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Current Affairs - 10 July 2018

General Affairs 

"Justice To All": Nirbhaya's Mother As Court Confirms Death For Rapists
  • The mother of Nirbhaya - the 23-year-old medical student whose horrific gangrape and torture and tortured in a moving bus in Delhi had appalled and outraged the nation six years ago - today welcomed the Supreme Court order that confirmed that the five men responsible will hang.  The court, which upheld the death sentence for the men in May last year, turned down a petition from the convicts that they be given life term.
    "It is justice to all," said Asha Devi, who was present in court for the verdict. But their "struggle does not end here", she said, referring to the legal steps that remain before the death sentence is carried out.

    The convicts can file one more petition challenging their sentence and if that's turned down too, can ask the President for mercy. Death sentence will be carried out in case of a refusal from the President.

    "Justice is getting delayed. It is affecting other daughters of the society," said Asha Devi, who has repeatedly contended that the guilty be hanged at the earliest, even the juvenile accused. "I request judiciary to tighten their judicial system, serve justice to Nirbhaya by hanging them as soon as possible and help others," she said today.

    Nirbhaya's father Badrinath Singh underscored the point. "We knew the review petition will be dismissed. But what next? So much time has gone by and the threat to women has gone up in this span. I believe sooner they're hanged, better it is," said Mr Singh, who has been fighting for justice for his daughter since her death.

    On the evening of December 16, 2012, the 23-year-old had gone to watch a film with a friend and both were assaulted when they had boarded an empty bus to go home from the posh South Delhi movie hall.

    The woman was gang-raped by the six people present and violated with an iron rod when she protested. Her friend was beaten severely, and both were thrown out of the bus at a secluded spot. Fighting for life for 13 days, she died at a hospital in Singapore.

    While one of her assailants died in jail, another - a juvenile -- was tried by a juvenile justice board and released after he served his three-year sentence. The other four men were sentenced to death. Today's petition was filed by Mukesh, 29, Pawan Gupta, 22 and Vinay Sharma, 23. The fourth death row convict, Akshay Kumar Singh, 31, had not filed a review petition.

    The case, which scarred the nation, had headlined across the world, triggering big changes to laws on sexual crimes against women. It also put focus on the increasing number of crimes involving juveniles, bringing about change that would see them tried as adults under specific circumstances.

Operation To Rescue Boys Trapped In Thai Cave Resumes: Officials
  • A mission to rescue a group of boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand resumed on Monday, the chief of the mission said, after the first four boys rescued were judged healthy as they recovered in hospital.
    The dangerous bid to rescue the boys - aged between 11 and 16 - got going again after a break from late on Sunday to replenish oxygen supplies and make other preparations deep inside the cave complex in northern Thailand's Chiang Rai province.

    Authorities have said the mission could take three or four days to complete.

    "We have sent the team in at around 11 a.m. (0400 GMT) Hopefully we will have good news in a few hours," the head of the rescue mission, Narongsak Osottanakorn, told a news conference.

    Thirteen foreign divers and five members of Thailand's elite navy SEAL unit make up the main team guiding the boys to safety through narrow, submerged passageways that claimed the life of a former Thai navy diver on Friday.

    Narongsak said that the "same multinational team" that went into the cave on Sunday to retrieve the first four boys was deployed on Monday.

    He did not say how many boys the team hoped to bring out on Monday.

    The "Wild Boars" soccer team and their coach set out to explore the vast Tham Luang cave complex after soccer practice on June 23, and got trapped when a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels.

    British divers found the 13, huddled on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber several kilometres inside the complex, on Monday last week.

    Then the problem became how to get them out as more rainy season showers loomed.

    The rescue began on Sunday. Divers held the first four boys close to bring them out, and each had to wear an oxygen mask to enable normal breathing, authorities said.

    Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda told reporters the rescued boys were in good health in hospital but did not give details.

    Infection Fears

    Authorities have not confirmed the identity of the first four boys rescued. Some of the boys' parents told Reuters they had not been told who had been rescued and that they were not allowed to visit the hospital.

    Narongsak said the rescued boys had not been identified out of respect for the families whose sons were still trapped, adding that the boys were being kept away from their parents due to fear of infection.

    "The four children are well at Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital. But they still need to be kept away from their parents and others due to fear about infection," he said.

    Medical teams previously said concerns included hypothermia and an airborne lung infection known as "cave disease", which is caused by bat and bird droppings.

    Somboon Sompiangjai, 38, the father of one of the trapped boys, said parents were told by rescuers ahead of Sunday's operation the "strongest children" would be brought out first.

    "We have not been told which child has been brought out ... We can't visit our boys in hospital because they need to be monitored for 48 hours," Somboon told Reuters.

    World Cup Final

    At least nine ambulances loaded with stretchers and blue oxygen tanks waited by the mouth of the cave on Monday. Soldiers, medics, engineers and volunteers in yellow shirts milled around but the mood was relaxed.

    "I feel very happy, everybody is happy," said Hnin Jaiwong, the mother of one of the trapped boys, 13-year-old Sompong Jaiwong.

    "I don't know if he is out, they didn't tell us," she said as she rested in a hut close to the mouth of the cave.

    The cave complex is off-limits during the rainy season, which usually runs from May to October, when downpours can quickly flood it.

    Relatives said the boys had been inside the labyrinthine complex during the dry season.

    The fate of the boys and their coach has gripped Thailand and drawn international media attention.

    The president of soccer's governing body, FIFA, has invited the boys to the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday if they make it out in time.

"Access To Justice": Supreme Court For Live-Streaming Of Court Hearings
  • The Supreme Court while hearing a petition filed by senior lawyer Indira Jaising and others, on allowing people to watch what happens in courtrooms said it is not opposed to the live streaming of proceedings. The Centre in its reply to the petition said if the top court takes a policy decision; it can facilitate the setting up of a separate channel for the Supreme Court, like the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha TV, which live telecasts parliament sessions.
    Chief Justice Deepak Misra said, "The concept of access to justice can be stretched through live streaming. Litigants are entitled to know how their cases are dealt with and will ensure transparency. Litigants will also know how his or her lawyer is presenting the case."  

    The Chief Justice however, had a word of caution for sensitive rape trials or matrimonial cases.

    The court also said live streaming of proceedings "will help students to learn." 

    The centre, represented by the Attorney General KK Venugopal told the court "on an experimental basis the Chief Justice's court can be the first" and then live streaming can be extended to other courts.

    The three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Deepak Misha, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice AM Khanwilkar asked the parties for "suggestions."

    Indira Jaising in her plea filed in January had said live telecast of court proceedings would be in line with the principle of open court and cited a 1967 verdict by a nine-judge bench that courts "must permit the public admission to the court room".

    She had also pointed out that the live telecast of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha proceedings since 2003 and 2004 respectively had generated awareness among the people about the work of their elected representatives and enhanced transparency in the parliamentary processes.

    "There is no rational reason as to why the same should not be done for cases of constitutional and national importance that impact the public at large," Ms Jaising had said in her petition.

Amarnath Yatra Resumes, 6,162 Pilgrims Leave For Holy Cave
  • The Amarnath Yatra resumed from Jammu today after a day-long suspension allegedly due to apprehensions of law and order problems on the second death anniversary of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani.
    The resumption of the yatra came as a major relief to thousands of pilgrims who were left stranded for the past several days due to various reasons, primarily the inclement weather in the area around the 3,880-metre high holy cave shrine of Amarnath. 

    A fresh batch of 6,162 pilgrims, including 1,360 women and 222 Sadhus today left the winter capital for the twin base camps of Baltal and Pahalgam in Kashmir, officials said.

    They said that the pilgrims left in two convoys from Bhagwati Nagar base camp under tight security arrangements early today and are expected to reach their destinations in the valley later in the day.

    The traffic also resumed on Jammu-Srinagar national highway -- the all-weather road linking Kashmir with rest of the country. The highway was closed for traffic yesterday as a precautionary measure in view of apprehensions of law and order problems in the valley. 

    While 3,163 pilgrims, including 516 women and 197 Sadhus opted for the traditional 36-km Pahalgam track in Anantnag district, 2,999 others, including 844 women and 25 Sadhus are performing the yatra through shorter 12-km Baltal track in Ganderbal district, the officials said.

    They said a total of 234 heavy and light motor vehicles left the base camp for the valley after authorities gave a green signal for resumption of the pilgrimage.

    This was the ninth batch from Bhagwati Nagar base camp and so far a total of 33,588 pilgrims had left for the valley from Jammu, the officials said.

    The 60-day yatra was suspended for the fifth time yesterday since its commencement on June 28, owing to a strike call given by separatist groups to mark the second death anniversary of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Wani.

    Earlier, the yatra was suspended on four occasions to avoid overcrowding and to ensure safety of the pilgrims in view of heavy rains which triggered landslides and shooting of stones on the pilgrimage route.

    Till last evening, a total of 94,412 pilgrims had paid their obeisance at the holy cave, housing the naturally formed ice-shivlingam since the beginning of the annual yatra, the officials said, adding the number is expected to cross the one lakh mark today itself as the yatra is "progressing well" on both the routes. 

Amit Shah Invokes Chanakya To Criticise Dynasty Politics
  • BJP president Amit Shah today invoked ancient philosopher Chanakya to denounce "dynasty" politics.
    Delivering the 12th Rambhau Mhalgi memorial lecture, organised by Rambhau Mhalagi Prabodhini (RMP) in Pune, Mr Shah said, "Chankaya had denounced politics of dynasty nearly 2,300 years ago and his philosophy is still relevant in the current context".

    Speaking on 'Arya Chanakya's life and his work in today's context' at RMP, an institute closely associated with the RSS, Mr Shah said Chanakya's writings on various topics such as economics, politics, foreign affairs, security, education, social science are still valid in the contemporary context.

    "As far as his (Chanakya's) thoughts about the rulers are concerned, he had opposed the idea of dynasty for running the kingdom. He said it was not necessary that one who is senior but not capable should be given the reins of a kingdom. The most capable, even if he is younger, should run the kingdom," said Mr Shah quoting Chanakya.

    Chanakya, also known as Kautilya, was also a jurist and royal advisor who had authored the ancient Indian political treatise, the 'Arthashastra'. He is considered the pioneer of the field of political science and economics in India.

    Mr Shah said, "(According to Chanakya) if a ruler has only son but he is not capable of ruling the kingdom, the ministry of the kingdom should select the capable one".

    Mr Shah, however, clarified that he was not making any comment against anybody in particular.

    "Chanakya has already written that the king is the principal servant of the Constitution and our Prime Minister too said he was the pradhan sevak. Chanakya had written that the ruler should aim that the last man should be included in the process of development. Our PM's slogan 'Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas' is on the similar line," the BJP chief said.

    Mr Shah said Chanakya's works were not given due importance in today's educational curriculum.

    He urged the RMP to translate manuscripts which are in Pandu lipi (script) into Indian languages.

    Earlier in the day, Mr Shah visited the palanquin of Saint Dnyaneshwar.

    Later, he called on noted historian Babasaheb Purandare as a part of the BJP's outreach campaign "Sampark for Samarthan".

Business Affairs

PM Modi, South Korean President to inaugurate Samsung's largest mobile phone manufacturing facility in Noida
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in today inaugurated Samsung's largest mobile phone manufacturing facility at Sector 81 in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. The 35-acre first-of-its-kind facility is expected to double Samsung's manufacturing capacity in the country.

    "Today is an important day in making India a manufacturing hub. The investment of Rs 5,000 crore by Samsung will strengthen India-South Korea relations,"PM Modi said. The newly-opened plant which has the capacity to manufacture 1 crore phones per month is expected to create 1,000 more jobs in the country.

    Samsung, a world leader in smartphone market, has been associated with the lives of millions of Indians, the Prime Minister said, adding that there is hardly any middle-class family in India who doesn't own a Samsung product.

    Giving a thumbs up to his government's Make In India initiative, PM Modi said, "Make in India initiative is getting support from all across the world. India has become number 2 in mobile phone manufacturing." Over 30 per cent of the production at Samsung's Noida manufacturing facility will be exported.

    "In the last four years, the number of mobile phone manufacturing facilities has gone up from 2 to 120 and 50 such factories are in Noida. More than four lakh jobs have been created as a result," Prime Minister added.

    Currently, Samsung manufactures over 60 million smartphones annually in India and with the new plant, it is expected to manufacture nearly 120 million mobile phones. India has around 40 crore smartphone users and nearly 32 crore people use broadband.

    Last year in June, the consumer electronics major had announced that it would invest Rs 4,915 crore to double its manufacturing capacity for smartphones and refrigerators at its Noida plant. In a statement issued then, Samsung said: "The expansion of the plant on an additional 35 acres of land adjacent to the current facility will double the production capacity of both mobile phones and refrigerators."

    Announcing the investment last year, the South Korean giant said that it would position the Noida plant as a major production hub and create about 5,000 new jobs. "The investment reaffirms Samsungs commitment to Make- in-India and Make-for-India and to the state of Uttar Pradesh," Samsung India had stated in a statement. Samsung has two manufacturing plants and five research and development centres in India. The company has one design centre in Noida with workforce of over 70,000 people.

    Speaking on the new investment, a Samsung official had said that the latest investment in Noida plant would double the production capacity of smartphones.  "The capacity for refrigerators would double to 3 million units per annum against 1.5 million at present, and for TV panels to 2.6 million units from 1.3 million," the official had said.

Department of Telecom conditionally approves Idea-Vodafone merger deal
  • The Department of Telecom (DoT) on Monday gave its nod to the Vodafone India-Idea Cellular deal to form the biggest telecom entity in India, but with some riders. "DoT has cleared the Vodafone-Idea merger today. They will have to meet conditions for final approval," an official told PTI.

    Earlier, it was reported the DoT was looking to raise a fresh demand of around Rs 4,700 crore ahead of the merger deal between Vodafone India and Idea Cellular over one-time spectrum charges on Vodafone. An ET report also claimed the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) had sought the details of the proposed deal between the two companies. Both the companies had earlier hoped to seal the deal before June 30, but the demand of Rs 4,700 crore as spectrum charges pushed the date further.

    The DoT nod, however, is significant as reports suggest the process of the proposed deal is being closely watched by the PMO. Being one of the biggest merger deals in telecom -- and the involvement of Vodafone, whose parent company Vodafone UK had been caught up in a tax dispute with the Indian government -- makes it even more interesting for foreign investment companies looking for future deals in India. The clearance process also conveys a positive message of the ease of doing business in India, a prime goal of the Narendra Modi government to attract investments.

    Demand for spectrum charges

    Back in 2015, Vodafone had merged its four subsidiaries Vodafone East, Vodafone South, Vodafone Cellular and Vodafone Digilink with Vodafone Mobile Services. The resultant entity is now called Vodafone India. DoT had asked Vodafone to clear OTSC dues worth Rs 6,678 core at the time of consolidation, but the company challenged the demand in court. After the Supreme Court ruled in favour of DoT, Vodafone had paid only Rs 2,000 crore to get the merger deal with Idea cleared.

    Both Idea and Vodafone are planning to join forces to create India's largest telecom company worth over Rs 1.5 lakh crore. The move is being seen as a way to counter the highly competitive Indian telecom market, disrupted after the entry of Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio, which has been gaining ground with around 15.8 per cent market share by March 2018.

    The company formed after the merger is proposed to be named Vodafone Idea Limited if approved by shareholders of Idea Cellular. The new entity will have over 40 crore mobile customers from day 1, and over 36 per cent of the revenue market share. Vodafone Group and existing promoters of Idea will hold 45.1 and 26 per cent of the equity share capital of the merged company, respectively, and the balance 28.9 per cent will be held by the public shareholders. As the combined debt of both the companies is around Rs 1.15 lakh crore, the merger would give new hopes for the new entity that will be the largest telecom company in India.

Godrej has a problem with Modi govt's bullet train. And, it's land related
  • The land acquisition drama that has beset the Modi government's ambitious bullet train project, which so far was mostly limited to farmers and fruit growers along the train corridor, now has a more powerful actor on stage. According to The Business Standard, the Godrej Group has moved the Bombay High Court against the acquisition of its Vikhroli property, which is worth more than Rs 500 crore. This means that unless the Group changes its mind, the authorities will have to either change the track alignment or forcibly acquire the land under the provisions of the Maharashtra Land Acquisition Act, 2013.

    Of the total stretch of over 508 km between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, 21 km of the proposed route is reportedly underground, and the conglomerate's Vikhroli property is supposed to house one of the tunnel's entry points as well as ventilation ducts. Citing a government official, the daily added that the Godrej Group has sought a change in the project's alignment to free up nearly 3.5 hectares belonging to its infrastructure arm, Godrej Constructions, from the proposal.

    This is just the latest in a long line of hurdles that the proposed bullet train has had to face. Last month, a Reuters report had pointed out that the Japan-backed $17 billion project is likely to miss its December deadline to acquire land due to protests by fruit growers in Maharashtra, especially in Palghar district. The vociferous protests are backed by local politicians, ahead of a general election next year.

    The project encompasses 1,047 hectares of land in Gujarat while the Maharashtra government will be acquiring 353 hectares. Approximately Rs 10,000 crore has been earmarked for the acquisition, according to Achal Khare, Managing Director of the National High Speed Railway Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), the nodal body to implement the project.

    Recognising that the protests over land acquisition threaten the government's hope of advancing the project's completion target by a year to 2022 - the 75th year of India's independence - the Indian Railways has reportedly thrown its weight behind NHSRCL. In order to sweeten the deal for people opposed to selling their land, the Railways has pledged funds from its own welfare scheme to build schools and community halls. And Ashwani Lohani, chairman of the Indian Railway Board, for one, believes that the issues with farmers were not insurmountable.

    The buzz is that NHSRCL last week floated a tender for the construction of a bridge in Navsari district of Gujarat - one of the 60 bridges to be built on the high-speed railway corridor - so negotiations no longer seem stuck in a deadlock.

    Once completed, the bullet train project would reduce the travel time between the two prominent cities to just 3 hours from the usual seven. The government also hopes to generate hundreds of jobs through the train project, and hence is pushing hard to finish it on time.

Modi govt, RBI mull setting up search engine for all non-cash transactions: Report
  • The Modi government has faced a lot of flak in recent times, in the wake of the latest data from Switzerland's central banking authority, which revealed that money parked by Indians in Swiss banks rose over 50 per cent to about Rs 7,000 crore in 2017. So, the government is apparently trying to step up efforts to crackdown on black money and money laundering.

    According to The Times of India, the RBI and the Centre are mulling having a search engine or a database of all payment transactions in the country. Citing a senior government officer familiar with the discussions, the report added that the proposal is to allow the apex bank to put in place a platform where all non-cash transactions can be recorded and shared on a need-to-know basis. "It is not going to be available on tap but will be shared based on a specific request," said the source.

    Preliminary discussions are reportedly already underway with the RBI after the finance ministry, income tax department and some investigating agencies raised the issue in the wake of a series of steps to crack down on shell companies and money laundering. For instance, a law enforcement agency suggested that such a database could be used to establish a trail of transactions often seen in case of a fraud.

    Though the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has been mandated to analyse suspicious financial transactions of over Rs 10 lakh pertaining to money laundering and terror financing as part of the Ministry of Finance establishment, and it regularly receives suspicious transaction reports and counterfeit currency reports from all banks and financial institutions across the country, the mechanism is reportedly not seen to be serving the purpose.

    However, two other sources told the daily TOI that the plan needed to be fleshed out as the discussions so far had not yielded a robust mechanism. To begin with there are doubts whether the proposed tool will be sufficient to help investigating agencies track transactions meant to launder or siphon-off money. For instance, a Rs 5 crore cheque payment by person A to person B can be tracked. But what if A also received Rs 20 crore from person C? It is debatable whether the database alone can deal with such issues and complexities. Furthermore, the sources pointed out that tracking all transactions related to an entity and its key functionaries may be difficult in the current set-up. According to them, the focus was on corporate data, although data related to individuals would also be available in the database.

    The government's focus on tracking transactions is understandable since a paper trail is seen as a vital step in ferreting out shell companies, used for money laundering purposes. These entities, typically with low equity base and little business income, route funds through a maze of companies on commission basis. The Task Force on shell companies - constituted in February 2017, three months after demonetisation - has already identified 16,537 confirmed shell companies in the country and has another 80,670 companies on its 'Suspect List'. Then, last month, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs disclosed that another 16,739 companies had been identified on the basis of 100 per cent common directorships with the confirmed shell companies.

Sensex rises to five-month high, Nifty at 10,852 level; Vedanta, Asian Paints, YES Bank top gainers
  • The Sensex and Nifty closed higher today on heavy buying in energy, capital goods, power and banking stocks following positive leads from global markets and a strengthening rupee. While the Sensex rose 276 points or 0.78% to 35,934 level, the Nifty rose 80.25 points to 10, 852 level.

    Top Sensex gainers were Vedanta (3.14%) , Asian Paints (3.11%) and YES Bank (2.70%).

    Confluence of global stability, a sense that the rupee has bottomed and current valuations (of stocks) are holding the market up," said Harendra Kumar, Managing Director at Elara securities.

    Investors have shifted focus from trade tensions between China and US to Q1 corporate earnings which start tomorrow.

    The BSE Sensex rallied for the second day logging the highest closing level since January 31, when it had closed at 35,965.

    Appreciating rupee against the dollar and fresh buying by domestic institutional investors added to the momentum, brokers said.

    Investors were also looking forward to the quarterly results of IT majors TCS and Infosys that will kick-start the earnings season later this week, they added.

    Infosys was up 1.14 per cent at Rs 1,299.15, while TCS closed lower by 1.34 per cent at Rs 1,887.65.

     The TCS stock was the top Sensex loser.

    Other IT counters like HCL Technology, Tech Mahindra and Wipro gained up to 1.68 per cent.

    DIIs bought shares worth a net of Rs 1,480.82 crore, while foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) sold equities to the tune of Rs 968.18 crore on Friday, provisional data showed.

    VK Sharma, Head Private Client Group & Capital Market Strategy at HDFC Securities said the markets began the week on a buoyant note with 80 points under its belt at 19,853. In doing so, the Nifty has closed above the 10,840 mark trend line resistance, which can pave the way for the benchmark to gun for 10,893. A close above this would mean that the Nifty can scale a new high before August 15. The gains came on the back of a robust June Payrolls in the US . The Rupee also appreciated.

    Global markets

    Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 1.2 percent to finish at 22,052.18. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 edged up 0.2 percent to 6,286.00, while South Korea's Kospi gained 0.6 percent to 2,285.80. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.3 percent to 28,688.50, while the Shanghai Composite index jumped 2.5 percent to 2,815.11. Shares were higher in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

    France's CAC 40 edged up 0.6 percent in early trading to 5,409.31, while Germany's DAX added 0.3 percent to 12,531.46. Britain's FTSE 100 was also higher at 7,647.18, up 0.4 percent. U.S. shares were also set for gains, with Dow futures up 0.5 percent to 24,588. S&P 500 futures rose 0.4 percent to 2,773.40.

General Awareness

    • Context: The 2018 World Sanskrit Conference (WSC) is being hosted by the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. It is 17th such conference.

      World Sanskrit Conference:

      The World Sanskrit Conference is the premier international forum for professional researchers and educators of the Sanskrit language and its literatures, and of the history, religion, and cultures of premodern South Asia.
      It is convened every three years under the auspices of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies.

      About IASS:

      At the 29th International Congress of Orientalists, held in Paris in 1973, Sanskritists from various countries endorsed the formation of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies and drafted its constitution.
      The main task of the IASS was agreed to be the organizing of a World Sanskrit Conference at different venues around the world.
      The 1972 International Sanskrit Conference in New Delhi was recognised retrospectively as the First World Sanskrit Conference.
      Indologica Taurinensia is the journal of the IASS.

      What’s important?

      For Prelims: WSC and IASS.
      For Mains: Significance of WSC.

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