Contents

  1. New National parks: Dehing Patkai and Raimona
  2. ESI coverage for contractual municipal employees
  3. Ministry of External Affairs hints at talks with Taliban
  4. Nagaland to form panel to pursue Naga issue

New National parks: Dehing Patkai and Raimona

Context:

Assam’s Dehing Patkai wildlife sanctuary was notified as a national park.

  • Raimona reserve forest in western Assam’s Kokrajhar district was also upgraded to a national park
  • Assam had 5 national parks: Kaziranga, Nameri, Orang, Manas and Dibru-Saikhowa. With Dehing Patkai and Raimona – Assam now has 7 National Parks.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Protected Areas, Conservation of Ecology, Important National Parks)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Raimona National Park
  2. Dehing Patkai National Park
  3. Differences between Wildlife Sanctuary, Biosphere Reserves and National Parks

Raimona National Park

  • Raimona National Park is a national park in Assam, declared to be National Park on 5 June 2021 and located in Gossaigaon subdivision of Kokrajhar district.
  • The Raimona National Park is a part of a contiguous forest patch covering the northern part of the notified Ripu Reserve Forest, which forms the westernmost buffer to Manas Tiger Reserve in the southern foothills of Eastern Himalaya Biodiversity Hotspot.
  • Raimona National Park is famous for Golden Langur, an endemic species which has been named as the mascot of Bodoland region.
  • The boundary of Raimona National Park forms with the Sankosh River on the west along the inter-state boundary of West Bengal and Assam from Indo-Bhutan border up to fire line Ride-6 southwards (BP30) and Saralbhanga River on the east, runs northwards till it touches the Indo-Bhutan international boundary on the north and remaining part of Ripu Reserve Forest on the south.
  • The southern boundary runs eastwards along the fire line Ride-6 up to Pekua River where it runs at 90 degrees southwards till it meets the fire line Ride-3.
  • Historically the area was a part of the migratory route of the faunal species from Himalayan Mountain, Indo-Malayan and Indo-Chinese realms towards west and Peninsular Indian realm species to the east.
  • It shares contiguous forest patches of Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary and Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park in Bhutan, creating a trans-boundary conservation landscape of more than 2,400 km2.

Dehing Patkai National Park

  • Dehing Patkai National Park is located in the Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts of Assam and it was declared a wildlife sanctuary on 13 June 2004. In December 2020 Government of Assam upgraded it into a national park, with the Forest Department of Assam officially notifying it as National Park in June 2021.
  • It is located in the Dehing patkai landscape which is a dipterocarp-dominated lowland rainforest.
  • The Dehing Patkai forms the largest stretch of lowland rainforests in India. The Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary was declared as Dehing-Patkai Elephant Reserve under Project Elephant.
  • The climate of the region is mostly tropical with an annual rainfall of more than 4,000 mm.
  • There are more than a dozen different ethnic groups living in the Dehing Patkai Forest region including the indigenous Assamese communities, particularly Tai Phake, Khamyang, Khampti, Singpho, Nocte, Chutia, Ahom, Kaibarta, Moran , Motok, Burmese, and Nepali people. Tea-tribes were brought by the British to work in the tea plantations.
  • Being a completely virgin rainforest, this sanctuary is very rich in biodiversity. It is an ideal habitat for non-human primates.

Differences between Wildlife Sanctuary, Biosphere Reserves and National Parks

Wildlife SanctuaryBiosphere Reserves National Parks
A Wildlife Sanctuary is a natural habitat, owned by the government or private agency, that safeguards a particular species of birds and animals.A Biosphere Reserve is a reserved area of land established by the government to protect the environment as a whole.National Parks are notified areas that cover a larger area of land which may cover multiple National Parks, Sanctuaries, and reserves as well.
Protects the Animals, birds, insects, reptiles, etcPreserves the biodiversity of a specified areaProtects Flora, fauna, landscape, historical objects, etc
In Wildlife Sanctuaries restrictions are less and they are open to visitations by the general public.A typical biosphere reserve is divided into: Core area (no human activity is allowed), Buffer area (limited human activity is permitted) and a Manipulation zone (several human activities can occur in this zone).National Parks are highly restricted, random access to the general public is not allowed.
Permission to visit is not required.Permission to visit is subject to the particular area of the biosphere reserve.Permission is required to visit.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has defined Wildlife Sanctuaries as a Category IV protected areaBiosphere Reserves are internationally recognized within the framework of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) program and nominated by national governments.International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and its World Commission on Protected Areas, has defined National Parks as Category II protected areas

-Source: Indian Express


ESI coverage for contractual municipal employees

Context:

  • Union Labour and Employment Minister said that casual and contractual employees of municipal corporations in the country would be covered under the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Act, 1948.
  • Municipal bodies tend to employ a “large number of casual and contractual workers”, who are left out of the social security net as they are not regular employees. The extension of ESI benefits would help in betterment of these workers who are a vulnerable lot.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-II: Social Justice (Welfare Schemes, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Employees’ State Insurance Scheme
  2. Employee’s State Insurance Corporation (ESIC)

Employees’ State Insurance Scheme

The Employees’ State Insurance Scheme is an integrated measure of Social Insurance embodied in the Employees’ State Insurance Act and it is designed to accomplish the task of protecting ’employees’ as defined in the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 against the impact of incidences of sickness, maternity, disablement and death due to employment injury and to provide medical care to insured persons and their families.

Benefits of ESI

  • The benefits under ESI scheme are categorized under two categories:
    1. Cash benefits (which includes sickness, maternity, disablement (temporary and permanent), funeral expenses, rehabilitation allowance, vocational rehabilitation and medical bonus) and,
    2. Non-cash benefits through medical care.
  • Complete medical care and attention are provided by the scheme to the employee registered under the ESI Act, 1948 at the time of his incapacity, restoration of his health and working capacity.
  • During absenteeism from work due to illness, maternity or factories accidents which result in loss of wages complete financial assistance is provided to the employees to compensate for the wage loss.
  • The scheme provides medical care to family members also.

Financing ESI

  • The ESI Scheme is financed by contributions from employers and employees.
  • The rate of contribution by employer is 4.75% of the wages payable to employees.
  • The employees’ contribution is at the rate of 1.75% of the wages payable to an employee.
  • Employees, earning less than Rs. 137/- a day as daily wages, are exempted from payment of their share of contribution.

Beneficiaries

  • The ESI Scheme applies to factories and other establishment’s viz. Road Transport, Hotels, Restaurants, Cinemas, Newspaper, Shops, and Educational/Medical Institutions wherein 10 or more persons are employed.
  • However, in some States threshold limit for coverage of establishments is still 20.
  • Employees of the aforesaid categories of factories and establishments, drawing wages upto Rs.15,000/- a month, are entitled to social security cover under the ESI Act.
  • ESI Corporation has also decided to enhance wage ceiling for coverage of employees under the ESI Act from Rs.15,000/- to Rs.21,000/-.

Employee’s State Insurance Corporation (ESIC)

  • Employee’s State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) is a Statutory Body set up under the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Act, 1948, which is responsible for the administration of ESI Scheme.
  • As it is a legal entity, the corporation can raise loans and take measures for discharging such loans with the prior sanction of the central government and it can acquire both movable and immovable property and all incomes from the property shall vest with the corporation.
  • The corporation can set up hospitals either independently or in collaboration with state government or other private entities, but most of the dispensaries and hospitals are run by concerned state governments.

-Source: The Hindu


Ministry of External Affairs hints at talks with Taliban

Context:

India is in contact with “various stakeholders” in Afghanistan, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said, in response to specific questions about whether the government has opened direct talks with the Taliban.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. India and Views on communicating with Taliban
  2. India’s Concerns with the U.S. deal with Taliban
  3. Afghanistan–India relations
  4. India’s Interests in Afghanistan

India and Views on communicating with Taliban

  • While the MEA did not confirm the talks, which would represent a major shift for Indian policy, it did not deny recent reports that indicated that Indian security officials have exchanged messages with several “nationalist” Taliban factions.
  • MEA said that India is in touch with various stakeholders in pursuance of our long-term commitment towards development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.
  • India has thus far refused to open direct dialogue with the Taliban leadership, which it held responsible for facilitating terror attacks along with groups like the Lashkar-e Taiba and Jaish-e Mohammad on Indian missions in Afghanistan.
  • However, according to experts, India has reconsidered its position in the aftermath of the U.S. announcement that it would pull out all its troops by September 2021.
  • The clarity over the U.S. decision to pull out, which could be as early as September 2021 has added to the sense of urgency for Delhi to make these direct contacts with the stakeholders in Afghanistan.
  • The exercise of India opening these channels and being comfortable with this information being out in the public is a signal to both the policymaking community in India and the interlocutors on the other side that they are serious about the talks with the Taliban.
  • India’s engagement with groups in Afghanistan can be thought of as driven by a desire to “limit damage” to its security interests as a result of the U.S.’s decision to leave and the Taliban gaining military strength in several key provinces.

India’s Concerns with the U.S. deal with Taliban

  • In the Doha agreement, The U.S. appears to submit to the possibility of a Taliban-led government, by extracting promises that the Taliban will not provide “visas, passports, travel documents or asylum” to those threatening the U.S. and its allies.
  • This sidelines the “Intra-Afghan” dialogue, and India’s support for the election process for leadership in Afghanistan.
  • India cannot look at the agreements or the route to Kabul via Washington’s view that the Ghani government (which India has recognised as winner of the 2019 election) will only serve for an interim period.
  • This also raises a big question mark on the future of Afghanistan’s government, and whether it will remain a democracy.
  • India has raised concerns over the future of democracy, human rights, women’s rights and other achievements made in Afghanistan since 2001, when the Taliban regime was last defeated.

Afghanistan–India relations

  • Bilateral relations between Afghanistan and India have remained strong and friendly over the decades, tracing back to the Indus Valley Civilisation.
  • Between the 10th century to the mid-18th century, northern India has been invaded by a number of invaders based in what today is Afghanistan. Among them were the Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Khaljis, Suris, Mughals and Durranis.
  • The Republic of India was the only South Asian country to recognize the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
  • India-Afghanistan relations were diminished during the 1990s Afghan civil war and the Taliban government.
  • India aided the overthrow of the Taliban and became the largest regional provider of humanitarian and reconstruction aid to the present day Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
  • India shares border with Pakistan and there is the Durand Line conflict between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

India’s Interests in Afghanistan

  • Economic and Strategic Interest: Afghanistan is a gateway to the oil and mineral-rich Central Asian republics.
  • Afghanistan’s main advantage is its geography, as anyone who is in power in Afghanistan controls the land routes connecting India with Central Asia (via Afghanistan).
  • Developmental Projects: The massive reconstruction plans for the country to offer a lot of opportunities for Indian companies.
  • Three major projects: the Afghan Parliament, the Zaranj-Delaram Highway, and the Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam (Salma Dam), along with India’s assistance of more than $3 billion in projects, hundreds of small development projects (of schools, hospitals and water projects) have cemented India’s position in Afghanistan.
  • Security Interest: India has been the victim of state-sponsored terrorism emanating from Pakistan supported terrorist group operating in the region (e.g., Haqqani network).

INSTC

  • The International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a multi-modal connectivity project to establish transport networks (ship, rail, and road route) for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
  • It links Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran, and then onwards to northern Europe via St. Petersburg in Russia.
  • The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road.
  • The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali and etc.
  • The current members are India, Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, and Bulgaria (observer).
  • Turkmenistan currently is not a formal member but is likely to have road connectivity to the corridor, after being formally invited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Chabahar Port

  • This port is Located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country.
  • With this, India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan.
  • It will also boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
  • It also helps India counter Chinese presence in the Arabian Seawhich China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
  • With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
  • Trade benefits: With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.
  • From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.

TAPI

  • The Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI), also known as Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, is a natural gas pipeline being developed by the Galkynysh – TAPI Pipeline Company Limited.
  • The pipeline will transport natural gas from the Galkynysh Gas Field in Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India.
  • The pipeline will begin pumping natural gas by the beginning of 2020 and supply life is expected to last for 30 years.
  • The TAPI Project is considered as an important initiative of these four countries to connect energy rich Central Asia with energy starved South Asia.
  • It will provide an alternative supply source of gas with dependable reserves leading to enhanced energy security.
  • It will further diversify the fuel basket to the benefit of Indian economy as it would be used mainly in power, fertilizer and city gas sectors.

-Source: The Hindu


Nagaland to form panel to pursue Naga issue

Context:

The Nagaland government has decided to institute a committee comprising Opposition leaders to pursue the lingering Naga peace agreement and the Naga political issue with the Centre.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Centre-State Relations), GS-I: Indian Society

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Who are the Nagas?
  2. What is Naga Issue?
  3. Peace Initiatives with the Naga
  4. NSCN-IM
  5. NSCN-IM stand and the deadlock

Who are the Nagas?

  • The Nagas are not a single tribe, but an ethnic community, belonging to Indo-Mongoloid Family, that comprises several tribes who live in the state of Nagaland and its neighbourhood.
  • There are nineteen major Naga tribes, namely, Aos, Angamis, Changs, Chakesang, Kabuis, Kacharis, Khain-Mangas, Konyaks, Kukis, Lothas (Lothas), Maos, Mikirs, Phoms, Rengmas, Sangtams, Semas, Tankhuls, Yamchumgar and Zeeliang.

What is Naga Issue?

  • The key demand of Naga groups has been a Greater Nagalim (sovereign statehood) i.e., redrawing of boundaries to bring all Naga-inhabited areas in the Northeast under one administrative umbrella.
  • The Naga inhabited areas include various parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Assam and Myanmar.
  • The demand also includes the separate Naga Yezabo (Constitution) and Naga national flag.

Peace Initiatives with the Naga

  1. Shillong Accord (1975): A peace accord was signed in Shillong in which the NNC leadership agreed to give up arms. However, several leaders refused to accept the agreement, which led to the split of NNC.
  2. Ceasefire Agreement (1997): The NSCN-IM signed a ceasefire agreement with the government to stop attacks on Indian armed forces. In return, the government would stop all counter-insurgency offensive operations.
  3. Framework Agreement (2015): In this agreement, the Government of India recognised the unique history, culture and position of the Nagas and their sentiments and aspirations. The NSCN also appreciated the Indian political system and governance. However, the details of the agreement are yet to be released by the government.
  4. Recently, the State government decided to prepare the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland but later due to pressure from various fractions, the decision was put on hold.

NSCN-IM

  • The Isaak Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM), one of the largest Naga groups fighting for an independent Naga homeland.
  • They have been engaged in guerrilla warfare against successive Indian administrations since the 1950s.
  • One of the main demands of NSCN-IM has been the creation of a sovereign Naga territory that includes Naga-inhabited parts of neighbouring states like Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh as well as a portion of Burma across the international border, and leaders from those states have long been wary of any accord that would allow the annexation of parts of their land.
  • Lack of infrastructure development in the region is one of the perceived reasons for the decades’ long insurgency.
  • In 2015, NSCN-IM had entered into an historic Peace Accord (Framework Agreement) with Union government to bring lasting peace in Nagaland.

NSCN-IM stand and the deadlock

  • The Naga talks have hit the deadlock since early 2020 as the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-(Isak Muivah) (NSCN-IM) leader has refused to hold any dialogue with interlocutor and Nagaland Governor R.N Ravi.
  • The Governor’s letter to the Nagaland Chief Minister saying “over half a dozen organized armed gangs were brazenly running their respective ‘so called governments’ challenging the legitimacy of the State government” had caused the situation to worsen.
  • There was also an order asking government officials to declare if their family members or relatives are members of any “underground organisation.”
  • NSCN-IM signed a ceasefire agreement with the Centre in 2001, hence they took offense with the “organized armed gangs” view.
  • And also given that in a tribal set-up most people are related to each other, asking government officials to declare regarding their family members was seen as insensitive.
  • Following the failure of the breakdown of communication between the NSCN-IM and the Nagaland Governor, the Union Home Minister deputed a team of Intelligence Bureau officials to continue the discussions with the NSCN-IM.

-Source: The Hindu

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