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Current Affairs 23 January 2024

  1. Concern over deployment of Chinese vessels in the Indian Ocean Region
  2. PM launches new rooftop solar power scheme
  3. Poaching of One horned Rhino in Kaziranga
  4. Parakram Diwas
  5. Nambian Cheetah gives birth to three cubs in Kuna national park
  6. Ladakh’s demands


Context:

India has raised concern over the steady rise in the deployment of Chinese research vessels in the Indian Ocean Region.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbours, Foreign Policies Affecting India’s interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Chinese Vessel heading to Maldives
  2. Increasing footprint of China in IOR
  3. Importance of the IOR for China
  4. Challenges for India
  5. Recent Developments between Maldives and China

Chinese Vessel heading to Maldives:

  • The entry of Chinese research vessel in the Indian Ocean region, displaying its destination as Male has raised concern in India. The vessel is expected to run an ocean survey operation in the Indian Ocean Region.
    • The research or survey vessels have powerful equipment for snooping and gathering a range of data.
    • This gains significance in the backdrop of on-going conflict between India and Maldives.
    • The ship was scheduled to be deployed at a Sri Lankan port this year. There was also concerns raised by India and the U.S with Sri Lankan authorities over the visits of Chinese vessels to the island’s ports for research purposes.

Increasing footprint of China in IOR:

  • Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean began in 2008 under the garb of anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and the country has since maintained continuous presence in the region, even deploying nuclear attack submarines (SSNs) on occasion.
  • In the last few years, there has been steady rise in the deployment of Chinese research vessels in the IOR and the general area of deployment has been observed around the Ninety Degree East Ridge and Southwest Indian Ridge.
  • As per the latest data from the Indian Navy, China has grown from having 250 to more than 350 navy ships becoming the largest navy in the world. Along with their numbers, they have also expanded their operations in the Indian Ocean region which has serious security implications.

Importance of the IOR for China:

  • The Indian Ocean is once again at the centre of major geopolitical competition. China’s growing footprint and influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has made the contest for power and control in the region between China and the US and its partners significant. The Indian Ocean sea lines of communication (SLOCs) are important for many Asian countries because it is both an energy and trade corridor, making these countries sensitive to any vulnerabilities.
  • India’s stakes in the IOR are obvious, despite India’s lack of attention to the maritime front. From a security perspective, since independence, India has not faced any significant maritime threat. Much of the Indian maritime security focus was in terms of the relatively minor naval threat from Pakistan and non-traditional threats including piracy and terrorism. While these concerns remain, they have been overtaken by worries about China as an emerging IOR power, with a growing footprint in the region.

Challenges for India:

Trade:

  • India, which has strengthened trade and initiated various projects since President Solih took office in 2018, may face hurdles in maintaining warm ties.
  • Critical areas affected by the shift in dynamics include the uncertain future of Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs), which are vital for India’s maritime trade flow between the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Hormuz, and the Strait of Malacca.
  • Additionally, India’s exports to the Maldives, valued at over USD 476.75 million in 2022-23, may be impacted, and the tourism sector, which constitutes 23% of the Maldives’ tourist source market and 74% of its GDP, could face challenges.

Defense:

  • This poses a significant challenge for India, as Muizzu’s campaign rhetoric emphasized a pro-China stance and advocated for reducing Indian military presence.
  • The implications for India include the potential jeopardy of the Maldives-India defense cooperation agreement aimed at monitoring Chinese maritime activities.
  • China’s expanding influence in the Maldives aligns with its broader strategy, particularly considering the geopolitical significance of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

Recent Developments between Maldives and China:

  • The existing policy agreements between China and the Maldives may see advancements, as evidenced by the five agreements signed during the Chinese foreign minister’s visit in January 2022.
  • Muizzu is expected to prioritize their implementation, potentially accelerating the execution of agreements covering mutual visa exemption, economic and technical cooperation, and development in key areas.
  • However, the Maldives, burdened with USD 1.4 billion in loans from China, may seek restructuring to alleviate pressure on its fragile economy.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Prime Minister of India announced the launch of a new government scheme, ‘Pradhan Mantri Suryodaya Yojana’ under which one crore households will get rooftop solar power systems.

Relevance:

GS II: Government policies and Intervention

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Pradhan Mantri Suryodaya Yojana
  2. India’s current solar capacity
  3. Importance for expansion of solar energy in India:
  4. India’s solar policy
  5. How critical is solar power to India’s commitment to mitigate climate change?

About Pradhan Mantri Suryodaya Yojana

  • Aim:
    • To provide electricity to low and middle-income individuals through solar rooftop installations, along with offering additional income for surplus electricity generation.
    • The scheme seems to be a new attempt to help reach the target of 40 GW rooftop solar capacity.
  • Target:
    • Under the scheme, around 1 crore households will get rooftop solar.
  • Energy Self-reliance:
    • By installing rooftop solar systems, the scheme aims to decrease India’s dependency on traditional energy sources and move towards sustainable energy practices.
    • The scheme is in line with Atmanirbhar Bharat.
  • Market Implications:
    • The initiative is expected to benefit companies involved in solar panel installation and related infrastructure, potentially leading to long-term investment opportunities.
  • Implementation of the scheme:
    • Awareness Campaigns: To educate potential beneficiaries about the scheme and its benefits.
    • Collaboration with Local Bodies: Involving panchayats, municipalities, or local NGOs for effective reach.
    • Monitoring and Feedback: Ensuring the scheme’s effectiveness and making necessary adjustments.

 India’s current solar capacity:

  • Solar power has a major share in the country’s current renewable energy capacity, which stands at around 180 GW.
  • According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s website, solar power installed capacity in India has reached around 73.31 GW as of December 2023.
  • The rooftop solar installed capacity is around 11.08 GW as of December 2023.
  • In terms of total solar capacity, Rajasthan is at the top with 18.7 GW. Gujarat is at the second position with 10.5 GW. 
  • When it comes to rooftop solar capacity, Gujarat tops the list with 2.8 GW, followed by Maharashtra by 1.7 GW.

Importance for expansion of solar energy in India:

  • According to the latest World Energy Outlook by the International Energy Agency (IEA), India is expected to witness the largest energy demand growth of any country or region in the world over the next 30 years.
  • To meet this demand, the country would need a reliable source of energy and it can’t be just coal plants.
  • Although India has doubled down on its coal production in recent years, it also aims to reach 500 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030.
  • Therefore, it is essential to expand solar power capacity.

India’s solar policy:

Since 2011, India’s solar sector has grown at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 59% from 0.5GW in 2011 to 55GW in 2021.

National Solar Mission (NSM):

  • The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), also known as the National Solar Mission (NSM), which commenced in January 2010, marked the first time the government focussed on promoting and developing solar power in India.
  • Under the scheme, the total installed capacity target was set as 20GW by 2022.
  • In 2015, the target was revised to 100GW and in August 2021, the government set a solar target of 300GW by 2030.
  • India currently ranks fifth after China, U.S., Japan and Germany in terms of installed solar power capacity.
  • As of December 2021, the cumulative solar installed capacity of India is 55GW, which is roughly half the renewable energy (RE) capacity (excluding large hydro power) and 14% of the overall power generation capacity of India.
  • Within the 55GW, grid-connected utility-scale projects contribute 77% and the rest comes from grid-connected rooftop and off-grid projects.

Grid-Connected Rooftop Solar Scheme (Phase II):

  • In a rooftop or small solar photovoltaic (SPV) system that is connected to the grid, the power conditioning unit converts the DC power generated by the SPV panel to AC electricity, which is then delivered to the grid.
  • The scheme aimed to achieve a cumulative installed capacity of 40,000 megawatts (MW) or  40 gigawatts (GW) by 2022.
    • However, this target couldn’t be achieved. As a result, the government extended the deadline from 2022 to 2026. 
  • Major objective of the programme includes:
  • To promote the grid-connected SPV rooftop and small SPV power generating plants among the residential, community, institutional, industrial and commercial establishments.
  • To mitigate the dependence on fossil fuel based electricity generation and encourage environment-friendly Solar electricity generation.
  • To create an enabling environment for investment in the solar energy sector by the private sector, state government and the individuals.
  • To create an enabling environment for the supply of solar power from rooftop and small plants to the grid.
  • This scheme is being implemented in the state by distribution companies (DISCOMs).
  • Under this scheme the Ministry is providing a 40% subsidy for the first 3 kW and 20% subsidy beyond 3 kW and upto 10 kW of solar panel capacity.
  • The residential consumer has to pay the cost of rooftop solar plant by reducing the subsidy amount given by the Ministry as per the prescribed rate to the vendor.

How critical is solar power to India’s commitment to mitigate climate change?

  • Solar power is a major prong of India’s commitment to address global warming according to the terms of the Paris Agreement, as well as achieving net zero, or no net carbon emissions, by 2070.
  • Prime Minister at the United Nations Conference of Parties meeting in Glasgow, in November 2021, said India would be reaching a non-fossil fuel energy capacity of 500 GW by 2030 and meet half its energy requirements via renewable energy by 2030.
  • To boost the renewable energy installation drive in the long term, the Centre in 2020 set a target of 450GW of RE-based installed capacity to be achieved by 2030, within which the target for solar was 300GW.
  • Given the challenge of integrating variable renewable energy into the grid, most of the RE capacity installed in the latter half of this decade is likely to be based on wind solar hybrid (WSH), RE-plus-storage and round-the-clock RE projects rather than traditional solar/wind projects, according to the report.
  • On the current trajectory, the report finds, India’s solar target of 300GW by 2030 will be off the mark by about 86GW, or nearly a third.

-Source: The Indian Express



Context:

Poachers kill rhino in Kaziranga. The adult female Rhino was shot and its horn was sawn off.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment and Ecology, Protected Areas, Species in news)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Indian rhinoceros
  2. Status of Rhinoceros in India
  3. Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 programme
  4. Other efforts to conserve rhinoceros in India
  5. Kaziranga National Park

About Indian rhinoceros

  • The Indian rhinoceros also called the Indian rhino, greater one-horned rhinoceros or great Indian rhinoceros, is a rhinoceros species native to the Indian subcontinent.
  • It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, as populations are fragmented and restricted to less than 20,000 square kilometers.
  • Moreover, the extent and quality of the rhino’s most important habitat, the alluvial Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands and riverine forest, is considered to be in decline due to human and livestock encroachment.
  • The Census of Rhinoceros is undertaken at the State-level by the respective State Governments periodically.

Status of Rhinoceros in India

  • The population of Greater One-horned Rhinoceros reached to the brink of extinction by the end of the 20th century with fewer than 200 animals in wild.
  • The Indian rhinoceros once ranged throughout the entire stretch of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, but excessive hunting and agricultural development reduced its range drastically to 11 sites in northern India and southern Nepal.
  • Nearly 85% of the global Indian rhinoceros population is concentrated in Assam, where Kaziranga National Park contains 70% of rhino population.
  • Kaziranga National Park alone had an estimated population of more than 2,000 rhinos in 2009.
  • Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam has the highest density of Indian rhinos in the world.
  • Although poaching remains a continuous threat (more than 150 rhinos were killed in Assam by poachers between 2000 and 2006), their numbers have increased due to conservation measures taken by the government.

Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 programme

  • The WHO-India launched Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 programme to protect and increase the population of the one-horned rhinoceros.
  • It is an ambitious effort to attain a wild population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos spread over seven protected areas in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.

IVR 2020 is a partnership among:

  • Government of Assam,
  • International Rhino Foundation,
  • World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF),
  • Bodoland Territorial Council, and
  • U.S. Fish & World Wildlife foundation.

Procedure followed

  • The horns of rhinos will be trimmed (in a way that any damage is not done to their internal organs and the trimmed horns will grow back to their original shape within a few months) before their translocation to protect them from the poachers, who hunt them just to take away their horns.
  • Manas National Park was the first to receive translocated rhinos.
  • One of the biggest challenges turned out to be the difficulty in obtaining etorphine — a major component of the tranquilizing drug used to sedate large wild animals like rhinos and elephants.
  • In partnership with local NGO’s and the State Agriculture Department, the livelihood options of the communities living on the fringes of the park are being developed by undertaking agriculture support programs.

Other efforts to conserve rhinoceros in India

National Conservation Strategy for the Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros

  • It was launched in 2019 to conserve the greater one-horned rhinoceros.
  • It is a first of its kind for the species in India which aims to work for the conservation of the species under five objectives which include strengthening protection, expanding the distribution range, research and monitoring, and adequate and sustained funding.
  • Its goal is to repopulate Rhinoceros population in those areas also which used to hold the Rhinoceros earlier by augmenting the existing conservation efforts and strengthening them through scientific and administrative measures.

New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019

  • India and four rhino range nations have signed a declaration ‘The New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019’ for the conservation and protection of the species.
  • India will collaborate with Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia to increase the population of three species of Asian rhinos, including the Greater one-horned rhinoceros found in the Indian sub-continent.
  • The declaration was signed to conserve and review the population of the Greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran rhinos every four years to reassess the need for joint actions to secure their future.

Kaziranga National Park

  • Kaziranga National Park is a national park in the Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Nagaon districts of the state of Assam.
  • It is a World Heritage Site and hosts two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses.
  • Kaziranga is recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International for conservation of avifaunal species.
  • Along with the iconic Greater one-horned rhinoceros, the park is the breeding ground of elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer.
  • Over the time, the tiger population has also increased in Kaziranga, and that’s the reason why Kaziranga was declared as Tiger Reserve in 2006.
  • Due to the difference in altitude between the eastern and western areas of the park, here one can see mainly four types of vegetation’ like alluvial inundated grasslands, alluvial savanna woodlands, tropical moist mixed deciduous forests, and tropical semi-evergreen forests.
  • Kaziranga is a vast expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests, criss-crossed by four major rivers, including the Brahmaputra, and the park includes numerous small bodies of water.
  • Kaziranga has flat expanses of fertile, alluvial soil, formed by erosion and silt deposition by the River Brahmaputra.
  • The history of Kaziranga as a protected area can be traced back to 1904 when the wife of the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon visited the area and persuaded to take measures to protect rhinoceros in the area.

-Source: the Hindu



Context:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his birth anniversary celebrated on January 23, which is observed as Parakram Diwas.

Relevance:

GS III: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Subhas Chandra Bose’s early life
  2. Bose’s Disagreements with Gandhi
  3. The rift within the Congress
  4. A dramatic escape
  5. The INA and World War II

Subhas Chandra Bose’s early life

Parents:

  • Born to an upper-class Bengali family in 1897 in Cuttack, Subhas Chandra Bose was the ninth child of Janakinath and Prabhavati Bose.
  • A well-known lawyer, Janakinath sent his sons to an English-medium school where Bengali was not taught, so that they could learn perfect English which he considered essential for assimilating into English society.
  • Prabhavati, on the other hand, was a devout Hindu and observed Bengali Hindu customs and pujas which all her children had to attend.

Education:

  • In 1909, Subhas Chandra Bose moved to Ravenshaw Collegiate School, where he completed his secondary education.
  • Here, he was taught Bengali and Sanskrit, as well as the Vedas and Upanishads.
  • While he continued his European education throughout his life, he became less drawn to Anglicized ways than his family members during his schooling, and according to historian Leonard Gordon, “began to make his own synthesis of the cultures of the West and India”.
  • Influenced by the teachings of Ramakrishna and his disciple Swami Vivekananda, as well as the themes of Bengali novelist Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in his novel Ananda Math, Gordon notes that Subhas found what he was looking for: “his Motherland’s freedom and revival”
  • After school, he entered the Presidency College in Calcutta in 1913, where he studied philosophy.

Earliest battle with British:

  • His earliest battle with British authority occurred while he was a student, against Professor of History E F Oaten, who had once in class spoken about England’s civilizing mission in India.
  • The students felt insulted by his remarks and their anger later boiled over after a run-in with the teacher, leading him to be beaten with sandals by Bose and his friends.
  • Expelled for his actions, he resumed his studies at the Scottish Church College in Calcutta.

Bose’s Disagreements with Gandhi

  • Afterwards, Bose went to Cambridge University to prepare for the Indian Civil Services (ICS) exam in 1920.
  • But later, determined to join the struggle for India’s freedom, he abandoned the project and resigned from the ICS to join the Mahatma Gandhi-led national movement.
  • After reaching Bombay, now Mumbai, in 1921, he obtained an audience with Gandhi to get a better understanding of his plan of action.
  • While he had great respect for the Mahatma, Bose left the meeting dissatisfied with the answers he received.

About the ideological divide between the two leaders:

  • Gandhi was willing to wait a long time for Independence, Bose wanted immediate action, if not immediate results.
  • Gandhi was anti-materialistic and hostile to modern technology, Bose saw technology and mass production as essential to survival and dignity.
  • Gandhi wanted a decentralized society and disliked the modern state; Bose wanted a strong central government and saw the modern state as the only solution to India’s problems.
  • And finally, Bose did not share Gandhi’s dedication to non-violence.
  • Despite tensions between the two, Bose was well aware of the significance of a leader like Gandhi.
  • Bose was the first to call him the “father of the nation” during an address from the Azad Hind Radio from Singapore in July 1944.

The rift within the Congress

  • Over the next two decades, Bose devoted his life to the nationalist movement, gaining considerable political influence and becoming one of the most powerful leaders in the Congress party.
  • In 1938, he was elected Congress president in the Haripura session, where he tried to push for swaraj as a “National Demand” and opposed the idea of an Indian federation under British rule.
  • He stood for re-election in 1939 and defeated Dr Pattabhi Sitaramayya, the Gandhi-backed candidate.
  • Gandhi took this as a “personal defeat” and 12 of the 15 members of the Working Committee resigned from their roles. These included Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and Rajendra Prasad.
  • Bose tried to set up another working committee, but after being unable to do so, was forced to resign and was replaced by Prasad.
  • Within a week, he proposed the creation of the “Forward Bloc” within the Congress Party, in order to bring the radical-left elements of the party together.

A dramatic escape

  • Bose was arrested in 1940 before he could launch a campaign to remove the monument dedicated to the victims of the Black Hole of Calcutta, an incident when a number of European soldiers died while imprisoned in 1756.
  • After going on a hunger strike, he was released from jail in December.
  • He soon began his escape from India, travelling by road, rail, air and foot in various disguises to avoid British surveillance.
  • He entered Soviet-controlled Kabul via the northwest of India and finally reached Nazi Germany, where he remained for two years.
  • He was provided assistance to defeat the British, and Bose was allowed to start the Azad Hind Radio and was provided with a few thousand Indian prisoners of war captured by Germany.
  • Bose soon turned his focus to South East Asia, specifically Singapore, a British stronghold that had been taken over by Japan.
  • However, leaving Europe at the peak of World War II was no easy task. In February 1943, he left Germany with his aide Abid Hasan in a submarine and travelled down the Atlantic Ocean, crossing the Cape of Good Hope in Africa before entering the Indian Ocean past Madagascar.
  • Here, Bose and Hasan were taken on a small rubber boat provided by the Japanese, before taking them to Sumatra and finally arriving in Tokyo by air, marking the end of a gruelling and dangerous 90-day journey.

The INA and World War II

  • The Indian National Army was formed in 1942, consisting of thousands of Indian prisoners of war captured by the Japanese, and supported by Japanese troops.
  • After his arrival in Singapore, Bose announced the formation of the provisional government of the Azad Hind in October 1943.
  • The headquarters of the provisional government was moved to Rangoon in January 1944, and after fighting at the Arakan Front, the INA crossed the Indo-Burma border and marched towards Imphal and Kohima in March.
  • The Chalo Delhi campaign ended at Imphal however, as the British and British Indian armies, along with American air support were able to defeat the Japanese forces and the INA and push them out of Kohima as well.
  • In April-May 1945, Bose, along with the INA soldiers as well as women he had recruited for the Rani of Jhansi regiment was forced to retreat on foot to Thailand, while facing incessant enemy fire.
  • After the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the war came to an end.
  • After the Japanese surrendered on August 16, Bose left South East Asia on a Japanese plane and headed toward China. The plane, however, crashed, leaving Bose badly burned, but still alive, according to historians.

-Source: The Indian Express, The Hindu



Context:

A Namibian cheetah ‘Jwala’ gave birth to three cubs at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Thriving wildlife in Kuno
  2. What caused the extinction of cheetahs in India?
  3. India’s Cheetah Translocation Project
  4. How was Kuno National Park chosen for the translocation?
  5. What are the future plans to increase cheetah population in India?
  6. About Cheetah

Thriving wildlife in Kuno:

  • The birth of three cubs at the Kuno National Park was just weeks after another Namibian cheetah, Aasha, gave birth to three cubs.
  • In March 2023, four cubs wer born, but only one of them (a female) survived.
  • Currently, there are a total of seven cubs being looked after by the Kuno park officials.
  • It was over a year ago, on September 17, 2022, that 20 cheetahs from Namibia and South Africa were relocated to Kuno National Park under Project Cheetah. 

What caused the extinction of cheetahs in India?

  • The cheetah in India has been recorded in history from before the Common Era. It was taken from the wild for coursing blackbuck for centuries, which is a major contributor to the depletion of its numbers through the ages.
  • However, the final phase of its extinction coincided with British colonial rule. The British added to the woes of the species by declaring a bounty for killing it in 1871.
  • Major reasons for the extinction of the Asiatic cheetah in India.
    • The consistent and widespread capture of cheetahs from the wild (both male and female) over centuries
    • Its reduced levels of genetic heterogeneity due to a historical genetic bottleneck resulting in reduced fecundity and high infant mortality in the wild.
    • Its inability to breed in captivity.
    • Sport hunting.
    • Bounty killings.
  • It is reported that the Mughal Emperor Akbar had kept 1,000 cheetahs in his menagerie and collected as many as 9,000 cats during his half century reign from 1556 to 1605.
  • As late as 1799, Tipu Sultan of Mysore is reported to have had 16 cheetahs as part of his menagerie.
  • It is recorded that the last cheetahs were shot in India in 1947, but there are credible reports of sightings of the cat till about 1967.

India’s Cheetah Translocation Project:

  • The aim behind the translocation is not only to restore India’s ‘historic evolutionary balance’, but also to develop a cheetah ‘metapopulation’ that will help in the global conservation of the animal.
    • While attempts to relocate cheetahs to India began in 2009, it was only in 2020 that the Supreme Court of India finally gave the green signal for such efforts.
  • As it is a flagship species, the conservation of the cheetah will revive grassland-forests and its biome and habitat, much like Project Tiger has done for forests and all the species found in these forests.
  • Project Tiger has also resulted in the conservation of 250 water bodies found in India’s 52 Tiger Reserves.
  • The Cheetah Project is likely to have a similar impact.
  • The translocation project has also helped conservation efforts in Africa, in particular South Africa.

South African cheetah:

  • The South African cheetah population had dwindled two decades ago, before the conservation programme ensured that the numbers increased – of the global cheetah population of 7,000, 4,500 belong to South Africa.
  • The cheetah is believed to have originated in South Africa and spread across the world through land connectivity.
  • In the Kalahari, the cheetah was once critically endangered due to poaching and hunting. But now, with healthy female cheetahs producing five to six cubs each, South Africa is rapidly running out of space for its cheetah population.

How was Kuno National Park chosen for the translocation?

Lion relocation project

  • Six sites, which had been previously assessed in 2010 for the translocation of the Asiatic Lion, were re-assessed by WII in 2020.
  • Of these six sites, Kuno, which had been monitored since 2006, was found to be ready to receive the cheetah immediately, as it had already been prepared for the Asiatic Lion. Both animals share the same habitat – semi-arid grasslands and forests that stretch across Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
  • The upgradation of sites required investment on a large scale in terms of reducing anthropogenic pressures through relocation of villages, mitigating infrastructure (roadways and railway) and prey augmentation for the cheetah through translocation of blackbuck, chital, chinkara and wild boar, among other animals.
  • In Kuno National Park, because of the lion relocation project, the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department had already relocated 24 of the 25 villages and declared it a national park, which led to “remarkable recovery in its habitat, prey abundance and reduction of human impact”, according to the assessment carried out by WII in 2020.
    • Only one village – Bagcha, with a population of 148 – remains on the fringes of the forest.

Climatic conditions

  • In Sheopur district, where Kuno is located, rainfall levels, temperatures, altitude, and conditions are similar to conditions in both South Africa and Namibia.
  • The leopard and striped hyena are currently the only larger carnivores within the national park, the single lone tiger having returned to Ranthambore in 2019-20.

What are the future plans to increase cheetah population in India?

  • Over the coming 15 years, the Indian government will acquire two to four cheetahs from Africa, with the process undertaken at an interval of one to four years, to establish a breeding cheetah metapopulation of 35-40 in the country.
  • Once the population in Kuno National Park has adapted and is flourishing, the Indian government will expand the efforts to reserves in other parts of the country as well.
  • Cheetah can also live in a wide range of habitats, which includes the most prominent semi-arid grassland, but also coastal scrubs, wooded savannah, Montane habitat, snow deserts and rugged semi-arid areas.

About Cheetah:

  • The cheetah is one of the oldest of the big cat species, with ancestors that can be traced back more than five million years to the Miocene era.
  • The cheetah is also the world’s fastest land mammal that lives in Africa and Asia.

African Cheetah

  • IUCN status – Vulnerable
  • CITES status – Appendix-I of the List. This List comprises of migratory species that have been assessed as being in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of their range.
  • Habitat – Around 6,500-7,000 African cheetahs present in the wild.
  • Physical Characteristics – Bigger in size as compared to Asiatic Cheetah.

Asian Cheetah

  • IUCN Status – Critically Endangered.
  • CITES – Appendix 1 of the list
  • Habitat – 40-50 found only in Iran.
  • Physical Characteristics – Smaller and paler than the African cheetah. Has more fur, a smaller head and a longer neck. Usually have red eyes and they have a more cat-like appearance.

-Source: Indian Express, Hindustan Times



Context:

The representative bodies from Ladakh have submitted a detailed draft of demands to the Ministry of Home Affairs seeking statehood and sixth schedule for the newly formed union territory.

Relevance:

GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details of the draft submitted
  2. Background
  3. About Sixth schedule of the Indian Constitution
  4. Why Ladakh wants to be included in the sixth schedule?
  5. Ladakh may be added to the sixth schedule
  6. Conclusion

Details of the draft submitted:

  • The representative bodies from Ladakh have presented a comprehensive set of demands to the Ministry of Home Affairs, urging for statehood and inclusion under the Sixth Schedule for the newly-formed Union territory.
  • The Apex Body of Leh and Kargil Democratic Alliance (ABL and KDA), a coalition of political, religious, and social organisations in Ladakh submitted the detailed draft.
  • It also highlights the need to enhance political representation, empower locals to manifest their aspirations within the democratic framework, and foster a sense of belonging and participation in the nation-building process.
  • The ABL and KDA have demanded two seats in the Lok Sabha and one seat in the Rajya Sabha for Ladakh, when legislative assembly is granted to the region.

Background:

  • In 2020, Leh’s political and religious institutions established the Leh Apex Body (LAB). In November 2020, the National Conference, the Congress, and seminaries affiliated with Shia Muslims in the Kargil district came together to form the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA).
  • Despite having different political stances, the LAB and the KDA are now working together to achieve shared objectives.
  • They have presented the Centre with four key demands, which they describe as essential to safeguarding Ladakh’s identity, culture, and delicate environment:
  •  Restoration of full-fledged Statehood;
  •  Constitutional safeguards under the Sixth Schedule;
  •  Separate Lok Sabha seats for Leh and Kargil districts; and
  •  Job reservation for locals.

About Sixth schedule of the Indian Constitution:

  • The Indian Constitution’s Sixth Schedule, Article 244, allows for the creation of autonomous administrative regions known as Autonomous District Councils (ADCs). These within a state have some autonomy in terms of legislative, judicial, and administrative issues.
  • ADCs can enact laws, rules, and regulations pertaining to land, forests, water, agriculture, village councils, health, sanitation, village- and town-level policing, etc. ADCs can have up to 30 members and have terms of five years.
  • It currently applies to the North-eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram (three Councils each), and Tripura. The Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam is an exception with more than 40 members and the authority to make laws on 39 issues (one Council).

Why Ladakh wants to be included in the sixth schedule?

  • Following the decisions that created two new Union Territories on August 5, 2019, there was initially a lot of excitement, primarily in Leh.
  • The Leh district, which is primarily populated by Buddhists, has long demanded UT status because it felt ignored by the previous state government, which was presided over by politicians from Kashmir and Jammu.
  • The excitement diminished as it became clear that, in contrast to the UT of Ladakh, the UT of J&K would not have a legislature.
  • The region’s administration is now entirely in the hands of bureaucrats; there had been four MLAs from the region in the previous J&K Assembly.
  • Many people in Ladakh now perceive the government as being even further away than Srinagar. In Jammu and Kashmir, the altered domicile policy has also stoked concerns about the region’s own land, employment, demographics, and cultural identity.
  • The two Hill councils in the UT are located in Leh and Kargil, but neither is subject to the Sixth Schedule. Their authority is restricted to the collection of a few local taxes, like parking fees, as well as the allocation and use of land granted by the Center.

Ladakh may be added to the sixth schedule:

  • The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes recommended the inclusion of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule in September 2019, noting that the new UT was primarily tribal (more than 97%), that outsiders had been prohibited from buying or acquiring land there, and that its unique cultural heritage needed to be preserved.
  • It should be noted that the Sixth Schedule does not include any regions besides the Northeast.
  • The autonomous councils in Manipur, a state with a majority of tribal people in some areas, as well as Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, states with entirely tribal populations, are not included in the Sixth Schedule.
  • Inclusion of Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule would be challenging. The Sixth Schedule is for the Northeast, the Constitution makes this very clear. However, it remains the government’s prerogative — it can, if it so chooses, bring a Bill to amend the Constitution for this purpose. For tribal areas in the rest of the country, there is the Fifth Schedule.

Conclusion

  • In conclusion, the region will only remain troubled to the benefit of those looking to cause trouble unless drastic measures are taken to appease the locals by satisfying their legitimate demands.
  • In light of Ladakh’s strategic importance and geographic location, the government should establish an all-inclusive committee with participation from all relevant parties to discuss measures to protect the region’s “unique culture and language”.
  • It is important to have in-depth discussions so that the demands can be met with an accurate assessment and the appropriate actions can be taken.

-Source: Economic Times


 

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