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Current Affairs - 01 October 2018

General Affairs 

Swachh Bharat Mission A Global Success: Prime Minister Narendra Modi
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today stressed that cleanliness has its own importance in everyone's life, adding that the 'Swachh Bharat Mission' has now become a success across the globe.
    His comments were in reply to a visually impaired caller's statement, who hailed the Swachh Bharat Mission for the benefits it provided him, during Prime Minister Modi's radio show - 'Mann ki Baat'.

    "I am visually impaired and want to say that "Swachh Bharat" is a very good step by Modi Ji. Blind people used to always face problems, as there were no toilets. Now, every house has a toilet and it has benefitted us a lot. It is a very good step and it should continue," said Shaitan Singh from Bikaner Rajasthan.

    In reply, the Prime Minister stated that cleanliness has its own importance in everyone's life and expressed delight over Shaitan Singh benefitting from the 'Swachh Bharat Mission'.

    "Being visually impaired, you might have faced a lot of problems without a toilet, and now it has become quite comfortable for you. Had you not called, people would have been unaware of this sensitive side of the mission," he said.

    "Swachh Bharat Mission has become a success story world over, everyone is talking about it now. India is holding the World's biggest ever Swachhta Convention - Mahatmna Gandhi International Sanitation Convention. Sanitation ministers and other experts from across the world are sharing their experiences on cleanliness," Prime Minister Modi added.

    The convention will culminate with the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2.

    The Prime Minister further lauded Mahatma Gandhi for his cleanliness initiative, saying, "When Gandhi Ji had said that cleanliness will bring freedom, perhaps nobody had any idea how that will be accomplished. But it happened and India got Independence. We should also realise that small acts can contribute towards the country's economic progress and empowerment. I feel this is real patriotism and Kaaryanjali to Bapu."

    The 'Swachhata Hi Seva' movement was launched by the Prime Minister on September 15. Prime Minister Modi cleaned the premises of Baba Sahib Ambedkar Higher Secondary School in Delhi's Paharganj as part of the movement.

Have Plan To Deal With Backlog Of Cases: Justice Ranjan Gogoi
  • Chief Justice of India-designate Ranjan Gogoi has said he has a plan to deal with the pendency of cases which has been bringing in a lot of "disrepute" to the judicial system.

    Justice Gogoi, who will take over as the 46th CJI on October 3, said Saturday he has a plan to deal with the backlog of cases and he will "unfold" it soon.

    He was speaking at an event 'Role of Bar and Bench in Social Engineering,' organised by the Youth Bar Association of India.

    "Two things are troubling me. One is pendency of cases as it brings a lot of disrepute to the judicial system. The problem has the potential of making the system itself irrelevant.

    "Accused in criminal cases are getting hearing after serving their sentence and parties in civil disputes are getting judgements after two-three generations. It is serious problem, but it is not too difficult and it can be resolved. I have a plan and will soon unfold it," Justice Gogoi said.

    He sought the support of bar and the bench in the process.

    Earlier, Justice Gogoi had pointed out that there were around 5,950 judicial vacancies in district courts across the country.

    He had said the problem does not lie in the short tenure (of judges) but lies in the change of priorities with change of chief justices and batted for a consistent policy for the judiciary.

    "Then if you have a policy and if you implement it, then the tenure will not be a matter," Justice Gogoi had said then.

    Chief Justice Dipak Misra had on September 4 recommended the name of Justice Gogoi as the his successor.

    He will be sworn in as the next CJI on October 3, a day after Justice Misra's tenure ends.

    Justice Gogoi was among four most senior judges who called a press conference in January and criticised Justice Misra on various issues, especially the manner of allocation of cases to certain benches.

    Justices J Chelameswar (since retired), Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph were among those who addressed the press conference, perhaps a first in the history of the Indian judiciary.

Making Rafale Jet Deal Details Public Non-Practical: Rajnath Singh
  • Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday that the opposition was making a non-practical demand of making public the details of the Rafale jet deal with France over corruption charges.

    Accusing the opposition of trying to mislead the people, Rajnath Singh said that in view of the nation's security, all details related to the deal cannot be made public.

    "This has also happened during the tenure of the previous governments," he said.

    The Minister said that the opposition leaders were making efforts to come to power by telling lies.

    "The present government has given preference to the uplift of the poor. There were only three mobile manufacturing factories during the tenure of the previous government whereas in the four years of the present government 100 new factories have come up," he added.

    Referring to national security, Rajnath Singh said that on the pattern of Israel, an integrated Border Security System was being implemented to secure and strengthen the borders.

    He said it would not be possible to secure the 22,000 km of land and water borders of the country with barbed wires.

    "Hence, the central government has decided to adopt technology based security system."

    He said that the Modi government had checked the Maoist movement and now the security forces were successful in controlling Maoist activities.

Shivraj Chouhan Announces Cow Ministry For Madhya Pradesh Ahead Of Polls
  • Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan today announced that his government will set up a cow welfare ministry to ensure that cattle in the state are treated well. "I have reason to believe that the Cow Protection Board in the state should be turned into a full-fledged ministry," Mr Chouhan said at an event attended by Digambar Jain monk Vidhyasagarji Maharaj in Khajuraho.

    The announcement comes in the run-up to the state assembly elections, where the ruling BJP is expected to face a resurgent Congress amid likely anti-incumbency. The model code of conduct is expected to kick in soon.

    "The cow ministry will replace the existing Madhya Pradesh Gaupalan Evam Pashudhan Samvardhan Board because it has limitations," Mr Chouhan said, adding that an independent ministry can help serve cows in a much better way.

    Referring to the country's first cow sanctuary in Agar Malwa district, the Chief Minister said a single facility was not enough to shelter a large number of cattle and more sanctuaries of the kind would be set up soon.

    If Madhya Pradesh implements the decision, it will become the second Indian state after Rajasthan to get a cow ministry. Cow Protection Board chairman Akhileshwaranand Giri had earlier recommended the setting up of such a ministry, stating that the move would inspire future generations to take care of cows in the same way the Chief Minister "had tended to bovines at his home".

    He also said that establishing a cow ministry would help create a "golden Madhya Pradesh" and set a precedent for other states, much on the lines of its "happiness department".

    Incidentally, opposition Congress chief Kamal Nath has also promised to construct cow shelters in every panchayat if voted to power. "Look at the condition of the cows here. They always keep talking about cattle but do nothing for them. If we are voted to power, we will construct gaushalas in every panchayat," he said last month.  

    There has been increased focus on the welfare of cows across the country ever since the Narendra Modi-led BJP stormed to power in 2014. Cow shelters have been set up on a war footing, and a majority of Indian states have various regulations prohibiting either the slaughter or sale of cattle. Earlier this year, Animal Welfare Board of India chairman SP Gupta had even said that while his department cares for all animals, "there is no doubt that the cow is at the centre".

    However, the heightened focus on cattle welfare has also resulted in increased mob killings across the country. According to a Reuters report, 28 people were killed and 124 injured in cow-related violence between 2010 and 2017.

    Earlier this year, the Supreme Court said India should not be allowed to descend into "mobocracy", and asked states to ensure that nobody resorts to vigilantism.

Chhagan Bhujbal Bats For Reservation For Marathas In Maharashtra
  • Senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal has said the Maratha community in Maharashtra should be given reservation in government jobs and education without disturbing the existing quota for OBCs.

    He also criticised the Modi-led government over various issues, including the Rafale jet deal.

    "Without disturbing the quota for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), the Maratha community should get reservation. Nowhere the law says that reservation cannot exceed above 50 per cent," Mr Bhujbal said Saturday at the Samta Melava, a conclave on social equality, in Maharashtra.

    Tamil Nadu has given 69 per cent reservation, then why the Maharashtra government has not given reservation to Marathas, asked the former deputy chief minister.

    Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes around 30 per cent of the state's population, have been demanding 16 per cent reservation in government jobs and education.

    Mr Bhujbal claimed that though OBCs have been given reservation, the scholarships to students from backward communities have been stopped.

    Commenting on the Rafale deal, he alleged that the BJP is "playing" with the country's defence.

    The people of India should get an answer why the price for purchasing the fighter jets from France increased manifold, he said.

    Led by the Congress, the Opposition parties have been attacking the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government over the Rs. 58,000-crore deal, alleging it was procuring 36 Rafale jets from France at an exorbitantly high cost.

    The government has denied the charge, contending that it was getting the jets cheaper than what the previous UPA dispensation had negotiated.

    Mr Bhujbal, the OBC face of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), called upon members of the backward communities to remain united at a time when the state Assembly elections are due next year.

    The OBCs need to show the strength to get their issues resolved, he said.

    Hitting out at the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra, the NCP MLA said a drought-like situation is prevailing in parts of the state but the government is ignoring farmers.

    More than half the farmers in Maharashtra would not benefit from the loan waiver scheme announced by the BJP-led government last year, he claimed.

    Criticising the government's 2016 demonetisation exercise, he said it has failed to unearth black money.

    He also said that cross-border terrorism has not stopped and jawans are frequently getting killed at the Indian borders.

Business Affairs

Reward for tip offs on GST evasion on anvil
  • The revenue department is planning to come out with a 'GST informant reward scheme' to check tax evasion by unscrupulous traders and businesses, an official said.

    It will be on the lines of similar schemes for excise and service tax, which has been subsumed under the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Customs and Income Tax also have such informer reward schemes.

    "The scheme is being planned to check tax evasion. Informers will be rewarded for providing specific clues regarding violation of GST laws," the official told PTI.

    The GST informant reward scheme would be announced soon, he added.

    As per the guidelines under the Customs Act, Central Excise Act, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, and Service Tax provisions and drawback frauds or abuses of Export Promotion Schemes, rewards are granted to the informers and government servants in respect of cases of seizures made and/or infringements/evasion of duty or tax.

    These guidelines were applicable to informers (who give information relating to assets, immovable properties of persons from whom arrears of duty, tax, fine, penalty are recoverable and the information results in the recovery of arrears) and also government officials who put in commendable efforts to effect recovery, as per conditions specified therein.

    Informers and government servants were eligible for reward up to 20 per cent of the net sale-proceeds of the contraband goods seized and/or amount of duty/ service tax evaded plus amount of penalty levied and recovered.

    In respect of cases of detection of drawback frauds or abuse of duty exemption schemes under various Export Promotion Schemes, the informers and government servants were eligible for reward up to 20 per cent of recovery of drawback claimed fraudulently and/or recovery of duties evaded.

    Final rewards, both to government servants and informers, are sanctioned only after conclusion of adjudication/appeal/revision proceedings, as well as closure of proceedings.

    Currently, an informer to the Income Tax department can earn up to Rs 5 crore for providing information regarding black money stashed abroad. Under the benami transaction prohibition act, the informants can earn up to Rs 1 crore by providing information regarding benami transactions or property.

    In the run up to the rollout of the GST on July 1, 2017, the government had renamed the Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI) as DGGSTI for investigating cases of evasion in the new indirect tax regime.

    The Directorate General of GST Intelligence (DGGSTI) has already made several arrests for evasion of the indirect tax and an informant reward scheme is expected to help the directorate to keep an eye on such activities.

    AMRG Associates Partner Rajat Mohan said a generous reward scheme on the lines of Income-Tax law could empower revenue struggling exchequer with huge capabilities to track and punish unseen and untraced tax evaders.

    "What needs to be seen is whether the government would be generous enough to attract a bigger pool of information or would it be 'penny wise pound foolish'," Mohan added.

    EY Tax Partner Abhishek Jain said: This scheme, if implemented, would aid in unearthing black money and checking tax evasion by businesses. Where successful, this could help boost tax collections by the government as well."

Tata Steel for higher capacity utilisation in Bhushan Steel
  • After acquiring debt-laden Bhushan Steel through the insolvency and bankruptcy process, Tata Steel is now aiming to raise its production to 4 million tonne (MT) by the end of the current fiscal, an official said.

    Bhushan Steel's Odisha plant is presently operating at 3.5 MT against a capacity of 5 MT, the official said.

    "The Bhushan plant in Odisha has a capacity of 5 MT but is currently operating at 3.5 MT. We are working to raise the production at least to a level of 4 MT a year by March 2019 as demand remains robust," the official, who is part of the new team installed by Tata Steel in the company, told PTI.

    The Bhushan Steel plant is located close to Tata Steel's Kalinganagar facility where it has a 3 MT capacity.

    The official said the Kalinganagar plant expansion is on track despite Bhushan's takeover at Rs 36,000 crore.

    "Safety and environment aspects need to be strengthened in Bhushan Steel as they are not up to our (Tata Steel's) internal standards," he said.

    The new plant will follow Tata Steel's strategy of not just being a steel producer but a service company with extensive use of technology.

    Though Bhushan Steel will continue to be operated as a standalone outfit for the time being, a change of name is imminent to make it resemble a Tata company. The new management will be leveraging and complementing marketing strengths of Tata Steel, the official said.

    Tata Steel had earlier said there was a lot of synergies in taking over Bhushan Steel.

    Tata Steel took almost a decade to build 3 MT plant at Kalinganagar while the takeover of Bhushan Steel offered the steel major a readily available 5 MT plant, boosting its flat products.

Govt owes Air India over Rs 1146.86 crore for VVIP charter flights
  • The total outstanding of cash-strapped Air India towards government for VVIP charter flights stands at Rs 1146.86 crore, according to the latest response from the national carrier to an RTI application.

    According to the details furnished by the Air India on September 26 to applicant Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd), the Defence Ministry has outstanding bills of Rs 211.17 crore, Cabinet Secretariat and PMO Rs 543.18 crore and External Affairs Ministry Rs 392.33 crore.

    Some of the oldest pending bills for the visits of the president, the vice president and the evacuation flights are nearly 10-year-old, the data furnished by Air India says.

    In a previous reply furnished in March this year, the total outstanding bills were at Rs 325 crore on January 31 which have now risen to Rs 1146.86 crore, it shows.

    Chartered aircraft for VVIPs - president, vice president and prime minister - for their visits abroad are provided by Air India, which modifies its commercial jets to suit the needs of the travelling dignitaries.

    The bills for these aircraft are paid from the exchequer by the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the Cabinet Secretariat.

    The Comptroller and Auditor General had flagged the issue of pending payments from the government to Air India in its report in 2016.

    "Hence considering the significant quantum of pending dues and in the context of government support to AIL for turnaround, more efforts need to be made for early action for reimbursement of dues by both AIL and government," it had said.

    Batra said some of the outstanding bills are pending since 2006 but even the CAG observations have not deterred the government to clear them.

    The debt burden of the national carrier, which is grappling with tough business conditions, is estimated to be more than Rs 50,000 crore.

    Earlier this year, the government's efforts for strategic disinvestment of debt-laden Air India failed to take off.

    Air India is staying afloat on a bailout package extended by the previous UPA regime in 2012.

Centre, states apportion Rs 29,000 crore IGST in September
  • As much as Rs 29,000 crore lying in the Integrated GST or IGST pool has been apportioned between the Centre and states in the month of September.

    The central government will get about Rs 14,500 crore and the remaining would be distributed among the states in proportion to the revenue collection in September, an official told PTI.

    The apportionment would help improve indirect tax position of both the Centre and states.

    This is the fourth time that IGST funds have been divided between the Centre and states.

    As much as Rs 12,000 crore was settled between them in August, Rs 50,000 crore in June and Rs 35,000 crore in February this year.

    A policy decision has been taken that when some substantial amount accrues to IGST pool it should be apportioned so that funds do not lie idle with the Centre, the official said, adding Rs 29,000 crore has been apportioned this month.

    Under GST, the tax levied on consumption of goods or rendering of service is split 50:50 between the Centre and the state. Such tax is known as Central-GST or CGST and State-GST or SGST.

    On inter-state movement of goods as well as imports, an Integrated-GST or IGST is levied, which accrues to the Centre. A cess is levied on top of these taxes on sin and luxury goods which make up for the compensation kitty used to make good of any revenue shortfall faced by states on implementation of GST.

    Ideally there should be 'nil' balance in the IGST pool since the amount should be used for payment of Central GST and State GST.

    As some businesses are ineligible to claim the benefits of input tax credit or ITC, the balance gets accumulated in the IGST pool.

    The Finance Ministry has targeted monthly GST collections to be Rs 1 lakh crore for this fiscal, but the actual mop up has fallen short of the target month after month. The sole exception was the month of April in which the numbers exceeded Rs 1 lakh crore.

    The collections stood at Rs 94,016 crore in May, Rs 95,610 crore in June, Rs 96,483 crore in July and Rs 93,960 crore in August.

Govt planning to implement stricter disclosure norms for independent directors
  • The government plans to put in place a stricter disclosure framework for independent directors, including providing details about their resignation from companies, as part of continuing efforts to bolster corporate governance standards.

    Corporate Affairs Secretary Injeti Srinivas said the disclosure requirements would be finalised after elaborate deliberations with stakeholders.

    Independent directors have significant responsibilities under the Companies Act and are part of various committees, including those related to CSR and remuneration. The role of independent directors has come under the scanner in certain instances of corporate misdoings.

    "We will not do anything that will become burdensome and counter productive. Whatever we will do, we will do that is absolutely necessary and in the interest of everyone," he told PTI.

    According to him, there would be some disclosure requirements when a person resigns as an independent director.

    "What should be that disclosures, timing and within how many days... those will be part of rule framework and it is being done after elaborate deliberations with the stakeholders," he added.

    In efforts to further strengthen the regulatory framework for independent directors, the ministry is also working to ensure that individuals have certain basic qualification to be eligible for independent directorship.

    There has to be a basic qualification for individuals to become independent directors and the ministry would give "a carve out for people who have acquired knowledge by experience such as already holding a board position. In such cases, the individual need not have minimum formal qualification", Srinivas said.

    One of the proposals being looked is to have a 60-hour online course on self-study mode for individuals wanting to be independent directors. Then clearing an examination would make them eligible for independent directorship.

    The ministry is open to both options -- one is having an external examination and another is to undergo self study and self test, he said, adding that existing directors will have some easy pathway to comply with.

    The ministry is planning to make the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) as designated institution for registration of independent directors.

General Awareness

    Appointment of Lokpal
    • What to study?

      For Prelims: Lokpal- powers, functions and appointment, features of Lokpal and Lokayukta Act.
      For Mains: Significance and issues associated.

      Context: Government has constituted eight-member search committee headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, to recommend names for posts of Lokpal chairperson and members. The selection process of Lokpal is underway as per guidelines of laid down in Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.

      Committee’s Terms of Reference:

      The search committee will start functioning soon.It will recommend names for Lokpal chairperson and members. It can also consider names other than those recommended by the search committee.

      Highlights of the Lokpal Act of 2013:

      The Act allows setting up of anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the State-level.
      The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members.
      The Lokpal will cover all categories of public servants, including the Prime Minister. But the armed forces do not come under the ambit of Lokpal.
      The Act also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while the prosecution is pending.
      The States will have to institute Lokayukta within one year of the commencement of the Act.
      The Act also ensures that public servants who act as whistleblowers are protected.


      The Lokpal will have the power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.
      As per the Act, the Lokpal can summon or question any public servant if there exists a prima facie case against the person, even before an investigation agency (such as vigilance or CBI) has begun the probe. Any officer of the CBI investigating a case referred to it by the Lokpal, shall not be transferred without the approval of the Lokpal.
      An investigation must be completed within six months. However, the Lokpal or Lokayukta may allow extensions of six months at a time provided the reasons for the need of such extensions are given in writing.
      Special courts will be instituted to conduct trials on cases referred by Lokpal.

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