Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society
The Uttar Pradesh government has recently embarked upon a scheme to take the unique culture of its ethnic Tharu tribe across the world.
- The intention is to put Tharu villages on the tourism map, and to create jobs and bring economic independence to the tribal population.
- The community belongs to the Terai lowlands, amid the Shivaliks of lower Himalayas. Most of them are forest dwellers and some practised agriculture.
- The word Tharu is believed to be derived from there, meaning followers of Theravada Buddhism.
- The Tharus live in both India and Nepal. In the Indian Terai, they live mostly in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.
- According to the 2011 census, the Scheduled Tribe population in Uttar Pradesh was more than 11 lakh; this number is estimated to have crossed 20 lakh now.
- The biggest chunk of this tribal population is made up of Tharus.
- Members of the tribe survive on wheat, corn and vegetables are grown close to their homes. A majority still lives off the forest.
- Tharus worship Lord Shiva as Mahadev, and call their supreme being “Narayan”, who they believe is the provider of sunshine, rain, and harvests.
- Tharu women have stronger property rights than is allowed to women in mainstream North Indian Hindu custom.
- The state government is working to connect Tharu villages in the districts of Balrampur, Bahraich, Lakhimpur and Pilibhit bordering Nepal, with the home stay scheme of the UP Forest Department.
- The idea is to offer tourists an experience of living in the natural Tharu habitat, in traditional huts made of grass collected mainly from the forests.
- Tharu homeowners will be able to charge tourists directly for the accommodation and home-cooked meals.
- The government expects both domestic and international tourists to avail of the opportunity to obtain a taste of the special Tharu culture by staying with them, observing their lifestyle, food habits, and attire.
Source: Indian Express
Topic: Art & Culture
2) UNESCO World Heritage Cities
Orchha and Gwalior cities of Madhya Pradesh have been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Cities.
- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), an agency of the United Nations, aims at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, the sciences, and culture.
- The city is famous for its palaces and temples and was the capital of Bundela Kingdom in the 16th century.
- The famous places in the city are Jahangir Mahal, Raj Mahal, Rai Praveen Mahal, Ram Raja temple and Lakshmi Narayan Mandir.
- After the city is included in the world heritage City list, the historic spots such as Gujri Mahal, Mansingh palace and Sahastra Bahu Temple will be treated chemically. This is to be done to make the art inscribed in these places more visible.
- Also, guards are to be posted in these spots to welcome the tourists according to the Indian traditions.
- The city of Gwalior is known for its temples and palaces.
- The Gwalior Fort is accessed via a winding road lined with sacred Jain statues and occupies a sandstone plateau.
- It is now an archaeological museum with high walls of 15th century.
- The city of Gwalior was established in the 9th century and was ruled by Rajvansh, Baghel Kachvaho, Tomar and Scindias.
World Heritage site
- A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
- World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance.
- The sites are judged to contain "cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity".
- To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be a somehow unique landmark which is geographically and historically identifiable and has special cultural or physical significance.
- For example, World Heritage Sites might be ancient ruins or historical structures, buildings, cities, deserts, forests, islands, lakes, monuments, mountains, or wilderness areas.
Source: New Indian Express
Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations
Topic: Report & Indices
3) Smuggling in India Report 2019-20
Finance Minister inaugurated the 63rd Founding Day Celebrations of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on 4th December.
- On the occasion, FinMin released the Smuggling in India Report 2019-20 which analyses organised smuggling trends on Gold and Foreign Currency, Narcotic Drugs, Security, Environment and Commercial Frauds.
- The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence has so far detected 412 cases of smuggling that resulted in the seizure of 1,949 crores of rupees in the year 2019-20.
- The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence has arrested 837 economic offenders.
- It has unearthed 761 Complex cases of customs duty evasion. This amounted to 2,183 crores of rupees.
- According to the report, around 120 tonnes of gold were smuggled into India in 2019-20. This is 15% to 17% of the annual demand of the country according to the World Gold Council.
- The gold smuggling through the land borders has risen manifold in the recent years.
- The porous International borders of India with other countries such as Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh help the gold smugglers.
- There is a 16 kilometre of a free movement Regime between India and Myanmar. This allows the people to travel without visa restrictions. This region if used by the gold smugglers and is also a part of the China Myanmar smuggling network.
- In April 2019, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence along with the support of Assam Rifles conducted a secret operation in the fall of Manipur. During the operation around 1 lakh methamphetamine tablets were seized. These tablets are commonly known as YaBa tablets.
- The Directorate Revenue of Intelligence did a total of 72 seizures under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances act in the year 2019-20. The highest number of seizures was reported in Uttar Pradesh followed by Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu.
Cigarette and tobacco products
According to the report, India has become the fourth largest illegal cigarette market in the world. In 2019-20, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence has seized Rs 76.95 crores of cigarettes.
On the occasion, the DRI Utkrisht Seva Samman, 2020 was awarded to Sankaran, an officer of the 1961 batch of the Indian Revenue Service.
Source: News on Air
Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management
4) Elephant Corridors
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has given three-month time to the state government to submit an action plan on report of Asia Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) on elephant corridors in Odisha.
Key Findings of the report
- The ANCF report had graded the 14 elephant corridors in the state according to their functional existence and ecological feasibility along with proposals and suggestions on the method by which the corridors could be strengthened.
- The ANCF report said there is an urgent need to protect and augment the traditional movement paths to neutralise the increasing trend of elephant-human conflicts, whenever feasible.
- NGT in 2017 had issued a prohibition order directing that all such activities which are not permissible to be carried out in a highly Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ), should not be undertaken.
- The NGT also directed authorities to expedite demarcation of the corridors within a specific time frame.
Odisha government’s Stand
The Odisha government had proposed 14 corridors stretching over a total area of 870.61 sq.km. having a length of 420.8 km. Even after several years, no tangible progress had been made on the government's proposal.
- They are narrow strips of land that connect two large habitats of elephants.
- They are crucial to reduce animal fatalities due to accidents and other reasons.
- Fragmentation of forests makes it all the more important to preserve migratory corridors.
- This movement of Elephants helps in enhancing the species survival and birth rate.
- 88 elephant corridors have been identified by the wildlife trust of India under the National elephant Corridor project.
The all-round development like human settlements, roads, railway line, electric lines, canal and mining are the main cause of corridor fragmentation.
Reasons for Protecting the Corridors
- The movement of elephants is essential to ensure that their populations are genetically viable. It also helps to regenerate forests on which other species, including tigers, depend.
- Nearly 40% of elephant reserves are vulnerable, as they are not within protected parks and sanctuaries. Also, migration corridors have no specific legal protection.
- Forests that have turned into farms and unchecked tourism are blocking animal paths. Animals are thus forced to seek alternative routes resulting in increased elephant-human conflict.
- Weak regulation of ecotourism is severely impacting important habitats. It particularly affects animals that have large home ranges, like elephants.
Asia Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF)
- The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 is an Act of the Parliament of India which enables creation of a special tribunal to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues.
- It draws inspiration from the India's constitutional provision of (Constitution of India/Part III) Article 21 Protection of life and personal liberty, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
- Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) is a department to control pollution in Delhi.
Source: Times of India
5) Havana Syndrome
Recently, a report by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS), USA has found directed microwave radiation to be the plausible cause of the Havana syndrome.
- In late 2016, USA diplomats and other employees stationed in Havana (capital of Cuba) reported feeling ill after hearing strange sounds and experiencing odd physical sensations.
- The symptoms included nausea, severe headaches, fatigue, dizziness, sleep problems, and hearing loss, which have since come to be known as the Havana Syndrome.
- The more chronic problems suffered by Havana personnel included mainly vestibular processing and cognitive problems as well as insomnia and headache.
- While the symptoms have resolved for some of the affected employees, for others, the effects have lingered and posed a significant obstacle to their work and affected the normal functioning of lives.
- Directed pulsed microwave radiation energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining the cases of Havana syndrome among those that the committee considered.
- By calling it “directed” and “pulsed” energy, the report leaves no room for confusion that the victims’ exposure was targeted and not due to common sources of microwave energy.
- The immediate symptoms that patients reported, including sensations of pain and buzzing sound, apparently emanated from a particular direction, or occurred in a specific spot in a room.
- It warns about the possibility of future episodes and recommends establishing a response mechanism for similar incidents, adding that future incidents might be more dispersed in time and place, and even more difficult to recognise quickly.
- However, the committee cannot rule out other possible mechanisms and considers it likely that a multiplicity of factors explains some cases and the differences between others.
- It also does not mention the source and if the energy was delivered intentionally, even though it conducted significant research on microwave weapons.
- “Microwave weapons” are supposed to be a type of direct energy weapons, which aim highly focused energy in the form of sonic, laser, or microwaves, at a target.
- People exposed to high-intensity microwave pulses have reported a clicking or buzzing sound, as if seeming to be coming from within your head. It can have both acute and long-term effects — without leaving signs of physical damage.
Source: Indian Express
Ramnagar Forest Division in Nainital district, Uttarakhand, recently built its first eco-bridge for reptiles and smaller mammals.
Why Eco-bridges matter
Eco-ducts or eco-bridges aim to enhance wildlife connectivity that can be disrupted because of highways or logging. These include canopy bridges (usually for monkeys, squirrels and other arboreal species); concrete underpasses or overpass tunnels or viaducts (usually for larger animals); and amphibian tunnels or culverts. Usually, these bridges are overlaid with planting from the area to give it a contiguous look with the landscape.
First Five Animal Bridges in India
- The bridges have been planned to avoid disturbances in Ranthambore Wildlife Corridor. The first five animal bridges are planned on the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway.
- These animal bridges will help avoid man-animal conflict.
- The Ranthambore National Park is located in Rajasthan. It was declared as the Project Tiger Reserve in 1973.
- According to the Wildlife Institute of India, around 50,000 kilometres of road projects have been constructed in India in five to six years. Also, several highways have been upgraded to four lanes.
- According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority, major animal corridors are cut by the National Highways. They are the State Highway 33 through Nagarhole Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, National Highway 37 through the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape in Assam.
- Therefore, it is essential to build these animal pathways to prevent from disrupting their natural co-habitation.
- The two main aspects considered in building the eco bridges are size and location. These bridges should be built based on the animal movement patterns.
- Scientist Divya Mudappa of Nature Conservation Foundation built canopy bridges for Nilgri Langurs and lion-tailed Macaques. The IUCN Red List of threatened species lists Lion Tailed Macaque and Nilgri Langur as “Endangered”. Around six bridges were built across three kilo metres of stretch.
Source: Indian Express
Topic: Report & Indices
7) The Global Climate Change Performance Index
The Global Climate Change Performance Index was recently released by the New Climate Institute, Germanwatch and CAN (Climate Action Network).
- GHG emissions have increased slightly, but are actually falling in more than half of the countries (32) surveyed.
- India remains in the top 10 for the second year in a row.
- The biggest current emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) China figures at 33rd rank while the largest historical polluter, the USA, appears at the bottom of the list.
- The CCPI 2021, covering the year 2020, shows that only two G20 countries- the UK and India- are among the high rankers while six others - the USA, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, South Korea and Russia - are at the bottom of the index.
- The largest fossil fuel exporting and producing countries such as the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Australia are among the highest carbon polluters and the highest energy consumers.
The list is prepared by assessing performances of 57 countries and European Union (as a whole) in four categories:
- GHG emissions (40%)
- Renewable energy (20%)
- Energy use (20%)
- Climate policy (20%)
These 57 countries and the EU collectively are responsible for about 90% of global GHG emissions.
- The CCPI is developed by not-for-profit organisations Germanwatch and New Climate Institute (Germany) together with the Climate Action Network (CAN International).
- It is an important tool to enhance transparency in international climate politics and enables comparison of climate protection efforts and progress made by individual countries.
Source: Times of India