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 GS: 1


History:

Alam Beg, martyer of sepoy Mutiny, wants to return home (The Hindu)

Context

Headhunting is usually associated with primitive tribes and contemporary terrorists, but the colonial rulers of India also collected heads of Indian soldiers as war trophies

Significance

  • A proof: A 160-year-old skull of sepoy Alam Beg, now in the possession of a historian in London, is proof that colonial rulers who brought many modern practices to India were also at times inhuman

Who was Alam Beg?

  1. In 1857, Alam Beg, also known as Alum Bheg, was a soldier with the 46th Bengal Native Infantry, an arm of the East India Company
  2. The Mutiny that year, after having covered the north Indian heartland, spread to Sialkot (now in Pakistan), where Alam Beg and his companions tried to follow their fellow soldiers and attacked the Europeans posted there
  3. On July 9, 1857, they killed seven Europeans, including an entire Scottish family
  4. Alam Beg, along with his comrades, left Sialkot and trekked all the way to the Tibetan frontier only to be turned away by the guards on the Tibetan side. He was reportedly arrested from Madhopur, a scenic town on the northern part of the Indian Punjab and taken back to Sialkot
  5. A year later, he was tried for the brutal killing of the Scottish family and blown up from the mouth of a cannon

Pre-Christian era artefacts unearthed in Odisha (The Hindu)

Context

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has discovered pottery pieces, and tools made of stones and bones believed to be of the pre-Christian era from a mound in Jalalpur village of Cuttack district

Significance

  1. Discoveries of ancient artefacts indicate that a rural settlement might have thrived in that period
  2. These latest discoveries is that a continuity in the progress of rural culture from a pre-historic era has been found

Tools found

Excavation carried out in 12 acres of land in the Jalalpur village has unearthed remnants of

  1. Axe
  2. Adze
  3. Celts
  4. Thumbnail scrappers chiselled from stones
  5. Harpoons
  6. point and stylus made of bones
  7. potteries with marks of paintings

Other discoveries

  1. The ASI teams have also come across a couple of circular wattle and daub structures, which were predominantly used by people to take shelter during the pre-Christian era, in 12 trenches being dug simultaneously
  2. Discovery of tortoise shell, dolphin and shark teeth and fish bones indicated that the settlement could have been closer to the sea coast
  3. Some rice grains have also been detected

What type of economy existed?

Rich materials found from excavation sites indicate that the people had a subsistence economy and they largely relied on agriculture, fishing and hunting

Society related issues

Mixing work with study (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

The Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2017’s findings wrt basic education

Findings

A national-level finding is that as a group, 14.4% of youth aged 14 to 18 years are not enrolled in school or college. Yet, this figure conceals variations by age: while it is 5.3% for 14-year-olds, it rises to 30.2% at age 18

Need for Skill-Building programs

Only 5.3% of the age group is enrolled in a vocational course, while 60.2% of out-of-school youth are engaged in some form of work

  • These trends underscore the need to scale up substantive skill-building programmes, making them free or highly subsidise

Measures

  • “dual” German model: classroom instruction plus apprentice training can be looked into
  • Agriculture: The role of agriculture as a provider of jobs and prosperity must be viewed. Among those who are already working in the 14-18 age group, 79% are engaged in farming, and that too in their family farms
    • It appears to show that for a significant number of youth, a useful education in agriculture, coupled with access to the formal economy for finance and marketing, could raise the quality of life. In fact, the ability of farmers to adopt technology, avail benefits offered by the government and demand stronger institutions would be enhanced, if elementary education is improved
    • It would also produce the additional benefit of promoting health-seeking behaviour among these youth

GS: 2


International relations:

Crisis in Male (The Hindu Editorial)

Context

Fresh elections, with the opposition free to contest, are the best option for the Maldives

Backdrop

  • Yameen has ruled since 2013 when he won power in an election, the result of which is still contested. He defeated Mohammad Nasheed, who had been deposed in 2012 and who, in 2015, was sentenced to 13 years in prison on charges of terrorism
  • Nasheed is now in exile. In an order on February 1, the Supreme Court cancelled his imprisonment term and that of eight other political leaders, reinstated 12 parliamentarians who had been disqualified last year, and ordered Mr. Yameen to allow the Maldivian parliament, or Majlis, to convene
  • Yameen has thus far failed to comply with any of these orders, despite an official statement on February 2 about his government’s “commitment to uphold and abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court”
  • Government has refused to cancel the imprisonment of the nine leaders, amongst whom is Mr. Yameen’s former vice president and his former defence minister, members of parliament and leaders of major opposition parties, apart from Mr. Nasheed himself
  • The President has also refused to allow the Majlis to meet

India’s position

India has joined the U.S., the European Union and several other countries in calling for Mr. Yameen to carry out the Supreme Court’s order.

  • Delhi’s leverage in the Maldives is less than it has ever been. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to cancel his visit to Male three years ago, has singled Maldives out as the only country in the South Asian and Indian Ocean Region that he hasn’t visited

India US air forces to deepen ties in Indo Pacific (The Hindu)

Context

Chief of U.S. Air Force General David L. Goldfein has said Indian and U.S. air forces will significantly ramp up operational cooperation to complement the strategic interests of the two countries in the Indo-Pacific region where China has been expanding its military influence

Future policy

  • Calling India a “central strategic partner” of the U.S. in pursuing common interests in the region, the two of the world’s largest air forces are now going to jointly shift the focus on the Indo-Pacific region
  • Quadrilateral” coalition among the U.S., India, Japan and Australia would provide for deeper cooperation between the Indian and American air forces
  • Focus of the cooperation will be to “make decision faster than our adversaries and then act in ways that may bring multiple problems at a pace the adversary could never keep up with

Backdrop

In June 2016, the U.S. had designated India a “Major Defence Partner” intending to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners


GS: 3


Economy:

Limited succor (The Hindu Opinion)

Succcor: assistance and support in times of hardship and distress

Context

Budget 2018 does well to focus on senior citizens, but action must be broad based

Offering relief to senior citizens: Measures

  • Affording a five-fold increase in the exemption limit on interest income from savings, fixed and recurring deposits held with banks and post offices to ₹50,000, and doing away with the requirement for tax to be deducted at source on such income
  • Proposal to raise the annual income tax deduction limit for health insurance premium and/or medical reimbursement to ₹50,000 for all seniors.
  • To set the ceiling for deduction in lieu of expenses incurred on certain critical illnesses to ₹1 lakh, irrespective of the age of the senior citizen.
  • Extending the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana by two years, up to March 2020, and doubled the cap on investment in the scheme to ₹15 lakh

Adequate budget support needed

With more than 70% of the 104 million elderly living in the rural hinterland, any serious initiative to improve the lot of senior citizens must incorporate adequate budgetary support for social welfare spending on the relevant programmes.

Current allocation inadequate

While the Budget provisions ₹6,565 crore for the pension scheme for the elderly poor, its outlay for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s assistance to voluntary organisations for programmes relating to the ‘aged’ at ₹60 crore is starkly inadequate.

Conclusion

With the number of the elderly in India set to surge by 2050 to almost 300 million, or about a fifth of the population, governments need to make more comprehensive efforts to address the nation’s greying demographic.

Easier norms may help Indian firms go global(The Hindu)

Context

The proposed Outward Direct Investment (ODI) policy may contain provisions to make it easy for many Indian firms, envisioning ambitious plans to transform themselves into multi-national companies (MNC), to go global and expand.

Tightening of round tripping provisions

ODI policy also expected to tighten regulations to prevent round-tripping structures.

Meaning: Where funds are routed by India-based companies into a newly formed or existing overseas subsidiary and then brought back to India to circumvent regulations here.

Importance of Mergers and Acquisition for Indian firms  

  • Indian firms invest in foreign shores primarily through mergers and acquisition (M&A) transactions
  • With rising M&A activity, companies will get direct access to newer and more extensive markets, and better technologies, which would enable them to increase their customer base and achieve a global reach

Jurisdiction of ODI: RBI

Concerned law: Foreign Exchange Management Act

‘Some irritants’

  • There are some irritants in the current (ODI) norms
  • if a holding company is used to make an investment, it may qualify as a core investment company/ non-banking financial company, and therefore, not allowed to invest in non-financial services outside India.
  • Also, if the overseas business goes bankrupt, approvals are required for depletion in value of more than 25%

Top ten ODI destination

  • Top ten ODI destination countries in FY’15, FY’16 and FY’17 included Mauritius, Singapore, the U.S., the UAE, the Netherlands, the U.K, Switzerland, Russia, Jersey and British Virgin Islands.
  • Cumulatively, these nations were the beneficiaries of 84% or more of India’s ODI during each of those financial years.

An interesting fact

Interestingly, this composition of ODI destination countries more or less mirrored the top sources of foreign direct investment inflows into India in the same period including, Mauritius, Singapore, Japan, the U.S., U.K., the UAE, the Netherlands, Germany, Cyprus and France.

Agriculture needs more than just quick fixes(The Hindu)

Context

The government’s efforts to focus on the welfare of farmers in the Union Budget is admirable but care should be taken to address the sector’s competitiveness in a global scenario.

Long term policies needed

  • Long-term cure will be in the form of policies that provide a boost to credit growth, crop insurance, drip irrigation, warehousing, mechanisation and availability of skilled farm labour.

There has been no mention of these measures in the 2018 Budget

Posiitives:

  • Agricultural credit: The target for agricultural credit has been increased to ₹11 lakh crore from ₹10 lakh crore last year.
    • Benefit: This will empower farmers with much-needed funds to procure agricultural inputs in a timely manner.
  • Development of agriculture market infrastrucutre: The Finance Minister has announced ₹2,000 crore for development of agricultural market infrastructure to link 22,000 local rural markets to the electronic national agriculture market platform.
    • Benefit: This will definitely help prevent undue volatility that creates stress for farmers.
  • MNREGA allocation:This year’s budget may increase MNREGA allocation to ₹60,000 crore.
  • Benefit: This scheme would provide long-term benefit if the labour force is tied up to assist farmers overcome scarcity in farm labour, the absence of which is forcing many to give up on agriculture altogether.

Dangers around MSP

  • Care should be taken not to give too drastic an increase, which will render the commodity uncompetitive in global markets and unaffordable to mill owners.
  • This might affect the farmer adversely if prices have to be corrected in the future

Too small allocation for Operation Green

The Finance Minister has launched ‘Operation Green’, and allocated ₹500 Crore to promote farmer producer organisations and agri-logistics associations.

Ultimately a mixed bag

While the impetus given to agricultural credit and rural infrastructure is laudable, the Budget could have been truly progressive had it not put so much focus on the regressive policy of MSP.

Conclusion

In future Budgets, I hope the government shifts even more towards forward-looking policies that boost the competitiveness of the agro-industry, and secure long-term growth in farmers’ income and quality of life.

Deciphering LTCG tax on equit(The Hindu)

Context

LTCG tax imposed in recent budget

What is LTCG?

  • LTCG or long-term capital gains refer to the gains made on any class of asset held for a particular period of time.
  • In case of equity shares, it refers to the gains made on stocks held for more than one year.
  • In other words, if the shares are bought and held for more than a year before selling, then the gains, if any, on the said sale are referred to as long term capital gains or LTCG.

Why is LTCG tax in the news?

  • It is in the news as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley re-introduced LTCG tax on equity shares.
  • Investors have to pay 10% LTCG tax on gains exceeding ₹one lakh on the sale of shares or equity mutual funds held for more than one year without the benefit of indexation (adjusting the profit against inflation to compute the real taxable gains).
  • Previously, short-term capital gains (STCG) tax of 15% was levied.

Was the tax levied on stock market trades earlier?

  • Such a tax existed until October 2004 when it was replaced by the securities transaction tax (STT) which was levied on all trades made on the stock exchanges.
  • STT is charged at 0.1% of the trade value in cash market trades.

Concerns regarding STT

  • Incidentally, there was always a section of market participants that favoured LTCG tax over STT
  • The issue of tax evasion through stock exchanges by paying a small STT component instead of LTCG had been raised regularly

How will LTCG tax be computed?

Typically, when such a levy is introduced, it is structured in a manner so that prior investments get some kind of relief.

Grandfathering benefit

In technical parlance, it is called the grandfathering benefit.

  • The government, while reintroducing the LTCG tax, said all gains made prior to January 31 would be grandfathered.

Here is how it works: for example, assume an entity bought shares in January 2017 at ₹100, which touched a high of ₹200 on January 31, 2018. Now, if he or she sells the shares at ₹300 in, say, May 2018, then his taxable gains would be ₹100. (₹300-₹200).

Will all investors be subject to LTCG tax?

All investors who trade on stock exchanges would be required to pay LTCG tax.

Incidentally, the Centre has brought in LTCG tax while retaining STT as well.

So, investors will have to pay both the taxes.

Issue of DTTAs with FPIs

  • However, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs), who invest in India from places like Mauritius and Singapore, would not be subject to LTCG tax, courtesy tax avoidance treaties.
  • This benefit, however, would be available only till the time the treaty benefit exists as the Centre is reworking all such so-called double tax avoidance agreements (DTAA).

Environment:

Odisha ready to welcome olive ridleys(The Hindu)

Context

Fencing along the sea coast to protect the olive ridley turtles during their mass nesting at the Rushikulya rookery in Odisha is being increased by two more kilometres this year.

Mating season over

The mating season of the endangered marine turtles in the sea near the Rushikulya rookery coast that started in November is now over.

Mothers waiting

Thousands of mother olive ridleys are now waiting at sea within two kilometres from the coastline between Gokharkuda and Podampeta villages of Ganjam district

Males returned to their habitat

Most male olive ridleys have returned to their original habitat thousands of kilometres away, while the females have stayed back to nest at the sandy coast.

Temporary fencing

  • Every year, a 3.5-kilometre-long stretch of the beach from Gokharkuda to Podampeta used to be fenced to stop predators from harming the olive ridleys during nesting and the eggs in their nests
  • This temporary fencing also checks olive ridleys and their hatchlings from straying towards land
  • This year the forest department has decided to extend the fencing for another two kilometres towards the north from Podampeta to Bateswar temple on the coast.

Camps established

  • The forest department has established four camps at Purunabandh, Gokharkuda, Podampeta and Bateswar.
  • These camps will monitor the nesting process round-the-clock
  • Patrolling at sea is continuing to check the entry of fishing trawlers to the olive ridley congregation zone

Regulating tourist flow

  • The forest department has decided to streamline and regulate tourist flow to the nesting coast during the nesting season.
  • Tourists will be allowed to reach only demarcated regions of the coast through Podampeta and Gokharkuda villages so that human intervention does not affect the nesting process in any way.
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