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Current Affairs - 10 December 2017

General Affairs 

Bengaluru Signs Up For Cleaner Air With World's Biggest Cities
  • Bengaluru's winter sky is still a clear and beautiful blue unlike the situation in Delhi and other north Indian cities. But there is no room for complacency. And so the city has signed up with the C40 global initiative - a network of world's mega cities - to clean up its air.

    The head of the Bengaluru's civic body said the levels of pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide or that of PM2.5 and PM10 are "almost on the fringe" in Bengaluru. "But we have to take corrective action so that for the present and future generations - it is a better place to live in," BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad told.

    The city has signed a memorandum of understanding with the C40 network to work together to tackle air pollution. "We had signed with the Mayor of London (Sadiq Khan). They are coordinating C40 network of a group of 20 global cities as far as the air pollution is concerned," Mr Prasad said.

    As part of the agreement, experts from different cities around the world can share their advice with Bengaluru and show what they have done in their cities to tackle air pollution. 

    The Deputy Executive Director of the C40 group - who was in Bengaluru recently - said the C40 network will help cities improve the lives of its residents by helping them deliver measures in transport, buildings, renewable energy and waste management. "By doing this we can help cities reduce emissions from vehicles, by procuring electric buses. Support cities in implementing renewable energy solutions, so that they don't have to rely on coal and other forms of fossil fuels," Kevin Austin told.

    "80 per cent of urban dwellers around the world live in excess of the World Health Organisation limits. And air quality prematurely kills about four and a half million people a year. It is a real problem around the world - one that cities can really deal with," he said.

    But it isn't just a one-way street. Bengaluru may have hit the headlines for its civic woes from polluted lakes, garbage and traffic, but it may be doing some things right that other cities could learn from. The Tender SURE road improvement project came in for praise.

    Mr Austin said, "I have seen the Tender SURE project which is a fantastic example of how you can re-design the streets to make them far more accessible for pedestrians... to make them more effective for utilities by putting them under the pavements rather than streets and by stopping illegal parking to make sure the city flows more effectively. And many cities around the world can learn from the example here."

    The top C40 official said the issues faced by Bengaluru - like waste management, improving the efficiency of buildings with solar panels and transport - had much in common with other cities spread across different continents.

    "But other cities in the C40 network like Beijing, Los Angeles, London all experience very significant issues with air quality which is why earlier this week the mayor of Bengaluru and the mayor of London jointly launched the Air Quality Network and they are going to be leaders in the world on how to drive this agenda forward," Kevin Austin said.

    Next year, Bengaluru will host a workshop for representatives of cities around the world to allow them to show and exchange information.

Won't Hesitate In Taking Action Against Hospitals "Looting Patients": Arvind Kejriwal
  • The Delhi government was not against the city's private hospitals but it would not hesitate to act sternly in cases of criminal negligence and "looting of patients", Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said today.

    Mr Kejriwal said it takes courage to cancel the licence of a leading healthcare facility like the Max Hospital in Shalimar Bagh.

    His comments came a day after the Delhi government decided to cancel the licence of the hospital for alleged medical negligence on multiple instances, including one in which it wrongly declared an alive baby dead on November 30.

    The baby's body was handed over to their parents in a plastic bag, along with his still-born sister. He died during treatment at a nursing home in Pitampura a week later.

    The Delhi Medical Association and the Indian Medical Association have criticised the AAP government's decision to cancel the license of the private hospital as harsh.

    The DMA called the decision "irrational and autocratic".

    Mr Kejriwal, however, attacked the previous dispensation in Delhi, alleging they were often hand in glove with the "big" and the mighty.

    "If we had entered into any setting with the hospital, we would not have been able to face our conscience and would have lost the faith of the people. We are not against private hospitals. But we will hesitate to act sternly in cases of criminal negligence and looting of patients," he said.

    Citing his government's handling of discoms, he said power tarrifs had not risen in Delhi in the past three years.

    Attacking his political rivals, he claimed "some powers" were trying to crush him and his party. The chief minister sought people's support so that he can work "honestly".

    Mr Kejriwal was speaking at the launch of the Jai Bhim Mukhyamantri Pratibha Vikas Yojna scheme as part of which students from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Castes and minority communities would be able to join private coaching centres to prepare for competitive exams and the Delhi government will provide an assistance of up to Rs. 40,000.

    They will be able to prepare for services, medical, engineering and other competitive examinations, Mr Kejriwal said.

A River In Arunachal Pradesh Has Turned Black And No One Knows Why
  • An 82-year-old retired government employee, Kakut Tayeng has lived by the blue waters of Siang river in Arunachal Pradesh all his life. So when about two months ago, the water of the started turning black, muddy and turbid, Mr Tayeng was in for a shock.

    Known as the Yarlung Tsangpo River in China, the river enters India at Shuomatan Point, becoming the Siang. At Pasighat, the Siang spreads out to flow downstream into Assam and becomes the mighty Brahmaputra.

    Around October this year, the waters of the river started turning black. Some local residents believe that China may have something to do with this. One of the theories is that the Chinese government's purported plan to build a tunnel to divert water from the Yarlung Tsangpo in southern Tibet to the parched Taklamakan desert area in the province of Xinjiang may have triggered the change.

    "This river was so beautiful; there were many fishes around. Since 1947, the river has been spreading out in winter. Never before have we seen such blackish water," Mr Tayeng said.

    Both Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have raised alarm after initial tests reports showed high turbidity but the centre is yet to decisively address the concerns.

    "China is still denying that they are not doing anything. In 1962, the Chinese said 'Hindi-Chini bhai bhai' and then they came shooting at us. The same thing is happening. I am really worried about the central government. Are they really thinking about the North-East," the local MP, Ninong Ering.

    Some others think the change in the river maybe one of the aftereffects of the recent earthquake in Tibet.

    A sample tested on November 27 showed a Nephelometric Turbidity Unit - a measure of the concentration of suspended particulates in a liquid - of 425. The permissible turbidity for drinking water is 5 NTU.

    "I do not see fishermen here. The aquatic life is all gone," wildlife and biodiversity expert P Rings said.  "There is a wildlife sanctuary 3 km downstream and we used get migratory birds every year. Now I can no longer see those migratory birds," he added.

    Residents of Pasighat resent New Delhi's inaction. The deteriorating state of the river not only threatens the region's biodiversity but also the lives of thousands of residents of Arunachal Pradesh.

"Like A Magician, PM Modi Tries To Divert Attention": Rahul Gandhi
  • Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi today said Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads people away from real issues like a magician diverts the audience's attention while performing tricks.

    At a rally in PM Modi's hometown Vadnagar, Mr Gandhi claimed the Prime Minister was frequently changing the planks on which the BJP wanted to contest the Gujarat polls.

    Rahul Gandhi's comments came as the first phase of the Gujarat assembly election wrapped up, with a voter turnout of 68 per cent.

    "A magician also tries to hide something. When he performs tricks, he tries to divert the (audience's) attention. Similarly, Narendra Modiji has in the last 10-15 days tried to divert your attention from actual issues," Mr Gandhi alleged.

    "Finally, he got frustrated and yesterday he accepted defeat and said he will not talk about issues but about himself. The truth has caught up with Narendra Modiji," he added.

    PM Modi, at an election rally yesterday, listed all the controversial remarks Congress leaders have made against him in the past.

    Rahul Gandhi alleged that PM Modi, who began his campaigning with the issue of Narmada water, had to abandon that plank after getting "exposed".

    "Modiji started saying he will contest the election on the issue of Narmada water. It came to notice that the river water did not reach villages and went to the Tata Nano factory," he claimed.

    "After 2-3 days he said he will contest election on the issue of OBCs. Even that did not work. Thereafter, Modi declared he will contest on the basis of 22 years of development. It, too, did not bear fruit." he added.

    "After that Modiji says, 'Mani Sankar Aiyar said a bad thing about me, so this will be my election issue,'" Mr Gandhi remarked. He was referring to the "neech" slur used by the suspended Congress leader.

    Referring to a report, Mr Gandhi denounced the Modi government for spending "Rs 3,700 crore on advertisements".

    "Our government will use that money for your health and education," the Congress leader said.

    He claimed that earlier the PM talked about jobs, corruption, schools, colleges and hospitals but he had stopped doing it now. "Neither does he talk about jobs nor about depositing Rs 15 lakh in your bank accounts".

    gujarat polling twitter
    Phase 1 of the Gujarat assembly election saw a 68 per cent voter turnout
    "At a poll rally yesterday, the PM spent 90 per cent of the time speaking about himself but the election is not about him or myself, BJP or Congress, but about the future of Gujarat," Mr Gandhi said.

    The Congress spent 3-4 months in the run-up to the polls to prepare a manifesto after consulting various stakeholders such as "anganwadi women, Patidars, Dalits, famers, labourers, engineers, doctors", he said.

    "In our speeches, we do not talk about ourselves but only about two things -- what the BJP did in 22 years and what the Congress will do in the coming five years," he said.

    Rahul Gandhi also questioned PM Modi's "silence" on the issue of corruption, especially the graft allegation against BJP president Amit Shah's son Jay Shah.

    "Modiji cannot escape Rafale or Jay Shah issues, whatever he may say (at election rallies). Even if he does not talk about corruption in his 200 speeches, the PM cannot escape this. Gujarat has decided that the next government will not be of industrialists, but of the poor, farmers, labourers and small businessmen," he said at a rally at Patan.

    Mr Gandhi said during campaigning he will focus on 22 years of BJP rule in the state during which the ruling party "worked for five-ten industrialists" and "snatched land from farmers to hand over to Tata Nano".

    "The Congress allocated Rs 35,000 crore to MNREGA, while the BJP government gave Rs 33,000 crore to the Tata Nano factory. Water from the Narmada went to that factory. The factory gets electricity for 24 hours when you get it only at night," the Congress vice president alleged.

    Land from villages in Mundra was given to (Gautam) Adani at "Rs 1 per metre" rate, which the latter sold back to the government for "Rs 3,000 per metre", he alleged.

    "Last year, the NDA government waived Rs 1.30 lakh crore of loans of 10 richest people. Farmers also ask for loan waiver, and (Union Finance Minister) Arun Jaitley and the prime minister say it is not their policy," Mr Gandhi said.

    He promised a complete loan waiver to farmers in the state under a Congress rule.

    "I promise that the Congress will get you the right price (for farm produce) and will also let you know in advance how much you are going to get," he said.

    A Congress government will also spend money to improve health care facilities and education in the state, he assured.

    Attacking the government on demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax, he alleged that the winter session of Parliament was delayed because the PM did not want to answer questions on these two issues.

Sri Lanka Formally Hands Over Hambantota Port To China
  • Sri Lanka today formally handed over the strategic southern port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease, in a deal dubbed by the opposition as a sell-out.

    Two Chinese firms - Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) and Hambantota International Port Services (HIPS) managed by the China Merchants Port Holdings Company (CMPort) and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority will own the port and the investment zone around it, officials said.

    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during a visit to China in April had agreed to swap equity in Chinese infrastructure projects launched by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa in his home district.

    Sri Lanka owed China USD 8 billion then finance minister Ravi Karunanayake had said last year.

    "With this agreement we have started to pay back the loans. Hambantota will be converted to a major port in the Indian Ocean," Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said while addressing the handing over ceremony held in parliament.

    "There will be an economic zone and industrialisation in the area which will lead to economic development and promote tourism," the prime minister said.

    The government's grant of large tax concessions to Chinese firms have also been questioned by the opposition.

    The opposition and trade unions have dubbed the deal as a sell out of the country's national assets to China.

    The Sri Lankan government had signed a USD 1.1 billion deal in July to sell a 70 per cent stake in the Hambantota port to China.

    Sri Lanka received USD 300 million as the initial payment under the 99-year lease agreement which the opposition had described as a sell out.

    The port, overlooking the Indian Ocean, is expected to play a key role in China's Belt and Road initiative, which will link ports and roads between China and Europe.

    In order to allay India's security concerns over the Chinese navy's presence in Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had earlier ruled out the possibility of the strategic port being used as a "military base" by any foreign country. 

Business Affairs

Panama Papers: ED seizes assets linked to former IPL chairman Chirayu Amin
  • The Enforcement Directorate (ED) today said it has seized mutual funds valued at Rs 10.35 crore under the FEMA law of a company "controlled" by businessman and former IPL Chairman Chirayu Amin in the Panama Papers case.
    The central probe agency said it seized mutual funds of Whitefield Chemtech Private Limited, "which is controlled by Amin and his family", under section 37A of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
    The names of Amin and his family members, it said in a statement, had figured in the Panama Papers case with respect to their stakes/interests in the firm in the British Virgin Islands.
    During the investigation, the agency said, it was noticed that Amin and his family members, through their company Whitefield Chemtech Pvt Ltd India, had "invested an amount of USD 1.6 million for purchase of a 3BHK apartment in Campden Hill, UK".
    "For purchase of this property in the UK, the firm transferred an amount of USD 2.4 million to its subsidiary in Singapore in the form of overseas direct investment. This amount was further transferred to its step-down subsidiaries in the UAE and British Virgin Island from where finally USD 1.6 million was used for purchase of this property," the ED said.
    Section 37A of the FEMA stipulates that if certain foreign exchange, foreign security or immovable property is held outside India in violation of this law, the equivalent value of asset can be seized within India.
    "Accordingly, equivalent asset amounting to Rs 10.35 crore in the form of mutual funds were seized under Section 37A of FEMA, 1999," it said.
    The agency is probing the Indians named in the Panama Papers, along with the Income Tax Department.
    The Panama Papers, that surfaced last year, contained brief particulars of about 426 people, prima facie, Indians or persons of Indian origin.
    The government had constituted a multi-agency group (MAG) of investigative agencies in April 2016 to probe these instances.
    The MAG has so far submitted seven reports to the government.
    Amin was chairman of Indian Premier League (IPL), an annual Twenty20 cricket tournament.

JNPT SEZ to receive Rs 60,000 crore investment from 24 companies, says Gadkari
  • Union Shipping and Ports Minister Nitin Gadkari today said 24 companies have offered to invest over Rs 60,000 crore in a special economic zone adjoining the country's largest container port, Jawaharlal Nehru Port.
    "Twenty-four companies have already offered to come (and) set up (ventures) in JNPT SEZ who will use it for exports," Gadkari said, speaking at a seminar organised by Moneycontrol and Free Press Journal here this morning.
    This will entail an investment of Rs 60,000 crore and create employment for 1.25-1.50 lakh people, he said.
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation for the facility months after being sworn-in in May 2014 and the government was targeting to create 1.50 lakh jobs in the facility.
    Without disclosing the name of the company, Gadkari today said one of the companies has said it "on an affidavit" that it alone will invest Rs 6,000 crore and create employment for 40,000 people.
    The comments from the minister came in the backdrop of recent media reports that said Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn may be one of the interested companies, which will create the high number of jobs for mobile handset manufacturing at the facility.
    The government was also hopeful of getting Tesla, arguably one of the most respected companies in the world, to the SEZ, but Gadkari had recently said the battery and transport major is not interested.
    JNPT, which has also awarded an over Rs 7,900-crore project to more than double its container handling capacity, is investing Rs 4,000 crore in the SEZ which is supposed to be spread over 277 hectares.
    Gadkari today said works of over Rs 2 lakh crore have already started under the ambitious 'Sagarmala' project and added that port-rail connectivity will alone witness investment of Rs 1 lakh crore under the project.
    He said the ministry is constructing the Indore-Manmad railway line at an investment of Rs 6,000 crore and is also looking to connect neighbouring Thane district's Kasara and JNPT directly.
    In order to reduce the container traffic passing through the financial capital and suburbs, it has asked for land near Vasai on the outskirts, from where the containers can be sent directly on barges to JNPT via the water route, he said.
    It is also investing Rs 1,000 crore to build a cruise terminal in the financial capital, Gadkari said, adding that the first of the Mumbai-Goa cruise ships will be sailing before the end of December.

Government to soon unveil policy on methanol blending in petrol, says Nitin Gadkari
  • Union Roads Minister Nitin Gadkari today said the government will be soon announcing a policy which calls for 15 per cent blending of methanol in petrol to make it cheaper and also reduce pollution.
    "In the upcoming Parliament session, I am announcing a policy of blending 15 per cent methanol in petrol," Gadkari said at an event organised by Moneycontrol and Free Press Journal here.
    He said methanol gets made from coal and costs only Rs 22 per litre as against the prevailing price of about Rs 80 per litre for petrol and added that China is making the coal byproduct for Rs 17 per litre itself.
    "The costs will go down, pollution will go down," the Union minister said.
    He said factories in and around Mumbai, including Deepak Fertilisers and Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilisers (RCF), can generate methanol.
    Gadkari said Swedish auto major Volvo has got a special engine to the financial capital which runs on methanol and using the locally available methanol, he will be attempting to run 25 buses entirely on the fuel.
    The Union minister said ethanol should also be used more widely and said that he has suggested his cabinet colleague in-charge of the petroleum ministry to look at this rather than building petrol refineries that cost over Rs 70,000 crore.
    Gadkari said the total investment opportunity on ethanol alone if Rs 1.50 lakh crore.
    He reiterated his concerns on the traffic growth because of a 22 per cent rise in car sales annually and expressed a desire to focus less on roads because of this.
    On the road works, he said the government has reached 28 per day and plans to accelerate this further to 40 kms soon.
    In FY18, it will increase the total number of road projects awarding to 20,000 km from the year ago's 16,000 km, he said, adding that Rs 7 lakh crore worth projects have been awarded by his ministry since he took charge in 2014.
    Gadkari expressed concern over the speed of projects under the Defence Ministry-led Borders Roads Organisation and added that his ministry has started the the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation for the same.
    The newly formed company will be undertaking works worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore in strategically important locations like north east India, he said.
    The government is targeting to increase the the total amount of works awarded by the NHIDCL to 3,000 km in FY18, up from 800 km in FY17, he said.

Direct tax collections rise 14% to Rs 4.8 lakh crore in April-November period
  • Direct tax collections increased by 14.4 per cent to Rs 4.8 lakh crore during April-November this fiscal.
    "The provisional figures of Direct Tax collections up to November, 2017 show that net collections are at Rs 4.8 lakh crore, which is 14.4 per cent higher than the net collections for the corresponding period of last year," Central Board of Direct Taxes said in a statement.
    According to the statement, the net direct tax collections represent 49 per cent of the total Budget Estimates of direct taxes for 2017-18 (Rs 9.8 lakh crore).
    The gross collections (before adjusting for refunds) have increased by 10.7 per cent to Rs 5.82 lakh crore during April-November, 2017.
    Refunds amounting to Rs 1.02 lakh crore have been issued during April-November, 2017, it added.

    Syndicate Bank reduces MCLR by 0.05% for certain tenors
    • Public sector lender Syndicate Bank today slashed the marginal cost based lending rate (MCLR) by 0.05 per cent for select maturities.
      The Bengaluru-headquartered lender has cut the overnight, 1-month and 3-month MCLR by 0.05 per cent each to 7.95, 8 and 8.05 per cent.
      The new MCLR rate will take effect from December 10, Syndicate Bank said in a statement today.
      The MCLR for six-month and one year lending have been kept unchanged at 8.25 per cent and 8.45 per cent.
      The bank said that there was no change in base rate and BPLR (Benchmark Prime Lending Rate) at 9.5 and 13.85 per cent, respectively.
      Banks review their MCLR rates on a monthly basis, which is relatively a new method of charging interest on advances.
      Introduced in April 2016, the Reserve Bank in August said it is going to review MCLR on the contention that banks were passing on lesser repo rate revision benefits to consumers.

    General Awareness

    Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues. Adultery law

    • Context:

      Supreme court has issued a notice to the Centre on a public interest litigation challenging the constitutionality of IPC section 497 dealing with adultery, saying it appeared to be “archaic” and did not appear to be gender-neutral.

      The court will examine two aspects of the penal provision:

      One, why does Section 497 treat the man as the adulterer and the married woman as a victim?
      Two, the offence of adultery ceases the moment it is established that the husband connived or consented to the adulterous act. So, is a married woman the “property” of her husband, a passive object without a mind of her own?


      The court is hearing a petition challenging the constitutionality of Section 497 IPC read with Section 198(2) of the CrPC. The petition says, Section 497 IPC is unconstitutional as it discriminates against men and violates Article 14, 15 and 21.

      Section 497 IPC says, “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.”

      Section 198(2) CrPC says that “… no person other than the husband of the woman shall be deemed to be aggrieved by any offence punishable under Section 497 or Section 498 of the said Code: Provided that in the absence of the husband, some person who had care of the woman on his behalf at the time when such offence was committed may, with the leave of the Court, make a complaint on his behalf.”

      Way ahead:

      Adultery is at best a violation of the terms of agreement between a married couple. The IPC version of criminalising adultery with five years imprisonment is just a more moderate version of the Islamic versions which see it as a grave offence that deserves barbaric punishments like stoning and lashing. Such laws serve as encouragement to peep into people’s bedrooms though only the husband can make a complaint. It is possible that common law jurists conceived an adultery law to prevent duels between the wronged husband and the lover or to give the husband a legal device to hit back at the wife and her lover.  Most countries in the West have decriminalized adultery. India should follow their example rather than split hairs over making it gender just.

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