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Current Affairs - 26 September 2018

General Affairs 

Rafale Deal Better Than One Negotiated Earlier: Air Force Deputy Chief
  • Air Force Deputy Chief Air Marshal R. Nambiar on Tuesday asserted that the deal for 36 Rafale aircraft by the PM Modi government was "much better" than the one negotiated earlier for 126 planes, contending that "people are misinformed" about the issue.

    The remarks came in the backdrop of a mounting multi-pronged attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government by the Congress, with the party on Monday moving the Central Vigilance Commissioner seeking an FIR and seizure of documents pertaining to the Rafale deal. 

    Asked about the row over the offset partners chosen by Dassault Aviation, he said: "I believe people are misinformed. There is nothing like Rs. 30,000 crore to any one party. Dassault alone has offsets to the tune of over Rs. 6,500 crore. Nothing more than that.

    "We have evaluated all the aircraft available to us in the past," R. Nambiar, who recently flew the Rafale in France, told the media.

    "All and all it was a very good deal, much better than what was obtained in 2008," the Deputy Chief Air Marshal said. 

    "We have looked at six platforms and Rafale has met all our requirements. It has been found the most technically capable as well as commercially viable from our point of view. That is how it has been selected."

    Asked about a French media report that there was a push by the Indian government to include Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence in the deal, Nambiar said: "The commercial negotiations were headed by the Deputy Chief of Air Staff and he was responsible for completing the negotiations."

    The official said the negotiations continued for "almost 14 months". "We believe we met all the directions of our leadership -- that was to get a better price, better maintenance terms, better delivery schedule and better performance logistic package."

    Asked about his experience of flying the Rafale, he said: "It was an opportunity to... look at... the new capabilities on offer for the Indian Air Force. I think the aircraft is shaping up quite well... quite satisfied with the performance of all the systems on the aircraft." 

Assam National Register Of Citizens, Claims, Objections Filing Begins
  • The process of filing claims and objections to the draft citizens' register in Assam began today to decide the fate of 40 lakh people whose names were left out of it.
    The draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published on July 30 and included the names of 2.9 crore people out of the total applications of 3.29 crore.

    The claims-and-objections process will continue till November 23 and forms will be available across 2,500 'seva kendras', where people can file their appeal in their respective areas, an NRC official said.

    People can file corrections to their names that are in the draft and also raise objections against suspected foreigners, the official said.

    Political parties and several organisations have set up centres to assist people to file claims.

    The authorities had included the names of applicants in the draft list on the basis of 15 documents. Recently, NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela had submitted to the Supreme Court that five documents should not be considered for the final list. They include the NRC of 1951, pre-1971 voters' lists, citizenship certificate, refugee registration certificate and ration cards.

    The apex court, which is directly monitoring the NRC update, will pronounce its order on Hajela's plea on October 23. The five documents will not be considered till then and the applicants will have to submit any of the remaining 10 documents mentioned in List-A.

    The claims-and-objections process were earlier scheduled to be filed in August, but the Supreme Court had reprimanded the NRC coordinator and the registrar general of India for announcing the dates without the standard-operating procedures being approved.

Supreme Court Constitutes Committee To Look Into Jail Reforms
  • The Supreme Court today constituted a three-member committee, headed by its former judge Justice Amitava Roy, to look into jail reforms across the country and suggest measures to deal with them.

    A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur said the panel will look into various matters including over-crowding in prisons and the issues concerning women prisoners.

    The bench was hearing a matter relating to inhuman conditions in 1,382 prisons across India.

    The top court on August 27 had reserved its order on the issue of constituting a committee to deal with issues pertaining to jails and suggest reforms.

    The bench, also comprising justices S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta, had earlier perused the draft of terms of reference of the committee which was prepared by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) ANS Nadkarni and advocate Gaurav Agrawal, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter.

    The Supreme Court had on August 5 expressed displeasure that several states had not yet appointed the board of visitors who regularly inspect prisons to ensure that they are being run in accordance with rules.

    It had taken strong exception to overcrowding of jails across the country and said prisoners also have human rights and cannot be kept like "animals".

    It had earlier passed a slew of directions over unnatural deaths in jails and on prison reforms across India.

Believe In The Need For Another Surgical Strike: Army Chief Bipin Rawat
  • In view of the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat said yesterday that he believed there was a need for another surgical strike on terror launch pads across the Line of Control.
    In response to a question on whether there is a need for one more surgical strike, General Bipin Rawat responded saying yes.

    "I believe there is a need for one more action (surgical strike). But I would not want to disclose how we want to do it," he said in an interview to India Today.

    The Indian Army conducted surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the Line of Control on September 29 two years ago.

    On Sunday, General Rawat had backed the government's decision to call off dialogue with Pakistan, asserting that talks and terror cannot go together.

    The government on Friday had 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" terrorist Burhan Wani.

    Last week, a Border Security Force solider was shot dead and his body was found mutilated.

    General Bipin Rawat had also said infiltration from across the Line of Control persists despite the call for a ceasefire, and stressed that this cannot be allowed to continue and appropriate action has to be taken to deter terrorists from disrupting the peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

"The More Mud You Sling, The More Lotus Will Bloom": PM Attacks Congress
  • The Congress is indulging in mud-slinging against the government because it finds it easier than debating on issues like development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday, in an apparent reference to allegations on the Rafale fighter deal.

    Addressing a rally, the Prime Minister mocked Congress, saying the 125-year-old party had been reduced to such a condition that it was "begging" with small parties for alliances.

    He said even if the Congress gets allies, the coalition will not be successful.

    PM Modi said his government believes in social justice for all and that its 'Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas' (cooperation of all, development of all) campaign is not just a slogan.

    He expressed confidence that the BJP would emerge victorious in the upcoming Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh as well as in the Lok Sabha elections next year.

    "They (Congress) are indulging in mud-slinging because they find it easier... They have indulged in mud-slinging earlier too. But I want to tell them, the more you throw mud at us, the more the lotus (BJP's symbol) will bloom," PM Modi said.

    He was apparently referring to the charges of corruption being levelled by the Congress in the Rafale fighter deal. PM Modi said the opposition party, instead of indulging in mud-slinging, should engage in a debate on issues like development which "they do not dare to".

    Addressing the rally where BJP chief Amit Shah and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan were also present, the prime minister said the opposition parties had formed the "Maha-gathbandhan" (grand alliance) out of fear of losing the polls.

    "Congress has become a burden on the country today. It is the responsibility of BJP workers in democracy to save the country from it," he said. 

Business Affairs

Govt says RBI needs to cut CRR to improve liquidity
  • A government official on Tuesday said the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) should consider lowering Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) in addition to buying government bonds to ensure adequate liquidity.

    "The RBI has tools like OMO (Open Market Operations) to manage liquidity. Also a CRR cut would ensure immediate liquidity in the market," the government official said, adding that the focus should now be on ensuring adequate liquidity in the system and "not jamming" the credit flow.

    Cash Reserve Ratio or CRR is the percentage of deposits that banks have to park with the RBI in cash. It currently stands at 4 per cent and the central bank has kept the CRR unchanged since September 2013.  

    In a rare move on Sunday, RBI, market regulator Sebi and country's largest lender, SBI, stepped in to reassure jittery markets.

    "The Reserve Bank of India and the Securities and Exchange Board of India are closely monitoring recent developments in financial markets and are ready to take appropriate actions, if necessary," said statements released by RBI and SEBI on Sunday.

    Assuring lending support to non-banking financial companies, SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar had Sunday said there was no concern on liquidity of such firms, amid ongoing debt crisis in IL&FS Group.

    Shares of housing finance companies had come under sudden heavy selling pressure as investors raised concerns over rising cost of borrowing for the companies amid crisis at IL&FS.

    The RBI is scheduled to conduct OMO on September 27 by buying Rs 10,000 crore worth government bonds, thus releasing liquidity into the system.

    Having lost 1,785.62 points in the last five trading sessions, the BSE Sensex rebounded 347 points Tuesday.

    The 30-share index closed at 36,652.06, up by 347.04 points or 0.96 per cent in a volatile trade. It touched a high of 36,705.79 and a low of 36,064.10 in day trade.

India eases oil import rules for state refiners as it seeks to cut costs
  • India has for the first time allowed state refiners to buy 35 percent of their oil imports in tankers arranged by the seller, a document reviewed by Reuters showed, enabling them to swiftly tap cheaper cargoes.

    The move will help refiners in Iran's second biggest oil market to boost purchases from alternative sources as US President Donald Trump prepares to halt Iranian oil sales through a new set of sanctions from November 4.

    The measure is part of a series of attempts by the world's third-biggest oil importer and consumer to cut its surging oil import bill in the face of rising oil prices and a weaker Indian rupee.

    India had previously allowed state-refiners to buy only 15.48 percent of their estimated 118.15 million tonnes of oil imports in the current fiscal year to March 31 on a Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) basis, meaning the seller arranges the vessel and insurance. The rest was largely procured on a Free on Board (FOB) basis to help Indian shipping lines and insurers.

    More than doubling the percentage of CIF cargoes the refiners can buy gives them much greater flexibility to take advantage of more speculative or distressed sellers who need to sell their oil quickly.

    This also indicates that Indian refiners will be in a position to purchase more US oil, which is mostly available on a CIF basis, helping to compensate for the loss of Iranian oil supplies. U.S. crude is currently trading at a discount of about $10 a barrel to the Brent global benchmark price.

    "Basically that (the new higher limit) has increased flexibility (for us) to look at opportunities that are available around the world and buy most economic cargoes," said one source at an Indian refinery who asked not to be named.

    "It was difficult for us to take advantage of the situation when traders or companies are going around with material in the ships," this source said.

    India's shipping ministry told the country's oil ministry about the move in a letter dated Sept 19.

    "Advance NOC (no objection certificate) is now granted to oill marketing companies to further import crude up to 23.07 million tonnes (balance 19.52 percent)," it said.

Eligibility of ArcelorMittal, NuMetal has to be decided by SC: Committee of Creditors
  • The Supreme Court will have to lift the "corporate veil" to test the eligibility of steel and mining major ArcelorMittal and Russia's VTB Bank-promoted firm NuMetal, which are bidding for Essar Steel, to ascertain the persons behind them, the Committee of Creditors said Tuesday.

    A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Indu Malhotra was told by senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, representing the Committee of Creditors (COC), that the concept of "lifting of corporate veil" has to be given "exhaustive" interpretation to ensure that the "persons related to" or "persons acting in concert" with the debt-ridden firms do not come back to bid for the company.

    The senior lawyer referred to the position of the COC with regard to ArcelorMittal and NuMetal and said, "You may have to clear the debt and work out Non Performing Assets, otherwise the purpose of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code would be defeated".

    Responding to a query as to whether ArcelorMittal had a controlling stake in KSS Petron, the COC counsel said it held 32 per cent stake and "anything above 25 per cent is considerable" and the shareholders, under the law, can influence the decisions.

    It has been alleged that ArcelorMittal had 32 and 29 per cent stakes in KSS Petron and Uttam Galva respectively and it had exited from them after selling the stakes before submitting the resolution plan to take over the Essar Steel.

    On the issue of NuMetal, the senior counsel said it was incorporated in Mauritius nearly a week before bidding for Essar Steel and referred to a communication of February 21, which said if there was any objection to a person having shares in it, then the company be allowed to transfer them, so that it remained eligible for bidding.

    "This looks at the face of Section 29A (which deals with disqualification criteria) of the IBC," Subramaniam submitted.

    He said the law was very clear that anybody who has any kind of connection with the erstwhile company or any other NPA firm should not come and bid for the company.

    The bench asked the lawyer what will happen if the COC decided that there was no (rpt no) resolution plan "worth consideration".

    "The company would go for liquidation," Subramaniam said.

    The bench said there were three scenarios. In the first, there could be straight liquidation. In the second, the CoC wants to revive the firm, but does not get a good proposal, while in the third situation, the CoC needs to deal with several bids.

    It then asked "Do you (CoC) have the last word?"

    "No. It has to be the adjudicating authorities (NCLT and NCLAT)," the lawyer said.

    The persons willing to take part in the bid will have to clear dues of the NPAs with which they have been associated, he said, adding that it has been very tough to establish the relationship of a bidding company with other debt-ridden NPA firms.

    He then said the court should accord "purposive" and "exhaustive" interpretations to terms like "people acting in concert" and "corporate veil" and said the IBC provides wider scope of interpretation of these terms.

    Dealing with the delay, the counsel for the CoC said the code provided that insolvency proceedings should be decided in 270 days from the commencement and urged the court that the time consumed by NCLT and NCLAT in dealing with petitions and interim applications be excluded from the statutory time limit.

    The purpose behind having National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) was not to pass interim orders and intervene at every stage, he said.

    Earlier in the day, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for NuMetal, concluded his submisisons and said the two brothers of L N Mittal, Pramod and Vinod Mittal, have been associated with firms which were declared non-performing assets (NPAs).

    He said that just the severance of family relations should be evaluated on the ground of people acting in concert and Pramod Mittal was involved in two debt-ridden NPA companies, including Ispat.

    He said JSW was taken in by NuMetal for its experience in operating and maintaining large steel plants and this would help in running Esssar Steel. This was done keeping in mind that the controlling shareholder VTB Bank of Russia did not have the experience of running a steel plant, he added.

    Rohatgi said the involvement of Essar in NuMetal at the initial stage was in line with the prevailing provisions under IBC Code and Rewant Ruia had exited after the introduction of 29 (A) barring promoters of a defaulting company from participation.

    Senior lawyer Mihir Thakur, also representing NuMetal, said the VTB Group actively traded debt and equity securities as well as commodities and derivatives for both domestic and international clients.

    The advancing of arguments would continue tomorrow.

    Earlier, NuMetal had told the apex court that contrary to claims, a consortium of banks led by SBI had written to the L N Mittal group company to pay the dues of debt-ridden Uttam Galva.

    ArcelorMittal had said that NuMetal was not eligible to bid for Essar Steel on several grounds, including that it was a "shell company" created by a firm in which Essar group promoters had majority shares.

    NCLAT had ruled that NuMetal's second bid for Essar Steel was eligible but the same by ArcelorMittal will qualify only if it cleared the Rs 7,000 crore dues of the two firms it was previously associated with.

Sensex dives 6% since its August peak, wiping out Rs 8.47 lakh crore of investor wealth
  • A month ago, the Sensex was on a bull-run, setting new all-time high records practically every day. But going by the past 17 trading sessions, the bears are now out roaring. The BSE Sensex has dived 6% since August 29, when it hit a peak of 38,989.65. And this market turmoil has reportedly wiped out nearly Rs 10 lakh crore of investor wealth - a whopping Rs 8.47 lakh crore in just five sessions till Monday.

    The carnage would have been worse had the markets not rebounded today, breaking its five-day losing streak. The 30-share BSE index closed 347.04 points up at 36,652.06, and the 50-share NSE Nifty ended 90.30 points higher at 11,057.70 helped by gains in market heavyweights like HDFC, Hindustan Unilever, HDFC Bank, Infosys and Maruti Suzuki.

    According to MoneyControl, as many as 207 stocks in the S&P BSE 500 index have plunged 10-40% since August 29, including Dewan Housing Finance, Yes Bank, Central Bank of India, Reliance Communications, Bharat Electronics, Adani Power, Jaiprakash Associates, Reliance Capital and IL&FS Transport among others.

    Selling pressure extended in the last five trading sessions which resulted in the fall of nearly 1,800 points in the S&P BSE Sensex and over 500 points for the Nifty. Led by the extreme bearish market sentiment, the market capitalisation of BSE-listed companies went down sharply by Rs 8,47,974.15 crore to Rs 1,47,89,045 crore.
    In the S&P BSE Small-cap index, as many as 405 stocks have plunged 10-50%, including names like Jet Airways, Rolta India, Sunil Hitech, IL&FS Investment Managers, Ruchi Soya, Gravita India, Unitech, HDIL, Escorts, Kwality, Nitco and Vijaya Bank.

    Multiple factors have contributed to the market turmoil, from the falling rupee and relentless selling by foreign investors to rising bond yields, rising cost pressure for non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and fiscal concerns. Liquidity concerns amid reports that China has called off planned trade talks with the US further weighed on the market sentiment.

    To allay the fears of investors, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley yesterday said that the government would take all measures to ensure adequate liquidity for NBFCs and mutual funds. "In spite of assuring statements by key government and institutional leaders, market was concerned about the near-term headwinds like quality and increased cost of funds along with tighter liquidity," Vinod Nair, Head of Research, Geojit Financial Services Ltd, told PTI. "At the same time, consolidation in emerging markets, continued increase in oil prices and high valuation further aggravated the anxiety."

    Worse, according to experts, these market fears and rumours are likely to rule the roost till the general elections of 2019. Hence, investors must brace for such events. But there's a silver lining, too - let's not forget that market routs give long-term investors a chance to accumulate their choicest stocks.
    "In the current market scenario, one should avoid leveraged positions and investors should diversify their portfolios and keep at least 15-20% in liquid funds or cash. Value-picking can be seen in a host of stocks where valuations have hit nadir compared to some of the flavour of the season stocks or sectors," Ajay Jaiswal, President - Strategies & Head of Research at Stewart & Mackertich Wealth Management, told the portal.

    "For instance, most blue-chip PSU stocks have fallen 40-60 percent primarily due to falling fiscal health of the country and uncertainties surrounding general elections 2019. The outcome of the General Elections is just eight months from now, hence value investors with 12-18 months perspective can buy a host of PSU and capital goods stocks," he added.

82% of male and 92% of female workers earn less than Rs 10,000 a month: 'State of Working India' Report
  • There has been steady growth in wages for the past decade and a half. Most sectors, except agriculture, have reported an increase in real wages by 3 per cent or more annually.

    However, monthly earnings of most of the working population of India continue to be low. 82 per cent of male and 92 per cent of female workers earn less than Rs 10, 000 a month, finds 'State of Working India' report.

    The report by Azim Premji University studied India's labour market to examine the quantity of employment and unemployment across sectors and industries.

    India has been struggling to convert its high rates of economic growth into good jobs. Currently, a 10 per cent increase in GDP results in less than 1 per cent increase in employment. In fact, in spite of its demographic dividend, the rate of unemployment among the youth and higher educated has reached 16 per cent.

    The good news though is the past decade has been good for the performance of the organised manufacturing sector. Several industries (especially, big employers like knitwear, plastics, and footwear) have delivered on wage growth and job growth. In part this is because workers are no longer being replaced by machines as fast as they were in the 1980s and 1990s.

    However, the better performance is not being translated into better pay. Labour productivity has grown several times faster than wages. As a result employers have benefitted far more from growth than workers.

    The report also found that caste and gender disparity in jobs remain high. For example, women are 16 per cent of all service sector workers, but 60 per cent of domestic workers. Similarly, Scheduled Castes (SC) formed 18.5 per cent of all workers, but 46 per cent of total leather workers.

    The report proposes that the Union Government develop a National Employment Policy in close collaboration with the States. It recommends building on the experience of the need to examine successful state-level employment policies and learn from the diversity of state experiences. It also makes a strong case for creating a Universal Basic Services (UBS) programme that invests in education, health, housing, and public transport and safety to create jobs, human capital, and public goods.

General Awareness

    Publishing poll candidate’s propaganda is paid news
    • What to study?

      For Prelims: Key facts on ECI.
      For Mains: Paid news menace- concerns, challenges and solutions.

      Context: Election Commission of India recently told the Supreme Court that repeated publication of propaganda lauding the achievements of a candidate in an election is nothing but “paid news”.

      The EC has asked the court to declare whether it amounts to “paid news” if widely circulated daily newspapers cover statements issued by, and in the name of, a candidate.


      Such news are not only laudatory of his or her record and achievements but also are a direct appeal to voters by the candidate. Therefore, politicians cannot say that it is part of their fundamental right to free speech to spew out “motivated propaganda”.
      If such motivated propaganda is allowed in the name of free speech during the election period, candidates with a strong network of connections will exploit their sphere of influence in society. This will have the unequal advantage of encashing such silent services.


      The commission has moved the court in appeal against a decision of the Delhi High Court to set aside the disqualification of a MP in Madhya Pradesh.

      ECI’s National Level Committee on Paid News found that five newspapers, with a wide circulation, had published 42 news items that were biased and one-sided and aimed at furthering the prospects of the leader. Some of the reports were advertisements in favour of him. The committee concluded that the items fitted the definition of “paid news”.

      Delhi HC order and why was it challenged?

      The Delhi HC order had not only overturned the EC’s order on disqualification, but it also stated that the Commission’s remit is limited to election expenditure incurred by candidates and not content of speech. While the EC does not usually move court on its own, this was seen as a fit case as it was felt that the Delhi HC order had dealt a major blow to the fight against paid news. It was also felt that unless the legal position on the issue was corrected, the EC’s role and power to check paid news in elections will be irreparably undermined. Legal advice taken also weighed in favour of moving the Supreme Court.

      Paid news menace:

      Over 600 paid news complaints were forwarded by EC to Press Council of India with reference to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the government had informed Parliament. EC has repeatedly been asking the law ministry to treat paid news as a cognisable offence and the 2015 Law Commission reports call for amendments in laws to check the menace. The UPA government had also set up a Group of ministers to examine the issue.

      Need of the hour:

      The ECI has written to the Union government before, suggesting that paid news be made an electoral offence under the RPA. A Law Commission report from 2015 also recommends amending the RPA to this effect.

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