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Current Affairs - 19 March 2016

General Affairs 

Don't Cross 'Lakshman Rekha' During Polls: Election Commission To Parties
  • Don't Cross 'Lakshman Rekha' During Polls: Election Commission To PartiesNEW DELHI:  Amidst concerns being aired over the quality of political discourse during the upcoming assembly polls, the Election Commission will tomorrow urge political parties to maintain 'high standards' and not to cross the 'lakshman rekha'.

    At a meeting tomorrow that will feature the six national and 49 state parties, the poll watchdog will also discuss the proposal for hiking the security deposit of poll candidates, which is at present Rs 25,000 for Lok Sabha and Rs 5,000 for Assembly polls.

    The poll panel will also demonstrate 'Totaliser', a new machine to enhance secrecy of votes during counting which prevents disclosure of voting pattern. The Election Commission has approached the Law Ministry with a proposal for the introduction of these machines.

    The poll panel is of the view that the use of 'Totaliser' will bring a further level of secrecy in voting and the mixing of votes at the time of counting will be achieved, which will prevent the disclosure of pattern of voting at a particular polling station.

    At the closed-door meeting, the Election Commission will also discuss the issue of 'indirect campaigning' in areas which go for polls in a multi-phased election.

    There have been instances when election rallies that are being held in areas where campaigning is on are beamed live to areas where voting s underway. With no technology for jamming the signals, the Commission will seek the opinion of the political parties on the contentious issue.

    The Election Commission also wants to introduce the concept of candidates who have served with the government needing to furnish a 'no dues' certificate.

Those On Bail Are Not Olympic Heroes, Says Anupam Kher At JNU
  • Those On Bail Are Not Olympic Heroes, Says Anupam Kher At JNU
    NEW DELHI:  On the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus for the screening of his film this evening, actor Anupam Kher today said, 'People who are out on bail cannot be welcomed on campus.'

    His remarks came hours after JNU students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, arrested last month for their involvement in a controversial event in support of terrorist Afzal Guru, were granted bail by a court. The two are yet to be released.

    Their supporters, including JNU students' union president Kanhaiya Kumar, who was arrested for his alleged participation in the same event, are planning a unity march on the campus tonight. "Someone who has returned on bail is not an Olympic hero," Mr Kher said.
    The court in its order, granting the two six months' interim bail, observed that "both are highly educated persons."

    Addressing a gathering on the campus minutes before the screening of his film "Buddha stuck in a traffic jam", Mr Kher said, "I want the focus shifted back from kranti (revolution) to desh bhakti (nationalism)." As he spoke, a few people in the gathering shouted "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" slogans.

    Last week, Mr Kher had alleged that the JNU authorities had refused to screen his film. The university responded by saying he had never made a request - verbal or written - for the film to be screened.

Rajya Sabha Amendments To Aadhaar Bill Had Lacunae: Arun Jaitley
  • Rajya Sabha Amendments To Aadhaar Bill Had Lacunae: Arun JaitleyNEW DELHI:  Justifying Lok Sabha's rejecting the amendments made by the Upper house to the Aadhaar Bill, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said adoption of changes would have pushed the legislation, aimed at streamlining the payment of benefits, into realms of unconstitutionality.

    Acceptance of the amendments would have led to much wider encroachment of the Right of Privacy and an auditor or an anti-corruption authority overseeing issues of national security, he said.

    "These lacunae would have pushed the Aadhaar law to the realm of unconstitutionality. Obviously, the Lok Sabha did not agree with the above suggestions, and in my view, rightly so," he said in a Facebook post.

    The Lok Sabha on the last of the first half of Budget session on Wednesday waited for the Rajya Sabha to decide on the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, and then swiftly rejected the amendments made to the legislation.

    The amendments to be bill in Rajya Sabha, where the ruling NDA does not have majority, were moved by Congress members including Jairam Ramesh.

    Mr Jaitley said the legislation, aimed at better targeting of subsidies and benefits through use of unique identification number, contains stringent provisions both substantially and procedurally to protect privacy.

    While National Security is the only ground on which a competent authority can share core bio-metric information contained in Aadhaar, amendments wanted the condition to be replaced with "vague" and "elastic" Public Emergency or in the interest of public safety.

    "It is also not clear as to how Aadhaar information would have been used in dealing with situations of public emergency or public safety," he said.

    Mr Jaitley said adoption of the amendment "would have provided a scope much wider for encroaching upon privacy than the words 'National Security' which existed in both the 2010 (law moved by the UPA) and 2016 law, and would have potentially become the grounds for constitutional challenge at a later date."

To Curb Cheating, CBSE To Buy 8,000 Metal Detectors To Frisk Candidates
  • To Curb Cheating, CBSE To Buy 8,000 Metal Detectors To Frisk Candidates
    NEW DELHI:  To check unfair practices using hi-tech gadgets, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) plans to buy 8,000 metal detectors to frisk candidates appearing for professional examinations conducted by it.

    According to a tender notice issued by it, the CBSE which conducts tests like JEE (Main), AIPMT, UGC-NET, to curb any unfair use of electronic devices, candidates will be frisked before entering the examination centre for detection of bugs or devices by use of highly sensitive hand-held bug and metal detectors.

    "We have mainly used this kind of frisking in some professional examaniations earlier also. But we hired metal detectors which was proving to be a costly proposition. So the CBSE is planning to buy them," a senior official said.

    The CBSE which has more than 17,000 schools, including 200 in 21 countries outside India, has invited bids for 8,000 bug and metal detectors.

    According to the tender document, the bug or metal detectors provided for frisking should be able to detect any prohibited metallic or electronics devices, copper, aluminium, silver, wire, cell battery, watch battery, miniature electronic gadget or photovoltaic equipment, etc.

    The CBSE also said preference will be given to domestically manufactured electronic products as per government policy.

    Earlier, the AIPMT exam for 2015 had been cancelled and held again after complaints of large scale prevalence of unfair practices. After that, the CBSE has increased its focus on measures to curb cheating.

Day After Amit Shah-Mehbooba Mufti Meet, Talks Hit A Wall Again
  • Day After Amit Shah-Mehbooba Mufti Meet, Talks Hit A Wall Again
    NEW DELHI:  Negotiations on government formation in Jammu and Kashmir have hit a wall again, sources said on Friday, a day after Mehbooba Mufti of the People's Democratic Party or PDP met BJP chief Amit Shah and the parties indicated a thaw after a two-month freeze.

    "The stalemate continues. At the time of chief minister Mufti Mohammad Saeed's death, the BJP had made it clear that the responsibility of government lies with the party (PDP) which has the chief ministerial post," said BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, the key interlocutor between the two parties, today.

    To a question on the demands that the PDP has made to renew its partnership with the BJP, Mr Madhav said, "The Centre is always ready to look into the demands of a state government but meeting demands as a condition for government formation is not acceptable."
    Source said the differences have deepened despite the meeting between the two top leaders yesterday over the PDP's insistence that the BJP, which rules at the Centre, give a written assurance that its demands will be met, key among those are two central hydro projects in Jammu and Kashmir be transferred to the state.

    The BJP-led central government says such a transfer will make it vulnerable to similar demands from other states.

    It is sticking to its guns but has also initiated steps to signal to the PDP that it's intentions are good and that once they partner in forming government in J&K again, other tenable demands will be seriously considered

    Yesterday, the Army yielded to one of the crucial demands of the PDP, agreeing that its Northern Command would hand over land held by it in three places in the state.
    The Centre has, through the Governor, also speeded up the disbursement of flood relief in the state.

    It's been a battle of nerves since Chief Minister Saeed of the PDP died in early January, less than a year after he scripted an unlikely partnership with ideological opposite the BJP, with state elections throwing up a hung verdict.  

    His daughter Mehbooba has refused to take oath at the head of a PDP-BJP government.

    The state assembly must meet at least once in a six-month period; on April 9 it will be six months since the assembly met.

Business Affairs 

    Interest rate on Public Provident Fund cut to 8.1% from 8.7%

    • In a move that will hit the common man, the government on Friday slashed interest rates payable on small savings including PPF and Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) to align them closer to market rates.
      As a part of its February 16 decision to revise interest rates on small savings every quarter, the interest rate on Public Provident Fund (PPF) scheme will be cut to 8.1 per cent for the period April 1 to June 30, from 8.7 per cent, at present.
      Similarly, the interest rate on KVP will be cut to 7.8 per cent from 8.7 per cent, according to a Finance Ministry order.
      While the interest rate on Post Office savings has been retained at 4 per cent, the same for term deposits of one to five years has been cut.
      The popular five-Year National Savings Certificates will earn an interest rate of 8.1 per cent from April 1 as against 8.5 per cent, at present.
      A five-year Monthly Income Account will fetch 7.8 per cent as opposed to 8.4 per cent now. Girl-child saving scheme, Sukanya Samriddhi Account will see interest rate of 8.6 per cent as against 9.2 per cent.
      Senior citizen savings scheme of five-year would earn 8.6 per cent interest compared with 9.3 per cent.
      "On the basis of the decisions of the government, interest rates for small savings schemes are to be notified on quarterly basis," the order said announcing the rates for the first quarter of fiscal 2016-17.
      Post office term deposits of one, two and three years command an interest rate of 8.4 per cent but from April 1, a 1-year Time Deposit will get 7.1 per cent, 2-year Time Deposit will earn 7.2 per cent and 3-Year Time Deposit will attract interest of 7.4 per cent.
      Five-year time deposit will fetch 7.9 per cent interest in the first quarter as against 8.5 per cent while the same on five-year recurring deposit has been slashed to 7.4 per cent from 8.4 per cent.
      The government had on February 16 announced moving small saving interest rates closer to market rates. On that day, rates on short-term post office deposits was cut by 0.25 per cent but long-term instruments such as MIS, PPF, senior citizen and girl child schemes were left untouched. 

      Sensex soars 275 points to hit 2-month high; logs 3rd weekly rise

      • Sensex soars 275 points to hit 2-month high; logs 3rd weekly riseThe benchmark BSE Sensex today jumped by 275 points to settle at an over two-month high of 24,952.74 and also logged its third weekly gain as foreign funds continued to pump in money amid a firm global cues on dovish stance by the US Federal Reserve.
        Also, the NSE Nifty again topped the 7,600-mark.
        Besides, the rupee appreciating to over two-month high of 66.55 against the dollar too boosted trading sentiment.
        Both the leading indexes surged for a third straight week as BSE Sensex climbed by 234.75 points or 0.94 per cent while NSE Nifty surged 94.15 points or 1.25 per cent.
        On the day, all the sectoral indexes, except healthcare, ended in green with the shares of IT, metal, realty, banking and auto leading gains.
        After opening higher, Sensex stayed in the positive zone throughout the day and hit the day's high of 24,986.94, before ending 275.37 points or 1.12 per cent higher at 24,952.74, its highest closing since January 6.
        The index had shed 5.11 points yesterday.
        The 50-share NSE Nifty recaptured the crucial 7,600-mark to hit a high of 7,613.60 as it finally settled 91.80 points or 1.22 per cent higher at 7,604.35.
        Shares of IT giant, TCS emerged as the top gainer among Sensex constituents with a rise of 3.21 per cent to Rs 2,427.25 followed by GAIL at 3.13 per cent to Rs 364.15.
        Overall, 26 scrips, out of 30 Sensex stocks ended higher.
        Other winners were Adani Ports (2.66 pc), SBI (2.63 pc), Infosys (2.59 pc), BHEL (2.26 pc), M&M (2.11 pc), Tata Steel (2.10 pc), Axis Bank (1.87 pc), HDFC (1.62 pc), Wipro (1.56 pc), Dr Reddy's (1.56 pc) and Tata Motors (1.34 pc).
        Persistent buying by retail investors also helped mid-cap and small-cap indices gain up to 0.66 per cent.
        Among the BSE sectoral indices, IT gained the most by 2.31 per cent followed by teck 2.17 per cent, metal 2.14 per cent, realty 1.57 per cent, bankex 1.47 per cent, auto 1.36 per cent and consumer durables 0.87 per cent.
        Foreign investors bought shares worth a net Rs 744.49 crore yesterday, provisional data showed.
        Global markets remained buoyant after the US Federal Reserve on Wednesday decided to scale back its forecasts on hiking interest rates.
        Hong Kong's Hang Seng and Shanghai Composite Index ended 0.82 per cent and 1.73 per cent higher, respectively, while Japan's Nikkei fell 1.25 per cent. Europe was in a better shape in early trade.

        Cisco to invest $100 million in India's digital push

        • Cisco Systems will invest over $100 million in India to support the country's ambitious plan to connect thousands of its villages to the internet and create jobs, Executive Chairman John Chambers said on Friday.
          Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a series of initiatives under the 'Digital India,' 'Skill India,' and 'Startup India' schemes to connect millions of Indians to the Internet, create more tech jobs and move more services online.
          Chambers said the company will work with central and state governments in India to launch incubation centers for entrepreneurs and training students.
          Cisco will invest $40 million of the total planned investment into funding early and mid-stage startups.

          Sell assets of guarantors if firms don't repay: Govt tells banks

          • Liquor baron Vijay MallyaIn order to effectively deal with Vijay Mallya-type loan default cases, the government on Friday directed public sector banks to immediately invoke personal guarantees of promoter directors and recover loans from them in case the companies fail to repay.
            Issuing the directive to heads of PSBs, the Finance Ministry regretted that they seldom recover loan from guarantors in case of loan default by companies.
            "It has been observed that there are a less number of cases where action has been taken for recovery against guarantors for attachment of assets owned by them and sell the same for recovery of defaulted loan," it said while issuing the directive in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
            The ministry further told banks that "it would be prudent to take steps against guarantors immediately when no sign of revival is visible".
            Asking banks to approach Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT), it said action against guarantors should be taken under SARFAESI Act, Indian Contract Act and relevant legislations.
            Exit of beleaguered industrialist Mallya to London early this month created huge uproar in Parliament as well as outside.
            Various companies associated with him owe over Rs 9,000 crore to different banks.
            Mallya and his group firms are being probed by several agencies including Enforcement Directorate.
            Gross NPAs of PSBs rose to Rs 3.61 lakh crore while that of private lenders were at Rs 39,859 crore at the end of December 2015. 

            RBI eases reporting of NEFT transactions by non-A/C holders

            • The Reserve Bank said it is discontinuing a two-year-old provision where banks had to submit data pertaining to NEFT transactions by walk-in customers not having an account with them.
              "It has been decided to discontinue the submission of this report by member banks, from the quarter ending March 31, 2016," the RBI said in a notification on its website.
              It, however, said banks should continue to maintain the relevant records, adding as and when required, the Reserve Bank can call for ad hoc reports regarding the data.
              A survey and incognito visits by the RBI at bank branches had resulted in introduction of the provision in January 2014. It was slated to be in place for a year.
              "It was also observed that, in many cases, the officers/staff dealing with the NEFT desk at different branches were not aware of many of the above features of NEFT and customers were not guided properly," the RBI had said.
              It had asked banks to educate staff about the NEFT (National Electronic Fund Transfer) process in general and extension of the facility to walk-in customers and charges applicable for the same.

            General Awareness

            India and Bangladesh Enter into New Era of Petroleum Trade

              • India and Bangladesh began a new era of petroleum trade with a special goodwill train loaded with High speed diesel from India to Bangladesh.
                Flash points
                • The 42 wagon rail rake is loaded with around 2500 MT High Speed Diesel
                • It started off from Siliguri station to Parbatipur station over 516 kms
                • It is a symbolic gesture of friendship and cooperation that exists between India and BangladeshIndia and Bangladesh
                • This is the first major petroleum consignmentfrom India
                • It is a part of the Sale-Purchase Agreementsigned between NRL and Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation(BPC)
                • The agreement also includes joint initiative for construction of a 135 km long pipeline, with a capacity of 1 million Metric Ton per annum(MMTPA) from Siliguri to Parbatipur
                • Presently Bangladesh gets its imports from Chittagong portand the new agreement is cost effective for Bangladesh
                • The expansion of NRL refinery from 3 MMTPA to 9MMTPAwill leave India enough stock to supply Bangladesh
                Points to note
                • Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas-Dharmendra Pradhan
                • NRL- Numaligarh Refineries Limited(NRL)
                • Minister of Power, Energy and Mineral resources, Government of Bangladesh– N.Hamid
                • High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh– H V Shringla

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