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04 January Current Affairs

Monuments of national importance

In News:

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) recently declared that it has added six structures to the list of monuments of national importance, taking the total number to 3,693.

Details:

With 506 monuments under its belt, Karnataka continues to top the list in South India, followed by Tamil Nadu (413). Nationally too, Karnataka is in the second place after Uttar Pradesh, which has 745 such monuments.

The six monuments declared as Monuments of national importance in 2018 are:

  • Old High Court Building in Nagpur, Maharashtra.
  • Haveli of Agha Khan in Agra.
  • Haveli of Hathi Khana in Agra.
  • Neemrana Baori in Rajasthan’s Alwar district.
  • Group of Temples at Ranipur Jharail in Odisha’s Bolangir district.
  • Vishnu Temple in Kotali, Pithoragarh district, Uttarkhand.

What is an Ancient Monument?

According to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, any structure, sculpture, inscription, etc., which is in existence for not less than 100 years is termed ancient.

About ASI:

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under the Ministry of Culture, is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of the nation.

Functions: Maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance is the prime concern of the ASI. Besides it regulate all archaeological activities in the country as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. It also regulates Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was formed in 1861 by a statute passed into law by Canning, with Alexander Cunningham as its first Archaeological Surveyor, to excavate and conserve India’s ancient built heritage.

Source: The Hindu

Suspension of MPs

In News:

Cracking the whip on unruly MPs, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has suspended 45 Lok Sabha members belonging to the TDP and the AIADMK after they created ruckus in the House and continuously disrupted proceedings for days.

Details:

The action was taken under rule 374A of the Lok Sabha which says they cannot attend the remaining days of the session.

Provisions in this regard:

Among the tools available to the Speaker for ensuring discipline is the power to force a member to withdraw from the House (for the remaining part of the day), or to place him under suspension.

Rule Number 373 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business states that in case the Speaker is of the opinion that the conduct of any member is “grossly disorderly”, he or she may direct that member to “withdraw immediately from the House”. The member is required to “do so forthwith”, and stay away from the “remainder of the day’s sitting”.

The Speaker may invoke Rule 374A in case of “grave disorder occasioned by a member coming into the well of the House or abusing the Rules of the House, persistently and wilfully obstructing its business by shouting slogans or otherwise…”. The member concerned, “on being named by the Speaker, stands automatically suspended from the service of the House for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less”.

While the Speaker is empowered to place a member under suspension, the authority for revocation of this order is not vested in her. It is for the House, if it so desires, to resolve on a motion to revoke the suspension.

Similar powers to the Chairman of Rajya Sabha:

Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is empowered — under Rule Number 255 of its Rule Book — to “direct any member whose conduct is in his opinion grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately” from the House. “…Any member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall absent himself during the remainder of the day’s meeting.”

The Chairman may “name a member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the Council by persistently and wilfully obstructing” business. In such a situation, the House may adopt a motion suspending the member from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session. The House may, however, by another motion, terminate the suspension. Unlike the Speaker, the Rajya Sabha Chairman does not have the power to suspend a member.

Source: The Hindu

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016

In News:

A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has adopted a report clearing the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.

Details:

The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 seeks to allow illegal migrants from certain minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship. In other words, it amends the Citizenship Act of 1955.

The Bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law.

WHAT DOES IT WANT?

The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to allow illegal migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan to not be imprisoned or deported.

It also appeals for the minimum years of residency in India to apply for citizenship to be lessened from at least 11 to six years for such migrants.

The Bill, however, does not extend to illegal Muslim migrants. It also does not talk about other minority communities in the three neighbouring countries, such as Jews, Bahais etc.

WHY ARE PEOPLE IN ASSAM NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT?

The Citizenship Amendment Bill has not been sitting well with the Assamese as it contradicts the Assam Accord of 1985, which clearly states that illegal migrants heading in from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971, would be deported.

What is the Citizenship Act 1995?

Under Article 9 of the Indian Constitution, a person who voluntarily acquires citizenship of any other country is no longer an Indian citizen.

Citizenship by descent: Persons born outside India on or after January 26, 1950, but before December 10, 1992, are citizens of India by descent if their father was a citizen of India at the time of their birth.

From December 3, 2004, onwards, persons born outside of India shall not be considered citizens of India unless their birth is registered at an Indian consulate within one year of the date of birth.

In Section 8 of the Citizenship Act 1955, if an adult makes a declaration of renunciation of Indian citizenship, he loses Indian citizenship.

Who is an illegal immigrant?

According to the Citizenship Act (1955), an illegal immigrant is defined as a person who enters India without a valid passport or stays in the country after the expiry of the visa permit. Also, the immigrant who uses false documents for the immigration process.

What are the guidelines to become an Indian citizenship?

Citizenship is granted to an individual by the government of the country when he/she complies with the legal formalities, so it’s like a judicial concept.

In India, the Citizenship Act, 1995 prescribes five ways of acquiring citizenship:

  • Birth
  • Descent
  • Registration
  • Naturalization
  • Incorporation of the territory.

Source: The Hindu

Lead and MSG in noodles

In News:

The Supreme Court of India has lifted a stay on criminal proceedings against Nestle over the alleged presence of lead and MSG or monosodium glutamate in popular noodles.

Details:

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) will now go-ahead with a class action suit brought against Maggi noodle makers Nestle.

What’s the issue?

The apex court had allowed the case against Nestle to reopen after the Swiss food giant had admitted the presence of toxic ingredients in its noodles during a court hearing.

Nestle’s lawyers have admitted that toxic elements like lead and MSG are found in its sample tests conducted by CFTRI (Central Food Technological Research Institute), Mysuru. However, the company has argued that the lead was within the permissible limit.

Effects of lead and MSG on health:

Lead:

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including your liver and kidneys in particular.

It is especially harmful to infant and pregnant women as it can cause damage to the central nervous system in children.

Since lead is a heavy metal it can get stored in the teeth and bones, where it accumulates over time. In pregnant women, prolonged exposure to lead can result in miscarriage, prematurity, low birth weight, etc.

Monosodium glutamate:

MSG, short for Monosodium glutamate, is an amino acid found in your body and most foods. It is a flavour enhancer commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups, and processed meats.

When consumed in excess, it can cause several health issues, including a headache, nausea, sweating, weakness, chest pain, tingling or burning in the face as well as neck and other areas. It is claimed that MSG can cause asthma and even brain damage.

MSG may cause adverse symptoms in some people, including a condition called Chinese restaurant syndrome or MSG symptom complex. However, there is no definitive evidence that MSG is solely responsible for causing these symptoms.

About NCDRC:

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), India is a quasi-judicial commission in India which was set up in 1988 under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986. The commission is headed by a sitting or retired judge of the Supreme Court of India.

Statutory provisions:

Section 21 of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 posits that the National Consumer shall have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint valued more than one crore and also have Appellate and Revisional jurisdiction from the orders of State Commissions or the District fora as the case may be.

Section 23 of Consumer Protection Act, 1986, provides that any person aggrieved by an order of NCDRC, may prefer an Appeal against such order to Supreme Court of India within a period of 30 days.

Source: The Hindu

Challenges for start-ups in India

In News:

Citizens’ engagement forum LocalCircles has released a report on challenges faced by start- ups in India. The report is based on responses from over 15,000 start-ups, SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Challenge for start- ups:

  • Corruption
  • Bureaucratic inefficiencies.
  • Securing loans.
  • Funding

Angel tax:

Angel tax is one area that falls under corruption and bureaucratic inefficiencies as it takes the focus of entrepreneurs away from building a product or service to responding to tax notices and filing appeals, something that start-ups can clearly do without.

Angel tax continued to be a key pain point for start-ups, where the assessing officers in many cases reject the valuation method used by the start-up and instead treat the capital raised as income from other sources, thereby, raising a tax demand and penalty on the start-up.

Several start-ups and angel investors have raised concerns over notices received from the authorities related to taxation of angel funds. The Centre has set up a panel to look into the taxation issues faced by start-ups and angel investors.

What is Angel Tax?

Angel Tax is a 30% tax that is levied on the funding received by startups from an external investor. However, this 30% tax is levied when startups receive angel funding at a valuation higher than its ‘fair market value’. It is counted as income to the company and is taxed.

The tax, under section 56(2)(viib), was introduced by in 2012 to fight money laundering. The stated rationale was that bribes and commissions could be disguised as angel investments to escape taxes. But given the possibility of this section being used to harass genuine startups, it was rarely invoked.

Why is Angel tax problematic?

There is no definitive or objective way to measure the ‘fair market value’ of a startup. Investors pay a premium for the idea and the business potential at the angel funding stage. However, tax officials seem to be assessing the value of the startups based on their net asset value at one point. Several startups say that they find it difficult to justify the higher valuation to tax officials.

In a notification dated May 24, 2018, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had exempted angel investors from the Angel Tax clause subject to fulfilment of certain terms and conditions, as specified by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). However, despite the exemption notification, there are a host of challenges that startups are still faced with, in order to get this exemption.

Source: The Hindu

Bharatmala Pariyojana

In News:

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) plans to raise Rs10,000 crore through Bharatmala Taxable Bonds in the ongoing financial year.

Details:

As per the internal and extra budgetary resources approved for 2018-19 by the government, a sum of Rs62,000 crore is to be raised by NHAI through various instruments/sources including Bharatmala bonds.

Bharatmala Project is the second largest highways construction project in the country since NHDP, under which almost 50,000 km or highway roads were targeted across the country. Bharatmala will look to improve connectivity particularly on economic corridors, border areas and far flung areas with an aim of quicker movement of cargo and boosting exports.

About NHAI:

The National Highways Authority of India was constituted by an act of Parliament, the National Highways Authority of India Act,1988. It is responsible for the development, maintenance and management of National Highways entrusted to it and for matters connected or incidental thereto. The Authority was operationalised in Feb, 1995.

Source: The Hindu

GEF assisted Green – Ag Project to transform Indian Agriculture

In News:

The Government has launched the “Green – Ag: Transforming Indian Agriculture for global environmental benefits and the conservation of critical biodiversity and forest landscapes” in association with Global Environment Facility (GEF).

About the Project:

The project would be implemented in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in high-conservation-value landscapes of five States namely, (i) Madhya Pradesh: Chambal Landscape, (ii) Mizoram: Dampa Landscape, (iii) Odisha: Similipal Landscape, (iv) Rajasthan: Desert National Park Landscape and v) Uttarakhand: Corbett-Rajaji Landscape.

The Green-Ag project seeks to integrate biodiversity, climate change and sustainable land management objectives and practices into Indian agriculture.

The project aims to catalyze a transformative change of India’s agricultural sector to support the achievement of national and global environmental benefits and conservation of critical biodiversity and forest landscapes.

The project supports harmonization between India’s agricultural and environmental sector priorities and investments to realise the national and global environmental benefits without compromising on India’s ability to strengthen rural livelihoods and meet its food and nutrition security.

About GEF:

The Global Environment Facility was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems.

It is an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues.

GEF funds are available to developing countries and countries with economies in transition to meet the objectives of the international environmental conventions and agreements.

The World Bank serves as the GEF Trustee, administering the GEF Trust Fund.

Source: The Hindu

Action against Industries Polluting Ganga River

In News:

Government of India has launched the Namami Gange Programme in May 2015, with the total budgetary outlay of Rs. 20,000 crore for the period from 2014-2015 till 31 December 2020 to accomplish the twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga and its tributaries.

Details:

Namami Gange Programme – is an umbrella programme which integrates previous and currently ongoing initiatives by enhancing efficiency, extracting synergies and supplementing them with more comprehensive & better coordinated interventions.

Government of India is supplementing the efforts of the state governments in addressing the pollution of river Ganga by providing financial assistance to the states.

961 Grossly Polluting Industries (GPIs) have been identified on main stem of river Ganga.

Cleaning of the river is a continuous process and efforts are being made to complete the projects by the year 2020 for creating adequate Sewage Treatment Capacity.

Background:

Each day, more than 500 million liters of wastewater from industrial sources are dumped directly into Ganga. In many places, this wastewater entering the rivers is completely raw, completely untreated.

Main Pillars of the Namami Gange Programme are:

  • Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure
  • River-Surface Cleaning
  • Afforestation
  • Industrial Effluent Monitoring
  • River-Front Development
  • Bio-Diversity
  • Public Awareness
  • Ganga Gram

Its implementation has been divided into:

Entry-Level Activities (for immediate visible impact),

Medium-Term Activities (to be implemented within 5 years of time frame) and

Long-Term Activities (to be implemented within 10 years).

National Mission for Clean Ganga, endeavors to deploy best available knowledge and resources across the world for Ganga rejuvenation. Clean Ganga has been a perennial attraction for many international countries that have expertise in river rejuvenation.

Countries like Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Israel, etc. have shown interest in collaborating with India for Ganga Rejuvenation.

Source: PIB

India – Myanmar – Thailand Trilateral Highway

In News:

The 1360 kms long India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is an initiative pertaining to India, Myanmar and Thailand. India is undertaking construction of two sections of the Trilateral Highway in Myanmar namely,

Details:

Construction of 120.74 KM Kalewa-Yagyi road section, and

Construction of 69 bridges along with the approach road on the 149.70 KM Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa (TKK) road section.

Both these sections were awarded on Engineering, Procurement and Construction mode in May 2018 for Kalewa-Yagyi section and November 2017 for the TKK section. The scheduled time for completion of both the projects is three years from the date of commencement at the project site by the executing agency.

The above mentioned projects are funded by Government of India under Grant Assistance to the Government of Myanmar.

Other Information:

A Motor Vehicles Agreement along with protocols for regulating and facilitating movement of cargo and passenger vehicular traffic is under inter-governmental negotiations between India, Myanmar and Thailand.

Background:

The India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is a highway under construction under India’s Look East Policy that will connect Moreh, India with Mae Sot, Thailand via Myanmar.

The road will boost the trade and commerce in the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area, and with the rest of Southeast Asia. India has also proposed extending the highway to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Look-East Policy:

India’s Look East Policy is an effort being made by the Indian government to cultivate and strengthen economic and strategic relations with the nations of Southeast Asia in order to solidify its standing as a regional power.

This policy also serves to position India as a counterweight to the strategic influence of the People’s Republic of China in the region.

Look-East Connectivity:

Commerce with South and East Asian nations accounts for almost 45% of India’s foreign trade. Myanmar and ASEAN nations are part of India’s Look East Policy.

Source: PIB

Makaravilakku festival season

In News:

The hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Kerala has been opened for the 21 day-long Makaravilakku festival season, marking the concluding phase of the annual pilgrimage season.

About Makaravilakku festival season:

Makaravilakku is an annual festival held on Makar Sankranti in Kerala, at the shrine of Sabarimala. The festival includes the Thiruvabharanam (sacred ornaments of Ayyappan) procession and a congregation at the hill shrine of Sabarimala.

Institutions in News- DRI

Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, formed in 1957, is the major intelligence agency which eradicates smuggling of drugs, gold, diamonds, electronics, foreign currency, counterfeit Indian currency, etc.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence functions under the Central Board of Excise and Customs in the Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue.

The Directorate is run by officers from Central Excise and Customs. Though its early days were committed to combating smuggling in of gold, it has now tuned itself to the changing nature of crimes in the field of narcotics and economic crimes.

India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway

  • India is undertaking construction of two sections of the Trilateral Highway in Myanmar.
  • The two sections are,
  1. construction of Kalewa-Yagyi road section
  2. Construction of 69 Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa (TKK) road section.
  • The above mentioned both the projects are being funded by Government of India under grant assistance to the Government of Myanmar.
  • India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway (1360 kms) is an initiative pertaining to India, Myanmar and Thailand.
  • The highway will facilitate easy movement of goods and people among the three countries.
  • The IMT trilateral highway will connect Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand.
  • The highway runs through Tamu, Kalewa, Yargi, Monywa, Mandalay, Baw Nat Gyi, Kawkareik and Myawaddy in Myanmar.
  • The National Highways Authority of India has been appointed as the technical executing agency and project management consultant for implementing this project.

Law Ministry on Judges’ retirement age

  • In 2010, the Constitution (114th Amendment) Bill, was introduced in the Lok Sabha.
  • The Bill, which sought to increase the retirement age of High Court judges to 65.
  • This could not be taken up for consideration in Parliament and lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.
  • Recently, Parliamentary Standing Committee proposed that rising the retirement age of judges would help retain the existing judges, which in turn would help in reducing both vacancy and pendency of cases in short run.
  • The Law Ministry replied that there was no proposal as of now to increase the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 65 to 67 and of High Court judges from 62 to 65.
  • As per the existing memorandum of procedure (MoP), the judge appointment proposal has to be initiated by the Chief Justice of the High Court six months before the occurrence of vacancy.
  • Within six weeks, the Chief Minister/Governor has to recommend on the proposal received from the Chief Justice.
  • And within four weeks, the Chief Justice of India/SC Collegium has to recommend the proposal to the Law Ministry.

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