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1.Worrying downgrade (The Hindu)

2.Waiting for a signal (The Hindu)

3.Saubhagya (PIB)

1.Worrying downgrade (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue that reclassifying of snow leopard must not affect conservation efforts. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Snow leopards play a key role as both top predator and as an indicator of the health of their high-altitude habitat. Snow leopards are found in 12 countries including China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, and Mongolia, but their population is dropping.
  • The snow leopard was listed as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 1972, was reclassified as “vulnerable” earlier this month. But the snow leopard has lost its endangered status is causing genuine worry among wildlife biologists, who believe this, sends out the wrong signal to those working to protect it.

Collaborative efforts

  • There were significant investments in conservation for this species, including anti-poaching efforts, initiatives to reduce conflict with livestock, and awareness-raising programs, conditions in parts of the Snow Leopard’s range have improved. A species should be fewer than 2500 in number to be deemed as endangered. According to experts, there are more than 4000 mature adult snow leopards in the wild today.
  • India has worked to protect these animals; it has launched a programme on the lines of Project Tiger for its conservation, covering 128,757 sq. km of habitat in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • There is also an upcoming international collaborative effort, ‘the Global Snow Leopard’ and ‘Ecosystem Protection Program’, involving the countries that make up the range of this graceful animal. It is vital that in this momentum, we should not be lost merely on account of the technicality that estimated numbers have crossed the threshold for an ‘endangered’ classification.
  • India had handled the problem of the cat preying on goats, sheep, donkeys and other animals by roping in communities in conservation, and compensating them for any losses. An insurance programme in which residents of a part of Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh participated also worked well. New research indicates that even when wild prey is available, the attacks on livestock by snow leopards have cumulatively been on the rise.
  • A more fundamental worry is the loss of habitat owing to changing climate patterns. Climate change poses perhaps the greatest long-term threat to snow leopards. Impacts from climate change could result in a loss of up to 30 percent of the snow leopard habitat in the Himalayas alone. The factors that pose a threat to the species remain unchanged and the IUCN down-listing, which changes the classification since 1986, should not be misread by policymakers.

Way ahead

  • Now there is rising concern that the lower status may not weaken conservation efforts in range countries and the ability of local governments to stop these threats. As the climate change has threatens two-thirds of snow leopard habitat, their habitats are increasingly facing mining pressures, Illegal hunting, poaching, and retaliatory killing of snow leopards are on the rise in many areas. So the species still faces a high risk of extinction in the wild, and is likely still declining but just not at the rate previously.

Question– Recently the snow leopard which was listed as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since has been reclassified as “vulnerable”. Explain the factors which have affected their habitat.

 

2.Waiting for a signal (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue on the need of safety upgrade for punctuality and new trains. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • The Indian railway is the largest rail web in Asia and it has been termed as the hall mark of development in the country, it is well known that Indian Railways has been suffering from resource constraints and has been making efforts to explore avenues to raise funds externally in the absence of internal resources. For the decades, the lack of consistent political direction has affected the Railways. The country lacks civilian expertise on railway matters.

Assessment

  • Policy results are determined by the Ministry-Railway Board relationship and how much the Minister is willing to follow professional advice, the results are a haphazard introduction of trains, subsidising passenger fares by overcharging freight, investment in unwanted new facilities, and modernisation and induction of new technologies.
  • Railway is facing several problems; the recent events of derailments have highlighted the grim situation. Safety cannot be separated from the normal functioning of the Railways and it is a window that reveals the underlying health of the system.
  • The accident shows that the numbers of trains have now reached a level where field staffs are unable to carry out maintenance without cutting corners. For example- the track maintenance staffs usually decide to replace a defective glued joint even though the section control staff had refused to block trains from entering the section that was to be repaired, the practice of repairing tracks without blocking trains is quite widespread, which is cause for concern.
  • There are problems in the organisational level; the Utkal train accident is a distressing example of how incompatible organisational goals connect to unsafe behaviour at the field level. Problems can be seen as- moving more people by continuously adding trains even when sections are saturated and focussing on increasing speed and punctuality and diverting freight earnings to subsidise passenger fares. These are incompatible with the declared objective of safety, especially when there is a shortage of capacity to run existing services.
  • Unless the numbers of trains can be brought down to what the system can handle without cutting corners in track, signalling and rolling stock maintenance, there is no way to make the system both safe and punctual. The problem is further exacerbated by a lack of money to replace old assets or purchase spares.

Way ahead

  • The policy makers should devote time for the maintenance systems to stabilise even at the cost of delaying trains. There is also a need to restore the well-established practice of field inspections at all levels to grasp what is happening in the field and also need to ensure money for maintenance and replacement of aged assets.

QuestionIndian Railways is the fifth biggest rail network in the world with 1.3 million employees and it is a massive task to streamline its operations. Explain the reasons for the insufficient internal resource generation, which has not been able to keep pace with the growing operating expenses.

 

3.Saubhagya (PIB) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of recently launched ‘Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana’ -“Saubhagya”. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Power is one of the most critical components of infrastructure crucial for the economic growth and welfare of nations. The existence and development of adequate infrastructure is essential for sustained growth of the Indian economy. Electricity demand in the country has increased rapidly and is expected to rise further in the years to come.
  • The Prime Minister has recently launched a new scheme ‘Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana’ –“Saubhagya” to ensure electrification of all willing households in the country in rural as well as urban area.

About

  • The prime minister has mentioned that the country is moving from “power shortage” to “power surplus”, and every village in “New India” will have electricity. So the focus will be on equity, efficiency and sustainability in New India.
  • The scheme will be funded by a 60% grant from the government, states will contribute 10%, and the rest is expected to be covered by loans. For special category states, the government will grant 85% of the outlay, while the states will contribute only 5%.
  • It mandates the states and Union Territories to complete all household electrification by 31st of December 2018. The scheme is in line with the Government’s agenda to provide 24/7 power for all by 2019.
  • For easy and accelerated implementation of the Scheme , modern technology shall be used for household survey by using Mobile App. Beneficiaries shall be identified and their application for electricity connection along with applicant photograph and identity proof shall be registered on spot.
  • The Gram Panchayat and the Public institutions in the rural areas may be also authorised to collect application forms along with complete documentation, distribute bills and collect revenue in consultation with the Panchayat Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies.
  • The Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC) will remain the nodal agency for the operationalisation of the scheme throughout the country.

Salient features

  • The scheme aims to provide 24X7electricity to all willing households.
  • The Centre will be providing funds to states and union territories to undertake electrification of all areas.
  • Camps will be set-up in villages for the identification and spot registration of beneficiaries.
  • Under this scheme, a subsidy on equipment like transformers, meters and wires shall also be provided.
  • The beneficiaries for free electricity connections would be identified using Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data.
  • However, un-electrified households not covered under the SECC data would also be provided electricity connections under the scheme on payment of Rs. 500 which shall be recovered by DISCOMs in 10 instalments through electricity bill.

The Scheme can be resulted into

  • Environmental upgradation by substitution of Kerosene for lighting purposes
  • Improvement education services
  • Better health services
  • Enhanced connectivity through radio, television, mobiles, etc.
  • Increased economic activities and jobs
  • Improved quality of life especially for women

Question– According to a recent report by the Central Electricity Authority, the country is expected to become ‘power surplus’ in 2016-17, but the reported numbers under-estimate the country’s real demand for electricity, as the third of rural households does not have an electricity connection. Explain how ‘Saubhagya’ scheme can address the situation.