9 PM Current Affairs Brief – June 25, 2019

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House panel shies away from quantifying black money

  1. The parliamentary panel on finance of the 16th Lok Sabha has submitted its report to the Lok Sabha,
  2. The panel has said it is difficult to provide a credible estimate of the black money stashed away overseas by Indians. The panel suggested that black money could be anywhere ranging from 7-120% of the GDP.
  3. This massive range in the panel’s report is because of three studies by the (a) National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) (b) National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and the (c) National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM) who have provided widely varying results.
  4. The report has also said that the black money estimates could well be the tip of the proverbial iceberg because the larger part of the unaccounted wealth is held within the country.
  5. All three studies concluded that the maximum amount of black money was generated in realty, mining, pharmaceuticals, pan masala, gutka and tobacco industries.
  6. Besides bullion and commodity markets, the film industry, educational institutes, securities market and manufacturing too contributed to unaccounted wealth.
  7. Further, the committee has called for finalisation of the long-delayed Direct Taxes Code at the earliest to curb black money by simplifying and rationalising the direct tax laws in the country.
  8. Black money is the money on which appropriate taxes have not been paid to the government. It is generally obtained illegally and thus kept away from declaration.

Blacklisting Pakistan absolutely a possibility: FATF president

  1. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has said that Pakistan could be put on the watchdog’s blacklist if the country fails to fulfill its anti terror action plan.
  2. FATF President said that Pakistan has already missed two deadlines and decision in this regard would be taken in October 2019 where Pakistan will be assessed on the actions they have taken.
  3. Among the countries that participated at the plenary, China, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf Cooperation Council has asked the FATF to give Pakistan more time to follow the action plan.
  4. Being on a blacklist of the financial watchdog has the potential to severely cripple and isolate Pakistan financially that could lead to a downgraded credit rating and denial of loans and developmental assistance.
  5. Currently, FATF had put Pakistan on the greylist and hand it a 27-point action plan meant to be implemented within 18 months (by September 2019).
  6. India has been publicly pushing for Pakistan to be placed on the blacklist alongside Iran and North Korea for its failure to show credible, verifiable, irreversible and sustainable measures against terror groups operating within its territory.
  7. FATF is a global task force which was formed in 1989 by different countries to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other illegal activities related to international financial system.

US seeks other ways to stop Iran shy of war

  1. US intelligence and military officers are working on non-military plans to counter Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf.
  2. The goal is to develop operations similar to the cyber attacks which were conducted recently.
  3. Cyber Attack is a deliberate attempt by an individual or organization to breach the information system of another individual or organization.
  4. The cyber attack will be similar to the shadow war the United States has accused Iran of carrying out with attacks on oil tankers in the Middle East.
  5. Recently, US had carried out cyber attacks. These were aimed at an Iranian intelligence group that U.S officials believe was behind a series of attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf region.
  6. The U.S. operation was intended to take down the computers and networks used by the intelligence group at least temporarily. A separate online operation was also aimed at taking out computers that control Iranian missile launches.

Bombay HC notice to newly-appointed Cabinet ministers

  1. The Bombay High Court has issued notices to the ministers who were appointed in the Maharashtra cabinet on a plea challenging their appointment.
  2. The petitioner has said that they were appointed ministers despite the fact that they are disqualified on the ground of defection as per Schedule X and Article 191(2) of the Indian Constitution.
  3. The petitioners also said that these ministers being non-legislators are disqualified under the Constitution from holding a position of Member of Legislative Assembly or Member of Legislative Council.
  4. The petition highlights that section 151 A of the Representation of the People Act prohibits conduct of bye-elections if the remaining tenure is less than one year.
  5. As the tenure of the 13th Maharashtra Assembly shall expire on in less than a period of five months, there can be no bye-election and subsequent opportunity for the three ministers to be elected.
  6. Hence, the petition has asked for an interim injunction restraining them from acting as ministers including their participation in the meetings of the council of ministers and wants the court to issue a direction to Speaker to decide on the matter.

Aadhaar Bill introduced amid Opposition protests

  1. Union law minister has introduced the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha. The bill will now replace an ordinance issued in March,2019.
  2. The bill envisages strengthening of the Aadhaar Act as per the directions of the Supreme Court and recommendations of Justice B.N. Srikrishna.
  3. The bill says that no individual will be compelled to provide proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo authentication for the purpose of establishing his identity unless it is so provided by a law made by Parliament.
  4. For the convenience of the general public in the opening of bank accounts, the bill will allow the use of Aadhaar number for authentication on a voluntary basis as an acceptable KYC document under the Telegraph Act,1885 and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act,2002.
  5. The bill also gives an option to children who are Aadhaar number holders to cancel their Aadhaar number on attaining the age of eighteen years.
  6. The bill proposes deletion of section 57 of the Aadhaar Act relating to use of Aadhaar by private entities.
  7. The bill prevents denial of services for refusing to, or being unable to, undergo authentication. It provides for the establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India Fund.
  8. Further, the bill provides for civil penalties, its adjudication, appeal thereof in regard to violations of Aadhaar Act and provisions by entities in the Aadhaar ecosystem.

Effective tax base growth highest in five years

  1. Finance ministry has said that the effective taxpayer base has increased by 13.5% for the assessment year (AY) 2018-19.This is the highest rate in the last five years.
  2. The tax base which includes assessees filing I-T returns along with those whose tax is deducted at source rose to 8.44 crore in 2018-19 compared with 7.42 crore in FY18.
  3. However, the direct tax collection has missed the revised estimate by Rs 62,000 crore. The Budget estimate for the current fiscal shows that collections would need to increase by over 22% from actual collections.
  4. The e-returns filing also grew by nearly 19% in AY19 to 6.49 crore compared with 5.47 crore for AY18.
  5. Direct taxes are levied on a person’s or a firm’s income or wealth. The incidence and impact of the direct tax fall on the same person. Example: Income Tax, Corporation Tax, capital gains tax and Wealth Tax. The impact of direct tax is not Inflationary.

Passports with advanced security features soon

  1. External affairs minister has said that the manufacture of e-passports will be pursued on priority so that a new passport booklet with advanced security features can be rolled out in the near future.
  2. The minister also said that the ministry is soon going to have a chip based passport, the software for which has been developed by IIT-Kanpur and the National Informatics Centre (NIC).
  3. This passport will have a better quality of paper, better printing and will be enabled with advanced security features.
  4. The personal details of the applicants will be digitally signed and stored in the chip. In case it is tampered, the system will be able to identify it and the passport will not be authenticated.
  5. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has put down norms acceptable universally on how the e-passports can be read but it has no prescribed format on how personal information can be written and the safety features for e-passports.
  6. The process for the e-passport was initiated in 2017 in India. As per plans, the first in line for these passports will be diplomats and officials. Second in line will be the general public.

RBI’s customer-complaint processing goes digital

  1. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has launched a Complaint Management System (CMS). It is a software application to facilitate RBI’s grievance redressal processes.
  2. Customers can lodge complaints against any entity regulated by RBI with public interface such as commercial banks, urban cooperative banks, Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).
  3. This system will make sure that every complaint is received and grievances have to be resolved under a limited time period.
  4. The current grievance redressal mechanism is not completely online, which will not be the case with the CMS. The complainants will also be able to track the status of their complaints online.
  5. Currently, people with grievances about banking services have to lodge complaints at the banking ombudsman office falling in their jurisdiction.
  6. Banking Ombudsman is a quasi-judicial authority functioning under the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006. The authority was created to enable resolution of complaints of customers of banks relating to services rendered by the lenders.

It’s premature to count India out of the RCEP, says Centre

  1. India has said that it would be premature to suggest that India could be left out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
  2. This statement came after Malaysian Prime Minister had said that he would prefer to go ahead with the RCEP Pact immediately and allow countries such as India, Australia and New Zealand to join the pact at a future date.
  3. RCEP is proposed mega trade pact between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing Free trade agreements(FTA’s)(Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
  4. It aims to boost goods trade by eliminating most tariff and non-tariff barriers — a move that is expected to provide the region’s consumers greater choice of quality products at affordable rates. It also seeks to liberalise investment norms and do away with services trade restrictions.
  5. India has repeatedly advocated that the agreement needs to be comprehensive in nature. India is concerned about (a) trade pact will allow greater access to Chinese goods which may have an impact on the Indian manufacturing sector (b)There are demands by other RCEP countries for lowering customs duties on a number of products and greater access to foreign goods in the Indian market.
  6. Further, Australia and New Zealand are pushing for high quality rules around labour and environmental protections.
  7. Japan and South Korea have also been advocating for ‘TRIPS Plus’ IP protection regimes in the RCEP. If these proposals are agreed upon, then it could adversely affect the generic medicine sector in India by undermining provisions in Indian Patents Act.

Rivigo launches national freight index

  1. The logistics start-up Rivigo has launched National Freight Index(NFI) that will provide live freight rates for different lanes and vehicles across the country.
  2. Freight transportis the physical process of transporting commodities and merchandise goods and cargo.
  3. The NFI will offers an aggregated picture of both live rates and historical trends of spot price movements in the road freight industry. The index is represented in two forms (a)actual freight rates condensed to rupees per tonne-km and (b)relative movement with respect to a base month.
  4. This index will be a step towards easing the crisis in the freight sector and streamlining the sector by giving live spot rates on over 7 million lane and vehicle type combinations in the country.
  5. Further, the rates on the exchange and the index are computed using millions of data points from historical transactions, current market dynamics, micro market insights and other factors with the purpose of giving fair and precise representation of the state of the spot market.
  6. The Indian road freight market for 2018 is estimated to be in the range of USD 150-160 billion. About USD 130-140 billion of this is the Full Truck Load (FTL) market. Within this, Rivigo estimates that the spot freight market is about USD 110-130 billion and is growing at 9%-10% per year.

Reflection of faith

  1. The annual four-day Ambubachi Mela is being held at Amingaon near Guwahati, Assam.
  2. Ambubachi Mela is a festival to mark the annual menstruation of the goddess which is held at Kamakhya temple.
  3. The Ambubachi Mela symbolises the fertility cult of goddess Kamakhya. There is no idols in the temple, the goddess is worshipped in the form of a yoni-like stone over which a natural spring flows.
  4. Also known as Siddha Kubjika, the goddess is a Hindu tantric goddess of desire who evolved in the Himalayan hills. She is also identified as Kali and Maha Tripura.
  5. The festival is also known as ‘Mahakumbh of the East’ as it draws lakhs of devotees from all over the world. Ambubachi Mela is also considered as an occasion to promote awareness on menstrual hygiene.
  6. This ritualistic fair is one of the reasons why the taboo associated with menstruation is less in Assam compared with other parts of India.
  7. The Kamakhya Temple also known as Kamrup-Kamakhya temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the mother goddess Kamakhya. It is one of the oldest of the 51 Shakti Pithas.

Modi, Xi, Putin to meet in Osaka

  1. China has said that Indian Prime Minister, Chinese President and his Russian counterpart will hold their second trilateral summit in Osaka, Japan.
  2. This meeting will take place on the side-lines of the upcoming two-day G-20 summit. China has also signalled that the trilateral mechanism of Russia, India and China (RIC) had now become institutionalised.
  3. RIC meeting is important as Russia, India and China are countries that carry important voices in international politics and have the potential to significantly influence world events.
  4. The RIC has been viewed as a restraining force on any unquestioned Western hegemony.
  5. The RIC countries have been working together in various regional and global organizations such as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China).
  6. Further, the three countries will also meet meet again for the Eastern Economic Forum where Indian PM will be the chief guest.
  7. Eastern Economic Forum is an international forum held each year in Vladivostok, Russia for the purpose of encouraging foreign investment in the Russia Far East.
  8. The Eastern Economic Forum is considered as the biggest international communication platform for cooperation between business leaders and senior government representatives from Russia, the Pacific Region and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

US unveils 50 Billion Dollar Economic Plan for Palestine

  1. United States has unveiled a 50 billion dollar global investment plan for the Palestinians under the Middle East peace plan.
  2. The scheme calls for a mix of public and private financing and intends to create at least a million new jobs for Palestinians.
  3. The plan also outlines ambitions for free and secure movement of people and goods across borders to increase trading opportunities.
  4. But the plan makes no reference to longstanding Israeli objections to foreign investment and trade with the blockaded Gaza strip.
  5. However, the Palestinian President has rejected the economic plan and the US peace effort. He said that the economic situation should not be discussed before the political one.
  6. Recently, the US had recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights reversing half a century of US policy.
  7. Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria after a decisive victory in the war of 1967 and applied Israeli law to the region in 1981,an annexation that was rejected by the international community.
  8. Further, US had also moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, overturning decades of US policy that said the final status of the contested holy city was to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.

UAE launches UN-developed anti-money laundering platform

  1. The UAE Central Bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has launched the new anti-money laundering platform called goAML.
  2. The platform will help facilitate law enforcement authorities in the receipt, analysis and dissemination of suspicious transactions including money laundering.
  3. The goAML system is the first platform to go live in the Gulf countries. It was developed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to help in combating both money laundering and financing of terrorism.
  4. The platform will act as an integral part of the FIU by elevating its IT structure, strengthening a country-wide cooperation against criminal activity.
  5. The platform will be used by financial institutions (banks, exchange houses, finance companies),law enforcement agencies such as police and designated non-financial businesses and professions.
  6. UNODC was established in 1997 through a merger between the United Nations Drug Control Programme and the Centre for International Crime Prevention.
  7. UNODC is a global leader in the fight against illicit drugs and international crime. It relies on voluntary contributions, mainly from governments for 90% of its budget. UNODC is mandated to assist Member States in their struggle against illicit drugs, crime and terrorism.
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