Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - August 28, 2017

Agriculture

Parliamentary standing committee report on – GM CROPS

Report recommends –

  • No genetically modied (GM) crop should be introduced unless the biosafety and socio-economic desirability is evaluated in a transparent process
  • Environment Ministry (MoEFCC) should examine the impact of GM crops on the environment thoroughly, in consultation with all stakeholders, so that all its probable effects are very clear
  • The GM crop regulator GEAC (Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee) gave its approval for commercialisation of GM mustard inspite of matter pending for decision in Supreme Court
  • It also called for placing an accountable regime in this regard.
  • The recommendation was made by department-related parliamentary standing committee on science and technology and environment and forest in its 301st report on -

“GM crop and its impact on environment”.

  • It held that GM mustard being herbicide-tolerant GM organism (GMO), there are evidences on adverse impacts of such GMOs elsewhere in world.

Origin of it-

  • The Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), Delhi University, had submitted an application to the GEAC for the environmental release of GM mustard hybrid DMH-11 and the use of parental events (EH2 mod bs 2.99 and varuna bn 3.6) for the development of a new generation of hybrids.
  • The MoEFCC had received over 700 comments from various stakeholders, including farmers and researchers, on the Assessment of Food and Environmental Safety (AFES) report on GM Mustard

Science & Tech

Task Force On Artificial Intelligence

By -

  • Implementing agency - Ministry of Commerce and Industry

Why -

  • For India’s Economic Transformation.
  • The 18-member panel will be headed by Dr. V. Kamakoti

Detail Analysis

  • The Task force will explore the possibilities to leverage AI for development across various fields.
  • It will submit concrete and implementable recommendations for government, industry and research institutions.
  • In addition to regular members, official participation from the following organizations such as NITI Aayog, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Department of Science & Technology, UIDAI and DRDO will be also request
  • With rapid development in the fields of information technology and hardware, the world is about to witness a fourth industrial revolution. It will be driven by the power of big data, high computing capacity

Trade & Commerce

Import of Gold & Silver items coming from South Korea banned by the Government

By -

  • The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) in the Union Commerce Ministry

Why -

  • These restrictions were imposed against the backdrop of sudden surge in imports of precious metals from South Korea, with which India has a free trade agreement (FTA) since January 2010.
  • Now, importers will now have to obtain a license from the DGFT for importing gold and silver from South Korea.

Detail analysis –

  • Under the FTA between the two nations - India has allowed duty free import of gold and silver items.
  • However, 12.5% countervailing duty was imposed to offset equal level of excise duty on gold and silver jewellery items produced domestically.

After goods and services tax (GST)

  • Countervailing duty was abolished as it subsumed excise duty and only 3% GST was imposed on gold.
  • This created a situation where importing gold via South Korea became profitable due to its duty free status with India even as government continued to impose 10% basic customs duty on gold imports from other countries.
  • Between 1 July and 3 August 2017, gold imports from South Korea surged to $339 million against import of only $70.5 million in 2016-17.

Gold and India -

  • India is the world’s second largest gold consumer after China, with consumption of 674 tonnes in 2016. According to the World Gold Council (WGC), India’s gold demand is projected to rise to between 850 tonnes and 950 tonnes by 2020 from an estimated 650-750 tonnes in 2017.

Enlighten about The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT)

  • Nodal agency responsible for execution of the import and export Policies of India.
  • Formulate and implemen the foreign trade policy with the main objective of promoting India’s exports.

PARLIAMNET STANDING COMMITTEE (commerce) on trade deficit with ASEAN

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce has questioned the government for suggesting that the country’s increasing trade deficit with ASEAN nations is due to imports of essential commodities and has strongly recommended that India seek better market access for its products and services with the 10-nation bloc.
  • India has suffered a trade deficit in respect of five ASEAN members — Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei and Lao PDR — over 2015-16 and 2016-17, with the biggest deficit emerging in trade with Indonesia.
  • Under the existing trade agreement, Indonesia has committed a tariff elimination on 50.1% of its items which is the least in comparison to other ASEAN member States.
  • The least tariff elimination by Indonesia has resulted in biggest trade deficit from India amongst all ASEAN member States.

Potential reasons –

  • Absence of quality norms: While exports of agricultural products from India faced high import tariffs and barriers, leading to a sharp drop in trade, India’s food processing sector had raised concerns about the ‘near absence of quality norms’ for import of cheap processed food products from ASEAN countries.
  • Non- tariff barriers: Concerns have also been raised about the imposition of safeguards and non-tariff barriers by ASEAN nations on exports of India’s textiles and pharmaceuticals.

Rectification process –

  • Better market access: India must seek better market access for goods where India has an edge over ASEAN nations, like leather goods and pharmaceuticals, to improve the trade balance.
  • Quality norms: Cheap import of poor quality processed food products should be looked into. Appropriate quality norms may be fixed for import of such products from ASEAN as well as other regions of the world.
  • Reduction in tariffs: The government must ensure reciprocity in the reduction of tariffs in products like steel. Efforts should also be there to improve India’s access to services trade in ASEAN, with a focus on increasing the footprint of Indian banks and financial institutions in the region.

Enlighten about ASEAN

  • The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises of Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. ASEAN is India’s fourth largest trading partner with total trade in 2016-17 at $71.69 billion, constituting almost 11% of India’s overall global trade of $660.6 billion. Total exports to ASEAN in 2016-17 stood at $31.07 billion, while imports were $40.63 billion, creating an adverse trade balance of $9.56 billion.

Digital India

NPCI given nod to Spice Digital Ltd.

  • The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has given a nod to Spice Digital Ltd. for processing bill payments under the Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS) as a Bharat Bill Payment Operating Unit (BBPOU).
  • Spice Money Ltd, had received an inprinciple approval to set-up as a BBPOU under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 in May 2016.
  • In August 2016, NPCI had launched a pilot project for BBPS with eight BBPS operating unit,
  • Spice Digital was one of them Need Bill payments is a major component of the retail payment transactions in India.
  • It is characterized by the presence of large number of billers and aggregators who provide a variety of payment options to customers
  • Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS) BBPS is an integrated bill payment system offering interoperable and accessible bill payment service to customers through a network of agents, enabling multiple payment modes and providing instant confirmation of payment.
  • The BBPS initiative aims to provide a major push to digital payments as it is a big step forward in formalizing the bill payment system in the country.
  • Under the BBPS framework, a customer will be able to pay several bills such as electricity, telephone, water, gas, and DTH television at a single location—physical or electronic—and receive instant confirmation once the payment is made.

Enlighten about National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)

  • Founded in 2008 as a not-for profit organisation registered under section 25 of the Companies Act, 2013.
  • NPCI is the umbrella organisation for all retail payments system in India.
  • Promoted the Reserve Bank of India.