07th Jan, 2019-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Indebtedness’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The indebtedness of the average Indian, a net saver, is on the rise. Granular data from the Reserve Bank of India’s trend and progress of banking report shows that in the last five fiscal years, retail loans have clocked a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.4%.
Other observations made in the report
- Part of the rise in borrowings could also be due to rising incomes. As individuals earn more, their ability to service loans of a higher ticket size increases.
- The average Indian is borrowing far higher than what the growth in his income would warrant. This is evident from the higher growth in per capita loan amount versus per capita GDP (gross domestic product) growth. In FY18, the per capita GDP rose 8.5%, while the per capita loan amount increased 17.9%.
- The sharpest growth in indebtedness is through unsecured personal loans. Indians have taken the route of EMIs (equated monthly installments) to fulfill all their desires, from international travel to luxury goods.
- Public sector banks saddled with dud corporate loans are more than happy to lend to safer retail borrowers given that historically bad loan ratios in this book have not been more than 2%. Credit scores have made it easier for individuals to access loans.
- Besides borrowing for such discretionary expenses, Indians have borrowed to upgrade their vehicles as well. The growth in the number of auto loan accounts was 13%, while the outstanding amount grew by 25%.
‘Indian Rupee’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The rupee rose to a six-month high against the US dollar
Factors driving this phenomenon
- Amid firm domestic equity markets and a weakening of the US dollar in overseas markets.
- Asian equity markets rode a relief rally today on expectations that face-to-face trade negotiations between delegates from Washington and Beijing, due to start, would lead to an easing in tensions between the two biggest economies in the world.
- Oil prices rose by more than 1% today, lifted by optimism that talks could soon resolve the trade war between the US and China, while supply cuts by major producers also supported the market. Brent crude futures were at $57.75 per barrel.
‘Golden globe awards’ (Facts that can be asked in Prelims)
Issue: The Freddie Mercury biopic took home the trophies for best film drama and best drama actor for its star Rami Malek, who played the late lead singer of the band Queen. Green Book was the night’s other big film winner, scooping three prizes. It won best musical or comedy film, best screenplay and best supporting actor for Mahershala Ali.
About Golden globe awards
The Golden Globe Awards are accolades bestowed by the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association beginning in January 1944, recognizing excellence in film and television, both domestic and foreign.
First Indian to win a golden glove award
Music maestro, A R Rahman became the first Indian to win the prestigious Golden Globe Award for the Best Original Music Score in Danny Boyel’s “Slumdog Millionaire” at 66th Golden Globe Awards on January 11, 2009
‘Food scarcity’ (GS2: Fundamental Rights)
Issue: Two months after the West Bengal government denied any food scarcity as a possible cause of death of seven persons from a tribal community, a survey report has identified “food scarcity in varying degrees” in about 31% of tribal households in West Bengal.
Observations made in the report
- The survey was conducted in 1,000 tribal households to ascertain living conditions, health and education.
- West Bengal is home to an over five million tribals, with 6% of the India’s tribal population of 100 million.
- Tribals of the State are “far behind” in terms of human development.
- The preliminary survey report claimed that “nearly one third [31%] of the surveyed households” reportedly faced “food scarcity in varying degrees” in the past year.
- poverty-born vices like alcoholism and the fragility of the public health system, seemed to have resulted in a much lower life chances among the Adivasis than their more privileged co-citizens
- The average age of the tribal persons who died was 58 years, which is much shorter than the life expectancy at birth (70 years in West Bengal).
- A higher rate of work participation has not contributed to a better living standard, indicated the survey, which followed a “mixed-method approach” combining quantitative and qualitative data. In the area of health and education, too, tribal communities are far behind the rest of State’s population.
- Moreover, 44% of households do not have access to toilets and nearly two-thirds of the households had no drainage system
‘CBI’ (GS2: Statutory organization)
Issue: A parliamentary standing committee has raised concern over non-filling of vacancies in the Central Bureau of Investigation, saying it will impact on its performance.
Other observations made by the committee
- The committee said the level of vacant positions in executive rank, law officers and technical officers is about 16, 28 and 56% respectively.
- At the top level, out of four posts of Special Director or Additional Director, three are lying vacant.
- To overcome the perennial problem of vacancies in the CBI, the committee recommended that the government simplify recruitment rules to overcome the procedural bottlenecks.
- The committee recommended that the CBI and the government should expedite approvals for setting up the International Centre of Excellence in Investigation (ICEI-CBI).
More on CBI
The Central Bureau of Investigation traces its origin to the Special Police Establishment (SPE) which was set up in 1941 by the Government of India. The functions of the SPE then were to investigate cases of bribery and corruption in transactions with the War & Supply Deptt. Of India during World War II. Superintendence of the S.P.E. was vested with the War Department. Even after the end of the War, the need for a Central Government agency to investigate cases of bribery and corruption by Central Government employees was felt. The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act was therefore brought into force in 1946. This Act transferred the superintendence of the SPE to the Home Department and its functions were enlarged to cover all departments of the Govt. of India. The jurisdiction of the SPE extended to all the Union Territories and could be extended also to the States with the consent of the State Government concerned.
The DSPE acquired its popular current name, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), through a Home Ministry resolution dated 1.4.1963. Initially the offences that were notified by the Central Government related only to corruption by Central Govt. servants. In due course, with the setting up of a large number of public sector undertakings, the employees of these undertakings were also brought under CBI purview. Similarly, with the nationalisation of the banks in 1969, the Public Sector Banks and their employees also came within the ambit of the CBI.
Structure of CBI
The CBI is headed by a Director who is generally an IPS officer with a rank of Director General of Police. Presently, the following are the part of CBI Constitution, that take care of the different offences that the CBI currently investigates:
- Anti-Corruption Division: This division is responsible for the collection of information with regards to cases of bribery and corruption, and tasks related to the preventive aspects of corruptions. They investigate cases against public servants under the control of the Central Government and cases against public servants working under state authorities who come under the jurisdiction of the CBI.
- Special Crimes Division: This division of the CBI investigates cases relating to a wide variety of crimes and offences like murders, kidnappings, rapes, drug trafficking and so on, which are committed by organised criminal families and gangs, who pose a major threat to the public tranquillity and safety. CBI also undertakes investigation and prosecution of other IPC offences as well as offences under local and special laws notified under the DSPE Act.
- Economic Offences Division: This part of the CBI was instituted on the 29thof April, 1963. It deals with various economy-related offences as mentioned in section 3 of the DSPE Act. These offences include acts like serious frauds in Banks, Stock Exchanges, Joint Stock companies, Public Limited Companies and so on.
- Directorate of Prosecution: This division deals with the legal actions on people who have been arrested by the other divisions. Its functions include conducting and supervising the cases pending trial, appeal and revision in courts.
- Policy and Coordination Division: The Policy Division deals with all those matters which involve policy, procedure, organization, vigilance and security. Other important tasks include coordinating with ministries, publicity and the implementation of special programmes regarding vigilance and security in the CBI.
- Central Forensic laboratory:This division includes a forensic Science laboratory to help out with investigations being conducted by both, the police and the officers of the CBI.
Functions of CBI
The following are the functions of CBI:
- Investigating cases of corruption, bribery and misconduct of Central government employees.
- Investigating cases relating to infringement of fiscal and economic laws, that is, breach of laws concerning export and import control, customs and central excise, income tax, foreign exchange regulations and so on. However, such cases are taken up either in consultation with or at the request of the department concerned.
- Investigating serious crimes, having national and international ramifications, committed by organized gangs of professional criminals.
- Coordinating the activities of the anti-corruption agencies and the various state police forces.
- Taking up, on the request of a state government, any case of public importance for investigation.
- Maintaining crime statistics and disseminating criminal information.
‘Taxation in India’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The fact that the government is increasingly dependent on tax revenue, especially indirect taxes, to meet its fiscal requirements is not a cause for worry, according to tax analysts
Reason for such optimism
- The real benefits of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) have not yet taken effect. Once they do, government revenue from both direct and indirect taxes will grow significantly
- Last five years has shown that the government’s dependence on tax revenue has steadily increased, with tax revenue making up a little more than 70% of its total receipts in 2018-19, up from 65% in 2014-15. Correspondingly, the share of revenue from non-tax sources (such as dividends from PSUs and the RBI) and capital receipts (such as disinvestment proceeds) has been declining.
- The view among tax analysts is that the government cannot take the risk of increasing tax rates, whether direct or indirect, for fear of a backlash from the public. So, the only option it has to boost tax revenues is to increase the tax base and stop evasion, both of which the government has been trying to do.
‘Private Members’ bill’ (GS2: Legislature)
Issue: Threats to free expression, especially artistic freedom, in our times mainly come from those claiming to espouse the interests of a particular religion or social group. It is in this context that Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP and writer, has introduced a private member’s Bill in the Lok Sabha seeking to protect freedom of literature
Objective of the bill
Authors must be guaranteed the freedom to express their work without fear of punitive action by the State or by sections of society — commends itself to any society that upholds liberal values. It seeks the omission of three IPC sections, including 295A, in effect a non-denominational blasphemy law, as it targets deliberate or malicious acts to outrage religious feelings.
About private members’ bill
A Member of the Parliament who is not a Minister (i.e. not a member of the Government) is regarded as a Private Member. A Bill introduced in either house of Parliament by any such Member of Parliament is called a Private Members’ Bill; Bills introduced by Ministers are called Government Bills. In India, usually, alternate Friday afternoons during session time (generally between 2 pm and 6 pm) are reserved for discussions on Private Members’ Bills. PMBs are drafted by MPs themselves, or their offices, and are checked for legal consistency by the Parliament Secretariat.
Only 14 PMBs have become law since India’s independence, the last being passed in 1970
In terms of the scope and treatment of Bills in Parliament, there is no material difference between a Government Bill and a Private Members’ Bill. PMBs can deal with any issue; they can be also be Constitutional Amendment Bills or Money Bills. The only difference is in terms of the process followed outside Parliament. Government Bills are often deliberated upon and approved by the Council of Ministers before being introduced. This is not done for PMBs.
A Private Members’ Bill is introduced in the Parliament by giving prior notice of one month along with a copy of the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ wherein the Private Member explains her/ his rationale for the introduction of the Bill. The final order of introduction is decided by a ballot system to ensure fairness. On the day allotted for such Bills, the Speaker/ Chairman of the Lok Sabha/ Rajya Sabha calls out to individual Members who then introduce their Bills.
There is also a Parliamentary Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions which allots time to different PMBs and goes through all of them (particularly those seeking to amend the Constitution). It also helps in classifying these Bills based on their nature, urgency, and importance. This classification, in turn, determines which of the introduced Bills are discussed first.
According to PRS Legislative Research, over 370 PMBs were introduced in the 15th Lok Sabha. None were passed; barely 3% were discussed and 97% lapsed without any deliberations.