News Snippet

News 1: Assam celebrates Barak, Bangla relations

News 2: Protect glacial-period coastal red sand dunes of Vizag

News 3: Connecting India’s East with the Indo-Pacific

News 4: NPCI extends UPI market cap deadline by 2 years

News 5: Important Places in News

News 1: Assam celebrates Barak, Bangla relations


Background

The first festival celebrating the linguistic and cultural ties between the Barak Valley region of Assam and the Sylhet segment of Bangladesh began evening of 2nd December, 2022.

Silchar-Sylhet festival

Southern Assam’s Silchar town is hosting the two-day Silchar-Sylhet Festival that coincides with the 75th year of India’s independence and the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan.

Organized by the India Foundation, the festival underlines the commonalities between India and Bangladesh, specifically the Sylheti variant of the Bengali language and the Sylheti culture.


News 2: Protect glacial-period coastal red sand dunes of Vizag


Background

The city of Visakhapatnam is blessed with a number of sites that have geological importance. One among them is the coastal red sand dunes, popularly known as Erra Matti Dibbalu.

The site is located along the coast and is about 20 km northeast of Visakhapatnam city and about 4 km southwest of Bheemunipatnam.

Erra Matti Dibbalu

This site, spread across an area of about 20 sq km, was declared as a geo-heritage site by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) in 2014 and the Andhra Pradesh government has listed it under the category of ‘protected sites’ in 2016.

Geologists say that this site has much significance geologically, archaeologically and anthropologically and it needs to be protected for further study and evaluation.

Need for protection of this site

Primarily this site needs to be protected to study the impact of climate change, as Erra Matti Dibbalu have seen both the glacial and the warm periods, said adviser to the Geo-Heritage Cell of INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) and former professor of Geology, Andhra University, D. Rajasekhar Reddy.

According to him, the site is about 18,500 to 20,000 years old and it can be related to the last glacial period.

“Such sand deposits are rare and have been reported only from three places in the tropical regions in south Asia such as Teri Sands in Tamil Nadu, Erra Matti Dibbalu in Visakhapatnam and one more site in Sri Lanka. They do not occur in equatorial regions or temperate regions due to many scientific reasons,” Mr. Reddy said.

The uniqueness of this site is that the red sediments are a part of the continuation of the evolution of the earth and represent the late quaternary geologic age.

With a height of up to 30 m, they exhibit badland topography with different geomorphic landforms and features, including gullies, sand dunes, buried channels, beach ridges, paired terraces, the valley in the valley, wave-cut terrace, knick point and waterfalls, Mr. Reddy said.

It is a lively scientific evolution site, which depicts the real-time effects of climate change.

The site also has archaeological significance, as studies of artefacts indicate an Upper Palaeolithic horizon and on cross dating assigned to Late Pleistocene epoch, which is 20,000 BC, he added.


News 3: Connecting India’s East with the Indo-Pacific


Background

Since 2018, India’s ‘Look East’ and ‘Act East’ policies have moved into the phase of Indo-Pacific policy and strategy.

The perception of Indo-Pacific strategy is quite different in Northeastern and eastern India as compared to New Delhi. There, the more important issues still are the need to ensure adequate security, speed up economic development, and connect better with the rest of India and select South Asian and Southeast Asian nations.

Hence, an effective way to work for a ‘free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous’ Indo-Pacific is to see how these five characteristics may be made more applicable to our eastern region.

What the East wants

The Northeast which comprises seven ‘sisters’ or States and one ‘brother’, Sikkim, has been witnessing transformation as it heads towards better security conditions and development.

Recent participation in policy conversations in Imphal, helped clarify local needs and priorities. Separately, wide-ranging interactions with the intelligentsia and artists in Kolkata shed light on how this major metropolis views the Indo-Pacific from the lens of culture. A key takeaway is that by absorbing and factoring in the perspectives of stakeholders at the ground level, the Indo-Pacific policy can deliver better results.

The view from Manipur was that security conditions have improved significantly since the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in Manipur in 2017. However, the core issues behind the insurgency have remained unresolved.

The way forward was to address them substantially and accelerate the pace of development. The official perspective was that the pernicious phenomena of smuggling, drug trafficking, transnational border crime, insurgent activity, and the influx of refugees (from Myanmar) represented serious non-traditional threats.

China was viewed as a ‘constant player’ behind these nefarious activities. This has necessitated vigilance and strict action by the Assam Rifles and other security agencies.

Others representing local communities, however, expressed concern over the insensitive handling of those engaged in lawful exchanges with the neighbouring countries. A balanced view indicates that considerable scope exists for more effective and people-sensitive border management in the future.

Development as priority

The Northeast is on the right path to concentrate on economic development. More is awaited through improvement in roads linking northeastern towns and job creation for thousands of graduates produced by local universities.

Manipur needs to be promoted as the hub of medical tourism for other Indian States and neighbours such as Myanmar. The State’s research and development facilities to leverage the region’s biodiversity should be expanded.

Accelerated development requires increased investment by Indian corporates and foreign investors as well as better management.

At Kolkata, intellectuals and performers in the cultural domain from India, the U.S., Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh reflected on the Indo-Pacific construct’s cultural dimensions. An ambitious endeavour by 75 artists from nine countries highlighted the region’s ‘unity in diversity’ through music, dance, drama, and cuisine.

Clearly, expanding the reach of cultural diplomacy and people-to-people cooperation through greater educational exchanges, tourism, and trade is desirable.

Md. Shahidul Haque, former Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh, holds the view that moving beyond geopolitics and geo-economics, neighbours should focus on “the geo-cultural dimension” of the Indo-Pacific.

Diplomats from the region agree on the importance of expanded people-related cooperation which would lead to wider acceptance of the Indo-Pacific and consolidation of the Quad.

Two common threads have emerged from recent exchanges.

First, the growing significance of the Bay of Bengal region permeates the thinking of scholars. The concept of the Indo-Pacific seems distant, but the moment it is perceived as the outer circle of the Bay of Bengal and its littorals, it comes closer to home.

Therefore, member-states need to invest more in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) to enhance its effectiveness.

Second, in implementing India’s Indo-Pacific strategy, voices from Northeast and eastern India must be heard. Thus, beyond ‘Look East’ and ‘Act East’ lies ‘Think and Relate East’, especially within our own country.


News 4: NPCI extends UPI market cap deadline by 2 years


Background

In a relief to UPI payments market leaders, PhonePe and Google Pay, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has extended the deadline for Unified Payments Interface (UPI) to meet the market cap deadline of 30% to December 31, 2024. The earlier deadline to meet the market cap norms was December 31, 2022.

Market share of UPI players

The extension of the deadline will mean that PhonePe and Google Pay – the two biggest players with market share of 47% and 34% as of October – will get two more years to adhere to NPCI’s guideline. 

Paytm, the third biggest player in the segment, has a market share of 15%.

UPI transactions

UPI transactions, which had crossed Rs 10 trillion in May in value terms, stood at Rs 11.90 trillion in November compared to Rs 12.11 trillion a month ago, as per NPCI data.

The guidelines requiring each UPI third-party app to adhere to a 30 percent transaction volume cap were first introduced in November 2020 to ensure that UPI volumes do not get concentrated in the hands of a few players. These three players, currently, make up for 96% of monthly UPI volumes.

The implementation of the guidelines will be a positive for Paytm, as it stands to gain. However, for PhonePe and Google Pay, it is a setback.

NPCI (National Payment Corporation of India)

Founded: 2008

National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), an umbrella organisation for operating retail payments and settlement systems in India, is an initiative of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) under the provisions of the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007, for creating a robust Payment & Settlement Infrastructure in India.

It has been incorporated as a “Not for Profit” Company under the provisions of Section 25 of Companies Act 1956 (now Section 8 of Companies Act 2013), with an intention to provide infrastructure to the entire Banking system in India for physical as well as electronic payment and settlement systems. 

The ten core promoter banks are State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Canara Bank, Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India, Bank of India, ICICI Bank Limited, HDFC Bank Limited, Citibank N. A. and HSBC. In 2016 the shareholding was broad-based to 56 member banks to include more banks representing all sectors.

Unified Payment Interface (UPI)

Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application (of any participating bank), merging several banking features, seamless fund routing & merchant payments into one hood.

It also caters to the “Peer to Peer” collect request which can be scheduled and paid as per requirement and convenience.

With the above context in mind, NPCI conducted a pilot launch with 21 member banks. The pilot launch was on 11th April 2016 by Dr. Raghuram G Rajan, Governor, RBI at Mumbai.

Banks have started to upload their UPI enabled Apps on Google Play store from 25th August, 2016 onwards.

UPI is built over the IMPS infrastructure and allows you to instantly transfer money between any two parties’ bank accounts.


News 5: Important Places in News


Singrauli

  • Why in news: National Green Tribunal directs panel to check illegal mining in the district.
  • It is the easternmost district of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Rihand and Son Rivers are the important water bodies here.
  • Climate: Monsoon type with dry winters (Koppen, Cwg), Vegetation: Tropical dry deciduous forests.
  • Alluvial, red and lateritic soils are predominant in the district.
  • It is an important district for mineral deposits in Madhya Pradesh, in which coal, fire clay, ochers and marble are the main minerals.
Tsomgo Lake

  • Why in news: Sikkim governor inaugurates road named after PM Modi which reduces distance between Tsomgo Lake and Gangtok.
  • Also known as Tsongmo Lake or Changgu Lake, is a glacial lake in the East Sikkim district of state of Sikkim.
  • Climate: Warm temperate (Koppen, Cfb), Vegetation: Alpine forests.
  • Important flora here includes rhododendrons (the state tree of Sikkim) and primulas.
  • Important fauna here includes Ruddy shelduck (Brahminy duck) and Red panda (IUCN, Endangered).
  • The lake surface reflects different colours with change of seasons and is held in great reverence by the local Sikkimese people.
Sultanpur National Park

  • Why in news: Haryana CM and Union ministers took part in Wetlands day celebration at Sultanpur National Park.
  • It is a natural wetland located at Sultanpur village of Gurugram district in Haryana.
  • It depends on Yamuna River for its water.
  • Climate: Tropical steppe type, Vegetation: Tropical dry deciduous forests.
  • It is an important wintering ground for several migratory birds including the endangered Egyptian vulture and black-bellied tern.
  • Waterlogged and salt affected soils are found here.
Erra Matti Dibbalu

  • Why in news: Citizens joined hands to preserve the geological marvel of Erra Matti Dibbalu.
  • Also called as Red Sand Hills, is situated at the outskirts of the Visakhapatnam City.
  • It is listed among the 34 notified National Geo-Heritage Monument Sites of India by the Geological Survey of India.
  • They were formed around 12,000 years ago due to sea-land interaction.
  • They are geologically important as they represent the geological history of the late Quaternary period and carry the imprints of the fall of sea level and its subsequent rise, the impact of climate, monsoon and geological processes on the sediments.
  • The only other place in the country to have a similar stretch of red sand dunes is Tamil Nadu, which has the Teri dune complex.
Kaza

  • Why in news: Many people stranded in Himachal’s Chamba due to heavy snowfall & several rescued in Kaza.
  • Located in the Spiti valley at the foot hills of Western Himalayas in Lahul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh.
  • Spiti River (a tributary of Sutlej) flows here.
  • Cold desert type of climate (Koppen, BWk) found here.
  • It lies on the north–south Kaurik-Chango fault, which makes it highly prone to earthquakes.
  • It’s known for its colourful festivals (E.g. Fagli, Gochi) and tourism.
Haveri

  • Why in news: Karnataka CM Bommai lays foundation stone for ethanol unit in Haveri district.
  • Varada, Kumadwati, Tungabhadra and Dharma are the important rivers in the district.
  • Climate: Tropical savannah type (Koppen, Aw) & receives majority of its rainfall from South West Monsoon.
  • Red sandy, black and lateritic soils are predominant here.
  • Koli Dhor, Koraga and Toda tribes are found in the district.
  • Agriculture is the main occupation here. Important crops: jowar, maize and cotton.
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