18 Feb Current Affairs
February 18, 2020
20 Feb Current Affairs
February 20, 2020
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19 Feb Current Affairs

5th India Russia Military Industry Conference

In News:

Recently, several Memorandum of Understanding( MoUs) were signed between Indian and Russian companies for setting up joint ventures to develop a range of defence equipment.


The MoUs were signed during the 5th India Russia military industry conference held during the Defexpo 2020 in Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh).

The MoUs intends to fix a constant issue of lack of timely spares and support faced by the Indian military.

Key Points:

The MoUs come under the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on joint manufacturing of spares in India signed in 2018 for mutual cooperation related to Russian origin arms and defence equipment.

The MoUs were related to the production of different defence equipment such as parts of the tanks such as the T-72, T-90, radar systems, Anti Submarine Weapon (ASW) Rocket launchers and 3D modelling.

The MoUs majorly focuses on:

1) The development, production and manufacture of small spacecraft for remote sensing.

2) Establishment of a joint venture in India for the production of various subsystems of air defence missile systems like Tunguska, Kavadrat, etc as well as the Shilka self-propelled air defence gun system.

3) Refurbishment and life extension of the missiles.

Wildfires in the Mukurthi National Park

In News:

Ahead of summer and peak fire season, ‘fire lines’ or ‘fire breaks’, in the Mukurthi National Park (MNP) are being constructed by the Tamil Nadu government.

Key Points:

Fire line is an artificially formed break in foliage or forest cover to control the spread of wildfires by limiting the amount of combustible vegetation available.

Other Measures Being Taken to Control Wildfires in the Park:

Cool Burning: Cool burning is done in a controlled manner by artificially creating small, localised fires to limit the amount of vegetation available in any given area. It means that any fires will not have any build-up of “vegetative fuel” to use to become a large, uncontrollable fire.

Removal of invasive trees such as wattle is also being done in the Park in order to reduce the fuel for wildfires.

Mukurthi National Park:

Extent: Mukurthi National Park (MNP) is located in the northwest corner of Tamil Nadu in the Western Ghats.

It is a part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO World Heritage Site) along with Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Bandipur National Park, Nagarhole National Park, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and Silent Valley.

Keystone Species: The park was created to protect its keystone species, the Nilgiri Tahr.

There has been almost a 27% increase in the population of the Tahr in the Nilgiris over the last few years.

Forest Type: The park is characterised by montane grasslands and shrublands interspersed with sholas in a high altitude area of high rainfall, near-freezing temperatures and high winds.

Peaks: The Park is also home to Mukurthi Peak, one of the highest peaks in the Nilgiri Hills.

Tribes Living Inside: Todas

Todas are a pastoral tribe of the Nīlgiri Hills.

New Species of Urban Lizard

In News:

A new species of lizard, the urban bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus urbanus) was discovered in Guwahati, Assam.


The bent-toed gecko was earlier thought to be the same as the Khasi Hills lizard.

All bent-toed geckos in Northeast India were thought to be a single species, the Cyrtodactylus khasiensis found primarily in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya.

Although the urban bent-toed gecko falls within the khasiensis group, it differs from other members of this group in mitochondrial sequence data and aspects of morphology (Branch of biology that deals with form and structure of plants and animals).

Markedly Different: The new species of lizard is also markedly different in molecular structure, blotch and colour from the Cyrtodactylus guwahatiensis, or the Guwahati bent-toed gecko, that was discovered two years ago.


Urbanization is a major threat to the survival of geckos.

Guwahati is home to numerous important species. The city provides an edge for urban biodiversity to thrive because it encompasses 18 hills, 8 reserve forests, 2 wildlife sanctuaries and a Ramsar Site (Deepor Beel) besides the Brahmaputra river.

About Gecko:

Geckos are (suborder Gekkota), any of more than 1,000 species of lizards making up 6 families of the suborder Gekkota.

Geckos are mostly small, usually nocturnal reptiles with soft skin.

Dara Shikoh

In News:

The Ministry of Culture recently set up a seven-member panel of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to locate the grave of the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh (1615-59). He is believed to be buried somewhere in the Humayun’s Tomb complex in Delhi, one of around 140 graves of the Mughal clan.


The panel has been given three months time to complete this task.

The panel will use architectural evidence from that time, and also written history and any other information that can be used as evidence.

Who was Dara Shikoh?

He was the eldest son of Shah Jahan.

He was killed after losing the war of succession against his brother Aurangzeb.

He is described as a “liberal Muslim” who tried to find commonalities between Hindu and Islamic traditions.

He translated into Persian the Bhagavad Gita as well as 52 Upanishads.

According to the Shahjahannama, after Aurangzeb defeated Dara Shikoh, he brought the latter to Delhi in chains. His head was cut off and sent to Agra Fort, while his torso was buried in the Humayun’s Tomb complex.

His legacy:

Dara Shikoh is described as “one of the greatest free thinkers of that time”.

He realised the greatness of the Upanishads and translated them, which were earlier known only to a few upper caste Hindus. Translations from that Persian translation have inspired a lot of free thinkers of today, even inspiring the likes of former United States President Barack Obama.

Some historians argue that if Dara Shikoh had ascended the Mughal throne instead of Aurangzeb, it could have saved thousands of lives lost in religious clashes. He was the total antithesis of Aurangzeb, in that he was deeply syncretic, warm-hearted and generous — but at the same time, he was also an indifferent administrator and ineffectual in the field of battle.

Challenges ahead for ASI:

No one knows where exactly Dara Shikoh was buried. All that is known is that it’s a small grave in the Humayun’s Tomb complex. Italian traveller Niccolao Manucci gave a graphic description of the day in Travels of Manucci, as he was there as a witness to the whole thing. That is the basis of the thesis. Now, the ASI’s biggest problem is that most graves in the complex have no names.

About Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi:

This tomb, built in 1570, is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. Commissioned by Humayun’s first wife and chief consort, Empress Bega Begum (also known as Haji Begum). Humayun’s garden-tomb is an example of the charbagh (a four quadrant garden with the four rivers of Quranic paradise represented), with pools joined by channels. It is also called the ‘dormitory of the Mughals’ as in the cells are buried over 150 Mughal family members. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cultural Significance:

It represented a leap in Mughal architecture, and together with its accomplished Charbagh garden, typical of Persian gardens, but never seen before in India, it set a precedent for subsequent Mughal architecture. It is seen as a clear departure from the fairly modest mausoleum of his father, the first Mughal Emperor, Babur, called Bagh-e Babur (Gardens of Babur) in Kabul (Afghanistan).

National Security Act

In News:

The NSA has repeatedly come under criticism for the way it is used by the police.


As per a Law Commission report from 2001, more than 14 lakh people (14,57,779) were held under preventive laws in India.

About National Security Act:

It is a stringent law that allows preventive detention for months, if authorities are satisfied that a person is a threat to national security or law and order. The person does not need to be charged during this period of detention. The goal is to prevent the individual from committing a crime. It was promulgated on September 23, 1980, during the Indira Gandhi government.

As per the National Security Act, the grounds for preventive detention of a person include:

acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, the relations of India with foreign powers, or the security of India.

regulating the continued presence of any foreigner in India or with a view to making arrangements for his expulsion from India.

preventing them from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community it is necessary so to do.


Under the National Security Act, an individual can be detained without a charge for up to 12 months; the state government needs to be intimated that a person has been detained under the NSA. A person detained under the National Security Act can be held for 10 days without being told the charges against them. Appeal: The detained person can appeal before a high court advisory board but they are not allowed a lawyer during the trial.

GISAT-1 — Geo Imaging Satellite

In News:

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is preparing to launch GISAT-1, a new earth observation satellite, in the first week of March.


It will be the first of two planned Indian EO spacecraft to be placed in a geostationary orbit of around 36,000 km.

It will apparently be in a fixed spot looking over the Indian continent at all times.

It will have high-resolution cameraswhich will help to monitor any changes in borders and the overall geographical condition of the country, etc.


Earth Observation Satellites of ISRO has been successfully able to establish many operational applications in the country. Both at Central and State level, there are large number of users who utilise space based inputs for various purposes. Some of the important missions of ISRO, in terms of IRS series of satellites, that has enabled unique applications of space based imaging are, Cartosat-1 & 2, Resourcesat-1 & 2, Oceansat-1 & 2, Risat-1, Megha-Tropiques, SARAL, Scatsat, INSAT series, and host of other satellites.