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7th April Current Affairs

How the electoral bonds scheme has worked so far, and why it has been challenged in SC?

In News:

The Supreme Court has dismissed petitions seeking to stay the sale of fresh electoral bonds ahead of Assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry.

Although the court said there is no justification to stay the current sale, the larger constitutional challenge to the electoral bonds scheme filed in 2017 is still pending.

What is the pending challenge?

Apart from challenging the constitutionality of the electoral bonds scheme, the petitioners had asked the court to declare all political parties as public offices to bring them under the ambit of the Right to Information Act and compel political parties to disclose their income and expenditure.

What are electoral bonds?

Announced in the 2017 Union Budget, electoral bonds are interest-free bearer instruments used to donate money anonymously to political parties.

A bearer instrument does not carry any information about the buyer or payee.

The holder of the instrument (which is the political party) is presumed to be its owner.

The bonds are sold in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh, and Rs 1 crore, and State Bank of India is the only bank authorised to sell them.

Donors can buy and subsequently donate bonds to a political party, which can encash the bonds through its verified account within 15 days.

There is no limit on the number of bonds an individual or company can purchase.

If a party hasn’t enchased any bonds within 15 days, SBI deposits these into the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.

Why have they been challenged?

The printing of these bonds & SBI commission for facilitating the sale and purchase of the bonds is paid from the taxpayers’ money by the central government.

Anonymity provided to donors of electoral bonds.

Through an amendment to the Finance Act 2017, the Centre has exempted parties from disclosing donations received through electoral bonds.

According to transparency activists, these infringe the citizen’s ‘Right to Know’ and make the political class even more unaccountable.

What is the EC’s stand?

The EC had objected to amendments in the Representation of the People Act that exempt political parties from disclosing donations through this route.

In a situation where the contribution received through electoral bonds are not reported, on perusal of the contribution report of political parties, it cannot be ascertained whether the political party has taken any donation in violation of provision under Section 29(b) of the RP Act which prohibits the political parties from taking donations from government companies and foreign sources.

The Bihar police Bill

In News:

The Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021 was passed recently amid protests by the Opposition.

The Bill is aimed at boosting security, and will have limited scope as it is applicable only to certain specified areas.

Aim of the Bill:

It “aims to develop the Bihar Military Police into a well-trained and fully equipped armed police force with multi-domain expertise to cater to the development needs and the larger interest of the state.

Key Provisions:

Renames the Bihar Military Police as the Bihar Special Armed Police, and gives the force more teeth, on the lines of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), so it can better secure the commercial and industrial assets of the state.

The mandate of the force will be the “maintenance of public order, combating extremism, ensuring the better protection and security of specified establishments in such manner as may be notified and perform such other duties, as may be notified.”

Empowers Special Armed Police officers to carry out searches and arrests without warrant.

Courts can take congnizance of certain offences by the officers only after government sanction.

Need for:

Over the past decade, the state’s dependence on Central forces has grown, and an organised armed police force of its own will save government expenses and create more jobs for locals.

Issues and concerns associated:

The bill gives absolute powers to the police personnel in some cases.

Section 15 of the Act says a court cannot take cognisance if a special armed police officer is involved in a serious case barring some exceptions.

The government says the Bill is applicable only to certain areas. But it has not specified which areas, nor has it said on what basis would these locations be notified.

Development of Iconic Tourist Destinations Scheme

In News:

Tourism Ministry, in association with Madhya Pradesh Tourism and India Convention Promotion Bureau are organizing ‘MICE (MICE – Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) Roadshow – Meet in India’ at Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh.

About the Scheme:

It is a central sector scheme for the development of identified iconic destinations in the country following a holistic approach.

The objective of the scheme is to boost the tourism influx in India and serve as a model for other tourism sites.

The nodal agency for the scheme is the Tourism Ministry while other ministries such as civil aviation, railways, etc. are also involved.

About Khajuraho temples:

Khajuraho Temples are among the most beautiful medieval monuments in the country. These temples were built by the Chandella ruler between AD 900 and 1130.

They are world-wide known for their erotic sculptures. The first recorded mention of the Khajuraho temples is in the accounts of Abu Rihan al Biruni in AD 1022 and the Arab traveler Ibn Battuta in AD 1335.

The Khajuraho group of temples were built together but were dedicated to two religions, Hinduism and Jainism, suggesting a tradition of acceptance and respect for diverse religious views among Hindus and Jains in the region.

What is NISAR, the joint Earth-Observing mission of NASA and ISRO?

In News:

NASA and ISRO are collaborating on developing a satellite called NISAR.

About NISAR:

The satellite will be launched in 2022 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, into a near-polar orbit.

It will scan the globe every 12 days over the course of its three-year mission of imaging the Earth’s land, ice sheets and sea ice to give an “unprecedented” view of the planet.

It will detect movements of the planet’s surface as small as 0.4 inches over areas about half the size of a tennis court.

NASA will provide one of the radars for the satellite, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers and a payload data subsystem.

ISRO will provide the spacecraft bus, the second type of radar (called the S-band radar), the launch vehicle and associated launch services.

NISAR will be equipped with the largest reflector antenna ever launched by NASA and its primary goals include tracking subtle changes in the Earth’s surface, spotting warning signs of imminent volcanic eruptions, helping to monitor groundwater supplies and tracking the rate at which ice sheets are melting.

Synthetic aperture radar:

The name NISAR is short for NASA-ISRO-SAR. SAR here refers to the synthetic aperture radar that NASA will use to measure changes in the surface of the Earth.

Essentially, SAR refers to a technique for producing high-resolution images. Because of the precision, the radar can penetrate clouds and darkness, which means that it can collect data day and night in any weather.