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28th August 2023

Seethakali folk art


The 20-member group is going to perform Seethakali folk art, outside Kerala for the first time as to revive one of the fading dance forms of Kerala.

  • In the early times, Seethakali was performed as part of the harvest festival Onam.
  • From Atham star till the 28th day after Onam, the performers who belong to the subaltern communities go from one house to another performing this art.

Key Features of Seethakali:

  • Folk Dance Drama: Seethakali is a traditional folk dance drama that was once performed during the festival days in erstwhile Desinganad (Kollam, Kerala), primarily during the Onam festivities.
  • Dalit Artists: The performance was carried out by Dalit artists belonging to the Veda and Pulaya communities, focusing on presenting episodes from the Ramayana from Sita’s perspective.
  • Vanayatra to Andardhanam: Seethakali portrays the journey from “vanayatra” (exile to the forest) to “andardhanam” (descend into the earth) of Sita, featuring a blend of songs, storytelling, and fast movements.
  • Instruments: The dance drama is accompanied by instruments such as ganjira, manikatta, chiratta, and kaimani.
  • Narrative through Songs: Seethakali’s story is conveyed through songs, with 28 collected over three years, featuring a folk style influenced by Vallappaattu, Kuthirappaattu, and Rakshasappattu.
  • Oral Tradition: Seethakali songs were orally transmitted from one generation to the next, which led to a pause in the tradition.
  • Basic Movements: The dance involves basic steps, striving to preserve the original essence of the art form.
  • Character Ensemble: The performance includes key characters such as Sita, Ram, Lakshman, Ravan, and Hanuman.

Revival Efforts:

  • Documentary: Shajimon created a documentary titled Seethakali – Desinganadinte Dalit Ramayanam, tracing the evolution, popularity, and relevance of the art form.
  • Currently, in Kerala, there is only one registered Seethakali performing group – Perinad Seethakali Sangham.

El Niño and India’s economic risk


The current month remained the driest ever August which indicates strengthening El Niño and its related serious food inflation challenge.

About the El Nino menace:
  • As a result of El Nino the Crop growth has turned into a cumulative 6% deficit in August 2023.
  • The India Meteorological Department anticipates no significant monsoon revival during the next five days, while surpassing the record of 1965 and 1920.

El Nino and Impact on India:

  • El Niño is characterized by the warming of sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean.
  • El Niño tends to weaken the Indian monsoon, which is crucial for India's agriculture and water supply.
  • During El Niño events, the normally moisture-laden winds that bring the monsoon rains to India are weakened, leading to reduced rainfall and sometimes drought conditions in various parts of the country.
  • This can lead to heatwaves, water shortages, crop failures, and impacts on water resources for both agriculture and daily consumption.
  • Crop yields can be affected, leading to food price inflation and economic losses for farmers.

Its counterpart, La Niña, involves cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures and can have opposite effects, potentially leading to increased rainfall and flooding in certain regions of India. Additionally, other local and regional climate drivers can interact with El Niño, further shaping the overall climate outcomes in the country.

Why such intense effects are seen this year?

  • The Oceanic Niño Index (ONI) – which measures the average sea surface temperature deviation from the normal in the east-central equatorial Pacific region – touched 1 degree Celsius.
  • This was twice the El Niño threshold of 0.5 degrees.
  • The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have predicted a 66% probability of the ONI exceeding 5 degrees Celsius during October-December and a 75% chance of it remaining above 1 degree in January-March 2024.
  • El Niño is, thus, projected to not only persist, but strengthen through the 2023-24 winter.

What are the implications?

  • Lack of Monsoon rains leads to kharif crop losses: The southwest monsoon rain is crucial for not just the kharif season crops, mostly sown in June-July and harvested over September-October.
  • Shortage of Crops: As the rice and wheat stocks in government warehouses at 5 million tonnes (mt), a six-year-low.
  • Increasing Retail inflation: The retail food inflation in July at 11.5% year-on-year, which is a cause for worry.
  • Rising prices of commodities: Due to shortage of supplies, there is an automated rise in prices for Tomatoes, Onion and Rice too.
  • Hindering Exports: The recent export ban on basmati rice by India seems to be one of the effects of increasing food prices and shortage.

Other Global factors aggravating situation:

  • There were four major supply-side shock drivers of the great global food inflation from around October 2020: weather, pandemic, war, and export controls.
    • Weather: The weather-related shocks included droughts in Ukraine (2020-21)and South America (2021-22), which especially impacted sunflower and soybean supplies, and the March-April 2022 heat wave that devastated India’s wheat crop.
    • Pandemic: The pandemic’s supply-side impactwas felt the most in Malaysia’s oil palm plantations
  • During the pandemic many migrant labours flew back, they were engaged in the harvesting of fresh fruit bunches, and no new work permits were issued, resulting in low output, translating into a decline in exports.
    • War: The Russo-Ukrainian Warled to supply disruptions from the two countries that, in 2019-20 (a non-war, non-drought year), accounted for 5% of the world’s wheat, 18.8% of corn, 34.4% of barley, and 78.1% of sunflower oil exports.
    • Export Controls: Export controls were first imposed by Russia in December 2020, prompted by domestic food inflation fears arising from record hot temperatures.

India, Asian Development Bank to set up climate change and health hub


According to the latest update, India is going to open a climate change and health hub in New Delhi in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

  • The new hub for climate change and health will facilitate knowledge sharing, promote partnerships and innovations, and also help countries beyond the G-20, especially developing countries.
  • In its recently released G-20 outcome document, India also noted that climate change will continue to drive health emergencies, including the emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases, and by increasing the severity and frequency of natural disasters, thereby threatening to overwhelm health systems’ ability to deliver essential services.
  • The outcome document committed to:
    • prioritize climate-resilient health systems development,
    • build sustainable and low-carbon/low greenhouse gas (GHG) emission health systems and healthcare supply chains that deliver high-quality healthcare,
    • mobilize resources for resilient, low-carbon sustainable health systems, and
    • Facilitate collaboration, including initiatives such as the WHO-led Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health (ATACH).
  • The new Climate Change and Health Hub in New Delhi will help countries all over the world to address to identify new drivers and address the existing drivers using a science and risk-based approach, and to strengthen existing infectious disease surveillance systems.
  • Climate change affects all and this centre will give an opportunity to have different partners discussing this important issue and learning from each other.
  • In its recently released G-20 outcome document, India noted that climate change will continue to drive health emergencies, including the emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases.
  • It will also increase the severity and frequency of natural disasters, thereby threatening health systems’ ability to deliver essential services.
  • Against this backdrop, there is need to enhance the resilience of health systems against the impact of climate change.

Asian Development Bank (ADB):

  • ADB (founded in 1966) is an international development finance institution.
  • Its mission is to help its developing member countries reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of their people.
  • Headquartered in Manila, ADB is owned and financed by its 68 members, of which 49 are from the region and 19 are from other parts of the globe.
  • The two largest shareholders of the Asian Development Bank are the United States and Japan.
  • ADB is an official United Nations Observer.
  • Voting rights in ADB are distributed in proportion with members’ capital subscriptions.

Threats to Bird Species in India


As per the data published on State of India’s Birds (SoIB) report 2023, a large number of bird species in India are either currently declining or projected to decline in the long term.

About the information:
  • While raptors, migratory shorebirds, and ducks have declined the most, birds living in habitats like open ecosystems, rivers, and coasts are among the worst affected.
  • The key factors responsible for the decline are urbanisation, infrastructural development, environmental pollutants, and climate change.
  • Raptors are also in decline globally due to loss of habitat, pesticide accumulation as well as targeted killing.
  • The report advised, there is an immediate need for research to diagnose specific threats and measure their impact so that policies can be developed for raptors as a group.

Who are Raptors?

  • A raptor is a special type of bird which captures live prey.
  • The word “raptor” means “to seize or grasp” in Latin.
  • Raptors use their powerful, sharp talons to capture their prey and to defend themselves.
  • Several bird species are considered raptors are Eagles, hawks, kites, falcons, and owls.

Why they are significant?

  • Raptors are at the top of the food web and are therefore highly vulnerable to changes in the environment such as declines in insects, mammals, small birds, fishes, and increases in contaminants and other environmental conditions.
  • Changes in the health of raptor populations can indicate changes in the environment, and by monitoring such shifts we hope to proactively protect the birds as well as other wildlife and the habitats humans share with them.

What are the major threats to birds in India?

  • Climate change:
    • The average global temperature has risen by over 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times, resulting in catastrophic consequences other living beings, like birds.
    • It affects bird reproduction and survival through the disruption of species interactions by phenological mismatches.
  • Urbanisation:
    • Urbanisation results in loss of natural habitat for birds and it expose them to more air pollution and high temperatures.
    • Lack of food supplies in urban areas leads to the homogenisation of bird communities as only behaviourally dominant species such as House Crows and feral Rock Pigeons are able to survive.
  • Monocultures:
    • In India, commercial monoculture plantations of rubber, coffee, and tea have been rapidly expanding in recent years.
    • Such plantations are detrimental to the well-being of birds.
  • Energy infrastructure:
    • Countries have started to generate power using renewable resources instead of depending on conventional methods like coal-fired power plants.
    • It has led to an increase of wind turbines in a country like India, where they have been installed in a wide range of landscapes including coastal areas, Western Ghats mountaintops, open arid lands, agricultural lands, and grasslands.
    • The major impacts of wind turbines on birds include:
      • Direct collision of birds with the rotating wind turbine blades
      • Displacement (loss of habitat) of birds from the turbine area due to disturbance
      • Barrier effects within habitats (obstacle to migration, or to other regular movements across feeding and roosting areas and breeding colonies)

The report mentioned the transmission lines have led to the death of many large-bodies species because of collision and numerous small-bodies species have been electrocuted.

  • Exposure to toxic chemicals during reproductive stages can affect fertility, egg formation, and eggshell thickness. Hence, can lead to impaired incubation and chick-rearing behaviours.
    • All of this decreases hatching success and fledgling survival and increases the possibility of reproductive failure.
  • Increasing avain diseases: The avian influenza outbreaks in 2020-2021 swept through many Indian States, causing mass mortality of wild birds.

Short News Article

Polity and Governance (GS-II)
‘Vote from home’ in Chhattisgarh

In the coming assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, people aged above 80 and persons with disability (PwD) with 40 or more disabilities can vote from their homes.

About the initiative:

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) has announced that it will provide a postal ballot facility at home for citizens above 80 years of age and those with more than 40 per cent disability during the upcoming Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh.
  • There are over 200,000 voters in Chhattisgarh, who are above 80 years old.
  • As well as people with disabilities exceeding 40 per cent, will have the option to cast their votes from home.
  • To avail of this service, they need to complete form 12D within five days of the election notification.
  • Also, a campaign has been initiated to register citizens previously not included in the electoral rolls. This will particularly focus on five Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) during the ongoing Special Summary Revision (SSR)-2.
  • To ensure fair elections, administrative and law enforcement agencies will operate 105 check posts throughout the state, all equipped with Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV).

Science and Technology (GS-III)
Who names sites on the Moon?

Recently, the Prime Minister has announced that the point where the Chandrayaan-3 lander touched down on the lunar surface would be named Shiv Shakti.


Who can give names on moon?

  • The International Astronomical Union (IAU) determines some other rules for Space activities.
  • The IAU’s Working Groups handle the process of naming lunar spots, though its decisions and recommendations are not enforceable by any international law.
  • India is among its 92 members.
  • The IAU has been the arbiter of planetary and satellite nomenclature since its inception in 1919.
  • Many countries have been giving informal names to the spots on moon during lunar missions.
  • The United States gave informal names to lunar sites during Apollo missions.

Does any country can own moon?

  • Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.

Science and Technology (GS-III)
Japan’s H-IIA rocket

Japan’s space agency has recently suspended the scheduled rocket launch, which was intended to carry the nation’s first spacecraft to land on the moon.

About H-IIA rocket:

  • The H-IIA rocket being Japan’s primary launch vehicle with an impressive 98 per cent success rate, unfavorable wind conditions in the upper atmosphere led to the decision to halt the launch.
  • H-IIA, jointly developed by JAXA and MHI, has been Japan’s flagship space launch vehicle, with 45 successful launches in 46 tries since 2001.
  • The rocket is carrying JAXA’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), which would be the first Japanese spacecraft to land on the moon.
  • The rocket is also carrying an X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) satellite, a joint project of JAXA, NASA and the European Space Agency.


The importance of states in space missions


On August 23, with Chandrayaan-3’s lander module making a soft landing on the moon, India became only the fourth country after the erstwhile Soviet Union, the U.S., and China to accomplish this achievement. It is a testament to the remarkable ingenuity of Indian scientists that this feat was carried out at a relatively low cost.

The Race to Moon

  • Resource Not Sole Factor: USSR and China achieved significant space feats despite smaller economies, suggesting resources alone aren't limiting.
  • Human Resources Impact: Nations like China, India, and Russia prioritized science, reaping space exploration successes from invested scientists and engineers.
  • Population and Technology: Populous countries' focus on science, technology led to innovation and achievements despite economic disparities with developed nations.

Debate around Moon’s exploration

  • UAE's Space Success: UAE's space achievements challenge population-driven assumptions, highlighting state role and collaboration in accomplishing ambitious objectives.
  • Government and Collaboration: State's active involvement, combined with private sector and academic collaboration, overcomes financial constraints and propels space endeavors.
  • Resource Diversion Debate: Developing economies' space programs questioned for resource allocation, similar concerns exist in developed nations. Yet space missions contribute to knowledge and progress.

Factors responsible for successful mission

  • Redefining State's Role: Global crises reveal private sector's limitations; state-market partnership needed for innovation. Successful space missions exemplify state competence.
  • State Intervention: Dichotomy of passive state and market no longer applies. Active state intervention fosters innovation, addressing social and environmental challenges.
  • Mazzucatto's Perspective: Economist Mazzucatto's research on Apollo missions shows state coordination drives success. Similar approach could address climate change, hunger, fostering inclusive development.
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India’s Rohingya refugee children are not criminals


Recently, a ?ve­ month ­old infant born to a Rohingya refugee died in a detention centre in Jammu, which is a question on the refugee policy and conserving their Rights.

Refugee policy in India

  • No domestic law- India does not have a domestic law or consistent policy on refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Not a signatory to conventions and protocol- India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.
  • Foreigners Act, 1946- Refugees are seen as illegal immigrants and lumped with other foreigners under the Foreigners Act, 1946.

Conventions on the Rights of the Child

  • Fundamental Right- The right to life and personal liberty is enshrined in the Constitution of India and is for all persons, whether citizens or foreigners.
  • UN Convention- Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) states that every child has an inherent right to life, survival and development.
  • India signatory to CRC- India ratified the CRC in December 1992; hence, holding children in detention facilities, denying them the freedom to access education or any other liberty is an absolute violation of this.

Way Forward

  • Rohingya children should be released - It is imperative that all Rohingya children and their primary caregivers are released immediately from detention.
  • Follow the Government of India’s internal guidelines- For all the other Rohingya, the authorities should follow the Government of India’s internal guidelines (2011) on the detention and treatment of refugees
  • Appoint an ombudsman - India should work with the O?ce of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to appoint an ombudsman whose sole responsibility should be to investigate refugee detention centres in India.
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Demystifying the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code


In response to recurring financial defaults in India, the government implemented robust legal measures to empower lenders in holding defaulting companies accountable, despite challenges posed by democratic principles and limited effective legal avenues.

Challenges in Legal Procedures

  • In current laws: SARFAESI Act, DRTs, BIFR, and SICA faced time delays, rigid criteria, and overlapping laws, hindering effective debt recovery.
  • Winding-up Effectiveness: Companies Act 1956's winding up process, though slow, yielded more logical conclusions through liquidation or negotiation.
  • Limited Recovery Success: SARFAESI offered debt restructuring, but till 2016, poor statistics indicated inadequate results for banks' recovery efforts.

Need for Insolvency and Bankruptcy code (IBC)

  • RDDBFI and SARFAESI Shortcomings: Recovery efforts through RDDBFI and SARFAESI led to increasing bad debts for banks. SARFAESI's recovery declined due to reduced effectiveness.
  • Post-Liberalization Scenario: After 1991's liberalization, foreign companies' entry and unchecked lending led to growth, but lack of adherence to parameters and due diligence caused loans to turn bad.
  • Lending Challenges: Loans for expansion turned non-performing, banks faced multiple restructuring proposals, trapping lenders deeper, leading to a point of no return for Indian businesses.

Debate over IBC

  • Challenges in Execution Proceedings: Execution proceedings were lengthy, making winding up unattractive. BIFR sheltered defaulting companies, deviating from rehabilitation intent.
  • Inception of IBC: The Indian banking sector faced mounting issues due to non-merit loans, necessitating exceptional measures. IBC, introduced in 2016, aimed at recovery and reformation.
  • Debate over IBC: IBC, a significant law, garnered support from banks but raised concerns for operational creditors and promoters due to asset distribution and creditor control.
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Himalayan blunders that are ravaging the Himalayas


Amidst Himalayan beauty, environmental degradation of habitat is rising as evident in Uttarakhand and Himachal face tragic consequences due to unsustainable development, frequent disasters, and compromised safety.

Lack of structural scrutiny

  • Chardham Mahamarg Project Impact: Uttarakhand's infrastructure project claims forests, lives, soil, and water sources, bypassing environmental laws for development.
  • Bhagirathi Eco Sensitive Zone: Protected area holds Ganga's last natural flow, but approvals for project ignored EIA, legal directives, risking ecological damage.
  • Environmental Risk: Pristine regions face peril as road’s Defect liability period (DLP) width under the project threatens deodar trees and mountain slopes.

Challenges and Threats

  • Road Width Contradictions: Ministry contradicts own standards, widening hill roads to DLPS despite risks, ignoring Supreme Court's directions and rationale.
  • Unanswered Questions: Concerns arise over road-width changes, contradictory requirements, missing EIA, increased carrying capacity, and shift to strategic importance.
  • Tourism vs. Ecology: Overburdened shrines' capacity increased, disregarding ecological impact. Nature's warnings prompt reassessment, Supreme Court involvement for implementation.

Rising loss of Himalayan habitat

  • Gangotri Glacier Threat: Fast-receding Gangotri glacier faces black carbon deposits due to vehicular movement, forest fires, escalating melting.
  • Himalayan Destruction: Greed-driven actions by political, bureaucratic, and real estate interests damage forests, rivers, and lives.
  • Conservation Priority: Protecting Ganga's pristine stretch demands minimizing road width near Gangotri. Sustainable development requires preservation of lifelines.
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