27 , July 2017

India’s Alternate Governor on the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank
Source: PIB

Shri Subhash Chandra Garg, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Ministry of Finance, Government of India has been appointed as India’s Alternate Governor on the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Manila, Philippines with effect from 12th July, 2017. Shri Garg has been appointed in place of Former Secretary, DEA, Shri Shaktikanta Das.

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1.Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in Geneva adopts three Codex standards for spices
Source: PIB

Member-countries unanimously approve Codex standards for pepper, cumin and thyme

In a major recognition of India’s efforts to benchmark global spices trade, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) has adopted three Codex standards for black, white and green pepper, cumin and thyme, paving the way for universal agreement on identifying quality spices in various countries. This would facilitate evolving a common standardization process for their global trade and availability.

The Codex standards were adopted in the wake of India conducting three sessions of Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) at Kochi (2014), Goa (2015) and Chennai (2017). The Chennai session succeeded in achieving this consensus. Subsequently, these drafts were placed before the CAC, and it was adopted by consensus with an overwhelming support from the member-countries.

Need for standards:

Historically, the developed countries, being the major importers of spices, have always insisted on unreasonably strict standards, which have had adverse effects on spice trade. This is an issue that the Codex, jointly formed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), seeks to address.

Significance:

  • With the adoption of the Codex standards on pepper, cumin and thyme, spices have been included for the first time as commodities that will have such universal standards.
  • The adoption of the Codex standards would imply that there are now reference points and benchmarks for the member-countries to align their national standards for spices with Codex.
  • It will bring harmony to the global spice trade and ensure availability of high quality, clean and safe spices to the world.
  • It will also benefit the trade from universal agreement to identify good quality spices.

Codex Alimentarius Commission:

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is an intergovernmental body with over 180 members, within the framework of the Joint Food Standards Programme.

  • It was established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), with the purpose of protecting the health of consumers and ensuring fair practices in the food trade.
  • The Commission also promotes coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non governmental organizations.

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2.National Tourism Policy
Source: PIB

A National Tourism Policy (NTP) was formulated in 2002. However, taking into account the widespread, interrelated global developments and advancements, which have had a strong bearing on the Tourism sector, a new draft National Tourism Policy has been formulated and the same is yet to be approved.

Salient features of the new draft National Tourism Policy:

  • Focus of the Policy on employment generation and community participation in tourism development.
  • Stress on development of tourism in a sustainable and responsible manner.
  • The Policy enshrines the vision of developing and positioning India as a “MUST EXPERIENCE” and “MUST RE-VISIT” Destination for global travellers, whilst encouraging Indians to explore their own country.
  • Development and promotion of varied tourism products including the rich Culture and Heritage of the country, as well as niche products such as Medical &Wellness, Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE), Adventure, Wildlife, etc.
  • Development of core infrastructure (airways, railways, roadways, waterways, etc.) as well as Tourism Infrastructure.
  • Developing quality human resources in the tourism and hospitality sectors across the spectrum of vocational to professional skills development and opportunity creation.
  • Creating an enabling environment for investment in tourism and tourism-related infrastructure.
  • Emphasis on technology enabled development in tourism.
  • Focus on domestic tourism as a major driver of tourism growth.
  • Focus on promotions in established source markets and potential markets, which are contributing significantly to global tourist traffic, with targeted and country specific campaigns.
  • Emphasis on Tourism as the fulcrum of multi-sectoral activities and dovetailing of activities of the Ministry with important/flagship schemes of the Government of India.

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3.Benefits of GST for the Transport Sector
Source: PIB

Pre-GST:

  • The complex tax structure and paper work forced the transport industry to spend a lot of resources on tax compliance and deposit of interstate sales tax.
  • Monitoring and collection of sales tax at interstate check posts led to major traffic congestion at these points, resulting in slower movement of freight and passenger, and consequently higher costs and pollution.
  • An average Indian truck covers only about 50,000-60,000 km a year as against 3 lakh km done by a truck in US.

 Post GST:

  • The unified tax regime has obviated the need for inter state check posts.  This will result in reducing the travel time of long-haul trucks and other cargo vehicles by at least one-fifth.
  • This, coupled with the proposed E-way bill that will require online registration for movement of goods worth more than Rs 50,000, will ease the movement of freight further, and bring in more transparency in the whole process.
  • Efficient freight movement will also boost the demand for high tonnage trucks, which will in turn reduce the cost of transportation of freight.
  • A single GST also means an optimized warehousing structure. Earlier, companies had to maintain warehouses in every state due to different taxation slabs.
  • GST does away with the need to have a separate warehouse for every state. This means a leaner and smarter logistics chain. This will also encourage more investment in the warehousing business.

 Tax range comparison:

  • Pre- GST, the statutory tax rate for most goods worked out to about 5%. Post GST most goods are expected to be in the 18 % tax range .
  • India currently has  very high logistics cost – about 14% of the total value of goods as against 6-8% in other major countries. GST will serve to bring down the logistics cost to about 10-12 % by facilitating efficient inter-state flow of goods and accelerating the demand for logistics services.

India’s logistics sector would gain the most from the Goods and Services tax as costs would fall by almost 20%. logistics parks are being set up at various places across the country to act as freight aggregation and distribution hubs. These logistics parks will enable long haul freight movement between hubs on larger sized trucks, rail and waterways. This will not only reduce freight transportation costs, but also throw open many employment opportunities and reduce pollution levels.

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4.Post-GST, heavy sacks and small change
Source: The Hindu

The negative impact of GST in environment

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST) is making adverse consequences for the environment.
  • With the tax rate on recycled plastic shooting up from 5.5% to 18% post-GST, ragpicking as a livelihood is turning unviable.
  • After GST came in, the 18% tax on waste plastic has sparked a downward spiral in prices in the recycling markets.
  • Ragpickers encounter a steep fall in earnings as recyclers protect margins, pay less for plastic waste.
  • Plastic recyclers, faced with the new tax, are protecting their margins by slashing prices at which they buy from thousands of waste managers and ragpickers.
  • As an informal sector, not many have Taxpayer Identification Numbers. Taxes paid by the recyclers are recovered from them
  • Sudden introduction of confusing taxes” has resulted in reduced purchases of waste

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5.Privacy is a fundamental right with qualifications, Centre tells apex court
Source: The Hindu

Government told the SC that right to privacy is a fundamental right but it is a “wholly qualified right”. Government stand means ‘right to privacy’ could be subject to reasonable restrictions.

  • This is contrary to the government’s earlier stand that citizens cannot invoke privacy as a fundamental right as the Constitution does not provide for it

Government also made it clear that the submission was not intended to cover the challenge to Aadhaar.It means that those challenging it cannot claim that it violates right to privacy

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6.RCEP: Boost for India on easier visa norms
Source: The Hindu

India is pushing for easier norms on movement of professionals for short-term work in 16 Asia-Pacific nations, under the RCEP.The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed FTA. The RCEP technical level talks are currently going on in Hyderabad

Possible support from ASEAN countries

A few ASEAN countries are also supporting India’s proposal for an RCEP Travel Card .The Travel Card will facilitate visa-free multiple short-term entry across the RCEP region for business and tourism purposes

Concerns of RCEP Members:

According to some members, Travel card would lead to migration of professionals from India and loss of jobs for locals.But India has been saying that its demands on temporary movement of professionals and skilled workers should not be confused with permanent movement (or immigration).

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7.India pressed to open up procurement
Source: The Hindu

Members of the RCEP wants India to open up its more than $300 billion-worth public procurement market .The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed mega Free Trade Agreement (FTA).Many countries pushing for binding commitments to mutually liberalise government procurement markets, including themselves and India involved in the mega-FTA talks

What is Public/government procurement?

It refers to the process by which government (at the Central, State and local levels), its agencies/departments and State-owned enterprises procure goods and/or services. Only for their own use, and not for sale/resale commercially.

India is not a signatory to the Government Procurement Agreement within the WTO framework  because it wants to retain its policy space to meet its development needs through public procurement process

Other developments :

Currently, 19th round of the RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee meeting at the technical level is going on at the Hyderabad. Here, the 16 countries agreed to constitute a Working Group on government procurement to take forward negotiations on the topic and include it as a separate chapter in the final agreement

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8.Union Cabinet clears minimum wage code bill
Source: The Hindu

The Union Cabinet approved the new wage code bill which will ensure a minimum wage across all sectors by integrating four labour related laws.

The new wage code:

  • The Labour Code on Wages Bill will consolidate the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; the Payment of Wages Act, 1936; the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965; and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
  • The bill seeks to empower the Centre to set a minimum wage across all sectors in the country and states will have to maintain that.
  • However, states will be able to provide for higher minimum wage in their jurisdiction than fixed by the central government
  • The new minimum wage norms would be applicable for all workers irrespective of their pay.
  • At present, the minimum wages fixed by the Centre and states are applicable to workers getting up to Rs 18,000 pay monthly.
  • This would ensure a universal minimum wage for all industries and workers, including those getting monthly pay higher than Rs 18,000

Second National Commission on Labour:

  • It has recommended that the existing labour laws should be broadly grouped into four or five labour codes on functional basis.
  • Accordingly, ministry has taken steps for drafting four Labour Codes on — Wages; Industrial Relations; Social Security & Welfare and Safety and Working Conditions, respectively.
  • It will be done by simplifying, amalgamating and rationalising the relevant provisions of the existing central labour laws.

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9.Policy boosts care for blood disorders
Source: The Hindu

The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry’s recently released a policy on the Prevention and Control of haemoglobinopathies in India. With this, people living with thalassaemia, sickle cell anaemia and other haemoglobin disorders can now look forward to better screening and treatment.

Highlights :

  • The policy aims at creating treatment protocol benchmarks, to improve the quality of life of patients.
  • It is also a guide on prevention and control, which includes antenatal and prenatal testing to reduce the incidence of live haemoglobin disorder births.
  • Using public health awareness programmes and education, it highlights various haemoglobinopathies.
  • The guidelines include the creation of a national registry to plan future patient services. The registry will also collect useful data, such as the location of patients to identify areas of high concentration, ethnicity or other characteristics, age distribution, records of deaths and their cause.
  • Supported by the National Health Mission, Blood Cell and the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram, the guidelines provide for screening of pregnant women during antenatal check-up, pre-marital counselling at college level and one-time screening for variant anaemia in children.

 About Thalassaemia:

Thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia are the most frequently encountered ‘rare blood disorders’ in the country and impose a significant economic burden on families. They are caused by errors in the genes responsible for the production of hemoglobin, a substance composed of a protein (globin) plus an iron molecule (heme) that is responsible for carrying oxygen within the red blood cell.

These disorders can cause fatigue, jaundice, and episodes of pain ranging from mild to very severe. They are inherited, and usually both parents must pass on an abnormal gene in order for a child to have the disease. When this happens, the resulting diseases are serious and, at times, fatal.

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