Current Affairs – 7 December 2021

Raigad Fort

Indian Express

GS 1: History of India

Context:

  • Indian President has begun his four-day visit (December 6-9) to Maharashtra by visiting the Raigad Fort where he will pay tribute to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

About:

  • Raigad is a hill fort situated about 25 km from Mahad in the Raigad district and stands 2,851 feet above the sea level. The British Gazette states the fort was known to early Europeans as the Gibraltar of the East.
  • Its decisive feature is a mile and a half flat top which has adequate room for buildings. In its prime, the fort had 300 stone houses and a garrison of 2,000 men.
  • The fort, which was earlier called Rairi, was the seat of the Maratha clan Shirke in the 12th century.
  • The fort changed hands a number of times from the dynasty of Bahaminis to the Nizamshahis and then the Adilshahis.
  • In 1956, Chhatrapati Shivaji captured it from the More’s of Javli who were under the suzerainty of the Adilshahi Sultanate.
  • The fort not only helped Shivaji challenge the supremacy of the Adilshahi dynasty but also opened up the routes towards Konkan for the extension of his power.
  • In 1662, Shivaji formally changed the fort’s name to Raigad and added a number of structures to i By 1664, the fort had emerged as the seat of Shivaji’s government.
  • As the Marathas under the leadership of Shivaji gained strength in their struggle against the Mughals, the announcement of a sovereign, independent state was made.
  • On June 6, 1674, Shivaji was coronated at Raigad by Gagabhatt where he took on the title of Chhatrapati. Six years later, Shivaji passed away in Raigad in 1680 and was cremated at the fort.

 

Afforestation

The Hindu

GS 3: Environment

Context:

  • The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) has so far disbursed ₹48,606 crore to 32 States, according to a response by the Environment Ministry in the Lok Sabha.

About:

  • In August, 2019, the Ministry said it had transferred ₹47,436 crore to 27 States for afforestation.
  • CAMPA funds are part of long-pending dues part of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF), a ₹54,000-crore tranche collected for nearly a decade as environmental compensation from industry, which has razed forest land for its business plans.

  • By comparison, the Centre had collected ₹9,656 crore from the States from Jan-2019 to March 2020.
  • States have their own established monitoring mechanism to check if the funds are being used for their intended purpose.
  • The Centre also has its own monitoring scheme and approves funds for use by States. Independent concurrent monitoring and evaluation and third party monitoring of works undertaken from State Fund is included in the Annual Plan of Operations of the respective State CAMPA and States are required to carry out internal and third party monitoring of the Compensatory Afforestation (CA) and other activities.
  • In addition, “measurable output” of all physical activities and targets of each permissible activity along with checking if deadlines are met is monitored by the State Executive Committee and State Steering Committee of the respective State CAMPA.
  • Chhattisgarh and Odisha have had the maximum amount transferred to them, or close to ₹5,700 crore each followed by Jharkhand and Maharashtra at around ₹3,000 crore.
  • The CAF Act 2016 established an independent authority — the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority — to execute the fund.
  • However, it was not until last August that the rules governing the management of the fund were finalised.
  • The Rules specify that the funds are to be used for catchment area treatment, wildlife management, forest fire prevention, soil and moisture conservation work in the forest.
  • It cannot be used for payment of salary, travelling allowances, making buildings and buying office equipment for forest officers.

 

National Judicial Infrastructure Authority of India

The Hindu

GS 2: Functioning of the Judiciary

Context:

  • Recently, the Chief Justice of India proposed creation of a National Judicial Infrastructure Authority of India (NJIAI) as a central agency to take control of infrastructure development of subordinate courts in the country.

Background:

Poor state of Infrastructure in the judiciary:

  • The Indian judiciary’s infrastructure has not kept pace with the sheer number of litigations instituted every year.
  • There is shortage of court halls and also shortage of basic facilities in the court halls. Thus courts in India are having to operate from dilapidated structures making it difficult for them to effectively perform their functions.

Poor implementation of schemes targeted at developing judiciary infrastructure:

  • To develop judicial infrastructure, funds are extended by the central government and states under the Centrally-Sponsored Scheme for Development of Judiciary Infrastructure, which began in 1993 and was extended for another five years in July 2021.
  • There is gross underutilisation of funds sanctioned under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) to the States and Union Territories for development of infrastructure in the courts. As a result of this underutilization, a large proportion of the allocated funds get lapsed every year.
  • The improvement and maintenance of judicial infrastructure is still being carried out in an ad-hoc and unplanned manner. There is the lack of one particular coordinating agency.
  • In some cases, they claimed, states have also transferred part of the fund for non-judicial purposes.
    • Even in the judiciary, particularly trial courts, nobody is willing to take responsibility to execute infrastructure projects.

About:

  • The proposed NJIAI could work as a central agency with each State having its own State Judicial Infrastructure Authority, much like the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) model.
  • NALSA was constituted to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society.
  • NJIAI will take control of the budgeting and infrastructure development of subordinate courts in the country.
  • The proposed NJIAI should be placed under the Supreme Court of India unlike NALSA which is serviced by the Ministry of Law and Justice.
  • It will not suggest any major policy change but will give complete freedom to HCs to come up with projects to strengthen ground-level courts.
  • In the NJIAI there could be a few High Court judges as members, and some central government officials because the centre must also know where the funds are being utilised.
  • Similarly, in the State Judicial Infrastructure Authority, in addition to the Chief Justice of the respective High Court and a nominated judge, four to five district court judges and state government officials could be members.
  • Rather than placing NJIAI under the Government, the creation of a special purpose vehicle, with a degree of authority and financial autonomy and having an appropriate statutory backing.
  • The proposed NJIAI could work as a central agency with each State having its own State Judicial Infrastructure Authority, much like the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) model. But, unlike NALSA which is serviced by the Ministry of Law and Justice, the proposed NJIAI should be placed under the Supreme Court of India.
  • The NJIAI should have a balanced representation from the judiciary and the executive.

 

Facial Recognition

The Hindu

GS 3:  IT & Computers

Context:

  • After a delay of three years, passengers will be able to use a face scan as their boarding pass at four airports (Varanasi, Pune, Kolkata and Vijayawada) in the country from 2022.

About:

  • Facial Recognition is a biometric technology that uses distinctive features of the face to identify and distinguish an individual.
  • Over a period of almost 6 decades, it has evolved in many ways- from looking at 3D contours of a face to recognizing skin patterns.
  • In the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS), the large database (containing photos and videos of peoples’ faces) is used to match and identify the person.
  • Image of an unidentified person, taken from CCTV footage, is compared to the existing database using Artificial Intelligence technology, for pattern-finding and matching.

Conclusion:

  • Although it is still a nascent technology, with proper safeguards, it could be a useful technology for India and its current needs. However, India must embark on the process of indigenization when it comes to critical technologies which have a bearing on privacy and thus it is time the government takes the R&D of this particular technology seriously as seen in the case of Israel and China, such that India’s reliance on the foreign technology is reduced. Considering that India also has the largest IT workforce, it is time that it starts delivering goods by coming out with products more than just services.