The Revolt of 1857

Why in News

On 10th May 1857, the “First War of Independence” rooted their first step towards the goal to “Independent India”.

Revolt of 1857

  • Indian Mutiny, also called Sepoy Mutiny or First War of Independence, widespread but unsuccessful rebellion against British rule in India in 185759.
  • It started in Meerut by Indian troops (sepoys) in the service of the British East India Company, and spread to Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, and Lucknow.

Background of Revolt of 1857

  • There was various reason behind the first war of independence.
  • The British paramountcy which had been introduced in India about 1820 which meant to the belief in British dominance in Indian political, economic, and cultural life.
  • The British uses various tactics to suppress Princely states under what were called subsidiary alliances with the British.
  • Even by introducing British technique called the “doctrine of lapse” perpetrated by Lord Dalhousie in the late 1840s, they replaced old Indian aristocracy by British officials.
  • Another serious concern was the increasing pace of Westernization, by which Hindu society was being affected by the introduction of Western ideas.
  • Missionaries were challenging the religious beliefs of the Hindus.
  • There was a widespread belief that the British aimed at breaking down the caste system.
  • The introduction of Western methods of education was a direct challenge to orthodoxy, both Hindu and Muslim.
  • The instant reason to broke out the mutiny was the introduction of the new Enfield rifle.
  • To load it, the sepoys had to bite off the ends of lubricated cartridges.
  • A rumor spread among the sepoys that the grease used to lubricate the cartridges was a mixture of pigs’ and cows’ lard and thus to have oral contact with it was an insult to both Muslims and Hindus.

The revolt

  • A sepoy named Mangal Pandey in late March attacked British officers at the military garrison in Barrackpore.
  • He was arrested and then executed by the British in early April.
  • Later in April’s sepoy troopers at Meerut refused the Enfield cartridges, and, as punishment, they were given long prison terms, fettered, and put in jail.
  • This punishment incensed their comrades, who rose on May 10, shot their British officers, and marched to Delhi, where there were no European troops.
  • Gradually, the revolt spread over the entire neighborhood areas of Patna to the borders of Rajasthan.
  • The main centres of the revolt are:
  • Kanpur: At Kanpur, the revolt was led by Nana Saheb, the adopted son of Peshwa Baji Rao II. He joined the revolt primarily because he was deprived of his pension by the British. But unfortunately, the Kanpur was recaptured by the British after fresh reinforcements arrived.
  • Lucknow: It was the capital of Awadh and Begum Hazrat Mahal led the revolt.
  • Jhansi: The revolt from Jhansi led by none other than Rani Lakshmi Bai. She began the war from Jhansi when the British refused to accept the claim of her adopted son to the throne of Jhansi.
  • Gwalior: After Rani Lakshmi Bai escaped, she was joined by Tantia Tope and together they marched to Gwalior and captured it.
  • Arrah: The revolt was led by Kunwar Singh who belonged to a royal house of Jagdispur, Bihar.

Reason of failure of Revolt

  • The revolt of 1857 suffered from a weak leadership.
  • It was unplanned and unorganized.
  • There was a lack of harmony among the rebels with different purpose during the revolt of 1857.
  • It was confined to the Northern and Central India.
  • There were some princely states who were the helping hands of Britishers such as, rulers of Kashmir, Gwalior, and Hyderabad against the revolt.
  • The was a lack of resources too with the lack of modern technology.
  • Also, many communities like Rajputs, Gurkhas, Holkars supported the British rather than taking part in the mutiny.


Green Panel allows great plan to advance

Why in News

The Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) – Infrastructure I of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has flagged serious concerns about NITI Aayog’s ambitious project for Great Nicobar Island (‘NITI Aayog vision for Great Nicobar ignores tribal, ecological concerns).

Key Points

  • The committee has removed the first hurdle faced by the project. It has “recommended” it “for grant of terms of reference (TOR)” for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies, which in the first instance will include baseline studies over three months.
  • The EAC was responding to the ‘pre-feasibility’ report, ‘Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island at Andaman and Nicobar Islands’, prepared for the NITI Aayog by the Gurugram-based consulting agency Aecom India Private Limited.
  • The proposal includes an international container transhipment terminal, a greenfield international airport, a power plant and a township complex spread over 166 sq. km.

Concerns on site

  • The committee’s concerns were both procedural and substantive.
  • A discussion on the proposal in the March meeting was deferred because of delayed and incomplete submission of documents.
  • The missing information included the minutes of the meeting note, details of the township to be developed over 149 sq. km., a note on seismic and tsunami hazards, freshwater requirement details (6.5 lakh people are envisaged

    to finally inhabit the island when the present population is only 8,500; the current total population of the entire island chain is less than 4.5 lakh), and details of the impact on the Giant Leatherback turtle.
  • The committee also noted that there were no details of the trees to be felled — a number that could run into millions since 130 sq. km. of the project area has some of the finest tropical forests in India.
  • A point-wise response to concerns was submitted by the project proponent, the Andaman and Nicobar Island Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO), on April 5, the very day the committee convened for its next meeting.
  • Yet, the proposal was taken up for consideration and even recommended for grant of ToR to go ahead.
  • This, despite the fact that the committee raised a number of additional issues, including about Galathea Bay, the site of the port and the centerpiece of the NITI Aayog proposal.
  • Galathea Bay is an iconic nesting site in India of the enigmatic Giant Leatherback, the world’s largest marine turtle.
  • The committee noted that the site selection for the port had been done mainly on technical and financial criteria, ignoring the environmental aspects.

Action Points

  • This, in fact, is only one of over a 100 specific points of action listed out by the committee.
  • They include, among others, the
  • Need for an independent assessment of terrestrial and marine biodiversity,
  • A study on the impact of dredging, reclamation and port operations, including oil spills
  • The need for studies of alternative sites for the port with a focus on environmental and ecological impact, especially on turtles, a
  • Analysis of risk-handling capabilities,
  • A seismic and tsunami hazard map,
  • A disaster management plan,
  • Details of labour, labour camps and their requirements,
  • An assessment of the cumulative impact, and
  • A hydro-geological study to assess impact on round and surface water regimes.

Corporate policy

  • The committee has also asked for details of the corporate environment policy of the implementing agency — whether the company has an environment policy, a prescribed standard operating procedure to deal with environmental and forest violations, and a compliance management system.
  • ANIIDCO, the Port Blair project proponent, is a government undertaking involved in activities such as tourism, trading (iron and steel, milk, petroleum products, and liquor) and infrastructure development for tourism and fisheries.
  • Its annual turnover for 2018-19 was ₹379 crore, and handling a mega infrastructure project estimated to cost ₹75,000 crore appears way beyond its capacity.
  • AECOM’s pre-feasibility report has proposed 2022-23 for the commencement of work on the site.
  • Ecological surveys in the last few years have reported a number of new species, many restricted to just the Galathea region.
  • These include the critically endangered Nicobar shrew, the Great Nicobar crake, the Nicobar frog, the Nicobar cat snake, a new skink (Lipinia sp), a new lizard (Dibamus sp,) and a snake of the Lycodon sp that is yet to be described.


SEBC (Socially and Educationally Backward Communities)

Why in News

In the judgment that declared the Maratha reservation unconstitutional, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court also dealt with 102nd Constitutional Amendment Act.

Key Points

  • By a 3:2 majority, it ruled that after the passage of the 102nd Constitution Amendment Act in 2018, the States do not have any power to identify ‘socially and educationally backward’ (SEBC) classes.

102nd Constitutional Amendment Act

  • The Amendment established a National Commission for Backward Classes by adding Article 338B to the Constitution.
  • The five-member Commission was tasked with monitoring safeguards provided for socially and educationally backward classes, giving advice on their socio-economic development, inquiring into complaints and making recommendations, among other functions.
  • Significantly, it was laid down that the Centre and the States shall consult the Commission on all policy matters concerning the SEBCs.
  • The Amendment also added Article 342A, under which the President shall notify a list of SEBCs in relation to each State and Union Territory, in consultation with Governors of the respective States.
  • A definition of ‘SEBCs’ was added to the Constitution — ‘SEBC’ means “such backward classes as are so deemed under Article 342A for the purposes of this Constitution”.

Background of Judicial Interpretation of 102nd Amendment Act

  • The reservation for the Maratha community was challenged in the Bombay High Court on various grounds.
  • One of the grounds was that the Act creating the Maratha quota through a new category called ‘SEBC’ was unconstitutional because after the introduction of the 102nd Amendment, the State legislature had no power to identify any new backward class.
  • Separately, a writ petition was also filed in the Supreme Court questioning the validity of the Amendment as it violated the federal structure and deprived the States of their powers.
  • In this context, the court had to examine the validity of the Amendment.

Background of National Commission for Backward Classes

  • There were the two Backward Class Commissions that were appointed in 1950s and 1970s under Kaka Kalelkar and B.P. Mandal respectively.
  • In the Indra Sawhney case of 1992, Supreme Court held that the government need to create a permanent body to entertain, examine and recommend the inclusion and exclusion of various Backward Classes for the purpose of benefits and protection.
  • Followed the direction of the Supreme Court, National Commission for Backward Classes Act was implemented in 1993 and constituted the National Commission for Backward Classes.
  • The National Commission for Backward Classes consists of five members including a Chairperson, Vice- Chairperson and three other Members appointed by the President.

Way Forward

  • The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to notify the list of SEBCs for each State and Union territory, and until it is done, the present State Lists may continue to be in use.
  • The Centre may either comply with this or seek to further amend the Constitution to clarify the position that the 102nd Amendment was not intended to denude the States of their power to identify SEBCs.


Arctic Science Ministerial Meeting (ASM)

Why in News

India is participated in the 3rd Arctic Science Ministerial (ASM3) which was held on 8-9 May, 2021.

Key Points

  • Union Minister of Science and Technology, Health and Family Welfare, and Earth Sciences, shared India’s vision and long-term plans for research, work, and cooperation in the Arctic region with the stakeholders.
  • They welcomed collaborations towards strengthening observational systems and sharing of data to enhance knowledge.
  • India would continue to play a vital role in deepening shared understanding of the Arctic through observation, research, capacity building, as well in promoting sustainable development of the region through international cooperation.
  • India also may get the opportunity to host the next or future ASM.

Highlights of the meeting

  • In the meeting, India shared its plans to contribute observing systems in the Arctic, both in-situ and by remote sensing.
  • The country would deploy open ocean mooring in the Arctic for long-term monitoring of upper ocean variables and marine meteorological parameters.
  • The launch of NISER (NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellite mission, in collaboration with the USA, is underway.
  • NISER aims to conduct global measurements of the cause and consequences of land surface changes using advanced radar imaging.
  • India’s contributions to the Sustained Arctic Observational Network (SAON) would continue.

Arctic Science Ministerial

  • The earlier first two meetings (ASM1 and ASM2) were held in the USA in 2016 and Germany in 2018, respectively.
  • ASM3 is jointly organised by Iceland and Japan which is the first Ministerial meeting being held in Asia.
  • The meeting is designed to provide opportunities to various stakeholders, including academia, indigenous communities, governments and policymakers, to enhance collective understanding of the Arctic region, emphasize and engage in constant monitoring, and strengthen observations.
  • The theme for this year is ‘Knowledge for a Sustainable Arctic’.

Arctic Council

  • The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum was formed in 1996 under Ottawa Declaration.
  • It was aimed to promote cooperation, coordination, and interaction towards sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.
  • There are eight members in it: Canada, Denmark; representing Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and United States.
  • Since 2013, India enjoys ‘Observer’ status in the Arctic Council with twelve other countries (Japan, China, France, Germany, UK, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Spain, Netherlands, Singapore, and South Korea).
  • As part of the Arctic Council, India contributes to the international deliberations to develop effective cooperative partnerships towards a safe, stable, and secure Arctic.

India and Arctic

  • India’s engagement with the Arctic dates back to 1920 with the signing of the Svalbard Treaty in Paris.
  • Since July 2008, India has a permanent research station in the Arctic called Himadari at NyAlesund, Svalbard Area in Norway.
  • It has also deployed a multi-sensor moored observatory called IndARC in the Kongsfjorden fjord since July 2014.
  • The research in the Arctic region from India is coordinated, conducted, and promoted by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India.


Global Foreign Exchange Reserves

Why in News

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the share of US dollar reserves held by central banks fell to 59% which is the lowest level in 25 years, during the fourth quarter of 2020.

Key Points

  • According to the IMF’s Currency Composition of Official Foreign Exchange Reserves (COFER) survey, the partly reflects declining role of US dollar in global economy in the face of competition from other currencies used by central banks for international transactions.
  • If the shifts in central bank reserves are large enough, they can affect currency and bond markets.
  • The share of US dollar assets in central bank reserves dropped by 12% points, from 71 to 59% since the euro was launched in 1999.
  • Meanwhile, the share of the euro has fluctuated around 20% while the share of other currencies including Australian dollar, Canadian dollar and Chinese renminbi climbed to 9% in the fourth quarter.

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international financial institution, headquartered in Washington, D.C.
  • It consisting of 190 countries working to foster:
  • Global monetary cooperation,
  • Secure financial stability,
  • Facilitate international trade,
  • Promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and
  • Reduce poverty around the world while periodically depending on the World Bank for its resources.
  • It was formed in 1944 and started in 27 November 1945 at the Bretton Woods Conference primarily by the ideas of Harry Dexter White and John Maynard Keynes.
  • Originally, it was formed with 29 member countries and the goal of reconstructing the international monetary system.

Foreign exchange reserves

  • Foreign Currencies are assets held on reserve by a central bank in foreign currencies.
  • These reserves are used to back liabilities and influence monetary policy.
  • It includes any foreign money held by a central bank, such as the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank.

Way Forward

  • The value of US dollar has been broadly unchanged while its share of global reserves has declined indicates that central banks have indeed been shifting gradually away.
  • Some expect that US dollar’s share of global reserves will continue to fall as emerging market and developing economy central banks seek further diversification of currency composition of their reserves.
  • A few countries like Russia have already announced their intention to do so.
  • Despite major structural shifts in international monetary system over the past six decades, US dollar remains the dominant international reserve currency.
  • Any changes to its status are likely to emerge in the long run.