Newspaper notes for UPSC 04-06-18

This is a quick summary newspaper notes for UPSC 04-06-18, this is not a substitute for reading newspapers, we encourage you to read them and use this as value addition. Please leave your valuable comments and suggestions to [email protected] or telegram @naylak .

2 jawans killed as Pak. forces resume firing in Jammu

  • Two Border Security Force (BSF) jawans were killed and 10 civilians injured in fresh shelling and firing by Pakistani troops on the International Border (IB) in Jammu , just six days after the Directors-General of Military Operations of India and Pakistan agreed to implement the 2003 ceasefire pact.
  • On May 29, the DGMOs agreed to fully implement the ceasefire agreement of 2003 in letter and in spirit forthwith to stop border skirmishes.

The Border Security Force (BSF) is the primary border guarding force of India. It is one of the five Central Armed Police Forces of the Union of India, it was raised in the wake of the 1965 War on 1 December 1965. It is a Central Armed Police Force charged with guarding India’s land border during peacetime and preventing transnational crime. It is a Union Government Agency under the administrative control of Ministry of Home Affairs.

International Border is the line that both countries and the rest of the world have agreed upon.

Agni 5 

  • Agni-5 missile was successfully flight-tested  from the Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Island (Wheeler Island).
  • Agni-5 can carry nuclear warheads weighing 1.5 tonnes to a distance of over 5,000 km and is the longest missile in India’s arsenal capable of reaching most parts of China. With a smaller payload the range can go up much higher.
  • The missile features many new indigenously developed technologies:
    • The very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (RINS)
    • and the most modern and accurate Micro Navigation System (MINS) which improves the accuracy of the missile.

WHO tobacco Report: 

  • A report from the World Health Organisation on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day (May 31) suggests that India’s efforts to cut the prevalence of cigarette smoking are paying off.
  • Between 2000 and 2015, this fell from 19.4% to 11.5%. By 2025, the report projected, it could drop to 8.5%, putting India well in line to meeting its 2025 target under a WHO global plan to tackle non-communicable diseases.
  • Smokeless tobacco is the bigger problem in the country.
  • Intro value addition: Tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure are major causes of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and stroke, contributing to approximately 3 million deaths per year.
  • The Global Adult Tobacco Survey in 2016, for example, found that 29.6% of Indian men and 12.8% of Indian women were users.
  • Children are victims of this lethal addiction too. The WHO report noted that 7.9 million adolescents, between 13 and 15 years, used smokeless tobacco in the South-East Asian region. Given that 66% of the world’s smokeless-tobacco users are in India, a sizeable chunk of this number would be Indian teenagers.
  • Even though there is a 2011 government ban on the sale of food items with tobacco or nicotine in them, the consumption of gutkha, khaini and zarda continues to be rampant.
  • Loopholes: The food safety rules target pre-mixed tobacco products, such as gutkha, which contains lime, sugar and other spices. This leaves unflavoured items, such as khaini or surthi, out of regulatory purview.
  • Mislabelling of smokeless tobacco is common. Even when a product contains tobacco, it is passed off as being tobacco-free.
  • Tobacco industry also uses flavours such as cardamom and saffron to attract youngsters, triggering life-long addiction.
  • Way forward: India must turn its focus to the smokeless tobacco segment. The challenge is bigger, but so will be the reward.

Fuel fractions

  • excise duties that were raised nine times between November 2014 and January 2016.
  • States have also been raking in easy oil revenue by way of sales tax on fuel.
  • The government raised central excise duties by Rs. 11.77 and Rs. 13.47 for a litre of petrol and diesel, respectively, followed by a Rs. 2 a litre cut announced in October 2017, when prices started rising.
  • The tax mechanism: Additionally, States impose ad valorem duties on fuel products, which go as high as 39.27% (in Maharashtra) and average about 26% — so higher prices mean more tax revenue for them.
  • States levy value-added tax on the fuel price inclusive of central excise duties, not the base price, leading to double taxation and further price amplification.
  • What can be done: An SBI research report reckons that prices could go down for diesel by Rs. 3.75 and petrol by Rs. 5.75, a litre, if only this tax-on-tax-included-price anomaly was fixed.
  • Implications of rising fuel price: Rising crude prices spike inflation and the trade deficit, putting pressure on the rupee and GDP growth. Industry has warned that domestic oil pricing policies are hurting the nascent recovery, and global rating agencies are already slashing India’s growth expectations for this calendar year, citing the oil issue.
  • Prelims: An ad valorem tax (Latin for “according to value”) is a tax whose amount is based on the value of a transaction or of property.
  •  Petrol under GST? – Business Line
  • Consensus emerging on GST levy on fuels – The Hindu
  • Slow creep: on petrol and diesel prices – The Hindu

About a small Mauritian island – OPINION

  • small Mauritian archipelago of AgalĂ©ga. is being turned in to Indian naval base.
  • In 2015 Mauritius signed an agreement that allows India to “develop infrastructure” on the islands where India is building  military bases, along with a base on Assumption Island (Seychelles).
  • How the deal happened: Mauritius is the largest source of FDI into India, since multinational corporations have been able to take advantage of the India-Mauritius Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty and the lax tax regime to avoid paying taxes. After having given over AgalĂ©ga, Mauritius signed an amended treaty on taxes and by 2019 will effectively lose its status as the main funnel for FDI into India. AgalĂ©ga, which was the price for the extension of the treaty, will now be surrendered without benefit.

The “zone of peace”

  • On March 1, a group of Mauritians, Rodriguans and AgalĂ©gans met to form the Koalision Zilwa Pou Lape (Islanders Coalition for Peace).
  • They speaks of the need to recognise the people of the Indian Ocean as one people with a “common past and a common destiny”; where the waters are treated as common property rather than as corporate and military property.
  • They have called for the Indian Ocean to be declared as a “zone of peace”.
  • In 1970 Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Lusaka, Zambia. Various NAM members called upon all states “to respect the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace from which Great Power rivalries and competition, as well as bases” be excluded.
  • In 2014, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval evoked the idea of the zone of peace in his speech at the Galle Dialogue in Sri Lanka. He raised the issue because  a Chinese submarine had docked in Colombo, which caused tension in India.

What is happening in Indian ocean:

  • In its “string of pearls” policy, China has built significant relations across the Indian Ocean.
  • India wants to exert itself in the same region and has developed reciprocal agreements with Australia, France and the U.S.
  • China and India are bit players in the Indian Ocean. The main naval facilities here are held by the U.S.; their own string of pearls runs from Bahrain to Singapore.
  • Focus on the rivalry between China and India misses the long-standing problem concerning the U.S.

Federalism that’s not cooperative

  • After the abolition in 2014 of the Planning Commission, which played a critical role in the Indian transfer system, the UFC has emerged as the principal agency to handle intergovernmental transfer system.
  • Article 280(3) and its first three clauses clearly spell out the core duties of the UFC: Tax devolution, grants-in-aid, and augmenting the resources of panchayats and municipalities.
  • Issue: the open-ended subclause, 280(3)(d), that provides for “any other matter… in the interests of sound finance”, has been exemplified in the Terms of References of recent UFCs. The Terms of Reference of the 15th FC have attracted considerable public debate.
  • The Terms of Reference controversy could have been averted under the dispensation of a truly cooperative federalism.
  • The rationale of Article 280, which establishes the UFC, is derived from the acknowledged mismatches between the resources of the Centre and the expenditure responsibilities of the States.
  • The Terms of Reference of a UFC should have been a joint exercise rather than a Union diktat.
  • In preparing the Terms of Reference for a quasi-judicial body like the UFC, it is important not to use it as a platform to impose the Union government’s agenda on the States
  • Another issue is transfer of funds  to local governments. Following the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments, Article 280(3) was amended to incorporate the clauses relating to panchayats and municipalities underscores the organic link in Indian federal public finance.
  • It is instructive to recall that Item No.6 of the Terms of Reference of the 11th FC wanted that commission to take into account constitutional mandates such as creation of institutions of self-government, planning for economic development and social justice, and so on. Later on, such clauses were discontinued.
  • Way Forward: 
  • Need a mechanism with  integrated federal public finance that takes local governments into account.
  • Formulating strategies to ensure regional equity and for evaluating the revenue potential and fiscal capacity.
  • Financial accounting and accountability mechanisms should be strengthened at the local government level .

Threat to institutions: 

  • The experience of recent years suggests that basic trust in Indian democratic institutions is somewhat eroding.
  • Examples to support this view include the Supreme Court coming under scrutiny, lack of transparency in the funding of political parties, debates around EVM tampering and on whether or not we should amend the Constitution.
  • Notwithstanding the existence of a multiparty, parliamentary system, regular elections, freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary, doubts are raised with respect to the fairness of elections, alliances of the media, insufficient separation of the judiciary from the executive, populism, and plutocracy.
  • A major characteristic of a populist regime is that it is influenced by a strong, popular mass leader who appeals to the linguistic, religious, regional, or community sentiments of a populace.
  • There is a risk that the combination of populism and plutocracy, which prioritise personality and private interests over public good, may dilute the independent functioning of institutions that sustain a vibrant democracy.
  • Way forward: Any strategy to prevent such institutional erosion must aim to collectively reinforce faith in the principles and practice of democracy, constitutionalism and social justice.

Blue Flag certification

  • The Chandrabhaga beach on the Konark coast of Odisha will be the first in Asia to get the Blue Flag certification.
  • The tag given to environment-friendly and clean beaches, equipped with amenities of international standards for tourists.
  • It will be awarded the honour on World Environment Day on June 5.
  • Twelve more beaches in the country are being developed by the Society for Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM), an Environment Ministry’s body working for the management of coastal areas, in accordance with the Blue Flag standards.

Blue Flag standards:

  • The standards were established by the Copenhagen-based Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) in 1985.
  • It challenges local authorities and beach operators to achieve high standards in the four categories of: water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety.
  • A beach must be plastic-free and equipped with a waste management system.
  • Clean water should be available for tourists, apart from international amenities.
  • The beach should have facilities for studying the environmental impact around the area.

Society of Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM)

It has been established under the aegis of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate change, Government of India. The main objectives of SICOM are as follows:-

  • To support implementation of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) activities in India.
  • To implement the World Bank assisted India ICZM Project
  • To provide Research Development (R&D) and stakeholders participation in management of the Coastal areas in India.
  • To undertake any additional work or function as may be assigned by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change from time to time in the area of Coastal Management and other related activities.

President rejects first mercy plea

  • President Ram Nath Kovind has rejected his first mercy petition of a death-row convict who had burned alive seven members of a family, including five children, over a case of buffalo theft.

Power of pardon (Refer laxmikanth)

  • Under Article 72 of the Constitution, “the President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence where the sentence is a sentence of death”. Under Article 161, the Governor too has pardoning powers but these do not extend to death sentences.
  • In several cases, the SC has ruled that the President has to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers while deciding mercy pleas. These include Maru Ram vs Union of India in 1980, and Dhananjoy Chatterjee vs State of West Bengal in 1994. Although the President is bound by the Cabinet’s advice, Article 74(1) empowers him to return it for reconsideration once. If the Council of Ministers decides against any change, the President has no option but to accept it.
  • In October 2006, in Epuru Sudhakar & Another vs Andhra Pradesh and Others, the SC held that the powers of the President or Governor under Articles 72 and 161 are subject to judicial review.
  • Their decision can be challenged on the ground that (a) it was passed without application of mind; (b) it is mala fide; (c) it was passed on extraneous or wholly irrelevant considerations; (d) relevant materials were kept out of consideration; (e) it suffers from arbitrariness.

Navy rescues 38 from Socotra

  • In a swift operation, the Navy  rescued 38 Indians from Socotra in Yemen where they were stranded for nearly 10 days after Cyclone Mekenu devastated the island.
  • The Navy diverted its ship INS Sunayna from the Gulf of Aden to Socotra on Saturday to undertake Operation NISTAR to rescue the Indians
  • Socotra  also called Soqotra, located between the Guardafui Channel and the Arabian Sea, is the largest of four islands of the Socotra archipelago. ( Refer NCERT/Atlas)
  • In 2013, the archipelago became its own governorate, the Socotra Governorate. There is a dispute between Yemen and Somalia’s government over the island’s sovereignty.

FPI outflows hit 18-month high

  • foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) withdrew a net sum of Rs. 10,060 crore from equities and Rs. 19,654 crore from the debt market in May, taking the total to Rs. 29,714 crore. Making it the biggest outflow in 18 months, primarily due to a surge in global crude prices.
  • This would impact all the oil importing economies, including India, and adversely affect its current account deficit, fiscal deficit, imported inflation and create headwinds for economic growth.
  • What is Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI)?
  • Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) is investment by non-residents in Indian securities including shares, government bonds, corporate bonds, convertible securities, infrastructure securities etc. The class of investors who make investment in these securities are known as Foreign Portfolio Investors.
  • FPI is induced by differences in equity price scenario, bond yield, growth prospects, interest rate, dividends or rate of return on capital in India’s financial assets.
  •  SEBI has recently stipulated the criteria for Foreign Portfolio Investment. According to this, any equity investment by non-residents which is less than or equal to 10% of capital in a company is portfolio investment. While above this the investment will be counted as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Via .

What’s driving the GDP revival

  • The Central Statistics Office provisional GDP estimates for FY18 suggest that growth revved up to a brisk 7.7% in the January-March quarter, the highest real GDP print in seven quarters.
  • The quarterly GDP numbers show that the Indian economy has proved remarkably resilient to watershed events such as demonetisation and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

The Zojila Tunnel

  • In may 2018, Prime Minister  visited Leh to unveil a plaque to mark the commencement of construction of the 14.31 kilometre-long Zojila tunnel in the north-east of Srinagar on Srinagar-Leh section of National Highway 1 in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Importance: Leh is connected to the rest of the country through two main roads: Jammu-Srinagar-Zojila-Kargil-Leh and the Manali-Sarchu-Leh roads. The movement of traffic is limited to around six months on these two routes because of snowfall in the passes and threat of avalanches.
  • The 14 km long Zojila tunnel will be India’s longest road tunnel and Asia’s longest bidirectional tunnel.
  • The all-weather safe road connectivity is important from the strategic point of view as well. Road connectivity is important for defence forces, keeping in view the activities carried out by China and Pakistan along the borders in Ladakh, Gilgit and Baltistan regions.
  • While Ladakh is connected to Pakistan through the Line of Control (LoC), Line of Actual Control (LAC) connects the region to China.