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Current Affairs - 18 June 2017


General Affairs 

Army Chief Bipin Rawat praises security forces, says confident of controlling Kashmir situation
  • Commending the security forces, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said that they are doing a great job in bringing the Kashmir situation under control.
    General Bipin Rawat exuded confidence that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir would be brought under control soon and said there was no cause for worry.
    "Security forces and all agencies are doing a great job to bring the situation under control. Some parts of south Kashmir are troublesome. Necessary action is being taken to ensure the situation there is soon brought under control. I don't think there should be any cause of worry in any of you," he said.
    General Rawat was in Telangana as the chief guest at the combined graduation parade, marking the completion of the pre-commissioning training of Indian Air Force (IAF) flight cadets at the Air Force Academy, Dundigal.
    He said the situation was "troublesome" only in some parts of south Kashmir but he was confident that it would be brought under control.
    "Some parts of South Kashmir are indeed troublesome, but necessary actions are being taken to ensure that the situation there is fully brought under control. Therefore, I think there should not be any cause for worry for anyone," he said.
    General Rawat claimed that the Army had a very good human rights record. He said the armed forces had stringent rules of engagement and were trained to handle the situation where children and women are involved.
    "When they find there are children and there are ladies who are coming in front, they deal with them accordingly. Harsh measures are never used. We are an army that believes strongly in human rights," General Rawat said.
    Asked about the army using human shields to quell violence, the General said they were trained to perform under such circumstances.
    When asked if he would make using human shields a party Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), the Army chief said: "No it's not. It depends on circumstances. Our effort is to make sure human rights are not violated."
    On ceasefire violations by Pakistan, Rawat said they were done with a purpose but the army was facing and countering them.

Agra farmers threaten indefinite fast at UP CM residence if potato MSP not raised
  • After facing stiff opposition from farmers all over the country, the BJP is now being challenged in Uttar Pradesh too, where the party has already promised loan waivers to the farmers. In the Khandoli block of Agra, the farmers of village Bagal Ghoonsa held a maha panchayat which was attended by hundreds of farmers from nearby villages.
    In a resolution passed in the maha panchayat, the farmers demanded at least Rs 1100 minimum support price for potatoes, raising it from Rs. 487 per quintal. A memorandum was also presented to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, addressed to the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, in which the farmers demanded that the banks extend them loan facility on the basis of the potato stored in the cold storages.
    On this occasion, UP Congress president and MP Raj Babbar targeted the BJP government in UP and said that the government is not even giving the cost price of the crops the farmers were raising. The number of educated unemployed youths is rising fast. PM Modi had promised to generate two crore job opportunities every year, but instead, the young generation is struggling to save its current jobs as companies are laying off workers. He said that the unemployment rate in India has risen from 3 percent during the UPA tenure, to over 5 percent under Modi govt.
    Babbar said that the farmers are committing suicides and the state and central governments are in deep sleep. The farmers raising vegetables are not even getting the cost price of their produce. The schemes started by the UPA government for farmer welfare, are being rebranded by the Modi government as BJP's schemes.
    Giving an extensive account of the plight faced by farmers during demonetization, Babbar said that the farmers were left with no choice during demonetization and they sold their produce for a pittance in order to gain even a fraction of what they had spent on raising the produce.
    Tomatoes and other easily spoiled vegetables were even given away for free by farmers while some bartered the vegetables for foodgrain and other daily needs items. Calling demonetization a complete failure, in the presence of Etmadpur BJP MLA Ram Pratap Singh Chauhan, Babbar blamed Modi for bringing the entire country's economic progress to a standstill. Babbar announced from the dais that the Congress was with the farmers who had been deceived by the BJP.
    Rashtriya Lok Dal State President Anil Chowdhary told India Today that there is a need to give a befitting reply to the BJP, which is silent on the plight of the farmers all over India.
    Answering Babbar's charges, BJP MLA Ram Pratap Singh Chauhan said that he has written a letter to the Prime Minister for the setting up of potato processing units in this region and was hopeful that some action will be taken very soon on this demand.
    Called by the Aloo Kisan Vikas Samiti, the Maha Panchayat attracted a huge crowd of farmers. On this occasion, the State President of the Samiti Vijendra Singh told India Today that the cold storage owners are exploiting the potato farmers and the governments are silent on this.
    The Samiti has demanded justice from Dy. Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and warned that if their demands are not met by 15th July, the farmers will start an indefinite fast at the Chief Minister's residence.

Supreme Court to re-open with four more courtrooms, waiting areas after summer break
  • The country's top court is set to conquer space, or the lack of it. The routinely crammed Supreme Court will be roomier when it reopens after 45-day summer break on July 3 as it will add four large courtrooms, waiting areas for lawyers and litigants and a king-size consultation room.
    A circular released by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) on Thursday said this was the outcome of an instruction issued by Chief Justice JS Khehar to the registry to take concrete steps to tackle the problem of acute congestion in the building housing the court.
    Lawyers and litigants often have to fight their way through a wall of humans to get into or out of crowded courtrooms and choked corridors and this had become a daily affair. Female lawyers and litigants and senior citizens were the worst sufferers. Mail Today had in two cover stories-on April 19, 2015 and October 3, 2016-reported how the court was bursting at its seams and why the problem required urgent corrective steps from authorities.
    WHAT'S NEW?
    The reports drew the attention of the apex court building and maintenance officials and the SCBA. A notice issued by SCBA president RS Suri to the members said, "On the re-opening day, we are likely to have four new courts, whose capacity would be second only to court 1. Each of these courts would have sitting capacity of about 75 (as against 35 at present) and more standing space. Two courts, which have been extended by adding area of the third court, would be on the side of Appu Ghar and two courts would be on the other side on a floor above where present courts are situated."
    The footfall in the apex court now touches 7,000 to 8,000 per day while it was just 800-1000 when it began functioning in 1950.
    "The consultation room on top of library 2 would be converted into waiting area for lawyers and would be part of one court being refurbished there. In lieu thereof, SCBA is going to have a better located and more spacious consultation room on the floor of attorney general," Suri had said, adding that "these infrastructural changes would go a long way in reducing the pressure on current available infrastructure."
    The problem was most acute on Mondays and Fridays, the "miscellaneous days" reserved by the SC for hearing fresh petitions and public interest litigation (PILs). On these days, up to 10,000 lawyers descend on the complex with their clients and 30 judges in 12-14 courtrooms hear 1,500-2,000 cases in five hours flat. Though the volume of judicial work had increased, not an inch of space was added to the court complex despite repeated representations to the chief justices and other officials. The narrow corridors are also always chock-a-block with advocates, litigants, clerks, law students and interns in the peak morning hours.
    CONGESTION TAKES TOLL ON WOMEN, ELDERLY
    The overcrowding has reached such proportions that female lawyers, most of whom suffer humiliating and embarrassing experiences amid the jostling, have on several occasions raised an alarm with the Chief Justice of India. "The situation is so bad that when we rush from one court to another, we have to hold a file in front of us as a shield to protect ourselves as we meander our way through congested corridors or from the rear of a court to the arguing desk," says former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) secretary Aishwarya Bhati.
    Incidents of elderly people collapsing were also on the rise. The situation was equally bad inside the courtrooms. Only court number 1, which is presided over by the Chief Justice, and two more courts are spacious. All others are just approximately 16 to 20 feet wide with no exclusive entry and exits further adding to the chaos. Former bar association president and senior lawyer Dushyant Dave had told Mail Today, "Because of the acute congestion, everyone is suffering. The women and the aged are the worst sufferers. Female lawyers get brushed aside, they get squeezed  they are pushed and shoved. This is not a healthy, cultured or respectable way. This place has become like a fish market. Something needs to be done."

Kulbhushan Jadhav case: ICJ asks India to make submission by Sept 13, Pakistan by Dec 13
  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has asked India to make its submission in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case by September 13, the Ministry of External Affairs has said and debunked Pakistan's claim that its request seeking more time in the case had been rejected.
    Pakistan has been asked by the court to complete its submission by December 13 this year, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said.
    Asked about Pakistan's claim that India's request for more time in the case has been rejected by the ICJ, Baglay said that it was not true as India had sought four months and had got that with the court fixing the deadline in September.
    Earlier, Pakistan's Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali was quoted by Dawn News as saying that India had asked the ICJ to offer it time till December to file pleadings in the Jadhav case, however, "the court has dismissed their request".
    "India had adopted the stance that the matter was one of life and death, but Pakistan had stated that the ICJ is not a court of appeals. The ICJ is supposed to conclude whether or not Jadhav can receive consular access, for which a time period of two to three months is more than enough to file a response", he said.
    WHAT DID MEA SPOKESPERSON SAY
    Baglay said the timelines had been decided in the June 8 meeting ICJ President Ronny Abraham had with agents of the two countries.
    Asked if the hearing in the case would begin after the submissions of the two countries, Baglay said that the court would decide if it needed more submissions and then take a call on the future course of action.
    In a hearing of the case on May 18, a 10-member bench of the ICJ restrained Pakistan from executing 46-year-old Jadhav, a retired Indian Navy officer who has been awarded death sentence by a Pakistan army court for alleged "involvement in espionage and terrorist activities in Pakistan".
    India moved the ICJ against the death sentence on May 8, terming the charges against Jadhav "concocted" and his trial "farcical".

Darjeeling protests turn violent; 3 GJM supporters killed in firing claims party, cop critical
  • Three Gorkha Janmukti Morcha protesters were killed in fresh clashes today that broke out in Darjeeling on Day 6 of the GJM's indefinite shutdown over the Gorkhaland issue.
    The party has claimed that three of its supporters were killed after police opened fire on them. However, the police have refuted GJM's claims.
    Earlier today, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who while addressing a press conference had said that a cop had been killed by protesters using a knife. She later backtracked and denied the police officer's death. 
    She clarified later that an Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) officer Kiran Tamang was critically injured in clashes with GJM protesters.
    A police vehicle was set on fire in the violence on Saturday.
    West Bengal ADG (Law and Order) Anuj Sharma said, "GJM supporters started firing at the police and set police vehicles on fire. Police had not fired."'
    POLICE TORTURING US: GJM CHIEF 
    Meanwhile, GJM Chief Bimal Gurung said in Darjeeling, "Police illegally entering our houses and torturing us, 2 of our protesters were killed in firing. It will strengthen our movement now."
    Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held a high-level meeting with members of Darjeeling development boards, ADG (Law and Order), DG Bengal Police, chief secretary and home secretary to bring the situation under control.
    Slamming the GJM protesters for the unrest in Darjeeling, Mamata said, "5 years you enjoyed, now when elections are coming you start violence because you have lost credentials. What is happening in Darjeeling is vandalism. They (the GJM protesters) aren't listening even to the court. The court passed an order, calling the bandh illegal. Don't know from where they get support, illegal arms and money from. We are ready to talk to them, but cannot support violation of the Constitution."

    GJM LEADER'S HOUSE VANDALISED 
    The GJM-sponsored indefinite shutdown is showing no signs of ending after the police allegedly raided and Trinamool Congress cadres allegedly vandalised the residence of GJM assistant general secretary Binay Tamang late on Friday night.
    Tamang said that around 3 am on Saturday, his house was "raided and vandalised by the police and Trinamool Congress cadres" in much the same way as they had raided GJM chief Bimal Gurung's house in Darjeeling district two days ago.  
    The police raid is believed to have happened after GJM supporters reportedly torched and set on fire a PWD office in Bijanbari area of the district.
    GJM MLA Amar Rai's son Vikram, the in-charge of the outfit's media cell who was arrested earlier, has now been released after 3 hours of questioning.    
    Amar Rai had said that his son had no political affiliations.
    "Vikram is associated with various media houses based in Kolkata and is also a stringer for a television channel. If local journalists are not safe in Darjeeling, who is", Tamang said in a statement.
    In fresh clashes that erupted today morning, the protesters pelted the security personnel with stones and threw bottles at them, who retaliated by firing teargas shells. According to police sources, prohibitory orders were in force in the entire area and no one was allowed to take out processions. But the GJM protesters violated these orders and went ahead with their procession.

    VIRTUAL EMERGENCY IMPOSED IN DARJEELING
    "A virtual emergency has been imposed in Darjeeling region", he added.
    GJM supporters pelted stones and lobbed petrol bombs at the residence of Trinamool Congress activist Deoraj Gurung in Lebong Cart Road and attempted to set the house on fire, claimed Deoraj.
    At Pankhabari, the picturesque tea gardens lining the narrow road from Bagdogra airport to Kurseong, GJM supporters allegedly attacked a local Trinamool activist's residence.
    Traders have had to bear the brunt of these clashes, with shops, hotels and other business establishments and bank ATMs, except pharmacies, in Darjeeling continuing to remain shut.
    TOURISM BADLY HIT IN DISTRICT
    The GJM agitation has brought tourism in Darjeeling to a standstill.
    According to a railway official, the toy-train services of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) have been suspended in view of the strike for the safety of passengers and staff. The GJM announced an indefinite general strike from Monday in the hills encompassing Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and the Dooars (foothills of the Himalayas covering stretches of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar district) protesting against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's decision to make Bengali language compulsory in state-run schools.
    The strike was called even as the Chief Minister assured that the new rule would not be imposed in the hill districts. Meanwhile, the Naari Morcha of the GJM protested against the raid at the residence of GJM Assistant General Secretary Binay Tamang and on the issue of Gorkhaland.
    Police had to use tear gas to disperse the GJM protesters who were agitating against the raid at Tamang's residence on Friday. 

Business Affairs 

    India ready for GST, anti-profiteering rules soon: Hasmukh Adhia
    • India is ready to launch the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on July 1, the official steering the process told Reuters, saying the technology that will drive it is robust and dismissing fears the tax is too complicated.
      Hasmukh Adhia, revenue secretary at the Finance Ministry, also said rules would be issued "soon" to deter unscrupulous businesses from exploiting the tax reform to gouge customers.
      The biggest tax reform in India's 70-year history as an independent nation would, overnight, unify its $2-trillion economy and 1.3 billion people into a single market, tearing down trade barriers between more than 30 states and territories.
      It would also require firms to file at least three online tax returns monthly into the GST Network, a massive IT back-end that will process up to 5 billion invoices a month.
      The compliance burden and the tax's complex structure - it has four main rates ranging from 5 to 28 percent - have sparked fears of initial chaos.
      In particular, businesses worry that they will struggle to reconcile invoices, blocking the flow of tax credits down supply chains, forcing them to commit time and effort to resolving disputes and reworking budgets.
      Adhia, viewed as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, dismissed those fears outright and ruled out a delay to a reform that has been more than a decade in the making.
      "Everything is ready. We will roll out on July 1," he said in an interview at his office in North Block, a sandstone edifice in the heart of New Delhi dating from the British colonial era.
      MOVING THE GOALPOSTS
      The reform represents an unprecedented exercise in fiscal federalism. A GST Council that brings together the federal and state governments has met 16 times to thrash out how the tax will work. It meets again on Sunday.
      The tax rates for goods and services were only worked out in recent weeks and, at the council's meeting last weekend, several were amended following complaints by businesses.
      Still, Adhia said, the multi-rate structure is far simpler than India's existing federal and state taxes - even if he would have preferred a flatter structure.
      "This is a great step for simplification - although not the ideal GST that we should have," he said. "It is a technological marvel, as well as a fiscal marvel."
      PROGRESSIVE TAX
      The multi-rate structure of the GST exempts or imposes a low rate of tax on essential items, while the top rate of 28 percent applies to items such as consumer durables.
      Adhia said the GST would be reviewed on an ongoing basis, adding that he would like to see the top rate reduced in future.
      "I'm not at all happy with my 28 percent slab. It's a very odd number. One should try to bring it down," he said.
      Where the headline rate of tax goes up under GST, the government will be vigilant in seeking to prevent profiteering. "We will come out with our anti-profiteering rules soon," Adhia said, without elaborating.
      He dismissed speculation that the GST Network might crash, or data security be compromised, after launch.
      "We have a contingency plan for everything - don't worry," he said. "Every angle is secure. It is the best system."
      Adhia said he expected the GST to overcome initial hiccoughs and help businesses become more efficient over time, by cutting logistics and inventory costs, freeing them to invest and grow.
      "The economy will become more efficient and we should see greater benefits coming to everybody," he said.

    Tata Sons to buy Tata Steel stake in Tata Motors
    • Tata Sons Ltd, the holding company of India's salt-to-software Tata conglomerate, plans to buy out Tata Steel Ltd's stake in Tata Motors Ltd on or after June 23, it said in a regulatory filing on Saturday.
      Tata Sons will buy about 83.6 million shares in Tata Motors at or around the prevailing price of the stock on the date of the planned acquisition, it said in the filing. It cited "restructuring of investment portfolio" as the reason for the planned deal.
      Tata Motors shares closed at 455.75 rupees in Mumbai trading on Friday.
      Tata Sons owned 28.71 percent of Tata Motors at the end of March, while Tata Steel owned 2.9 percent in the vehicle maker.
      Tata Sons owned 29.75 percent of Tata Steel at the end of March, while Tata Motors owned a 0.46 percent stake in the steelmaker, according to stock exchange data. 

    US bans imports of drug from three Ipca Lab facilities; shares fall
    • The US drug regulator Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned all drug imports from the Mumbai based mid-cap drug company Ipca Laboratories due to non-compliance in manufacturing standards.
      The company informed the stock exchanges today that it has received "a communication from the USFDA stating that all the drugs manufactured from the Company's active ingredient (API) manufacturing facility at Ratlam (Madhya Pradesh), SEZ Indore (Pithampur) and Piparia (Silvassa) will be henceforth refused admission into the United States, as these facilities failed to comply with cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practces)".
      The company had revenues Rs 3178.87 crores in 2016-17, of which Rs 1561.74 crores were from exports. About one-fifth of the companies revenues come from the US and South American market. Following the announcement, IPCA's shares fell to its one year low on today's trading to close at Rs 471.7 per share, losing over 8 per cent.
      After the ban on Ranbaxy's (which merged with Sun Pharma) three manufacturing facilities at different stages a few years ago, this is the first time the US drug regulator has resorted to banning imports of all drugs manufactured by an Indian company. Company's like Sun Pharma and Aurobindo are also facing compliance issues with the US FDA.  
      In February 2016, USFDA had issued a warning letter to all three manufacturing units situated at Ratlam, SEZ Indore and Piparia. In April, last year, the Switzerland-based Global Fund, which financially supports various disease eradication programmes, had decided not to source malaria drug from the company after the FDA warning letter.

    Connaught Place India's most expensive office market, ranks 9th globally
    • New Delhi's Connaught Place is India's most expensive prime office market and the ninth most expensive in the world with an occupancy cost of $153.89 per sq. ft per annum, surging ahead of Dubai, Downtown Boston and Shanghai.
      As per the latest biannual Global Prime Office Occupancy Costs Survey by CBRE Group Inc., a global real estate consulting firm, Connaught Place, despite its limited supply of prime office space, is the choicest destination for its central location in the national capital, great infrastructure and connectivity.
      "With India's commercial real estate segment continuing to do well, prime locations across the country, including Connaught Place in Delhi and the Bandra Kurla Complex and Nariman Point in Mumbai, continue to witness demand for prime office space from occupiers," said Anshuman Magazine, Chairman - India and Southeast Asia, CBRE.
      Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) is ranked second in India and 20th in the global list while the central business district (CBD) of Nariman Point comes third in India and is ranked 33rd in the list of top 50 most expensive office markets around the world.
      Hong Kong (Central) and London's West End continue to be the two most expensive markets in the world.
      CBRE, which tracks prime office space in 121 markets around the globe, says among the top 50 most expensive markets, 18 are in the Asia-Pacific, 20 are in the EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) and 12 are in the Americas.

    Domestic airlines impose flying ban on TDP MP Diwakar Reddy
    • A day after TDP MP J C Diwakar Reddy created ruckus at the Vishakapatnam airport, all domestic airlines have put a flying ban on the MP following his alleged unruly behaviour when he was denied boarding for an IndiGo flight.
      Full-service carrier Vistara and budget airlines -- GoAir and AirAsia India -- today barred Reddy from their flights.
      Air India, SpiceJet and Jet Airways followed IndiGo yesterday, which imposed the flying ban on him.
      In a show of unity, all major domestic airlines have barred Reddy from taking their flights -- similar to action taken by the carriers after the incident involving Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad earlier this year.
      "After careful consideration of the various issues and ramifications of the actions of Reddy, GoAir has also taken a decision of not accepting any further bookings for the said passenger," the airline said in a statement.
      An AirAsia India spokesperson said it has also barred Reddy from flying.
      "In support of the fellow carriers, Vistara has also taken a decision to impose flying ban on J C Diwakar Reddy," a Vistara spokesperson said.
      On Thursday, Reddy was scheduled to fly IndiGo's flight 6E-608, which departs from Visakhapatnam at 8.10 am, to Hyderabad.
      But he reached just 28 minutes before the scheduled departure, according to the airline.
      As per norms laid out by the aviation regulator, airlines close check-in counters for all domestic fights 45 minutes prior to departure.
      Reddy -- who had allegedly vandalised the Air India office at Gannavaram airport in Vijaywada last year after he missed his flight -- got into a verbal spat with the ground staff and threw a printer kept at the airline's counter after he was informed that boarding for his flight had closed.

    General Awareness

    NITI Aayog shortlists States for transformative change in health & education

    • NITI Aayog has shortlisted five states under ‘Sustainable Action for Transforming Human capital’ (SATH) program for developing role model states in health and education.
      • For Health Sector, the shortlisted states are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Karnataka and Gujarat.
      • For Education Sector, the shortlisted states are Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.
      • Above mentioned five States in each sector have been shortlisted as run up to the final selection of three.
      About Sustainable Action for Transforming Human capital (SATH) program:
      Objective of this program is to identify and build three future ‘role model’ states for health systems.
      • NITI Aayog along with McKinsey & Company and IPE Global consortium will work in close collaboration with administrative machinery and institutions in the three selected states to accomplish the end objectives.
      • Three model states will be selected on basis of three-stage process comprising expression of interest, presentations by the states and assessment of commitment to reforms.
      • The states intending to be a part of this program submitted their project proposal to a Committee headed by Member of NITI Aayog, Bibek Debroy. The committee comprises CEO, Amitabh Kant as well as representatives from Health and Education ministry.
      • In both sectors, the States have to commit to a time-bound focus, governance reforms and delivery of outcomes for final selection for the partnership.
      • After final selection of the States, a Program Management Unit to push for efficiency and efficacy in governance structures and service delivery will be available at the State level for a period of 36 months.
      • It is expected that these 36 months of focussed attention and support from the premier think tank will lead to a marked transformation and will also provide a model for other States to replicate and adapt.

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