Saturday, January 31, 2015

January month Current Affairs-2015

    International Affairs

 Palestinian statehood resolution fails at UNSC
The UN Security Council has failed to adopt a Palestinian statehood resolution that set a deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian territories by 2017.

The long-anticipated draft tabled here last night drew the support of eight countries - Argentina, Chad, Chile, China, France, Jordan, Luxembourg, Russia - just one shy of the nine needed to pass a resolution in the absence of a veto by any of the Council's five permanent members.

The United States and Australia opposed the resolution while the United Kingdom, Nigeria, South Korea, Rwanda and Lithuania abstained. The resolution failed to receive the required majority among members, the United States also opposed the text, a move that would have seen the draft fail to pass. The draft outlined a solution which fulfilled the vision of two independent, democratic and prosperous states - Israel and a sovereign, contiguous and viable State of Palestine - living side by side in peace and security in mutually and internationally recognised borders.

It also outlined several parameters for the proposed solution - with a one-year deadline for negotiations with Israel and a "full and phased withdrawal of Israeli forces" from the West Bank by the end of 2017 and would have looked forward to welcoming Palestine as a full UN Member State within the 12-month time frame, urging both parties to build trust and negotiate in good faith.

The text also envisaged a "just solution" to the status of Jerusalem as the capital of the two states and to the question of Palestinian refugees as well as to all other outstanding issues, including control of water resources and the fate of prisoners in Israeli jails.

Security arrangements for the transition would have required a "third-party presence". Following the vote, Permanent Representative of the US to the UN Samantha Power stressed her country's support for new ways to constructively support both parties in achieving a negotiated settlement.
China’s Three Gorges Power Plant claims new world record
China’s Three Gorges Power Plant, the largest hydropower project in the country, generated 98.8 billion kwh of electricity in 2014, bettering the world record for hydropower generation set by Brazil’s Itaipu hydroelectric plant

Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest power station in terms of installed capacity, but with a much smaller capacity, Brazil’s Itaipu hydroelectric plant had long been the champion of world hydropower generation. Brazil’s dam generated 98.6 billion kwh of electricity in 2013.

According to officials three Gorges Corporation said 98.8 billion kwh is the equivalent of saving 49 million tonnes of coal consumption and preventing the emissions of carbon dioxide by 100 million tonnes. The Three Gorges Project generates electricity, controls flooding by providing storage for water and adjusts shipping capacity on the Yangtze River, China’s longest waterway.
Nepal to join Silk Road Economic Belt through Tibet
China has taken a firm step to extend the Silk Road Economic Belt to South Asia, by working out a blueprint of connecting Nepal with the Eurasian transport corridor. Last month, Nepal formally signed a four-point document endorsing the Silk Road Economic Belt — a pet project of President Xi Jinping for connecting Asia with Europe along a land corridor, with China as its hub. The agreement was signed during a meeting in Beijing of the Nepal-China Inter-governmental Business and Investment Coordination.

Under the new Silk Route blueprint, the Chinese want to open up the transportation channel from the Pacific to the Baltic Sea, from which would radiate rail and road routes, which would also connect with East Asia, West Asia, and South Asia. China wants to connect with Nepal and South Asia through an extension of the Qinghai-Tibet railway.
Jaffna-Kankasanthurai rail track restored
Indian Railway’s construction company (IRCON) has restored the rail track between Jaffna and Kankasanthurai in North Sri Lanka. This restored commercial Yal Devi Express service was formally inaugurated. The track is about 18 kilometres. This passes through the high security zone which was freed from the control of Tamil tigers in 2009.

IRCON was established in 1976 by Union Government, it is wholly owned by the Ministry of Railways. In 1995, it was renamed as IRCON International Limited. Since its establishment, this company had undertaken construction of railway projects in India and abroad especially in difficult terrains. It has completed more than 300 major infrastructure projects in India and over 121 major projects globally in more than 21 countries.
   Beji Caid Essebsi sworn in as President of Tunisia
Tunisia's President Beji Caid Essebsi has pledged to work towards national reconciliation after winning the country's first free election. After taking his oath of office on 31st December, he told parliament he would be "the president of all Tunisians". The 88-year-old secured victory in the elections that were conducted in the third week of December, over incumbent Moncef Marzouki.

Essebsi was speaker of parliament under President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in 2011 in the first "Arab Spring" uprising. Tunisia is the only Arab country to have moved from authoritarian rule to democracy since a wave of popular uprisings spread across the region. Essebsi became the first freely elected leader of Tunisia since it gained independence from France in 1956.
Sathiyavathy: The Centre has appointed M. Sathiyavathy as the director-general of civil aviation. She replaces Prabhat Kumar, who has been removed from the post within a year of his appointment. She is only the second woman officer to hold Director General post after Prem Lal who held the post in early 1980s.
Devadas: Rajan Devadas, Indian-American photojournalists whose lenses chronicled U.S.-India relations for more than half-a-century, died of cardiac arrest at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington on 27th December. He won Padma Shri award, he has covered the U.S. visit of every Indian Prime Minister — from Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh — besides photographing every U.S. President — from John F Kennedy to George W Bush. Devadas, was born in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala in 1921, spent much of his childhood in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, and studied at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU).
Aziz Qureshi: Uttarakhand Governor Aziz Qureshi, who had taken the Union government to Supreme Court for alleged attempts to ease him out of office, was today shifted to Mizoram. A Presidential communiqué said that Mr Qureshi has been transferred and appointed as Governor of Mizoram for the remainder of his term till May 2017 and Meghalaya Governor KK Paul will take his place.
Mr Paul, who was appointed as Governor of Meghalaya on July 8, 2013, will continue to hold additional charge of Governor of Manipur till further orders, it said.

Mr Qureshi, who was among the Governors appointed by the UPA government, was reportedly told by Home Secretary Anil Goswami to quit after the NDA government took charge at the Centre. He had approached the Supreme Court against attempts to ease him out.
   Nadimatla Sridhar: IAS officer Nadimatla Sridhar has been appointed as the Chairman and Managing Director of State-owned coal mining company Singareni Collieries Company Limited. Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on 30th December approved the appointment of Sridhar after its CMD Sutirtha Bhattacharya was selected by the Centre to serve as the chairman of Coal India Limited recently.
Mittal: A.K. Mittal was appointed as the new Chairman of Railway Board succeeding Arunendra Kumar, who superannuated on December 31.
Pradeep Kumar, who was General Manager of the North Central Railway holding additional charge of Northern Railway, has become new Member Staff succeeding Mr. Mittal.

The Railways also filled the post of Member Electrical, which was lying vacant for more than six months after the retirement of Kulbhushan in July 31 this year. Navin Tondon, General Manager of South Eastern Central Railways, has been appointed Member Electrical.

V.K. Gupta, Member Engineering, has been given additional responsibility of Member Mechanical at the Board.
Radhakrishnan: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman K. Radhakrishnan retired on 31st December. Shailesh Nayak, who is Secretary, Union Earth Sciences Ministry, will hold additional and interim charge as Chairman for a month or until a regular chief is named, said an order by the Secretary, Appointments’ Committee of the Union Cabinet.
Dr. Radhakrishnan led ISRO in many achievements over the past five years after he took over the reins in November 2009. The historic Mars Orbiter Mission was launched and guided to an orbit around the red planet under his leadership. The partial experimental sub-orbital flight of the GSLV Mark-III heavy-lift launch vehicle was another success. The early part of his chairmanship was marred by the Antrix-Devas S-band satellite controversy and the cancellation of that deal in February 2011. Dr. Radhakrishnan took over from G. Madhavan Nair in October 2009 as the seventh chief of the space establishment.
Three new judges sworn in at Bombay High Court
Three new judges were sworn in at the Bombay High Court on 1st January. Chief Justice Mohit Shah administered the oath of office to Kalidas Laxmanrao Wadane, Indira K. Jain and Shalini Phansalkar Joshi. With this, the strength of judges at the court has gone up to 67.
   K.K. Paul: Krishan Kant Paul will be sworn in as the sixth Governor of Uttarakhand on January 8. A presidential communiqué said Mr. Paul, Meghalaya Governor, would continue to hold the office of the Governor of Manipur. The current Uttarakhand Governor, Aziz Qureshi, would be transferred to Mizoram.
R.K Srivastava: R.K Srivastava on 2nd January took over as the new chairman of Airports Authority of India (AAI) replacing Sudheer Raheja. The government had announced Srivastava’s appointment on December 19 for five years.
Koteeswaran: R Koteeswaran has taken over as the Chairman and Managing Director of public sector Indian Overseas Bank (IOB). Prior to this, Koteeswaran was serving as Executive Director of Bank of India.
Gowarikar: Vasant Ranchhod Gowarikar, a stalwart who played a key role in India’s space programme, passed away in Pune on 2nd January. A chemical engineer with a doctorate from Birmingham University, Dr. Gowarikar joined the Indian Space Research Organisation in 1967, settling down in Thiruvananthapuram.
Kiran Vadodaria: Kiran B. Vadodaria of Sambhaav Metro was elected president of Indian Newspaper Society (INS) for 2014-15 at its 75th annual general meeting on 2nd January.
P.V. Chandran ( Grihalakshmi ) will be the deputy president, Somesh Sharma ( Rashtradoot Saptahik ) the vice-president, Mohit Jain ( Economic Times ) the honorary treasurer and V. Shankaran the secretary-general of INS.
  Leela Samson: The ninth edition of dance festival at The Music Academy here had a befitting start on Saturday with the title of ‘Natya Kala Acharya’ being conferred on renowned Bharatanatyam artist Leela Samson. She was presented the title and citation by Masanori Nakano, Consul General of Japan, Chennai.
  Edward Brooke: Former US Senator Edward W Brooke passed away. He was the first black in America to win election to the Senate. He is a liberal Republican who became the first black in American history to win popular election to the Senate, he died on 3rd December.
Brooke was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts in 1966, becoming the first black to sit in that branch from any state since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era and one of nine blacks who have ever served there including Barack Obama.

·         Peta awards: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and actor Rekha, who both follow a vegetarian diet, have been crowned ‘hottest vegetarian celebrities’ by animal rights organisation PETA India for making plant-based foods more popular than ever in 2014.

This year’s competition named ‘PETA India’s hottest vegetarian celebrities’ was tougher than ever — but no one was more deserving than Mr. Modi and Ms. Rekha for the title, the organisation said in a release.

The two winners beat out a strong group of competitors, including actors Amitabh Bachchan, Kangana Ranaut, Hema Malini, Shahid Kapoor, Vidya Balan, R Madhavan and Vidyut Jammwal, it said.
GOPALA KRISHNA: Tamil Nadu Governor Rosaiah conferred Sangita Kalanidhi award on musician T.V. Gopalakrishnan, the Sangita Kala Acharya award on musicians Mangad K. Natesan and Alamelu Mani, the TTK award on Malladi Suribabu and Udaiyalur Kalyanaraman and the Musicologist award on Padma Murthy.

 Boxing recognised as national federation sport
Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports recognised Boxing India (BI) as the governing body for representing boxing in India. In this regard, the Ministry allowed Boxing India to use the name under the Emblems & Names (Prevention of Improper use) Act, 1950 for all its future correspondence.

BI already has been recognised as national federation by International Boxing Association (AIBA) to represent boxing in India and registered it as permanent member.

The registration is a stepping stone in expediting the administrative formalities and streamlining the overall functioning and activities of Boxing India.
Kumar Sangakkara becomes quickest batsman to score 12000 Test runs
Sri Lanka veteran Kumar Sangakkara became the fifth cricketer to surpass 12,000 runs and fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep took 4-63 to help the visitors dismiss New Zealand for 221 on the opening day of the second test

Sangakkara, who was 33 not out at stumps, started the first test in Christchurch needing 12 runs to reach the 12,000-run milestone but was out for 6 and 1, delaying his admission to an elite group whose members include Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis and Rahul Dravid.
Pragyan Ojha suspended
Indian left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha has been barred from bowling in competitive cricket after his action was found to be illegal. Ojha's action was tested at the ICC-recognised centre in Chennai. The tests apparently concluded that Ojha's elbow flexed more than the permissible limit of 15 degrees.
Dhoni retired from tests
Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on 30th December retired from Test cricket with immediate effect, citing strain of playing all formats, after his team lost the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to Australia in Melbourne.

Virat Kohli will be the captain of the Indian Team for the Fourth and Final Test against Australia to be played in Sydney from the 6th of January 2015

Dhoni, wicketkeeper-batsman remains one of the most successful captains ever for India, having led the side to the top of ICC rankings in Tests and ODIs.
·         Debut- On December 2nd, against Srilanka in Chennai
·         December 12th, 2005: Scored first half century
·         April 11th, 2008: First match as Captain, India won against South Africa in Kanpur (due to absence of the then captain Anil Kumble, he became captain)
·         March 5th, 2013: Dhone became India’s most successful captain with 22 wins
·         July 21st, 2014: India’s historic win at Lords, England

Number of tests played: 90

Runs scored: 4876

Centuries: 6

Half centuries: 33

Top score: 224
WADA raises minimum ban for doping
Athletes convicted of doping will face a minimum four-year ban under new rules which came into effect from January 1. Changes to the World Anti-Doping Code increased the suspension for doping from two years. Other changes include less leniency given for missed tests but possible reduced bans for helping investigators. The revised code was agreed to by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in November 2014.
60th National School Games begin
The 60th National School Games kick-started in New Delhi on 2nd January and was declared open by Delhi's Brand Ambassador and two-time Olympic Games medallist Sushil Kumar. The games will continue till January 8. Kumar appealed to the players that these games should be competed in true sportsman spirit.

The Sports Branch, Directorate of Education, Delhi government has organised the National School Games at Chhatrasal Stadium. Around 9,600 players and official from 34 states and union territories and affiliated units of SGFI are participating in 17 sporting events.

   Science and Technology
Reactors under IAEA safeguards
Paving the way for import of fuel for its nuclear reactors, India will complete the process of placing its civilian reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards in the next two days. The last two reactors — units 1 and 2 of the Narora Atomic Power Station in Bulandshahar in Uttar Pradesh — will come under the safeguards of the international atomic energy body in the next two days and the necessary paper work is underway.

So far 20 facilities have been placed under IAEA safeguards. These reactors are now eligible to use imported uranium.

This includes unit 1 and 2 of the Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS), units 1 to 6 of Rajasthan Atomic Power Station, units 1 and 2 of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, and units 1 and 2 of Kakrapar Atomic Power Station.
About International Atomic Energy Agency
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957. Though established independently of the United Nations through its own international treaty, the IAEA Statute, the IAEA reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
IPCC future not tied to Paris Climate Deal
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading UN body for the assessment of climate change, is continuing its work for the betterment of environment, according to it’s Chairman RK Pachauri. He said that the IPCC would continue its work, no matter whether countries arrive at a global climate deal next year in Paris or not. Its successive science-based reports had always been key inputs for negotiators in the past over two decades.

The IPCC had come out with its last (fifth) assessment report in November ahead of the Lima climate talks. It is also most likely to come out with its sixth assessment report in future, bringing more scientific information to the table for policy-makers and general public on causes and impact of climate-damaging greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

Amid speculation over the future of the IPCC once it submitted its 'synthesis' report, its chairman R K Pachauri said his expectation was that the body would also come out with the sixth assessment report (AR6) and a decision in this regard would hopefully be taken by member countries in February, 2015.

The IPCC is a scientific body which reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. It was established in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.

The body has since then come out with five successive assessment reports, telling the global community how human activities are playing havoc with environment and how it led to extreme weather events, melting of glaciers and acidification of oceans due to global warming.

It was the IPCC second assessment report (AR2) of 1995 that had provided important material and key inputs to negotiators in the run-up to adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
   Sri Lankan flying snake, spotted
A flying snake, known to be endemic to Sri Lanka, has been sighted in Andhra Pradesh's Seshachalam forests, forest officials and researchers said.

According to researchers, this is the first time that Chrysopelea taprobanica has been sighted outside the island nation.

The species, known to be found in dry zone lowlands and parts of the intermediate climatic zones in Sri Lanka, was spotted at the Seshachalam Biosphere Reserve in Chittoor district.

It was about a year ago that the species was seen in Chalama, a core forest area about 25 km from the hill shrine of Tirumala.

Morphological studies and DNA tests proved that it was indeed Chrysopelea taprobanica, which glides by stretching its body into a flattened strip.However, the researchers have revealed this now after Checklist, a journal of biodiversity data, mentioned it in its latest issue.
Low-cost phone launched by ICRISAT
A customised 'low-cost' phone cum tablet has been launched for farmers by Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). The device will allow information to be precisely targeted at individual farmers who own small plots of land to help them purchase inputs at lower prices, get a better price for their produce and link them to markets, to put them on the path to prosperity, ICRISAT Director General William Dar said, while launching the device on 29th December.

The device priced at USD 299, has been developed by ICRISAT's Centre of Excellence in ICT Innovations for Agriculture in collaboration with NUNC Systems, a city-based company.

Apart from regular phone services, developing world farmers would receive free messages about weather and pest problems while sharing the most competitive agricultural inputs and crop prices.
Modi pitches for greater autonomy to Universities
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 3rd January pitched for greater academic freedom and autonomy to universities and said educational institutions “must be freed from the clutches of excessive regulation and cumbersome procedures”. Speaking at the 102nd session of the Indian Science Congress at the University of Mumbai, Modi said these were required to place the university system at the “cutting edge of the research and development activities in the country”.

Saying ease of doing research was as important as ease of doing business, Modi promised the scientific community he would cut red tape.

He stressed the need to make investment in science and technology a part of corporate social responsibility and said digital connectivity must be “as much a basic right” as access to schools. He sought efforts to “revive the romance” of science in society and “rekindle” the love for it in children.

Indian Science Congress
The Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) owes its origin to the foresight and initiative of two British Chemists, namely, Professor J. L. Simonsen and Professor P.S. MacMahon. It occurred to them that scientific research in India might be stimulated if an annual meeting of research workers somewhat on the lines of the British Association for the Advancement of Science could be arranged.

From this modest beginning with hundred and five members and thirty five papers communicated for reading at the first session, ISCA has grown into a strong fraternity with more than ten thousand members till to date.

The Association was formed with the following objectives:
To advance and promote the cause of science in India

To hold an annual congress at a suitable place in India

To publish such proceedings, journals, transactions and other publications as may be considered desirable.

To secure and manage funds and endowments for the promotion of Science including the rights of disposing of or selling all or any portion of the properties of the Association.

To do and perform any or all other acts, matters and things as are conductive to, or incidental to, or necessary for, the above objects.

The first meeting of the Congress was held from January 15-17, 1914 at the premises of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta, with the Honourable Justice Sir Asutosh Mukherjee, the then Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University, as President. One hundred and five scientists from different parts of India and abroad attended and the papers numbering 35 were divided into six sections-Botany, Chemistry, Ethnography, Geology, Physics, Zoology under six Sectional Presidents.

     Economic Affairs
Fiscal deficit hits 99% of full-year target in April-November
The Central Government’s fiscal deficit for the April-November period touched 99 per cent of the Budget estimate for 2014-15. The fiscal deficit is the difference between the Government’s earnings and expenditure.

Data released by the Controller General of Accounts on 31st December showed that the deficit in the first eight months of the financial year touched Rs 5.25 lakh crore, against the Budget target of Rs 5.31 lakh crore. In percentage terms, the deficit is 98.9 per cent, against 93.9 per cent in the same period last year. The Government managed to collect just 43.4 per cent of estimated receipts, while its expenditure was 59.8 per cent.
    Udupi district achieves 100% coverage under Jan Dhan
The Udupi district administration has announced 100 per cent coverage of households under the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY). The PMJDY accounts opened after August 16 have a total balance of Rs5.51 crore. Banks in the district were allotted 170 sub-service areas in 146 village panchayats and 95 urban wards for the implementation of PMJDY.
Governance reform: Centre splits Chairman, MD post in state-run banks
In a bid to improve governance, the Centre has separated the posts of Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) in nationalised banks. It has also appointed Managing Directors (MD) for four banks, and they will also be designated as Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Two Reserve Bank committees, headed by AS Ganguly in 2002 and PJ Nayak in 2014, had recommended separation of the post.

According to the Finance Ministry, henceforth, in public sector banks, other than State Bank of India, the chairman will be a part-time board member who would preside over the board meetings but will not be an executive chairman. The procedure for selection of part-time chairmen would be announced shortly, it added.

The four new MDs and CEOs are P Srinivas (United Bank of India), Animesh Chauhan (Oriental Bank of Commerce), R Koteeswaran (Indian Overseas Bank) and Kishor Kumar Sansi (Vijaya Bank).

The appointments are for three years or till the date of their superannuation, whichever is earlier.

These banks and four others have been functioning without a CMD. On October 27, the Government scrapped the existing selection process for appointment of CMD and Executive Directors in public sector banks and decided to initiate a new process, based on which the four names were selected.

A Finance Ministry statement said a replacement for Syndicate Bank CMD SK Jain, who was suspended following his arrest in an alleged bribery case, is still under consideration and would be decided shortly.For three large banks — Bank of Baroda, Punjab National Bank and Canara Bank — the Centre has decided to go for a fresh selection procedure, to be announced soon.
  Central Bank revises rates on FCNR deposits
Central Bank of India has revised the interest rates on Foreign Currency Non-resident (Bank) Account (FCNR-B). The new rates will be applicable from 1st January

The bank now offers interest of 3.82 per cent on dollar deposits, 3.5 per cent on pound deposits, 2.41 per cent on euro deposits, 3.86 per cent on Canadian dollar deposits and 4.74 per cent on Australian dollar deposits (all of five-year maturity). These revised rates are valid till January 31.

Want is FCNR account?
An FCNR account is a term deposit account that can be maintained by NRIs and PIOs in foreign currency. Thus, FCNRs are not savings accounts but fixed deposit accounts.

Prior to 2011, FCNR deposits were allowed to be maintained in six currencies: US dollar, Pound Sterling (GBP), Euro, Japanese Yen, Australian dollar and Canadian dollar. However, in October 2011, the RBI decided that authorised dealer banks in India may be permitted to accept FCNR deposits in any permitted currency. 'Permitted currency' for this purpose would mean a foreign currency which is freely convertible and popularly include Danish Krone, Swiss Frank and Swedish Krona among others.
   Excise duty on petrol, diesel hiked; no change in retail price
The government on 1st January raised excise duty on petrol and diesel by Rs 2 per litre each but retail pump rates will not be increased. The third excise duty hike since November will help raise additional Rs 6,000 crore during remaining three months of the current fiscal as the government took advantage of a slump in global oil prices to five-year low to shore up revenue without stoking inflation. The oil firms had 31st December skipped cutting rates of the two fuels that had become necessary as international oil rates plunged to their lowest level since May 2009.

The excise duty hike has now been set off against the reduction in rates that was due because of slide in oil prices.

The slump in global oil rates had warranted a price cut of Rs 3.22 per litre in petrol and about Rs 3 in diesel and even after adjusting the excise increase; oil firms will have a neat margin of over Re 1 per litre.
   Tax disputes mechanism streamlined
The dispute resolution mechanism for matters relating to international tax and transfer pricing has been streamlined. The Finance Ministry has put in place a new framework that seeks to bring much-needed rigour and neutrality to dispute resolution on international tax issues.

The new system, which replaces the one introduced in 2009, could go a long way in reducing tax litigation. The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has introduced the new framework with effect from January 1.

The CBDT has now sought to correct the situation by staffing the new panels with dedicated full-time commissioners.

Under the new dispensation, there will be five dispute resolution panels — two each in Delhi and Mumbai and one in Bengaluru. These panels have been assigned dedicated areas for coverage across various States so that there is a pan-India rollout.

In the earlier regime, commissioners were taking up dispute resolution as “additional work” and not functioning on a full-time basis. Under the new framework, three commissioners will be assigned by the CBDT to each of the five panels. There will also be a reporting structure for these commissioners. The panel members in Delhi will report to the Principal Chief Commissioner of Income-Tax (International Taxation).

On the other hand, the members in Mumbai and Bengaluru will report to the Chief Commissioners of Income Tax (International Taxation) of the West Zone (Mumbai) and the South Zone (Bengaluru), respectively. The Chief Commissioner posts in Mumbai and Bengaluru have been newly created.
PM raises solar investment target to $100 bn by 2022
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ramped up his target for solar energy as he bets on renewables to help meet rising power demand and overcome the frequent outages

India gets twice as much sunshine as many European countries that use solar power. But the clean energy source contributes less than 1 per cent to India's energy mix, while its dependence on erratic coal supplies causes chronic power cuts that idle industry and hurt growth.

Modi now wants companies from China, Japan, Germany and the United States to lead investments of $100 billion over seven years to boost India's solar energy capacity by 33 times to 100,000 megawatts (MW), said Upendra Tripathy, the top official in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

That would raise solar's share of India's total energy mix to more than 10 per cent. In Germany, a leader in renewable energy, solar accounted for about 6 per cent of total power generated in 2014.

India had earlier set an investment target of $100 billion for the next five years for all types of renewable energy, with wind taking up two-thirds of the total.

Solar energy in India costs up to 50 per cent more than power from sources like coal. But the government expects the rising efficiency and falling cost of solar panels, cheaper capital and increasing thermal tariffs to close the gap within three years.

To create sufficient demand, power distributors will have to raise renewable energy purchases to 8 per cent from 3 per cent by 2020. There is also a plan to require new thermal plants to have a 10 per cent renewable mix, which they can generate or buy from solar companies as credit.

India recently signed a $1 billion agreement with the Export-Import Bank of the United States for companies willing to ship equipment from that country. India is also thinking of solar bonds and helping foreign firms raise rupee bonds to cut costs.
RBI eases KYC norms for NBFCs
Amending rules for non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) with regard to their Know-Your-Customer (KYC) exercise, the Reserve Bank of India, on 2nd January, relaxed the time limit during which such due diligence is required. The rules have been eased due to practical difficulties and constraints in getting KYC documents at frequent intervals. 

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