ART AND CULTURE
1. QUEEN HEO HWANG-OK MEMORIAL PARK
THE CONTEXT: On the banks of the Sarayu in Ayodhya, acres of green space will be known as Queen Heo Hwang-ok Memorial Park, after a Korean queen believed to have had Indian roots.
- Queen Heo Hwang-ok was a Korean queen who is believed to have been born Princess Suriratna of Ayodhya, daughter of King Padmasen and Indumati. Padmasen ruled the ancient kingdom of Kausala, a region that extended from present-day UP to Odisha.
- Her story is described in Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of Three Kingdoms), a 13th-century collection of legends, folktales, and history of Korea’s three kingdoms — Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla — and some other regions.
- In 48 BC, the princess, then 16, travelled to Korea from the ancient land of ‘Ayuta’ and married Kim Suro, founder, and King of Geumgwan Gaya in south-eastern Korea. She travelled by boat along with an entourage, having been sent by her father, who is said to have had a dream about her marrying Suro. She became the first queen of Geumgwan Gaya, believed to be located around modern-day Gimhae city in Southern Gyeonsang province. The couple are said to have had 12 children.
- More than six million present-day Koreans trace their lineage to Heo Hwang-ok. For years now, many Koreans have visited Ayodhya to pay homage to the queen’s ancestral home.
- In 2000, India and South Korea signed an agreement to develop Ayodhya and Gimhae as sister cities.
- The memorial now comprises Queen and King pavilions with their busts in place, and a pond to represent Princess Suriratna’s journey. According to the legend, the princess had taken a golden egg to Korea, and the park includes an egg made of granite.
- The story has helped boost the relationship between India and South Korea. But there is some debate about her Indian origins.
- There are many versions of the same story. While Samguk Yusa talks about the queen from a distant land named Ayuta and popular culture considers it Ayodhya, no Indian document or scripture has any record of her.
- Some historians also believe that the princess could actually be from Thailand’s Ayutthaya kingdom. But the kingdom in Thailand came about in 1350, years after Samguk Yusa had already been written.
2. THE JOURNEY OF PALLAVA SCRIPT FROM TN TO SOUTH-EAST ASIA
THE CONTEXT: Amidst its vast collection of Buddhist images and Hindu sculptures, India gets several mentions in the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum in Sukhothai, Thailand.
- The Indian influence is clearly visible across the vast Sukhothai Historical Park, which houses the museum and comprises the ruins of 13th and 14th-century temples, monasteries and other structures of the Sukhothai Kingdom.
- Thais revere this kingdom and King Ramkhamhaeng, who is believed to have invented the Sukhothai script, which was derived from Old Khmer, itself derived from the Pallava script.
- Traditional scripts across South East Asia were derived from the Pallava writing system, named after the Pallava dynasty (3rd Century BCE to 9th Century CE).
- The journey of the Pallava script to South East Asia is an interesting, even if not fully understood, part of history.
- History books in South East Asian countries say that the script spread to the region through traders, priests, monks and scholars who went to South East Asia during the reign of the Pallavas.
- The export of the script to South East Asia is believed to have commenced during the reign of Mahendravarman I (600 CE to 630 CE), who was a major patron of the Tamil language.
- This “two-language” policy was adopted by the Khmer Empire.
- The oldest inscription in the Khmer script that has been found in Cambodia dates back to 611 CE.
- The script, which was developed from Pallava, then spread across the Khmer Empire to the Mekong Delta, to parts of modern-day Laos and Thailand. Sanskrit and Lao inscriptions in Laos detail incidents from the country’s Khmer past.
- The Khmer script was used in central and northern Thailand until it was replaced by the Sukhothai script, which later evolved into the modern Thai script. Some of the famous Khmer and Sanskrit inscriptions of the Khmer Empire are found in archaeological sites in Thailand.
- The Pallava script also reached the Malay peninsula and the Indonesian archipelago in the 8th century CE. The Sojomerto inscription (9th century CE) in Central Java is the oldest discovered specimen of Old Malay, a language that was deeply influenced by Sanskrit and had several Dravidian words.
- Even the Philippines had a writing system that was a variant of the Pallava script.
- Despite the logistical difficulties and the time taken for the movement of people and ideas in the 7th century, southern India and South East Asia seemed to be better connected at that time.
- Asia was not plagued then by the ideas of national identity cards, passports and the modern nation-state.
- India welcomed pilgrims and travellers from other parts of Asia, some of whom stayed behind and became Indians. The exchange worked both ways, with Indians settling in East and South-East Asia in small numbers.
INDIAN POLITY, GOVERNANCE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
3. INDIA NEEDS TO BOLSTER ITS HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE
THE CONTEXT: Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) president Jin Liqun that India should strike a balance between ramping up the physical infrastructure and the social infrastructure such as healthcare systems.
- Stressing that the country faces a ‘huge need’ to strengthen its healthcare infrastructure, the AIIB president said that the multilateral lender would look to fund both social as well as climate-resilient infrastructure in India in the coming years.
- The AIIB will align its operations with the goals of the Paris Agreement to cope with climate change by July 2023, and expects to finance infrastructure projects to mitigate and adapt to climate change worth $50 billion by 2030
- The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is a multilateral development bank.
- It is headquartered in Beijing and began its operations in January 2016.
- China is the largest contributor to the Bank, contributing USD 50 billion, half of the initial subscribed capital.
- India is the second-largest shareholder, contributing USD 8.4 billion.
- Voting rights: China is the largest shareholder with 26.61 % voting shares in the bank followed by India (7.6%), Russia (6.01%) and Germany (4.2 %)
ENVIRONMENT, GEOGRAPHY AND AGRICULTURE
4. AUSTRALIA WILL BEAT 2030 GOAL FOR LOWER EMISSIONS
THE CONTEXT: Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country is set to reduce emissions by 35% below 2005 levels by 2030, but he won’t commit to such a target at the U.N. climate conference in Scotland.
- The country will commit to a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the Glasgow conference.
- Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of coal and liquified natural gas.
- Morrison said his net-zero plan would not shut down Australia’s coal or gas production or increase costs to households and businesses. The government expected existing technologies would take Australia 85% of the way toward net-zero and emerging technologies would achieve the remainder.
- Policy levers include investment in technologies and incentives. At least 20 billion Australian dollars ($15 billion) would be invested in low-emissions technology by 2030.
- The government has yet to release economic and climate modelling behind the plan.
- The conditions also include a government review every five years of the economic impacts of the net-zero target outside major cities. The first assessment would be delivered in 2023.
- However, Australia is likely to be criticized in Glasgow for its relatively weak 2030 target. The United States has committed to reductions of between 50% and 52% below 2005 levels. Britain has pledged to cut emissions by 68% below 1990 levels.
5. TRIGONOPTERUS CORONA
THE CONTEXT: On the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, museum scientists have discovered 28 new species of beetles.
- One of them has been named Trigonopterus corona. This reflects the large impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on this project.
- It is not the only insect species to be named after the pandemic. A new species of caddisfly (a moth-like insect) was collected near a stream in Kosovo by a team of scientists and named Potamophylax coronavirus.
- Out of six new species of Brazilian wasps described in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research, one was named Allorhagas quarentenus, a reference to the quarantine.
6. CLIMATE VULNERABILITY INDEX
THE CONTEXT: According to Climate Vulnerability Index released by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), the states of Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Bihar are the most vulnerable to extreme climate events such as floods, droughts and cyclones in India.
- The report ‘Mapping India’s Climate Vulnerability – A District-level Assessment’, which has been supported by the India Climate Collaborative and Edelgive Foundation, has analysed 640 districts in India and found that 463 of these are vulnerable to extreme floods, droughts and cyclones.
- Dhemaji and Nagaon in Assam, Khammam in Telangana, Gajapati in Odisha, Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh, Sangli in Maharashtra and Chennai in Tamil Nadu are among India’s most climate-vulnerable districts, finds the study.
- More than 80 per cent of Indians live in districts vulnerable to climate risks, that is, 17 of 20 people in the country are vulnerable to climate risks, out of which every five Indians live in areas that are extremely vulnerable.
- More than 45 per cent of these districts have undergone unsustainable landscape and infrastructure changes.
- Further, 183 hotspot districts are highly vulnerable to more than one extreme climate event.
7. CLIMATE DELIVERY PLAN
THE CONTEXT: The UK COP26 Presidency released the ‘Climate Delivery Plan’, outlining an agenda and a timetable for developed countries to deliver $100 billion worth of monetary help to low-income countries to manage the climate crisis.
- The $100 billion packages were supposed to have been delivered by 2020, with developed countries contributing the same amount every year for a period of five years, until 2025. The latest Climate Delivery Plan, however, suggests developed countries may not be able to drum up $100 billion before 2023 — three years after the original deadline.
- So far, 18 out of the 23 developed countries that had initially agreed to supply the $100 billion have made fresh pledges double/increase the amount previously pledged ahead of COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, where climate finance is expected to play a central role in negotiations.
- These countries are Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
- The $100 billion goals had been originally decided upon in 2009, at the COP15, with the intention of supporting developing countries to cope with climate mitigation and adaptation. The goal was reaffirmed and extended in 2015, at COP21, to mobilise the finance from 2020 to 2025. In 2016, developed countries came up with a roadmap to achieve the $100 billion goals by 2020.
- But by 2019, developed countries had contributed only $79.6 billion towards climate finance for low-income countries
8. FIRST DIRECT FLIGHT ON SHILLONG-DIBRUGARH
THE CONTEXT: Union Minister of Civil Aviation virtually flagged off the first direct flight on the Shillong – Dibrugarh route under the Regional Connectivity Scheme – Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik (RCS-UDAN) of the Government of India.
- Due to the non-availability of any direct mode of transportation, people were compelled to cover a long 12-hour journey by road & train to travel between Shillong & Dibrugarh.
- Now, natives can easily fly between the two cities by opting for a flight of just 75 mins.
ABOUT UDAN SCHEME
- In 2016, the Ministry of Civil Aviation announced Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN), a regional connectivity plan.
- The scheme’s goal is to develop affordable, yet economically sustainable and successful, regional flights so that flying becomes accessible to the general public, even in tiny towns.
- The plan calls for the revitalization of existing airstrips and airports to provide connectivity to the country’s underserved and unserved airports. The scheme is in place for a ten-year term.
- Under-served airports have fewer than one flight per day, while unserved airports have no operations.
- To date, 389 routes and 62 airports (including 5 heliports and 2 water aerodromes) have been operationalized under the UDAN scheme.
PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS:
Q1. Consider the following statements about AIIB:
- It is a multilateral development finance bank.
- Its headquarter is located in Shanghai, China.
- India is the third-largest shareholder in it after China and Japan.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
a) 1 only
b) 1 and 2 only
c) 2 and 3 only
d) 1, 2 and 3
ANSWER FOR OCTOBER 26, 2021 PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS
Q1. Answer: C
- Statement 1 is correct: It was launched by the governments of Sweden and India at the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019 and is supported by the World Economic Forum.
- Statement 2 is incorrect: Leadership Group for Industry Transition (LeadIT) gathers countries and companies that are committed to action to achieve the Paris Agreement.
- Statement 3 is correct: Its secretariat hosted by Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)