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Current Affairs - 11 August 2017

General Affairs 

Cash-For-Query Case: Court Orders Framing Of Charges Against 11 Ex-MPs
  • A Delhi court on Thursday ordered framing of charges against 11 former parliamentarians in connection with the 2005 cash-for-query case.

    Delhi Police have chargesheeted 11 former MPs -- Chhatarpal Singh Lodha, Anna Saheb M.K. Patil, Pradeep Gandhi, Suresh Chandel, Chandra Pratap Singh, Ram Sewak Singh, Manoj Kumar, Narender Kumar Kushwaha, Lal Chandra Kol, YG Mahajan and Raja Rampal -- for allegedly taking money to ask questions in Parliament.

    Special Judge Poonam Chaudhry said that prima facie charges dealing with criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act were made out against the accused.

    The charges will be formally framed on August 28.

    The court has also ordered framing of charges against a person named Ravinder Kumar while proceedings against one of the accused has been dropped as he has died.

    Special Public Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava alleged that they had misused their office when they were caught on camera during a sting operation seeking money for asking questions in Parliament in what came to be known as cash-for-query scam.

Ahmed Patel Says Congress Will Win Gujarat, Targets PM Narendra Modi, BJP's Amit Shah
  • Upbeat after his victory in the Rajya Sabha poll, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel today said it was the BJP which made the contest a prestige issue and exuded confidence that his party would win Gujarat assembly election due later this year.

    Mr Patel, who won the Upper House seat from Gujarat in an election that went down to the wire, said the victory had enthused the Congress and filled the cadre with new energy.

    "I am sure we will also win Gujarat. The BJP made it a prestige issue, it is their loss," Mr Patel, who is usually reticent, told reporters at a protest rally at the Jantar Mantar organised by the Youth Congress.

    The Congress has been out of power in Gujarat since 1995.

    Targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah, Mr Patel accused the two of "misusing" central probe agencies.

    "Even the BJP is afraid of these two people. One is a constitutional authority and another is an extra- constitutional authority. You know who these two people are. All agencies are being misused," Mr Patel alleged, without naming the BJP leaders.

    In the run-up to the Rajya Sabha election, the Congress accused the BJP governments in Gujarat and at the centre of pressuring its MLAs by using the state machinery. It also herded its MLAs to a resort in Bengaluru.




    The income tax department had raided a Karnataka Congress minister, prompting the party to accuse the Centre of "terrorising" its MLAs.

    Mr Patel, a Congress heavyweight and political secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, claimed the BJP offered its MLAs Rs. 15 crore to change sides, but everyone rejected it.

    He said the youth should now give a call against the BJP to "quit the seat of power" (gaddi chodo).

    "They promised two crore jobs every year and 50 per cent more profit to farmers than what they spend on their yield.

    They promised to bring down inflation and corruption. But they failed on every front," Patel said.

    Congress leaders C P Joshi and Raj Babbar also addressed the gathering.

    Congress workers led by Youth Congress President Amarinder Singh Raja marched towards Parliament, but were detained by the police.

End Of An Era As Typewriting Tests Phased Out In India
  • The unmistakable chatter of typewriters outside courthouses and government offices will soon fall silent in Mumbai as stenography colleges on Friday hold their final manual exams.

    The roughly 3,500 institutes teaching the antiquated ways of the typewriter across Maharastra will be phased out as India pushes ahead with a drive to digitize the economy.

    "It is absolutely the end of an era as typewriters bite the dust due to technological innovation," Ashok Abhyankar, who runs a shorthand and typewriting institute in Mumbai, told AFP.

    Long relegated to the history books in the West, typewriters are still a ubiquitous feature at legal chambers, police stations and official offices in India.

    Typists are found at courthouses punching out affidavits, family deeds and other legal documents for as little as 25 rupees, the click-clack of the ancient machines echoing around the vaulted corridors.

    Abhyankar, whose institute has been teaching stenography skills for more than 80 years, estimates roughly 700,000 students across the state sit for official manual typing certification every year.

    These certificates are a ticket out of unemployment and village life for many poor youngsters, who pursue typing as a way to land coveted jobs as government clerks and stenographers.

    But these skills are becoming increasingly redundant amid "Digital India", a government-run initiative to modernise and harness technology to roll out e-services across the subcontinent of 1.3 billion.

    While the margin bells and ribbon spools will whirr and ping during Friday's final typing exams, it will not be long before the iconic machine will wind up in antique stores or on scrap heap.

    "With falling computer prices and governments phasing out its usage, typewriters have no future anymore," Abhyankar said.

    India was the last country in the world to run a major telegram operation before it shuttered in 2013 after 163 years of service.

Now, Venkaiah Naidu Takes On Hamid Ansari's 'Minorities Insecure' Remarks
  • Venkaiah Naidu, who takes over as Vice President of India tomorrow, today rejected as "political propaganda" the view that there is a sense of insecurity among minorities in the country. His comments were seen as a rejoinder to Hamid Ansari, the man he succeeds.

    Mr Ansari said there is a feeling of unease and a sense of insecurity among Muslims, and the "ambience of acceptance" is under threat. He also said he had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other ministers about "intolerance".

    Mr Naidu, who quit the government and the ruling BJP after being named vice presidential candidate, did not name anyone but appeared to respond to those comments in an interview. "Some people are saying minorities are insecure. It is a political propaganda. Compared to the entire world, minorities are more safe and secure in India and they get their due," Mr Naidu told the Press Trust of India.

    He also said the Indian society is the "most tolerant in the world" because of its people and civilisation.


    "There is tolerance that is why democracy is so successful," he said.

    Mr Naidu, who has been a BJP president in the past, cautioned against singling out one community, saying it would draw adverse reaction from other communities.

    "If you single out one community, other communities will take it otherwise. That is why we say all are equal. Appeasement for none justice for all," the 68-year-old former union minister said.


    History, he said, has proved that there is no discrimination against minorities.

    "They (minorities) got in prominent positions including constitutional responsibilities because there is no discrimination, and also on account of their merit," he said.

    Noting that India's uniqueness is its unity in diversity, he said "sarva dharm sadbhav" (communal harmony) and secularism is in the mind and blood of India.

    "India is secular not because of political leaders but because of its people and civilisation," he said.

    Mr Ansari's comments were seen to be linked to recent mob attacks in the name of cow protection, for which opposition parties have attacked the central government.

    Asked about the attacks, Mr Naidu said "India is a huge country and there could be some stray occurrences, which are nothing but aberrations".

    Mr Naidu commented that some people "blow such incidents out of proportion" for political considerations. Some go to the extent of "defaming" the county by raising such issues at international forum.

Sharad Yadav Signals Separation, Says There Are 2 Janata Dals
  • The gloves are off as Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United) began a three-day yatra or tour of Bihar with his sharpest attack yet on party boss Nitish Kumar, designed to provoke the Chief Minister into taking action against him.

    People of the sarkari (official) Janata Dal have become the Chief Minister and Ministers in Patna and then there is the real Janata Dal among the masses," Sharad Yadav said at the first stop of his Bahujan Chaupal yatra in Sonepur, also hitting out at Nitish Kumar over his decision to dissolve the "Grand Alliance" or Mahagathbandhan with Lalu Yadav and the Congress and join hands anew with the BJP. No JD-U leader was present, but the local legislator, Ramanuj Prasad of Lalu Yadav's RJD was.

    Sharad Yadav has accused Nitish Kumar of betraying the "trust of 11 crore people," who he said had backed the Mahagathbandhan in the 2015 assembly elections to rule for five years. "I still back the mahagathbandhan and stand with it. I have only asked a few JD(U) leaders to join me in this yatra (tour)," Mr Yadav said. The JD-U has distanced itself from Sharad Yadav's tour, with its state chief Vashisht Narain Singh calling it a "personal initiative. The JD-U has nothing to do with it."

    Though many supporters turned up at the airport to greet Sharad Yadav, there was no prominent JD-U leader or lawmaker. His most ardent supporters like Vijendra Yadav or KC Tyagi are now loath to speak in his support, describing his defiance as "political suicide".


    "The path that Sharad Yadav has chosen leads to the RJD," said KC Tyagi today, pointing out that Mr Yadav has not once commented on the corruption charges against Lalu Yadav and his family that led Nitish Kumar to end their alliance.



    "Sharad Yadav has constantly been questioning Nitish Kumar's decision, but hasn't once commented on the investigation against Lalu Yadav's son Tejashwi," Mr Tyagi said, warning, "If he crosses the line, it will be unfortunate."

    Mr Yadav has declared his intent to participate this month in a rally organised by the JD-U's ex-partner Lalu Yadav, where opposition parties will converge on an anti-BJP plank. The JD-U is clear that such an act will lay the basis of action against the former party chief but it will not oblige Mr Yadav with the expulsion that he wants. Nitish Kumar, they said, is likely to suspend Mr Yadav, which will checkmate him.   

    Sharad Yadav wants to be expelled from the JD-U because that will mean he doesn't lose his Rajya Sabha membership, which will happen if he resigns. The JD-U will instead set him up for a fall; a suspension from the party will mean that Sharad Yadav will be disqualified if he does not follow formal party orders or whips to support the BJP-led government in Parliament.

Business Affairs

Supreme Court says no to Sahara's plea for putting Aamby Valley auction on hold
  • In a jolt to Sahara chief Subrata Roy, the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected his plea to put on hold the auction process of the group's Aamby Valley property in Pune district of Maharashtra valued at Rs 34,000 crore.
    The apex court told Roy that his proposal of paying Rs 1,500 crore, if the auction process was halted or postponed, was unbelievable.
    "Your proposal is making us to make a statement that it is willing suspension of belief," a bench, headed by Justice Dipak Misra, said.
    It said the auction process will go on according to the schedule and if Rs 1,500 crore is paid by the contemnor (Roy) into the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)-Sahara refund account by September 7, then it may pass an appropriate order.
    "We are not inclined to entertain the prayer of the contemnor. The prayer is hereby rejected. If any agreement is reached by the group to raise money, then appropriate orders will be passed," a bench also comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and A K Sikri said.
    During the hearing, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said that the auction process of Aamby Valley which would start with the publication of a notice on August 14, should be postponed at least till September 16 to enable Roy arrange the money.
    He said that hotels in New York have been sold and soon money would be coming into the Sahara account after which Rs 1,500 crore would be deposited into the SEBI-SAHARA refund account by September 7, as had been directed by the court.
    "Our request is that the auction process for Aamby Valley, which will be initiated by way of publication of a notice should be postponed till September 16, as the value of property will fall drastically once it is put on sale in public domain," Sibal said.
    He said that Sahara has been on verge of entering an agreement with a Mauritius-based company to raise money, but for that purpose, the auction process has to be postponed for the time being.
    "We are negotiating a deal of subscription agreement whereby an investor will invest 1.67 billion dollars in Aamby Valley out of which around Rs 5000 crore will given to the SEBI-Sahara refund account," he said.
    Senior advocate Arvind Datar, representing the SEBI, opposed the proposal of the Sahara chief saying that every time a process starts, the group came up with some objection in order to delay the process.
    He said that it was a global auction and interested parties from across the world would participate and Rs 4.4 crore hasd already been spent in initiating the process.
    "It will not be appropriate, if the auction process is stalled," he said and added that according to SEBI's research, the said Mauritius-based company, named by Sahara, did not exist.
    To this, the bench said it was not going to pass any order and the auction process would not be stalled or postponed.
    It said the group could pursue the negotiation with the investor and the court would pass an order at the appropriate time.
    Roy had on Wednesday moved the apex court seeking to put a hold on the auction process to sell the group's property by the official liquidator of the Bombay High Court.
    The apex court had on July 25 asked the embattled Sahara chief to deposit Rs 1,500 crore in the SEBI-Sahara account by September 7 and said that it might then deliberate upon his plea seeking 18 months more time for making complete repayment.
    The court had simultaneously approved the draft sale notice and terms to dispose of the property prepared by the official liquidator of the Bombay High Court.
    "The official liquidator shall publish the sale notice as given by him and the notice shall be published on August 14.
    The steps which are required to be taken for the publication of the sale notice, are allowed," the court had said.
    The Sahara Group had earlier sought 18 months' time to repay around Rs 9,000 crore balance amount of the principal amount of Rs 24,000 crore.
    Sibal, however, had said that according to the group, the remaining amount was around Rs 8,000 crore and it had made all efforts to deposit the money.
    Roy, who has spent almost two years in jail, has been on parole since May 6 last year. The parole was granted the first time to enable him attend the funeral of his mother. It has been extended since then.
    Besides Roy, two other directors -- Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary -- were arrested for failure of the group's two companies -- Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHICL) -- to comply with the court's August 31, 2012 order to return Rs 24,000 crore to their investors.
    Another company director Vandana Bhargava was not taken into custody.

Panama papers being probed but India won't follow Pak example, says Arun Jaitley
  • Answering questions over the fate of Panama papers, the government today said every account named in the leak is being probed but made it clear that nobody would be punished here without a proper process, unlike Pakistan where Nawaz Sharif was removed as Prime Minister.
    "Nobody has ever taken more action than this government on foreign account details which have come," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha while replying to a debate on Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill which was passed by the House later.
    Referring to the Panama papers leak, he said "every account" in it is being investigated.
    "We have a rule of law. We do not have system like the neighbouring country where you remove first and then have a trial," Jaitley said, clearly referring to Sharif who was ousted last month over the Panama papers leak issue.
    Sharif had to resign after the Pakistan Supreme Court disqualified him from holding public office and ruled that graft cases be filed against him and his children over the Panama papers scandal.
    In the wake of that development, questions were raised here regarding the status of probe in the same issue.
    During the reply, Jaitley said tax authorities are conducting investigations and prosecutions are being launched in cases where documents have been received.
    "We first make our own investigations and on each one of those cases, whether it is Liechtenstein cases or HSBC cases or other cases which have come to the notice or the Panama, in each case, we have been touch with the regular authorities of the country where these accounts are," he said.
    "Prosecutions are being filed wherever documents are coming. Assessment proceedings are being cleared and there is no prohibition on publishing their names once the prosecutions are filed because they are filed in India in open court," the finance minister said.
    Jaitley said names are confidential as long as the matter is under investigation but the confidentiality clause ceases to exist once it reaches court.
    Dubbed as 'Panama Papers', investigations into vast stash of records from Panamanian legal firm Mossack Fonseca by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalist had named several world leaders and celebrities as having money stashed abroad in offshore companies. The leak had surfaced last year.

RBI to pay Rs 306.59 crore dividiend to government
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will pay 306.59 billion rupees ($4.78 billion) as a dividend to the government for the year ended June 2017, less than half the previous year's levels as a ban on higher currency bills raised the central bank's expenses.
    The decline could make it harder for the government to meet its fiscal deficit target of 3.2 percent of gross domestic product for the year ending in March, although New Delhi will likely meet the shortfall by boosting revenues from other areas.
    The amount paid is less than half of the 658.76 billion rupees the RBI transferred to the government last year and also less than the 749.01 billion rupees the government had expected from the central bank this year.
    Analysts said the lower dividend was largely because of costs associated with India's shock action in November to remove higher-currency bills from circulation in a bid to target undeclared wealth. The RBI did not provide a breakdown of its dividend.
    Anjali Verma, an economist at PhillipCapital said the costs likely included "printing of new notes , and of course, the entire compliance and the entire procedure" of monitoring the process of depositing the banned notes into the banking system.
    The government's fiscal prudence has won strong backing from markets, helping spark a record-setting rally in stock markets and contributing to a rally in bond markets.
    The shortfall in dividend from the RBI will likely spur the government to increase revenue from other areas, analysts added, including potentially cutting spending or seeking to raise more from planned market divestments in state-run companies.

Value of digital transactions falls 5.5% in July
  • The value of digital transactions, including transactions via debit and credit cards, net banking and prepaid payment instruments (PPIs), fell 5.5 per cent to Rs 107,482.6 billion in July 2017 compared to the previous month, according to Reserve Bank of India's provisional data. The value of digital transactions last contracted in April 2017 by 26.7 per cent.
    A decline in the value of transactions via NEFT to Rs 12,115.1 billion from Rs 12,694.2 billion in June 2017 led the fall in July.
    However, the volume of digital transactions grew by 1.7 per cent to 859.2 million in July. A four-million increase in the volume of transactions through debit and credit cards (totalling 236.4 million) led to the overall rise. In June, the volume of transactions fell by 1.6 per cent.

Sensex slides 267 points to hit a one-month low of 31,531
  • The benchmark Sensex plummeted 267 points to hit a one-month low of 31,531 and the Nifty crashed below 9,900 on Thursday as investors exited, unnerved by sliding global shares due to stand-off between the US and North Korea.
    Both fell for the fourth straight day.
    North Korea upped the ante, defying the US President's "fire and fury" warning and threatening to strike its military base in Guam. The markets have already been reeling under the regulatory clampdown after Sebi's Monday directive imposing trading restrictions on suspected shell companies.
    After opening lower, the Sensex recovered, but only to slip again to hit a low of 31,422.80 before settling down 266.51 points, or 0.84 per cent, at 31,531.33. The level was last seen on July 7 when it ended at 31,360.63.
    The gauge had lost 527.57 points in the previous three sessions.
    The Nifty after shuttling between 9,776.20 and 9,892.65, ended the day lower by 87.80 points or 0.89 per cent at 9,820.25.
    Lower-than-expected earnings by Tata Motors, Eicher Motors and a few other companies dampened risk appetite. Tata Motors emerged as the top loser among Sensex constituents. 

General Awareness

ISRO to develop full-fledged Hyperspectral Imaging Earth observation satellite

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)is planning to launch a full-fledged niche Earth observation (EO) satellite called the Hyperspectral Imaging Satellite or HySIS using a critical chip called optical imaging detector array it has developed.
    About Hyperspectral imaging:
    Hyperspectral or hyspex imaging is considered to be an EO trend that is being experimented globall An EO expert called it equivalent to ‘CATSCAN’ of Earth from space.
    • Hyspex adds a new dimension to simple optical imagers, which can be used for a range of activities including monitoring the environment, crops, looking for oil and minerals and even for military surveillance. All these activities need images that show a high level of differentiation of the object or scene.
    • ‘Hyspex’ imaging is said to enable distinct identification of objects, materials or processes on Earth by reading the spectrum for each pixel of a scene from space.
    • ISRO first tried it out in an 83-kg IMS-1 experimental satellite in May 2008. The same year, a hyperspectral camera was put on Chandrayaan-1and used to map lunar mineral resources.
    • German environmental satellitecalled EnMAP capable of hyperspectral imaging is due to be launched on an Indian booster in 2018.
    • The optical imaging detector array chip has been made at ISRO’s electronics arm, the Semi-Conductor Laboratory, Chandigarh and its architecture has been designed by Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad.
    • ISRO is thus endeavouring to enter the domain of operational hyperspectral imaging from earth orbit with a satellite that can see in 55 spectral or colour bands from 630 km above ground.
    Quick Facts about ISRO:
    ISRO is the space agency of Government of India, formed with a vision to harness space technology for national development
    • Formation Year: 1969
    • Founded by: Vikram Sarabhai
    • Headquarters: Bengaluru
    • Current Chairman: A S Kiran Kumar

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