Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 4 December 2017

Daily Current Affairs for IAS Exams

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 4 December 2017


Ransomware attacks are likely to increase and become more sophisticated in 2018

  • Ransomware attacks in cyberspace are likely to increase and become more sophisticated in 2018, targeting high net worth individuals and corporates, the cybersecurity giant McAfee Inc. warned in its latest prediction report.
  • The report also warns individual home users that greater inter-connected home devices will surrender consumer privacy to corporates.
  • The profitability of traditional ransomware campaigns will continue to decline as vendor defences, user education, and industry strategies improve to counter them.
  • Attackers will adjust to target less traditional, more profitable ransomware targets, including high net-worth individuals, connected devices, and businesses,” the McAfee Labs 2018 Threats Predictions Report stated.
  • The report, which identified five key trends to watch next year, said the pivot from the traditional would see ransomware technologies applied beyond the objective of extortion of individuals, to cybersabotage and disruption of organisations.
  • 2017 witnessed a major explosion in ransomware attacks such as the ‘WannaCry’ epidemic in which attackers limit user access to their own systems till a certain ransom is paid to unlock them.
  • As consumers increasingly network their homes, the report warns that connected home device manufacturers and service providers will seek to overcome “thin profit margins by gathering more of our personal data — with or without our agreement —turning the home into a corporate store front”.

Experts called for resolving the Rohinyaissue through diplomacy

  • Even though the crisis concerning Rohingya refugees in India seems to have subsided, veteran experts on statelessness and refugees have called for resolving the issue through diplomacy.
  • Pointing out that the Rohingya’s form a category distinct from stateless people in the country the Rohingya issue need not be linked to problems regarding the stateless people.
  • According to an estimate, there are 40,000 Rohingya’s living in different States of India.
  • India, using its goodwill with Myanmar, can convince the latter of the need for resolving the problem in a ‘humane way’ and providing to the affected people rights on a par with citizens of the south-east Asian country.
  • Emphasising the need for proper identification of stateless people across the country, the academician suggests that legal reforms, taking a cue from the 1954 UN Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on Reduction of Statelessness, be made.
  • Yasuko Shimizu, Chief of Mission, UNHCR India, referred to the examples of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Vietnam in sorting out issues concerning statelessness.

Extradition hearing of liquor tycoon is set to kick off

  • The much-awaited extradition hearing of liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya is set to kick off in central London.
  • Over the next 10 days, Chief Magistrate at Westminster Magistrate’s Court Emma Arbuthnot will hear the case presented by Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service on behalf of the Indian government, and the defence on which Mr. Mallya will hope to thwart efforts to return him to India to face prosecution.
  • Mr. Mallya was arrested in London in April this year initially on fraud charges, with money laundering charges added subsequently. He has been on bail since April.
  • Initial efforts by the defence to push the hearings into the New Year have proved unsuccessful, and despite the addition of new charges in October, the December date has remained firm, reflecting the eagerness of both sides now to bring the case to a conclusion.
  • The timing of a verdict on the case remains unclear. The court is yet to decide on a suggestion from the judge about whether written closing submissions — which Ms. Arbuthnot is known to prefer in cases she hears — would be filed in December at the end of the case or in January.
  • The defence has objected to the suggestion, arguing that delaying it to January could be used by the prosecution to introduce fresh material — evidential or non evidential.

Vulnerable points along the Bangladesh border are identified

  • In mid-October, after the Supreme Court put on hold the Centre’s plan to deport the Rohingya, security agencies convened a high-level meeting to enhance deployment on the eastern border to stop the refugees from crossing over to India.
  • A total of 167 vulnerable points were identified along the Bangladesh border, and additional forces deployed to detect and push back the Rohingya.
  • The Border Security Force, manning the 4096.7-km border, has asked the Union Home Ministry to sanction recruitment of 5,000 more men so as to identify and stop the Rohingya.
  • The BSF said most Rohingya had entered India through three points: South 24 Parganas and Hili in Dakshin Dinajpur of West Bengal and Karimganj in Assam.
  • BSF Director-General K.K. Sharma told that it was difficult to distinguish between the Rohingya and the Bangladeshis as they had similar facial features, and BSF soldiers were not equipped to differentiate between the two on the basis of their dialect.
  • He said that so far, none of the Rohingya apprehended on the border carried arms, ammunition or any objectionable item. This year, the BSF apprehended 87 Rohingya along the Bangladesh border and 76 were “sent back to Bangladesh”.
  • The Supreme Court is hearing a petition by two Rohingya — Mohammad Shamiullah and Mohammad Shaqir — against the Centre’s plan to deport the illegal immigrants. The next date of hearing is December 5.
  • By the Home Ministry’s estimate, there are around 40,000 Rohingya in India, including 5,700 in Jammu. Only 16,000 of them are said to have registered themselves with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Rohingya came to India in large numbers during 2012-13.
  • On August 9, the Home Ministry asked all the States, through a circular, to identify undocumented immigrants and deport them as per procedure.

U.S. is not satisfied with Pakistan’s cooperation in the war against terror

  • The U.S. is not satisfied with Pakistan’s cooperation in the war against terror as it has not done “anything significant” to rein in the Taliban and the Haqqani network and destroy their sanctuary on its territory as part of its promise.
  • US also described the release from prison of the Mumbai-terror attack accused Hafiz Saeed as “a step backward”.
  • The U.S., the official said, has now a different approach to Pakistan.
  • “We expect, Pakistan to take steps against terror sanctuary on its territory,” he said.

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US pulled out of pact to improve the handling of migrant and refugee situations

  • The administration of President Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from a United Nations pact to improve the handling of migrant and refugee situations, deeming it “inconsistent” with its policies, the U.S. mission to the global body announced.
  • In September 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted a non-binding political declaration, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, pledging to uphold the rights of refugees, help them resettle and ensure they have access to education.
  • Ambassador Nikki Haley said the country would continue its “generosity” in supporting migrants and refugees around the world, but that “our decisions on immigration policies must always be made by Americans and Americans alone”.

::Business and Economy::

Revenue uncertainty due to GST is a challenge for budget preparation

  • Revenue uncertainty due to the implementation of GST could pose very real problems for the government when the time comes for it to prepare the Budget for financial year 2018-19, according to tax analysts and government officials alike.
  • The GST Council, announced several moves to ease the compliance burden on businesses, including deferring return filing deadlines for both small and large businesses, allowing small businesses to file quarterly returns, removing the need to file the GSTR-2 and GSTR-3 forms, and expanding the Composition Scheme to include more businesses.
  • The Council also drastically reduced the tax rate on more than 200 goods, including most of the items in the highest 28% tax bracket.
  • The uncertainty caused by incomplete revenue data has already been felt, with the Chief Statistician of India TCA Anant highlighting the issue when he presented the GDP growth numbers for the second quarter of this fiscal.
  • “In a normal year, businesses are conversant with the tax processes, and so know their tax liability, so the collections are usually in line with what is anticipated,” he said.
  • “However, this year, the uncertainty surrounding GST procedures and the leeway the government has given in terms of extended deadlines has meant that the indirect tax collections for the particular period are still being updated.”
  •  This means the GDP growth figure stands to change considerably in the next revision when the final GST collection data comes in, he explained.
  • While this has meant uncertainty surrounding the growth rate in a single quarter, the bigger issue is the uncertainty could pose a problem for the government in estimating the potential GST collections for the entire 2018-19 financial year as it doesn’t have a trend to base its projections.
  • The view among tax analysts is that easing compliance cannot come at the cost of certainty about revenue collections.
  • Another issue is the Budget-making process will not be able to incorporate the recent and drastic rate reductions, since they came into effect on November 15. So, a full month’s data with the new rates will be available too late to incorporate in the Budget.
  • “The frequent changes in rates have made determination of ‘ideal’ revenue from GST even more difficult,” Mr. Mani added.
  • “While expansion of the tax base and improved compliance would lead to increased revenues in the long run, short-term revenue concerns in light of recent sweeping rate reductions would be an area of focus for the government inthe budget-making process.”
  • The government will not have the benefit of using last year’s Budget Estimates of indirect tax revenue to gauge collections in the next year, either. “When revenue projections for the current year were made, those did not factor in GST at all,” the tax analyst said.
  • A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows revenue foregone by major taxes subsumed by GST (excise duty, service tax, countervailing duty, special additional duty, VAT, entertainment tax and luxury tax) amounts to about Rs. 12 lakh crore a year.
  • In other words, if the government collects roughly Rs. 1 lakh crore per month, it should be in a revenue neutral position compared with the pre-GST scenario.
  • It has, however, been consistently missing that target. While it collected between Rs. 92,000-95,000 crore a month in the first three months of GST, it collected slightly more than Rs. 83,000 crore in October, and this didn’t even take into account the subsequent rate reductions.
  • The final GST-related problem the government is likely to face come Budget time is on compensation payable to the States for any losses they incur due to GST. So far, the government has not estimated how much this would be.
  • According to tax analysts, the inability to project the total amount needed to compensate States also means it becomes very difficult to estimate whether collections so far from the compensation cess are enough.

Eight PSBs have decided to raise capital from the market

  • As many as eight public sector banks (PSBs) have decided to raise capital from the market within four months as part of the Rs. 2.11 lakh crore recapitalisation plan, according to official sources.
  • Some banks have already got approval from the Finance Ministry while others are in the process of getting the green signal for raising capital either through private placement or rights issue, they said.
  • Most banks are preferring the Qualified Institutional Placement (QIP) route, sources said, adding that Punjab National Bank (PNB) would be the first to hit the market to raise Rs. 5,000 crore.
  • Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Union Bank of India Allahabad Bank and Andhra Bank are also gearing up for the share sale, they said.\
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in October had announced an unprecedented Rs. 2.11 lakh crore two-year road map to strengthen PSBs, reeling under high non performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans.

MPC is likely to keep repo rates unchanged at 6%

  • The Monetary Policy Committee, which will meet this week, is likely to keep repo rates unchanged at 6% on inflation concerns, said a study.
  • The retail inflation or consumer price index based-inflation accelerated to a seven-month high of 3.58% in October from 3.28% in September.
  • Rating agency ICRA said although CPI inflation for October was lower than the 4.2-4.6% range for the second half of FY18 that the MPC had forecast, certain risks persisted.
  • With the CPI inflation likely to track a rising trend over the second half and print at around 4.5% in March 2018, we expect an extended pause amid non-unanimous voting by the MPC in the December policy review

::Science and Tech::

a fast-maturing, high-yield variety bean could help Africa

  • Richard Opio dipped a dirt-stained hand into the pinkish beans, marvelling at the dramatic changes they have made for his family. They used to harvest two sacks of normal beans; now they take in six.
  • The so-called “super bean,” a fast-maturing, high-yield variety, is being promoted by Uganda’s government and agriculture experts amid efforts to feed hunger-prone parts of Africa.
  • It is also a step toward the next goal — the “super, super bean” that researchers hope can be created through genetic editing.
  • The beans that Mr. Opio now tends are thrilling farmers in this impoverished part of northern Uganda that also strains under the recent arrival of more than 1 million refugees from its war-torn neighbour, South Sudan.
  • The International Centre for Tropical Agriculture says the beans have been bred by conventional means to resist the drought conditions that can lead to starvation as arable land disappears.
  • The group operates one of just two bean “gene banks” in Africa, which is expected to be hit hardest by climate change even though the continent produces less than 4% of the world’s greenhouse gases, according to the U.N. Development Program.
  • The red-striped bean that 35-year-old Mr. Opio now harvests is called NABE15, and it has proved so popular that the U.N.’s FAO recently contracted a large commercial producer to supply 21 tons for distribution to South Sudanese refugees as planting materials.
  • Aid workers hope the beans will encourage the refugees to grow their own food rather than rely on handouts, which in some cases have been cut because of funding shortages.
  • For now, the “super” beans are finding a following in northern Uganda. After a neighbour noticed that Mr. Opio’s plants were performing well, he bought a sample.
  • Now the beans are being traded across the border in turbulent South Sudan, where famine is once again a threat.

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