GS PAPER I
Why in News
A carbon dating analysis of rice with soil, found in a burial urn at Sivakalai in Thoothukudi district in southern Tamil Nadu, by the Miami-based Beta Analytic Testing Laboratory, has yielded the date of 1155 BCE, thereby indicating that the Thamirabarani civilisation dates back to 3,200 years.
- Encouraged by this finding, Tamil Nadu government announced in the Assembly the establishment of Porunai Museum in Tirunelveli at a cost of ₹15 crore.
- The finding has established that the Porunai river [Thamirabarani] civilisation dates back to 3,200 years. It is the government’s task to scientifically prove that the history of the Indian Subcontinent should begin from the Tamil landscape.
- The archaeological excavations would be carried out in other States and countries in search of Tamil roots. In the first phase, studies would be undertaken at the ancient port of Musiri, now known as Pattanam, in Kerala.
- The research will be done jointly with Kerala archaeologists to establish the ancientness and culture of the Chera country.
Research in Egypt
- Similar studies would be conducted at Vengi in Andhra Pradesh, Thalaikadu in Karnataka and Palur in Odisha.
- The Chief Minister said the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department would conduct research at Quseir al-Qadim and Pernica Anekke in Egypt, which were once part of the Roman empire, as well as in Khor Rori in Oman, to establish the Tamils’ trade relations with these countries.
- Pot shreds with Tamil scripts have been found in these countries.
- The studies would also be conducted in southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, where king Rajendra Chola had established supremacy.
- The silver coin with Sun and other symbols was pre-Mauryan.
- Recent excavations in Keeladi, Kodumanal and other sites in Tamil Nadu, including NBP, black slipped ware and good number of potshreds with Brahmi inscriptions, have corroborated the view that contacts between South India and North India might be as early as 600-700 BCE or even earlier.
GS PAPER II
13th BRICS summit
Why in News
The 13th BRICS summit held virtually, called for an “inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue” for stability in Afghanistan.
- The virtual summit of 13th BRICS Summit was chaired by Prime Minister of India, was dominated by the developments in Afghanistan, and adopted the BRICS Counter Terrorism Action Plan.
- India have also adopted the BRICS Counter Terrorism Action Plan. With the agreement on Remote Sensing Satellite Constellation between space agencies, a new chapter of cooperation has begun.
Use peaceful means
- The discussion on Afghanistan at the event attended by the leaders of India, Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa was held against the backdrop of the Taliban announcing an interim government in Kabul.
- The BRICS leaders called for “settling the situation by peaceful means”, and condemned the terrorist attacks at the Hamid Karzai International Airport which killed at least 100 persons, including several U.S. military personnel.
- We stress the need to contribute to fostering an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue so as to ensure stability, civil peace, law and order in the country.
- India underscore the priority of fighting terrorism, including preventing attempts by terrorist organisations to use Afghan territory as terrorist sanctuary and to carry out attacks against other countries.
- The document, titled the New Delhi Declaration, also called for addressing the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, and urged the need to uphold rights of women, children and minorities.
- The meeting gave an opportunity to the BRICS countries to discuss the situation in Afghanistan especially as two of the five members, Russia and China, continue to have a diplomatic presence in Kabul where an interim Taliban government is expected to take formal charge in few days.
- BRICS countries are evidently divided on engagement with the Taliban with Russia and China adopting a proactive policy on the issue. A Russian media stated that Taliban has invited Turkey, Qatar, China and Iran for the swearing-in ceremony.
- BRICS is the acronym coined to associate five major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
- The BRICS members are known for their significant influence on regional affairs.
- Originally, it was established as a group of four economy i.e., “BRIC” in 2006.
- Later, in 2010, South Africa was inducted as the fifth member and became “BRICS”.
- Four out of five members are among the world’s ten largest countries by population and by area, except for South Africa, the twenty-fourth in both.
- They held its first meeting in 2009 and since then, the governments of the BRICS states have met annually at formal summits.
- Russia hosted the 12th BRICS summit on 17 November 2020 virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Bilateral relations among BRICS states are conducted mainly based on non-interference, equality, and mutual benefit.
GS PAPER II
National Institute of Ranking Framework (NIRF) 2021
Why in news
Ministry of Education recently released the NIRF Rankings 2021. The Rankings have been released under various categories, including, Engineering, Pharmacy, Management, Overall, Research etc.
- IIT Madras has topped the Rankings in the overall category, while IISc Bengaluru has come second, which is followed by IIT Bombay at the third place.
- This year NIRF has released the sixth annual ranking list of higher educational institutes of the country.
- The rankings for all colleges and universities across the country given by the Ministry were based on teaching, learning, and resources; research and professional practice, graduation outcome; outreach and inclusivity; and peer perception. Along with the overall rankings, stream-wise rankings have also been released.
- The IITs dominated the overall rankings, grabbing seven of the top 10 positions. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru was ranked second, followed by the IITs in Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Roorkee and Guwahati.
- Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Banaras Hindu University (BHU) were at rank nine and 10, respectively.
- Among universities, the IISc was ranked one, followed by the JNU, the BHU, the University of Calcutta, the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Coimbatore, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Jadavpur University, the University of Hyderabad and Aligarh Muslim University. Delhi University was placed 12 among universities and 19 overalls.
- Among engineering institutions, the IIT, Madras was number one, followed by the IITs in Delhi, Bombay, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Roorkee, Guwahati and Hyderabad, and the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) in Tiruchirapalli and Surathkal.
IIM-Ahmedabad on top
- For management institutions, IIM-Ahmedabad was ranked one, followed by IIM-Bangalore, IIM-Calcutta, IIT-Kozhikode, IIT-Delhi, IIM-Indore, IIM-Lucknow, Xavier Labour Relations Institute in Jamshedpur, IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Bombay.
- Jamia Hamdard was ranked one for pharmacy, followed by Panjab University. Manipal College of Dental Sciences was ranked the best in the dental category.
National Institute of Ranking Framework (NIRF) 2021
- The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was approved by the MHRD and launched by Honourable Minister of Human Resource Development on 29th September 2015.
- This framework outlines a methodology to rank institutions across the country. The methodology draws from the overall recommendations broad understanding arrived at by a Core Committee set up by MHRD, to identify the broad parameters for ranking various universities and institutions.
- The parameters broadly cover “Teaching, Learning and Resources,” “Research and Professional Practices,” “Graduation Outcomes,” “Outreach and Inclusivity,” and “Perception”. India Rankings, 2016 based on this framework were released on 4th April 2016.
- For India Rankings – 2017, the main ranking parameters remain the same. However, there are a few significant changes in a few sub-parameters.
- Also, every large institution will be given a common overall rank as well as a discipline specific rank as applicable in 2021.
GS PAPER III
56 C-295MW transport aircraft
Why in news
The procurement of 56 C-295MW transport aircraft from Airbus Defence and Space S.A., Spain approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security which marks the culmination of a decade-long process by the Indian Air Force (IAF) to replace the ageing Avros, pending signing of a formal contract.
- This is the first project of its kind in which a military aircraft will be manufactured in India under technology transfer by a private company and is expected to cost close to $3billion.
- Sixteen aircraft will be delivered in flyaway condition from Spain within 48 months of signing of the contract and 40 will be manufactured in India by Tata Consortium within 10 years of signing of the contract.
Scrapping of project
- The deal has become even more critical for the IAF as a separate project to co-develop and produce a Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) of 20 tonnes with Russia to replace the An-32s in service was scrapped after initial design discussions.
- The IAF has 56 Avros procured in the 1960s and they are in urgent need of replacement.
- The Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued to global firms in May 2013 and the sole bid by Airbus and Tata Group with the C-295 aircraft was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in May 2015. However, the final deal has been repeatedly delayed.
- The Avros, once inducted, could be deployed on the sea routes replacing the An-32s in those sectors.
- The C-295MW is a plane of 5-10 tonne capacity and has a rear ramp door for quick reaction and para dropping of troops and cargo. It is powered by Pratt & Whitney PW127 engines, part of the PW100 family. All 56 aircraft will be installed with indigenous Electronic Warfare Suite.
- The project would give a boost to aerospace ecosystem in India wherein several Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises spread over the country would be involved in manufacturing of parts of the aircraft.
- On the project spread, the Ministry said that a large number of detail parts, sub-assemblies and major component assemblies of aero structure were scheduled to be manufactured in India. The programme would act as a catalyst for employment generation.
GS PAPER III
Indian Railways Organisation for Alternative Fuels (IROAF)
Why in News
The Ministry of Railways has announced the closure of the Indian Railways Organisation for Alternative Fuels (IROAF), an enterprise headquartered in New Delhi, that was formed exclusively to promote green energy by introducing alternative energy and fuel-efficient and emission-control technologies across the railway network.
- The Ministry of Railways has decided to close down the Indian Railways Organisation for Alternative Fuels with effect from September 7, 2021.
- The existing work handled by IROAF, solar power and hydrogen fuel cell projects, was transferred to the Principal Chief Electrical Engineer and Chief Administrative Officer, Northern Railway.
- In keeping with its mission towards green railways, the IROAF had invited bids just last month in August for hydrogen fuel cell-based trains to start the concept of hydrogen mobility in the country along the 89-km Sonipat-Jind sector of Northern Railway.
- Two diesel electric multiple units and two hybrid locos were planned for conversion to hydrogen fuel cell power movement leading to a savings of ₹2.3 crore annually.
- The IROAF was also working on research and development of projects relating to use of compressed natural gas (CNG) as a substitute to high-speed diesel to create a clean environment and reduce cost of transportation.
Stir against monetisation
- The move to close down IROAF comes at a time when trade unions are protesting the “monetisation” policy of the Union government.
- The All India Railwaymen Federation president said the Central government had no moral right to monetise assets of Indian Railways and other public sector undertakings.
- The decision of the Centre to monetise railway and other government establishment assets for ₹6 lakh crore by leasing them for 35-99 years had created widespread resentment among the employees.
- 400 railway stations across the country, including Chennai Central and Chennai Egmore in Southern Railway, 90 superfast express trains, four hill train services, including the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and 1,400 km of railway track with overhead electrical equipment were among other infrastructure that were planned for monetisation by way of lease to private sector.
- The concept of “privatisation” that later took shape as “corporatisation” was now being called “monetisation”. The move would not only lead to an increase in fares and services but withdrawal of facilities such as travel concessions given to eligible passengers.