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Insights Daily Current Events, 25 September 2015

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Insights Daily Current Events, 25 September 2015

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Paper 1 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Centre puts the brakes on JNNURM research projects, capacity-building

The Urban Development Ministry has asked the States to terminate their research and capacity-building measures under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

Why?

According to the government, the decision was made to help the States adjust themselves to the new urban policies. The government also says, “the JNNURM has so many objectives, so many people who are not doing anything for the last many years, so they may be fired.”

Implications:

  • This move would roll back the achievements of the scheme launched by the UPA government and render it defunct.
  • The decision would lead to closing of Reform and Performance Management Cells (RPMCs), though the Central government has already invested Rs. 43 crore in them.
  • The States will have to fire several hundred employees — researchers, municipal engineers, sanitary workers and computer operators — and abandon a big line of research projects.
  • Some states are at the stage where the new hires are already working. Some States have started research and to stop it midway, it is unfair.

RPMCs:

  • In the early 2013, the then government realised that it could implement an ambitious scheme like the JNNRUM only if the municipal bodies were efficient. Hence, to ensure their participation RPMCs were proposed.
  • Under the JNNURM, the State governments had established Reform and Performance Management Cells (RPMCs).
  • RPMC was a body of experts to guide municipal bodies in urban planning. Their main job was to conduct research, understand shortcomings of cities and help mayors and commissioners in planning and raise funds from private investors.
  • RPMC was included in the JNNRUM to allow the States to hire experts in town planning, infrastructure development, solid waste management, procurement and information technology.

The idea of capacity building is being realised by the new government in its new schemes like Smart city mission and AMRUT.

About JNNURM:

Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) is a massive city-modernisation scheme launched by the Government of India under Ministry of Urban Development in 2005.

  • JNNURM aims at creating ‘economically productive, efficient, equitable and responsive Cities’ by a strategy of upgrading the social and economic infrastructure in cities, provision of Basic Services to Urban Poor (BSUP) and wide-ranging urban sector reforms to strengthen municipal governance in accordance with the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992.

Objectives of the mission:

  • Focused attention relating to infrastructural services in the context of integrated development is to be covered under the mission.
  • Make efficient and increase self-sustaining capabilities of cities as per the sector proving infrastructural services by securing the linkages between asset creation and asset management
  • Ensure adequate investment of funds to fulfill deficiencies in the urban infrastructural services.
  • Planned development of identified cities including peri-urban areas, out growths, urban corridors, so that urbanization takes place in a dispersed manner.
  • Scale up delivery of civic amenities and provision of utilities with emphasis on universal access to urban poor.
  • To take up urban renewal programme, i.e., re-development of inner (old) cities area to reduce congestion.

Implementation mechanism:

  • The funds are channeled through state-level agencies, where grants from the central and state governments are pooled and passed on as grants or soft loans to cities provided that they have prepared development strategies and that the investments identified fit within these strategies.
  • The share of grant funding by the central government can vary from 35% in the largest cities to up to 90% in cities in the Northeast.
  • Most cities receive grants covering 50% or 80% of costs depending on size.
  • Capacity building is also included in the mission to assist urban local bodies to prepare strategies and projects.

Sources: The Hindu, jnnurm.

 

Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Centre to exempt foreign firms covered by double taxation treaty

The government has decided to amend the Income Tax Act with retrospective effect to exempt from minimum alternate tax (MAT) the overseas companies that are covered under double taxation avoidance agreements (DTAAs).

  • This has come as a big relief to foreign firms.

Who are exempted?

  • The provisions of Section 115JB of Income Tax will not apply to foreign companies with effect from April 1, 2001, if they are resident of a country with which India has DTAA and they do not have a permanent establishment (PE) in India.
  • In case the companies belong to countries with which India does not have a DTAA, the MAT exemption will apply if they are exempted from registration under Section 592 of the Companies Act 1956, or Section 380 of the Companies Act 2013.

Background:

The government had recently exempted foreign institutional and portfolio investors from payment of MAT on the capital gains made by them before April 1, 2015.

What is Double Taxation?

Double taxation is the levying of tax by two or more jurisdictions on the same declared income (in the case of income taxes), asset (in the case of capital taxes), or financial transaction (in the case of sales taxes). This double liability is often mitigated by tax treaties between countries.

What is Double Tax Avoidance Agreement (DTAA)?

  • DTAA also referred as Tax Treaty is a bilateral economic agreement between two nations that aims to avoid or eliminate double taxation of the same income in two countries.
  • DTAA provides that business profits will be taxable in the source country if the activities of an enterprise constitute a permanent establishment (PE).

Benefits of such agreements:

  • Deals with the black money menace.
  • Provides solutions to avoid double taxation of same income.
  • The agreements generally provide for other matters of common interest of the two countries such as exchange of information, mutual assistance procedure for resolution of disputes and for mutual assistance in effecting recovery of taxes.
  • It will provide tax stability to the residents of both the countries and will facilitate mutual economic.

Sources: The Hindu, pib.

 

Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Centre clears controversial anti-terror bill of Gujarat

The union Home Ministry has sent the controversial Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill, 2015 to the President for his assent.

  • The anti-terror Bill, passed by the Gujarat Assembly and twice rejected by the previous UPA government, has been cleared by the union government and sent to the President for his assent.

Background:

  • The GCTOC Bill, 2015, has been hanging fire since it was first introduced it in 2003. The Gujarat Assembly in March had passed the stringent Bill retaining controversial provisions that had twice earlier led to a previous such Bill being rejected by the President.
  • The Bill was first rejected by then President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in 2004, demanding that the clause relating to interception of communication be removed. It was again rejected when Pratibha Patil was the President.
  • In July, the Home Ministry had sent back the controversial Bill to the State government asking it to clarify on certain issues raised by the Ministry of Information and Technology (IT).
  • The IT Ministry has objected to the provision in the Bill which allows authorisation of interception of telephone conversations and their admissibility as evidence before a court of law.
  • The Gujarat government had strongly rebutted the objections raised by the IT Ministry. In its reply, the Gujarat government cited the subjects mentioned in the ‘concurrent list’ under which the Centre and the State share the responsibility of formulating ‘criminal law’ and ‘criminal procedure.’

About Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill:

The Bill is a re-worked version of the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime Bill (GUJCOC), 2003.

Why was it needed?

  • Citing past terror attacks in Gujarat, the state government had raised concerns over Pakistan’s attempts at cross-border terrorism, Gujarat’s vulnerable coastline and the proliferation of criminal gangs, while underscoring the need for a strong law.
  • The state government also says that the organised criminal syndicates make a common cause with terrorist gangs and foster macro terrorism which extends beyond the national boundaries. There is reason to believe that organised crime syndicates are operating in the State and thus, there is immediate need to curb their activities and hence this bill.

Controversial provisions in the Bill:

  • The Bill provides for admissibility of evidence collected through interception of mobile calls of an accused or through confessions made before an investigating officer, in a court of law.
  • Clause 16, which makes confessions before police officers admissible in court.
  • Empowers police to tap telephonic conversations and submit them in court as evidence.
  • Extends period of probe from stipulated 90 days to 180 days before filing of charge sheet.
  • The legislation makes offences under the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Act, 2015, non-bailable.
  • The Bill provides immunity to the State government from legal action

Sources: The Hindu, ie, pib.

 

Paper 3 Topic: conservation.

Government plans green road corridors

The Union government is all to unveil its Green Highways policy soon.

Details of the policy:

  • Under the policy, bushes and trees will be grown along all the highways in a phased manner.
  • The plan is to grow three layers of trees and bushes. The first will be of bushes so that if a vehicle goes off the road, it does not collide with something life-threatening. The second will be of medium-sized trees and the last will be of tall fruit trees. Only species indigenous to the area would be planted.

Purpose of this policy:

The purpose of this policy is to promote the greening of highway corridors with the participation of the local community, including local contractors and the local Forest Department. The latent objective was to generate employment.

Investment:

The investment in the project would be Rs. 1,000 crore this year. It is 1% of the Rs. 1,00,000-crore investment in national highway projects in the year.

Benefits of this policy:

  • The community will gain in terms of huge employment opportunities and entrepreneurship development
  • Huge environmental benefits are also associated with this policy.
  • The local community will get the rights to the non-timber produce from the trees.

Participation:

A wide cross-section of agencies would participate in the project. Those eligible include government or private companies, NGOs registered as societies, trusts or private limited non-profit companies, and producer organisations.

Targets:

The government has also laid down strict targets for the companies growing and maintaining trees. The minimum survival rate is 90%. Only after reaching this level will a company get the required money from the Ministry in the next year.

Sources: The Hindu.

 

Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology.

Centre banks on ISRO to curb illegal mining across States

The Union Ministry of Mines is planning to use remote sensing satellite data to curb illegal mining across States.

Details:

  • The Ministry has planned to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Space Research Organisation on using satellite data for mining.
  • Satellite imageries taken regularly would help to keep an eye on legal boundaries of mined areas.
  • The Indian Bureau of Mines would be the nodal agency to implement the measures, which would form part of the reforms taking place in the mining sector.
  • The other plan is to use the GPS (Global Positioning System) to track major minerals that have been mined.

Earth observation satellites are already used to estimate the kind of minerals and the extent of deposits present in an area. This information is used in exploration along with aerial surveys of mineral-rich areas. Major mining bodies such as Coal India Ltd. have also tried using GPS-based devices to keep watch on the mined ore and their transport.

What is remote sensing?

Remote sensing refers to the technology of acquiring information about the earth’s surface and atmosphere using sensors onboard aircrafts, satellites space shuttles etc.

Remote_Sensing_Illustration

Indian IRS system:

The IRS system is the largest constellation of remote sensing satellites for civilian use in operation today in the world, with 12 operational satellites. All these are placed in polar Sun-synchronous orbit and provide data in a variety of spatial, spectral and temporal resolutions.

  • India began to develop the indigenous Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellite program from 1979 to support the national economy in the areas of agriculture, water resources, forestry and ecology, geology, water sheds, marine fisheries and coastal management.
  • Indian Remote Sensing Programme completed its 25 years of successful operations on March 17, 2013.

Important applications:

  • Preharvest crop area and production estimation of major crops.
  • Drought monitoring and assessment based on vegetation condition.
  • Flood risk zone mapping and flood damage assessment.
  • Hydro-geomorphological maps for locating underground water resources for drilling well.
  • Irrigation command area status monitoring
  • Snow-melt run-off estimates for planning water use in downstream projects
  • Land use and land cover mapping
  • Urban planning
  • Forest survey
  • Wetland mapping
  • Environmental impact analysis
  • Mineral Prospecting
  • Coastal studies

Indian Remote Satellites include Cartosat-1, Cartosat-2, Resourcesat-1, IRS-1D and Oceansat-1.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.