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Current Affairs - 17 June 2016

General Affairs 

Union Cabinet Reshuffle May Take Place After June 21
  • NEW DELHI:  A reshuffle of the Union Cabinet may take place this month with more representation likely to be given to poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab, informed sources said today.

    The reshuffle could take place after the International Yoga Day on June 21, they said.

    Among the probable names doing the rounds from politically significant Uttar Pradesh are party lawmakers Yogi Adityanath, Satyapal Singh and Sadhvi Savitri Bai Phoole.

    The names of Navjot Singh Sidhu, Rameshwar Teli from Assam and Bhagat Singh Koshyari and Ajay Tamta from Uttarakhand are also doing the rounds. There is no representation from Uttarakhand in the Cabinet at present.

    Party sources said more representation may also be given to Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

    Recently, Union Minister of State for Sports Sarbananda Sonowal took over as the Assam Chief Minister. Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Vijay Sampla has been made BJP Punjab unit president.

US Senate Exposed Hollowness Of PM Modi's Claims, Says Congress
  • NEW DELHI:  The Congress today sought to puncture claims on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's successful tour of the United States, saying the US Senate finally "exposed the hollowness and the falsity of the claims" made by PM Modi and his propagandists.

    The US Senate had refused to pass a key amendment to modify its export control regulations to recognise India as a global strategic and defence partner of the US.

    "What was the Modi's address to the US Congress? Was the US Congress in session? There were not even 50 Congressmen present -- the rest were staffers and those taking autographs as also non-resident Indians, people who were attending through invitation," Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma told the media at the party headquarters in New Delhi.

    "Please go by the visuals, take out the list, that standing ovation -- many of them were cheerleaders of Modi himself. Let this list be published by the US Congress and tell how many Congressmen had signed and who all were present," Mr Sharma said while accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party's "propaganda machinery" to go overboard to deviate public attention from real issues back home.

    "When we hold a function in the Central Hall (of Parliament), invitations are sent out and so many people who are not even members come for major functions. Sometimes, half of the Central Hall is full of non-MPs. It is not something exceptional that has happened," he added.

    "Now, the US Senate has finally exposed the hollowness and the falsity of the claims made by Modi and his propagandist. They have refused to okay this strategic and defence partnership with India," Mr Sharma said.

    He said the government must clarify if India remained a strategic partner of the United States or just a buyer of military equipment.

    "What has the government to say? Do we remain strategic partners or buyers of military equipment or defence platforms? You are just a buyer; you are paying billions of dollars; and then they refuse to recognise you as a strategic partner," the Congress leader said.

No End To Dal Misery: Government Missing The 'Pulse' On Inflation?
  • NEW DELHI:  The Union Food Minister said the government will provide 1 kg of arhar dal at Rs.120 through the National Co-operative Consumers' Federation of India Ltd. that will use mobile trucks to ease the burden of the consistent high prices of pulses over the last many months. But for daily wage earners like Rati Devi, that's not really encouraging.

    "For months now, we have been eating dal once every 15 days of so. Dal is unaffordable, even tomatoes are touching Rs. 100 per kg," she said.

    Geeta Devi, also a daily wage earner who has come to Delhi to look for work, said, "Even at Rs120 a kg, it's still out of our reach. I have two children and I earn just Rs. 200 a day when I get some work."

    So are high dal prices here to stay?

    The food minister couldn't say when prices are likely to come down but said the government is doing its best to stabilise prices.

    "Everything can't be always blamed on the Centre, state governments also need to do their bit," said Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan.

    The shortfall is a massive 7.6 million tons.

    India is importing about 39,000 tons. But only 14,000 tons has actually come in. Of this, only 7000 tons were on its way to the market last week. Adding to the problem:  state governments are not willing to lift the pulses the Centre is offering. (Unmilled arhar at Rs. 66 per kg and Urad at Rs. 82 per kg)

    Renowned agricultural economist Ashok Gulati, criticised the government, saying, "There is a major contradiction in the policy.

    You allow imports but anybody importing. You do not allow any trader to hold stocks. So the ships are waiting but you cannot unload anything in the market because your stocking laws are so restrictive which do not allow any business. I don't think the government has full grip of how the market really functions. and therefore it has one leg tied down and the other leg trying to run."

    Ironically, the current shortfall of over seven million tons is about the same as three years ago.

    Since then two poor monsoons and a limited number of exporting countries have reduced supply, and the government hasn't been able to find a solution for a year now.

Wait Over, Air Force To Get First Squadron Of Tejas After 3 Decades
  • NEW DELHI:  After a wait of over three decades, the Indian Air Force will finally get its hands on the first squadron of indigenous Tejas next month with the delivery of the fourth Light Combat Aircraft.

    However, the first squadron will be made of up of just four Tejas aircraft, in stark contrast to at least 16 aircraft that usually makes up for one squadron globally.

    State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, manufacturer of Tejas, will hand over the fourth aircraft to the Air Force on July 1.

    The four aircraft will be used for training and familarisation.

    Rather than waiting for LAC Mk II, the Indian Air Force had decided to go in with an upgraded version of the existing Tejas with over 40 modifications.

    The Indian Air Force currently plans to acquire 120 Tejas aircraft, with 100 of these having major modifications.

    The force wants Active Electrically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, Unified Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite, mid-air refuelling capacity and beyond the vision range missiles.

    As per the production plan, six aircraft will be made this year (2015-16) and HAL will subsequently scale it up to eight and 16 aircraft per year.  

Barack Obama In Orlando To Console Grieving Families
  • ORLANDO, UNITED STATES:  President Barack Obama arrived on Thursday in Orlando, where he will console loved ones devastated by a shooting rampage that has fueled America's culture wars and a fresh push for gun controls.

    Air Force One touched down shortly before 1:00 pm (1700 GMT) in Florida, where Obama will call for national unity and meet families whose lives have been ripped apart by a tragedy of national proportions.

    The massacre of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub last Sunday was the deadliest mass shooting in the history of a country that is depressingly familiar with such events. Another 53 people were wounded.

    "This will be, I think, an emotional trip," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

    In a rare symbolic show of bipartisanship, Obama arrived with Republican one-time presidential hopeful Marco Rubio and was greeted on the tarmac by Republican Florida governor Rick Scott and Vice President Joe Biden.

    Obama and Biden are slated to meet emergency medical crews and hospital staff who labored to save lives in the chaotic hours after the massacre by gunman Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old Muslim American of Afghan descent.

    Mateen was killed in a police raid, but his motivation and how he came to possess an special forces assault rifle remain deeply contentious.

    Mateen pledged allegiance to the leader of the ISUS group in a 911 call during the attack.

    The ISIS group then claimed responsibility for the shooting, and FBI agents believe that Mateen was radicalized by following extremist propaganda online.

    That has prompted Republicans to call for tougher counterterrorism measures and for the Obama administration to do more to fight the ISIS group.

    'Weapons of War'

    The White House says coalition forces and allies are making gains against the group's strongholds in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

    But Republican arguments were given credence by Obama's own CIA director John Brennan on Thursday, who warned the group retains the ability to conduct attacks around the world.

    "Unfortunately, despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group's terrorism capability and global reach," he told senior US lawmakers.

    Understanding of the shooting has been muddied by witnesses who say Mateen was a regular at the gay club and used gay dating apps.

    But Democrats and some Republicans have joined in questioning how a man, who Obama described as a "angry, disturbed, unstable young man who became radicalized" -- and who had been investigated by the FBI -- was able to buy "weapons of war."

    Frustrated Democrats took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to launch a procedural obstruction, known as a filibuster, to pressure Republicans to accept so-called "no-fly, no buy" legislation that would bar those on watch lists or no-fly lists from purchasing firearms.

    Widow Charged?

    US media outlets, citing unnamed law enforcement officials, reported that Mateen's 30-year-old widow Noor may have had prior knowledge of her husband's plan and could face criminal charges.

    According to CNN, a US attorney plans to bring evidence before a federal grand jury to determine whether charges will be brought against her.

    Mateen's ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, has said he used to beat her.

    The attack has sparked a spate of alleged threats against Muslims, including in Mateen's hometown of Fort Pierce, Florida -- something that US authorities would not be tolerated, and could be prosecuted.

    "Civil rights violations are a priority for the FBI," assistant special agent Ron Hopper told reporters.

    "We will investigate reported incidents against individuals based upon any class, any protected class, to include race, religion, and sexual orientation."

    In most cases, making these threats "is illegal," said US attorney Lee Bentley. "Any threats like this detract from what we're doing in law enforcement."

    Grief Counseling

    As Orlando prepared to receive Obama, the process of saying goodbye to the dead began with a wake held Wednesday for 40-year-old Javier Jorge Reyes. More wakes and funerals are expected in coming days.

    A new family assistance center opened in Orlando Wednesday in a part of the stadium once known as the Citrus Bowl.

    "This is for the community," Sarita Figueroa, the director of readjustment counseling services for the Department of Veterans Affairs, told AFP.

    She said counselors had come from across the country.

    For relatives of the dead, the aftermath is "very difficult. It's too fresh," she said.

    "Some are still getting belongings from that night that were on the floor. Glasses, watches, a wallet... You receive the news that you lost someone, and then you receive the note that you need to go and pick up things. That's another process."

Business Affairs 

Govt slaps 20% export duty on sugar to check prices
  • Government on Thursday imposed 20 per cent customs duty on sugar exports to boost domestic supply and check prices which are ruling high at Rs 40/kg.
    The move comes at a time when prices have surged sharply in various commodities including tomato, wheat and pulses.
    "To keep the domestic prices of sugar under check, the government has decided to impose export duty of 20 per cent on the export of raw sugar, white or refined sugar," the Finance Ministry said in a release.
    A decision has been notified by the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), it said.
    The duty has been imposed to restrict exports following sharp rise in global prices. The duty is, however, lower than 25 per cent proposed by the Food Ministry.
    India, the world's second largest sugar producer after Brazil, has exported 1.6 million tonnes of sugar so far in the 2015-16 marketing year (October-September). Further exports are unlikely to take place with this decision.
    With retail sugar prices soaring to around Rs 40/kg from Rs 30/kg six months ago, the government has taken various steps to contain prices including withdrawal of export-linked production subsidy and imposition of stock limits on traders.
    Last week, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan had announced that his ministry has proposed to "levy 25 per cent custom duty on export of sugar" to keep exports under control.
    "Global sugar prices are rising and therefore traders may increase the export of sugar to make profit," he had said.
    Industry body Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) did not offer any comments immediately.
    However, a senior industry official welcomed the decision in view of tight demand-supply situation expected in the next 2016-17 marketing year starting October.
    With imposition of export duty, the official said that exports have become unviable.
    An increase of 50 per cent in global sugar prices in last three months due to disruption in supply from Brazil had made exports viable.
    The country's sugar production is estimated to decline to 25 million tonnes in 2015-16, as against 28.3 million tonnes last year. The annual domestic demand is pegged at 26 million tonnes.

    Moreover, the government has forecast further decline in output in next year at 23-24 million tonnes. However, it has maintained that there would be no shortage as the country would have the opening stock of 7 million tonnes at the start of the next marketing year, taking total availability to 30-31 million tonnes.

    Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy backs second term for RBI chief Raghuram Rajan
    • Though RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan is yet to make any serious comment on his candidature for a second term at the central bank, he continues to receive support from several quarters for the top job.
      The latest to support Rajan is Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy. In an interview to The Economic Times, Murthy said India should be very fortunate to have central bank governor serve this country for not just one but two more terms.
      Leading industry body CII has too supported second term for Rajan with its president Naushad Forbes denouncing personal attacks on Rajan by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.
      Industrialist Adi Godrej has too backed Rajan's candidature for the top job.
      The RBI governor's three-year term began on September 4, 2013..
      The governor has also received support on Internet with a report saying that at least seven online petitions are suporting Rajan and have garnered more than 60,000 signatures so far.
      A former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Rajan is currently on leave from the Chicago Booth School of Business, where he holds the post of Distinguished Service Professor of Finance.
      If denied an extension, he will be the first RBI Governor since 1992 to not have a five-year term.
      His predecessors D Subbarao (2008-2013), Y V Reddy (2003-2008), Bimal Jalan (1997-2003) and C Rangarajan (1992-1997) had five-year terms.

      Rajan, who after taking over raised the short-term lending rate from 7.25 per cent to 8 per cent and retained the high rates throughout 2014, began the process of lowering the rates in January 2015. He has since then repo rate by 1.50 per cent to 6.50 per cent.

      Siemens wins Rs 978-crore order for India-Bangladesh power link
      • Siemens has bagged an order worth 130 million euro (over Rs 978 crore) to set up a high voltage direct current (HVDC) link to connect power supply networks of India and Bangladesh.
        "Siemens has received an order for an HVDC (high-voltage direct-current) back-to-back link to connect the power supply networks of India and Bangladesh," Siemens said in a press release in New Delhi.
        The order value is about Euro 130 million and the power link is scheduled to come on line in the second half of 2018, it said.
        On a turnkey basis, Siemens will be responsible for engineering, installing and commissioning of the complete HVDC system. The customer is Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB).
        Siemens has already installed block 1 of the Bheramara HVDC back-to-back station in 2013 and will now deliver a second block with a transmission capacity of another 500 MW.
        "We are pleased to announce another order from our valued customer PGCB," Siemens Transmission Solutions Business Unit CEO Mirko D sel said. "With the implementation of Bheramara s second block, Siemens helps to further grow reliable power sources and strengthen grid stability. The availability of reliable power transmission is key for emerging countries like Bangladesh," D sel said in the statement.
        This high capacity power link will avoid bottlenecks on the 230 kV side of Bangladesh.
        The station of the HVDC back-to-back link will be located in Bheramara at the Western border of Bangladesh, where it will be connected via a substation and overhead line with India s 400-kilovolt (kV) grid.
        With a back-to-back HVDC link, two independent neighbouring transmission systems with incompatible electrical frequencies, exceeding short-circuit power levels or different operating philosophies are connected.

        Siemens had recently received another order from PGCB to design, procure, supply, install, test and commission 230/ 132kV gas insulated switchgear (GIS) substation along with 225/300 MVA, 132/33 KV and 50/75 MVA transformers at Keraniganj near Dhaka.

      149 banks officials under CVC scanner for corruption
      • As many as 149 employees of various banks have come under the scanner of Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) for their alleged involvement in corruption.
        Of these, 124 employees, including 13 sweepers, are working with Indian Overseas Bank (IOB).
        The Commission has sought permission to prosecute these employees from the authority concerned, according to its monthly performance report for April.
        They are among 193 officials facing corruption charges and against whom CVC has sought permission for prosecution, it said.
        Out of the total of 49 cases awaiting sanction for prosecution, 23 involve public sector banks. Among banks, a highest of 10 cases are of IOB employees, three of Bank of India, two of State Bank of Patiala, and one case each of Oriental Bank of Commerce, Corporation Bank, Exim Bank, Vijaya Bank, Punjab and Sind Bank, United Bank of India and Bank of Baroda.
        Those found allegedly involved in corruption include sweepers, two part-time sweepers, General Manager and Chief Manager among others.
        "There has been increase in cases of corruption involving banks officials. CVC has sought permission to prosecute 96 employees working with various banks. The number has now gone up to 149," a senior CVC official said.
        Sanction is awaited against 193 employees, including 149 working in the banks, for more than four months. As per the norms, the matter of granting sanction for prosecution has to be decided within four months.
        Not only banks but other government departments are also delaying permission to punish the corrupt officials.
        As many as six cases involving at least eight government officers, most of them belonging to the elite Indian Administrative Service, are pending with the Department of Personnel and Training, which acts as the nodal authority for anti-corruption measures.

        Besides these, three cases involve officers working in the Railways Ministry, two each in Defence, Home, Health and Steel Ministry, and one each in Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) and Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), among others.

        6 takeaways from the new civil aviation policy and how it affects you
        • The new civil aviation policy cleared by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday will prove to be a turning point for the aviation sector, attracting more players and take flying to the masses.
          The policy was welcomed by scrapping the 5/20 rule that hindered Indian carriers to fly internationally. This yester-year rule mandated new airlines to fly domestic routes for at least five years and have a fleet of 20 aircrafts before they could fly international.
          Some of the important takeaways from this policy are as follows:
          1.    Regional connectivity scheme
          This scheme will come into effect in the second quarter of FY'16 and airlines that enrol in the same will mostly ferry passengers between one-hour destinations.
          There as many as 34 regional airports in India that will start to operate more because of this scheme. The government has also done away with the initially proposed 2 per cent cess on regional flights so as to encourage more people to fly.

          2.    Travel just got cheaper
          Following the regional connectivity scheme, the Cabinet has approved a cap on short duration flight tickets rates with 30-minute air travel at Rs 1,500 and one-hour air travel at Rs 2,500 with the aim of increasing the number of domestic flyers as per the population of the country.
          To bring this into effect, the new policy will aim at bringing down tax-based cost for airlines. As per the policy all states will be required to bring down VAT on ATF to 1 per cent and a viability gap funding will be provided by the government to help it cut ticket cost.
          This move will now allow more than one billion of the population the opportunity to fly who once could not afford it.
          3.    No more 5/20
          However, the 5/20 rule has now been replaced by a 0/20 which requires airlines to have a fleet of 20 aircrafts and no additional requirement of five years of domestic operations to fly international.
          Airlines like Vistara and AirAsia India can now operate internationally but on the flipside incumbent carriers like JetAirways now face more competition.
          Overall, passengers will have more Indian carrier options to choose from and this move will lead to an exponential growth in the aviation sector.
          4.    Better airports
          The policy encourages development of airports by allowing public-private partnership along with AAI and the state governments. Part of the airport security will now be outsourced by private parties.
          5.    Helicopters and Charters
          Helicopters will be free to fly from one point to another without prior ATC clearance and will be reasonably charged. This will be beneficial for Air ambulances and other urgent matters.
          6.    Bilateral traffic rights

          The government of India will now enter into 'Open Sky' policy arrangement on a reciprocal basis with SAARC countries and countries located beyond 5000 km from Delhi. This will considerably enhance traffic in South Asian countries thereby allowing domestic carriers to economically fly overseas.

        General Awareness

        First Meeting of National Committee on Ramayana Circuit & Krishna Circuit under Swadesh Darshan Scheme held in Uttar Pradesh

          • Ministry of Tourism hold the “1st Meeting of National Committee on Ramayan Circuit & Krishna Circuit” underSwadesh Darshan Scheme
            Host: Minister of Tourism and Culture DrMahesh Sharma
            Delegates:  Secretary, Ministry of Tourism Vinod Zutshi, Experts and Senior officers of Ministry of Tourism
            Features of Ramayana Circuit:
            11 destinations spread across 6 states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamilnadu have been proposed
            11 Destinations:                                        
            Uttar Pradesh

            • Ayodhya
            • Nandigram
            • Shringhverpur
            • Chitrakoot
            • Sitamarhi
            • Buxar
            • Darbhanga
            • Jagdalpur
            • Bhadrachalam
            • Hampi
            • Rameshwaram
            Proposed Plan:
            Committee by Experts are suggested to add Chitrakoot in Madhya Pradesh, Nashik & Nagpur in Maharashtra and Mahendragiri in Odisha in future
            Features of Krishna Circuit:
            12 destinations covering 5 states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha have been proposed
            12 Destinations:
            • Dwarka
            • Nathdwara
            • Jaipur
            • Sikar
            • Kurukshetra
            Uttar Pradesh
            • Mathura
            • Vrindavan
            • Gokul
            • Barsana
            • Nandgaon
            • Govarthan
            • Puri
            The destinations were approved by the expert committee.
            Fund Allocated: Three Hundred Crores Rupees
            Swadesh Darshan Scheme:
            Established in 2014-15
            Aim: To develop theme based tourist circuits in the country on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner by synergizing efforts to focus on needs and concerns of all stakeholders to enrich tourist experience and enhance employment opportunities
            Thirteen circuits were developed
            • North-East India Circuit
            • Buddhist Circuit
            • Himalayan Circuit
            • Coastal Circuit
            • Krishna Circuit
            • Desert Circuit
            • Tribal Circuit
            • Eco Circuit
            • Wildlife Circuit
            • Rural Circuit
            • Spiritual Circuit
            • Ramayana Circuit
            • Heritage Circuit

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