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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 29th JULY 2020

  • IASbaba
  • July 29, 2020
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


GST compensation to states

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II and III – Devolution of taxes to states; Resource mobilisation; C-S relations

In news:

  • Centre finally managed to pay States the compensation due to them for the previous year under the GST regime.
  • States can utilize the compensation to ramp up public health-care capacity and contain COVID-19’s detrimental effects on vulnerable sections.

Do you know?

  • Before GST, States had the power to levy some indirect taxes on economic activity. Therefore, after GST regime was introduced (in 2017), the Centre promised guaranteed compensation to the States for the first five years, for the revenues they lost after the shift from the earlier system. 
  • The compensation is calculated at a growth rate of 14% keeping 2015-16 as the base year.  

Concerns:

  • States have been urging the Centre to release the full compensation due to them as the decline in economic activities had adversely affected their revenue position, with some States even threatening legal action.
  • With the central government too facing financial constraints on account of the economic downturn, it had taken the position that GST compensation can only be made from the revenue that is collected as GST compensation cess.
  • GST compensation cess is levied on items like cars, tobacco and aerated drinks.
  • The shortfall in cess collection has led to delays in payment to states, often leading to friction between states and the centre.
  • This gap is likely to enlarge further this year with expected economic contraction denting GST collections as well. 
  • Compensation cess inflows is expected to shrink as people avoid spending on luxury goods in order to conserve capital or stay afloat in the pandemic-hit economy.
  • The government may have to resort to market borrowing to fulfill its commitment towards compensating states for losses due to GST.

Russia-India-China 

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – India and the World; International/Multi-lateral relations

In news:

  • The special meeting of RIC on 23rd June 2020 was held to mark 75 years of the victory over the Axis powers in World War-II.
  • Russia, India, and China to “increase interaction with ASEAN-based structures…” including on COVID-19 issues.
  • India held that – Respecting international law, Recognising the legitimate interests of partners and Supporting multilateralism and promoting common good are the only way of building a durable world order.

About RIC

  • RIC is a strategic grouping that first took shape in the late 1990s under the leadership of Yevgeny Primakov, a Russian politician as “a counterbalance to the Western alliance.”
  • This idea of a ‘strategic triangle’ took a tangible form when former Foreign Ministers of Russia, China, and India met on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2002.
  • The group was founded on the basis of ending Russia’s subservient foreign policy guided by the USA and renewing old ties with India and fostering the newly discovered friendship with China.
  • The grouping was formed in an aim to ensure that it is not left to the America-led West alone to shape the rules of global governance

‘Status of Tigers, Co-predators & Prey in India’ report

Part of: Prelims – Conservation; Protected Areas

In news:

According to ‘Status of Tigers, Co-predators & Prey in India’ report –

  • India stands at 2,967 as compared to 1,400 in 2014.
  • India hosts 70% of the world’s tigers 
  • Nearly a third of India’s tigers are living outside tiger reserve
  • Nearly 17 of the 50 reserves are approaching the peak of their capacity at sustaining their populations
  • Jim Corbett national park in Uttarakhand is the largest habitat of the big cats in India (231 tigers). 
  • Corbett is followed by Nagarhole (127) and Bandipur (126), both in Karnataka.

Miscellaneous:

India-Pakistan: Gurdwara Sri Shahidi Asthan

About

  • Sikhs in India are not happy with the developments made in Pakistan’s Lahore – to covert i8th century Gurdwara Sri Shahidi Asthan into a mosque.
  • Sikhs have urged Centre to take up gurdwara issue with Pak.

Child wasting to rise due to COVID

About:

According to new estimates presented in The Lancet study titled ‘Impacts of COVID­19 on childhood malnutrition and nutrition-­related mortality’ – 

  • The global prevalence of child wasting — lower weight for height — in 2020 could rise by 14.3%.
  • Main reason – COVID pandemic which resulted in disruption of food systems and impeded access to healthcare services. 

Green Growth Equity Fund

  • It is a sub-fund of National Investment and Infrastructure Fund of India (NIIF) 
  • It is promoted jointly by India and the UK which aims to leverage private sector investment to finance investments in the green infrastructure space in India.

Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) 

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains – Environment and Climate Change

About CDRI

  • It was launched by PM Modi in 2019 UN Climate Action Summit (New York) 
  • CDRI secretariat will be in Delhi – supported by UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) 
  • CDRI envisions enabling measurable reduction in infrastructure losses from disasters, including extreme climate events. 
  • Objective – To expand universal access to basic services and enabling prosperity. 
  • Works at the intersection of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Climate Agreement. 
  • CDRI will conduct country-specific and global activities. 
  • CDRI will uphold the UN Agenda 2030 principle – to enable inclusive and deliberative processes (Universal Inclusion)

Great Prophet 14 exercise

About:

  • Iran began its annual Payambar-e A’zam 14 (“Great Prophet 14”) military exercises – an exercise designed to showcase Iranian air and naval power to the rest of the world.
  • The exercise was held in the Strait of Hormuz, is meant to demonstrate Iran’s asymmetric military capabilities, including diving commandos, raiders, and helicopter-mounted anti-ship missiles.

(MAINS FOCUS)


INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS/ SECURITY

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • India and its neighborhood- relations 
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.

RIC, a triangle that is still important

Context:  India attended a (virtual) meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC) in the last week of June 2020.

Why was the RIC meeting significant?

  • As there were border tensions with China, it was strongly argued that India should further align its foreign policy westwards (towards US, Europe)
  • A RIC meeting seemed incongruous in this setting.

Was there a joint statement post RIC meeting?

No, there was any joint statement but each country made individual statements

  • China called for opposing bullying practices, rejecting power politics and supporting the rule of law in international relations (an irony given its recent actions)
  • Russia criticised unilateral coercive measures to settle scores with geopolitical rivals and topple regimes. 
  • India emphasised that for a durable world order, major powers should respect international law and recognise the legitimate interest of partners.

Brief Origins of RIC

  • RIC dialogue commenced in the early 2000s, the three countries were positioning themselves for a transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world order. 
  • Though it was not an anti-U.S. construct; all three countries considered their relationship with the US an essential to their global ambitions.
  • The RIC shared some non-West (as distinct from anti-West) perspectives on the global order, such as an emphasis on sovereignty and territorial integrity, impatience with discourse on social policies and opposition to regime change from abroad. 
  • The initial years of the RIC dialogue coincided with an upswing in India’s relations with Russia and China
  • RIC’s support for democratisation of the global economic and financial architecture later moved to the agenda of BRIC (with the addition of Brazil).

Simultaneous Surge in India-U.S. ties — Reason are:

  • Necessity for India: A landmark civil nuclear deal and a burgeoning defence relationship with US met India’s objective of diversifying military acquisitions away from a near-total dependence on Russia.
  • Necessity for USA: Likewise, when China was rapidly emerging as a challenger to its global pre-eminence, the U.S. saw value in partnering with a democratic India in Asia.
  • Deteriorating Indo-China relations: China went back on the 2005 agreement, launched the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and expanded its military and economic presence in the Indian Ocean lead India to shift its focus away from RIC & towards US-EU
  • New Geopolitics of Russia: As U.S.-Russia relations imploded in 2014 (after the accession of Crimea), Russia’s pushback against the U.S. included cultivating the Taliban in Afghanistan and enlisting Pakistan’s support for it (not in India’s interest)
  • Growing RussiaChina axis: 
    • The western campaign to isolate Russia drove it into a much closer embrace of China — particularly in defence cooperation
    • There is an Informal Russia-China understanding that Russia handles the politico-security issues in the Eurasian region and China extends economic support. 

Concerns for RIC

  1. Strengthening India- US axis & Russia-China-Pakistan axis is not aligned with the interests of RIC grouping that leads to weakening of the group’s significance
  2. Differing Perception of Indo-Pacific by each member
  • For India, it is a geographic space of economic and security importance, in which a cooperative order should prevent the dominance of any external power. 
  • China sees our Indo-Pacific initiatives as part of a U.S.-led policy of containing China. 
  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry sees the Indo-Pacific as an American ploy to draw India and Japan into a military alliance against China and Russia. 

Way Ahead for India

  • Diluting Russia-China Axis: Activation of a Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor may help persuade Russia that its interests in the Pacific are compatible with our interest in diluting Chinese dominance in the Indo-Pacific
  • Avoid Disengagement with China: The recent developments with China should accelerate India’s efforts to bridge the bilateral asymmetries, disengagement is not an option.
  • Cautious Engagement with US: Fast-track partnership with the U.S is not a silver bullet. National security cannot be fully outsourced to another country. India should retain its strategic autonomy & avoid cold-war era type alliance with USA

Connecting the dots:

  • String of Pearls Strategy
  • India’s Act East policy
  • Belt & Road Initiative

JUDICIARY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies. 
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Safeguarding the autonomy of tribunals

Context: New rules were then published in February 2020 with regard to Tribunals & its functioning

A Brief history

  • In 2001, government was contemplating establishing a central tribunals division within the ministry of law and justice, an independent supervisory body to bring uniformity for all tribunals. 
  • This was in the wake of the seven-judge Constitution Bench decision of the Supreme Court (SC) in the L Chandra Kumar vs Union of India case.
  • A set of rules was promulgated in 2017 by the government for administering the functioning of tribunals
  • However, SC on November 13, 2019, in Rojer Mathew vs South Indian Bank, had quashed the 2017 rules and directed that fresh rules be issued in line with various past decisions on tribunalisation.
  • New rules of 2020 carry out only cosmetic changes and some of the provisions contravene the spirit of law laid down by SC on matters related to tribunals.

Issues with the New Rules

  1. Control of Executive:
  • The new rules do not remove the control of parent administrative ministries over tribunals, that is, those ministries against which the tribunals have to pass orders. 
  • This majorly affects certain tribunals such as the Armed Forces Tribunal wherein it functions under the same ministry which is the first opposite party in litigation
  • SC in the cases of L Chandra Kumar (1997), R Gandhi (2010), Madras Bar Association (2014) and Swiss Ribbons (2019) has ruled that tribunals cannot be made to function under the ministries against which they are to pass orders 
  • They must be placed under the law ministry instead.

Did You Know?

  • Income Tax Appellate Tribunal was created in 1941, it was put under the finance department, but moved to the legislative department a year later to ensure its independence. 
  • This arrangement continues till date, and is perhaps the primary reason that it is one of the best-performing tribunals.
  1. Selection of Tribunal Members
  • The new rules ensure that the secretary of the ministry against which the tribunal is to pass orders sits on the committee for selecting adjudicating members of the same tribunal.
  • The selection committee under the new rules can function even in absence of any judicial member, meaning that a committee entirely (or majorly) comprising officers of the executive can select members of tribunals.
  1. Tenure of Tribunal members
  • The new rules provide for a retirement age of 65 years even for former judges who retire at 62 from the high courts (HCs), which gives them at best a three-year tenure. 
  • This is against the minimum five to seven years tenure mandated by SC in the R Gandhi case to ensure continuity.
  1. Threat to Independence of Tribunal members
  • The bar on employment with the government after retiring from tribunals has been removed, thereby gravely affecting the independence of members.

Way Ahead

  • In order to remove unnecessary burden on SC and make justice affordable and accessible, it needs to be ensured that the tribunals work efficiently.
  • An independent autonomous body such as a National Tribunals Commission (NTC), responsible for oversight as well as administration, can go a long way in remedying issues that plague the functioning of tribunals.
  • In this context, the high courts, being equally effective constitutional courts, practically should become the last and final court in most litigation after tribunals pass the order.

Connecting the dots:

  • Article 323-A and Article 323-B

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note: 

  • Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers. 
  • Comments Up-voted by IASbaba are also the “correct answers”.

Q.1) Consider the following statements: 

  1. GST Compensation Cess is a levy which will be applicable in addition to the regular GST taxes. 
  2. The GST Cess is levied to compensate states who may suffer any loss of revenue due to the implementation of GST. 

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? 

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.2) Consider the following statement about Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CA|TS) 

  1. It is a set of criteria which allows tiger sites to check if their management will lead to successful tiger conservation 
  2. Lansdowne Forest Division is the only site in India that is CA|TS approved 

Select the correct statements 

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.3) Consider the following matches of tiger reserves with the state they are located in 

  1. Corbett National Park : Uttarakhand 
  2. Bandhavgarh National Park : Odisha 
  3. Periyar Tiger Reserve : Kerala 

Select the correct answer using the codes below 

  1. 1 and 2 only 
  2. 3 only 
  3. 1 and 3 only 
  4. 1 only

Q.4) Consider the following statements about elections in India: 

  1. Article 323 B empowers the appropriate legislature (Parliament or state legislature) to establish a tribunal for the adjudication of election disputes. 
  2. In pursuance of the article 323 B, Parliament established National Election Tribunal. 

Which of the above statements is/are correct? 

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.5) Great Prophet 14 exercise is associated with –

  1. Iran 
  2. Israel 
  3. UK
  4. Turkey

Q.6) Which of the following statements with reference to the Green Growth Equity Fund (GGEF) are correct?  

  1. It has been launched by National Investment and Infrastructure Fund of India (NIIF) in partnership with European Union.  
  2. The fund will be registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi).  
  3. It will be the first investment for NIIF’s Fund of Funds.  

Select the correct answer using code below  

  1. 1 and 2  
  2. 1 and 3  
  3. 2 and 3  
  4. 1,2 and 3 

ANSWERS FOR 28th July 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1  B 
2  B 
3  A 
4  C 
5  D 

 


Must Read

About regulations in vaccine development:

The Hindu

About meeting China’s assertiveness through India’s air power:

The Hindu

About President Xi Jinping’s political view (by  India’s former Ambassador to China):

The Indian Express

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