02 nd August, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Spectrum Sale’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended the auction of spectrum for offering 5G services for the first time in the country at a pan-India reserve price of about ₹492 crore per MHz.
In its recommendations, the regulator has also called for over 43% reduction in the reserve prices of 700 MHz band spectrum — sought-after for high speed services. It had no takers in the 2016 auctions due to high pricing. The recommended pan-India reserve price for 700 Mhz now is ₹6,538 crore per MHz as opposed to ₹11,500 crore last time.
Other recommendations of TRAI
The regulator also pointed out that there is an “urgent need” of audit of all allocated spectrum both commercial as well as spectrum allocated to various PSUs and government organisations. This should be done by an independent agency on a regular basis
The entry of private service providers brought with it the inevitable need for independent regulation. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was, thus, established with effect from 20th February 1997 by an Act of Parliament, called the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997, to regulate telecom services, including fixation/revision of tariffs for telecom services which were earlier vested in the Central Government.
TRAI’s mission is to create and nurture conditions for growth of telecommunications in the country in a manner and at a pace which will enable India to play a leading role in emerging global information society.
One of the main objectives of TRAI is to provide a fair and transparent policy environment which promotes a level playing field and facilitates fair competition.
In pursuance of above objective TRAI has issued from time to time a large number of regulations, orders and directives to deal with issues coming before it and provided the required direction to the evolution of Indian telecom market from a Government owned monopoly to a multi operator multi service open competitive market.
The directions, orders and regulations issued cover a wide range of subjects including tariff, interconnection and quality of service as well as governance of the Authority.
The TRAI Act was amended by an ordinance, effective from 24 January 2000, establishing a Telecommunications Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to take over the adjudicatory and disputes functions from TRAI. TDSAT was set up to adjudicate any dispute between a licensor and a licensee, between two or more service providers, between a service provider and a group of consumers, and to hear and dispose of appeals against any direction, decision or order of TRAI.
‘Geographical Indicator Tag’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu on Wednesday launched a logo and tagline for Geographical Indications (GI) to increase awareness about intellectual property rights (IPRs)
What is a GI?
Geographical Indications of Goods are defined as that aspect of industrial property which refer to the geographical indication referring to a country or to a place situated therein as being the country or place of origin of that product. Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to the fact of its origin in that defined geographical locality, region or country. Under Articles 1 (2) and 10 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, geographical indications are covered as an element of IPRs. They are also covered under Articles 22 to 24 of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, which was part of the Agreements concluding the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations.
India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection)Act, 1999 has come into force with effect from 15th September 2003.
Darjeeling Tea, Tirupati Laddu, Kangra Paintings, Nagpur Orange and Kashmir Pashmina are among the registered GIs in India.
Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks under the Department of Industrial policy and promotion which comes under the overall administrative control of Ministry of Commerce and Industry is responsible for registering GI in India
‘RBI policy rate’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The decision by the Reserve Bank of India’s Monetary Policy Committee to raise benchmark interest rates again by 25 basis points is a prudent one. This is the second successive rate increase in as many months, a response to mounting uncertainties on the inflation front
Reason for increasing the interest rate
- Continuing volatility in crude oil prices
- volatile global financial markets
- possibilities of fiscal slippage at the Central and State levels
- Likely impact of the increase in the minimum support price for kharif crops, and the staggered impact of upward revisions to house rent allowance paid by State governments.
- Rainfall has so far been 6% below the long-period average and deficient over a wider area than last year — more than a fifth of the country’s 36 sub-divisions have reported shortfalls.
While rising trade protectionism threatens to impact investment flows, disrupt global supply chains and hurt all-round productivity, depreciations in the value of most currencies against the strengthening dollar have rippled through many major advanced and emerging economies, spurring inflation across these markets
Monetary policy committee
The Monetary Policy Committee of India is a committee of the Reserve Bank of India that is responsible for fixing the benchmark interest rate in India. The meetings of the Monetary Policy Committee are held at least 4 times a year and it publishes its decisions after each such meeting.
The committee comprises six members – three officials of the Reserve Bank of India and three external members nominated by the Government of India. They need to observe a “silent period” seven days before and after the rate decision for “utmost confidentiality”. The Governor of Reserve Bank of India is the chairperson ex officio of the committee. Decisions are taken by majority with the Governor having the casting vote in case of a tie. The current mandate of the committee is to maintain 4% annual inflation until March 31, 2021 with an upper tolerance of 6% and a lower tolerance of 2%
The committee was created in 2016 to bring transparency and accountability in fixing India’s Monetary Policy. Minutes are published after every meeting with each member explaining his opinions. The committee is answerable to the Government of India if the inflation exceeds the range prescribed for three consecutive months
‘Field Medal’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Akshay Venkatesh, a renowned Indian-Australian mathematician, is one of four winners of mathematics’ prestigious Fields medal, known as the Nobel prize for math.
About the Field medals
The Fields medals are awarded every four years to the most promising mathematicians under the age of 40. The prize was inaugurated in 1932 at the request of Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields, who ran the 1924 Mathematics Congress in Toronto. Each winner receives a 15,000 Canadian-dollar cash prize. At least two, and preferably four people, are always honored in the award ceremony.
‘India-USA ties’ (GS2: Bilateral Relations)
Issue: The United States Congress has passed the $716 billion defence spending bill which, among its many provisions, seeks to strengthen and enhance the country’s defence partnership with India.
What the bill says?
- The House and the Senate said the United States should strengthen and enhance its major defence partnership with India, and such a partnership should enable “strategic, operational and tactical coordination between our militaries, and be jointly developed between the countries“.
- It also said the United States should work toward mutual security objectives by expanding engagement in multilateral frameworks, including the Quadrilateral Dialogue between the United States, India, Japan, and Australia, to promote regional security and defend shared values and common interests in the rules-based order.
- The bill asks the Trump Administration to explore additional steps to implement the “major defence partner” designation to better facilitate military interoperability, information sharing and appropriate technology transfers; and pursue strategic initiatives to help develop India’s defence capabilities, including maritime security capabilities.
‘Monsoons in India’ (GS3: Indian Agriculture)
Issue: India’s monsoon, which irrigates more than half of the country’s farmland, is likely to be below an earlier forecast of normal showers, Skymet Weather Services Pvt. said. Precipitation during the June-September rainy season is forecast to be 92 percent of the long-term average of about 89 centimeters (35 inches), compared with a forecast of 100 percent made in April, the New Delhi-based private forecaster said on its website.
Significance of Monsoon in India
The monsoon is critical to the farm sector as it accounts for more than 70 percent of India’s annual showers, with about 700 million of the 1.3 billion population depending directly or indirectly on farming. Deficient rain in the South Asian nation, the world’s second-biggest producer of rice, wheat and sugar and top grower of cotton, can lead to lower crop output and spur imports of commodities like edible oils, pulses and sugar.
Reason for below-normal rainfall
Warming of the Pacific Ocean surface is continuing, indicating an evolving El Nino. El Nino, which occurs when the equatorial Pacific surface warms and touches off a reaction in the atmosphere above it, often, brings dry weather to parts of Asia and Australia. The Indian Ocean Dipole has remained neutral, while the Madden Julian Oscillation is not likely to become active until the middle of September or even later
What is El-Nino?
El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (commonly called ENSO) and is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific (between approximately the International Date Line and 120°W), including off the Pacific coast of South America. El Niño Southern Oscillation refers to the cycle of warm and cold temperatures, as measured by sea surface temperature, SST, of the tropical central and eastern Pacific Ocean. El Niño is accompanied by high air pressure in the western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern Pacific. The cool phase of ENSO is called “La Niña” with SST in the eastern Pacific below average and air pressures high in the eastern and low in western Pacific. The ENSO cycle, both El Niño and La Niña, cause global changes of both temperatures and rainfall
What is Madden-Julian Oscillation?
The Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) is the largest element of the intra-seasonal (30- to 90-day) variability in the tropical atmosphere. It was discovered in 1971 by Roland Madden and Paul Julian of the American National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). It is a large-scale coupling between atmospheric circulation and tropical deep convection
Unlike a standing pattern like the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Madden–Julian oscillation is a traveling pattern that propagates eastward at approximately 4 to 8 m/s (14 to 29 km/h, 9 to 18 mph), through the atmosphere above the warm parts of the Indian and Pacific oceans. This overall circulation pattern manifests itself most clearly as anomalous rainfall.
The Madden–Julian oscillation is characterized by an eastward progression of large regions of both enhanced and suppressed tropical rainfall, observed mainly over the Indian and Pacific Ocean. The anomalous rainfall is usually first evident over the western Indian Ocean, and remains evident as it propagates over the very warm ocean waters of the western and central tropical Pacific.
The wet phase of enhanced convection and precipitation is followed by a dry phase where thunderstorm activity is suppressed. Each cycle lasts approximately 30–60 days. Because of this pattern, the Madden–Julian oscillation is also known as the 30- to 60-day oscillation, 30- to 60-day wave, or intra-seasonal oscillation.
What is Indian Ocean Dipole?
The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), also known as the Indian Niño, is an irregular oscillation of sea-surface temperatures in which the western Indian Ocean becomes alternately warmer and then colder than the eastern part of the ocean.
Monsoon in India is generally affected by the temperature between bay of Bengal in the east and The Arabian Sea in the west.
The IOD involves an aperiodic oscillation of sea-surface temperatures (SST), between “positive”, “neutral” and “negative” phases. A positive phase sees greater-than-average sea-surface temperatures and greater precipitation in the western Indian Ocean region, with a corresponding cooling of waters in the eastern Indian Ocean—which tends to cause droughts in adjacent land areas of Indonesia and Australia. The negative phase of the IOD brings about the opposite conditions, with warmer water and greater precipitation in the eastern Indian Ocean, and cooler and drier conditions in the west.
The IOD also affects the strength of monsoons over the Indian subcontinent. A significant positive IOD occurred in 1997–98, with another in 2006. The IOD is one aspect of the general cycle of global climate, interacting with similar phenomena like the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Pacific Ocean.
‘Hydrocarbons’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the policy to permit exploration and exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons such as Shale oil/gas, Coal Bed Methane (CBM) etc.
Benefits of this policy
- This policy will enable the realization of prospective hydrocarbon reserves in the existing Contract Areas which otherwise would remain unexplored and unexploited.
- With this policy dispensation, new investment in Exploration and Production (E&P) activities and chances of finding new hydrocarbon discoveries and resultant increased domestic production thereof is expected.
- Exploration and exploitation of additional hydrocarbon resources is expected to spur new investment, impetus to economic activities, additional employment generation and thus benefitting various sections of society.
- This will lead to induction of new, innovative and cutting-edge technology and forging new technological collaboration to exploit unconventional hydrocarbons.
Current scenario of unconventional hydrocarbons in the state
Shale gas resources in the range of 100-200 TCF in 5 Indian sedimentary basins have been assessed by various international agencies. Presence of Shale oil/gas has a strong possibility in basins such as Cambay, Krishna- Godavari (KG), Cauvery etc. where mature organic rich Shale exist.
‘Electric Propulsion system’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: ISRO is working on Electric Propulsion System (EPS) which can reduce the dependence on chemical propellant. The EPS system was first flown on South Asia Satellite (SAS) – GSAT-9 launched in the year 2017
Significance of this system
With the help of EPS, satellite weight can be reduced as the chemical propellants are replaced by electrical system, the weight of which is not so significant compared to chemical propellant.
A 4 tonne satellite with EPS can do the work of 6 tonne satellite with the same efficiency. In addition, it will also have few extra years of life compared to chemical propulsion.
‘Seva Bhoj Yojana’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: The Ministry of Culture, Government of India has launched the new scheme namely Seva Bhoj Yojna
About the scheme
The scheme envisages to reimburse the Central Government share of Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) and Integrated Goods and Service Tax (IGST)so as to lessen the financial burden of such as Religious / Charitable Institutions who provide Food/Prasad/Langar (Community Kitchen)/Bhandara free of cost without any discrimination to Public/Devotees.
‘Advance Pricing Agreement’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has entered into nine more Unilateral Advance Pricing Agreements (UAPAs) during the month of July, 2018. With the signing of these Agreements, the total number of APAs entered into by the CBDT has gone up to 232, which includes 20 Bilateral Advance Pricing Agreements (BAPAs).
What is advanced pricing agreement?
One of the disputed issues in taxation related to MNCs is the area of intra company transactions. The pricing of goods and services between two related companies is called transfer pricing.
An APA is a contract, usually for multiple years, between a taxpayer and at least one tax authority specifying the pricing method that the taxpayer will apply to its related-company transactions. These programmes are designed to help taxpayers voluntarily resolve actual or potential transfer pricing disputes in a proactive, cooperative manner, as an alternative to the traditional examination process.
APAs gives certainty to taxpayers, reduces disputes, enhance tax revenues and make the country an attractive destination for foreign investments. These agreements would be binding both on the taxpayer as well as the government. Similarly, they lower complaints and litigation costs.
‘Green Corridor in railways’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: As a part of “Swachh Bharat Mission”, Indian Railways is proliferating bio-toilets on its coaching stock so that no human waste is discharged from coaches on to the track.
What are green corridors in railways mean?
On green corridors, the introduction of bio-toilets in coaches has been done to avoid direct discharge of human excreta on Railway tracks/station premises. This benefits the common man as foul smell, unhygienic surrounding as well as shabby look are avoided. All the human excreta is collected in an eco-friendly bio-tank fitted under each toilet. The bio-tank decomposes the fecal matter and converts it into water and gases.