Current Affairs Current Affairs - 16 July 2017 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 16 July 2017

General Affairs 

Give NRIs e-voting rights now: Angry Supreme Court admonishes Centre
  • In a big leap towards permitting a 25 million-strong NRI population to vote in Indian elections from abroad, the Supreme Court on Friday said it had to be done at any cost, and asked the Modi government to decide within one week how it plans to go about it.
    A bench of chief justice J S Khehar and justice D Y Chandrachud was angry the government had not made the necessary amendments (of the Act or Rules) in the Representation Of Peoples Act to allow the voting by NRIs, despite repeated assurances to the court.
    "This is a petition of 2014. Every year you keep saying 'we will amend'. You said this in 2014, 15, 16 and again ... this is not the way your government runs," an angry CJI Khehar told the Central government's counsel.
    The court was hearing PILs filed by two NRIs - Shamsheer V P, an NRI from Kerala, and Nagender Chindam, Chairman of the UK-based Pravasi Bharat - seeking the voting rights. "The US lets you vote from space. Texas laws have allowed astronauts the right to vote when on a space mission. Here, NRIs are pleading for it," said Chindam.
    Until now, due to the high cost of travel and time involved, only a minuscule population of NRIs came to India to cast vote. E-voting will allow them to vote without having to fly during elections.
    In e-voting, a blank postal ballot paper is emailed to the voter, who has to then fill it and mail it by post to their constituency. At a previous hearing, the government had accepted the Election Commission's (EC) view that the option of voting through an epostal ballot system could be considered for the NRIs.
    In December 2016, the Centre had said it accepted the EC's proposal in this regard, claimed it formulated a draft bill, and told the court that steps are being taken to get the Representation of People Act 1951 amended. But things have not moved since.

Firing between security forces and militants continues in Tral, Kashmir; 3 terrorists killed
  • Security forces killed three Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists during an encounter in Satora area of Tral in south Kashmir.
    Upon receiving specific information, security forces from SOG police, army and CRPF cordoned off the area. The encounter began after militants opened fire on the security forces who were carrying out a search operation.
    Jammu and Kashmir DGP SP Vaid said the encounter is still on and there are a couple more militants, who are using a cave in the area to hide in. He also revealed that two bodies can be seen at the spot.
    "The firing is still on and I hope some more will be eliminated. Their exact ethnicity is not known, but they do look like foreign terrorists," Vaid said.
    Vaid further said that officers are on the spot and are making an effort to end the encounter as soon as possible.
    He added that a Special Investigation Team has been constituted under the AIG, Anantnag, and details of the operation will be available soon.

Lalu and family on radar, CBI to begin interrogations in rail tender scam
  • Central investigating agencies may soon reach knocking at Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad's door in ongoing probe of misuse of power in awarding railway tender and multi-crore money laundering scam involving his daughter and her husband.
    According to the sources in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), from coming week they will start grilling of people associated in rail tender scam under which development, maintenance and operation of railway hotels at Ranchi and Puri was given to a private company.
    CBI has last week filed corruption case against Lalu his wife Rabri Devi and son Tejashwi Yadav, along with five others including close aide in the alleged rail tender - land scam.
    Now, Lalu's entire family is under the scanner of different investigating agencies for allegedly amassing properties in prime locations of Patna and Delhi undervaluing the rate.
    "Starting coming week a team of CBI will question people involved in the case," said the source, however he added that Lalu and his family member will be questioned at a later stage after they have enough evidence in their hand and testimony of others named in the FIR.
    CBI has named Prem Chand Gupta's wife Sarla Gupta in the list as an accused in the FIR.
    "There is enough evidence to establish 'corruption' charge but from next week more documents and testimony will be recorded by investigating team", CBI official said.
    "Testimony of all the people named in the FIR will be recorded and role of each accused will be examined," the officer said denying that there will be any arresting soon.
    Similarly, the Enforcement Directorate carried out questioning of Lalu's daughter and RJD MP Misa Bharti and her husband Shailesh Kumar for over eight hours in connection with a Rs 8,000-crore money laundering case this week. Both Bharti and Kumar appeared before the central probe agency separately.
    The ED, on July 8, had conducted searches at three Delhi farmhouses of Bharti, Kumar and the firm. ED has already arrested three people in this case. But officials are tight lipped over arrest of Lalu's kin.
    Mail Today had earlier reported that central agencies are scanning all files, correspondences, notings, minutes of meetings and every other document pertaining to tenders and policy decisions related to all hotels and properties undertaken by the Railway Ministry and IRCTC between 2004 and 2009, when Lalu Prasad was the Union Rail Minister.

Narendra Modi govt takes Interpol help to crack down on online child pornography
  • The Narendra Modi government has joined forces with international bodies like the Interpol and Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to end the menace of child pornography and online abuse of kids in India. With their help, a total of 3,522 such sites have been blocked in the past four months, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Friday.
    The apex court had on February 24 noted that there is a surge in photographs and videos on the internet showing kids being sexually exploited and a sharp rise in the number of child pornographic sites while it asked the Centre to act immediately.
    "The Interpol maintains a 'worst of list' prepared by the Internet Watch Foundation. They have shared it with the CBI and the government is now ordering the blocking through select internet service providers. Last blocking was done in June 2017 and around 3,522 websites have been blocked," said the Centre's affidavit filed by additional solicitor general Pinky Anand.
    According to experts, the advent of digital cameras and camcorders has fuelled an explosion in such material available online.
    Mail Today reported in December that the Centre had roped in international police agency Interpol to fight child pornography. The government said an inter-ministerial committee has been formed for curbing online child sex abuse material.
    It recommended that till such time a centralised mechanism is built in India to dynamically monitor websites and URLs containing online child sex abuse material (CSAM), the relevant internet service providers should disable or remove such content dynamically based on IWF resources.
    It said "the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has issued an order to Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) and Department of Telecommunications to disable or remove access to child porn sites by adopting IWF list to prevent distribution and transmission of online CSAM into India. The order is to be implemented by relevant ISPs in India".
    Elaborating on why international help was sought, the affidavit said most of the child sex abuse material is being hosted outside India and the websites/URLs to such content are dynamic in nature and frequently changing, making it difficult to block such content.
    "No centralised mechanism exists in India to monitor online CSAM", it said. Experts say the advent of digital cameras and camcorders has fuelled an explosion in such material available online.
    In 2015, there were 96 reports in India of children being sexually exploited in internet imagery, a rise of 140 per cent from the previous year, according to National Crimes Records Bureau data.
    The SC was hearing PILs filed by Indore-based advocate Kamlesh Vaswani and Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association seeking a direction to the government to adopt various measures for the effectiveness of blocking child pornography on Internet.
    Interpol is a major source of getting access to websites containing child sexual abuse. The agency maintains a regular update of the "worst" of such sites.
    Interpol was tasked by the UN General Assembly in 2009 to maintain and disseminate to the national central bureaus a worldwide list of URLs, which contains these websites that publish the most severe child abuse material.
    Ordering a crackdown against child porn, the SC had said that one needs to draw a distinct line between art and obscenity, and child pornography cannot be justified in the name of freedom of speech and expression.
    Not just child porn. The SC had asked the Centre to find out "ways and means" to block all kinds of pornography on the internet, saying obscenity, which is a crime under Indian law "cannot be allowed to be perpetuated".
    Significantly, the court is also exploring possibility of banning watching of pornographic materials in any form at public places.
    The SC's instructions came despite stiff objection from the Centre, which said it only favoured banning child pornography sites and not "going beyond" considering a citizen's right to privacy and did not want to be seen as "moral policing".
    But the court directed the government to "develop a mechanism" for blocking all porn sites with the help of Information Technology experts and service providers.

India-China face-off: After all-party meet, Congress calls for lowering tension through diplomacy, to raise issue in Parliament
  • After the government reached out to Opposition parties in the all-party meet on Friday to apprise them of what was happening at the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction and the steps that the government had been taking in that regard, an unconvinced Congress has said that it will raise the issue in Parliament and called for lowering tension through diplomacy.   
    As many as 19 MPs from different political parties attended the meeting chaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Home Minister Rajnath Singh. While the Home Secretary gave a presentation on the Amarnath Yatra attack, the Foreign Secretary gave the entire background on 'Doklam' crisis and the border 'face-off' between India and China.
    It is said that the purpose of this exercise was to engage the Opposition on two sensitive matters ahead of the Monsoon session but many leaders India Today spoke to remained unconvinced. The Congress has made it very clear that while 'nation is first', it continues to have doubts and will raise the issue in Parliament. Speaking to the media after the meeting, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma said, "There is too much tension and that should be lowered through diplomacy. We will also raise the issue in Parliament."

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    While Foreign Secretary Jaishankar was quoted by some opposition members as explaining the fact that China was in violation and was changing the status quo, many such as Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M), Sharad Pawar of the NCP and Anand Sharma of the Congress wanted to know what started the stand-off.
    Sources tell India Today that the strategic importance and the need to engage diplomatically was explained to the members. The word 'Siliguri' came up five times during the govt presentation and the term 'chicken's neck' was mentioned four times. The two terms that signify the fact that any movement from the Chinese to wrest control of the Doklam plateau could result in endangering the northeast of India being cut-off from the mainland.
    Gopal Baglay, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said, "All participants expressed strong support for India's approach and also for the need for national unity. Importance of India and China to remain engaged through diplomacy was underlined".
    Speaking to India Today, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien said that he remained 'unconvinced' on the government's explanation to the Amarnath Yatra attack and that his party stood by the government on matters of 'national security' on the India-China border military stand-off. "We said that on issues of national security and integrity of the country, we are with the government", he said.
    Some leaders said the overall mood was to engage diplomatically. Sources also said that while specifics did not come up, it was decided that former Defence Ministers of India Mulayam Singh and Sharad Pawar would be meeting Defence Minister Arun Jaitley separately in the coming days to discuss and share their experience in dealing with China.
    Amid consensus on the prevailing border situation, there are some parties that would still be raising the matter in Parliament but insist that they would keep the sensitivity of the issue in mind while doing so.

Business Affairs 

    US House passes a USD 621.5 billion bill to advance defence cooperation with India
    • The US House of Representatives has passed a USD 621.5 billion defence expenditure bill that proposes to advance defence cooperation with India.
      An amendment in this regard, moved by Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera, was adopted by a voice vote by the House as part of the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2018, beginning October 1 this year. NDAA-2018 was passed by the House 344-81.
      The India-related amendment passed by the House requires the Secretary of Defence, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to develop a strategy for advancing defence cooperation between the United States and India.
      "The United States is the world's oldest democracy and India is the world's largest democracy. It is vitally important to develop a strategy that advances defence cooperation between our two nations," Bera said.
      "I am grateful this amendment passed and look forward to the Defence Department's strategy that addresses critical issues like common security challenges, the role of partners and allies, and areas for collaboration in science and technology," he said.
      "Cooperation between the US and India enhances our own defence and our ability to meet the evolving security challenges of the 21st century," Bera said.
      Following the passage of the National Defence Authorisation Act, the Secretary of Defence and Secretary of State have 180 days to develop a strategy for advancing defence cooperation between the United States and India.
      NDAA needs to be passed by the Senate before it can be sent to the White House for the US President Donald Trump to sign into law.
      As passed by the House, NDAA-2018 asks the State Department and the Pentagon to develop a strategy that addresses common security challenges, the role of American partners and allies in India-US defence relationship, and role of the defence technology and trade initiative.
      It also asks them to address how to advance the communications interoperability and security memorandum of agreement and the basic exchange and cooperation agreement for geospatial cooperation.
      The previous NDAA-2017 had designated India as a major defence partner which brings India at par with closest American partners in terms of defence trade and technology transfer.
      Meanwhile, a senior defence official on Friday said that India and US defence relationship is on positive track.
      " [As] we look at the global order, and when we look at the evolving security environment within Asia, India's rise and role [is] evolving, [and] we see the United States and India increasingly viewing the region in the same way, and our interests are very much aligned," said Cara Abercrombie, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for South and Southeast Asia.
      Addressing a New York audience, she said the relationship creates a high level of dialogue in the Pentagon on a range of issues.
      "This is all rooted in when we look at the region and [what] we share. We have the same [aerial] security interests, the same counter-proliferation, counter-piracy, and counter- terrorism [interests]," she added.
      "We have the same interests in upholding this international system that upholds the rule of law that favours freedom of navigation, open sea lanes of communication, and freedom of over flight.
      Those are values that are critically important to the United States and India to our economic prosperity and to our access in the region," Abercrombie said during a panel discussion at the 2017 Global Business Forum in New York City.

    Mukesh Ambani's Jio, Baba Ramdev's Patanjali among top 10 most influential brands: Study
    • Yoga guru Ramdev promoted Patanjali Ayurveda has been featured among the top 10 most influential brand in India along with electronic major Samsung and new entrant Reliance Jio, according to a study by the global research firm Ipsos.
      Besides, Google has been ranked at the top slot while Microsoft and Facebook were ranked at number two and three, respectively.
      Home grown Patanjali and Mukesh Ambani's controlled Reliance Jio have bagged the fourth and ninth position, respectively, Ipsos said in its report of most influential brands.  
      Interestingly, Patanjali and Reliance Jio made an impressive entry as they did not figure in the previous edition of the study.
      The Ipsos study, which evaluates over 100 brands across 21 countries, covered more than 1,000 Indians online to assess over 100 brands. The study involved 36,600 interviews.
      Commenting on the development, Ipsos Public Affairs and Loyalty Executive Director Parijat Chakraborty said: "The Most Influential Brands are larger than life. They enhance our lives - make it better. We connect with them emotionally and cannot imagine our lives without them - they are influential."
      State Bank of India (SBI) being the only financial institution that made to the list, moved up four ranks to take the fifth position.
      E-commerce player Flipkart dropped three spots to take the tenth place while Amazon climbed couple of steps to take the sixth place, the study said.
      Other companies that made to the list include Samsung (7th) and Airtel (8th).
      The study measured the biggest, most well-known and highest spending brands.
      Interestingly, all brands that have featured in the list are those that consumer engages with on a daily basis, the study said.
      In the ranking list from 11 to 20, brands that bagged a place include Snapdeal, Apple, Dettol, Cadbury, SONY, HDFC Bank, Maruti Suzuki, Good day and Amul.
      The brands are rated by the consumers on quality, experience and value, as also factors such as big marketing spends and consciously work towards increasing their brand equity were counted, the study said.

    India to overtake Japan in steel production in 2 years: Tata Steel official
    • India would overtake the worlds second largest steel producer Japan in the next couple of years and the country has targeted to produce 300 million ton of steel by 2025-30, a senior Tata Steel official said here today.
      India is currently producing 90 to 95 million ton of steel per annum against the world no.2 steel producer Japan, which produces around 103 million ton, said Dr T Venugopalan, Technical Advisor to Tata Steel Managing Director.
      "India is all set to overtake Japan in next couple of years... The country has (also) targeted to produce 300 million tons of steel by 2025-30," he said.
      Venugopalan was addressing participants at the Grand Finale of Mind Over Matter, an annual innovation challenge programme of the private steel major.
      Stating that the steel sector has started improving, he said the sector contribute to one to 1.5 per cent in the countrys GDP.
      Venugopalan, however, said good quality coal was drying out in the country and some process was needed to improve low quality coal.
      On iron-ore deposits in the country, he said it would last for 30 to 35 years, if it is used in the country.
      Earlier, Tata Steel announced the season-4 winners of Mind over Matter. The six-month-long programme culminated in the grand finale held today, where five teams presented their innovative ideas before the jury. 

    BSNL to offer ultra fast 1,000 mbps broadband services
    • Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha today launched a next generation optical fibre-based technology on BSNL network that will enable the state-run firm to provide broadband connection with download speed of up to 1,000 mbps.
      Bharat Sanhcar Nigam Ltd at present offers broadband facility with top download speed of 100 megabit per second on its fibre-to-the-home network.
      "BSNL has successfully implemented a major project of NG-OTH technology in 44 cities covering state capitals and major cities. Under this project, total 100 major cities including state capitals shall be covered in phased manner during current financial year," Sinha said while inaugurating the new system here.
      He said that the next generation optical transport network (NG-OTN) would be implemented in three phases with a total outlay of Rs 330 crore.
      "This project aimed to enhance existing 10G capacity to 100G capacity of Optical Fibre infrastructure of BSNL. This means now in back-end we will have 10 times more capacity and will be launching new plans with 10 times more speed. This enhanced capacity will help retail customer base of BSNL in landline, FTTH and mobile services," BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava said.

    Rejoice shopaholics! Delhi's famous Sarojini Nagar market is now online
    • A perfect place to buy lots of clothes at extremely cheap prices. That's the first thought that comes to the mind of Delhiites, when someone says Sarojini Nagar.
      With fancy clothes and accessories getting sold at unbelievably low prices, Sarojini Nagar is a popular destination among shopper in the national capital. But many will agree that it can get a bit hectic and a  struggle to walk through the busy and crowded alleys.  
      But, there's some good news for those who love shopping in Sarojini Nagar. An entrepreneur has taken an initiative to launch a website, where you can shop at the same rates as low as the offline Sarojini Nagar market.
      Founded by Mohammed Adil, the portal will be called Online Sarojini Nagar. Adil said that he aims to draw not just the Delhi residents but also people outside Delhi, for a great shopping experience. The idea is  to make great fashion affordable for all.
      So, no more pain of stepping out the house and facing the hustle of the overcrowded market, Sarojini Nagar is just a click away, well, almost.

    General Awareness

    Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu inducts First DEMU Train with Solar powered Coaches into service of the Nation

    • On July 14, 2017, Indian Railways launched its first 1,600 HP solar powered Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) train from Safdarjung station, New Delhi
      Specifications of First solar powered DEMU train:
      The first DEMU Train with prototype solar based hotel load system has been manufactured by Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai & fitted with solar panels by Indian Railway Organisation for Alternate Fuels (IROAF). Hotel Load refers to  humanoccupancy aspects of a vehicle such as air conditioning and lighting, analogous to the features of a hotel.
      • The train has a life span of 25 years and will have a capacity of 89 people per coach.
      • The ten-coach train has two motor coaches and eight passenger coaches.
      • The total cost of the train is Rs 13.54 crore with the passenger coaches costing around Rs 1 crore each and the two motor coaches costing around Rs 2.5 crore each. The solar panels on six coaches cost Rs 9 lakh each.
      • Each coach has cushioned seats, rakes for luggage and display board.
      • Solar hotel load system fitted on each of the six coaches is of 4.5 KWp capacity consisting of 16 Solar Panels of 300Wp. The energy generated by these panels will be stored in batteries and will be used during the night. The two passenger coaches which do not have solar panel will operate on diesel.
      • The move is expected to save Rs 2 lakh worth of diesel per coach, per annum. It will help in reducing carbon dioxide of almost 9 tonnes per coach, per annum. It is also expected to save nearly Rs 672 crore per annum.
      • The train will travel from Delhi’s Sarai Rohilla to Garhi Harsaru Junction in Haryana. It will replace an existing non-solar powered train on the same route.
      • The fare for the journey that takes one and a half hour will remain the same.

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