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Current Affairs - 13 May 2017

General Affairs 

PM Modi Meets Tamils In Sri Lanka, Promises Support In Their Economic Growth
  • On the first day of his two-day tour to Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the country's Tamil-dominated tea plantation area which he said was the best place to nurture a peaceful and harmonious multi-language society that unifies cultures and bonds people.

    PM Modi was accompanied by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. 

    After dedicating a 150-bed hospital constructed with Indian aid, he said he is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit "this beautiful region". 

    PM Modi had visited Sri Lanka two years ago and had undertaken a trip to Jaffna in the north.

    The plantation Tamils are distinct from the Tamils of north and east in the island nation, which has for over three decades faced a violent struggle in the north and east by Tamils for their rights.

    In a 30-minute speech peppered with quotes from the works of Tamil saints and scholars, he also announced India's assistance in the construction of 10,000 additional houses in upcountry areas, where 4,000 have already been built under ownership basis for the beneficiaries.

    He also said that India has decided to extend the 1990 emergency ambulance service, currently operating in western and southern provinces, to other provinces. 

    PM Modi gave an assurance that India will support the economic progress of the Tamils and others in Sri Lanka. 

    "You are the children of Tamil mother. You speak one of the oldest classical languages of the world. Along with that you also speak Sinhalese, which is a matter of pride. Language is not just a tool of communication but it also unifies cultures and people," he said.

    Recalling the links between Tamils and Sinhalese, he said they are historically intertwined and were used in the courts of Nayak kings of Madurai and Thanjavur. 

    "We are for strengthening the spirit of unity and harmony and you must be a force in this," he said, while addressing the Indian-origin Tamils, whose ancestors came to Sri Lanka 200 years ago.

    "We see you as a seamless part of our continuum. We want to nurture this relationship between Sri Lanka and India and establish ties in which my government's priority is to work for the progress of all Indians and all Sri Lankans," he said.

Our Proposal 'Rejected' Says AAP, As Poll Panel Meets Parties Over Voting Machines (EVMs)
  •  The all-party meeting convened by the Election Commission to discuss reliability of EVMs today saw a debate over the definition of 'hacking'. The AAP, which has been leading the opposition charge on this issue, claimed that its proposal of holding a 'hackathon' has been "rejected" by the Commission. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who is among the AAP representatives in the meeting, tweeted that the Election Commission "refused to carry out a hackathon".

    The Election Commission (EC) will only throw a challenge asking the parties to prove that machines used in the past elections were tampered with, he claimed. However, there was no official word from the EC on Mr Sisodia's claims so far.

    AAP MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj told reporters on the sidelines of the closed-door meeting that EC shared nothing new so far towards alleviating the fears of the parties. The meeting saw a debate over the definition of "hacking".

    "They won't let us access their machines and then challenge us to prove our charge of hacking. The EC is being very smart," Mr Bhardwaj claimed. Leaders of other parties like the CPI, RJD and RLD raised related as well as other aspects of the electoral process like corporate funding.

    "The whole issue is about the ethos and integrity of the election process. Why are advanced countries in the west not using EVMs?" CPI national secretary Atul Anjan asked. RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha said by harping on the infallibility of EVMs, the EC was acting as the custodian of just the "instruments" and not the process as a whole.

    At the day-long meeting, which started with the opening remarks of Chief Election Commission Nasim Zaidi, the Commission was expected to seek views of political parties on the proposed challenge it plans to throw to hack its EVMs.

    The date of the proposed challenge would be decided after the all-party meeting, it was said. All the seven national and 35 of the 48 state recognised political parties are attending the meeting. A detailed presentation on electronic voting machines' security features will be made by the Election Commission top brass to prove that the machines are tamper-proof -- a fear raised by the opposition parties.

    Days before the  meet, the Aam Admi Party had staged a demonstration on hacking voting machine' in the Delhi Assembly. The party had used an EVM prototype to make the demonstration. The EC had trashed the AAP's claim, saying the 'machine is a look-alike and not the ECI-EVM'.

    Some parties have demanded they be allowed access to the machines used in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls.

    Sixteen opposition parties had recently told the Commission that it should revert to the paper ballot system claiming that the faith of the people has "eroded" in the machines. Several parties, including AAP, BSP and Congress had blamed tampered machines for the victory of BJP in the recently-held assembly polls.

    Disqualifying candidates named in a charge sheet for bribing voters, making electoral graft a non-bailable offence and easing of rules to order counting of votes through paper trail are some of the other issues Election Commission will discuss with political parties tomorrow.

    "The Election Commission has convened a meeting with all recognised national and state political parties on May 12 in New Delhi to discuss issue related to EVM and VVPAT.

    "In addition to the EVM/VVPAT, the agenda will also cover making bribery in elections a cognisable offence, disqualification on framing of charges for the offences of bribery in elections and suggestions in VVPAT recount rules," it had said in a statement last week.

Shiv Sena Slams Government Over Absence Of Full-Time Defence Minister
  • The Shiv Sena today sharpened its attack on the Centre over the absence of a full-time defence minister and accused it of "toying" with national security. "It has been three months since the change of the defence minister but we do not have anybody handling the ministry full time as yet. A nation as big as India not having a full-time defence minister amounts to toying with national security," the Sena said in an editorial in party mouthpiece Saamana.

    "People are responsible for this (of voting BJP-led government to power) and soldiers are now bearing the brunt of this misdeed (people's choice)," it said.

    Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was given the additional charge of the Defence Ministry in March after Manohar Parrikar resigned to take on his new role of Goa Chief Minister. The Sena also said it is evident from the "casual" manner in which issues of soldiers and farmers are being handled that the government is hit by a "mental scam". 

    "People who are today roaming around as saviours of the nation are not able to hear out farmers nor can they lend an ear to the sorrows of family members of soldiers being brutally killed. The slaying of soldiers in the past one year should be treated as culpable homicide by the government," it said.

    The Sena's criticism of the government comes in the backdrop of the killing of a young Kashmiri Army officer Ummer Fayaz. Mr Fayaz had gone to attend the wedding of his cousin at Batapura, about 74 km from Srinagar, from where he was abducted by militants on Tuesday. His bullet-riddled body was found on Wednesday morning.

As China-India Relations Plummet, Delhi Is Cool To Huge Beijing Summit
  • India is likely to be represented by local embassy staff or academics this weekend at a major gathering of leaders and ministers on China's "Silk Road" initiative, reflecting deep unease in New Delhi about the far-reaching project.

    Foreign Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said no decision had been taken on whether an Indian government delegation would attend the meeting. "The matter is under consideration," he said, a position the government has maintained since March when China extended an invitation. Since then, Beijing has stepped up efforts to get India to attend.

    India's main objection to China's plan to build ports, railways and power links across Asia and on to Europe is that the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key part of the plan, runs through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.

    Mr Baglay said India supports connectivity across the region, but there is a problem with the Pakistan end of "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR) - a term widely used to describe the project.

    "As far as OBOR is concerned, you know that our position is that since the so-called CPEC forms a part of OBOR, that is where our difficulty is," he said. "It passes or proposes to pass through what is sovereign Indian territory and we have made our views in this regard very, very clear to the Chinese side."

    But the "Belt and Road" initiative involving hundreds of billions of dollars over the coming decades could also cement China's dominance over Asia, including in India's neighbourhood.

    India is expected to send representatives from its embassy in Beijing, two Indian officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, according to news agency Reuters.

    Leaders of 29 countries plus senior delegates from other nations gather in Beijing for a two-day summit starting on Sunday to map out a project that is seen as broad on ambition but short on specifics.

    China's economy is nearly five times the size of India's.

    India, which is Asia's third largest economy behind China and Japan, sits near one of the world's busiest shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean. For Delhi not to be part of the continent-wide project presents a headache for both China and India.

    China's ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, told an Indian military think-tank in Delhi last week that while India has reservations about the China-Pakistan corridor, Beijing has no wish to get involved in territorial disputes between India and Pakistan.

    India's indecision over China's biggest summit of the year comes at a time of a sharp downturn in ties.

    Delhi is upset over China's refusal to allow it entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a global cartel that controls nuclear trade, and over Beijing blocking a request at the UN to sanction Masood Azhar, the Pakistan-based head of terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which has attacked military bases in India.

    Beijing is angry at India's increasingly public engagement of the Dalai Lama, including hosting the Tibetan spiritual leader last month in Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as South Tibet.

    China has also grown wary of India's military cooperation with the United States, as well as with Japan in recent months.

    Some Indian officials and experts have urged India not to miss out on opportunities presented by the initiative to boost transport and trade links.

    Mehbooba Mufti, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said the border state could benefit from the Chinese project as it would boost economic activity.

12 Lawyers Said No To Justice Karnan, Scared Of You, Supreme Court Told
  • For the police of two states hoping to arrest him, Calcutta High Court judge CS Karnan has remained untraceable. But a lawyer who reached the Supreme Court to file a petition to seek recall of his six-month jail term on Thursday said he was in Chennai. On Tuesday, the court had held the judge guilty of contempt and sentenced him to six months in jail. Justice Karnan went missing soon after.

    The lawyer, Mathews Nedumpara, told the top court that Justice Karnan had approached 12 lawyers to file a petition to seek a review of the court's verdict.

    Chief Justice of India JS Khehar agreed to hear the petition after Mr Nedumpara told the court that the judge was in Chennai where he had signed the court documents, authorising him to represent him.

    As for the other advocates approached by Justice Karnan, news agency IANS quoted Mr Nedumpara as saying "They all refused as they are very scared of you (SC Bench)".

    Mr Nedumpara, who undertook to face the court, had faced a contempt notice himself two months ago. This was at the Mumbai High Court, where a two-judge bench recorded how he had walked out of the courtroom after behaving in  way that the court found to be "to say the least... most abusive, contemptuous, lowering the dignity of the court".

    His was also one of the few voices in the legal community that called Justice Karnan a whistle-blower. In an opinion piece he wrote for a national daily, the advocate argued that the remedy to the controversy was not in silencing whistle-blowers but bringing in a credible mechanism to probe allegations of corruption in the judiciary.

    As the lawyer for a group that he leads, National Lawyers Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms, Mr Nedumpara had asked the top court last December to cancel Justice JS Khehar's appointment as the Chief Justice of India. The argument was that he was on the bench that struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission and would be the biggest beneficiary of the decision. The lawyer wanted Justice Chelameswar to be elevated since he had criticised the opaqueness of the court's committee of senior judges that recommends appointments.

    Just a few months earlier, another petition by the same group had alleged that there was nepotism in appointment of judges, prompting the court to respond: "We don't need a certificate from anyone on earth". The bench rejected the petition that wanted a "public body" for appointment of judges, independent of the executive and judiciary.

    In November 2015, the lawyer was rebuked by Justice Khehar, then a judge, when he complained that the court was being cruel to him as he was not allowed to speak. "Don't take it too far. We have heard you. You wanted to come in press. You are done. We will have you removed from the court if you don't stop".

Business Affairs 

WPI inflation slips to 3.85 per cent in April as food prices cool
  • Inflation based on the wholesale price index slipped to a four-month low of 3.85 per cent in April as both food articles and manufactured items showed cooling in prices.
    The government on Friday came out with the new series of wholesale inflation and industrial output data under which the the base year for calculating the macroeconomic indicators has been revised to 2011-12, from the 2004-05 earlier.
    The index basket of the new series has a total of 697 items, including 117 for primary articles, 16 for fuel and power and 564 for manufactured products.
    The WPI inflation readings, reflecting the annual rate of price rise, as per the new base stood at 5.29 per cent in March, 5.51 per cent in February, 4.26 per cent in January, 2.10 per cent in December and 1.82 per cent in November.
    As per the data released on Friday, inflation in food articles was 1.16 per cent in April, lower than 3.82 per cent in March.
    The low food inflation was mainly because pulses saw deflation of 13.64 per cent, vegetables (-7.78 per cent), potato (-40.97 per cent) and onion (-12.47 per cent).
    "A new food index is being compiled combining the food articles under primary articles and food products under manufactured products. Together with the Consumer Food Price Index released by the Central Statistics Office, this would help monitor the price situation of food items better," a government statement said.
    As per the numbers, inflation in the fuel and power segment was 18.52 per cent while that of manufactured products was 2.66 per cent in April.
    Last month, the Reserve Bank had left the key policy rate unchanged at 6.25 per cent for the third review in a row, citing upside risks to inflation. It had, however, increased the reverse repo rate -- which it pays to banks for parking funds with it -- by 0.25 per cent to 6 per cent, narrowing the policy rate corridor.
    As per the new series data, industrial output growth slowed to 2.7 per cent in March as against 5.5 per cent a year ago.

Limit diesel, petrol vehicles; encourage electric vehicles: NITI Aayog
  • NITI Aayog on Friday pitched for restricting the registration of diesel and petrol vehicles saying that the adoption of electric and shared vehicles could save USD 60 billion in fuel cost by 2030.
    A report prepared by NITI Aayog and Rocky Mountain Institute has suggested that the government should limit the registration of 'conventional vehicles' through public lotteries and complement this measure by giving preference to electric vehicles (EVs) as is being done in China.
    It also suggested that government should consider more tax incentives to promote EVs so that they can be made available to people at reduced cost.
    It said EVs should also be provided free parking.
    The report estimates that India can conservatively save up to 64 per cent of anticipated passenger mobility-related energy demand and 37 per cent of carbon emission by 2030.
    "By 2030, this would result in an annual diesel and petrol reduction of 156 million tonnes of oil equivalent," said the report, 'India Leaps Ahead: Transformative Mobility Solution'.
    "At current oil prices, this would imply a net usual fuel cost saving of approximately 3.9 lakh crore by 2030," the report added.
    Releasing the report, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said whether ones likes it or not EVs will happen in India and this is inevitable.
    "The challenge is how we do it quickly. How do we do it to scale and size," he said.
    Noting that the cost of battery is falling by about half every five years, he said that as a result in the next 4-5 years, the electric vehicles even with batteries would not be far more expensive than the petrol or diesel vehicle, while operational cost will be just 20 per cent of that of petrol vehicle.
    Stressing that the government is fully committed to driving this electric vehicles programme, Kant said EVs will come into India in a big way in about a decade's time.
    "But challenge is if we delay it then we will end up importing batteries instead of oil and it will be difficult for us to take leadership," he cautioned.
    "So we should drive our own EVs programme, which will enable us to manufacture EVs," Kant added.
    He also pointed out that building up volumes quickly will enable India EVs programme to succeed.
    "And therefore aggregation of demand on a large scale is important. It's important that government drives it by focusing on government vehicles and public vehicles," Kant said.
    Recently, Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) Managing Director Pawan Goenka had said that India does not have the same kind of subsidies many other countries offer on buying electric vehicles.
    "India has about 2,000 dollars (subsidy). There are countries which have 10,000 dollars, therefore we cannot have a very high-end vehicle because nobody will buy it and it does not even serve the purpose. What if 200 people bought it? It won't help much in curbing pollution," he had said.
    In his foreword to the 140-page report, NITI Aayog vice- chairman Arvind Panagariya said there is need to adopt new and fundamentally different pathways to provide clean, cost- effective and efficient mobility services that are safe, create new jobs and reduce dependence on oil imports.

Govt says Aadhaar not a must for PAN, ITR in Assam, J&K, Meghalaya
  • The revenue department has exempted residents of Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, and citizens above 80 years from mandatory quoting of Aadhaar to obtain PAN cards and file tax returns.
    A notification in this regard has been issued by the government. This comes at a time when a case challenging mandatory use of Aadhaar for PAN (permanent account number) and filing income tax return (ITR) is pending in the Supreme Court.
    The apex court has reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of a provision in the Income Tax Act to make Aadhaar mandatory.
    The finance ministry notification gives the exemption to "an individual who does not possess the Aadhaar number or the enrolment ID" who is residing in Assam, Jammu and Kashmir and Meghalaya.
    The exemption is also for persons of 80 years or more, non-residents and non-citizens.
    The government, under the Finance Act 2017, has made it mandatory for taxpayers to quote Aadhaar or enrolment ID of the Aadhaar application form for filing tax returns.
    Also, Aadhaar has been made mandatory for applying for PAN with effect from July 1, 2017.
    The department, till now, has linked over 1.18 crore Aadhaar with its PAN database.
    While Aadhaar is issued by the UIDAI to a resident of India, PAN is a ten-digit alphanumeric number issued in the form of a laminated card by the IT department to any person, firm or entity.
    Meanwhile, the department has launched a new e-facility to link a person's Aadhaar with the PAN.

    Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail Q4 net profit at Rs 21.83 cr
    • Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail (ABFRL), formerly known as Pantaloons Fashion, today reported a net profit of Rs 21.83 crore on standalone basis for the fourth quarter ended March 31, 2017.
      The company had posted a net loss of Rs 108.97 crore in the January-March quarter of last fiscal, ABFRL said in a BSE filing.
      Total income of the company for the quarter under review stood at Rs 1,642.48 crore as against Rs 1,445.10 crore during the same period of last year.
      For the entire fiscal, ABFRL reported a standalone net profit of Rs 53.50 crore as compared to net loss of Rs 109.75 crore in the last fiscal.
      The company said its board has approved raising Rs 1,250 crore through issuance of non-convertible debentures (NCDs) in one or more tranches. The fund raising is subject to the approval of the members at the AGM.
      On the outlook, the company said it will continue to build on its leadership through investments in key strategic themes.
      It said that it would focus on "brand development through investment in brand building, merchandise and refreshed store experience."
      ABFRL own brands such as Van Heusen, Pantaloons, Louis Philippe, Peter England and Forever 21, among others.
      Shares of ABFRL ended 3.68 per cent up at Rs 170.45 on BSE.

    SBI ATM withdrawal charges for Buddy users, cheque book charges, soiled notes: Here's all you need to know
    • On Thursday, the customers of State Bank of India went in a tizzy after a circular published on its website, which stated that beyond every four ATM withdrawals, the bank would charge Rs 25.
      However, when Business Today contacted SBI, an official on condition of anonymity clarified that the notification was specifically for SBI mobile wallet (called Buddy) users.
      Soon after, the SBI published a new notification addressing the confusion the first notification had created.
      According to the new notification, with effect from June 1, on basic savings banks deposit accounts (BSBDA), SBI will levy charges on withdrawals at branches and ATMs beyond the four free transactions.
      BSBDA is a zero balance savings account that serves the primary need of customers with free ATM card, monthly statement, and cheque book.
      Following are the details with new modifications which the country's biggest lender will bring into effect from June.
      Four free transactions:
      A customer will have to pay a charge of Rs 50 after four free transactions in case he/she withdraws cash from the branch.
      If customers are withdrawing cash beyond the free limit from other banks' ATMs, they will have to pay Rs 20 plus service tax. However, in case of withdrawing money from an SBI ATM then, they have to pay Rs 10 with service tax.
      "All Normal Saving Bank accounts will continue to get 8 free ATM transactions (5 SBI ATMs + 3 other bank ATMs) in Metros and 10 free transactions in Non Metro (SBI ATM + 5 Other Bank ATMs) free apart from the bank transaction," SBI said.
      Cheque book charges for BSBDA
      If a BSBDA customer  wants to issue a cheque book, w.e.f June 1, he/she will have to pay Rs 30 plus service tax for a 10 leaf cheque book, Rs 75 with service tax for 25 leaf cheque book and Rs 150 plus service tax for a 50 leaf cheque book.
      SBI Buddy Wallet
      Meanwhile, the SBI has introduced an ATM withdrawal facility for its Buddy e-wallet users . The facility is available against a withdrawal fee of Rs 25 per transaction.
      Cash withdrawal through Business Correspondent (BC) up to Rs 2000 in multiples of Rs 100 will be charged Rs 2.50 percent of the transaction value with a minimum of Rs 6.
      Cash deposit through BC of up to Rs 10,000 (in multiples of 100) would be charged at 0.25 per cent of the value with a minimum of Rs 2 and maximum of Rs 8 plus service tax.
      Soiled notes
      Customers also have to pay charges over exchanging of old and sullied notes above Rs 5,000.
      The bank will charge Rs 2 and soiled notes worth above Rs 5000 will be charged Rs 2 or Rs 5 per Rs 1000, whichever is higher.
      IMPS fund transfer
      Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) refers to an instant interbank electronic fund transfer service through mobile phones.
      Now, according to new rules, IMPS fund transfer through internet banking/ mobile banking /UPI/USSD will be charged at Rs 5 up to Rs 1 lakh.
      IMPS transactions from Rs 1 lakh - Rs 2 lakh will be charged at Rs 15 and above Rs 2 lakh will cost Rs 25.

    General Awareness

    India test-fires ‘Spyder’ surface-to-air missile from Odisha test range

    • On May 11, 2017, India test fired ‘Spyder’ surface-to-air-missile at a test range in Odisha. This trial was conducted for validating several parameters of the sophisticated weapon system in order to strengthen India’s air defence system.
      About ‘Spyder’:
      It has been acquired from Israel. It was originally a short range air-to-air defence system, but was later modified to be used as surface-to-air defence system.
      • Spyder defence system comprises two missiles – Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby with active on board radar that makes it even more deadly. Both of these missiles are smokeless, thus they cannot be visually detected nor can their launch positions be traced.
      • It can strike enemy targets within a range of 15 km and at heights between 20-and-9,000 metres
      • It has a shorter strike range as compared to India’s indigenously developed surface-to-air ‘Akash’ missile, which can neutralise enemy targets up to 25 km range.
      • Indian Air Force had made the Spyder deal with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) in year 2008.
      Test of ‘Spyder’:
      Testing of Spyder was carried out from a mobile launcher at launch complex 3 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, Odisha.
      • The missile was fired thrice at ‘Banshee’, a UK-made pilot-less target aircraft. The test was successful as missiles hit the target with precision.
      • Banshee has been developed by UK-based engineering company Meggitt PLCMumbai-based Sure Safety Solutions (SSS) and Meggitt PLC have jointly set up a unit at Gopalpur in Ganjam district of Odisha for assembling unmanned aerial targets.
      Deployment of ‘Spyder’ and ‘Akash’ Missile:
      • ‘Spyder’ and ‘Akash’, both the missiles are in the process of deployment along the border.
      • The Indian Air Force (AIF) is planning to use air defence missile system on the western borders of India, to neutralise any aerial threat from Pakistan.

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