Red Sanders

Why in News? 

  • Smuggling of red sanders from the forests of Andhra Pradesh has once again become rampant as smugglers have opened a new route through Kadapa district.
  • The traditional route of smugglers used to be from Chittoor and Nellore districts of Andhra Pradesh to Chennai port.
  • From Chennai port, the wood used to be transported to Southeast Asia.


New Route

  • Smugglers are now targeting the red sandalwood forests in the Palakonda hills of Kadapa and Anantapur districts.
  • The logs are then smuggled via Anantapur to Bengaluruand and from there to Chennai port.


Smuggling of Red Sanders

  • Smugglers bring woodcutters in the guise of construction labourers and put them up at cheap lodges in Kadapa.
  • They are then taken into the forests in groups where they fell the trees for five-ten days and deliver the logs to the smugglers.
  • These logs are now being transported from Kadapa via Bengaluru rather than via Tamil Nadu which was the case earlier.
  • Whether the logs are smuggled from Chittoor and Nellore or from Kadapa via Bengaluru, they are ending up at Chennai or Tuticorin port.
  • In 2016-17, the Chennai Zonal Unit of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence seized 50,000 tonnes of red sanders.


Red Sanders Anti Smuggling Task Force

  • Andhra Pradesh Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force was set up in November 2014 with its base in Tirupati.
  • It claims to have curbed wood felling and smuggling to some extent in the last two years in Chittoor and Nellore districts.

Red Sanders (Red sandalwood or Saunderswood)

  • The scientific name for Red Sanders is Pterocarpussantalinus.
  • It is a tree species endemic to South India (hot and dry climate).
  • It is valued for its colour.
  • It is medicinally, scientifically and ornamentally very important and essential tree.
  • It grows in rocky, degraded and fallow land with Red soil.


Conservation status

  • It is listed as an Endangered Species by the IUCN because of overexploitation of its timber in South India.
  • It is also listed in the appendix II of the CITES which means that a certificate is required in order to export it.
  • Certificate is granted only if the trade is not detrimental to the survival of the species.

Drypetes kalamii

Drypetes kalamii
  • It is a small shrub found to be shorter version of its close relative Drypetesellisii.
  • It is named after former President Abdul Kalam.
  • It was found in Buxa and Jaldapara National Park of West Bengal.
  • Scientists have provisionally assessed the plant to be Critically Endangered.
  • It is just 1 metre tall.
  • It is unisexual in nature which means they have separate male and female plants.
  • It is found in wet, shaded areas of subtropical moist semi-evergreen forests, at a height ranging 50-100 metres.
  • It bears pale yellow flowers in clusters and bright orange to red fruits.
  • The researchers compared the new plant with other  Drypetes species and found differences in the leaf, flower and fruit structures.
  • Forest fires and grazing are two plausible threats to the new species.
  • It is a plant genus of the family Putranjivaceae in the order Malpighiales.
  • The genus comprises about 220 species of Drypetes identified across the globe of which 20 have been reported from India.
  • This adds to the rich floral wealth of India.
  • These species are mostly found in Africa, southern Asia, Australia, Central America,  the Caribbean and other islands.
Section : Environment & Ecology

Animal diversity of Sundarbans

Animal diversity of Sundarbans

  • Mammalian species- Asian small-clawed Otter, Gangetic Dolphin, Grey and Marsh Mongoose and the wild Rhesus Monkey.
  • Bird species- Osprey, Brahminy Kite, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Rose-ringed parakeets, flycatchers and kingfishers.
  • Turtles- Olive Ridley and Hawskbill sea turtles and the River Terrapin.
  • Lizards- Monitor Lizards and Geckos.
  • Snakes- King cobra, monocled cobra, Russell’s viper, common and banded kraits.
  • Butterflies, moths, crustaceans like crabs, shrimp and prawns are also found.



  • Anthropogenic pressure and natural threats have led to the shrinking of mangrove swamp habitat, and it has further led to the declining of mammals in Sundarbans.
  • For example:- Barking deer and Hog deer and Asiatic Wild Water Buffalo etc are not found in Sundarbans anymore.



  • It is a vast forest in the coastal region of the Bay of Bengal.
  • The area itself gets its name from the Mangrove trees, Sundari (Heritiera fomes) trees in the region.
  • It is located in the delta region of Padma, Meghna and Brahmaputra river basins.
  • It is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world.
  • It covers approximately 10,000 square kilometres of which 60% is in Bangladesh and the remaining in India.
  • It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Zoological Survey of India

  • It is a premier Indian organisation in zoological research and studies, established in 1916 .
  • Its headquarters are at Kolkatta.
  • Its objective is to promote the survey, exploration and research of the fauna in the region.
  • The activities of the ZSI are coordinated by the Conservation and Survey Division under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
Section : Environment & Ecology

Naxalite movement and Forest Rights Act, 2006

About Naxalite movement

  • The Naxalite movement was started by Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal in West Bengal in 1967 under the banner of Communist Party of India (Marxist).
  • The CPI (Maoist) was formed in 2004 with the merger of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People’s War, commonly known as the People’s War Group, and the Maoist Communist Centre of India.
  • The movement has changed many banners over the past four decades and is now called the CPI (Maoist), which is a banned organisation in the country.


About Forest Rights Act, 2006

  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA) aims to redress the historical injustice that forest-dwellers have experienced, particularly the denial of their rights to forest land and resources.
  • It was enacted to protect the marginalised socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to environment with their right to life and livelihood.
  • Objectives:
    • To grant legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities.
    • To give communities and the public a voice in forest and wildlife conservation.
  • Eligibility (to qualify as Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribe (FDST):
  1. Must be a Scheduled Tribe in the area where the right is claimed
  2. Primarily resided in forest or forests land prior to 13-12-2005
  3. Depend on the forest or forests land for bonafide livelihood needs
  • Rights under the act:
    • Rights to hold and live in the forest land under the individual or common occupation for habitation or for self-cultivation for livelihood
    • Right of ownership
    • Access to collect, use and dispose of minor forest produce
    • Community rights such as nistar. (Nistar means forest rights for bonafide livelihood purposes.)
    • Habitat rights for primitive tribal groups and pre-agricultural communities
    • Right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use

Note: The act also provides for diversion of forest land for public utility facilities managed by the Government, such as schools, dispensaries, fair price shops, electricity and telecommunication lines, water tanks, etc. with the recommendation of Gram Sabhas.


About Naxalite movement

  • The Naxalite movement was started by Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal in West Bengal in 1967 under the banner of Communist Party of India (Marxist).
  • The CPI (Maoist) was formed in 2004 with the merger of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People’s War, commonly known as the People’s War Group, and the Maoist Communist Centre of India.
  • The movement has changed many banners over the past four decades and is now called the CPI (Maoist), which is a banned organisation in the country.


Naxal Affected Areas in India

  • 90 districts in 11 States are considered as affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE)
  • State List:
    • Andhra Pradesh
    • Bihar
    • Chhattisgarh
    • Jharkhand
    • Kerala
    • Madhya Pradesh
    • Maharashtra
    • Odisha
    • Telangana
    • Uttar Pradesh
    • West Bengal


Recent steps to address LWE problem

  • National Policy and Action Plan to address LWE problem has been put in place that envisages a multi-pronged strategy involving security related measures, developmental interventions, ensuring  rights  &  entitlements  of  local  communities
  • Security Measure: The Central Government assists the LWE affected State Governments by providing Central Armed Police Forces battalions, training, funds for modernization of State police forces, equipment & arms, sharing of intelligence etc.
  • Developmental interventions: The Central Government has taken various measures including construction of roads, strengthening of communications network, installation of mobile towers, improving network of banks, post offices, health and education facilities in the LWE areas through concerned Ministries.
  • Special Central Assistance (SCA) Scheme: The Government of India has approved Special Central Assistance (SCA) Scheme for the most LWE affected districts, under which funds are provided to States for filling the critical gaps in public infrastructure & services which are of urgent nature.
Section : Polity & Governance

Missing the grass for the trees in Western Ghats

Headline : Missing the grass for the trees in Western Ghats

Decline in grasslands
  • There has been a drastic decline in shola grasslands (which are stunted forest growths of diverse grass species) and it seems to be accelerating through the decades.
  • Earlier in 1973, shola grasslands spread across 373.78 of the landscape, four decades later in 2014, it had shrunk to just 124.4, marking a 66.7% decline.
Reduction of forests
  • The reduction has also been seen in native shola forests.
  • There area has declined by a third to 66.4
  • However, the shola forests decline seems to have been arrested since 2003.
Reasons for decline
  • Lower priority: Departments are mostly involved in managing forests, either for conservation or a source of income and the grasslands continue to be viewed as lower priority or grassy blanks.
  • Timber plantations: In place of these grasslands and forests, timber plantations have thrived.
  • Agriculture: Agriculture and fallow land have increased three times to 100 in the past four decades.
  • Invasive species: The use of satellite imagery also revealed the nature of the growth of plantations.
  • Till the 90s, it was a policy push for plantations.
  • After the settlement of Sri Lankan refugees, it seems to be a natural march of invasive species such as prolific-seed-producer, Acacia.
Effects of decline in grasslands
  • Threat to endemic species: As grasslands vanish or become more fragmented, local flora and fauna, particularly endemic species such as Nilgiri Pipit, is under threat.
  • Extinction of local birds: There has been local extinction of the bird, particularly when compared to the sightings during the British Raj.
  • The grasslands are in trouble, much more than the forests.
  • It is important to preserve whatever patches are remaining and push back invasive species.
  • Tackling this would require ecological understanding rather than a knee-jerk reaction of harvesting invasive trees which (counter-intuitively) ends up actually accelerating the spread of Acacia.
Shola Grassland
  • Shola grasslands are rich store houses of biodiversity and also home to extremely rich wildlife.
  • These consist of dwarf trees growing 25-30 feet.
  • Vegetation is double layered storey with closed canopy which hardly permits a single ray of sunlight to penetrate in the natural vegetation.
  • Nilgiris upper region is classified as southern grassland mountain grassland.
  • Mountain vegetation consists of patches of stunted evergreen forest.
  • Sharp ecotone between the shola and grassland structure has been attributed to prevalence of forest fire.
Flora & fauna of shola grassland
  • Flora & fauna of shola grassland are unique.
  • These are home to most of the birds endemic to western ghats.
  • Black – orange flycatcher, Nilgiri pipit, Nilgiri laughing thrush and mammals like Nilgiri langoor and most endangered species Nilgiri Tahr.
  • The grassland is being rapidly closed in by various woody exotic species for example lantana camera, ulexeuropaeus, Acacia mearnsii, Schoch broom and wattle.
  • These plants are not native plants of the grassland.
Shola forests
  • Shola forests are tropical Montane forests found in the valleys separated by rolling grasslands only in the higher elevations.
  • These are found only in South India in the Southern Western Ghats.
  • The trees never grow on the mountain tops.
  • The Shola forests are very rich in bio-diversity when it comes to plants.
  • There are at least 25 types of trees that dominate these forests in the Nilgiri Hills.
Palani Hills
  • These are a mountain range in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
  • These are an eastward extension of the Western Ghat ranges, which run parallel to the west coast of India.
Section : Environment & Ecology

Bt Cotton

Bt Cotton:
  • Bt cotton is genetically modified cotton crop that expresses an insecticidal protein whose gene has been derived from a soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, commonly referred as Bt.
Which insects does it control?
  • In 1996, Bollgard cotton ( a trade mark of Monsanto) was the first Bt cotton to be marketed in the U.S.
  • The Bollgard cotton produce a toxin called Cry 1Ac that has excellent activity on tobacco budworm and pink bollworm.
  • These two insects are extremely important caterpillar pests of cotton and both are difficult to and expensive to control with traditional insecticides.
  • Bollgard II was introduced in 2003, representing the next generation Bt cotton.
  • Bollgard II contains a second gene from the Bt bacteria, which encodes the production of Cry 2Ab.
  • Bollgard II has a better activity on wide range of caterpillar pests.
Advantages of Bt Cotton:
Bt cotton has several advantages over non-Bt cotton. Some of them are:
  • Increases yield of cotton due to effective control of bollworms.
  • Reduction in use of insecticide.
  • Reduction in the cost of cultivation (depending on seed cost versus insecticide costs).
  • Reduction in environmental pollution by the use of insecticides.
  • Bt cotton is eco-friendly and does not have adverse effect on parasites, predators, beneficial insecticides and organisms present in soil.
  • It promotes multiplication of parasites and predators which help in controlling the bollworms by feeding on larvae and eggs of bollworm.
Disadvantages of Bt Cotton:
  • Bt cotton seeds are costly than non Bt cotton seeds.
  • The toxin producing efficiency of the Bt gene reduces after 120 days.
  • Ineffective against sucking pests like jassids, aphids, whitefly etc.
Introduction in India:
  • In India all the transgenic crops require environmental clearance under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
  • In 2002, Bt Cotton was granted approval and it became the first GM crop approved in India.
  • Mahyco became the first Indian company to commercialise transgenic cotton hybrids in India in 2002.
  • The commercial cultivation in Bt cotton was launched in Six States:- Andhra Pradesh,Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu.
Some Issues related to Bt Cotton in India:
  • Farmers suicides in some cotton growing states.
  • Indiscriminate use of Bt hybrids instead of Bt straight.
  • Late maturing Bt hybrids are not suitable for rain fed conditions.
  • Health implications raised by Bt cotton.
  • Contamination of indigenous crops.
  • Environmental concerns and bio-safety issues.
  • Reduction in average yield of cotton over the years.

Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project (KLIP)

Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project (KLIP)

  • The Kaleshwaram project is an off-shoot of the original Pranahitha-Chevella Lift Irrigation Scheme taken up by the Congress government in 2007 when Andhra Pradesh was not divided.
  • After the formation of Telangana in 2014, the now state government redesigned the project on the ground that the original plan had too many environmental obstacles and had very low water storage provision, of only about 16.5 tmc ft.
  • The Kaleshwaram project has provision for the storage of about 148 tmc ft with plans of utilising 180 tmc ft by lifting at least 2 tmc ft water every day for 90 flood days.
  • The project is designed to irrigate 7,38,851 hectares (over 18.47 lakh acres) uplands in the erstwhile districts of Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Warangal, Medak, Nalgonda and Ranga Reddy.

What’s unique?

  • KLIP will be the longest tunnel to carry water in Asia, running up to 81 km, between the Yellampally barrage and the Mallannasagar reservoir.
  • The project would also utilise the highest capacity pumps (up to 139 MW) in the country to lift water.

Why is it important?

  • The project is claimed to be the costliest irrigation project to be taken up by any State till date with an estimated cost of Rs. 80,500 crore.
  • The project holds the key to the state government’s promise of providing irrigation facility to one crore acres of land under all projects/tanks.

Section : Polity & Governance

Economic ties are one of the biggest positive drivers of India-China relationship but the high imbalance of trade in favour of China remains a matter of concern. Discuss along with measures to reduce trade deficit for India. (15 marks)

Economic ties are one of the biggest positive drivers of India-China relationship but the high imbalance of trade in favour of China remains a matter of concern. Discuss along with measures to reduce trade deficit for India. (15 marks)


  • Introduce with India-China relationship
  • Make a note on facts about trade imbalance
  • Explain the reasons for trade deficit
  • Suggest measures to improve trade balance
  • Conclude appropriately

Model Answer :

India and China enjoy robust economic ties which have progressively increased over the years. China is among the top five trading partners of India. It has been hailed as among the biggest positive drivers of a relationship that is often beset with difficult political problems.

Trade imbalance:

In 2017-18, India’s exports to China touched $33 billion while imports were of $76.2 billion, leading to a huge trade deficit to India of about $43 billion. The large trade imbalance in favour of China, which imports from China much higher than Indian exports to China is a matter of much concern. Various factors causing this trade imbalance include:

  • China’s competitiveness in various sectors: China’s competitiveness in manufacturing across various sectors like manufactured goods and electronics cause them to flood India with cheap imports.
  • High logistics cost in India: India’s poor logistics and infrastructure, in terms of connectivity of efficiency of ports, insufficient warehouses etc. raise export costs and reduce competitiveness. In 2014 it cost $1,332 on average to export a container from India, compared with $823 to ship from China.
  • Barriers to services trade: Services trade between China and India remains small, with Indian powerhouse in IT and ITeS facing language barriers and various non-tariff barriers, including complex requirements for participating in contracts of Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and visa restrictions.
  • Trade barriers in China: China has high trade barriers for rice, meat, pharmaceuticals and IT products from India.
  • Non-tariff barriers: Farm exports, including bovine meat, as well as pharmaceutical exports from India face hindrances in the form of complex and opaque regulatory requirements.

Some measures to reduce trade deficit for India:

  • Greater market access: India is making efforts to seek market access for various Indian agricultural products, IT services, animal feeds, oil seeds, milk and milk products, pharmaceutical products etc.
  • Lower logistics costs: Programmes like Sagarmala and great investment in infrastructure including roads, freight corridors, power and warehouses are expected to bring down logistics costs.
  • Lowering barriers in China: Government of India has been taking continuous and sustained steps to bridge trade deficit by lowering the trade barriers for Indian exports to China.
  • Manufacturing in India: Other way to help eliminate the trade deficit is to get those manufacturering in China, including Chinese, to start making goods in India.

During the 11th session of India-China Joint Group on Economic Relations(JEG) in 2018, the Trade Ministers of two countries agreed to increasing bilateral trade between the two countries in a balanced and more sustainable manner. India must ensure this becomes a reality especially considering that China is under pressure already due to its trade war with China.

Subjects : International Relations

Balsam: Four discovered species of Balsam

Four discovered species of Balsam
Impatiens Haridasanii
  • It was found from Pongchan.
  • It was named after Haridasan (a former scientist at State Forest Research Institute, Arunachal Pradesh).
  • The species is characterised by small pure yellow flowers and hairy leaves.
Impatiens pseudocitrina
  • It was discovered from Anjaw district.
  • It has bright yellow flowers with small red spots on the throat and a long spur at the back.
  • The species name denotes the similarities with I. citrina.
Impatiens nilalohitae
  • It was discovered from the Lower Dibang valley.
  • It grows to a height of more than one meter.
  • It has dark purple flowers with pale yellow throat and green stalk.
  • The name nilalohitae denotes the dark purple color in Sanskrit.
Impatiens roingensis,
  • It was found growing in Roing and Upper Siang.
  • The plant has clustered white flowers with yellow patch on the mouth and hooked spur.
  • These are commonly known as jewel weeds because of the diverse color of the flowers.
  • These are distributed throughout the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats, Sri Lanka, South East Asia, Africa and Madagascar.
  • The genus is scientifically named as Impatiens, signifying the impatient nature of the fruits which explode suddenly when touched.
  • These grow in rich moist soil.
  • These are highly endemic.
  • Balsams face a threat from the fast-changing landscape of the region.
  • Road widening works, deforestation and other development activities are posing a threat to the natural habitat of the new species.
Importance of Balsam
  • Botanists have emphasised that balsams have immense horticultural importance.
  • Studies on hybrids of the plants have been undertaken in parts of the country to produce flowers that can sustain in different environmental conditions.
  • Different hybrids can be created from wild balsam species, so it is important to know the actual number of balsam species in the wild.
Section : Environment & Ecology

Taliban council agrees to cease-fire in Afghanistan

Headline : Taliban council agrees to cease-fire in Afghanistan

Details :

In News:
  • The Taliban has agreed to a temporary ceasefire.
  • It now provides a window during which a peace agreement with the U.S. could be signed.
U.S-Taliban talks over a peace deal
  • Ending the 18-year long conflict has been considered too costly. Thus the decision to talk to the Taliban was taken during the Obama presidency.
  • The Doha office (in Qatar) of the Taliban was established for negotiations.
  • The Taliban have long maintained that they would negotiate only with the US not with the Afghan government. However, the US has insisted that the Afghan government should be involved in the process.
  • Thus, several attempts at holding discussions to end the war not progressed.
  • By the middle of 2018, the US started pushing for direct talks with the Taliban urgently (in line with President Trump’s agenda to withdraw troops from Afghanistan).
    • Note: President Ashraf Ghani’s government was not included in the US-Taliban talks as this was the Taliban precondition for the talks.
  • The U.S and the Taliban have held several rounds of talks since 2018 with the objective is to narrow the gap between opposing positions and hold broader, more formal negotiations to end the war.
  • The draft agreement was reached after nine rounds of talks between US and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.
  • While no details of the draft agreement had been made public, the US Special Envoy had told the Afghan media organisation TOLO that the two sides had reached an agreement in principle.
About the Draft Agreement:
  • The US troops were to withdraw from five bases in Afghanistan. However, no timeline was finalised for the US to pull out its 14,000 troops now in Afghanistan, but a period of 14 months had been mentioned in the past.
  • In return, the Taliban committed to not allow “enemies of the US” i.e. namely Daesh/ISIS and Al Qaeda to set up base in Afghanistan and themselves would fight the enemies of America in Afghanistan.
  • The Taliban were also said by some to have agreed to not attack the withdrawing American troops.
Cancellation of talks with Trump in 2019:
  • Talks between the US and Talinam were proposed to be held in September, 2019.
  • However, the US President Donald Trump called off the troubled U.S.-Taliban peace talks aimed at ending the 18-year conflict, after Taliban admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of US’ soldiers, and 11 other people.
News Summary:
  • The Taliban has now agreed to a temporary ceasefire, providing a window during which a peace agreement with the U.S. could be signed.
  • A peace deal would allow Washington to bring home its troops from Afghanistan and end its 18-year military engagement there.
  • The U.S. wants any deal to include a promise from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not used as a base by terrorist groups.
Intra-Afghan talks
  • A key pillar of the agreement, which the U.S. and the Taliban have been working on for more than a year, is direct negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the conflict.
  • Those intra-Afghan negotiations are expected to be held within two weeks of the signing of a U.S.-Taliban peace deal.
Section : International Relation
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