Polity & Governance
- 35th GST Council Meeting extended of NAPA by 2 years
Issues related to Health & Education
- Five countries had zero malaria cases in 2018: WHO
- As per US, Human trafficking within borders especially challenging issue
- SEBI sets up panel to review margins on derivatives
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Bihar government puts ban on Tree Felling
Bilateral & International Relations
- Shefali Juneja appointed India’s representative to ICAO
Science & Technology
- A medicated nail enamel to help fight infection developed
- IISc team confirms breakthrough in superconductivity at room temperature
Key Facts for Prelims
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Operation Bandar
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Polity & Governance
35th GST Council Meeting extended of NAPA by 2 years
During 35th GST council meeting, various important decisions including extension of the tenure of National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAP) by 2 years were taken.
Highlights of the 35th GST Council meeting
- The council decided to have a common State Bench for the Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT) for Sikkim, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
- The tenure of National Anti-Profiteering Authority has been extended by 2 years.
- Aadhaar-based GST identification will now be sufficient for GST registration.
- The Council decided to introduce electronic invoicing system in a phase-wise manner starting from January 2020 for B2B transactions.
- The decision of giving penalty of a 10% of the profiteered amount, if not return within 30 days, to the businesses guilty of taking the benefits of tax cuts meant for consumers was also taken. Earlier, businesses had to pay a flat rate of ₹25,000 as penalty.
National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA)
- The National Anti-profiteering Authority (NAA) is the institutional mechanism under GST law to check the unfair profit-making activities by the trading community.
- It was constituted under Section 171 of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017.
- A consumer can file a complaint through standing committees which confirms prima facie evidence of profiteering or through individual state screening committee established in different state.
- NAA has the original tenure of a two-years which can be extended by the GST Council if they see a requirement for its existence in the future.
Why NAA was constituted?
- Any reduction in rate of tax on any supply of goods or services should have been passed on to the recipient by way of commensurate reduction in prices.
- However, it was noticed that when GST was introduced there has been a marked increase in inflation and the prices of the commodities in spite of the availability of the tax credit right which should have actually reduced the final prices.
- This was occurring due to supplier not passing on the benefit to the consumer and thereby indulging in illegal profiteering.
- National Anti-profiteering Authority is therefore being constituted by the central Government to examine whether input tax credits availed by any registered person or the reduction in the tax rate have actually resulted in a commensurate reduction in the price.
- To ensure that the reduction in rate of tax is passed on to the recipient by way of commensurate reduction in prices.
- To ensure that traders are not realizing unfair profit by charging high price from consumers in the name of GST.
- To examine and check such profiteering activities and recommend punitive actions including cancellation of Registration.
- In the event the National Anti-profiteering Authority confirms the necessity of applying anti-profiteering measures, it has the power to order the business concerned to reduce its prices or return the undue benefit availed along with interest to the recipient of the goods or services.
- If the undue benefit cannot be passed on to the recipient, it can be ordered to be deposited in the Consumer Welfare Fund.
- In extreme cases the National Anti-profiteering Authority can impose a penalty on the defaulting business entity and even order the cancellation of its registration under GST.
- The NAA is headed by an officer of the level of Secretary to the Government of India along with four Technical Members from the Centre and/or the States.
- The Additional Director General of Safeguards under the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBCE) is the Secretary of NAA.
What is an Anti-profiteering activity?
- The suppliers of goods and services should pass on the benefit of any reduction in the rate of GST on such supplies or the benefit of input tax credit to the recipient by way of commensurate reduction in prices.
- The wilful action of not passing of such above said benefits to the recipientamounts to profiteering.
How is the anti-profiteering mechanism under CGST act?
CGST Act, 2017 mandates a 3-tier structure for the investigation and adjudication of the complaints regarding profiteering.
- National Anti-profiteering Authority
- Directorate General of Anti-profiteering
- State-level Screening Committees and Standing Committee
Issues related to Health & Education
Five countries had zero malaria cases in 2018: WHO
World Health Organization’s (WHO) ‘E-2020 initiative: 2019’ progress report showed that China, Iran, Malaysia, Timor-Leste and El Salvador reported no indigenous cases of malaria in 2018.
Key observations of ‘E-2020 initiative: 2019’ progress report:
- Four countries from Asia: China, Iran, Malaysia and Timor-Leste and one from Central America: El Salvador reported no indigenous cases of malaria in 2018.
- Malaysia reported zero cases of malaria in 2018 due to Prompt diagnosis, surveillance in remote regions which helped it to achieve the target of eliminating malaria two years ahead of the deadline of E-2020 programme.
- In 2018, Iran reported zero indigenous malaria cases as compared to more than 1,800 in 2010.
What is E-2020 initiative?
- E-2020 is an initiative of World Health Organization (WHO) to eliminate malaria in 21 countries by 2020.
- These 21 countries, identified by WHO in 2016 as having the potential to eliminate malaria by 2020, was chosen based on 3 criteria’s:
- Trends in malaria case incidence between 2000 and 2014.
- Declared malaria objectives of affected countries.
- Informed opinions of WHO experts in the field.
Which countries are part of E-2020 initiative?
- Asia: China, Bhutan, Nepal, Timoe-Leste, Malaysia and Republic of Korea
- Africa: Algeria, Botswana, Cabo Verde, Comoros, Swaine and South Africa
- America: Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Paraguay and Suriname
- Eastern Mediterranean: Iran and Saudi Arabia
- In 2015, the World Health Assembly endorsed a new ‘Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030’ setting out goals of lowering the global malaria burden along with its key milestones.
- A key milestone for 2020 is the elimination of malaria in at least 10 countries that had the disease in 2015. To meet this target, countries must report zero indigenous cases in 2020.
- WHO identified potential 21 countries for elimination of malaria by 2020. Together, these 21 malaria-eliminating countries are part of a concerted effort known as the E-2020 initiative.
- Approximately 70% of the world’s malaria burden is concentrated in 11 countries: 10 on the African continent, plus India.
- WHO has three initiative of global malaria elimination:
- Global technical strategy for malaria 2016-2030
- Rapid Access Expansion Programme (RAcE)
- Mekong Malaria Elimination (MME) programme
As per US, Human trafficking within borders especially challenging issue
The U.S. has released its 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, highlighting the need for action against domestic trafficking in human beings.
Key observations of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report
- Globally, in 77% of the cases, victims are trafficked within their own countries of residence, rather than across borders.
- The number of victims trafficked domestically was high compared to foreign victims being trafficked in all regions of the world except Western and Central Europe, the Middle East, and certain East Asian countries.
- Victims of sex trafficking were more likely to be trafficked across borders while victims of forced labour were typically exploited within their own countries.
- India remained in Tier 2 of the TIP report.
Reasons cited by the report for putting India in Tier 2:
- The Government of India does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Therefore, India remained on Tier 2.
- The systemic failure to address forced labour and sex trafficking in government-run and government-funded shelter homes is still not addressed.
- The government did not report information on investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of traffickers, or on trafficking victims identified.
- Authorities sometimes penalized victims for unlawful acts their traffickers compelled them to commit.
Suggestions to decrease human trafficking in India:
- Amending the definition of trafficking in Section 370 of the Penal Code to include forced labour trafficking and ensure that force, fraud, or coercion are not required to prove a child sex trafficking offence.
- Establish Anti-Human Trafficking Units in all districts with dedicated funding and clear mandates.
About Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report:
- The Trafficking in Persons Report is an annual report issued by the U.S. to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
- The report divides nations into tiers based on their compliance with standards outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.
Tier 1: Countries whose governments fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards.
Tier 2: Countries whose governments do not fully comply with an TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
Tier 3: Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
About Palermo Protocol:
- Palermo Protocol is a United Nations (UN) protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in human beings, especially women and children.
- It was adopted in Palermo, Italy in 2000.
- It is one of three protocols supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The other two are:
- Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (Smuggling Protocol)
- Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition (Firearms Protocol)
SEBI sets up panel to review margins on derivatives
Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the capital markets regulator, has set up a working group, headed by NSE Clearing Ltd., to look into the issue and submit its recommendations to the Secondary Market Advisory Committee.
- Existing margin requirements in derivatives segment is pushing up cost of trading while not managing risk in most efficient manner.
- The reviewing of Margin Derivatives assumes significance as lower cost of trading was the main reason why institutional investors preferred to trade in Nifty contracts on Singapore Exchange Limited (SGX) at Singapore rather than on highly liquid derivatives segment of NSE.
- In India, initial margin in equity F&O segment consists of SPAN margin, exposure margin and other additional margins. Across global exchanges considered under review, only SPAN margin is collected as the initial margin.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Bihar government puts ban on Tree Felling
The Government of Bihar recently banned felling of trees citing increasing pollution as well as a fatal heatwave as reasons.
Order of Bihar government:
- Bihar government has passed an order banning on tree felling under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
- Under the new order, anybody wanting to remove a tree for any development project would have to translocate it.
- However, Trees on private land can be felled in the absence of a tree-protection Act in Bihar.
- Increasing pollution in Patna, Gaya, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and other cities in Bihar.
- The severe Heatwave which killed several people in various districts of Bihar besides rendering many others sick.
- As per Bihar government, it will increase green cover in the state to 17 per cent. Till now, Bihar has been able to increase its green cover from 7 to 15 per cent under the Green India Mission (GIM).
- Green India Mission (GIM) is one of the eight Missions outlined under India’s action plan for addressing the challenge of climate change -the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
Bilateral & International Relations
Shefali Juneja appointed India’s representative to ICAO
Senior bureaucrat Shefali Juneja was appointed as India’s representative in the council of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
About International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO):
- The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a UN specialized agency of Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
- It was established in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).
- It is headquartered at Montreal, Canada.
- It has total 196 member countries including India.
- It prepares international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) which is used by ICAO Member States to ensure that their local civil aviation operations and regulations conform to global norms.
- ICAO is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2019.
- Safety: Enhance global civil aviation safety focusing on regulatory oversight capabilities.
- Capacity and Efficiency: Improve the efficiency of the global civil aviation system by focusing on upgrading the air navigation and developing new procedures to optimize aviation system performance.
- Security and Facilitation: Enhance global civil aviation security and facilitation.
- Economic Development: Foster the development of economically-viable civil aviation system by harmonizing the air transport framework focused on economic policies and supporting activities.
- Environment Protection: Minimize the adverse environmental effects of civil aviation activities consistent with the UN system environmental protection policies and practices.
- Monitor and report on numerous air transport sector performance metrics.
- Audits States’ civil aviation oversight capabilities in the areas of safety and security.
- Resolving consensus-driven international SARPs and policies among its Member States and industry.
Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention)
- Convention on International Civil Aviation was came into force in 1947 which established the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
- ICAO came into being on 4 April 1947. In October of the same year, ICAO became a specialized agency of the United Nations linked to Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
- This Convention supersedes the Convention relating to the Regulation of Aerial Navigation (or Paris Convention) and the Pan American Convention on Commercial Aviation (or Havana Convention).
- The Convention has been revised eight times with latest one made in 2006.
- Currently, it has 193 member countries.
- The Convention establishes rules of airspace, aircraft registration and safety, and details the rights of the signatories in relation to air travel.
- The Convention also exempts air fuels in transit from (double) taxation.
- The ICAO Traveller Identification Programme (TRIP) Symposium will take place in June 2019 at ICAO Headquarters in Montréal, Canada.
- Every year 7 December is celebrated as international civil aviation day by ICAO.
Science & Technology
A medicated nail enamel to help fight infection developed
Antifungal Bilayer Nail Lacquer (BNL) has been discovered to treat onychomycosis disease which causes changes in the appearance of nails.
About the newly discover medicated nail enamel:
- Researchers from the Delhi-based Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences developed a novel translucent nail lacquer, Bilayer Nail Lacquer (BNL), fortified with an antifungal drug to treat onychomycosis disease.
- The researchers used readily available antifungal drug ‘Luliconazole’ to make BNL. The BNL, which is a quick-drying polymer, can be easily applied like nail polish.
- The newly discover enamel overcomes problems associated with conventional formulations and offers a novel drug delivery platform for the successful treatment of onychomycosis.
- It reduces the need for frequent drug application and improves cosmetic appearance as well.
About Onychomycosis disease
- Onychomycosis, also known as tinea unguium, is a fungal infection of the toenails or fingernails.
- Onychomycosis is occurred due to a fungus named ‘Trichophyton rubrum’ which causes painful infection of toe and fingernails.
- The main symptoms of this disease are changes in the appearance of nails such as thickened, brittle, crumbly or ragged nails.
- It is prevalent in coastal regions and wet work zones.
- It accounts for about half of all nail diseases.
- Onychomycosis needs prolonged treatment with both oral medication and application of ointments, which are both expensive and have side effects.
IISc team confirms breakthrough in superconductivity at room temperature
A team from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru created a material that exhibits major properties of superconductivity at ambient temperature and pressure.
About the new Discovery:
- Scientists of Indian Institute of Science created a new composite material made of gold and silver which is claimed to be show superconductivity at room temperature.
- They claimed that their material displayed superconductivity at 13°C under normal atmospheric pressure and had the potential to show superconductivity up to 75°C under special conditions.
- However, this discovery is not yet accepted worldwide and its verification is still pending.
What is the unique about this discovery?
- So far, all the superconductors in use work only at artificial, sub-zero temperatures which makes regular superconductors expensive, impractical and useless for use on a larger scale.
- Now, the new discovery showed superconductivity event at room temperatures.
Significance of the discovery:
- If the claimed discovery is confirmed, it will be the biggest discovery of India in physics since the invention of Raman effect in the 1920s.
- The new material could make technology like magnetic-levitation trains more cost-effective and regular appliances like refrigerators and electronics a lot more energy-efficient.
What is Superconductivity?
- Superconductivity is a state in which a material shows absolutely zero electrical resistance. It is the opposite of resistance which is a property that restricts the flow of electricity.
What is Superconductor?
- Superconductors are material that can conduct electricity with zero to negligible resistance and loss of energy.
- In other words, any device made using superconductors will be more efficient and have larger savings in cost and energy than the conductors used today.
Properties of superconductors:
- Zero Electric Resistance (Infinite Conductivity)
- Meissner Effect: Expulsion of magnetic field (dimagnetism)
- Critical Temperature/Transition Temperature
- Critical Magnetic Field
- Persistent Currents
- Josephson Currents
- Critical Current
Diamagnetism is a property opposite to normal magnetism that we are used to. A diamagnetic substance repels an external magnetic field, in sharp contrast to normal magnetism, or ferromagnetism, under which a substance is attracted by an external magnetic field.
How does the superconductor is different from other electricity conducting material?
- Electricity is the movement of free electrons in a conducting material like copper. While the movement of electrons is in one particular direction, it is random and haphazard.
- The electrons frequently collide with one another and with other particles in the material offering resistance to the flow of current (i.e., electrons). In the process, a lot of electrical energy is lost as heat.
- In a superconducting state, however, the material offers no resistance at all. All the electrons align themselves in a particular direction, and move without any obstruction in a coherent manner.
- It is akin to vehicles moving in an orderly fashion on a superhighway. Because of zero resistance, superconducting materials can save huge amounts of energy, and be used to make highly efficient electrical appliances.
How hard is it to create superconductivity?
- Superconductivity has only been observed at very low temperatures close to what is called absolute zero (0°K or -273.15°C).
- In recent years, scientists have been able to find superconductive materials at temperatures that are higher than absolute zero but, in most cases, these temperatures are still below -100°C and the pressures required are extreme.
- Each different material becomes a superconductor at a slightly different temperature known as its critical temperature or Tc mostly near extreme negative temperatures.
- Creating such extreme conditions of temperature and pressure is a difficult task. Therefore, the applications of superconducting materials have remained limited.
Which materials shows superconductivity?
- Not all materials show superconductivity. Apart from mercury, in which the first superconductivity was observed, about 25 other elements (mostly metals, semimetals, or semiconductors) shows the super conductivity.
- However, it’s also been discovered in thousands of compounds and alloys.
Application of superconductivity:
- The production of sensitive magnetometers based on SQUIDs (superconducting quantum interference devices)
- Powerful superconducting electromagnets used in maglev trains, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) machines, magnetic confinement fusion reactors
- Low-loss power cables
- RF and microwave filters (e.g., for mobile phone base stations, as well as military ultra-sensitive/selective receivers)
- High sensitivity particle detectors (Large hadron collider)
- Railgun and coilgun magnets
- Electric motors and generators
- Forming E-bombs which make use of strong superconductor derived magnetic fields to create high-intensity electromagnetic pulse that can disable an enemy’s electronic equipment.
What is Meissner effect?
- The Meissner effect is the expulsion of a magnetic field from a superconductor during its transition to the superconducting state.
- Meissner effect of superconductivity is used in magnetic levitation which is the base of modern high-speed bullet trains.
- A diamagnetic substance repels an external magnetic field, in sharp contrast to normal magnetism, or ferromagnetism, under which a substance is attracted by an external magnetic field.
Key Facts for Prelims
Sickle Cell Disease
- Sickle cell anemia is an inherited form of anemia — a condition in which there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen throughout your body.
- It is one of the most commonly occurring genetic disease.
- It is an inherited genetic abnormality of hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein found in red blood cells) due to which red blood cells (RBCs) causes stuck in small blood vessels and are unable to carry adequate amount of oxygen throughout body.
- In normal condition RBCs are flexible and round (thus move easily through blood vessels) and can live up to 120 days before body needs to replace them but in sickle cell anemia, RBCs are sickle shaped, become rigid and sticky and the sickle cells last only 10 to 20 days causing anemia because of red blood cells disorder.
- The air strike by the Indian Air Force (IAF) on a terrorist training camp in Balakot, Pakistan, was code-named ‘Operation Bandar’.
- The Indian Air Force is planning to reward IAF pilots who took part in attack with Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) for their acts of bravery.