Insights Daily Current Affairs, 06 march 2017
Paper 2 Topic: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
Indus basin: Punjab and J&K to resume work on Shahpur Kandi dam project
Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir have reached out an agreement to resolve issues relating to the Shahpur Kandi Dam project, proposed to be built downstream Ranjit Sagar Dam (Thein Dam) on the Ravi in Gurdaspur district. The project comes under the Indus Water Treaty, thus helping India utilise its rights on eastern rivers of the basin.
- The agreement was facilitated by the Union ministry of water resources, also a cosignatory in the pact.
- Punjab will bear the balance cost on account of compensation for land acquisition in respect of Thein Dam, located nearly 10km upstream the Shahpur Kandi Dam.
- Punjab will also share with Jammu and Kashmir 20% of the total power generated at Thein Dam at the mutually agreed rate of Rs 3.50 per unit immediately. This is subject to confirmation of the rates by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission.
- A tripartite monitoring team, headed by a member of the Central Water Commission, would be constituted to oversee the work.
About the project:
The 55.5 high Shahpur Kandi dam, located in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, will help in providing irrigation facility to 5000 hectares of land in Punjab and 32173 hectares in J&K besides generation of 206 MW power.
- Tagged as a national project by the Centre, it was to be built with an estimated cost of Rs 2,285.81 crore (as per April 2008 price level) and is expected to generate 206 megawatt electricity. The project will continue to be implemented by Punjab and its design shall be as agreed by both states. Model studies will be carried out concurrently to ensure J&K gets its mandated share of 1,150 cusecs of water.
- Under the scheme, MoWR, RD&GR provides central assistance @ 90% of the balance cost of works component of irrigation and water supply.
- The construction of Shahpur Kandi project was taken up in May 1999 but later halted in 2014 due to dispute between Punjab and J&K.
Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
CGST Bill and IGST Bill approved
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council has approved the draft CGST Bill and the draft IGST Bill as vetted by the Union Law Ministry. This clears the deck for the Central Government to take these two Bills to the Parliament for their passage in the ongoing Budget Session.
Main features of the two Bills, as finalized by the GST Council, are as follows:
- A State-wise single registration for a taxpayer forfiling returns, paying taxes,and to fulfil other compliance requirements. Most of the compliance requirements would be fulfilled online, thus leaving very little room for physical interface between the taxpayer and the tax official.
- A taxpayer has to file one single return state-wise to report all his supplies, whether made within or outside the State or exported out of the country and pay the applicable taxes on them. Such taxes can be Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST), State Goods and Services Tax (SGST), Union Territory Goods and Services Tax (UTGST) and Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST).
- A business entity with an annual turnover of upto Rs. 20 lakhs would not be required to take registration in the GST regime, unless he voluntarily chooses to do so to be a part of the input tax credit (ITC) chain. The annual turnover threshold in the Special Category States (as enumerated in Article 279A of the Constitution such as Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Assam and the other States of the North-East) for not taking registration is Rs. 10 lakhs.
- A business entity with turnover upto Rs. 50 lakhs can avail the benefit of a composition scheme under which it has to pay a much lower rate of tax and has to fulfil very minimal compliance requirements. The Composition Scheme is available for all traders, select manufacturing sectors and for restaurants in the services sector.
- In the Services sector, the existing mechanism of Input Service Distributor (ISD) under the Service Tax law has been retained to allow the flow of ITC in respect of input serviceswithin a legal entity.
- To prevent lock-in of capital of exporters, a provision has been made to refund, within seven days of filing the application for refund by an exporter, ninety percent of the claimed amount on a provisional basis.
- In order to ensure a single administrative interface for taxpayers, a provision has been made to authorise officers of the tax administrations of the Centre and the States to exercise the powers conferred under all Acts.
- An agriculturist, to the extent of supply of produce out of cultivation of land, would not be liable to take registration in the GST regime.
- To provide certainty in tax matters, a provision has been made for an Advance Ruling Authority.
- Exhaustive provisions for Appellate mechansim have been made.
- An anti-profiteering provision has been incorporated to ensure that the reduction of tax incidence is passed on to the consumers.
- In order to mitigate any financial hardship being suffered by a taxpayer, Commissioner has been empowered to allow payment of taxes in instalments.
CGST and IGST are part of GST, Goods and Service Tax. Different indirect taxes of Central Excise Duty, Central Sales Tax CST, Service Tax, Additional excise duties, excise duty levied under the medical and toiletries preparation Act, CVD (Additional Customs duty – Countervailing Duty), SAD (Special Additional Duty of customs) surcharges and cesses are merged with CGST. Under IGST, the taxes for movement of goods and services from one state to another are collected. Major share of tax revenue under CGST is meant for central government where as IGST tax revenue is shared between State government and Central government as per the rate fixed by the authorities.
Paper 2 Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
Centre to contest tribunal order on military pay
The Defence Ministry has decided as a matter of principle to challenge in the Supreme Court the ruling of the Armed Forces Tribunal to grant non-functional upgrade (NFU) for the armed forces. While the government is not against the upgrade for the services, its challenge is on principle as a tribunal has no authority to take such a decision.
Last December, the tribunal granted the upgrade to the armed forces personnel in pay and allowances in response to a petition filed by over 160 officers. The upgrade has been one of the core anomalies raised by the services in the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, which are yet to be implemented for them.
- The upgrade entitles all officers of a batch who are not promoted to draw the salary and grade pay that the senior-most officer of their batch would get after a certain period.
- The Sixth Pay Commission had granted the upgrade to most Group ‘A’ officers but not the military. Since then, the armed forces had been demanding a one-time notional upgrade to ensure parity. However, the Seventh Pay Commission (SPC) gave a mixed verdict on it and the issue has since been referred to the Anomalies Committee.
About Armed Forces Tribunal:
The Armed Forces Tribunal Act 2007, was passed by the Parliament and led to the formation of AFT with the power provided for the adjudication or trial by Armed Forces Tribunal of disputes and complaints with respect to commission, appointments, enrolments and conditions of service in respect of persons subject to the Army Act, 1950, The Navy Act, 1957 and the Air Force Act, 1950.It can further provide for appeals arising out of orders, findings or sentences of courts- martial held under the said Acts and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
The Tribunal transacts their proceedings as per the Armed Forces Tribunal ( Procedure) rules, 2008. All proceedings in the Tribunal will be in English. The Tribunal will normally follow the procedure as is practiced in the High Courts of India.
Each Bench comprises of a Judicial Member and an Administrative Member.
- The Judicial Members are retired High Court Judges and Administrative Members are retired Members of the Armed Forces who have held rant of Major General/ equivalent or above for a period of three years or more, Judge Advocate General (JAG), who have held the appointment for at least one year are also entitled to be appointed as the Administrative Member.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Tezu is now a vantage point
The newly constructed Tezu airport will be the first civilian airport of Arunachal Pradesh. Tezu will smoothen transport to several high-altitude districts near the India-China border. Tezu is the nearest town to Walong, where a legendary battle between Indian and Chinese soldiers took place in October 1962.
Significance of this new move:
The route to Tezu is critical from a strategic point of view as the Himalayan range, which became famous as ‘the hump’ during World War II, can be accessed only through the mountain roads that begin at Tezu.
The ancient inhabitant of this land of valley and rivers are the Mishmi tribes. The Mishmi tribes have traditions and customs dating back to the times of Mahabharata. According to Hindu traditions, Lord Krishna’s first queen Rukmini was a Mishmi Damsel.
- The major Mishmi God is Ringyajabmalu and the major Mishmi festival is known as Tamladu puja. It is celebrated each year on 15 February. People from all communities and all walks of life are invited to join in the celebrations.
- The Holy Parshuram Kund is also nearby and thousands of Hindu pilgrims from all over India, and also from neighbouring countries, come to take a holy dip and wash away the sins of millions of births. This is accompanied with a fair at Tezu and takes place every year during the month of January.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Battling Leptospira at the genome level
To improve the odds of controlling Leptospirosis by understanding the genetic determinants of Leptospira pathogenesis that researchers at the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) and the J. Craig Venter Institute have collaborated in a major genome-sequencing effort for 20 Leptospira species.
- There are lessons for India. In the summer and rainy seasons of 2015, leptospirosis, a dangerous, neglected tropical disease, struck in multiple cities of India. In Mumbai, the toll was high — at least 18 people reportedly succumbed to the zoonotic disease, also known colloquially as “rat fever” for its association with the urine of rodents among several host species.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. In humans, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases. Some infected persons, however, may have no symptoms at all.
- The bacteria that causes leptospirosis is spread in the urine of infected animals, including rodents, wildlife, dogs, and livestock.
- It does not spread from person to person.
- Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics. The disease can lead to life-threatening complications like renal failure, hypotension and hemorrage. Severe or untreated leptospirosis can lead to damage of the organs and in rare cases.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Caught between custom and conservation
The custom at Sri Venkateswara temple at Tirumala, of using a fragrance derived from the Small Indian Civet in the deity’s worship, faces a challenge as the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) and the A.P. Forest Department remain at loggerheads on captive breeding of the animal.
The civet is caught in a decade-long row over supply of its glandular ‘punugu’ secretion that weighs less than a gram. The yellow substance from its perineal gland gets encrusted when dry and is ejected when the animal rubs against a hard surface.
The fragrance is used for ‘abhishekam’ of Lord Venkateswara. The temple has a ‘Punugu Ginne Seva’ (offering in a vessel), where select devotees can touch the civet pooja vessel. The secretion is mixed with gingelly oil and heated to get an aromatic gel.
What’s the issue?
The tussle started a decade ago, when the TTD was rearing two pairs of civets at its dairy farm in Tirupati. The animal is in part two, Schedule II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, that prohibits domestication. The Forest department seized the civets and registered a case against the TTD, that was later quashed. At a meeting held in November 2006, it was decided that TTD would fund a nocturnal animal house at Sri Venkateswara Zoological Park, to be maintained by the Forest Department.
- However, the TTD insisted that the house be maintained by its own forest unit (led by a Forest Service officer) using its own fund of ₹10 lakh a year, to provide a continuous supply.
- The department filed a charge sheet against TTD and seized the civets in 2008. After a four-year trial, a local court held TTD officials not guilty. Another criminal case was registered in 2013, which was also dismissed.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.
Law enforcement in the digital era
One consequence of the recent demonetisation was a push towards the digitisation of the economy — a move that will create transparency in the financial system.
But this digital push must be accompanied by greater security of digital transactions to deal with the tsunami of cybercrimes that is bound to follow. India’s enforcement mechanisms, laws and policies must be re-examined immediately to ensure that the theft of data or money is dealt with severely, swiftly and transparently.
A recent ASSOCHAM-PwC study found that cybercrime in India surged almost 300% between 2011 and 2014. The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), the national agency tasked with maintaining cybersecurity, reported more than 50,000 security incidents in 2015. With the push towards digital transactions, this number will only grow. As smartphones become the preferred mode of transactions, hacking, phishing and malware based attacks are serious concerns. The Nokia malware report showed a 96% surge in mobile device infections in 2016.
- The logistical burden these incidents will place on law-enforcement the judiciary, will be enormous. Our police infrastructure, which doesn’t yet have the capacity to handle existing cybercrimes, will be strained to breaking point in the coming surge.
- Dealing with cyber offences necessarily means upgrading the capabilities of law enforcement, either through new recruitment or by imparting technical training to existing personnel. But this prescription comes with its own problems, not least being the supply of qualified people. If existing personnel are trained rigorously, on the other hand, there is the danger that they will be poached by the private sector.
What needs to be done?
Best option, according to experts, is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to combat cybercrime. Such a partnership will draw upon the skills in the private sector to train the police, while providing practical experience in dealing with cybercrimes to corporate employees. Such models already exist and are fairly successful. One example is the National Cyber Forensic Training Alliance (NCFTA) in the U.S., a non-profit platform that tackles cybercrime through partnerships with subject matter experts in the public, private, and academic sectors.
- In addition, it is also necessary to reshape our current cybercrime laws to address the likely surge in offences relating to digitisation. Given the borderless nature of cybercrimes, state police agencies need to be able to pursue offenders without worrying about jurisdiction. To allow for this, a pan-India cyber-enforcement force must be considered.
- Such a force can become a one-stop-shop for digital monetary fraud and will go a long way in assuaging the concerns of cyber-fraud victims. Such a force will also be able to identify trends and stop entities that prey on the gullibility of uninformed citizens transitioning to the digital economy.
Sources: the hindu.