9 PM Current Affairs Brief – July 1, 2019

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Procedural concerns in focus as GST enters third year

  1. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) has completed two years on July 1, 2019.
  2. The introduction of GST was a game changer for the Indian economy as it has replaced multi-layered, complex indirect tax structure with a simple, transparent and technology-driven tax regime.
  3. During the last two years, the government has brought in various changes both on the quantum of taxes and the inclusion and exclusion of goods and services.
  4. However, tax experts have said that Government should work more to (a) rationalise rates (b) clearly define profiteering (c) overhaul the advance ruling mechanism (d)simplify GST returns (e) address procedural complexities of the GST portal system and (f) make compliance easier.
  5. Further, the highlight of the new indirect tax system has been the way the GST Council which is the nodal body deciding rates and procedures has functioned.
  6. The council has addressed industry’s concerns and modified rules to make the system easier. This has given business confidence and will further accelerate ease of doing business for industry in India.

Budget may unveil a national warehousing grid to plug key gaps, Maharashtra model

  1. The Centre is likely to announce a scheme for an integrated warehousing network in the Budget, 2019.
  2. The aim of the scheme will be to operationalise a national warehousing grid’ to effectively integrate the highly fragmented warehousing market in India.
  3. The scheme is likely to be similar to Maharashtra where the government has kicked off a scheme for identifying warehouses spread across various government departments and institutions to be then taken over and managed by one nodal agency.
  4. Currently, much of the country’s warehousing capacity outside of the agriculture sector is in the unorganised sector with small warehouses of less than 10,000 sq ft area.
  5. According to NITI Aayog, out of the total warehousing space of about 180 million sq ft in the country, the industrial segment accounts for about 86% and the agricultural sector the rest 14%.Two-thirds of the warehousing capacity in the food storage segment is owned by the public sector.
  6. Further, the scheme comes at a time when India’s warehousing capacity, apart from conventional storing services is increasingly being used to offer value-added services such as the consolidation and breaking up of cargo, packaging, labelling, bar coding and reverse logistics.

India protects drug, agri biz at RCEP

  1. India and other developing countries have succeeded in withdrawing the three harmful provisions concerning pharmaceuticals and agriculture which were part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement.
  2. The provisions were taken off the negotiating table after India argued against the provisions of patent term extensions and data exclusivity.
  3. These provisions would have led to pharma monopolies which would give protection to MNC drugs even after patents have ended, thus delaying entry and exports of affordable generics across the world.
  4. The other significant provision relates to a tighter intellectual property (IP) regime on seed and planting materials which was potentially detrimental for the country’s agriculture sector.
  5. The provision would have led farmers losing the right to save or sell seeds or the harvested produce from plant varieties that have been granted intellectual property.
  6. Further, India had negotiated to reject high-level protections at RCEP under the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).UPOV is a provision going beyond World Trade Organization or WTO-plus.
  7. UPOV compliance means the demand for patent-like rights for plant varieties which will only favours seed MNCs. This would have led to restrictions on farmers inherent seed freedoms.
  8. The experience of PepsiCo suing farmers for IPR infringement in Gujarat in 2018-19 despite a supposedly unique farmer-friendly plant variety in the country ought to have convinced our trade negotiators how perversely such IPR laws can be enforced by powerful players.

K. Natarajan takes over as Director-General of Coast Guard

  1. The government has appointed K. Natarajan as the Director-General of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG).
  2. The Indian Coast Guard is a multi-mission organization entrusted with superintendence and policing of India’s maritime areas including the Exclusive Economic Zone.
  3. ICG was formally established in 1978 by the Coast Guard Act, 1978 as an independent Armed force of India. It operates under the Ministry of Defence.
  4. The organization is headed by the Director General Indian Coast Guard (DGICG).

Need to reduce centrally sponsored schemes to improve spending: N K Singh

  1. The Fifteenth Finance Commission Chairman N K Singh has said the number of centrally sponsored schemes currently exceeds 150 that needs to be reduced for better spending as revenue buoyancy in indirect taxes remains weak.
  2. Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) are schemes that are implemented by state governments of India but are largely funded by the Central Government with a defined State Government share.
  3. CSS is divided into three parts (a) core of the core (b) core and (c) optional .These are divided on the basis of financial involvement of the states. For example, the MGNREGA scheme which comes under the core of the core group will see the state pooling in 25% of funds whereas the rest is taken care of by the Centre.
  4. Similarly, schemes under the core group will see a higher share of state involvement of up to 40% whereas in optional schemes, states will fund up to 50%. However, financially backward states need to bear only 20% of the financial burden.
  5. On the other hand, Central Sector Schemes are the schemes that are entirely and directly funded and executed by the central government. The schemes are formulated by the Centre based on subjects from the Union List.

Abu Dhabi to host first ISA’s joint security exercise ISALEX19 beginning today

  1. Abu Dhabi is hosting International Security Alliance (ISAs) first joint security exercise named ISALEX19.
  2. Representatives of 50 law enforcement agencies from the member countries in the International Security Alliance (ISA) will be taking part in the first joint security exercise.
  3. The exercise will simulate a real -life security threat in a virtual context to test the readiness of the different teams and to evaluate the tools, strategies and procedures developed jointly between member countries since the launch of the Alliance in 2017.
  4. The International Security Alliance (ISA) was launched in Abu Dhabi in 2017.
  5. It is an international working group to confront organised, transnational and extremist crimes through joint security cooperation projects and the exchange of expertise on the practices implemented across these countries.
  6. The alliance now comprises nine countries which are (a) United Arab Emirates (b) France (c) Italian Republic (d) Bahrain (e) Morocco (f) Spain, (g) Senegal (h) Singapore and (I) Slovak Republic.

Centre to celebrate two years of GST

  1. To mark two years of GST implementation on 1st July 2019, the Finance Ministry has unveiled a new return filing mechanism besides a host of other reforms to simplify the indirect tax system.
  2. The finance minister has also said that GST has led to (a) Simplified Tax Structure (b) Easy Compliance (c) Seamless flow of tax credit and (d) creation of unified common national market.
  3. Further, the reforms which were introduced under the GST in the current fiscal are-
  4. New return system: This will enable traders to file returns in a single format once a month instead of multiple ones. SAHAJ & SUGAM Returns for small taxpayers are also proposed.
  5. Single Cash Ledger: Rationalisation of Cash Ledger in such a manner that earlier 20 heads are merged into 5 major heads. There is only one Cash Ledger for Tax, interest, penalty, fee & others.
  6. Single Refund Disbursing: The Central or State Government which sanctions refund disburses all four major heads of refunds namely CGST, SGST, IGST and Cess.
  7. Threshold limit for goods: Threshold Limit of Rs. 40 Lakhs is offered of suppliers of goods as per the choice of States.
  8. Composition Scheme for Services: Composition Scheme for small service providers up to annual turnover of Rs. 50 lakhs with a tax rate of 6%
  9. E-invoicing system: Electronic invoicing system in a phase-wise manner for Business to business transactions is proposed to be introduced.
  10. GSTAT: GST Appellate Tribunals are being established at various State Headquarters and area benches also.

PM Modi calls for Swachh-like water conservation mission

  1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a national effort to protect and augment India’s water resources on the lines of the Swachh Bharat programme.
  2. He has made 3 requests and urged all Indians to take collective action to conserve water. The three requests are: a) making water conservation a mass movement like Swachh Bharat programme, b) share traditional methods of water conservation and c) extend information about individuals and NGOs so that an extensive database can be created of those working in the field of water conservation.
  3. Recently, the Indian government announced to launch Jal Shakti Abhiyan in 255 water-stressed districts. The programme will run from July 1st to September 15th 2019.
  4. Jal Shakti Abhiyan is a time-bound, mission mode, water conservation and irrigation efficiency campaign for water security in India. 
  5. It aims at making water conservation and promotion of irrigation efficiency a ‘jan andolan’ (public campaign) through asset creation and communication campaigns.

In cities, recycle, reuse to be Jal Shakti Abhiyan’s mantra

  1. The first phase of Jal Shakti Abhiyan has started from 1st July. It will run till 15th September 2019.
  2. Jal Shakti Abhiyan is a time-bound, mission mode, water conservation and irrigation efficiency campaign for water security in India. 
  3. It aims at making water conservation and promotion of irrigation efficiency a ‘jan andolan’ (public campaign) through asset creation and communication campaigns in rural India.
  4. The intervention areas in rural India include: a) Water conservation and rainwater harvesting, b) Renovation of water bodies, c) Renovation of bore well recharge structures, d) Watershed development and e) intensive afforestation.
  5. Recycle and reuse will be the focus of Jal Shakti Abhiyan in urban areas.

82% shortfall in specialists puts healthcare on sick bed

  1. According to data from the Health Ministry, the gap between required and available specialists in health centres, is in the range of 80-99%.
  2. Further, there is a wide regional disparity in gap in demand and supply of nurses and pharmacists. For example: UTs and smaller states have a surplus. However, states like Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, and Maharashtra have shortages ranging from an average 45%-63%.
  3. Further, there is a shortfall of laboratory technicians. There is only 62% of the total lab technicians required at Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and Community health Centres (CHCs) across India.
  4. As per Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) norms, four specialists per CHS; one nursing staff per PHC and seven per CHC, and one lab technician and pharmacist per each PHC and CHC is required.

Government plans cow circuit to boost tourism

  1. The Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog has decided to establish a cow circuit to encourage cow tourism in India.
  2. The cow circuit will pass through places in the country that breed indigenous cows. The Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog has identified the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Goa for the cow circuit.
  3. At these places, the importance of indigenous cows will also be propagated to attract researchers. Further, the tourist places will also sell cow-based products which will help boost cow-based economy.
  4. The Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog was established by an order of the central government in February
  5. It seeks for conservation protection and development of cows and their progeny.
  6. The major functions of the Aayog is to a) provide the policy framework and direction to the cow conservation and development programmes and b) ensure proper implementation of laws with respect to the welfare of cows.

Cooperative helps take tribal crafts to Amazon’s global marketplace

  1. The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Federation (TRIFED) has signed an agreement to partner with the e-commerce company Amazon’s Global Selling Programme. The agreement will allow showcasing and sell of India’s tribal crafts at Amazon’s global marketplace.
  2. The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) was established in 1987. It is a national-level apex organization functioning under the administrative control of Ministry of Tribal Affairs
  3. The objective of TRIFED is socio-economic development of tribal people in the country by way of marketing development of the tribal products. It acts as a facilitator and service provider.
  4. TRIFED has announced that it would roll-out Vandhan programme soon. Launched in 2018, the scheme seeks to improve tribal incomes through value addition, packaging, distribution and marketing of minor forest produce.

Most see free legal aid as last-ditch option: report

  1. A study from National Law University, Delhi (NLUD) has found that people don’t have faith over the services of legal aid counsel (LAC) under the free legal aid services due to a variety of factors.
  2. According to the study, 75% of the surveyed beneficiaries opted for free legal aid service due to the dearth of resources to engage a private lawyer. Further, 22.6% of the beneficiaries responded that they won’t opt for free legal aid services for the second time.
  3. The survey found that 56% of LAC spends an average of 1 to 10 hours per week on legal aid cases. On the contrary, around 58% LAC spend on an average of 20 hours and above per week on private cases.
  4. Further, according to the survey, 52% of judicial officers rated the overall skill set of a private legal practitioner as of fairly good quality and that of LAC as of moderately low quality.
  5. The study has put forward few recommendations to improve the commitment of LACs. These include: a) giving LACs a permanent post in contrast to the current ad-hoc post, b) making honorarium for a legal aided case at par with private cases
  6. In 1987, the Legal Services Authorities (LSA) Act was enacted to give free and competent legal services to a person belonging to Schedule Tribe and Schedule Caste, woman, child, victim of human trafficking, differently abled person, industrial workman, and person in custody in a protective home and the poor.
  7. Under the Act, National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) and other legal service institutions at the State, district and taluka level were also constituted.

India signs ₹200 crore anti-tank missile deal with Russia

  1. India has signed a deal with Russia for buying ‘Strum Ataka’ anti-tank missiles for its fleet of Mi-35 attack helicopters.
  2. The deal for acquiring ‘Strum Ataka’ anti-tank missiles was signed with Russia under the emergency clauses.
  3. Under the emergency financial powers given to the three services (Army, Navy, Air force), they can buy the equipment of their choice within three months at a cost of up to Rs 300 crore per case.
  4. The IAF has earlier acquired the Spice 2000 guided bombs and various other bombs and missiles under these provisions to equip itself with sudden war.
  5. The Army is also acquiring the Spike-LR Anti-Tank Missiles from Israel and Igla-S Very Short Range Air Defence Systems (VSHORAD) from Russia under the same provisions.

WHO launches its first guidelines on self-care interventions for health

  1. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched guidelines on self-care interventions for health. The WHO’s first volume of guidelines focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
  2. The WHO’s definition of self-care is “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider.”
  3. The WHO has observed that promoting self-care is particularly important given the rising shortage of healthcare providers. It is estimated that there will be a shortage of 12.9 million healthcare workers by 2035.
  4. Some of the interventions put forward by WHO for self-care specific to SRHR include:  a) Self-collection of samples for common STIs, b) Self-sampling for human papillomavirus testing, c) Self-administration of injectable contraception, d) Home-based ovulation predictor kits, e) HIV self-testing and f) Self-management of medical abortion.
  5. The WHO has noted that supporting self-care interventions has the potential to a) strengthen national institutions to maximize efficient use of domestic resources for health, b) create health sector innovations by digital and mhealth approaches and c) improve access to medicines and interventions through optimal interfacing between health systems and sites of health care delivery.
  6. WHO has further noted that self-care is also a means for people who are negatively affected by gender, political, cultural and power dynamics.
  7. WHO has decided to establish a community of practice for self-care. It will also promote research and dialogue in this area during the Self-care month between June 24 and July 24.

Nagaland to initiate its own version of NRC from July 10

  1. In the lines of NRC of Assam, the Nagaland government has decided to set up Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN).
  2. The RIIN is aimed at preparing a master list of all indigenous peoples. It is being prepared to stop the issuance of fake indigenous inhabitant certificates.
  3. The exercise will be conducted through an extensive survey of residents in every village and ward in the state and will be based on existing official records. The list will be prepared under the supervision of each district administration.
  4. The exercise to prepare the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) will begin on July 10 and will be completed within 60 days.
  5. In Assam, the process to identifying illegal immigrants is being done by updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) which was first prepared in 1951. The final NRC will be published on July 31st 2019.
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