News (Text)


When:
October 15, 2018 @ 1:00 am
2018-10-15T01:00:00+05:30
2018-10-15T01:15:00+05:30

NEWS

15 OCTOBER 2018 

Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS II: SOCIAL – RIGHTS

Life term for Maj. Gen., 6 others for encounter

2.

GS III: ENERGY

Windmills are not so green for wildlife

3.

GS II: SOCIAL – WOMEN & CHILDREN

2013 report wanted changes to sexual harassment law

4.

GS II: SOCIAL – UNREST

No ‘good’ Hindu would want temple at Babri site: Tharoor

5.

GS II: POLITY – JUDICIARY

Victim of a crime should have a say in punishment: SC

6.

GS I: CULTURE

Allahabad may become Prayagraj

7.

GS III: ECONOMY – POLICY

Govt. panel struggles to define ‘shell company’

8.

GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-USA

Special forces in India-U.S. exercise

9.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA

Saudi vows retaliation if punished

10.

GS III: ECONOMY – GST

GST: 1 year on, firms yet to set up infra for compliance

11.

GS III: ECONOMY – BANKING

IL&FS: A riddle wrapped in a mystery

12.

GS III: ENERGY

Oil bonds issued to OMCs by government

13.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – BIODIVERSITY

‘As ice melts, walruses need protection’

14.

GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH

‘High lead exposure in Indian kids’

GS II: SOCIAL – RIGHTS

Life term for Maj. Gen., 6 others for encounter

  • An Army court in Assam has ordered the dismissal from service and life imprisonment of seven personnel, including a Major General, for killing five people in a fake encounter in eastern Assam’s Dangari 24 years ago.
  • “The judgment has strengthened people’s belief in the judiciary. It has also shown that the Army too believes in delivering justice and maintaining its glory that a few officers cannot taint,” BJP leader Jagadish Bhuyan, who initiated the case in 1994, said.
  • The court martial related to the February 1994 Dangari encounter case in which five youths were killed.
  • One of them was a local leader of the All Assam Students’ Union.

GS III: ENERGY

Windmills are not so green for wildlife

  • Windmills are seen as a source of green energy, but researchers say they pose a threat to wildlife in forests through collisions and noise.
  • The impact of the giant structures in Karnataka was studied by researchers from Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) during a two-year project.
  • They found that windmills killed birds and bats in collisions, and that birds and mammals also moved away due to the noise.
  • The noise levels near windmills go up to 85 decibels (dB), the equivalent of large trucks.
  • The drone of a turbine, which operates day and night, is above 70dB.
  • By comparison, noise in urban areas is 55 dB and even in industrial areas, is lower at 75dB.
  • Ambient noise in forests is less than 40 dB.
  • Such avoidance and movement to [forest] fringes might increase conflict with humans.
  • This calls for protocols and policy guidelines before diverting forest land for wind farms.
  • Karnataka has diverted 37.80 sq. km of forests for wind farms, Union Environment Ministry data show.

GS II: SOCIAL – WOMEN & CHILDREN

2013 report wanted changes to sexual harassment law

  • The Centre recently announced its plan to set up a panel of judges to look into the legal and institutional framework to curb sexual harassment at workplaces following the #MeToo campaign on social media.
  • However, as early as 2013, the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, in its landmark report on gender laws, had recommended setting up of an employment tribunal instead of an internal complaints committee (ICC) in sweeping changes to the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Bill.
  • The panel was formed in the aftermath of the December 16 Nirbhaya gangrape in 2012 and the ensuing nationwide protests, and submitted its report on January 23, 2013.
  • At that time of the submission of the report, the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill had already been passed by the Lok Sabha and was awaiting the Rajya Sabha’s nod. The Bill was passed unchanged by the Upper House a month later.
  • The Committee termed the Sexual Harassment Bill “unsatisfactory” and said it did not reflect the spirit of theVishakha guidelines – framed by the Supreme Court in 1997 to curb sexual harassment at the workplace.
  • The report noted that an internal complaints committee as laid down under the then proposed law would be “counter-productive” as dealing with such complaints in-house could discourage women from filing complaints.
  • Instead, the committee proposed forming an employment tribunal to receive and adjudicate all complaints.
  • To ensure speedy disposal of complaints, the Justice Verma Commitee proposed that the tribunal should not function as a civil court but may choose its own procedure to deal with each complaint.
  • The Committee said any “unwelcome behaviour” should be seen from the subjective perception of the complainant, thus broadening the scope of the definition of sexual harassment.
  • The Verma panel said an employer could be held liable if he or she facilitated sexual harassment, permitted an environment where sexual misconduct becomes widespread and systemic, where the employer fails to disclose the company’s policy on sexual harassment and ways in which workers can file a complaint as well as fails to forward a complaint to the tribunal.
  • The company would also be liable to pay compensation to the complainant
  • The panel also made several suggestions to encourage women to come forward and file complaints. For instance, it opposed penalising women for false complaints and called it an “abusive provision intended to nullify the objective of the law”.
  • The Verma panel also said that the time-limit of three months to file a complaint should be done away with and a complainant should not be transferred without her consent.

GS II: SOCIAL – UNREST

No ‘good’ Hindu would want temple at Babri site: Tharoor

  • While a vast majority of Hindus believe that Ayodhya was the birthplace of Lord Ram, no good Hindu would want to see a Ram temple built “by demolishing somebody else’s place of worship,” Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said.
  • Mr. Tharoor said he, as a Hindu, was also very conscious that a vast majority of Hindus wanted a Ram temple to be built at the site.
  • Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former Governor of West Bengal, said one of the key issues in India was the role of independent, autonomous institutions, which are facing great danger of subversion and co-option.
  • The Congress leader said nothing could be more embarrassing than the Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University asking for an Army tank to be installed on the campus to instil feelings of patriotism, which is “the most appalling” decision to have been taken by a VC.
  • A recent announcement that anyone earning a salary from the UGC may not publish any article critical of the government was a blatant attempt at censorship by a government that has no respect for freedom of expression,he said.

GS II: POLITY – JUDICIARY

Victim of a crime should have a say in punishment: SC

  • The victim of a crime should have a say in the punishment of the criminal, the Supreme Court has said in a judgment.
  • A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur. S. Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta held that punishment should be “meaningful” to the victim also.
  • For this, “it is necessary to seriously consider giving a hearing to the victim while awarding the sentence to a convict”, the Bench said.
  • Today, the rights of an accused far outweigh the rights of the victim of an offence in many respects… There needs to be some balancing… we still have a long way to go to bring the rights of victims of crime to the centre stage and to recognise them as human rights,” Justice Lokur wrote in the judgment.
  • The case concerned the rejection of an appeal filed by Mallikarjun Kodagali, a victim of an attack in February 2009, by the Karnataka High Court in 2014. The Supreme Court set aside the High Court decision.

GS I: CULTURE

Allahabad may become Prayagraj

  • What’s in a name? For the BJP-led government in Uttar Pradesh it’s a lot, as it has begun moves to soon change the name of Allahabad to Prayagraj.
  • While the government views it as a tribute to the Sangam city ahead of the 2019 Kumbh Mela, Opposition parties questioned the logic behind it.
  • Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, said the new name was a tribute to the city as the confluence of two major rivers, the Ganga and the Yamuna.

GS III: ECONOMY – POLICY

Govt. panel struggles to define ‘shell company’

  • The multi-agency committee set to finalise the definition of a “shell company” for the purposes of enforcing penal laws for various violations is yet to arrive at a consensus on yardsticks for identification of such entities.
  • After a large number of entities, classified as a shell company, challenged the decision, the government had set up the committee to come up with a definition.
  • Accordingly, the committee drafted a definition that had to be tested on various yardsticks to determine its legal feasibility.
  • The shady financial transactions, ownerships and assets of thousands of companies have been studied in a bid to come up with acceptable criteria to declare an entity a shell company as per the law.
  • The committee also examined the definition given by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
  • The OECD defines a shell firm as “a company that is formally registered, incorporated, or otherwise legally organised in an economy but which does not conduct any operations in that economy other than in a pass-through capacity. Shells tend to be conduits or holding companies and are generally included in the description of Special Purpose Entities“.
  • The issue had come up after the government cracked down on dummy companies that were used for round-trippingof funds and money laundering.

 

GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-USA

Special forces in India-U.S. exercise

  • The first India-U.S. tri-services exercise is likely to take place in India in 2019, and talks are on to include the special forces of the two countries in the drill, a senior U.S. defence official has said.
  • The Indian Army has Para SF, the Navy has Marcos while the Air Force has the Garud as their respective special forces.
  • The three forces of each country already take part in bilateral exercises separately – their Armies participate in an annual drill called Yudh Abyaas, whose latest edition took place in September, and the Air Forces take part in a bilateral drill called Cope India.
  • The Navies participate in an exercise called Malabar, involving Japan.
  • The drill will focus on a United Nations-based scenario and the overarching mission of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief measure.
  • India is the “natural humanitarian disaster relief hub” in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Though the joint tri-services drill was formally announced after the first 2+2 dialogue between the principals of the External Affairs and Defence Ministries of the two countries in September 2018, work on it had begun much before.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA

Saudi vows retaliation if punished

  • Saudi Arabia warned that it would retaliate against any sanctions imposed on it over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as the Riyadh stock market plunged on growing investor jitters.
  • From tech tycoons to media giants, a host of Western companies are now distancing themselves from the Gulf state, imperilling Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s much-hyped economic reform drive.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump threatened ally Saudi Arabia with “severe punishment” if Mr. Khashoggi, who has been critical of Prince Mohammed, was killed inside its Istanbul mission.
  • But Riyadh vowed to hit back against any action against it.
  • Mr. Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, vanished after entering the consulate on October 2 to obtain official documents for his upcoming marriage.
  • Turkey stepped up pressure on Saudi Arabia by accusing the kingdom of failing to cooperate with a probe into the journalist’s disappearance.
  • Turkish officials have said that they believe Mr. Khashoggi was killed inside the mission and claims have been leaked to media that he was tortured and even dismembered.
  • Saudi Arabia insists Mr. Khashoggi left the building safely and dismissed accusations that authorities had ordered his murder by a hit squad as “lies and baseless allegations”.

GS III: ECONOMY – GST

GST: 1 year on, firms yet to set up infra for compliance

  • Corporates are now realising that coming to terms with GST means a more drastic change to their tax infrastructure than the basic compliance-related changes they have made so far.
  • Mid-to-large segment companies, for example, could be looking at simply upgrading the GST module of their existing tax and finance infrastructure.
  • Some others, which are fairly global in scale, are looking at their entire workflow and seek to upgrade their entire tax workflow, be it direct tax, transfer pricing, indirect tax, compliance.

GS III: ECONOMY – BANKING

IL&FS: A riddle wrapped in a mystery

  • The new Board of Directors of Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. (IL&FS) has ordered a fresh audit of its books and it is just as well that it has done so.
  • A quick run through the 2017-18 consolidated financial statement of the company shows evidences of shocking financial mismanagement, a complex group structure and questionable accounting policies.
  • Here are five broad points that scream for attention.

 

Riding on intangibles?

  • The balance sheet has a very significant component of intangible assets.
  • They were as much as Rs. 22,613 crore at the gross level (total balance sheet size of Rs. 1,15,814 crore), which is almost the same as the gross fixed assets owned by the company.
  • Almost all of the intangible assets is made up of “Rights under Service Concession Arrangements (SCA)”.
  • These intangibles together with receivables from them account for a quarter of IL&FS’s balance sheet in 2017-18.
  • According to a note to the accounts, SCA is the right to charge users of a public service though the amount is contingent on the extent that the public uses the service.
  • The actual construction cost plus the margins as per the SCA is taken as the book value of the intangible asset.

 

Zero interest cover

  • IL&FS’s consolidated borrowings almost doubled from Rs. 48,672 crore to Rs. 91,091 crore in just four years, from 2013-14 to 2017-18.
  • Short-term borrowings as a proportion of total debt started rising in the same period, clearly indicating trouble.
  • In 2013-14, short-term debt accounted for just 10% of total debt but by 2017-18, it had gone up to 15%.
  • Clearly, the company was resorting to borrowing short-term funds to pay off its interest and principal on long-term borrowings.
  • The profit before interest and tax in 2017-18, at Rs. 7,267 crore was lower than the interest liability of Rs. 7,922 crore.
  • What’s more, interest costs accounted for 42% of total revenues of IL&FS, which, as any student of finance would tell you, is unsustainable.
  • That the company posted a consolidated net loss of Rs. 2,394.77 crore in 2017-18 is not surprising then.

 

Cool salaries

  • The deteriorating financial condition did not stop the Board of Directors from paying themselves handsome salaries and commissions.
  • In a year that it posted a net loss, IL&FS also dared to announce a 60% dividend to shareholders in 2017-18, spending Rs. 93 crore.
  • Ravi Parthasarathy, the founder of IL&FS and its face, who resigned as chairman in July 2018, was paid a cool Rs. 20.45 crore last year – almost double the Rs. 10.80 crore that he got in 2016-17.
  • The five independent directors were together paid Rs. 2.16 crore in 2017-18, bulk of it being commissions in a loss-making year.

 

Complex structure

  • The consolidated balance sheet of the company reveals the picture in respect of 27 direct subsidiaries and 159 indirect subsidiaries.
  • In addition to these, there are associate companies, where IL&FS holds 50% or less, and joint ventures.
  • Uday Kotak, the chairman of the new board, referred to a total figure of 348 entities in the group.
  • To give just one example of the complex layering, IL&FS Tamil Nadu Power Company Ltd. (ITPCL), which is executing a 3,840 MW power project in Cuddalore is a subsidiary of IL&FS Energy Development Company, which is a subsidiary of IL&FS.
  • ITPCL, in turn, has five subsidiaries and one joint venture company.
  • The question is: why so many entities, even assuming that the infrastructure space is SPV-(special purpose vehicles) intensive? Were they created to hide funds trails?
  • How much debt do the companies carry?

 

Neither fish nor fowl

  • Is IL&FS a non-banking finance company (NBFC) or an infrastructure company?
  • Going by its balance sheet, it is an infrastructure company with 68% of its consolidated revenues coming from there.
  • Financial services accounted for just 22% of revenues in 2017-18.
  • But it is treated as a non-deposit taking NBFC by the RBI.

GS III: ENERGY

Oil bonds issued to OMCs by government

 

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – BIODIVERSITY

‘As ice melts, walruses need protection’

  • Given a choice between giving birth on land or sea ice, Pacific walrus mothers would most likely choose ice.
  • Likewise, they prefer sea ice for molting, mating, nursing and resting between dives for food.
  • The U.S. government in 2008 listed polar bears as a threatened species because of diminished sea ice brought on by climate warming.
  • That year the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to do the same for walruses.
  • “It is unknown whether Pacific walruses can give birth, conduct their nursing during immediate post-natal care period, or complete courtship on land,” said Justice Department lawyers in defending the decision.
  • A federal judge in Alaska will hear the center’s lawsuit challenging the government’s decision not to list the walrus as threatened.
  • Pacific walrus males grow to 12 feet long and up to 1,815 kg more than an average midsize sedan. Females reach half that weight. Walruses dive and use sensitive whiskers to find clams and snails in dim light on the sea floor.
  • An Endangered Species Act listing would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for walruses and plan for their recovery.
  • Federal agencies, before issuing permits for development such as offshore drilling, would be required to ensure walruses and their habitat would not be jeopardised.
  • Inaccessibility protected walruses for decades, but a rapid decline in summer sea ice has made them vulnerable.
  • Since 1981, an area more than double the size of Texas 1.58 million square km has become unavailable to Arctic marine mammals by summer’s end, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
  • More open water already has meant more ship traffic.
  • Walruses also could find more humans in their habitat with a reversal of U.S. policy on Arctic offshore drilling.
  • Former President Barack Obama permanently withdrew most Arctic waters from lease sales, but President Donald Trump in April 2017 announced he was reversing Obama, a decision being challenged in court.
  • The administration’s proposed five-year offshore leasing plan includes sales in the Chukchi Sea.
  • Designating walruses as threatened would mean oil exploration companies would have to consult with federal wildlife officials to make sure drill rigs don’t endanger the animals.
  • Walruses are notoriously difficult to count and population estimates range widely.

GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH

‘High lead exposure in Indian kids’

  • High levels of lead contamination in the blood of children living in India may have a significant impact in lowering their IQ and increasing the risk of other diseases, a study has found.
  • Researchers from Macquarie University in Australia conducted the first ever meta-analysis of Indian blood lead levels.
  • They found the burden of disease to be significantly larger than previously calculated.
  • The research calculated the mean blood lead level from data published between 2010 to 2018 to estimate the attributable disease burden in IQ decrement and Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs).

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