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January 10

    NATIONAL

    • Playing Of National Anthem In Cinema Halls Is Not Mandatory

    On November 30, 2016, the court ordered all cinemas to play the anthem before screening a film “for the love of the motherland”.

    The Supreme Court modified its November 30, 2016 interim order and made it optional for cinema halls to play the 52-second national anthem before every show.

    A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, clarified that it is not mandatory to play the anthem before screenings in cinemas. It left the choice of whether to play the anthem or not to the discretion of individual cinema hall owners.

    However, if the anthem is played, patrons in the hall are bound to show respect by standing up. The court clarified that the exception granted to disabled persons from standing up during the anthem “shall remain in force on all occasions”.

    The court, this time, instead of shooting from its own shoulders, banked on a Home Ministry order of 2015, which directs that “whenever the Anthem is sung or played, the audience shall stand to attention”.

    • India, U.K. To Ink Illegal Migrants Pact

    India will sign a pact with the United Kingdom for a return of illegal Indian migrants within a month of them being detected by British authorities.

    The U.K has consistently raised the issue of return of illegal migrants — said to number in thousands — with India.

    • No Change In H1B Visa System: US

    The United States has no plans under consideration to discontinue the extension of H-1B visas beyond six years, when beneficiaries wait for permanent residency, or green card. A flurry of speculative reporting on the issue over the last 10 days that said lakhs of people will be forced to self-deport from the U.S. as a result of this move had caused panic among Indian Americans who comprise a significant portion of green card applicants.

    • No Viable Alternative To Hanging

    There is no viable method at present other than hanging to execute condemned prisoners. Lethal injections are unworkable and often fail, the Centre told the Supreme Court.

    The government was responding to a query from the court on alternative modes of execution.

    • Vizag Could Be New Scuba Diving Hotspot

    Discovery of a 200-year-old shipwreck has the diving community all excited.

    The rare discovery of a 200-year-old shipwreck is set to turn the quaint fishing village of Bheemunipatnam, about 45 km from Visakhapatnam, into the next big scuba diving destination of the country.

    The wreck, located just six metres below the sea surface, was first spotted by scuba divers Balaram Naidu and dive master Anil Kumar on December 21. The team made their second exploration to the wreck site on Monday and the findings have the scuba diving community all excited.

    • ISRO Mulls Launching 65 Satellites For A Slew Of Uses

    They are planned to be realised over the period from 2017 to 2021.

    The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has set itself an ambitious to-do list of making and launching around 65 satellites for a slew of uses. They are planned to be realised over the period from 2017 to 2021, according to a top official.

    ISAC’s spacecraft are meant for communication, navigation and Earth observation (EO), for both general and strategic purposes, while new emerging applications are getting added. In the four-year list, ISAC counts 26 for communication, 28 for EO and seven for navigation besides the scientific missions Aditya-L1 and XPoSat, apart from a few small experimental satellites.

    INTERNATIONAL

    • No Plan To Build Naval Base At Gwadar

    Rumours are being spread to sabotage the completion of CPEC, says Pakistan

    News:

    China on Tuesday counselled the “outside world” not to speculate on ’s reported intent to open a naval base at Gwadar, the starting point of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

    Special Security Division:

    The official mentioned that the security of the Chinese nationals working on the CPEC projects, as well as of the Chinese shipments going into the Arabian Sea, would solely be a responsibility of Pakistani law enforcement agencies, and, for the same purpose, a designated division — Strategic Security Division — had been established.

    “Pakistan Navy is well equipped to handle the security of Chinese shipments...” the source said, adding that this was the reason that the capacity-building process of Pakistan Navy was being given a priority.

    Background:

    An extension of OBOR is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which was conceived in 2014.

    What Is It?

    CPEC is clutch of projects valued at $51 billion project which aims at rapidly expanding and upgrading Pakistan’s infrastructure and strengthening the economic ties between the People’s Republic of China (China) and Pakistan.

    It includes building roads, laying railway lines and pipelines to carry oil and gas.

    CPEC eventually aims at linking the city of Gwadar in South Western Pakistan to China’s North Western region Xinjiang through a vast network of highways and railways.

    The proposed project will be financed by heavily-subsidised loans, that will be disbursed to the Government of Pakistan by Chinese banking giants such as Exim Bank of China, China Development Bank, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

    Why Is It Important?

    The CPEC, once completed is expected to cut short the trade route for China’s oil imports by 6000 miles.

    It is expected to open up a brand-new strategic gateway for China to tap into African, West Asian and South Asian trade.

    The CPEC is expected to give the flagging Pakistan economy a shot in the arm too. About 90 per cent of the total outlay for this project will be funded by the consortium of Chinese banks and the balance 10 per cent by Pakistan.

    Reports claim that this project will likely add about 7 lakh direct jobs between 2015 and 2030 and add about 2-2.5 percentage points to the Pakistani GDP.

    Why Should I Care?

    If the corridor opens up a major new global trade route, not just Pakistan and China, but also India which is quite strategically located on the corridor, may see positive spillover effects from burgeoning trade with West Asia or Africa.

    But economics aside, it is the geopolitical ramifications of the deal that has military analysts worried.

    CPEC establishes a symbiotic relationship between China and Pakistan and political analysts worry that this may have ramifications for the geopolitical situation in Kashmir, especially as the CPEC corridor passes straight through disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

    The worry is if the high economic stakes in the project will allow China to remain neutral if the Kashmir dispute escalates.

    The Bottomline

    There’s little that India can do about the CPEC. But to look at the bright side, a more economically stable Pakistan may be quite good for India, as both countries can then look to de-escalate tensions across the border and talk trade.

    EDITORIAL

    • Right To Equality

    Suresh Kumar Koushal Case: the LGBT community was just a “minuscule fraction” of the population and also ruled that those having sexual intercourse “against the order of nature” constituted a separate class on which the law could validly impose penal sanctions.

    The majority observed in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India that “equality demands that the sexual orientation of each individual in society must be protected on an even platform. The right to privacy and the protection of sexual orientation lie at the core of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.” The Bench has rightly observed that social morality changes from age to age, that “the morality that public perceives, the Constitution may not conceive of,” and that what is “natural to one may not be natural to another”.

    Thus, there is fresh hope that the Delhi High Court judgment of 2009, which read down Section 377 to decriminalise consensual sex between adults, may be restored. Ever since the court, in National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India (2014), concerning the rights of transgender persons, questioned the Koushal reasoning, there has been a body of jurisprudence that sees gender identity and sexual orientation as an aspect of privacy, personal freedom and dignity.

    • Agricultural Reforms

    Farm incomes are unattractive for a variety of reasons; the absurdity of policies features among them. The overriding objective of price stability, over time, has tilted farm policy in favour of the consumer, the numerically larger vote bank.

    Trade and price controls are highly restrictive, and mostly anti-farmer.

    Protection afforded to the inefficient fertilizer industry ensures that input costs are high. The farmer is forced to sell in the domestic market where prices tend to be lower than global agricultural prices.

    Governments seek to influence prices, to smoothen them out. In the absence of state intervention, prices soar in bad weather years and plunge in good weather years, hurting consumers and farmers. The levers in governments’ hands are import and export controls, buffer stocks management and minimum support prices (MSPs).

    A sensible policy would be to buy from farmers when market prices are depressed and sell stocks in the open market when prices are elevated. In the first scenario, if the MSP is pegged higher than the market price, the procurement will raise the market price, boosting farm incomes. In the latter, by offloading its stocks at a price lower than the market price, government can cushion consumers against excessive inflation. The buyers of the subsidised sales (an efficient Public Distribution System) are directly benefitted, but as the sales also lead to lower prices in the open market, all consumers gain.

    Procurement works effectively only if trade controls and stocks management are aligned with it. How these tools tend to be deployed in a counterproductive manner was evident in the example of pulses in 2016-17. Despite a bumper harvest, after a steep MSP hike and good rains, export controls and stocking limits for private traders were retained and a record volume of imports allowed to be shipped in. The resulting glut sent the market price down, below the MSPs, rendering it pointless. The looming losses set off farmer protests seeking even higher MSPs.

    Poor management of food stocks.

    The government had been raising MSPs to reduce the gap between low domestic and high global agricultural prices. The launch of the National Food Security Mission and a global food prices crisis necessitated hikes more aggressive than were originally planned.

    Even after four years of systematically aggressive hikes, Indian MSPs of rice and wheat are less than support prices in China and other Asian countries, betraying India’s bias in favour of consumers.

    ECONOMY

    • Direct Taxes Collection Data

    Direct taxes are made up of income tax paid by individuals, wealth tax and corporation tax paid by companies.

    Net direct tax collections grew at a multi-year high of 18.2% in the April to December period, according to official data.

    The provisional figures of direct tax collections up to December 2017 show that net collections are at ₹6.56 lakh crore which is 18.2% higher than the net collections for the corresponding period of last year.

    The net direct tax collections represent 67% of the total Budget Estimates of direct taxes for financial year 2017-18 (₹9.8 lakh crore).

    Reference:

    http://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/direct-tax-collections-grow-182/article22406181.ece