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Current Events 9 May 2016



9 MAY 2016


‘Cooling-off time’ for Christian divorces may be cut

The government is going ahead with a proposal to amend a condition in a 147-year-old divorce law mandating Christian couples to live separately for two years before they can apply for dissolution of marriage. The Centre’s move is triggered by the Supreme Court’s comments that this condition, called judicial separation, “makes no sense” today.

The Law and Justice Ministry is proposing to amend the Divorce Act, 1869 to reduce by half — from two years to one — the waiting period for Christians who have already decided to divorce.


This proposed amendment would end the disparity between the Christian divorce law and other personal laws, including the Hindu Marriage Act, the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act and even the Special Marriage Act, all of which mandate only a year’s judicial separation.

“We expect the Ministry of Law and Justice not only to file its reply but also take a decision on whether or not Sub-Section (1) of Section 10A [the legal provision which mandates a two-year pause before filing for dissolution of marriage] of the Divorce Act, 1869 is to be amended,” the Supreme Court had said, pushing for an amendment of the provision.

In October, the court had gone on to seek the assistance of Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar on this question of law.

The court’s intervention began in March 2015 when a petition was filed by Albert Anthony, who contended that the two-year mandatory waiting period for Christians amounted to “hostile discrimination”. The petition argued that this was plain “oppression to the members of the Christian community intending to seek divorce by mutual consent.” Mr. Anthony wanted Section 10A (1) of the 1869 Act declared unconstitutional.


India may solve Venezuelan defaults

The Commerce Ministry has proposed a mechanism to address the issue of non-payment of dues by Venezuelan importers to Indian exporters. Sources in the government told  that the ministry had recently written to the Venezuelan government to resolve the issue of payment defaults. However, Venezuela has not given its approval to the proposed payment mechanism. Talks on the issue will soon be held with the RBI.

Oil slip

Venezuela, an economy that relies on oil exports, has been severely hit by a drastic fall in oil prices. This has in turn resulted in the value of the Venezuelan currency plunging to record lows and a high demand for dollars. India’s goods exports to Venezuela in 2014-15 were $258 million (registering a 31 per cent year-on-year growth).

Owing to the crisis in Venezuela, India’s exports in FY16 (April-February) have touched only $125.5 million. India shipped mostly pharmaceutical products which amounted to $143.55 million in FY15 and $71.3 million in FY16. The sector is the worst affected due to the payment defaults.

Under the proposed payment mechanism when Indian importers pay for oil and other imports from Venezuela, a certain portion (say around 30 per cent) of the payment will be held by an Indian public sector bank, say SBI, in Venezuela.

Then through a vostro account that money will be kept in SBI’s Mumbai branch and converted to Indian rupees. (‘Vostro’ is an Italian term meaning ‘yours’, and vostro account refers to holding ‘your’ money or Venezuela’s money in this case.)

When India’s exports to Venezuela, the Venezuelan buyer (importer) will certify that they have received the goods and instruct the concerned Venezuelan bank to release the payment to the concerned Indian exporters. This instruction will be passed on to SBI-Venezuela and then to SBI-Mumbai. Finally, SBI-Mumbai will release the payment to Indian exporters by debiting from the vostro account.

The sources said due to the fear of losing the Venezuelan market to competitors from other countries including China, India’s exporters including from the pharmaceutical sector have decided to hold on for the moment despite the payment problems.

They said the discussions at the RBI-level would take into account a few concerns.

The trade balance is still hugely in Venezuela’s favour.

Though India’s goods imports from Venezuela in 2014-15 were worth $11.7 billion, most of this ($11.6 billion) were oil imports.

Therefore, if Venezuela withdraws the remaining amount (after paying for India’s exports) in one go after a few years, it could have some impact on the Indian rupee, the sources said.


The biggest ever fire sale of Indian corporate assets has begun, to tide over bad loans crisis

We are seeing what is effectively India Inc.’s biggest ever fire sale. It’s even bigger than the government’s planned divestment target.

The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) has decided to clean up the balance sheets of Indian banks, which are collectively saddled with Rs five lakh crore of bad loans, by the end of this fiscal. So, the banks have started cracking the whip on Indian companies for repayment of loans. For most affected firms and groups, this will mean they will be forced to sell prized assets to repay their ballooning debts.

·It’s a balance sheet recession

·Corporate debt to equity is at all-time high

·The debt service ratio is at a new low. The BSE 500 index companies have about 4 times their operating income to pay interest expenses compared to around 10 times in the boom years

·Interest to sales is approaching an all-time high, hurting net margins and impeding debt serviceability.

·Excess return on capital (ROCE minus the prime lending rate) is at all-time lows and in negative territory. This means that companies are earning less on their investment than the cost of their debt.


Kathmandu accuses Delhi of backing plot to topple government

A day after Nepal cancelled the visit of its President to India and recalled its ambassador, sources told  that the sudden chill in bilateral ties follows a week long battle of nerves during which Kathmandu accused New Delhi of backing a plot to topple the government in the Himalayan country.

Mr. Khanal claimed that the plot to break the ruling alliance, led by Mr. Oli, received support from India.

The crisis was triggered on May 3-4 when the former Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ of the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-Maoist), invited Sher Bahadur Deuba, leader of the Nepali Congress (NC), to form a combine and replace the government of Mr. Oli with a national unity government.

‘Undiplomatic behaviour’

“Nepal has been insinuating that India is involved in the efforts to undermine the government of Prime Minister Oli. Indeed, there are a lot of political challenges in Nepal which are enough to unite the rivals against Mr. Oli. Mr. Oli’s rivals came together on their own and India had no role in bringing them together,” said an official source in Delhi, suggesting that Nepal’s internal political situation will not stabilise till Kathmandu implements a democratic constitution giving equal rights to all sections of the people.

PM didn’t keep his word

Mr. Oli is also accused of not keeping the promise of amending the new democratic Constitution of Nepal.

Statement with EU

Lack of bilateral trust also grew over Mr Oli’s landmark trip to China in March which led to a landmark transit agreement between China and Nepal.

GS I: Art & Culture

Abanindranath’s Bharat Mata on display

Bharat Mata, one of the most iconic paintings of Abanindranath Tagore, will be on display at the Victoria Memorial Hall (VMH) .

Bharat Mata, Abanindranath Tagore’s work dating back to 1905 depicts a saffron clad woman, dressed like a sadhvi, holding a book, sheaves of paddy, a piece of white cloth and a garland in her four hands.

The painting is also considered significant because of its historical value and since it had helped in conceptualizing the idea of Bharat Mata (Mother India).

Nephew of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath is considered the foundational figure of the Bengal School of Art and is also hailed as the ‘father of modern Indian Art’.

Experts say that Abanindranath Tagore reinvented Rajput and Mughal miniature painting from the influence of western models of art.


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