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Current Affairs - 16 July 2016

General Affairs 

Madhya Pradesh Becomes First State To Have 'Happiness Department'
  • BHOPAL:  Madhya Pradesh today became the first state in the country to set up 'Happiness Department', with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan saying it will work to ensure "happiness in the lives of common people" on the lines of Bhutan.

    "The Cabinet has decided to constitute Happiness Department in the state," said Mr Chouhan, who will head the department at present.

    "Besides the basic necessities of Roti, Kapda aur Makaan (food, cloth and shelter) people need something more to be happy in their lives," he said, adding a panel of experts will be formed in the newly-constituted department which will give suggestions to ensure happiness in the lives of the people.

    "Normally, happiness is measured with economic growth rate which is not entirely correct as our country for ages believed otherwise. There is something more which can bring happiness in the lives of people," the Chief Minister said.

    He said the concept of happiness was already there in Bhutan which has "Happiness Index" to measure happiness of its people.

    Announcing the 'Happiness Department' in April, Mr Chouhan had said happiness will not come into the lives of people merely with materialistic possessions or development but by infusing positivity in their lives so that they don't take extreme steps like suicide.

    Meanwhile, over facing opposition in construction of a new district court building near a pond in Indore, Mr Chouhan said a delegation has met him on the issue. Also Lok Sabha Speaker and local MP Sumitra Mahajan spoke to him separately.

    "The government has decided to review its decision on the issue keeping in mind public emotions. It has also decided to constitute a panel comprising members from the High Court and the district court besides others to look for an alternate site for the purpose," he said.

5 Policemen Injured In Grenade Attack In Jammu And Kashmir
  • SRINAGAR: At least five police personnel were injured in a grenade attack and firing on police station at Yaripora in south Kashmir Kulgam district during stone pelting by protestors, a police official said.

    "Someone from the mob hurled a grenade towards the police personnel during stone pelting on Police station Yaripora. The grenade attack was followed by firing also," the official

    He said at least five cops were injured in the attack.

VK Singh Tweets Op Sankat Mochan Videos, 300 Refused To Leave South Sudan
  • THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In videos posted on Twitter by union minister VK Singh, Indians evacuated from war-battered South Sudan as part of "Operation Sankat Mochan" clapped, cheered and shouted 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai" on board an Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft.

    After a 30-hour operation, around 156 Indians were on the C-17 cargo plane fitted with special seats, but there were many empty spots. Over 300 Indians have refused to be flown out of Juba, South Sudan's capital, despite the strife and heavy firing.

    "Please applaud the IAF (Indian Air Force)," VK Singh, the Minister of State for External Affairs, told the rescued families using the public address system.

    "Our main effort is that you should be safe...This is an air force plane, seats have been specially installed for you, but it is not so comfortable," he said, smiling encouragingly. In another video, the minister was seen walking from row to row, interacting with the passengers. 
    The Indians who refused to leave South Sudan are hoping the situation will improve with the recent ceasefire between the South Sudanese government and rebels, and they don't have to abandon business.

    "Our aim was to evacuate people from Juba and the outskirts who were telling us that they are in danger. Around 300 do not want to get evacuated because of the business concerns," said Mr Singh.

    Anjali, her businessman husband and three-year-old daughter were relieved when they landed at Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram airport on Friday morning. The last few days had been all about cowering from sounds of gunshots.

    "There was a lot of firing. We could hear it continuously but we were safe," said Anjali Arun.

    "The situation is very bad. We could not come out of our houses because of the firing. We didn't have any food," said Jai Krishnan.

    Some want to return to Juba as soon as they can.

    "I have had a business there for the last 12 years and I cannot leave everything there. Even now we have ten people taking care of everything there because if we cannot bring back everyone, who will pay money for all the staff?" said Arun.

Ancient Nalanda University Declared World Heritage Site By UNESCO
  • PATNA:  The ruins of the ancient Nalanda university dating back to the third century BC have been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO.
    UNESCO's World Heritage Committee met this morning in Istanbul to inscribe four new sites in China, Iran and Micronesia besides the archaeological site of the Nalanda Mahavihara university oin Bihar on the World Heritage List.

    The Nalanda site comprises of the archaeological remains of a monastic and scholastic institution dating from the 3rd century BC to the 13th century AD. 
    It includes stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings) and important art works in stucco, stone and metal.

    "Nalanda stands out as the most ancient university of the Indian Subcontinent and engaged in the organised transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years," the UNESCO said.

    "The historical development of the site testifies to the development of Buddhism into a religion and the flourishing of monastic and educational traditions," it added.

    Besides Nalanda, the Zuojiang Huashan Rock Art Cultural Landscape in China, the Persian Qanat in Iran and the ceremonial centre of eastern Micronesia were also declared World Heritage Sites.

Nice Attack: About 50 People Still Fighting For Their Lives, Says Hollande
  • NICE, FRANCE:  French President Francois Hollande said about 50 people were still fighting for the lives following the attack that killed at least 84 people in Nice on Thursday.

    "About 50 people are in an absolute urgency between life and death," Hollande said after visiting victims at a hospital in the French Riviera city.

    He added that there were a lot of foreigners and children among the dead and warned that the fight against extremist groups would be long because they would continue to try to strike at Western values.

Business Affairs 

RIL June quarter profit jumps 18% to Rs 7,113 crore
  • Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) on Friday reported a 18.1 per cent rise in June quarter net profit, as it earned the highest refining margin in eight years.
    Consolidated net profit of Rs 7,113 crore, or Rs 24.1 a share, in April-June quarter of the current fiscal was 18.1 per cent higher than Rs 6,024 crore, or Rs 20.5 per share, in the same period a year ago, the company said in a statement.
    Its turnover, however, dipped to Rs 64,990 crore from Rs 76,615 crore on drop in oil prices.
    Operator of the world's largest refining complex, RIL earned $11.5 on turning every barrel of crude oil into fuel compared with $10.4 gross refining margin (GRM) in the first quarter of the last fiscal.
    The GRM in April-June period was highest in eight years.

    P Chidambaram, Pranab Mukherjee put pressure over interest rates: Subbarao
    • In scathing comments on his bosses in North Block, former RBI governor Duvvuri Subbarao has alleged that ex-finance ministers P Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee interfered in the functioning of the central bank, especially on setting interest rates, and the differences even led to two of his deputies not getting extensions.
      "Both Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee were piqued by the Reserve Bank's tight interest rate policy on the ground that high interest rates were inhibiting investment and hurting growth," writes Subbarao, who manned the Mint Road during the global financial crisis and had a five-year tenure from September 5, 2008 to September 4, 2013.
      The comments in the 'Who Moved My Interest Rates'- Leading the Reserve Bank of India through Five Turbulent Years, a tell-tale memoir running into 352 pages and hitting the stands on Friday, come within a month of present RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan refusing to accept a second term, apparently upset by the personal criticism levelled against him.
      The book narrates how Chidambaram and Mukherjee, as finance ministers during his term at the central bank, often made public their differences with the RBI on decisions on policy rates.
      According to Subbarao, who led the RBI through five turbulent years since the fall of the Lehman Brothers, there was not only pressure on him from Chidambaram and Mukherjee to cut interest rates, but his refusal to do so cost him dearly.
      "I have been asked several times if there was pressure from the government on setting interest rates. There certainly was, although the precise psychological mechanics of pressure would vary depending on the context, setting and personalities," he has written in the book.
      He goes onto say that he had to pay the price for not falling in line as the government turned down Subbarao's recommendations to give extension to two of his deputy governors-Usha Thorat during Mukherjee's tenure and Subir Gokarn when Chidambaram returned to the finance ministry.
      Subbarao recalls that throughout his five-year term, the government was very uncomfortable with the RBI for raising interest rates and blamed this for falling growth rates.
      "The logic of why the Reserve Bank should compromise its judgement so as to become a cheerleader for the economy never appealed to me," he writes. The former bureaucrat-turned-central bank Governor also suggests that Chidambaram had broken a tacit agreement between the government and the RBI to keep such differences behind closed doors and painfully recalls how the then FM rebuked him publicly.
      In October 2012, after he left the policy rate unchanged, Chidambaram unveiled a fiscal road map just before the RBI policy meeting.
      Soon after the RBI's policy statement, Chidambaram said: "Growth is as much a concern as inflation. If the government has to walk alone to face the challenge of growth, we will walk alone."
      Not just that, Subbarao recalls, in the chapter titled 'Walking Alone', less than a week after this statement they were together in Mexico for the dinner hosted by the Indian ambassador on the sidelines of the G20 meeting and Chidambaram "greeted everyone, but pointedly ignored me all through the evening, leaving me with an uncomfortable feeling".
      Chidambaram went further and threatened to "walk alone" to "face the challenge of growth" if the central bank did not realise the importance of growth.
      On his trial by fire baptism into central banking, within a fortnight of his joining office, the world was plunged into a crisis following the Lehman Brothers' collapse pushing the global financial sector into what he calls a "near-death experience", and within the same month, "Chidambaram had clearly overstepped into the RBI turf as liquidity management is a quintessential central bank function".
      "Not only did he not consult me but he had not even informed me of this before the notification was issued," he claimed.
      But, Subbarao adds, "little did I know that this set the tone for what would be an uneasy relationship between us in the last year of my term." .
      He also denies Chidambaram's claim in his column in a daily wherein he said the government and the RBI were on the same page in 8 of 10 monetary policy statements, saying that it may be the minister's experience.
      "I found that all through my tenure, the government was distinctly uncomfortable with the RBI raising interest rates and seemed convinced that monetary policy was choking growth," he says.
      He goes onto add that "the logic of why the Reserve Bank should compromise its judgement so as to become a cheerleader for the economy never appealed to me".
      Subbarao even hints that his own reappointment in 2011 was not pursued eagerly by Mukherjee, but he got it nevertheless because of the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. And that he got to know about his own reappointment from news channels, which quoted the PMO website and not the finance ministry's.
      Subbarao did not even get a call from the finance ministry. It was the PM's principal secretary TKA Nair, who called him to confirm his reappointment. But the deputy governors did not have such luck.
      "Usha became a part of the price we had to pay for asserting the autonomy of the Reserve Bank," Subbarao writes.
      The book has been published by Penguin Random House.

      Gold imports drop over 38 per cent in June to $1.2 billion
      • Gold imports plunged by 38.54 per cent to $1.2 billion in June while inbound shipments of silver fell by more than a quarter in the month.
        Gold imports were worth $1.96 billion in June 2015.
        Meanwhile, the government has announced launch of fourth tranche of sovereign gold bond scheme from July 18 in a bid to check the demand for physical gold.
        The Reserve Bank has fixed the issue price of bond at Rs 3,119 per gram. The rate has been fixed on the basis of simple average of closing price of gold of 999 purity for the week July 11 to 15, 2016 as published by the India Bullion and Jewellers Association (IBJA).
        Government has netted 3.1 tonnes of idle household and temple gold under the monetisation scheme since its launch in November 2015.
        India imports about 1,000 tonnes of gold every year and the precious metal is the second highest component of the import bill after crude oil. An estimated 20,000 tonnes of gold is lying with households and temples.
        As per the data released by the Commerce and Industry Ministry, the silver imports were recorded at $249.39 million in June as against $342.37 million, registering a decline of 27.16 per cent year-on-year.
        Also, shipments of pearls, precious and semi-precious stones showed a decline of 13.52 per cent in June.
        Imports of coal, coke and briquettes were $1.07 billion, down 12.95 per cent. Imports of fertiliser, petroleum products, and iron and steel too witnessed significant decline in June.

      Govt reaches out to opposition ahead of Parliament session
      • Intensifying Government's efforts to bring the opposition around on the crucial GST bill ahead of the Monsoon session of Parliament, Union Ministers Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar on Friday met Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma to help break the impasse on it.
        During the meeting, that lasted about 45 minutes, the two sides put forth their points of view and after discussing the issue with their respective parties, decided to meet again once the Monsoon session starts on July 18.
        Asked if the meeting was positive and if the issues have been resolved, both sides were non-committal and said only preliminary discussions were held on Friday. They also did not comment on whether the bill will see its passage or not.
        "We are trying to build consensus on GST. We have discussed all the points. Once the session starts, we will meet again after discussing the issue within our respective parties," Jaitley said after the meeting, which was held in Azad's room in Parliament.
        Azad, who is leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said this was a preliminary meeting where the two sides presented their points of view and will meet again after discussions with the respective leaderships of government and Congress.
        "We had an in-depth discussion. We gave our point of view, they gave theirs. We put forth our apprehensions and suggestions. We will get back to our leadership and they will get back to their leadership and then we will meet again," he said.
        Sharma said the two sides sensitised each other on their respective positions on the issue.
        "The talks are on. We will brief our leadership and will meet again after the session starts," he said.
        Sharma added that it is in the interest of the government and the Congress party to put forth each other's position in the preliminary discussion on the issue and then discuss it with our leaderships and then meet again.
        Asked if Congress would stick to its stand that the constructive dialogue with the government will not be on the passage of one bill, the Congress leaders said it is a larger issue that would be discussed with other opposition parties also, but Friday's meeting was on a specific issue.
        "Constructive engagement between government of the day and opposition as a whole cannot be limited or made conditional upon passage or non-passage of one bill," Sharma said.
        The government had on Thursday reached out to the opposition party with Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu calling up Azad and Sharma to seek Congress' backing for the bill.
        The GST bill has been hanging fire for a long time due to stiff opposition from Congress.
        The Constitution amendment bill for roll-out of GST is pending in Rajya Sabha for a long time and the government is keen to ensure its passage. The Goods and Services Tax seeks to bring a uniform tax structure subsuming a number of imposts and the government claims that it will help add 1 to 2 per cent to the country's GDP.
        Top Congress leaders had on Thursday deliberated on the strategy for the session with party president Sonia Gandhi at her residence where GST was also discussed.
        Congress has been pressing for a GST cap of 18 per cent as part of the Constitutional Amendment bill with which the government is not in agreement.
        Insiders say the demand has become a sticking point, but Congress may relent and agree to a cap in the statute and not as part of the Constitution bill.

        Raghuram Rajan's formidable reputation helped stabilise Re: Subbarao
        • Former Reserve Bank Governor Duvvuri Subbarao has credited his successor Raghuram Rajan's "formidable reputation" for bringing sanity to the forex market when the rupee had lost nearly 25 per cent amid 'taper tantrums' in the summer of 2013.
          He has also blamed then then Finance Minister P Chidambaram's reluctance to accept that the rupee was bleeding more because of domestic issues and less due to external factors like the taper tantrums - a reference to the US Fed's gradual withdrawal of stimulus measures for the American economy following the global financial crisis of 2008.
          "I had several conversations with Chidambaram on this, but found him reluctant to face up to this inconvenient truth. He is too intelligent not to have seen the point; I suspect he found it politically convenient to point to an external scapegoat rather than call attention to domestic structural factors," Subbarao, the bureaucrat-turned central banker, has written in a book.
          He has also blamed Chidambaram who "wholeheartedly supported his appointment" to the Mint Road for undermining the autonomy of RBI and putting pressure on him to cut interest rates.
          On the impact of the appointment of Raghuram Rajan as the new Governor on stabilising the rupee, Subbarao says "the scheduled leadership change at the Reserve Bank and the formidable reputation of my successor, Raghuram Rajan, helped restore confidence in the Indian markets".
          The book 'Who Moved My Interest Rates- Leading the Reserve Bank of India through Five Turbulent Years', is a tell-tale 352 page memoir by Subbarao. It hit the stands today and will be formally launched next month. It is published by Penguin Random House.
          "In fact, as chief economic adviser to the government, Raghu was on board all through the exchange rate turmoil and was more actively involved in all the decisions after he was named in early August as my successor," he notes in the book, which he began penning in the middle of last year.
          On the radical measures that Rajan announced on assuming charge, Subbarao says soon after Rajan came to RBI as an OSD, they both had agreed on those steps like raising forex through NRI deposits.
          "Raghu was kind enough to offer that I announce these measures before signing off. But I thought that the measures would be more effective if he announced them as the incoming governor. At least on this issue, my judgement worked!" he says in a chapter titled 'Rupee Tantrums 137'. 

        General Awareness

        Cabinet approves Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) with an outlay of Rs.12000 crore

        • In order to impart skilling to One Crore Indian population in the next four years, PM Narendra Modi unveiled Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) with an outlay ofRs.12000 crore. This scheme will impart new skills to 60 lakh people and also make certifications to 40 lakh people acquired under the Recognition of Prior Learning.

          • In this Scheme, the training and assessment cost will be directly given to the training providers and assessing bodies as per the common norms.
          • The financial assistance to the trainees is to be disbursed through the DBT – Direct Benefit Transfer scheme in the form of travel allowance, boarding and lodging fee.
          • At the same time, the subsidy disbursement mandates the link of Aadhar and Biometricfor transparency and better transmission.
          • In a nest step of addressing the skill requirements in different states, State Governments would be involved through a project based approach under the PMKVY 2016-20 with 25% of the total training targets as both physical and financial forms.
          General guidance, supervision and job arrangements for the trained people will be made through
          ♦ Rozgar Melas (placement camps)
          ♦ Kaushal Shivirs (mobilization camps).
          This target allocation between fresh training’s and RPL will be flexible and interchangeable depending on functional and operational requirements.
          Another proposal for a non formal training is also proposed. There will be special focus on placement of trainees with incentives/disincentives linked to placement as advised.

          Under this scheme, scholarship will be awarded to the training in high end job roles. Apart from satisfying the domestic needs, this training also focuses training standards for overseas employment in Europe, Gulf and other global hotspots.

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