Current Affairs Analysis

6th & 7th September 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Kesavananda Bharati Case; Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP) ranking of states; Nivesh Mitra; What is the GST compensation?; What is the basic structure doctrine?; The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010; What is Assam Rifles?; Contribution of Assam Rifles; Tropospheric ozone; Desert bighorn sheep; Beavers; Collagen V; etc.
By IASToppers
September 07, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • 4th edition of Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP) ranking of states released
  • GST compensation due to States
  • Landmark Kesavananda Bharati Case
  • Government suspends FCRA clearance of 4 Christian groups

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Tropospheric ozone

Defence & Security Issues

  • Who controls Assam Rifles?

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Desert bighorn sheep
  • Beavers
  • Collagen V

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Polity & Governance

4th edition of Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP) ranking of states released

Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs, announced the 4th edition of Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP) ranking of states.

Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP) ranking of states:

  • Ranking of States based on the implementation of Business Reform Action Plan started in the year 2015. Till date, State Rankings have been released for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017-18.
  • The Business Reform Action Plan 2019 released by Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
  • Objective: to introduce healthy competition among states and UTs and thereby attract investments and increase the ease of doing business.
  • It contains a list of 80 reforms (187 reform action points) to be implemented by 19 State departments.
  • The states and UTs are ranked on 187 parameters, including:
  • Access to information and transparency enabler, single-window system, land administration and transfer of land and property, land availability and allotment, environment registration enablers, construction permit enablers, labour regulation-enablers, and obtaining utility permits.

Key highlights:

  • Andhra Pradesh retained its top position while Telangana slipped from second to third position.
  • Uttar Pradesh jumped 10 positions (2nd Rank) since the 2017-18 rankings, when it had ranked 12th.
  • Chandigarh is tied with Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim and Tripura at the 29th position.
  • The top ten states under State Reform Action Plan 2019 are:
    1. Andhra Pradesh
    2. Uttar Pradesh
    3. Telangana
    4. Madhya Pradesh
    5. Jharkhand
    6. Chhattisgarh
    7. Himachal Pradesh
    8. Rajasthan
    9. West Bengal
    10. Gujarat

Key facts:

  • ‘Nivesh Mitra’ is the Uttar Pradesh’s single window portal about the investment in the state.
  • Ease of Doing Business is a joint initiative by the Department for Promotion of Industries and Internal Trade and the World Bank to improve the overall business environment in the States.
[Ref: The Hindu, PIB]

GST compensation due to States

The 41st meeting of the GST Council was held with the singular agenda to the question of how best to ensure that the compensation payable to the States as part of the implementation of the GST.

What is the GST compensation?

  • The Constitution (101Amendment) Act, 2016 created the mechanism for levying a nationwide GST. There is a provision to compensate the States for loss of revenue arising out of implementation of the GST in this act.
  • While the States would receive the SGST (State GST) component of the GST, and a share of the IGST (Integrated GST), it was agreed that revenue shortfalls arising from the transition to the new indirect taxes regime would be made good from a pooled GST Compensation Fund for a period of five years that is set to end in 2022.
  • This corpus in turn is funded through a compensation cess that is levied on so-called ‘demerit’ goods.

Why is there an impasse on this issue?

  • Several States, including West Bengal, Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu have made clear that the onus is on the Centre to borrow from the market to make good any shortfall in the Compensation Fund.
  • Tamil Nadu stressed that the States had agreed to the implementation of the GST only on the basis of the “unequivocal commitment given by the Government of India to compensate the States for any revenue loss”.
  • States had not only suffered severe losses in revenue in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic but had also been at the forefront of the battle to prevent the spread of the disease.
  • Any delay in ensuring the compensation payments would compromise essential capital spending by the States to restart the economy effectively.
  • These States dismiss the Centre’s contention that any additional borrowing by it would have deleterious macro-economic consequences and
  • These States point out that global credit rating agencies essentially monitor the overall general government deficit and borrowing levels.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Landmark Kesavananda Bharati Case

Kesavananda Bharati, the man who lent his name to this iconic case as the petitioner, died. The Kesavananda Bharati case is considered among the most consequential decisions by the SC as it set out the “basic structure” of the Constitution that Parliament cannot amend.

What was the case about?

  • The case was primarily about the extent of Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution.
  • In this case, the court was reviewing a 1967 decision in Golaknath v State of Punjab which, reversing earlier verdicts, had ruled that Parliament cannot amend fundamental rights.
  • The court was deciding the constitutional validity of several other amendments:
    • The right to property had been removed as a fundamental right.
    • Parliament had also given itself the power to amend any part of the Constitution and passed a law that it cannot be reviewed by the courts.
  • The executive vs judiciary manoeuvres displayed in the amendments ended with the Kesavananda Bharati case.

What did the court decide?

  • The court held that fundamental rights cannot be taken away by amending them.
  • The court drew the line by observing that certain parts are so inherent and intrinsic to the Constitution that even Parliament cannot touch it.
  • However, despite the ruling that Parliament cannot breach fundamental rights, the court upheld the amendment that removed the fundamental right to property.
    • The court ruled that the amendment would not violate the “basic structure” of the Constitution.
  • Kesavananda Bharati lost the case. But as many legal scholars point out, the government did not win the case either.

What is the basic structure doctrine?

  • The origins of the basic structure doctrine are found in the German Constitution (Weimar Constitution).
  • In India, the basic structure doctrine has formed the bedrock of judicial review of all laws passed by Parliament. No law can impinge on the basic structure.

What was the fallout of the verdict?

  • Political: as a result of the verdict, the judiciary faced its biggest litmus test against the executive.
  • The supersession resulted in a decades-long continuing battle on the independence of the judiciary and the extent of Parliament’s power to appoint judges.
  • The ruling has cemented the rejection of majoritarian impulses to make sweeping changes or even replace the Constitution and
  • The ruling underlined the foundations of a modern democracy laid down by the makers of the Constitution.
[Ref: The Indian Express]

Government suspends FCRA clearance of 4 Christian groups

Of the six NGOs whose license under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) was suspended by the Union Home Ministry, four are Christian associations.

  • An FCRA licence is mandatory for a non-profit organisation to receive foreign funds.

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010:

  • The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 regulate the receipt and usage of foreign contribution by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in India.
  • The intent of the Act is to prevent use of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activity detrimental to the national interest.
  • It is applicable to a natural person, body corporate, all other types of Indian entities (whether incorporated or not) as well as NRIs and overseas branches/subsidiaries of Indian companies and other entities formed or registered in India.
  • It defines the term ‘foreign contribution’ to include currency, article other than gift for personal use (not exceeding the value of INR 25,000) and securities received from foreign source.
  • The Act follows the principles of natural justice and requires the Authority to provide the person concerned reasonable opportunity of being heard prior to passing any order.
  • The registration certificate under FRCA is valid for a period of five years. However, NGOs not eligible for registration can seek prior approval from FCRA for receiving foreign funding.

In order to achieve its objective, The Act:

  • Prohibits acceptance and use of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by a certain specified category of persons such as a candidate for election, judge, journalist, columnist, etc.
  • Regulates the inflow to and usage of foreign contribution by NGOs by prescribing a mechanism to accept, use and report usage of the same.

Criteria to be registered under FRCA for NGOs:

  • An NGO must be in existence for at least three years.
  • It must have undertaken reasonable activity in its field for which the foreign contribution is proposed to be utilised.
  • It must have spent at least INR 1,000,000 over three years preceding the date of its application on its activities.
  • The applicant NGO must be a bonafide entity.
  • Acceptance of foreign contribution by the applicant must not prejudicially impact the sovereignty and integrity of India.
  • The applicant NGO must not have been found guilty of diversion or mis-utilisation of its funds.

In which situation foreign fund can be accepted?

  • The Act permits only NGOs having a definite cultural, economic, educational, religious or social programme to accept foreign contribution, that too after such NGOs either obtain a certificate of registration or prior permission under the Act.

Restriction on use of foreign funding:

The Act imposes various conditions on the use of foreign funds and some of them are as follows:

  • All funds received by a NGO must be used only for the purpose for which they were received.
  • Such funds must not use in speculative activities identified under the Act.
  • Except with the prior approval of the Authority, such funds must not be given or transferred to any entity not registered under the Act or having prior approval under the Act.
  • Every asset purchased with such fund must be in the name of the NGO and not its office bearers or members.

Changes announced in Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules, 2011:

  • Declaration by each member: Every member of an NGO, under oath, through an affidavit, has to certify that they have never been involved in diverting foreign funds or propagating sedition or advocating violent means. Earlier, the applicant or director-level person was to given this declaration but now all members of the NGO need to be given this declaration.
  • Increased Gift amount: Government has increased the value of articles gifted for personal use from Rs 25000 to Rs 1 lakh in a financial year.
  • One-month time: If any individual, from NGO, hospitalized during a foreign visit, he/she has to be intimated the Indian government within one month.
[Ref: The Economic Times, The Indian Express]

Defence & Security Issues

Who controls Assam Rifles?

Delhi High Court has granted 12 weeks to the Union government to decide on whether to scrap or retain the dual control structure for Assam Rifles, which comes under both the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Defence.

What is Assam Rifles?

  • Assam Rifles is the oldest paramilitary force raised way back in 1835 in British India 
  • Assam Rifles is one of the six central armed police forces (CAPFs) under the administrative control of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • It is tasked with the maintenance of law and order in the North East along with the Indian Army and also guards the Indo-Myanmar border in the region.
  • It has a sanctioned strength of over 63,000 personnel and has 46 battalions apart from administrative and training staff.
  • The force is commanded by Lieutenant General from the Indian Army.

How is it unique?

  • It is the only paramilitary force with a dual control structure.
  • While the administrative control of the force is with the Ministry of Home Affairs, its operational control is with the Indian Army, which is under the Ministry of Defence.
  • This means that salaries and infrastructure for the force is provided by the MHA, but the deployment, posting, transfer and deputation of the personnel is decided by the Army.

Contribution of Assam Rifles:

  • It has gone on to fight in two World Wars, the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and used as an anti-insurgency force against militant groups in the North East.
  • Assam Rifles was first known as Cachar Levy as it raised as a militia to protect British tea estates and its settlements from the raids of the NE tribes.
  • It was reorganised later as Assam Frontier Force as its role was expanded to conduct punitive operations beyond Assam borders.
  • Given its contribution in opening the region to administration and commerce, it came to be known as the “right arm of the civil and left arm of the military”.
  • It was operating in foreign land as part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka in 1987 (Operation Pawan) to peacekeeping role in the North-Eastern areas of India.
  • It remains the most awarded paramilitary force in both pre- and post-independent India.

Key fact:

  • The other forces being the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF): the Border Security Force (BSF), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
[Ref: The Indian Express]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Tropospheric ozone

  • Scientists have found relatively low concentration of Ozone over Guwahati near surface ozone in the Brahmaputra River Valley (BRV) compared to the other urban locations in India.
  • Tropospheric, or ground-level ozone, is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC).
  • It usually increases when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants and other sources chemically react in the presence of sunlight, impacting human health.

Key Facts for Prelims

Desert bighorn sheep

  • Desert bighorn sheep found in landscapes in the American Southwest with the least human disturbance, were most likely to survive the effects of climate change, a study said.

About Desert bighorn sheep:

  • The desert bighorn sheep is a subspecies of bighorn sheep.
  • They live throughout the American Southwest, including Grand Canyon, Mojave Desert, and Sonoran Desert. 
  • They are commonly seen on steep terrain and cliffs.
  • Least Concern in the IUCN Red List.

Beavers

Dams built by beavers help in the growth of brown trout in Chile’s remote Tierra del Fuego, which is also the southern tip of South America, a study found.

About Beavers:

  • The beaver is a large, primarily nocturnal, semiaquatic rodent.
  • They are the second-largest rodent in the world after the capybara.
  • Beavers are known for building dams, canals, and lodges.
  • Their colonies create one or more dams to provide still, deep water to protect against predators, and to float food and building material. 
  • When sites are available, beavers burrow in the banks of rivers and lakes. But they also transform less suitable habitats by building dams.
  • IUCN status: Least Concern

Collagen V

  • A study finds that collagen V (a protein) regulates scar formation, and absence of collagen V results in larger scars. 
  • This finding can be used to build a feedback mechanism to treat heart injuries and prevent tissue dysfunction.
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