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Amigos Daily Current Affairs [16-09-23]

             AMIGOS IAS Daily Current Affairs [16th Sept 2023]

1.1  GST Appellate Tribunal

Why is it in the news?

  • Recently, the Indian Finance Ministry has officially notified the establishment of 31 Appellate Tribunals for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) across 28 States and 8 Union Territories.
    • Prior to this notification, industry players had been resorting to approaching High Courts and the Supreme Court to resolve taxpayer disputes with the Revenue Department.
  • The first set of GST tribunals is expected to become operational between November and January 2024.
  • These tribunals are expected to provide relief to taxpayers who have faced high pre-deposit requirements.

More about the news

  • The establishment of GST Appellate Tribunals aims to expedite adjudication and provide tax certainty, especially for recurring litigative issues.
  • It is expected to contribute to a faster and more economical resolution of cases, boosting business sentiments and ease of doing business in India.
  • As of June 30, there were over 14,000 pending appeals from taxpayers regarding central GST levies, indicating a 20% increase from the previous quarter.
  • Uttar Pradesh will have the most benches with three, while Karnataka and Rajasthan will have two each, and Maharashtra and Goa will have three combined.
  • Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Gujarat, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu will each have two benches, and West Bengal, Sikkim, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands will share two benches in Kolkata.
  • The northeastern States will have one tribunal bench in Guwahati, with circuit benches in Aizawl, Agartala, and Kohima to be activated based on the volume of appeals.
Goods and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT)
  • The Goods and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT) is mandated by Section 109 of the CGST Act, 2017.
  • It specializes in resolving disputes related to GST laws at the appellate level.
  • The principal bench is located in New Delhi, and states can decide on the number of benches or boards they need with GST council approval.
  • Each bench consists of two judicial members and two technical members, with a senior judicial member from the State High Court on the selection panel.
  • The GSTAT is typically headed by a former Supreme Court judge or a former Chief Justice of a High Court.
  • It holds the same powers as a court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and is deemed a Civil Court for trying cases.
  • The GSTAT can hear appeals, issue orders, and directions, including those for recovering amounts due and enforcing its orders.
  • It has the authority to impose penalties, revoke or cancel registrations, and take necessary measures to ensure compliance with GST laws.
  • The tribunal may resolve disputes involving dues or fines of less than Rs. 50 lakhs through a single-member bench.

1.2  India’s Trade Deficit

Why is it in the news?

  • India’s foreign trade in August saw a decline in goods exports for the seventh consecutive month.
  • The goods trade deficit in August reached a 10-month high, standing at $24.16 billion.
    • Goods exports in August decreased by 6.86%, but the rate of decline eased compared to previous months, resulting in a total of $34.5 billion in exports.
  • Services exports, which had been growing at a strong rate, are estimated to have shrunk by 0.4% in August, reaching $26.39 billion.

Trade Deficit

  • Trade deficit occurs when a country’s import payments exceed the receipts from its exports.
  • It arises in international trade when a nation’s imports surpass the income generated from its exports.
  • Trade deficit is often referred to as a negative balance of trade.

1.3  PM Cares Fund

Why is it in the news?

  • Recently, the Supreme Court of India has asked the Centre whether the benefits provided under the PM Cares Fund to children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic can be extended to other parentless children.

More about the news

  • CJI has emphasized that an orphan is an orphan regardless of whether the parents died due to COVID-19, a road accident, or illness, and suggested extending the assistance to all orphans.
  • The Supreme Court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition filed by Poulomi Pavini Shukla in 2018, and the matter has been pending for several years.
  • The court suggested that the government could include orphans, especially those from socially and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, in the category of “children belonging to disadvantaged groups” under the Right to Education Act, which mandates free and compulsory education.
Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund)
  • PM CARES Fund is a dedicated fund established in 2020 to provide relief during emergency or distress situations, including public health emergencies and natural disasters.
  • It operates as a public charitable trust registered under the Registration Act, 1908.
  • Objectives include providing assistance for healthcare facilities, infrastructure, research, financial aid to the affected population, and any other related activities.
  • The fund is chaired by the Prime Minister of India and includes ex-officio Trustees from the Ministries of Defence, Home Affairs, and Finance.
    • Additional Trustees, nominated by the Prime Minister, are eminent individuals in various fields such as research, health, science, social work, law, public administration, and philanthropy.
  • PM CARES Fund relies entirely on voluntary contributions from individuals and organizations and does not receive budgetary support.
  • Donations to PM CARES Fund qualify for 80G benefits, providing 100% exemption under the Income Tax Act, 1961.
  • Contributions to the fund can also be counted as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expenditure under the Companies Act, 2013.
  • The fund is exempted under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) and maintains a separate account for receiving foreign donations.

1.4  Jal Jeevan Mission

Why is it in the news?

  • Though official reports claim 100% household tap connections in some villages, but many lack taps or receive limited water.
    • Despite official claims, reliance on groundwater through handpumps continues in many villages.
  • Challenges include continuous water supply and laying pipes in difficult terrains.

Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)

  • Launched on August 15, 2019, Jal Jeevan Mission falls under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • Jal Jeevan Mission’s primary objective is to provide safe and sufficient drinking water to all rural households in India through individual household tap connections by 2024.
  • The JJM defines an (Functional Household Tap Connection) FHTC household as one where at least 55 liters of potable water per person per day is available.
  • It emphasizes activities such as grey water management, water conservation, and rainwater harvesting to promote sustainable water use.
  • The mission adopts a community-based approach to water management and includes extensive Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) efforts to create awareness and involvement at the grassroots level.
  • The funding pattern for the mission varies:
    • 90:10 for Himalayan and North-Eastern States.
    • 50:50 for other states.
    • 100% for Union Territories.
  • The mission aims to:
    • Assist states and UTs in planning rural water supply strategies.
    • Develop water supply infrastructure to provide Functional Tap Connections (FHTC) to every rural household by 2024.

1.5  Genetically Modified (GM) Crops

Why is it in the news?

  • The adoption of science-based technologies for crop improvement such as genetic engineering for developing genetically modified (GM) crops as a supplement to conventional breeding methods has become an absolute necessity to address the burgeoning and complex challenge of achieving global food and nutritional security under the fast-changing climate.
  • According to the global Food Security and Nutrition Report, 2019, it is difficult to achieve the ‘Zero Hunger’ target by 2030.

More about the news

  • The Green Revolution significantly enhanced food production, but new biotech/GM crops are needed to combat climate change and produce nutrient-dense food.
  • GM crop adoption is widespread globally, benefiting over 1.95 billion people in 72 countries, especially in developing nations.
  • GM crops have contributed $224.9 billion in economic benefits to more than 16 million farmers, with a focus on economic advantage for developing countries.
  • GM crops have been proven safe for biosafety over the past 25 years.
  • India faces a major edible oil deficit, with 60% of demand met by imports, making mustard crop productivity crucial for self-sufficiency.
    • Genetic engineering efforts have created a GM mustard hybrid (DMH-11) with higher yield and vigour, addressing edible oil production needs.
      • DMH-11 uses the barnase/barstar system to enhance male fertility and herbicide tolerance for better selection of genetically transformed lines.
  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) approved the release of DMH-11 and its parental line for cultivation, boosting genetic engineering research and mustard hybrid development in India.
  • Cultivation of GM mustard hybrids can increase yield per hectare, raise farmer incomes, reduce edible oil import burden, and promote self-reliance in edible oil production.
  • The environmental release of DMH-11 signifies a new era in self-reliance and sustainability in Indian agriculture, emphasizing the need for more improved GM food crops to benefit Indian farmers.
GM Crops in India
  • GM crops are derived from plants whose genes are artificially modified, usually by inserting genetic material from another organism, in order to give it new properties, such as increased yield, tolerance to herbicide, resistance to disease or drought, or improved nutritional value.  
  • Bt cotton is the only GM crop approved for cultivation in India.
    • Bt cotton contains genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that produce a protein toxic to the pink bollworm pest and allow the plant to resist glyphosate herbicide.
  • Bt brinjal has genes that provide resistance against fruit and shoot borer attacks.
  • Recently, the Government has approved the environmental release of Genetically Modified (GM) Mustard hybrid DMH-11.
    • DMH-11 mustard allows cross-pollination in a crop that naturally self-pollinates.
  • Globally, GM variants of maize, canola, and soybean are also available.
Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)
  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is a statutory body constituted under the ‘Rules for the Manufacture, Use /Import /Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineering Organisms or Cells, 1989’ notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • GEAC operates under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
  • Its primary role is to appraise activities involving the large-scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production with an environmental perspective.
  • GEAC is also responsible for evaluating proposals regarding the release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms and products into the environment, including experimental field trials.
  • The committee is chaired by the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of MoEF&CC and co-chaired by a representative from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

1.6  Planet Boundaries

Why is it in the news?

  • According to a new study, the world has breached six of the nine planetary boundaries necessary to maintain Earth’s stability and resilience.

Planet Boundaries

  • In 2009, 28 internationally renowned researchers identified and quantified a set of nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and feel good in the future.
    • If we cross these limits, abrupt or irreversible environmental changes can occur with serious consequences for humankind.
  • The boundaries include climate change, biodiversity loss, ozone depletion, ocean acidification, nutrient cycles, land-system change, freshwater use, aerosol loading, and introduction of novel entities.
About the Study
  • An update to the 2009 planetary boundaries framework.
  • Researchers identified key Earth ecosystem processes for human well-being over the past 12,000 years.
  • Assessed how human activities are altering these processes.
  • Identifying the level at which human activities raise the risk of dramatic and irreversible environmental changes.
Findings of the Study
  • Six of the nine boundaries breached.
  • Breached boundaries include climate change, biodiversity loss, land system change, freshwater use, nutrient cycles, and introduction of novel entities.
  • Atmospheric CO2 concentration exceeded the safe limit.
  • Extinction rates are far higher than the safe limit.
  • Human impacts on water resources surpassed safe boundaries.
  • Phosphorus and nitrogen cycle limits exceeded.
  • Introduction of new substances into the environment has transgressed the boundary.
  • Stratospheric ozone depletion, aerosol loading, and ocean acidification are within safe limits but pose increasing risks.


  • Breaching boundaries increases the risk of irreversible environmental changes.
  • These changes could disrupt the Earth’s ecosystems and threaten human civilization.

1.7  G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance in 2023

Why is it in the news?

  • The G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance are the international standard for corporate governance.
    • It was first issued in 1999 and the revised Principles were endorsed by G20 Leaders in 2023.
G20/ OECD Principles of Corporate Governance
  • Objective: Enhance legal, regulatory, and institutional framework for corporate governance to support economic efficiency, sustainable growth, and financial stability.
  • Scope: Applies to publicly traded companies, with consideration for smaller and unlisted companies.
  • Non-Binding: These principles are not legally binding and do not replace national laws.
  • Monitoring: Used as benchmarks globally and monitored through mechanisms like the OECD Corporate Governance Factbook.
  • Structure of the Principles:
  • Ensuring an effective corporate governance framework, including digital technology risks.
  • Rights and equitable treatment of shareholders, addressing conflicts of interest.
  • Institutional investors, stock markets, and intermediaries, with a focus on prohibiting insider trading and market manipulation.
  • Disclosure and transparency, covering capital structures, group structures, voting rights, and annual external audits.
  • Responsibilities of the board, emphasizing fairness to shareholders, transparent board nomination, and election processes.
  • Sustainability and resilience, highlighting corporate governance policies related to sustainability and consistent disclosure with international standards.

Corporate Governance

  • Involves balancing the interests of various stakeholders like shareholders, management, customers, suppliers, government, and the community.
Ethical Issues with Corporate governance in India
  • Conflict of Interest: Managers potentially enriching themselves at the cost of shareholders.
  • Weak Boards: Lack of diversity and experience in boards.
  • Separation of Ownership and Management: A challenge in family-run companies.
  • Role of Independent Directors.

1.8  National Strategy for Robotics (NSR)

Why is it in the news?

  • Recently, a draft National Strategy for Robotics” (NSR) was released by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in India.

Key components of the draft NSR

  • Implementation of robotics in sectors like manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, and national security, aligning with the Make in India 2.0 Framework.
  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) will oversee the NSR through the ‘National Robotics Mission’ (NRM).
  • Recognizes Industrial, Service, and Medical Robots as key categories.
  • Identifies core areas for robotics application, including Manufacturing, Healthcare, Agriculture, and National Security.
  • Fiscal and non-fiscal interventions by NRM to support innovation in robotics, including funding mechanisms for start-ups and export promotion.
  • Establishment of a regulatory framework led by the Robotics Innovation Unit (RIU) for proper governance and regulation of robotics technology.
  • Creation of Centres of Excellence (CoE) in Robotics for foundational and applied research, with private sector involvement in application-based research.
  • Plans for providing advisory support to start-ups, utilizing research potential in higher education institutions, and developing robotics industrial zones.
  • Proposed policy where the central government acts as a demand aggregator for domestically manufactured robotic systems, incentivizing domestic production.
Robotics in India
  • Robotics involves the design, construction, operation, and application of robots coupled with computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing.
  • India ranks 10th globally in terms of annual industrial installations of robots as per the World Robotics Report for 2022.
  • India has strengths in the Future of Work, including robotics, AI, IoT, cloud computing, and more.
  • Robotics can be used for precision seeding, micro-spraying, weed removal, and more.
  • Collaborative robots (Cobots) can work alongside skilled workers.
  • Use of robotics for greater efficiency and upskilling opportunities.
  • Employment Scope in Sectors like manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, packaging, FMCG, and inspection.

1.9  Project Samudrayaan

Why is it in the news?

  • Indian scientists are gearing up for an ambitious project called Samudrayaan, which involves sending three people 6,000 meters underwater in a domestically developed submersible named Matsya 6000.
  • This mission aims to explore the ocean depths of precious metals and minerals such as cobalt, nickel, and manganese.

About Matsya 6000

  • Matsya 6000 is a domestically developed submersible for deep-sea exploration.
  • It has been in development for nearly two years.
  • The submersible will undergo its first sea trials in the Bay of Bengal off the Chennai coast in early 2024.
  • Its design has been meticulously reviewed, considering materials, testing, certification, redundancy, and standard operating procedures.
  • The submersible’s design includes a 2.1-meter diameter sphere made of 80mm-thick titanium alloy, capable of withstanding the immense pressure at 6,000 meters depth (600 times greater than sea level pressure).
  • It is designed to operate continuously for 12 to 16 hours and has a 96-hour oxygen supply.
Mission Samudrayaan
  • Mission Samudrayaan is part of the Deep Ocean Mission in India.
  • Sea trials at a depth of 500 meters are planned for the first quarter of 2024.
  • The full realization of the mission is expected by 2026.
  • It aims to explore the ocean depths for precious metals and minerals such as cobalt, nickel, and manganese.
  • India joins a select group of countries, including the US, Russia, Japan, France, and China, that have developed manned submersibles.
  • In addition to mineral exploration, Matsya 6000 will investigate the chemosynthetic biodiversity in hydrothermal vents and low-temperature methane seeps in the ocean.

1.10     World Food Price Index

Why is it in the news?

  • The United Nation’s FAO recently reported that the world food price index fell to a new two-year low, reversing a previous month’s rebound.
    • Most food commodities experienced decreases, except for rice and sugar prices.

About FPI

  • The Food Price Index (FPI) is a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities.
  • It consists of the average of five commodity group price indices, which include:
  • Cereals
  • Oilseeds
  • Dairy products
  • Meat
  • Sugar

       Each of these commodity group price indices is weighted with the average export shares of each group.

  • The FPI is used to monitor and report on changes in global food prices, reflecting the overall trends and fluctuations in food commodity markets.

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