Jaipur declared World Heritage Site
Topic: GS-I: Indian Heritage and Culture
On July 6, Jaipur the Pink City was inscribed as a World Heritage Site, making it the 38th Indian entry to be added to the list of 1121 such spots across the world.
- So far, only China, Italy, Spain, Germany, and France have more locations on the list than India.
World Heritage Site
- A World Heritage Site is a location having an “Outstanding Universal Value”. According to the World Heritage Convention’s Operational Guidelines, an Outstanding Universal Value signifies “cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.”
- The Sites fall into three categories: cultural heritage, natural heritage, and mixed heritage (cultural as well as natural). Cultural heritage entails an Outstanding Universal Value from the point of view of history, art or science, and includes monuments, groups of buildings, and sites which are the combined work of nature and human agency. Examples include the Taj Mahal, the Statue of Liberty, and the Sydney Opera House. The Sites under natural heritage are those having an Outstanding Universal Value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty, such as the Sundarbans Natural Park or the Victoria Falls.
- Of the 1121 World Heritage Sites in the world, 869 are cultural, 213 are natural, and 39 are mixed.
Who selects the Sites?
- The UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets at least once every year, generally in June/July, to deliberate the addition, removal, or modification of items on the list of World Heritage Sites.
- The Committee comprises of 21 members selected from amongst 192 States Parties (signatories) of the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, also called the World Heritage Convention.
How do countries get their preferred spots included?
- According to the Guidelines, the State Parties prepare a Tentative List, or the “inventory of those properties situated on its territory which each State Party considers suitable for nomination to the World Heritage List.”. A nomination document is then prepared in this regard based on which the application is considered by the Committee.
- In India, the Indian National Commission for Co-operation with UNESCO (INCCU), and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are the bodies which play a key role in this regard.
- After receiving nominations from the State Parties, the Committee then puts them through a rigorous examination before any new location can qualify as a World Heritage Site.
What happens after a World Heritage Site is declared?
- Most importantly, getting featured on the list of World Heritage Sites affords the location a coveted status, driving up demand for travel and tourism from around the world geared towards it.
- At the same time, a heavy onus is placed on the government of the country in which the Site is located for its conservation and upkeep. The Committee conducts regular audits at declared Sites, and can place a spot that is seriously threatened on the List of World Heritage in Danger. If the Outstanding Universal Value of the property is destroyed, the Committee can consider deleting the property from the World Heritage List
Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity
Of the donations that national political parties received from the corporate sector in the last two years, just under half came from electoral trusts, an analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) shows.
- The ADR analysis is based on the income declarations of six national parties for 2016-17 and 2017-18. While parties are required to submit details of donors have made contributions above Rs 20,000, the BSP declared that it received no voluntary contributions above Rs 20,000 from any donor during this period.
- The six parties covered in the analysis — BJP, Congress, NCP, CPI, CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress — declared donations of Rs 985.18 crore from the corporate sector, out of which Rs 488.42 crore (49.58 per cent) came from electoral trusts. The BJP received Rs 458.02 crore of this, the Congress another Rs 29.40 crore, and the NCP and Trinamool Congress Rs 50 lakh each. Another 12 per cent came from the manufacturing sector, and 9 per cent from the real estate sector.
- Prudent/Satya Electoral Trust was the top donor with Rs 429.42 crore, all of which went to two parties. It donated 46 times in two years, contributing Rs 405.52 crore to the BJP in 33 donations and Rs 23.90 crore to the Congress in 13 donations.
- The total contribution from the corporate sector constitutes 93 per cent of all donations received by the six political parties from known sources (Rs 1,059.25 crore), the ADR said. Such contributions accounted for 94 per cent of donations to the BJP and 81 per cent of those to the Congress.
- Of the six parties, BJP received Rs 915.596 crore from 1,731 corporate donors, followed by the Congress which received Rs 55.36 crore from 151 corporate donors.
· Electoral Trust is a non-profit organization formed in India for orderly receiving of the contributions from any person. Electoral Trusts are relatively new in India and is part of the ever-growing electoral restructurings in the country.
· Electoral Trusts are designed to bring in more transparency in the funds provided by corporate entities to the political parties for their election related expenses.
· The objective of an electoral trust is not to receive any profit or pass any direct or indirect advantage to its members or contributors.
Contributions to Electoral Trusts
Electoral Trust can receive contributions from various sectors. The following categories of
· persons can contribute to an electoral trust:
1. Indian citizens
2. Domestic companies which are registered in India
3. Firm or Hindu Undivided Family
4. Group of persons or individuals, who reside in India.
· An electoral trust cannot accept contributions from:
1. Any person who is not an Indian Citizen.
2. Foreign Entity.
3. Any other electoral trust.
· An electoral trust can accept contributions only by cheque, demand draft or account transfer to the bank. An electoral trust after receiving the contribution must allocate the same to the political parties. Thus, the job of the trust would be to merely receive it and donate it to the concerned parties.
|The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) is an Indian non-partisan, non-governmental organization which works in the area of electoral and political reforms.
· Along with National Election Watch (NEW), which is a conglomeration of over 1200 organizations across the country, ADR aims at bringing transparency and accountability in Indian politics and reducing the influence of money and muscle power in elections
· ADR came into existence in 1999 when a group of Professors from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad and Bangalore filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) with the Delhi High Court regarding the disclosure of the criminal, financial and educational background of the candidates contesting elections.
· The objective of ADR is to improve governance and strengthen democracy by continuous work in the area of Electoral and Political Reforms.
Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity
Minister of State for Home G K Reddy told Parliament that between 1985 and February 28, 2019, Foreigners’ Tribunals in Assam have declared 63,959 persons foreigners in ex parte proceedings — or, in the absence of these persons.
- These are a key player in the exercise to identify illegal immigrants in Assam, and in focus now ahead of the July 15 publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC). The Foreigners’ Tribunals — 100 existing and 200 more to be functional by September 1 — are quasi-judicial bodies meant to “furnish opinion on the question as to whether a person is or is not a foreigner within the meaning of Foreigners Act, 1946”.
- In 1964, the Centre passed the Foreigners’ (Tribunals) Order under provisions of Section 3 of the Act.
- The FTs get two kinds of cases: those against whom a “reference” has been made by border police, and those whose names in the electoral rolls have a D (Doubtful) against them.
- Section 9 of the Foreigners Act says that “the onus of proving that such person is not a foreigner or is not a foreigner of such particular class or description, as the case may be, shall, notwithstanding anything contained in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, lie upon such person”.
- Thus, the accused has to prove he or she is an Indian. “Since the onus is on the person, if he or she is absconding and doesn’t appear before the tribunal, the member can pass an ex parte order,”a former member of a Foreigners’ Tribunal, who did not want to be named, told The Indian Express.
- Previously, under the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983, the onus of proving one’s nationality or otherwise lay on the complainant. In 2005 (Sarbananda Sonowal vs Union Of India), the Supreme Court struck down the IMDT Act and held that it “has created the biggest hurdle and is the main impediment or barrier in the identification and deportation of illegal migrants”.
Automated facial recognition
Topic: GS -III: Security
The National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) released a Request for Proposal for an Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) to be used by police officers across the country.
What is automated facial recognition?
- AFRS works by maintaining a large database with photos and videos of peoples’ faces. Then, a new image of an unidentified person — often taken from CCTV footage — is compared to the existing database to find a match and identify the person. The artificial intelligence technology used for pattern-finding and matching is called “neural networks”.
- Current facial recognition in India is done manually. While fingerprints and iris scans provide far more accurate matching results, automatic facial recognition is an easier solution especially for identification amongst crowds.
Other system like this
- It is a new idea the country has started to experiment with. the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s “DigiYatra” using facial recognition for airport entry was trialled in the Hyderabad airport.
- State governments have also taken their own steps towards facial recognition. Telangana police launched their own system in August 2018.
- The NCRB, which manages crime data for police, would like to use automated facial recognition to identify criminals, missing people, and unidentified dead bodies, as well as for “crime prevention”.
- The project is aimed at being compatible with other biometrics such as iris and fingerprints. It will be a mobile and web application hosted in NCRB’s Data Centre in Delhi, but used by all police stations in the country. “Automated Facial Recognition System can play a very vital role in improving outcomes in the area of Criminal identification and verification by facilitating easy recording, analysis, retrieval and sharing of Information between different organisations.”
- It also plans to offer citizen services, such as passport verification, crime reporting, online tracking of case progress, grievance reporting against police officers, and more.
- The new facial recognition system will also be integrated with Integrated Criminal Justice System (ICJS), as well as state-specific systems, the Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration & Tracking (IVFRT), and the Koya Paya portal on missing children.
- Cyber experts across the world have cautioned against government abuse of facial recognition technology, as it can be used as tool of control and risks inaccurate results.
- International organisations have also condemned the Chinese government on its use of surveillance cameras and facial recognition to constrict the rights of Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority.
Corporate bond market
Topic: GS -III: Economic Development
FM Nirmala Sitharaman has announced fresh measures for developing such a market, after previous budgets and a number of panels had failed to work out a plan.
- Successive budgets and at least half a dozen committees mandated by the government, the RBI and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to work out measures to develop this market have largely failed. In this year’s Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced fresh measures to boost the development of India’s corporate bond market.
- An action plan to deepen the market for long term bonds including for deepening markets for corporate bond repos, credit default swaps etc, with a specific focus on the infrastructure sector.
- Foreign Portfolio Investors (or FPIs) will also be allowed to invest in debt securities issued by Infrastructure Debt Funds.
- Credit Guarantee Enhancement Corporation, for which regulations have been notified by the RBI, will be set up in 2019- 20.
Importance of a corporate debt market
- This enables companies to raise funds across different maturities including for infrastructure projects with long gestation periods.
- In India, given the absence of a well functioning corporate bond market, the burden of financing infrastructure projects such as roads, ports, and airports is more on banks and the general government. This, in turn, puts lenders such as the banks under pressure as reflected in the ballooning of bad loans. For instance, in banks, such investments create an asset-liability mismatch. In other words, they are buying into long-term assets, such as a highway, with short term liabilities, that is deposits of three- to five-year maturities. Eventually, this not only results in inefficient resource allocation but also weakens the bank balance sheets.
Why has the Indian corporate bond market failed to take off?
- For years, the investor base in the corporate bond market has been narrow – marked by banks, insurance companies, pension retirement funds and now mutual funds.
- The FPIs are now prominent buyers of top-rated bonds given the attractive returns especially in the backdrop of a strong rupee. Most of these investors do not trade but hold these investments until maturity. With few buyers in the market or market makers who offer buy or sell quotes constantly, there is little liquidity.
- There is little or no incentive for market making. A majority of the bonds issued by companies are privately placed with a select set of investors in India rather than through a public issue; this is done to both save time as well as avoid greater disclosures.
- Foreign investors can now invest up to Rs 3,03,100 crore in these bonds and so far only a little over 67 per cent of this limit has been utilised. In 2019-20, investments by foreign funds in stocks have aggregated Rs 28,268 crore and Rs 10,949 crore in debt. Another peeve has been the varied stamp duty in states on debt transactions. But this will soon be sorted out with a uniform rate.
CPCB pulls up 52 firms over handling of waste
Topic: GS-III: Environment
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has pulled up 52 companies — including Amazon, Flipkart, Danone Foods and Beverages and Patanjali Ayurved Limited — for not specifying a time line or a plan to collect the plastic waste that results from their business activities.
More in news:
- The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, (which was amended in 2018), prescribed by the Union Environment Ministry, says companies that use plastic in their processes — packaging and production — have a responsibility to ensure that any resulting plastic waste is safely disposed of.
Time line for process
- Under this system — called the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) — companies have to specify collection targets as well as a time line for this process within a year of the rules coming into effect on March 2016. The plastic waste can be collected by the company or outsourced to an intermediary.
- The Rules also mandate the responsibilities of local bodies, gram panchayats, waste generators and retailers to manage such waste.
- A notice posted on the website of the CPCB, an Environment Ministry body, said these 52 companies hadn’t yet registered at the online portal and disclosed their disposal plans.
- “Failing to do so would invite action against the defaulters,” the notice warned. This action can include fines or imprisonment under provisions of the Environment Protection Act.
- The companies were to have registered more than a year ago. In spite of these laws, India has made little progress in managing its plastic waste.
Honour for ‘Plan Bee’ that helped save jumbos
Topic: GS -III: Bio-diversity
Plan Bee, an amplifying system imitating the buzz of a swarm of honey bees to keep wild elephants away from railway tracks, on Tuesday earned the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) the best innovation award in Indian Railways for the 2018-19 fiscal.
More in news:
- There are 29 earmarked elephant corridors with the operating zone of NFR spread across the north-eastern states and parts of Bihar and West Bengal. Trains are required to slow down at these corridors and adhere to speed specified on signs.
- “But elephants have ventured into the path of trains even in non-corridor areas, often leading to accidents resulting in elephant deaths. NFR’s Rangiya Division and Forest Department field officials worked on certain deterrents and provide a solution to the problem.
- The desperation to find an “elephant repellent” was triggered by 67 pachyderms being knocked down by trains from 2013 to June 2019. Most of these cases were reported from Assam and northern West Bengal.
- Headed by Ravilesh Kumar, the former Divisional Railway Manager of Rangiya Division, a team tested the honey bee buzz on a domestic elephant in north-eastern Assam’s Rangapara. The second test at a tea estate under Rangiya Division proved successful on a herd of wild elephants.
- A device was subsequently designed to generate the amplified sound of honey bees audible from 700-800 metres. The first instrument was installed at a level crossing west of Guwahati on a track adjoining the Rani Reserve Forest, an elephant habitat. NFR now has 46 such devices installed at vulnerable points.
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