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January 6, 2019 @ 11:30 am
2019-01-06T11:30:00+05:30
2019-01-06T11:45:00+05:30

NEWS

6 JANUARY 2019

Daily Current Affairs based on ‘The Hindu newspaper complied by Ms. Bilquees Khatri with topics & papers as per syllabus of UPSC Civil Services (Mains) Examination


Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS III: ECONOMY – BANKING FRAUD

In a first, Mallya declared a ‘fugitive economic offender’

2.

GS II: GOVERNANCE – POLICY

As cattle market collapses, stray cows raid U.P. farms

3.

GS III: S&T – INDIA

At Science Congress, a ‘Vedic’ rebel seeks physics glory

4.

GS II: SOCIAL – SCHEME

MGNREGA scheme faces fund shortage

5.

GS II: SOCIAL – REFUGEES

Barred at the border: record arrests of Rohingya in 2018

6.

GS II: POLITY – CIC

Pay, tenure? This job invitation doesn’t part with information

7.

GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH

The lowdown on blood transfusions

8.

GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH

In Karnataka, row over midday meal

9.

GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH

Read menu card, curb appetite

10.

GS II: SOCIAL – WOMEN & CHILDREN

Women all set to scale this ‘prohibited’ peak too in Kerala

11.

GS I: CULTURE

Making a temple out of a mountain

12.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – USA

A question of American citizenship

13.

GS III: ECONOMY – INDICATORS

Yen’s surge, a red flag for world markets, global economy

GS III: ECONOMY – BANKING FRAUD

In a first, Mallya declared a ‘fugitive economic offender’

  • Absconding liquor baron Vijay Mallya became the first person to be declared a fugitive economic offender by the special court hearing cases under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act (FEOA).
  • The FEOA, which became a law on July 31, 2018, allows for declaring a person as an offender after an arrest warrant has been issued against the individual and the value of offences exceeds Rs. 100 crore.
  • Another condition for declaring a person a fugitive economic offender (FEO) is when the individual refuses to return to the country to face prosecution.
  • As per the new law, a special FEOA court can order the confiscation of a FEO’s properties, including those which are benami, and the proceeds of crime in and outside India.
  • Once properties are confiscated, the Union government has the right over them, and it can dispose them after 90 days.
  • Judge M.S. Azmi said the court was partly allowing the Enforcement Directorate’s application, which sought to declare Mr. Mallya a fugitive economic offender and confiscate all his properties, estimated to be worth Rs. 12,500 crore.
  • The court said it would consider the second part of the application, on confiscation of properties, when it hears the matter on February 5, when all intervenors in the case would be heard.
  • The intervenors include the State Bank of India, Diageo Plc, Standard Chartered Bank, Mr. Mallya’s step mother, Ritu Mallya, the official liquidator of the Karnataka High Court and Heineken NV.
  • The ED had filed two separate complaints registered under PMLA for investigation of money laundering against Mr. Mallya, Kingfisher Airlines Limited (KAL) and United Breweries Holdings Limited (UBHL).
  • The ED has reported to have attached assets worth approximately Rs. 4,234.84 crore, claiming them to be proceeds of crime from both the entities.
  • Mallya, who left the country in March 2016, was arrested by the U.K. Metropolitan Police’s extradition unit on April 18, 2017.
  • On December 10, 2018, a U.K. court ordered that Mr. Mallya could be extradited.

GS II: GOVERNANCE – POLICY

As cattle market collapses, stray cows raid U.P. farms

  • Stray cattle are turning into a source of huge loss: the animals raid fields in large numbers, trample on the crops and devour whatever they find.
  • Farmers, cutting across political lines and castes, claim the menace of stray cattle got worse after March 2017 when Yogi Adityanath came to power, owing to the fear of vigilante groups (who disrupt cattle transport), the collapse of local cattle markets and fairs, a fall in the value of non-milking cows and bullocks and the campaign against illegal slaughterhouses.
  • Alarmed by the reports of aggrieved farmers and protests, the Yogi Adityanath government was pressed to make several announcements to tackle stray cattle, including an ultimatum to all district magistrates to lock up the cattle in cow conservation centres by January 10.
  • The State Cabinet also decided to levy additional cess on excise items to fund “temporary” cow shelters in both urban and rural areas.
  • Adityanath also ordered officials to identify and take action against those who abandon their animals or tie them up in government buildings, calling them “anti-social elements.”
  • To regulate the population of the male calf in the long-run, the government has started a sex-sorted scheme under which the chances of a cow producing a female calf would be as high as 90-95%.
  • After the successful experiment in Barabanki, Etawah and Lakhimpur Kheri districts, the scheme is set to be launched in all 75 districts.

GS III: S&T – INDIA

At Science Congress, a ‘Vedic’ rebel seeks physics glory

  • For Kannan Jegathala Krishnan, 42, the chance to speak at the Indian Science Congress at the Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar was a first step towards convincing the world that he’s the greatest physicist ever.
  • “The 20th century was that of Einstein, and in some years, this century will be the one of Krishnan. It has to be,” the management-graduate-cum electrical engineer who is not a physicist declares.
  • Krishnan carries a thick sheaf of printouts of emails sent to presidents, prime ministers, physicists and senior officials in universities such as Oxford, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, most of them unsolicited and unacknowledged. The few replies are requests to stop spamming them.
  • In March 2018, the Ministe Union Science Minister, Harsh Vardhan claimed at the 105th Science Congress in Imphal that ‘Stephen Hawking said that the Vedas might have a theory superior to that of Albert Einstein’s E=mc2 equation.’
  • Vardhan never revealed the source of his information and wanted journalists to find out. The media traced the source to a ‘Stephen Hawking’ Facebook page which had no connection to the scientist.
  • “I am the source of his information,” claims Mr. Krishnan.
  • The Indian Science Congress, though funded by several government departments, has invited controversy and criticism over the rigour of speakers and papers.
  • In the 2015 Indian Science Congress in Mumbai, there were lectures on how certain Vedic texts described advanced avionics and flying planes.

GS II: SOCIAL – SCHEME

MGNREGA scheme faces fund shortage

  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme is facing a severe fund crunch, with 99% of money allocated already exhausted three months before the end of the financial year, and 11 States and Union Territories having a negative net balance.
  • Studies analysing government data show that the scheme faces difficulties in meeting the demand for work and paying wages on time.
  • These issues are likely to be exacerbated by the current fund crisis, according to worried economists, researchers and workers on the ground.
  • The scheme’s financial statement shows that as on 5 January, 2019, the total availability of funds was Rs. 59,032 crore. The total expenditure, including payment due, stands at Rs. 58,701 crore. That leaves a slim margin of only Rs. 331 crore.
  • There are three more months to go and this is when the lean agricultural season is upon us, when demand for MGNREGA employment peaks, intensifying the suffering at a time when work is needed most,” said an activist with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan.
  • Rainfall deficits and drought this year are likely to worsen the situation, as we saw in 2015-16 when the demand and need for work was higher than normal.”
  • A team of independent researchers led by Azim Premji University’s Rajendran Narayanan has found that employment provided was already 32% lower than work demanded during 2017-18.
  • In monetary terms, using this data to estimate national allocation, this means that 76,131 crore is the minimum amount needed to meet the registered work demand, almost 30% higher than the current allocation, said the study.

GS II: SOCIAL – REFUGEES

Barred at the border: record arrests of Rohingya in 2018

  • Between 2015 and 2018, the Border Security Force (BSF) arrested around 478 Rohingya along the India-Bangladesh border, with 230 held in 2018 alone.
  • While the number of arrests in 2015 and 2016 were 54 and 71, respectively, it rose to 123 in 2017.
  • Senior BSF officials operating along the India-Bangladesh border said the agency had apprehensions of large number of Rohingya trying to enter the country after August 2017, after nearly 7,00,000 fled Myanmar. However the expected influx did not take place. “Because of the designated camps set up by the Bangladesh government, Rohingya did not try to cross over to India in large numbers,” a senior BSF official said.
  • Of the 478 Rohingyas, who have been apprehended, some have been arrested not for trying to enter the country but while attempting to leave, BSF officials said.
  • Home Ministry estimates say there are around 40,000 Rohingya in India, of whom only 16,000 are said to be registered with the United Nations.
  • After the arrests along the border, the Rohingya are handed over to the police, who book them under the Foreigners Act.
  • In January 2019, five Rohingya from Assam were deported to Myanmar through the Moreh border in Manipur. They entered the country in 2014.
  • The influx and efflux of Rohingya refugees has brought into focus the porosity of the India-Bangladesh border.
  • Of the 4,096.7-sq km border between India and Bangladesh, only 2,785.5-sq km has been fenced.
  • The border in West Bengal is said to be the most porous stretch and used for illegal crossings. “The porosity in West Bengal-Bangladesh border is different than in other northeastern States. This is because of villages with dense population extending till the international border are located on the both sides of the border in the region,” a BSF official said.

GS II: POLITY – CIC

Pay, tenure? This job invitation doesn’t part with information

  • The Centre’s new advertisement for the remaining four vacancies at the Central Information Commission (CIC) still does not contain details of the tenure and salary of the position.
  • This is in accordance with the government’s plans to amend the RTI Act to give itself the power to set the tenure and salaries of Central and State Information Commissioners, in a move that critics warn will undermine the autonomy of these institutions.
  • Deadpan details
  • The advertisement issued on Friday by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) simply says, “The salary, allowances and other terms and conditions of service of the Information Commissioner shall be as may be specified at the time of appointment of the selected candidate.”
  • The Centre has previously defended such vague language in a Supreme Court hearing by saying that it planned to amend the RTI Act. Following push-back from Opposition parties and RTI activists, the government withdrew its stated plans to introduce the amendment Bill in Parliament during the monsoon session.
  • “Which person of eminence will apply for the position without any firm details on the terms of employment,” asked National Campaign for People’s Right to Information co-convener Anjali Bhardwaj. “Only pliable candidates can be expected to apply,” she said. She is a petitioner in a Supreme Court case on vacancies in Central and State Information Commissions. Ms. Bhardwaj noted that despite appointing four new Commissioners and a CIC chief, the DoPT has still not released details on their selection process, despite Supreme Court orders to do so.

GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH

The lowdown on blood transfusions

  • A young pregnant woman in a government hospital at a rural centre in south Tamil Nadu’s Madurai district made an explosive revelation mid-December. Expecting her second child, she heard from doctors, after she was admitted following a bout of sickness, that she had tested positive for HIV.
  • Later, as the story unravelled, in full media glare, it turns out she had acquired the virus after a blood transfusion in a district hospital following a diagnosis of anaemia. This opened up a Pandora’s box, and fear and distrust pervaded the community. Besides flagging the issue of the availability of safe blood in the State, it set in motion a sequence of events, mostly tragic, introspection, and some corrective action.
  • The story did not end, or even begin, there. The blood donor, who had donated as a replacement donor when a pregnant relative required a transfusion, only discovered his HIV positive status after a test for a job interview. He rushed back to the hospital, laden with guilt, to inform authorities. By then, his blood had been transfused to the pregnant woman, and she had tested positive. His blood donation history retrospectively exposed chinks in the blood donation and transfusion cycle in at least two instances. He had already donated blood in 2016, but his blood was discarded after he tested positive for HIV. However, though the HIV law mandates that the patient be informed with counselling about his/her status, in this case the donor remained in the dark. In the second instance, when he donated his blood in November last year, two years after the first, the lab failed to test and/or detect his infection, which was clearly not in the ‘window period’ where the virus may avoid detection. The donor was distraught, and attempted suicide, and died in hospital later.
  • A few days later, another pregnant woman claimed she had been transfused with HIV-infected blood at Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital in Chennai. While her claim has been contested stoutly, the two incidents have, nevertheless, rocked the State that once won plaudits for its prevention of transmission programmes.
  • There is a chain of approved processes to be followed in blood donation, aimed at quality control and negating the possibility of transmitting infections. Every qualified donor is put through a basic clinical evaluation (blood pressure and pulse). If normal, a sample of the blood donated is tested for HIV, Hepatitis B and C, sexually transmitted diseases and malaria. Meanwhile, the donated blood is stored separately in an ‘unscreened refrigerator.’ If the sample clears these tests, or if the tests turn negative, the blood will then be moved to the ‘screened refrigerator.’ If it tests positive for any of the infections, another sample from the same blood bag is tested again. If positive, the bag is discarded. The HIV Act mandates that the blood bank inform the positive donor, besides referring to the appropriate department for further treatment. When a requirement crops up, the blood bank does a grouping to confirm that the group is the same, does a cross-match with the recipient and releases it to the ward.
  • The Madras High Court has sought a report from the Health Department. The National and State Human Rights Commissions have taken suo motu cognisance of the issue and asked for the State’s response. The need, however, is to build confidence in the community that the most exacting standards are followed in collecting, testing and storing blood, and then in transfusing it. Even if this calls for a re-look at the entire process, it must be done. It is as crucial as making sure no one dies because they could not get blood in time.
  • (Assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts is available on Sneha’s toll-free suicide helpline: 0442464 0050)

GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH

In Karnataka, row over midday meal

  • The Karnataka government’s midday meal programme in schools has run into controversy with one of its NGO partners in the mammoth welfare exercise, International Society for Krishna Consciousness’s subsidiary Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF), refusing to include onion and garlic in cooking.
  • Following this, the State government has not yet signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to continue the programme with APF that supplies food to 4.49 lakh students in government and government-aided schools through its centralised kitchens in several cities.
  • In Bengaluru alone, it provides meals to 1.83 lakh students across 1,212 schools.
  • In November, the Department of Primary and Secondary Education directed the foundation to include onion and garlic in the noon meal and start supplying hot milk instead of cold milk to the students. While the foundation has started supplying hot milk to some schools on a pilot basis, it has categorically said it will not add onion and garlic.
  • Why does it matter?
  • An official of the State Food Commission said it had received complaints about students skipping the midday meals as they did not like the taste of the food without onion and garlic, which are an integral part of the food culture among most communities.
  • Children skipping meals is worrying because malnutrition is a serious issue. According to the National Family Health Survey 4 (NFHS) data for Karnataka (2015-2016), 36.2% of the children below the age of five are stunted, while 26.1% are wasted. The survey also reveals that 10.5% of the children were severely wasted, while 35.2% are underweight.
  • The Central Food Technological Research Institute has sent a report to the Department based on its earlier research findings that both onion and garlic were found to enhance the bioaccessibility of iron and zinc from grain.
  • But the institute has stated that during its survey across 270 schools in Mysuru district between January and May 2017, it found the average calorific value of the meals supplied by the APF was more than a school-cooked meal. The APF has said in a statement that its cooked meals are in compliance with the nutritional norms prescribed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  • What is the government’s stand?
  • Principal Secretary S.R. Umashankar said a final call would be taken after considering the feedback from students and teachers. The APF has had a series of meeting with several stakeholders, including officials of the State Food Commission and the Education Department. The government will have to either accept the dietary norms of APF or make alternative arrangements for supplying food.
  • Are health activists worried?
  • Around 145 health activists, experts and citizens, who are part of the Right to Food Campaign and the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, have written to the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Chief Minister, stating that children are eating less as they find the food bland.
  • Sylvia Karpagam, a public health doctor and researcher who is one of the signatories, argued for cooking culturally appropriate food in de-centralised kitchens.
  • Activists have also demanded that eggs be served as part of the midday meals as it is a good source of protein. They want the contract with the APF terminated, and meals prepared by self-help groups and other community-based organisations in accordance with nutritional norms and cultural practices, using fresh local produce.
  • Veena Shatrugna, a clinical nutritionist and former Ddeputy Director of the National Institute of Nutrition, said, “Normally, phytates and oxalates found in vegetarian diets precipitate iron and zinc and prevent their absorption from the gut. Onion and garlic appear to enhance absorption of these minerals.” This is significant, she pointed out, because around 50% to 70% of children in India are anaemic.

GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH

Read menu card, curb appetite

  • If you knew that the masala dosa you are relishing contained nearly 1,030 calories, would you reach out for that second helping? A recent study has demonstrated that the brain makes “sensible food choices” when calorie information is available on the menu card.
  • Read and eat
  • The study, published in the PLOS One, a peer-reviewed science journal, says seeing pictures of food with calorie information not only makes food less appetising but may also change the way our brain responds to food. When food images appeared with the calorie content, the brain showed decreased activation of the reward system and increased activation in the control system.
  • In other words, says the study, foods that you might otherwise be inclined to eat became less desirable once the calorie content was displayed.
  • For the study, 42 undergraduate students at the Dartmouth University, United States, were split into dieting and non-dieting groups. For the analysis their brain activity was measured while shown pictures of food with and without calorie information. They were then asked to rate their desire to eat the food.
  • The researchers observed that the self-reported desire to eat the food decreased when the subjects were shown pictures of food with calorie information.
  • However, nutritionists in India have mixed reactions to the applicability of this study to India. Those critical say that poor awareness about measuring calories and the “desire and longing for food” make it hard to implement in Indian restaurants
  • Lack of awareness
  • Rebecca Kuriyan Raj, Head, Nutrition and Lifestyle Clinic, St John’s Medical College Hospital, Bengaluru, says people are not aware of how many calories they are consuming every time they eat out. “Restaurant food is high in calories and most of the time, one can get more than half the requirement of the daily calories in a single meal of masala dosa, sambar and chutney, which is about 1023.7 calories,” she reckons.
  • Raj, was one of the authors of a multi-centre study that aimed to measure the calorie content of frequently ordered meals from sit-down and fast-food restaurants in five countries — India, Brazil, China, Finland and Ghana — and compare values with U.S. data. This study, published last month in the British Medical Journal, found variability in the amount of calories across restaurants because of differences in portion sizes and energy density (amount of calories for a given weight or volume).
  • She says, “The support of government-led initiatives to introduce mandatory calorie labelling in menus in restaurants, cafes and takeaway combined with significant efforts by the restaurants to reduce portion size, calories and sugar in the meals could help individuals to make sensible food choices.”
  • However, Veena Shatrugna, former Deputy Director of the Hyderbad-based National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), says calorie labelling on menu cards may not work in India given poor calorie literacy. “Even if the labelling is done, how many of us will bother to read it or keep daily counts?” she points out. “Individual response to calorie labelling is based on many factors including desire and longing for new processed foods introduced into the market every day. It will be really difficult to standardise responses across class and caste at this stage. We need to debate these issues. We also need more research on an ideal diet for Indians, vegetarians and non-vegetarians.”
  • Draft regulations
  • But calorie-counts in restaurants are on the government’s mind. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), a Union Health Ministry body, has issued draft packaging and labelling regulations making it mandatory for restaurant chains to declare on the menu cards, the calorie counts of all the dishes served at their outlets. It also intends to bring online food-delivery platforms and food aggregators under the ambit of these regulations.
  • FSSAI Chief Executive Director Pawan Kumar Agarwal says the organisation has been discussing these regulations with the restaurant-industry for over a year: “We had earlier urged restaurant companies to start printing calorie counts on their menu cards voluntarily… We are committed to enforce the rules.”
  • However, the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India (FHRAI) says this is not achievable in any serviced restaurant. FHRAI Vice President Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, argues that the calorie count for the same dish could vary dramatically due to various factors such as recipes and ingredients: “While the preparation of every food item changes with every chef, restaurants usually customise recipes to suit the choice of their customers,” says Kohli, who also heads the Hotels and Restaurants Association Western India. While one customer may want his food to be prepared in olive oil, the other would want an extra topping of cheese. While the thought process is good, printing calorie counts on the menu card is not achievable and the authority should modify the draft rules.

GS II: SOCIAL – WOMEN & CHILDREN

Women all set to scale this ‘prohibited’ peak too in Kerala

  • Women are waging a different rights struggle in southern Kerala. Their goal: to trek to the summit of Agasthyarkoodam, the second highest peak in the State at 1,868 m, in the Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary in district.
  • The peak is, however, now within reach. The State Forest Department has yielded to a High Court order and lifted the long-standing ban on women undertaking the visit.
  • On Saturday, scores of women registered online with the Department for permission to trek to the mountain, as soon as bookings opened for the January-March hiking season.
  • It has been a long battle to get the “inexplicable” ban on women going to Agasthyarkoodam lifted, says Divya Divakaran, a government school teacher and advisory committee member of Women Integration N Growth Through Sports (WINGS), an NGO.
  • In 2015, the advocacy group found that a Forest Department notification excluded women and children below the age of 14 from the two-day hike. The trek included an overnight stay in a spartan base camp near a fast-flowing stream at Athirumala. The key issue is that the Adivasi Mahasabha does not want women to enter the forest path.
  • Joining the struggle
  • Two other organisations, Pennoruma, headed by M. Sulfath, and Anweshi, led by former Naxalite leader K. Ajitha, joined WINGS in the court battle to challenge the exclusion.
  • The organisations protested in front of the Secretariat and the Forest Department headquarters. They also petitioned the government. Their fight bore fruit in 2018, opening up the summit.
  • State Forest Minister K. Raju told The Hindu that women were welcome to trek to the Agasthyar hill, but the government would not be able to provide special facilities. “We cannot allow any new construction in the fragile bio-reserve. Moreover, the facilities at the base camp are minimal and gender neutral. The Department issues only a limited number of passes on a first come, first serve basis. No passes are kept exclusively for women,” he said.
  • The Adivasi Mahasabha lost the fight in the High Court, but continues to oppose women entering the Agasthyar forests. Some of its members consider the climb a pilgrimage. Some shrines have also cropped up on the trek path. Chief Wildlife Warden Surendra Kumar said the government had disallowed religious expression inside the biosphere reserve.
  • The High Court has forbidden any pilgrimage on the trek and disapproved of attempts to set up idols, light lamps or conduct rituals, he said. The Department has built a few toilets at the base camp for women. Forest officials have increased security along the path.

GS I: CULTURE

Making a temple out of a mountain

  • Among the theories on the origin of the monolithic Kailasa Temple in the Ellora caves is one that says aliens chiselled through the hill from the top to create the mammoth temple from a single block of stone sometime in the eighth century during the reign of Krishna I of the Rashtrakutas.
  • Some 13 centuries later, on a dusty road leading to Warangal, a hill of granite is being sculpted into a temple, standing atop the small hillock of Yadagirigutta.
  • The new temple is the brainchild of a modern-day ruler, albeit one who has been elected — Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao. Mr. Rao consulted the well-known Vaishnavite figure Chinna Jeeyar Swamy for the temple, dedicated to Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy, while film set designer Anand Sai designed it. The State government has allocated Rs. 250 crore for the temple in the current budget. It had allocated Rs. 100 crore over the last two budgets taking the total allocation to Rs. 450 crore.
  • “By March, the temple will be ready to welcome pilgrims,” says G. Kishen Rao of the Yadagirigutta Temple Development Authority.
  • Yadagirigutta, a 1.5 acre plateau, was home to a small cave temple dedicated to Narasimha and a rock with a carving of Hanuman. “It was a small temple which people from Hyderabad visited on Saturdays and other festive occasions and returned home by evening. There was hardly any queue of pilgrims and very few amenities. Now, we are waiting for the main temple to open,” says Vijayalakshmi, a devotee from the village, offering prayers at the adjacent makeshift replica of the new temple.
  • The new temple now sprawls over four acres on a platform constructed of reinforced concrete piles rising from the base of the hill. A road is being laid to accommodate the expected traffic.
  • Inside the cavernous mandapam (temple coutryard) leading to the new cave temple, a cloud of stone dust hangs in the air as the shrill noise of drills and saws echoes, drowning out any conversation.
  • But S. Sounder Rajan, the sthapati or sculptor, who has executed the colossal structure is like a man possessed, and doesn’t let a few drills stifle his passion.
  • “This is one of the biggest temples in the country carved in granite, with the rajagopuram (pyramidal tower at the entrance) being a seven-storey structure. I have had to race against time though the engineers believe that this can be done in a jiffy. This is granite, not RCC! It takes time to cut, chisel and shape. I made 1,500 plans over one year and eight contractors were employed to execute the work,” says Mr. Rajan. His team of deputy and assistant sthapatis share his enthusiasm and add to the story of how the colossal temple is taking shape.
  • Cave temple untouched
  • Work on the new temple began in October 2016 and a replica of the cave temple was made for pilgrims to offer prayers. “The original cave temple of Narasimha Swamy and the rock with a carving of Hanuman have not been touched. Everything else is new,” says Sanjeeva Kumar, a deputy sthapati who has trained in temple architecture in Tirupati. “The Kakatiya temples are known for their exquisite work where a paper can pass behind a dancing figurine. We have tried to do the same with many sculptures having designs where even a palm can pass through it,” says Mr. Kumar.
  • In the race to finish the temple, there have been a few accidents. Five craftsmen lost their sight when the blade of the cutter splintered, sending pieces of metal all around. Other workers have suffered injuries to their arms, according to officials at the site.
  • “There are risks. But we have to work. I like to work on something that people say will last for a long time,” says Murugesh, a craftsman from Tiruchirapalli, speaking in halting Telugu. For Shaikh Rabbani, all work is worship. “We are working on the rajagopuram. Working at a height of 50 feet is tough but I come from a family of craftsmen. My father and grandfather too worked on carving temples, so this is nothing new for us,” says Mr. Rabbani, who hails from Guntur, and speaks chaste Telugu.
  • According to Mr. Rajan, 2.5 lakh tonnes of granite from a hill in Gurjepally in Prakasam district have been transported to Yadagirigutta to build the temple. In other words, a 9.4 sq km mountain has been moved to create the temple. In the process, a 30-tonne monolithic block has been transformed into a 15-tonne image of Alwar (a Vaishnavite saint). There are 12 statues in various positions inside the mandapam, which is 202- feet-long and 103-feet-wide with 36-foot-high walls.
  • “The temple had a gold sudarshan chakram as the finial. By March, it will again be back in position over the vimana (tower over the sanctum sanctorum). The main gopuram will have a 2 mm gold plating weighing 700 kg, estimated to cost about Rs. 70 crore,” says Mr. Kumar.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – USA

A question of American citizenship

  • A proposed question in the 2020 Census, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”, has found itself the subject of much controversy and several court cases. One such case has been brought by the State of California and several cities. The plaintiffs argue that the inclusion of the question — which was last asked in the 1950 Census — violates the U.S. Constitution’s Enumeration Clause.
  • The clause, which says, “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed,” determines how many Congressional seats each State gets. Anything that impacts counting could potentially impact representation in Washington where the seats in the 435 member House of Representatives (and hence those in the Electoral College) are apportioned according to State population.
  • States are concerned that asking a citizenship question will serve as a deterrent to those in the U.S. illegally, or to those who may be apprehensive of having their information shared with law enforcement, perhaps because they have defaulted on loans, or owe child support, etc. While there are laws to protect identifying information from being passed on to law enforcement and the FBI, these are not widely known, or if known, do not adequately assuage concerns of respondents.
  • Undercounting could also result in States losing their share of $800 billion in federal funding that is linked to population. Funding for schools, housing assistance, Medicaid, epidemic preparedness and national disasters could be impacted.
  • Not surprisingly, many State and local authorities were alarmed when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced last March that the Census would carry a citizenship question. The decision, according to the administration, was to better enforce the Voting Rights Act — a law to ensure the equal protection of voting rights across race. Those challenging it are sceptical of the motives and believe that the question is being added to intimidate and deter immigrants, especially Hispanics, from participating in the Census and that Mr. Ross had made “shifting and inaccurate” statements about the need to include the question.
  • The biggest losers
  • Some 24.3 million people are likely to avoid participating in the Census, according to Robert Shapiro of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Mr. Shapiro, a former bureaucrat, had overseen the Census in 2000. Comparing State-wise poverty rates to the national average, he argues that while the biggest losers in terms of Congressional seats will be blue States, ironically, it is mostly red States that will suffer funding losses. Additionally, the lack of funds will hit the poor disproportionately in these States.
  • In November, a New York court heard a case brought by 18 States and several cities, challenging the question’s inclusion. While the Donald Trump administration could not get the Supreme Court to halt the case, it did succeed in preventing Mr. Ross being deposed over his reasoning for having the question included. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in February about whether Mr. Ross can be deposed over his motives. A few days ago, a top Democrat said Mr. Ross will be called before a House committee to testify about allegations that he misled Congress on the Census question.
  • Given that the subsequent census is only in 2030, the outcome of these battles will have far-reaching consequences.

GS III: ECONOMY – INDICATORS

Yen’s surge, a red flag for world markets, global economy

  • A gradual rise by the Japanese yen in recent weeks culminated in a dramatic overnight surge — firing a warning shot for world markets and global economy in 2019.
  • Historically, outsized yen gains in short periods, such as the Russian default in 1998 and the global market meltdown in 2008, are a harbinger of stress for global markets.
  • Market watchers say the yen’s latest ascent is a sign that the global economy is set for a rocky ride ahead.
  • Signs are growing that the global economy is headed for a slowdown.
  • In an environment like that, the yen tends to thrive. Japan’s large current account surplus means global markets consider it a safe haven.
  • Japanese investors tend to invest a large portion of their savings overseas, then bring the money home during extreme market stress, driving the yen higher.
  • Global surveys show activity in European and Chinese factories are slowing.
  • And falling demand forced Apple to issue a rare cut in its sales forecast, sending tremors through global markets.
  • But even as evidence mounts that the global economy is struggling, central banks, led by the United States, are signalling more interest rate increases are coming.
  • That is raising fears they may be tightening policy too much into an economic slowdown.

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