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Current Affairs - 28 September 2018

General Affairs 

India, China Discuss Ways To Manage Border Effectively
  • India and China on Thursday held a meeting of a key border mechanism to discuss ways to "effectively manage" border areas as well as confidence building measures (CBMs) to enhance mutual trust.

    The 12th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) was held at the Chinese city of Chengdu in Sichuan, according to a statement released by the Indian Embassy.

    The WMCC was established in 2012 as an institutional mechanism for consultation and coordination for management of India-China border areas amid the tensions between the two nations due to allegations of incursions by Chinese troops.

    Thursday's meeting took place amid "rapid" increase in military exchanges between the two nations after the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, putting behind tensions arising after last year's 73-day standoff at Doklam.

    At the meeting "both sides reviewed the situation along the India-China border areas. They discussed ways to effectively manage border areas in accordance with the strategic guidance provided by the leaders of the two countries at the Wuhan Summit", the statement said.

    They also "explored various confidence building measures with a view to further enhance mutual trust and understanding", it said.

    The Indian side emphasised that the peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas is an important prerequisite for smooth development of their bilateral relations, it said.

    India and China share 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC). The two countries so far have held 20 rounds of Special Representatives talks to resolve the border dispute. The 21st round is due to be held this year.

    The WMCC mechanism headed by senior officials has also become a major platform between the two countries to exchange views on strengthening communication and cooperation, including between the border security personnel.

    Ahead of the meeting India's Ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawale said that India-China military exchanges grew rapidly after the Wuhan summit.

    "After Wuhan, our military exchanges have not merely resumed but grown rapidly. Our military commanders are now talking to each other more frankly and more candidly than ever before," he said at the 5th Dialogue between the Indian Council of World Affairs and the Chinese People's Institute for Foreign Affairs on September 25.

    Chinese Defence Minister Gen Wei Fenghe had visited India last month during which he met Modi and held talks with his Indian counterpart, Nirmala Sitharaman.

    Chinese Defence Ministry had said after Gen Wei's visit that both countries were discussing a new version of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on defence exchanges and cooperation to improve on the 2006 agreement besides establishing a direct confidential phone line between the two defence ministries and strengthening communications at all levels.

    Thursday's talks were led by Pranay Verma, Joint Secretary (East Asia), the Ministry of External Affairs and by Yi Xianliang, Director General, Department of Boundary and Oceanic Affairs, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On 2nd Anniversary Of Surgical Strike, PM Modi To Inaugurate Exhibition
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the Combined Commanders' Conference on Friday and open an Army exhibition, marking the second anniversary of the surgical strike across the

    The Prime Minister will reach Jodhpur Friday morning and inaugurate the exhibition, 'Parakarm Parv', at Jodhpur Military Station at 9 am, before participating in the conference at the Jodhpur Air Force Station.

    The conference will also be attended by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the three services chiefs, besides several key military and civil officials of the Ministry of Defence.

    It is for the third time that the Commanders' Conference is being held outside Delhi. After 2015 in Delhi, it was held in 2016 on the Indian Navy warship INS Vikramaditya and at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun in 2017.

    This time, a forward air base on western border has been chosen for the conference owing to the strategic importance and location of the Jodhpur Air Force station, which was the headquarter of the South West Air Command earlier.

    Before attending the conference, Prime Minister Modi will inaugurate the exhibition, 'Parakarm Parv'.

    "The Prime Minister will first participate in the wreath laying ceremony at Konark War Memorial at 9 am and then inaugurate the 'Parakram Parv' and open an exhibition, showcasing the might of the Indian Army and its contribution in nation building," said Defence spokesperson Col Sombit Ghosh.  

    "The PM himself will walk through the exhibition after inaugurating it, for its review," Col Ghosh said.

    Considering the security arrangements, a team of the Special Protection Group (SPG), tasked with the prime minister's "proximate security" has already landed in Jodhpur to take stock of the security measures.

    The SPG officials also held meeting with the Army and Air Force officials and inspected the areas in the vicinity of the Military and Air Force stations.

    The prime minister will fly back to New Delhi after completion of the conference in the afternoon. No civil program has so far been laid out for him, the official said. 

Indian Navy Plans 2-Day Event To Commemorate Surgical Strike Across LoC
  • The Indian Navy has planned a two-day event starting September 29 in Mumbai and Goa to commemorate the second anniversary of the surgical strike carried out by the defence forces in 2016 to destroy terror launch pads across the Line of Control or LoC, an official said today.

    The event, which will take place in the Ballard Pier Cruiser Wharf at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai under the Western Naval Command, will have exhibition stalls and video walls, the navy official said. The entry for the event venue will be from Tiger Gate, the official informed.

    "The events will showcase the gallant action of the army in carrying out the surgical strike on September 29, 2016, and will also remember the sacrifice of Indian soldiers during the Uri incident," the official said.

    The various events that have been planned include an exhibition showcasing the valour of armed forces, display of ships, submarines, aircraft, arms and equipment models etc, he said.

    Ships will be open to public and visits by schoolchildren as well as NCC cadets to ships, submarines and air stations are being planned, he added.

    Schoolchildren will be encouraged to participate in letter-writing and card and poster competitions to honour valiant soldiers, he said.

    The army had carried out surgical strikes across the LoC to eliminate terrorists and destroy terror launch pads on the night of September 28-29, 2016.

A Top Court Decision Today Clears Way For Ayodhya Hearing From October 29
  • A Supreme Court decision today has ensured that the case of whether or not to build a Ram temple at the site of a razed mosque in Ayodhya will be heard from October 29. A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra refused to revisit a 1994 ruling that the government can acquire land that a mosque is built on - a decision that means that the politically-charged temple-mosque dispute can be taken up without any delay.
    In 1994, the court had ruled that namaz or prayers can be offered anywhere and a mosque is not essential. This allowed the government to take over the land where the 16th century Babri mosque was razed in December 1992 by Hindu hardliners who believed it was built on Lord Ram's birthplace.

    The ruling at the time was only related to the acquisition of land, the court said today in a 2-1 judgement, refusing to refer the decision to a larger bench for review.

    "All religions, all mosques and temples churches are equal. We have already noticed all religious places are liable to be acquired as per 1994 verdict," said Justice Ashok Bhushan, reading out a judgement that quoted King Ashoka.

    One of the judges, Justice S Abdul Nazeer, disagreed and said whether a mosque is integral to Islam has to be decided considering belief and requires detailed consideration.

    If it had decided to re-examine the decision, it would have delayed the Ayodhya dispute hearings even though it has no direct bearing on the title suit. The ruling BJP, which has promised its supporters a Ram temple at the disputed site, will hope for a decision before the 2019 national election.

    Muslim parties said the 1994 decision was unfair to them and played a role in the disputed land in Ayodhya being divided in 2010 into three parts by the Allahabad High Court: it split the land between Hindu and Muslim parties, though the main part was given to Hindus. The 2.77 acre land was to be partitioned equally between the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla (infant Ram).

    The high court decision has been challenged in the Supreme Court by Hindus and Muslims.

Adultery Is Not A Crime, Says Supreme Court. Key Quotes Of The Judges
  • In an unanimous verdict, the Supreme Court has said adultery is not a crime. Striking down the 158- year-old section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, the court said, the law was "arbitrary." It can however, be grounds for divorce "without a shadow of doubt", said the top court. During the hearings, the centre had defended the law saying adultery must remain a crime so that the sanctity of marriage can be protected. The five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, individually read out their verdicts. 
    Here are the key quotes of the Judges

    Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Khanwilkar

    "Adultery law is manifestly arbitrary. It creates dent on the individuality of women"
    "Mere adultery can't be crime unless something is added"
    "There can be no shadow of doubt it can be ground for divorce" 
    "A man having extra marital relationship with a married woman is no longer a criminal offence"

    Justice RF Nariman

    "Man being the seducer and women being the victim no longer exits"
    "A man having sexual intercourse with a married woman is not a crime"
    "IPC 497 is violative and quashed"

    Justice DY Chandrachud 

    "Section 497 deprives a woman of autonomy and dignity"
    "Society attributes impossible attributes to a woman...raising woman to a pedestal is one part of such attribution"
    "A woman loses her voice, autonomy after entering marriage and manifest arbitrariness is writ large in Section 497"

    Justice Indu Malhotra

    "Women living under the shadow of husbands have gone"
    "Section 497 institutionalizes discrimination"
    "State cannot interfere by punishing man alone"

Business Affairs

SC reserves verdict on appeals of NuMetal, ArcelorMittal on eligibility to bid for Essar Steel
  • The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on cross-appeals of Russia's VTB Bank-promoted firm NuMetal and steel and mining major ArcelorMittal challenging the NCLAT order on the eligibility of the latter to bid for Essar Steel.

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

    While ArcelorMittal had challenged the order asking it to pay Rs 7,000 crore to become eligible for the bidding, NuMetal had alleged that NCLAT had "wrongly" applied legal provisions to enable its rival bidder to pay the dues of two debt-ridden firms even after it had bid for Essar Steel.

    A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Indu Malhotra reserved its verdict after counsel for all the parties, including the Committee of Creditors (CoC), concluded their arguments which continued for eight days.

    Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for NuMetal, said that its second bid was higher than ArcelorMittal's and moreover, it had already said the company would match the offer of its rival bidder.

    The court, however, said it would only decide the eligibility aspect and the other financial issues would be discussed by the CoC.

    Rohatgi said Vedanta, the third bidder, was not serious and has not appeared anywhere and there cannot be a situation where there was only one bidder.

    Senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, who represented the CoC, said that debt-ridden Essar Steel, whose resolution process has begun, is a valuable asset and it did not want it to go for liquidation.

    The counsel for CoC sought eight weeks after the date of judgement to complete the negotiations and the bidding process for Essar Steel.

    "I am not appearing for Ruias. Numetal has nothing to do with Ruias," Rohatgi said, adding that NuMetal has made it clear by filing an affidavit before the Resolution Professional that it would not sell Essar Steel back to Ruias if it emerges a winner.

    Moreover, VTB Bank was not barred by laws like SEBI like anywhere in the world, nor the new company Numetal is a corporate debtor anywhere, he said.

    Earlier, the CoC had said the apex court will have to lift the "corporate veil" to test the eligibility of ArcelorMittal and NuMetal, which are bidding for Essar Steel, to ascertain the persons behind them.

    Rohatgi had said the two brothers of L N Mittal, Pramod and Vinod Mittal, have been associated with firms which were declared non-performing assets (NPAs).

    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, Uttam Galva and KSS Petron, it was previously associated with.

Walmart to invest Rs 180 crore for farmer support
  • Walmart Foundation on Thursday announced that it will invest about Rs 180 crore ($25 million) to improve farmers' livelihoods in the country over the next five years.

    Separately, Walmart India is also planning to grow its direct sourcing from farmers to 25 per cent of produce sold in its Best Price cash and carry stores over the same period, to accelerate market access improvements and cut transportation costs for producers, the company said in a statement.

    "We're pleased to help create more opportunities for smallholder farmers in India through Walmart's strengthened commitment to local sourcing and the Walmart Foundation's USD 25 million investment to support local farmer producer organisations," said Judith McKenna, president and chief executive officer, Walmart International.

    The $25-million commitment includes a recently announced grant of close to $2 million to support International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics help smallholders generate more income, according to the statement.

    The new funds will be used to support farmer organisations to develop knowledge of sustainable farming practices, share business best practices, add value to primary agricultural commodities and improve access to finance and markets, it said.

    The Foundation will work with well-established non-government organisations to support farmer producer groups and develop best practices and demonstration sites that can be shared across the country.

    "The aim is to eventually empower multiple farmer organisations and connect them into a nationwide farmer-support network," the statement said.

    According to McKenna, giving farmers opportunities to learn and expand their access to markets have incredible benefits for communities and customers.

    "Farmers' incomes can grow and they can create new business opportunities for local entrepreneurs and help improve access to high-quality produce in their villages and beyond. All of this adds up to a stronger supply chain, stronger local businesses and better lives for smallholder farmers and their families," she said.

    Walmart sources 95 per cent of the goods sold in its Best Price cash and carry stores in India from local companies and offers access to technical assistance and training programmes to improve farming efficiency.

    Reinforcing its presence in the country, the US-based retail giant had last month completed the acquisition of 77 per cent stake in e-commerce firm Flipkart for about USD 16 billion.

Govt withdraws sops to conventional battery vehicles under FAME
  • The government on Thursday extended the first phase of the FAME-India scheme for promoting electric and hybrid vehicles by another six months till March 31, 2019 but has withdrawn benefits available to conventional battery vehicles.

    As per a notification by Heavy Industries Ministry, the incentives under the extended scheme from October 1 will be available only for registered vehicles.

    Until now, electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers powered by conventional lead-acid batteries were eligible for incentives under FAME-I. However, these vehicles will no longer be able to avail sops from October 1.

    According to sources, the launch of FAME II, which was to take place on September 7, has been delayed as the prime minister's office (PMO) has sought reworking of the proposal to offer incentives of around Rs 5,500 crore.

    Officials said the PMO is in favour of utilising most of the funds to encourage local manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries, which form the core of electric vehicles, as India presently imports these batteries from China.

    It has been decided that the period of the FAME-India scheme be further extended for a further period of six months up to March 31, 2019 or till notification of FAME-II, whichever is earlier, the ministry said.

    It said the benefits of incentives available to conventional battery vehicles stand discontinued with effect from October 1.

    "Incentives in the remaining period of the scheme shall only be available for registered vehicles. Henceforth, with effect from October 1, 2018, vehicles not requiring registration shall be excluded from the scope of the scheme irrespective of the type of battery," it said.

    The phase I of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid) and Electric Vehicles (FAME-India) scheme was supposed to be implemented over a two-year period commencing from April 1, 2015. It was to be followed by the rollout of the second phase.

    However, the first phase was extended thrice for six months each earlier and has now been further extended till March 2019 or till notification of the second phase.

India's IMPS rated best payments service in the world
  • India's real-time money transfer platform IMPS (Immediate Payment Service) has been rated the best global payments innovation by US-based research firm FIS (Fidelity National Information Services). In its fifth annual Flavors of Fast report, FIS identified 40 active real-time payment programs around the world.

    IMPS was adjudged the best fin-tech innovation, beating payment services from countries like US and China. IMPS took home the highest 5 rating for the second year in a row. In comparison, Singapore received the second-highest 4+ rating for its Fast and Secure Transfers (FAST) service.

    The index, which rated programs on a scale of 1-5 (5 being highest), measured the comprehensiveness of real-time payments projects and how well they meet the needs of consumers and corporate customers.

    IMPS is the fastest growing immediate payment system in the world. The daily transaction volume of IMPS grew from about two million per day in 2017 to approximately 2.8 million per day this year.

    The high rating of IMPS was based on the system's standard, published API (application program interface) and strong participation from third-party vendors, according to the FIS report.

    Both Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and IMPS have been developed by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).

    IMPS, which runs through the country's UPI, has allowed money transfer apps to feature chatting capabilities which further encourages public use of real-time innovation.

    The FIS research found that overlay services - chat, retail apps, instant loans and more - and open APIs provide innovations that encourage consumers and businesses to use real-time payments.

Solar-powered Cochin International Airport wins UN environment award
  • Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), the first fully solar-powered airport in the world, has won the UN environment award for Entrepreneurial Vision. The first greenfield airport to be built under public private partnership got the award for using sustainable energy.

    "Cochin is showing the world that our ever-expanding network of global movement doesn't have to harm the environment. As the pace of society continues to increase, the world's first fully solar-powered airport is proof positive that green business is good business," said a release by United Nations Environment Programme.

    In 2015, CIAL became the first airport in the world to be completely powered by solar energy. "We started with a 100 kilowatts pilot project in 2012, we found that we could produce 400 kilowatts of power. Then we thought, why not scale it up," V.J. Kurian, managing director of Cochin International Airport Limited said.

    The land where solar panels are kept is used as a farm for growing organic veggies. "Last year, it produced roughly 60 tons of vegetables," Kurian added.

    Today, the capacity of CIAL is 29.5 megawatts of solar energy, providing 120,000 units of power every day. "We are 100 per cent reliant on renewable energy in all our daily operations - from powering the conveyor belts to the digital systems. We have experienced absolutely no drop in our efficiency or power supply; we also generate a surplus of energy which we can bank for cloudy days or the monsoon season, when sunshine is less frequent," Kurian said.

    Kochi airport is the biggest and busiest airport of Kerala, and the fourth busiest airport in India in terms of international traffic. A lot of its international passengers come from the Gulf countries. Around 10 million people passed through Kochi airport last year. Of these, 5.5 million were international passengers.

    "Since we became the world's first fully solar-powered airport, with the inauguration of a dedicated solar plant, we have placed solar panels on terminal roofs, hangars, over a two-kilometre long canal and car parking area. Currently, we have solar plants in eight locations including the biggest plant which is spread over an area of 45 acres," Kurian added.

    Amid devastating floods that ravaged the state, the airport in Kochi is estimated to have incurred losses between Rs 200 crore to Rs 250 crore. The Cochin International Airport was non-functional for around 15 days when floods ravaged the periphery walls and flooded the runway.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also received the UN environment award in the Policy Leadership category, has set an ambitious target of producing at least 100 gigawatts of power for the national grid from renewable sources by 2022.

General Awareness

    Supreme Court allows live streaming of cases
    • What to study?

      For Prelims and Mains: Key features of the pilot project and significance of the project.

      Context: Ushering in more transparency in the judiciary’s work, the Supreme Court has given its nod to live-streaming of court proceedings, saying this will bring more accountability and enhance the rule of law.

      Pilot project:

      As per the court’s order, the project must be implemented in a progressive, structured and phased manner, with certain safeguards to ensure that the purpose of live-streaming of proceedings is achieved holistically and that it does not interfere with the administration of justice or the dignity and majesty of the court hearing the matter and/or impinge upon any rights of the litigants or witnesses.

      As a pilot project, only cases of constitutional and national importance being argued for final hearing before the Constitution Bench be live-streamed initially. For this, it said, permission of the court concerned will have to be sought in writing in advance.
      Consent of parties to the proceedings must be insisted upon, and if there is no unanimity between them, the court concerned can take the appropriate decision in the matter. The court concerned will also have the power to revoke permission at any stage of the proceedings.
      There must be a reasonable time-delay (say 10 minutes) between the live court proceedings and the broadcast, in order to ensure that any information which ought not to be shown, as directed by the court, can be edited from being broadcast.
      Till a full-fledged module and mechanism for live-streaming of the proceedings of the Supreme Court over the internet is evolved, it can be live-streamed in designated areas within the court via intranet.

      What necessitated this?

      Although courts in India are ordinarily open to all members of the public, sometimes they are denied the opportunity to witness the proceedings due to logistical issues and infrastructure restrictions. By providing ‘virtual’ access of live court proceedings to one and all, it will effectuate the right of access to justice or right to open justice and public trial, right to know the developments of law and including the right of justice at the doorstep of the litigants.
      It will “reduce the public’s reliance on second-hand narratives to obtain information about important judgments of the court and the course of judicial hearings”. Society will be able to view court proceedings first-hand and form reasoned and educated opinions about the functioning of courts. This will help reduce misinformation and misunderstanding about the judicial process.

      Significance of the move:

      This is a giant step by the Supreme Court to move towards a regime of transparency.

      Live streaming will deal head on with the problem of distance. Given that the court is located in New Delhi, many people cannot afford to be present physically in Supreme Court to follow the arguments, even if the case directly affects them in some way. In fact, even litigants are often unable to travel to court because of the cost and distance involved, leaving it entirely to their lawyers to run the case.
      A live telecast of proceedings also has the potential to reduce unwarranted delays in the cases caused by the occasionally cavalier attitude of lawyers. With the client’s eye firmly on them, lawyers are likely to expedite cases. Further, this will provide an opportunity to young lawyers to showcase their talents to the world and has the potential to break the stranglehold of a select few over the legal profession.
      Live streaming could act as a welcome check on the judiciary. With the public watching, there is every chance that there will be a reduction in the sometimes unnecessary oral comments that cause much controversy but have no judicial bearing.

      What next?

      Supreme Court Rules, 2013, will have to suitably amended to provide for the regulatory framework to incorporate the changes.

      Besides, live telecast comes with some drawbacks. As seen in the Parliament, there is a tendency to grandstand among lawmakers, who want to show their electorate that they are indeed working hard. The court has to make sure proceedings are unaffected by the introduction of a new technology.

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