TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related INDIAN CULTURE 1. Golconda fort comes back to life B. GS2 Related POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. ‘Easing of norms not linked to death in Sentinel Island’ 2. Gurugram centre to monitor IOR C. GS3 Related INDIAN ECONOMY 1. Medical implants: ‘Make in India’ gets a leg-up 2. GST cut on 17 items, 6 services ENVIRONMENT 1. Capital’s air quality dips to ‘severe’ category 2. Remote islands are easy targets for alien species D. GS4 Related E. Editorials POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. The lowdown on SC verdict in Rafale case INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. Bangladesh elections are important F. Tidbits 1. A jackfruit revolution of sorts to achieve food security G. Prelims Fact 1. ‘Finding skilled manpower was the key challenge for Bogibeel project’ H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
- Earlier, the policy was to preserve a structure without meddling. Now, there is a policy change where ASI can reconstruct a building or a structure if the authorities can find evidence about how it looked earlier. Sometimes, the evidence is in the form of a photograph or a painting
- Thanks to this change in policy, many of the ruined structures have been restored to their earlier condition.
- Golkonda (“Round shaped hill”) or Golla konda, (Shepherd’s Hill) is a citadel and fort in Southern India and was the capital of the medieval sultanate of the Qutb Shahi dynasty (1512–1687 AD), is situated 11 km west of Hyderabad.
- It is also a tehsil of Hyderabad district, Telangana, India. The region is known for the mines that have produced some of the world’s most famous gems, including the Koh-i-Noor, the Hope Diamond, Nassak Diamond and the Noor-ul-Ain.
- The Golconda fort is key to Telangana government’s effort at acquiring a UNESCO World Heritage Site status for its Qutb Shahi-era monuments.
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)
- The ASI is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of the country.
- The prime objection of ASI is to maintain the archaeological sites, ancient monuments and remains of national importance.
- Headquarters: New Delhi.
- Established: 1861 by Alexander Cunningham
- It regulates all archaeological activities as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. It also regulates Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.
- It functions under the aegis of the Union Ministry of Culture.
B. GS2 Related
- Consolidating the regional efforts with friendly nations to keep the global commons “open and accessible for all,” India on Saturday inaugurated an Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) which will work closely with countries in the region and will be manned by the Indian Navy.
Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region
- The IFC-IOR has established with the vision of strengthening maritime security in the region and beyond, by building a common coherent maritime situation picture and acting as a maritime information hub for the region.
- The IFC has been established at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram, which is the single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.
- Through this Centre, information on “white shipping”, or commercial shipping, will be exchanged with countries in the region to improve maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean.
- The IOR has a diverse set of littorals and island nations, each with their unique needs, aspirations, interest and values. Rise in maritime piracy in the region has had its impact worldwide, which shows how important these waters are to the nations and economies the world over.
- Although concerted efforts by the navies and maritime security agencies over the last few years have significantly reduced this threat, other challenges persist.
- Establishment of the IFR-IRO would ensure that the entire region is benefited by mutual collaboration and exchange of information and understanding the concerns and threats which are prevalent in the region.
Importance of the Indian Ocean
- It enjoys a privileged location at the crossroads of global trade, connecting the major engines of the international economy in the Northern Atlantic and Asia-Pacific. This is particularly important in an era in which global shipping has burgeoned.
- Indian Ocean is also rich in natural resources. 40% of the world’s offshore oil production takes place in the Indian Ocean basin. Fishing in the Indian Ocean now accounts for almost 15% of the world’s total.
- Mineral resources are equally important, with nodules containing nickel, cobalt, and iron, and massive sulphide deposits of manganese, copper, iron, zinc, silver, and gold present in sizeable quantities on the sea bed. Indian Ocean coastal sediments are also important sources of titanium, zirconium, tin, zinc, and copper. Additionally, various rare earth elements are present, even if their extraction is not always commercially feasible.
C. GS3 Related
- Several scientists from 20 premier research institutes based in the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland have come forward to partner with the consortium formed by the Kalam Institute of Health Technology (KIHT), India’s first medical devices park AP MedTech Zone (AMTZ), Tata Steel and Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore, in developing medical implants.
- KIHT executive director and AMTZ CEO Jitendar Sharma said the cost of implants, being imported from China, Korea and Germany, could be brought down almost 80% if implants were made in India. Referring to dental and orthopaedic implants, he said they had become very expensive due to the country’s dependence on imports.
Make In India
- The government launched “Make In India” initiative which aims at promoting India as an investment destination and to establish India as a global hub for manufacturing, design and innovation.
- The initiative aims to provide favorable environment to the business community so that they can devote their resources, efforts and energy in productive work.
- A number of steps have been taken by the government to improve the ease of doing business in the country. Rules and procedures have been simplified and a number of products have been taken off licensing requirements.
- Under this initiative, the Government intends to provide a robust infrastructure to business through development of various facilities and institutions.
- Government also aims at developing industrial corridors and smart cities to provide a conducive working environment with state-of-the-art technology.
- Efforts are being made to provide skilled manpower through a national skill development programme. Innovation is encouraged through better management of patent and trademarks registration.
- The Goods and Services Tax Council cut rates on 17 items and six types of services during its 31st meeting on Saturday, leaving only one common use item — cement — in the 28% bracket.
Goods and Services Tax (GST)
- GST is a comprehensive indirect tax on manufacture, sale, and consumption of goods and services throughout India. GST would replace respective taxes levied by the central and state governments.
- It is a destination-based taxation system. It has been established by the 101st Constitutional Amendment Act.
- It is an indirect tax for the whole country on the lines of “One Nation One Tax” to make India a unified market.
- It is a single tax on supply of Goods and Services in its entire product cycle or life cycle i.e. from manufacturer to the consumer.
- It is calculated only in the “Value addition” at any stage of a goods or services.
- The final consumer will pay only his part of the tax and not the entire supply chain which was the case earlier.
- There is a provision of GST Council to decide upon any matter related to GST whose chairman in the finance minister of India.
- Tax slabs are decided as 0%, 5%, 12%, 18%, 28% along with categories of exempted and zero rated goods for different types of goods and services.
- Further, a cess would be levied on certain goods such as luxury cars, aerated drinks, pan masala and tobacco products, over and above the rate of 28% for payment of compensation to the States.
- The Capital’s air quality deteriorated to the ‘severe’ category on Saturday as thick smog engulfed it preventing the dispersion of pollutants.
- This is the fourth time this season that the air quality in the city has worsened to the ‘severe’ category.
National Air Quality Index
- This index is launched under Swacch Bharat Abhiyan in 2014
- Aim is ‘one number- one colour-one description’ for the common man to judge the air quality within his vicinity
- There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe. Each of these categories is decided based on ambient concentration values of air pollutants and their likely health impacts (known as health breakpoints).
- An AQI between 100 to 200 comes under the ‘moderate’ category, 201 and 300 is considered ‘poor’, 301 and 400 ‘very poor’, while that between 401 and 500 is ‘severe’.
- AQ sub-index and health breakpoints are evolved for eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb)
Root Causes of smog and air pollution in Delhi
- One of the main reasons of increasing air pollution levels in Delhi is crop burning by the farmers in these states. Farmers burn rice stubbles in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
- Pollution caused by the traffic menace in Delhi is another reason contributing to this air pollution and smog. The air quality index has reached ‘severe’ levels.
- As the winter season sets in, dust particles and pollutants in the air become unable to move. Due to stagnant winds, these pollutants get locked in the air and affect weather conditions, resulting in smog.
- Another reason of air-pollution is over-population in the capital. Over-population only adds up to the various types of pollution, whether it is air pollution or noise pollution.
- Industrial pollution and garbage dumps are also increasing air pollution and building-up smog in the air.
- A recent study which analysed over 250 tropical and subtropical islands has pointed out that being isolated does not protect islands from alien species. Rather, remote islands are more susceptible to alien invasion, be it from plants or mammals, the study found.
- With the increase in anthropogenic activities like trade and transport, the biogeographical borders are broken down and the human-aided introduction of alien species has been on the rise.
Invasive Alien Species
- Alien species become ‘invasive’ when they are introduced deliberately or accidentally outside their natural areas, where they out-compete the native species and upset the ecological balance. Invasive animal species pose a threat to biodiversity and human well-being.
- Common characteristics of invasive species include rapid reproduction and growth, high dispersal ability, phenotypic plasticity (ability to adapt physiologically to new conditions), and ability to survive on various food types and in a wide range of environmental conditions.
- Invasive alien species have invaded and affected native biota in almost every ecosystem type on Earth, and have affected all major taxonomic groups.
- In economic terms, the costs of invasive alien species are significant. Total annual costs, including losses to crops, pastures and forests, as well as environmental damages and control costs, have been conservatively estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars and possibly more than one trillion. This does not include valuation of species extinctions, losses in biodiversity, ecosystem services and aesthetics.
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
What’s in the news?
- The Supreme Court of India recently gave the Central Government a clean chit on the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France and dismissed all the petitions seeking a direction to the CBI to register an FIR for alleged irregularities in the deal.
- Experts have pointed out that the Supreme Court’s December 14th, 2018 judgment declining to intervene in the Rafale deal may have erred in English grammar to “misinterpret” what the government actually said in a confidential note on pricing details.
- The Congress had said the government misled the court.
- It is important to note that the government asked the court to “correct” its judgment.
A Look at the Controversy:
- The controversy boils down to two lines in paragraph 25 of the judgment pronounced by a three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
- The first line says “the pricing details have, however, been shared with the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG), and the report of the CAG has been examined by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).” The second line is: “Only a redacted portion of the report was placed before Parliament and is in public domain.”
- Experts have pointed out that the judgment gives the impression that the CAG report was placed before the PAC. In its correction application, the government clarified that the lines in the judgment were an erroneous reproduction of the ones used in the note.
- The lines in the sealed cover note were “the government has already shared the pricing details with the CAG. The report of the CAG is examined by the PAC. Only a redacted version of the report is placed before Parliament and in public domain.”
- The government said the note only stated “procedure,” which is that once the CAG report is ready, it would be placed before the PAC. Further, a redacted portion of the CAG report is placed in Parliament and in the public domain for national security. It said the court translated a simple “is” to a much complicated “was.”
- It is important to note that the judgment came on four petitions questioning the decision-making process in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets in a fly-away condition. They sought transparency in the price and a CBI/SIT probe.
A Note on the Petitioners and the Petition Filed:
- The petitioners, including former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, alleged that a “novice,” Reliance Defence, was chosen as the Indian Offset Partner (IOP) in the multi-crore deal. The petitions came in the immediate backdrop of former French President Francois Hollande’s remarks in an interview that France was not given much of a choice by India in an IOP.
- They further claimed that on the previous deal for 126 Rafale jets, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited was suddenly done away with when the “intent” to purchase 36 jets was announced on April 10, 2015, during Mr. Modi’s visit to Paris.
- Secondly, the government has no role in the Rafale manufacturer Dassault Aviation’s choice of an IOP, thanks to an amendment in the offset policy, which allows “no offset obligations” for the first three years of a contract.
- Thirdly, the Cabinet Committee on Security, which is the highest clearance body for defence purchases, approved the signing of the Inter-Government Agreement (IGA) for the procurement of the 36 jets only on August 24, 2016. That is, well over a year after the Indo-French joint statement of April 10, 2015.
- The verdict concluded the allegations were mere “individual perceptions.”
- The court refused to go into a “fishing enquiry.”
- Further, it ruled out any evidence of “commercial favouritism” towards Reliance Defence as India had no role in choosing an Indian Offset Partner (IOP).
- It said the petitions were “taking advantage” of Mr. Hollande’s statements. The judgment, authored by Chief Justice Gogoi, said there were no doubts about the suitability of the Rafale jets.
- Going forward, experts point out that the petitioners may file a review petition, which will go before the same Bench. The correction application may come up for an open court hearing in January, 2019.
A Brief Background:
- When Sheikh Hasina returned to power in 2008, the Bangladesh Prime Minister promised to uproot every anti-India terror module in Bangladesh and help reduce insurgency in India’s northeastern region.
- As a matter of fact, top ranking intelligence officials agree that without the Hasina-led Awami League in Dhaka, it would have been impossible to check flare-ups in the east. “She dismantled all known Pakistani assets in Bangladesh,” an intelligence official said.
- However, a decade later, agencies in both sides are engaged in real-time intelligence sharing with more efficiency to combat terror, hugely benefiting India.
Would elections change things?
- Experts point out that with the general elections slated for December 30, 2018, India wants a fair exercise in the neighbouring country.
- Some experts have pointed out that “It is more necessary, however, for Ms. Hasina to return to power,” for the Awami League steadfastly remains India’s best friend in the subcontinent.
What did the Awami League do?
- The return of the Awami League in 2008 dramatically changed the nature of India-Bangladesh engagement on every front.
- As a matter of fact, a plethora of connectivity projects, unthinkable earlier, are either in place or in advanced stages of negotiation. While trans-shipment of goods using river ports and roads is on, many bus and train routes have been operationalised.
- Further, a bus service from Kolkata to the northeastern region through Bangladesh has started, thus shortening time and distance to the region.
- The land boundary issue in north Bengal has been sorted out alongside amicable settlement of a long-standing maritime boundary dispute and neither of the sides is too keen to hype their differences from Teesta water-sharing to illegal border trade. It is important to note that Power and energy sector cooperation is another of many bilateral achievements.
- In fact, the flow of tourists has increased to such an extent that Bangladesh has proposed to set up a diplomatic mission in Chennai.
How has India reciprocated?
- India has contributed towards security cooperation from training to interception of exchanges between groups hostile to the region’s stability, averting attacks on the country’s top establishments.
- Maintaining stability is India’s first contribution to Bangladesh.
- There are about a dozen agreements amounting to $10 billion of Indian private investment in Bangladesh. A $7.5 billion Line of Credit has been approved for infrastructure and other projects in Bangladesh.
Certain Looming Concerns?
- Experts point out that currently India is in a fix.
- India is keen to see “a fair election” in Bangladesh, unlike last time, when the Awami League returned to power without a contest.
- India was relieved when Kamal Hossain, a former Awami Leaguer, with secular credentials formed a multi-party coalition, Jatiya Oikya Front, with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) as the biggest constituent. An election process was set in place as Ms. Hasina met Mr. Hossain.
- But closer to the election, the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (JeI-B), with its cadre depth in the countryside, catapulted to centre stage as a partner of the Jatiya Oikya Front.
- The JeI-B is not contesting the election as the party was de-registered in 2013 but it has fielded candidates who are contesting on the BNP symbol in 25 of the 300 seats.
- The JeI-B’s participation is a cause for worry for both the Awami League and India as it has put down roots in Pakistan, an allegation that the JeI-B has repeatedly denied.
- However, the JeI-B candidates, who are contesting in constituencies bordering Bengal, are keeping the political and security establishments on tenterhooks in India. India’s ruling elite had tried to deal with the other main party, the BNP, when it last came to power in 2001 but burnt its fingers.
- Experts are watching this election to see how the India-Bangladesh relationship will unfold if a BNP-Jamaat coalition comes to power, a possibility the international press is ruling out.
- Certain questions arise: will it jeopardise connectivity projects, unsettle India’s northeastern region or meddle with billions of dollars of investments made over the last years in Bangladesh? Answers will be public in a little over a week.
- Varghese Tharakan from Velur grama panchayat in the district is creating a jackfruit revolution of sorts with the Ayurjack variety.
- The fruit-bearing jackfruit trees, hardly seven to eight ft high, are a treat for the eyes. They can be grown in small housing plots of two to three cents or even on the terrace in a big drum.
- Ayurjack is a jackfruit variety developed by Mr. Tharakan. It bears the sweet ‘varikka’ variety of jackfruit in one-and-a-half years under proper care.
- Ayurjack is an experiment towards achieving food security. Jackfruit is a staple food, which also fights many diseases, including diabetes.
- It is a gluten-free fruit, which can prevent even cancer. Unlike normal varieties of jackfruit trees, Ayurjack gives fruits throughout the year, if properly maintained.
G. Prelims Fact
- A major challenge in the construction of the rail-cum-road bridge — set to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 25 — was finding the required skilled manpower, and convincing the personnel to work in the hostile conditions of Upper Assam.
- Currently, the train journey via Guwahati takes 37 hours. With the bridge in place, the journey between Dibrugarh and Delhi will be shorter by three hours come year-end.
- Bogibeel, India’s longest road-rail bridge connecting Dibrugarh in Assam to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh
- The 4.94-km-long structure, India’s longest rail-cum-road bridge across the Brahmaputra, will help the Indian armed forces move men and material to Arunachal Pradesh in a faster manner.
- It will also benefit the Indian Railways, as it will help reduce the distance between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh by 600 km.
- The bridge is 4.94 km long and 32 metres above the water level of the Brahmaputra.
- It has been fashioned on a bridge that links Sweden and Denmark.
- The bridge, which is the second longest in Asia, has three-lane roads on top and double line rail below.
- The structure is India’s first fully-welded bridge, which will protect it from harsh weather.
- Several companies took part in Bogibeel’s construction. The state-owned RITES undertook pre-construction studies, geo-technical investigations and provided detailed designs. Bhartia Infra constructed the guide bunds and approach embankments.
- The foundation and sub-structure were built by Gammon India. A joint venture of HCC, VNR Infrastructures and the German company DSD Bruckenbau constructed the superstructure.
H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. The Constituent Assembly comprised representatives of sections of Indian Society including:
Which of the above statement(s) is/are correct?
- Only 1 and 2
- Only 1, 2 and 3
- Only 1, 3 and 4
- All of the above
Question 2. Consider the following statements regarding three-tier panchayati raj system
- The Panchayat Samiti is the executive body while the Zila Parishad is advisory, coordinating and supervisory body.
- The three-tier panchayati raj system was recommended by the Ashok Mehta Committee.
- Balwant Rai Mehta Committee had recommended that the three-tier system of panchayati raj should be replaced by the two-tier system.
Which of the above statement(s) is/are correct?
- Only 1
- Only 1 and 2
- Only 3
- All of the above
Question 3. With reference to the Fundamental Duties which of the following statements is incorrect?
- Originally the Constitution did not contain the Fundamental Duties
- The Fundamental Duties in Indian Constitution are inspired by the Constitution of erstwhile USSR.
- All the Fundamental Duties were added in the Constitution by 42nd amendment act, 1976.
- None of the above
I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam
- Coral reefs are the sensitive ecosystem which has been put to huge stress in the face of climate change. The recent IPCC report highlights the danger posed by the climate change to the corals. In this context, discuss the role of coral reefs in the ecosystem (12. 5 Marks; 200 words)
- The recent order allowing 10 different Central agencies to snoop on people is seen as a challenge to the nine-judge Constitution Bench judgment of the Supreme Court, which directed the government to protect informational privacy of every individual. In this context, critically analyse the recent government decision. (12. 5 Marks; 200 words)
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