Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 17 February 2014

One rank, one pension

  • Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has recently promised to pursue the "one rank, one pension" demand of ex-servicemen.
  • He said his government was committed to welfare of every section of society irrespective of region and religion, and had adopted the policy of zero-tolerance towards corruption.
  • According to the CM , the 13th Finance Commission had grossly underestimated the committed liabilities of the state which "has adversely affected the development". The expenditure on salary was capped at 35 per cent of revenue expenditure and liability on account of interest payment and pension was also grossly underestimated.

Interim budget 2014-15

  • Finance Minister P. Chidambaram cut indirect taxes on cars and mobile phones in an effort to revive growth in an interim budget presented to parliament for the fiscal year 2014/15.
  • The government's term ends in May and the measure was necessary to cover expenditure until a national election is completed and a new administration installed. Here are the details of the budget :

GROWTH

  • GDP expansion in third and fourth quarters of 2013/14 estimated at 5.2 percent. Growth for the whole year expected at 4.9 percent.

FISCAL DEFICIT

  • Fiscal deficit seen at 4.6 percent of GDP in 2013/14, below target of 4.8 percent.
  • Fiscal deficit projected at 4.1 percent of GDP in 2014/15
  • Says need to bring down the deficit to 3 percent of GDP by 2016/17

CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT

  • Current account deficit for 2013/14 estimated at $45 billion from last fiscal year's $88 billion.
  • Forex reserves to rise by $15 billion by end of 2013/14

BORROWING/DEBT SERVICING

  • Gross market borrowing for 2014/15 seen at 5.97 trillion rupees, net market borrowing at 4.57 trillion rupees.
  • Government plans to buy back/switch bonds of 500 billion rupees in 2014/15.
  • Ways and Means advances for 2014/15 estimated at 100 billion rupees
  • Debt repayment in 2014/15 seen at 1.397 trillion rupees
  • Interest payments seen rising to 4.27 trillion rupees in 2014/15 from a revised estimate of 3.8 trillion rupees for the current fiscal year.

PRIVATISATION

  • Target from stake sale in state run firms for 2013/14 revised to 258.41 billion rupees
  • Target for 2014/15 increased to 569.25 billion rupees

SPENDING

  • Plan expenditure for 2014/15 seen at 5.55 trillion rupees, the same level as the previous fiscal year
  • Non plan spending estimated at about 12.08 trillion rupees in 2014/15

SUBSIDIES

  • Total spending on food, fertilisers and fuel at 2.5 trillion rupees in 2014/15
  • Food subsidy estimated at 1.15 trillion rupees, fertiliser subsidy at 679.71 billion rupees. Petroleum subsidy seen at 634.27 billion rupees versus revised figure of 854.8 billion rupees for 2013/14.

DEFENCE

  • Spending raised to 2.24 trillion rupees in 2014/15, up 10 percent year on year.

EXPORTS

  • Merchandise exports seen at $326 billion in 2013/14, up 6.3 percent year on year.
  • Agriculture exports expected to touch $45 billion in 2013/14, up from $41 billion in 2012/13

TAX PROPOSALS

  • No major change in tax rates
  • Factory gate tax to be reduced to 10 percent from 12 percent on some capital goods, consumer durables
  • Cut excise duty on small cars, two wheelers, commercial vehicles to 8 percent from 12 percent
  • Recommends excise duty reductions on larger vehicles
  • Restructure of factory gate tax for mobile handsets

BANKS RESTRUCTURING

  • Govt to provide 112 billion rupees capital infusion in state run banks in 2014/15
  • Propose to set up public debt management office to start5 work from 2014/15.

Service tax exemption for rice

  • Finance Minister P Chidambram has announced that service tax would be abolished on rice from the staple’s loading to storage stage.
  • Rice was originally exempt from service tax. However, later the Finance Ministry had said that only paddy is agri-produce, while rice is a processed item.
  • Presenting the interim budget for 2014-15 fiscal, Mr. Chidambram said that by virtue of the definition of ‘agricultural produce’ in Finance Act 2012, read with the Negative List, storage or warehousing of paddy was excluded from the levy of service tax. Rice was not. The distinction is somewhat artificial. Hence, I propose to exempt loading, unloading, packing, storage and warehousing of rice from service tax.”
  • The FM’s decision comes following pressure from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa who had shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his personal intervention in the issue. She had also sought to remit and return the already levied service tax since July 1, 2012.

MRF Challenge 2013

  • Cyprus driver Tio Ellinas emerged the MRF Challenge 2013 champion as the season came to an end at the Madras Motor Race Track .
  • Cook finished the 15-lap race ahead of Ellinas. However, the Brit’s joy was shortlived as the stewards declared Ellinas as the provisional champion after the latter protested over Cook forcing him off the track on the first lap during the final race.
  • Cook was slapped with a 30-second penalty for pushing Ellinas off the track and as a result he was demoted to 12th position in the race classification.
  • The results: MRF Challenge: F2000: Rd 4: Race 4: 1. Narain Karthikeyan 00:26:47.015, 2. Tio Ellinas (Cyp) 00:26:48.706, 3. Rupert Svendsen-Cook (UK) 00:26:49.071. Race 5: 1. Sam Dejonghe (Bel) 00:26:57.825, 2. Tio Ellinas 00:27:09.499, 3. Dylan Young (Aus) 00:27:12.207.
  • Final placings: 1. Tio Ellinas (215 pts), 2. Rupert Svendsen-Cook (203), 3. Sam Dejonghe (142).

Indian flag hoisted at the Sochi Games

  • India completed its return to the Olympic family , when its flag was hoisted at the Sochi Games, five days after the International Olympic Committee lifted its suspension on the South Asian nation.
  • India had been banned since December 2012 after elections at its Olympic association (IOA) saw a corruption-tainted official voted in as secretary general. The IOC lifted the ban on February 11 following fresh elections last week, allowing it to be represented at the Olympics and bringing the total number of nations competing at Russia's first Winter Games to 88.
  • India's three athletes had marched under the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony but can now carry their own standard on February 23 when the Games come to an end.

FIR against Sheila

  • The Delhi High Court has fixed for February 26, the hearing on Kejriwal government’s plea to withdraw the appeal of previous Congress dispensation against a lower court order to register an FIR against former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in a corruption case.
  • A bench of Justice V.P. Vaish, which had pre-poned the hearing on the application , now fixed the plea on February 26, after Delhi Government informed that Additional Solicitor General, who will argue the case, was not available.
  • Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party Government had moved the high court seeking to withdraw the appeal on February 14, the day when the Chief Minister and his council of ministers submitted the resignation on the controversy over passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill.
  • Highlighting its stand against corruption, the outgoing AAP government, in its plea, has said the Cabinet’s decision to take back the appeal, filed by the previous Congress government, has been approved by the Lt. Governor and Ms. Dikshit will have to defend herself as she is no more the Chief Minister and consequently, it lacked the “locus” standi to fight for her.

Graft cases on IAS officers

  • A single-window clearance system has been started by the government to avoid inordinate delays in dealing with corruption cases related to Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers.
  • The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has also come up with a checklist for authorities handling corruption cases involving bureaucrats and sought mandatory compliance with the same as part of the new system.
  • As many as 4,737 IAS officers occupy various state and central posts in the country.
  • Inordinate and inexplicable delays in the conduct of disciplinary proceedings are seen to vitiate the exercise, sometimes leading to litigation.

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