07, July 2017

 

  1. SC questions EC reluctance to use VVPAT

Source: The Hindu

The Supreme Court has questioned the Election Commission on its reluctance to use voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) units with electronic voting machines for the Gujarat Assembly polls in 2017, warning the poll panel against making excuses and compelling the court to force its hand.

Background:

This was based on a petition appealing against a Gujarat High Court order dismissing a plea to direct the commission to implement the VVPAT voting mechanism in the Gujarat polls or otherwise use ballot papers to ensure a transparent, free and fair election.

VVPAT

VVPAT stands for Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail. VVPAT system maintains a physical trail of all votes cast. Small slips of paper records the details of the vote. The Election Commission (EC) first introduced VVPAT in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

How is it related to EVMs?

When a vote is cast on the electronic voting machine, a small paper slip bearing the name and symbol of the candidate is generated. This paper appears for about 10 seconds. The slip will then automatically fall in a sealed safe box, attached to the EVM, thus maintaining a physical paper trail of all the votes cast.

  1. Mauritius keeps tax treaty with India outside purview of MLI

Source: The Hindu

Mauritius has notified 23 of its tax treaties for modification by OECD’s Multilateral Instrument (MLI) to implement tax treaty-related measures to prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). However, it has kept its double taxation avoidance treaty with India out of the purview of the global agreement that seeks to prevent companies from avoiding taxes.

The move to exclude India is expected to address the concerns of overriding impact of MLI on the revised tax treaty between India and Mauritius.

Significance of this move

  • Mauritius’ move to keep the bilateral tax treaty with India outside the covered agreements for MLI would mean that the terms of MLI would not apply to any transaction entered between tax residents of India and Mauritius.
  • This also indicates that the tax treaty related BEPS measures will not impact investments in India routed through Mauritius, particularly the grandfathering of investments provided through the amendment to the bilateral tax treaty in May 2016.

MLI

  • The multilateral instrument (MLI) is a legal instrument designed to prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) by multinational enterprises.
  • BEPS refers to tax avoidance strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations.
  • The MLI allows jurisdictions to transpose results from the OECD/G20 BEPS project, including minimum standards to implement in tax treaties, to prevent treaty abuse and “treaty shopping”, into their existing networks of bilateral tax treaties in a quick and efficient manner.
  • It was developed through inclusive negotiations involving more than 100 countries and jurisdictions, under a mandate delivered by G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors at their February 2015 meeting.
  • The OECD is the depository of the MLI and is supporting Governments in the process of signature, ratification and implementation.

  1. No-detention policy to go from 2018

Source: The Hindu

The government has decided to do away with the no-detention policy for students from the next academic session.

Significance of this move

  • The decision was taken following representation from most of the States as they said the standard of education had deteriorated because of the policy.

What the law says?

Under the Right to Education Act, 2009, no child admitted to a school will be held back in any class or expelled till the completion of elementary education covering Classes 1 to 8.

What is no detention policy?

  • According to this provision “no child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class”.
  • This translates into automatic promotions to the next class every year until Class VII. Instead of exams, schools are supposed to hold Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluations (CCE) for every child.

What experts say?

  • The provision had attracted criticism with several states and schools complaining that it compromised on academic rigour and learning levels and quality at schools.
  • The TSR Subramanian committee for formulation of the National Policy on Education has also suggested that ‘no detention’ policy should be discontinued after Class V. It had recommended restoration of detention provision, remedial coaching and two extra chances to each student such to move to a higher class.
  • A sub-committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education also studied the issue closely and recommended a provisional detention clause at Classes V and VIII. In 2013, a parliamentary panel had also asked the ministry to ‘rethink’ on its “policy of automatic promotion up to Class VIII”.

  1. GST may dampen gold demand: WGC

Source: The Hindu

A hike in taxes on gold sales in India could pressure short-term demand from the world’s No.2 consumer of the metal, the World Gold Council (WGC) said in a report.

Background:

As part of a new nationwide sales tax regime that kicked in on July 1, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on gold has jumped to 3% from 1.2% previously.

Important observations made by the WGC:

  • Faltering appetite in a country where gold is used in everything from investment to wedding gifts could drag further on global prices, already trading near their lowest level in 7-weeks.
  • In the short-term at least, the new tax may pose challenges for the industry. Small-scale artisans and retailers with varying degrees of tax compliance may struggle to adapt.
  • A government move to ban cash transactions more than ₹200,000 ($3,090) from April 1 could also hurt gold demand in rural areas where farmers often purchase the metal using cash.

World Gold Council

  • The World Gold Council is the market development organisation for the gold industry. It works across all parts of the industry, from gold mining to investment, and their aim is to stimulate and sustain demand for gold.
  • The World Gold Council is an association whose members comprise the world’s leading gold mining companies. It helps to support its members to mine in a responsible way and developed the Conflict Free Gold Standard.
  • Headquartered in the UK, they have offices in India, China, Singapore, Japan and the United States.

  1. SC gives government six months to show results of PM’s crop insurance scheme

Source: The Hindu

Observing that the issue of rising farmer suicides cannot be dealt with ‘overnight’, the Supreme Court has said the long-term strategy adopted by the Central government in this regard needs time for implementation and to show effective results. Therefore, the Supreme Court has given the central government six months time to demonstrate the gains of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana on the ground level.

Background:

  • Expressing concern over the suicides, the SC had early this year asked the government to come up with a concrete road map to eliminate the reasons for the agrarian crisis. A PIL had sought the top court’s intervention in Gujarat where between 2003 and 2012, 692 farmers had allegedly committed suicide. The PIL is seeking compensation to the families of the debt-ridden farmers who had committed suicide because of serious financial difficulties.
  • The PIL filed in 2013 had originally dealt with farmer suicides only in Gujarat where, according to the plea, 692 farmers had committed suicide between 2003 and 2012. But in January this year, the Supreme Court expanded the ambit of the petition to cover the whole country.
  • Incidents of debt-ridden farmers committing suicides have seen a rise. Several state governments have written off loans as farmers battle mounting debts, failing crops and crashing prices. According to the NCRB’s 2014 report, 5,650 farmers had committed suicides in that year. Maharashtra reported the highest suicides at 2,568 followed by Telangana with 898 and Madhya Pradesh with 826.

Efforts by government in this regard

  • The government informed the court that various schemes have covered about 40% farmers so far and the government will ensure that it reached at least half of India’s farmers by 2018-19. The court recorded that out of total 5.34 crore, 12 crore farmers were covered under the government schemes.
  • Efforts are also being taken at multiple levels to ensure protection to farmers. Almost 30% farm land has been covered under the crop insurance scheme and the figure will substantially rise by the end of 2018.
  • The government has also acknowledged that there were deficiencies in making the schemes fully operational.

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana

  • The scheme aims to reduce the premium rates to be paid by the farmers so as to enable more farmers avail insurance cover against crop loss on account of natural calamities.
  • Under the scheme, farmers will have to pay a uniform premium of 2% for all kharif crops and 1.5% for all rabi crops. For annual commercial and horticultural crops, farmers will have to pay a premium of 5 %. The remaining share of the premium, as in previous schemes, will continue to be borne equally by the Centre and the respective state governments.
  • Under PMFBY, there will no upper limit on government subsidy and even if balance premium is 90%, it will be borne by the government. Earlier, there was a provision of capping the premium rate which resulted in low claims being paid to farmers. This capping was done to limit government outgo on the premium subsidy. This capping has now been removed and farmers will get claim against full sum insured without any reduction.
  • Under the scheme, the use of technology will be encouraged to a great extent. Smart phones will be used to capture and upload data of crop cutting to reduce the delays in claim payment to farmers. Remote sensing will be used to reduce the number of crop cutting experiments.
  • The new Crop Insurance Scheme will also seek to address a long standing demand of farmers and provide farm level assessment for localised calamities including hailstorms, unseasonal rains, landslides and inundation.

  1. “JIGYASA” – Student-Scientist connect programme

Source: PIB

Jigyasa, a student- scientist connect programme has officially been launched in Delhi.

JIGYASA:

  • Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has joined hands with Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) to implement this programme. The focus is on connecting school students and scientists so as to extend student’s classroom learning with that of a very well planned research laboratory based learning.
  • The “JIGYASA” would inculcate the culture of inquisitiveness on one hand and scientific temper on the other, amongst the school students and their teachers.
  • The Programme is expected to connect 1151 Kendriya Vidyalayas with 38 National Laboratories of CSIR targeting 100,000 students and nearly 1000 teachers annually.
  • The program will also enable the students and teachers to practically live the theoretical concepts taught in science by visiting CSIR laboratories and by participating in mini-science projects.

The model of engagement includes:

  1. Student Residential Programmes.
  2. Scientists as Teachers and Teachers as Scientists.
  3. Lab specific activities / Onsite Experiments.
  4. Visits of Scientists to Schools/Outreach Programmes.
  5. Science and Maths Clubs.
  6. Popular Lecture Series/ demonstration programme at Schools.
  7. Student Apprenticeship Programmes.
  8. Science Exhibitions.
  9. Projects of National Children’s Science Congress.
  10. Teacher Workshops.
  11. Tinkering Laboratories.

  1. India declares itself free from Bird Flu

Source: The Hindu

India has declared itself free from Bird Flu (highly pathogenic Avian Influenza – H5N1 and H5N8) and notified it to the World Organisation for Animal Health. The move will help it resume export of poultry products to the countries which had banned trade in such items early this year.

World Organization for Animal Health

  • The World Organisation for Animal Health is recognised as a reference body by the World Trade Organization. It has 181 countries as its members. This global body keeps tab on animal health issues and advises countries on best practices to be followed during such outbreaks.
  • This organisation also supports countries to help them control animal diseases that cause livestock losses and pose a risk to public health. Under its norms, ban can be lifted after 90 days of surveillance.

Avian influenza or Bird flu

Avian influenza, commonly called bird flu, is an infectious viral disease of birds with a tendency of causing large-scale outbreaks of serious disease. Although most influenza viruses do not infect humans, A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) have caused serious infections in people.



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