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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 27 May 2021

Contents

  1. NGT forms panel to probe construction in Mekedatu
  2. Belarus faces backlash sanctions over forced landing
  3. CBI Director selection: CJI made ‘statement of law’
  4. Second wave threat, Exempt micro enterprises from GST

NGT forms panel to probe construction in Mekedatu

Context:

The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Southern Zone has appointed a joint committee to look into allegations of unauthorised construction activity taking place in Mekedatu, where the Karnataka government had proposed to construct a dam across the Cauvery River.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Intra-State Relations, Functions & responsibilities of the Union and the States, Issues and challenges of federal structure)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Cauvery River
  2. Mekedatu
  3. About the proposed Mekedatu Project
  4. Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA)
  5. Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC)

About the Cauvery River

  • The Cauvery River (Kaveri), flows in a southeasterly direction through the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and descends the Eastern Ghats in a series of great falls.
  • Before emptying into the Bay of Bengal south of Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu the river breaks into a large number of distributaries forming a wide delta called the “Garden of Southern India”
  • The Cauvery basin extends over states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Union Territory of Puducherry draining an area of 81 thousand Sq.km.
  • It is bounded by the Western Ghats on the west, by the Eastern Ghats on the east and the south, and by the ridges separating it from the Krishna basin and Pennar basin on the north.
  • The Nilgiris, an offshore of Western ghats, extend Eastwards to the Eastern ghats and divide the basin into two natural and political regions i.e., Karnataka plateau in the North and the Tamil Nadu plateau in the South.
  • Physiographically, the basin can be divided into three parts – the Westen Ghats, the Plateau of Mysore, and the Delta.
  • The delta area is the most fertile tract in the basin. The principal soil types found in the basin are black soils, red soils, laterites, alluvial soils, forest soils, and mixed soils. Red soils occupy large areas in the basin. Alluvial soils are found in the delta areas.
  • It is almost a perennial river with comparatively fewer fluctuations in flow and is very useful for irrigation and hydroelectric power generation because its upper catchment area receives rainfall during summer by the south-west monsoon and the lower catchment area during the winter season by the retreating north-east monsoon.
  • Harangi, Hemavati, Shimsha, and Arkavati are the tributaries on the left bank (north) and Lakshmantirtha, Kabbani, Suvarnavati, Bhavani, Noyil, and Amaravati are the tributaries on the right bank (south).

Mekedatu

  • Mekedatu is a location along Kaveri in the border of Chamarajanagar and Ramanagara Districts. Sangama is the place where Arkavati merges with Kaveri.
  • At Mekedaatu, the Kaveri runs through a deep, narrow ravine of hard granite rock.
  • The water flows very fast through the gorge, gouging pits in the rocky riverbed.

About the proposed Mekedatu Project

Mekedatu politics stirs fresh trouble between states
  • Ontigondlu is the proposed reservoir site, situated at Ramanagara district in Karnataka about 100 km away from Bengaluru. It is the midst of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • The Rs. 9,000 crore project aims to store and supply water for drinking purposes for the Bengaluru city. Around 400 megawatts (MW) of power is also proposed to be generated through the project.
  • The project was first approved by the Karnataka state government in 2017.
  • It received approval from the erstwhile Ministry of Water Resources for the detailed project report and is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • Tamil Nadu had approached the Supreme Court (SC) against the project even if Karnataka has held that it would not affect the flow of water to Tamil Nadu. In 2020, during the Cauvery Water Management Authority’s meeting, Tamil Nadu reiterated its opposition to the project.

Click Here to read more about the NGT, its powers and functions

Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA)

  • CWMA has been created as per the Cauvery Management Scheme framed by Centre and approved by Supreme Court.
  • The Cauvery Management Scheme deals with release of water from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
  • It will be implemented by Cauvery Management Authority (CMA).
  • CMA will be sole body to implement CWDT award as modified by Supreme Court.
  • The Central Government will have no say in implementing of the scheme except for issuing administrative advisories to it.
  • The authority will comprise a chairman, a secretary and eight members.
  • Out of the eight members, two will be full time, while two will be part time members from centre’s side. Rest four will be part time members from states.
  • The main mandate of the CMA will be to secure implementation and compliance of the Supreme Court’s order in relation to “storage, apportionment, regulation and control of Cauvery waters”.
  • CMA will also advise the states to take suitable measures to improve water use efficiency.
  • It will do so by promoting use of micro-irrigation, change in cropping patterns, improved farm practices and development of command areas.
  • The CMA will also prepare an annual report covering its activities during the preceding year.

Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC)

  • The Central government constituted the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) as per the provisions in the Kaveri Management Scheme laid down by the Supreme Court.
  • While the CWMA is an umbrella body, the CWRC will monitor water management on a day-to-day basis, including the water level and inflow and outflow of reservoirs in all the basin states.

-Source: The Hindu


Belarus faces backlash sanctions over forced landing

Context:

Western powers prepared to pile sanctions on Belarus and cut off its aviation links after it scrambled a warplane to intercept an aircraft and arrest a dissident journalist, an act which one leader denounced as ‘state piracy’.

The European Union (EU) imposed sanctions against Belarus, including banning its airlines from using the airspace and airports of the 27-nation bloc EU.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Important Developments in Foreign Countries), GS-I: Geography (Maps)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Belarus
  2. The Story behind the sanctions on Belarus

About Belarus

  • Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered by Russia to the east and northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest.
  • Minsk is the capital and largest city of Belarus.
  • Belarus declared independence in 1991 and in 1994, Alexander Lukashenko was elected as Belarus’s first president in the country’s first and only free election post-independence, serving as president ever since.
  • Lukashenko continued a number of Soviet-era policies, such as state ownership of large sections of the economy, and his government is widely considered to be authoritarian.
  • Belarus is a developing country ranking very high in the Human Development Index.
  • It has been a member of the United Nations since its founding and a member of the CIS, the CSTO, the EAEU, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
  • It has shown no aspirations for joining the European Union but nevertheless maintains a bilateral relationship with the Union, and likewise participates in two EU projects: the Eastern Partnership and the Baku Initiative.
Belarus | History, Flag, Map, Population, Capital, Language, & Facts |  Britannica

The Story behind the sanctions on Belarus

  • The President of Belarus Lukashenko took office in 1994 after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and he has been in power for 26 years, keeping much of the economy in state hands, and using censorship and police crackdowns against opponents. He is often described as Europe’s “last dictator”, he has tried to preserve elements of Soviet communism.
  • In 2020, after Lukashenko was announced as the winner in elections, protests broke out in the capital, Minsk which was met with a violent security crackdown, in response to which the EU and the United States (US) imposed several rounds of financial sanctions against Belarus in 2020.
  • In May 2021, Belarus forcibly diverted a passenger jet and scrambled a warplane to arrest an opposition journalist in an act denounced by Western powers as “state piracy” (an act of piracy where the state is involved).

-Source: The Hindu


CBI Director selection: CJI made ‘statement of law’

Context:

  • A high-powered committee, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and comprising Chief Justice of India Justice N.V. Ramana and Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary, met to finalise the choice of the next director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
  • The government appointed Maharashtra cadre IPS officer, Subodh Kumar Jaiswal, currently Director General of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), as CBI Director for two years.
  • Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana’s opinion in the high-level committee to avoid officers with less than six months left to retire for appointment as CBI Director is a simple “statement of law”. It was not a comment on the professional prowess of those who now find themselves outside the zone of consideration.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Statutory Bodies, Government Policies & Interventions, Important Judgments)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)
  2. Functions of CBI
  3. How is the Director of the CBI appointed?
  4. About Supreme Court Judgements regarding Director of the CBI

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was set up in 1963 after the recommendation of Santhanam committee under Ministry of Home affairs and was later transferred to the Ministry of Personnel and now it enjoys the status of an attached office.
  • Now, the CBI comes under the administrative control of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
  • The CBI derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, however, it is NOT a Statutory Body.
  • CBI is the apex anti-corruption body in the country – Along with being the main investigating agency of the Central Government it also provides assistance to the Central Vigilance Commission and Lokpal.
  • The CBI is required to obtain the prior approval of the Central Government before conducting any inquiry or investigation.
  • The CBI is also the nodal police agency in India which coordinates investigations on behalf of Interpol Member countries.
  • The CBI’s conviction rate is as high as 65 to 70% and it is comparable to the best investigation agencies in the world.
  • The CBI is headed by a Director and he is assisted by a special director or an additional director. It has joint directors, deputy inspector generals, superintendents of police.
  • CBI has following divisions
    1. Anti-Corruption Division
    2. Economic Offences Division
    3. Special Crimes Division
    4. Policy and International Police Cooperation Division
    5. Administration Division
    6. Directorate of Prosecution
    7. Central Forensic Science Laboratory

Functions of CBI

  1. Investigating cases of corruption, bribery and misconduct of Central government employees
  2. Investigating cases relating to infringement of fiscal and economic laws, that is, breach of laws concerning export and import control, customs and central excise, income tax, foreign exchange regulations and so on. However, such cases are taken up either in consultation with or at the request of the department concerned.
  3. Investigating serious crimes, having national and international ramifications, committed by organized gangs of professional criminals.
  4. Coordinating the activities of the anti-corruption agencies and the various state police forces.
  5. Taking up, on the request of a state government, any case of public importance for investigation.
  6. Maintaining crime statistics and disseminating criminal information.
  7. The CBI acts as the “National Central Bureau” of Interpol in India.

How is the Director of the CBI appointed?

  • The Central Government shall appoint the Director of CBI on the recommendation of a three-member committee consisting of the Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India or Judge of the Supreme Court (SC) nominated by him.
  • The Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Act, 2014 made a change in the composition of the committee related to the appointment of the Director of CBI. It states that where there is no recognized leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, then the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha would be a member of that committee.

About Supreme Court Judgements regarding Director of the CBI

  • In a March 2019 order, the Supreme Court introduced a six-month minimum residual tenure – i.e., officers with less than six months left to retire should be avoided from being appointed as the director of CBI.
  • In the Prakash Singh case, 2006 the SC had stressed the point that appointment of DGPs “should be purely on the basis of merit and to insulate the office from all kinds of influences and pressures”. Though the order in the Prakash Singh case pertained to the appointment of DGPs, it was extended to CBI Director too.
  • In the Vineet Narain judgment of 1998 it was held by the Supreme Court that the Director of CBI is to hold the post for not less than two years. The director may not be transferred except with the previous consent of the high-level committee.
  • In the Union of India versus C. Dinakar, 2001 case, the Supreme Court held that “ordinarily IPS officers of the senior most four batches in service on the date of retirement of CBI Director, irrespective of their empanelment, shall be eligible for consideration for appointment to the post of CBI Director”.

-Source: The Hindu


Second wave threat, Exempt micro enterprises from GST

Context:

  • According to a survey, more than half of start-ups and MSMEs are likely to either scale down operations, sell off, or completely shut down from June-December 2021, after being hit hard by the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The Consortium of Indian Associations (CIA) has urged the Centre to increase the turnover threshold limit for micro enterprises to facilitate their exemption from the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Mobilization of Resources)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. MSMEs in India
  2. About the threat to start-ups and MSMEs
  3. Measures that can give some hope to the MSME sector
  4. About the request to exempt micro enterprises from GST

MSMEs in India

  • MSME stands for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises which are small sized entities, defined in terms of their size of investment in plant and machinery/equipment along with THE NEW CRITERION OF ANNUAL TURNOVER.
    1. As per the revised definition, any firm with investment up to Rs 1 crore and turnover under Rs 5 crore will be classified as “micro”.
    2. A company with investment up to Rs 10 crore and turnover up to Rs 50 crore will be classified as “small”.
    3. A firm with investment up to Rs 50 crore and turnover under Rs 250 crore will be classified as “medium”.
  • According to the Annual Report of the Department of MSMEs (2018-19), there are more than 6 crore MSMEs in the country.
  • 99.5% of all MSMEs fall in the micro category. Small and medium MSMEs are predominantly present in urban India whereas, micro enterprises are equally distributed over rural and urban India.
  • Around 51% of MSMEs are situated in rural India and 49% of them are situated in urban India.
  • Both rural and urban MSMEs together employ over 11 crore people but 55% of the employment happens in the urban MSMEs.
  • The gender ratio among employees is largely consistent across the board at roughly 80% male and 20% female.

About the threat to start-ups and MSMEs

  • Hit hard by the second wave of the pandemic, about 59% of start-ups and MSMEs are likely to either scale down operations, sell off, or completely shut in the six months from June – December 2021.
  • More than 35% of the surveyed start-ups and MSMEs said they would scale down their operation.
  • About 15% said they might shut down and 8% said they would sell off their business.
  • Only 22% of start-ups and MSMEs see growth in their business during this period.
  • 33% of small businesses said they had only less than a month of cash remaining, whereas 8% were already out of funds.
  • About 37% said they had funds for 1-3 months, 22% have more than 3 months of runway and 11% said they had it for more than 6 months.

Measures that can give some hope to the MSME sector

Why assemble in India, when we can Make-in-India?

Now could be the right time for the Government to roll out sops to MSMEs that manufacture locally. The Government eMarketplace (GeM) could be of great use to suppliers looking for purchasers and vice versa. Investing in online infrastructure while also encouraging small businesses to source locally could help improve manufacturing while also cutting on our import costs.

Delay MSME loan repayments or extend tenures

As the RBI pumps in more cash into the banking sector, deferring or relieving the MSMEs of loan repayments could come as a welcome move. Most businesses are looking for financial support from the government and doing this can help them cope with cash flow problems. Relaxing bad loan norms could also be a saving move for this sector.

Inventory management for exporters

Businesses that are into exports could use some help with inventory management. In the Union Budget 2020, Sitharaman proposed building warehouses at block/taluk level. If the government could allot subsidised warehousing to exporters while figuring out the supply chain side of things, it could potentially help support the economy.

About the request to exempt micro enterprises from GST

  • The second wave has wiped out more than 40% of MSMEs involved in various sectors.
  • According to the Consortium of Indian Associations (CIA): the need of the hour is to save micro enterprises from the hassle and help them to survive the present crisis by increasing the turnover threshold limit to ₹5 crore for FY22.
  • The Consortium of Indian Associations (CIA) has urged that COVID-related materials such as hand sanitisers, masks, medicines, oxygen cylinders, medical treatments and PPE kits must be exempted from all forms of GST, both for input and output.
  • The CIA also urged the Centre to increase the turnover threshold limit for micro enterprises to facilitate their exemption from the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

-Source: The Hindu

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