Reintroduction of Cheetah in India

Paper: III

For Prelims: The Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary.

For Mains: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Context of News:

  • The Supreme Court’s recent green light to introduction of African cheetahs in a suitable area in India has revived a decade-long debate over the controversial plan first floated in 2009 and shot down by the court in 2013.
  • The Supreme Court recently allowed the Centre to introduce the African cheetah to a suitable habitat in India.

The Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, covering about 1,197 km², is the largest wildlife sanctuary of Madhya Pradesh state in India. This wildlife sanctuary is a part of 5500 km² of forested landscape.
  • It is the single largest forest block of the area .Naoradehi wildlife sanctuary is a unique protected area where in two major river basins of India are encompassed, namely the Narmada & Ganges. Three-fourth of the wildilfe sanctuary falls in the Yamuna and one fourth of the WLS falls in the Naramada basin. Thus Nauradehi is such a unuque protected area where such a great transitional biodiversity values exist.
  • Wildlife attractions for wildlife enthusiasts that occasionally seen in this sanctuary are: Leopard, Wild dog (Dholes), Nilgai (Blue bull), Sambhar, Indian Wolf, Chital, Chinkara, Sloth Bear, Wild Boar, Hyena, Crocodile etc. Bird watching in Nauradehi Sanctuary is great as presence of large water bodies allures migratory anf resident avian species. Principal flora of this jungle is Teak, Saja, Dhawda, Bhirra etc.

Background of Efforts to Reintroduce Cheetah in India:

  • Initially it was thought that Asiatic Cheetah will be reintroduced in India but after Iran refused to part with any of its few surviving Asiatic cheetahs, the focus turned to the African variety.
  • The matter came up before the Supreme Court during a hearing on shifting a few lions from Gujarat to Kuno-Palpur wildlife sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh, which was also one of the sites identified for releasing cheetahs. In May 2012, the court stayed the cheetah plan, and in April 2013, it ordered translocation of lions from Gujarat while quashing the plan for introducing African cheetahs to Kuno-Palpur.

Difference between African Cheetah and Asiatic Cheetah:

  • The Asiatic cheetah is smaller and paler than the African cheetah. It has more fur everywhere on the body, especially on the back of the neck and the belly, a smaller head and longer neck, the Asian species usually have red eyes and they have a more cat-like appearance, while on the other hand the African cheetah looks like a panther.
  • On few occasions, it’s been heard that the Asiatic cheetah is much stronger and faster than African cheetah, while on the other hand people believe the African cheetah are the fastest. Both species are speed demons and skilled hunters. However, it is also believed the Asiatic cheetah do not run any faster because of the mountainous ranges and smaller size. Although, the Asiatic cheetah has not been seen running in its fastest speed for quite a long time, unlike the African cheetah which already has been.
  • The Asiatic cheetah is constantly said to be a different animal and sub-species than the African cheetah in genetic composition, though they are similar. An Asian cheetah’s attack on people has not been recorded.
  • The Asiatic cheetah is one of the world’s most critically endangered big cats. The Asiatic cheetah became extinct in India in 1952. Currently, wildlife experts have short-listed some regions with the potential to support cheetah populations.
  • Threats:
  • Historically, man has been the main cause of the decline of the Asiatic cheetah. Uncontrolled hunting in Central Asia saw the Asiatic cheetah become extinct in Afghanistan in the 1950’s and the last killed in Turkmenistan in 1984.
  • However, in India, Iran and Pakistan the chief cause of the Asiatic cheetah’s decline has been the disappearance of its preferred prey. Preying on small antelopes the disappearance of these due to poaching and their being unable to compete with domestic livestock herds has led to resultant declines in Asiatic cheetah populations.

Why Cheetah Reintroduction is opposed:

  • Priority to Extinct Species over species that need Attention:
  • In saving the cheetah, claimed the proponents of the reintroduction plan, one would also save other endangered species of the grassland. It is inexplicable, though, as to why one must introduce an exotic replacement for an extinct species to save indigenous species.
  • Costly Affair:
  • Emotions should not rule the fray. There is need to clinically examine the issue before we pour taxpayers’ money into this grand venture. The idea that the cheetah will ‘save’ grasslands by serving as its flagship species is utopian.
  • A decade ago, the cost of the cheetah project was pegged at Rs 300 crore in the first year alone. In Nauradehi, merely constructing a 150-sq km cheetah enclosure will cost Rs 25-30 crore.

  • Man Animal Conflict:
  • Forests have shrunk rapidly. Man-animal conflict is at its peak and we are fighting a losing battle to protect every inch of tiger land from mines, highways and industry. If we cannot take the concerns of the national animal on board, what hope is there for the cheetah?

Way Forward:

  • Can India’s meagre conservation resources afford to splurge on hosting a few imported animals? Even if the cheetah programme finds an international sponsor, should India’s understaffed and inadequate wildlife management cadre be stretched for a vanity project? Even if a few African cheetahs survive, as they well might inside an enclosure and supplied with prey, what conservation purpose will they serve? And what future will they have once out in the open in a country teeming with people, livestock and feral dogs?
  • The three-member expert panel will examine these issues in the next four months for the government to reach a considered decision. Meanwhile, as the policy dash for the fastest land animal is being cheered, the lions are running out of time.

Money earned in India by NRIs will be taxed, says Nirmala Sitharaman

GS Paper III

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Mains: differentiate between tax abuse and tax avoidance

What’s the News?

  • The Finance Bill has proposed three major changes to prevent tax abuse (tax evasion) by citizens that don’t pay taxes anywhere in the world.
  • However NRIs’ income abroad won’t be taxed in India unless it is derived from an Indian business or profession.

Changes introduced:

  • Reducing the period of stay in India to 120 days from 182 days earlier for persons of Indian origin (PIOs) to be categorised as non-resident Indians (NRIs).
  • Citizens who don’t pay taxes anywhere will be deemed to be a resident; and
  • The definition of ‘not ordinarily resident’ has been tightened.

For instance: Let’s say an NRI, living in Dubai or elsewhere, is not taxed for his income there, but has some earnings through something in India for which he doesn’t pay tax here. For that income which is generated in India, pay a tax.

Criticism:

  • The lower tax rates for those earning upto ₹15 lakh a year wouldn’t necessarily lead to tax savings, once the withdrawal of exemptions and deductions on the existing tax rates is factored in.
  • Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan showed strong disagreement over the Budget provision as it will hurt Indians working in the Middle East ‘who toil and bring foreign exchange to the country’ through remittances.

Wrong interpretation:

  • The new provision is being interpreted to create an impression that those Indians who are bonafide workers in other countries, including in Middle East, and who are not liable to tax in these countries, will be taxed in India on the income that they have earned there. This interpretation is not correct.
  • Income earned outside India by him or her shall not be taxed in India unless it is derived from an Indian business or profession.

Conclusion:

  • Eventually, we should have a system where the tax rate is significantly lower and simpler for people to comply with.
  • Today, the middle and low income people need more money in their hands and we offered this scheme.