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Current Affairs - 23 July 2018

General Affairs 

Government To Hire Over 54,000 Jawans For Central Forces
  • In one of the biggest recruitment drives in central security forces, the government has decided to recruit over 54,000 jawans in armed police forces like the CRPF, BSF and ITBP among others this year.
    Out of the total 54,953 vacancies advertised by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), the maximum are for the country's largest paramilitary force-- the CRPF at 21,566 posts.

    A total of 47,307 vacancies are for men and 7,646 are for women in the constable (general duty) cadre in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Assam Rifles (posts to be called Rifleman), National Investigation Agency and the Secretariat Security Force.

    "The central forces, called the central armed police forces (CAPFs) and central police organisations (CPOs), are set for further expansion by raising of new battalions and hence these new vacancies have been advertised by the government after sanction from the Union home ministry," a senior official said.

    Applicants in the age group of 18-23 years and who have completed class 10 successfully, with a few exceptions and reservations, can apply for these posts.

    The salary offered, as per the SSC advertisement, is in the matrix of Rs. 21,700-69,100.

    The candidates will undertake a computer-based exam, physical efficiency test, physical standard test and a final medical test before being inducted into these forces/organisations that are deployed as part of securing the internal security grid of the country under the command of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

    The last date to apply for these vacancies is August 20.

    The CAPFs are deployed for guarding borders, undertaking anti-Naxal operations, assisting in law and order duties, protecting high-value infrastructure and assets apart from a variety of other security tasks across the country.

    The NIA is the federal terror probe agency and the SSF provides security staff to central government establishments.

Tripura Introduces Aadhar-Based Biometric Attendance At Secretariat
  • The Tripura government has introduced Aadhaar based biometric attendance system at the state secretariat aiming to bring in more discipline among staff and encourage minimal use of paper for official work.
    Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb said his government was working on reducing "unnecessary workload" and increase efficiency and accountability among employees.

    "We have 996 employees working in the state secretariat. All of them are very enthusiastic about the new system", the chief minister said.

    He also said the central government pays huge sums to buy paper used in official work. Judicious use of the commodity can save a lot of money, he said.

    The biometric attendance system would go a long way in curbing unnecessary use of paper, he said.

    In an office memorandum issued by the Department of General Administration (Secretariat Administration) on July 16, Secretary TK Chakma said the state government has adopted a decision to give stress on importance of economic use of paper in government offices.

    Mr Deb said attendance log books were things of the past as nobody needed to keep record of employees attending the office and store them in secure lockers, which makes the
    entire process lengthy.

    The new system will be robust, self-dependent and easy to use. Depending on others for attendance and other regular chores were done in old days. Now, everyone has to take responsibility, he added.

Special Director Rakesh Asthana's Team Members In CBI Get Extension
  • Amid reports of a power tussle between the CBI director and the second senior-most officer, the Central Vigilance Commission has given the go-ahead for extending the tenure of some key officers in the investigating agency, including those who have worked closely in some high-profile cases, as part of special director Rakesh Asthana's team.
    Among those whose tenure has been extended by a panel headed by Central Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdary included a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) rank officer, who was recently repatriated to his cadre state Tripura, officials said today.

    However, the officer was called back to the agency soon after.

    Apart from this, the panel has cleared extension in deputation tenure of two other senior Indian Police Service officers who worked closely with Mr Asthana in probing important cases, including the one involving businessman Vijay Mallya, the officials said.

    The development comes days after the CBI wrote to the CVC saying that Mr Asthana, a Gujarat cadre IPS officer, (and second senior-most officer) is not allowed to attend the panel's meeting in absence of the agency's director Alok Verma, they said.

    The CBI director is an invitee to the panel headed by the CVC. Those granted extension include two Joint Directors - AYV Krishna and Sai Manohar Aramane.

    Mr Aramane is part of a Special Investigation Team handling the politically-sensitive bank fraud case involving Vijay Mallya, headed by Mr Asthana, the officials said.

    The competent authority has approved extension in tenure of Mr Aramane, a 1995 batch IPS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, from July 17, 2018 till April 2019, a recent order issued by the Personnel Ministry said.

    Mr Aramane's batch mate Mr Krishna has also been given extension from July 18, 2018 till January 17, 2020, it said. The competent authority has approved extension in tenure of Manish Kishore Sinha from April 3, 2018 to November 30, 2018, the order said.

    Sinha, a 1996 batch IPS officer of Jammu and Kashmir cadre, is undergoing training at National Defence College, the officials said. He is Joint Director in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

    The tenure of another senior IPS officer Anish Prasad, who was in May repatriated to his cadre state Tripura and called back soon after, has also been extended from June 3, 2018 to May 5, 2020, according to another order by the Personnel Ministry. He is posted as Deputy Director (Administration) in the CBI headquarters.

    The tenure of IPS officer Prem Kumar Gautam, associated with coal blocks scam probe, has also been extended.

Kerala Tops In Governance Index, Bihar Ranks The Lowest: Report
  • Kerala stands as the best governed state in the country and Karnataka is in the fourth position, said the Public Affairs Index 2018 released by the think tank Public Affairs Centre (PAC) in Bengaluru.
    "Kerala has topped the Public Affairs Index (PAI) for 2018 as the best governed state for the third consecutive year since 2016 among large states," said Bengaluru-based PAC at an event in Bengaluru on Saturday evening to release its third annual PAI.

    Released annually since 2016, the index examines governance performance in the states through a data-based framework, ranking them on social and economic development they are able to provide.

    Founded in 1994 by renowned Indian economist and scholar late Samuel Paul, the think tank works to mobilise a demand for better governance in the country.

    Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka and Gujarat followed Kerala among the top five states delivering good governance, according to the report.

    Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar ranked the lowest on the PAI, indicating higher social and economic inequalities in the states.

    Among smaller states (with population less than two crore), Himachal Pradesh topped the list, followed by Goa, Mizoram, Sikkim and Tripura which figured among the top five states with good governance.

    Nagaland, Manipur and Meghalaya were ranked at the bottom of the index among small states.

    As a young country with growing population, India needs to assess and address its developmental challenges, said the Chairman of PAC, K Kasturirangan, on the occasion.

    "The PAI 2018 is one example of a data-based framework that provides some basis, even if rudimentary, to assess the performance of states in India," added Mr Kasturirangan, the former Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

    The think tank has undertaken the study across all the Indian states considering them across 10 themes such as essential infrastructure, support to human development, social protection, women and children as well as law and order.

    "The index provides a multi-dimensional and comprehensive matrix that attempts to capture the complexities of governing the plural and diverse people of this sub-continent," added Senior Fellow at PAC CK Mathew.

    The states were divided into two categories, large and small, on the basis of their population. States with more than two crore population were considered large.

    A total of 30 focus subjects and 100 indicators were measured to derive the PAI, relying solely upon government data.

    The PAC said it was not keen to access private data sources that may be interpreted as "biased".

    This year's PAI also included a separate index on the children of India, giving a measure of how child-friendly each of the states are.

    Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Mizoram topped the index on being the states to provide better living conditions for all children.

    The former chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Shantha Sinha, who was present on the occasion, delivered the Samuel Paul Memorial Lecture, drawing attention to children''s rights in the country.

    "Children growing up in poverty cannot be blamed for their situation and it is the state''s responsibility to ensure that they are provided with opportunities for a better living," Ms Sinha said.

"Committed To Making Alliance Work": Sonia Gandhi On 2019 Strategy
  • UPA chairperson and former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi launched a direct attack on the Narendra Modi government and cautioned her party against the "reign of despair and fear heaped upon India's deprived and poor". Mrs Gandhi was addressing the Congress Working Committee, the top decision-making body of the party, in the capital on Sunday.
    Mrs Gandhi said the Prime Minister's "rhetoric showed his desperation", and that the "countdown for the BJP-led government had begun."

    "We have to rescue our people from a dangerous regime," said Mrs Gandhi, adding that the party is "committed to making alliance work" and in this endeavour she is with the Congress president and her son Rahul Gandhi.

    Sources say there was a general consensus on strategic alliance ahead of 2019 polls. Congress leaders Sachin Pilot, Shakti Singh Gohil and Ramesh Chennithala said the Congress Party should remain at the centre of alliance, with Rahul Gandhi as its face.

    Mrs Gandhi's statement on alliance comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi compared a united opposition to a swamp. "There is not just one 'dal' (political party) but dal over dal resulting in "dal-dal" (swamp) which will only help the 'lotus" bloom," said PM Modi at a farmers rally in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday. Lotus is the election symbol of the BJP.

    The revamped CWC meeting is taking place amid the ongoing monsoon session, which is the last full-fledged parliament session before the 2019 general elections.

    The tone of the Congress campaign, in the run up to the parliamentary polls, was set off during yesterday's no-confidence motion, when Congress chief Rahul Gandhi launched a blistering attack on PM Modi, on a wide range of issues including the Rafale deal, farm distress, unemployment and women's safety. Mr Gandhi said he will counter the BJP's "hatred and anger" with Congress' "love and compassion."

Business Affairs

GST rate cut: Consumer electronics, kitchen appliances, leather items, footwear get cheaper
  • In its 28th meeting, the GST Council gave its approval to slash tax rates on over 100 items that were in the highest 28 per cent tax bracket under the Goods and Services Tax. GST rates on articles including consumer durables like smaller television sets, refrigerators, washing machines, paints and varnishes, lithium ion batteries, and more were brought down from 28 per cent to 18 per cent. The tax council also rationalised rates on several other items too.

    The GST Council also exempted sanitary napkins from taxes under the GST regime. The Council also approved Nandan Nilekani's recommendations for simplifying GST return procedure with minor tweaks. Now, traders with annual turnover less up to Rs 5 crore will have to file their returns every quarter, whereas those above the threshold will have to file returns every month. The taxes incurred under GST will have to be paid every month, though. Two simplified forms - Sugam and Sahaj - were also approved by the GST Council for B2C and B2B taxpayers for easier return filing.

    The most-talked about decision, though, was the tax rate cuts passed by the GST Council. The changes will come into effect from July 27. These rate cuts are expected to cost Rs 7,000 crore to exchequer.

    Below is the complete list of items with rationalised GST rates:

    28% to 18%

    Paints and varnishes (including enamels and lacquers)
    Glaziers' putty, grafting putty, resin cements
    Refrigerators, freezers and other refrigerating or freezing equipment including water cooler, milk coolers, refrigerating equipment for leather industry, ice cream freezer, etc.
    Washing machines
    Lithium-ion batteries
    Vacuum cleaners
    Domestic electrical appliances such as food grinders and mixers & food or vegetable juice extractor, shaver, hair clippers etc
    Storage water heaters and immersion heaters, hair dryers, hand dryers, electric smoothing irons etc
    Televisions measuring up to 68 cm
    Special purpose motor vehicles, like crane lorries, fire fighting vehicle, concrete mixer lorries, spraying lorries
    Works trucks (self-propelled, not fitted with lifting or handling equipment) of the type used in factories, warehouses, dock areas or airports for short transport of goods.
    Trailers and semi-trailers
    Miscellaneous articles such as scent sprays and similar toilet sprays, powder-puffs, and pads for the application of cosmetics or toilet preparations
    28% to 12%

    Fuel Cell Vehicle. Further, Compensation cess shall also be exempted on fuel cell vehicle.
    18%/12%/5% to Nil

    Stone/Marble/Wood Deities
    Rakhi (other than that of precious or semi-precious material of chapter 71)
    Sanitary Napkins,
    Coir pith compost
    Sal leaves, products made from sal leaves, and Sabai Rope
    Phool Bhari Jhadoo (Raw material for Jhadoo)
    Khali dona
    Circulation and commemorative coins, sold by Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Ltd (SPMCIL) to Ministry of Finance.
    12% to 5%

    Chenille fabrics and other fabrics under heading 5801
    Handloom dari
    Fertilizer grade phosphoric acid
    Knitted cap priced up to Rs 1000
    18% to 12%

    Bamboo flooring
    Brass Kerosene Pressure Stove
    Hand Operated Rubber Roller
    Zip and Slide Fasteners
    18% to 5%

    Ethanol for sale to Oil Marketing Companies for blending with fuel
    Solid bio fuel pellets
    Footwear priced up to Rs 1000 (Earlier, footwear priced up to Rs 500 used to attract GST at 5%)
    GST rates have been recommended to be brought down for specified handicraft items (as per the definition of handicraft, as approved by the GST council) from:

    18% to 12%
    Handbags including pouches and purses; jewellery box
    Wooden frames for painting, photographs, mirrors etc
    Art ware of cork (including articles of sholapith)
    Stone art ware, stone inlay work
    Ornamental framed mirrors
    Glass statues (other than those of crystal)
    Glass art ware (including pots, jars, votive, cask, cake cover, tulip bottle, vase)
    Art ware of iron
    Art ware of brass, copper/ copper alloys, electro plated with nickel/silver
    Aluminium art ware
    Handcrafted lamps (including panchloga lamp)
    Worked vegetable or mineral carving, articles thereof, articles of wax, of stearin, of natural gums or natural resins or of modelling pastes etc, (including articles of lac, shellac)
    Ganjifa card
    12% to 5%

    Handmade carpets and other handmade textile floor coverings (including namda/gabba)
    Handmade lace
    Hand-woven tapestries
    Hand-made braids and ornamental trimming in the piece
    Toran

EPFO lowers earlier estimate of new enrolment for Sep-Apr period
  • Retirement fund body EPFO's new payroll data suggests that as many as 4,474,859 jobs were created during September 2017 to May 2018. However, the EPFO lowered earlier estimate of new members enrolment by 9.57 per cent, from 4,126,138 to 3,731,251 for September 2017-April 2018.

    According to the latest data, the new members enrolment in May is the highest so far in last eight months at 7,43,608. During May, the maximum number of enrolment of 2,51,526 were recorded in the age bracket of 18 to 21 years followed by 1,90,090 in 22 to 25 years age group.

    The data is, however, provisional as updation of employees records is a continuous process and gets updated in subsequent months. The retirement body in a statement said that the estimates may include temporary employees, whose contributions may not be continuous for the entire year. For each age-wise band, the estimates are net of the members enrolled and ceased during the month as per the EPFO records, it added.

    This year in January, IIM-Bangalore and State Bank of India jointly did a study in which they used EPFO data to claim that India created about seven million formal jobs on a yearly basis.

    The EPFO manages social security funds of workers in the organised/semi organised sector. It runs three social security scheme Employees' Provident Fund Scheme 1952, Employees' Deposit Linked Scheme 1976 (EDLI) and Employees' Pension Scheme 1995. It manages the accounts of over six crore members and a corpus of over Rs 10 lakh crore.

    Earlier this year, the EPFO had started the practice of updating payroll data on its official portal.

US dollar to stay strong until next month; rupee at 70.3 in Jul-Sept, says report
  • The US dollar is expected to remain bullish until middle of next month, and equity and bond outflows from emerging markets are also likely to stay strong, says a Morgan Stanley report.

    The global financial services major is "neutral" on rupee and forecasts rupee at 70.3 per US dollar in the third quarter of this year (July-September).

    The rupee has been among the worst-performing currencies against the dollar compared with its peers so far this year and breached the 69-mark against the US dollar amid multiple headwinds, including global uncertainties and concerns over inflation.

    The global brokerage further said that oil prices are expected to fall as global oil supply increases and this should provide a "tailwind for rupee and moderate the RBI's concern about inflation accelerating".

    Besides, over the medium term, a rate hike by the Reserve Bank will ease inflationary pressure and support rupee valuations, the report noted.

    "In the near term, as we expect US dollar to remain strong until mid-August and equity and bond outflows from emerging market to also stay strong," Morgan Stanley said in a research note and added that "we remain neutral on the rupee".

    On Reserve Bank's policy stance, Morgan Stanley expects a rate hike at the August review meeting.

    In June, the Reserve Bank of India had upped its retail inflation projection by 0.30 per cent and kept the policy stance in the neutral zone, even as it hiked the key rate by 0.25 per cent to 6.25 per cent.

    The government has mandated the Reserve Bank to keep inflation at 4 per cent, with a margin of 2 per cent on either side.

    The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will begin its three-day meeting on July 30 and announce its decision on the third bi-monthly policy of the current fiscal on August 1.

RBI's big worry! About 74% public sector bank ATMs vulnerable to frauds
  • About 74 per cent automated teller machines (ATMs) of public sector banks are running on outdated software - which makes these machines highly vulnerable to frauds. The revelation came in response to a question in the Parliament on whether the softwares used for the ATMs are supported.

    Currently, India has over 2 lakh ATMs and approximately 70 per cent of them still run on Windows XP - which Microsoft itself stopped supporting in 2014.

    Earlier in June, the Reserve Bank of India gave all the banks strict timelines to upgrade their ATMs or else face action. As per the timeline, banks have to implement a host of security measures by August and upgrade all ATMs with supported version of operating in a phased manner by June 2019.  

    Last year In April, the RBI through a confidential circular to banks had highlighted concerns about the ATMs running on Windows XP and/or other unsupported operating systems. "The slow progress on the part of the banks in addressing these issues has been viewed seriously by the RBI," the central bank said in a circular to heads of banks and white label ATM operators.

    The central bank said that the vulnerability arising from the ATMs operating on unsupported version of operating system and non-implementation of other security measures could potentially affect the interests of the banks' customers adversely.

    "It may be noted that any deficiency in timely and effective compliance with the instructions contained in this circular may invite appropriate supervisory enforcement action under applicable provisions of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 and/or Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007," it said.

    Banks and white label ATM operators have been asked to implement security measures such as basic input/output system (BIOS) password, disabling USB ports, disabling auto-run facility, applying the latest patches of operating system and other softwares, terminal security solution, time-based admin access by August. The banks will have to implement anti-skimming and white listing solution by March 2019.

    Further, all the ATMs have to be upgraded with supported versions of operating system. The RBI has asked all the banks to upgrade not less than 25 per cent of their ATMs with supported operating system by September and 50 per cent by December. All the ATMs should be upgraded by June 2019.

    Banks were also asked to take the circular before the board of directors at ensuing meeting, along with the proposed action plan for implementation of the measures, and report to the RBI by July. "The progress made in implementation of these measure should be closely monitored to ensure meeting the prescribed timelines," the circular had added.

    The instruction was issued in wake of increasing number of ATM frauds.

FPIs pull out Rs 2,000 crore in July on higher crude oil prices, weak rupee
  • Continuing their selling spree, foreign investors have pulled out over Rs 2,000 crore from the capital markets this month so far on higher crude oil prices and a depreciating rupee.

    The latest sell-off comes after foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) withdrew over Rs 61,000 crore from the capital markets in the last three months (April to June). Prior to that, overseas investors had infused Rs 2,661 crore in March.

    As per data compiled by depositories, net outflow in the debt markets stood at Rs 1,173 crore during July 2-20, while the same in equity was at Rs 858 crore, resulting in a net withdrawal of Rs 2,031 crore.

    "Selling by FPIs in the Indian debt markets could be attributed to higher fuel prices which fans fear that the inflation may stoke further. This, in turn, could widen the country's current account deficit thus putting pressure on the rupee which has already depreciated almost 8 per cent since the end of January this year," said Himanshu Srivastava, senior research analyst, manager research at Morningstar.

    "Additionally, tightening of policy back in the US also does not augur well for the Indian debt markets. This trend may continue given there are expectations that the US Fed may hike rates further," he added.

    Explaining about outflows from equity markets, Srivastava said higher crude oil prices, increasing retail inflation, depreciating rupee against the US dollar, high chances of further rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve and fear of global trade war are the key factors behind the trend.

General Awareness

    Student Police Cadet Programme
    • Context: Union Home Minister has launched Student Police Cadet Programme.

      About Student Police Cadet Programme:

      The programme seeks to build a bridge between the Police and the larger community through school students by inculcating values and ethics in them through classes in school and outside.

      The programme focuses on students of class 8 & 9 and special care has been taken to ensure that it does not lead to increase in the workload of the students.

      The programme does not have any prescribed text book nor is any exam envisaged. Only one class in a month is proposed.
      The programme seeks to cover broadly two kinds of topics: Crime prevention and control and Values and ethics.
      The Programme shall be at first implemented in Government schools in both urban and rural areas.
       Implementation:

      The programme shall be steered by a State level committee to be headed by the Principal Secretary, Home Department with the Principal Secretary, Education and Director General of Police as members. There shall be a similar committee at the district level headed by the District Magistrate with the District Inspector of Schools and Superintendent of Police as members.

      What’s important?

      For Prelims and Mains: Programme and its significance.

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