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Current Affairs 26th February 2024 for UPSC Prelims Exam


Context: Researchers in Japan theorised that planets can form in the massive clouds of dust and gas around supermassive black holes.

What Are Blanets?

  • About: Blanets are theoretical planets that may form in the massive clouds of dust and gas surrounding supermassive black holes,
  • Coined by: Researchers including Keichi Wada from Kagoshima University in Japan.
  • Formation: The formation of blanets is thought to mirror that of planets around young stars.
    • When dust particles collide, they stick together to form larger clumps that sweep up more dust as they orbit the star.
    • Eventually, these clumps grow large enough to become planets.
  • Characteristics: These planets could be vastly different from conventional planets, representing a new class of astronomical objects.
    • Blanets could potentially grow to immense sizes, up to 3,000 times the mass of Earth, facilitated by a “wind” of dust driven by the radiation from an active galactic nucleus.
    • These bodies are unlikely to be gas giants like Jupiter or Neptune due to the negligible gaseous envelope relative to their mass, and would significantly differ from Earth-like planets.
  • Current Status: The concept of blanets is purely theoretical, and directly observing them is difficult due to their extreme distance (the nearest active galactic nucleus is 11 million light-years away).

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Attukal Pongala

Context: Recently, the Attukal Pongala festival was celebrated in Attukal Bhagavathy temple in Thiruvananthapuram.

About Attukal Pongala

  • Location: Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
  • Duration: 10 days (February-March)
  • Deity: Attukal Bhagavathy (Goddess Kannaki/ Bhadrakali/ Attukalamma)
  • Main Ritual: The term ‘Pongala’ signifies ‘to boil over’. On the 9th day, women participate in a significant ritual where they prepare sweet payasam – a traditional pudding made from rice, jaggery, coconut, and plantains, and offer it to the Goddess Bhagavathy.
  • Additional Ritual: Kuruthitharpanam, a sacrificial offering, as part of the religious ceremonies.
  • Largest Women Gathering: In 2009, the festival was marked in the form of the largest yearly gathering of women through the Guinness World Record.

Veer Savarkar

Context: The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has paid tributes to Veer Savarkar on his Punya Tithi.

About Veer Savarkar

  • Birth: Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was born on May 28, 1883, in Bhagur, a village near Nashik, Maharashtra.
  • Demise: Passed away on February 26, 1966, following a fast unto death.

Organisational Affiliations and Contributions

  • Abhinav Bharat Society: Founded this secret society, initially called Mitra Mela, in 1904 along with his brother Ganesh Damodar Savarkar.
  • International Involvement: Engaged with India House and the Free India Society during his time in the United Kingdom.
  • Hindu Mahasabha Leadership: Served as the president of the Hindu Mahasabha from 1937 to 1943.
  • Literary Works: Authored ‘The History of the War of Indian Independence’, detailing guerrilla tactics in the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, and ‘Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?’.

Key Associations

  • Abhinav Bharat Society: A secret society aimed at Indian independence, with branches across India and London, initially established as Mitra Mela.
  • India House: Founded by Shyamji Krishna Varma in 1905 in London to foster nationalist sentiments among Indian students.
  • Free India Society: Established by Savarkar in London in 1906 to promote Indian nationalism inspired by Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini, about whom Savarkar had written a biography.
  • Hindu Mahasabha: An organisation formed in 1907 and expanded in 1915, with notable leaders including Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Lal Lajpat Rai, and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

India- US Homeland Security Dialogue

Context: India and the United States are expected to hold the Homeland Security Dialogue (HSD).

About Homeland Security Dialogue (HSD)

  • Origin:
    • Established in 2010 following the India-US counter-terrorism initiative.
    • First meeting held in May 2011.
  • Recent Developments: In March 2021 re-established by the Biden administration after being discontinued under Trump.
  • Focus Areas: Six sub-groups address various security concerns:
    • Illicit finance and financial crime
    • Cyber information sharing
    • Megacity policing and information sharing
    • Global supply chain, transportation, and border security
    • Capacity building
    • Technology upgradation

IMEC- A Solution to Red Sea Crisis

Context: The Red Sea crisis has disrupted global trade, highlighting the need for alternate routes.

Impact of the Red Sea Crisis on Global Trade

Strategic Importance of the Red Sea Route

  • The Red Sea is crucial for global trade due to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, connecting Yemen and Djibouti, facilitating 12% of global merchandise trade.
  • Conflict in the area has forced rerouting of shipments via the Cape of Good Hope, leading to increased freight, insurance costs, and longer transit times.

Consequences for India

  • India’s significant trade with European and North African countries, relying on the Red Sea route, has been impacted, with a noticeable reduction in shipments.
  • The Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) reports a 25% hold back of Indian cargo ships due to rising threats in the region.

Alternatives to the Red Sea Route

  • China-Europe Freight Trains: In response to supply chain disruptions, China promotes its China-Europe freight trains, part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as an alternative route.
  • India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC)
    • Announced at the G-20 summit in 2023, the IMEC faces challenges including lack of investment, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and vulnerabilities at the Strait of Hormuz.
    • Suggestions include involving Oman to bypass the Strait of Hormuz issues, requiring development of new ports and rail links.

Strategies to Enhance IMEC Viability

  • Economic Feasibility Study: Conducting studies to quantify the economic benefits, considering the corridor could reduce journey times by 40% and costs by 30%, despite potential increases in carriage and compliance expenses.
  • Financial Framework Development: Establishing a solid financial structure to attract investments from governments, international organisations, and private entities, given the lack of binding commitments.
  • Multi-Nation Operational Framework: Creating a multi-nation forum to address legal and operational challenges across different jurisdictions involved in the corridor, ensuring efficient trade facilitation.

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