Current Affairs Current Affairs - 26 August 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 26 August 2018

General Affairs 

Encourage Bhutan To Deploy More Soldiers In Doklam, Panel Tells Centre
  • A parliamentary panel adopted a report on the Doklam issue today recommending that India should encourage Bhutan to deploy more soldiers on the northern parts of the sensitive region.

    Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day stand-off in Doklam in the Sikkim sector from June 16 last year, after the Indian side stopped construction of a road in the disputed tri-junction by the Chinese Army. Bhutan and China have a dispute over Doklam.

    Congress president Rahul Gandhi is a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, headed by party MP Shashi Tharoor. Mr Gandhi was not present in the meeting today.

    Earlier this month, the panel could not adopt the draft report as most of the BJP members skipped the meeting and the quorum could not be reached, according to sources.

    Some members of the panel who were present in today's meeting said the report was adopted with minor modifications.

    The draft report, circulated among the panel's members on August 6, did not clarify whether the committee was favouring increasing the deployment of Indian troops in the region.

    BJP members of the panel had demanded that statements recorded before the committee by the defence secretary and the incumbent and former external affairs secretaries not be made public.

    A member of the committee said today that "nothing sensitive and crucial information" shared with the panel by officials has been made public.

    The committee members had travelled to Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh to take stock of ground situations and meet senior officials there.

    It has been briefed several times on the issue by the former and current foreign secretaries and other officials.

    The foreign ministry officials had informed the panel that Bhutan was firmly with India on the issue.

    During earlier discussions, Rahul Gandhi had questioned External Affairs Ministry officials on China's objective and why Beijing chose Doklam to create a confrontation, the sources earlier said.

CBI Arrests Railway Engineer For Allegedly Taking Rs. 5 Lakh Bribe
  • The CBI has arrested an executive engineer of the North Central Railways for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs. 5 lakh from a contractor for processing payments and granting other favours, officials said today.

    The alleged bribe was the first installment in the total of Rs. 19 lakhs demanded by Panna Lal Sailani, an executive engineer (constructions) posted in Tundla, a major railway junction in Uttar Pradesh, they said.

    It was alleged in the complaint that Sailani was demanding Rs. 19 lakh for making entries in the measurement book, a record of measurements of construction work done by a contractor, and to process contractor's due payments, the officials said.

    "The CBI laid a trap and the accused was caught red-handed at Agra while accepting a bribe of Rs. 5 Lakh as first instalment from the complainant," a CBI Spokesperson said in a statement.

111 New Helicopters To Be Bought For Navy For Rs. 21,000 Crore
  • Faced with criticism over the bureaucratic and lumbering process in acquiring weaponry for the armed forces, the government today cleared projects worth Rs. 46,000 crore. Contracts, however, have not been signed in several of these cases.

    One of the items for which a contract will be signed soon is for 24 Lockheed Martin-manufactured MH-60R helicopters for the Indian Navy. The contract will be a direct government-to-government deal with the United States worth approximately $1.8 billion. The announcement of the deal comes just days ahead of the visit of the US Secretary of Defence James Mattis to New Delhi. 

    MH-60R helicopters are anti-submarine helicopters and are expected to replace British-built Sea King helicopters, many of which are more than three-decades-old. For years, the Navy has argued that its warships lack any modern anti-submarine helicopters with the Sea King fleet now obsolete. With less than 10 Sea King helicopters operational, the Indian Navy has been forced to sail its warships without this helicopter support. Frontline destroyers of the Indian Navy have hangars which can house two helicopters of this class but frequently put to sea without any integral helicopter support.

    In a big boost for the army's artillery formations, the government has cleared the acquisition of 150 indigenously developed and designed 155mm Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) at a cost of Rs. 3,364 crore. The ATAGS guns are considered a breakthrough in indigenous weapons development. The guns, which have been designed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are being extensively tested in high-altitude areas and also desert regions where they will operate. The 155mm/52 calibre guns, which will be manufactured by the Kalyani Group and Tata Power SED, can hit targets more than 40 kilometres away and will now form a primary component of the Indian Army's artillery formations.

    The government has also kicked off the process of acquiring 111 Naval utility helicopters through the strategic partnership model. The project has been valued at Rs. 21,000 crore and will be a part of the government's flagship 'Make In India' programme. This will take several years to roll out.

    Several aviation majors including Airbus, Kamov and Bell have offered helicopters in addition to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The navy will shortlist the helicopter it wants after an extensive evaluation process which will be followed by a contract where most of these helicopters will need to be built in the country in conjunction with local partners.

    Finally, the navy has begun the process to acquire 14 vertically-launched short-range missile systems, 10 of which will be made in India. 

    These are anti-missile systems and will be fitted on warships such as the navy's made-in-India Project 28 Class corvettes which lack this missile system that is considered essential in defending a warship against attacks from anti-ship missiles fired by enemy aircraft, warships and submarines. The missile systems will be inducted after after trials, evaluation and tendering - a process that will likely take years before acquisition.

Jammu And Kashmir Policemen To Get Security While Visiting Families
  • The Jammu and Kashmir Police on Saturday said they were devising a strategy for policemen wanting to visit their families during occasions and emergencies.

    Concerned over the targeting of policemen by terrorists especially in south Kashmir areas, the state police has listed three districts -- Shopian, Kulgam, Pulwama -- as "hypersensitive" with regard to security of the personnel.

    On Eid, terrorists killed three policemen including an officer.

    "An advisory had already existed that directed policemen not to visit their families on Eid without security and without the knowledge of their police stations," a senior officer said.

    In future, policemen including constables, would be provided security.

    "Such visits would be allowed for only two hours and without any disclosure," the officer added.

21,000 Crores Needed As Kerala Rebuilds After Floods
  • After the worst rain and floods in a century, Kerala is slowly getting on the road to recovery. Rescue operations now over, the focus has shifted to providing relief and rehabilitation to the over one million people displaced by the floods. Kerala authorities estimate the overall damage to be worth more than Rs. 21,000 crore. The state, which asked for Rs. 2,600 crore as immediate assistance, has so far received Rs. 600 crore from the centre.
    Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had announced on Tuesday that the United Arab Emirates, home to some 30 lakh Indians - about 80 per cent of them from Kerala - had offered Rs. 700 crore as relief to the state. Indians in the UAE mostly work in the civil engineering and construction industries, which citizens of the gulf country believe "help build the (their) nation."

    Chief Minister Vijayan has claimed that he has been informed by an NRI businessman about the Rs. 700 crore aid which the UAE was "willing" to provide. Mr Vijayan went on to say that he hoped that the Centre would "accept the offer."

    Officials from the UAE embassy in New Delhi however clarified, that the UAE had not officially announced any financial aid for Kerala flood relief yet.

    UAE ambassador Ahmed Albannam, without mentioning any financial aid, said his government has so far only set up a national emergency committee to provide relief assistance to people affected by flash floods in Kerala.

    The gulf nation may come out with a plan in the next few days to extend assistance to flood victims, another official said.

    When asked, Chief Minister Vijayan said that the source of his information was NRI businessman MA Yusuff Ali, who was told about the offer by the crown prince himself, when the businessman met him to convey greetings for Bakrid (Eid Al-Adha).

    "When I asked him (Yusuff) whether this information could be made public, he said there is no problem in doing so," the chief minister told reporters after a meeting to review the post-flood situation and relief operations.

    He also claimed that the matter has been discussed by Crown Prince of UAE Sheikh Mohammed Bin Syed Al Nahian and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    Mr Vijayan's announcement triggered an escalating row with the centre declaring on Wednesday that it would not accept any help from other nations, in sync with India's policy on foreign aid. "The government would stick to its policy of meeting the requirements for relief and rehabilitation through domestic efforts," a statement by the foreign ministry said.

    The centre on Thursday clarified that Rs. 600 crore was released in advance "pending an assessment" by a team of ministers. This, the government added, was apart from Rs. 562.45 crore already in the State Disaster Relief Fund, to which the centre contributes 75 to 90 per cent.


    The floods in Kerala has caused widespread devastation. More than 10,000 kilometres of roads have been destroyed or damaged, while estimates of the number of houses to be rebuilt vary from 20,000 to 50,000.

    With nearly 1.3 million (13 lakh) people in 3,300 relief camps slowly moving back to their homes, many have returned to find them uninhabitable.

    Some have not been able to cope with the damage caused. A 68-year-old man committed suicide on Wednesday after seeing the state of his home at Kothad in Ernakulam district. A 19-year-old boy took his own life earlier this week because his school certificates were destroyed by the floods, police said.

    At Cheruthoni, in Idukki district, people have started returning to find nearly all houses at least half covered by sand and silt. Earth movers have been sent in a bid to clear roads. The state government said it would enlist around 50,000 volunteers to start an operation to clean up homes and public places that have been filled with dirt and sand left by the floods.

    In another sign of the extent of the chaos, the reopening of the Kochi Airport has been delayed by another three days, to August 29.

    With no certainty of accepting any aid that might be offered by other countries, including the UAE, the central government is under pressure from the opposition to chalk out a plan to help rebuild Kerala.

Business Affairs

Vijay Mallya extradition case: India submits video footage of Arthur Road Jail to UK authorities
  • The Central Bureau of Investigation has submitted a video footage of Barrack 12 of Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail to UK authorities. Earlier, the Westminster court, which is hearing Vijay Mallya's extradition case in the UK, had asked the Indian authorities to submit a video of the Arthur Road Jail where they planned to keep liquor baron after extradition.

    The UK court had asked for the video after Mallya's counsel complained that Barrack 12 of the Arthur Road Jail had no natural light. However, the video, which has been submitted before the court, will prove that the cell intended for Mallya has natural light and it is equipped with television set, personal toilet, washing area and bedding.

    Barrack 12 is a ground-plus-one structure with eight cells on each floor. Each cell has a separate toilet (some Indian and some western), washing area and a courtyard. The prisoners who are lodged in Barrack 12 are also given mattresses, pillows, bed sheets and melamine utensil, India Today reported.

    Vijay Mallya is fighting extradition to India on the charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crore. The court will hear the closing arguments in his high-profile extradition trial on September 12.

    In the last hearing on July 31, Mallya appeared before the Westminster Magistrates' Court where both defence and prosecution presented clarifications on Barrack 12 at Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai. After hearing the arguments, Judge Emma Arbuthnot asked the Indian agencies to submit within three weeks a video of the Jail.

    Ahead of the hearing, Mallya had said the allegations of money laundering and stealing money against him were completely false. "I have made a comprehensive settlement offer before the Karnataka High Court. There are over Rs 14,000 crore assets that I have submitted before the court. I have asked them to pay bills and settle them. Question of stealing money and money laundering are completely false charges. Assets are before the court and I am before the court. I hope this all ends," Mallya had said.

When Nirmala Sitharaman lost her cool at Karnataka Minister
  • Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday lost her cool over her itinerary during a visit to the flood-hit Kodagu district in Karnataka. The whole episode started when Sitharaman was interacting with a group of flood-affected people and Karnataka Minister Sa Ra Mahesh told the Defence Minister that the officials were waiting for her for a review meeting after which they had to go for rehabilitation work. Mahesh's constant reminders did not go down well with Sitharaman.  

    When the Karnataka Minister said that she can first address the officials, Sitharaman agreed but she was visibly upset and said, in a rather angry tone, that she was only following the itinerary.

    "I follow the minister in charge. Central minister follows the minister in charge here. Unbelievable! You have a list of minute-to-minute for me to follow...I am doing as per your schedule," Sitharaman said. She then sought to know how many of the officials were from the field taking care of the rehabilitation work and said she did not want the work to be upset.  

    However, Karnataka Minister Mahesh dubbed Sitharaman's comments as a reaction to the demand for funds from the centre to Kodagu.

    During her visit to Karnataka, Defence Minister Sitharaman interacted with children, youth and their families sheltered in flood relief camp in Kodagu. She also assured to take up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other central ministers concerns about the restoration work of roads, telecommunication network and other infrastructure, badly affected by the heavy rains that triggered landslides and floods in the district.

    More than 5,000 people have been rendered homeless in Kodagu district due to recent torrential rains.

    Speaking on relief package, the Defence Minister said the Centre's relief and rehabilitation package would be announced after assessment by a team of officials. She declined to make any guesses on how much relief package was expected from the centre.

    "It would not be wise on my part to second guess what centre can give and what centre cannot give...But once the team comes and makes an assessment into which all your (state) inputs will also be taken, and with your inputs, the central assessment team can come up with a figure," Sitharaman said.

    The Minister later announced a Rs 1 crore aid from her MPs constituency development funds and Rs 7 crore from Corporate Social Responsibility funds of Defence PSUs for flood and landslide relief work.

Govt to ask Johnson & Johnson to compensate for faulty hip implants: Report
  • US-based Johnson & Johnson will have to pay compensation to patients in India for its faulty hip implant surgeries. The US giant is accused of selling faulty hip devices to over 4700 patients in the country - so far, four deaths have been reported and over 3600 patients with the hip surgeries are untraceable.

    Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has asked the drug regulator - central drug standard control organisation (CDSCO)- to set up committees in states to receive complaints from patients who were affected by Johnson & Johnson's faulty devices.

    According to a report in the Times of India, the regulator is planning to place advertisements in different newspapers to identify such patients. "The CDSCO will also set up by the end of the week a central expert committee comprising orthopaedists, medical practitioners and legal experts to monitor functioning of expert committees at the state level and determine the compensation," the TOI report said.
    Last year in February, the Health Ministry had set up a committee under former dean of Maulana Azad Medical College Dr Arun K Agarwal to look into complaints about hip implants devices.

    After considering all the facts and details as well as taking into account the relevant literature, the committee in its report said that "the ASR (articular surface replacement) hip implants manufactured by DePuy International Ltd were found to be faulty which resulted in higher instances of revision surgeries globally including India". DePuy International Ltd is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

    The report further said, "The committee is of the considered view that the revision surgeries were necessitated due to the faulty ASR, as well as negligence of the firm in approaching the patients, and therefore it is the responsibility of the firm to compensate all the affected patients."
    The committee suggested that Johnson & Johnson be made liable to pay at least Rs 20 lakh to each affected patient, and the reimbursement for revision surgeries should continue until August 2025.

    According to the committee, the US giants suppressed the key facts while applying for a fresh licence. As per norms, the company had to file any adverse report of the products on its patients globally. However, the company did not have the records of all 4700 Indian patients who underwent the surgeries.
    The company had records of only 1,032 patients; out of which 254 patients underwent revision surgery and 774 patients were monitored by surgeons.

    The whole controversy began after Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration registered an FIR against Johnson & Johnson following an anonymous complaint in March 2011. The complaint was registered for importing and marketing the faulty hip devices in India despite recalling the product in several other countries.
    Two years later, when reports emerged that J&J had agreed to pay compensation to around 8,000 American citizens who had sued the company for its faulty devices, the FDA received three more complaints from Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad seeking similar compensation for the faulty implants.

    Later, the company received hundreds of complaints from its Indian patients.

    In 2016, a US court had ordered Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy Orthopaedics unit to pay more than $1 billion to six plaintiffs who had sued the company for faulty hip implants. The court had found that the metal-on-metal Pinnacle hip implants were defectively designed and that the companies failed to warn consumers about the risks.

Rupee braves global headwinds to recover from weeks of decline
  • The rupee staged a spirited recovery from its life-time low to end higher by a whopping 24 paise at 69.91 against the US currency in a highly volatile week on bouts of dollar selling by exporters and corporates.

    After a seemingly endless stream of gloomy news and falling values, sentiment has finally started to show signs of improvement globally against the backdrop of the upcoming visit of Chinese delegates to the US in order to re-ignite trade talks.

    Easing contagion risk on emerging-market currencies after last weeks carnage also added a positive vibe on the trading front.

    The domestic currency larely withstood the headwinds of surging crude prices and trade deficit worries.

    The benchmark Brent crude surpassed the significant USD 75-mark a barrel once again on re-emergence of a supply shock.

    Excess volatility and movements in the US dollar had a major impact on the domestic unit initially.

    The rupee got hammered to hit a low of 70.24 before rebounding from a fag-end wallop, snapping a two-week losing streak.

    The Indian currency had its most turbulent week in more than two years witnessing record lows after doing little to quell investors' fears of a prolonged downturn ahead - a shock resembling 2013 currency crisis.

    It crashed to a historic low of 70.40 against the dollar last week in the wake of Turkey's currency crisis.

    The rupee had depreciated by a staggering 2.26 per cent, or 155 paise.

    The US Dollar shed windfall gains scored on the back of haven demand amid turmoil in emerging market assets.

    India's foreign exchange reserves fell by USD 33.2 million to USD 400.847 billion in the week to August 17 mainly due to fall in foreign currency assets, according to RBI data.

    Meanwhile, foreign investors and funds pumped in over Rs 7,500 crore into the Indian capital markets so far this month on better corporate earnings coupled with improvement in crude oil prices.

    On the energy front, crude prices snapped their seven seven straight weeks of decline - the longest losing streak in three years as supply risk jumped back into the limelight on growing concern over Iranian sanctions cutting off a major supply source.

    The benchmark Brent crude surged over USD 1.02, or 1.4 percent to end at USD75.75 a barrel.

    Earlier this week, staging a smart recovery, the rupee sharply higher at 69.83 from last Thursday's closing value of 70.15 at the inter-bank foreign exchange (forex) market.

    The fresh breakout pushed the local unit to hit a high of 69.53 on fresh dollar selling also supported by a strong rally in local equities.

    However, succumbing to a mid-week sell-off spooked by global trade war jitters, the rupee retrated sharply to breach the 70-mark once again to touch a low of 70.24 briefly before recuperating all losses to end at 69.91, revealing a sharp gain of 24 paise, or 0.34 per cent.

    The RBI, meanwhile, fixed the reference rate for the dollar at 70.1377 and for the euro at 81.1699.

    The 10-year benchmark yield ended modestly higher at 7.87 per cent.

    Globally, the US dollar shed windfall gains scored on the back of haven demand amid turmoil in emerging market assets.

    The Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell comments at the Jackson Hole sent the U.S. dollar lower against all of the major currencies on Friday after he confirmed that steady rate hikes are the best way to protect the U.S. economic recovery, though investors were not impressed.

    The euro climbed to its strongest level in three weeks despite persistent rise in Italian yields.

    The British pound also extended its recovery but the lackluster rally signals that investors are still worried about Brexit.

    The dollar index, which measures the greenback's value against a basket of six major currencies dropped to 95.08 from 96 earlier.

PNB best among public banks in digital transaction, says Finmin report
  • Punjab National Bank (PNB) today said a Department of Financial Services report has rated it as number one state-owned bank in terms of digital transactions.

    The Nirav Modi scam-hit bank is also rated as the sixth overall amongst all banks in India for digital performance, PNB said in a statement.

    "Based on the recent findings of DFS, PNB is ranked number one PSU bank in digital transactions in India. The bank is fully committed to Digital India initiative," it said.

    The bank is rated as 'Good' by the government with a score of 71 which is the highest category of performance, it said.

    PNB average percentage of technical declines is only 0.83 per cent of total transactions which is an achievement in itself, it said.

General Awareness

    International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition
    • What to study?

      For Prelims: What is Haitian revolution?
      For Mains: Causes, significance, impact and outcomes of the revolution.

      Context: The United Nations’ International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is observed every year on August 23 to remind people of the tragedy of the transatlantic slave trade, the largest deportation in history.

      The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition was first celebrated in many countries, in particular in Haiti, on August 23, 1998, and in Senegal on August 23, 1999.

      Significance of the day:

      The day is commemorated to pay tribute to all those who fought for freedom and worked hard to abolish the slave trade and slavery throughout the world. This commitment and the actions used to fight against the system of slavery had an impact on the human rights movement.

      Steps taken by the UNESCO:

      To honour the history of the slave trade and its abolition, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 2017, added to its World Heritage List the Mbanza Kongo, Vestiges of the Capital of the former Kingdom of Kongo (Angola) and the Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site (Brazil), as an acknowledgement of their “outstanding universal value.”

      UNESCO also started an initiative in 1994 known as the ‘Slave Route’ project to contribute to a better understanding of the causes, forms of operation, issues and consequences of slavery in the world.

      The Haitian revolution:

      The night of August 22-23, 1791, in Saint-Domingue, in what is Haiti and the Dominican Republic today, saw the beginning of the uprising that would play a crucial role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
      Men and women sold into slavery, revolted against the slave system to obtain freedom and independence for Haiti. The rebellion weakened the Caribbean colonial system, sparking an uprising that led to abolishing slavery and giving the island its independence.
      It marked the beginning of the destruction of the slavery system, the slave trade, and colonialism. The large and well-organized uprising, better known as the Haitian Revolution, lasted 13 years and ended with the independent nation of Haiti.
      In 1888, nearly 85 years later, Brazil became the last nation in America to abolish slavery.

      Outcomes and impact:

      The success of the rebellion, led by the slaves is a deep source of inspiration today for the fight against all forms of servitude, racism, prejudice, racial discrimination and social injustice that are a legacy of slavery.

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