Ojaank IAS Academy




21 JANUARY 2023 – Current Affairs

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Herpetofauna and the Impact of crop pesticides

GS Paper- III

Context- Land need for food production always necessitates an uneasy trade-off between agricultural growth and species protection. This trade-off may be seen in paddy fields, where the unusual combination of wet and drylands provides great habitat for amphibians and reptiles. Amphibians and reptiles, on the other hand, suffer the burden of crop intensification.
Herpetofauna provide ecological services.
  • Cold-blooded species such as amphibians and reptiles, together known as herpetofauna, provide enormous ecological functions.
  • Frogs and toads, for example, serve as biological control agents by eating agricultural pests. Several salamanders and frog tadpoles feed on mosquito larvae, which aids in the control of mosquitos and mosquito-borne illnesses.
  • They also aid in seed distribution and pollination, as well as improving soil quality and aeration. There are about 40 species of lizards that pollinate well, including skinks and geckos.

Threats to the herpetofauna

  • The diversity and number of these herpetofauna are quickly reducing as a result of increased pesticide and fertiliser usage, land conversion, cropping system modifications, and a reduction in the amount of natural vegetation.
  • Frogs and toads, for example, serve as biological control agents by eating agricultural pests. Several salamanders and frog tadpoles feed on mosquito larvae, which aids in the control of mosquitos and mosquito-borne illnesses.
  • They also aid in seed distribution and pollination, as well as improving soil quality and aeration. There are about 40 species of lizards that pollinate well, including skinks and geckos.
Threats to the herpetofauna
  • The diversity and number of these herpetofauna are quickly reducing as a result of increased pesticide and fertiliser usage, land conversion, cropping system modifications, and a reduction in the amount of natural vegetation.
  • They are particularly sensitive to microclimates and microhabitats (with a restricted range of soil humidity, wetness, light flow, acidity, air and soil temperature) (they have small habitats like grass cover and low dispersal range; maximum lifetime dispersal for frogs and toads is 12 km). As a result, they are particularly vulnerable to agricultural intensification. The researchers discovered a major distinction in how it impacts amphibians and reptiles.
Survey to learn about the effects of agricultural intensification
  • Researchers from the University of Calcutta undertook a year-long assessment of agricultural areas in Odisha’s Baleswar district to better understand the impact of crop intensification on herpetofauna numbers and variety.
  • Paddy covers over 90% of the district’s 250,550 hectares of cultivable land.
Findings of the Survey
  • When comparing locations with high cropping intensity, pesticide use, and poor natural vegetation to places with less-intensive farming, amphibian abundance was nearly half and variety was low.
  • Because frogs’ skin is very porous and conducts both respiration and water intake, they are more vulnerable to pesticide contamination than reptiles.
  • According to the researchers, the species are experiencing an extinction debt, in which there is a lag between the impact of agricultural intensification on them and their response to it.
  • The true impact of present agricultural intensification on reptiles would be felt much later. Reptiles, such as snakes, suffer a greater threat from human conflict than amphibians. Encroachment on forest regions, as well as misunderstandings and beliefs, lead to the indiscriminate killing of snakes, whether poisonous or harmless.
  • The researchers also discovered that in places with fewer frog variety, the quantity of beneficial arthropods has decreased owing to intraguild predation. If both predator populations continue to decline, the natural mechanism for controlling agricultural pest abundance will be disrupted.
What is mean by intraguild predation?
  • A phenomena in which many species eat on the same prey, causing rivals to feed on one other.
  • For example, when a lion hunts and kills another predator, such as a hyena, for food.
  • It occurs when two animals who are both hunters fight for the same prey.
  • It’s similar to two toddlers fighting over a candy bar.
Way ahead
  • According to the study, unless a certain number of frogs are maintained, their influence on agriculture will be negative.
  • Semi-natural and natural vegetation, as well as buffer strips such as ditches, give opportunities to enhance the amount of alternate prey, intermediate hosts of target pests, and nutritional plant resources.
  • Semi-natural patches benefit arthropod communities and can increase their numbers to improve agricultural pest control.
The researchers urge that biodiversity studies be comprehensive in order for more creatures to get targeted ecological services.
Source – The Hindu

Indo-pacific and the New Eurasia

GS Paper- II

Context– Japan, which originated the modern geopolitical concept of the Indo-Pacific, is now well on its way to transforming the way we think about Asia-Europe ties. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s message on his recent trip to Europe was straightforward: the security of Europe and the Indo-Pacific is inseparable.
How did Japan influence the Indo-Pacific concept?
  • Kishida is keen to forge strong military alliances with Europe, building on the ideals of his predecessor, the late Shinzo Abe. Japan, South Korea, and Australia are closing the gap between Asia and Europe, which were once viewed as different geopolitical theatres.
  • South Korea, which does not always agree with Japan, is also getting in on the act by increasing its presence in Europe. Seoul, for example, is selling key armament platforms in Poland.
  • Australia, which has joined the United States and the United Kingdom in the AUKUS agreement, is likewise eager to pull Europe into the Indo-Pacific.
  • Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, as well as the partnership between Moscow and Beijing, has hastened this trend.
The idea of Eurasia
  • Many people used the name Eurasia as a neutral phrase to represent the huge region that united Europe and Asia.
  • Despite geographical continuity, Europe and Asia formed over millennia as distinct political and cultural domains.
  • Russia, which straddles this divide, regarded itself as both a European and an Asian power, but struggled to fit into either. When post-Soviet Russia’s efforts to integrate with the West faltered in the 2000s, it created the geopolitical constructions of Eurasia and Greater Eurasia.
  • Putin’s Eurasian plan included consolidating former Soviet space, regaining power in Central Europe, forging a strong partnership with China, and restricting Western influence in the continental core.
China-Russia alliance
  • Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin changed the geopolitical balance in Eurasia long before Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol moved to Europe.
  • Putin travelled to Beijing in February, just days before ordering his soldiers into Ukraine, to sign an accord declaring an alliance without bounds and no banned zones.
  • China, which had been cultivating Europe generally successfully since the 1990s, avoided taking sides in Europe’s problems with Russia on purpose. However, on the brink of the Ukraine war, Xi opted to lean toward Moscow by blaming NATO for the situation.
  • Putin and Xi revealed a Eurasian alliance that they may have imagined would deliver the long-awaited demise of the West’s global dominion. Instead, it strengthened the Western alliance in Europe while simultaneously laying the groundwork for a new sort of Eurasia, an alliance between China’s East Asian neighbours and Russia’s West European neighbours.
What are India’s Challenges?
  • The growth of Eurasia makes it more difficult for India to ride on two boats at the same time: Previously, India could easily hunt with the maritime coalition the Quad in the Indo-Pacific while also running with the continental coalitions commanded by Russia and China.
  • The struggle between the United States, Europe, and Japan on one side, and China and Russia on the other, is now intense and shows no indications of abating anytime soon.
  • On the negative, India’s rising security challenges from China along the Himalayan border, as well as the tightening embrace between Moscow and Beijing, will cast a darker shadow over India’s continental strategy in the coming days.
  • On the plus side, the prospects for improving India’s strategic capabilities in collaboration with the United States and Europe, as well as Japan, South Korea, and Australia, have never been better.
Opportunities for India may include
  • Increased economic cooperation and trade between India and European and Asian nations
  • As a result of enhanced connectivity and collaboration, India has the ability to play a larger role in regional and global affairs.
  • Opportunities for India to enhance ties with Japan and other nations in the area to solve Indo-Pacific security problems
In terms of economic cooperation and geopolitical impact, Japan’s policy of supporting greater connectivity and collaboration between Europe and Asia may bring both possibilities and problems for India. To maximise potential and limit obstacles, India will need to carefully handle and balance its relationships with diverse nations and organisations in the area.
Source – The Hindu

Disclosure of Journalistic Sources by Press

GS Paper- II

Context- A Delhi court noted there is “no legislative exemption in India for media from giving their sources to investigative bodies,” while rejecting the CBI’s closure report.
What’s the latest?
  • The CBI wanted to wrap up its probe into how some news outlets and a newspaper broadcast and published stories about a disproportionate assets case against a leader.
  • It said that the “papers utilised by the news channel were fabricated,” however it was unclear who forged the documents.
  • This is undeniably the development of fake news.
  • Article 19 provides legal protection for the disclosure of journalistic sources.
  • There is no explicit regulation in India that protects journalists from being requested to divulge their sources.
  • Article 19 of the Constitution gives all citizens the right to free expression and expression.
  • Anyone, including journalists, might be summoned to furnish information to investigative agencies.
  • A journalist, like any other person, might be forced to testify in court.
  • If she does not cooperate, the journalist may be charged with contempt of court.
Freedom of Press
  • Article 19’s basic right to freedom of expression includes press freedom.
  • This encompasses the full newsgathering, editorial decision-making, publishing, and distribution of printed materials process.
  • Press freedom extends throughout all four levels.
What have the courts said about this?
  • While the Supreme Court largely recognises press freedom, including journalists’ right to safeguard their sources, different courts have decided differently on this topic.
  • In the Pegasus spyware case (2021), the Court emphasised that one of the fundamental requirements for press freedom is the security of journalistic sources.
  • In 2019, the Supreme Court disregarded the Centre’s objections to the petitioner’s allegations in the Rafale case in a review petition since they depended on allegedly “stolen” sensitive materials.
Is there any legal recourse?
  • No, in the “public interest,” courts have ordered journalists to reveal their sources. In the lack of a formal statute, it is frequently left to a Court’s discretion.
  • The Press Council of India (PCI) Act of 1978 gives the Press Council of India (PCI) the authority of a civil court to hear complaints where a publication has “offended against the norms of journalistic ethics.”
  • During the procedures, however, the Council cannot compel a newspaper, news agency, journalist, or editor to divulge their sources.
  • The Whistleblower Protection Act of 2014 protects persons who report acts of corruption, willful misuse of authority, or criminal offences committed by public workers in the public good.
Recommendations for a change in law
Recognition under Indian Evidence Act
  • In its 93rd Report in 1983, the Law Commission of India suggested changing the Indian Evidence Act to recognise journalistic privilege.
  • The Law Commission proposed this adjustment again in its 185th report on revisions to the Evidence Act.
Position in other countries
  • The Contempt of Courts Act 1981 in the United Kingdom sets a presumption in favour of journalists who wish to conceal the identities of their sources. However, in the “interest of justice,” such right is subject to certain constraints.
  • United States: Despite the fact that the First Amendment guarantees free expression in the United States, the Supreme Court has ruled that journalists do not have the freedom to refuse to appear in a federal grand jury case and identify sources.
  • Sweden: The Freedom of the Press Act in Sweden provides comprehensive protection for journalists’ rights and even applies to governmental and municipal workers who may freely exchange information with media. In reality, a journalist who exposes his or her source without permission may be punished at the source’s request.
  • Journalists in France and Germany have the right to refuse to reveal sources in an inquiry.
Need for non-disclosure
  • The right of journalists to utilise and safeguard confidential sources is a contentious issue.
  • Many journalists believe that confidential sources are an important instrument in uncovering material of considerable public importance.
  • It is a reporter’s necessity and duty to preserve the identity of the source of his information; otherwise, critical information of public significance would be censored in a democracy.
Why are we discussing this?
  • The sources can be exposed when the public interest is strong and the disclosure surpasses the public interest.
  • The court may also order disclosure if the source of the news is a public office or official and significant charges have been made against him.
  • In addition, if a defamatory item is published about a person, the Court may order the journalist to identify his source.
Why media needs protection for sources?
  • When source protection is violated, the following consequences may occur: pre-publication disclosure of journalistic investigations may result in cover-ups, intimidation, or destruction of information,
  • The disclosure of informants’ identity might have legal or extra-legal consequences.
  • When knowledge sources run dry,
  • Journalists and citizens censor themselves.
Indian legislation on source disclosure is narrow and has primarily been decided on a case-by-case basis by courts.
Source – Indian Express

National Export Co-operative Society

GS Paper- III

Context- On January 11, the Union Cabinet approved the formation of the Multi-State Seed Society, the Multi-State Organic Society, and the Multi-State Export Society.
What exactly is the National Export Cooperative Society (NECS)?
  • The organisation would have a 2,000 croreauthorised share capital and will operate throughout the country.
  • The Multi-State Cooperative Societies (MSCS) Act of 2002 will be used to register it.
  • Its registered office will be in Delhi.
  • The registration of the Society will be completed in the next days, and the first consignment will be exported in three months.
  • It will function as an export house for handicrafts, handlooms, khadi, and other items, therefore increasing the revenue of cooperative member enterprises.
Funding of NECS
  • The Society’s proponents will be leading cooperatives such as IFFCO, KRIBHCO, NAFED, Amul, and the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC).
  • They will each donate 100 crore.
The Functioning of NECS
  • The Society will be distinct from the Export Promotion Council within the Ministry of Commerce.
  • This Society will give complete services to the cooperatives.
  • It will create overseas bank accounts and fulfil all relevant processes, including export permits.
  • The dividends will be paid to the manufacturer immediately and without any brokerage fees.
  • The Society will engage experts in international nations to assist it grow its reach across continents.
Why need cooperatives for export promotion?
  • Cooperatives provide 28.8 percent of fertiliser output, 35% of fertiliser distribution, 30.6 percent of sugar production, and 17.5 percent of milk production to the national economy.
  • Their contribution to exports, however, is negligible.
  • The tiniest farmer or craftsman with a decent product but no access to the proper platform can gain from society.
  • They will have access to the international market as well as high rewards through this Society.
  • The Society will package and ship a product after it has been tested for international standards.
Source – Indian Express

Road Accidents in India

GS Paper- II

Context- Recently, the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) stated that everyone must work together to cut road accidents by half by the end of 2025.
MoRTH Efforts:
It has launched several projects spanning all four elements of road safety, including:
  • Engineering,
  • Enforcement,
  • Education and
  • Emergency Care.
  • This year, the Ministry marked Road Safety Week (RSW) from January 11th to 17th, 2023, under the banner of “SwachhataPakhwada,” to promote the cause of safer roads for everybody.
  • It is dedicated to reducing traffic fatalities and injuries.
Road Accident Causes in India
  • Overspeeding causes around 50000 accidents in India.
  • Are also the leading causes of traffic deaths.
  • There are no caution signs, large potholes, or unlawful speed breakers.
  • Because to a lack of caution signs, large potholes, and unlawful speed breakers.
  • Hawkers’ unruly road congestion hampers routine vehicle operations.
  • Procedures for acquiring a driver’s licence are lax.
  • In India, the public prefers private automobiles due to the scarcity of end-to-end public transportation and its inefficiencies.
The Effects of Traffic Accidents
  • Included are the victims’ lost productivity, the expense of the judicial system, the strain on the health sector, and the victims’ loss of quality of life.
  • According to a UN assessment, lowering traffic deaths and injuries might result in significant long-term financial advantages (Fair movement of goods, Logistics). Road accidents cost India 3% of its GDP.
  • Approximately 40% of women reported a change in their employment routines following the event (More responsibility, more burden of family)
Laws and Initiatives
Global Initiatives:
  • Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety (2015): Adopted during Brazil’s second worldwide high-level conference on road safety. (India has signed on to this.)
  • iRAP (International Road Assessment Programme): A registered charity devoted to saving lives by making roadways safer.
  • The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 has a lofty goal of avoiding at least half of all road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030.
  • India is a signatory to the 1949 Geneva Convention on International Road Traffic (Geneva Convention).
  • The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, was enacted to promote road safety in India by revising the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
  • The amending Act imposed stiff sanctions for a variety of offences.
  • The NITI Aayog’s 3-Year Response Agenda highlights the standardisation of accident reporting and a subsequent action plan.
way ahead 
  • A legislation should be enacted in the country to regulate truck drivers’ working hours.
  • Similar programmes, such as the telethon and outreach campaign “Sadak Suraksha Abhiyan,” should be established to raise awareness about road safety.
  • Vehicle design and road infrastructure must meet safety criteria.
  • Proper training and capacity building are essential.
Source – Indian Express

Fact for Prelims

Channapatna Toys

Context- The Augmented Reality of Channapatna Toys was shown at the World Economic Forum’s First Movers Coalition (FMC) Leadership Meeting.
Toys from Channapatna
  • Channapatna toys are a type of wooden toy (and doll) made in the town of Channapatna in the Ramanagara district of Karnataka.
  • The state government protects this traditional craft as a geographical indicator (GI) under the World Trade Organization.
  • Because of the popularity of these toys, Channapatna is known as Karnataka’s GombegalaOoru (toy-town).
  • Traditionally, the job entailed lacquering the wood of the Wrightia tinctoria tree, also known as Aale mara (ivory-wood).
  • According to most estimates, its production dates back at least 200 years, to the reign of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan in the 18th century.
  • The toys are made using vegetable dyes and non-toxic colours, making them suitable for youngsters.

Shadow Banning

Context- Elon Musk used the term “Shadow banning” in reference to the so-called Twitter Files, which were leaked with Musk’s permission.
Concerning ‘Shadow banning’
  • The word frequently refers to covert activities taken by social media sites to reduce the exposure of a post.
  • The phrase “shadow ban” first appeared in 2012, when Reddit users accused the platform’s administrators of blocking a link to a Gawker story while outwardly promoting transparency.
  • The term’s meaning has evolved. It may now represent users’ overall dissatisfaction with not receiving the attention they believe they deserve on social media, even if they do not believe a platform has participated in any covert censorship.

Saansad Khel Mahakumbh

Context- The second phase of the Saansad Khel Mahakumbh 2022-23 was launched by India’s Prime Minister.
Concerning the Saansad Khel Mahakumbh
  • Shri Harish Dwivedi, Member of Parliament from Basti, has been organising the Saansad Khel Mahakumbh in the Basti district from 2021.
  • Wrestling, kabaddi, khokho, basketball, football, hockey, volleyball, handball, chess, carrom, badminton, table tennis, and other indoor and outdoor sports are all part of the Khel Mahakumbh.
  • Aside from these, competitions in essay writing, painting, and rangoli creation are held during the Khel Mahakumbh.
  • The Khel Mahakumbh is a creative programme that gives a chance and a platform for the kids of District Basti and neighbouring regions to demonstrate their sporting skills, as well as inspires them to pursue sports as a career.
  • It also works to instil in the region’s youth a sense of discipline, collaboration, healthy competition, self-confidence, and nationalism.

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