Topic 1: Assam Rifles
Context: For the past 18 days, about seven battalions of the Assam Rifles deployed in south Manipur have not received fresh ration with people in Meitei areas allegedly blocking supplies from reaching the camps of the force.
The Assam Rifles
- Assam Rifles is one of the six central armed police forces (CAPFs) under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
- The other forces being:
- the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF),
- the Border Security Force (BSF),
- the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP),
- the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and
- the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
- It is tasked with the maintenance of law and order in the North East along with the Indian Army and also guards the Indo-Myanmar border in the region.
- The dual control structure
- It is the only paramilitary force with a dual control structure.
- While the administrative control of the force is with the MHA, its operational control is with the Indian Army, which is under the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
- This means that salaries and infrastructure for the force is provided by the MHA, but the deployment, posting, transfer and deputation of the personnel is decided by the Army.
- The force is commanded by a Lieutenant General from the Indian Army.
- In some ways, the force is the only central paramilitary force (CPMF), as its operational duties and regimentation are on the lines of the Indian Army.
- However, being a Central Armed Police force under MHA, its recruitment, perks, promotion of its personnel and retirement policies are governed according to the rules framed by the MHA for CAPFs.
- Assam Rifles is the oldest paramilitary force raised way back in 1835 in British India with just 750 men.
- Since then, it has gone on to fight in two World Wars, the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and used as an anti-insurgency force against militant groups in the North East.
- Raised as a militia to protect British tea estates and its settlements from the raids of tribes in the North East, the force was first known as Cachar Levy.
- It was reorganised later as Assam Frontier Force as its role was expanded to conduct punitive operations beyond Assam borders.
- Given its contribution in opening the region to administration and commerce, it came to be known as the “right arm of the civil and left arm of the military”.
- In 1917, recognising their work during the Great War, fighting shoulder to shoulder with Rifle Regiments of the regular British Army, the name of the Force was changed to ‘Assam Rifles’.
- Problem areas:
- Those arguing for administrative control of the MoD say that it would mean better perks and retirement benefits, which are far higher compared to CAPFs under MHA.
- However, Army personnel also retire at 35, while the retirement age in CAPF is 60 years.
- Also, CAPF officers have recently been granted non-functional financial upgradation (NFFU) to at least financially address the issue of stagnation in their careers due to lack of avenues for promotion.
- On the other hand, Army personnel also get one rank one pension which is not available to CAPFs.
- Both MHA and MoD have wanted full control of the force for a long time.
Topic 2: Miyazaki Mango
Context: Tripura grows the Miyazaki mangoes. In the international market, the Miyazaki mango is priced at around ₹2.70 lakh per kg.
- The Miyazaki mango was originally grown in Miyazaki city in Japan.
- It is usually over 350g in weight and has 15% or higher sugar content.
- The cultivation of this variety requires long hours of bright sunshine and warm abundant rainfall.
- This ruby red-coloured fruit is also known as “Egg of the Sun” or Taiyo-no-Tamago in Japan.
- Miyazaki is a type of “irwin” mango which is different from the yellow “pelican mango” widely grown in Southeast Asia.
- It contains beta-carotene and folic acid and is considered to be rich in antioxidants.
Miyazaki mangoes in other parts of India
- Recently, this variety of mango from Japan was also found growing in West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.
Topic 3: Baikho Puja
Context: Recently, the Rabha tribal community celebrated Baikho puja along the Assam-Meghalaya border.
- During the Baikho Puja, the Rabhas worship 13 gods and goddesses.
- The Baikho is the principal deity of the Rabhas, which is associated with crops.
- Bai means deity, and kho means great.
- An important aspect of the Baikho puja is the Bar Nak-Kai ritual which is a fire test dance.
- This involves running barefoot over burning hot coals as piles of leftover planting materials blaze in the background.
- For the next two-three succeeding days, all the villagers perform hoimaru songs.
- In Hoymaru songs, heroic deeds and spiritual thoughts are conveyed.
- No written record has been found of the songs, which are handed down orally from generation to generation.
- The occasion of Baykho is also considered auspicious for solemnising marriages.
- Rabha tribe
- The Rabhas are one of the Scheduled tribes living mainly in Assam and West Bengal.
- They are also concentrated on the south bank of the river Brahmaputra in the Kamrup, Goalpara district and Tikrikilla of West Garo hills of Meghalaya.
Topic 4: Fish Kill
Context: Tens of thousands of dead fish have washed up on the Gulf Coast of Texas due to low oxygen levels in the water.
What is fish kill?
- It is the sudden and unexpected death of many fish or other aquatic animals over a short period and mostly within a particular area.
- It occurs mainly due to low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water that causes suffocation of the fish.
- A combination of factors led to the occurrence of the Texas fish kill.
- Warm water:
- When sea surface temperatures rise, it becomes difficult for the fish to breathe as oxygen dissolves easily in colder water in comparison to warmer water.
- Things take a turn for the worse when a school of fish gets trapped in shallow water, which gets warmer more quickly.
- This causes fish to act more erratically, which in turn, further depletes the oxygen from the water.
- Low oxygen levels could ultimately lead to the death of the fish.
- Calm seas:
- One of the ways for oxygen to enter the water is by mixing with wind and waves.
- The waves along the Texas Gulf Coast have been very calm, causing the depletion of dissolved oxygen.
- Overcast weather:
- Due to cloudy skies, phytoplankton were unable to carry out the process of photosynthesis, which is another way of producing oxygen in the water.
- Photosynthesis is driven by sunlight and it slows down on cloudy days, resulting in decreased dissolved oxygen concentration.
- Warm water:
What is the impact of climate change on fish kill?
- With rising temperatures of oceans, such incidents will become more prevalent.
- Warmer oceans will lead to less dissolved oxygen levels, causing more death of fish.
- Fish like sardines, pilchards and herring will become smaller in size and not be able to move to better environments.
- Some fish species have started to leave their natural habitat in search of cooler waters, which has disrupted the fish industry.
Topic 5: Predator UAVs
Context: The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the procurement of armed Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), an aeronautics company based in the United States, at a cost of over $3 billion.
What is the Predator UAV?
- Basic features:
- The MQ-9 UAV has an endurance of over 27 hours, speeds of 240 KTAS, can operate up to 50,000 feet, and has a 1,746 kilograms payload capacity that includes.
- MQ-9 UAV provides long-endurance, persistent surveillance, and strike capability for the warfighter.
- Maritime variant:
- The maritime variant of the MQ-9 UAV, known as Sea Guardian, has an endurance of over 30 hours.
Significance for Indian Army:
- These High-Altitude Long Endurance drones can carry out and boost the Indian Armed Forces’ Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
- Armed with payloads, the weaponized UAV will be able to strike strategic targets in mountains and the maritime domain during long-endurance missions.
- MQ-9 UAV is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets.
- It can also undertake:
- close air support,
- combat search and rescue,
- precision strike,
- convoy and raid overwatch,
- route clearance,
- target development, and
- terminal air guidance.
Topic 6: WASP-76b
Context: An international team of astronomers announced they conducted a detailed study of the extremely hot giant exoplanet WASP-76 b.
- The planet orbits the massive star WASP-76, which is about 634 light-years away from our planet in the direction of the constellation Pisces.
- WASP-76 b orbits very close to its parent star, around 12 times closer than Mercury is to the Sun.
- The planet has a mass similar to that of Jupiter, but it is more than six times larger by volume.
- The planet is tidally-locked, meaning that one of its sidespermanently faces the star that it orbits.
- This means that one side is constantly superheated while another side is much colder.
- This could mean that the wind carries the iron atoms from the dayside to the night side.
- When the iron reaches the transition point between the two sides, the temperature decreases and the iron will condense into liquid drops that fall to the land.
- The researchers used the MAROON-X instrument of the Gemini-North Telescope to conduct a detailed study of the planet.
Topic 7: Kutumbari temple
Context: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has not yet lost hope of finding out the location of the Kutumbari temple, which was built in the 8th century and was under its protection since 1915 but “disappeared” after 1964.
- The Kutumbari Temple is an ancient Hindu temple located in Dwarahat, Almora in Uttarakhand.
- According to ASI, eight temples were under their protection.
- The temple was originally situated on the higher slope of a hill at Dwarahat.
- It is believed that local people took away parts of the temple to use in construction of their houses.
- ASI announced the temple’s disappearance and included it in the list of 50 lost monuments across India.
- The temple was last mentioned in the records compiled in 1957.
- History of the temple:
- The temple was built by the Katyuri rulers in the 8th century.
- Three deities used to be worshipped there — Kutumbari, Baladev and Gurjardev.
The Temples of Almora
- The temples of Almora can be divided into two groups:
- Shaivite temples, which are dedicated to the female form of Shiva, and
- Tof Bhirava, a form of Shiva.
- The Shaivite temples include Tripur Sundari, Udyot Chandeshwer, and Parbateshwer, which were built in 1688 to celebrate the victory of Udyot Chand, the ruler of Almora, over Doti and Garhwal.
- In addition to the Shaivite temples, there are also eight temples of Bhirava in Almora.
- These temples were built during the reign of Gyan Chand.
How can a monument go missing or lost?
- Many monuments and sites were lost to activities like urbanisation, construction of dams and reservoirs, and even encroachments.
- 14 monuments have been lost to rapid urbanisation,
- 12 are submerged by reservoirs/dams,
- while 24 are untraceable, which brings the number of missing monuments to 50.
- Monuments which could not be traced on ground for a considerable time because of multiple factors, despite the strenuous efforts of ASI through its field offices, were referred as Untraceable monuments.
Some monuments which are missing:
- The Barakhamba Cemetery in Delhi
- The Guns of Emperor Sher Shah, Tinsukia (Assam);
- The Ruins of Copper Temple, Paya, Lohit (Arunachal Pradesh);
- Kos Minar, Mujesar, Faridabad (Haryana);
- Kutumbari Temple, Dwarahat, Almora (Uttarakhand);
- Rock Inscription, Satna (Madhya Pradesh);
- Old European Tomb, Pune (Maharashtra);
- 12th Century Temple, Baran (Rajasthan);
- Telia Nala Buddhist ruins, Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh).
Topic 8: Ontong Java Plateau
Context: Massive underwater plateau near Solomon Islands is younger and its eruption was more protracted than previously thought
- The Ontong Java Plateau, a volcanically-formed underwater plateau is located in the Pacific Ocean north of the Solomon Islands.
- It is younger and its eruption was more protracted than previously thought.
- It is roughly the size of Alaska and was the cause of a global deposit of black shale throughout the world’s oceans.
- This type of shale is formed when there is very limited oxygen in the ocean.
- This layer was formed about 120 million years ago and can be found preserved everywhere around the world in geological formations.
- A massive volcanic eruption like the one that formed Ontong Java Plateau could deplete the ocean of oxygen.
- Ontong Java Plateau covers roughly 1% of Earth’s surface.
- The plateau is a fragment of the Ontong Java Nui, a superplateau that broke apart shortly after its formation, creating Ontong Java, Manihiki Plateau and Hikurangi Plateau.
- The smooth surface of the OJP is punctuated by seamounts such as the Ontong Java Atoll, one of the largest atolls in the world.
Topic 9: Alligator gar
Context: Scientists fear the presence of the non-native fish alligator gar will harm the fragile flora and fauna of Dal Lake
- Recently, a non-native alligator gar fish, known for its crocodile-like head was found in Dal Lake in Kashmir.
- The alligator gar is a close relative of the bowfin species.
- It is a ray-finned euryhaline fish and is one of the biggest freshwater fish in North America and the largest species in the ‘gar’ family.
- Impact of its presence:
- The presence of non-native fish species will spell doom for the eco-fragile flora and fauna of the waterbody.
- Being a predator fish and a carnivore, it can eat all types of fishes and therefore poses a threat to native species and to the overall ecosystem.
- Gars are often referred to as “primitive fishes” or “living fossils” because they have retained some morphological characteristics of their early ancestors.
- Their common name was derived from their resemblance to the American alligator.