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Current Affairs - 18 December 2016

General Affairs 

Lt. Gen Bipin Rawat to be next Indian Army chief; B.S Dhanoa to be IAF chief
  • Lieutenant general Bipin Rawat will be the new chief of Army Staff while Air Marshal B.S. Dhanoa will be the new chief of Air Staff, Ministry of Defence confirmed on Saturday. “Government has decided to appoint Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, vice chief of army staff, as the next chief of army staff with effect from afternoon of December 31,” the Defence Ministry said in a tweet.
    Rawat will succeed General Dalbir Singh, who will retire at the end of this month while Dhanoa will replace Arup Raha at the helm of Air Staff on December 31.
    Lt Gen Rawat, an infantry soldier, superseded senior most army commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, who headed the Eastern Command and was next in line to be the army chief, besides Southern Command Chief P M Hariz. He has handled various operational responsibilities in many areas, including along the LoC with Pakistan, the LAC with China and in the North-East. He is known for his balanced approach towards soldiering, compassion, and connect with civil society.
    His experience as GOC-in-C Southern Army Command in Mechanised Warfare has been focused towards the western borders, in coordination with the other two services, the sources said.
    Earlier in the day, Anil Dhasmana and Rajiv Jain were appointed as the next chiefs of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB), respectively. Dhasmana and Jain will succeed Rajinder Khanna and Dineshwar Sharma. Both the officers will have a tenure of two years.

Anil Dhasmana to be RAW’s new chief, Rajiv Jain to head IB
  • Anil Dhasmana and Rajiv Jain will be the next chiefs of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB), respectively, news agency PTI reported on Saturday. Dhasmana and Jain will succeed Rajinder Khanna and Dineshwar Sharma. Both the officers will have a tenure of two years.
    Dhasmana, a 1981-batch Madhya Pradesh cadre IPS officer, is renowned for his expertise on Balochistan and counter terrorism. He has been with RAW for the last 23 years during which he has served on important desks including Pakistan. RAW looks after the external intelligence of the country.
    On the other hand, Jharkhand cadre IPS officer Jain will take over the reins of IB on January 1 after the incumbent Sharma completes his two-year tenure on December 31.
    Rajiv, a recipient of President’s Police Medal, has served in various departments of the IB including the sensitive Kashmir desk. He was advisor to the previous NDA government’s interlocutor on Kashmir K C Pant when talks were held with separatist leaders like Shabbir Shah.

J&K: 3 soldiers killed after terrorists attack army convoy in Pampore
  • Three soldiers were killed after militants opened fire on an army convoy in Pampore in Pulwana district on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, the Army said on Saturday. Search operation is underway. Security forces have cordoned off the adjoining residential area and launched search operation to track down the militants, a police official said.
    “Terrorists attacked, security forces retaliated. Public was present so we couldn’t fire openly but terrorists were forced to run away,” said IG (Operations) CRPF. The army convoy was on its way from Jammu to Srinagar when the attack took place.
    A police official said two soldiers were also injured in the attack that took place at the place crowded with civilians at Kadlabal in Pampore town of Pulwama district this afternoon.
    Preliminary investigations suggest that the militants might have used motorcycles to carry out the deadly attack, the official said, adding search operations were going on in the surrounding areas to track down the assailants.
    Two militants were killed on Wednesday in separate encounters with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. The encounters took place in Anantnag and Baramulla districts. Militants opened fire on a patrol party of army at Beewra in Srigufwara area of Anantnag district this morning, a police official said. He said the army personnel retaliated, triggering a gunbattle.
    A civilian was killed on December 9 in firing at Arwani in south Kashmir as the Army and police launched an operation against militants.

Budget to focus on higher spending to boost economy: Arun Jaitley
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said infrastructure investment needs a booster and his next Budget in February will focus on encouraging more public as well as private spending to boost economic growth. Speaking at ET Now awards, he said India aspires to become a developed economy from a developing economy and a 7-7.5 per cent GDP growth does not satisfy its requirements. “Therefore spending more and now” is the focus, he said adding infrastructure spending “certainly needs a booster.”

    The Finance Minister said there is a long-term potential of more resources getting into the system and that is going to be the top priority. “Therefore, the areas where we were lacking, whether in terms of encouraging investment of the private sector and so on, I think these are going to be the areas where budget should concentrate on,” he said.
    The government is likely to advance the date of budget presentation for 2017-18 to February 1 next year as against the usual date of February 28. On the impact of demonetisation on the economy, Jaitley admitted that “altering this normal is extremely disruptive” but “in the long run you will have a higher GDP, a higher revenue and probably far cleaner economy and far cleaner public life.”
    He further said it was “a courageous decision to withdraw 86 per cent of the paper currency, replace it and then say that replacement will now be substantially and significantly in digital.” Regretting that a small section of people was trying to take advantage of the situation, Jaitley said, “This Indian normal where recovery of taxes is terrorism and non-payment is a way of life…has to change. With this new normal that is being created, if we succeed in doing, India would be a happier place.”

Demonetisation will expose a Rs 3-5 lakh crore scam: Baba Ramdev
  • Yoga Guru and founder of Patanjali Ayurveda Baba Ramdev spoke to news website The Quint, saying the demonetisation policy will expose a scam of Rs 3-5 lakh crore. Ramdev cast aspersions on the role of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in the printing of notes and said that it could be them or the previous government that printed two notes of the same series.
    “The role of some people under RBI is also under doubt. Which is really unfortunate and raises a serious question on our system. Did they print two notes with the same serial number. Whether it was done by RBI or the previous government is debatable. But if two notes of the same series were printed then it will be a huge blot on the economy. I think this will expose a Rs 3-5 lakh crore scam,” he said. He then said the implementation was a problem and cash was given to corrupt people.
    “Cash supply was adequate, but it was given to the corrupt people. I think the implementation could have been better. Even Modiji wouldn’t have foreseen the corruption of the bankers,” he said.
    Ramdev also said that he had suggested the demonetisation policy to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, his suggestion came with two other ideas, that implemented together would be beneficial and successful.
    “I made three suggestions. Firstly, remove higher currency notes. Secondly, make the entire system cashless and put transaction tax and thirdly, make the banking system transparent. They only listened to one of these suggestions but not the other two. The system will improve only if all three suggestions are taken into account,” he said.
    Ramdev had earlier described the Centre’s demonetisation as a “bitter pill” but said it will have a “healthy impact” on the Indian economy. “Demonetisation is posing some problems to commoners. It is an issue which will wither in a few more days. It is like a bitter pill for the Indian economy but it is going to have a good impact,” he had said.

Business Affairs 

Subramanian Swamy files complaint against Ratan Tata
  • BJP MP Subramanian Swamy on Friday filed a complaint against Tata Sons interim Chairman Ratan Tata, lobbyist Niira Radia, former Telecom Minister A. Raja and senior Unitech officials for allegedly laundering money to Unitech companies to obtain 2G spectrum licence.

    Swamy, who filed the complaint in the Special Central Bureau of Investigation Court, also named “unknown” or unidentified CBI officials for protecting Tata in the 2G spectrum case.
    Special Judge O.P. Saini fixed January 11 for consideration of the complaint and argument.
    The complaint filed by Swamy’s counsel Tarun Goomber has named two then directors of Tata Realty and Infrastructure Limited (TRIL) F.N. Subedar and P.D. Karkaria, then Chief Financial Officer Kishore Selatore, then Company Secretary M.V. Balaji, Unitech’s Chairman Ramesh Chandra, Managing Director Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra and company official S. Ravi Aiyer.
    “All these crimes and illegalities were committed at the behest of accused Ratan Tata as he and his companies were barred from obtaining the licences as per the Clause Numbers 5.1 and 8 of the guidelines of the Unified Access Service License (UASL), 2005, legally,” the complaint said.
    Swamy alleged that various Tata Group companies were used to route the money to the various companies of Unitech Group and finally managed to a launder a sum of Rs 1,700 crore for their illegal purpose during the period of March 2007 to March 2008.
    Swamy said that the movement was facilitated by eight companies of Unitech Wireless. After receiving the fund, the companies’ names were changed to conceal the identity.
    When licences was procured, the eight companies amalgamated with Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Pvt. Ltd.
    Earlier, the cut-off date for receiving application for spectrum licence was October 10, 2007, but Raja suddenly changed the cut-off dates to September 25, 2007.
    As per Raja’s first-come-first-serve policy, the letter of intent would be issued to those companies who depositted their fees first.
    It helped real estate company Unitech in getting telecom licence even though the company was a new entrant in the telecommunication sector.
    Of the Rs 1,700 crore funds received from Tata Reality, Unitech spent Rs 1,651 crore on obtaining the licence.
    He stated that during her questioning, Radia disclosed the conspiracy and money laundering offence committed by Tata but the probe agency failed to nail the accused person.
    Swamy submitted various documents, including from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs’s serious fraud investigation office (SFIO).
    He has requested court to initiate proceedings against the accused under various charges dealing with cheating, fraud, forgery, criminal conspiracy and under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
    Swamy has also requested court to direct the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to conduct further investigation to unearth the deep-rooted conspiracy.

India waiting for dates from EU to negotiate Free Trade Agreement: Nirmala Sitharaman
  • India is waiting for dates from European Union to negotiate the long pending Free Trade Agreement as well as a fresh Bilateral Investment Treaty, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Saturday. “I am waiting for dates to talk about both (FTA and BIT),” she said at a function here organised by industry body Ficci. The proposed Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) or FTA has been pending for long. “We have repeatedly asked for dates for negotiations with the EU… This FTA has gone through several stages,” the minister said. She indicated that the delay in resuming talks could be because EU is now looking more at getting the investment treaty “quickly done”.

    The European Commission (EC) had raised concerns over negotiations for a fresh Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). Sitharaman said the government has come out with the revised model text for BIT and all existing investment protection agreements will be null and void from March 31, “so we want countries to do that”.
    Launched in June 2007, BITA negotiations have seen many hurdles with both sides having major differences on crucial issues like intellectual property rights, duty cuts in automobile as well as spirits and a liberal visa regime. On other FTAs which India is negotiating, Sitharaman sought feedback from industry chambers on those and ways to increase share of India in the global trade to 3.5 per cent by 2020 from about 2 per cent currently.
    She also expressed concerns about the increasing protectionism in the world. “There is very high degree of protectionism across the globe,” she said adding India is opening up but in a calibrated manner.
    Talking about quality and standards of products, she said Indian industry needs to increase standards and its compliance to boost its competitiveness in the world market. Sitharaman further said that the Commerce Ministry will soon call the meeting of Board of Trade to discuss issues related to exports.
    Exports rose for the third straight month in November, recording a growth of 2.29 per cent, though the trade deficit shot up to about two-year high of USD 13 billion mainly due to increase in gold imports.

Chit fund industries ask centres to address levy of tax collected from their companies
  • The Chit fund industry has appealed the Centre to address the levy of tax collected from the companies as it may impact the growth of the trade. “The issue of the levy of tax to the chit fund industry should be addressed immediately. It will not only impact the work of chit fund industry but also curtail the financial inclusion cause..”, All India Association of Chit Funds, General Secretary, T S Sivaramakrishnan said. The Government should “enact” suitable laws so that the chit fund industry “grow”, he said in a statement.

    Noting that the industry largely serves the lower and middle income groups, he said, “It will be possible for the industry to grow only with legislative and administrative support”. Sivaramakrishnan and senior officials were here to announce the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Incorporated Chit Funds Association scheduled to be held on Saturday.
    Tamil Nadu Tourism Minister ‘Vellamandi’ Natrajan, Noted political and economic analyst S Gurumurthy would take part in the event to be held in Tiruchirapalli.

GST can be rolled out anytime between April 1-Sept 16, 2017: Arun Jaitley
  • Amid signs of slippage of the April 1 GST rollout target, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said pending resolution of “turf” issues, GST is a transactional levy that unlike income tax can be implemented anytime during the year. The Goods and Services Tax (GST), he said, can be implemented anytime between April 1 and September 16, 2017, in accordance with the constitutional amendment legislation that allows a national sales tax by subsuming central and state levies. The GST Council has resolved 10 issues and only one pertaining to administration of tax is pending, he said.
    “It is a transactional tax and not an income tax. Transactional tax can start in any part of the financial year and therefore, the range of timing when it has to come into force because of constitutional necessity is April 1, 2017 to September 16, 2017. Hopefully, the earlier we do, the better it is for the new taxation system,” Jaitley said at the annual general meeting (AGM) of FICCI here.
    After Parliament passed the landmark constitutional amendment in August and more than half of state legislatures ratified it by mid-September, several key decisions have been taken by the GST Council headed by Jaitley and comprising state representatives. Jaitley alluded to “certain kinds of turf issues” that are yet to be resolved. “But the constitutional embargo is very clear. The entire amendment was notified on September 16, 2016, and it permits the old taxation regime to continue for a period of one year.” he said.
    “So on September 16, 2017, as far as the current mode of taxation is concerned, the curtain will be down. Therefore, neither the Centre not the state can go in for collection.” According to the finance minister, there are about ten important decisions that have already been taken through consensus. The legislations which have to be passed by Parliament and state legislatures are currently in the process of being drafted. “I don’t see any major difficulty for these legislations being finally approved,” he said.
    The only issue remaining “is a very small in the larger frame of things” and the tax administration is under discussion of the GST Council as three major and some minor taxes are being merged into one. Jaitley suggested there is a need that each assessee is assessed only once since central taxes like excise and service tax and state levies like VAT are being subsumed into one. “You have the pre-existing (tax) machinery of the Centre and states. (It has to be decided) how the burden of this assessment is going to be shared between the Centre and states and how we cross-empower both the Centre and states,” he said further.
    Saying GST will usher in a common taxation and should lead to a federal bureaucracy, Jaitley felt that both the Centre and states should figure out sharing of the tax assessment. Ideally, he said, it should be proper for the issues to be resolved at the beginning of financial year on April 1 for the new regime to kick in. “But then, in any case, nobody has the luxury of time,” he cautioned.

Mumbai: Western suburbs’ micro-market registers highest growth in rentals
  • The gross average rents in Mumbai (including Thane and Navi Mumbai) in the third quarter of fiscal 2017 rose by 1.3 per cent year on year, according to a research report by real estate consultancy firm, JLL India . In Mumbai, the western suburbs’ micro-market registered the highest growth in rentals at 2.1 per cent followed by the eastern suburbs at 1.7 per cent, Secondary Business District (SBD) Bandra Kurla Complex at 1.5 per cent, SBD in Central Mumbai at 1.4 per cent and SBD in North Mumbai at 1.2 per cent.

    The rents in the Central Business District (CBD) of Mumbai continued their southward journey and declined by 1.6%. Outside Mumbai city, rentals rose in Thane by 2.5 per cent and Navi Mumbai by 0.7 per cent year on year, said the JLL report.
    “Showing faith in India’s economic growth, corporate occupiers have been in expansionary mode. However, there is a lack of relevant supply at ideal locations in Mumbai. Due to this, some companies wanting to expand are taking up relevant supply at ideal locations in both the eastern and western suburbs,” said Ashutosh Limaye, National Director – Research at JLL India.
    “The suburbs have been cheaper, rent-wise, than the established office districts. Many back offices have preferred these locations over the years, due to their cost arbitrage,” Limaye added. A foreign pharma company has recently carried out a large transaction in a grade-A building in the western suburbs. According to JLL, Mumbai suburbs could see more such developments in the future with big infrastructure projects such as the coastal road and several phases of metro rail in the pipeline.
    “They have another advantage of being closer to residential areas. We could see more corporate occupiers moving in if relevant supply comes up here,” said the JLL report.

General Awareness

India Surpasses Saudi Arabia and Russia to become Fourth Largest Defence Spender

  • According to the 2016 Jane’s Defence Budgets Report, released by research firm IHS Markit on December 12, 2016, India has become the fourth largest defence spender in the world, after US, China, and the UK.
    • India, which is Asia’s third-largest economy spent $50.6 billion in 2016, from previous $46.6 billion in 2015.
    • The US, China, and the UK remained the top three defence spenders respectively.India was followed by Saudi Arabia and Russia at fifth and sixth positions respectively. Russia, which was at the fourth place in 2015, slipped to the sixth spot in 2016.
    List of Top 5 Defence Spenders Globally
    RankCountryTotal Spending
    1US622.03 Billion
    2CHINA191.75 Billion
    3UK53.81 Billion
    4INDIA50.67 Billion
    5SAUDI ARABIA48.68 Billion
    Key Points of the report
    The total global defence spending in the year 2016, increased to $1.57 trillion. The report stated that the United States topped the list with its expenditure representing about 40 per cent of the total Global Defence budget.
    • Of the total defence spending in US, about 45 per cent of investment funding will go toward procurement and modification of aircraft, ship, submarine and military ground vehicle platforms.
    • The report revealed that India spent about Rs. 36,900 crore ($5.57 billion) to purchase arms, ammunition, and related goods from abroad in 2014, after the coming of Narendra Modi Government into power.
    • Modi government has been continuously looking at increasing the share of domestic manufacturing in defence goods. India also signed around Rs. 58,000 crore (€7.8-billion) deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France earlier in 2016.
    • According to the report, India spends about 1.8% of its GDP on defence, and 36% of it was spent on capital acquisition.
    • The global defence spending of India rose by 1 per cent to Rs 108 lakh crore ($1.6 trillion) in 2016 from the previous 0.6 per cent increase in 2015.
    • The report showed that the Indian Government Raised Foreign Direct Investment limit for defence sector to 49%, that enabled Indian private players partner with global defence firms.
    The report estimated that India will need to spend about $130 billion over the next seven years, to modernise its military. The report says that by 2018 India will become the third-largest in the group, surpassing the UK.
    About Jane’s Defence Budgets Report
    The report makes five-year forecasts covering 98 percent of the world’s defence budgets based on trend analysis and the ability to compare multiple budgets at once.
    • The report helps to understand military and security capability, business opportunities and market analysis.
    • Based on the report, it becomes easier to: Identify resource investments, understand emerging trends in military capabilities, base decisions on up-to-date defence spending data, minimize research time and effort and enhance reporting with data tables, charts and spreadsheets
    Defence deals of India :
    Deal with Russia
    • In October 2016, India signed two Inter-Governmental Agreements (IGA) with Russia to buy five S-400 Triumf air defence systems worth Rs. 39,000 crore and four stealth frigates costing about USD 3 billion.
    • ii.India and Russia also agreed a joint venture to manufacture Kamov-226T helicopters in India worth over USD one billion.
    Deal with US
    • In December 2016, India inked a deal with US worth Rs. 5,000 crore deal for buying 145 M777 ultra-light howitzers, which would be mostly deployed near the borders with China.
    Deal with France
    • Earlier in 2016, India signed around Rs. 58,000 crore (€7.8-billion) deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

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