The HINDU Notes – 05th May 2018 - VISION

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Saturday, May 05, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 05th May 2018

📰 Vice-President to leave for South America tomorrow

China, Security Council membership will be topics of talks

•Nine months after assuming office, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu is going on his maiden foreign tour to the South American countries of Guatemala, Panama and Peru on May 6.

•In the last year of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the External Affairs Ministry has roped in the President and the Vice-President to cover the ground that the Prime Minister himself is unable to do.

•Mr. Naidu, during his visit to the three countries from May 6 to 12, has 25 engagements, including meetings with the heads of the three countries. “The tour is especially significant. China has been aggressively expanding its presence in Panama and Peru and we have very limited influence over these two countries,” a source in his office said.

•The tour to Guatemala is to reassert Indian influence. Guatemala has supported India’s permanent membership in the United Nation’s Security Council. It also has strained relations with both China and Pakistan.

•The tour to Panama is significant because of growing engagement between China and Panama. The country also has the highest presence of Indian diaspora of 15,000. In Peru, Mr. Naidu will participate in the celebration of 55 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

📰 Raising fences

The Windrush scandal marks another episode in Europe’s hardening politics on immigration

•The scandal over the targeting of Britons of Caribbean origin is the latest twist in Europe’s recent politics over immigration, denting the continent’s image as being open, liberal and tolerant. The development comes at an awkward moment for London, which hopes to negotiate trade agreements with the countries of the British Commonwealth as it withdraws from the European Union. The Windrush generation, named after one of the many vessels that ferried some half a million people from the Caribbean islands to the U.K. in the late 1940s, has fallen victim to a ruthless policy that stipulates annual net immigration objectives. In its wake, people with cultural links to the region but who have lived all their lives in the U.K. are having to provide proof of residence for every year of their stay of up to 60-70 years. Inability to furnish such evidence has been met with job losses, threat of deportation, withdrawal of welfare benefits and even denial of critical medical care. For Britons of West Indies origin, the enormous emotional trauma of being regarded as aliens in a country that had invited their families to rebuild its economy must be hard enough to endure. Knowledge that they are at the receiving end of a policy devised by Prime Minister Theresa May when she was in charge of the Home Office only adds to their anxiety. In the event, Ms. May’s apology to the heads of Commonwealth governments over the mistreatment of people from Britain’s former colonies, and the resignation of Amber Rudd as Home Secretary, brought too little comfort and too late. The Windrush saga is a reminder of the grotesque response from some central European governments in 2015 to prevent desperate Syrian migrants from entering their territory.

•It is arguable whether the debate over the so-called illegal immigration across the industrialised world has focussed attention on systemic shortcomings and genuine violations. But surely, the controversy has typified the inability of governments to manage the political fallout from the current phase of globalisation and trade liberalisation. This is especially true of the EU, which has enshrined the free movement of people as a fundamental principle. Consequently, the 2004 expansion of the bloc into the countries of the erstwhile Soviet Union afforded nations in Western Europe cheap immigrant labour and compliance with better standards. But the process also gave a fillip to xenophobic parties of the extreme right across the region, threatening to halt immigration. Similarly, populist parties in Britain fuelled public anger over the dynamics of closer integration to target EU migrants during the 2016 referendum. The country’s two mainstream parties, although committed to remaining in the bloc, could hardly counter the trend. The lessons from the Windrush scandal are too fundamental to miss.

📰 China, U.S. have agreed on some trade issues: reports

Both sides are still ‘very divided’ on several others

•China and the U.S. have reached “agreements” on some issues, but both sides were still “very divided” on several others during the economic and trade talks held here to end the tariff spat between the trading partners, according to a media report on Friday.

‘Work mechanism’

•The U.S. delegation, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is also President Donald Trump’s special envoy, and the Chinese side, led by Vice Premier Liu He, met on Thursday and Friday, and “agreed to set up a work mechanism to keep close communication”.

•A trade spat between the top two economies of the world began last month with Mr. Trump imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into the U.S. from China, which also retaliated by imposing additional tariffs worth about $3 billion on 128 U.S. products.

•The two countries have not yet implemented their tariff changes to reach a negotiated settlement.

•“China and the U.S. reached agreements on some issues in their economic and trade consultations in Beijing from Thursday to Friday,” the State-run Xinhua news agency said in a brief report.

•The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted an official statement as saying that the two sides “reached some consensus” and exchanged views on expanding U.S. exports to China, bilateral investment, intellectual property protection and the imposition of tariffs.

📰 GST Council approves single form for filing of returns

GST Council approves single form for filing of returns
GST Network to become 100% govt. enterprise; Ministers to study cess on sugar

•The Goods and Services Tax Council on Friday decided to convert the GST Network into a 100% government enterprise, and implement a single form for GST filing from the current three.

•At its 27th meeting, the Council also decided to create a Group of Ministers to review the plan for imposition of a cess on sugar. The cess was meant to subsidise sugarcane farmers as their production cost is much higher than the selling price.

Returns filing reconciled

•The Council has also decided to create another GoM to consider implementation of a 2% incentive for digital transactions. “There has been a discussion over the last several months on one method of return filing that Nandan Nilekani had suggested and another that the officials from the State governments had suggested,” Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said at a press conference after the video-conference meeting. “The Sushil Modi Group of Ministers has found a reconciliation between the two.”

•Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said the Council approved a single, monthly return form that would become applicable in six months. The current system of filing the GSTR-1 and GSTR-3B forms would continue till then. “After six months, there will be a single monthly return for everybody, except composition dealers and those who file returns with zero transactions,” he said. “They can file quarterly returns.” After this, for six more months, businesses will be able to avail provisional credit in the new form, even if their sellers have not uploaded their sales invoices.

•“During these six months, the GST Network will continuously feed the dealer data about what is the gap between what he is claiming as provisional credit and what is the actual amount he should be getting based on sellers’ invoices,” he said.

📰 DoT to dial in ease of doing business

Department to hold parleys with industry players to attract $100 bn investment: Aruna Sundararajan

•The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will hold discussions with the industry to sort out various issues surrounding ease of doing business, a top official said adding that the fundamentals of the telecom industry are strong enough to attract $100 billion investment in the sector.

•“There is a need for reforms in ease of doing business in this sector… if there had been legacy issues, which have been a challenge for the ease of doing business, we are saying prospectively we will sit together with the industry to see how this can be sorted out,” said Aruna Sundararajan, Telecom Secretary, on Friday.

•“It is true that right now the industry is undergoing stress – there is high debt, technology disruption happening, shake out of players…,” she added.

•“The fundamentals of the sector are very robust,” Ms. Sundararjan said adding that the Centre would do everything it can to bring in investments.

•She added that the three to four players that are left in the sector are all big players who are capable of pumping in capital. The draft National Digital Communications Policy 2018, released earlier this week, aimed to attract $100 billion investments in the digital communications sector, providing broadband access for all with 50 mbps speed and creating 40 lakh new jobs in the sector by the year 2022.

•However, industry and analysts had raised concerns over the huge investments sighting the weak financial health of the sector.

Cabinet approval

•The Secretary said the department planned to send the policy for Cabinet approval by next month, and start the roll out by July. Once the policy is cleared, a committee would be set up to review levies, particularly the SUC (spectrum usage charge).

•The draft proposed to review the levies and fees, including licence fee, universal service obligation fund levy and spectrum usage charges, which are expected to help the debt-laden sector.

•Terming the policy “aspirational but not unattainable”, the Secretary said the department would also come out with an institutional mechanism to track the implementation of the policy. Ms. Sundararajan pointed out that one of the clearest indicators an investor takes into account is the growth potential in the market. “Given that India is at 30% penetration, and we aggressively plan to take it to 100% this is undoubtedly the market with largest growth potential.

Consolidation phase

•“Currently, there is a phase of consolidation. But the telecom sector is no stranger to similar situations in the past. We have had [a] situation where the whole nature of this sector has undergone fundamentals changes but it has always grown stronger…”

•“That is why we are saying that investments will flow into the market in medium to long term…we have set a five-year target, we are not saying that the investments will come in the next 12-months,” she said.

📰 Ministry fast-tracks security clearance

Ministry fast-tracks security clearance
Overseas investment proposals are getting the nod in 40 days as against nine months

•Among foreign countries, the maximum investment proposals in critical sectors like telecom and defence that was cleared by the Home Ministry in 2017, were from China, United Kingdom, U.S. and Mauritius.

•The Ministry said it has given security clearance to more than 5,000 investment proposals, including for Foreign Direct Investment, in the last four years.

•A senior Ministry official said that earlier the time taken for security clearance for a project was eight-nine months on an average. This has been brought down to 40 days since last year.

•The Ministry had formulated a new national security clearance policy in 2015 after the government decided to speed up projects, which were stuck for lack of approval by Intelligence Bureau (IB) or other agencies including the State police.

15 parameters

•The policy has 15 parameters on which inputs from security agencies are sought. Once it has got an application from an investor, the Ministry decides on the status of security clearance to the company within 4-6 weeks.

•The Ministry granted security clearance to 815 investment proposals in 2014, 1,201 proposals in 2015 and 1,260 in 2016, an official said.

•In 2017, security clearances were given to around 1,071 proposals, he said. In addition, 543 proposals were automatically cleared in 2015 due to implementation of the revised policy guidelines.

•Of these proposals, 390 pertained to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 235 related to civil aviation and 46 FDI proposals.

•Among the foreign countries, U.S., China (including Hong Kong), Mauritius, U.K. has received the green signal for the maximum number of projects at 10 each, followed by Germany 6, Bangladesh 3 and two each for Italy, Israel, Netherlands and Switzerland.

📰 ‘Fasting may boost stem cell regeneration’

It breaks down fatty acids, not glucose

•A 24-hour fast may reverse the age-related loss of stem cell function that regenerates new intestinal cells, according to a study.

•Researchers, including those from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the U.S., found that fasting dramatically improves stem cells’ ability to regenerate, in both aged and young mice.

•In fasting mice, cells begin breaking down fatty acids instead of glucose, a change that stimulates the stem cells to become more regenerative.

•In the study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell , the researchers found that they could also boost regeneration with a molecule that activates the same metabolic switch.

•Such an intervention could potentially help older people recovering from gastrointestinal infections or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, the researchers said.

•“This study provided evidence that fasting induces a metabolic switch in the intestinal stem cells, from utilising carbohydrates to burning fat,” said David Sabatini, a professor at MIT.

•“Interestingly, switching these cells to fatty acid oxidation enhanced their function significantly.

•“Pharmacological targeting of this pathway may provide a therapeutic opportunity to improve tissue homeostasis in age-associated pathologies,” said Mr. Sabatini.

•Intestinal stem cells are responsible for maintaining the lining of the intestine.

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