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20th February 2023

GST appellate tribunal gets nod; dues of States cleared

Context

The GST Council reached a broad consensus on the long-awaited constitution of the GST Appellate Tribunal to resolve the rising number of disputes under the 68-month old indirect tax regime that are now clogging High Courts and other judicial fora.

What is GST Appellate Tribunal?

  • The Appellate Tribunal under GST is a quasi-judicial body that has been established to provide a platform for the resolution of disputes that arise between businesses, individuals, and the government regarding the implementation and interpretation of the GST laws.
  • The Tribunal operates as an appellate authority that hears appeals against the decisions and orders of the lower authorities.
  • Under GST, if a person is not satisfied with the decision passed by any lower court, an appeal can be raised to a higher court, the hierarchy for the same is as follows (from low to high):
    • Adjudicating Authority
    • Appellate Authority
    • Appellate Tribunal
    • High Court
    • Supreme Court

Composition

  • The national (principal) bench is likely to have two technical members and two judicial members (one from the central government and one from the state).

Indians go West, take up ‘residence by investment’

Context

In 2022, over 2.25 lakh Indians renounced Indian citizenship, the highest ever since 2011, according to latest data by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Key-highlights of the data

High net worth individuals (HNIs)

  • HNIs are those who have wealth of over $1 million or ?8.2 crore.
  • According to the Henley Global Citizens Report, there were 3.47 lakh such people in India in December 2021. 
    • Of these, 1.49 lakh HNIs were found in just nine cities: Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai, Gurgaon, and Ahmedabad.
  • According to the report, India ranked fourth in the world in terms of privately-held wealth, after the U.S., China, and Japan
  • The data reflects how Indians, especially high net worth individuals (HNIs) are moving westward with new passports, in search of better opportunities, healthcare, quality of life, and education, among several other factors. 
  • There has been a surge in requests for residence-through-investment programmes especially for the S. EB-5 visa, Portugal Golden Visa, Australian Global Talent Independent Visa, Malta Permanent Residency Programme, and Greece Residence by Investment Program. 

How can it impact the economy?

  • Hurdle in achieving $5 trillion economy: The constant flow of rich Indians moving to another country or taking up residency in another country can be a concern for India as it plans to reach the $5 trillion economy.
  • Exodus of money: This exodus of big money doesn't bode well for a developing nation like India
  • Impact on tax collection: India also loses on the tax collection front when the rich leave.

The favourite location

  • The US, UK and Canada are favourite destinations. EU countries, as well as traditional favorites Dubai and Singapore, are gaining popularity among Indians.

The Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program, the Australian Global Talent Independent Visa, the US EB5, the Malta Permanent Residence Programme and the Greece Golden Visa Program are among the most sought-after investment programmes by Indians for residency, according to a report by residence and citizenship planning company Henley & Partners

Tapping the potential of niche villages in a push for rural tourism

Context

Amid a global demand for experiential tourism, the country is structuring its plan to attract tourists to villages, for an immersive escape into the culture of rural India, while boosting employment and promoting sustainability.

Key-highlights

  • There are destinations where tourists can immerse themselves in the rural tourism experience that the government is now developing. 
  • More than 134 villages have been listed, each of which provides a set of unique experiences to tourists. The list will only grow.
    • Mattur is a village in Karnataka where residents speak only Sanskrit. 
    • Maachli in Maharashtra is an agrarian homestay surrounded by coconut, betel, and banana plantations. 
    • Bishnoi village in Rajasthan has frequent visits from the endangered Great Indian Bustard. 
    • Tamil Nadu’s Kolukkumalai is the highest tea plantation in the world.
    • Kerala’s Dewalokam is a yoga centre on the banks of a river.
    • Nagaland’s Konyak Tea retreat takes visitors on a trip through tribal culture.
    • Telangana’s Pochampalli village showcases its traditional weaving techniques.
    • Himachal Pradesh’s Pragpur village plunges visitors into Kangra heritage architecture. 
  • The Central Nodal Agency – Rural Tourism and Rural Homestays (CNA – RT and RH) is the coordinating body amongst Centre, States, and other stakeholders.
    • It has identified six niche experiences for tourists wanting to visit rural India, including agritourism, art and culture, ecotourism, wildlife, tribal tourism, and homestays. 
  • Depending on the experience, tourists can sample the local cuisine, see how crops are grown, participate in textile weaving, witness folk art being practiced and performed, and go on nature trails, all the while living within the community.

What is India’s Tourism sector offering?

  • Diversity within its unity: India as a nation offers diversity within its unity, not only in terms of its tribes, cultures, faiths, and ways of life but also in terms of its tourism potential.
  • India has a lot to offer in terms of historical monuments, geographical diversity, climate variances, and the wonders of nature.

Significance of the sector for the Economy

  • The tourism sector contributes around 9% of the country’s GDP. It has its share in employment, revenue, and forex reserves.
  • India’s third-largest source of foreign exchange is the tourism and hotel industry.
  • India’s tourism industry is a significant economic multiplier and is getting more crucial as the nation aims for rapid economic growth and the creation of employment opportunities.

Government Initiatives to promote tourism 

  • Swadesh Darshan Scheme: Under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme, the Ministry of Tourism assists State Governments in developing the infrastructure for 13 theme-based circuits that have been designated.
    • A recent budget allocation of Rs. 1,200 crores (US$ 171.70 million) was given for the creation of tourist circuits for eight Northeastern states as part of Swadesh Darshan.
    • The Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD schemes are designed to promote expansion in specialized tourism markets such as wildlife, adventure, wellness, and religious travel.
    • The Swachh Bharat movement has started a significant cleaning campaign to safeguard and maintain the sacredness of national historic monuments.
  • All India Permit Rules 2021: Under the All India Permit Rules 2021, a tourist vehicle operator may apply online for an All India Tourist Authorization/Permit.
  • Dekho Apna Desh: On November 28, 2020, a webinar series entitled “12 Months of Adventure Travel” is projected to market India as an adventure tourism destination.

India plans to export solar power

Context

Indian industry will be able to manufacture solar modules worth 100 gigawatts (GW) annually, and help the country be a net exporter of solar power By 2026.

Key-highlights

  • India was to have installed 175 GW of renewable energy — from solar, wind, biomass and small hydropower sources — by December 2022 but has only installed 122 GW. 
    • Of this, solar power was to have been 100 GW though only 62 GW has been installed. A key bottleneck has been the cost of solar modules (or panels). 
  • India has traditionally relied on China-made components such as poly-silicon wafers, necessary to make modules; higher customs duty on them has shrunk supply.
  • The country uses only 30-40 GW for domestic purposes annually and the rest can be used for export. 
  • The incentive schemes that are in place are designed to encourage the manufacturers of wafers. 
  • There has never been polysilicone manufacturing in India and this is the first time we’ll be making ingots and wafers in India. This is necessary for the future health of the solar ecosystem in India.

What is Solar Energy?

  • Solar energy is defined as the transformation of energy that is present in the sun and is one of the renewable energies. 
  • Once the sunlight passes through the earth’s atmosphere, most of it is in the form of visible light and infrared radiation. 
  • Plants use it to convert into sugar and starches; this conversion process is known as photosynthesis. 
  • Solar cell panels are used to convert this energy into electricity.

Importance of Solar energy

  • A limitless source of energy: Unlike conventional sources of energy like fossil fuels, solar energy is limitless.
  • Clean source of energy: Solar energy is a non-polluting source of energy.
  • No fuel required: Solar energy is itself the fuel: Once installed, solar energy becomes a cheap source of sustainable energy in the long run.

Challenges

  • Lack of Domestic Manufacturing of Solar Parts: The domestic manufacturing industry of solar PV cells and modules is severely lacking in India due to the lack of infrastructure, skilled workforce and high cost of production.
  • Space Scarcity: Another part of the major Solar Energy Challenges in India is the scarcity of land to install large-scale ground-mount solar systems, solving which scope for greater R&D and innovation could be increased tenfold in terms of installation.
    • Installing a megawatt of solar power requires on average four acres of land. 
  • Financing Mechanism: The absence of innovative financing options for installing large-scale solar PV parks is another big part of Solar Energy Challenges in India that could offer higher sums at lower interest with longer durations. However, some government initiatives like National Clean Energy and Environment Fund, Green Masala Bonds, etc., have slightly resolved this issue.
  • Low Tariffs: Since the Indian government enforces one of the lowest solar tariffs, it makes the prospect of purchasing solar parts unsustainable for some developers which further leads to compromise in the quality of solar panels. This forms another key part of the Solar Energy Challenges in India that need to be addressed.
  • Waste Management: India’s solar waste has been predicted to grow by 1.8 million tonnes by 2050. Currently, India’s e-waste rules are not mandatory on solar cell manufacturers which leads to a large generation of solar waste every year.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Uttham Mahabhiyan (PM KUSUM) 

  • Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Uttham Mahabhiyan (PM KUSUM) scheme, which aims to help farmers access reliable day-time solar power for irrigation, reduce power subsidies, and thereby decarboniser agriculture, was behind schedule because of the “high cost of finance” for farmers.

Other Government Initiatives for Solar Energy

  • Solar Park Scheme
  • Rooftop Solar Scheme
  • Atal Jyoti Yojana (AJAY)
  • National Solar Mission
  • SRISTI Scheme
  • International Solar Alliance (ISA)
  • Under the scheme, ?34,422 crore is to be spent by the Centre to have farmers or farmer groups install solar power plants worth 10,000 MW, installation of 20 lakh solar-powered agriculture pumps that aren’t connected to the grid (off-grid), and converting 15 lakh agriculture pumps that are already connected to the grid into solar-powered pumps.
    • As of December 31, 2022 only 88.46 MW of solar capacity had been added, 181,058 solar pumps had been installed, and 1,174 grid-connected pumps had been converted. 
    • The deadline for the scheme has been shifted to 2026. 

Underwater noise emissions pose threat to marine life

Context

The rising man-made (anthropogenic) underwater noise emissions (UNE) from ships in the Indian waters are posing a threat to the life of marine mammals like Bottlenose Dolphin, Manatees, Pilot Whale, Seal, and Sperm Whale.

Impact of noise pollution on marine life

  • The main form of energy for multiple behavioural activities of marine mammals, which include mating, communal interaction, feeding, cluster cohesion and foraging, is based on sound.
    • The sound that radiates from ships on a long-term basis affects them and results in internal injuries, loss of hearing ability, change in behavioural responses, masking, and stress. 
    • There are Acute and Chronic noise categories in the emissions.
  • Continuous shipping movement is identified to be a major contributor to the increase in the global ocean noise level.
  • “The frequencies of ships’ underwater self-noise and machinery vibration levels are overlapping the marine species’ communication frequencies in the low-frequency range of less than 500 Hz. This is called masking.
    • Masking could have led to a change in the migration route of the marine species to the shallow regions and also making it difficult for them to go back to the deeper water.

Noise pollution in Indian Ocean

  • The UNE or underwater sound pressure levels in the Indian waters are 102-115 decibels, relative to one microPascal (dB re 1µ Pa). 
  • The East Coast level is slightly higher than that of the West.  There is an increase by a significant value of about 20 dB re 1µPa.

Short News Articles

Art & Culture (GS-I)

In Srinagar, fighting seismic threats the Mughal style

Srinagar, placed on the National Center for Seismology’s Zone-V, can be saved in case of a natural calamity by reconnecting with older methods of architecture and construction. 

About Uroosi

  • Uroosi, a Mughal-era home architectural element, is one such. Uroosi are wooden shutters used as partition walls within homes, instead of concrete walls. 
  • Uroosi is believed to be a Persian term meaning ‘hidden bride’. 

About Dhajji Diwari

  • Dhajji Diwari or ‘patchwork quilt wall’ in Persian, is another indigenous technique of earthquake-resistant construction.
  • A criss-cross of thin timber frames is filled with mud mortar, stone, and ballast, but this too is waning in Srinagar. 

Environment (GS-III)

Rhododendrons carpet Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayas

The Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayas are home to more than a third of all rhododendron species found in India, according to the latest publication of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI).

About

  • A rhododendron is a garden plant that originates from South and South-East Asia.
  • This ornamental plant is as an evergreen bush or shrub.
  • Its most striking feature, however, is the way it flowers abundantly.
  • In spring, it lights up the entire garden with flowers in blue, yellow, lilac, orange, purple, pink or white.
    • Some varieties even have bi-coloured flowers.

Presence in India

  • There are 132 taxa (80 species, 25 subspecies and 27 varieties) of rhododendrons found in India.
  • Of the 45 taxa recorded in the publication, 24 are found in the Darjeeling Himalayas and 44 in the Sikkim Himalayas.

Economy

Telangana’s Teja chilli is hot property in many nations

The burgeoning demand for the Teja variety of red chilli, in the export market is proving to be a boon for the Khammam Agriculture Market, housing Telangana’s second largest chilli market yard.

About

  • Teja or S17 is one of the hottest varieties of red chillies produced in India.
  • It is famous for its culinary, medicinal and other wide-ranging uses.
  • Khammam district is the largest producer of Teja variety of red chilli.
  • This variety is not only known for its culinary purpose as a flavouring agent to spice up various delicacies but as a main ingredient in making pepper spray.

Science & Technology (GS-III)

Vertiplane X3


In the first-of-its-kind test and demonstration in Uttarakhand, the Vertiplane X3 drone carried 2 kg of anti-tuberculosis drugs, dropped the medicines at the district hospital, and returned to AIIMS with tuberculosis samples from patients in Tehri.

About

  •  Vertiplane X3 is the fastest ‘made-in-India hybrid’ e-VTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) drone with a maximum speed of 120 kmph, distance coverage of 100 km and a payload capacity of 3 kg.
  • Studded with multiple fail-safe options and a dynamic design, this UAV is ideal for the delivery of cargo for healthcare, defence, maritime, hyperlocal, and e-commerce.
  • The drone has two propulsion systems, one for vertical motion and second for forward motion.

Science & Technology (GS-III)

Chandrayaan-3 successfully completes crucial test


The Chandrayaan-3 lander has successfully completed the crucial EMI-EMC (Electro - Magnetic Interference/ Electro - Magnetic Compatibility) test at the U.R. Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru. 

About

  • Chandrayaan-3 is a follow-on mission to Chandrayaan-2 to demonstrate end-to-end capability in safe landing and roving on the lunar surface.
  • It consists of Lander and Rover configuration.
  • It will be launched by GSLV MkIII from SDSC, Sriharikota.
  • The propulsion module will carry the lander and rover configuration till 100km lunar orbit.
  • The propulsion module has Spectro-polarimetry of HAbitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) payload to study the spectral and polarimetric measurements of Earth from the lunar orbit.

 

Environment (GS-III)

Centre announces list of tech for carbon credits

The Union government has finalised a list of activities to be considered for trading of carbon credits under Article 6.2 mechanism to facilitate transfer of emerging technologies and mobilise international finance in India.

The Activities

  • Overall 13 activities have been finalised under three heads – GHG mitigation activities, alternate materials, and removal activities.
  •   GHG Mitigation Activities:
  1. Renewable energy with storage (only stored component)
  2. Solar thermal power
  3. Off- shore wind
  4. Green Hydrogen
  5. Compressed bio-gas
  6. Emerging mobility solutions like fuel cells 
  7. High end technology for energy efficiency
  8. Sustainable Aviation Fuel
  9. Best available technologies for process improvement in hard to abate sectors
  10. Tidal energy, Ocean Thermal Energy, Ocean Salt Gradient Energy, Ocean Wave Energy and Ocean Current Energy
  11. High Voltage Direct Current Transmission in conjunction with the renewable energy projects
    Alternate Materials:
  12. Green Ammonia
    Removal Activities:
  13. Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage
  • These activities will facilitate adoption/transfer of emerging technologies and may be used to mobilise international finance in India.
  • The activities will initially be for the first three years and may be updated/revised by NADAIPA

India also notified the National designated Authority for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement (NDAIAPA) in May 2022.

Editorial

The curious case of the disqualification of a politician

Context:

The issue in the case of Member of Parliament of Lakshadweep constituency and his disqualification for conviction is held final? Or can it be revoked?

The Background:

  • Question on disqualification: The instance where the Kerala High Court, in January this year, suspended the verdict passed by the Kavaratti District and Sessions Court in which the then sitting Member of Parliament (MP) of Lakshadweep and Nationalist Congress Party leader was sentenced to 10 years in jail, has raised an interesting question on his disqualification.
  • Consequences: The cost of a parliamentary election would have to be borne by the nation and developmental activities in Lakshadweep will also stop for a few weeks. The elected candidate will have just 15 months to function till the end of the term of the current Lok Sabha.
  • Suspension of conviction: Given these exceptional and irreversible consequences, it suspended his conviction until disposal of the appeal.

The specific provisions in Indian Constitution:

  • Article 102 of the Constitution specifies that a person shall be disqualified for contesting elections and being an MP under certain conditions. It also authorises Parliament to make law determining conditions of disqualifications.
  • The Representation of the People Act, 1951 provides that a person will be disqualified if convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more.
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