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Current Affairs - 27 August 2017

General Affairs 

Bihar floods: PM Narendra Modi promises Rs 500 crore after aerial survey with Nitish Kumar
  • Flanked by Bihar Chief Minister and new ally Nitish Kumar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today made an aerial survey of flood-hit areas of the state.
    Following the aerial survey PM Modi announced Rs 500 crore as immediate relief for Bihar apart from Rs 2 lakh each to the next kin of those died in the floods.
    Modi said that a central team would also be sent to the state soon to assess the damage caused by the floods. According to the PMO, Modi asked the insurance companies to send their personnel urgently to assess the damage to crops so that farmers could get early relief.
    1. The decisions followed a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi and senior Bihar government officials after the aerial survey. The meeting took place at Chunapur Airport of Air Force in Purnea from where PM Modi flew back to New Delhi.
    2. "After the review, the Prime Minister promised all possible support to the Bihar government, the PMO said in a statement. PM Modi made the aerial survey of four affected districts - Purnea, Katihar, Kisanganj and Araria. The Chief Minister and his deputy accompanied the PM.
    3. PM Modi was briefed about the state of flood in Bihar where 19 districts are affected by the deluge, 13 of them witnessing immense inundation. These districts include Purnea, Katihar, Kisanganj and Araria.
    4. Maximum damage has been caused to water resources department. Due to breach of embankments and waterways for irrigation, a loss of about Rs 27,00 crore has been accrued by the department. Around Rs 2,000 crore is estimated to have been spent in distribution of relief among marooned population of the state, it came out in the meeting.
    5. Modi said that the Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry would take appropriate action with regard to repair of the damaged roads in Bihar. He further said that the infrastructure damaged due to the floods would be restored at the earliest with the central help.
    6. PM Modi announced Rs 2 lakh as ex-gratia from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund for each of those killed and Rs 50,000 each for those seriously injured, the PMO said. He also referred to his recent talks with Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba during which it was decided that a detailed project report would be prepared at the earliest on the Saptkoshi Dam and Sunkoshi Storage-cum-Diversion scheme. Both nations would also work on flood control in the border areas, which will benefit the region.
    7. PM Modi assured the state government that the Centre would provide all help to compensate the loss due to floods. As per the latest report, death toll in Bihar has mounted to 418, with 1.67 crore people in 19 districts being affected by the deluge.
    8. Earlier this morning, PM Modi arrived at Chunapur Airport from Delhi. He was welcomed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, his deputy Sushil Modi, Disaster Management Department Minister Dinesh Chand Yadav and Chief Secretary Anjani Kumar Singh among others.
    9. This was the first visit of the PM to Bihar since the JD(U)-BJP coalition government was formed on July 27 after Nitish Kumar dumped the Grand Alliance over graft issue.
    10. Interestingly, it was timed a just a day ahead of the anti-BJP rally of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is trying show off the strength of united Opposition. However, several prominent Opposition leaders including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi, BSP chief Mayawati and leaders from the Left front have decided to skip the event.

Pulwama: 8 security personnel, 2 terrorists killed in attack on police complex
  • Eight security personnel have been killed while five were injured in an encounter with militants today in Pulwama's district police lines in Jammu and Kashmir. 
    The martyred security personnel include four policemen and 4 CRPF jawans. Two of the four CRPF personnel include Jaswant Singh and Dhanawade Ravinder. Two CRPF personnel have received bullet injuries.
    Two terrorists have also been killed in the encounter that is still underway. The bodies of two Special Police Officers (SPOs) who were reported missing earlier have also been recovered.
    The militants launched the attack on a guard-post upon entering the town's district police lines at around 3.40 am, the police said. They used grenades and gunfire.
    Several families were evacuated from the vicinity of the incident. The evacuation is still on through a helicopter.
    In a statement, issued after Home Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the security situation in the state, the ministry said the terrorists had been cornered in a set of government quarters and action to flush them out was in process. "The exact number of terrorists is still not known and the two SPOs of Jammu and Kashmir are trapped in the building where the terrorists have been cornered," it said.
    The meeting, attended by NSA Ajit Doval, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and others, reviewed the ongoing encounter in Pulwama.
    The home secretary said there were two SPOs on the sport but their fate is not known immediately. "Two SPOs were there. We are not sure whether they are safe. Some danger to their lives still exists," he said.
    The home minister expressed profound sorrow over the death of a constable of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and two personnel of the CRPF and expressed condolences to the families.

    Militants launched a major pre-dawn attack on a district police complex, triggering a massive gunfight in which one of them died while three others were still holed up after nearly 12 hours.

Ram Rahim verdict mayhem: 36 Dera ashrams sealed, 600 people detained
  • A day after self-styled Godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan was convicted in a 15-year-old rape case by a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana, Punjab and neighbouring areas find themselves wrapped in a blanket of arson, restrictions and unrest.
    Swinging into action today, the Haryana government authorities sealed 36 Dera ashrams in areas including Kurukshetra, Ambala and Kaithal among others.
    This comes in response to orders of the High Court that announced that all losses caused to property by Gurmeet's followers will be compensated by Dera properties. Soon after which, the sect removed the mention of all its ashrams in various parts of north India from its website. In a spate of latest developments, the Chandigarh Police has arrested six bodyguards of Ram Rahim and seized arms, kerosene oil tins from them.
    In addition, over 600 people have been sent into preventive detention and 60 vehicles of Dera supporters impounded.
    Meanwhile, curfew in Punjab's Mansa town has been relaxed for four hours and 10 paramilitary companies have been deployed in Haryana's Rohtak city.
    The violence that ensued after the verdict, has till now claimed over 30 lives including seven women and injured as many as 250 people.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim verdict aftermath: Blood sport erupts across 3 states in baba's name
  • Mobs rampaged across Haryana on Friday, leaving at least 30 people dead and more than 350 injured, while tensions flared in other parts of northern India after a court declared quasi-religious sect leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh guilty of raping two of his followers.
    Officials said the rioting erupted in Panchkula, 250km north of Delhi, minutes after the special CBI court convicted the 50-year-old of the crimes committed in 2002. Singh, a burly, bearded man who has scripted and starred in his own films and travels in a fleet of bullet-proof cars, commands a near-devotional following - he claims in the millions - in Punjab and Haryana, where his Dera Sacha Sauda group is based.
    Supporters attacked railway stations, petrol pumps, buses and television vans as the Army was called in to restore order. Shocking photos showed bodies lying in the middle of the road, ringed by burning vehicles, as scores of security personnel marched past.
    The Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled that if Singh's followers are found involved in causing loss to properties, the damages will be recovered from the Dera.
    The quantum of sentence against Ram Rahim, who enjoyed 'Z' category security, will be pronounced on Monday, but experts say he faces at least seven years in prison. He was taken by a helicopter to a jail in Rohtak. Facing a barrage of attacks from the Opposition and on social media, chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar admitted that there were lapses but asserted appropriate action was being taken.
    Asked how thousands of Dera followers managed to reach Panchkula and was his government equipped for this, the CM said, "We were prepared to deal with the situation."
    The rape allegations surfaced in an anonymous letter sent to the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002. Scrutiny of the ashram grew when a journalist investigating the sect was shot dead the same year.
    The trial in Panchkula triggered a security lockdown, with police closing schools and converting a cricket stadium into a jail in Chandigarh. Authorities in Haryana and Punjab had suspended internet services to curb social messaging in a bid to contain anticipated unrest.
    In 2015, Ram Rahim was also accused of encouraging 400 followers to undergo castration at his ashram so they could get closer to God.
    The CBI chargesheets, main and supplementary, have mentioned names of 24 female disciples who left the Dera after being sexually abused. This reporter established contact with four victims through a former Dera aide, Gurdas Singh Toor, who spent six years with the sect and had access to the Baba's "secret place", called goofa (a cave), where girls were raped and tortured.
    Two rape victims have revealed that he would ask his close female disciples to deploy three to four beautiful sadhvis as sentries to guard the cave through the night. The sect leader allegedly picked a new victim each day. One victim even accused Singh of raping schoolgirls.

Ram Rahim rape verdict: Over 200 Haryana-bound trains cancelled
  • The railways today cancelled 200 Haryana-bound trains as security concerns mounted in the wake of the CBI court's verdict in a case involving Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
    "At least 201 trains heading to Haryana on Friday have been cancelled in view of the law and order situation in the state," A a Northern Railway official was quoted as saying by IANS.
    These included 92 express and 109 passenger trains, reportedly. Some of the cancelled trains were Jaipur-Chandigarh Intercity Express, Barmer-Kalka Express, Barmer Haridwar Link Express, Firozpur-Chandigarh Express, Kalka Himalyan Queen.
    "Around 250 trains have been cancelled. All trains going towards Rohtak cancelled for tomorrow," Neeraj Sharma, CPRO, Northern Railway was quoted as saying by ANI.
    A special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Panchkula, Haryana held the Dera Sacha Sauda leader guilty of rape.
    The verdict came as a big setback to Ram Rahim's followers who indulged in violence after attacking media and police vehicles. Police had to fire tear gas and gunshots to control the angry supporters.
    Dera Sacha Sauda supporters went on a rampage in different parts of Haryana and Punjab including Sirsa and Panchkula.
    Besides clashes with police, the cult's followers indulged in stone pelting, attacking mediapersons and damaging public properties despite heavy security arrangements being in place.

Business Affairs

No extension in Aadhaar-PAN link deadline. Last date to link your cards August 31
  • The last date for taxpayers to link their PAN with Aadhaar remains August 31 as the Supreme Court verdict on privacy has no bearing it, according to UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey.
    The apex court ruled on Thursday that the right to privacy is a fundamental right, having farreaching impacts on data collection and storage guidelines followed by various agencies, including in large projects like Aadhaar.
    "The requirement for Aadhaar being quoted for availing government subsidies, welfare schemes and other benefits will also continue unhindered for now," he told PTI. The biometric identifier is currently required for services ranging from getting subsidised cooking gas to opening bank account and obtaining a new phone number. The government had extended to deadline to link Aadhaar to PAN by a month to August 31.
    "Linking of PAN to Aadhaar is mandated by an amendment in the Income-Tax Act. The linking will continue under that act and law. There is no change." He said various deadlines that have been prescribed, be it under provision of Aadhaar Act, Income Tax Act or money laundering rules will have to be adhered to as those laws are valid.
    As Thursday's verdict did not talk specifically about Aadhaar, with a five-judge bench set to pronounce judgment on that aspect, Pandey clarified that Aadhaar enrolment will continue unhindered. He added that the Aadhaar Act protects privacy of people as a fundamental right and its provisions provide for safeguarding of personal data and how such data can be used.
    "The data will not be shared without the consent of the person. So, there are number of privacy protection provisions inbuilt into the Aadhaar Act itself," he said. He noted that core biometric can never be shared with anyone for any reason whatsoever, except in special circumstances.

Infosys governance issue: Nandan Nilekani to look into USD 200 million Panaya deal
  • Infosys chairman Nandan Nilekani on Friday said the company would focus on good governance going ahead as espoused by its founder Narayana Murthy and he would soon receive a full briefing on all recent investigations into the company's affairs, including the controversial Panaya acquisition.
    After the first board meeting of the company on Friday chaired by Nilekani, Infosys issued a statement saying 'while the board and the company are focused on the future, consistent with the company's commitment to good governance, the new chairman will get a full briefing on these investigations and the appropriate course of action will be decided.'
    The company had authorized investigations into allegations made by anonymous persons regarding the conduct of prior management, and each of these investigations concluded that there was no wrongdoing. Disagreements between Murthy and the board centered around a rise in Vishal Sikka's pay, the acquisition of Israeli automation firm Panaya for USD 200 million and a severance package offered to a former finance chief.
    The Infosys board on Friday also approved the appointment of the executive recruitment firm Egon Zehnder to work with its nominations and remunerations committee, headed by Kiran Mazumdar Shaw , to review and identify the right candidate to be the company's next CEO and MD.
    Nilekani made it clear that he would be around for as long as he was needed in Infosys. He said his key task would be to assist in the search for a new leader from within the company or outside Nilekani, who said his inbox was already filling with names of potential applicants, stressed that not just competence, but cultural fit would be an important criteria, making internal candidates "very strong contenders."
    Nilekani is credited for increasing Infosys's revenue to USD2 billion from USD500 million during his 2002-2007 stint as chief, said the company is looking for a CEO who will be able to manage a large global firm, accelerate strategy execution and oversee its transformation. Chief Operating Officer Pravin Rao has been named interim CEO and will remain in the post until a replacement is found.
    Nilekani said he would ensure that Infosys patriarch Narayana Murthy is given the respect he deserves. "I will seek advice from Murthy but the final call will be taken by the board. I have come in to focus on the future of the company, I have come in to take the company forward and deal with its challenges," Nilekani told investors in a call on Friday, adding he would stay with the IT firm.
    The company statement also said that the board believes it to be unfortunate that various differences of opinion have arisen between Mr. Murthy and the Board in the recent past. The Board wishes to express that it was not its intention to cause Mr. Murthy or any other affected person any personal distress or anguish while stating its point of view. Nilekani, one of Infosys' seven founders and a former CEO, was named chairman on Thursday night in a victory for the founders, who led by Narayana Murthy have waged a bitter battle with the board for months over alleged corporate governance lapses.
    Vishal Sikka, the first non-founder CEO of Infosys, resigned last week blaming Murthy for creating an "untenable atmosphere", sparking a sell-off in Infosys shares and wiping billions of dollars off the company's market value. Nilekani, however, refrained from commenting on Infosys' future strategy, apart from saying it would be aligned with global developments and that he saw tremendous opportunity in software, data and machine learning. More businesses are trying to adopt automation and services such as big data, cloud and analytics to become agile and prevent being disrupted by nimbler startups. 

India denies fresh anti-dumping duties on Chinese products
  • India today termed as "factually incorrect" a Chinese official media report claiming that it was planning to impose fresh anti-dumping duties this year on 93 products originating in China, saying they were already in force after decisions over a course of five years.
    A report in the state-run China Daily today said that India would this month impose anti-dumping duties on 93 products imported from China.
    "Some recent media reports have mentioned that the Government of India is planning to impose anti-dumping duty on 93 products from China. These reports are factually incorrect," the Indian Embassy here said in a statement.
    The current situation is that anti-dumping duty is already in force on 93 products from China comprising of chemicals and petrochemicals, products of steel and other metals, fibres and yarn, machinery items, rubber or plastic products, electric and electronic items, consumer goods among others, it said.
    The decision to impose anti-dumping duties on these 93 products originating in China were taken over a course of previous five years, it said.
    Ministry of Commerce said on Wednesday that India should refrain from abusing trade remedy measures, which would disrupt economic cooperation and bilateral trade relations.
    According to the ministry, India has launched 212 investigations against Chinese products since 1994 and 93 of them are still in progress.
    So far this year, 13 investigations have been initiated, the China Daily quoted the ministry as saying. The report said that India overtook the US in the first half of this year with the most trade remedy investigations against China.
    China is paying close attention to trade investigations and hopes India would carry them out in a prudent way based on relevant regulations, Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng was quoted as saying by the Daily.
    "China and India are both BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) members with vast cooperation opportunities and should jointly maintain a free and open multilateral trading system," Gao said.
    "Instead of resorting to trade remedy measures and disrupting trade orders, the two countries can settle trade disputes through consultation and realise a win-win situation through expanded economic and trade cooperation," he said.
    Last month Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman, who took part in the BRICS Commerce Ministers meeting in Shanghai, held "candid" talks with her Chinese counterpart Zhong Shan over the ballooning bilateral trade deficit which had crossed over USD 52 billion.
    "The two Ministers exchanged views, in a candid manner, on further development of a strong, balanced and sustainable trade and investment partnership between India and China," the Indian Consulate in Shanghai had said in a statement.
    Sitharaman, in particular, sought the assistance of Chinese Commerce Ministry in reducing the trade deficit, facilitating greater market access and for providing a level- playing field for Indian IT, pharmaceuticals and agro products in China, it said.
    India's trade deficit with China in 2015-16 swelled to USD 52.68 billion, which according to Indian officials has become unsustainable.

Niti Aayog suggests retaining tax exemption limit at Rs 2.5 lakh
  • Niti Aayog on Friday suggested the government should retain the income tax exemption threshold at Rs 2.50 lakh, and take steps to prevent non-farm entities from declaring their earnings as agri income.
    Three Year Action Agenda, 2017-18 to 2019-20 of the think tank, released by Finance Minister Arun Jatiley, also asked the government to "frontally address" the problem of corruption among tax officials as part of its exercise to curb black money.
    Cases of corruption among tax officials "must be prosecuted and disposed swiftly" since without instilling honesty among officials it would not be possible to curb generation of black money. On direct taxes, the 211-page document said that the nominal tax exemption threshold should remain unchanged in a bid to include greater proportion of individuals in the tax net over time.
    "We should aggressively move the economy towards greater formalisation, which will lead to greater number of individuals filing the tax returns. This includes moving towards digital payments and away from cash," it said. It further said that the government should endeavour to arrest tax evasion when non-agriculture income is declared as agriculture income. The provision of exempting agriculture income from tax is meant to protect farmers, "non-agriculture entities sometimes use it to evade taxes by declaring agriculture as the source of their income. In order to mitigate the generation of black money, the loopholes need to be plugged".
    The document also makes a case for improving tax administration and minimising tax litigations by reducing the scope of interpretation of tax laws.
    The Niti Aayog also suggested comprehensive reforms of the anti-competitive regulations as "faulty regulatory policies can have a severe adverse effect on the efficient interplay of market forces and end up harming public interest".
    As regards the Prime Ministers call for doubling farmers income by 2022, the think tank said the agenda should include measures to raise farm productivity, bring remunerative prices to farmers, put agri land to productive use, and improve implementation of relief measures.
    The Aayog also makes a case for reform of Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees Act (AMPC Act) and review of the minimum support price (MSP) mechanism.
    "MSPs have distorted cropping patterns due to their in certain commodities in selected reasons. There has been excessive focus on procurement of wheat, rice and sugarcane at the expense of other crop such as pulses, oilseeds and coarse grains," it observed. Such distortions have lead to depletion of water resources, soil degradation and deterioration in water quality in the north-west.
    "One measure that can help reduce distortions in the MSP system is the system of price deficiency payment. While MSP may still be used for need based procurement, under the deficiency payments system, a subsidy may be provided to farmers on other targeted produce, contingent on prices falling below an MSP linked threshold," it said.

Tata Motors working on alternative plans for Nano: official
  • Leading automobile manufacturer Tata Motors is now working on alternative plans for its small car Nano whose sales have fallen making its production not a viable proposition, an official of the company said. 
    Asked about the future of Nano, COO of Tata Motors Satish Borwankar said "going forward, alternative plans for Nano is being considered. Like the electric version of the small car, production of Nano is no longer a viable proposition". 
    But he clarified that the company would not phase out Nano as there were sentimental reasons attached to it and the shareholders also wanted its production to continue. After the company abandoned the Singur plant, Tata Motors shifted the production facility to Sanand in Gujarat. 
    "Around 1000 Nano cars are being sold every month at the moment", he said. He said that the Sanand plants assembly line produces three passenger vehicles (PV), namely Nano, Tiago and Tigor. 
    "The production volumes of Tiago and Tigor are substantial as compared to Nano which is very small", the official said. Asked about the arresting the falling market share of both its commercial vehicles (CV) and PVs, Borwankar said "there was a issue of customer connect which is now being addressed". 
    "We are now understanding the customers issues by visiting the dealerships. The sales for June, July and the current month have bounced back", he told reporters on the sidelines of a CII event here today. 
    The other problem regarding the CV segment was that the vendors were finding it difficult to give the supplies. They are ramping up production as demand has increased, he said. Tata Motors would launch a compact SUV from its shared platform at Ranjangaon plant at Pune. 
    "This launch will be before Diwali", the official said. Average capacity utilisation of the plants manufacturing CVs has increased to 75 per cent, while those producing PV were running at peak capacity, he said.

General Awareness

New Rs 200 banknote to be launched by RBI

  • According to a notification in the Gazette of India the Modi government has notified introduction of new Rs 200 notes on 23rd August 2017.
    Key Points:
    i.The Reserve Bank of India has launched the Rs 200 notes from 25th August from select RBI offices and some banks.
    ii.The move is widely expected to ease the shortage of lower-denomination currency bills.
    iii.The notes will be in the Mahatma Gandhi (New) Series, bearing signature of Governor Urjit
    Key Specifications of the Note, as detailed by the RBI:
    • See through register with denominational numeral 200.
    • Latent image with denominational numeral 200.
    • Denominational numeral 200 in Devnagari.
    • Portrait of Mahatma Gandhi at the centre.
    • Micro letters ‘RBI’, ‘Bharat’ (in Hindi), ‘India’ and ‘200’.
    • Windowed security thread with inscriptions Bharat in Hindi and RBI with colour shift. Colour of the thread changes from green to blue when the note is tilted.
    • Denominational numeral with rupee symbol, Rs 200 in colour changing ink (green to blue) on bottom right.
    For visually impaired
    (a) Intaglio or raised printing of Mahatma Gandhi portrait, Ashoka Pillar emblem, raised Identification mark H with micro-text Rs 200, four angular bleed lines with two circles in between the lines both on the right and left sides.
    On the reverse side
    (a) Year of printing of the note on the left.
    (b) Swachh Bharat logo with slogan
    (c)  Language panel
    (d) Motif of Sanchi Stupa
    (e)Denominational numeral 200 in Devnagari
    Dimension of the banknote will be 66 mm × 146 mm

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