9 PM Current Affairs Brief – August 20, 2019

Committee submits report on replacing I-T Act with Direct Tax Code

  1. Government had constituted a committee to draft a new direct tax law to replace the existing Income Tax Act,1961.The committee was headed by Akhilesh Ranjan.It has submitted its report to the government.
  2. The objective of the task force was to draft direct tax laws in line with the norms prevalent in other countries, incorporating international best practices and keeping in mind the economic needs of the country.
  3. The key proposals made by the committee includes (a)25% corporate tax rate for all companies (b)Restructuring of slabs for personal income-tax (c)Incentives for promoting startups (d)Settling of tax disputes through mediation and (e)a shorter and simpler direct tax law.
  4. The task force has also suggested to bring the gist of numerous judicial pronouncements made since 1961 in one place for easy reference.This could improve the ease of doing business and reduce the compliance burden as well as tax disputes.
  5. The committee has also proposed amendments in Section 147 and Section 148 of the I-T Act which empowers the tax officer to reopen assessment cases based on predefined criteria.
  6. The task force has also recommended that tax assessment proceedings be made faceless and an option be allowed to the public to seek clarifications on tax matters from Central Board of Direct taxes(CBDT).
  7. The committee has also proposed the use of Artificial Intelligence(AI) in the tax-compliance and administration process.

Govt exempts NBFCs, listed firms from debenture reserve requirements

  1. Government has removed Debenture Redemption Reserve(DRR) requirement for listed companies,Non banking financial companies (NBFCs) and Housing finance companies(HFCs).
  2. At present,these companies have to set up a DRR to the tune of 25% of the value of their outstanding debentures.However,banking companies and financial institutions are already exempted from creating DRRs.
  3. This move will make it cheaper for these companies to raise funds and deepen the bond market.It will also create a level-playing field between NBFCs and commercial banks.
  4. Debenture is an instrument of debt executed by the company acknowledging its obligation to repay the sum at a specified rate and also carrying an interest.It is one of the methods of raising loan capital of the company.
  5. Debenture redemption reserve(DRR) is a requirement imposed on Indian corporation that issue debentures where they must create a debenture redemption service to protect investors from the possibility of a company defaulting. 
  6. This rule offers investors a measure of protection because debentures are not backed by an asset or any other form of collateral.

Explained: What is Tardigrade, the water bear?

  1. Israeli spacecraft called Beresheet had crashed onto the Moon in April, 2019.The spacecraft was carrying a cargo of dehydrated microscopic lifeforms known as tardigrades.
  2. However,tardigrades may have survived a crash landing on the Moon and they may still be alive.
  3. Tardigrade are also known as water bear.They can only be seen under a microscope.
  4. They derives its name from the fact that they look like an eight-legged bear with a mouth that can project out like a tongue.
  5. Tardigrades are among the most resilient animals which can survive extreme conditions such as exposure to outer space.Tardigrade feed on plant cells,algae and small invertebrates.
  6. Although the tardigrades on the spacecraft were dehydrated,they are  known to come back to life on rehydration.They can expel water from their bodies and set off a mechanism to protect their cells and can still be revived if placed in water. 
  7. However,there is no evidence of liquid water on the Moon,although there is ice.Hence,without liquid water,it is possible that the tardigrades will remain in their current state unless future astronauts find them and revive them in water.

National Maritime Domain Awareness (NMDA) Project

  1. Defence minister has visited the Information Management and Analysis Centre(IMAC) and Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) located at Gurugram.
  2. The two centres are under the National Maritime Domain Awareness (NMDA) Project.The NMDA project was launched in accordance with the vision of Prime Minister under SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region).
  3. The IMAC monitors movement of more than 120,000 ships a year passing through the Indian Ocean.It collects shipping information, analysing traffic patterns and sharing the inputs with the user agencies.
  4. The IFC-IOR has been established in 2018 at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre(IMAC) in Gurugram.IFC is a single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.
  5. Through this Centre,information on white shipping or commercial shipping is exchanged with countries in the region to improve maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean.White-shipping refers to commercial shipping information about the movement of cargo ship.

RBI plans to formalise linking of new loans to repo rate

  1. The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) is considering asking banks to link loans to an external benchmark such as the repo rate to improve transmission of policy rates and foster economic growth.
  2. Repo stands for ‘Repurchasing Option’.It refers to the rate at which commercial banks borrow money from the RBI.
  3. Currently,bank loans are linked to marginal cost of funds-based lending rate(MCLR).MCLR is an internal benchmark rate that depends on various factors such as fixed deposit rates, source of funds and savings rate.
  4. The price of loan comprises the MCLR and the spread or the bank’s profit margin.Spread refers to the difference in borrowing rates and lending rates of financial institutions.
  5. The biggest problem with the current system is the lack of required transmission of policy rates to the borrowers.
  6. However,several banks such as State Bank of India(SBI) had already introduced a repo rate-linked loan from July 1,2019.

India biggest emitter of sulphur dioxide: report using NASA data

  1. According to a report by Greenpeace,India is the largest emitter of Sulphur Dioxide(SO2) in the world.
  2. The report provides that India has emitted more than 15% of all the anthropogenic sulphur dioxide hotspots as detected by NASA’s satellite.
  3. The primary reason for India’s high emission output is the expansion of coal-based electricity generation over the past decade.
  4. According to the report,five of the top ten SO2 emission hotspots from coal and power generation industry across the world are in India.
  5. The report also says that emission has increased as majority of coal-based power plants in India lack flue-gas desulphurisation(FGD) technology to reduce air pollution.
  6. Further, the report also says that the largest sulphur dioxide emission hotspots in the world have been found in Russia, South Africa, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Serbia.
  7. Of the world’s major emitters, China and the United States have been able to reduce emissions rapidly by switching to clean energy sources and enforcement for sulphur dioxide control.
  8. Sulfur dioxide is a chemical compound with the formula SO2.It is released naturally by volcanic activity and is produced as a by-product of copper extraction and the burning of fossil fuels contaminated with sulfur compounds.

UK Researchers develop new technique to make cancer treatment more effective, affordable

  1. Researchers from the UK have developed a technique that could make light-based cancer treatment more effective and safer for patients while reducing its cost.
  2. Light-based or photo-dynamic therapy is a clinically-approved treatment which uses drugs that only work when exposed to light to destroy cancer cells. 
  3. However,many of these drugs are frequently toxic even without light, causing many side effects in patients and leading to treatment failure.
  4. The researchers have sought to improve these drugs by using small carbon dots as a way to get the drug to the tumour.
  5. Carbon dots are fluorescent nanoparticles with very little toxicity making them extremely useful for this application.These nanoparticles were made using common ingredients such as sucrose and citric acid which occurs naturally in various fruits.

Odisha to conserve two of its largest lakes

  1. The Odisha Wetland Authority has approved the implementation of an integrated management plan for two of its largest lakes namely Chilika and Ansupa lake.
  2. The plan is intended at strengthening livelihood of thousands of fishermen relying on the two water-bodies.Besides,tourism promotion and conservation of ecology will also be taken up.
  3. Chilika Lake is India’s largest brackish water lagoon.It lies on the east coast of India in the state of Odisha and is located at the mouth of the Daya River and flowing into the Bay of Bengal.
  4. The lake is also the second largest coastal lagoon in the world after the New Caledonian barrier reef in New Caledonia.
  5. Chilika lake was also designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1981.It is also home to endangered Irrawaddy dolphins and migratory birds during winter.
  6. Ansupa lake is Odisha’s largest freshwater lake.The lake is shaped like a horseshoe and is situated on the banks of River Mahanadi.
  7. Ansupa is famous for its sweet water fish especially labeo bata locally known as pohala.The lake also acts as a shelter for migratory birds in the winter season.

Lemru Elephant Reserve (LER)

  1. Chhattisgarh government has announced the setting up of Lemru Elephant Reserve(LER).
  2. The reserve is aimed at minimizing human-elephant conflict and destruction of property in addition to providing a permanent habitat for the elephants.
  3. The reserve will be set-up as per the report and recommendations of Special High-Power Technical Committee(SHPTC) which was constituted by the Government of India.
  4. The report stated that LER would provide a huge protected area for the conservation of wild elephants where the elephants will get an abundant amount of water, food and other facilities.
  5. The Government of India had launched the project Elephant in the year 1992 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme.The objectives of project include (a)to protect elephants,their habitat & corridors (b)to address issues of man-animal conflict and (c)welfare of captive elephants.

School Fagadaba(Make education better)

  1. Manipur government has launched a scheme called “School Fagadaba” (Make education better).
  2. The objective of the scheme is to ensure better infrastructure, quality education and overall improvement of government schools to make them model schools.
  3. The government will also install biometric attendance machines in government schools to ensure the presence of teachers at their posting places.
  4. Under the scheme,one High or Higher Secondary School in each Assembly Constituency will be selected.Once a teacher is posted in these schools,he or she would stay there for at least 3 years.

Nitish flags off ‘publicity rath’

  1. Bihar Chief Minister has flagged off a vehicle which is being called a ‘publicity rath’.
  2. The vehicle will create awareness on the Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali (water-life-greenery) campaign via the audio-visual medium.
  3. The vehicle will also be used for creating awareness about the State government’s water resources schemes and steps to save and conserve water.
  4. The rath will also make people aware of the fact that groundwater is the only source of water in the event of less rainfall and people will have to go for rainwater harvesting to conserve water.
  5. Jal-Jivan-Hariyali Abhiyan programme is aimed at protecting the environment and minimising the bad effects of climate change on the lives of people in the state.Several departments of state government have been given separate tasks under the campaign.

Explained: Bonds, yields, and inversions

  1. The global economy continues to be hit as one big economy after another falters on economic growth.This increases the likelihood of a global recession in the coming future.
  2. As talk of a recession has started,Bond yields curve have also featured in the news both globally and within India as it most accurately reflects what investors think about current and future economic growth prospects.
  3. bond is an instrument to borrow money.A bond could be floated/issued by a country’s government or by a company to raise funds.
  4. Since government bonds which are referred to as G-secs in India come with the sovereign guarantee,they are considered one of the safest investments.As a result,they also give the lowest returns on investment or yield.
  5. On the other hand,investments in corporate bonds tend to be riskier because the chances of failure and the chances of the company not repaying the loan are higher.
  6. The Bond yield is the effective rate of return that it earns.But the rate of return is not fixed as it changes with the price of the bond.
  7. Bond Yield curve is a graphical representation of yields for bonds with an equal credit rating over different time horizons.
  8. If bond investors expect the economy to grow normally,then they would expect to get more yield when they lend for a longer period.This gives rise to a normal upward sloping yield curve.
  9. The steepness of the yield curve is determined by how fast an economy is expected to grow. When the economy is expected to grow only marginally, the yield curve is “flat”.
  10. However,yield inversion happens when the yield on a longer tenure bond becomes less than the yield for a shorter tenure bond.A yield inversion typically portends a recession.An inverted yield curve shows that investors expect the future growth to fall sharply.
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