Topic 1 : Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum
Why in news: Recently, the police lodged an FIR against Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum general secretary for attempting to wage war against the government of India.
- This was in reference to the organisation’s announcement that a separate administration would soon be formed comprising districts such as Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, and Tengnoupal, dominated by the Kuki-Zomi people.
- The ITLF was formed in 2022 by leaders of recognised tribes.
- The forum comprises prominent tribal organizations such as:
- Kuki Inpi, an apex body of the Kuki people
- Paite Tribe Council,
- Simte Tribe Council,
- Vaiphei People’s Council,
- Mizo People’s Convention,
- Hmar Inpui,
- United Zou Organisation, and
- Gangte Tribe Union.
- The ITLF formed six departments after the ethnic crisis that unfolded in Manipur in the recent year. These departments include:
- ITLF Finance & Resource,
- ITLF Media Cell,
- ITLF Reliefs & Medical,
- ITLF Legal Cell,
- ITLF Women Wing,
- ITLF Planning and Rehabilitation, Joint Philanthropic Organisation and
- ITLF Steering CommitteeTopic 2 : Agroland
Why in news: In a new development, scientists have discovered fragments of a continent called Argoland in Southeast Asia.
- Reports state that these fragments were originally part of Australia, but have since then shifted towards the eastern side of Indonesia.
- Argoland was once a part of a landmass that existed 155 million years ago, spanning an area as extensive as the United States.
- The recently discovered fragments of continents have been found in the surrounding regions of Southeast Asia, which were originally part of Australia.
- The chain referred to as ‘Argoland,’ initially existed as a cohesive landmass.
- A map illustrating the current location of Argoland reveals that the fragments have primarily shifted towards the eastern side of Indonesia, with some migrating towards Myanmar.
- Argoland had not actually vanished, but rather managed to survive as an extensively stretched and fragmented collection beneath the islands east of Indonesia.
- Argoland is not a cohesive landmass but rather a series of microcontinents, hence also called – Argopelago.Topic 3 : Why has the China-Pakistan Economic corridor stalled?
Why in news: Some factors have led to an impasse in the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
- Pakistan is seeking funds to the tune of $65 billion via infrastructure investment.
- Pakistan was also attempting to allay China’s demands regarding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
- The infrastructure project spearheaded by Beijing from 2015 had reached an impasse due to disagreements over the Gwadar port in Balochistan.
What is the CPEC?
- The CPEC is one of the One Belt, One Road’s (OBOR) largest investments.
- It was formally launched in 2015.
- CPEC is a 3,000-kilometer-long infrastructure project connecting China’s northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Pakistan’s western province of Balochistan.
- It is a bilateral initiative between Pakistan and China that aims to increase connectivity throughout Pakistan through the construction of a network of highways, railways, and pipelines, as well as energy, industrial, and other infrastructure development projects.
- It will open the way for China to access the Middle East and Africa through Gwadar Port, as well as the Indian Ocean.
- Signing over 50 projects worth $45 billion, China set up the ‘Silk Road Fund’ to invest in CPEC projects planned till 2030.
- The main project was to establish a corridor connecting Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Balochistan to China’s Kashgar in the south-western Xinjiang region.
- The Silk Road Fund, which manages the investment, is being financed by a consortium of Chinese banks.
- Apart from this corridor, a number of power projects and several special economic zones are to be developed under the CPEC.
- There are several troubles such as:
- confusion on funding,
- contractor selection,
- delay in bidding process,
- differences over tax exemption, and
- obtaining of no-objection certificates.
- Gwadar port:
- The Gwadar port faced multiple issues, starting with water supply.
- The 11.2 billion rupees project to supply, treat and distribute water to the port by connecting the Swad and Shadikaur dams was delayed.
- It was because the port authorities were unclear if the project’s funding was via a grant, an interest-free loan or a commercial loan from China.
- Problems with other projects:
- Other projects like the 600 MW Gwadar coal-fired power plant and the Gwadar Smart Port City Master Plan too ran into issues over uncertainty about funding.
- These projects are financed by commercial Chinese loans and are insured by the China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure) against non-payment, guaranteed by the Pakistan government.
- Sinosure levies a 7% debt servicing fee, a yearly varying interest, and financing fee, making the entire project a huge economic burden on the debt-ridden nation.
- The high costs incurred in construction will diminish any gains from the increased power production.
- Fears of the locals:
- Loss of livelihoods:
- Fearing loss of local livelihoods such as fishing, and resisting the use of unskilled Chinese labour instead of Pakistani locals, residents have refused to sell land to the Chinese for building the port.
- Entire profit to China:
- The Gwadar port has been leased to the China Overseas Ports Holding Company which means that Beijing reaps 91% of the profits while Islamabad gains only 9%.
- This has led to a rise in anti-China sentiments among locals.
- Forceful grabbing of lands:
- The Pakistani government has resorted to grabbing lands from locals, forcing them to resettle elsewhere.
- This has led to a rise in insurgency in Balochistan.
- These militant groups have carried out several attacks on Pakistani Army officials providing protection to Chinese workers.
- Loss of livelihoods:
- Rift between China and Pakistan:
- China stopped fundingthree road projects over suspicions of corruption:
- the 210-km Dera Ismail Khan-Zhob Road worth 81 billion rupees,
- the 110-km Khuzdar-Basima Road worth 19.7 billion rupees, and
- the 136-km Karakoram Highway worth 8.5 billion rupees.
- China also complicated the Gwadar port issue by insisting on Yuan as a legal tender in the region.
- In a retaliatory move, in 2018, the Pakistan National Assembly’s Standing Committee ordered an inquiry into the China Overseas Ports Holding Company (Pakistan) claiming that it had been operating without valid security clearance.
- In 2022, China refused to further expand cooperation with Pakistan in the areas of energy, water management, and climate change under CPEC.
- China stopped fundingthree road projects over suspicions of corruption:
Implications of CPEC for India:
- India’s Sovereignty:
- India has consistently opposed the project because it crosses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir area of Gilgit-Baltistan.
- The corridor is also seen as an alternative economic route link for the Kashmir Valley, which is located on the Indian side of the border.
- Local business and political leaders have advocated for the designation of Kashmir as a “Special Economic Zone” on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC).
- If CPEC is successful, it will further solidify the region’s perception as internationally recognised Pakistani territory, undermining India’s claim over the 73,000 sq km piece of land that is home to more than 1.8 million people.
- Chinese Control Over Sea Trade:
- Major US East Coast ports rely on the Panama Canal to trade with China.
- Once CPEC is completely operational, China will be able to offer most North and Latin American businesses a shorter and more inexpensive’ trade route (avoiding travel via the entire Western Hemisphere).
- This gives China the ability to set the terms of the international movement of products between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
- Chinese String of Pearls:
- With the ‘String of Pearls’ objective, China has been growing its footprint in the Indian Ocean.
- This term is used to allude to China’s strategy of encircling India via a network of airfields and ports.
- With a foothold at Chittagong port (Bangladesh), Hambantota port (Sri Lanka), Port Sudan (Sudan), Maldives, Somalia, and Seychelles, control of Gwadar port confirms the China’s entire supremacy of the Indian ocean.
- Pakistan’s Emergence as an Outsourcing Destination:
- It has the potential to accelerate Pakistan’s economic prosperity.
- Pakistani exports, primarily in the textile and construction material industries, compete directly with those of India in the United States and the United Arab Emirates, two of both countries’ top three trading partners.
- With the ease of obtaining raw materials from China, Pakistan will be well-positioned to become a regional market leader in these areas, albeit at the expense of Indian export volumes.
- Stronger BRI and Chinese Dominance in Commercial Leadership:
- China’s BRI initiative has frequently been interpreted as China’s political ambition to control the region.
- CPEC is a big stride in the same direction.
- A China that is more accepted and integrated into the rest of the global economy will have a stronger voice in the United Nations and with individual nations, which may be bad news for India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative
- The BRI is an ambitious plan to develop two new trade routes connecting China with the rest of the world.
- It is an effort to develop an expanded, interdependent market for China, grow China’s economic and political power, and create the right conditions for China to build a high technology economy.
- The Belt
- The Silk Road Economic ‘Belt’ element refers to plans for a revitalized series of ancient overland trading routes connecting Europe and Asia to be built largely with Chinese expertise.
- The Road
- In 2014 China outlined plans to additionally establish new sea trade infrastructure along the old Marco Polo route – a maritime silk road connecting China, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Europe.
- This would be a longer route avoiding the Malacca Strait, incorporating fuelling stations, ports, bridges, industry, and infrastructure through Southeast Asia and into the Indian Ocean.
- Pakistan is seen as perhaps the most crucial partner country in this effort through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project.
- The Chinese state is the underwriter for the initiative, via its four state-owned banks lending to state owned enterprises.
- Other governments have criticized the Belt and Road for the lack of private sector participation.
- Pakistan is attempting to restart funding for its key projects.
- While Pakistan and China reviewed the progress of other projects, the development of the Gwadar port itself remains unresolved.Topic 4 : Halal certification
Why in news: The Uttar Pradesh government has ordered a statewide ban on products being sold with halal certificates with immediate effect.
- This happened after an FIR was lodged in which the complainant alleged that some companies have started certifying products as halal in order to increase their sale among a community and thus were toying with the public’s faith.
What does ‘halal’ mean?
- Halal is an Arabic word that loosely translates to ‘permissible’ in English.
- In the Quran, the term ‘halal’ is contrasted with the term ‘haram’ which means ‘forbidden’.
- It is used to designate the categories of lawful (and allowed) and unlawful (and forbidden).
- The term is particularly associated with Islamic dietary laws to refer to food that is procured, processed, and traded in compliance with Islamic belief.
- It is similar to the ‘kashrut’ dietary rules followed by orthodox Jews, who only consume food that is ‘kosher’, i.e. permitted in Jewish law.
- The two items of food that are most commonly considered haram (non-halal) are:
- pork (pig meat) and
- intoxicants (alcohol).
- Even meats that are not pork must satisfy specific requirements relating to their source, the way the animal was killed, and how it was processed, to qualify as halal.
- In the Indian context, halal is mostly used to refer to the slaughtering technique used by Muslims.
Can non-meat products also be halal?
- Halal simply means ‘permissible’ in Islamic law and this does not have to do with meat at all.
- So vegetarian food would be generally considered permissible or ‘halal’, unless it contains alcohol.
- The meaning can also go beyond food, and technically, anyconsumable item can be deemed halal or haram, depending on whether they are produced in accordance with Islamic law.
- For instance, medicines often use animal byproducts to create casings or capsules.
- The halal/haram consideration would be important in such a situation, as Muslims do not want to consume capsules containing pig-fat gelatin.
- Similarly, the term may also be used in the context of personal care products, packaging materials, animal feed, etc.
About Halal certificates:
- Halal certificates simply tell a consumer whether a product meets the requirements for being considered halal or not.
- They do not indicate the presence of meat, or in and of themselves, have nothing to do with meat.
- India does not have an official regulator for the certification of halal products.
- Rather, there are various halal certifying agencies that provide companies, products, or food establishments halal certifications.
- Their legitimacy lies in their name-recognition among Muslim consumers as well as recognition from regulators in Islamic countries.
- Certification by Halal India:
- For instance, the certification company Halal India mentions that certification is provided after a rigorous process of lab testing and multiple process audits.
- Halal India’s certification is recognised by:
- Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health,
- the UAE’s Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, and
- Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development.
- These international accreditations are particularly important for products meant for export to Islamic countries.Topic 5 : Chhath Puja
Why in news: President of India and Prime Minister of India led political leaders in wishing people for Chhath Puja.
About Chhath Puja:
- Chhath Puja is a four-day elaborate celebration in honour of the Sun.
- It involves a long fast without water, and making offerings to Usha and Pratyusha, the light of the rising and the setting Sun, while standing in a water body.
- Today, Chhath is a festival that epitomises religiosity in Bihar.
- Preparations and celebrations of the festival involves:
- cleaning river banks and the roads leading up to those banks,
- gathering all the little things needed for the rituals, and
- preparing thekuas, the prasad for the festival.
How Chhath is celebrated
- Chhath Puja begins on the sixth day of the Kartik month.
- Some people celebrate it in the month of Chaitra also (in April), which is called the Chaiti Chhath.
- Chhathi maiyya or Mother Chhathi, Sun’s sister, is considered an exacting but generous deity.
- Daywise celebrations:
- First day:
- The first day of the festival is called naha kha, where those observing it take a meal (khana) only after a ceremonial bath in a river, a pond, or the sea (nahana).
- Water brought back from the waterbody is used to make a chulha or a stove, and meals for those observing the fast are prepared on this for the rest of the festival.
- Second day:
- The second day is called kharna, on which the one observing the fast takes only one meal in the evening, of roti and kheer (rice pudding).
- This is also the day friends and family gather to prepare thekuas.
- After the roti-kheer meal begins a 36-hour fast, during which devotees don’t even drink water.
- Third day:
- On the third day, devotees go to the banks of a water body.
- All the offerings to the God are placed in soops (cane baskets) along with diyas.
- As the Sun sets, the person fasting raises the soop to it as an offering (arghya).
- This is called the Sanjh ka Arghya, or the evening offering.
- Fourth day:
- The next day, the same ritual is conducted at dawn, for the rising Sun, called the Bhor ka Arghya.
- The community returns home from the riverbanks, grateful for the successful conclusion of a difficult festival and for having taken part in it.
- First day:
Uniqueness of Chhath Puja:
- People from any caste can observe the festival.
- There are no priests involved, it is the devotee directly fasting for and praying to a visible, apparent God.
- The offerings made to the deity are of seasonal, locally produced and thus easily accessible fruit.
- No matter how rich or poor you are, the rules are the same for everyone, and the success of the festival lies in how faithfully you observe the rules, not on what scale you observe them at.
- The most important is the message behind the festival:
- that everyone is equal in the eyes of God,
- that nature sustains us and is worth honouring, and
- that dusk is as important as dawn, because life is cyclical and what sets can, and will, rise again.Topic 6 : Quote: Sport has the power to unite people in a way little else does
Why in news: Notwithstanding India’s enduring love for cricket, sports in general is often a force in itself: be it the competitiveness that divides people over longstanding rivalries, or the highs and lows of a game that unites millions of people.
- This quote was given by the late South African leader and former President Nelson Mandela.
- The full quote is:
- Sport has the power to change the world, it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.
How sports divides and unites
- By itself, sports present a kind of raw power and technical capability that most people can be awed by.
- Sports have been linked to regionalism and nationalism for long.
- The most bitter rivalries in team sports are between teams whose countries share a contentious political or ethnic history.
- Pointing to this tendency, sports has also been described as “war minus the shooting.”
- High-stakes moments make for an opportunity where people can come together over a single, uncomplicated goal, of hoping for their team’s victory.
The case of South Africa:
- Mandela is widely recognized for his involvement in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.
- South Africa was banned from the Olympic Games from 1964 to 1992, as well as had various other suspensions by international sporting federations.
- While in prison, he also supported the Makana Football Association, which used football as a symbol of hope and liberty in Robben Island prison in South Africa.
- On 10 May, 1994, Mandela became South Africa’s first black president after three centuries of white domination.
- He used sports as a tool to get white and black people in South Africa to come together
- After becoming President of South Africa, he attended a football match at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg to see South Africa defeat Zambia.
- At the 1995Rugby World Cup final held at the same stadium, Mandela made a widely unimaginable gesture of reconciliation and nation-building.
- Rugby was the most popular sport among South Africa’s white minority.
- For blacks, the mascot of the national rugby team, the springbok, was a symbol of tyranny.
- This got the whole nation to come together and support the team as one.
- By 1995, apartheid had been replaced by full democracy, and although South Africa had only one black rugby player, the Springboks played under the slogan “One Team, One Country” at the World Cup.
- Under Mandela’s leadership, sport became an affirmation of possibility not just for South Africa but actually for the whole world.
- His authority led to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the world’s most-watched single-sport sporting event came to South Africa for a month and the world celebrated football and South Africa. Topic 7 : The role of the Governor in legislature
Why in news: Tamil Nadu Governor R. N. Ravi has ‘withheld’ assent for certain Bills passed by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.
- This follows the Supreme Court expressing ‘serious concern’ over inaction by the Governor on Bills presented for his assent.
- The court expressed displeasure on similar delays by Governors of Telangana, Punjab and Kerala.
Provisions in the Constitution:
- Article 200 of the Constitution lays down that when a Bill, passed by a State Legislature, is presented to the Governor for their assent, they have four alternatives:
- may give assent to the Bill;
- may withhold assent to the Bill, that is, reject the Bill in which case the Bill fails to become law;
- may return the Bill (if it is not a Money Bill) for reconsideration of the State Legislature;
- may reserve the Bill for the consideration of the President.Articles related to the Governor
- Article 153: Governors of States
- Article 154: Executive power of State
- Article 155: Appointment of Governor
- Article 156: Term of office of Governor
- Article 157: Qualifications for appointment as Governor
- Article 158: Conditions of Governor’s office
- Article 159: Oath or affirmation by the Governor
- Article 160: Discharge of the functions of the Governor in certain contingencies
- Article 161: Power of Governor to grant pardons, etc., and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases
- Article 162: Extent of executive power of State
Supreme court verdicts:
- Exercise of discretionary power:
- As held by the Supreme Court in various cases including the Shamsher Singh case (1974), the Governor does not exercise their discretionary powers while withholding assent or returning a Bill to the State Legislature.
- They are required to act as per the advice of the Council of Ministers.
- When the situation for withholding assent arises?
- The situation of ‘withholding assent’ may arise in case of a Private Members’ Bill (any Member of State Legislature other than a Minister) passed by the State Legislature, which the council of ministers do not want to be enacted into a law.
- In such an instance, they would advise the Governor to ‘withhold assent’.
- When the situation for return of bill arises:
- The return of any Bill to State Legislature for reconsideration is also to be done based on ministerial advice.
- However, Governors in the past have exercised their discretion in returning Bills, like the Tamil Nadu Governor with respect to the Bill prohibiting online gambling.
- However, the Governor shall assent to such a Bill if it is passed again by the State Legislature.
- When the situation for reservation of bill arises:
- The Governor must reserve certain Bills, like those which reduce the powers of the High Court, for the consideration of the President.
- They may also reserve Bills on concurrent list that are repugnant to a Union law based on ministerial advice.
- It is only under rare circumstances that the Governor may exercise their discretion, where they feel that the provisions of the Bill will contravene the provisions of the Constitution and therefore, should be reserved for the consideration of the President.
- The Constitution does not lay down any time limit within which the Governor is required to make a decision.
Recommendations of various commissions:
- Sarkaria Commission:
- The Sarkaria Commission (1987) has submitted that it is only the reservation of Bills for consideration of the President, that too under rare cases of unconstitutionality, that can be implied as a discretionary power of the Governor.
- Save in such exceptional cases, the Governor must discharge his functions under Article 200 as per the advice of ministers.
- It further recommended that the President should dispose of such Bills within a maximum period of six months.
- In the event of the President ‘withholding assent’, the reasons should be communicated to the State Government wherever possible.
- Punchhi Commission:
- The Punchhi Commission (2010), had recommended that the Governor should take a decision with respect to a Bill presented for their assent within a period of six months.
- These recommendations have not been implemented till date.
- Abolition of the post:
- Many political leaders have called for the abolition of the Governor’s post in the past.
- However, as per our Constitutional scheme, there is a need for a nominal head of the State executive just like the President for the Union executive.
- The Governor acts as an appointee of the Centre who may be required for maintaining the unity and integrity of the nation in critical times.
- Primacy to the elected government:
- Federalism is a basic feature of our Constitution and the Governor’s office should not undermine the powers of elected governments at the States.
- The Constitution may be amended to provide that the Chief Ministers shall be consulted before appointment of the Governors.
- Implementing recommendations of Punchhi Commission:
- The recommendation of the Punchhi Commission that Governors may be removed through an impeachment by the State Legislature can also be considered.
- This would arm the State legislatures with the power to remove an uncooperative Governor.
- These amendments would have a salutary effect on the Central and State Governments resulting in responsible cooperation in the matters of appointment and functioning of the Governors.Topic 8 : Onattukara sesame
Why in news: Kerala is set to expand farming of GI-tagged Onattukara sesame.
- Efforts are being made to expand the cultivation of geographical indication (GI)-tagged Onattukara sesame in Alappuzha district of Kerala.
- Authorities have announced an incentive scheme for growing sesame on fields and homesteads.
- A financial assistance of ₹40 for a cent of land would be given to farmers for cultivating sesame.
About the Onattukara sesame:
- The Onattukara sesame is currently grown on around 600 hectares spread across the three districts of Alappuzha, Kollam and Pathanamthitta.
- Sesame grown in the region contains high levels of Vitamin E and antioxidants.
- From the 18th century, traditional ayurvedic doctors from the erstwhile Travancore kingdom utilised Onattukara sesame oil for the treatment of diseases related to rheumatism and to protect the skin.
- The specific climate and nutrients of the soil of the region is generating various medicinal value for the oilseeds.What is a GI Tag?
- Geographical Indication (GI) Tags act as a special identification ascribed to any region, town, or state.
- These tags are assigned to certain products like agriculture or handicraft that symbolise the uniqueness of that particular region or place.
- The Geographical Indication Registry, which grants the tag, is located in Chennai.
- India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
- It came into force with effect from 2003.
- GI has been defined as – Indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or a locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.
- GI tags mean that that product, name or sign thus assigned is unique, bears distinctive qualities, are made with traditional methods representing the reputation of the region.
- One can also view this tag as a means of protection from any sort of copyright violation.
- The Darjeeling Tea was the first product in India that was given a GI tag around 2004-2005.