Current Affairs (12th July 2021)
Elephant reserve in Chhattisgarh
- The proposed Lemru Elephant Reserve in Chhattisgarh, in the pipeline for 20 years, has become the subject of yet another controversy.
- Recently, the state Forest and Environment Department asked the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) to make a presentation for decreasing the area of the proposed reserve from 1,995 sq km to 450 sq km.
What is Lemru Elephant Reserve?
- The proposal for the reserve, in Korbadistrict, was passed unanimously by the Assembly in 2005 and got central approval in 2007.
- Lemru is one of two elephant reserves planned to prevent human-animal conflict in the region, with elephants moving into Chhattisgarh from Odisha and Jharkhand. Its area was then proposed to be 450 sq km.
- A letter from the then PCCF described the reserve as part of an elephant corridor that connects Lemru (Korba), Badalkhol (Jashpur), Tamorpingla (Surguja).
- In September 2011, a notification was issued for setting up the reserve across 1,143 sq km, according to recent letter from the Forest and Forest Department.
- The current government, in 2019, decided to increase the area further, to 1,995 sq km. But last month came the Forest Department’s letter to the PCCF (Wildlife) for reducing the area to 450 sq km.
Why does the government want to reduce the size of the reserve?
- The area proposed under the reserve is part of the Hasdeo Aranya forests, a very diverse biozone that is also rich in coal deposits.
- Of 22 coal blocks in the area, seven have already been allotted with mines running in three, and in the process of being established in the other four.
- Under the ‘No-Go Area’ policy from the UPA area, the entire area was considered out of bound for mines, but in 2020, five coal blocks from the region were put on the auction list.
- Even after it was eventually notified, some forest officials said as recently as in 2020 that the biggest challenge in increasing the reserve area was that several coal mines would become unusable.
- In its latest letter, the government has said the decision to reduce the area is because of requests from villagers and public representatives. However, several villages have already given their consent to acquisition of their land.
What is the government’s stand on the proposed and allotted mines?
- The state government has removed the five coal blocks put in the auction list in 2020, noting that these areas would fall under the proposed reserve.
- It has also objected to the Centre’s recent notification on the land acquisition process of some areas under the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, and said the Centre was infringing on the state’s decision to set up the reserve.
- The land acquisition process has begun in Kete Basan and Parsa coal blocks, which are around the reserve, even as tribals have protested against it.
Why is the reserve important?
- Elephants are found in five divisions of the state. North Chhattisgarh alone is a home to over 240 elephants. More than 150 elephants have died in the state over the last 20 years, including 16 between June and October 2020.
- Elephants in Chhattisgarh are relatively new, they started moving into undivided Madhya Pradesh in 1990.
- While MP had a policy of pushing back the animals coming from Jharkhand, after Chhattisgarh was formed, the lack of a formal policy allowed elephants to use as a corridor a route in the north and central parts of the state.
- Since these animals were relatively new, human-animal conflict started once elephants started straying into inhabited areas, looking for food.
What happened to the other proposed elephant reserve?
- Badalkhol Tamorpingla, the other elephant reserve measuring 1048.30 sq km, was notified in September 2011.
- Tamorpingla wildlife sanctuary exists in the state but no work on the elephant reserve has begun.
- Chhattisgarh has two national parks, three tiger reserves, eight sanctuaries, and one biosphere reserve covering 11,310.977 sq km, which is 8.36% of its geographical area and 18.92% of its total forest area.
Electing a Speaker, Deputy Speaker
- The Maharashtra Legislative Assembly has been without a Speaker for most of this year. Last week, it concluded its two-day Monsoon Session without electing a Speaker.
- The previous Speaker was Nana Patole of the Congress, elected to the post in 2019 following the Assembly elections.
- While the Speaker’s chair is currently vacant in Maharashtra, the Deputy Speaker’s position is vacant in several other state legislatureslike in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand as well as Lok Sabha.
- In Maharashtra, during Fadnavis’s tenure as Chief Minister, the office of Deputy Speaker was vacant for four years.
- In Lok Sabha, an election for Deputy Speaker has not taken place since the beginning of the 17th Lok Sabha in June 2019. It is the longest period in the history of Lok Sabha that this position has been vacant.
How they are elected
- The Constitution specifies offices like those of the President, Vice President, Chief Justice of India, and Comptroller and Auditor General of India, as well as Speakers and Deputy Speakers.
- Article 93 for Lok Sabha and Article 178 for state Assemblies state that these Houses “shall, as soon as may be”, choose two of its members to be Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
- The Constitution neither sets a time limit nor specifies the process for these elections. It leaves it to the legislatures to decide how to hold these elections.
- In Lok Sabha and state legislatures, the President/Governor sets a date for the election of the Speaker, and it is the Speaker who decides the date for the election of the Deputy Speaker. The legislators of the respective Houses vote to elect one among themselves to these offices.
- Haryana and Uttar Pradesh specify a timeframe for holding the election to the Speaker and Deputy Speaker’s offices.
- In Haryana, the election of the Speaker must take place as soon as possible after the election. And then the Deputy Speaker is to be elected within seven more days. The rules also specify that if a vacancy in these offices happens subsequently, then the election for these should occur within seven days of the legislature’s next session.
- Uttar Pradesh has a 15-day limit for an election to the Speaker’s post if it falls vacant during the term of the Assembly. In the case of the Deputy Speaker, the date for the first election is to be decided by the Speaker, and 30 days is given for filling subsequent vacancies.
- The Constitution provides that the office of the Speaker should never be empty. So, he continues in office until the beginning of the next House, except in the event of death or resignation.
- According to the book Practice and Procedure of Parliament, published by the Lok Sabha Secretariat, the Speaker is “the principal spokesman of the House, he represents its collective voice and is its sole representative to the outside world”.
- The Speaker presides over the House proceedings and joint sittings of the two Houses of Parliament.
- It is the Speaker’s decision that determines whether a Bill is a Money Bill and therefore outside of the purview of the other House.
- The Deputy Speaker is independent of the Speaker, not subordinate to him, as both are elected from among the members of the House.
- Since Independence, the Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker’s position has grown in importance. In addition to presiding over the House in the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker chaired committees both inside and outside of Parliament.
- The Deputy Speaker ensures the continuity of the Speakers office by acting as the Speaker when the office becomes vacant.
- In addition, when a resolution for removal of the Speaker is up for discussion, the Constitution specifies that the Deputy Speaker presides over the proceedings of the House.
Flora of Sikkim
- Sikkim, the smallest State with less than 1% of India’s landmass, is home to 27% of all flowering plants found in the country, reveals a recent publication by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI).
- Flora of Sikkim – A Pictorial Guidelists 4,912 naturally occurring flowering plants in the tiny Himalayan State.
- The total number of naturally occurring flowering plants in the country is about 18,004 species, and with 4,912 species, the diversity of flowering plants in Sikkim, spread over an area of 7,096 sq. km, is very unique.
- The State, which is a part of the Kanchenjunga biosphere landscape, has different altitudinal ecosystems, which provide opportunity for herbs and trees to grow and thrive.
- The publication details 532 species of wild orchids (which is more than 40% of all orchid species found in India), 36 species of rhododendron and 20 species of oak, and more than 30 species of high-value medicinal plants, among other species.
Sikkim Forest Tree (Amity & Reverence) Rules, 2017
- This notification states that “the State government shall allow any person to associate with trees standing on his or her private land or on any public land by entering into a Mith/Mit or Mitini relationship.”
- The notification encouraged people to adopt a tree “as if it was his or her own child in which case the tree shall be called an adopted tree”.