Current Affairs 5th March, 2019

PAPER – 2 and PAPER - 3

Topics Covered

1.  India – Bilateral Relations

2. Indian Economy

U.S. plans to end India’s Preferential Trade Treatment

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What to read?

Prelims – What is Preferential Trade Treatment, General System of Preferences of U.S., e- Commerce rules of India

Mains – Background of such development and its impact on the Economy

U.S.-India trade ties were hurt after India unveiled new rules on e-commerce that restrict the way Amazon.com Inc and Walmart Inc-backed Flipkart do business.

U.S. President said that he intends to end India's preferential trade treatment under a programme that allows $5.6 billion worth of Indian exports to enter the United States duty free.

Why such a step?

  • The U.S. goods and services trade deficit with India was $27.3 billion in 2017, according to the U.S. Trade Representative's Office.

  • After intensive engagement between the United States and the Government of India, U.S President have determined that India has not assured the United States that it will provide equitable and reasonable access to the markets of India.

  • The e-commerce rules followed a drive by New Delhi to force global card payments companies such as Mastercard Inc and Visa Inc to move their data to India and the imposition of higher tariffs on electronic products and smartphones.

When it would come into action?

Removing India from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme would not take effect for at least 60 days after notifications to Congress and the Indian government, and it will be enacted by a presidential proclamation.

Impact of Removal from GSP

India is the world's largest beneficiary of the GSP program and ending its participation would be the strongest punitive action against India since Mr. Trump took office in 2017.

India exports nearly 50 products of the 94 products on which GSP benefits are stopped. The GSP removal will leave a reasonable impact on India as the country enjoyed preferential tariff on exports worth of nearly $ 5. 6 billion under the GSP route out of the total exports of $48 bn in 2017-18. In total India exports nearly 1,937 products to the US under GSP.

Generalised System of Preferences

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The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is a U.S. trade program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 4,800 products from 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories.

Objective of GSP

The objective of GSP was to give development support to poor countries by promoting exports from them into the developed countries. GSP promotes sustainable development in beneficiary countries by helping these countries to increase and diversify their trade with the United States. GSP provide opportunities for many of the world’s poorest countries to use trade to grow their economies and climb out of poverty.

Benefits of GSP

  • Indian exporters benefit indirectly – through the benefit that accrues to the importer by way of reduced tariff or duty free entry of eligible Indian products.

  • Reduction or removal of import duty on an Indian product makes it more competitive to the importer – other things (e.g. quality) being equal.

  • This tariff preference helps new exporters to penetrate a market and established exporters to increase their market share and to improve upon the profit margins, in the donor country.


PAPER – 2 and PAPER - 3

Topics Covered

1. India – Bilateral Relations

2. Defence

Pakistan bans UNSC designated outfits

What to read?

Prelims – FATF, UNSC 1267

Mains – Why India is sceptical of Pakistan’s ban on terror outfits?

Facing severe pressure from the Financial Action Task Force, and calls from a number of countries to crack down on terror groups, especially after tensions with India, the Pakistan government passed an order to effectively ban Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT) offshoots Jamat-ud Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF).

  • Islamabad said it will “streamline” the banning of groups that have been proscribed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and ensure that all entities banned by UNSC 1267 Committee in particular will have their assets frozen.

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India’s response to the ban of terror outfit in Pakistan

  • Government in New Delhi, however, is  sceptical about the move, given Pakistan’s attempts to ban these groups in the past, only to drop the ban over a period of time.

  • The JuD and FiF were listed by the UNSC as aliases for the Hafiz Saeed-led Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT) that was banned in May 2005. However, Pakistan only had them on a watch list (Schedule-2) not the banned list (Schedule-1) prior to this move.

  • Pakistani decision was part of a “decade old fraud” by Islamabad, to pass SROs that are not prosecutable in courts and do not place any liability on the government authority that doesn’t implement the orders.

Related Information

FATF

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The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7.  It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in various areas. The FATF Secretariat is housed at the OECD headquarters in Paris.

Functions

The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally.  

In collaboration with other international stakeholders, the FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse.

Blacklist and grey list

  • FATF maintains two different lists of countries: those that have deficiencies in their AML/CTF regimes, but they commit to an action plan to address these loopholes, and those that do not end up doing enough. The former is commonly known as grey list and latter as blacklist.

  • Once a country is blacklisted, FATF calls on other countries to apply enhanced due diligence and counter measures, increasing the cost of doing business with the country and in some cases severing it altogether.

Important Note - As of now there are only two countries in the blacklist — Iran and North Korea — and seven on the grey list, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria and Yemen.


PAPER – 2

Topics Covered

1. Governance

Launch of ‘One Nation One Card’ – National Common Mobility Card

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What to read?

Prelims – About National Common Mobility Card

Mains –Advantage of this indigenously made in India Card , Challenges

Prime Minister launched the indigenously-developed National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) to enable people to pay multiple kinds of transport charges, including metro services and toll tax, across the country.

One Nation One Card

In order to ensure a seamless travel across metros and other transport systems, in addition to retail shopping and purchases, the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA) came out with the NCMC program.

  • Dubbed as ‘One Nation One Card’, the inter-operable transport card would allow the holders to pay for their bus travel, toll taxes, parking charges, retail shopping and even withdraw money.

  • Prime Minister launched the NCMC while inaugurating the first phase of the Ahmedabad metro train service.

Advantages of its indigenous feature

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This card runs on RuPay card and it will eliminate all travel related problems.

Why indigenous feature?

  • Many a times, we do not have change to pay in cash while travelling in metro, bus or train, or for toll and parking. To overcome this issue, an automatic fare collection system was introduced.

  • India used to import this system from foreign countries. Since systems were made by different players, a card issued in one city did not work in another city. Thus various ministries, departments and even banks worked to resolve this issue

  • People can also withdraw money using this Common Mobility Card. This RuPay card can be used for travelling in metros in any part of the country. In simple terms, Government have merged the RuPay card with the mobility card.

  • With the advent of this indigenously-developed and one-of-its-kind card, the country is no longer required to be dependent on foreign technology.

  • The stored value on card supports offline transaction across all travel needs with minimal financial risk to involved stake-holders. The service area feature of this card supports operator specific applications e.g. monthly passes, season tickets etc.

Major Challenge

The major challenge associated with the Automatic Fare Collection System (AFC) implementation in the country until now is the lack of indigenous solution provider.


PAPER – 3

Topics Covered

1. Conservation of Environment

Crop burning raises risk of respiratory illness threefold

Crop burning raises risk of respiratory illness threefold, says IFPRI study

What to read?

Prelims – About IFPRI and its report

Mains – Major Observations in the study

The burning of agricultural residue , a contributor to north India’s winter pollution, increases the risk of respiratory illnesses threefold for those who experience it, says IFPRI study.

Major Observations of the study

The findings were based on a study of the health records of 250,000 people in Haryana (which sees a spike in crop burning episodes in winter), and Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, which don’t see similar burning episodes.

The researchers used health records and satellite data from September 2013-February 2014. The satellite data was for crop-burning fires detected by the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Terra satellite, managed by the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA).

  • It may also be responsible for an annual $30 billion (approximately ₹2 trillion) loss in terms of days of work lost in States affected by crop burning.

  • Living in an area where crop burning is practised was a leading risk factor for respiratory disease in northern India. Whereas the total burden of diseases from air pollution declined between 1990 and 2016 due to efforts to reduce the burning of solid fuel for household use, outdoor air pollution increased by 16.6%.

  • In Haryana, 5.4% of surveyed individuals reported suffering from ARI (Acute Respiratory Infection) whereas the reported ARI symptoms in southern States was only 0.1%.

  • It is not only the residents of Delhi, but also women, children and men of rural Haryana who are the first victims of crop residue burning.

  • Measures taken

    • In 2013, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued a directive to Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, asking them to ban stubble burning.

    • The Environment Ministers of these States as well as top officials at the Centre declared a “zero tolerance” policy on the burning of stubble, which has been estimated to contribute anywhere from 7% to 78% of the particulate matter-emission load in Delhi during winter.

    Related Institution

    IFPRI

    It is a Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has releases the Global Hunger Index (GHI) report.

    Global Hunger Index

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    The GHI score is a multidimensional index composed of four indicators

  • proportion of undernourished in the population.

  • mortality rate of children under the age of five (deaths per 1000 live births).

  • proportion of children under five suffering from wasting (low weight for height).

  • proportion of children under five suffering from stunting (lower height than typical for age).

  • Important Note

    India's 103rd  rank is worse than the likes of North Korea, Bangladesh, and Iraq.

    • And is only better than Pakistan and Afghanistan among Asian countries.

    • Notably, India is at the high end of the “serious” category.

    PAPER – 3

    Topics Covered

    1. Defence

    Border surveillance in Dhubri from today

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    What to read?

    Prelims – Project BOLD-QIT, Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System

    Mains – Advantages of BOLD-QIT and CIMBMS

    Home Minister will inaugurate an electronic surveillance project in Dhubri district of Assam, a riverine and highly porous stretch along the Bangladesh border.

    Smart fencing


    The “smart fencing” will be operationalized in the 61 km riverine section of the international border in the district where the Brahmaputra river enters into Bangladesh, in a bid to check illegal immigration and smuggling of arms, ammunition, drugs and cattle.

    Project BOLD-QIT

    The project Border Electronically Dominated QRT Interception Technique under the Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS), will cover the India-Bangladesh border in the area which consists of ‘char’ (sand islands) and innumerable river channels, which makes border guarding a daunting task, especially during the rainy season

    Related image

    To overcome this problem, the MHA had in 2017 decided to employ a technological solution, besides the physical presence of Border Security Force (BSF) personnel.

    In January 2018, the information and technology wing of the BSF undertook project BOLD-QIT and completed it in record time with the support of various manufacturers and suppliers.


    PAPER – 2 and PAPER - 3

    Topics Covered

    1. Indian Economy

    2. Schemes

    Centre to incentivise work-from-home jobs

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    What to read?

    Prelims - India BPO Promotion Scheme

    Mains – About the scheme and its necessity in India

    About the Scheme and oriented benefits

    • The government is working on a scheme to push work-from-home jobs in the IT sector by offering financial incentives to both employees and employers.

    • Currently, the scheme is proposed for a three-year period till March 31, 2022, with an outlay of about ₹270 crore to create about 50,000 work-from-home jobs.

    • The initiative is likely to be launched as phase II of the IT Ministry’s India BPO Promotion Scheme that incentivises firms to set up operations in tier-2 and tier-3 cities in the country.

    • To avail benefits under the work-from-home scheme, employees will need to have an Aadhaar-linked Universal Account Number.

    • For employers, among other things, the policy proposes to provide 50% of the actual expenditure on technical infrastructure required for enabling such jobs, with a cap of ₹10,000 per job

    Labour Law Exemption and other benefits available to the Employer

    • The ‘work-from-home’ policy may extend relaxation in labour laws similar to that given to start-ups under the Startup India programme.

    • In 2016, the government had announced exemption for start-ups from nine labour laws, including the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972, Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 and Employees State Insurance Act, 1948.

    • Besides, it is proposed that employees be provided support for 50% of the cost of a laptop (₹10,000 cap) or smartphone (up to ₹5,000), along with up to ₹350 per month for broadband.

    Why incentivising work from home – In India?

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    • Incentivising work-from-home jobs through policy-level initiatives can help in creating jobs in the ITES domain while increasing the available talent pool for the sector.

    • This will create employment opportunities in the IT/ITES industry, especially for women and differently-abled persons.

    • There is abundant talent pool in the country, especially women, who are not able to join full-time office jobs. The scheme envisages incentives for both employers as well as employees