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2nd May Current Affairs

Contents

  1. Direct taxes revenues defy lockdown, jump 36.6% in April
  2. Environment Ministry gives nod for new Parliament project
  3. Maharashtra Legislative Council polls on May 21
  4. Economists call for urban jobs scheme
  5. Adding Chakmas and Hajongs to relief plan
  6. Gold ETFs see inflows, jewellery takes a hit
  7. WHO: Concerns over use of BCG vaccine

DIRECT TAXES REVENUES DEFY LOCKDOWN, JUMP 36.6% IN APRIL

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

Direct tax collection recorded a healthy growth in April 2020 despite the nationwide lockdown and grew by 36.6%.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had convened a video-conference on 1st May 2020, with tax commissioners to review the collection position during the lockdown period.

Reduced Tax Collection estimates

  • The government is expected to miss the direct tax collection target for the financial year 2019-20.
  • In addition, the outlook for indirect tax collection is also bleak in the first few months of the current financial year due to the countrywide lockdown.
  • Some reports suggest that GST collection in April and May could decline drastically as the number of electronic permits for transporting goods are down 80% in April.
  • With the lockdown extended till May 17, tax collections are expected to remain subdued.

Read More about CBDT here: https://www.legacyias.com/cbdt-revising-return-forms/


ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY GIVES NOD FOR NEW PARLIAMENT PROJECT

Focus: GS-III Industry and Infrastructure

Why in news?

The Centre’s proposal to construct a new Parliament building next to the existing heritage structure was approved by the Environment Ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC).

The EAC, however, said the approval was subject to the outcome of a legal challenge to the change of land-use of the plot, according to the minutes of the meeting.

Background

  • The Central Public Works Department’s (CPWD) proposal for “expansion and renovation of the existing Parliament building at Parliament Street” was among the projects considered by the EAC at its meetings on April 22-24.
  • Once the Parliament expansion is carried out as proposed, the proposed project aims to undertake necessary structural and other activities required to sustain the existing Parliament building for use by future generations of Indians.
  • The existing Parliament building was constructed 93 years ago. Over the years many planned/ unplanned changes have been made, often undocumented. It is in dire need of retrofitting as soon as possible.
  • The project would not lead to any increase in air and noise pollutions and the water consumption would decrease due to reuse of treated water, the EAC minutes stated.

Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC)

  • Expert appraisal committees (EAC) exist at the Union as well as state levels (state expert appraisal committee or SEAC) to advise the government on environmental clearance of development projects.
  • Directions issued by the Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) are applicable to committees at both the levels.
  • The role of EAC is integral to the process of granting environmental clearance to development projects.
  • According to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006, evaluation of proposals involves four steps:
    • Screening
    • Scoping
    • Public hearing
    • Appraisal
  • EAC/SEAC are involved in various capacities in all the stages, except for public hearing.

Central Public Works Department (CPWD)

  • The Central Public Works Department of India is a premier Central Government authority in charge of public sector works.
  • The CPWD, under the Ministry of Urban Development now MoHUA (Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs), deals with buildings, roads, bridges, flyovers, complicated structures like stadiums, auditoriums, laboratories, bunkers, border fencing, border roads (hill roads), etc.
  • CPWD came into existence in July 1854 when Lord Dalhousie established a central agency for execution of public works and set up Ajmer Provincial Division.
  • It has now grown into a comprehensive construction management department, which provides services from project concept to completion, and maintenance management.

MAHARASHTRA LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL POLLS ON MAY 21

Focus: GS-II Governance, Polity

Why in news?

Elections to the nine vacant Maharashtra Legislative Council seats will be held on May 21, officials of the Election Commission of India (ECI) said on 1st May 2020.

Read all about Legislative Council, Selection of MLC, Election Commission of India here: https://www.legacyias.com/pib-1st-may/

(1st Article in PIB summary of 1st May)


ECONOMISTS CALL FOR URBAN JOBS SCHEME

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

A new Urban Employment Guarantee Act is needed to complement the existing rural jobs scheme during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, said a group of development activists and economists.

Recommendations

  • MGNREGA funding to be increased to at least ₹1 lakh crore for the next three months.
  • Relaxation of the 100 days of work per household limit
  • All individuals who wish to work under the scheme be given employment for as many days as needed, up to the full year.
  • Anyone wanting work should be given a job, with card registration made available on site.
  • Full minimum wages in cash, as well as dry rations, to be paid to workers within seven days rather than the current 15-day limit, so that the scheme can meet the immediate needs of people.
  • People prevented from working during the pandemic due to medical advisories including those aged over 50, disabled and sick, and pregnant women, should be paid full wages for the duration of the restrictions.
  • Rather than stopping MGNREGA work throughout districts declared to be in the red zone, decisions should instead be taken block-wise.

Urban Jobs Programme

  • Emulating the potential and the structures of NREGA towards an urban employment guarantee programme would address the significant number of migrants who were returning to small towns and had lost their livelihoods.
  • An urban jobs scheme which would also focus on ecological restoration in towns and cities by harnessing the potential of unemployed youth.

ADDING CHAKMAS AND HAJONGS TO RELIEF PLAN

Focus: GS-I Indian Society

Why in news?

The Ministry of Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER) has directed the Arunachal Pradesh government to include the Chakma and Hajong communities in the COVID-19 relief programme.

The Mizoram Chakma Alliance Against Discrimination (MCAAD) on Friday appealed to Chief Miniter Zoramthanga to provide relief to more than 1,000 Chakma tribal people from the State stranded across the country due to the lockdown.

Woes of the Communities

  • According to the Rights and Risks Analysis Group, a majority of the Chakmas and Hajongs living in the State for the last 56 years have been facing massive food shortage because of their exclusion from the relief programme.
  • More than 50,000 members of the two communities were settled in the State in the early 1960s after they were displaced by a dam and ethnic violence in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
  • The rights group said that the local administration in the State’s Changlang district trimmed the list of 1,544 families of extremely poor Chakmas and Hajongs by about 60%.
  • As a result, some 600 families were being counted as beneficiaries for buying rice at market prices instead of the pandemic-related specially subsidised rates for people below and above the poverty line.

Chakma

  • The Chakma people, are a native group from the eastern-most regions of the Indian subcontinent.
  • They are the largest ethnic group in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region in southeastern Bangladesh, and in Mizoram.
  • They are the second largest ethnic group, and in Tripura, India.
  • After the Kaptai dam tragedy, 40-50 thousand Chakmas migrated to Arunachal Pradesh in 1964 and 20-30 thousand Chakmas in Assam.
  • The Chakma language (written in the Chakma script) is part of the Indo-Aryan language family of the Indian subcontinent.
  • Most Chakma people are adherents of Therevada Buddhism
  • The community is headed by the Chakma Raja, whose status as a tribal head has been historically recognized by the Government of British India and the Government of Bangladesh.

Hajong

  • The Hajong are a tribal group native to the Indian subcontinent, notably in the northeast Indian states and Bangladesh.
  • Majority of them are settled in India.
  • Hajongs are predominantly rice farmers.
  • Hajong have the status of a Scheduled Tribe in India.
  • The Hajongs are Hindus and observe Hindu rites and customs.

GOLD ETFS SEE INFLOWS, JEWELLERY TAKES A HIT

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

Gold investments in the form of gold backed exchange traded funds (ETFs) witnessed a huge jump in the first three months of 2020, even as jewellery demand took a significant hit on account of the global COVID-19 pandemic that led to lockdowns in most countries.

As per the latest Gold Demand Trends report by the World Gold Council, global gold demand held firm in the first quarter of 2020 at 1,083.8 tonnes, a rise of 1% compared to the corresponding period last year.

Why is this happening?

  • The global COVID-19 pandemic fuelled safe-haven investment demand for gold, with gold-backed ETFs attracting huge inflows (+298 tonnes) to push global holdings in these products to a record high of 3,185 tonnes.
  • The pandemic slashed jewellery demand as global governments have imposed lockdown measures.
  • However, central banks continued to buy gold, though at a much slower pace, as global gold reserves grew by 145 tonnes in the first three months of 2020.
  • Sharp investment inflows helped push the gold price in dollar terms to an eight-year high following which the demand in value terms reached $55 billion, the highest since the second quarter of 2013.

What are Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)

  • Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) are mutual funds listed and traded on stock exchanges like shares.
  • In an ETF, one can buy and sell units at prevailing market price on a real time basis during market hours.
  • ETFs are cost efficient – Given that they don’t make any stock (or security choices), they don’t use services of star fund managers.

Gold ETFs

  • A gold ETF, or exchange-traded fund, is a commodity ETF that consists of only one principal asset: gold.
  • However, the fund itself holds gold derivative contracts that are backed by gold. So, if you invest in a gold ETF, you won’t actually own any gold.

WHO RAISES CONCERN OVER USE OF BCG VACCINE

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

  • World Health Organization (WHO) highlight a few critical issues over the use of BCG vaccine for COVID-19.
  • They underscore the importance of randomised controlled trials of the vaccine to understand its safety and efficacy before using it on healthcare workers.
  • Previously, a study found an association between countries that have a universal BCG vaccination and reduced coronavirus cases — and even deaths.

Concerns regarding BCG Vaccine as a COVID-19 Response

  • The BCG vaccine (which enhances the innate immune response to subsequent infections) might reduce viral load after SARS-COV-2 exposure, with a consequent less severe COVID-19 and more rapid recovery.
  • The association of fewer COVID-19 cases in countries that have a universal BCG vaccination programme is based on population rather than individual data.
  • The beneficial effects of the BCG vaccine given at birth are “unlikely” to reduce the severity of COVID-19 decades later.
  • There is a possibility, even if remote, that the BCG vaccine ramps up the immune system leading to exacerbation of COVID-19 in a small population of patients with a severe disease – as it is already known that the virus induces cytokine storm in some patients, leading to further complications
  • If not effective against the novel coronavirus, BCG vaccination is likely to give a false sense of security to people.
  • Using the vaccine without evidence of its benefits could further jeopardise vaccine supply, which is already short, to protect children against disseminated TB in high-risk countries.

What is BCG Vaccine?

  • Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine is a vaccine primarily used against tuberculosis (TB).
  • In countries where tuberculosis or leprosy is common, one dose is recommended in healthy babies as close to the time of birth as possible.
  • In areas where tuberculosis is not common, only children at high risk are typically immunized, while suspected cases of tuberculosis are individually tested for and treated.
  • Adults who do not have tuberculosis and have not been previously immunized but are frequently exposed may be immunized as well.
  • BCG also has some effectiveness against Buruli ulcer infection and other nontuberculous mycobacteria infections.
  • Additionally it is sometimes used as part of the treatment of bladder cancer.
  • India and Pakistan introduced BCG mass immunization in 1948, the first countries outside Europe to do so.
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