Essential key terms from the last week’s news headlines or between the lines categorised as per the relevance to the UPSC-CSE syllabus along with the MCQs followed.
Why in news?
Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute
— The Maharashtra Karnataka border dispute is in the news again after NCP leader Ajit Pawar raised the issue on Wednesday, and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said his government was “committed to acquiring” Marathi-speaking villages along the border.
— The border dispute between the two states is decades-old, having its origins in the states’ reorganisation in the 1950s. We explain the history of the dispute, and why it has been raised again.
Assam-Meghalaya border dispute
— Both Meghalaya and Assam Wednesday said they would seek a probe from a central agency into the Assam Police firing that killed six people on Tuesday along the states’ border.
— The incident comes ahead of the second phase of talks scheduled for this month-end between the two states to resolve their boundary dispute, and there are concerns its shadow will loom large over the negotiations.
What happened recently?
— Maharashtra’s Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar Wednesday demanded clarification from the Chief Minister and deputy CM over Karnataka CM Basavraj Bommai’s claims that villages in Jat tehsil of Sangli were a part of Karnataka.The BJP is in power in both Maharashtra and Karnataka.
— Fadnavis, speaking to the media at Nagpur, responded, “The Jat resolution discussed was passed in 2012. It is an old proposal. We have not received any new proposal from Karnataka.”
— Stating that Maharashtra’s stand on claiming Carvar, Nippani and Belagavi was non-negotiable, Fadnavis added, “We will fight for our stand within the legal frame work in the Supreme Court.” Earlier, Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde had promised pension to freedom fighters from Belgavi and other parts being claimed by Maharashtra.
— To counter this, Bommai Tuesday offered special grants to Kannda-medium schools in Maharashtra, and announced pensions to Kannadigas in Maharashtra who fought for unification of the state.
History of the dispute
— Both Maharashtra and Karnataka were formed in 1960. But since its inception, Maharashtra has claimed that 865 villages along the border, including Carvar, Nippani and Belgavi ( earlier Belgaum), should be merged with it. On its part, Karnataka has asserted rights over 260 Kannada-speaking villages along the Maharashtra border.
— The erstwhile Bombay Presidency, a multilingual province, included the present-day Karnataka districts of Vijayapura, Belagavi, Dharwad, and Uttara Kannada. In 1948, the Belgaum municipality requested that the district, having a predominantly Marathi-speaking population, be incorporated into the proposed Maharashtra state.
— However, The States Reorganisation Act of 1956 made Belgaum and 10 talukas of Bombay State a part of the then Mysore State (which was renamed as Karnataka in 1973).
— While demarcating borders, the Reorganisation of States Commission included talukas with a Kannada-speaking population of more than 50 per cent in Mysore. But the opponents of the decision have maintained that in 1956, Marathi-speakers outnumbered Kannada-speakers in those areas.
— The Mahajan Commission was set up by the Government of India in October 1966 to look into the border dispute. In its report submitted in August 1967, the Commission, led by former Chief Justice of India Mehr Chand Mahajan, recommended that 264 villages should be transferred to Maharashtra, and that Belgaum and 247 villages should remain with Karnataka.
— Maharashtra rejected the report, calling it biased and illogical. Despite demands from Karnataka, the Centre never implemented the report.
— In 2004, the Maharashtra government moved the Supreme Court for settlement of the border dispute under Article 131(b) of the Constitution. The case is pending in the apex court.
What is the border dispute?
— Assam and Meghalaya have a longstanding dispute in 12 stretches of their 884-km shared border. The two states had signed a pact in March resolving the dispute in six out of 12 areas. In August, they decided to form regional committees. The second round of discussions for the remaining six phases was to commence by the end of this month.
— The Assam-Meghalaya pact was seen as a major achievement, as Assam’s border disputes with other states in the Northeast have remained unresolved despite multiple rounds of talks. Now, the firing threatens to derail the upcoming talks.
— During the British rule, undivided Assam included present-day Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Mizoram. Meghalaya was carved out in 1972, its boundaries demarcated as per the Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969, but has held a different interpretation of the border since.
— In 2011, the Meghalaya government had identified 12 areas of difference with Assam, spread over approximately 2,700 sq km.
— Both state governments identified six out of 12 disputed areas for resolution in the first phase: three areas contested between West Khasi Hills district in Meghalaya and Kamrup in Assam, two between RiBhoi in Meghalaya and Kamrup-Metro, and one between East Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya and Cachar in Assam.
— After a series of meetings and visits by teams to the disputed areas, both sides submitted reports based on five mutually agreed principles: historical perspective, ethnicity of local population, contiguity with boundary, peoples’ will and administrative convenience.
— A final set of recommendations were made jointly: out of 36.79 sq km of disputed area taken up for settlement in the first phase, Assam would get full control of 18.46 sq km and Meghalaya of 18.33 sq km. In March, an MoU was signed based on these recommendations.
Point to ponder: Progress in settling border disputes, removal of AFSPA herald positive changes in the region. Comment.
Supreme Court has the power to directly listen to matters between 2 states governments or between the Centre and the state as per the:
a) Article 130
b) Article 131
c) Article 139
d) Article 225
Why in news?
— C Rangarajan weighs in on the factors that are driving the depreciation of the rupee, and why it is essential to contain domestic inflation to stop the slide.
— Dr Rangarajan was RBI Governor between 1992 and 1997 as India embraced economic reforms. His new book, Forks in the Road: My Days at RBI and Beyond, was published this month. Following are some of the essentials from Dr Rangarajan’s interview to Udit Misra. ‘I’ below refers to Dr C Rangarajan.
According to imf.org:
“Inflation is the rate of increase in prices over a given period of time. Inflation is typically a broad measure, such as the overall increase in prices or the increase in the cost of living in a country. But it can also be more narrowly calculated—for certain goods, such as food, or for services, such as a haircut, for example. Whatever the context, inflation represents how much more expensive the relevant set of goods and/or services has become over a certain period, most commonly a year.”
Why is the rupee falling against the dollar?
— First of all, we need to understand how the value of the rupee is determined. Several decades ago, there was a theory called the purchasing power parity theory, which explained how the value of any currency is determined. The idea was that the external value of a currency is determined by its internal value — meaning that the rate differential between one currency and another depends upon the difference in the inflation in the two countries. That was a time when the balance of payments of a country was dominated by what we call the current account — that is, the export and import of goods and services.
— But over time, this has changed. An important element now is the capital account in the balance of payments — which means the inflow and outflow of funds. The value of a currency can be strong despite the fact that it has a high current account deficit because there is enough capital flowing from outside into the country. Therefore, the supply of foreign currency increases not because of [trade] but because of the decision to invest or because of the decision to keep deposits in our country.
— In some sense what has happened in the Indian situation — and this is true of many other countries as well — is that the main reason for the rupee depreciating in its value, let’s say against the dollar, is because the funds inflow into our country started diminishing. That is because the Fed, with a view to control inflation in the United States, really raised the rate of interest.
— Therefore, investors find the United States is [more] attractive, because of the higher rate of interest. Instead of sending funds outside, they are keeping the funds inside and sometimes, as it has happened in the present case, they withdrew the funds from India and put them in the United States.
— Therefore, the reason why there is a sudden decline in the value of the rupee is because of the capital account, because of the outflow of funds and the lack of funds coming from outside.
— There are various forms through which funds flow, but generally speaking, when the investment becomes more attractive domestically, foreign countries do not send funds into other countries, and this is precisely what has happened, because the fluctuation in the value of the rupee was quite sudden.
Is a stronger currency necessarily bad?
— In a sense, an undervalued currency is better because it is more attractive for exports. But at the same time, we have to understand that this (depreciation against the dollar) cannot go on; this cannot be a continuous process. Please remember, immediately after the IMF was formed, the dollar was equal to 4.75 rupees and today we are talking in terms of 80 rupees to the dollar or a little more.
— So, I would say that at a particular point in time, the devaluation or the depreciation in the value of the domestic currency may be advantageous because we have a tough balance of payments situation and we need to export more and reduce the current account deficit.
— But this cannot go on continuously… because ultimately what we are essentially saying is that for getting $1 the amount of the resources that you need in India is becoming higher and higher. Therefore, the steady deterioration in the value of the rupee is not something that one would advocate.
— And this is where the whole purchasing power parity comes [into the picture]. So long as inflation in our country is higher than the inflation in other countries, the value of the rupee will (continue to) depreciate.
What can be done to stabilise the rupee’s exchange rate?
— I have always taken the position that we must reduce our inflation rate.
For example, the US talks of 2% as the appropriate inflation, whereas, we talk of 4% as the appropriate inflation, even though our actual inflation may be higher, but at least the goal is 4%. If you have this (setting), then every year the value of the rupee will have to depreciate.
— The point is that the current situation has been aggravated because of the capital flows. But over a period of time, we really need to see that our inflation — while it may not necessarily be equal to their inflation — (is) at least close to it and the margin is not that high.
(Source: C Rangarajan explains why it is essential to contain domestic inflation Written by C Rangarajan , Reported by Udit Misra)
Point to ponder: Why ‘Inflation vs growth’ is RBI’s tricky challenge?
If too much money is chasing too few goods, the resulting inflation is known as
b) Cost-push inflation
c) Demand-pull inflation
Why in news?
— A three-day celebration of the 400th birth anniversary of the legendary Assamese general and folk hero Lachit Borphukan began in New Delhi on November 23. The ceremony will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and Law Minister Kiren Rijiju among others.
— Last week, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma released a theme song composed by singer Zubin Garg as part of its ongoing celebration of the 400th birth anniversary of the Ahom general. The song was a tribute to the sacrifice of ‘Mahabir’ Lachit, Sarma said, and hoped that it would boost “nationalistic fervour” among the people.
— Earlier this year, then President Ram Nath Kovind had inaugurated the celebrations in Guwahati, laying the foundation stone for a war memorial and a 150-foot bronze statue of the hero.
History of the Ahom kingdom
— The Ahom kings ruled large parts of what is now known as Assam for nearly 600 years, from the early 13th century to the early 19th century. This was a prosperous, multi-ethnic kingdom which spread across the upper and lower reaches of the Brahmaputra valley, surviving on rice cultivation in its fertile lands.
— The Ahoms engaged in a series of conflicts with the Mughals from 1615-1682, starting from the reign of Jahangir till the reign of Aurangzeb. One of the major early military conflicts was in January 1662, where the Mughals won a partial victory, conquering parts of Assam and briefly occupying Garhgaon, the Ahom capital.
— The counter-offensive to reclaim lost Ahom territories started under Ahom King Swargadeo Chakradhwaja Singha. After the Ahoms enjoyed some initial victories, Aurangzeb dispatched Raja Ram Singh I of Jaipur in 1669 to recapture the lost territory — eventually resulting in the Battle of Saraighat in 1671.
Legend of Lachit Borphukan
— Lachit was a brilliant military commander who knew the terrain of the Brahmaputra valley and the surrounding hills like the back of his hand. He was chosen as one of the five Borphukans of the Ahom kingdom by king Charadhwaj Singha, and given administrative, judicial, and military responsibilities.
— Unlike the Mughals who preferred battles in the open with their massive armies, Borphukan preferred guerrilla tactics which provided an edge to his smaller, but fast moving and capable forces. Much like Shivaji’s encounters with the Mughals in Marathwada, Lachit inflicted damage on the large Mughal camps and static positions. His raids would kill unsuspecting Mughal soldiers and frustrate the mighty armies that were too ponderous to respond swiftly.
— When the monsoon set in, Mughal plans were complicated further. However, as the Mughals were able to successfully camp around the foothills of Alaboi, the Ahom king ordered Borphukan to carry out a frontal assault which led to the deaths of nearly 10,000 Ahom warriors and ended in a weary Mughal victory in 1669.
— As the Mughals attempted to progress through the valley, they realised that travelling by the river would be faster. Lachit, who was a great naval warrior and strategist, created an intricate web of improvised and surprise pincer attacks. According to the historian H K Barpujari (‘The Comprehensive History of Assam’), the Ahom forces combined a frontal attack with a surprise attack from behind. They lured the Mughal fleet into moving ahead by feigning an attack with a few ships from the front. The Mughals vacated the waters behind them, from where the main Ahom fleet attacked and achieved a decisive victory.
— Lachit Borphukan died a year after the Battle of Saraighat from a long festering illness. In fact, he was very ill during the Battle of Saraighat, as he heroically led his troops to victory. This only added to his legend.
Lachit Borphukan in Assamese culture
— Every culture and community has its heroes. Over time, Lachit Borphukan’s exploits have become a symbol of resistance against outsiders against all odds. He has become one of the greatest of Assamese heroes, symbolising the valour, courage, and intelligence that defines the Assamese self-identity.
— Arup Kumar Dutta, author of The Ahoms, told The Indian Express last year that Lachit Borphukan represented a time when the “Assamese race was united and able to fight an alien, formidable force such as the Mughals”.
Dr Jahnabi Gogoi, a professor of mediaeval history in Dibrugarh University, told The Indian Express last year that Lachit Divas has been celebrated on November 24, his birth anniversary, in Assam since the 1930s.
Point to ponder: The home minister said had it not been for Veer Lachit Barphukan, the Northeast would not have been a part of India. Do you agree?
With reference to the famous Sattriya dance, consider the following statements: (2014)
1. Sattriya is a combination of music, dance and drama
2. It is a centuries-old living tradition of Vaishnavites of Assam
3. It is based on classical Ragas and Talas of devotional songs composed by Tulsidas, Kabir and Mirabai
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
a) 1 only
b) 1 and 2 only
c) 2 and 3 only
d) 1, 2 and 3
Why in news?
— The Centre has proposed to overhaul The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, introducing 61 amendments in the law, which includes three years’ imprisonment for committing “gruesome cruelty” including “bestiality” with animals.
— A draft Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill, 2022, prepared by the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying, has been opened for public comments until December 7. Once the draft is final, the Bill could be brought either in the Winter Session or the Budget Session of Parliament.
What are the main changes proposed in the law?
— Essentially, the law is proposed to be made tighter, with more stringent punishments. Several offences have been made cognizable, which means offenders can be arrested without an arrest warrant. The draft bill has proposed to include “Bestiality” as a crime under the new category of “Gruesome cruelty.”
— The proposed subsection describes “gruesome cruelty” as any act involving animals which leads to “extreme pain and suffering” and is “likely to leave the animal in life-long disability”. It includes “mutilation or killing of animal by the use of strychnine injection in the heart or any other cruel manner that is known to cause permanent physical damage to the animal or render animal useless or cause any injury which is likely to cause death including bestiality…”.
— The draft proposes fines from Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000 “or the cost of the animal…whichever is more or with the imprisonment of one year which may extend up to three years or with both” for the offence of gruesome cruelty. For killing an animal, the draft Bill proposes a maximum punishment of five years in jail.
What is the argument for strengthening the law?
— In September, a doctor in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur allegedly tied a dog to his car and dragged it across the city. The dog had a fractured leg and suffered bruises. An offence such as this — fairly common in India — would currently attract charges under Section 428 (mischief by killing or maiming animal) IPC and Section 11 (treating animals cruelly) of The PCA Act, 1960.
— First-time offenders under the PCA Act are punished with a fine of Rs 10-50. If it is found that this is not the offender’s first such crime in the past three years, the maximum punishment would be a fine between Rs 25 and Rs 100, a jail term of three months, or both.
— In short, the penalty is ridiculously light in the law as it exists now, and is incapable of acting as any deterrent for potential offenders.
— In 2014, the Supreme Court, in ‘Animal Welfare Board of India vs A Nagaraja & Others’, had said that “Parliament is expected to make proper amendment of the PCA Act to provide an effective deterrent” and that “for violation of Section 11, adequate penalties and punishments should be imposed”.
What has the government said on this subject?
— In April 2021, the Centre had proposed changes where the penalty can go up to “Rs 75,000 per animal or three times the cost of the animal as determined by the jurisdictional veterinarian, whichever is more, and imprisonment of three years which may extend to five years or both.”
— In October 2021, the government said it would bring in a Bill to amend the PCA Act. Union Minister for Animal Husbandry Parshottam Rupala told PTI, “We are ready with the draft amendment Bill. We are in the process of getting the Cabinet approval.” The government has finally moved in this direction.
Apart from increasing penalties, what else is proposed?
— The draft bill proposes the insertion of a new section providing five freedoms to animals.
“It shall be the duty of every person having charge of an animal to ensure that the animal in his care or under his charge has freedom from:
* Thirst, hunger and malnutrition;
* Discomfort due to environment;
* Pain, injury and diseases;
* Fear and distress, and the
* Freedom to express normal behaviour for the species
— The proposed law also says that “in case of a community animal, the local government such as municipality or panchayats shall be responsible for taking care of the community animals in a manner developed by the State Government or by the Board”.
— The draft defines “community animal” as “any animal born in a community for which no ownership has been claimed by any individual or an organization, excluding wild animals as defined under the wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (53 of 1972).”
How frequent are acts of atrocities against animals?
— While acts of everyday stoning or beating animals are widespread and commonplace, sometimes the offence takes on grotesque and perverse forms.
* In April this year, four people were arrested for carrying out unnatural sexual acts on a monitor lizard in Maharashtra.
* In July 2021, the Kerala High Court took suo motu cognizance after a dog was beaten to death by three people in Adimalathura beach in Thiruvananthapuram.
* In 2020, the death of a pregnant elephant that bit an explosives-filled fruit had provoked nationwide outrage.
* In February that same year, three men were arrested in Ludhiana for allegedly beating a stray dog with iron rods, throwing it from a rooftop and then dragging it on the road tied to an auto-rickshaw.
Are there any concerns around tightening the law?
— While comments have been invited to the draft Bill, some experts have in the past pointed out that simply increasing the quantum of punishment may not be enough to stop cruelty against animals, and some already marginalised communities like ‘madaris’ (who perform with animals) and ‘saperas’ (snake charmers) may be disproportionately affected.
— Others have argued that focusing on the individual act of ‘cruelty’, such as farmers putting up electric fences around their fields, is an incomplete approach, and steps are needed to mitigate the larger issues of vanishing animal habitats and climate change exacerbating man-animal conflict.
Point to ponder: Current anti-cruelty laws don’t protect animals and only harm humans. Do you agree?
Which of the following Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution lays the foundation of animal welfare state policies
a) Article 42
b) Article 44
c) Article 48
d) Article 49
Why in news?
— Certain services at CDSL were disrupted due to a suspected cyber attack over the weekend, media reports said. The problem had been fixed by Sunday evening, the reports said.
What is CDSL?
— CDSL, or Central Depositories Services India Ltd, is a government-registered share depository, alongside its other state-owned counterpart National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL).
— Share depositories hold shares in an electronic or dematerialised form and are an enabler for securities transactions, playing a somewhat similar role to what banks play in handling cash and fixed deposits. While banks help customers keep their cash in electronic form, share depositories help consumers store shares in a dematerialised form.
— CDSL was founded in 1999. It is a Market Infrastructure Institution or MII that is deemed as a crucial part of the capital market structure, providing services to all market participants, including exchanges, clearing corporations, depository participants, issuers and investors.
— On its website, CDSL describes its foundational goal as “convenient, dependable and secured depository services”, and says that all its activities over the last two decades have been in support of that goal, at an affordable cost.
— CDSL is led by its chairperson Balkrishna V Chaubal, who retired as Deputy Managing Director of State Bank of India, and its Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer Nehal Vora, a former Chief Regulatory Officer of BSE Limited.
Point to ponder: How to strengthen cyber security?
The terms ‘Wanna Cry, Petya and Eternal Blue’ sometimes mentioned in the news are related to (2018)
c) Cyber attacks
d) Mini satellites
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