April 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Sections 269 & 270 IPC invoked against those accused of spreading COVID-19Mains Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IPC sections mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : COVID-19 and its mitigation


Sections 269 & 270 IPC invoked are being invoked against persons who malignantly do any act which is likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life.

Sections 269 and 270 of the IPC

  • Sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) come under Chapter XIV of the IPC.
  • The chapter is named ‘Of Offences Affecting The Public Health, Safety, Convenience, Decency and Morals’.
  • While Section 269 provides for a jail term of six months and/or fine, Section 270 provides for a jail term of two years and/or fine.
  • In Section 270, the word ‘malignantly’ indicates a deliberate intention on the part of the accused.
  • During the coronavirus outbreak, penal provisions, such as Sections 188, 269 and 270 of the IPC, are being invoked to enforce the lockdown orders in various states.

Earlier instances of invocation

  • Both Sections have been used for over a century to punish those disobeying orders issued for containing epidemics.
  • The Sections were similarly enforced by colonial authorities during outbreaks of diseases such as smallpox and bubonic plague.
Bharat Emission Standards

Bharat Stage (BS) VI emission normsMains Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BS VI compliant fuels

Mains level : BS norms


Oil marketing companies have informed that there will definitely be a marginal increase in retail prices of the fuels from April 1. Starting April 1, Bharat Stage (BS) VI emission norms come into force. This will be an upgrade on the currently prevalent BS-IV and BS-III norms.

Why rise in Oil prices?

  • In effect, as India moves up the BS scale, automobiles become cleaner and greener but fuel will go costly.
  • Oil refiners have invested heavily to upgrade their refineries to produce the cleaner, BS-VI compliant fuel.
  • The increase in the pump price of fuel will partially offset this cost that the oil marketing companies have paid.
  • In effect, consumers will have to pay a little extra for auto fuel that is cleaner, and which, ultimately, is expected to lead to cleaner air.

The BS norms

  • The BS emission standards are norms instituted by the Indian government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles.
  • India has been following the European (Euro) emission norms, although with a time lag.
  • The more stringent the BS norm, lower is the tolerance for pollutants in automobile tailpipe emissions. Lower tailpipe emissions are the function of both more efficient engines, and cleaner fuels.

How is BS-VI fuel different from BS-IV fuel?

  • The main difference between BS-IV and BS-VI (which is comparable to Euro 6) is in the amount of sulphur in the fuel.
  • The lower the sulphur, the cleaner the fuel, so BS-VI fuel is essentially low-sulphur diesel and petrol.
  • BS-VI fuel is estimated to bring around an 80% reduction in sulphur content — from 50 parts per million (ppm) to 10 ppm.
  • Also NOx emissions from diesel cars are expected to come down by nearly 70% and, from cars with petrol engines, by 25%.

How will things change with the new fuels?

  • Cleaner fuel alone will not make a dramatic difference to air pollution.
  • For the full benefits to be experienced, the introduction of the higher grade fuel must go hand in hand with the rollout of BS-VI compliant vehicles as well.
  • While automakers will sell only BS-VI vehicles from April 1, all BS-IV vehicles sold before that date will stay on the road for as long as their registration is valid.
  • This, however, could be a concern because using BS-VI fuel in the current BS-IV engines (or conversely, running BS-VI engines on the current-grade fuel), may be both ineffective in curbing vehicular pollution, as well as damage the engine in the long run.

Back2Basics

History of BS norms in India

  • India introduced emission norms first in 1991, and tightened them in 1996, when most vehicle manufacturers had to incorporate technology upgrades such as catalytic converters to cut exhaust emissions.
  • Fuel specifications based on environmental considerations were notified first in April 1996, to be implemented by 2000, and incorporated in BIS 2000 standards.
  • Following the landmark Supreme Court order of April 1999, the Centre notified Bharat Stage-I (BIS 2000) and Bharat Stage-II norms, broadly equivalent to Euro I and Euro II respectively.
  • BS-II was for the National Capital Region and other metros; BS-I for the rest of India.
  • From April 2005, in line with the Auto Fuel Policy of 2003, BS-III and BS-II fuel quality norms came into existence for 13 major cities, and for the rest of the country respectively.
  • From April 2010, BS-IV and BS-III norms were put in place in 13 major cities and the rest of India respectively.
  • As per the Policy roadmap, BS-V and BS-VI norms were to be implemented from April 1, 2022, and April 1, 2024 respectively.
  • But in November 2015, the Road Transport Ministry issued a draft notification advancing the implementation of BS-V norms for new four-wheel vehicle models to April 1, 2019, and for existing models to April 1, 2020.
Kaveri River Water Dispute

Kalasa-Banduri Nala ProjectMains Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kalasa-Banduri Nala Project

Mains level : Mahadayei Water Dispute


 

The cost of Kalasa-Banduri Nala Project on the Mahadayi River skyrockets by 1,674% since inception. It rose from about ₹94 crores (2000) to ₹1,677.30 crores (2020) due to the ongoing inter-State river water dispute.

Kalasa-Banduri Nala Project

  • The project is undertaken by the Government of Karnataka to improve drinking water supply to the three districts of Belagavi, Dharwad, and Gadag.
  • It was planned in 1989; Goa raised an objection to it.
  • It involves building across Kalasa and Banduri, two tributaries of the Mahadayi river to divert water to the Malaprabha, a tributary of Krishna River.
  • Malaprabha river supplies the drinking water to Dharwad, Belgaum, and Gadag districts.

About Mahadayi Water Dispute

  • The Mahadayi river basin drains an area of 2032 square kilometres of which 375 square km lies in Karnataka, 77 sq km in Maharashtra and the remaining in Goa.
  • It originates in the Belagavi district of Karnataka, briefly passes through Maharashtra and flows through Goa (where its known as Mandovi), and drains to the Arabian Sea.
  • Since the eighties, Karnataka has been was contemplating linking of Mahadayi with Malaprabha river, a tributary of Krishna.
  • In 2002, Karnataka gave the idea a shape in the form of the Kalasa-Bhanduri project.
  • Goa strongly opposed it as Mahadayi is one of the two rivers the State is dependent on and thus Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal was set up in 2010.

Read more about the Mahadayi Dispute and award of the tribunal at:

Verdict of Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal Comes

History- Important places, persons in news

In news: 1946 Royal Indian Navy MutinyMains Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RIN Mutiny

Mains level : Significance of the Mutiny


 

Seventy-four years ago on February 18, 1946, some 1,100 Indian sailors or “ratings” of the HMIS Talwar and the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) Signal School in Bombay declared a hunger strike, triggered by the conditions and treatment of Indians in the Navy.

RIN Mutiny

  • A “slow down” the strike was also called, which meant that the ratings would carry out their duties slowly.
  • The morning after February 18, somewhere between 10,000-20,000 sailors joined the strike, as did shore establishments in Karachi, Madras, Calcutta, Mandapam, Visakhapatnam, and the Andaman Islands.
  • One of the triggers for the RIN strike was the arrest of a rating, BC Dutt, who had scrawled “Quit India” on the HMIS Talwar.
  • The day after the strike began, the ratings went around Bombay in lorries, waving the Congress flag, and getting into scraps with Europeans and policemen who tried to confront them.

Their demands

While the immediate trigger was the demand for better food and working conditions, the agitation soon turned into a wider demand for independence from British rule. The protesting sailors demanded:

  • release of all political prisoners including those from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (INA),
  • action against the commander for ill-treatment and using insulting language,
  • revision of pay and allowances to put RIN employees on a par with their counterparts in the Royal Navy,
  • demobilisation of RIN personnel with provisions for peacetime employment,
  • release of Indian forces stationed in Indonesia, and better treatment of subordinates by their officers

Upsurge of nationalism

  • The RIN strike came at a time when the Indian nationalist sentiment had reached fever pitch across the country.
  • The winter of 1945-46 saw three violent upsurges: in Calcutta in November 1945 over the INA trials; in February 1946, also in Calcutta, over the sentencing of INA officer Rashid Ali; and, in that same month, the ratings’ uprise in Bombay.
  • This chain of events led to the “mounting fever of excitement affecting the whole political climate”.
  • Soon, ordinary people joined the ratings, and life came to a virtual standstill in both Bombay and Calcutta. There were meetings, processions, strikes, and hartals.
  • In Bombay, labourers participated in a general strike called by the Communist Party of India and the Bombay Students’ Union. In many cities across India, students boycotted classes in solidarity.
  • The response of the state was brutal. It is estimated that over 220 people died in police firing, while roughly 1,000 were injured.

Significance of the events

  • The RIN revolt remains a legend today. It was an event that strengthened further the determination among all sections of the Indian people to see the end of British rule.
  • Deep solidarity and amity among religious groups was in evidence, which appeared to run counter to the rapidly spreading atmosphere of commuanal hatred and animosity.
  • However, communal unity was more in the nature of organisational unity than a unity among the two major communities.
  • Within months, India was to be devoured by a terrible communal conflagration.

Final nail in the coffin

  • This revolt was different from the other revolts in the sense that, after 1857 it was the first time that the British realized that the Royal Indian forces were no more obedient to the British commands and were in concurrence with the overall defiant nationalist sentiments prevailing in the entire country.
  • Mutinies are usually confined to a particular station, establishment or ship. However, this was the first instance when the entire service joined the revolt.
  • Most striking feature was that it was directed against the British government and not against superior officers – not a single officer, British or Indian, was harmed.
  • Fearless action by the masses was an expression of militancy in the popular mind. Revolt in the armed forces had a great liberating effect on the minds of people.
  • It displayed that the armed forces no longer obeyed the British authority rather it was the nationalist leaders who held sway over them. The RIN revolt was seen as an event marking the end of British rule.

Aftermath

  • The leaders realized that any mass uprising would inevitably carry the risk of not being amenable to centralized direction and control. Besides, now that independence and power were in sight, they were eager not to encourage indiscipline in the armed forces.
  • It was immediately after this revolt that PM Atlee dispatched the Cabinet Mission to India, so it is also inferred that the mutiny hastened the process of transfer of power to India.
  • It is also important to mention that the revolt came to an end after the nationalist leaders, Sardar Patel and Mohammad Ali Jinnah on receiving a request to intervene by the British, issued a statement calling upon the mutineers to surrender.
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Ujh Multi-purpose ProjectMains Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the Project, Indus Water Treaty

Mains level : Indus Water Treaty


 

The Union government has approved a nearly ₹6,000-crore multi-purpose project for the Ujh multi-purpose project.

Ujh Multi-purpose Project

  • The project will store around 781 million cubic meters of water of river Ujh, a tributary of river Ravi.
  • It aims to provide uninterrupted water for irrigation to farmers in J&K’s Kathua district and to produce power.
  • After completion of the project, utilization of waters of eastern rivers allotted to India as per the Indus Water Treaty would be enhanced by utilising the flow that presently goes across the border to Pakistan.

Back2Basics

Indus Waters Treaty, 1960

  • The IWT is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank signed in Karachi in 1960.
  • According to this agreement, control over the water flowing in three “eastern” rivers of India — the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej was given to India
  • The control over the water flowing in three “western” rivers of India — the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum was given to Pakistan
  • The treaty allowed India to use western rivers water for limited irrigation use and unrestricted use for power generation, domestic, industrial and non-consumptive uses such as navigation, floating of property, fish culture, etc. while laying down precise regulations for India to build projects
  • India has also been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through run of the river (RoR) projects on the Western Rivers which, subject to specific criteria for design and operation is unrestricted.

Present Status of Development

  • To utilize the waters of the Eastern rivers which have been allocated to India for exclusive use, India has constructed Bhakra Dam on Satluj, Pong and Pandoh Dam on Beas and Thein (Ranjitsagar) on Ravi.
  • These storage works, together with other works like Beas-Sutlej Link, Madhopur-Beas Link, Indira Gandhi Nahar Project etc has helped India utilize nearly entire share (95 %) of waters of Eastern rivers.
  • However, about 2 MAF of water annually from Ravi is reported to be still flowing unutilized to Pakistan below Madhopur.
  • The three projects will help India to utilize its entire share of waters given under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960:

I. Resumption of Construction of Shahpurkandi project

  • It is a dam project under construction on Ravi River.

II. Construction of Ujh multipurpose project

  • It is a dam project under construction on Ujh, a tributary of Ravi River.

III. 2nd Ravi Beas link below Ujh

  • This project is being planned to tap excess water flowing down to Pakistan through river Ravi, even after construction of Thein Dam.
  • It aims constructing a barrage across river Ravi for diverting water through a  tunnel link to Beas basin.
History- Important places, persons in news

Liberation of AuschwitzMains Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Liberation of Auschwitz


 

  • Yesterday on January 27th survivors of the Holocaust and international heads of state marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
  • During the Second World War, the government of Nazi Germany killed approximately 17 million people across Europe in half a dozen camps specifically designated for killings.
  • Of these seven killing centers, the camp at Auschwitz, perhaps the most well known, was the largest in size.

Why is January 27 an important date in Holocaust history?

  • During the final stages of the Second World War, months before the fall of Nazi Germany, Nazi officials began forcibly moving prisoners between the camps spread across Europe.
  • Called ‘Death Marches’, this forcible displacement on foot over long distances in the bitter cold, with little to no food resulted in many deaths.
  • Some researchers believe that prisoners were moved from camps to prevent the liberation of prisoners held inside these camps and to also remove evidence of crimes against humanity perpetrated by Nazi officials.
  • Prisoners who were very ill and disabled were left to die in the abandoned camps.

Rescue of Auschwitz

  • Allied forces advanced from the West while soldiers belonging to the Red Army of the Soviet Union began entering concentration camps and killing centers across Europe, liberating survivors.
  • The first camp that the Red Army soldiers liberated was the Majdanek camp in Poland in July 1944.
  • The Army entered Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, finding hundreds of sick, starving and exhausted prisoners, who had somehow survived.
  • In 2005, the UN-designated January 27 as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

What occurred during the liberation of Auschwitz?

  • Along with surviving prisoners, the Red Army also found hordes of items belonging to the prisoners that had been stripped from them by Nazi officials when they first arrived at Auschwitz.
  • The prisoners were so weak after having been starved for prolonged periods of time, that despite medical intervention, many died days after their rescue.
  • Several soldiers in the Red Army and in the Allied troops later gave testimonies concerning the sights that awaited them when they first entered the camps in Auschwitz and elsewhere.
  • Although Nazi officials had destroyed many warehouses and crematoria where property looted from prisoners had been stored and where bodies had been disposed, liberating troops still found evidence of the crimes and brutality perpetrated against the prisoners.

What made Auschwitz unique?

  • Historical records show that despite attempts by Nazi officials to obliterate prisoners, particularly those at Auschwitz, there were survivors who lived to provide testimony against Nazi officials.
  • Several factors set Auschwitz apart from other camps across Europe.
  • The camp at Auschwitz had originally been built to hold Polish political prisoners but by March 1942, it became one of the main centres for the Nazi’s Final Solution to the Jewish Question.

Aftermath of the Holocaust

  • Trials were held against Nazi officers and people who worked inside the camps in various capacities and perpetrated crimes against humanity in the camps of Auschwitz and elsewhere in Europe.
  • These individuals included both men and women, many who escaped accountability for their crimes after the fall of Nazi Germany.
  • To evade justice, many SS officers changed their identities and escaped to other parts of Europe, the US and to other parts of the world.
  • The camps at Auschwitz have become an important reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust and in 1947 the government of Poland made the site a state memorial.
  • In 1979, UNESCO added the Auschwitz memorial to its list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
History- Important places, persons in news

Operation AlberichMains Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Operation Alberich

Mains level : Treaty of Versailles and WWI


The recently released ‘1917’ movie tells the story of two British soldiers during the WWI in Operation Alberich, the strategic retreat in which their troops were taken back to the Hindenburg Line in 1917.

What was Operation Alberich?

  • Operation Alberich is considered among Germany’s most important operations on the Western Front in 1917, as well as one of its most extreme due to the ‘scorched earth’ policy employed.
  • In World War I (1914-18), the Allied Powers — principally France, the British Empire, Russia, Italy, Japan, and the US (after 1917) — fought and defeated the Central Powers — mainly Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey.
  • The war caused destruction and suffering on unprecedented levels, and only led to a bigger conflict, World War II, two decades later in 1939.
  • The war manoeuvre involved the systematic destruction of 1,500 square kilometres of French territory by the German army after it decided to retreat to a newly constructed defence line.
  • The German army leadership had decided that the war must shift temporarily to the shorter and more easily defensible Hindenburg Line. The Operation took place in February and March 1917.

Course of action

  • The shortening of the war front was drastic, and is considered the war’s biggest military construction project.
  • The planning for the approximately 130-km Hindenburg Line began in September 1916, and much of it was completed in four months from October — using 5,00,000 tonnes of rocks and gravel, over 1,00,000 tonnes of cement, and 12,500 tonnes of barbed wire.
  • The scorched earth policy, which laid to waste entire villages, roads, and bridges, was meant to destroy anything that the Allies could find useful.
  • The Operation saw the complete evacuation of the area’s civilian population.

Aftermath

  • The move is regarded as a tactical success for the Germans, as it took the Allies by surprise and delayed their advance, but is criticised for the disproportionate destruction that it caused.
  • It is considered a propaganda disaster for Germany, and was presented by the Allies as an example of “Hun barbarism”.
  • At the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed after the war, the Allies used Alberich to legitimize their claims for punitive reparations from Germany.
Special Category Status and States

Three capitals for Andhra Pradesh — its logic and the questions it raisesMains Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various committees mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Three capitals concept


 

The Andhra Pradesh Assembly passed The Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Equal Development of All Regions Bill, 2020, paving the way for three capitals for the state.

Three capitals concept in Andhra Pradesh

  • Three cities serve as capitals of the country– Pretoria (executive), Cape Town (legislative), and Bloemfontein (judicial).
  • This arrangement was a result of the Second Boer War (1899-1902) in which Britain annexed the two Afrikaner speaking states -– the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (also called Transvaal Republic).
  • Cape of Good Hope then remained in the British Empire, becoming self-governing in 1872, and uniting with three other colonies to form the Union of South Africa in 1910.

What are the other examples of multiple capital cities?

  • Several countries in the world have implemented the concept.
  • In Sri Lanka, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is the official capital and seat of national legislature, while Colombo is the de facto seat of national executive and judicial bodies.
  • Malaysia has its official and royal capital and seat of national legislature at Kuala Lumpur, and Putrajaya is the administrative centre and seat of national judiciary.
  • Among Indian states, Maharashtra has two capitals– Mumbai and Nagpur (which holds the winter session of the state assembly).
  • Himachal Pradesh has capitals at Shimla and Dharamshala (winter).
  • The former state of Jammu & Kashmir had Srinagar and Jammu (winter) as capitals.

Reasons behind such considerations

  • According to the government, decentralisation was the central theme in recommendations of all major committees that were set up to suggest a suitable location for the capital of Andhra Pradesh.
  • It had been agreed in the November 16, 1937 Sri Bagh Pact (between leaders of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema) that two university centres should be established in Waltair (Visakhapatnam) and Anantapur in Rayalaseema, and that the High Court and Metropolis should be in the coastal districts and Rayalaseema respectively.
  • In December 2010, the Justice B N Srikrishna Committee, set up to look into the demand for a Telangana state, said Rayalaseema and North Coastal Andhra were economically the most backward, and the “concentration of development efforts in Hyderabad is the key reason for demand of separate states”.
  • In August 2014, the K Sivaramakrishnan Committee appointed to identify locations for the new capital of AP said the state should see decentralised development, and that one mega capital city was not desirable.

Major practical problems

  • The government argues that the Assembly meets only after gaps of several months, and government Ministers, officers, and staff can simply go to Amaravati when required.
  • However, coordinating between seats of legislature and executive in separate cities will be easier said than done, and with the government offering no specifics of a plan, officers and common people alike fear a logistics nightmare.
  • The distances in Andhra Pradesh are not inconsiderable. Executive capital Visakhapatnam is 700 km from judicial capital Kurnool, and 400 km from legislative capital Amaravati.
  • The Amaravati-Kurnool distance is 370 km. The time and costs of travel will be significant.
  • The AP Police are headquartered in Mangalagiri, 14 km from Vijayawada, and senior IPS officers who may be required to visit the Secretariat will have to travel 400 km to Visakhapatnam.
  • Likewise, government officers who may have to appear in the High Court will have to travel 700 km to Kurnool, which does not have an airport.
  • All officers and Ministerial staff who may have to be at hand to brief Ministers when the Assembly is in session, will probably have to stay put in Amaravati, leaving behind their other responsibilities in Visakhapatnam.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Thawing of PermafrostMains OnlyPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Thermokarsts, Thawing of permafrost

Mains level : Impact of climate change on polar permafrost


 

A recent study makes a disturbing connection between the loss of Arctic sea ice and thawing (melting) of permafrost in the region, with global implications.

What is Permafrost?

  • ‘Permafrost’ or permanently frozen ground is land that has been frozen at or below 0 degrees Celsius for two or more consecutive years.
  • A staggering 17 per cent of Earth’s entire exposed land surface is comprised of permafrost.
  • Composed of rock, sediments, dead plant and animal matter, soil, and varying degrees of ice, permafrost is mainly found near the poles, covering parts of Greenland, Alaska, Northern Canada, Siberia and Scandinavia.
  • The Arctic region is a vast ocean, covered by thick ice on the surface (called sea ice), surrounded by land masses that are also covered with snow and ice.

Permafrost thawing

  • When permafrost thaws, water from the melted ice makes its way to the caves along with ground sediments, and deposits on the rocks.
  • In other words, when permafrost thaws, the rocks grow and when permafrost is stable and frozen, they do not grow.

Why thawing?

  • The link between the Siberian permafrost and Arctic sea ice can be explained by two factors:
  • One is heat transport from the open Arctic Ocean into Siberia, making the Siberian climate warmer.
  • The second is moisture transport from open seawater into Siberia, leading to thicker snow cover that insulates the ground from cold winter air, contributing to its warming.
  • This is drastically different from the situation just a couple of decades ago when the sea ice acted as a protective layer, maintaining cold temperatures in the region and shielding the permafrost from the moisture from the ocean.
  • If sea ice (in the summer) is gone, permafrost start thawing.

Impact on Climate Change

  • Due to relentlessly rising temperatures in the region, since the late-twentieth century, the Arctic sea ice and surrounding land ice are melting at accelerating rates.
  • When permafrost thaws due to rising temperatures, the microbes in the soil decompose the dead organic matter (plants and animals) to produce methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), both potent greenhouse gases.
  • CH4 is at least 80 times more powerful than CO2 on a decadal timescale and around 25 times more powerful on a century timescale.
  • The greenhouse gases produced from thawing permafrost will further increase temperatures which will, in turn, lead to more permafrost thawing, forming an unstoppable and irreversible self-reinforcing feedback loop.
  • Experts believe this process may have already begun. Giant craters and ponds of water (called ‘thermokarst lakes’) formed due to thawing have been recorded in the Arctic region. Some are so big that they can be seen from space.

Why a matter of concern?

  • An estimated 1,700 billion tonnes — twice the amount currently present in the atmosphere — of carbon is locked in all of the world’s permafrost.
  • Even if half of that were to be released to the atmosphere, it would be game over for the climate.
  • Scientific estimates suggest that the Arctic Ocean could be largely sea ice-free in the summer months by as early as 2030, based on observational trends, or as late as 2050, based on climate model projections.
Internal Security Trends and Incidents

Internet shutdowns in IndiaMains OnlyPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Internet shutdowns in India


Nowadays, India is widely considered to be a world leader in cutting off access to the Net. Yet, there are no detailed official data on Internet shutdowns in India.

Shutdowns in India

  • The cutting off internet access to control restive populations is an increasing trend around the world with India at the lead.
  • Of the 196 shutdowns in 25 countries documented by Access Now in 2018, as many as 134 were in India, followed by Pakistan (12).

Why such shut-downs?

  • Worldwide, Internet shutdowns are typically used when there is civil unrest, in order to block the flow of information about government actions or to end communication among activists and prevent the spread of rumours and fake news.
  • Internet serves as medium for the transmission of information through pictures, videos and text that have the potential to cause civil unrest and exacerbate the law and order situation.
  • Shutdown helps prevent the “spreading of rumours and misinformation using social media platforms which can hinder peace and law and order”.

States with most shutdowns

  • Jammu and Kashmir: The erstwhile state has seen 180 Internet shutdowns since 2012, according to SFLC.
  • The most commonly offered reasons for cutting access have been “encounter between security forces and militants”, “massive search operations”, “gunfights”, and “attack on CRPF men”.

Legal mechanisms allowing shut-downs

  • Home Departments in the states are mostly the authorities that enforce shutdowns, drawing powers from The Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017.
  • The decisions are reviewed by a state government review committee. The central government also has powers under this law, but has not used it.
  • Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has enabled many of the shutdowns in the recent past, especially until the time the telecom suspension Rules came into force in 2017.
  • It gives the District Magistrate, Sub-Divisional Magistrate or any other executive magistrate empowered by the state government the power to issue orders to “maintain public tranquility”.
  • Less frequently used is The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, whose Section 5(2) allows central and state governments to prevent the transmission of messaging during a “public emergency or in the interest of public safety”, or “in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state”, etc.

Economic cost to bear

  • Over the past five years, some 16,000 hours of Internet shutdowns cost the economy a little over $3 billion, according to estimates in a report by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).

Conclusion

  • The Internet is pretty much a basic human right, even if not legally defined as such, for most parts of the world — without access to the virtual world, a very large number of vital human activities simply stops.
  • Internet shutdowns leave people without access to information and other services that could be the difference between life and death.
  • It is in recognition of the Internet as a human right that the United Nations in 2016 passed a non-binding resolution condemning countries that disrupt Internet access to its citizens.

With inputs from: Scoopwhoop

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Population PyramidMains OnlyPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Population Pyramid

Mains level : India's demogrphic dividend



Context

  • Population pyramids, which show the age and sex distribution of any country, help us understand how demographic transition plays out and speculate about its medium-term economic prospects.
  • The newscard provides a look at the pyramids for India and China and their implications.

Reading the Pyramid

  • Generally, males are shown on the left-hand side and females on the right.
  • Also, the convention is that age distribution is done in cohorts of five years, with the age rising as we go vertically upwards.
  • The pyramid shape changes over time due to births, deaths and net migration. A quick look above shows that India’s pyramid, like the actual pyramids in Egypt, is bottom heavy.
  • That is, the Indian population has a larger proportion of children, teenagers and young adults compared to China’s.
  • We can also observe that except for the oldest groups, India seems to have more males than females for every cohort.

What do they say about demographics?

  • India’s population for the age cohorts of 0-4, 5-9, 10-14 and 15-19 is roughly equal, whereas the numbers for older groups become progressively smaller.
  • This means that the country’s younger age groups have stopped growing in numbers now and are likely to shrink slightly soon.
  • This, however, does not mean that India’s population will also start shrinking soon—far from it.
  • On the other hand, China’s largest cohort is in its late 40s, although it is more gender balanced than its younger cohorts, suggesting that sex-selective abortions are likely to have taken off in the last few decades.

What does this have to do with economic growth?

  • If we take the 25-65 age group, India currently has around 650 million people and China 830 million.
  • By 2040, India is likely to reach 900 million, whereas China will have around 730 million.
  • In other words, India will go from having 180 million less working-age people than China today to about 170 million more—a net gain of a third of a billion in 20 years.

Achieving demographic dividend

  • Just having people in the working age is not enough. How many are in the labour force and their productivity are important.
  • People pursuing education and home-makers are mostly the ones to drop out of the labour force, women more so.
  • But after a fall in female labour force participation for 10 years or so, there are early signs of improvement.
  • On productivity, Indians about to enter the 25+ age group have almost universal literacy across both the genders and many are “digital natives” even in lower income groups.

Implications for India

  • The Indian state has to invest more, and efficiently, in human capital and infrastructure.
  • For the former, investments in health and sanitation have to be sustained and more PPP models such as vouchers and charter schools in basic education have to be explored so that tax outlays result in higher outcomes.
  • For the latter, a bigger push for affordable rental housing in cities has to be considered, along with more investments in rail connectivity.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)Mains Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AMOC

Mains level : Impacts of oceanic warming



  • While greenhouse warming caused by human activity is heating up the Indian oceans, it is likely to boost a key system of currents in the Atlantic Ocean that plays a key role in determining the weather across the world.

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)

  • AMOC is sometimes referred to as the “Atlantic conveyor belt”.
  • It is one of the Earth’s largest water circulation systems where ocean currents move warm, salty water from the tropics to regions further north, such as western Europe and sends colder water south.
  • It aids in distributing heat and energy around the earth, as the warm water it carries releases heat into the atmosphere, and in absorbing and storing atmospheric carbon.

Why in news?

  • For thousands of years, AMOC has remained stable, but since the past 15 years, it has been weakening.
  • This change could have dramatic consequences for Europe and other parts of the Atlantic rim.

Impact of AMOC slowdown

  • AMOC last witnessed a slow down 15,000 to 17,000 years ago.
  • It caused harsh winters in Europe, with more storms or a drier Sahel in Africa due to the downward shift of the tropical rain belt.
  • The mere possibility that the AMOC could collapse should be a strong reason for concern in an era when human activity is forcing significant changes to the Earth’s systems.

Need for delaying AMOC slowdown

  • Researchers found that rising temperatures in the Indian Ocean can help boost the AMOC and delay slow down.
  • Warming in the Indian Ocean generates additional precipitation, which, in turn, draws more air from other parts of the world, including the Atlantic.
  • This higher level of precipitation in the will reduce precipitation in the Atlantic and increase salinity in the waters.
  • This saline water in the Atlantic, as it comes north via AMOC, will get cold much quicker than usual and sink faster, acting as a jump start for AMOC, intensifying the circulation.

Uncertainty ahead

  • Scientists don’t know for how long this enhanced warming in Indian Ocean will continue.
  • If other tropical oceans’ warming, especially the Pacific’s, catches up with the Indian Ocean, the advantage for AMOC will stop.
  • Moreover, it isn’t clear whether slowdown of AMOC is caused by global warming alone or it is a short-term anomaly related to natural ocean variability.
Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)Mains Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ZBNF

Mains level : Debate over efficiency of ZBNF


  • Addressing the COP14 to the UNCCD, PM mentioned that India was “focusing on Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)”.
  • The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) however, criticised the “unproven” technology of ZBNF citing no incremental value gain to either farmers or consumers.

ZBNF

  • ZBNF is a farming technique that seeks to bring down input costs for farmers by encouraging them to rely upon “natural products”, rather than spending money on pesticides and fertilisers.
  • The concept behind ZBNF is that over 98 per cent of the nutrients required by crops for photosynthesis — carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water, and solar energy — are already available “free” from the air, rain, and Sun.
  • Only the remaining 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent nutrients need to be taken from the soil, and converted from “non-available” to “available” form (for intake by the roots) through the action of microorganisms.
  • The idea is that since these too, need not be purchased, farming remains practically “zero-budget”.

Components of ZBNF

  • To help the microorganisms act, farmers must apply ‘Jiwamrita’ (microbial culture) and ‘Bijamrita’ (seed treatment solution).
  • It uses ‘mulching’ (covering plants with a layer of dried straw or fallen leaves) and ‘waaphasa’ (giving water outside the plant’s canopy) to maintain the right balance of soil temperature, moisture, and air.
  • To manage insects and pests, ZBNF recommends the use of ‘Agniastra’, ‘Brahmastra’ and ‘Neemastra’, which, like ‘Jiwamrita’ and ‘Bijamrita’, are based mainly on urine and dung of Indian cow breeds.

Arguments for

  • Proponents claim this system is also more environment-friendly, since it does not require chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
  • Apart from increasing crop yield and leading to healthier produce, this model can also help prevent farmer suicides.
  • Farmers fall into the debt trap mainly because input cost of agriculture is high, they claim, and ZBNF brings it down.

What is the criticism?

  • Scientists say there isn’t much evidence to support claims of the efficacy of ZBNF, and that giving up modified high-value seeds and fertilizers can actually hurt agriculture.
  • There is no verifiable data or authenticated results from any experiment for it to be considered a feasible technological option.
  • 78 per cent of air is nitrogen, but it is not freely available to plants.
  • Being non-reactive, atmospheric nitrogen has to be fixed into a plant-usable form such as ammonia or urea.
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Flooding has become a calendar event in IndiaMains Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Flooding - reasons


Rains have battered Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra leaving many dead and several missing. Parts of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Assam are also reeling under torrential rainfall.

Background

  1. Weather patterns are becoming increasingly unpredictable with every passing year leading to extreme heat, cold and flooding.
  2. This is the effect of climate change caused by years of carbon emissions and the exploitation of natural resources.
  3. Construction booms of the past few decades have taken a toll on wetlands and river valleys across states.
  4. Excessive use of concrete and the illegal encroachment of river banks and lakes have constricted natural drainage systems.

Way ahead

India must strengthen institutional capacity for disaster mitigation and relief

e-Commerce: The New Boom

Government unveils draft e-com normsMains Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Regulating e-commerce in India


  • To protect the interest of online shoppers, the Department of Consumer Affairs has released draft guidelines on e-commerce that state that an e-commerce entity cannot directly or indirectly influence the price of the goods or services.

E-commerce guidelines for consumer protection 2019

  • These are issued as guiding principles for e-commerce business for preventing fraud, unfair trade practices and protecting the legitimate rights and interests of consumers.
  • These guidelines apply to business-to-consumer e-commerce, including goods and services.
  • It added that every e-commerce entity needs to publish the name and contact details of the grievance officer on their website along with the mechanism by which users can lodge their complaints.
  • As per the draft, an e-commerce firm cannot falsely represent themselves as consumers or post reviews about goods and services in their name.
  • The draft guidelines adds that e-commerce firms need to ensure that personally identifiable information of customers is protected, is open for stakeholder comments for 45 days or till September 16, 2019.

Mandatory terms

  • Besides, it proposed to make it mandatory for firms to display terms of contract with the seller relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty/guarantee, delivery/shipment, mode of payments and grievance redressal mechanism to enable consumers to make informed decisions.
  • The draft also proposes that once an e-commerce firm comes to know about any counterfeit product, and if the seller is unable to provide any evidence that the product is genuine, the firm needs to take down the listing and notify the consumers of the same.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Sardine RunMains OnlyPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sardine Run, Phenology

Mains level : Climate change and its impact



Sardine Run

  • The sardine run is well known among residents of the KwaZulu-Natal coastline that runs along South Africa’s east coast.
  • Every year in winter, sardines migrate close to the shoreline. The event is well documented in the local press.
  • The sardine run is of great economic importance because it provides prime fishing opportunities and attracts large numbers of tourists who come for dolphin and shark sightings.
  • Similar migration patterns are seen in Sweden, Chile, and the Pacific Ocean.

A phenological event

  • The sardine run is what scientists term a “phenological event” — a biological event that occurs at the same time every year.
  • Phenological events are standard for plants and include the appearance of leaf and flower buds, blossoming, fruit development, fruit harvest and leaf colouration and fall.
  • For animals, the events are more varied and include hibernation, hatching, animal calls, moulting, and in the case of birds, game and fish (among others) migration.

Why is phenology so important?

  • Scientists have become very interested in phenology over the past few decades, because it’s one of the most sensitive biological indicators of climate change.
  • As temperatures increase, the plants or animals experience their triggers for spring earlier and their triggers for winter later.
  • As a result, many of these phenological events are occurring at different times of the year.

Nature’s biological clock

  • Phenological shifts are specific to species and location.
  • For example, Granny Smith apple trees are flowering approximately four days earlier for each 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature in Poland.
  • In South Africa, these Granny Smith apples are flowering two days earlier for each 1°C increase in temperature.
  • For many species these events are happening earlier. This is because they are spring events and, under climate change, the temperatures that are perceived by plants and animals to be the onset of spring are occurring in late winter.
  • For events that occur in autumn, the events are often occurring later, because the cooling that marks the start of winter has not yet occurred.

Why study Sardines?

  • A recently published paper reports sardine run between 1946 and 2012 the South African coast.
  • Researchers explored how the dates of the sardine run have changed over the 65-year period, and statistically examined oceanographic and climatological factors to determine the cause of this change.
  • It’s also known that climate affects the timing of phenological events globally, including marine environments.
  • The study found that sardines arrived off the coast of Durban increasingly late — at a rate of 1.3 days later per decade.

Why delay in sardines run?

  • Through analysis comparing the constructed phenological record with climate and ocean data, the study concluded that the delay could be caused by two things.
  • First, the ocean water is warmer. Sardines can tolerate a maximum surface temperature of 21°C. But this temperature isn’t being reached consistently at the same time every year due to changes in ocean temperature.
  • The second factor is mid-latitude cyclones. There have been an increasing number of these in the east coast region.

Why it matters

  • The delay is concerning. First, the large influx of sardines is important for the fishery industry.
  • If the sardine run occurs at an unexpected time, or doesn’t occur at all, supply chains are disrupted and fishermen are placed at economic risk.
  • The unpredictability is also a problem for tourism. The sardine run attracts visitors who are keen on shark and dolphin sightings and may leave disappointed.
  • The delays in the sardine run also result in food shortages for predators such as sharks, which feed on the sardines.
  • This is termed a species mismatch, and is increasingly observed as a result of climate change induced phenological shifts, where predators and their prey are no longer in the same place at the same time.
  • This is because each species has its own unique trigger for a particular activity.
FDI in Indian economy

US Federal Reserves rate cut and its impact on IndiaMains Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : USD inflow in India


  • The US Federal Reserve has announced a quarter-percentage-point cut in interest rates — the first rate cut by the US central bank in 11 years.

Why is US Fed’s rate-cut significant?

  • The cut in interest rates is the first time since the 2008 financial crisis.
  • What is ironic is that this move comes despite a strong US economy and indicators such as job market data showing renewed buoyancy.
  • The rate cut follows months of pressure from US President who has been pushing the American central bank for a cut in rates.

Impact on India

  • A rate cut cycle means a weaker dollar, which is good for the US but may not be so for the rest of the world.
  • It has been seen in the past that as the dollar weakens due to lower growth tendencies, the rupee has tended to strengthen which will pose a conundrum for us as exports will come under pressure.
  • The exports will be reduced due to lower global growth and a stronger rupee. This will not be good for the current account deficit (CAD).

Benefits

  • A rate cut in the US is good for emerging market economies and is projected to catalyse a debt and equity market rally in countries such as India.
  • Typically, emerging economies such as India tend to have higher inflation and thereby higher interest rates than those in developed countries such as the US and Europe.
  • As a result, investors would want to borrow money in the US at low-interest rates in dollar terms and then invest that money in bonds of emerging countries such as India in terms to earn a higher rate of interest.
  • When the US Fed cuts its interest rates, the difference between interest rates of the two countries increases, thus making India more attractive for the currency carry trade.
Right To Privacy

[op-ed of the day] The makings of a digital kleptocracyMains Onlyop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Data monetisation aspects


Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss at any cost.

CONTEXT

  • There has been public furore over the delay in the release of data, for example farmer suicides, suppression of data such as on employment, bungled migration data in the Census, and controversy over the methodology used to calculate GDP growth rates.
  • These data are the backbone of policy making in India.

Suggested Use of data

  • These three — information obtained through the RTI Act, administrative data and data collected by the statistical machinery of government — are examples of “data as a public good”.
  • But these are scarcely mentioned in a chapter so-titled in this year’s Economic Survey.
  • Instead, its focus is on the expanding digital footprint of people, falling costs of data generation and storage and the growing data mining industry.
  • The thrust is on how to monetise these data, for example by selling data that we share with the government in trust.
  • Another worrying suggestion is consolidation of our data across various ministries.

Problems with Data usage

1.Toxicity – 

  • Somewhere along the line, your mobile number and/or email ID got sold in the data market.
  • Even as most of us delete these, others get trapped.
  • A former Chief Justice of India was duped of ₹1 lakh recently as a result of a fraudulent email.
  • In Mumbai, identity fraud was perpetrated by accessing personal data (address, phone number and Aadhaar).
  • In phishing attacks in Rourkela, Odisha, fraudsters called bank customers asking for Aadhaar details to update their account, but used it to siphon off money.

2. Similar treatment like public services –

  • The Survey treats personal data (such as date of birth, mobile numbers and addresses) the same way as data on rainfall, temperatures and road networks.
  • In the examples above, the fraudsters had to get access to people’s data. The Survey is proposing that these be sold for a price.
  • In early July, the Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, informed Parliament that the department had earned ₹65 crore from the sale of vehicle registration and licence data.
  • Imagine the consequences of your health data being sold to private health insurance companies; or your data on your earnings being sold, or data being used in the way Cambridge Analytica did.

Other faultlines

If data can be toxic, centralising and consolidating it, as advocated by the Survey, increases its toxicity exponentially.

1.Centralising the data –

  • Contrary to the widely advocated principle of decentralised/disaggregated data silos as a first line of defence by data security experts, the Survey portrays decentralisation as an obstacle.
  • With decentralised data, data mining companies employ sophisticated tools to combine distinct data silos to create profiles of individuals.
  • Consolidating it, for example if a unique number such as Aadhaar links them, reduces the company costs for profiling and targeting.
  • Centralising it (in one data silo) means that a single data breach can compromise all aspects of your life.

2. Without Consent –

  • Often they are collected and shared without our consent or knowledge, for example, CCTVs or web browsing histories.
  • When our data are used by opaque algorithms to make crucial decisions about our lives, such as shortlisting for jobs, getting health insurance or whether you were speeding, we cannot question them.

Case study of Aadhar –

  • Given the government’s track record on Aadhaar, these laws are unlikely to protect citizen’s rights adequately.
  • Further, privacy and data protection laws will face unique implementation challenges in India.
  • This is on account of low levels of tech-digital and legal literacy combined with pre-existing social inequalities which directly bear upon power relations between us (as citizens/consumers) and them (government/corporations).

Conclusion

  • Even where such laws have been put in place, those societies/economies are grappling with the fallout of corporations whose practices can best be described as “digital kleptocracy”.
  • To understand this, take the example of lending and credit scores.
  • The literature documents unscrupulous use of algorithms to identify vulnerable targets such as search histories of single African American mothers in the United States that are used to sell them home or education loans which it is clear they are unlikely to be able to repay.
  • Thus, digital kleptocracy is a means by which rich tech companies mine poor people’s data,in fact, steal; in most cases the person is unaware of their data being harvested and used for profit.
  • What the Economic Survey advocates is not only for the government to facilitate such practices but also climb aboard this bandwagon of digital kleptocrats.
Issues related to Economic growth

[op-ed snap] Flee MarketMains Onlyop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Falling stock market and slowng growth are causes of worry


CONTEXT

The wheels of India’s multi-year stock market rally are slowly beginning to come off. Since the Union Budget was presented this month, there has been a palpable change in mood among investors, who in June led a mini-rally in the market as signs emerged one after another that the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be returning to power at the Centre.

Background

  • The Nifty and the Sensex are down roughly by about 5% since the Budget was presented.
  • Foreign portfolio investors have pulled out over ₹2,500 crore in July, in contrast to June when FPIs made a net investment of close to ₹10,400 crore. 
  • Investors who were quite enthusiastic about the prospects of structural reforms that could boost India’s economic growth under the second Modi government, have been quite disappointed by the Budget proposals.
  • Among other things, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman imposed new taxes on the “super rich” and on companies that buy back their own shares, and raised the mandatory minimum public shareholding in listed companies (a move that is seen to be against the interests of promoters).
  • Not surprisingly, investors have been taken aback by these measures, which are seen as increasing the burden on businesses.

Falling stock market

  • Even more worrying is the signal that is sent across by the falling stock market.
  • As stock prices discount the future, lacklustre market performance could well be a prelude to the further worsening of general economic conditions in the near term.
  • There is already a significant downturn in sectors such as automobile with major companies reporting falling sales and earnings, and automobile dealers closing down showrooms and slashing jobs.

Slowing growth

  • The overall gross domestic product growth, which slipped below 6% to hit 5.8% in the fourth quarter, has also been slowly catching up with the bleak picture painted by high-frequency economic indicators for quite some time.
  • The underlying turmoil in Indian markets becomes evident when one looks beyond the Sensex and the Nifty at the mid-cap and small-cap space that has witnessed significant value erosion since the start of 2018.
  • The small-cap index has lost almost a third of its value since January 2018 while the mid-cap index has lost about a fifth of its value.

Conclusion

Interestingly, many industrialists who were previously enthusiastic cheerleaders for the Narendra Modi government have turned vocal about their disappointment at the government not being bold enough in pushing through structural reforms needed to boost economic growth despite the majority it enjoys in Parliament. This suggests the deep sell-off in stocks over the last 18 months may well be a sign of disappointed investors voting with their feet.

Tiger Conservation Efforts – Project Tiger, etc.

[op-ed snap] Burning bright: on India’s tiger censusMains Onlyop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Aunthenticity of tiger census


CONTEXT

If India has increased its population of tigers to an estimated 2,967 individuals in 2018-19, putting behind fiascos such as the Sariska wipeout 15 years ago, it adds to its global standing as a conservation marvel: a populous country that has preserved a lot of its natural heritage even amid fast-paced economic growth.

Background

  • Since the majority of the world’s wild tigers live in India, there is global attention on the counting exercise and the gaps the assessment exposes.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has asserted in its report, ‘Status of Tigers in India 2018’, that 83% of the big cats censused were individually photographed using camera traps, 87% were confirmed through a camera trap-based capture-recapture technique, and other estimation methods were used to establish the total number.
  • Previous estimates for periods between 2006 and 2010 and then up to 2014 indicated a steady increase in tiger abundance.

The debate regarding the numbers

  • Such numbers, however, are the subject of debate among sections of the scientific community, mainly on methodological grounds, since independent studies of even well-protected reserves showed a lower increase.
  • It is important to put all the latest data, which are no doubt encouraging, through rigorous peer review.
  • Conservation achievements — and some failures — can then be the subject of scientific scrutiny and find a place in scientific literature to aid efforts to save tigers.
Present time situation
  • There are several aspects to the latest counting operation — a staggering exercise spread over 3,81,400 sq km and 26,838 camera trap locations — that are of international interest, because some tiger range countries are beginning their own census of the cats.
  • Moreover, even developed countries are trying to revive populations of charismatic wild creatures such as wolves and bears through a more accurate outcome measurement.
  • For India’s tigers, not every landscape is welcoming, as the official report makes clear.
Divergences in population
  • The less accessible Western Ghats has witnessed a steady increase in numbers from 2006, notably in Karnataka, and Central India has an abundance, but there is a marked drop in Chhattisgarh and Odisha; in Buxa, Dampa and Palamau, which are tiger reserves, no trace of the animal was found.
  • It is imperative for the NTCA to analyse why some landscapes have lost tigers, when the entire programme has been receiving high priority and funding for years now at ₹10 lakh per family that is ready to move out of critical habitat.
Conclusion
  • Ultimately, saving tigers depends most on the health of source populations of the species that are estimated to occupy a mere 10% of the habitat.
  • The conflict in opening up reserves to road-building has to end, and identified movement corridors should be cleared of commercial pressures.
  • Hunting of prey animals, such as deer and pig, needs to stop as they form the base for growth of tiger and other carnivore populations.
  • As some scientists caution, faulty numbers may hide the real story.
  • They may only represent a ‘political population’ of a favoured animal, not quite reflective of reality.