Comprehensive News Analysis – 24 September 2016

Table of Contents:

A. GS1 Related:
B. GS2 Related:

1. India, France ink Rafale deal

2. Kaveri issue: Karnataka says no water to spare

3. EU may re-engage with India on free trade talks

4. Friendship-2016

C. GS3 Related:

1. Conservationists say National waterways project threatens Gangetic dolphins

2. GST council sets exemption threshold for tax at Rs.20 lakh

D. GS4 Related
E. Important Editorials : A Quick Glance

The Hindu

1. Raiders of hidden arks

F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:
G. BILLS/ACTS/SCHEMES/ORGS IN NEWS
H. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
I. Archives

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Useful News Articles

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here today folks!

B. GS2 Related
  1. India, France ink Rafale deal

Category: Bilateral

Topic:  Indo-France

Key Points: 

  • India and France concluded an Inter-Governmental Agreement for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of €7.87 billion, the first fighter aircraft deal since the purchase of Sukhois from Russia in the late 90’s.

The deal comes after 17 months of tough negotiations since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the decision in April 2014 for direct purchase of the jets in fly-away condition, citing critical operational necessity of the IAF. The deal includes the aircraft in fly-away condition, weapons, simulators, spares, maintenance, and Performance Based Logistics support for five years. For five years India does not have to spend on maintenance.

  • Rafale fighter jet: It is a twin-engine fighter, multi-role fighter aircraft; it is capable of carrying out all combat missions: air defence, interception, ground support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence. The last part is of particular interest to India and these aircraft are likely to succeed Mirage fighters for nuclear warhead delivery as part of India’s nuclear doctrine.

 Rafale Fighters

The best part is the weapons package which includes Meteor radar guided Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile considered the best in the class with range of over 150 kms and Scalp long range air to ground missiles.

The aircraft will be customised as per the requirements of the IAF which include Helmet Mounted Displays, radar warning receiver, infrared search and track among others.

 

  1. Kaveri issue: Karnataka says no water to spare

Category: Inter-State River water disputes

Topic:  Kaveri

Key Points:

  • The two Houses of the Karnataka legislatureunanimously passed a resolution stating that it is imperative for the State government to ensure that no water is drawn from the four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin except for drinking water requirements of villages and towns in the Cauvery basin and for the entire city of Bengaluru.

 

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said: “We have the greatest respect for the judiciary and other pillars of democracy. Our objective is not to oppose the judiciary. We do not even dream of such a thought. “We are in an extremely difficult situation and the State is facing distress for the second consecutive year and hence it is not possible to release water.”

 

  • The resolution means the Karnataka government has the backing of the State legislature to continue to refuse to implement the Supreme Court’s September 20 order to release water at the rate of 6,000 cusecs to Tamil Nadu from September 21 to 27. Interestingly, the carefully worded resolution adopted by the Houses had no reference to the Supreme Court orders in the matter or statements made by Tamil Nadu. It only observed that it is in a state of acute crisis and the storages in the four reservoirs have reached alarmingly low levels with only 27.6 Thousand Million Cubic Feet (tmcft) of water.

 

Tamil Nadu had demanded water for sowing of the samba rice crop in the delta districts of the State


  1. EU may re-engage with India on free trade talks

Category: Bilateral

Topic: Indo-EU FTA

Key Points:

  • European Union (EU) hopes to soon re-engage with India on negotiations regarding the proposed ambitious, comprehensive and balanced Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which will also include an investment protection pact.

 

The EU said the FTA will not only cover (lowering/eliminating) tariffs but will also look at harmonisation of standards. According to EU, there are more than 6,000 European firms in India providing direct employment to 1.2 million people and indirect employment to 5 million people, adding that an investment protection pact is important for these firms towards stability and certainty.

 

Note – India and the EU are also looking at strengthening ties in the areas of water and clean energy and bilateral ties in goods, services and investment will get a boost after the FTA comes into force.

 

4. Friendship-2016

Category: International affairs

Topic: Russia-Pak bilateral

Key Points:

  • The first-ever joint military drills between Russia and Pakistan‘Friendship – 2016’ began in Islamabad, reflecting growing military ties between the two former Cold War rivals. The two militaries will share their experience and employ teamwork in fighting in mountainous areas, particularly destroying illegal armed groups.
  • The joint military drills are aimed at bolstering and building military cooperation between the two countries. The joint drill is seen as another step in growing military-to-military cooperation, indicating a steady growth in bilateral relationship between the two countries, whose ties had been marred by Cold War rivalry for decades.

 

Pakistan decided to broaden its foreign policy options after its relations with the U.S. deteriorated following secret CIA raid in Abbottabad that killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Its relations with the U.S. were soured recently when U.S. lawmakers blocked funds for the sale of eight Lockheed Martin Corporation’s F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.

  • Over the last 15 months, the chiefs of Pakistan’s Army, Navy and Air Force travelled to Russia. The flurry of high- level bilateral exchanges resulted in the signing of a deal for the sale of four MI-35 attack helicopters to Islamabad.

 

C. GS3 Related
  1. Conservationists say National waterways project threatens Gangetic dolphins

Category: National policies and programs

Topic: Impact on Bio-diversity

Key Points: 

  • According to a group of scientists, environmentalists and wildlife conservationists, the National Waterways project poses threat to the National Aquatic animal of India – Gangetic river dolphins.

 

The animal is protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and is a declared endangered species. The development of the Ganga for shipping is seen by wildlife conservationists as the single-largest threat to the survival of the species, whose numbers are declining in most parts of their natural habitat, according to wildlife Institute of India. This is mainly due to construction of dams and barrages on the river.

  • India has a huge untapped potential of inland waterways and the Centre plans to develop a 1600-km waterway between Allahabad and Haldia for inland transportation under a Rs. 4200-crore World Bank-aided project as the National Waterway 1.

The first phase of the project spanning 1300 km, now under implementation, is from Varanasi to Haldia. It envisages improving the navigability of the river as it passes through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

The NW1 is seen to have a potential to emerge as the logistics artery for northern India, while reducing the congestion on this high-traffic transport corridor, project documents say. However, this stretch is also home to the endangered dolphin.

  • River dolphins are found in the Ganga and the Brahmaputra and its tributaries. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a membership union of government and civil society organisations, listed it as endangered in 1996. There are around 2,500 of the dolphins and the figure is diminishing.

Aside from losing habitat to increased developmental work on the river, the dolphins also suffered due to depletion of prey base, accidental mortality in fishing nets and accidents with vessel propellers.The large-scale modification of the river, the proposed movement of numerous ships, may well sound the death knell of the species. The species are practically blind, and rely on bio-sonar method to move around. The ships noise-levels would disrupt the ability to navigate, and find prey.

Endangered Species Recovery Plan – To tackle the threat to dolphins and three other species, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests launched in 2016 the Endangered Species Recovery Plans for four species of global importance. IUCN too had expressed its concerns to the Union Environment Ministry on the recovery of endangered species.

The World Bank and the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) were cognisant of the need to ensure that critical aquatic life in the Ganga isn’t unduly impacted by the project.

The World Bank suggested that barrages may not be the main reason behind the decline in dolphin population, as they were nearly extinct in Nepal and Bangladesh rivers where there are no barrages. They attributed the decline to direct killing for oil, accidental killing due to impact of fishing and separation of wetlands from river with embankments.

 

  1. GST council sets exemption threshold for tax at Rs.20 lakh

Category: Indian Economy

Topic: Taxation – GST

Key Points:

  • The Goods & Services Tax (GST) Council has decided that businesses in the north-eastern and hill states with annual turnover below 10 lakh would be out of the GST net, while the threshold for the exemption in the rest of India would be an annual turnover of Rs.20 lakh. The Constitutional Amendment paving the way for the GST has a provision to accord special status to the north-eastern and hill states.

 

The Council also decided that the existing 11 lakh service tax assessees will continue to be under the jurisdiction of the Centre. Since the GST will allow the States to also tax services, over time the revenue officials in the States will be trained after which they will begin assessing assessees in the services sector.

  • Compensation formula – The compensation that the Centre would pay to the States for losses of revenue because of the transition to the new regime would be routinely, quarterly or bi-monthly. The Council agreed to settle for 2015-16 as the base year for calculating the compensation.

 

States would have sole jurisdiction over assessees (currently in the Value Added Tax (VAT) net at present) having a turnover of Rs.1.5 crore or less, while the administrative control of businesses with a turnover exceeding that limit would be jointly with the central and state governments

 

D. GS4 Related


E. Important Editorials: A Quick Glance


The Hindu
  1. Raiders of hidden arks

The return to India of three ancient sculptures from the National Gallery of Australia is another milestone in the long and difficult campaign waged by several countries to repossess their cultural treasures, which have often been bought by museums from idol smugglers. As the provenance of the artefacts – the 900-year old statues of Goddess Pratyangira and Seated Buddha, and the third century Worshippers of Buddha became clear, the only ethical course open to the Australian gallery was to restore the sculptures, which it must be commended for pursuing. Evidently, the two icons other than the sandstone Seated Buddha were acquired from a New York-based art dealer, Subhash Kapoor, for about $840,000 on the strength of fake documentation: he is now facing prosecution in Tamil Nadu. These are by no means isolated instances. In June, the United States formally returned to India about 200 stolen cultural objects, which include 2,000-year-old artefacts, part of a $100 million trove unearthed by an investigation of Kapoor’s art business. What emerges from these long battles to reclaim articles that constitute cultural heritage is the insight that a dedicated national agency with State government support would be better equipped to fight the scourge of theft and illicit transfer. With trained personnel, it could devote itself to the task of documenting antiquities and ensuring that the country’s ports are sealed against smuggling.

The National Gallery of Australia’s inquiry into the status of its Asian art objects conducted by a retired judge, Susan Crennan, has had the positive outcome of identifying 22 articles that have questionable or doubtful credentials, 14 of which were purchased from Kapoor. Many of the findings in the Australian review underscore the importance of creating a strong repository of information of all Indian antiquities, backed up by unimpeachable forensic records, so that they may be claimed without difficulty at a future date. A lot of the illicit trade has been carried out by smugglers who have laundered the provenance of idols using fake documentation designed to overcome the prohibition imposed by the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972 on non-governmental exports. Providentially, it is the records of a research institution such as the French Institute of Pondicherry that helped establish the claim to the 11th-12th century Nataraja idol stolen from Tamil Nadu in 2006. Documentation of antiquities using public and private records should become a national mission. These treasures could then be put on display in national museums.


F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:
  • Inter-State river water disputes – Article 262 and Inter-state river water disputes act, 1956
  • Free trade agreement
  • Endangered species recovery project
  • Gangetic dolphin
  • State Legislature
  • National waterways – IWAI



H. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
Question 1: Which of the following statements are correct regarding Dassault Rafale fighter jets that India recently purchased from France?
  1. It is a twin-engine, multi-role fighter aircraft
  2. It capable of carrying out all combat missions including nuclear deterrence

a) 1 only

b) 2 only

c) Both 1&2

d) Neither 1 nor 2.


Question 2: ‘Friendship – 2016’ is the Joint military exercise between
a) India and Russia

b) Pakistan and Russia

c) China and Pakistan

d) Pakistan and India


Question 3: Which of the following species is not covered under the endangered species recovery project - 2016 of the Union environment ministry?

a) Great Indian bustard

b) Gangetic dolphin

c) Sangai deer

d) Royal Bengal Tiger


Question 4: The GST council which decides the tax structure under the proposed GST is headed by  -
a) Prime minister

b) Union finance minister

c) Union Home minister

d) Union finance secretary


Question 5: The Red Data Books published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) contain lists of
  1. Endemic plant and animal species present in the biodiversity hotspots,
  2. Threatened plant and animal species.
  3. Protected sites for conservation of nature and natural resources in various countries.

a) 1 and 3

b) 2 only

c) 2 and 3

d) 3 only


Check Your Answers

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