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Current Affairs - 22 September 2017

General Affairs 

NSG studies London, Europe terror attacks, commandos train to tackle lone wolf threat
  • The National Security Guard (NSG) commandos may have been out of action for some time but not out of practices. The counter-terror force is looking at new global challenges in Indian perspective.
    The NSG commandos are being trained to deal with "Lone Wolf Attacks". Sources in the force said that the real danger was from lone wolf attacks, including the recent global trend of "trucks mowing down innocent civilians."
    Though in each of the incidents, terrorists have either been neutralised or contained in Europe. In Indian context, the black cats are training to deal with such attacks taking into consideration the specific setting of the country.
    The counter terror force has trained with commandos of several countries. Sources said that a study was conducted on the recent terror attacks in France, Germany and also the London Tube explosion to understand the latest techniques used by terror outfits.  
    LONE WOLF ATTACKS IN EUROPE
    Earlier in June this year, a terror suspect calling himself a "soldier of the caliphate" attacked a policeman on patrol outside Notre-Dame cathedral in the heart of Paris. He was armed with a hammer and two knives as he shouted, "This is for Syria".
    On 14 July 2016, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France killing 86 people.
    On December 19, 2016, a truck was deliberately driven into the Christmas market next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin, Germany leaving 12 people dead and 56 others injured.  The NSG commandos are being given training to deal with similar terror attacks.
    TERROR ALERT IN INDIA
    The national capital Delhi has been put on high alert following inputs about a possible lone wolf-attack by a terror outfit earlier this year. A machete attack or truck mowing down is serious possibility, say the intelligence agencies.
    "Since this is a global trend, we are developing our own technique. We are also using our association with the forces that have dealt with similar attacks effectively. Also with several arrests of ISIS recruits and a recent arrest of Al Qaeda operative have only made the resolve of the force stronger," a source privy to information said.
    Training of the NSG commandos has been diversified given the varying climatic and weather conditions of different parts of the country. The NSG is also working with its counterpart in Japan to learn their methods of operating in an emergency situation.

Sonia Gandhi sends a Women's Reservation Bill reminder to PM Narendra Modi
  • In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi reminded him of the landmark Women's Reservation Bill and asked him to pass the legislation, which she said has been languishing in Lok Sabha "for one reason or another". 
    Assuring Modi of Congress support to the Bill, Sonia wrote, "I am writing to request you to take advantage of your majority in the Lok Sabha to now get the Women's Reservation Bill passed in the Lower House as well." 
    "The Congress party has always and will continue to support this legislation, which will be a significant step forward in the empowerment of women," she wrote. 
    The Women's Reservation Bill envisages 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and all state legislative assemblies. Sonia reminded Modi that the Bill has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010 when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power. In her letter, Sonia also mentioned that her husband and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was the first to moot the reservation of women in panchayats and nagarpalikas. 


    In May this year, the Congress's women's wing, Mahila Congress, had also launched a signature campaign seeking early passage of the Women's Reservation Bill in Parliament. The campaign was launched by Sonia Gandhi on the occasion of the 26th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi at his memorial Veer Bhoomi in New Delhi.

Calcutta High Court revokes Mamata Banerjee's Durga idol immersion order
  • The Calcutta High Court today revoked the Trinamool Congress government's decision to hold up immersion on the day of Muharram citing law and order issue.
    Coming down on such an "excuse" as a case of pre-empting violence", the court criticised the government for foreboding a conclusion, predicting the worst case scenario.
    Observing such an apprehension was not in line with the secular character of the state, where communities not only co-exist together, but also are known for participating in each other's festivals, the division bench of the Calcutta High Court has rolled the ball of maintaining and ensuring law and order in the state administration's court.
    The state police has been asked to maintain law and order and ensure smooth passage of the processions of Durga idols and Muharram simultaneously.
    The Kolkata Police has been asked to earmark separate ways for the movement of processions to minimise chance of one facing or confronting the other.
    The court's order was a big setback for Mamata Banerjee government, which had announced the embargo on immersion a month in advance to be popular with a particular community. Last year too, the government had come up with restriction and the court had indicated citing such a decision was smacking of "appeasement politics."
    Notwithstanding the last year's order this year too, the state announced a month in advance that it would not allow Durga idol immersion on the day of mourning as certain political parties were at work to  incite communal feelings.
    Reacting to such a stand, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh dared to go ahead with immersion, irrespective of Mamata's fatwa.
    After the court order today, Ghosh said that his party believes in and respects the secular fabric of the country.
    "Such a decision was derogatory to the spirit of secularism. It was a victory of people, of belief in their ability to stay together and participate in each other's festivals," he said.
    Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that there was nothing to worry as all preparations were made in advance.
    She, however, left it un-uttered as to what the government had prepared for.
    A top cop, who was accompanying her, however, elaborated on it saying that the meeting with the puja organisers had settled all concerns the court had raised.
    According to an official, majority of puja organisers, of big budget pujas, will go by the state diktat since they have Trinamool Congress leaders as patrons. All of them, who attended Mamata's puja meet on August 24th agreed not to immerse their idols on the day of Muharram.

Doklam stand-off gain: IAF to build more bomb-proof hangars across northeast
  • The Indian Air Force (IAF) will construct more bomb-proof hangars across airfields in north east India to house fighter jets. Blast-proof hangers protect fighter jets when airfields are under attack.
    Although a long standing demand of the IAF, the need for blast proof hangars for fighters was again underlined during the two-and-half-month-long Doklam stand-off in Bhutan between the Indian and Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA).
    The clearance to build blast-proof in a war footing across the North East came from the Prime Minister Office, top sources have told India Today. The total project is likely to cost the Indian exchequer about a thousand crore.  
    The need for more blast-proof hangars had been highlighted earlier too. The previous UPA government, however, had failed to act.
    For security reasons India Today will not reveal the numbers or the locations of blast-proof hangars.
    Evaluation of the possible scenarios during the crisis showed that India had an edge over China. But, it also revealed the need for more blast-proof hangars to house fighters.
    Top sources told India Today, that China suffers from inherent disadvantages. Chinese fighter jets taking -off from the Tibetan Plateau's will have to trade-off between the pay-load and fuel they carry because of the height of the TAR.
    India, on the contrary, suffers from no such disadvantage. "Having more blast-proof hangars in the North East will enhance the capability of the IAF further," top sources told India Today.
    China has about 10 airfields in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). But, none of the Chinese airfields have blast-proof hangars which can house fighters.
    "Positioning or operating fighters from these airfields in case of full-scale war will difficult for China," sources told India Today and added "without boom-proof hangar's protecting fighters on ground will be difficult for them."
    The IAF has stationed Russian made Su-30MKi deep strike bombers in Tejpur recently. It has also assets distributed in Chauba in Dibrugarh in Assam and in Hashimara in West Bengal.

Rohingya deportation row: Rajnath Singh asks why object when Myanmar ready to take back, NHRC still objects
  • Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today said that Rohingyas who have come from Myanmar are not refugees as they have not followed due procedures to get the refugee status.
    Speaking at a programme organised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Rajnath Singh asked why some people are objecting to the deportation of Rohingyas when Myanmar is ready to take them back.
    At the same event, NHRC chief H L Dattu said that the human rights commission will "plead the case of 40,000 Rohingyas on humanitarian ground". "(We) cannot comment on government policy. We are helping them (Rohingyas) because they are being persecuted in Myanmar," the NHRC chief said.
    Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that illegal immigrants cannot be treated as refugees on the ground of human rights. "Human rights ka hawala de kar illegal immigrants ko refugee batane ki galti nahi ki jaani chahiye," Rajnath Singh said.
    ROHINGYAS ARE NOT REFUGEES
    The Home Minister said that the resources in the country are first meant for its citizens and before worrying about others' human rights, the human rights of Indians should be considered first. "Bharat ke andar jo bhi resource hai uss par Bharatiya ka adhikar hai. Doosron ke manvadhikar ki chinta karne se pehle aapne manvadhikaron ki baat karni chahiye," Rajnath Singh said.
    He said that the truth is that Rohingyas who have come to India are not refugees. "Myanmar se Bharat ghus aaye ye Rohingyas refugee nahi hai iss sachchai ko hume samajhna chahiye," the Home Minister said.
    The Home Minister said that Rohingyas have not followed the due procedures through which refugee status is granted to immigrants. "Refugee status prapt karne ke liye ek process hota hai aur inmein se kisi ne iss procedure ko follow nahi kiya hai," he said.
    NO VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW
    Rajnath Singh said that India will not be "violating any international law by deporting Rohingyas from India as it is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention".
    "Principle of re-foulement applies on those who have taken asylum in India. No Rohingya has applied for asylum in India," the Home Minister said.
    He said that "people should understand that one aspect of illegal immigration of Rohingyas is related with national security".
    The Centre recently filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court defending its decision to deport 40,000 Rohingya immigrants and said they pose a "security threat" to the country.
    In a 16-page affidavit, the Centre also expressed fears of violence against Buddhists living in India by radicalised Rohingyas.

Business Affairs

Arun Jaitley's stimulus package to boost GDP growth may breach fiscal deficit target
  • There is already a strong buzz that the government is planning a special package to revive the fortunes of the economy as the GDP growth rate  has been on decline for the few quarters, with the first quarter GDP slumping down to 5.7% in the current financial year.
    Though nobody knows the broader contours of the special or stimulus package, economists are not very sanguine if the government has the fiscal or monetary space for any such package. Though they believe some targeted intervention could prop up the economy.
    Easier said than doneThe biggest challenge in the economy has been that investments, especially the private sector investments remain muted. Though government has been trying to do its bit since the last two-three years, the fact that the share of government spending in the total capex is just 12% gives little hope that government spending alone would have much of a difference on the ground.
    "Though in the last three years, the government has increased investments it remains a fact that government spending as a percentage of GDP remains at flat 1.8% of the GDP in the past three years," says Sunil Kumar Sinha, principal economist, India Ratings.
    And even if the government wants to increase spendings, it has very little fiscal space.
    "Right now there are several fiscal concerns related to  revenue streams of the government. The RBI surplus is half of last year. Even the telecom receipts budgeted look ambitious, disinvestment has gotten off to a good start, but we are not sure if the full year target would be met," says Aditi Nayar, principal economist, at rating agency ICRA.
    The slump in first quarter GDP growth rate to 5.7% has already put pressure on the revenue collection target. On the backdrop of uncertainty over the GST collection in the first year, nobody knows if the government would be able to meet the revenue targets in the current financial year.
    Under such circumstances, the government cannot offer a special package without breaching the fiscal deficit target of 3.2% for the current financial year.
    Rate cuts not in government domainOne way of propping up the economy could have been interest rate cut, but that is not a government domain. It is up to the RBI to decide if they can cut interest rate or not.
    With the wholesale inflation rose to a four-month high of 3.24% in August, the central bank would be very cautious with any rate cut move given its mandate of keeping the inflation within a target range.
    "Since 2016 till date, there has been a 200 bps rate cut, what has been achieved on ground. Do you think another 25 bps rate cut would make any difference in the immediate term," says Sunil Kumar Sinha of India Ratings.
    Exports need a stimulusHowever, some economists believe that targeted intervention may have some impact. They think the issues of exporters can be addressed by resolving the issue of GST refund and checking the rupee appreciation.

Yes Bank cuts 2,500 jobs, cites inefficiency, poor performance as reasons
  • Private sector lender Yes Bank has cut around 2,500 jobs which constitute more than 10 per cent of its workforce. The bank said it has a process of identifying bottom performers every year as part of its normal appraisal cycle.
    According to a report in The Economic Times, Yes Bank has cited increased redundancy, poor performance and the impact of digitisation as main reasons for job cuts.
    Earlier, India's largest private sector lender HDFC Bank had cut its workforce by around 11,000 over three quarters to March 2017.
    "As part of the bank's regular human capital management practices, to ensure higher productivity and improved efficiencies, the bank undertakes some performance-linked actions on a periodic basis. We have a process of identifying bottom performers every year as part of our normal appraisal cycle. These actions are not any different from those being pursued by other leading private sector banks," the report quoted Yes Bank, as saying.
    Yes Bank, however, referred to current job cuts similar to attrition rate in the banking industry. The Indian banking industry witnessed an annual attrition rate of 16-22 per cent, the report said.
    Led by billionaire chief executive officer Rana Kapoor, Yes Bank reported a net profit of Rs 965.52 crore for the first quarter ended June 30. Its net profit rose 32 per cent compared to the year-ago period.
    Yes Bank shares have more than doubled in the past year. The lender had 1,020 branches and plans to extend it to 1800 across the country
    YES Bank reported a 44 per cent growth in net interest income to Rs 1,808.90 crore in the first quarter, driven by growth in advances and current account & savings accounts (CASA) deposits and steady expansion in net interest margin (NIM).

SBI to make cheque books, IFSC code of its six subsidiary banks invalid from September 30
  • The State Bank of India on Wednesday issued a notification asking the customers of SBI's erstwhile associate banks and Bharatiya Mahila Bank to apply for new SBI Cheque books as soon as possible. The bank said that cheque books of its all six subsidiary banks would become invalid from September 30.
    The notification came months after the government merged the SBI with its five associates and the Bharatiya Mahila Bank. The state-run SBI's six subsidiary banks were Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Raipur, State Bank of Travancore, State Bank of Hyderabad and Bhartiya Mahila Bank. The government had in February approved the merger of these five associate banks with SBI. Later in March, the Cabinet approved merger of BMB as well. With this merger, the state-run bank joined the league of top 50 banks globally in terms of assets.
    After the notification, the customers need to submit applications for new cheque books for replacement of the old cheque books. The bank also said that IFSC codes of its subsidiary banks become invalid from end of this month.
    Last week, the bank in a tweet said that its Basic Savings Bank Deposit accounts offer same interest rates as its other savings bank accounts but without putting the burden of minimum balance maintenance on the customers. "This account can be opened by any individual provided he/she has valid KYC documents. Primarily meant for poorer sections of society to encourage them to start saving without any burden of charges or fees," SBI said in a notification.
    The SBI had recently introduced a penalty of up to Rs 100 plus GST in case of failure to maintain the monthly average balance. If the balance falls below 75 per cent of the monthly average balance or MAB of Rs 5,000 in metropolitan areas, the penalty is Rs 100 plus GST. For rural areas, the minimum balance is Rs 1,000 and the penalty is between Rs 20 to Rs 50 for non-maintenance of minimum balance.  

    The SBI is also looking into the customer feedback over the charges for non-maintenance of monthly balance in their accounts. The bank had brought back charges on non-maintenance of MAB after a gap of five year. SBI Managing Director Rajnish Kumar spoke to PTI and said: "We have received feedback from our customers on the issue and we are reviewing those. The bank will take into account those and make an informed decision."

7th Pay Commission: 50 lakh central government employees may get minimum pay hike from January onward
  • The increase in minimum pay that the central government employees have been awaiting might come next year. Union government is planning to hike the basic salaries under Seventh Central Pay Commission of 50 lakh central government employees and a final decision in this regard is expected to come by January 2018, according to reports quoting senior finance ministry officials.
    According to reports, the fitment factor for basic pay will be raised to 3.00 times as opposed 2.57 times as recommended by the 7th Pay Commission. This will take the minimum pay from Rs 18,000, in accordance to the recommendations of the pay panel, to Rs 21,000. Central government employees have been demanding that their minimum pay is hiked to Rs 25,000.
    The Narendra Modi government approved the recommendations on allowance structure under the 7th Pay Commission earlier this year in July, increasing the salaries of around 50 lakh central government employees. Employee unions, however, have been gunning for a hike in basic pay. The central government employees had expressed their dissatisfaction over the meagre hike in basic pay in accordance to the pay panel.
    The National Anomaly Committee is expected to meet sometime around next week to take a final call on increasing fitment factor suggested and approved under the 7th Pay Commission.
    Recently, Odisha government chose to implement the recommendations under the 7th Pay Commission. Around 4.5 lakh state government employees and 3.5 lakh pensioners stand to benefit from the hike in pay and pension. This, however, will put a burden of Rs 4,500 crore on the state exchequer every year.
    Odisha government has decided to extend Seventh Pay Commission benefits from September 26, considering the festive season starting from September 27 with the onset of Durga Puja. Employees will receive these benefits with retrospective effect from January 1, 2016. State government had agreed to implement 7th Pay Commission last year in September, sometime after Central government announced the new pay panel.

    Tata Sons get investors' nod to become private limited company; Mistry firms get NCLAT waiver
    • Tata Sons on Thursday received shareholders' nod to become a private limited company at its AGM (Annual General Meeting). The resolution to make Tata Sons a private limited company were passed with requisite majority, CNBC TV18 reported.
      The approval from investors' came after the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) granted special waiver to Cyrus Mistry family firms to file a case against Tata Groupholding company, Tata Sons. Cyrus Mistry family firms had sought a waiver on the minimum shareholding requirement to petition against Tata Sons for alleged mismanagement and oppression of minority shareholder interests.
      The Mistry family, which owns 18.4 per cent of Tata Sons, had called the move "oppression of the minority interests" and stated that it would vote against the proposal. Tata Trusts holds 66 per cent in Tata Sons.
      The voting pattern was not immediately known. At least 75 per cent of shareholders' nod was required for the proposal to go through. The move comes almost a year after Mistry was ousted as chairman of the Tata Group, triggering a bitter boardroom battle. N Chandrasekaran was appointed Chairman in January this year.
      A public limited company allows shareholders to legally sell their stake to anyone. But a shareholder of a private limited firm cannot sell the shares to outside investors.
      In a notice to its shareholders, Tata Sons' board had sought approval through special resolutions to amend its article of associations to bring about the change. It has also sought to amend the memorandum of association to change its name to Tata Sons Pvt Ltd from Tata Sons Ltd.
      Last week, a Tata Sons spokesperson had stated: "The reinstatement of Tata Sons as a private company was considered by the board to be in the best interest of the company."
      The switch, according to Tata Sons, is chiefly because its status of 'deemed public company' is not statutorily recognised under the Companies Act, 2013.
      In a letter to the board of directors of Tata Sons last week, Cyrus Investments Pvt Ltd had described the step as "another act of oppression of the minority shareholders of Tata Sons at the hands of majority shareholders".
      "The real motive behind convening the proposed AGM is malafide and for ulterior purposes and the proposed resolutions are not in the interest of Tata Sons as a whole or at all," the letter had alleged.
      The mismanagement and oppression petition dealt with corporate governance, transparency issues in the Tata Group. Decisions were being taken by nominee directors of two Tata Trusts rather than the board, Aryama Sundaram, Counsel for Cyrus Investments told CNBC TV18. "NCLT in all probability had misunderstood the case entirely," Sundaram added.
      Meanwhile, Cyrus Mistry office has said that NCLAT order is a vindication of what we have stood so far. "We will continue to pursue complete transparency of group for shareholders gain," it added.
      NCLAT on Thursday directed the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal to issue notice to the respondents and proceed in the matter. A bench headed by Chairperson Justice SJ Mukhopadhaya asked NCLT to dispose off the matter in three months. The tribunal had concluded its hearing on July 24 and reserved its judgement.
      NCLAT, however, dismissed Mistry's other petition on maintainability saying the firms do not have more than 10 per cent in Tata Sons. The appellate tribunal has granted waiver in the filing criteria of having 10 per cent shares of the company.
      Mistry family firms own around 18.4 per cent of equity shares in Tata Sons, but only 2.17 per cent of the total share capital in the form of equity and preference shares.
      The Companies Act mandates that a petitioner should hold at least one-tenth of the issued share capital of a company or represent 10 per cent of the total number of members to file cases alleging mismanagement and oppression of minority shareholders.
      Cyrus Mistry family firms - Cyrus Investments Pvt Ltd and Sterling Investments Pvt Ltd - had moved NCLAT after the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) had rejected the waiver plea filed by the Cyrus Mistry's investment firms in April.
      Mistry was ousted as Tata Sons chairman in October 24, 2016 and was also removed subsequently as director on the board of the holding company in February.

    General Awareness

    Tripura is first state to set up district family welfare committees


    • On September 18,2017 ,Tripura became the first state in the country to set up family welfare district committees to deal with the issue of fake and biased complaints by women against their husbands, in-laws and husband’s relatives.
      These committees have been formed as per the directives if supreme court. State Governor Tathagata Roy in the presence of Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and other high dignitaries formally launched the family welfare committees in all eight districts in Tripura.
      The working mechanism  of these committees:-
      i. The family welfare district committees may comprise para-legal volunteers or social workers or retired officers or even the wives of serving officers,
      ii. The panel members will not be called as witnesses if the police or magistrate decide to investigate a particular case.
      iii. After filing of complaint by a woman against her husband, in-laws and husband’s relatives, the district family welfare committees would scrutinise the complaint, try to mitigate and mediate between the two sides to settle the dispute
      iv. After the district family welfare committees have submitted their report, the police officials would start appropriate legal action. The police action will follow if the case is genuine.
      Background:-
      i) In Rajesh Sharma versus state of Uttar Pradesh case, the Supreme Court directed that each complaint of cruelty to a woman by her husband or his relatives, which does not involve tangible physical injuries or death, shall be referred to the family welfare committee of the district.
      ii) This apex court judgment is based on the court’s observations that section 498-A of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) is abused by some women, particularly to harass elderly in-laws. The apex court cited the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data in support.
      iii) Such fake and prejudiced cases are the cause of huge damage to a large number of families and harm the dignity of innocent people
      Supreme court’s direction:-
      i) Supreme Court in its directions said that the new system to deal with the section 498-A of the IPC would be for six months and the National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) would submit a report in March before the apex court on the performance and outcome of the district family welfare committees across the country.
      ii)After getting the report of the NLSA and considering other related aspects, the Supreme Court would take the next steps on the issue
      Tripura quick facts :-
      Capital                         Agartala
      Governor                    Tathagata Roy
      Chief Minister            Manik Sarkar

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