The Andhra Pradesh government has brought the curtains down on the popular ‘Chintamani Padya Natakam’, which has enthralled people for almost 100 years.
The government’s decision on Monday to ban the staging of the play was in response to the representation submitted by the members of a particular community objecting to certain dialogues and portrayal of a character in the noted Telugu play.
Authored by playwright Kallakuri Narayana Rao in 1920, the artistes of the play had celebrated its centenary in 2021, and organised special programmes marking the occasion.
In the play, the writer explains how people neglect their families by falling prey to certain social evils.
Tableaux selection fair: Rajnath
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has conveyed to the Chief Ministers of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu that there exists a well-established system for selection of tableaux for participation in the Republic Day Parade (RDP), as per which Ministry of Defence invites proposals from all States, Union Territories, Central Ministries and Departments.
Mr. Singh was responding to letters from Ms. Mamata Banerjee and Mr. M.K. Stalin to the Prime Minister over the rejection of their State tableaux.
In the letter to the Tamil Nadu CM, Mr. Singh said, “For RDP-2022, a total of 29 proposals were received from States/ UTs including the proposal from State of Tamil Nadu. The tableaux from the State Government of Tamil Nadu was considered in the first three rounds of meetings. After the third round of meeting, the tableaux could not make it into the final list of 12 tableaux selected for participation in the RDP-2022.”
What are these Tableaux?
(Same as what we call ‘Jhanki’ in Hindi)
A representation of people, Culture, Art or the state through a scene creation.
Assam to settle border row with Meghalaya
Note: This is Assam-Meghalaya not Assam- Mizoram
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday said a roadmap had been prepared for resolving the 50-year-old boundary dispute with Meghalaya.
“Our efforts to resolve Assam-Meghalaya border row have started bearing fruits as six of the 12 areas of difference[s] have been identified for resolution in the first phase,” he tweeted on Tuesday.
The committees formed by both the States had jointly inspected the disputed areas — Hahim, Gizang, Tarabari, Boklapara, Khanapara-Pillingkata and Ratacherra — and interacted with the locals to assess the ground reality.
Assam and Meghalaya share an 885-km-long border. As of now, there are 12 points of dispute along their borders.
The Assam-Meghalaya border dispute are the areas of Upper Tarabari, Gazang reserve forest, Hahim, Langpih, Borduar, Boklapara, Nongwah, Matamur, Khanapara-Pilangkata, Deshdemoreah Block I and Block II, Khanduli and Retacherra.
Meghalaya was carved out of Assam under the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, a law that it challenged, leading to disputes.
Major Point of Contention:
A major point of contention between Assam and Meghalaya is the district of Langpih in West Garo Hills bordering the Kamrup district of Assam.
Langpih was part of the Kamrup district during the British colonial period but post-Independence, it became part of the Garo Hills and Meghalaya.
Assam considers it to be part of the Mikir Hills in Assam.
Meghalaya has questioned Blocks I and II of the Mikir Hills -now Karbi Anglong region - being part of Assam. Meghalaya says these were parts of erstwhile United Khasi and Jaintia Hills districts.
Escalation of the ‘forgotten war’ in Yemen
(Focus on Highlighted Points)
The new year began badly for Yemen. On January 2, the Houthis hijacked a UAE-flagged ship, Rwabee, in the Red Sea, alleging that it was carrying military cargo. Seven of its eleven crewmen are Indians.
(The weapon story is true)
The Saudis retaliated with massive bombardment of Sanaa airport and then diverted a ship carrying fuel to Yemen to its own port. The Houthis have refused to release the vessel despite a United Nations Security Council resolution and have criticised the United Nations for siding with “murderers who violate international laws”.
The two-year fighting to take the energy-rich province of Marib has intensified. The Houthis are just 20 km from the provincial capital, but now face freshly deployed crack troops mobilised by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – the ‘Giants Brigade’ that is rapidly moving north after taking Shabwa province.
The war in Yemen will complete seven years in March. As 2021 ended, nearly 3,50,000 Yemenis had died, with 60% dying because of being denied food, clean water and healthcare. Seventy-five per cent of Yemen now lives below the poverty line.
Background of this Conflict
(This is Important)
After the Arab Spring (2011)
After President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in place since 1978, stepped down in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2012, he was allowed to retain his ill-gotten wealth and stay on in the country. From the outset, he worked to undermine his successor, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Seeing the weak government in Sanaa, the Houthis, representing the disgruntled Zaydi/Shia community which had been marginalised in political and economic spheres by Mr. Saleh (under Saudi pressure), seized the opportunity to assert their claims for inclusion in national governance.
The militants of the movement, Ansarullah, descended on the capital and, in January 2015, forced the Hadi government to seek exile in Riyadh.
Large sections of the Yemeni armed forces loyal to Mr. Saleh now joined the Houthis to take control of the country. This raised serious concerns in Saudi Arabia – though the Zaydis had few doctrinal or political ties with Iran, the kingdom viewed them as surrogates of the Islamic Republic on the basis of their sectarian affiliation.
Saudi Arabia commenced a bombing campaign on Yemen on March 26, 2015. In 2015-21, there were about 25,000 Saudi air attacks on Yemen, with the Houthis retaliating with about 4,000 missile and drone attacks.
During the fighting, Iran-Houthi ties have strengthened, with substantial military supplies sustaining the Houthi war effort.
After seven years of fighting, the conflict has now mutated into a fierce regional competition for geopolitical advantage. While Hodeidah port is under Houthi control, it is blockaded by the Saudi navy, while its Yemeni partners are ranged outside the city.
Again, while Taiz is with the Houthis, forces from Al-Islah, the kingdom’s Islamist partners, are in the west of the province. In the south, the UAE-supported separatist entity, Southern Transition Council (STC), controls Aden and much of the southern territory.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia are now engaged in a major territorial re-ordering of Yemen. The former is seeking unchallenged influence over the strategically valuable Bab al-Mandeb strait. At its narrowest, this strait is just about 30 km wide; it links Asia with Africa and, through the Suez Canal, with Europe. Ten percent of global trade traverses these waters annually.
By 2050, the value of this trade is expected to grow from $880 billion to $4.7 trillion, while the GDP of the littoral states is expected to go from $1.8 trillion to $6.1 trillion.
The UAE has now taken control of littoral ports and islands on both sides of the Red Sea – in Eritrea, Puntland and Somaliland – besides Aden and Mocha in Yemen.
While initially the UAE had sought to establish a military presence in the region, its priority now is to develop the ports to make the region a major commercial hub. However, it retains its objective of protecting the area from militants and flow of weaponry, and maintains a military presence at Perim Island, at the mouth of Bab al-Mandeb, and Socotra Island, off the Yemeni coast in the Gulf of Aden.
The UAE is also partnering withIsrael in this area to neutralize any effort by Iran to intervene in these waters through its Houthi allies.
What is Saudi’s Geopolitical Interest in it?
The Saudi geopolitical interest is at the other end of Yemeni territory – the Al-Mahra province that abuts Oman’s entire southern border and also has a 560-km coastline on the Arabian Sea. This province has so far been cut off from the conflict.
The kingdom has been expanding its presence in this province since 2017 by taking control of Nishtun port, the Ghaydah airport, and two border crossings with Oman. The Saudi interest is to construct an oil pipeline from its Eastern Province to Nishtun port on the Arabian Sea, thus bypassing the Strait of Hormuz where Iran has a dominant presence. The Saudis have been pushing this proposal since the 1980s, but made no headway earlier as they insisted on placing their own security forces at a 4-km buffer zone along the pipeline. Taking advantage of the ongoing conflict, the kingdom is preparing for a long-term military presence in this province.
The fight over Marib, the last province in north Yemen outside Houthi control, will decide the outcome of this seven-year conflict. The city now has two million people and provides 90% of the country’s oil and gas.
With the Giants Brigade moving to the front, there could be some heavy civilian casualties. The Houthis have sought to deter the UAE-supported forces in Marib with drone attacks on Monday on an oil facility in Abu Dhabi and the airport. They have also condemned UAE efforts to control the shipping lanes in the Red and Arabian Seas to serve U.S. and British interests, and have threatened further attacks on Abu Dhabi.
The Houthi game plans
Victory in this conflict will give the Houthis the financial resources to consolidate their rule over the north of Yemen, possibly resurrecting the former North Yemen that had existed before unification with the south in 1990. North Yemen then had a Zaydi majority and had been ruled by Zaydi imams for a millennium, until the republican revolution of 1962. As of now, the Houthi game plan seems to be to consolidate itself in the north, put in place a functioning administration with Marib’s resources, and then seek international recognition and humanitarian assistance.
Here, Saudi and UAE interests are likely to diverge. The UAE may find the de facto partition of Yemen acceptable as it would retain its control over the southern ports and the Bab al-Mandeb strait, and manage the south through the STC it has sponsored.
But Houthi control of the north will not be acceptable to the kingdom as it will view this as an Iranian proxy planting itself along its porous 1,400-km border. To add to Saudi concerns, a former Lebanese general has also predicted that, after taking Marib, the Houthis could cross the border to “liberate” the former Yemeni provinces that are now part of the kingdom. Thus, continued fighting in Yemen is the most likely prospect for the country. And, with limited interest in the conflict in the international community, this will remain a “forgotten war”.
Rising sea levels prompt Indonesia to relocate capital
Indonesias parliament has approved a bill to relocate the nations capital from Jakarta to a jungled area of Kalimantan on Borneo island, the planning minister said on Tuesday.
The new state capital law, which provides a legal framework for President Joko Widodos ambitious $32 billion mega project, stipulates how development of the capital will be funded and governed.
The new capital has a central function and is a symbol of the identity of the nation, as well as a new centre of economic gravity, planning minister, Suharso Monoarfa, told parliament after the bill was passed into law on Tuesday.
The new centre will be called Nusantara, a Javanese name for the Indonesian archipelago chosen by the president, Mr. Monoarfa announced on Monday.
Nusantara – which follows the creation of new capitals in countries like Brazil and more recently Myanmar – will be led by a chief authority whose position is equivalent to a minister, deputy chair of the bills special committee, Saan Mustofa, said on Monday.
Three Navy personnel killed in explosion aboard INS Ranvir
Three Navy personnel were killed and 11 injured in an explosion aboard the destroyer INS Ranvir at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai on Tuesday.
“In an unfortunate incident at Naval Dockyard Mumbai, three naval personnel succumbed to injuries caused by an explosion in an internal compartment on-board INS Ranvir,” the Navy said in a statement.
INS Ranvir is the fourth of the five Rajput-class destroyers built for the Indian Navy. Ranvir was commissioned on 28 October 1986.
(Focus on Highlighted Parts)
Note: What to do with these kinds of News/ Editorials?
Solution: Maintain a graph/ Some statistics month by month atleast about the various variables so that you reproduce them in Mains answer writing._nbsp;
Example: Recently a question came in GS-3 paper about V-Shaped recovery.
While North Block mandarins (Basically NITI Ayog and Finance Commission etc) seek to conjure up policy levers in the upcoming Budget to spur India’s fragmented economic recovery along, the latest official data suggest industrial output is stuttering with a meagre 1.4% growth in November. More worryingly, inflation is re-emerging as a threat — retail prices surged to a five-month high of 5.6% in December from 4.9% in November. While urban India continued to record a higher incidence of price rise at over 5.8%, inflation faced by rural consumers was at 5.36% — the steepest pace since July 2021. A dozen States clocked higher inflation than the headline 5.6% level, with half of them recording well over India’s stated inflation tolerance threshold of 6%, led by Haryana and Tamil Nadu with an over 6.6% print.
While the CPI cooled month on month by about 0.35%, this was offset by low base effects that pushed up inflation in food and beverages, and higher clothing and footwear prices. The deferral of a higher GST on textiles, and softening food and vegetable prices this month, may help rein in some of these pressures, but there are other headwinds.
Fuel prices moderated after excise duty cuts in November, but this may not sustain for long as average prices for India’s crude oil basket are now at around $84. For now, retail fuel prices have remained static, but this may have more to do with the unstated tendency of not effecting such hikes in the poll season. By Monday, yields on government bonds had hit a two-year high which could upset the fiscal math over time.
Inflation in wholesale prices offered little comfort in December even as it came off a record high of 14.2% in November to touch 13.6%, staying above double digits for the ninth successive month.
Economists believe that the persistent gap between wholesale and retail inflation, now at eight percentage points, does not augur well for price stability ahead.
Producers coping with high commodity prices and input costs will have to find ways to pass them on to consumers, feeding into retail inflation and squeezing household budgets further.
For industry, inflation is as critical an obstacle to higher consumption and growth impulses as the new virus mutations and the third wave — which by itself is expected to further stoke retail prices. Consistently high inflation, as witnessed since the pandemic onset, constitutes not just a tax on the poor and the middle classes, but is also a potentially permanent wrecking ball for future spending capacity (and growth) amid a damaged job market.
The Government, through its statement of intent in the Budget, and the RBI, which has noted that the waning of inflation spiralling across geographies may ‘take longer’ than expected and will review its monetary policy stance next month, need to communicate their inflation game plan to soothe expectations.
The SilverLine project is anti-development
(Gist: +5 -7 = -2)
Six months after I first proposed in these pages that the Kerala government review its SilverLine rail project, critical voices have only grown in strength. The Chief Minister, however, has publicly affirmed his intention to proceed with it nevertheless, alleging that its opponents are against ‘development’.
This response is no different from that of the Narendra Modi government when its economic policies are queried, and which nurtures its own vanity project, a superfast train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. The stance is hardly credible though.
(Also see Chardham Project and Central Vista Project Controversies)
Dissenters on the SilverLine project include ecologists, engineers, lawyers and activists to reckon with. Madhav Gadgil, E. Sreedharan, Prashant Bhushan and Medha Patkar are perhaps the best known among them but the list also has on it concerned citizens, who all want the best for their country.
It also includes the Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad, which is significant, as the body is perceived as a fellow-traveller of the Left parties now in power. Recently, Mr. Sreedharan, perhaps India’s most famous railway engineer, has described the proposed project as an invitation to environmental disaster, mainly through flooding.
He had also expressed surprise that the Government has not yet made public the detailed project report, a standard practice, which brings transparency to large-scale public infrastructure projects. (Since then the Kerala government has hurriedly uploaded a related document on a restricted site), Professor Gadgil, India’s pre-eminent ecologist, has spoken of SilverLine being against the interests of the people of the State, on grounds of the ecological damage it is likely to cause.
Based on his unmatched knowledge of Kerala’s topography, he has both explained how this could happen and pointed to the experience with the railways elsewhere in India, suggesting that the prediction is not mere speculation.
A distant government
The response of the Pinarayi Vijayan government to calls to reason on SilverLine has been disappointing. By stonewalling the concern expressed by citizens, a government shows itself to be distant and authoritarian.
The dissenters are, after all, equal stakeholders in Kerala as anyone else, with the moral right to be heard on a matter with a bearing upon the ecological future of the State. In a democracy, the government must be guided by public opinion rather than attempting to manufacture consent on its schemes, as Kerala’s present government is doing.
There are several instances of the state in India changing its mind when public opinion is arrayed against some grand project of its, but one stands out. In the 1970s, Indira Gandhi, a charismatic and strong leader, responding to a long-drawn agitation against a hydel project in Palakkad district, declared that the Silent Valley threatened by it will be protected. It took a little longer for the project proposal to be dropped altogether, but it finally was.
A high cost
While it is the threat to ecological security from it that has been flagged by our scientists and engineers, there is also the concern that the SilverLine project may end up as a white elephant.
It is always difficult to figure out how much people are willing to pay for a new service to be publicly provided, in this case faster transportation. Even if a survey were to be conducted, the truthfulness of the stated willingness to pay would remain moot, undermining the reliability of the numbers in any project report.
It is perhaps for this reason that light rail projects in many parts of the world have ended up making a loss. Even if break-even does materialise, the rate of return could end up being lower than anticipated.
This often happens due to the cost overrun observed in such projects. A reason for this is that rather than padding costs, governments, determined to have their high visibility, technological marvels, manage to somehow ensure that the project cost is pitched unreasonably low.
In the case of SilverLine, it has been hinted that the cost of the complementary infrastructure, such as underpasses, may not have been incorporated, and that they may be substantial.
It is for this reason that independent external scrutiny of the detailed project report is essential. Global accountancy giants have in the past proved to be unreliable as a source of disinterested advice when high fees are at stake, but we are fortunate that there is available in India financial expertise of the highest class. It is hoped that advice from this source is sought, with the Kerala government having shown a surprising dependence on international management consultancy firms for advice in the past. With a public sector that still receives budgetary support, a State already strapped with high per capita public debt cannot afford to be saddled with another white elephant. Yet, financial viability cannot be taken as the sole criterion in investment planning. There is no universally accepted method for imputing a monetary value to the environmental threat posed by a project with so great a geographic reach as SilverLine, spanning as it will do the entire length of the State. It is essential that our judgment be deployed in this case.
What Kerala does need
When a proposed project meets pushback, its purveyors often respond with the challenge “So, what is the alternative?” In the present case, though, this would only beg a deeper question, which is whether Kerala needs another railway line at all.
As the two extremities of the State are already connected by road and rail, a light rail built at an astronomical cost is hardly necessary, even when it promises to save some travel time.
The State already has the highest road density in the country. It is odd, then, that the Government sees a second railway as the priority for the State today.
On the other hand, there are several projects deserving of public investment. Among them would be the transition to a steady power supply based on green energy, the provision of safe drinking water and urban sewerage, and building infrastructure for the scientific disposal of waste. These projects would address our most pressing needs today, yield high social returns and contain progressive environmental degradation in the State. They are the ‘alternative’.