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Current Affairs - 25 June 2017

General Affairs 

Hindi Our National Language, Says Venkaiah Naidu. Gets Opposition Retort
  • Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu today called Hindi the "national language" earning him a sharp rebuke from the opposition and a fact check on social media. "Hindi is our national language, our identity and we should be proud of it," Mr Naidu said, adding that "it's very unfortunate that we are obsessed with English" which, according to him, was detrimental to the nation's progress.

    Opposition leaders tore through the comments, pointing out that the Indian Constitution does not mark any language as "national". Under its Article 343, Hindi and English are assigned the status of official languages.

    "When did we get a national language?" National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said on Twitter.

    Congress leader Shashi Throor tweeted:

    Hindi is NOT our national language. It is India's most widely-spoken language& useful to know. But it cannot&should not be imposed on anyone 
    Mr Naidu's statement comes amid reservations by some regional parties who have accused the BJP-led coalition government of trying to 'impose' Hindi - a charge strongly rejected by the centre.

    "It is unfortunate that everyone is bent upon learning English because it guarantees employment. Hence I want the nation to discuss, promote and learn our mother languages more and at the same time learn Hindi as well," Mr Naidu told reporters at an event in Ahmedabad.

    Earlier in April, Venkaiah Naidu had defended a move by the parliamentary committee on official language proposing to make use of Hindi mandatory both in speech and writing for lawmakers and Union ministers, who could read and write the language. Mr Naidu had said that the central government was only 'promoting' not 'imposing' Hindi on anyone.

    Parties like Karnataka's Janata Dal (Secular) and Tamil Nadu's DMK have criticised the centre for what they call 'imposing' the Hindi language in their states.

PM Narendra Modi Arrives In Portugal On First Leg Of 3 Nation Visit
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today arrived in Portugal's capital Lisbon on the first leg of his three-nation tour during which he will hold talks with his Portuguese counterpart Antonio Costa to boost bilateral ties.

    "Ola Portugal. PM @narendramodi arrives in Lisbon, departing from protocol Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva receives the Prime Minister," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay tweeted along with some photographs.

    Before leaving for Lisbon, PM Modi had said during his meeting with Mr Costa, the two leaders will build on their recent discussions and review the progress of various joint initiatives and decisions.

    Portuguese Prime Minister Costa tweeted this is an excellent opportunity to review the implementation of the accords agreed during his India visit and sign new agreements.

    The highlight of PM Modi's four-day three-nation visit will be the US leg as PM Modi will be meeting President Donald Trump for the first time on June 26 in Washington.

    Ahead of his US visit, PM Modi said he looked forward to the opportunity of having an in-depth exchange of views. 
    "My USA visit is aimed at deepening ties between our nations. Strong India-USA ties benefit our nations & the world," he had tweeted.

    In a statement posted on Facebook, PM Modi said his two-day visit to Washington from June 25 was at the invitation of Mr Trump.

    Apart from official meetings with Mr Trump and his cabinet colleagues, PM Modi will be meeting some prominent American CEOs.

    After the US visit, PM Modi will travel to the Netherlands on June 27 where he will have a meeting with the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and call on King Willem-Alexander and meet Queen Maxima.

    This year, the two countries are celebrating 70 years of the establishment of Indo-Dutch diplomatic relations.

    "I look forward to meeting Prime Minister Rutte and reviewing our bilateral relations. I would be exchanging views with PM Rutte on important global issues including counterterrorism and climate change," PM Modi said ahead of the visit.

Ahead Of PM's Visit, US Sees No Threat To Pak From Arms Deal With India
  • With the United States expected to authorise India's purchase of naval drones, a senior White House official cautioned on Friday that any US military transfer to India would not represent a threat to its neighbour Pakistan.

    The official spoke to reporters in advance of US President Donald Trump's first meeting with PM Narendra Modi tomorrow, a White House visit that will include one-on-one talks and a working dinner.

    Securing agreement on the purchase of 22 unarmed drones, worth more than $2 billion, is seen in New Delhi as a key test of defence ties that flourished under former President Barack Obama but have drifted under US President Trump, who has courted Asian rival China as he seeks Beijing's help to contain North Korea's nuclear programme.

    The US-based company that makes the drones, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc, said on Friday that the US government had approved the sale of a naval variant of the Predator drone to India.

    The senior White House official said any arms transfer would take into account the regional situation.

    "We want to avoid a situation that escalates the tension" between India and Pakistan, the official said. India and Pakistan should engage in direct talks and seek a normalization of ties, the official said.

    "Some of the defence systems we're talking about we don't believe impact Pakistan," the official added.

    The Indian navy wants the surveillance drones, variants of the Predator drones, to keep watch over the Indian Ocean. The deal would be the first such purchase by a country that is not a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 
    India, a big buyer of US arms that was recently named by Washington as a major defence ally, wants to protect its 7,500- km (4,700-mile) coastline as Beijing expands its maritime trade routes and Chinese submarines increasingly lurk in regional waters.

    But sources tracking the discussions say the US State Department has been concerned about the potential destabilising impact of introducing high-tech drones into South Asia, where tensions are simmering between India and Pakistan, particularly over Kashmir.

    Such a sale of sensitive military hardware must be authorized by the State Department before being sent to Congress for review. The drone deal would still require approval by Congress. The State Department declined comment ahead of any notification.

    Defence cooperation, the US trade deficit with India, counter-terrorism efforts and regional tensions are expected to be discussed between the two leaders.

    PM Modi's two-day visit to Washington begins tomorrow. US President Trump met Chinese President Xi Jinping in April and has also had face time with the leaders of nations including Japan, Britain and Vietnam since taking office in January, prompting anxiety in New Delhi that India is no longer a priority in Washington.

    Other strains have emerged in US-India relations, with the United States vexed by a growing bilateral trade deficit and US President Trump accusing New Delhi of negotiating unscrupulously at the Paris climate talks to walk away with billions in aid.

    US officials expect a relatively low-key visit by PM Modi, without the fanfare of some of his previous trips to the United States, and one geared to giving the Indian leader the chance to get to know US President Trump personally and to show that he is doing so.

    India and the United States will also discuss the sale of US fighter jets during PM Modi's trip, in what could be the biggest deal since they began deepening defence ties more than a decade ago.

Nurse Forced Into Slavery In Saudi Arabia, Sushma Swaraj To The Rescue
  • Known for her prompt response on social media, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asked the Indian envoy in Saudi Arabia to help Jacintha Mendonca, a nurse hailing from Karnataka who had reportedly been forced into slavery in the Arab state.

    Responding to a report on Twitter, Ms Swaraj tweeted to India's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ahmad Javed, insisting him to help the nurse. 

    "Javed : Pls help rescue this lady. @IndianEmbRiyadh," Ms Swaraj tweeted.

    According to reports, a sponsor in Saudi Arabia demanded 24,000 Saudi Riyals (approximately over 4 Lakhs) to free her.

    Replying to another separate query on twitter, Ms Swaraj said that every PIO (person of Indian-origin) card has to be converted into an OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card, adding that it is mandatory to do so. 
    The minister also directed the passport division of the External Affairs Ministry to resolve difficulties that were faced by a people with disabilities.

    The tweet came as a response to a man called Luv Kher requested the renewal of his disabled son's passport.

    "@SushmaSwaraj @MEAIndia Kindly approve passport renewal of my divyang son (J9503328), can't visit biometrics. Appl. pending @ RPO GZB Thanks (sic)," Kher said in his tweet.

    Giving him a positive response, Ms Swaraj tweeted, "I have asked @CPVIndia to resolve this". 

Hindi Signboards Put Bengaluru Metro In A Spot, Online Campaign Continues
  • Within a week after the last stretch of Bengaluru's Namma Metro Phase-1 was inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation (BMRC) is facing heat on the internet over the use of Hindi signboards in the metro train service.

    The objections over the language have been raised through an online campaign called Namma Metro Hindi Beda (We don't want Hindi in our Metro), which has questioned the use of Hindi boards along with Kannada boards inside and outside the stations.

    The issue was also raised by Kannada Rakshana Vedike President Narayana Gowda during his meeting with metro officials today.

    The Metro authorities pointed out that the languages were implemented based on the directions from the Centre. "We are following the 3 language formula as directed in a circular from the Ministry of Urban Development. Hindi, along with Kannada and English, is there on the front of the stations. Inside it is mostly two languages - Kannada and English. A Parliamentary Committee had come to check the observation of the 3 language formula. The Metro is funded by the Centre also," Metro chief PRO, U A Vasanth Rao.

    Mr Rao said that it was pointed out that Chennai's Metro was using only Tamil and English in sign boards and announcements, but added that was in violation of the ministry's orders. Triggered by the online campaign, the Kannada Development Authority (KDA) has issued a notice to the BMRCL, seeking an explanation on the matter.

    The Bengaluru Metro authorities will now refer the matter to the Centre through the state government.

    The final line of the 42 kilometre first phase of the Bengaluru Metro was opened on June 17 by the President to a very warm response.

    The metro service has come as a welcome relief for Bengaluru residents who have often found themselves caught in the city's notorious traffic.

    Around 3 lakh passengers are using the service everyday, up from 2 lakhs before the launch of the southern line. The Phase 2 of the network will add another 72 kilometres after its completion.

Business Affairs 

    Maharashtra govt announces Rs 34,000 crore farm loan waiver
    • The BJP-led Maharashtra government today announced a major farm loan waiver scheme that will see debt of up to Rs 1.5 lakh per farmer being written off.
      The scheme, announced by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis at a press meet here, involves Rs 34,000 crore of relief.
      Named after Maratha warrior king Shivaji Maharaj, the programme will benefit 89 lakh farmers and make 40 lakh agriculturists debt-free, Fadnavis said.
      Farmers in many parts of Maharashtra were on a warpath early this month, which disrupted supply of vegetables and other essentials to cities, including Mumbai.
      They were demanding a loan waiver, which was backed by all political parties. The stir was called off after the government gave them a firm assurance on brining in a comprehensive scheme to help the debt-pressed cultivators.

    Incentive schemes for exporters to continue post GST: Commerce Secretary
    • The incentive schemes designed for promotion of exports will continue even after the GST roll out from July 1, while the government may do away with the deemed export benefits, a top official said.
      Deemed exports refer to the transactions in which the goods supplied do not leave the country and the payment for such supplies is received either in Indian currency or in free foreign exchange.
      The government is committed to continue incentive schemes for export promotion, Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said while addressing exporters at an event here.
      However, she clarified that deemed export benefits may discontinue, as all will get level playing field in the Goods and Services Tax regime, FIEO said in a statement.
      While replying to the concerns of exporters due to regular beak down in icegate server of customs, she said the department is in the process of upgrading the system so that all the issues of the exporters and importers will be solved.
      Open house session was organised by the Federation of Indian Exports Organisation (FIEO) to invite suggestions from exporters on the measures needed in foreign trade policy.
      Exporters presented in the programme from various sectors, including engineering, textiles, pharma, defence and silk, argued for continuation of all schemes to make Indian products competitive as well as the need for exemption route instead of paying tax and then claiming refund.
      Dr A Sakthivel, Regional Chairman, FIEO (Southern Region) said that paying GST and take refund will block working capital of exporters, which is costly compared to our competing countries.
      He also highlighted various anomalies like non-inclusion of garments manufacturers in the 5 per cent GST announced for textiles industry.

    Google to stop scanning Gmail for creating targeted ads
    • Alphabet Inc's Google said on Friday it would stop scanning Gmail content for creating personalized ads from later this year, bringing the widely-used email service in line with its enterprise offering, G Suite.
      The decision was outlined in a blog post by Google cloud computing chief Diane Greene, who joined the company in 2015 and has been responsible for the rapid growth of Google's cloud business.
      Google's practice of analysing incoming and outgoing emails of its free consumer Gmail users has been criticized on privacy concerns.
      Google's G Suite business bundle have been gaining more enterprise users in the past year, with more than 3 million companies paying for the G Suite service, the company said. Gmail has more than 1.2 billion users worldwide.

    Digital can enhance retail profit for financial services industry by $3.5 billion: BCG-Facebook Report
    • A recent report by global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Facebook says that By 2020, banks can potentially increase their retail profit pool by over $3- 3.5 billion by switching to digital and reducing their cost base.
      The study also says that already 70 per cent urban internet users are digitally influenced while buying a financial product, which means they use at least one digital channel during the purchase journey of a financial product.
      "As more and more Indians access the internet on their mobile phones, there is a big opportunity for financial companies to create a powerful digital experience that is intuitive and secure for their customers," said Umang Bedi, Managing Director, Facebook India & South Asia.
      The report also says that in while in 2013 only 44 per cent of urban population preferred mobile for Internet access, now almost 70 per cent of it prefer mobile.
      It observes that only 7 per cent of urban Internet users in 2013 did online shopping which grew to 31 per cent 2016. Similarly, in 2013 4 per cent of urban Internet users did online banking, while 16 per cent use Internet to bank now.
      Here are some other insights from the survey:
      • Currently, there are over 150 million urban banking users with Internet access. With increasing banking user base and digital footprint, this will grow to 250 million by 2020.
      • By 2020 over 155 million urban banking users will actively access online banking.
      • Currently, over 60 million urban banking users are digitally influenced during the purchase journey of a financial product. Driven by rising internet user base, this will double to more than 120 mn users by 2020.
      • More than 50 per cent of consumers are dissatisfied with their online banking and mobile app experience largely because of fear of hidden charges, lack of trust, complicated information provided among others

    Midmark to make India as a major manufacturing base
    • Midmark Corporation, one of the leading medical, dental and veterinary equipment makers in the US, is planning to make India a major manufacturing base for its global operations in near future.
      Midmark, which fully acquired India's leading hospital beds and related office furniture maker Janak Healthcare a couple of years ago, will invest significantly in the country in the coming years, said John Baumann, president and CEO of Midmark.
      "We have just invested in a new fully automated hospital beds manufacturing facility and are bringing our OPD hospital furniture portfolio to the country. That will be followed by our other products", said John Baumann, while speaking to media at Umbergaon in Gujarat as part of the inauguration of the new facility.
      With numerous multinationals chains coming into the Indian market and with the spread of private healthcare to smaller cities in the country, Midmark is positioning India as a major market for its branded hospital furniture products, he said.
      The privately held Midmark Corporation, with its history dating back to 1915, has eight manufacturing facilities in the US and one at Italy, besides two units at Umbergaon in Gujarat.
      "The new unit will help to increase our hospital beds manufacturing capacity by 40 percent", said Sumeet Agarwal, managing director, Midmark India. It sells about 25-30,000 hospital beds in the Indian market and is the leader with a market share of close to 35 percent. It is estimated that India has over one lakh hospital beds.
      Janak was established in the year 1951as Janak Manufacturing Works, which later became Metalbeds India in the year 1979 and then was renamed as  Janak Healthcare. Midmark acquired a minority equity stake in Janak in 

    General Awareness

    Defence Minister Arun Jaitley’s 3-day visit to Russia from June 21-23, 2017

    • Defence Minister Arun Jaitley was on an official visit to Russia from 21st to 23rdJune 2017. The visited was aimed at strengthening bilateral defence and security cooperation between India and Russia.
      • During this visit, Arun Jaitley co-chaired two meetings with Russian Government.
      • Jaitley also addressed the main Plenary Session of Technoprom, which is a major annual science, technology and innovation exhibition of Russia.
      • Chairman of DRDO, Secretary of Department of Atomic Energy, Secretary of Earth Sciences and Senior officials from Department of Space, Defence and other ministries accompanied Arun Jaitley during this visit.
      Defence Minister Arun Jaitley co-chaired 1st meeting of Indo-Russia committee on science & technology
      India, Russia to step up cooperation in science, technology
      On June 21, 2017, Mr. Jaitley co-chaired the first meeting of the India-Russia High Level Committee on Science and Technology with the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.
      More Details:
      India-Russia High-Level Committee on Science and Technology is a newly established committee to discuss cooperation in high technologies.
      • The meeting was held on the sidelines of the Technoprom exhibition in the city of Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia.
      • During Joint Science & Tech Committee meeting, range of bilateral areas of cooperative projects including space & marine technologies, IT, Deep Ocean engineering as well as modelling & simulation were finalised.
      • Cooperation in these areas would be undertaken through futuristic projects with participation of research centres & innovative industrial enterprises of both countries. Working procedures for the Committee have been devised to ensure that mechanism will be dynamic and take speedy decisions towards implementation of joint projects.
      • DescribingRussia as a partner of choice for India in high technology sector, Jaitley said the new mechanism will further energise the bilateral partnership as it will help in opening up advanced areas of cooperation which will benefit the future generations.
      • Besides, India is considering launching a nano satellite of Samara State University on an Indian launch vehicle.
      India, Russia agree to roadmap for development of defence co-operation
      On June 23, 2017, Mr. Jaitley co-chaired the 17th meeting of the India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation in Moscow with Russian Defence Minister General Sergei Shoigu.
      • The meeting reviewed the entire range of military and military-technical cooperation issues between India and Russia within the framework of the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between India and Russia.
      • India and Russia inked a protocol that lays out the roadmap to further boost bilateral defence cooperation, which ranges from joint development of futuristic weapon systems to a major upgrade of military-to-military ties.
      • It also aims to enhance cooperation in the field of political and military dialogue, exercises, exchange of visits, military cooperation and training.
      • Both sides also agreed to conclude ongoing negotiations for different platforms.
      Russia :
      • Capital: Moscow
      • Currency: Russian ruble
      • President: Vladimir Putin

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