UPSC CA: 2nd November 2020

World network of Biosphere Reserves

Context: 

  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recently included the Panna National Park of Madhya Pradesh under its “World network of Biosphere reserves”.  

Key Highlights:

  • Panna National park was included under the list as a biosphere reserve by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest.
  • UNESCO has also described the National Park as a critical tiger habitat and has highlighted that the park is home to the World Heritage site of Khajuraho temples.

Panna National Park:

  • The national park is located in Panna and Chhatarpur districts of Madhya Pradesh. 
  • It is spread over an area of 542.67 km square. The park was declared as the 22nd Tiger reserve of India and 5th in Madhya Pradesh in the year 1993. 
  • It was designated as a Biosphere Reserve on 25 August 2011. Trees like Sal, crocodile bark, Arjun, jamun, etc. are present in the park.  
  • Among the animals tiger, leopard, chital, chinkara, nilgai, sambhar and sloth bear are found in the park. 
  • It is also the home to more than 200 species of birds such as bar-headed goose, honey buzzard,  headed parakeet, king vulture, blossom- changeable hawk-eagle and Indian vulture. 
  • The park was declared as one of the Tiger reserves of India in 1994-95.

Benefits of inclusion in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves:

  • The World Network of Biosphere Reserves consists of a dynamic and interactive network of sites of excellence. 
  • It helps in the integration of people and nature for sustainable development.
  • It tries to integrate both through participatory dialogue, knowledge sharing, poverty reduction and human well-being improvements. 
  • It also contributes to the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):

  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture.
  • It is also a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG), a coalition of UN agencies and organizations aimed at fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • UNESCO’s Headquarters are located in Paris and the Organization has more than 50 field offices around the world.
  • It has 193 Members and 11 Associate Members (As of April 2020) and is governed by the General Conference and the Executive Board.
  • Three UNESCO member states are not UN members: Cook Islands, Niue, and Palestine.
  • While three UN member states (Israel, Liechtenstein, United States) are not UNESCO members.
  • UNESCO focuses on a set of objectives such as:
    • Attaining quality education for all and lifelong learning
    • Mobilizing science knowledge and policy for sustainable development
    • Addressing emerging social and ethical challenges
    • Fostering cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and a culture of peace
    • Building inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication
    • Focuses on global priority areas – “Africa” and “Gender Equality”.

 

The Code on Social Security Bill, 2020

Context:

  • The Code on Social Security Bill, 2020.

Key points:

  • The Code on Social Security Bill, 2020, replaces nine laws related to social security. These include the Employees’ Provident Fund Act, 1952, the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, and the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008.
  • Social security refers to protection measures provided to workers to ensure healthcare and income security in case of certain contingencies such as old age, maternity, or accidents.

Key Significance:

  • The Code on Social Security Bill for the first time in Indian law, attempted to define ‘platform work’ outside of the traditional employment category.
  • As per this bill, “Platform work means a work arrangement outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship in which organisations or individuals use an online platform to access other organisations or individuals to solve specific problems or to provide specific services or any such other activities which may be notified by the Central Government, in exchange for payment.”
  • This marks a significant move to recognise platform work.
  • One of the major proposals of the Social Security Code Bill is to bring the platform workers under the ambit of social security schemes, including life and disability insurance, health and maternity benefits, provident fund and skill up-gradation.

Concerns:

  • The Code has drawn criticism from platform workers’ associations for failing to delineate platform work from gig work and unorganised work. 
  • Only such a categorical clarification could help ensure that social security measures are provided to workers without compromising the flexibility and a sense of ownership character associated with platform work.
  • The Code states the provision of basic welfare measures as a joint responsibility of the Central government, platform aggregators, and workers without delineating the exact responsibility of each stakeholder.
  • While platform work promises workers flexibility and ownership over the delivery of work, they are still largely dictated by mechanisms of control wired by the platform algorithms. This affects pricing per unit of work, allocation of work, and work hours.
  • The entry into on-demand platform work like ride-sharing and food delivery is dependent on existing access to vehicular assets. Given that the average Indian worker on a ride-sharing platform has limited access to such capital, platform workers rely on intensive loan schemes, often facilitated by platform aggregator companies. 
  • This results in dependence on platform companies, driven by financial obligations, thus rendering flexibility and ownership ineffective in the short- to middle-term.

 

Security forces unfurl tricolour in former Maoist heartland

Context:

  • The BSF and the Odisha police personnel unfurled the tricolour in front of the CPI (Maoist)’s “Martyr Pillar” at Gurasethu in Malkangiri district, Odisha.

Key points:

  • Gurasethu in Swabhiman Anchal along the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border was once known to be the heartland of the CPI (Maoist).
  • Swabhiman Anchal, an erstwhile cut-off area, has been the bastion of the CPI(Maoist).
  • This area remained cut off from Malkangiri till the Gurupriya river bridge was constructed in 2018.
  • The ultras used to conduct training and other activities without fear, as the place was not easily accessible.
  • Security forces had to trek to reach the place.
  • According to the experts, security forces had managed to reclaim the area from the CPI (Maoist).
  • The Border Security Force and the Odisha police have set up a Company Operating Base (COB) at Gurasethu.
  • With the setting up of the COB, it is expected that the people of the area will feel more secure.

About Swabhiman Anchal:

  • Swabhiman Anchal is the tribal-dominated region in Malkangiri district which was previously known as ‘Bichhinnanchal’ or cut-off area.
  • The area remained encircled by water on three sides after the construction of reservoirs at Machkund in the 1960s and Balimela in the 1980s. There was no means of communication to the villages other than boat services.
  • The erstwhile cut-off region in Malkangiri is now connected with the Gurupriya bridge.
  • In the past, the inhabitants of ‘Swabhiman Anchal’ had protested against the lack of development in the region.
  • It was alleged that in the past, Maoists were trying to use these issues to create a support base in the region.

 

Strategic Policy & Facilitation Bureau

Context: 

  • Union Ministry of AYUSH and M/s Invest India will form a collaboration to set up a strategic policy unit called “Strategic Policy & Facilitation Bureau (SPFB)”.

Key points:

  • It aims to facilitate planned and systematic growth of the Ayush Sector.
  • This Bureau will support the Ministry in strategic and policy making initiatives that shall help pave the way to reach the full potential of the Sector and stimulate growth and investment.
  • The activities to be undertaken by the SPFB would include :
    • Knowledge Creation and Management,
    • Strategic & Policy-Making Support,
    • State Policy Benchmarking,
    • Investment Facilitation,
    • Issue Resolution.
  • The Ministry of AYUSH would assist the Bureau in responding to investment proposals, issues and queries and fund Invest India for undertaking activities assigned. 
  • The Ministry will also support the Bureau in building links with various stakeholders such as industry associations, affiliate bodies of Ministry and Industry representation.

 

Mansar Lake Development Plan

Context: 

  • The Union government has recently inaugurated the Mansar Lake Development Plan in Jammu and Kashmir.

Key points:

  • The project is eyed to attract almost 20 lakh tourists every year and create employment for 1.15 crore man-days with an income generation of ₹800 crore per year.
  • Surinsar Lake and Mansar Lake are considered to be twin lakes.
  • Surinsar is rain-fed without permanent discharge, and Mansar is primarily fed by surface runoff and partially by mineralized water through paddy fields, with inflow increasing in the rainy season.
  • Mansar is of immense importance from Pilgrimage as well Heritage point of view beyond being the most scenic attraction due to vast Mansar Lake and its flora and fauna.
  • It is one of the 26 Ramsar Sites designated as Wetlands of International importance located in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • The Surinsar Mansar Wildlife Sanctuary is nestled in the midst of both the lakes.
  • The site is socially and culturally very important with many temples around owing to its mythical origin from the Mahabharata period.

 

BANDHU Website

Context:

  • Union Minister of State for Education launched a self-help website Bandhu for students of IIT Bombay.

Key points:

  • Project Bandhu was initiated by alumni of the Class of 1992, as a part of their silver jubilee reunion in 2017.
  • They pledged to support IIT Bombay and help students enhance their emotional well-being.
  • The self-help website is one of the first steps in this direction.

Features of the website are as follows:

  • It has been designed in conjunction with the counsellors at IIT Bombay along with external experts.
  • It addresses challenges ranging from adjustment to college life, academic stress, and mental health.
  • Bandhu has curated reads, motivational alumni journeys, expert podcasts and tools for self-exploration.