Topic 1: Gartang Gully
Context: Confusion prevails about the history of Gartang Gali/Gully, an ancient pathway used for Indo-Tibetan trade and located on a vertical ridge in district Uttarkashi, for a long time.
- There are many theories about the making of the wooden pathway at an unusual location.
- Local people claim that the pathway was used for cross border trade by Jaad Bhotiyas.
- Extensive research proves that Gartang Gali was constructed by British timber tycoon, hunter, naturalist and writer Frederick Wilson for conducting secret excursions into Tibet for hunting and collecting information.
- Based on the documents available, it can be said that Gartang Gali is about 160-170 years old.
More about Gartang Gali
- Gartang Gali is located in the picturesque Nelong valley in Uttarkashi.
- The 136 m long and 1.8 m wide pathway offers a skywalk experience.
- Located at an odd location the route was used by traders from Taknore Patti for cross border trade with Tibet till 1962.
- After the India-China war the stunning wood structure had remained unused and in complete neglect for many years.
- Little clarity exists on Gartang Gali as till 1930s only temporary wooden bridges (Sanga), made from tree trunks, existed in Garhwal.
- Frederick Wilson:
- Foreigners were barred from entering the Tibet territory, so Frederick Wilson used this method of making a secret route to Tibet territory, rather regularly.
- Famous as Pahadi Wilson and Raja of Harsil, the retired British Army soldier settled in Harsil (Uttarkashi) in the 1850s and married a local girl.
- The traders from Uttarkashi possibly began using the Gartang Gali to reach Nelong long after the death of Frederick Wilson in 1883.
- Wilson played a key role in improving communication on the Mussoorie to Gangotri route by constructing many bridges and improving the forest road.
- He built forest guest houses at Harsil, Bhatwari, Uttarkashi and Dharasu.
- Wilson was popularly known as Ranger of the Himalayas, and he was one of the most influential persons of this region in his time.
- He used to go into secret operations into Tibet from Bhairoghati.
- Wilson held high esteem among the Jaad community as he was involved in settling them in Nelong and Jadhong.
Topic 2: Jagannath Rath Yatra
Context: One of India’s biggest religious festivals, the Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra is being celebrated in the country.
- Also known as the ‘Festival of Chariots’, this occasion begins in the month of Ashadha.
- The festival signifies the annual visit of Lord Jagannath, Balaram, and Subhadra to the Gundicha temple in Odisha.
- Every year, the Rath Yatra takes place for nine days and is known as the biggest chariot procession globally.
- As per the holy Hindu scriptures–Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, Skanda Purana, and Kapila Samhita–the sister of Lord Jagannath, Subhadra, was said to have wished to travel to Puri.
- To fulfill Devi Subhadra’s wish, Lord Jagannath and his elder brother Lord Balabhadra drove a chariot to Puri.
- The pilgrimage from their home temple to another temple, which is believed to be their aunt’s home, has been symbolised by this festival.
- This is the only festival in the world where deities are taken out of temples to travel to devotees.
- The deities’ raths arrive at the Gundicha temple on the first day of the procession and stay there for the following days.
- They go back to the Jagannath temple on the ninth day.
- The three chariots carrying the deities are built and embellished in preparation to begin the yatra, and are constructed by expert carpenters known as ‘Maharana’.
- Each of the chariots has its own name.
- Lord Jagannath’s chariot is called Nandighosh,
- Lord Balabhadra’s chariot is known as Taladhwaja and
- Devi Subhadra’s chariot is named Darpadalana.
- These raths are carried by devotees and it is believed that being part of these celebrations brings prosperity and fulfillment of desires.
- Lord Jagannath is considered the ‘Lord of the Universe’ according to Hindu scriptures.
- He is considered an avatar of Lord Vishnu and is deeply revered by the followers of Vaishnavism.
- Meanwhile, Jagannath temple is one of the four Hindu pilgrimage centers known as Char Dham, which Hindus are expected to visit in their lifetime.
Topic 3: Broadcast of sacred Gurbani
Context: The Punjab Assembly amended the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925 to free the broadcast of Gurbani from Sri Harmandir Sahib from the alleged monopoly of PTC, a television channel linked to the family of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal.
- The Bill inserts Section 125A in the British Raj-era Act, under which it shall be the duty of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to propagate the teachings of the Gurus by making uninterrupted live feed of holy Gurbani available free of cost to all media houses, outlets, platforms, channels, etc, whoever wishes to broadcast anywhere all over the world.
- The decision was criticised as unconstitutional and direct interference in the religious affairs of Sikhs.
- It is argued that the Punjab Assembly is not competent to amend the Gurdwaras Act, especially without the concurrence of the SGPC.
What is the current system for the live broadcast of the Gurbani?
- In 2012, the SGPC entered into an agreement with G-Next Media Pvt Ltd for the broadcast of the sacred Gurbani from Sri Harmandir Sahib for a period of 11 years.
- The company had agreed to pay SGPC an annual fee of Rs 1 crore initially, with a 10% increase every year.
- As the agreement neared its end next month, the SGPC had formed a committee to invite fresh tenders for the telecast rights of the holy Gurbani.
- Chief Minister of Punjab has said no tender needs to be floated after the passage of the new law.
What is the Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925?
- The SGPC was established in 1920, to initiate a Gurdwara Sudhar Lehra (Gurdwara Reform Movement) for proper management of Gurdwaras according to Sikh principles.
- The Shiromani Akali Dal came into existence a month later.
- The initial years of the SGPC were marked by struggle with the British government, during which some 500 Sikh laid down their lives, and 20,000 were thrown into prison.
- Ultimately, on May 7, 1925, Sardar Tara Singh Moga, with support from another Sikh member, Bhai Jodh Singh, presented in the Punjab Legislative Council a Bill to create a management body for Gurdwaras.
- The Sikh Gurdwaras Act came into effect on November 1, 1925.
- Under this Act, the SGPC was initially entrusted with the management of 241 Gurdwaras, including 65 Gurdwaras that became part of Pakistan after Partition.
The Act after Independence
- The Gurdwaras Act was administered by the government of East Punjab until 1966.
- The Punjab Reorganisation Act of 1966, which created the states of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh, declared the Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925 as an interstate Act, ensuring that the SGPC continued to administer Gurdwaras as earlier.
- Making changes to the Sikh Gurdwaras Act passed under the jurisdiction of Parliament.
- In 2014 the Haryana Assembly passed the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Act, freeing Gurdwaras in Haryana from the purview of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act.
- The Act was challenged in the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court upheld the Haryana law, saying it had left the religious affairs of Sikhs exclusively in the hands of the Sikhs in the same manner as was under the 1925 Act.
- The Act has been amended seven times since 1925.
- Five of those amendments were made after 1966, after it came under the jurisdiction of the Union government.
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee
- The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee is an organization a responsible for the management of Gurdwaras in states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh and the union territory of Chandigarh.
- SGPC also administers Darbar Sahib in Amritsar.
- The SGPC is governed by the president of SGPC.
- The SGPC manages the security, financial, facility maintenance and religious aspects of Gurdwaras as well as keeping archaeologically rare and sacred artifacts, including weapons, clothes, books and writings of the Sikh Gurus.
The SGPC house
- Ideally, the SGPC house should be elected every five years.
- There are 191 members in the present house, 170 of whom are elected members from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Chandigarh.
- Fifteen members are nominated from across the country, and the remaining six members are the Jathedars of the five Takht Sahibs and the Head Granthi of Sachkhand Sri Harmandir Sahib.
- Thirty seats in the house are reserved for women.
Topic 4: National Capital Civil Services Authority
Context: Chief Minister of Delhi attended the first meeting of the National Capital Civil Services Authority (NCCSA) and termed it a futile exercise.
- The National Capital Civil Service Authority shall comprise:
- the chief minister of the government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi who shall be the ex officio Chairperson of the Authority,
- the chief secretary and
- the principal home secretary who shall be the member secretary to the authority.
- The National Capital Civil Service Authority shall comprise:
- Voting and decision making:
- The majority of the members present and voting shall decide on any issues that must be decided by the authority.
- In case of difference of opinion, the decision of the Lieutenant Governor shall be final.
- The member secretary must authenticate all suggestions made by the authority.
- Powers and functions:
- The National Capital Civil Service Authority shall convene as and when necessary at such time and location as the member secretary may determine with the authority’s chairperson’s approval.
- The central government may make rules to provide for the matters like the tenure of office, salaries and allowances, provident fund, powers, duties, functions of officers etc.
- The Authority will recommend the transfers and postings of all Group ‘A’ officers and officers of DANICS serving in the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
Topic 5: Lake Victoria
Context: Heavy rains, wind storms, and floods threaten the survival and water access of the communities living in the Lake Victoria Basin (LVB), East Africa, as per a new report.
Key findings of the report:
- The report, titled Extreme climatic events to intensify over the Lake Victoria Basin under global warming, presented an analysis of future precipitation patterns over the LVB.
- One of the largest freshwater lakes and fisheries in the world, LVB’s 40 million inhabitants are strongly affected by extreme weather events such as regular flooding.
- The resultant massive flooding in lake-adjacent areas displaced over 200,000 people in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
- Lake Victoria and its surrounding wetlands and forests have faced extreme pressure and degradation due to rapid population growth, agricultural expansion, urbanisation and industrialisation.
- This pressure is only heightened due to LVB’s modified equatorial climate.
- The study computed mean annual and seasonal precipitation values over the study domain.
- Findings suggest that significant precipitation changes are likely to occur over the LVB at the sub-seasonal scale rather than seasonal and annual.
- It shows an overall increase in mean daily precipitation intensity for all seasons.
- These changes will significantly impact the region, which already sees water and water resource conflicts.
- It also shows high impacts on LVB’s fish and other biodiversity.
- A previous report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which warns that 76 per cent of the lake’s endemic biodiversity faces the threat of extinction.
- There must be adequate monitoring along with appropriate conservation actions in order to minimise impacts of climate change on the lake’s biodiversity.
- This presents a challenge as currently limited understanding and climate models are unable to adequately explain weather and climate dynamics over the LVB.
About Lake Victoria:
- Lake Victoria is one of the African Great Lakes.
- Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake by area, the world’s largest tropical lake, and the world’s second-largest fresh water lake by surface area after Lake Superior in North America.
- The lake’s area is divided among three countries:
- Kenya occupies 6%
- Uganda 45%
- Tanzania 49%
Topic 6: Aurangzeb’s tomb
Context: Shiv Sena (UBT) chief downplayed the recent visit of his ally to Aurangzeb’s tomb.
About the Tomb:
- The Tomb of Aurangzeb, the last Mughal emperor, is located in Khuldabad, Aurangabad district, Maharashtra.
- In contrast to other Mughal tombs, which are large monuments of Mughal architecture, Aurangzeb is buried in an unmarked grave (at his own direction ) at the complex of the dargah or shrine of Sheikh Zainuddin.
- After his burial, Aurangzeb was given the posthumous title of “Khuld-makan” (“he whose abode is in eternity”).
- Lord Curzon later covered the site with marble and surrounded it with a pierced marble screen.
- The tomb is roofed by “the vault of the sky“.
- The gateway and the domed porch were added in 1760.
- Other tombs in the complex:
- The dargah also houses the tomb of the first Nizam of Hyderabad, Asaf Jah I, his son Nasir Jung, and those of Aurangzeb’s son Muhammad Azam Shah and his wife.
Topic 7: mRNA vaccine
Context: India’s first mRNA vaccine against Omicron approved
Key features of GEMCOVAC-OM:
- GEMCOVAC-OM, India’s first indigenous mRNA vaccine for the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, was approved under emergency use guidelines by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI).
- Last year the Pune-based Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Ltd. got approval for
- Both the vaccines are yet to be commercially available.
- GEMCOVAC-OM could be stored in ordinary refrigerators.
- It could be administered into the skin via a needle-free PharmaJet system.
What is mRNA?
- RNA as a therapeutic was first promoted in 1989 after the development of a broadly applicable in vitro transfection technique.
- A couple of years later, mRNA was advocated as a vaccine platform.
- Once in the body, the mRNA instructs cells that take up the vaccine to produce proteins that may stimulate an immune response against these same proteins when they are present in intact viruses or tumour cells.
- When injected into a patient, the patient’s cells act as a manufacturing plant, producing perfect copies of the mutations for the immune system to recognise and destroy.
- Having been exposed to the mutations without the virus, the body learns to fight off the infection.
Topic 8: The Arctic Ocean could be ice-free by the 2030s
Context: The Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer by the 2030s.
Heating of the Arctic ocean:
- The Arctic has been experiencing climate heating faster than any other part of the planet.
- The ice which remains at the end of summer is called multiyear sea ice and is considerably thicker than its seasonal counterpart.
- It acts as barrier to the transfer of both moisture and heat between the ocean and atmosphere.
- Over the past 40 years this multiyear sea ice has shrunk from around 7 million sq. km to 4 million.
- That is a loss equivalent to roughly the size of India or 12 UKs.
The Blue Ocean Event:
- Arctic Ocean might first become ice-free in summer, sometimes called a “blue ocean event”
- It is defined as when the sea ice area drops below 1 million sq. km.
- This threshold is used mainly because older, thicker ice along parts of Canada and northern Greenland is expected to remain long after the rest of the Arctic Ocean is ice-free.
- Impact on polar bears:
- Polar bears will not being able to hunt and it will impact their survival
- Climate system changes:
- Arctic sea ice is an important component of the climate system.
- As it dramatically reduces the amount of sunlight absorbed by the ocean, removing this ice is predicted to further accelerate warming, through a process known as a positive feedback.
- This, in turn, will make the Greenland ice sheet melt faster, which is already a major contributor to sea level rise.
- Changes in atmospheric circulation:
- The loss of sea ice in summer would also mean changes in atmospheric circulation and storm tracks, and fundamental shifts in ocean biological activity.
- Phototropism, or the differential cell elongation exhibited by a plant organ in response to directional blue light, provides the plant with a means to optimize photosynthetic light capture in the aerial portion and water and nutrient acquisition in the roots.
- Phototropism is a growth-mediated response of a plant to stimulation by visible light.
- Auxin hormone:
- The response is stimulated by a hormone called auxin present in the stem.
- Auxins promote lengthwise growth of plants.
- The auxin beta-indoleacetic acid is formed either from the amino acid tryptophan or from the breakdown of carbohydrates known as glycosides.
- They promote growth by acting on the chemical bonds of carbohydrates on the cell wall.
- In positively phototropic plants, when one side of the plant is shaded, greater quantities of auxin are produced on the darker side.
- This causes that side of the plant to grow fast.
- In the case of sunflowers, the phenomenon is pronounced so as to make the flower turn towards the Sun.