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Current Affairs - 22 October 2017

General Affairs 

Have To Remain Prepared To Counter Doklam-Like Situation, Says Army Chief
  • Army chief General Bipin Rawat has said that the Army has to remain prepared to counter any Doklam-like situation along the India-China border.

    General Rawat, while speaking to reporters at a function in Jammu, also said that the mountain strike corps, designated as 17 Corps, was being raised as a "force of deterrence" and the process of its establishment was on schedule.

    Asked if the 17 corps was being established to counter China, General Rawat said, "Why should we say it is against whom? It is for deterrence and deterrence is against any threat that may confront the nation."

    The Cabinet Committee on Security headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had cleared the setting up of the 17 Corps in the latter part of 2014.

    So far, one division comprising nearly 25,000 soldiers has been raised for the Corps, which is at present headquartered at Ranchi. Once the raising of the 72 division is complete, the Corps will be based out of Panagarh in West Bengal.

    Asked if there was any possibility of a Doklam-like standoff with China in any other part of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), General Rawat said, "We have to remain prepared".

    The 73-day face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam started on June 16 after the Indian side stopped the construction of a road by the Chinese Army.

    General Rawat, while talking to reporters on the sidelines of the function where he presented the President's Standards to 47 Armoured Regiment, also said that the security situation in the Kashmir Valley was improving.

    "I think the security situation in the Kashmir Valley is improving and what is happening now in the Kashmir Valley is possibly highlighting the frustration of the terrorists and those who are supporting them," he said.

    The Army chief said that the "ups and downs" in terrorism keep happening.

    "We will keep eliminating terrorists, and some wayward youth, because of the social media campaign of radicalisation, will come and join," he said, adding that most of them were now operating overground and were surrendering.

    Asked about the reopening of terror training camps across the Line of Control, General Rawat said that they were never closed.

    Terrorists were stationed in the training camps even then as they are today, he said.

    On whether the Army will again carry out surgical strikes to dismantle the terror camps across the border, General Rawat said, "We have already said that surgical strikes were a method (to deal with terror infrastructure across the border). There are other methods also."

    The Army chief also said that the enquiries into the terror attacks in Pathankot, Uri and Nagrota had been completed and action taken.

    "Punishments are being awarded to the people who are found guilty. Nobody is spared," he said.

    Asked about his reaction to the statement of Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Jawed Bajwa that his country wants to have peaceful relations with India, General Rawat said the military has a task and it will continue to perform the task.

    "Any talks or anything that has to be done, will be decided at the political level. If the political hierarchy takes a political call, we will continue to perform and do our tasks that has been entrusted to us," he said.

    Talking about whether the militancy graph has gone down after initiatives under the 'Operation Sadhbhavana', General Rawat said, "Winning hearts and minds (of people) is part of any counter insurgency strategy and our nation has been following it rightly."

    "Success has been achieved through Operation Sadhbhavana which is evident the way you see the goodwill of schools in carrying out competitions. There are any number of people joining and supporting the campaign," he said.

    Asked whether the Army was planning to close down Army Education Corps, General Rawat said the instructions to close it down had come.

    However, he also added that, "If we have to close down AEC, it will take time. It is being discussed.

    The AEC is a programme run by the Army that develops soldiers and officers of all ranks in a variety of disciplines. The centre provides education in both combat and non-combat operations.

    General Rawat said action was being taken to secure all military establishments and garrisons.

95 Nominations Filed For Himachal Assembly Polls Today
  • As many as 95 nominations were filed today for the November 9 Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls. With this, the total number of nominations filed for the polls so far has gone up to 195.

    The last day for filing nominations is October 23. There will be no nomination filing tomorrow (Sunday).

    Twenty-three candidates, including state Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma (Dharamsala), Congress rebel Vijay Singh Mankotia (Shahpur) and former ministers Romesh Dhawala (Jawalamukhi) and Sarveen Chowdhary (Shahpur), filed their nominations from Kangra district.

    Fifteen candidates entered the fray from Mandi district, eleven nominees, including state Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri (Haroli) and state BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti (Una), filed nominations from Una district, 10 from Shimla district, seven from Chamba, six each from Solan, Hamirpur and Chamba districts, five from Sirmaur and four from Bilaspur district.

    Thirty-two independents and covering candidates also filed nominations on the fifth day.

    The Congress has so far not announced the names of its candidates in nine constituencies. Veteran Congress leader and Irrigation and Public Health Minister Vidya Stokes (89), who was the likely candidate of the party from Theog, was suddenly taken ill and rushed to the Fortis Hospital at Mohali today.

    Stokes had left the seat for Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and after the latter chose to contest the upcoming polls from Arki, she again staked her claim from Theog.

Election Commission Delaying Gujarat Poll Dates Not A Good Thing: Sharad Yadav
  • Rebel Janata Dal-United MP Sharad Yadav on Saturday voiced concern over the Election Commission's decision to postpone announcement of the Gujarat poll date, saying it was "not a good thing" and would raise questions on the credibility of the poll panel.

    Speaking to reporters here, the senior leader also hit out at the BJP for maintaining different standards for itself and opposition leaders over the controversy surrounding BJP President Amit Shah's son, Jay.

    On the delay by the Election Commission in announcing dates for the Gujarat election, he said: "For the first time such a thing has happened, I don't think it is good."

    "People have reposed their faith in the Election Commission for long, and have trusted its credibility in testing times. Not announcing Gujarat election dates is not a good thing," he said.

    Mr Yadav said that "democracy is the driving force of our Constitution. And the Election Commission till date has maintained its credibility."

    He said that earlier the Election Commission members would even in adverse circumstances maintain the neutrality of the poll panel and "act as an honest referral".

    On the controversy over the massive spike in the turnover of Jay Shah's company after the NDA came to power in 2014, Mr Yadav said: "Jay Shah is a Shah-zada, and we should speak less about them. People here are fond of Shah-zadas. They (BJP) have different standards and laws for the opposition, which are not implemented on their own party members."

    He also took a dig at BJP leaders over unsavoury statements on the Taj Mahal.

    "Taj is one of the seven wonders of the world. I don't know how people are questioning it. Many of the ancient monuments have been built by others in the country. Parliament, Rashtrapati Bhawan and even Lutyen's Zone were built by the British," he said.

    He also targetted the government for not fulfilling its promises on employment generation, farmers' welfare and the condition of the market.

    The suspended JD(U) Rajya Sabha MP also announced election to party posts on March 11 and released a list of interim office bearers, including Chhotu Bhai Vasava as working president and Ali Anwar as one of the vice presidents on ad-hoc basis.

    He also released a list of Presidents of the party unit in states.

    Asked about his party's hearing in the poll panel, Mr Yadav said, "On October 17, we submitted 429 affidavits in 12 volumes in support of our claim."

    Mr Yadav has approached the Election Commission to stake claim over the JD(U) election symbol

Congress Invites Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor, Jignesh Mevani To Join Hands
  • Hoping to garner the support of various communities in Gujarat polls, the state Congress today invited Patidar quota stir spearhead Hardik Patel, Thakor community leader Alpesh Thakor and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani to join hands with the party to defeat the ruling BJP.

    Apart from these leaders, the Congress also hinted at forging a pre-poll alliance with Sharad Pawar-led NCP and bringing on board Chhotu Vasava, the lone JD(U) MLA from the state.

    Addressing a press conference here today, state Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki expressed confidence that the party would easily win over 125 seats, out of total 182, with the "support and blessings" of all these leaders and parties.

    "Though the BJP is trying its best to win the polls, it will not succeed in stopping the Congress' victory march to Gandhinagar.

    "We respect as well as endorse the cause for which Hardik Patel is fighting. I appeal to Hardik to support the Congress during the polls. We are also ready to give him a ticket if he wants to fight elections in the future," Mr Solanki told reporters.

    "Similarly, we also invite Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani to join hands with the Congress. I also invite Chhotu Vasava, who helped us in the Rajya Sabha polls, to support the Congress," he said.

    Though the NCP had "betrayed" Congress in the RS polls, the party's doors are still open for them if they also want to overthrow the BJP from Gujarat, he added.

    In the Rajya Sabha polls, two NCP MLAs claimed to have voted for BJP candidate Balwantsinh Rajput despite their promise to vote for Congress leader Ahmed Patel.

    JD(U)'s lone MLA, Mr Vasava, whose party has formed the government in Bihar with the support of BJP, had voted for Ahmed Patel, who eventually won the election.

    Mr Vasava had said after the Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat in August this year that he had decided to vote for the Congress candidate as he was "unhappy" with the ruling party's works for the poor and tribal population that he represents.

    He was elected from Scheduled Tribe-reserved Jhagadia assembly seat in Bharuch district in south Gujarat.

    Mr Solanki also claimed that some Aam Admi Party (AAP) leaders from Gujarat were also in contact with his party and may join hands with it ahead of the polls.

    Senior AAP leader Kanubhai Kalsariya had met Rahul Gandhi during the latter's visit to central Gujarat early this month.

    "Just like Kalsariya, many other AAP leaders are in touch with us. They may join the Congress soon," Mr Solanki claimed.

    He claimed that his party has emerged as a strong contender in the upcoming polls.

    The Congress is out of power in Gujarat for 22 years.

15 Afghan Army Cadets Killed In Suicide Attack, Second In 24 Hours
  • A suicide bomber killed 15 Afghan army trainees as they were leaving their base in Kabul on Saturday, the defence ministry said, as militants step up their deadly attacks across the war-torn country.

    It was the second suicide bombing in the Afghan capital in 24 hours and the seventh major assault in Afghanistan since Tuesday, taking the total death toll to more than 200, with hundreds more wounded.

    The attack comes after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque in Kabul on Friday, killing 56 people and wounding 55 others in an assault claimed by the Islamic State group.

    There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the ambush but the Taliban has been involved in the previous four attacks on police and military bases this week.  

    "This afternoon when a minibus carrying army cadets was coming out of the military academy, a suicide bomber on foot targeted them, martyring 15 and wounding four," defence ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri told AFP.

    Kabul Crime Branch chief General Mohammad Salim Almas said police have launched an investigation into the attack which happened in the west of the city. 

    "The minibus was carrying army trainees to their homes from Marshal Fahim military academy," Almas told AFP.

    The spate of deadly attacks underscores deteriorating security across Afghanistan as the resurgent Taliban step up their attacks on security installations with devastating effect and Islamic State continue to target Shiite mosques. 

    NATO's Resolute Support mission tweeted that the latest incident was an "attack on the future" of Afghanistan and its security forces. 

     "This attack in #Kabul shows the insurgents are desperate and cannot win" against Afghanistan's security and defence forces, it said.  

    It was the fifth time since Tuesday that militants have launched a major attack against Afghanistan's beleaguered security forces already badly demoralised by high casualties and desertions.

    In the deadliest of the recent attacks, around 50 Afghan soldiers were killed in a Taliban-claimed assault on a military base in the southern province of Kandahar on Thursday. 

    Insurgents blasted their way into the compound using two explosives-laden Humvees -- a tactic used in three separate attacks this week -- officials said.

    The militants razed the base in the Chashmo area of Maiwand district to the ground, according to the defence ministry.

    On the same day Taliban militants besieged a police headquarters in the southeastern province of Ghazni, attacking it for the second time this week.

    Afghan security forces have faced soaring casualties in their attempts to hold back the insurgents since NATO combat forces pulled out of the country at the end of 2014.

    Casualties leapt by 35 percent in 2016, with 6,800 soldiers and police killed, according to US watchdog SIGAR.

    The insurgents have carried out more complex attacks against security forces in 2017, with SIGAR describing troop casualties in the early part of the year as "shockingly high". 

    The attacks included assaults on a military hospital in Kabul in March which may have killed up to 100 people, and on a base in Mazar-i-Sharif in April which left 144 people dead.

Business Affairs

Linking Aadhaar number with bank accounts is mandatory, says RBI
  • The Reserve Bank of India today clarified that linkage of Aadhaar number to bank account is mandatory. The RBI's clarification came a day after it was reported that the Central bank had not issued any instruction regarding mandatory linking of the two. The reports had referred to RTI application filed by news website.
    Today, the RBI issued a clarification, saying: "RBI clarifies that linking Aadhaar to bank accounts is mandatory. Some news items have appeared in a section of the media quoting a reply to a Right to Information Act application that Aadhaar number linkage with bank accounts is not mandatory."
    "The  Reserve Bank clarifies that, in applicable cases, linkage of Aadhaar number to bank account is mandatory under the Prevention of Money -laundering  (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment  Rules, 2017 published in the Official  Gazette on June 1, 2017. These Rules have statutory force and, as such, banks have to implement them without awaiting further instructions," the RBI said.
    This year in June, the government had made Aadhaar mandatory for opening bank accounts as well as for any financial transaction of Rs 50,000 and above.
    "Existing bank account holders have been asked to furnish the Aadhaar number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) by December 31, 2017, failing which the account will cease to be operational," the government notification had said. According to reports, the RBI had not issued any notification for linking of Aadhaar number with the customers' bank account.
    In RTI reply, RBI was quoted as saying:  "The Government has issued a Gazette Notification GSR 538(E) dated 1 June 2017 regarding Prevention of Money laundering (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment Rules, 2017, inter-alia, making furnishing of Aadhaar (for those individuals who are eligible to be enrolled for Aadhaar) and permanent number (PAN) mandatory for opening a bank account. It may be noted that Reserve Bank has not yet issued an instruction in this regard."
    The report also revealed that the central bank has not even filed any petition with the Supreme Court on seeking explicit permission of linking the two said documents. "RBI has not filed any petition with the Supreme Court," the RBI said in response to the query.

Former Tata GEC member Nirmalya Kumar reveals how Cyrus Mistry was fired as Group Chairman
  • Former Group Executive Council member at Tata Sons Nirmalya Kumar today posted a blog in which he revealed the sequence of the events that led to Cyrus Mistry's removal as Tata Chairman. Cyrus Mistry had hired Nirmalya Kumar to head strategy for the Tata Group, a position that had required Kumar to intensively interact with the former chairman. In his blog titled: How Cyrus Mistry was Fired as Tata Chairman, Kumar wrote that ahead of Mistry's exit, Ratan Tata and Tata Sons board member Nitin Nohria met the former and asked him to put down his papers. 

    "Nitin Nohria begins by proclaiming that Cyrus as you know the relationship between you and Ratan Tata has not been working. Therefore, Tata Trusts have decided to move a board resolution removing Cyrus as Chairman of Tata Sons." Cyrus Mistry was, Kumar wrote, offered the option of resigning or facing the resolution for his removal at the upcoming board meeting. To which Mistry responded and said: "You are free to take it up at the board meeting and I will do what I have to do." Later in a board meeting,  Cyrus Mistry was removed as Tata Chairman. "It was all over in minutes, no explanations and no opportunity for Cyrus Mistry to prepare a rebuttal," Kumar wrote.

    The former GEC member also explained how Tata managed the Cyrus Mistry's unceremonious exit. Immediately after his removal, Mistry called his childhood friend and top notch lawyer, Apurva Diwanji, to help him. They (Apurva and Cyrus Mistry) knew that they needed a public relations agency and a lawyer immediately. "What they did not know was that Tata had already engaged six major public relations companies and booked many of the most prominent lawyers in the country in a bid to squeeze the resources available to Cyrus post firing," Kumar wrote.

    Kumar further suggested that no Tata senior official had ever said anything negative against Mistry. "Despite the best efforts of the press promoted by the six PR agencies and pressure from the internal Tata communications team, only two Tata CEOs, Bhaskar Bhat and Harish Bhat, have had anything negative to say about Cyrus Mistry in the press. And, even they, were remarkably muted in their criticism," the former GEC member wrote, adding that the initial contract under which Cyrus was serving as the Chairman had been passed via a shareholder resolution of Tata Sons.

    "It was due to expire on 31 March 2017. Instead of the sudden, no warning dismissal, the board could have just let the clock run out in five months. By eschewing the public humiliation of Cyrus Mistry, the bloody aftermath that followed could have been avoided," Kumar stated in the blog. He also said that in Tata-Mistry fight it was the PR firms who came out as winners. He said: "The only winners as far as one could see were the public relations companies and lawyers, who are still having a field day.

India says ready for stronger US ties after Rex Tillerson endorsement
  • India stood ready to further strengthen ties with the United States, the government said on Friday, after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson vowed to dramatically expand cooperation as a way to counter China's influence in Asia.
    Tillerson, who is visiting India next week as part of a tour to the region, said in a speech the United States had begun to discuss alternatives to Chinese infrastructure financing in Asia that critics say has spawned resentment and fears of a debt trap.
    He also called for expanding the scope of security cooperation between India, the United States and Japan to include other countries such as Australia, a plan that China has said in the past would be de-stabilising to the region.
    An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said Tillerson had made an important speech on the future of India-U.S. relations and India looked forward to detailed discussions next week. "We appreciate his positive evaluation of the relationship and share his optimism about its future directions," the spokesman said.
    Tillerson did not say what he meant by creating an alternative to Chinese infrastructure financing, which India has also been increasingly concerned about as China seeks to build trade and transport links in Asia.
    India was the only major country in Asia not to send a representative to a "Belt and Road Initiative" summit in Beijing in May because an economic corridor that China was building in Pakistan ran through territory claimed by India. India warned that China's plans for a modern-day "Silk Road" could create an "unsustainable debt burden" for countries.
    The ministry spokesman said India agreed with Tillerson's call for a "rules-based" international order that is seen as under risk from China's assertive posture in Asia.
    The United States has repeatedly criticised China for disregarding international law with the construction and militarisation of artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, where neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have claims.
    "Tillerson has made a significant policy statement on India-U.S. relations and its future. He brought out its various strengths and highlighted our shared commitment to a rule-based international order," the Indian spokesman said.
    India, though, has been wary of U.S. calls for a bigger Indian military role including joint patrols in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, worried it would antagonise China further.

Aadhar card not mandatory to get ration in Jharkhand: Minister
  • The Jharkhand government today said Aadhaar card was not mandatory to collect food grains from the public distribution system after a 11-year-old girl allegedly died of starvation.
    Local activists had alleged that the girl died of starvation on September 28 after her family was denied ration for the want of an Aadhar-linked ration card.
    "Aadhaar card is not mandatory. Any card, including a driver's license and voter ID card or any specified card, is permissible for procuring food grains," the state's Food Minister Saryu Roy said.
    A toll free number- 1800 212 55 12--had been set up to lodge complaints regarding ration distribution, Roy said, adding that grain banks would also be set up in every block.
    Meanwhile, a fresh probe announced by Chief Minister Raghubar Das on October 17 had found that the girl died of malaria, officials said.
    The first probe by a three-member team, which was constituted on October 6, also examined the case and found the girl died of malaria, they said

    India's oil imports hit record high in September
    • India imported a record 4.83 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil in September as several refiners resumed operations after extensive maintenance to meet rising local fuel demand. The world's third-biggest oil importer shipped in 4.2 percent more oil last month than a year earlier and about 19 percent more than in the previous month, ship-tracking data from industry sources and Thomson Reuters Analytics showed.
      "There was heavy maintenance at some refineries in July-August. All those refineries have come online, so naturally refiners will have to boost purchases to meet local demand," said Senthil Kumaran, senior analyst at energy consultant FGE.
      Maintenance turnaround at some refineries led to Indian Oil Corp deferring the shutdown of its 300,000 bpd coastal Paradip refinery to April-March.
      During the first nine months of the year India's oil imports rose 1.8 percent to about 4.4 million bpd, with most supplies coming from the Middle East, followed by Africa and Latin America.
      Indian fuel demand typically eases in the third quarter as monsoon rains hit construction, industrial activity and reduces consumption of transport fuels. That provides refiners with an opportunity to carry out maintenance. Capacity addition is also driving up India's oil imports.
      The country added 170,000 bpd of capacity at plants owned by Bharat Petroleum Corp and HPCL-Mittal Energy, which are gradually ramping up crude runs.
      India, which imports about 80 percent of its oil needs, has emerged as a key driver for growth in global oil demand.
      The South Asian nation is set to surpass China as the fastest-growing oil products market in Asia, with fuel demand growing by 6.1 percent in 2018, according to a recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. FGE expects India's fuel demand to rise by about 4.5 percent this year to 4.2 million bpd and by 5.1-5.2 percent in 2018.
      India is increasing refining capacity to keep pace with the expected growth in fuel demand as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to boost the manufacturing sector. Global oil majors Saudi Aramco, Rosneft, BP, Shell and Total are vying to tap a sizeable share of the fast-growing Indian fuel markets.
      OPEC expects India's oil demand to rise by 150 percent to 10.1 million bpd by 2040 from about 4 million bpd. India's fuel demand is also expected to rise in the fourth quarter because new tax rules have made two-wheelers and cars cheaper, said Kumaran.

    General Awareness

    India tops list of pollution-linked deaths in world – Study by Lancet

    • As per a study conducted by Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, released in Lancet medical journalIndia has topped the list of countries with highest pollution-related deaths in year 2015. In this context, pollution-related death refers to death caused by diseases linked to air, water and other forms of pollution.
      About Study conducted by Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health:
      More than 40 international health and environmental authors were involved in this study which is a part of a two-year project.
      • The study team was led by Philip Landrigan, an environmental scientist, and Richard Fuller, founder of NGO Pure Earth.
      • The study also includes contributions from India’s former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and IIT-Delhi’s Prof Mukesh Khare.
      Highlights of Study conducted by Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health:
      In 2015, pollution-related death toll in India stood at 2.51 million, which is 28 per cent of an estimated 9 million pollution-linked deaths worldwide in the same year.
      • 81 million out of 2.51 million pollution-related deaths were due to polluted air, whereas polluted water caused 0.64 million deaths in India.
      • Nearly 92 per cent of pollution-related deaths were reported in low and middle income countries and in those countries which are witnessing rapid industrialisation.
      • As per the study, out of 9 million pollution-related deaths worldwide in 2015, 6.5 million deaths were linked to air pollution whereas water pollution and workplace-related pollution caused 1.8 million and 0.8 million deaths respectively.
      • The study has outlined that the world economy suffered $4.6 trillion annual losses (as financial cost) due to pollution-related death, sickness and welfare. This amount is equivalent to 6.2% of the global economy
      Pollution-Related Deaths – Worst Affected Countries:
      CountryPollution-Related Deaths
      India2.15 million
      China1.83 million
      Pakistan0.31 million
      Nigeria0.25 million
      Indonesia0.21 million

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