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Current Affairs - 24 October 2017

General Affairs 

When does moral policing stop?: SC suggests it's open to modifying order on national anthem in cinema halls
  • The Supreme Court today asked why the Centre can't amend the law to make it mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem, and why the burden should be "thrown on the judiciary."
    In November, the top court had passed an order saying cinema halls should play the national anthem before films.
    But today, Justice Chandrachud asked, "Why doesn't the Centre amend the law. Why should the burden be thrown on the judiciary. Tomorrow you will say ban people from wearing T-shirts and shorts to the cinema hall because it's an insult to national anthem. Where do you draw a line? Where does this moral policing stop?"
    "People go to cinema halls for undiluted entertainment. Why should we make choices for them? Why should we assume that if someone doesn't stand up for anthem in the cinema hall, he is not patriotic?"
    The court observed that government can bring in legislation and amend the flag code.
    The Centre, represented by Attorney General KK Venugopal, was clearly of the opinion that the earlier order should not be modified.
    "Ours is a country with vast diversity of religion, region, race and caste, it becomes necessary to have a unifying force. By playing national anthem, people can come out believing we are all Indians," he said.
    This contention was strongly rebutted by Justice Chandrachud, who said that patriotism is instilled by a larger democratic and political process , not by making the national anthem mandatory in cinema halls.
    Though the Supreme Court has not modified its order today, it's likely to do so in the next hearing on January 9. The Centre will also have to clarify if they are willing to amend the flag code.

Sushma Swaraj: Bangladesh gets first priority among all neighbours
  • Neighbours are given priority in India's foreign policy, and Bangladesh is the first on that list, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said today in Dhaka.
    Swaraj's remarks came while she inaugurated the new Chancery Complex of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka on Monday.
    She promised to sincerely resolve "irritants" between Bangladeshand India. Relations between India and Bangladesh are now outstanding, and both countries are working to resolve these irritants in the spirit of "friendly relations and with right intention", she said.
    Swaraj inaugurated as many as 15 India-funded development projects in Bangladesh.
    According to the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, these projects, worth Tk 720 million, have been chosen keeping in mind geographical spread, Bangladesh's priorities, and socio-economic benefits for it.
    The projects cover sectors such as education, healthcare, IT, water supply and social welfare.
    Eleven water treatment plants are being built in southern Bhandaria Upazila in Pirojpur. They will provide desalinated potable drinking water to 150,000 citizens. Some 36 community clinics will also be built.
    One of the projects is the reconstruction of Ramna Kali Temple, which was destroyed by the invading Pakistani forces in 1971.
    The project includes the construction of the main temple, a five-store guesthouse, a deep tube-well in the temple premises and the construction of the main entry gate of the temple.

Ex-IB chief Dineshwar Sharma appointed govt representative on Kashmir; Centre open to dialogue
  • Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday announced that former Director IB Dineshwar Sharma was handpicked by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to hold a dialogue with stakeholders in strife-torn of Jammu and Kashmir. Singh told reporters that a sustained dialogue will be initiated with all shades of opinion in Kashmir Valley.
    This comes just days after Sushma Swaraj met Pakistan's new ambassador to India, Sohail Mahmood.
    "Welcome the initiative of Union Government, appointing an interlocutor for leading a sustained dialogue with stakeholders in Jammu & Kashmir,"  the state's CM  Mehbooba Mufti said.
    Sharma, a 1976 batch Kerala cadre IPS officer, retired as director of the IB on December 31, 2016.
    He will hold the the position of a Cabinet Secretary. However, on talks with separatists, Rajnath said the interlocutor will be free to decide whom to talk to.
    A senior officer in Jammu Kashmir said "Sharma is a seasoned man who served in the intelligence bureau in the early 1990's and has perhaps seen the worst phase. He knows the phase Kashmir is in. While there is skepticism around, there is still hope."
    Sharma, took charge as the interlocutor for peace talks with Assam's insurgent groups, including the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).
    Rajnath Singh himself led an all-party delegation to the Kashmir Valley, especially after a long spell of violence, following the killing of Hizbul Commander Burhan Wani.
    Following his death, Singh had instituted a committee on pellet guns, to placate mounting anger.
    The UPA government also formed a group of three interlocutors in 2010 to hold a sustained dialogue with all sections of the people in Jammu and Kashmir.
    They were noted journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, Prof. MM Ansari, Information Commissioner and Prof. (Mrs) Radha Kumar, trustee of Delhi Policy Group.
    National Conference leader Omar Abdullah had this to say about Sharma's appointment. Violence in Jammu and Kashmir peaked this year with most number of terrorist - nearly 180 - killed in a single year by security forces. Compared to previous years, terrorist infiltration from Pakistan and the number of security personnel killed have also been high this year.
    The Modi-led NDA government Kashmir policy has been underlined with a marked toughness, unlike previous governments. It has refused to engage separatists.
    On the contrary, it has cracked down on funds reaching them. The National Investigative Agency (NIA) has arrested several Kashmiri separatist leaders and businessmen for channeling slush funds into Kashmir. Also, interestingly, the appointment of a representative to take forward the political process comes days before US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson makes his maiden visit to India.
    Announcing the appointment, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh skirted the thorny question - will his newly appointed interlocutor will engage separatists? "It is for interlocutor to decide," he said. The minister, however, defended appointing a police officer to take forward a political initiative, saying "it is important that the person doesn't have any political affiliations." 

No pressure on us from Narendra Modi government, says Election Commission
  • The Election Commission, for the first time, broke its silence regarding EC's decision to hold back the Gujarat poll dates. The EC admitted it was aware of the criticism but stood its ground anyway.
    India's Chief Election Commissioner, Achal Kumar Joti, on Monday rejected the opposition's charge that the Election Commission, India's top election body, is working under the pressure of National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
    Joti said the Election Commission does not meddle in the poll campaign, and asserted that no special preference is being given to any political party and assured that EC gives equal opportunities to all political parties.
    He also said that political parties make poll promises during the campaigns and Election Commission is not acting till the model code of conduct comes in place after PM Narendra Modi announced schemes during his rallies in the poll-bound state.
    "The opposition can only question us if we stop them from campaigning. The opportunities are equal for all. All parties make poll promises, even the opposition parties are promising lot of things we are not stopping anybody" he said.
    Joti also said the Election Commission has commenced discussions with the Home Ministry with regard to security and administrative staff deployment for the polls in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. He also added that VVPATs will be installed at all polling stations in addition to EVMs which will help each voter to see his or her votes.

Congress moves Supreme Court against EC over Gujarat Assembly poll dates
  • The Congress has approached the Supreme Court against the Election Commission (EC) for the latter not announcing the dates for Assembly elections in Gujarat.
    The Congress party in its petition to SC has complained that EC has announced the date of counting for Himachal Pradesh but it has not announced the poll dates for Gujarat. "Why notification of dates for Gujarat elections was not made by EC?" a senior Congress leader said.
    The petition also demands that the time span of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) be exceeded from 8 seconds to 15 seconds.
    AICC Legal Department head Vivek Tankha said, "We had given 14 points in petition which was filed in the Supreme Court. We had hoped that reply will come from EC. But it did not come."
    "We will raise the Gujarat poll date issue inside the court also," he said.
    The matter is likely to be heard in the apex court today. Meanwhile, the Congress has released the list of 40 star campaigners for the November 9 Assembly elections. The list includes the names of party president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda among others.

Business Affairs

GSTN portal launches offline tool to record inputs sent to job workers
  • GST Network today said it has launched an offline tool for businesses to quarterly file a form detailing inputs or capital goods sent to job workers and received back from them.
    The excel-based offline tool has been made available for preparing and uploading the statement in form GST ITC-04. The tool can be accessed at 'Download' section of GST portal, GSTN said in a statement.
    As per GST (Goods and Services Tax) Rule 45, details of inputs or capital goods sent to job worker and received back from them need to be furnished on a quarterly basis in ITC-04.
    "All the details can be added in offline mode and thereafter uploaded on GST portal to furnish the form for the quarter July-September 2017," GSTN CEO Prakash Kumar said.
    With the offline tool, internet connection is not required at the time of filling up details. After the details are fed into the excel tool, it can be uploaded on the GST portal.
    Also since most of the data entry and business validations are in-built in the offline tool, it reduces chances of errors at the time of upload to the GST portal.
    Also the data uploaded will be available for editing or for making new additions.
    After the file is uploaded, the system will show the summary of data uploaded, which needs to be digitally signed or verified through EVC (electronic verification code) for successful filing of the same.
    A principal manufacturer sends semi-furnished goods to job workers to further process the product.

Flipkart in talks with Urban Ladder, Swiggy, UrbanClap for acquisition: Report
  • Sitting at the top of Indian e-commerce business, Flipkart is planning to invest more in start-ups and buyout smaller rivals as a leg up to its business. The biggest e-tailer of the country is planning to acquire online furniture retailer UrbanLadder, services firms UrbanClap and food delivery platform Swiggy, along with some start-ups in insurance and wealth management, a report by Livemint said quoting three sources familiar with the development.
    The move is expected to widen the marginal lead Flipkart has against its closest competitor Amazon India. Changing its 'merger and acquisition' (M&A) stance, Flipkart is now planning to pour in more funds in prospects which will 'directly help its business', the report said, instead of mere financial investments, as it did back in 2014-15.
    "Flipkart's new M&A approach is similar to what the large Chinese internet companies and ventures have done in China over much of the past decade - buy out smaller rivals and pick up strategic stakes in other large internet start-ups. Flipkart is trying to do two things - firstly, they are ensuring that they reach a size and scale from which they can't be toppled by even deep-pocketed rivals such as Amazon. Secondly, they are essentially not missing the bus and protecting themselves from disruption," Livemint quoted one of the sources.
    Even Flipkart's filings with Ministry of Corporate Affairs depict the change in its M&A strategy. According to reports, the online shopping giant has set aside around Rs 8,000 crore for acquisitions and major investments this year, as opposed to Rs 3,000 crore it had last year.
    The capital to fuel these plans come from the $3 billion (Rs 19,509 crores) Flipkart raised in a recent round of funding from SoftBank Group, Tencent Holdings, eBay Inc , Microsoft earlier this year. The company has declared that it has $4 billion (Rs 26,016 crore) in cash.
    The talks are still in nascent stage, though, and none of the companies named in the report have confirmed any plans of merger. It is a long way before Flipkart enters into a deal with either of the expected companies. Flipkart, UrbanClap and Swiggy have not responded to request for comments, whereas UrbanLadder denied any plans for merger with Flipkart, as per the Livemint report.
    According to recent reports, Flipkart is might go on to buy 8-19 per cent stake in Kishore Biyani's brick-and-mortar fashion retail chain, Future Lifestyle Fashions. Flipkart has also entered into talks with BookMyShow for buying minority stake in the ticketing website. The e-commerce leader in the nation is also going to invest $500 million in its payment arm PhonePe, which is fighting against the likes of Paytm and Amazon Pay for market share.
    Flipkart also tried to acquire struggling smaller rival Snapdeal earlier this year, but the deal never came to be on account of its complexity.

HSBC appoints Jayant Rikhye as CEO for India operations, will replace Stuart Milne
  • The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) has appointed Jayant Rikhye as the new Chief Executive Officer for India operations, replacing Stuart Milne.
    Rikhye, who joined the HSBC in 1989, will begin his tenure on December 1. He is currently the head of international markets, Asia Pacific. Naina Lal Kidwai was the last Indian CEO for HSBC's India operations. She finished her term in 2009.
    "Rikhye will lead HSBC's next phase of growth in the country, where he first joined the group in 1989," HSBC said in a press release. In his long career at the HSBC, Rikhye has worked across many divisions, including corporate banking, institutional fund services and securities services. He has held jobs in Tawian, Middle East and North Africa, United Arab Emirates.
    "Jayant brings with him a vast experience of leading international banking operations in Asia. I am confident he will be able to take the bank's India operations to the next level of development. I would like to thank Stuart for his significant contribution during his five years in India," the Business Standard quoted Peter Wong, deputy chairman and chief executive of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, as saying.
    Meanwhile, Milne has decided to take a three-month sabbatical starting January 2018. His next role at HSBC will be announced later, the bank said.
    At the appointment of Rikhye, the bank said India has been the second largest workforce for it globally. The country has also been supporting the HSBC group's "ten point strategic agenda" outlined in 2015, becoming one of the top contributors to group profits, it added.
    HSBC is focused on promoting digital technology in India and the next phase of growth will come from greater digital synergy and cross-border activity, the bank further stated.

Govt likely to meet fiscal deficit target of 3.2% for first time in seven years: Report
  • The government is likely to achieve the fiscal deficit target of 3.2 per cent of GDP for the first time in about seven years, but may cut its capital expenses by Rs 70,000 crore to meet the goal, said a report by SBI Research.
    "There are doomsday predictions currently that government is going to have a big revenue slippage in 2017-18 which may impact the headline fiscal deficit numbers. However, such projections flunk the test of logical reasoning and are grossly misconstrued," the report said.
    According to estimates by SBI's economic research department, while there could be a shortfall of Rs 1.1 lakh crore in the revenue receipts, disinvestments receipts worth Rs 72,500 crore and expenditure cuts are likely to offset the impact.
    "We estimate the government may cut about Rs 70,000 crore from the capital expenditure," the report said.
    However, it noted that budgeted disinvestment receipts are on track to realising Rs 72,500 crore.
    "At current trends, it is likely that for the first time after fiscal 2009-10 that disinvestment target is likely to be achieved," it noted, adding even if the nominal growth declines significantly in 2017-18, fiscal deficit would be impacted by at most 10 basis points in upward direction.
    Further, the report observed that the government has accumulated a total of Rs 40,491 crore in the National Small Savings Fund during the first five months of this fiscal. "It could thus receive Rs 1 lakh crore in small savings in FY18, and would be able to do a buyback of Rs 75,000 crore which was contingent upon that." "This, in turn, implies that the government would be able to meet its net borrowing target of Rs 3.48 lakh crore," it added.
    Out of the total estimated shortfall of Rs 1.1 lakh crore in the revenue receipts, around Rs 77,000 crore shortfall may be from tax revenue on account of reduction in excise duty in petroleum products, tax refunds under GST and revenue compensation to states for GST implementation. The non-tax revenue may decline by Rs 38,000 crore because of lower spectrum proceeds among others, it said.

    Indian Energy Exchange makes stock market debut, lists at 9% discount to issue price
    • Shares of Indian Energy Exchange listed on a weak note on the bourses today. The stock fell 9 percent to Rs 1,500 against its issue price of Rs 1650 on the BSE and NSE.
      However, the stock staged some recovery later, trading just 0.65 per cent lower to its issue price.
      At 10:58 am, the stock was trading 9.13 percent higher compared with its open price of 1500 level.
      The IPO of the power trading exchange regulated by Central Electricity Regulatory Commission elicited good response from investors, with the issue getting oversubscribed 2.23 times on the last day of bidding on October 11.
      Through the IPO, also the first by a power exchange in the country, the company aims to raise up to Rs 1,001 crore. On the final day, the offer received total bids for 11,776,518 shares against 52,75,889 shares on offer, data available with the NSE till 1900 hours showed.
      The price band for the offer is Rs 1,645-1,650 per share. In a rare development, the company revised the quantum of share allocation to anchor investors on account of regulations related to Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs).
      The company's IPO committee of the Board of Directors in consultation with the book running lead managers to the offer has finalised revised allocation of 7,89,120 shares to anchor investors at a price of Rs 1,650 per share, the notice said.
      Earlier, the company had alloted 18,19,501 equity shares to anchor investors at the same price. Under regulations, FPIs are not permitted to invest in power exchanges through the primary market route.
      "Post receipt of bids from anchor investors in the IEX offer, certain custodians have communicated to the BRLMs (book running lead managers) that FPIs shall not be eligible to participate.
      "The company and the BRLMs discussed this development with the regulator in order to identify potential solutions. However, as this has arisen late in the day and during the offer period, an appropriate solution could not be implemented in the short time span available," IEX spokesperson said.
      Accordingly, the additional shares, which were earlier to be allotted to FPI anchor investors are available for allocation in the QIB (qualified institutional buyer) portion.
      "The company would like to reiterate that this development is arising out of regulatory concerns raised by the custodians rather than any pricing concern. The anchor book, which is available in the public domain, identifies the calibre of investors who were interested in participating in the offer and shows their confidence in the company," the spokesperson said.
      The company, along with the BRLMs, has decided to focus on domestic investors in order to avoid any changes to the offer timetable and achieve listing as anticipated, the spokesperson added. The IPO is of up to 60,65,009 shares (including anchor portion of 7,89,120 shares). Axis Capital, Kotak Mahindra Capital Company and IIFL Holdings are managing the company's public issue.

    General Awareness

    State of World Population 2017 Report launched

    • As per the recently released State of World Population 2017 report by the United Nations Population Fund, prevailing inequality between rich and poor has to be tackled on an urgent basis and poorest and most vulnerable women will have to be empowered to make their own decisions about their lives. On failing to do so, countries across the world could face unrest and their development will be hampered.
      Highlights of State of World Population 2017:
      The report has been titled “Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality.”
      • As per the report, economic inequality goes hand in hand with inequality in reproductive health.
      • As of 2017, half of 1.6 billion women of reproductive age living in developing regions want to avoid a pregnancy.
      • Around 59 million women use unreliable traditional methods of pregnancy prevention whereas 155 million use no method of contraception at all.
      • South Asian region is home to largest number of women with an unmet need for modern contraception and thereby has high maternal mortality rate.
      • Maternal mortality rate is much lower in countries where family planning services have been expanded.
      • Due to limited access to family planning, every year there are 89 million unintended pregnancies and 48 million abortions in developing countries. This not only harms women’s health, but also restricts their ability to join or stay in the paid labour force and achieve financial independence.
      • It has been observed that expanding family planning results into reduction in poverty, as with fewer children, families can invest more in health and education, thereby making future workers more productive.
      • The report has also suggested 10 Action points which are aimed to bridge the inequality gap between rich and poor.
      About United Nations Population Fund:
      United Nations Population Fund is an agency of United Nations which was earlier known as United Nations Fund for Population Activities.
      • It was formed in year 1969.
      • UNFPA focuses on improvement of reproductive health on global level.
      • Headquarters of UNFPA is located in New York, US.

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