9 PM Current Affairs Brief – December 26th, 2019

Massive locust invasion threatens Gujarat farmers

News:The migratory insect locust has spread to the Northern parts of Gujarat, causing significant damage to agriculture.

Facts:

About Locust:

  • Locusts are certain species of short-horned grasshoppers that have a swarming phase.They belong to the family Acrididae.
  • Swarming refers to a collective behaviour in which locusts aggregate together just like flocks of birds.
  • Locusts differ from grasshoppers in that they have the ability to change their behaviour and habits and can migrate over large distances.

Distribution:

  • The invasion area of desert locust covers about 30 million sq km which includes whole or parts of nearly 64 countries.
  • This includes countries like North West and East African countries, Arabian Peninsula, the Southern Republic of USSR, Iran, Afghanistan, and the Indian subcontinent.
  • In India,four species of locust namely Desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria), Bombay Locust ( Nomadacris succincta) and Tree locust (Anacridium sp.) are found.

Threat:

  • Locust swarms devastate crops and cause major agricultural damage and attendant human misery.
  • If infestations are not detected and controlled, devastating plagues can develop that often take several years to bring under control with severe consequences on food security and livelihoods.

Control measures taken by India:

  • India has a Locust Control and Research scheme that is being implemented through the Locust Warning Organisation(LWO) which was established in 1939.
  • It was amalgamated in 1946 with the Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage (PPQS) of the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • The main objective of Locust Warning Organisation(LWO) is protection of standing crops and other green vegetation from the ravages of Desert locust which is one of the most dangerous pests occurring in desert areas throughout the world.

Who was Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, freedom fighter and educationist

News:Indian Prime minister has said that India will always be grateful to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya for his numerous contributions during India’s independence movement.

Facts:

About Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya:

  • Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya(1861 – 1946) was an Indian educationist and a Freedom Fighter.He was also addressed as Mahamana.

Role in Indian Freedom movement:

  • As a member of the Imperial Legislative Council, he participated in the important debates most notable being the prohibition of recruitment of Indian indentured labour to the British colonies.
  • He was a moderate leader and opposed the separate electorates for Muslims under the Lucknow Pact of 1916.
  • He had also attended the Second Round Table Conference in the year 1931.
  • He popularized the term ‘Satyamev Jayate’.However,the phrase originally belongs to the Mundaka Upanishad.The term now is the national motto of India.
  • In protest against the Communal Award which sought to provide separate electorates for minorities, Malaviya along with Madhav Shrihari Aney left the Congress and started the Congress Nationalist Party.

Contributions and Organizations:

  • He started composing poetry at the age of fifteen with the pen name ‘Makarand’.
  • He founded “Prayaga Hindu Samaj”, and wrote several articles on the Contemporary issues and problems of the country.
  • In 1887,he established “Bharat Dharma Mahamandal” to propagate Sanatan Dharma and Hindu culture.
  • He also founded the Banaras Hindu University(BHU) at Varanasi in 1916 which was created under the B.H.U. Act, 1915.
  • He also founded the Hindu Mahasabha in 1906 to oppose not the just claims of the Muslim community but the “divide and rule” policy of the British Government.
  • He also started the ‘Abhyudaya’ as a Hindi weekly in 1907 and made it a daily in 1915.He also started the ‘Maryada’ a Hindi monthly in 1910 and ‘Leader’ an English daily in 1909.

Awards:

  • Madan Mohan Malviya was posthumously conferred with Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award in 2014.
  • The train named Mahamana Express was named after Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya in 2016.It runs between Delhi and Varanasi.

GST Council to set up grievance redressal mechanism for taxpayers

News:The GST Council has decided to set up a grievance redressal mechanism for taxpayers.

Facts:

About Grievance Redressal Committee(GRC):

  • The Grievance Redressal Committee(GRC) at zonal and state levels will be set up as a redressal mechanism for taxpayers.
  • It will consist of both central tax and state tax officers, representatives of trade and industry and other goods and services tax(GST) stakeholders.
  • The committee will be constituted for a period of 2 years and the term of each member will be likewise.
  • The functions of the committee include examining and resolving all the grievances and issues being faced by the taxpayers, including procedural difficulties and IT-related issues pertaining to GST, both specific and general nature.
  • The committee will meet once every quarter or more frequently as decided by the co-chairs.
  • If any member of the panel would be absent for three consecutive meetings,the member will be replaced with a fresh nomination by the principal chief commissioner of State tax.

Additional information:

About GST Council:

  • Goods & Services Tax(GST) Council is a constitutional body for making recommendations to the Union and State Government on issues related to Goods and Service Tax.
  • As per Article 279A (1) of the constitution, the GST Council was constituted by the President.
  • The council consists of the following members: (a) The Union Finance Minister is the Chairperson (b) The Union Minister of State in-charge of Revenue of finance and (c) The Minister In-charge of finance or taxation or any other Minister nominated by each State Government.

Govt forms expert panel for time-bound resolution of disputes in oil & gas sector

News:Government has constituted a Committee of External Eminent Persons/Experts for time-bound resolution of disputes in Oil and gas sector.

Facts:

About the committee:

  • The committee will consist of three members.It will help the oil and gas sector get rid of disputes without having to resort to tardy judicial process.
  • The committee will have a tenure of three years and the resolution will be attempted to be arrived at within three months.
  • The panel will arbitrate on a dispute between partners in a contract or with the government over commercial or production issues for oil and gas.
  • It shall exercise all powers and discharge all the functions necessary for carrying out conciliation and mediation proceedings as per the provisions of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act,1996.
  • Once a resolution has been referred to the panel, the parties cannot resort to arbitration or court case to resolve it.

Significance of this committee:

  • The country’s oil and gas sector has been plagued by disputes from cost recovery to production targets and companies as well as the government have resorted to lengthy and costly arbitration followed by judicial review, a process that takes years to resolve differences.
  • Hence,this decision may lift overall business sentiment, especially in the oil and gas sector which in return will help the sector get rid of disputes choking investment in it.
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