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GS 2

Government policies


‘Babri Masjid not a Sunni property’:

Context

  • The Central Shia Waqf Board on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court challenging a 1946 trial court order ruling Babri Masjid to be a Sunni property.

Petition filed

  • The move came a day after the Board filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court laying its claim on the ownership of Babri Masjid.
  • It had suggested to the court that another mosque, built in a Muslim-dominated area at a “reasonable distance” from the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi, should replace the demolished Babri Masjid.

The arguments

  • The Board said there are local affirmations that Babar came to Ayodhya in 1528 AD and halted there for a week.
  • It was during his regime that the Janamsthan temple was destroyed and on its site a mosque was built using largely the materials of the old structure.
  • The Shia Board said the trial ignored the fact that a Shia noble in Babar’s court, Abdul Mir Baqi, “created” the Babri Masjid with his own money.
  • This made Baqi, and not Babar, the wakif of Babri Masjid. The trial court itself, the Shia Board argues, mentions that Baqi’s successors were mutawallis of the mosque.

Let’s not suspend disbelief: (Indian Express, Editorial)

Context:

The CEO of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Ajay Bhushan Pandey, responds to various criticisms of Aadhaar.

Criticisms of Aadhaar:

  • The UIDAI has little more control on the uses of Aadhaar than the Ministry of Rural Development has on the use of nuclear weapons
  • It is mainly the government, not the UIDAI, that uses Aadhaar.
  •  Dismisses the “collateral damage” done by Aadhaar in various contexts
  • Talking of the public distribution system (PDS), for instance, there is clear evidence from both official statistics and independent surveys that in Jharkhand alone millions of people are currently unable to buy their food rations due to ABBA-related problems.

World Bank Digital Dividend Report 2016:

  •   The World Bank’s Digital Dividend Report 2016 which has estimated that Aadhaar could annually save the central government US$ 11 billion if used in all welfare programmes.
  •    The report, however, does not present any savings estimates.

India and neighbors


‘No war, no peace’ in Doklam:

Context

  • The Army has made no unusual movement or additional deployment in the Doklam area since the standoff began with China.

Diplomatic efforts

  • The comments come as diplomatic efforts continue to find a mutually acceptable solution to the face-off.
  • There is a regular one for support and maintenance of the two brigades which are pre-deployed.
  • There is nothing unusual. It is the same status of no war, no peace.
  • There are two brigades from different divisions deployed in the area and there is one more brigade slightly behind.
  • At the standoff site, the status quo continues with 400 soldiers from each side sitting at the site with tents pitched in.
  • China has maintained an aggressive diplomatic posture since the standoff began on June 16, claiming that Indian troops were on Chinese territory.
  • Indian troops physically prevented Chinese troops from building a road through the disputed Doklam plateau which triggered an extended standoff.
  • Even on the Chinese side, no unusual movement had been noticed. In the past few days, Chinese media has upped the stake and warned that India should learn a lesson, or the Chinese Army may carry out limited action to evict Indian troops.

‘No takers for EVM Challenge’:

Context

  • The Election Commission told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that its ‘EVM Challenge’ had hardly any taker among the political parties.

Can Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) get tempered?

  • The Bench is considering the question whether Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) can be tampered with.
  • The bench is looking into the amalgamation of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) into EVMs.
  • The Commission told the court that after the furore created by certain parties that had said EVMs were susceptible to tampering, the ‘EVM Challenge’, organised on June 3, turned out to be unimpressive as none of the major parties, except the NCP and the CPI(M), chose to turn up.
  • Even the NCP and the CPI(M) had made it clear, towards the date of the challenge, that they did not want to challenge the EVM but came to “understand the process”.
  • Thus, no political party or person was able to demonstrate how the EVMs could be tampered with during the course of the challenge.
  • Subsequently, the Election Commission issued a press note wherein it reiterated its commitment to holding all future elections with VVPATs,” it said.
  • The EC said it was “committed to implementing VVPATs nationwide by 2019.”

Issues related to governance


Working on the app-based model: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context:

  • The Delhi High Court is hearing the issue on August 10 in response to a Delhi-based union’s petition which refutes the claims of two online cab service providers — as not being employers of drivers but only providers of work.

Explanation:

  • Drivers are put under control and supervision amounting to employment, but neither do they enjoy flexible work nor receive benefits.
  • As informal sector workers who know how to maintain continuity in income, falling incentives have upset their calculations of spending, saving, and repaying debt.
  • Thus, the High Court can create priority for the regulation of tech-based work for a large young population which needs work but is underskilled for the formal job market.
  • Also,  the sheer number of drivers who join these online platforms indicates the sizeable digital workforce being created. Identical platform ideas are being funded in different cities as separate entities, because investors find the digitisation of local services even at city level worthwhile.

Conclusion:

  • It will be crucial to see whether the Delhi court judgment can create priority for the regulation of technology and work for workers without security nets.
  • It will take a city court, immersed in the realities of its economy, its labour patterns, its experiences of vulnerability and security, to determine these questions.

GS 3

Indian Economy. Planning, Growth and Employment


Net direct tax mop up increases 19.1%

Context                            

Personal income tax collection net of refunds rise 15.7%, net corporate tax 23.2%, official data show

Introduction:

  • Net direct tax collections up to July 2017 in the current financial year stood at Rs 1.90 lakh crore or 19.1% higher than in the corresponding period of the previous year, according to official figures.
  • Within this, net personal income tax grew 15.7% and net corporate tax 23.2% over the year earlier period, the data showed.
  • In comparison, growth in net direct tax collections up to July 2016 in the previous financial year stood at 24% while growth in personal tax collections was 46.5% and corporate tax collections 2.84%.

Reason:

  •   The slowdown in the overall economy as well as the impact of a high growth base last year could be the factors responsible for slower growth in direct tax inflows.
  • Last year, there was an out of line growth, and measured against that, this year’s number would show lower growth.

Key points:

  •  Direct tax collections up to July 2017 in the current financial year 2017-18 continue to register steady growth, the government said in a release
  •  So far, as the growth rate for corporate income tax (CIT) and personal income tax (PIT) in terms of gross revenue collections is concerned, the growth rate for CIT is 7.2% while that for PIT is 17.5%, the release added.
  •  Slowdown in personal tax collections could also reflect a slowdown in small business activity, since salary income tends to grow from year to year.
  •         As the growth rate for corporate income tax (CIT) and personal income tax(PIT) in terms of gross revenue collections is concerned, the growth rate for CIT is 7.2% while that for PIT is 17.5%, the release added.

Railways gets relief from GST cut on works contract:


Context

The Goods and Services Tax(GST) Council’s decision to roll back the increase in tax rate for government work contracts comes as a relief for the Indian Railways.

Introduction:

  • The government has fixed a goods and services tax (GST) rate of 12 per cent for work contracts, giving the impression of a higher burden on the construction sector.
  •  The contractors were demanding more money for contracts awarded before July 1 due to increased tax liability but the Railways had refused to pay for the higher tax amount

Key points:

  • The tax on construction activity, including composite works contracts, was increased to 18% from 12% under GST.
  • However, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced after the GST Council meeting on Saturday that government works contracts, for both Centre and States, would attract 12% GST with input tax credit.
  •  Under the extant indirect tax regime, work contracts usually cover three types of taxable activities: Supply of goods (inputs), services and manufacturing.
  • While most of the steel products will be taxed at 18 per cent under the GST regime, against the current indirect tax incidence of roughly 17.5 per cent, those of cement will attract 28 per cent, against around 23-24 per cent now.    

Panel set up by Railway Ministry:

  • The Railway Ministry has also constituted a committee to examine the impact of GST on the works contracts after receiving representations from contractors on increased tax liability.
  • Work related to track, construction of bridges, earthwork in embankment, supply, unloading and spreading of ballast, among others were facing increased tax liability after the government’s initial move to increase GST on such projects.

‘99 FDI proposals await nod’:

Context

There are a total of 99 foreign direct investment (FDI) proposals pending in various ministries and departments, with almost half of them being examined by the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) which is responsible for clearances in the retail sector.

Introduction:

  • The government has approved the phasing out of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board or the erstwhile single window clearance mechanism for FDI proposals in sectors under the government approval route.

Pending proposals:

  •  Foreign investment applications are pending in department of economic affairs (13),
  • Department of pharmaceuticals (14),
  • Department of telecommunications (8)
  • And Ministry of Home Affairs (5).

Science and Tech


The march from yesterday: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context:

  • A global movement called March for Science was held in different places in the world in April this year and the Indian version was held in some cities on 9th August, 2017.

Reason for the march:

  • The call for this march in Indian cities had many problematic assertions.
  • The march was justified by pointing out that science in India is facing the danger of being eclipsed by a rising wave of unscientific beliefs and religious bigotry” along with reduction of funding to premier scientific institutions.
  • Scientists added that non-scientific ideas are being promoted and suggested that “promoting scientific bent of mind can certainly help improve the social health of our country where incidents of witch hunting, honour killing and mob lynching are reported regularly.

Suggestions by the Scientists:

  • The march organisers made four suggestions:
  • To allocate a certain percentage of the GDP for science and education,
  • To stop propagation of unscientific, obscurantist ideas and religious intolerance,
  • Insisted that education should only impart “ideas that are supported by scientific evidence, and finally,
  • To enact policies based on evidence-based science.

New therapy for brain degeneration:

Context

  • A single injection of a fragment of a life-extending protein hormone could improve cognition in those with neurodegenerative illnesses, according to new research.

New findings

  • The klotho protein was found to enhance cognitive and physical performance in ageing or impaired mice.
  • The study was carried out by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco and published in the journal Cell Reports.
  • Treatment with a klotho fragment enhances brain function across the lifespan and could represent a new therapeutic strategy to boost brain resilience,” said lead author Dena Dubal.
  • Researchers said clinical studies would be deemed necessary to determine the safety and effectiveness of injecting klotho in humans.
  • The body naturally produces the complex hormone that is involved in multiple cellular processes, and is linked to prolonging life in worms, mice and humans.
  • In model organisms as well as in humans, klotho levels decrease with age, chronic stress, cerebral aging and neurodegenerative illnesses.
  • Prior studies had found that life-long exposure to elevated levels of klotho boost mental functions, but it remained unclear whether short-term treatment using the hormone could quickly improve cognition.

Prelims Related News



ISRO to develop full-fledged earth observation satellite:

Context:

  • A new set of future satellites called Hyperspectral Imaging Satellites is set to add a new dimension to the way India will be seen from about 600 km in space.

Explanation:

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) says it plans to launch a full-fledged niche earth observation (EO) satellite called the Hyperspectral Imaging Satellite or HySIS using a critical chip it has developed.
  • There is no specific time-frame yet for its launch but meanwhile, the new chip, technically called an “optical imaging detector array,” that they have created for it would be tested and perfected.

Features of the Hyperspectral Imaging Satellite:

  • The satellite can see in 55 spectral or colour bands from 630 km above ground.
  • Hyperspectral or hyspex imaging is said to be an earth observation trend that is being experimented globally.
  • Adding a new dimension to plain-vanilla optical imagers, it can be used for a range of activities from monitoring the environment, crops, looking for oil and minerals all the way up to military surveillance.
  • ‘Hyspex’ imaging is said to enable distinct identification of objects, materials or processes on earth by reading the spectrum for each pixel of a scene from space.

 

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