Daily Current Affairs 27.12.2022 (President inaugurates ‘PRASAD’ project to create a slew of facilities at Srisailam, Expedite classification of nomadic tribes in quota lists, panel tells Centre, NCPCR warns NGOs over depiction of vulnerable children for fundraising, A holistic heritage conservation plan, The volume and variety of contraband seized in India)

Daily Current Affairs 27.12.2022 (President inaugurates ‘PRASAD’ project to create a slew of facilities at Srisailam, Expedite classification of nomadic tribes in quota lists, panel tells Centre, NCPCR warns NGOs over depiction of vulnerable children for fundraising, A holistic heritage conservation plan, The volume and variety of contraband seized in India)


1. President inaugurates ‘PRASAD’ project to create a slew of facilities at Srisailam

President Droupadi Murmu inaugurated the ‘PRASAD’ project at the tourism facilitation centre in the pilgrim town of Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh on Monday.

She was accompanied by Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan.

The hill town will get a pilgrim complex, amenities centres at Hatakeswaram and Sikhareswaram, a renovated Pushkarini, aesthetic illumination at the temple, laying of Krishnaveni Road from the bus station to Pathalaganga, an amphitheatre, a sound-and-light show, digital intervention, parking areas, a toilet complex, souvenir shops, food courts, ATM and banking services with a total outlay of ₹48.03 crore under the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASAD).

Ms. Murmu also visited Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Spoorthi Kendram, where she was accorded a ceremonial reception with a Chenchu tribal dance.

Ms. Murmu later had an interactive session with the tribal women and learnt about their issues.


The Government of India launched the PRASAD scheme in the year 2014-2015 under the Ministry of Tourism. The full form of the PRASAD scheme is ‘Pilgrimage Rejuvenation And Spiritual Augmentation Drive’.

This scheme focuses on developing and identifying pilgrimage sites across India for enriching the religious tourism experience. It aims to integrate pilgrimage destinations in a prioritised, planned and sustainable manner to provide a complete religious tourism experience. The growth of domestic tourism hugely depends on pilgrimage tourism. 

For tapping the potential of pilgrimage tourism, there is a need for holistic development of the selected pilgrimage destinations by the government along with the cooperation of other stakeholders.

The PRASAD scheme aims at paving the way for the development and promotion of religious tourism in India.

2. Expedite classification of nomadic tribes in quota lists, panel tells Centre

Parliamentary panel on Social Justice and Empowerment notes the process has been ‘very slow’; says the delay will increase communities’ suffering and deprive them of welfare scheme benefits

The parliamentary panel on Social Justice and Empowerment has pulled up the Union government over the “very slow” process to categorise over 260 denotified, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes under the SC/ST/OBC lists. Government officials have pointed out that this has delayed the approval of benefits under the SEED (Scheme for Economic Empowerment of DNTs) launched in February this year.

The scheme was launched by Union Social Justice Minister Virendra Kumar, with the aim of providing free competitive exam coaching, health insurance, housing assistance, and livelihood initiatives. An amount of ₹200 crore has been allocated for this scheme — to be spent over five years from 2021-22 to 2025-26.

As of December 26 evening, a total of over 5,400 applications had been received under the SEED, none of which have been approved and no amount has been sanctioned.

The panel, in a report tabled in Parliament this Winter Session, noted that it had earlier too flagged the “inability of the department to take necessary action” on the speedy and accurate categorisation of these communities.

After the government said that the work was proceeding and would be finished by 2022, the panel said the process was still very slow. It added, “Delay in locating them would increase their suffering and they would not be able to get benefit of the prevailing schemes meant for the welfare of SC/STs.”

The panel further said it expects the government to expedite this exercise and finish it in a time-bound manner and sought detailed timelines for the same.

Department’s response

In response to the panel’s concerns, the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment had submitted that the Anthropological Survey of India had submitted reports on categorisation of 48 DNT communities so far. In addition, of the 267 communities not categorised so far, the AnSI has finished studies on 24 communities, with Tribal Research Institutes studying 12 of the communities.

Further, the AnSI is finalising studies on 161 communities and is expected to finish studying the remaining communities (about 70) by the end of 2022.

More than 10 crore Indians from over 1,400 communities are either denotified, nomadic or semi-nomadic. Of this, the Idate Commission had categorised 1,262 communities under SC/ST/OBC lists and 267 communities were left uncategorised. Even the communities categorised by the Idate Commission are not accurate with many communities appearing in SC lists in one State or district and on the ST list in another.

3. NCPCR warns NGOs over depiction of vulnerable children for fundraising

The practice of civil society organisations using representative visuals for fundraising activities concerning development issues such as malnutrition now faces new scrutiny, with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) issuing a directive to non-governmental organisations (NGO) not to depict vulnerable children.

A 2013 campaign by a U.K.-based NGO, Save the Children, titled “Khushi”, featured a 20-month-old baby lying on a hospital bed at a malnutrition treatment centre in Tonk, Rajasthan. The baby was videographed as a helpless and needy child, with the camera zooming into a close-up of her face and eyes as she looks morosely into it.

The narrator describes her as a malnourished child in need of help and makes an ardent appeal: “Please, will you help? Please, donate ₹500 a month and make a difference.”

The campaign, which aimed to raise money for the NGO’s initiative against malnutrition, came under scrutiny from several corners over the use of the images of a vulnerable child.

The campaign ran for several years even as some within the NGO were shocked that their organisation did not know the latest on the well-being and whereabouts of the child featured in its campaign.

Now, another campaign by the same NGO, titled “Anand”, depicting an emaciated infant whose ribs can be seen sticking out under his skin, is at the centre of a fresh controversy that has sparked a debate on the imagery among child rights organisations.

On December 2, the NCPCR wrote to NGOs across the country on the practice of “raising funding, domestic as well as international, for their NGOs through advertisement while showing vulnerable minor children in deplorable conditions”.

The letter asked NGOs to refrain from such depiction as it amounted to a violation of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.

This missive was preceded by another letter from the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) on November 2 to all States and Union Territories.

The letter named Save the Children and its campaign to tackle malnutrition in tribal children by raising ₹800 from the general public, and called it misleading on the ground that the issue of malnutrition was being “vigorously pursued” by the government through its Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 scheme.

It also asked States to “report” similar incidents involving NGOs, take “appropriate measures to expose the false information” and “alert beneficiaries about false claims made by them”. Both the letters were based on a detailed complaint by a Rajya Sabha member.

Sudharshan Suchi, CEO of Save the Children, did not respond to a questionnaire e-mailed to him, seeking details of his organisation’s policy on the use of imagery involving children, and the whereabouts of the child “Khushi”.

Images taken down

The images from the “Anand” campaign have since been pulled down and the NGO’s website is now replete with images of happy children.

Save the Children’s “statement of principles” regarding the use of imagery, specifically the portrayal of children in a 2017 document — it updated its media policy following widespread criticism — available on its website states its “clear priority is to generate the response that will help fund our work” which requires that “we create and publish challenging, hard-hitting imagery”.

However, efforts are made to ensure it does not objectify, belittle or dehumanise children, the NGO says. Informed consent of the subject or their family is obtained for photos and it is ensured that they understand the use to which their images may be put as well as the possible consequences, the NGO says. It adds that rigorous procedures are also undertaken to minimise any risk to the children, and no more than two of the following pieces of information are given out: a child’s full name, image and location.

The Ethical Image Policy of another NGO, WaterAid, also pays attention to what is allowed or not allowed in post-production, and how long images can be used. In order to ensure visual representation is more egalitarian and participatory, it has also started hiring and training local people to work as “photo, film and story gatherers”, and trains children and young adults in Pakistan and Nepal to use cameras to communicate issues that affect them.

The UNICEF’s “Eight quick steps to ethical imagery” suggests asking the question — “If she/he were my child, how would I want her/him portrayed?” It also warns against the other extreme of using happy and cute images of children as they “tend to objectify children into an idealised and sentimentalised happiness that negates the complexity of their real life”.

Many in the civil society have welcomed the government’s directive.

“We ensure that we don’t present children in their vulnerability, though those representations appeal most to the people. Instead we present strength and dignity. The poorest of children do laugh and have managed to live with dignity. Therefore, the government’s position is the right one,” Kavita Ratna, director, advocacy and fundraising, The Concerned for Working Children, said.

But the agency of the subjects involved is crucial and if it is the decision of the community to be depicted in a difficult situation, then that is also taken into account, she added.

Ms. Ratna, however, points out that there is also a need for a mind shift as the donor community appears to need or respond to evocative pictures in fund-raising.

The government’s concern over visual representation of children comes at a time when it has doggedly challenged global reports on rising levels of malnutrition in India.

In 2020, a warning on how COVID-19’s impact on access to healthcare services and food systems could result in a rise in malnourished children led to Smriti Irani, the Minister for Women and Child Development, calling up the UN headquarters.

The Union government has also repeatedly rejected India’s performance in the Global Hunger Index and questioned the methodology. India was ranked 107 among 121 countries in 2022 on the index.

4. Editorial-2: A holistic heritage conservation plan

Though admirable, efforts towards restoration of heritage sites are still piecemeal

Five years after the Telangana government brought in a new Heritage Act and scrapped protection for dozens of heritage sites, it appears to have changed tack. There is now a new buzz about heritage and culture. The Minister for Municipal Administration and Urban Development is not just inaugurating flyovers and other civic projects, but is talking about the conservation and preservation of heritage sites.

The government’s show of interest doesn’t stop with speeches; large sums of money are being spent on restoration of heritage sites. The 1935 Moazzam Jahi Market was restored at a reported cost of ₹16 crore and the Bansilalpet stepwell at ₹2.6 crore. The conservation/restoration of a century-old library and two municipal markets at a cost of about ₹55 crore is in the pipeline. These projects are being announced and overseen by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development department. Attention has been diverted from the turf battle with the Department of Archaeology and Museums.

Last year, Ramappa temple near Warangal was given the UNESCO World Heritage site tag after India mounted a diplomatic offensive to ensure the coveted status for the 13th century temple. Two other sites — the Golconda stepwells and Domakonda Fort — in the State were winners in UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific awards for cultural heritage conservation in 2022. All this recognition has whetted the appetite of the Telangana government. Telangana is in a hurry to get things moving and to cut the red tape as it wishes to achieve the UNESCO World Heritage City status for Hyderabad, like Ahmedabad and Jaipur. This will help it boost tourism.

The new effort, which involves bypassing regular official channels, local politicians, and special interest groups, seems to be working as pace has clearly picked up and results can be seen on the ground. For too long, Hyderabad has been hobbled by special interest groups which have stymied attempts to improve the core area of the Charminar historical precinct and the heritage around it.

However, the new announcements seem to indicate that the government is adopting a piecemeal approach to conservation. Heritage revitalisation is a complex issue wound around the cultural fabric of the city. The nationally protected Charminar is a 430-year-old marker of the Golconda rulers, who reigned between 1518 and 1687. The grand secular Indo-Sarcenic buildings that line the banks of the River Musi were constructed in the aftermath of flood destruction at the turn of the last century by another set of rulers. It is this continuum of evolution in built heritage and the layers of development that are hallmarks of the city’s heritage. These make it worthy of “identification, protection and preservation,” say UNESCO guidelines. Focusing on a few marquee sites away from the core heritage zone won’t do. As an earlier Government of India and World Bank-aided project noted, “urban renewal activities are compartmentalised both in terms of city development planning and investments”. This is a key challenge as revitalisation of built heritage or a site cannot happen in isolation and a holistic perspective is needed.

The World Bank and Government of India project mapped the steps to create an ‘inclusive heritage-based city development in India.’ The detailed project report identified 4.29 km stretch of the River Musi for action. It prescribed structural improvement to heritage buildings and retaining walls, development of signages in areas of historic significance and communal use, and rehabilitation of tangible and intangible heritage.

Telangana has tourism potential, but a relatively poor inflow of tourists. In April 2022, Hyderabad had a 4.69% share of foreign tourist arrivals compared to the 34.02% in Delhi and 14.2% in Mumbai. An industry report estimates the global tourism market to be a $570 billion industry in 2022 with the Asia-Pacific region having a 40% share. The industry is expected to grow at 3.8% CAGR and reach $778 billion. Add the industry insight that culture and heritage tourists spend more per day and stay longer at a place and it is a win-win situation for the cities that manage to achieve the status of a UNESCO World Heritage City and leverage it.

It is this industry and segment of business that is at stake. A small chunk of that can have a transformative influence on the economy, job creation, and sustainable development in Telangana. But to achieve the goal, the State will need an integrated approach rather than the current pick-and-choose model.

5.Editorial-3: The volume and variety of contraband seized in India

A recently released government report throws light on the innovative ways in which a range of items was smuggled in and out of India

Gold, dried seahorses, heroin and red sander logs are some examples of items that are seized by Indian Customs and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in airports, along sea routes, and in border areas nearly every day. The report, ‘Smuggling in India Report, 2021-22’, mentions the volume of illegal commodities seized and describes the kinds of items smuggled and the challenges involved in such operations.

In FY21-22, the DRI seized over ₹400 crore worth of over 800 kilograms of gold transported illegally. Chart 1 shows that most of the seized gold originated in Myanmar. Many innovative ways were used to smuggle gold into India. An operation named ‘molten metal’ uncovered a racket wherein gold smuggled in the form of machinery parts was remodelled into bars and cylinders. Another operation code-named ‘golden tap’ uncovered a syndicate which was smuggling triangle valves made of gold, but coated with nickel to make them look like steel.

In FY21-22, the DRI seized over ₹1,100 lakh worth of illegal foreign currency. As shown in Chart 2, most of it was in U.S. dollars followed by the UAE’s Dirhams and Saudi Arabia’s Riyals. In one instance, $5 lakh of illegal currency was seized from two persons flying to Sharjah from Mumbai.

In FY21-22, over 1,100 lakh sticks of cigarettes worth over ₹93 crore were seized by the DRI. As shown in Chart 3, most of them originated in Myanmar followed by the UAE. One such operation where the DRI officials intercepted a six-wheeler truck at Ukhrul, Manipur, led to a seizure of 32,76,800 sticks worth ₹6.5 crore. Cigarettes are smuggled into India given the high taxes imposed on local brands. Most seized packages do not contain pictorial warnings as mandated by the Indian government.

Narcotics weighing 28,334 kilos were seized by the DRI in FY21-22. Most such seizures in FY21-22 were made in Madhya Pradesh followed by Tripura and Maharashtra. Table 4 shows the break-up of the banned substance for which route data were available. Ganja weighing about 26,900 kilos was seized that year, making it the most smuggled narcotic substance. It was followed by heroin, most of which was apprehended on sea routes. In one instance, over 1,800 cartons of “apple juice” and “pomegranate juice” was imported from Bandar Abbas Port (Iran) and intercepted at Inland Container Depot at Tughlakabad. Upon inspection, many of the cartons were found to have white sediments which turned out to be heroin. In another instance, trolley bags, imported from Entebbe, had hollow metal tubes (as part of the design) which were found to contain heroin. In some cases,

the substance was concealed inside teak wood and licorice roots and in others, it was hidden inside oil cans and mixed with rock salt.

Table 5 shows crimes related to the environment. Elephant tusks worth over ₹700 crore were recovered by the DRI in FY21-22. Ambergris or whale vomit, which is produced by the digestive system of sperm whales and is used in luxury perfumery, is a banned substance in India. A kilo of Ambergris is worth ₹1 crore. In FY21-22, 22.5 kgs of Ambergris were seized by officials. Reptiles and other exotic species such as dried seahorses and star tortoises are also smuggled in often. Seahorses are said to have anti-inflammatory qualities and are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Indian star tortoises are smuggled into the country and sold as exotic pets. Customs officers in Chennai seized 2,247 Indian star tortoises which were smuggled as “mud crabs” in FY21-22.

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