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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

Monthly DNA

13 Jan, 2021

70 Min Read

Harvest Festivals of India

GS-I : Art and Culture Festivals

Harvest Festivals of India

Lohri

  • Lohri is primarily celebrated by Sikhs and Hindus. It marks the end of the winter season and is traditionally believed to welcome the sun to the northern hemisphere.
  • It is observed a night before Makar Sankranti, this occasion involves a Puja Parikrama around the bonfire with prasad.
  • It is essentially termed as the festival of the farmers and harvest, whereby, the farmers thank the Supreme Being.

Makar Sankranti

  • Makar Sankranti denotes the entry of the sun into the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn) as it travels on its celestial path.
  • The day marks the onset of summer and the six months auspicious period for Hindus known as Uttarayan – the northward movement of the sun.
  • As a part of the official celebration of 'Uttarayan', the Gujarat government has been hosting the International Kite Festival since 1989.
  • The festivities associated with the day is known by different names in different parts of the country — Lohri by north Indian Hindus and Sikhs, Sukarat in central India, Bhogali Bihu by Assamese Hindus, and Pongal by Tamil and other South Indian Hindus.

Pongal

  • The word Pongal means ‘overflow’ or ‘boiling over’.Also known as Thai Pongal, the four-day occasion is observed in the month of Thai, when crops such as rice are harvested and people show their gratitude to the almighty and the generosity of the land.
  • Tamilians celebrate the occasion by making traditional designs known as kolams in their homes with rice powder.

Other festivals of India

  • Magha Bihu: In Assam and many parts of the North East, the festival of Magha Bihu is celebrated. It sees the first harvest of the season being offered to the gods along with prayers for peace and prosperity.
  • Uttarayan: Gujarat celebrates it in the form of the convivial kite festival of Uttarayan.
  • Maghi: In Punjab, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Maghi. Bathing in a river in the early hours on Maghi is important.
  • Saaji: In Shimla District of Himachal Pradesh, Makara Sankranti is known as Magha Saaji. Saaji is the Pahari word for Sankranti, start of the new month. Hence this day marks the start of the month of Magha.
  • Kicheri: The festival is known as Kicheri in Uttar Pradesh and involves ritual bathing.

Makaravilakku festival in Sabarimala

  • It is celebrated at the sacred grove of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala.
  • It is an annual seven-day festival, beginning on the day of Makara Sankranti when the sun is in the summer solstice.
  • The highlight of the festival is the appearance of Makarajyothi- a celestial star which appears on the day of Makara Sankranthi on top of Kantamala Hills.
  • Makara Vilakku ends with the ritual called 'Guruthi', an offering made to appease the god and goddesses of the wilderness.

Source: AspireIAS notes

Theodore Baskaran won Sanctuary Lifetime Service Award 2020

GS-I : Art and Culture Awards & Honours

Theodore Baskaran won Sanctuary Lifetime Service Award 2020

  • S. Theodore Baskaran who is a writer, a historian, a naturalist and an activist has won the Sanctuary Lifetime Service Award, 2020.
  • The award was instituted by the Sanctuary Nature Foundation.

Why did he win the award?

  • Theodore Baskaran was chosen for the award in the light of his dedication to wildlife conservation.
  • He won the award for his writing prowess in English and Tamil.

About S. Theodore Baskaran

  • He was born in 1940 in Tamil Nadu.
  • He is an Indian film historian and a wildlife conservationist.
  • He is prolific in Tamil. His Tamil works include Vaanil Parakkum Pullelam and Kal Mel Nadandha Kaalam.

Source: PIB

Hyderabad- 2020 Tree City of the World

GS-I : Art and Culture Awards & Honours

Hyderabad- 2020 Tree City of the World

  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Arbor Day Foundation have recently recognized Hyderabad as a 2020 Tree City of the World.
  • Hyderabad was selected for recognition following its commitment to grow and maintain the urban forests.

Highlights

  • This recognition was a testament to the city’s sustained and institutional efforts of planting, nurturing and celebrating trees.
  • It also marks the development of the urban and peri-urban forestry actions and projects besides the strategic planning & commitment to building a healthy city.
  • Other cities which were recognised by the organisation include 120 cities from across 63 countries.
  • Most of the cities were in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

  • It is a specialized agency of the United Nations.
  • FAO leads the international efforts of defeating hunger and improving nutrition security as well as food security.
  • The organisation was founded by the UN in October 1945.
  • It is headquartered in Rome, Italy. It has its regional and field offices in around 130 countries.
  • FAO coordinate with the governments and development agencies to improve and develop agriculture, fisheries, forestry, land resources and water resources.

Source: TH

Puducherry Governor issue

GS-II : Indian Polity State Legislatures

Puducherry Governor issue

Governor issues

  • The recent three-day-long protest, led by Puducherry Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy, under the banner of the Secular Democratic Progressive Alliance, against Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi came as no surprise, given the strained ties between the two constitutional functionaries.
  • They have been at loggerheads over many matters, most recently on the appointment of the State Election Commissioner, an office critical to holding elections to local bodies in the Union Territory.
  • But the principal issue of contention is the implementation of direct benefit transfer in the public distribution system using cash, instead of free rice, being given to beneficiaries.
  • The agitation was meant to highlight the demand of Congress and its allies for the recall of the Lt Governor.
  • As a prelude to the stir, the Chief Minister presented memoranda to President Ram Nath Kovind and Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G. Kishan Reddy, accusing Ms Bedi of “functioning in an autocratic manner” and adopting an “obstructionist attitude” in ensuring the progress and welfare of people.
  • On her part, Ms Bedi has advised him to refrain from misleading the public about the Centre and her office. She has even attributed his “anguish and disappointment” possibly to the “diligent and sustained care” exercised by the Lt Governor’s secretariat “in ensuring just, fair and accessible administration following the laws and rules of business scrupulously”.
  • With the Assembly election likely in April or May, the Chief Minister leading the protest against the Lt Governor was clearly an act of political mobilisation, even though the Congress’s major ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, chose to stay away from it.
  • The agitation should be seen as a reflection of the political reality in the Union Territory as Mr. Narayanasamy does not have any effective Opposition. This allows him to turn all his energy and time against the Lt Governor instead of on his political adversaries at a time when the election is near.
  • And this seems to be his strategy to ward off any criticism against his government’s “non-functioning” by laying the blame at the doorstep of the Lt Governor.
  • On her part, Ms. Bedi should take into account the legitimate requirements of an elected government and try to accommodate Mr. Narayanasamy’s views on important matters such as the free rice scheme.
  • After all, the Centre itself did not see any great virtue in the DBT mode when it decided to give additional food grains (rice or wheat) free of cost at five kg per person a month to ration cardholders from April-November last year — a relief measure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • With the near breakdown of communication between the Lt Governor and the Chief Minister, the Centre should step in, in the interest of smooth administration.

Source: TH

BIMSTEC and Analysis

GS-II : International organisation BIMSTEC

BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), 1997

  1. Bay of Bengal (BoB) is the largest Bay in the World.
  2. It includes 7 countries = BBIN, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand.
  3. Bob is the largest bay in the World. It has 1.5 billion, 21% of the World's population and a GDP of 2.5 trillion.
  4. BIMSTEC was estbalished in 1997 in Bangkok. 1st Meet held in Bangkok in 2004. 2nd in Delhi, India in 2008. 3rd in 2014 in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. 4th Summit held in 2018 Kathmandu, Nepal. 2020 Summit was to be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Kathmandu Declaration, 2018

  • It focusses on
    • Issue of Terrorism and Transnational organized crimes = great threat to international peace and security.
    • Connectivity among member nations - Trade, Economic, Digital, Export, People to People connectivity.
  • Called for identifying and holding accountable states and non-states entities that encourage, support or finance terrorism, provide sanctuaries to terrorists and falsely extol their virtues.
  • Establishment of the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection - optimization of using energy resources in the region and promotion of efficient and secure operations of the power system.
  • This Kathmandu meet will be another milestone for India after the BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit that India hosted in 2016.
  • India will host the International Buddhist Conclave in 2020.
  • For research in Art and Culture in BoB, India would set up a Center for BoB Studies at Nalanda University.

India's Interests in BIMSTEC

  • BIMSTEC is an alternative to the SAARC deadlock and is a vehicle to take forward India’s regional, strategic and economic interests. SAARC's deadlock limited the scope of India's growth aspirations and its role in improving regional governance.
  • Some people want to see India's interests in BIMSTEC as a strategy to isolate Pakistan and position BIMSTEC as an alternative to SAARC. But its 2 failed attempts of SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement and SAARC Satellite suggest otherwise.
  • India wants to push BIMSTEC not to bypass Pakistan but to ensure that IO region does not lag behind due to the unstable neighbourhood. India's desire to link South Asia to Southeast Asia is a part of this strategy.
  • BIMSTEC mechanism would reassure South Asia achieve common goals with India playing its due role.

Challenges for India

  • India is currently the largest contributor to BIMSTEC budget. It's annual contri was 2 crore (32% of the budget for 2017-18). BIMSTEC is increasing Human resources and hence would need more resources.
  • BIMSTEC FTA negotiated in 2004 but yet to finalise. It can boost our trade from 7% to 21%.
  • To counter the impression that BIMSTEC is an India dominated bloc. Today, most of the smaller neighbours are more willing to engage so as to benefit from India’s economic rise.
  • China's presence in BoB region through OBOR.

Way Forward

  • India will need to show sensitivity to the concerns of smaller neighbour.
  • India will have to carefully navigate the emerging regional geopolitics, as many of the elements that made SAARC hostage to political rivalry and turned it into a defunct mechanism can re-emerge in BIMSTEC.

Source: AspireIAS Notes

Analysis of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

GS-II : International Relations West Asia

Analysis of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

  • On January 5, the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) met at the ancient town of Al-Ula in Saudi Arabia to end the bitter discord that three of its members — Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, along with Egypt — have had with their partner, Qatar.
  • On June 5, 2017, the Arab Quartet, as they styled themselves, subjected Qatar to an onerous diplomatic boycott and a total land, sea and air embargo. They accused Qatar of destabilising the region with its support for Islamist groups.
  • They then presented Qatar with 13 demands including severing ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, diluting relations with Turkey and Iran, and shutting down the Al Jazeera network, in order to normalise ties.
  • Viewing these demands as an encroachment on its sovereignty, Qatar rejected them. This led to the boycott which was accompanied by shrill invective against Qatar on national media, which included threats of violence and even regime change.
  • Now, three and a half years later, the boycott has ended.

Background to the boycott

  • Ten years ago, the Arab Spring uprisings across West Asia had thrown up popular demands for reform — an end to authoritarian rule and the restoration of Arab “dignity” through freedom and democracy.
  • Four leaders fell under these pressures, which also gave rise to two new developments: one, Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated parties came to power in Egypt and Tunisia; and, two, Saudi Arabia decided to divert demands for domestic reform by highlighting a threat from Iran.
  • Asserting that Iran had hegemonic designs across the region, the Kingdom shaped opposition to Iran on sectarian basis and confronted it in theatres of its influence – Syria and later Yemen.
  • The Brotherhood, with its grassroots mobilisation and a political platform that marries Islamic principles with Western-style democracy, poses a serious challenge to the existing monarchical order that provides no scope for popular participation. Hence, Saudi Arabia and the UAE watched with horror the Brotherhood’s electoral successes, culminating in Mohammed Morsi being elected President in Egypt in 2012.
  • Fearing that a successful Brotherhood administration would become a model for their countries as well, the two GCC allies supported the Egyptian army’s coup against Morsi in July 2013.

Qatar and the Brotherhood

  • Qatar, a GCC member, has over several years been a maverick in GCC counsels.
  • Besides supporting its independent television channel, Al Jazeera, which often criticises regional leaders, it is a major supporter of the Brotherhood.
  • Though explained as an expression of its independent foreign policy, the reason goes deeper: the former Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and his son, Sheikh Tamim, the present ruler, aspire to play a major role in regional affairs, overcoming with their wealth the disadvantage of Qatar’s small size.
  • In pursuing their regional role, they have been sensitive to U.S. interests. Thus, after the events of 9/11, when the U.S. was convinced of the need for wide-ranging reform in the region, it believed that the Brotherhood, with its blend of Islam and democracy, could achieve change.
  • Hence, Qatar’s backing of the Brotherhood from the early 2000s and later, specifically of Morsi, was in line with U.S. interests.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump’s visceral hostility towards Iran and total support for Saudi Arabia gave the quartet the opportunity to change Qatar’s ways: through the boycott of June 2017, they sought to pressurise their partner into submission.
  • This approach failed: with its huge resources, Qatar could weather the financial assault, while the backing of Turkey, Iran and two GCC partners, Kuwait and Oman, ensured that the movement of goods and people was maintained.
  • Turkey, led by an Islamist party, became Qatar’s strategic partner and even challenged Saudi regional leadership on doctrinal and political bases.
  • Recently, when the UAE and Bahrain “normalised” ties with Israel, both Qatar and Turkey affirmed their support for Hamas, the Islamist party in power in Gaza.
  • The two countries are also partners in Libya, which ranged against the group backed by Egypt and the UAE in the ongoing civil conflict.

Possible re-alignments

  • The most likely reason for the reconciliation at Al-Ula is the incoming Biden presidency in the U.S.: it is expected that, besides reviving the nuclear agreement with Iran and easing sanctions, Joe Biden could focus on Saudi Arabia’s dismal human rights record and the war in Yemen.
  • Hence, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was anxious to project his conciliatory approach to the incoming administration by patching up with Qatar.
  • The reconciliation has evoked no enthusiasm from the other sponsors of the boycott.
  • The UAE and Egypt feel particularly threatened by the Brotherhood; they sent low-level delegations to Al-Ula and their media comment has been tepid. Both have made clear, as has Bahrain, that future ties with Qatar will depend on its conduct.
  • No one, however, believes that Qatar will dilute its backing for the Brotherhood, delink itself from Turkey, or even tone down commentary on Al Jazeera.
  • The UAE has its own reasons for hostility towards Qatar. It has far greater concerns relating to the threat from the Brotherhood than other GCC members due to the influence of its domestic Brotherhood-affiliated Al Islah party.
  • Again, its leaders are also keen to emerge as major players in regional affairs on the back of close links with the U.S. They, therefore, see Qatar as a rival hindering their aspirations.
  • The Al-Ula conclave could herald some major shifts in regional alignments.
  • There could be a nascent Saudi-UAE competition, with the UAE ingratiating itself with the U.S. and supporting its interests in diverse theatres – Yemen, the Horn of Africa and the western Indian Ocean.
  • Turkey and Qatar, possibly with Iran, could then seize the opportunity to re-engage with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, thus shaping an alternative regional coalition that would perhaps be closer to Russia and China than to the U.S. As Mr. Biden takes charge in the U.S., the Al-Ula conclave could trigger the emergence of a new regional order in West Asia.

Source: TH

India – Nepal ties during COVID-19

GS-II : International Relations Nepal

India – Nepal ties during COVID-19

  • In Nepal, however, officials said the resolution of the dispute remains important for improving overall bilateral ties that plunged to new lows last year.
  • “We have been urging India repeatedly through diplomatic notes to bring the border dispute to the table and the Joint Commission is an opportunity for us to that,” said Rajan Bhattarai, Foreign Affairs Adviser to Mr. Oli, explaining Nepal’s direction for the Joint Commission talks.
  • The 6th Joint Commission meeting has been delayed by more than a year because of the row over the Kalapani issue and the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Commission met for the 5th round on August 22, 2019, when the entire gamut of bilateral relations was discussed. Mr Oli had said that Mr Gyawali would discuss “the issue related to the border and several other matters”.
  • Mr Gyawali is expected to deliver a public lecture at the Vivekananda International Foundation on January 15.

Vaccine supply

  • It is understood that Nepal may raise its requirement of COVID-19 vaccines and both sides may discuss an agreement for their supply, once the government clarifies its plans to allow the export of Covishield and Covaxin.
  • “India will have greater clarity on the export of COVID-19 vaccines within the next few weeks,” External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar was quoted as saying by Reuter, indicating that the government may still consider prioritising its domestic vaccine requirement before sending consignments abroad.
  • Nepal is also expected to raise the need to discuss and adopt the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) report which has been completed but has not found official recognition from the Indian side.
  • The EPG, constituted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr. Oli in February 2016, has recommended several measures such as firming up Nepal’s land boundary with India and the revision of historic treaties.
  • “The established procedure agreed among the members of the EPG was that the completed report should be submitted to the Indian PM first. The report is now ready but it is yet to be accepted by the Indian PM,” Mr. Bhattarai said.
  • Mr. Gyawali’s visit comes weeks after Mr. Oli recommended the dissolution of the Lower House of Parliament — Pratinidhi Sabha. The “broader message” of the visit is likely to be India’s silent acknowledgement of the action of Mr. Oli. India had to engage Mr. Oli now as the other option would be to wait for the election which may not be held in the foreseeable future.
  • Prime Minister Oli has called for an election in April-May, however, the legal process over the dissolution of the Lower House is underway and sources indicated that they are expecting that the polling could be postponed.
  • “As far as we are concerned, the Joint Commission between the Indian and Nepalese Foreign Ministers is one of the topmost politically important bilateral mechanisms. It should have met earlier but could not be held. We welcome India’s decision to host the meeting,” Mr. Bhattarai said.

For complete news on India – Nepal relations: click here

Source: TH

Emergency in Malaysia due to COVID-19

GS-III : S&T COVID-19

Emergency in Malaysia due to COVID-19

  • Malaysia’s king declared a nationwide state of emergency on Tuesday to fight a coronavirus surge and Parliament was suspended, with critics charging that it was a bid by the unstable government to cling to power.
  • The surprise move came a day after the Prime Minister announced sweeping new curbs across much of the Southeast Asian nation, including the closure of most businesses, and warned the health system was “at breaking point”.
  • Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah agreed to declare an emergency until August 1 following a request from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the national palace said in a statement.
  • It is the first time Malaysia has declared a national state of emergency in over half a century and Mr. Muhyiddin, in a televised address, confirmed Parliament would be suspended and elections would not take place for the time being.

Source: TH

Inflation trends in India

GS-III : Economic Issues Inflation

Inflation trends in India

  • India’s retail inflation decelerated appreciably to 4.59% in December, from 6.93% in November, dipping below 6% for the first time since March 2020 as food prices cooled. Other data released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) on Tuesday, however, showed that a nascent industrial recovery, which had begun in September, retreated in November as industrial output shrank 1.9%.
  • The lowest consumer price inflation (CPI) print in 14 months was driven by an sharp slowdown in food price inflation, which eased to 3.4% in December, from the preceding month’s 9.5% .
  • India’s index of industrial production (IIP) for November was dragged lower by mining and manufacturing, which both shrank, as per quick estimates. Mining output contracted 7.3% in the month, while manufacturing declined 1.7%, indicating an unwinding of inventory build-ups with the quenching of pent-up and festive demand.
  • Electricity production grew for the third month in a row, rising 3.5% year-on-year. The NSO also revised upwards the index for the preceding three months by incorporating more production data. As per the final data for August 2020, the IIP had shrunk 7.1% in the month, narrower than the 8% estimated earlier.
  • In September, industrial output had edged up 0.5% — higher than the 0.2% growth estimated earlier — after shrinking for six months. Industrial output grew 4.19% in October, higher than the 3.6% quick estimate.
  • “The November data once again shows that the uptick witnessed in the month of September and October was due to a combination of festive and pent-up demand and the recovery is still shallow and fragile,” said Sunil Kumar Sinha, principal economist at India Ratings & Research. “The unevenness and fragility of the current recovery is evident with only 10 out of 23 industry group showing positive growth in November,” he pointed out.

Inflation surprise

  • Vegetable prices witnessed a 10.4% deflation in December, compared with inflation of 15.5% inflation in November. An accompanying moderation in the inflation rates for meat and fish, eggs and pulses, helped the consumer food price index record its slowest pace of increase in 16 months at 3.4%.
  • Core inflation too eased marginally to 5.5% in December, helping overall inflation moderate after having remained above the central bank’s tolerance band for price gains — of plus or minus two percentage points from its medium-term target of 4% — for a prolonged period.
  • “While the considerable softening in the CPI in December 2020 offers welcome relief, it is unlikely to prove adequate to allow for rates to be eased in the upcoming policy review, as the headline inflation may only record a limited further decline before resuming an uptrend,” said Aditi Nayar, principal economist at ICRA.
  • Initial data for this month also suggest a continued plunge in vegetable prices, but point to a broad-based rise in prices of other food items, especially edible oils, Ms. Nayar observed. “Additionally, the hardening prices of crude oil, and its partial transmission into domestic retail prices, remain a concern,” she added.

For complete article on Inflation, Inflation indices: click here

Source: TH

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