Daily Current Affairs : 4th and 5th December

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. SPG Act Amendment bill
  2. Compensation Cess
  3. Lunar Renaissance Orbiter (LRO)
  4. Ethics Committee
  5. Aerial Seeding and Dart Seeding
  6. Bharat Bond ETF
  7. Anglo Indian Community Reservation
  8. PM-AASHA
  9. Extra Neutral Alcohol
  10. Samjiyon, Aircraft carriers of India, Contaminants found in drinking water, Narwhal, State of Global Climate Report, Global Climate Risk Index, Taj Trapezium Zone, Google

1 . Compensation Cess


Context : The Centre has written to all States voicing concern that due to the lower Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections, the compensation cess might not be enough to pay for losses arising out of the tax system.

About Compensation Cess

  • Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Act, 2017 was enacted to levy Compensation cess for providing compensation to the States for the loss of revenue arising on account of implementation of the goods and services tax with effect from the date from which the provisions of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act is brought into force for a period of five years or for such period as may be prescribed on the recommendations of the GST Council.
  • The compensation cess on goods imported into India shall be levied and collected in accordance with the provisions of section 3 of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975, at the point when duties of customs are levied on the said goods under section 12 of the Customs Act, 1962, on a value determined under the Customs Tariff Act, 1975.
  • Compensation Cess will not be charged on goods exported by an exporter under bond and the exporter will be eligible for refund of input tax credit of Compensation Cess relating to goods exported.
  • In case goods have been exported on the payment of Compensation Cess the exporter will be eligible for refund of Compensation Cess paid on goods exported by him.
  • Compensation cess shall not be leviable on supplies made by a taxable person who has decided to opt for composition levy.

2 . SPG Act Amendment Bill


Context : Parliament on Tuesday passed an amendment to the Special Protection Group Act, 1988, that will allow SPG cover to the Prime Minister and former Prime Ministers for a period of five years after leaving office.

Details of the Bills

  • The Bill amends the Special Protections Group Act, 1988.  The Act provides for the constitution and regulation of the Special Protection Group (SPG) to provide security to the Prime Minister, former Prime Ministers, and their immediate family members.
  • Under the Act, the SPG provides security to the Prime Minister and his immediate family members. It also provides security to former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members for a period of one year from the date on which they cease to hold the office.  Beyond this period, the SPG security is provided based on the level of threat as decided by the central government.  The threat must: (i) emanate from a military or terrorist organisation, and (ii) be of a grave and continuing nature. 
  • The Bill amends this provision to state that the SPG will provide security to the Prime Minister, and members of his immediate family residing with him at his official residence. It will also provide security to any former Prime Ministers, and his immediate family members residing with him at the residence allotted to him.  This security will be provided for a period of five years from the date on which he ceases to hold the office of Prime Minister.
  • The Act provides that if the SPG security is withdrawn from a former Prime Minister, it will also be withdrawn from his immediate family members, unless the level of threat faced by the immediate family member warrants such security. The Bill removes this condition to state that if the SPG security is withdrawn from a former Prime Minister, it will also be withdrawn from his immediate family members.

3 . Lunar Renaissance Orbiter (LRO)


Context :

About Lunar Renaissance Orbiter

  • LRO is a robotic mission that set out to map the moon’s surface and, after a year of exploration, was extended with a unique set of science objectives. It was launched by NASA
  • LRO observations have enabled numerous groundbreaking discoveries, creating a new picture of the moon as a dynamic and complex body. These developments have set up a scientific framework through which to challenge and improve our understanding of processes throughout the solar system.
  • LRO and the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) were launched on an Atlas V rocket on June 18, 2009, beginning a four-day trip to the moon.
  • LRO spent its first three years in a low polar orbit collecting detailed information about the moon and its environment.
  • After this initial orbit, LRO transitioned to a stable elliptical orbit, passing low over the lunar south pole.
  • With a suite of seven powerful instruments, LRO has collected a treasure trove of data, making an invaluable contribution to our knowledge about the moon.

Instruments

  • Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation
  • Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment
  • Lyman-Alpha Mapping Project
  • Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector
  • Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter
  • Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera
  • Miniature Radio Frequency (Mini-RF)

4 . Ethics Committee


Context : With two legislators forced to apologise for their remarks in the two sessions of the 17th Lok Sabha, its Ethics Committee is all set to form a code of conduct for MPs in the Lower House.

Ethics Committees in the Indian Parliament

  • Rajya Sabha was the first among the two Houses to form an ethics committee, with a full standing committee status, on 30th May, 1997. 
  • Lok Sabha, in contrast, formed an ad hoc ethics panel in 2000 and has been operating as one until August 2015 when it was given a permanent standing committee status.
  • The ethics committee in the Lok Sabha has 15 members while the Rajya Sabha has 10 members

Ethics committees function to uphold the standards of the Parliament and thus its functions are twofold:

  • Formulate a Code of Conduct for members and suggest amendments to it from time to time.
  • To oversee the moral and ethical conduct of the Members
  • To examine the cases referred to it with reference to ethical and other misconduct of the Members

Difference between Ethics Committee in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha

  • Even while being two Houses of the Indian Parliament, there is a significant degree of variation on the rules and procedures of the ethics committees in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
  • While both focus on codes of conduct for Members of Parliament, where they differ is the declaration of members’ pecuniary or financial interest.
  • Rajya Sabha has explicitly provided for a ‘Register of Members’ Interest’, where MPs have to declare their interest in 5 categories: remunerative directorship, remunerated activity, majority shareholding, paid consultancy and professional engagement. In addition to that, members are required to declare any financial interest on an issue that is being debated in the House or under consideration by any other standing committee and hence refrain from taking part to avoid conflict of interest.
  • Lok Sabha does not maintain such a registry of members interests and apart from disclosing their assets and liabilities, MPs are not obliged to declare other financial interests that might be in direct or indirect conflict with their role as public servants.
  • Another significant point of difference between the two Houses is that while Rajya Sabha’s Ethics Committee acts both on complaints as well as takes up issues suo motu, Lok Sabha’s committee acts only on complaints made either by any member of the public or any other member of the House.

5 . Aerial Seeding and Dart Seeding


Context : Delhi High Court asked forest authorities whether “planting of seeds could be done by throwing dart shots containing them from helicopters into forest areas”

Aerial seeding

  • Aerial seeding is a well-established concept, but this is generally achieved not with darts but by spraying seeds through an aircraft or a drone
  • Aerial seeding can be used not only to plant various crops but also to spread grasses to large areas of the land after wildfires, a common problem in countries like the United States.
  • Aerial seeding is adopted because it is quicker and more effective than planting manually.
  • It also allows access to areas where the terrain is rocky or at high elevation. It has been used with varying degrees of success around the world.

Dart seeding

  • Dart seeding is used with the same broad objective as aerial seeding: a plantation in inaccessible areas. The process involves throwing darts containing seeds onto open ground.
  • A variation of dart seeding was used in Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary in the late 1990s, but not with a helicopter. The Forest Department used a long iron rod to access ground that could not be reached due to thick cover of shrubs. Seeds were put into the rod, which had a small opening at the other end. When the rod was inserted into the removed and then removed, the soil would cover the seed, unlike in aerial plantation when seeds are thrown into open ground.
  • In aerial seeding, many seeds fail to germinate. If dart plantation is done from a low-flying helicopter, seeds have a relatively better chance of survival as they reach deeper into the ground.
  • Plantation with both aerial and dart plantations is carried out close to the onset of monsoon as watering the seeds is often challenging in inaccessible areas.

6 . Bharat Bond ETF


Context : The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for creation and launch of Bharat Bond Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) to create an additional source of funding for Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs) Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs), Central Public Financial Institutions (CPFIs) and other Government organizations.  Bharat Bond ETF would be the first corporate Bond ETF in the country.

Features of Bharat Bond ETF

ETF will be a basket of bonds issued by CPSE/CPSU/CPFI/any other Government organization Bonds (Initially, all AAA rated bonds)

  • Tradable on exchange
  • Small unit size Rs 1,000    
  • Transparent NAV (Periodic live NAV during the day)
  • Transparent Portfolio (Daily disclosure on website)
  • Low cost (0.0005%)

Bharat Bond ETF Structure:

  • Each ETF will have a fixed maturity date
  • The ETF will track the underlying Index on risk replication basis, i.e. matching Credit Quality and Average Maturity of the Index
  • Will invest in a portfolio of bonds of CPSE, CPSU, CPFI or any other Government organizations that matures on or before the maturity date of the ETF
  • As of now, it will have 2 maturity series – 3 and 10 years. Each series will have a separate index of the same maturity series.

Index Methodology

  • Index will be constructed by an independent index provider – National Sock Exchange
  • Different indices tracking specific maturity years – 3 and 10 years

Benefits of Bharat Bond ETF to investors:

  • Bond ETF will provide safety (underlying bonds are issued by CPSEs and other Government owned entities), liquidity (tradability on exchange) and predictable tax efficient returns (target maturity structure).
  • It will also provide access to retail investors to invest in bonds with smaller amount (as low as Rs. 1,000) thereby providing easy and low-cost access to bond markets.
  • This will increase participation of retail investors who are currently not participating in bond markets due to liquidity and accessibility constraints.
  • Tax efficiency compared to Bonds as coupons from the Bonds are taxed at marginal rates. Bond ETFs are taxed with the benefit of indexation which significantly reduces the tax on capital gains for investor.

Bharat Bond ETF Benefits for CPSEs

  • Bond ETF would offer CPSEs, CPSUs, CPFIs and other Government organizations an additional source of meeting their borrowing requirements apart from bank financing.
  • It will expand their investor base through retail and HNI participation which can increase demand for their bonds. With increase in demand for their bonds, these issuers may be able to borrow at reduced cost thereby reducing their cost of borrowing over a period of time.
  • Further, Bond ETF trading on the exchange will help in better price discovery of the underlying bonds.
  • Since a broad debt calendar to assess the borrowing needs of the CPSEs would be prepared and approved each year, it would inculcate borrowing discipline in the CPSEs at least to the extent of this investment.

Developmental impact on Bond Markets

  • Target Maturity Bond ETF is expected to create a yield curve and a ladder of Bond ETFs with different maturities across calendar years.
  • ETF is expected to create new eco-system – Market Makers, index providers and awareness amongst investors – for launching new Bond ETFs in India.
  • This is expected to eventually increase the size of bond ETFs in India leading to achieving key objectives at a larger scale – deepening bond markets, enhancing retail participation and reducing borrowing costs.

7 . Anglo Indian Reservation


Context : The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal to extend reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies for 10 years but a question mark prevailed over whether it has extended reservation for two seats in the Lok Sabha for the Anglo-Indian community.

About the News

  • A panel, comprising Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, Social Justice Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot drew a conclusion that the community was doing well and did not need reservation.
  • However, the reservation can be reconsidered later, if need be, adding that reservation for the Anglo-Indian community in the state assemblies guaranteed under Article 334 could also be withdrawn.

Who are the Anglo Indians

  • ‘Anglo Indian’ at one time meant British people domiciled in India or descendants of mixed British and Indian parentage, but the latter arguably defines most people who identify by that name now.
  • Article 366 of the Constitution of India says in the patriarchal way of its times, “an Anglo Indian means a person whose father or any of whose other male progenitors in the male line is or was of European descent but who is domiciled within the territory of India and is or was born within such territory of parents habitually resident therein and not established there for temporary purposes only.”
  • Members of other communities of part-European descent, like Goans with Portuguese blood, or the even tinier community of Armenians, do not call themselves Anglo Indian, despite the Constitutional definition.

Why do Anglo Indians have reserved seats

  • Frank Anthony was a well-known lawyer and later, an educationist who was founder of the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations which operates the ICSE board of Education and also of the All India Anglo-Indian Educational Trust, which runs several schools named after him. He was also president-in-chief of the Anglo-Indian Association from 1942 until his death in 1993, and a member of the Constituent Assembly of India, representing the Anglo-Indian community.
  • In the Assembly, he was a part of Advisory Committee and Sub Committee on Minorities. And he had the ear of senior leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel. Mr. Anthony, by some accounts, convinced them that since the AIs did not have their own state, and were too small ane geographically spread out a minority to get elected — and therefore represent community interests in Parliament or state assemblies — they needed reserved seats.

Constitutional Provision regarding Reservation to Anglo Indian Community

  • Article 331 : Representation of the Anglo-Indian Community in the House of the People.— Notwithstanding anything in article 81, the President may, if he is of opinion that the Anglo-Indian community is not adequately represented in the House of the People, nominate not more than two members of that community to the House of the People.
  • Article 333 : Representation of the Anglo-Indian community in the Legislative Assemblies of the States.—Notwithstanding anything in article 170, the Governor of a State may, if he is of opinion that the Anglo-Indian community needs representation in the Legislative Assembly of the State and is not adequately represented therein, nominate one member of that community to the Assembly.”
  • Article 334. Reservation of seats and special representation to cease after seventy years.—Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Part, the provisions of this Constitution relating to—
    • (a) the reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People and in the Legislative Assemblies of the States; and
    • (b) the representation of the Anglo-Indian community in the House of the People and in the Legislative Assemblies of the States by nomination, shall cease to have effect on the expiration of a period of seventy years from the commencement of this Constitution
  • Article 336. Special provision for Anglo Indian community in certain services :
    • During the first two years after the commencement of this Constitution, appointments of members of the Anglo Indian community to posts in the railway, customs, postal and telegraph services of the Union shall be made on the same basis as immediately before the fifteenth day of August, 1947. During every succeeding period of two years, the number of posts reserved for the members of the said community in the said services shall, as nearly as possible, be less by ten per cent than the numbers so reserved during the immediately preceding period of two years: Provided that at the end of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution all such reservations shall cease.
    • Nothing in clause ( 1 ) shall bar the appointment of members of the Anglo Indian community to posts other than, or in addition to, those reserved for the community under that clause if such members are found qualified for appointment on merit as compared with the members of other communities
  • Article 337 : Special provision with respect to educational grants for the benefit of Anglo-Indian community.
    • During the first three financial years after the commencement of this Constitution, the same grants, if any, shall be made by the Union and by each State for the benefit of the Anglo-Indian community in respect of education as were made in the financial year ending on the thirty-first day of March, 1948.

Evaluation

  • It is estimated that roughly 80,000-125,000 Anglo Indians are living in India. Most of them are based in the cities of Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kanpur, Mumbai and Tiruchirapalli. Anglo-Indians also live in Kochi, Goa, Secunderabad, Visakhapatnam, Lucknow, Agra and some towns of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal
  • Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Kerala have a nominated member each in their respective State Legislatures.
  • Reservation enabled the community to have a say in the legislative bodies and keep their live presence in the main stream of Indian politics.
  • The representation given to the Anglo Indians was initially for a period of ten years. In 1959 by the eighth amendment of the constitution the period was enhanced to twenty years.
  • Further it’s extended for ten years each by the twenty third, forty fifth, sixty-second, seventy ninth and ninety fifth constitution amendments
  • The constitutional makers foresee time bound effort on the part of the Government machinery and the general public for the enhancement of the special category communities like Scheduled caste / scheduled tribes and Anglo Indians.
  • Besides constitutional protection and stipulated nomination, the preservation of a culture which faces the danger of imminent extinction is the responsibility of the nation as a whole. Traits and traditions the Anglo Indian culture has its innate beauty and richness which is something to be protected and enriched for the opulence of the cultural synthesis of our great country.

8 . Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA)


Context : Less than 3% of this season’s sanctioned amount of pulses and oilseeds have actually been procured so far under the once-hyped PM-AASHA scheme, Agriculture Ministry data show

About PM AASHA

  • Increasing MSP is not adequate and it is more important that farmers should get full benefit of the announced MSP.
  • For this, government realizes that it is essential that if price of the agriculture produce market is less than MSP, then in that case State Government and Central Government should purchase either at MSP or work in a manner to provide MSP for the farmers through some other mechanism.
  • With this approach, Cabinet has approved the Umbrella Scheme of PM-AASHA with three sub-schemes

Components of PM-AASHA

The new Umbrella Scheme includes the mechanism of ensuring remunerative prices to the farmers and is comprised of :

  • Price Support Scheme (PSS),
  • Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS)
  • Pilot of Private Procurement & Stockist Scheme (PPPS).

PSS, PDPS & PPPS

  • In Price Support Scheme (PSS), physical procurement of pulses, oilseeds and Copra will be done by Central Nodal Agencies with proactive role of State governments. It is also decided that in addition to NAFED, Food Cooperation of India (FCI) will take up PSS operations in states /districts. The procurement expenditure and losses due to procurement will be borne by Central Government as per norms.
  • Under Price Deficiency Payment Scheme scheme (PDPS), it is proposed to cover all oilseeds for which MSP is notified. In this direct payment of the difference between the MSP and the selling/modal price will be made to pre-registered farmers selling his produce in the notified market yard through a transparent auction process. All payment will be done directly into registered bank account of the farmer. This scheme does not involve any physical procurement of crops as farmers are paid the difference between the MSP price and Sale/modal price on disposal in notified market. The support of central government for PDPS will be given as per norms.
  • Under PPPPS scheme the selected private agency shall procure the commodity at MSP in the notified markets during the notified period from the registered farmers in consonance with the PPSS Guidelines, whenever the prices in the market fall below the notified MSP and whenever authorized by the state/UT government to enter the market and maximum service charges up to 15% of the notified MSP will be payable.

9 . Extra Neutral Alcohol


Context : Alcohol manufacturers have written to NITI Aayog asking for reduction in import duty. Anticipating shortage of domestic supplies, they have sought a reduction in duty to make it cost-effective for them to import Extra Neutral Alcohol from global markets.

About Extra Neutral Alcohol

  • Extra Neutral Alcohol (ENA) is the primary raw material for making alcoholic beverages.
  • It is a colourless food-grade alcohol that does not have any impurities.
  • It has a neutral smell and taste, and typically contains over 95 per cent alcohol by volume.
  • It is derived from different sources — sugarcane molasses and grains — and is used in the production of alcoholic beverages such as whisky, vodka, gin, cane, liqueurs, and alcoholic fruit beverages.

Uses

  • ENA also serves as an essential ingredient in the manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products such as perfumes, toiletries, hair spray, etc.
  • Given its properties as a good solvent, ENA also finds industrial use and is utilised in the production of some lacquers, paints and ink for the printing industry, as well as in pharmaceutical products such as antiseptics, drugs, syrups, medicated sprays.

10 . Facts for Prelims


Contaminants found in drinking water

Narwhal

  • The narwhal (Monodon monoceros), or narwhale, is a medium-sized toothed whale that possesses a large “tusk” from a protruding canine tooth.
  • It lives year-round in the Arctic waters around Greenland, Canada, and Russia
  • Narwhal (Monodon monoceros) is of medium size among the giant mammals
  • It’s the only whale that has a tusk; and the narwhal’s tusk is the only one in the animal kingdom that protrudes straight like a lance. The tusk has a spiral — the thread runs counter-clockwise along its length, and can be swivelled by the whale up to 12 degrees.

State of Global Climate Report

  • State of Global Climate report is an annual report published by World Meteorological organisation
  • As per the report 2019 Global mean temperature for January to October 2019 was 1.1 degree Celsius (error margin of 0.1 degree) above pre-industrial levels.
  • 2019 is likely to be the second or third warmest year on record.
  • The past five years are now almost certain to be the five warmest years on record, and the past decade 2010-2019, to be the warmest decade. Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850
  • As per the report Average global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide in 2018 had touched 407.8 parts per million, which was 147 per cent of pre-industrial levels, which is taken to be 1750. Other greenhouse gases, like methane and nitrous oxide, had also touched record levels in 2018. This year, the daily average carbon dioxide concentration crossed 415 ppm for the first time ever, though it has receded after that. The annual average is likely to be below that level.
  • The state of the climate report also noted the unusually strong Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) that developed this year.
  • A positive IOD is characterised by warmer than usual waters in the western Indian Ocean, towards the Arabian Sea, and cooler than average temperatures in eastern Indian Ocean, near the Indonesian coast. The reverse situation is called negative IOD. This difference in sea surface temperatures drives a number of regional weather events. This year the dipole was strongly positive, and was believed to have been partly responsible for unusually high rainfall in August and September as well as delayed monsoon withdrawal from India.

Google

  • Sundar Pichai, who has been leading Google as CEO for more than four years, will stay in his role and he was also appointed as the CEO of Alphabet.

Taj Trapezium Zone

  • Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) is a defined area of 10,400 sq km around the Taj Mahal to protect the monument from pollution.
  • The TTZ comprises monuments including three World Heritage Sites the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.
  • TTZ is so named since it is located around the Taj Mahal and is shaped like a trapezoid.
  • The Supreme Court of India delivered a ruling on December 30, 1996 regarding industries covered under the TTZ, in response to a PIL seeking to protect the Taj Mahal from environmental pollution. It banned the use of coal/ coke in industries located in the TTZ with a mandate for switching over from coal/ coke to natural gas, and relocating them outside the TTZ or shutting down.

Global Climate Risk Index

  • Global Climate Risk Index, published by environmental think-tank German watch, rated Japan as the most-affected country in 2018, while Germany was in third position. Both of the industrialised nations were hit hard by heatwaves and drought 
  • India ranked fifth for water shortages, crop failures and flooding

Samjiyon

  • Samjiyon is a new city near the sacred mountain Mount Paektu

Air Craft Carriers

  • Active: INS Vikramaditya: 45,400 tons, Modified Kiev class carrier (ex-Admiral Gorshkov), in service with India since 2013
  • Under construction: INS Vikrant: 44,000 ton carrier. It has been built at Cochin Shipyard and has been launched, and is expected to enter service in late 2019.
  • Planned: INS Vishal: 65,000 ton carrier. Yet to start, planned to enter service in 2025. It will be conventionally powered
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