Polity & Governance
- Petrol, diesel prices to be fixed daily
- Centre files curative plea on AFSPA
- New Taxi Policy Guidelines
- Court for prohibition cases in Bihar
- Panel to suggest norms for Bitcoins, virtual currencies
Bilateral & International Relations
- BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection
Science & Technology
- Global interest in PSLV soars
Key Facts for Prelims
- Operation Durga to ensure women Safety
- Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy (IIPE) at Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
- Central Processing Centre (CPC) gets new Pin Code
- FATCA Act
Polity & Governance
Petrol, diesel prices to be fixed daily
From May, oil marketing companies are expected to introduce a daily revision of petrol and diesel prices in select markets, on a pilot basis.
- The move is expected to shield the state-owned oil companies from the volatility in global crude prices which keep changing everyday.
- As per the plan, pump rates will be decided based on daily movement in international oil prices and rupee-US dollar fluctuations.
Present practice of price determination:
- Presently, Oil companies have the freedom to revise rates.
- They revise the fuel price on 1st and 16th of every month based on the average international rate of the fuel in the preceding fortnight and currency exchange rate.
- While petrol prices were freed from the clutches of the government in June 2010, the diesel prices got deregulated in October 2014.
Significance of this move:
- Daily price change will remove the big leaps in rates that need to be effected at the end of the fortnight, and consumers will be more aligned to market dynamics.
- Analysts say that a daily change in price will help the OMCs to get accurate price reflecting international oil prices and rupee-dollar fluctuations.
- It will also enable them to not make big cuts or surge in prices which are often not taken well by consumers as well as becomes a political issue.
Centre files curative plea on AFSPA
The government has asked the Supreme Court to urgently reconsider its July 2016 verdict which ripped open the cloak of immunity and secrecy provided by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) to security forces for deaths caused during encounters in disturbed areas.
What was the judgement?
The Supreme Court gave a judgement on a plea by hundreds of families in Manipur for a probe by Special Investigation Team.
- The Supreme Court had held that “there is no concept of absolute immunity from trial by a criminal court” if an Army man has committed an offence.
- The judgment had held that every death caused by security forces in a disturbed area, even if the victim was a dreaded criminal or a militant or a terrorist or an insurgent, should be thoroughly inquired into to address any allegation of use of excessive or retaliatory force.
- The centre argues that the judgment had become a fetter on security forces involved in anti-militancy operations.
- The centre also observed that the principles of right to self-defence cannot be strictly applied while dealing with militants and terrorist elements in a hostile and unstable terrain because of the complexity and the reality of the conduct of military operations and tactics, especially while combating terrorists.
- Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), is an Act of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in what each act terms “disturbed areas”.
Why is this required?
- The government (either the state or centre) considers those areas to be ‘disturbed’ “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.”
Under which conditions AFSPA can be declared?
- When the local administration fails to deal with local issues and the police proves inefficient to cope with them.
- When the scale of unrest or instability in the state is too large for the police to handle.
How does one officially declare a region to be ‘disturbed’?
- Section (3) of the AFSPA Act empowers the governor of the state or Union territory to issue an official notification on The Gazette of India, following which the centre has the authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid.
- It is still unclear whether the governor has to prompt the centre to send in the army or whether the centre on its own sends in troops.
- Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months, according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976.
[Ref: The Hindu]
New Taxi Policy Guidelines
The safety measures, recommended by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, concerning safety of women commuters availing of cab services have been included in the new Taxi Policy Guidelines.
- These measures were recommended by the WCD Minister, Smt Maneka Sanjay Gandhi to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and Shipping (MoRTH).
Recommendations of WCD Ministry included in the New Taxi policy guidelines are:
- Mandatory fitting of GPS panic devices in the taxis.
- To ensure the safety of women and child passengers, central locking system in the taxis to be disallowed.
- Sharing of a seat in the cabs must be subject to the willingness of passengers.
- Identification of driver along with the photo and the registration number should be prominently displayed in the cab.
- Violation of stipulated rules and regulations by taxi operators and drivers to be strictly dealt in accordance with law.
- Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) had constituted a committee to review issues relating to taxi permits and propose taxi policy guidelines to promote urban mobility.
- The committee comprised of the representatives from MoRTH, Transport Commissioners from four States and representatives from Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi Police, Ministry of Women and Child Development, NITI Aayog and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, submitted its report in December 2016.
- The policy is recommendatory in nature and is expected to help the states in framing detailed regulations.
Court for prohibition cases in Bihar
A year after enforcing stringent prohibition laws, the Bihar government has set up a special court for speedy trial in cases registered against violation of the law.
- Following the High Court directive, the first special court has been set up in Patna.
Need for special courts:
- Bihar became a dry State on April 5, 2016. In last one year, over 45,000 people have been arrested for violating the liquor laws and 44,996 were sent to jail.
- Police and Excise department officials conducted 2,18,722 raids and seized over 3.5 lakh liters of liquor.
- Every day, trucks and vans loaded with liquor are being seized in different parts of the State.
- The border districts have also become more vulnerable for smuggling of liquor bottles.
Panel to suggest norms for Bitcoins, virtual currencies
To examine the existing framework for virtual currencies, the Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance has constituted an inter- disciplinary committee.
Members of the committee:
- The committee will be chaired by Special Secretary (Economic Affairs) with representatives from the departments of revenue and financial services and the Ministries of Home Affairs as well as Electronics and Information Technology.
- The committee will also include experts from the RBI, the central government’s think tank NITI Aayog and the country’s largest bank, State Bank of India.
Mandate of the committee:
The committee is mandated to:
- Take stock of the current status of Virtual Currencies both in India and globally;
- Examine the present global regulatory and legal structures governing Virtual Currencies;
- Suggest measures for tackling the issues related to Virtual Currencies including issues like consumer protection, money laundering etc;
- Examine other relevant issues related to Virtual Currencies.
Need of the committee:
- The circulation of virtual currencies, of late, has become a cause of concern.
- With respect to the virtual currencies, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has also cautioned the users, holders and traders of Virtual currencies about the potential financial, operational, legal, customer protection and security related risks through press releases in December 2013 and February 2017.
What are the Virtual Currencies?
- Virtual Currencies, also called as digital/crypto-currencies, are a type of unregulated digital money that is neither issued by a central bank/public authority, nor is necessarily attached to a fiat currency, but is used and accepted among the members of a specific virtual community.
- They are capable of being transferred, stored or traded electronically.
- The examples of virtual currencies are Bitcoin, Litecoin, Darkcoin, Peercoin, Dogecoin, Primecoin etc.
Bilateral & International Relations
BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection
he Union Cabinet has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Power for Signing of “Memorandum of Understanding for Establishment of the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection”.
Salient features of the MoU:
The MoU provides a broad framework of cooperation for the implementation of grid interconnections for the purpose of carrying out trade in electricity. Its objective is to promote rational and optimal power transmission in the BIMSTEC region.
The MoU for the establishment of the BIMSTEC grid interconnection facilitates:
- Optimization of energy resources in the BIMSTEC region for mutual benefits on non-discriminatory basis subject to laws, rules and regulations of the respective Parties;
- Promotion of efficient, economic, and secure operation of power system by developing regional electricity networks;
- Necessity of optimization of capital investment for additional capacity generation across the region; and
- Power exchange through cross-border interconnections.
- Timeline In 2005, during the first BIMSTEC Energy Ministers’ Conference held in New Delhi, a Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation in BIMSTEC was formulated.
- As a part of the plan, under the BIMSTEC Trans-Power Exchange and Development Project, a task force under the leadership of Thailand was formed comprising the representatives of member countries to come up with a report on draft MoU for grid interconnections.
- After a total of five meetings, the draft MoU for the establishment of the BIMSTEC grid interconnection was finalised on March 16, 2015.
- The leaders reached a consensus to expedite the signing of the MoU on BIMSTEC grid interconnection during the BIMSTEC Leaders’ Retreat, 2016 held in Goa.
- In the fourth meeting of BIMSTEC held in January 2017, the MoU was discussed and finalised.
- The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a sub-regional group of seven countries in South Asia and South East Asia lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal viz. Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
- It was established on 6th June 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.
- It is headquartered at Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Science & Technology
Global interest in PSLV soars
Since ISRO launched a record 104 satellites in a single flight in February, the Indian PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) space vehicle has received more than double its normal share of inquiries from prospective customers ever.
- ISRO is also ramping up availability of the PSLVs.
- The PSLV, with a near impeccable 37 successes in 39 flights is a clear leader in the category of rockets that lift small satellites to low Earth orbits or LEOs.
The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is an expendable launch system developed and operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
- It was developed to allow India to launch its Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites into Sun-synchronous orbits, a service that was, until the advent of the PSLV, commercially available only from Russia.
- PSLV can also launch small size satellites into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).
- The PSLV has four stages using solid and liquid propulsion systems alternately.
- The first stage, one of the largest solid rocket motors in the world, carries 138 tonnes of hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene urethane-bound (HTPB) propellant.
- ISRO has envisaged a number of variants of PSLV to cater to different mission requirements.
- There are currently three operational versions of the PSLV —
- The standard (PSLV),
- The core-alone (PSLV-CA) without the six strap-on booster motors, and
- The (PSLV-XL) version, which carries more solid fuel in its strap-on motors than the standard version.
- In 2015 India successfully launched 17 foreign satellites belonging to Canada, Indonesia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.
- Some notable payloads launched by PSLV include India’s first lunar probe Chandrayaan-1, India’s first interplanetary mission, Mangalyaan (Mars orbiter) and India’s first space observatory, Astrosat.
- On 15 February 2017, India successfully launched a payload of 104 foreign satellites in polar orbit around the Earth using PSLV tripling the previous record held by Russia for most number of satellites sent to space in a single launch.
Key Facts for Prelims
Operation Durga to ensure women Safety
- Similar to that of Uttar Pradesh’s ‘anti-romeo squad’, the Haryana government has launched ‘Operation Durga’ to ensure women safety in the state.
- Under this operation, teams formed by the Chief Minister’s Flying Squad visited public places such as schools, colleges, bus stands and railway stations and caught persons indulging in crime activities against women like eve-teasing, stalking, harassment and other such activities.
Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy (IIPE) at Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
- The Union Cabinet has given its approval for setting up of Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy (IIPE) at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.
- The institute will be set up as “an Institute of National Importance” through an Act of Parliament.
- The objective is to meet the quantitative and qualitative gap in the supply of skilled manpower for the petroleum sector and to promote research activities needed for the growth of the sector.
- The Institute will have the governance structure as well as legal mandate to grant degrees in a manner similar to that enjoyed by IITs.
- A separate Act will also impart the required status to the Institute to become a “Centre of Excellence” in petroleum and energy studies.
- The Cabinet has also approved Rs 655.46 crore as capital expenditure to set up IIPE and contribution of Rs 200 crore towards its Endowment Fund.
- It is a Thai New Year.
- It takes place every year on April 13.
- The word Songkran comes from a Sanskrit word and literally translates as “astrological passage”.
- The celebration marks the end of a 12-month cycle and the beginning of a new solar year, as the sun moves into Aries in April.
Central Processing Centre (CPC) gets new Pin Code
- The Department of Post has allotted a unique pin code for the Income Tax Department’s Central Processing Centre (CPC) based in Bengaluru so as to ensure that the letters and mails sent by taxpayers to the CPC are not lost or reach the centre late.
- The new pin code given to CPC is 560500. Earlier, the CPC was using the pin code 560100 which was marked for the entire city area of Bengaluru.
- The CPC is the central database centre of the Income Tax department based in Bengaluru. It receives both e-filed and postal Income Tax Returns (ITRs), which it processes for issuance of refunds. It also deals with other tax related documents of a taxpayer.
- Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act or FATCA requires that the bank accounts which were opened between July 1, 2014 and August 31, 2015 should be self-certified on self-certify forms by April 30, non-compliance will lead to account blocking.
- This is as per the Inter-Governmental Agreement IGA with US for implementation of FATCA which was came into force on August 31, 2015.