CURRENT AFFAIRS – 05/01/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS - 05/01/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 05/01/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 05/01/2024

Tiger Returns to Buxa National Park

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : The Indian Express

In a significant development, a tiger has been spotted in West Bengal’s Buxa National Park, marking its return after a 23-year absence.

  • The last sighting occurred on December 12, 2021, raising hopes for the big cat’s permanent return. Recent camera trap images captured the tiger crossing a dry riverbed on December 28, followed by another sighting on December 31.
  • Experts attribute the comeback to factors such as an increase in the prey base, grassland expansion, and efforts to control human interactions.

Key Highlights

  • Buxa Tiger Reserve and National Park:
    • Covering 760 square kilometers in North Bengal’s Alipurduar district, Buxa is a “low density” reserve with corridor connectivity to Bhutan in the North, Kochugaon forests, and Manas Tiger Reserve in the East, and Jaldapara National Park in the West.
    • The reserve is part of a larger tiger territory extending into Bhutan.
  • Conservation Initiatives:
    • To encourage the tiger’s return, conservation efforts have been underway.
    • The introduction of 200 spotted deer as prey over the past year, along with a total of 900 deer in the last three to four years, has contributed to an increase in the prey base.
    • Additionally, the expansion of grassland by approximately 70 hectares annually and the creation of watering holes aim to enhance the tiger’s habitat.
    • Efforts to reduce human-animal conflict include initiatives to curb infiltration and trespassing.
    • The authorities are planning to relocate villages from the core area, aiming to minimize human presence and create a more suitable environment for the tigers.
    • In 2018, the “Tiger Augmentation and Monitoring Project” was introduced in Buxa through collaboration between the state forest department, Wildlife Institute of India, and the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
    • The project aims to monitor and enhance the tiger population while implementing conservation measures.
  • Experts point to the increase in the tiger population in Assam’s Manas Tiger Reserve and the forests of Bhutan as contributing factors to the tiger’s return.
  • The collaborative efforts and proper environmental conditions in Buxa also play a crucial role in the success of conservation initiatives.

More about Buxa National Park

  • Buxa Tiger Reserve is a t conservation area located in northern West Bengal, India, covering a sprawling area of 760 km2 (290 sq mi).
  • The terrain of the reserve varies from 60 m (200 ft) in the Gangetic Plains to 1,750 m (5,740 ft) at the Himalayan border in the north.
  • Buxa Tiger Reserve was established in 1983, earning the distinction of being the 15th tiger reserve in India.
  • In 1986, a significant portion of the reserve forests, covering 314.52 km2, was designated as the Buxa Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Subsequent expansions occurred in 1991, with an additional 54.47 km2 added to the sanctuary.
  • In 1992, the Government of West Bengal expressed its intent to establish a national park over 117.10 km2 of the Buxa Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • The formal declaration of the national park took place in 1997.
  • Wildlife Diversity:
    • The reserve boasts a diverse range of wildlife, including notable species such as the Asian elephant, gaur (Indian bison), Sambar deer, clouded leopard, Indian leopard, and the Asian golden cat.
    • The rich biodiversity also extends to the avian inhabitants, with at least 284 bird species thriving within the reserve.
  • The reserve is a haven for bird enthusiasts, providing a habitat for a remarkable 284 bird species.

In Image: Buxa Tiger Reserve located in West Bengal near Bhutan border.

About National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)

  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body established by the Government of India under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
  • It was formed in 2005 with the primary objective of ensuring the effective conservation and management of tiger populations and their habitats in the country.
  • The NTCA plays a pivotal role in formulating policies, guidelines, and action plans for tiger conservation across India.
  • Parent Ministry: Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

Cyber Kidnapping

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : The Indian Express

A 17-year-old Chinese student, Kai Zhuang, who was reported missing in Utah on December 28, has been found unharmed in rural Utah.

  • The incident involved a form of cyber kidnapping, where the victim was coerced to hide, and his parents in China paid $80,000 in ransom.
  • The student was located in a tent about 40 km north of Brigham City, where he had apparently self-isolated.

Key Highlights

  • Cyber Kidnapping Explained:
    • Cyber kidnapping is a criminal act where perpetrators convince the victim to hide and then contact their loved ones for ransom.
    • The victim is coerced into sending staged pictures, depicting them as bound or gagged, to create the illusion of captivity.
    • The kidnappers, not physically present, use online platforms to monitor the victim, often through video-call platforms.
    • In this case, the parents of the student received a picture indicating his kidnapping, leading them to pay the ransom.
    • The police traced the victim by analyzing call data and bank records.
  • Modus Operandi:
    • The cyber kidnappers manipulate their victims, creating a sense of urgency and fear through threats of violence or harm to the loved ones.
    • The coercion tactics aim to prompt the family to pay a ransom quickly.
    • While the victim may be convinced they are in danger, virtual kidnappers have not physically abducted anyone.
    • The scheme relies on psychological manipulation and deception.
  • FBI’s Perspective:
    • According to the FBI, virtual kidnapping takes various forms but always involves an extortion scheme.
    • Victims are tricked into paying a ransom to free a loved one whom they believe is under threat of violence or death.
    • Unlike traditional kidnappings, virtual kidnappers have not actually kidnapped anyone, and the scheme is designed to extract money through deception and threats.
  • The increasing prevalence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) raises concerns about the potential rise of cyber kidnapping scams, where scammers leverage AI to send convincing voice notes sounding like a distressed loved one.
  • Law enforcement experts note a growing trend in such crimes, emphasizing the need for vigilance.
    • An Arizona woman testified about a harrowing experience in the US Senate, where she received a call from someone posing as her daughter in distress, demanding ransom.
  • While specific data on the prevalence of such crimes is not available, law enforcement experts suggest an upward trend.
  • In Australia, eight cases of cyber kidnapping were reported in 2020, all targeting Chinese students.
  • Protective Measures:
    • Experts advise extra caution when receiving calls from unknown numbers, recognizing that scammers can manipulate caller ID to appear as if calling from a loved one’s number.
    • Scammers often use information available on social media to enhance the authenticity of their calls.
    • Users are urged to be cautious about sharing specific details like names, locations, home pictures, or school information online.
    • Verifying the safety of loved ones before making any ransom payments is recommended.
    • Quick contact with the person involved can help confirm their well-being.
  • In case of suspicious calls or potential cyber kidnapping attempts, experts emphasize the importance of involving law enforcement agencies promptly.

10th century Kadamba inscription written in Kannada, Sanskrit found in Goa

(General Studies- Paper I)

Source : TH

An inscription dating back to the 10th century A.D. from the Kadamba period has been uncovered in the Mahadeva temple at Cacoda in southern Goa.

  • Murugeshi, a retired associate professor of ancient history and archaeology, studied the inscription, which is written in Kannada and Sanskrit.
  • The inscription narrates the story of TalaraNevayya’s son, Gundayya, who pledged to fulfill his father’s desire of capturing a gopura (gateway) of the port of Goa.
  • Gundayya fought valiantly in the battle, succeeding in fulfilling his father’s wish but sacrificing his own life in the process.

Key Highlights

  • The Kadambas of Goa, subordinates of the Chalukyas of Kalyana, played a crucial role in the overthrow of the Rashtrakutas.
  • KadambaShasthadeva, appointed as mahamandaleshwara of Goa by Chalukyan emperor Tailapa II, conquered Chandavara in 960 A.D. and later secured the port of Gopakapattana (present-day Goa).
  • Gundayya, TalaraNevayya’s son, likely participated in this conquest, winning the port at the cost of his life.
  • To commemorate his son’s heroic fight, TalaraNevayya may have erected a memorial stone with the inscription in the Mahadeva temple of Cacoda.

About the Kadambas of Goa

  • The Kadambas of Goa were a dynasty that thrived during the Late Classical period in the Indian subcontinent, exerting their rule over Goa from the 10th to the 14th century CE.
  • Their ascendancy involved taking control of territories from the Shilaharas and establishing Gopakapattana as their capital.
  • Historical Timeline:
    • KadambaShasthadeva, as a feudatory of the Chalukyas, played a pivotal role in Goa’s history.
    • He was appointed as the Mahamandaleshwar of Goa by Chalukya king Tailapa II, indicating their association and allegiance.
    • The Kadambas and Chalukyas formed a strategic alliance, as mentioned in the Savai Vere inscription.
    • Together, they cooperated to overcome the Rashtrakutas, a historical event that underscored their collaborative military efforts.
  • Conquest of Chandrapur:
    • KadambaShasthadeva’s military achievements included the conquest of Chandrapur from the Shilaharas in 960 CE.
    • This conquest marked the establishment of the GoanKadamba dynasty, highlighting their territorial expansion and influence.
  • Initially ruling from Chandor, the Kadambas later shifted their capital to Gopakapattana.

About the Western Chalukya Empire

  • The Western Chalukya Empire, a Kannadiga dynasty, exerted its rule over the western Deccan and South India from the 10th to the 12th centuries.
  • Often referred to as the KalyaniChalukya due to its capital at Kalyani (modern Basavakalyan in Bidar District, Karnataka), and alternatively known as the Later Chalukya, this dynasty had a theoretical connection to the 6th-century Chalukya dynasty of Badami.
  • The Western Chalukyas distinguished themselves from the contemporaneous Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi.
  • Prior to the ascendancy of the Western Chalukyas, the Rashtrakutaempire of Manyakheta held sway over much of Deccan and Central India for over two centuries.
  • In 973, during a period of confusion in the Rashtrakutaempire, Tailapa II, a feudatory ruling from Bijapur, seized the opportunity, defeated the Rashtrakutas, and established Manyakheta as his capital.
  • Architectural Achievements:
    • The Western Chalukyas developed a distinctive architectural style recognized as a transitional style, bridging the gap between the early Chalukya dynasty and the later Hoysalaempire.
    • Numerous monuments showcasing this architectural finesse are concentrated in the districts along the Tungabhadra River in central Karnataka.
    • Notable examples include the Kasivisvesvara Temple at Lakkundi, the Mallikarjuna Temple at Kuruvatti, the Kallesvara Temple at Bagali, and the Mahadeva Temple at Itagi.
  • Cultural Renaissance:
    • The reign of the Western Chalukyas marked a crucial period in the development of fine arts in Southern India, particularly in literature.
    • Encouraging writers in both Kannada and Sanskrit, the kings played a pivotal role in the flourishing literary scene.
  • The dynasty’s growth into an empire was propelled under Someshvara I, who shifted the capital to Kalyani, reflecting the dynasty’s prominence in the region.

In Image: Extent of Western Chalukya Empire, 1121 CE.

Breaking new ground the Kerala way

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : TH

As 2024 commences, there is notable news in the realm of urban development, marking the establishment of a new urban commission in the state of Kerala.

  • This marks a significant event, occurring almost 38 years after the formation of the National Commission on Urbanisation during the tenure of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
  • The previous commission, led by renowned architect Charles Correa, faced challenges with the untimely demise of Rajiv Gandhi, resulting in the neglect of some crucial recommendations.
  • However, the 74th Constitutional Amendment was a positive outcome of this initiative, fostering a shift in the policy paradigm towards increased private initiative and investment in urban development.

Key Highlights

  • Global Urbanization Trends:
    • The current global population distribution highlights a substantial urban shift, with more than half of the world’s inhabitants (56%) residing in cities.
    • A stark contrast to the time when Karl Marx wrote “Capital,” where urban centers accounted for just over 5% of the global population.
    • Urbanization, a transformative process, has brought about significant changes worldwide, impacting climate, land use, building structures, and resulting in issues such as unequal cities, pollution crises, and housing challenges.
    • City development stands out as a significant process in the accumulation of capital, aligning with Marx’s observations on urban centers as centers of industrial production and capital accumulation.
  • Evolution of Urban Development in Post-Independent India:
    • Lasting for three decades, the Nehruvian period saw the development of around 150 new towns with a centralized planning mechanism, emphasizing master plans and development plans.
    • The Nehruvian approach began to unravel in the late 1980s, highlighting a shift in urban development paradigms.
    • Despite good intentions, the centralized planning, driven by the state as a basic instrument of capital accumulation, failed in its core objective.
    • The centralized planning, rooted in the state as a key instrument of capital accumulation, led to mass rural to urban migration but faced failures as the manufacturing sector lost its prominence.
    • The informal sector took precedence in urban spaces, revealing the inadequacies of the existing urban plans.
  • Reassessing Urban Development in the 1990s:
    • The 1990s marked a pivotal era in urban development characterized by widespread privatization and the emergence of global cities as the focal point for progress.
    • Major urban plans were entrusted to large parastatals, and renowned consultancy firms were employed to formulate these plans, shifting the focus from social welfare to real estate.
    • Cities became competitive ‘engines of growth,’ sidelining notions of enlightenment and communal living.
    • Rather than adopting a comprehensive city-wide approach, development became project-oriented, epitomized by initiatives like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and the Smart Cities Mission.
  • In this context, the 1985-formed Urban Commission needs revisiting.
    • The prevailing piecemeal strategies have proven ineffective, necessitating a national and state-level urban commission to analyze key patterns of urbanization.
    • The focus should be on understanding objective patterns, such as migration and settlement dynamics, and the impact of information technology.
    • The critique extends to mission-oriented approaches like Swachh Bharat Mission, AMRUT, HRIDAY, and PMAY, deeming them detached from the actual urbanization process and lacking in desired outcomes.
    • The governance landscape in cities is deemed chaotic, with the transfer of 18 subjects under the 12th Schedule still lagging behind.
    • There’s a debate about appointing managers rather than elected officials to run city affairs.
    • Financial centralization is evident in the Fifteenth Finance Commission’s recommendations, linking city grants to property tax collection performance and aligning them with the State’s Goods and Services Tax increase.
  • These intricate urban processes underscore the need for a holistic understanding and a departure from mission-oriented strategies that have proven inadequate.
  • Pioneering Urban Policy: The Significance of Kerala’s Urban Commission
    • Against the backdrop of complex urban development challenges, Kerala has taken a proactive step by establishing the Kerala Urban Commission.
    • This initiative is a response to the intricate issues associated with urbanization, a phenomenon estimated to encompass approximately 90% of the state’s population by NITI Aayog.
    • The commission has been granted a 12-month mandate to navigate the intricacies of urbanization in Kerala.
    • The commission’s primary objective is to formulate a comprehensive roadmap for urban development spanning at least 25 years.
    • Recognizing the inextricable link between Kerala’s urbanization and broader global and national urban processes, the commission aims to provide an accurate estimation of these dynamics.
    • While the ideal scenario would have been the establishment of a national commission, the absence of such a body positions the Kerala Urban Commission as a guiding light for other highly urbanized states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Punjab.
    • The experience of developing and implementing the urban commission in Kerala could serve as a valuable learning lesson for these states grappling with significant urban populations.

Note: More than 909 million people in India live in the rural areas in 2021, an increase compared to 2018. Urban India, although far behind with nearly 500 million people, had a higher year-on-year growth rate during the measured time period.

Centre keen to expand ECGC cover to individual jewellery exporters

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : TH

Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal, expressed the government’s interest in extending the ECGC (Export Credit Guarantee Corporation) cover beyond banks to individual exporters within the gems and jewellery sector.

  • The Minister highlighted a recent initiative that extends ECGC cover to encompass the entire turnover of the gems and jewellery sector, a departure from the current practice of providing it solely to banks supporting exporters.

About ECGC (Export Credit Guarantee Corporation)

  • The Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India Limited (ECGC) is a government-owned export credit insurance company in India.
  • It was established in 1957 with the objective of promoting and supporting India’s exports by providing credit insurance services.
  • ECGC operates under the administrative control of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.
  • Objectives:
    • The primary objective of ECGC is to promote exports by offering credit insurance services to exporters.
    • It covers both short-term and long-term exports, offering policies tailored to the specific needs of exporters.
    • This service is designed to protect exporters from non-payment risks arising from overseas buyers, encompassing both commercial and political factors.
  • ECGC holds a dominant position in the market, boasting an 85% market share in the export credit insurance market in India.
    • In the fiscal year 2021, it supported exports amounting to Rs 6.02 lakh crore, equivalent to 28% of merchandise exports.
    • The majority of ECGC’s clientele comprises Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), constituting 97% of its client base.
  • Risk Coverage:
    • ECGC covers various risks, including insolvency of the buyer, protracted default, political disturbances in the buyer’s country, and restrictions imposed by the buyer’s government.
    • ECGC issues various types of guarantees to banks, including the Export Performance Guarantee and the Letter of Credit Confirmation Guarantee, to facilitate exporters in obtaining working capital.