The largest ancient burial site in India is 3,800 yrs old

Carbon dating tests have confirmed that India’s largest known necropolis in UP’s Sanauli — where 126 burials have been discovered until now — is 3,800 years old. The elaborate burials, which included underground chambers, decorated legged coffins and rice in pots buried with the bodies, belong to an indigenous warrior tribe which inhabited the region, according to the Archaeological Survey of India.

Excavations in Sanauli, 68 km from Delhi in UP’s Baghpat district, first started in 2005 and resumed in 2018, paving the way for discovery of horse-drawn chariots, burials, four-legged wooden coffins, pottery, a copper antenna sword, war shields.

ASI joint director S K Manjul, who led the excavations at Sanauli, said that carbon dating has now confirmed that the burials date back to 1900 BC. “Between 2005 and 2006, 116 burials were found while 10 more were discovered in the last two years, making it India’s largest known necropolis.” The burial pits had legged coffins along with systematically arranged vases, bowls and pots. One of the coffins was decorated with eight anthropomorphic figures.

A recent report submitted by the Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleosciences in Lucknow to the ASI had stated that there are two C-14 (carbon dating) dates — 3815 and 3500, with a margin of error of 130 years — for the Sanauli site. It added, “Carbon dating marks this site as an earliest history of a warrior tribe in the Indian subcontinent.”

While the Deccan College in Pune and a lab in Hyderabad conducted DNA tests of the human remains, samples were also sent to the Lucknow institute. Scientific techniques such as photogrammetry and ground penetrating radar survey were used while drones and magnetometers were also deployed.

The burials bear similarity to Vedic rituals, said officials. “What is startling is the impressions of cloth found on bodies that suggests purification of bodies similar to what we practice in Hindu religion,” said Manjul.

He added that three chariots found at the site “have a fixed axle linked by a long pole to the small yoke” and were run by a pair of animals. “The size and shape of the chariots indicate they were pulled by horses. The axle, chassis and wheels show similarities to contemporary chariots,” he said.

Upinder Kaur, who teaches history at Ashoka University, said that the discovery of elaborate burials and remains of chariots was “dramatic and unique”. She said, “Just how this evidence fits into the cultural jigsaw puzzle of the 2nd millennium BC drawn from texts and archaeology is something that has to be carefully examined. I am looking forward to reading the detailed report of the Sanauli excavations.”

Historian B R Mani, who oversaw excavations in Sanauli in 2005, said the site should be looked at “as an interaction of a period of practices of Ganga Yamuna Doab and Indus Valley cultures.

J&K, India Inc sign MoUs worth ₹2,100cr

The administration of the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir, formed after the reading down of Article 370 last year, signed MoUs worth over Rs.2,100 crore with India Inc at an investment summit in Mumbai.

The UT has sought Rs.50,000 crore in investment from business houses in 14 sectors. According to the Confederation of Indian Industry, 55% of it has been sought in tourism & hospitality, renewable energy, agri-horticulture and food processing, and the remaining in textiles, manufacturing, healthcare, entertainment and education.

To facilitate investment, the MoU offers land parcels of 250-300 acres in each district of the UT. It also proposes to revive cinema halls shut for decades, and create multiplexes and other entertainment zones.

“We want to maximize industrial growth and employment opportunities in J&K. For this we are engaging in six city roadshows. We have already (covered) Bengaluru, Kolkata and Mumbai,” J&K’s principal secretary (planning, development and monitoring) Rohit Kansal told journalists at the CII-organized event. “The (remaining) roadshows will (be in) Hyderabad, Chennai and Ahmedabad.” Kansal said the UT has signed around Rs.2,000 crore worth of non-binding MoUs in Kolkata, Rs.850 crore in Bengaluru and over Rs.2,100 crore in Mumbai.

The UT’s lieutenant governor, Girish Chandra Murmu, led its delegation, which included chief secretary BVR Subrahmanyam, while prominent corporates present included the Taj Hotels, Carnival Cinemas, Volkswagen, Hinduja Group, Ambuja Cements, Club Mahindra, and Kotak Mahindra Bank.

Around 40 business-to-government roundtables were held in sector-specific sessions, in which 150 delegates took part. The MoUs signed in Mumbai include a Rs.1,000 crore proposal to set up business townships and similar infrastructure, a Rs.300-crore plan for poultry, agriculture and food processing, and a Rs.150-crore financial services proposal.

The UT will soon hold a global investors’ summit in Srinagar and Jammu, officials said. Kewal Sharma, advisor to the lieutenant governor, said, “We are in final stages of designing an ambitious industrial promotion policy, which will have elements like SGST reimbursement in full, an attractive land policy, stamp duty exemption, support for green industrialization, along with other benefits.”

Manoj Kumar Dwivedi, commissioner-secretary (industries & commerce), said the UT has a great inherent potential with an appropriate climate for agriculture, a vibrant tourism ecosystem and a huge land bank.

Forex Kitty Rises to Record $476 b

The country’s foreign exchange reserves swelled by $3.091 billion to a lifetime high of $476.092 billion in the week to February 14, mainly due to a rise in foreign currency assets, according to the RBI data.

In the previous week, the foreign exchange reserves had increased by $1.701 billion to $473 billion.

Foreign currency assets, a major component of the overall reserves, rose by $2.763 billion to $441.949 billion in the reporting week.

Expressed in dollar terms, the foreign currency assets include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US units like the euro, pound and yen held in the foreign exchange reserves. Gold reserves rose by $344 million to $29.123 billion.

The special drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund were down by $6 million to $1.430 billion.

The country’s reserve position with the IMF also declined by $9 million to $3.590 billion, the data showed.


Rupee Ranks among Top 5 EM Currencies

Even though the rupee lost 0.37% against the dollar in 2020, it still ranks among the top five best performing emerging market currencies. The Mexican peso has taken the top slot, gaining 1.2% against the greenback, while the Brazilian real lost more than 8% being the worst performing unit. The rupee’s relative outperformance is likely to have given the RBI good opportunity to shore up record dollar reserves especially when Mint Street has been witnessing a bout of overseas inflows since the beginning of the year.

China objects to Shah Arunachal trip

After China objected to home minister Amit Shah’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, India hit back and said Beijing’s objection to government functionaries visiting the state did not “stand to reason and understanding of the Indian people’’.

India’s position on Arunachal Pradesh had been clear and consistent that it was an integral and inalienable part of the country, foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. “Indian leaders routinely travel to the state of Arunachal Pradesh as they do to any other state of India,’’ he added.

China, which claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of south Tibet, objected to Shah’s visit to the state, saying it violated Beijing’s “territorial sovereignty”.

“China’s position on the eastern sector of the China-India boundary, or the southern part of China's Tibet region, is consistent and clear," China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing on Thursday.

“The Chinese government has never recognised the so called Arunachal Pradesh’ and is firmly opposed to the Indian politician’s visit to the southern part of China’s Tibet region as it violated China’s territorial sovereignty, undermined stability of the border area, sabotaged political mutual trust, and violated relevant bilateral agreement,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said told reporters in Beijing on Thursday.

Shah was in Arunachal Pradesh to attend the 34th Statehood Day function and launched a number of development projects.

Addressing a rally at Indira Gandhi Park in Itanagar, Shah said, “Misinformation was spread after abrogation of Article 370 that Article 371 will also be scrapped. It will never happen and nobody can do it.” He added that the NDA government was committed to preserve and protect the unique culture and tradition of the north-east. Article 371 has special provisions to preserve the cultural heritage and customary laws of north-eastern states.

The home minister said, “Previously, the region got importance on political lines. But PM Narendra Modi initiated efforts to unite the NE with the rest of the country.” Shah said central ministers visited the region more than 200 times in the past five years and the PM visited 30 times.

He added that the northeast enjoyed a special place in the country for its unique culture and tradition and unless the region was developed, cultural integration could not take place.

France’s Groupe ADP to Buy 49% in GMR Airports

The GMR Group struck a deal to sell a large minority stake in its airports business to France’s Groupe ADP, while saying that it has called off a stake-sale agreement signed last year with a Tata Group-led consortium.

In a late night announcement, GMR Group said it will sell 49% in its airports business for ₹10,780 crore to Groupe ADP, which runs the three airports in Paris. A spokesperson for GMR said it had received a better valuation from the French company, and that a deal with a global airport operator would offer better synergies.

The combined entity would be the world’s biggest airport operator in terms of passengers handled, GMR said in a statement. As per 2019 data, GMR Airports and Groupe ADP had handled a total of 336.5 million passengers.

The spokesperson added that GMR had parted ways with the Tata-led consortium “amicably”.

A statement from Groupe ADP said the two-step deal will see the French company initially buying 24.99% in GMR Airports, and later topping it up by purchasing 24.01% more. GMR Infra will be left with 51%.

The GMR Group will raise ₹9,780 crore through a secondary sale of shares while Groupe ADP will infuse an additional ₹1,000 crore of equity. “The first tranche of ₹5,248 crore will be received by the GMR Group immediately. This money will help deleverage the group further and result in improved cash flows and profitability,” GMR said in a statement.

The French company said it will get equal board representation and the right to appoint key executives. “Groupe ADP will be granted extended rights, including the presence of board members at GMR Airports’ board equal to that of GMR Infrastructure board members. Groupe ADP will also have the right to appoint predetermined key executives within GMR Airports.”

Last year, the GMR Group had signed an agreement with a consortium led by Tata-owned TRIL Urban Transport, and comprising an affiliate of Singapore’s GIC as well as Hong Kong’s SSG Capital Management to sell 44.44% stake in its airports business for ₹8,500 crore. But the deal hit a hurdle over the rule that an entity owning a stake in an Indian airline can’t own more than 10% in a local airport.

Tata Sons owns close to half of Vistara and AirAsia India, and the earlier proposed 20% stake in GMR’s airports business would give it 12.8% holding in the Delhi airport. The deal never received government approval. The new deal values GMR’s airports business at ₹22,000 crore, 22% more than what it was valued at by the Tata Group-led consortium.

GMR operates India’s busiest airport in Delhi and the fourth-busiest in Hyderabad. It is building a new airport in Goa and has won the contract to manage the airport at Nagpur. It operates the Mactan-Cebu International Airport in the Philippines and is building a new airport in Crete Island, Greece.

Groupe ADP operates three airports in Paris — Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Le Bourget — besides 26 other airports internationally.

Sunni board says 5-acre mosque land accepted

UP Sunni Central Waqf Board has said that it had already accepted the five acre alternative land given by the UP government for the construction of a mosque in Ayodhya as per Supreme Court’s order. Board chairperson Zufar Faruqi clarified that “it never had the liberty to reject it” once it had said that it would abide by the apex court’s verdict.

“The question of accepting or rejecting the land was never raised by us. Those who had not been given the land by SC were making all the noise about not accepting it. We had decided to follow the apex court’s decision,” Faruqi said.

As per the SC order, the UP government had identified a plot of land under Raunahi police station in Sohawal tehsil of Ayodhya district.

The Sunni board has been mum about its future course of action after the Ayodhya verdict. Now, it has clarified that it will decide the next step in its meeting on February 24. On allotment of land by the UP government, Faruqi said, “The November 9, 2019 apex court order was very clear that the state government will allot us a plot and we had liberty to build a mosque and associated amenities on it. We did not have the liberty of not accepting the land as that would have been contempt of court.”

When asked what would be decided in the February 24 meeting, Faruqi said board members will decide “zameen pe kya karna hai aur kaise karna hai (what is to be done on the land and how to go about it)”. While the board has received the government’s letter, it is yet to send a reply. It will do so after February 24. Besides Faruqi, the board has seven members.

“We have received several proposals from the public suggesting using the land for charitable causes. A proposal to build an Islamic cultural centre along with a mosque has also come up,” Faruqi said. He added that the five-acre land is big enough to have a mosque as well as other amenities. “Babri Masjid was built on just one-third of an acre. Even if we replicate the same mosque, which is locally not even required, there will still be space left,” he said. Faruqi said the Babri Masjid will cease to exist in the board’s records.