Current Affairs 18th February, 2019


Topics Covered

1. Art and Culture

Kochi – Muziris Biennale

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What to read?

Prelims – About the event

Mains – How it makes Art Inclusive to all?

  • The Kochi-Muziris Biennale is an international exhibition of contemporary art held in Kochi, Kerala. It is the largest art exhibition in India and the biggest contemporary art festival in Asia.

  • The Kochi-Muziris Biennale is an initiative of the Kochi Biennale Foundation with support from the Government of Kerala. The exhibition is set in spaces across Kochi, with shows being held in existing galleries, halls, and site-specific installations in public spaces, heritage buildings and disused structures.

  • Indian and international artists exhibit artworks across a variety of mediums including film, installation, painting, sculpture, new media and performance art.

  • Through the celebration of contemporary art from around the world, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale seeks to invoke the historic cosmopolitan legacy of the modern metropolis of Kochi, and its mythical predecessor, the ancient port of Muziris

Making Art inclusive

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  • The Kochi-Muziris Biennale, which began in 2012, feels like redemption in many ways. It is one of India’s biggest achievements in making art inclusive

  • One of the major initiatives of the biennale during each edition has been to reflect stories of the local people and their histories.

  • For instance, in the ongoing edition, Nilima Sheikh’s painting ‘Salam Chechi’ is a tribute to the ubiquitous Malayali nurse.


Topics Covered

1. History – Modern India

Bandar in Machilipatnam houses historic Cannonballs

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What to read?

Prelims – About the exploration, ASI

Mains – Importance of Machilipatnam

Machilipatnam, in Andhra Pradesh, houses an old armoury dating back to the Dutch era, which is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Here many households preserve the cannonballs, although a few simply dispose of them as scrap, unaware of their heritage value.

End of Machilipatnam as military station

The pestilence that followed on the famine of 1832-3 induced the authorities to station no more European troops at Bandar and the storm wave of 1864 caused the withdrawal of the last sepoy regiment and ended the history of Masulipatam as a military station.

Related Authotity

1. Archaeological Survey Of India

  • The ASI is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of the country.

  • The prime objection of ASI is to maintain the archaeological sites, ancient monuments and remains of national importance.

  • Headquarters: New Delhi.

  • Established: 1861 by Alexander Cunningham.

  • It regulates all archaeological activities as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.

  • It functions under the aegis of the Union Ministry of Culture.

  • It also regulates Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.

Historical Importance of Machilipatnam

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Machilipatnam has a history that goes back to 3rd Century BCE. Masulipatnam as it was known then, was one of the important ports of the Satavahanas

Muslin cloth gets it name from Masulipatnam where the cloth was popularly traded in the days of yore by the Greeks. Machilipatnam, then became a Portuguese settlement in the 14th Century A.D, then the Dutch came in the 16th Century and finally the British.

It was through this port that the diamonds purchased at Golconda were taken to England.

It lost its importance because of wars, natural calamities and pestilence. With such a rich history to back it, Machilipatnam is, today, the headquarters of Krishna District

PAPER – 2, PAPER – 3

Topics Covered

1. Schemes

2. Agriculture

Policies Biased against Rainfed Agriculture

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What to read?

Prelims – Rainfed Agriculture, Rainfed Agriculture atlas

Mains – What does the atlas say about policy efficiency for improvement in Agriculture?

A new rainfed agriculture atlas not only maps the agro biodiversity and socio-economic conditions prevailing in such areas, but also attempts to document the policy biases that are making farming unviable for many in these areas.

Rainfed Agriculture

  • The term Rainfed agriculture is used to describe farming practices that rely on rainfall for water. It provides much of the food consumed by poor communities in developing countries.

  • In India - Indian economy is mainly dependent on agriculture, which contributes 21 per cent of the country's GDP and 60 per cent of the employment . Rainfed agriculture occupies 67 percent net sown area, contributing 44 percent of food grains and supporting 40 percent of the population.

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Rainfed Agriculture atlas

  • It is released by RRA network ( Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture)

  • The Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture Network (RRAN) is a pan-Indian network of academics, civil society organizations, development bankers, and others, working to enhance public investments in support of rainfed agriculture. It works towards prosperous, productive and secure rainfed agriculture.

Findings – Lack of government’s effort to boost rainfed agriculture practice

  • Three out of five farmers in India grow their crops using rainwater, instead of irrigation. However, per hectare government investment on their lands may be 20 times lower, procurement of their crops is a fraction of major irrigated land crops, and many of the flagship agriculture schemes are not tailored to benefit them.

  • There has been “negligence” toward rainfed areas, which is leading to lower incomes for farmers in these regions.

  • Lands irrigated through big dams and canal networks get a per hectare investment of Rs. 5 lakh. Watershed management spending in rainfed lands is only Rs. 18,000-25,000.

  • When it comes to procurement, over the decade between 2001-02 and 2011-12, the government spent Rs. 5.4 lakh crore on wheat and rice. Coarse cereals, which are grown in rainfed areas, only had Rs. 3,200 crore worth of procurement in the same period.

  • Flagship government schemes, such as seed and fertiliser subsidies and soil health cards, are designed for irrigated areas and simply extended to rainfed farmers without taking their needs into consideration

  • Many hybrid seeds notified by the government scheme need plenty of water, fertilizer and pesticides to give high yields and are thus not useful to most rainfed farmers. Commercial fertilizers will simply burn out the soil without sufficient water.

  • The government has no system to channelise indigenous seeds or subsidise organic manure in the same way

  • Need of the hour

    • It’s not just the quantum, but also the nature of investment that needs to change

    • A more balanced approach was needed to give rainfed farmers the same research and technology focus and production support that their counterparts in irrigation areas have received over the last few decades.

    PAPER – 3

    Topics Covered

    1. Conservation of Environment

    Punjab’s Blackbuck struggle for existence

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    What to read?

    Prelims – About Blackbuck, its IUCN status, Abohar Wildlife Sanctuary

    Mains – Problems faced by Blackbuck

    In 2019, so far, as many as eight blackbuck have died in the Abohar Wildlife Sanctuary, and a majority of them succumbed to their injuries, caused by barbed wires while trying to escape from stray dogs.


    Indian Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) is an antelope and is the only living species of the genus Antilope. It is considered to be the fastest animal in the world next to Cheetah. The horns of the blackbuck are ringed with one to four spiral turns and the female is usually hornless.


    Blackbuck inhabits grassy plains and slightly forested areas. Due to its regular need of water, it prefers areas where water is perennially available.

    It is found in Central- Western India (MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Odisha) and Southern India (Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu)

    Protection Status: Hunting of blackbuck is prohibited under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. It has been categorised least concerned in IUCN Red Data Book.

    Related fact

  • The Bishnoi community of Rajasthan is known worldwide for their conservation efforts to blackbuck and Chinkara

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  • The Uttar Pradesh State Cabinet has approved Blackbuck Conservation Reserve in trans-Yamuna belt near Allahabad. It will be first of its kind conservation reserves in India exclusively dedicated to blackbuck

  • Unnatural threat to Blackbuck in Punjab

    • Road accidents

    • Falling into water storage tanks and concrete drains

    • Stray cattle, attacks by stray dogs

    • Habitat fragmentation due to change in land use and cropping patterns 

    Abohar Wildlife Sanctuary

    The Abohar Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Fazilka District of Punjab. The formation of sanctuary relates to a unique success story of wildlife conservation in which people of Bishnoi community united themselves for protecting the Black Buck which is regarded as a sacred animal by them.

    The AWS is an open sanctuary, spread across private land in 13 villages. The blackbuck was notified as the State animal of Punjab in 1989 and its presence in the State is confined to the AWS due to the unique habitat of semi-arid plains consisting of agricultural fields, intermittent fallow-barren lands, scattered sand dunes, sand mounds and ridges.

    PAPER – 3

    Topics Covered

    1. Indian Economy

    Finance Commission sticks to 2011 census for calculation of population of States

    What to read?

    Prelims – Finance Commission, ToR to 15th FC

    Mains – Area of concern in allocation of funds as per population in 2011 census

    The 15th Finance Commission will not alter its approach on solely using the 2011 Census for population figures in its calculations for allocations to States.

    15th Fianance Commission

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    The Government of India, with the approval President of India, has constituted Fifteenth Finance Commission in pursuance of clause (1) of article 280 of the Constitution, the provisions of the Finance Commission (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1951.

    This Commission will be headed by Shri. N.K.Singh, former Member of Parliament and former Secretary to the Government of India.

    The new Finance Commission will cover five-year period commencing April 1, 2020


    • As per Article 280 of the Constitution, the Commission is required to make recommendations on the distribution of the net proceeds of taxes between the Centre and the states.

    • The Commission also suggests the principles which should govern the grants in aid of the revenues of the states out of the Consolidated Fund of India.

    • It will also recommend a fiscal consolidation road map for sound fiscal management

    • This time it will have to take into account the impact of the Goods and Services Tax, which kicked in on the resources of the central as well state governments.

    • Further, the commission will examine progress made in promoting ease of doing business by effecting related policy and regulatory changes and promoting labour intensive growth.

    The 15th Finance Commission’s terms of reference are as follows:  

    • Review the current status of:

      • finance,

      • deficit,

      • debt levels, and

      • cash balances and fiscal discipline efforts of the Union and the States.

    • Recommend a fiscal consolidation roadmap for sound fiscal management.

    • Take into account the responsibility of the Central Government and State Governments to adhere to appropriate levels of general and consolidated government debt and deficit levels.

    • Foster higher inclusive growth in the country, guided by the principles of equity, efficiency and transparency.

    • Examine whether revenue deficit grants be provided at all.

    • Review the present arrangements on financing Disaster Management initiatives, with reference to the funds constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (53 of 2005), and make appropriate recommendations thereon.

    • Other key issues for consideration by the commission are as under:

      • Impact on the fiscal situation of the Union Government of substantially enhanced tax devolution to States following recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, coupled with the continuing imperative of the national development programme including New India – 2022;

      • Impact of the GST, including payment of compensation for possible loss of revenues for 5 years, and abolition of a number of cesses, earmarking thereof for compensation and other structural reforms programme, on the finances of Centre and States.

      • Efforts made by the States in expansion and deepening of tax net under GST;

      • Efforts and progress made in moving towards replacement rate of population growth;

      • Progress made in increasing tax/non-tax revenues, promoting savings by adoption of Direct Benefit Transfers and Public Finance Management System, promoting digital economy and removing layers between the government and the beneficiaries;

      • Progress made in sanitation, solid waste management and bringing in behavioural change to end open defecation.

    Major issues revolving around 15th Finance Commission’s Terms of References are as follows:

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    • While the terms of reference for the 14th Finance Commission were to use the 1971 Census data for determining devolution of taxes, duties and grants-in-aid.

    • The Central government asked the 15th Finance Commission’s ToR to use the 2011 data. 

    • This move would result in lower resource allocation to the southern States.