Insights Daily Current Events, 26 January 2016
Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral agreements.
Rafale pact concluded, but no deal yet on price
India and France have signed 14 agreements, including an intergovernmental agreement for the purchase of Rafale fighter jets, nuclear reactors, French railway locomotives and a major commitment to counterterror cooperation. However, the financial component of the Rafale deal is yet to be finalised.
- French President Francois Hollande is on his visit to India.
Significance of the Rafale Deal:
- For India, it’s another step in a quest to modernize its air force that first began in 2007. About one third of the country’s air fleet is more than 40 years old and set to retire in the next decade, putting pressure on the incumbent government to quickly acquire new warplanes to keep pace with neighbors China and Pakistan.
- India originally picked Dassault in 2012 to build 126 warplanes at an estimated cost of about $11 billion. As talks stalled over price and quality guarantees, Modi flew to France last April and sought to directly buy 36 fighter jets from the French government in a bid to speed things up. The cost of the 36 jets is expected to exceed 600 billion rupees ($9 billion).
Other important agreements signed:
Space: India and France signed three agreements on expanding space collaboration. The Indian Space Research Organisation and its French counterpart CNES (National Centre for Space Studies) have agreed to work together in the next Mars mission, as well as a satellite launch and a thermal infrared observation mission.
Rail: Under the ‘Make in India’ banner, India and France signed a deal that will allow French industrial major Alstom to make 800 high horse power locomotives in India. The locomotives are expected to be made in the electric locomotives factory in Madhepura, Bihar.
Road: Both sides also signed an agreement on upgrading the Delhi-Chandigarh line to 200 kmph, in keeping with France’s special focus on Chandigarh ‘Smart City’ project.
Terrorism: The two countries have said that they would embark on new ways of cooperation on fighting terrorism, including intelligence-sharing and joint exercises along with the annual strategic dialogues and a joint working group on counterterrorism meetings.
Cultural exchange programme: There was an agreement on cultural exchange programme for the period 2016-2018 too.
Both the countries have also signed an agreement on the declaration of intent for conducting next round of Namaste France (Indian festival) in 2016 and Bonjour India (French festival) in 2017.
France has also committed itself to supporting India’s bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and India’s accession to the multilateral (nuclear) export control regimes in 2016 itself.
sources: the hindu.
Topic: general awareness.
Padma Awards 2016
On the eve of Republic Day, government has announced the list for the Padma Awards 2016. The Padma awards are conferred by the President at a function in Rashtrapati Bhawan in March/April every year. The awardees include Bollywood actors, media personalities, former politicians, public officials and sportspersons who have made the country proud.
- The list comprises 10 Padma Vibhushan, 19 Padma Bhushan and 83 Padma Shri awardees.
- 19 winners are women and the list also includes 10 from the category of foreigners, NRIs, PIOs who have earned accolades on a global scale.
About Padma awards:
The awards will be given across three categories: the Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri. These awards are given on Republic Day, for the over six decades now, to people who the government recognises have excelled in their fields.
- Padma Vibhushan is awarded for exceptional and distinguished service (It is a second degree honour).
- Padma Bhushan is awarded for distinguished service of high order (It is a third degree honour).
- Padma Shri is awarded for distinguished service in any field (It is a fourth degree honour).
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: money laundering.
Operation begins to curb money laundering, terror funding
Government agencies have launched a massive National Risk Assessment (NRA) exercise.
- To identify the sectors that are susceptible to money laundering and terror funding, and plug the loopholes.
- This exercise is in line with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations. While India has met its obligation of mutual evaluation with FATF, it is now required to make a risk assessment and put necessary mechanisms in place.
- As part of the process, the World Bank had earlier this month made a customisable excel-based self assessment software tool available to Indian agencies. It focusses on all vital aspects of money laundering, including terror financing risks, and helps identify threats and vulnerabilities in different sectors.
The NRA exercise generally takes about a year. It begins with the collection of data on sectors that are prone to money laundering in high, medium and lower categories at the national level. The country then has to prepare an action plan based on the level of risk.
What is it?
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7. It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in various areas.
The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
What it does?
The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures, and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally. In collaboration with other international stakeholders, the FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse.
The FATF has developed a series of recommendations that are recognised as the international standard for combating of money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
- They form the basis for a co-ordinated response to these threats to the integrity of the financial system and help ensure a level playing field.
- First issued in 1990, the FATF Recommendations were revised in 1996, 2001, 2003 and most recently in 2012 to ensure that they remain up to date and relevant, and they are intended to be of universal application.
FATF consists of 34 member jurisdictions and two regional organisations, the EU and the Gulf Co-operation Council. The FATF also works in close co-operation with a number of international and regional bodies involved in combating money laundering and terrorism financing. It also has 8 associate members and 25 observer members.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
Government makes it easier to set up companies, do business
The government has unveiled two initiatives to expedite clearances and ensure greater ease of doing business in the country.
The new initiatives are:
- Central Registration Centre (CRC).
- Government Process Re-engineering (GPR).
- These initiatives ensure faster clearances to incorporate companies and improve the ease of doing business in the country.
- These initiatives are also meant for uniformity in application of rules and removing discretion.
- These services are in line with best international practices.
- The GPR involves a three-pronged approach of further automating some of the approval processes by utilising advanced software tools, rationalising and modifying certain rules and engaging professionals to expedite the process of manual scrutiny.
- The CRC will process applications for name availability, submitted online across the country and endeavour to process them by the end of the next working day.
Last month, the ministry had said following several measures taken by it as part of the government’s ‘ease-of-doing business’ initiative, the average number of days taken for incorporation of a company had come down significantly — by nearly 5%0— from 9.57 days in December 2014 to 4.51 days in November 2015.
- Now, the government is planning to further reduce the time taken for all approvals regarding a company’s incorporation to one-two days in normal cases.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Government mulls Shome panel suggestions on tax administration
The government is considering the recommendations of the Parthasarathi Shome committee aimed at simplifying tax administration.
The Tax Administration Reform Commission or TARC was a committee appointed by the Government of India for giving recommendations for reviewing the public Tax Administration system of India. Tax Administration Reform Commission (TARC) was constituted to review the application of tax policies and tax laws in India in the context of global best practices, and to recommend measures for reforms required in tax administration. The committee was headed by Parthasarathi Shome.
Important recommendations made by the committee:
- The committee had suggested that Income Tax Return forms should also include wealth tax details.
- The panel had mooted that retrospective amendments to tax laws should be avoided as a principle and that the post of Revenue Secretary be abolished.
- It also proposed the merger of the CBDT with the CBEC.
- It had asked the government to widen the use of Permanent Account Number (PAN).
- It also pitched for a separate budget allocation to ensure time bound tax refund and a passbook scheme for TDS (Tax Deduction at Source).
- It proposed to cover both central excise and service tax under a single registration as both the taxes are administered by the same department and cross utilisation of credit is permitted between central excise and service tax under the CENVAT credit rules.
- It had also recommended that in line with international practice, a minimum of 10% of the tax administration’s budget must be spent on taxpayer services. At least 10% of the budget should be alllocated and spent for ICT-based taxpayer services.
sources: the hindu.
Topic: general awareness.
National Voters’ ‘Day
The Election Commission of India celebrated 6th National Voters’ Day (NVD) across the country on 25th January.
- The theme for the 6th National Voters’ Day is ‘Inclusive and Qualitative Participation’.
Significance of NVD:
- The Election Commission’s objective through NVD is to increase enrolment of voters, especially of the newly eligible ones.
- The National Voters’ Day is also utilised to spread awareness among voters regarding effective participation in the electoral process.
25th January is also the foundation day of the Commission.
Topic: general awareness.
DSIR received ISO 9001:2008 Certificate
The Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR), Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India, has received ISO 9001:2008 Certification for its functions, activities and services being in total compliance with the guidelines issued by the Performance Management Division, Cabinet Secretariat Government of India.
- DSIR started implementation process of ISO 9001:2008 in compliance with the guidelines issued by the Performance Management Division, Cabinet Secretariat, in 2011.
- After satisfactory audit of functions and services of the Department, the competent Certification Body has now certified DSIR as an ISO 9001:2008 Department.
The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) is a part of the Ministry of Science and Technology.
- It has a mandate to carry out activities related to indigenous technology promotion, development, utilization and transfer.
- Its primary endeavor is to promote R&D by the industries, support a larger cross-section of small and medium industrial units to develop state-of-the art globally competitive technologies of high commercial potential, catalyze faster commercialization of lab-scale R&D.
- DSIR also provides a link between scientific laboratories and industrial establishments for transfer of technologies through its constituent company, the National Research Development Corporation and facilitates investment in R&D through Central Electronics Limited, the public undertaking under the Department.
About ISO 9001:2008:
- ISO 9001:2008 specifies requirements for a quality management system where an organization needs to demonstrate its ability to consistently provide product that meets customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.
- To get certified the organization should aim to enhance customer satisfaction through the effective application of the system, including processes for continual improvement of the system and the assurance of conformity to customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.
- All requirements of ISO 9001:2008 are generic and are intended to be applicable to all organizations, regardless of type, size and product provided.
- Third-party certification bodies provide independent confirmation that organizations meet the requirements of ISO 9001.