Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 17 March 2017

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 17 March 2017

:: National ::

The Centre cleared the long-awaited National Health Policy 2017

  • The Centre cleared the long-awaited National Health Policy 2017, which promises to increase public health spending to 2.5% of GDP in a time-bound manner.
  • It also guarantees health care services to all Indian citizens, particularly the underprivileged.
  • Rights based activists said the government had fallen short of making health a fundamental right- a section that was removed from the final draft passed.
  • While the policy seeks to reorient and strengthen public health systems, it also looks afresh at strategic purchasing from the private sector and leveraging their strengths to achieve national health goals.
  • The government will pursue ambitious targets like reducing Under Five Mortality to 23 by 2025 and Maternal Mortality Ratio from current levels to 100 by 2020, and Infant Mortality Rate to 28 by 2019.
  • It also seeks to reduce neo-natal mortality to 16 and stillbirth rate to “single digit” by 2025. In September 2016, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to finalise the crucial health policy.guaranteeing “assured health services to all”.
  • The policy has come after a gap of 15 years to address the current and emerging challenges necessitated by the changing socio-economic, technological and epidemiological landscape
  • As a crucial component, the NHP2017 proposes raising public health expenditure to 2.5% of the GDP in a time bound manner.
  • The Policy advocates a progressively incremental assurance-based approach but activists maintain that without a legal consequence, guaranteeing health is an empty assurance.
  • Previous drafts of this policy proposed to make this a fundamental rights, failure to provide health would have legal consequences. Removing that section just makes this an empty promise.
  • Such assurances have been made umpteen times by different governments since 1980s. Further, while the policy promises to increase health spending to 2.5% of the GDP, it does not square up with the past three budgets of this government.

Kochi with Nagpur and Ahmedabad selected for Mobilise Your City programme

  • Kochi has been selected as one of the 100 cities in the world and one among the three cities in India for the Mobilise Your City (MYC) programme.
  • The other two Indian cities selected under the programme are Nagpur and Ahmedabad.
  • The MYC will provide technical assistance with a grant of €3.5 million for the three cities through French funding agency Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD).
  • The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) and the State government are in the process of getting the bilateral agreement signed between the Union government’s Department of Economic Affairs and AFD by the end of March.
  • The MYC will assist Kochi in implementing low-carbon transit solutions with project-based approach.
  • The MYC is an initiative combining urban mobility objectives and climate considerations.
  • It aims at providing solutions in a fully integrated manner, analysing different modes of transportation within the urban fabric, with the objective of providing people long-term, sustainable, adequate, reliable and cost-efficient transportation opportunities.

Historically significant Varkala to get National Centre for Performing Arts

  • Historically significant Varkala will be home to the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA).
  • The centre, the second in the country after the premier NCPA at Nariman Point in Mumbai, will come up on two acres on the government guest house premises. It is aimed at popularising culture, heritage, arts, and tourism.
  • The Rs. 10-crore first phase of the high-end tourism and cultural project is part of a Rs. 4,000-crore comprehensive infrastructure and tourism development plan for Varkala, which has a prominent place on the world tourism map.
  • Nearly 50,000 foreign and 1.60 lakh domestic tourists visit the place annually.
  • The centre will be developed to international standards and forge a tie-up with the Association of Asia-Pacific Performing Arts Centre (AAPPAC), Singapore, for cultural and technology transfers across the globe.

CAG says IT department not putting to use its tools against shell companies

  • CAG has pulled up the Income Tax Department for not putting to use the tools at its disposal for effective action against shell companies that conceal unaccounted-for income and generate black money.
  • In its latest report, the CAG said the State department’s website had a list of 2,059 suspicious dealers who had issued invoices involving tax evasion of over Rs. 10,640 crore.
  • The auditor had sought details from the I-T Department in Mumbai on the assessees and the ultimate beneficiaries, but despite reminders, the data were not provided.
  • In 2008-09, the MSTD had informed the Bombay High Court that it had investigated 1,555 hawala operators involving 39,488 beneficiary dealers who had passed on an input tax credit of Rs. 1,333 crore in three years.
  • The accused claimed and got input tax credit against the declaration of fake tax invoices without actual transactions involving the sale and purchase of goods.
  • To evade detection, payments were made against the invoices by cheque or bank transfers and the amounts were later withdrawn from the accounts of hawala operators.
  • The CAG relied upon the MSTD data for analysis and found that the Income Tax Department had not even scrutinised all the assessees featuring on the list.
  • The shell companies are used to generating bogus bills showing inflated expenses on various counts.
  • They receive payments through the banking channel to project the transactions as genuine, and then return the rest to the ultimate beneficiaries after charging a commission.
  • Unscrupulous tax consultants and chartered accounts are also involved in the setting up of such entities.
  • The CAG report recommended that in cases of false disclosure, the department should have moved the Settlement Commission for withdrawal of immunity to the applicants.

EC rejected the “speculative, baseless and wide allegations” on EVM (Register and Login to read Full News)

Apart from zero-rated goods, four tax rates under GST (Register and Login to read Full News)

:: Science and Tech ::

Using biofuels to help power jet engines can reduce particle emissions

  • Using biofuels to help power jet engines can reduce particle emissions in their exhaust by as much as 50 to 70%, according to a new NASA study that bodes well for airline economics and Earth’s environment.
  • The observations quantify the impact of biofuel blending on aerosol emissions at cruise conditions and provide key microphysical parameters, which will be useful to assess the potential of biofuel use in aviation.
  • Contrails are produced by hot aircraft engine exhaust mixing with the cold air that is typical at cruise altitudes several miles above Earth’s surface, and are composed primarily of water in the form of ice crystals.
  • Researchers are most interested in persistent contrails because they create long-lasting, and sometimes extensive, clouds that would not normally form in the atmosphere, and are believed to be a factor in influencing Earth’s environment.
  • Soot emissions also are a major driver of contrail properties and their formation.
  • The tests involved flying NASA’s workhorse DC-8 as high as 40,000 feet while its four engines burned a 50-50 blend of aviation fuel and a renewable alternative fuel of hydro processed esters and fatty acids produced from camelina plant oil.

:: International ::

Chinese daily says Sino-India relationship needs a fresh start

  • A leading Chinese daily signalled that China should take a fresh look at its ties with India following the recent assembly elections, which demonstrate the likelihood of Modi's long-term dominance over Indian politics.
  • It highlighted that since “Beijing-New Delhi ties have recently entered a subtle and delicate phase, observers soon started to pay close attention to how the bilateral relationship will develop after Modi tightens his grip on power”.
  • Signalling the need for re-thinking, the daily said China should read the changes in India as “an opportunity to give more consideration over how to make breakthroughs in Beijing-New Delhi relations with a hard-line Indian government”.
  • Separately, a detailed analysis in the Shanghai-based Guancha Syndicate notes that the elections results show the “general trend of the BJP’s rising momentum”.
  • It points out that Mr. Modi’s distinct brand of “developmentalism” has a unique appeal, as voters are tired of old zero sum games and want to achieve caste reconciliation.
  • The website lauds the “people orientation” in Mr. Modi’s campaign which managed to mobilise women and breach the traditional “rich-upper caste-male” electoral formula.

:: Business and Economy ::

DIPP wants start-ups to become Fast Track firms

  • To enable faster exit for start-ups and to bring the winding up process in line with global best practices, the DIPP has written to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) to notify start-ups as ‘Fast Track firms.’
  • Once this is notified, start-ups shall be able to wind up their business within a period of 90 days from making an application for the same,” according to a government report on start-ups.
  • The DIPP is the nodal Central government body for the Start-up India initiative, while the MCA is the concerned authority for notifications on winding up of companies.
  • Fast Track firms will be start-ups with simple debt structures or those meeting certain criteria that will be specified.
  • The ‘Bharat Navodaya: Start-Up India Reform Report’, released on March 6, had recommended expediting the company winding up process in India, “which is currently long-drawn and requires substantial documentation.”
  • It pointed out that winding up in the U.K. can be initiated by downloading a simple form and calling for a shareholders meeting.
  • In Singapore, a simple online application is needed to be made by a director or Company Secretary following which, the process is quite straightforward. Most economic zones in UAE allow for winding down of the business in two to three days.
  • The report said expediting the company winding up process in India would require the notification of Sections 304-323 of the Companies Act, 2013, relating to voluntary winding up.

Truck and bus drivers will soon have to undergo training in fuel efficient driving (Register and Login to read Full News)

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