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General Studies – 1
Reference: TN Class – XI History book.
Numismatics is the study/ collection of currency (coins, banknotes, or money in some other form like beads, tokens, and related objects). Historians use these to understand the past. The importance of coins as a source of reconstructing history cannot be denied, particularly in case of ancient history where very few chronicles were produced. An old coin (or currency) is a window to history.
Significance of numismatics in history
- Surviving written texts that feature the ancient history of India were created as religious or literary texts.
- To reconstruct the past, historians look to other sources, such as archaeological finds and inscriptions on stone and metal.
- Coins offer another form of evidence, requiring similar care and expertise in the interpretation of engraved words, symbols, and images.
- Coins are an important source of history, as they suggest important historical processes.
- Not only the monetary situation, but broader questions related to economy and polity can be answered through numismatics.
- Each coin was developed for a special purpose during a specific era, which served as a great revelation over centuries.
- As in the vast and deep history of India there have were numerous big and small dynasties and empires spreading across every part of the country and there were no rigid proof or evidence for their presence.
- However, it is observed that nearly every Ruler tried to have their unique lineage of coins which when deciphered properly, gave umpteen information about the period.
- Coins help apprehend the socio-political, cultural and administrative aspects of past kingdoms and rulers.
- Numismatics also reveals the religious beliefs and sentiments during that time.
- For Example, it was first in the coins of Kanishka dynasty that Buddha was represented in form while earlier it was demonstrated symbolically.
- Similarly, on the coins of Gupta Empire one can witness forms of Durga, Laxmi and Ganga.
- The wide distribution of Kushana coins suggests trading activities, and the presence of ship motifs on Satvahana coinage reflects the importance of maritime trade.
- The inscribed figures of rulers, deities and legends give us an insight into social and political aspects of various kingdoms.
- It must be noted that dates are seen very rarely on early Indian coins.
- Barring western Kshatrapa coins which give dates in the Shaka era and some Gupta silver coins which give the regnal years of kings, coins in early India are mostly devoid of dates.
- Dated or undated, coins found in archaeological excavations often help date the layers of time.
- An example is a site of Sonkh near Mathura, where the excavated levels were categorised into eight periods on the basis of coin finds.
- With regard to the later development in coinage, the numismatic history of later ancient and the early medieval period saw a decline in trade and the feudal order marked stressed urban centres, and as a result, even though the circulation of coins did not stop, their purity and aesthetic quality saw degradation at many levels.
Ancient Indian coins conjure up marketplaces along the Silk Road, the trade route that connected the East and West; conquerors and their traveling mints; wars; and lost kingdoms. The complexity that Numismatics offers, is evident from the fact that the number of distinct dynasties that existed during that time tried to develop their own style of Coinage. Indeed, it is the in-depth study of coinage over the years in India that has revealed the presence of many rulers and dynasties in India which otherwise could not have been justified.
Thus the history of Indian Coinage is both exciting yet complicated as it is immensely vast. Over umpteen reigns there has been a great lineage of coinage set by different rulers that throw a light on the customs and traditions of that Era. Thus, Numismatics is extremely important to get details on periodical changes in history.
Reference: TN Class – XI History book.
After centuries of political disintegration an empire came to be established in A.D. 319, under the Guptas. The empire stretched across northern, central and parts of southern India between c. 320 and 550 CE, keeping north India politically united for more than a century. It was responsible for the Indian Golden Age, an era of peace in which great advances were made in arts, architecture, sciences, religion, and philosophical pursuits. Hindu culture also started to take form during this period.
The term golden age refers to the age of Indian history during which remarkable progress were witnessed in different spheres of human life like polity, economy, culture, society etc. The cultural creativity of the Golden Age of India produced magnificent architecture, including palaces and temples, as well as sculptures and paintings of the highest quality.
Elements of Golden age in Gupta period (320-550 AD)
- With the decline of Mauryan Empire, the unity and integrity of India shattered. The central authority disappeared and regional principalities emerged everywhere.
- This trend was reversed by emergence of Gupta rulers in 4th Century AD. They ruled over extensive empire with their capital at Pataliputra.
- Therefore, the Gupta age witnessed political unification of India after long period of more than 500 years after the decline of Mauryans.
- A number of strong and efficient rulers came to power during Gupta period. For example, Chandragupta I, Samudragupta, Chandragupta II and Skandgupta ruled over extensive empires.
- Gupta age was full of economic prosperity. According to Chinese traveller Fa-hien Magadh, the power centre of Gupta empire was full of cities and its rich people.
- In ancient India, the Guptas issued the largest number of gold coins which were called ‘dinaras’ in their inscriptions.
Art and Literature:
- Gupta rulers were patrons of art and literature. For example, Samudragupta was represented on his coins playing the veena and Chandragupta II is credited with maintaining in his court nine luminaries.
- During the Gupta age beautiful images of Buddha were fashioned at Sarnath and Mathura, but the finest specimens of Buddhist art in Gupta times are the Ajanta paintings. Although these paintings covered the period from the first century BC to the seventh century AD, most of them relate to Gupta times.
- The Gupta age is remarkable for the production of secular literature. For example, Kalidasa belonged to this age. He was the greatest poet of classical Sanskrit literature and wrote Abhijnanashakuntalam which is very highly regarded in world literature.
- There was also an increase in the production of religious literature. The two great epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were almost completed by the fourth century AD.
Science and Technology:
- In mathematics, a work called Aryabhatiya was written by Aryabhata in age. Aryabhatta displayed an awareness of both the zero system and the decimal system. A Gupta inscription of 5th century AD from Allahabad suggests that decimal system was known in India.
- The Gupta age craftsmen distinguished themselves by their work in iron and bronze. For example, iron pillar found at Mehrauli in Delhi manufactured in the 4th century AD has not gathered any rust over the subsequent fifteen centuries which is a great tribute to the technological skill of the craftsmen.
Gupta culture has carved a niche for itself in the annals of Indian history by virtue of its individuality and perfection. The period evolved an all-India norm which in due course was designated as the classical tradition of the country. No description of Indian culture can be complete without reference to the high standards of Gupta cultural heritage which attained its zenith of excellence.
General Studies – 2
3. The development of vaccines is a classic story of global cooperation between the North and the South. Unfortunately, the increasing nationalist tendencies of the democratic World during the pandemic have challenged the positive narrative on global cooperation. Examine. (250 words)
Reference: The Hindu
Ironically the leading and advanced countries have been mindlessly selfish in amassing approved vaccines, while it is the Global South countries, India and China, which have provided a ray of hope to most countries.
Battle for Vaccines: Background:
- Amassing Vaccines: Duke University data shows that the advance purchase contracts made by the European Union, can vaccinate their population two times, the United States and the United Kingdom, four times, and Canada, six times.
- Nearly 82% of Pfizer’s production in 2021 and 78% of Moderna’s have already been advance purchased by rich countries.
- The arguments of public good and global cooperation have gone out of the window now.
Need for global cooperation in vaccine development:
- Even before COVID-19, projections have shown that 6% of the global population would be in extreme poverty, which has gone up by 71 million, thereby causing enormous challenges to SDG 1 (“End poverty in all its forms everywhere”).
- Over the next few days, New Delhi plans to gift 5 lakh doses of coronavirus vaccines to CARICOM countries (Caribbean Community), and another 2 lakh doses each to Nicaragua and the Pacific Island states.
- These nations do not have the capacity to manufacture the vaccines, while their population remains vulnerable. Without access to vaccines, these nations will have to face burden to high inequity and mortality.
- The COVAX project is a global risk-sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, an ambitious programme based on funding from high and middle-income countries.
- As part of the GAVI-COVAX alliance, India would further supply 1 crore (10 million) doses to Africa and 10 lakh (1 million) to UN health workers. COVAX is a unique case of global cooperation and a strategic shift to enhance global development outcomes.
India’s Vaccine Diplomacy:
- India has taken a position that a significant percentage of the approved doses will be permitted for exports.
- India’s vaccine diplomacy has reached 17 nations, including neighbouring countries as well as those in West Asia, Africa and Latin America.
- The latest figures indicate that India has supplied 56 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccines as part of an international grant while another 1 crore doses have been shipped or flown out of the country commercially.
- While its exports to neighbouring counties will be under grant mode, initial shipment of vaccines to least developed countries will be free of cost.
- On the contrary, China’s Sinovac has received lukewarm response due to new info unveiled on its efficacy from Brazil and Pakistan.
- The ability to produce large volumes of vaccine at an affordable cost underlines India’s importance to developing countries when it comes to drug access.
The SDG 3 (“Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages) reversal due to pandemic could affect the health of the world population, and global growth itself. India’s approach only reinforces the need of having coordinated global efforts in bringing COVID-19 under control. It also shows that, more commitment is needed from the developed world, going beyond nationalist values to attain the sustainable development goals.
4. While major powers such as the US have threatened sanctions on the military’s many business conglomerates but it will need a collective approach from all the major powers to bring Myanmar back to the path of democracy. Discuss. (250 words)
Reference: The Hindu
The country’s future appears uncertain because of the military takeover and arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto head of Myanmar’s elected government and leader of the National League of Democracy (NLD).
Myanmar coup: Brief Background:
- While the reason cited for the military takeover was the government’s failure to act on the army’s complaint about frauds in the November election, the actual reasons, according to several observers, are different.
- Suu Kyi’s NLD had won a total of 390 seats while the main Opposition, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, managed only 33 seats.
- That led to concerns within the military about their powers being curtailed by a more popular political leader.
- The top military commander, Senior General Ming Aung Hlaing, was slated to retire in July and there were clear indications that he did not want power to go out of his hands.
Collective approach to restore democracy:
- While international condemnation has been pouring in with US President Joe Biden threatening to reinstate sanctions on Myanmar, this could push the country back into China’s embrace.
- The UNSC, responsible to maintain international peace, could not agree on a joint statement, as China played the obstacle.
- China interference would be a setback for realising a free and open architecture in Southeast Asia, emboldening an assertive Beijing.
- Therefore, it would be best to strike a middle ground, as Delhi has done, by calling for upholding the democratic process and urging the generals to release Suu Kyi at the earliest.
- Myanmar’s future prosperity and independence lie in respecting its people’s will, not in becoming a Chinese vassal state.
- ASEAN nations must put pressure on the Myanmar’s Generals to restore the civilian government and immediately reinstate democratically elected nation. Economic pressure coupled with political dialogue must be the way forward.
Mere sanctioning the military conglomerates will push Myanmar into a tight embrace with China. This must be avoided and platforms such as ASEAN and UN General Assembly must ensure that there is a return to peaceful democracy in the country.
General Studies – 3
5. India’s space-sector reforms of 2020 have created a buzz over growth but startups alone won’t take us far. Large private firms that have been working on state contracts must join the action. Comment. (250 words)
Reference: Live Mint
India is among the global leaders in space exploration. ISRO has spearheaded India’s success in space. These include various satellite launch, space-launch vehicles, and a range of associated capabilities. India’s space-sector reforms of 2020 have created a buzz over growth but startups alone won’t take us far. Large private firms that have been working on state contracts must join the action.
India is lagging in harnessing the power of private innovation in the space domain. This not only limits the exploitation of space for economic development, but has serious national security implications.
India needs urgent and radical reforms in its space sector:
- Today, the space industry is undergoing a paradigm shift, moving from Space 3.0 to Space 4.0, driven by changes in motivations, actors, roles, and technologies.
- While Space 3.0 has been characterized by large government investments and public-public collaborations, Space 4.0 is a more democratized and accessible field with more public-private and private-private collaborations.
It entails the emergence of a plethora of small to medium-sized private companies.
- As military uses of space and prestige projects like Moon-landing emerged, major private sector entities already in the aviation industry like Boeing and Lockheed won space contracts in the US.
- Significant expansion of satellite-based telecommunication, navigation, broadcasting and mapping, and lent a significant commercial dimension to the space sector.
- As the digital revolution in the 21st century transformed the world economy, the commercial space sector has begun to grow in leaps and bounds.
- The global space business is now estimated to be around $ 400 billion and is expected easily rise to at least trillion dollars by 2040.
- One example of the rise of private sector companiesin the space sector is SpaceX run by the US entrepreneur Elon Musk. Hired for a resupply mission for the space station, it now launches more rockets every year than NASA.
- The entry of private sector has begun to drive down the cost-per-launch through innovations such as reusable rockets.
- India, however, is quite some distance away from adapting to the unfolding changes in the global space business.
- In its early years, India’s space programme that was constrained by lack of resources found innovative ways of getting ahead in space.
- Although the ISRO encourages private sector participation in the national space programme, its model is still very 20th century — in terms of governmental domination.
Issues and Concerns of private participation in space industry in India:
- Data Risk: Though space it gives an opportunity to entrepreneurs but raw data of ISRO in the hands of the public is sensitive and consists of danger of misuse or improper utilisation of data.
- Regulation: Though it is a profitable investment, regulation of private sector participation is not easy. The time taken for regulatory clearances and unstable political institutions can cause delays and hurdle in decision making of investors.
- Revenue loss: ISRO will lose a fair amount of money it is earning through its space activities. This will reduce government revenue.
- Unfair commercial practices:Allowing private sector may lead to lobbying and unfair means to get space projects or launch of any satellite for their own profit. It may also lead to leakage of sensitive information by private players to other countries and companies to make profit.
- India should have national space activities legislationwhich takes on board all stakeholders.
- Apublic-private partnership (PPP) model can be looked into to realise ISRO’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), with a joint venture between ISRO and the private sector.
- In the UK, space ventures are treated as a complement to big organizations and not a competitor. This should be encouraged in India too.
- Asupportive international partner and likeminded local partners helps to set up a space business.
- The idea should be to let the private industry build their own facilities after gaining enough expertise.
- ISRO has built a space technology park spread over 25 acres in Bengaluru where the entire range of facilities have been set up for use by the industry.
- It needs a regulatory environment that encourages a more dynamic role for the private sector and promotes innovation. It will be a pity if India squanders the many advantages of its early start in space by delaying the much-needed reform and reorganization of its space sector.
The private sector already supplies majority of the sub-systems in satellite manufacturing. This can be further scaled up into other activities with proper regulation and partnership of the ISRO and private sector. The country must deregulate the space sector to encourage private enterprise if we are to compete in the new space economy.
Reference: Live Mint
Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) is a device that uses a source of fuel, such as hydrogen, and an oxidant to create electricity by an electrochemical process. Put simply, the fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to generate an electric current, water being the only by-product. Supreme Court has asked government to look into the feasibility of hydrogen-based tech to deal with vehicular air pollution in capital. India is looking closely at Japan, which has made progress in this field.
- Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that convert chemical energy in fuels into electrical energy directly.
- A fuel cell produces electricity, water, and heat using fuel and oxygen in the air.
- An electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, catalysed by platinum, to produce energy.
- Water is the only emission when hydrogen is the fuel.
- A fuel cell operating on pure hydrogen emits zero emissions at the source.
- Fuel cells provide a much longer operating life than a battery, and since fuel cells have a higher energy density, they are lighter than an equivalent battery system.
- Fuel cells create energy electrochemically, and do not burn fuel, they are fundamentally more efficient than combustion systems.
- They do not require recharging and is a renewable source of energy.
- Hydrogen can be produced from domestic resources, eliminating the need to import foreign oil. It gives energy security.
- Fuel cells are modular, and can be scaled up depending on the power needs of a facility. Larger fuel cells can be linked together to achieve multi-megawatt outputs
- While widely available, hydrogen is expensive. it takes a lot of time to separate the hydrogen element from others.
- The transport and storage of hydrogen is deemed impractical.
- Since it is a very powerful source of fuel, hydrogen can be highly inflammable.
- Other non-renewable sources such as coal, oil and natural gas are needed to separate hydrogen from oxygen. As a result, carbon dioxide is also emitted in the air and makes global warming worse.
- China, far and away the world’s biggest auto market with some 28 million vehicles sold annually, is aiming for more than 1 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) in service by 2030. That compares with just 1,500 or so now, most of which are buses.
- Japan, a market of more than 5 million vehicles annually, wants to have 800,000 FCVs sold by that time from around 3,400 currently.
- South Korea, which has a car market just one third the size of Japan, has set a target of 850,000 vehicles on the road by 2030. But as of end-2018, fewer than 900 have been sold.
Progress in India:
- In India, so far, the definition of EV only covers BEVs; the government has lowered taxes to 12%.
- At 43%, hybrid electric vehicles and hydrogen FCEVs attract the same tax as IC vehicles.
- The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, under its Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) programme, has been supporting various such projects in academic institutions, research and development organisations and industry for development.
- Fourteen RD&D projects on hydrogen and fuel cells are currently under implementation with the support of the Ministry. Between 2016-17 and 2018-19, eight projects were sanctioned and 18 completed.
- The Ministry of Science and Technology has supported two networked centres on hydrogen storage led by IIT Bombay and Nonferrous Materials Technology Development Centre, Hyderabad. These involve 10 institutions, including IITs, and IISc, Bangalore.
The FAME India is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan whose main thrust is to encourage electric vehicles by providing subsidies. India must however make a concerted attempt to incentivize both EVs and FCEVs.
7. The very idea that a mass protest must remain peaceful is a legacy of Gandhi. In Gandhi’s frame, the protester endures great suffering, and thereby arouses the deeper human instincts in the adversary’s heart. Explain. (150 words)
Reference: The Hindu
Satyagraha is a moral weapon and the stress is on soul force over physical force. It aims at winning the enemy through love and patient suffering. It aims at winning over an unjust law, not at crushing, punishing, or taking revenge against the authority, but to convert and heal it. Satyagraha is meant to overcome all methods of violence.
Gandhi preferred to use the satyagraha instead of protest. The Satyagrahi also engages in acts of voluntary suffering. Any violence inflicted by the opponent is accepted without retaliation. The opponent can only become morally bankrupt if violence continues to be inflicted indefinitely.
Non-violent Satyagraha is a moral battle against the evil. Gandhiji believed that the protest or Satyagraha must always remain non-violent. Violence leads to feeling of Vengeance the vanquished. This begets more violence, thus becoming a vicious cycle. Instead with Ahimsa and Satyagraha the fight is against the evil and not the evil doers. Gandhiji said that by exerting the moral force, one is appealing to the consciousness of the opponent without having any hatred towards him.
The main reason for withdrawal of Non-cooperation movement in 1922 was that it turned violent. It would have led to use of oppressive state forces from the British who now could use it disproportionately as 22 policemen were hacked to death in Chauri Chaura incident.
Though it started as a struggle for political rights, Satyagraha became in the long run a struggle for individual salvation, which could be achieved through love and self-sacrifice. Gandhi explained in a letter to Lord Hunter that Satyagraha is a movement based entirely upon truth. It replaces every form of violence, direct and indirect, veiled and unveiled and whether in thought, word or deed.
In a nutshell, Satyagraha is itself a movement intended to fight social ills and promote ethical values. It is a whole philosophy of nonviolence. At its heart is nonviolence. An attempt is made to convert, persuade or win over the opponent. It involves applying the forces of both reason and conscience simultaneously, while holding aloft the indisputable truth of his/her position.