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Current Affairs - 23 November 2017

General Affairs 

Rafale aircraft procured by Modi govt 16% cheaper than ones UPA govt negotiated: Sources
  • The Rafale fighter aircraft procured by the Narendra Modi government are 16 per cent cheaper than the ones which were negotiated by the UPA government under a global tender, which was scrapped due to multiple complications, top government security sources said.
    The NDA government has signed a contract for procuring 36 Rafale planes from France under which French firm Dassault Aviation that would manufacture and supply them under fly-away condition at a cost of approximately Rs 60,000 crore.
    The Congress has been levelling allegations on the NDA government about a scam in the aircraft deal, saying the price of the planes was highly inflated than what it was negotiated from 2004 to 2014.
    "The cost of the 36 planes is almost 16 per cent less than what the UPA government was negotiating. However, they could not even close the deal after sitting on it for 10 long years," the sources said.
    The government has also ensured that the country gets a more capable aircraft from France, which will ensure that 75 per cent of the aircraft area is available for operations.
    "We are getting a far better deal in terms of avionics, weaponry as we will get longer range air to air missiles where the French would maintain the aircraft for 10 years," they said.
    Asked why the government opted to buy only 36 aircrafts against the requirement of 126 planes, the sources said the government wanted to go in for only the bare minimum requirements of the air force, whose squadron strength had fallen from the sanctioned 42 to 33 when NDA came to power in 2014.
    They said even in the scrapped tender for 126 planes, the air force was planning to get 18 aircraft in fly-away condition and that is the reason why 36 aircraft.
    On the allegation that the government's deal benefited a private defence firm, the sources said the present government has nothing to do with any such company as it was only the French who have to deliver the offsets contracts.

Govt sources: 202 terrorists killed in Kashmir in 2017 in joint security operations
  • Security forces have been able to eliminate 202 terrorists in less than 11 months in 2017 with top government sources pointing to the "complete synergy" between the Army, police and paramilitary for the stunning achievement.
    Officials said government troops over the past year have been working in close tandem and the credit game has been eliminated among them as no one claims brownie points for the jihadis killed in operations and the forces hold joint press conferences.
    This year, the combined troops of the Army, Jammu and Kashmir Police and the CRPF have been able to kill 202 terrorist of different groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. The list includes 25 top commanders of these groups, government security sources said.
    Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat, Jammu and Kashmir's director general of police SP Vaid and CRPF top brass was credited by the sources for the co-actions of the troops with intelligence agencies providing specific inputs for pinpoint operations.
    Sources said the turning point in the success story has been the deep involvement of local police as like the Punjab militancy where the cops were the biggest factor in finishing terrorism.
    "There is no better counter-insurgency force than the local police as they know the place like the back of their hand and since they have been attacked and are now hitting the terrorists hard, we see that forces are achieving great success," the sources said.
    They added that in 2017, the number of attacks being carried out by the terrorists on the security forces has come down drastically since the troops are now going out for search and destroy operations as could been seen from the recent mission of the army and IAF special forces, Garud, in the Hajin area of Bandipora district where they went to terrorists' hideout and killed them.
    The operation took place on Saturday in which one Garud commando, Corporal JP Nirala, lost his life and six terrorists from Pakistan were eliminated by the troops.
    On a recent decision by the government to hold parleys with all stakeholders in Kashmir to resolve the crisis, the sources said the intention is to provide an option to the locals to discuss their issues with the Centre and find solutions.
    They said government's interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma would be interacting with all sections of society in Kashmir and will convey the aspirations of the people of the state to the government.
    On the situation in the state, the sources said the separatists and their sympathisers may be coming out on social media or TV to show opposition, but the masses are with the country. "The success of the security forces' operations shows that," they said.
    The officials said despite the ongoing dialogue process, the Centre would ensure that the pressure on terrorists would continue and they have been clearly told to maintain the tempo of their actions.
    About the role of Pakistan in J&K, the sources said infiltration attempts were at an all-time high with 291 bids by jihadis to sneak in along the LoC till September 30 against the 165 attempts in the corresponding period last year.
    "The push from Pakistan is far greater than ever as they are getting frustrated in their attempts to change the atmosphere in the Valley which was visited by around 12 lakh domestic tourists this year," they said.
    Sources said the Pakistanis are now trying to undertake targeted killings of celebrities and important personalities in the country like they did in case of RSS leader Brigadier (retd) Jagdish Gagneja, who was killed in Punjab this year where money was paid through the Dubai-Mumbai route to gangsters.

RJD National Council passes resolution for Tejashwi as next CM
  • The national council meeting of RJD on Tuesday passed a resolution paving way for former deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav to lead the party in the next assembly elections in the state. The resolution adopted also spoke of RJD forming the next govt in Bihar under Tejashwi Yadav as the Chief Minister.
    Senior RJD leader and former MP Jagdanand Singh who read out the resolution at the meeting was passed unanimously.
    "The resolution adopts that Tejashwi Yadav will lead the party in the next elections and will also form the next govt in Bihar", read out Jagdanand Singh adopting the resolution.
    Tejashwi while speaking at the meeting where party chief Lalu Prasad was elected the national president of the party for the 10th time lashed out at Chief Minister Nitish Kumarcalling him "Cheat Minister". He also dared Nitish maintaining that he may be a young boy but has blood of his father and would continue to fight for the poor and downtrodden.
    "Nitish Kumar is not the chief minister but cheat minister. He has betrayed the mandate of the people of Bihar. Nitish calls me a baccha (child) but I would like to tell him that I have blood of my father Lalu in me and I will continue to fight for the poor and downtrodden, come what may", said the former deputy CM.
    Speaking further, Tejashwi said that RJD under him would stick to old politics of lathi (stick) which was used by his father Lalu Prasad and will also use laptops to counter the opposition.
    Lalu, who also spoke at the national council said that Nitish was trying to scare the upper caste voters by saying that Bihar has returned to the era of 90s.
    "Nitish wants to woo the upper caste voters but I don't think that the upper caste voters are so timid that they will listen to him", said Lalu Prasad, RJD chief.

President Kovind helps Guwahati child battling for life
  • There was a security scare when a college teacher tried to get close to President Ram Nath Kovind during a ceremony at Gauhati University on November 20.
    As the President finished his address, one Krishna Kamal Das, sitting among the audience rushed towards the dais with a letter in his hand and screaming that he wanted to speak to the President. The President's security team and Assam police personnel immediately surrounded Das, who is a lecturer in a private college in Guwahati, and forcibly took him out of the hall.
    However, one of the security officers read his letter, screened it and then handed it over to President's Secretary Sanjay Kothari.
    The letter was an appeal to save a six-year-old child Satvik Agarwal, who has been battling for life in a private hospital in Guwahati. Agarwal was run over by a school bus on November 15 and his parents had been seeking financial help for his treatment.
    When Das read about this incident on social media and got to know about President's visit, he wanted to draw attention of the first citizen of the country and managed to get an invite to the event at Gauhati University.
    Once the Assam police team was convinced that Das did not have any other motive, Assam Police Additional DGP (Security) Harmit Singh took him to Raj Bhavan where the President was staying.
    Meanwhile, on learning about the content of the letter, President Kovind asked state government officials to immediately offer all possible assistance to the child.
    At Raj Bhavan, Das met Kothari who promised that he would visit the child in the hospital. At around 10 pm, Kothari and some senior Assam government official reached the hospital and assured Agarwal's parents all kinds of assistance.

Regular Winter session to be held, won't clash with poll dates: Jaitley
  • Parliament will reconvene for a regular Winter Session which won't overlap with Assembly elections, Union Finace Minister Arun Jailey said Thursday.
    The Winter Session is likely to be held from December 15 to January 5, sources said.
    On Tuesday, the Congress alleged that the Modi government was "avoiding" the Winter Session in view of the upcoming Gujarat assembly elections, and to evade a discussion on issues the Opposition wants to raise during the session: ministers' scams, the Rafale deal, GST and demonetisation, for example.
    "The truth does not go away because you hide from it. Modi ji, stop hiding and open the Parliament so the truth of what you did on Rafale can be heard by the nation," Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
    Sonia Gandhi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was "sabotaging" the Winter Session "on flimsy grounds," and that he "lacks the courage" to face his opponents.
    Refuting Sonia's charge, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Parliament sessions were often rescheduled to ensure they didn't overlap with elections, and that the Congress had itself done so several times.
    Jaitley said that the Opposition party  - when in power - had delayed a session in 2011, and even earlier, because the sittings coincided with election campaigns.
    "It has been a tradition and it has happened several times that Parliament sessions are rescheduled when an election is happening," he told reporters in Rajkot.
    He also said the Winter Session would be held for sure. The Congress, he said, would be "totally exposed".
    "The Congress has given the most corrupt government in its ten years of rule, while Narendra Modi has given the most honest government. By forcibly saying that a truth is a lie does not make it a lie," Jaitley said.

Business Affairs

7th Pay Commission: Cabinet approves pay hike for Supreme Court, High Court judges
  • The judges will too be able to get the benefit of pay hike as per the 7th Central Pay Commission. The Union Cabinet has given its nod to the revision in the salaries, gratuity, allowances structure, and pension of the judges, who are working in and who have retired from the Supreme Court of India and the High Courts across nation. The decision is to implement recommendations by the 7th Central Pay Commission in respect of civil servants.
    The Cabinet approval, given in the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi today, will pave the way for necessary amendments in the two laws, namely Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1958 and High Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1954. These two legislations deal with the salaries of Chief Justice of India (CJI) along with Judges of Supreme Court of India, and Chief Justices and all Judges of High Courtsa, respectively.
    The increase in the salary and allowance structure following this decision is set to benefit 31 judges of Supreme Court of India, including the CJI, along with 1079 judges of High Courts including the Chief Justices there. Apart from this, over 2500 retired Judges will also be benefited from this decision from this decision after their pension and gratuity is hiked in accordance to recommmendatoions by the 7th Pay Commission.
    The cabinet has decided to implement the recommendations of 7th Pay Commission with respect to judges with retrospective effect from January 01, 2016. "Arrears on account of revised salaries, gratuity, pension and family pension w.e.f 01.01.2016 will be paid as one time lump sum payment," said a statement by the government.
    Meanwhile, the Union Cabinet also approved the setting up of the 15th Finance Commission today. "The Terms of Reference for the 15th Finance Commission will be notified in due course of time," said a government statement today.
    The government is obliged under Article 280(1) to form a Finance Commission every five years, or earlier if the President finds it necessary. The recommendations by 15th Finance Commission will cover five years starting on April 1, 2020, when the previous Finance Commission formally expires.

After GST, it's time for overhaul of direct taxes
  • After the overhaul of indirect taxes, the government is now gearing up for the review of direct taxes, which have been in force since 1961. Kicking off the process, the government has set up a seven-member task force to draft a new direct taxes law.
    The task force is headed by Arbind Modi, Member (legislation), CBDT. Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser, will be a permanent special invitee in the Task Force. Other members of the of the task force include Girish Ahuja, practicing chartered accountant and non-official Director of State Bank of India; Rajiv Memani, Chairman & Regional Managing Partner of E&Y; Mukesh Patel, Practicing Tax Advocate, Ahmedabad; Mansi Kedia, Consultant, ICRIER, and G C Srivastava, retired IRS (1971 Batch) and Advocate.
    The task force would draft direct tax laws in line with tax laws prevalent in other countries, incorporating international best practices, and keeping in mind the economic needs of the country.
    The task force would submit its report to the government within six months.

Future Retail closes 11.68% higher on unveiling of 30-year vision plan
  • Shares of Future Retail, part of fashion and retail conglomerate Future Group, rose as much as 11.2 per cent to Rs 572.85 today, their highest in over two months after the retail chain said plans to open 10,000 member-only Easyday stores to make it a Rs. 1.5-trillion business opportunity by 2022.
    At 2:12 pm, the stock was trading 8.44 percent or 43.35 points higher at 557 level on the BSE.
    The stock closed 11.68 percent or 60 points higher at 573.75 level on the BSE. 
    On Tuesday, the retail chain unveiled a 30-year vision, Retail 3.0, by when it plans to become Asia's largest integrated consumer retailer by 2047 with revenue of in excess of $1 trillion. Future Group chief executive Kishore Biyani said by the end of the current fiscal, the group will have 1,100 Easyday stores from the present 700.
    Each such store will have an investment of around Rs 15 lakh, he added.
    "We will have 10,000 member-only stores by 2022, and assuming certain spends, this will be a Rs. 1.5 trillion business opportunity for the group," Biyani said.
    He said each member-merchant will be charged Rs. 999 in annual membership fee, for which the member will get 10 per cent discount on all purchases. These stores aim to place a store within 2 km of every consumer, and will 2,500-3000 sqft area with 3,500 stock keeping units, he explained.
    Other group companies, Future Enterprises, Future Lifestyle Fashions and Future Consumer also rose 3.4 - 4.3 percent.

Cabinet nod to ordinance on amendments in Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code
  • Corporate Affairs Minister Arun Jaitley said on Wednesday the government has cleared the ordinance for making amendment in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC)- touted as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's biggest reform to reduce bad loans - to prevent willful defaulters from bidding for stressed assets.
    As per changes in the ordinance, a resolution applicant is not eligible if he or she is an un-discharged insolvent, willful defaulter, account classified as NPA by RBI, indulged in preferential transactions, disqualified to be a director of a company under the Companies Act, prima facie found guilty of willful default or convicted of fraud and default, reported CNBC TV 18.
    Chairman and MD of JSW Group Sajjan Jindal had on Tuesday tweeted that it will be a set-back to the credible IBC process if the existing promoter re-acquires the asset with a haircut without Right of Recompense to Banks. 
    The Code, which became operational in December last year, provides for a market-determined and time-bound insolvency resolution process. It is implemented by the corporate affairs ministry.
    Finding ways to trim down over $147 billion bad loans accumulated in the banking sector, the finance ministry had earlier asked the banking institutions ensure those who have history of fraud are not allowed to buy same stressed assets.
    The amendment may soon be introduced in the upcoming Winter Session of Parliament. Some promoters of the companies identified for insolvency proceedings were preparing to bid for these stressed assets when they would be put up for sale as the existing law does not bar such promoters from participating in the bidding process, the report said.
    The move also comes at a time when there are concerns in certain quarters about various aspects of the law, including the possibility of promoters wresting back control of a company under the insolvency process.
    The ministry has already set up a 14-member committee to identify and suggest ways to address issues faced in implementation of the law. The Insolvency Law Committee, chaired by Corporate Affairs Secretary Injeti Srinivas, will take stock of the implementation of the Code.

    More than 300 cases have been admitted for resolution under the Code by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). A case is taken up for resolution under the Code only after receiving approval of the NCLT for the same.

    After GST, it's time for overhaul of direct taxes
    • After the overhaul of indirect taxes, the government is now gearing up for the review of direct taxes, which have been in force since 1961. Kicking off the process, the government has set up a seven-member task force to draft a new direct taxes law.
      The task force is headed by Arbind Modi, Member (legislation), CBDT. Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser, will be a permanent special invitee in the Task Force. Other members of the of the task force include Girish Ahuja, practicing chartered accountant and non-official Director of State Bank of India; Rajiv Memani, Chairman & Regional Managing Partner of E&Y; Mukesh Patel, Practicing Tax Advocate, Ahmedabad; Mansi Kedia, Consultant, ICRIER, and G C Srivastava, retired IRS (1971 Batch) and Advocate.
      The task force would draft direct tax laws in line with tax laws prevalent in other countries, incorporating international best practices, and keeping in mind the economic needs of the country.
      The task force would submit its report to the government within six months.

    General Awareness

    India climbs 3 steps to 51 on IMD World Talent rankings

    • India has ranked 51st out of 63 countries on IMD World Talent Ranking 2017. This marks an improvement of three spots as compared to previous year’s rank.
      About IMD World Talent Ranking:
      • IMD World Talent Ranking assesses the methods adopted by countries to attract and retain talent.
      • It is compiled by leading global business school, IMD.
      • Rankings of countries are based on performance on various parameters including education, workplace training, apprenticeships, language skills, quality of life, remuneration, tax rates and cost of living.
      • These parameters are place under three broad categories viz. investment and development, appeal, and readiness.
      • 2017 ranking is the fourth edition of IMD World Talent Ranking.
      Highlights of IMD World Talent Ranking 2017:
      • India’s overall rank is 51st whereas on three broad categories viz. investment and development, appeal and readiness it has ranked 62nd, 43rd and 29th respectively.
      • Arturo Bris, Head of Competitiveness, IMD Switzerland stated that India is not performing well in retaining local talent and attracting foreign labour.
      • Remuneration levels, quality of life, security and property rights are the primary deterrent to domestic employment in India.
      • India is much behind other economies in terms of investment in education. In fact, it ranks among the bottom five countries in terms of investment in education as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
      • It has been outlined that India needs to focus on its education system as a key to prosperity and should take steps to prevent brain drain by providing better opportunities to local talent.
      • Among BRICS nations, China ranked 40th followed by Russia at 43rd and South Africa at 48th. Brazil ranked just after India at the 52nd spot. 
      • Globally, Europe continues to dominate the rankings, with Switzerland, Denmark, and Belgium occupying the top three spots.
      IMD World Talent Ranking 2017 – Top 10:

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