Polity & Governance
- Govt considering new agency to keep check on chartered accountants
- MPC members to get Rs. 1.5 lakh per meet, must disclose assets
- Bengaluru Declaration calls for SC/ST quota in judiciary
Government Schemes & Policies
- Sexual Harassment electronic-Box (SHe-Box)
Bilateral & International Relations
- 5th Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS)
- Government plans ‘I stand by my country’ campaign
Key Facts for Prelims
- Debug Fresno
- USS Gerald R Ford
- Novobiocin compound
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Polity & Governance
Govt considering new agency to keep check on chartered accountants
The government is planning to set up the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) to keep a check in the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) considering its perceived failures in enforcing discipline.
Need for the new agency:
- ICAI’s disciplinary record is often criticised-a charge that the institute is now trying to cope with.
- Corporate balance sheets cannot be trusted, because sometimes, CAs will put their signature on any fiction for a price.
- Not just this, helping businesses evade taxes is the main service many of them offer.
- Only 25 auditors had faced any action in over a decade even as 1,400 cases were pending.
- While Companies Act 2013 had provided for NFRA as a regulatory agency for audit, accounts and financial reporting, Section 132 of the law has remained on paper as the rules are yet to be notified. It is one of the few sections of the law that has not been notified yet.
About the NFRA:
- The NFRA, which could have up to 15 members including the Chairman, will now take charge from ICAI, which so far prepared the accounting standards in consultation with the National Advisory Committee on Accounting Standards (NACAS).
- NFRA will become the authority responsible to look into matters of professional or related misconduct, and suspend CAs and firms from practise for six months to even up to 10 years.
Why it is opposed?
- It’s been years since CAs have been opposing a regulator proposed in the Companies Act, 2013, fearing the body would encroach on its own ground.
- There are some apprehensions that several chartered accountants had lobbied with the government to block the notification as it would have taken away several powers that are currently vested with ICAI.
MPC members to get Rs. 1.5 lakh per meet, must disclose assets
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently notified the Monetary Policy Committee and Monetary Policy Process Regulations, 2016.
Highlights of the regulations:
- Members of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will be paid Rs. 1.5 lakh per meeting along with air travel and other reimbursements.
- Members will have to observe a “silent period” of seven days before and after the rate decision for “utmost confidentiality”.
- Members are also required to be mindful of any conflict between their personal and public interest while interacting with profit making organisations and making personal financial transactions.
- Each member of the MPC has one vote and in case the numbers are equal, the governor has the casting vote.
- The MPC, which has the responsibility of achieving a set inflation target, should submit a report to the government in case of failure to achieve the required target. In such instances, the report shall be sent to the central government “within one month from the date on which the bank has failed to meet the inflation target”.
- All members need to disclose their assets and liabilities and update this information once every year.
- MPC has to hold meetings at least four times in a year. The schedule of the MPC meetings for the entire fiscal year needs to be announced in advance.
- At least 15 days of notice is required for convening a meeting ordinarily, but an emergency meeting can be called with 24 hours’ notice for each member and technology-enabled arrangements need to be made for even shorter notice period meetings.
- After conclusion of MPC meeting, a resolution needs to be made public including on the policy repo rate and any other monetary policy measures at the discretion of the Chairperson while keeping in view the functioning and timing of financial markets.
About Monetary Policy Committee (MPC):
The idea of setting up an MPC was mooted by an RBI-appointed committee led by deputy governor Urjit Patel in February 2014.
- The committee will have six members, with three members from RBI, including the Governor, who will be the ex-officio chairperson, a Deputy Governor and one officer of the central bank.
- The other three members will be appointed by the Centre on the recommendations of a search-cum-selection committee under Cabinet Secretary with RBI Governor and Economic Affairs Secretary.
- These three members of MPC will be experts in the field of economics or banking or finance or monetary policy and will be appointed for a period of four years and shall not be eligible for re-appointment.
The RBI Governor will chair the committee. The governor, however, will not enjoy a veto power to overrule the other panel members, but will have a casting vote in case of a tie.
- The committee will be tasked with bringing value and transparency to monetary policy decisions
- The monetary policy committee framework will replace the current system where the RBI governor and his internal team have complete control over monetary policy decisions. While a technical advisory committee advises the RBI on monetary policy decisions, the central bank is under no obligation to accept its recommendations.
- With the introduction of the monetary policy committee, the RBI will follow a system similar to the one followed by most global central banks.
- The Committee is to meet four times a year and make public its decisions following each meeting.
Bengaluru Declaration calls for SC/ST quota in judiciary
The Bengaluru Declaration was recently adopted by the Karnataka State government sponsored Dr. B.R. Ambedkar International Conference 2017.
- The theme of the conference: “Quest for Equity”.
- The declaration recommends a slew of affirmative action measures in private sector, judiciary, educational institutions, government contracts and promotions for Dalits.
- The declaration has 40 recommendations under six broad categories — safeguarding the people, strengthening democratic institutions, deepening social justice, enhancing human development, ensuring responsive governance, and promoting social security.
Some of the important recommendations of the declaration:
- Upholding the Rule of Law and reassert political and legal accountability for any violence to prevent lynchings.
- Set up Equal Opportunities Commission to ensure wider representation of SC, ST, OBC, women and minorities in employment.
- Law for prevention of caste, religious and gender discrimination in educational institutions.
- Removing of provisions in law that place constraints on freedom of speech and expression, include those on defamation, sedition, art/film censorship and social media.
- Ensure land ownership for SC/STs and establish SC/ST land bank, where government buys these lands at market prices and re-allots to the same community, to ensure non-dilution of ownership.
- Reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs in higher judiciary.
- Ensuring diversity in media houses by promoting representation of SC, STs, OBCs.
- Protecting media freedom and journalists from attacks by fundamentalist elements and tacit state censorship.
- Empowering the Press Council of India to regulate corporate monopoly and cross ownership of media.
- Launch a “living wage” and comprehensive social security scheme for all labourers working in the unorganised sector apart from ensuring dignity in retirement through enhanced pensions of ₹1,500 per month.
- A national legislation to ensure that a portion of the budget equal to the population proportion of SC & STs is reserved to support schemes to promote their development.
- Reservations in procurement and contracts for up to Rs 100 lakh.
- English medium education to SCs, STs, OBCs, women and minorities.
- Universal access to hostels for SCs, STs and OBCs.
- Reservations in the private sector.
- Agricultural land for landless Dalits with legal entitlement and special support.
- Comprehensive reform of caste based occupational vocations through modernisation.
- Immediate publishing of socio economic caste census.
- Farmers Income Commission to ensure income security.
- In 2002, similar Declaration was adopted by Madhya Pradesh, namely ‘The Bhopal Declaration’ which called for “liberalisation of capital for Dalits”.
- It was adopted in 2002 during the tenure of Congress leader Digvijaya Singh in Madhya Pradesh.
Government Schemes & Policies
Sexual Harassment electronic-Box (SHe-Box)
The Women and Child Development Ministry launched an online complaint management system — ‘SHe-box’ (sexual harassment electronic box) — to enable women employees of the central government to file complaints related to sexual harassment at the workplace.
About the SHe-Box:
- The platform will cater to Central government employees in the beginning and thereafter, its ambit will be widened to include the private sector as well.
- The platform seeks to ensure “effective implementation” of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
- It is also an effort to provide “speedier remedy” to women facing sexual harassment at the workplace.
- The portal is an initiative to provide a platform to women working or visiting any office of Central Government (Central Ministries, Departments, Public Sector Undertakings, Autonomous Bodies and Institutions etc.) to file complaints related to sexual harassment at workplace under the SH Act.
- Those who had already filed a written complaint with the concerned Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) constituted under the SH Act are also eligible to file their complaint through this portal.
How will it work?
- Once a complaint is submitted to the ‘SHe-Box’, it will be directly sent to the internal complaints (ICC) committee of the ministry/ department/ PSU/ autonomous body etc concerned, having jurisdiction to inquire into the matter.
- The ICC will take action as prescribed under the Act and update the status of the complaint.
About the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013:
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work.
- This statute superseded the Vishakha Guidelines for prevention of sexual harassment introduced by the Supreme Court of India.
- Under the Act, which also covers students in schools and colleges as well as patients in hospitals, employers and local authorities will have to set up grievance committees to investigate all complaints.
- Employers who fail to comply will be punished with a fine of up to 50,000 rupees.
Bilateral & International Relations
5th Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS)
India will be hosting the 5th Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS) in 2017, one of the world’s largest conference on Cyber Space and related issues.
- The GCCS is taking place outside OECD nations for the first time.
- It is being held in India for the first time.
- The theme for the GCCS 2017 is ‘Cyber4All: An Inclusive, Sustainable, Developmental, Safe and Secure Cyberspace’.
About Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS):
- The GCCS is a prestigious international conference that aims at encouraging dialogue among stakeholders of cyberspace.
- It was incepted in 2011 in London.
- It brings together governments, private sector and civil society gathers to discuss and promote practical cooperation in cyberspace, to discuss norms for responsible behaviour in cyberspace and to enhance cyber capacity building.
- The conference is built on the themes such as economic growth and development, social and cultural benefits, a safe and secure cyberspace, cybercrime and international security.
- It has helped in setting up rules and guidelines for the editions to follow.
- During the fourth edition of the conference held in The Hague, Netherlands, Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE) for capacity building in cyber space was launched.
Government plans ‘I stand by my country’ campaign
As part of a twin celebration to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Quit India movement and the 70th Independence Day, the government hopes to trigger a citizen movement around the theme ‘I stand by my country’.
About the campaign:
- As part of the programme, the government plans a multimedia campaign that will focus on inspiring the young generation and instilling in them a sense of pride and responsibility.
- The celebrations will stress that in the next five years — in an era of determination, will and struggle — a ‘New India’ will be built which is “rid of corruption and black money” and fulfils the aspirations of its teeming millions.
- The campaign will also drive home the point that the country has already proved its worth in every field, be it science and technology, sports, spirituality, art, space exploration, economy and defence.
- The aim of the campaign, hence is to portray an India which is “bold and decisive, can secure its future, is on the path of reforms, and that cares.
About the Quit India Movement:
- The Quit India Movement, also known as the August Movement was a Civil Disobedience Movement launched by Gandhi for independence.
- The movement was accompanied by a mass protest on non-violent lines, in which Gandhi called for “an orderly British withdrawal from India”.
[Ref: Economic Times]
Key Facts for Prelims
- It is the 20 million machine-raised mosquitoes to shrink the numbers of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes — the species responsible for spreading zika, dengue and chikungunya.
- The project is released by Verily, a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s holding company and US scientists.
- For 20 weeks, the company plans to release a million of the sterile, non-biting male mosquitoes in two neighbourhoods in Fresno county.
- The male mosquitoes are bred and infected with Wolbachia, a bacterium that is naturally found in at least 40% of all insect species. The bacterium used to sterilise mosquitoes “is not known” to infect humans.
- In a phenomenon called cytoplasmic incompatibility, matings between Wolbachia-infected males and uninfected females result in embryo lethality or low hatch rates.
USS Gerald R Ford
- It is the world’s largest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier inducted by U.S. Navy.
- USS Gerald Ford is first in the series of three of the futuristic ships of the Ford-class carriers ordered by US Navy.
- Its operational deployment will be in 2021 after undergoing final outfitting and testing.
- Recently, researchers from Spain have discovered novobiocin compound that could be used as a potential drug to fight the effects of a Zika virus infection.
- The novobiocin compound was previously used in antibiotic drug to fend off “nosocomial” infections (those acquired inside a hospital). However, the drug was withdrawn from the market because it had lost its potency as an antibiotic.
- Researchers have found that this compound can counter the symptoms of the mosquito-borne Zika disease.