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Current Affairs - 12 March 2016


General Affairs 

National Herald Case: Court Allows Subramanian Swamy's Plea To Summon Congress Documents
  • National Herald Case: Court Allows Subramanian Swamy's Plea To Summon Congress DocumentsNEW DELHI:  A Delhi court today allowed a plea by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and summoned certain documents pertaining to financial details of Indian National Congress (INC) for the year 2010-2011 in the National Herald case.

    Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen partly allowed Mr Swamy's plea in which he had sought summoning of documents related to financial details of INC, Associated Journals Pvt Ltd (AJL) and Young Indian Pvt Ltd (YI) in connection with the case.

    Besides INC's documents for the year 2010-2011, the court also summoned AJL's documents for the same assessment year. "I am partly allowing your application," the magistrate said while pronouncing the order.

    Mr Swamy had sought summoning of these documents contending that they were required for the purpose of investigation in the National Herald case.

    He had referred to the court's June 26, 2014 order summoning Congress President Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi, Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda as accused in the case.

    Mr Swamy, the complainant in the matter, had said that sufficient grounds for summoning these documents were mentioned in June 26, 2014 order.

    The court had heard his contentions on summoning the balance sheet, receipts, income and expenditure statements for the assessment years 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 of the INC, AJL and YI.

    Mr Swamy had accused Mrs Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and others of allegedly conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by just paying Rs. 50 lakh by which YI obtained the right to recover Rs. 90.25 crore which the AJL had owed to the Congress party.

    On February 20, the court had directed that some documents summoned from the Ministries of Finance, Urban Development and Corporate Affairs, Income Tax Department and other agencies in the case would be kept in a sealed cover till further orders, after noting that Delhi High Court was seized of the matter.

    The direction had come after the accused in the case had argued that Mr Swamy should first satisfy the court about the relevance of the documents which were ordered to be summoned.

    The court had on December 19, 2015, granted bail to Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes and Suman Dubey, who had appeared before it pursuant to the summons issued earlier. Mr Pitroda was granted bail on February 20 when he had appeared in the court.

    Mrs Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Mr Vora (All India Congress Committee Treasurer), Mr Fernandes (AICC General Secretary), Mr Dubey and Mr Pitroda were summoned for alleged offences under section 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) read with section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

Supreme Court Dismisses Plea Seeking Changing Name From India To 'Bharat'
  • Supreme Court Dismisses Plea Seeking Changing Name From India To 'Bharat'
    NEW DELHI:  The Supreme Court today dismissed a plea demanding changing the name of 'India' to 'Bharat' as it took strong exception to the petitioner asking him whether he thinks it has nothing else to do and reminded him that Public Interest Litigations (PILs) are meant for "poor".

    "The PIL is for poor people. You think we have nothing else to do," a bench comprising Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice UU Lalit said while rejecting the PIL.

    The bench told Niranjan Bhatwal, a social activist from Maharashtra who filed the PIL, that such pleas should not be entertained.

    "Bharat or India? You want to call it Bharat, go right ahead. Someone wants to call it India, let him call it India," it said.

    Earlier, the bench, then headed by Chief Justice of India HL Dattu, had sought responses from the Centre, the states and Union Territories on the plea which called for restraining the Centre from using the name of India for any government purposes and in official papers.

    The plea had sought a direction to NGOs and corporates that they should use term 'Bharat' for all official and unofficial purposes.

    The PIL said in the Constituent Assembly, the prominent suggestions for naming the country were "Bharat, Hindustan, Hind and Bharatbhumi or Bharatvarsh and names of that kind".

Congress Slams PM Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal Over Art Of Living Event
  • Congress Slams PM Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal Over Art Of Living EventNEW DELHI:  The Congress today accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of "blatant political and constitutional impropriety" by supporting and participating in the World Culture Festival.

    "The support and participation of both in an event that has been legally held to be an 'ecological disaster' and a wrongdoing punishable by a fine, characterises gross hypocrisy of the BJP and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)," said Congress spokesperson PL Punia.

    "While organising a World Culture Festival to showcase Indian culture is a welcome step, one is left to wonder as to why should it be organised by destroying one of the most sacred and vibrant symbol of our cultural heritage- the Yamuna. Why couldn't it have been organised at a rather open place or a stadium?" Mr Punia asked.

    The National Green Tribunal today gave three weeks to organiser Art of Living (AoL) to pay environmental compensation of Rs. 5 crore for holding the World Culture Festival on the Yamuna floodplains in Delhi.

    AoL told the tribunal that it will abide by the ruling and sought four weeks to deposit Rs. 5 crore.

    The tribunal said that the AoL should pay Rs. 25 lakh today and the balance in three weeks.

    "One is also forced to wonder as to what brand of spiritualism upholds environmental destruction. We have witnessed blatant collusion between the government of India, the government of Delhi and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in organising an event which will result in a body blow to the holy Yamuna flowing besides the national capital," said Mr Punia.

    The Delhi High Court had earlier described the proposed World Culture Festival as an "ecological disaster".

    "The very fact that the NGT decided to fine the organisers AOL and the governments of India and Delhi, prima facie establish that the event is illegal and will result in irreparable damage to the Yamuna. Why is an illegal and environmentally degrading event being allowed to take place by the governments concerned?" asked Mr Punia.

    "While Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma gave a grant of Rs. 2.25 crore to the event, a hand-in-glove Kejriwal's minister Kapil Mishra wrote to the defence ministry urging them to build more pontoon bridges for the cultural event," he added.

    The AoL's three-day cultural extravaganza started today on a colourful note. The organisers have already spent Rs. 25.63 crore for the event.

Bill To Make Marriage Laws More Women-Friendly Shelved
  • Bill To Make Marriage Laws More Women-Friendly ShelvedNEW DELHI:  Government today indicated that it has put in cold storage a bill to make marriage laws more women-friendly and allow both parties to file for divorce on the ground of "irretrievable breakdown" of marriage.

    In a written response, Law Minister DV Sadananda Gowda informed the Rajya Sabha that "at present there is no proposal to bring any legislation in this regard."

    He was asked whether the government intends to reintroduce the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to include 'irretrievatable breakdown of marriage' as a ground for divorce.

    Earlier, Law Ministry officials had said they have received numerous representations from people and organisations opposing the provisions of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill.

    The Ministry had circulated a draft cabinet note on the Bill for inter-ministerial consultations in September, 2014. But based on the representations, the ministry had decided to examine the matter further before taking a final call.

    The bill was earlier brought by the UPA government. It had struggled for a consensus on the bill after it was first introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2010. It was referred to the Union Cabinet on four occasions for changes. It was finally passed in August 2013 in the upper house but could not be cleared by the lower house. It lapsed will the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014.

    According to the draft, marriage laws will become more women-friendly with a slew of measures being proposed including providing for sufficient compensation for the wife and children from the husband's immovable property in case of a divorce.

    Seeking to put an end to prolonged legal battles in divorce cases, the Law Ministry had proposed that courts will be free to exercise discretion in granting divorce after three years if one of the partners does not move a second 'joint application' for divorce with mutual consent.

    There is a provision for ensuring compensation for the wife and children from the husband's immovable property in case of a divorce and the amount will be decided by the court.

    The proposal, which seeks to alter the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Special Marriage Act, 1954, introduces the option of divorce on grounds of "irretrievable breakdown of marriage".

Congress Will Fight Assam Polls Against PM Modi's Injustice: Tarun Gogoi
  • Congress Will Fight Assam Polls Against PM Modi's Injustice: Tarun GogoiGUWAHATI:  The Congress's fight in the Assembly elections in Assam will be against the unfair treatment the state has received at the hands of the central government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said in Guwahati today.

    "Our fight in the April polls is going to be against the wrong policies of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and Prime Minister Modi against Assam and the injustice meted out to the state and other part of the region," Mr Gogoi told reporters.

    Sarbananda Sonowal and other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmakers from Assam had failed to take up the issues of the state and the region before the central government, he said.

    "So if we do not fight for the rights of the people of Assam, who will?"

    "We are going to tell the people that we have the capacity and capability to fight against the central government over their wrong policies and injustice. We have been fighting for last two years and we can fight," he said.

    The alliance between the BJP and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) showed them up as power hungry parties, said the three-time Assam Chief Minister.

    "There is no common minimum programme between them and both the parties are different ideologically. And yet the first thing they did after having the alliance is seat sharing," said Mr Gogoi.

    "I believe that the Congress government has done good works in the last 15 years and people will vote us to power again for the sake of development and progress," he said.

    Mr Gogoi, nevertheless, wished Assam BJP president Sarbananda Sonowal and BJP Lok Sabha lawmaker Kamakhya Prasad Tasha good luck.

    Mr Sonowal is set to contest from Majuli Assembly constituency in Jorhar, the home district of Chief Minister Gogoi.

    Mr Tasha is to be pitted against Mr Gogoi in Titabor Assembly constituency.

    "If I have done good works in Titabor and people are happy, they would vote for me. I just want to wish good luck to Tasha," he added.

Business Affairs 

    Sensex closes 95 points higher
    • A benchmark index of equities markets, the 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex), on Friday provisionally closed the day's trading 94.65 points, or 0.38 per cent higher.
      The wider 50-scrip Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) also provisionally closed trading in the green-higher by 24.05 points or 0.32 per cent-at 7,510.20 points.
      The BSE Sensex, which opened at 24,620.39 points, provisionally closed at 24,717.99 points, up 94.65 points or 0.38 percent from the previous day's close at 24,623.34 points.
      The Sensex touched a high of 24,817.80 points and a low of 24,552.26 points during the day's trade.

      IT sector jobs to remain stable at least till 2020: Ravi Shankar Prasad
      • Jobs in the Indian IT sector are likely to remain stable at least till 2020 as per a report from World Economic Forum, Parliament was informed on Friday.
        "According to a research report from WEF released recently, jobs in India's IT sector are likely to remain stable at least up to 2020," IT and Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply to Rajya Sabha.
        Prasad further said according to Nasscom, the Indian information technology (IT) and information technology enabled services (ITeS) industry continues to be the largest private sector employer and a net hirer of personnel and employs about 3.7 million people.
        "Further, as per Nasscom-Mckinsey study 'Perspective 2015', about 1.2-2 million people will be added to the IT-ITeS workforce by 2020," the minister said.

        Crisil downgrades 8 public sector banks, puts Syndicate Bank on negative watch
        • Credit rating agency Crisil has downgraded eight PSBs including Bank of India and Canara Bank, following deterioration in their asset quality and also revised the outlook on five of them to negative.
          The agency also placed the rating on Syndicate Bank on negative watch list. The state-run banks whose ratings have been downgraded are Bank of India, Central Bank of India, Corporation Bank, Dena Bank, IDBI Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Syndicate Bank and Uco Bank.
          Those whose outlooks have revised down are Andhra Bank, BoB, Canara Bank, PNB and Punjab and Sind Bank, Crisil said in a report.
          Significant stress in the corporate loan book of public sector banks (PSBs) is expected to result in their weak assets ballooning to Rs 7.1 trillion by March 2017 (11.3 per cent of total loan book) from around Rs 4 trillion as of March 2015 (7.2 per cent of loan book).
          Steep rise in NPAs, expected further surge in stressed assets and the consequent hit on profitability and capital will dent credit profiles, Crisil said.
          The agency, however, said the ratings on 10 other Crisil-rated state-run banks have been reaffirmed wherein four of them carry a "negative" outlook.
          "Our rating actions are driven by expectation that their asset quality problems will remain acute and continue through most of the next fiscal. The resultant impact on profitability and capitalisation can further dent the credit profiles over the medium term," Crisil said.
          The report expects NPAs to remain high driven by stretched cash flows of highly leveraged corporates (mainly in infrastructure, metals and real estate), continued proactive recognition of stressed assets by banks, and limited ability of banks in the current environment to recover from exposures to large corporates that have slipped into NPAs.
          Another reason for the downgrades is the earnings profile of most PSU banks which has deteriorated with many expected to report a full-year net loss this fiscal.
          The report said the bottomline will be hit further with banks being told to migrate to the marginal cost of funds-based lending regime from April, coupled with the proportion of zero income-generating bad assets in the loan book rising, which will crimp the net interest margin in the near-term.
          "This, coupled with loan loss provisioning at a number of PSBs surpassing pre-provisioning profit, due to increased slippages and a rising inventory of ageing NPAs, could result in many PSBs reporting a loss even for the next fiscal," the report added.

          FM Arun Jaitley says 164 ponzi firms vanished after raising public money
          • FM Arun JaitleyAmid reports that liquor baron Vijay Mallya has fled the country, with Kingfisher Airline under Rs 9,000 crore debt from banks, here comes another news that around 164 ponzi companies are currently being probed by central agencies for duping customers across the country.
            Cases pertaining to the 164 ponzi or chit fund companies have been assigned to the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) for investigation, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in Lok Sabha during Question Hour and released a list of these firms against which inquiries are in progress.
            The Minister said the government has taken a number of steps to check cases of corporate frauds and protect interests of the investors of all such ponzi schemes.
            The action includes incorporating 'fraud' as a substantive offence in the Companies Act, 2013, granting statutory status to the SFIO under the law, stricter norms of corporate governance and their implementation.
            "Greater application of technology for early and preliminary identification of cases involving frauds through data analysis and usage of forensic tools etc., is being promoted," Jaitley said.
            Several states have framed laws to deal with ponzi scheme-related cases, besides the SEBI and SFIO too have taken action against offenders, he said.
            CBI probe has been initiated in a large number of cases, many people were prosecuted and arrests made  while several promoters continue to be in jails, he said, adding the Enforcement Directorate has also attached properties of many promoters under PMLA.
            The Minister said the central government has decided to set up a central authority under the law so that proper action can be taken against the guilty. 

            Need to Catalyse the Rural Sector
            • It was expected that the Union Budget this year will highlight issues relating to agriculture and rural sectors than on other sectors of the economy. This expectation was indeed fulfilled. Agriculture and rural sectors were two of the nine pillars of the transformative agenda of the Budget. As government interventions have been pervasive in every aspect of the agricultural economy, the new proposals point to some reorientation of priorities, general expansion of ongoing schemes and new initiatives. The distress in farm sector, accentuated by the failure of monsoon rains for two consecutive years, has required a reassessment of the role the government could play in the sector.
              The vulnerability of small holdings to the twin shocks of yield and price fluctuations are important issues that need to be addressed. While the upside provides opportunities for optimism, the downside leads to distress. But the small size of holdings has not helped in raising investment on the farm to a level where the fluctuations are evened out and farm income growth can keep pace with the growth of income in other sectors.
              The most conspicuous phrase in the Budget speech was of course the 'doubling of farmers' incomes in five years', as challenging as the double digit rate of economic growth. Translated, this is a huge increase of some 15 per cent per year and would indeed be a formidable target. The best performance of the sector in recent years is the growth rate of agricultural GDP by slightly less than 4 per cent during the Eleventh Five Year Plan period. Of course, reducing the post-harvest losses, in some cases said to be in excess of 30 per cent of the produce, restoring bloated marketing margins to reasonable levels and transferring some of the gains to farmers and some to consumers will help increase farmers' incomes to a significant level. However, an ambitious target may help improve outlook for the sector which, today, remains struck by two weak monsoon years. In some ways, the Budget has pointed to a longer term strategy for the sector than just the new financial year.
              Moving from the goal of raising agricultural production to raising farmers' incomes is an important change in looking at the sector's performance. On average, the return from farming has remained low and volatile for a majority of farmers. Even doubling of the income may not be a significant improvement, as compared to the income earned by average salaried employees. Diversification of sources of income of cultivators has become a norm to sustain income levels and growth of income for the farm households. In this sense, increasing farmers' incomes will have to be seen in terms of increasing income earning opportunities for rural households, including farm households. It is here that the proposals that may catalyse the rural sector will also have a positive impact on farmers' incomes.
              In the case of agriculture itself, the Budget has presented proposals to expand irrigation, conserve soil nutrients, improve flow of credit, marketing reforms, expansion of MSP coverage across the country, livestock enterprises, modernising land records, expansion of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, moving up the value chain and so on. There is also an expectation that the state governments will also do their bit to support such measures, particularly in irrigation and marketing reforms. The Budget provisions do show a decline in subsidies for 2016/17, including allocations for fertiliser and food. While the feedstock prices scenario may help rein in fertiliser subsidy, in the case of food subsidies, reduction may have to come from greater efficiency in handling the food procurement and distribution system.
              The two consecutive years of weak monsoon have highlighted the impact of such supply side shocks on the farm sector dominated by small holdings. In this sense, an effective crop insurance programme would be far more supportive of maintaining farm incomes than the relatively smaller initiatives. The Budget also has not talked about greater allocations to farm sector research, but made a mention of the competition for KVKs. Support for farm research would be extremely critical in sustaining the farm sector's competitiveness and coping with weather fluctuations in the coming years as the impact of climate change is likely to increase. There are interesting initiatives such as roping in fertiliser companies to provide services such as soil and seed testing, and marketing support for organic farming produce.
              The Budget proposals for rural development remain positive for improving rural infrastructure and, as a consequence, growth of the non-farm sector in the rural economy. Given that rural economy accounts for more than 40 per cent of the entire national output, improved rural infrastructure would have an impact on the overall economy as well. More importantly, improved rural economy would also benefit farmers substantially. The Budget has attempted to achieve greater convergence of NREGA with the creation of assets relevant to the farm sector.
              A striking feature of this year's Budget is the cess proposed on a few items, revenue from which is to be used for activities relating to agriculture and farmers' welfare. We need to move to a strategy wherein we allocate a certain proportion of expenditure to programmes for agriculture and farmers' welfare, which increase farm income to achieve goals of food security and farm prosperity. Increasing farm size is also important to increase incomes of households dependent on farm income. In this context, creating opportunities in non-farm sectors, especially in rural areas, is necessary to increase income of farm households. The longer term vision for agriculture and rural sectors has many complementa rities to benefit one another. 

            General Awareness

            Project ‘Mausam’ of M/O Culture aims to explore Multi-Faceted Indian Ocean ‘World’

              • Ministry of Culture has initiated Project “Mausam” which is to be implemented by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as the nodal agency with research support of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) and National Museum as associate bodies.
                Project ‘Mausam’ of M/O Culture aims to explore Multi-Faceted Indian Ocean ‘World’
                Prime Objectives of the Project:
                • This initiative is to explore the multi-faceted Indian Ocean ‘world’ – collating archaeological and historical research in order to document the diversity of cultural, in Indian Ocean– extending from East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent and Sri Lanka to the Southeast Asian archipelago.
                • In addition it also envisages research on themes related to the study of Maritime Routesthrough international scientific seminars to encourage the production of specialized works, as well as publications for the general public.
                This Scheme is different from China’s ambitious One belt One Road (Silk Road Initiative). The move focuses on monsoon patterns, cultural context, maritime trade routes and coastal landscapes and examines key processes and phenomena that link different countries along the Indian Ocean.
                Silk Road Initiative:
                This initiative is focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries primarily in Europe and Asia landmass.
                Project Mausam:
                • It was launched at 38th Session of World Heritage Committee meeting which was held at Doha, Qatar in June, 2014.
                • Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in collaboration with State Govt. of Kerala organized a National Conference on Project ‘Mausam’ in Kochi in November, 2014.

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