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Current Affairs - 23 May 2017

General Affairs 

Students Go On Strike, Parents Lock Teachers Demanding School Upgrade In Haryana
  • In more protests demanding upgrade of primary and mid-level schools to senior secondary levels in Haryana, nearly 50 female students went on an indefinite hunger strike in Jind while parents in Palwal locked some teachers inside a school building. The incidents come days after students in Rewari and Gurgaon held protests over a similar demand.

    The protest in Palwal saw the parents locking the teachers of the government-run primary school in Khirbi village after alleging that a staff crunch was affecting studies of their wards and that teachers were irregular in taking classes.

    Some of them said the children in the village had no option but to travel to Hodal, Bhiduki and Hassanpur for further studies. They shouted slogans against the Education Department, alleging that political leaders and authorities paid no heed to their repeated requests for upgrading the school.

    District Education Officer Anil Sharma rushed to the scene and assured the protesting parents that their demands will be met.

    "The department has already started the process of recruiting more teachers for the school," he said.

    In Jind, the students locked the gate of the Karsola Government High School and launched their protest outside it along with villagers, Julana Police Station in-charge Chandrabahan said.

    The principal and teachers were not allowed to enter the school, and several attempts to end the protest were futile, he said.

    "At present, the school is only till Class X and with around 300 students it meets all the parameters required to be upgraded to school with classes till standard XII," Karsola sarpanch Rajpal said.

    "Several requests were made to the government to upgrade the school, however, all have fell on deaf ears," he said.

    The sarpanch said the gates will not be opened till the government assures us that the school will be upgraded.

    "For Class 12, students have to go to schools in Jind and Rohtak, which are far away from the village. This has resulted in girl students dropping out," Mr Rajpal said.

    Villagers claimed that four years ago the local MP had been requested to put forth their demand to upgrade the school to the government.

    However, Julana education officer Adarsh Rajan said, "A letter has been written to the Education Department for upgrading the Karsola Government High School."

    "A school can be upgraded to Class 12, only, if it has at least 150 students and there is no other school within five kilometres. The decision to upgrade this school will be taken by the School Upgrade Directorate," he said. 

Secularism Doesn't Mean Being Obsessed With One Religion: Yogi Adityanath
  • Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath today accused the previous governments in the state of discrimination based on caste and religion and said that secularism does not mean being obsessed with one particular faith. The chief minister also claimed that due to vote bank politics, patriots like Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan and Abdul Hamid did not find their due place in textbooks.

    During a discussion in the UP Legislative Council, he alleged, "If we are really secular, then this doesn't mean we should be obsessed with one particular community."

    Attacking the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, he alleged the previous governments in UP had divided the society on the basis of caste and religion. "Our government believes in 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas'. There is no caste or religion for us," he said.

    He also expressed concern over the exodus of youth from the state. Our government will ensure they get respectable jobs in the state, he said. "Technical and vocational education along with skill development training will be imparted, so that 7-10 lakh youngsters can be given jobs."

    He also advised the opposition not to view the Governor's address from a political prism as he didn't belong to any political party. Governor Ram Naik was bombarded with paper missiles by opposition members on the first day of the state assembly session.

    Terming law and order as a major challenge, he said that when criminalisation of politics and politicisation of criminals take place, a "peculiar" situation arises. "Our government will establish the rule of law and take strict action against criminal elements," he said.  
    The chief minister advocated revival of student union elections. "The elections to students' unions should take place, but as per the recommendations of the Lyngdoh Commission. It will be good, if all the universities and colleges conduct the elections within a week's time," he said.

    "A system should be put in place, where the students can from an open platform declare who deserves to be elected and the non-deserving person will automatically be out," he said.

    We are also going to convene a meeting soon to decide a uniform syllabus for higher education, he said.

    The chief minister reiterated that his government was committed to waive farmers' loans and that the government will start a joint venture to enhance regional air connectivity in different cities.

    He announced that 30,000 constables and 2,000 sub inspectors will be recruited. "There is no place for corruption in UP. In the previous regimes there had been anomalies in police recruitment," he said.

    He also took a dig at SP, saying during its rule, the uniform that schoolchildren wore resembled the dress of home guards. "Our government will give new uniforms to the children in the new academic session," Yogi Adityanath said.

Maharashtra Farmers To Begin 'Strike' From June 1
  • Kisan Kranti, a state-level coordination committee of different farmers' outfits, today said it was firm on a state-wide farmers strike from June 1, in a bid to draw the state government's attention to their problems.

    "Over 200 farmers representatives gathered at Puntamba village in Ahmednagar district and decided to go ahead with the agitation," Kisan Kranti spokesperson Dhananjay Dhorde told PTI.

    The farmers are going go on strike, raising a slew of demands from loan waiver to free electricity.

    Earlier, over 2,000 farmers who mobilised support from various gram panchayats across 40 villages in districts of Ahmednagar, Nashik and Aurangabad had announced they will not to sell the farm produce in market if their demands were not heeded by May 31, Mr Dhorde said.

    A farmer activist, who attended today's meeting, claimed that chief minister Devendra Fadnavis was 'dividing' the farming community, by inviting some farmers from Ahmednagar district, who are affiliated to BJP, to Mantralaya for a meeting.

    The chief minister recently convened a meeting of some BJP affiliated farmers at Mantralaya, after which they declared that they were withdrawing the proposed agitation, the activist said.

    "This was an attempt to create rift between the farmers, who are firm on their decision to not send their produce like milk or vegetables to the urban areas," he said.

    The strike would involve not selling agri produce in market and not engaging in any fresh crop growing activities, Mr Dhorde said.

    "Last month, we had the first 'gram grabha' at Puntamba which was convened after a specific demand by farmers. Such gram sabha meets were held in various parts of the state," Mr Dhorde said.

    "We prepared a charter of demands about problems faced by farmers. We have sought pension for farmers and a 100 per cent subsidy for drip irrigation. The demands were submitted to the local tehsildar," he said.

    "If the government doesn't act on our demands by May 31, no agri produce will be brought to market and we will also desist from activities including sowing new crop," he said.

    The farmers' demands include loan waiver, free electricity, appropriate price for their produce, grant for irrigation and higher price for milk. The agitation will not involve any political party or leaders, Mr Dhorde said.

    "Once the strike begins, farmers have decided to produce only for their own consumption and not for the market. They also plan to stop supply of food grains, cereals, fruits and milk to markets," he said.

    "We decided to launch the agitation as the government is not sensitive to farmers' issues. Farmers are committing suicides year after year and nobody is bothered. It is time to prove our worth," he said.

    The announcement of the farmers agitation comes in the backdrop of an Opposition agitation against the BJP-led state government, demanding loan waiver to farmers.

Bhagat Singh's Pistol Back In Punjab: Haryana High Court
  • Freedom fighter Bhagat Singh's pistol, with which he shot dead British police officer JP Saunders in 1928, is back in Punjab, the Punjab and Haryana High Court was informed today.

    It would be displayed at the Martyrs' Memorial in Hussainiwala in Ferozepur district.

    The Central School of Weapons and Tactics (CSWT) of the Border Security Force in Indore, where it was kept all these years, transferred it to the BSF headquarters in Punjab.

    In response to the PIL filed by advocate Hari Chand Arora, an affidavit submitted by CSWT BSF DIG Arun Kumar Tambe stated that the pistol was transferred back to Punjab through an order on April 25, 2017.

    The affidavit mentioning that the pistol has been transferred back to Punjab was filed by the BSF in the court of Justices SS Saron and Darshan Singh of the Punjab and Haryana High Court during the resumed hearing of the case.

    The pistol, a US-made .32 Colt was last seen in Punjab at the Police Academy, Phillaur on October 7, 1969. It was transferred to the CSWT, Indore in a lot of eight pistols for display by an order of the president.

    The CSWT needed old weapons for explaining the development in weapons technology to the BSF recruits.

BJP Plans Grand 'Modifest' In 900 Cities To Mark Three Years
  • The ruling BJP has planned a grand 'Modifest' in 900 cities across the country between May 26 to June 15 to highlight the central government's achievements in the three years of the Narendra Modi government.

    Addressing a press conference here on Monday, Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani said: "The government is going to celebrate the three years of the historic mandate it got in 2014."

    "In order to highlight the government's achievements under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a series of dialogue programmes would be held in 900 cities across the country between May 26 and June 15," the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said.

    She said the programme, which has been named 'Making of Developed India' or 'Modifest', would be kicked off by Prime Minister Modi from Guwahati in Assam on May 26. 

    According to the BJP, events across the country would also be addressed by Union Ministers, parliamentarians, BJP chief ministers, state ministers and several senior party leaders.

    Ms Irani said a 'Jan Ki Baat' programme has also been arranged so that the people can share their messages with the Prime Minister directly. 
     "A 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' programme would also be held where the beneficiaries of the government's several schemes would participate," Ms Irani said. 

    Senior BJP leader Arun Singh, who was present in the conference, said that several senior leaders of the party would attend the programmes.

    "The party has also organised intellectual summits in the cities in which the party's ministers would participate and interact with the people," he said, adding that a programme on Swacch Bharat Abhiyan has also been decided at every venue.

    Mr Singh said BJP President Amit Shah would attend the programme in Kerala between June 2-4, in Port Blair in Andaman and Nicobar Islands on June 6, in Chhattisgarh from June 8 to 10, and in Arunachal Pradesh from June 12-13.

    Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will attend the 'Modifest' in Jaipur and Mumbai, while External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would attend the programmes in Delhi and Lucknow, he said.

    Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley would attend 'Modifest' in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu will go to Bhubaneswar and Chhattisgarh, while Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu would participate in the events in West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.

Business Affairs 

GST redefines luxury: From chocolates to chewing gums, ACs to air travel, all come under highest tax slab of 28%
  • In case you were under impression that only staying in a five star hotel and owning a big car come under luxury, think again.
    The Goods and Services Tax Bill redefined the term for the country putting items like chocolates, chewing gum, paints, leather jackets and even stationary items such as water colours in the highest slab, of 28 per cent.
    But the addition to the list is quite surprising, with the inclusion of regular items such as butter, mustard flour, instant coffee, hair dyes and shampoos.
    The services will be taxed in four different slabs with standard rate of 18 per cent and luxury rate of 28 per cent. The tax rates for services will be 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent.
    Following is the list of relevant items that will be impacted by the new tax slab:
    Foodgrains, cereals and milk:
    • From July 1, foodgrains, cereals and milk would cost less as the GST Council decided to exempt these daily-use commodities from the levy.  
    • Daily-use commodities like sugar, tea, coffee (barring instant coffee) and edible put under the lowest tax basket of 5 per cent, almost the same as under the current tax structure.
    • Milk and curd will continue to be exempted from taxation when the Goods and Service Tax (GST) replaced current indirect taxes but sweets will attract 5 per cent levy.
    • Foodgrains, especially wheat and rice, will come down as they will also be exempted, At present, some states levy Value Added Tax (VAT) on them.
    Small and luxury cars:
    • Small Cars would be in 28 per cent bracket, with an additional cess of 1-3 per cent levied on petrol and diesel cars of less than four metres. Luxury cars, however, would fall under 15 per cent.
    • Experts believe that due to the fixed slab of 28 per cent there could be a decline in prices of large luxury cars and SUVs.  
    • Motorcycles of more than 350 cc engine capacity will attract a total of 31 per cent tax under the GST regime, same as the tax incidence on private aircraft and luxury yachts.
    • ACs, refrigerators and washing machines would fall in the 28 per cent slab.
    Air Travel:
    • Economy class air travel will attract 5 per cent GST while business class will be charged 12 cent.

    • Under the GST, entertainment tax will be merged with service tax and a composite 28 per cent tax rate will apply on cinema services as well as gambling or betting at race course.
    Luxury items:
    • On gold, states demanded a 4 per cent tax even though the rate is not among the 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent approved bands. The GST Council agreed to impose cess on luxury goods over and above the peak tax rate of 28 per cent.
    • The highest slab of 28 per cent under GST has also been applied on chewing gums, white chocolate, chocolates containing cocoa, wafers coated with chocolate, instant coffee, custard powder, students' colours, paints, varnishes, perfumes, beauty products, sunscreen, shampoos, hair dyes, after-shave lotions and deodorants.
    • Additionally, fireworks, wash basins, articles of artificial fur, artificial flowers, wigs, razor blades, cutlery, air conditioners, refrigerators, storage water heaters, dish washers, photocopy machines, fax machines, insulated copper wires, cars, wrist watches, revolvers, pistols, cigarette lighters and smoking pipes, among others, will attract the highest slab.
    Meanwhile, according to an Assocham report, GST will feature on the top of the governments list of achievements in the last three years that also saw some other credible measures on taxation and financial inclusion fronts.
    As the Narendra Modi-led NDA government completes three years in office, the chamber drew a charter of measures on the economic front undertaken by the Centre.
    "The implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the next few weeks would cap other major initiatives of the government. The focus on improving ease of doing business through measures like GST and other taxation reforms has also been noted as one of the major achievements of the NDA government," Assocham President Sandeep Jajodia said.

PM lays foundation stone for 993-cr projs of Kandla port
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for half a dozen projects worth Rs 993 crore related to development of Kandla port and said good ports are essential for India's progress.
    Sound infrastructure and efficiency are vital pillars of economic growth, he said.
    If the country has to progress, it must have good ports, Modi said.
    The projects for which foundation was laid include a convention centre named after Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar.
    Modi also suggested that the Kandla Port Trust be named after BJP-RSS ideologue Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay, who stood for the uplift of all sections of the society.
    "Deendayal stood for the poor...(so this name change) will inspire us to work for the poor, suppressed section of the society," he said.
    Other projects include two cargo berths, a road over bridge, deployment of two mobile harbour cranes and mechanisation of fertiliser handling facility at the port. 

Govt aims to construct 12 lakh houses in FY18 under PMAY scheme
  • The government has set an ambitious target to construct as many as 12 lakh houses under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) in 2017-18, although only 1.49 lakh houses were built under the scheme in 2016-17.
    According to a senior government official, under PMAY (Urban), the Centre targets construction of 26 lakh houses in 2018-19, 26 lakh in 2019-20, 30 lakh in 2020-21 and 29.80 lakh in 2021-22.
    The official said the delay in land acquisition is the main reason behind the laggardly implementation of the government's flagship scheme PMAY (Urban).
    "So far, the proposal for construction of 18.76 lakhs houses have been sanctioned, and funding for construction of 13.06 lakh houses has been issued. But, due to delay in land acquisition, only 1.49 lakh houses have been completed under PMAY (Urban) in 2016-17," the official said.
    The government had launched the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) in June 2015, aiming to ensure housing for all by 2022.

    After Wannacry, scarier ransomware EternalRocks found: Researchers
    • EternalRocks, a new strain of malware, has been identified by the researchers that targets the same vulnerability that wrecked havoc worldwide by 'WannaCry' ransomware, a media report said.
      EternalRocks exploits the same vulnerability in Windows that helped WannaCry spread to computers. The malware includes far more threats than WannaCry, making it potentially tougher to fight.
      Like the original ransomware, known as WannaCry, EternalRocks uses an NSA tool known as EternalBlue to spread itself from one computer to the next through Windows. But it also uses six other NSA tools, with names like EternalChampion, EternalRomance, and DoublePulsar (which is also part of WannaCry), Fortune reported.
      In its current form, EternalRocks does not have any malicious elements it does not lock or corrupt files, or use compromised machines to build a botnet. But that's not particularly reassuring, because EternalBlue leaves infected computers vulnerable to remote commands that could 'weaponize' the infection at any time.
      WannaCry, has hit over 150 countries, including India and affected over 240,000 machines, primarily those running unpatched versions of Windows 7. It encrypts files on infected machines and demands payment for unlocking them.
      EternalRocks is stronger than WannaCry because it does not have any weaknesses, including the kill switch that a researcher used to help contain the ransomware.
      EternalBlue also uses a 24-hour activation delay to try to frustrate efforts to study it, the report noted.
      The researcher who found EternalRocks does not claim that it has spread very far yet, but it's just one example of a wave of new malware based on the NSA-authored exploits. The consequences have already been serious, and they could get worse.
      The last 10 days have seen a wave of cyber attacks that have rendered companies helpless around the globe.
      First it was WannaCry that spread by taking advantage of a Windows vulnerability that Microsoft released a security patch for in March. It encrypted files on infected machines and demanded payment for unlocking them.
      WannaCry had some loopholes that made it easier to slow and circumvent.
      Over 48,000 attempts of ransomware attacks were detected in India. With 60 per cent of the attempts targeted enterprises, while 40 per cent were on individual customers, a cyber security firm, Quick Heal Technologies had said.

    Sensex, Nifty trading higher on global rally in stocks
    • The benchmark BSE Sensex rallied over 227 points in early trade today on buying in FMCG, banking and IT stocks by investors enthused by global rally in stock markets.
      The BSE 30-share index surged 227.44 points, or 0.75 per cent, to 30,692.36 points. The gauge had gained 30.13 points in the previous session on Friday. All sectoral indices led by FMCG, realty, capital goods, metal and auto were in the green, rising up to 1.76 per cent. Also, the NSE Nifty gained 62.55 points, or 0.66 per cent, to 9,490.45 points.
      Trading sentiment got a boost after the defence ministry last week broadly finalised a policy under which select private firms will be roped in to build military platforms like submarines and fighter jets in India in partnership with foreign entities. FMCG giant ITC rose the most among 30 Sensex constituents, climbing 2.82 per cent to Rs 293.95.
      Engineering and construction giant Larsen & Toubro rose 1.34 per cent to Rs 450.60. Adani Ports rose by 1.75 per cent and TCS by 1.5 per cent. Tata Motors and Bharti Airtel rose by around 1 per cent in early trade.
      ICICI Bank, Infosys and Reliance Industries were also trading with gains of up to 1 per cent. Among other stocks, BEL and BHEL too were up by 2.12 per cent. Reliance Defence and Engineering was up 2.28 per cent. State Bank of India, which posted two-fold jump in net profit for the last quarter of FY2016-17, was trading down by over 1 per cent due to profit booking by investors after a recent rally in the stock. Losses of up to 1 per cent in Sun Pharma, HDFC, Asian Paints and Gail capped the gains of the benchmark Sensex.
      Firming trend at other Asian markets cheered by the weekend rally at the Wall Street mainly accelerated buying activity on the domestic bourses, brokers said. Sustained buying by domestic institutional investors too influenced sentiments, they added.
      In other Asian markets, Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.75 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei rose 0.30 per cent. Shanghai Composite Index, however, was marginally down by 0.11 per cent. The US Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 0.69 per cent higher on Friday. 

    General Awareness

    Italian Open 2017 – Overview

    • 74th edition of the Italian Open tennis tournament took place at Rome’s Foro Italico from 10-21 May, 2017.
      • In Men’s Singles final match, 20-year old Alexander Zverev created a major upset by defeating former World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and thereby won his first ATP Masters 1000 title.
      • In Women’s Singles finals, 22-year old Elina Svitolina won over Simona Halep. Owing to this victory, Svitolina surged to No. 1 in the season-long rankings race.
      • Martina Hingis and Chan Yung-Jan won Women’s Doubles title by defeating reigning Olympic champions Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. This is a fourth title win for Martina Hingis and Chan Yung-Jan as a team.
      • In Men’s Doubles Final match, French duo Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut won against Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers.
      Italian Open 2017 – Winners:
      Men’s SinglesAlexander Zverev (Germany)Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
      Women’s SinglesElina Svitolina (Ukraine)Simona Halep (Romania)
      Men’s Doubles Pierre-Hugues Herbert (France)
      Nicolas Mahut (France)
      Ivan Dodig (Croatia)
      Marcel Granollers (Spain)
      Women’s DoublesMartina Hingis (Switzerland)
      Y Chan (Taiwan)
      E Makarva (Russia)
      E Vesnina (Russia)
      About Italian Open:
      The Italian Open is a tennis tournament that is held annually since year 1930 during second week of May in Italy.
      • After French Open, Italian Open is one of the most prestigious tennis tournament played on red clay surface.
      • The men’s competition in Italian Open is an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tour.
      • Women’s competition in Italian Open is a Premier 5 event on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tour.
      • Italian Open is also known as Internazionali BNL d’Italia (sponsored name), Rome Masters and Italian Championships.
      • Rafael Nadal holds the record of winning seven Italian Open singles titles.

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