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Current Affairs - 9 June 2017

General Affairs 

Maharashtra farmers file petition opposing land acquisition for Fadnavis's pet highway project
  • In another jolt to the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Maharashtra, farmers from the Shivade Gram Panchayat in Sinnar Taluka of Nashik district have filed a writ petition before the Bombay High Court asking it to direct the Devendra Fadnavis administration to stop the land acquisition of the petitioner's villagers for the much-touted Samruddhi expressway corridor.
    The farmers - Kiran Nivrutti Harak, Bhaskar Keru Wagh and Somnath Pandit Wagh - have also prayed that the court direct the state government, which is at the moment acquiring land, to develop the Nagpur-Mumbai Samruddhi expressway over the existing Ghoti-Sinnar highway which runs parallel to the project.
    The farmers have also requested that while the matter is in the court the state government and the collector of Nashik be asked not to carry out any land acquisition.
    The petitioning farmers' biggest contention is that the proposed land acquisition would take away agricultural areas that is very fertile and suitable for growing cereals and pulses. The petition states that the soil on the land of the farmers is of various shades of grey, black, red and pink.
    Along with the petition, the farmers submitted a copy of a gram panchayat resolution passed by a village through which the proposed super expressway passes through. The resolution, passed by a majority of villagers, opposes any land acquisition for the Samruddhi highway.
    Acquisition of land for the Samruddhi expressway project would leave the Igatpuri district, through which the highway passes, with just 26,118 hectors of land, the petition claims. According to the farmers, of the district's 82,812 hectors of the land, 54,894 hectors is already with the government for various projects and purposes relating to forestry, dam construction, military needs, railways lines, highway building, petrol pipe line projects and industrial needs.
    The petition says that if 1800 hectors is also acquired for the Nagpur-Mumbai Super Communication Expressway, the district would be left with 26,118 hectors.
    Lawyer Rameshwar Gite, who represents the farmers, said, "Already for various projects 2/3 rd of (the farmers') land (has) been acquired by the government. As per the census of 2011, the population of the Igatpuri Taluka is 2,53,582 and the remaining cultivable agricultural area is only...1 or 2 guntha (approximately 1085 square feet) per person."
    Gite added that the government can develop the proposed Nagpur-Mumbai expressway over the 37-km highway that already passes through Igatpuri. This will also be in the interest of the Maharashtra state, the farmers' petition says, as the government will not need to acquire large tracts of land and multi-crop agricultural lands will not be destroyed.
    According to the petition if the Ghoti-Sinnar highway is used for the proposed Nagpur-Mumbai expressway, the government will only need to acquire an extra 111 hectors.
    If the land acquisition is done as proposed by the Maharashtra government, the farmers will be deprived of their lands, livelihood and shelter. The acquisitions would also restrict the farmers' access to their traditional resource base and uproot them from their socio-cultural environment, the petition also claims.
    The farmers also told the court that a few more petitions opposing the land acquisition are likely to be filed at the Bombay High Court soon.

Maharashtra: Farmers give deadline to government, supply of vegetables to be normal from tomorrow
  • A crucial meeting of various farmer organisations and farmers, who are protesting, took place on Thursday in Nasik, where they unanimously decided to normalise the supply of vegetables and fruits. But they warned the government and gave a deadline of June 11 to come with positive solutions for their demands or else the farmers will protest outside ZP and collector's office across the state on June 12 and 13 June. If the demands are not met, farmers will also stage a rail-roko.
    A new core committee of members from 21 different organisations today met, which after discussion decided to give an ultimatum to the government again and also discussed how to intensify this agitation across the state. From the last 8 days, farmers are protesting against the government for not giving them a loan waiver, minimum support price for crop, implementation of Swaminathan Commission report and pension for farmers.
    The meeting was attended by more than 1000 farmers. A committee, which met for the first time today, consists of MP Raju Shetty, MLA Bacchu Kadu, Judge (rtd) BG Kolse Patil, Raghunathdada Patil, Ajit Navle and Ashok Dhavale.
    Speaking to India Today, core committee senior member BG Kolse Patil said, "This is a farmer agitation which is not politically motivated. Fadnavis is a cheater and he has made fake promises to farmers, that is why they are angry and protesting."

    Now markets in cities like Mumbai and Pune are expecting the rates of vegetables and fruits to come down from tomorrow as farmers will start sending their produce to them. With the deadline of June 11, the ball is in the government's court.

Netaji death row: Fissures out in open as Bengal BJP leaders indulge in public spat
  • The row over Centre's RTI response on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's disappearance has brought the fissures within the Bengal BJP out in the open. Netaji's grand nephew and party state vice president Chandra Kumar Bose has been publicly slammed by a section of BJP leaders for airing the Bose family's displeasure with the Centre's recent RTI reply.
    On May 31, the Ministry of Home Affairs in an RTI response had stated that Subhash Chandra Bose had died in the plane crash at Taiwan in 1945. Criticisng Centre's move as "irresponsible", Chandra Kumar Bose had demanded an apology from the government.
    Talking to India Today, Bose said, "How can the MHA come to such a conclusion without a fair probe? We demand an apology from the Centre. I am a Bose family member first and a BJP leader later. Our first priority is to solve the Netaji mystery."
    But his open criticism of the Centre has earned him the ire of the BJP state unit. State BJP vice-president Jayprakash Majumdar publicly admonished Bose on Twitter resulting in a public spat. "Chandra Bose, do you think Narendra Modi is insincere in unearthing the Netaji death? Please do not overstep your limit and eligibility," Majumdar warned. In response, Chandra Bose tweeted back saying, "Nation feels Narendra Modi ji is committed to solve Netaji mystery, but concerted effort is lacking. I am just voicing opinion of the people." Trouble began this week after Chandra Bose tweeted an online petition to Russian President Vladimir Putin seeking release of classified Netaji files in the country. This at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Putin on the sidelines of the  St. Petersburg Economic Forum meeting last week.
    The petition, which has been started on an online portal states, "Unfortunately neither the Indian government nor the authorities of other countries, which somehow can be linked to Bose's disappearance, have shown any interest in conducting a detailed investigation of this case so far."
    "People are convinced that governments of India, Russia and other countries are withholding information that upon release in the public domain can lift the veil of mystery. Indians are yearning for the truth and the demand for declassification of all documents related to Bose has been growing stronger every day. Sensing the mood of the masses, the West Bengal state ghas recently released many secret files. Good sense seems to have prevailed over the Central government as it has decided to follow suit and started declassifying secret Netaji files from January 23 2016 onward," the petition further states.
    West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too had demanded a clarification from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue last week. "I am shocked to see this unilateral decision of the central government without evidence," Banerjee had written on Facebook.

Rahul Gandhi's bike stunt at MP-Rajasthan border can land him in trouble
  • As Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was about to enter into Madhya Pradesh by car from Rajasthan in a large convoy of Congress leaders and under NSG security cover, a team of cops were all geared up to stop his entry at a toll plaza.
    Seeing this, Rahul came with a plan B. He left his car and took a bike to cross the interstate border and successfully gave security personnel a slip to enter MP's Neemuch district nearing Mandsaur where five protesting farmers have been killed in a police firing.
    Rajasthan police said they will examine whether any traffic rules were violated by the Congress leader.
    Chittorgarh SP Prasanna Khamesra said Gandhi had travelled a few kilometres as a pillion rider on a motorcycle from Nimbaheda till the Madhya Pradesh border.
    At the border, Rahul had alighted from the bike and walked into Madhya Pradesh, he said.

    The police official told PTI that there were reports that at one point of time, there were three passengers including Gandhi on the motorcycle. The pillion rider also needs to wear a helmet, he said.
    A party activist was seen driving the bike. Congress leader Sachin Pilot also took a motorcycle to accompany his leader.
    "We will look into whether any traffic violation was committed," he said.
    DSP Gopi Chand also said that the matter will be looked into.
    Rahul Gandhi had reached Udaipur by a chartered plane in the morning and from there left for Chittorgarh from where he entered Madhya Pradesh to meet the families of farmers who had died during recent protests in Mandsaur.

As PM Modi arrives in Astana, India is set for SCO entry. Here's what to expect from the Summit
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today arrived in Astana, Kazakhstan's capital, where he will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit  where India and Pakistan will be inducted as full members of the bloc, in the first ever expansion since its inception in 2001.
    India's entry into the China-dominated grouping is seen as a major milestone as it is expected to increase the group's heft in regional geo-politics and trade negotiations besides giving it a pan-Asian hue.
    Ahead of his departure, Modi on Wednesday said, on completion of the process India will become a full member of the SCO upon which SCO will represent over 40 per cent of humanity and nearly 20 per cent of global GDP.
    "I look forward to deepening India's association with the SCO which will help us in economic, connectivity and counter- terrorism cooperation, among other things," Modi said ahead of his visit.
    1. Modi is scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev later today.
    2. Full membership of the SCO would help India in terms of connectivity and economic and counter-terror cooperation with the Eurasian bloc. Experts say India's inclusion may even bring down Beijing's overarching influence over the SCO.
    3. Modi will address the SCO Summit on Friday and is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping amid growing differences between the two countries over a host of issues, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and India's Nuclear Suppliers Group membership bid.
    4. After participating in the Summit, Modi will also attend the World Exposition, which Kazakhstan is hosting this year, before returning to India. He will attend the inauguration of the Astana Expo with the theme of "Future Energy".
    5. There is also speculation about a possible meeting between Modi and Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif to ease the growing tension between the two neighbours.
    6. The Prime Minister is also expected to meet a number of other foreign leaders, including Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
    7. With Pakistan also expected to be granted full membership at the Astana Summit, the two South Asian neighbours are going to be the seventh and eighth members of the SCO after China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
    8. Inclusion of India and Pakistan into the SCO would mean addition of another 1.45 billion people which would make the grouping cover around 40 per cent of the global population.
    9. India feels as an SCO member, it will be able to play a major role in addressing the threat of terrorism in the region.
    10. India is keen on deepening its security-related cooperation with the SCO and its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) which specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.

Business Affairs 

    GST rates: Fresh milk,vegetables, fruits under zero percent tax slab; branded items at 5 percent
    • In a series of tweets today evening, Ministry of Finance informed that daily consumer goods will be exempted from taxes under Goods and Service Tax, making them cheaper by four to five per cent.
      One of the tweets read, "Daily Consumer goods being used by the common man among others to become cheaper after GST."

      Ministry of Finance stated that day-to-day commodities will attract zero GST after the indirect tax regime is rolled out on July 1.
      "On roll-out of GST wef July 1, 2017, there will be zero GST on foodgrains, flours, cereals, pulses, atta, maida & besan among others," said another tweet by the Ministry.
      Along with these commodities, fresh milk, fresh vegetables and fruits, puffed rice, common salt, animal feed, organic manure and fire wood will also be put under the zero per cent tax slab. However, branded ones with registered trademark will be taxed at five per cent under GST.
      Apart from these, raw silk, wool or jute and hand operated agricultural equipments will also be taxed at zero per cent, 'making all these items cheaper for the common man.'
      GST disruptive, but positive, says WGC
      The impact of GST on gold will be disruptive for short-term on account of change in consumer behavior, but things are likely to work out for good, said World Gold Council (WGC) in a reported titled 'GST's impact on India's gold market'. 
      "Our econometric analysis spanning 26 years of data illustrates that higher taxes act as a headwind to gold demand. But the tax should also change the industry to the benefit of the consumer," WGC stated in the report.
      Small-scale artisans and retailers with varying degrees of tax compliance may struggle to adapt, it added.
      The GST Council, in its last meeting , decided to charge three per cent tax on gold that will replace the 2.2 per cent of excise duty and VAT presently charged against it.
      Jaitley asks lawmakers to work for GST awareness
      Finance Minister Arun Jaitley urged Member of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assembly to spread awareness about GST norms to facilitate its rollout on June 1. Jaitley also wrote to leaders of all political parties, expressing gratitude for their cooperation and contribution in realising GST.

    Economy headed for consolidation, says RBI survey
    • The economy will gradually consolidate growth in the current fiscal, predicted 28 forecasters surveyed by the Reserve Bank.
      As per the survey result posted on the RBI website, real GDP (gross domestic product) and real GVA (gross value added) are expected to grow by 7.4 per cent and 7.2 per cent, respectively, in 2017-18 and consolidate further by 40 basis points (bps) and 50 bps, respectively in the following year.
      The RBI has been conducting the Survey of Professional Forecasters (SPF) since September 2007 and the latest (46th round) was conducted during May 2017.
      According to the forecasters, retail inflation is expected to gradually rise to 5 per cent by the fourth quarter of 2017-18. The consumer price inflation was 2.99 per cent in April.
      On the external front, they expect foreign trade to shed its recent sluggishness as there is a "greater optimism" around growth of both exports and imports than in previous rounds of surveys, which is expected to sustain in 2018-19.
      Meanwhile, the Consumer Confidence Survey conducted by the RBI in six metropolitan cities revealed that households' current perception on the economic situation improved slightly in May though net responses remained in the negative zone for the second consecutive round.
      "Respondents' outlook on the future economic situation was, however, more optimistic," the survey said.
      Households' current perception on their income level witnessed a gradual recovery from the low touched in December 2016. Their outlook on income also witnessed a turnaround after a deterioration in the previous two rounds.
      The survey was conducted in Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi.

    Online banking to kill physical banks in 5-6 yrs: Amitabh Kant
    • Low cost Internet based transactions and business efficiency due to technology advancements are expected to kill physical banks in next 5-6 years, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said today.
      "My view is in next 5-6 years you will see death of physical banks. It will be very difficult for physical banks to survive because the cost of physical banks will be so enormous. It will be so enormous compared to an online instrument, many of the fintech start-up and their ability to do data analysis (and) providing lending," Kant said at an IAMAI event.
      He said that with proliferation of mobile phones and Internet based transaction, it will be easy for financial technology firm to do analysis and provide loans to person who requires it and has good credit history.
      "Amazing thing is that a lot of this going to happen because India will become data rich before it becomes rich.
      Our ability to use technology, analyse data and able to reach and provide financial inclusion to people in rural area will be key drivers of growth," Kant said.
      He said that India is now home to about 900 financial technology players and received funding of USD 3 billion. This is forcing Indian banks to transform themselves riding on wave of Fintech.
      "There is lot happening in India because of Internet. We have leap frogged US technology industry with very simple and practical innovation. Cost of customer acquisition in India fell down to USD 1 where across America and Europe the cost of acquiring is between USD 28-30," Kant said.
      He said that in last 45 years about 28 bank licences have been issued by the government, but within last 18 months about 21 payments bank licences have been issued.
      In 2015, the RBI had granted 'in-principle' approval to 11 entities, including the Department of Posts, to set up payments banks and proposed to give such licences 'on tap' basis in future.
      However, Cholamandalam Investment and Finance Company, Tech Mahindra and a consortium of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries promoter Dilip Shanghvi, IDFC Bank and Telenor Financial Services gave up their plans to roll out payments bank.
      Out of the remaining eight companies in the fray, Airtel, India Post Payments Bank and Chinese firm Alibaba backed Paytm have launched their commercial operations.
      Other players are Aditya Birla Nuvo, Fino PayTech, National Securities Depository, Reliance Industries and Vodafone m-pesa.
      Kant said Indian government is making things easy and simple for businesses.
      He, however, was annoyed when director of a company complained about processes at government offices and problem in online transactions in India.
      The NITI Aayog CEO said he agrees with the point raised but in last three years lot of things have started changing.
      "I have been in government for long time to realise that in the last 3 years a lot of attempt has been made to make India very easy and simple," Kant said.
      He cited new reforms like goods and services tax, bankruptcy laws, enabling company to register in a day etc.
      "You and me have to change India. All of us have to be part of that change. But, people when they live abroad, come to India for 10 days and start criticising everything about India, that's not done," Kant said.

    Sensex slips 22 pts in early trade on global cues
    • Reversing early gains, the Sensex today declined nearly 22 points today as weak global cues turned investors cautious.
      Besides, the market sentiment was hit by the Reserve Bank pegging GDP growth for the current fiscal lower at 7.3 per cent and saying that rush for farm loan waivers may have inflationary spillovers.
      The 30-share Sensex was trading 21.53 points lower at 31,249.75 in the early deals. The NSE Nifty fell 14.85 points to 9,649.05.
      Among the laggards were sectors such as IT, Tech, Realty, Oil and Gas, Power, Bank and PSU, falling up to 2.31 per cent.
      The market today opened on a positive note, helped by a string of factors like better monsoon forecast and the status quo on policy rates by the RBI yesterday.
      The Reserve Bank yesterday kept repo rate unchanged, as widely expected, at 6.25 per cent and the reverse repo at 6 per cent.
      The 30-share barometer in the opening trade rose by 83.23 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 31,354.51. The gauge had gained 80.72 points in the previous session.
      The NSE Nifty too gained 14.40 points, or 0.15 per cent, to 9,678.30 in early trade today.
      Cautious trade in Global peers ahead of UK election and testimony from sacked FBI head James Comey on his probe into Donald Trump's links to Russia also influenced sentiment, brokers said.
      In the rest of Asia, Japan's Nikkei gained 0.05 per cent while Hong Kong's Hang Seng up 0.03 per cent in early trade today. Shanghai Composite was trading 0.03 per cent higher.
      The US Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 0.18 per cent higher in yesterday's trade.

    Free offers sparked unprecedented disruption in telecom: Birla
    • Billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla has blamed rival Reliance Jio for causing "unprecedented disruption" in the telecom industry by offering free voice and data but hoped the sector would return to growth in 2017-18.
      Without naming Jio, Birla in a letter to shareholders of Idea Cellular said flourishing telecom industry witnessed a 2 per cent decline in annual revenues in 2016-17 fiscal.
      The industry honcho's commentary in the latest annual report of Idea Cellular comes at a time when the telecom industry is facing a squeeze on revenue and profitability on account of competition intensified by the entry of Reliance Jio, which is owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani.
      "It has been a 'Period of Telecom Discontinuity', permanently changing mobility business parameters," Birla said adding that financial parameters for all mobile operators have sharply declined.
      However, Birla said that the recovery is expected in 2017-18 with the new entrant starting to charge for its services, "albeit very slowly".
      In spite of short term challenges, the Aditya Birla Group telecom company remains committed to the process of building world-class broadband services, Birla asserted.
      On the mega merger of Vodafone's India unit with Idea, he said a joint merger notification has been filed with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and the Scheme of Arrangement has been filed with SEBI and stock exchanges for their approvals.
      The two companies will combine their operations in India (excluding Vodafone s 42 per cent stake in Indus Towers) to create India s largest telecom operator.
      "The combined company would become the leading communication provider in India with about 400 million customers, 35 per cent customer market share and 41 per cent Revenue Market Share...," he said in Chairman's letter to shareholders.
      Birla exuded confidence that Idea will capitalise on the emerging opportunities in mobile voice, digital content, mobile banking and wireless data business as telecom market invariably moves towards consolidation with five major providers.

    General Awareness

    BRICS Media Forum held in Beijing & One Million Dollar Fund Established for BRICS Media

    • BRICS Media Forum was held in Beijing, China from 7th to 8th June 2017. The forum was attended by the leaders of over 25 media groups from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
      More Details about BRICS Media Forum:
      BRICS Media Forum was held with an objective to improve the high-end dialogue platform for the main stream media of BRICS countries, as well as advance innovation and promote fairness and justice of international public opinion.
      • The attendees discussed range of topics including multimedia innovation for media development, and duty and social responsibility of media outlets.
      • BRICS Media Joint Photo Exhibition highlighting the development and cooperation achievements of BRICS was also held during the forum.
      • The BRICS media forum is the result of a joint initiative by Brazil’s CMA Group, Russia’s Sputnik News Agency, Xinhua News Agency of China, The Hindu group of publications from India and South Africa’s Independent Media.
      • Forum concluded on June 8, 2017 with an agreement on an action plan to promote media cooperation. The agreement envisages expanding and deepening the content, depth and breadth of BRICS media cooperation.
      One Million Dollar Fund Established for BRICS Media
      Cai Mingzhao, President of Xinhua News Agency and executive president of the BRICS Media Forum announced that Xinhua will provide 1 million U.S. dollars to establish the BRICS Media Fund.
      • This fund will be utilised for the implementation of the action plan to strengthen cooperation among BRICS Media.
      • The plan will promote six objectives, including balanced reporting, development of BRICS digital media, financial information services and promoting people- to-people contacts.
      Quick Facts about BRICS:
      Acronym BRICS, refers to five major emerging economies viz. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
      • Originally as per term ‘BRIC’ coined in 2001 by then-chairman ofGoldman Sachs Asset Management, Jim O’Neill, South Africa was not a part of this grouping. It joined in 2010 and thereafter these countries have been collectively referred to as BRICS nations.
      • BRICS nations represent about 40% of world’s population and account for nearly 22% of gross world product.

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