Polity & Governance
- Finance minister to launch MSME databank, finance facilitation centres
- Lok Sabha clears Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill
- Nod for Gujarat’s land acquisition Bill
- Ministry wants SEZs’ tax sops to continue
Science & Technology
- Hanle – a potential site for the Thirty Meter Telescope
Key Facts for Prelims
- Maritime Heritage Complex at Lothal
- ‘Bharat Parv’
- Greenland shark
- Krishna Pushkaralu
- Rhino horn verification process
Polity & Governance
Finance minister to launch MSME databank, finance facilitation centres
Finance minister Arun Jaitley has launched a databank to gather information about micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME).
- Besides this, he also launched Online Finance Facilitation Centres to provide collective funding options for MSMEs.
- The Ministry of MSME is making online Census of the MSMEs in the country for the first time by launching a comprehensive databank on http://www.msmedatabank.in
- The MIS dashboard of the databank will provide real time information on various types of the MSMEs registered on the databank.
- The databank will eventually will be used for public procurement purposes and the PSUs will make use of the data for procuring from MSMEs.
Significance of the move:
- This will not only save the efforts and money required for physical Census but will also enable the MSME units and the various Associations to furnish data on click of the button and sitting in their units.
- MSME Development (Furnishing of Information) Rules, 2016 have also been notified making it compulsory for MSMEs to give the required information.
Lok Sabha clears Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill
The Lok Sabha passed the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016, that seeks to amend the Income Tax Act, 1961, and Customs Tariff Act, 1975.
- The new bill will address various issues of demerger of companies and related matters.
Key features of the bill:
Definition of demerger:
- In regard to the direct taxes, the bill seeks to widen the scope of definition of demerger under the Income Tax law to include the splitting up of or the reconstruction of a public sector company, which ceases to be so as a result of transfer of its shares.
- In regard to indirect taxes, the draft legislation seeks to increase the tariff rate of customs duty from current 10% to the WTO-bound rate of 40% on rough marbles and granite blocks/slabs.
- The Companies Act, 1956, allows companies to demerge (split) into multiple companies. As a result of the demerger, the income, expenses and profits of the parent company are transferred to the resultant companies.
Transfers of companies:
- The Income Tax Act, 1961 takes into account these transfers from the parent company for taxation of resultant companies. Now the new bill clarifies that these provisions will apply in case a public sector company demerges, and the resultant company is no longer a public sector company.
Nod for Gujarat’s land acquisition Bill
Gujarat’s Land Acquisition Bill, 2016, which dilutes Centre’s stringent Land Acquisition Act 2013, has received the presidential assent.
- The amended bill was passed by the state legislative assembly on March 31 this year. Then it was sent for presidential assent.
Key provisions of the bill:
- One of the key provisions of the bill is doing away with Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for projects related to Defence and social sectors, such as building air base, defence manufacturing units, schools, roads, canals and affordable houses.
- The other key change is that SIA will not be carried out for land acquisition for industrial corridor and PPP projects taken up by the government.
- Another key amendment is doing away with the provision of consent of affected parties. As per the original Central Act, 80 per cent of land owners must give their nod for the acquisition of land.
- As per the new Bill, these provisions will not be followed if the land is acquired for public purpose. However, it will remain in place for acquisition related to industrial development.
- Apart from the social and defence sector projects, the Bill proposes to exempt from SIA industrial corridors set up by the state government and its undertakings, where it is required to acquire land up to 1 km on both sides of designated railway line or road.
- In addition, the infrastructure projects under PPP mode, where land continues to vest with the government, are also exempted from social impact assessment and consent clause.
Ministry wants SEZs’ tax sops to continue
The Commerce Ministry has raised with the Finance Ministry the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) sector’s concerns about the lack of clarity in the proposed Goods & Services Tax (GST) regime on the continuation of tax & duty exemptions.
- Commerce Ministry has asked the Finance Ministry to continue incentives that are currently provided to the SEZs.
What are the concerns?
Currently, many tax and duty incentives have been offered to SEZ units and developers in the SEZ policy to help them attract investments, and in turn, generate employment and boost exports. However, the proposed GST regime does not provide clarity on these SEZ-related incentives.
As per the current norms,
- SEZs are tax and duty-free enclaves and are deemed to be foreign territory for purposes of taxes, duties and trade. Other exemptions provided include:
- Duty-free import and duty-free domestic procurement of goods for development, operation and maintenance of SEZ units.
- No Central Sales Tax (CST), service tax and State sales tax.
- Exemption from customs/excise duties for development of SEZs for authorised operations approved by the SEZ Board of Approval.
- No excise duty on raw material procurement by SEZs from Domestic Tariff Area (or DTA, which is the area outside the SEZs but within India) as such procurement is treated as exports from DTA to SEZ.
Science & Technology
Hanle – a potential site for the Thirty Meter Telescope
Hanle in Ladakh has been identified as one of the potential alternate sites for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).
- India’s participation in the TMT project is being jointly funded and overseen by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), with DST as the Lead Agency.
- DST has received clearances from the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs for hosting TMT at Hanle in Ladakh.
- Indian scientists leading this project, led by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru, visited the region and have completed measurements of the key scientific parameter, viz. ‘Atmospheric turbulence or Seeing measured in arc-second’.
- The original site for TMT was Mauna Kea in Hawaii in the United States of America.
- The construction work for TMT at Mauna Kea was started but had to be stalled due to revocation of Permit by orders of the Supreme Court of Hawaii.
Why Hanle has been chosen?
- Hanle site has lower seeing values of 0.9-1.2 arc sec as compared to the alternate sites in Chile and Canary Islands of Spain (La Palma) which have seeing values of 0.55 arc sec.
Thus, scientifically, Hanle has less advantageous characteristics for hosting a mega telescope like the TMT in comparison to the other alternate sites.
About the Thirty Meter Telescope:
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is a proposed astronomical observatory with an extremely large telescope (ELT).
- This is a proposed project of the US.
- The telescope has government-level support from several R&D spending nations: China, Japan, Canada and India.
Key Facts for Prelims
Maritime Heritage Complex at Lothal
A Maritime Heritage Complex Committee with Secretary (Shipping) as Chairman has been constituted with members from related Ministries and Experts in Maritime Heritage for planning of a Maritime Heritage Complex at Lothal.
Lothal is one of the most prominent cities of the ancient Indus valley civilisation. Lothal was discovered by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in the period from 1955 to 1960. An Archaeological Museum has been setup at the site where some of the most prominent collections of Indus-era antiquities in India are displayed.
As part of Independence Day celebrations, Ministry of Tourism is organising ‘Bharat Parv’, a 7-day cultural event at India Gate Lawns, New Delhi.
Its objective is to create festive and patriotic mood across nation and greater participation of the general public.
Greenland shark, which live an average of at least 272 years, rank as the longest-lived vertebrate on earth. A new study indicate that they may live beyond 400 years.
They are the largest fish native to Arctic seas, with adults typically measuring between 13 and 16 feet and females consistently outgrowing the males. Analysis suggested that these sharks reach sexual maturity around the age of 150.
Traditionally, the age of sharks and rays is determined by counting the seasonally deposited growth layers in hard calcified structures such as fin spines. Such techniques, however, cannot be applied to the Greenland shark because it lacks such ‘hard’ structures.
Krishna Pushkaralu is a festival of River Krishna which normally occurs once in every 12 years and is celebrated with much glory. The Pushkaram is observed for a period of 12 days from the time of entry of Jupiter into Virgo (Kanya rasi).
Pushkaram has been an age old practice in southern states Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana.
Rhino horn verification process
The Assam Government started the much-awaited process of authentication of rhino horns kept in the custody of the Government. The Assam Government had recently instituted the Rhino Horn Verification Committee to authenticate all the horns kept in the custody of the Government since 1980.
During the physical examination of the horns, experts sought the help of forensic scientists, whenever necessary, and a micro laboratory was set up in the verification room itself for this purpose. The Golaghat treasury has the highest number of rhino horns.