Topic 1 : Krishnaveni Sangeetha Neerajanam
Why in news: Ministry of Tourism organizes prequel event of Krishnaveni Sangeetha Neerajanam.
- It is a first of its kind festival to celebrate the rich heritage of classical music promote lesser-known tourist attractions.
- The objective of this musical festival is help revive the focus on the Harikatha and Namasankeerthana traditions.
- Harikatha is also known as Harikatha Kaalakshepam and is a form of Hindu traditional discourse in which the storyteller explores a traditional theme, usually the life of a saint or a story from an Indian epic.
- The person telling the story through songs, music and narration is called a Haridasa.
- Harikatha is a composite art form composed of storytelling, poetry, music, drama, dance, and philosophy most prevalent in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka and ancient Tamil Nadu.
- The namasamkirtana is also called namajapa.
- It is the Hindu practice of congregational chanting of the names and other sacred expressions associated with a given deity.
- More commonly practised by members of the Vaishnava tradition, the namasamkirtana is characterised by devotees chanting the names of God in a religious gathering, in an expression of bhakti (devotion) and in a bid to achieve devotional ecstasy.
- This practice is regarded to have become popularised by the traditions that centred around Chaitanya, Vallabha, and Vithoba.
- The practice is regarded to be a common form of bhajana.
- Nodal ministries:
- The Ministry of Tourism
- Ministry of Culture
- The above ministries along with Sangeet Natak Academy and State Government of Andhra Pradesh successfully organised the prequel event.
- The event will also feature spectacular display and sale of regional cuisine, local handicrafts and handlooms.
- The festival also aims to promote the hidden gems of the region including spiritual, heritage and eco destinations.Topic 2 : Swayam Prabha
Why in news: IGNOU has launched a channel-based counseling initiative titled ‘Swayam Prabha’ in the Manipuri language.
- The initiative is aimed at opening up doors of education for aspirants living in far-flung areas where conventional educational facilities are limited and people prefer to be taught in their own mother tongue.
- The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 emphasizes teaching in the mother tongue and the initiative of IGNOU in channel-based teaching in the mother tongue is seen as a major intervention in this direction.
- Channel-based counseling in Manipuri language will open up opportunities of education in mother tongue for large population of Manipuri diaspora living in other parts of the world.
About Swayam Prabha:
- SWAYAM Prabha is an initiative of the Ministry of Education to provide High Quality Educational Channels through DTH (Direct to Home) across the length and breadth of the country on 24X7 basis.
- Swayam Prabha is an effective tool of learning for those who do not have internet access at their home.
- It has curriculum-based course content covering diverse disciplines.
- This is primarily aimed at making quality learning resources accessible to remote areas where internet availability is still a challenge.
- The DTH channels are using the GSAT-15 satellite for programme telecasts.
- The DTH Channels covers the following:
- Higher Education:
- Curriculum-based course contents at post-graduate and under-graduate level covering diverse disciplines.
- All courses would be certification-ready.
- School education (9-12 levels):
- Modules for teacher’s training as well as teaching and learning aids for children of India to help them understand the subjects better and also help them in preparing for competitive examinations for admissions to professional degree programmes.
- Curriculum-based courses that can meet the needs of life-long learners of Indian citizens in India and abroad.
- Assist students (class 11th & 12th) prepare for competitive exams.
Topic 3 : Booker prize
Why in news: Paul Lynch wins the 2023 Booker prize.
- Lynch is the fifth writer to have won the Prize, for his novel that explores a dystopian Ireland where democratic rights are under threat from a totalitarian regime.
- Before him, the Prize went to:
- British-Irish novelist Iris Murdoch in 1978 for her The Sea, The Sea,
- Roddy Doyle in 1993 for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha,
- John Banville in 2005 for The Sea, and
- Anne Enright in 2007 for The Gathering.
- In 2018, British writer of Northern Ireland-origin, Anna Burns, won it for Milkman.
- In the 54 years since the Prize’s inception, 37 Irish authors have made it to the longlist.
- In the last 15 years, at least one or more have featured in the longlists.
About the Booker Prize:
- The Booker Prize (formerly the Booker Prize for Fiction (1969–2001) and the Man Booker Prize (2002–2019), is a literary award conferred each year for the best novel written in the English language, which was published in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
- When the prize was created, only novels written by Commonwealth, Irish, and South African (and later Zimbabwean) citizens were eligible to receive the prize.
- In 2014, eligibility was widened to any English-language novel.
- A sister prize, the International Booker Prize, is awarded for a book translated into English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.Topic 4 : United National Liberation Front and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act
Why in news: Union Home Minister announced the signing of a peace agreement with the Meitei separatist group United National Liberation Front (UNLF) in Manipur, terming it a historic milestone.
- The UNLF was formed on November 24, 1964, and is the oldest valley-based insurgent group.
- It is distinct from the insurgent groups active in the state’s Naga-dominated and Kuki-Zomi dominated hills.
- It was formed with the demand of secession from India under the leadership of Arembam Samarendra Singh, who was the general secretary of the group.
- The UNLF is believed to have received its initial training from the NSCN (IM), the largest Naga insurgent group.
- Its armed wing, the Manipur People’s Army, was formed in 1990 and over the years, it has carried out multiple attacks targeting Indian security personnel.
- There are now two factions of the UNLF.
- Its area of operation includes all the valley areas of Manipur, as well as some villages in the Kuki-Zomi hill districts.
- It is banned under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
- It has largely been functioning from camps and training bases in Myanmar’s Sagaing Region, Chin state, and Rakhine state with the patronage of the Myanmar military.
- The UNLF is one of the seven “Meitei Extremist Organisations” banned by the Union government.
- Origin of UAPA
- In 1966, the President had promulgated the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Ordinance to provide for the more effective prevention of unlawful activities of individuals and associations.
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which was not identical to the ordinance, was passed.
- The Act provided for declaring an association or a body of individuals “unlawful” if they indulged in any activity that included:
- acts and words, spoken or written, or
- any sign or representation, that supported any claim to bring about the cession of a part of the territory of India, or
- its “secession”, or which questions or disclaims the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity
- The Act provided for declaring an association or a body of individuals “unlawful” if they indulged in any activity that included:
- Status prior to UAPA:
- Prior to the UAPA’s enactment, associations were being declared unlawful under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1952.
- However, the Supreme Court held that the provision on bans was unlawful because there was no judicial mechanism to scrutinise the validity of any ban.
- Provision for Tribunal:
- Therefore, the UAPA included provisions for a Tribunal which has to confirm within six months the notification declaring an outfit unlawful.
- Extension of ban:
- The ban on organisations was initially for two years, but from 2013, the period of proscription has been extended to five years.
- 2004 amendments:
- The 2004 amendments were aimed at giving effect to various anti-terrorism resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
- 2012 amendments:
- The 2012 amendments sought to bring the UAPA in line with various requirements of the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental body, to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
- 2019 amendment:
- In 2019, the Act was amended to empower the government to designate individuals as terrorists.
What Is The Process Of Banning An Organisation?
- Issuing notification:
- Before issuing a notification under the UAPA, the government conducts an analysis of threat perception to peace in the country, secession activities, territorial safety, terrorism etc.
- The recommendations and complaints by a state government can also be considered based on FIRs filed or incidents in the state.
- UAPA also allows the government to implement an “immediate ban” on an organisation, if the central government is of the opinion that circumstances exist which render it necessary.
- Setting up tribunal:
- Within 30 days of the notification, the government has to set up a tribunal, headed by a sitting Judge of a High Court, to consider the evidence and allegations.
- The tribunal has the power to consider the evidence, hear the objections from the organisation or its members/supporters and then take a decision to confirm or deny the ban.
- A public notice is issued by the tribunal for responses to the notifications.
- The Tribunal has six months under the law to conduct proceedings and either accept or reject the proposed ban.
- If the tribunal upholds the ban, the organisation can also move an appeal before the concerned High Court.
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal
- The tribunal is a body constituted by the Central Government to confirm a ban on a political organisation based on evidence and analysis of the allegations.
- A High Court judge appointed by the Central Government
- The Centre may make staff available as required for the discharge of the tribunal’s functions.
- Under the UAPA, after an association has been declared unlawful, the Centre must, within 30 days from the date of the publication of the notification, refer the matter to a tribunal.
- To adjudicate whether or not there is sufficient cause for declaring the association unlawful.
- This means that the tribunal will take the call on whether the ban will stand.
- The tribunal shall have power to regulate its own procedure in all matters arising out of the discharge of its functions.
- The section says that the tribunal possesses the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
- Any proceedings before the tribunal shall, therefore, be deemed judicial proceedings.
Meaning of various terms and phrases under the Act:
- An unlawful activity in relation to an individual or association means:
- Any action taken by such an individual or association:
- which is intended, or supports any claim, to bring about the cession of a part of the territory of India or the secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union, or which incites any individual or group of individuals to bring about such cession or secession; or
- which disclaims, questions, disrupts or is intended to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India; or
- which causes or is intended to cause disaffection against India;
- Any action taken by such an individual or association:
- The UAPA also defines an “Unlawful Association” as meaning any association:
- which has for its object any unlawful activity, or which encourages or aids persons to undertake any unlawful activity,
- which has for its object any activity which is punishable under section 153A (45 of 1860) or section 153B of the Indian Penal Code.
- Under the Act, therefore, ‘unlawful activity’ is not limited to terror activities relating to causing direct violence or attacks, it also includes any activities that:
- disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country,
- disrupts the economic stability of the country or
- causes disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities in the country.
- Under the Act, bail cannot be granted to a suspect if the court is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the charges are prima facie true.
- A Supreme Court judgment on this has clarified that this meant that the court considering bail should not examine the evidence too deeply, but must go by the prosecution version based on broad probabilities.
- This means that the onus is on the accused to show that the case is false but without inviting the court to evaluate the available evidence.
- This is why human rights defenders feel that the provision is draconian, virtually rendering it impossible for anyone to obtain bail until the completion of the trial.Topic 5 : Halal certificate ban in U.P. (updated from 20th November 2023)
Why in news: Recently, the Uttar Pradesh Government’s Food Security and Drug Administration banned the manufacture, sale, storage and distribution of halal-certified products with immediate effect.
- Halal, an Arabic term, means ‘permissible’, as opposed to notions of haram (prohibited) in Islam.
- A halal certificate means the product is fit to be consumed by followers of the faith.
- It is particularly relevant for meat items and is considered essential while exporting meat to Muslim countries.
Why was it banned?
- The quick action to raid malls followed a complaint wherein the complainant accused several halal certifying outfits of issuing forged certificates to increase their sale among a certain community.
- They, in the process, violated public trust and created social animosity.
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.
How are halal certificates issued?
- Halal certificates are given by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind’s Halal Unit and the Halal Shariat Islamic Law Board, both of whom have been cleared by the National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies.
- While the Shariat Islamic Law Board enjoys permission for certifying food products, the Jamiat’s unit can certify only meat.
- Halal certificates 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.
What about export products?
- Significantly, the ban was imposed only on sales, manufacture and storage within Uttar Pradesh and not meant for export products.
- As of now, there is no ban on Halal certification for export products.
- It has been revealed that while many vegetarian food items carry Halal certificates when exported to Muslim countries, at times, the packages exceeded the number of export items.
- Those extra packages were at times used in the domestic market.Topic 6 : Rat-hole mining (updated from 28th Nov 2023)
Why in news: Rat hole mining was used to rescue 41 people trapped inside a tunnel in Uttarakhand.
What is rat-hole mining?
- Rat hole mining is a method of extracting coal from narrow, horizontal seams, prevalent in Meghalaya.
- The term “rat hole” refers to the narrow pits dug into the ground, typically just large enough for one person to descend and extract coal.
- Once the pits are dug, miners descend using ropes or bamboo ladders to reach the coal seams.
- The coal is then manually extracted using primitive tools such as pickaxes, shovels, and baskets.
- In the other type of rat-hole mining, called box-cutting, a rectangular opening is made, varying from 10 to 100 sqm, and through that a vertical pit is dug, 100 to 400 feet deep.
- Once the coal seam is found, rat-hole-sized tunnels are dug horizontally through which workers can extract the coal.
Why is such mining banned?
- The government has little control over the land in Meghalaya, a Sixth Schedule State where the Coal Mines Nationalisation Act of 1973 does not apply.
- The landowners are thus also the owners of the minerals beneath.
- Coal mining boomed after Meghalaya attained statehood in January 1972.
- However, the terrain and expenses involved discouraged mine owners from employing advanced drilling machines.
- Labourers mainly from Assam, Nepal, and adjoining Bangladesh risked the hazards of rat-hole mining to earn thrice or four times as much as working in farms or construction sites.
- Concerns/hazards involved:
- Asphyxiation because of poor ventilation,
- Collapse of mines due to lack of structural support,
- Safety and health,
- Land degradation,
- Water with high concentrations of sulphates, iron, and toxic heavy metals, low dissolved oxygen, and high biochemical oxygen demand.
- At least two rivers, Lukha and Myntdu, became too acidic to sustain aquatic life.
- These factors led to the NGT banning rat-hole mining in Meghalaya in 2014.
- Illegal mining and transportation of coal has continued despite the ban and the loss of lives.
Environmental and safety concerns
- The mines are typically unregulated, lacking safety measures such as:
- proper ventilation,
- structural support, or
- safety gear for the workers.
- The mining process can cause land degradation, deforestation, and water pollution.
- This method of mining has faced severe criticism due to its hazardous working conditions, environmental damage, and numerous accidents leading to injuries and fatalities.
- Despite attempts by authorities to regulate or ban such practices, they often persist due to economic factors and the absence of viable alternative livelihoods for the local population.
- Unlike in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, coal seams in Meghalaya are very thin.
- This makes rat-hole mining more economically viable than opencast mining.
- The State has an estimated reserve of 576.48 million tonnes of low-ash, high-sulphur coal belonging to the Eocene age (33-56 million years ago).
- The stakes for a section of locals have been so high that the State government has been under pressure to facilitate the resumption of mining legally.
- In 2023, the Coal Ministry approved mining leases for four of the 17 prospective licence applicants.
- This would lead to the commencement of ‘scientific’ mining ensuring minimal environmental impact through sustainable and legally compliant extraction procedures.Topic 7 : Golan Heights/The Syrian Golan
Why in news: India has voted in favour of a draft resolution in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that expressed deep concern over Israel not withdrawing from the Syrian Golan.
- The Syrian Golan is a region in southwest Syria that was occupied by Israeli forces on June 5, 1967.
- The 193-member UNGA voted on the draft resolution ‘The Syrian Golan’ under agenda item ‘The situation in the Middle East’.
- The resolution, introduced by Egypt, was adopted by 91 votes in favour, eight against and 62 abstentions.
- Australia, Canada, Israel, the U.K. and the U.S. voted against it.
- The resolution also stressed the illegality of the Israeli settlement construction in the Golan.
About the Golan Heights:
- The Syrian Golan is a region in southwest Syria which was occupied on June 5, 1967 by Israeli forces.
- As a geopolitical region, it refers to the border region captured from Syria by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967.
- This region includes the western two-thirds of the geological Golan Heights and the Israeli-occupied part of Mount Hermon.
- Since the Six-Day War of 1967, the western two-thirds of the Golan Heights has been occupied and administered by Israel, whereas the eastern third remains under the control of Syria.
- The Golan overall land mass is 1,860 square kilometers, which is approximately 1 percent of Syria’s total area, about 1,500 square kilometers remains under Israeli occupation.
- Before this Israeli occupation, the Golan was home to over 140,000 Syrians, most of whom were driven out of their homeland and into Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) status.
- Today these Syrians exceed 500,000 people.
- Some Syrians remained in the Occupied Syrian Golan and continue to live in small villages amounting to approximately 20,000 Syrians.