Days after amateur shutterbugs on shoe-string budgets thought they have lost their opportunity to capture the scenic beauty of Goa, the panchayat in North Goa’s Parra, the ancestral village of former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, has scrapped a controversial tax levied on tourists photography.
Parra is best known for its scenic road lined with coconut trees, often serves as a backdrop in several Bollywood films, including the Shahrukh Khan-starrer ‘Dear Zindagi’.
The decision to levy the tax ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 500 had triggered a controversy in Goa, after an outraged local resident published a photo of the panchayat’s signage announcing the tax and uploaded a video of tourists being levied the fee, on social media.
Talking to IANS on Wednesday, sarpanch of the Parra village panchayat Delilah Lobo said the decision to impose the “Swachhta tax” on those taking photos and selfies along the scenic coconut palm-lined road, was not made in order to earn revenue, but to deter tourists from being a nuisance on the narrow road, which often led to traffic jams and garbage being strewn around.
“We have suspended the tax for now. The idea behind the tax was not to earn revenue for the village panchayat, but to deter tourists and photographers from holding up traffic along the narrow road during their shoots and throwing garbage around the place,” Lobo said.
The tax had also irked travel and tourism industry stakeholders in Goa, who had expressed concern that such a tax may be emulated in other coastal villages, which would deter tourists from visiting the areas. (IANS)
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Bird photography as a hobby and profession has taken off to a major extent in India. It has led to important discoveries of species not previously known from the country, a globally renowned ornithologist said on Sunday.
In his latest paper published in BirdingASIA, the biannual bulletin on Asian birds, Nature Conservation Foundation Scientist K.S. Gopi Sundar told IANS the number of bird species in India is growing owing to improved genetic capabilities that have helped discern differences between birds that looked and sounded somewhat similar.
However, there is still a very slow growth in the understanding of individual species.
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Autecology, or the science of how a species interacts with its surroundings, is the branch of ecology that assists scientists in determining where species are found and what they do.
For the vast majority of Indian bird species, this basic information is either absent or very poorly known, said Sundar, who is the Co-chair of the IUCN Stork, Ibis and Spoonbill Specialist Group.
Looking for a species for many years in multiple locations is the ideal way to improve knowledge of the species. But this takes time and more importantly resources that countries like India do not appear to be relegating to basic studies.
“Given this background, with some colleagues, I wanted to see if there are faster ways of improving knowledge of bird species using available resources that may not be being used as best as they could,” he said.
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“The idea began when a small group of us saw a black-bellied form of the variable wheatear in Udaipur in 2018. The variable wheatear is a neat little black-and-white bird that migrates to India for the winter, and eats millions of insects while here,” he said.
“It is quite common in the northern parts, even seen inside cities and in farmlands. Also, the bird is interesting in having three distinct colour forms that vary in the quantity of white and black on the bird. Not surprisingly, exceedingly little is known of the ecology and requirements of this species in India.”
The black-bellied form was new for the researchers and therefore mildly exciting.
The only available information on this form was in field guides that compile all and any information they can get on birds to make maps that help people interested in birds.
Field guides suggested that the black-bellied form was found only in a small patch in Pakistan along the Indus river during the winter.
“By then, we had seen the form in three different locations in Udaipur. We waited for another winter, and behold, the black-bellied form appeared again in all the three locations of Udaipur. Clearly, existing information on this form needed updating,” he said.
Bird photography as a hobby and profession has taken off to a major extent in India.
It has led to important discoveries of species not previously known from the country, and over-zealous photographers have also destroyed bird habitats and disturbed nesting birds.
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But since the emergence of the internet, several institutions have set up forums for photographers to donate their images of birds, primarily to assist other people with identification.
“We scanned various portals for photographs of variable wheatears, and ended up with a database of over 540 photographers of the three forms that also had year and location,” he said.
“We created maps for all three forms and also assessed if any were being seem more in recent times. We discovered that our maps, created using photographs donated online by photographers, matched field guides only for one form. Two other forms of the variable wheatear were distributed much more widely than was suspected,” Sundar said.
Photographers, of course, do not go to all places equally, and some are more generous with their photographs than others.
“So it is likely that all three forms are distributed much more widely than what we have discovered. What was most exciting for us that it is possible to use already-available resources to create information on birds, however basic, in India,” he said.
With so many researchers following the lockdown to help combat the novel coronavirus, perhaps many more attempts could be made to see what other aspects of Indian birds the freely-available photographs online can reveal, Sundar added. (IANS)
With the GST Council, headed by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, increasing the GST on mobile phones from 12 per cent to 18 per cent on Saturday, industry experts feel it would hit the industry and the consumers hard.
Brands are in no position to absorb this impact. “They will, most certainly, decide to pass it on to the consumer, at least in case of high-selling models,” said Navkendar Singh, Research Director, IDC India.
The India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) stressed that the move would stymie consumption.
“The 6 per cent GST increase will be detrimental to the vision of ‘digital India’. Consumption will be stymied and our domestic consumption target of $80 billion (Rs 6 lakh crore) by 2025 will not be achieved. We will fall short by at least Rs 2 lakh crore,” said Pankaj Mohindroo, ICEA Chairman.
In a letter to the Finance Minister on March 12, the ICEA had said the mobile handsets sector was in deep stress because of the supply chain disruption due to coronavirus outbreak. It was the most inappropriate time to consider GST hike on mobile phones, the industry body said. It also said the GST hike on mobile phone might adversely affect localisation of manufacturing as well as popularisation of the country’s digital payments objectives.
According to ICEA, 31-32 crore Indians who buy phones in the country will be impacted by the move.
Terming the move counter-intuitive and detrimental to the ‘digital India’ vision, the IDC India Research Director said, “This is a textbook case of missing the wood for the trees. This will stunt any hope of growth in the near-term, which anyway looks challenging now due to coronavirus issue at both supply and demand ends,” Singh told IANS.
The coronavirus outbreak, which has hampered global tech giants’ 2020 plans leading to cancellation or postponement of global flagship conferences, is set to hit supplies of smartphone components from China to India at least till the second quarter of this year.
According to Tarun Pathak, Associate Director, Counterpoint Research, India smartphone market will see at least 15 per cent shortfall in shipments in the first quarter (January-March period). (IANS)