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25 December 2020: Daily Current Affairs for UPSC Exam

General Studies-II

Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations

Topic: IR

1)Permanent Court of Arbitration

In News

The Indian government has lost another retrospective taxation case against Cairn Energy PLC, after Vodafone Group PLC.

  • The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague unanimously ruled in favor of Cairn Energy stating that the Indian government failed to uphold its obligations under the India-UK bilateral investment treaty.

Case Highlights

  • The Cairn Energy case dates back to 2006-2007 when as a part of the reorganisation, Cairn UK transferred shares of Cairn India Holdings to Cairn India.
  • The company faced a tax probe eight years after in 2014 after the IPO-related reorganisation.
  • The income tax department raised a demand of capital gains tax on Cairn UK amounting to $2.74 billion. The firm disputed the demand and the matter was heard by the I-T Appellate Tribunal and then the Delhi High Court.
  • Though Cairn lost the case at ITAT, a case on the valuation of capital gains is still pending before the High Court.
  • In 2011, Cairn Energy had sold majority of its India business, Cairn India, to Vedanta.
  • The income tax department, however, did not allow Cairn UK to sell 10 percent and attached Cairn India shares as well as dividends that the company paid to its parent.
  • The tax authorities had claimed to have identified unassessed taxable income resulting from the intra-group share transfers undertaken in 2006 in preparation for the IPO.
  • The notification referred to retrospective Indian tax legislation that was enacted in 2012, which the tax department had sought to apply to the 2006 transactions.
  • The center had taken action against Cairn Energy to recover the tax liability by selling the company’s 5 percent holding in Vedanta and seizing dividends worth Rs 1,140 due to it and setting off Rs 1,590 crore tax refund against the demand.
  • Cairn Energy claimed that it suffered a loss worth $1 billion for a transaction that had been approved by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board, which also had the revenue secretary as its member.

India’s response

  • The center is currently studying the award and all its aspects in consultation with its counsel.
  • After these consultations, the government will consider all its options and take a decision on the further course of action, including legal remedies before appropriate forum.
  • In case the center fails to pay the amount, Cairn Energy PLC can approach courts in countries such as UK to seize any property owned by the Indian government to recover the money.

Retrospective taxation

  • Retrospective tax is nothing but a combination of two words “retrospective” and “tax” where “retrospective” means taking effect from a date in the past and “tax” refers to a new or additional levy of tax on a specified transaction.
  • Hence, retrospective tax means creating an additional charge or levy of tax by way of an amendment from specified date in the past.
  • Retrospective taxation effectively allows a country to pass a rule on taxing certain products, items or services, and deals, and charge companies from a time before the date on which the law is passed.

PCA (Permanent Court of Arbitration)

  • Established by the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, concluded at The Hague in 1899 and the convention revised in second Hague Peace Conference in 1907.
  • Headquarters in Hague, Netherland.
  • PCA settles disputes between member states, International organizations or private parties like territorial and maritime disputes, sovereignty, human rights, International investments and regional trade etc.
  • It has Observer Status in UN.
  • There are no sitting judges for the organization. Parties select their arbitrators.
  • India is member of PCA. India ratified the 1899 convention in 1950.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

Topic: Social Issue

2) Manipur's Zomi ethnic group

In News

Manipur's Zomi ethnic group has renewed its demand for the creation of Zoland Territorial Council (ZTC) under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, a self-administered zone on the lines of the Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam.

Zomi people

  • The Zou people or Zomi are an indigenous community living along the frontier of India and Burma, they are a sub-group of the Zo people (Mizo-Kuki-Chin).
  • In India, they live with and are similar in language and habits to the Paite and the Simte peoples.
  • In Burma, the Zou are counted among the Chin people.
  • They are a hill people, "Zou" means "Hills" so we can say that the Zous are "people of the hills" or "of the hills" and "Zou" has also a different meaning in Zou language that is "complete" or another word for it is "finish".
  • The Zous can be found in different parts of India and also of the world.
  • In India, the Zou are officially recognized as one of the thirty-three indigenous peoples within the state of Manipur, and are one of the Scheduled tribes.
  • According to the 2001 Census, the Zou/Jou population in Manipur is around 20,000, less than 3% of the population.
  • The community is concentrated in Churachandpur and Chandel districts of Manipur in North-East India.

 

Source: The Hindu

 

Topic: Social Issue/ Justice

3) Census of India 2021

In News

Recently, the Registrar General of India (RGI) has written to all State coordinators to update the census register.

Charge Register

  • The names of an area, locality, colony or a building will be updated in the “charge register”, an important census document that will help enumerators to collect details during the first phase of Census-House Listing and Housing Census and the National Population Register (NPR).
  • The charge register shows the distribution of work among enumerators and marks the House Listing Blocks (HLB) to be visited by each official.
  • Each HLB, the primary unit for collection of data, can comprise an estimated present population of only 650 to 800.
  • The register will also be used for the field work relating to the updating of NPR.

Criticism/ Opposition

  • The NPR’s link with the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the yet to be implemented Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 has been opposed by as many as 13 States and Union Territories.
  • According to the Citizenship Rules framed in the year 2003, NPR is the first step towards compilation of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) or NRC.
  • NPR was first collected in 2010 and then updated in 2015.
  • Some States have objected to additional questions to be asked in the fresh NPR such as date and place of birth of father and mother, last place of residence and mother tongue.

Registrar General of India

Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, founded in 1961 by Government of India Ministry of Home Affairs, for arranging, conducting and analysing the results of the demographic surveys of India including Census of India and Linguistic Survey of India. The position of Registrar is usually held by a civil servant holding the rank of Joint Secretary.

 

Source: The Hindu

 

Topic: Bills & Amendments

4) Assam Official Language Amendment Bill

In News

The Assam Cabinet recently approved the bill to make Bodo (in Devanagari script) an official language of the state.

  • The bill has been framed in accordance to the Bodo Peace Accord signed between the Government of India, Assam Government, four Bodo rebel groups and two Bodo organizations.

Details

  • According to the Census 2011, there are around 14.16 lakh Bodo speakers in Assam.
  • The cabinet also approved setting up of the Bodo Kachari autonomous welfare council-another clause of the Bodo accord signed in January this year.
  • A proposal for amendments to the Autonomous Council Acts of Kamtapur, Motak and Moran was also approved wherein provisions were introduced for formation of interim governments.

Official Language

  • There is no National language in India.
  • The article 343 says that the official language of Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari.
  • Business in Indian Parliament shall be transacted only in Hindi or English.
  • Indian constitution recognises 22 regional languages. This includes Hindi but not English.
  • Therefore, in India English is neither an official language nor a scheduled language.

Official language in Assam

The official language of Assam is Assamese. The additional official languages are Bengali and Bodo. Bengali is official language in three districts of Barak Valley and Bodo in Bodoland territorial Council areas.

 

Source: Hindustan Times

 

General Studies-III

Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Topic: Environment

5) Tso Kar Wetland Complex in Ladakh

In News

Ladakh's Tso Kar Wetland Complex added to list of Ramsar site, the second one is the Union Territory of Ladakh.

  • Now, India has 42 Ramsar sites.
  • Tso Kar, meaning White lake, because of the white salt efflorescence found on the margins due to the evaporation of highly saline water.

Aim

The aim of the Ramsar list is to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits.

Details

  • It is Ladakh's Tso Kar Wetland Complex added to list of Ramsar site and is recognized as wetland of international importance.
  • The complex is a notable example of two connected lakes, the freshwater Startsapuk Tso and the hypersaline Tso Kar.
  • The Tso Kar Basin is a high-altitude wetland complex, consisting of two principal waterbodies, Startsapuk Tso, a freshwater lake of about 438 hectares to the south, and Tso Kar itself, a hypersaline lake of 1800 hectares to the north, situated in the Changthang region of Ladakh.
  • The Tso Kar Basin is an A1 Category Important Bird Area as per Bird Life International and a key staging site in the Central Asian Flyway. The site is also one of the most important breeding areas of the Black-necked Crane in India.
  • This IBA is also the major breeding area for Great Crested Grebe (Podicepscristatus), Bar-headed Geese (Anserindicus), Ruddy Shelduck (Tadornaferruginea), Brown-headed Gull (Larusbrunnicephalus), Lesser Sand-Plover (Charadriusmongolus) and many other species.

Ramsar Site

  • A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. The Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO, which came into force in 1975.
  • It provides for national action and international cooperation regarding the conservation of wetlands, and wise sustainable use of their resources. Ramsar identifies wetlands of international importance, especially those providing waterfowl habitat.

Ramsar Convention

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the convention was signed in 1971.

Wetlands

  • The Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources and ecosystem services such as food, water, fibre, groundwater recharge, water purification, flood moderation, erosion control and climate regulation.
  • They are, a major source of water and it is the main supply of freshwater comes from an array of wetlands which help soak rainfall and recharge groundwater.

Tso Moriri

 

Tso Moriri or Lake Moriri or "Mountain Lake", is a lake in the Changthang Plateau in Ladakh. It was notified in 2002 under the List of Ramsar Wetland sites under the Ramsar Convention.

 

Source: News On Air

 

Topic: Economics

6) Municipal Bond

In News

The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) is expected to launch municipal bonds in January 2021.

  • It will become the third Urban Local Body (ULB) in Gujarat to use this method to raise money to fund development work sanctioned under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).
  • Ahmedabad was the first city in south Asia to launch a municipal bond in 1998.
  • Surat Municipal Corporation was the second city in Gujarat to announce bonds in 2018.

Vadodara’s municipal bonds

  • Under the AMRUT scheme, the VMC has got approval for its Detailed Project Report (DPR).
  • The VMC had appointed India Rating and Research (Fitch) Ltd and CRISIL Ltd for the credit rating.
  • The VMC has also appointed SBI Capital Markets Ltd and MV Kini Law Firm, New Delhi, as the transaction advisers and legal counsel for the proposed bond.
  • SBI Capital Markets Ltd is mainly responsible to coordinate, assist and guide various stakeholders and hold investor meetings to mobilise the proposed sum.
  • The United States Treasury Department is also providing the VMC with the technical assistance and guidance for proposed Municipal Bond under the India-US Economic and Financial Partnership programme.

Municipal Bond

  • A municipal bond is a kind of debt instrument where investors offer loans to local governments. They are issued by civic bodies for specific projects and usually have a 10-year tenure.
  • The ULB pays the annual interest on the bonds to the investor at the decided rate.
  • The difference between a bank loan and a municipal bond is that any institution can secure a bond only if it has favourable credit ratings.
  • The bond helps raise funds from the stock market. The bond also increases the number of investors available to the civic body, as compared to a loan from a single bank.

Why is the government pushing for municipal bonds?

  • Under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme, urban local bodies (ULBs) are encouraged to tap the bond market.
  • Bonds help ensure improved credit profiles, direct transfer of funds by the Centre, transparency and efficient revenue generation.
  • The government also pays ULBs Rs 13 crore for every Rs 100 crore raised via bonds, subject to a ceiling of Rs 26 crore for each. This incentive takes care of the repayment that the ULB must make to the lender, including the interest component.

Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme

  • AMRUT was launched in June 2015 with the focus to establish infrastructure that could ensure adequate robust sewage networks and water supply for urban transformation by implementing urban revival projects.
  • Rajasthan was the first state in the country to submit State Annual Action Plan under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).
  • The scheme is dependent with public–private partnership(PPP) model.
  • If required, various other schemes like Swachh Bharat Mission, Housing for All 2022, along with the local state schemes like that related to water supply and sewerage and other infrastructure related schemes can be linked to AMRUT.
  • The purpose of AMRUT is to (i) ensure that every household has access to a tap with assured supply of water and a sewerage connection; (ii) increase the amenity value of cities by developing greenery and well maintained open spaces (e.g. parks); and (iii) reduce pollution by switching to public transport or constructing facilities for non-motorized transport (e.g.walking and cycling).

Urban Local Bodies (ULB)

  • Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) are small local bodies that administers or governs a city or a town of specified population. Urban Local Bodies are vested with a long list of functions delegated to them by the state governments. These functions broadly relate to public health, welfare, regulatory functions, public safety, public infrastructure works, and development activities.
  • There are several types of Urban Local bodies in India such as Municipal Corporation, Municipality, Notified Area Committee, Town Area Committee, Special Purpose Agency, Township, Port Trust, Cantonment Board etc.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

Topic: S&T

7) DigiBoxx

In News

DigiBoxx, a Made-in-India digital asset management and storage platform has launched in India. This cloud storage and file sharing service was announced by Niti Aayog.

  • The platform is the first of its kind ‘Make in India, Store in India’ digital asset management SaaS product that is in line with the country’s national security and data localisation priorities.

Details, Features & advantages

  • The launch of DigiBoxx comes just a few weeks after Google announced that it won’t be offering unlimited free photo uploads starting June 1, 2021.
  • The company is offering free 20GB cloud storage and 100GB space per month to those who pay just Rs 30.
  • DigiBoxx has different prices and benefits for a free user, an individual/freelancer, small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) and enterprises.
  • All plans support unlimited external collaborators, meaning people who don’t have DigiBoxx accounts can also access the files sent to them.
  • The plans offer features such as integration with Gmail, real-time multi-user file collaboration, advanced real-time collaboration, web document previews and automated account backups.
  • The free plan includes 20GB cloud storage space and supports files, which of a maximum size of 2GB each. This includes Gmail integration and unlimited external collaborations.
  • The company claims that the service supports smart tags and users will be able to find any file within seconds.
  • One can share any document, photo or videos from the platform without downloading them again on their device.
  • The service allows users to pull back any file that they might have sent to a wrong person.
  • There is also a feature called InstaShare, which lets users share large files. If a user delete the data, the service won’t remove it for 60 days, which means they will have time to restore them.
  • DigiBoxx is currently available for Android users only.
  • DigiBoxx claims that the service has connection encryption and all the files stored on its platform are encrypted at a database level. The company confirmed that all the data is being stored in the country. The service claims to offer support for SSL file encryption.

 

Source: Indian Express