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Current Events 17 March 2017

 

NEWS 

17 March 2017

Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS II : SOCIAL-HEALTH

Health spending to be 2.5% of GDP

2.

GS III : ECONOMY  GST

GST laws ready for Assemblies, Parliament

3.

GS III : ENVIRONMENT  POLLUTION

Industries get 6 months for retrospective green nod

4.

GS II: REGULATORY  BODIES  CAG

CAG pulls up I-T Dept. on shell companies

5.

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-PAKISTAN

Indus commissioners to meet In Lahore this week

6.

GS II : BILATERAL  INDIA-USA

U.S. lawmakers back green cards for STEM graduates

7.

GS II : BILATERAL  INDIA-USA

U.S. trade nominee for ‘aggressive’ steps on IP

8.

GS III : ECONOMY

Start-up firms may soon find it easy to wind up

9.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT  BIODIVERSITY

New Zealand river gets legal status as a person

10.

GS III : S&T-HEALTH

U.K. grants doctors first licence to create 3-parent babies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

GS II : SOCIAL-HEALTH

Health spending to be 2.5% of GDP

  • The Centre cleared the long-awaited National Health Policy 2017, which promises to increase public health spending to 2.5% of GDP in a time-bound manner and guarantees health care services to all Indian citizens, particularly the underprivileged.
  • While Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda on 16 March 2017 called the new policy a ‘milestone,’ rights activists said the government had fallen short of making health a fundamental right - a section that was removed from the final draft.
  • "The policy seeks to move away from sick-care to wellness, with a thrust on prevention and health promotion. While the policy seeks to reorient and strengthen public health systems, it also looks afresh at strategic purchasing from the private sector and leveraging their strengths to achieve national health goals," said Mr. Nadda.
  • In September 2016, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to finalise the crucial health policy guaranteeing "assured health services to all".
  • The policy has come after a gap of 15 years to address the current and emerging challenges necessitated by the changing socio-economic, technological and epidemiological landscape.
  • The Policy advocates a progressively incremental assurance-based approach but activists maintain that without a legal consequence, guaranteeing health is an empty assurance.
  • Under this policy, the government will be looking at ambitious targets like reducing Under Five Mortality (U5MR) to 23 by 2025 and MMR from current levels to 100 by 2020 and reducing infant mortality rate to 28 by 2019 and reducing neo-natal mortality to 16 and still birth rate to "single digit" by 2025.

 

GS III : ECONOMY  GST

GST laws ready for Assemblies, Parliament

  • The Goods and Services Tax Council has approved a 15% ceiling on the cess to be levied on aerated drinks and luxury cars over and above the maximum proposed GST rate of 28%.
  • The enabling laws for the States and the Union Territories were also approved at the Council′s meeting on 16 March 2017, paving the way for the adoption of the new indirect tax regime.
  • While beedis have been kept out of the GST net, separate cess ceilings have been approved for pan masala and tobacco products, including chewing tobacco and cigarettes - keeping adequate provision to raise the effective rate from their existing levels.
  • With the Council having already cleared three other GST laws - pertaining to central GST, integrated GST and the compensation to be paid to States for loss of revenue - this paves the way for the Centre and the States to pilot the new indirect tax system, proposed to be introduced from July 1, through Parliament and the Assemblies.
  • Apart from zero-rated goods, four tax rates of 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% have been proposed under the GST.
  • The Council on 16 March 2017 approved the ceiling rates for the cess to be levied on top of the maximum GST rate of 28% on demerit or sin goods.
  • "The cess is to be levied on four or five commodities and the caps have been approved by the Council. For instance, the Council has approved a cap of 15% cess on luxury cars, but that is only for empowerment. These cars are currently taxed at 40%, so the cess may only be around 12%," the Minister said.
  • A similar 15% cess cap has been approved for aerated drinks as well, and Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said any other item that the Council decides to bring into the remit of the cess subsequently would attract the same ceiling rate of 15%.
  • The environment cess on coal, lignite and peat has been capped at the existing rate of Rs. 400 per tonne.
  • By the next weekend, officials are also expected to finalise four pending draft regulations relating to issues such as valuation under the GST regime, which will then be taken up by the GST Council at its thirteenth meeting on March 31 in the capital, the Minister said.



GS III : ENVIRONMENT POLLUTION

Industries get 6 months for retrospective green nod

  • In what could cheer a vast swathe of industries, the Union Environment Ministry has given a six-month window and a "one-time opportunity" to industrial projects functioning without environmental clearance (EC) to apply for a back-dated green certificate.
  • The reprieve is for projects that started the work on site, expanded the production beyond the limit of EC or changed the product mix without obtaining prior EC, a press statement by the Ministry said late on 16 March 2017.
  • This is not the first time the Ministry has spelt out a procedure to regularise this category of industrial offenders.
  • The Ministry had laid out rules on 12.12.2012 and 27.06.2013 and laid down a process for granting EC to such cases of violation. However, the High Court of Jharkhand had passed an order dated the November 28, 2014, declaring some of the provisions void.
  • The National Green Tribunal also ruled that the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 provides for prior environmental clearance, hence no procedure could be laid through the Ministry orders for post-environment clearance.
  • Reasoning that units could not be allowed to continue pollution unregulated, the Ministry’s latest notification, on March 14, lays down several conditions to obtain a clearance.
  • These include categorising all projects as ‘grade A,′ or the highest level of scrutiny now required.

  

GS II: REGULATORY BODIES  CAG

CAG pulls up I-T Dept. on shell companies

  • The Comptroller and Auditor- General (CAG) has pulled up the Income Tax Department for not putting to use the tools at its disposal for effective action against shell companies that conceal unaccounted-for income and generate black money, specifically with respect to Maharashtra Sales Tax Department findings.
  • In its latest report, the CAG said the State department′s website had a list of 2,059 suspicious dealers who had issued invoices involving tax evasion of over Rs.10,640 crore.
  • The auditor had sought details from the I-T Department in Mumbai on the assessees and the ultimate beneficiaries, but despite reminders, the data were not provided.
  • In 2008-09, the MSTD had informed the Bombay High Court that it had investigated 1,555 hawala operators involving 39,488 beneficiary dealers who had passed on an input tax credit of Rs. 1,333 crore in three years.
  • The accused claimed and got input tax credit against the declaration of fake tax invoices without actual transactions involving the sale and purchase of goods.
  • To evade detection, payments were made against the invoices by cheque or bank transfers and the amounts were later withdrawn from the accounts of hawala operators.
  • The CAG relied upon the MSTD data for analysis and found that the Income Tax Department had not even scrutinised all the assessees featuring on the list.
  • "The information regarding bogus purchases was not passed on to assessing officers ... the current provisions have not acted as a deterrent as there are no disincentive for giving and receiving accommodation entries. Established companies have also resorted to the practice of obtaining bogus purchases, which shows that the present system of gathering evidence and acting thereon is ineffective," the report said.
  • The shell companies are used to generating bogus bills showing inflated expenses on various counts.
  • They receive payments through the banking channel to project the transactions as genuine, and then return the rest to the ultimate beneficiaries after charging a commission.
  • Unscrupulous tax consultants and chartered accounts are also involved in the setting up of such entities.
  • In 35 cases with PAN records, the auditor found that assessees had either not filed their returns, or had disclosed meagre or no income, or had stopped filing the returns.
  • "The Income Tax Department did not take any action to examine the veracity of the facts reported therein, nor did they fully follow the information provided by their own investigation wing," the report said.
  • The CAG report recommended that in cases of false disclosure, the department should have moved the Settlement Commission for withdrawal of immunity to the applicants.
  • Interestingly, the Finance Ministry - under which the I-T Department functions - told the CAG that there was no loss of revenue as each bogus purchase involved bogus sales also.


GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-PAKISTAN

Indus commissioners to meet in Lahore this week

 

  • India’s Indus Commissioner, PK Saxena, is expected to meet his Pakistani counterpart in Lahore to discuss disputes over hydro-power projects in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • This is the first time both countries will be meeting, as per the provisions of 60-year old Indus Water Treaty, since talks were suspended last November terrorist attack in Uri, J&K.

 

GS II : BILATERAL  INDIA-USA

U.S. lawmakers back green cards for STEM graduates

  • U.S. Senator Thomas Tillis said all international students who complete an advanced degree in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the country should be given permanent residency in America.
  • The Republican from North Carolina was supported by his Senate colleague from the State, Richard Burr, while speaking at an event organised by the U.S.-India Friendship Council (USIFC) and the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC).
  • The proposal for ‘staple green card’ for STEM graduates has been around for a while, but in the context of President Donald Trump′s move to make immigration increasingly ‘merit-based′, it has gained new traction.
  • There are 1,32,888 Indian students in the U.S., second only to the Chinese. About 80% of them are STEM students.
  • Meanwhile, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said it would start accepting applications for H-1B visas on April 3.
  • It is unclear whether the USICS has any plan to replace the existing system of lottery to select the 85,000 beneficiaries from at least three times more applicants.

  

 

GS II : BILATERAL  INDIA-USA

U.S. trade nominee for ‘aggressive′ steps on IP

  • Incoming U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer told lawmakers that he would take "aggressive" measures to protect intellectual property rights in India.
  • IPR protection has been a bone of contention between India and the U.S. for years now, and several American companies and lawmakers have been pressing the administration for stricter measures.
  • The USTR annual report on IP rights has kept India on priority watch list for years now, even as U.S. companies have sought stricter measures.
  • Sec 3 (d) of India′s Patent Act prevents pharmaceutical companies from continually extending patents by making minor changes in the product and American companies find India′s compulsory licensing provisions harsh.
  • American policy makers have problems with India's copyrights laws too, but India maintains that its IPR regime is compliant with WTO standards.



GS III : ECONOMY

Start-up firms may soon find it easy to wind up

  • To enable faster exit for start-ups and to bring the winding up process in line with global best practices, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has written to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) to notify start-ups as ‘Fast Track firms′.
  • "Once this is notified, start-ups shall be able to wind up their business within a period of 90 days from making an application for the same," according to a government report on start-ups.
  • The DIPP is the nodal Central government body for the Start-up India initiative, while the MCA is the concerned authority for notifications on winding up of companies.
  • Fast Track firms will be start-ups with simple debt structures or those meeting certain criteria that will be specified.
  • The ‘Bharat Navodaya: Start-Up India Reform Report', released on March 6, had recommended expediting the company winding up process in India, "which is currently long-drawn and requires substantial documentation."
  • The Report was prepared by the Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy-chaired Alternative Investment Policy Advisory Committee (AIPAC) following a request from capital markets regulator SEBI.


GS III: ENVIRONMENT  BIODIVERSITY

New Zealand river gets legal status as a person

  • The New Zealand river Whanganui, revered by the Maori has been recognised by Parliament as a "legal person", in a move believed to be a world first.
  • "(It) will have its own legal identity with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person," Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said.
  • The river, known by Maori as Te Awa Tupua, is the third longest in New Zealand.
  • In practical terms, it means the river can be represented at legal proceedings with two lawyers protecting its interests.

 

GS II : S&T-HEALTH

U.K. grants doctors first licence to create 3-parent babies

  • Britain′s fertility regulator granted doctors the first U.K. licence to create babies using a three-parent IVF technique designed to prevent inherited genetic diseases.
  • The licence, granted to a team of doctors in Newcastle, northern England, means the first child created in Britain using the mitochondrial pronuclear transfer technique could be born before the end of this year.
  • Critics of the treatment say it is a dangerous step that will lead to the creation of genetically modified "designer babies".
  • However, the medical team at the Newcastle Fertility Centre said they were delighted with the decision "to help families affected by these devastating diseases".
  • The technique involves intervening in the fertilisation process to remove mitochondria, which act as tiny energy- generating batteries inside cells, and which - if faulty - can cause fatal heart problems, liver failure, brain disorders, blindness and muscular dystrophy.
  • The treatment is known as "three-parent" IVF because the babies, born from genetically modified embryos, would have DNA from a mother, a father and from a woman donor.
  • It is designed to help families with mitochondrial diseases - incurable conditions passed down the maternal line that affect around one in 6,500 children worldwide.
  • The world′s first and so far only known mitochondrial transfer baby was born in 2016 after U.S. doctors working at a clinic in Mexico helped a Jordanian couple conceive using the treatment.

  



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