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Current Affairs - 06 June 2018

General Affairs 

Maharashtra To Be 100 Per Cent Plastic-Free In One Year: Minister
  • Maharashtra will be totally free of plastic in the the next one year, said Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam today as he listed the ill-effects of using the material.

    On March 23, the BJP-led government imposed a ban on a slew of plastic products in the state. It had issued a notification, baning manufacture, use, sale, distribution and storage of plastic materials such as one-time-use bags, spoons, plates, PET and PETE bottles and also thermocol items.

    "This is not the first time that plastic has been banned (in Maharashtra). Plastic below 50 microns (thickness) was first banned by the government in 2006 but it was not properly implemented.

    "Over 1,200 tonnes of plastic waste is created every day, but we don't know how much of it is recycled," Mr Kadam said.

    He was speaking at a plastic recycling initiative,

    "Bottles for Change", launched by leading mineral water brand Bisleri on the occasion of the World Environment Day.

    Mr Kadam claimed 80 per cent of banned plastic items are being smuggled into the state from neighbouring Gujarat and only 20 per cent of them are manufactured in Maharashtra.

    "Irresponsible usage of plastic has led to environmental degradation, climate change. When plastic is burnt, it creates sulphur fumes which are carcinogenic. It is highly possible that the fish we consume have traces of plastic in them," Mr Kadam said.

    He said private companies periodically show him presentations on how they intend to recycle plastic, but he remains unconvinced with their arguments. "The day they come and tell me this is what they have (actually) done, then I will be satisfied," he said.

    "We have come to know that there are about 120 bottled water selling companies in Vasai-Nallasopara areas (on Mumbai outskirts) that are operating illegally. They need to be shut immediately," the minister said.

    "I will not let people die of cancer, animals suffer nor let the environment to be degraded further. Maharashtra will be 100 per cent plastic-free in one year," Mr Kadam said.

    Industries Minister Subhash Desai, who was also present at the event, said disposal of plastic products should be made the responsibility of their manufacturers.

    "We all point towards plastic and term it as the culprit. However, we are the real culprits for not disposing plastic off properly. We are the pollutants," Mr Desai said.

    Companies should make plastic disposal an inseparable part of their business, Mr Desai added.

On Unprovoked Attacks During Ramzan, Defence Minister's Message To Pak
  • Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today categorically said India will honour the Ramzan ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir but will respond to any unprovoked attack.

    "When it is an unprovoked attack, the army was given the right to retaliate... We honour the ceasefire but a margin was given to us when there is an unprovoked attack," Ms Sitharaman said at a function to mark her ministry's achievements in Delhi today.

    Amid repeated terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan at the border, the government had announced that the security forces will desist from anti-terror operations in Jammu and Kashmir.

    Last month, data collated by the home ministry, however, showed that the number of terror attacks in the Valley has been on the rise and civilians have been facing the brunt of it. While four incidents of terrorist violence were reported in the valley a week before the initiative was announced on May 16, the number rose to 13 a week after.

    Over the last four days, 10 attacks have taken place in the Valley. In the last one, which took place yesterday, 14 civilians and two police officers were injured. Terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

    The defence minister said it was not her ministry's role to "assess whether ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir has been successful or not".

    But she made it clear that unprovoked attacks even at the border will not go unpunished. "It is our business to guard the border and we won't stop if we're provoked. We shall be alert that no unprovoked attack goes without us responding. It's our duty to keep India safe," she said.

Supreme Court Allows Centre To Go Ahead With Reservation In Promotion
  • The Supreme Court today gave the go-ahead to the Centre for providing reservation in promotion in government jobs for employees belonging to the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) category in "accordance with law".

    In a relief to the Centre, the top court gave the order after taking into account the government's submissions that the entire promotion process has come to a "standstill" due to the orders passed by various high courts and also direction by the top court for "status quo" in a similar matter in 2015.

    A vacation bench comprising Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Ashok Bhushan said the Centre was not "debarred" from making promotions in accordance with law in the matter subject to further orders.

    "It is made clear that the Union of India is not debarred from making promotions in accordance with law, subject to further orders, pending further consideration of the matter," it said.

    Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) president Ram Vilas Paswan welcomed the court order, saying it will re-open the doors to the members of the SC and ST communities for promotion in government jobs.

    The government said there were separate verdicts by the high courts of Delhi, Bombay and Punjab and Haryana on the issue of reservation in promotion to SC/ST employees and the top court had also passed different orders on appeals filed against those judgements.

    "We will say you (Centre) can go ahead with promotion in accordance with law," the bench told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh, representing the Centre.

    During the hearing, the ASG cited the case laws on the issue of quota in promotion in government jobs and stated that the supreme court's 2006 judgement in M Nagaraj case would be applicable.

    The M Nagaraj verdict had said that creamy layer concept cannot be applied to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for promotions in government jobs like two earlier verdicts of 1992 Indra Sawhney and others versus Union of India (popularly called Mandal Commission verdict) and 2005 E V Chinnaiah versus State of Andhra Pradesh, which dealt with creamy layer in Other Backward Classes category.

    Mr Singh said the petition before the bench was the Centre's challenge to the Delhi High Court's August 23 last year verdict quashing government's order extending reservation in promotion to employees belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes beyond five years from November 16, 1992.

    At the outset, the ASG referred to orders passed by the apex court earlier, including a reference made to a five-judge constitution bench, and contended that one of the orders says there would be "status quo" as far as reservation in promotion to SC/SC employees was concerned.

    He referred to a May 17 order passed by a bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph in a similar matter in which it was said that pendency of petition before it shall not stand in the way of the Centre taking steps for the purpose of promotion.

    "How the promotion is taking place as of now?," the bench asked.    Responding to the query, the ASG said, "They are not. It is all standstill. This is the problem".

    "I am the government and I want to give promotion as per constitutional mandate," he told the bench and urged that he was seeking a similar order as passed on May 17.

    He said that another bench of the top court had earlier said that a five-judge constitution bench would examine the issue as to whether the M Nagaraj judgement, which dealt with the issue of application of the 'creamy layer' for reservation to SC and ST categories in promotion in government jobs, was required to be re-looked at or not.    He also referred to Article 16 (4A) of the Constitution, which enables state to provide for reservation in matters of promotion to SC/ST which in its opinion were not adequately represented in the services.

    "That is the enabling provision," the bench observed.

    It said that as per Article 16 (4A), state would have to make out a case for providing reservation in promotion to SC/ST based on quantifiable data.

    The provision also says that the data should be based on factors like backwardness, inadequacy of representation and overall efficiency.

    Earlier on November 15 last year, a three-judge bench of the top court had agreed to consider whether its 11-year-old judgement in M Nagaraj case was needed to be re-visited.

    The top court had referred the matter to a constitution bench while it was hearing a batch of petition which arose from a Bombay High Court verdict quashing two state government notifications terming them as ultra vires to Article 16(4A) of the Constitution.

    The Delhi High Court, in its August 23 last year verdict, had set aside an August 1997 office memorandum issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on the issue of reservation in promotion to the employees belonging to SC/ST.

To Inspire Opposition Unity in 2019, Sharad Pawar Invokes Congress Defeat In 1977
  • Sharad Pawar, the chief of Nationalist Congress Party, today said the current political environment is similar to 1977, when a united opposition took on the might of a single party - the Congress. The 77-year-old veteran political leader is one of the key interlocutors between the opposition parties that are trying to come together to foil the BJP's bid for a second term in power.

    "In 1977, the downfall of one party started, and at one point, the government collapsed. A similar situation can be a possibility now if the opposition comes together," Mr Pawar told reporters, without naming the Congress. After the nearly two-year-long emergency, the ruling Congress was trounced in the general election by the Morarji Desai-led coalition, which remained in power till 1980.

    The NCP chief's comments came days after a shot in the arm for the united opposition -- the BJP's defeat in the by-elections in Kairana, Uttar Pradesh.

    Extending the formula that won the crucial by-polls of Gorakhpur and Phulpur -- the constituencies of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Maurya -- the Samajwadi Party,  Mayawati and the Congress had come together to support the candidate of Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal.

    The victory had spinoffs in Noorpur, the assembly constituency in Uttar Pradesh, which was won by the Samajwadi Party, and in Bihar, where Lalu Yadav's RJD won the Jokihat assembly seat.
    The idea of a united opposition received boost at the oath ceremony of HD Kumaraswamy last month, as leaders of more than a dozen opposition parties got together in a huge show of strength.

    The Congress and the JDS had come together in Karnataka in a last minute twist to keep the BJP out of power. In an unexpected move, the national party had chosen to play second fiddle to the regional partner - holding out hope for a new power equation for regional parties.

Government Working To Free Housing Sector Of Corruption: PM Modi
  • The government has been working to free the housing sector of corruption and middlemen to ensure people get their own houses without hassle, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today.

    He also said that use of latest technology is ensuring faster building of houses for the poor in rural and urban areas at affordable cost.

    "We have been working to free the housing sector from middlemen, corruption and ensuring that the beneficiaries get their own home without hassles," PM Modi said while addressing beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY) through video conference.

    He also said the housing sector is being invigorated with the latest technology. "This is enabling faster construction of affordable houses for the poor in towns and villages," the prime minister said.

    PM Modi said the focus is to ensure more women, 'divyang' (differently abled) , people from SC, ST, OBC and minority communities get access to housing.

    "PMAY is linked with dignity of our citizens. Due to PMAY, there are employment opportunities being created for the people. At the same time, we are working on skill development to enable faster and better quality construction of the houses," he said.

Business Affairs

Farmers protests make fresh fruits, vegetables expensive; restaurants may also increase prices
  • It's Day 5 of the ongoing nationwide agitation by farmers, and if its runs the planned course till June 10, not only is the supply and price situation of fresh produce likely to worsen but there may also be spill-over effects on dining out.According to The Economic Times, ecommerce firms like BigBasket and Grofers have managed to so far keep prices in check because of pre-arranged supplies but that may not last much longer. "We have a farmer connect and so are able to maintain and control prices. But if prices go up, we may have no choice but to react accordingly," BigBasket's fruits and vegetables head Vipul Mittal told the daily, adding that the etailer may look at sourcing from other states.

    The agitation has reportedly already caused vegetable prices to spike by 10-15 per cent in a handful of cities in North India, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh - jumping 20-30 per cent in certain pockets in Jaipur and Indore - and supplies to the National Capital Region is expected to be hit from tomorrow onwards, which is inversely linked to prices.

    The report added that if prices of produce continue to rise, then restaurants, too, may start rethinking their prices and/or portion sizes. And that would be bad news for the casual dining sector that has already taken a hit to profitability in the past year courtesy the scrapping of Input Tax Credit and climbing real estate rents. "Any volatility in prices doesn't change the menus overnight. But if it persists, then restaurants have to mitigate it by adjusting menu prices," National Restaurant Association of India's President Rahul Singh told the daily.

    Several farmers' organisations have jointly called the 10-day protest across 22 states in the country demanding remunerative prices for their produce, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations and farm loan waivers, among others. They have stopped the supply of vegetables, fruits, milk and other items to various cities. Farmers in Punjab and Haryana have even been dumping their produce on roads as a mark of protest.

    While farmers in Punjab have reportedly decided to call off their stir on June 6 and resume supplying vegetables and milk to the cities, the agitation is expected to run the course in other states.

Vedanta takes control of Electrosteel Steels even as petition challenging eligibility awaits NCLAT hearing
  • Vedanta has moved on to the next step in the acquisition drama over Electrosteel Steels Ltd (ESL) by setting up a new board of directors, even as a petition challenging its eligibility to bid for the same is pending before the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal.

    "Pursuant to the order dated May 30, 2018, of National Company Law Appellate Tribunal, Vedanta Limited is implementing the approved Resolution Plan for Electrosteel Steels Limited (ESL)," the Anil Agarwal company said in a recent filing to BSE, adding that "Vedanta Star Limited ('VSL'), a wholly-owned subsidiary of our company, has deposited the upfront amount of Rs 5,320 crore in escrow account of ESL and June 4, 2018 has been determined to be the 'Effective Date' under the Resolution Plan."

    In a separate regulatory filing, Vedanta stated that "all requisite approvals like approval from the National Company Law Tribunal and the Competition Commission of India have been received" so it has taken management control of ESL and "initiated implementation of the Resolution Plan". Vedanta now holds 90 per cent of the paid up capital of ESL.

    According to Vedanta, the ESL acquisition will "complement the company's existing iron ore business as the vertical integration of steel manufacturing capabilities has the potential to generate significant efficiencies". With a current capacity of 1.5 million tonnes per annual (MTPA) - and a potential to increase the capacity to 2.5 MTPA - ESL's manufacturing facilities near Bokaro, Jharkhand is located close to Vedanta's iron ore mines in the region. So it is a neat fit, not to mention a profitable purchase. The plan is to invest in ESL through a combination of equity of Rs 1,765 crore and inter-corporate loan of Rs 3,555 crore.

    According to The Economic Times, Vedanta has nominated Rashmi Mohanty, PK Mukherjee (former Sesa Goa MD) and Naveen Singhal, present CEO of Vedanta Sesa Goa Iron Ore, as its nominee directors on the reconstituted board of ESL.

    All this, however, hinges on the outcome of the challenge posed by Renaissance Steel, whose bid was earlier rejected by ESL's committee of creditors. Renaissance Steel has challenged Vedanta's eligibility to bid for ESL under Section 29 A of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, which bars applicants that have "been convicted for any offence punishable with imprisonment for two years or more". It had claimed that Vedanta Resources Plc, holding company of Vedanta, had pleaded guilty to charges against its Konkola Copper Mines for violating violated pollution norms in Zambia back in 2010.

    The NCLAT bench that passed the above order allowing Vedanta to move in on ESL had also made it clear that the upfront payment was subject to the outcome of Renaissance Steel's petition. If the latter wins the case, then ESL's CoC will have to return the money to Vedanta. Assuming that Vedanta emerges victorious, ESL poses the second successful resolution under the IBC from the first 12 large stressed assets identified by the RBI last year.

Trains may not serve soups, sandwiches, butter; Railways to cut down on quantity to offer quality food
  • Over the past couple of months reports about complaints against the substandard food served on trains have frequently emerged. Moreover, after the government auditor rebuked the railways' catering arm, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) for the same last year, Indian Railways has now drawn up measures to fix this problem. First off, Indian Railways is now stressing on quality over quantity, which means some of the popular items might be taken off the plate. The IRCTC has drawn up a proposal to remove popular items like soup, breadsticks, butter and sandwiches off the platter. This change will first reflect on premium trains like Rajdhani and Shatabdi. Removing these items will free up 150 g in terms of weight from each plate. Moreover, passengers may be offered vegetarian or non-vegetarian rice combos instead of full meals.

    This move has come after a panel of catering experts said that the platter is over-laden. A normal Indian diet comprises 750 g, whereas the meal platters served were of 900 g. Moreover, the full cost of the meal is around Rs 150, while the IRCTC gets only Rs 112 per plate, therefore pushing it towards considerable loss. As mentioned in a report in The Economic Times, a railways official said that maintaining quality has become a problem because of the quantity of these meals. Once these measures are implemented, the quality of food could be maintained.

    In its proposal IRCTC has also mentioned that it could cut down on the dal from the 150 g currently served to 100 g. It could also provide dry vegetables and 120 g of gravy with boneless chicken pieces instead of chicken pieces.

    The proposal has been sent to the Railway Board and once the new measures are introduced, it will be implemented on 27 Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains initially. Additionally, IRCTC has also proposed the usage of packaged disposable plates instead of plastic trays to maintain hygiene standards.

    In 2017, a Comptroller and Auditor General report said that the food served on trains were not upto the standard. Not only were the food less it quantity, the quality was also questionable making it "unsuitable for human consumption". "Deficiencies in respect of quality of food served were noticed. Articles unsuitable for human consumption, contaminated foodstuff, recycled foodstuffs, shelf life expired packaged and bottled items, unauthorized brands of water bottles, etc., were offered for sale on station," the report said.

Sensex tumbles 215 pts, Nifty closes at 10,628 level as banking, consumer durables stocks sink
  • The Sensex skidded over 215 points as nervous investors took money off the table amid speculation that the RBI may go for a rate hike this week. Rate sensitives led the decline, with the BSE Realty index emerging as the worst performer among sectoral indices by slumping 3.25 per cent. Banking, financials, consumer durables and capital goods tumbled up to 1.83 per cent. The RBI's Monetary Policy Committee began its three-day meeting today amid speculation that it may hike the key interest rate on June 6 for the first time in over four years due to firming inflation.

    The Sensex, which opened on a strong footing amid positive global leads and hit a high of 35,555, soon slipped into the negative zone on massive selling in several heavyweights. It finally ended at 35,011.89, down 215.37 points or 0.61 per cent.

    The broader NSE Nifty too ended lower by 67 points, or 0.63 per cent, at 10,628, after hovering between 10,770 and 10,618. Meanwhile, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) offloaded shares worth a net Rs 202.80 crore, while domestic institutional investors (DIIs) bought equities to the tune of Rs 337.97 crore on Friday, as per provisional data.

    "Market erased early gains despite positive momentum in the global market as investors are gradually factoring a rate hike ahead of RBI's monetary policy. As the result season is over, market participants are keen on macros, the movement of oil price and rupee... On the other hand, the tailwinds caused by prognosis of good monsoon and uptick in economic activity in Q4FY18 will boost consumption led story and rural economy," said Vinod Nair, Head of Research, Geojit Financial Services.

    HDFC Bank was the top loser in the Sensex pack, falling 2.99 per cent, followed by Adani Ports at 2.87 per cent.

    Other laggards included Bharti Airtel 2.77 per cent, Power Grid 2.06 per cent, HUL 1.73 per cent, ONGC 1.71 per cent, NTPC 1.43 per cent, SBI 1.37 per cent, Asian Paints 1.20 per cent, ICICI Bank 1.14 per cent and Kotak Bank 1.13 per cent.

    Bucking the trend, Dr Reddy's topped the gainers list by spurting 2.86 per cent, followed by Infosys, M&M, Tata Steel, RIL, TCS and Yes Bank.

    Among the BSE sectoral indices, realty fell 3.25 per cent, power 2.32 per cent, telecom 1.95 per cent, consumer durables,1.83 per cent, utilities 1.66 per cent, finance 1.50 per cent, bankex 1.42 per cent, infrastructure 1.35 per cent, capital goods 1.26, PSU 1.17 per cent, FMCG 1.14 per cent, healthcare 0.46 per cent and auto 0.37 per cent.

    IT, teck and metal indices ended higher, rising up to 0.42 per cent.

    The broader markets too were under pressure, with the BSE small-cap index losing 2.09 per cent, while the mid-cap index finished 0.82 per cent down.

    Globally, other Asian markets ended in a better shape. Japan's Nikkei rose 1.37 per cent higher, Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 1.66 per cent and Shanghai Composite Index finished 0.52 per cent higher.

    European markets too saw a firm trend. Paris CAC rose 0.36 per cent and Frankfurt's DAX gained 0.24 per cent. London's FTSE too rose 0.73 per cent in late morning deals.

Shortage of talent most at senior management level in companies, finds study
  • Around 40 per cent of the companies have a shortage of talent at the senior management level, a study has found. Also, technology and sales roles are hard to fill, according to Aon's 2017 talent acquisition study. Around 68 per cent of the employees are hired through online job portals, while 61 per cent through external recruitment consultants, reveals the study. Total 557 professionals took part in the study conducted across China, India, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

    Companies with a more engaged workforce consistently outperform their competitors, the study said. Since different people want different things from their work -- reward, recognition and career progression, or independence, personal growth and work-life balance -- if companies understand what drives their employees, they can strive to give them what they want. In return, these companies will achieve high performance as their employees will be fully engaged at work, says the study.

    The study reveals 80 per cent of organizations with over 500 employees have a dedicated talent acquisition team but certain challeneges like developing the ability to respond rapidly to the changing needs in the market, achieving greater efficiency and plugging critical skills gaps by recruiting and retaining the right people still remain hurdles in achieving the desired goals.

    According to the study, larger organisations are more concerned about operational metrics such as 'time to fill', 'cost per hire' and the 'application to hire ratio', while smaller firms are more likely to measure 'early attrition' and 'the percentage of positions filled through each channel'.

    The report presents eight insights, including understanding talent gaps, building your brand, strategically sourcing your new employees, etc, which can help talent hiring professionals meet their core challenges.

    So how can companies build a brand of talented professionals? The study says the first step when hiring talented employees is to know what you're looking for, by conducting a detailed job analysis. This will provide a blueprint of requirements. "Identifying the attributes that differentiate top performers, from average performers, in a role can help you to create a success profile for that position," says the study, adding that 62 per cent of the organisations included in the study don't measure the effectiveness of their employer branding.

    It reveals employers who use technology-enabled assessment are the most likely to build their employer brand. It also found that the most cost effective channels for sourcing potential job candidates are employee referrals, online job portals and the organization's own careers webpage. Online job portals and external recruitment consultants deliver the highest ratio -- 68 per cent and 61 per cent -- of candidates who are hired.

    The study also found that only 50 per cent of the participants are satisfied with their talent acquisition technology, and that there's a need to provide a positive candidate experience throughout their recruitment process. "About 80 per cent claim to be satisfied with the quality of the candidate experience delivered by their organisation. Yet, surprisingly, 43 per cent of organizations do not capture candidate feedback after the selection stage. 39 per cent only capture feedback from candidates who are hired; only 18 per cent attempt to capture feedback from every candidate," says the study.

    Besides, only 22 per cent of organizations are utilizing technology-enabled assessments as budget constraints and cost concerns are cited as the main reasons for this. Only 39 per cent of participants were convinced that AI-based sourcing and interviews will be the 'next big thing' in recruitment.

    General Awareness

    Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (IRWA)
    • Context: Based on the observations made by Parliamentary Standing Committee and recommendation made by the National Commission for Women on the basis of consultation with civil society groups and likeminded individuals, WCD has proposed amendments in IRWA keeping in mind the recent technological advancement in the field of communications such as social media platforms, over the top services etc.

      Reforms proposed:

      Amendment in definition of term advertisement to include digital form or electronic form or hoardings, or through SMS, MMS etc.
      Amendment in definition of distribution to include publication, license or uploading using computer resource, or communication device or in.
      Insertion of a new definition to define the term publish.
      Amendment in section 4 to include that No person shall publish or distribute or cause to be published or cause to be distributed by any means any material which contains indecent representation of women in any form:
      Penalty similar to that provided under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

      Creation of new authority:

      Creation of a Centralised Authority under the aegis of National Commission of Women (NCW). This Authority will be headed by Member Secretary, NCW, having representatives from Advertising Standards Council of India, Press Council of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and one member having experience of working on women issues.
      This Centralised Authority will be authorized to receive complaints or grievances regarding any programme or advertisement broadcasted or publication and investigate/ examine all matters relating to the indecent representation of women.

      What necessitated this?

      Reforms have been proposed keeping in mind the recent technological advancements. The need was felt to widen the scope of the law so as to cover such forms of media on one hand and to strengthen the existing safeguards to prevent indecent representation of women through any media form on the other. Hence, the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2012 was introduced in Rajya Sabha December, 2012 which referred the Bill to Department related Parliament Standing Committee for consideration.

      What’s important?

      For Prelims: Salient provisions of IRWA and the amendments proposed.
      For Mains: Indecent representation of women- concerns, challenges and solutions.

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