Topic 1: One China Policy
Context: An agreement was signed between China and Honduras to establish diplomatic ties, after Honduras ended its diplomatic ties with Taiwan..
What is the One China Policy?
- ‘One China’ for China basically refer to the principle that it is one country, composing mainland China and the island of Taiwan.
- It is the diplomatic acknowledgement of China’s position that there is only one Chinese government.
- Under the policy, the US recognises and has formal ties with China rather than the island of Taiwan.
- The One China policy is a key cornerstone of Sino-US relations.
- Distinction with One China Principle:
- It is distinct from the One China principle, whereby China insists Taiwan is an inalienable part of one China to be reunified one day.
- Washington maintains a robust unofficial relationship with Taiwan, under the One China Policy, including continued arms sales to the island so that it can defend itself.
- Under the principle, the China is opposed to the idea of Taiwanese independence in any form or shape.
- How many countries recognize Taiwan?
- Only 13 countries recognise Taiwan now:
- Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, Eswatini, Vatican City, Belize, Guatemala, Haiti, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
- Only 13 countries recognise Taiwan now:
Topic 2: Dispute over Dawoodi Bohras’ Dai, or religious leader
Context: The Bombay High Court will again hear the dispute between the current leader of the Dawoodi Bohra sect and his challenger to the post.
Who are Dawoodi Bohras?
- The Dawoodi Bohras are a religious denomination among Shia Muslims.
- Traditionally a community of traders and entrepreneurs, it has over 5 lakh members in India and over 10 lakh members across the world.
- The top religious leader of the community is known as the Dai-al-Mutlaq.
What is the dispute?
- In 2014, the 52nd Dai-al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin, passed away, and his son, Mufaddal Saifuddin, succeeded him.
- This was challenged by the late Syedna’s half-brother, Khuzaima Qutbuddin, in the Bombay HC.
- Qutbuddin claimed that after Burhanuddin became the new Dai-al-Mutlaq, he had publicly appointed his half brother as the mazoon (second in command) and privately anointed him as his successor through a secret nass in 1965.
- Qutbuddin died in 2016 in the USA and since then, his son, Syedna Taher Fakhruddin is the plaintiff.
- The defendant argued that the nass of 1965 lacked witnesses and could not be accepted.
- They argued that as per established and present doctrines of the Dawoodi Bohra faith, nass could be changed and revoked.
How is the leader picked?
- As per faith and Dawoodi Bohra doctrine, a successor is appointed through divine inspiration.
- A “nass” (conferment of succession) can be conferred upon any deserving member of the community and not necessarily a family member of the current Dai.
- Although the latter is often the practice.
Topic 3: Aravalli Green Wall Project
Context: Shri Bhupender Yadav launches Aravalli Green Wall Project, a major initiative to green 5 km buffer area around the Aravalli Hill Range in four states
- What is the project?
- The Aravalli Green Wall Project is part of the Union Environment Ministry’s vision to create green corridors across the country to combat land degradation and desertification.
- The project covers states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Delhi – where the Aravalli hills landscape span over 6 million hectares of land.
- The project will involve planting native species of trees and shrubs on scrubland, wasteland and degraded forest land, along with rejuvenating and restoring surface water bodies such as ponds, lakes and streams.
- The project will also focus on agroforestry and pasture development to enhance the livelihoods of local communities.
- The project is conceptualised on the lines of the African Green Wall programme.
- The African Great Green Wall was an initiative launched in Sahel, the region bordering Africa’s Sahara Desert, to increase the amount of arable land.
- It will make efforts to revive the Aravallis through various initiatives like:
- single-use plastic ban,
- water conservation efforts
- natural resources protection
- In the initial phase, 75 water bodies will be rejuvenated under the project.
- Improving the ecological health of the Aravalli range
- To prevent eastward expansion of Thar Desert and to reduce land degradation by creating green barriers that will prevent soil erosion, desertification and dust storms
- This green wall will help in carbon sequestration and mitigating climate change to enhance the biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Aravalli range by:
- planting native tree species in the Aravalli region,
- providing habitat for wildlife,
- improving water quality and quantity.
- Promote sustainable development and livelihood opportunities by involving local communities in afforestation, agro-forestry and water conservation activities that will generate income, employment, food security and social benefits.
- Contribute to India’s commitments under various international conventions such as:
- UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification),
- CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) and
- UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).
- Enhancing India’s image as a global leader in environmental protection and green development.
Topic 4: Innovations For Defence Excellence (IDEX) Scheme
Context: The Defence Minister informed the Parliament about IDEX scheme.
About the scheme:
- The iDEX initiative was launched in 2018.
- iDEX aims to achieve self – reliance and foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging Industries including MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes and academia.
- iDEX has launched challenges on frontier technologies/ domains to ensure that the Services enjoy a technological edge over their adversaries.
Topic 5: Daylight Saving Time
Context: Lebanon was thrown into mass confusion after its government at the last minute delayed the start of daylight saving time by a month. Meanwhile, Greenland has chosen to stay with daylight saving time forever.
What is daylight saving time?
- Daylight saving time (DST) is the practice of setting the clocks forward one hour from the standard time during the summer and back again in the autumn.
- The goal of Daylight Saving Time is to make better use of daylight by prolonging the amount of time we can spend outside during daylight hours.
- India does not follow daylight saving time as countries near the Equator do not experience high variations in daytime hours between seasons.
- Because the spring to fall cycle is opposite in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, DST lasts from March to October/November in Europe and the US, and from September/October to April in New Zealand and Australia.
Rationale behind this system:
- The rationale behind setting clocks ahead of standard time is to ensure that the clocks show a later sunrise and later sunset — in effect a longer evening daytime.
- Individuals will wake an hour earlier than usual, complete their daily work routines an hour earlier, and have an extra hour of daylight at the end.
Origin of the practice:
- Daylight Saving Time was first suggested in 1895 by George Hudson.
- Hudson wanted more daylight hours after work to collect bugs, and Daylight Saving Time was his solution.
- The idea of Daylight Saving Time caught on in other countries, especially as energy savings and conservation became a concern during World War II.
- DST is now used in over 70 countries around the world.
- India used daylight saving time from 1941 to 1945.
Topic 6: PARIVESH Portal
Context: PARIVESH Portal provides a “single window” solution for an expeditious, transparent and effective decision making without compromising on environmental safeguards
- PARIVESH is a web based, role-based workflow application which has been developed for online submission and monitoring of the proposals submitted by the proponents seeking for Environmental (EC), Forest (FC), Wildlife (WL) and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances.
- It automates the entire tracking of proposals at each stage of the workflow.
- Main aim and objective of the PARIVESH portal is to provide a “single window” solution by process automation of the four major clearances without compromising on the environmental safeguards.
- PARIVESH stands for Pro Active and Responsive Facilitation by Interactive and Virtuous Environmental Single-window Hub
- Information that can be found on the PARIVESH portal
- Area sought for clearance
- Project cost
- Spatial information about project location
- Details of Project Proponent/User Agency
- Cost Benefit Analysis undertaken
- Status/links to associated environmental or wildlife clearance (if any)
- Project plan/ feasibility reports/ site inspection reports
- Problems with PARIVESH
- Low Discoverability:
- Navigating through the PARIVESH portal is complicated as information is not organised uniformly across types/categories and regions.
- Decision Fatigue:
- Because of the structure of the portal, too many steps are involved in obtaining a particular project’s information
- Inappropriate Project Tagging:
- Proposals, projects or additional attached documents are not appropriately tagged, which makes finding them using the search function cumbersome.
- Complexities of the Clearance Processes:
- The complexities of the clearance processes and organisational hierarchies make access to information additionally difficult.
- For effective conservation advocacy, knowledge of potential areas of intervention is crucial, which makes a clear understanding of what happens at each level of approval imperative.
- Simple features would increase the efficiency of the portal manifold.
- To truly achieve the goal of increased transparency and efficiency in the green clearance process in India, providing better access to information is key.
- Low Discoverability:
Topic 7: Wetlands in India
Context: National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems (NPCA) scheme implemented for conservation and management of wetlands (includes lakes) in the country on cost sharing basis between Central Government and respective State Governments
- Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) provided financial assistance to the States/Union Territories under the National Wetlands Conservation Programme (NWCP) and National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP) till the year 2012-13.
- Both the schemes of NWCP & NLCP have been merged into a centrally sponsored scheme namely ‘National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems’ (NPCA) in 2013.
- MoEF&CC is currently implementing NPCA scheme for conservation and management of wetlands (includes lakes) in the country on cost sharing basis between Central Government and respective State Governments.
Definition of a Wetland
- According to the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017, a wetland is an area of marsh, fen, peat land or water; whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters, are considered as wetlands.
Wetlands in India:
- The total wetland area estimated is 15.98 million hectare (mha) including rivers and excluding paddy field areas that is around 4.86% of the geographic area of the country.
- Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017
- MoEF&CC has notified Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 as regulatory framework for conservation and management of wetlands across the country without restricting the wise use.
- The State/UT Wetland Authorities have been constituted and powers for identification and notification of wetlands have been delegated to the State Governments and UT Administrations.
The Ramsar Convention
- The Government of India ratified the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation of wetlands in 1982.
- Recently, 10 new wetlands were declared as Ramsar Sites.
- The designation of the Ramsar site recognised these areas as being of significant value and embodies the government’s commitment to take the steps necessary to ensure that its ecological character is maintained.
- Currently there are 75 Ramsar sites in India:
|Great Rann of Kachh
|Thol Bird Sanctuary
|Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary
|Little Rann of Kachh
|Jammu & Kashmir
|Tisgul Tso & Chisul Marshes
|Chushul & Hanley
|Gudavi Bird Sanctuary
|Hidkal & Ghataprabha
|K.G. Koppa wetland
|Wetland of Ken River
|National Chambal Sanctuary
|Denwa Tawa wetland
|Kanha Tiger Reserve
|Pench Tiger Reserve
|Khechuperi Holy Lake
|Tembao Wetland Complex
|Phendang Wetland Complex
|Saman Bird Sanctuary
|Patna Bird Sanctuary
|Taal Gambhirvan & Taal Salona
|Aadi jal Jeev Jheel
|Ban Ganga Jhilmil Tal
|East Kolkata Wetland
|Puducherry ( UT)
Types of Wetlands in India
- Inland wetlands – Natural – 43.40%
- Ox-bow lakes/ cut-off meanders;
- High-altitude wetlands;
- Riverine wetlands;
- Inland wetlands-Man-made – 25.83%
- Salt pans
- Coastal wetlands – Natural– 24.27%
- Sand/beeach/ Intertidal mud flats;
- Salt marsh;
- Coral reefs
- Coastal wetlands- Man-made – 2.86%
- Salt pans;
- Aquaculture ponds
Significance of Wetlands
- 40% of animals breed in wetlands
- They clean the environment of pollutants
- They store 30% of land based carbon
- They absorb storm surge
- Wetlands provide livelihood to one billion people
Threats to wetlands:
|Wetlands near urban centres are under increasing developmental pressure for residential, industrial and commercial facilities.
|Due to unplanned urban and agricultural development, industries, road construction, impoundment, resource extraction and dredge disposal, wetlands have been drained and transformed, causing substantial economic and ecological losses in the long term.
|Following the Green Revolution of the 1970s, vast stretches of wetlands have been converted to paddy fields.Construction of a large number of reservoirs, canals and dams to provide for irrigation significantly altered the hydrology of the associated wetlands.
|Construction of canals and diversion of streams and rivers to transport water to lower arid regions for irrigation has altered the drainage pattern and significantly degraded the wetlands of the region.
|Removal of vegetation in the catchment leads to soil erosion and siltation
|Unrestricted dumping of sewage and toxic chemicals from industries has polluted many freshwater wetlands
|Over withdrawal of groundwater has led to salinization
|Demand for shrimps and fishes has provided economic incentives to convert wetlands and mangrove forests to develop pisciculture and aquaculture ponds.
|Indian wetlands are threatened by exotic introduced plant species such as water hyacinth and salvinia.They clog waterways and compete with native vegetation.
|Increased air temperature; shifts in precipitation; increased frequency of storms, droughts, and floods; increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration; and sea level rise could also affect wetlands.
- In India, unplanned urbanization and a growing population have taken their toll on wetlands.
- To counter these, management of wetlands has to be an integrated approach in terms of planning, execution and monitoring.
- Effective tie-ups of trained academicians and professionals must be linked with local expertise for overall management of wetlands.
- All these would increase knowledge and understanding of wetlands and evolve more comprehensive and long-term conservation and management strategies.
- Spreading awareness by initiating educational programs about the importance of wetlands in the vicinity of the water bodies, besides constant monitoring of wetlands for their water quality, would provide vital inputs to safeguard the wetlands from further deterioration.
Topic 8: Offences under Wildlife Protection Act
Context: UP man booked under Wildlife Protection Act for keeping injured Sarus crane.
What is the Wildlife Protection Act?
- The Wildlife Protection Act came into force in 1972.
- To provide for the protection of wild animals, birds and plants to ensure the ecological and environmental security of the country.
- To conserve protected species in two main ways:
- firstly, by prohibiting their hunting and
- secondly by protecting their habitat through the creation and regulation of sanctuaries, national parks, reserves, etc.
- Prohibitions under the Act:
- The Act prohibits capturing or hunting any species of animals listed under Schedules I-IV.
- hunting a diseased or dangerous animal or bird constituting a threat to human life or property or
- for scientific research or management.
- Offences under the Act:
- Broadly, offences under the Act can be divided into three categories;
- unauthorised possession, transport, and trade; and
- offences related to protected areas or habitat destruction.
- Broadly, offences under the Act can be divided into three categories;
- Definition of hunting:
- Hunting under the Act includes not just the act of killing or poisoning a wild or captive animal, but even an attempt to do so.
- Definition of captive animal:
- A captive animal is defined as any animal, specified in Schedule I-IV, which is captured or kept, or bred in captivity.
- Even injuring or destroying any part of the animal or its eggs or nests is an offence punishable under Section 9 of the Act.
What are the Schedules listed in the Act?
- Schedule I
- This Schedule deals with endangered species.
- Because these species require strict protection, the greatest punishments for law violations are listed in this Schedule.
- Species listed in this Schedule are forbidden from being hunted in India, unless they pose a threat to human life.
- Species on this list have absolute protection.
- It is illegal to trade these animals.
- Tiger, blackbuck, Himalayan Brown Bear, Brow-Antlered Deer, Blue whale, Common Dolphin, Cheetah, Clouded Leopard, hornbills, Indian Gazelle, and other animals are examples.
- Schedule II
- Animals on this list are also afforded high protection, with trade prohibited.
- They cannot be hunted unless there is a threat to human life or they are suffering from a disease/disorder that is beyond recovery.
- the Assamese Macaque, Pig Tailed Macaque, Stump Tailed Macaque, Bengal Hanuman langur, Himalayan Black Bear, Himalayan Newt/ Salamander, Jackal, Flying Squirrel, Giant Squirrel, Sperm Whale, Indian Cobra, and King Cobra.
- Schedule 3 and Schedule 4
- Schedules III and IV contain non-endangered species.
- This includes protected species where hunting is prohibited, but the penalty for any violation is less severe than in the first two schedules.
- Schedule III animals include:
- Chital (spotted deer), Bharal (blue sheep), Hyena, Nilgai, Sambhar (deer), Sponges
- Schedule IV animals include:
- Flamingos, Hares, Falcons, Kingfishers, Magpies, Horseshoe Crabs
- Schedule 5
- Schedule 5 animals are referred to as “vermin” and can be hunted.
- It includes only four animals:
- mice, rats, common crows, and flying foxes (fruit eating bats).
- Schedule 6
- It regulates the cultivation of a specific plant and restricts its possession, sale, and transportation.
- Plant cultivation and trade are only permitted with the prior approval of a competent authority.
- Schedule VI plants include:
- Beddomes’ cycad (Native to India)
- Blue Vanda (Blue Orchid)
- Red Vanda (Red Orchid)
- Kuth (Saussurea lappa)
- Slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum spp.)
- Pitcher plant (Nepenthes khasiana)
What is the law on animals and birds under Schedule IV?
- Species mentioned under Schedules III and IV of the Wildlife Protection Act are governed by Sections 44, 48, and 49, which relate to:
- the prohibition on dealings in trophy and animal articles without a license,
- purchase of animals by a licensee, and
- restriction on transportation of wildlife.
- The Act specifically states that any wild animal or animal article can be transported only after obtaining permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden or any other officer authorised by the State Government on their behalf.
- No hunting is allowed of species listed under Schedules III, IV, and Part I of Schedule II.
- The Act provides for issuing licenses to taxidermists, eating houses (hotels or restaurants), and dealers in animal articles, preserved animal parts or trophies, uncured trophies (whole or any unpreserved part of an animal), captive animals, and snake venom of such species.
What are the penalties for violating the provisions of the WPA?
- Any person who contravenes any provision of the Act, except those on trade, commerce, and taxidermy of certain animals shall be punished with up to three years imprisonment or fine up to Rs. 25,000 rupees or both.
- This also extends to any rule, order, or breach of conditions of a license or permit.
- According to the latest amendment to the 1972 Act enacted on August 2, 2022, which is yet to come into force, the fine was increased to one lakh rupees.
- If the offence relates to animals under the first two Schedules, imprisonment can be between three to seven years, with or without a fine of Rs 10,000, which will increase to Rs. 25,000 after the 2022 Amendment.
- The burden of proving shall lie on the accused.
What are the powers of the state government?
- In 1976 under the 42nd Amendment Act, the subject of “Forests and Protection of Wild Animals and Birds” was transferred from State to Concurrent List.
- However, state governments still enjoy a host of powers under the WPA, 1972.
- It allows the State government to appoint a Chief Wildlife Warden alongside wildlife wardens, honorary wildlife wardens, and other officers and employees.
- It empowers the state to constitute a State Board for Wild Life, consisting of the Chief Minister as chairperson, the Minister in charge of Forests and Wildlife as the vice chairperson, and at least three members of the State legislature, among others.
- State governments can also add or delete any entry to or from any Schedule or transfer any entry from one part of a Schedule to another, provided that any such alteration made by the State Government is done with the previous consent of the Centre.
- State governments can notify certain rules, including the conditions subject to which any license or permit may be granted or under which the officers will be authorised to file cases in court.
The 2022 Amendment to the WPA
- It sought to bring in changes like reducing the number of Schedules and increasing penalties under the Act.
- It seeks to implement the provisions of CITES, an international agreement between governments ensuring international trade of wild animals and plant species does not threaten their survival.
- The Amendment seeks to reduce the number of schedules from VI to IV, whereby Schedule V, for vermin or animals that destroy food crops, will be removed.
- The revised Act also accords greater powers to the Centre concerning the export, import, regulation, prohibition, and trade of plant or animal species, through a designated Management Authority.
- The exemption under Section 43 of the 1972 Act was amended to allow for the transfer of elephants for religious and other purposes, including commercial purposes, by a person having a valid certificate of ownership subject to terms and conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government.
Topic 9: Affinity test
Context: An affinity test cannot be the litmus test to decide a caste claim, the Supreme Court has held in a judgment.
What is affinity test?
- An affinity test mandates the study and preparation of a report by authorities on caste/tribe claims based on the peculiar anthropological and ethnological traits, deities, rituals, customs, mode of marriage, death ceremonies, methods of burial of dead bodies, etc., of the particular caste or tribe and the applicants knowledge of them.
- Affinity Test is used to shift through anthropological and ethnological traits to link a person to a tribe.
- There is the likelihood that contact with other cultures, migration and modernization would have erased the traditional characteristics of a tribe.
- The Supreme Court said that the claim by an applicant that he is a part of a Scheduled Tribe and is entitled to the benefit extended to that tribe, cannot per se be disregarded on the ground that his present traits do not match his tribes.