Summary

Page no. 1

To open coal mining sector, Govt set to auction 10 mines

The Government has decided to auction 10 mines as the initial step in opening up the commercial coal mining market in India. By this move, the Government is breaking down the 41-year-old stranglehold of Coal India Ltd (CIL) and is implemented seven months after the Centre earlier announced its decision to open the coal mining sector for commercial mining activities. Four coal mines of Odisha- namely the Chendipada, Chendipada-II, Mahanadi and Machhakata- would be auctioned in its first phase. Six other coal mines- four from Chattisgarh- namely the Shankarpur Bhatgaon II Extension, Durgapur II/Taraimar, Durgapur II/Sariya, Madanpur (North); Dongri Tal II from Madhya Pradesh and Mednirai from Jharkhand would be auctioned later. The Centre is yet to finalise the timing of the auction. Earlier in 2015, the Coal Ministry was preparing for auctioning few among the 214 coal mines which were de-allocated after the Supreme Court passed its order in 2014. The Supreme Court of India passed its order stating that companies will have to return their coal blocks by March 2015. Post this; the Coal Mines (Special Provision) Act was passed in the year 2015. As per this Act, the government became capable of auctioning mines to the private entities for mining as well as commercial sale activities. The coal auction phases for almost 45 coal producing blocks were well conducted in the seven month period from February to August. However, all these were auctioned only for captive usage by the company for sale and any commercial activities were disallowed. According to estimates stated by the Coal Ministry, the auction of the captive mines was earlier expected to get the mine-bearing states a cumulative revenue of Rs 3.5 lakh crores over a period of 30 years. However, the Coal Ministry then had to cancel all plans for conducting the fourth phase of coal auctions scheduled for January 2016. This was due to a low demand of iron, steel as well as cement plans.
Page no. 3

India-Japan Bilateral Relations

India and Japan share good bilateral relations- the strongest of all Asian relations. Both the countries engage in fruitful cultural exchanges and are also guided by rich cultural traditions. Both India and Japan also share a good political consensus which has been helpful in maintaining partnerships in various projects. The leaders of both the countries have welcomed the long standing bilateral relations over the years. The scheduled visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will witness the Japanese Minister attending a ceremony for constructing a 500 km high-speed rail link which would link Mumbai and Ahmedabad and would be built using Japanese bullet-train technologies. Earlier, the Japanese Prime Minister has applauded the development vision of Indian PM Narendra Modi and stated that the proposal of introducing bullet trains as well as high-speed railways systems in India is a lucrative venture. The Minister further expressed his desire to provide full financial, technical as well as operational support for introducing the Shinkansen system. There would also be bilateral talk meetings held in Ahmedabad- where the Japanese Prime Minister is scheduled to be in during his visit. India and Japan have since 1958 established and carried forward the values of mutually beneficial economic cooperation. Japan also is the leader of all when it comes to technology. Japan produces all the high-end technology devices and cars and also has outperformed the German car makers when it comes to implementing the technology. It is the topmost car manufacturing country since 1960. Japan is currently the third largest automotive producer in the world with an annual production of approximately 9.9 million automobiles in the year 2012. India and Japan are also engaged in investing and exploiting the talent of one another giving ample opportunities to the talent to enrich it. Apart from that, both the countries are engaged in promoting defence cooperation with navies of both countries engaged in joint naval exercises like the Malabar Naval Exercise.
Page no. 11

Sushil-Modi headed committee to monitor tech issues of GST

The Government formed a five-member Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by the deputy chief minister of Bihar, Sushil Modi for monitoring technology-related implementation issues of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The formation of GoM was taken in the 21st GST Council meeting where the states raised the difficulties faced by different taxpayers regarding the filing of GST returns on the GSTN. Other members of the GoM include Amar Agarwal- Minister for Commercial Taxes of Chattisgarh, Krishna Byre Gowda- Karnataka's Agriculture Minister, T M Thomas Isaac- Kerala's finance minister and Etela Rajender- Finance Minister of Telangana. The GoM is formed to monitor and resolve any IT challenges which are faced in the implementation of GST. The GoM would be assisted by the Chairman as well as the CEO of Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) in its works. In addition to the GoM, the government also constituted a committee which would look into the issues related to export sector and also would recommend suitable strategies for helping the export sector in the post-GST scenario to the GST Council. Post the implementation of GST; many exporters have raised concerns about difficulties in availing input taxes credit and refunds owing to high costs of working capital.
Page no. 11

Centre clears Bill to increase tax-free gratuity up to Rs 20 lakh

On Tuesday, the Centre approved a clear Amendment Bill which would increase the limit of tax-free gratuity up to an amount of Rs 20 lakhs for employees both from the public as well as the private sector. The Union Cabinet, in accordance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the introduction of the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill 2017 in Parliament. After the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill is passed, the employees which aren't covered by the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules- be it from the private or public sector- would be able to avail the tax-free gratuities up to an amount of Rs 20 lakh. This limit would be equal to all Central government employees. As per the current upper limit of gratuity under the Payment Gratuity Act 1972 is Rs 10 lakhs. With the implementation of the 7th Central Pay Commission, the limit was raised to Rs 20 lakhs for all Central employees from 1st January 2016. The Payment of Gratuity Act 1972 is applicable to establishments having 10 employees or more. The sole aim of the Act is to provide all social security for workmen post their retirement, whether the retirement is a result of any rules of superannuation or physical disablement of a vital part of the body. The move of the Centre to amend and increase the gratuity is welcoming for the employees.

Editorial

Page no. 8

Agenda for the Raksha Mantri

Prime Minister Narendra Modi decision to assign Nirmala Sitharaman as the Defence Minister (Raksha Mantri) highlights the PM's utmost confidence in the political, intellectual and administrative capabilities and qualities in Sitharaman. More so, when many across the country are in doubt whether a woman would be able to handle a tough scenario- like the Defence field sector. However, by assigning the defence sector, not only had the PM shown high confidence in Sitharaman, he has also placed a 'crown of thorns'- mostly so when the national security scenario of India is precarious in a see-saw unstable position. The new Defence Minister will not only have to tackle to pending problems but also handle current situations most carefully. Sitharaman now will have to take out time for addressing the long term national security issues and evaluate an agenda for same. Amidst numerous issues to handle, it would be beneficial for her to decide and select her priorities. India, at present, already has its hands full with many national security dilemmas- mostly leading out of political indifference as well as bureaucratic lethargy leading to egregious neglect of national security. Add to its delays in the purchase of arms and ammunition, implementation of defence reforms, construction of border roads and leaving the MoD without any ruling head for a long months time. These issues have made the national defence and security scenario precarious. India also is most dependent on other countries when it comes to acquiring arms and ammunition. The Make in India project by PM Narendra Modi has the capability to lift India out of its dependency on imports of arms and ammunition. It would also provide an added boost to industrialisation, skill development as well as job creation. Though the Make in India project would take years to attain, an initial start should be made with the disaggregation of the DRDO and DPSUs as well as their reconstitution in the strategic partnership with all private sector centres of excellence. The Defence Ministry in India is responsible for heading three operative sectors – the army, naval and air. In addition, any military operation requires the approval of the MoD which leaves it entirely dependent on the ministry. The MoD needs a good restructuring which would categorize the sectors and assists the ministry in tackling all situations effectively. This, however, should be left either to the government bureaucracy or scientists to a reputed professional.

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