Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Nano Urea
- Inflation rates in different states
- Hyderabad State Liberation
- Hanle Dark Sky Reserve
- Battle of Imphal
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Nano Urea
Context: Nano-urea, a product developed by the Indian Farmers and Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO) and heavily advertised by government as panacea to reduce farmer dependence on packaged urea is yet to be fully tested despite having been fast tracked for commercial application.
About the issue
- Normally, three seasons of independent assessment by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is required for approving a new fertiliser, but in the case of nano urea this was reduced to two. Moreover scientists are still unclear if the product can on its own cut farmers’ dependence on urea.
- Normally, one year data alone is inadmissible because a multitude of factors can influence yields. ”
About Nano Urea
- Nano urea is a fertilizer patented and sold by the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd. (IFFCO).
- It has been approved by the government for commercial use because of its potential to substantially reduce the import bill.
- A small bottle (500 ml) of nano urea is equivalent to one 50-kg bag of granular urea currently used by farmers.
- IFFCO’s nano urea contains nitrogen, an element critical for plant development, in the form of granules that are a hundred thousand times finer than a sheet of paper. At this nano scale, which is about a billionth of a meter, materials behave differently than in the visible realm.
- Chemically packaged urea is 46% nitrogen, which means a 45-kg sack contains about 20 kg of nitrogen.
- Contrastingly, nano urea sold in 500-ml bottles has only 4% nitrogen (or around 20 g).
- How urea works:
- Urea is highly water soluble and already reaches the lowest form of concentration when absorbed.
- Unlike the coarse particles that farmers throw onto the soil during sowing, the nano particle form of nano urea, when applied on to the leaves, stimulates enzymes such as nitrase and nitrite reductase, which help plants metabolize nitrogen.
- Different parts of the plant contain nitrogen in varying proportions and because nano particles are so small and numerous, they have a lot more surface area relative to their volume, compared with the millimeter-size grains of urea that plants are exposed to nearly 10,000 times more in nitrogen.
Why do plants need Nitrogen?
- Plants need nitrogen to make protein and they source almost all of it from soil bacteria which live in a plant’s roots and can break down atmospheric nitrogen, or from chemicals such as urea into a form usable by plants.
- To produce one tonne of wheat grain, a plant needs 25 kg of nitrogen. For rice, it is 20 kg of nitrogen, and for maize, it is 30 kg of nitrogen.
Problems associated with urea
- Not all the urea cast on the soil or sprayed on leaves in the case of nano urea, can be utilised by the plant.
- If 60% of the available nitrogen was used, it would yield 496 kg of wheat grain.
- Even if 100% of 20 g of nano urea, which is what is effectively available, is utilised by the plant, it will yield only 368 g of grain.
- Therefore, total attempt is futile and causes sheer wastage of money.
- This claim of IFFCO is unfounded and will be disastrous for farmers.
Benefits of Nano Urea
- On an average, a farmer in India applies two bags of urea in one acre per crop season, with the quantity varying slightly according to the crop. Field trials have shown that a 500 ml bottle of nano urea can replace one bag of conventional urea as it has 40,000 ppm of nitrogen, which is equivalent nitrogen nutrient provided by one bag of conventional urea.
- Cost Effective – Also, the costing proposition of nano urea liquid should make it more favourable over conventional urea as its 500 ml bottle will be priced at Rs 240. A 45-kg bag of conventional urea costs Rs 267.
- Nano Urea is produced by an energy efficient environment friendly production process with less carbon footprints.
- Its application to crops as foliar fertilization enhances crop productivity to the tune of 8% with commensurate benefits in terms of better soil, air and water, and farmers profitability.
- Scaling up of production and sales as well as application of Nano Urea will also lead to reduction in green House Gas (GHGs) emissions over a period of time.
Approval of Fertilizers
- Process for approving a new fertiliser significantly depended on ICAR’s field observations.
- ICAR usually tested a product on approved research stations for at least two years (or three crop seasons).
- If satisfied ICAR forwards a recommendation to the government
- Traditional, packaged urea is still necessary during the initial stage, as basal nitrogen, of crop development. The nano urea could be useful once the plant grew after which the product could be sprayed on its leaves.
2 . Inflation in Different States
Context: India’s economy grew at a slower-than-expected 13.5% in the first quarter of the year. Private consumption picked up, but inflation has been a dampener. Retail inflation, which shot up to an eight-year high of 7.79% in April, cooled slightly to 6.7% by July. However, in several States and Union Territories (UTs), including Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Telangana, consumers continued to face over 7% inflation in July, while 11 States, including West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, saw accelerated price rise in the month.
Which States are seeing the highest inflation and where are consumers better off?
- Inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) crossed the central bank’s upper tolerance limit of 6% in January and has averaged 6.8% till July 2022.
- But an analysis of State-wise inflation prints for this period reveals that 14 States as well as three UTs, including Jammu and Kashmir, have faced higher than the national inflation, most of them averaging over 7% in the same period.
- While consumers in Telangana (8.32%), West Bengal (8.06%) and Sikkim are worst-hit with 8%-plus inflation, other major States are not too far behind, with some of them posting a spike in price rise in July.
- The average 2022 retail inflation so far in Maharashtra and Haryana has been 7.7%, followed by Madhya Pradesh (7.52%), Assam (7.37%), Uttar Pradesh (7.27%), Gujarat and J&K both of which have averaged 7.2% and Rajasthan (7.1%).
- By contrast, a dozen States have recorded retail price rise of less than 6% through 2022, including Kerala (4.8%), Tamil Nadu (5.01%), Punjab (5.35%), Delhi (5.56%) and Karnataka (5.84%).
- Manipur, Goa and Meghalaya, in fact, averaged inflation below 4%, at 1.07%, 3.66% and 3.84%, respectively.
- Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand’s inflation averaged just 0.1% over the national rate at 6.9%, but the former averaged 8.18% in the April to June quarter before easing slightly to 7.38% in July, while the same numbers were 7.36% and 5.65% for the latter, respectively.
What explains the variations in price rise among the States?
- Food price inflation that dropped to a five-month low of 6.8% in July, is a key differentiating factor for States’ inflation experience.
- are not major crop producers have higher food inflation as transport costs are added on, and those with predominantly rural areas also clock more inflation as the CPI for rural areas assigns a higher weightage to food.
- Indeed, rural inflation has averaged more than urban inflation at 7.07% from January to July, and 7.6% in the four months since it peaked at 8.38% in April.
- For urban consumers, inflation only crossed 6% in March 2022, has averaged 6.47% through 2022 and fallen 0.6 percentage points by July from its 2022 high of 7.09% in April.
- Consumption patterns and divergences in different items’ price trends also influence variations among States.
- Tomato inflation dropped to 44% from 158.4% in June, while meat and fish price rise cooled to a 46-month low of 3% in July.
- Inflation in petrol used for conveyance eased to a 32-month low of 0.3%, diesel turned negative for the first time since November 2019 at (-)2.4%, but LPG inflation hit a six-month high of 23% and kerosene touched an unprecedented 108.8% in July. That some States lowered their fuel taxes made a difference.
Why does it matter?
- While the share of private consumption has spiked to nearly 60% of GDP in Q1 2022-23, this persistently high inflation has dented spending propensity, particularly in rural India that is facing more price pressures.
- “Private consumption is improving, with urban demand getting support from contact-intensive services. Had it not been for high inflation and subdued rural demand due to negative real rural wage growth, private consumption would have grown faster,” said CRISIL’s chief economist Dharmakirti Joshi. With the monsoon’s progress still uneven, there is anxiety about rural demand even as inflationary pressures continue to cramp household budgets. Identifying what is driving inflation higher (or lower) in some States vis-à-vis others could help policy makers address those pressure points more specifically to provide lasting relief to consumers, apart from other broad-brush ploys such as interest rate hikes and trade curbs to cool prices of individual items. The Centre and States can co-ordinate to pinpoint and address the price triggers that may not be driven by global headwinds but local factors.
3 . Hyderabad State Liberation
Context: The Union government had decided to hold a year-long commemoration of 75 years of Liberation of the erstwhile princely State of Hyderabad.
- The Union government had decided to observe 75 years of Hyderabad State Liberation.
- The objective is to make the current generation, both from the region under consideration and the rest of India, aware of the story of resistance, valour and sacrifice.
- On 17th September 1948, more than one year after India secured Independence from the British, the erstwhile State of Hyderabad, comprising the entire State of Telangana and some districts in Maharashtra and Karnataka, got independence from the brutality and tyranny of the Nizam’s rule.
Annexation of Hyderabad
- On the midnight of August 15th, 1947, India gained its independence from the British and was partitioned into two countries- India and Pakistan.
- The partition was based on religion, with the Muslim League demanding an independent Pakistan for India’s Muslim population.
- Several parts of India such as North-West Frontier Province, Sindh, West Punjab and East Bengal were given to Pakistan while United Province, Bombay Presidency, North and Deccan India, Malabar, Madras, West Bengal, etc. were given to India due to them having a Hindu-majority.
Princely states in India
- While leaving, the British permitted the princely states (who acted as agents of the British during the British Raj) to choose whether they’d like to remain independent or join either country’s territory.
- Raja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir decided to accede his territory to India after he received aggressive hostility from the Pakistan side of the border and signed the instrument of accession on 26th October 1947 with the Republic of India.
- While the majority of its population was Hindu, they were governed by a Muslim ruler. Like Hari Singh, the Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan was in a dilemma to choose which union he’d like his country to merge with and initially agreed to the ‘standstill agreement’ where the Republic of India would handle the external affairs and defence of Hyderabad but won’t interfere in the internal affairs.
- At the time when discussions around independence and accession to the Indian union were underway, the Nizam along with the nobility had resolutely backed the idea of a free Hyderabad. However, majority of its population, that consisted of its peasant agitators and the Communists were against the idea and inclined towards the Indian union. At this point, the state Congress also grew more strident in their efforts to bring Hyderabad within the Indian fold.
Formation of Razakars
- Ittihad-ul-Muslimeen, an Islamic fundamentalist organisation within the state, had undergone a newfound radicalisation under its new leader Kasim Razvi, an Aligarh-based lawyer and a passionate believer in the idea of ‘Muslim pride’.
- Under Razvi the Ittihad had promoted a paramilitary body called the ‘Razakars’ whose members marched up and down the roads of Hyderabad, carrying swords and guns,” writes historian Ramachandra Guha in his book, ‘India after Gandhi’.
- The Razakars were instrumental in carrying out the Nizam’s efforts to suppress the peasant movement by raiding and plundering villages and killing anyone who appeared as a potential agitator.
- It was in this atmosphere of violence being carried out by the Razakars and the CPI along with the peasants retaliating with armed offensives, that the Indian army drove in.
- In less than a week the Nizam and the razakar squads had surrendered and a military administration was established under General J N Chaudhuri. Soon after, the military came down heavily upon the peasant agitators as well, bringing to an end a long drawn out agitation against the Nizam.
3 . Hanle Drk Sky Reserve
Context: In a first-of-its-kind initiative, the Department of Science & Technology (DST) has announced the setting up of India’s first dark sky reserve at Hanle in Ladakh in the next three months.
What is a dark sky reserve
- A dark sky reserve is a designation given to a place that has policies in place to ensure that a tract of land or region has minimal artificial light interference.
- The International Dark Sky Association is a U.S.-based non-profit that designates sites as international dark sky places, parks, sanctuaries and reserves, depending on the criteria they meet.
- Several such reserves exist around the world but none so far in India.
- In June, a three-way Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed among the Union Territory administration, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh, and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru, which uses and maintains the telescopes, for launching the dark space reserve.
- Hanle is a large historic village in the Indian union territory of Ladakh. It is the site of the 17th century Hanle Monastery of the Drukpa Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism
- Hanle is home to the Indian Astronomical Observatory. Hanle, which is about 4,500 metres above sea level, hosts telescopes and is regarded as one of the world’s most optimal sites for astronomical observations.
- However, ensuring that the site remains well-suited for astronomy implies keeping the night sky pristine, or ensuring minimal interference to the telescopes from artificial light sources such as electric lights and vehicular lights from the ground.
- The Indian Astronomical Observatory, the high-altitude station of the IIA, is situated to the north of Western Himalayas, at an altitude of 4,500 metres above mean sea level.
- Located atop Mt. Saraswati in the Nilamkhul Plain in the Hanle Valley of Changthang, it is a dry, cold desert with sparse human population.
- The cloudless skies and low atmospheric water vapour make it one of the best sites in the world for optical, infrared, sub-millimetre, and millimetre wavelengths.
- The Himalayan Chandra Telescope, High Energy Gamma Ray Telescope, Major Atmospheric Cherenkov Experiment Telescope and GROWTH-India are the prominent telescopes located at the Hanle observatory.
- This site will have activities to help in boosting local tourism and economy through interventions of science and technology.
- To promote astro-tourism, villages around Hanle would be encouraged to promote homestays equipped with telescopes that visitors can use to view the night sky.
- Villagers would also be trained to help visitors with astronomical observations.
- A visitor centre would also be set up to inform people not only about astronomy but also the wildlife and plant life in the adjoining Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary
4 . Battle of Imphal
Context: Slain Japanese leader Shinzo Abe considered former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a “mentor” and considered current Prime Minister a “close friend and partner”, said the former Japanese Prime Minister’s special advisor. He disclosed that Mr. Shinzo Abe had planned to deliver a deeply emotional speech during his scheduled visit to Manipur in 2019, at the memorial to the 1944 Battle of Imphal, one of the biggest battles during the Second World War.
About the Battle of Imphal
- The Battle of Imphal took place in the region around the city of Imphal, the capital of the state of Manipur in Northeast India from March until July 1944.
- Japanese armies attempted to destroy the Allied forces at Imphal and invade India but were driven back into Burma with heavy losses.
- Together with the simultaneous Battle of Kohima on the road by which the encircled Allied forces at Imphal were relieved, the battle was the turning point of the Burma campaign, part of the South-East Asian theatre of World War II.
- The Japanese defeat at Kohima and Imphal was the largest up until that time, with many of the Japanese deaths resulting from starvation, disease and exhaustion suffered during their retreat.
- According to a voting in a contest run by the British National Army Museum, the Battle of Imphal was bestowed as Britain’s Greatest Battle in 2013.
- The two northeastern states of Manipur and Nagaland and their capitals of Kohima and Imphal formed the critical frontier for British India in their war against Japan on the Burmese front.
- A key route ran from the British supply base at Dimapur through Kohima up on a ridge in the Naga Hills and down to Imphal in a small encircled plain in Manipur and from there into Burma, the country known today as Myanmar.
- “Operation U-Go” was an audacious plan by the Japanese military command to capture this road by using three divisions to attack simultaneously south and north of Imphal and to directly take Kohima. Had it succeeded it would have given them the critical springboard they needed to launch an all-out attack on British India.
- The Japanese attack caught the British by surprise as their High Command had not expected the enemy to move so swiftly and in such large numbers through the thick jungle and mountainous terrain.
- They cut the Kohima-Imphal Road and quickly surrounded the British garrison defending Kohima.
- Over 16 crucial days beginning on April 4, 1944, the much smaller British Indian force of 2,500 men held off 15,000 Japanese troops who had laid siege to the Kohima ridge.
- Relief came at the 11th hour with elements of the British 2nd Division breaking through the Japanese roadblocks to reach the beleaguered Kohima garrison on April 20.
- Over the next few weeks fighting raged on simultaneously in Kohima and Imphal. The battle, often referred to as the” Stalingrad of the East,” drew to its bloody end with British forces gradually overwhelming the starving Japanese troops.
- The Japanese commanders had underestimated the tenacity with which the enemy would defend their positions and also the overwhelming British air superiority which allowed them to continually replenish their forces with men and materials and to pound Japanese positions incessantly.
- Broken in spirit and with no food and supplies, the remaining Japanese forces were chased out of Imphal.
5 . Facts for Prelims
Context: India’s creative economy comprising the arts and crafts, audio and video arts and design, among others, accounted for exports of goods and services worth $121 billion in 2019, according to a paper by the Exim Bank of India.
About Creative Economy
- The term ‘creative industries’ began to be used about twenty years ago to describe a range of activities, some of which are amongst the oldest in history and some of which only came into existence with the advent of digital technology.
- Many of these activities had strong cultural roots and the term ‘cultural industries’ was already in use to describe theatre, dance, music, film, the visual arts and the heritage sector, although this term was itself controversial as many artists felt it demeaning to think of what they did as being, in any way, an ‘industry’.
- Twenty years later, the concept of the ‘creative industries’, and their importance, is recognized by almost every government in the world and is beginning to give way to a much more inclusive idea of a wider ‘creative economy’.
- Of course, the desire to define specific industries as ‘creative’ persists, and will no doubt continue to be so.
- In some countries the definitions revolve closely around the arts and culture. Other countries have broader definitions that include, for example, food and gastronomy on the basis that food and cuisine have both economic and cultural significance.
- Other countries have a definition that includes well-established business-to-business industries such as publishing, software, advertising and design.
- Exim Bank has made recommendations to promote the creative economy in India through the paper including defining and mapping the creative industries in India, funds to finance creative industries, focusing on joint programmes, addressing the issue of copyrights, promoting MSMEs and local artisans, establishing creative districts and hubs, and forming a specialized institution for creative industries.
- It also analyses the Creative Economy policies of countries such as the U.K., Australia, France, South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand where creative economy has found significant importance, with dedicated ministries or institutions.
- India Exim Bank in its study suggests drawing up a single definition for creative economy in the country, while having a dedicated institution, which could explore its untapped potential.
Context: A recent report addresses the question of whether eye movements are related to whatever is going on in the dream.
What is rapid eye movement (REM)
- The phase of sleep associated with vivid dreaming is called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
- People who have woken up in this phase of sleep often report that they were dreaming.
- The rapid eye movements are a puzzle to researchers because they are difficult to measure.
- Rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep or REMS) is a unique phase of sleep in mammals and birds, characterized by random rapid movement of the eyes, accompanied by low muscle tone throughout the body, and the propensity of the sleeper to dream vividly.
- The REM phase is also known as paradoxical sleep (PS) and sometimes desynchronized sleep, because of physiological similarities to waking states including rapid, low-voltage desynchronized brain waves.
- Electrical and chemical activity regulating this phase seems to originate in the brain stem and is characterized most notably by an abundance of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, combined with a nearly complete absence of monoamine neurotransmitters histamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.
- REM sleep is physiologically different from the other phases of sleep, which are collectively referred to as non-REM sleep.
- REM and non-REM sleep alternate within one sleep cycle, which lasts about 90 minutes in adult humans.
- As sleep cycles continue, they shift towards a higher proportion of REM sleep. The transition to REM sleep brings marked physical changes, beginning with electrical bursts called “ponto-geniculo-occipital waves” (PGO waves) originating in the brain stem.
- Organisms in REM sleep suspend central homeostasis, allowing large fluctuations in respiration, thermoregulation and circulation which do not occur in any other modes of sleeping or waking.
- The body abruptly loses muscle tone, a state known as REM atonia.
Women Revolutionaries in Bengal
Context: The first files on women revolutionaries in Bengal appeared in the Intelligence Branch of British India roughly around 1919. And by 1947, more than 200 cases of conviction and sentencing of women were recorded in these files.
Findings of the files
- The files of the Intelligence Branch of Bengal had a long list of women revolutionaries or suspects — approximately 900
- Along with the files, the West Bengal State Archives has history sheets on revolutionaries and thousands of glass and film negatives that record details of their surveillance.
- There are names of Halima Khatun and Razia Khatun from Mymensingh district, Jobeda Khatun and Jayanab Rahim who related to the revolutionary/nationalist organizations of their time. The trend of women’s region-wise participation in the revolutionary movement suggests that “conviction of women in the eastern part of Bengal was far greater than the western part”.
- The highest numbers of accused were from Chittagong, adding that the numbers might have increased after the Chittagong Armoury Raid (1930).
- The publication draws attention to certain journals of the pre-independent period which played a crucial role in mobilizing women for ‘revolutionary activities.
- One mention is to Jayasree, a journal published by women whose title page dating February 1939 is contained in the book.
- Sudhangshubala Sircar, whose name is mentioned in the famous Alipore Bomb Case (1908).
- The publication has a four-page ‘history-sheet’ on her prepared in 1909 by the Intelligence Branch.
- Dukhoribala Devi, the first woman to be convicted for revolutionary activities, to Lila Nag, the first woman to be recruited as a member of a revolutionary organisation (Dacca Shree Sangha) in 1924, the publication also has a detailed transcription of the statement of Bina Das, arrested for her attempt on the life of Governor Stanley Jackson.
Context: Justice D.Y. Chandrachud was appointed as the executive chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
About National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)
- The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of society and to organize Lok Adalat for amicable settlement of disputes.
- The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief of NALSA.
- In every State, the State Legal Services Authority has been constituted to give effect to the policies and directions of the NALSA and to give free legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalat in the State.
- The State Legal Services Authority is headed by Hon’ble the Chief Justice of the respective High Court who is the Patron-in-Chief of the State Legal Services Authority.
- In every District, the District Legal Services Authority has been constituted to implement Legal Services Programmes in the District.
- The District Legal Services Authority is situated in the District Courts Complex in every District and chaired by the District Judge of the respective district.
Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator
Context: The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has successfully tested a technology that could aid the cost-effective recovery of spent rocket stages and safely land payloads on other planets.
About Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (IAD)
- The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has successfully demonstrated a new technology with Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (IAD) which it said is a game changer with multiple applications for future missions.
- An IAD, designed and developed by Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), was successfully test flown in a ‘Rohini’ sounding rocket from Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS).
- Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator or IAD is a technique used for an atmospheric entry payload.
- An inflatable envelope and an inflatant (anything that inflates the envelope, like air or helium) make up the inflatable aerodynamic decelerator.
- While entering the atmosphere, it inflates like a balloon and decelerates the lander.
- The inflatant is designed to fill the inflatable envelope to a condition such that it surrounds the payload meant to enter the atmosphere of a planet or satellite and causes aerodynamic forces to slow it down.
- The IAD has huge potential in variety of space applications like –
- Recovery of spent stages of rocket,
- For landing payloads on to Mars or Venus and
- In making space habitat for human space flight missions. Hence statement 3 is correct.
- The IAD has systematically reduced the velocity of the payload through aerodynamic drag and followed the predicted trajectory.
- This is the first time that an IAD has been designed specifically for spent stage recovery.
- This demonstration opens a gateway for cost effective spent stage recovery using the Inflatable Aerodynamics Decelerator technology.