Polity & Governance
- EPFO joins network of Common Services Centers
- Cabinet approves establishment of National Academic Depository
- RBI allows startups to raise $3 million via ECBs annually
- CBDT signs 5 Unilateral APAs
Environment & Ecology
- Two-thirds of wild animals may go extinct by 2020, warns report
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves Agreement between India and Estonia on the transfer of sentenced persons
- Russia to destroy all of its chemical weapons by end of 2017
Key Facts for Prelims
- “Mission Madhumeha through Ayurveda”
Polity & Governance
EPFO joins network of Common Services Centers
To expand the reach of convenience offered to EPF members, Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has joined the network of Common Services Centers (CSC).
- In this regard, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between EPFO and CSC e-Governance Services India Limited (CSC SPV).
- The MoU is initially for a period of five years.
How it works?
- To start with, the pensioners of Employees Pension Scheme of EPFO can submit their digital life certificates via Jeevan Pramaan Patra programme through a large number of points of Presence (PoP) of CSC networking in addition to those available at EPFO offices.
Significance of the move:
- With this, the pensioners living in remote areas can avoid cost and inconvenience of travelling down to the EPF offices or their banks for filing paper based life certificate.
What are the Common Services Centers (CSCs)?
Common Services Centers (CSCs) are a strategic cornerstone of the Digital India programme.
- They are the access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India, thereby contributing to a digitally and financially inclusive society.
- CSCs enable the three vision areas of the Digital India programme:
- Digital infrastructure as a core utility to every citizen.
- Governance and services on demand.
- Digital empowerment of citizens.
Significance of the CSCs:
- CSCs are more than service delivery points in rural India. They are positioned as change agents, promoting rural entrepreneurship and building rural capacities and livelihoods.
- They are enablers of community participation and collective action for engendering social change through a bottom-up approach with key focus on the rural citizen.
Cabinet approves establishment of National Academic Depository
The Union Cabinet has approved establishment and operationalisation of a National Academic Depository (NAD).
- Under the NAD, all academic degrees, certificates and awards in the country will be made digitally available for verification on single spot.
- The NAD will be established and operationalised within the next three months. It will be rolled out throughout the country in 2017-18.
- It will be operationalised by NSDL Database Management Limited (NDML) and CDSL Ventures, Limited (CVL).
Key features of the NAD:
- Academic institutions will be directed to upload and authenticate all documents in digital form into the NAD system.
- The NAD will register educational institutions/eligibility assessment bodies/boards, students and other users/verifying entities like employer companies, banks, government agencies and academic institutions.
- It will provide digital or a printed copy of the academic award with security features to the students or other authorized users.
- NAD will also verify academic awards online on the same day of request initiated by any authorized user.
- Requests for access to academic awards will be on basis of consent of the owner. For example, access from potential employers and academic institutions will be only on the basis of consent of the student.
- NAD will maintain the authenticity, integrity and confidentiality of its database. It will root out fake degrees.
The Finance Minister’s Budget Speech (2016) had incorporated commitment to establish a Digital Depository for school learning certificates, degrees and other academic awards of Higher Education Institutions, on the pattern of a Securities Depository.[Ref: PIB]
RBI allows startups to raise $3 million via ECBs annually
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has allowed start-up companies recognised by the government to borrow up to $3 million per financial year for a three year tenure through external commercial borrowings (ECBs).
- The move is aimed at boosting innovation and promoting job creation.
What has been permitted under the new norms?
- Under ECB route, the borrowing should be denominated in any freely convertible currency or in Indian Rupees (INR) or a combination thereof.
- In case of borrowing in INR, the non-resident lender, should mobilise INR through swaps/outright sale undertaken through bank in India.
- The borrowing per start-up will be limited to $3 million or equivalent per financial year either in Indian rupee or any convertible foreign currency or a combination of both.
- The borrowing can be in the form of loans or non-convertible, optionally convertible or partially convertible preference shares and the minimum average maturity period will be 3 years.
- ECBs can be raised from a country which is either a member of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) or FATF-Style Regional Bodies.
- However, overseas branches and subsidiaries of Indian banks and overseas wholly-owned subsidiary or joint venture of an Indian company will not be considered as recognised lenders.
- India has the third-largest number of start-ups globally.
- In January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had unveiled a slew of incentives for them including tax holiday, inspector raj-free regime, capital gains tax exemption and Rs10,000 crore corpus to provide funds.
- Government has also relaxed procurement norms for them.
CBDT signs 5 Unilateral APAs
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance has entered into five Unilateral Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs) with Indian taxpayers.
- The Agreements cover a range of international transactions, including sale of finished goods, purchase of raw materials, software development services, IT enabled services, exports and interest payment.
- The Agreements provide certainty to the taxpayers for 5 years with regard to the covered international transactions.
The total number of APAs signed so far:
- With this, the total number of APAs signed so far has reached 108. These include 4 bilateral APAs and 104 unilateral APAs since 2013-14. Of these, 44 APAs have been concluded in 7 months of the current Financial Year itself.
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 determining the arm’s length price of international transactions in advance for a maximum period of five future years.
- Further, the taxpayer has the option to roll-back the APA for four preceding years.
- Since its inception, the APA scheme has attracted tremendous interest among Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) and more than 700 applications (both unilateral and bilateral) have been filed in just four years.
Environment & Ecology
Two-thirds of wild animals may go extinct by 2020, warns report
According to recently released study, global wildlife populations have fallen by 58% since 1970 and if the trend continues then two-thirds of wild animals may go extinct by 2020.
- The study was published as The Living Planet assessment by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
- The Living Planet Report is published every two years and aims to provide an assessment of the state of the world’s wildlife.
- The last report was published in 2014. It had estimated that the world’s wildlife populations had halved over the last 40 years.
Key facts of the study:
- The study suggests that animals living in lakes, rivers and wetlands are suffering the biggest losses.
- Human activity, including habitat loss, wildlife trade, pollution and climate change contributed to the decline in global wildlife populations.
- It also concluded that vertebrate populations are declining by an average of 2% each year.
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves Agreement between India and Estonia on the transfer of sentenced persons
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing and ratification of an Agreement between India and Estonia on the transfer of sentenced persons.
- Signing the Agreement facilitates the Indian prisoners imprisoned in Estonia or vice-versa to be near to their families, for serving remaining part of their sentence and shall facilitate their social rehabilitation.
- The transfer of such prisoners to their own native countries shall also facilitate their social rehabilitation.
- Prior to 2004, there was no domestic Legislation under which foreign prisoners could be transferred to the country of their origin to serve the remaining part of their sentence, nor was there a provision for the transfer of prisoners of Indian origin convicted by a foreign court to serve their sentence in India.
- Hence, the Repatriation of Prisoners Act, 2003 was enacted. For achieving the objectives of the Act, a Treaty/Agreement is required to be signed with countries having mutual interest with India and later to the notified in the Official Gazette.
- The Government of India has so far signed bilateral Agreements on Transfer of Sentenced Persons with countries including United Kingdom, Mauritius, Bulgaria, France, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh. So far total 65 prisoners have been exchanged, out of which 55 were Indians.
Russia to destroy all of its chemical weapons by end of 2017
Russia has indicated that it will destroy all of its chemical weapons by the end of next year – a year earlier than previously announced.
- Russia had to build several plants in the past two decades to dispose of the world’s largest chemical weapons arsenal.
- As a signatory of the international Chemical Weapons Convention, Russia already has destroyed about 93% of its chemical weapons.
- In 1993, when Russia signed the CWC, the country declared that it possessed 40,000 tons of toxic chemicals.
About the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC):
- The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is a multilateral treaty that bans chemical weapons and requires their destruction within a specified period of time.
- The CWC is implemented by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is headquartered in The Hague.
- CWC negotiations started in 1980 in the UN Conference on Disarmament. The convention entered into force in 1997.
- The OPCW receives states-parties’ declarations detailing chemical weapons-related activities or materials and relevant industrial activities. After receiving declarations, the OPCW inspects and monitors states-parties’ facilities and activities that are relevant to the convention, to ensure compliance.
- The CWC is open to all nations and currently has 192 states-parties.
- Israel has signed but not ratified the agreement, while three other UN member states (Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan) have neither signed nor acceded to the treaty.
The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits:
- Developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling, or retaining chemical weapons.
- The direct or indirect transfer of chemical weapons.
- Chemical weapons use or military preparation for use.
- Assisting, encouraging, or inducing other states to engage in CWC-prohibited activity.
- The use of riot control agents “as a method of warfare.”
Key Facts for Prelims
“Mission Madhumeha through Ayurveda”
Union Ministry of AYUSH has launched “Mission Madhumeha through Ayurveda” on the first National Ayurveda Day.
The Mission Madhumeha will be implemented throughout the country through a specially designed National Treatment Protocol for effective management of Diabetes through Ayurveda. The national treatment Protocol was also released on occasion of National Seminar.
The first National Ayurveda Day was observed on 28 October on the occasion of Dhanwantari Jayanti. The theme for this year is ‘Ayurveda for Prevention and Control of Diabetes‘.