ART AND CULTURE
1. BHASKARABDA TO BE ADDED TO OFFICIAL ASSAM CALENDAR
THE CONTEXT: Bhaskarabda, an era counted from the date of the ascension of a seventh-century local ruler, will be added to Saka and Gregorian eras in the official calendar of the Assam Government.
- Bhaskarabda began when Bhaskaravarman was crowned ruler of the Kamrupa kingdom.
- He was a contemporary and political ally of northern Indian ruler Harshavardhana.
- Unlike Gregorian, where a day starts at midnight, the Assamese calendar begins and ends at sunrise over 24 hours.
- While the Gregorian goes by the solar cycle, the Saka and Bhaskarabda eras use a lunisolar system based on both the phases of the moon and the solar year.
- The gap between Bhaskarabda and Gregorian is 593 years
- Kamarupa, also called Kamrup or Kamata, ancient Indian state corresponding roughly to what is now the state of Assam, in northeastern India.
- The earliest mention of a kingdom comes from the 4th-century Allahabad inscription of Samudragupta that calls the kings of Kamarupa and Davaka frontier rulers (pratyantanripati).
- The Chinese travellerXuanzang visited the kingdom in the 7th century, then ruled by Bhaskaravarman.
- Having a unique mix of South Asian and East Asian cultures, Kamarupa was the seat of evolution for the Tantric form of Hinduism, including at the Kamakhya temple complex in Guwahati.
- Bhaskaravarman was the last of the Varman dynasty and made political alliances with Harshavardhana of Thaneswar.
- After his death, Salasthambha, who established the Mlechchha dynasty, acquired power in the Kamarupa Kingdom.
ENVIRONMENT, GEOGRAPHY AND AGRICULTURE
2. CYCLONES HAVE A POSITIVE EFFECT ON THE ABILITY OF MANGROVES TO SOAK UP CARBON DIOXIDE
THE CONTEXT: Researchers at the department of geography at the University of Georgia in the United States found that tropical storms, in the last 21 years, have had an overall positive impact on the ability of mangroves in India to fix carbon dioxide.
- They examined satellite-datasets of Gross Primary Productivity for seven mangrove sites along the east and west coasts of India, from January 2000 to July 2020, finding that there is a net increase in Gross Primary Productivity for all mangrove sites, and especially for the east coast mangroves which are more frequently hit by cyclones compared to the west coast.
- While the researchers theorise that the cyclones may be having a net positive effect on mangrove Gross Primary Productivity by intermittent, excessive nutrient supply, cyclones could have an opposite effect by negatively affecting carbon burial rate and a declining soil organic carbon.
- Gaps need to be plugged in the lack of long-term measurements to unravel how the carbon balance in mangrove forests is likely to change with climate change.
3. IMF OUTLOOK AND STATUS OF JOBS
THE CONTEXT: The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook has underlined that employment growth is likely to lag output recovery after the pandemic.
The central message was that the global economic recovery momentum had weakened a tad, thanks largely to the pandemic-induced supply disruptions. But more than just the marginal headline numbers for global growth, it is the increasing inequality among nations that IMF was most concerned about.
- As far as GDP is concerned, India’s growth rate hasn’t been tweaked for the worse. In fact, beyond the IMF, several high-frequency indicators have suggested that India’s economic recovery is gaining ground.
- But what the IMF has projected on employment — that the recovery in unemployment is lagging the recovery in output (or GDP) — matters immensely for India.
- According to the data available with the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the total number of employed people in the Indian economy as of May-August 2021 was 394 million and in May-August 2016 the number of employed people was 408 million.
- India was already facing a deep employment crisis before the Covid crisis, and it became much worse after it.
- As such, projections of an employment recovery lagging behind output recovery could mean large swathes of the population being excluded from the GDP growth and its benefits. Lack of adequate employment levels would drag down overall demand and thus stifle India’s growth momentum.
- The first thing to understand is that India is witnessing a K-shaped recovery. That means different sectors are recovering at significantly different rates. And this holds not just for the divergence between the organised sector and the unorganised sector, but also within the organised sector.
- The second big reason for worry is that the bulk of India’s employment is in the informal or unorganised sectors.So, a weak recovery for the informal/unorganised sectors implies a drag on the economy’s ability to create new jobs or revive old ones.
4. RAILWAYS SHUTS DOWN IRSDC
THE CONTEXT: In continuation with its efforts to rightsize the Railways, the Railway Board has issued an order to shut down the Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation (IRSDC) that was set up for the redevelopment of stations across the country.
- The step is a move to accept the recommendation of the Finance Ministry, which in a report has recommended the rationalisation of government bodies either by closing them down or through merging multiple organisations under different ministries.
- The order said the stations managed by the IRSDC will now be handed over to the respective zonal railways and the corporation will pass on all project-related documents to them for further development.
- Among several other projects, the IRSDC, which was set up in March 2012, was involved in the bidding process for the redevelopment of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai.
- The IRSDC recently invited bids for the setting up of “Rail Arcade” at Chandigarh and KSR Bengaluru Railway Stations. It had also announced plans to undertake facility management of 90 railway stations across South India.
- The report prepared by Principal Economic Advisor, Sanjeev Sanyal, has also recommended the merger of the Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), which implements projects relating to the creation and augmentation of the railway infrastructure, with the Indian Railway Construction Limited (IRCON), a specialised infrastructure construction organisation.
5. PREMATURE TIGHTENING MAY LEAD TO STAGFLATION: RBI REPORT
THE CONTEXT: RBI said in its ‘State of the economy’ report that premature tightening of the monetary policy could bring about the stagflation (slow growth and high level of unemployment and inflation) that all fear, quashing growth just as the economy is recovering. Consequently, policy support for a sustained and inclusive recovery may be needed for longer.
- This is because the economy may be healing but it is still digging out of one of the deepest contractions to hit any major economy during the pandemic.
- We were among the first hit and our recovery started late, towards October-November 2020. In the second wave, we did not impose a nationwide lockdown, but daily infections at over 400,000 were at that time the highest in the world and it clearly moderated the recovery that was underway till then.
- Perhaps the need of the hour is not to focus so single-mindedly on normalisation but on supply-side reforms to ease the bottlenecks and disruptions, labour shortages and high commodity prices, especially of crude, it said.
- Going forward, the focus is likely to be on the normalisation of prudential policies and the strengthening of insolvency frameworks and restructuring mechanisms, including for the overhang of public and private debt.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
6. VALNEVA VACCINE
THE CONTEXT: Valneva SE, a French vaccine company, announced results from its Phase 3 trial of its inactivated Covid-19 vaccine candidate, VLA2001. They said that the vaccine was as effective as the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
- VLA2001 is an inactivated, adjuvanted vaccine. This means that it delivers the whole Sars-CoV-2 virus in an inactivated form. The virus is killed using chemicals, heat, or radiation. The dead virus cannot infect us but can still trigger an immune response.
- Polio and flu vaccines are common examples of inactivated vaccines. India’s Covaxin is also an inactivated vaccine.
- Currently, none of the vaccines in the UK – Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca, – are inactivated vaccines. Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are mRNA vaccines. They contain the code of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and once inside the body teach our body to produce the spike protein. Our immune system recognises this and initiates an immune response against Covid-19. Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine delivers the code of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein using a carrier – another virus called adenovirus.
- The Valneva jab is stable when stored in a standard refrigerator, making it easier to distribute than the Covid vaccines, which require shipping and storage at ultra-low temperatures.
- The results showed that two weeks after vaccination, in adults aged 30 and older, the vaccine was able to trigger high levels of neutralising antibodies compared to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. The team notes that the vaccine was able to induce broad T-cell responses.
- The participants who received the Valneva vaccine reported lower levels of adverse effects compared to the group given the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
7. INDIA, ISRAEL, UAE, U.S. DECIDE TO LAUNCH QUADRILATERAL ECONOMIC FORUM
THE CONTEXT: India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United States decided to launch a new quadrilateral economic forum.
- The quadrilateral, which followed his bilateral meeting with Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister YairLapid, builds on ongoing cooperation between the U.S.-Israel-the UAE after the Abraham Accords last year that saw the UAE and Israel establish diplomatic ties, and the India-Israel-the UAE cooperation that has been launched since then.
- In an interesting aside, Mr Jaishankar’s travel to Israel is also routed via the UAE, on flights that started as a consequence of the Abraham Accords and the opening of diplomatic missions and flights between them.
- The four ministers discussed expanding economic and political cooperation in the Middle East and Asia, including through trade, combating climate change, energy cooperation, and increasing maritime security as well as ways to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Foreign Ministers of the U.S., Israel and the UAE met in Washington on October 13 to discuss the modalities of trilateral cooperation, and set up two working groups: on religious coexistence and on water and energy.
- Business groups in India, the UAE and Israel have also been in talks for cooperation since diplomatic ties were established, and the International Federation of Indo-Israel Chambers of Commerce (IFIIC) has predicted that the potential for agreements, backed by Israeli innovation, the UAE funding and Indian manufacturing, given India’s close ties and strategic partnership with the two other countries, could cross $100 billion by 2030.
- In the first such venture, a UAE project for robotic solar (panel) cleaning technology was signed by Israeli company Ecoppia that has a manufacturing base in India.
PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS
Q1. Recently in news, World Economic Outlook is released by?
a) World Bank
b) World economic forum
ANSWER FOR OCTOBER 19, 2021 PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS
- NITI Aayog in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has developed a comprehensive Geographic Information System (GIS) Energy Map of India with the support of Energy Ministries of Government of India.
- The GIS map provides a holistic picture of all energy resources of the country which enables visualisation of energy installations such as conventional power plants, oil and gas wells, petroleum refineries, coal fields and coal blocks, district-wise data on renewable energy power plants and renewable energy resource potential, etc through 27 thematic layers.