GS 2 – Polity & Governance
SC nod for Central Vista inauguration
Why in News?
The Supreme Court allowed the foundation stone laying ceremony of a new parliament building to go ahead as scheduled on December 10 after the government gave an undertaking to keep in abeyance the construction or demolition of buildings and the shifting of trees in the Central Vista area for now.
Questions on legality
- A Bench, expressed displeasure with the government for “aggressively” continuing with the construction, demolition and shifting of trees even as questions concerning the legality of the Central Vista project were in court.
- They thought are dealing with a prudent litigant and deference will be shown… They have shown deference to you and expected that you will act in a prudent manner.
- The same deference should be shown to the court and there should be no demolition or construction.
- After receiving instructions from the government, apologised to the court and gave an undertaking that no physical changes would be made to the area.
- We can make a statement that there will be no construction, demolition or felling of trees. Foundation stone will be laid. But no physical change.
- The order said after interacting with the Solicitor General and when the concern of the Court was expressed, on instructions, the Solicitor General stated that there will be no construction activity of any nature on the concerned site(s) nor demolition of any structure will be done, including the further trans-location of tree(s) will be kept in abeyance, until the pronouncement of judgment in all these cases. We take that statement on record.
- In view of the above, we clarify that the authorities would be free to continue with procedural processes without altering the status of the site(s) in question in any manner, including to continue with the scheduled programme of foundation stone-laying on December 10, 2020.
- The court said the case was listed suo motu as it noticed certain “developments”.
- On Nov 5, the Bench reserved its judgment on the petitions challenging the redevelopment project of the Central Vista area.
- The court would consider whether the project complied with land use and environmental regulations peculiar to the area that houses the Parliament and Central Secretariat buildings.
- The petitioners had objected to the proposed change in land usage of the Central Vista.
Central Vista Redevelopment’ project
- Recently Central Government tried to justify its decision to construct a new Parliament building under the proposed ‘Central Vista Redevelopment’ project, in the Supreme Court (SC).
- One of the issues raised by the petitioners was if it’s possible to refurbish and use the existing Parliament building.
GS 3 – Environment
Only Organic farming allowed in Lakshadweep
Why in News?
With the entire Lakshadweep group of islands being declared an organic agricultural area, the island administration is eyeing an expansion of the traditional business in coconuts and coconut products through value addition, better marketing, and round-the-year processing.
- Around 10 crore coconuts are produced on the island in 12,000 small holdings with an average size of 0.25 hectares, sources in the island administration said. The total acreage under coconuts is around 2,800 hectares.
- The nuts are processed now mostly for oil and the islands being declared an organic agricultural area will give a big boost to their business.
- At the same time, there is tremendous scope for expanding the business.
- At present, only about 3 crore nuts are processed on the island and there is an excess of around 7 crore nuts, which are mostly sold in mainland India.
Idle for six months
- The coconut processing industry also works only for about six months a year when the weather is dry. The period between May and December sees the industry come to a standstill. When the industry idles, coconuts are lost.
- Keeping this in view, the island administration plans to introduce dryers and other machinery to utilise the nuts even during the wet months, sources add.
- The move is expected to increase coconut utilisation from the present level of around 50% to more than 70%. The business in coconuts and coconut products is worth around ₹75 crore a year now. The volume of business can easily go up to about ₹200 crore with measures like the ones being contemplated.
- The island’s coconut farmers are also expected to benefit from the Union government’s ‘One District One Product’ programme of food processing, in which the entire island is being considered as a single district and coconut oil has been identified as the product. Financial support for the programme will help augment the coconut industry on the island.
Common brand name
- One of the key areas of attention is marketing. The restrictions on access from other parts of India prevents buyers from reaching the islands to make direct procurements.
- Taking this into consideration, the island administration plans to help the farmers market their products under a common brand name through an entity chosen by the administration.
- Ensuring the quality of the raw material through the declaration of the islands as an organic agricultural area and augmented processing facilities with value addition and marketing support will go a long way in giving a boost to the business, island administration.
One District One Product
The scheme would support the indigenous industries of handicrafts, processed foods, garments and other traditional [products manufactured by local, micro, small and medium enterprises, MSME.
GS 2 – International Relations
U.S., China dominate arms market: report
Why in News?
U.S. and Chinese companies dominated the global arms market in 2019, while West Asia made its first appearance among the 25 biggest weapons manufacturers, a report by the SIPRI research institute said.
- The U.S. arms industry accounted for 61% of sales by the world’s Top 25” manufacturers last year, ahead of China’s 15.7%, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
- Total sales by the Top 25 rose by 8.5% to $361 billion, or 50 times the annual budget of the UN’s peacekeeping operations.
- Six U..S companies and three Chinese firms were in the top 10, rounded out by Britain’s BAE Systems in seventh spot.
- China and the United States are the two biggest states in terms of global arms spending, with companies cut to size, SIPRI’s arms and military expenditure programme.
- The U.S. has dominated the market for decades, but for China – whose companies sales rose by almost 5% in 2019 – this increase corresponds to the implementation of reforms to modernise the People’s Liberation Army underway since 2015.
- Europe remains a bit dispersed… but if you combine the European companies together you could have European companies the same size as U.S. and Chinese manufacturers.
West Asian surprise
- European companies are more internationalised” than others.
- For the first time, a company from the West Asia made it into the “Top 25”: EDGE, of the United Arab Emirates, was formed by the consolidation of some 25 defence entities in 2019.
- In 22nd spot, EDGE is a good illustration of how the combination of high national demand for military products and services with a desire to become less dependent on foreign suppliers is driving the growth of arms companies in the Middle East.
- French group Dassault had shot up from 38th to 17th place, boosted by exports of its Rafale fighter jets in 2019.
- Meanwhile, two Russian companies were also in the “Top 25”.
GS 3 – Economy
India bucks China’s record export show
Why in News?
India’s imports from China as well as its trade deficit declined sharply in November, marking an exception to a record month for Chinese exports around the world that registered the fastest growth in almost three years and underlined China’s continuing recovery amid a pandemic-induced global slump.
- Bilateral trade reached $78 billion over the 11-month period, sharply lower than 2019’s $84.4 billion.
- China’s shipments to India at the end of November accounted for $59 billion, sliding 13% and helping narrow India’s deficit to $40 billion, from $51.6 billion in the year-earlier period.
- India’s annual trade deficit with its northern neighbour had shrunk by 2% in 2019 to $56.95 billion, marking the first decline since 2005.
- The slump in China’s exports to India was broadly expected after data from India’s Ministry of Commerce last week showed a 13.3% decline in India’s overall imports in November.
- India’s imports of electrical and non-electrical machinery – items that have traditionally had the biggest share in China’s exports to the country – slid by 13.4%, the Centre’s official data showed.
- Overall, China’s exports surged 21.1% in November, customs data showed, the fastest growth since February 2018, Reuters reported.
- The pace of increase was almost double October’s 11.4% expansion. November’s exports of $268 billion were the highest on record amid the continuing global economic slump and lockdowns in many of China’s biggest trading partners.
- Electrical machinery and equipment were India’s biggest import from China in 2019, worth $20.17 billion.
- Other major imports last year were organic chemicals ($8.39 billion) and fertilizers ($1.67 billion), according to data available with the Indian Embassy in Beijing.
- India’s top exports to China in 2019 were iron ore, organic chemicals, cotton and unfinished diamonds. India was the fourth largest exporter of iron ore to China after Australia, Brazil and South Africa.
- India’s exports to China were up 16% in November reaching $19 billion after 11 months of this year, likely driven by a recovery in Chinese imports of iron ore, which were up 16% according to China’s General Administration of Customs.
- In November, China also agreed to import rice from India for the first time in three decades, with 1,00,000 tons of exports of broken rice contracted for December to February at $300 per ton, Reuters reported.
- The rice purchase was a “purely commercial move” as the price was far cheaper than that of its domestic counterparts.
GS 3 – Economy
Quarterly return filing option for most GST payers from Jan.
Why in News?
Starting January 2021, 92% of taxpayers under the Goods and Services Tax regime with an annual turnover of up to ₹5 crore can opt to file their returns once a quarter instead of the present monthly system, Department of Revenue officials said.
- A 94 lakh registered GST taxpayers can opt in for the new Quarterly filing of Return with Monthly Payment (QRMP) Scheme, under which GSTR-3B returns can be filed just once a quarter.
- The small taxpayer, from January onward, would need to file only 8 returns (4 GSTR-3B and 4 GSTR-1 returns) instead of 16 returns at present in a financial year.
- Adding that taxpayers can join the scheme through the GST, with a facility to opt out or opt in again in the future, if one so wishes.
- The scheme, the official pointed out, was approved in-principle by the GST Council at its meeting on October 5 this year, with a view to provide flexibility to small and medium enterprises in GST compliance norms.
- While the move is expected to ease the compliance burden for indirect taxes on businesses, the Centre is also hoping to plug leakages and frauds by tightening the grant of input tax credits.
- They are also introducing the concept of providing input tax credit only on reported invoices, which could significantly curb the menace of fake invoice frauds.
GS 2 – International Relations
India, Sri Lanka to hold talks on fishermen issue
Why in News?
India and Sri Lanka will soon hold a bilateral virtual meeting to address the recent concerns related to the long-standing Palk Bay fisheries conflict, officials said.
- Following a meeting of the High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, with the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Relations, and the Minister of Fisheries, the Indian High Commission said in a statement that expressed hope that the next meeting of the bilateral mechanism, on matters pertaining to fishermen, could soon be arranged online.
- In addition to reviewing ongoing bilateral discussions, including on “terrorism, radicalisation, organised crime and drug trafficking” – which were also taken up during National Security Adviser visit to Colombo last month – the High Commissioner stressed the need to continue to deal with matters related to fishermen and their boats, in a humanitarian manner.
- The development comes at a time when fishermen in Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority Northern Province have reported an increase in the number of Indian fishing trawlers spotted along the Sri Lankan coast – a concern that has dominated their post-war recovery period.
- Bilateral talks between government officials and fishermen leaders have proved futile, as Tamil Nadu fishers’ leaders have not agreed to the demand of the northern Sri Lankan fishers’ leaders to stop engaging in bottom-trawling.
- However, following their persistent calls for a solution and several agitations, Sri Lanka, in 2017, banned bottom trawling, known to be a destructive fishing method that virtually scoops out the ocean bed, severely impacting the marine biodiversity.
- The following year, Colombo slapped stiffer fines on foreign vessels fishing in the island nation’s territorial waters.
- While the measures, especially the fines, deterred Indian fishermen to some extent, the Sri Lankan Navy arrested 450 fishermen in 2017, on charges of poaching, but just 156 in 2018.
- The problem resurfaced earlier this year. Northern Sri Lankan fishermen said they noticed an increase in Indian trawlers in their waters again.