IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


14th January, 2020


Inscriptions confirm presence of two medieval monasteries at Moghalmari

A study of inscriptions on clay tablets recovered from recent excavations at Moghalmari, a Buddhist monastic site of the early medieval period in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district, have confirmed the presence of two monasteries — Mugalayikaviharika and Yajñapindika mahavihara.

Details of the inscriptions:

-       The presence of two monasteries dating to the same period within a single compound is unique in eastern India.

-       The monasteries at Moghalmari date from 6th century CE and were functional till the 12th century CE.

-       Six tiny fragments of inscribed seals were found during excavations. Each of them contained a set of letters accompanied by the deer-dharmachakra symbols.

-       The inscriptions are in Sanskrit and the script is a transitional phase between later north Indian Brahmi and early Siddhamatrika.

-       The first name Yajñapindika mahavihara, implying etymologically ‘a place of sacrificial offering’ is of special significance.

-       The second name on the seals, Mugalayikaviharika, bears a phonetic resemblance to the modern name of the site, Moghalmari.

In Xuanzang’s travels

-       Archaeologists and historians point out that famous Chinese traveller Xuanzang (more widely identified as Huen Tsang), who visited India in the 7th century CE, referred to the existence of ‘ten monasteries’ within the limits of Tamralipta (modern day Tamluk in adjoining Purba Medinipur district). However, he did not refer to any specific name or location.

-       With the discovery of the site and the deciphering of the inscriptions, at least two of these monasteries are now identified.

-       It is known from Buddhist texts that Buddhist monasteries have a definite hierarchy — Mahavihara, Vihara and Viharika, which is reflected in the inscriptions, found.

-       The study provides the only contextual epigraphical proof for the existence of a viharika (Mugalayikaviharika in this case) as early as the 6th century in this part of the subcontinent.

-       The study of the inscribed seals suggests that the monastery was called Mugalayikaviharika.

-       It is believed that the name Mugalayika suggests a fair connection to the modern place-name Moghalmari.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/inscriptions-confirm-presence-of-two-medieval-monasteries-at-moghalmari/article30562580.ece


Govt. launches road accident database

The government launched a central accident database management system that will help in analysing causes of road crashes and in devising safety interventions to reduce such accidents in the country.

Integrated Road Accident Database (IRAD):

-       The Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M), has developed it.

-       The National Informatics Centre will implement it.

-       The project costs Rs.258 crore and is being supported by the World Bank.

-       The system will be first piloted in the six States with highest fatalities from road crashes — Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

-       The IRAD will be improved on the basis of the learnings from the trial, following which it will be rolled out across the country.

Road Accidents in India:

-       India sees the largest number of road fatalities in the world.

-       More than 1.5 lakh people lost their lives in road crashes in the country in 2018.

Working of Integrated Road Accident Database (IRAD):

-       The IRAD mobile application will enable police personnel to enter details about a road accident, along with photos and videos, following which a unique ID will be created for the incident.

-       Subsequently, an engineer from the Public Works Department or the local body will visit the accident site, examine it, and feed the required details, such as the road design.

-       Data thus collected will be analysed by a team at IIT-M, which will then suggest if corrective measures in road design need to be taken.

-       Road users will also be able to upload data on road accidents on a separate mobile application.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/govt-launches-road-accident-database/article30559706.ece


Supreme Court not to review Sabarimala case, to examine ‘larger issues’

A nine-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde said its objective was not to review the Sabarimala women entry case but examine “larger issues” of law.

Other larger issues:

-       Prohibition of women from entering mosques and temples.

-       Genital mutilation among Dawoodi Bohras.

-       Banning of Parsi women who married inter-faith from entering the fire temple.

Observation of bench:

-       It would not go into the legality of issues such as the practice of polygamy and ‘nikah-halala’ in Islam.

-       Basis of the Bench's judicial enquiry would be seven questions referred to a larger Bench by a five-judge Bench on November 14, 2019.

-       Nine-judge Bench was only examining propositions of law raised about religious practices believed to be essential to various religions.

-       The Bench would not go into the individual facts of the various petitions that make the body of the case before it.

Challenges by Senior Lawyers:

-       Supreme Court cannot decide on the essentiality of religious practices.

-       They drew the Bench's attention to the Shrirur Mutt judgment of the Supreme Court of 1954.

-       According to the 62-year-old verdict, the essentiality of religious practices should be decided in accordance with the religious doctrines of each faith.

-       The 1954 judgment held that any regulation could only extend to religious practices and activities, which were economic, commercial or political in their character.

-       The numerically stronger nine-judge Bench was formed to test the Shrirur Mutt verdict delivered by a seven-judge Bench, which had reduced the court's role and left the question of essentiality of religious practices to the wisdom of religious texts.

Questions for larger bench:

-       Whether a court can probe if a practice is essential to a religion or should the question be left to the respective religious head.

-       Should “essential religious practices” be afforded constitutional protection under Article 26 (freedom to manage religious affairs).

-       What is the “permissible extent” of judicial recognition a court should give to PILs filed by people who do not belong to the religion of which practices are under the scanner.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/no-intention-to-review-sabarimala-case-says-supreme-court/article30556499.ece



Retail inflation at 5-year high of 7.3% in December

Retail inflation soared to a five and a half year high of 7.35% in December 2019, with the shortage of onions driving the surge.

Details of the inflation:

-       Retail inflation based on the Consumer Price Index was only 2.11% in December 2018 and 5.54% in November 2019.

-       The hike in inflation in the ‘vegetables’ category was at 60.5% last month in comparison to December 2018.

-       Overall, food inflation rose to 14.12 per cent in December as against a negative rate of -2.65 per cent in the same month of the previous year.

-       Centre has mandated the Reserve Bank of India to keep inflation in the range of 2-6%.

Inflation: Inflation is Sustained increase in the general price level. It leads to fall in the purchasing power of money. 

Different Indices like WPI (Wholesale Price Index), CPI (Consumer Price Index) measures inflation in India.

WPI (Wholesale Price Index):  WPI is measurement of inflation based on Wholesale prices.

-        Ministry of Commerce and Industry releases it.

-        Headline Inflation is other name for it.

-        It does not include services.

CPI (Consumer Price Inflation):  CPI is measurement of Inflation at retail prices.

-        Central Statistics Office (CSO) releases it.

-        It has basket of Services and Manufacturing goods.

Headline Inflation: It is total inflation in economy. It includes price rise in food, fuel and all other commodities.

Core Inflation: Core inflation does not consider the inflation in food and fuel.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/retail-inflation-jumps-to-735-in-december-crosses-rbis-comfort-level/article30558427.ece

Govt. gets cracking on GST evaders with data analytics

The Department of Revenue has identified as many as 931 cases of fraudulent GST (Goods and Services Tax) refund claims through data analytics and has now tasked the GST data analytics wing to scrutinise all past and pending refund claims filed all over the country for inverted duty structure.

Role of data analytics in catching the fraud:

-       Refund claims worth more than ₹28,000 crores are said to have been filed by over 27,000 taxpayers so far on account of inverted duty structure.

-       To curb input tax credit (ITC) frauds, data analytics is to be done on all refunds since 2017, keeping an eye on the modus operandi of unscrupulous refund claimants or fly-by-night or shell business entities for availing fake ITC.

-       The highest number of such fraud cases have been booked in the Kolkata zone, followed by Delhi, Jaipur and Panchkula (Haryana).

-       Fraudsters created a network of over 500 entities comprising fake billing entities, intermediary dealers, distributors and bogus manufacturers of ‘hawaii’ chappals for availing and encashing fake ITC credits.

-       Through meticulous cyber-planning, fraudsters had created over ₹600 crore of ‘fake credit’ which they would have continued to encash had it not been busted.

-       It was also through data analytics that recently, GST formations had identified a few exporters with ‘star’ status who were fraudulently availing IGST refund and were untraceable at their registered addresses.

-       The GST data analytics wing had been able to identify all such cases involving fake invoicing and fraudulent tax credits, which have been encashed through the facility of IGST refund.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/business/govt-gets-cracking-on-gst-evaders-with-data-analytics/article30561224.ece

Slowing economy hitting payroll creation, says SBI report

The current economy slowdown is impacting employment generation significantly, as payroll creation, a proxy for employment generation, could be at least 15.8 lakh lower in the current financial year than the previous year.

Report findings:

-       In the previous financial year, the country had created 89.7 lakh new payrolls, as per EPFO data.

-       The EPFO data primarily covers low-paid jobs as the salary is capped at 15,000 per month.

-       Government jobs and private jobs are not within its ambit as such data had moved to the National Pension System (NPS) beginning 2004.

-       Even in the NPS category, State and central governments are [expected] to create close to 39,000 jobs less in FY20, as per current trends. Hence, the number of new payrolls created in FY20 could be at least 16 lakh lower than in FY19.

-       Extent of formalisation had declined steadily and is now currently at 9.5% of overall payroll creation versus 11% in FY19.

-       Hence, Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections may stay below the ₹1.1 lakh crore per month mark the Centre is hoping to exceed.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/business/slowing-economy-hitting-payroll-creation-says-sbi-report/article30561274.ece

Railways invites RFQ from private train operators

Indian Railways has invited interested parties to submit a Request for Qualification (RFQ) document by January 17 for selection of private parties to operate 150 passenger trains on 100 routes.

About the draft proposal:

-       The Ministry has grouped routes into 12 clusters that are to be operated through Public Private Partnership (PPP) on design, build, finance and operate basis, with a concession period of 35 years.

-       Railways will adopt a 2-stage bidding process for selecting bidders. The first stage involves qualification. Short-listed applicants will be eligible to take part in the second stage comprising Request for Proposals.

-       Each bidder is entitled to bid for a maximum of three clusters.

-       Selection would be based on highest revenue share.

-       The project work broadly includes designing, procurement, financing, operation, and maintenance of passenger trains comprising a minimum of 16 coaches with the right to collect market-linked fares.

-       Mumbai-New Delhi, Chennai-Okhla, Howrah-Chennai, New Delhi-Howrah, Shalimar-Pune and New Delhi-Patna are some of the routes.

-       The idea here is to meet the huge unmet demand that led to loss of passenger business to other modes in recent times.

-       Quoting a market assessment study, total reserve passengers were 0.65 billion, whereas waitlisted passengers were 88.5 billion.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/business/railways-invites-rfq-from-private-train-operators/article30561437.ece


Apache, Chinook helicopters to make debut at R-Day parade

Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavy lift helicopters, which were recently inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF), will make their debut over Rajpath during the Republic Day flypast on January 26, 2020.

About Apache helicopters:

-       Apache is highly agile, survivable against battle damage and is easily maintainable even in field conditions.

-       It has significant capability in mountainous terrain.

-       The helicopter has the capability to carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from the ground.

-       The ability of the helicopters to transmit and receive the battlefield picture to and from the weapon systems makes them a lethal acquisition.

About Chinook helicopters:

-       The helicopter has a fully integrated digital cockpit management system, advanced cargo handling capabilities and electronic warfare suite that complement the aircraft’s performance.

-       The helicopter is capable of airlifting diverse military and non-military loads into remote locations.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/apache-chinook-helicopters-to-make-debut-at-r-day-parade/article30559302.ece

India starts voluntary disclosure scheme for persons flying non-compliant drones

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has asked all drone owners to voluntarily register their drones before January 31, failing which they would be penalised with a prison sentence of up to two years or a fine of ₹10 lakh.

Rules for drones:

-       All drones in India must be registered on the Digital Sky portal

-       Must have a unique identification number. All drone operators must also have an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP).

-       There are seven drone manufacturers registered with it, whereas there is no data is available for the number of drones registered.

-       If a person operates a drone without registering it, he or she may be booked for endangering someone's life or for negligence with respect to machinery- both of which are crimes under the Indian penal code and carry a punishment of up to six months.

-       The person can also face a penalty under the Aircraft Act, 1936, which provides for a punishment of up to two years and a fine of up to ₹10 lakh.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-starts-voluntary-disclosure-scheme-for-persons-flying-non-compliant-drones/article30556659.ece


Five countries to discuss action against Iran

Five nations whose citizens died when an airliner was shot down by Iran last week will meet in London to discuss possible legal action.

Countries comment:

-       Countries would also discuss compensation and the investigation into the incident.

-       Suggestions from Iran that the Ukrainian International Airlines plane was downed as it flew near a sensitive military base during a time of heightened tensions were “nonsense”.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/five-countries-to-discuss-action-against-iran/article30561325.ece