Current Affairs Current Affairs - 24 September 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 24 September 2018

General Affairs 

Army Chief Says He Agrees To Centre's Decision To Call Off Talks With Pak
  • Army Chief General Bipin Rawat on Sunday backed the government's decision to call off the dialogue with Pakistan, asserting that talks and terror cannot go together.

    The government had on Friday called off a meeting between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in New York, citing the brutal killings of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir and Islamabad releasing postage stamps "glorifying" Kashmiri terrorist Burhan Wani.

    Infiltration from across the border persists despite the call for a ceasefire by Pakistan, said General Rawat stressing that this cannot be allowed to continue and appropriate action has to be taken to deter terrorists from disrupting the peace in the Valley.

    He was talking at a commemoration ceremony of Haifa Day Centernary at the Teen Murti Haifa Memorial in Delhi.

    He backed the government's decision to call off the talks between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart on sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

    "The government's policy is very clear cut... You (Pakistan) show us some initiatives so that we feel that you are not encouraging terrorism. But we see that terror activities are continuing and terrorists come from the other side of the border.

    "In such an atmosphere, whether talks can be initiated that the government can only decide. I agree to the government's decision that peace talks and terrorism cannot go together," he said.

    A BSF patrolling party was fired upon by forces from across the Pakistan border on September 20, in which a jawan was killed. The head constable rank jawan was suspected to have been hit by a fatal sniper shot from across the border. His body was recovered in a mutilated condition later.

    General Rawat further said they will provide security along with other agencies for the Panchayat polls in Jammu and Kashmir to be held in November.

    "Today we are also looking at Panchayat elections, we want these elections to go through because with this the power will devolve to people.

    "Our job is to ensure that the civil administration there and the election commission is able to carry out their tasks so that people can come out and cast their vote in a free and forthright manner without any fear of any kind of disruption," he said.

Top Jaish-e-Mohammad Terrorist Killed In South Kashmir's Pulwama
  • A Pakistani-origin "commander" of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) was killed in an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district this morning, the police said.

    The security forces had information about the presence of a terrorist in Dar Ganie Gund village in Tral. When the forces were searching the area, the terrorist opened fire forcing them to retaliate. The terrorist was killed in the encounter and the house where he was hiding was destroyed in the process, an officer said.

    Huge quantity of arms, ammunition and incriminating material was recovered from the site, an officer said.

    "From the incriminating material recovered, it is learnt that the killed terrorist was one of the top commanders of the proscribed terror outfit JeM. He was identified as Adnan of Pakistani origin," the spokesperson said.

    A jawan and a civilian were injured in cross-firing and admitted to the hospital, the spokesperson added.

India Tells Russia, Indo-Pacific Engagement Not Directed At Any Country
  • Ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to the city next month, India has conveyed to Russia that its engagement in the Indo-Pacific region is not directed against any country and it was keen on having a broad framework to ensure peace and stability in the strategically key area, government sources said.

    The US has been pushing for a greater role for India in the Indo-Pacific which is seen by many countries as an effort to contain China's growing clout in the region.

    The issue of India's involvement in the Indo-Pacific figured prominently during talks between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

    The sources said while acknowledging Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "inclusive vision" for the Indo-Pacific as outlined during the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore in June, the Russian side felt that there may be countries which could be trying to "manipulate" the Indo-Pacific concept to serve their own interests.

    However, Ms Swaraj categorically conveyed to Mr Lavrov that India has always acted responsibly and that it was trying to carry everybody along for ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

    "The external affairs minister made it very clear that India's engagement is not directed at any one country," a source said.

    Mr Putin is scheduled to visit India early next month for the annual India-Russia summit during which both sides are likely to deliberate on security situation in the Indo-Pacific region.

    In November last year, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending "Quad" coalition to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.

    The four countries held a crucial meeting under the new framework in Singapore in June during which they deliberated on common concerns in the region and the way forward.

    India, US and several other nations have been pressing for freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea. The US has been periodically sending naval ships and planes to assert freedom of navigation, much to the chagrin of China.

    In a symbolic move to reflect the importance it attaches to India in the region, the US renamed its Pacific Command as the Indo-Pacific Command four months back.

    In his address at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore in June, PM Modi had outlined his vision for a prosperous Indo-Pacific Asia and said the world will have a better future when India and China work together with trust and confidence while being sensitive to each other's interests.

Nirmala Sitharaman Announces Events To Celebrate Surgical Strikes
  • Days after the University Grants Commission's circular asking educational institutes to observe the 'Surgical Strike Day', Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday announced organising of events from September 28 to 30 to commemorate the valour of soldiers.

    This will also include a three-day exhibition at the India Gate, she said.

    "From 28th to 30th September 2018, we will celebrate the valour of the armed forces. There will be activities around the nation, including a 3-day exhibition at India Gate, New Delhi, to commemorate the brave Indian soldier. More details to follow soon. Jai Hind!" she tweeted.

    The Indian Army had conducted surgical strikes on terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control on September 29, 2016.

    The University Grants Commission (UGC) has asked educational institutes to observe 'Surgical Strikes Day' on September 29, a move that has invited criticism from several quarters.

"Truth Can't Have 2 Versions": Arun Jaitley Questions Hollande On Rafale
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today questioned former French President Francois Hollande's hugely controversial statement on the multi-billion-dollar Rafale fighter jet deal, saying "truth cannot have two versions". Pointing to Mr Hollande's contradictory statements on the deal, Mr Jaitley, in a blog post on Facebook, asserted that neither the Indian nor the French government played any role in the selection of industrialist Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence as the local partner by Rafale manufacturer Dassault Aviation.

    Mr Jaitley's counter comes amid a political firestorm triggered by Mr Hollande's statement to a investigative website on Friday that the Indian government had proposed Reliance Defence as the Indian partner of French defence giant Dassault, and that France "did not have a choice" in the matter.

    "He has, in a subsequent statement, said that he is 'not aware' if Government ever lobbied for Reliance Defence and that 'the partners chose themselves'," Mr Jaitley wrote. This, he said, "contradicts his first questionable statement which the French Government and Dassault have denied."

    The former French premier, when asked whether India had pressured Reliance and Dassault to work together, told news agency AFP that he was unaware and "only Dassault can comment on this".

    "His second statement in Montreal, Canada to AFP makes the veracity of his first statement even more questionable," the Finance Minister said.

    Mr Jaitley also took a swipe at the Congress which has seized Mr Hollande's statement to buttress its allegations of corruption in the Rafale deal.

    "The Congress Party's official handle on 31.8.2018 had carried the tweet of one of its leader "It is evident that Anil Ambani bribed President Hollande through his actor-partner to get the Dassault partnership." For the Congress Party to allege that a former President had been bribed by an Indian business group and then use him as a primary witness, particularly when he is facing criticism for an alleged conflict of interest within his own country," Mr Jaitley wrote.

    The government has firmly denied any role in the selection of Reliance Defence as a partner for Dassault while France said that it was "in no way involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners" for the contract. For its part, Dassault Aviation has said that the decision to partner with Reliance Defence Ltd (RDL) to fulfill offset obligations of the deal was its own.

    PM Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after holding talks with then French President Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris. The opposition party has accused the government of choosing Reliance Defence over state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd to benefit the private firm though it did not have any experience in the aerospace sector.

Business Affairs

Govt begins consolidation of regional rural banks, to bring tally down to 36
  • The government has also initiated consolidation of regional rural banks along with the public sector lenders and intends to bring down their number to 36 from the existing 56.

    In this regard, the Centre has begun consultations with states as they are one of the sponsors of the regional rural banks (RRBs) in the country, a senior Finance Ministry official has said.

    Besides, sponsor banks are also preparing road map for the amalgamation of RRBs within a state, the official said.

    The development assumes significance in the light of government earlier this month announcing decision to merge Bank of Baroda, Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank to create another global size bank.

    The proposed consolidation of RRBs and bringing down their tally from the existing 56 to 36 will usher in better scale-efficiency, higher productivity, robust financial health of such banks, improved financial inclusion and greater credit flow to rural areas, the official said.

    Besides, the move will enable RRBs to minimise their overhead expenses, optimise the use of technology, enhance the capital base and area of operation, the official added.

    These banks were formed under the RRB Act, 1976, with an objective to provide credit and other facilities to small farmers, agricultural labourers and artisans in rural areas.

    The Act was amended in 2015 whereby such banks were permitted to raise capital from sources other than the Centre, states and sponsor banks. Currently, the Centre holds 50 per cent in RRBs, while 35 per cent and 15 per cent are with the concerned sponsor banks and state governments, respectively.

    Even after stake dilution, the shareholding of the Centre and the sponsor public sector banks together cannot fall below 51 per cent, according to the amended Act.

    As a result, the ownership and control would remain with the government. In order to improve the financial health of RRBs, the government initiated consolidation of RRBs in a phased manner in 2005. The number of RRBs came down to 133 in 2006 from 196 at the end of March 2005. It further came down to 105 and subsequently to 82 at the end of March 2012. Further consolidation brought down number of such banks to 56.

    RRBs operating through about 21,200 branches witnessed a 17 per cent rise in net profit to Rs 2,950 crore in 2016-17. Their loans and advances outstanding under various schemes rose 15 per cent to Rs 3.5 lakh crore as of March 2017.

Curb on imports to bring rupee to 68-70 level: DEA Secy
  • The government will "very soon" implement the second set of measures including curb on imports of non-essential items to shore up rupee to 68-70 level against the US dollar, Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg said, terming the about 12 per cent slide in the currency as a temporary phenomenon.

    The government had earlier this month announced easing of overseas borrowing norms for manufacturing companies, removal of restrictions on foreign portfolio investors (FPI) investment in corporate bonds and tax benefits on Masala bonds to shore up rupee and check widening of current account deficit.

    Now, the Centre has prepared a list of non-essential items whose imports can be curbed and also drawn up a separate list of goods whose exports can be boosted with a little policy intervention, Garg told PTI in an interview here.

    On the rupee continuing to fall despite the first set of measures, he said "full components of the steps have not been implemented as yet, especially curb on import of non-essential items and boosting some of the exports etc. Those are still to come."

    "These measures are at the final stage. Very soon, these should be announced," he said.

    A group headed by the Commerce Secretary has "more or less" completed its task on finalising the list, the DEA secretary said.

    "Once it gets the nod from higher-ups, it will be announced...It will happen very early," he said.

    The rupee has been battered for over a month now amid sell-offs sweeping emerging markets following a rout in the currencies of Argentina and Turkey. The Indian currency has set a string of record lows, dampening some of the optimism about India's world-beating economic growth.

    The rupee on last Friday closed at 72.20 to the US dollar, higher than the record low of 72.91 it had hit earlier this month.

    The government, Garg said, is concerned about the rupee's slump and its adverse impact on the Current Account Deficit (CAD).

    The CAD, difference between inflow and outflow of foreign exchange, widened to 2.4 per cent of GDP in the first quarter.

    The fall in rupee has shot up oil import bill for the world's fastest-growing oil user by 76 per cent to USD 10.2 billion in July.

    Garg said the appropriate level for the rupee is 68-70 per dollar, with 72 being the reasonable outer limit for depreciation.

    With first round of measures not having any desired impact, he said there is no question of government being helpless as there are more measures to be taken to rein in falling rupee.

    Garg further said that in view of present circumstances, CAD and present capital flows, 68-70 range appears to be a reasonable level.

    "When it suddenly went down from 69 to 72, the government rightly got concerned that this kind of sudden depreciation is not justified," he said.

    Gard added that the Indian economy recorded an excellent growth of 8.2 per cent in the first quarter, inflation is low, macroeconomic fundamentals are good, the government is strictly maintaining fiscal deficit and expenditure programme is going on well.

    "So why on earth should there be such a depreciation of 10-12 per cent in 6 months or 6-9 per cent in two months. That's why the Prime Minister took a meeting (on September 14). The Finance Minister got into the act and several decisions were taken and some of them are under implementation," he said.

    Garg expressed confidence that with the measures announced and those in works, the rupee will regain comfortable levels. "I am sure this is temporary and this will come back (to the comfortable level)," he said.

WhatsApp appoints grievance officer for India
  • Under pressure to clamp down on sinister messages, Whatsapp has appointed a grievance officer for India and detailed out the process for users to flag concerns and complaints, including those around fake news.

    Meeting one of the key demands that India had put on Whatsapp to curb fake messages that triggered mob killings, the Facebook-owned company has updated its website to reflect the appointment of a 'Grievance Officer for India'.

    The update mentions that users can seek help through the mobile app, send an email or write in to 'Komal Lahiri', who is based out of the US.

    According to Lahiri's LinkedIn profile, she is senior director, global customer operations and localisation, WhatsApp.

    When contacted, a WhatsApp spokesperson declined to comment on the matter but pointed to the public FAQ on the company's website that contains these details.

    According to sources, the appointment of the Grievance Officer was made at the end of August.

    They added that the Grievance Officer for India being based in the US is in tune with similar practices by other American tech giants.

    According to the WhatsApp website, users can reach out to the company's support team directly from the app under 'Settings' tab and in case they wish to escalate the complaint, they can contact the Grievance Officer directly.

    A section within FAQs read: "You (users) can contact the Grievance Officer with complaints or concerns, including the following: WhatsApp's Terms of Service; and Questions about your account".

    The updated FAQs also detailed out the mechanism for law enforcement officials to reach out to WhatsApp.

    The government has been pressing WhatsApp to develop tools to combat fake or false messages. One of the demands was to name a grievance officer to deal with issues in India.

    India is WhatsApp's biggest market with more than 200 million users. It, in July, limited message forwards to five chats at a time and had also removed the quick forward button placed next to media messages to discourage mass forwarding. It has also introduced a 'forward' label to help users identify such messages.

    The latest appointment is also significant as the Supreme Court, last month, had agreed to examine a petition alleging that WhatsApp does not comply with Indian laws, including the provision for appointing a grievance officer. The apex court had sought a reply on the matter within four weeks.

    With general elections slated for next year in India, the government is taking a tough stance on use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp for spread of misinformation.

    The government had warned WhatsApp that it will treat the messaging platform as abettor of rumour propagation and legal consequences will follow, if adequate checks are not put in place.

    In a meeting held with WhatsApp Head Chris Daniels last month, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had asserted that the company will have to find a solution to track origin of messages on its platform, set up a local corporate entity that is subject to Indian laws within a defined time-frame as well as appoint a grievance officer.

    WhatsApp, which has been slapped with two notices with a third one under consideration, has said it is in the process of establishing a local corporate entity.

    It has, however, not accepted government's demand for traceability of messages saying creating such a software will go against the idea of user privacy and end-to-end encryption.

RBI shortlists Infosys, TCS, 3 other IT firms to implement CIMS
  • The Reserve Bank has shortlisted five IT firms including Infosys and TCS for implementation of a centralised information and management system (CIMS) for seamless data collection and validations.

    The central bank had invited of expression of interest (EOI) in July for identification of solution provider for implementation of CIMS by overhauling the Data Warehouse (DW) of the apex bank.

    After evaluation of the responses, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said "it has been decided to shortlist" five vendors for issuance of 'Request for Proposal' (RFP) for selection of vendor for CIMS development and implementation.

    The vendors are: Capgemini Technology Services India, IBM India, Infosys, Larsen & Toubro Infotech and Tata Consultancy Services.

    The RBI had proposed a CIMS comprising of DW and Data Lake (DL) which would include, seamless data collection from regulated entities by creating system-to-system interface; system driven data validation and data review; flexible and scalable data repository and providing data dissemination platform.

    The CIMS would also include centralised analytics platform to facilitate creation of RBI Data Sciences Lab.

    The RBI, in April, had announced to gainfully harness the power of big data analytics by setting up a data sciences lab that will comprise experts and budding analysts, internal as well as lateral, who are trained inter alia in computer science, data analytics, statistics, economics, econometrics and/or finance.

    One of the functional requirements for CIMS, as per the EOI, was establishing system-to-system interface for automated element based data collection from about 130 banks/entities.

ONGC's international arm slapped with Rs 7,666-crore service tax demand
  • The tax department has slapped ONGC Videsh Ltd a service tax demand of Rs 7,666.10 crore on remittance the firm makes to its overseas subsidiaries for past one decade, sources in know of the development said.

    OVL, the overseas arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), has stakes in 41 projects in 20 countries spanning from Venezuela to New Zealand. For the operations of these projects, the local units and joint ventures would raise a demand for money on the parent, OVL, which would transmit the funds.

    The service tax department now contends that the overseas units are rendering a service to OVL and as such the company is liable to pay service tax at the full rate, sources said.

    The tax demand pertains to the period 2006 to 2017.

    The service tax department had first issued a demand cum show-cause notice on October 11, 2011, requiring OVL to show cause why service tax amounting to Rs 2,816.31 crore plus interest on such amount and penalty should not be demanded and recovered.

    The tax amount was calculated based on foreign currency expenditure reported in the company's financial statements covering the period from April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2010.

    Sources said the tax department contends that these expenses represent business auxiliary services rendered by the foreign branches and operator of the joint venture/ consortium to OVL.

    Subsequently, five more demand-cum-show cause notices have been issued based on similar contentions covering the period up to March 31, 2015, to show cause why service tax amounting to Rs 3,286.36 crore (including Education cess and SHE cess), the interest on such amount and penalty should not be demanded and recovered from the company.

    A demand-cum-show cause notice has been issued based on similar contentions covering the period April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2017, to show cause why service tax amounting to Rs 1,563.32 crore plus interest on such amount and penalty should not be demanded and recovered from OVL.

    Sources said OVL believes that no service tax is due or payable and is contesting the demand.

    According to OVL, investments made overseas through subsidiaries or branches or joint ventures do not constitute availing of any service. The company operates the projects at an internal rate of return on investments of 12-13 per cent and if it has to pay 14-15 per cent service tax on such investments, the projects will give negative returns and would become infructuous.

    Also, it contends that service tax by law can be levied on services rendered within the country. And even if one were to assume that its branches or subsidiaries were rendering any service, they were all overseas and not within India and so cannot be subject to any service tax, sources said.

    Sources said OVL management is of the view that the disputed service-tax demands are not tenable in law.

    OVL had reported a net profit of Rs 981.5 crore in 2017-18 fiscal on a turnover of Rs 12,945.6 crore. It produced 9,353 million tonnes of oil in the fiscal, up from 8.434 million tonnes in the previous year. Gas output increased to 4.811 billion cubic meters in 2017-18 from 4.369 BCM in the previous year.

General Awareness

    Child Adoption Regulatory Authority (CARA)
    • What to study?

      For Prelims: Key facts on CARA.
      For Mains: Child adoption- guidelines, issues and ways to address them.

      Context: Child Adoption Regulatory Authority (CARA) has allowed individuals in a live-in relationship to adopt children from and within India.

      Exception: CARA has barred applicants in a live-in relationship from adopting a child on the ground that “the Authority would like the children to be placed only with a stable family and individuals in a live-in relationship cannot be considered as stable family.”


      The eligibility criteria under Adoption Regulations, 2017, permit single women to adopt a child of any gender, while single men can adopt only boys. When a married couple seeks to adopt a child, it needs to give its consent for adoption and should be stable marriage for at least two years. Applicants have to be physically, mentally and financially stable to raise a child.

      About CARA:

      Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is a statutory body of Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.
      It functions as the nodal body for adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.
      CARA is designated as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, 1993, ratified by Government of India in 2003.
      CARA primarily deals with adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children through its associated /recognised adoption agencies.

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