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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 10 July 2021

Contents

  1. India-Nepal Rail Services Agreement (RSA)
  2. ‘Joint Communication’ signed to secure rights of forest dwellers
  3. In a first, Himalayan yaks to be insured

India-Nepal Rail Services Agreement (RSA)

Context:

Rail Transportation between India & Nepal got a major boost as authorization to all cargo train operators to utilize the Indian railway network to carry all containers bound for Nepal came into force with the signing of a Letter of Exchange (LoE) to the India-Nepal Rail Services Agreement (RSA) 2004.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign policies and Agreements affecting India’s Relations)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Rail Services Agreement (RSA), 2004
  2. About the 2021 Letter of Exchange (LoE) on RSA
  3. India – Nepal relations
  4. Tensions in India-Nepal relations

About the Rail Services Agreement (RSA), 2004

  • The Rail Services Agreement was executed in 2004 between the Ministry of Railways, Government of India and the Ministry of Commerce, the Govt. of Nepal for introduction of freight train services between these two countries to and from Birgunj (Nepal) via Raxaul (India).
  • The Agreement shall be reviewed every five years and may be modified (through Letters of Exchange) by the Contracting Parties by mutual consent.
  • LoE’s in the past: Second LoE was signed in 2008 at the time of introduction of bilateral cargo between the two countries which required introduction of new customs procedures.
  • Third LoE was signed in 2016 enabling rail transit traffic to/from Visakhapatnam Port in addition to existing provision of rail transportation through Kolkata/Haldia Port.

About the 2021 Letter of Exchange (LoE) on RSA

  • The latest LoE will allow all authorized cargo train operators to utilize the Indian railway network to carry Nepal’s container and other freight – both bilateral between Indian and Nepal or third country from Indian ports to Nepal.
  • The authorized cargo train operators include public and private container trains Operators, automobile freight train operators, special freight train operators or any other operator authorized by Indian Railways.
  • This liberalization will allow market forces (such as consumers and buyers) to come up in the rail freight segment in Nepal, and is likely to increase efficiency and cost- competitiveness, eventually benefiting the Nepalese consumer.
  • The liberalisation will particularly reduce transportation costs for automobiles and certain other products whose carriage takes place in special wagons and will boost rail cargo movement between the two countries.

India – Nepal relations

  • Nepal is an important neighbour of India and occupies special significance in its foreign policy because of the geographic, historical, cultural and economic linkages/ties that span centuries.
  • Both countries initiated their relationship with the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship and accompanying secret letters that defined security relations between the two countries, and an agreement governing both bilateral trade and trade transiting Indian territory.
  • India and Nepal share similar ties in terms of Hinduism and Buddhism with Buddha’s birthplace Lumbini located in present day Nepal.
  • The two countries not only share an open border and unhindered movement of people, but they also have close bonds through marriages and familial ties, popularly known as Roti-Beti ka Rishta.

Tensions in India-Nepal relations

  • India’s Neighbourhood First Policy in connection with Nepal started with a highly successful visit to Nepal in August 2014. But the relationship turned sour in 2015 when India first got blamed for interfering in the Constitution-drafting in Nepal and then for an “unofficial blockade” that generated widespread resentment against the country.
  • India has ignored the changing political narrative in Nepal for far too long.
  • India remained content that its interests were safeguarded by quiet diplomacy even when Nepali leaders publicly adopted anti-Indian postures. This has also led to distortions in Nepali history textbooks and led to long-term negative consequences.
  • In 2017, Nepal signed up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which sought to create highways, airports and other infrastructure in the country. BRI was rejected by India and this move of Nepal was seen as an inclination towards China.
  • Recently, India and Nepal had border disputes over Kalapani – Limpiyadhura – Lipulekh trijunction between India-Nepal and China and Susta area (West Champaran district, Bihar).

-Source: The Hindu


‘Joint Communication’ signed to secure rights of forest dwellers

Context:

A joint communication was signed by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change which is aimed at giving more power to the tribal communities in managing the forest resources.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues Related to SCs & STs, Management of Social Sector/Services, Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the recently signed Joint Communication
  2. Forest Rights Act, 2006
  3. Challenges in implementation of the Forest Right Act

About the recently signed Joint Communication

  • The Joint Communication pertains to more effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 and for harnessing the potential for livelihood improvement of the Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDSTs) and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs).
  • State forest departments will carry out verification of claims for forest rights, mapping of forest lands involved and provision of necessary evidence as required, authentication of records, joint field inspections, awareness generation etc.
  • State forest departments are to undertake projects for value chain addition including capacity building of primary collectors, new harvesting methods, storage, processing and marketing of Non​-Timber Forest Products (NTFP).
  • A nodal agency to be designated for specific non-timber forest products as supply chain platforms in collaboration with TRIFED, Ministry of Ayush, MFP (Minor Forest Produce) Federations, Van Dhan Kendras etc.

Forest Rights Act, 2006

  • Schedule Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers Act or Recognition of Forest Rights Act came into force in 2006. The Nodal Ministry for the Act is Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
  • It has been enacted to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation of forest land in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers, who have been residing in such forests for generations, but whose rights could not be recorded.
  • This Act not only recognizes the rights to hold and live in the forest land under the individual or common occupation for habitation or for self-cultivation for livelihood, but also grants several other rights to ensure their control over forest resources.
  • The Act also provides for diversion of forest land for public utility facilities managed by the Government, such as schools, dispensaries, fair price shops, electricity and telecommunication lines, water tanks, etc. with the recommendation of Gram Sabhas.
  • Rights under the Forest Right Act 2006:
    1. Title Rights- ownership of land being framed by Gram Sabha.
    2. Forest management rights– to protect forests and wildlife.
    3. Use rights- for minor forest produce, grazing, etc.
    4. Rehabilitation– in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement.
    5. Development Rights– to have basic amenities such as health, education, etc.

Challenges in implementation of the Forest Right Act

  • Adivasi lands in Jammu and Kashmir have not been protected, nor have these communities been given ownership rights. Instead, evictions of Adivasis have intensified in the last few years.
  • A series of legislation– amendments to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act and a host of amendments to the Rules to the FRA- undermine the rights and protections given to tribal in the FRA, including the condition of “free informed consent” from gram Sabhas for any government plans to remove tribal from the forests and for the resettlement or rehabilitation package.
  • The process of documenting communities’ claims under the FRA is intensive — rough maps of community and individual claims are prepared democratically by Gram Sabhas. These are then verified on the ground with annotated evidence, before being submitted to relevant authorities.
  • There is a reluctance of the forest bureaucracy to give up control with FRA being seen as an instrument to regularise encroachment. This is seen in its emphasis on recognising individual claims while ignoring collective claims — Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights as promised under the FRA — by tribal communities. To date, the total amount of land where rights have been recognised under the FRA is just 3.13 million hectares, mostly under claims for individual occupancy rights.
  • In almost all States, instead of Gram Sabhas, the Forest Department has either appropriated or been given effective control over the FRA’s rights recognition process. This has created a situation where the officials controlling the implementation of the law often have the strongest interest in its non-implementation, especially the community forest rights provisions, which dilute or challenge the powers of the forest department.
  • Saxena Committee pointed out several problems in the implementation of FRA. Wrongful rejections of claims happen due to lack of proper enquiries made by the officials.

-Source: Indian Express


In a first, Himalayan yaks to be insured

Context:

Recently, the National Research Centre on Yak (NRCY) at Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Kameng district has tied up with the National Insurance Company Ltd. for insuring the high-altitude yak.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Himalayan Yak
  2. The Need for Insuring Yaks

About the Himalayan Yak

  • The Yak belong to the Bovini tribe, which also includes bison, buffaloes, and cattle.
  • IUCN Red List status of the Wild Yak (Bos mutus) is Vulnerable (IUCN considers the wild species of yak under Bos mutus, while the domestic form is considered under Bos grunniens), and it is also listed in Appendix 1 of CITES and Schedule 1 of the Indian WildLife (Protection) Act of 1972.
  • It can tolerate temperatures as low as negative 40 degrees Celsius as they are adapted for living at high altitudes with long hair that hangs off their sides like a curtain, sometimes touching the ground.
  • Yaks are highly valued by Himalayan peoples. According to Tibetan legend, the first yaks were domesticated by Tibetan Buddhism founder Guru Rinpoche.
  • They are also known as the lifeline of pastoral nomads in high altitudes of the Indian Himalayan region.
  • They are endemic to the Tibetan Plateau and the adjacent high-altitude regions.
  • The yak-rearing states of India are Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.

The Need for Insuring Yaks

  • The countrywide population trend shows that the yak population has been decreasing at an alarming rate. The total yak population in India is about 58,000.
  • The increasing trend of environmental temperature at high altitudes is resulting in heat stress in yak during warmer months of the year. This, in turn, is affecting the rhythms of physiological responses of the animal.
  • As wars and conflicts have led to the closing of borders, the yaks outside borders are thought to be suffering from inbreeding due to the lack of availability of new yak germplasm from the original yak area.

-Source: The Hindu

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