Polity & Governance
- MEITY to promote digital transactions in place of NITI Aayog
- Nand Kumar Sai assumes charge as Chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
- India signs Financing Agreement with World Bank for Tejaswini
- Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) signs ten (10) more Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs)
Environment & Ecology
- Madras HC orders TN govt to enact law on removal of seemai karuvelam trees
- Even hill stations will be hotter this year, warns IMD
Key Facts for Prelims
- National Science Day
- Al Nagah-II 2017
Polity & Governance
MEITY to promote digital transactions in place of NITI Aayog
The Union Government has shifted the responsibility of promoting digital transactions in the country to the Union Ministry of IT and Electronics (MEITY) from NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog.
- In this regard, Government already has changed the business transaction rules to enable MEITY to promote digital transactions, including digital payments.
Rationale behind the move:
- This decision was taken in view of the core competence of MEITY to promote digital means for various transactions.
- NITI Aayog which is a think-tank is more focused on monitoring and suggesting ways to improve various government schemes rather than getting involved with implementation.
- MEITY is responsible for promotion of e-governance schemes for empowering citizens as well as promoting inclusive and also sustainable growth of electronics and IT sector and IT-enabled services industries.
Significance of the move:
- Transfer of the business to Ministry will help Government to effectively promote digital transactions to achieve its target of reducing cash to GDP ratio to around 8%, which is at present hovering over 13% in the country.
- Earlier, the Central Government had set up a committee under the chairmanship of NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant to push adoption of e-transactions amid the cash crunch faced by citizens due demonetisation.
- NITI Aayog also implemented two programmes Lucky Grahak Yojana and Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana to promote e-payments.
Nand Kumar Sai assumes charge as Chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
Nand Kumar Sai, senior tribal leader from Chhattisgarh and ex-parliamentarian, took charge as Chairperson of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) in Delhi.
- He will have tenure of three years and has been given the rank of Union Cabinet Minister.
About National Commission for Scheduled Castes:
- It is a constitutional body established with a view to provide safeguards against the exploitation of Scheduled Castes.
- To promote and protect their social, educational, economic and cultural interests, special provisions were made in the Constitution.
Composition of the commission:
- The Commission consists of a chairperson, a vice-chairperson and three other members.
- They are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
- Their conditions of service and tenure of office are also determined by the president. The commission presents an annual report to the president.
Functions of the commission:
- To investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Castes under this Constitution or under any other law for the time being in force or under any order of the Government and to evaluate the working of such safeguards;
- To inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Scheduled Castes;
- To participate and advise on the planning process of socio-economic development of the Scheduled Castes and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State;
- To present to the President, annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards;
- To make in such reports recommendations as to the measures that should be taken by the Union or any State for the effective implementation of those safeguards and other measures for the protection, welfare and socio-economic development of the Scheduled Castes; and
- To discharge such other functions in relation to the protection, welfare and development and advancement of the Scheduled Castes as the President may, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, by rule specify.
India signs Financing Agreement with World Bank for Tejaswini
A Financing Agreement for IDA credit of US$ 63 million (equivalent) for the “Tejaswini” Socio-Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women Project” was recently signed between India and the World Bank.
- The development objective of Tejaswini, for Socioeconomic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) Project in India is to improve completion of market-driven skills training and secondary education for adolescent girls and young women in select districts of Jharkhand.
- The project seeks to empower the adolescent girls with basic life skills and thereafter provide further opportunities to acquire market driven skill training or completion of secondary education, depending on the inclination of the beneficiary.
- The project has three main components,
- Expanding social, educational and economic opportunities
- Intensive service delivery
- State capacity-building and implementation support.
- The project will be delivered in 17 Districts of Jharkhand.
- About 680,000 adolescent girls and young women in the project Districts are expected to benefit from the program.
Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) signs ten (10) more Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs)
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has entered into 10 more Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs) pertaining to various sectors of economy like Telecom, Banking & Finance, Pharmaceutical, Steel, Retail and IT etc.
- It includes 7 Unilateral APAs, 2 Bilateral APAs with the United Kingdom and Japan.
- Seven of these Agreements have Rollback provisions in them.
- With this, the total number of APAs entered into by the CBDT has reached 140 (130 Unilateral APAs and 10 Bilateral APAs).
- In current FY 2016-17, 76 APAs (61 Unilateral and 7 Bilateral APAs) were signed.
- The CBDT expects more APAs to be concluded and signed before the end of the current fiscal.
About the APA scheme:
The APA scheme was introduced in the Income-tax Act in 2012 and the “Rollback” provisions were introduced in 2014.
- The scheme endeavours to provide certainty to taxpayers in the domain of transfer pricing by specifying the methods of pricing and setting the prices of international transactions in advance.
- Since its inception, the APA scheme has attracted tremendous interest and that has resulted in more than 700 applications (both unilateral and bilateral) having been filed in just four years.
Significance of the APA scheme:
- The progress of the APA Scheme strengthens the Government’s mission of fostering a non-adversarial tax regime.
What is the meaning of the APA?
An Advance Pricing Agreement (APA) is a contract, usually for multiple years, between a taxpayer and at least one tax authority (CBDT) specifying the pricing method that the taxpayer will apply to its related-company transactions.
- These programmes are designed to help taxpayers voluntarily resolve actual or potential transfer pricing disputes in a proactive, cooperative manner, as an alternative to the traditional examination process.
Environment & Ecology
Madras HC orders TN govt to enact law on removal of seemai karuvelam trees
The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has ordered Tamil Nadu government to enact a law with prohibitory and penal clauses to eradicate Seemai Karuvelam (prosopis juliflora) trees within two months.
What is the issue?
- The HC’s order came after it heard a batch of petitions including Public Interest Litigations (PILs) seeking directions to remove the seemai karuvelam trees claiming that they are harmful to the environment and agriculture.
- Seemai Karuvelam is invasive species of tree harmful to the environment as it sucks lot of water ultimately affect the environment and agricultural activities.
- Earlier in December 2016, the bench of high court had directed state government to completely uproot this tree species from public as well as private lands in 13 districts under its territorial jurisdiction by mid February 2017.
- State Government should enact a law with prohibitory and penal clauses to eradicate hazardous species Seemai Karuvelam (prosopis juliflora) trees within two months from all 32 districts of the State.
- The State Government must also release perennial funds to the district collectors in the state for removing of these tree species completely from public as well as private lands.
About Seemai Karuvelam tree:
- Seemai Karuvelam tree species are native to West Africa. It was brought to Tamil Nadu in 1960s as fuelwood.
- It disrupts the local ecosystem of its habitation by soaking in all the ground water near it.
- It is an invasive species that has infiltrated the water bodies and dry lands of Tamil Nadu.
- According to a report, Karuvelam tree absorbs more than four litres of water to obtain one kilogram of biomass.
- It cannot even shelter birds as it produces less oxygen and more carbon dioxide. If it does not have sufficient water it begins absorbing groundwater. And if there is no groundwater, it starts absorbing humidity from the surroundings.
- It can also turn the groundwater poisonous.
Even hill stations will be hotter this year, warns IMD
India Meteorological Department has forecast “above normal” temperatures across most of the country.
Highlights of the forecast:
- The IMD weather model, used to prepare the forecast, shows a 47% probability of summer temperatures being above normal.
- Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir are expected to be particularly hot with predicted temperatures, on average, likely to be well above 1 degree C above their normal summer temperatures.
- Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana are other States in the “core heat zone” that are likely to see significantly warmer temperatures.
- The summer forecast is in line with a generally warm trend over previous months. 2016 was the warmest year in a century, according to the IMD, with the country 0.91 C warmer than the 1961-1990 average.
- The weather agency blames global warming for this. Studies indicate increasing trends in the frequency and duration of heat waves over the country. This can be attributed to increasing trends in the greenhouse gases and the warming of the sea surface temperatures over the equatorial Indian and Pacific oceans.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD), also referred to as the Met Department, is an agency of the Ministry of Earth Sciences of the Government of India.
- It is the principal agency responsible for meteorological observations, weather forecasting and seismology.
- IMD is headquartered in New Delhi and operates hundreds of observation stations across India and Antarctica.
- IMD is also one of the six Regional Specialised Meteorological Centres of the World Meteorological Organization.
- It has the responsibility for forecasting, naming and distribution of warnings for tropical cyclones in the Northern Indian Ocean region, including the Malacca Straits, the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.
Key Facts for Prelims
National Science Day
- The National Science Day (NSD) is celebrated every year on February 28 in India.
- The 2017 theme is “Science and Technology for Specially Abled Persons”.
- This day marks the epoch-making discovery of Raman Effect by Indian physicist Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (CV Raman) on February 28, 1928. This discovery was awarded with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930.
- This day is celebrated as science festival in the entire nation by organising science exhibitions, seminars, workshops, symposiums and many other activities.
- The National Science Day was instituted by the Union Government in 1986 based on the demand of National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC) forwarded.
- The first National Science Day was celebrated on 28 February 1987.
What is Raman Effect?
Some part of light beam after passing through a transparent medium gets scattered. This phenomenon of scattering of light is termed as Raman Scattering and the cause of scattering is called the Raman Effect. The wavelength of these scattered rays is different from that of the incident rays of light.
Al Nagah-II 2017
- It is a second bilateral exercise of armies of India and Oman, scheduled to be conducted in March 2017 with a focus on counter-terrorism.
- The aim of the exercise is to build and promote bilateral Army-to-Army relations and enhance interoperability while exchanging skills and experiences between the Indian Army and the Royal Army of Oman.
- The navies of the two countries have been holding the bilateral maritime exercises called ‘Naseem Al Bahr’ since 1993.