Polity & Governance
- DGFT may come under Revenue dept.
Issues related to Health & Education
- Union Health Minister gets special recognition award from WHO for global tobacco control
- Only PSUs may be let to make Oxytocin
- ‘India among top FDI destinations, but tax concerns remain’: UNCTAD report
- Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) notifies new Safe Harbour Regime
Bilateral & International Relations
- One million dollar fund established to bolster BRICS media
Science & Technology
- Nanoparticles to treat eye infection
Key Facts for Prelims
- World’s oldest fossil mushroom discovered
- South Korea to freeze new THAAD deployment
- ‘Selfie with Daughter’ Mobile App
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Polity & Governance
DGFT may come under Revenue dept.
The Centre is considering a proposal to shift the entire Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) office to the Department of Revenue (DoR) from the Department of Commerce (DoC).
- To simplify processes relating to export and import.
- As a part of major trade facilitation measure and
- In line with the Centre’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ initiative.
- To better utilise the Department of Commerce’s resources (including ITS cadre officials) in ‘core focus areas’ such as FTP formulation as well as in India’s trade negotiations.
- If the proposal is accepted, the DGFT will be placed within the DoR and staffed entirely by Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officials.
- To enable an IRS official to head the DGFT, a new post — Principal/Chief Commissioner (Foreign Trade) equivalent to Additional Secretary to Government of India (the rank of the official currently heading the DGFT) — will be created.
- It was mooted recently by the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) in the DoR within the Finance Ministry.
Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) organisation is an attached office of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and is headed by Director General of Foreign Trade.
- Right from its inception till 1991, when liberalization in the economic policies of the Government took place, this organization has been essentially involved in the regulation and promotion of foreign trade through regulation.
- Keeping in line with liberalization and globalization and the overall objective of increasing of exports, DGFT has since been assigned the role of “facilitator”.
- The shift was from prohibition and control of imports/exports to promotion and facilitation of exports/imports, keeping in view the interests of the country.
- The DGFT’s role includes Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) formulation and implementation — to in turn boost India’s exports.
- It is manned mainly by the Indian Trade Service (ITS) cadre officials, but is usually headed by an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer.
- The shifting of DGFT office would require amendments in the concerned laws — the Foreign Trade (Development & Regulations) Act and the Customs Act.
Issues related to Health & Education
Union Health Minister gets special recognition award from WHO for global tobacco control
Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda has been conferred the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award for global tobacco control.
- His mantra for success in tobacco control efforts is “Catch them Young”.
- India is the second largest tobacco consuming country in the world with 27 crore users.
Government’s efforts towards curbing tobacco use:
The government has initiated various measures to reduce tobacco consumption in the country.
- Implemented large pack warnings with 85% pictorial health warnings on both the sides,
- Conducted second round of Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS),
- Strengthened & upscaled cessation facilities with the launch of the toll-free national tobacco Quitline and mCessation services.
- Has made substantial investment under the 12th Five Year Plan for expansion of National Tobacco Control Programme, which was recognized by WHO as a best practice in its Global Tobacco Control report, 2015.
- Has also put a ban on smokeless tobacco products and has strengthened the implementation of the Tobacco Free film and television policy.
Result of these initiatives:
- As a result of various measures taken by the government, NGOs and civil society organizations, the tobacco use in the country is estimated to have reduced by 81 lakhs and youth consumption of tobacco has also seen marked decrease.
- A 54% relative reduction in prevalence of tobacco use among minors (15-17 years) and 28% reduction in the age group of 18-24 years has been reported.
- There is a need for a social movement with all the stakeholders including states participating in it for controlling the tobacco use.
- There is an immense importance of awareness campaigns about tobacco use in schools and colleges in both rural and urban areas.
- Alternative job/employment avenues for tobacco growers needs to be thought of and deliberated upon.
About WHO FCTC:
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is the first global health treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization.
- It was adopted by the World Health Assembly on 21 May 2003 and subsequently entered into force on 27 February 2005.
- It had been signed by 168 countries and is legally binding in 180 ratifying countries.
- It is considered as one of the most widely embraced treaties in the history of WHO and UN.
- It provides a new legal dimension for international cooperation in healthcare in combating the tobacco epidemic.
- It has successfully helped to co-ordinate and energize the global struggle against tobacco.
- It is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health and was developed in response to globalization of tobacco epidemic.
- Under it, the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products was adopted to address the increasing illegal trade in tobacco products in November 2012.
Only PSUs may be let to make Oxytocin
After being banned in retail markets, the Drug Controller will soon restrict manufacturing of controversial hormone drug Oxytocin to public sector undertakings (PSUs).
What is Oxytocin?
- Oxytocin is a hormone that is made in the brain, in the hypothalamus. It is transported to, and secreted by, the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain.
- It acts both as a hormone and as a brain neurotransmitter.
- The release of oxytocin by the pituitary gland acts to regulate two female reproductive functions: Childbirth and Breast-feeding.
- Oxytocin has also been dubbed the hug hormone, cuddle chemical, moral molecule, and the bliss hormone due to its effects on behavior, including its role in love and in female reproductive biological functions in reproduction.
Why ban on its sale?
- The drug is used by dairy owners and farmers to boost milk production and make vegetables look bigger and fresher. But, it was found that indiscriminate use of Oxytocin in milch animals and by farmers was causing irreversible hormone damage.
- Despite it being a Schedule H drug, it is impossible to prevent its manufacturing at registered private factories.
- Implications to human health are humongous, from reproductive complications to hormonal imbalances.
- One major reason for such blatant misuse of this drug is the absence of robust veterinary services in India.
- In March 2016, the Himachal Pradesh High Court directed the Central government to “consider the feasibility of restricting the manufacture of Oxytocin only in public sector companies and also restricting and limiting the manufacture by companies to whom licences have already been granted.”
- The manufacture and sale of Oxytocin without a licence is a cognisable.
‘India among top FDI destinations, but tax concerns remain’: UNCTAD report
According to a World Investment Report 2017 of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), India will remain among the top three investment destinations globally till 2019.
Highlights of the report:
- India ranked 10th in terms of FDI inflows in 2016, with $44 billion coming in, as in 2015.
- Over the next two years, India will be behind only the U.S. and China in terms of investment attractiveness.
- In terms of projections for the future, the United States of America, China and India are the top prospective destinations for FDI.
- Regarding India, the report noted that although FDI flows had remained the same in 2016 as they were in 2015, there was global interest in mergers and acquisitions in the Indian market.
- Cross-border mergers and acquisitions deals have become increasingly important for foreign multinational enterprises to enter the rapidly-growing Indian market.
- Although new liberalisation efforts continue to improve the investment climate in India, tax-related concerns remain a deterrent for some foreign investors.
- The foreign outflows from South Asia declined by 29 per cent to only USD 6 billion in 2016, as India’s outward FDI dropped by about one third.
- The signing of a tax treaty by India and Mauritius in May 2016 “might have” contributed to reduced round-tripping FDI.
- Despite a historically high number of announced greenfield projects in 2015, FDI flows to India were largely flat at about USD 44 billion in 2016, up only 1 per cent from 2015.
- Pakistan’s inflows increased by 56 per cent due to significant investment in infrastructure from China in support of the One Belt One Road initiative.
- For the first time, China was the world’s second-largest investor as FDI outflows surged by 44 per cent to USD 183 billion, a new high.
- BRICS – the economic group comprising Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa accounted for 22 per cent of global GDP but received only 11 per cent of global FDI inflows.
Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) notifies new Safe Harbour Regime
Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has notified a new safe harbour regime based on the report of the Committee set up in this regard.
Aim of the move:
- The notification aims to reduce transfer pricing disputes, to provide certainty to taxpayers, to align safe harbour margins with industry standards and to enlarge the scope of safe harbour transactions.
What is the meaning of Safe Harbour?
- The term “Safe Harbour” denotes circumstances in which the Tax Authorities shall accept without undertaking a detailed scrutiny, the transfer price declared by the taxpayer in respect of its international transactions with related parties.
The salient features of the new Safe Harbour Regime are:
- It has come into effect from 1st of April, 2017, i.e. A.Y. 2017-18 and shall continue to remain in force for two immediately succeeding years thereafter, i.e. up to A.Y. 2019-2020.
- Assessees eligible under the present safe harbour regime up to AY 2017-18 shall also have the right to choose the safe harbour option most beneficial to them.
- A new category of transactions being “Receipt of Low Value-Adding Intra-Group Services” has been introduced.
- The new safe harbour regime is available for transactions limited to Rs. 200 crore in provision of software development services, provision of information technology-enabled services, provision of knowledge process outsourcing services, provision of contract research and development services wholly or partly relating to software development and provision of contract research and development services wholly or partly relating to generic pharmaceutical drugs.
- In respect of transactions involving provision of software development services and provision of information technology-enabled services, safe harbour margins have been reduced to peak rate of 18% from 22% in the previous regime.
- In respect of transactions involving provision of knowledge process outsourcing services, a graded structure of 3 different rates of 24%, 21% and 18% has been provided, based on employee cost to operating cost ratio, replacing the single rate of 25% in the previous regime.
- In respect of transactions involving provision of contract research and development services wholly or partly relating to software development and provision of contract research and development services wholly or partly relating to generic pharmaceutical drugs, safe harbour margins have been reduced to 24% from 30% and 29% respectively in the previous regime.
- Risk spreads on intra-group loans denominated in foreign currency will be benchmarked to the 6-month London Inter-Bank Offer Rate (LIBOR) as on 30th September of the relevant year and on loans denominated in Indian Rupees to the 1-year SBI MCLR as on 1st April of the relevant year.
- The safe harbour regime is optional to taxpayers.
About Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT):
- CBDT is nodal policy-making body of the Income Tax (IT) department under the Union Finance Ministry.
- It is a statutory authority established under The Central Board of Revenue Act, 1963.
- The composition of CBDT includes Chairman and six members.
- It is responsible for framing policy and administrative issues related to direct taxes and the Income Tax department.
- It is also India’s official Financial Action Task Force unit.
- The CBDT Chairman and Members of CBDT are selected from Indian Revenue Service (IRS) whose members constitute the top management of Income Tax Department.
Bilateral & International Relations
One million dollar fund established to bolster BRICS media
China’s state-run news agency Xinhua has announced a USD one million fund to institutionalise media cooperation among the BRICS countries including awards for journalists from the five member states.
- This was announced at the recently held BRICS media forum in China.
- The theme of the forum was: “Deepening BRICS Media Cooperation, Promoting Fair and Just International Public Opinion”.
- BRICS Media is aimed at promoting six objectives including balanced reporting.
- It aims to create an alternative media narrative distinct from the media of western nations.
- The proposal is also aimed at joint development of BRICS digital media, financial information services and promoting people- to-people contacts.
About the BRICS media forum:
- The BRICS media forum is a joint initiative of Xinhua News Agency, Brazil’s CMA Group, Russia’s Sputnik News Agency and Radio, The Hindu group of publications from India, and South Africa’s Independent Media.
BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) is an association of five major emerging national economies.
- BRICS comprises 43% of the world population, having 30% of the world GDP and 17% share in the world trade.
- It was established in 2009.
- The acronym BRIC was first used in 2001 by Goldman Sachs in their Global Economics Paper, “The World Needs Better Economic BRICs” on the basis of econometric analyses projecting that the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China would individually and collectively occupy far greater economic space and would be amongst the world’s largest economies in the next 50 years or so.
- In 2011, South Africa joined this informal group and BRIC became BRICS.
- So far, eight BRICS summits have taken place. The first formal summit was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
- The BRICS members are all developing or newly industrialised countries.
- It is important to note that all five BRICS nations are G-20 members.
- They are distinguished by their large, fast-growing economies and significant influence on regional and global affairs.
Science & Technology
Nanoparticles to treat eye infection
Scientists at the Hyderabad-based CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) have developed a novel way to treat fungal keratitis.
What is keratitis?
Keratitis is the inflammation of the eye, which starts with redness and itching and might eventually lead to blindness.
- Keratitis can be caused by both bacteria and fungi. Fungi attach themselves to the cornea and release enzymes that break down the corneal proteins for their nutritional requirements.
- In the process, the cornea also gets inflamed. Corneal damage causes wound and scar formation leading to severe visual impairment.
- It is estimated that about 30% of keratitis cases in India lead to blindness.
Significance of this research:
- Treating keratitis infection is currently a challenge because it is difficult to maintain a therapeutic dose at the corneal surface for long periods as blinking and tear formation washes off the drug. To address this challenge, scientists has developed protein-based nanoparticles that encapsulate the drug.
About the research:
- Certain antibodies get attached to the outer surface of the nanoparticles, thus anchoring the nanoparticles to the corneal surface. The infected cornea expresses a set of receptors (TLR4) when infection sets in. Scientists have used antibodies to these receptors to anchor the nanoparticles to the cornea.
- If the infection is severe, more receptors are expressed on the cornea and more nanoparticles get bound to the receptors. Since they are bound, the residence time in the eye is long; neither blinking nor tear formation washes off the nanoparticles.
- The enzymes secreted by fungi breaks down the gelatine protein of nanoparticles that encapsulates the drug, thus releasing the drug. Like in the case of the receptors, more enzyme is secreted when infection is severe leading to more drug being released from the nanoparticles.
- The gelatine protein acts as an alternative nutrient for the fungi. The fungi also degrade the gelatine-based nanoparticle to derive nutrients thus minimising the damage to the corneal tissue. In the process it releases the drug. In a sense, the fungi are committing suicide by consuming the gelatine protein.
Key Facts for Prelims
World’s oldest fossil mushroom discovered
- The world’s oldest fossil mushroom – dating back to about 115 million years – has been discovered in Brazil.
- The mushroom has been named Gondwanagaricites magnificus and belongs to the Agaricales order.
- The mushroom was uncovered in the Araripe Basin, in northeast Brazil, in a limestone layer called the Crato Formation.
South Korea to freeze new THAAD deployment
- South Korea has suspended any further deployment of a controversial US missile defence system until an environmental impact assessment ordered by new President Moon Jae-In is finished.
- The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), is a missile defence system that is designed to intercept and destroy short and medium-range ballistic missiles in their final flight phase.
- First proposed in 1987 and then finally deployed in 2008, the THAAD cannot be used as a form of attack against an enemy.
- Its role, by use of a powerful radar, is to simply track and destroy missiles before they are launched.
‘Selfie with Daughter’ Mobile App
- President Pranab Mukherjee launched the ‘Selfie with Daughter’ mobile application, aimed at raising awareness about female foeticide and sex selection.
- He urged people to take photographs with their daughters and upload them to make the campaign a success.
- ‘Selfie with Daughter’ has become a worldwide movement against female foeticide and sex selection.
- The aim of the campaign is to motivate society to feel proud to be parents of a girl child, which, in turn, will result in improving child sex ratio.