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Daily Current Affairs – 19th March 2021

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Daily Current Affairs

Given below are the daily current affairs for 19th March 2021. You can take the daily current affairs quiz here for free.

POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

SC to hear plea against sale of electoral bonds

Context:

Chief Justice of India has agreed to urgently hear a plea by an NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms to stay the sale of a new set of electoral bonds on April 1, before the Assembly elections in crucial states such as West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

Issue:

  • The NGO voiced serious apprehensions about the sale of electoral bonds before elections.
  • The NGO argued that the data obtained through RTI had shown that illegal sale windows had been opened in the past to benefit certain political parties.
  • It said that the scheme had opened doors to unlimited political donations, even from foreign companies, thereby legitimising electoral corruption at a huge scale, while at the same time ensuring complete non-transparency in political funding.
  • It reminded the court that both the RBI and the Election Commission had objected to the electoral bond scheme.
  • Further, advocate Prashant Bhushan said that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Election Commission had both said that the sale of electoral bonds had become an avenue for shell corporations and entities to park illicit money and even proceeds of bribes with political parties.

Electoral Bonds:

  • Electoral bonds are instruments/securities that are used to donate funds to political parties.
  • The Finance Act of 2017 introduced the use of Electoral Bonds. They are exempt from disclosure under the Representation of People’s Act, 1951.
  • Contributions received by any eligible political party in the form of electoral bonds will be exempt from income tax.

ECONOMY

Roads to be freed of toll booths in a year: Gadkari

Context:

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways informed the Lok Sabha that India will implement a GPS-based toll collection system and do away with all toll booths within a year.

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Details:

  • The toll collection will happen via GPS.
  • 93% of the vehicles have already started paying toll using FASTag — a system that facilitates electronic payment of fee at toll plazas seamlessly — but the remaining 7% had still not adopted it despite paying double the toll.

Vehicle Scrapping Policy:

  • Details of the vehicle scrapping policy were also shared.
  • It was first announced in the Union Budget for 2021-22.
  • The new policy provides for fitness tests after the completion of 20 years in the case of privately owned vehicles and 15 years in the case of commercial vehicles. Any vehicle that fails the fitness test or does not manage the renewal of its registration certificate may be declared as an ‘End of Life Vehicle’.
  • All government vehicles and those owned by PSUs will be de-registered after 15 years.
  • According to the policy, the automobile industry in India will see a jump in turnover to ?10 lakh crore from ?4.5 lakh crore.
  • It would reduce pollution, improve fuel efficiency, and increase the government’s revenue collection from the sale of new vehicles.
  • To encourage owners to take their old vehicles to scrapping centres, the government has announced several incentives, including advisories to the States to give up to 25% rebate in road tax for personal vehicles and up to 15% rebate for commercial vehicles.
  • The government will also offer a waiver of registration fees on the purchase of new vehicles.
  • Timeline:
    • The policy will kick in for government vehicles from April 1, 2022.
    • Mandatory fitness testing for heavy commercial vehicles will start from April 1, 2023.
    • For all other categories of vehicles, including personal vehicles, it will start in phases from June 1, 2024.
  • The Ministry has proposed that commercial vehicles be de-registered after 15 years in case of failure to get the fitness certificate, and a private vehicle will be de-registered after 20 years if it fails fitness certification.

Rajya Sabha passes Bill to raise FDI limit in insurance sector

Context:

The Rajya Sabha passed the Insurance Amendment Bill, 2021. The bill will be sent to the Lok Sabha for approval.

  • The bill increases the maximum foreign investment allowed in an insurance company from 49% to 74%.

Criticisms:

  • Opposition parties raised concerns about the clause enabling “control and ownership” by foreign investors.
  • It was pointed out that big insurance firms were not in shortage of capital and that the Bill differed from the government motto of “Atmanirbhar Bharat”.
  • It was highlighted that the insurance firms had managed to get FDI even up to the present limit of 49%. Justification to increase the limit was also sought.

Details:

  • The Finance Minister assured that the policy holder’s money would not leave Indian shores and have to be compulsorily invested here.
  • It was argued that more FDI would mean greater competition and thus better-negotiated premiums for the end-user.
  • Under the new structure, the majority of directors on the board and key management persons would be resident Indians, with at least 50% of directors being independent directors.
  • It was highlighted that the key management personnel would have to be Indians and therefore would be governed by Indian laws.
  • The increase in FDI limit is expected to encourage foreign insurers to bring more capital into the country which has a huge potential for growth in the sector.

Note:

In 2015, the government hiked the FDI cap in the insurance sector from 26% to 49%.


INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

‘India has assured Sri Lanka of support’

Context:

A new resolution on Sri Lanka’s human rights record will be put to vote at the UN Human Rights Council.

Background:

  • The human rights situation in Sri Lanka has worsened since Gotabaya Rajapaksa became President in 2019.
  • Tamil communities in the north and the east fear increasing abuses.

Details:

  • Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary has said that India has assured Sri Lanka of its support at the UN Human Rights Council.
  • Sri Lanka had sought India’s proactive support at the UN Human Rights Council, where a resolution on the country will be soon put to vote.

MISCELLANEOUS

Digital Green Certificates

  • The European Commission has unveiled a “digital green certificate” that could allow EU citizens who have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from Covid-19 to travel more freely within the bloc.
  • The certificate will be available, free of charge, in digital or paper format. It will include a QR code to ensure the security and authenticity of the certificate.
  • The certificate can be issued by authorities, including hospitals, testing centres and health authorities. Once the proposal for digital certificates is finalised, it will be accepted in all EU countries and will help to ensure that the restrictions imposed in different areas within the EU can be lifted in a coordinated manner.

What is the need for such a document?

  • In the EU and across the world, the tourism industry has been severely impacted due to the spread of the disease.
  • Many countries have, therefore, been contemplating digital certificates or passports that will be proof that a person has been vaccinated or has recovered from COVID-19.

Russia hosts Afghan peace meet

What’s in News?

Russia hosted a peace conference for Afghanistan.

  • It brought together government representatives and Taliban adversaries along with international observers.
  • The conference was organised in a bid to help jump-start Afghanistan’s stalled peace process.
  • The attempt at mediation comes as Doha talks have stalled.
  • It is the first of three planned international conferences ahead of a May 1, 2021 deadline for the final withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan.
    • The date was fixed under an agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban.

Note:

  • Moscow, which fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with Soviet troops’ withdrawal in 1989, has made a diplomatic comeback as a mediator in Afghanistan.
  • It has reached out to feuding factions as it competes with the U.S. for influence in Afghanistan.

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