Insights Daily Current Events, 08 and 10 November 2014
Vacancies reduce CBDT to just two members
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), a key player to track down black money stashed away abroad, is under tremendous pressure to meet deadlines despite senior positions being vacant.
The CBDT, a constituent of the Special Investigation Team on black money, comprises a Chairman and six members: member (income-tax), member (legislation & computerisation), member (personnel & administration), member (investigation), member (revenue &vigilance) and member (audit & judicial).
At present the Board has five vacancies.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes is a statutory authority functioning under the Central Board of Revenue Act, 1963. The officials of the Board in their ex-officio capacity also function as a Division of the Ministry of Finance dealing with matters relating to levy and collection of direct taxes.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) is a part of the Department of Revenue in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India. It provides essential inputs for policy and planning of direct taxes in India and is also responsible for administration of the direct tax laws through Income Tax Department. It is India’s official Financial Action Task Force unit.
The Central Board of Revenue as the Department apex body charged with the administration of taxes came into existence as a result of the Central Board of Revenue Act, 1924. Initially the Board was in charge of both direct and indirect taxes. However, when the administration of taxes became too unwieldy for one Board to handle, the Board was split up into two, namely the Central Board of Direct Taxes and Central Board of Excise and Customs in 1964.
The CBDT Chairman and Members of CBDT are selected from Indian Revenue Service (IRS), a premier civil service of India, whose members constitute the top management of Income Tax Department.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, dor.gov.in.
Celebrations to mark 25 years since fall of Berlin Wall
Germany has kicked off celebrations marking 25 years since the epochal fall of the Berlin Wall, set to culminate in rock stars and freedom icons joining millions at an open-air party.
The festivities under the banner “Courage for Freedom” recall the peaceful revolution that led communist authorities to finally open the border after 28 years in which Easterners were prisoners of their own government.
The Berlin Wall was both the physical division between West Berlin and East Germany from 1961 to 1989 and the symbolic boundary between democracy and Communism during the Cold War.
The Berlin Wall which was erected for 28 years kept East Germans from fleeing to the West. Its destruction, which was nearly as instantaneous as its creation, was celebrated around the world.
The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state in East Germany. In practice, the Wall served to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked East Germany and the communist Eastern Bloc during the post-World War II period.
The Berlin Wall was officially referred to as the “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart” by German Democratic Republic authorities, implying that the NATO countries and West Germany in particular were “fascists.”
In 1989, a series of radical political changes occurred in the Eastern Bloc, associated with the liberalization of the Eastern Bloc’s authoritarian systems and the erosion of political power in the pro-Soviet governments in nearby Poland and Hungary. After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November 1989 that all German Democratic Republic citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, euphoric public and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the wall; the governments later used industrial equipment to remove most of what was left. Contrary to popular belief the wall’s actual demolition did not begin until Summer 1990 and was not completed until 1992. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, which was formally concluded on 3 October 1990.
More about Berlin Wall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYWx-DSXSq4.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.
Agni-II test-fired for full 2,000-km strike range
India recently test-fired the nuclear weapon-capable Agni-II ballistic missile for its full strike range of 2,000 km.
Agni is a strategic ballistic surface-to-surface missile. The Agni missile family is envisaged to be the mainstay of the Indian missile-based strategic nuclear deterrence. The Agni-II is a medium range ballistic missile (MRBM) with two solid fuel stages and a Post Boost Vehicle (PBV) integrated into the missile’s Re-entry Vehicle (RV). The Agni’s manoeuvring RV is made of a carbon-carbon composite material that is light and able to sustain high thermal stresses of re-entry, in a variety of trajectories.
The range of the missile would allow India to attack all of Pakistan and parts of China; some suggest that the reinitiating of the Agni missile project was instigated by Chinese and Pakistani missile advances.
In its present configuration, the missile is 20 m in length with a diameter of 1.3 m in the first and second stages. The payload carries a warhead weighing up to 1,000 kg. The Agni-2 can be fitted with 150 or 200 kT yield nuclear warheads, in addition to chemical, high-explosive, and submunitions versions. Fully loaded, the missile has a maximum range of 2000 km, though if carrying a reduced payload, it can achieve a range of 3,500 km. The range of the Agni-2 is significantly greater than needed to strike targets within all of Pakistan, but its range falls short of primary targets within China.
The Agni-2’s main strength is its relatively high accuracy, especially at close range, due to its combination of an INS/GPS guidance module and dual-frequency radar correlation. The third stage uses four moving control fins in order to maneuver independently during the terminal phase, though newer models may use side thrust motors instead.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, http://missilethreat.com/.
SEBI to clear milder version of draft insider trading norms
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is set to overhaul the insider trading norms, first framed two decades ago. The new rules would be far more stringent than the regulations currently in place but not as strict as those mentioned in the draft document circulated in December last year.
The insider trading norms will define connected persons on the basis of the duty they perform for a company and the legal relation they have with the listed entity and its promoters.
In the draft regulations formulated by the insider trading committee, led by judge N K Sodhi, a connected person was defined as someone connected with a company in any capacity (including people who had frequent communications with company officers) in the six months prior to the trade. The committee had suggested fundamental changes to current regulations, aimed at improving predictability, clarity and deterrence.
The draft regulations had made headlines for their inclusion of public servants in the definition of connected persons. But in the final guidelines, public servants and ministers might not find a specific mention.
In the draft regulations, any due-diligence that companies engaged in needed to be declared to stock exchanges two days before any trading activity was undertaken in the stock. But the final norms might not find mention of due-diligence aspects.
Connected persons defined on the basis of association and responsibility to a company
Connected persons include public servants
Due-diligence required to be declared to bourses 2 trading days before proposed trade
Connected person is someone who is related to a firm in any capacity
No specific mention of public servants as connected persons
Due-diligence aspects will not be mentioned
However, there is another section of market that believes any form of price-sensitive information should be available to all types of investors. The due-diligence aspect is the heart and soul of the regulations.
Legal experts say persons with fiduciary duty to shareholders are supposed to put shareholders’ interest ahead of their own and, thus, should be labelled as insiders.
Sebi is also thinking about introducing a “trade plan” for companies that want to deal in their own shares. Under the plan, companies and promoters will be required to declare their intent of trading in their own shares and mandatorily conduct such trades six months later. Experts say trade plan will aid in removing the hassles companies earlier faced in trading in their securities.
Insider trading is the trading of a public company’s stock or other securities (such as bonds or stock options) by individuals with access to non-public information about the company.
With the main objective to prohibit an insider from making any personal gain from unpublished price sensitive information, SEBI had framed regulations known as “SEBI (prohibition of insider trading) regulations 1992”. These regulations were applicable to all listed companies which were required to disseminate price sensitive information such as financial results, dividend information, bonus declarations, merger/amalgamations declarations and other material developments, which have an impact on the share prices of the company.
The current regulations have many loopholes. The current framework is considered heavily skewed in favour of minority shareholders and, therefore, promoters say taking a company private is extremely difficult.
The proposed tightening of norms assumes significance in the wake of Sebi coming across cases of insider trading at not just small companies, but at big corporates as well.
Conclave on Asian elephants for conservation think tank in India, Myanmar, Bhutan
The two-day conference on Asian elephants, held recently, concluded with a resolve to establish a regional think tank with nodal officers from India, Bhutan and Myanmar.
The meet also stressed the need for bringing back focus to manage elephant ranges as cornerstone to achieve clearly defined and measurable targets of conservation of elephants both in the wild and in captivity in the three neighbouring countries.
Elephant experts and conservationists who participated in the discussions, resolved that trans-national green corridors should be protected and strengthened. Other resolutions include increased coordination between enforcement agencies of the three neighbouring countries, involvement of younger generation in conservation programmes to infuse dynamism in initiatives, and enabling trans-boundary protection of Asian elephants.
The conference, while noting fragmentation of elephant reserves and corridors due to setting up of railway lines, construction of highways, building of dams and tea gardens have given rise to man-elephant conflict also resolved to initiate innovative measures to reduce man-elephant conflicts.
The experts said that along with protection of trans-boundary corridors, the protection of elephant reserves and corridors within north-east region of India was equally important.
The region has, according to experts, 58 elephant corridors and a population of about 9,300 elephants, some of which undertake trans-boundary movement to neighbouring Myanmar and Bhutan.
Sources: The Hindu.