ISSUE: YELLOW RUST DISEASE
WHY IN NEWS?
Earlier this month, the Punjab Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Department issued an advisory about Yellow Rust disease in wheat crops (The Indian Express, January 15), followed by a similar advisory from the Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research (IIWBR) after Yellow Rust was detected in wheat crops in parts of Punjab and Haryana.
Yellow Rust disease appears as yellow stripes of powder or dust on leaves and leaf sheaths of the wheat crop. This yellow powder comes out on clothing or fingers when touched. The disease can spread rapidly under congenial conditions and affects crop development, and eventually the yield.
Last year, a new variety of wheat called HD-3226 or Pusa Yashasvi was released by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, which had higher levels of resistance against major rust fungi such as the yellow/stripe, brown/leaf and black/stem. According to the IIWBR advisory, if farmers observe yellow rust in patches in their wheat fields, they should spray fungicides.
ISSUE: FIVE ICONIC ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES MENTIONED IN THE BUDGET
WHY IN NEWS?
The government proposes to set up an Indian Institute of Heritage and Conservation under the Ministry of Culture, and develop five archaeological sites as “iconic sites” with onsite museums in Rakhigarhi (Haryana), Hastinapur (Uttar Pradesh), Sivsagar (Assam), Dholavira (Gujarat) and Adichanallur (Tamil Nadu).
Rakhigarhi in Haryana’s Hissar district is one of the most prominent and largest sites of the Harappan civilisation. It is one among the five known townships of the Harappan civilisation in the Indian subcontinent.
Between 2013 and 2016, excavations were carried out at the cemetery in Rakhigarhi by a team of Indian and South Korean researchers led by Vasant Shinde of Deccan College, Pune. In one of their excavations, the skeletal remains of a couple were discovered. Interestingly, of the 62 graves discovered in Rakhigarhi, only this particular grave consisted of more than one skeletal remains and of individuals of the opposite sex together.
Excavations at Hastinapur, in Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh, were led by Dr B B Lal, who was at the time Superintendent of the Excavations Branch of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Hastinapur finds mention in the Mahabharata and the Puranas. One of the most significant discoveries made at this site was of the “new ceramic industry”, which was named the Painted Grey Ware, which as per the report represented the relics of the early Indo-Aryans.
A conclusion that would appear to force itself on us is: that the sites of Hastinapur, Mathura, Kurukshetra, Barnawa, etc., are identifiable with those of the same name mentioned in the Mahabharata. If that be so, the Painted Grey Ware would be associated with the early settlers on these sites, viz. The Pauravas, Panchalas, etc., who formed a part of the early Aryan stock in India. Such an association may also explain the synchronism between the appearance of the Painted Grey Ware in the Ghaggar-Sutlej valleys and the probable date of the arrival of the Aryans in that area.”
In Sivasagar, excavations at the Karenghar (Talatalghar) complex between 2000 and 2003 led to the discovery of buried structures in the north-western and north-eastern side of the complex.
Among the structural remains found at the site were ceramic assemblages including vases, vessels, dishes, and bowls, etc. Terracotta smoking pipes were also found.
Another excavation site in Sivasagar district is the Garhgaon Raja’s palace. Excavation at this site was conducted during 2007-2008. A burnt-brick wall running in north-south orientation was found, along with the remains of two huge circular wooden posts.
Dholavira in Gujarat is located in the Khadir island of the Rann of Kutch, and like Rakhigarhi is one of the sites where the remains of the Harappan civilisation have been found.
Dholavira is unique because remains of a complete water system have been found here. The people who lived there for an estimated 1,200 years during the Harappan civilisation are noted for their water conservation system using rainwater harvesting techniques in an otherwise parched landscape.
Adichnallur lies in the Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu. The urn-burial site was first brought to light during a “haphazard excavation” by a German archaeologist in 1876. Following this, an Englishman Alexander Rae excavated the site between 1889 and 1905.
Over the years, the site has gained attention because of three important findings: the discovery of an ancient Tamil-Brahmi script on the inside of an urn containing a full human skeleton, a fragment of a broken earthenware, and the remains of living quarters.
ISSUE: HOW BUDGET PLANS TO BOOST THE ECONOMY
The fine print of the Union Budget for 2020-21 notwithstanding, the central strategy of the government seems to be to boost the disposable incomes of the Indian consumers.
What was the problem slowing down the economy?
Typically, there are four engines of GDP (gross domestic product) growth. These are as follows: Consumption of the private individuals (or C), Demand for goods from the government (G), investments from the businesses (I) and the net demand from exports and imports (NX).
GDP = C + G + I + NX
With each passing year, the Indian economy has been losing its engines.
Corporate investments (I) engine has been slowing down since 2013. Thanks to domestic bottlenecks and a sombre global demand, net exports (NX) too were not of much help. That left only C and G – that is private consumption and government expenditure.
For the past two years, even private consumption started faltering and this has aggravated in the past one year, as witnessed in the slump in sales across the board.
Government demand carried the day for the longest time but with a sharp fall in revenues, there is no way the government can spend without gravely flouting the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act targets.
How does the government expect this strategy to work?
The government’s strategy, or hope at least, is that leaving people with more money will help boost their consumption levels, which are at present quite subdued, as witnessed in the slump in sales of goods and services across the board.
Higher consumption will bring down the inventories in the economy and incentivise businesses to invest again. The ground has been prepared to make investments attractive for businesses as the government has already cut the corporate tax rate last year.
Once the business activity recovers, the government would have more taxes coming to it and would be in a better position in the coming years to spend more prolifically.