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CURRENT AFFAIRS 11-06-2018

Threat to Bannerghatta zone

 

Relevancy

  • GS Mains Paper- 3
  • Environment

Why in news?

  • At least 73 eco-sensitive villages, of which 22 are ‘red list’ villages, have been left out of the buffer zone of the Bannerghatta National Park, which remains Bengaluru’s last big urban forest.
  • Using a 2016 Indian Institute of Science report that puts villages in the region in five categories of eco-sensitivity, Mr. Nowlakha, who has studied the ecologically sensitive zone, found that just 58 out of 147 villages in the top two levels of eco-sensitivity had been included in the draft ESZ.
  • A further 16 are partially included (that is, only 100 meters into the village), while 73 are excluded.
  • Of these, the researcher placed 22 in the ‘red list’.

What is Red List?

  • ‘Red list’ comprises villages that are adjacent to the forest and are highly eco-sensitive.

What does the Ministry of Environment and Forests say about the buffer zone?

  • The Ministry of Environment and Forests does allow for buffer zone to be reduced to 100 meters in densely populated areas, and this makes sense in the context of the northern edge where Bengaluru lies.
  • But, there is no logical reason, apart from vested interests, to exclude villages with low built-up area in the central and southern boundaries of the park.
  • Considering the reduction of the ESZ the buffer zone will do little in protecting the area, or the elephants that either uses it as a refuge or as a transit passage.
  • However, the study is based on the initial draft that put the ESZ at 269 square km, which has been cut down by a third to just 181.57 square km.
  • Bannerghatta National Park is the first of 21 urban forests to be looked at by the researcher.
  • The findings will be presented to the Supreme Court, which is hearing the matter on eco-sensitive zones.
  • Protecting this meager buffer zone may be more than a challenge, finds the study. While the BDA’s master plan mentions the ESZ and recommends a status quo, major transit projects that are being planned or being implemented are threats.
  • The four-laning of Kanakapura Road, the metro on Bannerghatta Road till Gottigere and suburban lines connecting Bidadi and Ramanagaram will see land prices shoot up and more real estate projects.

What are ecologically sensitive zones?

  • Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs) are areas notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Government of India around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.
  • They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.
  • An ESZ could go up to 10 kilometers around a protected area as provided in the Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2002.
  • Moreover, in case where sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, are beyond 10 kilometers width, these should be included in the Eco-Sensitive Zones.
  • Further, even in the context of a particular Protected Area, the distribution of an area of ESZ and the extent of regulation may not be uniform all around and it could be of variable width and extent.

What are Buffer Zones?

  • Buffer Zones are the areas peripheral to a national park or equivalent reserve, where restrictions are placed upon resource use or special development measures are undertaken to enhance the conservation values of the area.
  • Many authors agree that the term buffer zone became widely used with the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program and the Biosphere Reserves (BRs) in the 1970s.

Menstruation Benefits Bill

 

Relevancy

  • GS Mains Paper- 2
  • Government Policies and Intervention

Why in news?

  • Menstruation Benefits Bill was tabled as a private member bill in the Parliament earlier in the year.
  • It is imperative to look at the significance of the provisions, for a gender sensitive labour policy.

What is the bill about?

  • It seeks to provide working women two days of paid menstrual leave every month.
  • It applies to women working in both public and private sectors.
  • The Bill also seeks to provide better facilities for rest at the workplace during menstruation.
  • It includes providing women the flexibility to take time off, and with options like working from home.
  • The benefits are also extended to female students of Class VIII and above in government recognised schools.

A brief history:-

  • Paid menstrual leave has been in practice since long time back.
  • Bihar has had special leave for women for two days since 1992.
  • Although, it is not explicitly referred to as the menstruation leave.
  • Women can decide which two days of the month they would like to take off.
  • Also, they do not have to provide any justification for doing so.
  • In the recent past, some private companies in India have started offering menstrual leave.
  • Several countries such as Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, etc also have menstrual leave provisions.

What are the concerns associated with this Bill?

  • It would prejudice employers against hiring women and lead to their alienation at work.
  • Most women are capable of functioning at full capacity even during their periods.
  • So, for the handful of women who do suffer unbearable symptoms, the existing sick leave option is adequate.
  • Menstrual leave policies might discriminate against men.
  • This is because women would get additional days off every year.
  • However, the counter arguments are largely a reflection of continuing age old gender biases.

What makes this Bill significant?

  • Menstruation is a perfectly natural biological process, not a disease or a disability.
  • However, it can range from a slightly discomforting to a severely debilitating experience for women.
  • Nearly 20% of women suffer from uncomfortable symptoms.
  • These may include cramps, nausea, fever and weakness during their periods.
  • These are debilitating enough to hamper their daily activities.
  • Some women also experience reduced emotional control and decreased concentration.
  • Over 25 million women suffer from endometriosis.
  • This is a chronic condition in which period pain is so bad that women nearly pass out from it.
  • It is true that periods are weakening only for some women.
  • But the numbers are not insignificant to avoid a policy decision.

Conclusion:

  • The Bill takes gender equity discourse forward in a constructive and balanced manner.
  • Policy formulation would be meaningful only if backed by enforcement measures.
  • Evidently, women are continued to be laid off for demanding maternity entitlements.
  • Menstrual leave policies must be introduced alongside measures to increase workforce participation of women.
  • Worryingly, the female workforce participation rate in the country has declined from 36% in 2005-06 to 24% in 2015-16.
  • Measures aimed at reversing this decline are crucial.
  • Efforts at making workplaces more inclusive and gender sensitive are essential.
  • Separate toilets for men and women with facilities for disposal of sanitary napkins should be ensured.
  • The Parliament should take up the Bill on menstrual leave and hold a discussion on it soon.

Indo-China extending ties

 

Relevancy

  • GS Mains Paper- 2
  • International Relations

Why in news?

  • The Chinese premier accepted Mr. Modi’s invitation for another “informal summit”, like the one held in Wuhan between the two leaders, in India next year.
  • On April 27-28 this year the Prime Minister of India and President of People’s Republic of China, Mr. Xi Jinping held their first Informal Summit in Wuhan.
  • The summit was held to exchange views on overarching issues of bilateral and global importance, and to elaborate their respective visions and priorities for national development in the context of the current and future international situation.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization:

  • PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on the sidelines of the 2-day Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit being held in the coastal city of Qingdao.
  • It will be the first SCO summit since its expansion, when India and Pakistan were included as full members at the Astana summit in Kazakhstan last year.
  • India is likely to pitch for concerted regional and global action against terror networks and favor effective connectivity links to boost trade.
  • During his visit to Qingdao, a coastal city in east China’s Shandong Province, PM Modi will meet Mr. Xi multiple times on the sidelines of the summit.
  • Xi accepted Mr. Modi’s invitation for another “informal summit” in India next year and described Wuhan as a “new starting point” in India-China relations.
  • The leaders had detailed discussions on bilateral and global issues, which would add further vigor to the India-China friendship after their “milestone” informal summit in Wuhan.
  • A MoU on sharing hydrological information on the Brahmaputra River by China and another pact on amendment of the protocol on phyto-sanitary requirements for exporting non-Basmati rice from India to China were signed after the talks.

Indo-China Ties:

  • China is willing to work with India to take the Wuhan meeting as a “new starting point” to continuously enhance political mutual trust and engage in mutually beneficial cooperation across the board, to push forward China-India relations in a better, faster and steadier manner.
  • Last year, China stopped sharing data soon after the 73-day standoff between the Indian and Chinese troops at Dokalam over Chinese military’s plans to build a road close to India’s Chicken Neck corridor connecting the northeastern States.
  • The first MoU was inked between China’s Ministry of Water Resources and India’s Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation upon provision of hydrological information of the Brahmaputra River in flood season.
  • The agreement enables China to provide hydrological data in flood season from May 15 to October 15 every year.
  • It also enables the Chinese side to provide hydrological data if water level exceeds the mutually agreed level during non-flood season.
  • China, an upstream country, shares the scientific study of the movement, distribution and quality of water data for the river.
  • The second MoU was signed between China’s General Administration of Customs and India’s Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare on Phyto-sanitary requirements for exporting rice from India to China, one of the world’s biggest rice markets.
  • The 2006 Protocol on Phytosanitary Requirements for Exporting Rice from India to China has been amended to include the export of non-Basmati varieties of rice from India.
  • At present, India can only export Basmati rice to China.
  • Sources said the pact on non-Basmati rice may help in addressing India’s concerns over widening trade deficit which has been in China’s favor.
  • China has been promising to address the issue of trade deficit with India which has been seeking a greater market access for its goods and services in China.

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