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Daily Current Affairs 25.03.2023(A.P. passes resolution to provide SC status for Dalit Christians, Karnataka scraps 4% Muslim quota prior to Assembly poll, India failed to create positive impression among businesses moving away from China, Centre to set up panel to ‘improve’ NPS , Buoyed by the success of tulip garden in Srinagar, J&K gets more zones that are set to bloom, Membership of banned outfit is crime under UAPA, says SC, Lok Sabha approves setting up of GST Appellate Tribunal , G20 sees inflation as sticky, to extend policy tightening’)

Daily Current Affairs 25.03.2023(A.P. passes resolution to provide SC status for Dalit Christians, Karnataka scraps 4% Muslim quota prior to Assembly poll, India failed to create positive impression among businesses moving away from China, Centre to set up panel to ‘improve’ NPS , Buoyed by the success of tulip garden in Srinagar, J&K gets more zones that are set to bloom, Membership of banned outfit is crime under UAPA, says SC, Lok Sabha approves setting up of GST Appellate Tribunal , G20 sees inflation as sticky, to extend policy tightening’)

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1. A.P. passes resolution to provide SC status for Dalit Christians

In a unanimous resolution passed on Friday, the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly supported the inclusion of Dalit Christians in the Scheduled Castes (SC) list, saying that the State government was of the opinion that their socio-economic status was at par with that of Dalits who practise Hinduism.

Passing the resolution, the Legislature resolved to request the Union government to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, accordingly and include Dalits who have converted to Christianity in the SC list.

The A.P. government said that it had received several representations saying that Dalit Christians continue to face social, economic and political discrimination.

The Union government, after having opposed the inclusion in two affidavits before the top court, has submitted that it had formed a three-member Commission of Inquiry to look into the demands of inclusion, giving it a two-year deadline to submit its recommendation.

Dalit Christian and Dalit Muslim bodies have not expressed confidence in the Commission and said that it had been formed with the “ulterior motive” of securing an opinion in line with that of the Centre’s.

2. Karnataka scraps 4% Muslim quota prior to Assembly poll

Reservation meant for minority community distributed equally between Lingayats, Vokkaligas; economically-backward Muslims will have to compete in 10% EWS pool, announces Bommai

In what could be a game changer ahead of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly elections scheduled in April-May this year, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has scrapped the reservation of 4% given to Muslims in Karnataka under 2B of Other Backward Classes (OBC) category and distributed it to two dominant communities — Veerashaiva-Lingayats and Vokkaligas — at 2% each in jobs and admissions in educational institutions.

With the State Cabinet decision, the quota under the newly-created categories of 2C and 2D among the backward classes for Vokkaligas and Veerashaiva-Lingayats has increased from 4% to 6% and from 5% to 7%, respectively.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who presided over the Cabinet meeting on Friday, said that Muslims who are economically backward will now have to compete in the 10% pool created under the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota.

Legacy of Deve Gowda

Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda during his tenure as Chief Minister of Karnataka, in 1995, provided 4% reservation for Muslims under the category 2B in OBC quota, which now stands scrapped.

The Cabinet meeting held during the winter session in Belagavi in December 2022, had approved the creation of new categories of 2C and 2D for Vokkaligas and Veerashaiva-Lingayats, respectively, based on the interim report submitted by the Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes.

With Friday’s decision, the OBC reservation has been kept at 32%, SC 17% and ST 7%, totalling 56%. Besides this, there is an EWS quota of 10%. Those not covered under the SC/ST and OBC reservation are eligible for quota under the 10% EWS quota, as per the economic criteria, Mr. Bommai said.

3. ‘India failed to create positive impression among businesses moving away from China’

Despite resources, India has not been able to create a positive impression among businesses moving away from China, a parliamentary panel on commerce said in a report tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Friday.

The report stated that India has not been able to take advantage of the “China Plus One Strategy,” through which multinationals shifted manufacturing and production away from China. It said that other Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia have become bigger beneficiaries of the strategy.

The report said India’s competitive position in the pharmaceutical sector is undermined by its high import dependence for bulk drugs or active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), especially from China.

The Ministry informed the committee that in fiscal year 2022-23, till November 30, the value of total import of APIs stood at ₹27,209 crore, out of which imports from China stood at ₹18,973 crore, nearly 70% of the total share.

The import increased despite the border row with China since mid-2020, when 20 Indian soldiers were killed in violent clashes with the Chinese soldiers in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.

The committee is headed by Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

PLI schemes

The government submitted that certain steps such as Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes have the capability to make India a more attractive location for companies looking to diversify their supply chains away from China, adding that it is striving to simplify the compliances on businesses and to improve overall business environment in the country. It added that more than 3,500 provisions have been decriminalised by the Ministries and the States, and the Jan Vishwas Bill to amend 42 Central Acts has been introduced to enhance trust-based governance.

The committee recommended that rationalisation of direct taxes and indirect taxes must be done in sync with the international norms and laws to increase the competitiveness of domestic industries in the global markets. It also asked the government to pursue Free or Preferential Trade Agreements with countries that seek to invest in India under the ‘China Plus One Strategy’.

The government informed that India has signed 13 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and six Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) so far, adding that FTA negotiations with the U.K, Canada and the European Union will be concluded in the “upcoming year”.

4. Centre to set up panel to ‘improve’ NPS

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday announced the constitution of a committee to propose changes to “improve” the National Pension System (NPS) for government employees in a way that balances their aspirations with fiscal prudence, while steering the Finance Bill’s passage in the Lok Sabha.

The move assumes significance as five Opposition-ruled States have already moved staff hired post 2004 to the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) that guaranteed pension, while the BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra is thinking of exiting the NPS.

The Minister signalled that a new approach will be designed “for adoption by both Central and State governments”.

“Representations have been received that the National Pension System for government employees needs to be improved. I propose to set up a committee under the Finance Secretary [T.V. Somanathan] to look into this issue of pensions and evolve an approach which addresses the needs of the employees while maintaining fiscal prudence to protect the common citizens,” Ms. Sitharaman said.

Earlier, when the Lok Sabha convened for the day, it was adjourned for an hour in less than a minute, as Opposition members started shouting slogans to demand a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the Adani Group. Speaker Om Birla then adjourned the House until noon.

When the proceedings resumed and after papers were laid on the table of the House, Rajendra Agarwal, who was presiding over the proceedings, asked the Finance Minister to move the Finance Bill for passage.

While the Opposition members were in the Well of the House with placards and were constantly sloganeering, Ms. Sitharaman insisted she would speak on a few issues even though there were “more things” to talk about.

5. Buoyed by the success of tulip garden in Srinagar, J&K gets more zones that are set to bloom

Bloom time: Hundreds of tourists visit the Srinagar garden to witness 15 lakh multicolour tulips. 

First popularised by Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Bollywood movie Silsila in 1981, the short-lived tulip gardens are being multiplied on larger scale in other districts of the Union Territory (U.T.), in the wake of success of the Srinagar tulip garden that draws tourists and locals in droves every spring season.

Sanasar, a cup-shaped green meadow encircled by tall cedars, in Ramban district in the Jammu province started a four-kanal (0.5 acre) tulip garden in 2017-18 with 28,000 to 30,000 tulip bulbs.

“This year, the area earmarked for the tulip garden at Sanasar has been expanded to 35-40 kanals (five acres) with 2.7 lakh tulip bulbs of more than 20 varieties,” officials said.

Mussarat Zia, Deputy Commissioner, Ramban, described the Sanasar tulip garden as “Srinagar’s kid tulip cousin”.

“Now expanded to 40 kanals, it will spread its colourful fragrance in the last week of March,” Mr. Zia said in a tweet. In Udhampur district, locals are queuing up to witness the spectacle of tulips blooming, planted in hundreds of rows.

The Floriculture Department has planted 12,000 bulbs of five different varieties at the Highland Park, Kud, Udhampur. The garden is also under an expansion plan in the future.

Buoyed by growing footfall of tourists at the Srinagar tulip garden that is spread over 30 hectares, tulip flowers, one of the first few flowers to bloom after a protracted winters in Kashmir, are becoming signatory flowers to the Valley gardens, even though the blooming remains only three to five weeks. Hundreds of tourists visit the Srinagar garden to witness long rows of over 15 lakh multicolour tulips of around 70 varieties.

6. Membership of banned outfit is crime under UAPA, says SC

Those who have left a banned organisation could not be held liable under UAPA, the SC said.

The top court has set aside its own judgments that had concluded that mere membership — unlike active membership — of an unlawful group did not make a person criminal or a terrorist

A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court on Friday clarified that a person who “is or continues to be” even a “mere member” of a banned organisation is liable to be found criminally liable under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for acting against the sovereignty and integrity of India.

With this judgment, the Supreme Court has set aside a series of its own judgments which had concluded that “mere membership” — unlike “active membership” — of an unlawful association or organisation did not make a person criminal or a terrorist. The judgment, on Friday, was based on an intra-court reference made in 2014.

The Bench led by Justice M.R. Shah, who wrote the judgment, was lauded by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, in the courtroom for the “historical” verdict.

“Immensely grateful to Your Lordships for this really historical judgment to protect the sovereignty of our country,” Mr. Mehta said immediately after the pronouncement of the judgment.

Justice Shah reasoned that an organisation is declared unlawful and banned only after the Centre is “satisfied that it is indulging in unlawful activities against the sovereignty and integrity of India”.

The declaration of an organisation or association as unlawful is publicly notified by the Centre under Section 3 of the UAPA. This naturally leads to the conclusion that every member of the organisation would know about the ban, the court reasoned.

But a person choosing to continue as a member despite knowing about the ban is acting against the sovereignty of the nation, the court noted.

Such a person cannot later claim that the law has a chilling effect on his fundamental right of association by imposing criminal liability on him, Justice Shah explained.

The judgment referred to Section 10(a)(i) of the UAPA which deals with membership of an unlawful association.

The provision says that “where an association is declared unlawful by a notification issued under Section 3 which has become effective under sub-section (3) of that section, —(a) a person, who — (i) is and continues to be a member of such association shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine”.

The court clarified that persons who had left the organisation and were not members at the time it was declared unlawful, cannot be held liable under Section 10(a)(i) of the UAPA.

The court referred to Article 19(4), which mandated that the citizens’ right to form unions or associations was subject to the power of the state to make laws to impose “reasonable restrictions” in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order or morality.

The three-judge Bench said the earlier judgments in the cases of Arup Bhuyan, Sri Indra Das and Raneef, which had “read down” Section 10(a)(i) to exclude mere membership of an organisation from criminal liability, followed the American law blindly.

These judgments had not heeded the restraints stitched into Article 19(4) on the right of citizens to form associations. “Just following the American law without noticing differences between Indian and U.S. laws is not agreeable,” Justice Shah said.

7. Lok Sabha approves setting up of GST Appellate Tribunal

Lok Sabha on Friday cleared changes in the Finance Bill to pave the way for setting up of an appellate tribunal for resolution of disputes under GST.

Currently, taxpayers are filing writ petitions before high courts in the absence of an appellate tribunal.

As per the amendments proposed in the Finance Bill 2023, which were passed by the Lok Sabha on Friday, benches of the GST Appellate Tribunal would be set up in every State while there will be a principal bench in Delhi which will hear appeals related to ‘place of supply.’

Even after more than five years of implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, the appellate tribunal had not been set up. As a result, unresolved legal matters accumulated.

Nangia Andersen India’s Tanushree Roy, Director- Indirect Tax, said the tribunals would lower burden on high courts, Supreme Court and provide taxpayers reprieve.

Appellate Tribunal benches would be set up in each State with the principal bench in New Delhi

8. ‘G20 sees inflation as sticky, to extend policy tightening’

Participants do not envisage current banking turmoil leading to a systemic crisis; prefer to tackle financial stability risks separately, do not view them as a constraint to rate increases: Nageswaran

Most G20 countries see inflation as being sticky and easing more slowly than they would like and have reiterated they would remain on track with monetary tightening, said V. Anantha Nageswaran, India’s Chief Economic Advisor and co-chair of the Second G20 Framework Working Group meeting.

Most member countries are also of the view that financial stability risks can be handled separately and need not constrain further interest rate increases if required, he said at a media interaction on Friday, the first day of the meeting.

On the current banking turmoil in the western world, Mr. Nageswaran said the prevailing sentiment expressed by members was that it need not lead to a systemic crisis and that policy makers have things under control and are responding to developments as warranted.

“On the Fed’s statement that additional interest rate increases may be needed, I think people are focusing on the word ‘may’ instead of ‘will’, which suggests some dilution or open mindedness when compared to their commentary at the end of January,” he said.

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