International Energy Agency (IEA) Ministerial Meeting

The 2017 IEA Ministerial Meeting was recently held in Paris. The focus of the meeting was on global energy challenges and how they can be overcome.

Participants included representatives from the 29 IEA member countries; accession countries Chile and Mexico; association countries China, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Singapore and Thailand; and partner countries Brazil and South Africa. CEOs from 30 top global energy companies also attended the meeting.

About IEA:

Founded in 1974, the IEA was initially designed to help countries co-ordinate a collective response to major disruptions in the supply of oil, such as the crisis of 1973/4. While this remains a key aspect of its work, the IEA has evolved and expanded significantly.

The four main areas of IEA focus are:

  • Energy Security: Promoting diversity, efficiency, flexibility and reliability for all fuels and energy sources;
  • Economic Development: Supporting free markets to foster economic growth and eliminate energy poverty;
  • Environmental Awareness: Analysing policy options to offset the impact of energy production and use on the environment, especially for tackling climate change and air pollution; and
  • Engagement Worldwide: Working closely with partner countries, especially major emerging economies, to find solutions to shared energy and environmental concerns.

Functions:

The IEA examines the full spectrum of energy issues including oil, gas and coal supply and demand, renewable energy technologies, electricity markets, energy efficiency, access to energy, demand-side management and much more.

Through its work, the IEA advocates policies that will enhance the reliability, affordability and sustainability of energy in its member countries and beyond.

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Government Doubles Import Duty on Wheat to 20 Percent

The government doubled the import duty on wheat to 20 percent to curb cheap shipments and give positive price signal to farmers in the ongoing Rabi season.

It also imposed an import duty of 50 percent on peas to check cheaper shipments from countries like Canada.

The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) in a notification said that it seeks “to (i) increase rate of basic customs duty on Peas, (Pisum sativum) from present Nil rate to 50%. (ii) increase rate of basic customs duty on wheat from 10% to 20%.”

In March, the government had imposed 10 percent import duty on wheat to contain sharp fall in local prices in view of a bumper crop of 98.38 million tonnes in 2016-17 crop year (July-June).

As farmers have started planting of rabi (winter) wheat crop, the government wants to give positive price signal and encourage farmers to grow wheat in more area.

The government does not want wheat growers to follow the way of pulses farmers who shifted to other crops this kharif season as prices remained low just before the sowing period owing to a bumper crop last year.

India produced a record 22 million tonnes of pulses in 2016-17 crop year which led to a fall in domestic prices, even below the MSP.

Moreover, the country also imported about 5 million tonnes of pulses last fiscal.

The import duty on peas has been imposed to curb shipments and boost domestic prices.

Recently, the government had also imposed quantitative restrictions on the import of other pulses like tur.

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Composition scheme for GST

The advisory group set up to suggest changes to the GST Act recently deliberated on how to expand the scope of the composition scheme as well as rationalise the reverse charge mechanism process.

About the Composition scheme:


The composition scheme is an alternative method of levy of tax designed for small taxpayers whose turnover is up to Rs 1 crore-Rs 50 lakh in the case of eight north-eastern states and the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh.

The objective behind it is to bring simplicity and reduce the compliance cost for small taxpayers.

While a regular taxpayer has to pay taxes on a monthly basis, a composition supplier is required to file only one return and pay taxes on a quarterly basis.

Also, a composition taxpayer is not required to keep detailed records that a normal taxpayer is supposed to maintain.

Key facts:

  • The scheme is optional under which manufacturers other than those of ice cream, pan masala and tobacco products have to pay a 2% tax on their annual turnover. The tax rate is 5% for restaurant services and 1% for traders.
  • As per the Central GST Act, businesses are eligible to opt for the composition scheme if a person is not engaged in any inter-state outward supplies of goods and not into making any supply of goods through an electronic commerce operator who is required to collect tax at source.
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India slips to 7th position in business optimism ranking: Grant Thornton survey

India has slipped to the 7th position this quarter in business optimism ranking in Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR) survey. Last quarter, India was ranked second in the survey.

The survey was conducted in September before the government had announced its major reforms like bank recapitalization and infrastructure investments among others. The sample size of the survey is 2,500 businesses spread across 37 economies.

India has also slipped from its 1st position last quarter to 8th position this time in terms of revenue expectations. Businesses have expressed low confidence over expected revenue in the next twelve months with 75 percent respondents hoping for an increase in the revenue.

In terms of profitability, confidence has dropped with only 54 percent respondents showing optimism as against 69 percent in the last quarter.
Besides these, slight fall was also visible in expectation for an increase in selling prices and exports. The confidence for selling prices to increase has dropped to 5th position from the 4th, with only 47 percent businesses showing optimism. The optimism for exports to increase has dropped to 8th from the 6th, with only 31 percent confident about the increase in exports.

The survey said that India’s biggest growth constraints are citing regulations, red tape and lack of Information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure. For Indian businesses shortage of finance and lack of skilled labour are the major disadvantages.

 

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Andaman’s new taste is sweet-and-sour

Edible wild banana species discovered, the second such on the island in two years.

Botanists in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been quietly going bananas. And it is not their fault, for the islands are a biodiversity hotspot that hosts seven different species of wild banana that we know of, not to mention numerous, as yet undocumented, others.

The latest discovery, published in the Nordic Journal of Botany, is of a species of wild banana named Musa paramjitiana, in honour of Paramjit Singh, who happens to be the director of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI). The species was found in North Andaman’s Krishnapuri forest, 6 kilometres from any human habitation.

The plant grows to a height of nine metres and bears an edible, sweet-and-sour tasting fruit that is boat-shaped and has numerous bulb-shaped seeds. Its conservation status has been declared as ‘Critically Endangered’ as it has so far been spotted in only two locations on the islands, each with 6 to 18 plants in a clump.

According to Mr Lal Ji Singh(a BSI scientist),who made the discovery, the fruit is part of the diet of local tribes. “The fruits and seeds have ethnomedicinal importance. Pseudo-stem and leaves of these species are also used during religious and cultural ceremonies,”

“These discoveries present a great opportunity for plant breeders and horticulture experts to improve the existing banana crop. The germplasm of all the wild banana species needs to be conserved on an urgent basis since most of these are found in very small habitats and at risk of extinction,”
In 2014, he discovered Musa indandamanensis, another wild banana, in a remote tropical rainforest on the Little Andaman island. It has dark green cylindrical flower buds.

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New ant species discovered in the Western Ghats

Researchers have discovered a new species of ant in the Western Ghats, recognised as one of the world’s ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity.
The new species was found in the Periyar Tiger Reserve. The research, published in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal Zootaxa, was undertaken by Kalesh Sadasivan and Manoj Kripakaran, members of the non-governmental organisation Travancore Natural History Society’s Ant Research Group.

Belonging to Tyrannomyrmex, a rare tropical genus of ants, the species was discovered by the team from the Vallakadavu range during an expedition a year ago. Paying tribute to their mentor and eminent myrmecologist Musthak Ali, who is regarded as the country’s ‘ant man’, the authors of the study have named the new species Tyrannomyrmex alii (or T. alii) Sadasivan and Kripakaran 2017.

According to Dr Sadasivan, Tyrannomyrmex is a rare myrmicine (subfamily of ants) ant genus that is distributed in the Indomalayan bio-region that extends from southern India and Sri Lanka to Southeast Asia.

The particular genus had been erected in 2003 with the discovery of the species, Tyrannomyrmex rex Fernández, in Pasoh Forest Reserve, Malaysia. Later, two more species that were under the same genus had been discovered; Tyrannomyrmex dux (or T. dux) from the Ponmudi hills in 2007 and T. legatus from the Sinharaja Forest Reserve in Sri Lanka in 2013. T. alli has thus become the four species of the rare genus and the second one from India. Notably, both of the Tyrannomyrmex species that have been described from the country are known from the Western Ghats range in Kerala.

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Chennai gets Unesco recognition for music

Chennai often called the cultural capital of South India, joined the elite club of world cities on Tuesday when it was included in Creative Cities Network of Unesco for its contributions to music.

The city joins two other cities in India – Jaipur and Varanasi – to have figured in the prestigious list for their contributions to music and folk arts. The dossier to nominate Chennai for the CCN was submitted a few months back to the Unesco by the Union Culture Ministry.

Once a city is included on the list, it holds cultural events for four years to highlight its USP and this is monitored by the Unesco. CCN currently has 116 member cities from 54 countries, covering various fields.

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Grahak Sadak Koyla Vitaran App

Shri Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of Railways & Coal has launched ‘Grahak Sadak Koyla Vitaran App’ benefitting customers of Coal India Limited (CIL) lifting coal through road mode.

The customer-friendly app, launched recently in Kolkata on CIL’s Foundation Day, helps achieve transparency in despatch operations, as a tool to monitor, whether the despatches are made on the fair principle of ‘First in First Out’ and keeps track of all the activities from issuance of Sale Order to physical delivery of coal by road.

The main benefits of the App for the customers, against the Sale Orders issued, include easy accessibility of the information at the click of the button, apart from transparency in the system of loading programme and despatch. The app also helps in logistics planning for the lifting of coal in tune with the loading programmes. It further helps in improved planning of procurement, production and stock management by the customers.

The main features of the app are that it provides date-wise, truck-wise quantity of coal delivered against the Sale Orders and information related to Scheme-wise, Colliery-wise, Grade-wise, customer-wise details of Sale Orders issued during a period.

In terms of loading it provides allotment verses lifting status in details from different sources truck by truck and summary of the despatch.

Coal India is addressing its customer needs in a big way and made ‘ease of doing business’ a major consumer commitment. The launching of the app is also one of the initiatives of CIL towards achieving the much cherished goal of ‘Digital India’ and transparency.

It may be recalled that CIL in a move to rush more coal to power stations, coal supplies to plants located in shorter distances have been offered through road mode from available pithead stock. As a result, power plants located within 50 Kms to 60 Kms from the mines may take as much coal from the nearest mines as they can.

During 2016-17 despatch of coal through road mode had been about 140 Million Tonnes (MTs) out of the total despatch of 542 MTs by CIL accounting for 26%. The impetus given in the current fiscal has improved movement of coal through road considerably. As of end of October 2017 the movement of coal through road mode at a little over 93 MTs accounted for 29% of the total coal despatch of 317 MTs.The road despatch during the current fiscal till October 2017 went up by 12 MTs compared to same period last fiscal.

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IBBI tightens rules on rescue plan approvals

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) has amended its Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process Regulations to ensure that as part of due diligence, prior to approval of a Resolution Plan, the antecedents, creditworthiness and credibility of a Resolution Applicant, including promoters, are taken into account by the Committee of Creditors.

This move is aimed at ensuring that the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process results in a credible and viable Resolution Plan.

About IBBI:

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India was set up on 1st October 2016 under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (Code). It is a unique regulator: regulates a profession as well as transactions.

Functions:

It has regulatory oversight over the Insolvency Professionals, Insolvency Professional Agencies and Information Utilities.

It writes and enforces rules for transactions, namely, corporate insolvency resolution, corporate liquidation, individual insolvency resolution and individual bankruptcy under the Code.

It is a key pillar of the ecosystem responsible for implementation of the Code that consolidates and amends the laws relating to reorganization and insolvency resolution of corporate persons, partnership firms and individuals.

This is done in a time bound manner for maximization of the value of assets of such persons, to promote entrepreneurship, availability of credit and balance the interests of all the stakeholders.

The organizational structure of IBBI:

The IBBI has a ten-member board including a Chairman. It has:

  • One Chairperson.
  • Three members of Central Government offices not below the rank of Joint Secretary or equivalent.
  • One nominated member from the RBI.
  • Five members nominated by the Central Government; of these, three shall be whole-time members.
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SHe-Box for Online Complaints of Sexual Harassment

WCD Minister Smt Maneka Sanjay Gandhi launched a comprehensive SHe-Box online complaint Management System for women working in both public and private organizations to lodge complaints of sexual harassment at workplace.

The SHe-Box was launched in New Delhi to ensure the effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (the SH Act), 2013.

The new SHe-Box portal offers the facility of making online complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace to all women employees in the country including government and private employees. Those who have already filed a written complaint with the concerned Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) or Local Complaint Committee (LCC) constituted under the SH Act are also eligible to file their complaint through this portal.

WCD Ministry has also produced a manual and has organized training programmes for Internal Complaint Committees and in the next significant step, the SHe-Box has been launched to provide a platform to aggrieved women to make their complaints directly so that suitable action is taken to redress their grievances.

SHe-Box portal is an effort to provide a speedier remedy to women facing sexual harassment at workplace. Once a complaint is submitted to the portal, it will be directly sent to the ICC/LCC of the concerned employer. Through this portal, WCD, as well as complainant, can monitor the progress of inquiry conducted by the ICC/LCC. This is a proactive step taken by MWCD in the wake of the worldwide social media campaign #MeToo, where women have related their experience of facing sexual harassment and abuse. The portal can be accessed at the link given below:

Link to the SHe-Box portal: http://shebox.nic.in/

Users of SHe-Box also have the option of interacting with Ministry of WCD through this portal, with an assured time-bound response. The portal also provides information on 112 institutions empanelled by MWCD to conduct training/workshops on the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace. It also has the option for resource persons and institutions willing to contribute to training on this subject in various organisations to submit their applications. SHe-Box will provide a platform to these empanelled institutes/organisations to share their capacity building activities with the Ministry which in turn will be able to monitor the activities of these institutes/organizations so empanelled from across the country.

The Ministry has published a Handbook and Training Module on the SH Act to provide information about the provisions of the Act in easy to use practical manner. The private organizations are encouraged to customize the Training Module as per their extant service rules and disciplinary procedures prescribed therein.

Ensuring the dignity and safety of women must be the first priority for any digital society. Towards realization of the vision of the Digital India programme, the Ministry is promoting utilisation of information and communication technology to achieve the goal of gender equality and women empowerment. It is an effort to utilise the digital space to enable speedier response to the complaints of women against sexual harassment at workplace.

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