9 PM Current Affairs Brief – June 17, 2019

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GST Council may give one-year extension to anti-profiteering authority

  1. The GST Council is likely to extend the tenure of the National Anti-profiteering Authority (NAA) till November 30, 2020.
  2. Besides, the Council will also discuss a proposal to levy Goods and Services Tax (GST) on extra-neutral alcohol (ENA) which is used for manufacturing alcoholic liquor for human consumption.
  3. ENA is a derivative of sugarcane molasses and is not an alcoholic liquor for human consumption but can be used as a raw material or input after processing and substantial dilution in the production of whisky, gin, country liquor.
  4. The NAA has been constituted under Section 171 of the Central GST Act, 2017 to ensure that the reduction in the rate of tax or the benefit of input tax credit is passed on to the recipient by way of commensurate reduction in prices.
  5. Profiteering means unfair profit realized by traders by manipulating prices, tax rate adjustment. In the context of the Goods and services tax (GST),profiteering means that traders are not reducing the prices of the commodities when the GST Council reduces the tax rates of commodities and services.
  6. NAA’s main function is to ensure that traders are not realizing unfair profit by charging high price from the consumers in the name of GST.The responsibility of the NAA is to examine and check such profiteering activities and recommend punitive actions including cancellation of licenses.

Drugs of 18 pharma firms found substandard since 2018

  1. According to a document, the Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) has found 25 batches of drugs of 18 pharmaceutical companies to be of substandard quality since January 2018.
  2. While 17 out of the 18 companies are private, one is a public sector unit (PSU) which is  the Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited (IDPL).
  3. Of these, seven companies have been blacklisted for two years which means they are barred from supplying generic drugs to Jan Aushadhi scheme.
  4. Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) is the implementing agency of Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP).
  5. BPPI was established in 2008 and comes under the Department of Pharmaceuticals. It got registered as an independent society in 2010 under the Societies Registration Act,1860.
  6. BPPI primarily focuses on coordinating marketing of the generic drugs through the Jan Aushadhi stores and sourcing of medicines from Pharma CPSUs and Private Sector. It also manages the supply chain and ensures proper running of the Jan Aushadhi stores.
  7. Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) is a campaign launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses. Jan Aushadhi stores have been set up to provide generic drugs.
  8. A generic drug is a copy of drug medication created to be the same as an already marketed brand-name drug. It equals in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use.
  9. Once patents have expired, companies other than the original manufacturer can produce and sell the drug. This usually results in significant reduction in costs. These off-patent drugs are called generics internationally.

In relief to India, Maldives may scrap ocean deal with China

  1. Maldives Government has decided to scrap an agreement with China which was signed by the previous government in 2017.
  2. The agreement titled ‘Protocol on Establishment of Joint Ocean Observation Station’ was reportedly meant to allow China to build an observatory at Makunudhoo, westernmost atoll of the Maldives in the north.
  3. This agreement had raised security concerns in India that construction of such an observatory would allow China to keep an eye on the important Indian Ocean shipping route through which many merchant and other ships pass.
  4. In the recent visit, Indian PM while referring to Maldives external debts to China had said that India’s role in the partnership is meant to empower and not weaken countries by increasing dependency on the country.
  5. Further, the biggest concern for India in terms of its maritime security has been the increasing maritime expansion of China in the region since the Chinese navy had entered the Indian Ocean and China announced its fully functional naval base in Djibouti in 2017.

India can boost exports of 300 products to US, China amid trade war: Report

  1. According to a study by the Commerce Ministry, the on going trade war between the US & China offers an opportunity to India for boosting exports of as many as 350 products.
  2. Both the US and China are imposing heavy import duties on each other’s products which has triggered a trade war.
  3. Trade war is a situation where countries restrict each other’s trade by imposing tariffs or quotas on imports.
  4. According to the study, as much 151 domestic products including diesel, X-ray tubes and certain chemicals have an outright advantage to displace the US exports to China.
  5. Similarly,203 Indian goods like rubber and graphite electrodes have the advantage to displace Chinese exports to the US.
  6. The study also says that on going trade war may bring about a shift in the global trading patterns due to spill over effects and displacement of the bilaterally traded communities to other countries.
  7. Further, increasing exports would help India narrow the widening trade deficit with China, which stood at USD 50.12 billion during April-February 2018-19.

This will be a tough budget to balance

  1. There will be two major policy events taking place in the coming days which are the Budget and a GST Council meeting.
  2. Both will reveal the government’s intent and vision for the next five years. While there are a number of issues that it can take up at both these events, there are three main problems that are important.
  3. The first is the issue of private investment which despite the government efforts so far has not recovered enough to shoulder its share of the burden as a prime driver of economic growth.
  4. The second issue is the fiscal deficit and whether the government is artificially stopping itself by curtailing public expenditure in order to meet an arbitrary target which means can the government afford to shift the target meaningfully to say 4% from the current 3.4%.
  5. The third important policy element is whether the government can afford to reduce GST rates even further and whether there are any more steps it can take to widen the tax net.
  6. The government has taken several policy measures for creating an environment for the private sector to grow such as the (a)Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (b)Make in India initiative (c)power sector reforms, (d)easing of FDI norms and (e)efforts to improve the ease of doing business.
  7. However, there are a few steps the government can take that can make it more attractive for the private sector to invest such as (a)Government continuing its spending on capital expenditure and (b)Reducing the corporate tax rate to 25% from 30% for the rest of the big companies.
  8. Further, there is private consumption expenditure which has began to show signs of weakness. The government should encourage individuals to spend more is to increase the amount of money in their pockets by reducing the tax burden.
  9. The economists has recommended that Government should look at collapsing the GST rates from 12% and 18% categories into a 15-16% single category which will help in expanding the tax base and increase tax compliance.

It’s too early to call off SAARC and say it isn’t relevant or viable: Bhutan PM

  1. Bhutan Prime Minister has talked about the major themes in Indo-Bhutan relations, the SAARC region as well as Indian Prime Minister upcoming visit to Bhutan.
  2. He said that India and Bhutan ties are at their highest possible point in relations as both countries has no outstanding issues.
  3. The two countries are cooperating on various projects such as Mangdechhu project which is in the final stages of completion and other bilateral projects such as the South Asia Satellite programme.
  4. On the Indian proposal of a Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) within the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) grouping, Bhutan PM said that the country signing on to BBIN for the economic benefits must be balanced with our desire to preserve our environment, tradition and culture too.
  5. Further, he said that it is too early to call off SAARC. Geographically, we are grouped together but we aren’t doing well economically together.
  6. He also said that India and Pakistan need to work together for South Asian region as nothing can move ahead without their cooperation.
  7. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation(SAARC) was established with the signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka on 8 December 1985.
  8. SAARC comprises of eight Member States namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The Secretariat of SAARC is in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Bhutan PM says China must maintain status quo on Doklam

  1. Bhutan’s Prime Minister has said that China should maintain status quo in the Doklam region. He said that as long as the status quo was maintained there will be peace and tranquillity in the region.
  2. This statement came in the backdrop of China building up of military infrastructure on the Chinese side of the Doklam plateau that has been part of a boundary dispute between Bhutan and China.
  3. He also said that the boundary talks between China and Bhutan had made good progress with 25 rounds completed. However, he reiterated Bhutan’s policy of not establishing ties with any permanent member of the UN Security Council.
  4. Doklam is an 89 sq.km patch of territory in Chumbi Valley between Sikkim and Bhutan which is claimed by China. It’s called the Donglang region by China,Bhutan calls it Doklam Plateau and India refers to it as Doka La.
  5. In 2017,Indian had objected a road construction by China in the Doklam plateau. In this context, Bhutan had formally launched a diplomatic protest complaint against China and also stated that its sovereign territory is being violated. Further, this was seen by India as a threat for its own borders and an assault on Bhutan
  6. However, India and China mutually agreed to de-escalate tensions in the Doklam plateau bringing closure to the dispute that created fears of outright armed conflict between the two nuclear weapon states.
  7. This region holds immense strategic importance for India and China. Lying east of Sikkim, it has a commanding view of the Chumbi valley and overlooks the narrow Siliguri Corridor that links the North-East to the rest of India.

PM Modi calls for all-party meet on ‘one nation, one election’

  1. Prime Minister has called a meeting of all parties represented in Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha to discuss the issue of ‘one nation, one election’.
  2. One Nation, One Election is the method of holding single elections for both Lok Sabha and States instead of separate and continuous elections.
  3. One Nation, One Election is needed as India being one of the largest countries in the world, every year one or the other state is geared up for an election in India.
  4. Further, the separate elections leads to (a) massive expenditure (b) diversion of security and civil staff from primary duties (c)impact on governance due to the model code of conduct and (d)disruption to normal public life.
  5. However, to conduct simultaneous elections in India, many amendments to the constitution of India are required. Besides, the deployment of security forces located in widely varying geographic and climatic conditions at the same time will also be extremely difficult
  6. Simultaneous elections would mean arbitrarily curtailing or extending the term of existing legislatures to bring their election dates in line with the due date for the rest of the country. Such a measure would undermine democracy and federalism.
  7. One Nation One Poll’ is a good idea for Indian polity but its feasibility needs to be thoroughly examined by involving all the stakeholders in debate and discussion.

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought: 17 June

  1. The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought (WDCD) is observed on 17th June. The theme for 2019 is “Let’s grow the future together”. Global observance of WDCD is being hosted by the government of Turkey in Ankara.
  2. World Day to Combat Desertification 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management
  3. The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed every year since 1995. In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 17 the “World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought”.
  4. The day aims to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification. It seeks to remind people that land degradation neutrality is achievable through problem-solving, strong community involvement and co-operation at all levels.
  5. Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations. According to UNCCD, by 2045 some 135 million people may be displaced as a result of desertification.
  6. Goal 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) calls for sustainable management of forests, combating desertification, halting and reversing land degradation, halting biodiversity loss.

G20 agrees to tackle ocean plastic waste

  1. At the recent G20 Ministerial Meeting on Energy Transitions and Global Environment for Sustainable Growth, held in Japan, G20 economies has adopted a new implementation framework for actions to combat marine plastic pollution.
  2. The new framework is aimed at facilitating further concrete action on marine waste, on a voluntary basis. In 2017, at G20 Hamburg Summit in Germany, the member countries had adopted the “G20 action plan on marine litter”. The plan seeks to promote and initiate measures and actions at local, national, and regional levels to prevent and reduce marine litter.
  3. Under the new framework, G20 members are tasked with promoting a comprehensive approach to prevent and reduce plastic waste discharge to the oceans through various measures and international cooperation.
  4. Further, the member countries will share best practices, promote innovation and boost scientific monitoring and analytical methodologies.
  5. Japan has decided to host the first meeting under the new framework 2019 autumn at the G20 Resource Efficiency Dialogue.
  6. Plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental crisis today. Researchers estimate that more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s. About 60% of that plastic has ended up in either a landfill or the natural environment.

Qualifying for Leader of the Opposition

  1. There is an uncertainty over selection of a formally recognised Opposition party and the Leader of Opposition in the 17th Lok Sabha.
  2. There is no provision in the Constitution or in the Lok Sabha Rules of Procedure in regard to the recognition of the LoP.
  3. By convention, an Opposition party can claim to have a Leader of Opposition in any of the houses provided the party has won 10% of the seats (55 in the Lok Sabha, which is a 543-member house).
  4. There was no Leader of Opposition till 1969 and the concept emerged only after the break-up of erstwhile Congress party in power. The 10% condition was put forward by GV Mavalankar, the first Lok Sabha speaker. Mavalankar had ruled in the Lok Sabha that the strength of the main Opposition party, to be officially recognised as such, must be equal to the quorum of the house. Quorum is equivalent to 10% of the members.
  5. The statutory definition of the Leader of Opposition has been provided in the Salary and Allowances of Leader of Opposition Act of 1977. According to the Act, Leader of Opposition will be from the Opposition party having the greatest numerical strength and recognised as such by the Lok Sabha Speaker or the Rajya Sabha Chairperson in the respective houses.
  6. The 1977 Act has not set the 10% condition as a prerequisite for Leader of Opposition.  The 10% condition for LoP has been incorporated in Direction 121(1) in Parliament (Facilities) Act 1998.
  7. Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha is an important position  as the LoP is involved in appointments to key offices including that of the Lokpal, CBI director, chief vigilance commissioner, chief information commissioner and the chairperson of the NHRC

Online payment of bills: Four-fold surge in rural and semi-urban India

  1. An analysis of Common Service Centres (CSC) data from 2014 to 2019 has shown that there has been a four-fold increase in the number of transactions through CSCs since 2014.
  2. Common Services Centre (CSC) programme is an initiative of the Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY). It was launched in 2006. CSCs act as access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India.
  3. CSC e-Governance Services India Limited is a Special Purpose Vehicle (CSC SPV) incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to monitor the implementation of the Common Services Centres Scheme.
  4. The Government launched the CSC 2.0 scheme in 2015 to expand the outreach of CSCs to all Gram Panchayats across the country. Under CSC 2.0 scheme, the aim was to set up at least one CSC in each of the 2.5 lakh GPs across the country by 2019.
  5. In 2016, CSC- Wi-Fi Choupal was initiated. It seeks to boost internet connectivity at the last mile by utilizing Bharat Net infrastructure. It engages Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) as Community Internet Service Providers.
  6. Bharat Net project (previously known as National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN)) seeks to provide high speed broadband connectivity to all gram panchayats across India.
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