Polity & Governance
- Centre to contest tribunal order on military pay
- Punjab, J&K agree to start work on Shahpur Kandi Dam project
- CGST Bill and IGST Bill approved
- Tezu is now a vantage point
Environment & Ecology
- Centre launches survey on Gangetic dolphins
Defence & Security Issues
- World’s oldest aircraft carrier INS Viraat decommissioned
Science & Technology
- Battling Leptospira at the genome level
Key Facts for Prelims
- World’s oldest fossils discovered in Quebec, Canada
- Tirtha Darshan Scheme for senior citizens
- UGC 12591
- India’s tallest Tricolor hoisted
Polity & Governance
Centre to contest tribunal order on military pay
The Defence Ministry has decided as a matter of principle to challenge in the Supreme Court the ruling of the Armed Forces Tribunal to grant non-functional upgrade (NFU) for the armed forces.
- While the government is not against the upgrade for the services, its challenge is on principle as a tribunal has no authority to take such a decision.
What’s the issue?
Last December, the tribunal granted the upgrade to the armed forces personnel in pay and allowances in response to a petition filed by over 160 officers.
The upgrade has been one of the core anomalies raised by the services in the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, which are yet to be implemented for them.
The upgrade entitles all officers of a batch who are not promoted to draw the salary and grade pay that the senior-most officer of their batch would get after a certain period.
The Sixth Pay Commission had granted the upgrade to most Group ‘A’ officers but not the military. Since then, the armed forces had been demanding a one-time notional upgrade to ensure parity.
However, the Seventh Pay Commission (SPC) gave a mixed verdict on it and the issue has since been referred to the Anomalies Committee.
About Armed Forces Tribunal:
The Armed Forces Tribunal Act 2007, was passed by the Parliament and led to the formation of AFT with the power provided for the adjudication or trial by Armed Forces Tribunal of disputes and complaints with respect to commission, appointments, enrolments and conditions of service in respect of persons subject to the Army Act, 1950, The Navy Act, 1957 and the Air Force Act, 1950.
- It can further provide for appeals arising out of orders, findings or sentences of courts- martial held under the said Acts and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
- The Tribunal transacts their proceedings as per the Armed Forces Tribunal (Procedure) rules, 2008. All proceedings in the Tribunal will be in English.
- The Tribunal will normally follow the procedure as is practiced in the High Courts of India.
- Each Bench comprises of a Judicial Member and an Administrative Member.
- The Judicial Members are retired High Court Judges and Administrative Members are retired Members of the Armed Forces who have held rant of Major General/ equivalent or above for a period of three years or more, Judge Advocate General (JAG), who have held the appointment for at least one year are also entitled to be appointed as the Administrative Member.
Punjab, J&K agree to start work on Shahpur Kandi Dam project
Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir have reached out an agreement to resolve issues relating to the Shahpur Kandi Dam project, proposed to be built downstream Ranjit Sagar Dam (Thein Dam) on the Ravi in Gurdaspur district.
- The project comes under the Indus Water Treaty, thus helping India utilise its rights on eastern rivers of the basin.
- The agreement was facilitated by the Union ministry of water resources, also a cosignatory in the pact.
- Punjab will bear the balance cost on account of compensation for land acquisition in respect of Thein Dam, located nearly 10km upstream the Shahpur Kandi Dam.
- Punjab will also share with Jammu and Kashmir 20% of the total power generated at Thein Dam at the mutually agreed rate of Rs 3.50 per unit immediately. This is subject to confirmation of the rates by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission.
- A tripartite monitoring team, headed by a member of the Central Water Commission, would be constituted to oversee the work.
About the project:
The 55.5 high Shahpur Kandi dam, located in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, will help in providing irrigation facility to 5000 hectares of land in Punjab and 32173 hectares in J&K besides generation of 206 MW power.
- Tagged as a national project by the Centre, it was to be built with an estimated cost of Rs 2,285.81 crore (as per April 2008 price level) and is expected to generate 206 megawatt electricity.
- The project will continue to be implemented by Punjab and its design shall be as agreed by both states.
- Model studies will be carried out concurrently to ensure J&K gets its mandated share of 1,150 cusecs of water.
- Under the scheme, MoWR, RD&GR provides central assistance @ 90% of the balance cost of works component of irrigation and water supply.
- The construction of Shahpur Kandi project was taken up in May 1999 but later halted in 2014 due to dispute between Punjab and J&K.
CGST Bill and IGST Bill approved
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council on 4 March 2017 approved the draft Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) Bill and the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) Bill.
- With this, the Union Government can now take these two Bills to the Parliament for their passage in the Budget Session.
Key provisions of the bill:
- A State-wise single registration will be required for a taxpayer for filing returns, paying taxes and to fulfil other compliance requirements.
- A taxpayer needs to file one single return state-wise to report all his supplies, whether made within or outside the State or exported out of the country and pay the applicable taxes on them.
- A business entity with an annual turnover of up to Rs 20 lakhs will not be required to take registration in the GST regime, unless he voluntarily chooses to do so to be a part of the input tax credit (ITC) chain.
- A business entity with turnover up to Rs 50 lakhs can avail the benefit of a composition scheme under which a much lower rate of tax will be paid.
- In order to prevent cascading of taxes, ITC would be admissible on all goods and services used in the course or furtherance of business, except on a few items listed in the Law.
- In the Services sector, the existing mechanism of Input Service Distributor (ISD) under the Service Tax law is retained to allow the flow of ITC in respect of input services within a legal entity.
- To prevent lock-in of capital of exporters, a provision has been made to refund within seven days of filing the application for refund by an exporter.
- An agriculturist, to the extent of supply of produce out of cultivation of land, will not be liable to take registration in the GST regime.
- In order to provide certainty in tax matters, a provision has been made for an Advance Ruling Authority.
- Exhaustive provisions for Appellate mechanism have been made.
- An anti-profiteering provision has been incorporated to ensure that the reduction of tax incidence is passed on to the consumers.
About Goods and Services Tax:
- GST is proposed uniform indirect taxation regime throughout the country.
- It will merge most of the existing indirect taxes into single system of taxation.
- It is consumption based tax levied on the supply of Goods and Services which will be levied and collected at each stage of sale or purchase of goods or services based on the input tax credit method.
- GST will be a comprehensive indirect tax on manufacture, sale and consumption of goods and services throughout India.
- It was approved by The Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016.
- It seeks to enhance fiscal federalism by removing indirect tax barriers across states and integrate the country into a common market, boosting government revenue and reducing business costs.
Tezu is now a vantage point
The newly constructed Tezu airport will be the first civilian airport of Arunachal Pradesh.
Where is Tezu?
- Tezu is the nearest town to Walong, where a legendary battle between Indian and Chinese soldiers took place in October 1962.
- Tezu will smoothen transport to several high-altitude districts near the India-China border.
- The route to Tezu is critical from a strategic point of view as the Himalayan range, which became famous as ‘the hump’ during World War II, can be accessed only through the mountain roads that begin at Tezu.
- Tezu is an administrative headquarters of Lohit District in Arunachal Pradesh.
- The ancient inhabitant of this land of valley and rivers are the Mishmi tribes. The Mishmi tribes have traditions and customs dating back to the times of Mahabharata. According to Hindu traditions, Lord Krishna’s first queen Rukmini was a Mishmi Damsel.
- The major Mishmi God is Ringyajabmalu and the major Mishmi festival is known as Tamladu puja. It is celebrated each year on 15 February. People from all communities and all walks of life are invited to join in the celebrations.
- Parsuram Kund, the main attraction is situated on the bank of Lohit river, one of the main tributaries of Brahmaputra River. Located within the Kamlang Reserve Forest area, Each year, hundreds and thousands of devotees visits in Makar Sankranti on January 14.
- The other major attraction in Tezu is Dong a small pristine valley where the Sun rises first on India.
- Glow Lake another tourist attraction in Tezu, is located in Wakro Circle.
Environment & Ecology
Centre launches survey on Gangetic dolphins
The Centre has launched the first ever across-the-river survey in the Ganga to determine the population of aquatic life, including that of the endangered Gangetic dolphin.
- The survey will create a baseline scientific data for the government to take suitable measures to improve quality of the river water.
- The first leg of the census was launched on March 1 from Narora in Uttar Pradesh to Bijnor (covering distance of nearly 165 km) to establish the number of the national aquatic animal.
- A study to figure out fish species composition in the 2525 km-long river has been also been kick started from Harshil in Uttarakhand.
- The survey is being conducted through Wildlife Institute of India (WII), an autonomous institution of Environment and Forest Ministry, under Namami Gange programme.
- The study will find out stretches where dolphin is habitating, what are the conditions there and the level of threat the long-snouted species is facing in a particular belt.
- Apart from number of dolphins, number of ghariyals and turtles in the river will also be ascertained.
- Besides populace count, the study will help know distribution pattern of aquatic life in the river, extent of threat level they are facing and their habitat conditions.
Significance of the move:
This will be for the first time a comprehensive and scientific study will be conducted to determine the population of aquatic life in River Ganga. Earlier all the surveys carried out were conducted in bits and pieces or were rapid.
About Gangetic Dolphins:
- River dolphins are found in Ganga and Brahmaputra and its tributaries.
- Also known as susu, it inhabits the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.
- It is the National Aquatic Animal of India.
- It has been declared endangered species and is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
- This dolphin is among the four “obligate” freshwater dolphins – the other three are the baiji now likely extinct from the Yangtze river in China, the bhulan of the Indus in Pakistan and the boto of the Amazon River in Latin America.
- Although there are several species of marine dolphins whose ranges include some freshwater habitats, these four species live only in rivers and lakes.
- Being a mammal, the Ganges River dolphin cannot breathe in the water and must surface every 30-120 seconds.
- Because of the sound it produces when breathing, the animal is popularly referred to as the ‘Susu’.
- This fresh water dolphin species is practically blind. They rely on bio-sonar method to move around and catch their prey.
Defence & Security Issues
World’s oldest aircraft carrier INS Viraat decommissioned
The world’s longest serving warship INS Viraat was decommissioned by the Indian Navy at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai, Maharashtra after nearly six decades of service.
Key facts about INS Viraat:
- INS Viraat holds Guinness Books of record of being the longest serving warship in the world.
- It was also the last British-built ship serving with the Indian Navy.
- It was built in 1943, during the Second World War.
- It was commissioned as the Royal British Navy’s HMS Hermes in 1959 and decommissioned in 1984.
- It was sold to India in 1987 and served the navy for 27 years.
- It had played a major role in Operation Jupiter in 1989 in the Sri Lankan peace keeping operation.
- It also had participated in the standoff Operation Parakram in 2001-20012 when India and Pakistan were engaged in a standoff post the Parliament terror attack.
- The ship sailed for the last time under its own power in July 2016 from Mumbai to Kochi where it was dry-docked and prepared for decommissioning.
Science & Technology
Battling Leptospira at the genome level
To improve the odds of controlling Leptospirosis by understanding the genetic determinants of Leptospira pathogenesis that researchers at the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) and the J. Craig Venter Institute have collaborated in a major genome-sequencing effort for 20 Leptospira species.
- Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira.
- In humans, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases. Some infected persons, however, may have no symptoms at all.
- The bacteria that causes leptospirosis is spread in the urine of infected animals, including rodents, wildlife, dogs, and livestock.
- It does not spread from person to person.
- Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics.
- The disease can lead to life-threatening complications like renal failure, hypotension and hemorrage. Severe or untreated leptospirosis can lead to damage of the organs and in rare cases.
Leptospira in India:
- In the summer and rainy seasons of 2015, leptospirosis, a dangerous, neglected tropical disease, struck in multiple cities of India.
- In Mumbai, the toll was high — at least 18 people reportedly succumbed to the zoonotic disease, also known colloquially as “rat fever” for its association with the urine of rodents among several host species.
Key Facts for Prelims
World’s oldest fossils discovered in Quebec, Canada
- Scientists have claimed that they have discovered oldest fossils on Earth in rocks from Quebec, Canada.
- Carbon dating techniques suggest that these rocks are at least 3.8 billion years old and might even be 4.3 billion years old.
- The fossils are thought to be the remains of bacteria that lived on iron and dwelt around hydrothermal vent systems i.e. mineral rich hot springs on the seafloor.
- They’re made of haematite, a type of iron oxide (known as rust).
- This discovery supports the idea that life emerged from hot, seafloor vents shortly after planet Earth formed.
- Thus, provides strong evidence that the first life on Earth and formed around nutrient-rich hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean.
- It is one of leading theories to show signs of how life spawned on Earth, as opposed to other theories such as panspermia, which suggests that life was deposited by asteroid or other rocky body that crashed into Earth.
Tirtha Darshan Scheme for senior citizens
- Haryana Government has announced Tirtha Darshan Scheme under which senior citizens above 60 years of age in the state will be able to go on a pilgrimage within the country at government expense
- Under the scheme, state government will bear the entire cost of the tour of senior citizens belonging to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families.
- In case of a couple, the expenses of the spouse belonging to BPL family will also be borne by the state government. They will also be able to take along an assistant.
- In case of senior citizens of non-BPL families, state government would bear only 70% of the cost. Senior citizens will be selected for the pilgrimage on the basis of lottery system.
- Under the scheme, over 400 destinations can be visited. The maximum number of pilgrims will be only 250 every year.
- Selection of pilgrims will be made by a district committee headed by the deputy commissioner.
- The tour packages will include journey in sleeper class by chartered train and night accommodation on multi-sharing basis. Besides, travel insurance provision will be mandatory for the pilgrims.
- It is an incredibly massive galaxy about 400 million light years away from the Earth.
- Recently, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has captured an image of it.
- It is situated in the westernmost region of the Pisces-Perseus Supercluster, one of the largest known structures in the cosmos. It sits somewhere between lenticular and spiral shapes.
- The galaxy and its halo together are four times the mass of the Milky Way and several hundred billion times the mass of the Sun.
- The HST is into low orbit space telescope launched in 1990 by NASA and European Space Agency (ESA). It is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble and is still in operation.
India’s tallest Tricolor hoisted
- India’s tallest national flag measuring 360 feet was hoisted at Attari-Wagah joint checkpost in Punjab.
- It broke earlier record of national flag hoisted in Ranchi which is 293 feet high.
- The foundation of the flag can withstand high velocity winds up to 180 km an hour.
- It is all-weather flag based on motorized mechanism and will be lowered only in case of wear and tear.
- The flag will be an attraction for the tourists who visit the Attari border to watch the Beating the Retreat ceremony.