Topic 1 : ASEAN
Why in news: In his address at the ASEAN-India summit in Jakarta, Prime Minister of India said India supports ASEAN’s centrality and outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
What is ASEAN?
- On 8 August 1967, the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand came together in Bangkok.
- The five Foreign Ministers signed a document and were hailed as the Founding Fathers of The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
- The document that they signed was known as the ASEAN Declaration.
- Joining of other countries:
- Over the next few decades, five other countries joined them:
- Brunei Darussalam,
- Lao PDR,
- Myanmar and
- Over the next few decades, five other countries joined them:
- Main features:
- They have an anthem, a flag and biannual summits (twice a year) with a rotating chairmanship.
- Official motto – “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.
- Aim and purpose:
- The ASEAN Declaration conveyed the aspiration to further regional cooperation.
- These were about cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, technical, educational and other fields, and in the promotion of regional peace and stability and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter.
- It stipulated that the Association would be open for participation by all States in the Southeast Asian region subscribing to its aims, principles and purposes.
- Main pillars:
- Its major pillars that help lay out a blueprint for cooperation are:
- Political-Security Community (APSC),
- Economic Community (AEC) and
- Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC).
- Its major pillars that help lay out a blueprint for cooperation are:
India’s and ASEAN
- Act East policy:
- ASEAN is central to India’s Act East policy, which focuses on the extended neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region.
- The policy was originally conceived as an economic initiative but has gained political, strategic and cultural dimensions including the establishment of institutional mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation.
- ASEAN Plus Six grouping:
- India is part of the ASEAN Plus Six grouping, which includes China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia as well.
- In 2010, a Free Trade Agreement was also signed and entered into force between India and ASEAN.
- Though India has not joined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in 2020, in the past eight years, trade has grown in terms of value, barring the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021.
- Northeast link:
- India and ASEAN are prioritizing the ASEAN-India connectivity project.
- This project aims to improve connectivity and infrastructure in the Northeast region.
- Strategic interests:
- ASEAN and India are working towards establishing a rules-based security architecture in the region that contrasts China’s aggressive policies.
- The two partners also collaborate to counter terrorism, extremism, and transnational crimes.
- Supply chain integration:
- ASEAN and India are responding to the new supply chains emerging in the region and are working towards enhanced trade facilitation.
- Cultural dimensions:
- The spread of Hinduism and Buddhism to Southeast Asia from India and the influence of Indian languages on the region’s scripts are some examples of the cultural connection between the two regions.
Relevance of ASEAN for India:
- India and ASEAN decided to share a Strategic Partnership in 2012.
- India’sIndia is actively engaged with ASEAN in various regional forums like the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting + (ADMM+), and the East Asia Summit (EAS). Act East Policy is a key pillar of its foreign policy and is focused on expanding its engagement with ASEAN and other countries in the region.
- ASEAN is one of India’s largest trading partners.
- The ASEAN-India Agreements on Trade in Service and Investments was signed in 2015.
- India has a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with various countries of the ASEAN region.
- The ASEAN India-Business Council (AIBC) that was set up in 2003 acts as a forum to bring key private sector players from India and the ASEAN countries on a single platform for business networking and sharing of ideas.
- The maiden Asean-India Maritime Exercise was held recently
- Watershed’ Military Exercise was held in 2016.
- Both partners focus on the implementation of ASEAN Plan of Action in Combating Transnational Crime (2016-2025).
- India is the first Dialogue Partner to sign an MoU on Strengthening Tourism Cooperation with ASEAN.
- Lack of implementation of projects:
- There is a lack of time-bound implementation of projects, such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and Kaladan multimodal project.
- Trade not satisfactory:
- India’s trade and economic ties with ASEAN are much below their potential.
- China remains the largest trading partner of the regional grouping, followed by the European Union and the United States.
- India’s FDI in ASEAN is also low in comparison to China.
- Free mobility of labour in ASEAN:
- The free mobility of labour within the ASEAN Economic Community region might hamper the implementation of ASEAN-India Services agreement.
- Geopolitical tensions:
- The geopolitical tension in the Indo-Pacific is producing issues related to trade and technology cooperation and supply chain resilience.
- e-commerce and digital connectivity:
- India and ASEAN need to have greater e-commerce and digital connectivity.
- ASEAN possesses one of the fastest grown digital economy regions in the world.
- Countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have booming digital economies with high-growth and domestic innovation in sectors such as e-commerce, ride sharing, mobile gaming and financial technology.
- India too has a vast and burgeoning start-up sector with a digitally proficient human capital base.
- Cooperation on smart cities:
- India intends to build 100 smart cities and ASEAN intends to create a network of smart cities.
- There is much scope for leveraging their respective competitive sectoral advantages, and in cooperation and mutual learning.
- Some cooperation is already underway to this end.
- For instance, Singapore’s Surbana Jurong is assisting with a smart city development in Maharashtra.
- Replicating the silicon valley model:
- The two sides can also develop an ecosystem like that in Silicon Valley to promote new ideas, new technology, and new business.
- The outbreak of COVID-19 has accelerated the growth of the e-commerce and digital sectors.
- Cooperation on climate change and sustainable development:
- Climate change and sustainability have emerged among the critical challenges facing India and ASEAN.
- They can cooperate on technologies and solutions to combat climate change, again leveraging competitive advantages in sectors such as renewable energy, waste management, pollution control and disaster mitigation, among others.
- Cooperation on cross border issues:
- Both India and ASEAN are confronted with human security issues on account of cross-border crises such as the Rohingya situation, extremism and the frequency of regional natural disasters.
- This is an area of cooperation which can help to build goodwill and deepen existing relations between the governments and the people on both sides.
Topic 2 : Bharat Mandapam Nataraja
Why in news: The magnificent Nataraja sculpture that has been installed at Bharat Mandapam, venue of the G20 Leaders’ Summit, portrays Lord Shiva in a form that was first seen in the fifth century AD.
- It is a magnificent 27-foot Nataraja, the tallest statue of Lord Shiva’s dancing form in the world.
- The statue is an ashtadhatu (eight-metal alloy) piece of art, crafted by sculptors from Swamimalai in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu.
- The design draws inspiration from three revered Nataraja idols:
- the Thillai Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram,
- the Uma Maheswarar Temple in Konerirajapuram, and
- the Brihadeeswara (Big) Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Thanjavur.
The Cholas and Nataraja
- All three temples the Bharat Mandapam Nataraja statue is inspired from were originally constructed by the Cholas, who at their peak around the 9th-11th centuries AD, ruled over much of peninsular India.
- The Cholas were devout Shaivites, building elaborate Shiva temples (like the one in Thanjavur) across their territories.
- Among icons which form the most important part of Chola sculpture, Shaiva figures predominate.
- Although very fine Vaishnava and Jain images are not unknown.
- Although Shiva was first portrayed in sculpture as Nataraja in the fifth century AD, its present, world-famous form evolved under the Cholas.
- The Nataraja image in its various forms holds the first place among Chola bronzes.
- While stone images of Nataraja are not uncommon, it is the bronze sculpture that has had the greatest cultural resonance through the years.
Shiva as the Lord of Dance
- Shiva, as he is worshipped today, evolved from the Vedic deity Rudra.
- He is death and time (Mahakala) which destroys all things.
- But he is also a great ascetic and the patron of ascetics generally.
- Shiva is also the ‘Lord of Dance’ or Nataraja, who is said to have invented no less than 108 different dances, some calm and gentle, others fierce, orgiastic and terrible.
Portrayal of Nataraja:
- In a typical portrayal, Nataraja is encompassed by flaming aureole or halo.
- The Lord’s long dreadlocks flare out due to the energy of his dance, and he strikes a rhythmic pose with his four arms.
- In his upper right hand He holds a damru (a hand drum), whose sounds draw all creatures into his rhythmic motion.
- In his upper left arm, he holds agni (fire), which he can wield to destroy the universe.
- Beneath one of Nataraja’s feet lies crushed a dwarf-like figure, representing illusion, which leads mankind astray.
- With his front right hand, he makes the ‘abhayamudra’ (a gesture that allays fear), and with his raised feet, and with his front left arm he points to his raised feet, asking his devotees to seek refuge at his feet.
The lost wax method
- The sculptors who created the 27-foot-tall Bharat Mandapam Nataraja adopted the traditional ‘lost-wax’ casting method, indigenous to the Chola era.
- The lost-wax method can be dated back to at least 6,000 years back.
- A copper amulet crafted using this method at a neolithic site in Mehrgarh, Balochistan (present day Pakistan) is dated to circa 4,000 BC.
- The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo Daro was also crafted using this technique.
- In this method a detailed wax model is made.
- This is then covered with a paste made of alluvial soil.
- After this coating has dried, the figure is be exposed to high heat, causing the wax to burn away, leaving a hollow, intricately carved mould.
- This is ultimately filled by molten metal to produce the sculpture.Topic 3 : Self Regulatory Organisation for fintechs
Why in news: Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked fintech entities to form a Self-Regulatory Organisation (SRO).
What is an SRO?
- An SRO is a non-governmental organisation that sets and enforces rules and standards relating to the conduct of entities in the industry (members).
- SROs typically collaborate with all stakeholders in framing rules and regulations.
- Protecting the customer and promoting ethics, equality, and professionalism.
- Their self-regulatory processes are administered through impartial mechanisms such that members operate in a disciplined environment and accept penal actions by the SRO.
- Regulations, standards, and dispute resolution and enforcement by an SRO get legitimacy not just by mutual agreement of its members, but also by the efficiency with which self-regulation is perceived to be administered.
- Such regulations supplement does not replace applicable laws or regulations.
Need and significance of an SRO
- SROs could play a pivotal role in the fintech industry by promoting responsible practices and maintaining ethical standards.
- By proactively addressing issues like market integrity, conduct, data privacy, cybersecurity, and risk management, SROs can help build trust among consumers, investors, and regulators.
- An SRO can help in establishing codes of conduct for its members that foster transparency, fair competition, and consumer protection.
- It can act as a watchdog and encourage members to adopt responsible and ethical practices.
- It can provide a link between the regulator and market participants through a less formal set-up.
Benefits of an SRO
- SROs are widely considered experts in their fields and so have in-depth knowledge of the markets they operate in.
- This is helpful to their members as they can be called in to participate in deliberations and learn more about the nuances of the industry.
- Formation of SROs ensures member organisations follow a certain standard of conduct that helps promote ethical ways of doing business, which can lead to enhanced confidence in the ecosystem.
- They can serve as a watchdog to guard against unprofessional practices within an industry or profession.
Functions of an SRO
- The recognised SRO will serve as a two-way communication channel between its members and the RBI.
- It will work towards establishing minimum benchmarks, and standards and help instil professional and healthy market behaviour among its members.
- SROs will impart training to the staff of its members and others and will conduct awareness programmes.
- It will establish a uniform grievance redressal and dispute management framework across its members.
How can an entity become an SRO?
- Those entities who are interested in being recognised as SROs will have to apply to the RBI.
- Once the regulator finds an entity suitable, it will issue a letter of recognition.
Topic 4 : Heat index
Why in news: Recently, Iran recorded a scorching heat index of 70 degrees Celsius (°C) in the coastal part of the country, a metric at which survival of life is unfathomable, if not impossible.
About heat index
- Heat index, also known as apparent temperature, is a measure of how the temperature feels to humans.
- Relative humidity is an important factor that determines heat index, along with air temperature.
- Calculation of heat index:
- A complex formula to calculate heat index was published by Dr. Robert Steadman.
- It considers a typical adult human of either sex, with a height of 1.7 metres and a weight of 67 kg.
- Dew point, which is the temperature at which gas is transformed into a liquid state, is an important factor in the calculation of heat index.
- In terms of atmospheric moisture, it’s the temperature at which air cannot hold any more water vapour, and droplets of water begin to form.
- Dr. Steadman used 14 °C as the dew point in his calculations.
- Some countries have developed their own corresponding indices to measure heat index.
Significance of measuring the heat index
- Hot air can hold more moisture than cold air.
- Therefore, when temperature rises, the air’s capacity to hold moisture also increases, thus affecting the apparent temperature or heat index.
- Humidity is typically higher during heat waves — which is why the heat index at the time is usually higher than just the temperature because humid air can feel hotter to humans.
Impact of high humidity on human body
- High humidity can lead to heat stress, meaning the body is unable to get rid of excess heat.
- Humans usually maintain a core temperature in the range of 36.1 to 37.2 °C.
- When the body is unable to get rid of excess heat, the heart rate increases due to a rise in core temperature, leading to heat-related exhaustion and rashes, among other symptoms.
- It can also be fatal if not addressed promptly.
- At high temperatures, the human body can lose excess heat through perspiration and cool itself.
- But when humidity is high as well, it is difficult to sweat and then for that sweat to evaporate because the air around is already saturated with moisture.
- This makes it difficult for the body to lose heat.
- On the other hand, if the humidity is low, evaporation of sweat is easier, thus making the apparent temperature feel close to the actual air temperature.
- This is why a measure of heat index is more useful than just the temperature to gauge the impact of heat on humans.
What measures can we take to adapt?
- A heat index value of 67°C or above can be extremely dangerous for people and animals who have direct and prolonged exposure.
- With climate change, it is likely that we will continue to witness record-breaking heat index values across the world
- We will need to prepare and adapt to such extreme conditions by:
- investing in early warning,
- making changes to work timings, and
- finding sustainable cooling solutions.Topic 5 : Thali economics
Why in news: The spike in the prices of vegetables, especially tomatoes and other food items, has taken a toll on Indian households’ budgets and households have seen a 24.26 per cent rise in making a vegetarian thali meal and a 12.54 per cent increase in the case of non-vegetarian thali.
What is Thalinomics/ Thali economics:
- Thalinomics is the economics of a plate of food in India which attempt to figure out how much a meal costs in India.
How has the price rise in food items affected households?
- The cost of a vegetarian thali rose 24.26 per cent to Rs 33.8, while that of a non-vegetarian thali increased by 12.54 per cent to Rs 67.3 when compared to the same period of last year.
- This means a family of five would be incurring an additional cost of Rs 33 for preparing vegetarian thali and Rs 37.5 for non-vegetarian thali for lunch or dinner a day.
- Male agricultural workers in rural areas got an average daily wage of Rs 323.2 in India in 2022.
- If they work for 20 days in a month, their monthly income will be around Rs 6,500 per person.
- If there are two earning members in a household, 78 per cent of the wages will go towards preparing the vegetarian thali (both lunch and dinner) for the month.
- Expenses towards education, health, clothes, travel and energy will have to come from the balance of 22 per cent.
- Households will have to compromise on the quality and richness of their daily meals and cut down food expenses to keep the family budget under control.
What’s a thali meal and how are its costs calculated?
- Thali is an Indian-style meal made up of a selection of various dishes which are served on a platter.
- The average cost of preparing a thali at home is calculated based on input prices prevailing in north, south, east and west India.
- The data also reveals the ingredients (cereals, pulses, broilers, vegetables, spices, edible oil, cooking gas) driving changes in the cost of a thali.Topic 6 : Dark patterns
Why in news: The Centre has sought public comments on the draft guidelines for prevention and regulation of “dark patterns” on the Internet, particularly in e-commerce platforms.
- The guidelines include ways to prevent and regulate false urgency, basket sneaking, confirm shaming, forced action, subscription trap and more such “dark patterns”.
- Guidelines would be made applicable to all the persons and online platforms including sellers and advertisers.
About dark patterns:
- The draft guidelines have defined dark patterns as any practices or deceptive designpatterns:
- using user interface or user experience interactions on any platform;
- designed to mislead or trick users to do something they originally did not intend or want to do;
- by subverting or impairing the consumer autonomy, decision making or choice;
- amounting to misleading advertisement or unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights.
- Different types of dark patterns, defined by the Ministry, are:
- false urgency:
- meaning falsely stating or implying a sense of urgency;
- basket sneaking:
- meaning inclusion of additional items at the time of checkout without the consent of the user; and
- confirm shaming:
- using a phrase, video, audio or any other means to create a sense of fear or shame or ridicule or guilt in the mind of the user.
- false urgency:
- The dark patterns include:
- forced action:
- which forces a user into taking an action that would require the user to buy additional goods;
- subscription trap:
- the process of making cancellation of a paid subscription impossible or complex;
- interface interference:
- the design element that manipulates the user interface;
- bait and switch:
- the practice of advertising a particular outcome based on the user’s action.
- Drip pricing:
- elements of prices are not revealed upfront.
- forced action: