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IAS Foundation 2023-24, Batch Starts: 27th July

26th April 2022

The quarrel over Kuril Islands

Context

Russia has suspended talks with Japan over the Kuril Islands, which have been ongoing since WWII. Russia says the move was a response to Japanese sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

Recently, Japan described four islands whose ownership it disputes with Russia as illegally occupied in the latest version of a diplomatic Bluebook.

About

About Kuril Island:

  • The island chain known as the Kurils stretches north across the Pacific Ocean from the Japanese island of Hokkaido to the southern tip of Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula.
  • The Kuril Islands are a group of 56 volcanic islands in East Asia, located between the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula and Hokkaido.
  • They range from northeast to southwest about a mile away. 1,200 km, this separates the Okhotsk Sea from the Pacific Ocean.
  • They are under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and are part of the Sakhalin Territory, but Japan claims two large southern islands and the islands of Shikotan and Habomai, also known as the “Kuril Islands”. 

Background:

  • Japanese people migrated north to the islands in the 18th and 19th century, including members of Hokkaido's minority Ainu community.
  • Treaty of Shimoda: In 1855, Russia and Japan signed the Treaty of Shimoda, which gave Japan ownership of the four southern islands and Russia ownership of everything to the north.
    • Communities developed on three of the islands and by the time World War II began, there were 17,000 Japanese residents.
  • Russia took control of the islands at the end of the war, and by 1949 it had deported all residents to Japan.
  • San Francisco Peace Treaty: Under the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed between the Allies and Japan, Japan renounced "all right, title and claim to the Kuril Islands", as well as over other possessions.
    • But this resolved nothing, because Russia did not sign the treaty and the Japanese government has never recognised the four islands as part of the Kuril chain.
  • Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration: In 1956, the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration restored diplomatic ties between the two nations, but a formal peace deal remained out of reach because of the territorial dispute.
    • At the time, Russia proposed returning the two islands closest to Japan, a deal Japan rejected, in part because the two islands represent only 7% of the land in question.
  • Since then, the dispute has remained unresolved.

Significance:

  • The islands are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and are thought to have offshore reserves of oil and gas.
  • Rare rhenium deposits have been found on the Kudriavy volcano on Iturup.
  • Tourism is also a potential source of income, as the islands have several volcanoes and a variety of birdlife.

Diplomatic Bluebook:

  • The Diplomatic Bluebook of Japan is an annual report on Japan's foreign policy and international diplomacy published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan.
  • It has been published every year since its first issue in September 1957.

Raisina Dialogue 2022

Context

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the seventh edition of the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi recently.

Raisina Dialogue:

  • The Raisina Dialogue is an annual conference on geopolitics and geoeconomics addressing issues facing the global community
    • It takes its name from Raisina Hill, the seat of the Indian government.
  • It is organized by the Ministry of External Affairs in collaboration with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
  • Since its inception, the Raisina Dialogue has emerged as a leading global conference on international affairs featuring the participation of heads of state, ministers, journalists, academics and researchers. 
  • Theme of previous Dialogues:

2016: “Asia: Regional and Global Connectivity”

2017: “The New Normal: Multilateralism with Multipolarity”

2018: “Managing Disruptive Transitions: Ideas, Institutions and Idioms”

2019: “New Geometrics, Fluid Partnerships, Uncertain Outcomes”

2020: “Navigating the Alpha Centurys”

2021: “Viral World: Outbreaks, Outliers and Out of Control”

The Raisina Dialogue 2022 and its theme

  • The 2022 edition will have over 100 sessions with around 210 speakers from 90 countries and multilateral organisations. 
  • While the main event takes place in New Delhi, side events will be held in Berlin and Washington.
  • A young fellow programme will also be organised on the sidelines of the event.
  • The theme for the 2022 Edition is "Terra Nova: Impassioned, Impatient, and imperiled”.
  • Over the course of three days, the dialogue will feature panel discussions across multiple formats on six thematic pillars. These are:
    1. Rethinking democracy: Trade, Tech and Ideology
    2. End of Multilateralism: A Networked Global Order?
    3. Water Caucuses: Turbulent Tides in the Indo-Pacific
    4. Communities Inc: First Responders to Health, Development, and Planet 
    5. Achieving Green Transitions: Common Imperative, Diverging Realities
    6. Samson vs Goliath: The Persistent and Relentless Tech Wars

Significance of Raisina Dialogue 2022:

  • India is the second-largest country in the world in terms of population, and the significance of demographics can never be underestimating.
  • No matter where there is conflict, India worries about evacuating its people. Therefore, India has to be the one country invested in global peace that will seek to avoid conflict
  • The Raisina Dialogue 2022 will help in finding ways to move toward a global order that is inclusive and rules-based.
  • The need for constructive conversations and encouraging diverse opinions along multiple tracks has never been more.
  • In this discourse, we aim to map the evolving geopolitical and geoeconomic trend-lines, question prevalent dogmas about the international system, and encourage future-oriented thinking.
  • The dialogue is a platform that brings together India’s friends and partners seeking common ground.

Joint celebration of 90th anniversary of Sivagiri Pilgrimage, Golden Jubilee of Brahma Vidhyalaya

Context

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a programme to mark the 90th anniversary of the Sivagiri pilgrimage and the golden jubilee of the Brahma Vidhyalaya.

About

About Sivagiri pilgrimage:

  • Sivagiri is the holy abode of one of the great saints and social reformers of India, Sree Narayan Guru.
  • Established by Narayana Guru who propagated the message of ‘One Caste, One Religion and One God for Mankind’, the Sivagiri Mutt is a major spiritual-cum-pilgrim centre of the backward Ezhava community in Kerala.
  • According to Shri Narayana Guru, the aim of pilgrimage should be the creation of comprehensive knowledge among the people and the pilgrimage should help in their overall development and prosperity.
  • The pilgrimage, therefore, focuses on eight subjects vis-a-vis education, cleanliness, piety, handicrafts, trade and commerce, agriculture, science and technology and organised endeavour.
  • The pilgrimage started with a handful of devotees in 1933 but now has become one of the major events of south India.
  • Every year, lakhs of devotees from all over the world irrespective of caste, creed, religion and language visit Sivagiri to participate in the pilgrimage.
  • Shri Narayan Guru had also envisioned a place to teach the principles of all religions with equanimity and equal respect.
  • The Brahma Vidhyalaya of Sivagiri was set up to realise this vision.
    • Brahma Vidhyalaya offers a course of seven years on Indian philosophy including the works of Shri Narayan Guru and scriptures of all important religions of the world.

Architecture and distinctive features of the temple:

  • The Sivagiri Sarada temple is octagonal in shape and was planned and designed by the Guru himself.
  • The Sarada temple here has windows, which were very uncharacteristic of a temple.
  • The Guru called it Sarada Mutt and he wanted to dedicate it to Saraswathy, the Goddess of knowledge.
    • The goddess is seated on a white lotus, indicating the knowledge blossoming on purity.
  • The rituals are also is different from that of other temples.
    • While other temples perform nivedyam (offering of food to the deity) or abhishekam (pouring oil, ghee and such on the idol), Sharada temple is devoid of all such rituals.
    • The devotees are free to worship the goddess reciting hymns.
    • Guru, himself a writer and poet, wrote Janani-navaratna Manjari, in praise of the Goddess.
  • Apart from consecrating a symbolic idol and shunning all tantric rituals, the Guru also insisted on keeping high hygiene standards on the temple premises.
    • His followers adhere to the Guru’s words now too and the temple is thus very different from other temples in the world.

 About Shree Narayana Guru:

  • He was born in 1856, in the village of Chempazhanthi near Thiruvananthapuram as the son of Madan Asan, a farmer, and Kutti Amma. 
  • He was born into an Ezhava family, in an era when people from backward communities faced social injustice in the caste-ridden Kerala society
  • He led the Reform movement in Kerala, revolted against the caste system and worked on propagating new values of freedom in spirituality and social equality which transformed Kerala society.
  • He became a ‘Parivrajaka’ (one who wanders from place to place in quest of Truth) after the demise of the father and wife.
  • He passed away in 1928.

Contribution in anti-caste revolution

  • Narayana Guru consecrated the first temple of Lord Shiva in 1888 where an idol was ordinated by a non-brahmin in Aruvippuram village of Kerala.
  • His step sparked off the anti-caste revolution against the upper-caste Brahmin communities.
  • In 1903, he established the SreeNarayana Dharma ParipalanaYogam (SNDP) as the founder and president.
    • The organization continues to mark its strong presence to this day.

Contribution to National Movement:

  • He was in the forefront of the movement for universal temple entry and against the societal ills like the social discrimination of untouchables.
  • He provided the impetus for Vaikom agitation, which was aimed at temple entry in Travancore for the lower castes.
  • He captured the essence of Indianness in his poems, which highlighted the unity that lies beneath the world’s apparent diversity.

Literary Works:

  • He wrote various books in different languages. Few of them are: AdvaithaDeepika, Asrama, Thevarappathinkangal, BrahmavidyaPanchakam etc.

Philosophy of SreeNarayana Guru:

  • SreeNarayana Guru became one of the greatest proponents and re-evaluators of Advaita Vedanta, the principle of non-duality put forward by AdiShankara.
  • In 1913, he founded the Advaita Ashram at Aluva. This was an important event in his spiritual quest.
  • This Ashram was dedicated to a great principle – Om SahodaryamSarvatra (all men are equal in the eyes of God).

I&B Ministry blocks YouTube news channels for spreading ‘disinformation’

Context

The information and Broadcasting Ministry has blocked 16 YouTube news channels for spreading disinformation related to country's national security, foreign relations, and public order. 

About

About the action taken:

  • Ten Indian and six Pakistan-based YouTube channels have been blocked under Information Technology Rules, 2021.
  • The YouTube channels were found to be spreading false, unverified information to create panic, incite communal disharmony and disturb public order in the country.
    • These YouTube channels have a cumulative viewership of over 68 crores.
    • The Indian YouTube channels which have been blocked include Saini Education Research, Hindi Mein Dekho, Aaj Te News, SBB News, Defence News 24x7, and Tahaffuz-E-Deen India among others.
    • Pakistan- based YouTube channels that have been blocked include Aaj Tak Pakistan, Discover Point, Reality Checks, Kaiser Khan, The Voice of Asia, and Bol Media Bol.
  • Also, YouTube channels based in Pakistan were found to have been used in a coordinated manner to post fake news about Indian Army, Jammu and Kashmir, and India’s foreign relations in the light of the situation in Ukraine.
  • The content of these channels was observed to be completely false and sensitive from the perspective of national security, sovereignty, and integrity of India and country's friendly relations with foreign States.
  • Multiple country-based YouTube channels were observed to publish unverified news and videos having the potential to create panic among various sections of society.
  • None of the digital news publishers had furnished information to the ministry as required under rule 18 of the IT Rules, 2021.

What are IT Rules, 2021?

  • The Rules aim to empower ordinary users of social media and OTT platforms with a mechanism for redressal and timely resolution of their grievance with the help of a Grievance Redressal Officer (GRO) who should be a resident in India.
  • Safety measures: Special emphasis has been given on the protection of women and children from sexual offences, fake news and other misuse of the social media.
  • Source identification: Identification of the “first originator of the information” would be required in case of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India.  
  • Appointment of Chief Compliance Officer: A Chief Compliance Officer, a resident of India, also needs to be appointed and that person shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules.
  • Complaint monitoring: A monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints would be necessary.
  • Code of Ethics: The OTT platforms, online news and digital media entities, on the other hand, would need to follow a Code of Ethics.
  • Self-classification: OTT platforms would be called as ‘publishers of online curated content’ under the new rules.
    • They would have to self-classify the content into five categories based on age and use parental locks for age above 13 or higher. They also need to include age verification mechanisms for content classified as ‘Adult’.
  • Redressal mechanism: A three-level grievance redressal mechanism has been mandated. This includes the appointment of a GRO, self-regulatory bodies registered with the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) to look after the Code of Ethics and a Charter for the self-regulating bodies formulated by MIB.

First all-private astronaut team aboard space station heads for splashdown

Context

The first all-private astronaut crew to fly aboard the International Space Station (ISS) headed for splashdown recently off the coast of Florida, wrapping up a two-week mission that NASA has touted as a landmark in commercial spaceflight.

About

FIERY RE-ENTRY

  • A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying the four-man team of Houston-based startup Axiom Space Inc began its return flight about 9 p.m.
  • The splashdown, carried live by a joint Axiom-SpaceX webcast, was originally planned for last Wednesday, but the return flight was delayed due to unfavorable weather.
  • The return from orbit followed a re-entry plunge through Earth’s atmosphere generating frictional heat that sends temperatures surrounding the outside of the capsule soaring to 1,927 degrees Celsius.

‘LOW-EARTH ORBIT ECONOMY’

  • Axiom, SpaceX and NASA have touted the occasion as a milestone in the expansion of privately funded space-based commerce, constituting what industry insiders call the “low-Earth orbit economy,” or “LEO economy” for short.
  • Launched on April 8, the Axiom team spent 15 days aboard the space station with the seven regular, government-paid ISS crew members: three American astronauts, a German astronaut and three Russian cosmonauts.
  • The ISS has hosted several wealthy space tourists from time to time over the years.
  • But the Axiom quartet was the first all-commercial team ever welcomed to the space station as working astronauts, bringing with them 25 science and biomedical experiments to conduct in orbit.
    • The package included research on brain health, cardiac stem cells, cancer and aging, as well as a technology demonstration to produce optics using the surface tension of fluids in microgravity.
  • It was the sixth human spaceflight for SpaceX in nearly two years, following four NASA astronaut missions to the ISS and the “Inspiration 4” flight in September that sent an all-private crew into Earth orbit for the first time, though not to the space station.
  • SpaceX has been hired to fly three more Axiom astronaut missions to ISS over the next two years.

Blue Straggler stars

Context

Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru, researchers have found support for one way to understand the aberrant behaviour of Blue Straggler stars.

For this, the researchers also made use of the observations by the UVIT instrument (UltraViolet Imaging Telescope) of ASTROSAT, India’s first science observatory in space.

About

About Blue stragglers Stars:

  • Blue stragglers, a class of stars on open or globular clusters that stand out as they are bigger and bluer than the rest of the stars; have intrigued scientists who have for long probed their origin.
  • Carrying out the first-ever comprehensive analysis of blue stragglers, Indian researchers found that half of the blue stragglers in their sample are formed through mass transfer from a close binary companion star, one third are likely formed through collisions of 2 stars, and the remaining are formed through interactions of more than 2 stars.
  • A bunch of stars born at the same time from the same cloud form a star cluster.
  • As time passes, each star evolves differently depending on its mass.
  • The most massive and bright stars evolve and move off the main sequence creating a bend in their track, known as the turnoff.
  • Stars above this bend or brighter and hotter stars are not expected in a cluster, as they leave the main sequence to become red giants.
  • But in 1953, Allan Sandage found that some stars seem to be hotter than the turnoff of the parent cluster.
    • Initially, these blue stars still straggling above the turnoff were not part of these clusters.
    • However, later studies confirmed that these stars are indeed cluster members, and they were termed “Blue Stragglers”.
  • The only probable way these stars can still be present in these clusters is if they have somehow acquired extra mass along the way while on the main sequence.
  • Confirming the mechanisms of the mass gain required a study using a large sample of blue-straggler stars and estimates of the mass they have gained.

Indian Institute of Astrophysics

  • The Indian Institute of Astrophysics is a premier institute devoted to research in astronomy, astrophysics and related physics.
  • It traces its origins back to an observatory set up in 1786 at Madras which from the year 1792 began to formally function at its Nungambakkam premises as the Madras Observatory. In 1899, the observatory moved to Kodaikanal.
  • In the year 1971, the Kodaikanal Observatory became an autonomous society, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics.
  • The headquarters were shifted to Bengaluru into its present campus in Koramangala in 1975.
  • Today, funded by the Department of Science and Technology, the Institute ranks as a premier institution devoted to research and education of astronomy and physics in the country.
  • The main observing facilities of the Institute are located at Kodaikanal, Kavalur, Gauribidanur and Hanle.
  • The Kodaikanal Observatory has for over a century been the principal centre of activity in observational solar and atmospheric physics.
  • The Vainu Bappu Observatory at Kavalur has been the main optical observatory of the Institute for nighttime astronomy since the late 1960s. 

Editorial

The goal of an energy ¬secure South Asia

South Asia has almost a fourth of the global population living on 5% of the world’s landmass. Electricity generation in South Asia has risen exponentially, from 340 terawatt hours (TWh) in 1990 to 1,500 TWh in 2015. Bangladesh has achieved 100% electrification recently while Bhutan, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka accomplished this in 2019. For India and Afghanistan, the figures are 94.4% and 97.7%, respectively, while for Pakistan it is 73.91%.

Electricity policies of South Asia

  • Objective- The electricity policies of South Asian countries aim at providing electricity to every household. The objective is to supply reliable and quality electricity in an efficient manner, at reasonable rates and to protect consumer interests.
  • Issues addressed- The issues these address include generation, transmission, distribution, rural electrification, research and development, environmental issues, energy conservation and human resource training.
  • Different approaches- Geographical differences between these countries call for a different approach depending on resources. While India relies heavily on coal, accounting for nearly 55% of its electricity production, 99.9% of Nepal’s energy comes from hydropower, 75% of Bangladesh’s power production relies on natural gas, and Sri Lanka leans on oil, spending as much as 6% of its GDP on importing oil.
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ThinkQ

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QUIZ - 26th April 2022

Mains Question:

Q1. Keeping in view India’s internal security, analyse the impact of misinformation spread through social media. Also suggest measures required to be taken to control the spread of misinformation. (150 words)

Approach

  • Introduction- define misinformation and its increasing spread through social media
  • Impact on national security
  • Challenges (vast network, borderless connectivity, easy spread)
  • Role of important government agencies (also mention I&B Ministry’s measure to block social media channels)
  • Required measures
  • Conclude accordingly
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