* Part 1

With merchandise exports shrinking 15.1% in the first quarter of this year, after racking up a record $450 billion in 2022-23, the government is playing it safe on announcing a clear target for outbound shipments this year and is likely to opt for a range of scenario-based targets instead.

While the Commerce Ministry has undertaken an internal exercise to set a target for exports in 2023-24 — and has even communicated a number to export promotion councils of different industrial sectors as well as overseas diplomatic missions — there is now a rethink underway, a senior Ministry official indicated.

Goods exports had decelerated 12.6% in April and 10.2% in May, but recorded their steepest fall in 37 months this June with a 22% drop. The $32.7 billion export tally for last month was the lowest in absolute terms since October 2022.

While the final June numbers for exported services are still awaited, forex earnings from these intangible exports have also slowed sharply after growing about 28% to $325 billion in 2022-23. As per estimates, services exports have grown just 5.2% to $80 billion, while goods exports stand at a little over $102 billion through the first quarter.

“Our broader target for exports, as per the new Foreign Trade Policy, is to achieve $2 trillion by 2030, with services and goods exports accounting for a trillion dollars each,” the official said.

“But the way things are shaping up so far, in line with the World Trade Organisation’s forecast of slower global trade growth in 2023, it is perhaps not right for us to set a singular target,” the official explained.

On petroleum exports, which have seen the sharpest plunge of 33.2% in the first quarter, another official said that this was largely driven by the reduction in global oil prices.

Rudragiri hillock, located in the village of Orvakallu, Atchampet mandal, in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, boasts a celebrated historical past and remarkable archaeological monuments.

This site unveils a fascinating combination of prehistoric rock paintings from the Mesolithic period and exquisite artwork from the Kakatiya dynasty. D. Kanna Babu, former Superintending Archaeologist of the Temple Survey Project (Southern Region) at the Archaeological Survey of India, shared his discoveries with The Hindu, shedding light on the significance of this hidden gem.

Rudragiri, nestled amidst the Eastern Ghats, features five naturally formed rock shelters at its foothills, facing westward. These shelters served as living quarters for people during the Mesolithic age around 5000 B.C., and they bear witness to the luminous rock paintings of that era.

Interestingly, two natural caves at the southern end of the hillock also exhibit exceptional murals from the renowned Kakatiya kingdom.

Artistic brilliance

Mr. Kanna Babu described the physical condition of the Kakatiya artworks.

“These caves showcase the artistic brilliance of the Kakatiya period. While many have suffered damage over time due to exposure to the elements, some sketches and outlines have managed to survive. The paintings, adorned with a variety of colours derived from white kaolin and different pigments, depict captivating scenes from the epic Ramayana. Despite the impact of nature’s wrath, fragments of these paintings offer valuable insights into their creation during the 13th century A.D.,” he said.

The first cave, starting from the southern end of the hillock, presents a narrative mural portraying the intense battle between the Vanara brothers — Vali and Sugriva.

In the middle cave, a grand sketch of Hanuman, accompanied by sacred symbols of the conch (Sankha) and the fire altar (Yagna Vedi), captures visitors’ attention. Hanuman is depicted carrying the Sanjivani hill in his hand, symbolising his mission to save Lakshmana’s life.

The third cave houses the prehistoric rock paintings from the Mesolithic era. Interestingly, the Kakatiya artist chose the same rock shelter to superimpose the elegant figure of Hanuman, who is portrayed in a unique ‘Anjali’ posture, folding his hands in a divine offering.

Remarkably, the Ramayana figures neither overshadow the Mesolithic drawings nor diminish their scenic beauty.

Visitors today can marvel at the ancient drawings from two distinct periods, appreciating the artistic techniques employed.

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