Polity & Governance
- Orderly system: claims and counter-claims
- Tele-Law through CSCs To Mainstream Legal Aid in Rural India
- Farm think tank’s formula to redress agriculture distress
- Centre tells pharma to pass GST benefits to customers
- Mandatory audit under GST may add to compliance burden
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Rhododendrons of eastern Himalayas under threat
- Marine reserves can mitigate climate change
- Climate change may cause more rainfall in tropical areas: NASA
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, UNOSSC launch partnership fund to promote sustainable development
Science & Technology
- Scientists conjure up largest virtual universe
Key Facts for Prelims
- World’s largest floating solar farm
- ‘We Wear Culture’ project
- MoU moots ties with Mauritius Parliament
- Flash mobs, mascots to create awareness about yoga
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Polity & Governance
Orderly system: claims and counter-claims
What is Orderly System in the police?
- The orderly system in the police was introduced by the British in the late 19th century.
- An orderly is expected to help officers in maintenance and upkeep of uniform, answering telephone calls, attending to personal security and also run small errands.
- Under the orderly system, a police officer is expected to be on duty 24X7 and to rush to scenes of crime and riots at short notice.
- Since the orderly is a trained uniformed person, he is meant to be a companion and help to the senior officer.
- The Karnataka Police Manual as well as those in other states prescribes the scale of orderlies for senior officers.
Misuse of the orderly system:
- Though the Manual says that orderlies must be taken from armed units, many civil police constables are also orderlies. These orderlies rarely attend drill and inspections and work at residences of senior officers.
- Over a period of time, orderlies began to be misused for cooking, washing, taking officer’s children to school, shopping for the officer’s family etc. An orderly thus became more of a menial servant.
- A few decades ago, the minimum qualification prescribed for an armed police constable was seventh standard. Nowadays, almost every constable is a graduate and has joined the department with some aspirations. To him, performing orderly duty at the residence of a senior officer has become anathema.
Thus, the demand for abolishing the orderly system was raised.
Why in news?
- Three months after the Karnataka government abolished the colonial-era orderly system, the practice is still prevalent in the police force.
Why the Karnataka state government abolished it?
In March 2017, the Karnataka state government had issued an order scrapping the orderly system with an amendment to provide allowances to officials to employ Group D workers to replace orderlies.
- Before the March 2017 order was issued, as many as 3,000 trained personnel were working as orderlies across Karnataka, not only in the houses of senior police officials but also with senior bureaucrats and elected representatives.
- Prior to the ban, Rule 862A of the Karnataka Police Manual allowed police officials — depending upon their rank — to employ orderlies from the lower rank personnel as domestic help.
- However, considering that trained armed personnel were being deputed as orderlies when they could otherwise be deployed to help maintain law and order, the then State Police proposed that the system be scrapped.
The move was backed by several human rights organisations.[Ref: The Hindu]
Tele-Law through CSCs To Mainstream Legal Aid in Rural India
The Ministry of Law and Justice has launched the ‘Tele-Law’ initiative in collaboration with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to provide legal aid services to the marginalized communities and citizens living in rural areas through the Common Service Centres (CSC) at the panchayat level, spread across the country.
About the initiative:
- ‘Tele Law initiative would help people to seek legal advice from lawyers with the help of video conferencing facility available at the Common Service Centres (CSC).
- Apart from the lawyers, law school clinics, District Legal Service Authorities, voluntary service providers and Non-Government Organisations working on legal aid and empowerment can also be connected through the CSCs.
- In the initial phase, the initiative will be tested as a pilot project across 500 Common Service Centres (CSC) in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In this phase, challenges to the initiative would be identified and necessary corrections would be made and would eventually be rolled out across the country in a phased manner.
- A new portal called ‘Tele Law’ will be made available across the CSC network to connect the citizens to legal service providers with the help of technology-enabled platforms.
- The initiative would strengthen access to justice for the marginalized communities.
- The government will also put in place a robust monitoring and evaluation system to assess the quality of the legal advice delivered to the people.
- Under the initiative, a Para Legal Volunteer (PLV), would be employed in each CSC.
- The volunteer would serve as the first point of contact for the marginalized communities in the rural areas who will help them understand the legal issues, explain the advice given by lawyers and assist in further action as per the advice of the lawyer.
- Around 1000 women Para Legal Volunteers will also be trained under this initiative to provide legal aid services through the CSCs.
- This is expected to promote women entrepreneurship and empowerment.
- Further, the National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) will also provide a panel of lawyers who will provide advice from the state capitals to the applicants in the CSCs through video conferencing.
Farm think tank’s formula to redress agriculture distress
The Indian Council of Food and Agriculture (ICFA), an agriculture think tank, has suggested to the Centre to consider its seven-point formula to redress farmers’ distress across the country.
Some of the important recommendations:
- Assuring a decent income for the farmers was vital, and, therefore, the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers (Swaminathan Commission) on the minimum support prices (MSP) for crops must be fixed at levels of at least 50% more than the weighted average cost of production. This will help enhance profitability in agriculture by ensuring a minimum of 50% profits over the cost of production.
- Opening of domestic and international markets for free trade is a major stabiliser of prices, which could help farmers in realising better profit prospects.
- Operating futures markets across all farm produce as another effective strategy to offset the uncertainties associated with price fluctuations of agricultural commodities. Futures contract route helped farmers decide on trade for a standing crop at a future date at a price agreed before the harvest.
- Establishing a national network of Panchayat level rural growth centres that would create village-level agri-businesses and connect farmers with institutions, banks, technologies and markets.
Centre tells pharma to pass GST benefits to customers
The Centre has warned pharmaceutical companies to comply with the anti-profiteering clause in the Goods and Services Tax rules and pass on to consumers any benefit arising out of lower tax rates under the indirect tax regime.
What’s the issue?
- The Department of Pharmaceuticals has notified that for scheduled drug formulations on which excise duty is levied on the maximum retail price, the revised price ceiling exclusive of GST would be 95% of the current price ceiling. In case of savings due to lower rate of tax, the benefit may be passed on to the consumers as per the anti-profiteering clause in GST rules.
- The Centre also specified the price rules for non-scheduled drugs under the GST regime, saying that pharmaceutical companies would have to absorb any burden that may arise from higher taxes which would increase the price of the drug more than the permissible 10% increase over their levels in the previous 12 months.
- The companies will have no option but to absorb the net increase, if any, in the incidence of tax on implementation of GST within the permissible limit of 10% for increase of maximum retail price compared to the MRP of preceding 12 months.
- Under the present system, medicines not under price control are allowed an annual 10% price increase in line with WPI (Wholesale Price Index).
What is anti-profiteering clause in GST Rule?
- Clause 171 has been inserted in the GST bill which provides that it is mandatory to pass on the benefit due to reduction in rate of tax or from input tax credit to the consumer by way of commensurate reduction in prices.
- This clause further provides for the establishment of an authority against anti-profiteering in order to ensure its compliance.
Why anti-profiteering clause in GST Rule?
- While it’s widely claimed that GST is expected to bring down the prices of goods and services once successfully implemented, it is also expected that manufacturers and service providers may not pass on the benefit to the final consumer.
- To counter such practice, the government has put an anti-profiteering clause in the GST bill.
Concerns raised by the industry:
- One of the major contentions of industry against anti-profiteering clause is the lack of clarity on rules related to valuation and tax rates. While four slab-rates have been agreed upon by the GST council, however, what rate will be applicable on what goods, that decision is yet to be passed.
- Unless this categorization is done for all the goods and services and a tax rate is mapped to each category, companies will not be able to frame their strategy on product pricing under the new regime.
- Also, comparison of pre-GST and post-GST profits of the company may get impacted for reasons other than input tax credit and change in the tax rate as contained in clause 171. One example could be the free flow of goods across states without entry-tax and lower logistics cost. Such scenario will increase the profit margin post-GST implementation and should not be considered as anti-profiteering.
- Limited time for implementation may result in some discrepancies and eventual penalties under anti-profiteering.
Mandatory audit under GST may add to compliance burden
According to tax experts, the mandatory audit provisions released by the Government will only add to the cost of and time taken for compliance.
What’s the rule?
- Under the rules, every registered taxpayer with an annual turnover of more than ₹2 crore has to get his or her accounts audited by a chartered accountant or a cost accountant and provide explanations for any discrepancy between the returns filed under GST and the audited financial statements.
- The main purpose of the Audit appears to be detailed reconciliation of the GST returns with the audited financial statements.
What are the concerns?
According to tax experts,
- The format is fairly long with 12 different annexures reconciling each and every transaction as reported in the GST return with the financials
- At first glance, it looks fairly long and extensive. This just adds to the pain of companies already struggling to get GST ready.
- One question that is unanswered is whether the Government is expecting reconciliation with the state-wise audited financial statements? As a matter of practice, no company prepares state-wise audited financial statements, and hence this could be a new compliance challenge.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Rhododendrons of eastern Himalayas under threat
Though home to 97% of the Rhododendron species and sub-species in the country, indiscriminate felling and loss of habitat in the north-eastern States has left many of these beautiful flowering plants vulnerable to extinction.
- A recent publication by scientists with the Botanical Survey of India has documented and stressed the need to protect the many unique varieties of Rhododendron.
About the Rhododendron:
- Rhododendron — literally rose tree in Greek — found in the region, with 18 species endemic to India.
- Found in varied habitats from subtropical forest to alpine shrubs, rhododendrons range from dwarf shrubs to large trees.
- There are 132 taxa (80 species, 25 sub species and 27 varieties) of Rhododendron found in India, of which 129 are found in the north-eastern India alone.
- Only three taxa — Rhododendron arboretum nilagiricum found in south India and Rhododendron colletianum and Rhododendron rawatti from the western Himalayas are not found in the north-east.
- Arunachal Pradesh is home to the highest number with 119 taxa (74 species, 21 sub species and 24 varieties) of the Rhododendron.
- The small State of Sikkim is home to 42 taxa (25 species, 11 sub-species and six varieties) while 10 taxa are found in Manipur, four in Mizoram and 11 in Nagaland.
- The eastern Himalayas are regarded as one of the centres of diversity for the genus, which means that the Rhododendron has migrated to different parts of world from this region.
- The Sikkim Forest department and the Sikkim Rhododendron Society have identified nine Rhododedron ecosystems and protected area networks in the State. The two famous Rhododendron sanctuaries in the State are Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary and Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary.
Geographical conditions for the growth of Rhododendron:
- The cold, moist slopes and deep valleys of the eastern Himalayas form a conducive habitat for the luxuriant growth of Rhododendron species.
- Nowhere in the world, are such unique geographical and ecological formations are found. This is the primary reason for such a diversity of Rhododendron available in the region.
Use of Rhododendron:
- Other than the ornamental value, use in packaging wood crafts, fragrance and religious use, Rhododendrons also are used in local medicines against colds, coughs and chronic bronchitis and diarrhoea.
- The petals of R. arboretum are widely used for making juice, jams and jelly.
The scientists have pointed to the need for conservation of Rhododendrons.
- Epiphytic species, which grow on other trees or plants, of rhododendrons with limited population are most vulnerable due to loss of the host trees.
- While in high altitude areas of Arunachal Pradesh, rhododendrons are routinely cut for firewood by local people, forest fires in the dry seasons in Manipur and Nagaland were threatening the survival of many species.
- The endemic R. wattii from Dzukou hills of Manipur and Nagaland is one of the most critically endangered species in India, with only a few adult trees remaining in their natural habitat.
Marine reserves can mitigate climate change
Evaluating 145 peer-reviewed studies, a research team has concluded that “highly protected” marine reserves can help mitigate the effects of climate change.
Importance of marine reserves in climate change mitigation:
- As per the research, marine reserves cannot halt or completely offset the growing impacts of climate change. But they can make marine ecosystems more resilient to changes and, in some cases, help slow down the rate of climate change.
- Protecting a portion of oceans and coastal wetlands will help sequester carbon, limit the consequences of poor management, protect habitats and biodiversity that are key to healthy oceans of the future, and buffer coastal populations from extreme events.
- Coastal wetlands, including mangroves, seagrasses and salt marshes have demonstrated a capacity for reducing local carbon dioxide concentrations because many contain plants with high rates of photosynthesis.
- Around the world, coastal nations have committed to protecting 10% of their waters by 2020, but so far, only 3.5% of the ocean has been set aside for protection, and 1.6%, or less than half of that, is strongly protected from exploitation.
- The study also notes that ocean surface waters have become on average 26% more acidic since pre-industrial times. By the year 2100, under a “business-as-usual” scenario, they will be 150% more acidic.
Climate change may cause more rainfall in tropical areas: NASA
A new NASA study warns that the amount of rainfall in the Earth’s tropical regions will significantly increase as our planet continues to warm.
- The team used observations of thermal radiation from NASA’s spaceborne Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System and other satellite devices as well as ground-level observations.
Highlights of the study:
- Most global climate models underestimate decreases in high clouds over the tropics seen in recent NASA observations.
- Globally, rainfall is not related just to the clouds that are available to make rain but also to the Earth’s “energy budget” — incoming energy from the Sun compared to outgoing heat energy.
- High-altitude tropical clouds trap heat in the atmosphere. If there are fewer of these clouds in the future, the tropical atmosphere will cool.
- Judging from observed changes in clouds over recent decades, it appears that the atmosphere would create fewer high clouds in response to surface warming. It would increase tropical rainfall, which would warm the air to balance the cooling from high cloud shrinkage.
Rainfall warming the air sounds counterintuitive:
- People are used to rain cooling the air around them, not warming it. However, several kilometres up in the atmosphere, a different process prevails.
- When water evaporates into water vapour on the Earth’s surface and rises into the atmosphere, it carries with it the heat energy that made it evaporate.
- In the cold upper atmosphere, when the water vapour condenses into liquid droplets or ice particles, it releases its heat and warms the atmosphere.
- It puts the decrease in high tropical cloud cover in context as one result of a planet-wide shift in large-scale air flows that is occurring as the Earth’s surface temperature warms.
About the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES):
CERES is on-going NASA climatological experiment from Earth orbit. It is a part of the NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS).
- The CERES are scientific satellite instruments.
- It is designed to measure both solar-reflected and Earth-emitted radiation from the top of the atmosphere (TOA) to the Earth’s surface.
- Results from the CERES and other NASA missions, such as the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE), could lead to a better understanding of the role of clouds and the energy cycle in global climate change.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, UNOSSC launch partnership fund to promote sustainable development
India and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) on 8 June 2017 launched a partnership fund to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across the developing world.
About the India-UN Development Partnership Fund:
- The India-UN Development Partnership Fund will implement country-level projects that are catalytic towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.
- The initiative is aimed at reducing poverty and hunger, improving health, education and equality, and expanding access to clean water, energy and livelihoods.
- The fund will focus on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
- Initially, the fund will start with an initial contribution of USD 1 million for its first project Climate Early Warning System in Pacific Island Countries (CEWSPIC).
- CEWSPIC Project was formulated by India and the UN Development Programme in consultation with the governments of Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Tonga. The project will increase resilience to natural disasters in these seven Pacific island countries.
UNOSSC The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) was established with an objective to promote, coordinate and support South-South and triangular cooperation across the world and within the United Nations system.
- UNOSSC has its genesis in 1974 when the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the establishment of a special unit to promote technical cooperation among developing countries within the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
- In 2012, the special unit was given the name United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) by the General Assembly through a resolution.
- UNOSSC receives policy directives and guidance from the General Assembly and through its subsidiary body, the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation.
- UNOSSC submits its strategic planning frameworks to the UNDP, UNFPA and UNOPS Executive Board for approval and funding.
- The Director reports to the UNDP Administrator and has also been appointed Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation.
Science & Technology
Scientists conjure up largest virtual universe
Researchers from the University of Zurich have simulated the formation of our entire universe with a large supercomputer.
- A gigantic catalogue of about 25 billion virtual galaxies has been generated from 2 trillion digital particles.
- It was created with a simple goal in mind: train the next big mission from the European Space Agency (ESA).
- This catalogue is being used to calibrate the experiments on board the Euclid satellite, that will be launched in 2020 with the objective of investigating the nature of dark matter and dark energy.
About dark energy and dark matter:
- Dark energy is the cause of the accelerated expansion of the universe. Dark matter, instead, is responsible for how galaxies keep their shape.
- About 95 per cent of the universe is dark. The cosmos consists of 23 per cent of dark matter and 72 per cent of dark energy.
Key Facts for Prelims
World’s largest floating solar farm
- China has recently launched the world’s largest floating solar farm.
- This launch is the reflections of China’s clean energy ambitions especially after the United States withdraws from the Paris climate accord.
- The 40-megawatt power plant has 160,000 panels resting on a lake that emerged after the collapse of a coal mine in central China’s Anhui Province.
- The farm is part of authorities’ effort to reduce dependency on fossil fuel as China remains one of the world’s top carbon emitters, with two-thirds of its electricity still fuelled by coal.
‘We Wear Culture’ project
- Working with 183 renowned cultural institutions from around the world, including India, Google’s project ‘We Wear Culture’ lets people explore the history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago from the ancient Silk Road, to the courtly fashion of Versailles, to the unmatched elegance of the Indian Saree.
- The online project includes collections from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) and varied weaves from across India, from Gharchola to Patola to Temple to Ikat sarees, as it traces the story and importance of Indian textiles from ancient sculptures.
- The world fashion exhibit also showcases designs from north-eastern India including the weaves of tribes such as the Nagas, Meitis and the traditional attire from Meghalaya called ‘Dhara’ or ‘Nara’ worn by the Khasi women.
MoU moots ties with Mauritius Parliament
- India and Mauritius signed a pact to institutionalise cooperation between the parliaments of the two countries.
- The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and her counterparts.
- The relations between the two countries are based on centuries of cultural, linguistic, social and spiritual links that transcend extraneous considerations.
Flash mobs, mascots to create awareness about yoga
- The Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy (CCRYN) has launched a yoga awareness drive through mascots and flash mobs in the run-up to International Day for Yoga which is celebrated every year June 21.
- The mascots will connect with people by providing added entertainment and interactivity, especially at malls, public places and recreational tourist areas.
- Flash mobs of ‘Yoga Dance’ called YogMob are also being organised at public places.