(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: Prelims and GS-II Constitutional body
Context: A parliamentary committee has said in a recent report that the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has been dysfunctional for the past four years and has not delivered a single report to Parliament.
- According to the commission’s website, in the financial year 2021-22, it has met only four times.
- Its rate of pendency of resolution of complaints and cases that it receives is close to 50%.
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)
- NCST was set up with effect from 19th February, 2004 by amending Article 338 and by inserting a new article 338A in the Constitution through the 89th Constitution Amendment Act, 2003.
- Hence, it is a constitutional body.
- Powers: It oversees the implementation of various safeguards provided to STs under the Constitution and to evaluate the working of such safeguards.
- The commission is vested with all the powers of a civil court while investigating any matter on inquiring into any complaint relating to deprivation of rights and safeguards for the Scheduled Tribes
- Composition: It consists of a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and 3 other Members who are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
- At least one member should be a woman.
- The Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson and the other Members hold office for a term of 3 years.
- The members are not eligible for appointment for more than two terms.
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS-III Biodiversity
Context: At least 100 vultures — all Himalayan griffons — died of suspected poisoning in Assam.
- Such incidents have been happening since many years.
- The Himalayan vulture (Gyps himalayensis) or Himalayan griffon vulture is an Old World vulture native to the Himalayas and the adjoining Tibetan Plateau.
- Old World vultures are vultures that are found in the Old World, i.e. the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa.
- They belong to the family Accipitridae, which also includes eagles, buzzards, kites, and hawks
- It is one of the two largest Old World vultures and true raptors.
- It is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.
- A study by the Bombay Natural History Society and other organisations in the 1990s found that the population of the Gyps group in India and Nepal declined from about 40 million by 99.9% in just two decades.
- Himalayan griffon, white-backed and slender-billed are among its members.
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS-III Science and Technology
Context: India will soon scour the ocean bed to unravel the mysteries of the origins of life as scientists are set to travel up to 6,000 m below the sea surface under a deep ocean mission (DOM).
- Ministry: Ministry of Earth Sciences
- Initially, the Rs. 4,077-crore mission will entail scientists travelling to a depth of 500 m to test various technologies being developed for the purpose before taking a deeper dive into the unknown.
- The DOM will also help India map the ocean bed, which is a rich source for metals and minerals.
- The mission will help scientists identify and demarcate resource-rich areas which could be exploited later when suitable technology is available for deep sea mining.
- The exploration studies of minerals will pave the way for commercial exploitation in the near future as and when such a code is evolved by the International Seabed Authority.
- This mission is also directed towards development in marine biology which will provide job opportunities in Indian industries.
News Source: TH
- GS-2: India and its neighbourhood.
- GS-2: Impact of politics of other countries on India
Context: The U.N. Security Council has approved a robust mandate for its political mission in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover last August.
What is the new mandate?
- The new mandate authorizes the U.N. mission, known as UNAMA, to promote gender equality, empowerment of women and girls, human rights of all Afghans and an inclusive and representative government.
- The Norwegian-drafted resolution was adopted by a vote of 14-0, with Russia abstaining.
- Russia criticized the council for not consulting the host country (Afghanistan) on the U.N. presence, saying that “substantive cooperation” between UNAMA and the Taliban would help the U.N. achieve its objectives.
- The U.N. mission’s mandate also includes coordination and delivery of desperately needed aid.
- The council authorized UNAMA “to facilitate dialogue between all relevant Afghan political actors and stakeholders, the region and the wider international community.”
- Security Council sent a clear message that the UNAMA “has a crucial role to play in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and in supporting Afghan people as they face unprecedented challenges and uncertainty.”
What are the present challenges in Afghanistan?
- Access to education for girls: With US withdrawal after 20 years of war (2001-2021), Taliban took over the country. Taliban who is in power have denied girls and women rights to education and barred them from public life. The Taliban are now allowing girls to go to elementary school but older girls are still denied education.
- Restriction on working women: Barring some sectors such as health care and education, Afghanistan’s vast number of working women are not allowed to go to their workplaces.
- Intolerance towards minorities: There are reports of reprisals against former government officials, as well as attacks and intimidation against minority groups and civil society and detentions and enforced disappearances.
- Fear of supporting extremist group: The Taliban are yet to demonstrate that extremist groups are no longer able to flourish in the country
- Power Sharing: The new Taliban rulers promised an inclusive government. However, the Taliban-appointed Cabinet remains overwhelmingly Pashtun and without women. The Taliban shows no signs of sharing power or respecting the basic rights of Afghans.
- Economic Crisis: Before the Taliban takeover, two-thirds of the Afghan government’s expenditure came through donations. As no country has recognised the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan, these donations have dried up since August hampering the government functioning.
- Mass Starvation: Only 2% of Afghanistan’s 38 million people have enough food, according to the World Food Programme.
- Rising Poverty: Afghanistan’s economy is expected to contract by 30% this year and nearly every Afghan citizen could be living in poverty by mid-2022, according to the UN.
- Reluctance of International Actors: The international community is reluctant to step in over fears that the Taliban would use the aid to consolidate their power and resist further demands for reforms.
- International community cannot just look away when Afghans face mass starvation.
- With the fresh mandate, which got the support of almost all the major powers, the UN mission should start engaging the Taliban.
- This does not mean that the member countries should offer quick recognition to the Taliban regime.
- They should offer humanitarian assistance to the Afghans in consultations with the Mullahs, while at the same time putting pressure on them to accept at least short-term reforms and take measures to respect basic human rights.
Connecting the dots:
- GS-2: International Events and important international institutions
Context: The recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
- Russian President Putin’s version is that it was a “special military operation”, akin to India’s police action against Hyderabad in 1948.
What did the West fail to recognise?
- Putin has had a dramatic rise in the political hierarchy of Moscow and his first two achievements were ignored by West
- stabilisation and increase in oil production and export that hugely increased the Russian GDP,
- his successful suppression of the Chechnya revolt
- West was busy with civilianising and militarily downgrading NATO.
- As Eastern European nations clamoured to join the EU, the western leaders dismantled the military intellectual content of NATO headquarters, reducing NATO forces to a rapid reaction force under the political control of a civilian secretary-general.
- The West, therefore, failed to connect Putin’s invasion of Georgia with his continuing vision to fight the regime change in Ukraine in 2015.
What can the Quad learn from NATO?
- The Indo-Pacific is not continental Europe and war in the Indo-Pacific will be a maritime war fought in accordance with maritime strategy and space assets.
- To call the Quad a “diplomatic grouping” is a similar error that NATO did by civilianising and militarily downgrading post 1991.
- Confusing Beijing by calling it a diplomatic grouping will certainly lead to a misunderstanding of the Quad nations’ resolve and possible Chinese adventurism.
What measures are needed to make QUAD more effective?
- Quad is all about maritime domain awareness, underwater domain awareness, and information sharing — all of them purely naval activities, which need continuous communication.
- QUAD because of significant role in maritime domain needs a command organisation and a secretariat, neither of which is there because it is a diplomatic grouping.
- The Quad needs to be represented by the owners of the maritime assets used to obtain domain awareness and a staff with command communications and a depth of intellectual planning.
- Quad meetings should be headed by naval officers, with diplomatic support, so that they don’t produce irrelevant communiqués like the one in February 2022 that spoke of dealing with Covid, climate change and natural disasters.
Connecting the dots:
(Down to Earth: Climate Change)
March 16: Monsoons can go for a toss. What will that mean to us? – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/climate-change/monsoons-can-go-for-a-toss-what-will-that-mean-to-us–81969
- GS-3: Environment, Conservation, Climate Change
Context: Monsoon in India and West Africa — the most significant monsoon rainfall systems — may be in for changes due to greenhouse gases, new research has warned. The changes may be rapid or gradual in the present as well as near future.
- This is the reason why scientists have included both, the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) and West African Monsoon (WAM) under climate-tipping points. These are critical thresholds in massive Earth ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest or the Greenland Ice Sheet that, when crossed, can lead to abrupt and irreversible changes in the systems.
- The systems are also interrelated, which means that a collapse of one can lead to a cascading effect on the others.
Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) and West African Monsoon (WAM)
Both ISM and WAM have remained relatively stable for thousands of years, with intermittent abrupt and gradual changes in the intensity and distribution of rainfall due to natural climatic causes such as changes in solar radiation.
- WAM shifted northwards between 14,500 and 5,000 years ago, which increased rainfall in the northern and western parts of Africa.
- One of the prominent results of this increased rainfall was the increase in vegetation in the Sahara desert, the evidence of which can be observed in the region’s paleoclimate records.
- The northward shift of the WAM had also caused significant changes in the social and cultural life of human settlements at the time, especially along the Nile river.
- Similarly, the ISM has undergone changes at various times in the past few thousand years. The destiny of the Indus Valley Civilisation was closely intertwined with that of the changing monsoon patterns.
Paleoclimate records in the form of sediments in the ocean or lake, limestone formations in caves, fossilised tree rings and ice cores give an estimate of how the climate behaved hundreds, thousands or even millions of years ago.
Recent research has indicated that previously unknown factors are influencing both, the ISM and the WAM. A research paper showed that marine heat waves (MHWs) in the Indian Ocean region are impacting the ISM.
- Such heat waves are caused by an increase in the heat content of oceans, especially in the upper layers.
- The MHWs in the North Bay of Bengal and the western Indian Ocean reduce monsoon rainfall over central India, the study established.
- The occurrence in the North Bay of Bengal increases rainfall over the southern peninsular area.
- MHWs are huge patches of warm water and they change the way the atmospheric circulation works. The availability of more heat and moisture during an MHW makes the air move upwards which is known as ‘convection’.
- To compensate the rise of convection with warm moist air, there is a subsidence of rainfall in other regions. The rising convection creates a low pressure below which pulls in the moisture-laden winds from other areas.
- When there are MHWs in the western Indian Ocean region, they pull the moisture-laden monsoon winds towards that region, not letting them move towards the Indian subcontinent. This weakens the monsoon system leading to dry conditions, mainly over central India. In the case of MHWs in the North Bay of Bengal, because of the location, more rainfall occurs over southern peninsular India while central and northern India remain dry.
- Worldwide, MHWs are one of the major results of human-induced global warming. But research on their impacts started only about a decade ago.
- During an MHW, the average temperatures of the ocean surface (up to a depth of 300 feet) goes 5-7 degrees Celsius above normal. Around 90 per cent of the warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions is absorbed by the oceans.
The year 2021 broke all previous records for ocean heat
- The increase in marine heat waves was due to rapid warming in the Indian Ocean and strong El Nino events.
- The West African Monsoon, on the other hand, is getting affected by a host of inter-linked factors such as dust emissions from the Sahara desert, evaporation from the lakes of the region and moisture feedbacks from vegetation.
- Another important factor in the case of WAM is a climate tipping point called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). The Gulf Stream ocean current usually carries warmer water from the tropics to higher latitudes and brings back colder water. But now, evidence suggest that the Gulf Stream is slowing down, which will lead to changes.
- The collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) might change the wind and rainfall patterns of the WAM which could lead to disruptions in the lives of 300 million, mostly agricultural people of west and central Africa who depend on the rainfall.
- The West African Monsoon is powered by the temperature difference between the cooler tropical Atlantic Ocean and the warmer African continent. It has three distinct seasons with onset between March and May, high rainfall between June and August and southward shift from September to October.
- The balance in temperatures on land and in the ocean which drives rainfall during these seasons may get disturbed by the slowing down of the AMOC as the heat transfer from northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere becomes inefficient and warms up the tropical Atlantic Ocean.
- The greening of the Sahara due to intensification of the WAM can lead to impacts on El Nino, tropical cyclone activity and even the Indian Summer Monsoon rainfall.
Can you answer the following questions?
- The destiny of the Indus Valley Civilisation was closely intertwined with that of the changing monsoon patterns. Discuss.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) :
- It is a constitutional body.
- It consists of a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and 3 other Members who are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
Which of the above is or are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2 Deep ocean mission (DOM) is being carried out by which of the following Ministry?
- Ministry of Earth Sciences
- Ministry of Science and technology
- Ministry of Jal shakti
- Nine of the above
Q.3 IUCN status of Himalayan griffon is
- Near Threatened
ANSWERS FOR 19th March 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On COVID-19 vaccines and patent rights:
On the interests of various players in Ukraine war:
On India-Japan relationship: