Daily Current Affairs 27.01.2023(‘India’s first mission to study the sun to begin by June-July’, ‘Padma award is an honour for the Etikoppaka toy craft’, India and Egypt reiterate support for Non-Aligned Movement, ‘China has exploited tribal alienation along India-Myanmar border’, ‘States fall short of target to improve forest cover, quality’, A betrayal of the very idea of the Mahatma)

Daily Current Affairs 27.01.2023(‘India’s first mission to study the sun to begin by June-July’, ‘Padma award is an honour for the Etikoppaka toy craft’, India and Egypt reiterate support for Non-Aligned Movement, ‘China has exploited tribal alienation along India-Myanmar border’, ‘States fall short of target to improve forest cover, quality’, A betrayal of the very idea of the Mahatma)


1. ‘India’s first mission to study the sun to begin by June-July’

VELC, the primary payload on board Aditya-L1, was handed over to ISRO by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics on Thursday.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to launch the Aditya-L1 mission by June or July this year. Aditya-L1 is the first Indian space mission to observe the Sun and the solar corona.

ISRO chairman S. Somanath, speaking at the handover ceremony of the Visible Line Emission Coronagraph (VELC) payload on Thursday, said that the Aditya-L1 mission will be launched by June or July as the launch window for the mission would close by August.

The Aditya-L1 mission will be launched by ISRO to the L1 orbit (which is the first Lagrangian point of the Sun-Earth system). L1 orbit allows Aditya-L1 to look at the Sun continuously.

Aditya-L1 has seven payloads in total, of which the primary payload is the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC), designed and fabricated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru.

The other six payloads are being developed by the ISRO and other scientific institutions.

15 years of work

“Understanding the effect of the Sun on the Earth and its surroundings has become very important now and Aditya-L1 aims to shed light on this topic. It has taken 15 years for VELC from concept to completion, and this period was needed for a complex system like this. The VELC has been the finest collaboration between the Indian Institute of Astrophysics and the ISRO,” said Mr. Somanath.

Following the handover of the VELC payload, the ISRO will now conduct further testing of VELC and its eventual integration with the Aditya-L1 spacecraft.

“This is the main instrument (VELC payload) on board the Aditya-L1 satellite. There are also other instruments which are developed by the ISRO and other institutions. Currently, we are getting ready with the satellite. The payload will be taken to the U.R. Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru, where we will integrate it with the Aditya-L1 satellite which will undergo a lot of testing, evaluation, and finally, it will be launched using the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle),” Mr. Somanath added.

Raghavendra Prasad, Principal Investigator, VELC payload, said that the payload will be able to observe the corona continuously and the data provided by it is expected to answer many outstanding problems in the field of solar astronomy.

Unique ability

“No other solar coronagraph in space has the ability to image the solar corona as close to the solar disk as Visible Line Emission Coronagraph can. It can image it as close as 1.05 times the solar radius. It can also do imaging, spectroscopy, and polarimetry at the same time, and can take observations at a very high resolution, or level of detail, and many times a second,” Prof. Prasad said.

2. ‘Padma award is an honour for the Etikoppaka toy craft’

Child-friendly: A file photo of toymaker C.V. Raju making natural colours for the toys in Etikoppaka village.

The Union government choosing to confer Padma Shri on him in the art category is an honour to the Etikoppaka wooden toy craft, and it will go a long way in promoting the art, says C.V. Raju.

Mr. Raju is among the seven persons from Andhra Pradesh who have been selected for the Padma awards announced by the Union Home Ministry.

An agriculturist-turned-craftsman, Mr. Raju has his origins in Etikoppaka, a traditional craftsman village in Visakhapatnam district in coastal Andhra Pradesh. He is involved in promoting the toy craft and usage of natural dyes for the past few decades.

Speaking to The Hindu over phone, Mr. Raju said, “It is a great honour earned by the craft. Quality and precision are valued, whether it is me or someone contributing to it. I’m planning to establish an interpretation centre, rather than counter sale, to promote the craft.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme, had hailed the good work of Mr. Raju in promoting the traditional toy industry that makes toys with soft wood and natural colours.

These toys are suitable for children as they do not have harmful edges.

3. India and Egypt reiterate support for Non-Aligned Movement

India and Egypt on Thursday reiterated support for the Non-Aligned Movement. A joint statement issued after the bilateral engagements for President Abdel Fateh el-Sisi, who was the chief guest at the Republic Day parade here, said both countries expressed desire for exchange of technology between their defence industries.

“The two countries reaffirmed their commitment to multilateralism, the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law, the founding values of the Non-Aligned Movement, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states,” the statement said.

Mr. Sisi arrived here on January 24 and held restricted and delegation-level talks at Hyderabad House on Wednesday, where he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed bilateral diplomatic relations between India and Egypt. The two countries are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties.

India and Egypt agreed to “initiate new engagements to intensify military-to-military engagements” and planned more joint exercises between the armed forces of the two countries.

The ties have been on an upswing in the recent past and both delegations supported reform of the UN Security Council, where Egypt was a non-permanent member during 2016-17 and India had a similar stint during 2021-22.

Egypt’s relation with India was also helped by its display of pragmatism especially on the backdrop of the Nupur Sharma controversy of 2022 when Cairo maintained silence while certain Gulf countries were vocal in criticising India.

The two governments agreed to fight terrorism in all forms, “including cross-border terrorism” and intensify consultation between their respective National Security Councils.

“Prime Minister Modi and President el-Sisi expressed concern over the spread of terrorism across the world and agreed that it poses one of the most serious security threats to humanity. Both leaders condemned the use of terrorism as a foreign policy tool,” read the statement.

They expressed a desire for exchange of technology between their defence industries

4. ‘China has exploited tribal alienation along India-Myanmar border’

China has “exploited” the sense of alienation and insecurity among tribal communities along the India-Myanmar border — who have been protesting against the fencing being undertaken along the border — in order to “cause insurgency and instability” in northeast India, according to a research paper.

The paper was written by a police officer and submitted at a conference last week. It added that insurgents sourced their arms from China and brought them into India through Myanmar.

Second paper

Another paper, also presented at the annual All India Conference of Directors-General and Inspectors-General of Police, cited intelligence inputs to claim that there was a “historical link” between China and the northeastern insurgents.

India shares a 1,643-km long border with Myanmar that passes through four States: Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. Given the historical and cultural linkages between people on both sides, the border is relatively porous, and there is a free movement regime in place under which locals can move up to 16 km on either side of the border.

The first paper stated that efforts taken by both India and Myanmar to fence the border have been protested by tribal communities on both sides, who fear that the demarcation would lead to them losing their land and forest access to the other side.

Historical link

The second paper cited above said, “It is suggested based on intelligence inputs, that there exists a historical link between the northeast insurgents and China. The arms acquired from China are smuggled through Thailand, Bangladesh and Sino-Myanmar borders into the northeastern States.”

Therefore, in addition to the fencing strategy, the first paper suggested that India — with more than 15,000 km of borders coupled with a hostile neighbourhood — has to follow a multi-modal approach to mitigate the challenges of unfenced borders.

Arguing that politics in the northeastern States were so unpredictable, a third paper said, “If we have to take on China more successfully, then we have to engage the people in northeast and sort out the issues.”

5. ‘States fall short of target to improve forest cover, quality’

Centre approved plan for increasing tree cover by 53,377 ha, but only 26,287 ha has been achieved; forest quality improved in only 1,02,096 ha against the target of 1,66,656 ha, says RTI response

India is lagging behind in the targets to increase the number and quality of tree- and forest-cover plantations set in the Green India Mission, according to data accessed through the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The National Mission for a Green India (GIM) is one of the eight missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change. It aims at protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s forest cover and responding to climate change.

The target under the Mission is 10 million hectares (mha) of forest and non-forest lands for increasing the forest and tree cover and improving the quality of existing forests. Improving tree cover is critical to sequester carbon and bolster India’s carbon stocks as part of its international commitments to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Targets not met

From 2015-16 to 2021-22, the Centre, based on submissions from 17 States, had approved a target of increasing tree and forest cover by 53,377 hectares and improving the quality of degraded forest by 1,66,656 ha.

In response to queries by a Kerala-based RTI campaigner, Govindan Nampoothiry, the Environment Ministry this month responded with figures from 17 States noting tree/forest cover had increased by 26,287 hectares and forest quality improved in only 1,02,096 hectares as of December 31, 2022.

For executing these projects, the Union government had allocated ₹681 crore but only ₹525 crore had been utilised, the Ministry revealed.

The States with a significant shortfall in tree cover include Andhra Pradesh, with a target of 186 ha but having only achieved 75 ha; Uttarakhand with a target of 6,446 ha but only 1,505 ha achieved; Madhya Pradesh targeting 5,858 ha but delivering 1,882 ha; and Kerala committing 1,686 ha but furnishing 616 ha.

Punjab, however, committed to 629 ha but delivered 1,082 ha.

Forest cover increase

As per the India State of Forest Report-2021, forest and tree cover in the country increased by 2,261 square kilometres since the last assessment in 2019. India’s total forest and tree cover was 80.9 million hectares, which accounted for 24.62% of the geographical area of the country.

The report said 17 States and Union Territories had more than 33% of their area under forest cover. Madhya Pradesh had the largest forest cover, followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra. The top five States in terms of forest cover as a percentage of their total geographical area were Mizoram (84.53%), Arunachal Pradesh (79.33%), Meghalaya (76%), Manipur (74.34%) and Nagaland (73.9%).

However, critics said the increase in green cover was almost entirely via commercial plantations, that, in an ecological sense, could not compensate for natural forests and their biodiversity and, being monocultures, were susceptible to pest attacks.

6. Editorial-1: A betrayal of the very idea of the Mahatma

The principles Gandhiji stood for represent an ideal that is being weakened every day by those in power who are pushing their agenda of bigotry.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination (January 30, 1948) by a Hindu fanatic who thought the Mahatma was too soft on Muslims. The momentous anniversary comes at a time when his legacy, the very idea of Gandhi, stands challenged by the prevailing ideological currents. At a time when the standing of his historic detractors, whose descendants now form the ruling dispensation in the country, is at an all-time high, Gandhiji has been criticised for weakness, for having bent over too far to accommodate Muslim interests, and for his pacifism, which is seen by the jingoistic Hindutva movement as unmanly.

The Mahatma was killed, with the name of Rama on his lips, for being too pro-Muslim; indeed, he had just come out of a fast he had conducted to coerce his own followers, the Ministers of the new Indian government, to transfer a larger share than they had intended of the assets of undivided India to the new state of Pakistan. Gandhiji had also announced his intention to spurn the country he had failed to keep united and to spend the rest of his years in Pakistan, a prospect that had made the government of Pakistan collectively choke.

But that was the enigma of Gandhiji in a nutshell: idealistic, quirky, quixotic, and determined, a man who answered to the beat of no other drummer, but got everyone else to march to his tune. Someone once called him a cross between a saint and a Tammany Hall politician; like the best crossbreeds, he managed to distil all the qualities of both and yet transcend their contradictions.

Explaining a contradiction now

The contradiction is mirrored in the attitude of the Hindutva-inspired Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr. Modi was schooled, like other Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) pracharaks, in an intense dislike of Mahatma Gandhi, whose message of tolerance and pluralism was emphatically rejected as minority appeasement by the Sangh Parivar, and whose credo of non-violence, or ahimsa, was seen as an admission of weakness unworthy of manly Hindus. Hindutva ideologue V.D. Savarkar, whom Mr. Modi has described as one of his heroes, had expressed contempt for Gandhiji’s ‘perverse doctrine of non-violence and truth’ and claimed it ‘was bound to destroy the power of the country’. But Prime Minister Modi, for all his Hindutva mindset, his admiration of Savarkar and his lifetime affiliation to the Sangh Parivar, has embraced Gandhiji, hailing the Mahatma and even using his glasses as a symbol of the Swachh Bharat campaign, linking it to a call to revive Gandhiji’s idea of seva through the recent ‘Swachhata Hi Seva’ campaign.

This may, or may not, represent a sincere conversion to Gandhism. The Prime Minister is hardly unaware of the tremendous worldwide reputation that Mahatma Gandhi enjoys, and is too savvy a marketing genius not to recognise the soft-power opportunity evoking Gandhiji provides, not to mention the global public relations disaster that would ensue if he were to denounce an Indian so universally admired. There may, therefore, be an element of insincerity to his newfound love for the Mahatma, as well as a shrewd domestic political calculation.

But the ambivalence speaks volumes: when many members of Mr. Modi’s BJP call for replacing Gandhiji’s statues across the country with those of his assassin, Nathuram Godse, the Prime Minister seeks to lay claim to the mantle of his fellow Gujarati for his own political benefit. At the same time, there is also a tangible dissonance between the official governmental embrace of Gandhiji and the unofficial ideological distaste for this icon, that is privately promoted by members and supporters of the present ruling dispensation, some of whose members have not hidden their view that his assassination was, in their eyes, a patriotic act.

The vision of the Mahatma

It is a well understood reality that the vision of Gandhiji, an openly practising Hindu, differed greatly from that of Veer Savarkar and M.S. Golwalkar, the principal ideologues of the Hindu Mahasabha and its more militarised alter ego in the post-Independence era, the R SS and eventually, the BJP (formerly the Jana Sangh).

Gandhiji embodied the central approach of Advaita Vedanta, which preached an inclusive universal religion. Gandhiji saw Hinduism as a faith that respected and embraced all other faiths. He was profoundly influenced by the principles of ahimsa and satya and gave both a profound meaning when he applied them to the nationalist cause. He was a synthesiser of cultural belief systems: his signature bhajan of ‘Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram’ had another line, ‘Ishwara Allah Tero naam’. This practice emerged from his Vedantic belief in the oneness of all human beings, who share the same atman and, therefore, should be treated equally.

Such behaviour did not endear him to every Hindu. In his treatise on ‘Gandhi’s Hinduism and Savarkar’s Hindutva’, the social scientist Rudolf C. Heredia places his two protagonists within an ongoing debate between heterogeneity versus homogeneity in the Hindu faith, pointing out that while Gandhi’s response is inclusive and ethical, Savarkar politicises Hinduism as a majoritarian creed. But Gandhiji’s own understanding of religion, in Heredia’s words, “transcended religiosity, Hindu as well as that of any other tradition. It is essentially a spiritual quest for moksha but one rooted in the reality of service to the last and least in the world”. Unlike Savarkar, who believed in conformity, Gandhiji was a synthesiser like no other who took care to include Indians of other faiths in his capacious and agglomerative understanding of religion. He took inspiration from not just Advaita Vedanta but also the Jain concept of ‘Anekantavada’ — the notion that truth and reality are perceived differently by different people from their own different points of view, and that, therefore, no single perception can constitute the complete truth. This led him to once declare that ‘I am a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, a Parsi, a Jew’.

Hinduism and Hindutva, as I have argued in my book Why I Am a Hindu, represent two very distinct and contrasting ideas, with vitally different implications for nationalism and the role of the Hindu faith. The principles Gandhiji stood for and the way in which he asserted them are easier to admire than to follow. But they represented an ideal that is betrayed every day by those who distort Hinduism to promote a narrow, exclusionary bigotry.

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