TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related SOCIAL ISSUES 1. Arunachal may lift anti-conversion law B. GS2 Related INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. Iran not just an energy supplier: Ansari C. GS3 Related ENVIRONMENT 1. Recalcitrant industries face closure D. GS4 Related E. Editorials ECONOMY 1. For Indian composite Economy, GST a boon or bane? GOVERNANCE 1. New Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill F. Tidbits 1. Odisha signs MoU for early warning system 2. FATF hands 10-point plan to Pak. G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
1. Arunachal may lift anti-conversion law
- Arunachal Pradesh may lift a 40-year-old anti-conversion law to uphold secularism.
- The government could repeal the Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, an anti-conversion law, which the frontier State’s Assembly passed in 1978.
Rise of Christianity
- Today, Christians account for more than half the population in Arunachal Pradesh.
- Census data say there were no Christians in the North East Frontier Province, as the State was called then, in 1951.
- By 2001, Christians were the third largest religious group accounting for 18.7% of the State’s population, behind Hindus (34.6%) and ‘others’, mostly Donyi-Polo (30.7%).
- According to the 2011 census, Christianity has overtaken Hinduism as the State’s largest religion.
- Christians — most of them Roman Catholics — account for 30.26% of the State’s 1.3 million people while Hindus are now 29.04%.
- Though Arunachal Pradesh had 5.56% fewer Hindus in 2011 than in 2001, traditionalists were more worried by the 4.5% drop in the number of followers of Donyi-Polo and other indigenous faiths.
- The anti-conversion law could undermine secularism and is probably targeted towards Christians.
- The law could be misused by irresponsible officials.
- Arunachal Pradesh was one of the first States to pass such a law primarily to check proselytization.
- Arunachal was the third State after Odisha (1967) and Madhya Pradesh (1968) to enact an anti-conversion law.
- Chhattisgarh in 2000, Gujarat in 2003, Himachal Pradesh in 2007 and Rajasthan in 2008 also passed anti-conversion laws, prohibiting forced or money-induced conversions.
- Uttarakhand enacted a similar law in May this year.
- Donyi-Polois an Animist religion, literally meaning “Sun-Moon” (where, sun is the female energy, and moon being the male).
- It is followed by many of the tribal groups of Arunachal Pradesh, India like the Galos, Adis, Apatanis, Nishis, Hill Miris, Mishings.
- The followers of Donyi-Poloism worship a variety of gods and goddesses that enliven nature.
B. GS2 Related
1. Iran not just an energy supplier: Ansari
- The government should take into consideration the totality of India’s ties with Iran, while responding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand to cut down drastically energy imports from that country.
- India has to look at Iran from a different point of view.
- Iran ensures overland connectivity between Eurasia and India and it is not just an energy supplier.
- Iran is a land power on the other side of Pakistan that provides India with an alternative route to Afghanistan, a strategic necessity for Delhi.
- Iran is a geopolitical entity in its own right.
- Iran has borders with a large number of countries that India could not access because of the barrier that Pakistan posed to India’s overland connectivity plans.
- India has maintained relations with countries strictly on the basis of bilateral dynamics and in this context, Iran’s importance had remained undiminished over the past several decades.
- India’s relationship with Iran has been built carefully and thoughtfully by all past governments as Iran for India is not just an energy supplier from the Persian Gulf region.
- India’s infrastructure-building activities in Afghanistan is done with support from Iran.
- Iran has the port of Chabahar where India has invested because access to Afghanistan is crucial for India.
- India has disregarded political inclination of the government in Tehran with an eye on the overall necessity of the country for India’s strategic security.
C. GS3 Related
1. Recalcitrant industries face closure
- In a bid to enforce stricter emission monitoring norms, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has directed State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB) to close down industrial units that haven’t installed Online Continuous Emission Monitoring Systems (OCEMS).
- Industries, particularly so-called Grossly Polluting Industries, are mandated to report their emissions to pollution control boards.
- The CPCB has been insisting that industries install OCEMS that relay data to the CPCB as well as the SPCB offices.
- The CPCB has since 2015 made it mandatory for industries to install OCEMS.
- While the government claims a compliance of nearly 80%, updated figures this year on recalcitrant industries are not available.
- The CPCB has finalised guidelines this month that specify the kind of sensors and monitoring equipment that can be deployed for the purpose.
- It will also now become mandatory for a new industrial unit to install an OCEM to commence operations.
- The CPCB directs SPCB/PCC (pollution control committee) to issue closure directions under the Water and Air pollution control Acts to industries falling under 17 categories of industries if found operating without OCEMS.
- The industries that require OCEMS include distilleries (including fermentation industry), sugar, fertiliser, pulp & paper (paper manufacturing with or without pulping), pharmaceuticals, dyes and dye-intermediates, pesticides, tanneries, thermal power plants, iron and steel, zinc, copper and aluminium smelters.
- In recent years Online Emission Monitoring Technology has received attention and interest in context of providing accurate and continuous information on particulate matter/ gaseous emission from stacks.
- There are already commercially available systems for monitoring parameters such as PM, HCl, HF, NH3, SO2, CO, O2, CO2, NOx, VOC, etc.
- The Continuous Emission Monitoring (CEM) System comprises of the total equipment necessary to determine the concentration of gaseous emission and/or particulate matter concentration and/or emission rate using analytical measurements and a computer program to provide results in units of the applicable emission limits or standards.
- Whenever, say ammonia discharge levels are breached by an industry, an sms alert is sent out to officials who can then trigger action.
- CEMS provide continuous measurement of data for long periods of time, at the monitoring site of interest, without skilled staff being required to perform the analysis.
- All the major steps in traditional analysis like sample collection, transportation, conditioning, calibration and analysis procedures including QC are usually automated in on-line analysers.
- In case of sudden disturbance in the system, the on-line analysers provide timely information for taking immediate corrective/preventive steps compared to conventional methods.
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
1. For Indian composite Economy, GST a boon or bane?
Why in news?
- The GST’s faulty design has prevented the economy from benefiting fully from the indirect tax regime
- A year ago, at a special midnight session in Parliament, the launch of the goods and services tax (GST) was heralded as the new freedom.
- A year on, There will be many short comings when a complex reform is rolled out.
What is GST?
GST is a comprehensive indirect tax levy on manufacture, sale and consumption of goods as well as services at the national level. It will replace all indirect taxes levied on goods and services by states and Central.
Arguments in favour of the GST
The GST was presented as a win-win situation for everyone.
- ease of doing business
- make markets efficient
- yield higher tax collections and
- lead to lower prices.
- With higher tax collection,
- The government would be able to deliver better services.
GST Tax structure
- The tax rate structure (0%, 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%) also adds to the complexity.
- Then there are different rates for gold and jewellery.
- Some petro-goods and alcohol (human consumption) are not a part of the GST.
- Electricity and real estate are also out of the GST.
- The multiplicity of tax rates and exemptions means that the cascading effect continues.
- India does not have a full GST which is applicable from raw material to the final good/service.
The chain is broken in many places. This partial GST is a result of trying to fulfil many policy objectives. For instance, small businesses which cannot cope with its complexity and goods consumed by the poor are exempt. “A BMW and hawai chappal can’t have the same tax.”
What has the GST achieved?
- Businesses have not yet experienced ‘ease of doing business’ though some have adjusted to it.
- The GST rates were fixed rather late. Industry could not fix prices well in time and difficulties grew right from day one.
- The IT functioning of the Goods and Service Tax Network (GSTN) has been unsatisfactory due to problems or inordinate delays in access because of the volume of traffic. Per month, a few billion returns had to be processed.
- The complexity of the system became apparent when businesses had to file one form by the 10th of the month, check the next form by the 15th and file the third form by the 20th. The form to be filed by the 15th was to be auto-populated on the basis of returns filed by the suppliers to the business.
- If some suppliers delayed filing or did not file, one had to chase them or one could not file one’s return. This proved to be insurmountable for many.
- For each State one was operating in, three returns had to be processed every month. Then there was an annual return to be filed. So for each State, a business had to file 37 returns in a year. Even though it was computerised, accounting was difficult.
Do the Economy headed in the right direction?
- So, even though 17 taxes were replaced by one tax made up of many parts, simplification did not follow.
- The small businesses operating under the Composition Scheme (turnover between Rs.20 lakh and Rs.75 lakh; later the limit was raised to Rs.1.5 crore) had their own woes. They could not give input tax credit (ITC) and if anyone bought from them, then the buyer had to pay the tax that the small business should have paid.
- This was the reverse charge mechanism (RCM). These small businesses were not permitted to make inter-State sales so that their market became limited in case they were at the border of the State.
- Thus, not only big but also small businesses faced severe difficulties.
What steps Govt has taken?
- Taking cognisance of these, the government made rapid changes during the year through the GST Council (the body set up to govern GST). But this only added to the confusion.
- Some components of the GST which were considered essential to its design were suspended or altered permanently.
- For example, the e-way bill (to track goods being transported) was postponed to April 2018. The RCM was suspended and may resume now. The tax rate for businesses under the Composition Scheme was brought down.
- Restaurants were brought under the Composition Scheme with a 5% tax rate but no ITC. For a year now, there have been reports every day of new problems cropping up and clarifications being sought from the authorities. In some cases, court cases are being filed.
Impact of GST
- Prices have not fallen. Of course, there are many factors underlying inflation such as a rise in petroleum goods prices, the weather and so on.
- But the GST has contributed to inflation because services are now taxed higher, — the rate has risen to 18% from 15%. It is also true that the ITC which was supposed to lower the cost to businesses and reduce cascading effect (and thereby lower final prices) has not worked.
- In fact, in the case of restaurants, the ITC was withdrawn and replaced by a different scheme. The government’s concern about the misuse of the ITC prompted it to legislate the anti-profiteering clause. But it is proving hard to implement; industry is resisting it.
- Even though essential goods are exempt under the GST, as basic goods and services prices rise, all prices increase. For instance, if diesel or truck prices rise, transport costs increase. All prices rise even if they are exempt under the GST, examples being the cost of cereals and vegetables.
- The GST is not bigger than the policy changes introduced in 1991 and hence not the biggest reform.
- It is not yielding more revenue to enable governments to spend more on services for the poor.
- Further, by damaging the unorganised sectors, it has set back output and employment in the economy rather than leading to a higher growth rate.
- These problems emanate from introducing a very complex tax in a complex economy.
- In brief, while there are a few gains, the economy is not headed in the right direction because of the faulty design of the GST.
1. New Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill
- More thought is needed on the proposed regulatory body for higher education
- The provisions of the new Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill drafted by the Centre have far-reaching implications for the expansion and quality of human resource development, at a time when access to skill-building and educational opportunity are vitally important.
- There were 864 recognised universities and 40,026 colleges in the country in 2016-17, while the gross enrolment ratio of students was only about 26%.
- To put this in perspective, there were only 20 universities and 500 colleges at the time of Independence.
A brief note
- Previous attempts at system reform involving expert committees and even legislation to create a new body for higher education and research had advocated changes, with an emphasis on promoting autonomy, access, inclusion and opportunity for all.
- That challenging goal will fall to the HECI, the proposed successor body to the University Grants Commission.
- For this very reason, the Centre should give sufficient time to academia, the teaching community and society at large to submit considered opinions on the draft proposals.
- Among the key questions that need resolution is the future role of multiple regulatory bodies that currently exist for engineering, medicine and law;
- The Yash Pal Committee had recommended that they should be brought under the ambit of a single commission.
- There is a case to include other professional education streams as well, including architecture and nursing.
- The aim should be to set academic benchmarks for each stream, with sufficient autonomy to innovate on courses and encourage studies across disciplines.
- Among the more contentious issues arising out of the draft Bill is the Centre’s decision to shift grant-giving powers for higher education institutions to the Ministry of Human Resource Development or a separate body.
- The UGC has been doing this so far, covering a variety of functions, and whatever the flaws, it ensured a separation of funding decisions from political considerations.
- Maintaining a balance on allocation of funds and ensuring transparency will now depend on the proposed advisory council to the HECI. It is welcome that the States are represented on the advisory council, giving it a federal character, although it is the Centre that will have the final say in all matters, not even the apex HECI.
- At a broader level, higher education is challenged today by fast-paced technological changes affecting the economy and the need to create a workforce that has the requisite skills.
- Reform should, therefore, lead to the creation of an agency that has the intellectual corpus to help universities and colleges adapt, and the vision to plan for public funding in the emerging spheres of activity.
- There is a positive attempt in the draft legislation to weed out degree mills and dubious training institutions, with a provision for prosecution and imprisonment of management officials who defy the HECI.
- Yet, this will take political will, given that over the past three decades laissez faire expansion of higher education has been pursued purely for commercial motives.
- The Odisha government entered into a collaboration with the Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (RIMES).
- The collaborative effort would enhance early warning system for effective management of all kinds of disasters like flood, drought, heat wave, lightning and road accidents.
- The MoU would bring a shift from ‘what weather will be’ to ‘what weather will do’.
- Using weather and climate information, sourced from the India Meteorological Department (IMD), efforts will be made to create open-source software platforms and public domain data sets.
- The Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES) is an international and intergovernmental institution, owned and managed by its Member States, for the generation and application of early warning information.
- RIMES evolved from the efforts of countries in Africa and Asia, in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, to establish a regional early warning system within a multi-hazard framework for the generation and communication of early warning information, and capacity building for preparedness and response to trans-boundary hazards.
- RIMES was established on 30 April 2009 and was registered with the United Nations on 1 July 2009.
- RIMES operates from its regional early warning center located at the campus of the Asian Institute of Technology in Pathumthani, Thailand.
- RIMES provides regional early warning services and builds capacity of its Member States in the end-to-end early warning of tsunami and hydro-meteorological hazards.
- It has 12 Member States: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Comoros, India, Lao PDR, Maldives, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste, and 19 collaborating states.
- Unanimously agreeing to put into effect its February decision to place Pakistan in the grey list for inaction against terror funding, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has laid out a 10-point action plan for compliance with its guidelines.
- Pakistan’s failure in implementing the elaborate action plan may result in it being included in the black list the next year.
- After 2012-15, this is the second time it has been grey-listed and is facing sanctions.
- The country has been instructed to take measures demonstrating that UN-designated terrorists and banned terror outfits such as Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar, Taliban and Haqqani Network, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and their affiliates, are deprived of their resources and their sources of funding are choked.
- The FATF, in its Paris Plenary, observed that Pakistan had this time round made a high-level political commitment to work with the global watchdog and the Asia Pacific Group, of which it is a member, to strengthen its anti-money laundering and counter terror-financing regime.
- Pakistan will have to take steps to ensure that terror funding risks are properly identified, assessed and that supervision is applied on a risk-sensitive basis.
- It will also be required to show that remedial measures are being taken to prevent financial institutions from indulging in money laundering and terror funding.
- The country will have to take stringent action against illegal financial operations, identify cash couriers and enforce controls on illicit movement of currency.
- It has been told to improve coordination between the provincial and federal authorities on combating terror funding and enforce effective prosecution and conviction of the designated persons, entities and their affiliates.
- The FATF has also sought actions demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions (supported by a comprehensive legal obligation) against all designated terrorists and those acting for or on their behalf.
G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Consider the statements:
- Marginal productivity is zero.
- In agriculture, this type is rampant.
The type of unemployment referred to here is:
- Structural unemployment
- Seasonal unemployment
- Disguised unemployment
- Frictional unemployment
Question 2. The proceeds of disinvestment goes to
- Consolidated fund of India
- Contingency fund of India
- Public accounts of India
- National investment fund
Question 3. Which of the following statements regarding Article 18 is/are incorrect?
- State can confer on citizens, military titles only.
- Awards cannot be used as prefix or suffix to awardees name.
- i) only
- ii) only
- Both i) and ii)
Question 4. Consider the following:
- Abolition of untouchability is guaranteed by the state against private individuals, under Article 17.
- Offences committed on grounds of untouchability lead to disqualification from election to parliament and state legislature.
- It is an absolute right guaranteed by the Constitution.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
- i) only
- iii) only
- i) and iii) only
- All of the above
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
- Japanese militarism and Italian fascism fuelled the fire ignited by Nazi Germany which ultimately engulfed the world in flames. Analyse role of the ideologies that led to the World War II.
- India’s relationship with Iran has been built carefully and thoughtfully by all past governments as Iran for India is not just an energy supplier from the Persian Gulf region. Discuss.
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
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