Current Affairs Current Affairs - 26 June 2017 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 26 June 2017

General Affairs 

PM Narendra Modi Praises External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj During US Trip
  • Speaking of change in the functioning of the Indian embassy everywhere, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today praised External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for her prompt actions to help "Indians anywhere". Speaking of a technology-driven change in the governance, Prime Minister Modi said today that Sushma Swaraj and her Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) helped many Indians in trouble abroad, after they approached her on social media. "The way Sushma Swaraj has worked and helped every Indian abroad is commendable. It is now well known in India that when anyone in trouble tweets to Sushma ji, she promptly replies and the government takes prompt action," PM Modi said while interacting with the Indian diaspora in Washington DC.

    "Any Indian living abroad now has faith that their issues will be resolved," the Prime Minister said.

    He added "it is for everyone to see how the MEA has, in addition to their routine work, emerged as a strong humanitarian force for Indians globally".

    MEA has touched new heights from point of view of humanity, said the PM. 
    The Prime Minister also touched upon India's surgical strike on terror launchpads last year. He said: "Surgical strike demonstrated that India, which normally follows restraint, can also defend its sovereignty and ensure its security."

    "We have succeeded in conveying to the world the deleterious effects of terrorism on India," he added.

    Urging the Indian community in US to "keep the bridge with India", PM Modi said that the younger generation of Indians must be kept aware. "Keep the bridge with India. Your younger generations must continue your strong bond with India," the Prime Minister told the Indians present in the community centre.

    Speaking of talent, technology and innovation, the Prime Minister also told the gathering: "If you want to give back to India, this is the best time to do so."

In Darjeeling Protest, Many See Revival Of 1980s Uprising
  • For most parts of the day, an eerie silence grips the town of Darjeeling. The whistling of steam engines, a familiar sound in the hilly town, is missing. On the street, a game of cricket or football is interrupted by the occasional police or press vehicle passing by. 
    The only time there's any activity is when protests are taking place. Men and women of all ages march through the town in pro-Gorkhaland rallies through the day and hold candlelight vigils in the evening. They all have but one demand - a separate state of Gorkhaland.

    "This is the voice of the hills. This is a constitutional agitation," says Jay Chhetri. When asked if the agitation is reminiscent of the 1980s, he replies with a loud 'Yes'. 

    In fact, many say that the agitation of 2017 reminds them of the pro-Gorkhaland rallies of the 1980s. The demand of a separate state of Gorkhaland started in the 1980s under the leadership of Subhash Ghising, a leader of the Gorkha National Liberation Front. 

    "I saw the movement under Subhas Ghising. I could feel the pulse; everyone wanted Gorkhaland," says Father Kinley Tsering, a Jesuit priest and educator who has spent most of his time in the hills.

    "We lost one generation of students in the 1980s. The same story is going to repeat once again. My plea to (West Bengal Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee is to find a solution acceptable to everyone," the priest adds.

    Today, students and professionals have taken the Gorkhaland agitation to different parts of the country and beyond the control of the existing leadership of the Bimal Gurung-led Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.  
    "Maybe it was limited in the 1980s due to the lack of communication and internet. I am seeing my students in Sydney, US and even Mumbai and Bangalore coming together to demand Gorkhaland," says Father Tsering.

    He also adds that the movement is not about territory but, rather, the feeling of group of people asking for recognition and identity.

    For the GJM, it seems to be the last test for they'll lose the local support if they fail.

    "This time's agitation is more rigorous than the 1980s. By any means, this time we shall succeed," says GJM supporter Tilakchand Roka. 

    All eyes in Darjeeling are, now, on Delhi. So far, there has been no positive feedback to the demand of a separate state from the Centre despite BJP's SS Ahluwalia being a Lok Sabha member from Darjeeling. 

    "Mamata Banerjee is responsible for this mess. But they have to sort it out through talks," says senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya.

Indo-Nepal Border To Be Sealed Ahead Of Nepal Civic Polls
  • India's border with Nepal will be sealed tomorrow, 48 hours before the municipal polls in the neighbouring country, to prevent anti-social elements from crossing the international boundary and vitiating the election atmosphere.

    This was decided at a high-level meeting of a coordination committee, said VK Singh, District Magistrate, Maharajganj, today.

    The meeting was attended by officers of the local administration, police, border guarding force Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Army, customs, immigration and other departments of both the countries.

    SSB, which works under the command of the Union home ministry, guards the 1,751 km long Indo-Nepal border.

    Uttar Pradesh shares a 599.3 km long open border with Nepal touching seven districts - Pilibhit, Lakhimpur Kheri, Bahraich, Sravasti, Balrampur, Sidhharthnagar and Maharajganj. 
    Municipal elections will be held in Nepal on June 28.

    Some Madhes-centric parties have opposed the elections seeking that the Constitution is amended to accommodate their demands for more representation in parliament and redrawing of provincial boundaries.

    The Nepal government has tabled a new Constitution amendment bill in Parliament to address the demands of the agitating Madhesis.

    Madhesis, mostly of Indian-origin, launched a prolonged agitation between September 2015 and February last year against the implementation of the new Constitution which, they felt, marginalised the 'Terai' community.

World's Highest Rail Track Survey To Commence At Leh
  • The Railways will kick off the final location survey of the 498 km long Bilaspur-Manali-Leh line at Leh in Jammu and Kashmir this week.

    Coming up at a high of 3,300 metres, the strategically important rail project is touted to become the highest rail track in the world, overtaking China's Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

    The all-weather Leh rail network is one of the four important railway connectivities identified by the defence ministry along the China border.

    Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will inaugurate the work for the final location survey on June 27 at an estimated cost of Rs. 157.77 crore. The survey is funded by the defence ministry.

    The proposed new rail line will connect all important locations between Bilaspur and Leh namely Sunder Nagar Mandi, Manali, Tandi, Keylong, Koksar, Darcha, Upshi and Karu.

    The final location survey has been entrusted to RITES, a Railways PSU. "RITES has deployed its expert team to carry out this challenging task. The survey will be carried out in three phases and is slated to be completed by 2019," said a senior Railway Ministry official.

    Presently, the road route is open only for about five months in a year.

    Apart from strategic considerations, the line connecting Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh to Leh in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir is expected to give immense "socio-economic benefits" to the region, including tourism.

    The defence ministry had initiated rail line projects along China, Nepal and Pakistan borders as strategic lines.

    Fourteen strategic lines have been identified, out of which four - Bilaspur-Manali-Leh, Missamari-Tenga-Tawang, North Lakhimpur-Bame-Silapathar and Pasighat-Tezu-Rupai - will be taken up in the first phase.

    The Bilaspur-Manali-Leh line is along Himachal-J&K border and the last three lines along Assam-Arunachal border.

    Once the Bilaspur-Manali-Leh railway line is completed, Leh will be directly connected to Himachal Pradesh and the rest of India by railway.

    Personnel and equipment will be transported more easily to the strategic military base of Leh with the commissioning of the line.

Will NASA-ISRO Mega Satellite Pass Trump Test? Scientists On Tenterhooks
  • Space scientists in India and America are on tenterhooks as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump meet for their first bilateral in Washington tomorrow. At stake is the world's most expensive earth-imaging satellite till date, which is being jointly made by the NASA and the ISRO.
    The NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite, NISAR in short, will go up in 2021. But work has started on it at Pasadena, a suburb of Los Angeles.

    Once it is in orbit, the $1.5 billion satellite is expected to provide data that lies at the heart of climate change - "motion of the tectonic plates, of the ice sheets, of the changes in vegetation over land in agriculture and forests" said Paul A Rosen, the satellite's project scientist at Pasadena.

    The scientists, Professor Rosen said, are looking at time variability of the earth over the life of the mission to understand how disasters evolve, how earthquakes occur, how volcanoes occur, how the ice sheets are changing and affecting sea level rise, and how forest fires and changes in the forest cover affect the atmosphere.

    "It is very relevant to what society cares about which is changes in our climate, changes in our environment and how it affects society," he said.

    Climate change, however, is one of the subjects that divide India and America. In April, while pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, President Trump named India as one of the "world's highly polluting countries" which reaped "billions of dollars" - allegations that were denounced by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj earlier this month.

    PM Modi, on the other hand, has penned a pictorial book - "Convenient Action: Continuity for Change" - that compiles his actions and beliefs on climate change.

    One of the avowed objectives of the NISAR mission as suggested by NASA is that for over a hundred years, scientists have considered diminishing glaciers and sea ice to be an early indicator of global warming. President Trump has called climate change a hoax created by China "to make US manufacturing non-competitive".

Business Affairs 

    Over 1 lakh immediate job openings to come from new GST regime
    • The job market is looking forward to a big boost from the new GST regime and expects over one lakh immediate new employment opportunities, including in specialised areas like taxation, accounting and data analysis.
      The historic tax reform, to be rolled out from July 1, is expected to help the formal job sector attain an annualised growth rate of 10-13 per cent and fuel demand for professionals in various segments of the economy, experts said.
      Indian Staffing Federation's President Rituparna Chakraborty said the GST (Goods and Services Tax) will make procurement and distribution of goods much faster while cash flow is expected to become more predictable and profitability should improve, too.
      All these and the transparency of compliance shall make working with unorganised players exponentially less attractive thereby pushing the country towards greater formalisation, she added. We are expecting an annualised growth to the tune of 10 -13 per cent in formal job creation on account of GST, Chakraborty said.
      Leading executive search firm GlobalHunt's MD Sunil Goel said, On an estimation, it looks like it will create more than one lakh jobs immediately from the first quarter of the implementation date and another 50,000-60,000 jobs will be created for specific activities for GST, going forward.
      Mid- and small-sized companies will prefer to outsource similar activities to the third party account firms, he said. GST is expected to create significant job opportunities as the businesses will need to hire professionals for dedicated GST management, upgradation and reconciliations.
      The new tax system will have a positive impact on ease of doing business, thereby making it conducive for foreign investors and companies. This would help in better execution of all government initiatives and propel formal job creation,'s APAC and Middle-East MD Sanjay Modi said.
      Sector-wise, the immediate high-impact segments of GST are expected to be automobiles, logistics, home decor, e-commerce, media and entertainment, cement, IT and ITeS, BFSI, consumer durables, pharma and telecom.
      LabourNet Services India co-founder and CEO Gayathri Vasudevan also said hiring is expected to see a significant rise across sectors. However, this will become a reality only if the infrastructure and logistical challenges on the path of GST implementation are mitigated in time, she emphasised.
      Although GST is set to propel hiring, compliance ambiguities such as place of supply (intra- or inter-state), for instance, could pose as a challenge for industries that could adversely affect job creation in the near future. However, once the transition phase eases out, in the long run, GST will add momentum to the entire hiring landscape, Vasudevan said.

    EPFO may bring 500 small private PF Trusts into its fold
    • Retirement fund body EPFO may bring 500 private PF trusts within its fold whose EPF accumulations are around Rs 1 crore each, or have up to 20 members, for offering better services to those subscribers.
      Besides, this will improve monitoring of over 1,000 such trusts which have large subscriber base and manage huge EPF accumulations.
      The Labour Ministry is in the process of amending Employees' Provident Fund Scheme 1952, so that large private PF trusts having accumulations can carry on the management of their employees' EPF money and accounts.
      "After the amendment in the EPF Scheme, the existing private PF trust having up to 20 members or EPF accumulations of around Rs one crore excluding pension and insurance contributions, would lose their exemption from filing EPF returns. Their trust's funds and accounts would be taken over by the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO)," a Labour Ministry source said.
      The source added that after amendment to the scheme, these small trusts would be exempted from filing EPF returns for a period of 180 days after which they would lose the exemption.
      The source further said that only those firms would be eligible to run PF trusts whose employee strength is at least 500 and EPF accumulations of their employees excluding pension and insurance contributions are at least Rs 100 crore in five years period.
      The proposal to amend the scheme was approved by the apex decision making body of EPFO, Central Board of Trustees (CBT), headed by the Labour Minister last year.
      According to an analysis by the EPFO, there are 1,550 private PF trusts having total subscribers of over 82 lakh employees. These trusts are managing around Rs 3 lakh crore corpus.
      Out of these exempted firms or trusts, there are over 500 trusts which are either managing a meagre amount of EPF (up to Rs one crore) or their members are not more than 20.
      The EPFO had proposed that since these trusts manage meagre EPF amounts and have few members, they should be taken over by the EPFO for providing host of online and other facilities which they cannot provide to their subscribers.
      Earlier, the firms were allowed to operate their own PF trusts so that their employees get better services when accounts and funds were managed manually and the EPFO used to take months to settle claims like EPF withdrawals.
      However, as the EPFO is providing a lot of online services like claim settlement, account balance information through SMS, EPF passbook, it would be better that the EPFO manages the money as well as accounts of these small private PF trusts.
      The source said, "The kind of prompt services EPFO is providing today cannot be matched by these small trusts with scarce resources."
      At present, these trusts provide administrative charges of 0.18 per cent of the basic wages (on which PF contributions is calculated). After the EPFO takes over, they would have to pay 0.65 per cent of basic wages as administrative charges.
      The EPFO has a subscriber base of around 4.5 crore and manages a corpus of around Rs 10 lakh crore with annual investible deposits of Rs 1.5 lakh crore.
      The move to take over these small trusts is also in line with the suggestion of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour that these should be monitored properly.

    Air India privatisation welcome but clear salary dues first: Pilots
    • The proposal to privatise Air India is a welcome move but salary arrears should be settled first as promised earlier, feel pilots at the national carrier.
      Facing tough financial conditions, Air India had resorted to salary cuts in 2012. Since then, arrears have been accumulating even as certain section of employees accepted revised pay scales.
      The arrears to be paid to the 27,000-odd staff of Air India that includes pilots and cabin crew are estimated to be around Rs 1,200 crore. Out of the total amount, about Rs 400 crore is due for pilots, according to a senior pilot.
      When Ashwani Lohani took over the reins of the ailing carrier nearly two years ago, he had assured that all pending dues would be paid in a phased manner.
      Now, as the government looks at privatisation and other options to revive the airline, pilots want the salary dues to be cleared first before any decision is taken at the highest level amid uncertainty over the future course of action.
      "We are looking forward to the privatisation of Air India. We are very pleased by this news and we hope that a professional management takes over. We want to work in an environment where there isn't too much government interference," a representative of the Indian Pilots' Guild said.
      Before privatisation happens, "our dues have to be cleared," he said.
      The Guild, comprising pilots of wide-bodied aircraft, has around 500 members.
      Echoing similar sentiments, a representative of Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) said having a professional management could help in the airline's revival.
      "If Air India is going to be privatised then we will take up the issue of our dues," he said.
      The ICPA, which claims to have more than 1,000 members, represents the pilots of narrow-bodied planes.
      According to the pilots, if the government privatises the airline they would like to start on a "clean slate" rather than just "outsourcing the current problems" such as salary arrears to the new investor.
      "This is a problem created by the management and they have to first resolve the issue," the pilot from IPG said.
      While discussions are still at initial stages on the way forward for the debt-laden Air India, sections of employees seem to be on different pages when it comes to the idea of privatisation.
      Earlier this month, seven unions of Air India employees warned of large scale protests if the government went ahead with privatisation of the airline.
      The government think tank NITI Aayog has suggested complete privatisation of the airline, which has a debt burden of over Rs 52,000 crore.
      The ministry of civil aviation is looking at ways to revive Air India, which is surviving on Rs 30,000 crore bailout package extended by the previous UPA regime.

    GST will push Chinese imports, hit small businesses claims RSS' economic wing SJM
    • Days ahead of the launch of GST, the RSS's economic wing SJM has said the new indirect tax regime will badly hit small businesses and push Chinese imports.
      As the date of implementation of GST is approaching, the heartbeats of small entrepreneurs and traders are increasing, Swadeshi Jagran Manch National co-convener Ashwani Mahajan said. He claimed that there was exemption on excise duty for production of up to Rs 1.5 crore for small scale industries.
      But now, according to the provisions of GST, any entity whose business is above or equal to Rs 20 lakh must register itself for GST in the state where it carries its business, Mahajan told PTI. Small scale and cottage industries which are labour intensive will be severely hit by this law, as many of them are in the higher tax bracket, he said.
      With the negative impact on these small industries, people in rural areas will lose jobs and at the same time imports of Chinese products will jump due to a slump in domestic production, Mahajan claimed. The government has said the Goods and Service Tax (GST) could add two percentage points to economic growth.
      It is termed as India's most ambitious tax reform, creates a single economic zone with common indirect taxes. There will be four tax slabs - 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent. The new tax regime will be launched at midnight on June 30 in the Central Hall of Parliament. 

      Delhi-NCR's second airport to come up in Jewar
      • An international airport with a capacity to handle 30-50 million passengers per year will come up at Jewar in Greater Noida in the next five to six years to ease the load on the Delhi airport, the government announced on Saturday.
        "In-principle clearance has been granted" for the greenfield airport at Jewar, civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said at a press briefing in New Delhi.
        The Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority has notified 3,000 hectares of land in Jewar for a "world- class" international airport, Raju added.
        Of the total land, 1,000 hectares will be acquired under the first phase of airport development, which will cost Rs 2,000 crore.
        The government expects the entire project to cost Rs 15,000 crore to Rs 20,000 crore.
        The metro service in Noida is also likely to be extended up to Jewar in order to improve connectivity to the airport.
        The state government, which has been pushing for this project, has also been told by the Centre to improve road conditions and provide multi-modal transport facilities, said Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, R N Choubey.
        The announcement of a second airport in the national capital region comes at a time when the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi grapples with an ever- increasing number of passengers.
        The IGI Airport currently handles nearly 62 million passengers every year. As per its updated master plan, the passenger handling capacity will be increased to 109.33 million passengers per year in a phased manner.
        However, the airport is likely to reach that figure in the next seven years, necessitating a second airport in the vicinity of the national capital, according to the government.
        "Within seven years Delhi airport will see 109 million trips a year, which will saturate its capacity. For the sake of NCR and NCR's connectivity having a second airport is vitally important and that is what Noida international airport will accomplish," Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said.
        Senior minister Raju said that the government will honour the Operation Management and Development Agreement (OMDA) with GMR, which operates the Delhi Airport jointly with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for Delhi airport. As per this agreement GMR will have the first right of refusal in case an airport is built within 150 kilometres of the existing one.
        The capacity to handle 30-50 million passengers per year will put the Jewar airport on par with the Mumbai airport, which sees 45 million passengers per year.
        Sinha added that the new airport will also provide seamless domestic and international connectivity to western UP with Noida, Agra, Mathura, Meerut, Vrindavan, Meerut, Moradabad and Bulandshahr likely to serve as the the catchment area for the new aerodrome.
        "Noida International Airport will become like an aerotropolis with an airport at the centre and a whole host of economic activities around it," said Sinha.
        The first phase will be a reality in five to six years, which includes procurement of land, bidding it out for construction and then providing connectivity, Civil Aviation Secretary Choubey said.
        He added that the representatives of the Uttar Pradesh government have assured the Centre that farmers are willing to provide the land for airport development on negotiated settlement basis.
        In Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh Civil Aviation Minister Nand Gopal Nandi and health minister Siddhartnath Singh told newspersons that the upcoming airport is expected to enable Noida to become a major global electronics manufacturing cluster, with significant investments in the sector already coming in from major global players like Samsung. 
        Tourism to destinations such as Mathura, Vrindavan and Agra will also see a major boost, they said, adding that it is also likely to serve as major logistics hub for various manufacturing and export centers in the western part of the state.

      General Awareness

      29.5 million people globally suffer from drug use disorders, opioids the most harmful says World Drug Report 2017

      • As per World Drug Report 2017, released by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), around 29.5 million people (0.6% of the global adult population) were engaged in problematic use of drugs and suffered from drug use disorders, including dependence.
        Highlights of World Drug Report 2017:
        The report highlighted that Opioids (drugs derived from opium, including morphine) were the most harmful drug type and accounted for 70% of the negative health impact associated with drug use disorders worldwide.
        • Disorders related to the use of amphetamines (central nervous system stimulant that is used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) also accounts for a considerable share of the global burden of disease.
        • In context of new psychoactive substances (NPS), the report has mentioned that its market is still relatively small and users are unaware of the content and dosage of psychoactive substances in some NPS which exposes them to additional serious health risks.
        • The report finds that hepatitis C is causing the greatest harm among the estimated 12 million people who inject drugs worldwide. Out of these 12 million, 1.6 million are living with HIV, 6.1 million are living with hepatitis C, while around 1.3 million are suffering from both hepatitis C and HIV.
        • As per the report, mobile communication, internet and use of crypto currency have been facilitating drug sales in recent times.
        • Diversification of the thriving drug market, as well as changing business models for drug trafficking and organized crime have been identified as cause of concern.
        About World Drug Report:
        World Drug Report is an annual publication of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
        • It provides detailed statistics on drug markets and analyses the evolving trends.
        • The first edition of World Drug report was published in year 1997, the same year in which UNODC was established.
        • Headquarters of UNODC is in Vienna, Austria. Yuri Fedotov is the current Executive Director of UNODC.

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