Topic 1: The Sammakka Sarakka university
Why in news: The Union cabinet approved a tribal university for Telangana – the Sarakka Central Tribal University, which will come up in Mulugu district.
The legend of Sammakka and Sarakka
- Sammakka is said to have been married to Pagididda Raju, a feudal chief of the Kakatiyas (a Deccan dynasty) who ruled the Warangal area.
- She had two daughters and one son – Sarakka or Saralamma, Nagulamma and Jampanna, respectively.
- In the battle against the local rulers in protest against the taxes, Saralamma died, while Sammakka disappeared into the hills and the local tribals believed that she metamorphosed into a vermillion casket.
- Mulugu holds a biennial festival – the Sammakka Saralamma Jatara – which is considered among the largest gatherings of tribal people in the world.
- The event commemorates the battle of the 13th-century mother-daughter duo against the local rulers in protest against the imposition of taxes on the Koya people.
- The Jatara (yatra, or pilgrimage) begins at Medaram, and the rituals are conducted by the Koya priests, in accordance with their customs and traditions.
- Over the years, it has assumed the form of a large Hindu religious festival, so much so that it is believed that after Kumbha Mela, the Sammakka Saralamma Jatara attracts the largest number of devotees in the country.
- In 2008, nearly 80 lakh people are estimated to have attended the festival, which went up to a crore in 2012.
- It is often referred to as the Kumbh Mela of the tribals.
Political and social resonance
- Considering the footfall of the festival, the Samakka-Sarakka Jathara was declared a state festival in 1996.
- Until 1998, the only way to reach Medaram, where the festival is held, was on a bullock cart.
- But in 1998, the state government (the undivided Andhra Pradesh at the time) constructed a motorable road.
- Since then, the Sammakka Sarakka Jathara has become one of the most famous tribal festivals in the world and close to 1.5 crore devotees from various tribal and non-tribal communities participate in this festival, including those from Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Jharkhand.
- The festival also sees regular participation by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, as much as by the state government of Telangana.
- The Ministry of Tourism, as a part of the Tribal Circuit under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme, sanctioned Rs. 75.88 crore for the integrated development of a tribal circuit of Mulugu-Laknavaram-Medavaram-Tadvai-Damaravi-Mallur-Bogatha Waterfalls where the temple of Sammakka-Sarakka is located.
- The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ramappa Temple is located about 15 km from Mulugu.
Topic 2: Wagh Nakh
Why in news: Maharashtra’s Cultural Affairs Minister signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to bring back Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s legendary wagh nakh to the state.
What is the wagh nakh?
- Literally ‘tiger claws’, the wagh nakh is a mediaeval claw-like dagger which was used across the Indian subcontinent.
- Designed to either fit over the knuckles or be concealed under the palm, the weapon consisted of four or five curved blades affixed to a glove or a bar of some kind.
- It was a weapon used for personal defence or stealth attack, and could easily slice through skin and flesh.
How does the wagh nakh feature in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s legend?
- The most famous use of the wagh nakh in history comes from the story of Afzal Khan’s killing by Shivaji.
- Khan was a general of Bijapur’s Adil Shahi Sultanate.
- Given Afzal Khan’s success in the south, he was sent by the Sultan, with a mighty army, to subdue the Maratha icon.
- In the meeting, Khan, in the guise of embracing him, attempted to stab the Maratha leader.
- But Shivaji was protected by his armour and retaliated through the wagh nakh ripped out Khan’s guts.
How did the wagh nakh reach London?
- The weapon was brought to Britain by East India Company officer James Grant Duff (1789- 1858).
- Duff was the Company Resident (political agent) of the Satara State from 1818-22.
Why is the wagh nakh coming back?
- Invaluable artefacts of historical and cultural significance were taken to Europe by colonisers as loot or memorabilia.
- Even gifts given to Europeans by natives were given from a position of subjugation rather than free choice — like the Peshwa’s gift to Grant Duff.
- Museums across Europe and the western world are full of such objects acquired through colonial plunder and in recent years there has been a growing movement to return such objects to their places of origin.
- It is on these grounds that the India government has requested the return of the Koh-i-noor diamond, currently nestled on the British monarch’s Crown Jewels.
- Now the return of the wagh nakh is just a loan — it will go back to the Victoria and Albert Museum after three years.
Topic 3: Automatic insolvency of Go First Airlines
Why in news: As the embattled carrier Go First filed for voluntary insolvency, lessors lessors still have not been able to gain control of their planes from Go First.
- India is a signatory to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the related protocol, commonly known as the Cape Town Convention (CTC).
- As per the Convention lessors can seek deregistration and export of aircraft without consent of the airline using their Irrevocable Deregistration and Export Request Authorizations (IDERAs).
- However, it is yet to be fully incorporated into India’s legal framework, which so far has meant that in cases of conflict of the CTC provisions with Indian laws, the latter would generally prevail.
- In a recent notification issued by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), the automatic moratorium on assets under The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) will not be applicable to aircraft, aircraft engines, airframes, and helicopters
- This means that if an airline files for insolvency, the provisions of the IBC will no longer be a hindrance in the repossession of aircraft by lessors.
- The inability of lessors to take back their planes from Go First has hit India’s reputation as an aviation market among global aircraft financiers and lessors.
- The Aviation Working Group (AWG) downgraded India, which could lead to higher risk premiums for other Indian carriers.
- The AWG is an international not-for-profit comprising major aviation manufacturers, leasing companies, and financial institutions.
- It is considered an international watchdog for the aircraft financing and leasing industry.
- Higher lease rentals push up the costs for airlines, which already operate in a business environment fraught with volatile fuel prices and phases of cut-throat competition resulting in wafer-thin margins.
- For India, it is important that global aircraft leasing firms develop a favourable view of the Indian aviation market and are not spooked by the possible unpredictability of the legal framework and the operating environment.
- As part of its vision for the country’s civil aviation sector, the government wants India to emerge as a hub for aircraft leasing.
- Alignment and consistency with international civil aviation conventions, protocols, and norms would be prerequisites for the ecosystem to develop in India.
What is the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC)?
- In 2016, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) code was introduced to overhaul the corporate distress resolution regime in India and consolidate previously available laws to create a time-bound mechanism with a creditor-in-control model as opposed to the debtor-in-possession system.
- When insolvency is triggered under the IBC, there can be two outcomes:
- resolution or
Cape Town Convention and India
- The CTC and the related 2001 protocol aims to protect lessors’ interests in case of defaults by the lessee.
- As per the CTC, the lessor can seek deregistration and export of aircraft without the consent of the airline using IDERA.
- The airline has no power to revoke the lessor’s IDERA rights without the latter’s consent.
- Put simply, the objective is to simplify and improve the efficiency of aircraft leasing operations, while providing comfort to lessors that their assets (planes) would not get stuck for extended periods due to legal issues.
- The quick deregistration process allows lessors to repossess planes and lease those out to other operators, minimising the losses they would have to incur if their planes get stuck in litigation.
- This makes lessors ready and willing to lease out aircraft in countries that follow the CTC protocols in letter and spirit.
- Although India became a party to the CTC back in 2008, the incorporation of the convention and its protocol into India’s legal framework has been a work in progress.
- The last CTC-related amendments to India’s aviation rules took place in 2018, simplifying deregistration and export of aircraft through IDERAs.
- With the recent notification, the government has tried to resolve the most contentious issue arising out of the lack of Indian legislation that would give primacy to the provisions of the CTC.
Topic 4: Nobel Prize for Literature 2023
Why in news: The Nobel Prize for Literature 2023 has been awarded to Norwegian author Jon Olav Fosse, for his “innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable”.
- Fosse writes in Norwegian Nynorsk, the least common of the two official versions of Norwegian.
- Born in 1959, Fosse first started writing novels, switching to plays in his 30s.
- He went on to become one of Norway’s most-performed dramatists, and is in fact counted among the most performed of living European dramatists.
- His work has been translated into more than 40 languages.
- While Fosse has been celebrated in Europe for a long time, he is not that popular in the United Kingdom or in the US, and that has impacted his visibility in the rest of the English-speaking world, like in India.
Topic 5: Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
Why in news: Thousands of Armenians have streamed out of Nagorno-Karabakh after the Azerbaijani military reclaimed full control of the breakaway region last month.
- The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh is called one of the “frozen conflicts” of the world.
- This conflict erupted when Azerbaijan launched an offensive and within 24 hours, declared victory over the separatist province of Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Authorities of the province have now said the ethnic Armenian enclave would dissolve on January 1, 2024.
- Though far away, the recent developments in the South Caucasus region have implications for India, in connectivity and ties with the region.
The conflict over the decades
- Geography and population profile:
- Nagorno-Karabakh is a mountainous region officially recognised as part of Azerbaijan.
- But its 1.2 lakh population is predominantly ethnic Armenian, having close cultural, social, and historical ties with Armenia.
- Basically, Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.
- The Armenians are Christians, while Azeris are Muslims.
- The conclave is connected to Armenia through the 5-km Lachin Corridor.
- Status under USSR:
- When Czarist Russia gave way to the Soviet Union in 1921, Nagorno-Karabakh was part of the Azerbaijan SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic).
- In 1923, USSR established the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast—home to a 95 per cent ethnically Armenian population—within the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.
- As the Soviet Union collapsed, the first round of tensions over Nagorno-Karabakh began in 1988, with its regional legislature passing a resolution declaring its intention to join Armenia, despite being geographically located within Azerbaijan.
- When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991 and Armenia and Azerbaijan achieved statehood, Nagorno-Karabakh officially declared independence.
- War then broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan and by 1993, Armenia had captured Nagorno-Karabakh, and additionally, occupied 20 per cent of Azerbaijan’s geographic area.
- Status after USSR was dissolved:
- In 1994, Russia brokered a ceasefire known as the Bishkek Protocol.
- This made Nagorno-Karabakh de facto independent with a self-proclaimed government, but still heavily reliant on close economic, political, and military ties with Armenia.
- Recent war:
- In 2020, Azerbaijan and Armenia went to war again.
- This time, Azerbaijan managed to wrest control of the territory around Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Russia again brokered a deal, and provided peacekeeping forces along the Lachin Corridor.
- In 2022, the Lachin Corridor was blockaded by Azerbaijan, causing severe shortages of essential goods including food, fuel and water in Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Azerbaijan launched an “anti-terrorist” offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh and claimed to have regained full control over the region.
- On the conflict, India has always steered clear of taking sides.
- Ties with Armenia:
- India’s ties with Armenia date back millenia.
- When Assyrian warrior queen Semiramis invaded India in 2000 BC, some Armenians accompanied her.
- Indian settlements in Armenia were established by two princes (Krishna and Ganesh escaping from Kannauj) in 149 BC.
- The first guidebook to Indian cities in Armenian was written in the 12th century.
- A few Armenian traders had come to Agra during the Mughal Empire.
- Emperor Akbar, who is believed to have an Armenian wife Mariam Zamani Begum, granted them privileges and considerable religious freedom.
- In the 16th century, Armenian communities emerged in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and Agra.
- Today, the vestigial community is mainly settled in Kolkata.
- Armenia publicly endorses India’s position on the resolution of the Kashmir issue on a bilateral basis and supports India’s aspiration for a permanent seat in the expanded UN Security Council.
- Ties with Azerbaijan:
- In contrast, historical ties between India and Azerbaijan have been more recent.
- One example is the ‘Ateshgah’ fire temple in the vicinity of Baku is an 18th-century monument, with a much older history, and has wall inscriptions in Devanagari and Gurmukhi.
- It is a surviving proof of the hospitality that Indian merchants on the Silk Route to Europe enjoyed in Azerbaijani cities such as Baku and Ganja.
- In modern times, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, India recognised the independence of Armenia and Azerbaijan and established diplomatic relations.
- Azerbaijan’s proximity to Pakistan has been perceived as an irritant in the ties.
- There has not been a single visit at the level of Head of State/ Government between India and Azerbaijan.
- India’s Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, former President Dr S. Radhakrishnan (as Vice President in 1956) and former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (in 1961) had visited the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.
Significance of the region for India
- India has ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
- Because of the geographical location of Armenia and Azerbaijan, the region is important as a viable corridor for India’s connectivity with Russia and Europe through Central Asia and Iran.
- Armenia and Azerbaijan are members of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which India is keen to develop.
- India supports Armenia’s proposal to include Iran’s Chabahar port in INSTC.
- Tensions in the region directly impact India’s plans to bypass Pakistan as the gateway to Europe and Russia.
Topic 6: Bekal Fort
Why in news: First public sector caravan park in Kerala to bring in more tourists to Bekal Fort
- The Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) will develop the caravan park and camp shelter at Bekal, which has also been selected by the Tourism Department to be developed under cinema tourism.
- It is a project that seeks to showcase prime locations in the State featured in hit films, to attract tourists.
- The KTDC has also submitted proposals to set up caravan parks at Ponmudi in Thiruvananthapuram and Bolgatty Palace in Kochi.
- The caravan park at Bekal will be the first park in the public sector in the State.
- At present, there is only one caravan park in the State, run by a private player at Wagamon.
About Bekal Fort:
- Bekal Fort is a medieval fort built by Shivappa Nayaka of Keladi in 1650 AD, at Bekal.
- It is the largest fort in Kerala.
- The fort appears to emerge from the sea.
- Almost three-quarters of its exterior is in contact with water.
- Bekal fort was not an administrative centre and does not include any palaces or mansions.
- An important feature is the water-tank, magazine and the flight of steps leading to an observation tower built by Tipu Sultan.
- The fort’s zigzag entrance and surrounding trenches reveal its defensive strategy.
- Holes on the outer walls are designed to defend the fort effectively from naval attacks.
- Its solid construction resembles the Thalassery Fort and the St. Angelo Fort at Kannur built by the Dutch.
Topic 7: Freedom House report
Why in news: According to a new report by Freedom House, a Washington-based non-profit organisation, global Internet freedom has declined for the 13th consecutive year.
Key findings of the report:
- About the report:
- The report, the 13th edition of an annual study of human rights online, covers developments between June 2022 and May 2023.
- It evaluates Internet freedom in 70 countries.
- The report is titled “Freedom on the Net 2023: The Repressive Power of Artificial Intelligence”.
- Country wise general findings:
- The environment for human rights online has deteriorated in 29 countries, with only 20 countries registering net gains.
- It has raised a red flag on the increasing use of artificial intelligence by governments for censorship and spread of disinformation.
- As per the report, the sharpest rise in digital repression was witnessed in Iran, where authorities shut down Internet service, blocked WhatsApp and Instagram, and increased surveillance in a bid to quell anti-government protests.
- China, for the ninth straight year, was ranked as the world’s worst environment for Internet freedom.
- Myanmar was the world’s second most repressive for online freedom.
- Election and digital repression:
- The report also detailed how elections were a trigger for digital repression.
- Ahead of election periods, many incumbent leaders criminalised broad categories of speech, blocked access to independent news sites, and imposed other controls over the flow of information to sway balloting in their favour.
- Indian scenario:
- The Indian government have incorporated censorship, including the use of automated systems, into the country’s legal framework.
- The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules require large social media platforms to use AI-based moderation tools for broadly defined types of content such as:
- speech that could undermine public order, decency, morality, or the country’s sovereignty, integrity, and security, or
- content that officials had previously ordered removed.
- Warning of adverse repercussions for Indian democracy, the report noted, as the country prepares for general elections in 2024, the government’s expanding censorship regime is creating an uneven playing field by silencing criticism of and independent reporting on the ruling party.
- India also figured among the list of countries that:
- blocked websites hosting political, social, or religious content,
- deliberately disrupted ICT networks,
- used pro-government commentators to manipulate online discussions, and
- conducted technical attacks against government critics or human rights organisations.
- On a range of 1 to 100, where ‘100’ represented highest digital freedom, India scored 50, while Iceland, with 94, has the best Internet freedom.
- Methods of evaluation:
- The report evaluates countries on five censorship methods:
- Internet connectivity restrictions,
- blocks on social media platforms,
- blocks on websites, blocks on VPNs, and
- forced removal of content
- India engaged in all of them except one (VPN blocking).
- The report evaluates countries on five censorship methods:
Topic 8: Dakar Declaration
Why in news: Ministers from the world’s 46 least developed countries (LDC) issued a joint Dakar Declaration on Climate Change 2023 outlining their expectation and priorities for 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
- The COP28 will be convened in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
- The Dakar Declaration called for:
- urgent global emissions reductions,
- increased climate finance,
- a strong outcome operationalising the new Loss and Damage Fund and
- an ambitious Global Stocktake to close the gaps in global climate action.
- Key demands of the LDCs:
- They urged all Parties, particularly major emitters, to reduce GHG emissions urgently and significantly.
- Parties must also revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their NDCs in order to align them with their fair share of the global effort required to limit warming to 1.5°C, they added.
- According to the declaration, developed countries must present a clear road map for at least doubling adaptation finance delivered by 2025 through public, grant-based financing.
- A New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance should provide new and additional resources and should be many times greater than the current $100 billion per year floor.
- The UNFCCC centralised carbon market mechanism must also be operationalised by 2024, including:
- the recognition of the specific needs and special circumstances of LDCs,
- the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement’s capacity building programme.
- Why the LDCs are coming together:
- While LDCs account for more than 14 per cent of the global population, they only account for about 1 per cent of emissions from fossil fuels and industrial processes.
- In addition, the countries bear the least historical responsibility for climate change, are forced to adapt beyond their capabilities and are at the forefront of the climate crisis.
- The findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Synthesis Report for the Sixth Assessment Reports cycle (IPCC AR6), show that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have continued to rise and that global warming is rapidly approaching 1.5°C