Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 10 March 2023

Crypto assets brings under PMLA

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

The Finance Ministry has notified transactions involving the exchangetransfer and safekeeping of crypto assets under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act (PMLA). The PMLA coverage is set to widen the taxation and regulatory net, as it also covers the exchange between virtual digital assets and fiat currencies.

What does the notification say?

In the notification dated 7 March 2023, the central government has notified participation in and provision of financial services, which are related to an issuer’s offer and sale of a virtual digital assetunder PMLA. “…the central government hereby notifies that the following activities when carried out for or on behalf of another natural or legal person in the course of business as an activity for the purposes of said sub sub-clause, namely:-

  1.         exchange between virtual digital assets and fiat currencies;
  2.         Exchange between one or more forms of virtual digital assets;
  3.         Transfer of virtual digital assets;
  4.  Safekeeping or administration of virtual digital assets or instruments enabling control over virtual digital assets; and
  5.         Participation in and provision of financial services related to an issuer’s offer and sale of a virtual digital asset.

Why the move?

  1. The measure is expected to aid investigative agencies in carrying out their actions against crypto companies, with the Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax Department already probing several such cases against companies running cryptocurrency exchanges and transactions.
  2. While the cryptocurrency industry has largely welcomed the move, there are concerns about the wide ambit of the fresh notification and its enforcement in the absence of a direct regulator.

Property tax in J&K

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

The Jammu and Kashmir administration notified rules for the levy of property tax in towns and cities of the Union Territory with the declared intention of making urban local bodies self-reliant in development works. It said the tax is levied everywhere except J&K, where urban local bodies remain entirely dependent on government funds. Jammu and Srinagar have municipal corporations. There are 19 municipal councils and 57 municipal committees in the UT.

Who will pay the tax now, and from when?

  1. The UT administration has notified rules for the proposed property tax in the exercise of powers under Section 71A of the Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Act, 2000, read with Sections 65(1) and 73(1) of the Act.
  2. In October 2020, the Union Home Ministry had authorised the administration to levy the tax.
  3. The tax is proposed to be levied on people having property within the territorial jurisdiction of urban local bodies across J&K with effect from 1 April. However, not every property owner will pay.
  4. According to the administration, houses with an area smaller than 1,000 sq ft — which make up 40 per cent of the total — will be exempt. Of the remaining houses, almost 80 per cent will pay less than Rs 600 a year — according to the administration, people in ShimlaAmbala, and Dehradun pay 10 times this amount.
  5. Also, almost 46,000 of the 1.01 lakh shops in urban areas are smaller than 100 sq ft in area. Eighty per cent of these shops will pay a meagre Rs 600 a year — or Rs 50 per month. The rest will pay up to Rs 700 a year.
  6. According to the administration, around 30,000 shops will pay less than Rs 2,000 in annual property tax, and 20,000 of these shops will pay less than Rs 1,500 — which again, is a tenth of what shop owners in Shimla, Ambala, and Dehradun pay.

What is the formula for calculating tax?

  1. The property tax will amount to 5 percent of the Taxable Annual Value (TAV) in case of a residential property, and 6 per cent of TAV in case of a non-residential property.
  2. The TAV will be decided based on factors like the type of municipality, the land value rate notified by the government, floor, area, usage, age of property, slab, other usage type, and occupancy.

What is the history of urban local bodies in J&K?

  1. In the late nineteenth century, the Dogra ruler of the erstwhile princely state established a municipal committee each for the cities of Srinagar and Jammu, to look after their civic affairs under the J&K Municipal Act No. 16 of 1886.
  2. The municipal committees were upgraded to municipal councils in 1956. Then, in 2003, the legislature of the erstwhile state passed a law to upgrade them to municipal corporations.
  3. Today’s municipal committees and municipal councils were set up as town area committees and notified area committees in the erstwhile state from time to time.
  4. The municipal committees of Jammu and Srinagar cities levied octroi on goods entering their areas, while the town and notified areas committees collected dharat.
  5. To remove the inconvenience caused to the public by the collection centres at various places, the state government abolished octroi and dharat in the mid-1980s.
  6. Even though the GST regime was introduced in 2017, the state government continued to collect the toll tax from goods carriers at Lakhanpur in view of J&K’s special status under Article 370.
  7. The practice came to an end in January 2020 following the constitutional changes of 5 August 2019, including the abrogation of Article 370.

First IAF woman officer to head frontline unit

GS Paper - 1 (Society)

The Indian Air Force announced that it has selected Group Captain Shaliza Dhami to take command of a frontline combat unit in the Western sectorGroup Captain Dhami will be the first woman officer in the IAF to command a missile squadron in the Western sector facing Pakistan. She is currently posted in the operations branch of a frontline command headquarters.


  1. Commissioned in 2003 as a helicopter pilot, Group Captain Dhami has over 2,800 hours of flying experience. She has flown the Chetak and Cheetah helicopters.
  2. A qualified flying instructor, she served as flight commander of a Chetak unit at the Hindon air base— both firsts for an Indian Air Force woman officer. She has been commended twice by the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief in the past.
  3. Hailing from Ludhiana – her parents were in government service – she decided very early on joining the Indian Air Force, more so after becoming a cadet of the NCC.
  4. The Indian Air Force started inducting women fighter pilots in 2016 – the first batch had three women fighter pilots. They currently fly the MiG-21Su-30MKI and Rafale.
  5. The development comes after the Army cleared as many as 108 women officers for the rank of Colonel (selection grade), making them eligible for command roles.
  6. There are 10,493 women officers serving in the armed forces, the majority in the medical services.
  7. The Indian Army, being the largest of the three services, has the largest number of women officers at 1,705, followed by 1,640 women officers in the Indian Air Force, and 559 in the Indian Navy – this data was provided by the government to Parliament last year.

Allegations of irregularities in NAAC functioning

GS Paper -2 (Important bodies)

The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), an autonomous body under the University Grants Commission (UGC), is facing allegations of irregularities in the way it operates. The chairperson of NAAC’s executive committee, Bhushan Patwardhan, resigned after repeatedly demanding an independent inquiry into the functioning of the council.

More about the news:

ü  The NAAC released a statement addressing the allegationssaying, the entire process of accreditation and assessment is robust, transparent, ICT-driven and automated.

ü  The system cannot be compromised because the whole process is decentralised, transparent and accessible to the stakeholders through a user friendly portal.

Functions of NAAC:

  • The NAAC, set up in 1994, is entrusted with assessing the quality of India’s higher educational institutions.
  • It follows a multi-layered assessment process; it awards grades to colleges and universities. Its parameters include curriculum, faculty, infrastructure, research and financial well-being.
  • The grades issued by NAAC range from A++ to C. If an institution is graded D, it means it is not accredited.

How is the accreditation process carried out?

Ø  The first step involves an institute approaching the NAAC for assessment.

Ø  Once the NAAC sets the process in motion, the applicant has to submit a self-study report (SSR) containing information related to quantitative and qualitative metrics.

Ø  The data is then validated by expert teams of the NAAC, followed by spot visits by peer teams comprising assessors drawn from universities across India.

Is NAAC’s accreditation mandatory for institutions?

Ø  While the UGC has over the years issued many circulars directing institutes to mandatorily undergo NAAC’s assessment, the process still remains largely voluntary.

Ø  The National Education Policy (2020) has set an ambitious target of getting all higher educational institutes to obtain the highest level of accreditation over the next 15 years.

Ø  According to information shared by the Centre in Lok Sabha, out of the 1,113 universities and 43,796 colleges in the All India Survey on Higher Education Report 2020-21, only 418 universities and 9,062 colleges were NAAC-accredited as on January 31, 2023.

What has Patwardhan alleged?

ü  Patwardhan, who took charge as chairman in February 2022, has alleged that people with vested interests are indulging in malpractices, leading to the awarding of questionable grades to some institutions

ü  He had based his allegations on his own experiences as well as the findings of an inquiry he commissioned after taking charge.

What were the findings of the inquiry?

The inquiry committee commissioned by Patwardhan was led by JP Singh Joreel, the director of Information and Library Network, also a UGC centre. It found that the NAAC’s accreditation process was mired in irregularities.

  • Firstly, the IT system of the agency was found “compromised”. Also, assessors were being allocated “arbitrarily”, observing that such practices are sparking potential cases of conflict of interest.
  • The report said that nearly 70% of experts from the pool of around 4,000 assessors have not received any opportunity to make site visits, while some have visited multiple times.
  • One major lapse includes, individuals without authority having full access to the NAAC’s internal system.

Why are so few institutes accredited?

Ø  According to officials of the NAAC, the fear of obtaining poor grades holds institutions back from applying.

Ø  In 2019, the UGC launched a scheme named ‘Paramarsh’ to address the issue. Under the scheme, some of the best-performing institutes were identified to serve as mentors to at least five institutes aspiring to get accredited.

Ø  Last year, the NAAC also explored the possibility of issuing Provisional Accreditation for Colleges (PAC), under which one-year-old institutes could apply for accreditation that would be valid for two years.

Ø  Currently, only institutes that are at least six years old, or from where at least two batches of students have graduated, can apply. The accreditation is valid for five years.