Weekly Current Affairs - 19 August to 24 August 2019


Ajit Kumar AJIT KUMARWISDOM IAS, New Delhi.


 
1. Nirmala Sitharaman press conference: All pending GST refund shall be paid within 30 days

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the current projected global GDP growth is of about 3.2 % and it is probably going to be even revised downwards. She further stated that the global demand has been weak and it is expected to reduce further due to the ongoing trade war between the US and China. The fluctuation in the Chinese currency also plays a huge role in it. However, she assured that the Indian economy is at a better position in comparison to others.

Following are some of the new measures to boost economy: 

- India is moving towards pre-filed I-T returns and faceless scrutiny of taxation will be brought in by Vijayadashmi. 
- CSR violation will no longer be treated a criminal offence, they will be treated as a civil matter.
- Issue of I-T orders, summons and letters etc shall now go through a centralised system from October 1.
- All income tax notices will now be disposed off within three months.
- Enhanced surcharge  on FPIs, ondomestic investors withdrawn, pre-budget position restored.
- Angel tax provisions for start ups and their investors also withdrawn.
- Section 56 2(b) Of I-T Act will not be applicable for startups registered with DPTIT. 
- Online tracking for loan applications to be introduced.
- Banks will improve transparency and reduce harassment. Banks have also agreed to pass on rate cuts. 

More credit support for purchase of houses, vehicles and consumption goods

This will be done by providing additional liquidity support to HFCs Rs 20,000 crore by NHB thereby increasing it to Rs 30,000 crore.

Partial Credit Guarantee scheme  for purchase of pooled assets of NBFs, HFCs upto Rs 1 lakh crore, which will be monitored at the highest level in each bank. The payment notices issued to the NBFCs will be monitored by banks.

The NBFCs will be further permitted to use Aadhaar authenticated bank KYC to avoid repeated processes. For the same, the necessary changes shall be made in PMLA rules and Aadhaar regulations. This will fast track on boarding of customers.

GST Returns

All pending GST refund due to MSMEs, from the time of introduction, shall be paid within 30 days from today.
Future GST refund matters will be resolved within 60 days for MSMEs from the date of the application.
Definition of MSMEs
The government has decided to introduce an amendment to the  MSME Act to move towards a single definition. 
Finance

In order to improve access to long term finance, it is proposed to establish an organisation to provide credit enhancement for infrastructure and housing projects. This is aimed at enhancing debt flow towards such projects. 

The government would also soon take action on development of credit default swap markets soon, in consultation with RBI and SEBI. 

Further, in order to improve domestic market in bonds, the Finance Ministry will work with the RBI to make it more conducive for investors and bond issuers as well as facilitate increased trading for price discovery. 

The Government has also amended the Companies (Share capital and Debenture rules) 2014 to remove the requirement for creation of a Debenture Redemption Reserve (DRR) of outstanding debentures in respect of listed companies, NBFCs and for HFCs.

Infrastructure

The delayed payments from Government/CPSEs will be monitored by Department of Expenditure and the performance will be reviewed by Cabinet Secretariat. So, there will be no further hold up in money transfer. 
Further, contractual disputes by Government/CPSEs to be implemented and monitored by Cabinet Secretariat.

Automobile Sector

- The BS IV vehicles that are purchased upto March 31, 2020 will remain operational for their entire period of registration.
- Further, the revision of one-time registration fees has been deferred till June 2020.
- Both EVs and ICVs will continue to be registered. 

Boost Demand

To boost demand in the automobile industry, the government shall lift the ban on purchase of new vehicles to replace all oil vehicles by departments. 

Government will consider various measures including a scrappage policy to boost demand. 
The Finance Minister further said that the government is planning to come up with a solution for the Home Buyers. 
 
2. FATF Asia Pacific Group places Pakistan on (Enhanced) Blacklist - Everything you need to know

Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Group places Pakistan on its Blacklist (Enhanced Expedited Follow Up List) for its failure in meeting the required global standards; and combating terrorism and money laundering. Pakistan was put in the Enhanced Blacklist of Asia Pacific Group (APG) because of the following reasons - Pakistan was non-compliant in 32 of the 40 Compliance Parameters on Money Laundering & Terror Financing, and it ranked low in 10 of the 11 Effectiveness Parameters. 

Pakistan now has to focus on avoiding its entry into the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Black List in October 2019. FATF will hold a Plenary meeting in Paris October 2019 to decide on Pakistan’s Grey list status. FATF added Pakistan on its Grey List in June 2018. The decision to put Pakistan on the blacklist was taken during the 41 member APG Plenary meeting that lasted for over 7 hours on two days in Canberra, Australia. 

Which countries are put in Blacklist of FATF?- Countries that support terror funding and money laundering activities are placed in the Blacklist of FATF. These countries are known as Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories (NCCTs).

Pakistan in Grey List of FATF
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in June 2018 added Pakistan to its ‘Grey List’ for being involved in providing terror funding and related issues. It was not the first time that Pakistan was added to FATF’s Grey List. Pakistan had earlier been in the grey list of FATF during 2012 - 2015.

Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG)

- FATF Asia-Pacific Group is one of the regional affiliates of the Financial Action Task Force.
- The Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering works to ensure that all the countries adopt and implement the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing standards that are set out in the FATF’s 40 Recommendations and Eight Special Recommendations.

- APG assists countries in implementing laws to deal with crime, assistance, punishment, investigations; provides guidance in setting proper reporting systems and helps in establishing financial intelligence units.

- At present, there are 41 members of APG. Of these, 11 countries are also the members of the head FATF – India, China, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand Singapore and the United States.

About the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) was is established in 1989 during the G7 Summit in Paris (France) as an inter-governmental body by the Ministers of its Member jurisdictions. 

- FATF is an international anti-money laundering regulator that establishes international standards for combating money laundering and terrorism. 

- FATF Secretariat is headquartered in Paris as ‘Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’. 

- FATF's decisions are taken by the 'FATF Plenary', the decision-making body that holds FATF plenary sessions in February, June and October every year.

- FATF Plenary consists of around 39 member countries including India.
- China is the current President of the FATF.
 
3. INX Media Case: Explained

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram was arrested by the CBI and ED officials on August 21, 2019 after a 55 -minute drama at his Jor Bagh residence in New Delhi. The high drama enfolded after the Delhi High Court rejected Chidambaram’s bail plea in the INX Media case. Before his arrest, Chidambaram, who had been untraceable for almost 27 hours since Monday afternoon, appeared briefly at the AICC headquarters to address the media on the charges leveled against him.
 
INX Media case: Why did the CBI arrest former Finance Minister P Chidambaram?
The CBI and ED officials arrested former Finance Minister P Chidambaram to interrogate him regarding the INX Media corruption case. 

INX Media corruption case: What is it?

The INX Media corruption case relates to the irregularities in the FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board) to the INX Media group for getting overseas funds worth around Rs 305 crore in 2007. This was the time when P Chidambaram was the finance minister under the UPA-I government.

INX Media case: All you need to know

The Enforcement Directorate had filed an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) against P Chidambaram's son Karti Chidambaram in May 2017, INX Media and its directors, Peter and Indrani Mukerjea under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The CBI also subsequently filed an FIR against Karti Chidambaram and INX Media alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance granted to INX Media in 2007 for receiving overseas funds worth Rs 305 crore.
P Chidambaram had told the Supreme Court in October 2017 that the BJP-led central government was carrying out a "politically-motivated vendetta" against him and his son Karti Chidambaram.
The Enforcement Directorate then lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2018 and the CBI summoned Chidambaram for questioning.

P Chidambaram sought anticipatory bail in the corruption case from the Delhi High Court in May 30, 2018. The Minister also sought anticipatory bail from Delhi HC in the money laundering case registered by the ED in July 2018. 

The Delhi High Court granted the senior Congress leader interim protection from arrest in both the cases in July 2018. Further, the ED in October 2018 attached Karti Chidambaram's assets worth Rs 54 crore in India, the UK and Spain, in connection with the INX Media money laundering case.
In January 2019, the Delhi High Court reserved its judgement on P Chidambaram's anticipatory bail plea in both the cases.

The Enforcement Directorate asked Karti Chidambaram to vacate his Jor Bagh residence in New Delhi on August 1 and 19 days later, on August 20, 2019, the Delhi High Court dismissed Chidambaram's bail pleas, observing that he appeared to be the "kingpin" in the money laundering case. The High Court also declined Chidambaram's request to stay the order for three days to enable him to move an appeal in the SC till then. 

The Supreme Court also declined Chidambaram's plea for urgent hearing on the matter on August 21 and listed the matter for hearing on Friday. 

INX Media case: How is P Chidambaram involved in the case?

P Chidambaram is suspected to have played a leading role in getting clearance from the FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board) the second time round after the FIPB had rejected the application in the first round. 

The FIPB had approved Rs 4.62 crore worth of foreign investment into INX Media but it did not approve the proposal of INX Media's downstream 26 per cent investment into INX News. However, INX Media not only received Rs 305.36 crore in violation of FIPB rules, it also invested in 26 per cent equity in INX News without FIPB approval.

The other allegations include that of bribery against Karti Chidambaram, who reportedly demanded $1 million in foreign accounts when Peter and Indrani Mukerje approached him to get approvals. 
The CBI and ED would also like to enquire whether Chidambaram influenced any finance ministry officials to approve INX News application the second time. Three members who were in the Department of Economic Affairs when Chidambaram was the finance minister, Sindhushree Khullar, Anup K Pujari, Prabodh Saxena, have been accused of corruption in the INX Media case. 

P Chidambaram arrest: How it happened?

After the Delhi High Court rejected Chidambaram's anticipatory bail plea, the former Finance Minsiter’s legal counsel tried to get him an anticipatory bail from the Supreme Court. However, the top court has listed the matter for hearing on Friday. Chidabaram had requested the CBI and ED to wait till Friday till the bail plea is heard by the apex court. The WD and CBI issued separate look out circulars to prevent him from leaving the country. The CBI also posted a notice outside Chidabaram’s house asking him to appear for questioning within two hours. 
 
4. Amazon Rainforest fire: Cause, impact, everything you need to know

Amazon rainforest, the world's largest  rain forest is at the risk of getting burned out completely. The rainforest, which contributes almost 20 percent of the earth’s oxygen, has been burning for over 16 days resulting in a major loss of trees and biodiversity.  It will get completely burned out if it is not put out soon. 

Amazon Rainforest Fire Cause

Though forest fires are common in the Amazon during this period, as it is a dry season in the southern Amazon, the year 2019 has seen an unprecedented rise in the number of the fires and their intensity. The worrisome fact is that the burning has increased at a time when there is a huge decrease in the rates of deforestation in Brazilian Amazon.

According to environmentalists, 99 percent of the forest fires are a result of human actions, either on purpose or by accident. Farmers and ranchers use fire generally to clear the land for further utilisation. This year's fires also fit perfectly into the established seasonal agricultural pattern. This time is the most suitable to burn because the vegetation is dry. Farmers generally wait for the dry season to start burning and clearing areas so that their cattle can graze, However, peak of the dry season is yet to come in September.
 
5. Aadhaar-social media linking: All you need to know

The Supreme Court on August 20, 2019 stressed on the need to find a balance between the right to online privacy and the right of the state to trace originators of messages that are fake, defamatory or aim to spread panic. The Tamil Nadu Government had told the Supreme Court on Monday that the user profiles on social media need to be linked with Aadhaar to keep a check on the circulation of fake, defamatory and pornographic content as well as anti-national and terror material.
 
How did Aadhaar-social media linking case originate?

The original PILs seeking Aadhaar-social media interlinking were filed by private citizens Antony Clement Rubin and Janani Krishnamurthy for authentication of identity. Both the petitioners sought Aadhaar linking to social media profiles due to rising instances of cyberbullying, spreading of defamatory and humiliating messages and other intolerable activities on social media. The cases were registered in the Madras High Court.
 
6. 'No First Use' Nuclear Policy: Know all about this doctrine

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh while paying homage to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Pokhran said that India has strictly adhered to ‘No first use’ doctrine. However, he also added that what happens in future depends on the circumstances. Rajnath Singh was in Pokhran to pay respects to late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his first death anniversary. Rajnath Singh’s tweet has started a fresh debate about ‘No first use’ doctrine. 

What is ‘No First Use’ Doctrine?

‘No first use’ (NFU) is basically a pledge or a policy by a nuclear power country for not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons. This concept of ‘No first use’ is also applied to chemical and biological warfare.

‘No First Use’ Doctrine in India

India conducted five nuclear tests and became a nuclear weapon state during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as prime minister in 1998. Few days later Pakistan had conducted six tests. Soon after that India brought out its nuclear doctrine in 1999 that had ‘no first use’ policy. It means India will not be the first to launch a nuclear weapon but retained the right to retaliate in the condition of an atomic attack. The doctrine also says that India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear first strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail and that decisions to authorise the use of nuclear weapons would be made by the Prime Minister or his designated successor(s).
 
7. India largest emitter of SO2 in world: Greenpeace

India is the largest emitter of anthropogenic sulphur dioxide in the world, as per the data released by environmental NGO Greenpeace on August 19, 2019. Anthropogenic sulphur dioxide is produced from burning of coal and it is known to largely contribute to air pollution. The main SO2 hotspots in India include Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh, Korba in Chhattisgarh, Talcher and Jharsuguda in Odisha and Neyveli and Chennai in Tamil Nadu. As per the data, the majority of the plants in India lack flue-gas desulfurization technology to reduce air pollution.

The analysis of NASA data released by Greenpeace reveals that India has over 15 percent of all anthropogenic sulphur dioxide (SO2) hotspots in the world. The SO2 hotspots were detected by the OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) satellite.
 
8. Chandrayaan-2 inches closer to Moon, successfully enters Moon's orbit
Chandrayaan-2 was successfully inserted into a Lunar orbit. Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) made a successful maneuver of spacecraft into the lunar orbit. According to the ISRO, a series of orbit maneuvers will be performed on Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft to enable it to enter its final orbit passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about 100 km from the Moon’s surface.
This move is also known as Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) which is very crucial as the approach velocity of Chandrayaan-2 must be accurate. Experts believe that even a smaller mistake can kill the entire mission and efforts.

Why Moon’s South Pole?
 
 - According to the information released by ISRO, the world over countries, companies and even individuals are turning to the Moon and eyeing on the South Pole of the Moon. Its craters have been untouched by sunlight for billions of years, offering an undisturbed record of the solar system’s origin.
-ISRO informed that its permanently shadowed craters are estimated to hold nearly 100 million tons of water.
- Moon’s South Pole regolith has traces of hydrogen, ammonia, methane, sodium, mercury and silver that can be an untapped source of essential resources.
- South Pole’s elemental and positional advantages make it a suitable pit stop for future space exploration, ISRO explained.
 




Saturday, 24th Aug 2019, 04:27:26 PM

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