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Current Affairs - 19 March 2017

General Affairs 

Yogi Adityanath To Take Oath As UP Chief Minister Today, Will Have Two Deputies
  • Yogi Adityanath, a five-time parliamentarian seen as the BJP's hardline Hindutva face, will be the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the party announced on Saturday evening, exactly a week after it won a landslide mandate in the country's most populous state. Mr Adityanath will have two deputies in Keshav Prasad Maurya, the party's UP chief, and Dinesh Sharma, who has been Lucknow Mayor for many years and led the party's membership drive in the state.

    "I am thankful to the party and PM Modi for considering me worthy of the post. I will take UP forward with his motto of sabka saath sabka vikas," Mr Adityanath said soon after he was announced the Chief Minister.

    Yogi Adityanath, 46, who had flown to Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier today, returned to Lucknow on a chartered plane and joined a meeting of the party's 312 new MLAs, where he was elected to lead them in the state legislature and be Chief Minister. He will take oath along with his ministers at 2.15 pm today at Lucknow's sprawling Smriti Upvan complex near the Ambedkar memorial. The BJP has planned a massive show of strength, with PM Modi, BJP president Amit shah, many union ministers and BJP chief ministers attending.

    Announcing that the state's MLAs had chosen Mr Adityanath to lead them, senior BJP leader and union minister Venkaiah Naidu said he is "a distinguished leader who has been an MP multiple times and is extremely qualified for the job. When his name was proposed all MLAs agreed that he would be Chief Minister."

    The party's focus, the minister said, was, "Vikas Vikas, Vikas, Vikas (development)."

    Former cricketer Chetan Chuahan, who is the new BJP legislator from UP's Amroha told, "It is the high command's decision and we abide by it." He said criticism that Yogi Adityanath is a divisive politician is a "figment of the opposition's imagination". "Yogi is a seasoned politician and he knows how to deliver," Mr Chuahan said.

    The name of Yogi Adityanath, also the head priest of the Gorakhnath temple in eastern UP's Gorakhpur, began to do the rounds as the leading candidate for chief minister on Saturday afternoon. Sources said the party's ideological mentor, the RSS, vetoed the party's top choice for Chief Minister, union telecom minister Manoj Sinha. BJP President Amit Shah met RSS leaders in the morning today to finalise who would be Chief Minister.

    Yogi Adityanath was chosen, sources said, because he was assessed to be the most popular leader among the BJP cadre in the state.

    His supporters raised slogans this morning at the party office in Lucknow demanding that Mr Adityanath be named Chief Minister. They had threatened to rebel against the BJP before the assembly elections, angry that their leader was not projected by the party as presumptive chief minister. Yogi Adityanath had quickly distanced himself from the threats, warning his supporters of strict action.  

    The party has attempted a balancing act by appointing Mr Maurya and Mr Sharma as his deputies. Keshav Prasad Maurya is a leader from the Most Backward Castes (MBC) which played a significant role in the BJP's spectacular UP win this year. The party would like to retain the new MBC, Other Backward Castes and Dalit voters that it gained in this election as PM Modi looks at 2019 when he will seek re-election.

    Dinesh Sharma is known to be extremely close to both PM Modi and Amit Shah. The 53-year-old professor of commerce at Lucknow University is non-controversial and is known as an affable person who gets along with everyone. He took the number of BJP members in UP from about a crore to more than 11 crores, which has made his stock soar and has also worked with Mr Shah on the BJP's campaign in Gujarat. Mr Sharma is also said to be backed by the BJP's ideological mentor the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

India's Longest Road Tunnel To Be Open To Traffic Soon, PM Narendra Modi Likely To Flag Off
  • India's longest surface tunnel at Chenani in Jammu's Udhampur district is complete. The 9-km-long tunnel passes through the Himalayas on Jammu- Srinagar National Highway and will be open to traffic soon following successful completion of trial run. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to inaugurate the highway tunnel by the end of March. "The tunnel will be formally thrown open to general vehicular traffic after the inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon," said J S Rathore, Project Director Chenani Nashiri Tunnelway Ltd.

    It has taken nearly six years for the project's completion, since the work started in May 2011 in the lower Himalayan mountain range. The twin-tube tunnel, at an elevation of 1,200 metres and part of a 286-km-long four-lane project on the highway, has been built at a cost of over Rs. 3,720 crore.

    It will be a significant time saver reducing the distance between Jammu and Srinagar by 30 kilometres and will make it easy for tourists to reach the Valley. "The tunnel has saved the travel time by three to four hours, we are very happy, I am going through the tunnel for the first time," said Nisar Ahmad, a truck driver.

    Travel will cost a Light Motor Vehicle (LMV) Rs. 55 on one side and Rs. 85 for to-and-fro journey and Rs. 1,870 for a month's travel, while bigger vehicles like mini buses will have pay Rs. 90 as one side toll and Rs. 135 for to-and-fro toll. Buses and trucks will have pay Rs. 190 as one side toll and Rs. 285 as two side toll.

    Passing across a highly seismic zone the tunnel is an engineering marvel. It will be the first in India to be equipped with world class "integrated tunnel control system" through which ventilation, fire control, signals, communication and electrical systems will be automatically actuated.

    "It is a historic moment, Cheneni- Nashiri is the longest road tunnel, this is an example of the great work done by Indian engineers", said Mr Rathore.

    The tunnel will eventually make the Valley accessible by an all-weather road and avoid the biggest stumbling block, the landslide-prone stretch.

    With the Jammu-Srinagar national highway remaining blocked for most parts of winter due to snow and landslides, the tunnel is an important step to make it an all-weather road, better connectivity with the rest of the country will also help to boost the trade and commerce in the valley.

6 Maoists Killed In Dantewada Encounter
  • Six suspected Maoists were killed in a gunfight with security forces in Dantewara district of Chhattisgarh on Saturday, police said.

    "There are reports of death of six Maoists in Aranpur area. Three security force men were also injured, including an Assistant Sub-Inspector," Aranpur police station in-charge Shankarnath Dhruv said.

    Officials said the encounter took place early today in the Burgam village of the said district when a joint squad of CRPF and District Reserve Group (DRG) of state police was out for operations.

    The gunfight occurred when Maoists, who had laid an ambush, fired on the security forces on patrol duty. The security forces found five bodies after the encounter.

    "The encounter is still on. An AK series assault rifle has also been recovered," a senior officer said.

    The officer said the exact details of the operation will take time to emerge as the encounter spot is deep inside jungle area and cellular phone and wireless connectivity is extremely poor.

    Reinforcement teams have been rushed in, the officer added.

    The 111 battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is leading the operation, they said.

    This comes days after twelve personnel of the CRPF were killed during an ambush by Maoists in Chhattisgarh's Sukma. Five others were injured in the ambush, which took place in Bheji district. The Maoists, reports said, later robbed 10 guns and the radio sets of the deceased CRPF men.

    The CRPF said the men were providing security to road construction teams when the IED blast occurred.

Ahead Of Manipur Trust Vote, BJP, Congress Move MLAs To Safe Houses
  • The BJP and the Congress are keeping their cards close to the chest ahead of the crucial trust vote in Manipur, scheduled for March 20. While 17 of the BJP's 21 newly elected legislators are camping at a posh hotel in Assam's Guwahati, the Congress has sheltered its 27 MLAs in the house of one of its legislators in Imphal.
    "We have kept our legislators in Guwahati in response to the Congress keeping their MLAs in a house in Imphal. Our legislators thought we must also stand united," said Himanta Biswa Sarma, BJP's key strategist for Manipur.  

    No party received a single majority in the 2017 Manipur assembly election. The Congress, which had ruled the state for 15 consecutive years, emerged as a single largest party with 28 of the total 60 seats. The BJP came second with 21 seats. A party needs a minimum support of 31 legislators to form a government.

    The BJP claims to have the support of 33 legislators with the support of the NPP, NPF, LJP, an independent legislator, the lone Trinamool Congress MLA and a defector from the Congress Shyam Kumar - who took oath as a minister in the N Biren Singh government.

    Trinamool Congress legislator Robindro Singh said the party gave him full freedom to support the BJP.

    "I spoke to (senior TMC leader) Mukul Roy. They left it to me. They said if you can do well by supporting the BJP, then you can take your own call," he said.

    While the Congress comfortably won in Punjab, it was decimated by the BJP in Uttarakhand in Uttar Pradesh. It also failed to form a government in Goa despite emerging as the single largest party. Ahead of the crucial trust vote in Manipur, the party is non-committal on the trust vote and even the media is kept away from the legislators.

World's Heaviest Woman Drops 140 Kg Since Arrival In India
  • Eman Ahmed, the Egyptian national who is believed to be the world's heaviest woman, has lost over 140 kg since her arrival in India for weight reduction treatment, doctors said today.

    She is being treated at Saifee Hospital in Mumbai where she underwent a weight loss surgery earlier this month.

    "Eman's current weight is 358 kg," the hospital said in a statement today. When she arrived in Mumbai on February 11 by a specially modified aircraft, she weighed 500 kg.

    She is currently on "two hourly liquid feeding regime" where she is given low-sodium protein powder mixed with soy milk. Daily, she receives about 1,800 calories, the statement said.

    "Her levels of uric acid remain a challenge," it added. Eman still receives her feed through a tube because of the difficulty in swallowing fluids due to a stroke she had suffered earlier, doctors said.

    Emam Ahmed's family told the doctor that as a child she was diagnosed with elephantiasis, a condition that causes the limbs and other body parts to swell, leaving her almost immobile. Emam Ahmed has suffered a stroke and faced a series of other serious ailments owing to her weight including diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension and sleep deprivation.

    Bariatric surgery is a stomach-shrinking bypass procedure carried out on those wanting to lose excessive weight.

    It is increasingly common in India, which has a growing problem with obesity, particularly in urban areas.

Business Affairs 

Demonetisation effect: Govt collects Rs 6000 crore tax on unexplained cash deposits after note ban
  • The Central government has collected over Rs 6,000 crore as tax on unaccounted deposits post demonetisation, reported the Economic Times.
    According to the report, Justice Arijit Pasayat, Vice-chairman of the SIT on black money, said that the amount could further go up.
    The tax authorities have sought explanation from individuals, who deposited substantial amount of cash after demonetisation, either in their own account or in the name of others, the report said.
    Informing about the latest development, Pasayat said as many as 1,092 people, who had deposited over Rs 50 lakh, have not yet responded to notices.
    "The onus is on those who have deposited huge cash to explain the source," Pasayat further Said.
    "The authorities, while examining the huge bank deposits, will finally have to come down to the macro level at some point of time to examine sudden huge deposits of cash in even Jan Dhan accounts. The exercise will be tedious and time consuming. But the tax authorities are determined to undertake this workload," ET quoted Pasayat as saying.
    Many later agreed to avail the amnesty scheme which earlier allowed compounding by payment of 60 per cent of the deposits as tax, now hiked to 75 per cent, the report said.
    Soon after the government announced the demonetisation of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, SIT Chairman & Former Judge of the Supreme Court of India Justice MB Shah and SIT Vice- Chairman Justice Arijit Pasayat wrote a letter to Union Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley suggesting him some of the measures to ensure that the people holding black money in cash are not able to convert it.
    After the reports of people buying gold, they suggested that the deposits made by jewelers should be correlated with their sales and PAN number of the buyers of jewellery. "The same should then be analyzed against known sources of income of PAN holders and action taken accordingly," the letter said.

Not a disruptor-in-chief, I am correcting past mistakes, says PM Modi
  • Speaking at India Today Conclave in Mumbai, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that if there is a disruptor-in-chief, its not Modi, it's more than a billion people of India and I am correcting past mistakes.
    Defending government's decision of advancing the union budget and doing away with the railway budget, PM Modi said this government is working with a 'total vision' and not 'tunnel vision'.
    For the first time we pre-poned union budget, so that we are able to do maximum work before monsoon session. We also merged plan and non-plan budget.
    Today, you can't look at railway as the only medium, you have to look at the transportation sector as a whole. Speed of work in the railway and the road sector is progressing at a very quick pace
    Our focus is next generation infrastructure. Significant resources have been devoted to the railway and road sector.
    You will be surprised to know there were around 1500 projects that were mentioned in the parliament during previous budgets and those projects are yet to take off, PM said.


    The transformation in tech that we have seen in 20 years is more that in 200 years. Aspirations of youth have changed. My government is working on a theme of 'Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat', said PM Modi.
    India is 6th largest manufacturing country in world.
    This government is giving emphasis to competitive and cooperative federalism. I want India to discuss the GST. GST is an example of democracy in our country, PM Modi said.
    GST is one such decision which all states agreed to. GST is an example of India's robust federal structure. The manner in which the GST was achieved is as important as the GST itself.
    We have our focus on job market. In last 2.5 years, more than 6 crore people have been given credit of more than 3.5 lakh crore under Mudra scheme of the government.
    Technology has changed so much. We have to keep pace with the aspirations of the youth. Why do small shops have to shut early. Why can't the small shopkeeper keep his or her shop open for longer hours.
    We brought changes to ensure shopkeepers can keep shops open longer and this gives better economic opportunities to them, PM said.
    The government recently approved the National Healthcare Policy. Over 70  per cent of medical devices come from abroad, we are trying to bring down that percentage through Make in India initiative, says PM Modi
    In the health sector, work is on at a quick place. A roadmap has been prepared to make healthcare accessible to the nation: PM
    People of country have united over the issue of black money and corruption following demonetisation.

Queensland govt supports $16.5 bn coal mine project:
  • Adani group on Saturday said Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has reaffirmed her government's committment to the $16.5 billion Carmichael mine project in the Australian province.
    "Adani Group, a global integrated infrastructure conglomerate, today hosted a high-level delegation led by Annastacia Palaszczuk, Premier of Queensland, Australia, at Mundra Port who reaffirmed Queensland government's commitment to the $16.5 billion Carmichael mine project," the group said in a statement.
    The statement came a day after cricket legends Ian and Greg Chappell and few  other prominent Australians urging Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani to abandon the mine project. The group, however, rejected the demand and said it was "motivated" by a very small group of "misled" people.
    Last year, the environment and heritage protection (EHP) department of the Queensland state issued the final environmental authority (EA) for Adani's Carmichael Mine project in the Galilee Basin.
    "Adani group is confident of fulfilling the strict conditions placed on the EA, including extra requirements based on the land court's recommendations and ensure this mine will not pose an unacceptable risk to the environment," the
    statement said.
    It said the delegation led by the Premier of Queensland visited Mundra Port and is scheduled to visit Kamuthi in Tamil Nadu to see the world's largest solar project, which generates 648 megawatts of green electricity.
    "I am very happy to be here at Mundra and it is wonderful to see the port to solar plant to agri businesses of Adani and its associated infrastructure," Palaszczuk was quoted as saying in the statement.
    "Indians are a great community in Australia and the Indo-Australian relations are growing from strength to strength. The Australian Prime Minister will also be visiting India shortly and that shows the significance of the relationship," she said after the visit.
    She said her visit to Mundra shows that Queensland supports the Adani project for its potential to create many jobs for the province and will also help boost the Indian economy.
    "Queensland will also be part of the solar project of Adani and we are delighted to be part of Adani in that project too," she added.
    Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani said, "Our mining project will create economic prosperity and will also create thousands of jobs for the people of regional Queensland. The Carmichael mine will help bring energy security to millions of Indians who do not have access to electricity.
    "The Adani group is committed to nation building projects in the energy and infrastructure space which will create economic and social benefits for people of India and Australia."

    Reliance Jio effect: Idea Cellular to sell 2G, 3G, 4G mobile data at same price from March end
    • Telecom operator Idea Cellular will start selling 1GB and above mobile data plans across its 2G, 3G and 4G network at same price by the end of this month.
      "Idea has now announced that it will allow open market data recharges of 1GB and above to work on Idea's 2G, 3G or 4G network without any differential prices and this will be rolled out nationally by March 31, 2017," Idea said. 
      At present Idea mobile internet plans are priced at different rates. Due to stiff competition in the market from Reliance Jio, the 4G mobile data service of Idea is significantly cheaper than 2G service.
      Idea sells 1GB of 2G service with about a month validity for around Rs 170 and 4G is priced around Rs 123. Earlier, the high speed data plans were priced higher based on their download speed.
      "Customer can choose the recharge price basis usage and volume available in pack, without having to worry about the platform the customer's device is logged in," Idea Cellular Chief Marketing Officer Sashi Shankar said.
      Idea will bring all data product categories like sachets, freedom packs to unified pricing and will be rolled out nationally in phases by May 31.
      "As Idea's pan India broadband coverage continues to expand and reduces gap with existing 2G coverage which covers 4 lakh towns and villages, customers can now seamlessly migrate services between technology and platform without worrying about differential costs," Shankar said.
      The data limit in high speed internet plans gets exhausted in less time compared to that on slow speed network like 2G.

      Loans to Vijay Mallya given by UPA: Govt
      • Loans to the tune of Rs 8,040 crore was given to liquor baron Vijay Mallya when the previous UPA government was in power, but action against him for defaults is being taken by the Modi government, a minister said on Friday.
        Till December 31, 2016, there were 9,130 willful defaulters in the country who had taken loans amounting Rs 91,155 crore from various PSU banks, Minister of State for Finance Santosh Gangwar said in Lok Sabha.
        Replying a supplementary about action against Mallya, Gangwar, without taking his name, said the person whose name was mentioned was given loan in September 2004 and it was reviewed in February 2008.
        The loan of Rs 8,040 crore was declared non-performing assets in 2009 and the NPA was restructured in 2010.
        "Our government has taken action against him. He is currently living in the UK. Various agencies have issued summons to him. Following our requests, the Ministry of External Affairs has revoked his passport and we are taking action so that he faces justice," he said during Question Hour.
        The Minister said among the 9,150 willful defaulters of PSU banks, suits were filed against 8,364 defaulters who had taken loans amounting Rs 85,258 crore, while FIRs were lodged against 2,024 willful defaulters who had taken loans worth Rs 29,557 crore, Gangwar said.
        Action against 6,207 willful defaulters taken under the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, he said.

      General Awareness

      India ranks 148 in 2017 UN Women in Politics Map

      • The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women launched the ‘Women in Politics 2017 Map’ on March 16, 2017 in New York.The Women in Politics 2017 Map is the visual representation of women’s political empowerment in executive government and parliament as on January 1, 2017.
        • It was unveiled on the sidelines of the ongoing session of the 61st Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at United Nations. The CSW is a global organization that focuses on the empowerment and equality for women.
        • The theme for 2017 CSW is Women’s Economic Empowerment In The Changing World Of Work.
        • As per the report, the top nations that have high representation to women in the government and parliament includes: Rwanda, Bolivia, Cuba, Iceland, Nicaragua, Sweden, Senegal, Mexico, Finland and South Africa.
        Key Highlights of the Report
        According to the data presented by the Map, the number of women in executive government and in the parliaments worldwide has decreased with only marginal improvements since 2015.
        • The report said that the number of women heads of state or heads of government fell from 19 to 17 since 2015, and progress in the number of women in the parliaments continues to be slow.
        • The head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, called for reservation for women in lawmaking bodies across the world.
        • Its data shows that the global average of women in national parliaments increased just slightly from 22.6 percent in 2015 to 23.3 percent in 2016.
        • However, the number of female Speakers of the House raised up to the highest so far, with 53 out of 273 posts.
        India’s Performance
        As per the Map, India ranked 148 out of 193 UN member nations in representing women in the executive government.
        • The data published in the report Women in Politics 2017 Map showed that women represents only 11.8 percent (64 MPs) of the 542-member Lok Sabha and 11 percent (27 MPs) of the 245-member Rajya Sabha.
        • Besides, in terms of women ministers, India ranked 88 out of 186 countries with only five ministers (18.5 percent) in the cabinet as of January 1, 2017.
        • This level of gender representation among women ministers was said to be better than the Asian average of 11% but far worse than the average representation by the leader nation Indonesia which gives 25.6% of its ministerial positions to women.
        • India’s performance was worse even from nations like Rwanda, Kenya, Mozambique, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh (91), Pakistan(89), China and Iraq.
        Regional Performances
        According to the report, women’s representation in America made the most significant gains by rising from 22.45 percent in 2015 to 25 percent.
        • In Africa, 19.7 percent of the region’s ministerial posts were held by women. Similarly, in Europe, the total percentage of women lawmakers stood at 22.5 per cent.
        • Among the Arab States, 9.7 percent of senior executive posts are held by women followed by Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates at 23.1 percent and 26.7 percent, respectively.
        • In Asia, women hold 11 per cent of ministerial posts which is led by Indonesia whose Government is comprised of 25.7 percent women. Sri Lanka ranked 179 as far as representation of women goes.
        Conclusion of the Report
        The data depicted shows that progress in gender equality still remains slow in all structures of power and types of decision-making.
        • Power is still firmly in men’s hands, and although we have witnessed some positive trends, much remains to be done if women are to play on a level field with men.
        • Equal representation in positions of power is a fundamental precondition for truly effective and accountable democracy.

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