CURRENT AFFAIRS – 10/01/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS - 10/01/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 10/01/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 10/01/2024

Rule of law vs right to liberty: What the Supreme Court said

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : The Indian Express

The Supreme Court recently quashed the Gujarat government’s decision to grant remission to convicts in the BilkisBano case.

  • In doing so, the court highlighted the significance of personal liberty as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • However, it also addressed the crucial question of whether the rule of law should prevail over individual liberties.

Key Highlights

  • Understanding the Rule of Law:
    • The concept of the rule of law, described by John Adams as “a government of laws and not of men,” serves as a check on executive lawlessness.
    • It ensures that no official can arrest or detain a person without legislative sanction.
    • In this case, the court explained that when the State fails to fulfill its duties, the judiciary intervenes to ensure the rule of law prevails over the abuse of legal processes.
    • This abuse might arise from inaction, arbitrary protection of offenders, or the failure of authorities to fulfill obligations according to the law.
  • Rule of Law vs. Personal Liberty: Striking a Balance
    • The court emphasized that breaching the rule of law negates equality, as outlined in Article 14.
    • It asserted that the concept of “equality before law” would be rendered meaningless without judicial scrutiny of its violation.
    • The judiciary was portrayed as the guardian of the rule of law and a central pillar of a democratic state.
    • The Supreme Court has emphasized the paramount importance of the rule of law, declaring that no one, regardless of their status, is above the law.
    • Described as the fundamental rule of governance and democratic polity, the court emphasized the close connection between the rule of law and adjudication by courts.
    • The court unequivocally stated that compassion and sympathy should not play a role where the rule of law is concerned.
  • Judiciary as a Beacon for Rule of Law
    • The court asserted its role as a beacon in upholding the rule of law, highlighting the potential dangers if courts were to apply the concept selectively.
    • It emphasized the need for the judiciary to fulfill its obligations in favor of the rule of law to prevent a precarious situation in the country’s democracy.
    • The court stressed that everyone within the framework of the rule of law must accept the system, obey court orders, and face justice in case of non-compliance.
    • In the context of the BilkisBano case, the Supreme Court referenced Justice H R Khanna’s dissenting judgment in ADM, Jabalpur vs. Shivakant Shukla (1976), highlighting that the “rule of law is the antithesis of arbitrariness.”
    • The court underscored the importance of ensuring justice not only for the convicts but also for victims and law-abiding members of society.
  • Rejecting Plea for Liberty: Rule of Law Takes Precedence
    • The court dismissed the convicts’ plea for liberty protection, asserting that the rule of law must prevail.
    • It invoked Article 142 of the Constitution to set aside remission orders, clarifying that the court cannot endorse the evasion of legal consequences.
    • The ruling complied with the principle of equal protection of law under Article 14, justifying the deprivation of liberty for the convicts due to erroneous release contrary to the law.
    • Highlighting that the convicts had lost their right to liberty upon conviction, the court insisted on restoring the status quo ante.

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution

  • Article 14 of the Indian Constitution declares that the State must not deny any person equality before the law or equal protection of laws within the territory of India.
  • This provision applies to all individuals, whether citizens or foreigners, and extends to legal persons such as statutory corporations, companies, and registered societies.
  • The concept of ‘equality before law’ has its roots in British jurisprudence, while the idea of ‘equal protection of laws’ is borrowed from the American Constitution.
  • The former signifies the absence of special privileges, equal subjection to ordinary law, and the principle that no person, irrespective of their status, is exempt from the law.
  • The latter, on the other hand, implies equal treatment under similar circumstances, both in privileges and liabilities, avoiding discrimination and ensuring similar application of laws to those similarly situated.
  • While ‘equality before law’ is a negative concept, ensuring no one is above the law, ‘equal protection of laws’ is a positive concept, ensuring similar treatment for those in similar circumstances.
  • Both concepts aim at establishing equality of legal status, opportunity, and justice.
  • The Supreme Court has clarified that Article 14 does not apply when equals and unequals are treated differently.
    • While the article allows reasonable classification of persons, objects, and transactions by the law, such classification should not be arbitrary, artificial, or evasive.
    • It must be based on an intelligible and substantial distinction, ensuring fairness and justice in the application of laws.

Note: The concept of ‘equality before law’ is an element of the concept of ‘Rule of Law’, propounded by A.V. Dicey, the British jurist.

  • The Supreme Court has affirmed that the ‘Rule of Law’ embodied in Article 14 is considered a ‘basic feature’ of the Indian constitution.

About Article 142

  • Article 142 of the Indian Constitution grants special powers to the Supreme Court of India.
  • It empowers the Supreme Court to pass any decree or make an order necessary for doing complete justice in any matter before it.

Geographical Indication (GI) tag

(General Studies- Paper I)

Source : Indian Express

Seven distinctive products from Odisha, including the Similipal Kai chutney featuring red weaver ants and the intricately embroidered Kapdaganda shawl, have received the prestigious Geographical Indication (GI) tag.

Key Highlights

  • Understanding Geographical Indication (GI) Tags:
    • The GI tag signifies the specific geographic origin of a product, assuring consumers of its quality and distinctiveness.
    • In India, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, awards GIs.
    • While the registration is granted to an area, authorized traders with a unique GI number can sell the product with the GI logo.
    • This not only safeguards the authenticity of the products but also protects the interests of local growers and artisans by preventing unauthorized sales.
    • The GI tags serve as markers of authenticity, aiding consumers in identifying certified goods.

Cultural Gems of Odisha: Unique Heritage Recognized Through Geographical Indication Tags

  • Kapdaganda Shawl:
    • The Kapdaganda shawl, worn by both men and women, holds cultural significance in Odisha.
    • Embroidered with red, yellow, and green threads, it serves as a formal commitment during courtship.
    • Crafted by the DongriaKondh tribe, a particularly vulnerable tribal group in the Niyamgiri hills, the shawl reflects the rich tribal heritage of the DongriaKondhs.
    • Embroidered on off-white coarse cloth, the colors symbolize the mountains, peace, happiness, and blood.
    • Motifs in the shawls, such as lines and triangles, signify the importance of mountains to the community.
  • LanjiaSaura Painting:
    • LanjiaSaura Painting, also known as Idital, is one of the oldest tribal art forms.
    • Executed as exterior murals on mud walls, these paintings are famed for their beauty, aesthetics, and ritualistic significance.
    • Originating from the LanjiaSaura community in Rayagada, the paintings express gratitude to deities and forefathers, contributing to the well-being of the community.
    • The paintings depict tribal humans, trees, animals, birds, the Sun, and the Moon, reflecting the primitive tribes’ affection for nature.
  • Koraput Kala Jeera Rice:
    • The ‘Prince of Rice,’ also known as Koraput Kala Jeera Rice, stands out with its black color, exquisite aroma, taste, texture, and nutritional value.
    • Preserved for around 1,000 years by tribal farmers in Koraput, the rice resembles cumin seeds.
    • Its consumption is associated with increased hemoglobin levels and improved metabolism.
    • Farmers follow traditional knowledge and practices, and ancient tales speak of the physical, mental, and spiritual delights resulting from the consumption of this unique rice variety.
  • Similipal Kai Chutney:
    • Similipal Kai chutney, made with red weaver ants, is a traditional delicacy among tribals in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district.
    • Harvested from the forests of Mayurbhanj, including Similipal – Asia’s second-largest biosphere, the chutney is rich in medicinal and nutritional value.
    • Tribals manually grind red weaver ants on a SilBatta or grinding stone to make the chutney, believed to boost immunity and prevent diseases.
  • NayagarhKanteimundiBrinjal:
    • Known for its prickly thorns on stems, NayagarhKanteimundiBrinjal has round green fruits with more seeds, offering a unique taste and quick cooking time.
    • Widely cultivated in Nayagarh district, the brinjal variety is resistant to major insects, providing good yields and fetching a favorable market price.
    • Historical records suggest that locals obtained the brinjal from hilly areas, cultivating it for nearly 100 years.
  • Odisha KhajuriGuda:
    • Odisha’s “KhajuriGuda” or jaggery, extracted from date palm trees in Gajapati district, is an organic sweetener with a trapezoidal form called ‘Patali Gur’ and a distinct dark brown color.
    • The jaggery has a unique taste and is prepared through traditional methods, reflecting the cultural and culinary heritage of the region.
  • DhenkanalMagji:
    • DhenkanalMagji is a sweet made from buffalo milk cheese, featuring distinctive characteristics in taste, appearance, shape, and size.
    • Originating in the Mandar-Sadangi area of Gondia block, DhenkanalMagji has historical roots, with the region being a hub for buffalo milk production during the British era.
    • The sweet is prepared by draining moisture from the cheese, followed by frying and forming balls from the mixture.

Income inequality declines, says SBI research unit

(General Studies- Paper II and III)

Source : The Indian Express

The Economic Research Department of the State Bank of India (SBI) has released a report challenging the perception of a K-shaped recovery in India, asserting that income inequality has, in fact, decreased.

Key Highlights

  • The report highlights several factors contributing to this trend:
    • Shift in Taxpayer Base:
      • The report indicates a significant shift in taxpayers from lower to higher income tax brackets, with about 36.3% of taxpayers moving upward.
      • This transition has resulted in a 21.3% increase in additional income, showcasing a positive trend in income mobility.
    • Top Taxpayers’ Contribution Decline:
      • The contribution of the top 2.5% of taxpayers to the overall income has declined from 2.81% in FY14 to 2.28% in FY21.
      • Despite an increase in the number of individuals earning over Rs 100 crore, their combined income share has fallen from 1.64% in FY14 to 0.77% in FY21.
    • Income-Tax Returns and Migration:
      • Income-tax returns filed by individuals earning between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh have surged by 295% between AY 2013–14 and AY 2021–22.
      • This positive trend suggests a migration of income levels to a higher range of gross total income.
    • Transition of Small Firms:
      • Approximately 19.5% of small firms have transitioned into larger entities through MSME value chain integration, contributing to economic growth.
      • This transition challenges notions of a K-shaped recovery, indicating a more inclusive economic landscape.
    • Consumption Trends and MSME Growth:
      • Consumption by the bottom 90% of the population has increased by Rs 8.2 lakh crore post-pandemic.
      • The integration of MSMEs into larger value chains is highlighted as a positive factor in economic development.
    • Income Convergence:
      • The report notes that growth is observed across all income classes, with a decreasing skewness.
      • Income is converging towards the middle, both from the top and bottom segments.
    • The claim of a K-shaped recovery is described as flawed and ill-concocted, suggesting biases that may not accurately represent India’s economic reality.
      • Gini Coefficient and Income Inequality:
        • The Gini coefficient, a widely-used measure of income inequality, has significantly decreased from 0.472 to 0.402 during FY14-FY22, indicating a decline in income inequality.
        • The report challenges the notion that income inequality is worsening, presenting evidence to the contrary.

More Highlights from the Report

  • Two-Wheeler Sales Decline:
    • The report addresses the decline in two-wheeler sales, dismissing the idea that it reflects distress in the rural economy.
    • It suggests that the preference for four-wheelers over two-wheelers has been evident even before the pandemic, and the trend is not indicative of economic distress.
  • Auto Loans and Asset Preference:
    • The strong credit deployment of auto loans, nearly 1.8 times the pandemic level, contradicts claims of a decline in auto loans or non-performing assets.
    • The report suggests that households may be reconfiguring their savings towards physical assets like real estate, and there is a shift to used/entry-level cars as a substitution effect.
  • Female Tax Filers and State Disparities:
    • Female tax filers constitute around 15% of individual tax filers.
    • Certain states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, and West Bengal exhibit a higher share of female tax filers, prompting the need for a closer examination to ensure broader representation.
  • Consumption and Economic Participation:
    • The report highlights that 47% of the population lives below $3.65 per day, and only 80% of the remaining 73.1 crore individuals work in the formal economy.
    • Approximately 8.5% of the population, contributing to Rs 100 lakh crore or 61% of private final consumption expenditure, represents tax-paying individuals supporting families.
    • Consumption Trends:
      • Consumption data from platforms like Zomato is cited as a case study to challenge claims of widespread distress.
      • The report notes around 0.44 crore active Zomato users from semi-urban regions, suggesting a rise in experience-centric income groups.
    • Income Tax Return (ITR) Filings:
      • The number of ITRs filed by individuals earning between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 25 lakh has increased by 291%.
      • The total number of persons filing income tax has risen to 7.4 crore in Assessment Year (AY) 23 from 7 crore in AY22. By December 31, 2023, 8.2 crore ITRs have been filed for AY24.
    • Income Mobility:
      • About 36.3% of individual ITR filers in the income group of less than Rs 3.5 lakhs in AY15 have moved upward to higher income groups.
      • Shifting percentages are noted in various income brackets, indicating income mobility and changes in economic status.

What is K-shaped recovery?

  • A K-shaped recovery is an economic concept that describes the uneven and divergent paths of recovery for different sectors, classes, or segments of the economy following a downturn, such as a recession or a financial crisis.
  • The “K” in K-shaped recovery represents the idea that while some segments of the economy or population may see positive growth and improvement, others experience decline or stagnation.

Progress of India’s National Clean Air Programme Falls Short in Most Cities

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : TH

A recent analysis by Respirer Living Sciences and Climate Trends reveals that the majority of Indian cities are struggling to make significant progress in improving air quality, despite the ambitious goals set by the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

  • The NCAP, with a budget of ₹9,631 crores, aims to reduce average particulate matter concentrations by 40% by 2026 in 131 cities.
  • However, the analysis focused on 49 cities with consistently available particulate matter data for five years, indicating that only 27 cities showed a decline in PM 2.5, the most dangerous grade of pollutant.

Key Highlights

  • City-wise Progress and Setbacks:
    • The initial goal of the NCAP was to achieve a 20-40% reduction in pollution by 2024, but this target was later shifted to 2026.
    • As of now, with three years remaining until the deadline, several major cities are experiencing marginal declines or even an increase in pollution levels.
    • Delhi, for instance, has only seen a 5.9% reduction in average annual PM 2.5 levels.
    • Navi Mumbai and Mumbai have witnessed a 46% and 38.1% rise, respectively, while Ujjain, Jaipur, Visakhapatnam, and Pune have reported increases ranging from 10% to 46%.
    • Contrastingly, Varanasi exhibited a commendable 72% average reduction in PM 2.5 levels from 2019-2023, with Agra and Jodhpur reporting declines of 53% and 50%, respectively.
    • The study, based on data from 99 cities, emphasized the need for consistent and long-term monitoring, revealing that only 49 cities had data worth at least 60 months and spanning at least five years.
  • Reduction Achievements in Uttar Pradesh:
    • The study highlights significant achievements in Uttar Pradesh, with cities like Jodhpur, Kanpur, Meerut, and Lucknow registering more than a 40% reduction in PM 2.5 levels compared to 2019.
    • Interestingly, all cities that have already met the 2026 reduction targets for PM 2.5 are from Uttar Pradesh.
    • However, the challenge remains for PM 10 levels, as only Varanasi and Talcher have achieved the 40% reduction target so far.
  • Seasonal Variations and Regional Vulnerability:
    • The study acknowledges the seasonal variations in pollution levels, particularly in cities like Delhi and those in northern and eastern India, where pollution peaks during winter.
    • The adverse meteorological conditions during this period hinder the natural flushing out of particulate matter.
    • The Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) stands out as a highly vulnerable region, hosting nearly 18 of the top 20 cities with the highest PM 2.5 levels in 2023.
    • Only Guwahati and Rourkela, located outside the IGP, were among the 20 most polluted cities for PM 2.5.
  • Impact of Ambient Air Quality Monitors:
    • The number and distribution of continuous ambient air quality monitors play a crucial role in understanding and addressing pollution issues.
    • While cities like Mumbai and Delhi boast several well-distributed monitoring stations, most Indian cities have only a handful.
    • Only four out of the 92 cities analyzed have more than 10 monitoring stations.
    • The study highlights Varanasi’s example, which increased its operational monitoring stations from one in 2019 (working only 24% of the time) to four fully operational stations by 2024.
    • However, the majority of Indian cities still have less than five monitoring stations, revealing a need for improved monitoring infrastructure.

About the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) initiated the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) in January 2019, marking a historic effort to address air quality issues in India.
  • The program is designed to enhance air quality in 131 cities, categorized as non-attainment cities and Million Plus Cities, across 24 States/Union Territories.
  • Key Objectives:
    • The NCAP aims to achieve significant reductions, up to 40%, or the attainment of National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter 10 (PM10) concentrations by the year 2025-26.
    • Unprecedented in the country, the program establishes a time-bound national framework for air quality management, emphasizing a target-driven approach.
    • The plan targets a reduction of at least 20% in the concentration of coarse particles (PM10) and fine particles (PM2.5) over the next five years, using the year 2017 as the base for comparison.
  • Scope and Coverage:
    • The NCAP encompasses 102 non-attainment cities spread across 23 states and Union territories.
    • These cities were identified based on ambient air quality data collected between 2011 and 2015 by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  • Non-Attainment Cities Definition:
    • Non-attainment cities are those that have consistently failed to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for over five years.

Note: The “PRANA” portal, dedicated to the Regulation of Air Pollution in Non-Attainment cities, serves as a monitoring platform for NCAP implementation. It facilitates the tracking of both physical and financial aspects of city air action plan implementation.

A look at Project Tiger, 50 years on

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : TH

Launched in 1973, Project Tiger has evolved into a remarkable success story in India’s environmental and forest conservation efforts, particularly in the context of climate change.

Key Highlights

  • Project Tiger, initiated in 1973, introduced Tiger Reserves, elevating them from an administrative category to a statutory one in 2006.
  • The reserves, initially nine covering 9,115 sq. km, have grown to 54 in 18 States, encompassing 78,135.956 sq. km, representing 2.38% of India’s total land area.
  • Significance of Tiger Reserves:
    • Tiger Reserves are now celebrated globally as India’s environmental success story.
    • They play a crucial role in conservation, covering 26% of the area under National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries, with Critical Tiger Habitats spanning 42,913.37 sq. km.
  • The growth in India’s tiger population, from 1,827 in 1972 (using the pug-mark method) to 3,167-3,925 in 2022 (using the more reliable camera-trap method) is impressive.
    • With an annual growth rate of 6.1%, India claims to host three-quarters of the world’s tigers.
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act and Spatial Changes:
    • The same year Project Tiger was launched, the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WLPA) was enacted, introducing spatial fixtures like ‘National Parks’ and ‘Wildlife Sanctuaries.’
    • This legislative framework aimed at safeguarding wildlife, with National Parks removing rights of forest-dwellers and Wildlife Sanctuaries allowing some permitted rights.
  • The ‘fortress conservation’ approach adopted by Project Tiger, creating ‘Critical Tiger Habitats’ and Buffer Areas has been very significant in success of the project.
  • While the Buffer Area had a people-oriented agenda, the overall approach led to conflicts and displacement of communities that had coexisted with tigers for generations.
  • The September 2006 Amendment:
    • Prompted by concerns over the effectiveness of tiger conservation efforts, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appointed a ‘Tiger Task Force’ in 2005.
    • The public outcry stemmed from the perceived failure to protect tigers in Sariska, Rajasthan, despite significant financial investment.
  • Tiger Task Force Findings:
    • The Tiger Task Force, recognizing the inadequacy of traditional approaches involving guns, guards, and fences, emphasized the interdependence of tiger protection, forest conservation, and the well-being of local communities.
    • The conflict between forest bureaucracy and those coexisting with tigers was identified as a potential disaster.
  • In response to the Task Force’s findings, the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WLPA) was amended in September 2006, creating the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and a comprehensive tiger conservation plan.
    • Despite this, the inviolability of Critical Tiger Habitats (CTH) persisted, impacting forest-dwellers, primarily tribals, and allowing for potential relocation.
    • The amendment did not prohibit the diversion of a “tiger’s forest” for development projects.
    • Wildlife could be killed as a last resort if they posed a threat to human lives.
  • Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA):
    • Four months later, the government enacted the FRA, recognizing customary and traditional forest rights, both individual and community-based, including those within Tiger Reserves.
    • The Gram Sabhas, at the habitation level, gained authority to determine and demarcate recognized forest rights, becoming responsible for forest, wildlife, and biodiversity conservation.
    • FRA introduced the concept of a ‘Critical Wildlife Habitat’ (CWH), similar to CTH under WLPA.
    • Notably, once a CWH was notified, it could not be diverted for non-forestry purposes.
    • This provision addressed the demands of Adivasi movements during negotiations.
    • FRA played a crucial role in securing the livelihoods of around 20 crore Indians, with half of them being tribals, residing in 1.79 lakh villages.
    • The legislation balanced the imperative of wildlife conservation with the protection of traditional forest rights and local communities.
  • FRA Implementation and Forest Land Transfer:
    • The Union Environment Ministry projected that around 4 crore hectares of forest land would be transferred to village-level institutions under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA).
    • In an unexpected turn of events, on November 16, 2007, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) issued an order, granting Chief Wildlife Wardens just 13 days to submit proposals for delineating Critical Tiger Habitats (CTHs), each covering 800-1,000 sq. km.
    • This rush led to the notification of 26 Tiger Reserves in 12 States under Section 38(V) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WLPA), without complying with its provisions.
    • Of the total 25,548.54 sq. km notified, a substantial 91.77% (23,444.93 sq. km) comprised CTHs.
    • Most notably, except for Similipal in Odisha, these CTHs lacked Buffer Areas.
    • This crucial omission was rectified in 2012, following a Supreme Court directive that compelled the addition of Buffer Areas within three months.
    • The rushed creation of CTHs without proper adherence to legal provisions has resulted in long-term repercussions.
    • Tigers now inhabit a landscape fraught with illegalities, emphasizing the unintended consequences of hasty decision-making.
  • Democratic Process for Tiger Reserves:
    • The establishment of Tiger Reserves in India was initially intended to follow a democratic process, relying on “scientific and objective criteria.”
    • The tiger conservation plan aimed to safeguard the interests of people living in tiger-bearing forests or reserves, ensuring agricultural, livelihood, and developmental concerns were addressed without arbitrariness.
    • The creation of Critical Tiger Habitats (CTHs) is grounded in scientific evidence highlighting the irreversible damage to wildlife caused by human activities.
    • The government is responsible for evaluating the possibility of reasonable coexistence between forest-dwellers and tigers.
    • If coexistence is deemed unfeasible, forest-dwellers’ rights should be modified, and relocation, if necessary, should occur with consultation from ecological and social scientists and the consent of affected communities.
  • Lack of Compliance in Tiger Reserve Notifications:
    • Despite these requirements, all Tiger Reserves in India have been notified without meeting the stipulated criteria.
    • Informed consent from forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribe communities and traditional communities has not been obtained.
    • Consequently, both tigers and forest-dwellers find themselves in a challenging situation, leading to conflicts and creating a complex dynamic.
    • Conflict is heightened due to the failure to secure informed consent and adequately address the coexistence challenges between wildlife conservation and the rights of local communities.
  • Legal Framework for Relocation:
    • The Wildlife (Protection) Act (WLPA) prohibits relocation unless it is “voluntary relocation on mutually agreed terms and conditions” that satisfy legal requirements.
    • Once the Forest Rights Act (FRA) recognizes people’s rights, the State acquires those rights under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement (LARR) Act 2013.
    • No relocation can occur without the consent of affected communities.
    • The LARR Act mandates compensation for relocated individuals, including twice the market value of the land, compensation for attached assets, a subsistence allowance, financial assistance, housing, and various amenities.
    • Each family is entitled to land and a house, and the resettlement plan covers various provisions such as fuel, fodder, water, sanitation, health, education, and more.
  • Discrepancies in Implementation:
    • While the legal framework outlines comprehensive compensation and rehabilitation provisions, the Union Environment Ministry and State governments have limited themselves to guidelines set by the 2008 Revised Guidelines for the Ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger.
    • The compensation, initially Rs 10 lakh and revised to Rs 15 lakh in April 2021, falls short of the total compensation required by law.
    • The responsibility for the remainder is often shifted to State governments.
    • Officials have been known to obtain minimal consent, often through signatures, claiming that affected families have opted for relocation.
    • This meets the minimum legal requirement but may not reflect genuine informed consent.
  • Current Status: Villages and Families Affected:
    • As of 2018, there were 2,808 villages in Critical Tiger Habitats (CTHs), affecting 57,386 families.
    • By July 12, 2019, 42,398 families remained within 50 Tiger Reserves, highlighting the challenges in effectively implementing relocation and rehabilitation measures as mandated by the law.
  • Struggle for Coexistence: Tigers, Forest Rights, and Legal Disputes
    • Tiger Reserves face significant resistance when it comes to recognizing forest rights and the rights of forest-dwelling communities.
    • This resistance often pits the conservation of tigers against the rights of people inhabiting these areas.
    • In March 2017, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) prohibited the recognition of rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in Critical Tiger Habitats (CTHs), citing the absence of guidelines for notification.
    • Both the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WLPA) and FRA mandate the recognition of forest-dwellers’ rights, even within CTHs.
    • The Union Environment Ministry issued guidelines in January 2018, leading to the withdrawal of the ban order by NTCA two months later.
  • Challenges in Forest Diversions:
    • The FRA allows for the establishment of 13 basic government public utilities, each potentially involving the felling of up to 75 trees over forest land smaller than one hectare.
    • Consent from the Gram Sabha is mandatory for such land diversions.
    • However, in October 2020, the Union Environment Ministry insisted on wildlife clearance from the National Board for Wildlife for diversions from National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
    • This requirement deviates from the legal framework, as wildlife clearance is mandated only for projects requiring environmental clearance under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, not for the basic public utilities specified under FRA.
  • The demand for wildlife clearance in situations where it is not legally required, coupled with the increasing tiger population and the establishment of tiger corridors, raises concerns about escalating conflicts and anxiety in India’s tiger habitats.
  • The intersection of biodiversity conservation and the rights of forest-dwelling communities remains a complex and contentious issue.

About the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972

  • Enacted in 1972, the Wild Life (Protection) Act is a pivotal legislation by the Parliament of India aimed at safeguarding the country’s rich biodiversity, encompassing plants and animal species.
  • It serves as a comprehensive legal framework for the protection of wild animals, birds, and plants throughout India.
  • The Act brought about significant reforms, establishing scheduled protected plant species and restricting the hunting of certain animals, ultimately outlawing such practices.
  • Covering the entire nation, the Act has six schedules that categorize species based on the level of protection they require.
    • Schedule I: Stringent Protection for Endangered Species
      • Covers endangered species necessitating robust protection.
      • Violations entail the severest penalties.
      • Prohibits hunting throughout India, except in cases of imminent threat to human life or incurable diseases.
      • Examples: Black Buck, Snow Leopard, Himalayan Bear, Asiatic Cheetah.
    • Schedule II: High Protection with Trade Prohibition
      • Animals receive high protection with a trade ban.
      • Examples: Assamese Macaque, Himalayan Black Bear, Indian Cobra.
    • Schedules III & IV: Protection for Non-Endangered Species
      • Encompasses non-endangered species with hunting restrictions and lesser penalties.
      • Schedule III examples: Chital (spotted deer), Bharal (blue sheep), Hyena, Sambhar (deer).
      • Schedule IV examples: Flamingo, Hares, Falcons, Kingfishers, Magpie, Horseshoe Crabs.
    • Schedule V: Vermin Category for Controlled Hunting
      • Includes animals considered vermin, permitting controlled hunting.
      • Examples: Common Crows, Fruit Bats, Rats, Mice.
    • Schedule VI: Regulation of Specified Plants
      • Regulates cultivation and trade of specified plants, requiring prior permission.
      • Examples: Beddomes’ cycad, Blue Vanda (Blue Orchid), Red Vanda (Red Orchid), Kuth (Saussurealappa), Slipper Orchids, Pitcher Plant.

About Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA)

  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) is a pivotal legislation enacted with the aim of recognizing and securing the rights of scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers over the forest land they inhabit.
  • Key aspects of the Act include:
    • FRA acknowledges and validates the customary rights of scheduled tribes and traditional forest dwellers over ancestral lands and forests.
    • This includes both individual and community rights related to habitation, cultivation, and traditional resource usage.
    • The Act focuses on granting legal recognition to the rights of forest-dwelling communities over the land they have been residing in and dependent upon for sustenance.
      • It seeks to address historical injustices and dispossession.
    • The Act emphasizes the role of Gram Sabha (village-level governing body) in the process of determining and vesting forest rights.
    • The Act outlines the process for identifying and verifying individual and community forest rights, involving various authorities at different levels.
      • This includes the formation of Forest Rights Committees at the village level.
    • FRA recognizes the rights of forest dwellers to collect and use minor forest produce, fostering sustainable practices and the preservation of traditional livelihoods.
    • FRA establishes mechanisms for addressing grievances and appeals related to the recognition of forest rights.

World came close to the critical 1.5 degree Celsius limit in 2023

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : TH

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) declares 2023 as the hottest year on record, with Earth’s surface temperature approaching the critical threshold of a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase.

  • The report underscores the intensification of global climate impacts, including heatwaves, wildfires, and droughts.

Key Highlights

  • The global thermometer surged 1.48 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial benchmark in 2023.
  • Notably, this year stands out as the first to witness all days exceeding one degree warmer than the pre-industrial period, marking a historical milestone in temperature records.
  • Nearly half of 2023 experienced temperatures beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit, a threshold associated with self-reinforcing climate impacts that could lead to catastrophic consequences.
  • This duration of elevated temperatures raises concerns about the potential for irreversible environmental damage.
  • Climate Change Acceleration:
    • The report highlights the role of climate change in accelerating the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.
    • The observed trends underscore the urgent need for global climate action to mitigate further temperature increases and address the consequences of a warming planet.
  • Implications for the Paris Agreement:
    • While breaching the 1.5 degrees Celsius benchmark in a single year is significant, it does not automatically signify a failure to meet the Paris Agreement target.
    • The treaty allows for a period of “overshoot,” acknowledging the complexity of global temperature dynamics and the possibility of subsequent reduction efforts.
    • Scientists express concern about the potential long-term impacts of continuous temperature increases.
    • Even if 2024 witnesses a breach of the 1.5C threshold, sustained efforts and consecutive years above this benchmark would be necessary to declare a failure to meet the Paris Agreement goals.
    • Notably, November 2023 witnessed two days surpassing the preindustrial benchmark by over two degrees Celsius, marking an alarming record.
    • Copernicus predicts that the 12-month period concluding in January or February 2024 will likely exceed the 1.5 degrees Celsius milestone above the pre-industrial level, emphasizing the ongoing challenges posed by climate change.
  • The report, following the recent COP28 climate agreement in Dubai advocating for a gradual shift away from fossil fuels, underscores the urgency of addressing the primary cause of climate warming.