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Current Affairs - 6 December 2016

General Affairs 

Logjam In Lok Sabha Over Demonetisation Debate Continues
  • NEW DELHI:  The logjam in Lok Sabha over initiating a debate on demonetisation continued for third consecutive week with the discussion being listed in today's agenda under a rule which does not entail voting and Speaker Sumitra Mahajan rejecting the Opposition demand for it to be held under a rule that entails voting.

    As soon as the House assembled for the day, Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge said the Opposition was ready to initiate the debate under Rule 184 instead of their original demand for it to be held under Rule 56, and the government must now agree to it.

    "We have come down from Rule 56 to Rule 184. Now the government should also come down from Rule 193 and agree to Rule 184," he said.

    The government has been maintaining that it was ready for a debate on demonetisation of Rs.1000 and Rs. 500 notes under Rule 193 that does not entail voting. Mr Kharge was strongly supported by TMC leader Sudip Bandopadhyay, who said the treasury benches should not put pressurise the Opposition by sticking to a particular point.

    "Kindly don't put pressure. You have brute majority in the House. But you are avoiding voting, we don't know why," he said.

    CPI(M) MP P Karunakaran also supported Mr Kharge and Mr Bandopadhyay and wanted the debate to be held under Rule 184. However, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said that Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) had given notice to hold the debate under Rule 193 and their wish should also be respected.

    "Please don't take it as a prestige issue. Let's all start the debate. Let all parties come together to fight against the blackmoney," he said. Mr Kumar said they were ready for suspension of Question Hour and initiate debate if the opposition agreed to Rule 193.

    Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia countered Kumar and said the opposition too was against blackmoney and terrorism and ready to start debate under Rule 184.

    The Speaker said she was ready to start the debate right away if the House agreed. The debate has been listed in today's list of business under Rule 193.

    Ms Mahajan said notices were given by BJD and TRS and she cannot ignore them. "They also have their voice and we have to listen to them too," she said, rejecting the opposition demand.

    Immediately thereafter, the Congress, TMC and Left members trooped into the Well shouting slogans against the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    Interestingly, when the opposition members shouted 'Modi', 'Modi', HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said "you are saying 'Modi', 'Modi', it is good'

    Ms Mahajan said "Chair is ready to help you. But you don't want any discussion". As the loud protests continued for almost half and hour, the Speaker allowed members to raise four Questions amidst the noisy scenes and later adjourned the House till noon.

    While Congress leader Sonia Gandhi was present in the House, no AIADMK MP was present in the House apparently due to party chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's serious health condition.

Indian Embassy In US To Hold Open House On Visa-Related Issues
  • WASHINGTON:  The Indian Embassy in Washington and its five consulates in the US will hold an open house every fortnight starting from January to address the grievances of people on issues related to visa, passport and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card.

    "I would like to announce an initiative today. We would institute from the first week of January next year an open house in the Indian Embassy," Indian Ambassador to the US Navtej Sarna, said yesterday at a reception held in his honour by top Indian-American community organisations of greater Washington DC area.

    Addressing several hundred Indian-Americans from in and around Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia, Mr Sarna said "the Open House would be held every fortnight wherein people with their grievances related to passports, visas and OCI cards can simply walk in and the senior embassy officials would address them."

    "We would put out on the website once a fortnight, a designated day and a time where somebody who may have put in his papers and is not getting a response; somebody who actually have a particular problem which he wants to come and discuss with some body at the Embassy; somebody who is facing a problem in communication; somebody who does not have a paper for OCI, but still wants to have it; they would be able to come and we will have the our senior officers and the nodal officers will meet them and attend to their problem," he said.

    "We will also institute a similar arrangement in all our consulates in the United States," the Indian Ambassador said.

    His announcement was welcomed by the community leaders present at the reception, who also felicitated the outgoing Deputy Indian Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, who now heads to Colombo as the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka.

    In his second stint to the Indian Embassy in Washington DC, Mr Sarna acknowledged that problem persists despite best of the efforts and improvement in the system.

    "I know one place where we always go wrong is passport, visa, OCI. No matter, how, where we do, we outsource it, we monitor it and this is the nature of the beast, nobody's fault... no matter how efficient the machinery is this is ultimately a human error... there will always be a problem when you rang and nobody picked up the phone," he said.

    "When you actually send the passport and for some reason they are stuck in the post, where you actually wanted to use the electronic visa system, and they did not accept your card.

    "These happens, because these are new systems. These are being put through the teething problems. They need to be improved upon. In a couple of years, I can assure you will laugh at these problems," he said.

    In his remarks, Mr Sandhu highlighted the role of the Indian American community in strengthening India US relationship.

    Among other things, he stressed on the need to involve second generation Indian Americans in community activities and strengthening India US ties.

BJP Leaders Campaign For Cashless Society
  • NEW DELHI:  In the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for a "cashless society", Delhi BJP leaders today visited markets and residential colonies in the national capital to educate people, about cashless transactions.

    Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari bought a shirt through a banking app during the 'My mobile-my bank-my wallet' campaign at Mukherjee Nagar.

    Union minister Harsh Vardhan, and Vijay Goel reached out to the public in Tri Nagar and Karol Bagh respectively.

    Hitting at opposition parties Mr Tiwari said, "In 1980, when computer came it was said that unemployment will grow. In 1995, when mobile phones came they were taken as a luxury. Time has shown that computers and mobiles have brought progress for all and now in 2016 when Prime Minister is promoting mobile banking it is being said that it will hurt the trade but the truth is that the mobile banking revolution will bring economic growth for all."

    Union State Minister Vijay Goel along with former North Delhi mayor Ravindra Gupta and other leaders interacted with the local traders and customers in Ajmal Khan market.

    Party MPs Maheish Girri, Ramesh Bidhuri and former Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay also campaigned for the cashless transactions in different parts of the city. 

Congress Rules Out Tie Up With Samajwadi Party For UP Assembly Polls
  • LUCKNOW:  Amidst indications that Samajwadi Party leader and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is warming up to the idea of an alliance with the Congress, Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee President Raj Babbar today said his party will contest alone in the state and described such talks as "hypothetical".

    "Alliance talks in some way demoralises workers. I have no such information. The party leadership has not asked me to look for a tie up and it's not under consideration. This is hypothetical," he told news agency PTI in an interview in Lucknow.

    Recently Akhilesh Yadav had said that his party was capable enough to get majority on its own but if there was an alliance with Congress, they would together get over 300 seats, trigerring speculation of a pre-poll tie-up.

    Akhilesh Yadav's father and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has already ruled out any pre-poll alliance, asserting that there can only be mergers.

    The Chief Minister, however, had said that a final decision on the alliance will be taken by the Samajwadi Party chief and he can only give suggestions.

    Akhilesh Yadav also suggested that Congress will have to accept that it may have to fight on a fewer number of seats than it wants in an alliance because a tie-up will not work out if it keeps thinking about "profit and loss".

    Asked about the issue, Mr Babbar stressed that Congress will "contest UP polls alone" and the first list of the party candidates is likely to be released by the end of this month.

    "The exercise of candidate selection is on...We have again asked for the prospective candidates list from district presidents," he said.

    To a question about the party's expected performance in 2017, he said, "The situation is changing in the state. Those who were considering Congress as zero are now talking about it. Various campaigns in past few months have succeeded in connecting with people and they are looking for an alternative".

    "There is anger among people against BJP, Samajwadi Party and BSP.

    While BJP will be facing the consequences of demonitisation, there is a tussle within the Samajwadi Party and people did not have faith and trust on BSP due to its past record... The only alternative is Congress," he said, adding that party will certainly be improving its tally in 2017 Assembly polls from 29 it got in 2012.

    Mr Babbar criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for cashless society, saying people of the country are not "plastic" but "emotional".

    "In the country where 90 per cent sector is unorganised people cannot be plastic rather they are emotional. They help each other due to emotions. BJP will have to suffer losses for what it has done creating problems for common man," he said.

    Asked why the aggressive campaign started by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi in UP has slowed down, Mr Babbar said it was because of the Parliament session as the entire focus of the top leaders has shifted there.

    "Important leaders of the state including PL Punia, Pramod Tiwari, Ghulam Nabi Azad have got busy in Parliament where burning issues are being raised. We have to focus there.

    But soon we will again be concentrating in UP," he said.

    In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Congress had secured only two seats in Uttar Pradesh with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi emerging victorious from their family strongholds of Rae Bareli and Amethi respectively.

    The party is trying to regain its lost moorings in the state where it currently has only 29 MLAs in the 403-member Assembly.

    Congress has been in political wilderness in UP since 1989 following the emergence of Mandal-Mandir politics and rise of BSP which took away its crucial Dalit vote base.

    Mayawati's party had also lured a large chunk of Brahmin votes in the past when candidates of the community were given tickets by her to contest elections.

    The Brahmin community plays a significant role in poll outcome in central and eastern UP as it is the dominant caste there.

    Once a traditional vote bank of the Congress, Brahmins in the state shifted allegiance to BJP in the aftermath of the emergence of Mandal-Mandir politics.

    Perhaps, keeping the Brahmins in mind, the party is projecting former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit as its chief ministerial face.

    In a bid to woo Hindu votes ahead of the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi recently offered prayers at the Hanuman Garhi Temple in Ayodhya, becoming the first member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to visit Ayodhya since the demolition of the disputed structure in 1992.

    Rahul Gandhi recently completed a 2,000 km kisan yatra in Uttar Pradesh to woo voters in favour of his party.

Laser Walls At Indo-Pak Border To Check Infiltration: Kiren Rijiju
  • GURDASPUR:  The government will install laser walls and other technologically advanced systems at the India-Pakistan border to thwart any infiltration attempt from across the border, Union minister Kiren Rijiju said in Gurdaspur today.

    He said that the work in this regard will be completed in a year.

    The minister of state for home affairs paid tributes to Saheed Ram Parkash on his 25th martyrdom anniversary, organized at Qadian town in the district.

    The "laser walls" or fence are being monitored by Border Security Force (BSF) which guards the Indo-Pak IB in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

    A dozen "laser walls" have been already made operational along the Indo-Pak International Border in Punjab to plug the porous riverine and treacherous terrain and keep an effective vigil against intruders and terrorists exploiting the frontier areas to cross over.

    The decision to install these laser walls was taken by BSF two years ago keeping in mind the vulnerability of the border in these areas as barbed wire fencing could not be installed in many infiltration prone areas due to treacherous terrain or marshy riverine topography.
    After the Pathankot terror attack in January, where it was suspected that terrorists crossed over from Pakistan by breaching the IB from Bamiyal area in Punjab, Union Home Ministry and BSF have sped up the deployment and activation of these walls along the long and winding border.

    Use of scientific technology and heightened vigil on riverine frontiers while guarding the Indo-Pak border were among the suggestions given by the Home Ministry-appointed committee which also flagged gaps and vulnerability in border fencing.

    The committee, headed by former Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta, was set up following the terror attack on Pathankot air base and it submitted its report to Home Minister Rajnath Singh in August last.

    Of the 3,323 km long Indo-Pak border, 1,225 kms falls in Jammu and Kashmir (including Line of Control), 553 kms in Punjab, 1,037 kms in Rajasthan and 508 kms in Gujarat.

Business Affairs 

Late recovery lifts Sensex 118 pts, RBI meet in focus
  • Bouncing back at the fag end of a volatile trade, the Sensex on Monday broke its two-day falling spell by closing over 118 points at 26,349 as bets went up in anticipation of a rate cut at RBI policy review due on Wednesday.
    Shares of auto and metal sectors did much of the rescue job for the market benchmark. Also, the NSE Nifty rescaled the key 8,100 mark. The 30-share Sensex after shuttling between 26,390.80 and 26,125.35 settled 118.44 points or 0.45 per cent higher at 26,349.10. The gauge had lost 422 points in the previous two sessions on sustained foreign fund outflows amid weak global cues.
    The NSE Nifty ended up by 41.95 points, or 0.52 per cent, at 8,128.75 after moving in a range of 8,141.90 to 8,056.85.
    Caution prevailed due to muted regional indices after Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's resignation in the wake of a heavy referendum defeat sparked worries about political instability in the euro zone and beyond. But sentiment was buoyed after a monthly survey showed that the services sector, hit hard by cash shortage, contracted in November at the sharpest rate in three years, opening up room for RBI to lower rates at its policy meet on Wednesday, and a better trend in European shares shaking off its initial weakness.
    The Nikkei India Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), which tracks services sector companies on a monthly basis, stood at 46.7 in November, down from 54.5 in October.
    Meanwhile, India's economic growth rate is likely to fall to 6.5 per cent in the ongoing quarter and remain subdued at around 7 per cent in January-March as cash shortage is expected to last at least until the next month, Nomura, Japanese financial services major said in a report.
    Demonetisation of high-value notes last month is affecting the growth numbers and once the cash shortage eases, the country is expected to see a gradual recovery, it said. Of the 30-share Sensex, 20 led by Asian Paints, M&M, Lupin, Bharti Airtel, Maruti Suzuki, Bajaj Auto and ITC, ended higher, gaining by up to 3.58 per cent.
    Among bank stocks, SBI, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank ended 0.90 per cent higher as participants created fresh positions ahead of the RBI policy review. Shares of IT exporters, however, traded with a negative bias as the rupee strengthened against the dollar after falling to an all-time low of 68.86 last month.
    TCS, Wipro and Infosys all fell by up to 1.68 per cent. On the sectoral front, BSE auto index rose by 1.92 per cent, metal 1.52 per cent, FMCG 1.36 per cent, consumer durables 1.12 per cent and bankex 0.81 per cent. Broader markets too showed a better trend, with the mid-cap index rising by 0.66 per cent and small-cap 0.26 per cent as investors made fresh purchases.
    Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) sold shares worth a net Rs 190.52 crore last Friday, showed provisional data. Overseas, key indices in Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong dropped by up to 1.21 per cent. In Europe, Frankfurt's DAX surged 1.73 per cent and Paris CAC 1.34 per cent while London's FTSE was up 0.72 per cent in their late morning trade. 

Tata Group no one's personal fiefdom: Cyrus Mistry to shareholders
  • Ousted Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry on Monday reached out to shareholders of six Tata Group companies saying that Tata Group is no one's personal fiefdom, doesn't belong to any individual, not to trustees of Tata Trusts.
    Mistry, in a letter to shareholders in Tata group companies highlighted the need for governance reforms at the Tata trusts, Tata Sons and Tata group companies.
    "It would be an 'inherent obligation' for the govt to intervene to remedy and repair breakdown of governance," Mistry said.
    "The very vision of founders could be under threat unless governance of Tata Trusts is reformed," he added.
    Mistry exhorted shareholders of Tata Companies to speak out and be a part of defining the future. "Conferment of all decision making in one man or a "high command" is unethical, improper and breach of trust," Mistry said.
    Tata Sons has called shareholder meetings at group companies including Tata Motors and Tata Consultancy Services in an attempt to drive out Mistry from the operating businesses of the $100 billion steel-to-software conglomerate after ousting him as group chairman last month.

Govt weighing hike in EPFO wage ceiling to Rs 25,000
  • Government is considering a proposal to hike wage ceiling for coverage under social security schemes run by the retirement fund body EPFO to Rs 25,000 per month from the existing Rs 15,000, Parliament was informed today.
    The increase in wage ceiling for coverage under EPFO schemes to Rs 25,000 could add 50 lakh additional formal sector workers to around four crore contributing subscribers.
    Despite being pressed by trade unions on different fora, the government has not taken a decision in this regard, especially when it has already increased threshold for coverage under the Employees' State Insurance Scheme (ESI) to Rs 21,000 per month in October last year.
    "A proposal for increase in the wage ceiling from Rs 15,000 per month to Rs 25,000 per month for coverage under the Employees' Provident Funds & Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 has been submitted by the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). No decision in this regard has been taken," Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said in a written reply to Lok Sabha.
    All India Trade Union Congress Secretary D L Sachdev said, "The proposal to increase threshold to Rs 25,000 was discussed informally among the EPFO trustees during CBT. We have also raised this issue on different occasions."
    Sachdev, also an EPFO trustee, said that since they have already increased the limit for the ESI scheme, the government should do the same for EPFO as it would add around 50 lakh additional formal sector workers under the social security schemes.
    More than two years ago, EPFO had increased the threshold to Rs 15,000 per month from Rs 6,500 on September 1, 2014 in view of price rise and pay revisions in the formal sector.

Oil nears $55 at 16-month high as OPEC deal fuels buying
  • Brent crude oil prices rose to a new 16-month high on Monday, approaching $55 a barrel, fueled by optimism about the prospect of a tightening market after OPEC members agreed on a landmark deal to cut production last week.
    Monday's gains take the rally since the agreement was struck on Wednesday to 18 percent for Brent, the highest in almost eight years, and 15 percent for US crude.
    Brent crude oil futures, the global benchmark used to trade oil, soared to its highest since July 27, 2015 to $54.94 a barrel. It last traded at $54.80 a barrel, up 34 cents at 0822 GMT.
    WTI crude oil traded up 32 cents at $52 a barrel.
    Prices had eased slightly earlier in the session, sparking renewed buying.
    "It seems that any dip is seen as a buying opportunity," said Carsten Fritsch, analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.
    Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will this weekend meet with non-OPEC producers in Vienna to finalize a global deal to limit oil production.
    From January, non-OPEC producers are expected to add an output cut of 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) to OPEC's agreed 1.2 million bpd reduction.
    However, one large uncertainty in the global supply balance is output from the United States, whose shale oil drillers proved more resilient than expected to weak oil prices.
    US energy firms extended their recovery in oil drilling into a seventh month last week, data from energy services firm Baker Hughes showed on Friday.
    Overall, accounting for the recent rise in oil drilling, but also for cutbacks earlier this year on low prices, Goldman Sachs said "year-on-year production will decline by 620,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2016 and increase by 55,000 bpd in 2017".

Adani Australia mine project gets approval for rail line, camp
  • Mining giant Adani's plan to build one of the world's largest coal mines in Australia got a major boost today as it secured the final approval for a permanent rail line and a temporary construction camp for the 21.7 billion dollars controversy-hit project despite protests.
    Queensland's Coordinator-General has given the latest, and final, secondary approval for about 31.5 kilometres of permanent track, as well as the 300-bed camp.
    The rail section approved will form part of the 389- kilometre heavy haul railway line from the mine in the Galilee Basin to the Abbot Point port, ABC News reported.
    State Development Minister Anthony Lynham said the approval was another milestone for the project. Adani has confirmed it will start construction next year, Lynham said North Queensland is about to see a new horizon, because these big projects will be a huge economic stimulus for the north, he said.
    Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani is expected to meet Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk during his visit to Australia this week. The company is also expected to announce its project headquarters tomorrow.
    Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said it would be a huge win for the region. We've got one of the highest unemployment rates in Australia, she said. These are the sort of projects that can support 2,000 to 3,000 jobs, not to mention the other jobs that come from the fact that so many people are employed, Hill said.
    The mine will consist of six open-cut pits and up to five underground mines, and will supply Indian power plants with enough coal to generate electricity for up to 100 million people.
    The controversial project involves dredging 1.1 million cubic metres of spoil near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which will then be disposed off on land.
    Meanwhile, over 200 people here gathered to protest, demanding that the project be stopped. Australian Conservation Foundation's Paul Sinclair said the project could still be stopped.
    Every day that we stop Adani digging that coal is a day this planet is free from its pollution, he said. Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council also issued a statement saying that they are opposed the project.
    W&J Council, leading Aboriginal rights advocate, spokesperson Adrian Burragubba said, The Queensland and Federal governments have knowingly overlooked that we stand in the way of this mine and when we say 'no' we mean no.
    Through our legal actions we are intent on stopping this massive and destructive project from moving forward. The project has faced a protracted battle to establish Australia's largest thermal coal mine.

    General Awareness

    PM Modi wins reader’s poll for TIME’s Person of the Year

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has won the Online Readers’ Poll for TIME Person of the Year 2016, beating off other world leaders like US President-elect Donald Trump, incumbent US leader Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
      • The prestigious title is presented every year to an individual who has had the most impact on the news and world in the past year, regardless of whether the influence was positive or negative.
      • Modi won with 18% of the vote when the poll closed midnight December 4, 2016, which was significantly more than his closest contenders.
      • Obama, Trump and Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange, received 7% of the vote while Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg got 2% vote and US Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton got 4% vote.
      • Time’s editors will decide the official result for the TIME Person of the Yearon December 7, 2016.
      • It is for the second time that Modi has won the online readers’ poll for Time Person of the Year title, securing the honour in 2014, when he had got more than 16 per cent of the almost five million votes cast.
      • For the fourth year in a row, Modi is among the contenders for Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ honour, which the US publication bestows every year to the one “who has most influenced the news and our world in the past year, for good or ill”.
      • Last year German Chancellor Angela Merkel was Time’s ‘Person of the Year’. Current poll results, analysed by poll host Apester, found that Modi performed particularly well among Indian voters as well as those in California and New Jersey.
      Among the contenders this year are former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, FBI Chief James Comey, Apple CEO Tim Cook, parents of slain Muslim-American soldier Humanyun Khan, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
      About Prime Minister Narendra Modi :
      Shri Narendra Modi is an Indian politician who is the 14th and current Prime Minister of India since 26 May 2014.
      • Modi, a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was the Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014, and is the Member of Parliament from Varanasi.
      • He led the BJP in the 2014 general election which gave the party a majority in the Lok Sabha, first time a single party had achieved this since 1984.
      • Modi was born to a Gujarati OBC family of grocers in Vadnagar, who helped his father sell tea as a child, and later ran his own stall.
      About TIME ‘Person of the Year’
      Person of the Year is an annual issue of the United States news magazineTime, that features and profiles a person, a group, an idea, or an object that “for better or for worse, has done the most to influence the events of the year”.
      • This year’s poll was conducted in partnership with Opentopic and IBM’s Watson, to assist TIME editors to see how candidates were influential on the Internet.

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