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Current Affairs - 09 October 2017

General Affairs  

China Asks India To Abide By 'Historic' Border Treaty, 'Face The Facts'
  • Referring to the 1890 UK-China treaty, China today claimed it demarcated the Sikkim sector of the Sino-Indian border as it urged New Delhi to abide by its provisions, a day after Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made her maiden visit to the Nathu La post.

    Reacting to Ms Sitharaman's visit to the area, the Chinese foreign ministry today said "the Sikkim section of the China-India border has been demarcated by the historical boundary".

    "It is the best testimony to this fact. We urge the Indian side to face the facts, abide by the provisions of the historic boundary treaty and the relevant agreement of the parties, and work together with the Chinese side to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas," it said in a written response to PTI, to a query about Ms Sitharaman's visit.

    The ministry did not directly name the 1890 Britain-China treaty which Beijing often referred to during the Doklam standoff stating that it has defined the Sikkim section of the boundary with Tibet, therefore the border in that area has been settled.

    Ms Sitharaman yesterday visited the Nathu La area on the Sino-Indian border and interacted with Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police officials.

    Ms Sitharaman undertook an aerial survey of the Doklam-Nathu La area, a day after the government said no new developments have come up since India and China disengaged their troops, ending the standoff.

    Nathu La is the last post separating the border between Sikkim on the Indian side and Tibet on the Chinese side.

    The Defence Minister's trip was the first high level visit to the area after the 73-day standoff between Indian and Chinese troops at Doklam in the Sikkim sector of the border which ended on August 28 following a mutual agreement between India and China.

    Of the 3,488-km India-China border which stretches from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, a 220-km section falls in Sikkim. The two sides have so far held 19 rounds of Special Representatives' talks to resolve the dispute.

    The Doklam standoff began on June 16 over the PLA's plans to build a road in the area claimed by Bhutan after which Indian troops intervened to stop the construction as it posed a security risk to the 'Chicken's Neck' - the narrow corridor connecting India with its northeastern states.

    China, which earlier opened the Nathu La route for Indian pilgrims to visit Kailash and Manasarovar, closed it after the Dokalam standoff and is yet to reopen it.

All Political Parties Need To Be On Board For Simultaneous Polls: Election Body
  • Favouring simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly polls, the Election Commission today said all political parties need to be brought on board before such an exercise is carried out. "The Election Commission has always been of the view that simultaneous elections will give enough time for incumbent government to formulate policies and implement programmes continuously for a longer time without interruptions caused by imposition of model code of conduct," Election Commissioner OP Rawat said.
    He said conducting the polls together would be possible only when necessary changes in the Constitution and Representation of the People Act are carried out. Existing legal and constitutional provisions mandates that elections are to be held within six months ahead of the end of the term of a state assembly or the Lok Sabha.

    Mr Rawat said after the constitutional and legal framework are in place, it would be feasible to seek all the logistical support and conduct simultaneous elections.

    "Commission may conduct such elections after six months," the Election Commissioner said. He said bringing all political parties on board is an imperative for holding the simultaneous polls.

    The assembly elections for Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha are due in mid-2019, along with the next general polls. Mr Rawat said the Election Commission was in 2015 asked to give its view on the synchronised polls.

    "The Commission gave its views on the matter in March that year. It had suggested few steps that need to be taken before such elections are made feasible," he said.

    Mr Rawat said it would be logistically possible to hold the elections together if sufficient time is given to the Commission.

    There will be requirement of 24 lakh each electronic voting machines or EVMs and voter verifiable paper audit trail or VVPAT machines. "We need two set of EVMs -- one for Lok Sabha and another for the Assembly polls," he said.

Terror Activities Fell After Demonetisation: Arun Jaitley
  • The shock withdrawal of high-value notes in November last year has curbed terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said today, adding stone-pelters are no longer active in the valley for the last eight to 10 months.

    He denied the opposition's allegations that the centre's programmes like Clean India Mission and policy decisions like the Goods and Services Tax and demonetisation have not brought any changes on the ground.

    Mr Jaitley said that after demonetisation, there has been a sharp reduction in terror activities in states like Jammu and Kashmir, and Chhattisgarh. Terror funding itself has been squeezed, he said in a keynote address via video conference to the Berkeley India Conference yesterday ahead of his visit to the US.

    He will meet with business executives and attend the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington.

    "You are having terrorist incidents, but the fact that you were finding 5,000-10,000 stone throwers being provided with money by the terrorist organisations, why is it that in the last 8-10 months it has not happened?" Mr Jaitley said.

Present Environment May Require Us To Fight 'Short, Swift War': Air Chief BS Dhanoa
  • The Indian Air Force is prepared to fight a "short and swift war" at a short notice, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said today. "The nature of conflict in the present geo-political environment may require us to fight a short and swift war for which we need to be alert and prepared to fight on a short notice," he said, speaking at the 85th Air Force Day.
    The Air Chief's remarks come three days after he said that the Indian Air Force has the capability of striking across the border but adding that any decision on a surgical strike would be taken by the government. He also asserted that India is prepared to effectively counter any threat from China while confronting a two-front war also involving Pakistan. The remarks drew attention amid China's muscle flexing in the Dokalam Plateau and continued cross-border terror activities by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.

    The Air Force was acquiring multi-spectrum strategic capabilities and remained committed to building a "joint manship" with the Indian Army and the Navy, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said today, in the presence of Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat.
    Earlier this week, the Air Chief, while saying that the force needed "42 squadrons to carry out full spectrum operations" but maintained that it was "ready for full spectrum operation" and "fight a two-front scenario". "There is a Plan B," he had said.

    "I assure my countrymen that these men and women under my command are confident to take on any threat and fully prepared to undertake full spectrum of air operation and respond to any challenge in the most befitting manner," he said today.

    Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa also said that security at all Air Force stations has been strengthened to combat any threat, including sub-conventional threats, following the terror attack on the Pathankot air base in January last year. Heavily-armed terrorists from Pakistan had hijacked a police car and entered the highly secure Air Force base in Punjab, killing seven security men before being shot dead in an 80-hour operation.

    In his address, the Air Force chief also talked about the death of seven security personnel in the chopper crash in Arunachal Pradesh's Tawang on Friday.

    "Notwithstanding the high intensity of our flying, we cannot afford to have accidents and lose valuable lives and assets. Our losses during peace time are a cause of concern and we are making concerted efforts to prevent accidents and preserve our assets," he said.

'No Gifts, Give Up Travel Privileges': Piyush Goyal To Railway Officials
  • The railway ministry has asked its senior staff to slug it out -- at home and at work -- as part of steps to end the VIP culture in India's national transporter. The ministry has brought to an end a 36-year-old protocol where it was mandatory for general managers to be present on arrival and departure of the Railway Board chairman and other board members during zonal visits.

    In an order on September 28, the ministry said that the guidelines regarding the protocol to be observed at airports and railway stations stand withdrawn with immediate effect.

    Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani said no official will offer or receive bouquets and gifts at any time. Senior officials will also have to exercise restraint at home, he said. They will have to relieve the railway staff engaged as domestic help at their homes.

    Officials say that around 30,000 trackmen work at the homes of senior officials. They have been asked to resume duties. Sources in the ministry say that in the past one month around 6,000-7,000 personnel have reported back to work. 
    "No one will be exempt from the directive to rejoin work except under very special circumstances. We are hoping that all the staff will join work shortly," a senior official of the ministry said.

    Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has also asked senior officials to give up travelling in cosy saloons and executive class travel privileges and start travelling in Sleeper and AC Three-tier classes and mingle with passengers. These include members of the Railway Board, general managers of railway zones and divisional railway managers in each of the 50 divisions.

    "I believe that when these protocols were in place, people drafting them would have seen some reasoning behind them. It is difficult for me to say what they were though. However, now, these have no logic," said a former railway board member.

Business Affairs

Arun Jaitley headed for US for IMF-World Bank meets
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will leave on an official visit to the US tomorrow to participate in annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank.
    During his week-long stay in the US, he will meet CEOs of global MNCs and foreign investors. He is also likely to hold bilateral meetings with the US commerce secretary, the Italian minister for economy and finance and the Iranian minister for economy and finance.
    On the first leg of his trip to the United States, Jaitley will arrive in New York on October 9, during which he will hold investor meetings organised by Bank of America and CII.
    He is set to participate in the roundtable meeting of CEOs of USIBC-CII.
    On October 10, Jaitley will deliver a Lecture on 'FDI: Achievements and Challenges' at the Columbia University, following which he will leave for Boston.
    In Boston, Jaitley will take part in a roundtable investment meet on 'Indian Economy - The Road Ahead'. Later, he will deliver a lecture on India's tax reforms at the Harvard University.
    On October 12, the minister will leave for Washington DC to participate in the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
    During his three-day stay in Washington, Jaitley will hold bilateral meetings with US commerce secretary and participate in an interactive seminar organised by Ficci. He will also attend the G-20 finance ministers' and central bank governors' working dinner on October 12. Next day, Jaitley will attend the annual meeting of G-20 finance ministers' and central bank governors' meeting.
    He will also participate in the finance ministers' meeting with multilateral development banks. Jaitley may hold separate bilateral meetings with the Italian minister for economy and finance and the Iranian minister for economy and finance.
    The official delegation consists of RBI Governor Urjit Patel, Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg and Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian.
    The finance minister will leave for India on October 15 and will arrive in the national capital the next day.

Petroleum dealers call for nationwide strike on October 13
  • United Petroleum Front (UPF) on Saturday announced nationwide strike of dealers on October 13 to press for various demands including better margins and inclusion of petroleum products in the Goods and Services Tax.
    It warned that if the demands were not met at the earliest, fuel dealers will be forced to stop, indefinitely, purchase and sale operations from October 27.
    UPF represents over 54,000 dealers from the Federation of All-India Petroleum Traders, the All-India Petroleum Dealers Association and the Consortium of Indian Petroleum Dealers.
    The strike is to press for long-pending demands ignored by the state-run oil marketing companies (OMCs) since an agreement was signed last November, it said.
    The demands include upward revision of the dealer margins every six months, better terms for return on investment, resolution of manpower issues, a fresh study of handling losses, and resolution of issues related to transportation and ethanol blending.
    The front alleged that the letters which it wrote to oil marketing companies as well as a letter from the Cabinet Secretariat dated June 28, did not elicit positive response.
    Dealers also want the government to bring petrol and diesel under the GST regime.
    They are also upset with the marketing discipline guidelines announced by OMCs, which seek to penalise dealers for shortcomings up to Rs. 2 lakh under a zero tolerance policy towards shortchanging of customers.
    Fuel dealers are also opposed to the daily price mechanism introduced from July 1, saying it has benefited neither the consumers nor the dealers.
    They are also against, citing safety concerns, a proposal of the government to allow home delivery of oil products.

Two IPOs worth over Rs 12,300 crore to hit market this week
  • Two companies - Indian Energy Exchange and General Insurance Corporation Of India are set to launch their initial public offerings this week to raise about Rs 12,371 crore.
    Indian Energy Exchange plans to raise Rs 1,001 crore through its initial share sale offering. It has fixed a price band of Rs 1,645- 1,650 per share for its public issue.
    The issue by which the company is selling 60,65,009 shares or 20 per cent of the post-issue paid-up capital will be open for subscription during October 9-11.
    Axis Capital, Kotak Mahindra Capital Company and IIFL Holdings will manage the companys public issue.
    IEX is Indias first power exchange providing automated trading platform for electricity (for physical delivery) and renewable energy certificates.
    State-owned General Insurance Corporation of Indias (GIC Re) Rs 11,370-crore IPO is in a price band of Rs 855-912 per share.
    The IPO will open on October 11 and close on 13.
    Through the initial share sale, the national reinsurer will dilute 14.22 per cent of its post-offer paid-up equity share capital. Of this, the government will dilute 12.26 per cent stake and the balance 1.96 per cent by the Corporation itself, the company had said last week.
    Axis Capital, Citigroup, Deutsche India, HSBC Securities and Kotak Capital are the book running lead managers to the offer.

160 companies to face penal action for CSR violations
  • Penal action will be initiated against 160 firms for failing to comply with CSR norms under the companies law, according to Union minister P P Chaudhary.
    The minister of state for corporate affairs also asserted that the government does not interfere with regard to allocation of CSR funds by firms while compliance is monitored by way of mandatory disclosure requirements under the Companies Act, 2013.
    Under the Act, certain class of profitable entities are required to shell out at least 2 per cent of their three-year annual average net profit towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. In case of not spending the requisite amount, the firms concerned have to provide reasons for the same.
    The corporate affairs ministry, which is keeping a close tab on companies' compliance with the CSR provisions, had served show-cause notices to 1,018 defaulting entities.
    After receiving reports from the Regional Directors (RDs) and Registrar of Companies (RoCs), the ministry has now decided to initiate penal action against many entities.
    "The ministry has accorded permission for initiating penal action under Section 134(8) of the Act for non- compliance... against 160 companies," Chaudhary told PTI in an interview.
    The action is being taken for failing to comply with provisions of Section 135 -- which pertains to CSR.
    Among others, Section 134(8) provides for imposing a minimum fine of Rs 50,000 and the amount may go up to Rs 25 lakh for certain violations.
    The penal action is being initiated with respect to non- compliance during the 2014-15 financial year.
    As per data provided by the ministry earlier this year, as many as 12,431 companies had spent Rs 18,625 crore towards CSR activities during 2014-15 and 2015-16. Out of the total, 7,334 firms had shelled out Rs 8,803 crore in 2014-15.
    According to Chaudhary, as far as spending the CSR amount is concerned, it is for the companies to decide.
    "Earmarking of CSR funds of companies for any particular activity/ activities is beyond the purview of the Companies Act, 2013," and the boards of respective companies have been empowered under the law to take decisions with respect to allocation of such funds, the minister said.

Kingfisher probe: Officials, directors under lens for violations
  • The role of bank executives, directors and government officials has come under the scanner for alleged violations at the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines as multi-agency probes against fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya gather steam, regulatory and banking sources said.
    With the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) submitting a detailed report on the misdoings at Kingfisher Airlines, which went belly up in 2012, the government, regulators and banks are set to initiate strict actions to zero in on the guilty.
    Sources said the probe agency has red-flagged a slew of violations of companies law by Mallya, Kingfisher Airlines and officials, including serious corporate governance lapses.
    The role of independent directors and whether they failed in discharging their duties during their tenure at the airline has come to the fore, they added.
    Besides, sources said the role of bank executives in extending loans without requisite due diligence to the airline as well as the possibility of some government officials conniving with Mallya are being looked into in detail.
    Indian authorities have been working on ways to bring back Mallya, wanted for Kingfisher Airlines' default on loans worth nearly Rs 9,000 crore and some other matters, back from the UK, where he has been based for a long time.
    Sources said all banks where the SFIO has found lapses with respect to loans extended to the defunct airline are under the scanner.
    "The company's balance sheet was never strong and its credit rating was lower than what was required for sanctioning loans. Still, the banks went ahead and sanctioned them by deviating from the loan procedures," one of the sources said.
    The investigators have also found that banks considered only one valuer's report for the valuation of Kingfisher brand and based on that loans were given to the carrier, according to sources.
    Regulations require that at least two different valuation reports should be considered before deciding on giving loans on the basis of brand.
    Corporate affairs ministry officials were not available for comments on the SFIO report while queries sent to Mallya did not elicit any immediate response.
    Sources said agencies have also asked for certain details from banks who have exposure to Kingfisher Airlines as authorities tighten the noose around Mallya.
    The 61-year-old flamboyant businessman was arrested in London earlier this month in a money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate, before being released on bail by Westminster Magistrates' Court.
    Mallya, already out on bail on an extradition warrant executed by the Metropolitan Police earlier this year, was released on the same bail conditions as before to appear for his trial on December 4.

General Awareness

22nd GST council meeting held in New Delhi

  • 22nd meeting of the Good and Services Tax (GST) Council was held on October 6, 2017 in New Delhi, under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The council reduced GST rates on specific items and also eased the compliance requirement for Small and Medium Businesses.
    Government reduces GST rates on 27 items, gives relief to small and medium businesses
    During 22nd meeting of the GST Council, decision was taken to lower tax rates on 27 products and certain services.
    • Products for which GST has been lowered and brought under 5% slab include unbranded namkeen, unbranded ayurvedic medicines, hand-made yarn, khakra chapati, waste obtained from rubber, plastic and paper.
    • In services segment, job works like zari work, imitation jewellery and printing items have also been brought under the 5% slab.
    • GST council has also asked a panel of state ministers to examine if the 18% GST on air-conditioned restaurants could be lowered or not.
    Threshold for composition scheme raised to Rs 1 crore from 75 lakh
    • At the 22nd Meeting of GST Council, decision was taken to raise the eligibility threshold for ‘composition scheme’ to Rs. 1 crore of annual sales from Rs.75 lakh earlier.
    • Due to this move, more businesses can now avail the benefit of ‘composition scheme’ which permits liberal quarterly tax return filing and payment scheme.
    • Moreover, under ‘composition scheme’ a marginal flat rate of tax is levied.
    PAN card not required for jewellery purchase of above Rs 50,000
    On October 6, 2017, post 22nd meeting of GST Council, Government announced to roll back August 2017 notification under which PAN card was mandatory on the purchase of jewellery for over Rs 50,000.
    • The August 2017 notification has been rolled back by removing gems and jewellery dealers from the purview of the reporting requirement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
    • Government decided to withdraw the notification, as it received representation from associations in gems and jewellery sector against the August 2017 notification.
    Quick Facts about Goods and Services Tax (GST):
    GST is a destination-based, single indirect tax that is levied on consumption of goods or use of services across India.
    • It was rolled out in India from July 1, 2017.
    • GST replaced 16 levies (7 central taxes and 9 state taxes), consequentially creating India as one market with one tax rate.
    • Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council headed by Union Finance MinisterArun Jaitley and comprising representatives of all states have finalised four tax brackets under GST viz. 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%.

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