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17th May 2022

India’s 52nd tiger reserve: Ramgarh Vishdhari

Context

Ramgarh Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary was notified as a tiger reserve recently, after a nod by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).

About

Ramgarh Vishdhari:

  • It is now India’s 52nd tiger reserve and Rajasthan’s fourth, after Ranthambore, Sariska and Mukundra.
  • Ramgarh Vishdhari, spread across Bundi, Bhilwara and Kota districts in Rajasthan, will be a major corridor connecting tigers of Ranthambore and Mukundra reserves.
  • The reserve will be spread in an area of 1,501.89 sq km.
  • The newly notified tiger reserve includes the tiger habitat between Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in the northeast and Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve on the southern side and facilitates dispersal of tigers from Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.
  • Ramgarh Vishadhri, located mostly in Bundi district and in part in Bhilwara and Kota districts, is also home to the Indian wolf, leopard, striped hyena, chinkara, antelope and foxes among other animals.

Tiger Reserves

  • Project Tiger was launched by the Government of India in the year 1973 to save the endangered species of tiger in the country.
  • Starting from nine (9) reserves in 1973, the number is grown up to fifty two (52).

Seoul Forest Declaration

Context

According to the recently adopted Seoul Declaration, the investment in forest and landscape restoration globally must be tripled by 2030 to implement global commitments and meet internationally agreed goals and targets.

About

World Forestry Congress:

  • The World Forestry Congress is held approximately once every six years.
  • The first Congress was held in Italy in 1926.
  • FAO has helped host countries organize the Congress since 1954.
  • Responsibility for the organization and financing of each Congress lies with the host country.
  • The Congress is a forum for the exchange of views and experiences on all aspects of forests and forestry, which may lead to the formulation of broad recommendations applicable at national, regional and global levels. 
  • The Congress is not an intergovernmental meeting; it has neither formal constituencies nor country delegations.
  • The implementation of recommendations is a matter for those to whom these are addressed – stakeholders like governments, international organizations, scientific bodies, forest owners, among others – in the light of their own particular circumstances.
  • The XV World Forestry Congress was hosted by the Government of the Republic of Korea in Seoul. 

Key takeaways from Seoul Forest Declaration:

  • The responsibility over forests should be shared and integrated across institutions, sectors and stakeholders in order to achieve a sustainable future.
  • Vast areas of degraded land require restoration.
  • Investment in forest and landscape restoration globally must be at least tripled by 2030 to implement global commitments and meet internationally agreed goals and targets.
  • There is no healthy economy on an unhealthy planet.
  • Production and consumption need to be sustainable and policies should foster innovative green financing mechanisms to upscale investment in forest conservation, restoration and sustainable use.
  • Forest-based solutions must be inclusive of the perspectives of family farmers, smallholders, forest communities, indigenous peoples, women and youth and respectful of their rights.
  • The solutions must empower them to participate equitably in decision-making and sustainable forest value chains.
  • New partnerships such as the Assuring the Future of Forests with Integrated Risk Management (AFFIRM) Mechanism, the Sustaining an Abundance of Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) initiative and the Platform for REDD+ Capacity Building were also undertaken at the Congress to boost international participation and cooperation.
  • The Declaration also pointed out that the health of forests and humans was closely related and forest degradation can have “serious negative impacts on human health and well-being”.

Forest landscape restoration

  • Forest landscape restoration (FLR) is the ongoing process of regaining ecological functionality and enhancing human well-being across deforested or degraded forest landscapes.
  • FLR is more than just planting trees – it is restoring a whole landscape to meet present and future needs and to offer multiple benefits and land uses over time.
  • FLR manifests through different processes such as: new tree plantings, managed natural regeneration, agroforestry, or improved land management to accommodate a mosaic of land uses, including agriculture, protected wildlife reserves, managed plantations, riverside plantings and more.

Places of Worship Act, and its provisions

Context

Supreme Court will hear an appeal against the video survey of Varanasi's Gyanvapi mosque.

About

The Appeal:

  • The Committee of Management of Anjuman Intezamia Masjid, has filed the appeal.
  • The principal contention is that the order of the Varanasi court, which was upheld by Allahabad High Court in April is “clearly interdicted” by The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.

What is the Places of Worship Act?

  • It is described as “An Act to prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
  • Section 3 of the Act bars the conversion, in full or part, of a place of worship of any religious denomination into a place of worship of a different religious denomination — or even a different segment of the same religious denomination.
  • Section 4(1) declares that the religious character of a place of worship “shall continue to be the same as it existed” on August 15, 1947.
  • Section 4(2) says any suit or legal proceeding with respect to the conversion of the religious character of any place of worship existing on August 15, 1947, pending before any court, shall abate — and no fresh suit or legal proceedings shall be instituted.
  • Section 5 stipulates that the Act shall not apply to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, and to any suit, appeal or proceeding relating to it.

Why was the act introduced?

  • The Act was brought about by a Bill introduced by the erstwhile Union Home Minister in the PV Narasimha Rao Cabinet, Shankarrao Bhavrao Chavan.
  • The Act was passed when BJP leader LK Advani’s Rath Yatra for the Ram Janmabhoomi movement had gained massive support.
  • Chavan sought to prevent incidents of communal unrest through the Bill.

Challenge to the places of worship act:

  • BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay challenged the Places of Worship Act, 1991, last year in the Supreme Court. 
  • Another petition, filed by Vishwa Bhadra Pujari Purohit Mahasangh, challenging the validity of the Act is also pending with the Supreme Court.
  • The law has been challenged on the ground that it bars judicial review, which is a basic feature of the Constitution, imposes an “arbitrary irrational retrospective cutoff date”, and abridges the right to religion of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.

Exemption:

  • The disputed site at Ayodhya was exempted from the Act. Due to this exemption, the trial in the Ayodhya case proceeded even after the enforcement of this law.
  • Besides the Ayodhya dispute, the Act also exempted:
  • Any place of worship which is an ancient and historical monument or an archaeological site covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.

Supreme Court’s View (in 2019):

  • In the 2019 Ayodhya verdict, the Constitution Bench referred to the law and said it manifests the secular values of the Constitution and strictly prohibits retrogression.

Why are forest fires in the hills intensifying this summer

Context

Forest fires continue to scorch several hectares of green cover in the Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

  • In April, Himachal reported close to 750 forest fires, while Uttarakhand recorded over 1,500 such incidents.
  • On April 30, Uttarakhand witnessed 51 large fire incidents — the maximum by any Indian state.
About

What causes forest fires?

  • The forest fire season in India lasts between November to June. Several factors like temperatures, precipitation, vegetation, and moisture contribute to the scale and frequency of these fires.
  • According to the Forest Survey of India, nearly 36 per cent of India’s forests are prone to frequent fires.
  • Higher fire incidents are reported in March, April and May due to ample availability of dry biomass (fuel load) following the end of winter and the ongoing summer season.
  • Most forest fires, according to experts, are man-made due to changes in agriculture and unchecked land-use patterns.

Classification of forest fires:

Forest fires are broadly categorised into three categories – ground, surface and crown fire.

  • Fires that burn organic material in the soil are called ground fires, and they burn slowly, under vegetation.
  • Surface fires are caused largely by burning of dry leaves, branches and other materials on the ground.
  • Such fires spread swiftly, as in the case of fires in Himachal.
  • Crown fires burn quickly, from one tree top to another and have huge flames with intense heat. Such fires are rare in India.

Spike in fire incidents in 2022:

  • The FSI data on forest fire points between March 1 and April 30 this year shows a clear spike in incidents coinciding with rising heatwave conditions.
  • The number of forest fire points rose from 8,735 to 42,486 during the four weeks in March.

Vulnerability of forests in Uttarakhand and Himachal:

  • Out of the total forest land in Uttarakhand, 26 per cent consists of pine trees.
    • Dry pine leaves are highly inflammable and significantly increase the fuel load.
    • Officials admit that the situation is alarming because the peak time for forest fire – the third week of May when the temperatures are the highest – is yet to come.
  • In Himachal, of the 196 forest ranges in Himachal Pradesh, 80 are vulnerable to fires.
    • The chir pine forests which make up 15 percent of Himachal’s forests, are most prone to fires.
    • The chir forests are spread over an area of 1258.85 sq km, which is about 3.4 per cent of the total forest area of the state.

Prevention and control:

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change lists the following methods to prevent and control a forest fire:

  • construction of watch towers for early detection;
  • deployment of fire watchers;
  • creation and maintenance of fire lines, besides involvement of local communities
  • Use of remote sensing technology and
  • Moderate Resolution Imagine Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite data for detection of active forest fires is also advised.

Supreme Court ruling on NBFCs

Context

The recent ruling by the Supreme Court that underscores the primacy of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as the regulator and supervisor of the non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), has removed a key regulatory overhang, rating agency CRISIL.

About

Issue:

  • Before the Apex Court, the issue raised by NBFCs (challenging Kerala HC judgment) and State of Gujarat (challenging Gujarat HC Judgment) was whether NBFCs regulated by the Reserve Bank of India, in terms of the provisions of Chapter III­B of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 could also be regulated by State enactments such as Kerala Money Lenders Act, 1958 and Gujarat Money Lenders Act, 2011?

SC’s Ruling:

  • The Supreme Court has held that the state enactments such as Kerala Money Lenders Act, 1958 and Gujarat Money Lenders Act, 2011 will have no application to Non­-Banking Financial Companies (NBFC) regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • The apex court has, in the matter of Nedumpilli Finance Company vs State of Kerala and several other civil appeals, held in its final judgment that Chapter III-B (dealing with NBFCs in RBI Act) is a complete code in itself as regards regulation of NBFCs.
    • In addition to this, the RBI Act has provisions which override other state laws.
    • This would imply that NBFC regulation is only under the RBI Act, and only the Central bank has the powers to regulate the NBFCs registered with it.
  • The Supreme Court has held that Section 45-Q of RBI Act confers overriding effect upon Chapter III-B over other laws. 
  • The SC said that while the state enactments regulating the business of money-lending has a one-eyed focus only to protect borrowers, the RBI Act takes a holistic approach to the business of banking, money-lending and operation of the currency & credit system of India.
    • The judges said no NBFC can start or carry on business without obtaining a certificate of registration under the RBI Act
    • their continuation in business would depend upon compliance with the RBI Act and circulars/directions issued by the RBI
    • The RBI has the power to supersede the Board of Directors of a NBFC and has power even to wind up a NBFC.
    • Thus the supervision and regulation of NBFCs, by the RBI, is from the time of birth till the time of death.

Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs):

  • These are establishments that provide financial services and banking facilities without meeting the legal definition of a Bank.
  • Hence they are frequently referred to as “shadow banks”. The term ‘shadow bank’ was coined by Paul McCulley in 2007, with specific reference to American non-bank financial institutions that used short-term deposits to finance long-term loans.
  • They are covered under the Banking regulations laid down by the Reserve Bank of India and provide banking services like loans, credit facilities, TFCs, retirement planning, investing and stocking in money market.
  • However, they are restricted from taking any form of deposits from the general public.

Editorial

The repo rate in India

On May 4, the Reserve Bank of India, in a surprise move raises the “policy repo rate by 40 basis points to 4.40%, with immediate effect”.

What is the repo rate?

  1. Instrument for monetary policy- The repo rate is one of several direct and indirect instruments that are used by the RBI for implementing monetary policy.
  2. Overnight liquidity to banks -Specifically, the RBI defines the repo rate as the fixed interest rate at which it provides overnight liquidity to banks against the collateral of government and other approved securities under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF).
  3. Benchmark for the lenders -Since this is the rate of interest that the RBI charges commercial banks such as State Bank of India and ICICI Bank when it lends them money, it serves as a key benchmark for the lenders to in turn price the loans they offer to their borrowers.

How does the repo rate work?

  1. Monetary Tool- Besides the direct loan pricing relationship, the repo rate functions as a monetary tool by helping to regulate the availability of liquidity or funds in the banking system.
  2. Impact on money supply- When the repo rate is decreased, banks may find an incentive to sell securities back to the government in return for cash. This increases the money supply available to the general economy.
  3. Targets Inflation control -Since inflation is, in large measure, caused by more money chasing the same quantity of goods and services available in an economy, central banks tend to target regulation of money supply as a means to slow infl
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ThinkQ

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QUIZ - 17th May 2022

Mains Question:

Q. In the wake of increasing land degradation and desertification across India, suggest remedial measures. (150 words)

Approach

  • Introduction define land degradation and its occurrence in India
  • Reasons behind increasing land degradation (urbanisation, increasing population, increasing pressure, climate change)
  • Required environmental policies
  • Conclude accordingly
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