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Current Affairs - 15 June 2017


General Affairs 

Presidential election: Even as divisions run deep, BJP says will woo Sonia, Yechury for consensus candidate
  • In an attempt to reach a consensus candidate to be India's next President, Union ministers and senior BJP leaders Rajnath Singh and M Venkaiah Naidu will meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Left leader Sitaram Yechury on Friday to discuss the presidential election.
    Whatever may be the outcome of these parleys, the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has said its presidential candidate will file nomination on June 23, sources in the BJP said.
    The filing of the nomination for the post began today while the election, if required, will be held on July 17. Counting will take place on July 20.
    LATEST DEVELOPMENTS:
    1. Both Venkaiah Naidu and Rajnath Singh are reported to have briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi today on the July 17 presidential election.
    2. On Tuesday, after his meeting with Amit Shah, Naidu had said the BJP will talk to all political parties in the "true spirit of democracy" to evolve a broad consensus on the presidential nominee.
    3. Naidu, however, appealed to the parties that they should go by the "mandate of the people which is for this government" - a clear message to the Opposition to be agreeable to the NDA's choice for the top constitutional post.
    4. Naidu, Rajnath and Arun Jaitley form the BJP's three-member committee constituted by Shah on Monday to consult their allies as well as the Opposition parties to evolve a consensus over the presidential poll.
    5. The committee will try to ensure that the NDA gathers enough support from the regional parties to put them in the winning position in case the Opposition parties put up a joint candidate and force a contest.
    6. Meanwhile, the Opposition leaders also met today to discuss their presidential poll strategy. All 10 members of the Opposition sub-group formed for the purpose met in the chambers of the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad.
    7. A united Opposition, after several rounds of parleys between leaders of various parties, is hoping to zero in on a "mutually acceptable" presidential candidate with the ruling dispensation. If that does not happen, it is expected to put up a united candidate against the official NDA nominee.
    8. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and tribal leader Draupadi Murmu's names are doing the rounds as possible NDA nominees for the Presidential election. Senior BJP MP Shatrughan Singh today said he wants BJP veteran LK Advani as India's next President. BJP ally Shiv Sena, on the other hand, wants that position for RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
    9. The Opposition is reported to have shortlisted former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar as its likely candidates.
    10. The term of incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee ends on July 24 and that of Vice-President M Hamid Ansari on August 10.

Animal welfare means cow welfare as Animal Welfare Board of India appoints 8 new members, 6 linked with cow research
  • The 55-year-old Animal Welfare Board of India has suddenly turned into a cow welfare outfit with 6 of eight new members directly or indirectly linked to cow research and study. In the revamping of this statutory body this year there are many firsts.
    The board was created to advice the government on the issue of animal welfare, but last year it was found to be at loggerheads with the government on the Jallikattu issue. In the past the government had demanded removal of the Chairperson  Major General (Rtd.) R.M. Kharb and Vice-Chairperson Chinny Krishna. The fallout of the head on confrontation between board and the Central government over Jallikattu led to removal of all 22 members after their 3 years tenure ended and for the first time not one old member has been continued.
    That said, the recent appointments are being taken with a pinch of salt and previous members allege that there is an attempt to suppress civil society.
    In the past the government had demanded removal of the Chairperson  Major General (Rtd.) R.M. Kharb and Vice-Chairperson Chinny Krishna. The fallout of the head on confrontation between board and the Central government over Jallikattu led to removal of all 22 members after their 3 years tenure ended and for the first time not one old member has been continued.
    The government for the first time has not continued with old members and appointed 8 new members that are a departure from past appointments.
    # For instance the Board has always been chaired by persons outside of the government, including veterinarians, animal welfare activists and retired judges.  This year the board  is being headed by environment ministry official Sidhanta Das, who is the chairperson.
    # A notification, which was made public earlier this year, said that the board will be chaired by a senior ministry official for its entire term for the next three years.
    # It has total 28 members including MPs and independent members. But, this time the board has left 4 of the independent seats vacant which is an aberration.
    Newly appointed members
    Girish Shah: Managing Trustee with Samast Mahajan, his NGO provides financial help to gau-shalas (cow shelters) across Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. They have a network of 600 gau-shalas.
    Dr. R.S. Chauhan, a professor at the College of Veterinary and Animal Science in Uttarakhand, said some of his most recent work includes papers on the properties of gomutra or cow urine, and how it helps enhance immunity, cure cancer.
    Dr. Hitesh Jain, an ayurvedic physician at the Gujarat Ayurved University, has also been a member of the RSS, and was the Chairman at the Gau Vigyana Adhyayan Evam Sodha Sansthan.
    Mohan Singh Ahluwalia, has links with ayurveda and specialist in Gau vigyan
    Ajit Kelkar and Dhan Pal Singh - have similar areas of expertise.
    Sunil Mansinghka works at the Gauvigyan Anusadha Kendra in Maharashtra.

    Ram Krishan Raghuvanshi, People for Animal Jankalayan Samiti

Mizoram faces worst floods in 50 years, hundreds homeless
  • Nature's fury has claimed ten lives in Mizoram and rendered many homeless in the entire Northeast.
    People are losing their homes, their possessions and all they hold dear, as a sudden natural occurrence the likes of which has not been seen for over half-a-century sweeps the Northeast.
    In a statewide tragedy reminiscent of a similar natural disaster which occurred in Uttarakhand in the not-so-distant past, conditions are unbelievably bad for the people of the region.
    The catastrophe in the form of flash floods caused by the onset of the monsoon has left thousands homeless.
    Approximately 350 houses have been completely submerged by the floods and 8 people have been pronounced dead, with that number expected to rise.
    The rains have caused extensive damage in many districts across the state, with the incessant rain being the cause of landslides and mudslides. This is the largest recorded flooding of the region's Tlawng River in the last 50 years.
    In the aftermath of a landslide in Saron Veng, Aizwal, the President of a local NGO, Young Mizo Association, Dr. C Lalchandanna commented, "The main cause of the landslide could be due to over saturation of the soil caused by improper drainage system. Over a hundred families from 96 houses have been evacuated in the area as the grounds are no longer stable. These people have been taken to families and neighboring houses and have also been shifted to community halls and church halls where YMA provided food".
    In Tlabung, which falls under the Lunglei District, more than 80 families have been evacuated from their homes, and close to 70 houses have been submerged by the floods, while in Serhmun, over a hundred houses have been swept away by the floods. The people have been shifted to friends' and families' homes and their belongings are being kept in community and church halls.
    The YMA also provided food for the people who have evacuated from their homes.
    Phairuakngkai, which also lies in the Lunglei district, recorded 4 deaths due to the floods and landslides - two bodies have been recovered so far but two are still missing.
    Many other areas have also reported collapsed bridges and roads, which has brought traffic to a complete halt. Many water pipelines in the area have also been severely damaged.
    In Vairengte, which lies in the Kolasib district, intense rain and flash floods have submerged over 75 houses.
    The flash floods have also completely blocked the road between Aizawl and Champhai, and have caused the 30 feet collapse of Tuirial Airfield Road (National Highway 54).
    The site of the calamity is now unstable and immediate help was offered from YMA volunteers and the local people who are rescuing people from the spot of the landslide.
    In Hunthar in Aizawl the landslide has also partially blocked Lengpui Airport road on NH54 causing severe traffic congestion.
    Intense flooding leaves thousands stranded in Manipur
    Hundreds of houses are being swept away by sporadic rainfall in various parts of Manipur. Rivers are flowing above danger mark thus sweeping away anything and everything on the embankments.
    Houses are collapsing or being swept away by the rain in Kangpokpi district of Manipur. The fury of nature has not yet subsided. The entire valley area has been terribly affected by the rains and continues to be a victim of intense flooding.
    Sirens wail in the capital city of Imphal as the water levels in Nambul and Imphal River cross the danger mark. The embankments have managed to somewhat save the city of Imphal from the deteriorating weather conditions of the north east, but locals fear that if the rain keeps falling at its present pace, even that will not be enough to stop a calamity on an even larger scale.
    While village settlements near the two major rivers of Imphal have suffered severely from flooding, reports say that the area is still experiencing a slight drizzle.
    At least 400 houses have been inundated at Kairang Muslim Konjin Leikai as the Imphal River bank breached by about 12 metres around 1.30 am after midnight yesterday. Many residents spent the night on the streets as their houses were completely inundated. Some of the residents of the affected houses are taking shelter at immediate relief camps in the area.
    Chief Minister N. Biren along with IFCD Minister Letpao Haokip and Parliamentary Secretary, Home, L. Susindro took stock of the situation there and took up immediate steps to ease the difficulty of the residents.

2 more farmers commit suicide in Madhya Pradesh, 7 in a week
  • Two farmers have committed suicide in Balaghat and Barwani districts of Madhya Pradesh since Tuesday evening, police said today.
    This takes the number of farmer suicides reported in the state since June 8 to seven.
    The reports come in the wake of a slew of measures announced by the state government to mollify agitating farmers and death of five protesters in police firing in Mandsaur district on June 6.
    Ramesh Basene (42) ended his life by drinking pesticide at Ballarpur village in Balaghat district this morning. He died at the district hospital, police said.
    UNABLE TO PAY LOAN
    Basene's wife Jankibai said that he was worried, being unable to repay a loan of Rs 1.5 lakh. The authorities, however, didn't confirm whether indebtedness led to the suicide.
    "A tehsildar has been sent to the village for inquiry," said the district collector Bharat Yadav.
    Another farmer, Shomla (60) allegedly committed suicide by drinking pesticide at Pisnawal in Barwani district last evening.
    Sub-inspector R Mujalde of Sendhwa police station said that as per Shomla's wife, he had taken a loan of Rs 2 lakh from a private lender and he also owed Rs 1 lakh to a bank.
    He was finding it difficult to repay the loans, she told police.
    Since June 8, the state, roiled by farmers' protest, has witnessed a total of seven farmer suicides. Earlier incidents were reported from Sehore, Hoshangabad, Raisen and Vidisha districts.

As terrorist attacks increase in Kashmir Valley, number of local militants also go up
  • With an increase in the number of terrorist attacks in the Kashmir Valley, security forces say the number of local militants have gone up.
    "Kashmiri boys are now being locally trained, more motivated and offer much more resistance when cornered. Almost 200 local terrorists are active in Kashmir," sources said.
    Most of these young militants are based out of terror hotbed of Tral in south Kashmir.
    The modus operandi of the locally-radicalised boys have also changed.
    The militants no longer cross the border for training. They are being given basic physical and weapons handling training mostly in south Kashmir and being pushed in random firing, grenade lobbing operations.
    There are no stable training camps either. The militants are trained at various locations in dense forests and orchards and keep shifting locations.
    Security forces have also noticed a change in the level of motivation and resistance the local militants now throw up. Earlier, local boys will usually try to run or surrender when cornered by forces but now most fight till the last bullet is fired.
    WEAPON SNATCHING
    Weapon snatching remains a big concern for security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.
    Snatching incidents have gone up as number of local militants has also increased. They need weapons which are not easily available from across the border for local militants.
    State police are once again under the scanner as weapons being snatched only from police personnel.
    In most cases police personnel don't sustain any injury during snatching incidents which has put them under scanner.
    Security forces have repeatedly warned the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and want action from Jammu and Kashmir Police on this.
    According to security forces estimate post the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani on 8 July 2016, militants have decamped approximately 150 weapons from JK Police. Snatched weapons include AK series assault rifles, INSAS rifles and SLRs.
    Yesterday militants attacked policemen guarding the residence of a retired judge in Anantnag and snatched 4 rifles after injuring 2 cops.

Business Affairs 

    5 reasons why GST will be a headache for government
    • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a complete overhaul of the indirect tax regime in the country, and its rollout on July 1 remains a big challenge for the government. Even if the government successfully implements the GST on time, it will take a couple of years before the whole system falls into place and things get streamlined. Till then, the GST may remain a headache for the government primarily for these five reasons.
      GST administration: Unlike what was expected earlier, the GST rate structure is very complex now, thanks to seven tax slabs - zero per cent, 0.25 per cent, 3 per cent, 5 per cent, 12 per cent, 18 per cent and 28 per cent. Additionally, there are different rates for compensation cess. Given the multiplicity of rates, not only companies and taxpayers will find compliance a big challenge, but it will also be a huge task for the 70,000-odd tax officials to administer the new tax regime, especially during the initial period.
      Then there is the issue of division of control between the states and the Centre. The government has already worked out a complex system. It says 90 per cent of the entities with a turnover below Rs 1.5 crore will be controlled by the states and the rest will be under the Centre while 50 per cent of the entities with a turnover of Rs 1.5 crore or more will be controlled by the states and the rest by the Centre. However, this system may lead to tussles between the states and the Centre over the control of entities, especially in the borderline cases. A lot of procedural issues are also there, and if these issues are not addressed, they may lead to litigations.
      Slowdown of business activities: The confusion that will prevail in the initial days is bound to impact businesses. Besides, the increased compliance cost and unavailability of input tax credit in the first couple of months will lead to a slowdown in business activities. Earlier, the economy was hit by demonetisation, and the transition issues under the GST will further dampen the business sentiments in the first few quarters.
      Underprepared MSME sector: The micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector, which accounts for 40 per cent of exports and 37 per cent of manufacturing output, is not ready for the GST yet. Their failure to comply with the GST norms may not only squeeze their working capital but may also push them out of business. If this sector fails to adapt to the changes, it will hit the economy hard and the government, which is already facing problems regarding generating jobs, may come under more pressure as this segment employs over 135 million people.
      Litigations galore: The way things stand now - multiple tax slabs, a complex system to avail input tax credits and uncertainty over anti-profiteering provisions - is likely to lead to several litigations. Our judiciary and tax tribunals are already choked with unresolved cases, and the GST implementation will further lead to a flurry of new cases.
      Strain on government finances: One of the biggest challenges that the central government faces is compensating the states for the losses incurred due to GST implementation during the first five years. Although the government will levy compensation cess on the goods falling under the 28 per cent tax slab, it will certainly prove to be a big strain on the Centre's finances going forward.

    7th Pay Commission: Cabinet gives allowance approval a miss in Jaitley's absence
    • Central government employees will have to wait a while longer for availing benefits of the changed allowance rates as the Union Cabinet did not discuss the matter even in the second meeting this month. The proposals in this regard, which the Cabinet has to take a decision on, were not tabled for deliberation as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is on a trip to South Korea.
      Jaitley left yesterday for a four-day visit to attend second annual Board of Governors meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). He will also pitch India as a favourable investment destination when he meets top brass of Korean companies like Samsung and Hyosung Group among others as 50 lakh central government employees await a decision on the allowance rates under the Seventh Central Pay Commission.
      The Cabinet was expected to decide on House Rate Allowance (HRA) rates also, the most talked about allowance of all, but did not in Jaitley's absence. The Finance Minister had received the consolidated proposals from the Empowered Committee of Secretaries (E-CoS) on June 1 for federal Cabinet's consideration, raising hopes of central government employees that good news is on the cards. But the matter has eluded the Cabinet for the second meeting.
      We had reported earlier today that Cabinet might not take up the allowances of central government employees on account of Finance Minister's not being able to attend the meeting.
      Central government employees had been waiting almost for a year now for updates on allowances since the 7th Pay Commission recommendations on pay and pension were approved by the Cabinet. The pay panel had, however, recommended abolition of or subsuming of allowances like acting, assisting cashier, cycle, condiment, flying squad, haircutting, rajbhasha, rajdhani, robe, shoe, shorthand, soap, spectacle, uniform, vigilance and washing.
      The Seventh Pay Commission had recommended abolishing 53 of the 196 allowances, and subsuming 36 other allowances. It also recommended slashing the House Rent Allowance (HRA)--for metros, commission recommended bringing down the HRA from 30 per cent to 24 per cent.
      The Seventh Pay Commission had recommended the rate of House Rent Allowance (HRA) be kept at 24 percent, 16 percent and 8 percent of the Basic Pay for Class X, Y and Z cities respectively.
      Government employees protested the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission, following which the Narendra Modi-government formed a Committee on Allowances under Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa to review the suggestions. It was constituted in July and after an extended deadline was asked to submit its report to the government by February 22, 2017. The review report was finally submitted in April this year.
      The report was then forwarded to the Empowered Committee for consideration and consolidation which, in turn, submitted it to Jaitley. He is now expected to present the same before the Cabinet for the final nod.

    Petrol pumps withdraw strike call over daily price revision
    • Petrol pump owners today called off their proposed strike over daily revision of petrol and diesel prices from Friday after the government agreed to change the timing to 6 am everyday instead of midnight.
      Until now price revisions used to come into effect from midnight but considering the fact that dealers would have to deploy manpower everyday to change rates in the middle of the night, the timing has now been changed.
      Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the new timing of the price change was agreeable to the dealers and so daily price revision will be implemented from June 16 as previously decided.
      Private pump owners, who make up for three-fourth of the nation's 54,000 retail outlets of the public sector firms, had threatened to go on a strike over concerns of inadequate infrastructure to revise prices every midnight.
      "There was some practical difficulties which we have addressed in our meeting with leadership of all the three petroleum dealers association today," he told reporters here.
      Instead of changing rates at midnight, it has been decided that prices should change before the start of business, he said. "Daily prices will change from 6 am," he said.
      Federation of All India Petroleum Traders president Ashok Badhwar said the government has taken the decision of daily price revision in public interest.
      "And in public interest, we are also withdrawing no- sale-no-purchase agitation planned for June 16," he said.
      Pradhan said the daily price revision follows successful pilot in five cities and would lead to even the smallest change in international oil prices being passed on to consumers.
      Till now, rates change on 1st and 16th of every month based on average international oil price and foreign exchange rate of the previous fortnight.
      IOC Chairman Sanjiv Singh said whatever the pump operators were doing at 15-day frequency, they will be required to do daily.
      Pradhan also said the oil companies will expedite automation of the entire fuel supply chain -- from refinery transportation to fuel pumps -- so that manual intervention is reduced to minimal.
      Currently, only 20 per cent of the petrol pumps are automated.
      IOC, the nation's largest fuel retailer, said it will provide information on daily price revisions through various means, including LED screens at petrol pumps, toll-free number, social media posts, mobile apps as well as through SMS.

    Sales galore: Paytm, Flipkart offer discounts on range of items ahead of GST roll out
    • Retail stores and e-commerce websites alike are cashing in on sales before the Goods and Services Tax rolls in on July 1.  Major shopping brands, both online and offline stores, have announced discounts across a range of clothes, footwear and home appliances in a bid to clear inventory.
      Paytm Mall launched a 'Pre-GST clearance sale' on electronics and large appliances from June 13 to June 15. Customers stand to win cashbacks up to Rs 20,000 on items like TVs, consumer durables, laptops and more.
      The e-wallet owned online market place is also offering a 40 percent cashback on watches from brands like Titan, Timex, and Giordano. E-tailers Flipkart and Shopclues have also slashed prices across their range of products. The offers promise high discounts, to clear their respective inventories before the roll-out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST)
      Flipkart has an ongoing a 9-day sale on fashion products from June 10 - June 18 to clear its inventories. "The objective behind our hosting this exclusive sale event is to reach out to the millions of fashion-savvy Indians across the country," Flipkart Fashion Head Rishi Vasudev said.
      Products from around 50 brands, including Aeropostale, Vero Moda, Forever 21, Under Armour, Kenneth Cole, Crocs, Adidas are available on discounts in this sale.

      The clearance of inventory is aimed at avoiding the cost of making the old stocks GST compliant. The move comes even though the GST Council increased input tax credit on stocks lying unsold from 40 per cent to 60 percent.

    Sensex, Nifty trade flat ahead of US Federal Reserve policy outcome
    • Indian benchmark indices opened on a positive note today as the benchmark Sensex rose 80 points, coming on the back of an overnight record close on the Wall Street.
      Investors kept track of the two-day monetary policy meeting of the US Federal Reserve, which is due to announce its decision today.
      At 10.22 am, the BSE Sensex was trading 31,116.41, up 12.92 points (0.04%) while the Nifty50 was trading 5.85 per cent lower at 9,601.05-level.
      Realty, healthcare, oil and gas and auto indices rose.
      Support came from Dr Reddy's, Lupin, Reliance Industries, TCS, PowerGrid and ICICI Bank, which climbed by up to 1.53 per cent.
      Asian markets remained mixed. Japan's Nikkei was up 0.10 per cent while Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.05 per cent in early trade today. Shanghai Composite, however, shed 0.22 per cent.
      The US Dow Jones Industrial Average ended at a record close by rising 0.44 per cent yesterday.

    General Awareness

    India ratifies two child labour conventions at the International Labour Conference in Geneva

    • On June 13, 2017, India ratified two important core conventions on child labour – pertaining to minimum age for admission to employment and worst forms of child labour – at the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
      Core Conventions of International Labour Organization (ILO):
      The two core conventions signed by India are Convention 138, which sets minimum age for admission to employment and Convention 182, which penalises and prohibits the worst form of child labour.
      • The Instruments of Ratification were handed over to ILO in Geneva by Union Minister of State for and Labour and Employment (Independent Charge), Bandaru Dattatreya.
      • Including these two core conventions, India has so far ratified six out of eight core ILO conventions. Four other conventions are related to abolition of forced labour, equal remuneration and no discrimination between men and women in employment and occupation.
      • Countries which ratify any of the ILO conventions have to go through a periodical reporting system every four years.
      Child Labour in India and Measures Taken by Government:
      As per 2011 data, there were 35 million child workers between the ages of 5 and 14 years in India.This number is significantly lower as compared to 6 million child workers revealed by 2001 Census data.
      • As per the provisions of Child labour (Prohibition and Prevention) Amendment Act, 2016, Government has banned employment of children below 14 years of age in all occupations and processes.However, it permits children to help in family occupation.
      • The act also prohibits employment of adolescents (14-18 years) in hazardous occupations and processes.
      • Under this new act, the age of admission to employment has been linked to the age of compulsory education under Right to Education Act (RTE), 2009.
      • Bandaru Dattatreya has mentioned that India has adopted stringent legislative measures and is also pursuing project based approach to eliminate child labour from the country.
      International Labour Organization (ILO):
      • Formation‎: ‎1919
      • Head‎: ‎Guy Ryder
      •  Headquarters‎: ‎Geneva, Switzerland

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