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16th September 2022

The Big Seven cats

Context

The latest positive development of re-introduction of Cheetah in India makes it important to know about the ‘seven big cats’ around the world.

Tiger, lion, leopard, and snow leopard are found in India.

The Seven Big Cats are:

  1. Tiger
  2. Lion
  3. Jaguar
  4. Leopard
  5. Snow leopard
  6. Cougar
  7. Cheetah

About

Tiger (Panthera Tigris)

  • Tiger, (Panthera tigris) is the largest member of the cat family (Felidae) and also the earliest Panthera member to exist.
  • Primarily a forest animal, they range from the Siberian taiga to the Sunderban delta.
  • In the wild, tigers are found in India, Nepal, China, Russia, Bhutan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Sumatra (Indonesia) and Malaysia.
  • It is the national animal of India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and South Korea.
  • Status: Endangered

The five surviving sub species of tiger are 

  • Indian Tiger or Royal Bengal Tiger(Panthera tigris tigris) found in India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh; 
  • Indo-Chinese tiger(Panthera tigris corbetti) mainly found in Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia but are also found in Myanmar, Southern China, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam; 
  • Siberian or Amur Tiger(Panthera tigris altaica) found in far east Russia;
  • Sumatran Tiger(Panthera tigris sumatrae) found in the Indonesian island of Sumatra; 
  • South China Tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) found in China. The population found in Peninsular Malaysia has been given a status of separate sub species Panthera tigris jacksoni. 

  • The three sub species of tigers that became extinct in the past century are:
    • the Bali Tiger (Panthera tigris balica) 
    • the Javan Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) 
    • the Caspian Tiger (Panthera tigris virgata)

Lion (Panthera Leo)

  • Lions are known as the "king of beasts" or king of the jungle". They are the second largest cats in the world after tigers.
  • The lion is the most social cat, and lives in groups called prides. They prefer open forests such as scrubland.
  • There are two broad types of lions: the African lion and the endangered Asiatic lion
  • In 2020, the population of Asiatic lions has increased by almost 29% in Gujarat's Gir forests.
  • The lion is arguably the most widely recognised animal symbol in human culture — be it the Ashoka pillar in Sarnath, the main entrance to Buckingham Palace, or the 20th Century Fox and MGM logo.

Jaguar (Panthera Onca)

  • The largest cat in the Americas, the Jaguar has the strongest bite force of all wild cats, enabling it to bite directly through the skull of its prey.
  • Melanistic (black) Jaguars are common and are often called black panthers.
  • Jaguars are found in South and Central America, preferring wet lowland habitats, swampy savannas, and tropical rain forests.
  • The jaguar is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red Listacross its entire range.
  • The jaguar is the most water-loving cat in the big cat family.

Leopard (Panthera Pardus)

  • The leopard is similar in appearance to the jaguar but has a smaller and lighter physique.
  • The spots on its coat are smaller and more densely packed than those of the jaguar.
  • The leopard has the widest distribution range of all wild cats.
  • The leopard is under threat and listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red Listacross its range.

Snow leopard (Panthera Uncia)

  • Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are considered medium-sized cats, standing about 24 inches at the shoulder and weighing around 30-55kg.
  • Status:The snow leopard is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN-World Conservation Union’s Red List of the Threatened Species.
    • In addition, the snow leopard, like all big cats, is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which makes trading of animal body parts (i.e., fur, bones and meat) illegal in signatory countries.
    • It is also protected by several national laws in its range countries.
  • Habitat:Snow leopards can be found throughout high mountain ranges, including the Himalayas and the southern Siberian Mountains in Russia.
    • They can also be found in the Tibetan Plateau and across a range that stretches from China to the mountains of Central Asia.
    • In India, their geographical range encompasses a large part of the western Himalayas including the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas. 
    • The snow leopard is the state animal of Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh.

Cougar (Puma concolor)

  • Closely related to the domestic cat, this genus has only one extant species, the cougar.
  • The cougar is the second-largest cat in the Americas. (The Jaguar is the largest.)
  • Cougars are also called ‘mountain lion’ and ‘panther’ across their range from the Canadian Yukon to the Southern Andes.
  • Concolor is latin for “of uniform colour”.
  • Status: Least Concern


Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

  • The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is one of the oldest of the big cat species, with ancestors that can be traced back more than five million years to the Miocene era.
  • The cheetah is also the world’s fastest land mammal.
  • It is listed as vulnerable in IUCN red listed species.
  • The country’s last spotted feline died in Chhattisgarh in 1947. Later, the cheetah — which is the fastest land animal — was declared extinct in India in 1952.
  • The Asiatic cheetah is classified as a “critically endangered” species by the IUCN Red List, and is believed to survive only in Iran.
  • The cheetah is the only cat without retractable claws.

How cheetahs went extinct in India?

  • The cheetah is the only large carnivore to have gone extinct in India, primarily due to hunting and habitat loss.
  • Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo of Korea, Madhya Pradesh, is widely believed to have killed the last three recorded cheetahs in India in 1947.
  • In 1952, the Indian government officially declared the Cheetah extinct in the country.

Cheetah in Indian History:

  • The earliest available record for cheetahs being used for hunts in India, comes from the 12th century Sanskrit text Manasollasa, which was produced by the KalyaniChalukya rulerSomeshvara III (reigned from 1127-1138 CE).
  • According to the wildlife expert, “Cheetah coursing” or the use of trained cheetahs for hunting had become a highly specialized activity in the medieval period and was carried out on a large scale during the Mughal Empire.
  • Emperor Akbar, who reigned from 1556-1605, was particularly fond of the activity and is recorded to have collected 9,000 cheetahs in total.
  • AbulFazl, Akbar’s chief courtier, noted that the emperor had devised a new method to capture cheetahs. Akbar is said to have used shallow pits with an automatic trap door which would close after they fell inside.
  • The capture of wild cheetahs for hunting and the difficulty to breed them in captivity was leading to a decline in the cheetah population, even before the entry of the British.
  • Unlike the Mughals, the British were not very interested in coursing with the cheetahs. Rather, they preferred to hunt big game, such as tigers, bison and elephants.
  • Under the British Raj, forests were extensively cleared, so as to develop settlements and to set up indigo, tea and coffee plantations.
  • This further resulted in the loss of habitat for big cats, contributing to their decline.

Maharaja Hari Singh’s birth anniversary as public holiday

Context

In Jammu and Kashmir, the Government has decided to declare Maharaja Hari Singh’s birth anniversary, September 23 as a public holiday.

About

Maharaja Hari Singh:

  • He was born on 23 September 1895 in Jammu. He was the son of Raja Amar Singh Jamwal whose brother Pratap Singh was the king of the state.
  • Maharaja Hari Singh was a great educationist, progressive thinker, social reformer and a towering man of ideas and ideals. 

Education

  • When Hari Singh’s father died in 1909, the British took a keen interest in his studies.
  • After his basic education in Mayo College in Ajmer, Rajasthan, Singh went to the British-run Imperial Cadet Corps in Dehradun for military training.

Throne accession

  • At the age of 30, Singh ascended the throne of the Maharaja of J&K when his uncle Pratap Singh passed away in 1925.

Important Measures undertaken by Hari Singh

  • After Hari Singh ascended the throne, he took many measures. The Muslim population of the state was quite disenfranchised till his arrival.
  • Hari Singh introduced rules under which children were forced to receive modern education in what came to be known as Jabri schools. (Jabar means force)
  • Hari Singh also wanted to restructure the state bureaucracy to improve governance.
  • With this purpose in mind, he started to import bureaucrats from other parts of British India especially Bengal. 
  • The Kashmiri Pandits under the Dogra regime were highly educated and intellectually very strong. They knew that importing officials from Bengal would have long-term ramifications on governance and policy, hence they resisted.
  • A popular uprising against Hari Singh began in 1931 when Abdul Qadeer of Swat (Modern Day Pakistan), an employee of an English army officer, was put on trial for treason and conspiracy to overthrow the regime.
  • Though Hari Singh largely contained the rebellions between 1931 and 1947, his real test came with the partition of British India.

After Partition Situation

  • Hari Singh, backed by his administration, wanted J&K to remain an independent region, espoused by his Prime Minister Ram Chandra Kak.
  • But, according to the two-nation theory, the state, was supposed to join Pakistan on account of the princely state being a Muslim majority.
  • Hari Singh even signed a Stand Still agreement with Pakistan in order to maintain status quo till the final decision on Kashmir was agreed upon. India, however, did not sign the agreement.
  • In the meantime, people from Chenab Valley’s Poonch region, in June 1947, raised arms against Hari Singh’s Dogra soldiers even as the subcontinent was engulfed with communal riots.
  • The rebellion was carried out mostly by former Muslim soldiers of the British Army who had returned from the First World War.
  • The rebellion in Poonch region of J&K followed by a brutal crackdown by Singh’s forces gave the newly-created Pakistan pretence to send over tribal militias.
  • For long, the Indian state maintained that the tribal militias were Pakistani troopers. The intervention by Pakistan is now known as “Kabail raid” in local parlance.
  • Hari Singh, who had till then successfully maneuvered his way between India and Pakistan to remain independent, was caught in a fix.
  • Under pressure from the Nehru government to allow Indian troops in Kashmir to defend the region and the insurgency in Poonch, Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession to join India, reluctantly.
  • In 1952, Hari Singh’s rule as the Maharaja was terminated.
  • Hari Singh died in Bombay on 26 April 1961.



International Day of Democracy 2022

Context

September 15th is celebrated annually across the world as International Day of Democracy.

About

International Day of Democracy:

  • The day is observed globally to mark the importance of democracy and create awareness among people about democratic rights.
  • The ideal of democracy can only be realised as a reality to be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere with full participation, cooperation, and support of the international community, civil society, national governing bodies, and individuals.
  • According to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. 
  • The International Day of Democracy has been established to create awareness among people so that they understand the importance of protection and effective realization of human rights.
  • History: The International Day of Democracy was established after a resolution was passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007. 
    • According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the resolution was geared toward strengthening and consolidating democracy.
    • The International Day of Democracy was first celebrated in 2008 and since then, numerous parliamentary events have been organised worldwide.
  • Theme: The theme for International Day of Democracy 2022 is “the importance of media freedom to democracy, peace, and delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU):

  • IPU is global inter-parliamentary institution.
  • It was established in 1889 and was the first permanent forum for political multilateral negotiations.
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Its initial objective was arbitration of conflicts.
  • It played important role in setting up Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
  • Over time, its mission has evolved towards promotion of democracy and inter-parliamentary dialogue.
  • It has worked for establishment of institutions at inter-governmental level, including UN.
  • Initially, IPU was for individual parliamentarians, but has since transformed into international organization of parliaments of sovereign states.
  • The national parliaments of 178 countries are its members and 14 regional parliamentary assemblies are its associate members.
  • The IPU has permanent observer status at UNGA.
  • Slogan of IPU is “For democracy. For everyone.”

Atomic Clocks

Context

Given the technological advances of the present, we need clocks that will keep time to a very high accuracy. The answer to this requirement is the ‘atomic clock’.

About

Atomic Clock:

  • An atomic clock is a clock that uses the resonance frequencies of atoms as its resonator.
  • A clock is simply an apparatus that counts a repetitive event, e.g. in a mechanical clock, a pendulum might swing once every second and by counting the number of swings, one knows how many seconds have passed.
  • Atomic clocks use atoms, more precisely the electronic transition from one state to another as their ‘pendulum’.
  • They take advantage of the fact that all atoms of a particular element (e.g. Caesium and Rubidium) have the same electron configuration. 
  • In 1945, Columbia University physics professor Isidor Rabi suggested that a clock could be made from a technique he developed in the 1930s called atomic beam magnetic resonance.
  • By 1949, the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) announced the world’s first atomic clock using the ammonia molecule as the source of vibrations.
  • By 1952 it announced the first atomic clock using cesium atoms as the vibration source, NBS-1.
  • With an error of only 1 second in up to 100 million years, atomic clocks are among the most accurate timekeeping devices in history.

Types of Atomic Clocks:

There are different types of atomic clocks, the principle behind all of them remains the same. The major difference is associated with the element used and the means of detecting when the energy level changes.

The various types of atomic clocks include:

  • Cesium atomic clocks employ a beam of cesium atoms. The clock separates cesium atoms of different energy levels by magnetic field.
  • Hydrogen atomic clocksmaintain hydrogen atoms at the required energy level in a container with walls of a special material so that the atoms don't lose their higher energy state too quickly.
  • Rubidium atomic clocks, the simplest and most compact of all, use a glass cell of rubidium gas that changes its absorption of light at the optical rubidium frequency when the surrounding microwave frequency is just right.

Why Do We Need Atomic Clocks?

  • Some 400 atomic clocks around the world contribute to the calculation of International Atomic Time (TAI), one of the time standards used to determine Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and local times around the world.
  • Satellite navigation systems like GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo also rely on precise time measurements to calculate positions accurately.

Some Definitions

  • Atomic Clock - A precision clock that depends for its operation on an electrical oscillator regulated by the natural vibration frequencies of an atomic system (as a beam of cesium atoms)
  • Atom - The smallest particle of an element that can exist either alone or in combination; the atom is considered to be a source of vast potential energy
  • Cesium 133 - An isotope of cesium used especially in atomic clocks and one of whose atomic transitions is used as a scientific time standard
  • SI Second (atomic second) - The interval of time taken to complete 9,192,631,770 oscillations of the cesium 133 atom exposed to a suitable excitation

Iran to join SCO

Context

Iran has moved a step closer towards becoming a permanent member of a China and Russia-dominated Asian security body, SCO.

About

About Shanghai Cooperation Organization:

  • SCO is a permanent intergovernmental international organization.
  • It’s a Eurasian political, economic and military organization aiming to maintain peace, security, and stability in the region.
  • It was created in 2001. Prior to the creation of SCO in 2001, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan were members of the Shanghai Five.
  • The SCO Charter was signed in 2002 and entered into force in 2003.
  • India and Pakistan became members in 2017.
  • SCO Secretariat – Based in Beijing to provide informational, analytical & organizational support.
  • The aim of SCO is to establish cooperation between member nations on:
    • Security-related concerns
    • Resolving border issues
    • Military cooperation
    • Intelligence sharing
    • Countering terrorism
    • Countering American influence in Central Asia
  • The 2022 annual summit of the SCO is being held in Samarkand (Samarkand also known as Samarqand, is a city in south-eastern Uzbekistan).
  • India will be the next chair of the organisation.

Members countries of SCO

8 Member States

4 Observer States 

6 Dialogue Partners

China

India

Kazakhstan

Kyrgyzstan

Russia

Pakistan

Tajikistan

Uzbekistan

Afghanistan

Belarus

Iran

Mongolia

Armenia

Azerbaijan

Cambodia

Nepal

Sri Lanka

Turkey

What significance the 2022 SCO summit hold for India?

  • While it is the first time since the pandemic, when SCO leaders will be meeting in person, the meet is also going to be a first of many others.
  • The meet will be a crucial balancing step for India in view of Russia's war with the eyes of the US on the summit.
  • The summit and the Modi-Putin meeting will also coincide with the kicking in of the G7's price cap on Russian oil.
  • As India will assume the presidency of the SCO until September 2023, the organisation could also be a vocal platform for New Delhi to push the agenda of regional and cross-regional connectivity.
  • India can also use the summit to push for the Chabahar port project and International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

UNEP launches digital platform to encourage sustainable marine tourism

Context

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), along with UK-based charity Reef-World Foundation, recently launched the Green Fins Hub, a global digital platform they said would give sustainable marine tourism a ‘major boost’.

About

About Green Fins

  • Green Fins is a proven conservation management approach which leads to a measurable reduction in the negative environmental impacts associated with the marine tourism industry.
  • It is spearheaded by The Reef-World Foundation in partnership with the UN Environment Programme.
  • The initiative aims to protect and conserve coral reefs through environmentally friendly guidelines that promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling tourism industry.
  • It provides the only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkelling industry and has a robust assessment system to measure compliance.

Green Fins Hub:

  • The platform will help diving and snorkelling operators worldwide to make simple, cost-efficient changes to their daily practices by utilising tried and tested solutions.
  • It would also help them keep track of their annual improvements and communicate with their communities and customers.
  • Throughout every year of membership, operators will receive environmental scores based on a detailed online self-evaluation and progress made on their action plans.
  • The Green Fins Hub is intended to catalyse a seismic shift towards sustainability in the marine tourism sector, by hosting two types of Green Fins membership:
    • Digital membership that will be available to dive, snorkel and liveaboard operations globally. Throughout every year of membership, operators will receive environmental scores based on a detailed online self-evaluation and progress made on their action plans.

    • Green Fins Certified Members will continue to be assessed annually and trained in person at their operation. The assessment process will continue to be based on set criteria using a scoring system (0-330 point system, with a low score implying low impact of a business on coral reefs). As part of the Green Fins Hub, there will now be a minimum threshold (>200 of a maximum environmental impact score) for becoming a Green Fins Certified Member and a ranking of bronze, silver or gold certified members according to performance.

Additional features on the Hub include:

  • The Green Fins Community Forum for operators around the world to raise industry needs, discuss environmental issues and share lessons and ideas with like-minded industry leaders, NGOs and governments.
  • The Green Fins Solutions Library gives access to over 100 proven environmental solutions to common daily operational challenges, tried and tested by the Green Fins network for over two decades.
  • The Action Plan Tracker: Members will receive an annual sustainability action plan with set goals. An advanced user interface now allows them to track their progress over time.

Seventh Eastern Economic Forum (EEF)

Context

Russia hosted the seventh Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) Vladivostok recently.

About

Eastern Economic Forum

  • The Eastern Economic Forum was established in 2015 to support the economic development of Russia’s Far East and to expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • The primary objective of the EEF is to increase the Foreign Direct Investments in the  Russia’s Far East (RFE).

Yearly Meeting

  • The Forum takes place each year in Vladivostok.
  • Key-issues: Every year, the Eastern Economic Forum serves as a platform for the discussion of key issues in the world economy, regional integration, and the development of new industrial and technological sectors, as well as of the global challenges facing Russia and other nations.
  • This year, the Forum aimed at connecting the Far East with the Asia Pacific region. 

Major Actors in the Forum:

China:

  • China is the biggest investor in the region as it sees potential in promoting the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and the Polar Sea Route in the Russia’s Far East (RFE).
  • China and Russia have invested in a fund to develop north-eastern China and the RFE, through collaborations on connecting the cities of Blagoveshchensk and Heihe via a 1,080 metre bridge, supplying natural gas, and a rail bridge connecting the cities of Nizhneleninskoye and Tongjiang. 

South Korea:

  • South Korea has also been gradually increasing its investments in the region.
  • South Korea has invested in shipbuilding projects, manufacturing of electrical equipment, gas-liquefying plants, agricultural production and fisheries.

Japan:

  • In 2017, Japanese investments through 21 projects amounted to $16 billion.
  • Under Shinzo Abe’s leadership, Japan identified eight areas of economic cooperation and pushed private businesses to invest in the development of the RFE.

India:

  • India is keen to deepen its cooperation in energy, pharmaceuticals, maritime connectivity, healthcare, tourism, the diamond industry and the Arctic.
  • In 2019, India also offered a $1 billion line of credit to develop infrastructure in the region.
  • Through the EEF, India aims to establish a strong inter-state interaction with Russia.

About the Far East:

  • The Far East is the easternmost part of Russia. The macro-region borders two oceans, the Pacific and the Arctic, and five countries (China, Japan, Mongolia, the United States and the DPRK).
  • The Far Eastern Federal District covers more than a third of the country’s territory.
  • Resources: The Far East is rich in natural resources like diamonds, stannary, borax materials, 50 gold, tungsten, and fish and seafood. About 1/3 of all coal reserves and hydro-engineering resources of the country are here. Forests of the region comprise about 30% of the total forest area of Russia.
  • Significant rivers include the Volga, Dnieper and Dvina (west), the Lena, Ob, and Yenisey (central) and the Amur in the far-east.

Editorial

An essential pit stops in parliamentary business

Context:

The recently concluded monsoon session of Parliament has only five pieces of legislation in its bucket. Frequent parliamentary disruptions eat away the time in the legislative process and on many occasions the bills get referred to the standing committees, which may be counterproductive as it only delays the whole process.

Relevant Parliamentary data:

  • Low Productivity: The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha recorded productivity of 47% and 42% respectively during this monsoon session.
  • Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committees (DRSC): Parliament has 24 DRSCs, having members from both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in the ratio 2:1. These are constituted by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha,
  • Trends Analysis: The percentage of Bills having been referred to the DRSCs during the tenures of the 14th (2004-2009), 15th (2009-2014), and 16th Lok Sabha’s (2014-2019) has been 60%, 71%, and 27%, respectively.
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ThinkQ

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QUIZ - 16th September 2022

Mains Question:

Question: Critically examine the aims and objectives of Eastern Economic Forum. Discuss its importance for India with reference to India’s ‘Act Far-East’ Policy. (150 words)

Question Mapping

  • Subject: International Relations (GS-II)
    • Sub-topic: International Organization, India’s Foreign Policy

Approach

  • Introduction- brief about the organisation 
    • Concerned area: Russia’s Far East (RFE)
    • Major actors: China, South Korea, Japan, India
  • Aims and objectives 
    • Aim: to encourage foreign investments in the RFE
    • focus area: infrastructure, transportation projects, mineral excavations, construction, industry and agriculture
  • Role of India: India wants to
    • expand its influence in the RFE
    • deepen its cooperation in energy, pharmaceuticals, maritime connectivity, healthcare, tourism, the diamond industry and the Arctic
    • establish a strong inter-state interaction with Russia
  • Discuss India’s "Act Far-East" policy
    • Increased India's cooperation with the Russian Far East
    • key pillar of the ‘Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership’ between India and Russia
  • Closing thoughts

 

*Also mention that India has vested interests in both the EEF and the US led- Indo-Pacific Economic Framework 

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