- India – Bangladesh freight trains link restored
- Report on Hunger Hotspots
- Supreme Court on Preventive Detention
- Food fortification
- Status of Leopards, Co-predators and Megaherbivores-2018.
1.India – Bangladesh freight trains link restored
#GS2 #India and its Neighbourhood Relations #GS3 #Infrastructure #Railways
Context: After 50 years, commercial services are restored on railway link between India and Bangladesh.
Key Details on the issue:
- Commercial services on the Haldibari (India)-Chilahati (Bangladesh) railway link between India and Bangladesh commenced on August 01st
- The restoration work to revive this rail link was undertaken by the railways of both countries.
- The restored rail link was inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina in December 2020.
- However, no trains officially operated on the route after that due to the Covid19 pandemic.
- Another rail link, between Agartala-Akhaura, is about to open by the end of 2021.
- Presently, there are Five operational rail links between Bangladesh and India.
- They are Petrapole (India)-Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India)-Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India)-Rohanpur (Bangladesh), Radhikapur (India)-Birol (Bangladesh), Haldibari (India)-Chilahati (Bangladesh).
- The Haldibari-Chilahati rail link was operational till 1965.
- However, the 1965 India-Pakistan war effectively cut off all railway links between India and the then East Pakistan
- The leadership of both countries are committed to reviving all the pre-1965 railway links between India and Bangladesh.
Significance of this link:
- The Haldibari-Chilahati route will strengthen India-Bangladesh Rail Connectivity and bilateral trade.
- This also enhance rail network accessibility to the main ports and dry ports which will support the growth in regional trade.
- Growth in regional trade will in turn encourage economic and social development of the region.
- This line will be beneficial especially for transit between Bangladesh, Assam and West Bengal.
- Common citizens and businessmen of both the countries will enjoy the benefit of both goods and passenger traffic once trains are operationalized.
- The new link facilitates easier movement of tourists between both countries.
- This will also help better integrate the rest of the country with the Siliguri corridor (‘Chicken’s Neck’)
Passenger Rail links between India and Bangladesh:
- Maitree Express: In 2008, Maitree Express was started, connecting Kolkata with Dhaka Cantonment.
- This re-established the passenger rail service between India and Bangladesh for the first time since Bangladesh’s independence, after being closed for 43 years.
- Bandhan Express: Aa second passenger railway service between these two countries were established in November 2017, connecting Kolkata with Khulna via Petrapole–Benapole border.
- Mitali Express: It was inaugurated on March 27th 2021, on the occasion of ‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s birth centenary and golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s Independence
- This connects northern part of West Bengal to Dhaka.
2.Report on Hunger Hotspots
#GS1 # Poverty and Developmental Issues #GS2 #Issues related to Children and Hunger #Measure to Reduce Poverty & Hunger
Context: The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) warn that in 23 countries, acute food insecurity is likely to further deteriorate in the outlook period from August to November 2021
Major Hunger Hotspots:
- Ethiopia and Madagascar are new highest-alert hotspots in the world right now.
- In Ethiopia, around 401 000 people are projected to be in Devastation between July and September 2021.
- It is the highest number since Somalia’s 2011 famine
- The major reason behind this is due to the impact of conflict in Tigray region.
- Hotspots– where part of the population is likely to face fast deterioration of acute food insecurity that will put their lives and livelihoods at risk.
- Around 28 000 people are also at risk of famine by the end of 2021 in Madagascar, due to the country’s worst drought in 40 years.
- South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria remain highest alert level hotspots from the previous edition of this report, with an outlook of catastrophic situations.
- In 2020, 155 million people were estimated to be in acute high food insecurity across 55 countries, up by 20 million from 2019.
- As per the report, acute hunger is increasing not only in scale but also in severity.
- Overall, over 41 million people worldwide are now at risk of falling into famine or famine-like conditions, unless they receive immediate life and livelihood-saving assistance.
Major reasons behind these situations:
- Conflict risks:
- In few hotspots like Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, the Sudan and Yemen conflict and other forms of violence are likely to continue driving food insecurity.
- Conflict leads to population displacement, abandonment of agricultural land, loss of life and assets, disruption of trade and cropping, and loss of access to markets, for example.
- It also likely to disrupt access to humanitarian assistance.
- Pandemic Shocks: The COVID-19 pandemic has had huge influence on the world economy, causing a 3.5 percent contraction of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2020.
- The economic impact of the crisis has been unequal across regions, and have affected low and middle countries particular hard.
- High international food prices, along with increased freight costs, once transmitted to domestic markets, will constrain food access of vulnerable households and negatively impact food security.
- Natural Hazards: Weather extremes and climate variability are likely to affect several countries during this outlook period.
- Although La Niña conditions have dwindled, they have contributed to severe rainfall deficits in Afghanistan, Madagascar, southwestern Angola and parts of East Africa
- Desert Locust infestation was a major cause of worry in the Horn of Africa region at the beginning of July 2021, while other regions were unaffected.
- Low densities of African migratory locust (AML) are still prevalent in traditional breeding areas of Southern Africa, including among the hotspot countries Angola and Madagascar.
- Poor humanitarian access:
- Poor humanitarian access acts as aggravating factor.
- Access to the aid is limited in various ways, including administrative/bureaucratic obstructions, movement restrictions, security restraints and physical restrictions related to the environment.
Measures to address the issue:
- Short-term protective interferences to be implemented before new humanitarian needs materialise and immediate actions are to be taken to address the existing humanitarian requirements.
- Integrate humanitarian, development and peacebuilding policies in conflict areas – for example, through social protection measures to prevent families from selling meagre assets in exchange for food.
- Increase climate resilience across food systems by offering smallholder farmers wide access to climate risk insurance and forecast-based financing.
3.Supreme Court on Preventive Detention
#GS2 # Fundamental Rights # Dispute Redressal Mechanisms and Institutions #Judiciary
Context: The Supreme Court has passed an order on the use and applicability of Prevention Detention in India.
- A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Hrishikesh Roy held that a liberal meaning cannot be given to the expression public order in the context of preventive detention law.
- This order came in while hearing an appeal filed against the Telangana High Court by the wife of the detenu who is placed under preventive detention under the Telangana Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act,1986.
Observations made by the Court:
- The court opined that, to invoke a public detention law against someone, it is not enough that their actions pose a threat to law and order but must affect the public order.
- The government should not use “preventive detention” to deal with a variety of “law and order” issues that could be dealt with within the country’s normal laws.
- The court must ensure that the facts before it directly and unavoidably cause injury, danger, fear, or a sense of insecurity among the people involved.
- Justice Nariman said that preventive detention must fall within the four corners of Article 21 (due process of law) read with Article 22 (safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention) and the law in question.
- He asserted that in a situation where the ordinary law of the land was adequate to deal with the condition, the detention order will be unlawful.
Preventive Detention and Constitutional Provisions:
- Preventive detention involves the confinement of someone in order to keep them from committing crimes in future and/or from escaping future prosecution.
- It is different from ‘being arrested’.
- Under the Preventive Detention Laws, the detained person does not have the right to move a bail application before a criminal court, and cannot involve any lawyer to represent him or her before the detaining authority.
- In the case of ‘preventive detention’, a person can be detained for three months without providing them before a magistrate.
- Article 22(3)(b) allows for preventive detention and restriction on personal liberty for reasons of state security and public order.
- Article 22(4) states that no law providing for preventive detention shall authorise the detention of a person for a longer period than three months unless:
- an Advisory Board reports sufficient cause for extended detention.
- Such a person is detained in accordance with the provisions of any law made by the Parliament.
Issues regarding this statue:
- No democratic country in the world has made preventive detention as a fundamental part of the Constitution like India.
- The State sometimes use such laws in an extra-judicial power for arbitrary detentions.
- It violated fundamental rights of a person with no trial for 3 months and with no representation.
- Food fortification
#GS2 #Issues related to health #Issues related to Hunger
#GS3 # Public Distribution System # Issues of Buffer Stocks and Food Security
Context: A group of experts on food safety have cautioned the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) of the adverse effects of Food Fortification on health and livelihoods.
Why this warning matters now?
- It is a pushback against the union government’s plan to compulsorily fortify rice and edible oils with vitamins and minerals.
- To fight chronic anaemia and undernutrition, the union government is making plans to dispense fortified rice (with iron) through the Integrated Child Development Services and Mid-Day Meal Schemes across the country from the year 2021, with special focus on Aspirational districts.
Is fortification harmful?
- Experts believe that the evidence supporting fortification is indecisive and inadequate to roll out any major national policies regarding this.
- Many of the studies which FSSAI relies on to encourage fortification are subsidized by food companies who would benefit from it, leading to conflicts of interest.
- Recent studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that both anaemia and Vitamin A deficiencies are over diagnosed, meaning that compulsory fortification could lead to hypervitaminosis.
- Hypervitaminosis is a condition of unusually high storage levels of vitamins, which can cause various problems like, over excitement, irritability, or even toxicity.
- Nutrients don’t work in isolation but need each other for ideal absorption.
- Adding one or two artificial chemical vitamins and minerals in undernourished populations can lead to
- Many studies have showed iron fortification causing gut inflammation and pathogenic gut microbiota profile in undernourished children.
- Compulsory fortification would harm the informal economy of Indian farmers and food processors including local oil and rice mills, and instead help a small group of global corporations. This will lead to cartelisation which in turn results in price hike.
- Once iron-fortified rice is sold to address the problem of anaemia, the value and the choice of naturally iron-rich foods like millets, different green leafy vegetables, flesh foods etc will deteriorate with time.
- The experts also warned that this policy is a ‘wasteful’ expenditure of more than Rs 2,600 crore (Rs 26 billion) ever year on fortification of rice with iron to reduce aneamia.
- The money would be better spent on alternative diet based sustainable solutions and improving the access to quality health care in the public sector.
About Food Fortification:
- As per World Health Organisation (WHO), food fortification is the practice of deliberately increasing the content of crucial micronutrients so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and to provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.
Fortified food products in India:
- FSSAI operationalized the Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016 for fortifying staples namely Wheat Flour and Rice (with Iron, Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid), Milk and Edible Oil (with Vitamins A and D) and Double Fortified Salt (with Iodine and Iron) to address the issue of high burden of micronutrient malnutrition in India.
5.Status of Leopards, Co-predators and Megaherbivores-2018.
#GS3 # Biodiversity and Environment #Conservation
#National Guidelines, Legislations & Other Programmes
Context: Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released a new report titled- Status of Leopards, Co-predators and Megaherbivores-2018 on World Tiger Day 2021.
Highlights of the report:
- India’s official leopard count has increased 63 per cent from 2014-2018.
- This is based on the estimation done by the forest officials on the number of leopards in tiger range states of India in 2018.
- There were 12,852 leopards in the country in 2018 as against 7,910 in 2014.
- The largest number of leopards have been estimated in Madhya Pradesh (3,421) followed by Karnataka (1,783) and Maharashtra (1,690).
- Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh had the largest leopard population at about 273 leopards followed by Sariska with 231 leopards.
- Both these Tiger Reserves lost their tigers in between 2004 and 2009 and in absence of tigers (or with low density of tigers after reintroductions), leopards occupied the major forested habitats within the Tiger Reserve.
- Nine subspecies of the leopard have been recognized, and they are distributed across Africa and Asia.
- Leopards are very versatile and occur in almost every kind of habitat, from the rainforests of the tropics to deserts and temperate regions.
- The Indian subspecies, Panthera pardus fusca, can be found in almost all habitats of India, except in the arid Thar desert and Sundarbans mangroves.
- They serve as important predators in most of the forested sites in India.
- In comparison to other large carnivores, leopards are quite adaptable with respect to their habitat needs and food requirements, being found in agro-pastoral landscapes, plantations, and near human habitation.
- Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I
- CITES: Appendix I
- IUCN: Vulnerable
- Habitat loss,
- Prey depletion,
- Conflict with human interests and
- Recent studies on leopard status and distribution suggests 48–67% range loss for the species in Africa and 83–87% in Asia
- This is in line with a recent genetic study in India which advocates that the leopards have experienced 75-90% human induced population decline within the last ~120-200 years.