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PPP Investment Models: HAM, Swiss Challenge, Kelkar Committee

Decoding asset monetisation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NMP

Mains level : Paper 3- How NMP is different from PPP

Context

The National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP), a bold initiative was recently announced by the Finance Minister.

 PPP model and issues with it

  • BOT: The PPP was about attracting private parties to build, operate and then transfer ‘greenfield’ or new infrastructure projects under build-operate-transfer (BOT) concession agreements.
  • More risks for the private sector: The winning private bidder had to take not only the operating risk, but also the development and construction risk of the project, such as a toll road, from scratch.
  • Why it was prone to delays?:  It involved the acquisition of land. This process became controversial and was subject to delay.
  • It involved securing environmental and other regulatory approvals. These proved challenging to obtain.
  • Undermining the trust: Compliance with these became a source of friction between the concessioning authority and the concessionaire.
  • All this undermined trust between the public and private parties and led to a huge volume of disputes for which there was no readily available resolution mechanism.

How NMP is different from PPP?

  • Brownfield assets: The NMP is about leasing out ‘brownfield’ infrastructure assets such as an already operating inter-State toll highway under a toll-operate-transfer (TOT) concession agreement.
  • No land acquisition: In such an arrangement no acquisition of land is involved.
  • No construction risk: Nor does the concessionaire need to take any of the construction risk.
  • It is also certain to attract a different class of private capital.
  • To be successful in the BOT bids required a proven ability to navigate and manage the system.
  • Under the NMP, what will be required is operational experience in running a particular class of infrastructure assets and a strong understanding of the potential cash flows generated over the life of the concession.
  • This is certain to attract the largest global pension funds.

Way forward

  • Allow flexibility: Given the long tenure of these concession agreements, they must be designed to allow for some flexibility so that each party has the opportunity to deal with unforeseen circumstances (such as climate-related disasters).
  • Performance standards: Contracts must also incorporate clear key performance indicators expected of the private party and clear benchmarks for assets as they are handed over by the government at the start of the concession.
  • Ensure effective implementation: No matter how well a contract is crafted, it still needs to be implemented effectively.
  • No opacity in concessional agreements: Experience shows that there is a tendency for government departments to inject opacity so that they have more power over the concessionaire.
  • To avoid this, it would be useful if the responsibility for administering the concession agreements did not lie directly with the line ministries and/or their agencies.
  • Dispute resolution mechanism: It is vital to put in place a robust dispute resolution mechanism.
  • Institute for contracts: There is a strong case to set up a centralised institution with the skills and responsibility to oversee contract design, bidding and implementation.
  • An institution such as ‘3 PPP India’, first mooted in the 2014 Budget, is needed.
  • Set up tribunal: It would also be advisable to set up an Infrastructure PPP Adjudication Tribunal along the lines of what was recommended by the Kelkar Committee (2015).
  • Start with predictable sectors: The government could start with sectors that offer the greatest cash flow predictability and the least regulatory uncertainty before expanding the experiment.

Conclusion

The NMP significantly differs from the PPP model and seeks to avoid its shortcomings through various changes.

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Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

What the Q1 GDP numbers say

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Private Final Consumption Expenditure

Mains level : Paper 3- Measures to sustain the growth momentum

Context

India’s GDP data for Q1 of 2021-22 was released on August 31, 2021. The data revealed the real GDP growth at 20.1% in Q1.

Making sense of the growth

  • Base effect: Real GDP growth at 20.1% in Q1 of 2021-22 is largely because of the contraction of 24.4% in the corresponding quarter of the first COVID-19 year, that is, 2020-21.
  • The Q1 2021-22 output and GDP growth data reflect a strong base effect since the corresponding levels of Q1 of 2020-21 were significantly adversely impacted by the first wave of COVID-19.
  • Fall in magnitude: The magnitude of real GDP fell short of the corresponding level in 2019-20 by a margin of ₹3.3 lakh crore.
  • Required rate: A growth rate of 32.3% was required in Q1 of 2021-22 for achieving the same level of real GDP as in Q1 of 2019-20.
  • To achieve the annual growth of 9.5% as forecast by both the Reserve Bank of India and the International Monetary Fund for 2021-21, an average growth of 6.8% in the remaining part of the year would be required.
  •  The task would become relatively more demanding in Q3 and Q4 considering that the real GDP growth was positive at 0.5% and 1.6%, respectively, in the corresponding quarters of 2020-21.

Analysing the demand side

1) Private consumption growth lagging overall GDP growth

  • Largest segment: The largest segment of GDP viewed from the demand side is private final consumption expenditure (PFCE).
  • Its average share over the last three years (2018-19 to 2020-21) was 56.5%.
  • If PFCE were to reach back the 2019-20 level, it should have grown by 35.5% in this quarter.
  • The recovery in private consumption demand is lagging behind the overall GDP growth.
  • Way forward: Private consumption depends largely on income growth and its distribution.
  • Therefore, it would be useful to focus on further supporting income and employment levels for the MSMEs and informal sectors of the economy which have a higher propensity to consume.

2) Export and investment: positive outcome in Q1

  • Noticeable positive outcomes in Q1 of 2021-22 came from exports and to some extent, from investment as reflected by gross fixed capital formation (GFCF).
  • Exports grew by 39.1% over a contraction of 21.8% in Q1 of 2020-21.
  • This differential is reflected in a positive growth of 8.7%.
  • Investment: In the case of GFCF, the base effect was quite large.
  • Despite a growth of 55.3% in Q1 of 2021-22, its magnitude was still 17.1% lower than the corresponding level in Q1 of 2019-20.

3) Contraction in government final consumption

  • The only demand segment which contracted even with reference to Q1 of 2020-21 was government final consumption expenditure (GFCE).
  • This contraction was by a margin of (-) 4.8%.

Analysing the output side

1) Key service sectors

  • The key service sector — namely trade, transport, storage grew by 34.3% in Q1 of 2021-22 as compared to a contraction of 48.1% in Q1 of 2020-21.
  • However, relative to its level in Q1 of 2019-20, the output of this large service sector was significantly lower by 30.2% in Q1 of 2021-22.
  • Though public administration, defence and other services showed a growth of 5.8% in Q1 of 2021-22 over Q1 of 2020-21, they actually reflected a contraction of 5.0% as compared to Q1 of 2019-20.

2) Agriculture

  • The key positive news came from the agricultural sector which showed a growth of 4.5% in Q1 of 2021-22, in continuation of annual growth of 3.6% in 2020-21.
  • Given agriculture’s positive growth in all the quarters of 2020-21, further contribution from this sector to the overall growth may not be expected.
  • Its average weight to the overall output is also low at about 15%.
  •  It is the high weight manufacturing sector and the two substantive service sectors — trade, transport et. al and financial, real estate et al. — which will have to support growth in the remaining part of the year.

Way forward

  • Government should raise the demand: The Centre’s fiscal deficit in the first four months of 2021-22 amounted to only 21.3% of the budgeted target as compared to the corresponding average level of 90% over the last four years.
  • Clearly, significant policy space is opening up for the government to raise its demand and its contribution to output in the remaining part of the current fiscal year.
  • Dealing with likely third wave: Attempts should be made either to bypass or at least curb the adverse impact of COVID-19’s likely third wave.
  • Vaccination and investment in health infra:  Both the coverage of vaccination and the pace of investment in health infrastructure should be accelerated.
  • As revenues improve, expenditures can be increased.
  • There is no need to reduce the fiscal deficit below the budgeted level of 6.8% of GDP.

Consider the question “To make up for the loss of output in the last two years India needs to embark on the path of high growth trajectory. Suggest the measure to achieve this objective.”

Conclusion

We need a faster rate of growth to make up for the loss of output in the previous two years from the trend rate. We must lay the foundation for faster growth in this year itself.

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Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

Stand-off over North Korea reinforces the hollowness of the doctrine of deterrence

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Light water reactor

Mains level : Paper 2- North Korea's nuclear program

Context

The resumption of North Korea’s largest fissile material production reactor, has sparked speculation about its real and symbolic significance.

Background of North Korea’s nuclear weapons development

  • In 1994, Pyongyang barred IAEA access to the Yongbyon complex amid suspicions that the country was generating plutonium from spent fuel.
  • 1994 Agreed Framework, an executive agreement signed by President Bill Clinton, required Pyongyang to freeze all nuclear activity and allow inspection of its military sites in return for the construction of two light water reactors.
  • The accord broke down in 2002.
  • In June 2008, in order to express its denuclearisation commitment to the U.S. and four other countries, Pyongyang blew up the cooling tower at the Yongbyon complex.
  • A few months in 2008, Pyongyang barred IAEA inspectors access to its reprocessing plant in the Yongbyon complex and eventually expelled them the following April.
  • In November 2010 American scientist Siegfried Hecker confirmed accounts that North Korea had rapidly built a uranium enrichment plant at Yongbyon.

Why does resumption nuclear reactor matter?

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has underlined that the restart of activity in Yongbyon constitutes a violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
  • Reprocessing of fuel: The reactor at the Yongbyon complex has been central to the North Korean reprocessing of spent fuel rods to generate plutonium.
  • Enrichment of fuel: Besides the production of highly enriched uranium for the development of atomic bombs.

Way forward

  • Negotiations: The Biden administration has adopted a pragmatic path of declaring its readiness to resume negotiations with Pyongyang.
  • UN treaty on complete abolition of nuclear arms: The UN treaty on complete abolition of atomic arms, whose deliberations were boycotted by all nuclear weapons states, is the morally superior alternative.

Conclusion

The protracted stand-off over North Korea reinforces the hollowness of the doctrine of deterrence and begs the question whether proliferation can ever be prevented just because nuclear weapons states want to perpetuate their dominance.

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Back2Basics: IAEA

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency is the world’s central intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical co-operation in the nuclear field.
  • It works for the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology, contributing to international peace and security and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The IAEA was created in 1957 in response to the deep fears and expectations generated by the discoveries and diverse uses of nuclear technology.
  • The Agency’s genesis was U.S. President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on 8 December 1953.

Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

National Edible Oil Mission (OP)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Edible Oil Mission-Oil Palm (NEOM-OP)

Mains level : Edible oil scarcity in India

Last week, the government announced the minimum support prices (MSP) of rabi crops for the marketing season 2022-23.

Key Highlight: Hike for Oilseeds MSPs

  • The MSP for wheat is up by 2 per cent while that of rapeseed-mustard is up by 8.6 per cent.
  • This indicates that the government wants to focus more on edible oils/oilseeds than on wheat.
  • It is important to note that PM recently announced a Rs 11,000-crore National Edible Oil Mission-Oil Palm (NEOM-OP), as a part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

About NEOM-OP

  • This is a bold step to augment domestic edible oil supplies, given that 60 per cent of the edible oil consumed in the country is imported — more than half of this is palm oil followed by soybean and sunflower.
  • In FY 2020-21, edible oil imports touched $ 11 billion or about Rs 80,000 crore (for 13.5 million tonnes).
  • Despite these imports, edible oil inflation remains very high (July 2021 was 32.5 per cent).
  • Against this backdrop, the move to promote oil palm is a step in the right direction.

Reasons for oil price hikes

  • Effective duty for rapeseed and cottonseed oils ranges from 38.5 per cent for crude and 49.5 per cent for refined oils.
  • It’s this high import duty, at a time when global edible oil prices have gone up by almost 70 per cent (y-o-y), that has caused high domestic inflation (32.5 per cent) in edible oils.

Why Oil Palm?

  • It is the only crop that can give up to four tonnes of oil productivity per hectare under good farm practices.
  • But it is a water-guzzling crop, loves humidity (requires 150 mm rainfall every month) and thrives best in areas with temperatures between 20 and 33 degrees Celsius.
  • The National Re-assessment Committee (2020) has identified 28 lakh hectares suitable for oil palm cultivation in the country — the actual area under oil palm cultivation, as of 2020, is only 3.5 lakh hectares.
  • Much of this (34 per cent) is in the Northeastern states, including Assam, followed by Andhra Pradesh (19 per cent) and Telangana (16 per cent).
  • A large potential is thus waiting to be tapped.

No reasons for farmers to switch

  • The government has a massive procurement programme for wheat, but a very meagre one for rapeseed-mustard even when the prices rule below MSP.
  • This relative incentive structure remains in favour of wheat.
  • So, we doubt if farmers will switch from wheat to mustard in any meaningful manner to bridge the edible oil deficit.

What can be done to make NEOM-OP more effective?

The NEOM-OP intends to focus on productivity and area expansion by supporting the farmers in the following ways:

(A) Financial assistance

  • Input assistance for planting material, additional assistance to cover maintenance/opportunity costs of farmers, with no limits on acreage.
  • Big-budget assistance to industries that plan to set up a five tonnes/hour processing unit.
  • Such a comprehensive assistance package will attract farmers as well as incentivize the industry to work with agriculturists and augment domestic edible oil production.

(B) Pricing mechanism for OP

  • There will be no MSP, but the FFB price for farmers would be fixed at 14.3 per cent of average landed crude palm oil price of the past five years, adjusted with the wholesale price index.
  • This is the most critical part of the pricing policy and the formula needs to be carefully calibrated.
  • However, the litmus test of pricing will be dovetailing it with the import tariff policy to protect the farmers in case landed prices fall below the cost of production.

Way forward

(1) Rationalizing import duties

  • The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP, which recommends MSP) recommended that India should keep an import duty trigger at $800/tonne (say).
  • If the import price falls below $800/tonne, the import tariff needs to go up in countercyclical manner.
  • Thus, import duty needs to be in sync with rational domestic price policy.
  • It is a necessary condition to give a fillip to aatmanirbharta in edible oils.

(2) Neutral incentive structure

  • But the sufficient condition would be revisiting the existing incentive structure that unduly favours rice, wheat and sugarcane through heavy subsidisation of power, fertilisers and open-ended procurement.
  • The need is to devise a crop-neutral incentive structure where cropping patterns are aligned with demand patterns, and the crops are produced in a globally competitive manner.

Conclusion

  • There is a huge deficit in edible oil production in the country.
  • Achieving self-sufficiency in edible oil production through the other oilseeds complex would require adding about 45 million hectares under oilseed cultivation.
  • This is not possible without drastically cutting down the area under cereal crops.
  • The best alternative is, therefore, to ensure proper care of palm oil crops, provide good planting material, better irrigation management, fertilizers and other inputs to raise productivity to four tonnes of oil/hectare.

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Important Judgements In News

Allahabad HC verdict disqualifying then PM

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Emergency

Mains level : Important judgments

The 1975 verdict of Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha of the Allahabad high court, disqualifying then PM Indira Gandhi on charges of electoral malpractices was a judgment of “great courage” that “shook” the nation, said CJI in his speech.

What was the case?

  • It all started with the 1971 Lok Sabha elections, where the Congress (R), which was the newly formed faction of the Congress party floated by Indira Gandhi after her expulsion from the party in 1969, won a landslide victory securing 352 out of the 518 seats in the lower house.
  • An election petition was filed directly before a High Court challenging the election of Indira Gandhi.

What is an Election Petition?

  • Election Petition has to be filed within 45 days from the date of declaration of the election results.
  • The Representation of People (RP) Act of 1951 lists out the grounds on which the election of a candidate can be called into question.
  • Section 123 of the RP Act lists certain corrupt practices which, if proved successful, can be grounds to declare the election of a candidate void.
  • While hearing an election petition, the High Court being the court of first instance, exercises powers similar to a trial court.
  • Thus, there is cross-examination of witnesses and detailed examination of evidence which is normally employed in trial courts and not High Courts.

Findings against Gandhi

  • Use of government machinery to set up stage, loudspeakers
  • Use of gazetted officer as an election agent

A case that led to the promulgation of National Emergency

The verdict is widely believed to have led to the imposition of Emergency on June 25, 1975.

  • A vacation bench of the Supreme Court allowed a partial stay of the judgment after Gandhi had appealed against the High Court verdict.
  • Then Justice VR Krishna Iyer, said that she could continue as Member of Parliament (MP) in the Lok Sabha and could attend the House, but could not participate in its proceedings or vote as MP.
  • She also could not draw any remuneration as an MP.
  • Importantly, the apex court allowed her to continue as Prime Minister and allowed her to speak and participate in the proceedings of the House and to draw salary in her capacity as Prime Minister.
  • The order by the apex court, while not completely against Gandhi, did not satisfy her.
  • She wanted a blanket stay on the Allahabad High Court judgment.
  • Since the Supreme Court did not grant her that, National Emergency was proclaimed the very next day, June 25.

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Back2Basics: National Emergency

  • The Constitution employs the expression ‘proclamation of emergency’ to denote National Emergency under Article 352.
  • Under Article 352, the president can declare a national emergency when the security of India or a part of it is threatened by war or external aggression or armed rebellion.
  • The President can declare a national emergency even before the actual occurrence of war or armed rebellion or external aggression
  • When a national emergency is declared on the grounds of ‘war’ or ‘external aggression’, it is known as ‘External Emergency’.
  • On the other hand, when it is declared on the grounds of ‘armed rebellion’, it is known as ‘Internal Emergency’.
  • The term ‘armed rebellion is inserted from the 44th amendment. Before this term, it was known as an internal disturbance.

 

Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NATGRID

Mains level : Not Much

The PM is soon expected to launch the National Intelligence Grid or NATGRID that aims to provide cutting-edge technology to enhance India’s counter-terror capabilities.

What is NATGRID?

  • NATGRID is an intelligence sharing network that collates data from the standalone databases of the various agencies and ministries of the Indian government.
  • It is a counter terrorism measure that collects and collates a host of information from government databases including tax and bank account details, credit/debit card transactions, visa and immigration records and itineraries of rail and air travel.
  • It will also have access to the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems, a database that links crime information, including First Information Reports, across 14,000 police stations in India.
  • As of 2019, NATGRID is headed by an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Ashish Gupta.

Its establishment

  • The 26/11 terrorist siege in Mumbai back in 2008 exposed the deficiency that security agencies had no mechanism to look for vital information on a real-time basis.

Access to NATGRID

  • Prominent federal agencies of the country have been authorized to access the NATGRID database.
  • They are the:
  1. Central Bureau of Investigation
  2. Directorate of Revenue Intelligence,
  3. Enforcement Directorate
  4. Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs
  5. Central Board of Direct Taxes (for the Income Tax Department)
  6. Cabinet Secretariat
  7. Intelligence Bureau
  8. Directorate General of GST Intelligence
  9. Narcotics Control Bureau
  10. Financial Intelligence Unit, and
  11. National Investigation Agency

Future prospects

  • According to the first phase plan, 10 user agencies and 21 service providers will be connected with the NATGRID, while in later phases, about 950 additional organizations will be brought on board.
  • In the following years, more than 1,000 organizations will be further integrated into the NATGRID.
  • These data sources include records related to immigration entry and exit, banking and financial transactions, and telecommunications.

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Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

Iran to allow nuclear surveillance under IAEA

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

Mains level : IAEA standards

Iran has agreed to allow international inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to install new memory cards into surveillance cameras at its sensitive nuclear sites and to continue filming there, potentially averting a diplomatic showdown this week.

Try this question from CSP 2020:

Q.In India, why are some nuclear reactors kept under “IAEA Safeguards” while others are not?

(a) Some use Uranium and others use thorium.

(b) Some use imported uranium and others use domestic supplies.

(c) Some are operated by foreign enterprises and others are operated by domestic enterprises.

(d) Some are State- owned and others are privately-owned.

 

Post your answers here.

What is IAEA?

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
  • As the preeminent nuclear watchdog under the UN, the IAEA is entrusted with the task of upholding the principles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970.
  • It was established as an autonomous organization on July 29, 1957, at the height of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
  • Though established independently of the UN through its own international treaty, the agency reports to both the UN General Assembly and the UNSC.

What are its safeguards?

  • Safeguards are activities by which the IAEA can verify that a State is living up to its international commitments not to use nuclear programs for nuclear weapons purposes.
  • Safeguards are based on assessments of the correctness and completeness of a State’s declared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities.
  • Verification measures include on-site inspections, visits, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

Basically, two sets of measures are carried out in accordance with the type of safeguards agreements in force with a State.

  1. One set relates to verifying State reports of declared nuclear material and activities.
  2. Another set enables the IAEA not only to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material but also to provide assurances as to the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in a State.

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Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

Container shortage and its impact on international trade

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Read the attached story

The government is in talks with exporters to help them deal with an international container shortage that has led to freight rates rising by over 300 per cent in the past year for key shipping routes.

Why is there an international container shortage?

  • The reduction in the number of shipping vessels operating as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to fewer empty containers being picked up.
  • This has left many containers in inland depots and stuck at ports for long durations.
  • Long waiting times at key ports such as those in the US due to congestion are also contributing to lengthening turnaround time for containers.
  • A sustained global economic recovery has added to the impetus to trade.
  • Some countries are willing to pay a premium for empty containers and that this was further adding to the container shortage.

Freight rate impact

  • The lack of availability of containers and the faster than expected recovery in international trade has pushed up freight rates significantly over the past year.
  • Some key international routes are seeing an increase in freight rates of over 500 per cent compared to September last year.
  • Structural problems such as the high turnaround time for ships in India also add to the container shortage issue that exporters are currently facing.

How is the container shortage impacting Indian exporters?

  • Delay: Indian exporters are facing major delays in their shipments and consequent liquidity issues as they have to wait longer to receive payment for exported goods.
  • Liquidity crunch: Exporters noted that shipments that used to take 45 days are now taking 75-90 days leading to a 2–3-month delay in payments leading to liquidity crunch particularly for small exporters.

How can the government help address this issue?

  • Exporters are calling on the government to regulate the export of empty containers.
  • Exporters have asked the government to curb the export of empty containers at all Indian ports in line with a move by the Kolkata port which restricted the number of empty containers permitted to be exported to 100 per vessel for a three month period.
  • Exporters are also calling on the government to release about 20,000 containers that have been abandoned or are detained by government agencies so that they can augment supply.
  • Indian exporters has also called on the government to notify a freight support scheme for all exports till the end of the fiscal when freight rates are expected to normalise.
  • They are also asking the government to push back on a move by shipping lines to offer priority bookings at higher rates, asking that shipping lines revert to taking bookings on a first come first serve basis.
  • In the medium term, exporters have called on the government to take steps to boost the manufacturing of containers in India.

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History- Important places, persons in news

124 years of the Battle of Saragarhi

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Battle of Saragarhi

Mains level : Anglo-Afghan Wars

This September 12 marks the 124th anniversary of the Battle of Saragarhi that has inspired a host of armies, books and films, both at home and abroad.

What is the Battle of Saragarhi?

  • The Battle of Saragarhi is considered one of the finest last stands in the military history of the world.
  • Twenty-one soldiers were pitted against over 8,000 Afridi and Orakzai tribals but they managed to hold the fort for seven hours.
  • Though heavily outnumbered, the soldiers of 36th Sikhs (now 4 Sikhs), led by Havildar Ishar Singh, fought till their last breath, killing 200 tribals and injuring 600.

What was Saragarhi, and why was it important?

  • Saragarhi was the communication tower between Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan.
  • The two forts in the rugged North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), now in Pakistan. were built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh but renamed by the British.
  • Though Saragarhi was usually manned by a platoon of 40 soldiers, on that fateful day, it was being held by only 21 soldiers from 36th Sikh (now 4 Sikh) and a non-combatant called Daad, a Pashtun who did odd jobs for the troops.
  • Saragarhi helped to link up the two important forts which housed a large number of British troops in the rugged terrain of NWFP.
  • Fort Lockhart was also home to families of British officers.

What transpired on that day?

  • Around 9 am that day, the sentry at Saragarhi saw a thick haze of dust and soon realized that it was caused by a large army of tribals marching towards the fort.
  • The 8,000 and 15,000 tribals wanted to isolate the two forts by cutting off the lines of communication between them.
  • Unfortunately, the Pathans had cut the supply route between Fort Lockhart and Saragarhi.

Who was Havildar Ishar Singh who led the troops?

  • Havildar Ishar Singh was born in a village near Jagraon.
  • He joined the Punjab Frontier Force in his late teens after which he spent most of his time on various battlefields.
  • Soon after it was raised in 1887, Ishar was drafted into the 36th Sikhs.
  • He was in his early 40s when he was given independent command of the Saragarhi post.
  • Ishar Singh was quite a maverick who dared to disobey his superiors but he was loved by his men for whom he was always ready to go out on a limb.

How was the news of the battle received in Britain?

  • Making a departure from the tradition of not giving gallantry medals posthumously, Queen Victoria awarded the 21 dead soldiers — leaving out the non-combatant/
  • They were awarded the Indian Order of Merit (comparable with the Victoria Cross) along with two ‘marabas’ (50 acres) and Rs 500 each.

How are the slain soldiers remembered?

  • In 2017, the Punjab government decided to observe Saragarhi Day on September 12 as a holiday.
  • Even today the Khyber Scouts regiment of the Pakistani army mounts a guard and salutes the Saragarhi memorial close to Fort Lockhart.

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Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Thamirabarani Civilization is 3200 years old

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Thamirabarani Civilization

Mains level : Ancient Indian Civilizations

 

A carbon dating analysis of rice with soil, found in a burial urn at Sivakalai in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu has yielded the date of 1155 BC, indicating that the Thamirabarani civilization dates back to 3,200 years.

About Thamirabarani River

  • The Thamirabarani or Tamraparni or Porunai is a perennial river that originates from the Agastyarkoodam peak of the Pothigai hills of the Western Ghats.
  • It flows through the Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts of the Tamil Nadu state of southern India into the Gulf of Mannar.
  • It was called the Tamraparni River in the pre-classical period, a name it lent to the island of Sri Lanka.
  • The old Tamil name of the river is Porunai.

Its history

  • Its many name derivations of Tan Porunai include Tampraparani, Tamirabarni, Tamiravaruni.
  • Tan Porunai nathi finds mention by classical Tamil poets in ancient Sangam Tamil literature Purananuru.
  • Recognised as a holy river in Sanskrit literature Puranas, Mahabharata and Ramayana, the river was famed in the Early Pandyan Kingdom for its pearl and conch fisheries and trade.
  • The movement of people, including the faithful, trade merchants and toddy tapers from Tamraparni river to northwestern Sri Lanka led to the shared appellation of the name for the closely connected region.
  • One important historical document on the river is the treatise Tamraparni Mahatmyam.
  • It has many ancient temples along its banks. A hamlet known as Appankoil is located on the northern side of the river.

Significance of the carbon dating

  • This has provided evidence that there was a city civilisation in south India as long back as 3,200 years ago, the later part of the Indus Valley Civilisation.
  • Vicinity to the ancient port of Muziris, now known as Pattanam, in Kerala add another significance to the trade history of this site.
  • Now, research would be conducted at Quseir al-Qadim and Pernica Anekke in Egypt, which were once part of the Roman empire, as well as in Khor Rori in Oman, to establish the Tamils’ trade relations with these countries.
  • Potsherds bearing Tamil scripts have been found in these countries.
  • Studies would also be conducted in Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, where King Rajendra Chola had established supremacy.

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