30th APRIL 2016
GS II: SOCIAL-RESERVATION
Upper castes in Gujarat to get 10 per cent quota
In a bid to placate the Patidars demanding reservation in jobs and education, the BJP government in Gujarat announced a 10 % quota for those earning Rs. 6 lakh a year or less among the upper castes. A special ordinance will be promulgated to this effect on May 1.
Chief Minister Anandiben Patel tweeted that the “existing 49% reservation for SC, ST and OBC will remain untouched. Gujarat government is committed to ensuring equal opportunities for all.”
GS III: ECONOMY
Gujarat, T.N. see fastest growth
Data shows that there were 13.3 lakh individuals declaring an income of more than Rs 10 lakh a year — the section of people the government has excluded from the LPG subsidy.
Among the states, Gujarat saw the fastest growth in its direct tax collections, growing 185 per cent in FY2014-15 to Rs 12,577 crore compared to its level in FY2008-09. Tamil Nadu saw the next-fastest growth in the period, with its direct tax collections growing 116 per cent to Rs 20,651 crore in FY2014-15. Maharashtra (112 per cent) and West Bengal (105 per cent) were the other states seeing rapid growth in their direct tax collections.
Some anomalies too
The State-wise data also revealed some anomalies. For example, Mizoram recorded Rs 39.8 crore of direct tax collections in FY2014-15, which is more than double what it collected in the previous year. Chattisgarh, on the other hand, saw its direct tax collections grow 0.01 per cent in FY2014-15 to Rs 1,287 crore compared to its level in 2008-09.
GS II: BILATERAL-(INDIA-PAPUA NEW GUINEA)
Pranab’s visit sees MoUs on IT, health
India is looking to explore and develop Papua New Guinea’s vast oil and gas resources through joint ventures and investments from both the Indian private and public sectors in ongoing and new projects.
The Pacific island country agreed that oil and gas exploration and development could be a new avenue of cooperation between the two countries, keeping in view India’s desire to achieve energy security, said a joint statement issued by the two countries at the end of a two-day visit by President Pranab Mukherjee.
Natural gas discovery
Indian companies are looking at projects coming up in Papua New Guinea after natural gas was discovered in the country’ s Southern Highland Province. Gas discoveries elsewhere in the country have evoked interest among Indian companies that believe they could participate in associated projects as well as in some gas blocks. Papua New Guinea is estimated to have 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas as recoverable reserves.
India agreed to provide a line of credit of $100 million to Papua New Guinea for infrastructure projects and signed a pact to set up a ‘Centre of Excellence’ in information technology.
Papua New Guinea reiterated its support for India’s claim for permanent membership in the UN Security Council and agreed to expedite a proposed Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) to facilitate investments. It announced visa-on-arrival facility for Indian tourists.
Apart from MoUs on extending a line of credit and information technology, other agreements related to cooperation on agricultural research and health.
Mr. Mukherjee announced that India would provide anti-retroviral drugs and equipment to benefit 20,000 HIV positive patients in Papua New Guinea, a figure that would help at least half the number of those suffering from the disease.
The President said India would assist capacity-building and human resource development, besides offering to share its advanced techniques and technologies in the agriculture sector.
GS III: ECONOMY-SRI LANKA
$1.5 billion IMF breather for Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, in the midst of a crisis over deterioration of the balance of payments (BOP) position, has got the much-needed reprieve with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreeing to provide $ 1.5 billion through a three-year-long Extended Fund Facility (EFF).
The facility is expected to yield an additional $650 million in other multilateral and bilateral loans. The total amount of support will be $ 2.2 billion.
According to an IMF release, the government would seek to raise the tax-to-GDP (Gross Domestic Product) ratio to near 15 per cent by 2020 through the implementation of a new Inland Revenue Act, reform of VAT and customs code. Together with more efficient management of government expenditure, EFF would support a “steady reduction” of overall fiscal deficit to 3.5 per cent of GDP by 2020 .
Reliance Defence inks pact with 3 Ukrainian state firms
Reliance Defence has signed an agreement with three Ukrainian state-owned firms — Ukroboronprom, Spetstechno Exports and Antonov — to collaborate on a range of military products including transport aircraft, armoured vehicles, maritime gas turbines and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Indian Air Force currently operates more than 100 AN-32 aircraft, which form the backbone of its transport fleet.
HAL is looking at a market size of up to 300 aircraft in the medium range.
This will be potentially the largest collaborative effort involving the public sector, private sector and global OEM as part of the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ initiatives of the government with the value of the projects exceeding Rs.50,000 crore.
The cooperation between Reliance Defence and Spetstechno Exports, a foreign trade enterprise of Ukraine,will focus on upgrades for the amphibious infantry fighting vehicle (BMP 2), Armoured Vehicles, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Marine Gas Turbines for the Indian Navy Frigate programme in India.
GS III: ECONOMY-INCOME TAX
Publishing tax data resumes after 15 years
India resumed publishing its income tax data, which was suspended in 2000 owing to staffing and technical issues.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet that it is the “big step” towards transparency and informed policy-making was expected to assist researchers and analysts.
India had first started publishing its income tax statistics in 1961. The driving force behind the revival of this practice is Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) Arvind Subramanian.
“India discontinued publishing income tax data after publishing for decades. Transparency is a problem in every country but only in India it is falling,” Prof. Piketty had said in his address to students and faculty of JNU on January 22.
Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) Arvind Subramanian demonstrated the usefulness of the data in the Economic Survey in a chapter titled “Fiscal Capacity for the 21st Century”.
Conclusions based on analyses of the data were reported in the chapter, the crux of which was that just four per cent of India’s voters are taxpayers, though it should be closer to 23 per cent, and 85 per cent of the net national income falling outside the tax net.
GS II: MONEY LAUNDERING
Bribes routed through maze of firms
Four years on, Indian agencies are still awaiting information from at least seven countries to establish the money trail linking the accused persons to the alleged over €51million bribes and commissions paid by the helicopter firm to bag the deal.
A maze of companies, set up in India, Tunisia, Mauritius and the U.S. among other countries, were used in the transactions.
GS III:ENVIRONMENT-CLIMATE CHANGE
A daily battle with the sea at Sundarbans
From the rubble of his house, destroyed by the rising sea waters, Sheikh Jiyad built yet another dwelling — for the third time in his life. Every time the sea claimed his land and house, he started afresh.
“I had about two bighas of land and cultivated betel leaves. But I lost all to the sea,” he told The Hindu.
A few metres away lives Ram Kumar Rout, once a wealthy farmer, who fears that his new house will be gobbled up by the water.
This is a problem faced by the people of Ghoramara, an island on the southernmost tip of West Bengal in the South 24 Parganas district, which has been sinking slowly.
“Earlier, erosion would occur in the rainy season only but now every month acres of land are washed away,” Mr. Rout said.
As many as 3,000 voters of Ghoramara will vote . Thirty-one seats in South Parganas will be covered in the fifth phase — 12 are in the Sundarbans, an ecologically fragile ecosystem where climate change poses a major threat, jeopardising life and livelihood of at least two million voters.
Sanjib Sagar, pradhan of the smallest gram panchayat in West Bengal, who is confident that , is aware of the gravity of situation. He tells the villagers that a unique variety of grass would be cultivated in areas with high erosion, with the help of international experts, to save the land.
Mousuni is another island under the Sagar Assembly seat with a population of over 40,000. In the past five years, erosion in Mousuni has affected at least 10,000 people, said Sheikh Ilias, who heads the CPI(M)-controlled panchayat.
Tuhin Ghosh, faculty at Jadavapur University’s School of Oceanographic studies, said while there was no uniform policy of compensation to those affected, policy makers also lacked a roadmap to deal with the issue. Only a few years ago, a report, “Indian Sunderbans Delta: A Vision”, by WWF India and Jadavpur University had predicted that more than a million people would need to be relocated from the Sundarbans by 2050.
GS III: MEDIA -DD POLICY
Change in DD policy comes under fire
While the BJP-led NDA government made concerted efforts to name several major projects after Jan Sangh president Deen Dayal Upadhyay, a bio-epic on the leader on Doordarshan faces an uncertain future, following a policy shift aimed at boosting revenues for the public service broadcaster.
Doordarshan plans to move from the current self-financing category, where producers invest money to make serials/programmes which are then marketed by Doordarshan, to a regime where prime-time slots will be auctioned, fetching the broadcaster more revenues.
At stake, according to officials, are 19 prime-time and mid-prime time programmes, whose futures look uncertain if the old policy is junked mid-way.