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Current Affairs - 26 December 2017

General Affairs 

The war that never ends: How maoist rebellion and govt retaliation has destabilised Sukma
  • Sukma- In that one word lies outrage, horror, misdirection and misunderstanding.

    It was as if Sukma, green, deeply forested, with more than a few still pristine rivers and streams evolved in a matter of days from being a geographical indicator in the very heart of India to the epicentre of infamy.

    If southern Chhattisgarh signifies the heart of the Maoist rebellion, then south-eastern Sukma district, adjoining rebellion-affected districts of Odisha and Telangana, is a part of that multichambered heart.

    It is hardly surprising that it made news in 2017, first in March, when 12 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in a Maoist attack; and then more spectacularly on 24 April, when 26 CRPF personnel lost their lives.

    Several Maoists died too, then and later, in the brutal guerrilla war that has bedevilled India and showcased its failures as a nation these past 50 years, since left-wing extremism exploded into the Naxalbari movement in May 1967.

    The larger picture about the rebellion were buried in the firestorm of nationalistic outrage, led mainly by a media fed on government testosterone and plastic variations of "the sacrifices" of troopers "will not go in vain".

    Sensation versus sense, such is the nature of India's war with itself; even the most obtuse nationalist agrees that governance and democratic fulfilment forestalls rebellion.

    The Maoist rebellion and the government response to it have always been much more than Sukma, of course, but Sukma is as good as an example as any in the region Southern Chhattisgarh remains the heart of the Maoist rebellion and the working laboratory of its government of the people - it's really a government by the barrel of the gun, not unlike the system it claims to replace, but that's another story.

    Over the past decade Maoists have across India lost several hundred cadres and leaders to deaths, arrests, surrender and rehabilitation policies of various state governments. They have seen their operational geography shrink from nearly half the districts of India - more than 300 - in a degree from intense to mild, to effectively 60 or so across Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Telangana, Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh.

    Besides armed and strategic response, it has also happened on account of governance and non-violent civil society initiatives through robust democratic demand of rights and accountability.

    This cannot be underscored enough.

    Indeed, the peak of present-day rebellion which came after the merger in late 2004 of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People's War and its allies, with the Maoist Communist Centre of India to form the present-day conglomerate of Communist Party of India (Maoist), it is now a stressed project.

    Even the Maoist leadership and Maoist journals freely admit to it. The question then is of defending a sanctuary.

    Sukma is thus far within the sanctuary. Sukma and southern Chhattisgarh is part of the densely forested, mineral-rich Dandakaranya Zone, the four-state area that includes parts of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana and Maharashtra.

    When Maoists in undivided Andhra Pradesh searched for alternative sanctuaries in the late 1980s to escape police action in that state, Dandakaranya in general and southern Chhattisgarh in particular became part of their outreach, indoctrination and militarisation plans, leveraging the lack of development and exploitation of the largely tribal folks by a range of users from corrupt forest guards to forest-produce contractors.

    When reverses began to squeeze the Maoist project, some years ago the rebels fine-tuned their approach.

    From what I gathered from insiders and intelligence sources, a meeting of top Maoist leaders took place in September 2012 in a village called Usabeda in south-western Chhattisgarh (security forces knew about it but arrived there long after rebels had dispersed, so tough was the terrain).

    Avoiding low strength skirmishing, Maoists decided on a back-to-the-basics approach employed effectively between 2004 and 2010 - armoury raids, attacking specialised anti-Maoist forces, an ambush in 2010 that killed 76 CRPF troopers - to secure existing areas and make their depleted numbers more effective.

    They decided to attack in a mass of not less than hundred cadres.

    Operations demonstrated it within weeks in the three southern Chhattisgarh districts of Dantewada, Sukma and Bijapur.

    The attack in May 2013 in Sukma district which killed several senior Congress leaders including a co-founder of the state sponsored Salwa Judum vigilante project, Mahendra Karma, followed a similar template.

    The attacks in March and April 2017 in the district were no different.

    The Dandakaranya playbook also called for attacks to gather weapons and ammunition to supplement a squeezed supply line. Luring security forces into ambush with diversionary tactics-false information about movement and numbers of rebels, tracking habits of a security patrol-would continue (Security forces try to employ a similar template with varying degrees of success).

    A little more about Sukma being in the zone. There has for some years been talk of the Maoist leadership planning an alternative sanctuary across the border in Odisha. The area is due east of Sukma in Odisha's Malkangiri district, and extends further north, along the Chhattisgarh districts of Bastar and Kondagaon.

    Alongside sanctuaries in southwestern Chhattisgarh, especially the Maoist heartland of the Abujmarh area, the plan was also to strengthen a corridor along Odisha's western border with Chhattisgarh to link up with Maoists further north in Jharkhand.

    Besides movement of cadres for operations and escape, it would also be a pipeline for weapons and ammunition south from Jharkhand. Sukma's primacy on all counts has led the area to be absolutely stuffed with security forces.

    The axis south from the district headquarter town of Jagdalpur, past Sukma district headquarters and down to Telangana, and the axis west from Jagdalpur to Dantewada and further west to Bijapur district has tens of thousands of paramilitary and police. They are present for deterrence as well as interdiction.

    If Maoists are a prime target for them, occasionally they are prime targets for Maoists. It's the nature of this guerrilla war. It will likely get more vicious.

    CRPF is planning to deploy a fully tribal battalion in Chhattisgarh to counter Maoist ingress among the area's tribal folk - both a catchment for recruits as well as those both sides claim to be battling to protect and save.

    It seems like Salwa Judum all over again - and that was genocidal. Both sides will up the ante. And Sukma, like other areas in Dandakaranya, will be in the thick of it.

Why India feels Kulbhushan Jadhav's meeting with his family is a climbdown by Pakistan's military
  • India feels today's meeting between Kulbhushan Jadhav and his family was as much an image-building exercise as a tacit message from Pakistan to New Delhi, and so represents a "major climbdown."

    Jadhav was sentenced to death by Islamabad in April, on charges of espionage. India claims the former Navy officer, who set up a business in Iran's Chabahar port after retiring from the force, was abducted and sold to Pakistan intelligence agencies by the Taliban.

    Pakistan has repeatedly denied India consular access to Jadhav, so why did Islamabad permit what it called a "humanitarian" meeting"?

    A top source in the Indian security establishment told India Today that Pakistan's military, which is all-powerful within the country, "wants to show that it is capable of doing business with India. And, they want to tell us that Jadhav is alive."

    At another level, Pakistan is also collecting evidence to show the international community that it's acting according to established protocol. New Delhi is aware of the anti-India sentiment in Pakistan, and feels that allowing the meeting at this juncture was a bold move, but one aimed at "window dressing" the Pakistan's military's image.

    "The fact that Pakistan military is tacitly signaling to India indicates a major climb down. Initially, Pakistan tried to show-case India's alleged interference in Pakistan using Jadhav, now it wants a thaw in the relations and they (are) using Jadhav," a senior official said.

    WILL INDIA BLINK?

    India is unlikely to change its stand or its Pakistan policy in a hurry.

    Diplomatically, India is trying to isolate Pakistan in the international area. It has also refused to engage Pakistan bilaterally.

    "India appreciates the internal situation in Pakistan and even understands the tacit message being sent by Pakistan," a source said.

    What's more, the decision on India-Pakistan engagement will also take into account the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. This year has been particularly violent. While security forces have killed over 200 terrorists and have seen a surge in infiltration attempts by terrorist groups backed by the Pakistan Army (like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM)), India has lost over 50 soldiers as well.

Srinagar to be the first city in India to adopt paid 'on-street' parking system
  • In India, mostly everyone likes to drive around in their cars, which is fine until the issue of parking comes in play.

    The issue can be a headache particularly in crowded markets and streets where people park vehicles in a haphazard manner. Like many cities, Srinagar is also facing an acute problem of parking.

    But the city now seems to be all set to take a lead in implementing a model that could help change the situation. Srinagar is going to be the first city to start the 'on-street' parking project.

    "The marking for on-street parking program has begun and the city is the first which has been able to mandate and mark on-street parking program with paid parking spots. This is in line with the National Urban Transport Policy 2006", said Anuj Malhotra, Traffic Advisor to Government of Jammu & Kashmir.

    Round 20 kms of road in the city is to be covered in this program of on-street parking. As per officials, work on around 5 kms has been kick started on the pilot basis.

    "We are taking up the initiative and will work out its larger layout soon. The process will roll out in total when we are able to integrate IT based parking ticket system with this which is also on track and should take a few months to come through", said Anuj Malhotra.

    Parking has been the toughest to implement and to manage by any city in the world, not just in India, which is one of the reasons that most parking initiatives have failed to take ground.

    'On-street' parking management is being seen as a solution to streamline the system. However, a lot of people feel that this idea may be great but the real challenge lies in its implementation on the ground.

    "It is great that some of the areas are being marked on the streets. But we have to really wait and see how they will implement the whole program. Many things get initiated but we never see the completion here," said Umar Sheikh, a trader in Lal Chowk area of Srinagar.

    In larger cities like Delhi, the on-street parking management has been extremely tough to implement in areas like Lajpat Nagar, South Delhi, Khan Market, Karol Bagh, etc.

    In Connought Place, New Delhi, on-street has been converted to off-street for management, which is currently being done. In Mumbai, Fort and Bandra areas, Navi Mumbai etc, on-street parking management had public backlash and was abandoned. While Bangalore is trying to manage on-street parking and has succeeded to some extent.

    "We know the challenges and we are trying to take one step at a time. For now, Srinagar Municipal Corporation will run this for few months. We are hopeful that the nature of city will help us in doing it. Also we are going to make sure that technology is used in a massive way to help it", said an official from Srinagar Municipal Corporation.

    As per the plan, the current initiative will produce more than 1700 on-street parking spots along with providing other essential public utilities, which will cover approximately 20 kms of road length.

    This essentially means that the entire 20 kms road length will not only have better parking management, it will also result in easier walking space, marked bus and taxi stopping locations with less obstruction to flowing traffic.

Delhi Metro Magenta line opening: Arvind Kejriwal not invited, Modi-Delhi CM war set to intensify
  • Exclusion of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal from the inauguration of Delhi Metro's Magenta Line has once again exposed the uncomfortable relationship between Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government.

    The Magenta Line, which will run from Kalkaji Mandir in New Delhi to Botanical Garden in Noida, will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi today with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath by his side.

    A day before the Magenta Line's inauguration, the Prime Minister tweeted, "Great news for friends in the NCR! Tomorrow, a stretch of the Delhi Metro's new Magenta Line will be inaugurated... This new line of Delhi Metro is yet another example of how we are modernising urban transportation."

    He also said that this year he "had the opportunity to inaugurate and travel in the Kochi as well as Hyderabad Metro".

    On both these occasions, Modi took the Metro rides with the chief ministers of the respective states where the BJP is not in power--Pinarayi Vijayan in Kochi, Kerala and K Chandrasekhar Rao in Hyderabad, Telangana.

    Politically speaking, Vijayan has been a vocal critic of the Central government even as the BJP has accused the ruling CPM of brutality and killing RSS-BJP men in Kerala.

    K Chandrasekhar Rao's Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is not a member of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) but it supported Venkaiah Naidu's candidature for the vice-president's post.

    Considering these examples, the snub to Arvind Kejriwal has set tongues wagging in Delhi's political circles.

    Senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh lashed out at the Centre and said, "The BJP-led Central government has so much hatred against the Delhi Chief Minister that the Prime Minister doesn't like to sit or stand with him", adding that not inviting Kejriwal to the Metro line inauguration shows "their cheap mentality".

    In 2015 too, Kejriwal was not invited to the inauguration of the Badarpur-Faridabad Metro line. The Aam Aadmi Party then slammed the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for "petty politics".

    The DMRC maintained that the event was organised by the Haryana government, similar to its current stand that the Magenta Line inauguration event is being organised by the Uttar Pradesh government.

    The Kejriwal government and the Centre till recently were locked in a bitter war of words over the second phase of Delhi Metro fare hike. Kejriwal called the move "anti-people" and the Delhi Assembly passed a resolution against the fare hike.

Mumbai commuters crowd Western Railway stations to get a glimpse of city's first AC local
  • 150 years after the first suburban local was hauled by a steam engine in 1867, Western Railway will flag off its air-conditioned local services today with a Borivali-Churchgate service commencing at 10:30 AM.

    The Christmas and the pre-New Year bonanza saw the first AC local's maiden run for the media, officials, some political party activists and commuters between Borivali and Churchgate on the Western Railway.

    Though a public holiday, there were several hundreds of curious and wide-eyed commuters who crowded the Borivali station and other stations en route to gawk at the new wonder, which will run full-fledgedly from Churchgate to Virar starting January 1, 2018, with 12 daily services.

    According to the Western Railway chief spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar, six return services (total 12) shall be operated on the suburban sector at regular intervals on all weekdays, with the weekend kept free for maintenance purposes.

    As per current plans, of these 12 daily services, eight will be operated as 'fast trains' on the congested Churchgate-Virar (Palghar) sector.

    Three fast services will run between Churchgate and Borivali stopping at Mumbai Central, Dadar, Bandra and Andheri stations in both directions, he went on to add. One slow service of the AC local will operate between Mahalaxmi to Borivali early morning.

    The Western Railway has also announced an introductory fare to lure commuters to the new, 'cool' style of commuting, with the fare to be 1.2 times the cost of a first class one-way regular ticket, and later the fare will be 1.3 times.

    There will be weekly, fortnightly and monthly season tickets available at 5.0 times, 7.5 times and 10 times the fare of regular first class ticket rates, for the time-being, besides a 5 per cent GST and other applicable charges. 

Business Affairs

Only 2 crore Indians paid income tax in assessment year 2015-16
  • Among over 1.3 billion Indians, just 2 crore people paid the income tax in the assessment year 2015-16. According to data released by the Income Tax Department, there has been an increase of around 42 lakh income tax papers filed in FY 2015-16 than 2014-15. There was only one candidate who paid more than Rs 100 crore (Rs 238 crore) as the income tax.

    Just over 2 crore Indians, or 1.7 per cent of the total population, paid income tax in the assessment year (AY) 2015-16, according to data released by the I-T department. The number of income-tax return filers increased to 4.07 crore in assessment year 2015-16 (FY 2014-2015) from 3.65 crore in the previous year but only 2.06 crore actually paid tax as the others claimed income below taxable limits.

    In the previous AY 2014-15, 1.91 crore, out of 3.65 crore who filed returns, had paid income tax. But the total income tax paid by individuals declined to Rs 1.88 lakh crore in AY 2015-16 from Rs 1.91 lakh crore in AY 2014-15. The data, released last week, indicates just over 3 per cent of the 120 crore population filed returns. Of these, 2.01 crore paid nil income tax, 9,690 paid tax of over Rs 1 crore.

    Only one individual paid over Rs 100 crore in taxes (Rs 238 crore to be precise). Maximum among of 19,931 crore was collected from 2.80 crore tax filers who paid between Rs 5.5 lakh to Rs 9.5 lakh in taxes. As many as 1.84 crore returns were filed for payment of income tax of less than Rs 1.5 lakh or an average of Rs 24,000. Of the 4.07 crore tax returns field in AY 2015-16, close to 82 lakh showed zero or income less than Rs 2.5 lakh.

    Currently, no income tax is for income up to Rs 2.5 lakh. In AY 2014-15, 3.65 crore filed tax returns with 1.37 crore showing zero or less than Rs 2.5 lakh income. The combined income of all individual tax filers rose to Rs 21.27 lakh crore in AY 2015-16 from Rs 18.41 lakh crore in the previous year.
    Maximum number of 1.33 crore individuals were in Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 3.5 lakh income group in AY 2015-16. In all, 4.35 crore income tax returns, including those by individuals, were filed in AY 2015-16. Total income declared was Rs 33.62 lakh crore. In the previous year, 3.91 crore returns were filed with Rs 26.93 crore declared income. Companies filed 7.19 lakh returns with gross income of Rs 10.71 lakh crore.

Nokia plant in Tamil Nadu left as an 'orphaned child': Ravi Shankar Prasad
  • Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Sunday said the Nokia facility at Sriperumbudur near here, was left like an "orphaned child" and the Centre was "on the job" to make it operational. Finland-based Nokia had provided jobs to 8,000 people when the facility, which produced mobile phones in Sriperumbudur, was functioning with full capacity. The factory was left out of the USD 7.2 billion deal that was signed between Microsoft and Nokia in 2014.

    "The Nokia facility was left as an orphaned child.. I tried my best.. You know Microsoft took over Nokia but left the Nokia plant (due to double) taxing issue," the Minister for Law and Justice, Electronics and Information Technology said. "We are trying to work it out," he told reporters at a CII organised event here.

    Elaborating further, he said, "We (the government) were on the job.. We tried with one-two companies.. It did not work out.. Let me concretise and then disclose it to you.. But, we are on the job(to make it operational)."

    On the proposal by Apple Inc., to set up a manufacturing facility in the country, he said, the government is in talks with them.

    To a query, he said there were 40 lakh people working "directly" in the IT industry and 1.30 crore employed "indirectly." "I am very happy to tell you that one-third of them are women," he added.

    He said the number of mobile manufacturing factories in the country has increased to 108 from two that were operating earlier. "Now 108 mobile manufacturing facilities have come up (across India) and about three lakh boys and girls are working directly and indirectly," he said.

    On the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana scheme, he said about Rs four lakh crore has been given to eight crore Indians in ticket sizes of Rs 10,000, Rs 50,000 Rs five lakh and Rs 10 lakh. The Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana scheme provides access to institutional finance to small business units of various ticket sizes. "50 per cent of them were first time entrepreneurs. Now, even if half of this eight crore Indians have added one job, there would be four crore new jobs," he said.

    Prasad also said, the government has decided to set up 23 BPO centres targetting skilled employees present in Tier II and III cities in Tamil Nadu. Already 19 BPOs were operational in places like Coimbatore, Mayiladuthurai, Tiruchirapalli among others, he noted. "In the BPO jobs the potential is 2,700 seats in total. Initial employment has been given to 2,500 people," he said.

    Responding to another query, he said the government has set up 2.70 lakh Common Service Centres that would provide nearly 300 digital services. "About 10 lakh boys and girls are working.. Even you talk of BPO, they have started operating in places like Kohima, Imphal in the North East," he said.

    On his interaction with the core members of Confederation of Indian Industry earlier, Prasad said the members have come out with suggestions on GST and that he would look into it. "What is important is, the larger objective of the Narendra Modi government, which is to perform, reform and deliver.. we (industry and government) have to work together to show that development," he said.

    On the initiatives taken by his Ministry, he said he discussed the story of Digital India, Skill India, Start Up India, smart cities with the members of CII, Tamil Nadu region. "India's digital initiative is one of digital inclusion to bridge the divide between the digital haves and digital have nots. I also explained to them (CII members) about bankruptcy code, to GST, RERA. I also told them how Moody's rating has made India positive," he said.

    Last month, the Moody's Investors Service raised India's sovereign rating for the first time in 13 years, saying growth prospects have improved with continued progress on economic and institutional reforms. The US-based agency upped India's rating to Baa2 from Baa3 and changed its rating outlook to 'stable' from 'positive' saying the reforms will help stabilise rising levels of 'debt.

IOC, BPCL keen to acquire GAIL; company wants to merge with ONGC
  • Indian Oil Corp (IOC) and Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) are both keen to acquire gas utility GAIL India Ltd to become fully integrated energy companies.

    IOC and BPCL have separately indicated to the petroleum ministry their interest in taking over GAIL to help add natural gas transportation and marketing business to their kitty, official sources said.

    GAIL, on the other hand, feels a merger with oil and gas producer ONGC would be more appropriate.

    The merger options were indicated following Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's announcement in the 2017-18 Budget speech on the government's plan to create integrated public sector oil majors that will be "able to match the performance of international and domestic private sector oil and gas companies".

    ONGC, India's largest oil and gas producer, proposed to acquire oil refiner and fuel marketing company HPCL, which was approved by the Cabinet. Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) is currently in the process of acquiring the government's 51.11 per cent stake in HPCL, which at current prices is worth over Rs 33,000 crore.

    Sources said IOC and BPCL gave separate options for the integration.

    The government's 54.89 per cent stake in GAIL is currently worth about Rs 46,700 crore.

    Integration options suggested by other companies would be taken up only after ONGC-HPCL merger is complete, they said.

    IOC, the largest oil refiner and fuel marketing company in the country, wanted to either acquire another refiner to add to its capacity or a gas company like GAIL.

    The firm feels it already has a fledging gas business in under-construction LNG terminals, city gas distribution projects and gas marketing. GAIL, the nation's biggest gas transporter and marketing company, would complement that, it felt.

    BPCL on the other hand too has natural gas ambitions and wrote to the oil ministry saying GAIL was its number one choice for acquisition. It listed Oil India Ltd (OIL), the nation's second largest exploration firm, as its number two choice.

    The government holds 66.13 per cent stake in OIL, which at current market price is worth about Rs 18,000 crore.

    GAIL feels merger with ONGC makes more sense as such a move would integrate gas producer with transportation and marketing network.

    Sources said the government has not taken any decision on the proposals sent by other PSUs.

    The government is keen on the PSU-PSU merger or integration options as it would help it cash out on its holding yet retain its control.

    Also, it would help build bigger oil companies to better compete with global giants and withstand oil price volatility.

Home Ministry directs NGOs to open account in any designated bank in a month for transparency
  • The Home Ministry has directed all NGOs, business entities and individuals who receive funds from abroad to open accounts in any of the 32 designated banks, including one foreign, within a month for higher level of transparency. It also asked them to ensure that such funds are not utilised for activities detrimental to the national interest.

    The directive to the NGOs, companies and individuals to open foreign contribution accounts in banks, which are integrated with the central government's Public Financial Management System (PFMS), came for providing a higher level of transparency and hassle-free reporting compliance, according to the ministry order, accessed by the PTI.

    The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010 provides for the regulation of acceptance of the foreign funds or foreign hospitality by certain individuals, associations, organisations and companies "to ensure that such contributions or hospitality is not being utilised for the activities detrimental to the national interest", it said.

    Therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred under the FCRA, 2010, the central government hereby directs all persons who are either registered or who have sought prior permission under the FCRA 2010 to open their bank accounts as mandated in one or more banks in the list of the 32 banks, the order said.

    This exercise shall be completed expeditiously within one month (by 21-01-2018) with intimation of the details of the bank accounts to the ministry under a prescribed form, it said.

    The central government has already decided that all banks where the FCRA registered persons and organisations have opened their foreign contribution accounts would be integrated with the PFMS for providing a higher level of "transparency and hassle-free" reporting compliance.

    While some banks have already integrated their systems with the PFMS for compliance of the central government's order, many banks have still not completed the integration of their systems with the PFMS despite repeated letters, directions and meetings, the home ministry said.

    The 32 designated banks where individuals, NGOs and other entities can open their accounts are: Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, ICICI Bank, The Cosmos Co-Operative Bank, Bank of Baroda, State Bank of India, South Indian Bank, IDBI Bank, Central Bank of India, Corporation Bank, Karur Vysya Bank, Tamilnad Mercantile Bank Ltd, The Catholic Syrian Bank Ltd, HDFC Bank, UCO Bank, IndusInd Bank Limited, City Union Bank and Syndicate Bank.

    Allahabad Bank, The Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd, Punjab National Bank, Allahabad UP Gramin Bank, DCB Bank Ltd, Manipur State Co-op Bank, Vijaya Bank, Bombay Mercantile Co-operative Bank Ltd, Yes Bank, Oriental Bank Of commerce, Dena Bank, Bank of Maharashtra, Canara Bank, Andhra Bank and Axis Bank are the others.

    The PFMS, which functions under the Controller General of Accounts in the Ministry of Finance, provides a financial management platform for all plan schemes, a database of all recipient agencies, integration with core banking solution of banks handling plan funds, integration with state treasuries and efficient and effective tracking of fund flow to the lowest level of implementation for plan scheme of the government.

    It also provides information across all plan schemes/ implementation agencies in the country on fund utilisation leading to better monitoring, review and decision support system to enhance public accountability in the implementation of plan schemes.

    Introduction of the PFMS resulted in effectiveness and economy in public finance management through better cash management for government transparency in public expenditure and real-time information on resource availability and utilisation across schemes.

    It also resulted in improved programme administration and management, reduction of float in the system, direct payment to beneficiaries and greater transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.

    Early this year, the home ministry had asked around 9,000 NGOs and other entities to open their accounts in banks having core banking facilities and furnish details for real-time access to security agencies in case of any discrepancy.

    The Narendra Modi-led government tightened the rules for NGOs and took action against all such entities for violation of various provisions of the FCRA 2010 which include non- filing of annual returns as mandated in the law.

    Last week, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told Parliament that the registrations of 18,868 NGOs were cancelled between 2011 and 2017 for violating laws. Following the action, foreign funding to Indian NGOs has also come down drastically--from Rs 17,773 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 6,499 crore in 2016-17.

    Rijiju had said the quantum of foreign funding received by NGOs in India in the last three years were: Rs 15,299 crore in 2014-15, Rs 17,773 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 6,499 crore in 2016-17.

    Currently, around 10,000 FCRA-registered NGOs are operating in the country.

    Reliance Jio offers surprise cashback of up to Rs 3,300 on Rs 399 recharge
    • Billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio on Monday announced Christmas and New Year bonanza to its customers with surprise cashback offers of up to Rs 3,300 on Rs 399 recharge and above. The current offer will be valid till January 15 only. The company has come up with several similar cashbacks to its customers in the past too, giving its rival companies like Airtel and Vodafone a run for the money. Today is the last date for Jio's cashback offer of up to Rs 2,599 on recharge of Rs 399. The price war started by Reliance Jio after its launch in 2016 has disrupted the entire telecom industry, leading to huge losses incurred by many companies.   

      The company has also been criticised for its dirt-cheap data plans, but as per Mukesh Ambani "profits and losses are risks businesses take and it is more important to find out if the country and the consumers gained after Jio". He had earlier said that "businesses must stop looking at regulators and governments to guarantee their profits".

      Reliance Jio's latest surprise offer comes in the form of Rs 400 MyJio cashback vouchers, up to Rs 300 cashback vouchers from wallets, and up to Rs 2,600 discount vouchers from e-commerce players, said the company in a statement. Throughout the year, the company has offered several recharge plans like 100% cashback or triple cashback, inviting criticism from the industry rivals over their losses.

      Last week, the company had launched two smaller amount recharges of Rs 199 - which offers 1.2 GB of 4G data per day - and Rs 299 (2GB daily data), thereby giving its customers wider options to choose data plan from an array of plans. Those choosing either of these plans can also get access to several Jio apps related to music, movie, magazine and newspaper services. Mukesh Ambani had earlier said that Jio was ahead of schedule on turning profitable. "Jio results are declared every quarter now. You can see the trend. You watch the next few quarters. You will learn in January and you will learn in March."

    General Awareness

    India’s digital gender gap could further marginalise women: Unicef

    • Context: UNICEF has released the 2017 edition of its annual flagship publication “The State of the World’s Children Report”. Themed “Children in a digital world”, the latest report provides country-level examples to give a sense of the kinds of barriers girls and women confront.

      Highlights of the report:

      With less than one-third of India’s internet users being females, the country’s girls and women risk becoming further marginalised in society and at home if they remain digitally illiterate in the backdrop of the country making a public push towards a more digital economy.
      Globally, 12% more men than women used the internet in 2017. In India, where only 29% of all internet users are female, girls in rural areas often face restrictions on their use of ICTs solely because of their gender.
      Digital divides can mirror broader societal divides — between rich and poor, cities and rural areas, between those with or without an education — and between women and men. India is one place in which the digital divide highlights society’s deep chasms. 

      Causes for digital gender divide:

      Digital gender divide is caused by a number of factors — social norms, education levels, lack of technical literacy and lack of confidence among them — but is often rooted in parents’ concern for the safety of their daughters. Many fear that allowing girls to use the internet will lead to liaisons with men, bringing shame on the family. For most girls, if they are allowed to use the internet, their every move is monitored by their parents or brothers.

      In a society that is still largely patriarchal, for girls, traits like deference and obedience are often valued over intelligence and curiosity. In some households, technology is not seen as necessary or beneficial for girls and women. 

      Why bridging of digital gender gap is necessary?

      If girls and women remain digitally illiterate, they risk becoming further marginalised in society and at home. Therefore, bridging gender gap is necessary. Besides, digital connection and literacy offer advantages in a knowledge-based society, improving children’s lives and their future earning potential.

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