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Current Affairs - 27 March 2017

General Affairs 

On Mann Ki Baat, PM Narendra Modi Says, 'New India Is The Dream of 125 Crore Indians'
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today shared his vision of New India on his monthly radio address Mann ki Baat, saying it was the dream of 125 crore Indians which can be realised before our eyes.  New India has repeatedly been a theme in the Prime Minister's recent speeches -- the year 2022 had been presented as a milestone by which time it could be achieved. "I am seeing the election results in the five states as foundation for a New India," he said during his victory walk to the party headquarters in Delhi after the BJP's spectacular victory in the recently concluded assembly elections.
    The New India promise had made headlines and the statement was variously interpreted - from an indication that the Prime Minister looking further than the coming assembly elections of 2019 to a herald of coming pro-poor government policies.  

    Today, the Prime Minister said, "New India is not a government scheme of a matter of politics. New India is the dream of 125 crore Indians, which they can make happen before our eyes". The "desire of 125 crore Indians to transform India" forms the foundation of New India, he added.

    On his Narendra Modi app, the Prime Minister had asked the people to take a pledge and join him in building a New India by 2022 - the year when the country completes 75 years of Independence. That New India, the appeal said, would be "driven by innovation, hard work and creativity... characterised by peace, unity and brotherhood... free from corruption, terrorism, black money and dirt".  

    In Mann ki Baat, his monthly radio address, the Prime Minister has spoken on a range of issues, including corruption, economy, farmers' rights and drug addiction. While the Prime Minister often reads out letters from citizens on various issues, the only person so far to co-host the show with him was former President of United States Barack Obama.

Yogi Adityanath Reminds People Of 'Certain Responsibilities' In Gorakhpur
  • At a shelter built for cows in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath sent a veiled warning to the people who sent him to Parliament for five consecutive times that they had "certain responsibilities" and needed to progress towards development. The words were yet another emphasis on the message of "discrimination towards none and development for all" that Yogi Adityanath -- seen for years as the BJP's mascot of Hindutva -- has been sending out since he was picked for the state's top job.

    "The people of Gorakhpur have elected me repeatedly. However, the people have certain responsibilities too," the Chief Minister said in what was seen as a message advising restraint to his supporters. "There will be no discrimination with anyone... society will develop along with everyone. We all will progress toward a new development together," he added.

    Yesterday, on his first visit to the place that has been his home since his teens, he had saidJosh mein aake hosh nahi khona chahiye" (Don't get carried away by the victory)". The priest-turned politician had pointed out that any move seen as an excess will be used by the opposition parties to scuttle Prime Minister Narendra Modi's development agenda.  

    Gorakhpur has been the stronghold of the saffron-robed priest, who had taken charge of the huge temple and its charitable activities while in his 20s. But he and his followers have often been in news over various controversies. Yesterday, Yogi  Adityanath delivered a strong message that said now all will be treated as equals -- no distinction will be made on basis of "jaati" (caste), "mazhab" (religion) or "ling" (gender).

    "There will be development for all but appeasement of none," he had said, in a dig at the erstwhile Samajwadi Party government, who were often accused of appeasing the minorities.

    The Chief Minister -- for whom a visit to Gorakhpur temple's "gaushala" or cowsheds was a part of morning rituals -- has already asked the police to crack down on illegal slaughterhouses.

    While the promise to shut illegal slaughterhouses was one made in the BJP manifesto, the overzealousness of the police had resulted in focus on all abattoirs, some of which got sealed on grounds as varied as lack of permit to draw groundwater and dysfunctional CCTV cameras.

Wi-Fi Kiosks At 500 Remote Rail Stations To Provide E-Services
  • Aiming to provide connectivity in remote areas, Railways will set up Wi-Fi hotspot kiosks at about 500 stations and help people access an array of online services, including various government schemes.

    Christened as Railwire Saathi, the Wi-Fi kiosks will function like a PCO for Digital India and enable people to use services like e-commerce, online banking, offer them access to open school/university and insurance schemes, e-ticketing for train and bus services among others.

    Automated form filling, mobile and DTH recharge are other services which the Railwire Saathi is expected to provide in areas with limited connectivity.

    The Railwire Saathi aims to provide connectivity to the unconnected and at the same time offer jobs opportunities in rural areas, a senior Railway Ministry official said.

    While Railways is equipping about 400 stations with free Wi-Fi service in association with Google, this scheme has dual aim - providing jobs as well as connectivity.

    He said the scheme is expected to be operational by May.

    The Railwire Saathi is a Wi-Fi entrepreneurship model where unemployed youths, preferably women, can be trained and supported to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot and provide a platform to online services which will make the business sustainable, he said.

    RailTel, the telecom arm of railways, would execute the scheme across the country.

    Though there are various schemes for minorities, farmers, common man and many avenues for completing education, people in remote areas are generally not aware of them or find it difficult to access them, said the official.

    Unemployed youth who wants to be RailWire Saathi would have to contact RailTel for necessary training.

    The training course will be approved by National Skill Development Council (NSDC). After being trained by RailTel, the youth will get certificate which can be used to get loan under the Mudra scheme, he said.

    Using the loan money, they will install and manage the Wi-Fi hotspots as per design provide by RailTel.

    Railwire Saathi will help in disseminating information about various government schemes like Pradhan Mantri Ujjwal Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojna, Pradhan Mantri Atal Pension Yojna, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Beema Yojna and Pradhan Mantri Surakhya Beema Yojna among others.

Maharashtra's Shivaji Memorial Grows Taller To Top Buddha Statue In China
  • The upcoming statue of Maratha warrior Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in Mumbai, touted to be the world's tallest, which will cost the exchequer thousands of crores, will grow taller. The Maharashtra government has decided to raise the height of the ambitious Shivaji memorial off Mumbai coast from 192m to 210m, reportedly to surpass a Buddha statue in China. The new Shivaji statue will be more than twice the height of America's Statue of Liberty.

    Vinayak Mete, Shiv Sangram party leader and chairman of the Shivaji memorial committee formed by the government, said a revised proposal will be sent to the Centre for environmental clearances. "We want the tallest structure for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj," Mr Mete said.

    The decision to increase the height was taken so that the structure could be taller than the Buddha statue in China. Built on a hill, the 153m-statue was completed in 2008, but later the hill was reshaped to form three pedestals, taking the total height to 208m.

    The budget for the memorial has also jumped to Rs. 4,000 crore from the previous Rs. 3,600 crore, the source said.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the memorial in December last year. When the project was announced, it got mixed reaction from the city. While the Koli fishing community, Mumbai's original inhabitants, fears losing their livelihoods, environmentalists say that the project, which is due to be completed by 2021, will cause immense harm to a vibrant marine ecosystem and ecology of the Arabian Sea.

    Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray had also suggested that the money could be better utilised for the development and maintenance of the scores of forts and palaces in Maharashtra, many built during the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

    Thousands of people had signed a petition asking that the government to spend the money on infrastructure and development instead. "Apart from a waste of money, this statue is going to be terrible for the environment, for the traffic situation in South Bombay and a security nightmare," the petition said.

    But the government decided to go ahead with the project after getting the required clearances. "The beautiful memorial besides, a life-size statue will house a history museum to showcase the fighting qualities of Shivaji Maharaj. It will be a tourist spot and revenue will be earned," Maharashtra Chief Minister  Devendra Fadnavis had said.

Four Holy Cities In Uttar Pradesh To Get 24 Hour Power Supply: Shrikant Sharma
  • The four holy cities of the Hindus - Ayodhya, Mathura, Varanasi and Gorakhpur - are set to enjoy 24 X 7 power supply in the regime of new Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

    "Mathura, Varanasi, Ayodhya and Gorakhpur would now remain free from power cut and round the clock power would be ensured in order to facilitate scores of pilgrims coming to these districts," state's Power Minister Shrikant Sharma said on Saturday.

    He said his department was committed to provide round the clock power supply in rest of the state by 2019.

    The officers of power department have been instructed to rectify existing faults within a fortnight, Mr Sharma stated, adding the old transformers would also be changed.

    "Now money would not be a constraint as government has opened free power connection to people falling under BPL category", Mr Sharma added.

    He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a strong Chief Minister to UP in Aditya Nath, who is committed to provide better administration with stress on development.

    He said for speedy solution of the people's grievances, "File index system has been introduced, making it obligatory to solve problem within a week, failing which stern action against officers concerned would be taken."

    On the Anti-Romeo Squad, he said," Any teasing or misbehavior towards girls would not be tolerated," and warned that its misuse would also invite punitive action.

    Addressing the officers in a meeting at collectorate, he instructed them to ensure schemes meant for poor should reached them, and also provide free medicines to patients in district hospital.

    There would be "zero tolerance" on corruption, Mr Sharma added in the meeting.

    In the meeting, Mr Sharma in a bid to curb corruption directed officials to start "e-tendering" system and preparing a citizen charter for transparency and timely disposing of files.

Business Affairs 

SBI May Reduce Workforce By 10%, To Cut Hiring, Says Top Executive
  • State Bank of India's total workforce will see a reduction over the next two years, after the merger with six entities, owing to attrition, reduced hiring and digitisation, a top official said.

    "Manpower will go down with the period of time. Around 10 per cent reduction in two years may be a possibility," SBI managing director Rajnish Kumar told news agency Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) in an interview.

    Currently, the country's largest bank has around 207,000 workforce and the merger of six entities - SBBJ (State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur), SBM (State Bank of Mysore), SBT (State Bank of Travancore), SBP (State Bank of Patiala), SBH (State Bank of Hyderabad) and Bharatiya Mahila Bank - from April 1 will add approximately 70,000 employees. 

    "Post-merger we will be at 2,77,000 people in SBI. This may come down to 2,60,000 by March 2019. So it may be less than 10 per cent. Let us first merge and see the impact of the key process changes," Mr Kumar said.

    He said there would be some actual reduction in headcount along with re-assignment of the roles, but lay-offs are not an option.

    "We have offered voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), there would be natural attritions and every year we may not replace head by head (replacement recruitment). Manpower will also reduce as a result of digital initiatives. There will be a combined effect," he added.

    Ruling out layoffs, he said the question does not arise.

    "Two years down the line, these efficiencies will start showing. Reduction in manpower will depend on efficiency of the merger and branch networks. Lot of duplication happening will be removed and we will have more feet on the street (customer outreach programmes)," Mr Kumar told IANS.

    Hiring in SBI may not be halted, but will reduce by 50 per cent in a year, he said. In 2016-17, the public sector bank hired 19,000 people.

    "It will come down from the previous average of hiring. It could be reduced by 50 per cent. We will return to usual 5,000-6,000 recruitment every year," he said.

    "We cannot stop new hiring because it creates a lot of gap in the middle management down the line. But full replacement may not be required. If 13,000 people retire in a year, we may recruit 7,000-8,000 in a year," he added.

    Mr Kumar said the bank will continue with its policy of branch expansion, and the associate bank branches will be merged.

    "There is a policy of branch expansion, we are governed by that. We keep on opening new branches depending on the business potential, that will not stop. We are working on the plan as to how many branches we will open in next two years," he said.

    The SBI official said there would be ample benefits from the merger in terms of cost-efficiency and rationalisation.

    "Treasury integration, risk management optimisation will happen. It will result in efficiency gains for the bank. Continuously supporting them with capital will not be required. Initially, the costs may go up, but in the next two years... the rationalisation efficiencies will surface," he said.

India Becomes Third Largest Aviation Market In Domestic Traffic: Report
  • India has become the third largest aviation market in terms of domestic passenger traffic, beating Japan, according to an industry report. India's domestic air passenger traffic stood at 100 million in 2016 and was behind only the US (719 million) and China (436 million), Sydney-based aviation think-tank Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation or CAPA said in its latest report. India acquired the third spot globally by unseating Japan, which flew 97 million domestic passengers in 2016, CAPA said.

    Domestic air traffic has shown a consistent growth of 20-25 per cent throughout 2015 and 2016, peaking in January this year at 25.13 per cent.

    However, the domestic travel demand rose 16 per cent in February this year, ending the long streak of over 20 per cent.

    According to CAPA, India which enjoyed the fourth position in terms of overall air passenger traffic (both domestic and international) along with the UK, has also inched closer to becoming the third largest one by March next year.

    "India will become the third largest market 2-3 years ahead of what was projected. This is because the growth has been much higher," CAPA India head Kapil Kaul said.

    Japan, which flew 141 million passengers in 2016, was ahead of India whose total air passenger traffic was 131 million in the previous year, according to CAPA.

    United States with 815 million passengers in 2016 enjoyed the top position, followed by China with 490 million, the report noted.

    "While we will reach the third spot for both domestic and international air travel ahead of the projected period, we will remain at that position for a very long time because it will not be easy to surpass China and the US," Mr Kaul said.

Bad Loans Resolution Policy To Be Likely Announcement Early Next Month: Report
  • To deal with mounting bad loans afflicting banks, the government is likely to come out with a set of measures for faster resolution of non-performing assets within a fortnight.

    "Policy is being given final touches. It should be announced by the month-end or early next month," a senior Finance Ministry official said.

    Broadly, the policy should contain the processes relating to haircut and one-time settlement to be carried out by banks for faster resolution of high-value cases, the official said, adding that the big loan defaults constitute about 70 per cent of the total NPAs.

    This will provide a clear direction on the NPA front and the government will be able to take the bull by horns, the official said.

    Finance Minister Arun Jaitley last week had said an NPA resolution mechanism was being worked out with the Reserve Bank of India which will put enough pressure on borrowers to settle dues.

    "You see, the amounts are large, but the amounts are restricted. It's not that hundreds and thousands of businesses have created this problem. The problem of big NPA is confined essentially to 30-40, at best 50 companies, and therefore, those 40-50 accounts need to be resolved," he had said.

    During resolution of NPAs, several issues like finding buyers and strategic partners come up, the minister had said.

    "...I think you wait for a few days... There is some policy decision between the RBI and the government which we will implement, which will put adequate pressure on people to settle...," he had said.

    Mr Jaitley had gone on to say that "if you look at the whole structure, there are enough instruments available for settlements as far as the banking system is concerned. There are different legislations where action can be taken."

    According to sources, the joint lenders' forum (JLF) is expected to be overhauled to facilitate quick decision-making.

    Instead of being a resolution mechanism, the joint lenders' forum has become a delaying tool for big defaulters because as per the guidelines, restructuring needs approval of 60 per cent of consortium lenders which more often than not eludes, sources added.

    As per the existing JLF guidelines, if a restructuring package is approved by 75 per cent of creditors by value and 60 per cent of creditors by number, other banks have to go along with it.

    Besides, the sources said there could be provision which will make wilful default a criminal offence.
    As far as haircut issues are concerned, bankers have a fear of 3Cs - CAG, CBI and CVC - when they want to sell bad assets at substantially low value, the sources added. 

    Taxman To Waive Interest If Demand Paid In Retro Cases
    • The tax department will waive interest liability if the principal demand of capital gains tax is paid by companies like Cairn India and Vodafone plc.

      The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on March 24 issued a circular for waiver of interest in disputed tax demand in different scenarios.

      In cases where tax liability arose because of retrospective amendment to the law or a court ruling, the interest payable on the demand will be waived, it said. 

      "However, no reduction or waiver of such interest shall be ordered unless the principal demand... stands fully paid or satisfactory arrangements for payment of the principal demand have been made," according to CBDT guidelines to Chief Commissioner of Income Tax and Director General of Income Tax.

      The guidelines came seven weeks after closure of the Direct Tax Dispute Resolution Scheme, announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on February 28 last year.

      The scheme, which closed on January 31, provided for waiver of interest and penalty if the principal amount involved in retrospective tax cases is paid and all appeals against the government challenging constitutional validity of back-dated amendment to Income Tax laws are withdrawn.

      Vodafone faces a Rs. 14,200 crore tax bill for failing to collect taxes when it paid $11 billion to acquire Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa's 67 per cent stake in India mobile-phone business in 2007.

      The UK's Cairn Energy plc has been slapped with over Rs. 29,000 crore in tax demand including Rs. 10,247 crore in principal due, for alleged capital gain it made in 2006 when it transferred its India business into a new subsidiary, Cairn India, and got it listed.

      Simultaneously, the tax department also raised a tax demand of Rs. 20,495 crore on Cairn India for failing to deduct withholding tax on alleged capital gains made by its erstwhile parent company Cairn Energy in 2006-07 when it reorganised India business.

      While the tax scheme that closed on January 31 primarily targeted Cairn Energy and Vodafone, the new guidelines will be applicable for Cairn India as well as Vodafone.

      Neither Cairn Energy nor Vodafone participated in the scheme that closed on January 31 and have dragged India to arbitration contesting the demands.

      The tax department in the guidelines said the cases where the interest can be waived include ones where tax was not deducted because of an order passed by the High Court but the same has been reversed by "any retrospective amendment of law or a decision of the Supreme Court of India or a decision of a larger bench of the jurisdictional High Court."

      Earlier this month, tax tribunal ITAT upheld levy of Rs. 10,247 crore capital gains tax on UK's Cairn Energy Plc but has held that interest cannot be charged on it as the demand was raised using retrospective tax legislation.

      The tribunal had also said that Cairn India should have withheld tax on capital gains made by its parent company. The guidelines state that interest can be waived in cases where tax deduction at source could not happen because of seizure of books of accounts and other documents by the Income Tax Department.

      The same can also be done in cases where the default is related to "non-deduction or a lower deduction of tax in respect of a payment made to a non-resident (including a foreign company) being a resident of a country or specified territory outside India with whom India has entered into an agreement".

      Commenting on the circular, Amit Maheshwari, partner, Ashok Maheshwary and Associates LLP, said: "The interest waiver process will become much faster and efficient. Even existing unresolved waiver requests are covered and this will provide an efficient and quick resolution."

      Government's Auditor Plans To Look Into Impact Of Demonetisation
      • The Comptroller and Auditor General of India plans to audit the impact of note ban and the affect it has had on government tax revenues, said CAG Shashi Kant Sharma.

        In an interview to news agency Press Trust of India, he said the auditor is gearing up to audit tax revenues under the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime and has started capacity building and reorienting its audit methodology and procedures.

        Among the special audits, CAG has already completed audit of agricultural crop insurance scheme and flood control and flood forecasting and is now engaged in several important audits like Right to Education, National Rural Health Mission, defence pensions and Ganga Rejuvenation, he said. 

        "These reports should be ready by the end of the current year."

        Mr Sharma asserted that CAG has audit jurisdiction over any body or authority which has any relation to government revenues and expenditure and resistance by some like city development bodies, distribution companies and metro corporations will wither away.

        "We plan to audit certain issues related to fiscal impact of demonetisation, largely its impact on tax revenues," he said.

        The government had withdrawn old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes from circulation on November 8 last year, and announced a new tax amnesty scheme for those holding unaccounted junked currency.

        CAG's audit may look into expenditure on printing of notes, RBI dividend payout and banking transaction data.

        The auditor has also conveyed to the government its stand on the recent move of the GST Council to delete section 65 of the preliminary draft that authorised CAG to audit GST.

        "Our mandate covers GST just like the earlier taxation regimes were covered. We have already started work on restructuring of our revenue audit arrangements to meet this likely challenge when GST is introduced."

        "This exercise would include issues of capacity building, data access and analysis, reorientation of audit methodology and procedures and developing end-to-end IT solutions," he said.

        Mr Sharma said executive, legislature, judiciary and audit have clearly demarcated roles and responsibilities.

        "The framers of our Constitution were fully aware of the concept of checks and balances and hence you find the mention of Judiciary and CAG in the fifth part of the Constitution along with legislature and executive," he said.

        "The CAG's DPC Act of 1971 provides the details of the mandate and scope of audit available to us."

        Stating that there are no lacunae in CAG's empowerment but with advent of time, he said the governance models have undergone changes.

        The September 2014 judgement of the Supreme Court in the telecom case "reinforced an important principle that wherever public resources are being used by private companies for revenue generation, CAG will have a duty to examine as to whether the government is getting due share of such revenue," he said.

        "So, I can say that the bodies and authorities which have any relation to government revenues and expenditure are under the audit jurisdiction of CAG," he said.

        City development bodies, electricity distribution companies and metro corporations "resist" CAG audit on the ground of being autonomous or on the ground of getting no support of the government although they perform the functions which were earlier being performed by the government departments, he said.

      General Awareness

      Make in India Conference held in Houston

      • A first-ever Houston India Conference, hosted by Asia Society Texas Center in Houston. This conference is conducted on 25th March, 2017 for two days with the theme “Make in India – The Inside Story” to bring best practices of doing business in India.
        The speakers who took part in this conference are
        1. Manjari Chatterjee Miller, an assistant professor of internal relations at Boston University,
        2. Nisha Biswal, former assistant secretary of state for south and central asian affairs,
        3. Nagaraj Naidu, joint secretary at economic diplomacy ministry of external affairs,
        4. Kalikesh Singh Deo MP,
        5. SC Garg, World Bank South Asia executive director and
        6. Dhruva Jaishankar, Fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution India Center, New delhi.
        The conference is chaired by Jiten Agarwal and India’s Ambassador to the US Navtej Sarna is also present.
        • Main motto of the conference is to show India as a super power in its Business that ends up in profit and make companies around the world to invest in its business. It shared all ups in Indian market and the place where it will be after years.
        • It described the people’s part in the business growth and said that they will play the main role in increasing the profit which in turn increases the investments in India. Various countries are invited in this conference and the main motto is explained to them clearly.
        • But to make this conference a successful step ahead, the relationship between India and USA plays a major role.
        Texas is a state in US which has a GDP at USD 1.7 trillion and it’s the home to 54 (or 11 percent) of Fortune 500 companies in the world
        • Having the capital AustinHouston is its largest city and governed by Greg Abboot.
        • If Texas is a separate nation it would be the 10th largest economy in the world.
        • The main reason why the conference is conducted in Texas (Houston) is that it has a vibrant Indian-American population that has contributed immensely to the understanding between our two countries across business, academics and science.
        It is the initiative by Government of India on 25,September 2014 with an aim to make its title (Make in India) a reality
        • It mainly looks into the investment made by the Indian and foreign to invest and manufacture products in India.
        • It was launched under our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and looked after by Ministry of Finance.
        • India has also provided 100% FDI (Foreign Direct Investments) in all the below sectors except for space (74%), defence (49%) and news media (26%)
        Sectors under Make in India
        1.Automobiles                                           14.Automobile Components
        2.Aviation                                                  15.Biotechnology
        3.Chemicals                                               16.Construction
        4.Defence manufacturing                            17.Electrical Machinery
        5.Electronic systems                                   18.Food Processing
        6.IT and Business Process Management       19.Leather
        7.Media and Entertainment                         20.Mining
        8.Oil and Gas                                             21.Pharmaceuticals
        9.Ports and Shipping                                   22.Railways
        10.Renewable Energy                                  23.Roads and Highways
        11.Space and astronomy                             24.Textiles and Garments
        12.Thermal Power                                       25.Tourism and Hospitality

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