Daily Current Affairs – 20-06-2023

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    Rock Art

    Syllabus: GS 1/Art and Culture 

    In News

    • A Mesolithic period rock painting depicting a person tilling a piece of land has been found in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh.
      • The paintings were made with “natural white kaolin and red ochre pigments”, as well as that most of them had been “badly damaged” due to exposure to “air and wind”. 

    About Ochre and Kaolinite 

    • Ochre is a pigment composed of clay, sand, and ferric oxide. 
    • Kaolinite is a soft, earthy, and usually white mineral produced by the chemical weathering of aluminium silicate minerals like feldspar.

    About Rock art 

    • Rock Art or Palaeoart is our ancestors’ earliest signature drawn on rock surfaces either on the open cliffs or inside the rock shelters and caves where they lived.
    •  It can be seen in the form of rock paintings (petrographs) and / or in the form of engravings, cupules, etc. (petroglyphs)
    •  They provide a unique opportunity to understand the origins of human mind and serve as source for studying the material culture of the society in its ecological setting
    •  Rock art may have played a role in prehistoric religion, possibly in connection with ancient myths or the activities of shamans.
      •  Important sites are located in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and North and South America.

    The Rock Art Sites in India

    • Rock Art is widely distributed in Northern, Western, Eastern and Southern part of India right from Ladakh, (J&K), Manipur and Himachal Pradesh to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. 
    • But most of the rock art sites are in the central India, notably in the Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. This is primarily due to its unique geo-environmental set-up which favoured the evolution of early human culture on the Central Indian plateau.
      • This is primarily due to its unique geo-environmental set-up which favoured the evolution of early human culture on the Central Indian plateau
    • Bhimbetka rock art shelters in the Vidhyan Range and the Adamgarh and Pachmarhi in the Satpura are among the most important rock art sites in India.

    Do you Know?

    • Mesolithic, also called Middle Stone Age existed between the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) and the Neolithic (New Stone Age)
    • It is a period beginning about 12,000 years ago till about 10,000 years ago.
    •  Stone tools found during this period are generally tiny and are called microliths
      • Microliths were probably stuck on to handles of bone or wood to make tools such as saws and sickles. At the same time, older varieties of tools continued to be in use.

    Source: TH

    Hindu Kush Himalayas

    Syllabus: GS1/ Geography

    In News

    • The Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) have seen a 65 per cent faster loss of glacier mass, according to a new report from International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

    About ICIMOD

    • The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is a regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge sharing centre.
    • It is serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayas: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. 
    • ICIMOD’s provision of services and support is in terms of assisting its constituents to understand the changes happening to mountainous ecosystems due to impacts of climate change.
    • It also aims to assist mountain people to understand these changes, adapt to them, and make the most of new opportunities.
    • ICIMOD is headquartered in Lalitpur, Nepal.

    Findings of the Report

    • The glaciers lost a mass of 0.28 metres of water equivalent per year (m w.e.)  between 2010 and 2019 compared to 0.17 (m w.e.) per year between 2000 and 2009, the Water, Ice, Society, and Ecosystems in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HI-WISE) report noted.
    • The Karakoram range, which was known to be stable, has also started showing a decline in glacier mass, losing 0.09 m w.e. per year during 2010-2019.
    • The average temperature in the region has increased by 0.28°C per decade between 1951 and 2020.
    • Nine out of 12 river basins have witnessed increased warming rates at higher elevations. The strongest impacts are being felt in the Brahmaputra, Ganges, Yangtze, and Indus Basins.
    • In a business-as-usual scenario, HKH glaciers could lose up to 80 percent of their current volume by 2100, the report highlighted.
    • Further, a quarter of snow cover could be lost under a high emissions scenario. The report quoted a study that predicted a decline in snowfall by 30-50 per cent in the Indus Basin, 50-60 per cent in the Ganges, and 50-70 per cent in the Brahmaputra between 2070 and 2100 compared to the average snowfall between 1971 and 2000.

    The Hindu Kush Himalayas

    • These are the mountain ranges stretching over 3500 kilometres and across eight countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, Myanmar and Pakistan.
    • The Hindu Kush Himalaya is arguably the world’s most important ‘water tower’, being the source of ten of Asia’s largest rivers as well as the largest volume of ice and snow outside of the Arctic and Antarctica. 
    • Together these rivers support the drinking water, irrigation, energy, industry and sanitation needs of 1.3 billion people living in the mountains and downstream.

    Importance of the Hindu Kush Himalayas

    • Glaciers occupy an area of approximately 73,173 square kilometres (km2) in the HKH, which helps to maintain the ecological balance in the region.
    • The biodiversity of the region — 40 percent of which is under protected areas — is dependent on the cryosphere as it is an important source of water for maintaining ecosystem health, supporting biological diversity, and providing ecosystem services.
    •  Ice and snow in the HKH are an important source of water for 12 rivers that flow through 16 countries in Asia. 
    • About 240 million people are in the mountains and 1.65 billion downstream are dependent on them.

    What will be the impacts of losing ice cover?

    • The loss of permafrost could lead to infrastructure damage, costing the world several billion dollars.
    • If permafrost thaws, the ground becomes much less stable. We are already seeing the effects of this, for example in landslides caused by thawing permafrost.
    • The region is expected to see an increase in floods and landslides. These hazards, the report noted, increase the risk of loss and damage, including population displacement.
    • Researchers have documented changes such as species migrating to higher elevations, ecosystem degradation and changes, decrease in habitat suitability, species decline and extinction, and invasion by alien species.
    • With climate change driving glacier mass loss, reduction in snow cover, shrinking of permafrost area, changes in hydrology, and increased natural hazards and disasters, cascading impacts on the ecosystem can be seen. 
    •  The extreme events that we now know with a high degree of certainty will hit the already vulnerable communities with greater magnitude and complexity and without greater support, these communities will be unable to cope. 

    What needs to be done?

    • The report calls for more measurements, especially in regions where road construction projects are in the pipeline and if people reside near permafrost.
    • The mountain population is extremely vulnerable to the changing cryosphere (the frozen water part of the Earth system) and that urgent adaptation measures need to be adopted.

    Way Ahead: 

    • The glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalaya are a major component of the Earth system. With two billion people in Asia reliant on the water that glaciers and snow here hold, the consequences of losing this cryosphere are too vast to contemplate.

    Source: DTE

    Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) 

    Syllabus: GS3/ Various Security Forces and Agencies and Their Mandate

    In News

    • The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister, has approved IPS officer Ravi Sinha’a  appointment as Secretary, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for a tenure of two years.
      • He replaces Samant Kumar Goel, who will complete his tenure on June 30, 2023.

    Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) 

    • About: 
      • Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is India’s premier intelligence agency and was created in 1968 to handle India’s external intelligence affairs. 
      • The chief of RAW is designated secretary (research) in the Cabinet Secretariat, which is part of the prime minister’s office. 
      • RAW reports directly to the prime minister instead of the Ministry of Defense. 
      • Since its inception, RAW is credited with providing intelligence support to many significant operations on foreign soil. 
    • History:
      • Until 1968, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was handling both the internal and external intelligence.
      • After the 1962 border war with China, the need for a separate external intelligence agency was felt. During that conflict, our intelligence failed to detect Chinese build up for the attack.
      • As a result, India established a dedicated external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing.
      • Founded mainly to focus on China and Pakistan, over the last forty years the organization has expanded its mandate and is credited with greatly increasing India’s influence abroad. 
      • In 1968, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi appointed R. N. Kao as the first director of RAW.
    • Structure of RAW
      • R&AW has been organised on the lines of the CIA. The head of R&AW is designated Secretary (R) in the Cabinet Secretariat.
      • The Secretary (R), is under the direct command of the Prime Minister, and reports on an administrative basis to the Cabinet Secretary, who reports to the Prime Minister. 
    • RAW’s objectives:
      • Monitoring the political, military, economic and scientific developments in countries which have a direct bearing on India’s national security and the formulation of its foreign policy.
      • Mold international public opinion and influence foreign governments.
      • Covert Operations to safeguard India’s National interests.
      • Anti-terror operations and neutralising elements posing a threat to India.
      • seeking the control and limitation of the supply of military hardware to Pakistan, mostly from European countries, the United States, and China.

    RAW’s Role in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka

    • RAW played a significant role in the formation of Bangladesh along with the Indian army and other Indian security and intelligence agencies.
    • RAW trained and armed Mukti Bahini, a group of East Pakistanis fighting for the separate state of Bangladesh. 
    • Analysts say that RAW also facilitated the northeastern state of Sikkim’s accession to India in 1975, and provided military assistance to groups hostile to the pro-China regime in Myanmar.
    • RAW helped train and arm the LTTE in the 1970s, but after the group’s terrorist activities grew in the 1980s—including its alliances with separatist groups in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu—RAW withdrew this support. 
    • In 1987, India made a pact with the Sri Lankan government to send peacekeeping troops to the island, and Indian forces ended up fighting the group RAW had armed. In 1991, Rajiv Gandhi, prime minister of India at the time of the peacekeeping force deployment, was assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber.

    Covert Action in Afghanistan and Pakistan

    • RAW set up two covert groups of its own, Counter Intelligence Team-X (CIT-X) and Counter Intelligence Team-J (CIT-J), the first targeting Pakistan in general and the second directed at Khalistani groups.

    Challenges

    • Lack of language expertise among Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) officers, posted overseas as the “eyes and ears” of India, especially in adversarial states, seems to have become a challenge for the agency.
    • Lack of transparency pertaining to its budget: Due to the highly sensitive nature of the organization’s mission, they do not have to answer to Parliament and are therefore exempt from the Right to Information Act that would require disclosure of use of funds.
    • Concern that RAW don’t coordinate with India’s domestic intelligence organizations. The intrusion of Pakistan-backed armed forces into the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1999 prompted questions about RAW’s efficacy.
    • Overlapping of Functions of various agencies: Earlier, RAW was the only organization permitted to conduct espionage operations abroad. Now, both the IB and DIA have the authority to conduct such operations

    Way Ahead

    • The agency should have professionals equipped both with language skills and domain expertise.
    • Internal committees within the RAW or under the PMO need to be created to bring transparency and accountability.

    Source: IE

    India and Vietnam Defence Ties

    Syllabus: GS2/IR,  GS3/Defence

    News

    • India gifted the indigenously-built in-service missile corvette INS Kirpan to Vietnam to enhance its naval capabilities.

    What is a Corvette?

    • A corvette is the smallest type of naval ship, falling below the frigate’s warship class. It is  amongst the most agile ships along with missile boats, anti-submarine ships, coastal patrol crafts, and swift attack naval vessels.
    • Corvettes date back to the 18th and the 19th century when they were extensively used in the naval warfare duels that were fought at high seas.

    About INS Kirpan

    • INS Kirpan is a Khukri class missile corvette displacing 1,350 tonnes and was commissioned into the Navy in 1991. 
    • The Kirpan and Shield were main weapons of Sikhs The design of the sword and the sheild is taken from ” The Journal of Indian Art and Industry vol. VI” reproduced from the specimen preserved in the Lahore museum , which was displayed in the Indian and colonial exhibition of 1886.

    • It has a displacement of close to 1,400 tonnes, a length of 91 metres, a beam of 11 metres and is capable of speed in excess of 25 knots. 
    • The ship is fitted with a medium range gun, 30 mm close range guns, chaff launchers and surface-to-surface missiles.

    India-Vietnam Defence Relations

    • Background: The deepening of the defence ties has been a gradual process nonetheless. Vietnam was the first country in the Southeast Asian region with whom India had signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement in 2007, which from 2016 onwards after the visit of Prime Minister to Vietnam has been elevated to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’.
      • In the early 2000s, both sides also signed a defence protocol through which Vietnam could procure military helicopters and equipment for the repair of Vietnamese aircraft. 
    • Joint Vision on Defence Cooperation:  A Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation signed between the Ministries of Defence in 2009 and the Joint Vision on Defence Cooperation signed by the Defence Ministers in 2015 provided the institutional framework. 
    • Visit of India’s Defence Minister in 2022: It led to the signing of a new “Joint Vision Statement on India-Vietnam Defence Partnership towards 2030” and a “Memorandum of Understanding on Mutual Logistics Support”.
      • Both Ministers also agreed for early finalisation of the $US 500 million Defence Line of Credit extended to Vietnam.
    • Diversified Engagement: Apart from the cooperation between the Ministries of Defence of the two sides, this engagement has diversified to wider military-to-military dialogue and exchanges, training programme and bilateral exercises. 
      • Cooperation in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations is another active area of our cooperation. Defence industrial collaboration is another area in defence relations. 
      • In 2022, 12 High Speed Guard Boats built by Indian manufacturer M/s Larsen & Toubro were handed over to Vietnam.
    • Bilateral Military Exercises: Bilateral military exercises are held periodically.
    • Bilateral defence engagements have expanded over a period of time to include wide-ranging contacts between the two countries, including Defence Policy Dialogues, military to military exchanges, high level visits, capacity building and training programs, ship visits and bilateral exercises.

    Significance of Vietnam for India

    • Act East Policy: Vietnam has always been a critical partner for India in its Southeast Asian diplomacy, both under its Look East policy and now in the era of the Act East policy. India was the only country to have supported Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia in 1978. This had also stalled the process of India becoming a dialogue member in the ASEAN.

    • Potential Regional Power: India realises that Vietnam is a potential regional power in South East Asia with great political stability and substantial economic growth. Its average 7% annual economic growth is very attractive. 
      • Even during the worst period of pandemic, its economic growth remained commendable at 3% while several other nations registered negative growth. 
    • Countering China: The wariness of other Southeast Asian countries when it comes to the growing influence in Southeast Asia of external powers like the US, Australia, India among others to balance a rising China is clearly visible, it is Vietnam which openly supports the idea of countries like the US, India taking more interest in the challenges that the region is facing.
    • Valuable Partner: Vietnam though also is keeping its relations with China intact, given the economic benefits, but also does not shy away from calling out Beijing when needed. India has ongoing oil exploration projects with PetroVietnam, although China continues to object to India’s oil exploration operations in areas offered by Vietnam but Vietnam has lent its full support to India in this regard. This indeed makes Vietnam a valuable partner and player in the Indo-Pacific.
    • Shared vision for Indo-Pacific: India and Vietnam have agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation in line with India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative and ASEAN’s Outlook on the Indo-Pacific in order to ensure shared security, growth and prosperity for the Indo-Pacific region.
      • Vietnam has mostly faced the brunt of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea since the 1970s — from China’s occupation of Paracels in 1974, to the occupation of Spratlys in the 1980s. This threat has only intensified in recent times. This looming threat and Vietnam’s reformed attitude and foreign policy orientation will only provide the much needed impetus to Vietnam to look at potential like-minded players in the Indo-Pacific like India.
    • India’s Vision of Defence Exporter: Another push to further boost the defence ties and defence industry collaboration has been for India’s drive of establishing its place as a potential exporter in the defence sector globally.

    Way Ahead

    • The drivers for the growth of trade and commerce are both strategic and economic. Both the countries desire to do away from the dependence on China. 
    • The problem related to supply chain emerging in the recent years, has also pushed them to consider an alternative supply line. Moreover, both nations desire a stable, open, free and inclusive Indo-Pacific Ocean region. Thus, both have common objectives.
    • India is pursuing the Act East Policy and is working to make the Indo-Pacific free and open, that will promote Security and Growth for All in Region (SAGAR).
    • These make the prospects for further growth of trade and commerce between India and Vietnam bright in the coming period.

    Source: TH

    World Refugee Day

    Syllabus: GS 2/International 

    In News

    • Recently, World Refugee Day was observed.

    About World Refugee Day

    • It is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe.
    •  It falls each year on 20 June and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. 
    • Historical Linkages:  It was held globally for the first time on 20 June 2001, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. 
    • Importance:  It shines a light on the rights, needs, and dreams of refugees, helping to mobilize political will and resources so refugees can not only survive but also thrive. 
      • It is important to protect and improve the lives of refugees every single day, international days like World Refugee Day help to focus global attention on the plight of those fleeing conflict or persecution.

    Refugees

    Asylum Seekers

    • A refugee is someone who fled his or her home and country owing to “a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”, according to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. 
    • Many refugees are in exile to escape the effects of natural or human-made disasters.
    • When people flee their own country and seek sanctuary in another country, they apply for asylum – the right to be recognized as a refugee and receive legal protection and material assistance.
    • An asylum seeker must demonstrate that his or her fear of persecution in his or her home country is well-founded.

    Challenges 

    • Refugees and asylum seekers encounter a myriad of obstacles, such as legal recognition and challenges in obtaining government-issued documents, which hinder their access to essential services, including financial support and health care. 
    • Global conflicts which include the ongoing wars in Ukraine, Myanmar and Sudan among others, and the protracted situations in Afghanistan, and Somalia present an unprecedented challenge. 
      • These crises extend to other regions where many individuals have been uprooted from their homes.

    International Protection 

    •  1951 UN Refugee Convention:  The United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was adopted in 1951 and forms the crux of international refugee protection today. 
      • The convention is grounded in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 which states that everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution in other countries . 
      • The 1951 convention originally only applied to people who fled due to events that occurred before January 1, 1951, and within Europe. 
      • An amendment in the form of a 1967 Protocol removed these limitations and made the Refugee Convention applicable globally.
    • The Global Compact on Refugees:It  acknowledges the magnitude of the displacement crisis and calls for solidarity through a whole of society approach.
      • It is built on the understanding that the responsibility towards the forcibly displaced is not limited to governments but extends to each one of us including individuals, the private sector, non-government organisations and community-based organisations.
      •  It also recognises that the Global South is disproportionately affected and that host communities need assistance.

    India’s Stand on Refugees

    • India is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol. 
      • All foreign undocumented nationals are governed as per the provisions of The Foreigners Act, of 1946, The Registration of Foreigners Act, of 1939, The Passport (Entry into India) Act, of 1920 and The Citizenship Act, of 1955.
    • India is an executive committee member of the UNHCR and cooperates with its work in India.
      • India has historically prided itself on being a land of refuge- from Zoroastrians or Parsis since the 12th century, or persecuted Christians or Jews in the world war etc. 
      • even today, India is home to some 250,000 forcibly displaced persons including
        • Tibetans fleeing Chinese control since the 1950s
        • Sri Lankan refugees since the 1980s 
        • Afghan refugees fleeing Taliban rule in 1996, although India has not accepted any since the Taliban takeover.
        • Myanmar democracy activists, Chin ethnicities and other groups since the 1990s.
        • Rohingya refugees that came in in 2012 were relocated to various states, including Jammu Kashmir, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh etc.

    Way Ahead for India

    • India can justifiably claim its historical role in giving shelter to those who have fled violence and persecution in its neighbourhood, but its aspirations of global leadership will fall short of being realised if it is seen as taking a discriminatory position in the present, as comments on government actions with the CAA, the Rohingya and Afghan refugees in the past few years have shown.
    • Eventually it is the reaffirmation of Indian values, rather than global pressure that will show the way for India’s refugee policy and the debate over the need for refugee law.

    Source:TH

     

    Phonons

    Syllabus: GS3/Science & Tech

    In News

    • A new study shows how ‘splitting’ sound takes us one step closer to a new type of quantum computer.

    What are Quantum computers? 

    • The big difference compared to a classical computer is that a quantum computer is following a different rule set. It’s not using zeros and ones like classical computers are – bits and bytes – but it is actually able to work with something called qubits.
    • A qubit can be a particle — like an electron; a collection of particles; or a quantum system engineered to behave like a particle. 
    • Particles can do funky things that large objects, like the semiconductors of classical computers, can’t because they are guided by the rules of quantum physics.
    • The premise of quantum computing is that information can be ‘encoded’ in some property of the particle, like an electron’s spin, and then processed using these peculiar abilities. As a result, quantum computers are expected to perform complicated calculations that are out of reach of the best supercomputers of today.
    • Other forms of quantum computing use other units of information. For example, linear optical quantum computing (LOQC) uses photons, the particles of light, as qubits.

    Phonons

    • According to quantum mechanics, microscopic vibrations (sound waves) in solid media are quantized. This means that vibration energy can only be exchanged in the form of so-called phonons.

    Phonons vs Photons

    • Phonons are to sound what photons are to light. Photons are tiny packets of energy for light or electromagnetic waves. Similarly, phonons are packets of energy for sound waves. Each phonon represents the vibration of millions of atoms within a material.
    • Both photons and phonons are of central interest to quantum computing research, which exploits the properties of these quantum particles. 
    • However, phonons have proven challenging to study due to their susceptibility to noise and issues with scalability and detection. 

    Acoustic Beam Splitter

    • While researchers can manipulate electrons using electric currents, magnetic fields, etc. and photons with mirrors, lenses, etc, they need new tools to manipulate phonons. To this end, in the new study, researchers from the University of Chicago have reported developing an acoustic beam-splitter.
    • Beam-splitters are used widely in optics research. Imagine a torchlight shining light along a straight line. This is basically a stream of photons. When a beam-splitter is placed in the light’s path, it will split the beam into two, that is, it will reflect 50% of the photons to one side and let the other 50% pass straight through.

    About the New Study

    • The laws of quantum mechanics hold that quantum particles are fundamentally indivisible and therefore cannot be split, but researchers at the University of Chicago are exploring what happens when you try to split a phonon.
    • In the new study, the researchers developed an acoustic beam-splitter — a tiny device resembling a comb, with 16 metal bars jutting out of it. 
    • The acoustic beamsplitter “split” phonons and thereby demonstrated their quantum properties. 
    • Scientists have successfully split phonons paving the path for a new type of quantum computer called linear mechanical quantum computers. 

    Way Ahead

    • It’s still a long way from here to a functional quantum computer that uses phonons as units of information but studies like this will pave the way for more research to build on it, and it will keep going.

    Source: TH

    Excess use of urea 

    Syllabus: GS3/ Environment

    News

    • The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) recently recommended that urea, the fertiliser consumed most, should be brought under the nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) regime, like all other fertilisers.

    The objective

    • To foster parity in the prices of fertilisers containing nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and other plant nutrients.
    • To ensure their balanced and need-based application. The unduly low price of urea, vis-a-vis other fertilisers, has resulted in overuse of nitrogen and inadequate application of other equally essential nutrients, including some vital micro and secondary plant nutrients.
    • Soil health, as also its fertility, has consequently been adversely affected. Higher doses of nutrients are now required to get the same level of crop yields. Continuing this situation would bode ill for farming, particularly profitability, which has already been severely eroded. 

    What are the challenges?

    • Urea pricing is a politically sensitive issue. As a result, fertilizer subsidies continued to soar to touch a high of nearly ~2.3 trillion in 2022-23. 
    • The consumption of urea spurted by over 33 percent since last year, that of other fertilisers registered only marginal gains. 
    • The imbalance in nutrient use worsened further, to the detriment of soil health. 

    What needs to be done?

    It would do well to at least implement the politically less inconvenient suggestion to put a cap on the number of bags of subsidised urea a farmer can buy.

     

    Past Initiatives to promote judicious use of plant nutrients:

    1. Mandatory neem-coating of urea: 
    • Based on the CCEA decision, the Department of Fertilizers has made it mandatory for all the domestic producers of urea to produce 100% as Neem Coated Urea. 
    • Improvement in soil health, reduction in costs with respect to plant protection chemicals,  reduction in pest and disease attack, an increase in yield and curb on diversion of highly subsidized urea towards non-agricultural purposes was expected.
    1. Soil health card Scheme:  
    • Soil Health Card (SHC) is a Government of India’s scheme promoted by the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare
    • A Soil Health Card is used to assess the current status of soil health and, when used over time, to determine changes in soil health that are affected by land management.
    • SHC is a printed report that a farmer will be handed over for each of his holdings. It will contain the status of his soil with respect to 12 parameters, namely N,P,K (Macronutrients); S (Secondary- nutrient); Zn, Fe, Cu, Mn, Bo (Micro – nutrients); and pH, EC, OC (Physical parameters). Based on this, the SHC will also indicate fertilizer recommendations and soil amendment required for the farm.
    • A farm will get the soil card once every 3 years.
    1. Nano Urea: 
    • Nano urea is a liquid fertilizer developed by IFFCO. It is an alternative to conventional urea. 
    • It is essentially urea in the form of a nanoparticle which aims to reduce farmers’ dependence on packaged urea. Fertilisers in nano form provide a targeted supply of nutrients to crops, as they are absorbed by the stomata, pores found on the epidermis of leaves. 
    • Liquid nano urea is sprayed directly on the leaves and gets absorbed by the plant.
    • The conventional urea has an efficiency of about 25 percent; the efficiency of liquid nano urea can be as high as 85-90 per cent.
    • It is expected to reduce the country’s subsidy bill and it is aimed at reducing the unbalanced and indiscriminate use of conventional urea.

    Favourable conditions for the move:

    This is the most appropriate time to carry forward pricing reforms in the fertiliser sector. 

    • The domestic production of urea has begun to look up, and the need for imports is waning rapidly, thanks to the re-commissioning of three defunct fertiliser plants and the availability of innovative Nano urea, which does not require any subsidy. 
    • Besides, the international prices of fertilisers have also eased from their peaks touched immediately after the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in February 2022. 

    Way Ahead:

    • The latest estimates reckon the NPK use ratio at 13:5:1, instead of the ideal 4:2:1. Rationalising prices, therefore, seems the best way to restore the nutrient-use balance for the sake of sustainable agriculture. 

    Source: BS

     

    UN’s High Seas Treaty

    Syllabus: GS2/ United Nations, its Bodies & Agencies, Agreements Involving India &/or Affecting India’s Interests

    In News

    • The United Nations has recently adopted the first-ever treaty to protect marine life in the high seas.  

    More about the news

    • Precursor:
      • The treaty to protect biodiversity in waters outside national boundaries, known as the high seas, covering nearly half of earth’s surface, had been under discussion for more than 20 years as efforts to reach an agreement had repeatedly stalled.
    • Approval:
      • Delegates from the 193 member nations approved the treaty with jubilation & there wasn’t a single objection. 
    • Ratification:
      • The new treaty will be opened for signatures on September 20th 2023, during the annual meeting of world leaders at the General Assembly, and it will take effect once it is ratified by 60 countries.
      • What will happen after its ratification?
        • Once the treaty becomes international law after ratification by member countries, it will regulate all human activities in the high seas with the objective of ensuring that ocean resources, including biodiversity, are utilised in a sustainable manner, and their benefits are shared equitably among countries.
        • Once adopted, the treaty will be legally binding.
    • Significance:
      • Adoption of the treaty comes at a critical time, with the oceans are under threat on many fronts. 
      • The treaty is vital to address these threats and all the countries are urged to spare no efforts to ensure that it is signed and ratified as soon as possible.

    About High Seas

    • About:
      • High seas are open ocean areas that are outside the jurisdiction of any country.
      • The high seas comprise 64 percent of the ocean surface and about 43 percent of the Earth
      • These areas are home to about 2.2 million marine species and up to a trillion different kinds of microorganisms, according to the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI), a network of global experts on oceans.
    • Threats:
      • The high seas face many threats, including climate change, overfishing, and pollution
      • They absorb heat from the atmosphere and are affected by phenomena like El Nino, which can endanger marine flora and fauna
      • The high seas are facing acidification, which could harm marine life, and thousands of species could face extinction by 2100 if current trends continue. 
      • Climate change is already influencing, and is being influenced by, ocean systems, and is exacerbating the pressures on marine biodiversity from unregulated human activities

    High Seas Treaty

    • About:
      • It is also referred to as the ‘Paris Agreement for the Ocean’. 
      • The agreement was reached during the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), which was held in New York
      • The High Seas Treaty will work as an implementation agreement under the UNCLOS.
    • Key provisions of the High Seas Treaty:
      • The treaty has four main objectives:
        • Demarcation of marine protected areas (MPAs), rather like there are protected forests or wildlife areas;
        • Sustainable use of marine genetic resources and equitable sharing of benefits arising from them;
        • Initiation of the practice of environmental impact assessments for all major activities in the oceans; and
        • Capacity building and technology transfer.
      • Marine protected areas (MPAs): 
        • MPAs are where ocean systems, including biodiversity, are under stress, either due to human activities or climate change. 
          • These can be called the national parks or wildlife reserves of the oceans. 
        • Treaty provisions:
          • Activities in these areas will be highly regulated, and conservation efforts similar to what happens in forest or wildlife zones, will be undertaken. 
          • Only about 1.44 percent of high seas are currently protected, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
      • Marine genetic resources: 
        • Oceans host very diverse life forms, many of which can be useful for human beings in areas like drug development. 
          • Genetic information from these organisms is already being extracted, and their benefits are being investigated. 
        • Treaty provisions:
          • The treaty seeks to ensure that any benefits arising out of such efforts, including monetary gains, are free from strong intellectual property rights controls, and are equitably shared amongst all. 
          • The knowledge generated from such expeditions are also supposed to remain openly accessible to all.
      • Environment impact assessments: 
        • The high seas are international waters that are open for use by all countries. 
        • Treaty provisions:
          • Under the provisions of the new treaty, commercial or other activities that can have significant impact on the marine ecosystem, or can cause large-scale pollution in the oceans, would require an environmental impact assessment to be done
          • The results of this exercise have to be shared with the international community.
      • Capacity building and technology transfer: 
        • The treaty lays a lot of emphasis on this, mainly because a large number of countries, especially small island states and landlocked nations, do not have the resources or the expertise to meaningfully participate in the conservation efforts, or to take benefits from the useful exploitation of marine resources. 
        • At the same time, the obligations put on them by the Treaty, to carry out environmental impact assessments for example, can be an additional burden.

    UNCLOS

    • It is an international treaty that was adopted and signed in 1982. 
    • It replaced the four Geneva Conventions of April 1958, which respectively concerned the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, the continental shelf, the high seas, fishing and conservation of living resources on the high seas.
    • The Convention has created three new institutions on the international scene:
      • The International Tribunal for Laws of the Sea
      • The International Seabed Authority
      • The Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf
    • It divides marine areas into five main zones namely- 
      • Internal Waters, Territorial Sea, 
      • Contiguous Zone, 
      • Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the 
      • High Seas.
    • It provides a framework for state jurisdiction in maritime spaces. It provides a different legal status to different maritime zones.

    Source: IE

     

    Janakpur and Janaki

    Syllabus: GS1/ Art & Culture

    In News

    • Recently released movie Adipurush has led to a controversy in Nepal over the dialogue that says “Janaki is a daughter of India”.

    Janakpur

    • It is the capital of Nepal’s Madhesh province and is located about 225 km off Kathmandu.
    • Across the border from India, Janakpur is about 23 km away, and the last town on the Indian side is Jainagar, in Bihar’s Madhubani district.
    • The city is said to be Janakpurdham – the ancient capital of the Videha dynasty that ruled the Mithila region.

    Janaki

    • As per the Ramayana, Sita also known as Janaki is the daughter of King Janaka of the Videha dynasty.
    • She was married to Ram, the prince of Ayodhya and owing to its connection with the Ramayana, Janakpur has been an important pilgrimage site for Hindus.

    Janaki temple

    • The temple is located in Janakpur and was built in 1898.
    • The  inner sanctum of the temple houses a flower-covered statue of Sita,said to have been found in the Sarayu near Ayodhya.
    • Statues of Lord Ram, and his brothers Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan stand next to Janaki statue.
    • The temple is a destination under the Ramayana Circuit.
    • Adjacent to the Janaki temple is the Ram-Sita Vivaha temple, which marks the event of Ram’s marriage to Sita. 

    Ramayana Circuit

    • Ramayana Circuit is one of the fifteen thematic circuits identified for development under the Swadesh Darshan scheme of the Ministry of Tourism.
    • India inaugurated a bus service in 2018, between Janakpur and Ayodhya (where Lord Ram was born), emphasizing the mythological connection between the two countries. 

    Source:IE