Daily Current Affairs : 24th and 25th

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Measures to boost Economy
  2. India-France Relationship
  3. Concussion Test
  4. Special Status in WTO
  5. New Species of Semi acquatic Insects
  6. Facts for Prelims : Clouded Leopard

1 . Measures to boost Economy

Reform and Simplification

  • Income tax, GST, Customs . Labour laws
    • Prefilling of IT returns
    • Faceless scrutiny from Vijaya Dashmi 2019 • Reduction in GST returns and simplification of forms
    • Refund process of GST simplified.
    • Risk based approach in dealing with tax payers
  • Labour Laws
    • Fixed term employment for flexibility in hiring
    • Contribution of ESIC reduced from 6.5% to 4%
    • Web-based and jurisdiction-free Inspections
    • Inspection report to be uploaded within 48 hours
    • Compounding of offences
    • Self certification for start-ups – 6 labour laws
  • Environment Clearances
    • Single air and water clearance for MSMEs
    • Single consent to establish a factory by MSMEs
  • Corporate Affairs
    • 1 day to incorporate a company – Central Registration Centre for name reservation & incorporation
    • Integrated Incorporation Form
    • Shifting of 16 offence sections to monetary penalty only
    • Faster & easier approvals for mergers and acquisitions
    • Modifications in provisions for Differential Voting Rights
    • Withdrawal of over 14,000 prosecutions under Companies Act
    • Robust IBC framework with amendments supporting MSMEs and home buyers

Measures to Boost Economy (Taxation Measures)

  • CSR Violation
    • Not to be treated as criminal offence and would instead be civil liability. Ministry of Corporate Affairs to review the sections under Companies Act. Government has provided companies through revised orders, time for completing ongoing projects towards fulfil their CSR obligations.
  • Issue of IT orders, notices, summons, letters etc through a centralized system
    • On or after 1st October, 2019 all notices, summons, orders etc. by the income-tax authorities shall be issued through a centralized computer system and will contain a computer generated unique Document Identification Number.
    • Any communication issued without computer-generated unique Document Identification Number shall be non est in law.
    • All old notices to be decided by 1st October 2019 or uploaded again through the system
    • From 1st October, 2019 all notices to be disposed off within three months from the date of reply.
  • Relief from enhanced surcharge on Longterm/Short-term Capital Gains
    • In order to encourage investment in the capital market, it has been decided to withdraw the enhanced surcharge levied by Finance (No. 2) Act, 2019 on long/ short term capital gains arising from transfer of equity shares/units referred in section 111A and 112 A respectively.
  • Withdrawal of Angel Tax provisions for Startups and their investors
    • To mitigate genuine difficulties of startups and their investors, it has been decided that section 56(2)(viib) of the Income-tax Act shall not be applicable to a startup registered with DPIIT.
    • It has also been decided to set up a dedicated cell under Member of CBDT for addressing the problems of startups. A startup having any income-tax issue can approach the cell for quick resolution of the same.

Measures to boost Economy (NBFC / Banks etc)

  • Additional Credit expansion through PSBs
    • Upfront release of Rs. 70,000 Cr., additional lending and liquidity to the tune of ~ Rs 5 Lakh crore by providing upfront Capital to PSBs
    • This will benefit Corporates, Retail borrowers, MSMEs, small traders, etc
  • Banks to effect timely rate cuts
    • Banks have decided to pass on rate cuts through MCLR reduction to benefit all borrowers
  • Banks to launch Repo rate /external benchmark linked loan products
    • Reduced EMI for housing loans, vehicle and other retail loans by directly linking Repo rate to interest rates. Working capital loans for industry will also become cheaper
  • Customer Ease
    • To reduce harassment and bring in greater efficiency, PSBs to ensure mandated return of loan documents within 15 days of loan closure.
    • Benefit: Borrowers who have mortgaged assets
  • Customer Ease: Online tracking of loan applications
    • On line tracking of loan applications by customers of Retail, MSME, Housing, Vehicle, working Capital, limit enhancements ,renewals etc.
    • Would increase transparency, reduce harassment, and improve turn around time for customers.
  • Transparent One Time Settlement (OTS) Policy
    • Banks to issue improved transparent OTS policy to benefit MSME and retail borrowers in settling their overdues.
    • Policy to be based on check box approach
    • Benefit: Increased transparency
  • Protecting honest decision making
    • To support decision making and to prevent harassment for genuine commercial decisions by bankers, CVC has issued directions that Internal Advisory Committee (IAC) in banks to classify cases as vigilance and non-vigilance.
    • Decision of the IAC and bank CVO/ DA to be treated as final.
  • Support to NBFCs/HFCs
    • More credit support for purchase of houses, vehicles, consumption goods,
    • Additional liquidity support to HFCs Rs. 20,000 Cr by NHB thereby increasing it to Rs. 30,000 Cr.
    • Partial Credit Guarantee scheme for purchase of pooled assets of NBFCs/ HFCs upto Rs 1 lakh Cr – to be monitored at highest level in each bank
    • Prepayment notices issued to NBFCs to be monitored by Banks
  • Use of Bank KYCs by NBFCs
    • NBFCs to be permitted to use the Aadhaar authenticated bank KYC to avoid repeated processes.
    • Necessary changes shall be made in PMLA rules and Aadhaar Regulations
    • Easier, fast tracked onboarding of customers
  • Co-origination of loans by PSBs jointly with NBFCs
    • To take advantage of liquidity with PSBs and last mile customer connect of NBFCs, PSBs to fast track collaboration for loans to MSMEs, small traders Self Help Groups, MFI clients borrowers in coorigination mode with NBFCs
  • GST Refund to MSME within 30 days
    • All pending GST refund due to MSMEs shall be paid within 30 days. In future all GST refunds shall be paid within 60 days from the date of application
  • MSME Bill discounting
    • TReDS to use GSTN system in medium term to enhance market for bill discounting for MSMEs
  • MSME Definition
    • Amendment to MSME Act to move towards single definition to be considered
  • UK Sinha Committee recommendations
    • Decisions on recommendations such as on ease of credit, marketing, technology, delayed payments etc. within 30 days

Measures to Boost Economy : Increasing capital flows and energising financial markets

  • Deepening of bond markets in India
    • In order to improve access to long term finance, it is proposed to establish an organisation to provide Credit Enhancement for infrastructure and housing projects. This would enhance debt flow towards such projects.
    • The government would soon take further action on development of Credit Default Swap markets soon, in consultation with RBI and SEBI.
    • In order to improve domestic market in bonds, Ministry of Finance will work with RBI to make it more conducive for investors and bond issuers, as well as facilitate increased trading for price discovery
    • Government has amended the Companies (Share capital and Debenture rules) 2014 to remove the requirement for creation of a Debenture Redemption Reserve (DRR) of outstanding debentures in respect of listed companies, NBFCs and for HFCs.
  • Access of Indian companies to the global market
    • The Depository Receipt Scheme 2014 is expected to be operationalised soon by SEBI. This will give Indian companies increased access to foreign funds through ADR/GDR.
  • Use of Aadhaar based KYCs for domestic retail investors
    • In order to improve market access for the domestic retail investors, Aadhaar-based KYC to be permitted for opening of Demat account and making investment in mutual funds
    • Necessary notification for amendments in PMLA Rules to be issued
  • Simplified KYC for foreign and investors and FPIs
    • Simplified KYC procedure to improve market access for foreign investors including FPIs
  • Offshore Rupee market
    • To bring offshore Rupee market to domestic stock exchanges and permit trading of USD -INR derivatives in GIFT IFSC, Ministry of Finance is working with RBI to introduce this measure shortly.

Measures to Boost Economy : Infrastructure

  • Delayed Payments
    • Delayed payments from Government/ CPSEs to be monitored by Department of Expenditure and performance reviewed by Cabinet Secretariat
  • Decision to pay 75% of the arbitration awards
    • In contractual disputes by Government/ CPSEs to be implemented and monitored by Cabinet Secretariat
  • Rs 100 lakh crores for developing modern infrastructure over 5 years
    • An inter-ministerial Task force is being formed by Department of Economic Affairs to finalise the pipeline of infrastructure projects.
    • The above initiative is expected to boost growth and creation of jobs. These projects would be monitored actively to accelerate capital expenditure and investments in the economy.

2 . India-France Relationship

Summary of Relationship

  • India and France have traditionally close and friendly relations. In 1998, the two countries entered into Strategic Partnership which is emblematic of their convergence of views on a range of international issues apart from a close and growing bilateral relationship.
  • The areas of defence cooperation, space cooperation and civil nuclear cooperation constitute the three principal pillars of our Strategic Partnership. Apart from these traditional fields of cooperation, India and France are increasingly engaged in new areas of cooperation like climate change, sustainable growth and development, the International Solar Alliance etc.
  • India and France support a multi-polar world order. France has continued to support India’s claim for permanent membership of the Security Council and the reforms of the United Nations. France has provided consistent support to India’s candidature for the membership of Multilateral Export Control regimes, viz. NSG and MTCR. France’s support was vital in India’s accession to MTCR in June 2016.
  • India and France have consistently condemned terrorism and have resolved to work together for adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in the UN. During the visit of then President Hollande in January 2016, India and France also issued a Joint Statement on Counter Terrorism in which the two countries resolved to step up their bilateral cooperation in this field

Recent bilateral cooperation

  • While India and France have made common cause on countering terrorism, space, nuclear and defence, cyber security is the new frontier where they have decided to cooperate, and tackle challenges from hate speech to fake news. While the two countries have different takes on a variety of issues, they will share their experiences and collaborate in this new area.

MoUs signed during recent Visit

  • ADMINISTRATIVE ARRANGEMENT between the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Government of the Republic of India and the Ministry of National Education and Youth, Government of the French Republic for Cooperation in Skill Development and Vocational Training
  • MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT between National Institute of Solar Energy(NISE), Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India and The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)
  • COOPERATION AGREEMENT between Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), an autonomous scientific society of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and ATOS
  • IMPLEMENTING ARRANGEMENT between ISRO and CNES France for Joint Maritime Domain Awareness

Automatic Identification System

  • India and France have formalised the development of a unique constellation of around 10 low-earth orbit satellites that will continuously provide maritime surveillance and security.
  • They will cover a wide belt around the globe and specifically focus on the Indian Ocean region where France, with its Reunion Islands, has a strategic interest.
  • When in place, the satellite-based Automatic Identification System or AIS will detect, identify and track a range of vessels moving in the ocean region and guard against aggression, terrorism, piracy, smuggling, source of oil slicks and also be useful for rescues. At present, ship operators do fix a non-space-based AIS on their vessels but they can turn it off when they do not want to be detected and identified.
  • Most ships are mandated to have a transponder that gives their details and also to detect ships around them. By making out the kind of ship, its location, speed and course with AIS, a country’s maritime force can make out potential threats, similar to the aviation system of IFF or ‘identify friend or foe’ for planes.
  • So far, the two agencies have put up two climate and ocean weather monitoring satellites — Megha-Tropiques in 2011 and SARAL-AltiKa in 2013. The new AIS ring, according to CNES, will be further supported by ISRO’s Oceansat-3 carrying the French Argos payload in 2020. A joint infrared Earth-observation satellite is under study.

3 . Concussion Test

Context : Australia’s Steve Smith, batting on 80, was floored by a bouncer from England pacer Jofra Archer in the first innings of the second Ashes Test in London on August 17. Smith was hit on the back of his neck close to his head at a spot that was not protected by the helmet, and fell down immediately after taking the blow. Dazed, he had to leave the crease. Although he came back to bat later in the innings (he eventually got out on 92), he was withdrawn from the game and was substituted by Marnus Labuschagne who batted in the second innings. Labuschagne was the first ever “concussion substitute” and in fact, the first ever substitute player to bat in a Test innings.

What is a concussion? How are concussions medically determined?

  • The 4th International Conference on Concussion in sport defined concussion as “a brain injury that may be caused either by a direct blow to the head, face, neck or elsewhere on the body with an ‘impulsive’ force transmitted to the head”.
  • Concussion is also termed as a “mild traumatic brain injury” and temporarily affects brain functioning. Its symptoms could include loss of consciousness, memory loss, headaches, difficulty with thinking, concentration or balance, nausea, blurred vision, sleep disturbances and mood changes.
  • Concussions tend to bring about a rapid onset of temporary impairment of some neurological functions, and could resolve spontaneously or evolve over a number of minutes to hours. Most concussions resolve in a short period (a week to 10 days).
  • The ICC has recognised that “concussion is a potentially serious injury that may have both short (increased musculoskeletal and brain injury risk) and long-term (chronic traumatic encephalopathy, dementia and mental health issues) health risks”, and therefore “requires a conservative management approach”.

What are the new rules on ‘concussion substitution’?

  • Following the death of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes, who was hit on the head by a bouncer in a Sheffield Shield (Australian domestic cricket tournament) first class match in 2014, there had been several calls for “concussion substitutes” who could replace injured players and also bat in the game.
  • International Cricket Council (ICC), in July 2019, approved player replacement in the case of concussion or suspected concussion in all formats of international and first class cricket worldwide.
  • The rule, implemented since August 1, 2019 says that following a medical determination by a team representative in the case of an on-field concussion, the injured player will be substituted by a like-for-like replacement approved by the match referee.
  • In Smith’s case, Labuschagne was the like-for-like replacement as a middle-order batsman at the exact same position as Smith’s (No 4 in the Australian batting order). The ICC rules also specify that in case a like-for-like replacement is not available, the match referee may choose not to allow a substitute under the circumstances. Substitutes of this kind are only allowed if there are injuries due to concussions.

Concussion protocols in other sports

  • While several sport have had concussion protocols in place in recent years, the ICC’s concussion management guidelines follow the Berlin Concussion Consensus, which sets the benchmark for such guidelines.
  • A number of various sporting bodies representing various disciplines have instituted specific concussion-related protocols and guidelines within the settings and rules of their sport. These include American football, Australian football, basketball (organised by the National Basketball Association, or NBA), ice hockey, rugby, football among others.

4 . Special Status in WTO

Context : U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month attacked the World Trade Organization (WTO) for allowing countries such as India and China to engage in unfair trade practices that affect American economic interests. Mr. Trump took issue with the “developing country” status enjoyed by India and China at the WTO. He argued that these countries are not developing economies, as they claim to be, but instead grown economies that do not deserve any preferential trade treatment from the WTO over developed countries such as the U.S.

What is the “developing country” status?

  • The “developing country” status allows a member of the WTO to seek temporary exception from the commitments under various multilateral trade agreements ratified by the organisation.
  • It was introduced during the initial days of the WTO as a mechanism to offer some respite to poor countries while they try to adjust to a new global trade order marked by lower barriers to trade.
  • Countries such as India and China, while seeking exception from various WTO agreements, have argued that their economic backwardness should be considered when it comes to the timeline of implementation of these agreements.
  • The issue of farm subsidies, for instance, is one over which rich and poor countries have had major disagreements.
  • The WTO, however, does not formally classify any of its members as a developing country. Individual countries are allowed to unilaterally classify themselves as developing economies.
  • So, as many as two-thirds of the 164 members of the WTO have classified themselves as developing countries.

How do countries such as India and China benefit from the special status?

  • The WTO was envisaged as an international trade body to help foster more trading in goods and services between nations by lowering various barriers to trade such as tariffs, subsidies and quotas. Towards this end, several trade agreements have been ratified over the years under the WTO.
  • Developing countries such as India and China, however, as earlier mentioned, can seek to delay the implementation of these WTO agreements owing to their disadvantaged economic status.
  • They can continue to impose tariffs and quotas on goods and services in order to limit imports and promote domestic producers who may otherwise be affected adversely by imports that are lower in price or better in quality.
  • India, for instance, subsidises agriculture heavily in the name of food security in order to protect its farmers. While local producers may be protected by protectionist barriers such as tariffs, consumers in India and China will have limited access to foreign goods.

Issues with the Status

  • Since the WTO allows countries to unilaterally classify themselves as “developing”, many countries have been happy to make use of this freedom. Even many developed economies such as Singapore and Hong Kong which have per capita income levels higher than the U.S., have made use of the provision to classify themselves as growing economies.
  • Countries such as China justify that while their per capita income level has increased many-fold over the last few decades, these are still far below that of high income levels in countries such as the U.S.
  • WTO needs to address the issue of how countries arbitrarily classify themselves as “developing” to justify raising trade barriers. This is, however, not to say that WTO rules always work to the advantage of developing countries alone.
  • Developed countries such as the U.S. have tried to force poorer countries to impose stringent labour safety and other regulations that are already widely prevalent in the West. These regulations can increase the cost of production in developing countries and make them globally uncompetitive. Developing countries further view the introduction of labour issues into trade agreements as beyond the scope of the WTO, which is primarily supposed to be an organisation dealing with trade. Many economists also oppose the fundamental argument of poorer countries that low per capita income levels justify their decision to raise trade barriers. They argue that free trade benefits all countries irrespective of their income levels. In fact, they argue that protectionist trade barriers impede the transition of developing economies to higher income levels. The developing country status may thus simply be a false pretext to justify protectionism.

5 . 7 New Species of Semi Acquatic Insects

Context : Scientists of the Zoological Survey of India have discovered seven species of water treaders, semi-aquatic insects that can walk or run on the surface of water.

Details of the Discovery

  • The newly described species belong to the genus Mesovelia whose size ranges from 1.5 mm to 4.5 mm and are equipped with hydrophobic setae (bristles) on their legs.
  • The combination of hydrophobic setae and water surface tension prevents them from sinking.
  • The insects are pale green with silver-white wings with black veins on the basal half which make them stand out over the green mat of aquatic weeds.
  • Among the new discoveries, Mesovelia andamana is from Andaman Islands, M. bispinosaand M. isiasi are from Meghalaya, M. occulta and M. tenuia from Tamil Nadu and M. brevia and M. dilatata live both in Meghalaya and Tamil Nadu.

6 . Facts for Prelims

Clouded Leopard

  • The clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is a wild cat occurring from the himalayan foothills through mainland Southeast Asia into China.
  • Clouded leopards are intermediate in size between large and small cats.
  • Clouded leopards occupy tropical forests at elevations of up to 3000 meters. They are highly arboreal, using trees for resting and hunting. However, they also hunt on the ground.
  • Clouded leopards inhabit primarily evergreen tropical forest but they are also reported from other habitats, such as secondary forest, logged forest, mangrove swamp, grassland, scrub land, dry tropical forest.
  • The species range extends from the Himalayan foothills in Nepal through mainland south-east Asia to China. It inhabits mixed evergreen forests in its area of occurrence.
  • The island populations of Sumatra and Borneo have been identified as a separate species Neofelis diardi . In India the species Neofelis nebulosa occurs in the states of Sikkim, West-Bengal, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura
  • Threats : The species prefers closed dense forests which are declining at a rapid rate. Habitat destruction and associated loss of cover and prey base has resulted in a rapid decline in population of clouded leopards in the wild. Besides this the species is extensively hunted for the illicit wildlife trade in skins, bones for medicines and meat for exotic dishes.
  • Due to the various threats to the survival of the species in the wild the species has been ranked as Vulnerable of IUCN Red list of Threatened species and Schedule I of the Wild Life Protection Act; Govt. of India it is also included in CITES Appendix I due to the extensive illicit trade
  • It is the state animal of the Indian state of Meghalaya

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