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Current Affairs 30 August 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Article 35A
  2. India Smart Cities Award Contest (ISAC) 2022
  3. State of India’s Birds (SoIB) 2023
  4. Aditya-L1 Mission
  5. Dholpur-Karauli: India’s 54th Tiger Reserve

Article 35A


Context:

Article 35A, which empowered the J&K Legislature to define permanent residents of the State and provide them special privileges, denied fundamental rights to others. This remark was made by the CJI while heading a Constitution Bench, which is currently hearing pleas against the Centre’s move to abrogate Article 370.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Article 35A?
  2. Controversies Around Article 35A
  3. Current Status of Articles 370 and 35A
  4. CJI (D.Y. Chandrachud) on Article 35A

Article 35A:

Article 35A provides the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Legislature with absolute authority to determine the identity of ‘permanent residents’ in the state. This provision, dating back to 1954, grants distinct privileges to these residents.

  • Definition of Permanent Residents: Article 35A empowers the J&K Legislature to establish the criteria for designating individuals as ‘permanent residents’. This criterion originates from the historical context of hereditary state subjects as of 1927, during J&K’s time as a princely state.
  • Grant of Special Privileges: ‘Permanent residents’ identified under Article 35A enjoy specific rights and benefits in various domains, including public sector employment, property acquisition within the state, educational scholarships, and social welfare assistance.
  • Inclusion in the Constitution: The integration of Article 35A into the Indian Constitution occurred through a Presidential Order in 1954. This followed the 1952 Delhi Agreement involving the central government and J&K’s then Prime Minister, Sheikh Abdullah.
  • Foundation in Article 370: The Presidential Order that introduced Article 35A was established under Article 370(1)(d) of the Constitution. Article 370 permits the President to introduce adaptations and exceptions to the Constitution for the betterment of J&K’s ‘State subjects’.
  • Acknowledgment of Distinct Status: The incorporation of Article 35A into the Constitution signifies the Indian government’s recognition of the unique position of ‘permanent residents’ in J&K and its intent to provide them with special consideration.

Controversies Surrounding Article 35A:

Article 35A has been a subject of significant controversies due to its unconventional characteristics and perceived implications. Several points of contention have arisen, contributing to a broader discourse on its legality and implications.

  • Distinctive Placement: One unique aspect of Article 35A is its absence from the main body of the Constitution. Unlike typical provisions, it was introduced without following the parliamentary route of amendment, which is usually governed by Article 368. This unconventional inclusion has raised questions about the manner in which it was integrated into the Constitution.
  • Deviating from Temporary Intent: Article 370, from which Article 35A emanates, was originally introduced as a ‘temporary provision’ to facilitate the establishment of normalcy and democratic governance in J&K. Critics argue that this was not meant to enable permanent amendments like Article 35A, contradicting the intended purpose of Article 370.
  • Challenging the Unity of India: Critics assert that Article 35A undermines the spirit of national unity, as it creates a distinct classification of Indian citizens. This is seen as divisive, as it differentiates between citizens of different states and regions.
  • Violation of Fundamental Rights: The provisions of Article 35A that limit citizens from other states in terms of employment and property ownership within J&K are considered by some as infringements on fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution.
  • Gender Discrimination: The article has faced scrutiny for perpetuating gender inequality. For instance, if a native woman marries a non-permanent resident man, her right to property is restricted, and her children are denied permanent resident status, often deemed as illegitimate. This has sparked debates around gender discrimination.
  • Judicial Review Constraints: Article 35A has been criticized for limiting judicial review. It asserts that acts of the legislature under its purview cannot be challenged on the grounds of violating the Constitution or other laws. This provision has raised concerns about accountability and the potential for unchecked legislative actions.

Current Status of Articles 370 and 35A:

The current status of Articles 370 and 35A has undergone significant changes, leading to substantial legal and constitutional developments. Here’s an overview of the recent developments and the stance of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) on Article 35A:

  • Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 2019: This order was issued to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and extend all provisions of the Indian Constitution, including Part III which pertains to Fundamental Rights, to the region.
  • Impact on Article 35A: As Article 35A derives from Article 370, the abrogation of Article 370 effectively rendered the provisions of Article 35A unconstitutional.
CJI D.Y. Chandrachud’s Views on Article 35A:

Chief Justice of India, D.Y. Chandrachud, provided insights into Article 35A in his views:

  • Special Rights and Privileges: Article 35A granted distinct rights and privileges to the category of ‘permanent residents,’ which in turn limited the rights of non-residents.
  • Creation of Artificial Class: The creation of a specific class of ‘permanent residents’ through Article 35A resulted in the exclusion of individuals not falling within this category.
  • Immunity from Judicial Review: Article 35A provided immunity from judicial review to these special privileges. Laws conferring these privileges were considered exempt from violating fundamental rights like Article 14 (equality), Article 19(1)(e) (freedom to reside anywhere in the country), Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty), and Article 22 (protection against preventive detention).
  • Federalism and Abrogation of Article 370: While discussing the abrogation of Article 370 and the transformation of J&K into Union Territories, the CJI raised questions about adherence to the principle of federalism. He highlighted that Article 3 required the President to consult the State Legislature before altering the status of a State. However, in this case, the J&K State Legislature was dissolved, and President’s Rule was proclaimed under Article 356. The Parliament then played a role in altering the status.

-Source: The Hindu


India Smart Cities Award Contest (ISAC) 2022


Context:

Recently, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has announced the India Smart Cities Award Contest (ISAC) 2022 under the Smart Cities Mission (SCM), that felicitated 66 winners in various categories.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of ISAC 2022
  2. What is ISAC (Indian Smart Cities Awards)?
  3. What is the Smart Cities Mission?

Key Highlights of ISAC 2022:

The Indian Smart Cities Awards 2022 (ISAC 2022) recognized cities that have excelled in various aspects of urban development and smart city initiatives. Here are the key highlights of the awards:

Top Performers:
  • The ISAC 2022 awards highlighted the exceptional achievements of cities in the domain of urban development and smart city initiatives.
  • Two cities, Indore in Madhya Pradesh and Chandigarh, emerged as top performers in different areas.
National Smart City Award:
  • Indore: Indore secured the prestigious national smart city award, showcasing its outstanding progress in urban development strategies.
  • Recognition for Excellence: Indore’s commitment to critical areas such as sanitation, water supply, and urban environment earned it recognition as a leader in these domains.
  • Followed by: The cities of Surat and Agra followed Indore in the national smart city award category.
State Award:
  • Madhya Pradesh: The state of Madhya Pradesh received the state award, acknowledging its comprehensive approach towards fostering smart city initiatives.
  • Other States: Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan secured the second and third positions, respectively, in the state award category.
Union Territory (UT) Award:
  • Chandigarh: Chandigarh was honored with the UT award, reflecting its efforts in transforming into a model smart city.
Recognition in Different Categories:
  • Several cities were recognized for excellence in various categories related to urban development:
    • Coimbatore: Recognized for its achievements in the built environment category.
    • Ahmedabad: Acknowledged for achievements in the culture and Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC) category.
    • Jabalpur: Recognized for its economic initiatives.
    • Chandigarh: Awarded for governance and mobility initiatives.
    • Vadodara: Acknowledged for its accomplishments in social aspects.
    • Hubbali Dharwad: Recognized for innovative ideas.
    • Surat: Honored for its innovative response to challenges posed by the Covid pandemic.

What is ISAC (Indian Smart Cities Awards)?

The Indian Smart Cities Awards (ISAC) is an initiative aimed at recognizing and rewarding cities, projects, and innovative ideas that contribute to sustainable development within the framework of India’s 100 smart cities mission. The awards program focuses on promoting inclusive, equitable, safe, healthy, and collaborative urban environments, ultimately enhancing the overall quality of life for all residents.

Key Points about ISAC:
  • Recognition for Sustainable Development: The ISAC program acknowledges efforts and initiatives that align with the principles of sustainable development across the smart cities of India.
  • Editions: The ISAC has been organized in three editions so far, held in the years 2018, 2019, and 2020.
  • Fourth Edition: The fourth edition of ISAC was officially launched in April 2022 during the “Smart Cities-Smart Urbanization” event hosted in Surat, Gujarat.
  • Submission Process: The ISAC 2022 award involved a two-stage submission process:
    • Qualifying Stage: This stage included an overall assessment of the city’s performance in various aspects of smart city development.
    • Proposal Stage: In this stage, smart cities were required to submit nominations for various award categories.
Categories of Awards:
  • Project Awards: Recognizing excellence in 10 different thematic areas related to smart city projects.
  • Innovation Awards: Acknowledging innovation in 2 different thematic areas.
  • National/Zonal City Awards: Recognizing exceptional performance at the national and zonal levels.
  • State Awards: Awarding states for their comprehensive approach to smart city initiatives.
  • Union Territory (UT) Award: Honoring outstanding achievements by union territories.
  • Partners Awards: Recognizing contributions in 3 different thematic areas by various partners.

What is the Smart Cities Mission?

  • The Smart Cities Mission is an initiative of the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry that was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 25, 2015.
  • Cities across the country were asked to submit proposals for projects to improve municipal services and to make their jurisdictions more liveable.
  • Between January 2016 and June 2018 (when the last city, Shillong, was chosen), the Ministry selected 100 cities for the Mission over five rounds.
  • The projects were supposed to be completed within five years of the selection of the city, but in 2021 the Ministry changed the deadline for all cities to June 2023, which was earlier the deadline for Shillong alone.
What kinds of projects were proposed?
  • After the Ministry gave broad guidelines to the participating cities, the project proposals ranged from making certain stretches of roads more accessible and pedestrian-friendly to more capital-intensive ones like laying water pipelines and constructing sewage treatment plants.
  • All 100 cities have also constructed Integrated Command and Control Centres to monitor all security, emergency and civic services.
  •  During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, these centres were converted into emergency response units by many of the cities.

-Source: The Hindu


State of India’s Birds (SoIB) 2023


Context:

Recently, the State of India’s Birds (SoIB) 2023 was released, which highlighted that despite thriving a few bird species, there is a substantial decline in numerous bird species.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About SoIB 2023
  2. Methodologies Used in the Report
  3. Key Highlights of the Report
  4. Recommendations

About SoIB 2023:

  • The State of India’s Birds 2023 (SoIB 2023) is a unique collaborative effort involving 13 government and non-government organizations.
  • These organizations include notable entities such as the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), and Worldwide Fund for Nature–India (WWF–India).
  • The primary aim of SoIB 2023 is to evaluate the conservation status of regularly occurring bird species in India.

Methodologies Used in the Report:

  • The report’s data is sourced from approximately 30,000 birdwatchers.
  • The assessment relies on three main indices:
    • Long-term trend (over 30 years)
    • Current annual trend (over the past seven years)
    • Distribution range size within India
  • For the 942 bird species assessed, some species lacked accurate long-term or current trend data.

Key Highlights of the Report:

Status:
  • Among 338 species with established long-term trends, 60% experienced declines, 29% remained stable, and 11% exhibited increases.
  • Among 359 species with determined current annual trends, 39% were declining, 18% rapidly declining, 53% stable, and 8% increasing.
Positive Trends: Increasing Bird Species:
  • Notable positive trends were observed among certain bird species.
  • The Indian Peafowl demonstrated a significant increase in both abundance and distribution.
  • Species like the Asian Koel, House Crow, Rock Pigeon, and Alexandrine Parakeet displayed noteworthy abundance increases since 2000.
  • These species expanded their habitats to include diverse environments.
Specialist Birds vs. Generalists:
  • Specialist birds confined to specific habitats such as wetlands and rainforests were rapidly declining.
  • Generalist birds capable of thriving in various habitats showed more resilience.
Migrant and Resident Birds:
  • Long-distance migratory birds from Eurasia and the Arctic experienced severe declines of over 50%, followed by short-distance migrants.
  • Resident bird species remained more stable overall.
Diet and Decline Patterns:
  • Abundance trends correlated with birds’ diets. Species that fed on vertebrates and carrion suffered significant declines.
  • Vulture populations were affected by environmental pollutants, with specific vulture species facing severe declines.
Endemic and Waterbird Declines:
  • Endemic species unique to the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka saw rapid declines, raising habitat preservation concerns.
  • Both resident and migratory ducks experienced declines, and riverine sandbar-nesting birds faced pressure due to multiple factors.
Major Threats:
  • Forest degradation, urbanization, energy infrastructure, environmental pollutants, climate change, avian disease, and illegal hunting and trade were identified as significant threats to bird species.
Other Species:
  • Specific species like the Sarus Crane and woodpeckers experienced declines.
  • Bustards breeding in India, such as the Great Indian Bustard, Lesser Florican, and Bengal Florican, were found to be highly vulnerable.

Recommendations:

Conservation of Specific Bird Groups:

  • Urgent conservation efforts are needed for specific bird groups, such as grassland specialists that have experienced significant declines. Preserving grassland ecosystems is crucial to their survival.

Long-Term Monitoring:

  • Continuous and systematic monitoring of bird populations over extended periods is essential to detect small-scale changes and understand population dynamics.

Research and Understanding:

  • In-depth research is needed to uncover the underlying reasons behind population declines or increases, enhancing our understanding of the factors affecting bird populations.

Habitat Preservation:

  • Protecting and preserving natural habitats like forests, wetlands, grasslands, and coastal areas is vital for the nesting, feeding, and breeding of birds.

Habitat Restoration:

  • Restore degraded habitats by introducing native vegetation and removing invasive species that pose threats to bird populations.

Protected Areas Management:

  • Establish, manage, and expand protected areas and wildlife reserves where birds can thrive undisturbed by human activities.

Regulations and Guidelines:

  • Implement stringent regulations and guidelines to prevent habitat destruction and disturbances, particularly in protected areas.

Pollution Control:

  • Address sources of pollution such as air and water pollutants that directly harm birds or contaminate their food sources.

Climate Change Mitigation:

  • Combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable energy alternatives to mitigate its impact on bird populations.

Habitat Corridors:

  • Create habitat corridors that enable birds to move freely and adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Public Education:

  • Raise public awareness about minimizing disturbances to nesting and feeding sites, especially during breeding seasons.

Buffer Zones:

  • Establish buffer zones around critical bird habitats to reduce human interference and protect sensitive areas.

-Source: Indian Express


Aditya-L1 Mission


Context:

ISRO has announced that the Aditya-L1 mission, will be launched on September 2 from Sriharikota. Aditya L1 will be the first space-based Indian observatory to study the Sun.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Aditya-L1
  2. What is Lagrange Point 1?

About Aditya-L1

  • Aditya-L1 is India’s first solar mission to study the Sun designed and to be built in collaboration between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and various Indian research institutes.
  • It is planned to be launched on the PSLV-C56 and it is now planned to be a comprehensive solar and space environment observatory to be placed at the Lagrangian point L1.
  • The Aditya-L1 mission will be inserted in a halo orbit around the L1 point, which is about 1.5 million km from Earth.
  • Aditya-L1 will be able to provide observations of Sun’s photosphere, chromosphere and corona.
  • Aditya L1 will be ISRO’s 2nd space-based astronomy mission after AstroSat, which was launched in 2015.
Objectives of Aditya-1
  • One of the major unsolved issues in the field of solar physics is that the upper atmosphere of the Sun is 1,000,000 K (1,000,000 °C) hot whereas the lower atmosphere is just 6,000 K (5,730 °C).
  • In addition, it is not understood how exactly the Sun’s radiation affects the dynamics of the Earth’s atmosphere on shorter as well as on longer time scale.
  • The mission will obtain near simultaneous images of the different layers of the Sun’s atmosphere, which reveal the ways in which the energy may be channeled and transferred from one layer to another.
  • Thus, the Aditya-L1 mission will enable a comprehensive understanding of the dynamical processes of the Sun and address some of the outstanding problems in solar physics and heliophysics.

What is Lagrange Point 1?

  • Lagrange Points, named after Italian-French mathematician Josephy-Louis Lagrange, are positions in space where the gravitational forces of a two-body system (like the Sun and the Earth) produce enhanced regions of attraction and repulsion.
  • L1 refers to Lagrangian/Lagrange Point 1, one of 5 points in the orbital plane of the Earth-Sun system – which is about 1.5 million km from Earth, or about 1/100th of the way to the Sun.
  • A Satellite placed in the halo orbit around the Lagrangian point 1 (L1) has the major advantage of continuously viewing the Sun without any occultation/ eclipses.
  • The L1 point is home to the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Satellite (SOHO), an international collaboration project of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

-Source: The Hindu


Dholpur-Karauli: India’s 54th Tiger Reserve


Context:

National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has given its approval for the establishment of the Dholpur-Karauli Tiger Reserve in the state of Rajasthan. It has secured its position as the fifth tiger reserve in the state of Rajasthan following Mukundra Hills, Ramgarh Vishdhari, Ranthambore, and Sariska.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Tiger Reserves
  2. Tiger Population in India’s Different Regions in 2023
  3. Project Tiger
  4. About the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)

Tiger Reserves:

Definition and Purpose:

  • A Tiger Reserve is a protected area that specifically aims to conserve and protect the population of the striped big cats, tigers. However, it can also overlap with the designation of a national park or wildlife sanctuary.

Example:

  • An example is the Sariska Tiger Reserve, which is not only a tiger reserve but also a national park. This is because it was initially established as a national park and later dedicated to the conservation of tigers.

Designation and Notification:

  • Tiger Reserves are officially designated and notified by State Governments in accordance with Section 38V of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The process involves the advice and guidance of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Number of Tiger Reserves:

  • India currently houses a total of 54 Tiger Reserves, with the most recent addition being the Dholpur-Karauli Tiger Reserve. These reserves play a crucial role in safeguarding the habitat and populations of tigers, ensuring their survival for future generations.

Tiger Population in India’s Different Regions in 2023

Tiger Population Growth:

  • The Shivalik hills and Gangetic flood plains had the highest increase in tiger population.
  • Central India, northeastern hills, Brahmaputra flood plains, and Sundarbans also showed growth in tiger numbers.

Tiger Population Decline:

  • There was a decline in tiger population in the Western Ghats region, although “major populations” were reportedly stable.

Method of Estimating Tiger Population:

  • Tiger numbers were estimated by counting animals caught in camera traps.
  • Statistical techniques were used to estimate tigers that were not captured in camera traps.

Census Results:

  • 3,080 unique tigers were captured in camera traps, compared to 2,603 in the previous census.
  • The census results are still being processed, with state-wise population estimates expected to be completed in three months.
  • The scientists provided a range of estimated tiger populations over four years, with the mean value being highlighted as the latest tiger population.

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.

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: Times of India


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