December 28, 2013
Guidelines soon to regulate campaign in social media
- As social media has emerged as a powerful medium for political campaign, the Election Commission (EC) has proposed to evolve guidelines for regulating it during the forthcoming Lok Sabha election.
- The emphasis was on the need for preventing ‘sectarian campaign and campaign based on caste and religion’. Also, if an individual campaigns for a candidate through social media it should not be added to expenses of the candidate.
- Do you think Social media is a tool for Political empowerment? If so why and how?
- Should the Social media be regulated (not only from election point of view, but consider other aspects- on the economy, society, cultural values, religious sentiments..)?
- Impact of Social media on the society.
ESA notification on Western Ghats put on hold
- The new Environment Minister Veerappa Moily’s decision to invite comments from six Chief Ministers on the High-Level Working Group on the Western Ghats has put the final notification of the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) covering over 59,940 square km of the hills under indefinite suspension.
- The draft notification for declaring the ESA under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, would have brought to halt any new mining and other polluting industries from coming up in the natural habitats of hilly terrain in the six States.
- Under the regulations, the Ministry is required to receive comments from stakeholders including the State governments within 60 days. Subsequently, the Centre would have been obligated to make amendments, if found necessary, and enforce the notification immediately.
- The draft notification notes that in the areas listed in the annexure (comprising the ESA) “there shall be a complete ban on mining, quarrying and sand mining. All existing mines shall be phased out within five years from the date of issue of the final notification or with the expiry of the current mining lease, whichever is earlier.”
- No new thermal power projects and expansion of the existing plants would be allowed in the ESA. “All new ‘Red’ category of industries and expansion of existing industries shall be banned.” The Red category refers to the types of industries listed by either the Centre or States as the most polluting in nature.
- It also clarified that agricultural and livelihood practices in the ESA would not be altered or impacted by the notification.
China offers freebie in strategic push
- China has shown its willingness to offer its neighbouring countries, use of its home-grown satellite navigation system free of charge. The strategic move, has already garnered interest from a number of countries including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Thailand.
- The Chinese officials had intended to widen use of the Beidou satellite network, which already has 16 satellites serving the Asia-Pacific and has been promoted as an alternative to the American Global Positioning System (GPS). The focus will be on countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and particularly in South and Southeast Asia, where the satellites offered the highest accuracy.
- China has already agreed deals with Pakistan and Thailand on use of the Beidou network. Also it had consultations with Sri Lanka, for which it has already launched a satellite, and Bangladesh, over cooperation on satellite use. While China was open to any country using the system, so far there was no specific cooperation between the Indian and Chinese governments.
- China’s deepening cooperation with these countries prompted the Indian government, earlier in 2013, to push ISRO in being more active in providing technological assistance to countries in the neighbourhood in launching satellites.
- The system, which was first launched in 2011 for use only by the government and military, has over the past year begun to be widely deployed for civilian uses domestically with 80% of passenger buses and trucks in China using the system. For China, granting use of its 16-satellite Beidou network which would be expanded to 35 satellites by 2020 to provide global coverage offers an added advantage.
- What implications would this strategic move have on India? What steps should be taken by the Indian Govt & ISRO in this regard?
- Navigation system used in India?
- Do you think India should also align with other countries and make use of the China’s navigation system?
Crisis in South Sudan and its international implications
- Though South Sudan became independent from the Republic of the Sudan in 2011, the future of the new nation was always uncertain. The conflict now raging in the world’s youngest state has serious regional and international implications
- Just as Eritrea, which obtained its independence from Ethiopia in 1991 but has been deeply troubled ever since, this current conflict is about ‘poor political leadership’ within a country that is still in need of a massive state-building exercise.
- The violence, fighting and displacement that broke out on 15 December, 2013 was not a deliberate coup, but the result of deteriorating relations between the President, Salva Kiir, and his ex-Vice President, Riek Machar. Mr. Kiir has become increasingly authoritarian over the past 18 months when the president tried to take fuller control of the republican guard, this developed into a standoff that sparked what in effect became an accidental coup.
- Until this new crisis erupted, international engagement was focused on the border issues with Sudan and encouraging Mr. Kiir to reconcile with his former enemy, President al-Bashir of Sudan.
- There is also an ethnic dimension playing out between Nuer and Dinka- the president is a Dinka, while Mr. Machar represents the Nuer. This is nothing new for South Sudan, as inter-ethnic tensions have been a feature of the political landscape here long before independence but the discovery of three mass graves by the UN in recent days signal how quickly this crisis has deepened.
- Mr. Kiir has deployed his army to fight supporters of Machar. Thousands have been killed and tens of thousands internally displaced by this fighting. A major crisis is looming and humanitarian access is now the most immediate international preoccupation.
- Following which the UN had announced it is doubling its forces on the ground, and the leaders of Kenya and Ethiopia have also visited South Sudan’s capital, Juba to try to halt the fighting. The crisis has already internationalised with Ugandan troop intervention.
- What is most depressing for South Sudan is that whether Mr. Kiir succeeds militarily over Mr. Machar or there is a negotiated compromise, the country is likely to become more autocratic.An elite power struggle within the tiny leadership looks to be drawing the whole country into a full civil war that is rapidly developing ethnic dimensions.
- What are the necessary/basic conditions for a newly independent nation to progress? (Think interms of political, economic and social angle)
- Though most of the African countries are rich in resources, they are considered to be less developed. Why?
- What implications would the Sudan crisis have on the regional and the international fora?
- The role of other countries in halting the crisis?
SEBI to take up proposal to allow Mutual Fund Company’s to offer Pension plans
- In 2014, a new pensions system would be introduced in India that would offer retirement savers the option of tapping the high-risk-high-return equity markets. Stock market regulator, SEBI will in its next board meeting in January, 2014 would take up the proposal to allow mutual fund companies to offer pension plans.
The proposed Pension plans & National Pension Scheme (NPS):
- If the SEBI board approved the proposal, it could then request the government to extend to these mutual funds-run pension plans the same tax breaks that were now available to retirement savings in the government-run National Pension Scheme (NPS).This would need Parliament approval.
- Section 80 CCD of the Income Tax Act of NPS allows employers to deduct from their taxable income the contributions made on behalf of their employees to the NPS. The contributions to NPS schemes by employees, too, are treated tax-free. The tax benefit is over and above the Rs.1 lakh tax-free savings Section 80C of the Income Tax Act allows to individuals.
- Contributions to the proposed pension scheme will be discretionary. The NPS is the mandatory pension scheme for government employees hired after May 1, 2004, though it is open to private individuals too. The NPS does not give government employees the option of investing more than 8% of their retirement savings into equity markets. Private sector employers with more than 10 employees statutorily contribute on their behalf to the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).
- The difference between existing mutual fund schemes and the proposed pension plans will be that withdrawals will ‘not’ be allowed before retirement unless in the case of specific exceptional circumstances.
- According to the proposal, the pension plans will offer retirement savers flexi-choices on the mix of fixed income and equity investment options. The NPS offers savers only three options and the EPFO offers none at all. The wider investor reach of mutual fund companies, it is expected, will give retirement savings a big push.
- In August, 2013 Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had proposed that the EPFO and the NPS be merged to make them viable, a proposal that has not progressed. India has one of the largest young populations in the world, but no viable pensions saving mechanism and this is a cause of concern.
- At present, India does not have a universal social security system to protect its older population from economic deprivation.
More about National Pension System (NPS):
- Government of India established Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) – External website that opens in a new window on 10th October, 2003 to develop and regulate pension sector in the country. The NPS was launched on 1st January, 2004 with the objective of providing retirement income to all the citizens. NPS aims to institute pension reforms and to inculcate the habit of saving for retirement amongst the citizens.
- Initially, NPS was introduced for the new government recruits (except armed forces). With effect from 1st May, 2009, NPS has been provided for all citizens of the country including the unorganised sector workers on voluntary basis.
- Additionally, to encourage people from the unorganised sector to voluntarily save for their retirement the Central Government launched a co-contributory pension scheme, ‘Swavalamban Scheme – External website that opens in a new window’ in the Union Budget of 2010-11.
- Under Swavalamban Scheme – External website that opens in a new window, the government will contribute a sum of Rs.1,000 to each eligible NPS subscriber who contributes a minimum of Rs.1,000 and maximum Rs.12,000 per annum. This scheme is presently applicable upto F.Y.2016-17.
NPS offers following important features to help subscriber save for retirement:
- The subscriber will be allotted a unique Permanent Retirement Account Number (PRAN). This unique account number will remain the same for the rest of subscriber’s life. This unique PRAN can be used from any location in India.
PRAN will provide access to two personal accounts:
- Tier I Account: This is a non-withdrawable account meant for savings for retirement.
- Tier II Account: This is simply a voluntary savings facility. The subscriber is free to withdraw savings from this account whenever subscriber wishes. No tax benefit is available on this account.
More about Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO):
- EPFO is a statutory body of the Government of India under the Ministry of Labour and Employment. It administers a compulsory contributory Provident Fund Scheme, Pension Scheme and an Insurance Scheme.
- The Employees’ Provident Fund came into existence with the promulgation of the Employees’ Provident Funds Ordinance on the 15th November, 1951. It was replaced by the Employees’ Provident Funds Act, 1952. It is now referred as the Employees’ Provident Funds & Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 which extends to the whole of Indian except Jammu and Kashmir.
- It is one of the largest social security organisations in the India in terms of the number of covered beneficiaries and the volume of financial transactions undertaken. The EPFO’s apex decision making body is the Central Board of Trustee (CBT).
- To extend the reach and Quality of publicly managed old-age Income security programs through consistent and ever-improving standards of compliance and benefit delivery in a manner that wins the approval and confidence of members in our methods, fairness, honesty and integrity, thereby contributing to the economic and social well-being of members.
Courtesy – http://www.epfindia.com & Wikipedia