Insights Daily Current Affairs, 19 September 2017
Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Simultaneous LS, assembly polls good
Chief minister Nitish Kumar has come out in support of holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. He said, “Holding simultaneous elections is, in principle, a very good proposal. It will not only reduce the period of election atmosphere, but also provide maximum time to the elected governments for work.”
Support from NITI Aayog:
The Niti Aayog has also favoured conducting synchronised two-phase Lok Sabha and assembly elections from 2024 in “national interest”. All elections in India should happen in a free, fair and synchronised manner to ensure minimum “campaign mode” disruption to governance, the government think tank had said in its report released recently.
NITI Aayog has proposed the following in this regard:
- To implement this in the national interest, a focused group of stakeholders comprising constitutional and subject matter experts, think tanks, government officials and representatives of various political parties should be formed to work out appropriate implementation related details.
- This may include drafting appropriate Constitution and statutory amendments, agreeing on a workable framework to facilitate transition to simultaneous elections, developing a stakeholder communication plan and various operational details.
- It has made the Election Commission the nodal agency to look into the suggestion and set a “timeline” of March 2018 for this purpose.
Simultaneous elections: Is it a good idea?
- This will help save public money.
- It will be a big relief for political parties that are always in campaign mode.
- It will allow political parties to focus more on policy and governance.
Need for simultaneous elections:
Unnecessary expenditures: Elections are held all the time and continuous polls lead to a lot of expenditure. More than Rs1,100 crore was spent on the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and the expenditure had shot up to Rs4,000 crore in 2014.
Use of manpower: Also, over a crore government employees, including a large number of teachers, are involved in the electoral process. Thus, the continuous exercise causes maximum harm to the education sector.
Security concerns: Security forces also have to be diverted for the electoral work even as the country’s enemy keeps plotting against the nation and terrorism remains a strong threat.
The time is ripe for a constructive debate on electoral reforms and a return to the practice of the early decades after Independence when elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies were held simultaneously. It is for the Election Commission to take this exercise forward in consultation with political parties.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Norms eased for fund raising by REITs, InvITs
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has relaxed the guidelines for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs) in order to broaden the scope of fund raising by such instruments.
- It has been decided to allow REITs and InvITs to raise capital by issuing debt securities. REITs have also been allowed to lend to an underlying holding company or a special purpose vehicle (SPV).
What are REITs?
REITs are similar to mutual funds. While mutual funds provide for an opportunity to invest in equity stocks, REITs allow one to invest in income-generating real estate assets.
How does an REIT work?
REITs raise funds from a large number of investors and directly invest that sum in income-generating real estate properties (which could be offices, residential apartments, shopping centres, hotels and warehouses). The trusts are listed in stock exchanges so that investors can buy units in the trust. REITs are structured as trusts. Thus, the assets of an REIT are held by an independent trustee on behalf of unit holders.
Tax and other issues:
Short-term capital gain tax is applicable for unit holders at the rate of 15%. While interest is tax-exempt for REITs, it is taxable for unit holders. The registration charges for every purchase and sale of property is still applicable.
Sources: the hindu.
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 Min okays draft bill on fugitive economic offenders
The law ministry has given its concurrence to the draft Fugitive Economic Offenders bill that will give powers to the government to confiscate property of economic offenders and defaulters who flee India, albeit with a new provision.
Saving clause is the new provision that the Law Ministry wants to be incorporated in the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2017. A saving clause provides for certain exception(s) in a statute. It enables the repealed law to be in force with respect to some existing rights.
Highlights of the Bill:
The bill flows from Finance Minister Arun Jaitleys 2017 -18 Budget speech promising legislative changes or even a new law to confiscate the assets of such fugitives.
- It seeks to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by fleeing the country.
- The proposed law will be applicable in cases where the value of offences is over Rs 100 crore.
- The bill proposes to allow the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the premier technical snoop wing under the finance ministry, to file an application for the declaration of fugitive economic offender for confiscation of their assets.
- The courts under PMLA would be entrusted with the responsibility to try the case.
- Also, the bill has provision for appointment of an administrator to dispose off the property to pay off the creditors. Besides, the provisions of the proposed law will override provisions of other existing laws.
- Also, the burden of proof for establishing that an individual is a fugitive economic offender will be on the authorities.
Need for a law in this regard:
There have been several instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts, anticipating the commencement, or during the pendency, of criminal proceedings. The absence of such offenders from Indian courts has several deleterious consequences— first, it hampers investigation in criminal cases; second, it wastes precious time of courts of law; third, it undermines the rule of law in India.
Who is a fugitive economic offender?
A Fugitive Economic Offender is a person who has an arrest warrant issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who leaves or has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.
Topic: Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
BSF, ITBP chiefs stress on need for technology in border management
Highlighting the role of technology for better border management, the chiefs of the Border Security Force and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have said that sealing the border with Pakistan using smart technology- aided fence will be in place by December next year.
At the moment, BSF is working on a Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) which will be deployed along the International Border with Pakistan. CIBMS is expected to counter infiltration and cross-border terror attacks. The system employs latest technology which would detect infiltration via land, underwater, air and tunnels.
The concept of CIBMS is the integration of manpower, sensors and command and control to improve situational awareness and facilitate quick response to emerging situations. Among major components of CIBMS is the ‘virtual fence’. The second component is the command and control, which will help in optimum use of resources for border management. Another component is power management to keep CIBMS running.
Security challenges on coasts:
India’s long coastline presents a variety of security challenges including illegal landing of arms and explosives at isolated spots on the coast, infiltration/ex- filtration of anti-national elements, use of the sea and off shore islands for criminal activities, smuggling of consumer and intermediate goods through sea routes etc. Absence of physical barriers on the coast and presence of vital industrial and defence installations near the coast also enhance the vulnerability of the coasts to illegal cross border activities.
Smart borders on one hand should allow seamless movement of authorized people and goods, while on the other, minimise cross-border security challenges using innovation and technology enablement. Over the long term, smart border management will also have to incorporate systems that digitally monitor patterns of activity through and around border areas to root out organised crime and anti-national events.
There is also a need to revisit the policies on border management to ensure that the frontier regions grow in step with the rest of the country.
Topic: Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.
Sashastra Seema Bal to get intelligence wing
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has launched the SSB’s first ever intelligence wing. The intelligence wing have 650 field and staff agents to gather actionable information.
Need for a separate intelligence wing:
The SSB has been mandated to guard the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan borders where there are no restrictions on the movement of people on either side. These borders are often used by criminals and Kashmiri militants returning from Pakistan. India shares a 1,751-km-long border with Nepal and a 699 -km-long border with Bhutan.
- The SSB has also been declared as the lead intelligence agency for both the borders. Thus, the central government felt that a well-knit intelligence network of the highest capability that can function and deliver would be the prime requirement for comprehensive border management.
- This was also essential as the SSB’s operations are based on intelligence to prevent criminals and smugglers from taking advantage of the friendly borders with Nepal and Bhutan.
Facts for Prelims: The border with Nepal touches Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim and the border with Bhutan touches Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
What is the Sashastra Seema Bal?
The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) is a paramilitary police force under the Ministry of Home affairs responsible for guarding India’s international borders with Nepal and Bhutan. It is one of India’s Central Armed Police Forces, which includes ITBP, BSF, CRPF and CISF. When it was created in 1963, it was called Special Services Bureau. The name was changed to Sashatra Seema Bal in 2001 after it was given charge of the Nepal border. Besides this, the force is also deployed in Jammu and Kashmir for counter insurgency operations and anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar. It also provides internal security during elections in various states.
What is the primary role of the SSB?
- It’s primary role is to physically guard and manage the international border thereby promoting a sense of security and pride amongst the local border population.
- SSB is the lead intelligence unit for Nepal and Bhutan borders and the coordination agency for national security activities.
- Besides this, SSB undertakes construction of schools, buildings, toilets, roads under border area developmental plan.
- It also gives regular guidance and training to unemployed youth in general studies and physical training.
- In border villages, SSB teaches the border population the best agricultural practices, horticulture, pisiculture etc.
- SSB has also taken up a unique and important task to adopt and fund the education of the girl child in poor villages along the border and teach them unarmed combat training. This is done to eliminate rampant human trafficking of women across the border.
Sources: the hindu.