Topic 1: Saint Thomas
Context: Kerala BJP Vice President visited to a shrine dedicated to Saint Thomas, an apostle who was believed to be one of the 12 followers of Jesus Christ.
- It is said that he arrived at the location of the shrine after reaching India in 52 AD.
- Devotees believe he performed a miracle and left a footprint on the hilltop.
Who was Saint Thomas?
- In Christian mythology, it is believed that when Jesus Christ set out to preach his beliefs and message, he had 12 apostles or disciples whom he chose to spread his word.
- St Thomas, one of those apostles, is mentioned in The Gospel of John, the fourth of Christianity’s authoritative books that give an account of Jesus’s life.
- St Thomas’s visit to India
- Some accounts say that Thomas went on to preach the religion in West Asia and then came to India in 52 AD, establishing the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, whose members are known today as Syrian Christians.
- Most sources agree that he died in present-day Chennai.
- Today, the St Thomas Church in the Kerala is believed to be the place where the apostle was laid to rest.
- The church was built over his tomb in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers.
- The church is one of the only three known churches in the world built over the tomb of an apostle of Jesus.
- The other two being St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral at Galicia in Spain.
- Why is St Thomas’s visit disputed?
- Because of a lack of account about their details, though his tomb is mentioned by travellers who came to India, such as the 13th Century merchant Marco Polo.
- The oldest document is the book Acta Thomae, written at Edessa in CE 2-4 centuries.
- This book describes St Thomas’s first mission, when he reached the capital of the Parthian King Gondophares, who ruled Afghanistan and Punjab with Takshasila as the capital.
- He then carried out evangelical activities there and went to southern India and finally Chennai.
Topic 2: Appasaheb Dharmadhikari
Context: Union Home Minister Amit Shah conferred the prestigious Maharashtra Bhushan Award on veteran social worker Appasaheb Dharmadhikari.
Who is Appasaheb Dharmadhikari?
- Also known as Dattatreya Narayan Dharmadhikari, he was born in the village of Revdanda in Raigad district on May 14, 1946.
- He is dedicated towards what he calls “social awakening”.
- To spread this message, regular congregations or Shri Baithaks are organised.
- In these congregations, social ills such as dowry, addiction, superstition, etc. are discussed with the view of eradicating them and achieving “national integration” which consists of making everyone aware of the universal consciousness lying within each of us, by giving the requisite knowledge.
- A few years ago, Appasaheb Dharmadhikari was appointed as ‘Swachata Doot’ (cleanliness ambassador) by then Maharashtra governor C Vidyasagar Rao for his efforts in the area of cleanliness.
Maharashtra Bhushan Award:
- The Maharashtra Bhushan is a highest civilian award presented annually by the Government of Maharashtra.
- It was instituted in 1995.
- The Maharashtra Bhushan was first awarded in 1996.
- It was initially conferred in the fields of Literature, Art, Sport, and Science.
- Later the fields of Social Work, Journalism, and Public Administration and Health Services were included.
- The award carries a cash prize of ₹ 25 lakhs, a memento and citation.
- The winners are selected by a committee appointed by the Government of Maharashtra.
Topic 3: Gonpa
Context: Arunachal Pradesh chief minister inaugurated the Shar Nyima Tsho Sum Namyig Lhakhang (Gonpa) at Gyangkhar village.
- Gyangkhar village is located at Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh.
- The Gonpa has a great historical importance for for the people of Shar Nyima Tsho Sum.
- The 11- 12th century Gonpa was on the verge of collapse but was renovated.
- The sacred place has been restored with new structure.
What is a Gonpa?
- A Gönpa, also known as ling, is a Buddhist ecclesiastical fortification of learning, lineage and sadhana.
- It may be understood as a conflation of a fortification, a vihara and a university associated with Tibetan Buddhism.
- It is common in historical Tibetan regions including parts of China, India, Nepal, and Bhutan.
- Gonpa may also refer to a meditation room, without the attached living quarters, where practitioners meditate and listen to teachings.
- Architectural design:
- Design and interior details vary from region to region.
- However, all follow a general design:
- central prayer hall containing a murti or thangka,
- benches for the monks or nuns to engage in prayer or meditation and
- attached living accommodation.
- The gompa or ling may also be accompanied by stupas.
Topic 4: Saurashtra Sangamam
Context: 3,000 people from Tamil Nadu to attend 10-day Saurashtra Sangamam
- What is it?
- Saurashtra Tamil Sangamam is unique exercise to facilitate a consistent and improved exchange between individuals from diverse regions and lifestyles.
- It is an initiative of the ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’ program.
- It has been organized to facilitate a reunion with their ancestral homeland and explore aspects such as industry, handloom, education, culture, and sports.
- This event will take place at multiple locations in Gujarat such as Somnath, Dwarka and the Statue of Unity at Kevadia.
- Historical significance:
- Centuries ago, invasions between 600 and 1000 years ago forced numerous individuals to migrate from Saurashtra in Gujarat and establish new settlements in Tamil Nadu’s districts around Madurai, now known as Tamil Saurashtrian.
- Saurashtra Tamil Sangamam is a distinctive fusion of two diverse cultures and heritage.
- The 10-day Saurashtra Tamil Sangamam will see nearly 3,000 people from Tamil Nadu, mostly Gujaratis settled in the southern State, participate.
- The festival aims to showcase age-old ties and cultural links between the two coastal States of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
- It also aims to preserve and promote the rich culture & heritage of Saurashtra and Tamilnadu
- It aims to reconnect Tamil-speaking migrants from Saurashtra with their roots and foster participation in cultural exchange between Saurashtra and Tamil Nadu.
- What it will entail?
- The event will feature an exhibition of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat’s art, culture, cuisine, handlooms, handicrafts, and more.
- Additionally, cultural performances, such as classical dance and music, folk music, concerts, and debates and seminars on the Ramayana and Mahabharata available in Tamil, Saurashtra, and Gujarati literature.
Topic 5: How coastal species are living on plastic debris in the ocean
Context: The Anthropocene epoch – This is the name some scientists have proposed for a new period in history characterised by the influence of one species on the planet’s geology, ecosystems and even its fate — none other than Homo sapiens.
- The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG) have a long east-west strip where some of the debris of plastics in these currents has collected over the years.
- The eastern part of this is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
- It is, per one estimate, 1.6 million sq. km big and more than 50 years old.
- It contains an estimated 45,000-1,29,000 metric tonnes of plastic, predominantly in the form of microplastics.
- Mass-wise, heavier, more visible objects that haven’t yet broken down into smaller particles accounted for 92% of the plastics in 2018.
- Contribution of the Tsunami:
- The tsunami off the Japanese coast in 2011 contributed to the debris in this garbage patch.
- Until at least 2017, researchers had found debris washing ashore on the West coast of North America containing live lifeforms originally found in Japan.
- Researchers reported that 98% of the debris items had invertebrate organisms.
- They also found that pelagic species (species of the open ocean) were present on 94.3% of them and coastal species on 70.5%.
- That is, organisms found on coasts were getting by on small floating islands of garbage (to humans) out in the Pacific Ocean.
- The number of coastal species such as arthropods and molluscs identified rafting on plastic was over three-times greater than that of pelagic species that normally live in the open ocean.
- In all, they found organisms belonging to 46 taxa.
- While 37 of them were coastal, the rest were pelagic.
- Pelagic means relating to or living in areas of the sea away from the land
- Among both coastal and pelagic organisms, crustaceans were the most common.
- Nearly all taxa were of Northwest Pacific origin, including Japan.
The relevance of the findings
- A new community:
- The introduction of a vast sea of relatively permanent anthropogenic rafts since the 1950s has given rise to a new kind of standing coastal community in the open ocean.
- Researchers have named it the neopelagic community.
- A new settlement:
- While coastal species have been found on human-made objects in the open ocean before, they were always considered to have been “misplaced” from their intended habitats.
- The neopelagic community, on the other hand, is not misplaced but lives on plastic items in the garbage patch, including reproducing there.
- Bonding of plastics with nature:
- Polyethylene films had chemically bonded with rocks in China.
- Anthropoquinas of Brazil (sedimentary rocks embedded with plastic earrings)
- The “plastiglomerates” of Hawai’i (beach sediment + organic debris + basaltic lava + melted plastic).
Topic 6: Ninth Schedule
Context: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister wrote to Prime Minister seeking the inclusion of two amendment Bills allowing for higher quota in jobs and educational institutions, in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.
- The Ninth Schedule includes a list of Central and State laws which cannot be challenged in courts.
- In Chhattisgarh’s case, the two amendment Bills that pave the way for a 76% quota for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, were passed unanimously by the Assembly, but are yet to receive a nod by the Governor.
- Need for the bill:
- The socio-economic and educational condition of the OBC people of the State is as weak as that of the SC/ST people.
- Three-fourths of these classes are farmers, marginal and small farmers and a large number of them are agricultural labourers.
- High Court ruling
- The Chhattisgarh High Court struck down a 2013 State government order to allow a 58% quota, holding that reservation above the 50% ceiling was “unconstitutional”.
- What is the Ninth Schedule
- The Ninth Schedule contains a list of central and state laws which cannot be challenged in courts.
- Most of the laws protected under the Schedule concern agriculture/land issues.
- The Schedule became a part of the Constitution in 1951, when the document was amended for the first time.
- It was created by the new Article 31B, which along with 31A was brought in by the government to protect laws related to agrarian reform and for abolishing the Zamindari system.
- While A. 31A extends protection to ‘classes’ of laws, A. 31B shields specific laws or enactments.
- Rationale of the schedule:
- The rationale for Article 31-B and the Ninth Schedule was to protect legislation dealing with property rights and not any other type of legislation.
- But, in practice, Article 31-B has been used to invoke protection for many laws not concerned with property rights.
- Article 31-B is thus being used beyond the socioeconomic purpose for which it was enacted.
- How many laws are added?
- The First Amendment added 13 laws to the Schedule.
- Subsequent amendments in 1955, 1964, 1971, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1984, 1990, 1994, and 1999 have taken the number of protected laws to 284.
- Are laws in the Ninth Schedule completely exempt from judicial scrutiny?
- While the Ninth Schedule provides the law with a “safe harbour” from judicial review, the protection is not blanket.
- Supreme Court verdict:
- When a Tamil Nadu law was challenged in 2007 (I R Coelho v State of Tamil Nadu), the Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous nine-judge verdict that while laws placed under Ninth Schedule cannot be challenged on the grounds of violation of fundamental rights, they can be challenged on the ground of violating the basic structure of the Constitution.
- The laws cannot escape the “basic structure” test if inserted into the Ninth Schedule after 1973.
- It was in 1973 that the basic structure test was evolved in the Kesavananda Bharati case as the ultimate test to examine the constitutional validity of laws.
Topic 7: Scope of judicial review for laws under Ninth Schedule
- The scope of reviewing the laws placed under 9th schedule is limited.
- Shankari Prasad Case:
- After the first amendment, the major landmark case in which the question of immunity granted to parliament was presented before the court was the case of Shankari Prasad.
- It was asked that whether Article 31B read with schedule 9 was unconstitutional by excluding the scope of judicial review.
- It was contended that excluding judicial scrutiny for such laws will amount to a violation of Article 13(2).
- The Court rejected the petition by stating that the amendments made under Article 368 are not affected by the application of article 13 (2).
- The parliament under Article 368, is empowered to amend the fundamental rights also and at such instances judicial encroachment is impermissible.
- Golaknath case:
- In Golaknath case, it was held that the parliament has no power to amend the fundamental rights including the provisions on personal property.
- The parliament aggrieved by the judgement in Golaknath, passed the 24th amendment in 1971, which empowered it to amend any part of the Constitution including the fundamental rights.
- Kesavnanada Bharati case:
- In its decision in Kesavananda Bharati case, the Apex Court through its largest constitutional bench of 13 judges stated that although the amendments made under Article 368 are Constitutional, the court is entitled to reject any of them if they violate the basic structure of the Indian Constitution.
- This case put a check on the enormous power of the parliament through the introduction of basic structure doctrine and made the judiciary more powerful.
- Indira Gandhi v Raj Narain:
- A similar matter reached the court in Indira Gandhi v Raj Narain, regarding 39th amendment by the parliament which added some controversial laws under the ninth schedule.
- The court held that ordinary laws placed under 9th schedule cannot be subjected to basic structure test and only the constitutional amendments which are made through Article 368 are prone to judicial scrutiny if they are violative of basic structure.
- Minerva Mills case:
- In Minerva Mills, the Supreme Court struck down clauses 4 and 5 which were added to Article 368 through 42nd amendment which granted unlimited power of legislation to Parliament.
- The doctrine of basic structure and the judgement in the case of Minerva Mills was later affirmed in many subsequent judgements including Waman Rao v Union of India, I R Coelho and M Nagaraj.
- The misuse of Article 31B and ninth schedule started only after the 4th amendment when few non-agrarian laws were excluded from the scope of judicial scrutiny.
- But ultimately, due to the intervention of the Apex Court from Shankari Prasad to Keshavananda Bharati had ensured to put a check on the powers of the legislature by describing the basic structure of the Indian Constitution.
Topic 8: India to host summit on Buddhism
Context: India will host an international summit on Buddhism in New Delhi.
- Delegates from 30 countries will participate with the exception of China and also Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
- The maiden conference being organised by the Union Culture Ministry and the International Buddhist Confederation will discuss contemporary global issues through a Buddhist perspective.
- The delegates include prominent scholars, monks, diplomats and members of Buddhist organisations across the globe.
- Theme: Responses to contemporary challenges from philosophy to praxis
- The discussion will be under four themes:
- Buddha Dhamma and peace,
- Buddha Dhamma: environmental crisis, health and sustainability,
- Preservation of Nalanda Buddhist tradition and
- Buddhist pilgrimage, living heritage and relics.
Topic 9: Mangrove Pitta bird
Context: Country’s first mangrove pitta bird census undertaken in Bhitarkanika, Odisha.
- Mangrove pitta birds are a nearly threatened species found in a few pockets of eastern India, including Bhitarkanika in Odisha and the Sundarbans in West Bengal.
- The census was carried out by point count method, either by walking in the forest or using country boats in the creeks.
- A total of 179 individual mangrove pitta birds were counted.
- The objective of the census is to record the growth pattern of these birds.
- These birds are yet to be conferred endangered category.
- The highest concentration of the birds has been found in the mangroves near the Mahipura river mouth inside the Bhitarkanika National Park,” the DFO said.
About the bird:
- The mangrove pitta is a species of passerine bird in the family Pittidae.
- It is native to the eastern Indian Subcontinent and western Southeast Asia.
- Its range extends from India to Malaysia and Indonesia.
- It is found in mangrove and nipa palm forests where it feeds on crustaceans, mollusks and insects.
- The mangrove pitta is native to:
- Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Thailand (primarily the west coast of the southern Thai peninsula).
- Natural habitat:
- Its natural habitat is specialised and restriction to subtropical or tropical mangrove forests and Nipa palm stands.
- It is threatened by habitat loss.
|Bhitarkanika National parkBhitarkanika National Park is located in the Kendrapara district in Odisha.It was designated in 1998 and obtained the status of a Ramsar site in 2002.The area is also been designated as second Ramsar site of the State after the Chilika Lake.It is surrounded by Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary and Gahirmatha Beach and Marine Sanctuary.The national park and wildlife sanctuary is inundated by the rivers Brahmani, Baitarani, Dhamra, Pathsala.It is the second largest mangrove ecosystem in India after Sunderbans.|
Topic 10: Malcolm Adiseshiah Award 2023
Context: Utsa Patnaik, an economist of national and international repute, has been selected for the Malcolm Adiseshiah Award, 2023.
About the award:
- The award is given every year by the Malcolm & Elizabeth Adiseshiah Trust.
- The prestigious national award honours outstanding social scientists selected by a national-level jury specially constituted for this purpose, from the nominations received.
- The award will be given with a citation and a prize money of ₹2 lakh.
- Indian economist Prabhat Patnaik won the award in 2022.
- Malcolm Adiseshiah:
- Malcolm Sathiyanathan Adiseshiah was an Indian development economist and educator.
- In 1976 he was awarded the Padma Bhushan.
- In 1998, UNESCO created the Malcolm Adiseshiah International Literacy Prize in recognition of his contribution to education and literacy.
- The prize rewards organizations or individuals who displayed outstanding merit and achieved with particularly effective results in contributing to the fight for literacy among the member countries of UNESCO.
- He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India, in 1978.