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Prelims bits

Prelims Bits (1st Week)

Environment and Ecology:

Mass migration of blue earthworms in Meghalaya – Facts about 2 way mass migration of Blue Earthworm:

  • Context: Mass migration of blue earthworms in Meghalaya underlines sustainable land-use. Sustainable Land Use ensures a fair and balanced distribution of land, water, biodiversity and other environmental resources between the various competing claims, in order to secure human needs now and in the future.
  • About: 
  • Migration of Blue Earthworms-
  • An army of blue earthworms, some measuring up to 1.6 feet, migrate about 300 metres up and down the steep slopes in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills every year.
  • These earthworms, scientifically called Perionyx macintoshi, and the role they play in enhancing the fertility of soil on their land to shift to ecologically sustainable organic farming.
  • The blue earthworms migrate twice annually — uphill in spring and downhill in autumn on inclines of up to 80-85 degrees to evade environmental factors that affect them.
  • The uphill migration starts in April-May coinciding with the onset of the monsoon when they emerge from the rivers and streams where they ‘overwinter’ under the rocks.
  • Increased flow of water in such rivers and streams, signalling arrival of the rains, is said to trigger their emergence for the migration.
  • The downhill migration happens during September-October when the vegetation begins to dry off and the temperature and humidity drop.
  • The timing is crucial during downhill as the worms fail to reach their favoured destination if there is any deviation in the ecological factors.
  • The worms help enrich the soil. The local farmers had the wisdom to observe them and adopted organic practices, shifting from broomstick cultivation to grow organic tea that has gained in brand value abroad

World’s most invasive species of turtles Red Eared Sliders – What makes Red Eared Turtle dangerous?

  • Context: Invasive species is posing a major threat to the biodiversity of waterbodies in the Kerala. This time, it is a cute redeared slider turtle, a huge hit with pet lovers.
  • About: The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), also known as the red-eared terrapin, red-eared slider turtle, red-eared turtle, slider turtle, and water slider turtle, is a semiaquatic turtle belonging to the family Emydidae.
  • A few days ago, a Class 6 student of St. Vincent Pallotthi Central School, Kalathode, got a medium-sized turtle while he was fishing in a canal at Kalathode.
  • He posted his catch on Facebook, which was noticed by Sandeep Das, a researcher at the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI).
  • Identifying the turtle, an exotic and major invasive species, he alerted the boy and cautioned them against releasing it back to the waterbody
  • The red-eared slider turtle is the latest favourite of pet lovers, especially children, because of its small size and colour.
  • The small turtle can even be kept in a match box. But it grows fast. Adult turtles require lots of aquatic plants.
  • They are also omnivores. Once finding it difficult to keep them as they grow bigger, people sometimes release them into waterbodies. This turtle is considered as one of the world’s worst invasive species

India’s rarest wild cat CARACAL – Conservation efforts for Caracal in India explained

  • Context: The National Board for Wildlife and Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change included the caracal, a medium-sized wildcat found in parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat, in the list of critically endangered species.
  • About: Though not under grave threat in its other habitats, the animal is on the verge of extinction in India. The recovery programme for critically endangered species in India now includes 22 wildlife species.
  • The caracal (Caracal caracal) is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and India.
  • It is characterised by a robust build, long legs, a short face, long tufted ears, and long canine teeth.
  • Its coat is uniformly reddish tan or sandy. It was first scientifically described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1776. Three subspecies are recognised.
  • Typically nocturnal, the caracal is highly secretive and difficult to observe.
  • It is territorial, and lives mainly alone or in pairs. The caracal is a carnivore that typically preys upon small mammals, birds, and rodents.
  • It can leap higher than 4 metres (12 ft) and catch birds in midair. It stalks its prey until it is within 5 m (16 ft) of it, after which it runs it down and kills its prey with a bite to the throat or to the back of the neck

Art and Culture:

Samaleswari Temple in Odisha – Patnaik Government announces Rs 200 crore development package

  • Context: Odisha announced a redevelopment project worth rs 200 crore for the shrine of goddess samaleswari
  • About: Under the redevelopment plan, four heritage gates will be built on the four sides of the temple and other infrastructure facilities like parking slots, vending zones, toilets will be erected near the temple for the welfare of thousands of devotees and tourists who throng the shrine every day
  • Apart from that, housing projects for servitors of the temple is also on the anvil while the government has also planned to construct a 30-meter-wide road to connect the temple zone with the Mahanadi bank. The road will help in the daily conduct of Mahanadi alati rituals for the presiding Goddess.
  • The government has also earmarked to set up a scheme under the name ‘Samaleswari Temple Area Management & Local Economy Initiatives for the development of 108 acres of area around the temple.

Economy:

What is Bond Yield? Why Bond Yield is rising? Why rising Bond Yield is dangerous for Economy? 

  • Context: Rising yields on government securities or bonds in the United States and India have triggered concern over the negative impact on other asset classes, especially stock markets, and even gold.
  • About: The yield on 10-year bonds in India moved up from the recent low of 5.76% to 6.20% in line with the rise in US yields, sending jitters through the stock market.
  • With over Rs 70.55 lakh crore of government securities (G-Secs) outstanding and the government planning to borrow more from the market through G-Secs, the movement of yields will continue to be watched in the coming months.
  • The roll-out of covid vaccination has bolstered expectations of a strong recovery, fuelling bets of a spike in inflation going forward.
  • The recent surge in yields, tracking US Treasuries, signals that investors fear central banks will soon begin to tighten rates and remove liquidity support measures, to curb a potential rise in inflation as growth takes hold.
  • Bond yields possess great signalling abilities about inflation trajectory and economic direction.
  • A rise in yields indicates a rise in interest rates in the economy.
  • Yields are also a reflection of Centre’s market borrowing to fund its expenditure.
  • Higher yields raise borrowing costs for companies, hurting their ability to service debt and make new investments. This, in turn, crimps their profits and stock prices.
  • There are concerns that if yields in US and Europe continue to harden, Investors who had borrowed cheaply to pile into high yielding risk-assets can unwind their “carry-trade“ and flock back to the safety of sovereign debt.
  • RBI has been buying bonds via OMOs to keep yields below 6%.
  • It has also been conducting special OMOs to prevent a steepening of the yield curve.
  • The aim is to lower long-term yields to help the Centre and firms borrow cheaply from the market.

Science and Technology:

DRDO successfully tests VL SRSAM Missile for Indian Navy – Facts about VL SRSAM Missile 

  • Context: The DRDO conducted two successful launches of vertical launch short range surface-to air missile (VL-SRSAM) off the Odisha coast in Balasore.
  • About: The launches were carried out from a static vertical launcher from Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur
  • Indigenously designed and developed by DRDO for the Navy, the VLSRSAM is meant for neutralising various aerial threats at close ranges, including sea-skimming targets
  • Sea-skimming anti-ship missiles try to fly as low as is practically achievable, which is almost always below 50 meters (150 ft), and is often down towards 2 meters (6 ft).
  • When under attack, a warship can detect sea-skimming missiles only once they appear over the horizon (about 28 to 46 km from the ship), allowing about 25 to 60 seconds of warning.
  • The VL-SRSAM with weapon control system (WCS) was deployed during the trials.
  • The trials have proved the effectiveness of the weapon system and few more trials will be conducted shortly before deployment on the ships.
  • Once deployed, the VL-SRSAM system will prove to be a force multiplier for the Navy.

International Relations:

UNSC Arria Formula Meeting – When is USE OF FORCE Justified? 

  • Context: The Charter of the United Nations (also known as the UN Charter) of 1945 is the foundational treaty of the UN.
  • About: Article 51 of the UN Charter provides for the right of countries to engage in self-defence, including collective self-defence, against an armed attack (including cyber-attacks)
  • Article 2(4) of the UN Charter states that “all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
  • An “Arria formula” meeting is an informal meeting of members of the United Nations Security Council, which must be convened by a member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in order for the meeting to take place.
  • India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador K Nagaraj Naidu said that non-state actors (NSAs) such as terrorist groups often attack states from remote locations within other host states.
  • On this, a growing number of states believe that the use of force against a NSA operating in the territory of another host state can be undertaken if the “NSA has repeatedly undertaken armed attacks against the State; the host state is unwilling to address the threat posed by the NSA; the host state is actively supporting and sponsoring the attack by the NSA,”
  • India would be compelled to “USE FORCE”
  • “In other words, a state would be compelled to undertake a preemptive strike when it is confronted by an imminent armed attack from a non-state actor operating in a third state,” “This state of affairs exonerates the affected state from the duty the respect, vis-a-vis the aggressor, the general obligation to refrain from the use of force,”

India Mauritius Defence Relations – $100 million Line of Credit for defence procurement 

  • Context: India signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Mauritius during External Affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar’s visit to the country. The FTA or CECPA is the first such pact with any African country and is being considered a milestone in commercial ties.
  • About: The CECPA provides preferential access to Mauritius for the bulk of the trade. These include frozen fish, speciality sugar, biscuits, fresh fruits, juices, mineral water, soaps, bags, medical and surgical equipment, and apparel.
  • One of the key immediate impacts is that Mauritius will get preferential access for the export of 40,000 tonnes of sugar into India and also access for the export of 7.5 million pieces of apparel.

Security:

North East Insurgency – Over 1000 Karbi militants from 5 rebel groups surrender in Assam 

  • Context: 1,040 militants of five militant groups of Karbi Anglong district ceremonially laid down arms at an event in Guwahati in the presence of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal,
  • About: A development which further bolsters the ‘terrorism-free Assam’ image of the current BJP-led government. Among the surrendered militants is Ingti Kathar Songbijit, a primary accused in multiple cases of militancy and ethnic violence in the state.
  • Insurgency by Karbi — a major ethnic community of Assam — groups, dotted by several factions and splinters, has had a long history in Assam, marked by killings, ethnic violence, abductions and taxation since the late 1980s.
  • These outfits originated from a core demand of forming a separate state.
  • The Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) is an autonomous district council, protected under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
  • The Karbi National Volunteers (KNV) and Karbi People’s Force (KPF) came together to form the United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) in late 1990s.
  • In November 2011, UPDS gave up arms and signed a tripartite memorandum of settlement with the Centre and the government of Assam, settling for enhanced autonomy and special packages for the KAAC.
  • The then general secretary of the UPDS, Horen Sing Bey, is now the BJP MP from the Autonomous District Lok Sabha constituency.

Miscellaneous: 

Reliance, Paytm & others to end NPCI monopoly. What is NUE licence?

  • Context: Last date to apply for a licence to set up a pan-India umbrella entity for retail payments, has been extended from Feb 26 to March 31. The Reserve Bank India (RBI) had released the framework for authorisation of pan-India umbrella entity for retail payments,
  • Which will rival National Payments Council of India (NPCI), on August 18, 2020, and invited applications from interested entities.
  • About: Retail payments usually involve transactions between two consumers, between consumers and businesses, or between two businesses.
  • Although there is no definitive division between retail and wholesale payments, retail payment systems generally have higher transaction volumes and lower average values than wholesale payment systems.
  • NPCI, a ‘not-for-profit’ entity registered under section 8 of Companies Act, is owned by a consortium of leading public and private sector banks.
  • It is directly responsible for functioning of highly important digital payment channels such as Unified Payment Interface, NACH, National Financial Switch (NFS) and IMPS.
  • The RBI, in February 2019, had proposed to create an alternative umbrella organisation for retail payments to prevent monopoly and concentration risk.
  • In a policy paper, the central bank had suggested that the NPCI became ‘too big to fail’.
  • The Reserve Bank of India has issued final guidelines for a new umbrella entity for retail payments systems, which will have an option to operate as a “for-profit” entity.