Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 31 October 2019


Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 31 October 2019


::NATIONAL::

Jammu & Kashmir ceases to be a state from midnight to form 2 UT’s

  • At the stroke of midnight, Jammu & Kashmir ceased to be a state of the Union, making way for two new Union territories of J&K and Ladakh.

  • This marks an important milestone in the history of J&K and, especially, Kashmir Valley’s tense ties with the rest of the country, and culminates the process which started on August 5 with the landmark announcement for emasculation of Article 370 as well as end of statehood for J&K.

  • This also put to an end to J&K’s flag and constitution, symbols of the state’s special status. With October 31 fixed as the appointed day for reorganisation of J&K, the new lieutenant governors of the two UTs — G C Murmu in J&K and R K Mathur in Ladakh — will be sworn in at separate ceremonies in Srinagar and Leh, respectively.

  • The creation of the UTs of J&K and Ladakh coincides with the birth anniversary of SardarVallabhbhai Patel, credited with the merger of over 560 states with the Indian Union and who has been promoted by the Modi government as the embodiment of national unity and muscular nationalism.

  • This is the first time that a state is being bifurcated into two UTs. In the past, there have been instances of a UT becoming a full state or a state being reorganised into two states.

  • The total number of states in the country will now be reduced to 28 while the number of UTs will go up to nine.

  • According to the J&K Reorganisation Act, the UT of J&K will have a legislature, like Puducherry, while Ladakh will be a UT without legislature, like Chandigarh, and both the UTs will be headed by two separate lieutenant governors.

OCI’s to be eligible to apply for NPS on par with NRI’s

  • Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) will now be eligible to apply for the National Pension System at par with Non Resident Indians (NRIs). Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) has permitted Overseas Citizen of India to enrol in NPS.

  • Finance Ministry in a notification said that OCI may subscribe to NPS provided such person is eligible to invest as per the provisions of the PFRDA Act and the accumulated saving will be repatriable, subject to Foreign Exchange Management Act guidelines.

  • PFRDA in its endeavour to promote and develop NPS has taken several initiatives towards increasing the pension coverage in the country. Now, any Indian citizen, resident or non-resident and OCIs are eligible to join NPS till the age of 65 years.

  • Till 26th of this month, the total number of subscribers under NPS and Atal Pension Yojana has crossed 3.18 crores and the Asset under Management has grown to over 3.79 lakh crore rupees.

  • More than 66 lakh government employees have been enrolled under NPS and 19.2 lakhs subscribers have subscribed to NPS in the private sector with 6,812 entities registered as corporates.

::ECONOMY::

Govt.might not consider income tax cuts due to fiscal stress

  • The government is unlikely to moderate personal income tax rates for the rich due to fiscal stress on account of lower tax realisation amid slowdown in the economy, sources said.

  • Pressure is mounting on the government to cut personal income tax rates to boost demand, especially after the finance ministry reduced the corporate tax rate by up to 10 percentage points.

  • According to sources, personal income tax rate cut is difficult at this juncture due to multiple factors like slowdown in economy, lower tax realisation and subdued non-tax mop up.

  • In the biggest reduction in 28 years, the government cut corporate tax rates by almost 10 percentage points as it looks to pull the economy out of a six-year low growth of 5 per cent recorded during the first quarter of the current fiscal.

  • In order to collect more tax from the super-rich, the government in Budget 2019-20 enhanced the rate of surcharge on individuals with taxable income of more than Rs 2 crore.

  • Even the panel on Direct Tax Code in its report favoured moderation in personal income tax, simplification of procedure, and improving compliance with a view to raise revenue from direct tax.

HLAG recommends easier entry to foreign investors

  • A high-level advisory group (HLAG) on trade and policy has recommended simpler regulatory and tax framework for overseas investment funds, allowing individual investment from abroad in Indian debt and capital markets, and state-specific policies to facilitate foreign direct investment in agro-processing.

  • The group also favours a single ministry for the regulation of medical devices across the value chain, an independent commission on pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, a simpler medical visa regime and health insurance portability of social security entitlements across countries.

  • The group led by SurjitBhalla, a former member of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, and formed last year in September has also proposed making Invest India the centralised authority for issuing licences.

  • This authority should be made answerable to an apex decision-making body, headed by a select set of ministers who can approve investment, it suggested.

  • Besides identifying products where India has an export advantage to build up domestic competitiveness in these products, the panel also wants the government to “begin process of identifying and resolving non-tariff barriers which prevent Indian exports from accessing key importing nations”, starting with the major countries with which India has FTAs.

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::INTERNATIONAL::

Chile puts off hosting of COP-25 & APEC due to protests

  • Chile has pulled out of hosting two major international summits, including a UN climate change conference, as anti-government protests continue. President SebastiánPiñera said the decision had caused him pain but his government needed to prioritise re-establishing public order.

  • The decision to call off the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) planned for November and U.N. global climate gatherings (COP25) in December is said have dealt a blow to Chile’s image as a regional oasis of stability and economic development.

  • The demonstrations were originally triggered by a now-suspended rise in the price of metro fares in the capital Santiago. However, protesters are now marching to express their discontent over a wide variety of problems ranging from inequality to the high cost of healthcare.

  • Opposition and pro-government parties in Chile generally welcomed the president’s decision, they say holding the summits was unrealistic given the circumstances.

Syrian constitutional committee holds meeting to end civil war

  • A 150-strong Syrian constitutional committee is meeting for the first time in Geneva today under UN auspices to chart a political settlement to end the eight-and-a-half-year civil war.

  • The aim of the meeting is to agree on a new constitution for Syria, but it is unclear if this will mean redrafting the existing constitution, written in 2012, or starting from scratch.

  • The meeting is a key proposal from Moscow in Geneva is being overseen by the UN special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen. No deadline has been set for the end of talks, but Pedersen has said all sides had promised to work expeditiously.

  • Meanwhile,Turkish Defence Minister HulusiAkar today said that talks between Turkish and Russian officials on developments in northeast Syria have concluded and the two delegations have largely reached an agreement.

  • Today Turkish President TayyipErdogan said that Joint Turkish-Russian patrols will begin on Friday in northeastern Syria, following a Russian-brokered cease-fire that promised to have Syrian Kurdish forces withdraw to the south.

::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::

Study finds sea level rise could put at least 300million people at risk by 2050

  • Rising sea levels and coastal flooding linked to climate change induced warming of waters, melting Arctic sea ice and early onset Antarctic sea ice instability will put hundreds of millions of people more than previously estimated at risk submerging substantial areas of coastal cities such as Mumbai.

  • The study estimates that by 2050, without dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, at least 300 million people across the world, that is more than three times the currently accepted number of 80 million, will be at risk of annual coastal flooding.

  • The largest concentration of at risk population is six Asian countries—China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand—where approximately 237 million live in coastal areas. This is roughly 183 million more than previous assessment of at-risk population in these countries.

  • This new study augments the understanding of the scale of the impact of rising sea levels. “These assessments show the potential of climate change to reshape cities, economies, coastlines, and entire global regions within our lifetimes,” said Scott Kulp, a senior scientist at Climate Central and lead author of the study.

  • Disaster management, he explained, is seen as something that may occur once or more in a year. “If you see the recent data, you would find that more extreme events are being reported and frequency of these events has increased considerably over past 4-5 years. This is the new normal and so we may like to plan it accordingly.”

::SPORTS::

Indian grappler Ravinder wins silver at U-23 world championships

  • At the Under-23 World Wrestling Championship in Budapest, Indian grappler Ravinder settled for a silver medal after going down to Kyrgyzstan's UlukbekZholdoshbekov in the final. He suffered a 3-5 loss to Ulukbek in 61-kg category yesterday. Ulukbek is the current Asian U23 champion.

  • Ravinder led till the end of the first period but a strong comeback from Ulukbek ensured that the latter won the bout 5-3 by superiority of play.

  • Despite the loss, it was a creditable performance from Ravinder who who had won gold at the South Asian Games in 2016 and also a bronze at the Cadet Asian Championships in 2014.

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