Amid pandemic, traditional art of ‘talamaddale’ goes digital

Paper: I

Mains: General Studies-I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.

Why in News:

The traditional art of ‘talamaddale’, a variant of Yakshagana theatre, too has gone virtual in times of COVID-19. A performance was streamed live on social media on June 13 and more such are in store.

Key Details:

  • Talamaddale is a variant and a derived form of Yakshagana theatre.
  • “Tala” refers to a pair of small hand cymbals and a “Maddale” is a type of drum.
  • Unlike the Yakshagana performance, in the conventional ‘talamaddale,’ the artists sit across in a place without any costumes and engage in testing their oratory skills based on the episode chosen.
  • If music is common for both Yakshagana performance and ‘talamaddale’, the latter has only spoken word without any dance or costumes. Hence, it is an art form minus dance, costumes and stage conventions.
  • ‘Arthadhari’ in a talamaddale performance is an artist who is an orator.
  • Artha vaibhava or the grandeur of dialogues tends to be a highlight of these performances relished by the audience.

Yakshagana:

  • Yakshagana is a traditional Indian theatre form.
  • It is believed to be developed in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Uttara Kannada, Shimoga and western parts of Chikmagalur districts, in the state of Karnataka and in Kasaragod district in Kerala. This theatre style is mainly found in the coastal regions of Karnataka in various forms.
  • Yakshagana combines dance, music, dialogue, costume, make-up, and stage techniques with a unique style and form.
  • It is believed to have evolved from pre-classical music and theatre during the period of the Bhakti movement.
  • Yakshagana is traditionally presented from dusk to dawn. Its stories are drawn from Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata and other epics from both Hindu and Jain and other ancient Indic traditions.

India, China military commanders hold talks

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news:

In continuation of the ground-level dialogue to resolve the ongoing stand-off on the border, India and China held talks at the Brigade Commander and Commanding Officer-level in the Galwan area of eastern Ladakh.

Undemarcated borders:

  • The alignment of the LAC has never been agreed upon, and it has neither been delineated nor demarcated.
  • There is no official map in the public domain that depicts the LAC. The current understanding of the LAC reflects the territories that are, at present, under the control of each side, pending a resolution of the boundary dispute.

Difference in claims:

  • For the most part, in the western sector, the LAC broadly corresponds with the border as China sees it. However, India and China do not agree on the alignment of the LAC everywhere.
  • Differences in perception, particularly in 13 spots in the western, middle and eastern sectors of the border, often lead to what are called “face offs”, when patrols encounter each other in these grey zones that lie in between the different alignments. Some of these areas are Chumar, Demchok and the north bank of the Pangong lake in the western sector, Barahoti in the middle sector, and Sumdorong Chu in the east.

Failure of protocols and agreements:

  • Both India and China have agreed to protocols in 2005 and 2013that describe the rules of engagement to handle border stand-offs, but as the current stand-off at Pangong Tso reminds us, they haven’t always been followed.
  • India and China signed the landmark Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement (BPTA) in 1993, the first legal agreement that recognised the LAC. However, this landmark agreement too did not precisely demarcate the LAC.
  • Both the 1993 BPTA agreement and the subsequent agreement on confidence-building measures in 1996 acknowledged that both sides would ultimately clarify the LAC. That process has, however, stalled since 2002, when China walked away from exchanging maps in the western sector.

Unintended consequences:

  • The unqualified reference to the LACcreated the unintended side effect of further incentivising the forward creep to the line by the Chinese military, a consequence that both sides are currently dealing with at multiple points on the LAC.

Chinese tactics:

  • China has in several territorial disputes, intentionally left its claims ambiguous.
  • The Chinese haven’t stuck to their previously agreed positions. China’s alignments of the LAC have kept changing.
  • The border skirmishes along the Line of Actual Control seem to be indicative of the Chinese approach to use the border problem to pressurize India on other issues.

Prepare militarily:

  • India needs to be prepared, continue to build roads and improve the infrastructure along the border, to keep itself ready to deal with any contingency.

Shifting focus:

  • To counter China India must look for options beyond LAC.
  • The South China Sea/Indian Ocean Regionmaritime domain presents India with the best options where the regional geopolitical context is favourable.
  • India should demonstrate that it is willing and capable of influencing the maritime balance in East Asia, where China faces off a combination of the United States, Vietnam, Australia, Indonesia and sometimes Malaysia and the Philippines as well.
  • China perceives a vulnerability in the Malacca straitgiven its marked dependence on the sea lines of communication for its vast trade and energy imports.

Going global:

  • India should go global to defend against China. India’s counter to Chinese power in the Himalayas should be to assume a more global role of its own.
  • In Asia and Africa, debt-traps induced by the BRI are gradually stoking discontent. If India focuses on leveraging its advantages as a development partner, particularly in the post-COVID-19 era, it can use its newfound influence as a bargaining chip against Chinese interests in these countries.

Building alliances:

  • India must build power-balancing alliances.
  • Many countries are seeking leadership from other quarters to counter-balance Chinese influence. In Southeast Asia, countries are pushing back against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.
  • This provides an opportunity to build partnerships with such countries to balance China’s growing influence.
  • India can give itself leverage against China by improving its bilateral relationships with other countries that are similarly worried about China’s growing influence — such as Australia, Vietnam, Japan, and even the U.K.

Aligning with the United States:

  • A closer alignment with the U.S. represents India’s opportunity to counter China, while efforts to foster regional partnerships and cultivate domestic military capabilities, although insufficient by themselves, could play a complementary role.
  • Moving into a closer partnership with the US would allow India an opportunity to rebalance the Indo-Pacific region.

Pressure points:

  • India could choose to leverage the sensitivity of the Chinese to the one-China policyand other vulnerabilities like Tibet issue and Hongkong protests, to force a change in China’s attitude.
  • This would allow India to signal to China that it has options, and that China would be wise not to escalate these situations too far.

‘India, China nuclear arsenals grow’

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

The SIPRI Yearbook 2020 has been released by Swedish think tank, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Key Details:

  • According to SIPRI Yearbook 2020, all nations that have nuclear weapons continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals, while India and China increased their nuclear warheads in the last one year.
  • The nuclear arsenals of the nuclear-armed states other than the United States and Russia were considerably smaller but all these states were either developing or deploying new weapon systems or had announced their intention to do so.
  • Both China and Pakistan continue to have larger nuclear arsenals than India.
  • China’s nuclear arsenal had gone up from 290 warheads in 2019 to 320 in 2020.
  • India’s nuclear arsenal went up from 130-140 in 2019 to 150 in 2020.
  • Pakistan’s arsenal was estimated to be between 150-160 in 2019 and has reached 160 in 2020.
  • Together, the nine nuclear-armed states — the U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — possessed an estimated 13,400 nuclear weapons at the start of 2020, which marked a decrease from an estimated 13,865 nuclear weapons at the beginning of 2019.
  • The decrease in the overall numbers was largely due to the dismantlement of old nuclear weapons by Russia and the U.S., which together possess over 90% of the global nuclear weapons.

Issues:

Low transparency:

  • The report noted that the availability of reliable information on the status of the nuclear arsenals and capabilities of the nuclear-armed states varied considerably.
  • The report said that the governments of India and Pakistan make statements about some of their missile tests but provide little information about the status or size of their arsenals.
  • The U.S. had disclosed important information about its stockpile and nuclear capabilities, but in 2019, the administration ended the practice of publicly disclosing the size of its stockpile.

Bilateral nuclear arms control agreements:

  • The U.S. and Russia have reduced their nuclear arsenals under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) but it will lapse in February 2021 unless both parties agree to prolong it.
  • However, discussions to extend the New START or negotiate a new treaty made no progress with the U.S.’s insistence that China must join any future nuclear arms reduction talks, which China has categorically ruled out.
  • The report opines that the deadlock over the New START and the collapse of the 1987 Soviet–U.S. Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty) in 2019 suggest that the era of bilateral nuclear arms control agreements between Russia and the U.S. might be coming to an end.

Reversal of post-Cold War trend:

  • Russia and the U.S. have already announced extensive plans to replace and modernize their nuclear warheads and delivery systems.
  • Both countries have also given new or expanded roles to nuclear weapons in their military plans and doctrines, which marks a significant reversal of the post-Cold War trend towards the gradual marginalization of nuclear weapons, the report observed.

IAEA begins meet over Iran’s n-Programme

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began meeting over Iran’s refusal to allow access to two sites where nuclear activity may have occurred in the past.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

The IAEA is the international centre for cooperation in the nuclear/atomic field. It is a UN agency.  It works with its member countries and many partners to promote peaceful uses of nuclear technologies.

IAEA History and Origins

  • IAEA’s origins can be traced back to an address of the former US President Dwight Eisenhower to the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1953.
  • The address was known as ‘Atoms for Peace’and this was the organization’s first name when it was formally established in 1957.
  • Headquartered in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is a UN agency.
  • The primary mandate of the Organisation was and continues to be promoting safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.
  • Currently, it has 171 members. The latest member is Saint Lucia which joined the IAEA in 2019.
  • India became a member in 1957 itself.
  • By ensuring the peaceful usage of nuclear technologies, the IAEA contributes to peace and security in the world and also towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • The current Director General of the Organisation is Rafael Mariano Grosse.
  • The IAEA, along with its former Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
  • Although the IAEA is an independent international Organisation, it reports annually to the UNGA.
  • The IAEA has regional offices in Geneva, New York, Toronto and Tokyo; and research laboratories in Austria, Italy and Monaco.

IAEA Functions

The functions of the IAEA are discussed below.

  • Promoting and assisting the research, development and practical applications of peaceful uses of nuclear technologies.
  • Establishing and administering safety guards to ensure that such research/development, etc., by the IAEA is not used for military purposes.
  • Applying, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other international treaties, mandatory comprehensive safeguards in non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) parties to such treaties.

The IAEA’s three chief areas of work are:

  1. Safety and security
  2. Science and technology
  3. Safeguards and verification

Details:

  • The IAEA has expressed serious concerns in a report stating that Iran has been blocking inspections at the sites.
  • The Board of Governors (one of the agency’s policy-making bodies) is expected to discuss the report during its meeting. If they pass a resolution critical of Iran, it would be the first of its kind since 2012.
  • In 2012, the IAEA Board of Governors adopted a resolution urging Iran to cooperate with the Agency.
  • The latest row over access comes, as a landmark deal between Iran and world powers in 2015 – Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), continues to unravel.

‘Nepal move on altering map is unilateral, talks difficult now’

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

  • Nepal Prime Minister’s move to bring a constitutional amendment that alters Nepal’s map to include territory in India has prejudged any future discussions, said New Delhi, virtually ruling out talks with Kathmandu for the moment.
  • With the vote on changing the map depicted in the Nepali national symbol to include Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura being passed unanimously in the Lower House of the Nepal Parliament, and another one expected to go through the Upper House, the Indian government appeared to take a tougher stand with Kathmandu.
  • However, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Defence Minister have stated that India deeply values its civilisational, cultural and friendly relations with Nepal. India-Nepal multi-faceted bilateral partnership has expanded and diversified in recent years with increased focus and enhanced Government of India’s assistance for humanitarian, development and connectivity projects in Nepal.

Van Dhan Yojana helps tribals beat odds

Paper: I

Mains: General Studies-I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.

Why in News:

1,205 tribal enterprises employing 3.6 lakh people through 18,000 self-help groups have been set up under the Van Dhan scheme.About ₹3.5 crore worth of sales have taken place through these platforms.

Van Dhan Yojana:

  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) launched the Van Dhan Yojana in 2018 with an intention to improve the tribal income through value addition of tribal products.

Key Details:

  • Van Dhan Yojana was launched nationwide to ensure that ‘van dhan’, or forest wealth, stays in the hands of forest dwellers, by providing local platforms for processing, value addition, marketing and sale of minor forest produce.
  • The products range from hill brooms, wild honey, candles and ointments made of rock beeswax, bamboo bottles, aloe vera soaps and gooseberry wine in the north east, to hawan [incense] sticks, moha laddu and, amla murabba [preserved gooseberries] in Maharashtra and Rajasthan, and tamarind blocks, dried tendu leaves, processed mahua, lac bangles and eco-friendly leaf plates from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.
  • The hill broom project is one of the biggest success stories of the Van Dhan Yojana.
  • A few years ago, tribal communities in Langleng, one of Nagaland’s poorest districts, used to sell their unique hill broom grass for just ₹7 a kg.
  • Now, by making the brooms themselves with support from the Van Dhan Yojana, they earn ₹60 a broom, making four or five brooms from a kg of grass.
  • Van Dhan Vikas Kendras (VDVKs) enabled people to start making the brooms themselves.
  • A digital procurement platform is expected to be in place soon.

Review ordinances on farming sector, Amarinder urges PM

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news:

The Punjab Chief Minister has urged the Prime Minister to review the ordinances issued by the Central Government related to the farming sector.

Key Details:

  • In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Punjab CM has sought reconsideration of the three ordinances — for permitting trade in agricultural produce outside the physical boundaries of the set-up of the agricultural market under APMC Act, easing of restrictions under the Essential Commodities Act and facilitating contract farming.

Background:

  • Recently, the Union Cabinet approved an amendment to the 65-year-old Essential Commodities Act.
  • The Cabinet also approved ordinances to remove restrictions on farmers selling their produce outside notified market yards, as well as to facilitate contract farming and allow farmers to engage in direct marketing.

Pipeline tariff policy coming, to raise share of gas in energy basket

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news:

In a bid to raise the share of natural gas in the energy basket, India will soon have a new tariff policy that will help bring down the cost of transporting it.

Key Details:

  • The new pipeline tariff policy will replace the existing practice of seven different pipeline operators charging separate rates and customers farther from a gas source paying more than those nearer.
  • A single rate across pipelines is also hinted as a part of the policy, so as to make the price of fuel uniform for customers across the country.
  • Oil regulator Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) is working on a new regime for authorisation of gas pipelines that will make it more investor friendly.
  • PNGRB is also working on rationalisation of tariffs to make natural gas affordable in every part of the country. It will facilitate development of the gas market in eastern and north eastern parts of the country.
  • Efforts are underway to complete the Gas Grid in a time-bound manner. PNGRB is in a process of bidding out the pipelines for missing sections to complete the national Gas Grid.

India’s maiden online gas trading platform:

  • India’s maiden online gas trading platform has been launched by IGX.
  • It is said that the country’s first online gas trading platform will help discover price of the fuel and it is going to support the government’s vision of a free gas market in the country.
  • The gas trading platform is expected to play a vital role to discover our own price benchmark for gas, address demand supply gaps, and accelerate investments in the value chain. The transparency, reliability, flexibility, and competitiveness of the gas markets will contribute in reviving India’s industrial and economic growth.
  • With evolution of gas markets, future policies and regulatory framework are also going to be more market-friendly and would accommodate the market needs.