National Current Affairs – UPSC/KAS Exams- 5th January 2019

Lokpal

1

Topic: Polity and Governance

IN NEWS: The government informed the Supreme Court  that a search committee had been constituted for zeroing in on eligible candidates for the Lokpal, and it will frame its own rules of functioning.

About Lokpal:

  • A Lokpal is an anti-corruption authority or ombudsman who represents the public interest.
  • The concept of an ombudsman is borrowed from Sweden.
  • The Lokpal has jurisdiction over all Members of Parliament and central government employees in cases of corruption.
  • The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act was passed in 2013 with amendments in parliament, following the Jan Lokpal movement led by Anna Hazare.
  • The Lokpal is responsible for enquiring into corruption charges at the national level while the Lokayukta performs the same function at the state level.
  • Lokpal will have power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by Lokpal.
  • A high powered Committee chaired by the Prime Minister will recommend selection of the Director, CBI.
  • Attachment and confiscation of property of public servants acquired by corrupt means, even while prosecution is pending.

Lokpal Members:

  • The Lokpal to consist of a Chairperson and a maximum of eight Members, of which fifty percent shall be judicial Members. Fifty per cent of members of Lokpal shall be from amongst SC, ST, OBCs, Minorities and Women.
  • The selection of Chairperson and Members of Lokpal shall be through a Selection Committee consisting of :
  1. a) Prime Minister;
  2. b) Speaker of Lok Sabha;
  3. c) Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha;
  4. d) Chief Justice of India or a sitting Supreme Court Judge nominated by CJI;
  5. e) An eminent jurist to be nominated by the President of India
  • A Search Committee will assist the Selection Committee in the process of selection. Fifty per cent of members of the Search Committee shall also be from amongst SC, ST, OBCs, Minorities and Women.

Source: The Hindu

Andhra unveils second largest rock art trove

2

Topic: Art and Culture

IN NEWS: Andhra Pradesh’s second largest petroglyph site, containing about 80 petroglyhs, has been discovered at Mekala Benchi, Kurnool District. These petroglyphs, or rock carvings, underscore Kurnool’s importance as a major site of Neolithic settlements in south India.

More on the Topic:

  • Kandanathi, with 200 petroglyphs, is also in Kurnool district. While Mekala Benchi has petroglyphs dating back from the Neolithic to the Megalithic period, Kandanathi carvings range from the prehistoric to the historic period.
  • The petroglyphs recently discovered has two boulders, one known locally as ‘Boodida Konda’ (ash-coloured hill) and the other an unnamed granite hillock, mostly have images of bulls or bull-riding, in addition to human figures, an elephant, tiger-like animals and cupules.
  • The current archeological site, at the granite foothills of Boodida Konda, fits the description of a Neolithic settlement.
  • The researcher also collected various types of stone tools potsherds dating back to the Neolithic period (2900 BCE-1000 BCE).Neoliths, or polished stone axes, were found aplenty.
  • Neolithic people were the early pastoral community. The present day Gollas and Kurubas (grazing communities), who are predominant in this region, are the living examples of the first pastoralists.

Source:The Hindu

Chinese lunar rover named as ‘Yutu 2’

3

Topic: Science and Technology

In news: China has named the lunar rover, successfully deployed on Thursday to carry out a string of experiments on the unexplored far side of the moon, as ‘Yutu 2’.

More on the Topic:

  • The Yutu 2 touched the lunar surface leaving a trace on the loose lunar soil. The rover’s touchdown is part of China Chang’e-4 lunar probe.
  • Analysts say that China’s lunar probe is part of its ‘Made in China-2025’ project, which focuses on advanced technology, including space applications.
  • According to some sources, after the latest launch, Beijing is moving forward with plans to build a research base on the moon.
  • It is also said to be considering mining there for helium-3, a rare substance on earth that can be used as a fuel in nuclear fusion power generation.
  • The publication added that the S. is growing increasingly alarmed because a more advanced Chinese space programme could be translated into military strength.
  • The rover has been programmed to launch ground penetration radar that would help map the moon’s inner structures.
  • It would also analyse soil and rock samples for minerals, apart from activating a radio telescope to search for possible signals from deep space.

Source: The Hindu

33% reservation for women

Topic: Social Justice

In news:  Women members in the Rajya Sabha urged the government to ensure the passage of the women’s reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha. The Bill, which proposes a 33% reservation for women in Parliament and State legislatures, was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010 but has been stuck in the Lower House for nine years.

 More on the Topic:

  • The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, commonly known as the women’s reservation Bill, needs to be approved by the Lok Sabha in order to become law.

Why to have 33% women reservation in Parliament:

  • Poor participation of women in Parliament has a direct impact on the priorities and assumptions of policies and legislations. There will be a qualitative change in governance with the inclusion of women in decision-making processes.
  • Countries with greater representation of women have often delivered better outcomes.
  • India does not have to look far to understand the relationship between gender parity in politics and socio-economic development. In the list of 10 top countries with the highest percentage of women members in parliament, all the Nordic countries make in appearance. Sweden leads the way with women accounting for nearly 45% of all members of their legislature.

What does the Women’s Reservation Bill provide?

  • The Women’s Reservation Bill is a proposed legislation to reserve 33.3 per cent of seats in Parliament and State legislatures for women.
  • This would mean reserving 181 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha and 1,370 out of a total of 4,109 seats in the 28 State Assemblies for women.
  • In case of seats reserved for SC-ST candidates, 33.3 percent would have to be reserved for women.
  • The reservation of seats is proposed to be on rotation basis, which means that the 33.3 % seats reserved in one election would cease to be reserved in the next election. In its place, another set of seats totaling 33.3 % would get reserved. The provision for reservation is proposed to be in place for 15 years.
  • The Bill is an extension of the 3 % reservation of seats for women in the Panchayats .
  • Reservation for women in Panchayats has resulted in probably one of the largest mobilization of women in public life in the world.

What are the apprehensions regarding the Bill?

  • Some political parties are apprehensive that the reservation for women would rob the chances of many of their male leaders to fight elections.
  • Coupled with the reservation that already exists for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, a further reservation for women would be discriminatory for other sections of people.
  • Others say that the reservation would benefit only elite women, causing further discrimination and under representation to the poor and backward classes.
  • They are opposed to the bill in its present form and want a quota within quota for women from backward classes.
  • It is also felt that rotation of seats being reserved may reduce the commitment of the elected MPs to their constituencies as their chances of getting reelected would be very little.

Source: The Hindu

5

Topic: Government Initiative

In News: Minister of State for Power and Renewable Energy, R K Singh has stated in Lok Sabha that the targets set under the Street Lightin ng National Programme are most likely to be missed.

More on the Topic:

  • Street Light National Programme is an initiative of the Government to promote energy efficiency in the country.
  • Government aims to replace 3.5 crore conventional street lights with energy efficient LED lights.
  • This would result in annual energy saving of 900 crore units and the total cost savings of municipalities every year will be Rs 5,500 crore.
  • Energy Efficiency Services Limited, a Public Energy Services Company under the administration of Ministry of Power, Government of India (GoI) is the implementing agency for SLNP.

About Energy Efficiency Service Limited:

  • Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) is an energy service company (ESCO) of the Government of India and is the world’s largest public ESCO.
  • It is 100% government owned, a joint venture of state-owned NTPC Limited, Power Finance Corporation, Rural Electrification Corporation and POWERGRID.
  • EESL was formed under India’s Ministry of Power to facilitate energy efficiency projects. Innovative business and implementation models can significantly reduce consumption and costs.
  • EESL also acts as the resource centre for capacity building of state electricity distribution companies, electricity regulatory commissions (ERCs), state-designated agencies (SDAs), upcoming ESCOs, financial institutions, etc.

Source: PIB                                              

Angel Tax

6

Topic: Indian Economy

In news: Citizens’ engagement forum LocalCircles has released a report on challenges faced by start- ups in India. The report is based on responses from over 15,000 start-ups, SMEs and entrepreneurs.It found out angel tax is one of the hardest challenges faced by the entrepreneurs.

More on the Topic:

  • Angel tax is one area that falls under corruption and bureaucratic inefficiencies as it takes the focus of entrepreneurs away from building a product or service to responding to tax notices and filing appeals, something that start-ups can clearly do without.
  • Angel tax continued to be a key pain point for start-ups, where the assessing officers in many cases reject the valuation method used by the start-up and instead treat the capital raised as income from other sources, thereby, raising a tax demand and penalty on the start-up.
  • Several start-ups and angel investors have raised concerns over notices received from the authorities related to taxation of angel funds. The Centre has set up a panel to look into the taxation issues faced by start-ups and angel investors.

About Angel Tax:

  • Angel Tax is a 30% tax that is levied on the funding received by startups from an external investor.
  • However, this 30% tax is levied when startups receive angel funding at a valuation higher than its ‘fair market value’. It is counted as income to the company and is taxed.
  • The tax, under section 56(2)(viib), was introduced by in 2012 to fight money laundering.
  • The stated rationale was that bribes and commissions could be disguised as angel investments to escape taxes. But given the possibility of this section being used to harass genuine startups, it was rarely invoked.

The Concerns over Angel Tax:

  • There is no definitive or objective way to measure the ‘fair market value’ of a startup.
  • Investors pay a premium for the idea and the business potential at the angel funding stage. However, tax officials seem to be assessing the value of the startups based on their net asset value at one point.
  • Several startups say that they find it difficult to justify the higher valuation to tax officials.
  • In a notification dated May 24, 2018, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had exempted angel investors from the Angel Tax clause subject to fulfilment of certain terms and conditions, as specified by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). However, despite the exemption notification, there are a host of challenges that startups are still faced with, in order to get this exemption.

Source: The Hindu

Bharatmala Pariyojana

7

Topic: Government Initiatives

In news: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) plans to raise Rs10,000 crore through Bharatmala Taxable Bonds in the ongoing financial year.

More on the Topic:

  • Bharatmala Pariyojana is a centrally-sponsored and funded road and highways project of the Government of India.
  • It is the single largest outlay for a government road construction scheme (as of December 2017).
  • The project will build highways from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and then cover the entire string of Himalayan states – Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand – and then portions of borders of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar alongside Terai, and move to West Bengal , Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and right up to the Indo-Myanmar border in Manipur and Mizoram.
  • Special emphasis will be given on providing connectivity to far-flung border and rural areas including the tribal and backward areas.
  • It is both enabler and beneficiary of other key Government of India schemes, such as Sagarmala, Dedicated Freight Corridors, Industrial corridors, UDAN-RCS, BharatNet, Digital India and Make in India.
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