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Daily Quiz : UPSC Prelims Marathon – March 6



[WpProQuiz 54]


 

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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – 6 March 2017



Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1].Centre launches survey on Gangetic dolphins

[2].India runs out of life-saving HIV drug for children

[3]. Attacks on Indians put MEA under pressure 

[4].Aadhaar data not misused: UIDAI

[5].Computer OS, short movie successfully stored in DNA


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1]. No time for complacency

[2]. Saving the Ghats

[3]. Elusive reconciliation


Economy


[1].Policy drags e-commerce exports

[2].A boon for tourists, techies fret


Indian Express


[1].Many meanings of corruption

[2]. Banking blues

 

[3].Leave PoK alone


Live Mint


[1].India’s manufacturing opportunity

[2].The political economy of India’s bad bank


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1].Centre launches survey on Gangetic dolphins

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Survey for Gangetic dolphins

 

What has happened?

  • The Centre has launched the first ever across-the-river survey in the Ganga to determine the population of aquatic life, including that of the endangered Gangetic dolphin
  • Apart from number of dolphins, number of ghariyals and turtles in the river will also be ascertained after summer sets in fully
  • A study to figure out fish species composition in the 2525-km-long river has been also been kick started from Harshil in Uttarakhand

 

Survey

The survey

  • Will create a baseline scientific data for the government to take suitable measures to improve quality of the river water
  • Find out stretches where dolphin is habitating, what are the conditions there and the level of threat the long-snouted species is facing in a particular belt

 

1st leg of the survey

  • The first leg of the census was launched on March 1 from Narora in Uttar Pradesh to Bijnor (covering distance of nearly 165 km) to establish the number of the national aquatic animal.
  • Counting in the Allahabad to Varanasi stretch (close to 250 km in length) is expected to be launched this week

 

Who is conducting the survey?

The National Mission to Clean Ganga is conducting the survey through Wildlife Institute of India (WII),, under the NamamiGange programme

 

Significance of the survey

  • Concerns have been expressed over the decreasing number of the Gangetic dolphins, one out of the 4 freshwater dolphins in the world from the river stretch in Narora to Kanpur due to pollution
  • All the surveys carried out in Ganga previously were conducted in bits and pieces or were rapid. This is for the first time a comprehensive and scientific study is being conducted

 

[2].India runs out of life-saving HIV drug for children

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Cipla, sole manufacturer of Lopinavir syrup, stopped production of the drug after govt. failed to clear dues

 

What has happened?

Stocks of Lopinavir syrup, a child friendly HIV drug, have run out after Cipla, the sole manufacturer of the drug, stopped manufacturing it over the issue of non-payment from the Health Ministry

 

Government’s response

Faced with a crisis, the Health Ministry says it has instructed State AIDS Control Societies (SACS) to purchase from local markets

 

Give the rest article a light read

 

[3]. Attacks on Indians put MEA under pressure 

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Besieged by complaints from PIOs and NRIs, India can do little in the case of citizens of another country

 

Issue:

Problem 1: Present government has treated the entire diaspora as a single entity. This is causing problems now as both PIOs (Persons of Indian Origin) & NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) reaching out to the Ministry of External affairs (MEA) in the light of upsurge in attacks on Indian nationals in US

 

Problem 2:  Another problem that is emerging is the panic over all incidents involving citizens of Indian extraction being called racially motivated attacks.

 

[4].Aadhaar data not misused: UIDAI

 

The Hindu

 

Context 

UIDAI’s statement regarding security risk to Aadhaar data

 

What has happened?

Dismissing reports of misuse of Aadhaar biometrics for identity or financial thefts, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) said that personal data held by it were secure.

 

Backdrop

Recently, a breach of Aadhaar data was reported after the UIDAI sent a notice to three firms for possible unauthorised authentication attempt and storing of biometric data.

  • The notice it had served was shared widely on social media and questions were raised over the safety of Aadhaar data

 

UIDAI’s explanation

Describing the incident as an “isolated case of an employee working with a bank’s business correspondents’ company”, the authority said the employee had attempted to misuse his own biometrics.

  • This was detected by the UIDAI internal security system and subsequently action under the Aadhaar Act was initiated.

 

Penal provisions

Any unauthorised capture of iris or fingerprint data or storage or replay of biometrics or their misuse is a criminal offence under the Aadhaar Act

 

[5].Computer OS, short movie successfully stored in DNA

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Scientists have successfully stored a computer operating system, a short movie along with other data in DNA, an advance that may usher the next generation of ultra-compact, biological storage devices which will last hundreds of thousands of years

 

What has happened?

In a new study, researchers from Columbia University and the New York Genome Centre (NYGC) in the U.S. showed that an algorithm designed for streaming video on a cellphone can unlock DNA’s nearly full storage potential by squeezing more information into its four base nucleotides.

 

Why DNA is an excellent storage medium?

DNA is an ideal storage medium because it is ultra-compact and can last hundreds of thousands of years if kept in a cool, dry place, as demonstrated by the recent recovery of DNA from the bones of a 4,30,000-year-old human ancestor found in a cave in Spain

 

What did researchers wrote on DNA?

Researchers chose six files to encode, or write, into DNA:

  • Afull computer operating system
  • An 1895 French film, “Arrival of a train at La Ciotat,”
  • A 50 USD Amazon gift card
  • A computer virus
  • A Pioneer plaque
  • A 1948 study by information theorist Claude Shannon

 

How was it done?

They compressed the files into a master file, and then split the data into short strings of binary code made up of ones and zeros

  • Fountain codes: Using an erasure-correcting algorithm called fountain codes, they randomly packaged the strings into so-called droplets, and mapped the ones and zeros in each droplet to the four nucleotide bases in DNA: A, G, C and T
  • The algorithm added a barcode to each droplet to help reassemble the files later.

 

Highest density data storage ever created

The researchers showed that their coding strategy packs 215 petabytes of data on a single gram of DNA, which according to Erlich, was the highest-density data-storage device ever created.


Editorial/OPINION


[1]. No time for complacency

 

The Hindu

 

Context

India’s economy is defying the pessimists, and the time is ripe to deepen structural reforms

 

Other assessments

Author states that other than 3rd quarter GDP estimates released recently by CSO, two other assessments have also hinted at Indian economy’s robustness,

  • The Article IV Consultations 2017 of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  • The biennial Economic Survey of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

 

Challenges

Author states that the growth projection of 7.5% (the higher side of the 6.75-7.5% range forecasted in this year’s Economic Survey) for the next fiscal depends on resolving several short-term challenges

  • High public debt: The OECD’s survey raises concerns about India’s large interest payments due to the high levels of public debt as compared to other emerging economies. Instead of large public outlays, we should focus on quality of public expenditure
  • Health of banking and financial sector: The twin balance sheet problem of both corporates and banks, highlighted in the Economic Survey, are related to each other but need different actions. Solutions like an independent agency PARA have been indicated by the survey itself but to think that all the existing ills of the banking and financial sector will be eliminated by a blanket solution is just not possible

 

Rule-based management

Author suggests that like GST Council, Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) & Bank Board Bureau, another agency like Banking Council can be created to facilitate a dialogue with political parties and stake holders on a new banking road map

  • Forming consensus: Seeking consensus on a forward banking reform path would be the principal mandate of the Banking and Finance Council
  • Various committees: Extensive analytical work by several committees and commissions like the Narasimham Committee, P.J. Nayak Committee, Gopalakrishna Committee, to mention a few, have critically examined the past and suggested future actions

 

Recommendations of OECD & IMF reports

  • Local government entities need greater empowerment. Making grants available in two parts — a basic grant and performance grant — will make a difference
  • Enabling local bodies to impose and realise property taxes and other levies would strengthen their financial viability
  • The Fifteenth Finance Commission, yet to be constituted, while reviewing the implementation of past recommendations can consider incentivising States on empowerment and delegation of powers to local bodies.
  • Seeking to replicate best governance practices in labour and product markets among the States could also prove beneficial in mitigating inter-State growth divergence.

 

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that pursuing and deepening structural reforms is the way forward

 

[2]. Saving the Ghats

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Article is a brief commentary on the current position of the notification that would declare a part of the Western Ghats an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA)

 

Western Ghats

It is a 1,500 km, ecologically-rich strip along the west coast spanning Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu

  • Highest peakAnaiMudi
  • Other name –Sahyadris

 

Backdrop

  • 2011 – Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil recommended in 2011 that all of the Western Ghats be declared as the ESA — with only limited development allowed in graded zones
  • Kasturirangan panel was formed to study the recommendations of the Gadgil committee’s report on Western Ghats. Kasturirangan Panel Report was submitted on April 15, 2013
  • It recommended that only about 60,000 sq km — or about 37% of the WG be declared as ESA
  • Government issued a draft notification in March 2014 that specified how much land in various coastal States encompassing the Western Ghats would be earmarked as out of bounds but as it wasn’t made into a final law — thanks to objections from States — this lapsed in a year and a half
  • On September 2015, a fresh draft notification with the same numbers was reintroduced. This too would expire on March 4

 

Present article presents a brief commentary on the above state of affairs.

 

Editorial’s moot point is simply this,

 

Detailed and wider consultations: Ghats play an irreplaceable role in the monsoon over the Western part of the country (due to orographic effect – Rains occurring on the windward side of the mountain) and the forests harbor a rich biodiversity that has not even been fully studied. New species continue to emerge each year in an area that has endemic plants and animals.

  • Hence, there is a need for wider and more open consultation with people at all levels, coupled with associated scientific insights to clearly demarcate the Ecologically Sensitive Areas in WGs
  • Sustainable development and preservation of the natural heritage of WGs should be the underlying idea around on which rules can be notified

 

[3]. Elusive reconciliation

The Hindu

 

Context

Colombo must do much more to address the concerns of the Tamil minority

 

Article deals with the UN report on the issue of Tamil reconciliation efforts by Sri Lankan government

 

What does the report say?

  • Concerned about delay: Report has raised serious concerns about the delay in addressing allegations of war crimes and in meeting other promises Colombo made when it co-sponsored a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in 2015
  • Threat to peace: The report warns the government that the lack of accountability threatens the momentum towards lasting peace
  • Abuse continue: Report alleges that cases of excessive use of force, torture and arbitrary arrests still continue in Sri Lanka, almost eight years after the country’s brutal civil war ended

 

Current government in Sri Lanka: Sirisena

Previous government: Mahinda Rajapaksa

 

Not enough

Author states that although present government has made efforts to reach out to Tamils and initiate constitutional & legal reforms but progress on concrete issues has been minimal, like

  • No progress on a hybrid judicial mechanism: There has been no solid effort on establishing a hybrid judicial mechanism with domestic and foreign judges and returning the military-occupied lands to Tamil civilians in the north and east

 

Timing of the report

Report comes at a time when over 100 displaced Tamil families are protesting at administrative offices in the north and east asking for their lands to be returned

 

Conclusion

The Sirisena-Wikremesinghe government should seize the moment and start addressing the core issues, keeping reconciliation and the future of Sri Lanka in mind.


Economy


[1].Policy drags e-commerce exports

 

The Hindu

 

Context

India had woken up to the huge potential of e-commerce exports from the country when the Centre decided to provide incentives in the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) 2015-20 to promote exports of goods hosted on a website and dispatched through courier or postal mode

 

Issues with FTP

  • Incentives for only low-value goods: The FTP incentives for e-commerce exports are only for low-value goods — “falling in the category of
    • Handloom products
    • Books and periodical
    • Leather footwear
    • Toys
    • Customised fashion garments, having free-on-board value up to ₹25,000 per consignment and finalised using the e-commerce platform.” As per the norms, the payment for goods purchased on e-commerce platform shall be done through international credit or debit cards and as per the Reserve Bank of India norms.

 

Plethora of B2C exporters

According to an assessment by the commerce ministry and the apex body for exporters in the country – the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), there are more than 25,000 Indian exporters, small and medium firms and entrepreneurs present on the American multinational e-commerce company eBay alone

 

 

Opportunity in the future

According to FIEO, there is a market opportunity of about $5 billion in the near-term, say in the next 2-3 years, for Indian e-commerce retail exports – provided the concerns of such exporters are addressed expeditiously by the government. Since a survey had pointed out that those selling their items using eBay employ about 6.5 employees on an average, further promotion of Indian e-commerce exports is also expected to lead to greater direct and indirect employment generation.

 

[2].A boon for tourists, techies fret

 

The Hindu

 

Context

U.S. could roll out a red carpet for Indian visitors even as IT staff worry over H-1B.

 

What has happened?

Indian and U.S. authorities have kicked off talks to

  • Expand air connectivity with more non-stop flights, allowing frequent Indian visitors quicker exits at the airport under the U.S.’ Global Entry programme
  • Set up a pre-clearance facility at an Indian airport so passengers may avoid delays related to customs and border protection inspections at U.S. gateway airports. Such a pre-clearance facility is currently available in Abu Dhabi for travellers to the U.S., drawing high volumes for the UAE’s flag carrier Etihad’s direct flights to the U.S.

 

Present situation

There are only a few non-stop connections presently between the U.S. and India operated by United Airlines, Air India and Delta Air Lines, and several one-stops through the Middle East and Europe.

 

Backdrop

These initiatives are being considered by a bilateral working group formed under the aegis of the U.S.-India Travel and Tourism Partnership Year officially unveiled 15 days before


Indian Express


[1].Many meanings of corruption

Indian Express

 

Context

The Supreme Court’s recent reading of the law of contempt comes as a welcome relief.

 

Article presents the idea that judicial corruption & judicial misconduct are different. In cases of allegations of corruption, contempt should not be seen as a tool of suppression.

 

No major points wrt improving the judicial system vis-à-vis corruption have been given.

 

You can give it a light read

 

[2]. Banking blues

 

Indian Express

 

Context
RBI should ask banks to rethink decision to charge customers for cash transactions at branch

 

What has happened?

  • Beginning March 1, India’s top three private banks — ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank — have started charging customers a transaction fee for cash withdrawals and deposits at their branches. Customers will now have to pay a minimum of Rs 150 for every additional cash transaction at the branch after the first four transactions, which are free
  • India’s largest bank, the State Bank of India, is also set to charge customers Rs 50 for cash deposits beyond three such transactions in a month.

 

What is the justification being given by banks?

Banks are justifying their move by terming it as measure to boost digital payments in alignment with the government’s move towards less-cash economy

 

Timing of the move

  • Decline in digital transactions: The move comes at a time when the latest RBI data shows a month-on-month decline in electronic transactions in the months of February and January.

 

Author’s contention

Forcing people towards digital payments is not an optimal solution for a country where usage of cash is still widespread with a large unbanked population and informal sector

 

A better way

Author suggests that a better way for banks is,

  • Offering incentives: To promote digital payments is to offer incentives to consumers and firms to shift to digital platforms

 

Conclusion

Author concludes the article by stating that Instruments like transaction fee may lead to cash hoarding, put off potential customers and render financial inclusion an even more difficult task.

 

[3].Leave PoK alone

 

Indian Express

 

Context

Attempts to integrate it with the rest of India will lead to violent after-effects

 

Author’s contention

Will the problem of Kashmir be resolved if India occupies and integrates PoK into India?

  • Author states that when we see the issue in its perspective on economic, social, political or technical lines, it becomes more and more clear that the problem will still persist
  • Acquiring a patch of land the size of a small district, and embracing all the violent after-effects, is likely not to bring a sensible solution

Author now presents the reasons as to why he thinks so.

Unnecessary defence expenditure burden

India devotes about 35 per cent of its annual budget to its defence and security. One of the main reasons for this is the ongoing conflict along the Line of Control in Kashmir. If India does indeed “get back” PoK, it will end up spending 50 per cent of our budget on defence alone

A nest of terror

Kashmir has its own set of problems. If a move is made to occupy the disputed land, the flames of terror in the neighbourhood will not only engulf PoK, but will also claim Kashmir. Given the terror infrastructure ingrained in PoK and the fact that a section of its population is radicalised, it is unlikely that India’s occupation of PoKwill be welcomed.

 

Permanent solution: War

Author states that a permanent solution to this eternal problem could be a full blown war but considering that both India and Pakistan are nuclear nations, the level of collateral damage and overall destruction is unimaginable

Way forward

India should focus on the development in the Kashmir and its people


Live Mint


[1].India’s manufacturing opportunity

 

Live Mint

 

Context

There is a considerable gap between India’s manufacturing potential and its realization

 

Issue– Low cost manufacturing: Opportunities for India

 

Losing steam

In the first few paragraphs, author cites the report of research group Euromonitor International as per which,

  • There has been a considerable increase in the Chinese factory wages which now exceed those of almost every major Latin American country and are closing in on pay levels in the weaker Eurozone countries
  • Conclusion: China branded itself a low cost manufacturing destination but the rising cost of labor will have multiple effects

Impact

Low-cost production jobs, especially in the apparel, toys and cheap electronics sectors, are now moving out to other countries, mostly in South and South-East Asia, which have a steady supply of cheap labour. India can be a potential benefactor here

 

Other facts which confirm above possibility

  • In 2016, the Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index published by Deloitte Touche and the Council on Global Competitiveness indicated the rise of the “Mighty Five”—Malaysia, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam (MITI-V). According to the report, this group will emerge as the “New China” by 2020 given its abundant supply of cheap labour, favorable demographic profiles, and market and economic growth
  • World Bank shared similar sentiments in a 2016 report

Manufacturing sector in India

  • Current share of manufacturing sector in GDP of India: 15%
  • Workforce supported: 12%

Government’s aim: Government wants to take it to 25%

 

Challenges

Author states that there are considerable challenges before India in realizing its manufacturing potential,

Internal problems: There are host of internal problems like,

  • Regulatory roadblocks, unfavorable land and labour laws, inadequate transport, communication and energy infrastructure, among others
  • Structural imbalance: A combination of these internal problems has lead to Indian economic scenario being dominated by Small and Medium enterprises rather than large factories. About 131.29 million people are employed in as many as 58.5 million establishments, according to the sixth economic census released last year. Only large enterprises have the economies of scale that can make India truly competitive

Competition from South-East Asian nations

India faces stiff competition from South-East Asian and other South Asian countries. This is what the latest economic survey has to say about it,

“India is well positioned to take advantage of China’s deteriorating competitiveness”, particularly in the apparel and footwear segments but the space vacated by China is fast being taken over by Bangladesh and Vietnam in the case of apparels; Vietnam and Indonesia in the case of leather and footwear. Indian apparel and leather firms are relocating to Bangladesh, Vietnam, Myanmar, and even Ethiopia. The window of opportunity is narrowing and India needs to act fast if it is to regain competitiveness and market share in these sectors.”

Global technological and geo-economic changes

Global technological changes: Robots are fast becoming the norm on factory floors, and it is only a matter of time before they take over today’s labor-intensive sectors

Global geo-economic challenges: The rising protectionist sentiment as evident by the BREXIT and US presidential elections poses a threat too

Statement: India should not be myopic and focus on becoming a low cost manufacturing destination like China but it should aim for high-value manufacturing and innovation

Author states that the amount of jobs required to satisfy the young population cannot come solely from high-end manufacturing

[2].The political economy of India’s bad bank

Live Mint

Context

A bad bank should not get labelled in public discourse as a government ‘bailout’ of crony capitalists

Issue: Bad Bank

Idea gathering steam

Author states that the idea of a bad bank is gradually gathering steam.

  • PARA: The Economic Survey 2016-17 proposed the setting up of a public sector asset rehabilitation agency (PARA), which is essentially a centralized bad bank
  • RBI Deputy governor recommends PAMC: In a recent speech, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) deputy governor Viral Acharya said there is a “sense of urgency” to decisively resolve Indian banks’ stressed assets. One of his proposed solutions is the creation of a PAMC for sectors in which assets are economically unviable in the short-to-medium term, like the power sector
  • Chief Economic Adviser: A day later after RBI deputy governor’s speech, CEA re-emphasized the need to create a bad bank quickly

Government’s opinion

The government doesn’t seems to be enthusiastic towards the idea of a bad bank reflected by a post-budget interview, in which Union Finance minister said a bad bank is a potential solution but it cannot be supported by the government alone

Difference in Opinion. Why?

First reason: The difference of opinion and enthusiasm can be gauged by the impact of bad bank funding on macroeconomic stability. Here are the Budgetary targets,

  • Fiscal deficit target of 3.2% for 2017-18,
  • Government-debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) target of 60% by 2023
  • Net market borrowing target of Rs3.5 trillion in 2017-18.

Above commitments do not account for the creation of a bad bank

Suggestion from the survey

The Economic Survey has suggested the use of government debt and RBI’s equity capital for funding PARA. The survey argues that the burden is already on taxpayers since most of the Rs6 trillion stressed assets are in public sector banks.

Strain on government

Author states that even if the government funds only 20% of stressed assets in the banking system, it would exceed the net market borrowing target in 2017-18 by more than 30%

Second reason: Public perception & government’s reputation

The most pressing issue is of potential damage to government reputation & public perception.

  • Fraudulent and dishonest borrowers: In July 2016, the comptroller and auditor general of India said that a significant portion of banks’ NPAs was a result of loans obtained by fraudulent methods. This raises questions on the governance practices of public sector banks and the honesty of defaulting borrowers, and needs further investigation. If the government shields bankers from vigilance inquiries, it risks a dent in its reputation. It might be seen as helping crony capitalists and corrupt bankers
  • Foreign inflows: One of the key reasons for of massive inflows of capital into India is the clean reputation of the current government. If there is a dent in that reputation, it might significantly reduce future foreign capital inflows and affect India’s macroeconomic stability
  • Cover up: Moreover, as stressed assets are heavily concentrated in in large borrowers, a bad bank might be seen as a cover up operation by the public

Solution: Vigilance inquiries for fraud need to be separated from the pricing of stressed assets

  • Fear of vigilance inquiries: Due to the fear of vigilance enquiries, banks will not sell the stressed assets cheaply as it might alert vigilance authorities that the sell-off is being done to hide underlying fraud

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating the macroeconomic stability and political viability will be key factors in considering the implementation of a bad bank.


 

 

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Interview Preparation

Interview Discussion Initiative for UPSC Interview


We have started Interview Discussion Initiative.


Important Issues and topics for UPSC Interview would be posted daily. We will try to cover all important areas for your Interview preparation. Aspirants can discuss and debate in the comment section. We request aspirants who are preparing for CSE 2017 to help those appearing for UPSC Interview this year(and themselves!) by participating actively.


Let the debates and discussions be purely academic. Let us make this Initiative a learning experience.


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Interview Discussion Initiative

Interview Discussion Initiative – March 6


About the Initiative: 


Important Issues and topics for UPSC Interview would be posted daily. We will try to cover all important areas for your Interview preparation. Aspirants can discuss and debate in the comment section. We request aspirants who are preparing for CSE 2017 to help those appearing for UPSC Interview this year(and themselves!) by participating actively.


Today’s Topic for Discussion is:

JNU controversy: Nationalism and its relevance

or

Nationalism vs freedom of speech –  What is more important in a democracy?


 

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Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Daily Editorial : Lean and Practice : Saving Western Ghats



Saving Western Ghats


Click here to Download Daily Editorial PDF (6 March 2017 )


Context


On February 27, the government issued a draft notification which will be open to public comment for 60 days — allows the Centre to create an Ecological Sensitive Area (ESA) in the Western Ghats, a 1500 km, ecologically-rich strip along the west coast spanning Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

  • Regions declared as the ESA will not be allowed to host mining and quarrying projects and building thermal power plants.
  • It would pave the way for fresh representation from States on how much area could be demarcated as the ESA.

Some commentators say thishesitation shown by the Central government in deciding upon full legal protection for one of its most prized natural assets, the Western Ghats in their totality, is a major disappointment.


Importance of Western Ghats


  • Ghats play an irreplaceable role in mediating the monsoon over the country.
  • New species continue to emerge each year in an area that has endemic plants and animals, although, as the scientist Norman Myers wrote nearly two decades ago, only 6.8% of primary vegetation out of the original 182,500 sq km remains in the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka taken together.
  • UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee inscribed the Western Ghats of India as a world heritage site ensuring the mountain range, spread across seven states, gets international support for its conservation.
  • Older than the Himalayas, the Western Ghats mountain chain is recognised as one of the world’s eight “hottest hot spots” of biological diversity.
  • The Western Ghats are very important to peninsular India. They are home to the sources of major rivers like the Krishna and Godavari. It has important horticultural and agricultural species and rich bio-diversity that helps in climate-proofing the region.
  • They form the major watershed in peninsular India affecting rainfall patterns across the country.
  • They also neutralize an estimated 4 million tonnes of carbon every year – about 10% of the emissions neutralized by all of India’s forests.

Dangers in Western Ghats


  • The Ghats have shrunk by 25% over the past decadesaffecting rainfall patterns, river flow, water supply and climate across large swathes of the country.
  • Illegal mining, quarrying, thermal power projects and red-category industries within sections of the Ghats threatening all forests.
  • Projects in these corridors will drive away wildlife and increase the incidences of man-animal conflict.
  • With the government intent on maintaining the state’s image as industry-friendly at any cost, environmentalists say further development will see the Ghats shrink further, affecting rainfall patterns across the country and placing endangered species in further danger.
  • The  main  threats  impacting  freshwater  biodiversity  in  the  Western  Ghats  include:  pollutionwith  approximately 50% of fish threatened, and with urban and domestic pollution ranking as the worst threats followed by agricultural and industrial sources  of   pollution;

Madhav Gadgil Report recommendations


  • On the basis of careful and extensive compilation of information, and wide-ranging field visits, consultations and analysis, the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) under Madhav Gadgil has designated the entire Western Ghats as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) and, assigned three levels of Ecological Sensitivity to different regions of it. These are termed as
    • Ecologically Sensitive Zone1 (ESZ1),
    • Ecologically Sensitive Zone 2 (ESZ2) and
    • Ecologically Sensitive Zone 3 (ESZ3).
  • A number of specific proposals received by the Panel from individual Gram Panchayats as well as NGOs from different parts of the Western Ghatsare referred to as Ecologically Sensitive Localities (ESL).
  • Establishing a Western Ghats Ecology Authority through a broad-based participatory process when it is put in place.
  • WGEEP advocates agraded or layered approach, with regulatory as well as promotional measures appropriately fine-tuned to local ecological and social contextswithin the broad framework of ESZ1, ESZ2 and ESZ3.
  • WGEEP recommends that no new dams based on large scale storage be permitted in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 as defined by the Panel.
  • For Goa, WGEEP recommended an indefinite moratorium on new environmental clearances for mining in Ecologically Sensitive Zones 1 and 2, a phasing out of mining in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 by 2016 and continuation of existing mining in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 2 under strict regulation with an effective system of social audit.
  • It also recommended that in Ecologically Sensitive Zones 1 and 2, no new polluting (red and orange category) industries, which would include coal-based power plants, should be permitted to be established; the existing red and orange category industries should be asked to switch to zero pollution by 2016, again with an effective system of social audit.
  • The Panel urges the Ministry of Environment and Forests to take a number of critical steps toinvolve citizens. These would include:
    • Pro-active and sympathetic implementation of the provisions of the Community Forest Resources of the Forest Rights Act,
    • Establishment of fully empowered Biodiversity Management Committees in all local bodies,
    • Promotion of programmes on the pattern of ‘Conservation of biodiversity rich areas of Udumbanchola taluka’ formulated by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board,
    • A radical reform of Environmental Impact Analysis and Clearance processes,
    • Pro-active disclosure of all information of public interest interpreted in the broadest possible sense,
    • A revival of the Paryavaran Vahini programme, and
    • Institution of a social audit process for all environmental issues on the model of that for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in Andhra Pradesh

Kasturirangan Panel report on Western Ghats


  • It makes a distinction between the so called ‘cultural landscape’ and ‘natural landscape’ with 41% as “natural landscape”, having low population impact and rich biodiversity.
  • Rest of the 59% as “cultural landscape” with human settlements and agricultural fields
  • So, they took a stand that instead of declaring entire Western Ghats as ESA, the panel said that 90 per cent of the “natural landscape” should be protected based on the percentage of forests, population density of villages and the richness of the biodiversity in villages.
  • Effectively as per the Kasturirangan committee ~37.5 % of the total area of the Western Ghats is ecologically sensitive.
  • Other Recommendations
    • Supervising forests and bettering their productivity to ascertain inclusive growth and economical gains for local communities.
    • Removal of the cash crop plantations such as rubber, agricultural fields and settlements should be from the protection regime.
    • Integrating forest accounts into state and national economic assessments
    • Initiating an ecosystem service fund to help villages around the forests
    • Promoting sustainable agriculture Encouraging ecotourism for local benefits.
    • Establish a Decision Support and Monitoring Centre for Geospatial Analysis and Policy Support in the Western Ghats, which will supervise changes and propose state government on policy reform and all such reports must be in the public domain.
    • High-resolution map, delimiting ecologically sensitive areas, down to each village settlement, must be put in the public domain so that people can be involved in taking decisions about environment.
    • A ban on all polluting industries (including mining) categorised as most hazardous in the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
    • The Forest Rights Act, 2006, that recognises the rights of dwellers on forest resources, will be implemented in letter and spirit and the consent of Gram Sabhas concerned will be mandatory for any project. Strict regime for Hydro-power projects. These include cumulative impact assessment of such projects and ensuring minimum water flow in the rivers in the lean season.
    • Set up a body to assess and report on the ecology of the region and to support the implementation of ESA to be set up.
    • Ban on mining, quarrying, thermal power plants and highly polluting industries within 60,000 sq km of the Ghats. Projects will be allowed only after the approval of the gram Sabhas concerned.

Criticism of the Government


  • The idea that whatever is left of these fragile mountainous forests should be protected from unsustainable exploitation in the interests of present and future generations, while presenting sustainable ways of living to the communities that inhabit these landscapes, is being lost sight of.
  • The issue is being framed as one of development-versus-conservation.
  • The weak effort at forging a consensus, there is little purpose in the Centre issuing notification to identify ecologically sensitive areas when what it needs is a framework under which scientific evidence and public concerns are debated democratically and the baseline for ESAs arrived at.
  • Neglect of the Madhav Gadgil Report and Kasturirangan Panel report on protection of Western Ghats. Both expert groups have encountered resistance from State governments and industries, although they mutually differ in their recommendations.
  • The question that needs speedy resolution is how much of the Western Ghats can be demarcated as ecologically sensitive, going beyond the system of national parks and sanctuaries that already exist.

Conclusion


All these points need wider and more open consultation with people at all levels, imbuing the process with scientific insights. The sooner this is done the better. Several options to spare sensitive areas will emerge, such as community-led ecological tourism and agro-ecological farming. A national consultative process is urgently called for.


Questions


  1. In view of their wealth of endemic species, the Western Ghats form a genetic reserve of fundamental importance that has to be preserved at all costs. Critically evaluate the stance of the government in conservation of it.
  2. We are a developing country with huge energy needs but there are looming dangers of climate change and erratic monsoons due to anthropogenic causes. How to balance this in the latest conundrum of the context of Western Ghats?

 

 

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Prelims Capsule

Prelims Capsule : Summarizing Mauryan art and architecture



Mauryan art and architecture


We have tried to summarize all the important aspects related to Mauryan art and architecture, still if some important points have been left, please add your inputs in the comments below, we would edit the post and include the mentioned important aspects


Maurya was the first empire to rule over most of the Indian subcontinent. It represented an important transition in Indian art from use of wood to stone.

Mauryan art can be divided into: court art and popular art.

Court art includes Palaces, pillar and stupas

Popular art includes sculptures and potteries


Pillars


As of now only 10 pillars are in existence.

Sarnath pillar is one of the finest pieces of sculpture of the Ashokan period

Why Inscribed pillars

• As a symbol of state
• To commemorate battle victories
• To propagate imperial sermons

Parts of the Pillars:-

• A long shaft made up of a monolith (usually chunar sandstone)(Famous for polished finish)
• On the top of the shaft, lay the lotus or bell shaped(Iranian influence) capital with one or more animal figures

• Above capital, there is a circular or rectangular base known as Abacus.

• On abacus there lies the animal figure. Most notable are lion capital of Sarnath, the bull capital of Rampurva and the lion capital of Lauria Nandangarh


Stupa


• Stupas were burial mounds
• Prevalent in Vedic period, but popularized in Mauryan times
• Used for keeping: relics and ashes
• Medhi and Torana were decorated by wooden structures
• Originally the stupa was made of bricks and surrounded by a wooden railing.
• But later stone was adopted in the place of wood
• The existing stupa at Sanchi encloses the original stupa and has been enlarged and enclosed within the stone railing

Stupa consists of following parts:-

o A domical structure (Anda)
o A base (Circular or square)
o A circumambulatory path (Medhi)
o Stone railing with four elegantly carved gateways in the four cardinal directions.
o the Harmika(a square Buddhist railing), on the top of the dome
o From Harmika, rises the shaft that holds the imperial umbrella

• Famous stupas are:

o Bharhut, Sanchi and Bodh Gaya in north
o Amravati and Nagarjunakonda in the South

• These stupas are famous for their carved out railing and gateways
• On these surfaces are carved the favourite symbols of Buddhism:-
o the lotus,
o elephant,
o bull,
o lion and horse
o and some of the Jataka stories of the previous births of Buddha

Sanchi stupa:

• This Stupa is the oldest stone structure in India
• Enlarged in subsequent centuries
• Four ornamental gateways facing four directions were added later
• Enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1989
• Lord Buddha has been depicted symbolically by figures like thrones, wheels and footprints among others.

Amravati stupa

• It was transformed from a Hinayana shrine to a Mahayana shrine.
• It had free standing columns surmounted by lions near the gateways.
• The dome was covered with sculptured panels
• It is made of brick and consists of a circular vedika which depicts Lord Buddha in a human form over an elephant.
• There are beautiful carvings and sculptures which interpret the life of Buddha and his incarnations from the Jataka tales.

BharhutStupa

• Bharhutstupa may have been first built in the 3rd century BCE by the Maurya king Ashoka
• Many works of art were added during the Sunga period
• Railings, posts, gateways and capping stones are all fashioned in beautiful red sandstone
• Many carvings of the Bhurhut are yakshis
• Buddha has been represented in the form of symbols.
• The railing medallions display a variety of lotus design, sometimes incorporating in yaksha busts.
• Some of the other themes include scenes of everyday village life, Lakshmi bathed by elephant, deer, peacock and elephants.


Forts/palaces


• Wooden fort constructed in the era of Chandra Gupta Muarya along the Ganges in Bihar
• Palaces of Chandragupta Maurya was inspired by Achaemenid palace at persipolis
• Megasthenes described the palace as greatest creation of mankind
• Use of stone made famous during the times of Ashoka.
• Ashoka’s palace near Patna was a masterpiece enclosed by a high brick wall
• This palace had a three storey wooden pillar

 

Sculptures


  • Sculptures mainly for decoration of stupas in torana and Medhi
  • Famous sculptures of Mauryan period includes: Yakshand yakshini
  • Yakshini holds a chauri (flywhisk) in the right hand
  • Stone elephant at Dhauli
  • Image of the elephant emerging from the rock is a most impressive one

Yaksha and yakshini

Yaksha worship was very popular even before the advent of Buddhism

They are object of worship related to all 3 (Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism) religions.

Earliest mention found in Tamil text Silappatikaram


Pottery


  • Most famous pottery of Mauryan times known asNorthern Black PolishedWare (NBP).
  • NBP ware characterized by Black paint and high quality polish
  • It was obviously a more expensive ware than the other varieties

Cave architecture


  • The caves at Barabar hills near Bodh Gaya are wonderful pieces of Mauryan architecture
  • Used as Viharas by Jain and Buddhist monks
  • Early caves were used by Jain aajivika sect.
  • Characterized by: High quality polished interior walls and decorative gateways
  • The caves are simple in plan with plain but highly polished interiors. The only sculpture ornamentation is a relief carving on the doorway of a cave known as Lomas Rishi cave.
  • Seven rock-cut caves were excavated during the Mauryan period in the Barabar and Nagarjuni hills near Gaya in Bihar
  • 3 rock-cut caves in the Nagarjuni hillswere donated to the Ajivikas.
  • Pillars inside these caves appear to be superfluous

 

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Mains Marathon

Answered: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – March 1



1.What do you understand by water harvesting? Mention any one instance that show that water harvesting existed during ancient India. (GS 3)

आप जल संचयन से क्या समझते हैं? कोई एक उदाहरण दें जिससे पता चले कि जल संचयन का अस्तित्व प्राचीन भारत के दौरान था।

Suggested Answer

Water harvesting :-

  • In general, water harvesting means capturing rain where it falls or capturing the run off in your own village or town. It is sometimes considered as the activity of direct collection of rainwater.The rainwater collected can be stored for direct use or can be recharged into the groundwater.
  • Water harvesting can be undertaken through a variety of ways

o   Capturing runoff from rooftops

o   Capturing runoff from local catchments

o   Capturing seasonal floodwaters from local streams

o   Conserving water through watershed management

Some of the instances which show water harvesting existed even during ancient India:-

  • Excavations show that the cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation had excellent systems of water harvesting and drainage. The settlement of Dholavira, laid out on a slope between two storm water channels, is a great example of water engineering.
  • Jhalaras are typically rectangular-shaped stepwells that have tiered steps on three or four sides.

o   Jhalaras were built to ensure easy and regular supply of water for religious rites, royal ceremonies and community use. The city of Jodhpur has eight jhalaras.

  • Bawarisare unique stepwells that were once a part of the ancient networks of water storage in the cities of Rajasthan. The little rain that the region received would be diverted to man-made tanks through canals built on the hilly outskirts of cities. The water would then percolate into the ground, raising the water table and recharging a deep and  intricate network of aquifers.

o   To minimise water loss through evaporation, a series of layered steps were built around the reservoirs to narrow and deepen the wells.

  • AharPynes are traditional floodwater harvesting systems indigenous to South Bihar.

o   Ahars are reservoirs with embankments on three sides that are built at the end of diversion channels like pynes.

o   Pynes are artificial rivulets led off from rivers to collect water in the ahars for irrigation in the dry months.  Paddy cultivation in this relatively low rainfall area depends mostly on aharpynes.

  • Johads, one of the oldest systems used to conserve and recharge ground water, are small earthen check dams that capture and store rainwater.

o   Several johads are interconnected through deep channels, with a single outlet opening into a river or stream nearby.

o   This prevents structural damage to the water pits that are also called madakas in Karnataka and pemghara in Odisha.

  • Dungs or Jampois:-

o   Dungs or Jampois are small irrigation channels linking rice fields to streams in the Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal.

  • Cheruvu:-

o   Cheruvu are found in Chitoor and Cuddapah districts in Andhra Pradesh. They are reservoirs to store runoff.

  • Bhanadaras:-

o   These are check dams or diversion weirs built across rivers. A traditional system found in Maharashtra, their presence raises the water level of the rivers so that it begins to flow into channels. They are also used to impound water and form a large reservoir.

  • Kere:

o   Tanks, called kere in Kannada, were the predominant traditional method of irrigation in the Central Karnataka Plateau, and were fed either by channels branching off from anicuts built across streams, or by streams in valleys.

o   The outflow of one tank supplied the next all the way down the course of the stream; the tanks were built in a series, usually situated a few kilometres apart.

o   This ensured a) no wastage through overflow, and b) the seepage of a tank higher up in the series would be collected in the next lower one.

  • Zings:-

o   Zings are water harvesting structures found in Ladakh.They are small tanks, in which collects melted glacier water.

o   Essential to the system is the network of guiding channels that brings the water from the glacier to the tank.

o    As glaciers melt during the day, the channels fill up with a trickle that in the afternoon turns into flowing water. The water collects towards the evening, and is used the next day.

  • Zabo:-

o   The zabo system is practiced in Nagaland in north-eastern India. Also known as the ruza system, it combines water conservation with forestry, agriculture and animal care.

  • Eri:-

o   Approximately one-third of the irrigated area of Tamil Nadu is watered by Eris (tanks).

o   Eris have played several important roles in maintaining ecological harmony as flood-control systems, preventing soil erosion and wastage of runoff during periods of heavy rainfall, and recharging the groundwater in the surrounding areas.


2.Discuss the impact of Brahmo movement in bringing religious reform. (GS 1)

धार्मिक सुधार लाने में ब्रह्म आंदोलन के प्रभाव पर चर्चा करें।

Suggested Answer

Brahmo movement:

Impact of brahmo movement in bringing religious reforms:

  • It impacted all fields of social reform, including abolition of the caste systemand of the dowry systememancipation of women, and improving the educational system.
  • The role of the Brahmo movement as the ‘first intellectual movement which spread the ideas of rationalism and enlightenment in modern India’ cannot be over-emphasized.
  • Itsliberal approach to social and religious questions won the approbation of Europeans and Indiansalike. 
  • Its educational and social reform activities instilled a new confidence which, in turn,
    contributed to the growth of national movement. A number of BrahmoSamajists were later prominent in the struggle of Independence.
  • It denounced polytheism and idol worship. 
  • It discarded faith in divine incarnations.
  • It denied that any scripture could enjoy the status of ultimate authority transcending
    human reason and conscience
    .
  • It took no definite stand on the doctrine of karma and transmigration of soul and left it
    to individual Brahmos to believe either way
    .
  • It criticized the caste system.
  • The movement gave the upcoming middle class cultural roots and reduced the sense of
    humiliation that the British powers had created
    .
  • Modern, rational, secular, and scientific outlook was promoted realizing the need of the
    modern era.
    The reformers aimed at modernisation rather than outright westernization. A
    favourable social climate was created to end India’s cultural and intellectual isolation from the world.

Limitations:

  • Narrow Social Base :
    • Reform in practice in any case affected a very small minority.
    • Only the educated and urban middle class was involved in the social reform movement, while the needs of vast majority of peasants and the urban poor were ignored.
  • Movement did not reach rural India 
    • Given the situation of widespread illiteracy in the rural areas and because of the absence of modern and diversified communications network, they were doomed to have a very limited audience, mainly urban-based.
    • Thus even in terms of its practical appeal the movement remained urban, besides its other limitations.
  • Casteism remained strong
    • Caste distinctions remained strong and the religious and social practices did not die away. Caste and customs proved to be hard to eradicate from Indian consciousness.
    • The tendency of the reformers to appeal to the greatness of the past and to rely on scriptural authority led to compartmentalizing religions as also alienating high caste Hindus from lower caste Hindus.
  • Communal Consciousness

Overemphasis on religious, philosophical aspects of culture while underemphasizing secular aspects led to the Hindus praising ancient Indian History and Muslims confining to the medieval history. This created a notion of two separate segments of people and increased communal consciousness.


3.What do you understand by ‘wisdom’? Do you think that we need more wise people in administration than intelligent ones? (GS 4)

आप ‘ज्ञान’ से क्या समझते हैं? क्या आपको लगता है कि हम बुद्धिमान लोगों की तुलना में प्रशासन में अधिक ज्ञानी लोगों की ज़रूरत है?

Suggested Answer

Wisdom:

More wise administrators are needed than intelligent ones because:

  • A wise person is someone who, although probably has better than average raw Intelligence, has the rare talent of seeing not only the logical results of an action, but its unintended consequences and can weigh the moral benefits each, therefore consistently making better decisions based on the best probable outcome for all.
  • It is much more desirable to be extremely wise because extreme intelligence, alone, cannot always make the right decision.
  • Only intelligent people can’t or won’t act “for the common good” when they are faced with conflict between multiple parties or priorities. They refuse to consider “right action” or the well-being of the group, team or community in favor of relying on the conventional perspective or their own personal goals.
  • Wisdom includes the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.It is insight. Also, wisdom requires control of one’s emotional reactions so that universal principles, reason and knowledge prevail in determining one’s actions.
  • When one faces with ethical dilemma it is the wisdom which helps the administrator to choose the right decision.
  • In building relationships Wisdom acts even better than emotional intelligence.
  • Intelligent administrator may be able to detect the problem like the corruption or reasons for not implementing a certain government scheme and suggest solutions but a wise administrator would be able to take mesures to prevent the problem in the first place itself.

However mere wisdom is not enough sometimes more intelligent ones are needed because:-

  • Intelligence can not be neglected as it helps in making the system more efficient.

A proper balance of wisdom and intelligence is necessary for reaching balanced decisions in public interest.A wise administrator is tend to be intelligent which is not the same in the reverse way.


 

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Weekly Important Article

Weekly Important Articles : March Week 1


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Weekly Important Articles is an Initiative started by ForumIAS to cover important issues relevant to UPSC Civil services preparation.

Weekly Compilation of Important Articles will cover key current Affairs issues. It will analyze the important current affairs topics and issues of the week. We will try to keep all issues meaningful and relevant to the examination.

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