Current Affairs summary 11 Sept

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1. Govt plans geo-tagging to crackdown on shell companies

• Companies may soon have to geo-tag their registered offices in the statutory filings with the Registrar of Companies (RoC), as the government seeks to prevent fraud by tightening regulatory systems.

• Geo-tagging, or attaching data of the exact location of the office, will allow the online return filing system to alert government officials wherever it detects far too many companies are registered in the same premises,

• It is a trend noticed in past investigations into shell companies.

==> How it can help the government?

• This will help us identify instances of one building being used by hundreds of shell companies as their registered office or of companies citing vacant plots as their registered office address.

• The minister of state for corporate affairs P.P. Chaudhary said, It will serve as an early warning system for detecting mushrooming of shell companies.

• With this move, the ministry seeks to prevent abuse of the corporate structure by companies that inflate costs by issuing fake invoices and laundering unaccounted wealth in the form of loans or equity through bogus transactions.

• Many companies that exist only on paper with the same address were found in the past offering what is referred to as “accommodation entries” or bogus transactions without commercial substance.

• The coordinates of the registered premises will act as a key input for mining data in the ministry’s IT infrastructure,

• It called MCA21, to zero in on companies with a common address, common contact numbers, common directors and sudden and unexpected changes in revenue, etc. that may warrant a closer look into their affairs.

• The idea is to seek the coordinates of the registered office at the time of incorporation in the case of new companies and at the time of filing annual returns in the case of existing ones.

• But in recent times the disclosure and transparency requirements for companies have increased.

• Geo-tagging will certainly help in identifying clusters of companies with the same address.

• Chaudhary said the government is working on defining what is commonly referred to as a shell company.

==> Impact of demonetisation

• After the November 2016 demonetisation of high-value currency notes, the government combed through records to identify dormant companies and those that were used to launder money.

• To be sure, not all dormant or defunct companies are involved in wrongdoing.

• Most of them only default on the statutory requirement of filing annual returns.

• In some cases, companies default on filing their annual returns because there is no business activity.

• In a clean-up exercise in 2017-18, the government struck off more than 226,000 such shell companies from the records for not filing annual returns for two or more years.

• It also identified some cases that called for a probe. Now, investigations are on into the real ownership of 68 companies that deposited ₹ 25 crore or more after demonetisation, which the authorities have found suspicious.

==> Way forward

• Experts said that having a common address alone does not point to wrongdoing.

• It is a practice among professional services companies such as law firms and audit firms to work from a large, common infrastructure.

• The registered office need not necessarily be the place from where a business conducts its commercial operations, a corporate law expert said on condition of anonymity.

• Geo-tagging will certainly help in identifying a cluster of businesses, but one has to keep in mind that some start-ups, too, opt to work in clusters.


2. Ocean Cleanup team heads to the Pacific

• A supply ship towing a long floating boom designed to corral ocean plastic has set sail from San Francisco for a test run ahead of a trip to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

• The ambitious project by The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch non-profit group, hopes to clean up half of the infamous garbage patch within five years once all systems are deployed.

• The supply vessel was towing a 600 meter-long boom device dubbed System 001, designed to contain floating ocean plastic so it can be scooped up and recycled.

• The system includes a tapered three-meter skirt to catch plastic floating just below the surface.

• The ship was heading to a spot 240 nautical miles off the California coastline for a two-week trial before sailing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating trash pile twice the

• The main mission is to show that it works, and hopefully then in a few months from now, the first plastics will arrive back into port, which means that it becomes proven technology,” Mr. Slat told AFP as he witnessed the launch.

==> Way forward

• Laurent Lebreton, the project’s lead oceanographer, said they believe the Pacific garbage patch contains some 80,000 metric tones of plastic waste.

• Mr. Lebreton said that the plastic has started to accumulate in the ocean since… the 1950s.

• He said that scientists first learned about the plastic concentrating in the Pacific garbage patch in the 1970s.

• Land-based plastic comes mainly from rivers, but we also find a lot of fishing ropes, fishing nets.


3. Bengaluru airport set to use face recognition as ‘boarding pass’

• Voice Box, according to its website, showcased the face recognition-based passage system for the first time for Lufthansa passengers at kiosks at the Los Angeles airport in March this year

• Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Bengaluru is set to become the first airport in Asia next year to use face recognition as the boarding procedure for passengers to board flights and move across different sections of the airport.

• It signed an agreement to this effect in Lisbon on September 5 to introduce face recognition technology at the airport from 2019.

• The agreement was signed in the presence of Indian-origin Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa and India’s Ambassador to Portugal Nandini Singla.

• Voice Box, according to its website, showcased the face recognition-based passage system for the first time for Lufthansa passengers at kiosks at the Los Angeles airport in March this year – Lufthansa passengers there used a biometric boarding procedure instead of boarding passes.

==> Objectives of this program

• The goal of the programme is to simplify the journey by making it paperless from registration to boarding.

• Biometric technology will identify passengers by their face as they move across the airport, avoiding stops and the repeated presentation of boarding passes, passports or other physical identity documents,’’ Vision Box said in a release after signing the agreement with BIAL.

• Vision-Box’s state-of-the-art biometric technology combined with its passenger flow platform will enable a seamless journey for our passengers, without obstacles, waiting lines or hassles, from registration to boarding.

==> Way forward

• The first implementation milestone at Kempegowda will be completed in the first quarter of 2019, with Jet Airways, Air Asia and SpiceJet passengers as first users, Vision Box stated.

• This is the first end-to-end face recognition-based walk through experience in Asia and the largest in the world.

• It is also one of the most significant steps towards the Digital India campaign endorsed by the Government,’’ Vison Box CEO Miguel Leitmann has stated.


4. Elusive snow leopard spotted in Himachal wildlife sanctuary

• A snow leopard was spotted at a height of about 4,000 metres in Lippa-Asra wildlife sanctuary in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, a picture of which was captured by a camera-trap installed by the state wildlife department.

• The camera trap was installed in May this year, along with eight others at selected sites in the sanctuary after a preliminary survey.

• It was only last year that the snow leopard improved from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ in terms of conservation status.

• The recent findings have ascertained that snow leopards are inhabiting new areas.

==> Why is the spotting Important?

• It was only last year that the snow leopard improved from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ in terms of conservation status.

• The recent findings have ascertained that snow leopards are inhabiting new areas.

• In this survey, two brown bears were snapped through another camera-trap placed inside the sanctuary at an altitude of about 3200m.

==> Conservation of Snow Leopard in India

• Project Snow Leopard was launched in 2009

• It aims for strengthening wildlife conservation in the Himalayan high altitudes.

• It promoting a knowledge-based and adaptive conservation framework that fully involves the local communities, who share the snow leopard’s range, in conservation efforts.

• Snow leopards are also given the same protection as the tiger.

• It listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 – the highest protection afforded to a species.

5. Animals in wrong role

• Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has locked horns with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), accusing it of being lax in enforcement of rules that specify how wild animals can be depicted in films and television programmes.

• Ms. Gandhi, listed “blatant errors” by the AWBI subcommittee that screens applications from film-makers.

==> Preventing Cruelty to Animals

• The committee did not seek details of the species being used, which were required to determine whether they were protected.

• It had even allowed their depiction in scenes that could promote cruelty to animals.

• The letter cites an instance of approval given for a scene showing animal sacrifice, which is against the Supreme Court’s orders.

==> Depiction of Animals

• While tigers, monkeys, lions, bears, panthers (including leopards) are banned from being exhibited under Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,

• The government body has allowed their use on several occasions.

• All Indian snakes and birds except the crow are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act.

• Any certification for performance or exhibition is only possible after permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden of the relevant State.

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Hemant Bhatt