GS 1 : Art & Culture – Tribal Festivals
Bihan Mela of Kondh Tribals –
Since 2019, the Kondh tribe in Nayagarh district, Odisha has been celebrating the Bihan Mela, or the seed festival, to promote the revival of indigenous farming.
Bihan Mela –
- This event involves the collection and preservation of indigenous seeds, and farmers from 40 villages in Dasapalla block participate in the festival.
- After harvesting kharif crops, women collect the seeds of indigenous varieties and store them in earthen pots.
- On a designated day in December, they decorate the pots with red and white motifs, place them in a bamboo basket and carry them on their heads to the village where the fair is being organized.
- Men accompany them, beating drums and other traditional instruments.
- The seed festival was introduced to help farmers return to their traditional ways of farming, like mixed-cropping, which is more resilient to erratic rainfall and pest attacks.
- In recent years, farmers have abandoned native crops and varieties that are naturally resistant to pests and better suited to the region’s climate.
Commercialization through this festival: Seed Bank –
- To facilitate access to indigenous seeds, Nirman, a non-profit that works with the tribe on forest rights and agro-ecological farming, set up a seed bank in Raisar village in 2019.
- The bank collects and preserves indigenous seeds from across Kondh villages and lends those out to farmers.
- The bank now boasts of 62 varieties of paddy, four varieties of millets, five varieties of pulses, and eight vegetables.
- The bank is open to all Kondh farmers and has benefitted 750 families so far.
GS 3 : Environment & Biodiversity – Conservation, Environmental pollution & degradation, environmental impact assessment
Issues with Great Nicobar Island (GNI) Project –
The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has now flagged alleged discrepancies with respect to the forest clearance granted for the Rs 72,000-crore Great Nicobar Island Project.
What is GNI Project?
The GNI Project refers to the “Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island,” a proposed mega project being piloted by NITI Aayog.
The project aims to develop the southern end of the Andaman and Nicobar group of Islands in the Bay of Bengal by constructing –
- Transshipment port
- Dual-use military-civil international airport
- Power plant and
- A township over a span of 30 years on more than 160 sq. km of land, of which 130 sq. km is primary forest
Features of the Project –
Transshipment hub of the East: The proposed port will allow Great Nicobar to participate in the regional and global maritime economy by becoming a major player in cargo transshipment.
Naval control: The port will be controlled by the Indian Navy, while the airport will have dual military-civilian functions and will cater to tourism as well.
Urban amenities: Roads, public transport, water supply and waste management facilities, and several hotels have been planned to cater to tourists.
Significance of the project –
(1) Economic significance
Making India transshipment giant: The proposed port would allow GNI to become a significant player in cargo transshipment, as it is positioned equidistant from Colombo, Port Klang (Malaysia), and Singapore.
En-route of busiest shipping lane: It located close to the East-West international shipping corridor that sees a vast amount of the world’s shipping trade.
Huge source of revenue: The proposed ICTT can potentially become a hub for cargo ships travelling on this route.
(2) Strategic significance
Securing IOR: The proposal to develop GNI has been on the table since the 1970s, and it has been highlighted repeatedly as a crucial element for national security and consolidation of the Indian Ocean Region.
Critical shipping chokepoint: Great Nicobar is equidistant from Colombo to the southwest and Port Klang and Singapore to the southeast, the region through which a very large part of the world’s shipping trade passes.
Oceanic outpost: The ANI is an oceanic outpost for continental India.
Combatting Chinese presence: In recent years, the escalating Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean has added greater urgency to this imperative.
Issues with the Project –
Threat to Biodiversity: The construction of the port, airport, and township, and the influx of people that the project is expected to bring, are likely to result in habitat destruction, fragmentation, and degradation, which could threaten the survival of several species.
Displacement of Indigenous Tribes: GNI is home to two isolated and indigenous tribes, the Shompen and the Nicobaris, who have lived on the island for thousands of years. The project could displace these tribes and disrupt their way of life and culture.
Deforestation: The project is expected to result in the cutting down of an estimated 8.5 lakh trees in the island’s prehistoric rainforests, which could have a significant impact on the island’s ecology and biodiversity.
Lack of Adequate Environmental and Social Impact Assessments: The project has received several easy clearances with uncharacteristic haste, raising questions about the adequacy of environmental and social impact assessments.
Fragile Topography: Experts have raised several concerns relating to the tectonic volatility and disaster vulnerability of the islands, which have experienced nearly 444 earthquakes in the past 10 years. The tribal communities, who were displaced in the 2004 Tsunami, are still recovering from its impact.
Concerns highlighted by the NCST –
(1) Discrepancies with FRA Compliance
- The island administration did not recognise or grant ownership of any forest land to local tribespeople as per FRA, a requisite step under the Forest Conservation Rules, 2017, before Stage-I clearance is granted.
- This is despite the fact that Rule 6(3)(e) of Forest Conservation Rules-2017 (FCR) requires that any diversion of forest land first requires the District Collector to recognise and vest rights to locals under the FRA.
- The legislation allows forest communities the right to control and manage the use of the forest land over which they hold titles, and their consent is mandatory for diverting it.
(2) Inconsistencies with Stage-I Clearance
- The Stage-I clearance for the project was granted in October 2022, two years after the application was received.
- Monthly progress reports show that the district administration did not process any claims over forest land under the FRA in the 26 months since project sanction.
- A Gram Sabha meeting was called with less than a day’s notice to villagers where a resolution was passed consenting to the diversion of forest land for the project.
(3) Withdrawal of Consent
- Weeks after the Stage-I clearance was granted, the Tribal Council at Campbell Bay withdrew the consent granted by the Gram Sabha.
- NCST alleged that the minutes of the meeting were typed after securing members’ signatures
GS 3 : Indian Economy – Issues related to growth & development
International Labour Day & the Challenge of Regulating Working Hours –
International Labour Day –
- International Labour Day, also known as May Day, originated in the United States in the late 19th century when labor unions and socialist movements organized demonstrations and strikes calling for better working conditions, higher wages, and an eight-hour workday.
- On May 1, 1886, workers in Chicago organized a massive protest rally, and the following days were marked by violent clashes between police and protesters.
- In 1889, the International Socialist Conference declared May 1 as International Workers’ Day to commemorate the Chicago protests and honor workers around the world. Since then, May Day has been celebrated globally as a day to recognize the contributions of workers and to advocate for their rights and fair treatment.
May 1st commemorates the historic Haymarket Square affair and is celebrated globally as International Labour Day or May Day. The day holds immense significance as it signifies the struggle of workers to secure their rights. However, the idea of reducing working hours to improve social welfare is still a dream for many in India, despite it being adopted by several countries. Instead, we see a growing trend of increasing working hours, especially in the garment and electronic industries, in the name of increasing productivity.
Significances of International Labour Day –
- Honouring the labour movement: International Labour Day is an occasion to pay tribute to the labour movement and honour the contributions of workers worldwide.
- Celebrating the rights of workers:The day is an opportunity to celebrate the hard-won rights of workers, including the right to fair wages, safe working conditions, and the right to form unions.
- Advocating for workers’ rights:International Labour Day is also a platform to raise awareness about the need to protect and advocate for workers’ rights, particularly in countries where labour laws are weak or not enforced.
- Recognizing the role of labour unions:Labour unions have played a significant role in securing better working conditions and benefits for workers. On International Labour Day, the contributions of labour unions are recognized and celebrated.
- Promoting social justice:The day promotes social justice by advocating for fair treatment of workers, regardless of their gender, race, or other factors that may lead to discrimination or exploitation.
- Remembrance of struggles:International Labour Day is also an opportunity to remember the struggles of workers in the past and the sacrifices made by those who fought for workers’ rights.
- Building solidarity among workers:The day fosters a sense of solidarity among workers, encouraging them to come together to promote their rights and advocate for better working conditions.
What are the reasons behind growing trend of increasing working hours?
- Global competition:Companies feel pressure to work longer hours to keep up with international competition and maintain their market share.
- Cost-cutting:Employers may increase working hours to cut costs and boost productivity, rather than hiring more workers.
- Increased demand:As demand for goods and services grows, companies may feel the need to work longer hours to meet that demand.
- Technology: Advances in technology have made it easier to work remotely, leading to an expectation of being available and connected 24/7.
- Flexibility: Employers may offer more flexible schedules, but with the expectation of working longer hours to complete tasks.
- Emphasis on economic growth: Mainstream economists prioritize economic growth, even if it is at the expense of labor rights and human rights. They believe that working longer hours and increasing exports will lead to economic growth.
- Subsidies and exemptions:Regional governments offer subsidies and exemptions to attract global and domestic capital, and employers may prefer weaker unions in exchange for these incentives.
What are the concerns over increasing working hours?
- Adversely Affecting Health:Extending working hours can lead to physical and mental fatigue, stress, and burnout, which can affect the health of the workers. This, in turn, can lead to an increase in absenteeism, accidents, and medical costs.
- Diminishing Marginal Productivity:As the hours of work increase, the efficiency and productivity of the worker may decrease, leading to a decline in the quality of output. It can also lead to a decrease in the quality of life of the workers, as they have less time for family and leisure activities.
- Violation of Labour Rights:Increasing working hours can be a violation of the fundamental rights of the workers, as it denies them the right to rest and leisure, which are essential for the physical and mental well-being of the workers.
- Job Insecurity:Increasing working hours can lead to job insecurity as employers may replace workers with automation or outsourcing to cut costs. It can also lead to a decline in wages, as employers may argue that they are paying for more working hours.
- Adverse Impact on Women Workers:Increasing working hours can disproportionately affect women workers, who may be responsible for domestic chores and childcare. Long working hours can lead to a decline in their physical and mental health and an increase in their workload, which can have an adverse impact on their family life.
Why it is necessary to regulate working hours?
- Protecting workers’ health:Working long hours can have adverse effects on workers’ physical and mental health. It can lead to fatigue, stress, sleep disorders, and other health issues.
- Ensuring safety at the workplace:Workers who are overworked may become fatigued, which can increase the risk of accidents and injuries at the workplace. Regulating working hours can help ensure a safe and healthy work environment.
- Promoting work-life balance:Long working hours can negatively impact workers’ personal lives, reducing their time with family and friends, and limiting their ability to engage in other activities outside of work. Regulating working hours can help promote a healthy work-life balance.
- Enhancing productivity:Research has shown that working long hours can lead to a decline in productivity and an increase in errors and accidents. By regulating working hours, employers can ensure that workers are well-rested and productive.
- Protecting workers’ rights:Regulating working hours is an essential component of protecting workers’ rights. It helps to prevent exploitation and ensures that workers are compensated fairly for their time and labor.
GS 3 : Indian Economy – Issues related to growth & development
Credit Guarantee Fund Trust For Micro And Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) Scheme –
The Union Minister for MSME recently launched the revamped Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) Scheme.
- CGTMSE Scheme was launched in 2000 by the Government of India (GoI) to make available collateral-free credit to the micro and small enterprise sector.
- Both the existing and the new enterprises are eligible to be covered under the scheme.
- The corpus of CGTMSE is contributed by the GoI and SIDBI in the ratio of 4:1 respectively.
- he Ministry of MSMEs, and Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) established a trust named Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) to implement the CGTMSE Scheme.
- While launching the revamp of CGTMSE, it was announced that CGTMSE will collaborate with National Institute for MSME, Hyderabad for setting up a Centre of Financial Inclusion.
- The Centre is expected to provide financial literacy and credit counselling to MSEs, thus helping them to better utilize the benefits of the CGTMSE Scheme.
- The revamped version of the CGTMSE Scheme has been provided with an additional corpus support of 9,000 crore in the Union Budget for FY 2023-24 to provide a guarantee for an additional 2 lakh crore to MSEs.
- Other major changes made is
- Reduction in guaranteed fees for loans up to 1 crore by 50%.
- Raising of ceiling for guarantee from 2 crore to 5 crore.
- Raising the bar for claim settlement without taking legal action from the previous limit of Rs. 5 lakhs to Rs. 10 lakhs.
GS 2 : Health
Fabry Disease: The Lysosomal Storage Disorders Support Society sought the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s immediate intervention for the treatment of Fabry Disease patients –
- Fabry Disease is a rare inherited disorder of glycosphingolipid (fat) metabolism resulting from the absent or markedly deficient activity of the lysosomal enzyme, alpha-galactosidase A (alpha – Gal A).
- It belongs to a group of diseases known as lysosomal storage disorders.
- This enzymatic deficiency is caused by alterations (mutations) in the alpha-galactosidase A (GLA) gene that instructs cells to make the alpha-galactosidase A (alpha-Gal A) enzyme.
- Lysosomes function as the primary digestive tract of cells.
- Symptoms: Numbness, tingling, burning or pain in the hands or feet, extreme pain during physical activity and heat or cold intolerance etc.
- The first indication of a problem may be kidney failure or heart disease.
- The patients are treated by intravenously administered enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) or Oral Chaperone Therapy