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Current Affairs - 17 October 2016

General Affairs 

PM Narendra Modi Concludes BRICS Summit, Calls It A Success
  • BENAULIM:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded the eighth summit of the emerging-market bloc of BRICS in Goa, thanking the other leaders for their support to make the summit a success.

    "We have adopted the Goa declaration that lays down a comprehensive vision for our cooperation within BRICS and on international issues," Xinhua news agency quoted PM Modi as saying in a press conference on Sunday.

    Three agreements -- on agricultural research, co-operation between diplomatic academies and regulations on custom cooperation -- have been reached at the summit.

    "Our discussions that spread over three sessions were detailed substantive and productive," said the Prime Minister, adding that putting global economy back on track was one of the topics.

    On achievement of BRICS, that groups Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, PM Modi said the footprint of intra-BRICS engagement has expanded over time to include large areas of economic activity.

    He said the establishment of the New Development Bank and the Contingency Reserve Arrangement are "indeed signature achievements".

    BRICS is committed to strengthening consultations and cooperation on peace and security matters, he said, noting that the bloc is unanimous in recognizing the threat that terrorism, extremism and radicalization present.

    The leader also called for enhanced people-to-people exchanges and co-operations within the BRICS.

    The five BRICS leaders just met last month in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou when China hosted the G20 summit.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Formally Takes Over As Janata Dal-United Chief
  • PATNA:  Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday formally took over as President of the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) at a party meeting in Rajgir in Nalanda district.

    The two-day JD-U National Council meeting that began on Sunday in Rajgir ratified Nitish Kumar's election to the top post. JD-U Electoral Officer Anil Hegde made announced the appointment.

    He was congratulated by Former JD-U President Sharad Yadav.

    Upbeat over the development, several Bihar JD-U leaders said Nitish Kumar was prime minister material, with a few even claiming that he would be the next Prime Minister.

    However, Bihar's opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leaders said Nitish Kumar was merely 'daydreaming' and that there is no vacancy for the Prime Minister's chair as Narendra Modi will continue in the top political post even after the 2019 general elections.

    Earlier, soon after the meeting began, senior JD-U leaders made it clear that the party will play an important role in national politics ahead of the next Lok Sabha polls.

    The JD-U is likely to think over its strategy to play a major role to unite non-BJP regional parties at the national level ahead of the general elections.

    The party may also discuss among like-minded parties the projection of Nitish Kumar as the common Prime Ministerial candidate.

    The JD-U National Council meeting started with the hoisting of the party flag by Nitish Kumar along with former JD-U President Sharad Yadav in the presence of hundreds of party leaders and workers.

    State JD-U President Vashisht Narain Singh said over 1,200 party leaders from 24 states, including 170 elected delegates, were participating in the meeting.

    He said: "The party will deliberate on alternate national policies and leadership."

    Former Jharkhand Chief Minister and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha chief Babulal Marandi will attend the meeting on the concluding day on Monday.

    Rajgir is a historic place in Nalanda district, the home district of Nitish Kumar and about 100 km from Patna.

Will Propose Akhilesh Yadav's Name For Chief Minister If Samajwadi Party Wins: Shivpal Yadav
  • BALLIA, UTTAR PRADESH:  A day after senior party leader Ramgopal Yadav suggested Akhilesh Yadav be made the chief ministerial candidate, Samajwadi Party state president today said he will himself propose Akhilesh Yadav's name for the post of chief minister if the party is voted to power again.

    "Ramgopal (Yadav) is party's national general secretary. He can write to party national president and give him advice. There is nothing wrong in it. I will myself propose name of Akhilesh (Yadav) as CM, if party is voted to power in 2017," Shivpal Yadav said.

    Ramgopal Yadav, in a letter to Mulayam Singh Yadav, on Saturday said he would be held responsible if the party's fortunes plunged in the forthcoming assembly elections.

    "Akhilesh (Yadav) is undoubtedly the most popular leader of the state and under him Uttar Pradesh has seen unprecedented development works. If SP has to win the elections, Akhilesh (Yadav) must be made its CM face," the letter said.

    "You can take any decision, but if SP's tally fell below 100, you alone would be held responsible. The same people who worship you for raising Samajwadi Party and would hold you responsible for its decline also. History is ruthless. It spares no one," Ramgopal Yadav said in the letter while taking pot shots on his "advisors" stating that "they had no value in the eyes of people".

    Shivpal Yadav was in Ballia to attend a workers meet in which leaders of Quami Ekta Dal also addressed the gathering.

    In his address Shivpal Yadav came down heavily on bureaucrats alleging that after taking all the facilities they also take "commissions" for executing works.

    "They (bureaucrats) use all their knowledge in sitting on files and delaying works," he said.

    Asking party workers to remain prepared for polls, Shivpal Yadav said that "a notification regarding elections could be issued any time (by Election Commission)".

India, Russia To Study Building World's Most Expensive Pipeline
  • BENAULIM, GOA:  India and Russia have agreed to explore building the world's most expensive pipeline costing close to USD 25 billion to ferry natural gas from Siberia to the world's third biggest energy consuming nation.

    The pipeline is to connect Russian gas grid to India through a 4,500 km to 6,000 km pipeline, officials said.

    The shortest route will entail bringing the pipeline through Himalayas into Northern India, a route which poses several technical challenges.

    Alternately, the pipeline can come via Central Asian nations, Iran and Pakistan into Western India. However, the route will be expensive when compared to the long discussed but shorter and cheaper Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline. Tehran may suggest India take its gas through IPI rather than building such an expensive pipeline, they said.

    The third and the longest alternative is to lay a pipeline through China and Myanmar into North East India bypassing Bangladesh.

    According to preliminary cost estimate prepared by state-owned Engineers India Ltd, which yesterday signed an agreement with Russian gas monopoly Gazprom for studying the Russia-India pipeline, the longest route of 6,000 km may cost close to USD 25 billion.

    The cost of transporting gas may be USD 12 per million British thermal unit, according to EIL.

    The MoU signed in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the India-Russia Annual Summit on sidelines of the 8th BRICS Summit in Goa, also envisages roping in ONGC Videsh Ltd, gas utility GAIL India Ltd and Petronet LNG Ltd for the study.

    Sources said natural gas produced in East Siberian fields is to be pumped into Russian gas grid which would be connected to India through the cross-country pipeline network.

    While the cost of transporting gas via the long discussed IPI pipeline is less than USD 1 per mmBtu, the same for the Turkeministan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline is around USD 2 per mmBtu.

    According to industry experts, a realistic transportation cost would be USD 4 per mmBtu for the Russia-India gas pipeline. This excludes the transit fee to be paid to nations through which the pipeline will pass.

    Russia is seeking to expand energy ties in Asia amid tensions with the West sparked by Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

    Indian companies have snapped up stakes in production assets in Siberian fields.

    The MoU is being seen as an attempt to strengthen ties between the world's largest oil producer and the world's fastest growing fuel consumer.

Personal Laws Must Be Constitutionally Compliant: Arun Jaitley
  • NEW DELHI:  Amid the ongoing debate over 'Triple Talaq', Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said the government is of the clear view that personal laws should be constitutionally compliant and in conformity with norms of gender equality and the right to live with dignity.

    In a Facebook post titled "Triple Talaq and the Government's Affidavit", he said that governments in the past have shied from taking a categorical stand that personal laws must comply with Fundamental Rights but the present one has taken a clear position on the issue.

    "Personal laws have to be constitutionally compliant and the institution of Triple Talaq, therefore, will have to be judged on the yardstick of equality and the Right to Live with Dignity. Needless to say that the same yardstick would be applicable to all other personal laws," he said.

    Observing that the constitutional validity of 'Triple Talaq' is distinct from the Uniform Civil Code, he said as of today, the issue before the Supreme Court is only with regard to the constitutional validity of Triple Talaq.

    In its affidavit in Supreme Court on October 7, the Law Ministry argued that polygamy and Triple Talaq should be done away with, and said that such practices "cannot be regarded as essential or integral part of the religion".

    "The academic debate with regard to the Uniform Civil Code can go on before the Law Commission. The question to be answered is that assuming that each community has its separate personal law, should not those personal laws be constitutionally compliant?" Mr Jaitley said.

    He said there is a fundamental distinction between religious practices, rituals and civil rights.

    "Religious functions associated with birth, adoption, succession, marriage, death, can all be conducted through rituals and customs as per existing religious practices. Should rights emanating from birth, adoption, succession, marriage, divorce etc. be guided by religion or by constitutional guarantees? Can there be inequality or compromise with human dignity in any of these matters?" the finance minister said.

    Some people may hold a conservative, if not obsolete, view that personal laws need not be constitutionally compliant, he said, adding "the Government's view is clear. Personal laws have to be constitutionally compliant...".

    Mr Jaitley said the constitutional framers had expressed a hope in the Directive Principles of State Policy that the State would endeavour to have a Uniform Civil Law and on more than one occasion, the Supreme Court has enquired from the government its stand on the issue.

    "Governments have repeatedly told both the Court and Parliament that personal laws are ordinarily amended after detailed consultations with affected stakeholders," he said.

    As regards the Uniform Civil Code, the Law Commission has initiated an academic exercise to elicit views of public on the issue.

    "This academic exercise by the Law Commission is only a continuation of the debate in this country ever since Constituent Assembly had expressed the hope that the State would endeavour to have a Uniform Civil Code," he said.

    "Irrespective of whether the Uniform Civil Code is today possible or otherwise, a pertinent question arises with regard to reforms within the personal laws of various communities," he said.

    Mr Jaitley said that Jawaharlal Nehru's government had brought about major reforms to the Hindu Personal Laws through legislative changes and more recently Manmohan Singh's government came up with legislative changes with regard to gender equality in the Hindu Undivided Family.

    Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government, after active consultations with stakeholders, amended the provisions of marriage and divorce relating to the Christian community in order to bring about the gender equality, he added.

    "Reforming the personal laws, even if there is no uniformity, is an ongoing process. With passage of time, several provisions became obsolete, archaic and even got rusted. Governments, legislatures and communities have to respond to the need for a change," Mr Jaitley said.

    As communities have progressed, there is a greater realisation with regard to gender equality.

    "Additionally, all citizens, more particularly women, have a right to live with dignity. Should personal laws which impact the life of every citizen be in conformity with these constitutional values of equality and the Right to Live with dignity? A conservative view found judicial support over six decades ago that personal laws could be inconsistent with personal guarantees. Today it may be difficult to sustain that proposition. The government's affidavit in the triple talaq case recognises this evolution," Mr Jaitley explained.

    He said there is a fundamental distinction between religious practices, rituals and civil rights. On September 2, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) told the Supreme Court that personal laws of a community cannot be "re-written" in the name of social reforms and opposed pleas on issues including alleged gender discrimination faced by Muslim women in divorce cases.

    AIMPLB, in its counter affidavit filed in the apex court, had said the contentious issue relating to Muslim practices of polygamy, triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat) and nikah halala are matters of "legislative policy" and cannot be interfered with.

Business Affairs 

Sensex turns flat after rising over 100 points; Nifty50 dips below 8,600; ICICI Bank top gainer
  • The S&P BSE Sensex on Monday turned flat after rising over 100 points, while the broader Nifty50 was trading below its key support level of 8,600.
    The headline indices were trading in a range tracking mixed trend seen in Asian markets after after comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen boosted long-dated US bond yields.
    At 09:30 am, the 30-share index was trading at 27,724, up 50.78 points, while the broad-based 50-share index was quoting 8,585, up 2.15 points.
    "An immediate correction towards 8,400-8,287 cannot be ruled out on Nifty. This hypothesis remains valid as long as the recent swing of 8,745.80 is not violated," said Angel Broking in a research note.
    ICICI Bank was the top gainer on both the benchmark indices and rallied nearly 4 per cent on the BSE.
    Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Composite was trading flat, while Japan's Nikkei added 0.28 per cent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index bucked the trend to lose 0.42 per cent.
    On Friday, US markets closed slightly higher, finishing near lows of the session to turn in a second losing week in a row.

        India one of the most open economies today: PM Modi
        • Asserting that results of the reforms undertaken by his government were visible, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said the country has transformed into "one of the most open economies" in the world with a strong growth rate.
          "We have undertaken substantial reforms in the past two years to streamline and simplify governance, especially in doing business. The results are clearly visible," Modi told the Brics Business Council as part of the eighth summit of the five-nation grouping here.
          "We have moved up in almost all global indices that measure such performances. We have transformed India into one of the most open economies in the world today. Growth is strong and we are taking steps to keep the momentum going," the Prime Minister said.
          The Modi government has undertaken a slew of reforms like passing the indirect taxation legislation on goods and services tax which seeks to make the country a single market, passing the Bankruptcy Code which will help troubled/failed companies find an exit, and through flagship programmes on the administrative front like the 'Make in India' and the 'Digital India' initiatives.
          All this has had India's ranking in ease of doing business go up by multiple notches in a year to 39 as per the latest ranking by the World Bank.

            BRICS development bank to lend $2.5 billion next year
            • The development bank set up by the BRICS group of emerging economies will ramp up lending to $2.5 billion next year after making its first loans to back green projects, its president KV Kamath told Reuters.
              The BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - agreed to create the New Development Bank (NDB) in July 2014 with initial authorised capital of $100 billion. The lender was officially launched a year later.
              "The second year is scaling up, concentrating on people, getting all the skillsets in," said Kamath, a veteran Indian banker appointed as the first head of the Shanghai-based NDB.
              He was speaking on the fringes of a weekend BRICS summit hosted in the resort state of Goa by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The gathering seeks to add substance to the group that grew out of an acronym devised by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill back in 2003 that projected a long-term boom and global power shift in their favour.
              With Russia, Brazil and South Africa on the economic skids and China slowing, the initial euphoria has faded, yet Kamath said the BRICS had much to gain by deepening their cooperation.
              "The fact is that these countries, collectively, have for the last few years contributed to more than 50 percent of incremental economic wealth that has been generated globally," said Kamath. "I don't see that changing."
              The NDB, headquartered in Shanghai, will expand its staff to 300 over the next three years but run a tight operation that seeks to take quick decisions and transfer experience across all five BRICS member states.
              It has already approved loans totalling $900 million to green projects in each member state. It has also started a renminbi-denominated borrowing programme, issuing a 3 billion yuan ($450 million) bond.
              Kamath, 68, said there was plenty of room for new lenders like the NDB and the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), in addition to established institutions like the World Bank.
              "Infrastructure alone has needs globally of $1-1.5 trillion a year - all the multilateral banks put together can do maybe 15 percent of this," said Kamath, who ran India's ICICI Bank Ltd from 1996 until 2009.
              "The phrase I would like to use is cooperate and work together, rather than compete. I don't see competition as a key challenge in this context."

            Govt grants BP Plc licence to set up petrol pumps in India
            • Government has formally granted a licence to BP Plc, Europe's third-biggest oil company, to set up 3,500 petrol pumps in India, making it the 10th company to enter the lucrative fuel retailing sector.
              The company was granted a formal licence on October 14.
              "BP granted licence to market Motor Spirit (petrol) and High Speed Diesel (diesel) - another milestone for BP in India," the company tweeted.
              The UK-based firm, as also Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd, was given approval by the Oil Ministry to retail petrol and diesel, sources said.
              "A significant step in BP's partnership with India - been granted licence to market Motor Spirit and High Speed Diesel," it said.
              A BP India spokesperson had earlier this month stated that: "BP sees a strong future for transportation fuels in India. We are keen to be involved in this market and contribute to its development."
              The company had in January this year won in-principle approval to retail aviation turbine fuel (ATF) to airlines in India. Subsequently, it got full approval for that.
              "We can confirm we have been granted approval for marketing for ATF," the BP spokesperson said.
              For a licence to retail auto fuels -- petrol, diesel and ATF, a company should have invested a minimum of Rs 2,000 crore in exploration or production of oil and gas, oil refining, gas or product pipeline or terminals leading to additionally to the existing assets or creation of new assets in the eligible activities.
              BP, which had in 2011 bought 30 per cent interest in 21 exploration blocks of Reliance Industries for USD 7.2 billion, had cited investment of nearly USD 500 million in oil and gas exploration and production for gaining the licence.
              India currently has about 56,190 petrol pumps, with public sector firms operating a majority of them.
              Private sector operators are limited to Essar Oil and Reliance Industries, who between them have some 3,500 petrol pumps. Royal Dutch Shell operates 82 petrol stations.
              Numaligarh Refineries Ltd (NRL) and Mangalore Refineries and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) are late entrants and have six outlets between them.
              State-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC) owns 25,363 petrol pumps, Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) 13,802 stations and Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) 13,439 outlets.
              Kolkata-based Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd (HPL) was the latest company to get licence to set up upto 100 petrol pumps, mostly in West Bengal.
              In ATF or jet fuel retailing, there are 205 aviation fuel stations, 100 of which are owned by IOC, 40 by BPCL and 37 by HPCL. RIL has 27 aviation fuel stations at airports while joint venture of Shell and MRPL owns one.

                Britain's PM May heads to India with eye on post-Brexit trade
                • British Prime Minister Theresa May will lead a delegation of small and medium-size businesses to India in November as part of efforts to bolster trade with countries outside the European Union as Britain prepares to leave the bloc.
                  The Nov. 6-8 trip, May's first bilateral visit to a country outside Europe since she took office in July, will be in pursuit of her ambition of forging a new global role for Britain after it leaves the European Union, May's Downing Street office said in a statement.
                  The European Commission is responsible for trade negotiations for the EU and some countries have said they will not negotiate a new deal for Britain until it has actually left the bloc.
                  "As we embark on the trade mission to India we will send the message that the UK will be the most passionate, most consistent, and most convincing advocate for free trade," May was quoted as saying.
                  She said past trade missions had focused on big business, but she wanted to adopt a new approach and would take small and medium companies from every region of the United Kingdom.
                  Among them will be Geolang, a cyber security company based in Cardiff in Wales, Torftech, a biomass energy company based in southeast England, and Telensa, a company focused on high-tech wireless street lighting systems, based in Cambridge.
                  May will hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during her visit, and the two heads of government will together inaugurate a tech summit in New Delhi.
                  Liam Fox, Britain's secretary of state for international trade, will join the visit, during which a number of commercial deals are expected to be signed.

                General Awareness

                8th BRICS Summit held in Goa

                • The 2016 BRICS summit is the eighth annual BRICS summit, an international relations conference attended by the heads of country or heads of government of the five member countries Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
                  • The summit held from 15 to 16 October 2016 at the Taj Exotica hotel in Benaulim, Goa, India. India will hold the chair of the BRICS from February 2016 to December 2016.
                  • In July 2015, during the 7th BRICS summit, it was announced that India will host the 8th BRICS summit in 2016. In March 2016,Goa was announced as the venue of the summit.
                  • The first BRICS film festival was held at New Delhi from 2 September to 6 September 2016. The five-day film festival screened four films each from the participating nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
                  • The environment ministers of BRICS nations held a meeting on 16th September 2016 in Goa, they agreed on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) andannounced the setting up of a joint working group institutionalizing their mutual cooperation on environment related issues.
                  • The agriculture ministers of BRICS nations held a meeting on 23rd September 2016 in New Delhi.
                  • The first trade fair of the BRICS countries, was held at Pragati Maidan exhibition ground, New Delhi from 12 to 14 October. The first BRICS U-17 Football Cup was held at Goa from 5th to 15th October, 2016.
                  PM Modi to inaugurate war memorial in Bhopal
                  Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Bhopal , where he inaugurated the newly built war memorial- Shaurya Samarakand address a meeting of ex-servicemen at Lal Pared ground.
                  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that the  Army would never “forgive” the country if it was found “sleeping” when it should be awake, in comments that come against the backdrop of the recent surgical strikes.
                  • He asserted that the Army did not believe in speaking but in displaying its valour.The ShauryaSamarak is an imaginative and colourful presentation of valour of Indian forces and a tribute to the martyrs.
                  • Samarak covers 13 acres of ground and cost Rs.41 crore. It symbolises the various stages of life, war, death and victory. The bravery and glory of soldiers is celebrated in the Shaurya gallery display and India’s gratitude is represented by the Shaurya Stambh.
                  BRICS nations adopted “the Goa declaration” :
                  The BRICS Summit 2016 adopted the Goa Declaration which unanimously hit out at the growing threat of terrorism, among other issues. India was the host nation of the 8th Summit and the 9th will be organised by China
                  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed that they had adopted the Goa Declaration that laid down a comprehensive vision for our cooperation. Combating terrorism, including cross border terrorism, and its supportersw ould  be a BRICS priority. Prime Minister
                  • Narendra Modi added  that the “most serious” direct threat to regional security was terrorism, whose “mothership” was a country in India’s neighbourhood
                  • We agreed that those who nurture, shelter, support and sponsor forces of violence and terror are as much a threat to us as terrorists themselves. We were unanimous in recognising the threat that terrorism, extremism and radicalisation presents
                  • We welcome the early entry into force of the Paris Climate agreement, India was proud to sign it on 2nd October this year. India and Russia signed a total of17 agreements/MoUs during the meeting.
                  • The Summit is being held in Benaulim, Goa. The tourist state has been converted into a fortress with the entire state being put on high alert given the presence of world leaders.
                  • On the New Development Bank, which completed a year, Modi said BRICS nations agreed that it should continue to focus on infrastructure, technology and renewable energy sectors.
                  • He further added   that “in order to further bridge the gap in the global financial architecture, we agreed to fast track the setting up of a BRICS Rating Agency.
                  BRICS-BIMSTEC Summit :
                  The first ever BRICS-BIMSTEC outreach summit held in Goa under the chairmanship of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
                  • Renewing the BIMSTEC bond, PM Narendra Modi and BIMSTEC leaders earlier gathered for a special retreat before the BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit.
                  • BIMSTEC comprises of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand and holds immense potential.

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