May 2019
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The site where Buddha gained enlightenment

  1. Mahabodhi temple, Bodhgaya Bihar is the oldest standing GRAND structure in India.
  2. The Chinese pilgrim Fa-hien recorded that the site contained several statues and monuments.
  3. In 2002, UNESCO declared the Mahabodhi Temple a World Heritage Site.
  4. This is one of the four holiest places for Buddhists in India.

    Discuss: The other 3 are – Lumbini : Nepal | Sarnath : Uttar Pradesh & Kushinagar : Uttar Pradesh

What’s in a name? Ask Dettol

  1. The then-Reckitt & Sons (now RB, and earlier known as Reckitt Benckiser) had almost decided to call the best-known antiseptic liquid – PCMX
  2. PCMX is parachlorometaxylenol, the aromatic compound that gives Dettol its germ-fighting ability.
  3. The management was initially hell bent on using PCMX to showcase the medical history and rigour! Thankfully, common sense prevailed and they named it Dettol with “the sword of trust slogan”.

    Discuss: Even when it was accepted in govt. hospitals, Dettol had a hard time finding its way inside the households. Why? Because Indian traditional thinking said disease was caused by an imbalance of the body and not germs!

6 fun facts about Seychelles

  1. Pirates used to seek the islands of Seychelles as a hideout. This beautiful country island was home to none until the latter part of the 18th century.
  2. Victoria, the capital city of Seychelles, is the smallest capital in the whole world.
  3. Almost half of the limited landmass in the country is occupied by national parks and reserves.
  4. Seychelles is the right place to visit if you want to see unique endemic species.
  5. The country is home to the heaviest land tortoise that is living in the wild.
  6. Round Island used to be a leper colony. A stone prison still remains up to this day.

    Discuss: We will tell you some more sombre facts as well. Ah! also, quite recently Kunal Kapoor took nuptial vows with Naina Bachchan at Seychelles.

Kind words from IMF on India

  1. India will grow 7.5 per cent in 2015-16, up from 7.2 per cent in the current year.
  2. The Indian economy is the bright spot in the global landscape.
  3. The report stressed the urgency of certain key reforms, including the bottlenecks in the energy, mining and power sectors; infrastructure gaps, land acquisition processes and environmental clearances.
  4. The IMF report also said that India’s economic profile recently got a lift as the country improved the way it measures economic output.

    Discuss: Most of this is bol-bachhan, but the 4th point is important – What have we done differently to measure our economic output? What is new about the revised national accounts series?

Former RBI Governor YV Reddy goes candid on the 14th FC (2/2)

  1. The discretion available to the Centre to distribute funds to states at its will and pleasure has been questioned by states. The existing system of transfer of funds from the Centre to states under “other transfers” will have to be reviewed.
  2. The Union is providing money to states to finance activities which are under Constitution in the domain of the states. FC has no prerogative to judge how states are utilising the funds transferred to it.
  3. The Finance Commission cannot discriminate based on its view of the capacity of states. The financial markets may do, but not a constitutional body like the Commission.

    Discuss: Are we advocating competitive federalism? We would urge you to go through the article on your own. Share over WhatsApp and form opinions. 

Former RBI Governor YV Reddy goes candid on the 14th FC (1/2)

  1. There is no big shift in aggregate transfers to States. The total transfers from the Union to the state put together works out roughly to 63 per cent of the divisible pool.
  2. The real difference has been in terms of the freedom available to states. So it is not a quantitative shift but a qualitative shift.
  3. There has been no reduction in the fiscal space available to the Central government. It has to reduce the “other transfers” to states wherein it used to award transfers outside FC recommendations.

    Discuss: What does he has to say on the evolution of Center State relations post the 14th FC? Read on…

Time to replace 13th Amendment & devolve power

  1. (13A) to the Constitution of Sri Lanka is the amendment which created Provincial Councils in Sri Lanka.
  2. This also made Sinhala and Tamil as the official language of the country and English as link language.
  3. On 29 July 1987, Indo-Sri Lanka Accord was signed between Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J.R. Jayewardene which stated the devolution powers to the provinces.

    Discuss: It was the quantum of devolution prevalent under the Indian Constitution that made possible Mr. Modi’s “excellent leadership” and “people-centred approach that transformed Gujarat.

Dalda was earlier just Dada

  1. Dalda was earlier Dada and Lever Brothers just inserted an L in the middle to leave its mark.
  2. Dada was actually the name of the Dutch company that imported vanaspati ghee into India in the 1930s as a cheap substitute for desi ghee or clarified butter.
  3. There was a huge demand for desi ghee but people could not afford it.
  4. The Indian public was far from convinced there could be any substitute for ghee.
  5. Jawaharlal Nehru, called for a nationwide opinion poll to check if people felt it was harmful or not but it proved inconclusive.

    Discuss: Of course, much later, Dalda had competition from “clear oils” or refined vegetable oils such as groundnut (Postman), mustard, safflower (Saffola), sunflower (Sundrop) and palm oil (Palmolein), among others.

Quotable Quotes

  1. “One can get a great many things done, or one can strive to look like the smartest person in the room — and the two goals are pretty much mutually exclusive.”

    Discuss: This is by Dr. M Vidyasagar, ex-DRDO/TCS and presently teaching in US. This fits the status of India’s political and particularly economic policymakers really well. We have clearly moved from times when people took a backseat and let teams/institutions/companies develop.

Zero tolerance policy on flouting KYC norms

  1. RBI is likely to adopt a zero tolerance policy on Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) norms.
  2. In 2013, the Banking Regulation Act was amended and gave powers to RBI to impose a penalty of Rs 1 crore for a single violation.
  3. Proposal to put operational curbs on banks; restrictions on branch expansion likely to be imposed.
  4. This will help in incorporating the FATF (Financial Action Task Force).

    Discuss: What is FATF? It is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7 – to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. The FATF Secretariat is housed at the headquarters of the OECD in Paris.

Saumitra Chaudhuri Committee for Auto fuel vision policy 2025 (2/2)

  1. Saumitra’s report touched on – Bharat norms (next stage implementation), Taxation issues & Alternative fuels. Let’s study a few of the fuels.
  2. Methanol – is readily biodegradable, can be used directly or by blending with petrol, is already used in racing cars of China.
  3. Ethanol – burns cleaner and burns more completely than petrol, is an organic solvent, can be derived from Sugar cane juice and molasses.
  4. Hydrogen Fuel – Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE)’s Green Initiatives for Future Transport (GIFT). It has vision-2020 for Hydrogen.

    Discuss: Ethanol as a fuel is an interesting case study in Brazil. Also, while we are at it – do revise the 4 categories of bio-fuels and their differences. 


Bharat Emission Standards

Saumitra Chaudhuri Committee for Auto fuel vision policy 2025 (1/2)

  1. In the last two flashcards, we talked about carbon tax. Let’s take a step forward to the recommendations given by a former Planning Commission member.
  2. In India, we follow Euro norms under the label “Bharat stage” norms. This defines the maximum limit of pollutant that a vehicle can emit.
  3. Recommended nationwide fuel standards to be BS-4. Upgrading refineries to produce Euro-V equivalent petrol and diesel will need ~Rs.80,000 crore.
  4. Cost can be met by a Special Fuel Upgradation Cess of 75 paise per litre on fuel. BS-6 emission norms are expected by 2024.

    Discuss: What are the parameters of Bharat Stage or Euro norms? Go to the 2nd part of the same series.

Bharat Emission Standards

India tries to change the game on climate change (2/2)

  1. Pro – Carbon tax will enable india to come out with a blueprint of “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) towards fighting global warming.
  2. Pro – Push forward the need for adhering to the concept of CBDR (Common but Differentiated Responsibility) in mitigating climate change.
  3. Cons – Prices of these fuels are lower today & unless the public infrastructure is robust, behavioural change won’t happen.

    Discuss: Revise what is CBDR. Additionally, the govt said nothing about how the excise duty collected on dirty fuel will be used to upgrade refinery technology.

India tries to change the game on climate change (1/2)

  1. India plans to move from a carbon-subsidisation regime to the one where carbon spewing is taxed. What does it mean?
  2. Carbon tax has been implemented via – decontrol of diesel prices, imposition of higher excise duty, and cess on petrol and diesel.
  3. A steep increase in the clean energy cess on coal could be another step in this direction.
  4. The shift to carbon taxation combined with India’s ambitious solar power program is a good step forward.

    Discuss: What are the pros and cons of it? Read that in the 2nd instalment of this card.

Post Offices to double up as Payment Banks

  1. Dept. of Post to launch an independent (of it) entity for the proposed payment bank venture. Existing post office infra. will be used.
  2. What’s the post office stats?  650 main branches + 25,000 spoke branches + 130,000 banking correspondents!
  3. DoP is in the process of revamping itself – task force set up under former cabinet secy. T S R Subramanian.
  4. Plans to create a holding company which will have 5 independent entities – banking, insurance & e-commerce.
Differentiated Banks – Payment Banks, Small Finance Banks, etc.

The New Pension Scheme goes for higher equity exposure

  1. The PFRDA (Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority) which regulates the NPS has decided to go for an uplift – including a choice to deploy 50% of the user’s contribution into equities.
  2. As of now, the fund is managed by SBI, UTI and LIC in a predetermined fashion. The money is deployed in a set pattern – 55% (Govt. Securities), 40% (debt securities), ~15% (equities) & 5% (money market instruments).
  3. NPS allows investors to pick from 1 of the 3 options — predominantly equities (E), fixed income instruments other than government securities (C) and into government securities (G).

    Discuss: Good time to revisit the pension schemes in India and their FAQs.

The Indian Yogi at UNESCO

  1. A statue of the great Indian philosopher, savant, spiritual guru Sri Aurobindo was installed at the prestigious Japanese garden of UNESCO House Paris, in July 2014.
  2. He was jailed for his involvement in the freedom struggle. Post his jail stay, he moved to Pondicherry, leaving politics for spiritual work.
  3. Aurobindo developed a method of spiritual practice he called Integral Yoga.
  4. With the help of his spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfassa (“The Mother”), he founded the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
  5. His main literary works are The Life Divine, which deals with theoretical aspects of Integral Yoga

    Discuss: UPSC is known to take a quick scoop at the people in news and present a related question. Aurobindo appeared in 2014 and automatically becomes a contender for 2015 exam.

World’s oldest primitive animal fossil found in China

  1. The fossilised animal displays many characteristics of modern adult sponges. Sponges are the most primitive living animals.
  2. They have only differentiated cells, but no real organs or tissues.
  3. The previous oldest known primitive sponge fossil was dated to 530 million years ago, in the early Cambrian period.

    Discuss: The Cambrian Period is the first geological time period of the Paleozoic Era (the “time of ancient life”). This period lasted about 53 million years and marked a dramatic burst of evolutionary changes in life on Earth.

Of orthodox tea and pesticide levels

  1. Orthodox teas are made in the same way as crush tear and curl CTC teas, but with most of the leaf remaining intact.
  2. India and Iran will together review the issue of maximum residue levels (MRL) of pesticides in teas.
  3. Iran is an estimated 100 million kg market which is mostly serviced by Sri Lanka. India’s presence was muted in view of the earlier U.S. sanctions on Iran.
  4. India ranks 2nd in world production of tea and fourth in the world market as tea exporting country.

    What are these US-Indo sanctions we are talking about?

Plantation Agriculture – RISPC, Tea Act, etc.

What Mahabharata says about pollution…

  1. Jayadratha was the principal culprit who prevented help from reaching Abhimanyu while he was battling in the Chakravyuh.
  2. Arjuna took two vows to avenge his son and in case he fails, he willed to condemn himself not only in this life (by self immolation) but also after life itself.
  3. Note his words when he says, “There are worlds attained by those who touch brahmanas, cattle and fire with their feet and those who release phlegm, excreta and urine in water. If I do not kill Jayadratha, let those terrible ends be mine.”

    Discuss: The worst kind of hell and after-life that Arjuna could imagine was meant for people who polluted rivers and water bodies by releasing “phlegm, excreta and urine” in them.