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15th August Current Affairs

Renewing India’s federalism pledge

(GS-II: Parliament-Structure, functioning and conduct of business, federalism etc)

In News:

The leaders of the Indian national movement responded to demands of social reforms to the extent that it was essential for, and within the limits of, preserving unity.

Details:

In the words of K. Gandhi, “protection of neglected classes should not be carried to an extent which will harm them and harm the country.”

India is being mobilized for an era of national resurgence.

The Prime Minister calls it the Amrit Kaal, the 25-year lead-up to 100 years of Independence.

National unity is paramount; duty comes before rights, according to him.

Present crisis:

Climate change to terrorism

Shaky economic models to pandemics.

Strong national governments are expected to be driving this era — not multinational bodies, or provincial authorities, or village councils.

Technology incentivises, enables and legitimizes centralisation.

The elimination of intermediaries from political and economic negotiations.

Tensions: emerging and existing:

Caste tensions.

Two religious minorities — the Muslims and Sikhs — are powerless, restive and fearful.

The agitations against the farm laws and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Disequilibrium in the relationship between the Hindi heartland and regions in the south, the Northeast and Kashmir.

Harder border policies

The promotion of Hindi

Centralisation of policing, fiscal governance, and policymaking in a range of subjects

The GST regime issues

The Hindi heartland’s relationship with West Bengal, Maharashtra and Gujarat, where regionalism still has mass appeal.

Social justice and secularism, Issues of Muslims:

Monopolized by the upper caste: The upper castes among the Muslims had monopolized the power that they bargained on behalf of the community, at the cost of women and the depressed classes among them.

Sachar Committee: The community as a whole materially lagged behind the rest as per the Sachar Committee.

Representatives in Lok Sabha: In the current Lok Sabha, there are 27 Muslim members; a proportionate representation would be 80.

Language of trouble:

Push for the Hindi language: The push for replacing English with Hindi as the link language of the country, while simultaneously promoting regional languages.

This creates friction between the heartland and non-Hindi regions and also unsettles the middle class that sees English as emancipatory.

Hindi is expanding and its dominance is inevitable.

Migration of Hindi speaking: Hindi-speaking regions have higher fertility than the rest.

People from these regions will migrate to non-Hindi regions, the centres of economic growth in the west and the south, where native populations are ageing and fertility is declining.

Policy-driven population management: Apart from the demographic patterns driven by natural and economic factors, India is also on the cusp of policy-driven population management.

Population management — controlling birth, migration, classification etc. — all have been integral parts of modern state building.

Definition of Federalism: Federalism is a mixed or compound mode of government that combines a general government with regional governments in a single political system, dividing the powers between the two.

Federalism as a multidimensional framework:

Framework for cooperation, common goals and collective action: Federalism has to be understood and used as a framework for cooperation, common goals and collective action.

  • It is not a battle cry for a Center-State confrontation.
  • Federalism is not incitement, but the solution to the problem of instability and disequilibrium.
  • It is the tool of the nation-builder, not the slogan of the separatist.

Dynamic and multidimensional concept: Federalism has to be understood as a dynamic and multidimensional concept, in contrast with a linear notion of vertical power-sharing between a Center and provinces.

Only then will minorities within minorities and communities that actually lost out in the earlier power distribution get justice.

To apply federalism in a multidimensional manner will require a whole new set of legal and institutional arrangements like:

  • Resolving the questions related to the sub-categorisation of quotas
  • Supreme Court benches in regions.

It cannot be the instrument for provincial elites: Federalism cannot be the instrument for provincial elites to capture all power and monopolize all representation as has been the evident trend in the recent past.

  • That trend delegitimizes the entire premise of federalism.
  • Similarly, Muslim cultural autonomy cannot be a facade to perpetuate gender injustice.
  • Telugu nationalists had feared the dominance of Tamil at one point.

Conclusion:

Amrit Kaal needs a new discussion on equitable power-sharing and resource-sharing across regions, castes, linguistic groups and genders. That will be essential for India’s progress, anchored in a new federalism compact.

75 Ramsar Sites in 75th Year of Independence

(GS-III: Environment Conservation)

In News:

Government has added 11 more wetlands to the Ramsar list of wetlands.

Details:

Importance of Ramsar Site: Many of the sites are already notified under the Union government’s Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017 meaning development activities within the waterbody as well as within its zone of influence are regulated.

Being designated Ramsar Site means now the sites will be on the global map for their importance in providing ecological services.

Eleven Ramsar Sites added are:

Tampara Lake (Odisha):

Tampara Lake is among the most prominent freshwater lakes in the State of Odisha. It is called ‘Tampara’ as the depression on the ground gradually filled with rainwater from catchment flow and was called “Tamp” by the British and subsequently termed “Tampra” by the locals.

The wetland is an important habitat for vulnerable species such as Cyprinus carpio, common pochard (Aythya ferina), and river tern (Sterna aurantia).

Hirakud Reservoir (Odisha)

Hirakud Reservoir, the largest earthen dam in Odisha started operating in 1957. The reservoir is important for livelihoods of fishermen, tourism, irrigation and production of hydro-energy.

The wetland also provides important hydrological services by moderating floods in the Mahanadi delta, the ecological and socio-economic hub of the east coast of India.

Ansupa Lake (Odisha, Cuttack district)

Ansupa Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Odisha situated in the Cuttack district.

The wetland is an oxbow lake formed by River Mahanadi.

The wetland provides a safe habitat to:-

Three threatened bird species– Rynchops albicollis (EN), Sterna acuticauda (EN) and Sterna aurantia (VU)

Three threatened fish species– Clarias magur (Clariidae) (EN), Cyprinus carpio (Cyprinidae) (VU) and Wallago attu (VU).

The wetland has immense recreational and tourism potential as it is a major wintering ground for migratory birds and is also known for its scenic beauty.

Yashwant Sagar (Indore, Madhya Pradesh)

It is one of the two Important Bird Areas (IBA) in the Indore region as well as one of the most important birding sites in the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh.

Presently it is mainly used for water supply to the city of Indore and is also being used for fish culture on a commercial scale.

Yashwant Sagar is considered to be a stronghold of the vulnerable Sarus Crane in central India. Due to its vast shallow reed beds, the wetland is considered heaven to a large number of winter migratory birds.

Chitrangudi Bird Sanctuary ( Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu)

The wetland is a protected area since 1989 and declared a Bird Sanctuary.

It is an ideal habitat for winter migratory birds.

Suchindram Theroor Wetland Complex (Kanya Kumari, Tamil Nadu)

It is part of the Suchindrum-Theroor Manakudi Conservation Reserve.

It is declared an Important Bird Area and lies at the southern tip of the Central Asian flyway of migratory birds.

This is a man-made, inland Tank and is perennial.

Copper plate inscriptions from the 9th century mention Pasumkulam, Venchikulam, Nedumarthukulam, Perumkulam, Elemchikulam and Konadunkulam.

Vaduvur Bird Sanctuary (Tamil Nadu)

It is a large human-made irrigation tank and shelter for migratory birds as it provides a suitable environment for food, shelter, and breeding ground.

Thus, the site provides support to species such as Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii during critical stages of their life cycle.

Kanjirankulam Bird Sanctuary (Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu)

It is notable as a nesting site for several migratory heron species that roost in the prominent growth of babul trees there.

The site qualifies as an IBA as the threatened Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis breeds here.

The wetland supports IUCN RedList vulnerable avian species like Sterna aurantia (River Tern).

Thane Creek (Maharastra)

Ulhas River is the largest source of water for the creek, followed by many drainage channels from various suburban areas of Mumbai, Navi Mumbai & Thane.

Creek is a narrow, sheltered waterway, especially an inlet in a shoreline or channel in a marsh.

It has been declared as Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary.

Thane creek is fringed by mangroves on both banks & comprises around 20% of the total Indian mangrove species.

The area is an important part of the wetland complex of the Central Asian Flyway of the birds and has been categorized as an Important Bird Area (IBA).

Hygam Wetland Conservation Reserve (Baramulla district, J&K)

Hygam Wetland falls within the River Jhelum basin and plays a significant role as a flood absorption basin, biodiversity conservation site, eco-tourism site, and livelihood security for the local communities.

It is also recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA).

Consequent to the high rate of siltation, Hygam Wetland has lost its wetland characteristics to a large extent and in many places changed its profile into a landmass.

Shallbugh Wetland Conservation Reserve (Sri Nagar, J&K)

The area has extensive reedbeds of Phragmites communis and Typha angustata, and rich growth of Nymphaea candida and N. stellata on open water. It serves as an abode to more than four lakh resident and migratory birds of at least 21 species.

Shallabugh Wetland plays a major role in the natural control, amelioration or prevention of flooding, It is also important for seasonal water retention for wetlands or other areas of conservation importance downstream.

Ramsar convention:

It is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.

It is named after the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the Caspian Sea, where the treaty was signed on 2 February 1971.

Known officially as ‘the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat’ (or, more recently, just ‘the Convention on Wetlands’), it came into force in 1975.

 Montreux Record:

Montreux Record under the Convention is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.

It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List.

DigiYatra

In News:

The Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), run by GMR, announced the soft launch of the Centre’s DigiYatra initiative, rolling out the beta version of its app for Android platforms.

About:

The ‘DigiYatra’ is a Biometric Enabled Seamless Travel experience (BEST) based on Facial Recognition Technology. It aims to provide a paperless and seamless travel experience to the passengers. “DigiYatra is a unique initiative of the Government of India, coordinated by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

DigiYatra envisages that travellers pass through various checkpoints at the airport through paperless and contactless processing, using facial features to establish their identity, which would be linked to the boarding pass.

The DigiYatra Foundation will be the custodian of the passenger ID validation process. It will also define the criteria for compliance and guidelines for the local airport systems.

Nano Urea

In News:

India will produce over 6cr bottles of Nano urea and make it available to farmers in 2022-23.

What is nano urea?

Urea is chemical nitrogen fertilizer, white in colour, which artificially provides nitrogen, a major nutrient required by plants.

Liquid nano urea is essentially urea in the form of a nanoparticle.

It is a patented chemical nitrogen fertilizer produced by IFFCO.

Nano urea vs imported/urea – Which is better?

Cost: Nano urea is cheaper (Rs 240 for half litre without subsidy; the International market price of a bag of urea is between Rs 3,500 and Rs 4,000. A bottle of nano urea can effectively replace at least one bag of urea.

Benefits for the government: Reduces fertilizer subsidy bill of government. India is dependent on imports of the widely used fertilizer.

The efficiency of Nano urea (nutritional use efficiency) can be as high as 85-90 per cent (Conventional urea has an efficiency of about 25 per cent).

As Nano urea has higher surface-mass ratios that help in releasing nutrients to plants in a controlled manner.

Nano urea has a shelf life of a year, and farmers need not be worried about “caking” when it comes in contact with moisture.

Other benefits of Nano urea:

Fertilizers in nano form provide a targeted supply of nutrients to crops, as they are absorbed by the stomata, and pores found on the epidermis of leaves.

Reduces the unbalanced and indiscriminate use of conventional urea.

Increases crop productivity by 8%

Reduces soil, water, and air pollution.