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Today’s important articles/news in various newspapers (5th October)

Dear aspirants, following are the links of various articles taken from various newspapers. Click the link to read further. To get notification, follow the blog. Thank you

1. Next steps at Gir

  • There has been an alarming development where many Asiatic lions have died in the Gir forest.
  • 23 lions since September 12, 2018 have died.
  • The Gujarat government, had initially insisted that the lions had died due to infighting for territorial domination.
  • Currently, the government has sprung into action and launched not only rescue efforts but also called experts from outside, including London, and imported a vaccine from the United States.
  • At the moment, more than 500 lions have already been screened to detect viral infections in the Gir forests and revenue areas. This has been done so because as Asiatic lions are spread in as many as eight districts in the Saurashtra region.
  • It is important to note that the Gir forests, are the only abode of Asiatic lions in the world.
  • The lions are famously known as Gujarat’s pride.
  • Apart from the 23 lions that have died since September 12, 2018, as many as 36 are battling for their lives.
  • A deadly outbreak of the Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) and tick-borne Babesiosis is killing these lions.

Analysis:

  • It is important to note that in the year 2013, the Supreme Court had issued an order that lions from Gujarat be relocated to the Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh as a check against the threat of epidemic.
  • Further, even wild animals are subject to State politics. Gujarat has been unwilling to part with its lions, calling them “its pride” in an affidavit.
  • On October 3, 2018, the Supreme Court of India, noting that the death of so many lions was a serious matter, asked the Central government to look into it.

A Detailed Look into the 2013 Order:

  • Specific observation made by the Supreme Court:

“Asiatic lion, it has been noticed, has been restricted to only one single habitat, i.e. the Gir National Forest and its surrounding areas and an outbreak of possible epidemic or natural calamity might wipe off the entire species. A smaller population with limited genetic strength are more vulnerable to diseases and other catastrophes in comparison to large and widespread population.”

  • Further, the Supreme Court of India also noted as to how 30% of the lion population in Tanzania’s Serengeti was killed due to an outbreak of canine distemper.
  • Canine Distemper is a viral disease that affects animals.
  • Gujarat’s response to this order by the Supreme Court was that lions are now spread over the Greater Gir region and this reduces the threat.
  • The Gujarat government also added that when ill, the lions are routinely picked up, medically treated, and then released.

Wildlife Conservation Vs. Treating Wild Animals

  • It is important to note that there exists a conflict between the idea of wildlife conservation and that of treating wild animals. This is so because, wildlife conservation concerns itself with maintaining ecological processes and reducing threats to endangered species. It does not entail treating wild animals for disease (in the way domestic animals are) as this can go against the processes of natural selection.
  • Further, although treating wild animals appears to be a caring thing to do, it is not conducive to the ‘natural’ process of life and death, and ultimately compromises on immunity.
  • Some experts believe that the lines of what comprises wildlife conservation are getting blurred. For example, wildlife conservation in the age of man, is very different- sometimes protected areas resemble zoos.
  • Having said this, even the most flexible of wildlife conservationists would agree that intensive artificial medical treatment of wild animals does not augur well for long-term sustainability.
  • It is felt that the role of wildlife managers should be to reduce unnatural threats, and not to unnaturally prolong life. Although Gujarat has done a good job of conserving its lions, it should also turn its attention to reducing the drivers of disease.

The Way Forward:

  • Without a doubt, after the lion deaths, it is believed that Gujarat should work towards colonising new habitats outside the Gir landscape within the State of Gujarat.
  • Having said this, there are spatial limitations in the industrialised State of Gujarat.
  • An option that one can consider is the Barda wildlife sanctuary.
  • In conclusion, a geographically separate population of Asiatic lions needs to be created.

2. Eyes on India

  • Recently, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia have unveiled strategies to forge closer economic ties with India.
  • Experts believe that Asia is currently in a state of flux.

The Current State of Affairs:

  • Currently, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is reshaping the region’s geography, with roads and railways traversing Eurasia and new ports dotting the Indian Ocean basin.
  • As a matter of fact, China’s militarisation of the South China Sea continues, despite negotiations towards a code of conduct.
  • Japan has been involved in resuscitating the Trans-Pacific Partnership and concluding a trade agreement with the European Union. In doing so, Japan has found itself in an unexpected leadership position.
  • In fact, Japan is now contemplating constitutional revisions that would enable it to play a more overt military role.

It is important to note that Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, outlaws war as a means to settle international disputes involving the state. The Constitution came into effect on May 3, 1947, following World War II.

  • It must also be noted that  Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia have all unveiled strategies to diversify their economic interdependence, away from mainland China and towards Southeast Asia and India. Thus, the center of gravity is shifting towards Southeast Asia and India.

Reasons for the shift in Policy:

  • The ongoing trade and tariff war between the U.S. and China is one reason.
  • Further, a longer-term concern is Beijing’s use of its economic muscle for political purposes.
  • In fact, there are many instances which come to light in this regard. They range from a) suspending rare earth metal exports to Japan in 2010 or b) punishing a major South Korean corporation for Seoul’s decision to install a missile defence system in 2017.

Further, China’s limited market growth potential and questions of access and reciprocity are additional considerations.

Certain Specific Policies:

  • Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy is meant to diversify investments to more promising markets in Southeast Asia, India, and Africa.
  • On top of this. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has unveiled a New Southern Policy.
  • During his India visit, Mr. Moon said that while the policy is focussed on Southeast Asia, it also “makes India Korea’s key partner for cooperation”.
  • Similarly, Taiwan, which is a G20-sized economy whose political status is disputed, has announced a New Southbound Policy with significant accompanying investments in India by Taiwanese electronics manufacturers.
  • Even the Australian government has commissioned an ambitious India Economic Strategy. 
  • The India Economic Strategy has the goal of making India its third-largest investment destination and export destination by 2035.
  • Generally speaking, although while policies are not driven by short-term necessities, political concerns are increasingly informing economic preferences.

In conclusion, experts believe that the stars are aligning in Asia for the acceleration of India’s economic growth. Further, investors, increasingly backed by their governments, are increasingly focussed on the Indian market.

3. The real bank crisis

  1. Recent decisions by the Reserve Bank of India on the various cases relating to the management at private sector banks brings into focus the role of the boards of private sector banks in India
  2. If the banking regulator has to put its foot down against the considered opinion of the board, it may be an indication that things have gone too far

Suggestions for better management

  • Boards must realise that real independence from the management is as important as the perception of independence as seen by outsiders
  1. In the recent ICICI case, there was a push from the independent directors — who were worried about the damage their reputation would have to suffer
  • Boards of private sector banks need to realise that oversight over the quality of financial reporting remains an important responsibility of the board
  1. Board oversight is needed on the quality of the loan asset portfolio, as under-reporting of NPAs and other stressed assets influences the integrity of financial reporting
  2. The successive lines of defence against financial misreporting are the bank CEO, bank auditors, bank audit committee, bank board, and the RBI supervisors
  3. The lack of board oversight can provide strong incentives to senior management to indulge in ever-greening of assets and RBI supervisors represent the final line of defence against financial misreporting on asset quality
  • Board members must realise that there is a significant information asymmetry between them and the senior management
  1. The management has the best information about the company
  2. In contrast, despite their best efforts at reading between the lines, board members must realise that they meet once in a few weeks and get informed about the bank through the agenda papers for the board and board committee meetings
  3. Board members in banks have to be extremely vigilant, especially about asset quality
  4. Not getting reappointed to the board cannot be worse than the significant reputational damage that a board member can suffer from being associated with negative events in the firm
  • When compared to the boards of firms led by professionals, boards of entrepreneur-led banks need to be particularly focused on ensuring credibility and independence
  1. In an entrepreneur-led bank, a general, albeit incorrect, perception can prevail that the board members need to toe the line to remain in the management’s good books
  2. As a result, any instance of the board being perceived to have not acted independently can significantly damage its credibility
  3.  If the board commands little credibility then there is a serious issue of board independence and, therefore, of governance in the bank

Way forward

  1. Given recent events, boards of private sector banks need to retrieve lost ground
  2. Independent and credible boards can guide the path for this

4. The price is wrong

  1. The farmer and his income is an important theme of discussion these days
  2. The government has increased the MSP of Kharif crops substantially for this season, which has come as a shot in the arm for the farmers
  3. Viewed arithmetically, the income of a farmer is a function of three things — the cost of cultivation, production and sale proceeds of the produce

How to achieve these factors?

  • Cost of cultivation
  1. The cost of cultivation can be influenced by the farmer in a limited manner
  2. Farmers can reduce the consumption of inputs per unit of land by using a better package of practices
  3. But, the rising cost of inputs like seeds, phosphatic and potassic fertilisers, pesticides, etc is not in the hands of farmers and thus necessitates subsidies
  • Increasing production
  1. By using high-yielding variety seeds, mechanisation, fertilisers, irrigation facilities, micro-nutrients and the correct package of practices, it is possible to increase productivity and production
  2. With some concentrated effort and use of technology, it should be possible to enhance the yields quickly in low production areas
  • Getting the right price for the produce
  1. This is the most critical issue for farmers today
  2. The challenge for the farmers is that when production goes up, the price tends to fall
  3. This results in zero or very little net gain for the farmers

Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA)

  1. It is an important step towards securing remunerative price (read MSP) for the farmers
  2. This provides for three methods of procurement: (i) Price Support Scheme (PSS), (ii) Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS), and (iii) Private Procurement and Stockist Scheme (PPSS)
  3. PDPS and PPSS have been allowed only for the procurement of oilseeds whereas, for all other MSP crops, PSS will be the main instrument
  4. A quantity restriction of 25 per cent of the total production of a state has been put for obtaining central assistance under all the three schemes
  5. Any quantity procured beyond this limit will have to be funded by the state’s own resources

Evaluating the methods under PM-AASHA

  1. PDPS has been tried by Madhya Pradesh during the last year and the feedback has been mixed
  2. PPSS is a new concept with a whiff of freshness but it needs to be seen how it plays out on the ground

Steps that can be taken

  • The mechanism under PSS needs to be strengthened
  1. Currently, the procurement takes place through state government agencies on behalf of NAFED, which itself is a weak organisation
  2. Farmers are not able to get the sale proceeds in time and so prefer to sell their produce at a lower rate in the open market
  3. The states and Centre will have to come together and put a robust system in place in order to provide the real benefit of the MSP increase to the farmers
  •  The inclusion of pulses and millets in the PDS
  1. It will result in the quick disposal of accumulated stocks
  2. This will also lead to health gains for the population and monetary gains for the farmers
  • Efforts to add value to the agricultural produce at the village level
  1. Even if primary processing like cleaning, sorting and grading of produce can be done at the farm-gate level, this will increase returns
  • Storage and negotiable warehouse receipt facility for farmers will have to be expanded
  1. By doing this, farmers will not be forced to undertake distress sales
  • Incentives for exports of surplus produce
  1. It will expand the market for farmers
  • A strategy to ensure appropriate acreage for crops
  1. It will ensure that the production is dictated by the market demand
  2. Most farmers tend to go by the herd mentality and whichever crop gives good returns this year sees a jump in the acreage the very next year
  3. This leads to overproduction and the price tends to crash leading to distress in the farming community

Way Forward

  1. Farm sector needs governmental intervention by providing an enabling policy environment, a robust institutional framework and a vibrant regulatory regime
  2. The government must provide policy, institutional framework for procurement

5. Mutated virus may have killed Gir lions

  • Gujarat officials are grappling with the death of 21 lions, wildlife experts say that more than the numbers it’s the fear of a mutation in a virus as the likely cause of deaths
  • The lions succumbed to the deadly infection of canine distemper virus (CDV) and tick-borne babesiosis.
  • The Gir sanctuary in Gujarat is the last habitat of the Asiatic lion of which 500-600 survive.

Stats

According to a 2015 census, Gir is home to 523 lions, including 109 male, 201 female, 73 sub-adults and 140 cubs.

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)

Babesiosis

Warnings Ignored

Action Plan

  • Vaccinate dogs in the vicinity against CDV, like in Serengeti where close to 30000 dogs were vaccinated
  • Tick control measures among domesticated bovine animals goats and sheep in Gir’s vicinity
  • The lions may have caught the CDV from other carnivores like hyenas or leopards
  • As a precautionary measure, Gir authorities have captured and isolated 31 lions from areas adjacent to the one in which the deaths have occurred.

Earlier Instances

Gir has long lived in the shadow of potential epidemics.

  • In 2012, studying frozen tissue samples taken from the carcass of a lion that died in 2007, IVRI researches flagged the presence of the Peste Des Petits Ruminants virus (PPRV).
  • PPRV or ‘Goat Plague’ is highly contagious, and can be deadlier than even CDV that wiped out a third of Africa’s lions in the mid-1990s.
    • But it infects only domestic livestock — small ruminants like goats and sheep.
    • It is part of a family of morbilliviruses that causes canine distemper in many carnivore species, measles in humans, and rinderpest in cattle. There is no record of PPRV making carnivores sick.

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