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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 26 June 2021

Contents

  1. Uttar Pradesh ranked best under Smart Cities Mission
  2. Pakistan to stay on FATF ‘greylist’
  3. Tibet gets first bullet train from Lhasa to border
  4. India’s first maritime arbitration centre GIMAC
  5. Bhutan’s Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB)

Uttar Pradesh ranked best under Smart Cities Mission

Context:

Uttar Pradesh was ranked the best State and Indore and Surat were jointly named the best cities by the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry for their work under the Smart Cities Mission.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Government Scheme and Interventions, Welfare Schemes)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Smart Cities Mission
  2. Definition of “Smart Cities” according to Smart Cities Mission
  3. About the Progress in Smart Cities

About the Smart Cities Mission

  • National Smart Cities Mission is an urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India with the mission to develop smart cities across the country, making them citizen friendly and sustainable.
  • The Union Ministry of Urban Development is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with the state governments of the respective cities.
  • While the mission initially included only 100 cities, the government later announced to expand the mission to all 4,000 cities in India.
  • Smart Cities Mission is supporting interested cities in raising finance through Municipal Bonds.
  • The Urban Learning Internship Program (TULIP) is designed for all ULBs (Urban Local Bodies) and Smart City SPVs (Special Purpose Vehicles) to engage fresh graduates as interns.
  • Climate Smart Cities and Data Smart Cities are two important programs under Smart Cities Mission.
  • The use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is at the core of enhancing the city’s liveability, workability, and sustainability.
  • The Ministry of Urban Development has identified 24 key areas that cities must address in their ‘smart cities’ plan.
  • Of these 24 key areas, 3 are directly related to water and 7 are indirectly related to water – Smart-metre management, leakage identification, preventive maintenance, and water quality modeling.
  • Smart Cities Mission is one of the mechanisms that will help operationalize the nationwide implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) priorities like poverty alleviation, employment, and other basic services.

Definition of “Smart Cities” according to Smart Cities Mission

  • Some definitional boundaries are required to guide cities in the Mission.
  • In the imagination of any city dweller in India, the picture of a smart city contains a wish list of infrastructure and services that describes his or her level of aspiration.
  • To provide for the aspirations and needs of the citizens, urban planners ideally aim at developing the entire urban eco-system, which is represented by the four pillars of comprehensive development-institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure.
  • This can be a long-term goal and cities can work towards developing such comprehensive infrastructure incrementally, adding on layers of ‘smartness’.

About the Progress in Smart Cities

  • At a virtual event to mark the sixth anniversary of the launch of the Smart Cities Mission, the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban (PMAY-U), the Ministry announced that Uttar Pradesh had been ranked one, Madhya Pradesh was second and Tamil Nadu third in the India Smart Cities Awards 2020.
  • The Ministry said in a statement that 22% in terms of the total value of the projects proposed and 52% in terms of the total number of projects proposed by the 100 Smart Cities had been completed so far.
  • Under the PMAY-U, the Ministry said 1.12 crore houses had been sanctioned, of which 50 lakh had been completed.

-Source: The Hindu


Pakistan to stay on FATF ‘greylist’

Context:

Pakistan was retained on the greylist, or list of countries under “increased monitoring”, at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) once again, as the Paris-based UN watchdog judged it deficient in prosecuting the top leadership of UN Security Council-designated terror groups; the list includes Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e Mohammad, Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (International Groupings or Agreements affecting India’s Interests, India’s neighbors), GS-III: Internal Security Challenges (Terrorism in Hinterland & Border Areas)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Financial Action Task Force (FATF)
  2. FATF Greylists
  3. FATF Blacklists
  4. About the recent FATF decision

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

  • The Financial Action Task Force (on Money Laundering) (FATF) is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7 to develop policies to combat money laundering.
  • In 2001, its mandate was expanded to include terrorism financing.
  • FATF is a “policy-making body” that works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in these areas.
  • FATF monitors progress in implementing its Recommendations through “peer reviews” (“mutual evaluations”) of member countries.
  • Since 2000, FATF has maintained the FATF blacklist (formally called the “Call for action”) and the FATF greylist (formally called the “Other monitored jurisdictions”).
  • The objectives of FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

FATF Greylists

  • FATF greylist is officially referred to as Jurisdictions Under Increased Monitoring.
  • FATF grey list represent a much higher risk of money laundering and terrorism financing but have formally committed to working with the FATF to develop action plans that will address their AML/CFT deficiencies.
  • The countries on the grey list are subject to increased monitoring by the FATF, which either assesses them directly or uses FATF-style regional bodies (FSRBs) to report on the progress they are making towards their AML/CFT goals.
  • While grey-list classification is not as negative as the blacklist, countries on the list may still face economic sanctions from institutions like the IMF and the World Bank and experience adverse effects on trade.
  • Unlike the next level “blacklist”, greylisting carries no legal sanctions, but it attracts economic strictures and restricts a country’s access to international loans

FATF Blacklists

  • FATF Blacklists is Officially known as High-Risk Jurisdictions subject to a Call for Action.
  • FATF blacklist sets out the countries that are considered deficient in their anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism regulatory regimes.
  • The list is intended to serve not only as a way of negatively highlighting these countries on the world stage, but as a warning of the high money laundering and terror financing risk that they present.
  • It is extremely likely that blacklisted countries will be subject to economic sanctions and other prohibitive measures by FATF member states and other international organizations.

Effects of FATF Blacklisting

  • The effect of the FATF Blacklist has been significant, and arguably has proven more important in international efforts against money laundering than has the FATF Recommendations.
  • While, under international law, the FATF Blacklist carried with it no formal sanction, in reality, a jurisdiction placed on the FATF Blacklist often found itself under intense financial pressure.
  • FATF makes sure funds are not easily accessible by terror organisations that are causing crimes against humanity.
  • FATF has helped to fight against corruption by ‘grey-listing’ countries that do not meet Recommended Criteria and this helps to cripple economies and states that are aiding terrorist and corrupted organisations.

About the recent FATF decision

  • Announcing the decision at the end of its latest Plenary session held virtually from June 21-25, the FATF said despite completing 26 of the 27 tasks it had been handed, Pakistan’s failure to complete the last task on convicting terrorists and terror entities meant it would not be delisted for now.
  • In addition, the FATF has handed down another 6-point list of tasks mainly on money laundering actions to be completed as well.
  • The FATF encourages Pakistan to continue to make progress to address as soon as possible the one remaining Countering Finance of Terrorism (CFT)-related item by demonstrating that Terror Financing investigations and prosecutions target senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terrorist groups.
  • During the FATF proceedings, Pakistan is believed to have provided documentation to show that it has prosecuted around 30 UNSC designated terrorists and their associates, charging them in 70 terror financing cases, of which convictions were granted in about 50 cases.
  • Among the tasks handed down by the FATF on Friday, apart from the need to prosecute all UNSC terror entities successfully and seeking assistance from foreign countries to implement the UNSC designations, Pakistan is expected to amend its Money-Laundering Act, crackdown on Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs) like real estate agencies and gemstone traders, confiscate and freeze assets of money laundering entities and monitoring businesses for proliferation financing, with sanctions for non-compliance.

India ‘politicising’ FATF process: Pakistan

  • Reacting to the FATF decision at a press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan’s Energy minister accused India of attempting to “politicise the process” at the FATF.
  • In the weeks leading up to the FATF plenary, Pakistan had been fairly confident of being let off the greylist during this session.
  • Pakistan’s Foreign Minister had estimated a loss of $10 billion annually to the Pakistani economy for every year Pakistan has been on the greylist.

-Source: The Hindu


Tibet gets first bullet train from Lhasa to border

Context:

China started operating the first bullet train line in Tibet, linking Lhasa to Nyingchi near the border with Arunachal Pradesh.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s neighbors, Foreign Policies and developments affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About China’s Railway Near Arunachal Border
  2. China’s push in Border Infrastructure and reasons
  3. Steps Taken by India to counter Chinese infrastructure in Border
  4. India’s Border Area Development Programme (BADP)

About China’s Railway Near Arunachal Border

  • Lhasa-Nyingchi rail line is the second route linking Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) with mainland China – the Qinghai-Tibet railway line that connected Lhasa to the hinterland is the first such line.
1605514007_image3.png (958×994)
Two New Chinese Railway Lines to the Indian Border
  • The China State Railway Group said that the new Railway line operating the first bullet train, on which construction began in 2014, would connect the capital city of the Tibet Autonomous Region to the border city of Nyingchi with a travel time of three and a half hours.
  • Over 90% of the track is 3000 metres above sea-level, state media quoted the railway group as saying, and the line is the first electrified high speed rail (HSR) line, as China refers to bullet trains, in Tibet.
  • The Lhasa-Nyingchi rail is one among several major infrastructure projects recently completed in Tibet’s southern and southeastern counties near the Arunachal border.
  • The Lhasa-Nyingchi rail is one section of the Sichuan-Tibet railway line connecting the two provincial capitals

Security Concerns regarding the railway line for India

  • The railway line will largely improve the efficiency and convenience of military personnel and material transportation and logistical supplies in the border area.
  • In situations of direct standoff near Arunachal Pradesh border, as was seen during Doklam or recent Ladakh standoff, China might be at an advantageous position.

China’s push in Border Infrastructure and reasons

  • A part of the border infrastructure push is the construction of new civilian settlements — along with the expansion of existing smaller hamlets — along border areas, some of which lie in disputed territories claimed by India and Bhutan, to strengthen China’s control over the land.
  • In 2017, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government launched a plan to build “moderately well-off villages” in border areas, of which many would be developed in the prefectures of Ngari, Shigatse, Shannan and Nyingchi, along China’s borders with India, Bhutan and Nepal.
  • In 2020, satellite images emerged showing a new village called Pangda built 2-3 km into what Bhutan sees as its land.
  • In January 2021, another village built newly 4-5 km into what India sees as its territory in Arunachal came to light via satellite images. Indian officials said this land has been under China’s effective control since 1959 and there were military barracks there earlier.
  • The civilian settlements, along with the new infrastructure connectivity, are seen as aimed at bolstering China’s control over the areas.

Steps Taken by India to counter Chinese infrastructure in Border

  • The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) constructed the Daporijo bridge over Subansiri river in Arunachal Pradesh which links roads leading upto the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China, in a record span of just 27 days.
  • The foundation of a tunnel at Nechiphu in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh which will shorten travel time for troops till the LAC through Tawang, which China claims to be its territory was laid.
  • The BRO is already constructing an all-weather tunnel under the Se La pass in Arunachal Pradesh which connects Tawang to the rest of Arunachal and Guwahati.
  • The state government of Arunachal Pradesh has advocated selection of 10 census towns along the India-China border as pilot projects for infrastructure development in order to stop people living along its international borders, specifically with China, from migrating to faraway urban centres in the State.
  • Sisseri River Bridge located at lower Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh connecting Dibang Valley and Siang was inaugurated.
  • In 2019, the Indian Air Force inaugurated resurfaced runway at India’s easternmost Village-Vijaynagar (Changlang district) in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Bogibeel bridge, which is India’s longest road-rail bridge connecting Dibrugarh in Assam to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh was inaugurated in 2018.
  • India is set to spend 10% funds of the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) only to improve the infrastructure along the China border.

India’s Border Area Development Programme (BADP)

  • The Border Area Development Programme (BADP) was launched by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1986-87 as part of a comprehensive approach to Border Management.
  • BADP was initiated in the border areas of the western region during the Seventh Five Year Plan (1985-90), for ensuring balanced development of border areas through development of infrastructure and promotion of a sense of security among the border population.
  • It is a centrally sponsored scheme. Funds are provided to the states as a non-lapsable special central assistance for the execution of projects relating to infrastructure, livelihood, education, health, agriculture and allied sectors.
  • The States covered are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

-Source: The Hindu


India’s first maritime arbitration centre GIMAC

Context:

The Gujarat Maritime University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the International Financial Services Centres Authority in GIFT City to promote the Gujarat International Maritime Arbitration Centre (GIMAC).

Relevance:

GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure (Industrial Growth and Industrial Policies), GS-II: (Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is GIFT City?
  2. About GIMAC
  3. What is the Gujarat Maritime Cluster?

What is GIFT City?

  • GIFT (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City), located in Gandhinagar is India’s first International Financial Services Centre.

International Financial Service Centre (IFSC)

  • An IFSC caters to customers outside the jurisdiction of the domestic economy. Such centres deal with flows of finance, financial products and services across borders.
  • An expert panel headed by former World Bank economist Percy Mistry submitted a report on making Mumbai an international financial centre in 2007. However, the global financial crisis in 2008 made countries including India cautious about rapidly opening up their financial sectors.
  • In India, IFSC has been defined in Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act, 2005.
  • Since India has many restrictions on the financial sector, such as partial capital account convertibility, high SLR (statutory liquidity ratio) requirements and foreign investment restrictions, an SEZ can serve as a testing ground for financial sector reforms before they are rolled out in the entire nation.
  • As per the SEZ Act the Central Government may approve the setting up of an International Financial Service Centre in a Special Economic Zone and may prescribe the requirements for setting up and operation of such centre. The Central Government shall approve only one International Financial Services Centre in a Special Economic Zone.

About GIMAC

  • Gujarat International Maritime Arbitration Centre (GIMAC) will be the first centre of its kind in the country that will manage arbitration and mediation proceedings with disputes related to the maritime and shipping sector.
  • The idea is to create a world-class arbitration centre focused on maritime and shipping disputes that can help resolve commercial and financial conflicts between entities having operations in India.
  • The GIMAC will be part of a maritime cluster that the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) is setting up in GIFT City at Gandhinagar.
  • There are over 35 arbitral institutions in India, however, none focus exclusively on the disputes related to the maritime sector, hence the GIMAC will help in this regard with Gujrat continuing to witness a rapid extension in maritime activities and inching closer to becoming a global maritime hub with the implementation of Gujarat Maritime Cluster project.
  • The GIMAC will facilitate faster dispute resolution while improving the attractiveness of GIFT Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and the ease of doing business.

What is the Gujarat Maritime Cluster?

  • Gujarat Maritime Cluster is conceived as a dedicated ecosystem of Ports, Maritime Shipping and Logistics services providers.
  • It will host an array of maritime, shipping industry players and service providers, along with relevant Government regulatory agencies, in GIFT City, Gandhinagar – India’s first International Financial Services Centre (IFSC).
  • It will be a one stop solution for all maritime services while attaining economic growth, employment generation and industry – academia confluence in the region.

-Source: Indian Express


Bhutan’s Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB)

Context:

  • Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB), a joint initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), launched its programme in Bhutan.
  • India was chosen as the Partner Jurisdiction and has provided the Tax Expert for this programme.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies and programmes affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the TIWB Programme in Bhutan
  2. About TIWB

About the TIWB Programme in Bhutan

  • Bhutan’s Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB) programme is launched in partnership with India.
  • This programme is expected to be of about 24 months’ duration.
  • The focus of the programme will be in the area of International Taxation and Transfer Pricing.
  • Through this India in collaboration with the UNDP and the TIWB Secretariat aims to aid Bhutan in strengthening its tax administration by transferring technical know-how and skills to its tax auditors, and through sharing of best audit practices.

About TIWB

  • The TIWB Programme is a joint initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
  • The objective of the TIWB Initiative is to enable sharing of tax audit knowledge and skills with tax administrations in developing countries through a targeted, real time “learning by doing” approach.
  • TIWB is focused on promoting hands-on assistance by sending Experts to build audit and audit-related skills pertaining to specific international tax matters and the development of general audit skills within developing tax administrations.

-Source: PIB

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