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Current Affairs - 4 July 2017

General Affairs 

Centre Declares Nagaland 'Disturbed Area' For 6 More Months
  • Nagaland has been declared a "disturbed area" for six more months under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which empowers security forces to conduct operations anywhere in the state without prior notice to the civil administration. In a gazette notification, the Home Ministry said it is of the opinion that the area comprising the whole of Nagaland is in such a "disturbed and dangerous condition" that the use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary.
    "Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, the central government hereby declares that whole of the said state to be a 'disturbed area' for a period of six months with effect from 30th June, 2017 for the purpose of that Act," Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry Satyendra Garg said in the notification.

    People familiar with the matter said killings, lootings and extortion have been going in parts of Nagaland, leading to the extension of the "disturbed area" in the Northeastern state for six more months beginning June 30 under the AFSPA.

    There have been demands from civil groups in the Northeast for repealing the AFSPA, which they say gives sweeping powers to the security forces to act against civilians. The AFSPA has been in force in Nagaland for several decades.

    It has not been withdrawn even after a framework agreement was signed on August 3, 2015, between Naga terrorist group NSCN (IM) General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and the government's interlocutor RN Ravi in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    The framework agreement came after over 80 rounds of negotiations spanning 18 years. The first breakthrough came in 1997 when a ceasefire agreement was signed after decades of fighting in Nagaland.

Water, Space And Weapons: What PM Modi's Israel Visit Hopes To Fetch
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will land in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, becoming the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel, the result of growing ties that have led to billions of dollars in defence agreements. However, both sides say the visit will include a lot more than just arms deals, broadening collaboration in water, aerospace and agriculture technology. Israel, in constant search of allies to vote in its favour at UN bodies as well as business partners, has been portraying the visit as historic - a tone mirrored by the Indian Prime Minister ahead of the three-day trip.

    "Tomorrow, I begin a historic visit to Israel, a very special partner of India's," PM Modi said on Twitter today.

    Earlier, his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu called PM Modi ''my friend'' whose ''historic visit'' was a ''fruit of the policy initiated by Modi and myself in the recent years''. Officials in India say the main focus of the meet will be cooperation in agriculture, water, and security, especially cyber security. With the use of technology, Israel has transitioned from a water-deficit country to one with a significant water-surplus, exporting water to countries like Jordan. Therefore, collaboration in the sector, along with agriculture and irrigation, could be a key aspect of the discussions.

    Despite weapons not being billed as a prime agenda of the visit, deals in the sector will be closely watched. India is the world's biggest importer of defence equipment, and Israel has become one of its major suppliers. Israeli media have reported that the two countries see more than $1 billion in defence deals each year.

    During his visit, PM Modi will hold talks with Mr Netanyahu to advance sales and production of missiles, drones and radar systems under his signature "Make in India" drive, officials in Delhi and Tel Aviv told news agency Reuters.

China Will Safeguard Sovereignty At Any Cost: Chinese Media
  • As the standoff at Doka La in Sikkim sectors continues, Chinese media and think tanks have said China will safeguard its sovereignty even at the cost of war with India. Soldiers of the two nations have been locked in a standoff for almost a month now in what has been the longest such impasse between the two armies since 1962. "China is also different from what it was in 1962," Wang Dehua, professor at the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies, was quoted by state-run daily Global Times as saying.
    Defence Minister Arun Jaitley had said India of 2017 is different from what it was in 1962. "If they are trying to remind us, the situation in 1962 was different and the India of 2017 is different," Mr Jaitley had said.

    Mr Wang said India has been treating China as its biggest competitor since 1962 as both countries have similarities. "For instance, they are both developing countries with huge population," Mr Wang said. "India should change its hostile attitude toward China as a good relationship is beneficial for both sides," Mr Wang added.

    The Global Times report, quoting experts, said there could be a chance of war if the recent tension between China and India is not handled properly. "China will resolutely defend its territory and safeguard the border," the report said.

    "In 1962, China fought a war with India... resulting in the deaths of 722 Chinese troops and 4,383 Indian soldiers," the report said. Experts called on both sides to resolve the conflict through dialogue and negotiations, it said. 
    "Both sides should focus on development rather than conflict or war," Zhao Gancheng, Director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Chinese newspaper.

    "A conflict between the two may give other countries a chance to take advantage, for example, the US," Mr Gancheng said.

    On reports that Mr Jaitley was surveying the China-India border to build an "all-weather railway corridor" for swift movement of troops, Mr Gancheng said, "India is trying to catch up with China in the construction of frontier defence."

India Test Fires Quick Reaction Missile From Odisha Coast
  • India on Monday successfully test-fired an indigenously developed short range and Quick Reaction Surface to Air missile (QRSAM) from Chandipur along the Odisha coast.

    The surface-to-air missile was test fired from launch complex-3 at the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at about 11.25 am from a truck-mounted canister launcher, said official sources.

    The state-of-the-art missile has a strike range of 20-30 km and is capable of engaging multiple targets.

    The missile has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and other establishments.

    The missile was tested for a second time to evaluate the performance of its canister version. The first test was conducted on June 4.

'Loan Waiver Only For Small Farmers,' Says Supreme Court As It Sets Aside High Court Order
  • In a setback to big farmers in Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court today stayed an order by the Madras High Court that directed the state government to waive loans of all farmers who incurred losses during the drought in the state.

    The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court had on April 4 extended the Tamil Nadu loan waiver scheme to all farmers even though the scheme intended to help only small and marginal farmers with 5 acres of land. The bench had also ordered cooperative societies and banks to waive the loans and not recover any dues. The government had moved the top court in May against the order.

    The stay brings relief to the Tamil Nadu government that had argued that the aim was to provide relief only to small and marginal farmers. The government had taken the decision after considering vital parameters -- budgetary allocation, revenue mobilisation, the position of the farmers viz-a-viz their land holding and other considerations, said an official.

    Subramania Prasad, who was representing the government, told the top court that the High Court decision will impact the state's finances.

    The bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta accepted the argument and said the loan waiver from cooperative banks and societies will apply only to small and marginal farmers. The court will take up the case for further hearing after four weeks.

    In April, Tamil Nadu farmers had pressed their demands through a unique form of protest at Jantar Mantar in the national capital for over a month. They shaved their heads, halved their moustaches, held mice and snakes in their mouths, conducted mock funerals, flogged themselves and even carried skulls of other farmers who had committed suicide due to debt pressure.

    With 60 per cent deficit in rainfall, Tamil Nadu witnessed its worst drought in 140 years. The farmers demanded a Rs. 40,000-crore drought relief package, farm loan waiver and setting up of the Cauvery Management Board by the centre and called off their protest after an assurance from Chief Minister E Palaniswami that their demands will be met.

    But the farmers claim that the Tamil Nadu government has so far "failed to meet their demands". Last month, they had threatened to renew their protest till the Central government announces relief for farmers.

Business Affairs

Petroleum dealers call for country-wide strike on July 12
  • To protest against the oil marketing companies 'failure' to install 100 per cent automated system at petrol pumps and 'lack of transparency' in the daily dynamic pricing of fuel, the All India Petrol Dealers' Association has announced a country-wide 'no-purchase' protest on July 5.

    The Dealers' Association has also called for a nationwide strike petrol pumps on July 12. "We had a stormy three-hour meeting with oil marketing companies (OMCs) on June 29. The OMCs had agreed with us and had assured that price protection needs to be given," AIPDA spokesperson Ali Daruwalla told The Indian Express.
    "The OMCs could not give us any specific date for implementation of price protection, for which we all walked out in protest. We were requested by OMCs to wait till 2 pm on June 30 for their reconsideration yet no fruitful result has come out. Hence, we have decided to resort to a no-purchase agitation on July 5 and a no-purchase-no sale agitation on July 12 across the country," Daruwalla added.
    West Bengal Petroleum Dealers' Association has also called for a no-purchase strike on July 5. "Our national body AIPDA has called for a nationwide strike on July 12. Ahead of that, we won't purchase any oil on 5 July as a mark of protest," West Bengal Petroleum Dealers' Association President Tushar Sen told IANS.
    From June 16, the government moved to daily revision of petrol prices. Prior to that, petrol prices were revised every fortnight.
    Before implementing the daily revsion plan across the country, Oil marketing companies (OMCs) ran a successful 40-day pilot in five cities - Chandigarh, Jamshedpur, Puducherry, Udaipur, and Visakhapatnam.

Payment via credit cards won't lead to double taxation, says govt
  • The government has rejected rumours that payments via electronic mode or by credit cards would lead to double taxation under the GST regime. Social media is abuzz with rumours that customers will have to pay tax twice in case of electronic modes of payment after the government implemented Goods and Services Tax from July 1, 2017. 
    Revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia clarified via a tweet that "a wrong message is doing rounds on social media that if you make payment of utility bills by credit cards, you will be paying GST twice. This is completely untrue. Please do not recirculate such message without checking it with authority."  AP Hota, managing director of National Payments Corporation of India, told Times of India that rumours about double taxation were untrue.

    Hota said there is no other charge other than the service tax rate of 15 percent becoming GST at 18 percent. 

    Financial sector 

    The TOI report quoted some bankers as saying the only impact of GST in the financial sector was three percentage points increase in tax. Bankers said that in the financial sector the only impact of the imposition of GST was three percentage point increase in tax. "All services against which fees are charged in the financial sector are already taxed. However, there is no transaction tax" said a senior banker.

    Hence if a customer pays Rs 5,000 via a credit card in a restaurant, the owner of the business pays Rs 100 as merchant discount rate to the bank. Now payment of Rs 100 (a fee against a service) will attract GST of Rs 18 against service tax of Rs 15 which the merchant used to pay earlier.

Ashok Leyland stock closes higher on 11 percent rise in June sales
  • The Ashok Leyland stock rose on Monday after the Hinduja Group firm reported a 11 percent rise in June sales.  Sales rose to 12,330 units in June compared with 11,108 units in the corresponding month last year.
    At 1510 hours, the Ashok Leyland stock was trading 6.77 percent or 6.35 points higher at Rs 100.20 on the BSE.
    The stock closed 6.82 percent higher to Rs 100 level on the BSE. 
    The stock is up 8.23 percent or 7.6 points in five days and 25 percent on year-to-date basis.
    Sales of medium and heavy commercial vehicles rose by 6 per cent to 9,202 units as against 8,685 units in the year-ago month, the company said in a statement.

    Light commercial vehicle sales grew by 29 per cent to 3,128 units as compared to 2,423 units in June last year, the Hinduja Group firm said.

    GST effect: ITC leads tobacco stocks rally on tax rate cut
    • Tobacco stocks rose to their record highs on Monday on the back of taxation for cigarettes under the new goods and services tax (GST) regime falling by 5-6 per cent.
      The stock of cigarettes-hotel (FMCG) major ITC rose nearly 10 percent and was the top percentage gainer on the NSE.
      The stock rose 6 per cent or 19 points on the BSE to reach 343 level. It closed 5.70 percent or 18 points higher at 342 level on the BSE.  
      The stock of Modi Group firm Godfrey Phillips was trading 2.5 percent or 30 points higher at 1,290 level on the BSE. It closed 1.93 percent or 24.25 points higher at Rs 1283.75 on the BSE. 
      Godfrey Phillips deals in the domestic cigarette industry.
      The stock of Hyderabad-based VST Industries too surged on the back of reduced taxation on cigarettes.
      The stock rose almost 3.53 percent or 126 points to 3718 level on the BSE. The stock closed 3.97 percent or 142 points higher at 3733 level on the BSE.  
      The Sensex rose 300 points higher at 31,221 level. The Nifty too surged 94.10  points to 9615 level.

      Sensex rises over 300 points in first session post GST implementation
      • The market rose nearly 1 per cent on Monday, heading for a third straight session of gains as consumer goods makers such as ITC surged on hopes the newly implemented goods and services tax (GST) would reduce retail prices and boost sales.
        The government on Saturday rolled out its biggest tax reform in the 70 years since independence from British colonial rule, replacing more than a dozen central and state levies with the GST.
        The unveiling of GST led some of biggest automakers and retailers to announce price cuts, although many companies shied away from doing so due to the complexity of the new system.
        "FMCG companies like ITC are going to benefit in the long run from the GST rollout," said Anupam Singhi, chief operating officer at independent research firm William O'Neil India.
        The broader NSE Nifty was up 0.97 percent at 9,613 level, while the benchmark BSE Sensex was 317 points higher at 31,238.
        NSE's Nifty FMCG index climbed as much as 5.6 percent to an all-time high with Hindustan Unilever Ltd gaining above 1 percent.
        Cigarette maker ITC was among the top gainers, rising as much as 9.62 percent to a record high of 354.80. It drove the Nifty index higher, contributing nearly 45 net points to the index.
        Carmaker Maruti Suzuki India gained as much as 1.8 percent after posting a 7.6 percent jump in June vehicle sales on Saturday, while commercial vehicles maker Ashok Leyland climbed to its highest in a year after reporting an 11 percent rise in June total sales.
        Shares of fertiliser makers surged after GST rate for fertilisers was slashed to 5 percent on Friday. Chambal Fertilisers and Chemicals Ltd was up as much as 4 percent while Nagarjuna Fertilizer and Chemicals and Madras Fertilizers gained more than 3 percent.

      General Awareness

      Foundation stone of country’s biggest Global Skill Park laid by Rajeev Pratap Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Bhopal

      • On July 3, 2017, Union Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Rajeev Pratap Rudi and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan laid the foundation stone of the India’s biggest Global Skill Park in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
        Other Dignitaries present at the ceremony: Former cricketer K Srikanth, Singapore Embassy’s Councellor Ajit Singh, Uttar Pradesh’s Minister of State for Skill Development (Independent Charge), Chetan Chouhan.
        About Global Skill Park in Bhopal:
        Global Skill Park will be constructed on 37 acre land allotted in Narela Shankari area of Bhopal.
        • The park will be established with the support of Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education and Education Services (ITEES) with an estimated cost of Rs. 645 crore.
        • The objective of the Global Skill Park is to prepare skilled lot of youths who could get jobs in private companies as per their requirements. Besides, the youths would also be able to get employment opportunities in foreign countries.
        • Madhya Pradesh Technical Education, Skill Development (independent charge), School Education and Labour Minister of State Deepak Joshi mentioned that earlier discussion was held with representatives of ITEES, Singapore and later, road map for future activities was prepared by consultants of Asian Development Bank and departmental officials and ITEES in Bhopal, Indore and Dewas.
        • Trainers of international standard will impart training to 1000 students every year at the Skill Development Park.
        • Courses conducted at the park will also have provision of international joint certification.
        • The park will function on the spirit of ‘With Industry – For Industry’.

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