IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 21st September 2019
(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Environment Conservation
- Students in more than 2,000 cities across the world are holding demonstrations under the #FridaysforFuture movement, protesting inaction towards climate change.
- Also known as the Youth Strike for Climate Movement, it started in August 2018 after Greta Thunberg (16-year-old student) sat outside the Swedish parliament for three weeks to protest against inaction towards climate change and called for concrete government action.
- Then in September 2018, Thunberg called for a strike every Friday until the Swedish parliament revised its policies towards climate change.
- The movement soon spread to other countries which turned into a global movement supported by Civil Society activists and Scientists.
- Students are protesting because they are the ones who are going to be bearing the brunt of Climate change in the coming decades and the governments continue to rely on fossil fuels.
- In the present phase of the strikes, students are demanding “urgent” and “decisive” action in order to keep global average temperatures from rising above 1.5 degree Celsius.
- Also, millions of adults will be joining them in the Global #ClimateStrike movement, which will commence just as the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 is set to take place in New York on September 23.
Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains GS-I - Women
- PMMVY has achieved a significant milestone by crossing one crore beneficiaries.
- The total amount disbursed to the beneficiaries under the scheme has crossed Rs. 4,000 crores.
- It is a direct benefit transfer (DBT) schemeunder which cash benefits are provided to pregnant women in their bank account directly to meet enhanced nutritional needs and partially compensate for wage loss
- Under the ‘Scheme’, Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PW&LM) receive a cash benefit of Rs. 5,000 in three instalments on fulfilling the respective conditionality, viz. early registration of pregnancy, ante-natal check-up and registration of the birth of the child and completion of first cycle of vaccination for the first living child of the family.
- The scheme was launched in 2017 as Centrally SponsoredScheme and implemented by Ministry of Women and Child Development
- Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Rajasthan are the top five States & UT in the country in implementation of the scheme. Odisha and Telangana are yet to start implementation of the scheme.
National Recruitment Agency
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains GS-II -Governance
- Finance Ministry has approved the proposal for creation of a NRA to streamline recruitment process of Group-B (non-gazetted), Group-C (non-technical) and clerical posts in the government along with various equivalent recruitment in PSB.
- It will be set up to conduct the Common Eligibility Test (CET) for all these competitive examinations, in which an estimated 2.5 crore candidates appear annually.
- NRA will conduct preliminary examinations for all these recruitment, which are at present conducted by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) and the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS)
- The SSC and IBPS will not be disbanded for now and will conduct the mains examinations as usual.
- NRA is thus expected to reduce the burden on SSC & IBPS whereby NRA will work as a preliminary single-window agency to shortlist qualifying candidates
Part of: GS Prelims
- Sri Lanka unveils South Asia’s tallest tower (called Lotus Tower) in Colombo
- It is 350-metre-tall and in the shape of Lotus
- It comprises a hotel, a TV tower, restaurants, a mall, a telecommunications museum, and auditorium.
- The tower, which is expected to function as Sri Lanka’s ‘digital TV tower’, is built with fibre optic cables and is fully equipped with necessary telecommunication equipment.
- The tower costs more than $100 million. The 80% of costs incurred has been funded by China under the controversial Belt and Road Initiative(BRI).
Wawe Summit 2019
Part of: GS Prelims
- Union Human Resource Development Minister has launched the Waste Management Accelerator for Aspiring Women Entrepreneurs (WAWE Summit 2019).
- The summit will be the largest gathering of young women students who will promote entrepreneurship in waste management and provide alternatives to single-use plastic carry bags
- It is organized by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and Institute of Waste Management(IIWM) at Jaipur.
- Theme of summit: “Make your own bag – empowering women to take up income generation activity and entrepreneurship in waste management, through making a business out of this record-creating concept.”
- AICTE is the statutory body responsible for proper planning and coordinated development of the technical education and management education system in India.
- AICTE works under Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development.
TOPIC: General Studies 3:
- Government Budgeting
Parliamentary Budget Office a need for an hour
Parliamentary Budget Office:
- A PBO is an independent and impartial body linked directly to Parliament.
- It provides technical and objective analysis of Budgets and public finance to the House and its committees.
- It can generate quality public debate on Budget policy and public finance, enabling parliamentarians to engage meaningfully in the Budget process.
- Traditionally, independent budgetary units are more common in developed countries.
Need for PBO:
- Executive-led budgetary governance has not been successful in India.
- To carry out the functions effectively, Parliament requires institutional, analytical and technical competence.
- There is a growing trend among legislatures, particularly within the OECD countries to establish specialised Budget research units.
Function of PBOs across the world:
- Independent and objective economic forecast.
- Baseline estimate survey.
- Analysing the executive’s Budget proposal.
- Providing medium- to long-term analysis
What is to be done?
- The body needs to be appointed not based on political allegiance or expediency, but on its expertise in budgetary, fiscal and economic matters.
- This body must serve parliamentarians equally and without prejudice.
- These bodies must help shape the debate and discourse around the state of the nation’s finances and the fiscal implications of significant proposals.
- What is gravely in danger is evidence-based discussion around important policies that affect the trajectory of our Republic, discussions which can quickly blur the line between fact and fiction.
Example: The Rafale deal with Dassault Aviation. Part of the controversy resulted from uncertainty regarding the true lifecycle costs of the aircraft bought. In 2011, the Canadian PBO released a cost estimate for Canada’s purchase of F-35 jets. This estimate far exceeded the one presented by the Department of National Defence.
Working of PBOs:
- It is often the case that economic and fiscal projections of a PBO and the Ministry of Finance are similar. This is unsurprising as data sources and economic methodologies for such projections are well established and uniform.
- without the existence of another data point l generated by an independent, non-partisan office, (PBO)it is difficult for parliamentarians to ensure that these projections and estimates continue to be reliable enough for them to make decisions on.
- When these projections come into question, the Cabinet can tap the civil service for further research and analysis.
- Most parliamentarians do not have this luxury and may have to rely on poor quality third-party data and analysis, done without relevant expertise. This is a situation that must be avoided
AG vs PBO :
- Auditor general performs, which is to provide retrospective audits and analysis of the financial accounts and performance of government operations.
- A PBO provides prospective, forward-looking economic and fiscal projections, as well as policy costings.
- Congressional Budget Office in the United States ,Offices in the Netherlands, Korea, Australia and the United Kingdom.
- In some of these countries PBOs provide independent cost estimates of electoral platform measures to political parties.
- The amount of information parliamentarians need to scrutinise in Budget documents has exponentially increased and a PBO would assist parliamentarians in this process of scrutiny.
- India’s Parliament and government need to work quickly and energetically to establish such an office; it is in everyone’s interests to do so.
- As the process toward the Union Budget 2020 has already kicked off, it would be prudent for parliamentarians to examine the case for a PBO more deeply.
Connecting the dots:
- Legislatures across the world have witnessed an increasingly stronger executive try to wrest away its rightful power of the purse. A PBO would help resuscitate these powers that have fallen into disuse.
TOPIC: General Studies 3:
- Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
- Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
- Investment models.
Finance Minister cuts corporate taxes
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman cuts corporate taxes for domestic, new manufacturing companies
- Corporate tax rate has been cut to 22% from 30% for companies that do not avail exemptions — this means that the effective tax rate for such companies will fall from 34.94% presently to 25.17%
- companies opting for 22 per cent income tax slab would not have to pay minimum alternative tax (MAT).
- The government has also decided to not levy enhanced surcharge introduced in Budget on capital gain arising from the sale of equity shares in a company liable for securities transaction tax (STT).
- Auto firms looking to make in India will have to pay an even lower tax rate of 15%, provided they start by 31 March 2023
- The idea behind this move is obviously to generate private investment which is now at a low ebb, and also be to attract foreign investors looking for alternative sites for their global value chains disrupted now by the tariff war between China and the U.S. With these cuts, the government has delivered on a long-standing demand of Corporate India.
- Tax concessions will bring investments in Make in India, boost employment and economic activity, leading to more revenue
- The new corporate tax cuts are expected to boost economic growth, which slipped to a six-year low of 5% in the April-June quarter.
- Vehicle prices may come down significantly following cut in corporate tax
- Revenue foregone on reduction in corporate tax and other relief measures will be Rs 1.45 lakh crore annually.
- This is very significant, especially in the context of the over-estimation of revenues in the Budget and the under-performance in terms of tax collections so far this year
- The deficit target of 3.3% for this fiscal is unattainable, as things stand
Minimum alternative tax (MAT):
- Companies try to minimise giving taxes by taking advantage of depreciation, deductions, exemptions, etc from the government. So the government imposes a Minimum Alternate Tax or MAT as an advance tax on these companies. This makes the companies give at least a minimum amount of tax.
- In India MAT is levied under Section 115JB of the Income Tax Act, 1961
- The onus is now in passing on the benefit of lower taxes down the chain to consumers and investors.
- The one route open to the government is to go big on disinvestment where it has already budgeted Rs 1,05,000 crore for this year
- The corporate tax cuts are certainly good for the economy in the medium term but in the short term, until revenues bounce back, the government has a fiscal problem on its hands.
Connecting the dots:
- Tax cuts have enthused Corporate India, but there is the fiscal problem to deal with. Elucidate.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana is being implemented by which Ministry?
- Ministry of Health
- Ministry of Finance
- Ministry of Women and Child Development
- None of the above
Q.2) “Fridays for Future” movement often seen in news is related to which of the following areas?
- Awareness about ill-effects of alcoholism
- Wage parity between men and women employees
- Students protesting for action by government towards Climate change
- None of the above
Q.3) Which of the following are the objectives of setting National Recruitment Agency
- To streamline recruitment process on subordinate-rank posts in the government.
- To reduce the burden of SSC and the IBPS, among others, from holding preliminary recruitment exams, which is an extensive exercise.
Select the correct answer from the codes given below.
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.4) Consider the following statements about Lotus Tower
- It is South Asia’s tallest tower located in Thailand
- It has been funded by China under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
One people, many countries
A rural stimulus
Fix the fundamentals first
Modi government ought to recognise that diaspora diplomacy is double-edged