Daily Current Affairs for UPSC Civil Services Exam – 03 December 2021

1. Paika rebellion: Not the first War of Independence

The Centre through a written reply in the Rajya Sabha said the Paika rebellion cannot be called the first War of Independence. Since 2017, Odisha has demanded that the rebellion of Odisha be declared as the first war of Independence. At present, the Indian Mutiny or Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 is called the first war of Independence against British Rule.

Paika Rebellion

  1. Parkas had been recruited since the 16th century by kings in Odisha.
  2. They were from a variety of social groups who render martial services in return for the rent-free land (nish-kar jagirs) and titles.
  3. After entering Odisha in 1803, the British introduced new revenue settlements due to which many Odia proprietors ended up losing their lands to absentee Bengali landlords.
  4. Changes in the currency and revenue systems meant the Odias had to pay taxes in silver, which was more expensive for them.
  5. This resulted in further marginalization and oppression of the Odias.
  6. In 1817, Kondhs who belonged to the state of Ghumsur banded together to revolt against the British.
  7. Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar Mohapatra Bharamarbar Rai, the highest-ranking military general of King of Khorda Mukund Dev II, led the Parkas to join the uprising.
  8. During the course of the rebellion, they burnt government buildings in Banapur, killed policemen and British officials, and looted the treasury.
  9. The uprising lasted a few months but was eventually crushed by the better-equipped and trained forces of the East India Company (EIC).
  10. Bakshi escaped to the jungles and ultimately surrendered in 1825 under negotiated terms.

Nationalist movement or a Peasant rebellion

  1. The Paika Rebellion is one of the peasant rebellions that took place in India when the British EIC was expanding its military enterprise.
  2. Because these uprisings violently clashed with European colonialists and missionaries, their resistance is sometimes seen as the first expression of resistance against colonial rule.
  3. Therefore considered to be “nationalist” in nature.

Odisha’s demand

  1. For the first time in 2017, the Odisha state cabinet had passed a proposal to formally urge the center to declare the Paika rebellion as the first war of Independence.
  2. In the state cabinet’s proposal, the rebellion was described as a mass agitation and “the first struggle for freedom in the country against the foreign rule in which the people of Odisha had actively participated.”
  3. In 2019, the Government had reiterated the demand at the foundation stone laying ceremony for the Paika rebellion memorial at Barunei by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Centre’s response

  1. The Centre had considered the proposal and examined the matter in consultation with the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, now renamed Ministry of Education.
  2. And as per recommendations from ICHR, the Paika Rebellion cannot be called the first War of Independence, Union Culture Minister had informed the Rajya Sabha.
  3. However, considering that the rebellion which started in 1817 continued till 1825 and is one of the beginnings of popular uprisings against the British in India.
  4. And it would now be included in the curriculum of the Class VIII history textbook of NCERT.

2. Dam Safety Bill, 2019

  1. The Rajya Sabha passed the Dam Safety Bill, 2019, after rejecting the Opposition’s charge that it was “unconstitutional” and “anti-federal”, encroaching upon the states’ legislative domain.
  2. It was clarified that the Bill was not intended to encroach upon the states’ rights on their waters, dam ownership or maintenance, or even resources like power, but only seeks to ensure the safety of dams across the country and prevent dam-related disasters that result in great loss to life and property.
  3. The bill was opposed as unconstitutional, arguing that Entry 17 of List 1 of the Constitution gives states exclusive rights to regulate water supplies and embankments, and even Entry 56 did not mention dam safety among the exceptions to Entry 17.

Highlights of the Bill

  1. The Bill provides for the surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of all specified dams across the country.
  2. These are dams with a height of more than 15 meters, or a height between 10 meters to 15 meters with certain design and structural conditions.
  3. It constitutes two national bodies: the National Committee on Dam Safety, whose functions include evolving policies and recommending regulations regarding dam safety standards; and the National Dam Safety Authority.
  4. Their functions include implementing policies of the National Committee, providing technical assistance to State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs), and resolving matters between SDSOs of states or between an SDSO and any dam owner in that state.
  5. It also constitutes two state bodies: State Committee on Dam Safety, and State Dam Safety Organisation.
  6. These bodies will be responsible for the surveillance, inspection, and monitoring of the operation and maintenance of dams within their jurisdiction.
  7. Functions of the national bodies and the State Committees on Dam Safety have been provided in Schedules to the Bill.  These Schedules can be amended by a government notification.
  8. An offense under the Bill can lead to imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine, or both.

Key Issues and Analysis

  1. The Bill applies to all specified dams in the country.
  2. This includes dams built on both inter and intrastate drivers.  As per the Constitution, states can make laws on the water including water storage and water power.
  3. However, Parliament may regulate and develop inter-state river valleys if it deems it necessary in the public interest.
  4. The question is whether Parliament has the jurisdiction to regulate dams on rivers flowing entirely within a state.
  5. The functions of the National Committee on Dam Safety, the National Dam Safety Authority, and the State Committee on Dam Safety are listed in Schedules to the Bill.
  6. These Schedules can be amended by the government through a notification.
  7. The question is whether the core functions of authorities should be amended through a notification or whether such amendments should be passed by Parliament.

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3. Worldwide Cost of Living 2021

  1. The Worldwide Cost of Living is a twice-yearly survey conducted by EIU that compares more than 400 individual prices across 200 products and services in 173 cities.
  2. Israel’s Tel Aviv has leapfrogged Hong Kong and Singapore to become the world’s most expensive city to live in, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
  3. The Israeli city climbed from fifth place last year to top the Worldwide Cost of Living 2021 report for the first time, pushing Paris down to the joint second place with Singapore.
  4. Zurich and Hong Kong rounded out the top five.
  5. The soaring shekel and price increases for goods including groceries and transport were the main factors in Tel Aviv taking the top spot, according to the EIU.

Other key findings

  1. Rome saw the biggest drop in the ranking from 32nd to 48th place
  2. Tehran leaped from 79th to 29th place after the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran
  3. Hong Kong had the most expensive petrol prices, at $2.50 per liter
  4. Branded cigarette prices went up 6.7% on average
  5. The Syrian capital of Damascus remains the world’s cheapest city
  6. The top 10 most expensive cities:
    • Tel Aviv
    • Paris (joint second)
    • Singapore (joint second)
    • Zurich
    • Hong Kong
    • New York
    • Geneva
    • Copenhagen
    • Los Angeles
    • Osaka

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4. Four Pillar Initiative

India and Sri Lanka agreed to a four-pronged approach to discussing initiatives on food and energy security to help mitigate Sri Lanka’s economic crisis, during a two-day visit by Sri Lankan Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa to New Delhi.

Economic Crisis in Sri Lanka

  1. The government of Sri Lanka declared an economic emergency in the last week of August 2021 because of rising food prices, depreciating currency, and depleting forex reserves.
  2. Factors that led to the current economic crisis in Sri Lanka include:
    • The tourism industry in Sri Lanka has been hit hard because of a covid-19 pandemic. It represents more than 10% of its Gross Domestic Product and brings in huge foreign exchange.
    • Thus, forex reserves have decreased to$2.8 billion in July 2021 from over $7.5 billion in 2019.
    • As the foreign exchange supply is decreasing, the amount of money that Sri Lankans was having to shell out to purchase the foreign exchange has increased. This, the value of the Sri Lankan rupee has depreciated by 8%.
    • As Sri Lanka depends on imports to meet the basic food supplies, the price of food items there has increased in line with the depreciating rupee.
  3. Sri Lankan government blamed speculators for resulting in rising in food prices by hoarding essential supplies. The government declared an “economic emergency” under the Public Security Ordinance.
  4. Under the emergency situation, the army has been tasked to seize the food supplies from traders and supply them to consumers at fair prices.
  5. The government has also given the power to the army to ensure that forex reserves are used to purchase the essential goods only.

Four-pillar initiative

  1. Lines of credit:
    • It will be given for food, medicines, and fuel purchases granted by India.
    • Lines of credit is a credit facility extended by a bank or any other financial institution to a government, business, or individual customer, that enables the customer to draw the maximum loan amount.
  2.  currency swap agreement
    • It is to deal with Sri Lanka’s balance of payment issues.
    • The word swap means exchange.
    • A currency swap between the two countries is an agreement or contract to exchange currencies with predetermined terms and conditions.
  3. Modernization project of the Trinco oil farms
    •   India has been pursuing for several years.
    • The Trincomalee Harbour, one of the deepest natural harbors in the world, was developed by the British during World War II.
    • In particular, the projects to develop oil infrastructure in Trincomalee have been hanging fire since 2017.
  4. A Sri Lankan commitment to facilitate Indian investments in various sectors.