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Monthly DNA

24 Jan, 2021

120 Min Read

State Election Commission vs Andhra Pradesh Govt

GS-II : Indian Polity Separation of Powers between various organs

State Election Commission vs Andhra Pradesh Govt

  • SEC issues notification for the first phase Gram Panchayat polls in A.P. amidst raging legal battle
  • A.P. State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar released the phase one Gram Panchayat elections notification in Vijayawada on January 23, 2021. | Photo Credit: Raju V.
  • The conflict between the A.P. government and the State Election Commission (SEC) over holding Gram Panchayat (GP) elections reached a flashpoint on January 23 with commissioner N. Ramesh Kumar issuing a notification for the first phase of the four-phase elections even as the government’s petition in the Supreme Court against the High Court order permitting elections to be held as per schedule is due for hearing on January 25.
  • Mr. Kumar said the High Court believed the SEC fixed the election schedule after duly taking the safety of voters and government employees into consideration, and insisted that the elections be held in tandem with the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
  • He said the Panchayat Raj Department (PRD) had failed in discharging its duties. Further, Mr. Kumar said the SEC was adopting the 2019 electoral rolls in the absence of the final ones for 2021, which should have been made available by the PRD. Youth who attained more than 18 years of age would be forfeiting their right to vote due to the adoption of 2019 rolls.
  • Appropriate action would be taken against the derelict officials of PRD Mr. Kumar said, adding that due attention would be paid to ‘unanimous elections’ and an Inspector General-rank police officer posted to check electoral malpractices and offences.

State Election Commissions (SECs)

  • The State Election Commission has been entrusted with the function of conducting free, fair and impartial elections to the local bodies in the state.
  • Article 243K(1): It states that the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to the Panchayats (Municipalities under Article 243ZA) shall be vested in a State Election Commission consisting of a State Election Commissioner to be appointed by the Governor.
  • Article 243K(2): It states that the tenure and appointment will be directed as per the law made by the state legislature. However, State Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his/her office except in the like manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of a High Court.

Source: TH

India, China - Corps Commander dialogue

GS-II : International Relations Border disputes

India, China - Corps Commander dialogue

  • India and China are scheduled to hold the ninth round of Corps Commander talks after a long delay in the senior military-level talks to work out a phased disengagement and de-escalation along the disputed border in Eastern Ladakh.
  • The talks will be held on the Chinese side at Moldo opposite Chushul, a defence source said. As the earlier round, the Indian side will be led by Lt. Gen. P.G.K. Menon, General Officer Commanding of the 14 Corps.
  • Last November, officials said both sides are close to finalising a phased withdrawal plan of troops and equipment but there was no progress since concluding it.
  • With no breakthrough in several rounds of military and diplomatic-level talks, both sides have dug in for the harsh winter in the high-altitude region.
  • The Indian stand continues to be complete disengagement and de-escalation along the entire Eastern Ladakh.

No progress

  • After the sixth round on September 21, both sides for the first time issued a joint statement in which they agreed to “stop sending more troops to the frontline” and “refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground”. There has been no progress towards resolution in the subsequent rounds.
  • Early this month, Army chief Gen. Manoj Naravane said the forces were ready to hold the ground for as long as it takes along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to achieve “national objectives”. He had also downplayed reports of Chinese troop withdrawal from the training areas in the depth which he said were 500-1,500 km away from the border and one should not lay “too much significance” on these comings and goings.
  • In the long-term view, the Army is reorganising some of its strike elements from the western border to the northern border for deployment along the LAC.

Source: TH

USA to review Taliban deal

GS-II : International Relations U.S.A

Biden govt. to review the U.S.-Taliban deal

  • It wants to ascertain if the outfit is ‘living up to its commitments to reduce violence in Afghanistan’
  • The Biden administration said it will review a landmark U.S. deal with the Taliban, focusing on whether the insurgent group has reduced attacks in Afghanistan, in keeping with its side of the agreement.
  • Washington struck a deal with the Taliban in Qatar last year, to begin withdrawing its troops in return for security guarantees from the militants and a commitment to kickstart peace talks with the Afghan government.
  • But violence across Afghanistan has surged despite the two sides engaging in those talks since September.
  1. President Joe Biden’s newly appointed National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, spoke with his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib and “made clear the United States intention to review” the deal said.
  • Specifically, Washington wants to check that the Taliban is “living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders,” she said.
  • It added that Mr. Sullivan “underscored that the U.S. will support the peace process with a robust and regional diplomatic effort, which will aim to help the two sides achieve a durable and just political settlement and permanent ceasefire.”
  • Mr. Sullivan also discussed the U.S.’s support for protecting recent progress made on women and minority groups’ rights as part of the peace process.
  • When contacted, the Taliban said they remained “committed to the agreement and honour our commitments”.
  • “We expect the other side to remain committed to the agreement too,” Mohammad Naeem, the group’s spokesman in Qatar, said.

Kabul welcomes move

  • Washington’s move was met with a sigh of relief from officials in Kabul after months of speculation over how the new administration would potentially recalibrate the Afghan policy.
  • Mr. Mohib tweeted that during the call the two sides “agreed to work toward a permanent ceasefire and a just and durable peace” in the country.
  • Another top Afghan government official lambasted the Taliban’s failure to live up to the February 2020 deal, saying the agreement had failed to achieve its stated goals.
  • “The agreement so far did not deliver a desired goal of ending Taliban’s violence and bringing a ceasefire desired by the Afghans,” Sediq Sediqqi, Deputy Interior Minister and former spokesman to President Ashraf Ghani said on Twitter.
  • “The Taliban did not live up to its commitments.”
  • Deadly attacks and high-profile assassinations have increased in recent months, particularly in Kabul where several journalists, activists, judges and politicians have been murdered in brazen daylight attacks.
  • The Taliban has denied responsibility for these killings, but Afghan and U.S. officials have blamed the group for the murders.

For complete analysis on Afghanistan India relations: click here

Source: TH

China - Taiwan issue

GS-II : International Relations China

Taiwan reports Chinese air incursions

  • Eight Chinese bomber planes and four fighter jets entered the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Saturday, and Taiwan’s Air Force deployed missiles to “monitor” the incursion, the island’s Defence Ministry said.

  • China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has conducted almost daily flights over the waters between the southern part of Taiwan and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea in recent months.
  • However, they have generally consisted of just one or two reconnaissance aircraft.
  • The presence of so many Chinese combat aircraft on this mission — Taiwan said it was made up of eight nuclear-capable H-6K bombers and four J-16 fighter jets — is unusual.
  • A map provided by Taiwan’s Defence Ministry showed that the Chinese aircraft, which also included a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, flew over the same waters where the most recent Chinese missions have been taking place near the Pratas Islands, though still well away from mainland Taiwan.
  • Taiwan’s Air Force warned away the Chinese aircraft and deployed missiles to monitor them, the Ministry added, using standard wording for how it responds to such activities.
  • “Airborne alert sorties had been tasked, radio warnings issued and air defence missile systems deployed to monitor the activity,” it said in a brief statement.
  • There was no immediate comment from China. In the past China has said it has been carrying out exercises to defend the country’s sovereignty and security.
  • Beijing has watched with growing concern increasing U.S. support for democratic Taiwan.
  • The flight by the Chinese bombers and fighters on Saturdaycame just days after Joe Biden assumed the U.S. presidency.

For complete analysis on Taiwan – China relations: click here

Source: TH

Yemen crisis: Explained

GS-II : International Relations Yemen Crisis

Yemen crisis: Explained

The origins

  • The roots of the Houthi movement can be traced to “Believing Youth” (Muntada al-Shahabal-Mu’min), a Zaydi revivalist group founded by Hussein al-Houthi and his father, Badr al-Din al-Houthi, in the early 1990s.
  • Badr al-Din was an influential Zaydi cleric in northern Yemen.
  • Inspired by the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the rise of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in the 1980s, Badr al-Din and his sons started building vast social and religious networks among the Zaydis of Yemen, who make up roughly one-third of the Sunni-majority country population.

About the Zaydis

  • The Zaydis are named after Zayd Bin Ali, the great grandson of Imam Ali. Zayd Bin Ali had led a revolt against the Ummayad Caliphate in the eighth century.
  • He was killed, but his martyrdom led to the rise of the Zaydi sect.
  • For centuries, the Zaydis were a powerful sect within Yemen. In the 16th century, they established an imamate and in the 17th, they ousted the Ottomans from Yemen.
  • The imamate went into decline and got fractured in the 19th century, faced with challenges from repeated attacks from the Ottomans and the rising influence of Wahhabism in Arabia.
  • After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, the Zaydis, once again, consolidated power in northern Yemen and established the Mutawakkilite Kingdom. This lasted till 1962 when the Egypt-backed republicans overthrew the monarchy.

  • When Badr al-Din al-Houthi and his son Hussein launched Believing Youth, the plan was to reorganise the Zaydi minority.
  • But when the movement turned political and started attacking the “corrupt” regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh and his support for the U.S.’s war on terror, it became a thorn on Saleh’s side.
  • They called themselves Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), mobilised tribesmen in the north against the government and chanted the “Death to America” slogans.
  • In 2004, Saleh’s government issued an arrest warrant against Hussein al-Houthi. He resisted the arrest, starting an insurgency.
  • In September 2004, the government troops attacked the rebels and killed Hussein. Since then, the government launched multiple military campaigns in Sa’dah, the Zaydi stronghold, to end the resistance, which was locally called the Houthis movement, after their “martyred” leader. But the government’s heavy hand backfired.
  • It only strengthened the Houthis, who, by 2010 when a ceasefire was reached, had captured Sa’dah from the government troops.

2011 Arab Spring

  • When protests broke out in Yemen in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring protests, the Houthis backed the agitation.
  • President Saleh, a Zaydi who was in power for 33 years, resigned in November, handing the reins to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, a Saudi-backed Sunni.
  • Yemen, under the tutelage of the Saudis and the Emiratis, started a national dialogue to resolve internal differences.
  • The Houthis were part of the dialogue. But they fell out with the transition government of Mr Hadi, claiming that the proposed federal solution, which sought to divide the Zaydi-dominated north into two land-locked provinces, was intended to weaken the movement. They soon got back to the insurgency.
  • Saleh, who was sidelined by the interim government and its backers, joined hands with his former rivals and launched a joint military operation.
  • By January 2015, the Houthi-Saleh alliance had captured Sana’a and much of northern Yemen, including the vital Red Sea coast. (Later the Houthis turned against Saleh and the latter was killed in December 2017).
  • The Houthis and security forces loyal to Saleh - who was thought to have backed his erstwhile enemies in a bid to regain power - then attempted to take control of the entire country, forcing Mr Hadi to flee abroad in March 2015.
  • The rapid rise of the Houthis in Yemen set off alarm bells in Riyadh which saw them as Iranian proxies.
  • Saudi Arabia, under the new, young Defence Minister, Mohammed Bin Salman, started a military campaign in March 2015, hoping for a quick victory against the Houthis.
  • Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at defeating the Houthis, ending Iranian influence in Yemen and restoring Mr Hadi's government. The coalition received logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France.
  • At the start of the war Saudi officials forecast that it would last only a few weeks. But four years of military stalemate have followed.
  • Coalition ground troops landed in the southern port city of Aden in August 2015 and helped drive the Houthis and their allies out of much of the south over the next few months.
  • Mr Hadi's government has established a temporary home in Aden, but it struggles to provide basic services and security and the president continues to be based in Saudi Arabia.
  • The Houthis meanwhile have not been dislodged from Sanaa and north-western Yemen. They have been able to maintain a siege of the third city of Taiz and to launch regular ballistic missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.
  • In September 2019, Saudi Arabia's eastern oil fields of Abqaiq and Khurais were attacked by air, disrupting nearly half the kingdom's oil production - representing around 5% of global oil output.
  • The Houthis claimed responsibility but Saudi Arabia and the US accused Iran of carrying out the attacks.
  • Militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the local affiliate of the rival Islamic State group (IS) have taken advantage of the chaos by seizing territory in the south and carrying out deadly attacks, notably in Aden.
  • The launch of a ballistic missile towards Riyadh in November 2017 prompted the Saudi-led coalition to tighten its blockade of Yemen.
  • It said it wanted to halt the smuggling of weapons to the rebels by Iran - an accusation Tehran denied - but the restrictions led to substantial increases in the prices of food and fuel, helping to push more people into food insecurity.
  • The warring parties agreed on a ceasefire at talks in Sweden. The Stockholm agreement required them to redeploy their forces from Hudaydah, establish a prisoner exchange mechanism, and to address the situation in Taiz.
  • While hundreds of prisoners have since been released, the full redeployment of forces from Hudaydah has not yet taken place, raising fears that the Stockholm agreement will collapse and that the battle for Hudaydah will resume.
  • In July 2019, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a key ally of Saudi Arabia in the war, facing international criticism of its conduct, announced a withdrawal of its forces from Yemen.
  • In August 2019, fighting erupted in the south between Saudi-backed government forces and an ostensibly allied southern separatist movement supported by the UAE, the Southern Transitional Council (STC).
  • Forces loyal to the STC, which accused Mr Hadi of mismanagement and links to Islamists, seized control of Aden and refused to allow the cabinet to return until Saudi Arabia brokered a power-sharing deal that November.
  • The UN hoped the agreement would clear the way for a political settlement to end the civil war, but in January 2020 there was a sudden escalation in hostilities between the Houthis and coalition-led forces, with fighting on several front lines, missile strikes and air raids.
  • In April 2020 the STC declared self-rule in Aden, breaking a peace deal signed with the internationally recognised government, saying it would govern the port city and southern provinces.
  • Saudi Arabia announced a unilateral ceasefire the same month due to coronavirus pandemic but the Houthis rejected it, demanding the lifting of air and sea blockades in Sanaa and Hudaydah.

Present situation

  • The Houthis have established a government in the north. The Supreme Political Council, headed by its President, Mahdi al-Mashat, is the executive branch of their rule. Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, Hussein’s brother, leads the movement. There are serious allegations against both the Saudis and the Houthis in the war.
  • While the Saudi bombings caused a large number of civilian deaths, the Houthis were accused, by rights groups and governments, of preventing aid, deploying forces in densely populated areas and using excessive force against civilians and peaceful protesters.
  • The conflict appears to have entered a stalemate. Yemen, often dubbed the poorest Arab country, is now divided into three parts
    1. The Houthi-controlled northern territories,
    2. The Southern Transition Council-controlled areas in the south (which has the backing of the UAE) and
    3. The rest held by the internationally recognised government of President Hadi.
  • All sides are trying to maximise their interests with attempts to find a political solution reaching nowhere. In the meantime, Yemen’s suffering is mounting.

Impact on the World

  • What happens in Yemen can greatly exacerbate regional tensions. It also worries the West because of the threat of attacks - such as from al-Qaeda or IS affiliates - emanating from the country as it becomes more unstable.
  • The conflict is also seen as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.
  • Gulf Arab states - backers of President Hadi - have accused Iran of bolstering the Houthis financially and militarily, though Iran has denied this.
  • Yemen is also strategically important because it sits on a strait linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world's oil shipments pass.

Analysis of the Yemen crisis

  • Ansar Allah (now Houthi movement), which began as a Zaydi socio-religious movement, is now the country’s strongest war machine that has withstood Saudi attacks
  • The roots of the Houthi movement can be traced to ‘Believing Youth’, a Zaydi revivalist group founded by Hussein al-Houthi and his father Badr al-Din in the 1990s
  • In 2004, Hussein was killed by Yemeni troops, but the group he founded, called Houthis, after its leader, continued to the battle against the government.
  • In 2014, three years after President Saleh resigned amid protests, the Houthis reached Sana'a, and by early 2015, they took over the city.

The USA Angle

  • After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, when anti-Americanism was at its peak in the Muslim world, several Islamist organisations had tried to mobilise supporters riding the public sentiments.
  • For the Houthis in northern Yemen, it was a tipping point.
  • What started as a religious revivalist movement aimed at restoring the fading glory of the Zaydi sect of Islam, the Houthis, under the leadership of Hussein al-Houthi, were turning political.
  • When the second intifada broke out in the Palestinian territories in 2000, the Houthis staged solidarity protests. They mobilised supporters against the U.S.’s war on Afghanistan in 2001.
  • After the Iraq war, they adopted a new slogan, “Death to America, death to Israel, a curse upon the Jews, victory to Islam”.
  • Not many had foreseen back then that this tiny group of tribesmen from the Marran Mountains of the northern province Sa’dah would grow into the most powerful rebel war machine in Yemen and, within little over a decade, capture the capital Sana’a and establish their rule over much of the country.
  • For the past six years, the Houthis have been controlling Sana’a, while attempts to dislodge them, including a Saudi-led military intervention, failed to meet their goals.
  • The success story of the Houthis is also the story of one of the worst humanitarian crises of our times.
  • The Saudi military intervention, the Houthi resistance and a separatist movement in the south have collectively turned Yemen into a humanitarian catastrophe.
  • And then, there is Al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, exploiting the lawlessness and expanding its operations.
  • Making matters worse, the administration of Donald Trump in the U.S. designated the Houthis a ‘terrorist organisation’ in its final days in office. This is expected to make providing aid to the Houthi-held territories and finding an eventual political solution to the crisis difficult. The ball is now in U.S. President Joe Biden’s court.

Source: TH

Draft policy to help grow nano, micro enterprises

GS-III : Economic Issues Industry

Draft policy to help grow nano, micro-enterprises

  • Udyog Sahayak Enterprises Network put together by FICCI, TISS and Azim Premji University
  • A new policy on the anvil, the Udyog Sahayak Enterprises Network (USENET), may give a major fillip to the growth-stunted nano and micro-enterprises in India’s informal sector.
  • The proposed framework, whose draft was jointly put together by the Azim Premji University, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), is aimed at providing a slew of growth-driven services to over 62 million nano and micro-enterprises that currently employ over 100 million people.
  • Each of these small enterprises currently has one to three employees, and if given a boost, they have the potential to grow and create a large number of jobs, says the draft.
  • The draft proposes the creation of a support system that will improve Ease of Doing Business for the largely informal nano, micro and small entrepreneurs.
  • Udyog Sahayak Enterprises, to be set up across the country, will deliver services such as digitisation and formalisation; availing of government loans, subsidies or other benefits; ensuring compliance with local, regional and national regulation; and aiding partnership with digital marketing platforms and digital payment platforms to these enterprises.
  • Each of these centres will be headed by a Udyog Sahayak, who will have a mandate to help and monitor the growth of 15 to 50 enterprises.
  • The Union government is likely to sanction up to? 5,000 crore to part-fund CAPEX to set up at least 19 lakh USENET centres.


  • Through USENET, we are trying to create a countrywide entrepreneurial network.
  • The platform will give millions of nano and micro-enterprises, which are facing harassment and growth challenges, information on policies, schemes and credit options, and visibility to lenders and customers, thereby help them grow and go digital.
  • Rather than creating more nano-entrepreneurs, the country has to help existing MSEs grow in size. We can do this by creating a support system which enables them to go digital, avail of government schemes, adopt new technologies, and increase productivity. This will create millions of new jobs.
  • By enabling scale-up, the draft claims, USENET can aid in the creation of an additional 10.3 million jobs over five years, going up to nearly 56.9 million jobs over 10 years.
  • If the value-added per worker can be computed, according to the draft, it could bring in a 12% nominal growth in GVA (gross asset value), amounting to an economic value of ?2.16 lakh crore in five years and over ?19 lakh crore at the end of 10 years.

Source: TH

Defense procurement for India

GS-III : Economic Issues Defense procurement

Defence procurement for India

  • The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is scheduled to deliver the first batch of three indigenous Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) to Army and Air Force before March 31.
  • They are part of the 15 Limited Series Production (LSP) LCH helicopters approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC).
  • Early this month, the Defence Ministry said in its annual report the contracts for the procurement of the LCH from HAL, additional Harop (P-IV) loitering drones from Israel and upgrade of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAV) in service are “likely to be signed in the first quarter of 2021”.
  • The Army variant of the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), which has completed all tests and also demonstrated its high-altitude capability in hot and high weather conditions last September, is scheduled to receive its Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) at the Aero India.
  • With a range of helicopters in the smaller range, HAL is working on a 12-tonne Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH) as a replacement for the MI-17 helicopters in service. The Army and the Air Force are working out the Service Quality Requirements (SQR), the source said.
  • The LCH and the LUCH along with the weaponised Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) will be showcased inside the Indian pavilion at Aero India to showcase the range of indigenous development.
  • The LUH is a three-tonne helicopter positioned as replacement for the Cheetah and Chetak helicopters.
  • According to HAL, it is capable of flying at 220 kmph, service ceiling of 6.5 km and a range of 350 km with 500 kg payload.

Light Combat Aircraft Tejas

  • The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme was started by the Government of India in 1984 when they established the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) to manage the LCA programme.
  • LCA Tejas was designed and developed by India’s HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited).
  • It replaced the ageing Mig 21 fighter planes.
  • It was in 2003 that the Light Combat Aircraft programme was named ‘Tejas’ (meaning radiance in Sanskrit) by the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
  • It is the second supersonic fighter jet that was developed by HAL (the first one being HAL HF-24 Marut).
  • LCA Tejas is a single-engine multirole light combat aircraft.
  • It is the lightest and smallest multi-role supersonic fighter aircraft in its class.
  • It is designed to carry a range of air-to-air, air-to-surface, precision-guided, and standoff weaponry.
  • Tejas has a single-engine, compound Delta wing, and has a tailless design.
  • The idea behind the LCA programme was to expand and develop India’s indigenous aerospace capabilities.
  • Since the 1970s, the MiG 21 planes were the mainstay of the Indian Air Force. The primary goal of the LCA programme was to replace the ageing MiGs.
  • The secondary goal was the advancement of indigenous domestic aviation capabilities.
  • HAL plans to deliver 123 Tejas aircraft to the Indian Air Force by 2024-25.

Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA)

  • India is expected to launch its indigenous fighter Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) by 2032. The AMCA will feature geometric stealth and will initially fly with two GE-414 engines. The engines will be replaced by the indigenous engines.
  • There are two major ways of making a military platform stealthier.
  1. Geometric stealth: the shape of the aircraft is designed at such angles so as to deflect away maximum radar waves thereby minimising its radar cross-section.
  2. Material stealth: radar-absorbing materials are used in making the aircraft which will absorb the radio waves thus reducing the radar footprint.
  • The AMCA will initially be based on geometric stealth, the material stealth shall be focussed upon at a later stage.
  • The plan is to build on the capabilities and expertise developed during the development of the light combat aircraft (LCA) and produce a medium fifth generation fighter aircraft. AMCA is being conceived as a progression from the LCA Tejas.
  • Apart from the technologies developed from the LCA project, the new fighter programme is important as technologies coming in through that will flow into the AMCA project.
  • India had expressed its unwillingness to go ahead with the joint development of a fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) with Russia primarily due to the high cost involved in the project. This is India’s only fifth-generation aircraft programme after the decision.

Specifications of AMCA

  • The aircraft will incorporate advanced technologies like super maneuverability, supercruise, stealth, state of the art sensor suite with fusion.
  • It is being developed by an aerospace industry team which consist of Aeronautical Development Agency as a design firm and to be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
  • The AMCA is being designed as a stealth, medium weight, twin-engine, fifth generation multi-mission aircraft with the capability to swing roles.
  • The stealth mission features the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD), precision strike and maritime operations.

Source: TH


GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Ecosystem

Sunderbans is home to 428 species of birds, says ZSI

  • The Indian Sunderbans, which is part of the largest mangrove forest in the world, is home to 428 species of birds, a recent publication of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) states.
  • The publication, Birds of the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve, released earlier this month by the ZSI, not only documents the avifauna of the Sunderbans, but also serves as a comprehensive photographic field guide, with detailed distribution and locality data for all the species from the region.
  • Authors of the publication said the book, with photographs of the males and females of various species, is aimed to kindle interest and spread knowledge about birds among people from all walks of life — from forest staff to tourists to amateur birdwatchers.
  • The Indian Sunderbans, which covers 4,200 sq. km, also includes the Sunderban Tiger Reserve of 2,585 sq. km — home to about 96 royal Bengal tigers (as per the last census in 2020). It is a world heritage site and a Ramsar site (a wetland site designated to be of international importance).
  • The scientists said of the 428 birds listed, some, like the masked finfoot and the Buffy fish owl, are recorded only from the Sunderbans.
  • The area is home to 9 out of 12 species of kingfishers found in the country as well rare species such as the Goliath heron and the spoon-billed sandpiper.
  • India has over 1,300 species of birds and if 428 species of birds are from the Sunderbans, it means that one in every three birds in the country is found in the unique ecosystem.
  • The publication not only highlights the ecological and conservation aspect of the Sunderbans but through a detailed description of bird species and localities where they are found we want to encourage birdwatching.
  • Pointing out that scientists and nature lovers are observing the 125th birth anniversary year of Salim Ali, the Birdman of India, the ZSI Director said birdwatching not only brings people closer to nature but also creates awareness and livelihood opportunities for the locals.
  • Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and Head of Forest Force, West Bengal, Ravi Kant Sinha said the Sunderbans are the most diverse of natural landscapes and account for 60% of all mangrove forests in the country.
  • The mudflats exposed in the low tides, rich in microorganisms deposited during tidal activity, are ideal for feeding for migratory birds.
  • The mudflats and wetlands of the Sunderbans act as a stopover site for migratory flights south [southwards] and back.


  • Sundarbans = 10000 square km 60% in Bangladesh. It covers ~ 43% of the Mangrove forests of India.
  • It is the largest tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world.
  • It is in the delta region of Padma, Meghna and Brahmaputra river basins.
  • West Bengal has 2 Wetlands now = East Kolkata Wetlands & Sundarbans (which has now become the largest Ramsar Site in India).
  • The Sundarbans was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
  • They are the only mangrove habitat which supports a significant population of Royal Bengal Tigers, and they have unique aquatic hunting skills.
  • It is home to critically endangered northern river terrapin (Batuga, Basaka), the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin, and the endangered fishing cat. It also has Chital Deer, Crocodile & Snakes.
  • It met 4 out of 9 criteria of Ramsar: presence of rare species and threatened ecological communities, biological diversity, significant and representative fish and fish spawning ground and migration path.
  • The part of the Sundarban delta, which lies in Bangladesh, was accorded the status of a Ramsar site in 1992.

Source: TH

National Security Directive for Telecom sector

GS-III : Economic Issues Telecom sector

National Security Directive for Telecom sector

  • Under the security directive, operators will have to buy equipment from trusted sources.
  • Telecom firms have asked the government to clarify about the entity that will be held liable in the event of a security breach in the network post implementation of the National Security Directive (NSD) in the telecom sector.
  • A meeting was called to work on the road map for trusted products by the NSCS. Telcos wanted the government to come out with clear guidelines [as to] who [would] be responsible for any breach in the network if the government is making a list of trusted products that have to be deployed in the network.
  • Under the current rules, telecom operators are held responsible for any security breach in their network.
  • Another private operator representative said two private mobile service providers wanted the government to ensure price competitiveness among vendors in case equipment from China was barred from the networks.
  • “It was suggested that the price competitiveness can be maintained by way of reducing import duties. Nokia and Ericsson have told government officials that the prices of their gear would come down as they manufacture in India and [hence] save on import duty,” the representative said.
  • In a bid to tighten the security of the communications network, the Centre had, on December 16, announced the National Security Directive for the telecom sector, which will mandate service providers to purchase equipment from trusted sources.

Source: TH

Flash Droughts

GS-III : Disaster and Disaster management Drought

Flash Droughts

What are Flash droughts?

  • Flash droughts are those that occur very quickly, with soil moisture depleting rapidly.
  • Normally, developing drought conditions take months, but these happen within a week or two weeks’ time.
  • Several factors including atmospheric anomalies, and anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions play an important role.
  • In 1979, India faced a severe flash drought, affecting about 40% of the country and taking a toll on agriculture.
  • An article published that year in the journal India International Centre Quarterly noted that the big granaries of Uttar Pradesh and Andhra were affected, and the country suffered a loss of about 5,000 crores.

A new study has now pointed out that India could experience more such flash droughts by the end of this century.

  • “The ongoing climate change has caused a significant increase in global temperature and this can lead to more and more flash droughts in the coming years.
  • If we can meet the ‘Paris Agreement’ goals and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees C, the numbers and frequency of the projected flash droughts may go down.
  • He is the corresponding author of the paper published in npj Climate and Atmospheric Science.

Parameters of study

  • The team analysed the major flash droughts that occurred from 1951 to 2016 in India.
  • They simulated the soil moisture using the meteorological data obtained from the India meteorological department.
  • Duration, intensity, and area of the flash droughts were studied and an overall severity score was given.
  • The top five flash droughts based on the overall severity score occurred in 1979 followed by 2009,1951,1986 and 2005.

Community Earth System Model

  • To predict future flash droughts the team used a Community Earth System Model which simulates the summer monsoon precipitation, sea surface temperature, role of El Nino Southern Oscillation, and air temperature over India.
  • The analysis showed a considerable rise in the frequency of extremely dry and hot years in the coming three decades.
  • They also examined the role of greenhouse gas emissions, industrial aerosols, and land-use/land-cover change. “The frequency of concurrent hot and dry extremes is projected to rise by about five-fold, causing an approximately seven-fold increase in flash droughts like 1979 by the end of the 21st century,” adds the paper.
  • They conclude that this increased frequency of flash droughts can have deleterious implications for crop production, irrigation demands and groundwater abstraction in India.

Predicting droughts

  • The team has planned future studies that will consider the flash-drought prediction ahead of time using operational meteorological forecasts from the India Meteorological Department. They explain that this will help manage irrigation water demands and avoid considerable losses in agriculture.

Source: TH

How do butterflies fly with such small bodies and large wings?

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Wildlife & Fauna

How do butterflies fly with such small bodies and large wings?

  • Unlike any other flying animal, butterflies have unusually short, broad and large wings relative to their body size.
  • By studying the aerodynamics of butterflies in a wind tunnel, researchers have now answered this question which has confused lepidopterologists (who study moths and butterflies) for years.
  • The results suggested that butterflies use a clap technique which helps them take off rapidly. “When the wings clap together, the air between the wings is pressed out, creating a jet, pushing the animal in the opposite direction,” explains the paper published on Wednesday in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
  • The flexible butterfly wings form a cupped shape during the upstroke and a clap that thrusts the butterfly forwards, while the downstroke is used for weight support.
  • Though butterflies exhibit a fluttery flight, they also perform highly directed and sustained flights during migration and take-off. Butterflies need high force and control for fast take-off flights. The team kept six individuals of silver-washed fritillaries (Argynnis paphia) in a wind tunnel and studied the behaviour and aerodynamics.
  • Why should one study butterflies and their flight? The shape and flexibility of butterfly wings could inspire improved performance and flight technology in small drones.

Source: TH

India-France air exercise: Desert Knight 2021 

GS-II : International Relations France

India-France air exercise: Desert Knight 2021

  • Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat flew on a French Air Force mid-air refueller aircraft at the India-France air exercise Desert Knight 2021 which concluded on Saturday, the IAF said.
  • The IAF is looking at leasing six mid-air refuelling tankers for which Airbus A330 is the lead contender.
  • A first-of-its-kind bilateral exercise, Rafale aircraft from both sides along with Su-30 MKI and Mirage 2000 aircraft of the IAF undertook complex missions, the IAF statement said.
  • “Both Air Forces exercised in realistic settings to enhance operational capabilities. The exercise provided an opportunity to share best practices and evolve operational concepts; particularly for effective combat employment of the Rafale fleet,” it said.

Source: TH

Prison Tourism Project of Maharashtra

GS-III : Economic Issues Tourism

Prison Tourism Project of Maharashtra

  • The State government will open to visitors jails which once held freedom fighters
  • The Maharashtra government is set to launch “jail tourism” under which historically significant jails in Maharashtra, which are still being used as penal centres, will be opened to visitors to see the barracks where freedom fighters were imprisoned by the British.
  • Pune’s Yerawada Jail will be opened for first-of-its-kind jail tourism from January 26,” said Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
  • Mr Deshmukh said freedom fighters including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Motilal Nehru, Lokmanya Tilak and Subhas Chandra Bose were imprisoned by the British in different jails in Maharashtra during the freedom struggle.
  • “Thane, Nasik, Dhule, Pune, and Ratnagiri are a few places in Maharashtra where these great freedom fighters were imprisoned by the British. All these jails have a significant historical value. The barracks where these great personalities were kept are preserved as memorials which remind us of the dedication of these personalities in winning freedom,” the Minister said.
  • “The famous Poona Pact between Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi took place beneath a mango tree at Yerawada jail. In 1899, the Chapekar brothers were given a death sentence in this jail. Schools, colleges, and educational institutions will be given the chance to see these historic places under the jail tourism project,” he said, adding that no outsiders have been allowed on these premises so far.
  • Terrorists Jinda and Sukha, who murdered General Vaidya, and Mumbai attack convict Ajmal Kasab were all hanged in the same jail.
  • Mr Deshmukh said tourists will be provided with a guide and the number of visitors will be restricted to 50 a day. Those who want to visit should apply online to the Yerawada Jail Superintendent at yerwadacpmh@gov.in or spycppune@gmail.com on an institution’s letterhead including names of visitors, stating the purpose of the visit.

Source: TH

Romulus’ Krait: New Species of Snake

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Wildlife & Fauna

Romulus’ Krait: New Species of Snake

  • A study of snakes in southern and western India has identified a new species of snake. Named the Romulus’ krait (Bungarus romulusi) after the ‘snake man of India’, Romulus Whittaker, the species has so far remained undetected because of its similarity in appearance to the common krait (B. caeruleus) and only a careful genetic analysis revealed that the two were distinct species.
  • The study also showed that some kraits in Maharashtra that were misidentified as the Wall’s Sind krait were actually the same as the Sind krait which is also found in parts of Pakistan and Rajasthan and has been identified as the snake with the most potent venom in India.
  • “The Romulus’ krait and common krait are so hard to distinguish that even herpetologists with years of experience couldn’t tell that it could be a distinct species through casual observation. Only after the genetic examination, we were surprised to discover a new species,” he adds.
  • The venom of the Sind krait was 12–13 times as potent as that of the common krait, whereas the venom of the Romulus’ krait was about six times as potent.
  • When the Indian antivenoms were tested for their ability to neutralise the venoms of these cryptic kraits, they were found to be ineffective.
  • This is because these antivenoms are made to protect against the bites of the ‘big four’ Indian snakes – the spectacled cobra (Naja naja), common krait (Bungarus caeruleus), Russell’s viper (Daboia russelii) and saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus).

Source: TH

Nikhil Srivastava is joint winner of maths prize

GS-III : S&T Achievements of Indians in S&T

Nikhil Srivastava is joint winner of maths prize

  • Indian mathematician Nikhil Srivastava has been named winner of the prestigious 2021 Michael and Sheila Held Prize along with two others for solving long-standing questions on the Kadison–Singer problem and on Ramanujan graphs.
  • Srivastava from the University of California, Berkeley, Adam Marcus, from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Daniel Alan Spielman from Yale University will receive the 2021 Michael and Sheila Held Prize, the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. said in the statement.
  • The prize consists of a medal and $100,000. Srivastava, Marcus and Spielman solved long-standing questions on the Kadison–Singer problem and on Ramanujan graphs, and in the process uncovered a deep new connection between linear algebra, the geometry of polynomials and graph theory it said.
  • The decades-old Kadison–Singer problem asks whether unique information can be gleaned from a system in which only some features can be observed or measured, according to the Yale news.

Source: TH

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