Polity & Governance
- Electoral bonds worth Rs 277 crore sold since General Elections
- MHA to continue to have final say on AFSPA in J&K
Government Schemes & Policies
- Meghalaya to bring entry law for visitors
- Elephant bonds can bring back $500 billion stashed overseas
- Corporate Affairs Ministry to order SFIO probe into financial fraud at DHFL
- AP: With new contractor, work resumes on Polavaram project
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Delhi pollution: what next in smog fight?
Key Facts for Prelims
- Foundation day of seven states
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Polity & Governance
Electoral bonds worth Rs 277 crore sold since General Elections
A non-governmental organisation ‘Association for Democratic Reforms’ said that Electoral bonds worth Rs 277 crore have been sold since the General Elections of 2019.
What are Electoral bonds?
- Electoral bonds are bearer instrument in nature of promissory note and an interest-free banking instrument.
- These can be redeemed only through the registered accounts of a political party in a prescribed time frame.
- It aims at rooting out current system of largely anonymous cash donations made to political parties which lead to generation of black money in the economy.
- Electoral bonds can be purchased for any value in multiples of Rs.1,000, Rs.10,000, Rs.10 lakh, and Rs.1 crore only from State Bank of India (SBI).
Who can purchase?
- A citizen of India or a body incorporated in India will be eligible to purchase the bond.
- The purchaser is allowed to buy electoral bonds only on due fulfilment of all extant KYC norms and by making payment from a bank account. It will not carry the name of the payee.
- In essence, the donor and the party details will be available with the bank, but the political party might not be aware of who the donor is.
Eligibility of Political parties
- Every party that is registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and has secured at least one per cent of the votes polled in the most recent Lok Sabha or State election will be allotted a verified account by the Election Commission of India. Electoral bond transactions can be made only via this account.
- It will have a life of 15 days during which they can be used to make donations to registered political parties.
- The electoral bonds will be available for purchase for a period of 10 days each in months of January, April, July and October with additional 30 days to be specified by Central government in year of general election so that this does not become a parallel currency.
Concerns related to the conventional system of political funding
- The conventional system of political funding is to rely on donations. These donations, big or small, come from a range of sources from political workers, sympathisers, small business people and even large industrialists.
- The conventional practice of funding the political system was to take donations in cash and undertake these expenditures in cash.
- The sources are anonymous or pseudonymous. The quantum of money was never disclosed.
- The present system ensures unclean money coming from unidentifiable sources. It is a wholly non-transparent system.
Why Electoral Bonds are necessary?
- Elections and political parties are a fundamental feature of Parliamentary democracy.
- Elections cost money. Staff salaries, travelling expenses, establishment cost are regular expenditures of political parties. There has not been a single year where election either for the Parliament or State Assemblies have not been held.
- Political parties have to spend money on election campaigns, publicity, tours, travels and election related establishments. These expenditures run into hundreds of crores. Yet there has not been a transparent funding mechanism of the political system.
MHA to continue to have final say on AFSPA in J&K
The Cabinet Secretariat notified rules reasserting the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as the authority that would decide on the imposition of AFSPA in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh.
- AFSPA, which empowers security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without a warrant, is in force in J&K since July 5,1990.
- Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in disturbed areas.
- It was preceded by the Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Ordinance 1958. The Ordinance gave the armed forces certain special powers in the ‘disturbed areas’ of Manipur and Assam.
Why is this required?
- The government (either the state or centre) considers those areas to be ‘disturbed’ ‘by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.’
Under which conditions AFSPA can be declared?
- When the local administration fails to deal with local issues and the police proves inefficient to cope with them.
- When the scale of unrest or instability in the state is too large for the police to handle.
Where it is applicable currently?
- Presently, AFSPA, 1958 is operational in entire States of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (except Imphal Municipal area), three districts namely Tirap, Changlang and Longding of Arunachal Pradesh and the areas falling within the jurisdiction of the police stations in the districts of Arunachal Pradesh, bordering the State of Assam.
- It is also operational in Jammu & Kashmir since 1990.
How does one officially declare a region to be ‘disturbed’?
- Section (3) of the AFSPA Act empowers the governor of the state or Union territory to issue an official notification on the Gazette of India, following which the centre has the authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid.
- It is still unclear whether the governor has to prompt the centre to send in the army or whether the centre on its own sends in troops.
- Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months, according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976.
What about the state government’s role?
- The state governments can suggest whether the Act is required to be enforced or not. But under Section (3) of the Act, their opinion can still be overruled by the governor or the centre.
What are the special powers given to army officials under AFSPA Act?
- The authorised officer has the power to open fire at any individual even if it results in death if the individual violates laws which prohibit (a) the assembly of five or more persons; or (b) carrying of weapons. However, the officer has to give a warning before opening fire.
- The authorised officer has also been given the power to (a) arrest without a warrant; and (b) seize and search without any warrant any premise in order to make an arrest or recovery of hostages, arms and ammunitions.
Review of the Act:
- In November, 2004, the Central government appointed a five-member committee headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy to review the provisions of the act in the north eastern states.
- The committee submitted its report in 2005, which included the following recommendations: (a) AFSPA should be repealed and appropriate provisions should be inserted in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967; (b) The Unlawful Activities Act should be modified to clearly specify the powers of the armed forces and paramilitary forces and (c) grievance cells should be set up in each district where the armed forces are deployed.
- The 5threport of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission on public order has also recommended the repeal of the AFSPA. These recommendations have not been implemented.
- In Manipur, Irom Sharmila, also known as ‘Iron Lady’, was on fast for 11 years since 2000, seeking the repeal of the act in Manipur.
Government Schemes & Policies
Meghalaya to bring entry law for visitors
The Meghalaya Cabinet approved amendments to the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act (MRSSA) 2016, which will lead to laws that require non-resident visitors to register themselves on the lines of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.
Reason behind such move
- Continuous demands for a system similar to Inner Line Permit (ILP) in Meghalaya.
- Concerns by civil societies that people excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam might try to enter Meghalaya.
What is the Inner Line Permit (ILP)?
- The Inner Line Permit (ILP) is an official travel documentissued by the Government of India to grant inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected area for a limited period.
- It is obligatory for Indians residing outside those states to obtain permission prior to entering the protected areas.
- ILP is based on the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations, 1873, which protected the British Crown’s interest in tea, oil and elephant trade. It prohibited “British subjects”or Indians from entering into these protected areas.
- It can be issued for travel purposes solely. Visitors are not allowed to purchase property in these regions. However, there might be a different set of rules for long term visitors, though they are not valid for central government employees and security forces.
- Currently, the Inner Line Permit is operational in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.
- The document has been issued under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873and the conditions and restrictions vary from state to state.
Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act (MRSSA) 2016
- The Meghalaya Residents, Safety and Security Act, 2016 (MRSSA) was passed to check illegal immigration in Meghalaya.
- It provides for verification and regulation the tenants residing in rented houses in the state.
- It also establishes District Task Force and Facilitation Centres for effective enforcement of various laws for the safety and security of the citizens.
- Nagaland was inaugurated as India’s 16th State on this date following the ‘16-point agreement’ between the government of India and the Naga People’s Convention in 1960.
Elephant bonds can bring back $500 billion stashed overseas
The High Level Advisory Group (HLAG) estimates that India could recover up to $500 billion of black money stashed overseas if it implements its proposal to issue a type of long-term government bond to those with undisclosed wealth.
What is the suggestion of HLAG?
- To fight the menace of black money, it suggests issuance of long term infrastructure government bonds, called as Elephant Bonds. This bonds will attract the offshore undisclosed wealth into India.
- In other words, under this proposed scheme, unaccounted wealth holders can disclose their assets by paying minimum tax without fear of prosecution.
Under the proposed scheme of HLAG, the person who has black money,
- have to invest 40 % of such black money in Elephant Bonds. The proceeds from issuance of such bonds will be utilized for development of Infrastructure in India.
- will have to pay 15 % of unaccounted wealth as tax.
- Of the amount invested in the bonds, 75 % of the interests earned will be be collected as tax.
- The scheme will be open for anyone who wants to disclose the unaccounted wealth and to get immunity from penalty and prosecution under various laws can opt for this amnesty scheme.
Significance of the Elephant bonds
- It gives immunity from all laws on disclosing of unaccounted wealth
- It provides the Government enough amount in form of tax and investment in bonds to channelize funds of infrastructure development in India.
Is there any such amnesty scheme has been proposed in past to bring the black money back in India?
- In 2016, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Deposit Scheme (PMGKDS) was introduced under which a person could declare his undisclosed cash by paying tax, surcharge and penalty. However, that scheme did not turn out to be attractive owing to exorbitant tax rate and non-immunity from certain criminal legislations.
- Similarly, in 1981, the Special Bearer Bonds (Immunities and Exemptions) Act, 1981 was brought in to channelize the black money for effective economic and social planning. However, that scheme also didn’t work as bonds were not isolated from the regular tax proceedings.
Tax amnesty scheme across the world
- Tax Countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Argentina and the Philippines have already launched their own tax amnesty schemes for persons to disclose undeclared income without the risk of prosecution.
About the High Level Advisory Group (HLAG)
- The High Level Advisory Group (HLAG) set up by the Minister of Commerce in 2018.
- It is chaired by the Surjit S Bhalla.
Corporate Affairs Ministry to order SFIO probe into financial fraud at DHFL
The Corporate Affairs Ministry will soon order the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) to probe into the alleged financial irregularities at the troubled housing finance company (DHFL).
What is Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO)?
The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) is a statutory corporate fraud investigating agency of India
- It is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India.
- The SFIO is involved in major fraud probes and is the co-ordinating agency with the Income Tax and CBI.
- SFIO was established in 2003 on the recommendations made by the Naresh Chandra Committeewhich was set up by the Government on corporate governance.
- To make SFIO more effective, the Central Government constituted a Committee under the Chairmanship of VepaKamesam.
- It is a multi-disciplinary organizationhaving experts from financial sector, capital market, accountancy, forensic audit, taxation, law, customs etc.
- SFIO is headed by a Director as Head of Department in the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India.
AP: With new contractor, work resumes on Polavaram project
Work on the mega Polavaram irrigation project resumed by the new contractor, Hyderabad-based Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd.
Polavaram irrigation project
- Polavaram Project is a multi-purpose irrigation project located across the Godavari River in Andhra Pradesh. The reservoir of dam spreads in parts of Chhattisgarh and Odisha.
- This project has been accorded the national project status by central government.
- It will be completed by 2021.
- The beneficiaries of the project will be East Godavari, Vishakhapatnam, West Godavari and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh.
- Supply irrigation water
- Generate hydropower and lift water to the Prakasam Barrage on Krishna river
- Supply drinking water
[Ref: The Hindu]
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Delhi pollution: what next in smog fight?
Chief Minister of Delhi announced that all Delhi school will be shut until November 5.
Reason behind shutting down schools
- Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) ordered a complete shutdown of construction in Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and Greater Noida as PM 2.5 concentration breached the 300 micrograms per cubic metre mark in Delhi.
What is Graded Response Action Plan for Delhi & NCR?
- In pursuant to the Supreme Court’s order of 2016 in C. Mehta vs. Union of India case regarding air quality in National Capital Region of Delhi, a Graded Response Action Plan was prepared for implementation under different Air Quality Index (AQI).
- Started in 2017 in Delhi and NCR, Graded Response Action Plan defines the measures to taken based on air quality on the basis of PM 2.5 (Particulate Matter of size 2.5 micrometers) and PM 10 in the atmosphere.
- Based on the air quality the grades have been classified as Severe+ or Emergency, Severe, Very Poor and Moderate poor.
- A point of criticism, however, is that the focus of GRAP has been limited to the Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR).
How it works?
- GRAP works only as an emergency measure. It does not include action by various state governments to be taken throughout the year to tackle industrial, vehicular and combustion emissions.
- Under this plan, emergency measures are automatically enforced in NCR if level of PM2.5 breaches 300 micrograms per cubic metre (µgm/m3) and PM10 levels stay above 500 (µgm/m3) for two consecutive days.
Severe+ or Emergency– (PM 2.5 over 300 µg/cubic metre or PM10 over 500 µg/cu. m. for 2 days):
- Stop entry of trucks into Delhi (except essential commodities).
- Stop construction work.
- Introduce odd/even scheme for private vehicles and minimise exemptions.
- Task Force to decide any additional steps including shutting of schools.
Severe– (PM 2.5 over 250 µg/cu. m. or PM10 over 430 µg/cu. m.):
- Close brick kilns, hot mix plants, stone crushers.
- Maximise power generation from natural gas to reduce generation from coal.
- Encourage public transport, with differential rates.
- More frequent mechanised cleaning of road and sprinkling of water.
Very Poor– (PM2.5 121-250 µg/cu. m. or PM10 351-430 µg/cu. m.):
- Stop use of diesel generator sets.
- Enhance parking fee by 3-4 times.
- Increase bus and Metro services.
- Apartment owners to discourage burning fires in winter by providing electric heaters during winter.
- Advisories to people with respiratory and cardiac conditions to restrict outdoor movement.
Moderate to poor– (PM2.5 61-120 µg/cu. m. or PM10 101-350 µg/cu. m.):
- Heavy fines for garbage burning.
- Close/enforce pollution control regulations in brick kilns and industries.
- Mechanised sweeping on roads with heavy traffic and water sprinkling.
- Strictly enforce ban on firecrackers.
- It is implemented by EPCA (Environment Pollution Control Authority) in pursuance of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
Success of GRAP
- GRAP has been successful in creating a step-by-step plan for the entire Delhi-NCR region as well as getting on board several agencies such as all pollution control boards, industrial area authorities, municipal corporations etc.
- The biggest success of GRAP has been in fixing accountability and deadlines. For each action to be taken under a particular air quality category, executing agencies are clearly marked.
- In a territory like Delhi, where a multiplicity of authoritieshas been a long-standing problem for effective governance, this step made a crucial difference.
- Also, coordination among as many as 13 agenciesfrom four states is simplified to a degree because of the clear demarcation of responsibilities.
- Three major policy decisions that are due to GRAP are the closure of the thermal power plant at Badarpur, bringing BS-VI fuel to Delhi before the deadline set initially, and the ban on Pet coke as a fuel in Delhi NCR.
- An N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve very efficient filtration of airborne particles.
- The ‘N95’ designation means it blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) particles.
Key Facts for Prelims
Foundation day of seven states
Seven Indian states — Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh — observed their foundation day on November 1.
- Andhra Pradesh celebrated its foundation day for the first time, five years after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
It is related to the formation of new States and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing States:
Parliament may by law
(a) form a new State by separation of territory from any State or by uniting two or more States or parts of States or by uniting any territory to a part of any State;
- b) increase/diminish or alter the name/boundary of any State area of any State;