Table of Contents
1. SOUTHERN OCEAN AROUND THE ANTARCTICA
TAG: GS 3: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
THE CONTEXT: More than 200 scientists from 19 Countries warned that the Southern Ocean around Antarctica is in trouble.
- The Southern Ocean around Antarctica has been warming for decades, however the annual extent of winter sea ice seemed relatively stable as compared to the Arctic. In some areas Antarctic Sea ice was even increasing.
- In 2016, everything changed, the annual extent of winter sea ice stopped increasing. Now we have had two years of record lows.
- In response to these changes, the international scientific community launched the first-ever marine ecosystem assessment for the Southern Ocean in 2018.
- The report is modelled after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the resulting “summary for policymakers” serves as a comprehensive report akin to an IPCC assessment but focused specifically on the Southern Ocean.
Importance of sea ice:
- Sea ice is to life in the Southern Ocean as soil is to a forest. It is the foundation for Antarctic marine ecosystems.
- It plays a fundamental role in the food chain, providing sustenance to krill, small fish, phytoplankton, and various species like penguins, seals, and whales.
- Its decline poses a significant threat to these fragile ecosystems.
The Need for Better Information:
- The management bodies under the Antarctic Treaty System responsible for the Southern Ocean urgently require improved information to guide decision-making regarding the conservation and protection of this vital region.
- The assessment aims to fill this information gap and provide guidance for future policies.
Findings of report:
- The Southern Ocean’s habitats, from the surface ice to the depths of the sea, are undergoing significant changes.
- Warming oceans, reduced sea ice, glacier melt, ice shelf collapses, increasing acidity, and human activities such as fishing are impacting various aspects of the ocean and its inhabitants.
- Important foundation species such as Antarctic krill are likely to decline with consequences for the whole ecosystem.
- The assessment stresses climate change is the most significant driver of species and ecosystem change in the Southern Ocean and coastal Antarctica.
- Reduce carbon emissions: Climate change is the biggest threat to the Southern Ocean. By reducing carbon emissions, we can help to slow down the warming of the ocean and reduce the impacts of climate change.
- Reduce plastic pollution: Plastic pollution is a major problem in the Southern Ocean. We can reduce our plastic pollution by avoiding single-use plastics and recycling whenever possible.
- Support research and conservation efforts: We need to learn more about the Southern Ocean and its ecosystems in order to protect them. We can support research and conservation efforts by donating to environmental organizations or volunteering our time.
2. PRADHAN MANTRI ANUSUCHIT JAATI ABHYUDAY YOJANA (PM-AJAY)
TAG: GS 2: SOCIAL JUSTICE
THE CONTEXT: Under Adarsh Gram Component, a total of 1260 villages have been declared as Adarsh Gram during the current FY 2023-24.
About the scheme:
- Pradhan Mantri Anusuchit Jaati Abhyuday Yojana (PM-AJAY) is the combination of three schemes. It has been implemented since 2021-22.
- These schemes are Centrally Sponsored Scheme namely Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana (PMAGY), Special Central Assistance to Scheduled Castes Sub Plan ( SCA to SCSP) and Babu Jagjivan Ram Chhatrawas Yojana(BJRCY).
The objectives of the Scheme:
- To reduce poverty of the SC communities by generation of additional employment opportunities through skill development, income generating schemes and other initiatives.
- To improve socio-economic developmental indicators by ensuring adequate infrastructure and requisite services in the SC dominated villages.
- To increase literacy and encourage enrolment of SCs in schools and higher educational institutions by providing adequate residential facilities in quality institutions, as well as residential schools where required.
Components of the scheme:
- Development of SC dominated villages into an Adarsh Gram.
- Grants-in-aid for District and State-level Projects for socio-economic betterment of SCs that may include creation of infrastructure in SC dominated villages including those selected under Adarsh Gram component, construction of hostels or residential schools, Comprehensive Livelihood Projects which may include components such as Skill development, etc.
- Construction of Hostels in higher educational institutions which are top ranked as per the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) of Government of India and are funded by the Centre or State Governments either fully or partially.
- There is a lack of awareness about the scheme among SCs. This is a challenge that needs to be addressed in order to ensure that SCs are able to benefit from the scheme.
- The submission of an Annual Action Plan by the States was made mandatory despite that states are not submitting reports on time.
- The scheme is complex, and it will be challenging to implement it effectively. This is a challenge that needs to be addressed in order to ensure that the scheme meets its objectives.
- The proposal for enhancement of the Subsidy from Rs. 10000 to Rs 50000 under the income generation component could not be implemented due to pending approval of Cabinet from 2018-19.
- The meager subsidy of Rs. 10000 per beneficiary under the Income Generation Activities which form a major component of the Scheme is not able to incentivize the process and lacking in adoption of the Scheme at the beneficiary level.
- It has also been observed, that due to non-release of funds by the State Treasuries to the implementation Departments has resulted in the poor implementation during Pandemic situation prevailing in the Country.
- Sometimes poor budgetary planning at the State level is also resulting in the non-release of the funds by the State Treasury to the implementation Departments like in Karnataka.
- The Monitoring of the Scheme implementation has been enhanced and regular follow-up through VC/WhatsApp is being done with States/UTs.
- Performance report should be released on time. The states which perform poorly should be reported. For example, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Maharashtra are performing poorly at the moment.
- For proper planning and implementation of the Scheme through developing websites which have facility for need based decentralized planning, proposal preparation, its appraisal, submission, evaluation, approval and implementation along with financial tracking.
- Beneficiaries can avail benefits under the Skill Development and Income Generation Components would also be brought under the proposed portal.
3. LOK SABHA ETHICS COMMITTEE
TAG: GS 2: POLITY
THE CONTEXT: Trinamool Congress (TMC) member of parliament Moitra is facing inquiry by Lok Sabha Ethics Committee over bribery and misconduct allegations.
- The Lok Sabha Ethics Committee received an affidavit from a businessman who alleged that he paid a member of parliament to raise questions in Parliament on his behalf.
- Lok Sabha Ethics Committee was constituted in 2000, but it became a permanent feature of the House only in 2015.
Committee on Ethics:
- As per the Rules of the House, there will be a Committee on Ethics consisting of not more than fifteen members.
- The Committee will be nominated by the Speaker and shall hold office for a term not exceeding one year.
Functions of Committee on Ethics:
The Committee shall:
- examine every complaint relating to unethical conduct of a member of Lok Sabha referred to it by the Speaker and make such recommendations as it may deem fit.
- formulate a Code of Conduct for members and suggest amendments or additions to the Code of Conduct from time to time.
Procedure of inquiry:
- On a matter being referred to the Committee, a preliminary inquiry shall be conducted by the Committee.
- If the Committee, after a preliminary inquiry, is of the opinion that there is no prima facie case, it may recommend that the matter may be dropped and the Chairperson shall intimate the Speaker accordingly.
- If the Committee, after preliminary inquiry, is of the opinion that there is a prima facie case, the Committee shall take up the matter for further examination.
- The Committee may lay down procedures, from time to time, for examination of matters referred to it.
Report of the committee:
- The recommendations of the Committee shall be presented in the form of a report.
- The report shall be presented to the Speaker who may direct that the report be laid on the Table of the House.
- The report of the Committee may also state the procedure to be followed by the House in giving effect to the recommendations made by the Committee.
4. CYCLONE IN ARABIAN SEA AND BAY OF BENGAL
TAG: GS 1: GEOGRAPHY
THE CONTEXT: According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the weakening of Cyclone Tej in the Arabian Sea might have strengthened its counterpart Cyclone Hamoon across Peninsular India in the Bay of Bengal.
- The Indian subcontinent is currently experiencing a rare meteorological event as two cyclones, Cyclone Hamoon and Cyclone Tej, simultaneously moving in the Indian Ocean.
- It is after 5 years that the marginal seas of the Indian Ocean are together witnessing cyclones.
- The last time such a phenomenon took place was in 2018, when Cyclones Luban and Titli formed over the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal respectively.
- In twin cyclonic systems like these, when one cyclone weakens and shifts, the other often becomes stronger.
- Factors such as a reduced influx of warm air as the cyclone moves away from the coast and potentially higher sea surface temperatures in its current location contribute to intensification of Hamoon.
Tropical cyclones: Tropical cyclones are violent storms that originate over oceans in tropical areas and move over to the coastal areas bringing about large-scale destruction caused by violent winds, very heavy rainfall and storm surges. Tropical cyclones originate and intensify over warm tropical oceans.
- The conditions favourable for the formation and intensification of tropical storms are:
- Large sea surface with temperature higher than 27° C.
- Presence of the Coriolis force.
- Small variations in the vertical wind speed.
- A pre-existing weak low-pressure area or low-level-cyclonic circulation.
- Upper divergence above the sea level system.
- The energy that intensifies the storm, comes from the condensation process in the towering cumulonimbus clouds, surrounding the centre of the storm. With continuous supply of moisture from the sea, the storm is further strengthened.
- On reaching the land the moisture supply is cut off and the storm dissipates. The place where a tropical cyclone crosses the coast is called the landfall of the cyclone.
- The cyclones, which cross 20o N latitude generally, recurve and they are more destructive.
5. FOREST CONSERVATION ACT, 2023
TAG: GS 3: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
THE CONTEXT: Conservationists challenged that Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act 2023 is in violation of several fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution.
- A group of former civil servants and conservationists has taken the bold step of challenging the constitutionality of the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act 2023 in the Supreme Court of India.
- Their petition urges the court to declare the new amendment “null and void,” citing violations of fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution and established principles of Indian environmental jurisprudence.
Challenges against the Act:
- It alleges that the Amendment Act violates several fundamental rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution.
- The petition specifically cites the violation of Article 21, which guarantees the right to live in a pollution-free environment.
- Article 14: The right to equality, implying that the state must treat environmental protection matters fairly.
- Article 48A: The state’s responsibility for protecting and improving the environment and safeguarding forests and wildlife.
- Article 51A(G): The duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests.
- The petition argues that the new Act violates established principles of Indian environmental jurisprudence.
- It points out that the amendment introduces a regulatory regime that facilitates “unrestricted deforestation” and changes the entire object and purpose of the Forest Conservation Act.
- It also mentions that the Amendment Act contradicts a 1996 Supreme Court order that permitted the recognition and protection of forest lands based on functional definitions, not just official records.
- The petition further alleges that the Union Environment Ministry provided “false and incomplete” information to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC).
- The JPC accepted these submissions without rigorous scientific examination or scrutiny of the documents. Despite numerous concerns raised by experts and conservationists, the JPC did not address these issues adequately.
The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023:
- The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023, has replaced the existing Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
- The primary objective of the Act is to address certain ambiguities in the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and introduce exemptions to expedite infrastructure development projects.
Features of Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act 2023:
- Land Under the Act: The Act applies to two types of land.
- Land declared as a forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, or any other law.
- Land not initially declared as a forest but officially marked as a forest after October 25, 1980.
- The Act does not apply to land that was changed from forest use to non-forest use before December 12, 1996, by authorized state or union territory authorities.
- Certain types of land are exempt from the Act, such as forest land near government-maintained rail lines or public roads leading to habitation areas. Also, roadside amenities within a limited size.
- The Act offers exemptions for specific situations, like land within 100 km from international borders for national security projects, up to 10 hectares for security infrastructure, and up to five hectares for defense or public utility projects in left-wing extremism affected areas. Central government guidelines will determine these exemptions.
- Leasing Forest Land:
- States need approval from the central government to assign forest land to any entity, not just those not owned or controlled by the government.
- The central government can specify terms and conditions for this approval.
- Activities Allowed in Forest Land:
- The Act restricts changing forest land into non-forest use but allows exemptions with central government approval.
- Non-forest purposes include using land for things like farming horticultural crops or any purpose other than reforestation.
- However, the Act allows specific activities related to forest and wildlife conservation and management, like setting up check posts, fire lines, fences, and wireless communication, without restrictions.