Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Current Affairs – 12th & 13th July 2023

DAILY ENRICHMENT PROGRAMME

 

Today Topics List:

  1. Anthropocene

  2. Sweden’s bid to join NATO

  3. Uniform 28% tax on Online Gaming: GST

  4. Chandrayaan-3 and Moon’s south pole

 

GEOGRAPHY & DISASTER MANAGEMENT

Anthropocene

    • Scientists said, sediments at Crawford Lake in Canada’s Ontario have provided evidence of the beginning of the Anthropocene epoch.
    • The Anthropocene epoch as a term was coined by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen and biology professor Eugene Stoermer in 2000.
    • It is used to denote the present geological time interval, in which the Earth’s ecosystem has gone through radical changes due to human impact, especially since the onset of the Industrial Revolution.
      • Members of the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), the 35 geologists have estimated that the new epoch started sometime between 1950 and 1954.
      • They revealed the findings after analysing the lake’s bottom sediments, which have over the years captured the fallouts of
    • large-scale burning of fossil fuels,
    • explosion of nuclear weapons,
    • and dumping of plastic and fertilisers on land and in water bodies.
      • The data show a clear shift from the mid-20thcentury,takingEarth’s system beyond the normal bounds of the Holocene epoch.
        • Notably, not all geologists agree that the Anthropocene epoch is a reality.
        • There are disagreements regarding when it began, if it has already begun, or if there is enough evidence to prove its advent.
      • There are numerous phenomena associated with this epoch, such as global warming, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, mass-scale soil erosion, the advent of deadly heat waves, deterioration of the biosphere and other detrimental changes in the environment.
      • Source: http://geologylearn.blogspot.com/2017/03/anthropocene.html

 

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Sweden’s bid to join NATO

    • Sweden, a long Neutral country applied for NATO membership together with Finland, after more than a year, while Finland was inducted, Sweden is waiting for the accession.
      • This is because new entries must be approved by all existing members and Sweden is being blocked by Turkey and Hungary.
      • Recently, Turkey’s president has agreed to send NATO’s accession documents to Turkish Parliament for approval.

Farewell to Neutrality:

  • Sweden hasn’t fought a war in two centuries, it also declined to take sides during both world wars and throughout the cold war.
  • Though it joined European Union in 1995 and gradually improved cooperation with NATO, Stockholm until last year ruled out applying for membership, with public opinion firmly against it.
  • As the Russia – Ukraine war started and Russian tanks rumbled across the Ukrainian border and missiles struck Kyiv and other cities, public opinion shifted in both Finland and Sweden.
  • Opposition of Turkey:
  • Turkey said it could not welcome the Nordic nations as NATO allies unless they cracked down on groups that Ankara views as security threats, including the banned Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK.
    • PKK has led a decades long insurgency in Turkey.

Response of Nordic nations:

  • Both Finland and Sweden signed a deal with Turkey last year at NATO’s summit in Madrid, where they both agreed to resume weapons export to Turkey.
    • The weapon exports were suspended following a 2019 Turkish incursion into Kurdish areas in northern Syria.
  • They also tightened anti- terror laws, and step-up efforts to prevent PKK’s activities in their countries.

Issues:

  • Things got complicated in January 2023, when incidents such as hanging an effigy of Erdogan and activists from Denmark burned Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.
    • Ankara then froze NATO talks with Sweden, while allowing Finland to Join NATO in April.
  • Then it again turned bad, when a refugee from Iraq staged another Quran burning protest last month outside a mosque in Stockholm.
  • While, anti-Erdogan protests have gathered pro-Kurdish and far left demonstrators in Sweden, with several anti-Turkish incidents taking place, they made headlines in Turkey and other Muslim countries – turned this into an Islamophobic narrative.
    • Sweden is stressing that government does not condone Quran burning but cannot stop them citing freedom of speech.

 

ECONOMY

Uniform 28% tax on Online Gaming: GST

    • The Goods and ServicesTax(GST)Council Tuesday decided tolevyauniform28%tax onfullfacevalueforonlinegaming,casinos and horse-racing.
      • While the government hasmaintained thedecisionisnot intended toharmany industry, online gaming companiesare alarmed,as this is likely to affect their viability
    • The uniform levy of 28% will be applicable on the face value of the chips purchased in the case of casinos, on the full value of the bets placed with bookmaker/totalisator in the case of horse racing, and on the full value of the bets placed in case of online gaming.
    • The government will amend the GST related laws to include online gaming horse racing in Schedule III as taxable actionable claims.
      • An actionable claim is defined as goods under the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017.
      • So far, lottery, betting, and gambling were classified as actionable claims, but horse racing andonline gamingwerenot.
      • Manystate financeministershadraisedconcernsover thegrowingaddictiontoonlinegaming,especially among children.
    • AGroupofMinisters(GoM)wasconstituted to look into the issues related to taxation on casinos, horse racing and online gaming,which submittedits first report in June 2022.
      • The GoM had recommended a uniform 28% rate for casinos, race courses andonlinegamingonthefull value of the consideration paid (contest entry fee/bets pooled/coinspurchased,etc.).
      • Ithadalsorecommendedthat nodistinctionshouldbemadeonthebasisof anactivitybeinga gameof skillorof chance or both.
      • After Goa raised reservations,the Councildecided fora review of the report.

Online Gaming Market:

  • The revenue of the Indian mobile gaming industry is estimated to reach $5 billion in 2025.
  • The Indian industry grew at a CAGR of 38% between 2017-2020, as opposed to 8% in China and 10% in the US.
  • India’s percentage of new paying users (NPUs) in gaming was the-fastest growing in the world for two consecutive years, at 40% in 2020 and reaching 50% in 2021

How will the Tax work?

  • At present, most gaming companies pay a tax of 18% applicable on the platform fee.
    • To illustrate, let’s assume that the platform fee—the commission the game as charging from a player to participate in a contest –was 10%.
    • So,for every Rs 100 deposited in the game, the platform makes Rs 10.
    • The 18% GST was applicable on the Rs 10. This meant that effectively, on every Rs 100,the GST on it was Rs.1.8.
  • However, under the new structure, a GST of 28% will be applicable on the entire face value of the betor the consideration paid, and not the platform fee.
    • Meaning that for every Rs.100 deposited,the GST on it will be Rs.28.
    • In effect, under the new regime, the GST that online games of skill will have to pay will increase by around 15.6 times.

Who is Impacted:

  • The decision has been taken to bring in equity in taxation whether it is gaming or gambling.
  • Thus, it also hits companies that have spent years in lobbying efforts to create a distinction between a game of skill and a game of chance
  • Essentially trying to distinguish themselves from gambling platforms. As such, online gaming is perhaps the only segment of the internet economy that has multiple highly profitable companies.

 

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY & HEALTH

Chandrayaan-3 and Moon’s south pole;

    • Chandrayaan 3, India’s third lunar mission is the follow up to ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 mission.
      • Chandrayaan-2 ended in partial failure in September 2019, after its lander and rover could not execute the planned soft landing on the lunar surface.
      • Chandrayaan-3 will reach lunar orbit almost a month after the launch, whereas its lander and rover are likely to land on moon on 23rd
      • The Landing site is almost similar to the earlier launch plan, I.e the close to the south pole of the Moon latitude 70 degrees.
      • If succeeded, Chandrayaan 3 will become the world’s first mission to soft land near the lunar south pole.

All other lunar launches and their launch sites:

  • All previous spacecraft to have landed on the moon have landed in the equatorial region, afew degrees latitude north or south of the lunar equator.
  • The spacecraft that has landed the farthest from the equator so far is NASA’s Surveyor 7 – 40 degrees south latitude.
  • China’s Chang’e 4 mission, which in January 2019 became the first space craft to land on the far side of the moon [the side that does not face the Earth] descended on the lunar surface near 45-degree latitude.

Why Equator is a preferrable landing site:

  • It is easier and safer to land near the lunar equator, where the terrain and temperature are more hospitable and conducive for long and sustained operation of the instruments on board.
  • The surface in this region is even and smooth, very steep slopes are almost absent, and there are few hills or craters.
  • There is abundant sunlight, at least on the side facing the Earth, offering a steady supply of energy for solar powered instruments.

Conditions at Poles:

  • The polar regions of the moon are very different, difficult terrain, where most regions close to lunar poles lies completely in dark region where sunlight never reaches.
  • The temperature can fall below -230 degrees Celsius. [ the coldest on earth can be -92 degrees at some points on a high ridge on the East Antarctic Plateau.]
  • The absence of sunlight and the extremely low temperatures make it difficult to operate instruments.
  • The lunar surface here is littered with deep craters of sizes ranging from a few centimetres to several thousand kilometres.

Geography of Lunar poles:

  • Unlike earth, whose spin axis is tilted with respect to the plane of earth’s solar orbit by 23.5 degrees, the Moon’s axis tilts only 1.5 degrees.
    • Because of this unique geometry, sunlight never shines on the number of floors of a number of craters near the lunar north and south poles.
    • These regions are known as permanently shadowed regions (PSRs).
  • A 2019 NASA report, from the data of Diviner instrument on board LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) which measures temperatures across the Moon including PSRs, indicate that some surfaces are cold enough so that water is stable at the surface.

What is India’s interest in South Pole:

  • Due to the environment and the difficulties, it presents, the polar region remained unexplored, but evidences from several orbiter missions shows that this region could hold several secrets.
  • The indications that ice molecules are present in substantial amounts in some of the deep craters, detected by two instruments on board India’s Chandrayaan -1 mission, detected the presence of water.
  • Also, the extremely cold temperatures in this region may mean anything trapped here is likely to remain frozen in time, without undergoing much change.
  • The rocks and soil at the north and south poles of the moon could provide clues to the early Solar system.

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