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Current Affairs - 6 May 2016

General Affairs 

Under PM Modi's Orders, Centre Says Bye to 33 Non-Performing Officials
  • Under PM Modi's Orders, Centre Says Bye to 33 Non-Performing OfficialsNEW DELHI: Non-performance will no longer be tolerated: To drive home this Good Governance message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Centre has ordered 33 senior officials of the revenue department to take premature retirement.

    Over the last two years, 72 officials have also been dismissed following departmental and disciplinary action. But this was the first time that action was taken against such a large group.
    All 105 officers were Class 1 officers and are above 50 years in age.

    Action against the revenue officials was part of several measures to change the officials' perception that poor performance or harassing the public would not impact their job, said a senior personnel ministry official.

    PM Modi had been regularly receiving complaints from various departments about officials who were either indifferent or harassed the public.

    In January, PM Modi had asked all departmental secretaries to take stern action against non-performing officials during a meeting called "pragati interaction". Secretaries were asked to draw up a list of officials who were non-performing as a rule.  

    Later that month, the Centre had shortlisted 122 deputy secretary level officials in various ministries and departments. Of them, 17 were from the Defence ministry, 13 from higher education, 7 from the health ministry and 6 from commerce ministry. Even officials from critical units, like National Intelligence Grid and the National Scrutiny Council were on the list.

    To scrutinise their records, the Department of Personnel and Training had written to the administrative officials of 34 departments seeking inputs.

    The government is working on an exercise to rotate officers working in sensitive posts to improve efficiency.

India Can Grow Faster If There Is Good Monsoon: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
  • India Can Grow Faster If There Is Good Monsoon: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
    NEW DELHI:  Already the fastest growing major economy in the world, India can grow at an even faster pace this year if predictions of good monsoon hold up, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said today.

    Replying to a debate on the Finance Bill 2016 which was later passed in the Lok Sabha, Mr Jaitley ruled out rollback of one per cent excise on non-silver jewellery saying the levy was not applicable on small traders and artisans and only jewellers with more than Rs 12 crore turnover will attract the duty.

    "I have not been able to understand the politics of hatred for 'suit' but love for gold," he said as he took potshots at Congress which is opposing the levy of excise duty on gold and other previous jewellery.

    If the Congress had objections to the levy, it can begin by removing the 5 per cent VAT on bullion in Kerala where it rules, he said.

    Mr Jaitley, who moved some amendments to the Finance Bill introduced by him on February 28 along with demands for grants and appropriation bill, listed out measures taken by the BJP government in last two years to give relief to small tax payers and reduce tax litigation.

    On blackmoney, he said government efforts have brought to the books Rs 71,000 crore of undisclosed assets.

    He however ruled out bringing agriculture income under the tax net, saying large farm-based income was rare and people using agriculture as front to hide income from other sources would be dealt with tax authorities.

    The Bill, which is the penultimate part of the budget exercise, was passed with the amendments by voice vote.

    While the global outlook remains bleak, Mr Jaitley said India remains the fastest growing major economy in the world.

    "But we recognise we have the potential to grow at an even faster pace," he said.

    After two years of drought, if forecast of better monsoon rains this year holds good, it will improve agriculture and raise rural income, he said. "Economy which had been expanding on strength of public investment, highest foreign direct investment (FDI) and urban demand, can grow faster if rural demand is added," he said.

    Indian economy grew by 7.6 per cent in 2015-16 and is projected to grow by 7.5 per cent in the current year. Latest forecasts predict above-average rainfall in India after two years of drought.

Ex-Indian Air Force Chief NAK Browne Refutes Reports Regarding Defence Deals
  • Ex-Indian Air Force Chief NAK Browne Refutes Reports Regarding Defence DealsNEW DELHI:  Former Indian Air Force Chief NAK Browne, currently India's Ambassador to Norway, today strongly refuted as "baseless and malicious" reports that he was a "common link" in three major defence deals involving AgustaWestland, Rafale and Pilatus aircraft and said he was initiating legal action against a TV channel for making such allegations.

    In a call from Oslo, Air Marshal Browne said that he had nothing to do with these deals and none of them have been signed during his tenure as Indian Air Force Chief.

    "I am instructing my lawyer to initiate immediately legal action against a TV channel for indulging in such false and baseless propaganda. It seems these people are out to score points without any basis," he said.

    Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland manufactures choppers while Rafale of France builds fighter jets. Pilatus is a Swiss trainer aircraft.

Army Officer Allegedly Stole Smuggled Gold, Suspected Smuggler Went To Cops
  • Army Officer, 8 Of His Men, Arrested For Allegedly Stealing Smuggled Gold
    AIZAWL:  A senior army officer and 8 of his men from 39 Assam Rifles were arrested today for allegedly stealing smuggled gold bars in Mizoram. The alleged smuggler, whom they had allowed to go, had filed the complaint with the police.

    In December 2014, Colonel Jasjit Singh and his men -- they included officers from 8 other ranks including a junior commissioned officer -- had intercepted the alleged smuggler near Aizawl. Sources said the gold was being smuggled in from Myanmar.

    In his complaint to the police, C Lalnunfela said the men stopped his car, refused to identify themselves and searched the car. He and his two companions were made to wait outside. During the search, they found the 52 gold bars in the gear box, worth Rs 14.5 crore.

    In the complaint, Lalnunfela said he was convinced that men from the 39 Assam Rifles were involved.

    According to the FIR, after threatening Lalnunfela, the men left, loading the gold bars in their three cars. The seized gold, however, was not deposited to the treasury, government sources said.

    Lalnunfela is also under investigation and is out on bail at present.

    The Mizoram Police allege that efforts were made to recover the gold when it was found that a unit of the 39 Assam Rifles had intercepted it.

    A case was filed on April 21, 2016, and a Special Investigation team was formed to look into the heist and the possibility of the army unit's involvement in it.

    Colonel Singh allegedly refused to cooperate with the investigation and moved for anticipatory bail. But he was arrested today after his bail plea was rejected. He is in the custody of Mizoram police now.

    The Army refused to comment. But Army sources said the officer was relived from his duties temporarily today.

    The Assam Rifles is the oldest para-military force in India and is led by officers from Indian Army. It is deployed only in the North East and is primarily tasked with counter-insurgency operations.

PM Modi Praises Manohar Parrikar For His Agusta Speech In Rajya Sabha
  • PM Modi Praises Manohar Parrikar For His Agusta Speech In Rajya SabhaNEW DELHI:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi today praised Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar for his reply to a debate on AgustaWestland chopper deal in the Rajya Sabha yesterday, saying he had presented "all relevant facts" rising "above politics".

    He also put on his Twitter account the speech of Mr Parrikar, urging his followers to listen to it.

    "Yesterday's speech by RM @manoharparrikar in the Rajya Sabha was one of the best speeches, displaying best parliamentary traditions," PM Modi tweeted.

    "RM @manoharparrikar rose above politics & placed all relevant facts on the table. Urging you all to hear his speech," the Prime Minister said in another tweet.

    Mr Parrikar had targeted the previous UPA regime over the controversial deal and suggested the role of an "invisible hand" in preventing a proper investigation earlier.

    He had said that ongoing probe will focus on those named in the Italian Court judgement on the controversy surrounding the Rs 3600 crore deal for 12 VVIP helicopters. There was "relentless push" by the UPA to go in for the AgustaWestland choppers, the Defence Minister had said.

    Government will leave no stone unturned in bringing to justice those involved in the scam, he said.

    He said the CBI has already done a lot of investigation and is currently on the money trail to track down where the bribe money went.

Business Affairs 

Govt rejects suggestions to bring agricultural income under tax net

  • The central government on Thursday outright rejected suggestions from some opposition members to bring agriculture income under the tax net, saying this is not being considered at all.
    Replying to the debate on the Finance Bill, 2016-17 in the Lok Sabha, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asserted that despite global recession, the Indian economy is doing well. He maintained that it can do much better, provided there is agood monsoon and the government is able to address the vexed issue of non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks.
    "Vishwa ke tulna mein hum sabse aage haen (in comparison to the rest of the world, we are far ahead)," Jaitley said.
    "After two years of drought, if the forecast of better monsoon rains this year holds good, it will improve agriculture," he said.
    The minister said a good monsoon will add to the rural economy and thus the economy - which had been expanding on strength of public investment, the highest foreign direct investment (FDI) and urban demand - can only grow faster.
    He pointed out that despite the global recession and uncertainty prevailing on how long the crisis will remain, India still continues to maintain a high growth rate at 7.65 per cent in 2015-16 compared to 7.2 per cent in 2014-15.
    On the suggestion about introducing tax on agricultural income, he said that, firstly, large farm-based income was rare and people using agriculture as a front to hide income from other sources need to be dealt with by the tax authorities.
    But he said under the federal structure, the state governments have the power to impose such agricultural tax and counselled Biju Janata Dal floor leader B. Mahtab that it will be ill-advised for the Odisha government to do so.
    During the debate on the Finance Bill on Wednesday, Mahtab had asked: "Does it make any sense providing support to the big farmers, not taxing the agriculture produce of the farmers is one thing but not taxing the companies who are earning thousands of crores of rupees?"
    Even Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy had said that rich farmers should be brought under the tax net to widen the tax base.
    On the issue of one per cent excise duty on non-silver jewellery, the finance minister ruled out its rollback, saying the levy was not applicable on small traders and artisans. Only those jewellers with more than Rs 12 crore turnover will attract the duty, he said.
    Jaitley conceded that bad loans are an issue and the NPAs of banks remain a matter of concern for his government.
    "I would not like to go on a blame game on this. But, we cannot solve the problem of NPAs by hiding it," Jaitley said, stressing that the government is taking steps to bring the banks out of the NPA mess.
    He maintained that loans that have been lent without proper due diligence will be investigated, and said NPAs need to be reflected in the balance sheets and subsequently addressed through capitalisation.
    He flayed the Congress party for supporting the United Front government's Voluntary Disclosure Scheme (VDS) in the 1990s, saying it was "an ill-advised scheme" and was "discriminatory against honest tax payers".
    "I am surprised that Mr. Veerappa Moily (Congress) said this is a highly successful scheme," he said referring to the VDS launched in the mid-nineties when P. Chidambaram served as the finance minister under prime ministers H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral.
    Jaitley also took a dig at the Congress, and said: "I have not been able to understand the politics of hatred for 'suit' but love for gold".
    This was in reaction to Congress opposing the levy of excise duty on gold and other jewellery.
    "If the Congress had objections to the levy, it can begin by removing the 5 per cent VAT in Kerala where it rules," he said.
    Responding to criticism that government's steps have often been against people-oriented schemes, Jaitley said: "In all the three budgets this government presented, we tried to ensure that small tax payers have more money in their hands."
    The Finance Bill now goes to the Rajya Sabha, which has to return it and only then the budgetary exercise for 2016-17 will be completed.

    ITC shuts cigarette plants from May 4 to comply with new pictorial warnings rule

    • Country's biggest cigarette maker ITC shut its plants from May 4 to comply with a new stipulated pictorial warnings rule issued by the government, the company said in a statement.
      The Supreme Court told tobacco companies on Wednesday they must adhere to a new rule requiring much larger health warnings on cigarette packs, in a major setback for the $11 billion industry.
      The court also transferred all petitions by cigarette manufacturers pending in various courts to the Karat High Court for further hearing. The companies had objected to the new rules.
      "...the Company has had to shut its cigarette factories from May 04, 2016 until the Company is in a position to comply with the interim requirements pending hearing in the Karnataka High Court," the statement said.

      Malvinder, Shivinder Mohan Singh fined Rs 2,600 cr for hiding facts from Daiichi
      • Billionaire businessman Malvinder Mohan Singh and his younger brother Shivinder Mohan Singh have been fined nearly Rs 2,600 crore, media reports say.
        The erstwhile promoters of drug maker Ranbaxy were penalised for concealing and misrepresenting facts from Japanese pharmaceutical company, Daiichi Sankyo about its 2008 deal involving the sale of controlling stake in Ranbaxy.
        The fine was decided by Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), which heard an arbitration case filed by Daiichi Sankyo in 2013. The Singh brothers, former Ranbaxy owners, had sold their stake to Daiichi Sankyo for $2.4 billion in 2008.
        Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo later sold Ranbaxy to Mumbai-based Sun Pharma. The Singh brothers now run hospitals under the Fortis brand. They also own financial services firm Religare Enterprises. 

      RBI proposes relaxation of bank licence requirements

      • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has issued proposals for the relaxation of requirements for banking licences in the latest effort to boost a sector struggling with $100 billion of stressed debt that is choking the financial system and hitting economic growth.
        With only about half of India's population having access to financial services, particularly in rural areas, the RBI is keen to extend the sector's reach and the new proposals aim to encourage investment in new lenders.
        The draft guidelines announced on Thursday include a move to allow large industrial companies to buy up to 10 per cent stakes in new lenders.
        The central bank also proposed a lowering of the minimum ownership level for companies or people setting up lenders under a financial holding structure to 51 per cent from 100 per cent.
        The RBI emphasised, however, that it would remain cautious when granting licences.
        "Banking being a highly leveraged business, licences shall be issued on a very selective basis to those who conform to the above requirements, who have an impeccable track record and who are likely to conform to the best international and domestic standards of customer service and efficiency," the RBI said.

        BSNL says it beat pvt telcos in growth rate in February

        • State-run BSNL said it has registered the highest growth rate in providing new wireless connections during February this year, beating all private operators.
          BSNL has a growth rate of 1.67 per cent, followed by Bharti Airtel with 1.18 per cent, Vodafone with 1.04 per cent and Idea Cellular with 0.85 per cent whereas the industry average stood at 0.85 per cent.
          State-run BSNL added 13.93 lakh subscribers to increase its base to 8.48 crore.
          Bharti Airtel added 29 lakh subscribers to take its base to 24.86 crore at the end of February whereas Vodafone added 20.34 lakh users and its base increased to 19.67 crore.
          Idea Cellular added 14.63 lakh subscribers to increase its base to 17.46 crore and Reliance Communications added 6.99 lakh users to take its base to 10.19 crore.
          Commenting on the feat achieved by BSNL, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "This is a matter of great satisfaction that BSNL has left behind private telcos in growth rate. This only shows that hard work, dedication and strict monitoring at the political level, public sector units (PSUs) can do well and give competition to private telcos. Growth of BSNL in February 2016 is 1.67 per cent which is double the industry growth rate of 0.85 per cent," BSNL said quoting the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) report.
          BSNL said its field units have synergised their efforts to achieve this target.
          "Our MNP (Port in/Port out ratio) has become first time positive in FY 2015-16, meaning thereby that the number of customers joining BSNL from other operators is more than the customers leaving BSNL. We are thankful to our customers for reposing faith in us. We are committed to provide the best services to our customers," Director (CM) BSNL Board R K Mittal said.

        General Awareness

        President Pranab Mukherjee presented the 63rd National Film Awards

          • Venue: Vigyan Bhavan, New delhi

            Date: 03 of May, 2016
            The well known celebrities Bachchan and Kangana Ranaut received National award from the Honourable President Pranab Mukherjee.
            Category                               No. of awards
            Non-Feature Film21
            Feature Film51
            Best Script Writing3
            i. Amitabh Bachchan played as a Bengali father in the film ‘Piku’ and Deepika Padukone is also a part of that film.
            ii. The Himachal Queen Kangana Renaut won the National award in the film “Tanu Weds Manu Returns” for the dual role.
            iii. The Prominent director in the Telugu industry S.S. Rajamouliwon the award in Best Feature Film Category named the film“Baahubali: The Beginning”.
            iv. The historical epic drama “Bajirao Mastani” achieved numerous awards.

            The directorial debut film “Masaan” won the Indira Gandhi Award which is directed by Neeraj Ghaywan.It is also honoured that Biswadeep Chatterjee’s sound designing and Justin Ghose’s re-recording of the final mixed track in that film “Bajirao Mastani”.
                Winner list
            Best Feature FilmBaahubali – The Beginning
            Best DirectorSanjay Leela Bhansali for ‘Bajirao Mastani’
            Best ActorAmitabh Bachchan for ‘Piku’
            Best ActressKangana Ranaut for ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’
            Best Supporting ActorSamuthirakani for Visaaranai
            Best Supporting ActressTanvi Azmi, Bajirao Mastani
            Best Hindi FilmDum Laga Ke Haisha
            Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Film Of A DirectorNeeraj Ghaywan, Masaan
            Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome EntertainmentBajrangi Bhaijaan
            Best ChoreographyRemo D’Souza, Deewani Mastani song in Bajirao Mastani
            Best Female Playback SingerMonali Thakur, Moh Moh Ke Dhage
            Best CinematographySudeep Chaterjee, Bajirao Mastani
            Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National IntegrationNanak Shah Fakir
            Best Screenplay Writer (Original)Juhi Chaturvedi (Piku) and Himanshu Sharma (Tanu Weds Manu Returns)
            Best Screenplay – DialoguesJuhi Chaturvedi (Piku) and Himanshu Sharma (Tanu Weds Manu Returns)
            Best Malayalam FilmPathemari
            Best Film on Social IssueNiranayakam
            Best Music DirectionM Jayachandran for Song Kaathirunnu Kaathirunnu for the Ennu Ninte Moideen
            Best Music Direction- Background ScoreIlaiyaraaja, Thaarai Thappattai
            Best Film on Environment Conservation/PreservationValiya Chirakulla Pakshikal
            Best Tamil FilmVisaaranai
            Best Telugu FilmKanche
            Best Children’s FilmDuronto

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