Polity & Governance
- Fifteenth Finance Commission constitutes an Advisory Council
- Creation of Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) in Department of Commerce
- Senior Citizen draft Bill: Govt proposes six-month jail for abandoning, abusing elderly parents
Government Schemes & Policies
- MeitY launches internship scheme for Tech students
Issues related to Health & Education
- Top 30 Innovations of the Atal Tinkering Marathon showcased
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- India’s clean energy capacity touches 70 GW: MNRE
- Govt approves green licence plates for e-vehicles
Bilateral & International Relations
- Donald Trump announces US withdrawal from ‘rotten’ Iran nuclear deal
- India, Panama joins hand for agriculture and exemption of visa
Key Facts for Prelims
- Operation Insaniyat
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Polity & Governance
Fifteenth Finance Commission constitutes an Advisory Council
The Fifteenth Finance Commission has constituted an Advisory Council to advise and assist the Commission.
Role and functions of the Advisory Council:
- To advise the Commission on any issue or subject related to the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the Commission, which may be of relevance.
- To assist in the preparation of any paper or research study which would enhance the Commission’s understanding on the issues containing in its ToR.
- To help in broadening the Commission’s ambit and understanding to seek best national and international practices on matters pertaining to fiscal devolution and improving the quality and reach and enforcement of its recommendations.
- The ToR of 15th Finance Commission have drawn protests from many states, especially from southern ones, over its mandate to use 2011 Census data over 1971 Census data for resource allocation.
- The ToR of FFC as decided by centre have been criticized by southern ones, as being against spirit of cooperative fiscal federalism. The centre has mandated toFFC that population data for determining states’ share of tax revenues should be based on the 2011 Census, rather than the earlier practice of using the 1971 Census.
Issue with 2011 Census:
- Southern states, as well as states such as Punjab and Odisha have succeeded in reducing their population growth rates in recent decades while growth rates of most northern states including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have remained high. Southern states allege that if FFC uses 2011 Census data, more resources will be transferred to northern states, thus penalizing states that have succeeded in controlling population.
All about Finance Commission:
Article 280 of the Constitution of India provides for FC as a quasi-judicial body.
- It is constituted by the President of India every fifth year.
- The Constitution authorizes Parliament to make provisions related to qualifications, conditions of service of members or powers of Finance Commission.
- So, Parliament enacted Finance Commission Act in 1951 to determine provisions related to qualifications or disqualifications, conditions of service or miscellaneous powers to perform functions provided under constitution.
- It consists of a chairman and four other members to be appointed by the president.
- The Chairman or members are eligible for reappointment.
The Chairman shall have vast experience in Public affairs and other four members shall be selected among persons who
- have qualifications as par with a judge of HC,
- has special knowledge of Finance and Accounts of govt,
- have vast experience in financial matters and
- have special knowledge of economics.
The recommendations made by FC are only advisory in nature and hence, are not binding on the government.
It makes recommendations about the following to the President of India:
- Distribution of net proceeds of taxes between centre and states and allocation between states of respective shares of such proceeds.
- Principles that should govern grants in aid to states by centre.
- Measures needed to augment consolidated fund of states to supplement resources of local governments in states on basis of recommendations made by State Finance Commissions.
- Any other method referred to it by President in interests of sound finance.
Creation of Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) in Department of Commerce
The Government of India has carried out an Amendment to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 substituting “Directorate General of Trade Remedies” in place of “Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties” in Department of Commerce.
About Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR):
- The DGTR will function as an attached office of Department of Commerce. The recommendation of DGTR for imposition of Anti-dumping, countervailing & Safeguard duties would be considered by the Department of Revenue.
- The DGTR will be a professionally integrated organisation with multi-spectrum skill sets emanating from officers drawn from different services and specialisations.
- DGTR will deal with Anti-dumping, CVD and Safeguard measures. It will also provide trade defence support to our domestic industry and exporters in dealing with increasing instances of trade remedy investigations instituted against them by other countries.
Need for such authority:
- Presently, the trade defence mechanism in India lacks optimality and takes more than a year to complete proceedings in cases pertaining to unfair trade practices. Currently, the Directorate General of Anti-dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD) deals with anti-dumping and CVD cases, Directorate General of Safeguards (DGS) deals with safeguard measures and DGFT deals with quantitative restriction (QR) safeguards.
- The DGTR will bring DGAD, DGS and Safeguards (QR) functions of DGFT into its fold by merging them into one single national entity. This provides comprehensive and swift trade defence mechanism in India.
- The creation of DGTR will also provide a level playing field to the domestic industry. In the last three years, India initiated more than 130 anti-dumping/countervailing duty/safeguard cases to deal with the rising incidences of unfair trade practices and to provide a level playing field to the domestic industry.
Senior Citizen draft Bill: Govt proposes six-month jail for abandoning, abusing elderly parents
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has drafted the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizen Draft Bill, 2018, that will amend the 2007 version of the legislation to expand its scope and provide for more stringent penalties.
Key provisions of the bill:
- The Bill expands the definition of children, which currently refers to only biological children and grandchildren, to include daughter-in-law and son-in-law and also adopted/step-children.
- The Centre has proposed to enhance the jail term for those found abandoning or abusing their parents, 60 years or older, to six months from the existing three months.
- It extends the definition of maintenance beyond provision of food, clothing, housing, health care to include “safety and security” of the parent.
- Under the provisions of the bill senior citizens Senior citizens can approach a Maintenance Tribunal in case their children neglect or refuse to maintain them.
- The draft Bill states that the Tribunal can order the children or, in case the person is childless, the relative to pay a monthly maintenance to the senior citizen. The amount would be decided by taking into account the standard of living of the senior citizen and the financial situation of both the parties.
- The Act currently provides an upper limit of Rs 10,000 per month as maintenance amount. The Bill proposes to make this amount variable as people who earn more, can afford to shell out a higher amount for the upkeep of their parents.
- The Bill also introduces a punitive measure of up to one month imprisonment in case the monthly allowance remains unpaid.
- It states that if parents transfer property to their children on the condition that they take care of them, and this clause is breached, the transfer of property will be deemed to be “made by fraud or coercion or under undue influence” and a tribunal can order it to be transferred back to the parent.
Government Schemes & Policies
MeitY launches internship scheme for Tech students
The Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) has launched the website of Digital India Internship Scheme.
- The portal will facilitate students to apply online for internship. It was launched by Information Technology Minister Ravi Prasad Shankar in New Delhi.
About Digital India Internship Scheme:
- The Objective of the scheme is to provide opportunity for student to secure first hand and practical work experience under guidance of qualified and experienced Supervisor and Mentor.
- It is also aimed to ensure active participation of students in learning process through experimentation and putting into practice the knowledge acquired in the classrooms.
- Under this scheme, 25 interns will be inducted for period of three months. These interns will be paid a stipend of Rs. 10, 000 per month.
- Internship will be offered two times in year i.e. summer Internship during May and June and winter Internship during December and January.
- The minimum duration of internship will be of two months and extendable up to three months, depending on the performance of the candidate.
- Proposed broad areas for Internship include R&D, Cyber Laws & Cyber Security, e-Governance, Digital Literacy (HRD), International Cooperation & Industrial Promotion, Hardware Industry and Digital Payments and Electronic Testing.
- Indian students from recognized universities in India who have secured at least 60% marks in the last held degree or certificate examination.
- Students pursuing B.E/B.Tech or M.E/M.Tech or dual degrees and are in their course of study can apply for internships on the portal.
Issues related to Health & Education
Top 30 Innovations of the Atal Tinkering Marathon showcased
Atal Tinkering Marathon’s Top 30 Innovations to be supported through industry partnerships were showcased on the eve of the National Technology Day.
- They were showcased through a booklet compiling the work done by the children, the mentors, teachers and schools.
About Atal Tinkering Marathon:
Atal Tinkering Labs of Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) of NITI Aayog had organized an Atal Tinkering Marathon in an effort to identify India’s best student innovators.
- It was six month long nationwide challenge across six different thematic areas, namely, clean energy, water resources, waste management, healthcare, smart mobility and agriculture-tech.
- Under it, Students of top 30 innovations will be trained on business and entrepreneurship skills, including intellectual property, effective communication, making an elevator pitch etc. These top 30 innovations have been identified from 20 different States/UTs from across India.
About Atal Innovation Mission (AIM):
- AIM is flagship initiative to promote culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in country.
- Its mandated is to create umbrella structure to oversee innovation ecosystem of country and revolutionize innovation eco-system.
- Its sub-schemes include establishing Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) and Atal Incubation Centers (AICs), for providing scaling up support to Established Incubation Centres.
- It also includes finding ultra-low cost solution to India’s most intractable problems through Atal Grand Challenges and Atal Vikas Challenges.
- Develop new programmes and policies for fostering innovation in different sectors of economy.
- Provide platform and collaboration opportunities for different stakeholders, create awareness.
- Create umbrella structure to oversee innovation ecosystem of the country.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
India’s clean energy capacity touches 70 GW: MNRE
- According to Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), India’s installed clean (renewable) energy capacity has already touched 70 Gigawatts (GW) and 38 GW is under implementation.
- This shows that India is progressing fast in areas of renewable energy and it is committed to meeting target of having 175 GW renewable energy (100GW Solar, 60 GW Wind, 10 GW Biomass and 5 GW Hydro) by 2022.
- The 70 GW installed renewable energy capacity in country is double of capacity four year back.
Govt approves green licence plates for e-vehicles
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has approved green licence plates bearing numbers in white fonts for private e-vehicles and yellow for taxis to promote electric vehicles (e-vehicles) in India.
Significance of the move:
- The measure is aimed at promoting e-vehicle’s use and the government is considering exemption from permits for such vehicles.
- The purpose behind distinctive green number plates is easy identification of electric vehicles for preferential treatment in parking, free entry in congested zones besides other proposed benefits like concessional toll.
- As per estimate, India at present has 1 to 1.5 lakh electric vehicles. It is projected to grow to about 5% of total vehicles in next five years.
- Of the about 24 million vehicles sold in India in 2017-18, e-vehicles accounted for barely about 1%.
- Government has undertaken various measure aimed at promoting e-vehicle’s use and government is considering exemption from permits for such vehicles.
Present scenario of number plates in India:
- India, currently, has four kinds of number plates – white licence plates with numbers on black font for private cars, yellow plates with fonts in black for commercial vehicles, black plates with yellow font letters for self-driven rental vehicles and blue plates with white font letters for Embassies and High Commissions.
- Army vehicles, on the other hand, follow a different registration system given by the defence ministry, while vehicles of the President and governors have red licence plates with the national emblem.
- The Government started Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) scheme which provides incentives for purchasing electric vehicle.
- It is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. The scheme envisages Rs 795 crore support in the first two fiscals starting with the current year.
- It is being administered by the Heavy Industries Ministry.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Bilateral & International Relations
Donald Trump announces US withdrawal from ‘rotten’ Iran nuclear deal
US President Donald Trump has announced he is pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. He described the agreement as “decaying and rotting”.
- The agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has been on the rocks since Trump’s election, and the resulting climate of uncertainty spooked many large firms from doing business in Iran, thus diminishing the economic incentives that drew Iran to the agreement in the first place.
What is the iran nuclear deal?
- Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear programme in a 2015 deal struck with the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany.
- Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) Tehran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons.
- The JCPOA established the Joint Commission, with the negotiating parties all represented, to monitor implementation of the agreement.
Why did Iran agree to the deal?
- It had been hit with devastating economic sanctions by the United Nations, United States and the European Union that are estimated to have cost it tens of billions of pounds a year in lost oil export revenues. Billions in overseas assets had also been frozen.
Why is US pulling out of the deal?
- Trump and opponents to the deal say it is flawed because it gives Iran access to billions of dollars but does not address Iran’s support for groups the U.S. considers terrorists, like Hamas and Hezbollah. They note it also doesn’t curb Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and that the deal phases out by 2030. They say Iran has lied about its nuclear program in the past.
Other countries’ stands:
- The agreement was signed by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China, plus Germany — and Iran. The deal was also enshrined in a UN Security Council resolution, incorporating it into international law.
- Some of the US’ closest allies, the UK, France and Germany, issued a statement expressing “regret and concern” about the decision, emphasizing Iran’s compliance with the deal and their “continuing commitment” to the deal. The leaders of those countries failed in their attempts to convince Trump to preserve the deal.
- Russia meanwhile said the deal was “new confirmation of Washington’s incompetence,” and underscored that the US, not Iran, is now technically in violation of the deal.
- India has been extremely supportive of the Iran nuclear deal. It always maintained that Iranian nuclear issue should be resolved peacefully through dialogue and diplomacy by respecting Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
- It also held that all parties should engage constructively to address and resolve issues that have arisen with respect to JCPOA.
Implications of the deal:
- US unilateral move to target Iran and side with its regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Israel, could destabilise middle east (west asia) region where over 8 million Indian migrants live and work.
- Iran is India’s third biggest supplier (after Iraq and Saudi Arabia) of crude oil, and any increase in prices will hit both inflation levels and rupee. In February 2018, India had committed itself to increasing its oil imports from Iran, which were expected to double to about 3,96,000 bpd (barrels per day) in 2018-19 from about 2,05,000 bpd in 2017-18. Both countries have instituted several measures in the past few months.
- Indian interests in Afghanistan and West Asia are at stake after US pulling out of the JCPOA.
- India is aiming to develop Shahid Beheshti Port in Chabahar to circumvent Pakistan’s blocks on trade with landlocked Afghanistan. India has already committed about $85 million with plans for total of $500 million for the port. New US sanctions may slow or even bring those plans to halt.
- India, a founder member of International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) which starts from Iran and aims to cut right across Central Asia to Russia over a 7,200-km multi-mode network. Plans for INSTC gathered momentum after the JCPOA was signed in 2015 and sanctions on Iran were lifted. New US sanctions threatens strictures on countries doing military trade with US’s “adversaries: Russia, North Korea and Iran.
- India had joined Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Iran proposal for induction into eight-member Eurasian security organisation was on the lie. If the proposal is accepted, India will become a member of bloc that will be seen as anti-American.
- India has long been proponent of rules-based order that depends on multilateral consensus and adherence to commitments made by countries on the international stage. This rules-based multilateral order has been breached by Trump administration by walking out of JCPOA, as well as earlier from Paris Climate Change agreement. India will have to consider new understanding of its ties with US in this context for its interests.
India, Panama joins hand for agriculture and exemption of visa
India and Panama have signed two agreements on exemption of Visas for holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports and in the field of Agriculture.
- India will set up two centres for Biodiversity and Innovation in Panama worth US $10 million and US $15 million each.
- Both countries have agreed to boost cooperation in key areas by strengthening cooperation in tax information, economic cooperation, air services, traditional medicines, culture and space.
- India and Panama always had cordial relations. These ties are based on our common values and shared commitment to democracy, pluralism, multi-culturalism, and the rule of law.
Location of Panama:
- Panama is a country in Central America.
- It is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia (in South America) to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south.
- The capital and largest city is Panama City.
Key Facts for Prelims
- India has sent Bangladesh its second relief consignment under Operation Insaniyat to help tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar into Bangladesh following military crackdown in violence-hit Rakhine state.
- Rohingya are stateless ethnic minority (mostly Muslim) from Rakhine province of Buddhist-majority Myanmar, who are forced leave their country due to communal violence and repeated military operations.