TOPIC 1: RHODODENDRON
TAG: GS 3: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT
THE CONTEXT: The rhododendron flower in Uttarakhand, is portrayed as an integral part of the region’s culture, rituals, mythology, and even culinary practices.
RHODODENDRON AS A CULTURAL SYMBOL:
- Cultural and Ritual Importance:
- The rhododendron is deeply embedded in Uttarakhand’s culture, being an essential part of local rituals and mythology.
- Its presence in rituals and temples signifies purity and endurance, demonstrating the reverence people hold for this flower.
- Pilgrimage Significance:
- The flower is central to the Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra, a significant pilgrimage in Uttarakhand that occurs every 12 years.
- This underscores the strong bond between the local people and their natural environment.
UTILIZATION BEYOND AESTHETICS:
- Culinary and Medicinal Use:
- Beyond its visual appeal, the rhododendron finds usage in regional cuisine, with its blossoms being used to create sweets, drinks, jams, and juice.
- Its distinct flavour and purported cooling properties make it popular among locals and visitors alike.
- Environmental Concerns:
- Climate change-induced alterations in temperature and precipitation patterns are impacting the rhododendron’s growth and flowering cycles.
- Consequently, conservation efforts are gaining importance, with initiatives in place to safeguard these Himalayan flowers, including the establishment of conservation zones and promoting eco-friendly travel practices.
ECONOMIC AND TOURISTIC VALUE:
- Cultural Tourism:
- The rich cultural connection with the rhododendron offers a unique opportunity for cultural tourism.
- Visitors are drawn not only to the natural beauty but also to the rituals and traditions associated with the flower.
- Local Economy:
- The utilization of rhododendron in cuisine and traditional practices also contributes to the local economy, providing opportunities for culinary ventures and indigenous products.
- Cultural Heritage Preservation:
- The importance of preserving not just the flower itself but also the associated cultural heritage and traditions has been emphasized.
- The emphasis on conservation and sustainable practices reflects a holistic approach to safeguarding this floral emblem and the surrounding ecosystem while acknowledging its cultural significance.
- Sustainable Development:
- Balancing conservation with tourism and economic activities is crucial to ensure sustainable development, where efforts to protect the rhododendron align with the promotion of eco-friendly practices.
TOPIC 2: ONATTUKARA SESAME
TAG: GS 3: AGRICULTURE
THE CONTEXT: Efforts are being made to expand the cultivation of Geographical Indication (GI)-tagged Onattukara sesame in the Kerala region.
INITIATIVE TO EXPAND SESAME CULTIVATION:
- Increase in Cultivation Area:
- The Onattukara Vikasana Agency (OVA) plans to significantly increase the area under sesame cultivation.
- It aimed to expand it to 2,000 hectares from the current 600 hectares in the region encompassing three districts of Kerala: Alappuzha, Kollam, and Pathanamthitta.
- Incentive Scheme:
- To encourage farmers, a financial assistance program has been announced, offering ₹40 for a cent of land for cultivating sesame within the Thekkekara Krishi Bhavan limits.
- This incentive is expected to attract individuals, farming collectives, Kudumbashree groups, self-help groups, and joint liability groups towards sesame cultivation.
- Collaborative Efforts:
- The initiative is a joint venture involving local Krishi Bhavan, Onattukara Vikasana Agency (OVA), Onattukara Regional Agricultural Research Station (ORARS), Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kayamkulam, and Mavelikara Thekkekara Panchayat.
- Collaboration between these entities indicates a concerted effort to promote sesame cultivation.
- Support Mechanisms:
- Farmers and groups engaging in sesame cultivation are offered additional support.
- It also includes access to workforce from Thekkekara Karshika Karma Sena and tractor rental at a nominal charge of ₹750 per hour.
SIGNIFICANCE OF ONATTUKARA SESAME:
- Geographical Indication (GI) Tag:
- The Onattukara sesame holds a GI tag, signifying its unique characteristics and origin from a specific geographical location, adding value to its identity and quality.
- Medicinal and Nutritional Value:
- Studies by the Kerala Agricultural University reveal the medicinal value of Onattukara sesame.
- It contains high levels of Vitamin E, antioxidants, oleic acid, linoleic acid, and palmitoleic acid, promoting good health.
- Varieties Cultivated:
- Apart from the traditional Ayali variety, farmers in the region are cultivating varieties like Kayamkulam-1, Thilak, Thilathara, and Thilarani, developed by the Onattukara Regional Agricultural Research Station (ORARS).
- Economic Development:
- Expanding sesame cultivation holds the potential to boost local economies, generate employment opportunities, and contribute to the agricultural sector’s growth in the region.
- Health and Nutritional Benefits:
- Highlighting the nutritional and medicinal values of Onattukara sesame could create consumer awareness, potentially increasing demand for this particular variety.
- Collaborative Approach:
- The joint efforts involving various agricultural institutions, local governance bodies, and farmers’ groups indicate a coordinated strategy towards agricultural development and sustainability.
- GI Tag and Quality Assurance:
- The GI tag signifies quality, authenticity, and unique characteristics associated with the geographical region, contributing to the promotion and branding of Onattukara sesame.
TOPIC 3: INDIA-UK FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (FTA)
TAG: GS 2: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
THE CONTEXT: External Affairs Minister of India discussed the India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Britain’s Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary recently.
- The agreement is under negotiation and has not been signed yet.
- When signed, the India-UK FTA will serve as a template for an agreement with the European Union (EU).
INDIA-UK FREE TRADE AGREEMENT:
- Strategic Importance as a Template for EU Agreement:
- The FTA between India and the UK is seen as a model for a similar pact with the European Union, India’s second-largest trade partner.
- It signifies a shift in India’s trade strategy towards Western nations and African countries rather than solely focusing on the East, as previously done under the UPA government.
- China Factor and Supply Chain Disruptions:
- The disruption in supply chains during the pandemic has prompted Western companies to reconsider their over-dependence on China, leading to a ‘China-plus one’ strategy.
- This shift has motivated countries like Australia and the UK to seek stronger economic ties with India.
- Brexit-Induced Insecurities for the UK:
- Brexit has created uncertainties for the UK, making an FTA with India crucial to compensate for the loss of access to the European Single Market.
- However, concerns exist regarding offering work permits to Indian service sector workers due to political reasons.
- Potential Gains and Challenges for India:
- For India, the FTA presents an opportunity to revive declining sectors like apparel and gems/jewellery by reducing tariffs in the UK.
- However, concerns have been raised about the impact on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) like Bangladesh if India gains zero-duty access for its textiles.
- Beneficial Aspects for the UK:
- The UK aims to gain deeper access to the Indian market, especially for goods like cars, Scotch whisky, and wines, which currently face significant tariffs.
- Elimination or reduction of tariffs on these goods could enhance British exports to India.
- Tariff Disparity and Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs):
- There exists a substantial tariff disparity between goods imported from India into the UK and vice versa.
- The FTA negotiations might focus on reducing these tariff barriers.
- Additionally, addressing non-tariff barriers such as regulations and standards could be crucial for Indian exporters, particularly in agriculture and manufacturing.
- Carbon Tax and Border Adjustment Mechanism:
- The UK’s plan to impose a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) similar to the EU’s strategy might affect India’s exports, especially in sectors like cement, chemicals, steel, and others.
- This imposition aims to reduce dependence on high carbon-emitting imports and could potentially impact Indian exports to the UK.
IMPACTS AND CHALLENGES:
- Strategic Shift: India’s reorientation towards Western nations and away from over-dependence on China is evident. However, concerns persist regarding the impact on LDCs, especially in terms of textiles.
- Potential Imbalance: While India aims to boost declining sectors, the disparity in tariffs and non-tariff barriers presents a challenge. Addressing these barriers will be critical for ensuring mutual benefits.
- Carbon Tax Implications: The UK’s plan for a carbon tax and CBAM could pose challenges for India’s exports, especially in energy-intensive sectors.
- Negotiation Dynamics: The negotiations hold importance for both countries, but balancing mutual benefits while addressing concerns of sectors vulnerable to tariff changes and non-tariff barriers is crucial.
TOPIC 4: 30th ASIA-PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION (APEC) ECONOMIC LEADERS’ MEETING
TAG: GS 2: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
THE CONTEXT: The 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting concluded in San Francisco recently with the adoption of the Golden Gate Declaration. The declaration underscores the commitment to creating a resilient and sustainable future for all member economies.
- For the first time since 2011, USA hosted annual APEC
- Theme of the meeting was creating a “Resilient and Sustainable Future for All”.
GOLDEN GATE DECLARATION:
- The declaration aims to harness the technological and economic progress to continue to unleash the enormous potential and tremendous dynamism across regions, spur economic growth.
- The declaration was adopted after the two-day meeting, during which the leaders focused on the subjects of sustainability, climate, just energy transition, interconnectedness and building inclusive and resilient economies.
- The importance of the rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organization at its core, which continues to catalyze APEC region’s extraordinary growth has been reaffirmed.
- APEC economies vow to accelerate the transition towards low and zero emissions vehicles; sustainable aviation fuels; and low and zero emission maritime shipping and port decarbonization, reads the document.
- It was formed in 1989 with 12 members.
- Now, it has 21 members.
- Grouping of economies around Pacific Ocean aiming to promote trade, investment, and economic development in region.
- Accounts for nearly 62% of global GDP, half of global trade and covers 38% of global population.
- Operates on basis of non-binding commitments with decisions reached by consensus. India is an observer since 2011.
TOPIC 5: GOVERNOR’S ROLE IN LEGISLATION
TAG: GS 2: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
THE CONTEXT: Tamil Nadu Governor R. N. Ravi has withheld assent for certain Bills passed by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly. In this article, we will analyse the governor’s role in legislation.
- The role of a Governor in the legislative process within a state is a crucial aspect of India’s federal structure.
- The Governor, as the constitutional head of a state, plays a significant role in the enactment of laws.
GOVERNOR’S ROLE IN LEGISLATION:
- Options When Receiving a Bill for Assent:
- Article 200 of the Indian Constitution provides a structured approach for the Governor’s actions concerning bills, emphasizing the Governor’s role as a link between the State Legislature and the Union.
- It also outlines four alternatives available to a Governor upon receiving a bill from a State Legislature:
- Give Assent: The Governor approves the bill, making it law.
- Withhold Assent: The Governor refuses to approve the bill, effectively rejecting it.
- Return for Reconsideration: If it’s not a Money Bill, the Governor can send the bill back to the State Legislature for reconsideration.
- Reserve for President’s Consideration: Certain bills need to be reserved for the President’s consideration, such as those that reduce High Court powers or conflict with Union laws.
- Exercise of Discretionary Powers:
- According to judicial precedents like the Shamsher Singh case, the Governor typically acts on the advice of the Council of Ministers while withholding assent or returning a bill.
- Discretionary powers might be exercised in rare cases where the Governor believes a bill contravenes the Constitution and should be reserved for the President’s consideration.
- Recommendations and Unimplemented Suggestions:
- Reports like the Sarkaria Commission and the Punchhi Commission have suggested limiting the Governor’s discretionary powers, emphasizing adherence to ministerial advice.
- Recommendations also proposed time limits for decision-making on bills but have not been implemented.
- Resolution of Impasses:
- The politicization of the Governor’s role has been a persistent issue.
- Suggestions include consulting Chief Ministers before a Governor’s appointment, and the possibility of impeachment by the State Legislature to remove an uncooperative Governor.
- Amendments are proposed to ensure responsible cooperation between the Centre and States in matters related to Governors’ appointments and functioning.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS RELATED TO THE GOVERNOR
- Article 153 says that there shall be a Governor for each State. One person can be appointed as Governor for two or more States.
- A Governor is appointed by the President and is a nominee of the Central Government.
- It is stated that the Governor has a dual role.
- He is the constitutional head of the state, bound by the advice of his Council of Ministers (CoM).
- He functions as a vital link between the Union Government and the State Government.
- Articles 157 and 158 specify eligibility requirements for the post of governor. A governor must:
- Be a citizen of India.
- Be at least 35 years of age.
- Not be a member of the either house of the parliament or house of the state legislature.
- Not hold any office of profit.
- Governor has the power to grant pardons, reprieves, etc. (Article 161).
- There is a CoM with the CM at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions, except some conditions for discretion. (Article 163).
- The Governor appoints the Chief Minister and other Ministers (Article 164).
- Governor assents, withholds assent, or reserves the bill for the consideration of the President passed by the Legislative Assembly (Article 200).
- Governors may promulgate the Ordinances under certain circumstances (Article 213).
- Governor’s role:
- The Governor holds a constitutional position and is expected to perform specific functions, including granting assent to bills passed by the state legislature and ensuring the proper functioning of state administration.
- The Governor’s actions are perceived as a hindrance to these responsibilities.
- FOR FURTHER RINFORMATION PLEASE REFER TO THE DNA ARTICLE OF 1ST OCTOBER 2023.