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Current Affairs 07 February 2022

CONTENTS

  1. Vande Bharat Express
  2. Bru Refugees
  3. Satkosia Tiger reserve
  4. China, Pakistan hit out at ‘unilateral’ Kashmir moves
  5. Redrawing the electoral map of the Union Territory of J&K
  6. India’s ‘return’ to Central Asia

Vande Bharat Express


Context:

The Budget has announced 400 more of these semi-high-speed trains in the next 3 years.

Relevance:

Indigenization of technology

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. About Vande Bharat Express
  2. The economics
  3. Way forward

  About Vande Bharat Express:

Vande Bharat Express | Legacy IAS
  • The Train18, later named Vande Bharat Express, is an Indian semi-high-speed, intercity, EMU train which was designed and manufactured by Integral Coach Factory (ICF) at Perambur, Chennai under the Indian government’s Make in India initiative, over a span of 18 months.
  • The train was launched on 15 February 2019.
  • It is a semi-high speed trainset, each of 16 coaches, and self-propelled — they do not require an engine.
  • This is called a distributed traction power system, which is increasingly becoming the norm the world over for passenger operations.
  • Distributed power gives the train higher acceleration and deceleration compared to loco-hauled trains, which take a much longer time to reach top speed or to gradually come to a halt.
  • It is capable of running at a maximum speed of 200 km/h (120 mph), but the tracks on which the train operates are not capable of supporting such high speeds, hence the train is operated at a maximum speed of 130 km/h (81 mph).
  • This made it the fastest train to run in India and the second fastest operating train in India, behind the Gatimaan Express which operates at 160 km/h (99 mph).
  • Some of its passenger friendly features include; European-style seats, diffused LED lighting, GPS-based infotainment systems, modular bio-toilets, fully sealed gangways for dust-free environment, centrally controlled entry/exit doors with sliding footsteps, divyang friendly toilet and automatic sliding cabin doors.
  • It is energy-efficient as its coaches will be fitted with LED lights. Coaches will have automatic doors and retractable footsteps.

The economics

  • Going by the cost of the current trainsets, the 400 announced by the minister carry a potential investment of Rs 50,000 crore over the next three years.
  • The current Vande Bharats are being made at Rs 106 crore per trainset of 16 cars, at 2018 pricing. The future ones will cost slightly more, because of different specifications and also inflation.
  • There  will be additional employment generation to the tune of 10,000-15,000.
  • The Budget has announced that the 400 new trains will have “better efficiency”.
  • In Railways, that has translated into being more energy-efficient than the present stock, along with other upgrades internally.

Way forward

  • In Railways, there is confidence that the target of making 400 trainsets will be met in three years.
  • Railways will have to pool in all resources and multiple players to deliver the propulsion system and also carry out the assembling.
  • The industry players and Railways manufacturing units, both shall need close coordination and timely allocation of resources and regular monitoring to ensure the induction of these trains in the shortest time possible
  • The Railway Board has formed a committee to recommend how best to go forward.

-Source: Indian Express


Bru Refugees


Context:

Recently Union Minister of State for Social Empowerment said that all the internally displaced Bru tribal people who are living in relief camps in Tripura for years will be rehabilitated permanently within the State by March 31,

  • Thousands of the Bru people have been living in relief camps in Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions since 1997.
Relevance:

GS-I: Indian Society

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. About Bru Tribe
  2. Background on Bru resettlement and their concern

About Bru Tribe

  • Bru (aka Reang) are one of the 21 scheduled tribes of the Indian state of Tripura.
  • The Bru community is present in the state of Tripura, and they also have presence in Mizoram and Assam.
  • They speak the Reang dialect of Kokborok language which is of Tibeto-Burmese origin and is locally referred to as Kau Bru.
  • In 2018, the Union Home Ministry decided to give voting rights to around 30,000 people of the Bru community who had fled from Mizoram to Tripura in 1997 in the wake of inter-community violence.
  • In 2020, a quadripartite agreement was signed among the Centre, state governments of Tripura and Mizoram and Bru-Reang representatives to facilitate permanent settlement of Bru refugees from Mizoram in Tripura.
  • The Tripura government resettled 493 members of 426 Bru families, who spent 24 years in relief camps in Mizoram, in two forest locations of Dhalai district in April 2020.
  • The government has cleaned jungles to make dwelling sheds for their temporary stay and provided funds for construction of pucca houses, according to the quadripartite agreement signed last year in New Delhi.

Background on Bru resettlement and their concern

Background on Bru resettlement and their concern
  • Three organisations representing the Bru community displaced from Mizoram have rejected the sites proposed by the Joint Movement Committee (JMC).
  • The Joint Movement Committee (JMC) is an umbrella group of non-Brus in Tripura, for their resettlement.
  • The demand for inclusion of four JMC members in the monitoring team for the resettlement of the Brus has been rejected by organizations representing the Bru community.
  • The JMC comprising the Bengali, Mizo, Buddhist Barua and other communities, submitted a memorandum to the Tripura government specifying places for the resettlement of the Brus who fled ethnic violence in Mizoram since 1997.
  • A quadrilateral agreement was signed among the Bru groups, the Centre and the State governments of Mizoram and Tripura.
Why did the Bru reject the JMC resettlement site proposals?
  • The organisations representing the Bru Community rejected the sites suggested because inclusion of four JMC members in the monitoring team for the settlement of Bru internally-displaced people is not applicable since they are not having any connection or involvement in the issue of either repatriation to Mizoram or resettlement in Tripura.
  • According to the Bru, the interference of the Kanchanpur Nagarik Suraksha Mancha and Mizo Convention, prime constituents of JMC, in site selection is unjustified as they are not a part of either the quadrilateral agreement or signatory.
What are the requests of the Bru?
  • The three refugee groups insisted on resettling some 6,500 families in clusters of at least 500 families at each of the sites of their choice.
  • They want to be relocated to sites of their choice because the sites proposed by the JMC, they said, are unconnected by road and electricity and too far from hospitals, schools and other facilities.
  • The Bru groups also demanded the arrest of the JMC leaders for “abusive, derogatory and inflammatory statements” against the Bru community.

-Source: The Hindu


Satkosia Tiger Reserve


Context:

SatkosiaTiger reserve is  making fresh attempts to become a suitable tiger habitat.

  • The State and Forest department are attempting to relocate inhabitants of three villages from its core area to create 500 sq km area of inviolate zone for tigers.
Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Biodiversity and Environment)

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. Satkosia Tiger Reserve
  2. Dwindling population
  3. National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)

Satkosia Tiger Reserve

  • Satkosia Tiger Reserve is a tiger reserve located in the Angul district of Odisha
  • It is located where the Mahanadi River passes through a gorge in the Eastern Ghats mountains.
  • The tiger reserve is located in the Eastern Highlands moist deciduous forests ecoregion.
  • The major plant communities are mixed deciduous forests including Sal (Shorea robusta), and riverine forest.
  • Mammals found include the leopard, indian wild dog or the (dhole), wild boars, striped hyena, sloth bear, leopard cat and the jungle cat.
  • Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary was created in 1976, following which Saktosia Tiger Reserve was designated in 2007.
  • The Satkosia Tiger reserve comprises the Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary and the adjacent Baisipalli Wildlife Sanctuary.
Dwindling population
  • At the time of declaration Satkosia as a tiger reserve, it had about 12 tigers. Over the years, the big cat population dwindled.
  • The STR is left with only one tigress. However, the lone big cat has been missing for past two months. STR field staff has been on its trail.
  • To revive tiger population in the STR, India’s first inter-State tiger relocation programme was launched by way of import of a pair of tiger and tigress from Kanha Tiger Reserve and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in 2018.
  • But, the programme had failed primarily due to hostility of local communities and their intensive use of the tiger reserve resources for livelihoods.
  • While the tiger died in a poacher’s trap, villagers opposed tigress’ presence after it strayed into human habitation. The tigress was finally sent back to Madhya Pradesh.
  • According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority, a total of 24 species of ungulates, carnivores, domestic animals, omnivores and galliformes were photo-captured in Satkosia.

About the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)

  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) was established in December 2005 following a recommendation of the Tiger Task Force, constituted by the Prime Minister of India for reorganised management of Project Tiger and the many Tiger Reserves in India.
  • The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 was amended in 2006 to provide for constituting the National Tiger Conservation Authority responsible for implementation of the Project Tiger plan to protect endangered tigers.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority is set up under the Chairmanship of the Minister for Environment and Forests.
  • The Authority will have eight experts or professionals having qualifications and experience in wildlife conservation and welfare of people including tribals, apart from three Members of Parliament of whom two will be elected by the House of the People and one by the Council of States.
  • The Authority, interalia, would lay down normative standards, guidelines for tiger conservation in the Tiger Reserves, apart from National Parks and Sanctuaries.
  • It would provide information on protection measures including future conservation plan, tiger estimation, disease surveillance, mortality survey, patrolling, report on untoward happenings and such other management aspects as it may deem fit, including future plan for conservation.
  • The Authority would also facilitate and support tiger reserve management in the States through eco-development and people’s participation as per approved management plans, and support similar initiatives in adjoining areas consistent with the Central and state laws.
  • The Tiger Conservation Authority would be required to prepare an Annual Report, which would be laid in the Parliament along with the Audit Report.
  • Every 4 years the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) conducts a tiger census across India.

-Source: The Hindu


China, Pakistan hit out at ‘unilateral’ Kashmir moves


Context:

China and Pakistan said they opposed “unilateral actions that complicate” the Kashmir issue, as they pledged closer ties following a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. China-Pakistan
  2. Initial years of China-Pakistan Relationship
  3. History of India-China ties
  4. Pakistani concept of borrowed power with China and impact on India

China-Pakistan

  • The China-Pakistan relations are often described as ‘higher than Himalayas’ and of being ‘Iron brothers‘.
  • It is a unique friendship that exists between a god-fearing Pakistan and the godless state of China. Pakistan looks at China as a pole star with respect to its security and China looks at Pakistan as a hub with respect to its South Asia policy.
  • The beauty of the relationship is that it is sacrosanct irrespective of a civilian or a military regime in Pakistan.
  • China has three interests in Pakistan.
    • Firstly, there is a mutuality between Pakistan and China with respect to undercutting India.
    • Secondly, the prevention of radical Islam from Afghanistan and Pakistan into the Xinjiang province of China to create a stir amongst the Uyghur Muslims.
    • Thirdly, Pakistan is a gateway for China to Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Initial years of China-Pakistan Relationship

  • Pakistan had recognised the People’s Republic of China— after India — in the initial years after 1947, and established diplomatic ties in 1951.
  • But, due to Pakistan’s membership of two United States-led anti-communist military pacts, SEATO and CENTO, it was seen as part of the non-Soviet bloc — and China, under Mao Zedong, was on the other side of the aisle.
  • On the other hand, India had a working relationship with China — emblazoned with slogans like Hindi-Chini bhai bhai.
After India-China war of 1962
  • The India-China war of 1962 led to Beijing developing closer ties with Islamabad.
  • Pakistan got support from China diplomatically in the 1965 India-Pakistan war. In fact, analysts say that Pakistan was emboldened into aggression after India’s defeat against China in 1962.
  • In a boundary agreement in 1963, Pakistan ceded the Shaksgam Valley to China. The Shaksgam Valley or the Trans Karakoram Tract is part of Hunza-Gilgit region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and is a territory claimed by India but controlled by Pakistan.
  • The agreement laid the foundation of Karakoram highway, built jointly by China and Pakistan in the 1970s.
Nuclear cooperation
  • The relationship between China and Pakistan developed over the 1970s and ’80s.
  • Nuclear cooperation was one of the key pillars, especially after India tested its nuclear device in 1974.
  • China has played a significant role in helping Pakistan develop its nuclear energy technology.
  • In September 1986, they signed an agreement to facilitate the transfer of civil nuclear technology.
  • In 1991, China agreed to supply Pakistan with its indigenously developed Qinshan-1 nuclear power plant. Construction on Chashma Nuclear Power Plant-1 began in 1993, and the 300 MWe reactor became operational in May 2000.
  • A second 300 MWe power plant at Chashma, C-2, went critical in 2011.
  • After India tested its nuclear device in 1998, Pakistan followed suit —largely due to help from Beijing.

History of India-China ties

  • The 1988 rapprochement between India and China with Rajiv Gandhi’s visit became a watershed moment.
  • There was a clear shift for Beijing, where it saw ties with India from an economic lens and focused on trade, while separately talking to India on the border dispute.
    • This was much to the discomfiture of Islamabad.
  • During the Kargil conflict of 1999, Beijing counselled Islamabad that they should withdraw troops, and “should exercise self-control and solve conflicts through peaceful means”.
  • China adopted a similarly cautious approach after the Parliament attack in 2002, the Operation Parakram buildup, as well as the Mumbai terror attack in 2008.
  • This was also visible in the way China responded when the Balakot air strikes took place after the Pulwama attack in February 2019.

Pakistani concept of borrowed power with China and impact on India

  • For Pakistan, China fits into the concept of borrowed power, to undercut India.
  • China also serves the interests of Pakistan, be it regionally constraining India or globally vetoing decisions that are harmful to Pakistan that range from blocking India at the Nuclear Suppliers Group membership to preventing the rise of India as a regional power.
  • China has a very important relationship with Pakistan in the dimension of defence.
  • It has provided Pakistan with nuclear support, ballistic missiles and conventional weapons.
  • This support to Pakistan is perceived by China as a low-cost option, which delivers high results.
    1. Firstly, it keeps India bogged down with Pakistan to prevent its healing due to the Pakistani strategy of bleeding India by causing death by a thousand cuts.
    2. Secondly, it always puts pressure on India for the possibility of a two-front war in the future.
  • If military cooperation is at the heart of the China-Pakistan axis, then nuclear cooperation is at the heart of this military axis.

-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express


Redrawing the Electoral Map of the Union Territory of J&K


Context:

The three-member J&K delimitation commission has submitted its interim report to its five associate members, which included three MPs of the National Conference and two MPs of the BJP.

Relevance

Governance, Representation Of People’s Act

Dimensions of this article :
  1. What is the role of the delimitation commission?
  2. Delimitation Commission Act, 2002
  3. How many seats have been added?
  4. Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019

What is the role of the delimitation commission?

  • The delimitation commission is an independent body constituted under Article 82 after the Parliament enacted a Delimitation Act after every census.
  • Interestingly, the J&K delimitation commission has not been clear to the associate members about the census report that was made as a base to carve out new constituencies in the Union Territory (UT).

Delimitation Commission Act, 2002

An Act to provide for the readjustment of:
  • The allocation of seats in the House of the People to the States
  • The total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of each State
  • The division of each State and each Union territory having a Legislative Assembly into territorial constituencies for elections to the House of the People and Legislative Assemblies of the States and Union territories
  • and for matters connected therewith.
  • Delimitation literally means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country to represent changes in population.
Delimitation is done in order to:
  • Provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
  • Fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.
  • Follow the principle of “One Vote One Value”.
The problems with delimitation are:
  • States that take little interest in population control could end up with a greater number of seats in Parliament. The southern states that promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced.
  • In 2008, Delimitation was done based on the 2001 census, but the total number of seats in the Assemblies and Parliament decided as per the 1971 Census was not changed.
  • The constitution has also capped the number of Lok Shaba & Rajya Sabha seats to a maximum of 550 & 250 respectively and increasing populations are being represented by a single representative.

How many seats have been added?

  • The Commission has, as per the mandate granted under the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019, added seven assembly constituencies to J&K, increasing its strength from 87 to 90.
  • The interim report proposes an increase of six seats for the Jammu province, taking the number of constituencies to 43, and an increase of one seat in the Kashmir province, taking the seat strength to 47, almost bringing the two regions at par with each other.
  •  Of six seats, three assembly segments are from the Muslim-majority Chenab Valley and Pir Panjal valley, while three are in the Hindu Jammu-Samba-Kathua belt.
  • The Commission has also proposed to reserve seven seats for Scheduled Castes (SCs) Hindus that mainly populate the Samba-Kathua-Jammu-Udhampur belt and nine seats for Schedule Tribes (STs) which will help Gujjar and Bakerwals, mostly non-Kashmiri speaking Muslims inhabiting the Rajouri-Poonch belt in the Jammu province.
  • Prior to the Centre’s move to end J&K’s special constitutional position on August 5, 2019, the erstwhile State had an 87-member assembly, with 37 constituencies in the Jammu region and 46 in the Kashmir division and four in Ladakh .
  •  Besides, 24 seats are reserved and vacant for Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019

Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019
  • The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019 was introduced in Rajya Sabha on August 5, 2019 by the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Amit Shah.
  • The Bill provides for reorganisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh.
  • The Bill reorganises the state of Jammu and Kashmir into: (i) the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature, and (ii) the Union Territory of Ladakh without a legislature.
  • The Union Territory of Ladakh will comprise Kargil and Leh districts, and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will comprise the remaining territories of the existing state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be administered by the President, through an administrator appointed by him known as the Lieutenant Governor.
  • The Union Territory of Ladakh will be administered by the President, through a Lieutenant Governor appointed by him.
  • The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir will be the common High Court for the Union Territories of Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir.  Further, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will have an Advocate General to provide legal advice to the government of the Union Territory.  
  • The Legislative Council of the state of Jammu and Kashmir will be abolished.  Upon dissolution, all Bills pending in the Council will lapse. 

-Source: The Hindu


India’s ‘return’ to Central Asia


Context

The inaugural India-Central Asia Summit, the India-Central Asia Dialogue, and the Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan in New Delhi — all held over the past four months — collectively indicate a renewed enthusiasm in New Delhi to engage the Central Asian region.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Foreign policy, Foreign Policies, Treaties and Agreements affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. About Central Asia
  2. What is the genesis of India-Central Asia relations?
  3. What are India’s strategic interests in Central Asia?
  4. Recent ties between India and Central Asian countries

About Central Asia

  • Central Asia is the central region of Asia, extending from the Caspian Sea in the west to the border of western China in the east.
  • It is bounded on the north by Russia and on the south by Iran, Afghanistan, and China.
  • The region consists of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan.
  • All of these nations became independent in 1991 after the collapse of the USSR.
  • On the east and south Central Asia is bounded by the western Altai and other high mountain ranges extending into Iran, Afghanistan, and western China.
  • Central Asia’s landscape can be divided into the vast grassy steppes of Kazakhstan in the north and the Aral Sea drainage basin in the south. About 60 percent of the region consists of desert land, the principal deserts being the Karakum, occupying most of Turkmenistan, and the Kyzylkum, covering much of western Uzbekistan.
  • The scarcity of water has led to a very uneven population distribution, with most people living along the fertile banks of the rivers or in fertile mountain foothills in the southeast; comparatively few live in the vast arid expanses of central and western Kazakhstan and western Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
  • The five largest ethnic groups in Central Asia are, in descending order of size, the Uzbek, Kazakh, Tajik, Turkmen, and Kyrgyz.

What is the genesis of India-Central Asia relations?

  • India’s relations with the Central Asian countries can be traced back to the ancient Silk Road, along which people, goods and ideas flowed.
  • During the period of the Kushan Empire, which spanned across the territories of modern Central Asia and India, the people-to-people contact, cultural and economic ties were flourishing.
  • The dissolution of the ancient Silk Road, the invasion of Central Asia by Russia and China and the Anglo-Russian rivalry has limited the exchanges between India and Central Asia.
  • Immediately after independence, India maintained limited ties with Central Asian countries because of the former’s excessive focus on the immediate neighbourhood, major powers in the international arena and other Afro-Asian countries.
  • This may be because of the lack of shared boundaries.
  • Following the USSR dissolution, the five Central Asian countries gained independence and India started to improve ties with them.
  • India was the only non-communist country with a diplomatic presence in the region.
  • It was also one of the first to accord diplomatic recognition to the newly independent countries.
  • Immediately after the formation of the Central Asian states, New Delhi signed agreements focusing on expanding Indian trade, investment and developmental assistance.
  • At present, Central Asia is considered to be a part of India’s extended neighbourhood.

What are India’s strategic interests in Central Asia?

  • Central Asia sits at the heart of Eurasia, making it strategically vital for countries like the US, China, Russia, Europe and India.
  • This is because it serves as a pivot for geopolitical transformations within the international arena.
  • Many countries are currently competing to increase influence and power over the region.
  • Through this region, countries like India and China can expand their markets throughout Eurasia.
  • Apart from its geostrategic position, Central Asia has been rich with natural resources – Turkmenistan with gas, Kazakhstan with gas and uranium, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan with hydropower.
  • With a population of 33 million in the 1990s, this region is potentially a large market.

Recent ties between India and Central Asian countries

  • In Kyrgyzstan, the External Affairs Minister extended a credit line of $200 million for the support of development projects and signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on High-Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP).
  • In Kazakhstan, the External Affairs Minister attended the 6th Foreign Ministers’ Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA). At CICA, he targeted China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Admonishing China’s methods in promoting the BRI, he said while greater connectivity was essential for the promotion of regional stability, it must not be pursued for parochial interests. He also confronted Pakistan for its support towards cross-border terrorism.
  • New Delhi signed the Strategic Partnership Agreements (SPA) with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to stimulate defence cooperation and deepen trade relations.
  • In 2012, New Delhi’s ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy aimed at furthering India’s political, economic, historical and cultural connections with the region. However, India’s efforts were stonewalled by Pakistan’s lack of willingness to allow India passage through its territory. China took advantage of the situation and unveiled the much-hyped BRI in Kazakhstan.
  • Mr. Jaishankar has become the first Indian External Affairs Minister to visit Armenia. The two countries agreed to enhance trade and cultural exchanges to boost bilateral relations. India also supported efforts for a peaceful solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk group.

-Source: The Hindu


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