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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 23 November 2019


Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 23 November 2019


Table of contents:

 

GS Paper 2:

  1. Private Member’s Bill.
  2. GST Council.
  3. One Stop Centre Scheme.

 

GS Paper 3:

  1. Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR).
  2. India to be a $5 trillion economy.
  3. Reverse osmosis (RO).
  4. Stubble burning.

 

Facts for prelims:

  1. Living root bridges.
  2. Malabar Tree Toad.

 


 

GS Paper 2:

 

Topics Covered:

  1. 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.

 

Private member’s Bill

 

What to study?

For prelims: Private Member’s Bill- introduction and procedure followed.

For mains: Issues associated and why are they not taken into account seriously.

 

Context: 28 private member’s Bills introduced in Lok Sabha.

 

Who is a Private Member?

Any MP who is not a Minister is referred to as a private member.

 

Admissibility of a private member’s Bill:

The admissibility is decided by the Chairman for Rajya Sabha and Speaker in the case of Lok Sabha.

The procedure is roughly the same for both Houses:

  1. The Member must give at least a month’s notice before the Bill can be listed for introduction.
  2. The House secretariat examines it for compliance with constitutional provisions and rules on legislation before listing.

 

Is there any exception?

While government Bills can be introduced and discussed on any day, private member’s Bills can be introduced and discussed only on Fridays.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


Topics Covered:

  1. Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

 

GST Council

 

What to study?

For Prelims: About GST Council- composition, functions and related key facts, overview of GST.

For Mains: Issues associated with GST, need for reforms and various measures announced in this regard.

 

Context: Chairman of the 15th finance commission N.K. Singh has called for symmetry in the working of the GST council and the finance commission.

 

Need for symmetry?

While the finance commission looks at the projections of expenditure and revenue, the issue of GST rates exemptions, changes and implementation of the indirect taxes are within the domain of the GST council. This leads to unsettled questions on the ways to monitor, scrutinise and optimise revenue outcomes.

Therefore, coordination among the two is necessary.

Why do we need a GST Council?

  • The GST council is the key decision-making body that will take all important decisions regarding the GST.
  • The GST Council dictates tax rate, tax exemption, the due date of forms, tax laws, and tax deadlines, keeping in mind special rates and provisions for some states.
  • The predominant responsibility of the GST Council is to ensure to have one uniform tax rate for goods and services across the nation.

How is the GST Council structured?

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is governed by the GST Council. Article 279 (1) of the amended Indian Constitution states that the GST Council has to be constituted by the President within 60 days of the commencement of the Article 279A.

 

Composition:

According to the article, GST Council will be a joint forum for the Centre and the States. It consists of the following members:

  1. The Union Finance Minister will be the Chairperson
  2. As a member, the Union Minister of State will be in charge of Revenue of Finance
  3. The Minister in charge of finance or taxation or any other Minister nominated by each State government, as members.

 

GST Council recommendations:

Article 279A (4) specifies that the Council will make recommendations to the Union and the States on the important issues related to GST, such as, the goods and services will be subject or exempted from the Goods and Services Tax.

 

Sources: the hindu.

 


Topics covered:

  1. Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.

 

One Stop Centre Scheme

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: key features, need for and significance of the scheme.

 

Context: The Government of India is implementing One Stop Centre (OSC) scheme for setting up One Stop Centre since 1st April 2015 to support women affected by violence.

 

About the scheme:

Popularly known as Sakhi, Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) has formulated this Centrally Sponsored Scheme.

It is a sub – scheme of Umbrella Scheme for National Mission for Empowerment of women including Indira Gandhi Mattritav Sahyaog Yojana. 

Under the scheme, One Stop Centres are being established across the country to provide integrated support and assistance under one roof to women affected by violence, both in private and public spaces in phased manner.

Target group: The OSC will support all women including girls below 18 years of ageaffected by violence, irrespective of caste, class, religion, region, sexual orientation or marital status.

 

The Centres will be integrated with a Women Helpline to facilitate access to following services:

  1. Emergency response and rescue services.
  2. Medical assistance.
  3. Assistance to women in lodging the FIR.
  4. Psycho- social support and counselling.
  5. Legal aid and counselling.
  6. Shelter.
  7. Video conferencing facility.

 

Funds:

The Scheme will be funded through Nirbhaya Fund. The Central Government will provide 100% financial assistance to the State Government /UT Administrations under the Scheme.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


 

GS Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

 

What is AGR?

 

What to study?

For Prelims: What is AGR? How is it calculated?

For Mains: What is the impact of latest ruling? Issues and ways to address them.

 

Context: Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have filed a petition in the Supreme Court to review its October 24 judgment on the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) issue.

The petitions challenge the inclusion of notional incomes in the AGR.

 

Background:

Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the definition of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) calculation as stipulated by the Department of Telecommunications.

This means that telecom companies will have to pay up as much as Rs 92,642 crore to the government.

 

What is AGR?

Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) is the usage and licensing fee that telecom operators are charged by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

It is divided into spectrum usage charges and licensing fees, pegged between 3-5 percent and 8 percent respectively.

 

How is it calculated and what’s the contention?

As per DoT, the charges are calculated based on all revenues earned by a telco – including non-telecom related sources such as deposit interests and asset sales. Telcos, on their part, insist that AGR should comprise only the revenues generated from telecom services.

 

What’s the issue now?

  1. In 2005, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) challenged the government’s definition for AGR calculation.
  2. Later in 2015, the TDSAT said AGR included all receipts except capital receipts and revenue from non-core sources such as rent, profit on the sale of fixed assets, dividend, interest and miscellaneous income, etc.
  3. The regulator has also included forex adjustment under AGR apart from ruling that licenses fee will not be charged twice on the same income. It, however, exempted bad debt, foreign exchange fluctuations, and sale of scrap to be calculated for AGR.
  4. The government has also raised the issue of under-reporting of revenues to duck charges. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) called out telcos for understating revenues to the tune of Rs 61,064.5 crore.
  5. Later, the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) upheld the DoT’s definition of AGR (factors against which the license fee is payable) with certain exemptions.
  6. The DoT, however, filed an appeal before the Supreme Court, citing that the TDSAT had no jurisdiction on the validity of terms and conditions of licenses.

 

Impact of the ruling:

  1. Clearly this judgment has significantly damaging implications for India’s telecom industry, which is already reeling under huge financial stress and is left with only four operators.
  2. Significant investment of several billion dollars has been made in creating world class networks. This order has huge impact on two private operators while most of the other impacted operators have exited the sector.

 

Sources: the Hindu.

 


Topics Covered:

  1. Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

 

India to be a $5 trillion economy

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Meaning of $5 trillion economy, about GDP.

For Mains: Challenges, concerns and ways to achieve the target.

 

Context: The road to a $5 trillion economy by 2025 is beset with many speed-breakers, the NITI Aayog has warned the government.

 

What is a $5-trillion economy?

Essentially $5-trillion economy is the size of an economy as measured by the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

 

What it needs?

  1. Apart from the monetary definition, a $ 5 Trillion Economy calls for pulling all the economic growth levers—investment, consumption, exports, and across all the three sectors of agriculture, manufacturing and services.
  2. It also means improving all three sectors of the economy, India will more likely achieve its ambitious Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs).

 

Present state:

In 2014, India’s GDP was $1.85 trillion. Today it is $2.7 trillion and India is the sixth-largest economy in the world.

Essentially the reference is to the size of an economy as measured by the annual GDP.

 

Are Indians the sixth-richest people in the world?

No. That India is the sixth-largest economy does not necessarily imply that Indians are the sixth-richest people on the planet.

GDP per capita gives a better sense of how an average resident of an economy might be fairing. It reveals a very different, and indeed a more accurate picture of the level of prosperity in the respective economies.

For instance, on average, a UK resident’s income was 21 times that of an average Indian in 2018. Still, the richest 1% of Indians own 58.4% of wealth. The richest 10 % of Indians own 80.7 % of the wealth.

 

Can India achieve the target by 2024?

The answer would depend essentially on the assumption about economic growth.

If India grows at 12% nominal growth (that is 8% real GDP growth and 4% inflation), then from the 2018 level of $2.7 trillion, India would reach the 5.33 trillion mark in 2024. India must keep growing at a rapid pace to attain this target.

 

How will GDP per capita change when India hits the $5-trillion mark?

If by 2024 India’s GDP is $5.33 trillion and India’s population is 1.43 billion (according to UN population projection).

India’s per capita GDP would be $3,727.

This would be considerably more than what it is today, still it will be lower than Indonesia’s GDP per capita in 2018.

 

Challenges that need to be addressed:

  1. Under-employment and the disguised employment.
  2. Slowdown in agriculture.
  3. Slow pace of infrastructure development in the last decade.
  4. Funding issues.
  5. Exports issues.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


Topics Covered:

  1. Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

 

Reverse osmosis (RO)

 

What to study?

For Prelims: What is Osmosis and RO? TDS in water.

For Mains: Why was it banned? Issues and alternatives available.

 

Context: The Supreme Court has refused to stay the May 2019 order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that banned the use of reverse osmosis (RO) systems where drinking water supply had total dissolved solids (TDS) less than 500 mg per litre.

 

What is the issue?

In May, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked MoEF to frame rules for the use of RO filters and also banned the use of RO purifiers in locations where TDS was low.

According to NGT, RO purifiers lead to the wastage of almost 70-80 percent water during the purification process.

It had asked the RO manufacturers to ensure that they are able to recover about 75 percent of the water.

Following this, the Water Quality India Association moved the SC to seek a stay on the RO ban. However, the apex court refused to give a stay.

 

Osmosis and RO:

Osmosis involves ‘a solvent (such as water) naturally moving from an area of low solute concentration, through a membrane, to an area of high solute concentration.

A reverse osmosis system applies an external pressure to reverse the natural flow of solvent and so seawater or brackish water is pressurised against one surface of the membrane, causing salt-depleted water to move across the membrane, releasing clean water from the low-pressure side’.

 

What are the problems with RO plants?

Deposition of brine (highly concentrated salt water) along the shores.

Affects fauna and flora: Hyper salinity along the shore affects plankton, which is the main food for several of these fish species. The high pressure motors needed to draw in the seawater end up sucking in small fish and life forms, thereby crushing and killing them — again a loss of marine resource.

Construction of the RO plants required troves of groundwater. Freshwater that was sucked out and is replaced by salt water, rendering it unfit for the residents around the desalination plants.

Cost and time: On an average, it costs about ₹900 crore to build a 100 MLD-plant and, as the Chennai experience has shown, about five years for a plant to be set up.

Energy needed: To remove the salt required, there has to be a source of electricity, either a power plant or a diesel or battery source. Estimates have put this at about 4 units of electricity per 1,000 litres of water. It is estimated that it cost ₹3 to produce 100 litres of potable water.

 

Is RO water healthy?

There are concerns that desalinated the RO water may be short of vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium and carbonates.

Most RO plants put the water through a ‘post-treatment’ process whereby salts are added to make TDS around 300 mg/l.

 

Are there technological alternatives?

Low-temperature thermal desalination (LTTD) technique works on the principle that water in the ocean 1,000 or 2,000 feet below is about 4º C to 8º C colder than surface water. So, salty surface water is collected in a tank and subject to high pressure (via an external power source). This pressured water vapourises and this is trapped in tubes or a chamber. Cold water plumbed from the ocean depths is passed over these tubes and the vapour condenses into fresh water and the resulting salt diverted away.

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion: It will draw power from the vapour generated as a part of the desalination process. This vapour will run a turbine and thereby will be independent of an external power source. While great in theory, there is no guarantee it will work commercially. For one, this ocean-based plant requires a pipe that needs to travel 50 kilometres underground in the sea before it reaches the mainland.

 

Sources: down to earth.


Topics Covered:

  1. Conservation and pollution related issues.

 

Stubble burning

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Crop burning- why, concerns, effects on environment and health, their regulation and the need for a comprehensive policy on this.

 

Context: Centre, Punjab at odds over stubble burning.

Why? Both the Central and State governments have released data on stubble burning, but with starkly different narratives.

  • As per the Centre, the events had declined 19% this year, including a 16.8% reduction in Punjab.
  • As per Punjab, there is an increase of 2.3% in the number of incidents.

 

What is stubble burning?

Stubble burning is a common practice followed by farmers to prepare fields for sowing of wheat in November as there is little time left between the harvesting of paddy and sowing of wheat. 

Stubble burning results in emission of harmful gases such carbon diaoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide along with particulate matter.

 

Concern of the Farmers: Why they opt for stubble burning?

  1. Even though farmers are aware that the burning of straw is harmful to health, they do not have alternatives for utilising them effectively.
  2. The farmers are ill-equipped to deal with waste because they cannot afford the new technology that is available to handle the waste material.
  3. Experts say that with less incomedue to crop damage, farmers are likely to be inclined to light up their fields to cut costs and not spend on scientific ways of stubble management.

 

Advantages of stubble burning:

  1. It quickly clears the field and is the cheapest alternative.
  2. Kills weeds, including those resistant to herbicide.
  3. Kills slugs and other pests.
  4. Can reduce nitrogen tie-up.

 

What’s the issue?

Stubble burning is adversely affecting environment and public health. The problem has not been fully tackled and the adverse impacts on the air quality and consequent impacts on the citizens’ health and lives are undisputed.

 

Alternative solutions that can avoid Stubble Burning:

  1. There is great potential for making investments in paddy straw-based power plants which can help avoid stubble burning to a large extent and also create employment opportunities.
  2. Incorporation of crop residues in the soil can improve soil moisture and help activate the growth of soil microorganisms for better plant growth.
  3. Convert the removed residues into enriched organic manure through composting.
  4. New opportunities for industrial use such as extraction of yeast protein can be explored through scientific research.

 

What needs to be done- Supreme Court’s observations?

  1. The problem is required to be resolved by taking all such measures as are possible in the interest of public health and environment protection.
  2. Incentives could be provided to those who are not burning the stubble and disincentives for those who continue the practice.
  3. The existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme must be so interpreted as to enable the States concerned to wholly or partly deny the benefit of MSP to those who continue to burn the crop residue.
  4. Secretary, Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has also been directed to be present to “find a lasting solution.”
  5. The Central government should convene a meeting with the States.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


Facts for prelims:

 

Living root bridges:

Also known as Jing Kieng Jri, these are aerial bridges built by weaving and manipulating the roots of the Indian rubber tree.

They have been serving as connectors for generations in Meghalaya.

Built over centuries, the bridges, primarily a means to cross streams and rivers, have also become world-famous tourist attractions.

 

Malabar Tree Toad:

A Bengaluru-based non-profit is working to train and equip residents of villages in the Western Ghats stretching from Maharashtra to Tamil Nadu for mapping the range of an extremely rare species of toad- Malabar Tree toad.

About Malabar Tree Toad (MTT):

  • It is a very rare species of amphibian endemic to the Ghats.
  • It is an endangered species that spends most of its life on trees, coming to the ground only during the first monsoon showers to mate.
  • The Western Ghats, where the MTT is found, is a biodiversity hotspot and is home to 179 recorded amphibian species, 80 per cent of which are not found anywhere else.