Carbon as old as 8,000 years found in deepest blue hole  


  • Carbon more than 8,000 years old has been found inside the world's deepest blue hole — the Yongle Blue Hole (YBH) — which was recently discovered in the South China Sea.


What are blue holes? 

  • Blue holes are marine caverns filled with water and are formed following dissolution of carbonate rocks, usually under the influence of global sea level rise or fall. 
  • What distinguishes them from other aquatic caverns is that they are isolated from the ocean and don’t receive fresh rainwater.
  • They are generally circular, steep-walled and open to surface.


Inside YBH

  • Researchers found low levels of dissolved organic carbon and high levels of dissolved inorganic carbon in YBH, both with radiocarbon ages of more than 6,000 years.
  • Such concentrations of carbon, usually found in deep marine holes like YBH, provide a natural laboratory to study carbon cycling and potential mechanisms controlling it in the marine ecosystem.
  • YBH has a depth of 300 metres, far deeper than the previously recorded deepest blue hole, Dean’s Blue Hole in Bahamas, which had a depth of 202 metres.
  • Though a largely enclosed geomorphology, YBH is influenced with some oceanic exchange in the surface water. 
  • However, like most blue holes, it is anoxic i.e. depleted of dissolved oxygen below a certain depth. This anaerobic environment is unfavorable for most sea life.
  • Low oxygen environments are an area of wide research in the aquatic ecosystem. 
  • Such anoxic ecosystems are considered a critical environmental and ecological issue as they have led to several mass extinctions.
  • The transition from aerobic to anaerobic environment adversely affects the biogeo-chemistry of the ocean. 
  • However, in blue holes, the transition happens within several hundred metres depth with lesser influences.t
  • This makes blue hole ecosystem a more accessible habitat to examine the physical and biological processes affecting carbon cycling and unusual ocean conditions. 




‘What is better? Preventive action or FIR filed under UAPA? - DGP J&K 


#GS2 #Governance 


Why were the panchayat elections in J&K deferred just five days after they were announced? 

  • Security is an on-going issue but (Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah) Geelani’s health has been fluctuating, and that must have weighed on somebody’s mind. Whether, if something happened, it would be the right thing in this kind of environment.


Police have said they would book anyone accessing social media via VPN under the UAPA? Does the use of social media warrant arrest? 

  • Technical controls by service providers are not that strong. Despite a government order that some sites should not be accessed, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter are being accessed. 
  • VPN use is not right, but maybe it has not gone to the level of being illegal. We will decide. We have filed a case under the UAPA. Two people have been also picked up from Geelani’s house for circulating a video of his, which amounts to instigation. Anything with a law and order bearing will be included.


So you’re saying that VPN use is not a criminal act but that police would decide whether something is legal or illegal? 

  • The use of VPN is violation of the government order allowing access to only whitelisted sites… However, we are focused on misuse rather than use of VPN.

What is your estimation of the current situation in J&K? 

  • I understand that it is improving. The level of violence is down, falling 60% between January 2019 and January 2020, which is not a small thing. There have been no civilian killings or collateral damage. Since the beginning of the year, 23 militants had been killed.

In that case, why is there fresh deployment in the Valley? 

  • It is only an exchange, inter-range movement, only the CRPF.


How many people are in detention now, and can those held in jails outside be brought back to J&K? 

  • The figure is not very high, must be around 150, other than under the PSA. The problem is that there is limited capacity in jails here. There are about 300 in jails outside, but some have been released and more cases are being reviewed.
  • Most groups have a scattered presence now. The Al-Badr has been almost wiped out and the local presence is of Hizb. 
  • The number of active militants are within 240. They were 317 in June 2018. But our worry is that while local recruitment has come down, infiltration is still continuing, an average of 150 a year. Since August 5 2019, recruitment is less than 50% of previous years. This year, figure is not more than 22. Out of this, eight have been returned to their families.


But if the situation is improving, why are people still being booked under laws like the PSA? 

  • The improvement of situation is relative… People made stories about thousands of arrests but we always maintained that the number was around a thousand during the entire period of tension. 90% was preventive action. 
  • A total of 192 FIRs were filed, a majority under the UAPA, specifically for instigation or direct involvement in law and order situations. 
  • What would you choose? Preventive action and a situation where they are not booked in the long term or an FIR under the UAPA? I believe our preventive action controlled the situation significantly additionally, the ratio between detention and retention is very low. 
  • Only about 20% have been retained, others released within 72 hours. To be fair, in hardly any case did we have to pick up those people again. In case of the 20% we have detained, the PSA was used in case of not more than 350. These are people who put up posters, went locality to locality to threaten or instigate people.
  • Politically, there were a maximum 36 detainees, all have been released but for nine detained under the PSA.




US-India bilateral trade and investment  

#GS2 #IR 

  • President Donald Trump announced on Monday that India and the United States “will be making very, very major among the biggest ever made trade deals”, and that the countries were “in the early stages of discussion for an incredible trade agreement to reduce barriers of investment”. 
  • The current balance of trade, which is tilted in India’s favour, has long been a sore point with Trump, who has described India as a “tariff king”. This is where things stand.


US-India trade: The big picture 

  • $142.6 billion US goods and services trade with India in 2018.
  • $25.2 billion US trade deficit with India in 2018
  • $87.9 billion total (two-way) US-India goods trade in 2018; India is US’s ninth largest goods trading partner. US goods exports to India $33.5 billion; goods imports from India $54.3 billion (2018)
  • $54.8 billion total US-India trade in services. US services exports $25.2 billion; services imports from India $29.6 billion (2018)
  • 1,97,000 American jobs supported by US exports of goods and services to India (2015 Department of Commerce data; latest available)

US exports to India 

  • India was the US’s 12th largest goods export market in 2018
  • $33.5 billion US goods exports to India in 2018; up 30.6% ($7.9 billion) from 2017, and up 89.5% from 2008. US exports to India accounted for only 2% of overall US exports in 2018
  • $25.2 billion US services exports to India in 2018; up 6.6% ($1.6 billion) from 2017, and 151% from 2008.

Top US exports (2018) 

  • Precious metal and stone (diamonds) $7.9 billion
  • Mineral fuels $6.7 billion
  • Aircraft $2.9 billion
  • Machinery $2.2 billion
  • Organic chemicals $1.6 billion

US imports from India 

  • India was the US’s 10th largest supplier of goods imports in 2018
  • $54.3 billion were US goods imports from India in 2018; up 11.9% ($5.8 billion) from 2017, and up 111.4% from 2008. US imports from India accounted for 2.1% of overall US imports in 2018
  • $29.6 billion were US imports of services from India in 2018; 4.9% ($1.4 billion) more than 2017, 134% greater than 2008 levels

Top US imports (2018) 

  • Precious metal and stone (diamonds) $11 billion
  • Pharmaceuticals $6.3 billion
  • Machinery $3.3 billion
  • Mineral fuels $3.2 billion
  • Vehicles $2.8 billion




Govt to move Supreme Court for bulk disposal of tax disputes  


#GS3 #Economy 

#GS2 #Governance 

  • About 70-80 per cent of the direct tax disputes — nearly 5 lakh involving tax demands of Rs 9.5 lakh crore at last count and piling up — may get resolved in one stroke, as the government has decided to move the Supreme Court, pleading for definitive rulings on 20 issues identified by the tax department as being at the heart of these disputes - Revenue Secretary.
  • The Revenue Secretary also said that even though the lenient 15 per cent corporate tax rate for new manufacturing units was for a limited window (till FY23-end), the government was taking efficient steps to widen the tax base, which could facilitate further pruning of various tax rates including those for corporate and dividend incomes, in the coming years.
  • The idea is the apex court rulings would accord finality to who is in the right in the intractably fractious disputes between the taxman and taxpayers, helping mass disposal of about 4 lakh cases lingering on, at various fora — from the commissioner (appeal) level to the tax tribunals to courts and arbitration panels.
  • The move comes close on the heels of the launch of the Vivad Se Vishwas scheme, under which if the tax department has won a case in a lower forum and the assessee has appealed, the assessee has to pay only the disputed tax amount (125 per cent of such amount in case of search cases) as penalty and interest are waived off. 
  • If the dispute is only about penalty and interest, then only 25 per cent of the disputed penalty and interest is payable. Also, the assessee could pay just half the tax amount sans penalty and interest if she had won the case at a particular forum and the taxman’s appeal is being heard at the higher forum. 
  • Revenue secretary said that the Vivad Se Vishwas scheme could help resolve even big corporate tax cases as in many such disputes the interest and penalty amounts had risen to multiple times the original tax demand.



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