Contents

  1. ISRO’s report on Land degradation in India
  2. China-Myanmar New Passage: Sea-Road-Rail Link to Indian Ocean
  3. Economy grows 20% in Q1, lags pre-COVID level
  4. Nine new Supreme Court judges take oath

ISRO’s report on Land degradation in India

Context:

According to the recently published Desertification and Land degradation Atlas of India published by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) – more than half of the degraded land in the country is either rained farmland responsible for food security of the country or forest land that offers the best defence.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Degradation, Conservation of Environment, Climate change and its impact)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding Desertification and Land Degradation
  2. Status of Land Degradation in India
  3. Land Degradation issue in the North East

Understanding Desertification and Land Degradation

  • Land degradation is defined as decline in productivity of land in terms of biodiversity and economy, resulting from various causes, including climate and human dominance, leading to loss of ecosystem.
  • Desertification is a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry region becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its water bodies as well as vegetation and wildlife.
  • Land degradation and climate change fuel each other and land degradation reduces the soil’s ability to absorb carbon, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report.

Status of Land Degradation in India

  • With close to 30 percent of its geographical are already affected, land degradation is definitely among India’s most pressing environmental problems.
  • Currently, almost 100 million hectares of land has already been degraded and of this, 3 million hectares have been added in the 15 years between 2004 and 2019.
  • After unirrigated farmland, forest remains the most vulnerable to degradation. This is surprising as the common belief is that afforestation drives are the surest solution to land degradation.
  • Vegetation degradation is referred to as reduction in the biomass and / or decline in the vegetative ground cover, as a result of deforestation and / or overgrazing. Such degradation is a major contributory factor to soil degradation particularly with regard to soil erosion and loss of soil organic matter.

How have the States Fared?

  • Almost all Indian states have recorded an increase in degraded land in the past 15 years, with the most rapid increase being noted in the biodiversity-rich northeastern states. The only exceptions are Rajasthan (most degraded state accounting for 22% of degraded land in the country), Uttar Pradesh and Telangana have seen reduction in their degraded land in the past 15 years.
  • The biggest problems with the degradation of land in the country is that it adversely affects the farmers who are dependent on rains and forest dwellers (who are among the most marginalised social and economic groups).

Land Degradation issue in the North East

  • Six states in northeastern India (Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya) were among the top 10 places in the country with the highest rates of desertification between 2003 and 2018.
  • Punjab, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand in northern India also witness some of the highest rates of desertification.
  • Mizoram has been desertifying at the fastest rate in the country as the state has been desertifying at the fastest rate in the country.
  • In Arunachal Pradesh, 2.4 per cent of the area underwent degradation / desertification in 2018-19.
  • Deforestation and loss of green cover are the main reasons for land degradation and desertification in the region.
  • In Mizoram, the role of vegetation loss in the degradation of land of Mizoram increased over the years. Agricultural land in Assam and Meghalaya also extensively suffered from water logging, the second factor behind the increasing desertification rates.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine


China-Myanmar New Passage: Sea-Road-Rail Link to Indian Ocean

Context:

The first shipments on a newly-launched railway line from the Myanmar border to the key commercial hub of Chengdu in western China, that provides China a new road-rail transportation channel to the Indian Ocean, were delivered recently.

Relevance:

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

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About China-Myanmar New Passage
  2. About Gwadar Port
  3. Importance of the IOR for China and its increasing footprint

About China-Myanmar New Passage

  • This passage connects the logistics lines of Singapore, Myanmar and China, and is currently the most convenient land and sea channel linking the Indian Ocean with southwest China.
  • The railway line currently ends in Lincang on the Chinese side opposite the Myanmar border trade town of Chin Shwe Haw. Plans are underway to develop Chin Shwe Haw as a “border economic cooperation zone” under the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • The new trade corridor passage connects the logistics lines of Singapore, Myanmar and China, and is currently the most convenient land and sea channel linking the Indian Ocean with southwest China.
  • China also has plans to develop another port in Kyaukphyu in the Rakhine state, including a proposed railway line from Yunnan directly to the port, but the progress there has been stalled by unrest in Myanmar.
  • Chinese planners have also looked at the Gwadar port in Pakistan as another key outlet to the Indian Ocean that will bypass the Malacca Straits.
  • China’s economic stakes in the Bay of Bengal and this new trade corridor signifies a larger maritime presence and naval engagement in the region which in turn reinforces the string of pearls policy by China.
  • Apart from this trade corridor and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China is also planning the China-Nepal Economic Corridor (CNEC) which will link Tibet to Nepal.

About Gwadar Port

  • Gwadar is being developed as part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to the far western Xinjiang region and it has long been touted as the site for a Chinese base suitable for People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operations.
  • China pursues a “strategic strongpoint” concept whereby strategically sited foreign ports containing terminals and commercial zones operated by Chinese firms can be used by its military.
  • Such “strongpoints” offer the potential for China to form a network of supply, logistics and intelligence hubs along the perimeter of the Indian Ocean. This is referred to as the String of Pearls theory.

Importance of the IOR for China and its increasing footprint

  • 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.

-Source: The Hindu


Economy grows 20.1% in Q1, lags pre-COVID level

Context:

Economic statistics for the first quarter of the current fiscal (April to June period), released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) shows that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown by more than 20% in the first quarter of 2021-22.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the latest economic data on Q1
  2. What is Base-effect?
  3. Other Important Trends in Economy

About the latest economic data on Q1

  • India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown by 20.1%, while the Gross Value Added (GVA) in the economy has risen by 18.8% in the first quarter of 2021-22.
  • Manufacturing and construction have been the key drivers in GVA growth and the higher private consumption and investment have helped in impressive GDP performance.
  • GVA from agriculture, forestry and fishing, the only sector to grow amid last year’s national lockdown, has registered an impressive 4.5% growth in Q1 2021-22 too.
  • Despite the government’s claim of the impressive GDP and GVA numbers of the Q1 2021-22 being indicative of a V-shaped economic recovery, eminent economists have cautioned about reading too much into the record quarterly growth.
  • Though the GDP and GVA have registered a notable rise, they are lower than their contraction observed during the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal.
  • This implies that the economic activity has remained well below the pre-pandemic levels, owing to the second wave of COVID-19, indicating that the economy still has some way to go before it returns to activity levels prevalent prior to the pandemic.

Base effect reason for the boost

  • The growth rates in 2021-22 in some cases are unduly high due to the low base. This could be analytically misleading.
  • Construction and Manufacturing GVA recorded a 68.3% and 49.6% increase between April and June this year.

What is Base-effect?

  • The base effect is the effect that choosing a different reference point for a comparison between two data points can have on the result of the comparison. This often involves the use of some kind of ratio or index value between two points in a time-series data set, but can also apply to cross-sectional or other types of data.
  • Using a different reference or base for comparison can lead to a large variation in ratio or percentage comparisons between data points – hence, base effect can lead to distortion in comparisons and deceptive results, or, if well understood and accounted for, can be used to improve our understanding of data and the underlying processes that generate them.

Other Important Trends in Economy

  • Electricity, gas, water supply and other utility services, which have registered impressive growth numbers are the only other sectors along with agriculture, forestry and fishing, to recover beyond the pre-pandemic levels of 2019-20.
  • The share of consumption expenditure in GDP has been low this time which indicates that the second wave and lockdowns impacted households more than the first wave. This does not augur well for the economic recovery process.
  • Low incomes lead to low disposable income in the hands of the general populace. This in turn will lead to depressed demand in the economy which will invariably impact the economic recovery process.
  • Despite impressive growth numbers in employment- and contact-intensive services sector like Hotels, Transport, their absolute contribution continues to be substantially below 2019-20 levels.
  • The government final consumption expenditure (GFCE) has contracted by 4.8% in Q1 2021-22.
  • Also, there has been a substantial decline in public capital and revenue spending in July 2021.
  • This is indicative of the government’s fiscal prudence attitude in order to contain the fiscal deficit even during a time when major economies have relied on large fiscal stimulus to revive their economies.

-Source: The Hindu


Nine new Supreme Court judges take oath

Context:

Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana read out the oath of allegiance to the Constitution to nine new judges of the Supreme Court, reducing the vacancies in the top court to just one.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Judiciary, Constitutional Provisions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the new judges who have taken oath
  2. Representation of Women in the Judiciary
  3. Significance of representation of Women in the Judiciary
  4. Way Forwards

About the new judges who have taken oath

  • A collegium of Supreme Court recommended the names of these nine judges on August 17, 2021 for appointment as judges of the Apex court. President Ram Nath Kovind then signed the warrants of their appointment.
  • With the addition of 9 judges, total strength of the Supreme Court would increase to 33 out of the sanctioned strength of 34, including the CJI.
  • For the first time in the history of Supreme Court, nine judges have taken oath of office in one go.
  • Three out of these nine new judges namely, Justice Vikram Nath, Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice PS Narasimha, are in line to become the CJI.
  • The apex court has appointed very few women judges since its inception. In over 71 years, only eight women judges have been appointed till date. First women judge was M Fathima Beevi, appointed in 1989. Justice Indira Banerjee is the lone serving woman judge in the supreme court after her elevation on August 7, 2018.

Representation of Women in the Judiciary

  • According to the Supreme Court’s list of senior advocates, only 4 per cent are women (16 against 400 men).
  • While Maharashtra has the highest number of women lawyers, senior women advocates at the Bombay High Court account for only 3.8 per cent. When the number of designated senior women lawyers is disproportionately low, the chances of more women becoming judges also remain minimal.
  • The 2019 report from the law ministry’s justice department validates this, recording the number of women judges sitting across the country’s 24 high courts, excluding Telangana’s, as mere 73 (or 10.8 per cent) out of the total 670 judges.
  • Currently, no data is centrally maintained on the number of women in tribunals or lower courts.

Significance of representation of Women in the Judiciary

  • A gender diverse bench reflects a bias-free judiciary. Many empirical studies show that having even one woman on a three-judge panel has an effect on the entire panel’s decision-making in gender discrimination cases.
  • Having women judges encourage more women to approach the system of law to report violence and crimes happening to them on a daily basis.
  • The presence of women judges from diverse backgrounds will bring structural changes in the decision-making process. Studies prove that personal values, experiences and many other non-legal factors influence judicial decisions.
  • If women in the judiciary hail from similar backgrounds as those of men, holding mainstream ideas and beliefs, the gender diversity has little to no payoff. Besides, the more socially diverse the judicial benches are, the stronger the judiciary is. This will improve public trust in the judiciary and increase access to justice.

Way Forwards

  • There is a need of an effective affirmative action workplan to have an adequate number of prospective women candidates, with especial focus on the fact that they come from marginalised groups. In addition, the criterion for designation of senior counsels should also be focused upon.
  • A special diversity programme is required to adopt to encourage and motivate women lawyers, the number of female students taking up law may increase but there won’t be women judges to inspire them to sustain in the profession.
  • Collection of data should be initiated to determine the number of women judges in the lower judiciary and tribunals and also to determine year-wise number of senior designates by all High Courts.
  • Certain law schools have the subject either as a specialisation or as an elective. Equally, the All India Bar Examination does not contain even a single question or section relating to gender sensitisation. The Bar Council of India may take necessary steps in this regard.
  • Removing the minimum age for recruitment as district judge can help young female advocates from opting out of practice in favour of other services or corporate jobs. Governments should also rationalise salary and allowances of lower judiciary.

-Source: The Hindu

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