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Current Affairs - 16 March 2016

General Affairs 

Enemy Property Bill Referred To Select Committee By Rajya Sabha
  • Enemy Property Bill Referred To Select Committee By Rajya SabhaNEW DELHI:  A Bill seeking to guard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China after the wars, which was passed by Lok Sabha last week, was today surprisingly referred to a Rajya Sabha House Committee for detailed scrutiny.

    The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016, which amends the Enemy Property Act, 1968 was referred to a 23-member Committee headed by BJP member Bhupender Yadav.

    The decision to refer the bill to a House Committee was taken at a meeting of leaders of groups, who wanted a detailed discussion on the measure.
    The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on March 9 with the government overruling demands by some opposition parties for sending it to the Standing Committee of Parliament.

    In the wake of the Indo-Pak war of 1965 and 1971, there was migration of people from India to Pakistan and under the Defence of India Rules framed under the Defence of India Act, the Government of India took over the properties and companies of such persons who had taken Pakistani nationality.
    These 'enemy properties' were vested by the Central Government in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India.

    The amendments include that once an enemy property is vested in the Custodian, it shall continue to be vested in him as enemy property irrespective of whether the enemy, enemy subject or enemy firm has ceased to be an enemy due to reasons such as death etc.
    The new bill also ensures that the law of succession does not apply to enemy property; that there cannot be transfer of any property vested in the Custodian by an enemy or enemy subject or enemy firm and that the Custodian shall preserve the enemy property till it is disposed of in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

    The amendments are aimed at plugging the loopholes in the Act to ensure that the enemy properties that have been vested in the Custodian remain so and they do not revert back to the enemy subject or enemy firm.

    The Enemy Property Act was enacted in the year 1968 by the Government of India, which provided for the continuous vesting of enemy property in the Custodian.

    The Central Government through the Custodian of Enemy Property for India is in possession of enemy properties spread across many states in the country. In addition, there are also movable properties categorised as enemy properties.

Kingfisher Airlines Owes About Rs. 295 Crore To Airport Authority Of India
  • Kingfisher Airlines Owes About Rs 295 Crore To Airport Authority Of India
    NEW DELHI:  Defunct Kingfisher Airlines owes the Airport Authority of India (AAI) Rs. 294.57 crore and three cases in the court have already been initiated in this regard, government said today.

    During the Question Hour in Rajya Sabha, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said that of these three cases, one is a recovery suit filed at the High Court in Mumbai while the other two are bounced cheque cases, which are slated to come up in court later this month.     

    Total dues worth Rs. 710.14 crore are owed by private airlines to the AAI, Mr Raju said, adding among the other airlines which owed money to the AAI were Indigo (Rs. 71.81 crore), Jet Airways (Rs. 41.16 crore) and Spicejet (Rs. 63.28 crore).

    As members pressed for more details, Mr Raju said legal processes have been initiated and added that "this should not have ever happened but we cannot set the clock back". He said the government would try not to make the "mistakes of the previous government."
    Upset at the Minister's remarks, Congress member Vijaylaxmi Sadho said rather than blaming the previous UPA regime, the government should say what it was doing to get the dues back.
    A Congress member also sought to know the amount owed by Air India to the AAI. The minister said Air India "owes a lot of money" and he would provide the details to the members.

Politician Chhagan Bhujbal, All Smiles Before Arrest, Weeps In Court
  • Politician Chhagan Bhujbal, All Smiles Before Arrest,  Weeps In CourtMuMBAI:  Maharashtra politician Chhagan Bhujbal, who had arrived smiling at the Mumbai office of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday morning, wept in court on Tuesday, alleging he was a victim of revenge politics by the BJP-led state government.  

    Mr Bhujbal, former Deputy Chief Minister and senior NCP leader, was arrested by the ED on Monday in a case of alleged money laundering connected to what is called the Maharashtra Sadan scam. Officials said Mr Bhujbal was arrested as he was uncooperative during 11 hours of interrogation.  

    On Tuesday, a Mumbai court said Mr Bhujbal would stay in the ED's custody till Thursday.

    "There is nothing against me. I have answered all their questions. I have served for 50 years. But they have arrested me," said Mr Bhujbal, who had told NDTV just two weeks ago that the Maharashtra government "will not dare to arrest me."

    He also said, weeping, "Is it a crime to do good work? I feel hurt. We have built one of the best state sadans in Delhi."

    Mr Bhujbal is being investigated for alleged corruption in contracts awarded for the Maharashtra Sadan or state government guest house in Delhi when he was the Public Works Department or PWD minister in the previous NCP-Congress government in the state.

    The ED claims that part of the money allegedly received as kickbacks was parked abroad and routed into India through various shell companies located across the country.

    In court today, Mr Bhujbal, 68, denied any wrongdoing, saying contracts allotted during his tenure as minister were vetted by the then Chief Minister and that he had no connections with the companies that were given contracts for the sadan.  

    "With land of 33 crores we got work worth 100 crore done. This is a cooked up story. This is all lies. They are trapping us and settling political scores," the former deputy Chief Minister said.

    Chhagan Bhujbal has been a member of the Shiv Sena and the Congress before he became a key leader of the Nationalist Congress Party or NCP. His party has said it backs him completely.

JNU Row: Pleas In Court Over Kanhaiya Kumar's Post-Release Speech
  • No Formal Representation For Repealing Sedition Law: Government
    NEW DELHI:  The speech by JNU Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar subsequent to his release on bail was the bone of contention in two pleas before the Delhi High Court seeking action against him as well as cancellation of the six-month interim relief granted to him.

    While the High Court refused to entertain the petition seeking action against the student leader for allegedly making anti-national remarks in his speech, the other plea seeking cancellation of his bail will be heard tomorrow.

    The second plea is listed for hearing tomorrow before Justice Pratibha Rani, who declined to hear the first petition seeking action against Mr Kumar, facing sedition charge in connection with an event at JNU on February 9 where anti-national slogans were allegedly raised and Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru hailed as a 'martyr'.

    The court dismissed the plea by a social activist, saying there is law and order in place for handling instances where anti-national slogans are being raised and the petitioner need not worry about the image of the nation.

    It also questioned the locus standi of petitioner for filing the petition seeking direction for action against Mr Kumar for committing sedition and to refer the matter for further probe by the Intelligence Bureau "in the interest of justice".

    The second plea was filed by a lawyer, Prashant Kumar Umrao, who has sought cancellation of Mr Kumar's bail on the ground that his speech subsequent to his release was "anti-national" and thus he violated the bail conditions.

    The petitioner has alleged "the speech and slogans given/ raised by Respondent No. 2 (Kanhaiya) and his associates was nothing but challenging the sovereignty and integrity of the nation and, therefore, clear violation of the conditions of the interim bail as same was nothing but the continuity of anti-national activities, lowering the reputation of entire country and its citizens in the entire world."

    Mr Umrao has alleged in his plea that Mr Kumar has "continued his anti-national activities on each and every day" as he made allegations in public that the Indian Armed Forces rape women in Kashmir.

    Kanhaiya Kumar was granted interim bail for six months by the high court on March 2 in the sedition case.

    JNU students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, arrested in the sedition case over a controversial event in the varsity's campus, are presently in judicial custody.

    The High Court had on March 2 while granting bail to Mr Kumar said he will "not participate actively or passively in any activity which may be termed as anti-national".

China To Release Water From Dam To Alleviate South East Asia Drought
  • China To Release Water From Dam To Alleviate South East Asia DroughtBEIJING:  China will release water from a dam in its southwestern province of Yunnan to help alleviate a drought in parts of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, China's Foreign Ministry said today.

    The water will be released until April 10 from the Jinghong dam, ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing.

    It will benefit Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, Lu added.

    China "hopes it can be of help in alleviating the drought downstream", he said.

    According to Vietnamese media, some 140,000 ha of rice in the Mekong Delta has been damaged by the drought with around 600,000 people facing drinking water shortages.

    While China and Vietnam are involved in an increasingly bitter territorial dispute in the South China Sea, the two Communist-lead countries have traditionally had close ties.

    Beijing and Hanoi have also been trying to repair ties severely harmed in 2014 when Beijing parked an oil rig in waters off the Vietnamese coast, leading to anti-China riots.

Business Affairs 

    Sensex ends 253 points lower, Nifty below 7,500 ahead of US Fed meeting; Lupin top loser

    • Sensex ends 253 pts lower, Nifty below 7,500 ahead of US Fed meeting; Lupin top loser
      A day after hitting a six-week high, the S&P BSE Sensexsettled the day 253 points lower in trade on Tuesday, while broader CNX Nifty closed below its key 7,500-mark.
      The headline indices were dragged down by shares of Lupin and as Asian equities languished after the Bank of Japan offered a bleaker view of the country's economy.
      The 30-share index ended the day at 24,551, down 253.11 points, while broad-based 50-share index quoted 7,460, down 78.15 points at close.
      Market breadth turned negative with 22 of the 30 Sensex components ending the day in red.
      Lupin was the worst performing stock on both the benchmark indices and fell over 7 per cent on reports that the USFDA has made 8-9 observations on the drugmaker's plant in Goa.

      The BOJ held policy steady as expected and said the country's exports and production have been sluggish due mainly to the effects of slowing emerging markets growth, a slightly bleaker view than the one it gave in January.
      With the global economy slowing and many countries facing deflationary pressures, investors' focus remain squarely on policy decisions from major central banks.
      Up next is the US Federal Reserve, on Wednesday. The Fed is not expected to raise interest rates, but investors will be keenly watching for clues about future hikes and the central bank's view on the economy.
      "The market is waiting to see the Fed commentary and if at all there is any decision on the rates. If it becomes too hawkish, then that could have an impact on the market," said Dipen Shah, senior vice-president at Kotak Securities.
      Data late on Monday showed India's inflation eased more-than-expected in February, which leaves the door open for the central bank to cut repo rates at its meeting on April 5.
      "There is a probability that the decision might come some time before the policy. But I think since its an annual policy, the governor may take the opportunity to cut rates and give guidance for the next year," said Shah.
      Among the gainers were oil retailers such as BPCL and HPCL, which rose 1.08 per cent and 2.48 per cent, respectively, after Credit Suisse said it believed refining margins would remain strong as demand-supply tightens.
      IDBI Bank gained 1.17 percent on a report that the Enforcement Directorate, India's law enforcement agency, has not found evidence of the state-run lender's bankers being involved in money laundering.
      Among Asian markets, Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended 0.72 per cent lower, Japan's Nikkei shed 0.68 per cent, while Shanghai's Composite index bucked the trend to gain 0.17 per cent.

      Relief for home buyers as Lok Sabha too clears Real Estate Bill

      • It will now be difficult for promoters and builders to delay projects, with Parliament on Tuesday clearing a bill which gives relief to home-buyers and proposes imprisonment of up to three years besides monetary penalties for any violation of rules.
        The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013 , approved by Lok Sabha today, five days after its passage by Rajya Sabha, is designed to protect consumer interest, ensure efficiency in all property-related transactions, improve accountability of developers, boost transparency and attract more investments to the sector, the government said.
        It provides for setting up of a Real Estate Regulatory Authorities (RERAs) which will ensure timely execution of projects.
        The RERAs will regulate transactions related to both residential and commercial projects and ensure their timely completion and handover.
        The proposed law makes it mandatory for all residential and commercial projects to register with the Regulator and will apply to new and ongoing projects.
        Appellate Tribunals will now be required to adjudicate cases in 60 days as against the earlier provision of 90 days and Regulatory Authorities will have to dispose of complaints in 60 days. In the earlier bill, no time frame was indicated.
        The Bill provides for imprisonment of up to three years in case of promoters and up to one year in case of real estate agents and buyers for any violation of orders of Appellate Tribunals or monetary penalties or both.
        Replying to debate on the bill, Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the Bill envisages that "What you are committing, what you are promising, please fulfill. What you are promising through advertisements, please fulfill that. That is the purpose of this Bill."
        Naidu also sought cooperation from the states for faster clearances to projects to make this Bill, which will override all state legislations, a success.
        "We are trying to make the beautiful advertisements given by developers in front page of newspapers dutyful. Our ultimate intension is to ensure consumer satisfaction. Once the Bill is notified, you will get more investments in the real estate sector, early clearances and property prices will come down," he said.
        The government is also trying to bring in a National Urban Rental Housing Policy, he said, adding that the policy would take into account the requirements of tenancy hassles in modern days. 

        Trade deficit narrows as exports fall 5.66% in February

        • Exports fall 5.66% in Feb; trade deficit narrows
          Exports dipped for the 15th month in a row, down by 5.66 per cent in February at $20.73 billion, due to contraction in shipments of petroleum and engineering goods.
          Imports too dipped 5.03 per cent to $27.28 billion last month, resulting in a lower trade deficit of $6.54 billion compared to that of $6.74 billion in February 2015.
          Overseas shipments of petroleum products shrank 28.27 per cent to $1.83 billion in February, while that of engineering goods declined by 11.22 per cent to 4.56 billion.
          For April-February, cumulative exports declined by 16.73 per cent to $238.41 billion, as against $286.3 billion in April-February period of 2014-15.
          Imports too dipped by 14.74 per cent to $351.8 billion in the 11-month period, leaving a trade deficit of $113.38 billion, the official trade data releases showed. The trade gap was $126.29 billion in April-February 2014-15.
          The Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) said that going by the trend, exports are expected to be "around $260 billion" in this fiscal.
          Oil imports last month were valued at $4.76 billion - 21.92 per cent lower than the same month last year. Non-oil imports too dipped by 0.47 per cent to $22.51 billion. 

          Over Rs 1 lakh crore disbursed under MUDRA Yojana

          • Loans worth Rs 1.09 lakh crore have been given to small entrepreneurs under the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana.
            In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said loans worth over Rs 1.09 lakh crore were given to over 2.96 crore beneficiaries.
            Under Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana, which was launched in April last year, loans between Rs 50,000 and Rs 10 lakh are provided to small entrepreneurs.
            The Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Ltd (MUDRA) focuses on the 5.75 crore self-employed who deploy funds totaling Rs 11 lakh crore and provide jobs to 12 crore people.
            The banking sector has been allocated an overall disbursement target of about Rs 1.22 lakh crore during 2015-16 for MUDRA loans.

            RBI to ease policy rates by 25 bps: Citigroup

            • Favourable macro-economic data and Budget 2016-17, which reinforced fiscal consolidation, have paved the way for easing of policy rates by 25 basis points (bps), a Citigroup report says.
              According to the global financial services firm, while inter-meeting cut remains an option with the Reserve Bank , it is expected to stick to its schedule.
              "Though core CPI inflation has stayed sticky, the negative prints on WPI inflation (-0.9 per cent in February), contraction in industrial production (-1.5 per cent in January), and government's commitment to fiscal consolidation reinforces our view of further monetary easing," Citigroup said in a research note.
              "We expect RBI to ease policy rates by 25 bps in the April policy, if not sooner," it added.
              Beyond the 25 bps rate cut, the Reserve Bank may continue with its accommodative stance in the coming months, it said.
              "Beyond the 25 bps rate cut, the easing cycle may still have some steam left in the event, global growth remains weak and food inflation stays benign," Citigroup added.
              Retail inflation eased in February as food prices rose at a slower pace, while Wholesale Price Index stayed in negative territory for the 16th month, raising expectations of interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank next month.
              The declining inflation and negative industrial outlook have strengthened a case for RBI cutting interest rate in its first bi-monthly monetary policy for 2016-17 on April 5.
              RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan on March 12 had said that the government's sticking to fiscal consolidation roadmap of reducing deficit to 3.5 per cent of the GDP in 2016-17 was comforting. On how that would feed into monetary policy, he had said, "wait and see".

            General Awareness

            Maharashtra passes Prohibition of Social Boycott bill

              • In a move to strengthen the laws against discrimination the Maharashtra government passed theprohibition of social Boycott bill in its state assembly.
                Features of Social Boycott bill
                • The social boycott is prohibited and its commission shall be an offence.Maharashtra passes Prohibition of Social Boycott bill
                • The maximum punishment for social boycotting will be7 years in prison or fine up to 5 lakh rupees or both
                • The maximum punishment for extending aid in relation to the commission of offence will be 3 years or 3 lakh rupees or both
                • The victim or any member of his family may file a complaint either through the police or directly to the Magistrate
                • To ensure speedy justice, the trial shall be completed within aperiod of six months from the date of filing of the charge sheet
                • Social Boycott Prohibition Officers will be appointed to detect the commission of offences, to assist the Magistrate and police officers in discharge of their duties under the Act
                • The burden of proving that no offence under this Act have been committed by the accused, shall lie on the accuse
                Points to note
                • Maharashtra CM– Devendra Fadnavis
                • Governor– CH.Vidyasagar Rao

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