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Insights Daily Current Events, 04 June 2015

Insights Daily Current Events, 04 June 2015

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India and Belarus Ink 6 Agreements During President Pranab Mukherjee’s Visit

India and Belarus have signed six agreements, including a Roadmap for India-Belarus Cooperation.

Details:

  • The agreements include a protocol amending the agreement between the two sides for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and on Property (Capital) of September, 27, 1997.
  • A MoU was inked between Bureau of Indian Standards and Belarus’ State Committee for Standardization on cooperation in the field of standardization and information support, and another MoU between Prasar Bharati and the National State Television and Radio Company of Belarus (Belteleradiocompany) for cooperation on broadcasting.
  • Both sides also inked a MoU on cooperation between the Securities and Exchange Board of India and Belurusian ministry of finance and a MoU between India’s textiles ministry and the Belarusian State Concern for Manufacturing and Marketing of Light Industry Goods ‘Bellegprom’.
  • The roadmap seeks to further strengthen and intensify bilateral political, defence, trade and economic exchanges, cultural relations and people-to-people contacts as well as enhanced cooperation in international forums.

India has also conveyed to Belarus its decision to extend a USD 100 million line of credit for joint ventures with the east European country which has shown interest in the flagship ‘Make In India’ initiative.

The agreements were signed during the recent visit of the Indian President to the country. This is the first presidential visit from India to Belarus, a landlocked East European country. The Belarus President had visited India twice in 1997 and 2007.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB.

 

India signs pact on automatic exchange of tax information

India has finally signed the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement (MCAA) on Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information. The declaration to comply with the provisions of the agreement was signed in Paris.

  • 54 countries have already joined the MCAA.
  • India is among six countries that joined this pact in Paris, taking the number to 60.
  • The target is to reach 94 countries by 2017.

Details:

  • The new system, also known as the Common Reporting Standards (CRS) on Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI), is very wide in scope and obliges the treaty partners to exchange a wide range of financial information, including that about the ultimate controlling persons and beneficial owners of entities.
  • To be able to comply with the new system, amendments have been made to section 285BA of the Income Tax Act, 1961. Necessary rules and guidelines are being formulated in consultation with financial institutions.
  • Previously, information was exchanged between countries on the basis of specific requests relating to cases of tax evasion and other financial crimes.
  • AEOI, when fully implemented, sets up a system wherein bulk taxpayer information will periodically be sent by the source country of income to the country of residence of the taxpayer.

Benefits of the Agreement:

  • This would be the key to prevent international tax evasion and avoidance and would be instrumental in getting information about assets of Indians held abroad including through entities in which Indians are beneficial owners.
  • This will help the Government to curb tax evasion and deal with the problem of black money.

Sources: PIB, BS.

 

India raises with U.S. arms sale to Pak.

India and the US have signed a new strategically important 10-year defence framework pact envisaging joint development and manufacture of defence equipment and technology including jet engines, aircraft carrier design and construction.

  • Both sides also finalised two project agreements for hi-tech mobile power source and next generation protective suits for chemical and biological warfare.

Details:

  • The framework agreement was decided during the visit of US President Barack Obama to India in January and focuses on issues ranging from maritime security and joint training.
  • The new Framework agreement provides avenues for high level strategic discussions, continued exchanges between armed forces of both countries, and strengthening of defence capabilities.
  • The two countries have also agreed to pursue co-development and co-production projects that will offer tangible opportunities for American defence industries to build partnership with the Indian industries including in manufacturing under ‘Make in India’.
  • Framework also recognises the transformative nature of the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). DTTI is an important element of the Defence Agreement. The first framework agreement, which expires this year, was signed in the US in 2005 by the then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his then US counterpart Donald Rumsfeld.

Sources: The Hindu.

 

Delhi slaps 15-day ban on sale of Maggi noodles

Centre has lodged a complaint with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission against the Indian arm of the Swiss manufacturer, Nestle, and the Delhi government has imposed a 15-day ban on sale of the product.

  • Several States, including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, West Bengal and Odisha, have sent samples of the product for testing, while the Jammu and Kashmir government has advised people not to eat Maggi noodles till the test results are out.
  • The Army and Navy have issued advisories to their canteens to set aside the existing stocks of the popular snack until further orders.

Why?

Recently, some Maggi noodles samples reportedly found to contain higher-than-permissible levels of monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Maggi noodles has been at the centre of controversy since laboratory tests ordered by Uttar Pradesh food inspectors on a batch of the popular snack allegedly found eight times as much lead as permissible.

About Monosodium glutamate (MSG):

  • It is one of the most common, naturally occurring non-essential amino acid, which is found in tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, potatoes, mushrooms, and other vegetables and fruits.
  • In the food industry, it is used as a taste enhancer that increases the meaty, savoury flavor of food.
  • Although the U.S Food and Drug Administration recognises MSG as safe, it is considered far more harmful in India. It has long-term effects, but show signs of discomfort among sensitive people whenever consumed.
  • Typical MSG complaints include: Burning sensations of the mouth, head and neck Headaches Weakness of the arms or legs Upset stomach Hives or other allergic-type reactions with the skin.
  • Scientists have also discovered that the compound can destroy Retina and parts of the Brain. It can also lead to nervous disorders and radical hormone fluctuations.
  • Many studies have also shown that it is particularly harmful for pregnant women and nursing mothers as infants and very young children are succeptible to brain damage and underdevelopment.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, Wiki.

 

Cultivation of paddy, sugarcane threat to Hampi monuments

UNESCO, in its “State of Conservation” report on the World Heritage Site, has said that cultivation of paddy and sugarcane pose a threat to the conservation of the historical Hampi group of monuments.

  • UNESCO has flagged irrigation for water-intensive agriculture, traffic close to the site and seasonal flooding of the Tungabhadra as challenges.

How cultivation of these crops affect the site?

The threat of agriculture is water-logging that weakens the foundation of minor monuments situated on farm land. There have been incidents of monuments sinking or damage caused due to dampness and wetness.

Hampi:

  • Hampi is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India located near Hospet town in the Karnataka state.
  • It is located within the ruins of the city of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire.
  • The emperor Ashoka’s minor rock edicts in Nittur & Udegolan (both in Bellary district, Karnataka) lead one to believe that this region was within the Ashokan kingdom during the 3rd century BCE.
  • A Brahmi inscription & a terracotta seal dating to the 2nd century CE were also discovered from the excavation site.
  • The first historical settlements in Hampi date back to 1 CE.
  • It is situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River.
  • Hampi has various notable Hindu temples with some vedanta mythology inside the temples, some of which are still active places of worship.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

 

U.S. passes NSA surveillance reform

President Barack Obama recently signed into law, the first reform in a decade limiting the sweeping powers of the National Security Agency to conduct surveillance on millions of citizens’ telephone conversations.

Details:

  • The USA Freedom Act is now operational after the US Patriot Act, the post-9/11 measure permitting mass global surveillance by the NSA on an unprecedented scale, expired on May 31st, 2015 at midnight after attempts to extend it were blocked by Republican Senators.
  • The USAFA represents the first major reform to the NSA’s mass surveillance of global communications that has been effected since whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the full extent of the spying programmes to the world in 2013, even though many called for further reform pointing out that spying on foreigners was untouched by this bill.
  • The Patriot Act’s expiration effectively brought to an end the NSA’s bulk dragnet collection of telephone metadata relating to American citizens, executed under the Act’s notorious Section 215, and that included information on who called whom when, but not the actual content of the call.
  • However, the USAFA still required such metadata collection by the major telecom companies of the U.S., and authorities may access the information only with a warrant from the shadowy Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, after the NSA identifies a specific person or group of people suspected of terror ties.

Sources: The Hindu.

 

Large Hadron Collider restarts

The world’s biggest particle smasher, Large Hadron Collider has restarted experiments with nearly doubled energy levels in a key breakthrough.

  • The tests at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) came after a sweeping two-year revamp of the collider and will help scientists to study fundamental particles, the building blocks of all matter, and the forces that control them.
  • During its next run, researchers will look for evidence of new physics and probe supersymmetry — a theoretical concept informally dubbed Susy; seek explanations for enigmatic dark matter and look for signs of extra dimensions.

Large Hadron Collider:

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator.

  • Built by: European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)
  • Aim: to allow physicists to test the predictions of different theories of particle physics and high-energy physics, and particularly prove or disprove the existence of the theorized Higgs boson and of the large family of new particles predicted by supersymmetric theories.
  • The LHC consists of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of the particles along the way.

Details:

  • Inside the accelerator, two high-energy particle beams travel at close to the speed of light before they are made to collide.
  • The beams travel in opposite directions in separate beam pipes – two tubes kept at ultrahigh vacuum. They are guided around the accelerator ring by a strong magnetic field maintained by superconducting electromagnets.
  • The electromagnets are built from coils of special electric cable that operates in a superconducting state, efficiently conducting electricity without resistance or loss of energy. This requires chilling the magnets to ‑3°C – a temperature colder than outer space. For this reason, much of the accelerator is connected to a distribution system of liquid helium, which cools the magnets, as well as to other supply services.
  • Just prior to collision, another type of magnet is used to “squeeze” the particles closer together to increase the chances of collisions. The particles are so tiny that the task of making them collide is akin to firing two needles 10 kilometres apart with such precision that they meet halfway.

The LHC tunnel is located 100 metres underground, in the region between the Geneva International Airport and the nearby Jura mountains.

Sources: The Hindu, http://home.web.cern.ch/, Wiki.

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