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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Australia

Anchoring the ties with Australia the virtual way

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mutual Logistic Support Agreement, AUSINDEX

Mains level : Paper 2- India-Australia relations.

India-Australia relations have been growing in depth and diversity. Though two countries have been collaborating in various areas there is still potential to be realised in many areas. This article discusses the India-Australia ties. The area in which the two countries are collaborating and scope to further it.

Relations with much potential

  • Mr. Modi convened a virtual multilateral summit to bring South Asia together to face the pandemic, and he also spoke online with G-20 leaders on similar issues.
  • On June 4, India will have its first virtual bilateral summit with Australia.
  • The convergence of interests and values has been patently obvious.
  • But the time has also come to translate that potential into reality.

So, let’s see how India and Australia are expanding the scope of cooperation

  • 1) The two countries have sought to reconstruct their increasingly turbulent regional geography in the Indo-Pacific and see the Quad (with Japan and the United States) as the most potent instrument to promote cooperation.
  • The Quad, not surprisingly has been causing apprehensions in Beijing.
  • 2) It is expected that the ‘Mutual Logistics Support Agreement’ will be signed during the summit.
  • That should enhance defence cooperation and ease the conduct of large-scale joint military exercises.
  • 3) Last April, Australia and India conducted AUSINDEX, their largest bilateral naval exercise.
  • And there are further developments on the anvil, including Australia’s permanent inclusion in the Malabar exercise with Japan.
  • 4) It may be prudent too for New Delhi and Canberra to elevate the ‘two plus two’ format for talks from the Secretary level to the level of Foreign and Defence Ministers.

Now, let’s look at the cooperation in areas that matter to the lives of the people of the countries-

1) Pandemic control through controlled adaptation:  Lesson from Australia

  • Australia is one of the few countries that has managed to combat COVID-19 so far through “controlled adaptation” by which the coronavirus has been suppressed to very low levels.
  • Two of the leaders of this great Australia-wide effort are Indian-born scientists.
  • There is much that the two Prime Ministers can share on this front.

2) Collaboration in  health, safe food and supply chains

  • In terms of health and safe food as well the supply chains that facilitate their delivery, there are important lessons to be learnt.
  • One of Australia’s richest businessman and first patron of the Australia-India Leadership Dialogue recently described the promise of DTC-CPG (direct to consumer; consumer packaged goods) which could transform global supply chains.
  • Here too there is much room for collaboration and new thinking.

3) Higher education

  • The recovery of Australia’s universities, most of which are publicly funded and many rank among the top in the world, is still in question.
  • But they are proving to be resilient and pioneers in distance and online learning.
  • Australian universities could well open earlier than most and emerge as a safer destination for quality education than their European or Ivy league counterparts.

Consider the question “India’s relations with Australia have of late acquired a dept and diversity which is visible in their cooperation in diverse areas. Comment.”

Conclusion

As India and Australia with shared values try to bring about fresh order in a turbulent world, the virtual summit, in this sense, could not have been better timed.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China and the Rhineland moment in Hong Kong

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : G-7 countries, TPP

Mains level : Paper 2- US-China relations and implications for India

While the world is busy battling pandemic, China has embarked upon completing its pet project: stripping Hong Kong off its special status. This article explains the significance of China’s actions. And the options the U.S. could explore as a response to China’s move.

Tipping points in History

  • In 1911 Germany sparked an international crisis when it sent a gunboat into the Moroccan port of Agadir.
  • Winston Churchill wrote in his history of the First World War, “all the alarm bells throughout Europe began immediately to quiver.”
  • In 1936 Germany provoked another crisis when it marched troops into the Rhineland, in flagrant breach of its treaty obligations.
  • In 1946, the Soviet Union made it obvious it had no intention of honoring democratic principles in Central Europe, and Churchill was left to warn that “an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”

Analogies: Not perfect, but not inapt, either.

  • Analogies between these past episodes and China’s decision this week to draft a new national security law on Hong Kong aren’t perfect.
  • First, Hong Kong is a Chinese port, not a faraway foreign one.
  • Second, Hong Kong’s people have ferociously resisted Beijing’s efforts to impose control, unlike the Rhineland Germans who welcomed Berlin’s.
  • And lastly, the curtailment of freedom that awaits Hong Kong is nothing like the totalitarian tyranny that Joseph Stalin imposed on Warsaw, Budapest and other cities.
  • But the analogies aren’t inapt, either.
  • Beijing has spent the better part of 20 years subverting its promises to preserve Hong Kong’s democratic institutions.
  • Now it is moving to quash what remains of the city’s civic freedoms through a forthcoming law that allows the government to punish speech as subversion and protest as sedition.
  • The concept of “one country, two systems,” was supposed to last at least until 2047 under the terms of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
  • Now China’s rulers have been openly violating that treaty, much as Germany openly violated the treaties of Locarno and Versailles.

Rethink of the U.S. strategic approach to China

  • US administration has undertaken a sober rethink of it’s strategic approach to China.
  • The outlines of which are described in a new inter-agency document quietly released by the White House last week.
  • Gone from this new vision are the platitudes about encouraging China’s “peaceful rise” as a “responsible stakeholder” in a “rules-based order.”
  • Instead, Beijing is described, accurately, as a habitual and aggressive violator of that order.
  • It also describes China as a domestic tyrant, international bully and economic bandit that systematically robs companies of their intellectual property, countries of their sovereign authorities, and its own people of their natural rights.
  • A critic might note that this description of China’s behavior sounds a lot like Trump’s.
  • Sort of, except that the comparison trivializes the scale of China’s abuses and neglects the breadth and longevity of its challenge.

Why Now and what is the US response?

  • Beijing almost certainly chose this moment to strike because it calculated that a world straining under the weight of a pandemic and a depression lacked the will and attention to react.
  • On Friday, Trump said he would strip Hong Kong of its privileged commercial and legal ties to the U.S.
  • Issue with the move: That punishes the people of Hong Kong at least as much as it does their rulers in Beijing.

What’s a better course for the U.S.? A few ideas:

  • Sanction Chinese officials engaged in human-rights abuses in Hong Kong under the Global Magnitsky Act.
  • Upgrade relations with Taiwan and increase arms sales, including top-shelf weapons’ systems such as the F-35 and the Navy’s future frigate.
  • Re-enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)agreement as a counter to China’s economic influence.
  • Publicly press all G-7 countries to stop doing business with telecom-giant Huawei as a meaningful response to the Hong Kong law.
  • Give every Hong Kong person an opportunity to easily obtain a U.S. residency card, even a passport.

Conclusion

If all this and more were announced now, it might persuade Beijing to pull back from the brink. In the meantime, think of this as  Rhineland moment with China — and remember what happened the last time the free world looked aggression in the eye, and blinked

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Three thresholds in Industrial Disputes Act that need revision

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Industrial Disputes Act 1947

Mains level : Paper 2- Threshold limits in IDA and issues with it.

Sometimes the measures we come up with end up doing exactly the opposite of what they were supposed to do. This might be the case with some provisions in the Industrial Dispute Act. This article deals with 3 such provisions in the IDA. So, what are these provisions? How the issues caused by these provisions could be resolved? Read to know more…

How provisions of IDA could be detrimental?

  • What made so many migrants suddenly long for their village after lockdown?
  • The answer lies in our Industrial Disputes Act (IDA), the motherboard of our labour laws.
  • IDA has encouraged short-term employment, low skills and zero security.
  • It did this by setting up thresholds which disincentivised long-term commitment of workers to entrepreneurs and vice versa.
  • It also kept firms informal and unwilling to invest in human capital.
  • This is why when the lockdown happened, it turned into a migrant crisis.

Let’s look at  3 thresholds in IDA that are causing harm

  • 1) Hire more than 99 workers, and you will have to notify the government before you can fire any one of them.
  • 2) Hire more than 20 and you open yourself up to provident fund commitments and bonus payments.
  • 3) If you want to deny workers severance pay, never keep them continuously employed for more than 240 days.

So, how IDA ends up discouraging formalisation?

  • Given these provisions in the IDA, entrepreneurs are reluctant to hire more than 99 workers for over 240 days.
  • The employers are naturally tempted to observe these thresholds and duck under the radar.
  • This is made easier by the fact that these thresholds mesh well with the fear that the middle-class — and upwards — have of a working-class takeover.
  • As a result, these thresholds have only encouraged the informal sector, where both unregistered labour and unregistered entrepreneurs dominate.
  • It has led to the proliferation of informal enterprises and low-skill workers.
  • In the first 15 years of this century itself, over half the increase in total employment has been that of contract workers.
  • This has also led to a phenomenal rise in MSMEs as the IDA has discouraged entrepreneurs from harbouring any ambitions to grow big and formal.
  • The MSMEs have, consequently, increased in number from 3.6 crore units in 2012 to about 6 crore today.
  • Since there are constraints on both the workforce size and duration of employment, upskilling and R&D naturally become early casualties.
  • India spends only 0.7 per cent of its GDP in R&D, one of the lowest in the world, while South Korea spends 4.2 per cent.

Contribution of MSME in GDP is not increasing

  • Over 94 per cent of MSMEs are in the Micro sector and their contribution to GDP is just not measuring up.
  • In 2012, MSMEs produced 37.54 per cent of our GDP.
  • But this number fell to 30.7 per cent in 2015, and in 2019 it decreased further to 29.7 per cent, though they are still working full throttle.
  • Yet, the lure to stay on the good side of the IDA thresholds is so compelling that even formal units are today outsourcing from the informal ones.
  • Over time, the IDA has succeeded in converting a large number of organised sector companies into strange, hybrid economic creatures, both fishy and foul.

But, how removal of the 3 thresholds will change the situation?

  • If the 3 mentioned thresholds are removed, every worker — regardless of factory size — is entitled to the same rights.
  • Likewise, every employer, regardless of factory size, can hire and fire workers.
  • There is greater freedom on both sides, but this freedom comes with a price that does not discourage either size or skills in an enterprise.
  • The worker can now be fired without notifying the government, but must be compensated with severance wages, regardless of the size of the firm.
  • Also, unlike the IDA, all the firms must have a formal dispute resolution board.
  • Now that the enterprises have been freed of the size threshold, entrepreneurs get no advantage in dwarfing their firms.
  • Other reforms can soon follow, such as allowing for workers’ representation in a firm’s supervisory board, as it happens in Germany.
  • Measures such as these create trust between employees and employers, and also remove the threatening spectre of a working-class strike.

Consider the question “Various provision of the Industrial Disputes Act which were enacted but with a different purpose now seems to place both the workers and employers in a disadvantageous position. In light of this statement, examine the issues with the threshold limits of the number of employees and number of employment days in the Industrial Disputes Act.”

Conclusion

In the ultimate analysis, the IDA does not produce winners, only losers. The workers remain skill-stunted and insecure, and the entrepreneurs, too, pull back from releasing their much-vaunted “animal spirits”. So, the IDA thresholds must go and not be merely fiddled with, as some states have done.


Back2Basics: Industrial Disputes Act 1947

  • The main purpose of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 is to ensure fair terms between employers and employees, workmen and workmen as well as workmen and employers.T
  • The objective of the Industrial Disputes Act is to secure industrial peace and harmony by providing machinery and procedure for the investigation and settlement of industrial disputes by negotiations.

Direct Benefits Transfers

How would Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of power subsidy work?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Read the attached story

Context

  • Punjab has been providing free power to the agriculture sector.
  • The new Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 has proposed providing subsidy on power to farmers through DBT, which is contrary to the prevailing ‘free power’ system in Punjab.

Free or subsidised power is being provided to millions of consumers in almost every state. Punjab is no exception but its free power scheme is. Other states can learn from the example of Punjab, here.

Practice questions for mains:

Q. Discuss the efficacy of Direct Benefit Transfer in power subsidy for farmers.

Punjab on knees

  • Before it submits suggestions regarding the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020, recently drafted by the Union Power Ministry to amend the Electricity Act 2003, a big challenge lies ahead for the Punjab government.
  • Under the garb of DBT, it is a move to stop the free power supply to them.

What is the current system of power subsidy for farmers in Punjab?

  • At present, Punjab is supplying free power to 14.16 lakh electricity-run tubewells of the agriculture sector which are getting power through 5,900 Agricultural Pumpset Feeders (APFs).
  • These APFs are metered and the Punjab Power Corporation charges the state government for consumed units recorded in metered APFs.

The Free Power Scheme

  • Farmers are getting power supply for their Kharif and Rabi crops from these feeders as per the recommendations of the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), Ludhiana.
  • It is supplied for around eight hours every day in Kharif season and four hours on alternate days during Rabi crop season.
  • The state government pays around Rs 6,000 crore power subsidy bill to Power Corporation every year under the scheme to the farming sector.

What would change under the DBT allowed under the new Electricity Bill 2020?

  • Under DBT, farmers will have to pay the bill for the power consumed for agriculture purposes.
  • After that, they will get the subsidy in their bank accounts through DBT.
  • A meter would be installed on every individual tubewell.

Issues with Punjab farmer

  • Approximately the annual power bill will come to around Rs 46,000 to Rs 48,000, and farmers are required to pay a bill of Rs 4,000 per month.
  • In Punjab, 67 per cent of farmers come under the small and marginal categories with 1-2 hectares land.
  • Paying bills in advance is not possible for them due to debt.
  • If farmers don’t pay their bills, the department will disconnect their connection, which could lead to farmers’ agitation.

Can it work like DBT on LPG gas cylinders?

  • The bill suggests the subsidy be paid directly to consumers in cash on the pattern of LPG subsidy.
  • This proposal should be tried in a pilot project and if results are encouraging, only then it should be included in the amendment bill.
  • It is not feasible to provide meters on every pump set up across the country and then give cash subsidy every month after the consumer has paid the bill.

Punjab government’s own DBT scheme titled ‘Paani Bachao Paisa Kamao’ is also working here. How it is different from DBT under the new Bill?

  • The Punjab government’s scheme is a voluntary one.
  • The farmers who have adopted it need to get install a power meter on their tubewell but are not required to pay any power bill.
  • The main purpose of PBPK is to save groundwater by using it judiciously because, under the traditional system, several farmers are misusing the water by over-irrigating the crops due to free power available to them.

What do farmers’ organisations think of this?

  • Farmers’ organisations say that if the Punjab government agrees to this bill, they will fight it tooth and nail.
  • From where will poor farmers pay such heavy bills when they get an income after six months following the sale of their crop, they ask.
  • Anywhere in the world, the agrarian sector cannot run without the support of the government as it is the base of every human being who is dependent on farmers’ produce from his/her morning tea to dinner.

Back2Basics

[pib] Draft Electricity Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Electoral Reforms In India

Delimitation Commission for NE states and UTs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Delimitation Commission

Mains level : Delimitation of constituencies

Lok Sabha speaker has nominated 15 MPs to assist the Delimitation Commission in redrawing the Lok Sabha and the Assembly constituencies of the northeastern states and the Union Territories.

Practice question for mains:

Q. What is the Delimitation of Constituencies? Discuss its significance.

What is Delimitation? Why is it needed?

  • Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in population.
  • In this process, the number of seats allocated to different states in Lok Sabha and the total number seats in a Legislative Assembly may also change.
  • The main objective of delimitation is to provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
  • It also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.

Legal status

  • Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission (DC).
  • The Constitution mandates that its orders are final and cannot be questioned before any court as it would hold up an election indefinitely.

How is delimitation carried out?

  • Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up a DC made up of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioners.
  • The Commission is supposed to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies in a way that the population of all seats, so far as practicable, is the same.
  • The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; these are where their population is relatively large.
  • All this is done on the basis of the latest Census and, in case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.

Implementation

  • The draft proposals of the DC are published in the Gazette of India, official gazettes of the states concerned and at least two vernacular papers for public feedback.
  • The Commission also holds public sittings.
  • After hearing the public, it considers objections and suggestions, received in writing or orally during public sittings, and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
  • The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette and comes into force on a date specified by the President.

How often has delimitation been done in the past?

  • The first delimitation exercise in 1950-51 was carried out by the President (with the help of the Election Commission).
  • The Constitution at that time was silent on who should undertake the division of states into Lok Sabha seats.
  • This delimitation was temporary as the Constitution mandated redrawing of boundaries after every Census. Hence, delimitation was due after the 1951 Census.

Why more independence to DC?

  • Pointing out that the first delimitation had left many political parties and individuals unhappy, the EC advised the government that all future exercises should be carried out by an independent commission.
  • This suggestion was accepted and the DC Act was enacted in 1952.
  • DCs’ has been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.
  • There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.

Why postponed till 2026?

  • Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the 2001 Census, another amendment postponed this until 2026.
  • This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026.
  • So, the last delimitation exercise — started in July 2002 and completed on May 31, 2008 — was based on the 2001 Census and only readjusted boundaries of existing Lok Sabha and Assembly seats and reworked the number of reserved seats.

Back2Basics: History of Delimitation in J&K

  • Delimitation of J&K’s Lok Sabha seats is governed by the Indian Constitution, but the delimitation of its Assembly seats (until special status was abrogated recently) was governed separately by its Constitution and J&K Representation of the People Act, 1957.
  • As far as the delimitation of Lok Sabha seats is concerned, the last DC of 2002 was not entrusted with this task. Hence, J&K parliamentary seats remain as delimited on the basis of the 1971 Census.
  • As for Assembly seats, although the delimitation provisions of the J&K Constitution and the J&K RP Act, 1957, are similar to those of the Indian Constitution and Delimitation Acts.
  • They mandate a separate DC for J&K. In actual practice, the same central DC set up for other states was adopted by J&K in 1963 and 1973.
  • While the amendment of 1976 to the Indian Constitution suspended delimitation in the rest of the country till 2001, no corresponding amendment was made to the J&K Constitution.
  • Hence, unlike the rest of the country, the Assembly seats of J&K were delimited based on the 1981 Census, which formed the basis of the state elections in 1996.
  • There was no census in the state in 1991 and no DC was set up by the state government after the 2001 Census as the J&K Assembly passed a law putting a freeze on fresh delimitation until 2026.

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

‘Rozgar Setu’ Scheme for skilled workers

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ‘Rozgar Setu’ Scheme

Mains level : Various employment measures

The Madhya Pradesh has announced the launch of the ‘Rozgar Setu’ Scheme to help secure employment for skilled workers who have returned.

State schemes are quite often seen in the news. They are very important from the prelims perspective:

Rytha Bandu (Telangana): Cash transfer scheme of Rs 5,000/acre, per season

KALIA (Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation) Scheme (Odisha)

Mukhya Mantri Krishi Aashirwad Yojana (Jharkhand)

Krishak Bandhu Scheme (West Bengal)

‘Rozgar Setu’ Scheme

  • The ‘Rozgar Setu’ scheme to provide work to the maximum number of returned skilled workers.
  • After such workers requiring employment are identified, the government will contact factory and workshop owners and contractors overseeing infrastructure projects such as road and bridge construction.
  • This would fulfil the manpower requirement of industries as well as provide employment to workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Expansion of the Amery Ice Shelf

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ice Shelves, Amery Ice Shelf

Mains level : Impact of climate changes

 

There would be a 24% increase in the expansion of the Amery Ice Shelf (AIS) boundaries in Antarctica by 2021 and another 24 per cent by 2026 from its 2016 positions, the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in Goa has predicted.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Discuss the interrelation between Cryosphere and Climate change in context to the melting ice shelves in the Antarctic region.

Amery Ice Shelf (AIS)

  • The Amery Ice Shelf is a broad ice shelf in Antarctica at the head of Prydz Bay between the Lars Christensen Coast and Ingrid Christensen Coast.
  • It is part of Mac. Robertson Land.
  • The name “Cape Amery” was applied to a coastal angle mapped on February 11, 1931.
  • The AIS is one of the largest glacier drainage basins in the world, located on the east coast of Antarctica, at about 70ºS Latitude, 70ºE Longitude.
  • The AIS dynamics and mass balance help in understanding the changes in the global climate scenario.

Significance of the study

  • NCPOR observations revealed a critical cooling of the sea surface temperature, resulting in an advancement of the ice shelf by 88 per cent in the past 15 years.
  • These changes would contribute in a major way to climate variability.
  • The study clearly demonstrated the future dynamism of ocean heat fluctuation and Antarctic Amery ice shelf mass shifting-extent.

Back2Basics: Ice Shelves

  • The floating sheets of ice called ‘ice shelves’ play a multi-faceted role in maintaining the stability of a glacier. Ice shelves connect a glacier to the landmass.
  • The ice sheet mass balance, sea stratification, and bottom water formation are important parameters for the balancing of a glacier. Latent and sensible heat processes do play important roles here.
  • The insulation of ice shelves from atmospheric forcing is dependent on a temperature gradient that the ocean cavity beneath the ice shelves provides.
  • It is the pressure exerted by the ice shelves upon the ocean cavity that determines this temperature gradient.

Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Missile Park ‘AGNEEPRASTHA’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Missile Park ‘Agneeprastha’

Mains level : NA

Foundation Stone for a Missile Park “AGNEEPRASTHA” was recently laid at INS Kalinga, Vizag.

Caution: Agneeprastha is a missile park of the eastern naval command of the Indian Navy. It has nothing to do with the Agni missiles.

Missile Park ‘Agneeprastha’

  • ‘Agneeprastha’ aims to capture glimpses of Missile History of INS Kalinga since 1981 till date.
  • The Missile Park has been set up with a replica of missiles and Ground Support Equipment (GSE) that showcase the evolution of missiles handled by the unit.
  • The exhibits have been created from scrap / obsolete inventory which have been reconditioned in-house.
  • The main attraction is P-70 ‘Ametist’, an underwater launched anti-ship missile from the arsenal of the old ‘Chakra’ (Charlie-1 submarine) which was in service with IN during 1988-91.
  • It will also provide a one-stop arena for motivation and stimulation of inquisitive minds regarding the missiles and related technologies, from school children to naval personnel and their families.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Amaltas or Indian Laburnum

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Amaltas Tree

Mains level : NA

The Amaltas or Indian laburnum has begun blooming this summer.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2018:

Q. Why is a plant called Prosopis juliflora often mentioned in news?

(a) Its extract is widely used in cosmetics.

(b) It tends to reduce the biodiversity in the area in which it grows

(c) Its extract is used in the pesticides.

(d) None of the above

Amaltas Tree

  • The Amaltas (Cassia fistula linn), native to South-East Asia is one of the most widespread trees in India and South-East Asia, with their presence both in cities as well as in moist and dry forests.
  • It has drooping clusters of bright fragrant yellow flowers with five petals and characteristic cylindrical fruits.
  • The Amaltas is known by so many names — Indian Laburnum, Golden Shower, Purging Fistula, Pudding-pipe tree, Girmala, Rajbrikh, Alash, Kiar, Kirwara, Ali — showing us how common and loved it is.
  • It is both the national tree and the national flower of Thailand and is also the state flower of Kerala.

Features of Amaltas

  • This middle-sized deciduous tree is leafless only for a brief time, between March and May.
  • The new leaves are glossy, a trait that they lose on maturing, and are mostly bright green, though sometimes a rich copper too.
  • It flowers from April to June, partly alongside the emergence of new leaves, but it’s not uncommon to find the Amaltas in flower as late as September.
  • The bark is yellowish at first, slowly coarsens with age and turning dark grey.

Significance

  • The tree is mostly known to be ornamental and few know of its benefits as a medicinal plant, and one that’s loved by some mammals, bees, and butterflies.
  • The bark is used to make dye and the pulp in the fruit pod also serves as a strong purgative agent, which also helps animals that feed on it.
  • A medicinal preparation with the roots of the tree is used to cure leprosy and skin diseases and the leaves are used to get rid ulcers, in traditional medicine.