Current Affairs of 7th January 2020

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1. 2nd National GST Conference held for streamlining GST system

The 2nd National GST Conference of the Commissioners of State Tax and Chief Commissioners of Central Tax was held on 7th January 2020 under the chairmanship of Dr. Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Revenue Secretary, Ministry of Finance.

The multi-faceted Conference was focused on a brainstorming session for streamlining the Goods and Services Tax (GST) system and plugging revenue leakages. This was the 2nd edition of all India Conference where both tax administrations came together formally to build synergy and to share their knowledge and best practices with the intent to bring about uniformity in tax administrations.

After the day-long in-depth deliberations, the following measures were decided for necessary action:

  • To constitute a Committee of Centre and State officers to examine and implement quick measures in a given time frame to curb fraudulent refund claims including the inverted tax structure refund claims and evasion of GST. The Committee will come out with detailed SoP within a week, which may be implemented across the country by January end.
  • Considering fraudulent IGST refund claims, it was explored to link foreign exchange remittances with IGST refunds for a risky and new exporter.
  • All major cases of fake Input Tax Credit, export/import fraud and fraudulent refunds shall also be compulsorily investigated by the investigation wing of the Income Tax Department.
  • MoU would be signed among CBDT, CBIC, and GSTN to exchange data through API, from CBDT to GSTN and CBIC and vice-versa. It was decided that this data should be shared on a quarterly basis, instead of being shared on a yearly basis.
  • To explore access to banking transactions including the bank account details by GST system, in consultation with RBI and NPCI. Suggestions were also received to make the GST system aligned with FIU for the purpose of getting bank account details and transactions and also PAN-based banking transactions.
  • To share data of cases involving evasion and fraudulent refund detected by CBIC with CBDT and vice versa, so that proper profiling of these fraudsters could also be done.
  • It was also suggested to provide a single bank account for foreign remittance receipt and refund disbursement.
  •  A self-assessment declaration to be prescribed by suitable amendments in GSTR Forms in case of closure of businesses.
  • To undertake verification of unmatched Input Tax Credit availed by taxpayers.

2. 2019 7th warmest year recorded in the country since 1901: Report by IMD

2019 was recorded as the seventh warmest year since 1901, but the heating was substantially lower than the highest warming observed in 2016 reported by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

The highlight of the Report

  • The report said the year saw eight cyclonic storms formed over the Indian seas. Arabian Sea contributed five out of these eight cyclones against the normal of one per year, which equals the previous record of 1902 for the highest frequency of cyclones over the Arabian Sea.
  • The five warmest years on record are 2016 (0.71 degree Celsius), 2009 (0.541 degree Celsius), 2017 (0.539 degree Celsius), 2010 (0.54 degree Celsius) and 2015 (0.42 degree Celsius).
  • 1,562 people died due to extreme weather events – avalanches floods, heatwaves, and thunderstorms. Bihar was the most adversely affected state during the year, which reported about 650 lives due to heavy rain and floods, heatwave, lightning, thunderstorm and hailstorm, according to the IMD.
  • Heavy rain and flood-related incidents reportedly claimed over 850 lives from different parts of the country during the pre-monsoon, monsoon and post-monsoon seasons. Of these, 306 lives were reported from Bihar alone, 136 from Maharashtra, 107 from Uttar Pradesh, 88 from Kerala, 80 from Rajasthan and 43 from Karnataka.
  • Heat-wave conditions, which prevailed over the northeastern and central parts of the country during the period March-June, claimed about 350 lives. Of these, 293 lives were reported from the worst affected state of Bihar alone during June and 44 lives were reported from Maharashtra.
  • Snowfall and avalanche related incidents claimed 33 lives from Jammu and Kashmir and 18 from Leh. Cold wave claimed 28 lives from different parts of Uttar Pradesh during the last week of December.

3. Gaganyaan Mission: ISRO to Launch IDRSS Satellites for Seamless Crew Communication

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has announced that it aims to launch its own satellite pair for space communication purposes, called the Indian Data Relay Satellite System (IDRSS). According to ISRO chief Dr. K Sivan, IDRSS is already being worked on and will be pivotal in maintaining communication with the astronaut crew and ground mission control at any given phase, during manned space missions. India is set to embark upon its first-ever manned space mission with Gaganyaan in 2022.

The first of the two satellites will be launched into low-Earth orbit by the end of 2020, ahead of the unmanned Gaganyaan test flight that will also carry a humanoid dummy onboard, laden with sensors. The second satellite will be launched in 2021, before the manned mission is embarked upon in 2022. 

India is not an exception in setting up its own space travel communication system. USA presently has a three-satellite communication fleet in space, known as Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS). Russia, another space major, already has a 10-satellite communication system, known as Satellite Data Relay Network (SDRN). The European Space Agency (ESA) also has the European Data Relay System (EDRS), while China also maintains its Tianlian space communications infrastructure. With IDRSS, India will join the elite company as it chases the unexplored frontier in the years to come.

4. BEE sets new standards for ACs: Default temperature set to 24 Degree Celsius

The Government of India has released new performance energy standards for the performance of air conditioners after consulting Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE).

The BEE operating under the Ministry of Power develops strategies and policies with the primary objective of reduction in energy usage. According to BEE, the total air conditioner capacity of India is 80 million tonnes of refrigeration. It is estimated that this will increase to 250 million by 2030.

Highlights of the new standards

The ISEER (Indian Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) according to the new standard should be in the range of 2.7 to 3.5 for window ACs and 3.3 to 5 for split air conditioners.

ISEER is the ratio between total amounts of heat an AC can remove when operated in active mode to the amount of energy required during the same period.

Bureau of Energy Efficiency

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency is an agency of the Government of India, under the Ministry of Power created in March 2002 under the provisions of the nation’s 2001 Energy Conservation Act. The agency’s function is to develop programs that will increase the conservation and efficient use of energy in India.

5. Project NETRA: ISRO Signs pact to set up optical Telescope

ISRO signs pact with astrophysics institute to pave the way for collaboration in establishing optical telescope facilities under Project ‘NETRA’ for tracking space objects.

Project NETRA:

  • An early warning system in space to detect debris and other hazards to Indian satellites.
  • ISRO plans to put up many observational facilities: connected radars, telescopes; data processing units and a control center.
  • They can, among others, spot, track and catalogue objects as small as 10 cm, up to a range of 3,400 km and equal to a space orbit of around 2,000 km.

Importance of the project:

  • The project will give India its own capability in space situational awareness (SSA) like the other space powers — which is used to ‘predict’ threats from debris to Indian satellites.
  • NETRA’s eventual goal is to capture the GEO, or geostationary orbit, scene at 36,000 km where communication satellites operate.
  • The NETRA effort would make India a part of international efforts towards tracking, warning about and mitigating space debris.
  • With this, the ISRO, which has placed satellites to track the earth from above, will also start training its eyes on space from earth.

6. Rajnath Singh inaugurates 3-day National Traders Convention in Delhi

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the NDA government is committed to protect the interests of traders and to promote ease of doing business.

He said this while inaugurating the three-day National Traders Convention at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi. The convention has been organised by Confederation of All India Traders and will deliberate upon various issues concerning traders.

7. First-of-its kind turtle rehab centre comes up in Bihar

A first-of-its-kind Rehabilitation Centre for freshwater turtles will be inaugurated in Bihar’s Bhagalpur forest division in January 2020. The rehab centre, spread over half a hectare, will be able to shelter 500 turtles at a time. 

The need to build such a centre was felt after several turtles were found severely wounded and sick when rescued from smuggles by rescue teams. This centre will play a significant role in treating these animals and their proper upkeep before being returned to their natural habitat.

8. RBI grants in-principle approval to Shivalik Mercantile Co-operative Bank to become a Small Finance Bank

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has granted “in -principle” approval to Shivalik Mercantile Co-operative Bank Limited (the applicant) for transition into a Small Finance Bank (SFB) under the “Scheme on voluntary transition of Urban Co-operative Bank into a Small Finance Bank” (the Scheme) issued on 27 September 2018.

The “in-principle” approval granted will be valid for 18 months to enable the applicant to comply with the requirements under the Scheme, the Guidelines for ‘on tap’ Licensing of Small Finance Banks in the Private Sector dated 5 December 2019 and fulfill other conditions as stipulated by the RBI.

On being satisfied that the applicant has complied with the requisite conditions laid down by it as part of “in -principle” approval, the RBI would consider granting it a license for commencement of banking business under Section 22 (1) of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 as an SFB.

9. Former DG CRPF Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar appointed as Advisor to J&K LG

Former Director-General of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar has been appointed as Advisor to the Lieutenant Governor of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

With this, the Lieutenant Governor of J&K Union Territory, Girish Chandra Murmu will have three Advisors. The other two Advisors -KK Sharma and Farooq Khan were appointed on November 14, 2019. 

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