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AUGUST 3, 2017

Illegal miners must pay back in full: Supreme Court

  • Noting that “very powerful and vested interests or a failure of nerve” have thwarted the objective of the decade-old National Mineral Policy to prevent the theft of precious natural resources of the country, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed that mining companies and leaseholders, who have engaged in mining activities without forest or environmental clearance, will have to pay the public exchequer compensation equivalent to 100% value of the minerals they extracted illegally.
  • The court’s decision to lay down the law that miners should reimburse to the public the entire value of minerals they had extracted illegally comes despite the Supreme Court’s own Central Empowered Committee’s advice to reduce the compensation to 30% instead of a 100%.

Global warming cuts protein in key crops

  • Rising carbon dioxide levels from global warming will drastically reduce the amount of protein in staple crops like rice and wheat, leaving vulnerable populations at risk of growth stunting and early death, experts warned on Wednesday.
  • An additional 150 million people globally may be at risk of protein deficiency by 2050 because of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere said the report in the journal Environmental Research Letters .

Africa, Asia hardest hit

  • Protein was not the only nutrient to take a major hit. Other research has shown that rising CO2 will cut key minerals like iron and zinc in staple crops, leading to further nutritional deficiencies worldwide.
  • Researchers calculated that by 2050, higher CO2 concentrations will sap the protein contents of barley by 14.6%, rice by 7.6%, wheat by 7.8%, and potatoes by 6.4%.
  • The hardest hit areas are expected to be Sub-Saharan Africa, where millions already don’t get enough protein in their diets, and South Asia where rice and wheat are common staples.

Rise against corruption: SC exhorts the common man

  • The Supreme Court on Wednesday gave a clarion call to the public to rebel against corruption, no matter how big the odds are. It said that is the only way to slash the tentacles of a vice that has spread across all arms of the State.

“Supine attitude”

  • The court said the lack of awareness and the “supine attitude” has only encouraged the corrupt.
  • The public would reap the benefits of liberalization and government welfare programmes only if there is effective and clean leaders at the helm. The court found that unbridled consumerism and fall in moral values have acted as fodder for corruption to grow deep roots within the bureaucracy and leadership.
  • The verdict, dealing with the infamous 1993-95 NOIDA land allotment scam, upheld the conviction of former Uttar Pradesh chief secretary Neera Yadav and an IAS officer Rajiv Kumar.

WCO to unveil norms for e-commerce trade

  • The World Customs Organization (WCO) will soon bring out guidelines on ‘cross-border e-commerce’, which will focus on preventing illegal trade as well as addressing the challenges stemming from the ‘digital divide’, according to the WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya

Working groups

  • The WCO has a Working Group on e-Commerce and four sub-groups. To develop guidelines on cross-border e-commerce, the work packages identified are: ‘trade facilitation and simplification of procedures’, ‘safety and security’, ‘revenue collection’, and ‘measurement and analysis’. According to the UN body ‘UNCTAD’, the value of online trade jumped from $16 trillion to $22 trillion between 2013 and 2015.
  • In an article on e-commerce, the WCO’s Director of Compliance and Facilitation Ana Hinojosa pointed out that in many countries, there were de minimis thresholds that allow low-value packages to enter a country with little or no duties or taxes, and with much more simplified procedures.

‘Clever manipulations’

  • “This has led to clever manipulations by either the shipper or the consumer to avoid the extra charges by splitting invoices, undervaluing the invoices or mis-declaring the items altogether,” wrote Ms. Hinojosa.
  • Another type of manipulation used was to classify the item as something else or claiming a different country of origin for the product, to take advantage of better duty or tax rates, the WCO official said, adding that these distortions had had an impact on many countries’ revenue collection volumes.

Banks should reduce rates for existing borrowers too: RBI

  • With commercial banks having a tendency to reduce interest rates only for prospective customers in order to push new business, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel said he expected lenders to pass on lower loan costs to borrowers who had not received the full benefit of the reductions in the policy rate.
  • On Wednesday, the RBI cut the policy repo rate by 25 basis points (bps) to 6%. A percentage point comprises 100 bps.
  • The banking regulator noted that banks mainly reduced rates for segments where competition was high as in the case of home loans and personal loans.
  • The central bank has reduced the repo rate by 200 bps since January 2015.
  • While banks cut the marginal cost of funds based lending rate (MCLR) sharply in January — by up to 90 bps — the reduction in the base rate, which was the earlier loan pricing regime, was much lower. Since MCLR has been operational only from April 2016, a large proportion of loans are still linked to the base rate and such borrowers have not benefited to the extent of the new borrowers.

Centre mulls ‘One Nation, One Licence’ in new telecom policy

  • The Centre will consider including a ‘one-nation one-licence’ regime in the new telecom policy that is set to come out next year, Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said on Wednesday.
  • The move, if implemented, is likely to remove the distinction between local and STD calls, as service providers will not need separate licences for operations in various parts of the country. A single licence would suffice.

Ease of doing business

  • The Secretary, who met representatives from the industry, including operators, infrastructure providers, equipment makers and handset makers to discuss the new policy, assured them that the government was committed to bringing in changes that would enhance the ease of doing business.


Tiger reserve to lose 75% of protective cover

  • The protective cover around the Kali Tiger Reserve – Karnataka has been severely reduced as the State government has bowed to “public pressure” to limit the extent of the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around the forest.

Disease gene ‘edited’ in human embryos

  • Scientists in the United States have repaired a disease-causing mutation in the DNA of early-stage human embryos, they said on Wednesday, taking a step closer to engineering babies free of inherited disorders.
  • The team’s successful use of the CRISPR “gene editing” tool in viable embryos was hailed as a technical feat by outside experts, who called at the same time for deeper debate on the ethics of altering human DNA.