UPSC Essentials: Weekly news express with MCQs— Mohenjo Daro to International trade in Rupee – The Indian Express

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The Indian Express’ UPSC weekly news express covers some of the most important topics of current affairs news from this week to help you prepare for UPSC-CSE. Try out the MCQs and check your answers provided towards the end of the article. Also, Post Read Q&A will help you to self-evaluate your retention memory after reading the article.
Mohenjo Daro and Pakistan’s floods
Preliminary Examination: History of India
Mains Examination: General Studies I: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
Why in news?
—In the 1960s, hydrologist Robert L Raikes and archaeologist George F Dales put forward the theory that a series of catastrophic floods in the Indus around c. 1800 BC had wiped out the great urban centres of the Harappan civilization.
—Last week, Pakistan’s Department of Archaeology warned that heavy rainfall in the Sindh province threatened the World Heritage status of Mohenjo Daro, one of the largest of Indus Valley Civilization sites.
Key takeaways
—The prehistoric antiquity of Mohenjo Daro, which flourished on the right (west) bank of the Indus river in the 3rd millennium BC was established by Rakhal Das Banerji of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1922. The ruins of the sprawling city of unbaked (burnt) brick 510 km north-east of Karachi and 28 km from Larkana in Sindh were recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980.
—The Dawn report said that between August 16 and 26, the archaeological ruins of Mohenjo Daro had received a record 779.5 mm of rain, which had resulted in “considerable damage to the site and partial falling of several walls, including the protection wall of the stupa dome”.
—Along with Harappa, Mohenjo Daro is the best known site of the bronze age urban civilization that flourished in the valley of the Indus between roughly 3,300 BC and 1,300 BC, with its ‘mature’ phase spanning the period 2,600 BC to 1,900 BC.
—The civilization went into decline in the middle of the second millennium BC for reasons that are believed to include catastrophic climate change.
—Sites of the Indus Valley Civilisation have been found in a large area extending from Sutkagen Dor in Balochistan near the Pakistan-Iran border to Rakhigarhi in Haryana’s Hisar district, and from Manda in Jammu to Daimabad in Maharashtra.
—Other important sites of the Harappan civilization in India are at Lothal and Dholavira in Gujarat, and Kalibangan in Rajasthan.
—The ruins of Mohenjo Daro remained undocumented until Banerji visited the site in 1920, and began digging the following year. Excavation continued in phases until 1964-65; even now only a small part of the site has been excavated.
—The site is famous for its elaborate town planning with street grids with brick pavements, developed water supply, drainage, and covered sewerage systems, homes with toilets, and monumental buildings such as the Great Granary and the Great Bath.
—At its peak, Mohenjo Daro, literally ‘Mound of the Dead’, has been estimated to have between 30,000 and 60,000 residents with a highly evolved social organisation.
—There are around 1,100 UNESCO listed sites across its 167 member countries. Last year, the World Heritage Committee decided to delete ‘Liverpool — Maritime Mercantile City’ in the United Kingdom from the World Heritage List due to “the irreversible loss of attributes conveying the outstanding universal value of the property”.
—In 2007, the UNESCO panel had delisted the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman after concerns over poaching and habitat degradation, and the Elbe Valley in Dresden, Germany, in 2009 after the construction of the Waldschlosschen road bridge across the Elbe river.
Point to ponder: Why do we need a national policy on archaeological exploration, excavation and conservation?
1. MCQ:
Which one of the following ancient towns is well known for its elaborate system of water harvesting and management by building a series of dams and channelising water into connected reservoirs? (Paper 1-2021)
(a) Dholavira
(b) Kalibangan
(c) Rakhigarhi
(d) Ropar
Bengaluru floods
Preliminary Examination: General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change
Mains Examination: General Studies I: Urbanisation, their problems and their remedies.
Why in news?
—The overflowing of Bellandur, Varthur, Saul Kere and Kaikondrahalli lakes in Bengaluru has put the spotlight back on the loss of interconnectivity of water bodies, which is being blamed for the recent urban flooding. While the government took up the desilting work of Bellandur and Varthur lakes in June 2020, that work is yet to be completed.
Key takeaways
—Dr T V Ramachandra, from the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), says that loss of interconnectivity among lakes in the region is the major reason behind the flooding.
—In 1800, Bangalore (740 sq km region) had 1,452 water bodies with the water storage capacity of 35 TMC (thousand million cubic feet), which helped in optimally harvesting rainwater and also mitigated flooding.
—Bengaluru has the distinction of having inter connected lake systems. Valley zones connecting the lakes are to be protected to ensure the continuation of hydrological functions of the drains and flood plains. However, valley zones in the city continue to be abused despite norms to protect these fragile ecosystems.
—“Bellandur-Varthur wetland ecosystem has been experiencing threat due to the large scale catchment alterations with changes in the land use, land cover. This wetland is now being converted for mixed land use to build both residential and office complexes. Alterations in the wetland began in 2004 and aggravated post 2008. The alterations of these wetlands were initiated by filling the low lying areas with excavated earth debris, followed by other construction activities. The land fillings have breached both drains and lakes,” Ramachandra said.
—The upstream lakes to Bellandur and Varthur, which include Kaikondrahalli and Saul Kere, are also overflowing due to the rampant encroachments of storm water drains.
—Also, a 2021 audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said that the stormwater drain department does not maintain records like work registers or the progress reports of works. It also said that BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) failed to factor in high intensity rainfall amid rapid urbanisation and did not adhere to the provisions of Indian Road Congress and the guidelines of National Disaster Management Authority while designing and constructing roads/drains. “Ground water recharge structures were not taken up due to flow of sewage in SWDs. Water bodies and drains were not inter-connected and linkage between different drains was absent. This affected free flow of stormwater leading to frequent flooding in various parts of the city,” the report said.
—Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) in June 2020 had commenced the desilting at Bellandur and Varthur lakes. Officials say that due to the pandemic the work was stopped and was resumed again in January 2021. In April 2021, the work was again discontinued.
—Varthur Lake warden Jagadish Reddy said, “The desilting, whatever has happened till now, indeed improved the water retention capacity of Varthur lake. The desilting at Bellandur lake was stopped in March and at Varthur it was stopped in April. The problem is that there are more than 90 lakes in this series of the lakes of which Varthur and Bellandur are part of. Most of these lakes and drains in this series are either encroached or not desilted leading to flooding.”
Point to ponder: The plight of India’s flooded tech capital is striking but not unique. Discuss.
2. MCQ:
Which of the following is the only structural flood control measure?
(a) Dikes
(b) Terraces
(d)Flood plain zoning
In Cyrus Mistry car crash tragedy, a reminder of high numbers of road deaths in the country
Preliminary Examination: Current events of national and international importance.
Mains Examination: General Studies II: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Why in news?
—Former Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry was killed in a road accident on Sunday on the National Highway in Maharashtra’s Palghar district. The tragedy has once again spotlighted the high numbers of fatalities that Indian roads witness every year.
Key takeaways
Some of the major points as per the National Crime Records Bureau’s Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India (ADSI) are:
—1.55 lakh individuals died in accidents on India’s roads in 2021, up from the 1.33 lakh deaths in the pandemic lockdown year of 2020.
—Two-wheelers accounted for most deaths (44.5 percent). Buses accounted for 3 percent of deaths in accidents.
—Speeding caused 87,000 deaths, accounting for over half of all deaths.
—Dangerous and careless driving was attributed as cause for 42,000 deaths.
—The maximum increase in number of traffic accident cases from 2020 to 2021 was reported in Tamil Nadu, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Kerala .
The Lancet Series on road safety suggests important points which should be considered as points of the solution.
It calls for increased political and financial commitments, and for road safety to be included in mainstream development policies. This study also argues that this is essential to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the target to halve road traffic crash fatalities and injuries by 2030.
Some of the major points in The Lancet study are:
—New global and country-level estimates suggest that routinely wearing helmets and seat belts, obeying speed limits, and avoiding drunk driving could save between 347,000 and 540,000 lives worldwide every year.
—The benefits of more motorcyclists wearing helmets can save 5,683 lives in India.
—Interventions to reduce speeding such as infrastructure changes and electronic speed control could save an estimated 347,258 lives globally each year
—Measures to tackle drunk driving such as enhanced drunk driving enforcement could save a further 16,304 lives.
—Improving seat belt use would have a particularly large effect on reducing road deaths.
The importance of seat belts
—A video issued in the public interest by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways says wearing a seat belt reduces the impact of an accident by 80 percent.
—A study by Save LIFE Foundation and NISSAN released in January 2019 recorded that only seven percent of people in India always wear seat belts while sitting in the back seat, another 26 percent wear it sometimes, and the rest never wear it.
—Seat belts are compulsory in both the front and back seats. Section 194 (B)(1) of The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 says, “Whoever drives a motor vehicle without wearing a safety belt or carries passengers not wearing seat belts shall be punishable with a fine of one thousand rupees”.
—Attitudes to seat belts
Compliance of seat belts in the rear seat is poor in India. For most people, wearing seat belts is mandatory only for the front seat. It is not uncommon to find people preferring to sit in the back just to avoid the “inconvenience” of wearing a seat belt.
There is no clear-cut reason for non-compliance. Three broad arguments are usually presented.
We don’t care about our safety
We don’t want to spend more on safer cars
We suffer from poor enforcement of laws
But, blaming irrationality for road fatalities is a dead end from a policy perspective.
Point to ponder: What India can learn from the rest of the world to ensure road safety?
3. MCQ:
Which of the following statements is incorrect with respect to road safety?
a) In the ‘Third High Level Global Conference on Road Safety for Achieving Global Goals 2030’ it was conceptualised to have zero road fatalities in India by 2030.
b) Committee under the Chairmanship of Shri S. Sundar finalised a draft on National Road Safety Policy.
c) Brasilia declaration was signed at the Second Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety.
d) According to National Crime Records Bureau’s Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India (ADSI), the maximum increase in the number of traffic accident cases from 2020 to 2021 was reported in Maharashtra.
India-Bangla trade
Preliminary Examination: Current events of national and international importance.
Mains Examination: General Studies II: International Relations
Why in news?
—Following a meeting with the visiting Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said India and Bangladesh will soon commence negotiations on a Bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
Key takeaways
—In 2021-22, Bangladesh has emerged as the largest trade partner for India in South Asia and the fourth largest destination for Indian exports worldwide. Exports to Bangladesh grew more than 66 per cent from $9.69 billion in FY 2020-21 to $16.15 billion in FY 2021-22.
—India is Bangladesh’s second biggest trade partner, and its largest export market in Asia. Despite Covid-19 related disruptions, bilateral trade grew at an unprecedented rate of almost 44 percent from $10.78 billion in 2020-21 to $18.13 billion in 2021-22.
—India’s main exports to Bangladesh are raw cotton, non-retail pure cotton yarn, and electricity, and its main imports from the country are pure vegetable oils, non-knit men’s suits, and textile scraps.
—The CEPA is likely to focus on trade in goods, services, and investment, with a key objective being the reduction of the trade gap between the two countries. As Bangladesh prepares to graduate into a developing nation by 2026 — after which it may no longer qualify for trade benefits that it currently enjoys as a least-developed country — it is keen to clinch the CEPA in a year.
—The CEPA had figured prominently during the last commerce secretary-level meeting in New Delhi in March this year.
—The current institutional frameworks for trade and investment include:
* During the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Bangladesh in June 2015, the bilateral trade agreement between the two countries was renewed for a period of five years with a provision for auto renewal.
* Under the provisions of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), Bangladesh extends preferential tariffs to Indian exports of products outside the ‘sensitive list’ of 993 items. In 2011, India announced duty-free, quota-free access to Bangladesh for all tariff lines except tobacco and alcohol.
* An Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investments has been in force since 2011. Joint Interpretative Notes to the agreement were signed during the visit of the Indian Finance Minister to Bangladesh in October 2017.
* To facilitate trade and transit through inland waterways, a Protocol on Inland Waterways Trade and Transit (PIWTT) has been in place since 1972. The PIWTT too was renewed for a period of five years with a provision for auto renewal during Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in 2015. The protocol allows the movement of goods by barges/ vessels on eight routes between points in India and Bangladesh, as well as between points in India through Bangladesh.
* Direct sea movement of containerized/ bulk/ dry cargo began after the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Coastal Shipping in June 2015. This has reduced the shipping time between India and Bangladesh from 30-40 days to 7-10 days, and has the potential to emerge as an economical mode of transportation for business communities on both sides.
* MoUs were signed in 2015 on the use of the Chittagong and Mongla Ports for the movement of goods to and from India.
* The MoU on Border Haats on the India-Bangladesh border was renewed in April 2017 during the visit of Prime Minister Hasina to India. Currently, four Border Haats — two each in Meghalaya (Kalaichar and Balat) and Tripura (Srinagar and Kamalasagar) — are functional. Work on setting up two more haats on the Tripura-Bangladesh border and four on the Meghalaya-Bangladesh border is under way. The two sides have also decided to identify locations for another six Border Haats.
Point to ponder: In times of regional turmoil, India-Bangladesh ties needs careful nurturing. Discuss.
4. MCQ:
Which of the following statement is not true?
a) Five Indian states share borders with Bangladesh.
b) India had signed MoU with Bangladesh on the use of the Chittagong and Mongla Ports for movements of Goods to and from India.
c) India is Bangladesh’s biggest trade partner, and its largest export market in Asia.
d) In 2021-22, Bangladesh has emerged as the largest trade partner for India in South Asia .
Govt’s push for international trade in rupee
Preliminary Examination: Current events of national and international importance.
Mains Examination: General Studies III: Indian Economy- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilisation of resources, growth, development and employment.
Why in news?
—The Finance Ministry was scheduled to meet with stakeholders including banks and the Ministries of External Affairs and Commerce to discuss ways to promote international trade in rupee instead of the United States dollar.
—Banks would be told to ask exporters to negotiate on rupee trade, the report said, quoting sources.
Key takeaways
—On July 11 this year, the RBI issued a circular saying it had decided “to put in place an additional arrangement for invoicing, payment, and settlement of exports/ imports in INR”. The idea, the RBI said, was to “promote growth of global trade with emphasis on exports from India and to support the increasing interest of global trading community in INR”.
—While the move to allow trade settlements between India and other countries in rupees was seen to primarily benefit trading with Russia, it was also expected to help check dollar outflow and slow the depreciation of the rupee to a “very limited extent”.
—To settle trade transactions with any country, banks in India would open Vostro accounts of correspondent bank/s of the partner country for trading. Indian importers can pay for their imports in INR into these accounts. These earnings from imports can then be used to pay Indian exporters in INR.
—A Vostro account is an account that a correspondent bank holds on behalf of another bank — for example, HSBC Vostro account is held by SBI in India.
—Currently, exports or imports by a company are always in a foreign currency, with exceptions such as Nepal and Bhutan. So, in case of imports, the Indian company has to pay in a foreign currency, which is mainly dollars, but could also be pounds, euros, or yen, etc.
—The Indian company gets paid in foreign currency in case of exports and the company converts that foreign currency to rupee since it needs rupee for its requirements in most of the cases.
—While the RBI order did not say so, the arrangement was expected to be used primarily for Russia. “There are sanctions on Russia post the Ukraine war and the country is off the SWIFT system (system used by banks for payments in foreign currency). This means payments do not have to be made in foreign currency and this arrangement would help both Russia and India,” Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at the Bank of Baroda, had told The Indian Express at the time.
—Sabnavis said it was not likely that the arrangement would be extended to other countries. “We may want to, but others may not accept it as they may need foreign currency to pay for their own imports,” he said, adding that Sri Lanka may also want us to pay in dollars or any other foreign currency.
—The arrangement was not expected to help arrest the fall of the rupee to any significant extent. The rupee, like all global currencies, has been depreciating against the dollar, and the general trend has been towards a steady weakening for several months now.
Point to ponder: The rupee is a better-performing currency against the dollar on a trade-weighted basis. Do you agree?
5. MCQ:
Convertibility of rupee implies
(a) being able to convert rupee notes into gold
(b) allowing the value of the rupee to be fixed by market forces
(c) freely permitting the conversion of rupee to other currencies and vice versa
(d) developing an international market for currencies in India
Post Read Q&A
Can you recall what you read?
1. What are SAFTA and PIWTT?
2. What are the essential features of Mohenjo Daro?
3. What does the NCRB’s report say on accidental deaths?
4. Which are the four border haats functional on the India-Bangladesh borer?
Answers to MCQs: 1 (a), 2(a), 3(d), 4(c), 5(c)
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