Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 02 February 2023

Union Highlights 2023-24

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on 1 February 2023 presented the Union Budget 2023, the fifth budget on 1 February 2023. In a boost to taxpayers and economy, Sitharaman announced major changes in tax slabs under new tax regime and big boost for railways and capital expenditure.

Key highlights of Budget 2023

  1. Major announcements for Income Tax payers
  2. No changes in the old tax regime
  3. New tax regime to become the default tax regime
  4. No tax on income up to Rs 7 lakh a year in new tax regime
  5. Govt proposes to increase income tax rebate limit from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 7 lakh in new tax regime
  6. Govt proposes to reduce highest surcharge rate from 37% to 25% in new tax regime

New slabs under new tax regimes

  1. Rs 0-3 lakh : Nil
  2. Rs 3-6 lakhs: 5%
  3. Rs 6-9 lakhs: 10%
  4. Rs 9-12 lakhs: 15%
  5. Rs 12-15 lakhs: 20%
  6. Rs Over 15 lakhs: 30%

Indirect Taxes

  1. 16% increase in NCCD on certain cigarettes
  2. 45% of tax refunds were processed within 24 hours. The taxpayer portal received maximum of 72 lakh returns a day: Sitharaman
  3. New cooperatives that commence manufacturing till March, 2024 to get lower tax rate of 15%
  4. Basic customs duty on crude glycerine is proposed to be reduced to 2.5%.
  5. Propose to increase import duty on silver bars to align it with gold, platinum
  6. Extend customs duty cut on imports of parts of mobile phones by 1 year
  7. To promote value addition in the manufacturing of TVs, customs duty on open cells of TV panels reduced to 2.5%

MSME

  1. Revamped credit guarantee for MSMEs to take effect from 1 Apr 2023 with infusion of Rs 9,000 crore in corpus
  2. New credit guarantee scheme for MSMEs to reduce cost of credit by 1 percentage point

Banking

  1. Govt moots amendments to Banking Regulation Act to improve governance in banks

Skill training

  1. Government will launch Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana 4.0
  2. To skill the youth for international opportunities, 30 Skill India International Centres will be set up across different States.

Clean Energy

  1. Rs 35,000 crores priority capital for the energy transition
  2. Green credit programme will be notified under the Environment Protection Act
  3. Battery storage to get viability gap funding
  4. Govt to support setting up of battery energy storage of 4,000 MwH
  5. National Green Hydrogen mission with an outlay of Rs 19,700 crore will facilitate the transition of the economy to low carbon intensity, reduce dependence on fossil fuel imports and make the country assume technology and market leadership

Gems and Jewellery:

  1. To encourage the indigenous production of lab-grown diamonds, a research and development grant is to be provided to one of the IITs for five years
  2. Proposal to review customs duty of lab-grown diamonds to be included in Part-B of Budget document

Aviation

  1. 50 additional airports, helipods, water aero drones, advanced landing grounds will be revived to improve regional air connectivity:

Railways gets massive boost:

  1. An outlay of Rs 2.4 lakh crore provided for railways in FY24. It's the highest ever allocation for Railways and is nearly nine times over FY14 allocations.

Ease of Doing Business:

  1. Govt to bring another dispute resolution scheme Vivad Se Vishwas-2 to settle commercial disputes
  2. PAN as common identifier for all digital systems of govt agencies
  3. One stop solution for reconciliation and updating identity maintained by various agencies to be established using digi locker and Aadhaar as foundational identity
  4. Central Processing Centre to be set up for faster response to companies filing forms under Companies Act
  5. For business establishments required to have Permanent Account Number, the PAN will be used as a common identifier for all Digital Systems of specified government agencies.
  6. More than 39,000 compliances have been reduced and over 3,400 legal provisions decriminalised to enhancing ease of doing business
  7. Finance Minister announces multiple measures to enhance business activity in GIFT City

Urban Development

  1. Govt to spend Rs 10,000 crore per year for urban infra development fund
  2. Cities to be incentivised to improve creditworthiness for municipal bonds
  3. Aim for 100% mechanical desludging of septic tanks and sewers in all cities and towns

Housing:

  1. Outlay for PM Awaas Yojana enhanced 66% to over Rs 79,000 crore
  2. Capex hiked 33%
  3. Capital Expenditure increased 33 percent to Rs 10 lakh crore, which would be 3.3% of GDP, says FM
  4. Effective capital expenditure of centre to be - Rs 13.7 lakh crore
  5. Capital investment outlay to be 3.3% of GDP in FY24
  6. Effective capital expenditure of Centre at Rs 13.7 lakh in FY24
  7. Interest-free loan to states to continue

Digital Library for Children, Adolescents Will Be Set Up:

  1. National Digital library will be set up for children and adolescents
  2. National Book Trust, Children’s Book Trust to replenish non-curricular titles in regional languages, English to digital libraries
  3. States to be encouraged to set up physical libraries for them at panchayat and ward levels and provide infrastructure for accessing the National Digital Library resources

Education:

  1. Three centres of excellence for artificial intelligence to be set up in top educational institutions.
  2. 157 new nursing colleges will be established in collaboration with the existing 157 medical colleges established since 2014.
  3. Eklavaya Model Residential Schools to be set up in the next 3 years. The Centre will recruit 38,800 teachers and support staff for 740 schools serving 3.5 lakh tribal students

Agriculture:

  1. An Agriculture Accelerator Fund will be set up to encourage agri-startups by young entrepreneurs
  2. Digital public infrastructure to be developed for the agriculture sector
  3. The agricultural credit target will be increased to Rs 20 lakh crores with a focus on animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries
  4. Over the next 3 years, one crore farmers will get assistance to adopt natural farming.
  5. 10,000 bio input resource centres will be set up
  6. Fisheries: To launch sub-scheme under PM Mastya Sampada Yojna with outlay of Rs 6,000 crore to further enable activities of fishermen
  7. Indian Institute of Millet Research will be supported as a centre of excellence
  8. Have initiated computerisation for 63,000 primary agricultural credit societies with an investment of Rs 2,516 crore

Tribal Welfare:

  1. Pradhan Mantri Primitive Vulnerable Tribal Group (PMPVTGS) mission is been launched to improve socio-economic condition on PMPVTGS
  2. To improve social-economic condition of the Particularly Tribal Groups, PMPBTG Development mission will be launched, to saturate PBTG habitations with basic facilities. Rs 15,000 cr to be made available to implement scheme in next 3 years

Budget follows seven priorities:

  1. Inclusive development.
  2. Reaching the last mile.
  3. Infrastructure and investment.
  4. Unleashing the potential.
  5. Green growth.
  6. Youth power.
  7. Financial sector.

Aims of Budget 2023 to include:

  1. Facilitating ample opportunities for citizens, especially youth
  2. Providing strong impetus to growth and job creation
  3. Strengthening macro-economic stability
  4. To aim for the empowerment of women in Budget 2023
  5. To enable women self-help groups to reach next stage of economic empowerment
  6. To help self-help groups with raw material supply, branding, marketing of products

Tourism:

  1. Promotion of tourism will be taken up on mission mode with active participation of states, the convergence of Govt programs & public-private partnerships.
  2. 50 tourist destinations will be selected through challenge mode to be developed as a whole package for domestic and international tourism
  3. States will be encouraged to set a ‘Unity Mall’ in State capital or the most popular tourist destination in the state for the promotion and sale of ‘One District, One product’ and GI products and other handicraft
  4. The country offers immense attraction for domestic as well as foreign tourists. There is a large potential to be tapped in tourism. The sector holds huge opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship for youth in particular.

 

MISHTI scheme

GS Paper -3 (Environment)

Building on India’s success in afforestation, ‘Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes’, MISHTI, will be taken up for mangrove plantation along the coastline and on salt pan lands, wherever feasible, through convergence between MGNREGS, CAMPA Fund and other sources.”

Why mangroves?

  1. They have been the focus of conservationists for years and it is difficult to overstate their importance in the global climate context.
  2. These forests consisting of trees and shrub that live in intertidal water in coastal areas host diverse marine life.
  3. They also support a rich food web, with molluscs and algae-filled substrate acting as a breeding ground for small fish, mud crabs and shrimps, thus providing a livelihood to local artisanal fishers.
  4. They act as effective carbon stores, holding up to four times the amount of carbon as other forested ecosystems.

Initiatives:

Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC):

  1. At the 27th session of Conference of Parties (COP27), this year’s UN climate summit, the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC) was launched with India as a partner.
  2. It initiative led by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Indonesia, the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC) includes India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Japan, and Spain.
  3. It seeks to educate and spread awareness worldwide on the role of mangroves in curbing global warming and its potential as a solution for climate change.
  4. The inter-governmental alliance works on a voluntary basis which means that there are no real checks and balances to hold members accountable.
  5. The parties will decide their own commitments and deadlines regarding planting and restoring mangroves.
  6. The members will also share expertise and support each other in researching, managing and protecting coastal areas.

Current status of mangroves:

  1. South Asia houses some of the most extensive areas of mangroves globally, while Indonesia hosts one-fifth of the overall amount.
  2. India holds around 3 per cent of South Asia’s mangrove population. Besides the Sundarbans in West Bengal, the Andaman’s region, the Kachchh and Jamnagar areas in Gujarat too have substantial mangrove cover.
  3. Infrastructure projects, industrial expansion and building of roads and railways, and natural processes — shifting coastlines, coastal erosion and storms, have resulted in a significant decrease in mangroves habitats.
  4. According to Global Mangrove Alliance in its 2022 report said in between 2010 and 2020, around 600 square km of mangroves were lost of which more than 62 per cent was due to direct human impacts.

 

Amrit Dharohar and PM PRANAM scheme

GS Paper -2 (Government schemes)

FM announced multiple schemes towards protection and conservation of India's natural heritage.These schemes come with the promise of preserving India’s ecological health.

More about the news:

PM PRANAM (Prime Minister Programme for Restoration, Awareness, Nourishment and Amelioration of Mother Earth)

  1. This programme will seek to incentivise states and union territories promoting alternative fertilisers and the balanced use of chemical fertilisers.
  2. The programme aims to ultimately bring down the government’s subsidy burden, which is estimated to reach Rs 2.25 lakh crore in 2022-23: 39 per cent higher than last year’s figure of Rs 1.62 lakh crore.

 

Bhartiya Prakritik Kheti Bio-Input Resource Centres:

  1. It will facilitate the adoption of “natural farming,” 10,000 Bio-Input Resource Centres will be set-up, creating a national-level distributed micro-fertiliser and pesticide manufacturing network.
  2. This will impact over 1 crore farmers over the next three years.

Why do these matters?

  1. The chemical fertilisers revolutionised agriculture when they were introduced, more than half a century ago.
  2. They are known to be a major source of water pollution – impacting groundwater and rivers, ponds and lakes.
  3. Eutrophication caused by excessive use of chemical fertilisers is a death knell for fishes and other aquatic life, often covering lakes and ponds with a thick layer of algae and reducing the oxygen content in the water.
  4. Over a long period of time, they can also harm the soil, causing acidification, and hence have an impact on the land’s productivity.
  5. Studies have found a link between the excessive use of chemical fertilisers and incidence of cancer among farmers.
  6. The challenge for today’s scientists and policy makers is to slowly wean the agricultural economy of chemical fertilisers while maintaining the high yields that they provide.

Amrit Dharohar

  1. The scheme will be implemented over the next three years to encourage optimal use of wetlands, and enhance bio-diversity, carbon stock, eco-tourism opportunities and income generation for local communities.
  2. It will emphasise on the importance of wetlands and their preservation, with an outlook that is inclusive of local communities as caretakers of the ecosystem.

Why does this matter?

  1. The government had previously identified the importance of wetland ecosystems, as the total number of Ramsar sites in our country has increased to 75, whereas, before 2014, there were only 26.
  2. Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance that have been designated under the criteria of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (1971) for containing representative, rare or unique wetland types or for their importance in conserving biological diversity.
  3. These sites sustain a diverse variety of flora and fauna, from endangered aquatic life to migratory birds.

 

India-US: The high tech boost

GS Paper -2 (International Relations)

The talks between India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his American counterpart Jake Sullivan in Washington have concluded with the announcement of a new road map for deeper military and techno-economic cooperation between the two countries.

More about the news:

  1. The bilateral Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET), if implemented with speed and purpose could lend a new strategic depth and breadth to the expanding engagement between India and the United States.
  2. The idea was first mooted in the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden on the margins of the Tokyo summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) last May.

About iCET:

  1. The iCET involves collaboration in a range of areas including quantum computing, semiconductors, 5G and 6G wireless infrastructure, and civilian space projects such as lunar exploration.
  2. The iCET process, which will be monitored and driven from the PMO in Delhi and the White House in Washington, will hopefully bring greater coherence to this round of India-US technological engagement.
  3. Lending urgency to the iCET is the growing convergence of Indian and US interests in managing the security, economic, and technological challenges presented by a rising and assertive China.

 

Other areas of cooperation:

  1. The two sides are also focused on cooperation in defence production. While much of this cooperation will need to be fleshed out in the months ahead, one concrete measure announced, the making of a fighter jet engine in India.
  2. GE Aerospace has applied for an export licence for jet engine production and phased transfer of technology to Indian entities, this fits in nicely with Delhi’s plans to modernise its rusty defence industrial base.

Past cooperation:

High technology cooperation has long been a major focus of US-India relations. The historic civil nuclear initiative of 2005 opened the door for renewed technological cooperation.

Why is this move significant?

  1. Due to residual restrictions on technology transfer in Washington and Delhi’s political ambivalence and bureaucratic inertia prevented the best use of the new possibilities.
  2. India is also looking to reduce its over dependence on Russian weapons and military technology and to produce more weapons at home in partnership with western countries.

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