AJANTA AND ELLORA CAVES
- Ajanta is a collection of rock-cut caverns located close to Aurangabad in Maharashtra’s Western Ghats.
- There are 29 exclusively Buddhist caves in Ajanta, 25 of which were used as Viharas (residential caves), and 4 were used as Chaitya (prayer halls).
- The caves were developed between 200 B.C. to 650 A.D.
- The Ajanta caves were inscribed by the Buddhist monks under the patronage of the Vakataka rulers, Harishena in particular.
- In the travelogues of the Chinese Buddhist travellers– Fa Hien (during the reign of Chandragupta II) and Hieun Tsang (during the reign of emperor Harshavardhana)– the Ajanta caves are mentioned.
- The figures in these caves were done using fresco painting.
- The outlines of the paintings were done in red colour.
- The most striking feature is the absence of blue colour in the paintings.
- The paintings are generally themed around Buddhism – the life of Buddha and Jataka stories.
UNESCO Heritage Site:
- The caves were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.
- It is situated in the Sahyadri range of Maharashtra, around 100 kilometers from the Ajanta caves.
- A total of 34 caves are there including 17 Brahmanical, 12 Buddhist, and 5 Jain caves (also called secular caves).
- These caves were created by numerous guilds from Vidarbha, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu between the fifth and eleventh centuries A.D., making them more recent than the Ajanta Caves.
- Consequently, the theme and architectural styles of the caves exhibit a natural variation.
UNESCO Heritage Site:
- In 1983, the Ellora complex received the UNESCO World Heritage designation.
Famous Cave Temple:
- The most impressive of the cave temple is Kailasa (Kailasanatha; cave 16), which bears the name of the Himalayan peak where the Hindu deity Shiva is said to reside.
S-400 AIR DEFENCE SYSTEM
Deliveries of five regiments of S-400 air defence systems are expected to be completed by year end or early 2024.
- Russian engineers created the mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) system known as the S-400 Triumf. It is regarded to be far more deadly than the US-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), making it the most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range SAM (MLR SAM) in the world.
- The system is capable of engaging all forms of aerial targets, including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and ballistic and cruise missiles within a 400 km radius, at an altitude of up to 30 km.
- The system has the ability to engage six targets at once while tracking 100 airborne targets.
Reasons for Delay in Delivery
- Transportation: Finding cargo carriers outside the purview of sanctions and their insurance has been a major issue.
- Payment issues. With the looming threat of U.S. sanctions under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), the two sides worked out payments through the rupee-ruble exchange. The payments troubles compounded after Russia was shut out of the global SWIFT system for money transfers.
- The payments troubles compounded after Russia was shut out of the global SWIFT system for money transfers.
- India and Russia agreed to conduct payments through the rupee-ruble arrangement after trying payments in euros as well.
FOREIGN CONTRIBUTION (REGULATION) ACT (FCRA)
Recently, the Centre suspended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) license of public think-tank, the Centre for Policy Research (CPR).
What is FCRA?
- The FCRA was enacted during the Emergency in 1976 amid apprehensions that foreign powers were interfering in India’s affairs by pumping money into the country through independent organisations.
- The law sought to regulate foreign donations to individuals and associations so that they functioned “in a manner consistent with the values of a sovereign democratic republic”.
- An amended FCRA was enacted under the UPA government in 2010 to “consolidate the law” on utilisation of foreign funds, and “to prohibit” their use for “any activities detrimental to national interest”.
- The FCRA registrations are granted to individuals or associations that have definite cultural, economic, educational, religious, and social programmes.
- The registration is valid for five years. NGOs are expected to apply for renewal within six months of the date of expiry of registration.
- Following the application by the NGO, the MHA makes inquiries through the Intelligence Bureau into the antecedents of the applicant, and accordingly processes the application.
Guidelines to Receive Foreign Donations
- Broadly, the FCRA requires every person or NGO seeking to receive foreign donations to be:
- Registered under the Act,
- Open a bank account for the receipt of the foreign funds in the State Bank of India, Delhi, and
- Utilize those funds only for the purpose for which they have been received and as stipulated in the Act.
SOCIAL STOCK EXCHANGE
Recently, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) granted the National Stock Exchange of India final approval to set up a Social Stock Exchange (SSE).
What is a Social Stock Exchange?
- The Social Stock Exchange would serve as a medium for enterprises to seek finance for their social initiatives, acquire visibility and provide increased transparency about fund mobilisation and utilisation.
- It would function as a separate segment within the existing stock exchange and help social enterprises raise funds from the public through its mechanism.
- Any non-profit organisation (NPO) or for-profit social enterprise (FPSEs) that establishes the primacy of social intent would be recognised as a social enterprise (SE), which will make it eligible to be registered or listed on the SSE.
- The seventeen plausible criteria as listed under the Regulations 292E of SEBI’s ICDR (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2018 entail that enterprises must be serving to eradicate either hunger, poverty, malnutrition and inequality; promoting education, employability, equality, empowerment of women and LGBTQIA+ communities; working towards environmental sustainability; protection of national heritage and art or bridging the digital divide, among other things.
Social Benefits of Social Stock Exchange
- In order to attract investors, sponsors, and social businesses, the SSE will be able to take advantage of its current infrastructure and client relationships.
- The recommendation’s allowance of some tax incentives would promote the culture of “giving” among different stakeholders.
- By encouraging banks and other investors to work with non-profit organisations, it would promote more inclusive social and economic progress.
THE WINDSOR FRAMEWORK
Recently, the United Kingdom and the European Union reached a landmark deal, Windsor Framework, to replace the Northern Ireland Protocol.
What is Windsor Framework?
- The Windsor Framework is an agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union to implement post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland.
- It is mainly to permit free trade agreement between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and to preserve the European Union’s single market.
How does the Windsor Framework attempt to resolve trade issues?
- The Windsor Framework has proposed to introduce a green lane and red lane system, and the Stormont Brake.
Green lane goods:
- It will have fewer checks and controls, including no customs checks or rules of origin.
Red lane goods:
- It will have full checks and controls to preserve the EU’s single market.
- It is an emergency measure that permits Northern Ireland’s devolved government to quickly halt new EU laws from being imposed on the province — a measure that London retains the right to veto.
- The democratically elected Northern Ireland Assembly can oppose new EU goods rules that would have significant and lasting effects on everyday lives in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland Protocol
- Under the protocol, Northern Ireland remained part of the EU single market, and trade and customs inspections of goods coming from Great Britain took place at its ports along the Irish Sea.
- It became cumbersome as many food items including dairy products lost shelf-life due to clearance waiting. Medicines are also caught in it.
- It created tension in the United Kingdom, especially Northern Ireland region.
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