Current Affairs Current Affairs - 05 December 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 05 December 2018

General Affairs 

Jammu And Kashmir Rural Polls Record 75.8 Per Cent Turnout In 7th Phase
  • Polling for the seventh phase of Panchayat polls ended peacefully in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday under tight security arrangements.
    Voters were seen queuing outside polling stations in both Jammu and the Kashmir valley despite the morning chill. Polling started at 8 am and ended at 2 pm.

    An overall 75.8 per cent voter turnout was registered in the state for Tuesday's poll.

    In the Jammu division, 84.5 per cent voters exercised franchise and 86.5 per cent voters turned out in the Poonch district.

    In Kashmir division, 30.3 per voters came out to vote and 44.9 per cent cast their votes in Kupwara district.

    Voting for this phase was held at 2,714 polling stations -- 576 in Kashmir and 2,138 in Jammu.

    At least 892 polling stations had been categorised as hypersensitive in this phase -- 428 in Kashmir and 464 in Jammu.

    A total of 5,575 candidates were in the fray for 341 Sarpanch and 1,798 Panch seats, while 85 Sarpanchs and 912 Panchs have already been elected unopposed in this phase.

    Some 475,865 electors were eligible to vote for Sarpanch constituencies and 345,880 for Panch constituencies.

    Photo voter slips had been distributed among the people to inform them of their polling stations.

    Poll officials said at the end of the sixth phase held on December 1, an overall voter turnout of 73.6 per cent had been recorded across the state.

    The nine-phase elections that began on November 17 are slated to end on December 11.

    Panchayat polls were last held in Jammu and Kashmir in 2011.

ISRO To Launch GSAT-11 Communication Satellite Tomorrow
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO is all set to launch the GSAT-11 satellite, also called the 'The Big Bird', which will help provide satellite-based internet to remote places where cable-based internet cannot reach. The satellite weighing 5,854 kg is the heaviest Indian-made equipment that the agency will attempt to put into its orbit early on Wednesday.
    The satellite will be launched from French space port of Kourou in South America at 2.08 AM Indian standard time. This will be the second attempt after ISRO's first bid failed in May this year.

    "GSAT-11 is the next generation high throughput communication satellite that will play a vital role in providing broadband services across the country. It will also provide a platform to demonstrate new generation applications," Dr K Sivan, ISRO chief, said.

    The 'Big Bird' has cost about Rs. 600 crore. It will be launched into space using the Ariane-5 heavyweight rocket hired from Arianespace by ISRO. The satellite is expected to have a life span of 15 years.

    The satellite internet will help in providing internet connectivity in flights.

    The GSAT-11 is equivalent to the combined power of almost all communications satellites sent into orbit by India. A communications specialist told that the satellite is like a constellation of 30 classical orbiting satellites.

    India has hired the French Ariane-5 rocket as it can carry heavy payload into orbit. India's own Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III or GSLV Mk III can haul satellites that weighs upto 4 tons.

    Along with its three siblings, GSAT-19, GSAT-29 and GSAT-20, the satellite will be a "game changer for providing internet access and data communications for India and will aid the Digital India program. Dr Sivan adds.

Arun Jaitley's "Cardinal Principles" For Probe Agencies Amid CBI vs CBI
  • Weeks after public bickering between two top CBI officials, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Tuesday laid out cardinal principles for investigative agencies ranging from maintaining the utmost level of professionalism to remaining faceless and resisting the temptation of rushing to media when a probe starts.
    He said the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), which is the top intelligence and investigative agency for matters relating to violation of the Customs Act and smuggling, should maintain highest integrity and professional standards and endeavour to become a "near perfect organisation".

    "If I look at the cross section of various investigative agencies, including the police which is the basic investigative agency with largest network in the country, it goes to the credit of DRI that by and large it has remained free from any collateral controversies," he said.

    DRI has concentrated in its core area of competence and developing expertise in area where it is primarily supposed to check the economic harm being done to the country and national security, he added.

    Speaking at the 61st foundation day of DRI, the minister laid out "few cardinal principles" which every investigative agency should follow to achieve the utmost level of perfection.

    These principles include the need for investigative agencies to maintain utmost level of professionalism and be guided by one sole purpose, which is detection of crime.

    The investigating officers, Mr Jaitley said, have to make sure that no innocent is harmed or harassed, but at the same time they have to ensure that no guilty gets away.

    "They have to resist the temptation of making a lot of song and dance when the initial investigation starts and then rushing to the media. They must, as professionals, concentrate on strengthening the investigative processes and evidence," he said.

    Stating that the real test of an investigative agency is whether the investigations ultimately result in penalties or convictions, Mr Jaitley said the investigative officers have to be faceless.

    "The lesser it is in media controversy or news, the better it is for them. No news is good news as far as investigative agencies are concerned. Therefore, tom-toming successes (of initial probe) and then the cases not being established do not add to the stature of the investigative agencies," the minister said.

    He said the officer and his supervisor who takes up a case for investigation must have a "sixth sense and a very high sense of professionalism" to make sure at the initial level whether the case deserves to be investigated and whether it would result in penalties and conviction.

    He said credibility of an institution depends on integrity and ethical standards as well as degree of professionalism.

    "DRI has to endeavour to become a near perfect organisation. I use the word near because 'to err is human' and we have to account for some margin of human error. But in order to ensure that we achieve that utmost level of perfection which every investigative agency has to, there are few cardinal principles we have to remember," he said.

    The infighting between CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana, the second in command at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), has reached the Supreme Court, which is currently looking into the matter.

India, US To Enhance Defence Ties As Nirmala Sitharaman Visits Pentagon
  • India and the US have agreed to accelerate defence and security ties as Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met her American counterpart  James Mattis, who described India as a "stabilising force" across the Indo-Pacific and the globe.
    US Defence Secretary Mattis welcomed Ms Sitharaman to the Pentagon on Monday for the fourth set of talks the two defense leaders have held this year.

    Ms Sitharaman, the first woman defence minister of India, is currently on a five-day maiden trip to the US. From Washington, she will travel to California to visit the Defense Innovation Unit of the Department of Defense and the Indo-Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii.

    "The United States and India, in Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi's words, have overcome hesitations of history, carrying forward the legacy of friendship and making clear there is no contradiction between strategic autonomy and strategic partnership," Mr Mattis said.

    Ms Sitharaman started her official visit in Washington by visiting the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department, where she signed on the condolence book of former US President George HW Bush who died late Friday at his home in Houston.

    From there, she drove to the Arlington National Cemetery where she laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a gesture which did not go unnoticed at the Pentagon.

    "On behalf of our department and all of our service members, thank you for paying your nation's respect at Arlington National Cemetery this morning. We're grateful," Mr Mattis said.

    Mr Mattis said Ms Sitharaman's presence at the wreath-laying made clear that the US-India military relations were not "defined by brittle or empty words" but by the human aspect of partnership steeped in recognition of the two nations' respective sacrifices and the cause of peace, friendship and freedom.

    The two largest democracies of the world, despite diverse histories and cultures, have shared principles, values and respect for the rules-based international order, Mr Mattis said.

    "The US-India relationship is a natural partnership between the world's oldest and the world's largest democracy," he said.

    While this is her first trip to Washington DC, the two leaders have met four times in about a year, reflecting on the growing defence relationship between India and the United States.

    "We have made meaningful progress in advancing US-India defence cooperation, most notably with your nation hosting September's inaugural 2+2 ministerial dialogue in New Delhi," he said.

    The ministerial talks served as a tangible demonstration of "our shared vision for a safe, secure, prosperous and free Indo-Pacific, underpinned by respect for the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of all nations," Mr Mattis said.

    "Today, I reiterate US appreciation for India's leadership as a stabilising force in pursuit of that vision, promoting peace and security across the region and the globe," he said.

    The defence secretary said the 2+2 ministerial dialogue also made clear the commitment of India and the US to further bolster their defence partnership.

    "Today, we build on that momentum as we work to implement our agreement from September, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)," he added.

    During the dialogue, the two nations signed the COMCASA that allows India to receive advanced US military hardware.

    Describing the inaugural 2+2 meeting in September as a landmark event, Ms Sitharaman said it set the stage for strategic consultations between the two countries.

    The bilateral meetings during the dialogue in New Delhi and other meetings, including the one in Singapore in October, were "indeed positive and productive", she said.

    In her remarks at the start of the meeting with Mr Mattis, Ms Sitharaman said the mutual trust and confidence in defence partnership between the two countries was growing.

    The defence minister added that she was encouraged by the importance attached to the India-US defence relationship in the new US National Security Strategy.

    "A strong foundation has been laid for the India-US defence relationship over the years. India sees the US as an important partner in defence," Ms Sitharaman said, adding that the two countries have good military-to-military cooperation, defence consultations, scientific collaborations and co-production and co-development and industry collaboration.

    Exuding confidence that the bilateral talks would accord greater momentum to the dialogue and partnership between the two countries, she said the relationship continued to be very strong.

    The recent meetings between the two countries, Ms Sitharaman said, have underscored their mutual desire to move positively.

    The high-level exchanges are an indication of the depth and the quality of bilateral ties as well as their mutual desire to work closely on a range of regional and global issues, she added.

    Ms Sitharaman appreciated the responsiveness of the Trump Administration to India's sensitivities.

    At the same time, it is also indicative of the desire and the effort to have an even more robust relationship than before, she said.

    "Especially over the past three to four years, we have made considerable progress. Our relations, based on common democratic values, enjoy strong political and popular support in both countries. There's a growing mutual trust and also the confidence in defence partnership, which augurs very well for the future," Ms Sitharaman said.

Tax Assessment For Sonia, Rahul Gandhi To Continue, Says Supreme Court
  • The Income Tax department can continue with the tax reassessment of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi, but cannot issue any final order while the case is being heard, the Supreme Court said today in a case related to the National Herald newspaper.
    The top court was hearing an appeal by the Gandhis after the Delhi High Court dismissed their plea to stop tax reassessment for the financial year 2010-11. The leaders have also been named in another case related to the issue, in which they have been accused of misusing party funds for personal profits.  

    In the current case, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Congress leader Oscar Fernandes had petitioned against the reopening of their tax assessments related to Associated Journals Ltd, the publisher of National Herald newspaper founded by Jawaharlal Nehru, the great-grandfather of Mr Gandhi.

    The IT department has accused senior Congress leaders, including Mr Fernandes and Motilal Vora, of devising a scheme involving "pre-ordinate artificial and fraudulent steps to take over AJL".  

    The company, which showed no income for 2010-11, was not involved in charitable activities and so, was not eligible for tax exemption, the department said. The department then started the process of reassessing their tax for the same financial year, at which, the Gandhis went to court.

    The Congress has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "directing" the tax department to reopen tax returns of the Congress leadership after eight years.

    The top court said it was not expressing any opinion on the merits of the pleas filed by Rahul and Sonia Gandhi in the case. The next hearing will be held on January 8, the judges said, explaining that "for certain reasons it is not possible to take up the case now".

Business Affairs

AgustaWestland scam: Christian Michel boards flight to India after Dubai passes extradition order
  • Christian Michel, the British national accused in the AgustaWestland chopper scam, has boarded the flight to India along with the Indian authorities who were in Dubai to complete the extradition process. Earlier, the Dubai government passed an administrative order to extradite Michel to India. The CBI officials will now present him before a CBI special judge's court in New Delhi.

    A top Dubai court had upheld a lower court's order to consider the possibility of extraditing Christian Michel on November 20. Michel, 54, was arrested in Dubai in August 2017 and sent into custody pending the legal and judicial procedure in the UAE.

    Michel has been accused by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of receiving about Euro 30 million (approximately Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland to influence the deal in its favour. The Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are both probing the case, in which a chargesheet was filed against Michel in June 2016.

    The Indian agencies have accused Michel of receiving "kickback" from AgustaWestland -- in the guise of 'genuine transactions' for executing several work contracts -- to sway the 12-helicopter deal in its favour.

    Michel is one of the three middlemen being investigated by the ED and the CBI. The other two accused by the agencies are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa. An Interpol red corner notice (RCN) has also been notified against Michel after the court had issued a non-bailable warrant against him.

    In its chargesheet, the ED had said the three middlemen "managed to" influence the Indian Air Force (IAF) officials to reduce the service ceiling of these 12 helicopters from 6,000 metre to 4,500 metre in 2005, which made AgustaWestland eligible for the deal. Michel also allegedly paid off influential people in India, who helped reject Russian and American choppers. He was allegedly also in touch with officials from the PMO, SPG, CVC and defence ministry.

    India had scrapped 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers contract with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland in January 2014 over the breach of contractual obligations and the charges of paying Rs 423 crore kickbacks. Former Air Force chief SP Tyagi was also arrested over the allegations of reducing the flying ceiling of the helicopter to put AgustaWestland in the race.

IL&FS board plans to cut 65% jobs to rescue ailing group
  • The newly appointed board of ill-fated Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) plans to cut two-thirds of the jobs across the group as part of its initiatives towards rationalised manpower with a view to reduce costs.

    Uday Kotak-led board plans to bring down total manpower of the IL& FS Group by approximately 65 per cent and wage cost by 50 per cent respectively, in two phases. In a progress report to the National Company Law Tribunal (Mumbai), the board said that it has assessed and undertaken various steps to reduce the wage bill of the IL&FS Group which are expected to result in savings across various entities within the group.

    "Phase I will contemplate initiatives like salary rationalisation of employees, separation of superannuated consultants which have been executed, which are likely to yield net savings of approximately Rs 100 crore annually," the company said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

    "Phase II initiatives including Talent Restructuring, Amalgamation of Roles & responsibilities are under process. These steps will yield an approx 50 per cent savings in the wage bill of the IL&FS Group," said the debt-ridden company in its second progress report.

    The government had formed banker Uday Kotak-led board after NCLT approved a resolution of the liquidity crisis at IL&FS in wake of its bulky debt of Rs 91,000 crore.

    In a separate development, the National Companies Law Tribunal (NCLT) today passed an interim order asking nine directors of the crisis-hit IL&FS including Ravi Parthasarathy and Hari Sankaran, Arun K Saha to disclose details of their movable and immovable assets, bank account, jointly held assets in next three weeks.

    On Monday, IL&FS appointed former L&T Group veteran, N Sivaraman, as Chief Operating Officer, who will be responsible for the day-to-day operations and provide hands-on leadership and oversight to the group's asset-monetisation efforts.

India granted 86 per cent of total patents to foreigners in 2017: UN
  • The number of patents granted by India jumped 50 per cent to 12,387 in 2017 as compared to 8,248 granted in the previous year, according to data released by the UN's World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

    India granted 86 per cent (10,675) of the total patents to foreigners as compared to 14 per cent (1,712) awarded to entities and individuals based in India.

    "Filing abroad reflects the globalisation of intellectual property (IP) protection and a desire to commercialise technology in foreign markets. The costs of filing abroad can be substantial, so the patents for which applicants seek international protection are likely to confer higher values," quoted the report released by WIPO in Geneva on Monday. Among other factors, technological specialisation, proximity and market size influence cross-border applications, the report highlighted.

    Worldwide demand for intellectual property (IP) tools reached record heights in 2017, with China driving the growth in filings for patents, trademarks, industrial designs and other IP rights that are at the heart of the global economy.

    The number of applications that were potentially pending globally fell from 5.6 million in 2009 to 5 million in 2016. India saw a 6.1 per cent increase in its potentially pending applications in 2016. However, 80 per cent of the total (242,800) were awaiting request for examination.

    "Demand for IP protection is rising faster than the rate of global economic growth, illustrating that IP-backed innovation is an increasingly critical component of competition and commercial activity," said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. "In just a few decades, China has constructed an IP system, encouraged homegrown innovation, joined the ranks of the world's IP leaders - and is now driving worldwide growth in IP filings."

    Meanwhile, worldwide plant varieties applications grew by 11.7 per cent to reach 18,490 applications in 2017, while data received from 82 national and regional authorities show the existence of around 59,500 protected geographical indications (GIs) in 2017.

RCom share rallies on SC nod to sell telecom assets, scrip zooms 30% in 4 days
  • Tables have turned and bulls are back in business for Reliance Communications (RCom) after its real estate arm issued a Rs 1,400 crore corporate guarantee to the telecom department (DoT), paving the way for completion of the Anil Ambani-led telecom company's spectrum sale to older brother Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio Infocomm.

    Continuing its momentum for the fourth straight session, shares of RCom climbed 2.89 per cent to close at Rs 17.10 apiece on the Bombay Stock Exchange, after opening higher at Rs 17.00 against a previous closing price of Rs 16.62. During the day's trade, scrip touched an intra-day high and low of Rs 18.60 and Rs 16.90, respectively.

    Stocks of the telecom company settled trade at Rs 17.00, up 2.41 per cent, on the National Stock Exchange.

    The catalyst behind the recent share price spike was the clearance of legal hurdle to complete spectrum trading transaction to Mukesh Ambani-led telecom company, Reliance Jio.

    In the last four trading sessions, Reliance Communications shares had surged over 30 per cent after its subsidiary submitted corporate guarantee to Department of Telecommunications.

    Earlier on November 30, the Supreme Court upheld the earlier order of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) and ordered the Department of Telecommunications to grant a No-Objection to Reliance Communications for spectrum trading within seven days. A two-judge bench of the SC headed by justice Rohinton F Nariman allowed RCom to furnish corporate guarantee worth Rs 1,400 crore via its sister firm Reliance Realty to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

    RCom had announced exit from wireless business last year due to lack of profitability. The company has signed definitive binding agreements with Reliance Jio Infocomm for sale of wireless spectrum, tower, fiber and Media Convergence Node (MCN) assets.

    The company, which intends to utilise the proceeds of the monetisation of this cash deal solely for pre-payment of debt to its lenders, expects the transactions to close in a phased manner between January and March 2018, subject to lenders' and other applicable approvals.

Income tax return filing up 50% so far this year, says CBDT chairman
  • Income tax return filing for assessment year 2018-19 has so far seen a 50 per cent rise since last year, a top finance ministry official said Tuesday. "This is the effect of demonetisation," Central Board of Direct Taxes Chairman Sushil Chandra said on the sidelines a CII event.

    Demonetisation has been very good for increasing the tax base of the country. This year, we have already got around 6.08 crore income tax returns, which is 50 per cent higher than last year by this particular date, he said.

    He further added that the revenue department will achieve direct tax collection target, which is 11.5 lakh crore, for the current financial year.

    "Our gross direct tax growth rate is 16.5 per cent and net direct tax growth rate is 14.5 per cent, which itself shows that demonetisation really helped in widening and deepening of tax base," the CBDT chief insisted.

    He also said that so far 70 countries are sharing information with India under Automatic Exchange Of Information (AEOI). Chandra said that due to demonetisation, so far, the number corporate tax payers have gone to 8 lakh from 7 lakh last year.

    CBDT chief also informed that the board will soon start giving e-PAN within four hours. He said that the department has sent two crore SMS to people who had not filed returns or those whose income did not match with their filings.

General Awareness

    World Customs Organization
    • What to study?

      Static Part: Key facts on WCO.
      Dynamic and Current: Role of WCO in global market and emerging challenges.

      Context: 80th Session of the Policy Commission of the World Customs Organization (WCO) was held recently in Mumbai. The Session was organized by the WCO and hosted by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC).

      About WCO:

      The World Customs Organization (WCO), established in 1952 as the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) is an independent intergovernmental body whose mission is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs administrations.

      As the global centre of Customs expertise, the WCO is the only international organization with competence in Customs matters and can rightly call itself the voice of the international Customs community.
      The WCO has divided its Membership into six Regions. Each of the six Regions is represented by a regionally elected Vice-Chairperson to the WCO Council.

      Roles and functions:

      As a forum for dialogue and exchange of experiences between national Customs delegates, the WCO offers its Members a range of Conventions and other international instruments, as well as technical assistance and training services.
      Besides the vital role played by the WCO in stimulating the growth of legitimate international trade, its efforts to combat fraudulent activities are also recognized internationally.
      WCO has also been responsible for administering the World Trade Organization’s Agreements on Customs Valuation, which provide a system for placing values on imported goods, and the Rules of Origin, which are used to determine the origin of a given commodity.

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