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9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – March 26, 2021

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

About 9 PM Brief- With the 9 PM Daily Current affairs for UPSC brief we intend to simplify the newspaper reading experience. In 9PM briefs, we provide our reader with a summary of all the important articles and editorials from three important newspapers namely The Hindu, Indian Express, and Livemint. This will provide you with analysis, broad coverage, and factual information from a Mains examination point of view.

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Why Electoral Bond Scheme should be declared unconstitutional?

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency and Accountability.

Synopsis: The electoral bonds scheme violates the core principles of the Indian Constitution. It must be declared unconstitutional by the courts.

Background

  • The Electoral Bond Scheme was notified by the Government of India in 2018.
  • For the last three years, electoral bonds have been the dominant method of political party funding in India.
  • It allows for limitless and anonymous corporate donations to political parties.
  • Anonymous electoral funding of elections without any limit is against the democratic electoral process. It violates core principles of the Indian Constitution.
  • So, petitions were filed in the supreme court to scrap the unconstitutional Electoral Bond Scheme.

Why the Electoral Bond Scheme is unconstitutional?

The electoral bond scheme is unconstitutional because it,

      • Violates the right to know of the citizens.
      • Provides a way for uncapped political donations,
      • Violate equality before the law.
      • Against multi-party democracy.
      • Provides a source for black money in elections.
  • First, it violates the fundamental rights of citizens- the Right to Know. The Supreme Court has stated that the “right to know”, is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression under the Indian Constitution.
  • Second, it will give rise to a Corporate-political nexus. It has been largely accepted that across democratic societies, money is the most effective way of buying a policy. Due to a lack of information on the source of funds, it is impossible to assess whether a government policy is designed to benefit its funders.
  • Third, limitless and anonymous donations increase the role of money in politics. It will hamper the healthy functioning of Democracy.
  • Fourth, it creates unequal contests between the Opposition and the ruling party. Since the donations are channeled through the State Bank of India, it is possible for the government to find out the source of donations of opposition.
    • Government has the power to restrict donations to rival political parties. For example, in the last three years, the ruling party has received more donations compared to other parties.
  • Fifth, it will result in increasing institutional corruption. The electoral bonds scheme allows even foreign donations to political parties. This is also against the defense of the government that states the purpose of the electoral bonds scheme is to prevent the flow of black money into elections.

What is the role of courts and how they have responded?

  • In a functioning democracy, the role of an independent judiciary is to protect the fundamentals of the democratic process.
  • The courts need to be cognizant of the laws and rules that violate the democratic process.
  • Despite the Electoral Bond Scheme creating unequal competition, and seeking to enforce one-party rule over multi-party democracy, the judiciary has remained silent.
  • The petition challenging the constitutional validity of the electoral bonds scheme was filed in 2018. But it has been left unheard for three years.

What is the way forward?

  • First, to reduce the role of money in elections, public money should be used for funding elections. This will create a level playing field among the political parties contesting elections.
  • Second, there needs to be caps or limits on financial contributions to political parties.
  • Third, the judiciary should fast-track cases that are vital to the future health of Indian democracy.
  • Fourth, the Electoral Bond Scheme that gives undue advantage to the ruling party needs to be declared unconstitutional.

The entire purpose of democracy, which as B.R. Ambedkar rightly pointed out, was not just to guarantee one person, one vote, but one vote one value.


Brief Analysis of India- Bangladesh Bilateral Relations

Source: The Hindu

GS2: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

Synopsis: An evaluation of India- Bangladesh bilateral relation from the past to the present.

Background

  • India played an important role in Bangladesh’s independence. India provided political, diplomatic, military and humanitarian support during Bangladesh’s Liberation War.
  • For example, India lost 3,900 Indian soldiers and provided accommodation to an estimated 10 million Bangladeshi refugees.
  • Following Bangladesh’s Independence, India- Bangladesh bilateral relation had many high and lows.
  • For example, during President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1st Bangladesh President) India- Bangladesh relations were in full swing.
  • However, after his assassination on August 15, 1975, the relation between India-Bangladesh hit a bottom. Between 1982-1991 a military-led government by General H.M. Ershad ruled the country.
  • But since the last decade India- Bangladesh relation has boosted up. Both countries have moved beyond historical and cultural ties. Cooperation is increasing in areas of trade, connectivity, energy, and defence.

What are the positive developments in India- Bangladesh relation?

  • First, finding peaceful solutions to settle Land boundary issues. For example, Both countries ratified the historic Land Boundary Agreement in 2015.
  • Second, the government of Bangladesh was cooperative in eradicating anti-India insurgency elements from its borders. This has allowed India to make a massive redeployment of resources in other contentious borders. (LAC, LoC)
  • Third, increasing trade relations. For example, Bangladesh is India’s biggest trading partner in South Asia. (FY 2018-19- Export- $9.21 billion, Import- $1.04 billion). Bangladesh enjoys duty-free access to multiple Bangladeshi products.
  • Fourth, deepening cooperation in developmental activities. For example, India has extended three lines of credit to Bangladesh in recent years ($8 billion) for the construction of roads, railways, bridges, and ports.
  • Fifth, increasing cooperation in Medical tourism. For example, Bangladesh accounts for more than 35% of India’s international medical patients and contributes more than 50% of India’s revenue from medical tourism.
  • Sixth, cooperation in connectivity has increased many folds. For example,
      • A direct bus service between Kolkata and Agartala running through Bangladesh.
      • Three passenger and freight railway services running between the two countries.
      • Recently, the Maitri Setu bridge was constructed. It connects Sabroom in India with Ramgarh in Bangladesh.
      • Improved Connectivity to landlocked Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura states. Bangladesh allows the shipment of goods from its Mongla and Chittagong seaports carried by road, rail, and water ways to Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.

What are the issues in India- Bangla relations?

  • First, water security is one of the major issue hampering India- Bangladesh relation. For example, the unresolved Teesta water sharing issue.
  • Second, increasing border killings against illegal Bangladeshi cattle traders. For example, the year 2020 saw the highest number of border shootings by the Border Security Force.
  • Third, the implementation of the National Register of Citizens has offended the religious sentiments of Bangladeshis. Also, many of the illegal Muslim immigrants belong to Bangladesh.
  • Fourth, India’s neighbours are increasingly tilting towards China due to its attractiveness of massive trade, infrastructural and defence investments. Despite, India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’ approach, India is losing its influence in the south Asian region. For example, Bhutan’s withdrawal from the BBIN (Bhutan-Bangladesh-India-Nepal) motor vehicles’ agreement.
  • Fifth, poor project implementation due to Red tapism in India is hampering developmental activities in Bangladesh. For example, only 51% of the first $800 million lines of credit has been utilised. While the amount from the next two lines of credit worth $6.5 billion has not been mobilised yet.

India and Bangladesh need to continue working on the three Cs (cooperation, collaboration, and consolidation) to materilaise the recent gains.


Discrimination in taxing provident fund (PF)

Source: Click Here

Syllabus: GS 2 – Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.

Synopsis: The Finance Minister has enhanced the Provident Fund(PF) limit up to 5 lakhs from the previously proposed 2.5 lakh. This is a discriminatory proposal for taxing PF should be reconsidered.

Background:

  • The finance bill 2021 was passed with 127 amendments. This included a proposal to tax income on PF contributions over Rs. 2.5 lakh rupees a year. 
    • The rationale behind this was to prevent abuse of the process as 93% of users fall below 2.5 lakh category.
  • Recently, a contradictory provision of doubling the annual threshold to Rs. 5 lakh was also introduced. This enhanced limit was given to only those individuals whose employers do not remit any contribution to their retirement fund account. 

Current Threshold limits for Provident Fund:

  • Annual investments made into individual PPF accounts are capped at  Rs. 1.5 lakh per year. 
  • EPF contributions beyond 1.5 lakh are not tax-deductible under Section 80C of the I-T Act. However, income on such contributions beyond 2.5 lakh will be taxable.
  • Similarly, employer contributions into the EPF, NPS, or any superannuation pension fund can’t exceed 7.5 lakh per year. 
  • Income on GPF(General Provident Fund) contributions would be tax-free up to 5 lakh per year.

Concerns with such a move

  • It amounts to discrimination with private employees who have an EPF (Employees Provident Fund) account as:
    • Employer-employee relationship is an implicit requirement to open an EPF account.
    • Employees can contribute beyond the statutory wage limit of Rs. 15,000 but employers contribution can never reach zero.
  • It suggests a bias in favor of some government employees as:
    • Only some senior government staff who joined service before 2004 and are not part of the NPS will benefit from this move. 
    • They possess a unique profile that allows them to contribute to the GPF account and get a defined benefit pension separately.
  • The move also conflicts with other policy measures like Wage Code Bill.
    • The calls for enhancing employers contribution in EPF accounts. This may make EPF contribution cross the 2.5 lakh limit thereby coming under the tax net.
  • It shows a disconnect between policymakers and the aspirations of the working class to save for their retirement years. It appears that the government is willing to jeopardize the retirement benefits for augmenting tax collections.

Way Ahead:

  • The government could offer the same cap of 5 lakh annual contribution to EPF account holders in order to bring equity. For capping the annual amount, employers’ contributions can be counted as well.
  • Until this is done, the government can put the new tax structure on hold and think through its implications.

India possesses a huge informal workforce that must be given equitable retirement benefits like the government sector employees.


India’s stand on Human Rights violation in Sri Lanka

Source: Click here

Syllabus: GS 2 – India and Neighbourhood relations

Synopsis: India maintained the balance between diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka and its support to Tamil minority people in Sri Lanka.

Introduction 

The previous government in Sri Lanka made some commitments to the UNHRC. The commitments include constructive engagement with the international community on the Human Rights violation in Sri Lanka. Further, the government also committed to provide a consensual resolution to the problem of the Tamil people. But The current government of Sri Lanka withdrew from the commitments.

So, the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC) adopted a resolution titled “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka”.

But, India abstains from the UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka. This is done to indicate the following things.

  1. India attempted to preserve its diplomatic space. Further, India wants to contain persistent Chinese influence in Sri Lanka.
  2. At the same time, India is also maintaining its support for the Tamil minority to achieve equality, justice, dignity and peace.

The Present Status of the Human Rights violation in Sri Lanka:

The UN High Commissioner’s report has raised certain concerns on the following issues in Sri Lanka. They are, 

  1. Increasing militarization in Sri Lanka
  2. Intensified surveillance against rights defenders and NGOs,
  3. Interference with trials in certain symbolic cases from the past
  4. The dangerous anti-minority rhetoric among other sections of people.

What has been India’s stance on the Human Rights violation?

  • India has never supported externally mandated investigative mechanisms. India voted in favour of a credible investigation into human rights violation in 2012. But India mentioned the importance of Sri Lanka’s acceptance to solve the human rights dispute.
  • India has emphasised meaningful decentralization to meet Tamil aspirations. Also, India demanded the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka. 
  • India’s concerns in Sri Lanka have been different from the rest of the international community. India is well-informed by a sense of the long-term well-being of the Tamils. Hence, India stresses devolution rather than accountability.
  • India has its own limitations in expressing disappointment over Sri Lanka’s stand on Human Rights violation. Reasons such as the Chinese presence in the Sri Lankan region can be one of them.

Conclusion:

  • India did not change its position on tactical neutrality on the Human rights violation in Sri Lanka. When practicality and principle needed an equal measure, the Centre has chosen non-participation as an easy way out. This is a welcome move.

 

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Mar 26, 2021

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