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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 15 February 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. Fossils of ‘Dickinsonia’ found at Bhimbetka
  2. Pakistan Army conducts exercises in Thar Desert
  3. Pandemic may impact goal to ‘double farm income’

FOSSILS OF ‘DICKINSONIA’ FOUND AT BHIMBETKA

Context:

Recently, researchers have discovered three fossils of the earliest known living animal, the 550-million-year-old ‘Dickinsonia’ on the roof of the Bhimbetka Rock Shelters.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-I: Geography, GS-III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Dickinsonia
  2. About Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka
  3. Significance of Finding the ‘Dickinsonia’ fossil in Bhumbetka
  4. The Continental Drift Theory and Gondwanaland
  5. Evidence supporting the Continental Drift Theory

Dickinsonia

  • In 2018, an international team of researchers claimed to have discovered the world’s oldest fossil of Dickinsonia, which first appeared around 571 million to 541 million years ago.
  • Dickinsonia is an extinct genus of basal animal that lived during the late Ediacaran period in what is now Australia, Russia and Ukraine.
  • The individual Dickinsonia typically resembles a bilaterally symmetrical ribbed oval.
  • Basal animals are animals which have radial symmetry in their body plans. They have very simple bodies and tend to be diploblastic (derived from only two embryonic cell layers).
  • The discovery of cholesterol molecules in fossils of Dickinsonia lends support to the idea that Dickinsonia was an animal.
  • Dickinsonia fossils are known only in the form of imprints and casts in sandstone beds.
  • The specimens found range from a few millimetres to about 1.4 metres (4 ft 7 in) in length, and from a fraction of a millimetre to a few millimetres thick.

About Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka

  • The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, a recognized world heritage site by UNESCO, are in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains on the southern edge of the central Indian plateau in the State of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Within massive sandstone outcrops, above comparatively dense forest, are five clusters of natural rock shelters – and some of these rock shelters feature prehistoric cave paintings and the earliest are about 10,000 years old (c. 8,000 BCE), corresponding to the Indian Mesolithic.
  • The cultural traditions of the inhabitants of the twenty-one villages adjacent to the site bear a strong resemblance to those represented in the rock paintings.
  • Most of the paintings here are in red and white with occasional dashes of yellow and green, with themes culled from events in everyday life, thousands of years ago.
  • These cave paintings show themes such as animals, early evidence of dance and hunting.
  • The Bhimbetka site has the oldest-known rock art in India, as well as is one of the largest prehistoric complexes.

Significance of Finding the ‘Dickinsonia’ fossil in Bhumbetka

This finding could help scientists better understand the interaction of geology and biology that triggered the evolution of complex life on Earth.

This is further proof of the similar paleoenvironments and confirms assembly of Gondwanaland by the 550 Ma (mega annum), but not reconstructions adjusted for true polar wander.

The Continental Drift Theory and Gondwanaland

Continental drift theory was proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1912 and according to Wegner all the continents were one single continental mass (called a Super Continent) – “Pangaea” and a Mega Ocean called “Panthalassa” surrounded this supercontinent.

However, around 200 million years ago Pangaea began to split into two large land masses called as Laurasia and Gondwanaland which subsequently broke into many smaller continents.

Evidence supporting the Continental Drift Theory

Jig-Saw-Fit: The coastlines of South America and Africa fronting each other have a remarkable and unique match.

Rocks of the Same Age across the Oceans: The radiometric dating methods have helped in correlating the formation of rocks present in different continents across the ocean. The ancient rocks belts on the coast of Brazil match with those found in Western Africa. The old marine deposits found in the coasts of South America and Africa belong to the Jurassic Age which implies that the ocean never existed before that time.

Tillite: Tillite is the sedimentary rock made from glacier deposits. The Gondwana system of sediments from India is recognized as having its counterparts in 6 different landmasses in the Southern Hemisphere. Generally, the similarity of the Gondwana type sediments shows that these landmasses had exceptionally similar origins.

Distribution of Fossils: The interpretations that Lemurs occur in India, Africa, and Madagascar led to the theory of a landmass named “Lemuria” connecting these 3 landmasses. Mesosaurus was a tiny reptile adapted to shallow brackish water, and the skeletons of these creatures are found in the Traver formations of Brazil and Southern Cape Province of South Africa.

-Source: The Hindu


PAKISTAN ARMY CONDUCTS EXERCISES IN THAR DESERT

Context:

The Pakistan Army is holding a month-long exercise code-named ‘Jidar-ul-Hadeed’ in the Thar Desert to prepare for conflict in extreme desert environments.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-II: International Relations, GS-I Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Thar Desert

About the Thar Desert

  • The Thar Desert is an arid region that covers over 2,00,000 sq km. It forms a natural boundary along the border between India and Pakistan.
  • The surface consists of aeolian (wind-deposited) sand that has accumulated over the past 1.8 million years.
  • It is bordered by the irrigated Indus River plain to the west, the Punjab Plain to the north and northeast, the Aravalli Range to the southeast, and the Rann of Kachchh to the south.
  • The subtropical desert climate there results from persistent high pressure and subsidence at that latitude.
  • The region produces herbaceous plants like cactus, neem, khejri, acacia nilotica among others. All these plants can accommodate themselves to high or low temperatures and difficult climatic conditions.
  • The leopard, the Asiatic wild cat (Felis silvestris ornata), the chousingha (Tetracerus quadricornis), the chinkara (Gazella bennettii), the Bengal desert fox (Vulpes bengalensis), the Blackbuck (antelope) and several species of reptiles are found in the Thar Desert.
  • The desert presents an undulating surface, with high and low sand dunes separated by sandy plains and low barren hills, or bhakars, which rise abruptly from the surrounding plains.
  • The dunes are in continual motion and take on varying shapes and sizes.
  • Barchan, also spelled Barkhan, crescent-shaped sand dune produced by the action of wind predominately from one direction. One of the commonest types of dunes, it occurs in sandy deserts all over the world.

-Source: The Hindu


PANDEMIC MAY IMPACT GOAL TO ‘DOUBLE FARM INCOME’

Context:

The Government of India in its Annual Budget 2016-17 set a policy target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.

In the last year of its mission to double farmers income, the Centre admits that no actual assessment of farm income has been carried out since 2013.

Relevance:

GS-III: Agriculture, Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Introduction to the State of Farmers and the aim of doubling income
  2. Steps Taken by Government to help achieve the aim
  3. Economic Survey 2021 on Overcoming Challenges

Introduction to the State of Farmers and the aim of doubling income

  • Agriculture sustains livelihood for more than half of India’s total population. Doubling farmers’ income in such a short period is an overwhelming task for decision makers, scientists and policy makers because of its continued role in employment, income and most importantly in national food security.
  • Doubling farmers’ income is possible through increasing total output and better price realization in the market, reduction in production costs, diversification of product, efficient post-harvest management, value addition, etc.

Steps Taken by Government to help achieve the aim

  1. Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana: To provide insurance against crop and income loss and to encourage investment in farming.
  2. PM Kisan Sampada Yojana: To promote food processing in a holistic manner.
  3. Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Soil health card, and Prampragat Krishi Vikas Yojana: Aiming to raise output and reduce cost.
  4. eNAM: The National Agriculture Market (eNAM) is a pan-India electronic trading portal which networks the existing Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities.
  5. National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture: It aims at promoting sustainable agriculture through a series of adaptation measures focusing on ten key dimensions encompassing Indian agriculture namely; ‘Improved crop seeds, livestock and fish cultures’, ‘Water Use Efficiency’, ‘Pest Management’, ‘Improved Farm Practices’, ‘Nutrient Management’, ‘Agricultural insurance’, ‘Credit support’, ‘Markets’, ‘Access to Information’ and ‘Livelihood diversification’.
  6. Interlinking of rivers: To raise output and farm incomes.
  7. Operation Greens: To address price volatility of perishable commodities like Tomato, Onion and Potato (TOP).
  8. Technology mission on cotton: It aims to increase the income of the cotton growers by reducing the cost of cultivation as well as by increasing the yield per hectare through proper transfer of technology to the growers.
  9. Technology Mission on Oilseeds, Pulses and Maize (TMOPM): Few schemes implemented under TMOPM are: Oilseeds Production Programme (OPP), National Pulses Development Project (NPDP), etc.
  10. Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH): It is a scheme for the holistic growth of the horticulture sector covering fruits, vegetables, root & tuber crops, mushrooms, spices, flowers, aromatic plants, coconut, cashew, cocoa and bamboo.
  11. Sugar Technology Mission: Aimed at reducing the cost of production of sugar and improving sugar quality through steps for improvements in productivity, energy conservation and improvements in capital output ratio.

Economic Survey 2021 on Overcoming Challenges

  1. The coverage of irrigation facilities needs to be extended while ensuring an effective water conservation mechanism.
  2. An inclusive approach to provision for agricultural credit has to be undertaken to address the issue of skewness in its regional distribution.
  3. As the proportion of small and marginal holdings is significantly large, land reform measures like freeing up land markets can help farmers improve their Income.
  4. Allied sectors, such as animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries, need to be given a boost to provide an assured secondary source of employment and income, especially for small and marginal farmers.
  5. More focussed attention” is required to be given to the sector due to its significant role in reducing post-harvest losses and creation of an additional market for farm outputs.
  6. There is a need to give increased focus on exploring global markets for agricultural commodities to give an additional source of market for the surplus of agricultural produce India currently has.
  7. There is also a need to address the issue of lower farm mechanisation in India which is only about 40% as compared to about 60% in China and around 75 % in Brazil.
  8. Issues such as investment in agriculture, insurance coverage, water conservation, improved yields through better farming practices, access to market, availability of institutional credit, increasing the linkages between agricultural and non-agricultural sectors need urgent attention.

-Source: The Hindu

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