Daily Current Affairs – 26-07-2023

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    Flash Floods

    Syllabus: GS-3/ Disaster Management, GS1/ Geography

    In News

    • Flash floods during this year’s monsoon season have caused unprecedented damage to both lives and assets in Himachal Pradesh and other parts of Northern India.

    What are Flash floods?

    • Flash Floods are highly localized events of short duration with a very high peak and usually have less than six hours between the occurrence of the rainfall and peak flood.

    Causes of Flash Floods 

    • Natural factors:
      • Glacial Lake Outburst: A Glacial Lake Outburst Flood, is a sudden release of water from a lake fed by glacier melt that has formed at the side, in front, within, beneath, or on the surface of a glacier.
      • Cloudbursts: lead to sudden, intense rainfall in a short period of time and cause flash floods.
      • Depression and cyclonic storms in the coastal areas of Orissa, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh etc cause flash floods.
      • Short monsoon season: Nearly 75 percent of the total Indian rainfall is concentrated over a short monsoon season of four months (June to September). As a result, the rivers witness a heavy discharge during these months. 
      • Wildfires:Wildfires destroy forests and other vegetation, which in turn weakens the soil and makes it less permeable for water to seep through.
    • Anthropogenic factors:
      • Deforestation: Forests help reduce the speed and amount of water of a flood as their roots help water percolate down into the ground more easily ,but in case of deforestation this buffer-zone is removed and flood water is allowed to reach the plain areas.
      • Dam failure: Flash floods can also be caused when water goes beyond the levels of a dam.
      • Climate Change: Climate change resulted in erratic weather patterns and extreme weather events like hurricanes etc. resulting in flash floods.
      • Infrastructure development in hilly areas.

    Why are mountain areas highly vulnerable for flash floods?

    • Flash floods are common in mountainous terrains, where there are conditions created for it in terms of the soil, rock, geology and slope.Indian Himalayan states like Himachal Pradesh,Uttrakhand etc face these challenges. 
    • These states are witnessing major changes due to rapid construction of hydropower projects, often causing damage to rivers and their ecosystems, widening of roads required for trade and tourism,without proper geological and engineering assessments, and affecting the landscape and river systems.

    Impacts

    • Loss of life: India is the worst flood-affected country in the world, after Bangladesh, and accounts for one-fifth of the global death count due to floods. 
    • Property Damage: In addition to the force of the water, flash floods carry large debris such as boulders. This causes damage to infrastructure and property.
    • Landslides: Flash floods are accompanied by landslides, which are sudden movements of rock, boulders, earth or debris down a slope.

    Solutions

    • Dredging:It is essential for river maintenance and flood prevention. Widening and deepening a river channel allows it to carry more water, reducing the risk of the river bursting its banks.
    • Developing proper urban drainage systems and cleaning and unblocking drains.
    • Promote and build rainwater harvesting mechanisms so more and more rainwater can be stored.
    • Improving flood warning and disaster management mechanisms.

    Source:TH

    Marine Heat Waves

    Syllabus: GS3/Environment and Ecology

    News

    • The record high temperature this summer has given rise to marine heat waves (MHWs) around the globe.

    What are marine heat waves?

    • A marine heat wave is an extreme weather event. It occurs when the surface temperature of a particular region of the sea rises to 3 or 4 degree Celsius above the average temperature for at least five days. MHWs can last for weeks, months or even years.
    • Marine heatwaves can occur in summer or winter – they are defined based on differences with expected temperatures for the location and time of year.

    Causes of MHWs

    • Ocean Currents:They can build up areas of warm water.
    • Air-sea heat flux: It is the Warming of the ocean surface from the atmosphere.
    • Climate modes like El Niño can change the likelihood of events occurring in certain regions.
    • Global warming:A 2018 study, ‘Marine heatwaves under global warming’, showed that with the soaring global temperatures, MHWs have become longer-lasting, more frequent and intense in the past few decades. It also stated that 87 percent of MHWs are attributable to human induced warming.

    Impact of marine heat waves on ocean life

    • Deaths of several marine species:MHWs along the Western Australian coast during the summer of 2010 and 2011 caused some “devastating” fish kills — the sudden and unexpected death of many fish or other aquatic animals over a short period and mainly within a particular area.
    • Destruction of  kelp forests: Kelps usually grow in cooler waters, providing habitat and food for many marine animals.MHWs change the ecosystem of the coast and lead to their destruction.
    • Coral bleaching:Thousands of marine animals depend on coral reefs for survival and damage to corals could, in turn, threaten their existence.
    • Growth of invasive alien species:which can be destructive to marine food webs. Additionally, they force species to change their behavior in a way that puts them at increased risk of harm — MHWs have been linked to whale entanglements in fishing gear, according to a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

    Impact of marine heat waves on humans

    • Stronger  storms like hurricanes and tropical cyclones:Higher ocean temperatures, leading to higher rates of evaporation.This results in more powerful winds, heavier rainfall and more flooding when storms reach the land — meaning heightened devastation for humans.
    • Socio-Economic impact for coastal communities:Half a billion people depend on Coral reefs for food, income, and protection. So when MHWs destroy these reefs, humans relying on them also bear the brunt.

     

    Way Forward

    • The effects of MHWs are often hidden from view under the waves until it is too late. By raising general awareness of these phenomena, and by improving our scientific understanding of their physical properties and ecological impacts, we can better predict future conditions and protect vulnerable marine habitats and resources.

    Source:IE

     Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Fifth Amendment) Bill, 2022 

    Syllabus: GS 2/Government Policies and Interventions 

    In News

    • Parliament has passed the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Fifth Amendment) Bill, 2022.

    About Bill 

    • It seeks to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order 1950. 
    • It includes the Dhanuhar, Dhanuwar, Kisan, Saunra, Saonra, and Binjhia communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes in Chhattisgarh. 
    • It seeks to include Bhuinya, Bhuiyan, and Bhuyan communities as synonyms of the Bharia Bhumia community.  
    • It also includes three Devanagari versions of the name of the Pando community.

     Purpose 

    • This is in the interest of tribal people of Chhattisgarh and development of tribal communities is directly linked with the progress of the nation.
      • The bill will benefit about 72,000 tribal people in the State. 

    Who are Scheduled Tribes?

    • The framers of the Constitution took note of the fact that certain communities in the country were suffering from extreme social, educational and economic backwardness on account of the primitive agricultural practices, lack of infrastructure facilities and geographical isolation. 
    • The Constitution of India in Article 366 (25) prescribes that the Scheduled Tribes means such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 of the Constitution to be Scheduled Tribes.

    How is a community added or removed from SC, ST lists?

    • The process begins at the level of a State or Union Territory, with the concerned government or administration seeking the addition or exclusion of a particular community from the SC or ST list.
    •  The final decision rests with the President’s office issuing a notification specifying the changes under powers vested in it from Articles 341 and 342
      • The inclusion or exclusion of any community in the Scheduled Tribes or Scheduled Castes list come into effect only after the President assents to a Bill that amends the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 and the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, as is appropriate, after it is passed by both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

    Process 

    • A State government may choose to recommend certain communities for addition or subtraction from the list of SCs/STs based on its discretion. 
    • Following this, the proposal to include or remove any community from the Scheduled List is sent to the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs from the concerned State government. 
    • After this, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, through its own deliberations, examines the proposal, and sends it to the Registrar General of India (RGI). 
      • The Office of the Registrar-General of India (RGI) is following the set of criteria set out by the Lokur Committee to define any new community as a Scheduled Tribe. 
    • Once approved by the RGI, the proposal is sent to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes or National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, following which the proposal is sent back to the Union government, which after inter-ministerial deliberations, introduces it in the Cabinet for final approval.

    Criteria 

    • The criteria presently(set out by the Lokur Committee) followed for specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe are : 
      • indications of primitive traits, 
      • distinctive culture, 
      •  geographical isolation, 
      • shyness of contact with the community at large, and
      • backwardness. However, these criteria are not spelt out in the Constitution.
    • However, in March 2022 the Supreme Court said it wanted to fix fool-proof parameters to determine if a person belongs to a Scheduled Tribe and is entitled to the benefits due to the community. 

    Issues and Concerns 

    • The government task force on Scheduling of Tribes constituted under the leadership of then Tribal Affairs Secretary, Hrusikesh Panda in February 2014, had concluded that these criteria “may have become obsolete considering the process of transition and acculturation”. 
    • It noted that terms like “primitive and the requirement of primitivity to be a characteristic of Scheduled Tribe indicates a condescending attitude by outsiders”.
    • It also pointed out problems with the geographical isolation criterion, arguing that as infrastructure development continued across the country, 
    • In addition to the Office of RGI not having adequate anthropologists and sociologists to take such decisions, it also lacked the data for it, noting that inconsistencies in census records dating that far back presented more problems for categorisation based on the Lokur Committee’s criteria. 

    Stand of the Government 

    • Tribal societies live on the basis of their characteristic traits. These are not societies that change, stressing on the importance of sticking to the criteria as framed by the Lokur Committee.

    Source:News on air

    Petition to bring Political parties under RTI Act

    Syllabus: GS 2/Polity and Governance

    In News

    • The Supreme Court agreed to hold a detailed hearing on a bunch of petitions seeking to bring political parties under the ambit of Right to Information (RTI) Act .                        

    About   Political parties       

    • A political party is a group of people who come together to contest elections and hold power in the government. They agree on some policies and programmes for the society with a view to promote the collective good.
    • Election commission of India (EC) has categorised three kinds of political parties in the country: National, State/Regional and Registered/unrecognised Parties.
    • Registration of Political parties is governed by the provisions of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
      •  A party seeking registration under the said Section with the Commission has to submit an application to the Commission within a period of 30 days following the date of its formation as per guidelines prescribed by the Commission in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 324 of the Constitution of India and Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

    Arguments in favour of Inclusion of political parties under RTI 

    • Political parties got considerable benefits from the government, including bungalows. 
    • Petitions highlighted that there are instances of corruption and indirect funding to political parties.
    • Petitions is suggested to declare the political parties, registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, a ‘Public Authority’ under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, to make them transparent and accountable to the people and curb use of black money in elections.
    • It also said that a body or entity does not become a political party in the legal sense until the Election Commission under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act registers it. 
      • Therefore, this registration lends it the colour of Public Authority.
    •  the Central Information Commission said political parties should be brought under purview of RTI Act
    • The people of India must know the source of expenditure incurred by political parties and by the candidates in the process of election.

    Argument Against 

    • Political Parties have argued that opening up to RTI may lead to an undemocratic infringement into their confidential discussions, including their respective attitude to the government and plans to organise agitations against the “wrong policies of the government”.
    • The Union government has also opposed, reasoning that parties cannot be compelled to disclose their internal functioning and financial information under the RTI Act as this would hamper smooth internal working and fester into a weak spot for political rivals with malicious intentions to take advantage of.
    • It had argued that there were already provisions in the Income Tax Act, 1961, and Representation of the People Act, 1951, demanding “necessary transparency regarding financial aspects of political parties”.
    •  It said information about a political body was already in public domain on the website of the Election Commission. 

    Supreme Court’s observations 

    • The Supreme Court said political parties may “have a point” in being concerned that bringing them under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act may lead to situations where they may be asked to disclose even details such as candidate selection or other deliberations.

    Conclusion 

    • Political Parties are the most important organ of the state and like any other department they should also develop systems and processes to document their proceedings. 
    • Political Parties wield immense power to control the government and vital state organs. Thus a transparency act that applies on all branches of the government can be applied to the institutions that form and control the government taking other factors into account.

    Public Authority’ under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005

    • It  means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted: 
      • By or under the Constitution, 
      • By any other law made by Parliament;
      • By any other law made by State Legislature; 
      • By notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government 
      • It also includes any: 
        • Body owned, controlled or substantially financed;
        • Non-Government Organisation substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.  

    Source:TH

    Withdrawal of DNA Technology Bill , 2019

    Syllabus: GS2/ Government Policies & Interventions

    Context

    • The Union Government has recently withdrawn the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill – 2019 from Lok Sabha.

    Background

    • First proposed in 2003, the Bill has gone through numerous changes. It was presented in the Lok Sabha and then referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee in 2019.
    • The panel’s report underlined how the Bill could be misused to target particular societal groups based on their political, religious, or social standing.

    What is the  DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill – 2019 ?

    • The Bill aims to provide a legal framework for collecting, keeping, and testing human DNA samples, primarily for forensic purposes and to confirm a person’s identification in criminal cases. 
    • Numerous uses for DNA testing already exist, including parentage establishment, criminal investigation, and the search for the missing.
    • If a person is arrested for a crime that carries a death sentence or a sentence of more than seven years in prison, the Bill states that consent is not necessary before obtaining DNA samples.
    • The Bill also had provision for the establishment of a National DNA Data Bank and Regional DNA Data Banks, for every state.

    Why was the bill withdrawn?

    • The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022, introduced by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, covers the majority of the provisions of the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill as claimed by the government.

    Concerns That remain unaddressed

    • Bias and prejudice: When the bill was put into practice in the legal system, there were worries about potential biases and discrimination, especially towards marginalized and minority communities.
    • Lack of dignity and privacy: Privacy issues were crucial, particularly with the creation of DNA data banks and the potential for misuse or improper management of sensitive personal data.
      • The Supreme Court recognized that bodily autonomy and privacy are components of the fundamental right  under Article 21.
    • Data storage and security: Clearly defined policies were needed for the safe keeping of DNA data, especially in hospitals or academic research labs.
    • Inadequate consent requirements: Individual agency and rights were compromised by the lack of specific consent protocols in civil disputes.
    • Confusion surrounding DNA evidence: The inclusion of photographic and video evidence with DNA evidence in the bill led to ambiguities and difficulties managing such evidence.
    • Data and algorithmic biases: Concerns regarding biases in forensic science and DNA evidence processing have been highlighted by the use of historical databases for DNA testing.
    • Inadequate standardization: Forensic science, especially DNA evidence analysis, lacks standardization, which may result in incorrect results.
    • The misuse of DNA profiling data for caste-based or community profiling was brought up by the potential connection with surveillance systems.

    About Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA):

    • DNA is an organic molecule that has a complicated fundamental  structure.
    • The strands of a DNA molecule are composed of a lengthy chain of monomer nucleotides. It is structured as a double helix.
    • In 1953, Francis Crick and James Watson made the discovery that DNA is a double-helix polymer.
    • It is crucial for the transmission of a living being’s genetic traits from one generation to the next.
    • Nuclear DNA is referred to as such since the majority of it is contained in the cell nucleus.

    Related Judgements:

    • Banarsi Dass Case (2005):  A DNA test had to balance the interests of the parties. If there was already physical evidence on hand to support the claim, DNA tests shouldn’t be requested.
    • Bhabani Prasad Jena (2010): Judges cannot order genetic tests as a “roving inquiry”.
    • Ashok Kumar Judgement (2021): Courts should take into account the “proportionality of the legitimate aims” before requiring a DNA test.
    • The Supreme Court recently declared in a case involving a woman that it would be unconstitutional to have someone submit to a DNA test against their will.

    Conclusion

    • The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019, had some definite advantages despite these issues. It sought to create a uniform and structured framework for DNA testing, data gathering, and storage.
    • The bill was passed in Lok Sabha in 2019 but it did not go through Rajya Sabha. Hence, this bill is considered as withdrawn. Effective amendments have been suggested. So, we can expect a re-emergence of this bill in amended form.

    Source: IE

    No-Confidence Motion

     

    Syllabus: GS2/ Indian  Polity

    In News

    • Opposition parties belonging to the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance, or INDIA are planning to move a no-confidence motion against the Narendra Modi government in the Lok Sabha.

    About No-confidence Motion

    • A no-confidence motion is a parliamentary tool used by the opposition to express its lack of confidence in the government.
    • The ruling party must then prove its majority in the House to maintain confidence. If it loses the majority, the government will fall immediately. The government can remain in power as long as it has the majority in the Lok Sabha.
    • It’s a Lok Sabha’s Exclusive Right. As per Article 75 of the Constitution, the Cabinet is collectively accountable to the Lok Sabha. Hence, the opposition can bring this proposal in Lok Sabha only, not in the Rajya Sabha. 
    • Any party in parliament can move a no-confidence motion against the government, and the ruling government must prove its majority to stay in power.

    The Procedure For A No-Confidence Motion

    • Under rules 198(1) and 198(5) of the Lok Sabha, it can be introduced only after the Speaker has called upon it.
    • The information about bringing it to the House has to be given in writing to the Secretary-General by 10 am. 
    • It requires the support of at least 50 members of the House. Any Lok Sabha MP, who can garner the support of 50 colleagues, can, at any point of time, introduce a motion of no-confidence against the Council of Ministers.
    • If the motion is passed, the President of India fixes one or more days for discussion. The President can also ask the government to prove its majority. If the government is unable to do so, the cabinet must resign, or else it will be dismissed.

    No confidence motions in the past

    • It was during the third Lok Sabha in 1963 that the first motion of no confidence was moved by Acharya J B Kripalani against the government headed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
    • Since then, there have been 26 more no-confidence motions moved in the parliament (not counting the latest one), with the last one being in 2018, moved by the TRS against the previous Narendra Modi government.

    Significance of the No Confidence Motion

    • Often used as a strategic tool by the opposition, the no-confidence motion allows them to question the ruling government, highlight their failures, and discuss them in the house. 
    • The no confidence motion has historically been used as a strategic tool to force a discussion on a certain topic or issue. This time Manipur violence issue is on the table.
    • This motion also plays a significant role in uniting the opposition. If the motion is passed in the House, the entire cabinet, including the Prime Minister, must resign.
    • Pandit Nehru remarked when a NCM was moved against his government in 1963, “A no-confidence motion aims at or should aim at removing the party in government and taking its place.The debate, although interesting in many ways, is profitable too. I have felt that it would be a good thing if we were to have periodical tests of this kind.”

    Source: TH

    Over 5 cr MGNREGS workers’ names deleted in 2022-23

    Syllabus: GS2/ Welfare Schemes, Government policies & intervention, GS3/ Indian Economy & related issues

    In News

    • The Union Rural Development Ministry informed the Lok Sabha that 5.18 crore names of workers were deleted from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) list in 2022-23, against 1.49 crore in 2021-22.

    About

    • The deletion of an MGNREGS worker from the rolls basically means that the person is ineligible to work as he is no longer registered under the rural job programme.
    • The reasons cited for the deletion include — fake job card, duplicate job card, not willing to work, family shifted from gram panchayat permanently and single person in job card and the person is expired. 
    • It is said that the deletions are spiralling because of the government’s emphasis on linking MGNREGS job cards with Aadhaar cards and making wage payments through the Aadhaar-Based Payments System (ABPS).

    Deletion of Data

    • Among the 34 States and union territories, between the financial years 2021-22 and 2022-23, West Bengal has reported the largest hike in deletion, followed by Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
    • The Union government has stopped all payments to the State under the MGNREGS for reportedly not following the programme’s guidelines. 

    About MGNREGS

    • It is a poverty alleviation programme of the Government of India, which provides the legal Right to Work in exchange for money to the citizens of the country.
    • At least one-third of beneficiaries have to be women. Wages must be paid according to the wages specified for agricultural labourers in the state under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.
    • Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) are primarily responsible for planning, implementation and monitoring of the works that are undertaken. Gram Sabhas must recommend the works that are to be undertaken and at least 50 per cent of the works must be executed by them.
    • The funding of MGNREGS will be shared between both the central and state governments. The Central Government established Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act at the central level and meet the cost of components such as, (i) 100 per cent wage expenditure of unskilled manual work,(ii) 75 per cent material cost and payments made to semi skilled workers,(iii) administrative expenses. The state meet the cost of (i) Unemployment allowances,(ii) 25 per cent of expenditure on material and payment made to the skilled and semi-skilled workers,(iii) administrative expenses.

    Significance of MGNREGS

    • It is a social security scheme to generate employment for the rural poor and ensure livelihood for people in rural areas.
    • It provides Right to work to women, and other traditionally marginalised sections of society.
    • It strengthens the rural economy through the creation of infrastructure assets.
    • It facilitates sustainable development which is very clear by its contribution in the direction of water conservation.
    • The programme strengthened decentralised, participatory planning and panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) for deepening democracy at the grassroots, while fostering greater transparency and accountability in governance.

    Source: ET

    Lok Sabha Passed Biological Diversity Bill

    Syllabus: GS3/ Conservation

    News

    • The Lok Sabha recently passed the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which aims to amend the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.

    Objectives of the Bill

    • To ensure that tribes and vulnerable communities benefit from the proceeds of medicinal forest products.
    • By decriminalising certain activities, it encourages Ayurveda as well as ease of doing business. There were complaints by traditional Indian medicine practitioners, the seed sector, industry and researchers that the Act imposed a heavy “compliance burden”.

    Provisions under the Bill:

    • Wild medicinal plants: 
      • It seeks to reduce the pressure on wild medicinal plants by encouraging the cultivation of medicinal plants; 
      • The bill focuses on regulating who can access biological resources and knowledge and how access will be monitored. 
    • Ayush practitioners: 
      • It exempts Ayush practitioners from intimidating biodiversity boards for accessing biological resources or knowledge
    • Research:
      • It facilitates fast-tracking of research, simplifies the patent application process, decriminalises certain offences.
    • Offences:
      • Violations of the law related to access to biological resources and benefit-sharing with communities, which are currently treated as criminal offences and are non-bailable, have been proposed to be made civil offences.
    • Investments: 
      • To bring more foreign investments in biological resources, research, patent and commercial utilisation, without compromising the national interest.

    Biological Diversity Act, 2002

    • The Act was introduced to achieve the objectives of United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), 1992. 
    • It provides a framework for access to biological resources and sharing the benefits arising out of such access and use. It is in line with the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.
    • Any offence under the Act is cognizable and non-bailable. 
    • The act envisaged a three-tier structure to regulate the access to biological resources:
    • The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA)
      • It is a Statutory Body established in 2003 to implement India’s Biological Diversity Act (2002).
      • It advises the Central Government on matters relating to the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of its components and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of biological resources.
      • It also advises the State Governments in the selection of areas of biodiversity importance to be notified as heritage sites and measures for the management of such heritage sites.
      • It considers requests by granting approval or otherwise for undertaking any activity referred to in Sections 3,4 and 6 of the Act.
      • Headquarter: Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
    • The State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs)
      • They are established under Section 22 of the Act and focus on advising the State Governments, subject to any guidelines issued by the Central Government, on matters relating to the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of its components and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of it.
      • The SBBs also regulate, by granting of approvals or otherwise upon requests for commercial utilization or bio-survey and bio-utilization of any biological resource by the Indians.
    • The Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) 
      • As per the Act, the local bodies constitute the BMC within their area of jurisdiction for the purpose of promoting conservation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity.
    • Functions: 
      • Preservation of habitats.
      • Conservation of land races, folk varieties and cultivars, domesticated stocks and breeds of animals and microorganisms.
      • Chronicling of knowledge relating to biological diversity.
      • Prepare, maintain and validate People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR) in consultation with the local people. The register gives information about the details of biological resources and traditional knowledge available within the jurisdiction of BMC.
      • It advices on any matter referred to it by the State Biodiversity Board or Authority for granting approval, to maintain data about the local vaids and practitioners using the biological resources
    • The BMC consists of a Chairperson, and six persons nominated by local bodies, including 1/3rd women and 18% SC/ST. 
    • Exclusions under the Act:
    • Indian biological resources that are normally traded as commodities.
    • Traditional uses of Indian biological resources and associated knowledge and when they are used in collaborative research projects between Indian and foreign institutions with the approval of the central government.

    What are the concerns raised about the Bill?

    • Environmental organisations such as Legal Initiative for Forests and Environment (LIFE) have said that the amendments were made to “solely benefit” AYUSH firms and would pave the way for “bio piracy”.
    • The Bill decriminalises a range of offences under the Act and substitutes them with monetary penalties.
    • A member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee constituted in December 2021 to analyse the amendment Bill said that these exemptions could open the law for abuse.
    • An analysis by the CSE and the Down To Earth magazine showed serious shortcomings like lack of data  on the money received from companies and traders for access and benefit-sharing from use of traditional knowledge and resources.

    Way Ahead

    • A thorough discussion on the provisions of the bill should be done.
    • All the concerns raised by experts need to be addressed.

    Source: TH

    Facts In News

    US Re-entry to UNESCO

    Syllabus: GS2/  Important international institutions, agencies, and forums: their structure, mandate etc.

    In News

    • U.S. first lady Jill Biden attended a flag-raising ceremony at UNESCO in Paris, marking USA’s official re-entry into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

    Background

    • The U.S. exit from UNESCO in 2017 cited an alleged anti-Israel bias within the organization. 
    • The decision followed a 2011 move by UNESCO to include Palestine as a member state, which led the U.S. and Israel to cease financing the agency. The U.S. withdrawal became official a year later in 2018. 
    • This is the second time the U.S. has returned to UNESCO after a period of withdrawal. The country previously left the organization in 1984 under the Reagan administration, citing mismanagement, corruption and perceived advancement of Soviet interests. It rejoined in 2003 under George W. Bush’s presidency.
    • The US requested $150 million for the 2024 budget to go toward UNESCO dues and arrears, with plans for similar requests in the ensuing years until the full debt of $619 million is paid off. 
      • This represents a significant portion of UNESCO’s annual operating budget of $534 million, highlighting the substantial financial role the U.S. played in the agency before its departure.
      • Before it’s withdrawal, the U.S. was the single biggest funder of UNESCO, contributing 22% of the agency’s overall funding.

    Reasons for US Re entry

    • The U.S. decision to return to Paris-based UNESCO was based mainly on concerns that China has filled a leadership gap since Washington withdrew during the Trump administration. This development underscores the broader geopolitical dynamics at play, particularly the growing influence of China in international institutions.
    • The U.S.’s absence had helped China gain more influence in setting the rules around artificial intelligence and the ensuing technological shifts.
    • The decision is a big boost to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, known for its World Heritage program as well as projects to fight climate change and teach girls to read.

    United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

    • About:
      • UNESCO was formed in 1945, is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN).
    • Members:
      • 195 Members and 8 Associate Members. . India is a founding member of the Organisation.
    • Structure: 
      • The Secretariat is headed by the Director-General, implements the decisions of the General Conference and the Executive Board. 
      • The Organization has more than 50 field offices around the world and its headquarters are located in Paris.
    • Objectives:
      • Attaining quality education for all and lifelong learning
      • Mobilizing science knowledge and policy for sustainable development
      • Addressing emerging social and ethical challenges
      • Fostering cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and a culture of peace
      • Building inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication.
    • Role of UNESCO in context of World Heritage Sites:
      • It seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.
      • This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.
      • The most significant feature of the 1972 World Heritage Convention is that it links together the concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties in a single document.
      • The Convention recognizes the way in which people interact with nature, and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two.

    Source: TH

    Janjatiya Darpan

    Syllabus: GS1/Culture

    News

    • The President of India inaugurated the Tribal Arts gallery (Janjatiya Darpan) at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

    About

    • The gallery was established by Rashtrapati Bhavan in collaboration with Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts (IGNCA). 
    • The aim of this gallery is to provide a glimpse of rich art, culture and the contributions of tribal communities in building this nation. 
    • Themes: The gallery consists of different themes such as unsung Tribal Freedom Fighters, Traditional Natural Resource management practices like Halma, Dokra Art, Musical Instruments, Gunjala Gondi Script,Paintings such as Warli, Gondi and Mud Art, Scroll, Metal work etc.

    Other projects launched at Rashtapati Bhavan

    • Navachara:An Artificial Intelligence enabled gallery developed by Rashtrapati Bhavan in collaboration with Intel India. 
    • Sutra-kala Darpan: It is a textile Collection. This gallery showcases a remarkable collection of antique textiles that document the illustrious legacy of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

    Source: PIB