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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 31st August 2021

Contents

  1. India supports Palestine peace process
  2. New initiative in J&K for Pashmina shawls
  3. Leaded petrol eradicated, says UNEP

India supports Palestine peace process

Context:

Afghanistan situation dominates UN Security Council proceedings as India’s presidency draws to a close In August 2021.

Indian Foreign Secretary told that India will support “all efforts” to restart the peace process between Israel and Palestine.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests, Important political developments in the International Stage, Important International Institutions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of India’s Statements towards the End of UNSC Presidency
  2. Israel-Palestine conflict: A 100-year-old issue
  3. What is the Two-state Solution?
  4. India’s stand in the Israel – Palestine conflict
  5. India’s Evolving position

Highlights of India’s Statements towards the End of UNSC Presidency

On Afghanistan 

  • A resolution on Afghanistan drafted by the United Kingdom and France was taken up for discussion and possible voting. The draft resolution seeks protection of civilians and security guarantees for humanitarian access. 
  • The humanitarian access mentioned in the draft resolution is aimed at ensuring that people who are willing to leave Afghanistan will be allowed to do so under secure circumstances beyond August 31, the deadline for the U.S. troops to withdraw from the country.
  • It is understood that the resolution will be used to enforce a window of evacuation for foreign nationals who continue to remain stuck in Kabul. Apart from India and the U.S. many other countries have been unable to evacuate their nationals or allied Afghan personnel. 
  • The resolution can also be used to force the Taliban to adhere to some of the basic international humanitarian norms.

On Palestine 

India said that it will remain fully supportive of all efforts to restart the peace process – Given India’s long-standing and firm commitment to the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable state of Palestine, within secure, recognised and mutually agreed borders, living side by side with Israel in peace and security.

Click Here to read about India’s UNSC Presidency

Israel-Palestine conflict: A 100-year-old issue

  • Britain took control of the area known as Palestine after the Ottoman Empire (ruler of that part of the Middle East) was defeated in WW1. The land was inhabited by a Jewish minority and Arab majority.
  • Tensions between the two peoples grew when the international community gave Britain the task of establishing a “national home” in Palestine for Jewish people. For Jews, it was their ancestral home, but Palestinian Arabs also claimed the land and opposed the move.
  • In 1948, unable to solve the problem, British rulers left and Jewish leaders declared the creation of the state of Israel.
  • Many Palestinians objected and a war followed. Troops from neighbouring Arab countries invaded. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced out of their homes in what they call Al Nakba, or the “Catastrophe”.
  • By the time the fighting ended in a ceasefire in 1949, Israel controlled most of the territory.
  • Jordan occupied land which became known as the West Bank, and Egypt occupied Gaza.
  • Jerusalem was divided between Israeli forces in the West, and Jordanian forces in the East.
  • Because there was never a peace agreement – each side blamed the other – there were more wars and fighting in the decades which followed.

After 1960s

  • In another war in 1967, Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as most of the Syrian Golan Heights, and Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai peninsula.
  • Most Palestinian refugees and their descendants live in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as in neighbouring Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
  • Neither they nor their descendants have been allowed by Israel to return to their homes – Israel says this would overwhelm the country and threaten its existence as a Jewish state.
  • Israel still occupies the West Bank, and although it pulled out of Gaza the UN still regards that piece of land as part of occupied territory.
  • Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The US is one of only a handful of countries to recognise Israel’s claim to the whole of the city.
  • In the past 50 years Israel has built settlements in these areas, where more than 600,000 Jews now live.
  • Palestinians say these are illegal under international law and are obstacles to peace, but Israel denies this.

What is the Two-state Solution?

  • The two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict envisages an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, west of the Jordan River.
  • The boundary between the two states is still subject to dispute and negotiation, with Palestinian and Arab leadership insisting on the “1967 borders”, which is not accepted by Israel.
  • Many attempts have been made to broker a two-state solution, involving the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel (after Israel’s establishment in 1948).
  • In 2007, the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians, according to a number of polls, preferred the two-state solution over any other solution as a means of resolving the conflict.

India’s stand in the Israel – Palestine conflict

  • In the early 1920s and amidst the Khilafat struggle, Indian nationalists made common cause with the Arabs of Palestine and adopted a position that was unsympathetic to the Jewish aspirations for a national home in Palestine.
  • Mahatma Gandhi’s 1938 statement said “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English and France to the French”.
  • Prime Minister Narasimha Rao hosted Arafat in 1992 for the first time and signalled India’s intention of abandoning its four decades old policy of non-relations with Israel.
  • India has consistently voted in favour of those resolutions that promote the two-state solution with a Palestinian claim to East Jerusalem.
  • Peace based on two-state solution is much needed in the face of international proposals that are in breach of these principles, and cannot be forged between Israel and a third country [U.S.], but can only come from Israel-Palestine talks, which India also supports.

India’s Evolving position

  • While refusing to toe the Israeli line on the conflict, India’s comments also point to its evolving position on the larger Israel-Palestine issue.
  • In the May 2021 UNSC meet: India called for the status quo relating to East Jerusalem, but the crucial point that’s missing in India’s statement is that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Earlier, this used to be the mantra from India regarding the two-state solution.
  • Therefore, India simply gave lip service to the two-state solution without mentioning that East Jerusalem is the core part of that two-state solution.
  • Until 2017, India’s position was that it supported “the Palestinian cause and called for a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel”. India dropped the references to East Jerusalem and the borders in 2017.

-Source: The Hindu


New initiative in J&K for Pashmina shawls

Context:

A rare initiative to double the wages and ensure round-the-year orders by the Centre For Excellence (CFE) is poised to address the significant decline in the number of women associated with hand-spinning of yarns for Pashmina shawls in Kashmir.

In the backdrop of this trend, the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom, Kashmir, has announced a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Pashmina Wool.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Agriculture and Allied sectors, GS-III: Intellectual Property Rights

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Pashmina Shawls and what is the history behind them?
  2. How is the Pashmina Shawl produced?
  3. Changthangi or Pashmina goat
  4. Pashmina wool
  5. Changpa

What are Pashmina Shawls and what is the history behind them?

  • Pashmina Shawls are a fine variant of shawls spun from cashmere wools. A cashmere wool itself is obtained from the Changthangi goat (Capra aegagrus hircus) native to the high plateau of Ladakh.
  • Pashmina shawls gained much prominence in the days of the Mughal Empire as objects of rank and nobility. Babur first established the practice of giving khilat – giving ‘robes of honour’ – in 1526 to members of his court for their devoted service, high achievements or as a mark of royal favour. 
  • Through the enthusiastic use by Empress Joséphine – the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte – the pashmina shawl gained status as a fashion icon. 

MSP for hand spun, hand woven Pashmina fixed

  • In a significant step towards promotion of Handicrafts, the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom, Kashmir has announced a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for GI certified Pashmina shawls.
  • The MSP of Pashmina was determined after three consecutive meetings that were held at Indian Institute of Carpet Technology through discussions and considering various types of expenditures incurred during different stages of manufacturing.
  • Among the various benefits of adopting Minimum Support Price policy, it will help in reviving hand spinning and hand weaving and will help grass root level artisans who work hard to promote these crafts by virtue of which Kashmir is famous.

GI Tag for Pashmina 

  • In order to preserve the centuries old art of spinning and weaving of genuine pashmina fabric and to maintain international standards the Government of India (Under WTO) has established a quality mark for genuine Pashmina that will identify items the genuine fiber known as Pashm obtained from the goat living in Ladakh of Kashmir region. 
  • Geographical Indication (GI) Label on Kashmir Pashmina acts as a certification that the product possesses certain unique qualities not found elsewhere and is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin, under the Paris Convention and Lisbon Agreement.

BIS Standards for Pashmina

  • Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) had published an Indian Standard for identification, marking and labelling of Pashmina products to certify its purity in 2019.
  • The certification will help curb the adulteration of Pashmina and also protect the interests of local artisans and nomads who are the producers of Pashmina raw material.
  • It will also assure the purity of Pashmina for customers.
  • It will ensure better prices for the goat herding community in Ladakh as well as for the local handloom artisans producing genuine Pashmina products.

How is the Pashmina Shawl produced?

  • Every winter the goats from whom pashmina is acquired shed their coat. 
  • In the spring the undercoat is shed, which is collected by combing the goat instead of shearing them as is the case with other wool collection activities.
  • The pashmina wool is produced by the people known as the Changpa, a nomadic people who inhabit the Ladakh region. The Changpa rear sheep in a harsh climate where temperature drops to −40 °C .
  • Raw pashmina is exported to Kashmir where the combing, spinning, weaving and finishing are traditionally carried out by hand by a specialised team of craftsmen and women.
  • The major production centre of pashmina shawls is in the old district of Srinagar. 
  • It takes about 180 hours to produce a single piece of pashmina shawl.

Changthangi or Pashmina goat

  • The Pashmina goat is a breed of goat inhabiting the plateaus in Tibet, Nepal, parts of Burma and neighbouring areas of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, India.
  • It is also known as ‘Changthangi’, ‘Changra”.
  • They are raised for ultra-fine cashmere wool, also known as pashmina once woven.
  • These goats are generally domesticated and are reared by nomadic communities called the Changpa in the Changthang region of Greater Ladakh.
  • The Changthangi goats have revitalized the economy of Changthang, Leh and Ladakh region.

Pashmina wool

  • Pashmina is a fine type of cashmere wool.
  • The textiles made from it were first woven in Kashmir.
  • Often shawls called shahmina are made from this material in Kashmir and Nepal; these shawls are hand spun and woven from the very fine cashmere fibre.
  • Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) had published an Indian Standard for identification, marking and labelling of Pashmina products on August 2019 to certify its purity.
  • Kashmir Pashmina has been accorded Geographical indication (GI) tag under Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.

Changpa

  • The Changpa are a semi-nomadic Tibetan people found mainly in the Changtang in Ladakh and in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The homeland of the Changpa is a high-altitude plateau known as the Changtang, which forms a portion of western and northern Tibet extending into southeastern Ladakh.
  • The Changpa of Ladakh are high altitude pastoralists, raising mainly yaks and goats.
  • The Changpas rear the highly pedigreed and prized Changra goats (Capra Hircus) that yield the rare Pashmina fiber (Cashmere wool).

-Source: The Hindu


Leaded petrol eradicated, says UNEP

Context:

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said that the use of leaded petrol has been eradicated from the globe.

It is a milestone that will prevent more than 1.2 million premature deaths and save world economies over $2.4 trillion annually. It has taken 100 years to stop the use of leaded fuel finally.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Conservation of Environment)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Need to stop using lead
  2. Engine Knocking and Leaded petrol and the need to stop its use
  3. India’s tryst with leaded petrol

Engine Knocking and Leaded petrol and the need to stop its use

  • An Internal combustion engine under load develops `pinging’ or `knocking’, where the fuel mixture starts exploding due to compression before the right time, causing rough running, stalling going up hills, and so on.
  • Tetra Ethyl Lead (TEL) is one such component that is added to petrol to reduce its tendency to `ping’ under compression. TEL breaks down to lead at upper cylinder temperatures. Lead atoms spread around and combining with the free radicals and slowing down the reaction.
  • TEL was first being mixed with petrol beginning in the 1920s as a patented octane rating booster that allowed engine compression to be raised substantially.
  • This in turn caused increased vehicle performance and fuel economy.
  • The practice of adding tetraethyl lead to petrol had spread widely to all countries soon after its anti-knock and octane-boosting properties were discovered.
  • TEL is still used as an additive in some grades of aviation gasoline.

Need to stop using lead

  • `Leaded’ petrol is a grave danger to the environment, as lead is a poison when it is absorbed into the body.
  • Lead is toxic, affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.
  • It affects the brain, liver, kidneys and bones. Lead is measured in blood to understand exposure.
  • Lead in bone is released into blood during pregnancy and becomes a source of exposure to the developing foetus.
  • More recent research has indicated that lead can damage the infant brain even at blood levels as low as 5 microunit per decilitre (μ/dl).

The real reason

  • However, the reason for going completely unleaded is different – it is to reduce other pollutants.
  • To reduce unburned hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides – catalytic exhausts have been adopted and they cannot stand even the residual lead, which will affect the platinum catalyst. (The platinum catalyst filter causes a catalytic conversion of the oxides to other products , hence, passing the exhaust gases through a filter of platinum prevents the greenhouse gasses from escaping into the atmosphere.) Lead affects the function of platinum and hence its use in fuel needs to be restricted.

India’s tryst with leaded petrol

  • India was among those countries that took early action to phase out leaded petrol. The process of phase down that had started in 1994, got completed in 2000.
  • Initially, low-leaded petrol was introduced in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai in 1994, followed by unleaded petrol in 1995.
  • The entire country got low-leaded petrol in 1997 while leaded fuel was banned in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
  • The final introduction of unleaded petrol in the entire country was mandated in April 2000.
  • This decision was also catalysed by the Supreme Court order that had directed the introduction of unleaded petrol to enable the adoption of catalytic converters in petrol cars.

-Source: The Hindu

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