27, April 2017

  1. Religious freedom deteriorating in India

Source: The Hindu

The annual report of the U.S Commission on International Religious Freedom released said that religious tolerance and religious freedom continued to deteriorate in India in 2016.

Report:

  • Hindu nationalist groups and their sympathisers perpetrated numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence against religious minority communities and Hindu Dalits.
  • Noting that these violations were most “frequent and severe” in 10 of India’s 29 States. It said national and State laws that restrict religious conversion, cow slaughter, and the foreign funding of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) helped create the conditions enabling these violations.
  • The report also blames police and judicial bias and inadequacies that “have created a pervasive climate of impunity in which religious minorities feel increasingly insecure and have no recourse when religiously motivated crimes occur”.

  1. A shrinking home for endemic birds

Source: The Hindu

17 Western Ghats species have smaller ranges than what experts at IUCN estimated

IUCN uses expert sightings and other records, while the study used land cover, forest type (satellite imagery), temperature, precipitation and ‘citizen science’ using the eBird online birding checklist.

Highlights:

  • Birds endemic to the biodiverse Western Ghats appear to be in greater danger than they were thought to be, because the range of places they live in may have been overestimated.
  • Researchers from four American universities who analysed range maps used by the influential global authority, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), found that for 17 of 18 bird species, the distribution was smaller than IUCN estimates.
  • The ‘Red List’ classifications of the IUCN serve to guide protection policies; ‘less vulnerable’ species receive a lower conservation focus. The study published in the journal Biological Conservation, argues that IUCN overestimated the habitat of these bird species by up to 88%.
    • Of the 18 species, habitats of 12 were overestimated by over 50%. Under the new model, 10 species could be bumped up on the IUCN scale, for a higher risk. An example is the Malabar grey hornbill which IUCN classifies as ‘Least Concern’ and believes is distributed across 2.3 lakh sq.km in Kerala and Karnataka.
  • But when researchers used a spatial modelling technique, they found its range was just 43,060 sq. km, or, nearly 81% less than the estimates. This would put the bird in the ‘Near Threatened’ category. Again, the Nilgiri pipit appears to have lost 88% of its habitat, making it “endangered” rather than “vulnerable”.

  1. Supreme Court pulls up States on food panels

Source: The Hindu

The Supreme Court has criticised the Centre and the State governments for the lacklustre implementation of the National Food Security Act of 2013, including a rather casual approach taken to the mandatory setting up of the State Food Commissions meant to monitor the implementation of the statute.

The court found that the situation has come into existence owing to the “flexibility” provided by the Act to States to designate “some existing Commission to act as the State Food Commission”. The result, the apex court found, was that many States have opted for this flexibility.

Background:

  • As per the act, every State Government shall, by notification, constitute a State Food Commission for the purpose of monitoring and review of implementation of this Act.
  • The State Commission shall consist of: A Chairperson, five other Members and a Member-Secretary, who shall be an officer of the State Government not below the rank of Joint Secretary to that Government.
  • The act requires that there shall be at least two women, one person belonging to the Scheduled Castes and one person belonging to the Scheduled Tribes, whether Chairperson, Member or Member-Secretary.

National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013:

  • As passed by the Parliament, Government has notified the National Food Security Act, 2013 on 10th September, 2013 with the objective to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity.
  • The Act provides for coverage of upto 75% of the rural population and upto 50% of the urban population for receiving subsidized foodgrains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), thus covering about two-thirds of the population.
  • The eligible persons will be entitled to receive 5 Kgs of foodgrains per person per month at subsidised prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per Kg for rice/wheat/coarse grains.
  • The existing Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households, which constitute the poorest of the poor, will continue to receive 35 Kgs of foodgrains per household per month.
  • The Act also has a special focus on the nutritional support to women and children. Besides meal to pregnant women and lactating mothers during pregnancy and six months after the child birth, such women will also be entitled to receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000. Children upto 14 years of age will be entitled to nutritious meals as per the prescribed nutritional standards.
  • In case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals, the beneficiaries will receive food security allowance.
  • The Act also contains provisions for setting up of grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels. Separate provisions have also been made in the Act for ensuring transparency and accountability.

  1. High Court spells out steps to stop pollution in Dal Lake

Source: The Hindu

The Jammu & Kashmir High Court has come down heavily on authorities for failing to preserve the famous Dal Lake.

The court has ordered a slew of measures to contain the ever growing pollution and encroachments in and around the waterbody.

Court directed the state government:

It asked the authorities to rope in non-governmental and other organisations “for technical experience” and to install CCTV cameras “to strengthen” the LAWDA’s Enforcement Wing.

  • The court directed the State government to ensure rehabilitation of residents at Rakh-I-Arth housing colony, a rehabilitation project for lake-dwellers who are being displaced as part of the conservation programme.
  • The court also stressed the need to seek guidance of the World Wildlife Fund, which has created a network called the India Water Stewardship Network and Alliance for Water Stewardship, “to ensure sustainable water management.

Dal Lake:

  • Dal is a lake in Srinagar (Dal Lake is a misnomer as Dal in Kashmiri means lake), the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The urban lake, which is the second largest in the state, is integral to tourism and recreation in Kashmir and is named the “Jewel in the crown of Kashmir” or “Srinagar’s Jewel”.
  • The lake is also an important source for commercial operations in fishing and water plant harvesting.
  • Mughal gardens on the shore, such as Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh were built during the reign of Mughal Emperor Jahangir.
  • The lake covers an area of 18 square kilometres and is part of a natural wetland which covers 21.1 square kilometres, including its floating gardens. The floating gardens are known as “Rad” in Kashmiri.
  • The lake is located within a catchment area covering 316 square kilometres in the Zabarwan mountain valley, in the foothills of the Shankracharya hills, which surrounds it on three sides.

 



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