Current Affair – May 13, 2021

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CURRENT AFFAIRS

Israel Iron Dome

  • In the conflict between Israel and Palestine, both sides have taken to air strikes and rocket attacks. Videos on social media showed rockets fired from Gaza being intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome air defence system. It appeared that the rockets were hitting an invisible shield.

What is the Iron Dome?

  • It is a short-range, ground-to-air, air defence system.
  • It includes a radar and Tamir interceptor missiles that track and neutralise any rockets or missiles aimed at Israeli targets.
  • It is used for countering rockets, artillery & mortars (C-RAM) as well as aircraft, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.
  • The Iron Dome was deployed in 2011.

How does it work?

  • The Iron Dome has three main systems that work together to provide a shield over the area where it is deployed.
  • It has a detection and tracking radar to spot any incoming threats, a battle management and weapon control system (BMC), and a missile firing unit. The BMC basically liaises between the radar and the interceptor missile.
  • It is capable of being used in all weather conditions, including during the day and night.

What kind of systems does India have?

  • Israel, along with the US and Russia, is the leader.
  • As India is in the process of buying S-400 air defence systems from Russia, Iron Dome was one of the systems that was being spoken of.
  • While India is continent-sized, Israel is smaller and has to deal with threats that are relatively close around it.
  • S-400 also caters to the three threats (rockets, missiles and cruise missiles). But they have much longer range. S400 has to cater to shooting down missiles, aircraft in some 300 to 400 km range.
  • India and Israel have significant cooperation in missiles,including the Baraak-8.
Source: Indian Express

Article 311

  • Suspended police officer Sachin Waze, arrested by the NationalInvestigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the Mukesh Ambani terror scare case, was dismissed from service by Mumbai Police Commissioner under Article 311 (2) (b) without a departmental enquiry.

Article 311

  • While Article 311 is meant to act as a safeguard for civil servants that gives them a chance to respond to the charges

 in an enquiry so that he/she is not arbitrarily dismissed fromservice, the article also provides exceptions to these safeguards under sub clause 2 provision b.

  • It states “when an authority empowered to dismiss or remove a person or to reduce him in rank is satisfied that for some reason, to be recorded by that authority in writing, it is not reasonably practicable to hold such enquiry”.

Safeguards provided to civil servants

  • Article 311 says that no government employee either of an all India service or a state government shall be dismissed or removed by an authority subordinate to the own that appointed him/her.
  • Section 2 of the article says that no civil servant shall be dismissed or removed or reduced in rank except after an inquiry in which she/he has been informed of the charges and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges.

What is the process of a departmental enquiry?

  • In a departmental enquiry, after an enquiry officer is appointed, the civil servant is given a formal chargesheet of the charges.
  • The civil servant can represent himself/herself or choose to have a lawyer.
  • Witnesses can be called during the departmental enquiry following which the enquiry officer can prepare a report and submit it to the government for further action.

Exceptions where a person can be dismissed without departmental enquiry

  •  As per Article 311 (2), if a government employee is convicted in a criminal case, he can be dismissed without DE.
  • Apart from this, under 311 (2) (c), a government employee can be dismissed when the President or the Governor, as the case may be, is satisfied that in the interest of the security of state it is not expedient to hold such an enquiry, the employee can be dismissed without DE.

Can the dismissal under section 311 (2) be challenged by the government employee?

  • Yes, the government employee dismissed under these provisions can approach either tribunals like the state administrative tribunal or Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) or the courts.
Source: Indian Express

Ist BRICS Employment Working Group (EWG) Meeting amongst BRICS Countries

  • Ist  BRICS Employment Working Group (EWG) Meeting amongst BRICS Countries was chaired by Labour Secretary, India.
  • India has assumed BRICS Presidency this year. The prime agenda for the discussions were Promoting Social Security Agreements amongst BRICS Nations, Formalization of labour markets, Participation of women in labour force and Gig and platform workers – Role in labour market.

Discussion

  • On the issue of formalization of labour market, Member Nations discussed various initiatives taken by them towards formalization of jobs and how Covid-19 has enhanced informalization risk.
  • On participation of women in the labour force, the member countries resolved to promote participation of women in remunerative, productive and decent work and to extend social security cover to the women workers engaged in informal sector. Impact of Covid-19 on participation of women in labour force was also discussed.
  • On the issue of Gig and Platform workers and their role in labour market, the member nations discussed how the proliferation of Digital Labour Platforms is transforming the labour processes in the world of work. Challenges faced by them and various measures being taken by member nations including extension of social protection system were also discussed.

BRICS

  • BRICS is the group composed by the five major emerging countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
  • It represent about 42% of the population, 23% of GDP, 30% of the territory and 18% of the global trade.

History

  • The acronym BRIC was coined by Goldman Sachs in 2001 to indicate the emerging powers that would be, alongside the United States, the five largest economies of the world in the 21st century.
  • In 2006, BRIC countries started their dialogue. It was the Russian side that initiated the creation of BRICS. The four countries initiated a regular informal diplomatic coordination, with annual meetings of Foreign Ministers at the margins of the General Debate of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).
  • This successful interaction led to the decision that the dialogue was to be carried out at the level of Heads of State and Government in annual Summits.
  • In 2011, with South Africa joining the group, the BRICS reached its final composition.
New Development Bank At the fourth BRICS Summit in New Delhi (2012), the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa considered the possibility of setting up a new Development Bank to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies, as well as in developing countries. They directed Finance Ministers to examine the feasibility and viability of this initiative, to set up a joint working group for further study, and to report back by the next Summit in 2013.During the sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza (2014), the leaders signed the Agreement establishing the New Development Bank (NDB).In the Fortaleza Declaration, the leaders stressed that the NDB will strengthen cooperation among BRICS and will supplement the efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global development, thus contributing to collective commitments for achieving the goal of strong, sustainable and balanced growth.NDB is headquartered in Shanghai.  
Source: PIB

Debate over GST exemption during Pandemic

  • Several states have called for removing taxation on Covid-related medicines and supplies, including a GST exemption on vaccines. In response, Finance Minister has said that exemptions on domestic supplies and commercial imports “would make these items costlier” for consumers.
  • Some experts feel categorising domestic supplies as zero-rated might be a better option than granting a full exemption, since it will pave the way for availing input tax credit.

What is the Finance Minister’s argument?

  • On Twitter, Sitharaman said: “If full exemption from GST is given, vaccine manufacturers would not be able to offset their input taxes and would pass them on to the end consumer/ citizen by increasing the price. A 5% GST rate ensures that the manufacturer is able to utilise ITC (input tax credit) and in case of overflow of ITC, claim refund. Hence exemption to vaccine from GST would be counterproductive without benefiting the consumer.”

What is the tax on these items now?

  • A 5% GST is levied on domestic supplies and commercial imports of vaccines.
  • 12% on Covid drugs and oxygen concentrators.
  • For a wholesale (B2B) transaction, the seller can claim input tax credit (ITC) by setting off the tax liability against the tax already paid. For example, a vaccine manufacturer would have inputs such as vials, bioreactors, etc., which would be taxed at different rates (5%, 12% or 18%). Services such as warehousing for storage also get counted as input services (taxed at 18%). These taxes can be claimed as ITC at the time of final supply — and if the tax on output is higher than that on inputs, the final seller can claim an ITC refund.

How much comes in from the levies?

  • If Rs 100 IGST is collected on an item, the states and Centre get Rs 50 each as SGST and CGST respectively. Also, 41% of CGST revenue is transferred to states as devolution. So out of a collection of Rs 100, as much as Rs 70.50 is the share of the states.
  • On GST revenues collected from sale of vaccines, half is earned by the Centre and half by the states. And 41% of the Centre’s collections devolve to the states.
  • These items are already exempt from Customs duty and health cess, she said. Also, IGST exemption is provided for all Covid relief material imported by the Indian Red Cross for free distribution, along with goods that are imported free of cost for free distribution in the country by any entity.

What are zero-rated supplies?

  • Under Section 2(47) of the CGST Act, 2017, a supply is exempt when it attracts a nil rate or is specifically exempted, but that is not equivalent to being zero-rated.
  • Inputs and input services that would have gone into the making of the good or provision of service would have already faced a tax levy, and only the final product is exempted.
  • GST-related laws do not allow availing of credit on inputs and input services used for supply of the exempted output. This becomes a cost for the supplier, and is usually passed on to the consumer.
  • Zero-rating makes the entire value chain of the supply exempt from tax. Not only is the output exempt from tax, there is no bar on availing credit of taxes paid on the input side for providing the output supply.
  • As per GST-related laws, zero-rating is applicable for exports and exports and supplies to Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Addition of any other category would require a legal amendment.
Source: Indian Express

Wolf Protection in Slovakia

  • Slovakia’s agriculture ministry usually grants quotas to hunt wolves. For the 2020-2021 season (November 1-January 15), the ministry had approved the hunting of 50 wolves. The quota for the previous year was 35 individuals.   The wolf (Canis lupus) will become a fully protected species in the eastern European country of Slovakia from June 1, 2021.
  • The decision followed a massive campaign by 31 non-profits for according full protection to wolves, including WWF-Slovakia. A joint petition to stop wolf hunting received more than 51,000 signatures.
  • The 31 non-profits, including WWF-Slovakia, argued that partial territorial protection during the hunting season cannot prevent the killing of wolves whose territories cross the borders of protected areas.
Slovakia’s agriculture ministry usually grants quotas to hunt wolves. For the 2020-2021 season (November 1-January 15), the ministry had approved the hunting of 50 wolves. The quota for the previous year was 35 individuals.

Significance of wolves

  • Wolves have the potential to contribute to reducing damage in forestry and agriculture. Damage caused by deer and other ungulates to agriculture and forestry in Slovakia has been estimated at tens of millions of Euros in recent years.
  • Wolves, as top predators, play a vital role in keeping nature in balance. A healthy wolf population also has a positive impact on the landscape. It reduces the population of deer, prevents damage of young trees and supports restoration of natural forests. There is no reason for wolf hunting.

Habitat Directive

  • The European Commission had launched an infringement process against Slovakia in 2013 for breaching the obligations of the Habitats Directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora.
  • The Habitats Directive is a directive adopted by the European Community in 1992 as a response to the Berne Convention. It ensures the conservation of a wide range of rare, threatened or endemic animal and plant species.
  • The infringement process resulted in a wolf hunting ban in Natura 2000 sites. Natura 2000 is a network of nature protection areas in the territory of the European Union.
  • However, hunters in Slovakia have legally killed almost 1,800 wolves since 2000. In addition to legal hunting, wolves are also endangered by illegal hunting.
  • They are also threatened by increasing fragmentation and shrinkage of their habitats brought about by the construction of roads and other infrastructure.

Slovakia

  • Slovakia is part of the Danube-Carpathian Region that is also known as the ‘Green Heart of Europe’. The region is home to some two-thirds of Europe’s populations of large carnivores, including brown bears, wolves and lynx.
  • There are approximately 12,000 wolves in Europe (excluding Russia), of which 1,000-1,800 are found in Slovakia.
Source: Downtoearth

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