GS Paper III – Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

Lost’ Chandrayaan-1 found orbiting Moon by NASA

What’s Happening-
India’s first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1, which was considered lost, is still orbiting the moon, NASA scientists have found by using a new ground-based radar technique.

Key Points discussed were:

  • The ISRO lost communication with Chandrayaan-1 on August 29, 2009, almost a year after it was launched on October 22, 2008.

Scientists at NASA said:

  • Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California have located the spacecraft still circling some 200 km above the lunar surface.
  • Finding Chandrayaan-1 required a bit more detective work because the last contact with the spacecraft was in August of 2009.
  • Chandrayaan-1 is very small and cuboid in shape, about 1.5 metres in length on each side. Although the interplanetary radar has been used to observe small asteroids several million miles from the earth, researchers were not certain that an object of this size could be detected as far away as the moon.
  • JPL’s orbital calculations indicated that Chandrayaan-1 is still circling some 200 km above the lunar surface, but it was generally considered “lost.”

Conclusion for Finding:

  • Chandrayaan-1 was predicted to complete one orbit around the moon every two hours and eight minutes. Something that had a radar signature of a small spacecraft did cross the beam twice during four hours of observations, and the timings between detections matched the time it would take Chandrayaan-1 to complete one orbit and return to the same position above the moon’s pole.

Background-
Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first lunar probe, making India the fourth country to place its flag on the Moon
It was launched by the  in October 2008, and operated until August 2009.
The mission included a lunar orbiter and an . India launched the spacecraft using a  rocket, serial number C11, on 22 October 2008 from ,PM  announced the project on course in his Independence Day speech on 15 August 2003.
The mission was a major boost to India’s space program, as India researched and developed its own technology in order to explore the Moon.The vehicle was successfully inserted into lunar orbit on 8 November 2008.
The lunar mission carried five ISRO payloads and six payloads from other space agencies including , , and the , which were carried free of cost.Among its many achievements, the greatest achievement was the discovery of the widespread presence of water molecules in the lunar soil.

GS Paper III – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Direct tax receipts climb 10.7%

What’s Happening-

  • Net direct tax collections up to February grew 10.7% as compared with the same period of the previous financial year, while net indirect tax collections increased 22.2% during the same period.

Key Points discussed were:

According to a government statement: 

  • The collection net of refunds stands at ₹6.17 lakh crore, which is 10.7 % more than the net collections for the corresponding period last year.
  • This collection is 72.9 % of the total Budget Estimates for direct taxes for financial year 2016-17.
  • During February 2017, net indirect tax collections grew 8.4%, with customs, central excise and service tax collections growing 10.9%, 7.4% and 7.6%, respectively. This was slower than the 16.9% growth in net indirect collections in January 2017, when customs, central excise and service tax collections grew was 10.1%, 26.3% and 9.4%, respectively.

Reflecting slowdown:

  • In the earlier part of the year, it was customs collections that grew at a slower rate.
  • Now, domestic indirect taxes (excise duty and service tax) are also reflecting the slowdown in the economy. This implies a poor performance in Q4 brought on largely by demonetisation.
  • Within direct tax, corporate tax collections grew 11.9% while personal income tax collections grew 20.8%. However, after accounting for refunds, these growth rates stand at 2.6% and 19.5%..
  • For direct taxes, this is slightly lower than what they had estimated and it is more because of the underperformance of the corporate income tax and this is because of the slowdown of the economy. On the slowdown, it started even before demonetisation.
  • The figures for indirect tax collections (central excise, service tax and customs) up to February 2017 show that net revenue collections are at ₹7.72 lakh crore, which is 22.2% more than the net collections for the corresponding period last year.
  • Within indirect taxes, net central excise collections stood at ₹3.45 lakh crore during the April 2016-February 2017 period compared with the ₹2.53 lakh crore collected during the corresponding period of the previous financial year, which amounts to a growth of 36.2%.
  • Net service tax collections during the period grew 20.8% to ₹2.21 lakh crore.
  • Net customs duty collections grew 5.2% to ₹2.05 lakh crore in the April 2016 to February 2017 period.

What’s Happening-

  • Net direct tax collections up to February grew 10.7% as compared with the same period of the previous financial year, while net indirect tax collections increased 22.2% during the same period.

What is Direct Tax?

  • Broadly, there are two types of taxes that the Indian government levies on its citizens – direct tax and indirect tax.

Definition or Meaning:

 Direct taxes are those which are paid directly to the government by the taxpayer.

Examples of Direct Taxes In India:

  • Key examples of direct taxes are
  1. Income tax
  2. Wealth tax
  3. Corporation tax
  4. Capital Gains Tax
  5. Securities Transaction Tax

The Central Board of Direct Taxes in India:

  • Direct taxation in India is overseen by the Central Board of Direct Taxes or the CBDT, which was formed as a result of the Central Board of Revenue Act, 1924.
  • The CBDT is a part of the Department of Revenue in the Ministry of Finance and is responsible for the administration of the direct tax laws. It also provides inputs and suggestions for policy and planning of the direct taxes in India.
  • The CBDT is the hub and nexus of all direct taxation policy and enforcement.
  • It is headed by a CBDT Chairman, and comprises of six members who are also Special Secretary to the Government of India.

Benefits of Direct Taxation:

  • Equitable: The burden of direct taxes can’t be shifted, and an equitable sacrifice of income and wealth can be achieved from all sections of society through progressive taxation.
  • Economical: Income tax and most other forms of direct taxation are done at source with the help of TDS (Tax Deduction at Source), and are hence not a problem for the government to collect.
  • Certainty: There is a sense of certainty from the taxpayer and the government, as each know how much to pay and how much to expect to collect respectively.
  • Productivity: Direct taxes are very productive in the sense that as the working population andcommunity grows, so do the returns from direct taxation.
  • Consciousness of duty: When people consciously pay their taxes, they can claim the right to know how their money is being spent by the government.
  • Creates equal distribution of wealth: The government charges more taxes from those that can afford them, and uses this money to uplift the lower and poorer sections of society.

Sources- The Indian Express, The Hindu. Page 19

GS Paper III  Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices;

Addressing the soil health crisis

What’s Happening-

Indiscriminate fertiliser use is driven by the compulsion to maximise short-term yields. Soil health cards need to improve.

Key Points discussed were:

  • The government, seems determined to promote more judicious use of fertilisers.
  • The Prime Minister launched a nation-wide “Soil Health Card” (SHC) scheme in early 2015 to rejuvenate India’s exhausted soil.
  • Using a grid-wise approach, representative soil samples from the fields are tested for nutrient content in designated chemical laboratories.

How SHC works:

  • Accordingly, macro and micro nutrients needed by the soil are identified and translated into specific, measured quantities of fertilisers required.
  • This information, printed on the SHC, is made available to the farmers in that grid through the state agricultural departments.
  • Thirty million SHCs were issued in 2015-16 and the Ministry of Agriculture aims to cover the entire farming population by 2018-19.
  • In addition, on a pilot basis, the soil health information is made available at fertiliser purchase points —Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) and POS devices-enabled fertiliser retail shops. However, farmers still buy large amount of fertiliser, disregarding SHC recommendations.

Micro-Save Report:

  • Micro-Save recently conducted a study into farming practices in two paddy-producing districts of Andhra Pradesh (West Godavari and Krishna) and elicited farmers’ views on fertilisers, soil health and SHCs.
  • Farmers appear convinced that there is a perfect causal correlation between high fertiliser usage and more output.
  • As a corollary, they believe their farmlands have ‘good soil health’ if they yield the desired output. Farmers are not concerned that they need not use increasing amount of fertiliser to ensure this ‘good soil health’! In fact, they are not sure that the advice based on the SHC can be relied upon; especially when they perceive that the yield might improve by using ‘just a little more’ fertiliser.

Why SHCs are not easy to use??

  • SHCs are not easy to use—they give general recommendations regarding the quantity of fertilisers required over the entire crop season whereas, in reality, fertilisers should be used in varying amounts over the different stages of the crop growth.
  • So, even those farmers who start with the intention to use less fertiliser as a result of the SHCs ultimately have to fall back on their own judgement to decide on the amount of fertiliser to be used at each stage of the cropping cycle.

Recent Government Measures and Needed Measures:

  • The government has started to provide recommendations on the SHC as per the crops sown. But more needs to be done. The farmers need SHC recommendations tailored according to crop growth stages.
  • Promotional campaigns must deconstruct the myth of “more fertilisers” as a panacea for better yields.
  • Soil health must be positioned as crucial to the long-term productivity of land, which will be irredeemably lost if the focus is only on present income flows.
  • A behavioural approach based on understanding farmers’ realities needs to be used. Many farmers are share-croppers seeking to maximise short-term yields with little care or concern for the long-term health of the soil. Others, who own their land, do not expect their children to farm and “live off the land”. So, they aim to maximise short-term yields to finance the education seen as the passport to a job and freedom from the toil of farming.
  • It is essential that the government executes this initiative with attention to detail.
  • The SHC scheme can go a long way in ensuring long-term food security of over 1.25 billion Indians.

 

Background-
The Green Revolution, probably the greatest achievement of post-independence India, heralded an era of food sufficiency riding on the use of chemical fertilisers.
Now, 50 years on, soil health is rapidly declining.
There is ample evidence to show that indiscriminate use of fertilisers is the major cause of deteriorating soil health.
Indian farmers apply around 66 million tonnes of fertilisers every year, which accounts for a significant share of India’s imports and subsidies.

Sources- The Indian Express, The Hindu. Page 21