Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention 2021
Why in News?
- 16th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention, is being organized on 9th January 2021.
- The theme of 16th PBD Convention 2021 is “Contributing to Aatmanirbhar Bharat”.
About Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention
- It is the flagship event of the Ministry of External Affairs and provides an important platform to engage and connect with the overseas Indians.
- The winners of the online Bharat ko Janiye Quiz for the youth will also be announced.
- The names of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awardees for 2020-21 will also be announced.
- Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards are conferred to select Indian diaspora members to recognize their achievements and honour their contributions to various fields, both in India and abroad.
- This will also be celebrated virtually on the theme “Bringing together Young Achievers from India and Indian Diaspora” on 8 January 2021, and will be anchored by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
- The Special Guest for the event is H.E. Ms. Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Minister for Community & Voluntary Sector of New Zealand.
Central Sector Scheme for Industrial Development of Jammu & Kashmir
Why in News?
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved a scheme for the industrial development of Jammu & Kashmir.
- The proposal of Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade for the Central Sector scheme has been approved with a total outlay of ₹28,400 crore up to 2037.
- The main purpose of the scheme is to generate employment which directly leads to the socio economic development of the area.
The following incentives would be available under the scheme for investment made in Plant & Machinery (in manufacturing) or construction of building and other durable physical assets (in service sector)
- Capital Investment Incentive at the rate of 30% in Zone A and 50% in Zone B. Units with an investment upto Rs. 50 crore will be eligible to avail this incentive. Maximum limit of incentive is Rs 5 crore and Rs 7.5 crore in Zone A & Zone B respectively.
- Capital Interest subvention: At the annual rate of 6% for maximum 7 years on loan amount up to Rs. 500 crore.
- GST Linked Incentive: 300% of the eligible value of actual investment for 10 years. The amount of incentive in a financial year will not exceed one-tenth of the total eligible amount of incentive.
- Working Capital Interest Incentive: All existing units at the annual rate of 5% for maximum 5 years. Maximum limit of incentive is Rs 1 crore.
Key Features of the Scheme:
- Scheme is made attractive for both smaller and larger units.
- The scheme aims to take industrial development to the block level in UT of J&K.
- Scheme has been simplified on the lines of ease of doing business by bringing one major incentive- GST Linked Incentive- that will ensure less compliance burden without compromising on transparency.
- Scheme envisages greater role of the UT of J&K in registration and implementation of the scheme while having proper checks and balances by having an independent audit agency before the claims are approved.
- It is not a reimbursement or refund of GST but gross GST is used to measure eligibility for industrial incentive to offset the disadvantages that the UT of J&K face
- Earlier schemes though offered a plethora of incentives. However, the overall financial outflow was much lesser than the new scheme.
Major Impact and employment generation potential:
- Scheme is to bring about radical transformation in the existing industrial ecosystem of J&K with emphasis on job creation, skill development and sustainable development by attracting new investment and nurturing the existing ones, thereby enabling J&K to compete nationally with other leading industrially developed States/UTs of the country.
- It is anticipated that the proposed scheme is likely to attract unprecedented investment and give direct and indirect employment to about 4.5 lakh persons. Additionally, because of the working capital interest subvention the scheme is likely to give indirect support to about 35,000 persons.
S 301 Report of U.S. on Equalisation Levy
Why in News?
- The U.S. administration had announced initiation of investigation under section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act, 1974 against the taxation on digital services adopted or under consideration by countries, including the Equalisation Levy applied by India. Other counties under investigation include Italy, Turkey, and United Kingdom.
Focus of Investigation
- With respect to India, the focus of the investigation was on the 2% Equalisation Levy (EL) levied by India on e-commerce supply of services.
- The U.S. investigation included whether the EL discriminated against the U.S. companies, was applied retrospectively, and diverged from U.S or international tax norms due to its applicability on entities not resident in India.
India’s Comment on this on 15 July 2020
- EL is not discriminatory; but on the contrary seeks to ensure a level-playing field with respect to e-commerce activities undertaken by entities resident in India, and those that are not resident in India, or do not have a permanent establishment in India.
- It was also clarified that the EL was applied only prospectively, and has no extra-territorial application, since it is based on sales occurring in the territory of India through digital means.
Why EL required?
- India based e-commerce operators are already subject to taxes in India for revenue generated from Indian market.
- However, in the absence of the EL, non-resident e-commerce operators (not having any Permanent Establishment in India but significant economic presence) are not required to pay taxes in respect of the consideration received in the e-commerce supply or services made in the Indian market.
- EL was one of the methods suggested by 2015 OECD/G20 Report on Action 1 of BEPS Project which was aimed at tackling the taxation challenges arising out of digitization of the economy.
Levied to Whom?
- The EL levied at 2% is applicable on non-¬resident e-commerce operator, not having a permanent establishment in India.
- The threshold for this levy is Rs. 2 crores, which is very moderate and applies equally to all e-commerce operators across the globe having business in India.
- The levy does not discriminate against any U.S. companies, as it applies equally to all non-resident e-commerce operators, irrespective of their country of residence.
- The purpose of the Equalization Levy is to ensure fair competition, reasonableness and exercise the ability of governments to tax businesses that have a close nexus with the Indian market through their digital operations.
- It is a recognition of the principle that in a digital world, a seller can engage in business transactions without any physical presence, and governments have a legitimate right to tax such transactions.
- The office of USTR recently released its findings on the section 301 investigation into India’s digital Services tax (DST) and concluded that India’s DST -the equalisation levy – is discriminatory and restricts US commerce.
- Similar determinations were also made against Italy and Turkey.
India’s seventh Trade Policy Review (TPR)
Why in News?
- India’s seventh Trade Policy Review (TPR) began recently at the World Trade Organization in Geneva.
- The TPR is an important mechanism under the WTO’s monitoring function, and involves a comprehensive peer-review of the Member’s national trade policies. India’s last TPR took place in 2015.
Report of India’s seventh Trade Policy Review (TPR), says
- India has implemented several measures to facilitate trade, such as simplification of procedures and customs clearances for imports and exports.
- The other trade-facilitation initiatives introduced by India since 2015 include introduction of Indian Customs Electronic Gateway (ICEGATE); Single Window Interface for Facilitation of Trade (SWIFT); the Direct Port Delivery and the Direct Port Entry facilities; and the increased use of the Risk Management System (RMS).
- India’s trade policy remained largely unchanged since the previous review.
- India continues to rely on trade policy instruments such as the tariff, export taxes, minimum import prices, import and export restrictions, and licensing.
- To support both domestic production and exports, India continues to provide a number of incentives, in the form of direct subsidies and price support schemes, tariff concessions or exemptions, or preferential rates of interest.
- India’s strong economic growth at 7.4 per cent during the period under review and made a positive note of India’s reform efforts during this period.
- Strong economic growth led to an improvement in socio-economic indicators, such as per-capita income and life expectancy in India.
- Commended India for liberalizing its FDI policy, ratifying the Trade Facilitation Agreement and implementing several trade-facilitation measures during the period under review.
- The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement came into effect in January 1995.
- It is a multilateral agreement on intellectual property rights such as copyright, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information or trade secrets.
International Akhand Conference ‘EDUCON-2020’
Why in News?
- Union Education Ministery inaugurated the two-day Virtual International Akhand Conference ‘EDUCON 2020’.
- Central University of Punjab, Bathinda (CUPB) in collaboration with the Global Educational Research Association (GERA).
- The focal theme of EDUCON-2020 is Envisioning Education for Transforming Youth to Restore Global Peace.
- This will pass on the message to the researchers and students across the globe that the research is a 24X7 exercise and requires strong perseverance.
- This international conference will help the prospective teachers to become familiar with different technologies and their functioning to bring transformational change in the field of education.
- This conference is the first of its kind in India where scholars across the world would be continuously having a non-stop marathon dialogue sessions for 31 hours exploring the possibilities of the use of ICT in the higher education to promote the equitable quality education in India.
- The conference will also provide a platform for discussions on emerging trends in education viz.,
- Likely scenario of higher education and school education by 2050,
- Developing disruptive technologies for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Education,
- Training youth for strategic future jobs in Universities,
- Skill training programme for future graduates and
- Relevance of ancient education system in 21st century.
Liberalised Authorised Economic Operator Package for MSMEs
Why in News?
- Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC) has taken a new initiative to introduce its flagship “Liberalised MSME AEO Package” for Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
- In order to attract MSMEs to become Authorised Economic Operators (AEOs) and avail the various benefits, the CBIC has relaxed the compliance criteria provided the MSMEs have a valid certificate from their line-Ministry.
- The relaxed requirements allow MSMEs who have filed minimum 10 Customs clearance documents in one year and who have a clean compliance record over 2 years to apply for the scheme.
- CBIC commits to take a decision on an application for grant of AEO status within only 15 days from electronic submission of complete documents for AEO Tier T1.
- Further reduction in Bank Guarantee requirements, have been introduced for MSMEs, and will be expanded subsequently.
- The approved AEOs derive various benefits such as,
- Inter alia, the facility of Direct Port Delivery (DPD) of imported containers,
- Direct Port Entry (DPE) of their Export Containers,
- High level of facilitation in customs clearance of their consignments thereby ensuring shorter cargo release time,
- Exemption from Bank guarantees, priority for refund/ rebate/ duty Drawback, as well as a Client Relationship Manager at the customs port as a single point of interaction.
Other Benefits available to specified AEOs
- Their payment of Customs duty is deferred and need not to be paid before the clearance of the imported goods by Customs.
- An added advantage for Tier 2 AEOs is that their exports to certain countries are accorded facilitation by the foreign Customs administration with whom India enters into a Mutual Recognition Agreement/Arrangement.
- Through “Liberalised MSME AEO Package”, CBIC encourages all eligible MSMEs to avail advantages of faster Customs clearances and other related benefits.
Plea to Debar Legislators
Why in News?
- The Supreme Court asked the Centre and the Election Commission of India (EC) to respond to a plea to debar legislators, disqualified under the Tenth Schedule, from contesting by-elections during the rest of the tenure of the House.
- The petitioner, referred to recent political events in several States in which Members of Legislative Assemblies resign, followed by the collapse of the incumbent government. They surface again as ministers in the new government formed by a rival political party.
- Once a member of the House incurs disqualification under the Tenth Schedule, he cannot be permitted to contest again during the term for which he was elected. Article 172 makes a membership of a House co terminus with the term of five years of the House except in circumstances mentioned there in.
- Highlighting the events of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, etc, the petitioner said even a legislator who voluntarily resigns would come within the ambit of the anti-defection law and should be disqualified.
- The Schedule makes it clear that a disqualification from being a parliamentarian or legislator extends to the entire tenure of five years of the House concerned.
Government’s Three Top Committees on Nutrition
Why in News?
- The government’s three top committees on nutrition responsible for providing policy directions, monitoring the implementation of various schemes and reviewing the nutritional status of various States and Union Territories
- Have failed to meet even once since the COVID-19 pandemic,
- While they are required to meet every quarter, despite global warnings of rising levels of hunger, malnutrition and child mortality.
- The three top committees are:
- Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog Rajiv Kumar-headed National Nutrition Council (NNC), which also includes 12 Union Ministers and five Chief Ministers on a rotational basis;
- The Executive Committee (EC) of the National Nutrition Mission headed by Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Child Development Ram Mohan Mishra; and
- The National Technical Board on Nutrition (NTBN), headed by Member, NITI Aayog, V K Paul.
- These committees were set up after the Cabinet approved the National Nutrition Mission in December 2017 and were mandated to meet once every quarter.
- They have to supervise the policy framework and the implementation of the government programmes, review the performance of various States, give scientific and technical recommendations for the execution of various schemes and propose corrective measures.
- The UNICEF warned in July last that 6.7 million additional children under five could suffer from wasting and there could be nearly 10,000 more under-five deaths a month globally as a result of the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.
- The recent National Family Health Survey-5 data shows that even before COVID-19, 16 out of 22 States surveyed had witnessed worsening levels of wasting among under five children and 13 showed a surge in stunting among children.
- The Hunger Watch Survey conducted by the Right to Food Campaign also shows that even five months after the lockdown was lifted, people continued to go to bed on an empty stomach, and more than 60% of the 4,000 respondents across 11 States said their consumption of pulses and vegetables had gone down.
World Food Price Index
Why in News?
- World food prices rose for a seventh consecutive month in December, with all the major categories, barring sugar, posting gains last month, the United Nations food agency said.
Who Released and what measured?
- The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) food price index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged 107.5 points last month versus 105.2 in November.
- For the whole of 2020, the benchmark index averaged 97.9 points, a three-year high and a 3.1% increase from 2019.
- It was still down more than 25% from its historical peak in 2011.
- Vegetable oil prices continued recent strong gains, jumping 4.7% month-on-month in December after surging more than 14% in November. For the whole of 2020, the index was up 19.1% on 2019.
- The cereal price index posted a more modest 1.1% rise in December from the month before. For all of 2020, the index averaged 6.6% above 2019 levels.
- Export prices for wheat, maize, sorghum and rice all rose in December, moving higher in part due to concerns over growing conditions and crop prospects in North and South America as well as Russia.
Why in News?
- Intel has launched a new facial recognition camera system, RealSense, aimed at bringing safe Face ID biometric system to ATMs, kiosks and smart locks.
- RealSense ID provides on-device solution combining active depth sensor with a specialised neural network designed to deliver secure, accurate and user-aware facial authentication.
- RealSense offers depth and tracking technologies used in autonomous drones, robots, AR/VR, and smart home devices.
- It adapts to users over time as they change physical features, such as facial hair and glasses. Real Sense ID system works in different lighting conditions for people with a wide range of heights or complexions.
- It has built the system with an anti-spoofing technology to prevent false entry attempts using photographs, videos or masks. The tech firm assures that the system processes all facial images locally and encrypts all user data.
Horizontal, Vertical Quotas
Why in News?
- The Supreme Court recently clarified the position of law on the interplay of vertical and horizontal reservations.
What are vertical and horizontal reservations?
- Reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes is referred to as vertical reservation. It applies separately for each of the groups specified under the law.
- Horizontal reservation refers to the equal opportunity provided to other categories of beneficiaries such as women, veterans, the transgender community, and individuals with disabilities, cutting through the vertical categories.
How are the two categories of quotas applied together?
- The horizontal quota is applied separately to each vertical category, and not across the board. For example, if women have 50% horizontal quota, then half of the selected candidates will have to necessarily be women in each vertical quota category.
What did the court decide?
- The court ruled against the Uttar Pradesh government, holding that if a person belonging to an intersection of vertical-horizontal reserved category had secured scores high enough to qualify without the vertical reservation, the person would be counted as qualifying without the vertical reservation, and cannot be excluded from the horizontal quota in the general category.
What was the government’s argument?
- The government’s policy was to restrict and contain reserved category candidates to their categories, even when they had secured higher grades. The court said this was tantamount to ensuring that the general category was ‘reserved’ for upper castes.
Abnormal Lung Function
Why in News?
- Almost 50% of people aged 45 years and above have abnormal lung function, results of the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI) released recently say.
- LASI, Wave 1, carried out in 2017-18, covered a baseline sample of 72,250 individuals of age 45 or older and their spouses from all states and Union Territories other than Sikkim.
- Only 51% reported normal lung function values, while 40% showed evidence of a restrictive lung disease pattern, indicating small lungs. This was slightly more prevalent in urban areas than in rural areas.
- Nine per cent reported the presence of obstructive airways diseases such as asthma/COPD; this was somewhat more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas.
- The burden of obstructive airways disease is more prevalent in the northern states. This seems to correlate with high levels of ambient air pollution in these states.
Study Funded by?
- The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and was carried out by the International Institute of Population Sciences (IIPS) in collaboration with Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, University of Southern California, National AIDS Research Institute, and Chest Research Foundation, Pune, among others.
- To provide reliable and continuous scientific data on the health, and social, mental and economic well-being of India’s older adult (aged 45 and above) population.
- The aim is to continue for the next 25 years, with respondents surveyed every two years.
- Similar studies have been carried out in 41 countries; in Asia, China, Korea, Japan, and Indonesia have taken up the exercise.
Why in News?
- The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) recently said that auctions for 4G spectrum in the 700, 800, 900, 1,800, 2,100, 2,300, and 2,500 MHz bands will begin from March 1.
What are spectrum auctions?
- Devices such as cellphones and wireline telephones require signals to connect from one end to another. These signals are carried on airwaves, which must be sent at designated frequencies to avoid any kind of interference.
- The Union government owns all the publicly available assets within the geographical boundaries of the country, which also include airwaves.
- To sell these assets to companies willing to set up the required infrastructure to transport these waves from one end to another, the central government through the DoT auctions these airwaves from time to time.
- These airwaves are called spectrum, which is subdivided into bands which have varying frequencies. All these airwaves are sold for a certain period of time, after which their validity lapses, which is generally set at 20 years.
How will the deferred payment plan work?
- As part of the deferred payment plan, bidders for the sub-1 GHz bands of 700, 800 and 900 MHz can opt to pay 25 per cent of the bid amount now, and the rest later.
- In the above-1 GHz bands of 1,800, 2,100, 2,300, and 2,500 MHz frequency bands, bidders will have to pay 50 per cent upfront, and can then opt to pay the rest in equated annual instalments.
- The successful bidders will, however, have to pay 3 per cent of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) as spectrum usage charges, excluding wireline services.
Advisory Council for Supervisory College
Why in News?
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has appointed a six member academic advisory council (AAC) to support its newly set up college of supervisors (CoS) which will reinforce supervisory skills among its regulatory and supervisory staff both at entry level and on a continuous basis.
- The CoS will be chaired by former RBI deputy governor NS Viswanathan while former RBI executive director Rabi Narayan Mishra has been appointed as a administrative head and non-member director.
What it do?
- The AAC will identify areas where skill building/up-skilling are required, plan and develop curricula of all programmes, benchmark the programmes with international standards/best practices, develop appropriate teaching methods.
The South Atlantic Anomaly
- Deep inside our planet liquid iron continues to flow the same way, generating a magnetic field that protects us against harmful radiation from the sun.
- Every so often the flow changes and the magnetic field flips. The last time this happened was 780,000 years ago.
- One sign that the Earth might be gearing up for a magnetic reversal is a weakening of the field.
- We know that the Earth’s magnetic field has decayed by about 5% per century since measurements began in 1840.
- And much of that decay is associated with a strangely weak spot between South America and southern Africa, known as the South Atlantic Anomaly.
- This patch has grown over the last 250 years and today the weak field messes with satellite technology.
- After analysing volcanic rocks from the southern Atlantic island of Saint Helena geologists from the University of Liverpool have shown that the magnetic field has been playing up here for millions of years, suggesting the South Atlantic Anomaly is a long-term fixture, and not a sign that the Earth’s magnetic field is about to flip.