for UPSC Civil Services Examination

The Truth about Eucalyptus

  • Agro-forestry is an age-old practice. Trees and shrubs are important in the traditional farming systems of the tropics, where woody species form a major component of the bush fallow system and are also widely grown in cropped land. Trees and shrubs benefit the farmer in three main areas:
  • Direct agricultural benefits (plant stakes, mulching materials, green manure, animal fodder and so on);
  • Environmental benefits (shade, soil erosion control, nutrient recycling, carbon sequestration and so on);
  • Socioeconomic benefits (saleable commodities like timber, fruits, vegetables, cereals, building materials, and so on).
  • India is a wood fibre-deficient country. Inadequate raw material availability in the country is a major constraint for the domestic paper industry which impacts its cost competitiveness.
  • The policy of converting low value natural forests into plantations was aimed at improving productivity and to generate government revenue.
  •  In order to meet the growing wood requirement, state Forest Development Corporations (FDCs) and the pulp & paper industry joined hands with farmers, leading to the creation of a sustained wood resource base under agro/farm forestry. About 70 per cent of these plantations are of eucalyptus.
  • For the better adaptability of eucalyptus, fast growing, high yielding, site specific Eucalyptus clones, adopting root trainer technology, were developed during the early 1980s. This technology came to India in early 1990s. This technology helps the development of multiple roots, which are surface feeders and go to a depth of 1-3 metres only and do not affect the ground water table.
  • Some 170 species, varieties and provenances of eucalypt were tried in India out of which the most outstanding and favoured has been the E. hybrid, a form of E. tereticornis known as Mysore gum. The most important characteristics of E. Hybrid under Indian conditions are: it is fast growing, capable of over topping weeds, coppices well, is fire hardy, browse resistant and it has the ability to adapt to a wide range of edaphoclimatic conditions.
  • Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and Karnataka are few of the states which produce the bulk of eucalyptus in the country which suffices the demands of the timber, pulp and paper industries. In 2017 Karnataka banned growing of eucalyptus plantations on private land in the state, including the plantations under agro/farm forestry.
  • These actions would have severe social, economic, industrial and environmental consequences and defer from the objectives of National Forest Policy, 1988 as well as National Agro-forestry Policy, 2014.
  • Eucalyptus is accused of being a water-guzzler and is shunned despite its many benefits. It is also defamed for making the soil acidic and showing allelopathic effects.
  • Some 170 species, varieties and provenances of eucalypt were tried in India out of which the most outstanding and favoured has been the Eucalyptus hybrid, and Eucalyptus tereticornis known as Mysore gum. The most important characteristics of E. Hybrid under Indian conditions are: it is fast growing, capable of over topping weeds, coppices well, is fire hardy, browse resistant and it has the ability to adapt to a wide range of edaphoclimatic conditions.
  • Eucalyptus is a topic of contention, not just in India but several countries including Kenya, Chile, Ethiopia, South Africa, Portugal, Pakistan, Indonesia, China and Thailand. But none of these countries other than India has taken as harsh a step as banning its cultivation.

Ecological Effects of Eucalyptus

  • Large scale planting of eucalypt has caused concern to many people as they thought it would have adverse environmental impacts particularly in relation to high water use.
  • But in the root trainer technology, any root system has not gone beyond 3.5m, and its root system is more specifically adapted to using rain-fed soil moisture from the upper soil profile, rather than from the groundwater table at considerable depth.
  • The water use of a Eucalyptus plantation has been found to be 785 litres/kg of total biomass, which is one of the lowest if compared with tree species such as Acacia (1,323 litres/kg), Dalbergia (1,484 litres/kg) and agricultural crops such as paddy rice (2,000 litres/kg) and cotton (3,200 litres/kg).
  • Eucalyptus plantations are economically grown in monoculture. In India, until 1980’s due to the Government policy to convert degraded natural forests into productive plantations, large areas of natural forests with miscellaneous species were cleared for planting eucalypts in monoculture. This trend is completely reversed now and the present policy is not to clear any natural forests for plantations. In established eucalypt plantations raised in the high rainfall zone in the past, indigenous species are allowed to come up after harvesting. At present, plantations of eucalypt are only taken up in barren areas of the dry zone.
  • While it is true that the natural forest is a better habitat for wildlife, eucalypt plantations also support wildlife. One example is the habitat of the Black buck in Ranebennur, Karnataka is eucalypt plantation with sparse and bushy undergrowth. The eucalypt plantation in Ranebennur is also the habitat of the Great Indian Bustard which is an endangered species. 

Conclusion

  • A landmark judgement was delivered by the Punjab and Haryana High Court which stated that if the proper management of eucalyptus cultivation is undertaken, the growing of eucalyptus is neither anti-environment nor is it disastrous for the water table.
  • Eucalyptus plantations yield more net income to farmers than almost 60-70 per cent of agriculture crops. It can play a major role in increasing future farm level income.
  • A Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report 2014, said around 93 per cent of industrial wood requirement of the country is met out of farm/agro forestry plantations (about 70 per cent of which is eucalyptus). It has benefitted the farmers and the industry, and has substantially reduced pressure on forests.
  • Out of India’s total 328.73 million ha of geographical land, 25.98 million ha comprises farmer-owned uncultivated wasteland. Trees like eucalyptus not only help in increasing farmers’ income, but also fulfil the government’s target of covering the geography with 33 per cent of forests (National Forest Policy, 1988) which currently pegs at only 22 per cent.

Toxins in Food

  • Fumonisins are phytotoxic mycotoxins which are synthesized by various species of the fungal genus Fusarium.
  • The trichothecene (TC) mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produce by species that belong to several fungal genera, especially Fusarium. Fusarium mycotoxins are widely dispersed in cereals and their products.
  • Zearalenone (ZEA) is an estrogenic compound produced by Fusarium spp. such as F. graminearum and F. culmorum.
  • Fumonisins, the TCs and ZEA are hazardous for human and animal health. Contamination with TCs causes a number of illnesses in human and animal such as decrease in food consumption (anorexia), depression or inhibition on immune system function and haematoxicity.
  • The most important Fusarium mycotoxins are fumonisins, TCs such as T-2, HT-2, DON, DAS, FUS-X, NIV, diacetylnivalenol, neosolaniol and ZEA. They are common mycotoxins throughout the world, mainly associated with cereal crops, in particular corn, wheat, barley, rye, rice and oats.
  • ZEA was discovered as the cause of a reproductive disorder in pigs known as vulvovaginitis. It is one of the most common Fusarium mycotoxins in the temperate regions of America, Europe and Asia. It is most frequently encountered on corn, but also contaminates other cereals and plant products like oats, barley, wheat and sorghum.

Zeralenone

  • Zearalenone has been detected by scientists in India in maize, oats, rice and wheat.
  • The concentrations of zearalenone in the cereals is significantly higher than the tolerable limits prescribed by the European Union.
  • Zearalenone is a toxin produced by soil fungi and has been known to contaminate cereals during pre-harvest and post-harvest activities. Studies have indicated that zearalenone disrupts the endocrine system, interfering with the normal patterns of hormones.
  • In the absence of regulatory limits, the Indian population is at risk of zearalenone exposure by consuming contaminated cereals.
  • The Food Safety Standards Authority of India does not have limits for zearalenone.
  • The EU, countries such as China, Japan and South Korea have prescribed permissible limits for the toxin in various foods.

Wheat and Barley prices image

  • The Scheme of Mega Food Park aims at providing a mechanism to link agricultural production to the market by bringing together farmers, processors and retailers so as to ensure maximizing value addition, minimizing wastage, increasing farmers income and creating employment opportunities particularly in rural sector.
  • The Mega Food Park Scheme is based on “Cluster” approach and envisages creation of state of art support infrastructure in a well-defined agri / horticultural zone for setting up of modern food processing units in the industrial plots provided in the park with well-established supply chain.
  • Mega food park typically consist of supply chain infrastructure including collection centers, primary processing centers, central processing centers, cold chain and around 30-35 fully developed plots for entrepreneurs to set up food processing units.
  • The Mega Food Park project is implemented by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which is a Body Corporate registered under the Companies Act.
  • So far Twelve Mega Food Parks namely, Patanjali Food and Herbal Park, Haridwar; Srini Food Park, Chittoor; North East Mega Food Park, Nalbari; International Mega Food Park, Fazilka; Integrated Food Park, Tumkur; Jharkhand Mega Food Park, Ranchi; Indus Mega Food Park, Khargoan; Jangipur Bengal Mega Food Park, Murshidabad; MITS Mega Food Park Pvt. Ltd., Rayagada; Satara Mega Food Park, Satara; Himalayan Food Park Pvt. Ltd., Udham Singh Nagar; and Greentech Mega Food Park Pvt. Ltd., Ajmer are functional.
  • Cremica Mega Food Park Pvt Ltd is located at Village Singhain Una District of Himachal Pradesh. This is the first Mega Food Park operationalised in the State of Himachal Pradesh.

Mega Food Park Model

Daily Important News for UPSC Civil Services Examination

Bird Watching

  • Big Bird Day is the annual day long event of Delhi bird watching, held every year since 2004.
  • It entails the dedication of an entire day to bird watching and recording the number of species sighted in a region.
  • The Campus Bird Count is a sub-event of the larger Great Backyard Bird Count. It is a coordinated effort to document the birdlife in multiple campuses across India.
  • The “campus” includes campuses of educational and training institutions, government institutions, research stations, corporate campuses, etc. 
  • It will take place from 15-18 February 2019.
  • GBBC India is the Indian implementation of the global Great Backyard Bird Count, which runs for 4 days every February (15-18 Feb,2019). Indian birders have participated in the GBBC since the event went worldwide in 2013.
  • These annual snapshots of bird populations help answer a variety of important questions, including how birds are distributed across the country, how they are affected by changes in habitat and weather, and whether populations and distributions might be changing from year to year.
  • GBBC India is coordinated by the Bird Count India collective.

India-Russia Relations

  • Initially, Indo-Soviet relations were cold. After the death of Stalin in 1953, the Soviet Union started showing interest in India and voiced its optimism for “friendly cooperation”.
  • This was driven by the Soviet desire to expand contacts in international arena. USSR wanted to promote better relations with the “non-aligned” and newly emerged countries of Afro- Asian region.
  • In June 1955, Nehru visited the Soviet Union, and this was the first visit of Russia by the Indian Prime-minister.
  • The Soviet Union helped India in construction of plants to manufacture heavy equipment & machinery, steel plants, Power plants, plants to produce precision instruments & machine tools, Petroleum extraction and refining facilities.
  • As India had a scarcity of convertible foreign exchange, Indo-Soviet trade was made in “non-convertible national currencies”. Indian acquisition of Soviet military equipment was made under Rupee-Rouble system.
  • The “Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation” signed in August 1971 was a defining moment in India Russia relation. It marked a high point of our bilateral cooperation. The treaty safeguarded India’s “security, sovereignty and territorial integrity”, and made China to refrain from getting involved in 1971 Indo-Pak war in favour of Pakistan.
  • The Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991. With the emergence of independent Central Asian Republics, Russia’s borders fell further apart. The stand taken by India during the August 1991 coup did not go down well for India-Russia relations.
  • Thereafter, India and Russia decided to redefine their relations define based on the ground realities created by post cold war situation. . In 1993 the 1971 treaty was further extended after deleting security clauses.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India in October 2000, and this visit gave a boost to our bilateral relations.

Political Relations

  • Russia has been a longstanding and time-tested partner for India. The development of India-Russia relations has been a key pillar of India’s foreign policy.
  • The signing of the “Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership” in October 2000, provided additional impetus to bilateral ties and contributed towards the enhancement of cooperation in almost all areas of the bilateral relationship.
  • This relationship is predominantly based on “extensive military cooperation”, enhanced by a collective vision of India & Russia, regarding “desirable international order” and similarity of their opinion on “important issues related to regional and international security”.
  • During the visit of the Russian President to India in December 2010, the Strategic Partnership was elevated to the level of a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership.”
  • Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation meet annually for the Annual Bilateral Summit which is the highest institutionalized dialogue mechanism in the strategic partnership between the two countries.
  • The 19th bilateral summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir was held in 2018.
  • The two countries also held their first informal Summit in the city of Sochi in the Russian Federation on May 21, 2018. The Summit provided an occasion for both leaders to deepen their friendship and to exchange views on international and regional issues, in keeping with the tradition of high level political exchanges between India and Russia.
  • There is regular high-level interaction between the two countries. Two Inter- Governmental Commissions – one on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC), and another on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC- MTC), meet annually.

Defence Relations

  • India-Russia military technical cooperation has evolved from a buyer – seller framework to joint research, development and production of advanced defense technologies and systems.
  • BrahMos Missile System as well as the licensed production in India of SU-30 aircraft and T-90 tanks, are examples of such flagship cooperation.
  • The two countries also hold exchanges and training exercises between their armed forces. The first-ever TriServices exercise –‘INDRA 2017’ took place in Vladivostok in 2017. The Exercise focused on Counter-terror operations. Joint India-Russia Air Force exercise ‘Avia Indra’ took place in Lipetsk from September 2018.
  • During the 19th Annual Summit, the two sides signed agreement on supply of S-400 air defense systems. Earlier during the 17th annual summit, the sides had concluded agreement on construction of frigates under Project 1135.6 and shareholders agreement on the formation of joint venture to manufacture Ka-226T helicopters in India.
  • A road-map for the development of bilateral defence cooperation was signed during the 17th Meeting of the IRIGC-MTC. The 3rd round of India-Russia Military Industrial Conference was held in 2018 in Chennai where 7 MOUs were signed between the Industries for production in India.
  • India also participated in the International military-Technical Forum ‘Army – 2017’ held in Moscow in August 2017. Secretary (Defence Production visited Moscow for the International Military-Technical Forum Army 2018 and 4th Military Industrial Conference from Aug 21-25th 2018.

Trade and Bilateral Relations

  • To prepare a road map for raising bilateral trade, a Joint Study Group was set up. Based on its report submitted in 2007, “a Joint Task Force comprising the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Russian Ministry of Economic Development was set up in February 2008 to monitor progress on CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement).
  • In December 2014, the leaders of the two countries set a target of US$30 billion bilateral trade by 2025. Russian investments in India in 2017 have reached USD 18bn and India’s total investment in Russia so far is USD 13bn. The overall investment target of USD 30 bn that was set for 2025 has already been reached. The investment target has been raised from USD 30bn to USD 50bn by 2025 during the 19th Annual Bilateral Summit in October 2018.
  • The Russian Ministry has launched ‘Single window Service’ in October 2018 to facilitate hassle-free investment by Indian companies which will help achieve mutual trade and investment target.
  • In 2017-18, bilateral trade between the two countries was USD 10.69 billion. It includes Russian exports to India amounting to USD 8.6 billion and Indian exports to Russia amounting USD 2.1 billion.
  • Major import items in India from Russia during 2017-18 were mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation, bituminous substances; Natural or cultured pearls, precious or semiprecious stones, precious metals; Fertilizers; Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; Electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers, television image and sound recorders and reproducers, and parts.
  • Top export items from India to Russia during 2017-18 were Pharmaceutical products; Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances: parts thereof; Organic chemicals; Coffee, tea, mate and spices; Vehicles other than railway or tramway rolling stock, and parts and accessories thereof.

Nuclear Relations

  • Russia is an important partner for India in the area of peaceful use of nuclear energy. It recognizes India as a country with advanced nuclear technology with an impeccable non-proliferation record.

  • In December 2014, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Russia’s Rosatom signed the Strategic Vision for strengthening cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy between India and Russia.

  • Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is being built in India with Russian cooperation. KKNPP Units 1 and 2 have already become operational.

  • An agreement on localization of manufacturing of nuclear equipment in India was also concluded during the Annual Summit in 2015.

  • Both sides finalized and signed the General Framework Agreement and Credit Protocol for Unit 5&6 in 2017 in St. Petersburg.

  • A trilateral MoU on cooperation in the implementation of the Rooppur NPP construction project in Bangladesh was signed in March 2018 between DAE, Ministry of Science and Technology of Bangladesh and State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom.

  • MoU on Action Plan for Prioritization and Implementation of Cooperation Areas in the Nuclear Field was signed during the 19th Annual Summit in October in New Delhi.

Space Cooperation

  • India-Russia cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of outer space dates back to about four decades.
  • 2015 marked the 40th anniversary of the launch of India’s first satellite “Aryabhatt” on a Russian (then USSR) launch vehicle ‘C-1 Interkosmos.’
  • In 2007, India and Russia signed a framework agreement on cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, including satellite launches, GLONASS navigation system, remote sensing and other societal applications of outer space.
  • In June 2015, the space agencies signed an MoU on expansion of cooperation in the field of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.
  • An agreement was signed between C-DAC and GLONASS for cooperation in technologies based on satellite navigation.
  • In 2016, ISRO and Roscosmos signed a MoU to establish ground measurement gathering stations for GLONASS and NAVIC in India and Russia.
  • Both sides are exploring the possibility of cooperation in manned space flight and a MoU between Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the Federal Space Agency of Russia ‘ROSCOSMOS’ on Joint Activities in the field of Human Spaceflight Programme was signed during the 19th Bilateral Summit.

Science & Technology

  • The Working Group on Science and Technology functioning under IRIGC-TEC, the Integrated Long Term Programme (ILTP) and the Basic Science Cooperation Programme are the three main institutional mechanisms for bilateral Science and Technology cooperation,
  • India-Russia Science and Technology Centre promote two-way transfer of technologies and their commercialization.
  • A new mechanism of cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technological cooperation came into effect from 21st June 2017 after the setting-up of India-Russia High Level Committee on Scientific & Technological Cooperation (S&T Commission) in Novosibirsk, Russia. The Second Executive council meeting of the Commission was held in New Delhi in Nov 2017 and the third meeting is to be held in Russia.
  • Two new Programmes of Cooperation in the field of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Biotechnology concluded in October 2013 have become active mechanisms for cooperation as they support joint R&D projects.
  • In December 2014, Indian Council of Medical Research and Russian Foundation of Basic Research entered into an MoU for cooperation in health research.
  • In May 2015, Department of Science & Technology (DST) and Russian Science Foundation signed an agreement to support basic and exploratory research.
  • During the 16th Annual Summit, C-DAC, IISc (Bangalore) and Moscow State University signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of high performance computing.
  • During the 17th Summit, DST and FASO (Federal Agency for Scientific Organization) signed an agreement for cooperation in the field of science and technology. A Basic Science Cooperation Programme between DST and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research has been working quite successfully from 2016-17.
  • A number of new initiatives such as the India-Russia Bridge to Innovation, cooperation in telemedicine, creation of a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), GIAN, and the Russia-India Network (RIN) of Universities are being promoted to encourage the growth of bilateral interaction in the field of S&T.

Education

  • Education is a strong pillar of bilateral cooperation between India and the Russian Federation.
  • India-Russia Network of Universities (RIN) was established in 2015 to consolidate the efforts of universities in the supply of their countries’ knowledge-based economies with human, scientific and technological resources. The Association enhances the experience exchange and cooperation in higher education, science and innovations issues. The National coordinators of RIN are the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and the Tomsk State University.
  • The 2nd India-Russia education conference was organized in February, 2018 to comprehensively examine various issues relating to educational cooperation between India and the Russian Federation with a view to strengthening it further.
  • An outcome document was adopted laying down a number of concrete measures in order to improve the educational experience of the students studying in Russia and make the admission process and post-admission management more student-friendly and transparent.
  • During the 19th Annual Bilateral Summit in New Delhi, expansion of linkages between higher education institutions of two countries was noted.
  • The sides also noted the great interest in academic exchanges of teachers and students, as well as in working on joint scientific and educational projects.

Cultural Cooperation

  • There is a strong tradition of Indian studies in Russia. Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre at the Embassy of India, Moscow (JNCC) maintains close cooperation with leading Russian institutions.
  • About 20 Russian Institutions, including leading universities and schools, regularly teach Hindi to about 1500 Russian students. Apart from Hindi, languages such as Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu, Sanskrit and Pali are taught in Russian Institutions. There is strong interest among Russian people in Indian dance, music, yoga and Ayurveda. JNCC conducts classes in yoga, dance, music and Hindi for approximately 500 students every month.
  • There are regular cultural initiatives to promote people-to-people contacts between India and Russia, including reciprocal Years of Culture. The President of India inaugurated the “Year of Indian Culture” (YID) ‘Namaste Russia’ in Moscow on 10 May 2015.
  • The 4th IDY in June 2018 was celebrated all over Russia. A ‘Road map of Events’ to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between India and Russia was implemented successfully.
  • Nearly 400 people from India took part in the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students which was held in Sochi in October 2017. Indian film ‘Newton’ won the ‘Transform Nation’ film award during this festival.
  • A Cultural Exchange Programme for 2017-19 was signed between the two countries in June 2017 on the sidelines of the 18th Annual Summit.
  • Festival of India was organized after a gap of 30 years, in the Russian Federation on 6th September 2018 at the Kremlin Palace and will continue till 31st March 2019 in 22 cities at 34 locations with 10 troupes representing the different facets of Indian culture.
  • Russia has been an active partner country for ITEC scholarship with around 76 Russians taking the benefit of this program for the 2017-18 period. The number of ICCR scholarships has also been steadily growing every year.

Indian Community in Russia

  • Indian Community in the Russian Federation is estimated at about 30,710.
  • In addition, about 1,500 Afghan nationals of Indian origin live in Russia. About 500 Indian businessmen reside in Russia out of which around 200 work in Moscow.
  • Majority of Indian businessmen/companies in Russia are involved in trading. Some entities also represent Indian banks, pharmaceuticals, hydrocarbon and engineering companies. Tea, coffee, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, rice, spices, leather footwear, granite, I.T. and garments are amongst the products being imported by these companies from India.
  • There are approximately 11000 Indian students enrolled in medical and technical institutions in the Russian Federation. About 90% of them pursue medical studies in about 20 universities/institutions across Russia.
  • Hindustani Samaj is the oldest Indian organization in Russia functioning since 1957.
  • Other Indian organizations in Moscow include the Indian Business Alliance, Overseas Bihar Association, AMMA (All Moscow Malayalee Association), DISHA (Indian-Russian Friendship Society), Textile Business Alliance, Bhartiya Sanskritik Samaj, and Ramakrishna Society Vedanta Centre.

The Organic RouteOrganic Route

  • The tea is considered one of the most widely consumed, but cheapest beverage accepted by almost all age groups in the society. Globally, more than three billion cups of tea are drunk daily.
  • The tea crop has particular agro-climatic requirements found in tropical and subtropical climates. Tea is a natural beverage obtained from upper two younger leaves and a leaf bud of an evergreen plant Camellia sinensis.
  • Tea is commercially cultivated in more than 65 countries. Globally, total tea production is over 5 billion kg per year, where, India, one of the leaders in world tea production, contributes about 1.2 billion kg of tea.
  • Commercial cultivation of tea in India was started in Assam from the year 1835. In India tea cultivation is spread in more than 15 states, of which, Assam (52.0%), West Bengal (25.8%), Tamil Nadu (14.5 %) and Kerala (5.3%) are producing more than 97% of total tea production. Other states where the tea is produced in small extents are Tripura, Karnataka, Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Orissa and Bihar.
  • India produces world’s finest tea due to certain geographic uniqueness. For instance, Assam tea is famous for their strong and brisk liquor; Nilgiri tea is well known for their delicate flavour and brightness; and the Darjeeling tea is famous for its unique colour and aroma.

Organic Tea Cultivation

  • Tea is best known as a plantation crop, and that has been its basis in India since it was introduced there in the 19th century. Tea plantations are often called ‘estates’ or ‘tea gardens.
  • The model was introduced into India in colonial times by ‘planters’, mostly from the UK, and until the 1950s it was thought to be the only way to produce tea to commercial standards.
  • When during the 1950s, Kenya decided to produce tea for export it based its plan on smallholders. The experiment succeeded, marking the start of the modern trend for smallholders in developing countries to produce cash crops to export standards as ‘outgrowers’ for an external agency.
  • In India, there was a large increase in smallholder production in the Nilgiris area of Tamil Nadu in the 1980s, and since then it has been on the rise in Assam, North Bengal and Bihar in the North.
  • Small-scale tea farmers are those cultivating the crop on 50 cents to five acres of land.
  • A downturn in the tea industry, which began in 1999, has hit this class of tea producers the hardest.
  • This has been caused by various factors, chiefly international competition, aggressive marketing by soft drinks companies and high cost of production.
  • European buyers have gone for Kenyan teas since their cost of production is much lower and Kenyan growers have also shifted to organic production much sooner than Indian growers.

Advantages

  • The term organic describes both how an agricultural product is grown and processed. An organic product is free of chemicals, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic modifications and field use of sewage sludge as fertiliser.
  • One of the primary reasons for a shift to the organic sector is the premium market that commands high prices.
  • Organic tea cultivation could also be a solution to restore/increase the continuous depleting crop productivity under the present chemical farming practice, to restore soil/ecosystem, depleted under years of synthetic fertilisers and agro-chemical application and to redress the problem of climate change and to generate employment and reduce health hazards for the workers.
  • Organic is viable because it reduces input costs, and improves the quality of green leaf and makes it more acceptable in foreign markets.

Challenges

  • External organic inputs like purchased cowdung manure, neem oil, neem cake and branded biopesticides are very expensive and their availability in remote areas is poor.
  • Marketing their teas is another major challenge before the small growers who are processing their own leaf, especially those who are going organic. The rest of the green leaf is sold to a tea factory.
  • Until self-sufficiency is achieved, growers are at a major disadvantage while dealing with the factories they sell their produce to.
  •  Because of the absence of adequate processing facility close by, the small growers have to send leaf to far-off factories. Such long transportation of green leaf impacts quality of the leaf as well as price realization by the growers. Moreover, in an excess supply situation, small growers have to accept the price dictated by the bought leaf-factories (BLFs) and estate factories.
  • One big hurdle is that organic certification by a recognized agency costs money and requires a mandatory waiting period of three years before the certificate is given. While the big growers and gardens engage the services of consultants and experts to guide them in the process of organic conversion, for the small grower it is groping in the dark.
  • The lack of adequate resources, training and manpower has kept the majority of small growers bound to chemical agriculture.
Daily Important News for UPSC Civil Services Examination

Hilsa Maach

Hilsa Maach

  • Hilsa is the national fish of Bangladesh and considered to be a great delicacy in Bengali cuisine.
  • The largest and tastiest varieties of hilsa come from Bangladesh, found in its Padma-Meghna-Jamuna delta, the largest such natural feature in the world.
  • The hilsa is an anadromous fish. It lives most of its lives in the sea but around the monsoon, when it is time to spawn, the hilsa swims against the tide and goes back to the river where its mother had given birth to it
  • Over the past decades, hilsa production has seen a crisis, with overfishing and damming causing catches to nosedive. Much of this has to do with the Farakka Barrage dam on the Bhagirathi, a distributary of the Ganga.
  • Before the dam’s construction, hilsa was available upstream right till Allahabad but now the fish has mostly disappeared west of Bengal.
  • Water flow to the Padma fell the year the Farakka Barrage was commissioned in the 1990s. This, combined with overfishing of juvenile fish and pollution, means that fish production has gone down in Bangladesh too.
  • Now Bangladeshi fishermen have to go deep into the ocean to catch hilsa. Earlier the hilsa would move from the Bay of Bengal to Bangladesh’s rivers, the Padma and the Meghna, for spawning. It would also take the western route to the Ganga.
  • Now there is more hilsa in the west, in areas bordering Indian waters. Dubo chars (submerged sand islands) have increased in the ocean near Bangladesh in the past ten years. The hilsa, which prefers unhindered migration, has swum away from waters under Bangladeshi control.

This is a debated issue as the Farakka restricts hilsa’s movement. The area just below the barrage has become a point of indiscriminate fishing. Before the barrage was constructed, the fish would swim upstream as far as Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh.

Developments

  • Now, after a gap of over 40 years, the hilsa will be able to swim down the Ganga all the way up to Allahabad this monsoon.
  • The barrage came with a navigation lock that blocked the free movement of Hilsa. This was being done as a part of the efforts to preserve the biodiversity of Ganga. A navigation lock is a device that is used to raise and lower boats and ships between stretches of water on a river.
  • This lock has now been redesigned to ensure smooth and safe migration of the hilsa shoal during the three mating seasons, particularly during monsoon.
  • The navigation lock being built at a cost of Rs 361 crore as a part of Jal Marg Vikas Pariyojna.
  • The pressure on the silver fish saw India-Bangladesh foreign relations come into play. With falling fish numbers, Bangladesh resented India sucking up large amounts during the monsoons. Domestic pressure has resulted in bans being placed on and off, the most recent one being clamped down in 2012.
  • India has been pro-active in trying to pressure Dhaka to reverse this ban. As part of the India-Bangladesh Joint Working Group on Trade, India has been hard at work trying to convince Bangladesh to allow the export of Hilsa from their deltaic country.

Global IP Index

Gloabl IP Index

  • According to the 6th edition of the latest international Intellectual Property (IP) index released by the US Chambers of Commerce’s  Global Innovation Policy Center’s (GIPC’s), India ranks 44th out of 50 countries wherein India’s overall score has increased substantially from 25% (8.7 out of 35) in 2017 to 30% (12.03 out of 40) in 2018.
  • In 2017, India ranked 43rd out of 45 countries in the index, with an overall score of 8.7 point.
  • USA topped the list with a score of 37.98 points, followed by United Kingdom (UK) and Sweden with scores of 37.97 and 37.03 respectively.
  • The report analyses the intellectual property (IP) climate in 50 world economies based on 40 unique indicators that benchmark activity critical to innovation development surrounding patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secrets protection.
  • The report mentions that India has broken free of the bottom ten percent of economies measured, and its score represents the largest percentage improvement of any country measured for the first time.

Key Areas of Strength

  • India’s performance on the Index finely captures the Government of India’s incremental, consistent initiatives over time to improve the country’s IP ecosystem, guided by the vision of the 2016 National IP Rights Policy:
  • Accession to WIPO Internet Treaties shows India’s recognition of international standards of copyright protection.
  • New pilot PPH program with the JPO is a positive step.
  • Generous R&D and IP-based incentives.
  • Global leader in targeted administrative incentives for the creation and use of IP assets for SMEs
  • Strong awareness raising efforts on the negative impact of piracy and counterfeiting.

The government’s pro-IP policies, have the potential to transform the government’s programmes such as ‘Accelerating Growth for New India Innovations,’ ‘Startup India’, and ‘Digital India’ to economic reality.

Key Areas of Weakness

  • Despite India’s improved show there are still substantial challenges regarding the country’s patenting and IP enforcement environment:
  • Barriers to licensing and technology transfer, including strict registration requirements.
  • Limited framework for the protection of biopharmaceuticals IP rights.
  • Patentability requirements outside international standards.
  • No RDP available or patent term restoration for biopharmaceuticals.
  • Lengthy pre-grant opposition proceedings.

Illegal Mining

Illegal Mining image

  • Mining is considered illegal when it is done without a license or outside the licensed area and when more than the permissible amount is extracted.
  • In August 2017, Supreme Court in the light of rampant illegal mining, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to revise the National Mineral Policy by December 2017.
  • India is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of mica, coal, iron ore, bauxite and manganese. It has long been grappling with illegal mining, primarily in Karnataka, Goa, Haryana, Rajasthan and Odisha, ever since it opened up mining to private companies in the 1990s.
  • From soil erosion and groundwater contamination to loss of forest cover and biodiversity, unbridled mining plays havoc with an ecosystem.
  • Maharashtra tops the list of states, registering highest number of illegal mining cases from 2009-10 to 2016-17.
  • Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu are the only four states that have registered a decline in illegal mining.
  • Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are the four states where the number of illegal mining cases of major minerals has increased.
  • In India, the classifications of ‘minor minerals’ and ‘major minerals’ have been done according to Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. Minerals such as coal, lignite and iron ore are considered as ‘major minerals’.
  • The Shah Commission is a high power panel set up by the Union Ministry of Mines in 2010 to look into the illegal mining of iron ore and manganese in the country.

Developments

  • The Ministry of Mines has formed a three pronged strategy for prevention of illegal mining:
  • The first is the constitution of a task force by state governments at the state or district level, which also includes a representative of Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM).
  • The second step is about requesting states to frame rules under Section 23C of the MMDRA Act, 1957:
  1. A Central Coordination-cum-Empowered Committee has been set by Government, with representation from State Governments and Central Ministries concerned, to consider all mining related issues, including specifically, matters relating to coordination of activities to combat illegal mining at regular intervals.
  2. The State Governments have been advised to set up State Coordination-cum-Empowered Committee (SCEC) to coordinate efforts to control illegal mining by including representatives of Railways, Customs and Port authorities. Separately the State Governments have also been advised to prepare and adopt an Action Plan with specific measures to detect and control illegal mining including, use of remote sensing, control on traffic, gather market intelligence, registration of end-users and setting up of special cells etc.
  • The third is about asking states to furnish quarterly returns on illegal mining for review by the Central government.
  • The Central Government amended Rule 45 of the Mineral Conservation and Development Rules, 1988, making it mandatory for all miners, traders, stockists, exporters and end-users to register with the Indian Bureau of Mines and report on movement of minerals to Indian Bureau of Mines and State Government as one of the measures to combat illegal mining.

States and their minerals

  • Karnataka
  • Minerals: Gold, iron, manganese, clay, ochre, quartz, gemstones, copper, kaolin, limestone, magnetite.
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Minerals: Barites, iron-ore, semi-precious stones, granites, sand.
  • Goa
  • Minerals: Iron, manganese, bauxite.
  • Chhattisgarh
  • Minerals: Iron ore, coal and bauxite, 22 varieties of other minerals, including diamonds.
  • Odisha
  • Minerals: Iron ore, coal, bauxite, chromite, nickel and cobalt.
  • MP
  • Minerals: Diamond, copper, limestone, sand, manganese.
  • Rajasthan
  • Minerals: Marble, sandstone, rich non-metallic & industrial minerals, limestone, lignite
  • West Bengal
  • Minerals: Coal, apalite, asbestos, barytes, China clay, ochre, sand, graphite, mica, titanium ore.
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Minerals: Sand, bauxite, magnetite and granite quarrying also take place.
  • Haryana
  • Minerals: Minor but crucial in infrastructure projects: gravel, clay, sand.
  • Bihar
  • Minerals: Sand mining, stone quarrying in hilly areas.
Daily Important News for UPSC Civil Services Examination

RBI cuts Repo Rate

15repo

  • The monetary policy committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cut the repo rate by 25 basis points (bps) to 6.25 per cent.

  • The repo rate cut will nudge banks to cut interest rates on loans for borrowers and provide a stimulus for demand in the economy.

  • The central bank also changed its monetary policy stance — a key signalling indicator to the markets —to ‘neutral’ from ‘calibrated tightening’, to boost a slowing economy after a sharp fall in the inflation rate.

  • The repo rate is the rate at which banks borrow from the RBI in case of shortage of funds.

  • The resulting lower cost of funds from cut in the policy rates may help the NBFC (non-banking finance companies) sector to recover faster and its positive effects would trickle down to the larger sections of the economy, namely real estate and micro small and medium enterprises.

  • The reason for reducing the repo rates is due to CPI inflation being revised downwards. This necessitates the need for strengthening of private investment activity and increase private consumption.

Regulatory Changes

  • The RBI also announced a string of regulatory changes including raising the limit of collateral free bank loans for farmers to Rs 1.6 lakh from Rs 1 lakh currently. This will enhance coverage of small and marginal farmers in the formal credit system.

  • Banks have also been given greater operational freedom to offer interest rates to bulk deposits, raising the definition of “bulk deposits” to Rs 2 crore from Rs 1 crore currently.

  • Bidders to be permitted under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code to raise funds through external commercial borrowings for repaying existing lenders.

  • Umbrella organizations likely to be setup for urban cooperative banks. Apart from extending capital to UCBs, it can also set up information and technology infrastructure for shared use. It can also offer manage fund and other consultancy services

  • Shadow banks involved in asset finance, loan and investment companies, have now been brought under a single category to provide NBFCs greater flexibility in operations.

Contempt of Court

contempt

  • The makers of the constitution upheld the sanctity and prestige of the Judicial institution by placing provisions under articles 129 and 215 of the constitution, which enables the courts to hold individuals in contempt if they attempt to demean or belittle their authority.

  • There have been several legislations passed since as early as 1926 to govern the law of contempt in the country, the current one being The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 which stood amended last in 2006.

  •  The term has been defined in the Section 2(a) of The Contempt of Court Act, 1971. It defines the term to mean ‘civil contempt or criminal contempt.’

  • Civil contempt is a wrong of private nature that injures the interests of the party that is entitled to benefit from the order so disobeyed, criminal contempt is a misdeed against the society at large where the contemner by his words or actions undermines the authority of the court and brings it disrepute.

  • The Calcutta High Court in Legal Remembrancer v. Motilal Ghose and the Allahabad High Court in Vijay Pratap Singh v. Ajit Prasad have both outlined the difference between the two contempt.

  • There are cases of contempt that are neither typically in the nature of civil nor criminal. Such acts of contempt are called Sui Generis.

  • The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 applies to the whole of India except to the State of Jammu and Kashmir insofar as the offence is not in relation to the Supreme Court.

  • The statute of 1971 has been amended by the Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Act, 2006 to include the defence of truth under Section 13 of the original legislation.

  • Section 13 that already served to restrict the powers of the court in that they were not to hold anyone in contempt unless it would substantially interfere with the due process of justice, the amendment further states that the court must permit ‘justification by truth as a valid defence if it is satisfied that it is in public interest and the request for invoking the said defence is bona fide.’

LAIRCM

Large-Aircraft-Infrared-Countermeasures

  • The Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures [LAIRCM] system is an active countermeasure that defeats the threat missile guidance system by directing a high-intensity modulated laser beam into the missile seeker.

  • The purpose of Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) program is to protect large aircraft from man-portable missiles.

  • The LAIRCM system will increase crew-warning time, decrease false alarm rates and automatically counter advanced IR missile systems. The missile warning subsystem will use multiple sensors to provide full spatial coverage. The counter-measures subsystem will use lasers mounted in pointer-tracker turret assemblies.

  • LAIRCM is an active countermeasure that defeats the threat missile guidance system by directing a high-intensity modulated laser beam into the missile seeker. In addition, the LAIRCM system automatically counters advanced IR missile systems with no action required by the crew. The pilot will simply be informed that a threat missile was detected and jammed.

  • Northrop Grumman’s AN/AAQ-24 (V) NEMESIS system is currently in use by the military in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

  • The current LAIRCM system configuration [AN/AAQ-24V(13)] consists of an ultra-violet missile-warning sensor (MWS), a missile-tracking system, multi-band laser jammers, control interface unit and processors to detect, track, jam and counter incoming IR missiles.

  • The proposed military sale of two 777 LAIRCM SPS to India by the US will improve India’s capabilities to deter regional threats, and will support foreign policy and national security of the US by helping strengthen the US-India strategic relationship.

Daily Important News for UPSC Civil Services Examination

GSAT-31

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched the GSAT-31 from the Kourou launch base in French Guiana, by Ariane-5 launch vehicle (VA-247). It is the 23rd time that an Ariane vehicle was used to launch ISRO’s communication satellite.
  • The GSAT-31 is the 40th communication satellite launched by ISRO.
  • GSAT-31 is configured on ISRO’s enhanced I-2K Bus, utilising the maximum bus capabilities of this type.
  • I-2K is a satellite bus developed by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is a standard bus for 2,000 kg class satellites; the ‘I’ in I-2K stands for INSAT, a group of communication satellites developed and launched by ISRO.
  • The GSAT-31 weighs 2,536 kgs, much lighter than the GSAT-29 which weighed 3423 kgs.
  • The GSAT-31 would be replacing Insat- 4CR which was launched in September 2007. The GSAT-31 shares the same platform as that of the Insat-4CR, which is I-2K bus enhanced for maximum and better transmission.
  • It has a better mission life of 15 years compared to Insat-4cr’s 12 years.
  • The Ariane-5 vehicle (Flight VA247) also carried Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1/Hellas Sat 4 along with GSAT-31.
  • Comprising two payloads, Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1/Hellas Sat 4, also called HS- 4/SGS-1, is a geostationary condosat for KACST (King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology Saudi Arabia) and Hellas Sat (Greece Cyprus).
  • HS- 4/SGS-1 will provide telecommunication capabilities, including television, Internet, telephone and secure communications in the Middle East, South Africa and Europe

Applications

  • GSAT-31 will be used for supporting Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) networks  for Automated Teller Machine(ATM), Stock-exchange, Television uplinks, Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG), DTH- television services, cellular back-haul connectivity, e-governance applications and many other activities.
  • The satellite will also be used for bulk data transfer for a host of emerging telecommunication applications.
  • The satellite also provides wide beam coverage using a wide band transponder for communications over oceanic regions like the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.
  • Two Ku-band beacon downlink signals are transmitted by the satellite for ground tracking purpose.

Le Mans Race

Le Mans Race

  • The 87th running of the legendary endurance race will take place June 15-16, 2019. For the first time ever, the 24 Hours of Le Mans will mark the end of the World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) season (the 2018-2019 Super Season).
  • It is the world’s oldest active sports car race in endurance racing, held annually since 1923 near the town of Le Mans, France.
  • It is considered one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world and has been called the “Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency”. The event represents one leg of the Triple Crown of Motorsport; other events being the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix.
  • It is the ultimate endurance test for man and machine. The car that covers the greatest distance in 24 hours is the winner. The 24-hour races were originally developed to test the durability of materials and showcase innovative techniques. In a 24-hour race a team is always made up of several drivers.
  • The Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans, also known as Circuit de la Sarthe, is a semi-permanent motorsport race course chiefly known as the venue for the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race.
  • Comprising private, race-specific sections of track in addition to public roads, its present configuration is 13.626 kilometres (8.467 mi) long, making it one of the longest circuits in the world.
  • Arjun Maini is all set to broaden his horizons as he joins RLR MSport for the 87th edition of the 24 Hours of LeMans on June 15 and 16 and a full season in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS).
  • Maini will share the RLR MSportprepared ORECA with former Formula One star Bruno Senna and Canadian racer John Farano in the ELMS.

Apple Pickle

Apple Pickel

  • The apple line, which refers to the traditional apple growing areas in the Indian Himalayan Region, has been shifting to higher altitudes as temperature rises.
  • The changing pattern of rainfall and increase in average maximum and minimum temperature has caused significant fluctuation in crop production with traditional temperate fruit belt moving upwards. The rising number of hail storms is also affecting fruit production.
  • Due to increased temperature and early melting of snow in dry temperate regions in Himachal Pradesh, apple cultivation has shifted to higher reaches, mostly to areas at altitude between 2200 to 2500 meters above the sea level.
  • Now it seems the apple line is also coming down with farmers at lower altitudes beginning to grow varieties of apple that do not require much chilling.
  • This is becoming possible with new technology and adaptive capacity of mountain farmers.
  •  While low-chill varieties of apple were being grown, they do not fetch a good price in the market because of inferior fruit quality. The Indian market is being flooded with imported apples from New Zealand, China, Iran and Chile.
  • Though traditional apple growing belts are experiencing a stir, climate change has also opened up new opportunities for high hill farmers. The number of ‘Growing Degree Days’ – which implies days suitable for plant growth – are increasing in the region. This is beneficial for introduction of new crops in the hills.

Legacy of the Agra Fort

Quila of Akbari

  • Situated on the right bank of the Yamuna river, very close to the iconic Taj Mahal, is the 16th century Agra Fort, also known as the Red Fort or “Qila-i-Akbari”.
  • It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983.
  • It is the only fort in India that was inhabited by all the early Mughal emperors. The fort’s palaces and pavilions inspired the Red Fort (Lal Qila) in Delhi and buildings in Fatehpur Sikri and Lahore.
  • The history of the Agra Fort is not just connected with the Mughals, but also with Mahmud of Ghazni, the Rajputs, the Lodis, the Surs, the Marathas, the Jats, the Durranis and finally, the British, before the greater part of the complex was handed over to the Indian Army in 1947.
  • The fort has a semicircular shape and is surrounded by a broad deep moat. Spread over 94 acres (38 hectares) of land, the fort complex is enclosed by a double-battlemented wall of red sandstone punctuated at regular intervals by massive circular bastions. It has a circumference of almost 2.5 kilometres and its walls are around 21m high.
  • The fort has four gates, one on each side. Of these, the Delhi Gate (in the north) and the Amar Singh Gate (in the south, now the public entrance to the fort) are the most prominent ones. The other two gates are the Elephant Gate (Hathi Pol Gate) and the Khizri Gate (also known as the water gate because it opened on the eastern riverfront side where the ghats were located).
  • Most buildings are concentrated in the south-eastern corner of the fort complex in a band-like succession of courtyards along the riverfront.
  • After ascending the ramp through the Amar Singh Gate, on the eastern side, there are two courtyards of Akbar’s time: Jahangiri Mahal and Akbari Mahal.
  • Akbari Mahal and Jahangiri Mahal were built in the mid 1560s and formed a part of the original Bengali Mahal. The oldest red stone palace in the southern part of the fort complex became known as Akbari Mahal, and the stone palace, a monolithic granite bowl built by Jahangir in 1611 became known as Jahangiri Mahal.
  • In the south to north direction, there are three courtyards that Shah Jahan rebuilt along the riverfront: the Anguri Bagh (Grape Garden), the Machli Bhawan (Fish House) and the Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of Public Audience).
  • There are three surviving mosques built by Shah Jahan; the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque, 1647-53), the Mina Masjid (or Gem Mosque, completed in 1637, it was the emperor’s private mosque) and the Nagina Masjid (Jewel Mosque).
  • These are smaller mosques, mostly with a direct imperial connection, which have an additive system of vaulted bays—they may have flat or coved ceilings, domes or even high bangla vaults—and could appear without pishtaqs and outer domes. They also do not have minarets like the great city mosques , such as Jami Masjid of Agra.

Historical Background

  • It is mentioned for the first time in 1080 AD when a Ghaznavide force captured it. Later, towards the second half of the 15th century, a Rajput king called Badal Singh constructed a brick fort at the site and called it Badalgarh fort.
  • Sikandar lodhi (1487-1517) was the first sultan of Delhi who shifted to Agra and lived in the fort. He governed the country from here and Agra assumed the prominence of the second capital.
  • From the Lodis, the fort passed into the hands of the Mughals. After defeating Ibrahim Lodi at the First Battle of Panipat (1526), Babur (regnal years 1526-30), the first Mughal emperor, ordered his son Humayun to take charge of Agra and its vast treasure , which included the diamond later named “Koh-i-noor”.
  • Humayun (1530-40 and 1555-56) was crowned at the fort in 1530. The Afghan chieftain Sher Shah defeated him at Bilgram in 1540, occupied the Agra Fort. Humayun could recapture his throne only in 1555.
  • With the arrival of Akbar (1556-1605) in 1558, Agra’s and the fort’s fortunes changed completely. After staying in the Badalgarh fort for a few years, he decided to rebuild it as the site of his government, and the old brick fort gave way to a new one in red sandstone.
  • After Akbar’s death Jahangir was coronated in the fort in 1605. Agra continued to be the capital of the Mughal Empire. He built three white marble mosques in it: moti-masjid, nagina-masjid and mina-masjid.
  • After the battle of samogarh in 1658, aurangzeb besieged the fort. Auranagzeb imprisoned his own father, Shah Jahan in the fort where he lived as a prisoner for 8 years. He died in 1666 and was buried in the Taj mahal.
  • When the British took over the fort in 1803, they destroyed many buildings to make way for military structures. The complex now has only around two dozen monuments left, mostly those built by Akbar and Shah Jahan.
Daily Important News for UPSC Civil Services Examination

Syllabus Reference- GS Paper III

ICIMOD Report

ice bergs

  • One of the world’s iciest regions is melting away in the face of climate change. Glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, could lose more than a third of their volume by the end of the century. And if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current levels, the region could lose as much as two-thirds of its ice.
  • The findings were published in the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development report, or ICIMOD, an intergovernmental organization focused on environmental and social change in Hindu Kush Himalaya. The report addressed a variety of issues, from food and water security to air pollution and energy demand.
  • The HKH region runs from Afghanistan to Myanmar and is the planet’s “third pole”, harbouring more ice than anywhere outside Arctic and Antarctica. ‘s home to 10 major river basins and some of the world’s highest mountain peaks, including Mount Everest.
  • The glaciers are a critical water store for the 250 million people who live in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya (HKH) region, and 1.65 billion people rely on the great rivers that flow from the peaks into India, Pakistan, China and other nations.
  • The melting glaciers will increase river flows through to 2050 to 2060, he said, pushing up the risk of high altitude lakes bursting their banks and engulfing communities.
  • But from the 2060s, river flows will go into decline. The Indus and central Asian rivers will be most affected. Lower flows will cut the power from the hydro-dams that generate much of the region’s electricity.
  • Farmers in the foothills and downstream will be the most affected. They rely on predictable water supplies to grow the crops that feed the nations in the mountains’ shadows.
  • Glaciers currently provide an essential buffering role as their melt water flows into the rivers during the summer, which is when water is in greatest demand downstream and periodic droughts have the deadliest impacts on populations. The absence of ice exposes the people to serious water stress and the consequences of that are local, regional and potentially global, in terms of conflict and migration.
  • Climate change may also be having an impact on both snow and permafrost — the permanently frozen layer of soil found in some cold parts of the world.
  • Changes to snow and permafrost could have a significant effect on human communities. As permafrost thaws, the ground tends to become soggy and soft. This can make it difficult to construct new infrastructure like roads or railways. It can also increase the likelihood of landslides or falling rocks.

 

Syllabus Reference- GS Paper I

Magnetic North Pole

magnetic motion

  • As Earth rotates, the moving iron generates electric currents that create a magnetic field. The field is constantly changing, and every 300,000 years ago the poles may even flip. The last time this happened was around 780,000 years ago.
  • The planet’s magnetic north pole — the north that every compass points toward — is moving at a speed of about 55 kilometers per year. It crossed the international date line in 2017 and is leaving the Canadian Arctic on its way to Siberia.
  • Magnetic declination is the angle between the magnetic north and true north; it changes over time. Since 1831, the magnetic north pole in northern Canada has been moving across the Arctic toward Russia.
  • In the 189 years since it was first measured in the Canadian Arctic, it has moved some 2,300 kilometers toward Siberia, and its speed jumped from about 15 kilometers per year to 55 kilometers per year since 2000.
  • Federal organizations like NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration use the World Magnetic Model (WMM) for navigational purposes as well as surveying and mapping, satellite tracking, and air traffic management. Because the magnetic north pole moves about 55 kilometers (34 miles) each year, governing agencies release updates to the model every five years in December,  but the latest update came early because of the pole’s faster movement.
  • The reason is turbulence in Earth’s liquid outer core of iron and nickel. There has been formation of a narrow stream, much like the jet stream in the atmosphere, in the Earth’s liquid outer core. The iron-nickel core is so hot that it flows like water, 1,869 miles (3,000km) beneath the surface, creating the magnetic field and dragging it around the planet.
  • The World Magnetic Model (WMM) was updated on February 4, almost a year earlier than expected, in order to allow navigational services, including map-based phone apps, to keep working accurately. GPS isn’t affected because it’s satellite-based, but airplanes and boats also rely on magnetic north, usually as backup navigation.

 

Syllabus Reference- GS Paper III

High Speed Chase

bullet train

  • National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) is implementing the project of high speed train corridor between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2022.
  • The total length of proposed High Speed Railway Corridor works out to be 508.17km. Out of 508.17km, 155.642 km of the proposed alignment falls in Maharastra, 350.530 km in Gujarat and 2 km in UT of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Most of the corridor will be elevated except for a 21km tunnel (7 km under sea) between Thane and Virar.
  • The land requirement for the project is 1400 ha, of which is 353 ha is in Maharashtra and the rest in Gujarat, passing through 3 districts in the former and 8 districts in the latter.
  • The route of Mumbai Ahmedabad High Speed Rail will be passing through two states, Maharashtra and Gujarat and one Union Territory, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, of the Union of India.
  • The High Speed Corridor of Mumbai-Ahmedabad has been proposed with 12 Stations i.e. Mumbai, Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand/Nadia, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati, all near major traffic points. Two depots are proposed on either ends of the corridor one near Thane and one near Sabarmati Rail Depot.
  • The proposed corridor lies in Western Railway zone. It shall start from Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai and will end near Sabarmati Railway Station in Ahmedabad.
  • The project is estimated at 1.08lakh crore, 80% of which is loan from Japan.

Issues:

  • The project is facing protests over land acquisition in Gujarat and Maharashtra.
  • TCF is a 1690-hectare bird haven- 896 hectares of mangrove forests and 794 hectares of a water body-is on the western bank of the creek, between Airoli and Vashi bridges connecting Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.
  • The project will eat into 3.2ha of forest land from the Thane Creek Flamingo (TCF) Wildlife Sanctuary, and 97.5ha of land from outside of the boudary of the protected area.
  • Apart from the creek, the project also involves diverting 32.7ha of forestland and 77.3ha of non-forestland from Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which houses leopards.
  • There will also be transfer of 0.69ha of forestland and 75ha of non-forestland from Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary lies in Vasai, on the periphery of Mumbai. It is spread over 85 sq.km, and forms a corridor between Sanjay Gandhi National Park (also known as Borivali National Park) and Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • The National Board of Wildlife is the apex body tasked with granting permissions to allow forest land to be diverted for industrial development, has laid pre conditions for the project.
  • There has to be payment of 10 crores for habitat improvement of the sanctuary, barricading the work site to ensure no debris fall outside the project area, and funds for penal plantation of at least 5 times the number of mangrove plants which may be lost in the project.

 

Syllabus Reference- GS Paper III

Markhor

markhor

  • The markhor, also known as the screw horn goat, is a large species of  wild goat that is found in north-eastern Afghanistan, northern and central Pakistan, India(only Jammu and Kashmir), southern Tajikistan, eastern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and in the Himalayas.
  • The markhor(also known as the shakhawat) is the national animal of Pakistan.
  • Much like elephants, markhors play a vital role in their ecosystem due to their spreading of seeds.
  • The species was classed by the IUCN as Endangered until 2015, when it was downgraded to Near Threatened.
  • There are three subspecies:
  • The flare-horned markhor, is the most widespread of the three, with the largest population. It can be found in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
  • The Kabul (or straight-horned) markhor is primarily found in the mountains of Balochistan Province, Pakistan
  • The Bukharan markhor with impressive twisted horns (which makes them a target for trophy hunters) are native to Afghanistan as well as neighboring central Asian countries, including Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • Markhors have historically been hunted primarily for their meat. Markhors are sometimes sought out by humans for medicinal purposes. Poaching and habitat loss add to the growing causes of concern for the markhor population.
  • Markhors are also threatened due to the dwindling of their preferred habitats. The ever-increasing deforestation for a number of reasons, including logging for fuel and building materials, coal mining, and overgrazing of domestic livestock has substantially decreased the markhor’s grazing area, which makes their food sources more scarce.
  • Markhors are also desirable for their horns, making them frequent victims of trophy hunting.
  • Although hunting markhors is illegal, the government of Pakistan does issue four permits to hunt each of the three subspecies of Markhor every year. So there’s a total of 12 markhor hunting licenses sold annually, in open auctions. The proceeds are used to fund conservation efforts.
  • It is believed that the markhor may be the ancient ancestor of some popular domesticated goat breeds around the world. These include the Angora goat, the Changthangi goat of Ladakh and Tibet, the Girgentana goat of Sicily, the Bilberry goat of Ireland, and various Egyptian goat breeds.

 

Syllabus Reference- GS Paper III

GI Ruling

  • A geographical indication (GI) is an indication, whether in the form of a name or sign, used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possesses qualities or a reputation that are due to the place of origin.
  • India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection)Act, 1999 has come into force with effect from 15th September 2003.
  • Under Articles 1 (2) and 10 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, geographical indications are covered as an element of IPRs. They are also covered under Articles 22 to 24 of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, which was part of the Agreements concluding the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations.
  • A Geographical Indication is registered for a period of 10 years and the registration may be renewed from time to time for a period of 10 years at a time.
  • Once a product gets this tag, any person or company can not sell a similar item under that name . The other benefits include legal protection to that item, prevention against unauthorised use by others, and promoting exports.
  • The Geographical Indications Registry is located at Chennai. This Act is administered by the Registrar of Geographical Indications i.e., Controller General Of Patents and Designs.
  • Currently, as many as 326 products such as Kancheepuram silk saree, Alphonso Mango, Nagpur Orange and Kolhapuri Chappal have been registered as geographical indications.
  • In a case filed by the Tea Board against ITC in 2010 for operating a premier lounge — ‘Darjeeling Lounge’ — at its ITC Sonar Hotel in Kolkata, the Calcutta high court has ruled that Darjeeling Tea as a GI — owned by the government-run Tea Board — for tea originating from the region cannot be claimed for unrelated goods or services.
  • The Tea Board was attempting to monopolise the name Darjeeling for itself for all goods and services, even though they have a registration for only tea. Such claim has been denied by court.
  • The High Court said that the geographical indication is a limited right. Such a tag can be enforced only if it is misused in respect of the same product, and not for unrelated goods or services.

 

Daily Important News for UPSC Civil Services Examination

Asian Elephant Alliance

Elephant-Herd

  • A new coalition – the Asian Elephant Alliance – has been formed to secure a safe future for the wild elephants of India, which make up approximately half of the world’s wild Asian elephants.
  • The member organisations are NGOs Elephant Family, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), IUCN Netherlands, Wildlife Trust of India and World Land Trust.
  • The Asian Elephant Alliance members signed an official declaration stating that the Asian elephant is an endangered species that requires immediate conservation .
  • The key aim of the alliance is to build 100 habitat corridors across India over the next 10 years, linking up fragmented areas of elephant home ranges and allowing safe passage for India’s elephants.
  • 96 elephant corridors out of 101 have been identified in India to help elephants migrate in search of food and water. The Asian Elephant Alliance aims to raise£20 million to fund the corridors.

H1N1

H1N1

  • Seasonal Influenza (H1N1) Type A strain of virus is a self-limiting air-borne viral, and the disease spreads from person to person through coughing and sneezing, indirect contact by touching a contaminated object or surface, and close contact including handshakes, hugging and kissing.
  • Children with mild illness but with predisposing risk factors, pregnant women, persons aged 65 years or older, patients with lung diseases, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, blood disorders, diabetes, neurological disorders, cancer and HIV/AIDS, patients on long-term cortisone therapy are under the high-risk group.
  • The symptoms include fever and cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and difficulty in breathing. Other symptoms may include body-ache, headache, fatigue, chills, diarrhoea and vomiting. More severe symptoms include respiratory distress, organ failure, pneumonia.
  • The virus undergoes mutation that can take place within the genome (Antigenic drift) / or re-assortment among the genetic materials of subtypes (Antigenic Shift ) resulting in a new virus.
  • Antigenic Drift is responsible for new seasonal strains that makes necessary surveillance to detect these strains and to prepare new seasonal influenza vaccine (yearly basis).
  • Antigenic Shift may result in a new virus easily transmissible from man to man for which the population has no immunity : Results in Pandemics.
  • Oseltamivir is the drug recommended by WHO. The drug is made available through the Public Health System free of cost. The drug is also sold through Schedule X Chemists.
  • The States have been asked to follow the risk categorization followed during the Pandemic {Category A [mild cases: domiciliary care, no drug treatment; Category B [requires drug Oseltamivir, but no hospitalization] and Category C [requires drug treatment, testing and hospitalization].

Dalit Literature Festival

Dalit-Literature-Festival

  • A two-day Dalit Literature Festival was organised at Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College.
  • It addressed ‘longstanding and overdue questions’ of Indian society’s marginalised society. Focussing on marginalised sections, the festival will “celebrate their victories and culture“.
  • Objective of the fest
  • To create an independent, robust and formidable literary platform for Dalit literature
  • To mainstream Dalit literary works, bring them on to the centre stage
  • To help increase the circulation of Dalit literature and make it more accessible to readers
  • To create more avenues and opportunities for Dalit writers and artist
  • To provide platform to showcase Dalit culture, performing arts, films, food, etc.
  • The Festival will address issues faced by the communities, celebrate their victories and culture.

A New Page in History

Pope Francis

  • Pope Francis is on his first-ever visit to the Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. Through this visit the pope hopes to turn a new page in the history of the relations among the religions.
  • The invitation to the Pope is part of the UAE’s charge for religious tolerance, inter-faith harmony and separating religion from the state in the Middle East.
  • Under the crown prince, UAE has unveiled the grand political project to build a ‘modern Arab centre’ that can fend off religious extremism and the politicisation of Islam, which has created unrest in the region and emerged as a grave threat to many regions around the world, including the Indian subcontinent.
  • The UAE is among the more liberal states in Arabia and allows public worship by followers of non-Muslim faiths. At the other extreme is Saudi Arabia that prohibits the practice of non-Islamic faiths.
  • The Gulf regimes backed by the west supported religious extremism for almost four decades in order to counter the Shia theocracy. These forces now threaten the prospects for peace and progress in the Middle East. Such forces also had devastating impacts on the Subcontinent’s politics.
  • As Iran, Turkey, Muslim brotherhood, and Islamic State push different variants of political Islam, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are now promoting an agenda of religious and political moderation.

This project for a moderate Arab centre will make it easier for India and its neighbours to revitalise the great Subcontinent tradition of inter-faith harmony.

Daily Important News for UPSC Civil Services Examination

Pink Revolution

  • India had the “Green” Revolution, the “White” Revolution, and the “Blue” Revolution. The Green Revolution had led to self-sufficiency in food grains, the Blue Revolution brought about increase in fish production, and the White Revolution saw India occupy the Number One Position in milk production in the world. The buffalo was significant to the White Revolution.
  • India is well on its way to modernizing meat and poultry processing, thus realizing the ‘pink revolution’. Meat production is intimately linked to quality leather production in which India has acquired Number Two position in the world after Italy. Through substantive effort from the Government, both meat and leather can also achieve Number One position in the world, like milk.
  • India ranks fifth in the world in meat production and bovine meat contributes about 40% of this. The contribution of pork is only 3.5% compared with 9.36% from goat meat and more than 36% from poultry. The pink revolution is expected to take this number higher.
  • The FAO report titled ‘Indian Meat Industry Perspective’ outlined four steps that should be taken if India’s food industry is to successfully go pink. These recommended steps were: setting up state of the art meat processing plants; developing technologies to raise male buffalo calves for meat production; increasing the number of farmers rearing buffalo under contractual farming; and establishing disease-free zones for rearing animals.
  • Commercial pig farming in India for meat production is one of the best and profitable business ideas. But the main issue is Indian pig breeds are not suitable for high quality pork production. The objective is to breed imported pigs to address the problem of protein deficiency in a sizeable section of the population that has been deprived of access to affordable meat besides providing livelihood to farmers.
  • Indian pork is sold at about ₹250 per kg compared with international quality processed pork which is sold at ₹1,200- 3,000 per kg.
  • There is need for genetically superior quality animals, to enhance the farmer’s potential, meet consumers’ demand for safe and healthy meat and health industry’s requirement for quality animals. It is an industry with huge potential.

Effects

  • The FAO has estimated that approximately 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock production.
  • India is one of the largest dairy and milk producers and biggest beef exporter worldwide.
  • To produce one calorie from animal protein, 11 times as much fossil fuel is required than to produce one calorie from plant protein. Energy is devoured by growing feed, transporting feed, transporting animals, processing animals, packaging meat, transporting meat and keeping meat cold.
  • The amount of water that is required to irrigate crops, or provide drinking water for animals is also vast. In India, 873 liters is used to produce one kilo of chicken meat, and 1,471 liters of water is used to produce beef in industrial systems.
  • Then there are ethical considerations regarding the industrial food animal production facilities and the way they treat the animals.
  • The amount of excrement animals produce is also far more than humans. Much of the animal waste produced in the process of turning living animals into meat is used as fertilizer and applied to land, or runs off into streams and other surface water bodies. But even then the use of animal waste as fertilizer can have serious consequences. he concentration of parasites, bacteria’s and chemical contaminants in animals waste can have drastically detrimental effects on ecosystems, and communities living near waste disposals.
  • The government-backed Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), set up under the Food Safety Act and Food Safety Bill, aims to increase local standards of meat production.
  • The National Research Centre on Meat based in Hyderabad was established to conduct basic and applied research in the area of meat quality control and regulations, and to assist the meat industry to comply with the Food Safety Act 2006 as well as international regulatory framework.
  • The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority of the Indian Government (APEDA), has approved 80 integrated abattoirs, slaughterhouses, and meat processing plants across the country.

Recommendation of the Shekatker Committee

Stronger Indian Army

  • The Shekatker Committee was appointed to recommend measures to enhance combat capability of the armed forces. A total of 99 recommendations were forwarded for implementation.
  • Defence panel raises retirement age of soldiers by two years to ‘cut new recruitment cost’, helping the army save a significant amount on pensions and training of personnel.
  • The committee has also recommended ‘optimizing’ non-combat support arms in the army such as supply corps, ordnance and electrical and mechanical engineers. Their roles can be limited to during war and other critical assignments.
  • Abolishing military and dairy farms where several thousand army personnel and a considerable number of officers are involved in mundane tasks like cattle rearing and growing vegetables.
  • Downsizing the remount veterinary corps, which looks after horses and mules for ceremonial as well as operations in the higher Himalayan regions of J&K and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The Shekatkar Committee has recommended that the role of non-combat organizations paid for and sustained by the defence budget be subjected to a performance audit. Some of these organizations mentioned in the report are Defence Estates, Defence Accounts, DGQA, Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), DRDO, and the National Cadet Corps (NCC).
  • It had also made recommendations on restructuring of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) and has suggested bringing it under the administrative control of the ministry of human resources than MoD. Optimal use and integration of manpower and resources by re-deploying ex-servicemen including retired officers and JCOs in various organizations had also been proposed.
  • The committee had proposed allocations of more funds with latest technology spend. Recommendation on having a Joint Services War College that runs a one year combined course for all the three forces besides having a tri-service Intelligence training establishment have also been made.
  • The committee had also recommended having the position of the four-star Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) who it said be made the chief single-point adviser to the defence minister on military matters.
  • The committee has recommended for higher budget allocations for India’s defence sector and has also advocated for increased financial powers of all the three service chiefs.

 

AFC Asian Cup

AFC Asian Cup 2019

  • The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup is an international association football tournament run by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). It is the second oldest continental football championship in the world after Copa América.
  • The 17th edition of the AFC Asian Cup started from 5th January 2019 and extended till 1st February 2019.
  • The United Arab Emirates is the host for the quadrennial international men’s football championship of Asia.
  • The winner of the AFC Asian Cup earns the right to participate in the FIFA Confederations Cup.
  • Japan holds the record for the most victories in the tournament’s history. Australia is the defending champions of 2015 going into the tournament.
  • Qatar is the winner of the 2019 edition.

EVM Doubts vs Facts

Electronic-Voting-Machines

  • EVM can be hacked:
  • Not applicable as EVM is standalone machine not connected to any network wirelessly or through wires, and has one-time programmable chip with software that can neither be read or modified.
  • Control unit display can be remotely altered through wireless communication:
  • This is not possible. It would require replacement of original display module with another fitted with wireless device or inserting extra circuit board that can communicate with external unit via wi-fi and tamper results on CU display. However, for this there must be unfettered access to EVM after first-level checking (FLC). EVMs are sealed and kept in strong rooms under 24×7 security after FLC.
  • Voting data can be altered by clipping memory manipulator IC (integrated circuit) to the memory chip where data is stored:
  • This would need full and free access to CUs after polling is over and involve breaking of seals and locks of strong rooms in presence of two layers of security plus representatives of candidates.
  • Chip replacement would require access to EVM ware houses. Any chip replacement before FLC will be detected during FLC, while chip replacement after FLC would require access to strong rooms and breaking of EVM pink paper seals.
  • Memory chip/motherboard can be replaced before poll/ counting:
  • Ballot units and control units only communicate with each other and go into error mode when connected to any other machine. So if any EVM is hypothetically modified by bypassing security protocol would not be usable.
  • Trojan can be introduced by reprogramming chip or by chip manufacturer during fusing of software:
  • Chips have one-time programmability. Code tampering by manufacturer is not possible as it will be detected during code integrity check.
  • There can be vote stuffing after poll closure:
  • EVM does not accept votes after close button is pressed in CU. Also, poll closure time is recorded by presiding officer and votes polled in EVM after this time can be detected due to time stamping of key presses.
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Surajkund Crafts Mela

Surajkund Crafts Mela
  • Surajkund Crafts Mela is one of the largest crafts fair in India that is held every year in the Surajkund district of Haryana.
  •  It is organized by Haryana Tourism in collaboration with Union Ministries of Tourism, Textiles, Culture and External Affairs from 1st to 15th February.
  • The fair is aimed at bringing to light the enormous talent of artisans and craftsmen in India who display their exquisite handlooms and handicrafts before a large audience at the fair.
  • For the 33rd Surajkund International Crafts Mela-2019, the state of Maharashtra has been chosen to be the Theme State.
  • At least 20 countries and all the states of India will be participating in the Mela.
  • Thailand is the Partner Nation Country for the Year 2019. Kyrgyzstan was chosen as partner Nation for 32nd Surajkund International Crafts Mela-2018.

Aims and Objectives

  • To organise, manage and run the Surajkund International Craft Mela at Surajkund Faridabad with a view to promote handicrafts, handlooms with the aid of craftsmen invited from all over the country
  • To identify languishing and lesser-known crafts and to introduce them to patrons
  • To display crafts and loom techniques by organising demonstration sections in the Mela grounds
  • To undertake the promotion of export of handlooms and handicrafts
  • To set up an environment in which rural crafts traditions could be displayed and to project the traditional rural ambience of a typical village near Delhi for travellers who may not have the time or means to visit an Indian village.

Surajkund derives its name from the ancient amphitheatre ‘Sun Pool’ constructed here in the 10th century AD by Raja SurajPal, one of the Tomar chieftains. The place is located in the Aravalli mountain range. This internationally famous marvellous mela launched in 1981 by the Haryana Tourism is a unique fair showcasing folk arts and rich crafts tradition from all regions of India.

Cryoseism

frost-quake or cryoseism

  • Frost quakes, or “cryoseisms,” occur when water trapped underground freezes suddenly as the temperature drops, causing it to expand.
  • The rapidly expanding water underground can split rocks and put stress on the soil, causing loud booms.
  • For a frost quake to occur, four conditions are required. First, rain or snowmelt saturates the ground with water. Second, there’s little to no snow on the ground, which otherwise blankets the soil and protects it from sudden temperature changes. Third, the temperature rapidly drops, freezing the earth. Fourth, a region must be susceptible to cold air masses.
  • Areas of permeable materials like sand or gravel, are susceptible to frost action, and are thus likelier candidates for cryoseisms.
  • Another type of cryoseism is a non-tectonic seismic event caused by sudden glacial movements. This movement has been attributed to a thin covering of water which may pool underneath a glacier sourced from surface ice melt. Hydraulic pressure of the liquid can act as a lubricant, allowing the glacier to suddenly shift position. This type of cryoseism can be very brief, or may last for several minutes.

India-Israel Relations

India Israel Relations
India Israel Relations
  • After both gained independence from UK around the same time, they were headed in different directions. India was a leader in the Non-Aligned Movement that maintained close relations to the  Arab world and the Soviet Union; Israel which linked its future to close ties with the United States and Western Europe.
  • India’s large Muslim population was another major obstacle to building a relationship with Israel.
  • India recognised Israel in 1950 and allowed Israel to maintain a consulate in Mumbai to facilitate the voluntary immigration of Indian Jews to Israel. Israeli supplied weapons aided India in winning the Kargil War against Pakistan in 1999. Following a devastating earthquake in 2001; Israel sent an IDF emergency response delegation to India for two weeks to provide humanitarian relief and treatment for the victims.
  • India and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1992 and since then the bilateral relationship between the two countries has blossomed at the economic, military, agricultural and political levels.
  • Both countries see themselves as isolated democracies threatened by neighbours that train, finance and encourage terrorism, therefore both countries also view their cooperative relationship as a strategic imperative.
  • Since firmly establishing diplomatic ties, both countries have benefited immensely. India has become one of Israel’s largest trading partners, many of the world’s leading high-tech companies in Israel and India are forging joint ventures that are successfully competing in the tough international marketplace. Trade and cooperation between the countries now centers primarily on security-related deals and aid in areas such as agriculture and water desalination.
  • In the early 2000s, the Indian army declared its intention to implement a modernization program. Since then, defence deals with Israel have grown exponentially; today, India is the number one export target of Israel’s defence industries.

Military Relations

  • Israel has sold radar and surveillance systems as well as electronic components for military aircraft and has helped India defence itself through training in counterterrorism methods. Intelligence sharing plays an important role in counterterrorism measures, and has prompted close cooperation between India and Israel.
  • India-Israel relations increased dramatically in 2014. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Indian state-owned Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) began collaborating on a jointly developed surface-to-air missile system for the Indian Army in 2015. The Barak 8 long-range surface-to-air missile has been developed jointly.
  • Reliance Defence and Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defence Systems signed a cooperative agreement worth an estimated $10 billion at Defexpo India on March 30, 2016. As per the agreement, Rafael and Reliance will cooperatively produce air-to-air missiles, various missile defence systems, and surveillance balloons for the Indian military.
  • The Indian Navy launched a new, Israeli-developed Integrated Under Water Harbour Defence and Surveillance System (IUHDSS), in February 2017. The system will enhance the security of above and below-water vehicles operated by the Indian Navy in the Mumbai Naval Harbour.
  • Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has struck a deal with India’s Army and Navy to supply them with an advanced air defence system. The deal was described by IAI as Israel’s largest ever defence deal.
  • The Indian military carried out their first successful tests of the Israeli-made Surface-to-air Python and Derby missile system (SPYDER) in 2017. The system is made for low-altitude missile strikes, has a range of 15km.
  • A new partnership between Indian security firm Punj Lloyd and Israel Weapons Industries, known as Punj Lloyd Raksha Systems, or PLR, was announced in May 2017. The joint venture aims to target the supply of carbine, assault rifle, sniper rifle and light machine guns for armed forces, paramilitary forces and state police.
  • The Indian military deployed an Israeli-developed comprehensive integrated border management system (CIBMS) along its border with Pakistan in August 2017. The fence will be monitored by sensors and security cameras, and will alert people in monitoring facilities when a breach has occurred. Indian officials announced plans to seal all of their 6,300km borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh with the Israeli smart-fence.
  • India participated in the Israeli Blue Flag military exercise for the first time in November 2017.

Agriculture Relations

  • In 2006, Israeli and Indian ministers of agriculture signed a long-term cooperation and training deal.
  • In 2008, the two nations started a $50 million shared agriculture fund, focusing on dairy, farming technology and micro-irrigation. This constituted the Indo-Israel Agricultural Project.
  • In 2011, India and Israel signed an agreement to foster cooperation on urban water systems, which came after more than a decade of joint research, development and shared investment in the countries’ respective water technologies.
  • In May 2013, Israel announced that it would help India diversify and raise the yield of its fruit and vegetable crops under the Indo-Israel Agricultural Project, by offering the country its advanced technology and know-how.
  • Israel pledged to set up 28 centres of excellence across India focused on specific fruit and vegetable crops. Since 2014, March, 10 centres are operating throughout India offering free training sessions for farmers in efficient agricultural techniques using Israeli technological expertise. Vertical farming, drip irrigation and soil solarization are some of what is taught at the centres. Farming at these centres focuses on mangoes, tomatoes, pomegranates, and citrus fruits.  The 23rd joint centre of excellence in the Northeast Indian state of Mizoram on March 7, 2018.
  • In the future, Israeli and Indian farmers hope to expand to flowers, bee keeping and dairying.
  • Israel’s space research program and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), signed an agreement on space cooperation between the two countries in November 2002.
  • In June 2013, a delegation of Indian officials of the water authorities of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Goa and Haryana came to Israel and visited wastewater treatment plants, met with some of Israel’s leading environmentalists and agronomists and listened to explanations of some of the newest technologies for water management.
  • The Israeli National Emergency Medical Service, MDA-Magen David Adom (Hebrew for Red Star of David) and the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS), held a joint training program during July 2017 aimed at improving and upgrading the IRCS first-responder skills.
  • In a historic moment, the first meeting of the Prime Ministers from Israel and India in over a decade occurred in 2014. The first ever official visit of an Israeli Defence Minister to India marked another momentous moment. The purpose of the trip was to increase interaction and cooperation between defence industries in Israel and India.
  • For the first time India abstained from a vote at the UNHRC that approved their Gaza Commission of Inquiry report. This marked the first time that India had ever voted against Palestinian interests at the UNHRC, signalling a potentially significant shift in India-Israel relations.
  • Indian officials signed contracts worth a combined $1.4 billion with Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) during Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s visit in 2016.
  • The two defence contracts provide for the Indian purchase from Israel of two Phalcon/IL-76 Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), valued at $1 billion, as well as 10 additional Heron TP UAV drones, valued at $400 million.

Indian PM’s Visit:

  • The Indian Prime Minister became the first sitting Indian PM to visit Israel on July 4, 2017.
  • There was agreement to increase Israel’s non-diamond exports to India by 25%, and established a new $40 million joint innovation, research, and development fund.
  • The government also approved incentives to film Bollywood movies in Israel and plans to increase the number of Indian firms doing business in Israel.
  • Multiple collaborative agreements were signed between Indian and Israeli entities during the visit. The Israel Space Agency and the Indian Space Research Organization signed an agreement to foster partnership in the development of electric propulsion systems for small satellites, and creating systems to accurately measure the extreme conditions of outer space.
  • A collaborative agreement was also signed between the Asher Space Research Institute and the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology. This agreement aims to establish joint study and research exchange programs.
  • Israeli officials and their Indian counterparts signed an agreement to create the India Israel Innovation Initiative fund (I4F) on July 5, 2017, modelled after the US-Israel BIRD foundation. The fund aims to help Israeli entrepreneurs enter the Indian market.
  • Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) signed an agreement with India’s KSU in July 2018, to operate Israeli Taxibot semi-robotic vehicles at India’s New Delhi and Mumbai airports. Taxibot connects to planes to taxi the airplane from the airport’s jet bridge without using the airplane’s main engines. This saves a significant amount of fuel, as well as slashes noise levels and carbon emissions.

Davis Cup

Davis Cup
Davis Cup
  • Davis Cup began in 1900 as a competition between USA and Great Britain.
  • Once the two respective national associations had agreed, one of the four players, Dwight Davis, designed a tournament format and ordered a trophy, buying it with his own money.
  • The tournament was originally known as the International Lawn Tennis Challenge, but soon became known as Davis Cup after Dwight Davis’s trophy.
  • It’s now the world’s largest annual international team competition in sport, with 133 nations entering in 2019.
  •  It is the premier international team event in men’s tennis. The present champions are Croatia, who beat France to win their second title in 2018.
  • The women’s equivalent of the Davis Cup is the Fed Cup.
  • The Hopman Cup, a third competition for mixed teams, carries less prestige, but is a popular curtain raiser to the tennis season. Only the Czechs have won all three competitions, in 2012.
  • The 16 best national teams are assigned to the World Group and compete annually for the Davis Cup. Nations which are not in the World Group compete in one of three regional zones (Americas, Asia/Oceania, and Europe/Africa).
  • The 2019 Davis Cup will be the 108th edition of the tournament.
  • The Calcutta South Club will welcome Italy for the Davis Cup Qualifier between India vs Italy.
Daily Important News for UPSC Civil Services Examination

Corruption Perceptions Index

  • The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. It was launched in 1995. The index uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
  • Corruption is contributing to a crisis of democracy around the world. There is widespread public sector corruption and weakening of democratic institutions and norms.
  • India, which was at the 81st place in 2017, has moved up by 3 points to 78th place in 2018.
  • China slipped by 10 ranks to 87th place. The US also fell, from 16th to 22nd position, falling out of the top 20.
  • Denmark (88/100) and New Zealand (87/100) score the highest.
  • Somalia (10/100), Syria (13/100) and South Sudan (13/100) have scored the lowest.

El Nino

ElNino-Jet-Wintertime-Pattern

  • El Niño is a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean with a global impact on weather patterns.
  • The cycle begins when warm water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean shifts eastward along the equator toward the coast of South America. Normally, this warm water pools near Indonesia and the Philippines. During an El Niño, the Pacific’s warmest surface waters sit offshore of north western South America.
  • There is also an opposite of an El Niño, called La Niña. This refers to times when waters of the tropical eastern Pacific are colder than normal and trade winds blow more strongly than usual.
  • Collectively, El Niño and La Niña are parts of an oscillation in the ocean-atmosphere system called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO cycle, which also has a neutral phase.
  • The phenomenon typically occurs every two to seven years. The 2015-2016 El Niño, is being called a “super” El Niño, the worst in 15 years. The two previous super El Niños occurred in 1982-1983 and 1997-1998.

Relations between El Nino and Global Warming

  • Although El Niño’s strongest impacts are felt around the equatorial Pacific, they can affect weather around the world by influencing high and low pressure systems, winds and precipitation. And as the warmer ocean waters release excess energy (heat) into the atmosphere, global temperatures rise.
  • The changing weather patterns can having damaging impacts on agriculture, fisheries, ecosystems, health, energy demand and air quality, and increase the risks of wildfires around the globe.
  • We know that El Niño contributes to an increase in global temperatures, but do rising global and ocean temperatures, in turn, intensify El Niño?
  • El Niño is measured by an index that averages sea surface temperature anomalies over the central-eastern tropical Pacific. Each model delivers a slightly different rendition of El Niño compared to nature. So there are issues in finding a consensus among models, as the models have limitations in their representation of El Niño and its variability.
  • The models have to have very stringent standards on their performance of El Niño behaviour during historic periods, especially the 20th century, as a test of their reliability for future projections.

AWACs

  •  In January 2004, India and Israel signed a $1.1 billion contract for 3 Phalcon airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft, as part of a $1.5 billion tripartite agreement with Russia.
  • With the arrival of its first IL-76 Phalcon, India joined the global ranks of AWACS operators.
  • India has chose a proven AWACS system from Israel. Israel Aerospace Industries’ Phalcon is built around an ELTA EL/M-2075 AESA L-band radar, then adds electronic and communications intelligence gathering (ELINT and COMINT) capabilities.
  • The system can receive transmissions from other air and ground stations to round out its surveillance picture, and uses sensor fusion to provide a complete picture of the battlespace out to several hundred kilometers. On-board communications allow these AWACS planes to direct communications-compatible forces and allies based on the bigger picture, which is why AWACS planes are so valuable.
  • India currently operates three Israeli A-50 PHALCON AWACS jets based on the Il-76 platform. IAF’s long-pending quest to induct two more AWACS, with Israeli Phalcon early-warning radar systems mounted on Russian Ilyushin-76 heavy-lift aircraft, is being examined by the government.
  • Israel is one of the top arms supplier to India. The armed forces are looking to induct additional “Heron” surveillance and armed drones as well as “Harop” killer unmanned aerial vehicles, which act as cruise missiles by exploding into enemy radars and other targets, from the country.
  • In 2017, The Indian Air Force has successfully carried out its first air-to-air refeuling of its Embraer EMB-145-based airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. The ‘probe and drogue’ refuelling was carried out by an Ilyushin Il-78 tanker, with only ten minutes of refueling necessary to keep the platform flying for an additional four hours. Ordered in 2008, New Delhi has received the first two of three new EMB-145 aircraft and have been fitted with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)-designed Netra AEW&C systems, which the IAF claims provide 240-degree coverage as well as surveillance ranges between 250 and 375 km.

India and South Africa

India and South Africa

  • India’s relations with South Africa date back several centuries. India was at the forefront of the international community in its support to the antiapartheid movement.
  • It was the first country to sever trade relations with the apartheid Government (in 1946) and subsequently imposed a complete – diplomatic, commercial, cultural and sports – embargo on South Africa.
  • India’s relations with South Africa were restored after a gap of over four decades with the opening of a Cultural Centre in Johannesburg in May 1993.
  • Against this background, there has also been a steady consolidation of our close and friendly ties with South Africa, bilaterally and through BRICS, IBSA and other Fora.
  • The year 2017 marks the 20 years of signing of the Red Fort Declaration for Strategic Partnership between India and South Africa, which was signed in 1997.
  • This Strategic Partnership between the two countries was again re-affirmed in the Tshwane Declaration (October 2006). Both these declarations have been instrumental mechanisms that have contributed in the past to both South Africa and India for achieving their respective national objectives.

Aspects

  • Bilateral trade and investments – India is South Africa’s fifth-largest export destination and fourth-largest import origin and is the second-largest trading partner in Asia. Both countries are working to boost trade volumes in the coming years. Bilateral trade between India and South Africa currently stands at $10 billion. In 2016, both countries set a target of doubling bilateral trade and investment to $20 billion by 2021.
  • Indian Community in South Africa- The major part of the Indian origin community came to South Africa from 1860 onwards as farm labour to serve as field hands and mill operatives in the sugar and other agricultural plantations of Natal (which was then a British colony).
  • Most of these initial migrants were from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh with some from eastern UP and Bihar. A second wave of Indians came after 1880. These were the “passenger Indians” – so-called because they paid their fares as passengers on board a steamship bound for South Africa. This was the community of traders who mainly hailed from Gujarat.
  • South Africa is home to the highest number of Indian Diaspora in the African continent, with a total strength of 1,218,000 thereby constituting 3 percent of South Africa’s total population.
  • Cultural Relations-With the help of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), an intensive programme of cultural exchanges is organised throughout South Africa including scholarships for South African nationals. In addition to such cultural programming, a ‘Shared Histories’ Festival organized as a public-private partnership is also held.
  • ITEC / ICCR scholarships- The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme has contributed to improving skills and enhancing knowledge of nearly 1000 South African nationals since 1993-94, in areas such as Rural Development, Agriculture, Information and Communication Technology, Poverty Alleviation, Mass Communication, Journalism, Entrepreneurship and other multi-skill development training aimed at increasing competiveness in the job market
  • India 2016 visit – During this visit to South Africa on July 8, 2016, a number of MoU/Agreements were signed such as; Memorandum of Understanding on ICT, Programme of Cooperation in Arts and Culture, Memorandum of Understanding on Tourism, and Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment Grass Root Innovation in the area of Science and Technology.
  •  Both leaders agreed to collaborate in defence sector, especially in terms of the opportunities available for South African private sector under ‘Make in India’ initiative, energy sector, agro-processing, human resource development, and infrastructure development.
  • The relaxation of foreign direct investment (FDI) rule for South Africa through the lifting of the caps on FDI in nine sectors of the Indian economy, including defence, food retail, local airlines, private security firms and pharmaceutical sectors.
  • In the field of scientific and technical (S&T) research, the Department of Science and Technology of both countries have collaborated, especially in the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project under which eight new bilateral Research and Development (R&D) projects for capacity building and instrumentation development in the area of astronomy were to be implemented under the framework of India-South Africa S&T Cooperation.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit- The visit to India last week was significant. Its value lay in strengthening the people-to-people aspect of the bilateral partnership, and focusing on the implementation of previous agreements signed by the two governments.
  • There was a shared awareness that New Delhi and Pretoria had signed a large number of agreements, but it was now time to concentrate on implementation, since progress has been slow. The visit resulted in finalisation of a strategic programme of cooperation aimed at implementation in a time-bound manner
  • Despite promotion, bilateral trade and investment are yet to show robust and speedy expansion. A continuous process is under way to identify inhibiting factors. Some of them relate to the small size of the South African economy and its slow rate of growth. Lack of direct air connectivity and South Africa’s rigid business visa regime are seen as discouragements. Mr. Ramaphosa agreed to reform the visa regime. He also identified a few sectors where India’s investment would be most welcome, such as agri-processed goods, mining equipment and technology, financial sectors and defence equipment.
  • New momentum is being imparted to IBSA, which has been ‘displaced’ by the larger grouping, BRICS.  specific decision was to enhance cooperation to harness the potential of the Blue Economy within the IORA framework.
  • The two leaders also witnessed the exchange of two new agreements of cooperation. These formally linked the Research and Information System for Developing Countries, a policy research institute in Delhi, and two premier South African think tanks — the Institute for Global Dialogue and the South African Institute of International Affairs. The three institutions have been entrusted with the task to conduct joint research and dialogue in 1.5 track format (i.e. involving officials and experts) on “areas to further promote practical cooperation with Africa.”
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