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Current Affairs - 11 September 2017

General Affairs 

In RTI Reply, RBI Says 'No Machines Used' To Count Demonetised Notes Worth 15.28 Lakh Crore
  • The Reserve Bank of India or RBI has said counting machines are "not being used" for tallying the total number of demonetised notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 in any of its offices, according to an RTI reply.

    The central bank also refused to give the total number of personnel deployed for counting of the scrapped notes, saying compiling the information would "disproportionately divert" its resources.

    In its annual report for 2016-17 released on August 30, the RBI had said Rs. 15.28 lakh crore, or 99 per cent of the demonetised 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, have returned to the banking system.

    The central bank in the annual report, which was for the year ended June 30, 2017, said that only Rs. 16,050 crore out of the Rs. 15.44 lakh crore in the old high denomination notes have not returned.

    As on November 8, 2016, when the noteban was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there were 1,716.5 crore pieces of Rs. 500 and 685.8 crore pieces of Rs. 1,000 notes in circulation, totalling Rs. 15.44 lakh crore, it had said.

    "Counting machines are not being used for the purpose in any offices of Reserve Bank of India," the RBI said in the RTI reply dated August 10.

    The central bank also said no counting machines were taken on lease to reconcile the total figure of the junked notes.

    It was asked to give details about machines being used for counting the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes.

    The central bank also denied sharing information on the total number of personnel deployed for counting of the old notes, saying, "Compiling the information would disproportionately divert the resources, the information sought cannot be furnished as per Section 7 (9) of RTI Act, 2005," the RBI said in its reply to the RTI query filed by a correspondent from news agency PTI.

    The Section says that information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question.

    To a query seeking the dates of beginning of the counting of the demonetised notes, it said "the processing of notes is a continuous activity".

    The RBI did not give any specific reply when asked about the last date of counting of the demonetised notes.

    "Subject to future corrections based on verification process when completed, the estimated value of specified bank notes received as on June 30, 2017, is Rs. 15.28 trillion," the central bank had said in its annual report.

    While the counterfeit currency notes made up for a minuscule number, the RBI post-demonetisation spent Rs. 7,965 crore on printing new Rs. 500 and Rs. 2,000 and other denomination notes, more than double the Rs. 3,421 crore spent in the previous year, it said.

    Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said demonetisation was aimed at flushing out black money, eliminating fake currency, striking at the root of terror financing, converting non-formal economy into formal one to expand tax base and employment and giving a big boost to digitisation of payments to make India a less-cash economy.

    In his reaction to the RBI report, ex-finance minister P Chidambaram had wondered whether demonetisation was "a scheme designed to convert black money into white".

    "RBI 'gained' Rs. 16,000 crore, but 'lost' Rs. 21,000 crore in printing new notes! The economists deserve Nobel Prize," he said.

    "Rs. 16,000 cr out of demonetised notes of Rs. 15,44,000 cr did not come back to RBI. That is 1%. Shame on RBI which 'recommended' demonetisation," Mr Chidambaram had said in a series of tweets.

SIM Cards Not Linked To Aadhaar To Be Deactivated After February 2018: Sources
  • The government is moving ahead with linking Aadhaar with mobile SIM cards and all unlinked phones will be deactivated after February 2018, said informed sources.

    Sources told news agency IANS that linking of Aadhaar and mobile is being done as per the orders of the Supreme Court passed in February this year in the Lokniti foundation case and all SIM cards have to be verified with Aadhaar within a year from the date of judgement, with all unlinked phones to be deactivated thereafter (after February 2018), so criminals, fraudsters and terrorists cannot use the issued SIM cards.

    The sources said that biometrics cannot be stored by the mobile operators nor do they have access to any of the other personal data.

    They said that the biometrics collected should be encrypted by the telecom company and sent to UIDAI as it is being done and any storage of biometric by a service provider is a criminal offence punishable with up to three years of imprisonment under the Aadhaar Act 2016.

    The Central government had assured the Supreme Court in February that it would put in place, within a year, an effective mechanism for the verification of pre-paid mobile users who constitute 90 per cent of the total subscribers.

    Asking the government to put in place the mechanism for the verification of existing pre-paid mobile connection holders "as early as possible", the Supreme Court had disposed of the petition by Lokniti Foundation seeking the scrutiny of the subscribers so that those having pre-paid mobile connections on fake identities are weeded out.

Maharashtra Plans Direct Election Of Mayors To Civic Bodies
  • The Maharashtra government is mulling to hold direct elections for the mayor's post in the corporations that fall under the C and D category, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said.

    The chief minister said recently, polls to gram panchayat and municipal council were made direct, while there has been a similar demand to hold the mayoral polls.

    "There is a demand for direct election (of mayors). We recently made the Gram panchayat and municipal council elections direct. The problem with municipal corporations is that, 90 per cent of elections are over and it will now be held only after five years," Mr Fadnavis said.

    He was speaking after inaugurating a two-day All India Mayors' Council, organised by Aurangabad municipal corporation yesterday.

    "We just have 2-4 municipal corporation polls pending," he said, adding, another constraint is that since cities are very big in the state, experimenting becomes difficult.

    "But, we will definitely think about holding direct mayoral elections for small cities, whose civic bodies fall in the C and D category," the chief minister said.

    Out of the 25 municipal corporations in Maharashtra, 21 fall under categories C and D. Mumbai municipal corporation falls under the 'A+' category, Nagpur and Pune municipal corporations come under 'A' category.

    The 'B' category comprises Thane and Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal corporations.

    Municipal corporations that fall under C and D categories are Navi Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivali, Vasai Virar, Mira Bhayander, Ulhasnagar, Bhiwandi-Nizampur and Solapur, among others.

    In May 2016, the BJP-led state government revived a system of direct election of municipal council presidents. Notably, it had reaped dividends in the municipal council polls held during the November -December-January period.

    The government, earlier this year approved a proposal for direct election of village sarpanch, by amending the Maharashtra Gram Panchayat Act of 1958.

Kailash Satyarthi On His 'War' Against Rape Of Children
  • Days before he embarks upon a 'Bharat Yatra' from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi shared his quest for a "war against rape and sexual abuse of children".

    "The age of rape victims is getting lower and the heinous crime is getting even more horrific as the victims are being murdered, the time for talk and preaching is over," Mr Satyarthi said.

    India is facing a "moral epidemic" in form of child abuse, he said, adding that he himself is unable to look into the eyes of victims and their families.

    The Nobel Laureate shared the ordeal of the father of a young girl who was gang-raped and murdered in Shimla recently. The girl's father, Mr Satyarthi claimed, told him that his daughter's body had 50 bite marks on it. The 63-year-old added that such cases are 'a slap on our culture, religion and constitution'.

    Asked on the tragedy of children dying in Gorakhpur due to lack of oxygen, he said, "these deaths are a massacre and just because it has been happening, it can't be allowed to go on".

    Mr Satyarthi also spoke up on the humanitarian crisis in neighbouring Myanmar, where his fellow Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been questioned for her silence on the Rohingya crisis by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.

    "All of us (peace laureates) wrote to Suu Kyi and even the UN secretary general called on her to help these victims, and have expressed our concern and anger over the situation," Mr Satyarthi said.

    The Rohingya community has accused the security forces of mass killings and rapes and the burning of hundreds of villages.

    Myanmar reportedly does not want its 1.1 million Rohingya, who are seen as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and are refused citizenship. Successive regimes have historically discriminated against them even though many have lived for generations in Rakhine state.

India Calls On Myanmar To Act With Restraint In Rakhine
  • India has called for an immediate end to violence in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine, urging its ally to act with restraint as hordes of Rohingya flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

    "We would urge that the situation in Rakhine State be handled with restraint and maturity, focusing on the welfare of the civilian population alongside those of the security forces," the foreign ministry said in a statement late Saturday.

    "It is imperative that violence is ended and normalcy in the State restored expeditiously," it said, adding it was concerned about the outflow of refugees.

    The call came days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a state visit to the Buddhist-majority country amid spiraling violence in Rakhine that has forced nearly 300,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned a series of coordinated attacks by Rohingya militants on Myanmar troops and police on August 25, but did not comment on the subsequent violence against the Rohingya community and their mass exodus.

    Fleeing Rohingya accuse the security forces of mass killings and rapes and the burning of hundreds of villages.

    Myanmar does not want its 1.1 million Rohingya, who are seen as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and are refused citizenship.

    Successive regimes have historically discriminated against them even though many have lived for generations in Rakhine state.

Business Affairs

Vishal Sikka's exit to not affect hiring: Infosys plans to recruit 6,000 engineers annually in next 2 years
  • Unfazed by the recent upheavals at the board, Infosys will continue to hire about 6,000 engineers annually over next 1-2 years, same as last fiscal, according to a top company official.
    The country's second largest software services firm has also ramped up its hiring process in the US and European markets as it looks to tap opportunities and tide over visa- related issues.
    "We continue to recruit. This year that just concluded we had a net addition of 6,000 and we expect similar kind of additions over the next 1 or 2 years, depending on the kind of growth you see in the market," Infosys interim-CEO and MD U.B. Pravin Rao said at an investor meet last week.
    The Bengaluru-based firm has been in the eye of a storm over the past few months, with the founders and former board members clashing over alleged corporate governance lapses and irregularities in Infosys' 200-million dollars Panaya acquisition.
    The spat, which often spilled over into the public domain, led to the then CEO Vishal Sikka as well as former chairman R. Seshasayee and three other board members quitting. Co-founder Nandan Nilekani was named the non-executive chairman in a move that was seen as the company bowing to the demands of co-founders and large institutional investors.
    After Sikka's exit, Rao assumed the additional charge as interim CEO and MD. Rao said over one million graduates pass out each year, which may look like a large number but only 20-30% of that is quality talent. "(This is the number that) we and our competitors focus on. It is a question of doing more with less, how can one be more productive," he said while answering a query on whether increasing automation would result in job losses.
    At the end of June 2017, Infosys had a total of 1,98,553 employees on its payroll. The company does not provide country-specific headcount. During the said quarter, Infosys hired 8,645 people at a gross level but its overall headcount was lower by 1,811 people on a net level (which factors in attrition numbers).
    Earlier this year, there were reports of layoffs across the IT sector. With Infosys stating that it was stepping up hiring in international markets like the US, there were concerns that it could impact the company's recruitment plans in India.
    Infosys had, at that time, stated it planned to hire 20,000 people (gross) this year. Infosys has stated that it is in favour of a healthy mix of local and global personnel, even though hiring locals in overseas markets often pushes up operational costs for IT outsourcing companies.
    During the investor meeting, Rao said Infosys is also looking at increasing localisation of its workforce and is recruiting about 10,000 people in the next few years and setting up development and innovation hubs in the US. "We have already started the process and we will only accelerate," he added.
    The US, which is the largest market for Infosys, much like its peers, accounted for over 61% of its topline in June 2017 quarter. Europe accounted for 22.4% of the company's 2.65 billion dollar (Rs17,078 crore) revenue during April-June 2017 quarter. To a query on the company's India business, Rao said Infosys continues to be selective about projects in the country. "We continue to be very cautious about India there are pricing challenges, sometimes getting payment is a challenge," he said.

GST rates: Cotton quilt, corduroy fabric, brooms to cost less
  • As many as 40 products, including daily use ones like idli and dosa batter, raincoat, brooms and corduroy fabric, will cost less as the GST Council has lowered taxes on them.
    The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council, at its 21st meeting in Hyderabad on Saturday, also decided to reduce levy on computer monitors of up to 20 inches, cotton quilts, rubber bands and kitchen gas lighters. As per the list of items uploaded on the website of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), khadi fabric sold through KVIC shops have been exempted from GST, which was implemented from July 1.
    Also, rate on saree fall, dhoop batti, corduroy fabric, walnut, dried tamarind and roasted gram has been brought down to 5 per cent, from 12 per cent earlier. The rate revision in these 40 items followed after the fitment committee noticed anomalies in GST levied in these products.
    Accordingly, plastic raincoats and rubber bands have been fitted in the slab of 18 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively, as against the earlier 28 per cent. Idli and dosa batter will attract 12 per cent GST, against 18 per cent before, while brooms and brushes have been totally exempted from the levy.
    Kitchen gas lighters will attract 18 per cent compared to 28 per cent GST earlier while prayer beads will fall in the 5 per cent slab against 18 per cent previously. As against 28 per cent, computer monitors with size of up to 20 inches will attract 18 per cent- thus bringing it on par with those whose screen size is up to 17 inches.
    Cotton quilts costing up to Rs 1,000 will attract 5 per cent while those above that will face 12 per cent GST, against the earlier uniform rate of 18 per cent. Tableware, kitchenware, other household items and toilet articles of porcelain or china or those other than porcelain or china clay will be levied 12 per cent against 18 per cent and 28 per cent, respectively.
    All goods, including bells, gongs and the like, non-electric, of base metal; statuettes and other ornaments of base metal will attract 12 per cent GST compared to 18 per cent earlier.

McDonald's in Lucknow, Gurugram, Kolkata still open; McDonald's pledges action against Vikram Bakshi's CPRL
  • McDonald's estranged partner Vikram Bakshi has claimed that 126 outlets in north and east India continue to operate fully even as the US-based fast food chain said it was taking action to enforce cancellation of its franchise licence.
    Outlets of the chain in places such as Gurugram, Kolkata, Durgapur and Lucknow operated by Connaught Plaza Restaurant Ltd (CPRL)- the equal joint venture between Bakshi and McDonald's - are operating in full swing.
    "Apart from the 43 outlets that are shut for sometime, the remaining are open and operating," Bakshi told PTI.
    There has been uncertainty over the fate of McDonald's outlets operated by CPRL after McDonald's India sent a termination of notice to CPRL last month.
    McDonald's India had given time till September 5 to CPRL to operate, post which it said the franchise was barred from using McDonald's brand, trademark, and its associated intellectual property, among others.
    When contacted, a McDonald's India spokesperson said: "We will take action to enforce it (termination). However, we won't be able to discuss specific plans or courses of action."
    CPRL runs a total of 169 outlets in north and east India, out of which 43 were shut down in June after expiry of eating house license.
    Earlier, Bakshi had denied closing down of the outlets saying he had asked the NCLT-appointed administrator on the board of CPRL to call for a board meeting and till a decision was taken by the board "it is business as usual".
    The tussle between McDonald's and Bakshi started in 2013, when he was ousted as the MD of CPRL over alleged management lapses, post which he approached National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).
    In July this year, the tribunal restored him to his position, which was challenged by McDonald's in NCLAT where the appeal is pending.
    Simultaneously, Bakshi challenged the termination of franchise licence by McDonald's at the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), which was refused any interim relief. Both the appeals filed by the parties are listed for hearing on September 21.
    Sources in the know said the next option for the US-based food chain to enforce termination is to approach the high court.
    The food giant has another franchise agreement with Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt Ltd, which operates 261 McDonald's outlets in western and southern India.

India's first post-GST budget process to begin next week: Here's why Budget 2018 matters a lot to Modi govt
  • Work on India's first post-GST Union Budget 2018-19 will start next week with the finance ministry issuing timelines for different processes that will culminate with its presentation in February.
    It may also be the current government's last full-fledged Budget as general elections are due in 2019.
    Even though independent India's biggest tax reform of GST was implemented from July 1, the Budget for 2017-18 (April- March), had followed the practice of tax revenue projections under the heads of customs duty, central excise and service tax alongside direct tax numbers.
    With excise duty and service tax being subsumed in the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the classifications will undergo change, an official said.
    While a new classification for revenues to be accrued from GST will be included in the Budget for next fiscal, for the current year two sets of accounting may be presented - one for actual accruals during April-June for excise, customs and service tax, and the other for July-March period for GST and customs duty.
    The official said that since the GST rates are decided by a GST Council, headed by Union Finance Minister and comprising of representatives of all states, the Budget for 2018-19 will not have any tax proposals concerning excise and service tax levies.
    Only proposals for changes in direct taxes - both personal income tax and corporate tax, besides customs duty are likely to be presented in the Budget along with new schemes and programmes of the government.
    This will be Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's 5th Budget in a row.
    It would also be the last full Budget of the BJP-led NDA government before the 2019 General Elections. As per practice a vote-on-account or approval for essential government spending for a limited period is taken in the election year and a full-fledged budget presented by the new government.
    While P Chidambaram had presented the previous UPA government's vote-on-account in February 2014, Jaitley had presented a full budget in July that year.
    The official said the finance ministry will next week issue the Budget circular and start consultations with other ministries from October for Revised Estimates (RE) of expenditure for the current fiscal.
    The Budget Circular contains the timelines for submission of information of budget requirements to the Ministry of Finance along with prescribed formats.
    The ministries will have to provide the actual money spent in 2016-17 along with the budget estimates and Revised Estimates for current fiscal.
    Along with this, they have to give the Budget they are expecting for 2018-19 as well, the official added.
    Scrapping a colonial-era tradition of presenting the Budget at the end of February, Jaitley had for the first time presented the annual accounts on February 1, 2017.
    With the preponement of Budget, ministries are now allocated their budgeted funds from the start of the financial year beginning April.
    This gives government departments more leeway to spend as well as allow companies time to adapt to business and taxation plans.
    Previously, when the Budget was presented at the end of February, the three-stage Parliament approval process used to get completed some time in mid-May, weeks ahead of onset of monsoon rains.
    This meant government departments would start spending on projects only from August-end or September, after the monsoon season ended.
    Besides advancing the presentation date, the Budget scrapped the Plan and non-Plan distinction and merged the Railway Budget with it, ending a nearly century-long practice.

    Blind Hiring: The strategy companies in India follow for entry-level jobs
    • To avoid biases related to region and gender, among others, organisations are now plumping for a blind hiring strategy where the focus is on recruiting a candidate with the right skill set, say industry experts.
      Blind hiring is a process of recruitment where the premium is on skills and abilities rather than on soft skills, culture-fit and factors like region and gender.
      "This method is slowly gaining ground in India, especially when a number of vacancies are to be filled and the role is at the entry level," CIEL HR Services CEO Aditya Narayan Mishra told PTI here.
      However, he said mid to senior roles call for a good assessment of culture fit and the applicants want face to face interactions with their potential boss.
      "Given the impact a mid-level or a senior role produces in an organisation, it is important that the best get hired and the offered candidate has a realistic preview of the job. Hence, blind hiring is not practised for these roles yet," he added.
      Making a similar point, TeamLease Services Vice- President, Recruitment Services, Ajay Shah opined that blind hiring will lead to impartial selection, personal bias removal, gender parity, workplace diversity and development of a skill-based meritocratic organisation.
      "Corporate India is already seeing dearth in employable talent and this may also be due to its conventional methods and expectations. Adoption of this method will definitely bring in a different perspective and will increase the scope of talent pool in India," he explained.
      However, he said, as firms in India have been using conventional recruitment or interviews for years, this radical change on hiring will have its own challenges and a large workforce might make it more time-consuming and bulky.
      Michael Page India Director Anshul Lodha said this concept will work well for large business houses in India, large financial services companies and any organisation that is looking to hire mid-level employees in a large capacity.
      "Speaking from experience, blind hiring is suitable for candidates who are applying for mid- to senior-level jobs as opposed to entry-level ones. For instance, in cases of campus recruitment, it is essential to take into consideration the educational background of the candidate to understand and gauge their level of exposure," he added.
      According to GlobalHunt Managing Director Sunil Goel, this has usually been followed partially where company do contract hiring for skilled workforce to complete task with specific skills.
      "This trend will be more evident in technology and new age businesses targeting those segments who do not want long term commitment with the firm," he added.

    General Awareness

    Government approves cadre review policy for Army Officers; Indian Army to induct women in military police

    • On 8th September 2017, in New Delhi, the Government announced that it has approved cadre review policy for Junior Commissioned Officers & other rank-holders in the Army, and Indian Army is to induct women in military police.
       Cadre review policy:
      1. Government approved the third cadre review on 1st September, 2017.
      2. The policy is now in the hands of Ministry of Defence for implementation.
      3. This policy will improve promotion chances, financial benefits and career progression for the army personnel.
      4. This upgradation process will take a period of 5 years.
      5. This will have a positive impact on 1.45 lakh army officers.
      6. The last cadre review for army personnel was done in 1984.
      Induction of women in military police:
      1. With Ms.Nirmala Sitharaman having taken charge as the new defence minister of India, a step towards increasing women’s participation in the army has been taken.
      2. Currently women are allowed to join the Army as officers in the medical, legal, educational, signals and engineering wings only.
      3. The new proposal will allow women to serve in the non-officer cadre for the first time in India.
      4. But still they will be placed in non-combat roles.
      5. The induction will start in 2018.
      6. 800 women are planned to be inducted with a yearly intake of 52 women.
      7. The women will be inducted as junior commissioned officers and jawans.
      8. At first, the women personnel will be placed in peace stations and then in conflict-prone areas.
      9. In Kashmir, the women personnel will be handed the task of performing security check on women.
      About the Ministry of Defence:
      1. Headquarters – New Delhi
      2. Minister – Ms.Nirmala Sitharaman
      3. Deputy Minister (Minister of State) – Mr.Subhash Ramrao Bhamre
      About the Indian Army:
      1. Motto – Service Before Self
      2. Chief of the Army Staff – General Bipin Rawat
      3. Vice Chief of the Army Staff – Lieutenant General Sarath Chand

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