Daily Current Affairs for 19th Oct 2023

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Largest Marsquake Recorded By NASA

Why in the news?

Recently, NASA’s InSight lander detected the largest quake yet recorded on Mars. The quake had a magnitude of 4.7, which is fairly modest by Earth standards but strong for our planetary neighbour.

  • The Marsquake was centred in the Al-Qahira Vallis region in the Martian southern hemisphere.
  • The quake was caused by tectonic activity—rumbling in the planet’s interior.

What is a Marsquake?

A marsquake is a quake that, much like an earthquake, would be a shaking of the surface or interior of the planet Mars as a result of the sudden release of energy in the planet’s interior.

What Caused the Quake?

  • Earth’s crust is divided into immense plates that continually shift, triggering quakes. The Martian crust is a single solid plate. However, there are still faults that are active on Mars.
  • The planet is still slowly shrinking and cooling, and there is still motion within the crust even though there are no active plate tectonic processes going on anymore. These faults can trigger quakes.

Significance of the Discovery

  • The discovery of the largest marsquake yet recorded on Mars is an exciting one for scientists. It shows that Mars is still a geologically active planet and that there is still much to learn about its interior.
  • This discovery could also help scientists to better understand the history of water on Mars.

Overall, the discovery of the largest marsquake yet recorded on Mars is a significant one that will help scientists to better understand our planetary neighbour.



Supreme Court Rules Telecom Licence Fee

Why in the news?

Recently, the Supreme Court held that payment of entry fees as well as variable annual licence fees made by telecom companies will be considered capital expenditure and not revenue expenditure, and taxed accordingly.

  • According to industry estimates, the decision could bring in additional tax liabilities for telecom companies — especially for older telcos like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea — to the tune of $1 billion in the current fiscal year.
  • The top court also set aside a Delhi High Court order that categorised licence fees before and after July 31, 1999, differently, as capital expense and revenue expense, respectively.

How Will the Order Impact Telcos?

  • Currently, telecom companies treat licence fees as an expense, claiming deductions on account of variable licence fees on a year-to-date basis for computing their tax liability.
  • After the Supreme Court’s judgement, the licence fee will have to be treated as a capital expense, with a provision for amortisation of the licence fee over the licence period. This is likely to lead to higher EBITDA/PBT and lower cash flow on higher tax outgo initially, but would likely even out over the licence holding period.
  • It is worth noting that the Supreme Court order has not clarified whether the changes will have to be made on a retrospective basis.
  • Telcos are likely to file a review petition and the actual tax liability could get delayed.

Overall, the Supreme Court’s ruling is a setback for telecom companies in India. It could lead to additional tax liabilities for the sector, especially for older telcos like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.



Backward Class Census and Sub-categorization of OBCs

Why in the news?

Recently, the Minister for Backward Classes Welfare in Andhra Pradesh, announced that the state will conduct a backward classes census.

  • The decision to conduct this census is driven by the need to determine the numerical strength of the 139 backward-class communities in the state.
  • The data collected from this census is expected to assist the government in better serving these communities. This move in Andhra Pradesh comes in the wake of the recent caste survey in Bihar.

Other Backward Classes (OBCs)

  • The term “OBC” refers to Other Backward Classes, which were identified to encompass backward or marginalized communities and castes that do not fall under the category of Scheduled Castes (SCs) or Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  • Constitutional Basis: The Constitution of India mandates affirmative action for OBCs under Article 15(4), which allows the state to make special provisions for their advancement. Article 16(4) further empowers the state to reserve appointments or posts in favour of any backward class not adequately represented in state services.

‘Backwards’ Among OBCs

  • A growing demand for reservation is directed toward the “backwards among OBCs.” This stems from the belief that a few ‘upper’ OBCs have disproportionately benefited from the 27% reservation implemented over three decades ago.

The OBC Commissions:

  • The first OBC Commission, led by Kaka Kalelkar in 1953, identified socially and educationally backward classes.
  • The second, the Mandal Commission, appointed in 1979, led to the implementation of quotas in government jobs and educational institutions for OBCs.
  • Over the years, various Indian states have developed their own criteria to distribute quota benefits among different OBC categories.
  • States like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Uttar Pradesh have all implemented their subcategorization systems.
  • In October 2017, a new commission for the subcategorisation of OBCs was constituted under Justice G Rohini. The Rohini Commission submitted its report on July 31, 2023, but its contents are not public.

Despite these challenges, backward class census and sub-categorization of OBCs are important steps towards ensuring social and economic justice for backward classes in India.

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