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Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 10 February 2018

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 10 February 2018


Telangana to have 4 zones and 3 cadres: Panel

  • The State will have four zones and three cadres in the government posts, if the recommendations made by the high-level committee constituted to look into the issue are any indication.
  • The committee is learnt to have submitted a detailed report with several recommendations to Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao.
  • It did so after holding elaborate discussions with all stakeholders and obtained the legal view on the issue.
  • Accordingly, it has suggested certain amendments to the existing Presidential Orders for creating four zones in place of the existing two.
  • Currently, there are two zones in existence in the State as per the Presidential Orders.
  • The erstwhile districts of Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam are under Zone V.
  • While the Zone VI is comprised of Hyderabad and erstwhile districts of Ranga Reddy, Mahabubnagar, Nizamabad, Medak and Nalgonda.
  • The committee headed by Deputy Chief Minister Kadiyam Srihari is understood to have recommended scrapping the multi-zonal system and pruning the State cadre posts.
  • It has also recommended division of the posts into State, zonal and local cadre.
  • The committee, sources said, is understood to have recommended that Secretariat and posts of heads of departments be brought under the Presidential Orders so that equal opportunities are provided to facilitate movement of employees working in zonal and district level posts to the State level and vice versa.
  • The Chief Minister is expected to review the situation soon and take a call on the recommendations.
  • The file would be sent to the President for his assent once the Chief Minister gives his consent to the recommendations.

NITI Aayog Health Performance Index

  • Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu were the top rankers in NITI Aayog’s latest Health Index report.
  • For the first time index attempted to establish an annual systematic tool to measure and understand the heterogeneity and complexity of the nation’s performance in the health sector.
  • The document, developed by NITI Aayog with technical assistance from the World Bank and in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • It indicates that Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh showed the maximum improvement in indicators such as Neonatal Mortality Rate, Under-five Mortality Rate, full immunisation coverage, institutional deliveries, and People Living with HIV (PLHIV) on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART).
  • The report was released on Friday by Amitabh Kant (CEO of NITI Aayog), Preeti Sudan (secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) and Junaid Ahmad (country director, World Bank).
  • The next report will be released in June this year and district hospitals too would be ranked.
  • It would rank 730 district hospitals based on their performance.
  • It wants to encourage the good performers and name and shame those who aren’t.
  • Manipur registered maximum incremental progress in indicators such as PLHIV on ART, first trimester antenatal care registration, grading quality parameters of Community Health Centres, average occupancy of key state-level officers and good reporting on the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP).
  • Lakshadweep showed the highest improvement in indicators such as institutional deliveries, TB treatment success rate, and transfer of National Health Mission funds from the state treasury to implementation agency.
  • Kerala ranks on top in terms of overall performance but sees the least incremental change as it had already achieved low levels of Neonatal Mortality Rate, Under-five Mortality Rate and replacement level fertility, leaving limited space for any further improvement.
  • Common challenges for most States and Union Territories include the need to focus on a) addressing vacancies in key staff,
    b) establishment of functional district cardiac care units,
    c) quality accreditation of public health facilities and
    d) institutionalisation of human resources management information system.
  • Additionally, all larger States need to focus on improving the Sex Ratio at Birth.
  • This Index is expected to nudge States towards further achieving a rapid transformation of their health systems and population health outcomes.

Modi visits Ramallah

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his three-nation West Asia tour with a stopover in the Jordanian capital, Amman, where he met King Abdullah II.
  • On Saturday, Mr. Modi will travel to Ramallah in the West Bank, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, where he will hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
  • Mr. Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Ramallah.
  • Talks between the two sides covered the Palestinian cause, and Jordan’s role in protecting Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, based on the Hashemite custodianship over the holy shrines.
  • Later, Mr. Modi thanked the Jordanian King.
  • In Ramallah, bilateral issues and the Israeli-Palestine peace process will be discussed by Mr. Modi and Mr. Abbas, Palestinian officials in Ramallah said.
  • Earlier in an interview, Mr. Abbas said they would discuss the possible role India could play in the peace process.
  • Will discuss the recent updates with Prime Minister Modi, and the recent developments in the peace process, the bilateral relations, and the regional situations.
  • And the possible role India can play in enhancing peace in the region, as well as discussing different economical aspects beyond the existing ties we already possess.
  • In Ramallah, the Prime Minister will lay a wreath on the tomb of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, tour the Arafat museum (both are located on the Palestinian Presidential Secretariat premises), hold bilateral discussions and have lunch with the Palestinian leader.
  • The visit comes weeks after Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to New Delhi.
  • In July last year, Mr. Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel.
  • Indian diplomats say the visit to Ramallah through Jordan without crossing through any of the Israeli checkpoints is consistent with India’s “de-hyphenation policy”.

No fiscal incompetence

  • Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley trashed the Opposition’s charge of fiscal mismanagement, stating that the four-year-old NDA government’s journey was that from a state of policy paralysis to structural reforms.
  • Replying to the Budget debate in the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Jaitley expressed surprise over former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s charge that by reducing corporate tax to 25% for companies with turnover up to Rs. 250 crore, he had favoured the corporates.
  • Mr. Jaitley said it was Mr. Chidambaram, who as then Finance Minister had drafted the Direct Tax Code mooting the idea of 25% corporate tax.
  • The NDA government is also considering a legislation changing it to the turnover criteria for classification of industries.
  • For medium scale industries, it would be Rs. 250 crore, he said.
  • The Finance Minister said the idea behind lower tax was to enable MSMEs to invest more, which would create more jobs.
  • The same trend was noticed in the United States (with below 20% corporate tax) and other competing economies.
  • Owing to this, while covering 99% of industries, the revenue forgone would be Rs. 7,000 crore, whereas implementing it across the board would have cost Rs. 40,000-50,000 crore.
  • Mr. Jaitley said indications from the Agriculture Ministry were that the basis for calculations would be actual paid out cost plus family labour.
  • Mr. Jaitley also assured the House that the proposed health coverage plan for 10 crore families would in all likelihood be implemented completely this year.
  • On expenses, the Finance Minister said the basic principle was that the bigger the size of population, the lower the per capita premium.
  • He said it would be affordable, adding that the NITI Aayog had carried out an assessment.

SC seeks help from AG on Live streaming Court sessions

  • The Supreme Court asked for the assistance of the Attorney-General on a plea to live-stream proceedings of the Constitution Bench in nationally important cases.
  • Those on Aadhaar and decriminalisation of gay sex, in the Supreme Court.
  • A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra decided to seek K.K. Venugopal’s opinion on a petition filed by senior advocate Indira Jaising in her personal capacity.
  • Ms. Jaising said courts around the world allowed their proceedings to be recorded, though they differed in their ways.
  • She said some judges in the constitutional court in India had historically been reluctant about the idea of recording court proceedings because it would “capture every sentence” in the banter between judges and lawyers which were merely a way to elicit responses and not a sign of how the judge would finally decide the case.
  • Ms. Jaising, however, said there were different methods to resolve such reluctance and listed the means adopted by courts globally.
  • She said such apprehensions should not create a roadblock in the public’s right to information.
  • The Supreme Court, in a bid to usher in transparency, had earlier allowed the installation of CCTV video recording with audio in trial courts and tribunals.
  • Ms. Jaising said citizens have the right to information and matters of constitutional and national importance can be live-streamed.
  • If live streaming of top court's proceedings is not possible, then alternately the video recording should be allowed the senior lawyer had argued.

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  • With the emergency in the Maldives still in place and worries about a constitutional crisis, New Delhi is in touch with both Washington and Beijing over the situation, officials confirmed.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on the telephone to discuss the upcoming 2+2 ministerial- level meeting in Delhi, when the situation in the Maldives was discussed, the White House said.
  • “Both leaders expressed concern about the political crisis in the Maldives and the importance of respect for democratic institutions and rule of law,” a readout from Mr. Trump’s office said, adding that they had also discussed “working together to enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”
  • However, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) also cautioned the Maldives against any plan to bring in Chinese naval or security reinforcements to Male.
  • China has said that the Maldives government has the ability to protect the security of Chinese personnel and institutions in the Maldives.
  • All countries can play a constructive role in the Maldives, instead of doing the opposite.
  • According to the readout, Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi also spoke of the situation in Myanmar, the “plight of Rohingya refugees” and the “denuclearisation of North Korea.”
  • The MEA, however, made no comment on the conversation, and the nature of cooperation India and the U.S. would undertake in the Maldives.
  • In Beijing, foreign ministry officials also confirmed that China was “in touch with India” and the U.S. China was one of the three countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, that Mr. Yameen sent special envoys to discuss reasons for his actions.
  • India rejected the envoy’s visit.

Wakhan Corridor

  • Afghanistan’s mountainous Wakhan Corridor, a region so remote that its residents are untouched by the decades of conflict that have devastated their country.
  • The frail-looking grandmother is a woman of the Wakhi, a tribe of roughly 12,000 nomadic people who populate the area.
  • Known to those who live there by its Persian name Bam-e-Dunya, or “roof of the world”.
  • It is a narrow strip of inhospitable and barely accessible land in Afghanistan bordered by the mountains of what is now Tajikistan and Pakistan, and extending all the way to China.
  • Few venture out, even fewer venture in — but this isolation has kept the Wakhi sheltered from almost forty years of the near constant fighting that has ravaged their fellow Afghans.
  • “War, what war? There has never been a war,” Ms. Begium says, though she remembers people speaking of Russian soldiers dispensing cigarettes on the border at the other end of the corridor.
  • The civil war following the Russian invasion, in which tens of thousands more people were killed and uprooted, and the rise of the extremist Taliban regime seem to them like folklore.
  • There is little knowledge of the U.S. invasion or the bloody resurgence of the Taliban, and more recently the emergence of the Islamic State group.
  • Created in the 19th century as a Great Game buffer zone between tsarist Russia and British India, the corridor has since remained untouched by any kind of government.
  • It can be reached from surrounding countries, but only via treacherous journeys by horse, yak or on foot through the “Pamir Knot”, where three of the highest mountain ranges in the world converge.
  • Known in Afghanistan itself as Pamiris, the Wakhi form the bulk of the corridor’s population — the nomadic Kyrgyz tribe, which numbers just 1,100 people, live separately at its northern end.
  • Their life, largely free from crime and violence, revolves around yaks and cattle, which they barter for food and clothes from the few traders who visit the remote region.
  • But change may be coming: the Afghan government says it’s conducting aerial surveys to assess potential routes to connect Wakhan to the rest of Badakhshan by road.
  • If it all comes to fruition, it could bring more trade, tourism, and much-needed medical facilities.
  • It could also spell the end of the Wakhi’s protection from the brutality of war.


19.3% increase in DT by Jan2018

  • Net direct tax collections up to January 2018 grew 19.3% to Rs. 6.95 lakh crore compared with the same period of the previous financial year, according to official data released .
  • The net direct tax collections represent 69.2% of the Revised Estimates of direct taxes for FY 2017-18 [Rs. 10.05 lakh crore].
  • Gross collections (before adjusting for refunds) have increased by 13.3% to Rs. 8.21 lakh crore during April 2017 to January 2018.
  • The government said it had issued refunds amounting to Rs. 1.26 lakh crore during April 2017 to January 2018.
  • Within direct taxes, net corporate tax collections grew 19.2% and net personal income tax collections grew 18.6%.
  • This jump can be attributed to the massive information collected by the tax officers through data analytics post cash deposits post demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes.
  • They followed up on this information with tax payers. This can also be attributed to the roll-out of GST.
  • GST registration by small enterprises became beneficial to them, especially when they are providing goods and services to large organisations which insist on GST registration.

YES Bank-Fcci Report

  • To encourage long-term growth of start-ups in the food sector, the government could consider exempting incubators from taxes and customs duty levied on the goods they import.
  • This is according to a joint report by industry body Ficci and YES Bank.
  • Incubators offer hand-holding to start-ups in their developmental phase.
  • The report titled ‘Start-Ups: Transforming India’s Food Processing Economy’ — released by commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu on the occasion of ‘FICCI Foodworld India 2018’.
  • It also suggested that there should be tax breaks for start-ups procuring items essential for businesses like hardware, software and communication equipment.
  • Besides, it recommended that “given their role in mentoring and connecting innovators to business growth opportunities, funds contributed to incubators should be treated at par with investments in Research and Development activities for businesses.
  • And proportionally the entities that contribute funds to incubators should also be eligible for the 200% tax benefit currently applicable to R&D investments.
  • A streamlined tax regime can remove hurdles which impact start-ups, the report said.
  • Speaking on the theme ‘capitalising food processing in the digital era’, Mr. Prabhu said the government was working on an agriculture export strategy that would give primacy to value addition and job creation.
  • Referring to the potential of marine products exports, he said the emphasis is on value-added exports.
  • According to the report, there are close to 200 start-ups in the food processing and allied ecosystem.
  • The food processing sector, valued at $260 billion, and food services and retail, valued at $400 billion, provide ‘immense opportunities for enterprising start-ups to address the challenges and fill in the gaps existing in the food value chain’.
  • They would hence help develop robust, scalable and replicable models that can transform India’s food processing economy, it said.

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