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Current Events 3 February 2017

 

NEWS 

3 FEBRUARY 2017

Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS II : GOVERNANCE NGOs

U.S. NGO to wind up operations in India

2.

GS III:  ECONOMY BUDGET

‘Budget a major disappointment for SC/STs’

3.

GS III : ECONOMY BUDGET

The triple agenda - Budget 2017

4.

GS III : ECONOMY

Customs law reform seeks flyers’ records

5.

GS III : ECONOMY

RBI cautions against virtual currencies

6.

GS III : ECONOMY

NPS subscribers can prematurely withdraw 25% of corpus tax-free

7.

GS II :  INTERNATIONAL PAKISTAN

Pak move unnerves militants

8.

GS II :  INTERNATIONAL USA

Donald Trump puts Iran on notice

9.

GS II : INTERNATIONAL UK

British MPs vote overwhelmingly for Brexit Bill

10.

GS III:  S&T – HEALTH

Gene variants can add 2 cm to your height

11.

GS III : ENVIRONMENT BIODIVERSITY

Bird lovers help scientists uncover

secrets behind evolution of beaks


GS II : GOVERNANCE NGOs

U.S. NGO to wind up operations in India

  • Ten months after it was put on the government’s “prior permission” list for donations, the U.S.-based NGO, the Christian charity, Compassion International, the largest international donor in India, said it will shut down its operations in India as it is unable to function because of the strictures on funding.
  • The organisation that has operated in India for over 30 years, bringing in approximately RS. 292 crore per year and funds 344 NGOs here.
  • “Compassion International has been told it will not be taken off the watch list. The representatives were here a few days ago and they were shown evidence of religious conversions being done by NGOs funded by them. There is no rescinding the decision,” a senior Home Ministry official said.
  • India sticks to stand The ‘adverse’ reports of two NGOs funded by CI — Chennai-based Caruna Bal Vikas Trust and Compassion East India — were instrumental in putting the foreign donor on the Home Ministry’s watch list, said the official.
  • Among other regulatory issues, sources said, CI’s own mission statement on its website, which says its aim is for “children in poverty to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults” had raised a red flag with the government.
  • In a letter to its sponsors for children in India last month, CI, which insists it has not broken any Indian laws, said, “Due to a lack of funding resulting from government restrictions, we will likely be forced to shut down our sponsorship program in India in the next 60 days.

GS III:  ECONOMY BUDGET

Budget a major disappointment for SC/STs’

  • The move to do away with the sub-plans for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) following the merger of the Plan and Non-plan expenditure has resulted in severe shortfall in allocations for schemes dedicated to SC/ STs, according to the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and tribal rights activists.
  • With the Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan (SCSP) and the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) allocations turning into ‘Allocations for welfare of Scheduled Castes’ and ‘Allocations for welfare of Scheduled Tribes’ in the 2017-18 Budget, the government was expected to follow the Jadhav Guidelines, which had laid out the percentage amounts for welfare schemes targeted to SCs and STs.
  • These had recommended 4.62% of the total budget expenditure (equivalent to the 16.6% of the erstwhile Plan expenditure mandated for SCSP) for SC allocations, and 2.32% of total budget expenditure (equivalent to 8.6% of the Plan expenditure mandated for TSP) for ST allocations.
  • For the 2017-18 Budget, this works out to Rs. 96,847 crore for SCs and Rs. 49,992 crore for STs. But in reality, the total allocation for SCs this year was only Rs. 52,393 crore, while STs received only Rs. 31,920 crore.
  • “Contrary to the claim that this is a pro-Dalit and pro- Adivasi budget, it has actually reduced the total schemes for SCs from 294 to 256, and those for STs from 307 to 261.
  • A critical scheme for rehabilitation of bonded labourers – the bulk of whom are SCs and STs – has been scrapped, while funding has been severely slashed for the National Scheduled Caste Finance Development Corporation (NSCFDC) and the rehabilitation scheme for manual scavengers,” said Mr. Abhay Xaxa, a tribal rights activist.
  • “Also, the total allocation for Dalit-Adivasi women amounted to only 0.99% of the total Gender Budget categorisation, with budgeted expenditure on schemes for SC and ST women forming only 1.19% of SC schemes, and 1.68% of ST schemes respectively.”
  • Also, there is a backlog of Rs12,000 crore that is due as scholarship to Dalit and Adivasi students.

 

GS III : ECONOMY BUDGET

The triple agenda - Budget 2017

  • The Budget presented on 1 February 2017, marks a paradigm shift in multiple ways.
  • For one, it seeks to reconcile the consequences of international headwinds with domestic economic compulsions.
  • The international headwinds of rising protectionism, reinventing globalisation and interest rate behaviour by leading central bankers necessitate adherence to continued macroeconomic stability.

Fiscal Consolidation:

  • The centrepiece of the macro stability is adherence to the path of fiscal consolidation. However, there is a paradigm shift. Debt and not fiscal deficit, is being recognised as the principal stabilisation anchor.
  • In the new fiscal framework it is recognized that India in relation to other emerging markets is among the most debt ridden nations in the world, with a debt to GDP of 70%.
  • The Finance Minister mentioned the FRBM Committee’s recommendation on optimum debt to GDP ratio for India of 60%, consisting of 40% for Central Government and 20% for State Governments.

Mitigating demonetisation consequences:

  • Mitigating the consequences of demonetisation particularly employment in the informal sector and lifting sagging investors’ sentiment would, inter alia, need fresh stimulus.
  • Stimulus both in terms of regulatory framework, ease of doing business and enhanced public outlay.
  • Overall, this budget is a decisive response to our sagging growth sentiment and prospects.

 

GS III : ECONOMY

Customs law reform seeks flyers’ records

  • All airlines flying to and from India will soon have to compulsorily submit passenger records to the government a few days in advance of every flight departure or arrival, according to an amendment to the country’s customs law proposed in the Finance Bill of 2017 tabled in Parliament.
  • Airlines will be fined Rs. 50,000 for not submitting the information on time, as per the proposal to insert a new Section 30A and 41A in the Customs Act, 1962, to make it “obligatory” for airlines to give “passenger and crew arrival manifest” and “passenger name record (PNR) information” to the customs authority before arrival or departure of the flight to, or from India.
  • The Central Board of Excise and Customs would be authorised to decide the kind of passenger information that needs to be submitted by the airlines.

Present scenario:

  • At present, airlines are required to submit basic details of passengers such as their name, date of birth, nationality, among other things to customs authority.
  • The final passenger information has to be submitted 15 minutes before the flight takes off.

Global practice:

  • With this move, India will join a select international league of 15 countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, which ask airlines to submit PNR details of passengers to government authorities.
  • This is also a subject of a new European Union Regulation and most EU states are planning to introduce PNR requirements. Even Indian airlines are required to submit the PNR data of passengers to such countries typically three days before the flight, up until the day of travel.
  • Global airline body International Air Transport Association (IATA) has asked the government to hold consultations with the airlines and follow United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organisation Standards and Guidelines on PNR data.

International Air Transport Association (IATA)

  • TheInternational Air Transport Associationis atrade association of the world’s airlines.
  • Consisting of 268 airlines, primarily major carriers, representing 117 countries, the IATA’s member airlines account for carrying approximately 83% of totalAvailable Seat Kilometersair traffic.
  • IATA supports airline activity and helps formulate industry policy and standards.
  • It is headquartered in Montreal, Canada with Executive Offices in Geneva, Switzerland. 


GS III : ECONOMY

RBI cautions against virtual currencies

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has cautioned the users, holders and traders of virtual currencies (VCs), including Bitcoins, about the potential financial, legal and security risks.
  • “RBI advises that it has not given any licence/authorisation to any entity / company to operate such schemes or deal with Bitcoin or any virtual currency.
  • As such, any user, holder, investor, trader, etc. dealing with virtual currencies will be doing so at their own risk”, it said.

GS III : ECONOMY

NPS subscribers can prematurely withdraw 25% of corpus tax-free

  • The National Pension System or NPS has become a more attractive option for retirement savings with Budget 2017-18 allowing its members to withdraw up to 25% of their accumulated corpus before retirement without tax, according to the Finance Ministry.
  • Self-employed individuals have also been allowed to invest up to 20% of their income into the NPS as opposed to 10% earlier.
  • “There was a demand - in the case of employers and employees; 10% (of income) each is allowed to be invested,” Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia explained. “If you are self-employed, only 10% of income is allowed. Why should he not be allowed to put 20% of income, subject to the Rs. 1.5 lakh ceiling of Section 80C (of the Income Tax Act)Rs. So, we have allowed that.”

GS II :  INTERNATIONAL - PAKISTAN

Pak move unnerves militants

  • Pakistan’s move to place Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed under house arrest has invited sharp reaction from militant outfits in J&K, with many warning of dire consequences for Kashmir.

 

GS II :  INTERNATIONAL USA

Donald Trump puts Iran on notice

  • The U.S. said it was “putting Iran on notice” for conducting a ballistic missile test that it described as a violation of a UN resolution.
  • The official, who did not want to be named, indicated that the Trump administration would put its entire weight behind Saudi Arabia and the UAE, while upending the breakthrough with Iran, a key foreign policy achievement of the previous Obama administration.
  • He said Iran’s obligations under the nuclear deal would stay intact, even as the U.S. considers new punitive measures for missile test and other activities.

GS II : INTERNATIONAL UK

British MPs vote overwhelmingly for Brexit Bill

  • The British government looks set to comfortably meet its plans of triggering Brexit talks by the end of next month, after winning a clear majority in a vote for the Bill in the House of Commons.
  • MPs voted by 498 to 114 to support the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.
  • The legislation will now pass to the committee stage where amendments will be considered and then voted on. The bill will also have to make its way through the House of Lords, where it is expected to face considerable opposition.
  • This will give the government the parliamentary approval necessary to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that gives EU members a two-year period to withdraw.
  • The government was forced to bring the legislation in Parliament after the Supreme Court held that the executive’s prerogative was not sufficient, and only Parliament could authorise it to trigger Article 50.

GS III:  S&T – HEALTH

Gene variants can add 2 cm to your height

  • Researchers have unveiled 83 rare gene variants which exert a strong influence on human height, with some capable of adding or subtracting more than two centimetres (0.8 inches).
  • The discovery could lead to drugs to make short people taller or vice versa, or tests to identify people at risk of developing growth disorders, the team reported.
  • More than 300 researchers from five continents trawled through genetic data from 711,428 people to find the variants.
  • Previous research had shown that genetic inheritance determines more than 80 percent of a person’s height.
  • Genes are sections of DNA which carry codes or instructions to build the proteins an organism needs to function.
  • Non-genetic influences include nutrition, pollution and other environmental factors.

GS III : ENVIRONMENT - BIODIVERSITY

Bird lovers help scientists uncover secrets behind evolution of beaks

  • When the ancestors of Darwin’s finches arrived on the Galápagos 2 million years ago, they gained access to a world of new morsels, untapped by other animals.
  • In a relatively short period, 14 species of finches evolved, specializing in different diets through different beak shapes: short for crushing seeds, sharp for catching insects, long for probing cactus flowers and so on.
  • This rapid diversification in the presence of new opportunity is called adaptive radiation.
  • Studies of small island bird and lizard populations describe a fast burst of evolution, followed by a slowdown.
  • But broader research has failed to find this fast-then-slow pattern of evolution on a global scale.
  • An international team of researchers set out to investigate this seeming paradox through a particular trait: the shapes of birds’ bills.
  • Analysing more than 2,000 species of birds, the researchers suggest in a report published in Nature that even though evolution does not slow down globally, the theory of adaptive radiation holds up.



 

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