Swarms of locusts spotted in border villages of Punjab

GS Paper III

Topic: Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.

Mains: Impact of locusts attack on agriculture.

What’s the News?

Swarms of locusts were spotted in two border villages of Punjab’s Fazilka district, prompting the state Agriculture Department to sound a high alert.

Locusts:

  • These are popularly known as ‘tiddi dal’, were earlier spotted in some villages of Fazilka, Muktsar and Bathinda districts.
  • Locusts are short-horned grasshoppers.Their appearance in winter months is a new phenomenon.
  • Locusts have a high capacity to multiply, form groups, migrate over relatively large distances (they can fly up to 150 km per day).
  • If ecological conditions become favourable, they rapidly reproduce and increase some 20-fold in three months.
  • Locusts need moist, sandy soil in which to lay eggs and fresh vegetation for hoppers to grow into adults.

Source:

  • Emanating from Pakistan, the swarms of pests — three to four-km-long and one-km-wide — settled at the trees in these border villages.
  • However, timely action against the attack ensured their elimination, the officials said, adding that no damage was caused to crops.

The Locust Warning Organisation (LWO):

It is a central government body, is responsible for issuing warnings and monitoring and controlling locust attacks in India.

No crisis after 1962:

  • India has not witnessed any full-blown locust cycles after 1962. However, during 1978 and 1993, large-scale upsurges were observed.
  • Localised locust breeding was controlled in 1998, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2010.
  • Since 2010, the situation remained calm and no major breeding and swarm formation has been reported.

Impact on agriculture:

  • Locust swarms devastate crops and cause major agricultural damage which results in famine and starvation.
  • Locusts devour leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, bark and growing points, and also destroy plants by their sheer weight as they descend on them in massive numbers.

Way forward:

  • The most commonly used control is insecticide. Sprayed from land or aerial vehicles, whole swarms can be targeted in relatively short periods of time. However, this has led to some environmental concerns.
  • More promising remedy is biological control mechanisms. Natural predators such as wasps, birds and reptiles may prove effective at keeping small swarms at bay.
  • The most effective way to avoid the devastating effects of locust plagues is to prevent them from happening in the first place. In this regard, locust monitoring stations collect data on weather, ecological conditions and locust numbers, making forecasts of the timing and location of breeding.

Most missing women from Maharashtra, M.P

GS Paper II

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Prelims: Palermo protocols, Operation Smile or Operation MUSKAAN

Mains: Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018

What’s the News?

The highest number of women and children who go missing in the country are from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh respectively, according to a study by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB):

  • The NCRB study was based on the annual Crime in India Report compiled by the agency for the years 2016, 2017 and 2018.
  • In 2019, the Supreme Court had directed the NCRB to “analyse the data on missing persons (especially on women and children) so that areas prone to persons being trafficked can be identified”.

Need of the study:

  • The need arises because of the fact that incidents of missing women and children are not uniform across the country.
  • The study aims to identify the areas where registered cases of missing persons, specifically women and children, are higher than in other areas.
  • Some parts of the country report higher incidents and such areas could be one of the source, transit or destination [sites] for child /women trafficking.

Operation Smile or Operation MUSKAAN:

  • It is an initiative of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to rescue/rehabilitate missing children.
  • It is a dedicated campaign for a month where several activities are taken up by the State Police personnel to trace and rescue the missing children and reunite them with their families.

Causes of trafficking:

Trafficking into sexual slavery is caused by various socio – economic and political factors that often reinforce one another.

  • The first is globalization, which has involved the opening up of markets and borders and the improvement of infrastructure, thereby increasing the mobility of people.
  • Forced marriages: Child trafficking, especially among girls, is one of the most intractable problems in areas afflicted with severe poverty. Often, it all starts with child marriages.
  • Traditional values and cultural practices that accord a lower social status to women are also factors known to encourage the search for opportunities abroad.
  • Some women and children leave their home countries to escape violence and other human rights violations.
  • Natural disasters, armed conflict, a breakdown of law and order and/or political instability, including government corruption are also conditions characteristics of countries of origin and destination. In fact evidence reveals a correlation between military presence and the sexual exploitation of women.

Consequences of trafficking:

  • It includes various types of dreadful and communicable diseases which is a threat to human health.
  • It sustains organized crime, promotes government corruption and the erosion of government authority; promotes social breakdown and constitutes severe abuse of human rights.
  • Drug addiction and development of serious psychological and mental problems among the victims is also seen as a serious consequence.

Steps taken:

  • The government took some action following reports of government complicity in forced labour and sex trafficking, although the systemic failure to address forced labour and sex trafficking in government-run and government-funded shelter homes remained a serious problem. The report also highlighted the government’s failures in this regard.
  • Recommendations for India: It includes amending the definition of trafficking in Section 370 of the Penal Code to include forced labour trafficking and ensure that force, fraud, or coercion are not required to prove a child sex trafficking offence,
  • To establish Anti-Human Trafficking Units in all districts with dedicated funding and clear mandates.

Highlights of the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018:

The Bill creates a law for investigation of all types of trafficking, and rescue, protection and rehabilitation of trafficked victims.

The Bill provides for the establishment of investigation and rehabilitation authorities at the district, state and national level. Anti-Trafficking Units will be established to rescue victims and investigate cases of trafficking.  Rehabilitation Committees will provide care and rehabilitation to the rescued victims.

The Bill classifies certain purposes of trafficking as ‘aggravated’ forms of trafficking. These include trafficking for forced labour, bearing children, begging, or for inducing early sexual maturity.  Aggravated trafficking attracts a higher punishment.

The Bill sets out penalties for several offences connected with trafficking. In most cases, the penalties set out are higher than the punishment provided under prevailing laws.

Key Issues and Analysis:

Certain forms of trafficking specified in the Bill (like forced labour and sexual exploitation) are also covered by existing laws.  Some provisions of the Bill are different from provisions for similar circumstances in such laws.  As these laws are not being repealed, there may be uncertainty in the implementation of the Bill.

The Bill punishes an owner or lessor of a premise if he knowingly allows trafficking to be carried out on the premise.  Under the Bill, the owner or lessor is presumed to have knowledge of the offence, unless they can prove otherwise.  This provision may violate Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Bill provides immunity to a victim only if he commits an offence punishable with imprisonment of more than ten years and not for lesser offences.  The high threshold may defeat the purpose for providing immunity.

The Bill provides for punishment of persons who distribute or publish material which may lead to trafficking.  It is unclear as to how it will be determined if the act is likely to result in trafficking.

The Bill classifies certain forms of trafficking as ‘aggravated’, which attract a higher punishment than other forms.  Therefore, the punishment for some of the aggravated offences such as begging is higher than the punishment for some other offences such as slavery.

Conclusion:

  • The trafficking bill 2018 need to be passed as it would plug the loopholes in earlier anti-trafficking laws and help tackle the menace of human trafficking as also the festering issue of illegal brothels by equipping the law enforcement agencies with more ammunition.
  • After the success of the children’s group “Ajker Surjya” (Today’s Sun), the initiative to form similar groups should be replicated in different states.
  • Schools and parents must make children aware of the dangers of trafficking and prepare them to recognise and tackle it. The children need to be given proper training on how to deal with such issues.

Additional information:

How Ajker Surjya works:

  • They keep vigil in the village for traffickers or unknown faces. They have a network of children who inform them about school dropouts or if a family is secretly planning to marry off their daughters before the age of 18. We also visit households, campaigning for immunisation, institutional deliveries.
  • What brought about this change were the children of this area who relentlessly battle these ills on a daily basis.
  • Their primary task is to identify children who appear to have gone missing — say, either they have stopped attending school, or if a girl child has simply gone missing. In addition, they visit each household and inquire about children. If they find someone missing or engaged in child labour, they directly report to the Panchayat office or the Dhagagia Social Welfare Society (DSWS), a partner NGO of Save the Children.

Palermo protocols:

The Palermo protocols are three protocols that were adopted by the United Nations to supplement the 2000 Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (the Palermo Convention). These protocols and convention fall within the jurisdiction of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

  • The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children; and
  • The Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.
  • The Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition.

Mains question:

‘’The highest number of women and children who go missing in the country are from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh respectively, according to a study by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).’’ In the light of this statement analyse the issue of missing women and children.