Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 28 July 2023

The Biodiversity Act approved for amendment

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

Lok Sabha gave its approval to a Bill to amend some provisions of the Biological Diversity Act of 2002. The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill seeks to address concerns of several central ministriesstate governmentsresearchersindustry, and other stakeholders, regarding the implementation of the 20-year-old law that is meant to preserve the country’s biological diversity and to ensure its sustainable use.

What is the biodiversity law, and why does India need one?

  • Biological diversity refers to all kinds of life forms — animalsplants and microorganisms — their gene pools, and the ecosystems that they inhabit.
  • The 2002 Act was a response to the global need to protect and conserve biological resources, which are under threat due to human activities.
  • The extent of the damage was highlighted, much later, in a landmark 2019 report by the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a scientific body similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
  • That report issued a stark warning: about 1 million animal and plant species, out of a total of about 8 million, were facing the threat of extinction.
  • About 75 per cent of the Earth’s land surface and 66 per cent of the oceans had been “significantly altered”, it said.
  • But efforts to protect biological diversity had begun much earlier. In 1994, countries including India had agreed to a Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), an international framework agreement similar to the more famous one on climate change.
  • There was a general agreement on three things: (i) that indiscriminate use of biological resources needed to be halted, (ii) that sustainable use of these resources, for their medicinal properties for example, needed to be regulated, and (iii) that people and communities helping in protecting and maintaining these resources needed to be rewarded for their efforts.
  • India’s Biological Diversity Act of 2002 was enacted by the government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with these objectives in mind.
  • It set up a National Biodiversity Authority as a regulatory body, and prescribed the conditions in, and purposes for, which biological resources could be utilised. The purposes are mainly related to scientific research and commercial use.

What amendments have been proposed in the biodiversity law?

  • The Bill passed makes several amendments to the 2002 Act, addressing most of the concerns raised by the practitioners of traditional systems of medicine, the seed sector, and the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Certain categories of users of biological resources, like practitioners of Indian systems of medicine, have been exempted from making payments towards the access and benefit-sharing mechanism.
  • Companies registered in India and controlled by Indians are now treated as Indian companies, even if they have foreign equity or partnership, thereby reducing the restrictions on them.
  • Provisions have been included to speed up the approval process in cases of use of biological resources in scientific research, or for filing of patent applications. The penalty provisions for wrongdoing by user agencies have been rationalised.


Lok Sabha passes forest conservation bill

GS Paper - 1 (Geography)

Lok Sabha a bill that seeks to exempt land within 100 km of the country's borders from the purview of conservation laws and permit setting up of zoos, safaris and eco-tourism facilities in forest areas. The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill-2023 was passed after a brief debate which was responded to by Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav.

More about the Bill

  • The bill exempts certain types of land from the provisions of the Act such as forest land along a rail line or a public road maintained by the government providing access to a habitation, or to a rail, and roadside amenity up to a maximum size of 0.10 hectare.
  • Forest land that will also be exempted includes land situated within 100 km along the international bordersLine of Control, or Line of Actual Control, proposed to be used for construction of strategic linear projects for national importance or security.
  • It also exempts land up to 10 hectares, proposed to be used for constructing security related infrastructure, or land proposed to be used for constructing defence related projects, camp for paramilitary forces, or public utility projects as specified by central government not exceeding five hectares in a left wing extremism affected area.
  • Yadav made it clear that there was no contradiction between the Forest (Conservation) Act and the Forest Rights Act as the two legislations supplement each other.
  • The bill also seeks to empower the central government to specify, by order, the terms and conditions subject to which any survey, such as, reconnaissanceprospectinginvestigation or exploration including seismic survey, shall not be treated as non-forest purpose.


Kargil Vijay Diwas

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

Leaders across India’s political spectrum paid their tributes to India’s armed forces and the fallen martyrs on the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the Kargil Vijay Diwas. The Kargil war was imposed on India. At that time, India had tried to solve the issues with Pakistan through talks. During Operation Vijay, the Indian Army sent a message not only to Pakistan but to the whole world that when it comes to our national interests, our Army will not back down at any cost.

The Kargil War

  • The Kargil War officially ended on 26 July 1999, with the eviction of the last remaining Pakistani troops and infiltrators from positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC).
  • The conflict was triggered when infiltrators from Pakistan crossed the LoC and occupied high positions in Ladakh’s Kargil district.
  • The infiltrators were initially thought to be jihadis. But over the first few weeks, as the sheer scale of the invasion came to light, the role of the Pakistani state became undeniable.
  • Between mid-May and July, the Indian forces slowly recaptured critical positions from the Pakistanis, in the face of heavy casualties and numerous strategic and logistic difficulties, culminating with the Army announcing the complete withdrawal of all Pakistani regular and irregular troops from Kargil on 26 July 2023.
  • Indian casualties at the end of the War stood at 527 dead1,363 wounded and 1 PoW (Fl Lt K Nachiketa, whose MiG-27 was shot down during a strike operation).

Challenging conditions

  • The Kargil War posed multiple challenges to the Indian armed forces. On one hand, were the enemy infiltrators, well armed and supported by non-stop shelling by Pakistan artillery from across the border. On the other, were the conditions of Kargil itself.
  • Kargil is located at the northern edge of the LoC some 200 km northeast of Srinagar and 230 km west of Leh.
  • While the town of Kargil is itself at an altitude of 2,676 m (8,780 ft), Dras lies at a height of 3,300 m (10,800 ft) and the surrounding peaks rise to altitudes of 4,800 m (16,000 ft) to 5,500 m (18,000 ft).
  • These are extremely high altitudes, which cause severe physiological effects on the human body while also posing logistical and strategic challenges.

How the Army conquered Kargil’s conditions

  • The initial stages of the War taught some valuable lessons, as both the Army and the Air Force discovered that it was unprepared for such high-altitude combat at this scale.
  • Many soldiers suffered from altitude sickness which event caused a few casualties. The lack of equipment for fighting in such cold weather was another challenge.
  • On the other hand, the terrain and Pakistan’s constant shelling on the crucial NH 1A caused major logistical challenges.
  • Eventually, the Army modified its methods to overcome these challenges. Units initiated acclimatisation and training programs to better prepare the soldiers for the conditions.
  • Better cold-weather equipment was procured (though the Army remained lacking in this regard throughout the War).
  • Techniques for high-altitude assault were further honed. Instead of daytime frontal attacks, assaults increasingly featured small groups scaling near-vertical terrain.

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