TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related GOVERNANCE 1. Aerodrome in Chilika Lake 2. Digitization of courts 3. Modi’s big-ticket announcement is Ayushman Bharat INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. US ‘Space Force’ 2. India and Pakistan should encourage bilateral trade POLITY 1. Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts (Amendment) Bill C. GS3 Related SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. Evolutionary Biology lacks research 2. With human space flight, India to push frontiers AGRICULTURE 1. Pink bollworm: State to take emergency steps D. GS4 Related E. Editorials GOVERNANCE 1. Anti corruption law amendments and its implications. SOCIAL ISSUES 1. India’s abortion law needs a personalised approach F. Tidbits 1. A Buddha will travel back, after 57 years 2. We serve the Lady of Justice, says CJI Misra 3. India, China Armies meet in Ladakh 4. ‘Assam rejected move to shrink area under AFSPA’ 5. Reviving a forest ruined by fires in Karnataka 6. SC to decide if Polavaram design is as per tribunal award 7. Keeping Leh free of plastics 8. ‘Earth to stay exceptionally hot until 2022’ 9. On-ground hurdles could hold up EVs: SmartE CEO 10. Tea exports to China, Pak. rise 11. Stop misuse of consent route for tax benefit: SEBI panel 12. ‘Enough forex reserves to tackle volatile rupee’ 13. RBI scrutinising 200 stressed accounts 14. Cosmos Bank fraud due to malware in system: NPCI G. Prelims Fact 1. Ayushman Bharat-Haryana’ health protection scheme 2. Odisha CM launches health scheme for 70 lakh families 3. New species of orchid found in Peruvian jungle H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
B. GS2 Related
- The Airports Authority of India has proposed to set up a water aerodrome in Chilika Lake for starting amphibious aircraft operations in Odisha.
- It has an aim to promote tourism transforming Chilika into a commercial hub
The project has environmental issues
- Chilika turns into a temporary habitat for lakhs of migratory and residential birds.
- If an aircraft flies at low height, there is every chance of the birds getting hit. So, the bird population will be in danger
- safety of passengers of amphibious aircraft will also be jeopardised
- Noise pollution generated by close to 10,000 boats has already taken a toll on the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in the lake. The amphibious aircraft operation would add to the woes.
- As many as 155 endangered Irrawaddy dolphins were spotted in Chilika, which is the single largest habitat of this species in the world. After clearing the lake of illegal man-made enclosures, dolphins have now started moving freely in all sectors.
- Green Nobel prize winner environmental activist Prafulla Samantara said his organisation Lok Shakti Abhiya will oppose the proposed water aerodrome project in Chilika lake at national and international forums.
- It will also affect the fish and other marine life in the lake, thereby affecting the livelihood of the fishermen.
- The Supreme Court took a giant step towards digitization of courts across the country by launching three applications to facilitate e-filing of cases, making digital payments and service of judicial notices through smartphones to the litigants.
- The applications – e-courts services, E-pay and NSTEP (National Service and Tracking of Electronic Processes) would pave the way of quality and speedy justice to litigants.
- E-courts services, the litigants and the lawyers would be able to file petitions in almost 17,000 district and ‘taluka’ courts in the country by using their computers and mobile phones.
- E-pay would enable the litigants to pay court fees, costs imposed by courts, maintenance in matrimonial cases through digital means
- NSTEP: court staffers would be provided Smartphones. So they are entrusted with the task of serving court summons and notices on litigants
- The NSTEP would be connected to GPRS and the judges would be able to ascertain the fact whether the court staff has visited the place to serve the summons or not.
- It paves the path of quality, quantity, affordability and cost-effectiveness.
- It helps in achieving the goal of digital inclusion by computerizing courts
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launch date for his ambitious health insurance scheme.
- The Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Abhiyan (PMJAA), touted as the world’s largest healthcare scheme, aims to provide a cover of RS.5 lakh per family annually, benefiting more than 10 crore poor families.
- It will be launched on September 25.
- The government-sponsored health insurance scheme will provide free treatment for up to Rs.5 lakh a family a year in any government or empanelled private hospitals all over India.
- Meant to help the poor and the economically deprived, the scheme will be available for 10.74 crore beneficiary families and about 50 crore Indian citizens.
- Healthcare experts said Ayushman Bharat was an attempt to ensure that universal healthcare reached the weaker sections of society and it could raise the ratio of people availing primary and secondary healthcare.
- It is really good to see that the government is actively working on rolling out the policy on the ground.
- The government has made this a technology-driven initiative, which is a great step to ensure transparency and effective implementation, and at a grander scale, this initiative would encourage more work in development of overall health infrastructure in the country.
- Growing healthcare infrastructure in the country will help 50 crore poor people access medicines and essential drugs.
- Besides addressing the challenges of geographic inaccessibility and unaffordability, Ayushman Bharat has the potential of creating a cost-effective digitised health economy and catapulting India to the league of developed nations.
- But the current framework of the scheme will not be beneficial for people who need tertiary care as the remunerations under the scheme will not be sufficient to avail value-based healthcare.
- Under the scheme, tertiary healthcare service providers will be forced to cut cost at every level, which will lead to offering substandard healthcare to patients under the scheme.
- They may not be able to avail the necessary medication, technology and clinical expertise to get the best outcome and will soon lose confidence in the system.
- Today, nearly 80% of the healthcare in India is provided by the private healthcare system and to meet the burgeoning healthcare needs of Indian population through value-based medicine, the country needs a synchronised effort by both the private and public sectors.
- The healthcare sector has noted that the government should look at mandatory universal health cover for all sections of society, which will increase the pool and allow cross-subsidy between the government and the private sector.
- President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon to create a new US “Space Force,” which would become the sixth branch of the American military but this requires Congressional approval to take effect.
- The Trump administration is planning to create a Space Force, a new branch of the US military, by 2020
- The concept of a Space Force was first proposed in 2000
What is a Space Force?
- The Space Force will be a new department of the US military which Trump has described as “separate but equal”.
- According to the plan, the Space Force will comprise three units.
- The Space Command will be led by a four-star general to oversee warfighting operations.
- The Space Development Agency will identify and develop new technologies.
- The third unit is the Space Operations Force, made up of leaders and fighters for their expertise.
- This will be the sixth service after the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air Force.
- At present, the US Air Force Space Command looks after space power and air force cyberwarfare. It has 38,000 personnel and operates 185 military satellite systems. This division will come under the ambit of the Space Force.
Procedure to establish new armed force
- According to the Constitution, it is Congress’ responsibility to “raise and support armies”.
- The Army and the Navy, the first two branches of the US military, are enshrined in the Constitution.
- The Air Force was created, was established after World War II in 1947 when Congress passed the National Security Act to reorganise the country’s military divisions to include air operations as a separate division.
How will it help?
- Using satellites, the Space Force will aid other arms of the military by strengthening communications, navigation and providing intelligence to counter adversaries which could use missiles or cyber warfare to target its satellites.
- There is rising concern about declining trade between India and Pakistan due to escalation in tensions along the borders. So there is need for concerted efforts on both sides to ease tensions through people-centric measures.
- Over the last five years, the bilateral trade trajectory has been volatile.
- From a high of $2.70 billion in 2013-14, it fell to $2.40 billion in 2017-18. During this time, while Pakistan’s exports to India were (and have been) fairly consistent, India’s exports decreased.
- Overall, India still manages to have a significant trade surplus with Pakistan (about $1.4 billion in 2017-18).
Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) Study on informal trade
- Informal trade between India and Pakistan is almost twice the value of formal trade between the two countries.
- Informal trade is broadly defined as all trade between two countries that should be included in the national income statistics, according to conventional national income accounting, but is not.
What drives informal trade?
- Factors such as high tariffs, political tension, infrastructure impediments, and ease of trading goods via third countries have generated a thriving industry for informal trade between the two South Asian giants.
- Pakistan’s negative list of 1,209 items as the most important factor pushing informal exports from India.
- Items on the negative list are those that are not allowed to be imported from India.
- More than one in every two items exported informally to Pakistan were on Pakistan’s negative list.
Which commodities are traded?
- Real jewellery, including gold, diamond and precious stones, accounted for the largest share of 23% of informal exports from India to Pakistan. It also included chemicals, tyres, alcohol and tobacco products, among several others.
- While India’s imports from Pakistan included items such as dry fruits and spices,
- Informal exports from India to Pakistan in 2012-13 stood at $3.9 billion, much higher than the just over $2 billion worth of formal exports.
- Informal imports, on the other hand, from Pakistan valued $0.7 billion, slightly more than formal imports of $0.5 billion.
How does informal trade take place?
- Most of informal trade between the two countries were also found to be via a third country, in particular Dubai. About 68% of India’s informal export to Pakistan was found to be routed via Dubai.
Land or water route?
- The efficiency of transport of goods via two routes
- the Delhi-Lahore route
- the Delhi-Mumbai-Dubai-Karachi-Lahore route
- Found that the latter route was 2.75 times more efficient in terms of transport per transaction cost incurred per container-kilometre.
- Higher transaction cost per-tonne-per-kilometre on the direct route is because of factors such as limited number of items that can be exported via road route, cumbersome customs checks at Attari/Wagah customs station, transaction costs in the form of bribes incurred in getting customs clearances, physical examination of goods and poor infrastructure, among others.
- While the total cost of shipping would still be lower in the formal channel, given the fact that the distance is one-tenth of the route via Dubai, predictability and comfort encourages traders to incur these high costs.
Area of cooperation
- In textiles, while there is an existing bilateral engagement, there is potential for raw materials (raw cotton, fabric dye), grey fabric (polyester, chiffon, nylon), blended fabric (cotton-polyester-viscose blend for denim) and stitched clothes (track suits and sports wear) from Indian hubs such as Surat (Gujarat) and Tiruppur (Tamil Nadu) to Pakistan’s major production centre at Faisalabad and its Lahore and Karachi markets.
- Similarly, from Pakistan, there is a huge demand for salwar-kameez-dupatta made of lawn fabric and wedding attire (shararas).
- Given Pakistan’s expertise here, the demand in India for Pakistani fabric and designs as well as the cost benefits attached with trading between India and Pakistan, there is significant scope for collaboration.
- Pakistan’s sports goods manufacturing sector is emerging as an original equipment manufacturer for major global brands. Sialkot is a global manufacturing hub for professional-level goods such as footballs, hockey sticks, quality leather goods, and weightlifting and cycling gloves, some of which is imported by India. Also, footballs manufactured here were used in the FIFA World Cup.
- However, manufacturers in Sialkot require quality raw materials or semi-finished products to produce these goods.
- India can play a key role here in exporting raw material and semi-finished goods such as latex, rubber, and football bladders, which would work out to be more economical for Sialkot than sourcing them from other countries such as Thailand.
- In terms of finished goods, sportswear made of lycra is in demand in Pakistan.
- Pakistan’s surgical instruments manufacturing industry, again based in Sialkot, is noted for its expertise. Pakistan is a major supplier of these instruments to the U.S., Germany, France and Belgium.
- India, on the other hand, is a large medical market which imports these instruments from these developed countries at high rates. Direct imports from Pakistan to India in this area would ensure considerable cost benefits in terms of economics and logistics.
- To strengthen value chain linkages, India can potentially increase the supply of stainless steel to Pakistan, a major raw material used in instrument manufacturing, or even import semi-finished products.
How to improve relationship?
- First, it is important to alleviate fears, misconceptions and the trust deficit in the trading community.
- Second, business-to-business linkages need to be formed and strengthened between actual traders.
- Third, SAARC business traveller visas must be implemented in practice.
- There also needs to be focus on other issues such as key items in the textiles and clothing sector, border infrastructure and security, improved connectivity by sea and air
- Sporting events could play a pivotal role in boosting people-to-people relations on both sides of the Punjab border
- More people-level contacts and educational exchanges between the two nations could help pave the way for long-term peace and stability in the region.
- Tariff and non-tariff barriers should be addressed and steps should be taken towards increasing awareness and building confidence among the trading communities.
- So, if appropriate measures are taken, a significant share of informal trade can be diverted to formal channels. The benefits of direct trade is much more than informal.
- The law defines “commercial disputes” to include regular commercial and business contracts, construction contracts, shareholder agreements, licensing agreements, etc.
- The Bill intends to jump-start India as a sought-out business destination in the world. Its objective is to set India at the top of the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ index of the World Bank. It aims to create a conducive regulatory environment for investors to set up and operate businesses.
- It seeks to bring down the specified value of commercial disputes from the existing Rs 1 crore each to Rs 3 lakh and for their speedy disposal.
- The Commercial Courts Act, 2015, provides for commercial courts and commercial divisions of high courts to settle commercial disputes with a value of at least Rs 1 crore.
- The bill provides for the establishment of commercial courts at the district judge level for the territories over which respective high courts have ordinary original civil jurisdiction.
- The law will be given prospective effect so that the authority of the judicial forum at present adjudicating the commercial disputes is not affected.
- Pre-Institution Mediation (PIM) process is introduced in cases where no urgent or interim relief is contemplated would provide an opportunity to the parties to resolve commercial disputes outside the ambit of the courts through the authorities constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
- The Bill proposes a new Section, 21A, which enables the Centre to make rules and procedures for PIM.
Why is this done?
- With rapid economic development, there has been a considerable increase in commercial activities and a consequent steep rise in the number of commercial disputes at the domestic and international levels.
- Growing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and overseas commercial transactions have contributed to a significant increase in commercial disputes.
- Bringing down the specified value of commercial disputes would reduce the time taken for resolution of such disputes and improve India’s ranking in the ease of doing business.
- The introduction of the pre-institution mediation process in cases where no urgent interim relief is contemplated will provide an opportunity to the parties to resolve the commercial disputes outside the ambit of courts through authorities constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act
- However, in all other cases, the mediation is mandatory and will be conducted within a period of three months (extendable by another two months with the consent of the parties).
- Any settlement arrived at through mediation will have the status of an arbitral award on agreed terms and be enforceable like a decree of the court.
C. GS3 Related
- The marginalisation of research and education in evolutionary biology in India has justifiably been a matter of concern.
What is it?
- Evolutionary biology is a sub discipline of the biological sciences concerned with the origin of life and the diversification and adaptation of life forms over time.
- It studies the evolutionary processes that produced the diversity of life on Earth, starting from a single common ancestor. These processes include natural selection, common descent, and speciation.
- Evolutionary biology is important in understanding multi-drug resistance in microbes.
- The Nipah virus outbreak, which was traced to the habitat destruction of fruit bats, is also a study in ecology and evolutionary biology.
- DNA fingerprinting is a technology that has now caught the popular imagination.
- Using DNA fingerprinting and DNA statistics for forensics requires a nontrivial understanding of molecular population genetics.
- But we do not have sufficient number of researchers working on these areas
- Unlike in other countries, Darwinian medicine is poorly researched in Indi
- In education, too, evolutionary biology is at a disadvantage. For one, there are no postgraduate departments of evolutionary biology in any university.
- A group of evolutionary biologists have recently established the Indian Society of Evolutionary Biologists (ISEB). This is a significant development.
- The ISEB hopes bring together practitioners and senior researchers from the field
- It also aims to reach members of the public and get them to engage with the mission of the Society.
- Talks and activities for students have been planned.
- The Society has a small membership, mainly active researchers in the field of evolutionary biology. For it to be embraced by the public, membership drives will be crucial.
- Gaganyaan, the human space flight programme was green-flagged and set for 2022 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- The mission is estimated at Rs.9,000 crore.
- Most of the critical technologies and hardware required for the project are ready or have been demonstrated by its centres.
- ISRO would now stitch them up into a complete project and present a comprehensive project report to get a formal approval of the government.
- When it achieves the mission, India would be the fourth nation to circle Earth after the Soviets, the Americans and the Chinese.
- In 1984, India’s first astronaut Wing Commander (retd.) Rakesh Sharma orbited Earth as part of a Soviet mission.
- The Maharashtra government has announced emergency measures to tackle the widespread pink bollworm (PBW) infestation in parts of the State.
District Level Committees
- It will set up 16-member committees in each district to monitor relief measures and minimise economic losses to farmers.
- The committees will function under the district collector.
- Experts, farmers and representatives of seed companies will be on board as well.
- The committees will meet every 15 days to take stock of the situation and work on campaigns to create awareness, and if need be put in place emergency measures.
- The State government served notices to 12 seed firms on notice after their products were found infested.
- The government floated a cluster of compensation schemes for smaller farmers and passed a resolution demanding that seed companies take responsibility for giving compensation, even threatening to register FIRs if this was not done.
- The farmers have raised concerns that the infestation would reduce the area under cotton crop by at least 10% resulting in low yield and drop in prices.
- Farmers’ associations have alleged that the government has failed to react on time and create adequate awareness.
- An estimated 35 lakh hectare of cotton crop has already been lost, which feeds on cotton fibre and bolls.
- It is an insect known for being a pest in cotton farming.
- The pink bollworm is native to Asia, but has become an invasive species in most of the world’s cotton-growing regions.
Damage and control
- The female moth lays eggs in a cotton boll, and when the larvae emerge from the eggs, they inflict damage through feeding.
- Since cotton is used for both fiber and seed oil, the damage is twofold.
- Their disruption of the protective tissue around the boll is a portal of entry for other insects and fungi.
- Infestation on susceptible cotton is generally controlled with insecticides.
- Populations of bollworms are also controlled with mating disruption, chemicals, and releases of sterile males which mate with the females but fail to fertilize their eggs.
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
What is the law?
- The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to combat corruption in government agencies and public sector businesses in India.
- This law defines who a public servant is and punishes public servants involved in corruption or bribery.
- It also punishes anyone who helps him or her commit the crime corruption or bribery.
- Parliament passed certain amendments to laws on corruption, which could have a far-reaching effect. The two aspects are-
- Requiring prior approval for initiating investigation into allegations of corruption against public servants.
- Requiring prior sanction for prosecution of public servants.
- Need for approval-
- According to section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act amendment , it requires a prior approval for initiating investigation of corruption cases against all categories of public servants including the joint secretary.
- Exception to this are cases of traps in which such public servants are caught red-handed while taking bribe.
- Under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, previous sanction of the competent authority is required to prosecute public servants.This safeguard has been extended to retired public servants.
- Hence a prior approval of the government is required to even initiate an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into allegations of corruption against public servants.
- Also the police has unfettered jurisdiction to initiate investigation into a crime or acts of corruption
- Even the courts can’t interfere in this exercise of power by a competent investing agency.
- The political class brought it back in the Central Vigilance Commission Act of 2003.
- In 2014, the Supreme Court set aside this provision of the Act.
- The court had observed, –
- The power of CBI to enquire and investigate into the allegations of bribery and corruption against a certain class of public servants and officials is subverted and impinged by Section 6A.
- The scheme of Section 155 and Section 156 CrPC indicates that the local police may investigate a senior Government officer without previous approval of the Central Government.
- The burden of the court order was that under the scheme of the criminal justice system, the police and the CBI are bound by the law and the Constitution to investigate a crime reported to them.
- They have jurisdiction as per law and that the power to register and proceed with the investigation must remain unhindered.
- Once the investigation is complete and the police or the CBI is ready with the report on the investigation, other authorities come into play.
- The recent amendment, therefore, is backward in nature and is likely to be quashed if contested in the apex court.
- Abortion has been legalised in India under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act since 1971.
- It was hailed as one of the more progressive laws in the world. According to the Act, abortion can be provided at the discretion of a medical provider under certain conditions.
- When the Act was introduced, policymakers had two goals — to control the population resulting from unintended pregnancies and to reduce the increasing maternal mortality and morbidity due to illegal, unsafe abortions.
- It was just a year ago when a 10-year-old girl got pregnant after being raped by her uncles.
- Both the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Supreme Court, advised by a doctors’ panel, refusing her permission to terminate it.
- Hence timely justice to our women and young girl was denied.
- As of this day the Act is liberal for its time,but it has limitations that pose barriers to women and girls seeking legal abortions.
- Though abortion was legalised almost 50 years ago, a woman’s right to decide for herself, did not and still does not fall within the intent or ambit of the MTP Act.
- Currently, the Act allows abortion up to 20 weeks.
- However, when it comes to foetal abnormalities and pregnancies resulting from rape, this limit is proving to be a hurdle for both the woman and the provider.
- Women seeking an abortion after the legal gestation limit ,often have no option but to appeal to the courts and run from pillar to post for permission to terminate the pregnancy.
- In 2014, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recognised these barriers and proposed certain amendments to the Act.
- Thus an increasing in the gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for rape survivors and other vulnerable women and removing the gestation limit in case of foetal abnormalities was brought in.
- In 2017, these amendments were returned to the ministry with the mandate to strengthen the implementation of the MTP Act as it stands.
- Many women, when denied legal abortions, turn to unqualified providers or adopt unsafe methods of termination.
- Estimates based on the Sample Registration System (SRS) 2001-03, indicate that unsafe abortions account for 8 percent of maternal deaths in India.
- Adopting and implementing the amendments will take us a few steps closer towards ensuring that all girls and women have access to safe abortion services.
- According to a study published in The Lancet recently, 15.6 million abortions took place in India in 2015 out of which about 11.5 million took place outside health facilities.
- Doctors are responsible for advising and prescribing the right procedures to any girl or woman who comes to them.
- However, if a foetal abnormality is detected post the 20-week limit or a rape survivor approaches us with a request for an abortion, they are torn between their duty and the legal caveats which bind them.
- Abortion is at the centre of global conversations on reproductive health and rights.
- India had once led this in the forefront by legalising abortions.
- Hence its the time to regain the position and make it personalised according to the needs of the hour.
- A ‘priceless’ 12th century bronze Buddha statue that was stolen from Bihar 57 years ago has been returned by British police to the Indian High Commission in London.
- The statue that was stolen from the Archaeological Survey of India site museum in Nalanda, along with 13 others in 1961, was identified at a trade fair in London in March this year.
- The Archaeological Survey of India helped confirm the icon’s identity.
- It is an example of Britain’s cultural diplomacy in action.
- Cultural diplomacy is a type of public diplomacy and soft power that includes the exchange of ideas, information, art, language and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples in order to foster mutual understanding.
- After a year of facing dissent from within the Supreme Court judiciary and an impeachment motion by Opposition MPs, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said it is easy to criticise but transforming an institution into a performing one is the difficult part.
- For that, one has to transcend one’s personal ambitions or grievances and constructive steps need to be taken with a positive mindset.
- Chief Justice Misra urged the need for reforms to be taken up with maturity and composure.
- The Chief Justice said the institution (the court) refuses to bow to those trying to weaken it.
- Anyone trying to create a dent in the justice delivery system hurts the Lady of Justice.
- We serve the Lady of Justice, the queen of justice and when the queen of justice sheds tears, possibly all of us will shed tears, he said.
- Amid continuing transgression by China at Demchok in eastern Ladakh, the Armies of India and China held a ceremonial Border Personnel Meeting to mark India’s Independence Day.
- The meeting was held at Chushul-Moldo and Daulat Beg Oldie.
- Transgressions are common along the unsettled Line of Actual Control.
- The two countries have instituted several mechanisms to resolve such issues.
- However, according to government figures, the number of transgressions by the People’s Liberation Army into Indian Territory has gone up from 272 in 2016 to 426 in 2017.
- According to a parliamentary standing committee report tabled in Parliament last month, the Centre wanted to reduce the areas under the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) in Assam but the State government did not concur.
- Over the past two years, the Union Home Ministry has proposed reducing the areas under AFSPA in the northeast, only to face stiff resistance from the Army and the Defence Ministry.
- Over 300 Army officers have moved the Supreme Court challenging registration of FIRs against them for operations in areas where the AFSPA is in force.
- The parliamentary committee headed by former Union Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram in its report had said that with an improvement in the security situation in most northeast States, the government should consider gradually reducing the area under AFSPA, especially in the States of Assam and Meghalaya.
- Under Section 3 of the AFSPA, it can be invoked in places where the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary.
- AFSPA empowers the Army and Central forces personnel deployed in disturbed areas to kill anyone acting in contravention of the law, arrest and search any premises without a warrant and provide cover to forces from prosecution and legal suits without the Centre’s sanction.
Difference of opinion
- The parliamentary panel report said there was some difference of opinion between the Government of India and the State government with regard to the areas to be declared disturbed areas.
- The Committee is unable to comprehend the divergent perceptions of the situation in Assam.
- On the one hand, the Ministry has asserted that there has been an improvement in the security situation in Assam and on the other hand, the area declared as disturbed area under the AFSPA has been increased on the plea that it is not the appropriate time to reduce the area.
- This is a paradoxical situation that needs to be resolved.
- The committee noted that the State government had notified the whole State as disturbed on the plea that it was not the right time to reduce the area under AFSPA.
- Every year in the months of June, July and August, writers, progressive farmers and environmentalists — all members of Pragnavanta Parisara Vedike — gather in Devarayanadurga reserve forest of district to sow seeds.
- They create awareness among tourists, including students and youngsters who come to the Devarayanadurga reserve forest on weekends, and also give them seeds.
- It’s a tradition that was started nearly two decades ago, with one goal — to revive around 25 acres of forest that was stripped bare of thick vegetation due to constant fires.
- In doing so, they hope to not only increase the green cover but also provide a variety of vegetation to wild animals so that they won’t be tempted to forage for food in cultivated cropland.
- Peacocks, deer, bears, leopards and other animals are coming to the villages in search of food and destroy the crops grown by the farmers.
- Most of the fires are man-made, usually by people in surrounding villages who believe that if they set fire to the forest, the evil-eye will not fall upon them and their families.
- The Supreme Court has decided to examine whether the Polavaram project and its design, as approved by the Central Water Commission, is in consonance with the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal (GWDT) award of 1980.
- The apex court has decided to look into whether the design of the project takes into consideration backwater effect and studies in the States of Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Telangana.
- The controversy in this case is with regard to the capacity and specification as mentioned in the Godavari Water Dispute Tribunal Award of 1980 with regard to the Polavaram dam.
- Odisha submits that the design of the dam is such that it can have a capacity of 50 lakh cusecs as against 36 lakh cusecs mentioned in the Award.
- Andhra Pradesh and the Centre have argued that the design of the dam has been left to the CWC and therefore the submission of Odisha does not deserve consideration.
- Crucially, the court has to examine whether the change in the design of Polavaram project, especially in so far as it raises the spill-way discharge capacity from 36 lakh cusecs to 50 lakh cusecs, is so fundamental that it amounts to violation of the GWDT award, and, therefore, requires fresh statutory clearances to be obtained.
- Also, the court has to look into the need for fresh environment clearance in view of the change in the design of the spillway of the project and if there is any diversion of forest land due to change in design affecting the tribal areas and population in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Telangana.
- This has also raised the question in the Supreme Court on the requirement for clearance under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 for the project.
- The Bench would also investigate if a public hearing was not held before grant of projects to hear the persons likely to be affected by the Polavaram project.
- But firstly, the Supreme Court has to decide whether it has jurisdiction over a dispute already decided by GWDT.
- The court has to also decide whether the newly-formed Telangana is disentitled to question the execution of the Polavaram project in view of the Section 90 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.
- Leh has started generating a lot of waste due to an increase in the number of tourists visiting the place, almost twice the number of residents in the region.
- Jammu and Kashmir, where Ladakh is located, has banned plastic bags.
- Using a plastic bag carries a fine of Rs.5,000 or up to one month in jail, or both.
- The steady environmental deterioration spurred more than 4,000 volunteers in the Women’s Alliance of Ladakh to take measures to tackle plastic waste.
- Enforcing plastic bans also depends on people power.
- The reason why these bans don’t make an impact in India is very simple: people are yet to get involved directly or indirectly in making these bans a success.
- In Ladakh, alliance volunteers — backed by the local council and the police — inspect shops and markets up to three times a year.
- They also come armed with a solution: not only do they warn locals about the damage plastic bags do in the environment, but they sell handmade cloth bags as an alternative.
- The income generated helps the volunteers continue their conservation efforts.
- Manmade global warming and a natural surge in Earth’s surface temperature will join forces to make the next five years exceptionally hot.
- The double whammy of climate change and so-called natural variability more than doubles the likelihood of extreme warm events in ocean surface waters, creating a dangerous breeding ground for hurricanes and typhoons.
- This warm phase is reinforcing long-term climate change.
- While the governments at the Centre and States have taken proactive steps to encourage electric vehicles (EVs), on-ground hurdles such as high levels of corruption at the regional transport offices (RTOs) could hold back the sector.
- More needs to be done in terms of structural changes on the ground.
- India shipped larger quantities of tea to two neighbouring countries — China and Pakistan — in the first half of 2018, when overall tea exports increased to 112.1 million kg, from 107.1 million kg in the year earlier period.
- According to data with the Tea Board, total earnings between January and June 2018 was Rs.2,177.1 crore, against Rs.2,091.8 crore a year earlier, although the unit (per kg) price of the commodity was marginally lower both in rupee and dollar terms this year.
- India was able to score an increase in exports to Pakistan and Iran too.
- Exports dropped to India’s single largest market — Russia, as also the CIS countries — which together imported 28.7 million kg against 31.2 million kg.
- The opening up of the Chinese black tea market has thrown up opportunities for India.
- While China holds considerable potential, certain non-tariff barriers make entry difficult although Chinese youth were showing preference for the Indian brew.
- There have been instances wherein individuals and companies have managed to avail tax benefits from the Income Tax Department on the money paid to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to settle matters under the consent mechanism.
- Entities have shown the settlement amount paid to SEBI as a deductible business expense to lower their taxable income and thereby the tax liability.
- Interestingly, even the income tax authorities have accepted the reasoning given by the entities and allowed them to treat the settlement amount as an expense while calculating their taxable income.
- The premise put forth by the tax authorities is that the settlement amount is not a penalty and the money is paid without an admission of guilt.
- If the intent of settlement is merely to avoid any undue hardships and buy peace, without the taxpayer being convicted for any offence/wrong-doing or criminal/civil violation, then such payment may not classify as a penalty.
- Deeming such payment as a penalty will deter the taxpayer from taking benefit of the settlement procedures prescribed by SEBI.
Anil Ambani’s appeal
- In February 2016, the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals) allowed Anil Ambani to treat Rs.50 crore paid as settlement charges to SEBI as an expenditure that led to the industrialist declaring a net loss of Rs.43.22 crore for the fiscal.
- The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal upheld the observation while stating that the settlement money was paid without admitting or denying the charges and hence there was no reason to believe that the consent application, without admitting guilt, amounted to evidence of an offence having been committed.
- There have been two other instances wherein Pranav Securities and Reliance Share & Stock Brokers claimed tax benefits on account of the settlement money paid to SEBI.
- Now, a panel set up by SEBI under the chairmanship of Supreme Court former Justice A.R. Dave to review the consent mechanism has highlighted this regulatory loophole and recommended that the markets watchdog take up the matter with the government.
- It may be appropriate for the [SEBI] Board to write to the Central Government to request appropriate changes in the Income Tax Act, 1961, on the lines of the U.S. IRC (Internal Revenue Code) and explore seeking an undertaking, to be reproduced in settlement orders, in respect of non-tax reimbursements.
Non-deductible in U.S
- Settlement amounts are non-deductible under U.S. laws, where the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has clearly laid down that applicants cannot seek any kind of indemnification, insurance coverage or reimbursement, including tax deduction or tax credit on such amount paid to the regulator.
- Union Minister Arun Jaitley said India has sufficient foreign exchange reserves to mitigate any undue volatility in the currency market.
- India’s foreign exchange reserves are comfortable by global standards.
- The developments are being monitored closely to address any situation that may arise in the context of the unsettled international environment.
- Recent developments relating to Turkey (US-Turkey trade spat) have generated global risk aversion towards emerging market currencies and the strengthening of the dollar.
- The Union Minister added that India’s macro fundamentals remained resilient and strong.
- As part of its efforts to contain rising non-performing assets (NPAs), the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has started scrutiny of 200 large accounts to assess the level of stress and provisioning done against them by respective banks.
- The RBI is examining whether banks have followed prudential norms in respect of these stressed assets.
- The central bank is also assessing classification, provisioning and debt recast in respect of those loans.
- This is a part of regular annual inspection of book of the banks that the central bank undertakes each year after the closure of the financial year.
- This exercise comes at a time when gross NPAs in the banking system have risen to about Rs.10.3 lakh crore, or 11.2 % of advances, compared with Rs.8 lakh crore, or 9.5 % of total loans, as on March 31, 2017.
- Following the annual inspection of the last year, many lenders, including Axis Bank, Bank of India and Yes Bank, were caught for under-reporting of NPAs.
- Last year, RBI had tweaked the rules to make it compulsory for lenders to disclose under-reporting of bad assets.
- Before this there was a massive book clean-up through the asset quality review (AQR) in the previous year.
- The lenders started reporting divergences since June last year for having under-reported NPAs in FY16.
- This was followed by a second round of disclosures, starting October, of under-reporting in FY17 by a few lenders.
- In most cases, this led to shooting up of NPAs and an ensuing jump in provisions against dud assets (NPAs).
- This eroded their bottomlines, and led to a sell-off in the stock causing erosion of wealth for investors.
- Private sector lenders, which were reputed for their caution on the asset quality front vis-a-vis the poorly governed state-owned peers, were the worst hit in this exercise.
- The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has said the recent incident of cyber-attack in Pune-based Cosmos Cooperative Bank, that has caused an over Rs.90-crore loss, is due to a malware attack on the bank’s system.
- Hackers transferred over Rs.90 crore out through the malware attack on the bank’s server by cloning debit cards of the bank’s customers.
- Visa and Rupay debit cards were cloned.
- The transactions were carried through automated teller machines (ATMs) in 28 countries, including Canada, Hong Kong and India.
- After banks failed to upgrade their software in ATMs despite repeated reminders, Reserve Bank of India has directed them to complete the process in a phased manner latest by June 2019.
- The banking regulator pointed out that many ATMs were still running on Windows XP and other unsupported software.
- At least 30% of the 2.2 lakh ATMs across the country could still be running on old software.
- Banking institutions are vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
- Continuous monitoring, surveillance and incidence response teams deployed on standby can be beneficial in preventing large-scale attacks.
G. Prelims Fact
- On a pilot basis the Ayushman Bharat-Haryana Health Protection Scheme is being implemented in 25 government hospitals, including one main government hospital each in all 22 districts.
- Under this scheme, 15.50 lakh families would get free medical treatment facilities up to Rs. 5,00,000.
- It will provide cashless healthcare facilities to beneficiaries at empanelled hospitals.
- Under the scheme, families identified by the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) will be covered.
- Every family figuring in the defined SECC 2011 database would be entitled to claim benefits under the scheme.
- Each beneficiary would be issued a card with a unique QR code and he/she would have to produce it at the hospital.
- Out of 1,350 treatment packages provided by the government of India, about 266 packages would be reserved by the state government for public healthcare system in government hospitals of the state.
- Ayush Mitras would be appointed in all empanelled government hospitals to assist patients in availing the facilities under the scheme.
- Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik launched Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana, a health for all scheme, on the the occasion of the 72nd Independence Day.
- The scheme provides health assurance coverage to 70 lakh families, covering more than 70% of the State’s population.
- The State government went ahead with its own scheme with coverage of up to Rs.5 lakh per year per family.
- The amount is Rs.7 lakh per family with women members.
- It may be recalled that the Odisha government had rejected the National Health Protection Scheme as it covered much lesser number of people in Odisha by adopting the 2011 census.
- Botanists have discovered a new species of orchid in Peru’s central Amazonian rainforest.
- The new species of orchid was recently discovered in the Tingo Maria National Park.
- The orchid was given the name Andinia tingomariana and has been classified as belonging to the Andinia genus.
- The Orchidaceae are a diverse and widespread family of flowering plants, with blooms that are often colourful and fragrant, commonly known as the orchid family.
- The family encompasses about 6–11% of all seed plants.
- Orchidaceae are cosmopolitan, occurring in almost every habitat apart from glaciers.
- The world’s richest diversity of orchid genera and species is found in the tropics, but they are also found above the Arctic Circle.
- Orchids have been used in traditional medicine in an effort to treat many diseases and ailments.
H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Which of the following with respect to the Rainbow Trout is incorrect?
- It is native to cold-water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean in Asia and North America.
- They generally live out their lives in fresh water
- It is listed as Threatened by the IUCN.
- None of the above
Question 2. Greasing the wheel of commerce is the apt description for
- Creeping inflation
- Trotting inflation
- Galloping inflation
- Runaway inflation
Question 3. In which of the following categories of protected areas in India are local people not allowed to collect and use the biomass?
- Biosphere reserve
- National Park
- Wildlife sanctuary
- Wetlands declared under Ramsar convention
Question 4. Consider the following statements:
- Faizpur session of INC was the first session held in a village.
- Belgaum session was the only INC session presided over by Gandhi.
- All the INC sessions were presided over by Indians.
- Sarojini Naidu was the first Indian woman to preside over an INC session.
Which of the above statements are true?
- iii only
- i, iii and iv only
- i and iii only
- None of the Above
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
- In an administrator, the quality of empathy is considered to be important. What are the challenges to empathy and how it can be overcome?
- The significance of the American War of Independence was more than independence and it was basically a revolution. Explain
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
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