17th Oct, 2020

ASEAN Phd Fellowship Programme (APFP)

Recently, the students from ASEAN member states who have been selected for the prestigious ASEAN PhD Fellowship Programme (APFP) were virtually addressed. 

The program is funded by the Government of India.

The ASEAN PhD Fellowship Programme was (APFP) 

It was announced on 25th January 2018, by Indian Prime Minister in the presence of leaders of ASEAN member states.

Under the APFP, 1,000 fellowships will be provided exclusively to the ASEAN citizens.

It is also the largest capacity development programme undertaken by the Government of India for foreign beneficiaries.

It will open many doors in the field of technology and research for the academicians, researchers and the scientists from India and ASEAN.

The students of the ASEAN member states have got the opportunity to study in the IITs.

ASEAN countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Kapila Campaign launched

The Ministry of Education launched the ‘KAPILA’ (Kalam Program for Intellectual Property Literacy and Awareness) campaign on the 89th birth anniversary of former President and Scientist Late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

Under this campaign, students pursuing education in higher educational institutions will get information about the correct system of application process for patenting their invention and they will be aware of their rights.

The Institution Innovation Council (IIC 2.0) annual report was also presented on the occasion. 

The launch of IIC 3.0 and its website were also announced. 

It has also been decided to celebrate the week of October 15th to 23rd as ‘Intellectual Property

Literacy Week’. 

The Institution Innovation Council was established by the Ministry of Education in 2018. 

IICs have been established in about 1700 higher educational institutions. 

They will be established in 5000 higher educational institutions under IIC 3.0.

Directorate General of Shipping notified as National Authority For Recycling Of Ships

The Central Government has recently notified the Directorate General of Shipping as National Authority for Recycling of Ships under section 3 of the Recycling of Ships Act, 2019.

As an apex body, DG Shipping is authorised to administer, supervise and monitor all activities related to ship recycling. 

DG Shipping will be the final authority for the various approvals. 

Under Ship Recycling Act, 2019, India has acceded to Hong Kong Convention for Ship Recycling under International Maritime Organization (IMO). 

DG Shipping is a representative of India in IMO. 

All the conventions of IMO are being enforced by DG Shipping.

National Authority of Ship Recycling will be set up in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. 

Its location will benefit the Ship Recycling yard owners situated in Alang, Gujarat which is home of Asia’s largest ship breaking and ship recycling industry in the world.

Kilo Class submarine INS Sindhuvir delivered to Myanmar Navy

India will be delivering a Kilo Class submarine INS Sindhuvir to Myanmar Navy as part of defense cooperation.

This will be the first submarine of the Myanmar Navy.

Cooperation in the maritime domain is an important part of India’s enhanced engagement with Myanmar. 

It is in accordance with India’s vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and in line with build capacities and self-reliance in all the neighbouring countries.

Myanmar is one of India’s strategic neighbours and shares a 1,640-kilometer-long border with a number of north-eastern states of India.

Kilo class refers to diesel-electric attack submarines that were designed and built in the Soviet Union.

Government Bans Imports Of Air Conditioners with Refrigerants

Indian Government has banned imports of air conditioners with refrigerants in order to promote domestic manufacturing and cut imports of non-essential items. 

Non-essential electronic goods have been under the purview of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry since the government decided to push for self-reliance in various sectors.

Air conditioners have been specifically singled out by Indian Prime Minister as an example of a segment where self-reliance was required.

In July 2020, the government had imposed restrictions on the imports of various colour TV sets as well.

Centre to Borrow on Behalf of States to meet the GST shortfall 

Recently, the Centre has decided to borrow an estimated revenue shortfall of Rs. 1.1 lakh crore as loans to States to meet the GST shortfall.

The borrowing will not have any impact on the fiscal deficit of the Government as the Centre is acting as mediator only.

The Centre will borrow the loan and pass on to the states.

The amounts will be reflected as the capital receipts of the state governments and it will be a part of financing its respective fiscal deficits.

Background of the news

The economic slowdown due to covid-19 had reduced both GST and cess collections in FY 2019-20, due to which there was 40% gap (shortfall) between the compensation paid and cess collected.

The Centre distinguished the GST shortfall into two types:

(1) Due to GST implementation itself;

(2) due to the impact of Covid-19.

The fall of GST revenue due to Covid-19 was termed as an act of God. 

Also, the GST Compensation Act, 2017 guaranteed states that they would be compensated for any loss of revenue in the first five years of GST implementation, until 2022, using a cess levied on sin and luxury goods. It did not foresee an act of God.

Thus, The Centre had earlier refused to compensate GST shortfall arising due to covid-19 to the states.  

In August 2020 at GST Council meet, the Centre had proposed two options to states to meet the shortfall:

(1) A special window could be provided, in consultation with the RBI so that the states can get Rs. 97,000 crore at a reasonable rate of interest. The amount can be repaid after five years (of GST implementation) ending 2022 from cess collection;

(2) Another option is that this entire gap of Rs. 2.35 lakh crore can be met by the borrowing by the states in consultation with RBI.

However, many states were against these two options and were planning to move the Supreme Court over the issue.

Benefits of the recent decision

The borrowing by the Centre would avoid differential rates of interest that individual states may be charged for their respective State Development Loans (SDLs).

The country’s general government debt, which includes both the Centre’s and States’ borrowings will not increase due to this step.

The States that get the benefit from the Special Window may borrow a lesser amount from the additional borrowing facility of 2% of Gross State Domestic Product under Atma Nirbhar Package. 

Goods and Services Tax

GST was introduced through the 101st Constitution Amendment Act, 2016.

It is an indirect tax on the supply of final goods and services. 

It has subsumed indirect taxes like excise duty, Value Added Tax (VAT), service tax, luxury tax etc.

It is levied at the final consumption point.

It is levied only on the value addition. 

It is collected on goods and services at each point of sale in the supply line.

The GST avoids the cascading effect or tax on tax which increases the tax burden on the end consumer.

Tax Structure under GST:

(1) Central GST to cover Excise duty, Service tax etc.

(2) State GST to cover VAT, luxury tax etc.

(3) Integrated GST to cover inter-state trade.

It has a 4-tier tax structure for all goods and services under the slabs- 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%.

Supreme Court (SC) upholds the Madras High Court’s 2011 order on the Nilgiris elephant corridor

Recently, the SC upheld the Madras HC’s 2011 order on the Nilgiris elephant corridor. 

It affirmed the right of passage of the animals and the closure of resorts in the area.

In 2011, the Madras HC had upheld the validity of the Tamil Nadu government’s notification (of 2010) declaring an ‘Elephant Corridor’ in the Sigur Plateau of Nilgiris District.

According to SC, it’s the State’s duty to protect a “keystone species” like elephants, which are immensely important to the environment.

Elephant corridors allow elephants to continue their nomadic mode of survival, despite shrinking forest cover, by facilitating travel between distinct forest habitats. 

These corridors play a crucial role in sustaining wildlife by reducing the impact of habitat isolation.

The SC opined that the area is a fragile ecosystem, where the will of men must give way to elephants.

The court has also allowed the formation of a committee led by a retired HC judge and two other persons to hear the individual objections of resort owners and private landowners within the corridor space.

Nilgiris Elephant Corridor

It is situated in the ecologically fragile Sigur plateau. 

It connects the Western and the Eastern Ghats.

It is situated near the Mudumalai National Park in the Nilgiris district.

It also has the Nilgiri hills on its southwestern side and the Moyar river valley on its northeastern side.

There are about 100 elephant corridors in India of which almost 70% are used regularly.

75% of the corridors are in the southern, central and north-eastern forests.

There are an estimated 6,500 elephants in just the Brahmagiri-Nilgiris-Eastern Ghats ranges.

Asian Elephant

There are three subspecies of Asian elephant – the Indian, Sumatran and Sri Lankan.

The Indian has the widest range and accounts for the majority of the remaining elephants on the continent.

Common threats to African and Asian elephants: Escalation of poaching, habitat loss, human-elephant conflict and mistreatment in captivity 

IUCN Red List status:

(1) African elephants: vulnerable;

(2) Asian elephants: endangered.

CITES status:

(1) Appendix I for Asian Elephants;

(2) Appendix II for African elephants in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Conservation Efforts by India:

(1) Project Elephant in 1992 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme under which Elephant census is conducted once in 5 years;

(2) Establishment of elephant reserves;

(3) Adoption of the “World Elephant Day” (August 12);

(4) Gaj Yatra –  a awareness campaign highlight the necessity of securing elephant corridors; (5) The Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme, launched in 2003, is an international collaboration that tracks trends in information related to the illegal killing of elephants from across Africa and Asia, to monitor effectiveness of field conservation efforts.

Keystone species: A species that has a disproportionately large effect on the communities in which it lives.

World Food Day

World Food Day 2020 was observed on 16 October. 

Theme: Grow, Nourish, Sustain Together

On this day, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations was founded in 1945.