Polity & Governance
- Law Min okays draft bill on fugitive economic offenders
Government Schemes & Policies
- Shaheed Gram Vikas Yojana launched
- Norms eased for fund raising by REITs, InvITs
Defence & Security Issues
- BSF, ITBP chiefs stress on need for technology in border management
- Sashastra Seema Bal to get intelligence wing
Key Facts for Prelims
- Google Tez
- Welfare and Rehabilitation Board (WARB) Mobile App
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Polity & Governance
Law Min okays draft bill on fugitive economic offenders
The Union Law ministry has approved Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2017 to empower government to confiscate property of economic offenders and defaulters who flee India.
- The bill was drafted in pursuance of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s 2017-18 Budget speech promising legislative changes or even new law to confiscate the assets of such fugitives.
- The Finance Ministry had prepared the draft Cabinet note on the bill and sought the law ministry’s opinion on it.
Who is a fugitive economic offender?
- The bill defines fugitive economic offender as a person who has an arrest warrant issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who leaves or has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.
Highlights of the Bill:
- The Bill seeks to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by fleeing the country.
- The proposed law will be applicable in cases where the value of offences is over Rs 100 crore.
- The bill proposes to allow the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the premier technical snoop wing under the finance ministry, to file an application for the declaration of fugitive economic offender for confiscation of their assets.
- The courts under PMLA would be entrusted with the responsibility to try the case.
- Also, the bill has provision for appointment of an administrator to dispose off the property to pay off the creditors. Besides, the provisions of the proposed law will override provisions of other existing laws.
- Also, the burden of proof for establishing that an individual is a fugitive economic offender will be on the authorities.
Law Ministry wants Saving Clause to be incorporated in the Bill before it is introduced in Parliament.
- Saving clause provides for certain exception(s) in a statute.
- It enables repealed law to be in force with respect to some existing rights as provisions of the proposed bill has bearing on the provisions of existing laws.
Existing laws related to fugitive economic offenders:
The existing laws under which such fugitive economic offenders are tried include:
- Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act (RDDBFI),
- Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002, (SARFESI) and
- Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
Need for a law:
- There have been several instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts, anticipating the commencement, or during the pendency, of criminal proceedings.
- The absence of such offenders from Indian courts has several deleterious consequences— first, it hampers investigation in criminal cases; second, it wastes precious time of courts of law; third, it undermines the rule of law in India.
Government Schemes & Policies
Shaheed Gram Vikas Yojana launched
The Jharkhand state government launched the ‘Shaheed Gram Vikas Yojana’ to develop villages of freedom fighters.
- It was launched from Ulihatu Village, birth place of freedom fighter Birsa Munda.
- These villages had remained inaccessible for long time after Independence because of Left-wing extremism.
Key features of the scheme:
- Under the scheme, villages of many tribal freedom fighters will be developed and their habitants will be provided with basic amenities.
- The concerned villages have remained inaccessible for a long time after Independence because of Left-wing extremism.
- The current scheme will now provide the inhabitants of the Ulihatu village with 136 pucca houses.
- The pucca houses will include two rooms, a verandah, bathroom and a toilet each.
Who is Birsa Munda?
- Birsa Munda was a freedom fighter, religious leader, and folk hero who belonged to the Munda tribe from Chhotanagpur area
- He is known for leading Munda rebellion towards end of 19th century against British Raj.
- Munda rebellion began in the year 1895 to revolt against British administration interference in tribal politics and their religious matters
- Birsa Munda was a master at Guerilla Warfare techniques. He launched various surprise attacks in which many police officials were killed
- The Britishers were able to arrest Birsa Munda on Mar 3, 1900. He was sentenced to death but he died beforehand inside the jail due to cholera.
Norms eased for fund raising by REITs, InvITs
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has relaxed the guidelines for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs) in order to broaden the scope of fund raising by such instruments.
- It has been decided to allow REITs and InvITs to raise capital by issuing debt securities.
- REITs have also been allowed to lend to an underlying holding company or a special purpose vehicle (SPV).
What are REITs?
- REITs are similar to mutual funds. While mutual funds provide for an opportunity to invest in equity stocks, REITs allow one to invest in income-generating real estate assets.
How does an REIT work?
- REITs raise funds from a large number of investors and directly invest that sum in income-generating real estate properties (which could be offices, residential apartments, shopping centres, hotels and warehouses).
- The trusts are listed in stock exchanges so that investors can buy units in the trust. REITs are structured as trusts. Thus, the assets of an REIT are held by an independent trustee on behalf of unit holders.
An REIT’s investment objective:
- The investment objective of REITs is to provide unit holders with dividends, usually generated from rental income and capital gains from the profitable sale of real estate assets.
- Typically, the trust distributes 90 per cent of its income among its investors by issuing dividends.
REITs in India?
REITs, as a concept, have been on the horizon for a while now.
- India’s regulations in 2014 for the sector have not been able to attract investor interest.
- REITs obtained exemption from dividend distribution tax in the Budget, a step towards making them attractive for the investors.
The current SEBI guidelines for REITs permit investments only in rent-yielding assets.
Why invest in REITs?
- For investors who are averse to investing in physical purchase of property due to the risks involved, REIT is an alternative.
- Investors purchase units of REITs which are traded on the stock exchange, as against physical purchase of property. Therefore, investors can buy and sell units of REIT on the stock exchange as and when required, making investment easier to liquidate compared to physical property transaction.
Potential investment risks:
- REITs units are listed on, and are subject to the vagaries of the stock exchanges, resulting in negative or lower returns than expected.
- As in mutual funds, retail investors in REITs have no control over investments and exits being made by the trust.
What is InvITs?
An Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvITs) is like a mutual fund, which enables direct investment of small amounts of money from possible individual/institutional investors in infrastructure to earn a small portion of the income as return.
- SEBI notified the SEBI (Infrastructure Investment Trusts) Regulations, 2014 on September 26, 2014, providing for registration and regulation of InvITs in India.
- The objective of InvITs is to facilitate investment in the infrastructure sector.
- InvITS are like mutual funds in structure. InvITs can be established as a trust and registered with SEBI. An InvIT consists of four elements:
- Investment Manager and
- Project Manager.
- InvITs work like mutual funds or real estate investment trusts (REITs) in features.
- InvITs can be treated as the modified version of REITs designed to suit the specific circumstances of the infrastructure sector.
Defence & Security Issues
BSF, ITBP chiefs stress on need for technology in border management
Highlighting the role of technology for better border management, the chiefs of the Border Security Force and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have said that sealing the border with Pakistan using smart technology- aided fence will be in place by December next year.
What is CIBMS?
- At the moment, BSF is working on a Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) which will be deployed along the International Border with Pakistan.
- CIBMS is expected to counter infiltration and cross-border terror attacks.
- The system employs latest technology which would detect infiltration via land, underwater, air and tunnels.
- The concept of CIBMS is the integration of manpower, sensors and command and control to improve situational awareness and facilitate quick response to emerging situations.
Components of CIBMS
- Among major components of CIBMS is the ‘virtual fence’.
- The second component is the command and control, which will help in optimum use of resources for border management.
- Another component is power management to keep CIBMS running.
- India shares 3323 Km (including Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir sector) of its land border with Pakistan.
- This border runs along the States of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir.
- The Indo-Pakistan border has varied terrain and distinct geographical features.
- This border is characterized by attempts at infiltration by terrorists and smuggling of arms, ammunition and contraband, the Line of Control being the most active and live portion of the border.
India’s coastal security challenges:
- India’s long coastline presents a variety of security challenges including illegal landing of arms and explosives at isolated spots on the coast, infiltration/ex- filtration of anti-national elements, use of the sea and off shore islands for criminal activities, smuggling of consumer and intermediate goods through sea routes etc.
- Absence of physical barriers on the coast and presence of vital industrial and defence installations near the coast also enhance the vulnerability of the coasts to illegal cross border activities.
What needs to do?
- Smart borders on one hand should allow seamless movement of authorized people and goods, while on the other, minimise cross-border security challenges using innovation and technology enablement.
- Over the long term, smart border management will also have to incorporate systems that digitally monitor patterns of activity through and around border areas to root out organised crime and anti-national events.
- There is also a need to revisit the policies on border management to ensure that the frontier regions grow in step with the rest of the country.
Sashastra Seema Bal to get intelligence wing
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has launched the SSB’s first ever intelligence wing.
- The intelligence wing will have 650 field and staff agents to gather actionable information.
- SSB’s intelligence wing personnel will be deployed on India-Nepal and India-Bhutan borders where there are no restrictions on movement of people on either side due to visa free regime.
- SSB has been declared as the Lead Intelligence Agency (LIA) for both the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan borders.
- India shares 1,751 km-long border with Nepal and 699 km-long border with Bhutan.
- The border with Nepal touches Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim and border with Bhutan touches Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
- India has visa free regime with Nepal and Bhutan as border population on both the sides has strong regional, cultural and economic ties. Due to visa-free regime, there is trans-border movement of criminals and anti-national elements which pose major security challenge.
Significance of the intelligence wing of SSB
- The intelligence wing of SSB will help to institutionalise a well-knit intelligence network of highest capability that can play important role in comprehensive border management.
- Based on intelligence SSB can undertake essential operations to prevent criminals and smugglers from taking advantage of friendly borders with Nepal and Bhutan.
About Sashastra Seema Bal:
The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) is a paramilitary police force under the Ministry of Home affairs responsible for guarding India’s international borders with Nepal and Bhutan.
- It is one of India’s Central Armed Police Forces, which includes ITBP, BSF, CRPF and CISF.
- The Special Service Bureau (now Sashastra Seema Bal) was conceived in November 1962 and eventually created in March 1963.
- When it was created in 1963, it was called Special Services Bureau. The name was changed to Sashatra Seema Bal in 2001 after it was given charge of the Nepal border.
- It was established with the sole objective of achieving ‘total security preparedness’ in the remote border areas for performing a ‘stay-behind’ role in the event of a war.
- Presently, SSB has been deployed with its mandate to guard 1751 kilometers of Indo-Nepal and 699 kilometers of Indo-Bhutan borders.
- Besides this, the force is also deployed in Jammu and Kashmir for counter insurgency operations and anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar. It also provides internal security during elections in various states.
Primary role of the SSB:
- The primary role of the SSB is to physically guard and manage the international border thereby promoting a sense of security and pride amongst the local border population.
- SSB is the lead intelligence unit for Nepal and Bhutan borders and the coordination agency for national security activities.
- Besides this, SSB undertakes construction of schools, buildings, toilets, roads under border area developmental plan.
- It also gives regular guidance and training to unemployed youth in general studies and physical training.
- In border villages, SSB teaches the border population the best agricultural practices, horticulture, pisiculture etc.
- SSB has also taken up a unique and important task to adopt and fund the education of the girl child in poor villages along the border and teach them unarmed combat training. This is done to eliminate rampant human trafficking of women across the border.
Key Facts for Prelims
- Google launched its mobile payment service, called Tez, in India.
- The payment service allows users to transfer money via their bank accounts as well as Unified Payments Interface (UPI) ID, QR code and phone number.
- The new Google Tez app can be used to pay for movie tickets, utility bills, and make other transactions online.
- It supports several local languages including Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu and will work with 55 banks.
Welfare and Rehabilitation Board (WARB) Mobile App
- The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has launched the Welfare and Rehabilitation Board (WARB) Mobile App for CAPF personnel.
- The mobile App contains various useful features to facilitate retired CAPFs and Assam Rifles personnel to get their genuine grievances redressed, seek skill development training through National Skill Development Corporation under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, re-employment and other relevant and important information.
- This mobile App shall also help retired personnel to have better co-ordination with WARB and its field formation at states/UTs and district level.