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Current Affairs - 17 July 2017

General Affairs 

New Consumer Protection Law To Be Tabled In Parliament
  • The Consumer Protection Bill, 2017, which aims at strengthening the consumer protection mechanism, is set to be introduced during the monsoon session of Parliament.

    The new law, which will replace current Consumer Protection Act, 1986, once it is passed in Parliament, enforces consumer rights and provides a mechanism for redressal of complaints regarding defect in goods and deficiency in services.

    According to an official, the draft bill is pending with the Standing Committee on Food and Consumer Affairs.

    "Once the committee approves the draft Bill, it will go to the Cabinet. Subsequently, the government can introduce it in Parliament," said the official, who did not want to be identified. 

    The official added that the main objective of the Bill remains establishment of mechanism for consumer protection. However, details about the quantum of punishment are not clear yet. 

    It proposes to have Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions, which will be set up at the district, state and national levels. Also, it seeks formation of Consumer Protection Authority to investigate consumer complaints.

    A few months ago, Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan had approved guidelines in accordance with the current Act in order to make service charge in restaurants "voluntary".

Gopalkrishna Gandhi To File His Nomination Papers For Vice President's Post On July 18
  • Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the joint opposition candidate for the post of vice president, will file his nomination papers on Tuesday, the last date for doing so, in the presence of top leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi.

    "I will file my nomination papers on Tuesday," Mr Gandhi told PTI.

    Sources said he was to file the papers on Monday, but it was delayed by a day in view of the presidential election on July 17.

    The sources said Mr Gandhi would also be accompanied by top opposition leaders, including those of the Left parties and the TMC.

    The name of Mr Gandhi, the former West Bengal Governor, was approved unanimously on July 11 at a meeting of 18 opposition parties chaired by the Congress president. The meeting was also attended by the JD-U.

    The JD-U had broken ranks with the opposition on the presidential election and decided to support the ruling NDA's nominee Ram Nath Kovind.

Want Debate On Security Issues In Parliament, Says Congress
  • The Congress party today said differences with China over Kashmir were a new focal point, and the party will seek a debate in parliament on the issue. The Congress said it stands with the government on matters of territorial integrity and national security.
    The government has closed all doors for dialogue on Kashmir "which has led to political suffocation in the valley", Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said. "If the government thinks that elimination and guns are the only ways to curb tension in Kashmir, we are not with them," he told reporters after an all-party meeting a day before parliament opens for the monsoon session.

    The leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha said, "Pakistan would earlier figure in discussions on Kashmir, but now China is mentioned without fail."

    Mr Azad said the Congress has told the government it wants to discuss some sensitive issues on internal and external security during the monsoon session. He said opposition parties will seek a discussion on the India-China standoff in Dokalam.

    He said the opposition is likely to raise the issue of farmer suicides in Madhya Pradesh, impact of the Goods and Services Tax on the textile industry, and flood in Assam. He said the Congress "is not in favour of stalling the proceedings of Parliament, but we are forced to do so when the government does not agree to our genuine demands".

Army Test-Fires Ultra-Light Howitzer Guns It Received From US, 3 Decades After Bofors
  • Exhaustive field trials are being carried out on two long-range ultra-light howitzers in Pokhran which the Indian Army received from the US after a gap of 30 years since the Bofors scandal broke out, an official said.

    The test-firing of the guns is primarily aimed at collating and determining various critical data like trajectory, speed and frequency of fire of the M-777 A-2 ultra-light howitzers (ULH) which are expected to be mostly deployed along the border with China.

    The trials will continue till September for formation of the "firing table" which is a major aspect of the overall induction process, said the Army official privy to the trials on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

    The 155 mm, 39-calibre guns will fire Indian ammunition. Three more guns will be supplied to the Army in September, 2018 for training. Thereafter, induction will commence from March 2019 onwards with five guns per month till the complete consignment is received by mid-2021.

    "The trials have been going on smoothly and various data are being collected for formation of the firing table," the official said, adding the aim was to ensure that there was no delay in the induction of the guns.

    The Army badly needs the howitzers considering the evolving regional security scenario.

    India had last procured howitzers in the mid-1980s from Swedish defence major Bofors. The alleged pay-offs in the deal and its subsequent political ramifications had severely crippled the Indian Army's procurement of artillery guns. The Army had received the howitzers in May as part of an order for 145 guns.

    India had struck a government-to-government deal with the US last November for supply of the 145 howitzers at a cost of nearly Rs. 5,000 crore.

    While 25 guns will come in a fly-away condition, the rest will be assembled in India by the BAE Systems in partnership with Mahindra Defence.

    The Army has been pressing the government to speed up its modernisation programme.

    In a major decision, the government last week had empowered the Vice Chief of the Army to procure critical ammunition and spares for key weapons systems to maintain combat readiness for short duration "intense wars".

    The move, aimed at filling the "voids" in the Army's combat readiness, came amid nearly a month-long standoff between the armies of India and China in the Dokalam area as well as heightened Indo-Pak tension along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

Can IIT Stop Result Of Student Accused Of Harassment? Supreme Court To Decide
  • The Supreme Court has said it will examine whether an IIT can withhold the results of a final-year student, who was terminated after being held guilty in a sexual harassment case.

    A bench of justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao issued notice to the Centre and IIT-Kanpur on the plea of the student, who challenged the Allahabad High Court order dismissing his plea.

    Advocate Manu Shanker Mishra, appearing for the petitioner, said the results of the final semester should be given to the student as the delay is jeopardising his career.

    The petitioner, before being terminated, was a final-year student of Department of Physics after being admitted to the institute in July 2012.

    He was expelled from the institute in April 2016 after he was found guilty of sexually harassing a girl student.

    The 23-year-old BSc Physics girl student had accused her senior of sexually harassing her for two years after which the college administration had forwarded the matter to the Women's Cell. The cell found the accused guilty and he was expelled later.

    He claimed that the Women Cell never gave the copy of the complaint made by the girl to him and did not even consider his reply.

    "The charges levelled against the petitioner were absolutely vague and were incapable of being replied properly. However, the petitioner gave replies to all the charges and he also tried to support his defence by introducing a large number of documents and a list of students who would appear as witnesses in the inquiry in support of his defence," he said.

    The student claimed that the findings of the Internal Complaint's Committee were also not made available to him by the Women's Cell.

    He said that the report of the Women's Cell together with the minutes of the meeting of the Senate Students' Affairs Committee of March 30, 2016 were placed before the Academic Senate for its consideration on April 5, 2016 and were ratified and he was terminated.

    "The Academic Senate did not give a copy of the report to the petitioner and it also did not give him any show-cause notice asking him to appear before the Senate for hearing.

    "No opportunity of hearing of any kind whatsoever was afforded to the petitioner either by the Senate Students' Affairs Committee or by the Academic Senate before the aforesaid decision of terminating the academic programme of the petitioner was taken by them," he said.

    The student claimed that his defence was not considered at all by the authorities at any stage of the proceedings and "there was sufficient material supplied by the petitioner so as to demonstrate that the complaint that was made against him by the female student was malicious".

    He said that single judge bench of the Allahabad High Court had ordered that the petitioner will submit a written unconditional apology before the institution and had directed the IIT to declare the petitioner's result, if he has passed the examination.

    IIT-Kanpur, however, challenged the order of the single- judge bench which the division bench on February 3, set aside.

Business Affairs 

    Only 7% rise in transactions through cards post Demonetistion
    • Transactions through debit and credit cards rose by merely seven per cent post demonetisation, as against a surge of over 23 per cent in overall digital transactions, top government officials told a parliamentary panel.
      Officials from various ministries gave a presentation to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance on 'Demonetisation and Transformation towards Digital Economy'.
      The digital transactions in all modes increased by 23 per cent to 27.5 million in May 2017 from 22.4 million in November 2016, according to the presentation, a copy of which is with PTI.
      The highest jump was witnessed in transactions through UPI, from one million per day in November 2016 to 30 million in May 2017.
      UPI or Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application for seamless fund routing and merchant payments into one hood.
      Transactions through IMPS or Immediate Payment Service, which is an electronic fund transfer service, almost doubled to 2.2 million from 1.2 million during the period under purview, according to the data shared by government officials.
      The least rise in digital transactions was witnessed in the case of plastic cards, as the rise was only seven per cent -- from 6.8 million in November 2016 to 7.3 million in May this year.
      The Narendra Modi government had on November 8, 2016 announced the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes in a bid to curtail black money.
      Following the move, the government pushed for digital transactions.

    Nine of 10 most valued companies add Rs 67,754 cr in m-cap
    • Nine of the 10 most valued companies in the country together added Rs 67,754.53 crore to their market valuations last week, with RIL and TCS emerging as the best performers.
      ONGC was the only one from the top-10 list to suffer erosion from its market capitalisation (m-cap) in the week ended Friday. The gainers include HDFC Bank, ITC, HDFC, SBI, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), Maruti Suzuki India and Infosys.
      The market valuation of RIL, the most valued company, surged Rs 13,113.65 crore to Rs 4,97,857.07 crore.
      IT major Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) saw its m-cap soar by Rs 12,749.16 crore to Rs 4,59,199.31 crore and SBI added Rs 9,840.54 crore to Rs 2,51,710.59 crore.
      HUL's valuation surged Rs 9,079.93 crore to Rs 2,46,684.02 crore and that of Infosys advanced by Rs 8,280.49 crore to Rs 2,23,274.51 crore.
      The m-cap of HDFC Bank jumped Rs 4,028.13 crore to Rs 4,32,669.79 crore and that of Maruti rose by Rs 3,853.03 crore to Rs 2,28,275.86 crore.
      ITC's valuation went up by Rs 3,767.17 crore to Rs 4,09,771.01 crore and that of HDFC gained Rs 3,042.43 crore to Rs 2,62,556.65 crore.
      ONGC, however, lost Rs 1,411.66 crore to Rs 2,03,470.94 crore from its m-cap.
      In the ranking of top-10 firms, RIL stood at number one position followed by TCS, HDFC Bank, ITC, HDFC, SBI, HUL, Maruti, Infosys and ONGC.
      Last week, both key indices Sensex and Nifty rose significantly by 660.12 points, or 2.10 per cent, and 220.55 points, or 2.28 per cent, respectively.

    GSTN portal to be ready for invoice uploading from July 24
    • Businesses can start uploading their sale and purchase invoices generated post July 1 on the GSTN portal from July 24, a top company official said today.
      The Goods and Services Tax has kicked in from July 1 and so far, the GST Network, the company handling the IT backbone for new tax regime, has been facilitating registration of businesses.
      "We plan to launch the invoice upload utility on the portal on July 24 so that businesses can come forward and start uploading the invoices on a daily or weekly basis to avoid month-end rush," GSTN Chairman Navin Kumar told PTI.
      Generating invoices for dealings above Rs 200 and keeping invoice records in serial number even if maintained manually, are pre-requisites for claiming input tax credit under the GST regime.
      The GSTN had last month launched an offline Excel format for businesses to keep their invoice records and from July 24 this Excel sheet can be uploaded on the portal.
      Kumar said GSTN would put up a video on its portal to assist businesses in uploading invoices.
      Besides, a call centre help desk has been set up to assist taxpayers regarding any query they might have about the new tax regime.
      "We have been reaching out to trade and industry associations telling them that those who have about 10,000 invoices a day, they should upload it on GSTN portal on a daily/weekly basis to avoid last moment rush," Kumar said.
      So far, over 69 lakh excise, VAT and Service Tax assessees have migrated to the GSTN portal and nearly five lakh new registrations have happened under GST.
      Under GST, which is a single tax in place of multiple central and state levies like excise, service tax and VAT, businesses are required to upload on GSTN portal invoices of their trade every month.
      Kumar had earlier said that the offline Excel tool can upload 19,000 invoices data on GSTN portal at one go and the process takes just half a minute.
      So, if businesses which generate about 10,000 invoices a day upload the data on a daily or weekly basis, it would be less cumbersome for them.
      While uploading invoice on the GSTN portal, a business would need to mention the invoice number and date, customer name, shipping and billing address, customer and taxpayers GSTIN, place of supply and HSN code.
      Also, the taxable value and discounts and rates of CGST, SGST and IGST would have to be filled, along with item wise details like description, quantity and price. PTI JD ABM

    Air India Express plans fleet expansion, eyes more overseas routes
    • Profit-making Air India Express is preparing a 10-year vision document as it looks at expanding its fleet and flying to more foreign destinations, a senior airline official said.
      The plan is being prepared amid the government working on a road map for disinvestment in Air India, the debt laden parent of the low-cost carrier which remains bullish on growth prospects. While the national carrier has been in the red for long, AI Express remained in the black for second consecutive year, posting Rs 296.7 crore net profit in 2016-17.
      "It is business as usual" and the the airline would keep growing, Air India Express CEO K Shyam Sundar said in response to queries on whether there are business uncertainties in the wake of Air India disinvestment decision. 
      On future plans, he said the carrier would expand its aircraft fleet and fly to more overseas destinations. "The airline is in the process of drawing up a long term plan that will focus on expanding the fleet as well as the overseas footprint. The airline is also looking to consolidate the existing operations," Sundar told PTI. 
      Air India Express has a fleet of 23 Boeing 737-800NG aircraft, each having a seating capacity for 189 people. "A ten-year vision document for Air India Express is being prepared. Consulting firms KPMG and ICF have been tasked with the job," Sundar said.
      The airline would also be firming up its fleet strategy based on short term and long term priorities. It flies to 15 international destinations including Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah, Bahrain, Doha, Kuwait, Muscat, Salalah, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Riyadh and Dhaka. On domestic routes, it has flights between Chennai- Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode-Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi- Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi-Kozhikode. AI Express has 545 weekly departures and it flew 3.4 million passengers in 2016-17.
      Boosted by higher revenues and reduction in costs, the airline posted a net profit of Rs 296.7 crore in the last financial year even though it had declined from Rs 361.68 crore recorded in 2015-16 period. AI Express, which has been operationally profitable for the last four years, saw its revenue rise to Rs 3,335 crore in 2016-17. 
      "Prudent commercial and management interventions including better utilisation of its assets gave rise to reduction of about 5-7 per cent in unit costs contributing to the positive financial outcome (in 2016-17)," the airline had said while announcing the results last month. On June 28, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, gave its in-principle approval for considering strategic disinvestment of Air India and five of its subsidiaries. 
      Air India Express is one of the subsidiaries. A group of ministers, headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley, would be deciding on the final contours of the disinvestment process. Among other issues, the panel would be looking at the de-merger and strategic disinvestment of three profit-making subsidiaries.

    Bill to fund waterways from CRF in Monsoon Session: Gadkari
    • The government will move a Bill in Parliament during the upcoming Monsoon Session to enable allocation of about Rs 2,000 crore from Central Road Fund for developing inland waterways, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has said.
      Parliament had last year enacted National Waterways (NWs) Act, 2016, for developing and maintaining the existing five NWs and 106 new NWs across the country.
      "We will move the Central Road Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2017 during the upcoming Monsoon session of Parliament," the Road Transport and Highways Minister told PTI.
      "Once enacted, it will give a big boost to our waterways as cargo transportation through water is a much cheaper and cleaner way of transportation. It will bring down logistics cost that is very high," Gadkari said.
      The Cabinet in May had accorded approval to a joint proposal by the shipping ministry and the road transport and highways ministry for amending the Central Road Fund Act, 2000, to allocate 2.5 per cent of the proceeds of CRF for development and maintenance of NWs and a reduction in the share provided for development of National Highways.
      CRF is made up of cess on petrol and high speed diesel. The cess at present is Rs 6 per litre.
      The Cabinet also directed that while implementing viable National Waterways projects, all such components that can be done on PPP basis, should be explored and government funding may be used only if private investment is not forthcoming.
      The fund collected under CRF was Rs 80,800 crore in 2016 -17, Rs 69,540 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 25,122 crore in 2014- 15.
      Gadkari said an allocation of 2.5 per cent of CRF proceeds would provide approximately Rs 2,000 crore per annum for the development and maintenance of NWs.
      The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has estimated that approximately Rs 25,000 crore would be required for development of identified projects on NWs till 2022-23.
      In this regard, works for construction of multi-modal terminals, new navigation lock, River Information System and development of fairway have already commenced under the Jal Marg Vikas Project being implemented on NW-1 (River Ganga).
      Gadkari said work worth Rs 5,000 crore is underway to develop various projects on the Ganga with World Bank assistance, including development of multi-modal hubs
      IWAI, under the shipping ministry, is also facilitating cruise operations on National Waterways-1 from Kolkata to Varanasi in collaboration with private cruise operators.
      The facilities, provided by the IWAI, include navigation aids, including night navigation facility, embarking and disembarking at designated locations, facilitating expeditious crossing of the Farakka Navigation Lock, pilotage and assistance in distress.
      In addition to becoming one of the principal cargo movement routes in India, this stretch on NW-1 has good potential for river cruise tourism.
      IWAI also has planned to undertake work on the development of 24 NWs during the next three years.
      The government estimates that 1.8 lakh persons would be provided employment in the Inland Waterways Transport (IWT) sector in the next five years.
      Gadkari said IWT will also help divert traffic from the over-congested roads and railways as well as offer incentive and provide certainty for private companies to invest in the sector.

    General Awareness

    IIFA Awards 2017 – Shahid-Alia win Best Actor and Actress, Neerja wins Best Film

    • IIFA Awards 2017, officially known as 18th International Indian Film Academy Awards ceremony was held on 14–15 July 2017 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, USA.
      • IIFA Awards 2017 honoured the best Hindi films of 2016.The Award Ceremony was hosted by Karan Johar and Saif Ali Khan.
      • Alia Bhatt won the Best Actress Award for playing the role of a migrant girl trapped in a drug lord’s house in film ‘Udta Punjab’.
      • Shahid Kapoor won the Best Actor Award for playing Tommy Singh, a Punjabi rockstar struggling with a drug addiction in the film ‘Udta Punjab’.
      • ‘Neerja’ won the Best Film Award, while ‘Pink’ director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury won the award for Best Director.
      • Music maestro AR Rahman, who completed 25 years in Indian cinema, was awarded for his contribution to films.
      • Bollywood stars including Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Sushant Singh Rajpur and Kriti Sanon entertained the guests with their on-stage performances.
      IIFA Awards 2017 – Winners List
      Best FilmNeerja
      Best Actor – MaleShahid Kapoor (Udta Punjab)
      Best Actor – FemaleAlia Bhatt (Udta Punjab)
      Best Actor in Supporting Role – MaleAnupam Kher (M. S. Dhoni: The Untold Story)
      Best Actor in Supporting Role – FemaleShabana Azmi (Neerja)
      Best Debutant – MaleDiljit Dosanjh (Udta Punjab)
      Best Debutant – FemaleDisha Patani (M. S. Dhoni: The Untold Story)
      Best DirectorAniruddha Roy Chowdhury (Pink)
      Best Actor in a Comic RoleVarun Dhawan (Dishoom)
      Best Actor in a Negative RoleJim Sarbh (Neerja)
      Special Contribution to Indian CinemaA R Rahman
      Woman of the YearTaapsee Pannu
      Best Music DirectionPritam Chakraborty ( Ae Dil Hai Mushkil)
      Best LyricistAmitabh Bhattacharya (Channa Mereya – Ae Dil Hai Mushkil)
      Best Playback Singer – MaleAmit Mishra (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil)
      Best Playback Singer – FemaleTulsi Kumar (Airlift) and Kanika Kapoor (Udta Punjab)
      Best StoryShakun Batra and Ayesha DeVitre Dhillon (Kapoor & Sons)
      About IIFA Awards:
      IIFA Awards are a set of awards presented annually by the International Indian Film Academy to honour both artistic and technical excellence of professionals in Hindi Cinema.
      • IIFA awards were first awarded in year 2000.
      • IIFA Utsavam (first awarded in 2016) is the South Indian segment of annual IIFA awards.

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