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The Hindu Editorial

18-December-2023

1. An uphill struggle to grow the Forest Rights Act.

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors. While the UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Examination often features questions related to the Forest Rights Act, the UPSC Mains rarely delves into specific legislation unless it forms part of a broader theme or related to current affairs for the year.
Context:
  • The Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 aimed to address historical injustices in Indian forest governance, recognizing individual and community rights.
  • However, implementation challenges, political opportunism, and bureaucratic resistance hinder its transformative potential, limiting its impact.
 Background: Historic Injustices in Forest Governance
  • Pre-Colonial Era: Local communities had customary rights over forests.
  • Colonial Takeover (1878): Indian Forest Act disrupted traditions, prioritizing timber resources.
  • Post-Independence Injustices: Forest lands declared state property, displacements, exploitation continued.
  • Acts Contributing to Injustice: Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 exacerbated injustices.
The Forest Rights Act (FRA): A Revolutionary Approach
  • Enactment (2006): Rajya Sabha endorsed FRA, aimed at addressing historical injustices.
    • Three Forms of Redress:
  1. Individual Forest Rights (IFRs): Recognition of habitation, cultivation, or activities pre-December 2005.
  2. Conversion of Forest Villages: Transforming them into revenue villages after full rights recognition.
  3. Community Rights: Recognizing village communities’ rights to access, use, and manage forests.
Challenges in FRA Implementation
  • Political Opportunism: Some states focused only on individual rights, framing it as an ‘encroachment regularisation’ scheme.
  • Shabby Implementation of IFRs: Compromised by Forest Department resistance, apathy, and misuse of technology.
  • Incomplete Recognition of Community Rights (CFRs): Forest bureaucracy vehemently opposes, leading to slow and incomplete recognition.
  • Lacuna in Addressing ‘Forest Villages’: Many states have not adequately addressed the issue.
Distortions and Lacunae
  • Faulty Recognition Processes: Arbitrary rejections and partial recognition, imposing digital processes in areas with poor connectivity.
  • Resistance to CFRs: Forest bureaucracy opposes community forest rights, hindering decentralized forest governance.
  • Selective State Recognition: Maharashtra, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh recognized CFRs, but Maharashtra alone enabled activation.
Convenient Non-Recognition of Community Rights
  • Convenient for Conservationists and Development Lobby: Non-recognition of community rights makes communities vulnerable for rehabilitation and allows forest handovers for mining without consent.
Call for Understanding FRAs Intent
  • Emerging Calls for Shutdown: With changing political regimes, calls to shut down FRA implementation have emerged.
  • Mission Mode Implementation: In some states, mission mode implementation led to distorted rights recognition and technocratic control.
Conclusion:
  • Need for Appreciation: Political leaders, bureaucrats, and environmentalists need to appreciate the spirit and intent of the FRA for addressing historical injustices and realizing the potential for community-led forest conservation and sustainable livelihoods.
Practice Question: Discuss the challenges and achievements of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in addressing historical injustices in Indian forest governance. Analyze the factors hindering its effective implementation and suggest measures for overcoming these obstacles. (250 words/15 m)

2. The stormy Red Sea, the complexities of global events

Topic: GS2 – International Relations While UPSC may not directly ask about the Red Sea, the question may come around themes like maritime trade, regional security, environmental challenges, and sustainable development – all of which are intertwined with the Red Sea’s strategic importance.
Context:
  • Hamas’ attack led Houthi militia to join, affecting the Red Sea’s strategic waterways.
  • Houthi aggression, US military deployment, and calls for a multinational task force highlight rising tensions.
  • Asian economies face global impacts, emphasizing the evolving role of non-state actors in regional security.
Escalation of Tensions:
  • In October, Hamas’ attack on Israel led Yemen-based Houthi militia, supported by Iran, to join, impacting the Red Sea waterways.
  • Suez Canal, vital for global trade (15% of West-East trade), now central to the conflict.
Houthi Aggression in the Red Sea:
  • Houthis attacked a cargo vessel with Israeli links, highlighting Red Sea vulnerability.
  • Increasing incidents of Houthi aggression against commercial vessels pose a threat to the region’s stability.
US Response and Call for Multinational Task Force:
  • The US deploys military capacity in the Red Sea to counter Houthi threats, including drones and missiles.
  • Calls for a multinational task force around Bab al-Mandab Strait to address rising tensions.
Geopolitical Complexities and Saudi Stance:
  • Riyadh calls for restraint by the US in direct military action against Houthis, signaling geopolitical complexities.
  • Saudi-Houthi talks amid the ongoing conflict and Saudi-Iran détente brokered by China.
Global Impact and Asian Economies:
  • Depletion of security in the Red Sea affects global interests, especially Asian economies like India, Japan, South Korea, and China.
  • Asian nations, as stakeholders in West Asian security, face challenges in securing their interests.
Role of Non-State Actors:
  • Non-state militant actors gain political and military strength, impacting global geopolitics.
  • Red Sea’s strategic importance necessitates a progressive, nimble, and practical approach to address evolving security challenges.
Conclusion:
  • The Red Sea’s escalating tensions demand a nuanced approach.
  • The involvement of non-state actors underscores the need for a collaborative, agile strategy to safeguard global interests and stability.
Red Sea
Red Sea: The Red Sea, located between northeastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, is a vital waterway connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean. It plays a critical role in global trade, with the Suez Canal facilitating approximately 15% of all trade between the East and West. Strategic importance of Red Sea:
  • Key Waterway: The Red Sea is a crucial maritime route connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean, facilitating global trade.
  • Suez Canal: Houses the Suez Canal, a vital artificial waterway, handling nearly 15% of global trade, enhancing its strategic significance.
  • Access to Key Regions: Provides access to significant regions, including the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, impacting geopolitical dynamics.
  • Saudi Neom Project: Strategic for Saudi Arabia, as exemplified by the Neom project, a futuristic city located on the Red Sea coast.
  • Energy Transport: Essential for transporting oil, with major oil-producing nations bordering its shores, influencing global energy security.
  • Chokepoint Significance: As a potential alternative to the Strait of Hormuz, it gains importance amid geopolitical tensions, affecting global shipping routes.
  • Security Concerns: Recent incidents, like Houthi aggression, highlight security challenges, prompting calls for multinational task forces to ensure stability.
Practice Question: How does the strategic significance of the Red Sea impact global trade, geopolitics, and regional security? Discuss recent developments and challenges, emphasizing the need for collaborative measures. (150 words/10 m)

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