Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 1 January 2018
Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 1 January 2018
2 new species of ginger found in the northeast
Scientists have discovered two new species of ginger in easternmost
districts, Ukhrul in Manipur and Tuensang in Nagaland, both bordering
Hedychium chingmeianum , the species discovered in Tuensang district, is
an epiphytic plant and grows on tall trees, while Caulokaempferia
dinabandhuensis was found growing in rock crevices, boulders and humus rich
soil in the Shirui Hills, where the highest peak stands at an elevation of
Both the plants are from the family of Zingiberaceae , to which the
commonly found ginger (Zingiber officinale) belongs.
Two Botanical Survey of India (BSI) scientists, Nripemo Odyou and Dilip
Kumar Roy, found the plant Hedychium chingmeianum , growing on tree trunks
at Chingmei village in Tuensang district.
The plant, with reddish stems and creamy white flowers, was brought to
the regional centre of BSI, Shillong, and cultivated there.
The species Caulokaempferia dinabandhuensis was discovered by Biseshwori
Thongam and Bipin Konsam of the Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable
Development.The species has beautiful oval-shaped pink flowers which appear
Delhi sees the worst fog of season
The Capital had the worst fog of the season that brought visibility down
to below 50 metres for several hours, badly affecting flight operations at
Delhi airport. Delays were also caused in the rail network across north
According to airport officials, over 50 flights were diverted, 150
delayed and several cancelled as visibility fell below 50 metres at the
Indira Gandhi International Airport between 7:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. on all
Flights only started landing after 10 a.m. and take-offs resumed after
11:30 a.m., said airport officials.
The delays had a cascading effect as passengers complained of chaos at
the airport that was packed to capacity. Passengers were stuck at other
airports in the country as well due to bad weather at Delhi airport, which
delayed incoming flights. Northern Railway reported 15 trains cancelled, 57
delayed and 18 rescheduled due to early morning fog.
It has also forecast a cold day with the minimum temperature expected to
fall to 5 degrees Celsius, the lowest forecast yet for the season. The
maximum temperature is likely to settle at 23 degrees Celsius which is three
degrees above normal for this time of the year.
Iran cuts access to social media
Iran cut access to social media on in a bid to head off further protests
after days of unrest that saw two people killed and dozens arrested.
The Interior Minister warned protesters will “pay the price” as footage
on social media showed thousands marching across the country overnight.
The spate of demonstrations began in second city Mashhad over high
living costs, but quickly spread throughout the country and turned against
the Islamic system as a whole, with slogans such as “Death to the dictator”.
Lorestan Province Deputy Governor Habibollah Khojastehpour told state
television that two people were killed in clashes in the small western town
of Dorud but denied security forces were responsible.
U.S. President Donald Trump said the “big protests” showed people “were
getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered
Iranian authorities have sought to distinguish anti-regime protesters
from what they see as legitimate economic grievances. “Do not get excited,”
Parliament director for international affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian wrote
in a tweet directed at Mr. Trump. “Sedition, unrest and chaos are different
from gatherings and peaceful protests to pursue people’s livelihoods,” he
There have also been reminders of the continued support for the regime
among conservative sections of society, with pro-regime students holding
another day of demonstrations at the University of Tehran. They had
outnumbered protesters at the university the day before, although online
videos showed significant protests around parts of central Tehran.
Iranian authorities have blamed external forces for fomenting the
protests, saying the majority of social media reports were emanating from
regional rival Saudi Arabia or exile groups based in Europe.
The Income Tax department has released new data on its direct tax
mop-ups for assessment year 2015-16. Every time new data becomes available
on the subject, it is used to reinforce the impression that Indians love to
skip their taxes. But an objective analysis suggests that the despondency is
If filing an income tax return is a sign of voluntary compliance with
the country’s tax laws, then India has been registering very material
improvement in this metric in recent years.
The tax administration has recently begun sharing data on ‘Income Tax
Return Statistics’ for each assessment year. The series flagged off in
financial year FY12 (equating to assessment year 2012-13) and is updated
until FY15 (assessment year 2015-16).
It shows that the number of valid income tax returns filed rose by a
good 40% from 3.11 crore to 4.36 crore between FY12 and FY15. Those return
filers comprise individuals as well as other taxable entities such as Hindu
Undivided Families, firms, companies and non-profit organisations. The
number of individuals filing a tax return showed equally impressive growth
from 2.87 crore to 4.07 crore.
In effect, the number of I-T return filers in this period grew far
faster (12% a year) than India’s population (estimated at 1.2%). This could
partly reflect the demographic shift which is underway, where the working
age population is expanding faster than other demographic segments. But it
also reflects a culture of improving tax compliance.
Talking of compliance, there’s brisk growth in the income that assesses
are declaring to the taxman too.
The total income reported in these returns (Returned Income) vaulted
from Rs. 15.6 lakh crore in FY12 to Rs. 29.5 lakh crore in FY15, an 89%
jump. Has demonetisation improved these metrics? Difficult to say. While
many piecemeal data points on tax filings have been bandied about by the
government this past year, official CBDT data that is comparable isn’t
available beyond FY15.
Sceptics point out that while the number of tax returns filed may be
growing, a good number of those return filers don’t cough up any tax. True,
of the 4.36 crore return filers for FY15, as many as 1 crore declared income
below the taxable threshold of Rs. 2.5 lakh. But this doesn’t necessarily
prove deliberate evasion.
It may only go to show that a majority of Indian workers don’t yet earn
an income reasonable enough to fall into the tax net.
The Economic Survey 2015-16 made the point that India’s tax slabs are
set rather high because individuals earning Rs. 2 lakh-plus make up the top
5.8% sliver of the population. A recent Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report
calculated that the median wealth of Indians stood at just Rs. 84,175
($1,295) in 2017.
Given that an individual’s wealth is expected to be many times his
annual income, this data supports the view that a majority of Indians don’t
pay income tax simply because they don’t earn enough to do so.
As India’s economic prospects improve and lift aggregate income levels,
a larger slice of the population may graduate to paying income tax. In fact,
this trend is already underway. Between FY12 and FY15, the number of returns
with income below Rs. 2.5 lakh shrank from 1.55 crore to 1 crore and those
in the Rs. 2.5- Rs. 10 lakh bracket jumped from 2.08 crore to 3.02 crore.
Commentators complain that India’s direct tax base is woefully narrow,
with just 2-3% of the population filing returns. But to correctly assess
India’s direct tax base, the ‘number of effective assessees’ is a better
measure than I-T filings data.
In India, a straight-forward comparison of the number of taxpayers with
the total population count is a flawed measure of tax compliance, because
only workers who earn income from taxable economic activities, are legally
liable for income tax.
Census 2011 data tells us that only about 40% of the Indian population
was employed for whole or part of the year. It is estimated that
agriculture, income from which is tax-exempt, accounts for nearly half of
Therefore, if one attempts a ballpark calculation and excludes
agriculturists and the unemployed from the total population count (estimated
132 crore for 2016), there would be roughly 26 crore taxable income-earners
in the economy.
Of these, 6.26 crore pay direct taxes in one form or another. The number
could still do with improvement. But it is certainly not cause to brand
India as a nation of tax evaders!
Explore selling and swapping of loan assets-FinMin
The finance ministry has asked public sector banks (PSBs) to explore
options for selling and swapping of loan assets with other lenders with a
view to strengthen their balance sheets.
Depending on their competencies, banks can look at opportunities to buy
or swap loan assets, sources said, adding this was one of the issues
discussed during PSB Manthan.
Swapping and selling assets will help banks focus on their core
competencies and trim their burden.
For example, if a bank has expertise in lending to small and
medium-sized firms, it can swap its retail loan portfolio with another bank
that is good in the sector, sources said. In order to increase credit
availability to small businesses, the Finance Ministry has also asked PSBs
to open micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) intensive branches.
MSMEs, which are a huge employment generator in the country, contribute
40% of India’s manufacturing. Besides, banks were also advised to strengthen
cluster-based lending, people aware of the development said, adding that
branches would help in channelising loans to the sector which is an engine
As many as 50 clusters have been identified for enhanced access to
financing, sources added. Small Industries Development Bank of India has
revamped the udyamimitra.in portal, so that banks compete for financing MSME
Corporatisation of food
The ‘World Food India’ conference in Delhi in November informed us as
much about the urban bias in development in India as about the disregard for
public health and natural agriculture.
‘PepsiCo Leads Rs. 68,000 Crore plans for Food Sector’ read one media
headline during the conference. Hundreds of corporations vend food,
indiscriminate consumption of which creates digestive disorders,
hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.
Processed and packaged food can be especially challenging to our health
as these also contain, in addition to chemicals like fertilizers, pesticides
and herbicides, excessive amounts of sugar, salt and oil.
Our government would outsource food to these corporations fully if left
to themselves, instead of establishing ecosystems for family farmers to grow
food without chemicals and undertaking the hard work of pushing and
incentivising peasants to diversify their production from wheat and rice to
a range of rapidly disappearing traditional foods (like millets) and more
lentils, fruits and vegetables.
These corporations, with little interest in the health of consumers, are
going to change ‘preferences’ to more sugared ‘beverages’, more potato
chips, more chocolates, more fried snacks. If outsourcing the change of
consumer preferences to corporations isn’t a recipe for a public health
disaster, what is?
‘Private Sector Must Invest More in Contract Farming: PM’ , announced
yet another header. Companies are evaluating India as a market to sell their
products and as an outsourcing hub.
This is farcical in a nation where a vast proportion of the population
is malnourished and nutritionally challenged. Prime Minister Modi’s speech
was targeted at corporations and their ‘ease of doing business’ with the
consuming classes, and holds little hope for the poor. Each of these marks
his unique approach to development where agency lies with mass-producing,
machine-driven companies and entrepreneurs, not peasants and consumers.
The purpose of development is forgotten. All political parties are
complicit in equating development with ‘GDP growth’ and ‘FDI’.
Not much of this will reach the farmer in the form of higher procurement
prices; much will instead flow to corporations as profits. Few new jobs will
be created in heavily automated food-processing factories. By their very
nature, global corporations will import sophisticated machines and labour-eliminating
attitudes from their home economies to run these factories.
No small farmer will benefit; instead, already wealthy, large farmers in
well-irrigated parts of prosperous regions of India will make money from
these factories: the kinnow farmers in Punjab and potato farmers in Haryana.
What is smothered by the development discourse is the critical issue of
health sovereignty; we are ceding our rights to eat healthy, fresh,
chemical-free, unprocessed foods to corporations.
The urban, educated consumer demands organic retailers undergo stringent
checks and penalties for misrepresentation, and rightly so. These same
people, however, are eerily silent about the absence of labeling on 99.9% of
all food today that is grown with overdoses of chemical fertilizers and
pesticides, preserved with chemicals, sugars, salts and fats. These hold no
warning that consuming them over a lifetime will destroy our health.
The larger picture is quite bleak with little hope of redemption;
therefore, all the more reason that individuals must act for themselves.
We must ask difficult questions of a system that produces the chemically
poisoned food we consume, and of a government that outsources public health
to corporations who package and process unhealthy food.
Finally, we must commence our very personal journey of discovery by
engaging with a neighbourhood organic farm.
Reasons for fiscal deficit widening
The government’s fiscal deficit up to November came in at 112% of the
amount budgeted for the entire financial year ending in March, prompting a
number of commentators to predict that the government would miss its target
for the year.
The government missing its fiscal deficit target for the year means that
either the revenue it collected fell short of projections, or that its
expenditure was higher than planned. The data from the Controller General of
Accounts shows that the government’s expenditure seems to be on track. That
is, it has spent 68.9% of the amount budgeted for the year, with four months
remaining. In other words, it has 31% of its budgeted expenditure left for
the remaining 25% of the year.
The revenue side, however, seems to be where the issue is, at only 53%
of the full-year target. Looking deeper, the data shows that the
government’s non-tax revenue, at only 36.5% of the year’s target, is lagging
behind last year’s performance, where it had earned 54.2% of that year’s
non-tax revenue target by November.
The government announced that it would be borrowing an additional Rs.
50,000 crore during the remaining part of the financial year. While it was
assumed that this would lead to a slippage in the fiscal deficit, the
government was quick to explain that this would not happen. In its
statement, it explained that the additional borrowing would be offset by
trimming down the collections from its Treasury Bills.
While the effect of this extra borrowing on the fiscal deficit is yet to
be determined, the news certainly had an effect on the bond market.
According to news reports, the benchmark 10-year bond price fell to a nearly
17-month low, pushing its yield up by as much as 17 basis points. According
to analysts, the bond market is still uncertain about the quantum of
borrowing the government will do by the end of the financial year.
Following the release of the October data, which showed the fiscal
deficit at 96% of the full year’s target, the Chief Statistician of India,
TCA Anant, had said that there was no need to worry and that the fiscal
deficit was bound to go up during the year before coming down again towards
The main reason for this, he said, was the fact that the government had
brought forward the date for the presentation of the Budget. Because of
this, the government has been able to smoothen out its expenditure across
the year, with more being spent in the first half of the year than was
At the same time, the revenue profile of the government in terms of
direct tax has remained more or less the same.
According to former Chief Statistician Pronab Sen, even a 0.5% slippage
in the fiscal deficit would be okay as long as it is being driven by an
increase in expenditure on developmental activities such as rural roads,
irrigation, and low-cost housing.
Even though ratings agency Moody’s recently upgraded India, it did say
that it would be tracking the fiscal situation, so any significant slippages
could result in a downgrade in the future.
Participation of wilful defaulters may weaken IBC’
The Lok Sabha passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment)
Bill, 2017. However, we are likely to witness a wave of demands seeking to
allow failed promoters to participate in the bidding and resolution process
of their respective firms.
The Corporate Affairs Ministry has asked stakeholders to share their
views on these issues by January 10. The IBC was enacted in 2016 to find a
time-bound resolution for ailing and sick firms, while protecting the
interests all stakeholders, including creditors.
A successful completion of the resolution process was expected to help
stem the rise of bad loans in the banking system. The new amendments are a
part of the ordinance that was brought in last month.
The Bill prohibits wilful defaulters, promoters or management of the
company, if it has an outstanding non-performing debt for over a year, and
disqualified directors from submitting a resolution plan in case of
defaults. It also bars the sale of property of a defaulting firm to such
persons during liquidation.
Under the Code, initially, existing promoters could also bid and
participate in the resolution process. However, through the said ordinance,
the government banned them from participating in the process. This
particular clause aims to prevent a backdoor entry for errant promoters to
retain control of the company and reduce their debt at the same time.
Recently, several interested parties represented to the government
seeking a removal of this ban. There is a view that by having a blanket
restriction on promoters participating in the bidding process, the valuation
of the company may be affected as the promoter knows the business and the
company’s potential the best. While restrictions were imposed to avoid
misuse, they feel it should not be a blanket ban but should have safeguards.
The role of the IBC in the present scenario is to remove delays in the
resolution process. However, even if proceedings for such cases are
completed within the stipulated 180 days, the recovered amount will only be
a fraction of the original value of assets. So, the ‘haircut’ will be quite
substantial. The silver lining is, banks can recognise profits out of
collections made through IBC in cases where a large portion has already been
Also, a vigil is still required, said Mr. Jacob, to prevent
‘unscrupulous promoters misusing the provisions of the IBC to retain control
of their company through benami transactions’, even as substantial
sacrifices will be made by banks.
“Bankruptcy laws are an essential part of protecting creditors’ rights.
They also help the markets flush away inefficient businesses and reallocate
capital to efficient businesses,” according to K.M. Jayarao, executive VC,
::SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY::
Nasa’s one among many missions in 2018 is to ‘touch’ sun
NASA is turning 60 in 2018 and the agency is looking forward to
launching a slew of important missions in the coming year, including one to
“touch” the sun.
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is scheduled for launch in 2018 to explore the
sun’s outer atmosphere.
The probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven
years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the sun.
The Parker Solar Probe will perform its scientific investigations in a
hazardous region of intense heat and solar radiation.
The primary goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move
through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as
well as solar energetic particles.
In 2018, NASA will also add to its existing robotic fleet on Mars with
the InSight lander designed to study the interior and subsurface of the red
The U.S. space agency’s first asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx,
is scheduled to arrive at the near-Earth asteroid Bennu in August 2018, and
will return a sample for study in 2023. A survey satellite to search for
planets outside the solar system is also to be launched.