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Current Affairs - 06 September 2017

General Affairs 

Railway Tribunal Benches To Settle Claims Of Utkal Express Accident Victims
  • Special benches of Railway Claims Tribunal (RCT) would be held at six places, including Bhubaneswar, to expeditiously settle compensation claims of victims of recent Kalinga Utkal Express and Kaifiyat Express train accidents.

    The chairman of Railway Claims Tribunal has ordered for these special benches to inquire into and decide compensation claims of the victims of these mishaps so that compensation can be handed over immediately, an East Coast Railway (ECoR) statement said.

    While 18477 Puri-Haridwar Kalinga Utkal Express had derailed on August 19, 12225 Azamgarh-Delhi Kaifiyat Express mishap took place on August, 23 in Uttar Pradesh, it said.

    The Special Benches will be held at RCT Headquarters in Delhi and also at five other places -- Ghaziabad, Bhopal, Lucknow, Jaipur and Bhubaneswar from September 11 to 15.

    In Bhubaneswar, RCT would hold Special Bench at Odisha Forest Development Corporation Limited Building during this period, it said.

    People who had sustained injury or suffered any loss, any agent authorised by the victim on his behalf, guardian of the victim in case of minor or the dependant of the deceased resulted from these accidents can apply for compensation with relevant identity proofs in original like Aadhaar Card, voter identity card, ration card, family register, resident proof including other relevant documents, it added.

No One Can Separate Me From Ganga, Says Sulking Uma Bharti
  • Apparently upset over being stripped of the Ganga Rejuvenation portfolio, Uma Bharti on Tuesday said no one can separate her from the river Ganga and announced that she will begin a padyatra along the banks of the holy river from Gangasagar next month.

    Ms Bharti, from whom Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation portfolio was taken and handed over to Nitin Gadkari in Sunday's Cabinet reshuffle, also wondered how Gadkari could get this portfolio if she had failed because she had worked in consultation with him.

    "No one can separate me from Ganga. Ganga is still with me... If I had failed how could Gadkari get this portfolio because I had worked in close coordination and close consultations with him (Gadkari) on Namami Gange project," she told media persons at the Drinking water and Sanitation Ministry, whose charge she was given on Sunday.

    "I have successfully implemented most of the projects of my ministry and completed most of the projects," she said.

    Ms Bharti said she will begin a padyatra from Gangasagar in West Bengal from October but hastened to add that it was not an act of defiance.

    "I had announced a year ago that I will start a padyatra and had intimated Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Shah then told me to begin the yatra after the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Now, I will begin this padyatra to make the people aware about Ganga cleanliness. The government alone cannot clean Ganga. We need to involve people and make them aware of it," she said.

2 Top Generals Survive Army Helicopter Crash In Ladakh
  • The Lieutenant General who heads the Indian Army's 14 Corps based in Leh has survived a helicopter crash in Eastern Ladakh this afternoon. Lt General SK Upadhya was onboard the Army Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter which is believed to have encountered control-related issued at the Tsogstalu helipad in Eastern Ladakh at 1:30 this afternoon.

    Lt General Upadhya was accompanied by Major General Savneet Singh who commands the Army's 3 Infantry Division based in Karu, approximately 40 kilometres from Leh.  

    Both pilots onboard the helicopter are also safe though some of the officers onboard the chopper have sustained minor injuries.

    The Indian Army's Leh-based 14 Corps is a key formation of the Army responsible for defences along the Siachen glacier to the North and the Ladakh front to the East. In other words, the Corps defends India from threats emerging from both Pakistan and China.

    A Court of Inquiry has been ordered by the Army to look into what resulted in the crash.

    There have been 19 incidents involving the indigenous Dhruv helicopter after it was inducted by security forces in India and by the Ecuadorian Air Force since it entered service in 2002.  The Army and Air Force depend heavily on the helicopter which is capable to operating at extreme altitudes in the Siachen and the Ladakh region.

Sri Lankan Navy Attacks Tamil Nadu Fishermen, 20 Boats Damaged
  • The Sri Lankan Navy allegedly attacked a group of fishermen from Tamil Nadu today and damaged their boats and fishing equipment, while they were fishing off the Katchatheevu island.

    According to information reaching the police here, the navy personnel of the island nation subsequently chased away the fishermen after warning them of severe consequences.

    Twenty boats were damaged and more than 10 fishermen sustained injuries in the attack, the police said, adding that the injured were admitted to a private hospital and discharged subsequently.

    Over 2,500 fishermen from Rameswaram, who had put out to sea last night were forced to return to the shore this morning.

    The incident comes a day after 80 fishermen from the state, who were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy in separate incidents early this year, returned to the Karaikal port from the island nation.

    The released fishermen belonged to Ramanathapuram, Pudukottai, Karaikal, Nagapattinam, Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Madurai and Puducherry districts, a government official said.

    The Sri Lankan government had agreed to release the 80 fishermen last week.

PM Narendra Modi Leaves For Myanmar For First Bilateral Visit
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today left for Nay Pyi Taw for his first bilateral visit to Myanmar with an aim of charting a roadmap for closer cooperation between the two countries in areas like security and counter-terrorism.

    "I thank the Chinese government and people for their warm hospitality during the BRICS Summit. Leaving for Myanmar for a bilateral visit," PM Modi said in a tweet.

    The prime minister left for Nay Pyi Taw, the capital city of Myanmar, from the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen, where he attended the annual BRICS summit and held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders.

    PM Modi is scheduled to call on Myanmar President Htin Kyaw who is also hosting a banquet for him later today. PM Modi will also hold wide-ranging talks with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi tomorrow.

    PM Modi had said India and Myanmar will look at strengthening existing cooperation in areas of security and counter-terrorism, trade and investment, infrastructure and energy, and culture.

    He hoped his visit will help in charting a roadmap for closer cooperation between the two countries.

    The prime minister said both countries will review developments in bilateral ties with a focus on "extensive" programme of development cooperation and socio-economic assistance India is undertaking in Myanmar.

    PM Modi said he was looking forward to paying a visit to the famed heritage city of Bagan, where the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has done a "stellar work" in renovating the Ananda Temple.

    The ASI will be undertaking further restoration work on a number of pagodas and murals that were damaged in an earthquake last year, he said.

    PM Modi had visited Myanmar in 2014 to attend the ASEAN-India Summit. The Myanmarese president and Ms Suu Kyi had visited India last year.

    Myanmar is one of India's strategic neighbours and shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern states.

Business Affairs

Farmers to get global markets, policy to boost agri exports on cards, says Suresh Prabhu
  • Outlining his priority, new Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu today said the ministry will work on promoting agri exports and will ensure global market for farmers.
    He said that farmers have all the right to access global markets and get better prices and "for that we will put in place a good policy framework very soon".
    Prabhu, who took charge as Commerce and Industry Minister yesterday, said that his ministry will work on developing global supply chain for the agriculture sector.
    Addressing the 10th Agriculture Leadership Summit 2017 here, the minister said at the multi-lateral platforms also, there is a need to work on removing trade restrictions with an aim to boost the country's agri shipments.
    "We have right to have access to global markets for our farm produce by removing all trade restrictive practices," he said adding all these measures would help increase farmers' income.
    The Narendra Modi-led government aims to double farmers' income by 2022. Crop diversification, focus on allied sectors and food processing and tapping global markets are among the steps the government is taking to meet the target.
    In 2016-17, export of agri products, such as cereals, processed fruit and vegetables, processed foods, and animal products, was around USD 16.27 billion, according to the data by Apeda.
    Prabhu said the ministry will work on developing global supply chains for the sector.
    "We have to develop global supply chains and we are going to actually work on that," he added.
    The commerce ministry, Prabhu said, will make sure that "we will achieve this goal to ensure that India's agri sector will also be able to feed hundreds of others".
    As a commerce minister, he said "my job is to ensure that we will develop this global supply chain and ensure farmer get better prices".
    Domestically, the ministry will work with its agri counterparts to develop agriculture parks in India.
    "If here are clusters for industry, why should we not think about clusters for different kinds of agriculture," he said.
    Further Prabhu informed that soon he would be meeting trade ministers in Manila, the Philippines, and Seoul, South Korea.
    Talking about the World Trade Organisation (WTO), he said the ministerial conference is in Argentina in December.
    "Our agenda is going to be very aggressive. This is a development round ... We will like to make sure that Indian farmers get their due by getting better price from global markets. This is very important and this is going to be part of the strategy to increase farmers income in India," the minister said.
    Talking about challenges in the agri sector, he said land and water is limited but the population is growing and "we have a challenge to keep feeding".
    "New challenge is climate change. It will have a huge negative impact on agriculture ... how to keep feeding more people," he said, adding the changing food habits are also going to be a big challenge and to address these "we have to have technologies and you need to think differently".

Banks without Aadhaar centres in 10% branches to pay Rs 20000 fine from October
  • The UIDAI has given banks one more month to open Aadhaar enrolment centres in a stipulated 10 per cent of branches. Banks will have to pay Rs 20,000 as fine for every uncovered branch after September 30, CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey said on Tuesday.
    The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), in July, had asked private as well as public banks to open Aadhaar enrolment and updation facility in one out of 10 branches by August-end.
    Several banks had asked the authority to grant a grace period of one month for setting up such facility on their premises.
    "Banks approached us saying they need more time, so we have given them till September 30 to set up the facility. Non-compliance after the deadline will attract a fine of Rs 20,000 per uncovered branch every month," Pandey told PTI.
    This means a bank with 100 branches will need to have Aadhaar enrolment facility in 10 branches. Failure to open the stipulated facility in, say, five branches even after expiry of the September 30 deadline, would mean that the bank will have to cough up penalty of Rs 1 lakh in the first month itself (at the rate of Rs 20,000 per uncovered branch).
    Similarly, the penalty will be imposed in subsequent months, also based on the branches that are left uncovered.
    Aadhaar, the 12-digit biometric identity number, is required for opening of bank accounts and financial transaction of Rs 50,000 and above.
    Existing bank account holders too are required to furnish the Aadhaar number by December 31, 2017.
    "This (enrolment facility in bank premises) was done for convenience of people. Given the requirement of linking Aadhaar with existing bank account and for new bank accounts, having the enrolment and updation facilities within the branches (10 per cent) will ensure that people do not face any difficulty," Pandey explained the rationale.
    Many banks have informed the authority that the process of procuring biometric devices, certification of enrolment operators and identifying enrolment agencies is still on.
    "We wanted to give banks a reasonable time to set up the required infrastructure, and one month is a reasonable time," Pandey said, adding that he did not anticipate any further delay by banks to have the enrolment facilities in place.
    The PSU and private banks have been informed about the extension.
    There are 1,20,000 bank branches in the country and with this move, 12,000 Aadhaar enrolment and updation centres will have to be set up in those branches.
    Many banks are already registrars, but they do not have enrolment centres inside the bank premises on Tuesday.

Govt is going to bell the cat with 5G auctions
  • The telecom regulator TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has floated a consultation paper on the next round of spectrum auction last week. The auction aims to sell spectrum in different bands, including 3300-3400 MHz and 3400-3600 MHz airwaves that are used for 5G services. It's unlikely that the department of telecom (DoT) will sell airwaves in the current financial year due to various reasons. 

    In the consultation paper, TRAI has asked for comments on a host of issues including the appropriate time for the next auction, the amount of spectrum to be auctioned, the block sizes of the spectrum to be sold, the need for changes in roll out obligations, and how the spectrum should be valued. 

    It says that as of January, there are 24 commercial networks in 15 countries that are operating on 3600-3800 MHz band, including UK, Canada, Belgium, Spain, Bahrain and Iran. "GSA also reported that the ecosystem for bands 42 continues to grow with 96 devices operate in this band," the paper says. 

    The 5G technology is expected to give boost to IoT (internet of things) and M2M (machine-to-machine) communications rather than providing higher speed data on handheld devices. Globally, the use cases of 5G are still being explored in areas like IoT and M2M communications. In addition, there's still limited deployment of 5G across the world. Major 5G trials are expected to begin in 2018 with full-scale commercial deployment expected in 2020. That's roughly three years from now.

    Given that 4G technology was introduced in 2012, and the major push to 4G came about only last year with the launch of Reliance Jio, the domestic operators are not prepared - financially and in terms of technical knowhow - to invest aggressively in 5G at this juncture.

    While the government may need revenues from the telecom sector in the current financial year, the industry players have so far opposed to such an idea. The operators say that the ongoing consolidation in the sector - Idea-Vodafone merger, Airtel acquiring Videocon Telecom, and others - is expected to take a long time to settle down. As per the budget documents, the finance ministry expects non-tax revenue from telecom sector to drop to Rs 44,342 crore in 2017/18 as against Rs 98,994 crore estimated in 2016-17.

    The rationale on why the spectrum auction should not be held now are well covered in the paper itself. For instance, the paper says that telecom sector owes about Rs 4.6 lakh crore to various financial institutions and banks while some Rs 3.08 lakh crore is due to the DoT on account of deferred payment plans opted by operators for the purchase of spectrum in the recent auctions. "Due to hyper competition, concerns have been expressed about the financial health of the sector, its revenue growth and the capability of the companies to meet their contractual commitments," says the paper.

    The financial health of the sector did affect the last auctions held in October 2016 when nearly 60 per cent of the spectrum remained unsold. The government's plan to sell 700 MHz spectrum (among other airwaves) last year turned out to be a damp squib. The telecom operators didn't bid for highly-priced spectrum, en masse. Yet another round of auction at this moment doesn't make sense.

Minimum wage code bill 2017: Base pay will differ for states and geographical areas
  • The new Wage Code Bill which, if passed by the Parliament, will seek to set minimum wages for different states and geographical areas. This will ensure that no State Government fixes the minimum wage below the National Minimum Wages for that particular area as notified by the Central Government.
    Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-Founder and Senior Vice President, TeamLease says that instead of the centre it is the state governments that are in the best position to decide the minimum wages because they have a better view of is required locally and have a better understanding of the economics of their
    Code on Wages Bill 2017 states that the Central Government, before fixing the national minimum wage, may obtain the advice of the Central Advisory Board which will have  representatives from employers and employees. Therefore the Code will provide for a consultative mechanism before determining the national minimum wage, said the statement from Press Information Bureau.
    The Central Government has not fixed or mentioned any amount as "national minimum wage" in the Code on Wages Bill 2017. However, according to the Wage Code Bill, if the minimum rates of wages fixed by the States earlier are more than that 'national minimum wage', then, they shall not reduce such minimum rate of wage fixed by it earlier.
    The minimum wages will vary from place to place depending upon skill required, arduousness of the work assigned and geographical location.
    At present, the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act and the Payment of Wages Act do not cover substantial number of workers, as the applicability of both these Acts is restricted to the Scheduled Employments/Establishments. However, the new Code on Wages will ensure minimum wages to one and all and timely payment of wages to all employees irrespective of the sector of employment without any wage ceiling.
    The Wage Code bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 10, 2017, consolidates four existing laws: the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, into a single statute.
    The Codification of the Labour Laws will remove the multiplicity of definitions and authorities leading to ease of compliance without compromising wage security and social security to the workers.
    It is in line with the original intent for the much-desired labour reforms as the idea is to do away with the multiplicity of acts and replace them with one comprehensive legislation that is easy to understand, implement and comply with, says Ranga of Advaya Legal. After the enactment of the Code on Wages, all these four Acts will get repealed.
    However, Chakraborty says that even though there is a lot of merit in the Bill one must not think that it will be the end all and be all of labour reforms.
    "We need to ensure all the concerns and challenges around labour reforms get addressed and it cannot be achieved with one Wage Code. Plus, there are several issues that are beyond the scope of the Bill and are administrative in nature, such as compliance issues and digitalisation of payments which need to factored in," she says.
    According to the Code of Wages, there is a proposed payment of wages through cheque or digital/ electronic mode that would not only promote digitization but also extend wage and social security to the worker.
    There is also a provision of an Appellate Authority that has been made between the Claim Authority and the Judicial Forum which will lead to speedy, cheaper and efficient redressal of grievances and settlement of claims.
    The Wage Code Bill is a part of the labour law reforms that the Government has undertaken by rationalisation of 38 Labour Acts by framing them into four comprehensive labour codes viz Code on Wages, Code on Industrial Relations, Code on Social Security and Code on occupational safety, health and working conditions.

    Govt extends July, August deadline for filing GST returns: These are the new dates
    • Government has extended the deadline to file Goods and Service Tax (GST) return for the month of July and August. The deadline is applicable for all the three categories. So the sales return or GSTR-1 for July will have to be filed by September 10 instead of September 5 earlier while purchase returns or GSTR-2 will have to be filed by September 25 instead of September 10 earlier. Subsequently GSTR-3, a match of GSTR-1 and GSTR-2, now has a new deadline of September 30, in place of September 15.
      "GIC (GST Implementation Committee) decides to extend date of GSTR 1, GSTR 2 and GSTR 3 for the month of July to 10th, 25th and 30th September 2017, respectively," the government said in a tweet.
      For the month of August, the date for filing GSTR-1, GSTR-2 and GSTR-3 has been extended to October 5, October 10 and October 15 from earlier September 20, September 25 and September 30, respectively. Apart from a relief in tax filing, businesses have also been allowed relaxation for payment of taxes for the months of July and August.
      According to reports, the government took this step following crashing of GST portal due to heavy traffic. This is the second time that the GST portal faced glitches and forced government to extend the deadline for filing of returns. The extension will also give more time to businesses to understand the various nuances of GST return which is being filed for the first time.
      So far taxes worth Rs 92,283 crore have been collected for July in the initial returns filed in form GSTR-3B. Of the 59.57 lakh businesses, as many as 38.38 lakh taxpayers or 64.42 per cent of the total businesses that had registered in July filed their GST returns.
      Lately, the government also waived late payment fees for delayed filing of GST returns and allowed businesses to correct errors in the initial form while submitting final returns by September 5. It also allowed entities who had not filed GSTR-3B  to file the final returns in GSTR-1, GSTR-2 and GSTR-3 and pay taxes.

    General Awareness

    9th BRICS summit at Xiamen, China

    • The ninth BRCIS Summit is held from 3-5 September, 2017 in Xiamen, China. The participating countries are the five member nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The summit is hosted by China for the second time after the 2011 Summit.
      About BRICS:
      1. BRICS is made up of China, Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa.
      2. The first BRIC Summit was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Since then, the Summit has become an annual event. Till date, eight summits have been held.
      3. 3. In December 2010, China, as the Chair,invited South Africa to join BRIC and attend the Summit in Sanya, China. BRIC expanded to include 5 countries and the acronym changed into BRICS.
      4. BRICS has become an important platform for cooperation among emerging markets and developing countries.
      Logo and Theme of 2017 BRICS Summit:
      1. The theme of the 2017 BRICS Summit is“BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future”.
      2. Thelogoof the 2017 BRICS Summit resembles both full sails and a rotating earth, painted in 5 colors representing the 5 BRICS countries. The symbolism is two-fold: BRICS countries breaking the waves in the same boat towards a brighter future; and BRICS playing an important role in the global political and economic affairs. The Logo brings out the theme of the Summit “BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future”, and brims with the distinct marine culture of the host city Xiamen.
      At the bottom are the English words BRICS 2017 CHINA and a red seal reading China, highlighting China’s BRICS Chairmanship for 2017. The seal is engraved in Big Seal Script or Dazhuan, an ancient Chinese calligraphic style, giving the logo a specific touch of the traditional Chinese culture.
      Expectations of 2017 BRICS Summit Outlined by Mr.Xi Jinping (President of China):
      1. Deepen BRICS cooperation for common development
      2. Enhance global governance to jointly meet challenges
      3. Carry out people-to-people exchanges to support BRICS cooperation
      4. Make institutional improvements and build broader partnerships
      China announced $80 million funding plan for BRICS:
      On 4thSeptember, 2017 Chinese President Xi JinPing announced that China will give 500 million yuan ($76.4 million) for BRICS economic and technology cooperation plan, and another $4 million for projects at the BRICS countries’ New Development Bank.
      Implement 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; Building Broader Partnerships for Development” –PM Modi:
      On 5th September 2017, Indian Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi suggested the following ten Noble Commitments tomake a better world:
      1.Creating a Safer World: by organized and coordinated action on at least three issues: Counter Terrorism, Cyber Security and Disaster Management.
      2.Creating a Greener World: by taking concerted action on countering Climate Change, through initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance.
      3. Creating an Enabled World: by sharing and deploying suitable technologies to enhance efficiency, economy and effectiveness.
      4. Creating an Inclusive World: by economic mainstreaming of our people including in the banking and financial system.
      5. Creating a Digital World: by bridging the digital divide within and outside our economies.
      6. Creating a Skilled World: by giving future-ready skills to millions of our youth.
      7. Creating a Healthier World: by cooperating in research and development to eradicate diseases, and enabling affordable healthcare for all.
      8. Creating an Equitable World: by providing equality of opportunity to all, particularly through gender equality.
      9. Creating a Connected World: by enabling free flow of goods, persons and services.
      10. Creating a Harmonious World: by promoting ideologies, practices, and heritage that are centered on peaceful coexistence and living in harmony with nature.
      BRICS leaders sign four agreements on mutual cooperation:
      On 4th September 2017, leaders of the BRICS countries signed four agreements on mutual cooperation. They are as follows:
      1. BRICS Action Agenda on Economic and Trade Cooperation
      2. BRICS Action Plan for Innovation Co-operation (2017-2020)
      3. Strategic Framework of BRICS Customs Cooperation
      4. Memorandum of Understanding between the BRICS Business Council and the New Development Bank on Strategic Cooperation
        Other Static Information:
      1. The President of Brazil is Mr.Michel Temer.
      2. The President of Russia is Mr.Vladimir Putin.
      3. The Prime Minister of India is Mr. Narendra Modi.
      4. The President of China is Mr.Xi Jinping.
      5. The President of South Africa is Mr. Jacob Zuma.

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