The HINDU Notes – 09th May 2019 - VISION

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Thursday, May 09, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 09th May 2019

📰 ASI identifies Indian artefacts seized from smuggler Subhash Kapoor

It had sent a two-member team to the US and it went through nearly 100 objects.

•From idols dating back to the Gupta period (5th-6th Century AD) to terracotta objects of the Harappan culture, a range of Indian antiquities and artefacts that were smuggled by Subhash Kapoor have been identified by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) during a team’s recent visit to the United States.

•In a statement here on Wednesday, the ASI said a team of two officials, Dr. Urmila Sant and P.S. Sriraman, visited the U.S. after receiving communication from the office of the Consulate General of India in New York about the seizure of artefacts by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement of U.S. Department of Homeland Security from the storage of the art smuggler Subhash Kapoor. The ASI said the team identified close to a 100 objects in total, including 17 objects that had been seized by the department.

•“The antiquities comprise beautiful bronzes from the Suttamalli and Sripurantan temples of Tamil Nadu and also a very significant image of Mahakoka Devata. Of these, four antiquities were stolen from the protected monuments at Karitalai, district Katni in Madhya Pradesh on August 16 and 17, 2006,” the ASI said.

•Apart from that, 56 terracotta objects that were returned by Toledo Museum in Ohio to the Indian consulate were declared to be antiquities by the team. These objects, majority of which were from Chandraketugarh in West Bengal, had been gifted to the museum by Kapoor.

•“Further, 232 objects comprising of brass and copper alloys, gold with enamel work, silver, stone and terracotta in possession of the Indian consulate were also inspected by the ASI officials. Among them, few were identified as antiquities, like the stone image of the Buddha of Mathura School, a terracotta image of the Buddha belonging to the Gupta period and a set of 10 copper plates engraved with Quranic verses of the late Mughal Period,” the ASI said.

•The statement added that after Kapoor's arrest in Germany in 2011, many museums in the world had shared information about the antiquities procured from him.

•“Many museums in the U.S. have also deposited various valuable antiquities to Homeland Security officials that they had purchased from Kapoor, saying they were not aware that the items had been smuggled into the country,” the ASI said, adding that the Indian consulate in New York would be working on transporting the objects back to India.

•The smuggler was extradited to India and is currently in the custody of Tamil Nadu police, the ASI said.

📰 Stick to deadline on finalisation of Assam NRC: Supreme Court

The deadline for finalisation of the National Register of Citizens in Assam is July 31

•The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) Co-ordinator Prateek Hajela to act with “wise discretion” while dealing with people who had failed to appear for scheduled hearings on their objections filed against exclusion from the draft NRC.

•“Objections’ hearings have started. ‘Objectors’ are not appearing in most cases,” Mr. Hajela reported to a Special Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton F. Nariman.

•“If they are not appearing, the law will take its own course,” the Chief Justice replied.

•The Chief Justice told Mr. Hajela to take whatever action was necessary in the cases of the absentee ‘objectors’. The decisions taken should be free and fair, keeping the law in mind.

•“But whatever you do, do it by July 31. A day earlier than July 31 but not a day later,” he said before listing the case for July 3, after the summer vacations.

•In the previous hearing, the court had urged the NRC authorities to make the hearing processes as hassle-free as possible. Over 35 lakh people excluded from the draft had filed claims for Indian citizenship. The apex court ordered the NRC authorities to publish the final NRC by July 31.

•The court asked the NRC authorities to ensure “optimum convenience” for those seeking justice in the proceedings. 

📰 Iran says it will not honour nuclear curbs

U.S. deploys aircraft carrier in region

•Iran said on Wednesday it had stopped respecting limits on its nuclear activities agreed under a 2015 deal with major powers until they find a way to bypass renewed U.S. sanctions.

•The announcement came as Washington stepped up its rhetoric against Tehran, accusing it of planning “imminent” attacks and deploying an aircraft carrier strike group with several nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the region. Iran said it was responding to the sweeping unilateral sanctions that Washington has reimposed since it quit the agreement one year ago, which have dealt a severe blow to the Iranian economy.

•Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said that it no longer considered itself bound by the agreed restrictions on stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water.

•It said after 60 days, it would also stop abiding by restrictions on the level to which Iran can enrich uranium and modifications to its Arak heavy water reactor that were designed to prevent the production of plutonium. Uranium enriched to much higher levels than Iran’s current stocks can be used as the fissile core of a nuclear weapon, while heavy water is a source of plutonium which can be used as an alternative way to produce a warhead.

•President Hassan Rouhani said the ultimatum was intended to rescue the nuclear deal from his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump who has repeatedly called for it to be scrapped since he pulled out on May 8, 2018.

📰 Victims of mob lynching, human trafficking in Maharashtra to get compensation

New policy to be tabled in Cabinet later this month

•The State has cleared the decks for releasing compensation to victims of mob lynching and human trafficking. A year after Supreme Court pulled up States across the country for not formulating such a policy, Maharashtra Home Department will table a proposal in the Cabinet this month. The new policy has pegged the amount of compensation between ₹2,00,000 and ₹3,00,000 which could be increased to ₹10,00,000 in special cases.

•Confirming this a senior home department official said, “A new policy has been formulated as per the guidelines of the honourable courts and will be tabled.”

•The State had, on a direction by Bombay High Court last year, awarded a compensation of ₹10 lakh to the father of a 24-year-old man who was lynched by a mob in Pune in 2014.

•The government had then assured the courts of formulating a policy on cases of lynching by mobs. However, human trafficking as a separate category was added following petitions from several non-profit groups and women’s organisations which had argued that the victims be duly compensated. “We have added human trafficking as a category after receiving several petitions from non-profit and women organisations. They too shall be awarded a compensation equal to that of mob lynching,” said the official.

•The proposed policy will be in addition to the existing scheme for victims of communal violence who get ₹5,00,000 compensation. But a petition in Supreme Court last year claimed that 54 victims of lynching are yet to get compensation. This resulted in the court pulling up State governments for not putting a policy in place.

📰 VVPAT: Opposition has a recourse in slip counting

Section 56-D of the Conduct of Election Rules allows scrutiny of VVPAT slips in case of disputes.

•Although the Supreme Court and the Election Commission have not agreed to the Opposition parties’ demand for 50% random physical verification of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) results with Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips, they can still take recourse to Section 56-D of the Conduct of Election Rules to request for slip counting.

•Section 56-C of the Rules provides for the procedure of vote counting. In case a candidate or election agent disputes the announced results of any polling station(s), they can seek scrutiny of VVPAT slips under Section 56-D.

•The provision states that after the entries made in the result sheet are announced, any candidate, or in his absence, his election agent or any of his counting agents may apply in writing to the returning officer to count the printed paper slips in the drop box of the printer in respect of any polling station or polling stations.

•Explaining the procedure, the section says: “On such application being made, the returning officer shall, subject to such general or special guidelines, as may be issued by the Election Commission, decide the matter and may allow the application in whole or in part or may reject in whole, if it appears to him to be frivolous or unreasonable.”

•The returning officer’s decision has to be in writing and must contain the reasons for accepting or rejecting the request. In case the officer allows the counting of slips, either whole or in part, he has to do the counting according to EC directions.

•If any discrepancy between the votes displayed on the control unit and the counting of the paper slips is detected, the slip count prevails and accordingly, the results are amended and announced after following the set procedures.

•“There have been 16 such instances of slip counting since 2017. In all cases, it was a 100% match of EVM results and VVPAT slips,” said an Election Commission official.

•On Tuesday, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea of 21 Opposition parties to review its judgment rejecting the request for 50% matching, but increasing the physical counting of slips from one to five randomly selected EVMs in each Assembly segment or constituency. Subsequently, the parties, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, again approached the Commission on the same issue.

📰 Income support, UDAY driving fiscal slippages: RBI

15th Finance Commission holds meeting with Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das

•The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has voiced its concern over government schemes such as income support, revival package for power distribution companies and farm loan waivers as such schemes led to fiscal slippages.

•In a presentation to the 15th Finance Commission, the RBI said the UDAY scheme, recent income support schemes of the government and farm loan waivers could drive fiscal slippage in the revised estimate for 2018-19.

•The Commission, headed by Chairman N.K. Singh, on Wednesday held a detailed meeting with RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das and deputy governors.

•In the Interim Budget presented in February, the government announced a cash transfer scheme, for small and marginal farmers with landholdings of up to two hectare, of ₹6,000. The government had allocated ₹75,000 crore towards the scheme for financial year 2020.

•The RBI made a detailed presentation to the Finance Commission on State government finances for 2019-20.

Significant deviation

•“Fiscal deficit of States is budgeted to be lower in 2019-20 BE (budgeted estimates), but RE (revised estimates) and actuals deviate significantly — reflecting poor fiscal marksmanship,” a statement issued by the government after the meeting said. The central bank noted that outstanding debt as percentage of GDP had been rising despite moderation in interest payment as percentage of revenue receipts.

Expenditure codes

•Some of the other issues that were discussed during the meeting include public sector borrowing requirements and continuity of the Finance Commission and development of expenditure codes, especially given that expenditure norms vary from State to State

•On the continuity of the Finance Commission, the government statement said “felt that this was required more in view of the fiscal management requirements of the States, especially given the absence of mid-term reviews of awards granted by the Finance Commission, as it used to happen earlier with the awards granted by the Planning Commission.”

•During its two-day visit to Mumbai, the Finance Commission is also meeting banks, financial institutions and economists.

📰 SC orders demolition of 5 apartments Ernakulam's Maradu municipality

The buildings in Maradu municipality violate Coastal Regulation Zone rules

•The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the demolition of five apartments in Ernakulam's Maradu municipality for violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules. The order was passed by a Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra.

•The Bench directed the authorities concerned, represented by advocate Romy Chacko appearing for the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority, to clear the buildings within a period of one month and to submit a report before the court. The court said the State cannot bear illegal constructions with the danger of floods and heavy rain looming large.

Panchayat gave nod

•The permission to construct the buildings was granted in 2006 when Maradu was a panchayat.

•The special leave petition was filed against the judgment of the Kerala High Court whereby a showcause notice issued by the Maradu panchayat was quashed by the High Court. The Supreme Court had passed an order on November 27 last year directing the constitution of an expert committee to report on whether the area wherein the apartments were sanctioned and constructed comes within CRZ II or CRZ III.

•The committee submitted its report stating that as per the CRZ notification of 1991 and Kerala Coastal Zone Management Plan (KCZMP) 1996, the area in question came under CRZ III. As per the CRZ notification 1991, no construction is permitted within 200 metres from the coastal line in CRZ III.

•"As the buildings in question are situated within the prohibited distance, the construction is illegal," Mr. Chacko said.

•The building permit was granted by the panchayat to the builders without obtaining the concurrence of the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority who is the competent authority to grant approval for construction within a CRZ area.

•Senior advocate V. Giri, for the builders, contended that since the area in question was declared as CRZ II as per the draft KCZMP prepared as per the CRZ 2011 notification, the constructions in question cannot be declared as illegal.

•However, Mr. Chacko countered that the relevant notification which applied to the area in question was the 1991 CRZ notification, under which the area in question comes under CRZ III where no construction was permitted.

•Accepting the above contention, the court observed that CRZ violations cannot be lightly condoned in view of the natural calamities happening in different parts of the country.

📰 India’s newest pit viper found in Arunachal Pradesh

Team of herpetologists hoping to study its diet, breeding pattern and habitat

•India now has a fifth brown pit viper but with a reddish tinge. A team of herpetologists led by Ashok Captain have described a new species of reddish-brown pit viper — a venomous snake with a unique heat-sensing system — from a forest in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Rich in ecology

•The discovery, published in the March-April volume of the Russian Journal of Herpetology, makes the Arunachal pit viper (Trimeresurus arunachalensis) the second serpent to have been discovered after the non-venomous crying keelback in the State’s Lepa-Rada district in 2018.

•The new species also makes Arunachal Pradesh the only Indian state to have a pit viper named after it.

•Mr. Captain, who made the discovery with V. Deepak, Rohan Pandit, Bharat Bhatt, and Ramana Athreya said India had four brown pit vipers before the Arunachal Pradesh discovery.

•The other four — Malabar, horseshoe, hump-nosed and Himalayan — were discovered 70 years ago. “We don’t know anything of the Arunachal pit viper’s natural history as only one male has been found so far. More surveys and sightings of this species would gradually give us an idea of its habits, diet and breeding, whether it lays eggs or bears live young,” he told The Hindu.

•Led by Mr. Athreya, a reasearch team from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, had encountered the snake while conducting biodiversity surveys in Arunachal Pradesh’s Eaglenest region. A resident of the area had first shown Mr Pandit the snake in a forest patch near Ramda village.

DNA analysed

•Comparative analyses of DNA sequences by Mr. Deepak and examination of morphological features by Mr. Captain suggested that the snake belonged to a species not described before.

•Mr. Bhatt, a scientist of the Arunachal Pradesh forest department, said that the single known specimen of this species makes it currently the rarest pit viper in the world. The specimen was donated to the museum of the State Forest Research Institute in Itanagar.

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