Current Affairs for BANK, IBPS Exams 7 August 2017
PMO wants railway loses to be subsidised
- The losses on operating strategic lines accounts for a small fraction of the estimated over Rs. 34,000 crore borne by the Railways towards social service obligation.
- Every year, the Ministry of Finance reimburses the Indian Railways operational losses incurred on six strategic lines and railway lines in hilly, coastal and backward areas.
- However, following the Budget merger, the Ministry of Finance argued that since the ‘capital-at-charge’ of the Railways, which represents the total investment made by the central government in the Railways, would be wiped-off.
- For 2017-18, the Railways is all set to get around Rs. 1,200 crore as reimbursement from the Ministry of Finance for operating such loss-making routes following the PMO’s directive.
- The Standing Committee on Railways and the Estimates Committee in their reports have also recommended that the Railways should get back the money invested in loss-making lines of national importance.
Supreme Court ban on the use of material in firecrackers turned focus on material
- SC ban on the use of antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic and lead in the manufacture of firecrackers to prevent air pollution has turned the focus on what chemicals are used to produce spectacular visual effects and noise.
- The Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers’ Association, which produces most of the fireworks in the country, says none of the specific products banned by the court are used.
- A Supreme Court Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta had on July 31, in an order, directed that no firecrackers manufactured by the respondents shall contain the chemicals in any form, whatsoever.
- The court entrusted the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) with the responsibility of ensuring compliance particularly in Sivakasi. Over 90% of cracker production is done in Sivakasi.
- Incidentally, the court also noted it appeared that no standards have been laid down by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) with regard to air pollution caused by the bursting of firecrackers.
- Aluminium powder, sulphur and potassium nitrate go into noise-making crackers, while barium nitrate (green) and strontium nitrate (red) emit light. Aluminium powder is used in sparklers.
- Significantly, the Supreme Court, observed that there seems to be some doubt about strontium and its compound used in crackers, and has posted the case to August 23 to hear submissions about the use of strontium.
- Procurement of raw materials for fireworks does not come under the purview of the Explosives Act. The PESO has been testing samples of crackers only for adherence to the sound limit of 125 decibels at a distance of four metres.
Nine High Courts have opposed all-India service for lower judiciary
- Nine High Courts have opposed a proposal to have an all-India service for the lower judiciary, eight have sought changes in the proposed framework and only two have supported the idea, a Law and Justice Ministry document says.
- The document, sent to all members of the parliamentary consultative committee on law and justice, also says that most of the 24 High Courts wanted control over the subordinate judiciary.
- The Narendra Modi government had given a fresh push to the long-pending proposal to set up the new service to have a separate cadre for the lower judiciary in the country. The idea was first mooted in the 1960s.
- The document says the High Courts of Andhra Pradesh, Bombay, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Patna and Punjab and Haryana “have not favoured the idea of an All-India Judicial Service”.
::India and World::
Switzerland found India’s data security and confidentiality laws “adequate”
- Switzerland found India’s data security and confidentiality laws “adequate” for entering into an automatic exchange of information pact, which will open a continuous access to details about alleged black money hoarders in once secret Swiss banks.
- Swiss government has also cited decisions by other financial centres like Liechtenstein and Bahamas to enter into similar pacts.
- Besides, Switzerland also took note of the U.S. tax authority, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), recognising India among the countries that provide an “adequate degree” of data protection for mutual exchange of tax information.
- The fact sheet and the notification also talks about Switzerland looking to explore greater access to the Indian market, including the reinsurance sector and other financial services.
- Taking the decision forward, the Swiss government has now notified the decision and the notification authorises the Council to notify India about the exact date when such automatic exchange must take place.
- The implementation is currently planned for 2018 and the first set of data should be exchanged in 2019. The decision is not subject to any referendum — which means there should be no further procedural delay in its implementation.
- The issue of black money has been a matter of big debate in India, and Switzerland has been long perceived as one of the safest havens for the illicit wealth allegedly stashed abroad by Indians.
Japan marked 72 years since the world’s first nuclear attack
- Japan marked 72 years since the world’s first nuclear attack on Hiroshima, with the nation’s traditional contradictions over atomic weapons again coming into focus.
- The anniversary came after Japan sided last month with nuclear powers Britain, France and the U.S. to dismiss a UN treaty banning atomic weapons, which was rejected by critics for ignoring the reality of security threats such as North Korea.
- Japan is the only country to have suffered atomic attacks, in 1945.
- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking at the annual ceremony at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park near the ground zero, said Japan hoped to push for a world without nuclear weapons in a way that all countries can agree.
- Japanese officials have criticised the UN Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty as deepening a divide between countries with and without nuclear arms.
- None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons took part in the negotiations or vote on the treaty.
- Japan suffered two nuclear attacks at the end of the Second World War by the United States — in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and in Nagasaki three days later.
- The bombings claimed the lives of 1,40,000 people in Hiroshima and 74,000 people in Nagasaki. Some died immediately while others succumbed to injuries or radiation-related illnesses weeks, months and years later.
- Japan announced its surrender in the Second World War on August 15, 1945.
::Business and Economy::
China’s RCEP push veils grand plan
- Community social media platform ‘LocalCircles’ recently did a survey on the Indian consumer’s perception about items imported from China. The results gave a peek into the minds of Indian consumers.
- It showed 52% of participants were of the opinion that for the same product, the quality of a ‘Made in India’ version was superior to the one from China. However, 83% said they buy Chinese products as those items were the cheapest.
- The poll assumes significance as it comes amid ongoing negotiations for a mega-regional Free Trade Agreement (FTA) among 16 Asia-Pacific nations, including China and India.
- Known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the proposed FTA, aims to boost goods trade by eliminating most tariff and non-tariff barriers.
- The RCEP is billed as an FTA between the 10-member ASEAN bloc and its six FTA partners — India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. When inked, it would become the world’s biggest free trade pact.
- This is because the 16 nations account for a total GDP (Purchasing Power Parity, or PPP basis) of about $50 trillion (or about 40% of the global GDP) and house close to 3.5 billion people (about half the world’s population).
- India (GDP-PPP worth $9.5 trillion and population of 1.3 billion) and China (GDP-PPP of $23.2 trillion and population of 1.4 billion) together comprise the RCEP’s biggest component in terms of market size.
- The RCEP ‘guiding principles and objectives’ state that the “negotiations on trade in goods, trade in services, investment and other areas will be conducted in parallel to ensure a comprehensive and balanced outcome.”
- China is keen on an agreement on a ‘high level’ of tariff liberalisation — eliminating duties on as much as 92% of traded products.
- However, India’s offer is to do away with duties on only 80% of the lines and that too, with a longer phase-out period for Chinese imports (ie, about 20 years, against 15 for other RCEP nations).
- Since India already has separate FTAs with the 10-member ASEAN bloc, Japan and Korea, India Inc. feels that on account of the RCEP, India may not gain much on the goods side with existing FTA partners.
- India is also negotiating separate FTAs with Australia and New Zealand. However, be it through a separate FTA or via RCEP, India’s gains on the goods segment from Australia and New Zealand will be limited as MFN tariff levels of those two countries are already low.
NITI Aayog’s next VC believes focus should be on job creation
- The Centre’s reliance on higher taxation of petroleum products to mop up revenue could be in for review — if the next NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar’s views are taken into consideration.
- Fresh taxes levied on petroleum products (while their prices fell) helped prop up revenue, but ended up restraining consumption as well as investment demand in the process, and the fiscal bonanza from the oil price decline caused ‘a degree of complacency’ in expenditure management, he said.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley could have considered passing the larger share of oil price decline to consumers with the objective of pushing growth.
- Mr. Kumar said the government and the ruling coalition’s spokespersons should stop talking of India’s emergence as the fastest growing economy of the world.
- Irrespective of the veracity of the statistical claims … the truth is that production and employment in major sectors are either declining or stagnating. Rural distress is mounting.
- Such talk of fastest growing economy etc, projects an image of a government not being empathetic to or even aware of the real concerns of the people,” Mr. Kumar wrote, warning this could ‘rebound badly.’
- “It will be far better to talk of government’s efforts at trying to expand employment rather than claim economic victory, which is seen as a statistical chimera,” Mr. Kumar concluded.