INDIAN EXPRESS EDITORIALS AND EXPLAINED 17TH FEBRUARY 2020

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ISSUE: CONVENTION ON MIGRATORY SPECIES 

WHY IN NEWS?

India will host the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS COP13) on Monday, a major United Nations wildlife conference, in Gandhinagar. The theme of the conference is “Migratory species connect the planet and together we welcome them home”.

The conference concludes on February 22.

What is the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)?

The CMS is an environmental treaty of the UN that provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats. It is the only global convention specialising in the conservation of migratory species, their habitats and migration routes.

The pact was signed in 1979 in Germany and is known as the Bonn Convention.

“CMS brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States, and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures throughout a migratory range,” the CMS website says.

Appendix I of the Convention lists ‘Threatened Migratory Species’.

“CMS Parties strive towards strictly protecting these animals, conserving or restoring the places where they live, mitigating obstacles to migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them,” according to the CMS website.

Appendix II lists ‘Migratory Species requiring international cooperation’.

At this year’s summit, the Urial, a wild sheep from Central Asia, is being proposed for inclusion under Appendix II.

Separately, the Gobi Bear and Persian Leopard are being considered for inclusion under the Central Asian Mammals Initiative (CAMI), a 14-country regional initiative that currently covers 15 species.

India and the CMS

India has been a party to the CMS since 1983. According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, “India is a temporary home to several migratory animals and birds. The important among these include Amur Falcons, Bar-headed Geese, Black-necked cranes, Marine turtles, Dugongs, Humpbacked Whales, etc. The Indian sub-continent is also part of the major bird flyway network, i.e, the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) that covers areas between the Arctic and Indian Oceans, and covers at least 279 populations of 182 migratory water-bird species, including 29 globally threatened species. India has also launched the National Action Plan for the conservation of migratory species under the Central Asian Flyway”.

As per a February 2019 press release by the Ministry, India had non-legally binding MoUs with the CMS on the conservation and management of Siberian Cranes (1998), Marine Turtles (2007), Dugongs (2008) and Raptors (2016).

ISSUE: DARA SHIKOH

WHY IN NEWS?

The Ministry of Culture recently set up a seven-member panel of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to locate the grave of the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh (1615-59). He is believed to be buried somewhere in the Humayun’s Tomb complex in Delhi, one of around 140 graves of the Mughal clan.

Dara Shikoh’s legacy

The eldest son of Shah Jahan, Dara Shikoh was killed after losing the war of succession against his brother Aurangzeb. Dara Shikoh is described as a “liberal Muslim” who tried to find commonalities between Hindu and Islamic traditions. He translated into Persian the Bhagavad Gita as well as 52 Upanishads.

Explained: Why government wants to locate Dara Shikoh tomb, and why it’s not easy Grave said to be Dara Shikoh’s; no conclusive evidence. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

One of the archaeologists on the panel, Muhammed, described Dara Shikoh as “one of the greatest free thinkers of that time”. “Dara Shikoh realised the greatness of the Upanishads and translated them, which were earlier known only to a few upper caste Hindus. Translations from that Persian translation have inspired a lot of free thinkers of today, even inspiring the likes of former United States President Barack Obama.”

Dara Shikoh & Aurangzeb

Some historians argue that if Dara Shikoh had ascended the Mughal throne instead of Aurangzeb, it could have saved thousands of lives lost in religious clashes. “Dara Shukoh was the total antithesis of Aurangzeb, in that he was deeply syncretic, warm-hearted and generous — but at the same time, he was also an indifferent administrator and ineffectual in the field of battle,” Avik Chanda writes in Dara Shukoh, The Man Who Would Be King.

According to the Shahjahannama, after Aurangzeb defeated Dara Shikoh, he brought the latter to Delhi in chains. His head was cut off and sent to Agra Fort, while his torso was buried in the Humayun’s Tomb complex.

ISSUE: PROBLEMS OF THE TELECOM SECTOR

ISSUE OF ADJUSTED GROSS REVENUE

On Friday, the Supreme Court rejected the plea filed by telecom operators seeking a new schedule for payments related to the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) issue.

The Court had previously weighed in on the side of the government’s unreasonable demand and rejected a petition that sought a review of its earlier order asking telcos to pay around Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the government — regardless of its implications for the sector or the broader economy.

Though the government had insisted that no coercive action would be taken against telcos till the issue was resolved by the Court, it did not think it reasonable to reconsider its problematic position that revenues from non-telecom activities be part of AGR calculations.

IMPLICATIONS OF THIS MOVE

The reluctance to provide relief to the two major incumbents will have grave implications for the structure of the telecom sector. Vodafone Idea has once again reiterated its doubts over its ability to continue as a going concern. Closure of the firm could lead to a duopoly-like situation with one dominant player setting the rules of the game. An enfeebled competition will lead to a loss in terms of consumer welfare.

A cash-strapped Centre may welcome the Court’s verdict. But considering the long-term consequences, it must step in. A possible first step is to subsume this matter under the newly announced “Vivad Se Vishwas” scheme, wherein taxpayers are required to pay only the amount of disputed taxes and will get a waiver of interest and penalty. The Centre must also reconsider its approach to the sector, beginning with an overhaul of the current licencing regime.

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