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Current Affairs - 28 June 2017


General Affairs 

Donald Trump Reaffirms US Support For India's Permanent Membership At UN Security Council
  • US President Donald Trump today reaffirmed United States' support over India's bid for a permanent seat in a reformed UN Security Council or UNSC and in other multilateral institutions like the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met President Trump at the White House, thanked him for the support.

    "President Trump reaffirmed the support of the United States for India's permanent membership on a reformed UN Security Council," said a joint India-US statement after the meeting between PM Modi and President Trump.

    "As global non-proliferation partners, the United States expressed strong support for India's early membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group," the joint statement said.


    PM Modi said, "We're extremely grateful for the continued support of the United States for India's membership of international institutions and regimes. We truly appreciate the support because this is also in the interest of both our nations".

    India has been making diplomatic efforts to ensure expansion of the permanent as well as non-permanent membership of the UNSC.


    China objects to India's membership bid in the NSG - a 48-member elite group which controls the nuclear trade - and says there is no change in its stance on the admission of non-NPT states into the grouping. India is not a signatory to the NPT.

No Questions At Yogi Adityanath's Presser, Read Book, Says UP Minister
  • Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath today left over 200 journalists stumped when he refused to field questions from them at a press conference that he had called to mark 100 days of his government. He made a 15-minute speech highlighting the young government's achievements, said he was "satisfied" with the work done so far, and then agreed to hear out one journalist from a local Hindi newspaper. The reporter had a request, not a question - he wanted the state government to improve the lot of journalists who work in small newspapers.
    "You are part of our "Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas" policy (cooperation of all, development for all)," beamed the Chief Minister and then folded his hands and walked off, refusing to answer questions on farmer loan waivers, law and order and vigilantism amid loud protests by journalists.

    "Read our book and then ask questions," offered UP's health minister and government spokesperson Sidharth Nath Singh, referring to a booklet released by the Yogi Adityanath government on the occasion. "The problem is the media comes with pre-mediated questions. We have given a book to you highlighting our achievements. You don't want to read it but to put questions. I don't think that's fair to the Chief Minister," Mr Singh said. 
    Questions, the minister said, could be posed "in many forums available".

    Yogi Adityanath, 45, took over as UP's Chief Minister in March this year after his party the BJP swept assembly elections in the state. A 100 days, he said today, were not enough to bring complete change from what he called the misgovernance of previous governments, but said his government has made a beginning by taking big initiatives to improve infrastructure and law and order in the state.  

    He is following, the Chief Minister said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's mantra of "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas," reiterating that his government will work for all sections of the society without any discrimination.

India A Land Of Opportunities, PM Narendra Modi Tells Dutch Firms
  • Describing the Netherlands as India's "natural partner" in its economic development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today invited Dutch companies to invest in the country which he said is the "land of opportunities". Focusing on trade, technology and investment, Mr Modi interacted with CEOs of major Dutch companies after holding bilateral talks with his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte.
    The two countries signed three MoUs in the fields of social security, water cooperation and cultural cooperation.

    During his interaction with top Dutch CEOs, Mr Modi said the reforms introduced by his government seek to enhance ease of doing business and bring standards at par with global standards.

    The prime minister, who is here on the final leg of his three-nation tour, said India has made 7,000 reforms for attracting FDI in various sectors including real estate and defence.

    He said India is a "land of opportunities" with over 7 per cent growth rate and 1.25 billion population of which 800 million people are below 35 years.

    Water is a prime sector for cooperation between the two countries, Mr Modi said, referring to a joint water technology initiative, Dutch Indian Water Alliance for Leadership Initiative (DIWALI).


    Irrigation and water conservation are the areas where the two countries can boost cooperation, he said.

    Seeking investments, he said pension funds are especially welcome to India. 


    During the bilateral talks, Mr Modi and the Dutch PM reaffirmed their commitment to climate change accord and strengthen cooperation in developing renewable energy. Mr Modi thanked the key European nation for backing India's Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) membership.

    "Your support helped India in getting the membership of the MTCR," Mr Modi said.

    India joined the MTCR as a full member last year. MTCR membership enables India to buy high-end missile technology and also enhances its joint ventures with Russia.

    "Ties between India and the Netherlands are very old. Our bilateral relations are very strong," he said.

    Mr Modi said the Netherlands is the 5th largest investment partner globally and in the last three years it has emerged as the 3rd largest source of FDI for the country.

    In the joint address, Mr Rutte said India's emergence as a global power is a "welcome development from both political and economic point of views."

Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari Urges States To Promote Cruise Tourism
  • Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday urged the state governments to promote cruise tourism by developing and marketing their tourist attractions, saying it will create lakhs of jobs and boost the economy.

    India has the potential to cater to 700 cruise ships per year as against 158 handled this year, said the Minister for Transport, Highways and Shipping while addressing the national workshop on Action Plan for Development of Cruise Tourism in India. 

    The cruise industry can generate more than 2.5 lakh jobs for ten lakh cruise passengers, giving a big boost to the country's economy, he said. 
    "Cruise terminals are being developed at five major ports - Mumbai, Goa, Cochin, Mangalore and Chennai. In addition, the transport potential of 111 inland waterways will also be tapped. Work will start for developing ten inland waterways by the end of this year. This includes the rivers Ganga and Brahmaputra on which work is already in progress," said Mr Gadkari.

    A joint task force, headed by Secretary (Shipping) and Secretary (Tourism), was constituted for the purpose, and a global consultant was engaged for drawing up an Action Plan on cruise tourism in the country, said Mr Gadkari. 

Battle Of Ideology, Not 'Dalit vs Dalit': Meira Kumar On President Poll
  • Meira Kumar, the joint opposition's candidate for President, today thanked the 17 parties that have backed her for the country's top post and said she would launch her campaign from Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat. She is yet to file her nomination papers but has already appealed to lawmakers who elect the President to follow their "inner conscience" when voting. 
      
    Ms Kumar, 72, said "freedom of press, social justice and the destruction of the caste structure" are at the core of the ideology that united the parties that have fielded her for President against the ruling BJP-led national alliance's nominee Ram Nath Kovind.  
    "There is a storm that two Dalits are pitted against each other for the President's post and the truth of our society is coming out. Whenever similar elections have happened in the past, there were candidates who fought but their religion or caste was never discussed. But today it has been highlighted," said Ms Kumar, a Dalit leader of the Congress from Bihar, whose selection by the opposition parties was seen as a counter to the BJP picking a Dalit leader Mr Kovind. 

    The opposition's strategy was to ensure that key members of the opposition bloc like Mayawati would not support Mr Kovind because he is a Dalit, who form a big chunk of the Bahujan Samaj Party leader's support base. 



    Ms Kumar described her battle with Mr Kovind as "one of ideology." The BJP and its allies, along with regional parties who have offered support have over 60 per cent of the vote and Mr Kovind is expected to win the presidential election with ease.    

    Bihar Chief minister Nitish Kumar broke ranks with the opposition bloc to support Mr Kovind, which, Ms Kumar said today, "happens in politics."  

    Attacked by senior BJP leader and union minister Sushma Swaraj for what the latter said was a biased tenure as Lok Sabha Speaker when the Congress was in power at the Centre, Ms Kumar said she had in fact been feted for being "unbiased not only by lawmakers from the then ruling party, but also the opposition" when her term ended.
     

Business Affairs 

    GST rollout: Tax litigation cases likely to soar after new tax regime
    • As the nation is gearing up for the biggest economic reform - Goods and Services Tax- scheduled to launch at the midnight of Jun 30, the professionals facilitating the new tax regime anticipate that the rollout of GST may throw litigation challenges for the tribunals  and judiciary. According to a report in Bloomberg, lawyers have predicted a steep rise in litigations pertaining to the uniform indirect tax regime in days to come. GST, with its seven tax slabs, a complex system to avail input tax credits (ITC) and uncertainty over anti-profiteering provisions, is likely to lead to several litigations. Piles of unsolved cases are already a matter of concern for judiciary and tax tribunals in India, and the GST is likely to add a good deal of new cases to already burdened system.
      Government has assured that it will be a smooth rollout for the new tax, but there are apprehensions. Confusion over provisions, lack and unfamiliarity with the IT infrastructure among other factors GST will have to surpass before it can be successful in its motive of simplifying tax structure in India.
      Legal and financial professionals believe that there will be tax litigations and tax payers looking for further clarifications in near further. As hard-pressed as they are right now, there is a lot to be done, stated Pratik Jain, leader, National Leader, Indirect Tax at PwC India.
      "There will be issues regarding interpretation of law after GST rollout. There will be new notifications from the government. Compliance is another issue that will arise after GST rollout. There will be more disputes with authorities over GST in days to come. People will also be looking for advance tax ruling," Jain said.
      This also calls for hiring more professionals to handle the increasing pressure facilitators are facing on account of GST, he added.
      As for things to return back to normal can take a few months, said Chartered Accountant Nidhi Shrivastwa. "Once rolled out, there will be a couple of months before GST is streamlined. There are a few hindrances to it as of now. First of all, it has to be seen how the software works. Errors have to be minimised while filing tax returns as there is no provision for revising once filled," she said.
      There still is a lot of clarification that tax payers as well as implementing authorities are seeking regarding GST owing to the times it has been changed structurally.
      "Consumers are still apprehensive whether GST will actually be beneficial or not. They are apprehensive whether the benefits will be passed on to them by the corporate houses or not. There still is absolute clarity about GST in the department itself either, with something new coming up every day. Department also needs a lot of handholding from the professionals," said Shrivastwa.
      The professionals will have to up their game too as the entire tax return filing process is going digital with GST.

    7th Pay Commission: Final decision on HRA, allowances for central government employees likely on June 28
    • Central government employees' wait for a confirmation of allowance structure under the 7th Pay Commission could end on Wednesday if the Cabinet takes up the issue on its agenda tomorrow. The wait has been endless with repeated delays, despite the Empowered Committee of Secretaries submitting its report to the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on June 1.
      There is hope for a final decision on Wednesday as it is believed that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley discussed the matter with Prime Minister  Narendra Modi before the PM left for the three-nation tour.
      The issue of allowances for central government employees under the 7th Pay Commission has been reeling for over a year with reviews at different levels. However, a definite outcome has eluded adding to the frustration among the central government employees. The Union Cabinet was expected to approve the proposal on allowances last week but it got delayed as the Prime Minister Modi was visiting Washington.

      It was reported that the House Rent Allowance or HRA could be approved at 27 per cent of the basic pay. The Pay Panel had brought down, in its recommendation, the HRA to 24 per cent, 16 per cent and 8 per cent of the basic pay, depending upon the city the employee is posted in. 
      The sixth pay commission had pegged the HRA at 30 per cent, 20 per cent and 10 per cent.
      The Commission not only brought down the HRA but also done away with as many as 52 allowances. It recommended  that out of a total 196 allowances, 52 be discontinued and 36 other allowances should be subsumed under other allowances.
      Drastic change in HRA and other allowances did not go well with the central government employees who expressed their opposition and asked the government to take a re-look at the proposed recommendations.
      Coming under pressure from nearly 47 lakh central government employees, the Cabinet formed a Committee on Allowances under Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa last year in June. The Committee was tasked to look into the extensive changes suggested by the 7th Pay Commission.
      The Lavasa Committee handed over its review report to the Finance Minister in April after consulting representations from various government departments. The report, post approval, was forwarded to E-CoS for their consideration and consolidation.

    European Union hits Google with record 2.42 billion euro antitrust fine
    • EU antitrust regulators hit Alphabet unit Google with a record 2.42-billion-euro ($2.7 billion) fine on Tuesday, indicating they will likely take a tough line with the company in two other ongoing cases.
      The European Commission said the world's most popular internet search engine has 90 days to stop favoring its own shopping service or face a further penalty of up to 5 percent of Alphabet's average daily global turnover.
      The Commission found that Google had systematically given prominent placement in searches to its own comparison shopping service and demoted those of rivals in search results.
      "What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation," European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
      The action came after a seven-year long investigation prompted by scores of complaints from rivals such as US consumer review website Yelp, TripAdvisor, UK price comparison site Foundem, News Corp and lobbying group FairSearch.
      This is the biggest fine for a single company in an EU antitrust case, exceeding a 1.06-billion-euro sanction handed down to US chipmaker Intel in 2009.
      It is also the biggest regulatory setback for Google, which settled with US enforcers in 2013 with a requirement to stop "scraping" reviews and other data from rival websites for its own products.
      The EU competition enforcer has also charged Google with using its Android mobile operating system to crush rivals, a case that could potentially be the most damaging for the company, with the system used in most smartphones.
      The company has also been accused of blocking rivals in online search advertising, with the Commission warning of deterrent fines if Google is found guilty of breaching EU rules.

    GST impact: Medicine shortage unlikely
    • Indian drug makers are cautiously maintaining their inventory levels unlike all other trade and industry segments which are on a clearance binge to minimise their pre-GST inventory to ensure a smooth shift to the national Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime that kicks in on July 1.
      A recent update by the market intelligence firm AIOCD-AWACS indicates that the inventory of medicines at the trade level was holding steady as on June 21.
      "With one week to go for GST and more than three weeks of inventory at the distributor level (plus retail inventory of two-three weeks), overall, the pharma industry is in a positive situation, and we can positively affirm that there will be no consumer shortages," AIOCD-AWACS points out.
      Except for anti-diabetic medicines, all major categories have, on average, three weeks of inventory at the distributor/retailer level.

      Bihar records the fastest growth in per capita availability of power over a decade
      • The country's per capita availability of power has grown at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of less than five per cent between 2005/06 & 2015/16. In absolute terms, the per capita availability has grown 338.6 kilowatt-hours during this period.
        There are altogether 16 states that have seen the per capita availability of power growing at a 10-year CAGR above the all India growth of 4.8 per cent.
        Going by this yardstick, Bihar tops the charts with a growth of 10.2 per cent over a decade. The states' per capital availability of power rose to 228.8 kilowatt-hours in 2015/16 from just 87 kilowatt-hours in 2005/06.
        The next to follow were Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand with at 10-year CAGR of 8.6 per cent and 7.8 per cent, respectively. States like Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan managed a growth rate of around 6 per cent over the period.
        Only four states, namely Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Goa managed to double their per capita availability of power over a decade.
        More than a dozen states have registered a growth below the country's overall growth in per capita availability of power. States like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra saw a growth of 4 per cent and 3.8 per cent respectively between 2005/06 & 2015/16.
        Delhi saw per capita availability of power growing to 1765.8 kilowatt-hours in 2015/16 from 1536.5 kilowatt-hours in 2005/6, translating into a paltry growth of 1.4 per cent. Chandigarh saw the least growth of 0.9 per cent during the period.

      General Awareness

      Manushi Chhillar from Haryana wins the title of Miss India 2017

      • On June 25, 2017, Manushi Chhillar from Haryana won Femina Miss India 2017 titleSana Dua from Jammu and Kashmir is the first runner-up and the second runner-up is Priyanka Kumari from Bihar.
        About Manushi Chhillar:
        Born to doctor parents, Manushi Chhillar studied in St. Thomas School in Delhi and Bhagat Phool Singh Government Medical College for Women in Sonepat.
        • In an interview during her grooming, she said, “The only thing I believe is certain in life is uncertainty and this is what is amazing about the pageant.”
        More Details about 54th Femina Miss India World 2017:
        The event was held at Yash Raj Studios in Mumbai on June 25, 2017.
        • Karan Johar and Riteish Deshmukh hosted the event; whereas Sonu Nigam, Alia Bhatt, Sushant Singh Rajput and Ranbir Kapoor performed live on-stage to entertain the guests.
        • Following a new format this year, the beauty pageant toured 30 states/UTs across India and young girls from various states including Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand participated in the contest.
        • All the 30 participants were mentored by Neha Dhupia, Waluscha De Sousa, Dipannita Sharma and Parvathy Omanakuttan.
        • For the first time, the participants wore Indian dress at the finale. The dresses were designed by Manish Malhotra.
        • The final round was judged by Miss World 2016 Stephanie Del Valle, along with Bollywood stars likeArjun Rampal, Bipasha Basu, fashion designer Manish Malhotra, Abhishek Kapoor, Vidyut Jammwal, Ileana D’Cruz among others.

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