Daily Current affairs 05 February 2019UPSC - Daily Current Affair
Tiger Action Plan - India to offer improved protection to tiger habitats and tiger corridors:
- There are almost daily reports of man-animal conflicts across the country.
- In this context, the Indian government’s pledge in India’s Tiger Action Plan (2012 to 2018) to protect tiger habitats and tiger corridors is welcome.
- Note: A tiger corridor is a stretch of land linking tiger habitats, allowing movement oftigers, prey and other wildlife. Without corridors tiger habitat can become fragmented and tiger populations isolated leaving the tigers vulnerable to localised extinction.
Increase in tiger population in India:
- India’s total tiger population went up from 1,411 in 2006 to 1,706 in 2010 and 2,226 in 2014.
But decreasing number of tigers outside tiger reserves is a concern:
- However, there was a 12.6% decline in tiger occupancy outside tiger reserves between 2006 and 2010, the latest period for which this data is available.
- The recent action plan didn’t release data on the decline in the tiger population outside protected areas for 2014.
- There have been several instances of tigers being killed while traversing corridors that link their habitats.
- Many corridors are under threat from road and rail networks.
Reasons for decline outside tiger reserves:
- The main reasons for this decline according to the tiger action plan are:
- Degradation of forest areas outside protected areas
- Fragmentation of forests leading to a loss of gene flow from source populations
- Loss of forest quality due to decline in prey biomass
- Tiger deaths due to man-animal conflict
- Disturbance due to infrastructure and other projects
India's tiger conservation approach to focus on corridors:
- As per the Tiger Action Plan, India has changed its approach to tiger conservation to focus on the corridors, and restoring habitat connectivity.
- This includes:
- Providing incentives to local people for conserving forests along tiger corridors
- Providing subsidised LPG connections to people to reduce dependence on timber from the forest.
- The action plan also states that buffer zones connected to forests are important because they absorb the shock from poaching and habitat depletion, and foster subadults, young adults, and old members of the tiger population.
Other steps needed to protect tigers:
- Indian State also needs to invest heavily in other areas if it is keen to protect tigers, no matter where they are.
- These include:
- Increase recruitment of forest staff
- Improve ground-level infrastructure in forests (vehicles for patrolling, staff quarters with basic facilities)
- Provide better training and arming of forest guards
- Forest guards are the first line of defence against poaching and illegal public intrusion.
- But, at present, operate with outdated guns and little training.
- India is currently the most dangerous country in the world for forest rangers.
- In 2017, 29 rangers were killed on duty in India.
- Recent examples:
- Unidentified poachers with weapons killed two guards in the Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Bihar.
- More than 50 forest and police personnel were injured when a mob of relocated villagers brutally attacked them at the Melghat Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra.
- To save tigers outside reserve areas is a hugely challenging task.
- Apart from the above measures, the forest department needs better tiger tracking systems and specially trained teams to keep an eye on tigers moving outside the protected areas.
GS Paper III: Environment & Ecology
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Section : Editorial Analysis
- Money laundering is a process of converting tainted or illegitimate money into white or legitimate money.
- The process of money laundering usually has three stages:
- In easy terms, the first use of illegitimate cash is termed as placement.
- In layering, a paper trail is created so that the origin of the money is concealed.
- A money launderer creates many layers, making it immensely difficult for investigating agencies to unravel the source of money.
- Integration is when a number of layers leads to illegitimate money getting integrated into the financial system.
- The money laundering industry thrives on the art of trickery.
- Money launderers make it difficult to detect the origin of illegitimate money.
Once black money is converted to white, it is often moved out of the country:
- Once the illegitimate money has been legitimised or cleansed, it would need to compete in the market (often against others with black money).
- They will then find it difficult to compete in business due to thriving black money in the country.
- This results in capital flight from the country as the money launderers then move that white money to countries or jurisdictions with stronger anti money laundering laws — because white money can compete with white money only.
Countries attracting illegitimate money:
- Countries having lax anti money laundering laws attract illegitimate money from foreign jurisdictions.
Now losing reputation:
- Such countries face a high risk of losing their reputation internationally.
- Financially, these countries may be evaluated and tagged as high risk nations and, therefore, loans to those countries will come at a higher rate of interest.
FATF coming down on these countries:
- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) does a mutual evaluation of most countries at regular intervals (India’s mutual evaluation is due in 2020).
- Countries found with lax anti money laundering law can be put on the list of “Non-cooperative Countries and Territories” (NCCT), leading to international shaming and financial problems for them.
- Recent example of Pakistan:
- Recently, FATF found Pakistan lax in implementing anti money laundering and anti terror financing laws and put it on the grey list of NCCT.
- As a result, Pakistan is facing consequences from international financial institutions and has been asked by FATF to improve itself.
Impacts the economy in its entirety:
- The risks of money laundering go beyond the financial sector and impact the economy in its entirety.
- It is difficult to assess the exact monetary impact of money laundering activities on a country’s economy.
- It has direct and indirect impact on law-abiding citizens, various sectors and the country.
- Bad money drives out the good money affecting the market:
- Law violators spend or invest the illegitimate money not to gain profit but to conceal the source. They can afford to invest even in a loss-making business (a way of money laundering).
- On the contrary, any businessman with legitimate money invests to earn profit.
- When the products of two types of business models compete in the market, certainly the business with the illegitimate money would survive and flourish but the law-abiding citizen will likely fail.
- As a result bad money (illegitimate money) would survive and flourish in the market while the good money (legitimate money) has to leave the market.
- Distorts economic statistics:
- Money laundering also causes distortion in the economic statistics and leads to inadequate assessment of national income.
- Transfers tax liability to honest taxpayers:
- People tend not to pay tax on all their incomes and therefore leads to less tax collection.
- This ultimately results in higher taxes and the tax liability is transferred from law-breakers to honest taxpayers.
- Negatively impacts the policy decision making of central banks:
- International hawala operations is one of the methods of money laundering.
- It has a major impact on the policy decision making of central banks (like the Reserve Bank of India) of nations.
- Demand and supply of currency remains the main factor in deciding the exchange rate of any currency.
- For this, foreign exchange transactions are monitored by the central bank.
- But the central bank can assess demand and supply in the market but it is not able to assess the same transactions taking place in the grey market.
- Effects real estate prices:
- In India, money laundering is also practised through the sale and purchase of real estate.
- It increases the demand in this sector, resulting in skyrocketing of rates of properties.
- Encourages further corruption:
- Money laundering further causes corruptive penetration in other areas.
- With illegitimate money seeping into the system, and the ease with which it can be converted into white money, the chances of government servants becoming corrupt goes up.
- Middlemen and mafia take hold of the system.
- The poor citizens suffer while the corrupt and criminals enjoy the fruits of development.
Spillover of ill-effects of money laundering activities into other countries:
- It has been seen that there is a “spillover effect” of money laundering activities.
- Criminals first send their ill-gotten wealth to tax havens to turn it into white money.
- Further, they start indulging in criminal activities in that jurisdiction also.
- Therefore, jurisdictions that do not implement anti money laundering laws are prone to international criminal activities.
Conclusion - grave risks from money laundering and needs to be tackled:
- Money laundering adversely affects the development of the society and is a grave national risk, and has become a cause of immense concern for nations across the globe.
- Impacts of money laundering on the economy of any country creates a vicious cycle.
- Hard steps need to be taken to tackle and terminate the practice of money laundering to ensure that the development of the country is not hindered due to vested interests and corrupt elements in the society.
GS Paper II: Security Issues
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Section : Editorial Analysis
- The government has set up a five-member working committee to look into the issues of angel tax and come up with guidelines.
- The government also agreed on key changes requested by start-ups regarding the angel tax issue.
About the Angel Tax
- Angel tax is a term used to refer to the income tax payable on capital raised by unlisted companies via issue of shares where the share price is seen in excess of the fair market value.
- The excess realisation is treated as income and taxed accordingly.
- The tax was introduced in the 2012 Union Budget to arrest laundering of funds.
- It has come to be called angel tax since it largely impacts start-ups and the angel investors who back them.
- There is an exemption available to Start-ups from this tax under Section 56 of the Income Tax Act on fulfilling the following criteria-
- The definition of a start-up includes companies that have been in operation for 7 years, where the total investment including funding from angel investors did not exceed Rs. 10 crore.
- For the exemption, startups are also required to get approval from an inter-ministerial board and a certificate of valuation by a merchant banker.
- The angel investor should have filed income tax returns of at least Rs. 50 lakh for the year preceding the year in which the investment was made and have a net worth of Rs. 2 crore.
Highlights of the news
- The issue at present is that several startups are receiving income tax notices on angel funding they received few years ago.
- The startup representatives sought government intervention as the angel tax is hurting the startup ecosystem in the country.
Government agrees to make changes:
- In the meeting between the government departments and the start-up representatives, the government agreed to implement some of the key changes requested by the start-ups, which includes-
- Amending the definition of a start-up to include companies that have been in operation for up to 10 years instead of 7 years.
- Raise the limit of the total investment including funding from angel investors to Rs. 25 crore instead of Rs. 10 crore.
- On the part of the investors, the limit for income tax returns and net worth to be reduced to Rs. 25 lakh and Rs. 1 crore, respectively.
No scrapping of angel tax
- The government has concerns over differentiating genuine start-ups from companies set up for money-laundering purposes.
- The demand from start-ups for scrapping the angel tax was refused considering the problem of money laundering.
Committee to advise on the matter
- The government decided to set up a committee to look into how to go ahead with these agreed changes.
- The start-ups are still concerned about ‘inspector-raj’, as they would have to apply to the DPIIT (Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade) and the CBDT each time they find an investor.
- It was suggested that the government should ask for documents from the registered start-ups, like two years’ monthly expenses, employee details etc. which will immediately separate out the money laundering companies as they will not be able to provide these details.
- In addition, the database of genuine companies could be shared with the CBDT for exempting these companies from angel tax scrutiny in the first stage itself.
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Section : Economics
- Japanese officials have noted Chinese intrusion into Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku islands.
- There's a dispute over these islands, as China (which calls them Diaoyu islands) also claims them.
Understanding the Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute
- Basis for Japan's claim over the islands:
- Japan says that, in the late 19th century, about 200 Japanese nationals settled in the uninhabited Senkaku islands. They established a business of gathering albatross feathers, which were used for making warm clothing.
- Japanese say that China has started claiming these islands from 1968 only after a UN body hinted the possibility of oil reserves in the area.
- Basis for Chinese claims:
- China (as well as Taiwan) bases its claim on the islands based on its own documentary evidence suggesting that China held the territory even before the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895).
- It accuses Japan of seizing its territory and asks to return it to China on the lines of territories returned by Japan to their original owners after Second World War.
Significance of the islands
- The intensity of claims by Tokyo and Beijing may be driven by the significant strategic location of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.
- Some analysts say that Chinese claims on Senkaku islands are aimed at gaining control of the Miyako strait, which is a strategic passage for China through which it can enter into the West Pacific.
- Miyako strait is the 250 km wide passageway between the Miyako and Okinawa islands. It connects East China sea with West Pacific Ocean.
- China’s real intention is said to be to not just dominate but control the Miyako strait.
Highlights of the news
- Japanese official expressed that despite its disputes with China on the Senkaku frontline, peace prevails on the ground between the two countries.
- Japan follows certain ground rules on how to deal with China's coast guard ships or fishing vessels when they enter Japan's territorial waters around the Sensaku Islands.
Japan remains ever-vigilant around these islands
- Japan keeps tight vigil on the Sankaku group of Islands from its base in Ishigaki (part of its Okinawa chain of islands), to ensure that its hold over these strategically significant islands.
- Keeping in mind any worst-case scenario, Japan has deployed some additional ground troops of the Japan Self Defence Forces (JSDF) on the Miyako island.
- Besides, defences of some other nearby islands have been reinforced.
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Section : International Relation
- In a step toward elephant conservation in India, Asian Elephant Alliance, a joint effort of five NGOs, is looking to raise funds to secure the 96 of the 101 elephant corridors in the next ten years.
- Asian Elephant Alliance is a joint effort of 5 NGOs including Wildlife Trust of India, Elephant Family, International Fund for Animal Welfare, IUCN Netherlands and World Land Trust.
- The alliance is aiming to raise 20 million pounds to secure elephant corridors in India, as money was the main constraint in securing the land for corridors.
Elephants in India
- According to census of elephants conducted in 2017, there are more than 27,000 elephants in India.
- Karnataka (with more than 6,000) has the highest elephant population followed by Assam and Kerala.
- Elephant corridors are essentially linear patches of natural vegetation that connect two habitats which is important for jumbo movement and to maintain a healthy population.
- Elephants being large-bodied, continuously move around in search of food and water and for such movement use these corridors.
- Wildlife Trust of India and MOEF’s Project Elephant have identified 101 elephant corridors.
Need for protection of elephant corridors
- Elephant corridors are under threat due to roads, railway lines, electricity towers, canals, and human settlements in these corridors.
- Recently, it was reported that 7 elephant corridors in India have already been impaired due to land use changes.
- Only 70% of the corridors are used regularly.
- 29% of the corridors are encroached upon.
- 66% of the corridors have highways passing through them.
- 22 corridors have railway lines passing through them.
Elephant Conservation in India
- In 1977, elephant was included in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 ensuring highest protection.
- Legislations were enacted prohibiting ivory trade.
- In 1992, the Government of India launched Project Elephant with the following basic objectives
- Protect elephants, their habitat & corridors
- Address issues of man-animal conflict
- Welfare of captive elephants
- From 2014, Project Elephant is also implementing the MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) programme of CITES in India.
- MIKE is a site-based system designed to monitor trends in the illegal killing of elephant.
- As a result, elephant population has gone up from 15,627 in 1980s to 30000s currently.
Threat faced by elephants
- Asian Elephants are under severe stress because of loss of habitat.
- Also, fragmentation of the available habitats has confined most of the populations to smaller habitation islands.
- About 67% of elephants in India are living outside the protected areas and lack protection.
- They also suffer from:
- Increased man-animal conflict.
- Inadequacy of Protected Areas for the long term conservation of elephants.
- Poaching (that has led to skewed sex-ratio in elephant populations)
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Section : Environment & Ecology
- Though China is urbanizing at a faster rate than India, a study says the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from vehicles linked to urbanisation in India are increasing at a much higher rate than in China.
GHG Emissions in Cities
- According to the Global Carbon Project, the biggest emitters in 2018 are China, the U.S., EU, India and Russia.
- India is set to be the 4rd highest contributor with a projected emissions rise of 6.3% in 2018 compared to 2017.
Effect of CO2 emissions
- Carbon dioxide is a major green house gas.
- Carbon dioxide traps the long-wave radiation from the earth’s surface and creates an atmospheric layer that prevents earth from cooling at night.
- CO2 also causes warming of ocean waters and higher water temperatures compromise the oceans' ability to absorb carbon dioxide.
- Carbon dioxide also causes acid rain.
- Emissions combine with moisture in the air and results in precipitation with a high acid content called acid rain.
Impact of GHG Emissions in general
- Rising temperatures due to greenhouse effect
- Growth of Urban Heat Island
- Increasing incidents of Heat waves
- Rising air pollution
- Sea-level rise
- Degradation of Coral reefs
- Arctic sea could disappear in summers.
- Shrinking of Permafrost
- Reduced crop yields
- Extinction of species driving loss of biodiversity
Actions to reduce vehicular emissions
- Implementation of BS VI fuel and emission standards.
- Expand CNG programme.
- Boost the production of Electric Vehicles
- Introduce battery operated vehicles in targeted segments of two-wheelers, three-wheelers and buses.
- Tighten PUC norms for post-2000 vehicles.
Strategies to reduce vehicle numbers on roads
- Improve Public transport.
- Augment the service of Metro for carrying more passengers
- BRTS to be implemented in targeted high frequency routes.
- Fare integration and common ticketing by introducing common mobility cards.
- Prepare and implement zonal plans for developing a Non-motorized transport network.
- Parking policy to reduce congestion and pollution.
- Traffic management: Introduce early alarm system during traffic congestion.
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Section : Environment & Ecology
• The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-SectoralTechnical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven Member States lying in the areas of the Bay of Bengal.
• This organization came into being in 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.
• BIMSTEC is a sector-driven cooperative organization.
• It started with six sectors—including trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism and fisheriesfor sectoralcooperation in the late 1997.
• Later in 2008, it expanded to embrace nine more sectors—including agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people to people contact and climate change.
• It constitutes seven Member States: five deriving from South Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and two from Southeast Asia, including Myanmar and Thailand.
• Initially, the economic bloc was formed with four Member States with the acronym ‘BIST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
• Following the inclusion of Myanmar on 22 December 1997 during a special Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok, the Group was renamed ‘BIMST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
• With the admission of Nepal and Bhutan at the 6th Ministerial Meeting (February 2004, Thailand), the name of the grouping was changed to ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC).
Objectives of BIMSTEC
• To harness shared and accelerated growth through mutual cooperation in different areas of common interests by mitigating the onslaught of globalization and by utilizing regional resources and geographical advantages.
Significance of BIMSTEC
• The regional group constitutes a bridge between South and South East Asia and represents a reinforcement of relations among these countries.
• BIMSTEC has also established a platform for intra-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEAN members.
• The BIMSTEC region is home to around 1.5 billion people which constitute around 22% of the global population with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.7 trillion economy.
• In the last five years, BIMSTEC Member States have been able to sustain an average 6.5% economic growth trajectory despite global financial meltdown.
1. 2004: Thailand
2. 2008: India
3. 2014: Myanmar
4. 2018: Nepal
Kathmandu Declaration: 4th BIMSTEC summit
• The Kathmandu declaration at the 4th BIMSTEC summit reiterated the strong commitment of its members to combat terrorism.
One of the key sectors under BIMSTEC is Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime. The leaders of BIMSTEC in the declaration:
• Deplored terrorism in all forms and manifestations in the world.
• Affirmed that the fight against terrorism should also involve holding States and non-State entities accountable.
• Reiterated strong commitment to combat terrorism and called upon all countries to devise a comprehensive approach including
o Terror financing
o Cross-border movement of terrorists,
o Countering radicalization,
o Countering misuse of internet for purposes of terrorism
o Dismantling terrorist safe havens
Key initiatives under Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime
1. BIMSTEC Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Transnational Organized Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking:
• It was signed in 2009.
• This sector is led by India.
• Various aspects of cooperation under Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crimes (CTTC) include
o Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Precursor Chemicals
o Intelligence Sharing
o Legal and Law Enforcement Issues
o Anti- Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism
o Human Trafficking and Illegal Migration
o Countering Radicalization and Terrorism.
• While many members have ratified the convention, some members are yet to do it.
2. Expedite the signing of the BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters:
• It is awaiting signature by member states.
• It will primarily help locate, freeze and forfeit or confiscate any funds or finances meant for the financing of all criminal acts in the territory of either party.
3. BIMSTEC National Security Chiefs meetings:
• To promote cooperation and coordination on counter terrorism and transnational crimes.
• 3 meets have been held so far will India hosting the first annual meet in 2017.
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Section : Miscellaneous