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Current Affairs - 18 February 2018

General Affairs 

Indian Army's 400 km special march to commemorate 'Chindits' of World War-II
  • A team of 100 personnel from the Indian Army set out on a 20-day Chindits Trail Expedition from Babina near Jhansi on February 16. The expedition, flagged off by Lieutenant General DR Soni, will cover approximately 400 km in four phases, with 25 soldiers for each phase, over a period of 20 days.

    Led by Captain Sachit Sharma along with Captain Siddharth Swain and Captain Sunita, the team will cover the areas of Deogarh, Shadpur, Damoh and Nauradehi in Madhya Pradesh and will collaborate with the local civil administration and forest department to connect with indigenous tribes inhabiting the region, to spread the message of national integration and organise medical camps for their benefit. Gen Soni exhorted the team to imbibe Chindits Motto - "Boldest Measures Are The Safest".

    The expedition is being carried out to commemorate the spirit and ethos of Indian troops who were employed on the Burma front in World War II. Moving through jungle trails and surviving off the land, without recourse to any modern amenities, the troops plan to relive the Chindit experience.

     The Chindits were special operations units of the British and Indian armies, which saw action in 1943-1944, during the Burma Campaign of World War II. The remote and inaccessible region of Central India was specially chosen by the British to train this Guerrilla force to conduct operations behind the lines of Japanese forces in Burma. The Chindits operations were crucial in breaking the will of Japanese troops, leading to their ultimate defeat.

    The training was conducted in the inhospitable jungle and hilly terrain between Narmada and Betwa river basins, under the legendary General Orde Wingate and comprised mainly of Gorkha troops of the Indian Army.

    Chindit is a corrupted form of the Burmese mythical beast Chinthe or Chinthay, statues of which guard Buddhist temples.

    The first Chindit unit, the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade, was gradually formed in the area around Jhansi in the summer of 1942.

PNB scam: PM Modi, Jaitley knew country was being looted, says Congress
  • The Nirav Modi-Punjab National Bank multi-crore fraud case seems to be getting murkier with each passing day. On Saturday, Congress trained its gun at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley by accusing them of being "aware that the country was being looted" in the over Rs 11,000 crore PNB scam.

    The party asked if Modi will order a probe in the PNB fraud. Congress leader Kapil Sibal asked, "Why is PM Modi refusing to disclose who travels with him on his official trips? Is this the kind of 'Ease of Doing Business' PM Modi talks about."

    "Some corporates are among the private persons who travel with the prime minister on official trips. I want to ask ever since he (Modi) became PM, how many assets have Nirav Modi bought and how much loans has he taken.

    "You will get to know that banks' loans will be more and assets less. Will PM Modi order an inquiry into the PNB scam? These are all scams in the waiting," he added.

    Sibal further said, "You have institutionalised crony capitalism. They buy assets with our money and when they become defaulters, they flee the country."

    "The kind of Ease of Doing Business Nirav Modi has done, India has become number one in Ease of Doing Business," Sibal said sarcastically.

    He further challenged the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to talk about UPA's governance and their governance.

    "Because of their ill-intentions, they have brought India's economy to its knees. BJP should be ashamed of calling 2G a scam. It should be ashamed of bringing country's economy to its knees. IT, communication sector is under huge debt."

    "What was PMO doing when big bank scams were happening? Finance Ministry and PMO were aware that this country was being looted. We are making direct allegation against the prime minister and finance minister. They turned a blind eye. They knew that the country is being looted," he added.

    "According to CBI FIR, there are a total of 151 LOUs (Letters of Undertaking) in 2017, and the payments were due in 2018. why there is no clarification from FM and why is the PM silent," Sibal asked.

    Sibal also said, "What has HRD Ministry, Social Justice Ministry and Law Minister got to do with Nirav Modi and the scam? Why is the Finance Minister not answering to our questions related to the scam."

    "PM Modi, if you don't take action against those who are holding banks' 70-80 thousand crores, who will show faith in the Indian economy. People have lost faith in you and the way you are destroying our economy, soon people will lose faith in India," he said.

    "The state of the country is such that the chowkidar (PM) is sleeping and the thief has escaped," Sibal added.

    The party also asked why Modi was silent on the issue and how did the agencies permit billionaire diamond merchant Nirav Modi, his uncle Mehul Choksi and others to leave India.

    "When a complaint was lodged against Mehul Choksi in the PMO, it was not even taken into consideration," said Sibal.

India, Iran want to see their neighbours free of terrorism: PM Modi during bilateral talks with Rouhani
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that India and Iran wish to see their neighbours free of terrorism and hope a safe and prosperous Afghanistan.

    "The two countries want to see our neighbour Afghanistan safe and prosper. We want to see our neighbours free of terrorism," PM Narendra Modi said during a meeting with Iran President Hassan Rouhani.

    "Regional conflict should be resolved through dialogue. We hope to see peace, stability and pluralism in Afghanistan," President Rouhani added.

    Modi also discussed bilateral cooperation across a range of areas and regional issues during the meeting with Rouhani.

    "Both leaders held substantive and productive discussion on cooperation in trade and investment, energy, connectivity, defence and security, and regional issues," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

    Addressing a joint press event with Rouhani, Modi said the visit by the Iranian president shows how the two sides want to deepen cooperation in key areas, including connectivity.

    "We want to develop railway relations between Iran and India and are seeing the development of Chabahar Port," Iran President Hassan Rouhani said.

    On sidelines of the bilateral meeting between PM Modi and President Rouhani, agreements were signed in areas like double taxation avoidance, extradition, agricultural cooperation, port lease, medicine and others.

    Earlier on Saturday, Rouhani, who arrived here on Friday evening from Hyderabad, was a accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

    This the first presidential visit from Iran to India in 10 years and comes after the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the West Asian nation in 2016.

    Following the ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also called on the visiting dignitary.

    "Strengthening cooperation in energy, connectivity, IT, education, culture and people-to-people contact came up for discussion," Kumar said in a separate tweet following that meeting.

At upcoming plenary meet, Rahul Gandhi's Congress to chart strategy for Lok Sabha polls
  • The Indian National Congress will chart a five-year roadmap and a strategy for the upcoming general elections at a plenary session in March.

    The party's Steering Committee, which met Saturday, has decided to organise the plenary meet. Leaders and cadres from every block, district and state will travel to New Delhi, where the top brass will identify key areas of focus for quinquennial time-frame.

    At today's meeting, Rahul Gandhi laid stress on "putting across a new vision, a new way forward, and putting more focus on Congress ideologies and policies with more vigour," said Randeep Singh Surjewala, a spokesperson who heads the communication department.

    Gandhi also underlined the importance of representation for women and members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes, Surjewala said.

    The "poll bugle for (the) 2019 Lok Sabha poll will also be blown during this session," said RPN Singh, a former minister of state for home affairs.

    "In the meeting, Rahul Gandhi said India's jobless growth and not empowering the farmers and farm labourers is not an option any longer," Surjewala said. "Everything can wait, but India's young and farmers can't."

    Gandhi took over as the INC's leader after the Gujarat assembly election in December. The plenary session in March will the first of his presidency.

Agreed to AIADMK merger on Modi's suggestion, says OPS, DMK slams BJP's 'shadow government' in TN
  • Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Pannerselvam said Thursday he agreed to a merger between his and Edappadi Palaniswami's factions of the AIADMK on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's suggestion.

    In fact, Modi insisted that he rejoin the party as a minister, Panneerselam explained Friday night at a public meeting in Theni, a town in south-western Tamil Nadu.

    "When I met PM Narendra Modi, he recalled a meeting between him and Amma (former Chief Minister J Jayalalaithaa) during their luncheon, where he told me that Amma spoke a lot about me. PM then told me to take up the ministership in Tamil Nadu, which I refused, saying that any position in the party is fine, but no need of being a minister," Panneerselvam, popularly known as O.P.S, said.

    "But he (The PM) insisted that I rejoin the party as a minister keeping in mind the...political situation at that time. It is only because of the PM that I am a minister today. Otherwise I don't need any position, because Amma made me (an) MLA four times and CM twice," he added.

    Months ago, after a small group of lawmakers headed by Panneerselvam merged with a larger party faction, Modi tweeted this.

    I congratulate Thiru O Panneerselvam & others who took oath today. I hope Tamil Nadu scales newer heights of progress in the years to come.

    Rajendra Balaji, an AIADMK minister, denied that there was a political relationship between his party and the BJP.

    DMK SLAMS GOVT

    DMK spokesperson Saravanan said Pannerselvam's comment validated his party's stand.

    "Our leader MK Stalin has said in (the) past that Modi is holding a khap panchayat between two factions. It's clear that A(IA)DMK government is running due to (the) blessings of BJP," he said.

    The BJP is running "a shadow government" in Tamil Nadu, he added.

    Pugazhendi, a spokesperson for RK Nagar MLA TTV Dhinakaran, said, "I don't understand why Modi had to intervene in A(IA)DMK party affairs."

    "When OPS visited Modi he used to say he presented (a) memorandum for Tamil Nadu issues. Now see, the truth has come out. The BJP doesn't have any stand in Tamil Nadu and will never have a place here. But why they are interfering in our party affairs is something to wonder," he said.

Business Affairs

India bags lease contract on Chahbahar port among 9 pacts with Iran
  • India today inked nine pacts with Iran, including one on getting operational control of the first part of the Chabahar port for 18 months, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani held "substantive" talks to broad-base ties in oil, gas and banking sectors.

    In their nearly two-hour-long talks, Modi and Rouhani also held extensive deliberations on pressing regional and global issues such as ways to combat terrorism.

    The two sides signalled a convergence of strategic interests in the region, including in war-torn Afghanistan.

    On whether the kidnapping of Kulbhushan Jadhav, currently on a death row in Pakistan, from Iran was raised in the talks, officials in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the issue did not figure in the deliberations.

    Asked if India raised the issue of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir during today's talks, they said there was an understanding by the Iranian side on how India has been a victim of terrorism, indicating that it figured in the deliberations.

    Apart from inking of lease contract between Iran's Port and Maritime Organization and India's Ports Global Limited (IPGL) to take over operation of existing facilities at the Shahid Beheshti Port -- Phase 1 of Chabahar -- for 18 months, the two sides signed avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.

    Other pacts included ratification of nearly a decade-old extradition treaty, exemption from visa requirement for holders of diplomatic passports, traditional systems of medicine and establishment of an expert group on trade remedy measures.

    In addition to the nine pacts, four more pacts were inked on the sidelines of Rouhani's three-day visit, officials said.

    Talking about ramping up trade, the two leaders emphasised on the need to put in place an effective banking channel for business transactions.

    "It was noted that permission for the Iranian Pasargadbank to open a branch in India was under advance consideration," a joint statement said.

    It was also agreed to set up a joint committee of officials to examine feasible options, including Rupee-Rial arrangement and Asian clearing union mechanism to establish functional payment channels, the statement said.

    The two countries also agreed to grant the e-visa facility to each other's nationals.

    At a joint press event with Rouhani, Modi said India is commited to deepen ties with Tehran, particularly in trade and investment and will support the construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan rail link to improve regional connectivity.

    Modi said the two countries want a terror-free world and they were committed to stopping the expansion of those powers which encourage terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking, cyber crimes and other international crimes.

    On his part, Rouhani said,"We are determined to combat terrorism and extremism."

    Trying to reflect on growing congruence in bilateral ties, Rouhani said the two sides deliberated on a range of pressing bilateral, regional and international issues but did not disagree on even a "single topic".

    Rouhani's India visit comes nearly a month after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip here, and hosting the Iranian leader is seen as a balancing act by New Delhi.

    Calling for an immediate end to all support and sanctuaries enjoyed by terrorist groups and individuals, the two leaders said states that aid, abet and directly or indirectly support terrorism should be condemned, according to the statement.

    Recognising the challenges of terrorism and ideologies of violent extremism, the two leaders reiterated their strong commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

    "They called on the international community to end selective or partial approaches to combating terrorism and, in this regard, stressed the need to make every effort to reach an agreement on and conclude a comprehensive convention on international terrorism at the UN General Assembly," the joint statement said.

    Modi said the visit by the Iranian president shows how the two sides want to deepen cooperation in key areas, including connectivity, and described the strategically-important Chabahar as a "golden gateway", development of which will help in reaching out to land-locked Afghanistan and central Asia.

    On Afghanistan, both sides stressed that the interests of peace and stability in the region are best served by a strong, united, prosperous, pluralisitic, democratic and independent Afghanistan and supported the National Unity Government in the country.

    "They stressed the significance of strengthening India-Iran-Afghanistan trilateral consultations and coordination, including by suitably supplementing their cooperation on Chabahar.

    "In this context, they also called upon the countries of the region to come forward for enhancing regional connectivity and take steps to do away with the obstacles on land transit," the joint statement said.

    The two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to supporting the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) for comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council.

    They also underscored the need for strengthening and reform of multilateral financial institutions and enhancing the voice and participation of developing countries in international economic decision-making.

    The two sides also agreed to enhancing cooperation in the maritime domain.

Gem of a scam: How Nirav Modi used fake LoUs to defraud PNB of about Rs 11,400 crore
  • A set of bank officials in connivance with businesses owned by flamboyant diamond and jewellery merchant Nirav Modi exploited information gaps and lax processes in India's second largest PSU bank, Punjab National Bank, to defraud it of money that may add up to $1.77 billion, or Rs 11,345 crore.

    Possibly, the amount may be even higher if the modus operandi employed in this fraud is being used in other banks as well. PNB has written to 30 banks as soon as it discovered the fraud explaining the modus operandi, asking them to investigate if they have faced similar frauds. The final number may be known only after the investigation at PNB and these 30 banks is over.

    PNB discovered that at least 2 individuals, deputy manager Gokulnath Shetty and clerk Manoj Kharat, from its Brady House branch in Mumbai repeatedly issued Letters of Undertaking (LoU) to Nirav Modi's companies and their banks without following the processes, without securing cash reserve or collateral and without recording the transactions in the bank's core banking software, the system on which the banks's financial transactions are run and recorded. An LoU is a guarantee by the issuing bank to the receiving bank and the companies that it would undertake to pay a certain amount of money on a specific date.

    Modi and his companies leveraged those LoUs in Hong Kong to secure buyers' credit from the local branches of Allahabad Bank (estimated to be Rs 2,000-2,200 crore), Union Bank (about Rs 2,000-2,300 crore), Axis Bank (about Rs2,000 crore) and State Bank of India (Rs 960 crore), among others. Between five-six Hong Kong branches of Indian Banks (Allahabad Bank, Axis Bank, Union Bank of India, Bank of India and State Bank of India) are believed to have issued buyers' credit against these LoUs.

    These suspect bank officials issued the LoUs and informed these branches via the international cash transfer service called SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) which connects all international banks worldwide. However, exploiting the information gap-and the fact that unlike other Indian banks PNB had not integrated its SWIFT network with the bank's core banking network- they chose not to record these transactions in the bank's own system.

    While Shetty retired in May, 2017, PNB has, meanwhile, suspended 10 officials after its prepreliminary investigation. PNB managing director Sunil Mehta says it approached CBI on January 29 after it detected the fraud. "The fraud was detected in the third week of January and a case was filed with CBI," Mehta said. The fraudulent LoUs were discovered when Modi's companies Solar Exports, Stellar Diamonds and Diamonds R US asked PNB for buyers' credit in mid-January.

    The bank official handling the forex desk told them that since they didn't have pre-sanctioned limits, they should provide cash margins or collateral. To that the companies responded by saying that they had been availing the buyers credit in the past. PNB began investigating it at this point. PNBs first complaint was filed on January 29 with the CBI mentioning it as a Rs 280 crore fraud. However, on February 14 it issued another statement saying it detected fraud of $1.77 billion (Rs 11,300 crore).

    Observers suspect round-tripping of funds raised from one bank being used to pay up buyers' credit for the other bank in this modus operandi. Over 150 such LoUs were issued since the first one was fraudulently issued in 2011. Interestingly, while an LoU expires in 90-180 days, these bank officials are believed to have rolled them over after each expiry, as a result the fraud lay undetected for over 7 years. In a letter to PNB, Modi is believed to have asked for six months to pay Rs5,000 crore due from him. Since the buyers' credit has been issued against PNB's LoUs, the bank is liable to pay for any shortfall, non-payment by Modi and his companies. PNB's managing director said the bank will honour every payment owed to these banks.

    The Enforcement Directorate has raided various premises of Nirav Modi belonging to his entities-Firestar Diamonds, Stellar Diamonds, Find Diamond R US and Solar Exports- all across the country and have seized diamonds, precious stones and jewellery worth an estimated Rs5,100 crore. Nirav Modi, his wife Ami (a US citizen), his brother Nishal (a Belgian citizen) as well as his uncle Mehul Choksi, promoter of Gitanjali Gems, fled the country between January 1 and January 6. Nirav Modi was last spotted at Davos where he appeared for a photo opportunity with PM Narendra Modi right after his address at the World Economic Forum on January 23.

Supreme Court verdict on Cauvery dispute out: All you need to know about decade-long battle over water
  • The Supreme Court verdict on Cauvery water dispute is out, and it is Karnataka that appears to have won the final round of legal battle. The Cauvery river is a south Indian river which flows through the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Both the states have been at loggerhead for their 'due share' of Cauvery river. Here's what has happened so far:

    1. The dispute began with Karnataka's demand of 'equitable sharing of the waters' after it expanded farming activities in the Cauvery basin. It claimed that the previous agreements, which happened between erstwhile Madras Presidency and Kingdom of Mysore in 1924, were highly skewed to what is present day Tamil Nadu. According to reports, Tamil Nadu used to get about 602 TMC of the total water, leaving only about 138 TMC for Karnataka.

    2. Despite the multi-round of talks, two southern states couldn't decide the share acceptable to both the parties. In 1990, the union government set up a Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal or CWDT to look into inter-state river water disputes.

    3. In 2007, the Tribunal came out with its order. The Tribunal found the total water of the river 740 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) which it divided (majorly) in Karnataka  (270) and Tamil Nadu (419 TMC). Rest of the water was divided into two other states and several other basins. It gave Kerala: 30 TMC, Kabini sub-basin: 21 TMC, Bhavani sub-basin: 6 TMC, Pambar sub-basin: 3 TMC, the Union Territory of Pondicherry: 7 TMC. The Tribunal also awarded 10 TMC for environmental protection and 4 TMC for inevitable escapages into the sea.

    4. The CWDT also directed Karnataka to release 192 TMC of Cauvery water in normal monsoon year. Karnataka government wasn't satisfied with the Tribunal's order. It moved to the Supreme Court claiming for 312 TMC of water. In between, Karnataka stopped releasing water to Tamil Nadu on various occasion, citing shortage.

    5. During the course of the pendency of appeals, the highest court passed several orders directing Karnataka to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. On September 30, 2016, the Supreme Court had pulled up Karnataka for not complying with the order and said no one would know when the wrath of the law would fall on it.

    6. Later, Karnataka had moved a review petition in the apex court against its three orders on the issue. It said grave miscarriage of justice was caused to it following the three apex court orders of September 20, 27 and 30, 2016. In all these orders, Karnataka was directed to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.

    7. Today, the apex court directed the Karnataka government to release 177.25 TMC of water to Tamil Nadu, 14.75 TMC lesser than what was allotted by the tribunal in 2007. The Tribunal - in its 2007 order - had asked the Karnataka to release 192 TMC of water. After today's judgement, Karnataka will get 284.75 TMC and Tamil Nadu will get 404.25 TMC of Cauvery water.

ISH wants to bring in tech as teaching aid in all aspects of education, says founder & CEO Dilip Puri
  • Soon after the merger of global major hospitality chains Marriott with Starwood, Dilip Puri, the former India head of Starwood, quit his job to pursue his dream to disrupt the higher education sector, especially in the hospitality space. At the moment, India has a handful of undergraduate hospitality institutes, including IHMs (Institute of Hotel Management) and Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration (Manipal), Puri says that these institutes don't match the global standards of education. He is trying to replicate the "ISB model" in the hospitality education. As he's setting up his first campus in Gurgaon, Puri met with Business Today's Manu Kaushik to talk about his new project.

    What was the idea behind starting a hospitality institute?

    Dilip Puri: The initial idea was seeded in my mind when I admitted my younger son to Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne in 2013. I was struck by the realisation that in India, we have hotels that are known around the world and a rapidly growing service industry, but we do not have a matching standard of hospitality education. Spotting the gap, I decided to venture into crafting a world-class hospitality education enterprise. The opportunity to set up ISH (Indian School of Hospitality) has also given me the chance to pursue my passion for education.

    In India, there are a number of hospitality institutes, what's the differentiation between ISH and others?

    The environment of hospitality changes at an incredible pace -- with today's technologies, the challenges and expectations of a younger demographic of travelers and consumers, the industry never ceases to change and evolve. With this kind of rapidly changing landscape, it can be a real challenge to produce quality talent if the curriculum or methods they are learning from are not tailor-made to enable students to adapt, rationalise and react to the pace of change.

    With ISH, we want to disrupt hospitality education by redefining and reimagining the way education is delivered. By employing up to date and relevant teaching techniques, and by creating a future-conscious curriculum, we want to create an educational experience that's not just for today, but can stand up to tomorrow's challenges as well. Our entire philosophy at ISH is to provide students with both the academic and life skills they need to help them succeed throughout their careers and lives.

    We envisage our curriculum design to be a global benchmark of hospitality education in the near future, and in order to do we have entered into a strategic partnership with Lausanne Hospitality Consulting (LHC) for curriculum development and faculty training. We have partnered with LHC in preparation for an academic certification by Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne (EHL), the world's oldest and top-ranked hospitality management higher education institution worldwide.

    What kinds of programmes do you plan to offer, and their duration?

    The core academic programmes being offered at ISH are an undergraduate hospitality management programme and an undergraduate programme in culinary arts. By recognizing this boom in the food and beverages sector, our two core programmes will provide students a forward-thinking education and enable them to acquire skill sets that are relevant, and progressive.
    Beside the core academic programmes, ISH will also offer various short-term programmes in culinary specialisations as well as a whole range of executive education programmes catering to professionals in hospitality, travel, aviation, retail and other customer-focused industries.

    Are you part of the government's Skills India mission?

    In the initial stages, the focus of the ISH is on bringing in international quality of higher education in hospitality and allied service industries. Over time, we definitely intend to get into the skill development area as well. From 2020 onwards, ISH will begin the expansion of its THLC brand -- Tourism & Hospitality Learning Centres -- across India focussed exclusively on skill development. I see both higher education and skill development as critical needs for India, but they require different approaches and different strategies to be scalable and viable.

    How much you have invested so far? Who are your investors?

    We closed the first round of funding at Rs 25 crore. This investment was put together through our founder investors, including key names such as Gaurav Bhalla of Vatika Hospitality, Patanjali Govind Keswani of Lemon Tree Hotels, Sonny Iqbal, Global Co-Leader Family Business Practice at Egon Zehnder, Jaideep Vohra of Sarova Hotels, and others.

    What kind of arrangements you have with the existing hospitality chains for training and placement of your students?

    The heads of most of the largest hospitality companies in India, both domestic and international, are members of the ISH advisory council. Many of them have provided ISH with testimonials to support our placement, internship and academic exchange opportunities. These opportunities will not be limited to India, but in other global markets as well which have less restrictive work visa regimes such as the Middle-East and South East Asia.

    How do you plan to use technology in training, and pedagogy of your programmes?

    ISH aims to bring in technology as a teaching aid in almost every possible aspect of the educational experience. The world of hospitality is evolving rapidly with the development of tech. It's time for hospitality education to catch up too. From interactive learning environments that will help connect classrooms and students better than ever before to even the use of virtual reality (VR) for practical skills or role-playing scenarios.

    We want to combine technology and learning to spark joy, interest and engagement in our students to help them imbibe knowledge better, faster and for longer. Just one example of how we aim to do that includes exclusive culinary lessons for our students by chefs from anywhere in the world. Thanks to today's technology, the chef can demonstrate and carry out a culinary lesson from their location, with the video and sound feed being broadcast in real-time to our students back on the ISH campus. This opens up a world of potential learning opportunities, as well as making it easier for our students to learn from some of the most notable names in the business. Another example is the use of VR technology as a learning tool in the areas of mixology, housekeeping, front office operations, among others.   

PNB fraud: Loan given to Gitanjali Gems despite my dissent note, says Dinesh Dubey
  • Dinesh Dubey, a former government-nominated director of Allahabad Bank, revealed that loans were granted to Gitanjali Gems, part of Mehul Choksi's Gitanjali Group, despite his dissent note against it. Mehul Choksi is the maternal uncle of Nirav Modi.

    In an e-mail to RBI Deputy Governor K C Chakrabarty, Dubey had mentioned that the Allahabad Bank's board of directors had sanctioned Rs 1550 crore to Gitanjali Jewellers in 2013 despite his dissent note opposing it. He was against giving more loans to the company as it was yet to repay the previous dues.

    "I had asked the management to first recover the previous loan from Gitanjali Gem before releasing fresh loan, but I was told this has to be done in order to stop NPAs and to run banks," Dubey said during an interview to India Today.

    Even the incumbent PNB chief Sunil Mehta knew about funds being sanctioned to Gitanjali Group as he was the general manager of Allahabad Bank at the time I presented my dissent note, Dubey said. The disapproval of two other directors in this matter was not acknowledged by the Allahabad Bank board either, he added.

    Allahabad Bank is one of the banks which gave credit to Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi based on LoUs issued by the Punjab National Bank (PNB).

    Dubey said he was pressurised by then finance secretary Rajeev Takru due to his dissent notes, following which he stepped down from his post.

    As per the CBI FIR, a total of 143 LoUs were issued in favour of companies under Gitanjali Group - Gitanjali Gems, Nakshatra Brands and Gili India - amounting to Rs 3,032 crore. Since March 1, 2017, Gitanjali Gems received Rs 2,144 crore, Nakshatra Brands got Rs 321 crore and Gili India got Rs 566 crore via these LoUs.

    On Saturday, CBI arrested former PNB deputy manager Gokulnath Shetty, single window operator Manoj Kharat and authorised signatory of Nirav Modi's companies Hemant Bhat in relation to the Rs 11,400 crore PNB fraud. The three apprehended were presented in a special CBI court in Mumbai later. The court sent them to CBI custody for a period of 14 days till March 3.

General Awareness

Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
  • Context: The Supreme Court verdict on Cauvery water dispute is out, and it has come as a big relief for Karnataka. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerhead for their ‘due share’ of Cauvery river.

    What’s the verdict?

    The apex court directed the Karnataka government to release 177.25 TMC of water to Tamil Nadu, 14.75 TMC lesser than what was allotted by the tribunal in 2007. Karnataka will now get 284.75 TMC and Tamil Nadu will get 404.25 TMC of Cauvery water.

    The top court also made it clear that increase in the share of Cauvery water for Karnataka has been done keeping in view the fact that there is an increased demand of drinking water by Bengaluru and also for many industrial activities.

    What’s the dispute?

    The dispute began with Karnataka’s demand of ‘equitable sharing of the waters’ after it expanded farming activities in the Cauvery basin. It claimed that the previous agreements, which happened between erstwhile Madras Presidency and Kingdom of Mysore in 1924, were highly skewed to what is present day Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu used to get about 602 TMC of the total water, leaving only about 138 TMC for Karnataka.

    Tribunal order:

    In 1990, the union government set up a Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal or CWDT to look into inter-state river water disputes. In 2007, the Tribunal came out with its order. The Tribunal found the total water of the river 740 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) which it divided (majorly) in Karnataka (270) and Tamil Nadu (419 TMC). Rest of the water was divided into two other states and several other basins. It gave Kerala: 30 TMC, Kabini sub-basin: 21 TMC, Bhavani sub-basin: 6 TMC, Pambar sub-basin: 3 TMC, the Union Territory of Pondicherry: 7 TMC. The Tribunal also awarded 10 TMC for environmental protection and 4 TMC for inevitable escapages into the sea.

    What was the demand by Karnataka?

    The CWDT had directed Karnataka to release 192 TMC of Cauvery water in normal monsoon year. Karnataka government wasn’t satisfied with the Tribunal’s order. It moved to the Supreme Court claiming for 312 TMC of water.

    Karnataka had recently moved a review petition in the apex court against its three orders on the issue. It said grave miscarriage of justice was caused to it following the three apex court orders of September 20, 27 and 30, 2016. In all these orders, Karnataka was directed to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.

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