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13 February, 2020

16 Min Read

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-II Pesticide Management Bill, 2020
Scope of Direct Tax Bill enlarged
India-Sri Lanka DTAA amended International Relations
Major Ports Authority Bill, 2020
WHO to score countries affected by COVID-19
US-Taliban Peace deal International Relations
GS-II :
Pesticide Management Bill, 2020

Syllabus subtopic: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the key features of the bill; pesticide production in India and the need for monitoring it

 

News: The Union cabinet has approved the Pesticide Management Bill, 2020 which will be introduced in the budget session of Parliament.

 

Background

The move comes against the backdrop of rising concern over the need to protect farmers from spurious and sub-standard pesticides, along with the need to assess their potential effects on the health of people and that of the environment.

 

Pesticide production in India

  • India is among the leading producers of pesticides in Asia. In the domestic market, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana are among the states with the highest recorded consumption.

 

  • The Indian pesticides market was worth INR 197 Billion in 2018. The market is further projected to reach a value of INR 316 Billion by 2024.

 

  • The significance of pesticides has been rising over the last few decades catalyzed by the requirement to enhance the overall agricultural production and the need to safeguard adequate food availability for the continuously growing population in the country. In India, pests and diseases, on an average eat away around 20-25% of the total food produced.

 

 

What is the bill aimed at?

  • The new draft bill is aimed at protecting the interest of the farmers, so that they get safe and effective pesticides.

 

  • Farmers would be empowered to get all information regarding the available pesticides, their strength, weaknesses, and risks from the dealers they choose to purchase the pesticide from.

 

Key features of the bill

  1. The bill seeks to replace the existing Insecticide Act, 1968, which the government said is “age-old and needs immediate re-writing".

 

  1. Any person who wants to import, manufacture, or export pesticides would have to register under the new bill and provide all details regarding any claims, expected performance, efficacy, safety, usage instructions, and infrastructure available to stock that pesticide. The information will also include details on the pesticide’s potential effects on the environment.

 

  1. The bill also has a provision to provide compensation if there is any farm loss because of low quality or spurious pesticides. The penalty collected from the manufactures/dealers and funds put in by the government would be used to form a central fund.

 

  1. All the information regarding the available pesticides would be available in the public domain, in all languages in digital format, so that farmers can make the right decision on their use.
  1. The bill also plans to regulate pesticides-related advertisements to check misleading claims by industries and manufacturers. The bill also seeks to promote organic pesticides.

 

Way forward

  • The draft bill has the opportunity to clean up the food and farming system of India, but needs to make the registration process more stringent for manufacturers. A complete overhaul of the registration process for pesticides is required, so that new registrations happen only when there is need and no safer alternatives exist.

 

  • The setting up of a compensation fund offers hope for farmers affected by poisoning, but they should not be compelled to take recourse to the Consumer Protection Act to claim compensation.
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GS-II :
Scope of Direct Tax Bill enlarged

Syllabus subtopic: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the new amendments made; about Direct Tax Bill and its significance

 

News: The Union Cabinet approved widening of the scope of the ''Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill, 2020''.

 

Background

  • The Bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha during the ongoing Budget session, sought to substantially reduce the huge tax arrears which are locked in litigation between the taxpayers and the revenue at the level of Commissioner (Appeals), Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), High Courts and the Supreme Court.

 

  • The amount of disputed direct tax arrears totalled Rs 9.32 lakh crore till November 2019.

 

What change has been made in the bill?

  • The bill will now also cover cases pending in debt recovery tribunals (DRTs).

 

  • As per the proposed amendments, now income tax disputes in arbitration, various tribunals, courts and DRT cases can be settled.

 

  • Even the search and seizure cases where the recovery is below Rs 5 crore too could be redressed under the scheme.

 

 

Benefits

  • As per the Bill, the biggest advantage of the scheme is that the taxpayer would be required to pay only the amount of the disputed taxes. The taxpayer will get complete waiver of interest in case he pays the due amount by March 31, 2020.

 

  • For disputed penalty, interest and fee not connected with the disputed tax, the taxpayer would be required to pay only 25 per cent for settling the dispute.

 

  • The amount to be paid would be higher, in case the taxpayer opts for the scheme late and pays after March 31, 2020. This provision is aimed at encouraging the taxpayers to settle the dispute within the current financial year itself which ends on March 31, 2020.
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GS-II : International Relations
India-Sri Lanka DTAA amended

Syllabus subtopic: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the move and its significance; about DTAA; BEPS; OECD

 

News: The Union Cabinet, chaired by PM Modi approved signing and ratification of the protocol amending the agreement between India and Sri Lanka for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.

 

Background

The existing DTAA between India and Sri Lanka was signed on January 22, 2013 and came into force on October 22, 2013.

 

Why was the amendment required?

  • India and Sri Lanka are members of the inclusive framework and are required to implement the minimum standards under G-20 OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) BEPS (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) action reports in respect of their DTAAs with inclusive framework countries.

 

  • Minimum standards under BEPS Action 6 can be met through the multilateral convention to implement tax treaty-related measures to prevent base erosion and profit shifting Multilateral Instrument (MLI) or through bilateral agreement.

 

  • India is a signatory to the MLI. However, Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the MLI as of now.

 

  • Therefore, amendment of the India-Sri Lanka DTAA bilaterally is required to update the preamble and also to insert Principal Purpose Test (PPT) provisions to meet the minimum standards on treaty abuse under Action 6 of G-20 OECD BEPS project.

 

 

Benefits of the move

The amendment of the preamble text and inclusion of Principal Purpose Test (PPT), a general anti-abuse provision in the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) will result in curbing tax planning strategies which exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules.

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GS-II :
Major Ports Authority Bill, 2020

Syllabus subtopic:

  • Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation. 
  • Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the key features of the bill; major ports of India

 

News: The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has given its approval to the Major Ports Authority bill, 2020 which will be introduced in the ongoing budget session of the Parliament.

 

Background

Earlier, the Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2016 and thereafter referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee but got lapsed after the dissolution of previous Lok Sabha.

 

Why was it required?

  • There had been many changes in the manner ports were operated since the 1960, including private players and public private partnership (PPP) model being used.

 

  • The disputes with private companies and PPP operators had been cropping up, but the existing law had no provisions to deal with them

 

Key features/benefits of the Bill

  • It will replace the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 which governs India’s 12 major ports.

 

  • The proposed law is aimed at enhancing the overall efficiencies of the ports.

 

  • The 12 major ports in India would get a boost through the new law. The new law would also help in improving infrastructure.

 

  • It will provide more operational autonomy to ports and fast decisions will be possible at port level only.

 

  • This will empower the major ports to perform with greater efficiency on account of full autonomy in decision making and by modernising the institutional framework of major ports.

 

  • This will not only boost India’s EXIM trade but generate employment.

 

 

Major Ports of India

India has 12 major ports -- Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia).

 

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GS-II :
WHO to score countries affected by COVID-19

Syllabus subtopic:

  • Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
  • Important International Institutions, agencies and fora - their Structure, Mandate.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the move and its significance; efforts made by India in this regard; about coronavirus outbreak and its impact; about WHO

 

News: The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that the countries affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be scored on the level of clinical severity.

 

About the move

  • India is also among the 24 affected countries which will be part of the global COVID-19 data platform, which will collect clinical data from all affected countries and is now working on a score for each in terms of clinical severity.

 

  • Scoring means from asymptomatic to severe illness and death. The score card is yet to be finalised.

 

Cases of coronavirus

According to WHO, there were 42,708 confirmed cases reported in China and 1,017 people have lost their lives to this virus. Of these, there are 393 cases in 24 countries and one death outside China.

 

Discussions held by WHO

  • Around 350 scientists were brought together in Geneva from February 11 to 12 to discuss the knowledge gaps and key research priorities in various areas such as epidemiology, animal reservoir and transmission, natural history, efficacy of public health interventions, development of new vaccines and therapeutics (mostly repurposed drugs at this time).

 

  • The WHO has activated its R&D Blueprint — a global strategy and preparedness plan during epidemics.

 

Efforts made by India through setting up laboratories

  • India has set up 106 Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratories (VRDLs) towards lab support. From just two nodal laboratories at the helm of affairs for diagnostics during the H1N1 influenza virus (swine flu) outbreak in 2009-10, the Indian Council of Medical Research has now established 106 VRDLs, of which 14 are strategically located near international airports and have been equipped to provide lab support and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

 

  • VRDLs at government medical colleges at Ahmedabad and Guwahati were also identified within the network to start testing samples for COVID-19.

 

  • The ICMR-National Institute of Virology is the apex laboratory in Pune for reconfirmation of any positive samples and quality assurance for testing of samples.

 

  • The National Centre for Disease Control in New Delhi is also engaged in performing tests for novel coronavirus (nCoV) infections.

 

  • To ensure there is readiness across the country to test a large number of samples in the event of any kind of outbreak, the Department of Health Research had launched a phase-wise expansion of the laboratory network. The estimated cost in 2013 was Rs 550 crore for a five-year phase-wise expansion programme which now has got extended. While the renewal of the programme is in process, the project cost has gone upto to Rs 700 crore.

 

  • The sole criteria for setting up the VRDL was that it should be established at a government medical college. The site visits were conducted to ensure adequate space. Ninety-seven per cent of the laboratory network is across government medical colleges and barely 3 per cent with ICMR institutions.

 

  • The VRDL is functional even at remote locations such as the Late Sri Baliram Kashyap Memorial Government Medical College in Maoist-affected Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh.
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GS-II : International Relations
US-Taliban Peace deal

Syllabus subtopic: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the peace deal and its significance; about Us invasion of Afghanistan

 

News: More than 18 years after the US invaded Afghanistan, President Donald Trump has conditionally approved a peace deal with the Taliban, potentially beginning the end of America’s longest war.

 

What is the deal about?

The deal would see the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the start of peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government.

 

What is the condition on the deal?

The agreement will go ahead only if the Taliban abide by a pledge to reduce violence over a seven-day period.

 

Has there been any peace agreement in the past?

  • The two sides have revived the same draft agreement that came close to being signed in September 2019, which calls for a timeline for a U.S. troop pullout in exchange for the Taliban agreeing to cut ties with terrorist groups and entering into peace talks with their foes in the Afghan government.

 

  • But the attempt fell apart at the last moment and it remained unclear if the Taliban was ready to negotiate a genuine peace settlement with a government in Kabul that it has long rejected as a "puppet" of the United States.

 

What if the deal gets implemented?

  • If the agreement goes ahead, it would potentially bring an end to America’s longest war by launching direct peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government for the first time.

 

  • A deal would give President Donald Trump a talking point in his bid for re-election, allowing him to argue he fulfilled a campaign promise to extricate America from "endless" wars abroad.

 

About the US-Taliban peace talks

  • Since the U.S. and Taliban renewed discussions in the Qatari capital Doha at the end of 2019, the talks have focused on a U.S. demand for the Taliban to scale back its attacks across the country as a test of its commitment to ending the conflict. In an earlier round of negotiations, the Taliban rejected the idea of a full-blown cease-fire, and as a result U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has pursued a deal to "reduce" violence, though U.S. officials have yet to explain exactly what that would entail.

 

  • In the recent talks in Doha, Khalilzad — a veteran diplomat who once served as ambassador to Kabul — first proposed a wider reduction of violence deal that the Taliban rejected. The insurgents then came back with a more limited proposal, which the Americans viewed as inadequate but worth negotiating further. In recent weeks, the two sides have found common ground around a compromise deal to reduce violence.

 

War in Afghanistan (2001–present)

  • The War in Afghanistan code named Operation Enduring Freedom (2001–14) and Operation Freedom's Sentinel (2015–present) following the United States invasion of Afghanistan of 7 October 2001, when the United States of America and its allies successfully drove the Taliban from power in order to deny al-Qaeda a safe base of operations in Afghanistan who were the main suspects of the September 11 (9/11) attacks.

 

  • Since the initial objectives were completed, a coalition of over 40 countries (including all NATO members) formed a security mission in the country. The war has since mostly involved US and allied Afghan government troops battling Taliban insurgents.

 

  • The war in Afghanistan is the longest war in US history, having raged for 18 years and claimed the lives of around 2,300 troops.

 

  • From January 2009, when the United Nations began systematic documentation of civilian casualties, to September, some 34,000 civilians have been killed as a result of the armed conflict.

 

  • The U.S. has 12,000 to 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, but in December the Trump administration was poised to withdraw approximately 4,000 of them.

 

 

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