GS Paper 1: Art & Culture
Prelims exam level: Aanayoottu
Mains exam level: Not Much
Why in News
The precincts of Vadakkunnathan temple located in the heart of Thrissur city played host to another edition of ‘aanayoottu’, the ritualistic feeding ceremony of elephants.
What is Aanayoottu?
• The Aanayoottu (feeding of elephants) is a festival held in the precincts of the Vadakkunnathan temple in City of Thrissur, in Kerala.
• The festival falls on the first day of the month of Karkkidakam (timed against the Malayalam calendar), which coincides with the month of July.
• It involves a number of unadorned elephants being positioned amid a multitude of people for being worshipped and fed. Crowds throng the temple to feed the elephants.
• Every year of Aanayoottu, gaja pooja, is conducted.
• It is believed that offering poojas and delicious feed to the elephants is a way to satisfy Lord Ganesha—the god of wealth and of the fulfillment of wishes.
• The Vadakkunnathan temple, which is considered to be one of the oldest Shiva temples in southern India, has hosted the Aanayottoo event for the past few years.
• The elephants are hailed as sacred animals (a fact which explains the presence of elephants in the South Indian temples).
• Elephants are an integral part of Kerala culture, and elephants are integral to all festivals, including the Aanayoottu.
• Many of the famous south Indian temples have a number of their own elephants; feeding these elephants are considered as auspicious.
• Looking in to these devotes feeling the temple authorities started these rejuvenation therapy as a public event named as ‘The Aanayoottoo Festival’.
The office of Vice President
GS Paper 2: Parliament and State Legislatures—Structure, Functioning, Conduct of Business, Powers & Privileges and Issues Arising out of these.
Prelims exam level: Vice President and the provisions related
Mains exam level: Not much
Why in News
After the Presidential election, the election for the second highest office in the country is also round the corner.
Vice President of India
• Art 63: There shall be a Vice-President of India.
• Art 65: The Vice-President acts as the President or discharges his functions during casual vacancies in the office, or during the absence, of President.
• The VP is the deputy to the head of state of the Republic of India, the President of India.
• His/her office is the second-highest constitutional office after the president and ranks second in the order of precedence and first in the line of succession to the presidency.
Vice President as Ex-officio chairman of Rajya Sabha
• Art 64: The Vice-President shall be ex-officio Chairman of the Council of the States.
Election of Vice-President
• Art 66 of the Constitution talks about the election of the Vice-President
• The Vice-President shall be elected by:
o The members of an electoral college consisting of the members of both Houses of Parliament in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote and the voting at such election shall be by secret ballot.
• The Vice-President shall not be a member of either House of Parliament or of a House of the Legislature of any State, and if a member of either House of Parliament or of a House of the Legislature of any State be elected Vice-President, he shall be deemed to have vacated his seat in that House on the date on which he enters upon his office as Vice-President.
1. He is a citizen of India;
2. He has completed the age of thirty-five years; and
3. He is qualified for election as a member of the Council of States.
4. The person shall not hold any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State or under any local or other authority subject to the control of any of the said Governments.
Term of office of Vice-President (Art 67)
• The Vice-President shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office.
Vacancy in the office of the Vice President
• Resignation: A Vice-President may, by writing under his hand addressed to the President, resign his office;
o Art 67(b): The Constitution states that the vice president can be removed by a resolution of the Rajya Sabha passed by a majority of all the then members (Effective majority) and agreed by the Lok Sabha with a simple majority.
o No such resolution may be moved unless at least 14 days’ notice in advance has been given.
• Notably, the Constitution does not list grounds for removal.
• No Vice President has ever faced removal.
• A Vice-President shall, notwithstanding the expiration of his term, continue to hold office until his successor enters upon his office.
Is there a crisis in rice?
GS Paper 3: Major Crops – Cropping Patterns in various parts of the country, – Different Types of Irrigation and Irrigation Systems; Storage, Transport and Marketing of Agricultural Produce and Issues and Related Constraints
Prelims exam level: Crop patterns, facts related to rice cultivation
Mains exam level: Food Security
Why in News
The southwest monsoon’s revival this month has resulted in the total area sown under kharif crops not only recovering, but even surpassing last year’s coverage for the same period from June to mid-July. However, paddy (rice) acreage was down from the last year.
Significance of Rice Cultivation
• In rice, the stakes are higher: It is India’s largest agricultural crop (accounting for over 40% of the total food grain output), with the country also being the world’s biggest exporter.
• Unlike with wheat, the options for import in rice are limited, when India’s own share in the global trade of the cereal is more than 40%.
How the paddy is cultivated?
• Farmers first sow paddy seeds in nurseries, where they are raised into young plants. These seedlings are then uprooted and replanted 25-35 days later in the main field that is usually 10 times the size of the nursery seed bed.
• Nursery sowing generally happens before the monsoon rains. Farmers wait for their arrival to undertake transplantation, which requires the field to be “puddled” or tilled in standing water.
• For the first three weeks or so after transplanting, the water depth has to be maintained at 4-5 cm, in order to control weed growth in the early stage of the crop.
Why has acreage fallen?
• The paddy cultivation isn’t possible without the monsoon, which has overall been good this time. The country has received12.7% more than the “normal” for this period.
• Yet, a vast paddy-growing belt, from Uttar Pradesh to West Bengal, has had very little rains. Cumulative rainfall has been low for the long period average in West UP, East UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and Gangetic West Bengal.
• Deficient rainfall has meant that farmers in UP had transplanted less paddy until July 15, as against during the same time last season.
• Farmers in Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand too have reported lower acreages. So have those in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and eastern Madhya Pradesh, although that gap should reduce with the monsoon turning the corner in these parts.
Is there a crisis ahead in rice?
• Not for now. The India Meteorological Department has forecast that the current monsoon trough, which is active and south of its normal position, is “very likely to shift gradually northwards”. That should, hopefully, provide much-needed relief to farmers in the Gangetic plains within the next few days.
• Moreover, paddy cultivation takes place across a wider geography, unlike wheat that is grown only in a few states north of the Vindhyas. Also, rice is both a kharif (monsoon) and rabi (winter-spring) season crop. So, the losses in one area or season can potentially be recouped from the other.
• Rice is less likely to throw up huge negative surprises. And with the present stocks, it should be manageable.
• The government godowns have nearly three-and-a-half times the minimum level of stocks, to meet both “operational” (public distribution system) and “strategic reserve” (exigency) requirements for the quarter.
James Webb space telescope
GS Paper 3: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-technology, Bio-technology and issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights.
Prelims exam level: James Webb Telescope and related information
Mains exam level: Not Much
Why in News
NASA has released five images from the early work of the James Webb Space Telescope. The pictures highlighted the great potential of the telescope to plumb the secrets of deep space.
About James Webb Telescope
• The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a space telescope designed primarily to conduct infrared astronomy.
• It’s a successor of Hubble Telescope.
• As the largest optical telescope in space, its greatly improved infrared resolution and sensitivity allows it to view objects too old, distant, or faint for the Hubble Space Telescope.
• It’ll enable a broad range of investigations across the fields of astronomy and cosmology, such as observation of the first stars and the formation of the first galaxies, and detailed atmospheric characterization of potentially habitable exoplanets.
• It could observe only a small range in the infrared from 0.8 to 2.5 microns.
• It orbits the sun. As the Earth orbits the Sun, Webb orbits with it – but it will stay fixed in the same spot (L2 Lagrange Point) with relation to the Earth and the Sun.
Exoplanet: An exoplanet or extrasolar planet is a planet outside the Solar System.
Lagrange Point: Lagrange Points are positions in space where the gravitational forces of a two-body system like the Sun and Earth produce enhanced regions of attraction and repulsion. These can be used by spacecraft as “parking spots” in space to remain in a fixed position with minimal fuel consumption.
What is the News now?
• The stunning image of SMACS 0723, a cluster of thousands of galaxies, was released by the telescope.
• James Webb has also caught a glimpse of Stephan’s Quintet, a group of five galaxies that are merging some 290 million light-years away in the constellation Pegasus.
• The pictures show the Carina Nebula which is one of the largest and brightest nebulas (clouds of dust and gas in which stars are born).
• It has also sent a spectacular image of the Southern Ring or “Eight-Burst” nebula, a planetary nebula.
Facts In News
• The Commonwealth of Nations, simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire.
• The current Commonwealth of Nations was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949, which modernised the community and established the member states as “free and equal”.
• The head of the Commonwealth is currently Queen Elizabeth II; the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting appointed Charles, Prince of Wales, to be her designated successor, although the position is not hereditary.
• Elizabeth II is the head of state of 15 member states, known as the Commonwealth realms, while 36 other members are republics and 5 others have different monarchs.
• Member states have no legal obligations to one another but are connected through their use of the English language and historical ties.
Reverse Currency War:
What’s a currency war?
• If a country’s currency falls in relation to other currencies, that can help its economy.
• Its exports become cheaper relative to competitors, boosting demand from abroad, while higher import prices spur domestic consumption of more homegrown products and services. And both of these provide support to local producers.
• A round of competitive devaluations is thought to have deepened the Great Depression that began in 1929, with countries leaving the then-prevalent gold standard to weaken their currencies.
• In the early years of this century, the US and other rich countries complained that China was depressing the value of its currency, the yuan, to increase exports.
• The phrase “currency war” was only popularized around 2010, when Brazil’s then-finance minister, Guido Mantega, accused wealthier nations of devaluing their currencies to stimulate economies still reeling from the financial crisis of two years before.
What’s a reverse currency war?
• A situation in which countries work to make their currency stronger.
• Rather than boosting growth, the goal of any such move is to help tame inflation, since a stronger currency means that imports are relatively cheaper.
• Cellular therapy (also called cellular therapy, cell transplantation, or cytotherapy) is the transplantation of human cells to replace or repair damaged tissue and/or cells.
• Cell therapy is a therapy in which viable cells are injected, grafted or implanted into a patient in order to effectuate a medicinal effect, for example, by transplanting T-cells capable of fighting cancer cells via cell-mediated immunity in the course of immunotherapy, or grafting stem cells to regenerate diseased tissues.
• The Western Ghats or the Western Mountain range is a mountain range that covers an area of 160,000 km2 (62,000 sq mi) in a stretch of 1,600 km parallel to the western coast of the Indian peninsula.
• The average elevation is around 1,200 m (3,900 ft).
• It traverses through the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
• It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight biodiversity hotspots in the world.
• It is sometimes called the Great Escarpment of India.
• It contains a very large proportion of the country’s flora and fauna, many of which are endemic to this region.
• According to UNESCO, the Western Ghats are older than the Himalayas.
• They influence Indian monsoon weather patterns by intercepting the rain-laden monsoon winds that sweep in from the south-west during late summer.
• The range runs north to south along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau and separates the plateau from a narrow coastal plain called Konkan along the Arabian Sea.
• A total of 39 areas in the Western Ghats, including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests, were designated as world heritage sites in 2012 – twenty in Kerala, ten in Karnataka, six in Tamil Nadu and four in Maharashtra.
• The range starts near south of the Tapti River and ends at Marunthuvazh Malai near the southern tip of India.
• These hills form the catchment area for complex riverine drainage systems that drain almost 40% of India.
• The Western Ghats block the southwest monsoon winds from reaching the Deccan Plateau.
Flora and Fauna
• The area is one of the world’s ten “hottest biodiversity hotspots.”
• It has over 7,402 species of flowering plants, 1,814 species of non-flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 227 reptile species, 179 amphibian species, 290 freshwater fish species, and 6,000 insect species.
• It is likely that many undiscovered species live in the Western Ghats.
• At least 325 globally threatened species occur in the Western Ghats.
Points to Ponder:
• Rivers through Western Ghats
• Key Species
• Important National Parks and conservation areas
• Difference between Eastern and Western Ghats