Polity & Governance
- President approves changes in Stamp Act, to help curb tax evasion
- Central Information Commission rules EVMs are ‘information’ under RTI Act
Government Schemes & Policies
- PRC ‘status’ to 6 communities in Arunachal Pradesh stokes violence
- Draft e-commerce policy: Keeping our data safe and secure
- Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) unveiled
- World Bank, Sidbi launch Rs 300 crore social impact bond
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Cheetahs from Namibia to be kept at Nauradehi sanctuary, NTCA tells SC
- Gujarat launches second edition of water conservation scheme
Bilateral & International Relations
- Afghanistan launches new export route to India through Iran
- In a first, India invited as ‘Guest of Honour’ to OIC meet
Key Facts for Prelims
- Ambassador of Swasth Immunised India campaign
- World’s largest bee
- Bramble Cay melomys
- “Waste to Wonder” Park
- Global Future For Nature Award 2019
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
President approves changes in Stamp Act, to help curb tax evasion
President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to changes in the Indian Stamp Act, 1899, which will rationalise and harmonise the system of levying stamp duty and help curb tax evasion.
- The Amendments to the Indian Stamp Act, 1899, were introduced as part of the Finance Act 2019, and was approved by Parliament.
- Creation of the legal and institutional mechanism to enable states to collect stamp duty on securities market instruments at one place by one agency (through the Stock Exchanges or Clearing Corporations authorised by the stock exchange or by the Depositories).
- A Mechanism for appropriate sharing the stamp duty with relevant state governments based on the state of domicile of the buying client.
- Creation of a Coordination Council comprising representatives from Union and States under Article 263 of the Indian Constitution tasked with the responsibility of making recommendations regarding review/revision of stamp duty rates.
What will be the stamp duty rates?
- As regards the stamp duty rates, the duties levied by Maharashtra will be taken as a benchmark as it accounts for 70% of the total collection.
- The rates would be chosen in such a manner that it provides a revenue neutral position to the state governments while reducing the overall tax burden for investors.
- The stamp duty will have to be paid by either the buyer or seller of financial security, as against the current practice of levying the duty on both.
Central Information Commission rules EVMs are ‘information’ under RTI Act
The Central Information Commission has ruled that an Electronic Voting Machine is “information” under the Right to Information Act and can be demanded by an applicant on a payment of Rs 10.
What’s the issue?
- The Central Information Commission (CIC) was hearing an RTI which had asked the Election Commission for an EVM but was denied.
- As per Section 2(f) and 2(i) of the RTI Act, the definition of ‘information’ and ‘record’ includes ‘any model or any sample’ held by a public authority.
- Hence Calling the rejection of grating EVM to public as wrong.
Counter Argument of ECI:
- Election Commission of India argued that the information was exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act as the software installed in the machines is an intellectual property of a third party, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of the third party concerned.
Central Information Commission:
- Under the provision of Section-12 of RTI Act 2005 the Central Government constituted a body to be known as the Central Information Commission in 2005.
- The present Chief Information Commissioner of India is Sudhir Bhargava.
- There are two women who became CIC till now: Ms Deepak Sandhu (4th CIC) and Ms Sushma Singh (5th CIC).
- Section 12(5) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.
- Section 12(6) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that Chief Information Commissioner or an Information Commissioner shall not be a Member of Parliament or Member of the Legislature of any State or Union Territory as the case may be, or hold any other office of profit or connected with any political party or carrying on any business or pursuing any profession.
Term of office and other service conditions of CIC:
- Section 13 of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the Chief Information Commissioner shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office and shall not be eligible for reappointment.
- Section 13(5)(a) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the salaries and allowances payable to and other terms and conditions of service of the Chief Information Commissioner shall be the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner.
Power of CIC as per RTI Act, 2005:
- Adjudication in second appeal for giving information
- Direction for record keeping
- Suo motu disclosures receiving and enquiring into a complaint on inability to file RTI
- Imposition of penalties and Monitoring and Reporting including preparation of an Annual Report.
Composition of CIC:
- This Commission consists of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners not exceeding 10.
- CIC and members are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a committee consisting of:
- The Prime Minister, who shall be the Chairperson of the committee
- The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha
- A Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
What is Right to Information?
Right to information refers to the right of information accessible under the Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to:
- Inspection of work, documents, records
- Taking notes, extracts, or certified copies of documents or records
- Taking certified samples of material
- Obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device.
What is Right to Information (RTI) act?
- Right to Information (RTI) is act of the Parliament of India to provide for setting out the practical regime of the right to information for citizens and replaces the erstwhile Freedom of information Act, 2002.
- Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen of India may request information from a public authority which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days.
Government Schemes & Policies
PRC ‘status’ to 6 communities in Arunachal Pradesh stokes violence
Protest has been reported in Arunachal Pradesh since the state government announced it was considering issuing PRC to six non-Arunachal Scheduled Tribes communities.
- The government is considering issuing the certificate to the six non-APSTs communities living in Namsai and Changlang districts and to the Gorkhas living in Vijaynagar.
- Deoris, Sonowal Kacharis, Morans, Adivasis and Mishings were demanding Permanent Residence Certificate. Most of these communities are recognised as Scheduled Tribes in neighbouring Assam.
- According to reports, the demand by these communities for PRC, recognising them as residents of the state, is long-standing, but is opposed by powerful groups.
What is permanent resident certificate?
- Permanent resident certificate is a legal document issued to Indian citizens that serves as evidence of residence and is required to be submitted as residential proof for official purpose.
- The State Government of Arunachal Pradesh issues the domicile certificate otherwise called as Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC) to the residents of the state who stayed therein over a period. Those citizens who are not currently residing in the state but are sure of permanently staying therein can also apply for it.
Purpose of the Certificate:
- Permanent Residence Certificate should be produced in many situations such as admission in educational organisations, job reservation under specific quotas especially for government jobs, etc. to get local preferences.
- To apply for ration card permanent residence certificate is a vital and mandate document.
- To avail the provisions of various schemes of the state or to claim scholarships of the State, permanent residence certificate is essential.
What is the status of PRC in Arunachal Pradesh?
- The Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribes (APST) are the holders of PRC in Arunachal Pradesh.
- Many non-APST communities who are living in the state are demanding for PRC as they often fail to prove their permanent domicile status during various checks – educational and otherwise.
Why are people in Arunachal protesting against PRC?
- The tribal people of Arunachal Pradesh are concerned that giving PRCs to the non-tribal communities will lead to the dilution of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act of 1873 which leads to the Inner Line Permit (ILP) rule in the state.
- The rule makes it mandatory for all non-permanent residents and visitors to obtain Inner Line Permits before entering Arunachal Pradesh.
- The APSTs believe that giving PRC will lead to easy flow of non-tribals into the tribal land and will affect their culture in the long run.
- All Arunachal Students’ Union (AAPSU) said that having a PRC should not mean that non-APST communities need not take ILP for entering/living in the state/tribal land.
- The main bone of contention lies in the fact that although these are living in Arunachal Pradesh since many years, they don’t have the official land rights either.
- While they are regarded as non-tribal in Arunachal Pradesh and not offered PRC, their counterparts in Assam enjoy PRC and land rights.
Draft e-commerce policy: Keeping our data safe and secure
The Department of Industry and Internal Trade released the draft National Ecommerce Policy that sends a clear message that India and its citizens have a sovereign right to their data.
Key issues Addressed in The Draft:
- Infrastructure development
- Ecommerce marketplaces
- Regulatory issues
- Stimulating domestic digital economy
- Export promotion
Key features of the draft:
Indian Control over Data
- Government to be given access to source code, algorithms of AI systems and Impose custom duties on electronic transmissions to reduce revenue loss.
- Bar sharing of sensitive data of Indian users with third party entities, even with consent.
- A ‘data authority ‘to look at community data.
Local Presence for Apps & Websites:
- All ecommerce websites and apps available for downloading in India to have a registered business entity here.
- Non-compliant ecommerce app/website to be denied access here.
Incentives for Data Localisation:
- Location of the computing facilities like data centres, server farms within India.
- Firms to get 3 years to comply with local data storage requirements.
- Data storage facilities to get ‘infrastructure status’.
FDI in E-commerce:
- FDI only in marketplace model.
- No FDI in inventory model.
- Curbs on Chinese ecommerce exports.
- Gifting route, often used by Chinese apps and websites will be banned for all parcels except life-saving drugs.
- Integrating Customs, RBI and India Post to improve tacking of imports through ecommerce.
- Incentives & e-commerce export promotions.
- Ecommerce start-ups may get ‘infant industry’ status raising limit for courier shipments from 25,000 INR to boost ecommerce export.
- There will be no separate regulator for ecommerce sector.
- E-consumer courts to be developed.
Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) unveiled
To provide an assured income support to the small and marginal farmers, the Government has unveiled the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN).
About the PM-KISAN:
In the Interim budget of 2019-20, Government has announced the ‘Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN)’ for providing an assured income support to the small and marginal farmers.
Highlights of Programme:
- Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land upto 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs. 6,000 per year.
- This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal instalments of Rs. 2,000 each.
- This programme will be funded by Government of India.
- This programme will entail an annual expenditure of Rs. 75,000 crores.
Significance of Programme:
- Around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to benefit.
- PM-KISAN would not only provide assured supplemental income to the most vulnerable farmer families, but would also meet their emergent needs especially before the harvest season.
- PM-KISAN would pave the way for the farmers to earn and live a respectable living.
World Bank, Sidbi launch Rs 300 crore social impact bond
The World Bank, the Small Industries Development Bank (SIDBI) and the UN Women, along with 10 wealth management firms and leading corporates has announced the launch of Women Livelihood Bond- a new social impact bond to offer credit to rural women entrepreneurs.
About the Women Livelihood Bond:
- The bonds, which will have a tenure of five years, will be launched by SIDBI with the support of World Bank and UN Women.
- The proposed bond will enable individual women entrepreneurs in sectors like food processing, agriculture, services and small units to borrow around Rs 50,000 to Rs 3 lakh at an annual interest rate of around 13-14 per cent or less.
- SIDBI will act as the financial intermediary and channel funds raised to women entrepreneurs through participating financial intermediaries like banks, NBFCs or microfinance institutions.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Cheetahs from Namibia to be kept at Nauradehi sanctuary, NTCA tells SC
African cheetahs, to be translocated in India from Namibia, will be kept at Nauradehi wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
Supreme court and NTCA:
- NTCA told the apex court that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had given a ‘no objection’ for the translocation.
- However, one of the counsels appearing in the matter told the supreme court as to why the NTCA were not re-introducing Indian cheetahs in India. NTCA want to re-introduce African cheetahs. Indian cheetahs are available in Iran. Why they are not re-introducing Indian cheetahs?
The matter is postponed for next hearing.
India’s Cheetah reintroduction programme:
- The Wildlife Institute of India at Dehradun had prepared a ₹260-crore cheetah re-introduction project six years ago.
- It was estimated that an amount of ₹25 crore to ₹30 crore would be needed to build an enclosure in an area of 150 sq km for the cheetahs in Nauradehi.
- The proposal was to put the felines in the enclosure with huge boundary walls before being released in the wild.
- Nauradehi was found to be the most suitable area for the cheetahs as its forests are not very dense to restrict the fast movement of the spotted cat. Besides, the prey base for cheetahs is also in abundance at the sanctuary.
- According to the earlier action plan, around 20 cheetahs were to be translocated to Nauradehi from Namibia in Africa.
- The Namibia Cheetah Conservation Fund had then showed its willingness to donate the felines to India. However, the State was not ready to finance the plan contending that it was the Centre’s project.
Significance of reintroduction:
- The reintroduction of cheetahs will help restore India’s open forests and grassland ecosystems, which have been suffering. Having cheetahs will result in greater biodiversity, and biodiversity is the hallmark of healthy ecosystems.
- India is also home to the world’s largest free-roaming populations of livestock. Bringing back the cheetah will focus attention on pastoralism, and in doing so, help restore India’s natural heritage.
- The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is one of the oldest of the big cat species, with ancestors that can be traced back more than five million years to the Miocene era.
- The cheetah is also the world’s fastest land mammal, an icon of nature.
- The species is IUCN Red Listed as vulnerable.
- With great speed and dexterity, the cheetah is known for being an excellent hunter, its kills feeding many other animals in its ecosystem—ensuring that multiple species survive.
- The country’s last spotted feline died in Chhattisgarh in 1947. Later, the cheetah — which is the fastest land animal — was declared extinct in India in 1952.
- The reasons for extinction can all be traced to man’s interference. Problems like human-wildlife conflict, loss of habitat and loss of prey, and illegal trafficking, have decimated their numbers.
- The advent of climate change and growing human populations have only made these problems worse.
- With less available land for wildlife, species that require vast home range like the cheetah are placed in competition with other animals and humans, all fighting over less space.
- In 2005, The National Tiger Conservation Authority was established in following a recommendation of the Tiger Task Force, constituted by the Prime Minister of India for reorganized management of Project Tiger and the Tiger Reserves of India.
- For this purpose, The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 was amended (Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006) to provide for constituting of the National Tiger Conservation Authority responsible for implementation of the Project Tiger Plan to protect endangered tigers.
Nauradehi wildlife sanctuary:
- It is largest wildlife sanctuary of Madhya Pradesh in India.
- It is located at the tri junction of Sagar, Damoh and Narsingpur districts.
- It is selected for Cheetah re-introduction Project in India.
- It is a unique protected area where in two major river basins of India are encompassed, namely the Narmada & Ganges.
- Three-fourth of the wildlife sanctuary falls in the Yamuna and one fourth falls in the Narmada basin. Thus Nauradehi is such a unique biodiversity area.
- Nauradehi sanctuary management has selected Indian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes) as mono of Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary due to its super predatory nature.
- The wildlife refuge is divided into six ranges:
- Mohli Range
- Singpur Range
- Jhapan Range
- Sarra Range
- D’Gaon Range
- Nauradehi Range
- Leopard, Wild dog (Dholes), Nilgai (Blue bull), Sambhar, Indian Wolf, Chital, Chinkara, Sloth Bear, Wild Boar, Hyena, Crocodile etc.
- Bird watching is great as presence of large water bodies allures migratory and resident avian species. Principal flora of this jungle is Teak, Saja, Dhawda, Bhirra etc.
Gujarat launches second edition of water conservation scheme
Gujarat launched the second edition of the state government’s water conservation drive called “Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan”.
- Under the second edition of Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan, the state government has increased its contribution to 60 per cent while private groups will contribute remaining 40 per cent for the implementation of above scheme.
Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan
- It is the initiative of Gujrat Government launched in May, 2018.
- The scheme aims to deepen water bodies in the state before monsoon to increase storage of rainwater to be used during times of scarcity.
- During the first edition against, its anticipated target of 16,616 works of deepening of ponds and lakes across the state, 18,220 works were accomplished.
- The first edition witnessed an increase in the water storage capacity of more than 11,000 lakh cubic feet rainwater through different sources like ponds, reservoirs, check dams, bori bandh and other.
Bilateral & International Relations
Afghanistan launches new export route to India through Iran
Afghanistan recently began exports to India through Chabahar port in Iran. Afghanistan, a landlocked, war-torn nation is turning to overseas markets to improve its economy.
- Chabahar port is the result of healthy cooperation between India, Iran and Afghanistan this will ensure economic growth.
- It provides easy access to the sea to Afghanistan and India has helped developed this route to allow both countries to engage in trade bypassing Pakistan.
Where is Chabahar port located?
The port of Chabahar is located on the Makran coast of Sistan and Baluchistan Province, next to the Gulf of Oman and at the mouth of Strait of Hormuz.
- It is the only Iranian port with direct access to the Indian Ocean.
- Being close to Afghanistan and the Central Asian countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan etc., it has been termed the “Golden Gate” to these land-locked countries.
- The Chabahar port was partially developed by India in the 1990s.
Why Chabahar Port is crucial for India?
- The first and foremost significance of the Chabahar port is the fact that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan.
- Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
- Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
- With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
- With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.
- Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This is will, in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.
- The use of Chabahar port is seen as a major boost to India’s efforts to connect with Central Asia and Russia, and it could facilitate Indian imports of iron ore, sugar and rice as well as crude oil from Iran.
- From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.
- The Zaranj-Delaram road constructed by India in 2009 can give access to Afghanistan’s Garland Highway, setting up road access to four major cities in Afghanistan – Herat, Kandahar, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.
In a first, India invited as ‘Guest of Honour’ to OIC meet
India has been invited for the first time to an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting as a guest of honour.
- The 46th Session of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers will be held in Abu Dhabi from March 1 to 2,2019
About the Organization of Islamic Cooperation:
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) (formerly Organization of the Islamic Conference) has membership of 57 states spread over four continents.
- The Organization was established upon a decision of the historical summit which took place in Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco in 1969) following the criminal arson of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem.
- Its headquarters are at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. OIC has permanent delegations to United Nations and the European Union.
- Its objectives are to raise collective voice of the Muslim world and to ensure the safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.
India and OIC:
- In this organization, India is a blocked country, though it has about 12% of the world’s Muslim population.
- India has been blocked by Pakistan from joining the OIC over Kashmir issue. OIC regard parts of Kashmir as “occupied by India”.
- The new programm ‘OIC-2025’ is anchored in the provisions of the OIC Charter and focuses on 18 priority areas.
- The priority areas include issues of Peace and Security, Palestine and Al-Quds, Poverty Alleviation, Counter-terrorism, Investment and Finance, Food Security, Science and Technology, Climate Change and Sustainability, Moderation, Culture and Interfaith Harmony, Empowerment of Women, Joint Islamic Humanitarian Action, Human Rights and Good Governance, among others.
- In 2018, Bangladesh proposed the restructuring of the charter of the OIC to pave way for the inclusion of non-Muslim countries like India as an “observer state”.
Key Facts for Prelims
Ambassador of Swasth Immunised India campaign
- Actress Kareena Kapoor Khan has been appointed as an ambassador of Swasth Immunised India campaign.
- The Swasth Immunised India campaign has been launched by Serum Institute of India (SII) and Network 18.
- The campaign aims to build a robust campaign aimed at spreading awareness on the importance and benefits of immunisation among the masses.
World’s largest bee
- The world’s largest bee — a giant insect roughly the size of a human thumb — has been rediscovered in a remote part of Indonesia in its first sighting in nearly 40 years.
- The Wallace’s giant bee (Megachile pluto), which lives in the Indonesian island region of North Moluccas, makes its nest in termite mounds, using its large fang-like mandibles to collect sticky resin to protect its home from the termites.
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the bee as “vulnerable”, meaning that while its numbers are relatively solid, the remoteness of its population makes it hard to study.
Bramble Cay melomys
- Climate change induced by human beings has claimed its first victim in ‘Class Mammalia’ of the ‘Animal Kingdom’: the Bramble Cay melomys — a ‘little brown rat’ found in Australia.
- The government of Australia’s Queensland province reported the species to be extinct in June 2016.
- It was placed in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.
“Waste to Wonder” Park
- Recently, “Waste to Wonder” Park was inaugurated in South Delhi.
- The park sets an example of creation of ‘Wealth from waste’.
Global Future For Nature Award 2019
- Future for Nature 2019 Award is awarded by Future for Nature foundation celebrates tangible achievements in protecting wild animal and plant species
- Recently, Dr Divya Karnad, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Ashoka University has been awarded the prestigious Global Future For Nature Award 2019 for her work on marine conservation.
- Her project InSeason Fish had successfully reduced the unwanted bycatch of endangered sharks along the Coromandel coast of India.