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Current Affairs - 22 July 2017

General Affairs 

Villagers At Border Villages Caught In Ceasefire Violations
  • Ganya village near the Line of Control or LoC wears a deserted look. Almost the entire village flock have abandoned their homes to escape the shelling by the Pakistani Army.

    For the last four days, Ganya and many other villagers near the LoC have been the target of Pakistani army guns. Many houses in these villages have been badly damaged, lives stock have been the worst hit.

    Terrified by shelling from Pakistan, hundreds of villagers from these villages have moved to migrant camps set up by the administration at Nowshera, 260 kms from Srinagar.

    While India has responded strongly to the ceasefire violations from Pakistan, it's the common people living near the de facto border who are caught in the heavy exchange of mortar shelling.

    On Tuesday, more than 200 students experienced the horror when mortar shells from across the border landed at their schools.

    17-year-old Vikas Chowdary was in his classroom in Nowshera near the Line of Control when mortar shells from Pakistan hit his school. "I cant explain the horror of shelling. I thought we all will die. Our teachers tried to console us - it was very traumatic time," recounts Chowdary. 
    Geeta, who studies in Class 11, was also stranded with her five-year-old sister Sneha in the school during shelling. "I thought we will never come out of school. For hours firing continued it was very scary," said Geeta. 

    Her sister, Sneha, however is too young to understand why there was firing and loud explosions outside her school. "After firing we hid inside. Then my father came and picked me from school," said Sneha.

    Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu and Kashmir have come under intense shelling from Pakistan. All schools near the LoC in the region have been closed indefinitely to avoid casualties. 

    "We have closed all the schools near LoC. It was most challenging task to evacuate school children amid heavy firing," said Dr Shahid Iqbal, District Magistrate of Rajouri. 

    While the army has responded strongly and targeted several Pakistani positions, 5 soldiers have been killed by the shelling in the last 4 days including an officer. 

Cyber Security A Priority Area For Railways: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu
  • Ensuring cyber security in day to day operations is one of the priorities for railways which is moving in a big way towards technology driven operations, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said today.

    Speaking at a conference attendended by senior rail officials, Mr Prabhu said that as part of modernisation and maintenance of railways, the ministry has lauched several initiatives over the past three years like RailCloud Server and Rail Saarthi App and is working on a enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution.

    "We are working on a complete transformation of the railways through investment of huge amounts of money and transformation of each and every aspect of operations to make them better. We are using high-end technology for maintenance and detecting defects in tracks through one application," said Mr Prabhu

    "So if we are doing all this and using the cyber space for digital transactions, obviously, the vulnerability of that transaction becomes very critical.

    "When we do everything manually, the challenge is manual error and if we are shifting from manual to technology oriented operations, then the flaws in technology or someone who can potentially hoodwink it is as high and sometimes even dangerous. So cyber security is one of the top priorities," the minister added.

    The meet on ensuring cyber security in Indian Railways, attended by Chairman, Railway Board, A K Mittal and other railway board members and senior officials, saw discussions on cyber threats, security incidents and advanced solutions. 
    Computerisation in railways started about three decades ago and major activities like ticketing, freight operations, train operations and asset management now rely heavily on IT systems.

    Railways launched RailCloud this month, a virtual server with an inbuilt security system that will enable faster connectivity at a reduced cost.

    RailCloud technology enables maximising the usage of available server and storage resulting in accommodation of bigger data and more applications within same server space.

    Till now all IT applications had separate servers which increased the cost of operations and purchases.

    Cyber Security has now been identified as the focus area by the railways. Auditing of IT Systems by Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification (STQC) and close coordination with Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) are some of the steps taken by Indian railways.

Government Acting Against Cow Vigilantes, Arun Jaitley Tells Rajya Sabha
  • Killings in the name of "sentiments" being hurt due to cow slaughter is unacceptable and stern action is taken against those indulging in such violence, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday, capping a raucous debate in the Rajya Sabha on a reported spike in instances mob violence in recent months.

    Opposition leaders had earlier blamed the government including Prime Minister Narendra Modi for creating an environment that encouraged such violence. The government promptly hit back counting deaths during the Congress regime including the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that killed thousands after Indira Gandhi's assassination.

    Mr Jaitley, who was standing in for Home Minister Rajnath Singh who fractured his leg last month, insisted the government's stand was clear. "Nobody is allowed to do that (lynching in the name of cow protection). There is no rationalisation, no arguments of sentiments being hurt can be an explanation for this. And, the government is absolutely committed," he said.

    "People were arrested and they are in jail. They are all going to be charge-sheeted against whom evidence is going to be found... This is clear and there is no 'ifs' and 'buts'," the minister said.

    The finance minister pointed that PM Modi had spoken thrice against cow vigilantism and promised that "no amount of sympathy" will be shown for those who cross the red line. 
    The Congress leader also dismissed the BJP's renewed efforts to distance the party from groups such as the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad. "The VHP has announced that they will recruit holy warriors. And you say you have nothing to do with this. They are your people," he said.

    Human Resource Minister Prakash Javadekar proclaimed that the burning of a coach of the Sabarmati Express coach in Godhra - that triggered the 2002 Gujarat riots - was the worst case of lynching so far.

    "A mob of thousands burnt alive Ram bakhts (devotees) returning from Ayodhya. They poured kerosene and burnt alive 42 people. There never has been a worse lynching than this," Mr Javadekar said. Having made his point, the minister hastened to add that even if one person is lynched today, "it is equally condemnable".

Kerala Nurses' End Strike; Government To Ensure Rs. 20,000 Minimum Salary
  • In a relief to striking nurses, the Kerala government on Thursday said it would implement the Supreme Court directive of Rs. 20,000 minimum salary to nurses in the state.

    A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting of the representatives of nurses and private hospital managements convened by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

    It was agreed at the meeting to implement the minimum pay of Rs. 20,000 to nurses working in private hospitals with less than 50 beds as recommended by a Committee in the light of a supreme court order in this regard, Mr Vijayan told reporters.

    Around 80,000 nurses in the private sector are expected to benefit from the decision.

    United Nurses Association and Indian Nurses Association, which spearheaded the stir, called off their month-long agitation.

    "We congratulate the government for settling the strike," INA leaders said. With regard to the salary and allowances of hospitals with more than 50 beds, a special committee would be formed to fix their wages. It has been asked to submit their report within one month, he said.

    Another major demand of nurses' association on training period and the stipend during the period would also be decided by the committee, the Chief Minister said.

    The government would place the Committee report in the Minimum Wages Committee as the state's recommendation, he said.

    Mr Vijayan said the meeting also wanted managements not to take any action against the nurses who went on strike.

    The meeting appealed to all to maintain a cordial and co-operative atmosphere in the hospitals, the chief minister added.

    The nurses of the private hospital began an indefinite strike state-wide on June 28 after the hospital managements rejected their pay revision demand.

Telangana Wants To Make All Towns Open Defecation-Free By August 15
  • The Telangana government is taking steps to make all towns in the state open defecation-free (ODF) by August 15, a minister said today.

    Municipal Administration Minister K T Rama Rao, who held a video conference with municipal commissioners on the issue, said all towns would be declared to be ODF by August 15.

    All municipalities must reach the target by that date, according to a state government release.

    Departmental action would be taken against municipal commissioners who fail to achieve the target, he said, adding that there is no shortage of funds for the programme. 
    The construction of toilets should not stop under any circumstances and every municipality must achieve the status of ODF on a war-footing, he said.

    Several towns have already become ODF, Mr Rao said.

    The minister directed the officials to focus on sanitation during the monsoon season, among other important measures, according to the release.

Business Affairs 

    I-T dept detects Rs 19,000 crore black money in ICIJ and HSBC cases
    • The Income Tax department has detected over Rs 19,000 crore in black money following investigations into global leaks including HSBC account holders in Switzerland, the Indian government said on Friday.
      Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said investigations into information, put into public domain by the ICIJ, pertaining to about 700 Indian persons allegedly linked to offshore entities based in no tax or low tax jurisdiction, have led to detection of more than Rs 11,010 crore of credits in undisclosed foreign accounts.
      "72 prosecution complaints in 31 such cases have been filed before the criminal courts," he informed the Lok Sabha.
      The government constituted a multi-agency group (MAG) in April 2016 for facilitation co-ordinated and speedy investigation in the cases of Indian persons allegedly having undisclosed foreign assets and whose names were reportedly included in Panama papers leak.
      He further said that information on 628 Indian persons holding bank accounts in HSBC bank in Switzerland was received from the government of France under the Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (DTAC) between India and France.
      "As a result of systematic investigation in these cases, undisclosed income of about Rs 8,437 crore was brought to tax till May 2017.
      "Besides, concealment penalty of Rs 1,287 crore was levied in 162 cases and 199 criminal prosecution complaints were filed in 84 cases," Jaitley pointed out.
      He noted however that the information received under the tax treaties can be used for tax purposes and its disclosure is governed by the confidentiality provisions of such treaties.
      Replying to a query, whether the government has made any assessment of black money stashed by Indians in foreign countries, Jaitley said there is no official estimation of that.
      However, he said, the government had commissioned a study on estimation of unaccounted income and wealth inside and outside the country to be conducted by NIPFP, NIFM and NCAER.
      "The reports of these institutions and the government's response on the findings in the reports would be placed before the Standing Committee on Finance shortly," he added

    Over 1.62 lakh shell firms deregistered till July 12: Arun Jaitley
    • Over 1.62 lakh companies that have not been carrying out business activities for long have been deregistered and a series of actions are being taken against shell firms, the government said on Friday.
      While the term 'shell company' is not defined under the Companies Act, Corporate Affairs Minister Arun Jaitley told the Lok Sabha that many such entities have been found to be indulging in large scale tax violations.
      "However, the Registrars of Companies (RoCs) have removed 1,62,618 companies from the register of companies as on July 12, 2017 after following the due process under Section 248 of the Companies Act, 2013," he said during Question Hour.
      His response was to a query on whether a large number of shell companies and entities that are primarily used as conduits for dealing in black money and hawala transactions have come to the notice of the government.
      Section 248 provides powers to the RoC to remove the name of a company from the register on various grounds including that the entity was not carrying out any business for two preceding financial years.
      Out of the 1,62,618 companies that have been struck-off the register, the registration of 33,000 were cancelled by RoC (Mumbai), according to a written reply by minister of state for corporate affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal.
      Among others, RoC (Delhi) has struck-off 22,863 companies from the register and 20,588 firms were deregistered by RoC (Hyderabad).
      A large number of shell companies are being identified and the department finds out way to assess tax on income that are routed through them, Jaitley said.
      Responding to supplementary queries, Jaitley said the task force on shell companies has submitted its recommendations and actions are being taken.
      To a query about action taken against the directors of companies that indulge in such violations, the minister said where there is infraction of law, action is taken under the relevant provisions.

    Reliance Industries stock closes 3.76 per cent higher post 40th annual general meeting
    • The Reliance Industries stock hit a 52-week high ahead of its 40th annual general meeting which begun today. 
      The RIL stock pushed the market higher by almost 50 points in early trade. At 9:53 am, the stock was trading 3 percent or 46.20 points higher at 1574 level on the BSE.
      The AGM started at 11:00 am in Birla Matoshri Sabhagar in Mumbai.
      Analysts say the stock may reach its new nine-year high, citing likely announcements in the Reliance Industries AGM event today where it is likely to launch a new 4G Jio phone at an unexpected price tag of Rs 500.
      The stock closed 3.76 per cent or 57.50 points higher at 1,586 level on the BSE.
      Here are the live updates on the movement of Reliance Industries and telecom stocks affected by RIL's entry into the  telecom sector.
      11:59 am: Mukesh Ambani announces the launch of Jio phone at Rs 1500 (refundable amount) after three years. Bharti Airtel stock falls 3 percent  or 12 points at 407.55 level. Idea Cellular falls 5 percent.
      11:44 am: RIL stock still trading 3.11 percent or 47.55 points higher at 1576 level on the BSE.
      11:33 am: The Idea Cellular stock was down 2.48 percent or 2.35 points at 92.50 level. Reliance Communications was trading 0.61 percent or 0.15 points lower at 24.30 points.
      11:20 am: Bharti Airtel stock trading 2.10 percent or 8 points lower at 410 points on the BSE 
      11:18 am: Mukesh Ambani starts speaking on his telco business Reliance Jio.
      11:08 am: The RIL stock was trading 3.50 percent higher, 53.50 points higher at 1582 points on the BSE.  
      11:00 am: Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani begins his speech. 
      Brokerage HSBC has pegged the price of the handset at as low as Rs 500, that would usher in another wave of disruption in the telecom market.
      Reliance Industries could also announce a new tariff plan with aggressive price points for Jio consumers with its 84 day 'Dhan Dhana Dhan Offer' coming to an end on April 11.  
      On Thursday, the telecom to oil sector conglomerate on Thursday announced a 28 percent rise in its Q1 net profit to Rs 9,108 crore.
      The healthy rise in earnings can be attributed to robust performance by its core businesses - refining margins soared to a nine-year high of $11.9 per barrel, while profitability of the petrochemicals business rose to a record.

    How Reliance Jio plans to dominate India's airwaves with device, data and content
    • After unleashing a tariff war on rival telecom companies, Reliance Jio took its freebies a step further when Reliance Industries' Chairman Mukesh Ambani announced the launch of free 4G VoLTE JioPhone against a refundable security deposit of Rs 1,500.
      Jio's feature phone, which will be available on pre-booking from August 24, is expected to disrupt the feature phone market in the country. The existing feature phone makers such as Nokia, Intex, Karbonn, Lava, InFocus, Micromax, Zen, iBall, Adcom and Philips may also cut down their prices to stay relevant in the market.
      With the launch of its 'effectively free' JioPhone, Reliance Jio is eyeing to expand its marketshare in the telecom business. Jio, which acquired a 9.9 per cent market share in March, had largely a subscriber base of users who had dual sim smartphones. With the new phone, Jio plans to take in its fold around '50 crore feature phone users' in the country.
      Ambani said one-time fully refundable security deposit is to ensure that no one misuses the offer and hoards phones. After 36 months, a JioPhone user will be eligible for a full refund of the security deposit, Ambani said in his speech at Reliance Industries' AGM in Mumbai.
      While the new JioPhone may not affect the sales of mid-range Android phones, handsets priced under Rs 5,000 are likely to bear the brunt.
      However, the new JioPhone is not just for people who can't afford smartphones. With its virtual 'zero' cost, JioPhone is likely to attract even those who already use high-end smartphones.

      OTT Content
      RIL is also aggressively expanding in OTT content space. Just yesterday, it acquired a 24.9 per cent stake in Balaji Telefilms. The stake will give Reliance Jio Infocom Ltd. access to content generated by Balaji Telefilms.
      "This investment in content production (including digital content) is in line with RIL's commitment to invest and grow in telecom, digital and media businesses," RIL said in a statement.
      Jio TV app currently offers 432 live channels across 15 regional languages. The telecom start-up has joined hands with Hotstar to offer Jio TV services to its users.
      Jio has already signed deals with broadcasters like Star India, Zee Entertainment Enterprises, Sony Pictures Networks India, Bollywood studios such as Eros International, Shemaroo, Balaji Telefilms, Venus and Rajshri Productions, to get content on its platform. Viacom18 a joint venture of RIL-owned Network 18 and Viacom has a portfolio entertainment channels such as Colors, MTV, etc.
      JioPhone could deal the final body blow to existing telecom operators who are already facing a storm with Jio's aggressive tariffs. With the launch of a new hardware, Reliance Jio would be able to take on its rivals with device, cheap data and OTT content.

    US blocks USD 350 million aid to Pakistan for failing to act against Haqqani terror network
    • The Trump administration will not provide USD 350 million in coalition support funds to Pakistan after the US Defence Secretary said he cannot certify that Islamabad has taken "sufficient actions" against the dreaded Haqqani terror network, an official said today.
      Pakistan-based Haqqani network is blamed for a number of high-profile attacks on US and Western interests in war-torn Afghanistan.
      The terror group is also blamed for several deadly attacks against Indian interests in Afghanistan, including the 2008 bombing of the Indian mission in Kabul that killed 58 people.
      "Secretary James Mattis has informed congressional defense committees that he was not able to certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient actions against the Haqqani network to permit full reimbursement of Fiscal Year 2016 Coalition Support Funds," Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said.
      This is for the second consecutive year that the US Defence Secretary has refused to certify to Congress, as mandated under National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), that Pakistan has taken satisfactory action against the Haqqani network.
      Mattis' predecessor Ashton Carter was the first US Defence Secretary to refuse that certification.
      As a result of the notification by Defence Secretary Mattis to Congress, the Department of Defence has reprogrammed remaining Coalition Support Funds, which is USD 350 million, to other accounts, Stump said.
      The Pentagon's decision came ahead of a review of US policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
      As authorised by the US Congress in its NDAA, the Department of Defence reimbursed USD 550 of USD 900 million to Pakistan early this year.
      "The funds (USD 350 million) could not be released to the Government of Pakistan at this time because the secretary could not certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani Network as per the requirement in the FY 2016 NDAA," Stump said.
      "Pakistan has been reimbursed USD 550 million of the USD 900 million the country was authorised in FY16 CSF. With the Secretary's decision, there is no additional FY16 CSF available to Pakistan.
      "The Secretary decided to request reprogramming of the funds to retain the ability to use those funds for other requirements," he said.
      As part of the regular Defence Department budgetary process, the FY16 CSF money allotted for Pakistan needed to be released or reprogrammed prior to the expiration of the funding, Stump said.
      "This decision does not prejudge the conclusions of the White House review of South Asia strategy, which is still ongoing," Stump insisted, articulating that this decision does not reduce the significance of the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertaken over previous years.
      "We continue to be encouraged by Pakistan's operations in North Waziristan and elsewhere in the FATA. Pakistan's efforts have reduced the ability of some militant groups to use North Waziristan and the FATA as a safe haven for terrorism," he said.
      However, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network continue to operate in other locations in Pakistan, Stump said, two days after the State Department in a report to the Congress had listed Pakistan as one of the countries having terrorist safe havens.
      "In our discussions with Pakistani officials, we continue to stress that it is in the interest of Pakistan to eliminate all safe havens and reduce the operational capacity of all militant organisations that pose a threat to the US and Pakistani interests as well as regional stability," he said.
      Noting that Pakistan has been reimbursed USD 550 million in FY16 CSF, Stump said USD 300 million of FY2016 Coalition Support Funds were already rescinded as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017.
      USD 50 million was the remaining amount available out of the USD 900 million authorised for Pakistan in FY16 CSF, he said.
      Pakistan is authorised to receive up to USD 900 million in FY17 CSF.
      "There is a similar certification requirement for Pakistan pertaining to USD 400 million of FY17 CSF. Pakistan still has time to take action against the Haqqani Network in order to influence the Secretary's certification decision in FY17," Stump said.
      The Coalition Support Fund (CSF) authority is not security assistance, but rather reimbursements to key cooperating nations for logistical, military and other support provided to US combat operations.
      Pakistan is the largest recipient of CSF reimbursements, having received more than USD 14 billion since 2002. "CSF is just one component of the United States' broad and enduring partnership with Pakistan," Stump added.

    General Awareness

    India presents national review report on SDG implementation in UN

    • On July 19, 2017, India presented its ‘Voluntary National Review Report on Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals’ to the United Nations (UN). The report was presented by NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya at the United Nations high-level political forum on ‘Sustainable Development in 2017’.
      Highlights of India’s ‘Voluntary National Review Report on Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals’:
      The report details various measures and programmes being implemented across India towards achieving the core objectives of the 17 ambitious global goals, including poverty eradication, economic growth, ending hunger and achieving food security, gender equality, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and climate action.
      • The programmes highlighted in the report are the ‘Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act’, ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’, ‘Sagarmala’, ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign and the Aadhaar Act. 
      • The report outlined that as the fastest growing major economy of the world, India is uniquely placed to deliver on its commitments to inclusive and sustainable development. 
      • As per the report, Indian Government will conduct Bi-annual reviews with the state governments for identifying good practices as well as challenges and undertaking the appropriate course corrections.
      • As per the report, Indian Government will work towards ensuring a greater flow of finances and technology from developed countries to developing and least developed nations.
      About Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
      Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs), officially known as Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a set of 17 “Global Goals” with 169 targets.
      • It is an initiative by United Nations and was prepared through a deliberative process involving its 193 Member States.
      • SDGs were adopted in September 2015 at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York, US.
      List of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
      Goal 1No Poverty
      Goal 2Zero Hunger
      Goal 3Good Health and Well-Being
      Goal 4Quality Education
      Goal 5Gender Equality
      Goal 6Clean Water and Sanitation
      Goal 7Affordable and Clean Energy
      Goal 8Decent Work and Economic Growth
      Goal 9Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
      Goal 10Reduced Inequalities
      Goal 11Sustainable Cities and Communities
      Goal 12Responsible Consumption and Production
      Goal 13Climate Action
      Goal 14Life Below Water
      Goal 15Life on Land
      Goal 16Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
      Goal 17Partnerships for the Goals

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