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9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 28, 2017

National

  • No barrier to naming Lokpal: SC
  • PM launches low-cost flights
  • Judicial performance index proposed
  • Lack of intelligence inputs hurting Army
  • Lokpal panel: CJI among equals
  • ‘UID-PAN linking a Faustian bargain’
  • India, Sri Lanka sign energy pact

Editorial/OPINION

  • Learning to run twice as fast
  • In four doses

Economy

  • Direct tax base to soar in 3 years
  • ‘Revival of fertilizer plants can make India an exporter’
  • Flexible pension for informal staff

Indian Express

  • What sort of new FRBM do we need
  • The long road to a high-growth future
  • A reason to pause in Sukma

 The Hindu

Front Page / NATIONAL

 Context

Opposition leader’s absence no hurdle

 What has happened?

The Supreme Court found the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013 an “eminently workable piece of legislation”, which provides for the appointment of Lokpal Chairperson and members even in the absence of a recognised Leader of Opposition (LoP)

 

Government

The judgment goes against the very logic of the government’s argument that appointment of Lokpal Chairperson and members is not currently possible, and would have to wait till the 2013 Act is amended to replace the LoP with the single largest Opposition party leader

Court

An existing law cannot be put on hold merely because Parliament is working on a better law

The Hindu

 Context

UDAN —UdeDesh Ka AamNagrik — scheme for regional connectivity

 What has happened?

  • Shimla-Delhi, Kadapa-Hyderabad flights flagged off under UDAN programme
  • Air India will receive a subsidy of Rs. 3,340 per passenger from the government for capping the fare
  • The government will collect 80% of the subsidy by charging a levy of up to Rs. 50 per ticket on flights deployed on the national route
  • The remaining 20% will come from respective State governments

Shimla-Delhi

  • The Shimla-Delhi flight is operated by Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India, which has deployed its 42-seater ATR plane on this sector
  • The fare for 24 seats onthe flight has been fixed at Rs. 2,036

 The Hindu

 Context

NITI Aayog for outsourcing non-core functions of police

 What has happened?

The NITI Aayog has proposed the introduction of a judicial performance index to reduce delays and the outsourcing of non-core functions of the police

Bid to end delays

This could also spur competitive reform of the judiciary in those States

Task Force

  • To improve the quality of policing, the think tank has asked the Home Ministry to create a task force to identify ‘non-core functions’ that can be outsourced to private agents or government departments in order to reduce the workload of the police
  • Functions such as serving court summons and antecedents and address verification for passport applications or job verifications can be outsourced

Police Ratio Improvement

India’s police to population ratio should reach the United Nations norms of 222 per lakh population, over the next seven years, from the current level of 137

Greater Hiring of Women

Push for greater hiring of women in the police force, with a target of 30% of all new recruits

Enforcing contracts

Citing inordinate delays in India’s judicial system and its low rank on enforcing contracts in the World Bank’s ease of doing business report for 2017, the think tank has also called for streamlining judicial appointments on the basis of online real-time statistics on the workload of pending cases.

 Context

Constant protests, deployment of local police for election duty said to have stymied (prevent) information flow

 What has happened?

The pre-dawn attack on an Army camp in Panzgam village near Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir recently is the latest among a string of attacks on military installations over the last two years, and symbolic of a dramatic turnaround in the nature of violence in the Valley

 Reasons

  • From an increase in number of terrorists in the Valley
  • Limited intelligence inputs to conduct operations
  • Constant Protests in the valley
  • Local police deployed for election duties

Security at Military installations in question

Given the large number of Army camps along the Line of Control and International Boundary, it is not possible to upgrade each and every one to the same level

 The Hindu

 Context

His opinion need not always get primacy, says apex court

 What has happened?

  • The Supreme Court upheld the provision of the Lokpal law giving no primacy to the Chief Justice of India’s opinion on who should be appointed as Lokpal Chairperson and Members
  • It is the prerogative( right or privilege ) of the legislature to decide whether the opinion of the Chief Justice of India should get primacy

 Backdrop

Petition filed by an NGO — Just Society — against the Lokpal Act of 2013 not giving any primacy to the opinion of the CJI or his nominee judge in the matter of selection of Chairperson and Members of the Lokpal

 The Hindu

 Context

Linking Aadhaar with essential activities will turn the nation into a concentration camp, SC told

 What has happened?

  • Lashing out at the move to link Aadhaar to the permanent account number and filing of income tax returns, a senior advocate told the Supreme Court that the Constitution was not a charter of servitude
  • Faust, in the legend, traded his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge. To “strike a Faustian bargain” is to be willing to sacrifice anything to satisfy a limitless desire for knowledge or power
  • We as independent citizens cannot be forced by the State to part with our fingerprints in exchange for being able to file our income tax returns
  • Citizens would be under State surveillance round-the-clock

 The Hindu

 Context

Spotlight on Trincomalee projects

 What has happened?

Following the overarching Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between India and Sri Lanka, both sides will collaborate in a host of energy and infrastructure projects across the island

MoU

  • Setting up of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant in suburban Colombo and a solar power plant in Sampur in Trincomalee
  • Indian assistance to enhanced use of natural gas in Sri Lanka
  • Joint investment in the petroleum sector and partnerships in highways and transportation, the spotlight remains on the proposed joint venture to develop a World War-era oil storage facility in Trincomalee, the strategically located port town on the island’s east coast
  • As per the MoU, the countries will also jointly set up Industrial Zones and Special Economic Zones in Sri Lanka

 The Hindu

 Context

The challenge of the States in achieving a debt ceiling of 20% by 2023 threatens overall fiscal responsibility targets

FRBM has been discussed earlier in detail, give this article a go through

The Hindu

Context

Malaria Vaccine RTS,S (or Mosquirix) tests soon

 What has happened?

  • The first malaria vaccine is cleared forpilot tests, raising hopes about wider use
  • Beginning next year, the World Health Organisation will begin pilot tests of the injectable malaria vaccine RTS,S (or Mosquirix) on 750,000 children aged 5-17 months in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi
  • The vaccine has been successfully put through a Phase III trial, in which the drug is tested for safety and efficacy

The Countries

The three countries have been chosen as they have settings with moderate-to-high transmission of malaria and already have in place malaria control programmes such as the use of bed-nets, rapid diagnostic tests and combination therapy. Each country is to decide where precisely to run the pilots

The Vaccine Doses

  • The vaccine, given in four doses, protects against Plasmodium falciparum, which is the most prevalent malaria parasite in Africa
  • The first three doses of the vaccine will be administered with a minimum interval of one month between each dose, followed by the fourth dose 15 to 18 months after the third dose
  • The first dose will be administered at about five months of age and the third dose has to be completed by nine months of age

Fourth dose really important

  • While the drop-out rate increases as the number of doses increases, the biggest challenge is the fourth dose, which warrants a new immunisation contact to be made 15 to 18 months after the last dose
  • In Phase III trials, the efficacy of the vaccine was around 30% when children received all the four doses; the vaccine also reduced the most severe cases by a third
  • But there was a significant drop in these benefits when children did not receive the fourth dose

 Side-effects

There is, specifically, a need to ascertain if excess cases of meningitis and cerebral malaria seen during the trials are causally related to the vaccination

To be used in conjunction

Unlike other vaccines, the less-than-optimum protection offered by this vaccine would mean that existing malaria intervention measures will have to be used in conjunction to reduce the incidence of the disease.

Economy

The Hindu

 Context

Demonetisation, steps to curb black money to spur increase: NITI Aayog

 What has happened?

The NITI Aayog expects India’s direct tax base to rise significantly over the next three years, due to demonetisation and steps taken to curb black money by the government, pegging the direct tax to GDP ratio at 6.3% in 2019-20 from 5.6% in 2016-17

Demonetisation windfall

  • Demonetisationhad led to a significant increase in bank deposits which is likely to result in disclosure of “a significant amount of income that would not have been done otherwise.”
  • Therefore, it has argued that there could be a significant one-time increase in the direct tax revenues for 2017-18, although such an increase has not been factored into its estimates
  • The cumulative result of the measures would be increased tax compliance and an expansion in the tax base. Going forward, this will lead to increase in direct-tax to GDP ratio.

The Hindu

Context

The restart of four plants can add 75 lakh metric tonnes

 What has happened?

  • The Centre’s revival of four fertilizer plants at a total cost of Rs. 50,000 crore has the potential to turn India into a fertilizer exporting country from an importing one
  • When all the plants (at Barauni, Singhri, Gorakhpur, and Talcher) start, they will add about 75 lakh metric tonnes to the output, taking the total capacity to about 320 lakh metric tonnes
  • A massive investment of Rs. 50,000 crore is being undertaken for the revival of the closed fertilizer plants and setting up of a gas pipeline network to connect Eastern India to the national gas grid
  • Of this, Rs. 20,000 crore would be invested to revive the plants at Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh), Barauni(Bihar) and Sindri (Jharkhand).
  • The government will be investing Rs. 8,000 crore in the Talcher fertilizer plant in Odisha through a consortium comprising Fertilizer Corporation of India, Gas Authority of India Limited, Rashtriya Chemical and Fertilizer Limited, and Coal India Limited. The Talcher facility will also be the first plant to deploy a coal gasification system

The Hindu

Context

They face disasters, irregular incomes

 What has happened?

Workers from the informal economy and the agricultural sector should be allowed flexible contributions and withdrawals from pension plans due to the vagaries(an unexpected and inexplicable change in a situation or in someone’s behaviour)of their incomes and the risk of disasters

Specific scheme for the non-working women

  • Since women, who account for 70% of non-workers in India, are financially dependent on their male counterparts, and generally outlive men, the ‘feminisation’ of the elderly is going to be increasingly evident in the years to come, and could bring with it huge fiscal burdens
  • The ‘Financial Security for India’s Elderly’ report by PFRDA and Crisil also recommended a specific pension scheme for young women along the lines of the government’s SukanyaSamriddhi Scheme for young girls

Indian Express

Live Mint

Context

While fiscal rules can indeed be useful, the old FRBM Act was flawed and needs to be replaced by something better

The N.K. Singh committee report

To review the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBMA), 2003:

 Author’s views:

Do we really need a new Act?

  • We definitely need a new Act because the existing FRBMA has proved ineffective
  • It was suspended with impunity in 2009, for several years, during which the fiscal deficit went out of control
  • There was also non-transparency which allowed the deficit to be seriously understated

 What fiscal targets should we adopt?

  • Fiscal rules should focus on macroeconomic stability and the relevant targets for this are the fiscal deficit, the primary deficit, and the debt/GDP (gross domestic product) ratio
  • Since the fiscal deficit and debt ratio are our weak points, our fiscal rules should try to correct both

Are the proposed targets reasonable?

  • The committee has recommended reducing the Centre’s debt to GDP ratio from 49.4% in 2016-17 to 40% by 2022-23. The states’ debt ratio is targeted to remain at around 20%. The combined debt of the Centre and the states is targeted to go down from 68% in 2016-17 to 60% by 2022-23.
  • The 60% debt target for the Centre and the states combined is an improvement from 68% in 2016-17, but it is still much above the average of about 40% for similarly rated emerging market countries
  • However, since our growth rate is also much higher, a 60% debt ratio may be accepted as a reasonable target.
  • Perhaps the new Act should explicitly allow adjustment of the medium-term fiscal deficit targets once every two years, to reflect revisions in the expected medium-term growth rate

 

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