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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Brief – 23 February 2016

Brief of newspaper articles for the day bearing
relevance to Civil Services preparation

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GS PAPER 2


[1]. U.S. scrambles to contain IS in Libya

The Hindu

IS in Libya:-

The Islamic State’s branch in Libya is deepening its reach across a wide area of Africa.

IS in Libya is now the most dangerous of the group’s affiliates.

U.S. and allied intelligence assessments say IS commanders in Libya are seizing territory there, starting to tax its residents and setting up quasi-government institutions.

Increasing fighters in Libya:-

U.S. intelligence agencies say the number of IS fighters in Iraq and Syria has dropped to about 25,000 from a high of about 31,500, partly because of the U.S.-led air campaign there.

The group’s ranks in Libya have roughly doubled in the same period, to about 6,500 fighters.

Setting up a unified government to counter IS:-

US and the Western allies are trying to help create a unity government in Libya.

The goal is to use such a new central authority to rally dozens of fractious militias to fight against IS.

U.S. and European special operations forces could help advise and assist those militias.

[2]. Patriotism without nationalism

The Hindu

Indian Nationalism:-

Indian nationalism has been liberal in nature.

Examples:-

The signature of the freedom movement was to expel the British, without hatred.

The setting up of a secular state with a liberal constitution, in the face of a violent demand for and reaction to the creation of a Muslim Pakistan.

We need Both:-

a) Individual liberty is mere theory unless the state protects it and makes it real.

We saw this at the Patiala House courts where journalists were beaten up as the police refused to intervene.

b)Nationalism without liberalism is a monster.

We saw this when lawyers and a local Delhi politician brazenly resorted to violence in the name of nationalism.

Tagore’s Example:-

According to Tagore Nation is

“the aspect of a whole people as an organised power. This organisation incessantly keeps up the insistence of the population on becoming strong and efficient.

But this strenuous effort after strength and efficiency drains man’s energy from his higher nature where he is self-sacrificing and creative.

For thereby man’s power of sacrifice is diverted from his ultimate object, which is moral, to the maintenance of this organisation, which is mechanical.”

To be observed:-

Tagore was being anti-national in the literal sense of the word.

But we cannot accuse him of being a traitor to India.

He is proof that it is possible to be deeply loyal to the country, have immense concern for the well-being of its people, while opposing nationalism.

Conclusion:-

If we realise that it is our sentiments that were offended, not our security, perhaps we will see the issue with greater equanimity.

We can be patriotic without being nationalists. We can be liberal without being libertarians.

[3]. Stark reminder in Jammu & Kashmir

The Hindu

Issue:- 

Present phase of violence are carried out by home-grown militants, a new wave of youngsters from within the Indian borders who have taken to violence.

A steady stream of militants infiltrating from Pakistan keeps the pot boiling.

Why?

All this is happening during Governor’s Rule, while political parties allow the situation to drift for their own vested interests.

Need of the hour:-

The Centre and all the stakeholders must address the challenge of the growing alienation among Kashmiris.

[4]. Quota blackmail

The Indian Express

Haryana government failed to react firmly in face of a violent agitation stoked by perceptions of dwindling opportunities.

The merits of the Jats’ claim for OBC status in Haryana can be consiered. But the violence wreaked by the agitators must be firmly dealt with.

Path of appeasement:

  1. The Haryana government appears to have succumbed to the blackmail of the agitators in promising to immediately legislate in favour of the Jats’ demand.
  2. Union home minister has announced a panel to examine the community’s demand for quotas in Central government jobs.

The government should follow the norms laid out to verify if a community deserves inclusion in the OBC list.

Shortcuts that bypass procedure for populism are likely to face legal hurdles and would eventually further alienate the community.

Communities Demanding Quotas:

  1. Jats in Haryana
  2. Patels in Gujarat
  3. Kapus in Andhra Pradesh

The general crisis in agriculture resulting in unstable and falling incomes has forced them to look beyond farming and search for stable jobs in the private and public sectors.

[5]. Referendum gamble for Britain

The Indian Express

EU block:

  1. Stitched together among the leaders of the 28-member bloc
  2. Carries immense diplomatic significance and value for its near future.
  3. Ever-closer integration in Europe may have carried some romantic appeal in a helped recovering from the ravages of the two great wars.

The enlargement of the original bloc of six countries into what is today a gigantic transnational entity of 28 is forcing the leaders of as many sovereign states to confront, from their individual perspectives, the cumulative and complex realities of competing nationalisms.

Problems:

  1. Influx of immigrants in their millions from North Africa and West Asia, the U.K. feels the urgency to define its equation with the rest of the bloc in more precise terms.

EU leaders would not easily accept the idea of the exit Britain. Because,

  1. One of the continent’s biggest economies
  2. One with immense international clout
  3. Permanent UN Security Council member

Britain neither share the euro nor participate in the Schengen border-free zone agreement.

The Leave Campaign is initiated to mobilize people for Brexit.

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GS PAPER 3


[1]. Early summer as heat wave hits Hyderabad Karnataka

The Hindu

Context:-

Early summer for the people of Hyderabad, Karnataka region and parts of Bombay.

Unusual for heat wave to have set-in in the third week of February.

Impact:-

When the onset of summer is advanced,

  • the water table deplete
  • increasing the dryness in the atmosphere
  • decreasing the humidity

IMD also cautioned the public that the summer could be hotter than last year.

[2]. India’s pollution levels beat China’s: study

The Hindu

Context:-

Average Indian was exposed to more particulate matter than the average Chinese citizen in 2015.

North India is the most polluted part of the country.

The biggest jump was seen in West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and the National Capital Region

Who did the study?

Green peace based on NASA’s satellite data on Particulate Matter from 2003 to 2015.

It looked at the aerosol optical depth(AOD), which is the amount of fine solid particles and liquid droplets in air.

What is AOD?

AOD tells us how much direct sunlight is prevented from reaching the ground by these aerosol particles.

Trends:-

Pollution levels in China peaked in 2011 and then started to gradually reduce.

India saw a spike over the past decade, the last year being the worst on record.

China – Shows the way:-

China implemented a national air pollution action plan in 2013 that included stricter emission norms for coal-based power plants and industries and greater enforcement of standards.

Shortcomings in india:-

There are 89 cities with a population of more than 5 lakhs in India, but only 17 have continuous air quality monitoring systems. The National Air Quality Index covers 23 cities with 39 stations.

Way forward:-

India needed to adopt strict and time-bound measures and should set a deadline for meeting air quality standards.

 

[3]. A fine balance on the Budget

The Hindu

Current scenario:-

  • depressing global environment
  • marked slowdown in domestic manufacturing
  • increasing expenditure demands

To revive investment climate:-

  • Structural reforms.
  • Increase public investment as private sector investment is stagnant.
  • Government will have to leave enough savings for the private sector to borrow at a reasonable rate of interest.

Revenue :-

Total revenue available to the Union government is less than 10 per cent of GDP.

Expenditure:-

  • Recapitalising the public sector banks which are saddled with huge non-performing assets,
  • provisioning for pay revision
  • meeting additional requirements for “One Rank One Pension (OROP)”.

Problems of breaching the Fiscal deficit:-

Given:-

Financial saving of the household sector is just about 7.6 per cent of GDP.

Even if the government conforms to the fiscal deficit target of 3.5 per cent,

Total deficit of the States at 2.5 per cent

Consolidated deficit will be about 6 per cent;

the States have to take the additional burden of over 1 per cent of GDP under UDAY (Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana).

Impact:-

Additional borrowing will leave very little room for the RBI to reduce the interest rates,

Even if RBI reduces the banks will find it difficult to transmit it to the borrowers simply because they will not have enough money to lend.

With nominal GDP growing at lower than the real GDP, further addition to debt will increase debt-GDP ratio at a much faster rate

Credit rating agencies will be keenly watching the credibility of Indian Economy.

Increasing Public Investment:-

  • Additional expenditures through pay increases and the OROP provision will increase consumption demand.
  • Offloading stocks of blue chip companies under SUUTI (Specified Undertaking of the Unit Trust of India) could yield about Rs.60,000 crore.
  • Creating a mechanism to resolve Tax disputes, as it could fetch the government enough resource and will also create a more favourable investment climate.
  • Immediate implementation of Kelkar committee recommendations on Reviving Public Private Partnerships could untangle significant investments.

Tax Reforms:-

  • Phasing out tax preferences for the corporate sector and reducing the rate of tax to 25 per cent in the next three years.
  • Introducing the Goods and Services Tax by rationalising the excise duty and service tax structures.
  • Merging the cesses and surcharges with the basic levy and making the general rates of excise duty and service tax uniform.

 Expenditure Reforms:-

  • The government will have to expand the JAM (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) initiative and move over to cash transfers wherever feasible, particularly on items like gas and kerosene subsidy.
  • Rationalising and targetting Food and Fertiliser subsidies.
  • Increasing the price of urea is important not only to contain the subsidy but also to promote balanced nutrient intake.
  • Limiting the Centrally Sponsored Schemes to a few meritorious services where the minimum standards of services must be ensured across the country

[4]. Disappearing forests of Kudremukh

The Hindu

About the Park:-

The Kudremukh National Park is in the Western Ghats

Part of the world’s 38 ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity and a UNESCO world heritage site.

more than 630 sq km area of montane grasslands and tropical rainforests

Largest protected block within the Western Ghats.

Home to unique, threatened and endangered biodiversity including lion-tailed macaques, tigers, Malabar civets and great pied hornbills.

Rivers Tunga, Bhadra and Netravati, which originate from the heart of the park, sustain millions of rural people in south India.

Provides invaluable ecosystem services, such as water security, nutrient recycling, climate regulation and carbon sequestration .

Notified as a National Park in 1987

Mining :-

In 1969 48 sq km of pristine forests right in the middle of Kudremukh had been leased to a gigantic strip mining operation called the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited (KIOCL).

Impact:-

Destruction of Kudremukh’s forests, wildlife and caused massive siltation of the rivers and reservoirs.

Continuous exploitation:-

Even after the lease ended in 1999, the company continued operations under temporary permits, using legal subterfuges.

Supreme Court Judgement:-

Supreme Court’s landmark judgment of October 2002 recognised it as a threat and ordered the closure of the mine by December 2005.

By destroying nature, environment, man is committing matricide, having in a way killed Mother Earth.

Revival of the forest:-

Scientific assessments after mining ceased have documented significant improvements in water quality and reduction in silt load levels in the Bhadra river.

Illegal operations:-

KIOCL with the support of politicians and corrupt officials has continued to encroach on large areas that now belong to the government.

KIOCL has now leased its buildings to a private luxury resort called Alva’s Kudremukh Nisargadhama.

The most obvious illegality in all this is the fact that KIOCL does not even own the land it has leased to the resort.

It also amounts to blatant contempt of the court’s orders.

Mandatory environmental and forest clearances have not even been obtained for its establishment inspite of it being urrounded by ecosensitive area.

Why this resort is a threat?

The establishment of such resorts and townships within the heart of the park will entail development of infrastructure such as approach roads, electrical lines, water and sewage lines, buildings, and swimming pools and the like.

Tourism results in resource consumption, waste generation, vehicular traffic, pollution and other disturbances

The Interim judgement in  Ajay Dubey v. National Tiger Conservation Authority insisted that all tourism infrastructure be moved out of national parks and sanctuaries that constitute tiger reserves within the next five years should be applied in this case.

[5]. Budget to bet on spurring growth

The Hindu

Goals of the Budget:-

Union Budget for 2016-17 will primarily focus on stimulating growth without deviating too much from the fiscal deficit target

Budget will be growth oriented and will also maintain the momentum of growth as it is the key for job creation and economic development.

Twitter suggestions:-

The government invited suggestions from citizens through Twitter for the first time, even conducting a series of polls to gauge public priorities and expectations from the budget.

Some of the suggestions were administrative in nature

Dedicated teams  are set up for examining these proposals those related to the Budget.

[6]. Centre trying to resolve Vodafone tax issue: Prasad

The Hindu

Tax Dispute:-

The British telecom major acquired 67 per cent stake in Hutchison, now called Vodafone India,

According to the Tax department’s the capital gains were made on assets in India so tax should be paid.

Vodafone argues that no tax was due as the transaction was conducted offshore.

The issue is under international arbitration.

 Current controversy:- 

The I-T Department recently issued Vodafone a reminder over its Rs.14,200-crore tax demand and threatened to seize assets in the case of non-payment.

Whereas the government had promised of tax-friendly environment for foreign investors.

Vodafone strongly reacted to the tax reminder saying it represented “a complete disconnect between the government and the tax department” .

[7]. Lower the corporate tax rate

The Hindu

Faster growth and stability rests on the three pillars of boosting government expenditure, reviving private sector investments and raising consumer spending.

Suggestions:-

Balancing Public expenditure and Fiscal deficit:-

While increasing expenditure, the government should take care to maintain the fiscal deficit target as per the FRBM Act at 3.5 per cent of GDP.

Can be achieved if the budget taps sources such as divestment, widening the tax base, and funds available with public sector enterprises.

Insurance companies could step up investments in infrastructure as well.

Using direct benefit transfer route lot of savings can be gained on Subsidies.

Private Sector Investment:–

Adversely impacted by delayed projects, slow bank lending and subdued consumer demand, especially in the rural economy.

Revival of  private participation in large infrastructure projects is needed.

Existing stalled projects may be renegotiated while care should be taken in new projects to allocate risks appropriately and facilitate pre-approvals.

Dealing with NPAs:-

 National Asset Management Company can be set up to take over non-performing assets from banks and resolve them.

Implementing Indradhanush:-

Banks also need capital infusion and further reforms as under the Indradhanush seven-point action plan which could be accelerated.

Reducing Corporate tax:-

Introducing roadmap for lowering corporate tax rate as announced in the previous budget.

Removing MAT:-

Minimum Alternate Tax should be eliminated or reduced to 10 per cent from the current rate of over 21 per cent.

There is also need to revisit the Dividend Distribution Tax.

Implementing GST:-

The Goods and Services Tax requires fast-tracked implementation

Reforming anomalies in Taxes:-

Need to examine anomalies in customs duties and some inverted duty structures arising out of free trade agreements with partner countries.

The service tax and excise duty may be maintained at current levels.

Tax Reforms:-

Increasing transparency  in Tax Administration.

Ease of Doing Business:-

Implementation of other policies such as Advance Pricing Agreements (APA) schemes, Authority for Advance Rulings (AAR) functioning and a committee for trade and industry would contribute to ease of doing business.

Reviving consumer Spending:-

Reviving consumer spending and demand through tax measures such as enhancement of investment limits under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act and expand exemptions for spending on education and healthcare.

A key sector with high multiplier effect is low-cost housing and added interest payment incentives could create new demand.

Going slow on Sevent Pay commission:-

The Seventh Pay Commission outgo may be staggered over two years to minimize the fiscal impact and also contain inflationary spikes.

Creating rural infrastructure:-

Creation of infrastructure in the rural economy on a large scale, particularly in rural roads and irrigation can help rejuvenate rural demand.

Increased government spending on education and healthcare along with specific attention to quality outcomes and capacity building would add to this effort

[8]. No patents for standalone software

The Hindu

Mere computer programmes — those not in conjunction with a novel hardware — will not be granted patent in India.

Who said?

Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks (CGPDTM)

Role of the office:-

Supervises the working of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) laws in India.

Ambiguity:-

August 2015 guidelines gave rise to some confusion regarding whether Computer Related Inventions (CRIs) are patentable.

New Guidelines:-

Mathematical methods or business methods or computer programme per se or algorithms are not patentable.

Three stage test in examining CRI patent applications:-

  • Properly construe the claim
  • Identify the actual contribution;
  • If the contribution lies only in mathematical method, business method or algorithm, deny the claim

Conclusion:-

The computer programme in itself is never patentable

If the contribution lies in the field of computer programme and is in conjunction with a novel hardware then other steps can be followed to determine patentability with respect to the invention

What are CRIs?

Computer Related Inventions (CRIs) comprises inventions which involve the use of computers, computer networks or other programmable apparatus and include such inventions having one or more features of which are realized wholly or partially by means of a computer programme or programmes.

What is an Invention?

“Invention” means a new product or process involving an inventive step and capable of industrial application.

[9]. Opportunity for Jaitley to focus on implementation

The Livemint

In the upcoming budget, can the finance minister meet the 3.5% fiscal deficit target and increase public investment to galvanise growth at the same time?

Our growth Prospects:

  1. International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected that India will grow at 7.5% for 2016 and 2017.
  2. The persistence of low and falling global crude prices places India in a ‘sweet spot’ .
  3. Emerging market countries, including Russia, Brazil and South Africa, face enormous challenges.
  4. China will grow at less than 7% for the next two years.

Economic Condition:

  1. Weaker global.
  2. Due to which export declined.
  3. Also due to our own stubborn infrastructural and logistical bottlenecks.

The FM did not oblige, instead argued for “persistent, encompassing and creative incrementalism that could cumulate to big bang reforms”

Economic Targets:

  1. The problems of cutting the budget deficit
  2. Achieving fiscal consolidation.
  3. Reforming taxes and tax administration including the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  4. Widening the tax base
  5. Improving infrastructure

Obstacles:

  1. Tax collections are unlikely to grow fast enough now.
  2. Disinvestment is not the best revenue-generating strategy during periods of volatility in capital markets.
  3. Public sector banks are desperate for capital
  4. Other expenses such as the 7th Pay Commission award and pensions loom.

Game changers:

  1. strengthening the public-private partnership (PPP) model as announced in the last budget and subsequently elaborated upon by the Kelkar
  2. Implementation of the good initiatives of the previous budget, such as the bankruptcy code and GST .

[10]. Tax agri income for the benefit of small farmers

The Livemint

Taxing agricultural income at minimal rates of about 5% can help rather than hurt our poor farmers

Given the importance of access to finance, the policy in India has been to compel banks to lend to the underserved.

1. Access to formal finance remains a challenge.

2. The problem of farmer distress persists despite priority sector lending programme.

Problem with Bank Loans:

1. Large portion of Indian farmers are illiterate or semi-literate and they do not maintain systematic books of accounts regarding their production and income

2. Assessing their true income or income-earning potential becomes an onerous task for the bank loan officers.

3. Research has shown that bank loan officers in India rely mostly on informal networks created by social affiliations to know about the borrowers.

4. Loan officers are rotated every three years .new loan officer entering a branch after job rotation restricts credit to borrowers who borrowed from the previous loan officer.

Sustainable approach to financial inclusion:

1. Involves enabling people to borrow from the formal system and Taxing agricultural income.

Advantage of Taxing Agri:

1. Can improve access to finance for large section of farmers.

2. Verified income tax returns can help to identify  potential of a farmer

3. Such information can help to separate productive farmers from the unproductive farmers.

4. Cab be used for enabling access to finance.

5. This information can also be used for policy preparations.

6. Target PSL towards more towards marginal farmers.

[11]. Notice to HSBC for abetting tax evasion

The Hindu

What has happened?

Indian tax authorities have issued notices to the global banking giant HSBC, warning of prosecution against its Swiss and Dubai arms for allegedly abetting tax evasion by four Indians and their families.

HSBC is also facing probes by tax authorities from various countries in connection with alleged abetment of tax evasion and money laundering through its Geneva branch.


Prelims Facts


[1]. Kerala seaplane project yet to take off

What is a sea plane?
An aircraft with floats or skis instead of wheels, designed to land on and take off from water.
Area of operation:-
Kochi to Lakshadweep
For what purpose?
Promoted by Kerala Tourism.

[2]. NASA working on crunching a Mars trip to three days

What is the technology?

NASA researchers are working on a technology that could harness the power of light.

Significance:-

Can cut down travel time to Mars from months to as little as three days.

How it works?

Relies on the momentum of photons — particles of light — to move forward.

Design would be using giant Earth-based lasers and not photons from Sun rays.

Drawbacks of chemical Fuel:-

The fuel used to launch the spacecraft weighs it down .

Electromagnetic acceleration is only limited by the speed of light while chemical systems are limited to the energy of chemical processes

New Design:-

On using light or other electromagnetic radiation to accelerate objects this issue can be corrected.

Using this technology wafer-thin spacecraft that can get close to the speed of light can be created.

[3]. ‘Smart’ windows that turn into TV screens

Idea:-

Windows can be used as a giant thermostat or a big TV screen.

How?

By coating small pieces of glass with extremely thin layers of metal like silver makes it possible to enhance the amount of light coming through the glass.

As  metals naturally conduct electricity this makes it possible to add advanced technologies to windowpanes and other glass objects.

Significance:-

This shows the  potential to integrate electronic capabilities into windows and make them smart.

In future windows can  selectively filter light and heat waves depending on the season or time of day.


By: ForumIAS Editorial Team


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