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November 26, 2018
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November 28, 2018
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27 November Current Affairs

Article 370

In News:

The Supreme Court has refused to entertain a fresh petition on Article 370, which gives special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir, and said that the issues raised in it were already part of the pending pleas.

Details:

The petition sought a declaration that Article 370 of the Constitution had lapsed with the dissolution of constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir on January 26, 1957 and it cannot be treated as mandatory for exercise of powers of the President.

The plea has also sought that the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir be declared as “arbitrary, unconstitutional and void”, claiming that it was against the supremacy of the Indian Constitution and contrary to the dictum of “One Nation, One Constitution, One National Anthem and One National Flag”.

It has sought declaring as arbitrary some provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, which deals with permanent residency and flag of the valley among other issues, for being violative of the Preamble and the Indian Constitution.

The petition has said that continuance of two parallel constitutions, one for the Centre and other for the state of Jammu and Kashmir, “reeks of a weird dichotomy” as most of the provisions of the Indian Constitution has already been extended to the state.

It has alleged that due to vote bank politics, successive governments did nothing to repeal Article 370 and Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir was adopted much after the Indian Constitution came into force. It also added that the instrument of accession of October 26, 1947 does not talk about separate Constitution or constituent assembly for the state.

What is Article 370?

Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is a ‘temporary provision’ which grants special autonomous status to Jammu & Kashmir.

Under Part XXI of the Constitution of India, which deals with “Temporary, Transitional and Special provisions”, the state of Jammu & Kashmir has been accorded special status under Article 370.

All the provisions of the Constitution which are applicable to other states are not applicable to J&K.

Important provisions under the article:

According to this article, except for defence, foreign affairs, finance and communications, Parliament needs the state government’s concurrence for applying all other laws. Thus the state’s residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to other Indians.

Indian citizens from other states cannot purchase land or property in Jammu & Kashmir.

Under Article 370, the Centre has no power to declare financial emergency under Article 360 in the state. It can declare emergency in the state only in case of war or external aggression. The Union government can therefore not declare emergency on grounds of internal disturbance or imminent danger unless it is made at the request or with the concurrence of the state government.

Under Article 370, the Indian Parliament cannot increase or reduce the borders of the state.

The Jurisdiction of the Parliament of India in relation to Jammu and Kashmir is confined to the matters enumerated in the Union List, and also the concurrent list. There is no State list for the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

At the same time, while in relation to the other States, the residuary power of legislation belongs to Parliament, in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the residuary powers belong to the Legislature of the State, except certain matters to which Parliament has exclusive powers such as preventing the activities relating to cession or secession, or disrupting the sovereignty or integrity of India.

The power to make laws related to preventive detention in Jammu and Kashmir belong to the Legislature of J & K and not the Indian Parliament. Thus, no preventive detention law made in India extends to Jammu & Kashmir.

Part IV (Directive Principles of the State Policy) and Part IVA (Fundamental Duties) of the Constitution are not applicable to J&K.

Source: The Hindu

Minimum Wages Act for domestic workers

In News:

A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking its intervention to bring dignity to “India’s invisible workforce in the informal sector” — the domestic workers.

Demands:

The petition asked the Supreme Court to lay down guidelines to protect the workers’ rights.

The petition sought the recognition of domestic work under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

Their work hours should be reduced to eight a day and they should be given a mandatory weekly off as a basic right under Article 21.

Need for guidelines:

Indian homes have witnessed a 120% increase in domestic workers in the decade post liberalisation. While the figure was 7,40,000 in 1991, it has increased to 16.6 lakh in 2001.

However, latent classism and lack of education make domestic workers prone to violence and abuse at the hands of their employers and placement agencies.

Worsening their vulnerabilities are the absence of proper documentation, which also increases their reliance on employers to access social security benefits.

As employment is largely through word of mouth or personal referrals, employment contracts are rarely negotiated, leaving the terms of employment to the whims of the employer.

Other issues include- Major incidences of violence (physical and sexual) by employers and the lack of redressal machinery for workers in this rapidly developing domestic services industry.

Who is a domestic worker?

A domestic worker is a person who is involved in domestic work like cleaning, washing, cooking etc. He/she plays an important role in the wellbeing of the family but are often neglected and abused by the members of family and the society.

Way ahead:

If the domestic workers are taken as assets & human resource, their standard of living will increase if minimum wage is fixed. It is also important to create awareness about the significant role played by the domestic workers in the wellbeing of the members of family and society as a whole, thereby imparting behavioural change.

Source: The Hindu

Prevention of Corruption Act

In News:

The Supreme Court has ordered the government to respond to a petition challenging two amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Background:

The amendments were:

The introduction of S. 17 A (1) by which prior permission for investigation of corruption offences was required from the government.

The removal of S. 13 (1) (d) (ii) (criminal misconduct) from the Act. It had earlier made it an offence for a public servant to abuse his position to give pecuniary or other advantage to a third party.

Highlights of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018:

Punishment for bribe-taking enhanced: Minimum punishment of 3 yrs, extendable up to 7 yrs with fine; from the earlier 6 months, with extension up to 3 yrs.

‘Undue Advantage’ expanded: The earlier limited definition of “undue advantage” expanded to now include “anything other than legal remuneration”.

Gifts criminalised: Gifts received for established undue advantage/mala-fide motive are now considered an act of corruption.

Collusive bribe-givers criminalised: For the first time, the giving of bribe has now been made a direct offence on par with taking of bribe. At the same time, protection has been built-in against coercive bribery, as long as the victim comes forward within 7 days.

Corporate bribery criminalised: Superiors to be held if employee/agent has bribed with their approval, for advancement of the organisation’s interests.

Immediate forfeiture: Law enforcement empowered for immediate attachment & forfeiture of illegal property of a public servant, invoking provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Timely trial mandated: To conclude the investigation and trial within 2 yrs, extendable up to 4 yrs.

Source: The Hindu

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

In News:

With just about 40% of the agenda items having been resolved, there is still a long way to go before the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) talks are concluded. It was agreed during the recently-concluded Singapore Ministerial meeting that the deadline for an agreement be shifted to 2019.

Outcomes of the Singapore Ministerial Meeting:

India had scored big diplomatic points at the Singapore meeting by getting the countries gathered to omit the phrase ‘significant conclusions’ from the leaders’ statements. Some major economies such as China and Japan felt that the phrasing should be that “substantial conclusions” had been achieved. India strongly opposed this.

Why India opposed?

India discovered that in some countries’ trade parlance, ‘substantial conclusions’ is a legal terminology. Adopting the term would have implied that discussions on market access were over, and that those countries would have to disclose the discussions to their Parliaments, and to their public. This has serious implications because only five out of 16 chapters had been concluded, and after the meeting in Singapore only seven had been concluded. None of the 7 chapters settled had to do with market access, discussions on which would have been seriously jeopardised.

After India pointed this out, several other countries such as Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Australia also took up the issue and supported India’s position on the matter.

What you need to know about RCEP?

RCEP is proposed between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).

RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.

Aim: RCEP aims to boost goods trade by eliminating most tariff and non-tariff barriers — a move that is expected to provide the region’s consumers greater choice of quality products at affordable rates. It also seeks to liberalise investment norms and do away with services trade restrictions.

Why has it assumed so much significance in recent times?

When inked, it would become the world’s biggest free trade pact. This is because the 16 nations account for a total GDP of about $50 trillion and house close to 3.5 billion people. India (GDP-PPP worth $9.5 trillion and population of 1.3 billion) and China (GDP-PPP of $23.2 trillion and population of 1.4 billion) together comprise the RCEP’s biggest component in terms of market size.

Why is India concerned?

Greater access to Chinese goods may have impact on the Indian manufacturing sector. India has got massive trade deficit with China. Under these circumstances, India proposed differential market access strategy for China.

There are demands by other RCEP countries for lowering customs duties on a number of products and greater access to the market than India has been willing to provide.

Why India should not miss RCEP?

If India is out of the RCEP, it would make its exports price uncompetitive with other RCEP members’ exports in each RCEP market, and the ensuing export-losses contributing to foreign exchange shortages and the subsequent extent of depreciation of the rupee can only be left to imagination. Some of the sectors that have been identified as potential sources of India’s export growth impulses under RCEP to the tune of approximately $200 billion.

There are more compelling trade and economic reasons for RCEP to become India-led in future, than otherwise. India would get greater market access in other countries not only in terms of goods, but in services and investments also.

Source: The Hindu

UN Central Emergency Response Fund

In News:

The United Nations has announced $9.2 million in health and nutritional aid for crisis-stricken Venezuela, where hunger and preventable disease are soaring amid the collapse of the country’s socialist economic system.

Details:

The U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) will support projects to provide nutritional support to children under five years old, pregnant women and lactating mothers at risk, and emergency health care for the vulnerable.

Need:

Venezuela has been in an economic depression for at least half a decade, adding to hyperinflation and mass food shortages. Millions of citizens have left Venezuela to find more opportunity in other Latin American countries.

About the UN Central Emergency Response Fund:

It is a humanitarian fund established by the United Nations General Assembly on December 15, 2005 and launched in March 2006.

With CERF’s objectives to 1) promote early action and response to reduce loss of life; 2) enhance response to time-critical requirements; and 3) strengthen core elements of humanitarian response in underfunded crises, CERF seeks to enable more timely and reliable humanitarian assistance to those affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts.

The fund is replenished annually through contributions from governments, the private sector, foundations and individuals.

Allocations:

The CERF grant element is divided into two windows:

Rapid Responses (approximately two thirds of the grant element)

The Rapid Response window provides funds intended to mitigate the unevenness and delays of the voluntary contribution system by providing seed money for life-saving, humanitarian activities in the initial days and weeks of a sudden onset crisis or a deterioration in an ongoing situation. The maximum amount applied to a crisis in a given year typically does not exceed $30 million, although higher allocations can be made in exceptional circumstances.

Underfunded Emergencies (approximately one third of the grant element).

The Underfunded Emergencies window supports countries that are significantly challenged by “forgotten” emergencies.

Source: The Hindu

RBI can transfer Rs 1 lakh crore of excess reserves to govt

In News:

According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch report, the Reserve Bank has “more than adequate” reserves and it can transfer over Rs 1 trillion to the government after a specially constituted panel identifies the “excess capital”.

Details:

The report notes that the central bank can transfer Rs 1 trillion to the government if the transfer is limited to passing excess contingency reserve and can go up to Rs 3 trillion if the total capital is included.

How does a central bank like the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) make profits?

The RBI is a “full service” central bank — not only is it mandated to keep inflation or prices in check, it is also supposed to manage the borrowings of the Government of India and of state governments; supervise or regulate banks and non-banking finance companies; and manage the currency and payment systems. While carrying out these functions or operations, it makes profits.

Typically, the central bank’s income comes from the returns it earns on its foreign currency assets — which could be in the form of bonds and treasury bills of other central banks or top-rated securities, and deposits with other central banks.

It also earns interest on its holdings of local rupee-denominated government bonds or securities, and while lending to banks for very short tenures, such as overnight. It claims a management commission on handling the borrowings of state governments and the central government.

Its expenditure is mainly on the printing of currency notes and on staff, besides the commission it gives to banks for undertaking transactions on behalf of the government across the country, and to primary dealers, including banks, for underwriting some of these borrowings.

What is the nature of the arrangement between the government and RBI on the transfer of surplus or profits?

Although RBI was promoted as a private shareholders’ bank in 1935 with a paid up capital of Rs 5 crore, the government nationalised it in January 1949, making the sovereign its “owner”. What the central bank does, therefore, is transfer the “surplus” — that is, the excess of income over expenditure — to the government, in accordance with Section 47 (Allocation of Surplus Profits) of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.

Does the RBI pay tax on these earnings or profits?

No. Its statute provides exemption from paying income-tax or any other tax, including wealth tax.

How does the government build this surplus into its Budget early in the year?

Well before the annual Budget is unveiled, senior RBI and government officials discuss the likely amount which could be transferred. Typically, the government pitches for a higher share of the surplus while the central bank sometimes prefers to set aside funds for contigencies. Based on these talks, and calculations such as likely income and earnings, an indicative figure is given to the government, which it puts under the head ‘non-tax revenue’ in the receipts budget.

Is there an explicit policy on the distribution of surplus?

No. But a Technical Committee of the RBI Board headed by Y H Malegam, which reviewed the adequacy of reserves and a surplus distribution policy, recommended, in 2013, a higher transfer to the government.

Earlier, the RBI transferred part of the surplus to the Contigency Fund, to meet unexpected and unforeseen contigencies, and to the Asset Development Fund, to meet internal capital expenditure and investments in its subsidiaries in keeping with the recommendation of a committee to build contigency reserves of 12% of its balance sheet. But after the Malegam committee made its recommendation, in 2013-14, the RBI’s transfer of surplus to the government as a percentage of gross income (less expenditure) shot up to 99.99% from 53.40% in 2012-13.

Source: The Hindu

NASA’s InSight spacecraft lands on red planet after six-month journey

In News:

InSight, a NASA spacecraft designed to burrow beneath the surface of Mars has landed on the red after a six-month, 482 million-km journey.

Details:

It was NASA’s ninth attempt to land at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes. All but one of the previous U.S. touchdowns was successful. NASA last landed on Mars in 2012 with the Curiosity rover.

About InSight Mission:

InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

It will be the first mission to peer deep beneath the Martian surface, studying the planet’s interior by measuring its heat output and listening for marsquakes, which are seismic events similar to earthquakes on Earth.

It will use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes to develop a map of the planet’s deep interior.

Significance of the mission:

The findings of Mars’ formation will help better understand how other rocky planets, including Earth, were and are created. But InSight is more than a Mars mission – it is a terrestrial planet explorer that would address one of the most fundamental issues of planetary and solar system science – understanding the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system (including Earth) more than four billion years ago.

InSight would delve deep beneath the surface of Mars, detecting the fingerprints of the processes of terrestrial planet formation, as well as measuring the planet’s “vital signs”: Its “pulse” (seismology), “temperature” (heat flow probe), and “reflexes” (precision tracking).

InSight seeks to answer one of science’s most fundamental questions: How did the terrestrial planets form?

Why Mars?

Previous missions to Mars have investigated the surface history of the Red Planet by examining features like canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil. However, signatures of the planet’s formation can only be found by sensing and studying its “vital signs” far below the surface.

In comparison to the other terrestrial planets, Mars is neither too big nor too small. This means that it preserves the record of its formation and can give us insight into how the terrestrial planets formed. It is the perfect laboratory from which to study the formation and evolution of rocky planets. Scientists know that Mars has low levels of geological activity. But a lander like InSight can also reveal just how active Mars really is.

Source: The Hindu

“Paisa – Portal for Affordable Credit & Interest Subvention Access”, Launched under Day-NULM

In News:

PAiSA – A centralized electronic platform for processing interest subvention on bank loans to beneficiaries under Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM).

Details:

It is designed and developed by Allahabad Bank (Nodal bank).

Benefits of PAiSA:

Another effort by the government to connect directly with the beneficiaries for ensuring greater transparency and efficiency in delivery of services.

DBT of subvention on monthly basis under DAY-NULM will give the necessary financial support to small entrepreneurs in a timely manner.

All 35 States/UTs & all scheduled commercial banks, RRBs and Cooperative Banks are expected to be on board the PAiSA portal the year end.

Source: PIB

‘HAUSLA-2018’ was inaugurated in the Capital

In News:

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has launched the National Festival for Children of Child Care Institutions (CCIs) – Hausla 2018.

Details:

The inter-Child Care Institution festival draws children from 18 States for the various events like painting competition, athletics meet, football, chess competition and speech writing as part of the Festival.

Reason behind Hausla:

  • To provide a national platform for the children from CCIs across India to showcase their talent.
  • To make them realize the hidden talent they possess
  • To help take it forward in their life.
  • Theme of the Event – “Child Safety”

Source: PIB

Protocol amending India-China DTAA

In News:

The Government of Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of China have amended the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) by signing a Protocol.

Purpose of the amendment of DTAA:

For the avoidance of double taxation.

For the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.

Additional changes by signing the Protocol:

It updates the existing provisions for exchange of information to the latest international standards.

It incorporates changes required to implement treaty related minimum standards under the Action reports of Base Erosion & Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project, where India participated on an equal footing.

Legal Provision:

Under Section 90 of the Income-tax Act, 1961, India can enter into an agreement with a foreign country or specified territory for the avoidance of double taxation of income, for the exchange of information for the prevention of evasion.

Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA):

It is referred as Tax Treaty, a bilateral economic agreement between two nations that aims to avoid or eliminate double taxation of the same income in two countries.

A DTAA applies in cases where a tax-payer resides in one country and earns income in another.

DTAAs can either be comprehensive to cover all sources of income or be limited to certain areas such as taxing of income from shipping, air transport, inheritance, etc.

India has DTAAs with more than eighty countries.

Source: PIB

Investment models

In News:

Government of India and Asian Development Bank (ADB) sign $200 Million Loan to improve State Highways in Bihar.

Details:

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India signed a $200 million loan to finance widening and upgrading of about 230 Kilometers State Highways in Bihar to all-weather standards with road safety features.

Advantages of improved roads under the Project:

It will contribute to savings in vehicle operating cost and travel time.

It will reduce vehicle emissions, and

It will improve road safety.

Asian Development Bank (ADB):

The Asian Development Bank was conceived in the early 1960s as a financial institution that would be Asian in character and foster economic growth and cooperation in one of the poorest regions in the world.

It assists its members, and partners, by providing loans, technical assistance, grants, and equity investments to promote social and economic development.

ADB is composed of 67 members, 48 of which are from the Asia and Pacific region.

Established on 19 December 1966

Headquartered — Manila, Philippines

Official United Nations Observer

Voting rights

It is modelled closely on the World Bank, and has a similar weighted voting system where votes are distributed in proportion with members’ capital subscriptions.

United States > Japan  > China > India >Australia

Source: PIB

Virtual Climate Summit

  • It is an innovative climate summit which is an entirely online event to be a carbon neutral event.
  • It is the world’s first ever political global meeting to be held in online.
  • Its focus is on to renew political momentum in tackling climate change.
  • It was announced in the Global Environment Facility (GEF) assembly recently held in Vietnam.
  • It is the brainchild of Marshall Islands President who insisted upon such summit in the GEF assembly.
  • The summit is convened by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) in its capacity as the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) chair.
  • Its main aim is to encourage the international community to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Climate Vulnerable Forum

  • The climate vulnerable forum is an international partnership of countries highly vulnerable to a warming planet.
  • The Forum serves as a South-South cooperation platform for participating governments to act together to deal with global climate change.
  • It brings together climate vulnerable developing countries from across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific.
  • The forum held its first meeting in Maldives in the year 2009.
  • CVF High-level meeting was last convened during the UNFCCC Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21).
  • The Manila-Paris Declaration and the 2016-2018 Roadmap of the CVF, adopted at this meeting, spell out the CVF’s planned efforts during this time period.
  • The forum has a rotating chairmanship that has been held by Maldives, Kiribati, Bangladesh, Costa Rica and Philippines, Ethiopia and currently held by Republic of Marshall.