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Current Affairs - 25 February 2018

General Affairs 

PM Modi launches subsidised Amma two-wheeler scheme in Tamil Nadu
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today launched the subsidised scooter scheme for working women on the occasion of RPT the occasion of the 70th birth anniversary celebrations of late leader Jayalalithaa. It was launched in the presence of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam, among others.

    The scheme, with a subsidy component of 50 per cent upto Rs 25,000 for working women, was launched by Modi, who handed over the keys and registration certificate copies to five women beneficiaries. He also launched 70-lakh tree sapling planting drive to commemorate the 70th birth anniversary celebrations of late Jayalalithaa.

    The beneficiaries included women who worked in the private sector, an accountant, a salesperson and an assistant in a private store. A smiling Modi exchanged a few words with the beneficiaries while handing over the keys.

    Palaniswami in his address urged Modi to take steps to set up the Cauvery Management Board and the Cauvery Water Regulatory Committee, as directed by the Supreme Court.

    He said 70 lakh saplings would be planted throughout the year and also thanked the Prime Minister for lauding the ancient language Tamil recently. The Chief Minister also recalled a slew of welfare initiatives and freebie schemes launched by Jayalalithaa. These included thalikku thangam,(gold for mangalsutra) for women beneficiaries,free milch cow and goats,free of cost computers for students and new colleges for the uplift of rural students.

    OPS HAILS PM MODI

    Hailing Modi, Panneerselvam said the Prime Minister was "courageously leading India." Stating that Amma had implemented several schemes for the safety and well being of women, right from their birth to old age, Panneerselvam said this scheme too envisioned by the late leader, was for peoples welfare and development.

    He said this scheme too would be the forerunner for other state governments, like other previous initiatives. So far 3, 36,103 women have applied under the scheme and scrutiny of such applications were under process, according to the ruling AIADMK.

    Palaniswami had announced in December last that scooters would be distributed to one lakh women at a subsidised rate on the occasion of Jayalalithaas 70th birth anniversary. Earlier the Prime Minister Modi was welcomed by Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Chief Minister K Palaniswami and top State officials at Chennai airport.

    From there, he flew to INS Adyar Naval base near Marina beach, from where he reached the function venue by road. Cadres of BJP, ruling AIADMK holding their party flags and the general public lined up both sides of the road welcoming Modi to the venue, Kalaivanar Arangam. The Prime Minister, who planted a sapling to mark the event, is scheduled to stay at Raj Bhavan here later tonight and leave for neighbouring Puducherry tomorrow.

    ELECTORAL PROMISE

    The subsidised scooter scheme for working women is an electoral promise of late Jayalalithaa. During the 2016 Assembly election, she had promised 50 per cent subsidy for women to purchase two-wheelers. Last month, the state government increased the subsidy component under the scheme from Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000.

    Earlier in the event, Palaniswami presented a memento, Panneerselvam a shawl welcoming Modi. Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai, Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan, Tamil Nadu Ministers, MLAs were among the participants.

Indian Air Force wants fighter jet deal worth Rs 1.25L cr to be fast-tracked
  • Against the backdrop of dwindling fighter squadrons, the Indian Air Force (IAF) feels that its requirement for more than 100 combat aircraft expected to be worth over Rs 1.25 lakh crore should be procured through a government-to-government (G2G) deal to avoid further time delays due to the complex acquisition process involved in it.

    The IAF wants the inter-governmental deal as the Defence ministry is of the view that it should not proceed with the single-engine fighter aircraft programme, and initiate a global programme where all fighter aircraft manufacturers would be invited through a competitive tender and the winner would be chosen after extensive trials.

    "The IAF wants the acquisition procedure for acquiring the new aircraft to be completed in the shortest possible time and that will be possible only if they are allowed to go for a government-to-government deal with a foreign country.

    Even a G2G deal would take four years for the first plane to be delivered, and this would be the only way to end the vicious circle of delays," government sources told Mail Today.

    "If the government decides to buy planes through a tender route, it would take a minimum of eight to nine years as at least five years would be required to select a vendor, and then another three would be required for the delivery," they said.

    The 36 Rafale planes, which will start getting inducted from next year, were also acquired through an inter-governmental deal with France in 2016.

    In the past, the IAF suffered major delays in fulfiling its requirements by going through the normal acquisition process as the UPA's plan to buy 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft dragged on for 10 years due to fears of corruption, and ultimately was scrapped by the NDA government.

    On the reasons for not backing the single-engine aircraft programme where 114 planes were to be manufactured indigenously in partnership with either USA or Sweden, sources said there were allegations of favouritism and wrongdoings even before the deal was initiated.

    Now, the government is mulling to start a tender afresh, inviting all the major vendors. But the IAF, wants a quick solution to its aircraft strength in view of the phasing out of the MiG-21s and other planes.

    "IAF will have 32 Fighter Squadrons and 39 Helicopter Units by 2020," the Defence Ministry had stated in Parliament. The force is finding it difficult to arrest the falling squadron strength due to delays in the induction of the indigenously manufactured LCA Tejas planes.

    "10 squadrons of IAF equipped with MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircraft are scheduled to retire by 2024 on completion of their Total Technical Life," the government said.

    Due to lack of inductions in the force, the Su-30MKI has become the mainstay as 11-12 squadrons would be deployed by 2020.

Delhi Chief Secretary vs AAP: Kejriwal, others meet lieutenant governor Anil Baijal, seek his intervention
  • Facing heat from a united bureaucracy over the alleged physical assault of chief secretary Anshu Prakash by AAP MLAs, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is set to reach out to bureaucrats and government officials to resolve the ongoing crisis and to "bridge all miscommunication".

    Though the party has been vehemently denying that no such attack was made on the CS, the deadlock with the bureaucracy has hit the AAP government hard as officials have refused to attend meetings with the political executives.

    With the upcoming Delhi Budget slated next month, the AAP dispensation is worried about losing precious time.

    Top party leaders along with Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and cabinet minister Satyendar Jain met lieutenant governor Anil Baijal, seeking his intervention into the issue.

    During the meeting on Friday at Raj Niwas, the L-G maintained that there is "no place for violence in democracy" and asked Kejriwal to reassure government officials that such incidents will not happen again.

    "Met Hon'ble CM Arvind Kejriwal and his cabinet colleagues. Strongly condemn the recent unfortunate incidents. Advised elected government to take steps to remove mistrust with government employees so that development of Delhi is not affected. No place for violence in democracy," LG Anil Baijal tweeted minutes after the AAP team left Raj Niwas.

    Kejriwal also took to Twitter and wrote, "Officers not attending meetings for last three days. Governance suffering. I'm very concerned. LG assured he will take all steps to ensure officers started functioning normally. Council of ministers assured him all cooperation. All of us need to work together for betterment of Delhi."

    Making matters worse for the party, AAP MLA from Uttam Nagar, Naresh Balyan, during a public rally said, "This CS, who has levelled false allegations, I say, such officers should be beaten up. Officers who stall the work of the common man, should be treated like this."

    While the statement brought further embarrassment for the party, as the CM also attended the same function, Balyan's party colleagues condemned his statement and said it was "uncalled for and damaging for the party in this hour of crisis".

    Earlier in the day, retired IAS officer Dhir Jhingran, who was part of the state advisory council for education, quit the panel in solidarity with CS, who was his batchmate.

    A joint forum of Delhi government officers and employees associations met Jitendra Singh, MoS(PMO) and Hans Raj, MoS(Home) and pointed out that after the incident with the CS, all government employees are apprehensive about their personal safety and dignity.

    "Both the ministers assured that it was the duty of the government to provide safe and dignified environment to the officers," an official statement from the association read.

    "The forum resolved to continue work only through formal written means of communication with the political executives and reiterated that the work is going on smoothly and the government officers and employees of Delhi are working daily during regular working hours and beyond whenever necessary," it added.

Telangana CM KC Rao instructs farmers to link Aadhaar details with land records
  • Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao in a meeting with his officials urged that farmers who do not link their Aadhaar details with their land records. If not done so, they may risk their lands being declared benami.

    The Chief Minister gave the warning after observing that many farmers were not coming forward to link their Aadhaar with that of land records, prepared by the officials during the recently concluded purification of land records.

    Rao has instructed that lands, under the possession of the beneficiaries, should be identified and clarity should be given on the ownership rights.

    He asked the officials to set a deadline for farmers to link their lands with Aadhaar as a last opportunity and declare the lands without Aadhaar linkage as benami lands to initiate necessary legal action against them.

    Reviewing the progress of the proposed distribution of pattadar passbooks at Pragati Bhavan here, Chandrashekhar Rao said there should not be any further confusion on ownership of lands in the State.

    Earlier in the day, the Chief Minister held a review meeting at Pragati Bhavan on the proposed distribution of the Pattadar Passbooks.

    Chief Secretary SK Joshi, Advisor Anurag Sharma, Principal Secretaries S Narsing Rao, Rajesh Tiwari, Land records Purification programmes Mission Director Vakati Karuna, CM Secretary Ms Smita Sabharwal participated in the meet.

PM Modi to financial institutions after PNB fraud: Carry out your responsibility of monitoring with honesty
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that his government will take stringent action against instances of financial irregularities.

    In his first address after the Punjab National Bank (PNB) financial fraud rocked the banking system, the PM said that his government will continue its crackdown against those involved in financial misconduct. However, he refrained from naming the private sector bank or any of the defaulters in his address.

    I would like to make it clear that our government is taking strict actions against irregularities related to economic matters, it will continue to do so. Irregular acquisition of peoples money will not be tolerated, said PM Modi.

    PM Modi while speaking at a global business summit also asked financial institutions to practice caution and fulfill their responsibilities. He said that the financial institution that has been entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring such instances should fulfill their responsibilities with utmost sincerity.

    While the PM in his speech did not mention PNB fraud or any other financial fraud, his statements alluded that the government is firm on their stand and will not spare any defaulters.

    OPPOSITION'S ATTACK

    After the PNB fraud was detected, PM Modi and the NDA-led government have been constantly targeted by the Opposition. His comments come in the wake of Oppositions persistent jibes over PM Modis silence.

    The Congress and several other political parties have been asking the PM to explain the government's stand on the Rs 11,000 crore scam involving billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi.

    In addition to his comments on financial irregularities, PM Modi also enumerated the issue of inflation. He said that regardless of the inflation, farmers are getting better minimum support price (MSP). The PM said that his government favours 1.5 times higher MSP for farmers. PM Modi also asked other sectors to work towards the welfare of the farmers.

Business Affairs

E-way bill to be implemented from April 1, no decision on GST return simplification
  • The group of minister (GoM) formed to oversee the implementation of the Good and Services Tax (GST) has recommended implementation of e-way bill for inter-state movement of goods from April 1 this year. Final decision on the date would be taken by GST Council which is meeting on 10 March.

    Sushil Kumar Modi, finance minister of Bihar and convenor of the GoM, said that based on the initial experience of the system, the government can decide to allow the implementation of e-way bill on intra-state movement of goods in phased manner within two-three weeks. "The intra-state e-way bill would not be implemented in one go. In a phased manner, 4-5 states every week would be allowed to implement intra-state e-way bill," said Modi.

    However, he did not comment on the manner in which these states would be selected for implementation of intra-state e-way bill.

    Earlier, 15 states had implemented intra-state e-way bill along with mandatory inter-state e-way bill that was brought in force from February 1, before the deadline was deferred. Technical glitches in the e-way bill portal developed and maintained by NIC was cited the reason for the deferment.

    On the preparation of e-way bill portal, Sushil Kumar Modi said that NIC has done two rounds of load testing of the system. Another round of testing would be done in two days.

    The GoM expects 25-50 lakh e-way bills to be generated every day, and that may even go up to 75 lakh per day. "The e-way bill system has been tested for similar kind of load," informed the Bihar finance minister.

    Return filing

    However, the GoM could not decide on the new model to be adopted for filing of returns. Sushil Modi said that there are different views on a number of issues including allowing provisional credit and linking of credit with tax payment.

    However, there was consensus within the GoM that invoice matching should happen because this is the base of GST.

    Though there is consensus on monthly return filing, discussion on quarterly return for small taxpayers remain inconclusive.

    The GST Council, the body that takes all the GST related decisions, has decided to dump the earlier system of three monthly GST returns and instead decided to overhaul the whole system. The council is working on three different models, two being proposed by GST Network, the IT backbone of the GST, and another one by Nandan Nilkeni, chairman, infosys.

    Nilkeni was also present in the meeting of GoM held today at the office of UIDAI in the national capital.

CBI books Delhi-based jeweller for duping Oriental Bank of Commerce of Rs 390 crore
  • Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) is the latest public sector lender to join the list of state-run banks which have been defrauded by diamond merchants. Using the same modus operandi like the one used by celebrity jeweller Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi to get Letter of Credit (LoC) from PNB, the accused involved in the OBC fraud availed credit facilities to the tune of Rs 389.85 crore with the help of some bank officials.

    The CBI has booked Delhi-based diamond jewellery exporter Dwarka Das Seth International Pvt Ltd, six months after the Oriental Bank of Commerce filed a complaint with the agency. CBI has also booked Sabhya Seth, Reeta Seth, Krishna Kumar Singh, Ravi Singh - all directors of the firm - and another company named Dwarka Das Seth SEZ Incorporation for the alleged fraud. The whereabouts of Sabhya, the prime suspect, and other directors is not known for now.

    The CBI charged the company and other directors of two firms with cheating OBC in connivance with bank officials and dubious financial instruments. This is similar to the modus operandi of absconding diamantaire Nirav Modi who defrauded Punjab National Bank (PNB) of Rs 11,400 crore.

    The accused have availed several credit facilities from the Greater Kailash-II branch of OBC since 2007 by getting Foreign Letters of Credit (FLC), foreign documentary bill purchase and other instruments, said a Times of India report.

    The bank found that the company was using Letters of Credit (LoCs) to pay off other creditors against the purchase of gold and other precious stone and transfer gold and funds outside the country using fictitious transactions, the FIR said.

    The various credit facilities company had availed from OBC between 2007 and 2012 swelled to Rs 389 crore during the period. The jewellery export firm was also engaging in business transactions with non-existent entities, it said.

    After the Rs PNB scam and Rotomac loan default, this is the third biggest corporate scam coming to light in a span of two weeks.

'Situation of fear' being created against me, Mehul Choksi writes to Gitanjali staff
  • Absconding diamond merchant Mehul Choksi voiced his defence for the first time since his named surfaced in the Rs 11,400-crore PNB fraud. The owner of Gitanjali group, in an office memo to company's staff members, pointed an accusing finger at investigating agencies probing the scam for painting him in a bad picture. He also said that he will not be able to clear the dues or pay future salaries of his employees.

    Choksi said that a 'situation of fear and injustice' has been created against him and the organisation. "...with the recent 'false allegations' levelled against me of defrauding the PNB and media frenzy, the situation has gone grave which is turning graver by the day," he wrote in the letter to his employees.

    At this moment, the investigating agencies seem to be interested not in a fair investigation but in creating a fear psychosis within my employees, Choksi said, adding that the present situation is making him highly insecure about his safety and that of his family members.

    Using seizure of his bank accounts as a justification, Choksi said that he will not be able to reimburse the salaries of his employees. "It is very tough for me, as of now, to be clearing your dues or to pay the future salaries, in view of the seizing of the various bank accounts and other properties by the government agencies/ investigating agencies," Choksi said.

    Blaming the investigating agencies of being 'hell bent upon stopping the operations' in India, Choksi said that it will take some time for him to prove his innocence, and the future seems uncertain presently. He asked the employees of Gitanjali group to find new jobs as he does not want people to suffer due to their connection/association with him.

    The HR of Gitanjali group has been instructed to issue reliving letters and experience certificates. Choksi promised that the he will clear their dues 'once things return to normalcy'.

    "Even the operations in India have come to a standstill and restarting the same may take time. In such a situation, it shall be wrong on my part to force you all to sit idle waiting for the work to restart, when the future for all you is bright," Choksi said.

    Choksi is one of the prime accused in the PNB fraud case along with his nephew Nirav Modi that was brought to public domain by Punjab National Bank (PNB) the last week in a regulatory filing. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been investigating the case but the Modi, Choksi and their accomplices have fled the country before any action could be taken against them. Investigating agencies have been raiding and seizing properties of Nirav Modi brand and jewellery businesses of Choksi under the Gitanjali group to recover the defrauded amount.

    Properties of Nirav Modi attached

    Meanwhile, Enforcement Directorate (ED) attached 21 properties belonging to Nirav Modi, including a penthouse, a farmhouse, and a solar plant, and his group worth over Rs. 523 crore.

    "21 immovable properties of Nirav Modi and companies controlled by him, with a market value of Rs. 523.72 crore, have been provisionally attached. These include 6 residential properties, ten office premises, 2 flats in Pune, a solar power plant, a farmhouse in Alibaug and 135 acres of land in Karjat in Ahmednagar district," the agency said.

    With the latest action, the total assets seized by the ED in this case are now over Rs. 6,393 crore, officials claimed. They added that this value has been quoted from independent sources.

Arun Jaitley bashes regulators, auditors for overlooking Rs 11,400-crore scam
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday blamed inadequate oversight by regulators and auditors as well as sloppy bank management for the Rs 11,400-crore fraud at India's second-biggest state-owned lender, and said if needed law would be tightened to punish fraudsters.

    Speaking for the second time this week on the scandal enveloping Punjab National Bank, Jaitley slammed lack of ethics in certain sections of businesses and said multiple layers of auditing system chose to either look the other way or did a casual job.

    Without naming either the alleged kingpin of the fraud, billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi, or PNB, he said it is "worrisome" that not a single red flag was raised when the fraud was perpetuated. Also, worrisome is "top managements who were indifferent to what was going on or were unaware of what was going on," he said at The Economic Times Global Business Summit.

    There were "at least multiple layers of auditing system which chose to either look the other way or do a casual job. You had inadequate supervision," he said. "Therefore, I think who did what, will eventually find out in the course of investigation."

    Nirav Modi, whose diamond creations have draped Hollywood stars such as Kate Winslet and Dakota Johnson, his uncle Mehul Choksi and firms linked to them are alleged to have acquired fraudulent letters of undertaking (LoUs) from one PNB branch in Mumbai between 2011 and 2017 to obtain loans from Indian banks overseas for which they were ineligible.

    Investigative agencies have raided their properties and arrested bank employees and persons linked to his firms.

    "Regulators have a very important function. Regulators ultimately decide the rules of the game and regulators have to have a third-eye which is to be perpetually be open," the finance minister said.

    "But unfortunately in the Indian system, we politicians are accountable, the regulators are not."

    Frauds call for tightening regulations where they are lacking, he said. "The law would be tightened further, if necessary, in order to find out where they (fraudsters) are and what is the extreme action that law permits against such delinquent persons."

    Jaitley said Indian businesses have to realise that it has to develop a habit of doing ethical business. "Those who deviate from that cause must always remember that the consequences will not only be commercial and civil."

    Stating that unethical practices in lender-borrower relationship where borrowed money is not intended to be returned should end, he said the initial experience of insolvency and bankruptcy code, where recoveries are made from serial defaulters by selling assets, has been reasonably transparent and objective.

    "I think when I speak in terms of ethical practices I think it is a significant problem in India," he said, adding Indian businesses should also look inward rather just ask what the governments are doing.

    On mounting NPAs or bad debts, he asked how much of them are due to business failure and how much because of diversions by companies. "Cases of wilful defaults are something which is much more than the business failure itself," he said.

    The finance minister said periodic surfacing of bank frauds push to background the reforms and entire effort of making it easier to do business in India while the scars on the economy take front seat.

    Earlier this week, Jaitley had that "the supervisory agencies" needed to "introspect as what are the additional mechanisms they have to put in place to ensure that stray cases don't become a pattern again".

    "It is incumbent on us as a state... to chase these people to the last possible conclusion to make sure the country is not cheated," he had said.

RBI instructs banks to link CBS with SWIFT system
  • The Reserve Bank has set an April 30 deadline for all banks to link the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) with their core banking solution (CBS), the apex body of bankers has said.

    Indian Banks Association (IBA) chairperson Usha Ananthasubramanian said there is an urgency to fast-track SWIFT-CBS linkage.

    This came after the country's second largest state-run lender Punjab National Bank detected a Rs 11,400-crore fraudulent transactions at one of its branches in Mumbai.

    The firms of diamond jewellers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi allegedly acquired fraudulent letters of undertaking (LoU) from PNB's Brady House branch in South Mumbai to secure overseas credit from other lenders.

    The LoUs were not recorded in the PSU lender's books and therefore were undetected for a long time.

    Asked about the April 30 deadline, Ananthasubramanian said, "Correct. That could be a deadline, but it is an outer limit. Today, the urgency is such that everyone wants this (linkage of SWIFT to CBS) project to be on fast-track". CBS is a software used to support most common transactions of a bank.

    In a release issued earlier this week, the RBI said it had alerted banks three times since August 2016 for a possible misuse of the SWIFT infrastructure.

    "The risks arising from the potential malicious use of the SWIFT infrastructure, created by banks for their genuine business needs, has always been a component of their operational risk profile.

    "The RBI had, therefore, confidentially cautioned and alerted banks of such possible misuse, at least on three occasions since August 2016, advising them to implement the safeguards detailed in the RBI's communications, for pre- empting such occurrences," the release said.

    Ananthasubramanian, who is currently managing director and CEO of Allahabad Bank, said at her bank SWIFT and CBS is not linked. The bank has sent all its branches memos to take precautionary measures.

    She said there is an urgent need for all banks to revisit their risk management system to plug any loophole.

    "Banks are reviewing and revisiting the systems to ensure drawbacks/loopholes, if any, are addressed so that the system becomes robust. SWIFT linkage to CBS is being fast- tracked by banks".

    Asked about Allahabad Bank's loan exposure to Nirav Modi's firms, she refused to divulge any information.

    Last week, in a regulatory filing, Allahabad Bank had said it has an exposure of nearly USD 366.87 million in the form LoUs issued by PNB.

    "The bank, through its overseas branch at Hong Kong, has been taking exposure with PNB as a country party under various LoUs issued through authenticated SWIFT message," Allahabad Bank had said in a filing.

General Awareness

ndian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav-2018

  • Context: To celebrate the idea of unity in diversity, the Ministry of Culture is organising the the Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav at Gwalior.

    The Mahotsav will cover a profusion of art forms from classical and folk, music and dance, theatre to literature and the visual arts and would offer the chance to experience the best in established and emerging virtuosity.

    Facts for Prelims:

    The Ministry of Culture is organising the event under the Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat matrix.
    The event will be held in Madhya Pradesh.

    Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat:

    The Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat programme was launched by the Prime Minister on 31st October, 2016 to promote engagement amongst the people of different states/UTs so as to enhance mutual understanding and bonding between people of diverse cultures, thereby securing stronger unity and integrity of India.

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