26, January 2017

1.India, UAE sign strategic partnership pact

Source: The Hindu and Indian Express

India has figured out that its relationship with the UAE rests on four pillars — trade and commerce, energy security, security and defence, and welfare of its expat community.

Apart from this, agreements on defence industries, maritime transport, cybersecurity, shipping and transport were also signed.

India and UAE:

The UAE to partner India in stabilising South Asia and fight security challenges.

  • There is an agreement that they will invest nearly $75 billion in India over the next couple of years. During the visit we are hoping that an MoU will be signed between their investment fund and NIIF (National Infrastructure Investment Fund)
  • The summit-level talks, however, fell short of clinching a major investment agreement for India, though the visiting Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said the UAE would further intensify ties with India.
  • The Agreement on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership came four days after both sides held the first ever strategic dialogue.
  • The UAE, with its unique development experience and Islamic and Arab background, and India, with its inimitable and successful development experience and its unique model of coexistence, can work together to push for peace and stability in Asia and the Middle East. This makes me even more optimistic about the future of our relationship.
  • Bilateral trade, valued at $ 180 million per annum in the 1970s, is today around $ 50 billion, making UAE India’s third largest trading partner for 2015-16 after China and the US.
  • The UAE is India’s second largest export destination, with exports of over $ 30 billion in 2015-16. For the UAE, India was the biggest trade partner in 2015 — over $ 28 billion in non-oil trade.

Apart from the strategic partnership, agreements on defence industries, maritime transport, cybersecurity, shipping and transport were also signed.

Why UAE Crown Prince is a very special Republic Day guest?

For the first time, India has laid out the red carpet for a leader who’s not a Head of Govt or State. From investments to security cooperation, it has many reasons to invest in MBZ, as the Sheikh is known.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, son of the UAE’s founding President and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, will be the Chief Guest at the 68th Republic Day celebrations, in what is being seen as complete reset of India’s relationship with the Gulf.

  • Eight months after India tested a nuclear device in May 1974, bringing international condemnation upon itself, it received support from an unexpected quarter.
  • In a joint communique issued during the five-day state visit of President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, India and the United Arab Emirates stressed “the need to develop nuclear energy extensively in all countries”.
  • Studies in Diplomacy wrote in the edited volume, West Asia and India’s Foreign Policy (Deep & Deep Publications, 1992). Sheikh Zayed’s support came at a time when Pakistan had criticised the tests vociferously, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group had been created in opposition to India’s the Indian tests.

2.Union Government releases National Action Plan for Children, 2016

Source: PIB

The Union Ministry of Women & Child Development (WCD) has released National Action Plan for Children (NPAC), 2016  on the occasion of National Girl Child Day – January 24.

It was released by Union Minister of Women & Child Development.

The NPAC has been developed by the Ministry of WCD.

Features of NPAC, 2016

  • The Action Plan has four key priority areas. They are survival, health and nutrition; education and development; participation and protection.
  • It defines objectives, sub-objectives, strategies, action points and indicators for measuring progress under the four key priority areas. It also identifies key stakeholders for the implementation of different strategies.
  • It puts focus on new and emerging concerns for children such as children affected by natural and man-made disasters, climate change and online child abuse etc.
  • Its strategies and action points largely draw upon the existing programmes and schemes of various Ministries and Departments.
  • It takes into account the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and provides a roadmap towards achieving them though co-ordination and convergence with different stakeholders.

Background

  • The National Action Plan for Children (NPAC), 2016 was prepared as per the mandate of the National Policy for Children (2013).
  • The policy provides for formation of a National Co-ordination and Action Group (NCAG) under the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development for coordinating and implementation of the plan and monitor the progress with other Ministries concerned as its members.

3.Breeding breakthrough: Now, an Indian mustard as good as canola – and non-GM

Source: Indian Express

PDZM-31 is being grown in the current rabi season at IARI here for production of seed to enable planting on farmers’ fields from 2017-18.

  • Indian scientists have bred and released for commercial cultivation the first “canola-grade” mustard variety containing low levels of erucic acid and glucosinolates, regarded as negative from a health standpoint.
  • Pusa Double Zero Mustard-31 (PDZM-31), as it is called, is being grown in the current rabi season at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) here for production of seed to enable planting on farmers’ fields from 2017-18.

Key facts:

  • Oil from normal Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) has lower saturated fatty acids (around 7 per cent), compared to coconut (90), palm (50) or safflower, sunflower and soyabean (10-15) oil. That apparent health benefit is, however, offset by its 40-50 per cent erucic acid content, linked to myocardial fibrosis or impairment of the heart’s muscle cells.
  • The protein-rich cake after extraction of oil, likewise, has glucosinolates, sulphur-containing compounds known to cause iodine deficiency at high concentrations.
  • While glucosinolates aren’t a problem in mustard oil — whose trademark pungency comes from the free sulphur released when the seeds are crushed — their levels of up to 200 parts per million (ppm) in the cake reduces the feed value (protein efficiency) of meal fed to livestock and poultry.
  • The seeds from PDZM-31 will yield oil containing less than 2 per cent erucic acid and cake with below 30 ppm of glucosinolates — the same levels as in canola or rapeseed (Brassica napus) grown in Canada and Australia. In other words, canola-grade Indian mustard. Also, it is not genetically modified, unlike the nearly 400,000 tonnes of canola oil annually imported into India.

4.FRBM report: ‘Govt should keep primary deficit as its fiscal target’

Source: Indian Express

The panel headed by former revenue secretary NK Singh.

Panel recommends complete overhaul of FRBM act; suggests govt not to keep fiscal deficit below 3%

In a dissenting view on key aspects of the FRBM Committee report submitted to the government.

  • The panel member Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser, is learnt to have suggested that the government should monitor primary deficit as its fiscal target, instead of the fiscal deficit.
  • The reasoning given by Subramanian on targetting primary deficit was not immediately clear.
  • The government has not made the report public, possibly since its recommendation are expected to be incorporated in the Budget on February 1.

FRBM report:

1.Economists expect the government to redraw its fiscal roadmap, as it seeks to stimulate the economy through higher spending in the budget. The government may postpone the planned reduction in fiscal deficit to 3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product in 2017-18

2.Primary deficit, is the level of fiscal deficit once interest costs are set aside.

  • It is a measure of current year’s fiscal operation after excluding the interest payments arisen due to borrowings undertaken in the past.

3.The five-member panel was tasked to review the working of the FRBM Act over the last 13 years, in view of suggestions that there should be a broad range for government’s fiscal deficit in place of the current practice of having a fixed target.

4.In its four volume report, the committee to review the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act has given little headroom to the government to deviate from the consolidation path, even as it suggested strengthening institutional framework on fiscal matters.

  • The members of the FRBM Committee felt that it would be prudent(acting with or showing care and thought for the future) to stick with the fiscal deficit, as a reliable parameter to assess the government’s fiscal health, the sources said.

5.Since interest costs comprise a large chunk of the total expenditure, and these have been rising over the years, any benchmark on fiscal consolidation should account for these.

  • India spent Rs 4.57 lakh crore on total interest payments in 2015-16, while its fiscal deficit was Rs 5.85 lakh crore. Primary deficit as a percentage of 0GDP gradually declined from 2.64 per cent in 2011-12 to 0.94 per cent in 2015-16. However, it was higher as compared to 0.73 per cent in 2014-15. Fiscal deficit for 2015-16 was 3.9 per cent of GDP, which is estimated to slide down to 3.5 per cent in the current year.

Amendments to the FRBM Act

  • Amendments to the Act were made after its initial version in 2003. This include revision of the target realisation year and introduction of the concept of effective revenue deficit.
  • In 2012 and 2015, notable amendments were made. As per one provision of the amendment, a “Medium-term Expenditure Framework” statement should be prepared which will set a three-year rolling target for expenditure indicators.
  • As per the amendments in 2012, the Central Government has to take appropriate measures to reduce the fiscal deficit, revenue deficit and effective revenue deficit to eliminate the effective revenue deficit by the 31st March, 2015 and thereafter build up adequate effective revenue surplus and thereafter as may be prescribed by rules made by the Central Government.
  • As per Finance Act 2015, the target dates for achieving the prescribed rates of effective deficit and fiscal deficit (3% fiscal deficit) were further extended by 3 years to March 2018.

5.National Voter’s Day: January 25th What are your voting rights?

Source: The Hindu

January 225th On this day in 1950, the Election Commission of India was founded. The ECI observes National Voters Day to create awareness on voting and voter rights.

Enrolling as a voter

A citizen can be enrolled as voter when he or she is 18 years as on January 1 of the year electoral rolls are prepared. The electoral rolls are revised once in five years as well as prior to an election. The Commission periodically does house-to-house enumeration. But the onus is on you to register as a voter.

Where to vote?

  • The Election Commission registers a person as a voter in the constituency where he or she ordinarily resides. When you change your residence, the EC has to be intimated. Enrolling as a voter in more than one location is an offence.
  • A non-resident Indian can vote in his/her hometown after registering as an Overseas Voter.

Voter ID is not mandatory for voting

The Election Commission provides every voter a photo identification card called Electors’ Photo Identity Card (EPIC). Along with your photo and address, the EPIC contains your electoral roll number, which enables the polling official to easily identify you. However, it is not mandatory to carry your Voter ID when you cast your vote. Other valid photo identifications, such as passport, driving license, PAN etc. are adequate to exercise your franchise.

Voter ID does not mean you can vote

A person can vote only if his/her name is found in the electoral rolls. If, for any reason, a name is removed from the electoral roll, the polling official will not allow the person to vote.

Who cannot vote?

  • When an Indian becomes a citizen of another country, he/she automatically loses the right to vote.
  • A person declared as ‘mentally unsound’ by a court does not have voting rights.
  • In case a person is found to be involved in corrupt electoral practices, his/her name can be removed from electoral roll.
  • A Presiding Officer can stop you from voting if it is found that you are impersonating another person. This is a punishable offence

OCIs cannot vote

  • An Indian residing abroad with his/her name registered in the electoral roll cannot vote, unless he/she personally visits the polling booth. However, the government is looking at options such as proxy voting or postal ballot to enable NRIs to vote. Overseas Citizens of India, who are citizens of another country, do not have the right to vote.
  • The Election Commission has, however, recently introduced the option for NRIs to register themselves as voters through the EC’s portal.

Affidavits filed by candidates are public documents

At the time of nomination, candidates should submit details of their educational background, criminal records, and assets and liabilities. A voter can obtain copies of the nomination form and the affidavit filed by the candidate from the Returning Officer, immaterial of whether the person belongs to the constituency or not.

Right to decline

  • A voter can decline to vote. The person must visit the polling booth in person and inform the Presiding Officer. The index finger will be inked, the polling register must be signed but the person will not cast the vote.
  • This is however not similar to NOTA (none of the above) option, where the person exercise the franchise.

You can still vote if someone else has cast the vote in your name

The Rule 49P of the Conduct of Elections Rules allows the voter to cast vote using a “Tendered Ballot Paper.” The Presiding Officer will collect it and keep it separate.

Proxy voting, postal ballots are not for all

  • Postal ballots, in which a voter exercises his/her franchise through post is available only for people on election duty, armed force personnel, and electors subject to preventive detention.
  • Proxy voting is an option available for personnel in armed forces, police, government officials posted outside India.
  • The person can authorise another residing in the same polling booth area to cast a vote on his/her behalf. This option is also available for wives of the above mentioned personnel, but not for the husbands.

6.Climate change plan to get new missions

Source: The Hindu

India’s eight-point plan to fight climate change will soon become a 11-point plan with new missions to address the impact of climate change on health, coastal zones and waste-to-energy on the anvil, senior officials in the Environment Ministry.

Since 2012, the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change India has instituted a National Action Plan on Assessment, Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate Change, that has specified eight national missions.

  • These include a National Water Mission, Green India Mission, National Solar Mission, National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency, National Mission for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, and a National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change.

7.Tax guidelines to target shell companies notified

Source: The Hindu

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has issued guidelines on the ‘place of effective management’, or POEM, of a company to determine its tax liability.

POEM rules target companies that were set up abroad to retain income outside India but are controlled from India.

POEM

The Place of Effective Management is defined in the Income Tax Act to mean “a place where key management and commercial decisions that are necessary for the conduct of the business of an entity as a whole are, in substance, made.”

Key facts:

  • According to the guidelines, a company will be deemed to be engaged in active business outside India if the passive income is not more than 50% of its total income and less than 50% of its total assets are situated in India, less than 50% of the total number of employees are situated in India or are resident in India, and the payroll expenses on such employees is less than 50% of the total payroll expenditure.
  • These rules will not be applicable to firms with annual turnover of less than RS 50 crore. Under these guidelines, Active Business Outside India test has been provided so as not to cover companies outside India which are engaged in active business.
  • Adequate administrative safeguards have been incorporated in the guidelines by mandating that the assessing officer (AO), before initiating an inquiry for POEM in a case of a taxpayer, will seek approval from Principal Commissioner or Commissioner of Income-Tax. The AO shall also obtain approval from a Collegium of Principal Commissioners of Income-Tax before holding that POEM of a non-resident company is in India.
  • In cases of “companies other than those that are engaged in active business outside India”, the determination of POEM will be a two-stage process.
    • The first stage would be identification or ascertaining the persons who actually make the key management and commercial decision for conduct of the company’s business as a whole.
    • The second stage would be determination of place where these decisions are in fact being made.

The concept of POEM to decide the residential status of a company was introduced by the Finance Act, 2015. The modification to the existing norms was necessary as several companies skip tax liability by misusing the guidelines. This will protect the business interests of both global companies having business connection with India or presence here, and Indian multinationals having active business abroad.

Improved Pinaka rockets test-fired

  • Pinaka rockets, with a guidance system and an enhanced range, were successfully test-fired from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur in Odisha
  • The earlier Pinaka version, which was an unguided one, has now been transformed into a guided version, with a navigation, guidance and control kit developed by the Research Centre, Imarat (RCI), Hyderabad.
  • The RCI comes under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • According to the DRDO officials, enhancing the range and accuracy of Pinaka. If its range was earlier 40 km, it is more than 70 km now.
  • Radars, electro-optical systems and telemetry systems at the ITR tracked and monitored the rocket all through its flight path. The guided version is Pinaka mark-II, which evolved from Pinaka mark-I.

Music to the ears: New species of songbird found

Researchers exploring the forests of Western Ghats also designate two new genera that is endemic to the region

The team has designated two new genera, the Western Ghats shortwings as Sholicola (closely related to flycatchers) and the laughing thrushes as Montecincla (closely related to babblers).

  • The newly described Sholicola ashambuensis is confined to the Agasthyar Malai mountain ranges.
  • The species in the Montecincla genera include Montecincla jerdoni, Montecincla cachinnans, Montecincla fairbanki and Montecincla meridionalis belongs to Montecincla genus. Sholicola major and Sholicola albiventris belongs to Sholicola genus.
  • For Western Ghats, already known for its rich and unique biodiversity, we have just increased the number of bird species found nowhere else in the world.
  • These birds live in the most vulnerable part of the ecosystem — fragmented forest patches on the highest peaks of the range — that is facing increasing pressure from humans activities and climate change. Hope that the the knowledge of their distinct evolution and ecology would help to increase conservation efforts.

 



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