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Current Affairs - 07 May 2018

General Affairs 

Mumbai Officials Say They Have Plan To Lose World's 4th Most Polluted Tag
  • Mumbai ranks as the fourth most polluted mega city in the world, according to a recent World Health Organisation or WHO report, released on May 2. Maharashtra government officials however, have downplayed criticism of the city's handling of its pollution problem, saying that Mumbai's air quality was "moderate". The financial capital faces a serious health issue as a result of rapidly deteriorating green cover, rising vehicular emissions and rapid construction. Officials cite the Maharashtra Clear Air Mission 2022, roping in IIT Bombay for consultation and coming up with "a scientific action plan" as steps to combat serious respiratory problems that the city faces.

    Maharashtra Pollution Control Board or MPCB officials have also cited national air monitoring standards developed by the centre in 2009 to justify Mumbai's deteriorating air quality. According to the centre's measurement standards, Particulate Matter (PM) standards are 60 micrograms for PM10 and 40 micrograms for PM2.5.

    In stark contrast, the World Health Organisation's air quality measurement standards are 20 micrograms for PM10 and 10 micrograms for PM2.5.

    Particulate matter recorded by the WHO for Mumbai stood at PM2.5 and PM10 as 64 and 104 respectively.

    Particulate matter contains many pollutants like sulphate, nitrite oxide and black carbon, which if inhaled, lead to severe health complications.

    mumbai arabian sea pixabay
    Maharashtra Pollution Control Board or MPCB officials have also cited national air monitoring standards developed by the centre in 2009 to justify Mumbai's deteriorating air quality

    Vehicular emissions are one of the most well-known sources of such pollutants. Mumbai's population has been facing the risk of being in contact with such pollutants. In the last 2-5 years, there has been a significant increase in respiratory infection in the population, especially the city's children.

    "Dust and pollution has increased due to the construction activities because of which our weather has changed as well. So, some children get frequent coughs because of rapid weather fluctuations," says Dr Indu Khosla, a pediatrician in Mumbai.

    In the future, she adds, children might develop more allergic symptoms even if they are not genetically predisposed to do so.

    Dr VM Mothgare, Joint Director (Air Pollution Control) does not deny the city's rising vehicular emission as the major cause of pollution.

    "MPCB is in consultations with the transport department to convert diesel vehicles to CNG," he said, also acknowledging rapid construction as the second most serious problem affecting air quality.

    "We are working with industries in the cities to come to an agreement of using clean fuel. And with construction related pollution, the board is trying to enforce the new construction and demolition rules 2016 which has a scientific approach of disposable pollution," he said.

    14 Indian cities figured in the list of the 20 most polluted cities of the world in the WHO's report. 10 of these cities registered high levels of PM2.5, with New Delhi registering levels of the most dangerous particles in the air, sometimes 10 times higher than the safe limit.

    The report also says that nine out of 10 people on the planet breathe polluted air, killing 7 million people each year.

Manipur Village Electrified, But Miles To Go For Water, Usable Road
  • Some 80 people at a village in Manipur have finally got power connection in their homes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had claimed that Leisang village, 100 kilometres from Manipur's capital Imphal, was the last village in the country to get electricity.

    Glowing bulbs and televisions are seen in the houses now. But the villagers say there are miles to go -- for example, to collect water.

    "After light came we are overjoyed. But electricity does not solve all our problems. We have to fetch water from a source two kilometres away. It's dirty. We have to filter and boil and distil. Many of us have water-borne disease," said Lhingboi, a homemaker in Leisang.

    Though PM Modi himself tweeted about Leisang being the last village in the country to be electrified, the light at the end of the tunnel for the people of the village is still some distance away.

    NDTV spent a day with the villagers who are delighted their lives are now illuminated, but praying for almost every other basic amenity and hoping their village won't hit headlines again as the last one to get a usable road.

    The stream 2 km away is a seasonal one that dries up in summer into a muddy trickle.

    First settled in 1972, Leisang had 40 families then. Only 14 are left now. People have migrated downhill as Leisang does not have a road where vehicles can run. The village becomes inaccessible during monsoon.

    "Our life will not change totally only with electricity. Basic amenities are needed. The most important is a village road at least. We are completely isolated during monsoon," said DN Kuki, a villager.

    Leisang's nearest high school and primary health centre are 10 km away.

Nearly 12,066 Acres Of Surplus Land Of Railways Up For Grabs
  • Nearly 12,066 acres of surplus land of railways are now up for grabs.

    The national transporter has written to 13 states asking them to either buy or exchange these land parcels for developmental projects.

    A letter written by the Railway Board last month to the chief secretaries of West Bengal, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Assam, stated that they send in proposals to use these land parcels which have remained unused.

    "These land parcels can be used by the state governments for construction of highways, roads or any other useful purpose..."

    "The amount payable for the land will be in all cases be its market value on the date of transfer... The land can also be transferred to the state government on the basis of exchange of land with state government land which may be useful to the railways on equitable cost basis, said the letter, a copy of which is with PTI.

    Railways also said that most of these land parcels were acquired by it as part of its uni-gauge policy to improve connectivity.

    In areas where the conversion from meter or narrow gauge to broad gauge has been carried out taking detour from the existing gauge either due to technical requirement or request from state governments, land at such locations of abandoned alignment of narrow/meter gauge section has remained unused, it said.

    According to the details of the land parcels enclosed in the letter, railways is in possession of some land in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Assam for more than 100 years.

    For example, the land in the Dudhwa-Chandan Chowki section in Uttar Pradesh was acquired by the railways in 1893 and 129 acre land was left abandoned after the conversion to broad gauge. Similarly in Assam, land was acquired in 1894 and 42 acres are now up for grabs. In these two states alone, around 500 acres of railway surplus land are available.

    Sources say that railway is set to earn thousands of crores if state governments decide to utilise the land earmarked in their areas.

    The Board has asked states to send their proposals to the Divisional Railway Manager in case they have a need for such land parcels.

Outcome Of Naga Talks Will Be "Positive", Says Kiren Rijiju
  • The ongoing Naga peace talks were being followed up with utmost sincerity and the outcome of the dialogue would be positive, Union minister Kiren Rijiju said today, but refused to give any time-frame for the signing of the final peace accord.

    Mr Rijiju, the minister of state for home affairs, also said the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act would be withdrawn from Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and other areas where it is in force once the security situation improves there.

    Referring to the ongoing dialogue between the Issak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) and the government interlocutor, the minister said the Narendra Modi government was the most sensitive toward the issues of the Nagas and the Northeast.

    "The process of Naga talks are being followed up with utmost sincerity. So the outcome will be positive," he told PTI in New Delhi.

    Mr Rijiju refused to say anything when asked about the possible dates for signing the final peace accord to bring lasting peace in insurgency-hit Nagaland.

    A framework agreement was signed on August 3, 2015 by NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and the government's interlocutor R N Ravi in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    The framework agreement had come after over 80 rounds of negotiations spanning 18 years, with the first breakthrough made in 1997 when the ceasefire agreement was sealed after decades of insurgency in Nagaland which started soon after India's independence in 1947.

    The minister said AFSPA, which empowers security forces to conduct operations, arrest anyone anywhere without prior notice, could be removed from all the places where it is in force when the security situation improves there.

    "Since the security scenario in the Northeast has improved in the last four years, AFSPA has been removed from many areas. We are hopeful that with further improvement, it may be lifted from the remaining few areas in the near future," he said.

    AFSPA has been completely removed from Meghalaya and partly from Arunachal Pradesh but it is in force in Nagaland, Assam and three districts in Arunachal Pradesh. The controversial law is also in force in Jammu and Kashmir.

Congress To Launch "Save The Constitution" Programme In Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan
  • The Congress is expected to launch its "Save the Constitution" programme in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh shortly and reach out to Dalits in the two states which go to polls later this year, sources said today.

    The programme will be launched in the two states after the Karnataka Assembly polls. The Congress will highlight the attacks on the Constitution and Dalits, a source said.

    Karnataka goes to polls on May 12.

    The outreach campaign, launched on April 23 in the national capital, aims at highlighting the alleged attacks on the constitution and Dalits, OBCs and minorities under the BJP government.

    The BJP has been in power in Madhya Pradesh for 15 years. It had won 165 seats in the 230-member house in 2013. The Congress could bag 58 seats.

    The NDA major had swept the Rajasthan polls in 2013, winning 163 of the 200 assembly constituencies. The Congress could bag only 21 seats.

    In Madhya Pradesh, more than two-thirds of the 35 seats reserved for scheduled castes (SCs) had gone the BJP's way. The Congress could win only four such seats.

    The BJP had triumphed in 31 of the total 33 segments reserved for scheduled castes in Rajasthan in 2013.

    "The situation is not going to be the same when elections will be held in the two states later this year. The Congress will put up an impressive show. The reserved seats will be in focus," the source said.

Business Affairs

ED files PMLA case in Rs 621-crore UCO Bank loan fraud
  • The Enforcement Directorate has registered a case of money laundering in connection with an alleged Rs 621-crore loan fraud involving UCO Bank, officials said today.

    The agency has filed a criminal complaint under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after taking cognisance of a CBI FIR registered last month.

    The CBI booked a former chairman and managing director (CMD) of UCO Bank, Arun Kaul, and others in the case. Besides the bank CMD, the CBI booked realty firm Era Infra Engineering India Ltd., its CMD Hem Singh Bharana, two chartered accountants, and Pawan Bansal of Altius Finserve Pvt. Ltd. among others.

    The ED will probe if the alleged defrauded bank loans were used to create tainted assets by way of money laundering.

    The CBI alleged that the accused persons in pursuance of a criminal conspiracy had defrauded UCO Bank to the tune of about Rs 621 crore by diversion and siphoning off the bank loans, they said.

    According to the CBI, Arun Kaul, who was the CMD of a Kolkata-based bank between 2010 and 2015, allegedly facilitated the accused company in obtaining the loans.

    The loan was not utilised for the sanctioned purpose, the CBI alleged.

    The ED will also work to identify assets of the accused so that they can be attached, if required, during the course of investigation, they said.

    In its complaint, the bank alleged that two loans were issued to the company in 2010 - Rs 200 crore in March and Rs 450 crore in October.

    The Rs 200-crore loan was issued for repayment of high cost debt to Central Bank of India, Punjab National Bank and IFCI. It was found that the company did not utilise the amount for the purpose for which it was disbursed and diverted the funds.

    No amount was used to repay the dues of Central Bank of India and Punjab National Bank, while only Rs 59 lakh was repaid towards dues of IFCI, according to the CBI FIR, now used by the ED.

    The chartered accountant (CA) in this case -- Pankaj Jain -- dishonestly and fraudulently did not mention the details of utilisation of term loan in the end-use certificate, the CBI alleged.

    In the case of the Rs 450-crore loan, too, the funds were utilised for purposes other than stipulated in the sanction and the end-use certificates given by the CA were intentionally ambiguous and against the fact, it alleged.

    "The account was declared NPA as on July 7, 2013 by the bank and the present balance as on December 31, 2017 is Rs 737.88 crore," the CBI FIR alleged.

    Both the CBI and the ED, the two central agencies, are investigating a number of such bank fraud cases under the respective laws they enforce.

PNB fraud: ED refuses to share details of Nirav Modi & Mehul Choksi's seized assets
  • The Enforcement Directorate has refused to disclose under the RTI Act the assets of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi seized during its probe into the over $2 billion scam in the Punjab National Bank.

    However, it had earlier made public on Twitter that assets worth Rs 7,664 crore had been attached in connection with the cases involving the uncle-nephew duo of Modi and Choksi.

    The central agency has also refused to disclose expenses incurred on attempts to bring back the two billionaire diamantaires who had fled the country in the first week of January, days before the PNB approached the CBI reporting the biggest scam in the banking industry in India.

    Modi was last seen in a group photograph of CEOs with the Prime Minister in Davos which was issued by the Press Information Bureau in January.

    The immunity given to the Enforcement Directorate under Section 24 of the RTI Act does not cover information pertaining to alleged corruption.

    The CBI has booked Choksi and Modi on corruption and fraud charges.

    Vihar Dhurve, a Pune-based activist, had sought information from the ED on its officials' travel expenses, lawyers' consultation fee paid in India and abroad to bring back Choksi and Modi.

    Dhurve had also sought details of the scam allegedly perpetrated by Choksi and Modi including the Letters of Undertakings the PNB issued to their companies, the money received against these LoUs, the value of assets belonging to the duo seized by the ED.

    The ED said it is an organisation listed in the second schedule of the RTI Act.

    "The applicant is, therefore, informed that the information sought by him in his application cannot be provided in view of the exemption granted under Section 24 read with second schedule of the RTI Act," the central organisation said.

    The Section 24 of the RTI Act reads: "Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the second schedule, being organisations established by the central government or any information furnished by such organisations to that government; provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub-section."

    However, the ED had, in a public statement posted on Twitter on March 24, said that it had seized assets worth Rs 7,664 crore during the probe involving the cases of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.

    The Delhi high court had also underlined in a separate case related to the CBI and the IB, both exempt from the RTI Act like the ED, that the information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violation is not excluded from the purview.

    "The only conclusion that can be drawn is that - if the information sought pertains to allegations of corruption and human rights violations, it would be exempt from the exclusion clause, irrespective of the fact that the information pertains to the exempt intelligence and security organisations or not, or pertains to an officer of the Intelligence Bureau or not," the bench had said in the order.

Govt likely to notify 8.55 per cent interest on PF for FY18 this week
  • The Labour Ministry is likely to notify this week the 5-year low 8.55 per cent interest on PF for 2017-18, paving the way for retirement fund body EPFO to credit returns into the accounts of around 5 crore subscribers. The Finance Ministry has ratified 8.55 per cent rate of interest on EPF for last fiscal.

    "The Labour Ministry has sought Election Commissions approval to notify rate of interest for crediting the same into members accounts by the EPFO in view of model code of conduct for Karnataka elections," a source said.

    "The nod is expected anytime this week to provide 8.55 per cent rate of interest to the EPFO subscribers," the source said.

    The recommendation on the rate of interest by the Central Board of Trustees or CBT, the apex decision making body of Employees Provident Fund Organisation(EPFO), is sent to the Finance Ministry for its concurrence.

    Once ratified, the Labour Ministry notifies the rate of interest and the EPFO credits the return for the particular year into its members account.

    The CBT, headed by the labour minister, had decided to fix 8.55 per cent rate of interest for last fiscal in its meeting held on February 21, 2018.

    It could not be implemented for the want of finance ministrys concurrence and was further delayed due to the model code of conduct for Karnataka elections on May 12.

    EPFO had provided 8.65 per cent interest for 2016-17. The members got 8.8 per cent in 2015-16 and 8.75 per cent each in 2013-14 and 2014-15.

    In 2012-13, EPFO had provided 8.5 per cent rate of interest on EPF. Thus, at 8.55 per cent for 2017-18, it is a five year low.

Companies get scrutiny notices for mismatch in GST returns
  • GST officers have started sending scrutiny notices to companies whose tax payment did not match the final sales return, after revenue authorities detected underpayment of GST by about 34 per cent, a source said.

    Besides, companies whose final sales return GSTR-1 did not match GSTR-2A, which is a purchase return auto-generated by system from his seller's return, have also received scrutiny notices.

    As per an analysis done by the revenue department in March, 34 per cent of businesses paid Rs 34,400 crore less tax between July-December while filing initial summary return (GSTR-3B).

    These 34 per cent of the businesses have paid Rs 8.16 lakh crore to the exchequer by filing GSTR-3B, whereas analysis of their GSTR-1 data show that their tax liability should have been Rs 8.50 lakh crore.

    In one notice issued by Gujarat GST commissionerate on May 4, taxpayers have been asked to explain the reason for "discrepancies" in return GSTR-3B and GSTR-1 for October-December period by May 14.

    "If no explanation is received by the aforesaid date, it will be presumed that you have nothing to say in the matter and proceedings in accordance with law may be initiated against you without making any further reference to you in this regard," the notice said.

    Tax experts said that GST law provides for 30 days time to be given to taxpayers for replying to scrutiny notices, however, in the said case only 10 days time has been granted.

    AMRG & Associates Partner Rajat Mohan said: "The government should issue strict guidelines for the officers to be reasonable and rational in disposing off the notice after giving the full opportunity of being heard to the tax payers. In one of such notice, tax officer has given 10 days (out of which four days weekly off) against a maximum 30 day period allowed in rules".

    EY Partner Abhishek Jain said the activity of data analytics at the end of revenue authorities has commenced with various players receiving notices, seeking clarifications on differences between GSTR-1 and GSTR-3B as well as GSTR-2A and GSTR-3B.

    While the reconciliation between GSTR-1 and 3B is to essentially verify payment of taxes for all outward supplies made, reconciliation between GSTR-2A and GSTR-3B is to ensure that credits claimed by businesses only pertain to taxes actually paid by the suppliers and there not being any loss to the government exchequer on this account, Jain said.

    The government has collected over Rs 7.41 lakh crore as GST in last fiscal. However, there were concerns that due to absence of anti-evasion measures there might have been leakages in tax revenue.

    The GST Council, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and comprising state counterparts, had in its meeting in March decided to further analyse data gaps between self declared liability in GSTR-1 and the taxes actually paid while filing GSTR-3B.

    The revenue department has analysed the Goods and Services Tax (GST) returns data filed by over 51.96 lakh businesses during July-December, 2017. The indirect tax reform GST was rolled out from July 1, 2017.

    The data analysis showed only 16 per cent of the summary sales returns under GST matched with the final returns till December 2017.

    It also showed that there was excess tax payment of Rs 91,072 crore by 49.36 per cent of businesses registered under GST between July-December. While they have paid Rs 6.50 lakh crore as GST, the GSTR-1 filed by them shows that their liability should have been Rs 5.59 lakh crore.

Rs 500 notes worth Rs 3,000 crore printed every day: Economic affairs secretary
  • Currencies in 500, 200 and 100 denominations are comfortable mode for transactions and the printing of Rs 500 notes have been ramped-up to about Rs 3,000 crore everyday to take care of extra demand, economic affairs secretary Subhash Chandra Garg said.

    He said the cash situation in the country is "quite comfortable" and extra demand is being fully met.

    Speaking to PTI, Garg also said the fundamentals of economy does not call for an interest rate hike at the moment as there has not been any "disproportionate rise in inflation" or "extra ordinary growth in output".

    The secretary said he had reviewed the cash situation in the country last week and 85 per cent of the ATMs was functional.

    "Overall in the country, I think its (cash situation) quite comfortable. There is enough cash which is being supplied and there is extra demand which is being fully met. I don't think there is any cash related crisis or problem at this point of time," Garg said.

    There are about Rs 7 lakh crore of Rs 2,000 notes in circulation, which is more than adequate and and so no new Rs 2,000 notes are being issued.

    "500 and 200 and 100 rupee note is people's medium of transaction. That's what people use, people don't find Rs 2,000 rupee note as a very comfortable medium for making transaction. 500 rupee notes is very adequately supplied. We have ramped up production to the level that it is about Rs 2,500-3000 crore a day. So, that is much more than any demand. People's need for transaction is being taken care of by these," he said.

    The Reserve Bank has been strengthening the security features of currency notes to ensure that they are not duplicated.

    "In last 2.5 years, there has been much less instances, almost non existent instances, of high quality fake notes being reported in the country. But still RBI keeps on reviewing, finding out, adding new features," Garg said.

    Asked about a monetary policy committee member favouring withdrawal of accommodative stance, he said: "We should go by what the real numbers are. Have you seen disproportionate rise in inflation numbers? Have you seen extra ordinary growth in output which has reduced the output gap substantially? No. So, one should go by the fundamentals and wait for next policy announcement".

    The next meeting of MPC is scheduled on June 4-5.

    The six-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), headed by RBI Governor Urjit Patel, had last month left the benchmark repo rate unchanged at 6 per cent for the third time in a row.

    As per the minutes of the MPC meeting, RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya favoured withdrawal of monetary accommodation in the next policy review meet.

    The retail inflation in March slipped to a 5 month low of 4.27 per cent on account of decline in food prices.

    The RBI has revised downwards forecast for retail inflation to 4.7-5.1 per cent for April-September and 4.4 per cent for October-March.

    "If there is any real situation where inflation seems to overshoot, RBI does have a statutory mandate to keep the inflation around 4 per cent, so they would take the most appropriate steps for that. But is the situation there? That is the situation we need to see," Garg said.

    General Awareness

    National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC)
    • Context: National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC) has recently been created by Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.

      About NWIC:

      NWIC would be a repository of nation-wide water resources data and would work as a Subordinate Office under the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
      NWIC is expected to provide a ‘Single Window’ source of updated data on water resources & allied themes; and provides value added products and services to all stake holders for its management and sustainable development.
      The centre will also collaborate with leading research institutes nationally as well as internationally to provide technical support to other central and state organizations dealing with water, emergency response for hydrological extremes.
      The centre would be headed by a Joint Secretary level officer.


      The management of water resources is a highly complex and tedious task that involves expertise of multidisciplinary domains and depend on historical and real time reliable data and information. For this, the first requirement is to develop, maintain and update regularly a comprehensive “Water Resources Information System” (WRIS) in public domain for awareness and involvement of all concerned for effective integrated water resources management. This is also prerequisite for scientific assessment, monitoring, modelling and Decision Support System (DSS) and Integrated water resource Management.

      What’s important?

      For Prelims:
      For Mains: Need for WRIS and its significance, water conservation- challenges, issues and solutions.

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