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Current Affairs 11 January 2024

  1. 50 Years of Project Tiger
  2. Law against Hit-and-Run
  3. Challenges in the Indian Examination System
  4. Eucalyptus Snout Beetle
  5. Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple (BRT) Tiger Reserve
  6. INS Kabra
  7. Record-Breaking Heat in 2023: Implications for Global Climate


Context:

Launched in 1973, Project Tiger introduced India’s Tiger Reserves – which have since rapidly ascended in status.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Project Tiger
  2. Post Project Tiger Launch Developments
  3. Success Story of Project Tiger
  4. Concerns Regarding India’s Tiger Protection and Conservation Plans

Project Tiger

Introduction:

  • Project Tiger is a conservation program launched by the Indian government on April 1, 1973, to protect tigers from extinction due to widespread hunting and poaching.

Objectives:

  • The primary objectives of Project Tiger are to promote the conservation of the tiger and its habitat, control the poaching of tigers, and maintain a viable population of tigers in India.

Implementation:

  • The program was started in nine tiger reserves of different states in India, covering over 14,000 sq km.
  • The project also ensured the preservation of the natural habitat of tigers, which is vital for their survival.

Success and Challenges:

  • The program’s success was evident from the rise in the tiger population in India, estimated to be around 3,000 by the 1990s.
  • However, the local extermination of tigers in Rajasthan’s Sariska in 2005 was a significant setback.
  • To overcome the challenge, the Indian government established the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to reconstitute Project Tiger.

Current Status:

  • Today, there are 54 tiger reserves across India, spanning 75,000 sq km.
  • The current tiger population in the country stands at 3,167, showing a steady rise from 1,411 in 2006, 1,706 in 2010, and 2,226 in 2014.
  • The goal of Project Tiger is to have a viable and sustainable tiger population in tiger habitats based on a scientifically calculated carrying capacity.

Post Project Tiger Launch Developments:

Formation of Tiger Task Force (2005):

  • In response to concerns about the existence of tigers in Sariska, a 5-member Tiger Task Force was appointed in 2005.
  • The Task Force highlighted the growing conflict between the forest bureaucracy and local communities coexisting with tigers.

Amendment of WLPA (2006):

  • The Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA) was amended in 2006, leading to the creation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and a tiger conservation plan.
  • Tiger Reserves transitioned from an administrative to a statutory category in 2006.

Enactment of Forest Rights Act (2006):

  • The Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 recognized customary and traditional forest rights, both individual and community, in all forest lands, including Tiger Reserves.
  • Gram Sabha, at the habitation level, was empowered to determine and demarcate forest rights under FRA.
  • FRA secured the livelihoods of millions, including tribal populations, in numerous villages.
  • Introduced a ‘Critical Wildlife Habitat’ (CWH) with the distinction that once notified, it couldn’t be diverted for non-forestry purposes.

Success Story of Project Tiger:

Global Recognition:

  • Tiger Reserves are internationally acclaimed as India’s environmental and forest conservation success story.
  • Started with 9 Reserves covering 9,115 sq. km in 1973, there are now 54 in 18 States, spanning 78,135.9 sq. km (2.38% of India’s land area).
  • Critical Tiger Habitats (CTHs) cover 42,913.37 sq. km (26% of the area under National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries).

Tiger Population Growth:

  • Tiger Census 2022 reported 3,167-3,925 tigers in India, with an annual population growth of 6.1%.
  • India claims to host 3/4th of the world’s tiger population.

Technological Advancements – M-STrIPES:

  • M-STrIPES, a software-based monitoring system developed in 2010 by NTCA, assists in patrolling and protecting tiger habitats.

Concerns Regarding India’s Tiger Protection and Conservation Plans:

Buffer Area’s Intended Purpose:

  • The Buffer Area outside the Critical Tiger Habitat (CTH) aims to foster human-animal coexistence while respecting the rights of local communities in terms of livelihood, development, social, and cultural aspects.
  • However, the overarching ‘fortress conservation’ strategy has inadvertently displaced communities that historically coexisted with tigers.

Long-Term Consequences of ‘Fortress Conservation’:

  • The ‘fortress conservation’ approach has led to a rise in man-wildlife conflict incidents as tigers are compelled to inhabit and inherit landscapes that disrupt their natural coexistence with local populations.
  • The proliferation of tigers, Tiger Reserves, and connecting corridors is turning India’s tiger territory into a potential hotspot for conflict rather than biodiversity.

Legal Frameworks and Relocation:

  • The Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA) prohibits relocation, except for “voluntary relocation on mutually agreed terms and conditions” that adhere to legal requirements.
  • According to the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act 2013, relocation mandates the consent of affected communities.
  • The LARR Act necessitates a comprehensive rehabilitation package, offering financial compensation and ensuring secure livelihoods for those subject to relocation.
  • However, these legal provisions are not consistently adhered to in practice, raising concerns about their effective implementation.

-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express



Context:

The recent nationwide protests by transporters and commercial drivers, particularly in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, and Punjab, have highlighted the controversy surrounding Section 106 (2) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 (BNS). This section, imposing severe penalties for hit-and-run incidents, has sparked discontent among the driving community. The countrywide truckers’ strike has now been called off following the government’s assurance to consult stakeholders before implementing the contentious law against hit-and-run.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Hit-and-run Law Under Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023: Provisions and Implications
  2. Concerns of Protesters Regarding Section 106 (2) of BNS, 2023
  3. The Way Forward for Hit-and-Run Legislation

Hit-and-run Law Under Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023: Provisions and Implications

Provisions of the Hit-and-run Law (Section 106, BNS, 2023):

  • Part of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, intended to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  • Section 106 (2) prescribes penalties, including up to 10 years in jail and a fine, for fleeing an accident without reporting to the police or magistrate.
  • Immediate reporting after an accident shifts the charge to Section 106(1), with a maximum punishment of five years for causing death due to rash or negligent acts.
Need for the Law:
  • A response to alarming road accident statistics in India.
  • In 2022, India witnessed over 1.68 lakh road crash fatalities, averaging 462 deaths daily.
  • India experienced a 12% increase in road accidents and a 9.4% rise in fatalities, contrasting with a global decrease of 5% in road crash deaths.
  • More than half of road fatalities occurred on national and state highways, constituting less than 5% of the total road network.
  • India, with 1% of global vehicles, contributes to 10% of crash-related deaths and suffers an annual economic loss of 5-7% of its GDP due to road crashes.
Principle Underlying the Law:
  • Reflects a legislative intent to deter rash and negligent driving and punish those fleeing without aiding victims or reporting the incident.
  • The law enforces moral responsibility on offenders towards victims, aiming to instill prompt and responsible responses from drivers.
  • Parallels with Section 134 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, showcase the government’s commitment to ensuring immediate and responsible actions from drivers post-accidents.
  • Section 134 requires drivers to take reasonable steps for securing medical attention for injured persons, barring exceptional circumstances beyond their control.

Concerns of Protesters Regarding Section 106 (2) of BNS, 2023

Demands and Perceived Harsh Penalties:

  • Transporters and drivers seek withdrawal or amendment of Section 106 (2) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023.
  • Protesters contend that prescribed penalties, including a 10-year imprisonment and a fine, are excessively severe.
  • A widely circulated view suggesting a Rs. 7 lakh fine is incorrect, but the maximum penalty and lack of specified fine raise concerns.

Challenges of Transport Industry:

  • Protesters argue that penalties fail to consider challenging work conditions like long hours and difficult roads.
  • Factors beyond driver’s control, such as poor visibility and fear of mob violence, complicate decision-making post-accidents.

Unfair Blame and Negative Industry Impact:

  • Drivers express concerns about unfair blame for accidents, irrespective of actual circumstances.
  • A punitive legislative approach may contribute to a negative impact on the perception and functioning of the transport industry.

Potential for Abuse and Lack of Differentiation:

  • Concerns raised about potential abuse by law enforcement agencies and the overall detrimental impact on the transport industry.
  • Section 106 (2) lacks differentiation between rash and negligent driving, leading to concerns about equitable application.
  • Exception for doctors in Section 106 (1) raises questions about fairness and equal treatment across sectors.

Contributory Factors Ignored:

  • Section 106(2) does not consider contributory factors in negligent acts, such as commuter behavior, road conditions, lighting, and other factors affecting driver responsibility.
  • Protesters emphasize the need for differentiation based on circumstances to avoid unfair prejudice against drivers in diverse situations.

The Way Forward for Hit-and-Run Legislation

Inclusive Consultations:

  • Initiate comprehensive consultations: Engage with stakeholders, particularly drivers and transport associations, to understand concerns and perspectives fully.

Emergency Response Protocol:

  • Establish standardized protocol: Develop a clear protocol for emergency response, emphasizing the importance of prompt reporting while ensuring driver safety.

Differentiation in Law:

  • Categorization based on liabilities: Differentiate the law based on accident outcomes (death, grievous hurt, simple hurt, or minor injuries) with corresponding punishments.

Clarity in Reporting and Evidence:

  • Clarify reporting procedures: Clearly outline reporting procedures and evidence requirements for drivers to prove innocence or present mitigating factors.

Alternative Measures for Minor Offenses:

  • Reassess penalties for minor injuries: Minor injuries resulting from road accidents should not equate to criminal acts; explore alternatives like community service, license revocation, or mandatory retests.

Investment in Infrastructure and Safety:

  • Improve road infrastructure: Invest in enhanced road infrastructure, visibility measures, and safety features to mitigate accidents and reduce the likelihood of hit-and-run incidents.

International Best Practices:

  • Study and incorporate best practices: Explore successful models from countries with effective hit-and-run legislation, adapting them to the Indian context for improved road safety.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The effectiveness of the Indian examination system is under scrutiny due to recurring scandals, inconsistent standards, and a predominant emphasis on rote memorization, posing concerns in the dynamic education landscape.

Relevance:

GS II: Education

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Concerns Regarding the Current Examination System in India
  2. Addressing Challenges in the Examination System

Concerns Regarding the Current Examination System in India

Impact on Credibility:
  • Scandals affecting credibility: Instances of malpractices during examinations seasons negatively impact the credibility of examination boards.
Rote Learning and Short-Term Memorization:
  • Teaching aligned with exams: Lack of credibility leads to teaching methods focusing on exam patterns, promoting rote learning.
  • Short-term memorization: Midterms, semester exams, and unit tests encourage short-term memorization, with students often forgetting content soon after exams.
Need for Long-Term Learning:
  • Focus on marks: Students study for marks rather than long-term learning, emphasizing the need to internalize knowledge.
Validity and Comparability Challenges:
  • Issues with summative exams: Validity and comparability concerns across institutions, with complaints of exams testing only memory.
Flaws in Question Papers:
  • Question paper issues: Language errors, irrelevant questions, and conceptualization errors impact the quality of exams.
Vulnerability to Cheating and Malpractices:
  • Prone to cheating: The examination system is susceptible to cheating, copying, leaking, impersonation, etc., undermining credibility.
Complexity and Vastness of Higher Education:
  • Diverse higher education systems: Numerous universities, colleges, and boards in India’s higher education sector, showcasing its vastness.
  • Secrecy and standardization challenges: Balancing secrecy and standardization is crucial to prevent scandals without hindering innovation.
Employability Concerns:
  • Employer reliance on assessments: Employers prefer their assessments over institutional certifications for candidate evaluation.
  • Coaching market: Emphasis on higher-order learning for employability has led to a coaching market for competitive exams and skilling.

Addressing Challenges in the Examination System:

Setting Clear Benchmarks:
  • Specify learning outcome standards: Establish minimum standards for learning outcomes to provide a clear benchmark.
Inclusive Curriculum Design:
  • Encourage academic contributions: Motivate academics from diverse disciplines to contribute to curriculum design, pedagogy, and assessment systems.
Comprehensive Evaluation:
  • Incorporate subject-specific assessments: Integrate subject-specific and skill-specific assessment processes for a comprehensive evaluation.
  • Ensure reflection in certificates: Expect university degrees and school board certificates to genuinely reflect students’ learning achievements.
Quality Assessment Practices:
  • Advocate for challenging assessments: Promote comprehensive and challenging assessments that distinguish students based on academic attainments.
  • Emphasize continuous assessment: Prioritize continuous assessment with teacher involvement and student participation.
Transparency and Checks:
  • Ensure transparency in summative assessments: Make summative assessment and evaluation transparent through the implementation of checks and balances.
Technology Integration:
  • Utilize technology: Incorporate technology in assessments to enhance credibility, standardize question papers, and streamline evaluations.
  • Explore software solutions: Evaluate market-available software solutions for both centralized and distributed assessment systems.
External Audits:
  • Conduct regular audits: Perform regular external audits of assessment systems in universities and school boards.
  • Establish benchmark principles: Set benchmark principles and standards for audit reports to ensure reliability and consistency.
Grading Examination Boards:
  • Grade based on transparency: Grade examination boards based on transparency, reliability, and consistency, reflecting these aspects in audit reports.
Transparency Measures:
  • Implement transparency measures: Introduce measures for transparency, allowing students access to the evaluation process and avenues to address grievances.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Scientists have found a natural remedy to protect eucalyptus forest plantations from a pest, eucalyptus snout beetle, which is known to cause serious damage to eucalypts.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the article:

  1. About Eucalyptus Snout Beetle (Eucalyptus Weevil)
  2. Recent Research

About Eucalyptus Snout Beetle (Eucalyptus Weevil):

Identification and Behavior:

  • The Eucalyptus Snout Beetle, also known as the eucalyptus weevil, is a leaf-feeding beetle recognized for its role as a significant defoliator of eucalyptus trees.
  • Indigenous to Australia, this beetle has spread to numerous countries worldwide wherever eucalypts are cultivated.

Feeding Habits and Damage:

  • This beetle poses a threat as it feeds on eucalyptus leaves, buds, and shoots, leading to stunted growth, defoliation, and substantial economic losses.
  • Its extensive flight capabilities, often facilitated through the transportation of forest products, contribute to the potential for widespread damage over large areas.

Control Measures:

  • Micro-wasps, particularly Anaphes spp, have been employed as a control measure, albeit being a costly solution.
  • The need for an alternative and more cost-effective control method prompted scientists to explore naturally occurring pathogenic fungi.

Recent Research:

  • Scientists undertook research to identify naturally occurring pathogenic fungi for controlling the Eucalyptus Snout Beetle.
  • Fungi were collected from naturally infected beetles, enhancing their adaptability to environmental conditions and increasing efficiency in controlling beetle populations.
  • Beauveria bassiana emerged as a highly effective fungus, showcasing a 100% mortality rate for the beetles through both contact and ingestion.
  • The identified fungi hold promise for developing bio-pesticides, promoting sustainable forestry practices through integrated pest management.
  • The potential applications extend to other countries grappling with severe damage caused by this insect, providing a more environmentally friendly solution.

-Source: Down to Earth



Context:

The Karnataka Forest Department recently started collecting green tax, Rs 10 from two-wheelers and Rs 20 from four-wheelers, entering BR Hills through BRT Tiger Reserve.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

About Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple (BRT) Tiger Reserve:

Location:

  • The BRT Tiger Reserve is situated in the Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka State, India.

Name Origin:

  • The reserve is named after ‘BILIGIRI,’ referring to the white rocky cliff in the region. It houses a temple dedicated to Lord ‘VISHNU,’ locally known as ‘Rangaswamy.’

Bio-geographical Significance:

  • Positioned strategically between the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats in South India, the reserve serves as a unique bio-geographical entity.
  • Originally established as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1974, it attained the status of a Tiger Reserve in 2011.

Vegetation:

  • The forests within the BRT Tiger Reserve primarily feature a dry deciduous type. Additionally, there are interspersed patches of moist deciduous, semi-evergreen, evergreen, and shola at different altitudes.

Flora:

  • Notable plant species within the reserve include Anogeissus latifolia, Dalbergia paniculata, Grewia teliaefolia, Terminalia alata, Terminalia bellirica, Terminalia paniculata, among others.


Fauna:

  • The diverse fauna in the Tiger Reserve includes iconic species such as tigers, elephants, leopards, wild dogs, bisons, sambars, spotted deer, barking deer, four-horned antelope, sloth bears, wild boars, common langurs, bonnet macaques, as well as a variety of reptiles and birds.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Indian warship, INS Kabra, an indigenous fast attack craft, docked at the Colombo port in a move aimed at fostering bilateral ties between India and Sri Lanka.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

About INS Kabra:

Naming and Origin:

  • INS Kabra is a naval vessel named after an island in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago.

Class and Manufacturer:

  • It belongs to the Car Nicobar class, a series of high-speed offshore patrol vessels constructed by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) for the Indian Navy.

Series Position:

  • INS Kabra holds the position of the eighth vessel in a series of 10 Fast Attack Crafts.

Purpose and Design:

  • These vessels, including INS Kabra, are designed to serve as cost-effective platforms for various maritime operations such as patrol, anti-piracy, and rescue missions within India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Island Naming Convention:

  • The class and its individual vessels follow the naming convention of being named after Indian islands.

Propulsion and Speed:

  • These vessels are notable as the first water jet propelled vessels in the Indian Navy.
  • INS Kabra, with a top speed exceeding 35 knots, and its water-jet propulsion system, offers excellent manoeuvrability, making it well-suited for high-speed interdiction operations targeting fast-moving threats.

-Source: Times of India



Context:

2023 emerges as the warmest year on record, surpassing the 2016 record, with significant implications for global climate patterns and extreme weather events.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Climate Highlights of 2023:

  • Global Temperature Increase:
    • In 2023, the global temperature was 1.48°C higher than the average recorded during the pre-industrial period of 1850-1900.
  • Frequency of Elevated Temperatures:
    • About 50% of the days in 2023 experienced temperatures surpassing the 1.5°C mark compared to the baseline.
  • Impactful Consequences:
    • The elevated temperatures recorded in 2023 resulted in widespread climatic events, including heatwaves, floods, droughts, and wildfires.
  • Marine Heatwaves:
    • Various regions witnessed marine heatwaves, notably in the Mediterranean, Gulf of Mexico, Indian Ocean, North Pacific, and extensive areas of the North Atlantic.
  • El Niño Influence:
    • The onset of El Niño in 2023 contributed to the intensification of temperature extremes.
    • El Niño, a natural weather phenomenon, involves the warming of surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, contributing to elevated global temperatures.

-Source: Indian Express


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