Topic 1: ASI to study less-known heritage temples in Tamil Nadu
Why in news: Researchers from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are planning to undertake a survey of less-known, historically important temples in Tamil Nadu to trace the evolution of the architecture there.
- While the cave temples in Mamallapuram are said to have been inspired by the Chalukyas of Badami, the evolution of stone temples are not known.
- The rock-cut cave temple at Mandagapattu in present-day Villupuram district is believed to be the first brick-less, mortar-less, timber-less and metal-less structure in Tamil Nadu, by Pallava king Mahendravarman I as per an inscription there.
- Temples in TN have already been classified dynasty wise like Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagara-era structures.
- Most of these less known, unprotected, important temples are under the control of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) department, Saivite Mutts (Adheenams) and villages across the state where temples of brick and mortar were the norm before being replaced by stone.
Topic 2: Pearl millet cultivation in India
Why in news: Amid shifting weather patterns and evolving agricultural priorities, the study urges a timely revision of the classification criteria governing pearl millet cultivation zones, established in 1979.
- Currently, India’s zones are based on rainfall and soil type.
- A1 for arid regions in Rajasthan,
- A for semi-arid regions in North and Central India, and
- B for semi-arid regions with heavy soils in South India.
- Pearl millet is an essential cornerstone of India’s food security.
- Amid shifting weather patterns and evolving agricultural priorities, the study urges a timely revision of the classification criteria governing pearl millet cultivation zones..
- The proposed changes suggest re-evaluating the A zone, considering evolving climate conditions.
- This new classification system aims to optimize pearl millet production to effectively assist policymakers, researchers, and farmers to make better evidence-based decisions.
- The existing A zone can be broken down into three distinct subzones:
- G, AE1, and AE2, covering the states in North and Central India.
- The G zone encompasses Gujarat,
- AE1 covers East Rajasthan and Haryana, and
- AE2 covers Uttar Pradesh.
- The new zoning framework identifies ‘AE1’ as the core of India’s pearl millet production, where favourable climate and soil conditions, along with improved pearl millet varieties, have led to significant yield increases.
- ‘AE2’ shows promising yield progress and better farming practices, offering potential for export-oriented gains.
- The G zone is experiencing more rainfall due to climate changes, which may lead farmers to shift towards cash crops and limit pearl millet cultivation to the summer season.
Topic 3: World’s most isolated tribes and their habitats
Why in news: More than 100 uncontacted tribes exist till date and these communities are highly secluded, preferring isolation to protect their lands, cultures, and lives.
- Sentinelese, India
- Often dubbed as the world’s most isolated community, the Sentinelese are also known as highly reclusive inhabitants because of their violent resistance to outsiders.
- These people, commonly referred to as the Sentinelese or North Sentinel Islanders, remain a linguistic enigma, with an unknown native language even to related Andaman tribes on nearby islands.
- As per the estimates, their population today might stand at 50 to 200, and they sustain themselves through hunting and gathering, using canoes for fishing, and opting for other traditional hunting methods.
- Yaifo, Papua New Guinea
- As per the records, there can be as many as 40 uncontacted tribes in Papua New Guinea.
- These tribes mostly follow hunter-gatherer lifestyles, and are sometimes associated with practices like headhunting and cannibalism.
- Their contact with the outside world is almost zero or very limited.
- Kawahiva, Brazil
- Also known as the ‘short people’ or the ‘red head people’ by nearby tribes, Kawahiva people have probably been compelled to adopt a nomadic way of life in the recent decades due to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil.
- They sustain themselves through hunting, gathering, and constructing intricate ladders to reach trees for honey collection.
- The Kawahiva likely have a population of no more than 30 individuals.
- Mashco Piro, Peru
- If reports are to go by, there are around 15 uncontacted tribes in Peru, including the Mashco Piro, all of whom face the looming dangers of advancing oil and logging industries.
- It’s reported that the Mashco Piro have usually maintained a distance from outsiders, but have been more visible in recent times due to displacement.
- Traditionally, they rely on hunting and gathering turtle eggs for sustenance, with the government estimating their population to be less than 800 individuals.
- Ayoreo, Paraguay
- Ayoreo people live in isolation within the Chaco, South America’s largest forest outside of the Amazon, who could probably be the last uncontacted indigenous group on the continent.
- An unspecified number of Ayoreo people continue to live nomadically in the forest.
- Awa, Brazil
- Known as the most endangered tribe on the planet, there are approximately 100 out of the Awá’s estimated 600 members that still maintain a nomadic lifestyle within the Amazon rainforest along the Brazil-Peru border.
- They face nearly constant dangers from wildfire and illegal logging.
- This dire situation has prompted another tribe, the Guajajara, to take action as ‘Forest Guardians’ in order to protect them.
- Palawan, Philippines
- The southern regions of Palawan Island in the Philippines serve as home to approximately 40,000 Palawan people .
- Those in the interior remain isolated with limited outside contact.
- They practice shifting cultivation, allowing the forest to rejuvenate as they move their farms, but have been facing threats from strip and open-pit mining in the recent years.
Topic 4: Operation Polo
Why in news: Recently the 75th anniversary of Operation Polo was marked.
- Operation Polo was the military action launched by the Indian Army on September 13, 1948, to integrate the princely state of Hyderabad.
- The Nizam of Hyderabad was dithering on joining India ever since Independence on August 15, 1947.
- The military offensive in Hyderabad state was termed as ‘Police Action’ at the time by the then home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and the Nizam’s forces surrendered to the Indian Army by September 18.
Background of Operation Polo:
- The Nizam of Hyderabad state, Mir Osman Ali Shah, had the intention of keeping his state as an independent entity and did not join India or Pakistan after Independence.
- The Nizam signed a standstill agreement with India in November 1947.
- This essentially meant that a status quo would be maintained between the Indian dominion and the Hyderabad state till a solution was found to the imbroglio.
- The agreement was signed for a period of one year during which the Indian government would not exercise any authority over Hyderabad and all conditions prevalent at the time of signing the agreement would continue.
Need for Operation Polo:
- Situated in the Deccan, Hyderabad was one of the most populous and richest states and had 17 districts including Aurangabad (now in Maharashtra) and Gulbarga (now in Karnataka).
- The landlocked state had a majority Hindu population with the state administration almost entirely run by its Muslim rulers.
- There was no common border with Pakistan but the Nizam had every intention to have fraternal relations with that country.
- The Nizam’s administration in Hyderabad had taken advantage of the standstill agreement signed with India to increase the number of its irregular force called Razakars.
- The reasons for immediate launch of the operation was:
- the excesses of the Razakars on the predominantly Hindu population of the state,
- their belligerence along the state borders through cross-border raids,
- the overtures being made to Pakistan and
- the intention to establish an independent country
When did Hyderabad forces surrender?
- The Nizam of Hyderabad announced a ceasefire on September 17.
- On September 18 Hyderabad surrendered.
- Havildar Bachhitar Singh was awarded the first Ashoka Chakra of Independent India posthumously for his role in Operation Polo.
Topic 5: Climate phenomena and food security
Why in news: There has been a series of disruptive weather and climate phenomena in India this year, demonstrating the complexity of our precipitation system.
Climate phenomena of India:
- Western disturbance:
- There was the Western disturbance, which usually brings much-needed moisture from European seas to the western Himalaya and parts of northern India in the winter and spring.
- The Western disturbance lived up to its name and remained active late into the summer, snapping at the heels of the southwest monsoon.
- The widespread destruction of infrastructure and loss of life due to landslides and flooding in the western Himalaya and northern India raised concerns about the sustainability and resilience of our development projects in the mountains and floodplains.
- An El Niño phase
- Climate-linked warming is likely to weaken winter precipitation from the Western disturbance and shift it to more intense rain events.
- If this happens later into the summer, its consequences will be of great concern.
- Then came evidence that an El Niño phase of the quasi-periodic El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) was intensifying and likely to affect the southwest monsoon.
- ENSO is a phenomenon in the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean.
- When an El Niño affects the southwest monsoon, another ocean-atmosphere phenomenon in the Indian Ocean Dipole — called the positive-phase Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) — could balance the consequences.
- Dynamic regression models have suggested that 65% of the inter-annual variability of the southwest monsoon, over many decades, can be attributed to the combined effects of ENSO and the IOD.
- El Niño and food security
- Agriculture depends on two types of water:
- green water which is rain-fed soil moisture tapped by food and cash crops, eventually transpiring into the atmosphere and
- blue water which is the water in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and groundwater.
- Blue water is the basis for irrigation in agriculture, apart from drinking and industry use supply, and maintains ecological flows in rivers.
- Agriculture depends on two types of water:
Effect of El Nino on agriculture:
- The El Niño and other climate phenomena affect rainfed agriculture in many ways:
- delaying the start of rains,
- adverse effect on sowing,
- hot temperatures that may negatively influence plant growth and soil moisture.
- Despite investments in dams, reservoirs, and irrigation systems, around half of the cultivated area in India depends on green water, not blue water.
- Our daily diet in India — from cooking oil to diverse foods — also requires 3,268 litres of water per person per day on average, subject to regional variability.
- Some 75% of this footprint is green water, demonstrating the importance of rainfed agriculture to our food and nutritional security.
- Even in irrigated areas, many dominant crops require green water for different extents.
- For example, in kharif season, rice paddy under irrigation uses green water to the tune of 35%.
- Many staple crops like tur dal, soybean, groundnut, and maize also rely considerably on green water at this time.
- In the 2015-2016 El Niño year, soybean production in India declined by 28% from the 2013-2022 average.
El Niño and the northeast monsoon
- At the end of the southwest monsoon, the blue water stock in our reservoirs and groundwater will partially determine the fate of the rabi crops sown in winter and the overall water security.
- Contributions of green water from the northeast monsoon in southeast India and the Western disturbance in the north will play significant roles as well.
- The rabi crops of 2024 are going to bank heavily on blue water or irrigation during the summer months.
- Studies have found that 43% of heavy rainfall events in the northeast monsoon (including the 2015 Chennai floods that caused widespread devastation) coincided with an El Niño.
- Central India’s highlands, encompassing 36 districts in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Maharashtra, which are emerging as climate change hotspots critical for our water, food and ecological security.
- The amount of monsoon precipitation has been declining since the 1950s, attributed by some climate scientists to the reduction in land-sea thermal gradient due to warming of the seas.
- However, indications of increased frequency of intense rain events and greater heat and moisture stress for people and ecosystems align with predictions of warming’s impact on the atmosphere’s water-holding capacity and acceleration of the hydrological cycle.
- These events increasingly interact with hydrologically incompatible land-use and infrastructure, resulting in high exposure and vulnerability to disasters.
- Global climate models and their regional equivalents have failed to simulate these observed trends in precipitation, increasing the uncertainty in future projections.
- Given the persistent uncertainties, we should base our adaptation plans on the idea that current trends will continue — more-frequent intense rain, summer heat and moisture stress, and declining monsoon precipitation in some parts of the country.
- It is possible that as warming continues, total rainfall in parts of India may increase but the share of extreme rain events may go up.
- In terms of agriculture and food security, there is now an emphasis on reducing dependence on water-intensive crops, with millets being the crops of choice.
- Shifting to less water-intensive crops may reduce vulnerability of our food systems to phenomena like El Niño.
- One estimate suggests that more than 30% of blue water can be saved with such shifts in crops, with some gains in protein and micronutrients but a slight reduction in calories.
- However, water saved in this manner may not necessarily help recharge our depleted aquifers or restore ecological flows in our rivers.
- New demands for the saved water quickly emerge unless appropriate policies are in place.
- There are several adaptations and alternative crop strategies available now. They include:
- shifting to millets and alternative varieties of dominant cereals
- advisories to farmers to switch to crops with shorter growing cycles.
- How we respond as a society and in terms of governance to the water and climate change crisis, which links food, water, and ecological security through diversifying our agro-food systems, a lower dependence on blue water, rejuvenating our rivers, and sustainable water-sharing between humans and nature will to a great extent determine the well-being of 1.4 billion people.