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Current Affairs - 10 March 2018

General Affairs 

A Sea Of Red Marches To Mumbai As 25,000 Farmers Demand Loan Waiver
  • About 25,000 farmers are marching towards Mumbai and reached the city's suburb Thane today. They are about 25 km away from Mumbai now. On Monday, they will attempt to surround the Maharashtra assembly in Mumbai and protest against what they call the state government's anti-farmer policies.

    The farmers, most of them wearing red caps and holding up flags with the sickle and hammer symbol, began the protest march from Nashik on Tuesday evening and are walking the 180 km to Mumbai with night halts every 30 odd km. Along the way, as a hot sun tires them out, villagers offer the protesting farmers water.

    For the 25,000 people the gram panchayats have collected food grains like rice and dal which are carried in vehicles that move along with the march. At locations which have been chosen, villagers themselves cook the food and serve it to everyone. Simple meals of rice, dal, bhakri and vegetables are prepared.

    The administration has made arrangements for movable toilets and the farmers usually camp on the banks of rivers where they bathe and freshen up. Lights have also been put up to ensure security and policemen have also been posted.

    The farmers say their main demand is for a waiver of all loans and the implementation of the Swaminathan Committee report, which says farmers should be paid one and a half times the cost of production for what they produce and the MSP's should be fixed keeping this in mind. The march has been organised by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), which is affiliated to the Left.

    The Maharashtra government has been under pressure after continuous protests by farmers who allege that the Fadnavis government did not honour assurances given to them when it announced a conditional farm loan waiver of Rs. 34,000 crore in June last year.

    Raju Desle secretary of AIKS claimed that 1,753 debt-ridden farmers have killed themselves in Maharashtra since June last year.

    "I have a loan of  Rs. 3 lakh. I filled the form for a loan waiver three months ago but got no reply from the bank," said Tukaram Chaudhary, a 65-year farmer who grows bajra and maize, as he walked towards Mumbai.

    45-year-old Narayan Gavit said he has been farming on the same land his ancestors did, but the land has not yet been transferred to the family. "Our land has not been transferred to our name. We have been tilling the land since 1957. My ancestors died tilling this land and I also may die but I don't know when the land will be transferred," he said.

    "We want the state government to refrain from forceful acquisition of farm lands in the name of development projects like the super highway and tracks for bullet trains," said Raju Desle. The farmers are also demanding a complete change in the river linking scheme proposed to be implemented in Nashik, Thane and Palghar so that tribal villages are not submerged.

    The farmers also want a complete change in the river linking scheme proposed to be implemented in Nashik, Thane and Palghar so that tribal villages are not submerged.

    The Maharashtra government has sent a memorandum to the Centre seeking financial assistance of Rs. 2,400 crore for pink bollworm attacks on cotton crops and damage to crops caused by hailstorms and unseasonal rain, Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar told Press Trust of India. The centre, he said, is yet to release the funds.

Centre Assures Full Support To New BJP Government In Tripura: PM Modi
  • A young man wearing a faded pair of blue jeans and checked blue and white shirt, campaigning in Phulpur, makes a rookie mistake when he shouts, "Bua-babua zindabad".

    An older member of his party rebukes him. "Bua" and "Babua" are nicknames swapped sarcastically by two political heavyweights - Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav.

    By forging an alliance between these two long-standing rivals in Uttar Pradesh, Phulpur has become the laboratory for an experiment that opposition parties are all invested in, even if they are not participants.

    For the first time in nearly 25 years, Mayawati, the chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and the Samajwadi Party (SP), are on the same side. Mayawati, 62, who swore in 1995 to never work with the SP again after their coalition government came undone, has not put up a candidate against the SP. Instead, her workers are pacing the villages and small towns that collate into the constituency of Phulpur, asking voters to choose the SP.

    The tightrope walking that is demanded is excessive. From posters to slogans, Mayawati must be played up as much as Akhilesh Yadav, who was Chief Minister till last year when the BJP won the state sumptuously and placed it in the charge of Yogi Adityanath.

    The BJP had never won Phulpur till the general election of 2014 when the Modi tide washed across Uttar Pradesh, giving the Prime Minister's party as many as 71 of the 80 parliamentary seats in the country's most politically-prized state.

    The BJP delivered a smashing sequel to that result with the state election a year later, and opposition parties came around to the conclusion that unless Mayawati and the SP come together, Uttar Pradesh cannot be taken back from the BJP. The state elects 80 MPS, more than any other. Winning UP means winning the country.

    Mayawati has stressed that the Phulpur arrangement should be read as just that- and not a formal alliance. But like Akhilesh Yadav, she knows that the outcome will decisively shape the opposition's plans for 2019. Phulpur votes on Sunday; the results will be declared on March 14. Today, Chief Minister Adityanath held as many as three rallies in the area. Phulpur has never been this much of a political reckoning.

    Mayawati earns her political influence from her standing among Dalits, in particular the subset of Jatavs, blocs of whom moved in the last national and state election towards the BJP. The SP's strength is the support of the Yadavs and other backward castes. Both parties hope to appeal to the Muslims, who form 15% of the population in Phulpur.

    "Dalits and backward castes are old allies and this should have happened much earlier. Our fight is the same and that's why the leadership has got together and that is how we are moving forward," said Abhishek Yadav, who is a local leader with the SP.

    In the state election, the BJP won about 40% of the vote share. The SP fought the contest with the Congress; had Mayawati joined them, their combined vote share would have been 43%. A success in Phulpur could lead to a dramatic infusion of momentum and capital for plans of a combined 17-party front to take on the BJP.

    In a country teeming with first-time voters, older inhabitants recall that Mayawati's 1990s collaboration with the SP lasted barely 18 months. Their government fell, and she returned as Chief Minister with the BJP as her new partner. Raj Bahaur, a farmer at a rally for the SP, says history cannot be ignored. "They were together earlier too, but I guess they couldn't sustain it. This time I think they will stick together because they realise that that's the only way to get to power," he observed.

    Phulpur has other claims to recent fame - it was represented in parliament by Keshav Maurya till he was named Yogi Adityanath's deputy. The man who hopes to replace him in the Lok Sabha is Kaushalendra Patel, a former mayor of Varanasi, the PM's constituency.

    Keshav Maurya tells voters at a large rally that Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati have slim-to-none chances of being able to make their relationship last. "Put the elephant in your cycle. Let's see what happens," he says, referring to the party symbols of his rivals and concluding that they will collapse under the weight of their egos.

    Till the results are declared, the winner in some ways is Akhilesh Yadav who managed to persuade Mayawati to team up with him without using the Congress as a liaison. Spurned, the Congress has decided to put up its own candidate though it could mean splitting the anti-BJP vote.

    However, it is a man jailed on charges that include assault and murder who could really serve as spoiler. Atique Ahmed, a former MP, could cut into the Muslim vote in Phulpur. His son, a teen law student named Umar, is campaigning on his behalf.

    "A secular mafia is a lakh times better than a communal government," he tells voters.

    SP and BSP workers hold that Atique Ahmed, running as an independent, is being tacitly propped up by the BJP.

    Phulpur is rich now with plot and conspiracy as a fairly unstarry constituency has turned into spectacular political real estate.

President Accepts Resignation Of TDP Ministers, PM Modi To Look After Civil Aviation
  • President Ram Nath Kovind today accepted the resignations of Telugu Desam Party MPs Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pasupati and Y S Chowdary, an official spokesman said in New Delhi.

    The president, as advised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has accepted the resignation of Mr Raju and Mr Chowdary from the Union council of ministers with immediate effect, he said.

    While Mr Raju was heading the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Mr Chowdary was Minister of State for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences.

    "...the president has directed that the work of the Ministry of Civil Aviation will be looked after by the prime minister," the spokesman said.

    Under relentless opposition attack over its failure to secure special category state status for Andhra Pradesh, the state's ruling TDP pulled out of the Modi government yesterday, but kept a window open for rapprochement by deciding to remain part of the NDA.

    The two TDP ministers had met the prime minister last evening and handed over their resignation letters.

Shed Suspicion And Manage Differences To Improve Sino-Indian Ties: Chinese Foreign Minister
  • China on Thursday presented an upbeat picture of its ties with India and said that both countries should shed suspicion and manage differences by meeting half way, toning down its tough posture against New Delhi after the tense Doklam standoff.

    As China's political picture is set for a major change this week with its Parliament expected to ratify the proposal to remove term limits for President Xi Jinping, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi addressed over a two-hour-long press conference outlining Beijing's foreign policy perspectives in what is called a "new era".

    Last year, Mr Wang skirted to take a question on ties with India amid growing discord over a host issues including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China blocking efforts at the UN to list Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist as well as India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Later in the two militaries were locked in the 73-day standoff at Doklam, the longest in recent years.

    Mr Wang, who is widely expected to be promoted as State Councillor, a top diplomatic position, took a question on India today in the carefully choreographed media event telecast live on the sidelines of the annual session of legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC).

    Asked how China views relations with India this year after turbulence in ties in 2017 due to a number of issues including the Doklam standoff, Mr Wang sought to strike a chord with India, calling for both the countries to shed confrontationist stance on issues of differences.

    "The Chinese dragon and Indian elephant must not fight each other but dance with each other," he said, adding "if China and India are united, one plus one is not equal to two but eleven".

    "Despite some tests and difficulties, the China-India relationship continues to grow," Mr Wang said.

    In an apparent reference to concerns in India over forays being made by Beijing in India's close neighbourhood, Mr Wang said, "China is upholding its rights and legitimate interests and taking care to preserve its relationship with India".

    "Chinese and Indian leaders have developed a strategic vision for the future of our relations," he said.

    "The international situation is experiencing its biggest change in a century....China and India must do everything to emphasise this and support each other and avoid mutual suspicion and attrition," he said.

    "Mutual trust is the most precious commodity in China-India relations. With political trust, not even the Himalayas can stop us from friendly exchanges. Without it not even levelled land can bring us together," he said.

    He also sought to convey a message to people of India in general to improve China's image.

    "A shared understanding far outstrips our differences. Our common interests far outweigh our frictions. China is willing and ready to inherit and take foreword our traditional friendship and be a friend and partner of Indian people," he said.

    "I hope the two sides will be free from mental inhibitions and meet each other halfway. Let us replace suspicion with trust, manage differences with dialogue and build a future with cooperation," he said.

    Beijing is also pressing New Delhi not to allow the Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama to engage in high-profile activities aimed at "splitting" Tibet from China.

    Mr Wang, however, reacted strongly to a question whether the Indo-Pacific strategy being furthered by India, the US, Japan and Australia will affect China's multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

    He said there was "no shortage of headline grabbing ideas" but they were "like the foam on the sea" that "gets attention but will soon dissipate".

    Contrary to claims made by some academics and media outlets that the strategy is aimed at containing China, the four countries have made it clear that it targets no one, Mr Wang said.

    "I hope they mean what they say," he said.

    "Let us not forget the BRI has received the support of over 100 countries. Nowadays stroking a new Cold War is out of sync with the times and inciting confrontation will find no market," he said.

    Touted as Chinese President Xi Jinping's ambitious project, the BRI focuses on improving connectivity and cooperation among Asian countries, Africa, China and Europe.

    The BRI also includes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which India opposed as it traverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

On Women's Day, Government Launches Biodegradable Sanitary Pads for Rs. 2.50
  • The government launched a biodegradable sanitary pad 'Suvidha' on Thursday to mark International Women's Day. The oxo-biodegradable sanitary pads priced at Rs. 2.50 per pad will be available at Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi centres. The sanitary pads will be available in packs of four across 3200 centres and each pack will be priced at Rs. 10. The biodegradable pad will ensure 'Swachhta, Swasthya and Suvidha' for the underprivileged women.

    Speaking at the launch, Union Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers and Parliamentary Affairs Ananth Kumar said, 'this affordable sanitary pad will promote hygiene, ease of disposal as well as keep the environment clean'. The Suvidha pads will be available at all Janaushadi centres by May 28, 2018 which is also World Menstrual Hygiene Day.

    The government is introducing the Suvidha pads at a time when there has been an increasing demand from women across the country to waive off the 12% GST on sanitary pads. For 42- year-old Santosh Devi, a domestic worker, this comes as a relief. 'The family I work with is particular about waste management. Considering, I spend ten hours a day at their place, these affordable and more importantly biodegradable pads are an added advantage', she says.

    However, International Women's day is aimed at promoting women empowerment but at the launch of sanitary pads, there was not one single woman at the podium. After the 30 minutes launch event the ministers and bureaucrats - all male stood up for the photo-op but no women, those who will benefit from this were present.

    According to National Family Health Survey- 4 (2015-2016), 62% young women in the country in the age group 15 to 24 years still use cloth for menstrual protection. NFHS- 4 revealed that 42 % young women in the country used sanitary pads while 16% used locally prepared pads. Majority of women in rural areas did not use a hygienic method of menstrual protection, indicating that only 48% of those surveyed in rural India used sanitary napkins during their menstrual cycle as against 78% in urban parts of the country.

Business Affairs

Indian Railways passengers can now transfer their train ticket to someone else
  • In a change that is sure to bring some relief to passengers, Indian Railways has now announced that it will allow passengers to transfer their confirmed ticket to another person in case they are unable to travel. Indian Railways also put down guidelines on how to transfer a confirmed ticket. "Chief Reservation Supervisor of important stations are authorised by Railway Administration to permit the change of name of a passenger having a seat or berth reserved in his name," a statement by the railways said.

    The guidelines say that a person can transfer the confirmed ticket to another family member be it the father, mother, sibling, children or spouse. The person would need to make a written request 24 hours prior the scheduled departure.

    Likewise, if the passenger is part of a marriage party then the confirmed ticket can be transferred to another person with a written request by an individual deemed to be the head of the group 24 hours before departure.

    If a government servant wants to transfer a confirmed ticket then he or she can make a written request before 24 hours of departure. In case a student of a recognised educational institute wants to transfer his or her ticket, then they will need to get the approval of the head of the institution. A written request by that authoritative figure will allow the transfer of the ticket to another student from the same institution.

    This facility has also been extended to the National Cadet Corps. A cadet or a group of cadets can get reservation ticket or tickets transferred to other cadets with a written request by any officer who is the head of such a group, 24 hours before departure.

    However, this transfer request will be granted only once. In case of marriage party, NCC cadets and students, these requests in excess of 10 per cent of the group's strength would not be granted.

Jobs for techies! Japan to recruit 2 lakh Indian IT professionals after US makes visa difficult
  • Japan, struggling with rapid technological advancement and a need for more IT assistance is opening its doors to Indian IT professionals. Executive Vice President at Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), Shigeki Maeda, said that the country is looking to bring in around 2 lakh IT professionals and issue Green Cards to them to challenge their manpower deficit. In his keynote address at the India-Japan Business Partnership Seminar, jointly organised by Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce and JETRO, Maeda said that there are around 9,20,000 IT professionals in the country and there's an immediate demand for 2,00,000 more that is likely to grow to 8,00,000 by 2030.

    Maeda said that Japan is seeking India's assistance as it is looking for "most-advanced IT technology capabilities". Japan's technological advancement at this moment requires rapid adaptation and innovation of emerging technologies. "Due to this conscientious process, there is a dearth of well-qualified and trained IT professionals to enhance its competitiveness, particularly, in the areas of life-science, finance, services and agriculture," Maeda said as mentioned in a report by The Economic Times.

    According to reports, the Japanese government is also looking primarily at Hyderabad for collaboration. He also admitted that although Hyderabad is not as popular as Bengaluru in Japan, they are aware that it is the Mecca of the IT industry and that a lot of American companies also have centres there.

    Maeda mentioned that India can bridge their gap and that almost every sector from healthcare, agriculture to research and development are facing a manpower crunch in their country. He also said that Indians are keen to go to the US, where the competition is tough, but life is much easier in Japan.

    The Executive Vice President further added that the Japanese government would be issuing Green Cards for the highly-skilled professionals. These professionals would get permanent resident status in almost a year, making it one of the fastest residence approvals in the world. Moreover, Japan has eased the rules for visa issuance to Indian citizens with effect from January 1, 2018. Indians also do not have to produce their employment certificate and letters of explanation for multiple entries to Japan. The number of documents required has been brought down to three, while if the person has travelled to Japan twice in a year, he or she can produce just the passport and the visa application form.  

    This announcement comes at a time when US has tightened its H-1B visa rules, asking companies to prove that the employee has specific and non-qualifying speculative assignments at a third-party site. Moreover, the visa would be issued only for the period of work at that third-party site, unlike the erstwhile three-year period.

Delay in GST refunds to exporters: Small businesses struggle for working capital
  • The delay in exporters' refund under the Goods and Services tax (GST) is becoming a serious problem with around Rs 10,000 crore stuck with the government, making many exporters, especially the smaller ones, struggle for working capital. According to figures stated by government officials, out of Rs 14,000 crore, only Rs 4,000 crore, or less than 30 per cent, has been refunded so far. So, what is causing the delay in refunds?

    There are problems both at the GST authority's level and at the level of taxpayers. A part of the delay is caused by slow roll-out of the GST returns process. Duty on exports is collected automatically by customs agents at the border; exporters must claim refund of the excess GST paid. "The earlier system, where you file returns and refunds would come automatically, is not working so far," says Anita Rastogi, Partner, GST and Indirect Taxes, PricewaterhouseCoopers India.

    "A part of the slow deployment of the overall GST returns process has been due to non-availability of refund module (RFD-01) on the GST common portal, making the standard process for refund claims not possible," William Rau , Senior Director - Engineering, Avalara, a technology company that focuses on GST compliance automation. However, the biggest cause of the delay, experts say, is the error in filings. "The refunds are being stopped for even a mistake in putting a full stop. If there is mistake even due to rounding off of figures, the system would not allow refunds," says Rajat Mohan, Partner, AMRG and Associates Chartered Accountants.

    According to the GST rules, a shipping bill filed by an exporter should be deemed to be an application for refund once both GSTR-1 and GSTR-3B are filed correctly. The reconciling of shipping bills with that of GSTR 1 and GSTR 3B is must for getting refunds. But filers are making a lot of mistake at this stage. Acknowledging the gravity of the situation, the Central Board Excise and Customs (CBEC), the department that administers the indirect tax rules including customs duties, has come out with an "alternative mechanism to give exporters an opportunity to rectify such errors committed in the initial stages".

    In a circular issued by the Central Board of Excise and Customs, the department envisages "an officer interface on the Customs' Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) System through which a customs officer can verify the information furnished in the GSTN and Customs EDI system, and sanction refund in those cases where invoice details provided in GSTR 1 are correct through the details provided in the shipping bill were at variance." The circular, issued in the February last week, is yet to be implemented. Some tax experts are saying the system has been tested in some locations. It is to be seen if there would be any improvement in the situation after the CBEC circular.

    Some experts are saying the government is only talking about the delay in refunds (to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore) in the cases where taxes have been paid, but no one is talking about the delay in getting input credits to exporters where taxes have not been paid. This amount is said to be another Rs 10,000 crore, which also remains unpaid. Under the GST, exports are zero-rated, which means even though no GST would be levied on the goods and services meant for exports, the exporter could claim credit for taxes paid on inputs. Exporters can choose either to export under bond/ Letter of Undertaking without the payment of tax and claim the refund of Input Tax Credit, or Pay IGST after setting-off ITC and claim the refund of the tax paid.

Sensex closes 43 points lower, Nifty at 10,226 level amid rangebound trade
  • The BSE Sensex finished 43 points lower at 33,307.14 today after a bout of fag-end selling wiped out early gains. Metal stocks came under heavy selling pressure after US President Donald Trump signed two proclamations that imposed tariffs on some steel and aluminium imports, sparking fears of retaliatory moves by other countries.

    The 30-share index, which remained in the positive zone for the major part of the session, hit a high of 33,519.49 but succumbed to a late sell-off to end at 33,307.14, down 44.43 points, or 0.13 per cent.

    The broad-based NSE Nifty, after shuttling between 10,296.70 and 10,211.90, finally ended 15.80 points, or 0.15 per cent down at 10,226.85.

    Meanwhile, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) sold shares worth Rs 364.80 crore on net basis while domestic institutional investors (DIIs) bought shares worth Rs 675.26 crore yesterday, provisional data showed.

Diu becomes India's first fully solar-powered Union Territory
  • Leading the way for the entire country, Diu becomes the first destination to be fully run by solar power. The Union Territory has made such significant progress in the last three years that now Diu produces more than 100 per cent solar power. Diu, which has a geographical area of 42 sq km, has installed solar power plants across 50 acres of its land.

    As mentioned in a report by Times of India, the UT generates total 13 MW of electricity from its solar power facilities, out of which 3 MW is generated from rooftop plants, while 10 MW is generated from the rest of the facilities.

    Milind Ingle, Executive Engineer, Daman and Diu Electricity Department, said that the Union Territory was solely dependent on Gujarat for its water and electricity, so the administration decided to put up power plants to overcome this restriction.

    Moreover, when electricity from Gujarat's power grids was served to Diu, it suffered a huge line loss. Once the solar facilities started generation of electricity, Diu's electricity loss was reduced marginally.

    Ingle also added that Diu, with a population of 56,000, has a peak time demand of 7 MW but they generate about 10.5 MW of electricity daily.

    Another benefit of solar energy is cost-cutting. Ingle said that after solar power, the monthly charges have been brought down by 12 per cent. Earlier, 0-50 unit charge was Rs 1.20 per unit, while it was Rs 1.50 for 50-100 unit. But once solar power started generating, the Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission for Goa and Union Territories removed the 0-50 unit slab entirely. Now, the 0-100 unit costs Rs 1.01 per unit.

General Awareness

Women related issues.
Women Entrepreneurship Platform

  • Context: NITI Aayog has launched the Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP), on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

    About the Women Entrepreneurship Platform:

    Aim: The initiative is aimed at building an ecosystem for women across India to realize their entrepreneurial aspirations, scale-up innovative initiatives and chalk-out sustainable, long-term strategies for their businesses. This will be done through an enabling network of industry collaborations, partnerships, mentors and peer-to-peer connect.

    What it does? From providing unique services such as credit evaluation of women-led startups by CRISIL and potential equity investments through an INR 10 crore fund established by DICE Districts, the WEP opens up avenues of growth and opportunity for women entrepreneurs.


    According to Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, India scored an overall 41.7 points, ranking 49 among 54 economies globally with comparatively low in Women Business Ownership percentages.

    Need for economic empowerment of women:

    Economically empowered women are major catalysts for development. There is greater recognition of the positive relationship between increased economic activity by women and improved social outcomes. Women often tend to reinvest their income in their children’s education, health and nutrition. This has a positive impact on the potential for economic growth.


    India presents lower opportunities for women to assume leadership roles, participation in the workforce or engagement in entrepreneurial activities. Lack of education, technological know-how and cultural bias coupled with stringent business and government regulations are some key impediments that happen to undermine women’s ability to rise to positions of leadership and take advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities in India.

    Way ahead:

    Women entrepreneurs have been carving out a niche for them across the globe, including India especially in niche and unconventional businesses. However, there is significant potential to harness the untapped potential of women’s entrepreneurship in India.

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