News: A massive fire has threatened to cause colossal damage to Similipal Biosphere — one of the largest biospheres of India — prompting the Odisha government to deploy a big contingent of field level staff to douse it.
About Simlipal National Park and Biosphere reserve:
Similipal National Park is a national park and a tiger reserve in the Mayurbhanj district in the Indian state of Odisha covering 2,750 km2(1,060 sq mi).
It is part of the Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve, which includes three protected areas — Similipal Tiger Reserve, Hadgarh Wildlife Sanctuary with 191.06 km2 (73.77 sq mi) and Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary with 272.75 km2 (105.31 sq mi).
Simlipal National Park derives its name from the abundance of red silk cotton trees growing in the area.
It is the 7th largest national park in India.
The park is home to Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, gaur, and chausingha along with some of the beautiful waterfalls like Joranda and Barehipani Falls.
This protected area is part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2009.
Sweet scented champak flowers freshen the air. The richly hued orchids on the green foliage are soothing. In the midst of the dense forests, the summer stands humbled. Several rivers like Budhabalanga, Khairi, salandi, Palpala, etc. originate from the hills and meander through the forest.
It lies in the Eastern Highlands moist deciduous forests ecoregion, with tropical moist broadleaf forest and tropical moist deciduous forests with dry deciduous hill forest and high level Sal forests.
The grasslands and the savannas provide grazing grounds for the herbivores and hiding place to the carnivores.
The major mammals include tiger, leopard, Asian elephant, sambar, barking deer, gaur, jungle cat, wild boar, chausingha (four horned antelope), giant squirrel and common langur.
The “Mugger Crocodile Management Programme” has helped the Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) to survive and flourish on the banks of Khairi river.
About World Network of Biosphere Reserves:
The “Mugger Crocodile Management Programme” has helped the Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) to survive and flourish on the banks of Khairi river.
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) of the MAB Programme consists of a dynamic and interactive network of sites.
It works to foster the harmonious integration of people and nature for sustainable development through participatory dialogue, knowledge sharing, poverty reduction, human well-being improvements, respect for cultural values and by improving society’s ability to cope with climate change.
Article 4 of the “Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves”. defines the criteria for Biosphere Reserves, including:
it should encompass a mosaic of ecological systems representative of major bio geographical regions, including a graduation of human interventions
It should be of significance for biological diversity conservation
It should provide an opportunity to explore and demonstrate approaches to sustainable development on a regional scale
It should have an appropriate size to fulfill the three functions of biosphere reserves (conservation, development, logistic support)
It should include these functions through appropriate zonation, recognizing core, buffer, and outer transition zones.
About Man and the Biosphere Programme:
Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) is an intergovernmental scientific program, launched in 1971 by UNESCO, that aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments.
MAB’s work engages fully with the international development agenda—specially with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post 2015 Development Agenda—and addresses challenges linked to scientific, environmental, societal and development issues in diverse ecosystems; from mountain regions to marine, coastal and island areas; from tropical forests to drylands and urban areas.
The MAB program provides a unique platform for cooperation on research and development, capacity-building and networking to share information, knowledge and experience on three interlinked issues: biodiversity loss, climate change and sustainable development.
It contributes not only to better understanding of the environment, but also promotes greater involvement of science and scientists in policy development concerning the wise use of biological diversity.
Biosphere reserves have three interrelated zones that aim to fulfil three complementary and mutually reinforcing functions:
The core area(s) comprises a strictly protected ecosystem that contributes to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation.
The buffer zone surrounds or adjoins the core areas, and is used for activities compatible with sound ecological practices that can reinforce scientific research, monitoring, training and education.
The transition area is the part of the reserve where the greatest activity is allowed, fostering economic and human development that is socioculturally and ecologically sustainable.
About Indian Giant Squirrel:
The Indian giant squirrel or Malabar giant squirrel (Ratufa indica) is a large tree squirrel species endemic to forests and woodlands in India. It is a diurnal, arboreal, and mainly herbivorous squirrel.
It is listed as least concerned in IUCN list.
This species is endemic to India, with main sections of its distribution in the Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats and Satpura Range as far north as Madhya Pradesh (approximately 22° N).
The Indian giant squirrel is one of the largest squirrels with a head–and–body length of 25–50 cm (10 in–1 ft 8 in), a tail that is about the same or somewhat longer, and a weight of 1.5–2 kg (3.3–4.4 lb), although rarely up to 3 kg (6.6 lb).
The gaur also known as Indian bison, is native to South and Southeast Asia and has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1986.
The global population has been estimated at maximum 21,000 mature individuals by 2016. It declined by more than 70% during the last three generations, and is extinct in Sri Lanka and probably also in Bangladesh.
Populations in well-protected areas are stable and increasing.
Gaur historically occurred throughout mainland South and Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Nepal.
About Muntjac or Barking Deer:
Muntjacs also known as barking deer or rib-faced deer are small deer of the genus Muntiacus native to south and southeast Asia. It is also called Kakar.
It is listed as least concerned or data deficient by IUCN.
This muntjac has soft, short, brownish or greyish hair, sometimes with creamy markings.
It is among the smallest deer species.
It is an omnivore and eats grass, fruit, shoots, seeds, bird eggs, and small animals, and occasionally scavenges on carrion
2. FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2021: DEMOCRACY UNDER SIEGE
News: Freedoms in India have reduced, according to a report from a U.S. thinktank, Freedom House, resulting in India being classified as ‘partly free’.
India’s score was 67, a drop from 71/100 from last year (reflecting 2019 data) downgrading it from the free category last year (based on 2020 data).
The ruling Hindu nationalist movement also encouraged the scapegoating of Muslims, who were disproportionately blamed for the spread of the virus.
Rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice and a counterweight to authoritarian influence from countries such as China, Mr. Modi and his party are tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism.
The private media are vigorous and diverse, and investigations and scrutiny of politicians do occur. However, attacks on press freedom have escalated dramatically under the Modi government, and reporting has become significantly less ambitious in recent years.
The U.S. dropped three points over one year, down to 83/100.
China, classified as ‘not free’, dropped a point from last year going down to 9/100.
3. INSURANCE OMBUDSMAN TO COVER BROKER
News: The government has amended insurance ombudsman rules, bringing insurance brokers within their ambit, and also allowed policyholders to file online complaints, the finance ministry.
The amended rules have enlarged the scope of complaints to ombudsmen from only disputes earlier to deficiencies in service on the part of insurers, agents, brokers and other intermediaries.
Further, the ombudsman may use video-conferencing for hearings.
4. KHELO INDIA YOUTH GAMES
News: With less than a year remaining for Haryana to host the fourth edition of Khelo India Youth Games, Haryana Sports Department has started the process of coordinating with the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and the Sports Authority of India to finalise the plans for hosting of the multi-game event at Panchkula and surrounding cities. While Punjab had hosted the national games in 2011, this will be for the first time that Haryana will play host to a multi-game event
About Khelo India:
It is a national programme which aims to develop grassroots level talent by providing them with a national level platform.
Khelo India Scheme is based on Gujarat’s model of “Khel Mahakumbh” in which schools and colleges from across the country participate in 27 different disciplines.
It has been formed after the merger of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Abhiyan (RGKA), Urban Sports Infrastructure Scheme (USIS) and National Sports Talent Search Scheme (NSTSS).
An unprecedented Pan Indian Sports Scholarship scheme, which would cover 1,000 most talented young athletes each year across select sports disciplines.
Each athlete selected under the scheme shall receive an annual scholarship worth Rs. 5.00 lakh for 8 consecutive year
This is the first time ever that a long-term athlete development pathway would be made available to gifted and talented youngsters to excel in competitive sports and will create a pool of highly competitive athletes who can compete to win at the world stage.
The Programme aims to promote 20 universities across the country as hubs of sporting excellence, which would enable talented sportspersons to pursue the dual pathway of education and competitive sports.
The Programme also aims at creating an active population with a healthy lifestyle.
The Programme would cover about 200 million children in the age group of 10-18 under a massive national physical fitness drive, which will not only measure the physical fitness of all children in the age group but also support their fitness-related activities.
This programme strives to promote “Sports for All” as well as “Sports for Excellence.”
5. INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
News: ICC prosecutor to open probe into war crimes in Palestine
About International Criminal Court:
The International Criminal Court (ICC or ICCt) is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague, Netherlands.
The ICC is the first and only permanent international court with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
It is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals.
The ICC lacks universal territorial jurisdiction, and may only investigate and prosecute crimes committed within member states, crimes committed by nationals of member states, or crimes in situations referred to the Court by the United Nations Security Council.
The ICC began operations on 1 July 2002, upon the entry into force of the Rome Statute, a multilateral treaty that serves as the court’s foundational and governing document.
States which become party to the Rome Statute become members of the ICC, serving on the Assembly of States Parties, which administers the court.
As of December 2020, there are 123 ICC member states; 42 states have neither signed nor become parties to the Rome Statute.
The ICC has four principal organs: the Presidency, the Judicial Divisions, the Office of the Prosecutor, and the Registry.
The President is the most senior judge chosen by his or her peers in the Judicial Division, which hears cases before the Court.
The Office of the Prosecutor is headed by the Prosecutor who investigates crimes and initiates criminal proceedings before the Judicial Division.
The ICC has faced a number of criticisms from states and society, including objections about its jurisdiction, accusations of bias, questioning of the fairness of its case-selection and trial procedures, and doubts about its effectiveness.
There are five such acts which constitute crimes of genocide under article 6:
Killing members of a group
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group
The definition of these crimes is identical to those contained within the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948.
6. INTERNATIONAL ENERGY AGENCY
News: Lending his weight to India’s stand on coal as an energy source, International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Fatih Birol said it won’t be fair to ask developing nations to stop using coal without giving international financial assistance to make up for economic challenges from such a move.
About International Energy Agency (IEA):
The International Energy Agency is a Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organisation established in the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1974 in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis.
The IEA was initially dedicated to responding to physical disruptions in the supply of oil, as well as serving as an information source on statistics about the international oil market and other energy sectors.
In the decades since, its role has expanded to cover the entire global energy system, encompassing traditional energy sources such as oil, gas, and coal as well as cleaner and faster growing ones such as solar PV, wind power and biofuels.
Today the IEA acts as a policy adviser to its member states, as well as major emerging economies such as Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa to support energy security and advance the clean energy transition worldwide.
The Agency’s mandate has broadened to focus on on providing analysis, data, policy recommendations and solutions to help countries ensure secure, affordable and sustainable energy for all. In particular, it has focused on supporting global efforts to accelerate the clean energy transition and mitigate climate change.
The IEA has a broad role in promoting rational energy policies and multinational energy technology co-operation with a view to reaching net-zero emissions.
All IEA member countries have signed the Paris Agreement which strives to limit warming to 1.5 °C and two thirds of IEA member governments have made commitments to emission neutrality in 2050.
7. SOVEREIGN GOLD BONDS
News: The twelfth issue of sovereign gold bonds priced at ₹4,662 per gram is open for subscription. Gold bonds are issued by the RBI on behalf of the government. These bonds are considered one of the best ways of investing in gold in digital form.
Apart from the benefit of potential appreciation in gold prices, these bonds offer a fixed interest of 2.5% on the invested amount to investors. The interest is paid semi-annually. So, if you are planning to invest in gold bonds, it is important that you understand how your gains and interest income from gold bonds will be taxed.
Gold bonds have a maturity period of eight years. So, in someone buys gold bonds and hold them till maturity, the capital gains will be tax-free.
Investors can redeem the gold bonds at a price based on the simple average closing price of gold of 999 purity of the previous three business days from the date of repayment, published by the India Bullion and Jewellers Association Ltd.
Premature withdrawal is also possible from the fifth year onwards. The person going for premature withdrawal can approach the concerned bank or stock-holding corporation, post office or agent 30 days before the coupon payment date.
Requests for premature redemption can only be entertained if the investor approaches the concerned bank or post office at least one day before the coupon payment date. The proceeds will be credited to the customer’s bank account provided at the time of applying for the bond.
In case of premature redemption after the fifth year, the gains will be taxed at 20% post indexation.
Gold bonds are also listed on stock exchanges. So, someone also buy and sell them through the stock exchanges.
In case the gold bonds are sold before one year, the gains, if any, will be added to the income of the investor and will be taxed as per the slab rate. After one year, the gains will be considered long-term and will be taxed at the rate of 10%.
The interest will be directly paid to the investor in the bank account. It is fully taxable. The interest income will be added to the income of the investor and will be taxed as per the marginal slab rate.
However, no tax deducted at source (TDS) will be applicable on the interest paid.