Polity & Governance
- Pharma promotions tax exempt: Income Tax Appellate Tribunal
- Cabinet approves the Trafficking of Persons Bill, 2018
Government Schemes & Policies
- Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme to continue till 2020
Issues related to Health & Education
- 28th February: Rare Disease Day
- First Mega Food Park in Maharashtra at Satara inaugurated
- Cabinet approves Action Plan for Champion Sectors in Services
- NAFED credit limit doubled for procuring pulses, oilseeds
Bilateral & International Relations
- “Lamitye” 2018
Defence & Security Issues
- India successfully test-fires ATGM Nag in desert conditions
Key Facts for Prelims
- National Sizing Survey
- Dr Harsh Vardhan App
- 4 institutes to help Improve India’s ‘Doing Business’ Ranking
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Polity & Governance
Pharma promotions tax exempt: Income Tax Appellate Tribunal
A recent decision of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal’s Pune bench allowing pharmaceutical companies to account for their spending on doctors as a deductible expenditure has sparked off a fresh debate on ethics.
What’s the issue?
- Since the companies are out of the purview of the Medical Council of India (MCI), money spent on promotions, which in some cases could be gifts, travel, hospitality and so on for doctors, besides medical conferences and samples, can be claimed as deductible expenditure. Doctors accepting such promotions may be violating the code of ethics of the MCI.
About Income Tax Appellate Tribunal:
- ITAT is a quasi-judicial institution set up in January, 1941 and specializes in dealing with appeals under the Direct Taxes Acts.
- It was set up by virtue of section 5A of the Income Tax Act, 1922.
- The orders passed by the ITAT are final, an appeal lies to the High Court only if a substantial question of law arises for determination.
- It functions under the Department of Legal Affairs in the Ministry of Law and Justice.
- ITAT draws inspiration from its motto ‘Nishpaksh Sulabh Satvar Nyay’, which means impartial, easy and speedy justice.
Cabinet approves the Trafficking of Persons Bill, 2018
The Union Cabinet has approved the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 for introduction in the Parliament.
Highlights of Bill:
Aggravated forms of trafficking
- It takes into consideration aggravated forms of trafficking. It includes trafficking for purpose of forced labour, begging, trafficking of a woman or child for the purpose of marriage or under the pretext of marriage or after marriage, trafficking by administering chemical substance or hormones on a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity etc.
- It comprehensively addresses transnational nature of the crime.
- It prescribes punishment for promoting and facilitating trafficking of person. It includes producing, printing, issuing or distributing unissued, tampered or fake certificates, registration or stickers as proof of compliance with Government requirements, or commits fraud for procuring or facilitating acquisition of clearances and necessary documents from Government agencies.
- The punishment prescribed under it ranges from rigorous minimum 10 years to life and fine not less than Rs. 1 lakh. In order to break the organized nexus, both at national and international level, it mandates for attachment & forfeiture of property and also proceeds for crime.
Confidentiality of victims and witnesses
- It deals with confidentiality of victims and witnesses and complainants by not disclosing their identity. It will be maintained by recording their statement through video conferencing (it will help trans-border and inter-State crimes).
Trial and repatriation
- It has provision for time bound trial and repatriation of the victims. It will be within a period of 1 year from taking into cognizance.
- It provides immediate protection of rescued victims and their rehabilitation. T
- he victims will be entitled to interim relief immediately within 30 days to address their physical, mental trauma etc. and further appropriate relief within 60 days from the date of filing of charge sheet.
- It creates Rehabilitation Fund for the first time.
- It will be used for physical, psychological and social well-being of victim including education, skill development, health care and psychological support, legal aid, safe accommodation etc.
- It mandates designation of courts in each district for the speedy trial of the cases.
- It creates dedicated institutional mechanisms at District, State and Central level. They will be responsible for prevention, protection, investigation and rehabilitation work related to trafficking.
- The tasks of Anti-Trafficking Bureau at the national level will be performed by National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Anti- trafficking bureau:
- The bill proposes the establishment of a national anti-trafficking bureau, which shall be entrusted with the gamut of issues aimed at controlling and tackling the menace under various forms.
- Functions include coordination, monitoring and surveillance of illegal movement of persons and prevention.
- The bureau will also be entrusted with increasing cooperation with authorities in foreign countries for boosting operational and long-term intelligence for investigation of trafficking cases and driving in mutual legal assistance.
Significance of the bill:
- Human Trafficking is third largest organized crime violating basic human rights. At present there is no specific law to deal with this crime. The bill addresses the issue of human trafficking from point of view of prevention, rescue and rehabilitation.
- The Bill addresses one of most pervasive yet invisible crimes affecting most vulnerable persons especially women and children.
- It will make India leader among South Asian countries to combat trafficking, as UNODC and SAARC nations are looking forward to India to take lead by enacting this law.
- As per data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), human trafficking numbers rose by almost 20% in 2016 against the previous year.
- NCRB said there were 8,132 human trafficking cases last year against 6,877 in 2015, with the highest number of cases reported in West Bengal (44% of cases), followed by Rajasthan (17%). Of the 15,379 victims who were caught in trafficking, 10,150 were female and 5,229 males.
- Currently, there is no single law dealing with human trafficking and the crime is covered under different acts administered by at least half-a-dozen ministries, including WCD, home, labour, health, Indian overseas affairs and external affairs. More often than not, this results in lax enforcement.
Government Schemes & Policies
Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme to continue till 2020
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved continuation of Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) beyond 12th Plan for 3 years from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
- The scheme has been extended with total outlay of Rs. 5,500 crore to create sustainable estimated employment opportunities for 15 lakh persons in three financial years.
About Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP):
The PMEGP is an effective scheme aimed at reducing unemployment and generating sustainable employment opportunities in rural and urban India.
- This is credit linked Scheme of Govt. of India by merging erstwhile REGP and PMRY scheme.
- The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) is the nodal implementation agency for the PMEGP at the national level. At the state/district level, state offices of KVIC, Khadi and Village Industries Boards (KVIBs) and District Industry Centres (DIC) are the implementing agencies.
- The scheme’s targets are fixed taking into account the extent of backwardness of state; extent of unemployment; extent of fulfilment of previous year targets; population of state/union territory; and availability of traditional skills and raw material.
Key features of the scheme:
- No income ceiling for setting up of projects.
- Assistance under the Scheme is available only to new units to be established.
- Existing units or units already availed any Govt. Subsidy either under State/Central Govt. Schemes are not eligible.
- Any industry including Coir Based projects excluding those mentioned in the negative list.
- Per capita investment should not exceed Rs. 1.00 lakhs in plain areas and Rs. 1.50 lakhs in Hilly areas.
- Maximum project cost of Rs. 25.00 lakhs in manufacturing sector and Rs. 10.00 lakhs in Service Sector.
Issues related to Health & Education
28th February: Rare Disease Day
The 2018 Rare Disease Day was observed on 28 February 2018.
- It was coordinated by European Organisation for Rare Diseases (EURORDIS).
- The theme for this year is ‘Research. Research is key. It brings hope to the millions of people living with a rare disease across the world and their families.
What is Rare Disease Day?
The International Rare Disease Day (IRDD) is held every year on the last day of February.
- The main objective of Rare Disease Day is to raise awareness amongst the general public and decision-makers about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives.
- The campaign targets primarily the general public and also seeks to raise awareness amongst policy makers, public authorities, industry representatives, researchers, health professionals and anyone who has a genuine interest in rare diseases.
- The 2017 IRDD is held on February 28 with theme “Research” and slogan ‘With research, possibilities are limitless’ to recognize the crucial role that patients play in research.
What is a rare disease?
- A rare disease, also referred to as an orphan disease, is any disease that affects a small percentage of the population.
- Most rare diseases are genetic, and are present throughout a person’s entire life, even if symptoms do not immediately appear. In Europe a disease or disorder is defined as rare when it affects less than 1 in 2000 citizens.
- Rare diseases are characterised by a wide diversity of symptoms and signs that vary not only from disease to disease but also from patient to patient suffering from the same disease. Relatively common symptoms can hide underlying rare diseases, leading to misdiagnosis.
Need for awareness about rare diseases:
- Building awareness of rare diseases is so important because 1 in 20 people will live with a rare disease at some point in their life.
- Despite this, there is no cure for the majority of rare diseases and many go undiagnosed.
- Rare Disease Day improves knowledge amongst the general public of rare diseases while encouraging researchers and decision makers to address the needs of those living with rare diseases.
First Mega Food Park in Maharashtra at Satara inaugurated
The first Mega Food Park in the state of Maharashtra, M/s Satara Mega Food Park Pvt. Ltd. at Village Degaon, District Satarawas inaugurated.
- This is the 12th Mega Food Park operationalized in the country so far and the 10th operationalized during the tenure of present government.
- India’s first mega food park ‘Srini Mega Food Park’, sprawling 147-acre space, was opened in Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh in 2012.
About Mega Food Parks Scheme:
The Mega Food Parks Scheme aims to provide a mechanism to bring together farmers, processors and retailers and link agriculture production to the market so as to ensure maximization of value addition, minimization of wastages and improving farmers’ income.
- The primary objective of the Scheme is to provide modern infrastructure facilities for the food processing along the value chain from the farm to the market with a cluster based approach based on a hub and spokes model.
Implementation of the scheme:
- The Mega Food Park project is implemented by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which is a Body Corporate registered under the Companies Act. However, State Government, State Government entities and Cooperatives are not required to form a separate SPV for implementation of Mega Food Park project.
- Under the Scheme, Government of India provides financial assistance upto Rs. 50.00 Crore per Mega Food Park project.
- The Scheme includes creation of infrastructure for primary processing and storage near the farm in the form of Primary Processing Centres (PPCs) and Collection Centres (CCs) and common facilities and enabling infrastructure like roads, electricity, water, ETP facilities etc. at Central Processing Centre (CPC). These PPCs and CCs act as aggregation and storage points to feed raw material to the food processing units located in the CPC.
- The CCs work as a point of aggregation of the produce from individual farmers, farmer groups and Self Help Groups (SHGs).
- They feed the raw materials to PCCs.
- They are mostly managed by local entrepreneurs. They serve as farm level aggregation points for adjoining areas.
Primary Collection Centres:
- The PCCs work as primary handling centres which use the raw materials to be processed further in the CPC.
- A PCC serves a number of CCs in the proximity.
- They provide primary processing facilities such as weighing, sorting, grading , washing, crating and storage of the produce.
Central Processing Centre:
- CPC is an industrial park in a large area and houses a number of processing units owned by different business houses.
- The park shall provide common facilities such as electricity, water and effluent treatment besides specialised services such as warehousing, cold storage, logistics and backward integration through the network of primary processing centres and collection centres.
Advantages of Mega Food Parks:
The Mega Food Parks are expected to provide high quality food processing infrastructure near the farms. These included logistics, transportation, and central processing centres so as to ensure –
- Direct as well as indirect employment generation in rural areas
- Exposing farmers to a more systematic, market driven and profitable farming activities
- Generation of additional income for the farmers
- Reduction in post harvest losses
- Maintenance of value chain from the farm to the market.
Challenges in the implementation of the scheme:
Despite its huge potential, MFPS has failed to gain momentum due to several reasons.
- Promoters have faced difficulties in selling the new concept to banks and, as a result, have failed to secure loans to build the parks.
- Acquiring the 50 acres of land, which is mandatory under MFPS, has been another challenge that most developers have failed to address.
- Convincing small enterprises to set up shop at these facilities has not been easy.
- The overall economic slowdown, globally, and in India, did not help either.
Cabinet approves Action Plan for Champion Sectors in Services
Union Cabinet has approved the proposal of Ministry of Commerce and Industry to give focused attention to 12 identified Champion Services Sectors (CSS) for promoting their development and realizing their potential.
12 identified Champion service sectors include:
- Information Technology & Information Technology enabled Services (IT & ITeS),
- Medical Value Travel,
- Transport and Logistics Services,
- Tourism and Hospitality Services,
- Accounting and Finance Services,
- Audio Visual Services,
- Communication Services,
- Legal Services,
- Construction and Related Engineering Services,
- Environmental Services,
- Financial Services and
- Education Services.
- Cabinet also has directed Ministries/Departments concerned with these sectors to utilize available draft sectoral plans to finalize and implement Action Plans for identified CSS.
- The respective Ministries/Departments will finalize Action Plans and implementation timelines along with monitoring mechanism to monitor implementation under overall guidance of Committee of Secretaries (CoS) under Cabinet Secretary.
- Government will set up dedicated fund of Rs. 5000 crores to support initiatives for sectoral Action Plans of the Champion Sectors.
- These Action Plans will develop vision for each of these identified Champion Sectors by year 2022 and enumerate steps that need to be taken to achieve that vision.
- This initiative will enhance competitiveness of country’s service sectors through implementation of focused and monitored Action Plans.
- It will promote GDP growth, create more jobs and promote exports to global markets.
- The Group of Secretaries in their recommendations to Prime Minister, had identified 10 Champion Sectors, including three (3) services sectors related sectors and seven (7) manufacturing, for promoting their development and achieving their potential.
- It was subsequently decided that Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), the nodal department for ‘Make in India’ will spearhead initiative for Champion Sectors in manufacturing and Department of Commerce (DoC) will coordinate proposed initiative for Champion Sectors in Services.
Potential of Services sector in India:
- The share of India’s services sector in global services exports was 3.3% in 2015 compared to 3.1% in 2014. Based on this initiative, a goal of 4.2 % has been envisaged for 2022. Its share in Gross Value Added (GVA) was about 53% in 2015-16 (61 % including construction services).
- Services sector in India has immense employment potential. The proposal will enhance the competitiveness of India’s service sectors through the implementation of focused and monitored Action Plans, thereby creating more jobs in India, contributing to a higher GDP and exports of services to global markets.
- As the Services sector contributes significantly to India’s GDP, exports and job creation, increased productivity and competitiveness of the Champion Services Sectors will further boost exports of various services from India.
- Embedded services are substantial part of ‘Goods’ as well. Thus, competitive services sector will add to the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector as well.
NAFED credit limit doubled for procuring pulses, oilseeds
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has doubled the credit limit of agri cooperative National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) to undertake procurement of pulses and oilseeds amid market rates of tur and chana crops ruling more than 20% below their MSP.
National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd.(NAFED) was established on the auspicious day of Gandhi Jayanti on 2nd October 1958.
- NAFED is registered under the Multi State Co-operative Societies Act.
- NAFED was setup with the object to promote Co-operative marketing of Agricultural Produce to benefit the farmers.
- Agricultural farmers are the main members of NAFED, who have the authority to say in the form of members of the General Body in the working of NAFED.
- It functions under Ministry of Agriculture.
- NAFED is now one of the largest procurement as well as marketing agencies for agricultural products in India.
- In 2008, it had established, National Spot Exchange, a Commodities exchange as a joint venture of Financial Technologies (India) Ltd. (FTIL).
Bilateral & International Relations
The eighth edition Lamitye 2018, bilateral military exercise between Indian Army and Seychelles People’s Defence Force was held at Mahe Island in Seychelles archipelago.
About the Lamitye exercise:
- India and Seychelles have been conducting this joint exercise since 2001.
- Exercise ‘Lamitye’, which means friendship in Creole (local dialect), is conducted biennially with the aim of enhancing military cooperation and interoperability between the two countries.
Location of Seychelles:
- Seychelles is an archipelago and sovereign state in the Indian Ocean.
- Seychelles is the 115-island country.
- Its capital is Victoria.
- It lies east of mainland East Africa. Other nearby island countries and territories include Comoros, Mayotte (region of France), Madagascar, Réunion (region of France) and Mauritius to the south.
Defence & Security Issues
India successfully test-fires ATGM Nag in desert conditions
Indigenously developed Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM) Nag was successfully test-fired.
- Nag is a third-generation, fire-and-forget, anti-tank guided missile.
- It is developed by India’s state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to support both mechanised infantry and airborne forces of the Indian Army.
- The missile incorporates an advanced passive homing guidance system and possesses high single-shot kill probability.
- It is designed to destroy modern main battle tanks and other heavily armoured targets.
- Nag can be launched from land and air-based platforms.
- The land version is currently available for integration on the Nag missile carrier (NAMICA), which is derived from a BMP-2 tracked infantry combat vehicle.
- The helicopter launched version known of NAG missile is known as NAG (HELINA) can be fired from Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH) and HAL Rudra attack helicopter.
- The Nag missile was indigenously developed under the Indian Ministry of Defence’s integrated guided missile development programme (IGMDP), which also involved the development of four other missiles that are Agni, Akash, Trishul and Prithvi.
Key Facts for Prelims
National Sizing Survey
Under the aegis of the Union Ministry of textiles, the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), New Delhi, is undertaking a National Sizing Survey of India to develop an India size chart for ready-to-wear clothes based on the body measurements and specifications of Indian population.
About the survey:
- It is a scientific exercise where anthropometric data will be collected from a sample population in the age group 15 to 65 years to create a database of measurements that will result in a standardized size chart which is representative of the Indian population and can be adopted by the apparel industry.
- The surveys entail measuring statistically relevant sample size pan country using human safe technology of 3D whole body scanner, a non-contact method of taking body measurements and analyzing the collected data to create size charts.
Need for survey:
- A large percentage of shoppers face difficulty in finding clothes that fit perfectly according to their body measurements. The reason is differences in anthropometric built of people in different geographical regions across the country.
- Indian apparel industry uses size charts which are tweaked versions of size charts of other countries so returns of the garments are in the range of 20 to 40 percent and is increasing with the growth of e-commerce and the main reason for returns are poor garment fit
- Till date 14 countries have successfully completed national sizing surveys including USA, Canada, Mexico, UK, France, Spain, Germany, Korea, China and Australia.
Dr Harsh Vardhan App
- It is a recently launched app named after the Union Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan.
- The App is intended, among other things, to promote the theme of ‘green good deeds’ and engage with the public at large.
“Green Good Deeds” campaign:
- The campaign has been launched by the Environment Ministry to sensitise the people and students, in particular, about climate change and global warming.
- The objective of the campaign is to restore and return the clean and green environment to the next generation.
4 institutes to help Improve India’s ‘Doing Business’ Ranking
- The Commerce and Industry Ministry has appointed four institutes to interact with stakeholders and suggest measures to push India’s ranking in ease of doing business index.
The four institutes include:
- The National Institute of Construction Management and Research (NICMAR),
- The Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT),
- The Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) and
- The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI)
Objective behind this appointment:
- As per the latest World bank’s Doing Business ranking, India’s position improved by 30 places to 100th. The government wants India to figure within top 50 in the coming years.