20 December Current Affairs
December 20, 2019
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December 23, 2019
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21 December Current Affairs

GST Council fixes 28% uniform tax rate for lottery

In News:

In a first, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council meeting resorted to voting to decide on an issue, as all the earlier decisions by GST Council had been taken through consensus.

Details:

The controversial issue of GST rate for lotteries was decided on basis of voting, with the GST Council headed by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman fixing a uniform tax rate of 28% on both state and private lotteries with effect from 1 March 2020.

The voting move was taken on insistence of Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac’s proposal.

GST Rate for Lottery:

Currently, there are dual rates for lotteries, with 12% tax on state-run lotteries and 28% on state-authorised, or private, lotteries.

Voting happened twice on the issue, with first time being on whether there should be a uniform or dual rate.

17 states voted in favour of single rate and 7 for a dual rate. Then there was voting on whether there should be an 18% or 28% rate for lotteries and all voted for 28%.

Others:

Besides lotteries, the GST Council decided to exempt upfront amount payable for long-term lease of industrial or financial infrastructure plots by an entity in which Centre/ State governments have at least 20% ownership.

This exemption is currently available to those where governments have at least 50% stake. This move would promote setting up of industrial and financial parks.

The GST Council also decided to block input tax credit (ITC) for fake invoices in certain cases and further restrict credit for invoices not uploaded in relevant forms to 10% from current 20% of eligible credit. Also, to check the menace of fake invoices, suitable action will be taken for blocking fraudulently availed ITC in certain cases.

The decision to block ITC in cases of fake invoices indicated that focus on revenue augmentation measures could lead to several anti-evasion measures in the coming months.

India is world’s third largest producer of scientific articles

In News:

According to a latest report by US National Science Foundation (NSF), India has emerged as the world’s third largest publisher of science and engineering articles. As per the statistics compiled in report, China has topped the list followed by US.

Key Highlights of Report:

China tops the list as it accounts for 20.67% of all global publications in scientific articles. In China, about 5,28,263 scientific articles were published in 2018.

As per the report, China’s rate of research output has grown almost twice as fast as world’s annual average for last 10 years, while the output of US and European Union (EU) has grown at less than half world’s annual growth rate.

United States: follows China at second spot with about 4,22,808 global publications in science and engineering articles in 2018.

India : Emerged as world’s third largest publisher of science and engineering articles after China (5,28,263) and US (4,22,808) in 2018, with about 1,35,788 science and engineering articles were published in country.

Even though India has a long way to go as compared to US and China in terms of number of scientific article publications, its emergence as third largest publisher is mainly due to a phenomenal double-digit growth rate in last one decade from 2008 to 2018.

Top Ten:

Other countries which made it to top 10 list are Germany (1,04,396), Japan (98,793), United Kingdom (97,681), Russia (81,579), Italy (71,240), South Korea (66,376) and France (66,352).

Global Output:

Both China and India have increased their share of the growing world output.

China produced 5% of global output in 2000 and grew to 21% in 2018, while India’s share rose from 2% to 5%t during this period.

Even though research papers from US and European Union (EU) continue to have the most impact, but, China has shown a rapid increase in producing impactful publications, as measured by references to journal articles and conference papers.

As measured by journal articles and conference papers, the Specialisation in scientific fields differs among countries.

It shows that US, EU and Japan are more specialised in health sciences while China and India more specialised in engineering.

Portugal sets up Gandhi Citizenship Education Prize

In News:

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced the setting up of a Gandhi Citizenship Education Prize in order to help promote Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals.

Details:

The announcement was made while he was addressing the second meeting of National Committee for Commemoration Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th Birth Anniversary chaired by President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Portuguese PM is the only foreign Prime Minister to be a part of the committee. The committee includes President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Cabinet, Chief Ministers, Gandhians etc.

About Gandhi Citizenship Education Prize:

Every year, the Gandhi Citizenship Education Prize would be inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s different thoughts and quotes.

The first edition of this prize will be dedicated to animal welfare as Mahatma Gandhi said that the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

Portuguese PM reiterated that Mahatma Gandhi’s message of tolerance and love was revolutionary in his time, and in many parts of the world it is still revolutionary today.

Himalayan Gold

In News:

In the Himalayas, the reliance of local communities on the trade and collection of Himalayan Gold, caterpillar fungus has become extremely popular in recent decades.

Details:

Caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps Sinensis) is a fungal parasite of larvae (caterpillars) that belongs to the ghost moth.

It has been used in traditional Tibetan and Chinese medicine as a tonic, as a therapeutic medicine for lung, liver and kidney problems.

In the recent times, it has widely traded as an aphrodisiac (stimulating sexual desire) and a powerful tonic, often called the ‘Himalayan Viagra’.

It is endemic to the Tibetan Plateau, including the adjoining high Himalaya (3,200-4,500 metres above sea level).

It is locally known as Kira Jari (in India), Yartsagunbu (in Tibet) and Yarsagumba (in Nepal).

It has been found in alphine meadows of Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, Askot Wildlife Sanctuary, Kanchendzonga Biosphere Reserve and Dehan-Debang Biosphere Reserve.

The harvesting of fungus starts at the beginning of May and lasts till the end of June.

It depends on factors such as weather, snow cover on the pasture and elevation of collection sites.

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network reported that the illegal trading of it is also a significant issue.

Pinaka Missile

In News:

Pinaka Missile System developed by DRDO was successfully flight-tested from the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur off the Odisha coast recently.

Details:

It is an Artillery Missile System capable of striking into enemy territory up to a range of 75 kilometres with high precision.

The Pinaka MK-II Rocket is modified as a missile by integrating with the Navigation, Control and Guidance System.

The Navigation system of the missile is also aided by the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).

It is to improve the end accuracy and enhance the range.

The mission achieved all the objectives including enhancing the range, accuracy and sub-system functionality.

Operation Twist

In News:

Operation Twist is the name given to a U.S Federal Reserve monetary policy operation in 2011-12 that involves the purchase and sale of bonds.

Details:

Its objective was to make long-term borrowing cheaper and to stimulate the economy.

It does not expand the Fed’s balance sheet, making it a less aggressive form of easing.

RBI have recently decided to launch India’s version of Operation Twist.

Accordingly, RBI will simultaneously buy and sale government securities worth Rs. 10,000 crore each under its open market operations.

RBI will purchase the longer-term government bonds maturing in 2029 at 6.45% and simultaneously sell short term bonds maturing in 2020.

It will purchase bonds that are trading at a spread of 150 bps (basis points) over the repo rate, so that the yield of these papers will soften.

It is seen as a move aimed at managing the yields.

Bond yields have been rising since the RBI unexpectedly left its key repo rate unchanged earlier this month.

Thus, it is an unconventional step by RBI as policy rate cuts are unable to bring down the bank lending rates proportionately.

Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana-lll (PMGSY-III)

In News:

Phase III of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) has been launched.

Features of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana-lll (PMGSY-III):

Under the PMGSY-III Scheme, it is proposed to consolidate 1,25,000 Km road length in the States.

It involves consolidation of Through Routes and Major Rural Links connecting habitations to Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs), Higher Secondary Schools and Hospitals.

The funds would be shared in the ratio of 60:40 between the Centre and State for all States except for 8 North Eastern states and Himachal Pradesh & Uttarakhand for which it is 90:10.

Background:

A total of 5,99,090 Km road length has been constructed under the scheme since inception till April, 2019 (inclusive of PMGSY-I, PMGSY-II and RCPLWEA Scheme.

PMGSY-I:

PMGSY was launched in December, 2000 with an objective to provide single all-weather road connectivity to eligible unconnected habitation of designated population size (500+ in plain areas and 250+ in North-East, hill, tribal and desert areas as per Census, 2001) for overall socio-economic development of the areas.

Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Area (RCPLWEA):

Launched in the year 2016 as a separate vertical under PMGSY to provide all-weather road connectivity with necessary culverts and cross-drainage structures in 44 districts (35 are worst LWE affected districts and 09 are adjoining districts), which are critical from security and communication point of view. Under the Scheme, 5,066 Km road length has been sanctioned.

Silver Line project

In News:

The Ministry of Railways has granted in-principle approval for the ‘Silver Line’ project, a proposal of the Kerala government.

About the Project:

It involves laying of semi high-speed trains between the two corners of the state of Kerala.

It is 532- km long. The corridor will be built away from the existing line between Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur.

It aims to connect major districts and towns with semi high-speed trains that will run on their own tracks.

The Kerala Rail Development Corporation (K-Rail), a joint venture between the Ministry of Railways and the Kerala government to execute projects on a cost-sharing basis, will be the nodal agency.

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