1. Modi opens Aadi Mahotsav, says world has a lot to learn from tribes
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Aadi Mahotsav, the mega National Tribal Festival, in New Delhi on Thursday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday inaugurated the TRIFED’s Aadi Mahotsav tribal festival in New Delhi, and said that the coming together of the diverse tribal cultures of India at such an event was “giving new heights to unity in diversity”.
Inaugurating the nearly two-week-long showcase and exhibition of tribal artefacts, handicrafts, handlooms and other products at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, the Prime Minister first paid floral tributes to a statue of tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda along with Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda, before taking a walk through the stalls set up by over 1,000 tribal artisans and craftspeople, from all over the country.
Addressing the event, Mr. Modi said the welfare of the Adivasis was personal for him. “Today, India goes to some of the world’s biggest stages and presents the Adivasi culture as its own proudly — as a solution to global problems such as climate change and global warming. When people talk about sustainable development, we can proudly say that the world has a lot to learn from the Adivasis,” he added.
Mr. Modi spoke of how his government’s policies had benefited tribal communities, mentioning the setting up of over 3,000 Van Dhan Vikas Kendras, 80 lakh self-help groups, the increase in budget for tribal welfare, the boost to Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs), and a rise in the number of forest produce that the government was purchasing at the minimum support price.
‘Into the mainstream’
“The government is walking to reach those who were thought to be unreachable and living in the remotest parts of the country. For those who thought they were on the margins, this government is bringing them into the mainstream,” the PM said.
“Providing education to Adivasi children, wherever they may be in the country, is my priority,” the PM said before citing the Budget announcement of hiring nearly 40,000 staffers for EMRSs across the country.
Mr. Modi added that the New Education Policy had addressed the language barrier, which had been a problem for tribal children, allowing them to learn in their mother tongues.
“Villages that used to be connected with separatism and extremism are now connected with 4G. The youth, who used to get pulled into divisive efforts, are now accessing the Internet and becoming part of the mainstream. This is the stream of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas and Sabka Prayas which is reaching every citizen of the far-flung areas of the country. This is the sound of the confluence of Aadi and Aadhunikta (modernity), on which the soaring edifice of New India will stand.”
2. SC set to pronounce order today on whether a Speaker under notice can disqualify legislators
The Supreme Court is scheduled on Friday to pronounce its order on the question of whether a seven-judge Bench should re-examine its 2016 decision that a Speaker under a cloud should first clear his name before hearing disqualification petitions against legislators under the anti-defection law.
The court had reserved its order on Thursday.
A five-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud was hearing a series of petitions following the political crisis which rocked Maharashtra when current Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his camp followers rebelled against then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and eventually brought down the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in early 2022.
In 2016, a majority judgment of the Supreme Court in the Nabam Rebia case had held that a Speaker or Deputy Speaker facing notice of removal cannot decide disqualification proceedings against legislators.
But senior advocate Kapil Sibal, for Mr. Thackeray, argued that the Nabam Rebia judgment has a flip side too. Legislators facing disqualification under the Tenth Schedule are now issuing notices of removal against Speakers and Deputy Speakers in order to stall the proceedings against them.
“The Nabam Rebia judgment stops a Speaker from acting as Tribunal under the Tenth Schedule the moment he himself receives a notice for his removal… This has now become a device legislators are employing to stall their disqualification. Meantime, politics takes over. The government falls. A new Chief Minister is appointed with the support of the rebel legislators. A new Speaker is installed and the disqualification proceedings are in limbo…,” Mr. Sibal submitted.
Mr. Shinde and 15 legislators were issued notices by then Deputy Speaker Narhari Zariwal in the disqualification petition filed against them by the Thackeray camp.
However, the legislators had responded by sending Mr. Zariwal notice for his removal.
On Wednesday, Chief Justice Chandrachud said that the 2016 judgment raises tough constitutional issues. On the one hand, the judgment incapacitates a Speaker or Deputy Speaker from functioning as a Tribunal under the Tenth Schedule until his position is ratified by the House.
On the other, allowing a Speaker or Deputy Speaker, who is himself under threat of losing his position in the House, to function as a Tribunal, may lead to bias. It could even allow the leader of a political party to cling on to power despite losing the faith of his or her flock.
“This would facilitate a leader of a political party to hold on to the status quo though he or she has really lost his or her leadership over a group of legislators… Both ends have very serious consequences,” the CJI had remarked.
3. 12 cheetahs from South Africa likely to reach India today
A cheetah from Namibia now in the Kuno National Park.
India is expected to welcome the first batch of 12 cheetahs from South Africa this weekend, after eight of these big cats were ferried from Namibia last September, Union Environment Ministry officials said here on Thursday.
The cheetahs, five of them female, have taken off from Johannesburg aboard an Indian Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster aircraft. They are expected to reach Gwalior on Friday and will then be taken to the Kuno National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh by helicopters.
As those brought in from Namibia, these too will be in enclosures for months as part of an acclimatisation process. The cheetahs from Namibia have largely adapted to Indian conditions and are able to individually hunt prey. While they are now being kept in larger enclosures, it will be a few more months before they are completely released into the wild, said S.P. Yadav, Director-General (Wild- life), a key official in charge of cheetah translocation.
The Namibian animals are healthy, except one named Sasha who, even as a cub, had liver problems. “However, it is moving along with the other animals, and we expect it to be healthy,” Mr. Yadav said.
The agreement with the South African government is to send 10 to 12 cheetahs every year, potentially for the next decade. The ultimate objective is to have a sustainable self-perpetuating population.
A major goal, along with establishing a viable population, is to develop the region as a tourism hotspot to benefit the local economy, Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said.
4. India accounts for 52% of world’s new leprosy patients, says Mandaviya.
With a renewed focus on tackling leprosy, the Union Health Ministry has devised a strategic road map for achieving zero cases of the infection by 2030.
Despite India being declared “Leprosy Eliminated” in 2005, the country still accounts for over half (52%) of the world’s new leprosy patients, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said in a written message of the National Strategic Plan and Roadmap for Leprosy 2023-2027. Leprosy is a chronic bacterial infection, which affects skin, nerves, lungs and eyes.
Health officials have noted that earlier gains made in the leprosy programme were reversed during COVID-19 as a sudden decline in case detection numbers was noted. Early detection of the infection in the affected person can save them from physical disability.
With the COVID pandemic in 2020, case detection dropped by 43% in 2020-21 and by 34% in 2021-22 in comparison to the pre-COVID year 2019-20. “Annual case detection rate has halved from 8.13 cases per lakh population to 4.56 cases in 2020-21. In 2021-22, it has settled at 5.52 cases per lakh,” the plan document notes.
Grade 2 disabilities
The Ministry noted that decline in detection has led to increase in patients with grade 2 disabilities. COVID-19 in India had its severe impact on leprosy case detection services, and resulted in hidden cases and a probable increase in grade 2 disabilities, which may delay attainment of the goal of zero leprosy, it has stated. In 2021-22, a total of 75,394 new cases were detected in India. A total of 1,863 grade 2 disabilities detected amongst the new leprosy cases during 2021-22, indicating a G2D rate of 1.36 per million population and 2.47% G2D among new cases. In 2022-23, for data available till August 2022, this rate has gone a notch up to 1.71 per million population.
“The agenda of eliminating leprosy at a sub-national level is still unfinished, there are a few States/Union Territories which have yet to achieve the elimination of leprosy as a public health problem,” said Roli Singh, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and Managing Director, National Health Mission.
Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Dadra Nagar Haveli and Daman Diu have either one or more districts (total 82 districts) which are yet to achieve leprosy elimination target and contributes to more than 90% cases in the country.
COVID-19 had its severe impact on leprosy case detection services
5. Editorial-1: Deep sea fish conservation must not go adrift
The purse seiners of Tamil Nadu must note that ‘freedom in a commons brings ruin to all’ and must comply with conservation measures
The Supreme Court of India has given permission to fishermen using purse seine fishing gear to fish beyond territorial waters (12 nautical miles) and within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (200 nautical miles) of Tamil Nadu, but observing certain restrictions. The Court’s interim order of January 24, 2023, against the banning of purse seine fishing by the Tamil Nadu Government in February 2022, seems to be more concerned about regulating fishing with administrative and transparency measures than about the conservation measures and obligations which a coastal state owes in its EEZ under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). However, conservation measures (as suggested in various regional conventions) and judgments of various tribunals (embodying conservation measures based on best science or relevant scientific evidence to control overfishing and protect endangered marine living resources from extinction) should have informed the order. Purse seiners tend to overfish, unlike traditional fishermen using traditional fish gear, thus endangering the livelihood of the traditional fisher.
Conservation and conventions
The top court should seek guidance from the obligations arising from the multilateral and regional conventions which are meant to bring in sustainable fishing practices over a certain period of time, thereby allowing a common resource such as fish to be naturally replenished. Under Articles 56.1(a) and 56.1(b)(iii) of UNCLOS, coastal states have sovereign rights to ensure that the living and non-living resources of the EEZ are used, conserved and managed, and not subject to overexploitation. Access to the zone by foreign fleets is also solely within the coastal state’s discretion and subject to its laws and regulations. In order to prevent overexploitation, coastal States must determine the total allowable catch (TAC) in the EEZ (Articles 61(1) and (2) of UNCLOS) in light of the best scientific evidence available. The guidance from the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna 1993 (SBT) could have also been sourced by the top court to enable recovery of depleted fishing stocks.
The crux of the SBT is TAC and distribution of allocations among the parties to the SBT, which are very relevant from the angle of conservation of general fishery. TAC and the catch quotas are aimed at putting sustainable use into practice among fishermen and maintaining maximum sustainable yield (MSY). The efforts to implement TAC and catch quota might face scientific uncertainty relating to safe limits to ensure MSY. In such a situation, the established international environmental law practice is to lean on adopting a precautionary approach.
Regulation of fishing methods
Merely restricting the purse seiner to fish on two days — Monday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. — (in the Court order) is not sufficient without regulating the fishing methods used. International legal efforts are gradually moving in the direction of abandoning the use of large-scale pelagic nets. The huge size of the purse seine nets (2,000 metres in length and 200 m in depth) allows maximum catch for the purse seiners, in turn leaving behind insufficient catch for traditional fishermen. There are several regional organisations that either prohibit the use of large drift nets or at least call for their prohibition, such as the 1989 Tarawa Declaration of the South Pacific Forum.
The 1989 Convention for the Prohibition of Fishing with Long Drift Nets in the South Pacific goes as far as to restrict port access for drift net fishing vessels. The United Nations General Assembly passed Resolutions 44/225 (1989) and 46/215 (1991) supported and strengthened this development, calling for a moratoria on all large-scale pelagic drift net fishing vessels in high seas. Although the conventions and the UN General Assembly resolutions are applicable to the state parties in the high seas, these are relevant in terms of preventing overfishing in general and the conservation of fishery management in the EEZ as well.
On non-selective fishing technology
The Court’s final judgment needs to look into non-selective fishing methods by purse seiners resulting in the by-catch of other marine living species (which could include, many a times, endangered species) — a potential ground for trade embargo. A party under Article XX (b) can take measures to protect human, animal or plant life provided it involves “conservation of exhaustible natural resources if such measures are made effective in conjunction with restrictions on domestic production or consumption” (Article XX(g). In Shrimp/Turtle, the appellate body held that the U.S. measure — which prohibited imports of shrimp from any country that did not have a turtle-excluder fishing gear comparable to that of the United States — fit the Article XX(g) exception for the conservation of exhaustible natural resources. However, the appellate body also found that the U.S.’s measures had been applied in a way that violated the chapeau: by treating certain Asian countries differently than America’s trading partners in the western hemisphere.
Despite the best conservation measures and regulation of fishing methods adopted by the authorities, it will be a challenge in dealing with the limitless character of the seas which renders a common resource such as fish available for exploitation by all. The theory of Garrett Hardin, ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’, which says ‘Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all’ should convince all fishermen, especially the purse seiners of Tamil Nadu, that they must cooperate in complying with conservation measures.