9 PM Current Affairs Brief – November 26th, 2019

Atal Beemit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana

News:Union Minister of State (I/C) for Labour and Employment has informed Lok Sabha about Atal Beemit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana.

Facts:

About Atal Beemit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana:

  • Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana is a welfare measure being implemented by the Employees State Insurance(ESI) Corporation.
  • The scheme was launched in 2018.It is implemented on pilot basis for a period of two years initially.
  • It offers a relief payable in cash directly to the Bank Account in case an insured person is rendered unemployed and is in search for new engagement.
  • The scheme is for Insured Persons covered under the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948.
  • Under the scheme,the cash benefit given to the unemployed persons searching for new employment is 25% of his average earnings of 90 days.

Eligibility for the scheme:

  • The Insured Person should have been rendered unemployed during the period the relief is claimed.
  • The Insured Person should have been in insurable employment for a minimum period of two years.
  • The Insured Person should have contributed not less than 78 days during each of the preceding four contribution periods.
  • The contingency of unemployment should not have been as a result of any punishment for misconduct or superannuation or voluntary retirement.
  • In case the IP is working for more than one employer and is covered under the ESI scheme he will be considered unemployed only in case he is rendered unemployed with all employers.

Additional information:

About Employees State Insurance Act,1948:

  • The Employees’ State Insurance Act 1948 was the first major legislation on social security for workers in India.
  • The act provides for medical, cash, maternity, disability and dependent benefits to the Insured Persons under the Act.
  • The Act is administered by the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC).
  • The ESIC is a Statutory Body and Administrative body under the Ministry of Labour and Employment,Government of India.

Rohtang Tunnel Likely To Open In May Next Year

News:The Rohtang tunnel being built on the Leh-Manali highway may become operational in the next six months.

Facts:

About Rohtang Tunnel:

  • The Rohtang tunnel is being built in the Eastern Pir Panjal ranges on the Leh-Manali Highway under the Rohtang Pass.
  • It will become the world’s longest highway tunnel above 10,000 feet.
  • The development work of the Rohtang tunnel project is being carried out by the Border Roads Organisation(BRO).
  • The project also has significant strategic implications for the military as it will allow access beyond Rohtang Pass even in peak winters.
  • The tunnel will reduce the road distance by nearly 46 km and will save up to 5 hours between Manali and Keylong.Also,it has the capacity to ply 3,000 vehicles per day under any weather condition.

Additional information:

About Rohtang Pass:

  • Rohtang Pass (elevation 3,978 m) is located in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
  • It is present on the Pir Panjal Range of Himalayas.It connects the Kullu Valley with Lahaul and Spiti Valleys of Himachal Pradesh.
  • The Ravi river rises west of the Rohtang pass in the Kullu hills of Himachal Pradesh.

About BRO:

  • The Border Roads Organisation(BRO) was formed in 1960 to secure India’s borders and develop infrastructure in remote areas of the north and north-east states of the country.It functions under the control of the Ministry of Defence since 2015.
  • BRO executes road construction and maintenance works along the northern and western frontiers primarily to meet the strategic requirements of the army and is responsible for maintenance of over 53,000 km of roads.

Explained:Nomura’s Food Vulnerability Index(NFVI)

News:According to a report by Nomura Global Market Research, India is ranked 44 out of 110 countries in Nomura’s Food Vulnerability Index.

Facts:

About Nomura’s Food Vulnerability Index:

  • Nomura is a financial services group with an integrated global network spanning over 30 countries.It is headquartered in Japan.
  • Nomura’s Food Vulnerability Index(NFVI) ranks countries on the basis of their exposure to large swings in food prices.
  • NFVI has three components namely (a)country’s GDP per person (b)the share of food in household consumption and (c)the net food imports.
  • Typically,lower per capita GDP, higher share of food in household consumption and high net food imports would make a country more vulnerable to spikes in food prices.

Key takeaways from the index:

  • According to the report,the 50 countries most vulnerable to food price surges in the coming months largely belong to the Emerging Market group.
  • The top 50 together account for almost 60 percent of the global population reflecting the massive number of individuals and households that are vulnerable.

Index on India:

  • India has been ranked 44 out of 110 countries.India was ranked higher due to rise in India’s retail inflation at 4.6% because of the jump in food prices.
  • Under the retail inflation,food inflation grew by almost 8% which is almost double the rate of overall retail inflation.
  • The key items that contributed to this rise were pulses (inflation rate 12%), vegetables (inflation rate 26%) and fish and meat (inflation rate of 10%).

Khelo India – National Programme for Development of Sports

News:Union Minister of State (I/C) for Youth Affairs and Sports has informed Lok Sabha about the Khelo India programme.

Facts:

About Khelo India Programme:

  • Khelo India Programme was introduced by the Ministry of Sports and Youth affairs to revive sports culture in India at grass-root level.
  • The objective of the programme is to build a strong framework for all sports played in our country and establish India as a great sporting nation.
  • The programme is the merger of following schemes (a)Rajiv Gandhi Khel Abhiyan(RGKA) (b)Urban Sports Infrastructure Scheme(USIS) and (c)National Sports Talent Search Scheme (NSTSS).
  • Under the programme,talented players are identified in priority sports disciplines at various levels by High-Powered Committed and each will be provided annual financial assistance of Rs. 5 lakh for 8 years.
  • Under this scheme,State wise budget allocation is not made and projects are sanctioned based on their viability. Funds are released project wise.
  • Further,Khelo India School Games are also conducted as a part of the Khelo India programme.

Components of the programme:To accomplish the above objectives, Khelo India programme has been divided into 12 verticals,namely:

Key WTO body may become dysfunctional from December 11

News:The World Trade Organization’s(WTO) appellate body could become dysfunctional on December 11,2019 as the United States continues to block the appointment of members.

Facts:

About WTO’s Appellate Body:

  • The World Trade Organization’s(WTO) Appellate Body was set up in 1995.
  • It is a standing committee of seven members that presides over appeals against judgments passed in trade-related disputes brought by WTO members.
  • The countries involved in a dispute over measures purported to break a WTO agreement or obligation can approach the Appellate Body if they feel the report of the panel set up to examine the issue needs to be reviewed on legal basis.
  • The Appellate Body can uphold, modify or reverse the legal findings of the panel that heard the dispute.Countries on either or both sides of the dispute can appeal.

What is the problem with the Appellate Body:

  • Over the last two years, the membership of the body has dwindled to just three persons instead of the required seven.
  • This is because the United States which believes the WTO is biased against it has been blocking appointments of new members and reappointments of members who have completed their four-year tenures.
  • At least three people are required to preside over an appeal and if new members are not appointed to replace the two retiring ones, the body will cease to be relevant by December 11,2019.

What happens if the body becomes dysfunctional?

  • If the appellate body is declared non-functional,it will not be able to review the new applications.
  • This will compel the countries to implement rulings by the panel even if they feel that gross errors have been committed.
  • However,if a country refuses to comply with the order of the panel on the grounds that it has no avenue for appeal, it will run the risk of facing arbitration proceedings initiated by the other party in the dispute.

Additional information:

About WTO:

  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations.
  • The WTO officially commenced in 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement signed by 124 nations replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
  • Currently,it has 164 members and 22 observer governments with Afghanistan and Liberia being the latest to join.

MILAN Exercise off the East Coast

News:The Naval Exercise MILAN 2020 is scheduled to be held at Visakhapatnam in March,2020.

Facts:

About Exercise MILAN:

  • MILAN is a series of biennial multilateral naval exercise conducted by Indian Navy.It was first held in the year 1995.
  • It is aimed to enhance professional interaction between friendly foreign navies and learn from each other’s strengths and best practices in the maritime domain.
  • It was conducted at Andaman and Nicobar Command(ANC) until last year and is being conducted for the first time on the mainland at Eastern Naval Command(ENC).
  • The areas of cooperation of the exercise includes capacity building, marine domain awareness, training, hydrography, technical assistance, and operational exercises.

About Exercise MILAN 2020:

  • In Exercise MILAN 2020,Indian Navy will host naval officers and sailors from 41 nations.However,China has not been extended an invitation to take part in the event.
  • The 41 countries which have been invited are:-

Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 introduced in Lok Sabha

News:Finance Minister has introduced the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha.

Facts:

Key features of the bill:

  • Currently, domestic companies with an annual turnover of up to Rs 400 crore pay income tax at the rate of 25%.For other domestic companies, the tax rate is 30%. 
  • The bill provides domestic companies with an option to pay tax at the rate of 22% plus surcharge at 10% and cess at 4% provided they do not claim certain deductions under the Income Tax Act.They would also not be subjected to Minimum Alternate Tax(MAT).
  • These include deductions for: (a) newly established units in Special Economic Zones (b) expenditure on scientific research and skill development projects (c) investment in new machinery/ plant in notified backward areas (d) depreciation of new machinery/ plant and (e) various other provisions.
  • The bill also provides for new domestic manufacturing companies with an option to pay income tax at the rate of 15% plus surcharge and Cess provided manufacturing unit must be incorporated on or before October,2019 and must start production by March,2023.
  • Further,the bill also specifies that the provisions regarding payment of Minimum Alternate Tax(MAT) will not apply to companies opting for the new tax rates.
  • However,a company which does not opt for the concessional tax regime and avails the tax exemption/incentive shall continue to pay tax at the pre-amended rate.

Additional information:

About MAT:

  • MAT stands for Minimum Alternative Tax.It was introduced by the Finance Act,1987 with effect from assessment year 1988-89.Later on,it was withdrawn and then reintroduced in 1996.
  • The objective of introduction of MAT is to bring into the tax net zero tax companies who in spite of having earned substantial book profits(the profit shown in the profit and loss account) do not pay tax due to various tax concessions and incentives provided under the Income-tax Law.

About Cess and surcharge:

  • A cess is a tax that is levied by the government to raise funds for a specific purpose.
  • On the other hand,Surcharge is an additional charge or tax levied on an existing tax.Unlike cess,which is meant to raise revenue for a temporary need,surcharge is usually permanent in nature.

Explained: What is the Bodoland dispute, and who are the NDFB?

News:The central government extended the ban on the Assam-based insurgent group National Democratic Front of Bodoland(NDFB) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,1967 by five more years.

Facts:

About Bodoland Dispute:

  • Bodos are the single largest tribal community in Assam making up over 5-6% of the state’s population.They have controlled large parts of Assam in the past.
  • The Bodos have had a long history of separatist demands marked by armed struggle.They demanded for a separate state called Bodoland.
  • This demand led to the signing of Bodo Accord in 2003.The accord provides for the establishment of a Bodoland Territorial Council under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
  • The four districts in Assam namely Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang constitutes the Bodo Territorial Area District(BTAD).

About National Democratic Front of Bodoland(NDFB):

  • The National Democratic Front of Bodoland(NDFB) is an armed separatist outfit which seeks to obtain a sovereign Bodoland for the Bodo people.
  • It is designated as a terrorist organisation by the Government of India. NDFB traces its origin to Bodo Security Force, a militant group formed in 1986.
  • The current name was adopted in 1994 after the group rejected Bodo Accord signed between the Government of India and ABSU-BPAC.
  • The group has carried out several attacks in Assam targeting non-Bodo civilians as well as the security forces.

Additional information:

About Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution:

  • The Constitution of India makes special provisions for the administration of the tribal dominated areas in four states namely Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
  • As per article 244 and 6th Schedule,these areas are called “Tribal Areas”,which are technically different from the Scheduled Areas under fifth schedule.
  • The Governors of these four states are empowered to declare some tribal dominated districts / areas of these states as autonomous districts and autonomous regions.
  • It provides for the creation of autonomous District and Regional Councils in these tribal areas and they enjoy a certain degree of administrative, legislative, judicial and financial autonomy.

Centre tables SPG (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha

News:Government has introduced the SPG (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha.

Facts:

About the SPG (Amendment) Bill:

  • The bill amends the Special Protection Group Act,1988.It entitles only the country’s Prime Minister to security services from the Special Protection Group(SPG).
  • The Bill has also sought to provide SPG cover to the former Prime ministers and their family members not beyond five years from the date the Prime Minister demits office
  • At present,the law allows the SPG to protect former Prime Ministers and their families for a period of 10 years after the end of term.Additionally,it leaves the scope for an extension of the cover beyond ten years in case the perceived threats justifies it.
  • The bill also says that SPG will not provide security to family members of a prime minister and former PMs if they do not live with them in their official residence.

Additional information:

About SPG:

  • Special protection group(SPG) was set up in 1985 after the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi as an executive body on the recommendation of Birbal Nath committee.
  • Later on it became a statutory body under Special Protection Group Act,1988.
  • SPG is governed by the Cabinet secretariat of India.It is headed by an officer of the rank of inspector-general.
  • The act was amended in 2002 to make provision for an annual review.The review is based on threat perception that is conducted by security agencies.

Corporate Social Responsibility undertaken by Oil PSUs

News:Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas has informed Lok Sabha about the initiatives undertaken by Oil PSUs as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR).

Facts:

About Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR):

  • Corporate social responsibility(CSR) was initiated through the Companies Act, 2013.
  • The act mandates companies and government organisations with (a)turnover of Rs1,000 crore or more(b)net worth exceeding Rs 500crore or (c)having more than Rs 5 crore in net profits to spend 2% of average net profit of the preceding three years on CSR.
  • The provisions of CSR are not only applicable to Indian companies but also applicable to branch and project offices of a foreign company in India.
  • The qualifying company is required to constitute a CSR Committee consisting of 3 or more directors.
  • The Committee will formulate and recommend to the Board, a policy which indicates the activities to be undertaken, allocate resources and monitor the CSR Policy of the company.
  • The CSR amount can be spent on initiatives that would have social, economic and environmental impact or a way to give back to the society.
  • Government has also widened the scope of CSR activities and companies can now contribute towards research across various fields such as science, technology and medicine.
  • Besides,CSR funds can also be spent on incubators funded by the Centre or state or any state-owned companies.

Additional information:

About Injeti Srinivas Committee on CSR:

  • Government had formed a High Level Committee on Corporate social responsibility(CSR) under the Chairmanship of Corporate Affairs Secretary Injeti Srinivas.
  • The committee has recommended that CSR expenditure should be eligible for tax deduction under the income tax law.Currently,income tax law does not allow CSR spends as tax deductible amount.
  • It has suggested to align Schedule 7 of the Companies Act which outlines the kinds of activities that qualify as CSR with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • It has also recommended a provision to carry forward of unspent CSR balance for a period of three to five years.
  • The violation of CSR compliance may be made a civil offence and shifted to the penalty regime.
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