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THE BENGAL FAMINE

 

How the British engineered the worst genocide in human history for profit

The British had a ruthless economic agenda when it came to operating in India and that did not include empathy for native citizens. Under the British Raj, India suffered countless famines. But the worst hit was Bengal. The first of these was in 1770, followed by severe ones in 1783, 1866, 1873, 1892, 1897 and lastly 1943-44. Previously, when famines had hit the country, indigenous rulers were quick with useful responses to avert major disasters. After the advent of British rule, most of the famines were a consequence of monsoonal delays along with the exploitation of the country’s natural resources by the British for their own financial gain. Yet they did little to acknowledge the havoc these actions wrought. If anything, they were irritated at the inconveniences in taxation the famines brought about.

The first of these famines was in 1770 and was ghastly brutal. The first signs indicating the coming of such a huge famine manifested in 1769 and the famine itself went on till 1773. It killed approximately 10 million people, millions more than the Jews incarcerated during the Second World War. It wiped out one-third the population of Bengal. John Fiske, in his book “The Unseen World”, wrote that the famine of 1770 in Bengal was far deadlier than the Black Plague that terrorised Europe in the fourteenth century. Under the Mughal rule, peasants were required to pay a tribute of 10-15 percent of their cash harvest. This ensured a comfortable treasury for the rulers and a wide net of safety for the peasants in case the weather did not hold for future harvests. In 1765, the Treaty of Allahabad was signed and the East India .

Company took over the task of collecting the tributes from the then Mughal emperor Shah Alam II. Overnight the tributes, the British insisted on calling them tributes and not taxes for reasons of suppressing rebellion, increased to 50 percent. The peasants were not even aware that the money had changed hands. They paid, still believing that it went to the Emperor.

Partial failure of crops was quite a regular occurrence in the Indian peasant’s life. That is why the surplus stock, which remained after paying the tributes, was so important to their livelihood. But with the increased taxation, this surplus deteriorated rapidly. When partial failure of crops came in 1768, this safety net was no longer in place. The rains of 1769 were dismal and herein the first signs of the terrible drought began to appear. The famine occurred mainly in the modern states of West Bengal and Bihar but also hit Orissa, Jharkhand and Bangladesh. Bengal was the worst hit. Among the worst affected areas were Birbum and Murshidabad in Bengal. Thousands migrated from the area in hopes of finding sustenance elsewhere, only to die of starvation later on. Those who stayed on perished nonetheless. Huge tracts of farmland were abandoned. Wilderness started to thrive here, resulting in deep and inhabitable jungle areas. Tirhut, Champaran and Bettiah in Bihar were similarly affected.

Prior to this, whenever the possibility of a famine had emerged, the Indian rulers would waive their taxes and see compensatory measures, such as irrigation, instituted to provide as much relief as possible to the stricken farmers. The colonial rulers continued to ignore any warnings that came their way regarding the famine, although starvation had set in from early 1770. Then the deaths started in 1771. That year, the Company raised the land tax to 60 percent in order to recompense themselves for the lost lives of so many peasants. Fewer peasants resulted in fewer crops, which in turn meant less revenue. Hence the ones who had not yet succumbed to the famine had to pay even greater taxes so as to ensure that the British treasury did not suffer any losses during this travesty.

After taking over from the Mughal rulers, the British had issued widespread orders for cash crops to be cultivated. These were intended to be exported. Thus, farmers who were used to growing paddy and vegetables were now being forced to cultivate indigo, poppy and other such items that yielded a high market value for them but could be of no relief to a population starved of food. There was no backup of edible crops in case of a famine. The natural causes that had contributed to the drought were commonplace. It was the single-minded motive for profit that wrought such devastating consequences. No relief measure was provided for those affected. Rather, as mentioned above, taxation was increased to make up for any shortfall in revenue. What is even more ironic is that the East India Company generated higher profits in 1771 than they did in 1768.

Although the starved populace of Bengal did not know it yet, this was just the first of umpteen famines, caused solely by the motive for profit, that were to scourge the country side. Although all these massacres were deadly in their own right, the deadliest one to occur after 1771 was in 1943, when three million people died and others resorted to eating grass and human flesh in order to survive

Winston Churchill, the hallowed British War prime minister who saved Europe from a monster like Hitler was disturbingly callous about the roaring famine that was swallowing Bengal’s population. He casually diverted the supplies of medical aid and food that was being dispatched to the starving victims to the already well supplied soldiers of Europe. When entreated upon, he said, “Famine or no famine, Indians will breed like rabbits.” The Delhi Government sent a 

telegram to him painting a picture of the horrible devastation and the number of people who had died. His only response was, “Then why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?"

“I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”                                                                                                                                                                                    -Winston Churchill

VIAS CIVIL SERVICE ACADEMY

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PLANT THAT SUPPORTED EXTINCT ANIMALS

 

A discovery of well-preserved fossil plants by paleontologists from the United States, China, Japan, Russia and Mongolia has allowed researchers to identify a distant relative of the living plant Ginkgo biloba.

The find helps scientists better understand the evolution and diversity of ancient seed plants.

The fossils, from the species Umaltolepis mongoliensis, date back to the early Cretaceous Period (some 100-125 million years ago). Scientists discovered the fossils in ancient peat deposits at the Tevshiin Govi mine in the steppes of central Mongolia. Results of the research, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), are published in this week’s issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“The stems and leaves are similar to the ginkgo tree, but the seeds, and especially the structures they are born in, are unlike any other known plant, living or extinct,” says scientist 

Patrick Herendeen of the Chicago Botanic Garden, co-author of the PNAS paper. “Finding something like this does not happen very often.”

Scientists had previously uncovered fossils of U. mongoliensis, but those were in poor condition, making them difficult to study. Hundreds of better-preserved new fossils show that features of the stems and leaves are similar to those of living ginkgo.

However, the seed-bearing structures are not like those of today’s ginkgo tree, Herendeen says. Ginkgo has large seeds with a fleshy outer covering, but U. mongoliensis has small, winged seeds.

As they developed, U. mongoliensis seeds were protected inside a tough, resinous, umbrella-like outer covering, which stayed almost completely closed, opening only to release the seeds.

The key to determining how U. mongoliensis is related to other seed plants lies in understanding its strange seed-bearing capsules.

While the U. mongoliensis seeds are dissimilar to those of any other living or extinct plant, preliminary comparisons connect them with the seed-bearing structures of two groups of extinct plants that may be part of the ginkgo lineage.

These comparisons and the unique features of U. mongoliensis indicate that ginkgo is the last living member of a group of plants that was much more diverse and important in the past.

“Ginkgo biloba, primarily known today as a dietary supplement to enhance memory, also plays an important role in the understanding of seed plant evolution,” says Simon Malcomber, program director in NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology. “This research expands our understanding of the diversity in this enigmatic group, in addition to helping clarify relationships among seed plants more generally.”

In addition, the researchers collected other fossils from the Tevshiin Govi mine, including seed plants related to modern pines, spruces, swamp cypresses and redwoods.

Also present in the ancient swamp forests of central Mongolia were a variety of extinct plants thought to be early conifers, but that have no clear living relatives.

“Knowing the diversity of plants in Cretaceous environments provides a better understanding of potential food sources for animals such as plant-eating dinosaurs,” says Judy Skog, program director for paleontology in NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences. “Once the diversity of plants decreases, as this paper indicates is true for the relatives of ginkgo, animal life also declines.”

Scientists have long known about dinosaurs from the Cretaceous of Mongolia, but only now are the plants that supported those extinct animals coming into sharper focus.

Note: The above post is reprinted from materials provided by National Science Foundation.

COURTSEY: Dr. S.V. PRADEEP, Dept. of Botany, SVR NSS College, Vazhoor

VIAS CIVIL SERVICE ACADEMY

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 WHY RUSSIA IS SO DANGEROUS 

 

The size

The size of Russia is bigger than that of Pluto. If Siberia were a country, it would be the third largest in the world. Russia stretches about 10000 km east to west, which is almost three times the diameter of the moon, one-and-a-half times the diameter of mars and just 2000 kms short of earth’s diameter

Natural Resources

Russia’s total natural resources are valued at USD 75 trillion. Russia has the largest reserves and is the largest exporter of natural gas. It has the second largest coal reserves, the eighth largest oil reserves and is the largest exporter of oil in the world.

Russia is a leading producer of copper, fluorspar, iron ore, lime, gold, magnesium compound and metals, mica, cobalt, aluminum, asbestos, arsenic, cadmium, coal, cement, boron, bauxite, vanadium, titanium sponge, tin, tungsten, potash, sulfur, silicon, rhenium, steel, pig iron, nickel, palladium, phosphate, petroleum, nitrogen, peat and oil shale.

  • Russia has 40% of world’s gold reserves. 
  • 20% of the global production of industrial grade diamonds.
  • 25% of global gemstone production come from Russia.
  • 11% of the global aluminum market is controlled by just one Russian company, Rusal.
  • Russia has more than a fifth of the world's forests. About one-fifth of the timber in the entire world is present in the forests of Siberia.
  • If you laid the oil and gas pipelines of Russia around the equator, it would encircle earth 6 times!
  • Russia has 4 of the 10 largest rivers in the world.
  • Only one lake of Russia, Lake Baikal has 20 percent of entire fresh water in the world.

Economy

Russia’s top 20 billionaires have a combined wealth of about USD 250 billion, which is more than the GDP of 150 individual countries in the world.

Inventions

Russian inventions include transformer, helicopter, video-tape recorder, synthetic rubber, grain harvester, electrical telegraph, arc welding, radiator, powdered milk and thousands of other things without which life would be very different today.

Weapons

Russia has the largest number of nuclear weapons in the world. Russia's RS-24 Yars Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) has ten independently targetable nuclear warheads, which can reenter earth's atmosphere at hypersonic speeds at around 5 miles a second.

In 2013, Russia was the largest arms exporter in the world. It occupies second place now.

Russia has the largest atomic bomb - Tsar Bomb, which was detonated way back in 1961.

Despite ongoing economic problems, Russia has continued to field new weapons systems and modernize their existing forces.

Unlike the United States, they have designed and fielded entirely new strategic weapons from booster to warheads. They still have all of those Backfire (Tupolev Tu-22M) and Blackjack (Tupolev Tu-160) bombers- they would be a headache for anybody.

VIAS CIVIL SERVICE ACADEMY

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SOME RARE NATURAL PHENOMENA THAT OCCUR ON EARTH

 

1. Geysers Before Eruption, Strokkur, Iceland- While erupting geysers are entrancing, and far fewer people have ever seen the strange sight of a geyser moments before it erupts. Water gathers into a massive blister just minutes before the spring erupts, making it an extremely rare and strange sight

 

2. Spotted Lake, Canada- As the water evaporates from this lake near Osoyoos, British Columbia, minerals are left behind in a strange lily pad pattern of circles, which make the lake look entirely foreign. Each circle is a different colour, because of the vast amount of minerals found in the lake.

3. Snow Chimney, Arctic Areas- Fumaroles are vents that allow steam from volcanoes to escape into the open. In arctic areas, as soon as steam leaves one of these vents, it freezes, and eventually, massive snow chimneys are formed around the volcanic vent.

4. Danxia Landforms, China- These colourful rock formations are the result of red sandstone and mineral deposits laid down over millions of years. Wind and rain then carved amazing shapes into the rock, forming natural pillars, towers, ravines, valleys, and waterfalls

5. The Monarch Butterfly Migration, United States and Mexico-On their own, Monarch butterflies are a beautiful orange and black, but when they migrate in mass every year, they fill the sky with a swath of brilliance. When temperatures fall in October, millions of butterflies will travel up to 2,500 miles from North America towards Mexico, covering trees as they make their epic escape from winter.

6. The Everlasting Storm, Venezuela- At the mouth of the Catatumbo River in Venezuela, a very unique mass of storm clouds swirls, creating the rare spectacle known as Catatumbo lightning. The storm occurs up to 160 nights a year, 10 hours per day, and 280 times an hour. These lightnings are also called “Catatumbo Lightning" and they generate a large amount of ozone to the atmosphere.

7.The Great Blue Hole, Belize- These massive underwater caves formed during past ice ages, when sea level was far lower than it is today and much of the seafloor was exposed to the elements. Blue holes were the target of erosion, which ended when they were once again submerged.

8. Steam Towers, Iceland- The area of Hverir is incredibly geothermally active, so much so that ghostly towers of steam and gas rise from bodies of water and mud as they boil. Combined with the Northern Lights, this place looks like an alien world.

9. Ethiopian Blue Volcano- The glow comes from the combustion of sulfuric gases that are pushed through the cracks of the volcano at high temperatures.

10. The Black Sun, Denmark- During spring in Denmark, flocks of more than a million European starlings gather into a single group to form incredibly large and intricate shapes in the sky. These amazing scenes are only possible because of the flock’s amazing communication and coordination.

11. Marianas Trench, Pacific Ocean- Marianas Trench is the deepest part of the world's vast oceans, at a staggering depth of nearly 7 miles. If Mount Everest was put at the very bottom, it would still be covered by a mile of water. The unfathomable trench has given birth to some of the strangest creatures you will ever see.

12.  Mount Roraima, Brazil: Mount Roraima is particularly unusual to look at because, rather than finishing in a peak like most mountains, its top is a large plateau. It’s thought to be amongst the world’s oldest geological formations, and its plateau was most likely created by winds and rains. The plateau is often cloaked with clouds, which are more often than not near the top of the mountain. It has a particularly large number of endemic species of flora and fauna – species that can can be found nowhere else on Earth. There’s no explanation as to why it has such an unusually large amount.

VIAS CIVIL SERVICE ACADEMY

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 Some biggest things mankind has made

LARGE HADRON COLLIDER

Based at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider is the most powerful and the world’s largest particle accelerator, operating at an energy that is seven times higher than that of any machine made earlier. It took 10 years and 10,000 scientists from over 100 countries to build the collider. As of 2012, its computing grid is the world's largest, comprising more than 170 computing facilities across the world.

CHERNOBYL NEW SAFE CONFINEMENT

 

The infamous nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, Ukraine, that was partially destroyed in 1986 has found a new home that is estimated to cost $3.09 billion. The world's largest land-based moving structure will be 360.9 feet (110 meters) tall and 541.3 feet (165 meters) long, with a projected lifetime of 100 years.

GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM (GPS)

 

This satellite-based navigation system uses a network of 32 satellites that can help zero in on 2D locations and track any movement, anywhere in the world at any point of time. It doesn't need any telephonic or internet reception for its operation. Originally intended for military applications of the U.S. Department of Defense, the network was opened to civilian use in the 1980s. 

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Idea sent by Rahul Ramanujan  our faculty from Pathanamthitta

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 THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION – A “HOTCHPOTCH CONSTITUTION”?

 

 

The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers and duties of government institutions and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles and the duties of citizens.

 It is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world, containing 395 articles in 22 parts, 12 schedules, 5 appendices and 101 Amendments.

Why it is called a “hotchpotch constitution” or “bag of borrowings”?

The Founding Fathers of the Indian Constitution were wise enough to borrow from the experience gained in the working of various other constitutions keeping the conditions of India in their mind. Also, roughly 75 percent of the present constitution is the reproduction of the Government of India Act – 1935.

 

Let’s examine the borrowed features and their sources:

  1. 1.      Government of India Act of 1935
  • Federal scheme
  • Office of Governor
  • Judicial System
  • Public Service Commissions
  • Emergency Provisions
  • Administrative Details

 

  1. 2.      British Constitution
  • Parliamentary Government
  • Rule of Law
  • Lawmaking procedure (Legislative procedure)
  • Single citizenship
  • Cabinet System
  • Bicameralism
  • Procedure established by law

 

  1. 3.      US Constitution
  • Fundamental Rights
  • Independence of Judiciary
  • Judicial Review
  • Impeachment (Removal) of President, Supreme court and High court judges

 

  1. 4.      Irish Constitution
  • Directive Principles of State Policy
  • Nomination of members to Rajya Sabha
  • Method of election of President

 

  1. 5.      Australian Constitution
  • Concurrent list
  • Freedom of trade and commerce within the country and between the states
  • Joint sitting of Parliament

 

  1. 6.      Canadian Constitution
  • Federal system with a strong Central government
  • Idea of residuary powers vesting with the Centre
  • Appointment of State Governors by the Centre
  • Advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

 

  1. 7.      Soviet Constitution – USSR (Now Russia)
  • Fundamental Duties
  • Ideal of Justice (3 types – Social, Economic and Political)
  • Planning Commission as a Constitutionally mandated body to oversee the economy

 

  1. 8.      French Constitution
  • Republic
  • Ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity

 

  1. 9.      South African Constitution
  • Amendment Procedure
  • Election of members of Rajya Sabha

 

  1. 10.  Weimar Constitution of Germany
  • Suspension of Fundamental Rights during Emergency

 

  1. 11.  Japanese Constitution
  • Procedure established by law

 

This is the reason why certain critics having an opinion that our constitution is a “borrowed constitution” or a “hotchpotch constitution” or a “bag of borrowings” etc. However this criticism is unfair and not logical. Because, the constitution makers made necessary modifications in the borrowed features to suit them to Indian conditions, at the same time devoid of their shortcomings.

As the “Architect of Indian Constitution” – Dr. B R Ambedkar rightly said: “The constitution of India has been framed after ransacking all the known Constitutions of the world”.

Vocabulary:

Hotchpotch – a confused mixture.

Bicameralism: A bicameral legislature is one in which the legislators are divided into two separate assemblies, chambers or houses. Seven Indian States, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Jammu-Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, have bicameral Legislatures

 

 Source:

  • Indian Polity – Laxmikanth
  • Internet

 

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Idea sent by Swaminathan D S  our faculty from Kollam

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