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April 2019

Tribes in News

Wild Food Plants


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WFP and their nutrients content mentioned, Soliga Tribals

Mains level : Utility of traditional knowledge of tribals

Wild food plants (WFPs)

  • WFPs which are neither cultivated nor domesticated constitute a special category.
  • They grow wild in forests as well as in farmlands and are harvested by local people as sources of food.
  • The tradition of eating WFPs, to augment staple food crops, continues in the present day.
  • For forest- dwelling communities, forests remain the main source of food, nutrition, and livelihoods even today.
  • The Soliga tribe is one such community in the Western Ghats who use their indigenous tradition of eating WFPs, to augment staple food crops

Soligas and their traditional knowledge

  • The Soligas are one of few remaining forest-dwelling tribes in and around the forests of Biligiri Ranganath (BR) Hills, MM Hills, and Bandipur in Karnataka and the Sathyamangalam forests in Tamil Nadu.
  • The study revealed that the diversity of WFPs consumed by the Soligas evolved over generations as a survival strategy.
  • They relate the usage of WFPs to seasonal plant availability and the status of resources.
  • These tribals can even predict the availability of WFPs with respect to micro-climatic changes, indicating a long-term intimate knowledge of their surroundings.
  • In addition to their role in balancing food baskets of the poor, WFPs play an important role in maintaining the nutritional and livelihood security for forest communities during periods of drought or scarcity.

Examples of WFPs

  • According to Soligas, they get a variety of mushrooms, tender bamboo shoots, and fruits like Jamune, Karanada, wood apple, custard apple and several varieties of leaves during the rainy season.
  • Honey and tubers like Dioscorea, makal and many ceropegia are harvested throughout the year.
  • In the hot dry summers, the Soligas use leaves and fruits like mango, jackfruit, amla, bel and tamarind.
  • Except rice, another staple food of Soligas which they grow, the forests give them everything else.

Why WFPs?

  • For example, edible leaves such as Kaddisoppu and Javanesoppu available in the forest have a very high content of pro-vitamin A (Beta Carotene), anti-oxidants and soluble protein.
  • It is found that the leaves are rich in digestible iron, zinc, and manganese as well.
  • Tubers and fruits from the forest that are rich in vitamins and anti-oxidant, are in high demand in local markets.
  • Some of the tubers and mushrooms also have high iron, zinc, vitamins and anti-oxidant content that is vital for nutritional security.

Threats to WFPs

  • Despite their role in food security, forests are mostly left out of policy decisions related to food security and nutrition.
  • Forest foods are in high demand, both in tribal community markets and nearby rural markets.
  • Though this may appear an opportunity for economic empowerment of tribal communities, if not managed, over-harvesting could lead to degradation of the forests and ultimately, disappearance of these very species.
  • Activities such as stone quarrying, mining and development pose grave threats to WFPs.
  • The other threat is from commercial monoculture plantations on forestland under afforestation and social forestry programmes, which are crowding out these wild species.

Way forward

  • For WFPs to be preserved for posterity, the forests must be co-managed by tribal communities.
  • For the tribal communities, the forest is not just a source of food, but is also a part of their identity.
  • Their way of life is respectful of nature and recognizes diversity in its different manifestations.
  • The tribal community’s relationship with the forest is one of belonging rather than ownership.
  • Community forest management is good for the health of the forests.
  • Implementation of India’s landmark 2006 Forest Rights Act that offers provisions to involve communities in safeguarding forest resources and developing co-management plans is needed.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Emperor Penguin colony in Antarctica vanishes


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Emperor Penguin, Halley Bay

Mains level : Consequences of climate change

  • The Antarctic’s second-largest colony of emperor penguins collapsed in 2016, with more than 10,000 chicks lost, and the population has not recovered, according to a new study.
  • Still, the population in Halley Bay represents only about 8% of the world’s population of emperor penguins.

Habitat loss leads to breeding failure

  • Emperor penguins — the world’s largest — breed and molt on sea ice, chunks of frozen seawater.
  • Under the influence of the strongest El Niño in 60 years, September 2015 was a particularly stormy month in the area of Halley Bay, with heavy winds and record-low sea ice.
  • The penguins generally stayed there from April until December when their chicks fledged or had grown their feathers, but the storm occurred before the chicks were old enough.
  • Those conditions appeared to have led to the loss of about 14,500 to 25,000 eggs or chicks that first year and the colony has not rebounded.

About Emperor Penguin

  • The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica.
  • Like all penguins it is flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat.
  • Its diet consists primarily of fish, but also includes crustaceans, such as krill, and cephalopods, such as squid.
  • The only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter, emperor penguins trek 50–120 km over the ice to breeding colonies which can contain up to several thousand individuals.
  • In 2012 the emperor penguin was uplisted from a species of least concern to near threatened by the IUCN.

Halley Bay

  • Halley Research Station is an internationally important platform for global earth, atmospheric and space weather observation in a climate sensitive zone.
  • Built on a floating ice shelf in the Weddell Sea, Halley VI is the world’s first re-locatable research facility.
  • This award-winning and innovative research station provides scientists with state-of-the-art laboratories and living accommodation, enabling them to study pressing global problems from climate change and sea-level rise to space weather and the ozone hole – first discovered at Halley in 1985.

RBI Notifications

Supreme Court directs RBI to alter disclosure policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : RBI and autonomy issue

  • The Supreme Court gave the RBI “a last opportunity” to withdraw a November 2016 Disclosure Policy to the extent to which it stonewalls revelation of every other kind of information under the Right to Information Act, including the list of willful defaulters and annual inspection reports.

Last warning to RBI

  • The policy was found to be directly contrary to the court’s judgment of December 2015 that the Reserve Bank could not withhold information sought under the RTI Act.
  • The 2015 judgment had rejected the RBI’s argument that it could refuse information sought under the RTI on the grounds of economic interest, commercial confidence, fiduciary relationship or public interest.
  • The court had observed that there was “no fiduciary relationship between the RBI and the financial institutions”.
  • The court, in 2015, reminded the RBI that it had the statutory duty to uphold the interests of the public at large, the depositors, the economy and the banking sector.

Why did RBI refuse?

  • The RBI had refused to provide information to the petitioner, claiming “fiduciary relationship” between itself and the banks in question.
  • Such information, the regulator had then said, was exempted from being revealed under Section 8(1) (d) and (e) of the RTI Act.
  • Section 8 allows the government to withhold from public some information in order to “guard national security, sovereignty, national economic interest, and relations with foreign states”.
  • The information to the petitioners was denied by the RBI despite orders from the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) to do so.

RBI Notifications

RBI divests entire stake in NHB, NABARD


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NABARD, NHB

Mains level : Disinvestment processes in India

  • The RBI has divested its remaining stake in the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and National Housing Bank (NHB) in February and March this year.
  • The government now fully owns these two financial institutions.
  • The RBI once held 100 per cent shareholding in NHB, which was divested on March 19, 2019.


  • NABARD is an apex development financial institution in India, headquartered at Mumbai with regional offices all over India.
  • It is India’s specialised bank in providing credit for Agriculture and Rural Development in India.
  • The Bank has been entrusted with “matters concerning policy, planning and operations in the field of credit for agriculture and other economic activities in rural areas in India”.
  • It was established on the recommendations of B.Sivaraman Committee on 12 July 1982 to implement the NABARD Act 1981.
  • NABARD supervises State Cooperative Banks (StCBs), District Cooperative Central Banks (DCCBs), and Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) and conducts statutory inspections of these banks.

About National Housing Bank

  • NHB is an All India Financial Institution (AIFl), set up in 1988, under the National Housing Bank Act, 1987.
  • The National Housing Policy, 1988 has envisaged the setting up of NHB as the Apex level institution for housing.
  • It is an apex agency established to operate as a principal agency to promote housing finance institutions both at local and regional levels.
  • It aims to provide financial and other support incidental to such institutions and for matters connected therewith.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2019


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2019

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • The Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) report 2019 was recently published.

Global Talent Competitiveness Index

  • Launched in 2013, the GTCI is an annual benchmarking report that measures the ability of countries to compete for talent.
  • The report, which covers 125 economies and 114 cities, is based on research conducted by in partnership with The Adecco Group and Tata Communications.
  • It aims to advance the current debate around entrepreneurial talent, providing practical tools and approaches to leverage the full potential of individuals and teams as an engine and a basis for innovation, growth, and ultimately competitiveness.

Performance worldwide

  • In the 2019 GTCI, six Asia-Pacific countries rank in the top 30: Singapore takes the lead in the region (2nd globally), followed by New Zealand (11th), Australia (12th), Japan (22nd), Malaysia (27th) and South Korea (30th).
  • Top-ranking countries share several characteristics; including having talent growth and management as a central priority, openness to entrepreneurial talent, open socio-economic policies as well as strong and vibrant ecosystems around innovation.
  • Singapore continues to occupy the top spot in Asia Pacific. It is the highest-ranked country in three of the six pillars – Enable, Attract, and Global Knowledge Skills.
  • It is also one of the strongest performers with respect to the pillar on Vocational and Technical Skills. However, it ranks low in Retain, signifying its relative weakness in retaining talent.

India’s Performance

  • India remains the laggard in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) region.
  • It was ranked 80 even as Singapore retained its leading position in the Asia-Pacific region for the sixth consecutive year.
  • It performs better than its lower-income peers when it comes to growing talent, primarily by virtue of the possibilities for Lifelong Learning and Access to Growth Opportunities.
  • An above-average Business and Labour Landscape and Employability raise the scores of the pillars related to Enable and Vocational and Technical Skills that are otherwise hampered by the remaining sub-pillars, the report said.

Challenges to India

  • Notwithstanding the scope for improvement across the board, India’s biggest challenge is to improve its ability to Attract and Retain talent.
  • Above all, there is a need to address its poor level of Internal Openness —in particular with respect to weak gender equality and low tolerances towards minorities and immigrants.