India-Australia meet strengthens ties

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news:

India-Australia held a bilateral virtual summit.It is the first time that the Indian Prime Minister held a “Bilateral Virtual Summit”.The virtual summit signifies the strengthening of ties with Australia and its upward trajectory.

Key Details:

  • India and Australia raised their relationship to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” after the virtual summit.
  • They concluded nine agreements including a Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA).
  • MLSA will allow both militaries the reciprocal use of bases, humanitarian and disaster relief cooperation, port exercises, and passage exercises.
  • They issued a joint declaration on a “Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.”
  • Other agreements announced included a framework arrangement on cyber technology, an MoU on mining and processing critical and strategic minerals including Australian rare earth metals used for electronics, governance, vocational training and water management.
  • The two countries agreed to increase the frequency of meetings between the two Prime Ministers.
  • They also took the “2+2” format of bilateral meetings to the level of Foreign and Defence Ministers, who will meet to discuss strategic issues at least every two years.
  • Both sides agreed to continue to deepen and broaden defence cooperation by enhancing the scope and complexity of their military exercises and engagement activities to develop new ways to address shared security challenges.
  • The statement issued after the summit said, “Both India and Australia share a vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region to support the freedom of navigation, overflight and peaceful and cooperative use of the seas by adherence of all nations to international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and peaceful resolution of disputes rather than through unilateral or coercive actions”.

Tablighi activity now a specific visa violation

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

The Union Home Ministry has included indulging in Tablighi activities as a specific visa violation that will attract a fine of $500.

Details:

  • Home Ministry has added a new category— “restriction on engaging in Tablighi activities” in the “general policy guidelines relating to Indian visa”.
  • The guidelines provide details of 24 categories of visas and the various conditions under which they could be granted online or by missions abroad.

As per the amended guidelines,

  • Foreign nationals granted any type of visa and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders shall not be permitted to engage themselves in Tablighi work.
  • There will be no restriction in visiting religious places and attending normal religious activities like attending religious discourses.
  • However, preaching religious ideologies, making speeches in religious places, distribution of audio or visual display/pamphlets pertaining to religious ideologies, spreading conversion, etc. will not be allowed.
  • The $500 fine is also for other violations such as overstay of more than two years, visiting protected areas and cases involving both overstay and visa violations.

The MHA had blacklisted 960 foreigners who participated in the Tablighi Jamaat event in March at Nizamuddin Markaz (centre) in Delhi in March 2020:

  • So far, a total of 2,600 Tablighi foreigners have been blacklisted from entering India for 10 years under “Category A” of the Visa Manual 2018.
  • The Jamaat congregation, part of regular Tablighi activity, was attended by people from Nepal, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
  • A foreigner who is blacklisted cannot get a visa from any of the missions to come to India.
  • Home Ministry is the nodal agency that gives permission to any foreigner to participate in any international event.

Any conference/event application is routed through an Indian mission abroad and without the Home Ministry’s permission, the event cannot happen and participants are not issued visas.


Disasters displace lakhs: study

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news:

State of India’s Environment 2020: in Figures report has been released.

State of India’s Environment 2020: in Figures report:

  • It is the annual statement on the state of affairs in environment and development sectors.
  • The report is published by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
  • CSE also publishes the environment magazine Down to Earth.
  • The report covers forests, wildlife, agriculture, rural development, water and sanitation and climate change related aspects.

Details:

  • India had one in five of all internal displacements caused by disasters across the world in 2019, mostly caused by floods, cyclones and drought, according to the report.
  • There were more than 50 lakh internal displacements in India last year, the highest in the world.
  • This refers to the number of movements, not people, as individuals can be displaced several times.
  • The compilation also offers a snapshot of data on forests, water, waste, air, land, wildlife and other natural resources.
  • It notes that there were 747 more tigers in 2018 than in 2014. However, the net area meant for tiger conservation shrunk by 179 sq.km.
  • Forest cover has shrunk in 38% of districts.
  • 5 out of 21 river basins are now in a state of absolute water scarcity.

What caused displacements?

  • Flooding caused by the southwest monsoon led to 26 lakh displacements, while Cyclone Fani alone led to 18 lakh displacements, followed by cyclones Vayu and Bulbul.
  • Drought conditions in 19 States led to another 63,000 displacements.
  • Apart from such forced migrations, many move for work. In 2011, over 1.7 crore new migrants had moved for employment purposes, mostly from rural to urban areas.

‘What relief is ultimately granted if interest accrues?’

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

The Supreme Court, in a virtual court hearing, reacted to RBI regulatory package, asking what relief had ultimately been granted if loan interest continued to accrue for the moratorium period.

Key Details:

  • The three-judge bench said there were two issues in the case:
  • One, whether interest should be charged at all during the moratorium period.
  • Two, whether there should be an accrual of interest to be paid by the borrower in bulk or at a monthly basis after the lifting of the embargo.
  • The hearing came a day after the RBI filed an affidavit in court saying it did not consider it prudent or appropriate to go for a forced waiver of interest, risking the financial viability of the banks it (RBI) was mandated to regulate, and putting the interests of the depositors in jeopardy.
  • In its affidavit, the RBI was responding to a petition challenging the charging of interest on loans during the moratorium period.
  • The RBI said its regulatory package introduced amid the lockdown was “in its essence in the nature of a moratorium deferment and cannot be construed to be a waiver”.

Killing Gajah: On the killing of an elephant in Kerala

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

  • Death of a pregnant elephant in Kerala after she ate a pineapple laden with firecrackers.
  • The wild elephant had allegedly wandered out of the Silent Valley National Park (SVNP) in Palakkad, in search of food.
  • When the animal allegedly bit into the fruit stuffed with firecrackers, she was grievously injured eventually leading to her death.

Man-Animal Conflict

  • This is a horrifying reminder of the rising conflicts between humans and animals.
  • This is expected to grow as humans are entering areas meant for wildlife for commercial activities further diminishing their habitat.
  • This raises questions of development at the cost of environment, with little to mitigate the larger issue of lost ranges and blocked corridors for these wandering elephants.
  • Shrinking ranges and feeding grounds for elephants cause serious worry, because the animals look for soft landscapes adjoining forests such as coffee, tea and cardamom estates, and in the absence of these, wander into food-rich farms falling in their movement pathways.

Way forward

Consideration for wildlife while planning infrastructural projects and financial allocations for mitigation measures are needed to address the issue. A sensible course open to conservation-minded governments is to end all intrusion into the 5% of protected habitats in India, and draw up better compensation schemes for farmers who lose crops to animals. A culture shift to protect, rather than prospect, would genuinely enrich people and save biodiversity.