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19th December Current Affairs

Decriminalisation of offences under GST

(GS-III: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources)

In News:

The Finance Minister chaired the 48th GST Council, which recommended decriminalising certain offences under Section 132 of the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) Act, 2017

Background:

The GST law is still in its early stages of development. Hence, it is vital to recognise that imposing penal provisions in an uncertain ecosystem impacts an enterprise’s ability to conduct business.

About Goods and Services Tax (GST):

It is an indirect tax (a tax which is not directly paid by customers to the government) that came into effect on July 1, 2017, as a result of the 101st Amendment to the Indian Constitution.

It has replaced several indirect taxes in the country, including service taxes, VAT, excise, etc.

It is imposed on both manufacturers and sellers of goods, as well as suppliers of services.

For tax collection, it is divided into five tax slabs – 0%, 5%, 12%, 18%, and 28%.

About GST Council:

It is an apex committee to modify, reconcile or makes recommendations to the Union and the States on GST, like the goods and services that may be subjected to or exempted from GST, model GST laws, etc.

Article 279A of the Indian Constitution empowers the President of India to constitute a joint forum of the Centre and States called the GST Council.

Offences under GST:

Need:

Despite technology leverage, instances of tax evasion have surged due to culprits remaining undetected.

The GST law imposes severe penalties and guidelines in order to combat corruption and maintain an efficient tax collection system.

Penalties under GST law:

The department authorities have the jurisdiction to impose monetary fines and the seizure of goods as penalties for violating statutory provisions.

Criminal penalties include imprisonment and fines but can be awarded only in a criminal court following a prosecution.

The amount of tax evaded, the amount of Input Tax Credit (ITC) improperly claimed or used, etc, determines the length of the prison sentence.

The Act also divides offences into – cognisable and bailable and non-cognisable and bailable.

Measures recommended at the 48th GST Council meeting:

Raising the minimum tax amount for commencing a GST prosecution from one to two crore.

Reducing the compounding amount from 50 to 150% of the tax amount to 25 to 100% of the tax amount.

Decriminalising certain offences under Section 132 of the CGST Act, 2017, such as preventing an officer from doing his duties, deliberate tampering with material evidence and failure to supply information.

Other suggestions include refunding unregistered individuals and facilitating e-commerce for small businesses.

What impact will the aforementioned measures have?

Prosecution, arrest, and imprisonment in GST cases would occur only in the most exceptional cases.

Ease of doing business will be made more effective.

The challenges of quantum computing

(GS-III: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life)

In News:

Several institutes and companies worldwide have invested in developing quantum computer (QC) systems.

Background:

The QC use quantum physics to tackle problems that traditional computers cannot and given its wide-ranging applications and the scale of investments, understanding QCs are crucial.

In 2021, the Indian government launched a National Mission on Quantum Technology to study quantum technologies with an allocation of ₹8,000 crores.

The Indian army opened a quantum research facility in Madhya Pradesh and the Department of Science and Technology co-launched another facility in Pune.

Quantum technology:

Background:

Until the early 20th century, it was thought that classical physics – two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same moment.

Upon scientific investigation, microscopic/sub-atomic particles such as atoms, electrons, and photons, the subject of quantum mechanics (physics of subatomic particles) were founded.

About:

Quantum technology works by using the principles of quantum mechanics and is based on the phenomena exhibited by microscopic particles (photons, electrons, atoms, etc) which are quite distinct from the way normal macroscopic objects behave.

Working:

A bit is the fundamental computational unit of a conventional computer, whose value is 1 if a corresponding transistor is on and 0 if the transistor is off. This means a bit can have one of two values at a time, either 0 or 1.

The qubit is the fundamental unit of a QC and instead of being either 1 or 0, the information is encoded in the third kind of state (superimposition of 0 & 1).

Thus, a qubit-based computer can access more computational pathways and offer solutions to more complex problems.

Applications:

Quantum supremacy: a situation where quantum computers can do things that classical computers cannot.

Quantum computers, which provide more powerful computing, help in a wide range of applications like –

  • More reliable navigation, timing systems and secure communications.
  • Quantum sensing (using quantum phenomenon to perform a measurement of a physical quantity).
  • Disaster management through better prediction, etc.
  • To understand biological phenomena such as the spread of pandemics like Covid-19, etc.

Challenges:

A practical QC needs at least 1,000 qubits and the current biggest quantum processor has 433 qubits.

Qubits exist in superposition in specific conditions, including very low temperatures (~0.01 K), with radiation ­shielding and protection against physical shock.

Material or electromagnetic defects in the circuitry between qubits could also ‘corrupt’ their states.

Researchers are yet to build QCs that completely eliminate these disturbances in systems.

Way ahead:

To entangle each qubit with a group of physical qubits (a system that mimics a qubit) that correct errors.

Academic Distress’ and Student Suicides in India

In News:

Three students, who were preparing for entrance tests in Kota Rajasthan, died allegedly by suicide in two separate incidents.

Details:

More students died by suicide than farmers, while farmers’ suicides are widely recognised as a crisis in India, students’ suicides are increasingly swept under the rug.

Data on Student Suicides:

India’s adolescent and youth population – people below the age of 25 – account for 53.7% of the population. Yet, most of these youths are not employable as they lack the requisite skills.

According to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), in 2020, a student took their own life every 42 minutes; that is, every day, more than 34 students died by suicide.

Reasons for rising Students Suicide:

Social Stigma: not enough discussion about depression and suicides

Academic Pressure

Relationship breakdown.

Lack of adequate support: the ‘Log Kya Kahenge’ attitude in Indian society is a permanent feature in the lives of competitive exam aspirants.

High expectations from Students.

Mental Issues: Anxiety disorder, depression, personality disorder.

Steps that can be taken:

Mentorship programmes: There is no concept of mentors in Kota and every single student in the city is in a way a competitor despite being friends with each other.

Social Awareness.

Academic Support Groups by College administration.

Helplines by NGO and Civil Society Groups.

Social media groups: Groups can be formed where students can discuss the issues they face.