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Current Affairs - 06 August 2017

General Affairs 

Venkaiah Naidu elected Vice President of India, beats Gopal Gandhi by 272 votes
  • Veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leader Venakaiah Naidu today became Vice-President-elect. The former union minister's win in the vice-presidential polls was expected with the BJP's strong numbers reducing the contest between Naidu and Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the Opposition's candidate, to a dead rubber. Naidu pipped Gandhi, winning 516 votes in the election as opposed to the Opposition candidate's 244 votes.
    Soon after the news of his winning the election broke, Naidu expressed gratitude to the Members of Parliament who voted for him, and vowed to uphold the constitution. "With all humility, I express my gratitude to every MP who supported my candidature cutting across party lines. I promise to uphold the Constitution and the high standards set by my esteemed predecessors," Vice President-elect Naidu said in a series of tweets.
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to send a congratulatory message, posting on Twitter, "My mind is filled with memories of working with @MVenkaiahNaidu Garu, in the Party & Government. Will cherish this aspect of our association. I am confident @MVenkaiahNaidu will serve the nation as a diligent & dedicated Vice President, committed to the the goal of nation building."
    Meanwhile, the Opposition candidate Gopkalkrishna Gandhi said that he was satisfied with his performance. "Was expecting handsome performance by united vote of opposition parties and I'm more than satisfied," Gandhi said, thanking those who had voted for him. The Congress too extended its best wishes to Naidu saying in a statement, "Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, has extended best wishes to the Vice President elect, Venkaiah Naidu."
    The party's statement went on essentially urge Naidu to assume a "non-partisan role" when he becomes the Rajya Sabha chairman. "The position of the Vice President of India has the crucial challenge of assuming a non-partisan role in running 'The House of Elders', which acts as a store house of wisdom and sage advice for the government. House of Elders is an important determinant of our democratic functioning to address appropriate checks and balances," Sonia Gandhi said. 
    Voting in the vice-presidential poll was held today, with 771 of the 785 eligible Members of Parliament casting their votes. 14 MPs (2 from BJP, 2 from INC, 2 from IUML, 4 from TMC, 1 from NCP; 1 from PMK and 2 Independents) were absent during voting.
    As vice president, the 68-year-old Naidu, who was previously a senior minister Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet, becomes the de facto chairman of Rajya Sabha. He will take charge as Rajya Sabha chairman at 11 am on August 11 after being sworn-in as vice president at 10 am on the same day.
    Naidu's overseeing of Rajya Sabha sessions will work to provide the government with a boost in the upper house, where the National Democratic Alliance does not yet have a majority.
    Naidu's election to the V-P's office, also means all of the constitutional posts in India (except the non-partisan Chief Justice of India) are now controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party - the President of India (Ram Nath Kovind), Vice President of India (Venkaiah Naidu), Prime Minister of India (Narendra Modi) and Speaker of Lok Sabha (Sumitra Mahajan).
    Born to a farmer's family in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, Naidu is a dyed-in-the-wool BJP worker who has been in active politics (including student politics) for over four decades. He was imprisoned during the Emergency between 1975 and 1977 and after coming out of jail, he became the Janata Party Youth Wing president of Andhra Pradesh.
    The year 1978 marked his entry into public office after he was elected to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly. Rising through the ranks, Naidu went on to become the BJP national president in July, 2002. However, he held the post briefly, stepped down in December the same year. Two years later, he again became the BJP chief.
    Naidu is extremely familiar with the upper house of Parliament that he will now be chairing. He was first elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1998 and won subsequent re-elections in 2004, 20110 and 2016. His time in Parliament has saw him chairing and being a member of several important committees.

Economist Rajiv Kumar to be new NITI Aayog vice chairman
  • Noted economist Dr Rajiv Kumar is set to become the new vice chairman of NITI Aayog. Kumar will report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who heads the government think-tank that replaced the decades old Planning Commission.
    Kumar replaces Arvind Panagariya who stepped down from the post of vice chairman last week. Panagariya, who expressed a desire to return to academia and who was on leave from the US-based Columbia University, will finish his term on August 31.
    Dr Kumar is currently a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, a non-governmental think thank on public policy that is based out of New Delhi.
    According to Dr Kumar's profile on the CPR website, he has written several books on India's economy and national security. Kumar previously the secretary general of industry body Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
    He has also served as the chief economist Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and has been involved with the Asian Development Bank.
    Kumar has had government experience, having served in the Ministry of Industries and the Ministry of Finance.Kumar currently sits on the boards of national and international institutions including the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Riyadh, the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and Asia in Jakarta, the State Bank of India, and the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade.
    He was a member of the Indian Government's National Security Advisory Board between 2006 and 2008. According to CPR, Dr Kumar holds a DPhil in economics from Oxford and a PhD from Lucknow University.

    Apart from Kumar, Vinod Paul, a doctor by professsion, has been appointed member of NITI Aayog. Paul is a paediatrician at AIIMS. 

Assume non-partisan role: Congress to Vice President-elect Venkaiah Naidu
  • As National Democratic Alliance candidate, Venkaiah Naidu won the vice-presidential election with over 500 votes, Opposition candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi expresses gratitude for all those who voted for him.  
    Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi got 244 out of the 717 votes to his credit. He said that he is more than satisfied with the number of votes he has got.
    "Thank those who voted for me. And the number that voted for me is beyond the expectations fo certain calculations. They represent different political persuasions, come from different parts of India," he said.
    He congratulated the new vice-president Venkaiah Naidu and said that this is the victory of free speech.  
    Gandhi also spoke about the importance of voting for the vice-president, saying, "Today everyone came together to vote for what they thought was the national good. It is the affirmation of the right of free thought, free speech. The right to hold different opinion, the right to serve the cause of pluralism and secularism in India."
    He also sent across a message for the parliamentarians of our country, "Across the party divide, you (parliamentarians) carry a great responsibility on your shoulders and may you discharge your responsibilities with great diligence and courage."
    Gopal Gandhi, a former IAS officer and reputed diplomat, was also being considered as the Opposition's candidate for the post of President, but Meira Kumar was the final choice.
    Congress President Sonia Gandhi also congratulated vice-president Venkaiah Naidu.
    "The position of the Vice President of India has the crucial challenge of assuming a non-partisan role in running 'The House of Elders', which acts as a store house of wisdom and sage advice for the government. House of Elders is an important determinant of our democratic functioning to address appropriate checks and balances. Gandhi offered Congress party's support in further strengthening the 'Upper House' for effective scrutiny of legislations and Government policies," Congress said in their statement.

Going all out against terrorists in Kashmir paying dividends, say government sources
  • The government feels that its hardline policy in Kashmir against talking to the separatists and giving free hands to the security forces is paying dividends and the situation would improve significantly by the coming winters.
    Senior government sources said the strategy of blocking infiltration and going all out against terrorists in Kashmir has also started paying dividends as a large number of terrorists have been killed and there is fear in terrorist ranks trying to cross the LoC.
    Soon after the Modi government came to power, the security apparatus under NSA Ajit Doval had decided against giving any importance to the separatists of the Hurriyat conference in the Valley.
    "There was widespread criticism of our policy as people wanted to engage them in talks but due to the strict actions taken against the Hurriyat leadership, they stand exposed and are fast losing credibility among the youth in the Valley," the sources said.
    Over the years, the underground activities of the Hurriyat leaders and their financial support to Pakistan-backed terrorist infrastructure was being overlooked by the successive governments but we did not fall in their trap, the sources said.
    The government has cracked down heavily on the hawala arsnd other illegitimate sources of finance of the Hurriyat leade, including Syed Ahmed Shah Gilani and Shabbir Shah, who are in the custody.
    Sources said the security forces have been able to check infiltration in a major way as intelligence inputs suggest that there has been as good as zero infiltration from the 16 Corps area which includes the LoC and international border with Pakistan in Jammu.
    Even in 15 Corps area, due to the increased number of troops, infiltration has been cut down drastically as a large number of terrorists were killed while attempting to do so.
    Army sources said due to the fear of getting killed, the terrorists trying to infiltrate have even gone back into Pakistan as in Macchil sector, the troops recovered their rucksacks.
    The hunting down of terrorists has also increased in a big way as the security forces are now looking at the figure of 200 kills by the end of this year as they have eliminated the majority of terrorist leadership.
    The security forces are pegging the number of terrorist in the Valley to be around 150 currently even as they have eliminated around 120 of them in the last seven months after General Bipin Rawat took over as the army chief. Sources said a major role in the success against terrorist is being played by J&K Police as they have increased the tempo of operations.

Narendra Modi on Doklam standoff: Solution lies in dialogue and debate
  • Two days after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj underlined that diplomatic channels were the only way to resolve Doklam standoff with China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today expressed hope the two countries would find a solution through dialogue.
    Speaking at the Samvad - Global Initiative on Conflict Avoidance and Environment Consciousness through video-conferencing, PM Modi said, "As inter-connected and inter-dependent world of 21st century battles a number of global challenges, from terrorism to climate change, I am confident that the solutions will be found through Asia's oldest traditions of dialogue and debate."
    Modi said that samvad or dialogue is the only way to cut through deep-rooted religious stereotypes and prejudices that divide communities across the world and sow seeds of conflict between nations and societies.
    PM Modi also reiterated India's commitment to protection of nature and take effective steps to tackle the challenges posed by climate change.
    Modi said, "If man does not nurture nature, nature reacts in the form of climate change. Man must relate to nature, man must revere nature, not merely consider it a resource to be exploited."

Business Affairs

Govt extends deadline to get Aadhaar for free LPG
  • The government has extended till September-end the time by which poor women wishing to avail of free cooking gas (LPG) connections must apply for the unique 12-digit biometric identification number Aadhaar.
    The government had in March this year mandated that anyone not having Aadhaar but desirous of availing free LPG connection under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana must apply for it by May 31.
    The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas yesterday issued a gazettee notification extending that deadline to September 30.
    The government had in October last year made the unique identification number mandatory for everyone to get LPG subsidies. In March this year it was extended for free cooking gas connections to women of BPL households.
    "A beneficiary desirous of availing the benefits under the Scheme (PMUY), who does not possess the Aadhaar number or has not yet enrolled for Aadhaar shall have to apply for Aadhaar enrolment by 31st May, 2017, provided she is entitled to obtain Aadhaar," the notification issued on March 6 had said.
    In yesterday's notification, the ministry said: "The figures, letters and word '31st May, 2017', the figures, letters and word '30th September, 2017' shall be substituted."
    The government had last year launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana to provide 5 crore poor women with free LPG connections in three years with a view to providing clean cooking fuel. So far over 2.6 crore free connections have been provided.
    "Individual beneficiary desirous of availing the benefits under the scheme (PMUY) is hereby required to furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo Aadhaar authentication," said the March 6 gazette notification.
    Those below poverty line (BPL) women looking to avail free LPG connection but do not have the Aadhaar number, have been asked to apply for it by September 30.
    Once enrolled for Aadhaar, the beneficiary can apply for free LPG connection by providing the enrolment ID slip or a copy of such a request.
    Such application will have to be accompanied by one of the government identification documents like bank passbook with photograph, election voter ID, ration card, permanent account number (PAN), passport, driving licence, kisan photo passbook or a certificate of identity having a photo issued by a gazetted officer on an official letterhead, it said.
    The ministry has asked state-owned fuel retailing firms to facilitate enrolment of beneficiaries for biometric identification number, Aadhaar.
    The government currently gives 12 cylinders of 14.2-kg each at subsidised rates per household in a year. The subsidy on every cylinder is transfered in advance directly into bank accounts of individuals, who then buy the cooking fuel at market rates.

Chabahar Port likely to be operational by 2018: Nitin Gadkari
  • Amid deepening Indo-Iranian ties, the government is hopeful that the strategic Chabahar Port will be operational by 2018, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said.
    The Road, Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister will represent India at the oath taking ceremony Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tomorrow.
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier congratulated Rouhani on his re-election as the President of Iran and affirmed India's commitment to strengthen the special relations between the countries.
    "India and Iran have been historically sharing special ties ... We are keen on developing Chabahar Port and are hopeful of starting operations in 12 to 18 months," Gadkari told PTI on the eve of his visit to Tehran.
    Gakdari is keen on expediting development of the Chabahar port, located in the Sistan-Baluchistan province on the energy-rich Persian Gulf nation's southern coast that can be easily accessed from India's west coast, bypassing Pakistan.
    The visit assumes significance as India has accelerated work at the Chabahar port and finalised some tenders for installation of key equipment at Chabahar Port.
    "Civil construction work has started there. We have finalised tenders worth Rs 380 crore for equipment out of Rs 600 crore and once the port becomes operational it will become a growth engine," the minister said.
    The minister said that he was also hopeful of certain approvals from the Iranian government for expediting work and added that once Chabahar becomes operational the trade and business between both the nations would see a boost.
    For greater trade and investment flow with Iran and neighbouring countries, the Cabinet last year cleared proposals for development of Chabahar port including through a USD 150 million credit from Exim Bank.
    It also authorised the Shipping Ministry to form a company in Iran for implementing the Chabahar Port Development Project and related activities.
    As per the MoU signed between the two nations in May last year, India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with capital investment of USD 85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of USD 22.95 million on a 10-year lease.
    Ownership of equipment will be transferred to Iranian side on completion of 10 years or for an extended period, based on mutual agreement. The Iranian side had requested for provision of a credit of USD 150 million in accordance with the MoU.
    As per the pact, operation of two berths is to commence within a period of maximum 18 months after the signing of the contract.
    Besides the bilateral pact to develop the Chabahar port, for which India will invest USD 500 million, a trilateral Agreement on Transport and Transit Corridor has also been signed by India, Afghanistan and Iran.

Onions worth Rs 20 crore go missing in Madhya Pradesh
  • About 25,000 metric tonnes of onions procured by the Madhya Pradesh government at Rs 8 per kg from farmers after the Mandsaur agitation in which six persons were killed has gone missing.
    According to government figures the procuring agency MARKFED procured 8.76 lakh metric tonnes from farmers while the selling agency - Civil Supplies Corporation - got just 8.51 lakh metric tonnes. Where did the rest of the onion valued at around Rs 20 crore vanish no one has any idea.
    Documents available with India Today TV show that out of the total onions procured by MARKFED only 8.51 lakh tonnes was passed on to Civil Supplies Corporation.
    In Bhopal alone there is no record of about 18,000 quintals of onion for which government paid at the rate of Rs 8 per kg. Bhopal Collector Sudam Khade has already ordered an enquiry.
    "There were reports that some stock went missing, or there is no record of some, an enquiry has been ordered and action will be taken only after the enquiry is complete," Sudam Khade, Collector Bhopal, told India Today TV.
    At the state level though, no enquiry has been ordered so far. "The figures are still be being collected. The chief minister has already said on the floor of the state Vidhan Sabha that 8.76 lakh tonnes was procured. How much out of this has been given to whom, how much has been sold and how much had to be destroyed is not known yet. After compilation of figures if any anomaly is found action would surely be taken," said Dr Hitesh Vajpayee, Chairman Civil supplies Corporation.
    The state government had intervened to procure onion at Rs 8 per Kg from farmers after June 5 when it was selling at as low as Rs 1 per kg in Madhya Pradesh. On Friday Onion was sold at Rs 22 per kg in the Mandsaur mandi.
    A large part of the onion that was procured was also allowed to rot in the open and now the government has no answer to how there is a scarcity of onions in the market within just one month of recording a bumper harvest.

China planning 'small scale military operation' against India: Expert
  • China is planning a "small scale military operation" to "expel" Indian troops from the Doklam area "within two weeks", an article in a state-run daily here said today.
    India and China have been locked in a prolonged standoff in the area in the Sikkim sector since June 16 after Chinese troops began constructing a road near the Bhutan trijunction.
    Bhutan has protested to China, saying the area belonged to it and accused Beijing of violating agreements that aim to maintain the status quo until the boundary dispute is resolved.
    India says the Chinese action to construct the road was unilateral and changes the status quo. It fears the road would allow China to cut off Indias access to its northeastern states.
    "China will not allow the military standoff between China and India in Doklam to last for too long, and there may be a small-scale military operation to expel Indian troops within two weeks," Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences was quoted by the Global Times.
    The "expert" wrote in the daily that the "Chinese side will inform the Indian foreign ministry before its operation."
    To peacefully resolve the impasse, Indias External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has said that both the sides should first pull back their troops and hold dialogue.
    Swaraj on Thursday again asserted that war cannot resolve anything. She said India was engaged with China to resolve differences and advocated patience. Her ministrys spokesman Gopal Baglay yesterday said India was in close coordination with Bhutan over the Dokal issue.
    But the Chinese media, particularly the Global Times tabloid, has unleashed a barrage of anti-India rhetoric in recent weeks amid tensions between the two countries. In todays article, the researcher also cited a state-run CCTV report about live fire exercises in Tibet recently.
    Hu continued: "India has adopted an immature policy toward China in recent years. Its development is not at the same level as Chinas. It only wants to seek disputes in an area which originally has no disputes to gain bargaining chips."
    The military standoff comes ahead of the BRICS Summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen early next month, where leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will meet.

180 days of maternity leave for all female employees
  • The Mamata Banerjee government has decided to sanction maternity leave for a maximum period of 180 days for all categories of female contractual employees engaged directly by the state government.
    In a notification issued by the West Bengal government Finance (Audit) department, it was declared that all categories of female contractual employees including software personnel engaged directly by the state government departments and directorates will get maternity leave for a maximum period of 180 days.
    These employees will also get a leave of 42 days in case of abortion or miscarriage, the notification said yesterday. "During the period of such leave, female contractual employees will get contractual remuneration as per terms and conditions of the contract," it added.
    The order will be effective from this July.

General Awareness

Recommendations of Justice Srikrishna committee to review the Institutionalization of Arbitration Mechanism

  • A high level committee headed by former Supreme Court Judge Justice B N Srikrishna set up to review the Institutionalization of Arbitration Mechanism, has submitted its recommendations to Union Law ministry.
    About Justice B N Srikrishna committee on Institutionalization of Arbitration Mechanism:
    The Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice, on January 13, 2017 constituted a ten Member, High Level Committee under the Chairmanship of Retired Judge, Supreme Court of India, Justice B. N. Srikrishna.
    • Suresh Chandra – Law Secretary, was the Member Secretary of the High Level Committee.
    • Other members of the committeeincluded Justice R.V.Raveendran – Retired Judge of Supreme Court of India, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat – Judge at High Court of Delhi, K.K.Venugopal – Sr. Advocate and presently Attorney General for India, P.S.Narasimha – Additional Solicitor General of India, Ms. Indu Malhotra – Senior Advocate at Supreme Court of India, Arghya Sengupta – Research Director at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, Arun Chawla – Deputy Secretary General of FICCI and Vikkas Mohan – Senior Director of CII.
    Key Recommendations of Justice B N Srikrishna committee on Institutionalization of Arbitration Mechanism:
    To set up an autonomous body, Arbitration Promotion Council of India (APCI)having representatives from all stake holders to monitor the overall quality and performance of arbitral institutions in India. The APCI would recognise professional institutes providing for accreditation of arbitrators.
    • Creation of a specialist Arbitration Bench to deal with commercial disputes, in the domain of the Courts.
    • Changes have been suggested in various provisions of the 2015 Amendments in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act with a view to make arbitration speedier and more efficacious.
    • The Committee members are also of the opinion that the National Litigation Policy (NLP) must promote arbitration in Government Contracts.
    • Committee has also recommended for creation of the post of an ‘International Law Adviser’ (ILA) who shall advise the Government and coordinate dispute resolution strategy for the Government in disputes arising out of its international law obligations, particularly disputes in matters of Bilateral International Treaties (BITs).

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