The HINDU Notes – 20th May 2017(Daily News Paper Analysis)
⏳ GST Council finalizes rates for services
- The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council on 19 May 2017 finalised tax rates for all services, except lotteries, under the new indirect tax regime to be rolled out from July 1.
- Those services already exempted from tax, such as healthcare and education, will continue to enjoy the concession.
- Mr. Jaitley said transport services had largely been kept under the 5% bracket.
- Rail transport is to be taxed at 5%, with only non-AC rail travel being exempt.
- Railway freight services will also be taxed at 5%. Air travel in the economy class will be taxed at 5% while business class will attract 12%.
- Cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber will also come under the 5% tax bracket.
- The tax rate on non-AC restaurants will be 12%; it will be 18% on AC restaurants and those with a liquor licence.
- Five star hotels, gambling, race club betting, and cinemas will attract a 28% tax rate.
- While hotels and lodges with tariff below Rs. 1,000 have been exempted, those with room tariff of Rs. 1,000-Rs. 2,500 will attract 12%, those charging Rs. 2,500-Rs. 5,000 will come under the 18% tax bracket, and those charging any rate above that will be taxed at 28%.
- A tax of 18% will be levied on financial services and mobile services.
- State governments have the authority to create a separate law to charge tax, in addition to 28%, for funding local bodies. So, States might use this option to keep taxes at the same levels, Revenue Secretary HasmukhAdhia said.
- If companies do not pass on the benefit of a lower rate of tax to the consumer, then the government will invoke the anti-profiteering clause against them, Mr. Adhia warned.
- He also said that whenever machinery is set up and the government receives a petition pointing out an increase in prices by companies in anticipation of GST, the companies will come under scrutiny and will be called for questioning.
- The government could also initiate action suomotu, he said.
- In goods category, six categories are still to be decided…
- The Council will now hold its 15th meeting in New Delhi on June 3.
Case involved: Irregularities in the allocation of a coal block in Madhya Pradesh.
- Former Coal Secretary H.C. Gupta
- Managing director of KSSPL Pawan Kumar Ahluwalia, then Joint Secretary in the Coal Ministry K.S. Kropha, and then Director, Coal Allocation-I Section, in the Ministry, K.C. Samaria.
Charges: guilty of criminal conspiracy, cheating and indulging in corrupt practices.
Issues involved/important keywords for ethics paper
- Transparency and Accountability
- Public service professionalism
- Conflict of Interest
GSLV: too late for changing times
- The GSLV space vehicle’s quiet but laudable success earlier this month could be a small solace that has come too late for the Indian Space Research Organisation.
- The late bloomermay even be a short-lived intermediate rocket instead of being ISRO’s primary satellite vehicle as it was planned, as a few ISRO old-timers and industry watchers privately suggest.
- Its fine feat of putting the South Asia Satellite perfectly to space on May 5 no doubt adds to the GSLV’s reliability.
- But ISRO actually needed this achievement at least a good decade ago, when it was still building and using 2,000-2,500-kg communication spacecraft for its own use.
- The GSLV was conceived in the early 1990s to launch Indian communication satellites of 2,000-kg class to an initial and later adjusted distance from Earth, called the ‘GTO’ (geosynchronous transfer orbit).
- This rocket took about 25 years and 11 flights to be fully realised.
- GSLV F-09 of May 5 was the fourth to click in a row.
- The GSLV is caught in a glaring mismatch: it cannot lift India’s bigger satellites; and the size that it can lift is out of fashion and does not make economic sense.
- As to why the GSLV could not rise sooner to the occasion, the external geopolitical reasons beyond the agency are well known now.
- While ISRO was perfecting the GSLV and falling behind schedule with the rocket’s crucial cryogenic stage, it progressed on the spacecraft side and upgraded the communication satellites to 3,000-plus kg in 2005.
- This was done to pack more punch (or transponders) per spacecraft.
- It would be roughly 24 regular transponders for 2,000 kg; 36 transponders for 3,000 kg and 48 transponders in a four-tonner.
- ISRO’s smaller PSLV rocket has made a niche in the world market for light lifts. For the GSLV, there may not be many commercial customers requiring its service.
Kalibanga museum, famous for Harappanartefacts, reopens
- The famous Kalibangamuseumin the Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan was reopened to the public over the weekend after a gap of one-and-a-half years.
- The museum displays artefacts from the early Harappancivilisation of 3000 to 2700 B.C. in the region.
- The exhibits include Harappan seals, bangles, terracotta objects and figurines, bricks, grinders, stone balls, and the well-known six fabric pottery repertoire from the pre-Harappan levels of Kalibangan.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for an “evergreen revolution”.
- Evergreen revolution enables the country to meet the challenge faced by the agriculture sector.
We shall move from the concept of ’food security’ to ‘nutrition security’, via scientific and technological intervention.
Polluting floodplains to invite Rs. 5,000 fine
- The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on 19 May 2017 banned open defecation and dumping of waste on the Yamuna floodplains and announced an environment compensation of Rs. 5,000 for those who violate the order.
- The directions came on a plea seeking implementation of the “Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project 2017”.
- “We issue prohibitory orders in furtherance to the judgment dated January 13, 2015, that no waste of any kind and open defecation will be permitted around the water bodies and the floodplains of river Yamuna,” noted the Bench.
- The Delhi government and the municipal corporations were directed to immediately take action against industries which operate in residential areas and are a major source of pollution to the river.
- The green panel further said that almost 67% of the pollutants reaching the Yamuna would be treated by the sewage treatment plants at Delhi Gate and Najafgarh under Phase 1 of the “Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project 2017”.
- The court also constituted a committee headed by the Delhi Jal Board CEO to oversee the execution of work pertaining to cleaning of the river and asked it to submit reports at regular intervals.
- Later, the Tribunal was informed that a total of 14 STP projects are to be constructed.
- Of these, seven are to be built by the Delhi Jal Board with its own funds.
- The green panel had on May 1 ordered inspection of the sewage treatment plants at Delhi Gate and Okhla to ensure that wastewater was cleaned before it reached the Yamuna.
- It had also sought a report with regard to functioning of these plants.
Trace every HIV positive person, IMA tells doctors
- “Ensure that treatment is available to every person who has tested positive for HIV. For that, we need to trace every patient,” said the Indian Medical Association (IMA).
- According to statistics, of 21 lakh people with HIV in India, only 14 lakh are on the registry.
- About two-thirds of people with HIV/AIDS die due to lack of access to antiretroviral (ART) drugs.
- “With these statistics as the basis, the IMA has adopted the 90:90:90 strategy — to identify 90% of those infected, place 90% of them on treatment and ensure that 90% have the virus under control. This is part of IMA’s commitment on ending AIDS by 2030, which is in line with Sustainable Development Goals,” said IMA president K. K. Aggarwal.
- As per the new policy, Anti RetroviralTherapy (ART) will be provided to anyone who tests positive for AIDS, irrespective of the CD count or the clinical stage they are in.
- It will improve the lifespan and quality of life of those infected, and save them from many opportunistic infections, especially TB.
- ART is an effective way of suppressing serum viral RNA levels and increasing CD4 cell counts in a vast majority of patients with acute and early HIV infection.
- Initiation of ART after initial HIV infection can help in immune reconstitution to normal or near normal CD4 cell levels.
- The IMA said ART is available in India since 2004.
Study:Global Burden of Disease (GBD)
- Newborns in India have a lesser chance of survival than babies born in Afghanistan and Somalia.
- India ranks 154 out of 195 countries in the GBD ranking for health access and quality (HAQ). Last year, India was ranked 143 among 188 countries.
- The HAQ Index is based on death rates from 32 ailments that could be avoided by timely medical intervention.
- India’s healthcare index of 44.8 is the lowest among the sub-continental countries, as Sri Lanka (72.8), Bangladesh (51.7), Bhutan (52.7), and Nepal (50.8) all fared better.
- The top-ranked nation was Andorra with an overall score of 95 and the lowest-ranked nation was Central African Republic at 29.
Areas need to be focused on:
- India has failed to achieve health care targets, especially those concerning neonatal disorders, maternal health, tuberculosis, and rheumatic heart disease
‘KudankulamMoU in final stages’
- The discussions over the next MoU for units five and six of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) are at an advanced stage within the government, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) announced on 19 May 2017.
- However, it did not confirm whether the MoU will be ready for signing when Prime Minister NarendraModi meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg next month.
- Mr. Modi is due to travel to Russia on June 1-3, where he has been invited as one of the chief guests at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), and he and President Putin will also hold bilateral talks.
- The General Framework Agreement (GFA) and CreditProtocol for KNPP 5 and 6to be built in Tamil Nadu is among the deals on the table that was expected to be signed, and has already missed a deadline in 2016.
- It would be executed by Russia’s publicly owned ROSATOM and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).
- According to officials quoted by news agency Press Trust of India earlier this week, the GFA has been cleared by an inter-ministerial group and is with the Prime Minister’s Office at present, but that India had so far given no assurance it would be ready in time for PM Modi’s visit.
|Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant|
RCEP trade ministers to meet
- Trade ministers of 16 countries, including India and China, will meet on May 21 and 22 in Vietnam to discuss progress in the ongoing negotiations of proposed trade deal, RCEP.
- So far, negotiators of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have held 18 rounds of negotiations.
What is RCEP?
- Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which include India, China, Australia, Japan, South Korea and New zealand.
- In total, the grouping of 16 nations includes more than 3 billion people, has a combined GDP of about $17 trillion, and accounts for about 40 percent of world trade.
- If negotiated successfully, RCEP would create the world’s largest trading bloc and have major implications for Asian countries and the world economy.
Key features of the RCEP
The RCEP seeks to achieve a modern and comprehensive trade agreement among members. The core of the negotiating agenda would cover trade in goods and services, investment, economic and technical cooperation and dispute settlement. The partnership would be a powerful vehicle to support the spread of global production networks and reduce the inefficiencies of multiple Asian trade agreements that exist presently.
At the launch of negotiations in 2012, the leaders of each relevant country endorsed the “Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.”
The key points of this document are as follows:
(A) Scope of negotiations
- RCEP will cover trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical co-operation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement and other issues.
- As expected, ASEAN will be in the “driver’s seat” of this multilateral trade arrangement (though the idea was initially given by Japan), and has been repeatedly endorsed by India.
- The joint statement issued at the end of the first round of negotiations also reiterated “ASEAN Centrality” in the emerging regional economic architecture.
(B) Commitment levels
The RCEP will have broader and deeper engagement with significant improvements over the existing ASEAN+1 FTAs, while recognizing the individual and diverse circumstances of the participating countries.
(C) Negotiations for trade in goods
Negotiations should aim to achieve the high level of tariff liberalization, through building upon the existing liberalization levels between participating countries.
(D) Negotiations for trade in services
The RCEP will be comprehensive, of high-quality and consistent with WTO rules and all service sectors will be subject to negotiations.
(E) Negotiations for investment
Negotiations will cover the 4 pillars of promotion, protection, facilitation and liberalization.
(F) Participating countries
Participants will be ASEAN members and FTA Partners. After the completion of the negotiations, countries other than the 16 states may join.
Thinnest hologram ever may lead to ‘3D world’
- Scientists have created the world’s thinnest hologram that can be seen without 3D goggles and may be integrated into everyday electronics such as smartphones, computers and TVs.
- Interactive 3D holograms are a staple of science fiction — from Star Wars to Avatar — but the challenge for scientists trying to turn them into reality is developing holograms that are thin enough to work with modern electronics.
- Now, researchers led by RMIT University in Australia have designed a nano-hologram that is simple to make, can be seen without 3D goggles and is 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.
- “Conventional computer-generated holograms are too big for electronic devices but our ultrathin hologram overcomes those size barriers,” said Min Gu, Professor at RMIT.
- Conventional holograms modulate the phase of light to give the illusion of three-dimensional depth. However, to generate enough phase shifts, those holograms need to be at the thickness of optical wavelengths.
- “Our nano-hologram is also fabricated using a simple and fast direct laser writing system, which makes our design suitable for large-scale uses and mass manufacture,” Gu said.
- Integrating holography into everyday electronics would make screen size irrelevant — a pop-up 3D hologram can display a wealth of data that does not neatly fit on a phone or watch.
- “From medical diagnostics to education, data storage, defence and cyber security, 3D holography has the potential to transform a range of industries and this research brings that revolution one critical step closer,” Gu said.
Ecological concerns over combustible ice
- Commercial development of the globe’s huge reserves of a frozen fossil fuel known as “combustible ice” has moved closer to reality after Japan and China successfully extracted the material from the sea floor off their coastlines.
- But experts said that large-scale production remains many years away and if not done properly could flood the atmosphere with climate-changing greenhouse gases.
- Combustible ice is a frozen mixture of water and concentrated natural gas. Technically known as methane hydrate, it can be lit on fire in its frozen state and is believed to comprise one of the world’s most abundant fossil fuels.
- Methane hydrate has been found beneath seafloors and buried inside Arctic permafrost and beneath Antarctic ice.
- Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that the fuel was successfully mined by a drilling rig operating in the South China Sea.
- A drilling crew in Japan reported a similar successful operation two weeks earlier, on May 4 offshore the Shima Peninsula.
- Estimates of worldwide reserves range from 280 trillion cubic metres up to 2,800 trillion cubic metres, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
- That means methane hydrate reserves could meet global gas demands for 80 to 800 years at current consumption rates.
- Yet efforts to successfully extract the fuel at a profit have eluded private and state-owned energy companies for decades.
- There are also environmental concerns. If methane hydrate leaks during the extraction process, it can increase greenhouse gas emissions. The fuel also could displace renewables such as solar and wind power.