Daily PT Capsule Mar 21

Daily PT Capsule UPSC Civil Services
Daily PT Capsule UPSC Civil Services

Government Cuts Small Saving Scheme Rates

The Narendra Modi government has cut the interest rates on offer on the public provident fund(PPF) and other small savings schemes run by the post office.

The new interest rates will come into play from April 1, 2016 and will be in effect until June 30, 2016. The interest rate on PPF has been cut from 8.7% to 8.1%. The interest on the Senior Citizens Savings Scheme has been cut from 9.3% to 8.6%.


Why did the government cut rates? – The government has been trying to boost the economy. After successive rate cuts by Reserve Bank of India the banks have failed to cut their lending rates and transfer the benefits to the borrower. A major reason for it is because of the high deposit rates. The banks are concerned that if they reduce the deposit rates on their accounts then the customer will shift to small savings offering better return.

The finance minister said that , “Interest rates had risen a lot, so the cost of borrowing for the government and others was high, but now they have come down. The way the economy is moving, we cannot have a situation where lending rates are going down but deposit rates remain high,” he said on Sunday. “Both rates are linked. To make the economy more efficient rather than sluggish, the country has to move towards lower interest rates in both,” he added.

Nominal vs Real Interest Rate – consider the Senior Citizens Savings Scheme. The interest rate on offer on the scheme was 9.3%. The rate of inflation that prevailed between 2008 and 2013 was 10% or more. Hence, the real rate of return on the scheme was negative. This was the case with other small savings schemes as well as bank fixed deposits.

In fact, the real rate of return was well into the negative territory. The real rate of return for a senior citizen who did not have to pay income tax on the earnings from the Senior Citizens Savings Scheme stood at minus 0.7% (9.3% minus 10%).

The situation is totally different now. Inflation as measured by the consumer price index stood at 5.2% in February 2016. Given this, the real rate of return is now in positive territory.

The interest rate on offer on the Senior Citizens Savings Scheme from April 1, 2016, is 8.6%. For those who do not have to pay any income tax, the real rate of return is 3.4% (8.6% minus 5.2%).

Source: TheHindu, FirstPost


SC allows photo of Chief Minister and others

The Supreme Court has modified its earlier order and has allowed the photographs of Chief Ministers, Governors and Cabinet Ministers to be carried in public advertisements. Further, in the place of Prime Minister’s photo, the concerned Cabinet Minister’s photo can be used. Likewise, State Cabinet Minister’s photo can be used in the place of Chief Minister’s photograph.

Earlier the court had said that only the President, the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India could feature in government advertisements.


Why did the Supreme Court change its earlier verdict? – The Centre and the states of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka had moved the court, seeking the review of earlier order of Supreme Court, contending that it was contrary to the federal structure of the country.

The Centre argued that in a federal polity, the position of chief ministers or Union ministers was in no way less than that of the prime minister.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, had strongly favoured review of the verdict on various grounds including that if Prime Minister’s photograph is allowed in the advertisements then the same right should be available to his cabinet colleagues as the PM is the “first among the equals“.

He also said if only Prime Minister’s photograph is allowed in government advertisements then it can be said that it would promote “personality cult” which has been described as “an anti-thesis of democracy”.

Source; TheHindu


Repeat drug testing on animals banned

The Health Ministry has banned repeat animal testing of new drugs tested abroad to prevent cruelty to animals.

It has amended Schedule Y of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. Under it, animals will be spared tests for new drug registrations wherein complete data from similar toxicity experiments exist for drugs approved abroad.


What is the Drugs and Cosmetics Act? – The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 is an Act of the Parliament of India which regulates the import, manufacture and distribution of drugs in India. The primary objective of the act is to ensure that the drugs and cosmetics sold in India are safe, effective and conform to state quality standards. The related Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 contains provisions for classification of drugs under given schedules and there are guidelines for the storage, sale, display and prescription of each schedule.

The Act lacks specific penalties for violating provisions relating to clinical trials. As a result no penalties could be imposed on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) for violating norms in conducting the HPV vaccination trials on tribal girls in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. On 17 April 2015, the government told the Supreme Court of India that due to lack of specific penalties, the government could only halt the trials and issued warnings. The trial had been found to be unethical by a Parliamentary committee in 2013.

Source: The Hindu, Wikipedia


Beef Free Norm for Imports

India has asked USA to ensure that its exports of pork/pork products to India must come with an official veterinary certificate that the animal (pig in this case) was not fed with feed derived from cows/beef/ beef products.

U.S. claims the condition is not based on a scientific risk assessment and the concerned international standard (World Organisation for Animal Health). However, citing the example of Australia fulfilling all the pork import norms of India to increase their exports, the Indian authorities have asked the U.S. to do the same.

Pigs are usually fed with food ingredients of animal origin to meet their protein requirements. Such animal feeds — including meat/bone/blood meal and hydrolysed intestinal tissues — are among the most cost-effective methods to hike protein levels in the diet of animals such as pigs.  On its part, the U.S. had strengthened its animal feed norms to prevent the spread of diseases such as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or the mad cow disease that is transmitted to humans).

Following the detection of some cases of BSE, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tightened animal feed norms in 1997 and in 2008. It had prohibited “the use of high-risk cattle material (including those derived from BSE-positive cattle) in feed for all animal species.”


Can the norm hold up at WTO? – Fresh from it victory against India in the poultry ban case and solar case the USA might pursue beef issue at WTO.

During recent bilateral discussions, India made it clear to the U.S. that the requirement – that pork import consignments must be beef-free – cannot be done away with due to apprehensions of such a move “hurting religious sentiments and provoking riots.

If a solution is not arrived at bilaterally then WTO could be asked to adjudicate in this case as well.

Source: TheHindu


Railways ties with ISRO for route surveys

The Railway Ministry has signed an agreement with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to leverage space technology for providing passenger information in all trains, map railway assets and help survey new route alignments.

At present, Indian Railways uses space technology to provide connectivity to passenger reservation counters, unreserved ticketing system in remote areas, and emergency communication using satellite phones during disaster.

The Memorandum of Understanding, aims at developing applications in the field of remote sensing and graphic information system, proposes to provide information such as train stoppages, real-time train tracking, survey of new rail route alignments in hilly and difficult terrain.


What has been ISROs contribution in various sectors?  – The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched more than 70 satellites since the space programme was set up in 1969 “for various scientific and technological applications”, including “mobile communications, meteorological observations, telemedicine, tele-education, disaster warning, radio networking, search and rescue operations, remote sensing and scientific studies of the space.

The Indian national satellite (Insat) system, commissioned in 1983, is a multipurpose satellite communications system used for a range of functions including television broadcasting and meteorological imaging. It plays a vital role in delivering cyclone warnings and is used in search and rescue operations.

The satellites are also used for “telemedicine”, connecting speciality hospitals in India’s major cities to hundreds of hospitals in rural and remote areas of the country, as well 18 mobile units with satellite dishes that link it up to the system.

The data is used for several applications covering agriculture, water resources, urban development , mineral prospecting, environment, forestry, drought and flood forecasting, ocean resources and disaster management.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched Indian Remote Sensing Satellites in thematic series viz. Resourcesat, Cartosat and Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT-1) which will help boost the agriculture development in the nation. BHUVAN is another geospatial software developed by ISRO helps in location of water resources which are good for irrigation.

Source: TheHindu


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