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UPSC Daily Current Affairs : 14-May-2020

Topic Covered :

  1. Major Stimulus package for MSMEs

  2. Army proposes 3-year stint for civilians

  3. Stop forest, environment clearances

  4. Poor nations back India’s call to defer WTO talks till pandemic is contained

  5. Telangana to tell farmers what to grow, fix crop area


Why in news?

  • Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday announced a ₹3 lakh crore collateral free loan scheme for businesses, especially micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as part of a ₹20 lakh crore economic stimulus package to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • For salaried workers and taxpayers the income tax returns for financial year 2019-20 has been extended to November 30, 2020.

  • The rates of tax deduction at source (TDS) and tax collection at source (TCS) have been cut by 25% for the next year.

  • Statutory provident fund (PF) payments have been reduced from 12% to 10% for both employers and employees for the next three months.

  • MSMEs will get the bulk of the funding. The ₹3 lakh crore emergency credit line will ensure that 45 lakh units will have access to working capital to resume business activity and safeguard jobs

  • For two lakh MSMEs which are stressed or considered non-performing assets, the Centre will facilitate provision of ₹20,000 crore as subordinate debt.

  • A ₹50,000 crore equity infusion is also planned, through an MSME fund of funds with a corpus of ₹10,000 crore.

  • The definition of an MSME is being expanded to allow for higher investment limits and the introduction of turnover-based criteria.

  • NBFCs, housing finance companies and microfinance institutions — many of which serve the MSME sector — will be supported through a ₹30,000 crore investment scheme fully guaranteed by the Centre, and an expanded partial credit guarantee scheme worth ₹45,000 crore, of which the first 20% of losses will be borne by the Centre.

Source : The Hindu ( https://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/economic-package-to-spur-growth-build-a-self-reliant-india-fm/article31573533.ece?homepage=true )


Why in news?

  • In a first of its kind proposal, the Army plans to take civilians on a three-year “Tour of Duty” (ToD) or short service” on a trial basis to serve as officers and in other ranks initially for a limited number of vacancies which will be expanded later.


  • This is expected to result in significant reduction in the expenditure on pay and pensions and free up funds for the Army’s modernisation.

  • The proposal is under consideration. If approved, it will be voluntary and there will be no dilution of criteria in selection.

  • The overall purpose of the ToD concept is ‘internship/temporary experience’ and so there will be no requirement of attractive severance packages, resettlement courses, professional encashment training leave, ex-servicemen status, ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme for ToD officers and other ranks.

  • Individuals who opted for ToD would get a much higher salary than their peers in the corporate sector. They would also have an edge after leaving the service and going to the corporate sector.

  • The Army hoped that this would attract individuals from the best colleges, including the Indian Institutes of Technology.

  • The proposal suggests several incentives such as tax-free income for three years and a lumpsum at the end of three years of about ₹5-6 lakh for officers and ₹2-3 lakh for others.

Source : Hindu ( https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/army-proposes-3-year-stint-for-civilians/article31575718.ece?homepage=true )


Why in news?

  • A group of 291 conservation scientists and allied professionals has asked Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar to withhold forest and environment clearances during the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • The group includes 12 former members of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), the highest advisory body on wildlife chaired by the Prime Minister.

  • An Assam-based environment activist has also written to Mr. Javadekar, seeking the preservation of the autonomy of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), along with other specialised Environment Ministry (MoEF&CC) wings, such as the Forest Survey of India (FSI), the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB).

  • The Hindu had broken the story on the MoEF&CC’s bid to restructure its regional offices by subsuming the NTCA and all the other specialised wings.

  • “The MoEF&CC is under orders of the Supreme Court to strictly comply with the Lafarge judgement (2011, related to limestone quarrying in Meghalaya) guidelines to tighten the clearance process. Shockingly, key guidelines are being ignored, including the failure to appoint a national regulator for appraising projects...Granting fast-track clearances has now become the rule,” said Praveen Bhargav, a former member of the NBWL.

Source : Hindu ( https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/stop-forest-environment-clearances/article31577055.ece )


Why in news?

  • India has taken a formal stand at the World Trade Organization in favour of postponing all negotiations, including talks on curbing fisheries subsidies, till the Covid-19 pandemic is under control.


  • This has found support with many developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs).

  • India has argued that while several poorer countries did not have the resources to participate in digital meetings during the crisis, some others are facing livelihood challenges. This may change their negotiating positions, which would get reflected only when the crisis has run its course.

  • Following the heads of delegation meeting, the WTO is looking at a year-end deadline for completing negotiations on curbing harmful fisheries subsidies.

  • India said it can agree to the conduct of informal virtual meetings and exchange of views without formal decision-making, so that it remains engaged on important issues.