5th May, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘GST council meeting’
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The GST Council on Friday decided to roll out in six months a new, simpler process of filing monthly returns
Highlights of the meeting
1. In its 27th meeting, the GST Council also decided to take complete ownership of the goods and services tax network (GSTN) by acquiring the equity share held by non-government institutions.
2. On the imposition of a cess on sugar as well as a two per cent incentive for making payments digitally, the panel decided to set up two separate groups of five finance ministers of states to give recommendations on both issues.
3. The GST Council also ruled out the automatic reversal of input tax credit from the buyer on non-payment of tax by the seller.
About GST council
Goods & Services Tax Council is a constitutional body for making recommendations to the Union and State Government on issues related to Goods and Service Tax. The GST Council is chaired by the Union Finance Minister and other members are the Union State Minister of Revenue or Finance and Ministers in-charge of Finance or Taxation of all the States.
Mandate of GST council
The Goods and Services Tax Council shall make recommendations to the Union and the States on—
1. the taxes, cesses and surcharges levied by the Union, the States and the local bodies which may be subsumed in the goods and services tax;
2. the goods and services that may be subjected to, or exempted from the goods and services tax;
3. model Goods and Services Tax Laws, principles of levy, apportionment of Goods and Services Tax levied on supplies in the course of inter-State trade or commerce under article 269A and the principles that govern the place of supply;
4. the threshold limit of turnover below which goods and services may be exempted from goods and services tax;
5. the rates including floor rates with bands of goods and services tax;
6. any special rate or rates for a specified period, to raise additional resources during any natural calamity or disaster;
7. special provision with respect to the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand; and
8. Any other matter relating to the goods and services tax, as the Council may decide.
* The Goods and Services Tax Council shall recommend the date on which the goods and services tax be levied on petroleum crude, high speed diesel, motor spirit (commonly known as petrol), natural gas and aviation turbine fuel.
* While discharging the functions conferred by this article, the Goods and Services Tax Council shall be guided by the need for a harmonized structure of goods and services tax and for the development of a harmonized national market for goods and services.
* One-half of the total number of Members of the Goods and Services Tax Council shall constitute the quorum at its meetings.
* The Goods and Services Tax Council shall determine the procedure in the performance of its functions.
* Every decision of the Goods and Services Tax Council shall be taken at a meeting, by a majority of not less than three-fourths of the weighted votes of the members present and voting, in accordance with the following principles, namely: —
1. the vote of the Central Government shall have a weightage of one third of the total votes cast, and
2. The votes of all the State Governments taken together shall have a weightage of two-thirds of the total votes cast, in that meeting.
* No act or proceedings of the Goods and Services Tax Council shall be invalid merely by reason of—
1. any vacancy in, or any defect in, the constitution of the Council; or
2. any defect in the appointment of a person as a Member of the Council; or
3. any procedural irregularity of the Council not affecting the merits of the case.
* The Goods and Services Tax Council shall establish a mechanism to adjudicate any dispute between the Government of India and one or more States; or between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other side; or Between two or more States, arising out of the recommendations of the Council or implementation thereof.
(GS1: Geophysical phenomenon)
Issue: Another set of thunderstorms is likely to hit India’s northwestern plains on Saturday. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), regions including northern Rajasthan, western Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and parts of Uttarakhand will be affected. Thunderstorms, along with squall are also very likely at isolated places over Assam and Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura as well
What is a squall?
A squall is a sudden, sharp increase in wind speed that is usually associated with active weather, such as rain showers, thunderstorms, or heavy snow. Squalls refer to an increase in the sustained winds over a short time interval, as there may be higher gusts during a squall event. They usually occur in a region of strong mid-level height falls, or mid-level tropospheric cooling, which force strong localized upward motions at the leading edge of the region of cooling, which then enhances local downward motions just in its wake.
(GS2: Issues related to Education)
Issue: The Ministry of Human Resource Development has launched a major and unique initiative of online professional development of 1.5 million higher education faculty using the MOOCs platform SWAYAM.
What is SWAYAM?
SWAYAM is a programme initiated by Government of India and designed to achieve the three cardinal principles of Education Policy viz., access, equity and quality. The objective of this effort is to take the best teaching learning resources to all, including the most disadvantaged. SWAYAM seeks to bridge the digital divide for students who have hitherto remained untouched by the digital revolution and have not been able to join the mainstream of the knowledge economy.
This is done through an indigenous developed IT platform that facilitates hosting of all the courses, taught in classrooms from 9th class till post-graduation to be accessed by anyone, anywhere at any time. All the courses are interactive, prepared by the best teachers in the country and are available, free of cost to the residents in India. More than 1,000 specially chosen faculty and teachers from across the Country have participated in preparing these courses.
The courses hosted on SWAYAM are in 4 quadrants – (1) video lecture, (2) specially prepared reading material that can be downloaded/printed (3) self-assessment tests through tests and quizzes and (4) an online discussion forum for clearing the doubts. Steps have been taken to enrich the learning experience by using audio-video and multi-media and state of the art pedagogy / technology.
‘NAMAMI GANGE project’
(GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: National Mission for Clean Ganga has brought on board Survey of India, the oldest scientific department in the country set up in 1767, to facilitate the Ganga rejuvenation task by using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.
Aim of the project
1. NMCG aims to strengthen planning and implementation at national/state/local levels. The project includes use of Digital Elevation Model (DEM) technology which ensures accurate data collection, an important aspect for river basin management planning.
2. DEM technology enables identification of entire topography of an area making it easy for policy makers to analyze the available data thereby supporting the decision-making process.
3. The use of GIS technology for Namami Gange programme will also ensure decentralization. The data collected and subsequent actions taken by the government can easily be shared with the local public through geo portals and mobile apps.
4. For effective discharge management, outlet of sewerage and other discharges from all units – industrial, commercial and all types of other institutions will be mapped from the source outlet to the public drainage network. In addition, the high resolution GIS enabled data will help in regulating the proposed protected and regulatory zones along the banks of river.
National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was registered as a society on 12th August 2011 under the Societies Registration Act 1860.It acted as implementation arm of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) which was constituted under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA),1986. NGRBA has since been dissolved with effect from the 7th October 2016, consequent to constitution of National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga (referred as National Ganga Council)
The Act envisages five tier structure at national, state and district level to take measures for prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution in river Ganga and to ensure continuous adequate flow of water so as to rejuvenate the river Ganga as below;
1. National Ganga Council under chairmanship of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India
2. Empowered Task Force (ETF) on river Ganga under chairmanship of Hon’ble Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
3. National Mission for Clean Ganga(NMCG).
4. State Ganga Committees and
5. District Ganga Committees in every specified district abutting river Ganga and its tributaries in the states.
NMCG has a two tier management structure and comprises of Governing Council and Executive Committee. Both of them are headed by Director General, NMCG. Executive Committee has been authorized to accord approval for all projects up to Rs.1000 crore. Similar to structure at national level, State Programme Management Groups (SPMGs) acts as implementing arm of State Ganga Committees. Thus the newly created structure attempts to bring all stakeholders on one platform to take a holistic approach towards the task of Ganga cleaning and rejuvenation.
The Director General (DG) of NMCG is a Additional Secretary in Government of India. For effective implementation of the projects under the overall supervision of NMCG, the State Level Program Management Groups (SPMGs) are, also headed by senior officers of the concerned States.
About NAMAMI GANGE project
‘Namami Gange Programme’, is an Integrated Conservation Mission, approved as ‘Flagship Programme’ by the Union Government in June 2014 with budget outlay of Rs.20,000 Crore to accomplish the twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga
|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).|
|The key achievements under Namami Gange programme are:-|
|1. Creating Sewerage Treatment Capacity:- 63 sewerage management projects under implementation in the States of Uttarakhand,Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.12 new sewerage management Projects Launched in these states.Work is under construction for creating Sewerage capacity of 1187.33 (MLD).Hybrid Annuity PPP Model based two projects has been initiated for Jagjeetpur, Haridwar and Ramanna, Varanasi.|
|2. Creating River-Front Development:-28 River-Front Development projects and 33 Entry level Projects for construction, modernization and renovation of 182 Ghats and 118 crematoria has been initiated.|
|3. River Surface Cleaning:-River Surface cleaning for collection of floating solid waste from the surface of the Ghats and River and its disposal are afoot and pushed into service at 11 locations.|
|4. Bio-Diversity Conservation:- Several Bio-Diversity conservation projects are namely: Biodiversity Conservation and Ganga Rejuvenation, Fish and Fishery Conservation in Ganga River, Ganges River Dolphin Conservation Education Programme has been initiated. 5 Bio-Diversity center’s at Dehradun, Narora, Allahabad, Varanasi and Barrackpore has been developed for restoration of identified priority species.|
|5. Afforestation:- Forestry interventions for Ganga through Wildlife Institute of India; Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute and Centre for Environment Education has been initiated. Forestry interventions for Ganga has been executed as per the Detailed Project Report prepared by Forest Research Institute, Dehradun for a period of 5 years (2016-2021) at project cost of Rs.2300 Crores. Work has been commenced in 7 districts of Uttarakhand for medicinal plants.|
|6. Public Awareness:- A series of activities such as events, workshops, seminars and conferences and numerous IEC activities were organized to make a strong pitch for public outreach and community participation in the programme. Various awareness activities through rallies, campaigns, exhibitions, shram daan, cleanliness drives, competitions, plantation drives and development and distribution of resource materials were organized and for wider publicity the mass mediums such as TV/Radio, print media advertisements, advertorials, featured articles and advertorials were published.|
|7. Industrial Effluent Monitoring:- Real Time Effluent Monitoring Stations (EMS) has been installed in 572 out of 760 Grossly Polluting Industries (GPIs). Closure notice have been issued to 135 GPIs so far and others have been given deadlines for compliance to stipulated norms and for installations of online EMS.|
|8. Ganga Gram:- Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MoDWS) identified 1674 Gram Panchayats situated on the bank of River Ganga in 5 State (Uttarakhand,Uttar Pradesh,Bihar,Jharkhand,West Bengal). Rs. 578 Crores has been released to Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MoDWS) for construction of toilets in 1674 Gram Panchayats of 5 Ganga Basin States.|
|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 such as Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Israel etc. have shown interest in collaborating with India for Ganga rejuvenation. Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed with various Central Ministries viz.- Ministry of Human Resource Development, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Ayush, Ministry of Petroleum, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation and Ministry of Agriculture for synergizing the Government schemes.|
‘National Water Informatics Centre’
(GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: Consequent upon approval of the Cabinet, National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC) has recently been created by Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation at New Delhi vide notification dated 28th March 2018.
NWIC would be a repository of nation-wide water resources data and would work as a Subordinate Office under the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. The centre would be headed by a Joint Secretary level officer.
(GS3: Science and Technology)
Issue: NITI Aayog and IBM signed a Statement of Intent (SoI) today to develop a crop yield prediction model using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide real time advisory to farmers in Aspirational Districts.
Objective of the partnership
The partnership aims to work together towards use of technology to provide insights to farmers to improve crop productivity, soil yield, controls agricultural input with the overarching goal of improving farmers’ incomes.
IBM will be using Artificial Intelligence to provide all the relevant data and platform for developing technological models for improving agricultural output and productivity for various crops and soil types, for the identified districts. NITI Aayog, on its part, will facilitate the inclusion of more stakeholders on the ground for effective last mile utilization and extension, using the insights generated through these models.
What is precision agriculture?
Precision agriculture is also known as precision ag or precision farming. Perhaps the easiest way to understand precision ag is to think of it as everything that makes the practice of farming more accurate and controlled when it comes to the growing of crops and raising livestock. A key component of this farm management approach is the use of information technology and a wide array of items such as GPS guidance, control systems, sensors, robotics, drones, autonomous vehicles, variable rate technology, GPS-based soil sampling, automated hardware, telematics, and software.
‘National Security clearance policy’
(GS3: Internal security)
Issue: Among foreign countries, the maximum investment proposals in critical sectors like telecom and defence that was cleared by the Home Ministry in 2017 were from China, United Kingdom, U.S. and Mauritius.
Earlier the time taken for security clearance for a project was eight-nine months on an average. This has been brought down to 40 days since last year.
The Ministry had formulated a new national security clearance policy in 2015 after the government decided to speed up projects, which were stuck for lack of approval by Intelligence Bureau (IB) or other agencies including the State police.
About the policy
The policy has 15 parameters on which inputs from security agencies are sought. Once it has got an application from an investor, the Ministry decides on the status of security clearance to the company within 4-6 weeks.
The objective is to evaluate potential threats, visible or embedded, in proposals received by the Ministry and to provide a national risk assessment. Security inputs from the Intelligence Bureau, the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and other agencies are sought only in cases of serious crimes and not in case of minor offences.
‘Open market operations’
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will buy government bonds worth up to Rs10,000 crore on 17 May, a move that could bring some relief to the bond market which is reeling under the pressure of rising yields despite a slew of regulatory measures.
Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.
The purchase of securities will be made under the central bank’s open market operations (OMOs)
What is OMO?
OMOs are the market operations conducted by the RBI by way of sale/ purchase of G-Secs to/ from the market with an objective to adjust the rupee liquidity conditions in the market on a durable basis. When the RBI feels that there is excess liquidity in the market, it resorts to sale of securities thereby sucking out the rupee liquidity. Similarly, when the liquidity conditions are tight, RBI may buy securities from the market, thereby releasing liquidity into the market.