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Current Affairs - 08 July 2018

General Affairs 

Shiv Sena Attacks BJP Over Water-Logging In Nagpur After Heavy Rains
  • The Shiv Sena today attacked its estranged ally, the BJP, after nine hours of rain in Nagpur led to extensive water-logging in the city and disrupted proceedings of the Maharashtra Assembly.

    The Shiv Sena, which rules the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), alleged that those who raise a hue and cry every time Mumbai is flooded due to rains were nowhere to be seen now that Nagpur faced the same situation.

    The regional party's attack came after it was targeted by the BJP last month over water-logging in several parts of Mumbai following heavy rains.

    The Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) is ruled by the BJP.

    A day's rain wreaked havoc in the high-profile orange city, which houses the RSS headquarters and (whose civic body) is ruled by the BJP, which is also in power at the Centre, the Shiv Sena said in an editorial in its mouthpiece 'Saamna'.

    "After first rains in June, cities like Ahmedabad and Vadodara were submerged. Delhi also witnesses the same problem every monsoon and now Nagpur has been flooded," the editorial said.

    "Where are those people now who scream that Mumbai has drowned even if there is slight water-logging in low-lying areas?" the Shiv Sena questioned.

    "Why did Nagpur drown? Who is responsible for it?" the party asked.

    The Shiv Sena said the BMC alone should not be held responsible for rain-related misery in Mumbai.

    Other state-run agencies like Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), which undertake development works like metro rail and dig roads for them, which lead to flooding, should also be held accountable, it said.

    "Such things render ineffective the preventive measures taken by municipal corporations," it added.

    "Whether disasters are natural or man-made, like the problem of garbage in Ahmednagar, the government cannot skirt its responsibility and pin the entire blame on the municipal corporation," the editorial said.

    "The government's policy should not be based upon the party which rules a municipal corporation," it added.

    According to the meteorological department, Nagpur recorded a whopping 265 mm of rainfall between 8.30 am and 5.30 pm yesterday, which led to flooding in several localities.

    The highest 24-hour rain record in Nagpur stands at 304 mm, which was registered on July 12, 1994.

    The Maharashtra Assembly could not function yesterday due to a power blackout caused by the rains. Both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council were adjourned for the day, shortly after convening.

    The power supply had been turned off after the switching centre that provides electricity to the Assembly complex was flooded. 

PM Modi's 'Bail-Gaadi' Dig At Congress On Shashi Tharoor's Day In Court
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today tore into the Congress, calling the party a "bail-gaadi" and said several of its senior leaders were out on bail. The dig, a play on the Hindi word for a bullock cart, appeared to be aimed at Congress leaders like Shashi Tharoor who received protection from arrest in the case about his wife Sunanda Pushkar's death.
    "Several leaders who are called stalwarts of the Congress and former ministers are out on bail these days," PM Modi said at a public rally in Jaipur where he pitched for the BJP's re-election in Rajasthan state polls due by the end of the year. He presented the Congress in stark contrast to the BJP, saying "We have no tolerance towards corruption. All our efforts are aimed at building a new India."

    Besides Mr Tharoor, who's anticipatory bail was converted to a regular bail by a court in Delhi today in the Sunanda Pushkar case, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi too are out on bail in the National Herald case of cheating and misappropriation.

    pm modi jaipur rally twitter 
    PM Modi addressed the rally in the presence of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.

    The Congress responded sharply. "The PM who has brought farmers back to bailgaadi in age of tractor speaks of corruption. Complaints against BJP ministers are not even inquired. When we come to power, it will be inquired (into), and they will not be on bail but in jail," Congress leader RPN Singh said.

    PM Modi also said people were well aware of the "intentions" of the Congress party and criticised it for "questioning the capabilities of the army" - an apparent reference to the surgical strike on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) in 2016.

    "It is unfortunate that political opponents also committed a sin by raising questions on the capabilities of the army. This has never happened before and the people will not forgive those who are doing this kind of politics," he said.

    Saying that BJP had the singular agenda of development, he said, "Never forget what the previous government left in Rajasthan." The Prime Minister inaugurated several infrastructure projects worth over Rs. 2,100 crore in the state today.

    PM Modi's visit is said to be a precursor to the official launch of the BJP's campaign for the Rajasthan assembly elections and came just a week after the party ended an internal tussle and picked a new state unit chief.

"We Were Shot At", Says Army After 3 Killed In Firing In Kashmir's Kulgam
  • A 16-year-old girl was among three people who died in Jammu and Kashmir's Kulgam district after security forces opened fire at stone-throwing protesters today. The army says they had to resort to controlled firing after an Area Domination Patrol unit was attacked by a crowd of nearly 500 people in the district's Hawoora area.
    The army, in a statement this evening, said the soldiers cautioned the stone throwers, who repeatedly threw petrol bombs at the patrolling party. At one point, the statement added, some unidentified terrorists also fired upon the army column which resulted in injuries to some soldiers. 

    "In response to this grave provocation and to ensure security of own troops, controlled firing was resorted to by the army which resulted in unfortunate loss of human lives. The matter is being investigated to ascertain facts on ground," the statement said. 

    Those killed were identified as Shakir Ahmad, 22, Irshad Majid, 20 and 16-year-old Andleeb - all residents of Hawoora in Kulgam.

    About 10 protesters were also injured in the clashes, two of whom received bullet injuries, news agency IANS reported. They were taken to hospital.

    Mobile internet services were suspended in of Kulgam, Anantnag, Shopian and Pulwama to curb rumours and more protests.

    Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra called a high-level meeting to discuss the deaths and summoned senior officers of the army and the police, sources said. 

    The deaths come on a day when separatists have called for a strike in Kashmir for the arrest of Asiya Andrabi, chief of the Kashmiri women's separatist group Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM) and two of her associates by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

    They also came just a day before the anniversary of the encounter in 2016 in which terrorist Burhan Wani was killed, sparking huge protests across the state.

BJP Keen To Continue Governor's Rule In Jammu and Kashmir: Ram Madhav
  • BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav today rejected reports that his party was working to form a government in Jammu and Kashmir with rebel PDP MLAs and said that it was for continuing with Governor's rule in the state in the interest of peace, governance and development.

    His comments on Twitter came after former state chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted a news report that claimed that a "big chunk of PDP MLAs are in touch with the BJP high command" and the BJP was looking to form government.

    "Contrary to Ram Madhav's assertions, the state unit of the BJP confesses to being party to the efforts to break the PDP . Power at any cost would seem to be the guiding philosophy," Mr Abdullah said, tagging the BJP leader in his tweet.

    Mr Madhav, the BJP's pointsman for the state, replied: "Not true. I will certainly check with the state unit and ensure that BJP keeps itself scrupulously out of whatever is happening in other parties in the Valley.

    "We are for continuing with the Governor's rule in the interest of peace, governance and development in the state," he said.

    The BJP had last month pulled out of the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, bringing the state under Governor's rule.

India's 'Forrest Gump' Ran For 13,750 Km, Felicitated At Wagah Border
  • Ultra-Marathon runner Samir Singh, who completed a marathon run of 13,750 km in a span of seven months and six days, was felicitated at Attari-Wagah border on Friday.
    Mr Singh began his journey on December 1 from Punjab's Wagah before running south towards Kanyakumari, from where he continued his run towards Kolkata, all the states of north-east, and the Nepal border. From the Himalayas he then reached Jammu via Srinagar.

    After registering on the government's 'Bharat Ke Veer' portal, he covered more than 22 states over the run with the motive of raising funds for the families of soldiers who died on the battlefield.

    He faced harsh weather conditions during his run, which saw the height of winter and the peak of summer. In the effort to set a new record, not only did he match his previous best - of 9,964 kms - he surpassed it by more than 3,500 kilometres.

    Who is Samir Singh?

    Born in 1972 in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, Samir Singh took up long distance running only at the age of 35 and eventually set a target of running 100 kms a day for 100 days and setting a record of having run 10,000 kms in 100 days.

    In 2017, when he was on his goal of covering a 10,000 km run, he was was dubbed "The Faith Runner" and inevitably compared to Tom Hanks' iconic character 'Forrest Gump'. During his 2017 run, he spent nearly three months running between Mumbai's slums and its business districts. He lived on clothes that were donated to him, and his daily earning was a meager Rs. 190.

    Upon completion, his 2017 run measured longer than the Great Wall of China (5,500 kms) and the distance between Mumbai and London (7,200 Kms). He ultimately fell short of the 10,000 km mark by a mere 36 kms due to health issues that confronted him at the time. His herculean effort, however, didn't go unnoticed.

    samir singh (ani)
    Samir Singh was nick-named 'The Faithful Runner' by documentary makers Vikram Bhatti and Vandana Bhatt.

    He doesn't have any sponsors but is supported by two Mumbai documentary filmmakers Vikram Bhatti and Vandana Bhatt who had spotted while he was attempting to complete the challenge. It was they who christened him as 'The Faith Runner' and even set up a Facebook page with the same name which covered his enormous challenge.

    On the run that he undertook across the country under the 'Bharat Ke Veer' portal, his endeavor was appreciated by people across the country, especially the Border Security Force, which provided him all the logistic support that he needed.

    Mr Singh has also won a couple of ultra races including Vadodra, Mumbai Ultra (12 hour run) in which he covered 121 kms in 2016 and 107 kms in 2015. He currently works as a running coach.

Business Affairs

Govt plans to provide free accident cover for Jan Dhan account holders, may announce on August 15: Report
  • The government is considering the options to provide free accident insurance to all account holders under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and double the cover for those already eligible for life and accident insurance under the scheme. According to a report in the Economic Times,  the Centre is looking at the modalities and may make an announcement on August 15. PMJDY was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15th August 2014.

    The flagship scheme was started with a target to provide universal access to banking facilities starting with basic saving bank account with an overdraft upto Rs 5000 subject to satisfactory operation in the account for six months and RuPay Debit card with inbuilt accident insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh. Till March 2018, 31.20 crore accounts were opened under the programme with  aggregate deposit balances Rs. 75,572.09 crore. Of these, 25.18 crore or 81 per cent Jan-Dhan accounts are operative.

    According to the report, about 32 crore Jan Dhan account holders have life insurance cover of Rs 30,000. Account holders with a RuPay card - about 24 crore - are also eligible for Rs 1 lakh accident insurance cover. "One option is that all PMJDY account holders will be eligible for Suraksha Bima Yojana without paying any premium," The ET quoted an official as saying.

    Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, which was launched in May 2015, provides a cover of Rs 2 lakh for accidental death or total permanent disability and Rs 1 lakh in case of permanent partial disability for an annual premium of just Rs 12. Till March this year, the number of subscribers under the Yojana was 13.41 crore. "This can be extended to all PMJDY account holders who do not have RuPay cards," the official said.

    According to the ET, the government is also looking to ease certain eligibility restrictions in PMJDY. The report said that under this scheme, account holders can claim accident insurance only if they have used their RuPay card at least once in the prior 90-day period. While the focus of the first phase of PMJDY was on opening bank accounts, the second phase was aimed at complete financial inclusion by providing micro-insurance and pension schemes.

    After launching the PMJDY, the Prime Minister himself had elaborated the benefits under the scheme. He said this was not a mere bank account, but had other benefits including an RuPay debit card, Rs 1 lakh accident insurance cover, and an additional Rs 30,000 life insurance cover for those opening bank accounts before January 26th, 2015.

Bitcoin ban: How cryptocurrency exchanges are circumventing RBI's circular
  • A day after the Reserve Bank of India's virtual currency deadline ended, some crypto-exchanges in India have announced peer-to-peer model to continue digital currency trade - which is a clear cut circumvention of the central bank's circular. The RBI had in April directed all the banks to stop dealing with individuals and businesses dealing in virtual currencies in next three months - the deadline ended on July 5. But ahead of the apex bank's deadline, some cryptocurrency exchanges such as WazirX and Koinex Loop had started working on peer-to-peer system to facilitate virtual currency trade without using normal banking channels.

    A week before the RBI's ban kicked-in, WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty revealed peer-to-peer transfer system where the people can buy and sell crypto directly with each other without any hassle. "In P2P model, the buyer and seller can deal with each other directly while WazirX acts as an escrow account for holding the cryptos during the transaction so that neither party cheats the other," he said.

    Nischal Shetty also explained how peer-to-peer method will work. He said the exchange will first connect the person looking to buy crypto for rupee with someone who's looking to sell crypto for rupee. Then the seller will have to deposit the virtual currency with the exchange. Then the buyer will have to pay rupee to the seller directly. And once the seller receives the payment and confirms to the exchange, the crypto-exchange will release the currency to the buyer.

    In a latest tweet put out on Friday, Shetty said: "WazirX P2P is coming soon. Don't worry at all. You can transfer money directly to each other and we will help with the crypto transfers and trading. India will be part of the blockchain revolution."

    Before the RBI's ban, the cryptocurrency investors were buying and selling the digital currencies through exchanges in rupee. However, after July 5, all banks and other regulated entities have stopped their services to the cryptocurrency exchanges. Banks have also started sending notifications to their customers warning against the virtual currency trade.

    In one such notification, Kotak Bank, while citing RBI's circular, said: "We here at Kotak Mahindra Bank request you not to make any transaction involving virtual currencies from your bank account. However, if done so, under regulatory guidelines, we would need to close your account without further intimation."

    In its circular dated April 6, 2018, the RBI had directed that the entities that it regulates shall not deal in virtual currencies or provide services for facilitating any person or entity in dealing with or settling virtual currencies. These services include maintaining accounts, registering, trading, settling, clearing, giving loans against virtual tokens, accepting them as collateral, opening accounts of exchanges dealing with them and transfer/receipt of money in accounts relating to purchase / sale of virtual currencies.

    The RBI and the Finance Ministry have made it clear that virtual currencies are not legal tender and such currencies have no protection. The government has not authorised any virtual currency as a medium of exchange. It has also not given license to any agency for working as exchange.

    In a statement issued last year in December, the Finance Ministry said: " Virtual currencies are not backed by government fiat. These are also not legal tender. Hence, VCs are not currencies. These are also being described as 'Coins'. There is however no physical attribute to these coins. Therefore, VC  are neither currencies nor coins."

One year of GST: It's technology that failed us, not people, says Hasmukh Adhia
  • Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia for the first time on Friday admitted that the technology failed a smooth transition from the previous indirect tax regime to the Goods and Service Tax. He was referring to Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) which was set up primarily to provide IT infrastructure and services to the Central and State governments, tax payers and other stakeholders for implementation of the GST. The Secretary, however, later clarified that it does not mean that the people who work there (at GSTN) aren't doing their job.

    Finance Secretary Adhia said: "Since we had to meet a certain deadline, we needed to hurry up the process. Somewhere, I made a reference about the technology failing us but that does not mean that the people in the GSTN failed us. Marvellous people work in the GSTN and despite their efforts, the GSTN still fails us." He was speaking at a session on 'One Year Journey of GST' organised by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

    The GST was rolled out last year on July 1. Recently, FICCI conducted a survey of enterprises on completion of one year of GST and their experience post-GST implementation. According to the survey, 59 per cent of the respondents mentioned that they were not satisfied with the capability of the GSTN portal. In fact, 96 per cent respondents felt that improvements were required in the working of the portal. Respondents of the survey pointed out issues with the robustness and volume handling capacity of the GST Portal. Problems like delayed reflection of updated data as well as payments, absence of effective mechanism to resolve issues, inability to make corrections after submission of returns in case of errors were highlighted.

    Earlier, Telangana Principal Secretary (Commercial Taxes and Excise) Somesh Kumar, too, raised certain technological glitches in the GST network that need to be resolved. He said: ''Though there are issues and concerns like invoice- matching which was one of the highlights of GST, the GST network has not been able to provide this facility. We also want to do lot of data analytics in Telangana but we do not get the full data as we would like from the GSTN." Somesh Kumar further said that "if there is any criticism of GST it is not on GST per se, it is on GSTN network, and its inability to respond to various problems".

    The business community and opposition parties have been raising these technological issues for a very long time. But this is the first time when senior government officials are coming out and admitting them on record. Ahead of the GST roll-out, some political parties such as Congress and All India Trinamool Congress urged the government to defer the GST launch. TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a Facebook post said: "After demonetisation, this unnecessary disastrous hurry is another epic blunder of the Centre. We have been for GST from the beginning but are very worried now with the way the Central Government is going ahead with the implementation."

    The oppositions' fear was justified as weeks before the GST deadline, Infosys had informed the Finance Ministry that they would not be in a position to put the computer programme necessary for the GSTN by July 1 therefore, it won't be rolled out. However, the government still went ahead with the scheduled launch.  

UK launches new visas open to Indian scientists, academics
  • The United Kingdom has launched new visas that will be open to overseas scientists and researchers, including Indians, to encourage the growth of the country's research sector.

    The new UKRI Science, Research and Academia scheme, which is being added to the already existing Tier 5 (Temporary Worker Government Authorised Exchange) visa route, opened from yesterday for researchers, scientists and academics from outside the European Union (EU) to come to the UK for up to two years.

    "The UK is a world leader in research and innovation and these changes will make it easier for international researchers to work and train in the UK," said UK immigration minister Caroline Nokes in a statement announcing the launch.

    "We must have an immigration system that makes sure we can attract leading international talent and benefit from their knowledge and expertise.

    "I recognise the crucial contribution science makes to the UK economy and society and I am determined that the UK will continue to welcome leading scientific and research talent from around the world," she said.

    The scheme will be operated by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which brings together the country's seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England.

    It will mean that UKRI, along with 12 approved research organisations such as the Natural History Museum, will now be able to directly sponsor highly skilled individuals, such as specialist technicians, to work and train in the UK.

    The sponsor organisations will be monitored by UKRI as the scheme owner and they will also require individual Tier 5 sponsor licences.

    "Research and innovation is inherently international, as are the unprecedented 21st century challenges we must address," said UKRI chief executive Professor Mark Walport.

    "Global collaboration through the movement of talented people plays an essential role in meeting these challenges and this new scheme will provide further support for international researchers to work and train in the UK," Walport said.

    The Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) is the principal visa route by which professionals from outside the European Economic Area who wish to undertake training and work experience are able to come to the UK.

    The route allows individuals entering the UK through this scheme to stay for up to two years.

    The UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will monitor the activity of the scheme on a regular basis with UKRI, to provide assurance that it is meeting the criteria for a Tier 5 scheme, the Home Office said.

    The UK government said the new scheme demonstrates its commitment to make the UK a "dynamic, open, globally-trading" nation.

    Some of the other reforms to the country's visa system in recent months have included removing doctors and nurses from the Tier 2 visa cap, allowing more Indian doctors among others to address staff shortages in the state-funded National Health Service (NHS).

    A new Start-up visa route is set to replace the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route and widen the pool of candidates who can apply to launch a new business in the UK, beyond graduates endorsed by higher education institutions.

Mukesh Ambani named Reliance Chairman for another 5 years
  • Shareholders of Reliance Industries have approved giving Mukesh Ambani another five years as the Chairman and Managing Director of the company.

    Ambani, 61, has been on the board of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) since 1977 and was elevated as Chairman of the company after the death of his father and group patriarch Dhirubhai Ambani in July 2002.

    The company put a resolution to re-appoint Ambani "for a period of five years, on expiry of his present term of office, i e with effect from April 19, 2019" at the 41st Annual General Meeting held on July 5 in Mumbai.

    As many as 50,818 crore shares out of a total share base of 616.45 crore voted on the resolution, RIL said in a regulatory filing. Of the votes polled, 98.5 per cent were in favour of the resolution while 1.48 voted against it.

    According to the resolution, Ambani will be paid an annual salary of Rs 4.17 crore and Rs 59 lakh of perquisites and allowances. Retirement benefits are not included in the overall ceiling of remuneration.

    He will also be entitled to receive bonus based on net profits and "expenses incurred for travelling, boarding and lodging, including for spouse and attendant(s) during business trips and provision of car(s) for use on company's business and communication expenses at residence shall be reimbursed at actuals and not considered as perquisites," it said.

    Also, "the expenses, as may be borne by the company for providing security to Shri Mukesh D Ambani and his family members shall not be considered as perquisites and accordingly, not to be included for the purpose of computation of the overall ceiling of remuneration," the resolution, which was carried at the AGM, said.

    After Dhirubhai Ambani's demise on July 6, 2012, Mukesh was elected Chairman and Managing Director of RIL, while younger brother Anil was elected Vice Chairman and MD.

    The two siblings parted ways in 2005 and divided the business their father created between them.

    At the AGM, shareholders also allowed RIL to raise up to Rs 20,000 crore through a non-convertible debenture (NCD) issue in 2018-19, according to the regulatory filing.

    RIL wants to "offer or invite subscriptions for secured / unsecured redeemable non-convertible debentures, in one or more series / tranches, of an aggregate nominal value up to Rs 20,000 crore, on private placement, from such persons and on such terms and conditions as the Board of Directors of the company may, from time to time, determine and consider proper and most beneficial".

General Awareness

    National Green Tribunal
    • Context: Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel has been appointed the chairperson of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

      About the National Green Tribunal (NGT):

      What is it? NGT has been established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.

      Ambit: The tribunal deals with matters relating to the enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property.


      Sanctioned strength: currently, 10 expert members and 10 judicial members (although the act allows for up to 20 of each).

      Chairman: is the administrative head of the tribunal, also serves as a judicial member and is required to be a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or a judge of the Supreme Court of India.

      Selection: Members are chosen by a selection committee (headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India) that reviews their applications and conducts interviews. The Judicial members are chosen from applicants who are serving or retired judges of High Courts.

      Expert members are chosen from applicants who are either serving or retired bureaucrats not below the rank of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India (not below the rank of Principal Secretary if serving under a state government) with a minimum administrative experience of five years in dealing with environmental matters. Or, the expert members must have a doctorate in a related field.

      Other facts:

      The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
      The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
      The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.

      What’s important?

      For Prelims and Mains: NGT- establishment, composition, roles, powers and functions.

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