Current Affairs Current Affairs - 20 July 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 20 July 2018

General Affairs 

Dairy Farmers To Continue Protest In Maharashtra Till Purchase Price Hike
  • Dairy farmers will continue to agitate, demanding hike in milk procurement prices until the Maharashtra government agrees, Swabhimani Paksha leader Raju Shetti, who is leading the protest said today.
    The farmers have been holding protests in parts of the state since Monday, seeking a hike of Rs. 5 per litre in the procurement prices.

    "I am ready to withdraw the agitation if the milk purchase rate is fixed around Rs. 25 per litre," Mr Shetti told reporters in Mumbai.

    The Lok Sabha member also said that his discussion with state Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan last night failed to resolve the issue.

    Sources in the government had earlier said that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis asked Mr Mahajan to meet Mr Shetti in a bid to end the agitation.

    "(Girish) Mahajan is still in Mumbai and we may meet again. I am ready if the state government mandates dairies to increase the purchase price of milk, I have no issues. But till then my agitation will continue," Mr Shetti said.

    He further said: "A milk powder maker has enquired with me and is willing to purchase one lakh litres of milk daily at Rs. 25 per litre. If he is ready to do the business then why the state is not keen on promoting such businessmen."

    The state's proposal to provide a subsidy of Rs. 2 to 3 per litre will benefit dairies and milk powder makers but there is no guarantee if they would pass it on to farmers, he said.

    Yesterday, Mr Shetti had vowed to stop trains carrying milk to Maharashtra from Gujarat.

    The Western Railway (WR) had said on Tuesday that 88,000 litres of milk would be supplied via train daily for six days to meet the demand in Mumbai.

    A WR official had said that milk tankers will be attached to the Ahmedabad-Mumbai Central passenger train to mitigate problems faced by consumers.

    The Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna started the protest on Monday and halted milk tankers at several places across the state.

    Supporters of the Kolhapur-based farmers' organisation have staged protests in districts like Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Pune, Ahmednagar, Nashik, Nanded and Aurangabad.

    The Gujarat Dairy Development Corporation Limited had earlier asked the railways to make provisions for the transportation of additional supply of milk through trains.

BJP Expresses Confidence About Surviving No Trust Vote Today
  • The BJP has expressed confidence that it will be able to defeat the Opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion as it has a majority in the Lok Sabha, and hoped that it would also manage support from some opposition parties.
    "The numbers are very clear. The BJP by itself has a majority in the lower house. We have nearly 314 members within the NDA and there are many other parties which are likely to oppose this no-confidence motion - because this is completely pointless," BJP national spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao told reporters outside Parliament.

    "We have the numbers and we have the moral fibre to fight this negative opposition, which is only trying to put the country on the path of negativity," he added.

    The no-confidence motion would be taken up in the lower house tomorrow for debate and voting.

    The motion will be the first since the BJP-led NDA government came to power four years ago. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan's decision to accept the motion moved by former BJP ally TDP and others came on the first day of the Monsoon session.

    Speaking to reporters, senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy took potshots at TDP, questioning their intent when their ministers were part of the government for the past four years.

    "TDP is moving the resolution and saying four years of BJP rule is useless. In fact, there were (TDP) ministers in these four years. In a democracy, the opposition must be vigorous, must expose with facts and figures," he said.

    Sources in the BJP said the government would get the support of at least 314 MPs in the lower house, which has an effective strength of 533 members.

    The TMC said it will support the no-confidence motion and that a whip has been issued to its members asking them to be present in the house today.

Maharashtra Gives Rs. 5 Lakh To Prisons As 'Secret Service Fund'
  • The Maharashtra government has provided Rs. 5 lakh as 'secret service fund' to the prisons department to improve intelligence gathering in jails, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis informed the state Legislative Council in Mumbai.
    Of the total funds, Rs. 85,000 have been used so far, he added.

    In a written reply, Mr Fadnavis told the Upper House yesterday that the government allocated Rs. 5 lakh in the 2018-19 budget.

    He was replying to a query by Shiv Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe, who sought to know the total amount of funds and how they have been used.

    In his reply, Mr Fadnavis said funds have been made available for purposes like gathering information on whether any prohibited substances were being secretly brought into the jail and used.

    The funds are also meant for gathering information about the possible escape attempts by prisoners, conspiracies to stoke violence or attack on other prisoners, he said.

    The chief minister added that the money would also be used for information on those convicts, who jump parole or furlough.

    "In order to ensure that connivance between prisoners and jail staff does not pose a threat to the security of the jail, regular information gathering is required," he said.

    Mr Fadnavis said these funds would also be used to gather information to ensure safety of the prisoners, when they are taken to courts or hospitals for treatment.

Indian Army May Scrap The Brigadier Rank, Top Army Officer Says
  • Officer cadre restructuring in the Indian Army, including doing away with the Brigadier''s rank, is under review, a top army officer said today.
    "It is just a thought process at this point of time. We are all to offer our recommendations on this issue. Once it is decided, it will be promulgated officially," said South Western Army Command chief, Lt Gen Cherish Mathson.

    Speaking to media on sidelines of Army-media seminar here, he however refused to reveal further details on the subject saying it is under deliberation at present.

    To a query on the challenges being faced by the army at present, he said enemy countries using tactics of information warfare and psychological warfare on social media channels, which the younger generation has a tendency to believe more. "We need to check it and identify that such actions are happening against us.. (being done) by enemy nations," he added.

    Even China and Pakistan are engaged in such warfare with India, he added saying that all enemy countries engage in such tactics. "It is a global phenomenon and it is also happening in Asia."

    Mathson warned people to remain aware fake messages being circulated on social media. The enemy countries are carrying out information warfare through fake messages and such messages are needed to be identified, he said.

    He also said that the incidents of stone pelting in Kashmir have been controlled now.

    On spying and smuggling activities on the borders of the country, he said that there are many linkages between border populations and hence spying and smuggling cases are common there

    "However, we have our own counter intelligence establishment to look and check such issues," he said.

PM Modi's Foreign Travel Since 2014 Cost Rs. 1,484 Crore: Centre
  • An expenditure of Rs. 1,484 crore was incurred on chartered flights, maintenance of aircraft and hotline facilities during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visits to 84 countries since June 2014, according to the government.
    The details of PM Modi's foreign travel expenditure under the three heads were shared in the Rajya Sabha by Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh.

    According to the data, a total of Rs. 1,088.42 crore was spent on maintenance of the prime minister's aircraft and Rs. 387.26 crore on chartered flights during the period between June 15, 2014 and June 10, 2018.

    The total expenditure on hotline was Rs. 9.12 crore.

    PM Modi visited a total of 84 countries in 42 foreign trips since taking over as prime minister in May 2014.

    The details provided by Mr Singh did not include expenditure on hotline facilities during his foreign visits in 2017-18 and 2018-19. The cost of chartered flights for visits in 2018-19 was also not included.

    According to Mr Singh's reply, the prime minister visited a maximum of 24 countries in 2015-16 followed by 19 in 2017-18 and 18 nations in 2016-17.

    In 2014-15, PM Modi had visited 13 countries with first one to Bhutan in June 2014. In 2018, he travelled to 10 countries with the last one being to China last month.

    The cost for chartered flights to overseas destinations in 2014-15 was Rs. 93.76 crore while in 2015-16, it was Rs. 117 crore. In 2016-17, the cost was Rs. 76.27 crore and in 2017-18, the expense on chartered flight was Rs. 99.32 crore.

    "Diplomatic outreach during this period (since May 2014) has included first ever visits from India to several countries at the head of government level," Singh said.

    He said the outreach has led to enhanced engagement of India's foreign partners in its flagship programmes.

Business Affairs

Atal Pension Yojana benefit may increase up to Rs 10,000 per month; all you need to know
  • In order to extend pension benefits to the working poor from the unorganised sector, the government has been running the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) since May 2015. According to official data, the scheme has gathered 1.08 crore subscribers and Rs 4,500 crore in contribution from beneficiaries by far. The pension scheme for the unorganised sector workers offers monthly pension in slabs between Rs 1,000 and Rs 5,000. Government is reportedly planning to include three more monthly pension slabs up to Rs 10,000.

    Here are the things one should keep in mind before opting for the APY scheme:

    1. Eligibility

    The Atal Pension Yojana allows Indian citizens between 18 years and 40 years of age to opt for fixed pension slabs of Rs 1,000, Rs 2,000, Rs 3,000, Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000. An applicant gets to choose the preferred slab at the time of subcription. The earlier a beneficiary joins the scheme, the less he or she has to pay as contribution. The applicant also needs to have a savings account to avail the benefits of the scheme. This savings account can either be held with a bank or a post office.

    2. Contribution period

    The minimum age of opting for Atal Pension Yojana is 18 years and the maximum age is 40 years. The age of exit and start of pension is 60 years. This means that the minimum period of contribution for a beneficiary of the scheme is 20 years, and the maximum is 42 years. Exit and payment of pension is not allowed, except in situations like death of the beneficiary or terminal disease.

    3. Contribution amount

    The contribution amount paid by an applicant depends on the age he joins the scheme at, the pension slab he opts for from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000, and the time between payments - monthly, quarterly, or half-yearly. As of now, an 18-year old applicant has to pay between Rs 42 and Rs 210 per month depending on the chosen pension slabs. Whereas, a 39-year old applicant will have to pay from Rs 264 to Rs 1318 every month, depending on the pension slab.

It's raining offers, discounts on Vistara, AirAsia, Jet Airways
  • If you are planning to head away from the bustle of the city to enjoy the monsoon in your favourite destination, you are in luck. A host of airlines are rolling out discounts and offers as part of monsoon sale. Moreover, boosted by government's UDAN scheme, airlines including AirAsia and IndiGo have also introduced new routes and are offering introductory prices for the same.

    IndiGo has announced new non-stop flights between Surat and Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Jaipur and Hyderabad from August 16. The starting price for flight on these routes is Rs 1,999.

    All in all, now seems like a great time to book your tickets.  Here's what the airlines are offering:

    Vistara - The airlines' monsoon sale was supposed to conclude in 24 hours by July 18 but in order to woo more passengers, Vistara has extended the deadline till midnight of July 19. Vistara is offering upto 50% off on select routes and are offering one-way tickets starting from Rs 1,299, all-inclusive. However, to avail the discounts, customers must book their tickets eight days in advance. The travel period eligible under the offer is from July 25 to October 11.

    The lowest fare of Rs 1,299 is available for Guwahati - Bagdogra, Jammu -Srinagar and Kochi - Chennai.

    Jet Airways - Jet Airways is offering discounts on both domestic and international flights. Passengers booking domestic flights can avail upto 25% discount, while international flyers can get tickets for 30% off. To avail the offer, customers will have to book flight tickets between July 17 and July 23.

    Passengers can commence their travel from July 17.

    AirAsia - Like Jet, AirAsia is also offering 30% discount on select routes. Passengers travelling between Bengaluru and Amritsar can avail this discount. Daily direct flights on this route will commence from July 26 and passengers can book tickets for the same on discounted rates till July 22.

    Additionally, the site also mentions that AirAsia is offering tickets on sale from Bengaluru to Chandigarh, Srinagar, New Delhi, Jaipur and Bagdogra.

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala buys 2 crore shares of Jaiprakash Associates in June quarter
  • Ace investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala has raised his stake by 0.83 percent in debt- laden Jaiprakash Associates during the April-June quarter. For the quarter ended June, Jhunjhunwala had 2.06% equity stake in Jaiprakash Associates compared with 1.23% in March quarter. Earlier, Jhunjhunwala held 3 lakh shares of Jaiprakash Associates at the end of the previous fiscal.

    In the April-June quarter of the current fiscal, the ace investor bought 2 lakh shares additional of the company taking his total shareholding to 5 lakh.

    Jhunjhunwala's current portfolio includes key stocks such as Titan, Lupin and CRISIL among others.

    Jhunjhunwala holds 804.66 Lakh shares of Titan worth Rs 6,456 crore. The ace investor holds 78.83 Lakh shares of Lupin worth Rs 645 cr. He holds holding 40 Lakh shares of CRISIL worth Rs 762 crore.

    Shares of Jaiprakash Associates ended nearly 2 per cent higher at Rs 15 apiece on BSE on Wednesday.

    At 10:52 am, the Jaiprakash Associates stock was up over 1% higher at 15.15 level in trade today.

    The stock has been rising for the last three days and gained 6.74% during the period.

    The stock is down 42% since the beginning of this year. The stock has lost 35% during the last one year.

    Jaiprakash Associates Ltd (JAL) reported a standalone net loss of Rs 78.70 crore for the fourth quarter of 2017-18 against a loss of Rs 1,882.40 crore in the same quarter of previous fiscal. The company in a regulatory filing noted that financial results for the last quarter and for full 2017-18 fiscal were not comparable with the year-ago period as it sold major part of its cement business to Birla group firm UltraTech Cement.

    JAL posted a standalone net income of Rs1,674.2 crore for the January-March quarter of 2017-18 as against Rs 1,834.11 crore in the year-ago period, according to the filing.

    Last year, JAL had sold its six integrated cement plants and five grinding units for a consideration of Rs 16,189 crore to the Kumar Mangalam Birla-led Ultratech.

    Jaiprakash Associates, the flagship firm of the Jaypee Group, is into cement, construction, hospitality, power and real estate businesses. The company has divested its assets, including cement plants, to reduce debt. Jaypee group is facing huge protest from home buyers due to significant delays in delivery of real estate projects.

    To provide refunds to hassled home buyers, the Supreme Court on May 16 directed Jaiprakash Associates to deposit an additional Rs 1,000 crore with its registry by 15 June. The company has already deposited Rs 750 crore with the registry.

    Last year, NCLT had admitted the application by an IDBI Bank-led consortium, seeking resolution for Jaypee Infratech, a subsidiary of JAL, under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

ONGC stock rises over 2%, top Sensex gainer on board's nod to stake sale in Pawan Hans
  • The ONGC stock extended gains for the second day today on reports its board has approved exiting helicopter service provider Pawan Hans by selling its entire 49 per cent stake. The stock is the top Sensex gainer today rising 2.59% to 164.45 level on the BSE.

    The large cap stock has been gaining over the last three days and has risen 6.69% during the period.

    The stake sale in Pawan Hans is aimed at cutting debt and consolidating resources in core oil and gas business, officials with direct knowledge of the development said.

    Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) wants its interest to be clubbed with the 51 per cent government stake that is already on offer for sale, they said.

    The Department of Disinvestment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM), which floated the offer for sale for government's 51 per cent stake in Pawan Hans twice in the last 10 months, is likely to issue an amended expression of interest (EoI) shortly.

    Officials said ONGC is of the view that its investment in Pawan Hans is no longer strategic as it charter hires helicopters to ferry staff to its oil and gas locations, mostly in offshore, through competitive bidding.

    Of the 22 helicopters it currently has on hire, just seven or less than a third are from Pawan Hans. Pawan Hans owns a fleet of 46 helicopters.

Aircel-Maxis case: P Chidambaram, Karti named in CBI charge sheet
  • Former finance minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram were today named in a charge sheet by the CBI in the Aircel-Maxis deal case.

    The agency filed its supplementary charge sheet before special CBI judge O P Saini who fixed it for considering on July 31.

    The CBI was conducting probe as to how Chidambaram, who was the finance minister in 2006, granted Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval to a foreign firm when only Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) was empowered to do it.

    The senior Congress leader's role had come under the scanner of investigating agencies in the Aircel-Maxis deal of Rs 3,500 crore and INX Media case involving Rs 305 crore.

    In its charge sheet filed earlier in the case against former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi Maran and others, the agency had alleged that Chidambaram had granted FIPB approval in March 2006 to Mauritius-based Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd, a subsidiary of Maxis.

    The Maran brothers and other accused, who were listed in the CBI charge sheet earlier, were discharged by the special court which had said that the agency had failed to produce any material against them to proceed with the trial.

    The CBI had alleged in the charge sheet against the Marans that Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd had sought FIPB approval for USD 800 million for which only the CCEA was competent, but Chidambaram had given approval to the firm in March 2006.

    It had claimed that the finance minister was competent to accord approval on project proposals of up to Rs 600 crore and proposals beyond this required the approval of the CCEA.

    The Enforcement Directorate is also probing a separate money laundering case in the Aircel-Maxis deal in which Chidambaram and Karti have been questioned by the agency.

    Both Chidambaram and Karti have denied the allegations levelled against them by the CBI and ED.

General Awareness

    Article 161 of the Constitution
    • Context: Cabinet approves Special Remission to Prisoners on the occasion of 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Ministry of Home Affairs will issue advice to all States and UTs asking them to process the cases of eligible prisoners.

      What next?

      State Governments and UT Administrations will be advised to constitute a Committee to examine the cases. State Governments will place the recommendations of the Committee before Governor for consideration and approval under Article 161 of the Constitution. After the approval, the prisoners will be released.

      What you need to know? Article 161:

      Article 161 deals with Power of Governor to grant pardons, etc, and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.

      It states, the Governor of a State shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.

      DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PARDONING POWERS OF PRESIDENT AND GOVERNOR:

      The scope of the pardoning power of the President under Article 72 is wider than the pardoning power of the Governor under Article 161. The power differs in the following two ways:

      The power of the President to grant pardon extends in cases where the punishment or sentence is by a Court Martial but Article 161 does not provide any such power to the Governor.
      The President can grant pardon in all cases where the sentence given is sentence of death but pardoning power of Governor does not extend to death sentence cases.

      Significance of pardoning powers:

      The pardoning power of Executive is very significant as it corrects the errors of judiciary. It eliminates the effect of conviction without addressing the defendant’s guilt or innocence.
      Pardon may substantially help in saving an innocent person from being punished due to miscarriage of justice or in cases of doubtful conviction.
      The object of pardoning power is to correct possible judicial errors, for no human system of judicial administration can be free from imperfections.

      Way ahead:

      The process of granting pardon is simpler but because of the lethargy of the government and political considerations, disposal of mercy petitions is delayed. Therefore, there is an urgent need to make amendment in law of pardoning to make sure that clemency petitions are disposed quickly. There should be a fixed time limit for deciding on clemency pleas.

      What’s important?

      For Prelims and Mains: Pardoning powers of Governors and the President- constitutional provisions, features, need, differences and significance.

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